I'm not fond of fabric stores. What can I say? As a male I'm just not enthralled about walking around racks filled with bolts of cloth. I'm thrilled my wife likes to sew and make things and has some ability at doing so. However it's not a store I can stand for more than a few minutes. Whenever we visit the fabric store at the nearest shopping mall (about 30 miles from our home) I usually end up on the bench out on the concourse.
So there I was sitting and minding my own business, half engaged in people watching and half falling asleep when this clean cut man in his sixties walks up and asks me my name. I could see he was carrying some literature and my guard went up. What was this...a salesman perhaps?
I answered and then he asked where I lived? Why? I asked with a slight furrow to my brow, starting to grow even more suspicious.
He sat down beside me and told me his name and handed one of the booklets to me. It was a small 4"x8" booklet about 50 pages long and on the cover was a young man in an army dress uniform.
"My son was killed in Iraq," he said, "and I want to share his story with people. I'd like you to read this."
I sighed, a flood of ideas and emotions entering my head. I said okay and opened the booklet. Tucked inside was a gospel tract. Blazoned across the front was a flag motif with the bold words...God Bless America. I quickly opened it while he chatted for a second and I recognized it was the standard Arminian type tract with Bill Bright's 4 Spiritual laws....#1 God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life....
These tracts usually also have some kind of Decisionalistic conclusion...sign your name, say a little prayer, and sure enough...you're on the road to heaven.
On the back of the tract there was something or other about International Baptist Military Missions. I remember all too well those churches. When I was in Europe it was a group called BIMI. They set up English speaking Baptist churches outside of military bases overseas. They're not really trying to target the local population, they're trying to reach the small city that is any military installation. It gets real patriotic let me tell you...a church full of nothing but American military. The pastors are often (but not always) retired military themselves. It's easier for them to live overseas next to a base because with their retiree ID card they can use the base facilities; in fact it's really like living in a Little America.
I'm sorry to say but I was actually baptized in one of these churches in 1995. I with some friends was attending there. I was quite uneasy about it even though I had only professed Christ for a matter of a few short months. In that time I had already read and studied enough to realize the Arminian Dispensational teaching of my youth, also represented in this Baptist church was quite erroneous. In addition this particular type of Baptist church was the firebrand, legalistic type which also held to King James only-ism.
There are folks who prefer the King James Bible (and often the New King James version) because of issues related to the Greek text of the New Testament. They employ the texts traditionally used by the Church. Virtually all modern Bible translations employ the Critical (or sometimes called the Alexandrian) Text based on newer found manuscripts, fragments and papyri. The Critical Text claims to be older than the Traditional text and so many have gone along with it. A problem arises when one realizes the Critical text removes a few passages of Scripture... John 7.53-8.11, Mark 16.9-20, and others, as well as clauses and fragments from many verses. But it's older, some argue. But that means for centuries the Church has been using the wrong text...others argue back. This is a pretty interesting issue that maybe I'll tackle at another time. All I'll say is that there are many conservative Bible believing Christians who knowing or unknowing have rejected the concept of Providential Preservation...the notion that God brought together the canon and has preserved it through the ages. The pro-Critical proponents have arguments as well, but as I said that's for another time.
There's another small sect which goes far beyond the Greek textual question. They actually believe the English language 1611 King James Bible is inspired. We all believe the Bible is inspired, but usually that is understood to mean the Hebrew and Greek texts are inspired...the originals, or Autographs. Our translations are inspired only in so far as they accurately reflect the original texts. Mistakes can be made in translation but that in no way harms the doctrine of Inspiration.
The King James Only movement argues the English translation is inspired. They believe the Holy Spirit was at work in the hands of the English translators and that today if you're going to translate the Bible into some obscure dialect of Swahili then you use the King James as the Autograph, the original. You don't need the Greek and Hebrew anymore.
Obviously this movement has little marketability outside the English speaking world and I don't know that it has really even spread outside of American circles. Cultish to say the least, there is a small but vibrant community of churches which hold to this frankly bizarre doctrine. You can always tell when you see the Church sign. We have a few of them around this region where I live. The sign outside their building will say something like:
Grace Baptist Church
Independent, Fundamental, Bible-Believing, Soul-Winning, KJV-only.
I immediately know exactly what they're all about. Though they decry uniform liturgy and tradition, I can assure you they are all almost carbon copies of each other.
We shall return to this a bit later in the story.