In WM 245 I mentioned that several folk had asked if I
planned to offer a rejoinder to what has been called a “toxic” review of the
new book I co-edited with Christian McShaffrey, titled Why I Preach from the
Received Text: An Anthology of Essays by Reformed Ministers.
The book was released on Friday, July 22, 2022. By July 24,
2022 Mark Ward, noted anti-KJV activist, had posted a caustic review of this book to his blog (byfaithweunderstand.com), as well as to several online sites,
including amazon and goodreads. On amazon he gave the book two stars. As of
today, there are 11 reviews there. Every other review presently posted gives
the book the maximum five stars.
Though the print in Why I Preach from the Received Text
is fairly large (to make for ease of reading) and the chapters are short, the
content does cover some 276 pages. So, in less than two days MW apparently got
an e-version of the book, read it, and then posted a review of over 3,700
words! Note: His review is much longer than the 25 individual chapters of the
book, which were limited to c. 2,500 words each.
After reading his review my main question is not whether Mark
read the book. I think he probably skimmed through it. The question is, “Did he
really understand what it is about?”
So, let me offer a summary of his review, as it falls into
He begins by noting that the essays in the anthology are more
like “personal testimonies” rather than “careful arguments.” That’s true.
Nevertheless, he adds, the writers do make “properly academic
He notes the book includes a “spectrum of views” that “do not
all perfectly cohere.” This also true.
He cites two “poles” on this spectrum, represented by the essay
by Brett Mahlen on one side and the essay by Chris Myers on the other. He closes
“So I think I’ll describe the poles, which I
take to be the contributions of Mahlen and Myers. And then I’ll examine what
they said about the main issue at stake in the debate over the KJV: the current
intelligibility of Elizabethan English.”
I have written quite a few book reviews for my
blog and scores for printed journals. The first task of a reviewer is to
understand the work he is reviewing and to understand the purpose of the
author(s) in producing it.
After supposedly reading through Why I
Preach From the Received Text, MW thinks the “main issue” with the book is
what it has to say about the “intelligibility” of the KJV.
In fact, never once in the review does MW ever define or address what the book is
really about. He never asks, Why do the Reformed ministers represented in the
book choose to make use of the Received Text as their standard for preaching,
teaching, and ministry as opposed to the modern critical text?
once does he make reference to WCF/2LBCF 1:8 and its statement that God has
“immediately inspired” the Scriptures in the original Hebrew and Greek, and
that these Scriptures have been “kept pure in all ages,” even though that
paragraph is quoted in almost every single chapter in the book and attention is
called it in the Introduction.
MW fixates on the fact that many of the writers, all of whom minister in the
English-speaking world, also make related and tangential reference as to why they
choose to use the classic Protestant translation, the AV, which is based on the
he overlook the paragraph quoted below in the Introduction? It states:
We gave each contributor the same topic to
consider, “Why I Preach from the Received Text.” In reading these essays it
will become clear that all the contributors have high respect for the
Authorized or King James Version of the Bible in English, as many make mention
of this venerable translation in their respective essays. The reader should not,
however, be confused about this book’s primary focus. Critics of the
traditional text, in fact, often confuse our position with “King James Version-Onlyism,”
a position which is inconsistent with WCF and LBCF 1:8. We did not ask our
authors to address, “Why I Preach from the King James Version,” but “Why I
Preach from the Received Text.” The primary purpose of this book is a defense
of the traditional original Hebrew and Geek text of the Bible (16-17)?
he miss the closing sentence of the Introduction: “May the Lord use this book
as an instrument to stimulate, revive, confirm, and defend intelligent and
effective use of the traditional text of the Word of God” (19)?
are left with only three possibilities: Either (1) he failed to read these parts
of the Introduction, or (2) he read it but did not understand it; or (3) he
read it and chose to ignore it. Sadly, it seems the latter is the case.
A Brief Lecture on “Biblical Worldview”:
MW chooses to take it upon himself to lecture the readers of his review on the
dangers of “tribalism.” The danger, he seems to suggest, is that if one comes
to strong convictions about the text of Scripture and embraces the Confessional
Text, he necessarily runs the risk of demonizing his opponents, acting
uncharitably, and being filled with pride
he designates two “poles” among the essays. On one side there are those he
judges to be adequately charitable, as represented by Brett Mahlen, but on the
other side, there are those he judges to be uncharitable, as represented by
is especially unhappy with the essay titled “The Invincible Word” (pp.
185-193), written by Chris Myers, pastor of Phoenix Reformed Presbyterian
Church, a RPCNA congregation in Phoenix, AZ.
takes particular offense at a contrast set up by Myers between, on one hand, “Satan’s
Bible with gnostic heretics writing false scriptures and twisting the true
scriptures” and, on the other hand, “the received and preserved Word of God”
writes the following about Myers’s approach:
hypothesis” is very common outside of Confessional Bibliology; it is found,
too, in all forms of KJV defense, especially in the extreme brand of
KJV-Onlyism known as Ruckmanism (after Peter Ruckman, who called these two
streams the Antiochene and Alexandrian streams).”
If you listen enough to
MW you know this is a line of argumentation (i. e., reference to a “two-streams
hypothesis”) which he is fond of using. The question, however, remains: Is it
accurate to say this of Myers’s article?
Myers, in fact, says nothing
in his article about a “two-streams hypothesis,” Ruckman, Antioch or Alexandria.
Ruckman certainly did
not invent the idea of drawing a stark contract between things that are spiritually
good/healthy and things that are spiritually evil/unhealthy.
Such contrasts abound in
early Christianity. Jesus himself told parables contrasting the narrow and
broad ways (Matt 7), wise and foolish builders (Matt 7), wheat and tares (Matt
13), sheep and goats (Matt 25). John contrasted light and dark (John 1:5; 3:19,
et al). Paul contrasted the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit (Gal
The term “synagogue of
Satan” (used by Myers in his article) was not invented by Ruckman, but it
appears in the book of Revelation (2:9; 3:9).
These types of contrast
continue in post-apostolic Christianity. The Epistle of Barnabas begins with a
contrast between “The Two Ways: The Way of Light and the Way of Darkness” (18-20).
The Didache begins with the similar contrast between, “The Way of Life and the
Way of Death” (1-5). The Didache, in fact, begins, “There are two Ways: a Way
of Life and a Way of Death, and the difference between these two Ways is great”
Is it possible that
Myers’ metaphors in his article are shaped more by Biblical and general
Christian usage, than by Ruckman?
If Pastor Myers personally
believes that it is spiritually corrupt and dangerous for modern texts and
modern translations to remove portions of the Word of God that he believes are
inspired and have been preserved by God (like the TE of Mark and the PA), does
he not have a right to warn against their removal using strong and unequivocal language?
Pastor Myers clearly
declares that he believes the stakes are high on this issue. He writes, “…. if
we do not possess God’s Word, we cannot confidently preach God’s Word, and
people will not be converted” (187).
Even given his strong convictions,
however, he takes pains at points NOT to make personal attacks on those who
have embraced modern texts and translations.
He writes, for example,
that this is “not a battle against flesh and blood” (187).
He calls B. B. Warfield,
Charles Hodge, and A. A. Hodge “men of God” even though he disagrees with them
on text and translation (189).
He later states that
“many godly men” who have embraced modern textual criticism “may personally
hold to the doctrine of providential preservation,” but, he adds, “this is
I am not writing here
simply to defend Pastor Myers’s article. He can put up his own defense. We as
editors included the article because one of the goals of this anthology was to provide
a platform for various perspectives on why and how the traditional text should
be defended. Pastor Myers’s views represents one set of convictions among those
who embrace the CB position.
Oddly enough, after
accusing Pastor Myers of “demonizing” his opposition, it is MW who offers this
final acerbic attack on Myers in his review:
“I respond to a great
many arguments from KJV/TR defenders, and I ask the Lord for patience in this
work. But Myers’ words are utter and complete foolishness unworthy of response;
they are almost impossibly divisive; they are sin.”
Isn’t MW using here a
“two-streams” approach to Myers article? Isn’t he creating a dualism of
wisdom/foolishness; unity/division; and holiness/sin? When he accuses Myers of
being foolish, divisive, and sinful is he not suggesting that he and his
position are wise, unifying, and holy?
In fact, isn’t MW the
one who “demonizes” Chris Myers in this review?
Third: MW’s Eight
Headings on the Readability of the KJV (even though this book is not about the
readability of the KJV):
The major part of MW’s 3,
700 word review is located in this third section, devoted to various references
in the book to the KJV with which Ward takes exception. I will list each statement
highlighted by MW with a brief discussion:
KJV readability is not a real problem.
Here MW takes exception
to a comment by Gavin Beers, a Free Church of Scotland Continuing minister.
Sadly, MW misses out on the main point of Pastor Beers’s testimony in his
article “From Atheism to the Authorized Version.” No doubt, Beers’s comments do
not conform to MW’s narrative about the AV no longer being useful for
evangelism and discipleship, so he diverts attention to a peripheral matter.
KJV English is not colloquial.
MW here takes exception
to one statement by Poul de Gier, a bivocational farmer/pastor of Dutch
heritage in Alberta, Canada.
One wonders if MW
bothered to read Pastor de Gier’s statement at the close of his article, “Some
might think we are ‘King James Only’, but we consider that a dangerous position
to hold” (70).
Contemporary versions do not make
difficult passages of Scriptures easier to understand.
Here MW disputes
Australian pastor Philip Gardiner’s report that reading the book of Job in the
NIV as a new Christian did not help him to understand the book.
The KJV was purposefully archaic,
even in its day—so there is no problem with archaism.
MW pulls one statement
by Pastor Trevor Kirkland out of context, and ignores his larger argument.
Uneducated people can read the KJV
with adequate understanding.
MW disputes Brett Mahlen’s
reported experience in his prison ministry with incarcerated persons from various
educational backgrounds who prefer and have no problems understanding the AV.
Again, this does not fit with WM’s narrative that the AV is unintelligible. He
even tries to play off his own anecdotal experiences against those of Mahlen.
The KJV follows the inspired Hebrew
and Greek word order.
MW takes exception to a
comment in Christian McShaffrey’s article regarding the AV’s general adherence
to a formal correspondence method of translation. MW makes this comment a straw
man. McShaffrey does not claim that the AV always follows the exact word order
of the original, but was simply citing with approval and appreciation some places
where it does do this.
The KJV contains archaic words, but
modern versions also contain difficult words.
MW takes exception to
another brief comment by McShaffrey on the AV and again misses his larger
Someday the KJV may need to be
revised because of changes in English.
MW ends, as he puts it,
on a “high note” by agreeing with Scott Meadows’s observation that there may
come a time when the AV will need revision. He proceeds then to criticize Meadows,
however, because Meadows does not think that time has yet arrived.
Consider overall: The
bulk of MW’s review of the book, centered here in this third section of his
review, is based on scattered and peripheral comments drawn from the book regarding
the AV, without ever addressing the book’s main thrust on the value of the
traditional Hebrew and Greek texts and the Protestant doctrine of preservation.
The conclusion consists
of three paragraph.
In the first paragraph,
MW begins by noting that he shares much “doctrinal belief” with the authors of
the anthology, including a commitment to Calvinism and love of the Puritans. As
far as I know, however, MW is not confessionally Reformed. He may be a
Calvinistic independent Baptist, but he is not a confessional Reformed Baptist.
This may explain why he is not able adequately to grasp, explain, or respond to
the Confessional Text position.
Here are the last two
paragraphs, divided and responded to in sections:
Paragraph two begins:
“But it takes an elaborate
set of contrivances to convince people of something they can’t not know, namely
that KJV English is unnecessarily archaic and, at places (due to half a millennium
of language change), unintelligible.”
Response: Oddly enough,
despite its alleged shortcomings as outlined by MW, the AV continues to be
among the most read and appreciated Bible translations in the world. Nevertheless,
this book is not about the AV but its underlying text.
Paragraph two continues:
“The writers in this book,
for all their appeals to the Reformed tradition, do not represent the historic
orthodox or Reformation position on the Bible. They claim a perfection for one
edition of the Greek New Testament that is a tiny minority view. They tend to
insist on the exclusive use of one translation, something the Reformers
certainly did not do.”
Response: I would point
readers to the discussion of the bibliology of the Protestant orthodox in R. Muller’s
PRRD, Vol. 2 and in Richard F. Brash, “Ad
Fontes!—The Concept of the ‘Originals’ of Scripture in Seventeenth Century
Reformed Orthodoxy”, Westminster Journal of Theology 81 (2019): 123-139. Beyond these secondary
sources, I would recommend reading the primary sources (e.g., Whitaker,
We should also remember that
truth is not determined by majority vote.
We should also take notice
that this book does not advocate “exclusive use” of the KJV, and, in fact, it is
not, at core, about translations.
Paragraph two continues:
“They misuse Bible passages
such as Psalm 12:6–7, which
(I have shown in a recent paper) have never in the history of the church until
the advent of KJV-Onlyism been used the way KJV/TR defenders use this passage.”
Response: I examined MW’s
claims about Psalm 12:6-7 and the preservation of Scripture and found it
wanting in WM 245.
“And they divide the church
Response: Divisions, however,
are not always bad. In 1 Corinthians 11:19, Paul writes, “For there must also
be heresies [divisions] among you, that they which are approved may be made
manifest among you.”
The ending of the second
paragraph reads as follows:
“The editors picked some of
the most capable and gracious men of their sect, but at the lay and pastoral
levels their views are almost always accompanied by a spirit of arrogance and
the editors of this book included at least one essay in which the English
translations used by countless faithful Christians were called Satanic.”
Response: I have already
responded to MW’s mischaracterization of Chris Myers’s article above. Myers has
a right to warn against any text or translation that he believes compromises
the integrity of Scripture.
MW begins the third and final
“I see in this book an effort
to marginalize some TR defenders who cannot speak with any of the intelligence
and grace (most of) these authors used.”
Response: I see here a mark
of inconsistency. In the previous paragraph he said our views are “almost
always accompanied by a spirit of arrogance and strife,” but he now says the authors
in this anthology generally speak with “intelligence and grace.” Which is it?
He concludes the review:
“But I cannot recommend this
book, and I am dismayed that the tiny Confessional Bibliology movement has
gathered enough strength to publish it. I pray that its days will be few.”
Response: We are not
surprised that MW could not recommend the book. We would have been shocked if
he had. We encourage anyone interested to read the book and think for
themselves. If they do this, we believe such readers will see that MW’s review
does not present an accurate or fair review or evaluation of our book’s content
So, Tolle lege, take
up and read.