In the past two posts on KVJ-Onlyism, I showed how the errant belief that the KJV is the only acceptable, inspired translation of the Bible 1) leads to what I termed “functional Biblical illiteracy,” since most Americans read five grade levels below the proficiency needed to easily understand the KJV, and 2) that illiteracy leads to people relying on a mediator such as a pastor, teacher, book, etc., to explain scripture, and 3) false teachers are able to exploit the Biblical illiteracy of others to introduce heretical teachings.
How do we as believers combat functional Biblical illiteracy?
I can only tell you what we did as a family. Since we’ve only been in this community for three years, I can’t tell you that this will work for every person, every time, but it’s a start.
1. Develop friendships and relationships with KJV-only believers.
We ended up taking our children out of the KJV-Only schools, and finding a Bible-believing church that freely used several translations. However, we maintained our friendships with local KJV-only adherents, and allowed them to see into our lives. I freely used key phrases in our conversations, like, “God led me to do this,” and “God truly used this verse or those movies or that song.” Over time, my KJV-Only friends began to accept me as a “true Christian,” not unlike Bob Jones’ reaction upon meeting C.S. Lewis: “That man smokes a pipe, and that man drinks liquor, but I do believe he is a Christian.” In my case, it was more like, “That woman wears jeans, that woman reads the NLT, and that woman plays music with back-beat, but I do believe that she loves Jesus.”
2. Don’t argue—instead, ask lots of questions.
A friend of mine mentioned that her pastor-husband strongly objected to any drum music, because of “the beat.” I asked her, sincerely, “Why?”
She couldn’t answer me.
She either had no idea, or didn’t want to accuse me of perpetuating music that was infested by demons. Either way, I could tell by her confused face that it was the first time she’d ever actually thought about why she believed this particular doctrine! What was the source of this teaching? What was the outcome? KJV-onlyers need to understand that this type of questioning authority is okay, and completely sanctioned by the Bible.
She thought for a few minutes, then said, “I guess mostly because the beat overshadows the lyrics.” Which brings me to my next technique…
3. Be light-hearted about disagreements.
In my experience, any emotion other than joy is seen by KJV-onlyers as evidence that the devil is behind any argument. So, when my friend mentioned “the beat” interfering with understanding musical lyrics, I chuckled and said, “I know exactly what you mean. Most churches really don’t have good sound equipment. That’s why I’m glad we have such a good sound tech, because he works really hard to make sure any lyrics are completely understood. I love the skill level of the artists at our church.”
“Really?” she said. “I’d love it if you posted a video sometime.”
You see, she would never be allowed to actually visit our church. 😦
4. Let them see the fruit of your life.
When your marriage doesn’t fall apart, when your kids don’t turn into angry Bible-rejecting degenerates, when God does answer your prayers in a personal way, and when you receive hope from God’s word in a different translation, the KJV-only friends in your life will see that something is different. Yes, there is a time and place for face-to-face disagreements. However, these friends have been conditioned for years to believe that you are a heretic. Show them, one interaction at a time, that the truth of God’s word lives in you, and is accessible to them as well.
I love the reactions on my KJV-only friends’ faces when they see God answer my specific prayers: “I only had thirty dollars to spend on maternity clothes. I prayed about where to go, and God led me right to this yard sale that I had no idea was there—and a woman my size was selling all of her maternity clothes for a quarter apiece!”
5. Pray for opportunities to show grace.
Friends who are in authoritative, restrictive churches have very little grace in their lives. Slipping up in homemaking, homeschooling, or any part of parenting, may carry an intense amount of shame—shame that they’re not allowed to show on their faces. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you an opportunity to show them the grace and love of the God who saved you. “Your toddler had a temper tantrum in Wal-Mart? Oh, you handled that so well. Don’t worry, it happens to us all–I remember when my two-year-old peed in the corner of my mother-in-law’s living room when I wouldn’t let her have a pop tart….”
I want to call on the scholars in the Christian community to argue for accessible Bible translations at every opportunity. The fact that the KJV-only heresy can live on in the 21st century is shocking to me. The fact that people in America are deceived into having limited access to God’s word should be frightening to us all. For years I dreamed of being a translator for Wycliffe, taking the Bible to areas that had no access to God’s word—not realizing that some parts of the Midwest were in just as deep of a need.