Behind Pleasant Faces: House Rules as Doctrine

“Now, in order that true religion may shine upon us, we ought to hold that it must take its beginning from heavenly doctrine and that no one can get even the slightest taste of right and sound doctrine unless he be a pupil of Scripture.” – John Calvin

Last week I posted Behind Pleasant Faces: Lessons in Leaving a King James Only Church. Due to the feedback, I am posting a series on the issue of the King James Only Movement. It is my goal to systematically work through the decision we made to leave and our response to the King James Only Movement.

A Definition Before We Start

First, what is the King James Only Movement or belief? The King James Only Movement claims that the King James Version of the Bible is superior to all other English translations and every English translation after it is corrupt. They state the KJV is superior in its text (as well as the process) and its theology in comparison to other translations. Churches and people may be on a spectrum in regards to this belief, but one thing is believed that there is something special or different about the King James Version and one should stick with it.

There has been many textual debates and books written about this topic. However, I want to share a different aspect that caused us to leave. When we consider the definition and what they believe, what does it mean for the church to believe this?

How About a Game of Monopoly?

Summer has hit and so has the heat. A family on vacation finds it too hot outside to do anything. Instead, they rummage up an old classic board game that will be fun to play together: Monopoly. The silver pieces cling against the table as they are dumped out. Hands grab for the Top Hat, the Dog, or the Car. No one really wants to be the Iron or the Wheelbarrow. The money is dealt and all minds begin to strategize how to make their opponents cry when mortgaging various properties in loss.

As the dice hit the board and the game starts, things begin to change. “And now I get $200, because it’s my birthday.” “No! That’s cheating.” “House Rules!” How many have heard that phrase, “House Rules?” Once that phrase is said, the only way to calm everyone down is to pull out the rule book that can be dated to 1934. Once the rule book is read, the game begins to form itself along the original guidelines.

Doctrine and House Rules

“One cannot reach his full spiritual potential without the better truth of the King James. The issue of the King James is a doctrinal stance for the church and a key component of the faith, and should be taught as such.” Doctrine? What does it mean when a pastor claims something is doctrine and a key element of the faith?

In the King James Only Movement, this is what is at the basis of their belief. The King James Bible is a core doctrine for the church. What is a doctrine? A doctrine is a teaching in the Bible on a various topic. This would include teachings such as creation, the incarnation, man made in the image of God, the holiness of God, the nature of sin, the work of Jesus Christ, sanctification, etc. All of these are found in Scripture and we are exhorted by the New Testament writers to keep and guard the doctrines and teachings of Scripture (Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 3:14-15). Doctrines are like the rule book for Monopoly. When there is a disagreement about a teaching or a concept that someone has said, we need to check the Bible to make sure what is being said aligns with Scripture. In church there are no house rules. Everything must align with Scripture.

The King James Only Movement as House Rules

The statement mentioned above is one that is found in many variations in King James Only churches. The question is, is it truly Scriptural or is it a house rule?

Let’s unpack it.

We have seen a definition of doctrine and understand what doctrine is. What the King James Only Movement is declaring is that the use of the King James Bible is as important as the incarnation of Jesus, the creation of the world by God, the nature of sin, and Christ’s work of salvation. What they are doing is adding to the doctrines of Scripture. So, when one lists the doctrines the KJVO church believes their list would put the belief in the King James Version and the necessity to hold on it at the same level as the doctrine of salvation, sanctification, the nature of sin, creation, and the incarnation.

Yet, what is the test? We must go back to Scripture to see what it says. We see many scriptures backing the other doctrines mentioned. But what about the KJVO teaching? The Bible does say God will preserve His Word, but Scripture does not say how. Therefore, there is no Biblical support for the KJVO teaching as doctrine or being a key element of the faith.

But, Paul does say something about adding to the teachings of Scripture. In Galatians 1, Paul is astonished that the church of Galatia was turning away from what they had been taught and accepting another teaching: following the Old Testament law as a way to be right before God specifically following the law concerning circumcision. Paul condemns this belief. Jesus teaches the same view in Mark 7. “You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men (v. 8)” The Pharisees were guilty of rejecting what God instructed in order to put their own “doctrines” on the same level as God’s Word. Both situations included a teaching (a house rule) that did not align itself with Scripture.

So is the King James Only position a doctrine and a key element of the faith? According to Scripture, it is not a doctrine. In order for something to be a key element of the faith, it must be on the same level as salvation and sanctification. If you are holding to the King James Only position as a key element of the faith, then you might as well join the church in Galatia that was holding circumcision as a way to be seen right before God. Being made right before God is through the propitiation and justification of Jesus Christ (Romans 3). There is no mention of anything else that makes you right before God.

The King James Only Movement is trying to play church by house rules rather than clinging to Scripture.

What is Preached Matters

When it comes to what is said in a church or by a pastor, we must keep a 2 Timothy 2:15 attitude. We must go back to Scripture to make sure what is being said is true and Biblical. When a church begins to write their own doctrines and and adding to Scripture, it is time to leave.

There are many pleasant faces in King James Only churches. They become family. Yet, behind those pleasant faces is a deception of adding to Scripture and claiming what the Bible does not claim.

It is not wrong or disrespectful to check what is being preached against the Word of God. The New Testament writers encourage this. This means you are personally studying God’s Word in order to keep and guard the doctrines that God has given us in His Word.

Pleasant faces and great personalities can fill pulpits and positions, but what is behind that pleasant face? Is it genuine? Or, is it a teaching that cannot be backed by Scripture and is in fact condemned?

Things to Think About

Now many say, “I grew up with the King James. I love it. I love the wording. I can understand it.” Great! Please continue using it. However, let me pose one question.

If you had to leave your King James Bible, for another translation, would something happen to your faith?

If you said, “yes,” then your faith is based on a translation and not founded on Jesus Christ.

As the Monopoly rule book silences the claims to “house rules,” so the Bible must be put above anything that is taught in a church.

Are we going to be a church that follows our “house rules” or a church that sticks closely to God’s Word?

Two key words to think about: Our’s or God’s.

Our words or God’s Words?

Behind Pleasant Faces: Lessons in Leaving a King James Only Church

“We must cease to think of the church as a gathering of institutions and organizations, and we must get back to the notion that we are the people of God.”
D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

One statement… One letter… God’s Moving

I was the head of a youth ministry in a church. Appointed by a pastor and loved by the church. The church family became an extension of my family. Many get togethers and meals were shared. In fact, many came around my wife and I to help us get started with our life together.

The senior pastor moved on from that church to help another ministry. The search began for a new pastor. The church had always held the standard to use the King James Bible in teaching and preaching. However, one could use whatever translation they wanted when not fulfilling one of those two roles. In searching, the church voted to keep that standard and wanted a guy to hold to it. “We just want a King James guy,” said one of the deacons. Then a year later a pastor was voted in. He was great to work with and became a friend and mentor.

About three weeks before getting married, I was asked about my position on the King James Bible. I stated, “The King James is a reliable translation; however, it is not the only one. But, the church constitution states that in my ministry I should use the KJV. I have faithfully done that.”

This statement turned into many meetings, emails, prayers, and worries. We were told by the pastor, “One cannot reach his full spiritual potential without the better truth of the King James. The issue of the King James is a doctrinal stance for the church and a key component of the faith, and should be taught as such.” Four weeks later, I turned in my letter of resignation. I stated what the church was promoting was unbiblical and how I could not promote this church as a Bible-preaching church.

Surprisingly, they agreed that I should teach till the end of the month and then move on. However, these pleasant faces changed. Unlike unmasking a ghost in Scooby Doo (a dark ghost being an actual human), the pleasant mask revealed a much darker side.

The tables turned. We were notified soon after we were not welcomed anymore. My wife and I were branded as false teachers, and a toxicity dividing the church. We were given 30 minutes to gather all our things and told to make sure it looked like we had never been at the church. The pastor threatened us with embarrassment if we tried anything or came back. That night in Youth Group, the teens were told we left without saying goodbye and how we only taught them lies. The church was told similar things. It was praised from the pulpit that we were gone.

Afterwards, I was blackballed. There was no place for me in the community and so my wife and I (in a span of about 3-4 weeks) moved out of state. We had no idea what God was doing. Yet, a year has passed. Many tears were shed and hearts broke and questioning God’s moving was not uncommon. Yet, I would like to share with you some lessons God taught me in leaving a King James Only church.

A 2 Timothy 2:15 Attitude

As various candidates and speakers came into the church, I heard many messages. However, when pastors would say something that hit me funny, I would go back to the Bible and search out to see if it was true. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 would be a constant theme in my life during this time. “True christians will not struggle with depression, because Jesus is the light of the world.” Statements like these caused me to remember 2 Timothy and work out what the Bible said. Paul commands us to take up the Scriptures and know them for ourselves so we will not be deceived. One of Paul’s “mountains to die on” in his letters (and for other New Testament writers) is knowing false teaching and running from it in order to stay true to the doctrine of Christ. This is a 2 Timothy 2:15 attitude. Pleasant faces in the pulpit can be an excellent mask for unbiblical teaching.

Chosen Ignorance is Not Bliss

“We just want a King James guy.” This statement circulated the church during the time of searching for a new pastor. Yet, many did not know the implications of such a statement. This reveals a lesson. The people inside the church need deep teaching. A church that only teaches at “the flannel-graph board” will only develop “flannel-graph” Christians. When I began to teach Bible survey, hermeneutics, and apologetics to the teens, I was ridiculed by some and told I was only “showing off my education.” That was far from the truth. Teens who grew up in the church knew about the Bible, but did not know how to use it. They just wanted the Bible and that was it. While that sounds good, it meant if what was taught sounded too deep, then it was to be avoided. The people had a chosen ignorance in studying the Scriptures and knowing how the Scriptures should be used. Instead, they were comfortable with a list of Do’s and Don’ts and their “flannel-graph Bible characters.” Pleasant faces can hide a “flannel-graph” faith that chooses ignorance over fully knowing God’s Word. “Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant.  But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil.” Hebrew 5:13-14

Standing as a Soldier

Why do we send soldiers to war? It is because of this idea and truth of freedom. The same is for Christians being a soldier for Christ. 2 Timothy 2:3-4 says, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in the concerns of civilian life; he seeks to please the commanding officer.” A soldier stands for truth. He states God’s truth and stands by it. He will not waver from what God’s Word says. When I resigned, I had to say some hard truth. Biblically, what the church was believing was heretical (Galatians 1). I could not sit in a pew when God’s word was being used to justify heresy. A soldier stands for his commander. As Christians, we need to stand for our Commander and His Word when it is being abused in churches. It does produce suffering, but it is better to have the smile of Jesus than the plastic smiles of men which melts quickly. When standing for truth, pleasant faces can turn to scorn. Yet, we look towards the pleasant face of our Savior.

Pushing Away from the Dock

Growing up on the Great Lakes, I have been out on boats many times. It is exciting (and a bit nervous) climbing into a boat and going out on the lake. You never know what is going to happen. You take that step off the dock into a small vessel and push off from the dock. Soon, water surrounds you. You only go where the boat takes you and you trust the captain that he knows the waters.

This is the hardest lesson. I never got to say goodbye to the teens, and I knew what was being said to them. I knew what was being taught. It broke my heart to leave them in that church. It was not the back-stabbing that caused the most pain. It was knowing the teens God entrusted to me were still inside that church. Yet, God’s Word clearly said I had to depart from false teaching. I had to step off the dock and into the boat He prepared for us. God pushed us away from the dock and moved us. It is very hard not to look back and want to go back. Yet, God moved us to a new location and a new place where we could heal, grow, and learn. It is lesson that is an ongoing process. We have to let go of the dock and go where God takes us. That church was like a family to me, but their pleasant faces revealed the truth that it was time to go and follow God more than being comfortable in a church. “You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures.” (Psalm 16:11) Following God means pushing away from the dock, forgetting the false pleasant masks, and finding the joy He gives each step of the way.

And We Follow…

A statement… A letter… God’s Moving. He did bring us to a place where He wants us and we see Him growing us and preparing us for future adventures. It is not easy to sometimes be in the liminal space, but when it is the place where we still see God moving we follow.

These four lessons are key. We need to learn them as we interact with churches and fellow Christians. When we look behind the “pleasant faces” that mask false teaching, we see the truth when we know God’s Word. However, when we push through that crowd, we see the pleasant face of our Savior who gave His life for us, gave His Word to us, and prepared a path for us. It is our choice if we will take His Word and follow His path… Even if that means leaving a pew.

Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way
What He says we will do
Where He sends we will go
Never fear…
Only trust and obey

American Christian or Christian American

“The Earthly [city] has made for herself, according to her heart’s desire, false gods out of any sources at all, even out of human beings, that she might adore them with sacrifices. The heavenly one, on the other hand, living like a wayfarer in this world, makes no false gods for herself. On the contrary, she herself is made by the true God that she may be herself a true sacrifice to Him.” – Augustine

Before you continue reading, please take this short quiz:
1. Name 3 founding fathers who were instrumental in founding the USA.
2. Name 3 Christians who were martyred in order to give you a Bible.
3. Name 3 pivotal events in American history.
4. Name 3 pivotal events in Church history.

Save your answers for later.

With Memorial Day behind us and Fourth of July before us, homes, stores, and other establishments are flying the American Flag. The Anthem will play, fireworks will explode with bright colors, and all Americans, hopefully, will be grateful for the country they live in and the freedoms the American heritage has bestowed on us.

Another establishment that will participate in the festivities are the many churches in our communities. Churches will sing patriotic hymns, honor those in the military, and pray for our country. This observation has caused questions that need to be answered: How do Christians relate to these festivities? What does the Bible say about this?

The Practice of Many Churches and Christians

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain / For purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain / America, America, God shed His grace on thee / And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea 
With pride in their hearts and reverence to their country, many Christians will stand singing this beautiful song in their churches. It is with gratitude they sing.

When it comes to American festivities and the identity of the American, many Christians follow a similar pattern. Even when it comes to politics, many American Christians post articles, memes, comments, pictures of who they are supporting and clear indications of who they do not support. These posts can be from a simple #trumpwon to #hilaryforprison. Or, posts can turn a darker turn by comparing one political party or a political leader to a World War II group or name calling. It can result in posting memes like this:

The two situations seem almost contradictory and as opposite as can be. Yet, many Christians attend church and yet their social media is filled with posts like the one above. Is this the right attitude for the church? Is one better than the other? Or are both not right? We must look at the Bible for a clear answer.

Romans 13; 1 Peter 2 and a National Identity

The Bible is to be our guide for life (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Yet, does it say anything about being an American? Yes, it does. Paul and Peter address the issue of how a Christian should relate to their government and to their national identity.

The books of Romans and 1 Peter were written to Christians who lived in the Roman Empire. Usually, the emperors were not friendly towards Christians. Nero, a Roman emperor, tarred Christians and burned them as torches. This isn’t the same as being sued for not baking a cake. These Christians were fed to wild animals for not renouncing their faith.

Today, many Christians around the world are being martyred for their faith. Yet, in America, this is not a reality yet. The early Christians experienced a government that found pleasure in these events. This situation is where Paul and Peter state: “Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God.” How cruel these words must have seemed as they fell on the ears of those persecuted. Yet, both Paul and Peter (who were executed) instruct Christians to remember that God is in control of the government. Submit to them. Honor the emperor. This is God’s will. Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:11-17 are parallel passages. They were instructed to see God as their Sovereign Lord and King. They served God by living peaceably with all men. This means Christians first saw themselves as God’s and then under the Roman Empire.

Daniel: The Romans 13 Example

An Old Testament example is Daniel. He is a good example of a Romans 13 believer. He was taken as a captive to Babylon. In Daniel 1, he was made into a Babylonian citizen and was trained in Babylon ways, culture, and literature. Yet, we see that he would not eat the king’s food because it violated his fear of God. We generally see this as a good thing. Yet, let’s ask a different question: did he force his beliefs on his non-Jewish peers? No. He personally kept his faith. The king eventually promotes Daniel to be one of the three top administrators in the kingdom. Here we land in Daniel 6 (Daniel in the Lion’s Den). Remember, Daniel is one of the head administrators of the kingdom. He helped advise the king. Yet, due to jealousy, a new decree went out that banned praying to anyone but the king. As an administrator, Daniel would have known about this law. It does not say if he questioned the king. But, we do know that he prayed towards Jerusalem like he did before. He kept his faith. He remembered who God is and feared God above men. Yet, did he make a public protest or chisel a political meme “Darius and Pharaoh from Exodus are the same”? No. He went and he prayed. He knew God was sovereign and he acted on that.

Read Daniel 1-6 and see how Daniel follows a Romans 13 pattern.

The American and Romans 13

How does this apply to us today? Think back to that quiz. Which answers were easier to come up with? This reveals an attitude in many Christians. It tends to be the trend to know American history better than Christian history. This reveals that we have been caught up with being an American first. We have been bought from the kingdom of darkness and made citizens of the kingdom of our Creator. That is our first and primary citizenship. This leads us to some points:

First, do we submit to the authorities that God has put in our lives? Or are we slandering politicians on Facebook? What does that say to the world around us when they see Christians slamming politicians, political parties, and policies on social media? How much do we rant about political matters rather than praying about them? What does that say about our belief in the sovereignty of God?

Second, what do we honor more: America or God? Think of the lyrics to America, the Beautiful. The lyrics portray America and American heritage as better than our own Christian heritage. It seems that the many patriotic songs we sing in church are worshipping America rather than the God who gave us our country. This does not mean we throw them out. We need to be careful how we see these songs. Is it America that is worshipped during these services or is it gratitude to God first? It is good we honor those in office, armed forces, and those who have died and are veterans. However, since our primary citizenship is in God’s kingdom, how much do we honor our Christian heritage? How much do we know about our heritage? How much does our Christian heritage affect our thinking?

As we look at how we handle our government and being an American, it comes down to one question:

Are you an American Christian or a Christian American?

Christ Conquering Chaos

“God can’t give us peace and happiness apart from Himself because there is no such thing.” – C.S. Lewis

Chaos is complete disorder and confusion

Hoarders is a TV show depicting people whose lives are defined by chaos. Their homes are chaotic from the clutter and garbage. Some people do not face hoarding, but they face other situations chaos in their lives. The chaos divorce brings when a custody battle rages over a child. The chaos alcoholism invites to rip apart relationships. The chaos of political battles, war, diseases, addictions, and other things. It is all around us. We worry about how chaos will affect our lives and those we love. It seems like there is no escape from it. Chaos seems to create the path we are to walk.

Where does Chaos come from?

Because of the Fall of Man (Genesis 3), sin has entered the world and all are affected by it (Romans 5:12). Think about divorce. Why does divorce cause so much chaos? Because divorce is bred out of the effects of sin. Why can having a child out of a married relationship cause so much chaos? Because of sin. How can an addiction cause so much chaos for an individual? Because of sin

Chaos is a result of sin. It affects us internally and externally. Think about Hoarders it clearly depicts the external effects of chaos. Internally chaos tortures our minds and puts worry, suspicion, and other thoughts that can lead to an addiction to soothe those thoughts. Yet, that addiction causes more chaos. Our choices create chaos. Think of a situation you handled in a wrong manner or did something you knew was sinful, what happened? Chaos. It plagued your mind and probably affected others.

The Origin of Order

Yet, when we see a chaotic space, for example a messy house, we are repulsed and we want to see it organized. It is because we do not like chaos. We find chaos repulsive and there is an instinct in us where we need to fix it.

This instinct for order comes from God. Genesis 1 tells us that God created the world and brought order out of chaos. He is the author of order. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says that God is not a God of disorder, but of peace. This peace is not the same as hippies smoking a joint and being cool with everything and ignoring issues. No! God is a God of peace in that he brings order. He brings structure. He is the complete opposite chaos. God does not want his world which he gave to us to be a chaotic mess because of sin. He steps in.

The Incarnation Meets Chaos

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14

God takes on a human body. He dwells (or makes his living) among us. He doesn’t just look over humanity. No, he joins us. Jesus is the incarnate God. He lives among our chaos, and meets it head on.

In Mark 5, Jesus heads to the region known as Gerasenes. A man, possessed by demons, meets Jesus. This man’s life is riddled with chaos. Internally and externally the chaos is felt by him and the people around him. They have to chain him and put him in a cemetery. The man cuts himself with rocks. Chaos rules his life. But, in verse 15, Jesus heals the man and the people of the area see him sitting in his right mind. The chaos was gone.

In John 4, Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well. She has to come at noon, in the heat of the day, to draw water because of the chaos in her life. Her actions had created a social chaos for her life. She did not have a husband, and yet was living with a man. Her choices created her chaos. Yet, Jesus brings to her the Living Water which douses the fires of chaos.

God took on flesh to conquer, not only sin, but the consequence of sin: chaos.

But, That is Not the End of the Story…

Usually, our telling of these two Bible stories ends with them being healed and restored by Jesus and that’s it. But, there is more.

In each of these accounts, Jesus not only heal and restores them, but gives them something. The man from Gerasenes and the Woman at the Well are given a new path. Instead of a path that looks like chaos, Jesus gives them a path of peace in a chaotic world. He gives them a peaceful purpose: “Go home to your own people, and report to them how much the Lord has done for you.”

They each still had to deal with the chaos of the world, but their chaos was gone. Jesus replaced it with a purpose: recount the works of God. When we remember the works of God and recount them, we see the peace of God giving us understanding. We begin to see things from God’s point of view.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7

Trying to control our own chaos only brings more internal chaos. God invites us to let him bring peace into our lives. When he does, he gives us a new purpose. This purpose allows us to walk a journey through the chaos of the world surrounded by the peace of God when we are focused on him.

Are things going to be calm and tranquil? No. God does not promise that. Instead, he promises internal peace that helps us understand to look at life from God’s perspective.

Paul, the apostle, experienced this. His life was far from calm and tranquil. He was whipped, imprisoned, beaten, stoned, abandoned, and shipwrecked. Yet, in Philippians 4:11, he says I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself.

Chaos surrounded him, yet Paul was able to be content and find God’s peace to correct his thinking. God took on flesh, not only to save us, but to bring order to our chaos and out of our chaos give us a purpose. It may feel like a maze at times, but we have someone guiding us each step of the way.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.– 2 Corinthians 5:7