Can the use of Early Modern English become idol worship?

Monday Musings for November 09, 2020

Good morning, Musers,

There is an old saying about how we should handle God’s word. It goes, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it!” That shows a good attitude… but it’s naïve to think such a strategy would work where the rubber meets the road.

You see, there are millions of born-again people — people indwelt by the Holy Spirit who love God and love the Bible — who agree on the words in the Bible… but disagree about what those words mean. So the simplistic, “God said it, that settles it!” is a lie. That doesn’t come close to settling it! And if you do not think that is true, you wouldn’t be reading my commentaries.

Among the millions of born-again people mentioned above, we have the KJV-Onlyists. They believe (some variation on) that God’s inerrant Word is best accessed through a literalistic reading of the 1611 edition of the King James Bible — and the extremists of their movement say that this version is more authoritative than the original manuscripts!

Naturally, they would think that translations like the New International Version (NIV) are “lesser” than the original KJV… and that scale of “lesser” runs from being mildly unreliable to being printed by the devil. So I get confused when a KJV-Onlyist happens to subscribe to a doctrine like the Rapture of the Church.

The essence of Rapture theology is that, before the Second Coming of Christ, Christ comes back to earth secretly. He does this to “rapture” his people — that is, he takes every believer to heaven; these people skip physical death! The pretribulational view of the Rapture holds that the Church will not go through the tribulation. So, with believers out of the way, there’s nothing to stop the Seven-Year tribulation from beginning. At the end of the tribulation, Christ comes again — this time publicly and in victory! — and he rules and reigns on earth for a thousand years.

People who believe this are usually Dispensationalists… although not everyone knows that word. But why am I confused about KJV-Onlyists who believe in the Rapture? The Rapture is not in the Bible; it’s an ad hoc idea born of dispensational eschatology. As such, there is no content for the KJV-Onlyist to interpret! So my issue is, what are they looking at?

You may counter, but what about the Trinity? That word’s not in the Bible, yet it’s generally held as a cardinal doctrine in Christian churches. Wouldn’t it fall under the same ax? Not at all. The New Testament is full of passages showing God existing in three persons, but it is silent about any “coming” of Christ that is not the Second Coming.

Some people would argue that EME (Early Modern English of the kind used in the KJV and Shakespeare) was the high-water mark for the English language. That may be true… but that’s not where we are. We’ve moved on linguistically because that’s how language works.

Now, KJV-Onlyism requires EME-Onlyism; but is this a problem? Yes. EME-Onlyism wants to do for EME what the Roman Catholic Church did for Latin: force people to use it. But there’s more than the Bible at stake. There is an entire body of literature — including many hymns of the faith — that people sing in that ancient diction despite the language of the people moving on.

The question we can’t avoid in today’s discussion is, have you resisted making the jump to contemporary Christian music? Do you insist on singing the old hymns-of-the-faith — many of which are in EME? If so, are you engaging in idolatry on some level?

(If you are interested in seeing why I’m not a Dispensationalist, click here.)

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