I’ve seen it several times recently. “We are following the old paths!” I got an invitation to an “Old-Fashioned” tent revival. As the modern world rushes headlong in new, strange and frightening ways, there is a tendency for us to try to hold on to what is old, what is comfortable – that which we have known. We look back to the middle of the 20th Century as a golden age for the church (well, white Americans do – blacks probably don’t remember that era of church-approved racism, discrimination and segregation quite so fondly!).
I’ve known people (lots of them) who think that everything that is wrong with the church today is because we have abandoned the “old ways” of the mid-20th Century. The solution, then, is to simply go back to how we did them back. If we just did today what we did then, what happened then would happen now!
I think every church ought to, in some ways, be “old-fashioned.” My quarrel with the phrase is that when we talk about the old ways, we miss it by about 1900 years. For most, old-fashioned means, “the way we did things back in my day.” We ought to seek to pattern our churches after the New Testament church as much as we can. Our doctrine ought to be old doctrine, built directly from the scriptures. Our practices ought to be biblical practices translated into modern situations. But I fail to see the value in trying to take the modern church (as messed-up as it is) back to the 1950s and 1960s. Suits and ties. Hymns with a piano and organ. Spring and Fall Revivals.
And, of course, the good ol’ King James Version – the “Authorized” version that is so familiar and comfortable to the non-whippersnapper crowd.
It may be familiar and comfortable, but I cannot think of a single good reason, other than tradition, that anyone would still use the KJV in Bible study or in preaching. You make your own decisions and you obviously don’t have to answer to me, but those who hold to the “tried and true” King James Version are generally making it harder, not easier, for their people to understand the Word of God.
1) The KJV is contrary to God’s revelatory pattern.
There was a flowery, formal language available in those days. Classical Greek was used by the educated, but the average man or women spoke Koine Greek. Koine means common. God inspired his Word in the language of the people. The KJV, when it was first translated, may have been a representation of that. But 400 years later, it is an arcane language that people don’t speak. Time for a new and better translation to help modern Americans understand the perfect Word of God.
2) The KJV confuses rather than enlightens.
In addition to the thees and thous, the KJV uses words that are simply confusing because of the way the language has changed over the centuries. The word “conversation” now implies two people talking. In King Jimmy’s day, it meant lifestyle. The word “let” has completely changed its meaning, from “prevent” (hence, the tennis term) to “permit.”
Is not our purpose to make the Word plain? Why would we use a Bible that confuses instead of illumines? If you are constantly having to correct or explain the words and their meanings, why not use a more accurate Bible?
3) Dramatic advances in textual and morphological studies have rendered the KJV archaic.
Since 1611, there have been lots of ancient biblical texts found which give us a textual basis that is much better than the KJV. Morphological studies have advanced our understanding of words, grammar and usage, not only in Greek, but also in Hebrew and its cognates. Simply put, we understand better today what the autographa meant.
Because of this, there is a simple fact. Modern translations are superior in just about every way to the KJV. There are some exceptions to that, of course, where intentional mistranslations have been made. But is is, generally, a fact. A modern translation is a superior rendering of the meaning of the Word of God than the KJV.
4) The KJV adds to the Word.
Because of the unfortunate textual basis of the KJV (especially in some books), there are several passages that were simply added to the Word of God. The most notable was the addition of the Trinitarian verse in 1 John 5. That has absolutely no textual support until nearly 1500 years after Christ. The pericope on adultery in John 8 is another example, though the origin and authenticity of that passage is more clouded than that of the 1 John passage.
The KJV-Onlyists often accuse modern translations of taking away from the Word. The opposite is true. Because of its inadequate (by modern standards) textual basis, the KJV adds to the true Word of God in ways that we ought to oppose.
This is not meant as just an anti-KJV screed, though my experience with KJV-Onlyists (I call them KJV-idolaters when I’m in a bad mood) is not positive. We must return to the “old ways” but only if you mean the NT ways. The ways of the 1950s and 60s worked in that time, but were not God’s approved methods for all of time. As the world changes, the church must change. Our reliance on the perfect Word of God must not change. Our belief in the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the substitutionary atonement, etc, must never change. But our methods must grow, change and adapt.
Passionately holding on to the past will not help the church prosper in the 21st Century. The church cannot go forward if all we are doing is looking in our rear-view mirrors.