Book Endorsement: The Doctrine of Scripture by Jason Harris

The Doctrine of Scripture by Jason HarrisToday’s book review post is special for two reasons. First, this marks the 150th book review I’ve posted here at Fundamentally Reformed. Second, this review includes the foreword I was privileged to write for this book.

The Doctrine of Scripture: As It Relates to the Transmission and Preservation of the Text by Jason Harris is published by InFocus Ministries in Australia. I’m excited to recommend this new book to my readers here in the United States as I believe this book can go a long way toward helping those confused or entangled by King James Onlyism.

My Foreward

Another book on the King James Only debate? Much ink has been spilled and many passions expended in what may be the ugliest intramural debate plaguing conservative, Bible-believing churches today. Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, Baptists and Presbyterians, Reformed and charismatic — all have been affected to a greater or lesser extent by those arguing for or against the King James or New King James Versions of the Bible. With each new book it seems the debate becomes more and more caustic, each group castigating the other in ever more forceful terminology.

Jason Harris enters the fray with the right blend of humility and tenacity, and turns the attention of all to the true center of the debate: the doctrine of Scripture. What makes this debate so passionate is that it centers on the very nature of Scripture. Rather than focus on technical facts and ancient manuscript copying practices, Harris takes us back to what Scripture says about itself: its inspiration, preservation and accessibility. In doing so, he demonstrates how those upholding the King James Bible and the Textus Receptus behind it, base their position not on sound exegesis of the Scripture, but on tenuous assumptions read into the text.

Harris’s pen is lucid and his grasp of the King James Only debate as a whole is masterful. He focuses his work on TR-only position which represents the very best of King James Only reasoning. He interacts with the exegesis of key TR-only proponents and marshals compelling evidence demonstrating their failure to measure up to Scripture’s own teaching about itself. And after explicating the doctrine of Scripture, Harris draws important conclusions which should protect the reader from making simplistic assumptions in a quest for textual certainty that goes beyond what Scripture teaches we should expect.

Harris wants us to be confident that we do have the inspired Scripture translated accurately in our English Bibles. He wants such confidence to be rooted to a Scriptural understanding of the Doctrine of Scripture rather than in the “supernatural-guidance” of a group of sixteenth-Century translators. Assuming that such a group of men made no mistakes is to expect something Scripture doesn’t teach, and ignore what it does. Harris is to be commended for such a clear, lucid defense of the historic doctrine of Scripture. I hope his book is received well and helps laymen and pastors everywhere to begin to rethink the basis for why they think as they do when it comes to the King James Only debate.

Bob Hayton
FundamentallyReformed.com
KJVOnlyDebate.com

[pp. 9-10]

Additional Thoughts

After re-reading this book and seeing the published version, I am more optimistic than ever about its promise to provide clarity to the King James Only debate. Jason Harris’s book has a few characteristics which together make it a unique contribution to this debate.

First, his book focuses on the alleged doctrine of the verbal, plenary accessibility of Scripture. This is where the root of the KJV and TR preference lies for many people. The argument is not so much based on texts and manuscripts as it is on what allegedly the Bible teaches – that the very words of Scripture (all of them down to the letters) would be generally accessible to believers down through the ages. Harris spends most of his time marshalling a Scriptural rebuttal to these claims and also demonstrates the difficulties such a position has when it comes to the history of the text as we know it.

Second, this volume carefully builds a theology of the transmission and preservation of Scripture. Such a careful, exegetically-based explication of the doctrine of Scripture has been lacking in this debate. And such a gap has often been used by KJV-only proponents to their advantage. It is KJV-only books which start with a Scriptural position and then look at the evidence, with the “anti-KJV” books starting with history and evidence and then moving to the Scriptural arguments. This book is different and starts where the debate starts for most of the sincere beleivers who get swept up into it — it starts on Scripture’s teaching about the very nature and preservation of Scripture.

Finally, Harris keeps a very irenic tone throughout. He is careful not to overstate his case and exaggerate the claims of his opponents. This is especially difficult to do when it comes to this heated debate, but Jason pulls this off well. Additionally, he backs up his book with the inclusion of a vast array of footnotes documenting the claims he is arguing against. I appreciate how he does not direct his argument toward the Riplingers and Ruckmans of this debate. He focuses on the TR-only position and the more careful wing of KJV-onlyism, men like David Cloud, D.A. Waite, Charles Surret, and the like. Harris has read widely in the KJV only literature, and his treatment avoids broadbrushing and generalizations that tend to give KJV-only propoents an easy out. It’s easy to dismiss a book as not being directed to their particular position, or to claim the author makes egregious errors and lumps their position in with that of heretical views. Harris’s book is not open to such charges. He directs his case against the very best arguments of KJV-onlyism.

Had I been exposed to such a book I would have been inoculated to the pull of the KJV-only persuasion. As it happened, I was swept up in a TR-only view that made it seem like we had the corner on truth and everyone else was compromising. By God’s grace I came to understand that Scripture does not support such a view of the transmission of the text.

Jason Harris is to be thanked for giving us a tool to recommend to those thinking through this issue from within, and to help the ones who are being pressured to join the KJV-only position. I highly recommend The Doctrine of Scripture and hope it makes its way into the hands of anyone struggling with this issue who will yet be open-minded enough to study out the issue from both sides.

You can pick up a copy of The Doctrine of Scripture at Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the author. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

~ cross posted from FundamentallyReformed.com, the author’s other blog.

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Let the Minutiae Speak

I submitted a paper to Sharper Iron’s writing contest a few months back.  They posted it today as one of the three winning entries.  I’ll provide a brief excerpt here and encourage you to go over to SI to read the whole thing.

Let the minutiae speak: The place of genealogies, numbers, and parallel passages in the King James only debate

“Things that are different are not the same.” So says the title of Mickey Carter’s book advocating the exclusive use of the King James Bible. This sentiment is a fair summary of the mindset of most King James only (KJO) advocates. The differences between Bible versions demand a judgment. Which Bible is right?

Troubled by differing Bible versions, many sincere Christians seek for answers. One side affirms that no doctrine is affected by the relatively minor differences between Bible versions. The message is the same, but finer points and particular details may be slightly different. A typical KJO position jumps in and says this can’t be right. Verbal inspiration is useless without the preservation of those very words of God. In fact, we need to know each and every word, in order to live (Matt. 4:4). All differences, even word order and spelling differences, matter (Matt. 5:18). Differing versions cannot both claim to be translations of the perfect, inspired Word of God.

On the face of it, the KJO argument makes sense. When we’re speaking about the Bible, shouldn’t every little difference matter? Some respond with manuscript evidence that calls into question the choice of the King James Bible as a perfect standard. Others have shown that the various proof texts for word perfect preservation don’t actually promise a single, identifiable, word-perfect copy of the Bible. And prior to 1611, where was such a copy to be found, anyway?

In this paper, I want to take us down a road less traveled. Rather than looking for a proof text which directly deals with this controversy, I aim to scour the King James Bible itself for examples of the very differences which are said to matter so much. The minor points of Scripture itself, the minutia, should be allowed to speak to this issue. Genealogies, lists, numbers, and parallel passages all have an important bearing on how we should think about “things that are different.” [read the rest of the entry at Sharper Iron]

Update: KJV Only Debate ON AIR

The show went well. Damien and I co-hosted the Understanding Our Times Radio show for Kevin Thompson. We shared our stories regarding KJV Onlyism and were able to address the debate. 30 minutes goes by fast, but we covered quite a bit of ground. The show is available for free download from BlogtalkRadio. Click here and then click on the download button (or else just listen online). The direct link for the mp3 is here.

Taking the KJV Only Debate ON AIR

Saturday evening, we’ll be taking the KJV Only debate ON AIR.

Kevin Thompson of Understanding Our Times Radio, has asked me to guest host his radio show for him this week.  He’s had me on the show as a guest before discussing Fundamentalism and Reformed Theology.  With Kevin’s blessing, I’ve decided to throw open the phone lines and discuss the issues surrounding KJV Onlyism.  I’ll share my own story as a former TR-Onlyist.  And I may have another KJVO Debate contributor with me as a co-host (Damien).

So please feel free to tune in to the show live, or download the free podcast in .mp3 or other formats.  The download is available pretty much immediately after the show’s completion.  If you have a question you’d like to call in with, we’ll be taking callers.  Details are below.

Understanding Our Times Radio Show
Guest Host: Bob Hayton
Time: Saturday 5:00-5:30pm CST
Where: online at BlogTalkRadio
Call-in Number: 347-945-7171