The Decline of Ecclesiastical Diction and Finding Our Way Back

When I was a kid growing up in the 60’s, when it was time to go to church, I would grab my Bible and head for the car. There was only one Bible. It was God’s Word. It was the same Bible my dad carried and that the pastor would preach from. The pastor would say, “Please open your Bibles” to begin the sermon. We came to hear what God would tell us through His word. It was the King James Version, but it was not considered a version, it was God’s word in English, simply called the Bible. And no one said it was the Bible “in English.” No one had to because it was written in English, and so, it was, the Bible.

With the rise of multiple versions, someone thought calling the Bible, the Bible, was presumptuous and gratuitous, so calling the Bible, the Bible, went out of vogue being replaced with the King James Version. Now it was the King James Version but by calling it a version it moved the Bible out of the category of God’s Word to the category of other versions never equated with the Bible; they were simply versions of the Bible, like heteron, another or a different kind. Calling the Bible, the King James Version, was a convenient half-step in the decline of how the Church viewed Scripture because it was the King James Version, along with the other versions, but no longer the Bible, God’s word.  

The next step in declining diction was submitting the King James Version, now just another version, to the same historical critical spirit that birthed the novel, multiple version phenomenon. Because no other version is inspired or infallible, the King James Version could not be inspired or infallible, even in the nuanced way eruditely formulated by the post-Reformation dogmaticians. Because no novel version has been providentially preserved, the King James Version could not be the product of providential preservation, the doctrine of preservation having been excised from theological textbooks. Because no novel version’s internal claim to be Scripture, rises to the level of Scripture, neither can the King James Version. Once the King James Version was considered merely a version, no longer the Bible and God’s Word in the vernacular of the Church, the most significant battle for the importance of ecclesiastical words was lost, and in turn, the Church’s attitude toward Scripture changed.

The change in attitude came when the Bible was no longer considered to stand above and outside the Church, the Authoritative word of God asserting God’s will upon the Church. Now conceived of as a mere version, what was once the Bible became the possession of the Church to do with as it may. Add, subtract, modify, take or leave, find another version that suits you better, with the Church’s change of attitude the version became a “wax nose,” something pliant, readily influenced or turned in any direction. To exacerbate the decline, everyone’s personal “wax nose” was to be treated authoritatively for the sake of ecclesiastical unity.

But there are those that have always held the Bible to be the Bible, God’s word in English. They have not accepted the decline in ecclesiastical diction and argue that the Bible is the Bible from the Bible in a manner modeled after the great 16th and 17th c Reformed Orthodox codifiers of Protestant theology. Indeed, if it had not been for misguided, ill-trained, or worse, irresponsible, under-shepherds, leading their flock to burnt-out pastures and raging rivers, to tumult and confusion, the Church would not have abandoned the Bible in the first place.

Finding our way back through the change in world view brought on by the change of diction is not an easy course. It begins by again reading and obeying the Bible as the Bible. Those throughout history who read the Bible as the Bible demonstrated the courage and resolve to see the will of God done in every avenue of life – strong marriages, strong homes, strong churches, founding an exceptional nation, courage to stand against tyrants – something a mere version cannot do. It must be the Bible, the word of God.

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

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