Wow, that was quite a week as far as nearly burning religious documents goes! Now that the kerfuffle has died down a bit, I thought I’d take a look at a story I recall hearing crop up now and again about fire and religious documents but this time the documents being burned aren’t Islamic in nature.
In surfing the series of tubes that make up the internet (at least that’s how the internet appears to work in Alaska!), I stumbled on the story of the Amazing Grace Baptist Church located in North Carolina. They describe themselves as an "Independent Fundamental Baptist Church" and "…a New Testament (KJV) believing church.". For those of you who aren’t aware, KJV stands for the King James Version of the Bible. The King James version was undertaken in 1604 at the instruction of King James I of England. It was released in 1611 by the Church of England and was the third official English translation. For two centuries, it was the main version of the Bible used in Anglican and other Protestant churches.
Back to the Amazing Grace Baptist Church. Here is their doctrinal statement (what they believe) taken verbatim from their website:
"We Believe That The Bible Is The Word Of God, just like it says. We believe that the King James Bible is the Word of God. All sixty-six books of the Bible are complete. We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the verbally and plenary inspired Word of God. We believe that the KJV is inspired of God.We reject that the KJV is "reinspired or double inspiration." The Scriptures are inerrant, infallible, perfect, pure, inspired Word of God. That God has preserved His Word from the beginning of time. Therefore, the Bible is our final authority concerning all matters of faith and practice. The Scriptures shall be interpreted according to their normal grammatical-historical meaning, and all issues of interpretation and meaning shall be determined by the preacher. The King James Version of the Bible shall be the official and only translation used by this website in preaching, teaching, and all printed literature (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). We reject all other versions that are based on the critical text (A&B) underlying them such as the NIV, NASV, NKJV, TEV, ESV, UBST, RSV, NCV, NRSV along with others such as TLB, The Evidence Bible, The Message, etc. We are not TR believers, but KJB believers." (my bold)
TR stands for Textus Receptus which refers to the series of printed Greek texts of the New Testament which constituted the base translation for the German Luther Bible, the Tyndale English New Testament and the King James Bible. In this particular case, it refers to The New Testament in the Original Greek edited by Westcott and Hort and published in 1881. It used some of the oldest fragments of New Testament fragments and texts that had been discovered at the time. It is this text that the Amazing Grace Baptist Church rejects. As they note on their website:
"We are not a TR church, but a KJB church. Many KJB believers who carry a KJB are really TR men, and hide behind the KJB. These two don’t agree, so either you are a TR believer, or a KJB believer. When I say, "these two" I mean the present day TR given to us by Westcott and Hort and the KJB. If we had the original TR than it would agree with the KJB, but we don’t have it."
It sounds like splitting hairs to me, however, it appears to be of great importance to this particular congregation. If we go back to their doctrinal statement for a minute though, we’ll find the proclamation that "
The Scriptures shall be interpreted according to their normal grammatical-historical meaning, and all issues of interpretation and meaning shall be determined by the preacher." (my bold) This is where the alarm bells go off for me; as in the case of Pastor Jones of the Dove World Outreach Centre in Florida, one man is dictating his interpretation of issues to his congregation
On to the meat of the matter. This particular church is so strong in their conviction against other versions of the Bible that they have annual "other than the King James Version" Bible burnings. In their list of combustible items they also include religious books by authors that they (and, obviously God) condemn as erroneous. Here’s the screen capture from their website summarizing the events of October 31, 2009:
Apparently, the local fire marshall wasn’t too thrilled with their plans to burn paper so, rather than using matches, they used scissors and their hands to destroy the offensive documents.
In case you should happen to think that this event was a one-off, here’s the posting for this year’s burning:
It would be wrong to assume that this church is an anomaly, the KJV-only movement is quite extensive in church culture. I personally recall hearing about it in the mid-1980s for the first time although it has been around in various forms since the 1930s. Here are a few websites that promote the use of the KJV as the only Bible:
There’s even a website that tracks hits on KJV websites called KJV 1611 Topsites.
In fact, there are even websites that provide information that assists Christians in providing arguments that can be used to refute the beliefs of those who believe only in the KJV. Here’s one example and here’s another.
Most of the churches that describe themselves as KJV-only also describe themselves as fundamental, independent, evangelistic and born-again and are denominationally quite frequently Baptist. Just in case you thought this was an American-only movement, here’s a website that provides a listing that includes Canadian KJV-only ministries.
Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not making fun of this church, its pastor or its worshippers. I’m merely trying to show those who believe that burning the Quran is an acceptable form of protest against Islam that there are other American (and Canadian) Christians who believe that versions of Scripture other than the King James Version are "not inspired by God" and, as a result, should be destroyed by fire. I’m also trying to point out that a religion like Christianity is extremely divisive within itself; each splinter of what is, in its basic form, the same religion feels that they are the only "true" representation of what God wants and firmly believe that all of the others who don’t believe exactly what they believe are somehow lesser forms of Christians simply because of some slight variance in their beliefs which, incidentally, is blown way out of proportion in relation to its ultimate importance.
If those of us who live in Canada or the United States (or the rest of the world for that matter) think that there is a Grand Canyon-sized chasm between Islam and Christianity, I would also suggest that there are some pretty big canyons splitting Christianity into verbally warring factions. It would appear that we are our own worst enemies when it comes to our firmly held beliefs. Until we learn to respect and tolerate our own intra-Christian differences, we can hardly be expected to respect and show tolerance for other faiths.
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