I dropped by David Cloud’s Way of Strife, I mean Life, website recently.
Bro. Cloud is one of those screeching fundamentalists who likes to pound his pulpit against the encroachment of modernity in churches. Such modern things like contemporary music in worship or the use of the ESV by parishioners. So, if he is not railing against the worldliness of CCM artists from 25 years ago, he’s blasting away at modern Bible versions.
Bro. Cloud, in spite of his advocacy of absurd, preference driven sanctification among believers, is also one of the more “thoughtful” KJVO apologists on the internet. He has even gone after Gail Riplinger in the past.
In the article I wish to address, he provides for us his 8 presuppositions for textual criticism that he believes confirms why the KJV is the greatest of all English translations.
I certainly believe everyone in the world operates in life on the foundation of certain presuppositions. That’s nothing to be ashamed of; but one must consider if his presuppositions hold up to scrutiny. In this case, Bro. Cloud believes if you apply his 8 presuppositions to the discipline of textual criticism, the faithful, Bible-believing Christian will not only conclude modern textual criticism is apostate, but also embrace the KJV as God’s Word alone.
With that in mind, let’s see if his 8 presuppositions for textual criticism hold water and if they sail us safely to the conclusion that the King James Bible is the only reliable English translation without capsizing into the drink:
1. I BELIEVE IN THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
The Bible contains everything that we need for faith and practice. It is able to make the believer “perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Obviously, then, nothing else is necessary. I do not have to rely on priests or scholars or tradition or extra biblical sources.
So far so good. I would agree with Bro. Cloud: the Bible certainly contains everything that we need for faith and practice. I don’t rely on priests and scholars or any extra biblical sources as an authority over reading the Scripture.
However, I am not sure Bro. Cloud is thinking carefully here. What is Bro. Cloud’s take on Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:11 where Paul states how teachers and preachers are given as gifts to the NT Church for the equipping of the saints? Surely Bro. Cloud believes some scholars are necessary to help Christians understand Scripture? He references a book by David Sorenson at the end of his article. How exactly does David Sorenson, who is hardly a competent scholar in these matters, NOT qualify as an extra biblical source for Bro. Cloud’s readers?
2. I BELIEVE IN THE SOUL LIBERTY OF THE BELIEVER, meaning that each believer can know the truth for himself and is responsible to test everything by God’s Word (Acts 17:11; 1 Cor. 2:15-16; 1 Thess. 5:21). Thus, it is evident that the child of God can make his own decision in the important matter of the Bible text-version issue. I do not ask my readers to depend on me and to follow my teaching; I ask them simply to prove all things and hold fast that which is good and to receive my teaching with all readiness of mind and to search the Scriptures daily whether these things are so.
Again, I would agree with Bro. Cloud. A believer can know the truth for himself and is responsible to test all things by God’s Word. But I would add the one missing element to that point: The regenerating work of the Spirit.
Bro. Cloud tries to get to that in the last presupposition, but it is clear from the biblical verses he cites in support of his second presupposition that the Spirit must be at work first BEFORE a believer can experience “soul liberty,” or the ability to discern spiritual things.
However, anyone familiar with Bro. Cloud knows he rejects the idea of the regenerating work of the Spirit preceding a person’s faith in Christ. A doctrine taught by biblical Calvinists. But ironically, the verses he cites contradict his aversion to Calvinism.
Look for a moment at the first two of Bro. Cloud’s references:
In Acts 17:11, the Bereans were not Christians, but Jews who were more open-minded than the ones in Thessalonica. Yet it is apparent from the following verses that their readiness to search the Scriptures was due it part to the regenerating power of the Spirit already at work with them. A belief and commitment to Christ was the fruit of that spiritual work. Checking the second passage, 1 Cor. 2:15, 16, the reason why the Corinthians could discern spiritual things is because, as according to 1 Cor. 2:14, the Spirit made them able, or better, gave them the power to discern spiritual things.
Soul liberty certainly exists, but a soul must first be freed by God’s grace before it can exercise the liberty to discern the truth. As we will see in the next point, however, Bro. Cloud doesn’t like that particular view of “soul liberty.”
3. I BELIEVE IN THE SIMPLICITY OF SOUND DOCTRINE (Mat. 11:25; 1 Cor. 1:26-29; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Jn. 2:20). If a doctrine is so complicated that the average child of God must lean upon a specialized priest or scholar, that doctrine is not Scriptural. The New Testament faith is not an elitist issue. It was committed to ordinary people.
This is where Bro. Cloud’s presuppositions begin to fracture. In principle, there is a correctness to what he is saying. I would certainly affirm the perspicuity of Scripture, meaning it is clear and understandable to all. But… How exactly is the word “complicated” defined? Bro. Cloud leaves that open to endless speculation. As we will see with his examples, he attempts to squeeze Calvinism into his definition, and then moves on to so-called modern textual criticism.
Honestly though, KJV apologetics are just as complicated and convoluted as either one of his examples. According to Bro. Cloud’s logic, I would have to read David Sorenson’s book, or any number of Bro. Cloud’s writings, in order to know I am supposed to read the King James only. Believe me, KJV onlyism is not a simplistic doctrinal conviction a Christian has the Holy Spirit confirm to him at the outset of his walk with Christ. I was a perfectly happy Christian loving the Lord and growing in grace with my NIV study Bible until someone told me I had the wrong translation and gave me a bunch of books to show me. Some of those books included Bro. Cloud’s crudely printed O Timothy magazines.
Turning to his examples. Bro. Cloud writes:
One example of this is Calvinism. For instance, James White claims that Dave Hunt doesn’t understand Calvinism even though he is an intelligent man, a believer, and he has studied the issue diligently. I am convinced that if something is that complicated it can’t be the truth. (I also believe that Dave Hunt understands Calvinism very well, in spite of what James White claims.)
First of all, what is Bro. Cloud’s take on those fundamentalist Baptists who came to embrace Calvinism apart from James White, or John Piper, or even that dreadful pseudo-fundamentalist, John MacArthur? Doesn’t seem like Calvinism was complicated for these men.
The late Dave Hunt was certainly an intelligent man. However, after he launched his quixotic crusade against Calvinism, it became painfully obvious to everyone that Mr. Hunt took on a subject he so woefully knew nothing about, he not only embarrassed himself, but brought disrepute upon his own ministry. If one were to read the critiques of his main book attacking Calvinism called What Love is This? he fully tarnished what little reputation he had of being a biblical apologist.
But Bro. Cloud takes a shot at Calvinism to take a shot at this:
Another example is modern textual criticism. The child of God is required to depend upon the textual scholars, because it is impossible for an ordinary believer to make textual decisions.
Let’s stop right there an examine that comment. Bro. Cloud charges modern textual criticism of requiring believers to depend upon them to make textual decisions, but he over looks the fact that KJV apologetics must be put in this category as well. According to KJV onlyists, an ordinary believer needs to look at all those verse comparison charts, and learn about the development of the TR, and the heresies of Westcott and Hort and so on, to conclude modern versions are heretical and the KJV alone must be trusted. How exactly is this not the same thing Bro. Cloud is condemning?
He then goes on to quote from an introductory work on textual criticism by Greek scholar, A.T. Robertson, as an example of what he means about modern textual criticism being hard to understand. Of course, Bro. Cloud fails to tell his readers that Robertson’s book is meant for those folks doing advanced study, not for regular laymen. If he really wanted an honest comparison, he would have cited from James White’s KJV Only Controversy, or the collection of articles written by some Bob Jones affiliated pastors called God’s Word in Our Hands, that looks at textual criticism from a layman’s perspective.
4. I BELIEVE THAT ALL THINGS SHOULD BE DONE UNTO EDIFYING (Rom. 14:19; 1 Cor. 14:26; 2 Cor. 12:19; Eph. 4:12, 16, 29). Any biblical research that does not result in spiritual edification is wrongheaded and is disobedience to the plain commands of the Word of God. I can candidly say that none of the many books I have read on modern textual criticism has spiritually edified me. I have found them intellectually interesting, frustrating, and confusing, but never edifying.
What exactly “edifies” a person is in the heart of the beholder. To the contrary, I have read a few books on modern textual criticism and have found them delightful and quite edifying for my faith. They only served to strengthen my love and commitment to God’s Word.
5. I BELIEVE IN THE REALITY OF THE DEVIL (1 Pet. 5:8). One of the devil’s chief goals since the Garden of Eden has been to attack and corrupt the Word of God and to confuse people’s minds in regard to it.
His first words to Eve were, “Yea, hath God said?” (Gen. 3:1)….
The devil questioned God’s Word (v. 1)….
The devil denied God’s Word (v. 4)….
The devil substituted his own words for God’s Word (v. 5)….
…The child of God must therefore be alert to his activities in this field. It is impossible to understand the Bible text-version issue if one does not understand the devil’s hatred of God’s Word and if one does not make this fact a prominent part of his “textual criticism.”
They do so in order to show “proof” that heretics are corrupting the Bible when they engage in any meaningful textual criticism which sides with readings found in textual manuscripts other than the ones used to translate the KJV. Their choice of textual readings over those found in the KJV are likened unto Satan tempting Eve by “altering” God’s Word in some fashion or another. From the very beginning, KJV supporters argue, Satan has been attacking God’s Word and thus he continues to do so even in this day with modern textual criticism and the publication of modern translations.
But a couple of problems are present with this line of argumentation.
First, it assumes a recognizable conspiracy has taken place during the transmission of God’s Word. That being, heretical men have intentionally altered the original language manuscripts to promote heresy and those alterations are clearly reflected in modern translations. The problem, however, is that no such altering of the Greek language took place by heretics. Heretics used the same Scriptures as orthodox Christians; they just poured their warped interpretations on the Bible to make it say what they wanted it to say. Very few heretical men tampered with the physical text. Of those individuals we know about, the fact that we know about them demonstrates clearly they did not get away with hiding their corruptions.
A second problem is found with in the citation from Genesis. KJV onlyists use this interchange between the devil and Eve as illustration of corrupted manuscripts. But notice that the devil did not physically change God’s Word. He merely questioned it and put his own spin upon what God originally stated. What the devil actually did to God’s original Words to Adam and Eve is exactly what we have seen heretics historically do to the Bible: He put his interpretation onto them so as to change their true meaning.
6. I BELIEVE IN THE PRE-EMINENCE OF FAITH (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 10:17; 14:23). The only way to understand the Word of God is by faith, and faith is based only on God’s Word (Rom. 10:17).
What Bro. Cloud unwittingly suggests with his comment is that faith in the Word of God is blind. That is a typical argument I see with KJV only apologists. If one were to have faith (especially “faith” in their KJV only apologetics), then the only reasonable conclusion would be adherence to the King James Bible as the only reliable English translation.
Yet God would not have His people believing by faith in something that is not there. In other words, a Christian’s faith is affirmed by what we see happening within Church History as God works among His people, including the transmission of His Word.
For instance, I believe in the Exodus because it is recorded in Scripture. Yet, my belief in the Exodus account is not blind in some unknowable or mythical event that can never be researched. When the subject is researched, my faith in the Exodus event is soundly confirmed, because those events happened in time and space and real history. The same can be said about the flood, the Babylonian exile, the Resurrection of Christ. Thus, when I research textual criticism, rather than seeing the KJV position affirmed as Bro. Cloud thinks it is, I see the biblical text being preserved by God in the very manner those so-called “unbelieving” textual critics say it is.
Additionally, Bro. Cloud confuses the “faith” given by God to believe the truth of God’s Word (what I noted under point #2 above), with this notion of a blind faith as if the two are one and the same. So, if a person “has faith” in God’s Word, he will reject modern textual criticism and embrace the arguments put forth for the exclusivity of the KJV.
Bro. Cloud then goes on to say how modern textual critics don’t have faith in God’s Word and mock the ideas of inspiration and preservation. He also castigates fundamentalists who side with the findings of modern textual criticism as being that kind of faith which doesn’t believe in God or His Word, i.e. the KJV. What he doesn’t do is show us why accepting modern textual criticism is not being faithful to God. Bro. Cloud will go on in the last point explaining how modern textual critics were non-fundamentalist unbelievers (certainly “unbelievers” in Bro. Cloud’s mind) and so their work cannot be trusted. But his implication contradicts his last sentence under this point when he writes,
Our faith must therefore be in God, not in man (i.e., not in human scholarship, in the KJV translators, in Erasmus, or in John Burgon or some other defender of the traditional Reformation text).
The inconsistency with that statement is profound. So is Bro. Cloud suggesting Erasmus or John Burgon cannot be trusted like the host of supposedly unbelieving textual critics? If we are not to put our faith in Erasmus, or the KJV translators, or any other defender of the traditional Reformation text, why then do KJV apologists, of which Bro. Cloud is one of the most well-known and prolific in publishing, always appeal to the grand scholarship of the KJV translators or the unanswerable arguments of John Burgon? How exactly does Bro. Cloud justify his exhortation not to trust in scholars like those when KJV polemicists constantly say we must?
7. I BELIEVE IN TREMBLING BEFORE GOD’S WORD (Psa. 138:2; Prov. 30:6; Isa. 66:2; Rev. 22:18-19). The Scripture is not an ordinary book; it is the Word of the Living God and as such one must exercise extreme caution in handling it. Even to tamper with the words of a human author is a serious matter and there are laws against it, but how much more serious is it to tamper with the words of Almighty God! I have read dozens of books by textual critics, and there simply is no fear of God in their approach to the words of Scripture. The textual critic approach is strictly a matter of human scholarship and the Bible is simply another book.
I too believe in trembling before God’s Word, but how exactly does the “trembling in fear” before God’s Word discount the methods and principles employed by modern textual critics?
For example, modern biblical critics say that when we examine the thousands of preserved manuscripts, the shorter reading is to be preferred because as manuscripts are hand-copied, copyists have the habit of expanding a reading, or attempting to harmonize it with a similar passage in another book, and thus making it longer than what was originally written. How exactly is that idea not “trembling before God’s Word”? How is that “tampering with the words of Almighty God”?
Those things are no more a matter of human scholarship than Erasmus choosing particular readings over others when he compiled his edition of the NT, nor is it any different than when the KJV translators sided to put certain marginal readings from the original into the main text of their translation. Is Bro. Cloud attributing to the KJV translators (men we should not put our “faith” in, as he just stated in the point above) some special knowledge or blessing that no other translators who came after experienced?
8. I BELIEVE IN THE NECESSITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (1 Cor. 2:12-16; 1 Jn. 2:20, 27).
With his last point, Bro. Cloud lists off a number of important men used in the historical development of biblical, textual criticism. All of them he falsely accuses of being unregenerate and thus unworthy to offer any opinion about the transmission of the biblical text or how to translate it. He also offers more disparaging accusations against any person claiming to be a “fundamentalist” who utilizes their work.
Bro. Cloud writes, “Apart from the Holy Spirit, nothing about the Bible can be properly understood. Unregenerate men who lack the Spirit are not qualified in this field.” That assertion, of course, assumes all those men Bro. Cloud claims were “unregenerate” were truly “unregenerate.” He draws that conclusion about them because in his mind, many of them believed theologically suspicious doctrine and none of them were “fundamentalists.” But if we are to apply his standard of what qualifies a person to engage in textual criticism, there are similar people involved with the production of the KJV.
Erasmus, being probably the biggest example, was a practicing Roman Catholic, and that is in spite of the attempts by KJVO apologists to make him a proto-independent Baptist. What of the men who had to learn Hebrew from unbelieving Jews? They had to learn from unregenerate Christ deniers. Did they learn it properly to determine which Hebrew texts were necessary to translate? The KJV translators were Anglicans, certainly not “fundamentalists,” who practiced infant baptism and held to baptismal regeneration.
Moreover, as I have already noted, Bro. Cloud has stated that we are not to put our faith in men to begin with, even those men who defend the KJV. Yet here, Bro. Cloud gives the impression we need to have faith in those who produced the KJV because they were qualified due in part to their “regeneration.” The inconsistency is astounding.
Bro. Cloud concludes,
Modern textual criticism, which gave us the modern Bible versions, is not founded upon dependency upon faith or the Holy Spirit or any of the aforementioned things. … The Bible is a supernatural and spiritual Book and nothing about it can be known apart from the application of spiritual tools. … Though some evangelicals and fundamentalists who use textual criticism might claim that they also are following the Holy Spirit, the principles of textual criticism are contrary to this.
Bro. Cloud has not proven the validity of his presuppositions. There are a number of necessary variables that must be true in order for them to stand: heretics have corrupted ancient biblical texts, modern era textual critics are unregenerate, principles of modern day textual criticism are not led by the Spirit, and using modern textual critical methods is compromising one’s biblical faith. Though Bro. Cloud would have his readers believe that apostates like Bart Ehrman are produced when they came under the influence of modern textual criticism, such is not the case.
When it comes down to it, the arguments Bro. Cloud has put forth to affirm those presuppositions only serve to make them viciously circular.