I received a most perplexing email recently from a correspondent who said he feared he was losing his faith. My first response is to ask, ”where did you put it?”
I don’t mean to sound flippant. It is a legitimate question. Many claim Christ, but misplace their faith in a system, or a particular preacher, or even a particular translation of the Bible.
Full disclosure: I read, preach and teach from the King James Bible. It is not because I believe the KJV version uniquely has special mystical powers, or because the other versions are so corrupted that one can’t discern the Gospel message.
I prefer it because of its majestic presentation, its brevity and simplicity, and because it is the Bible that I have always studied from. I ‘think’ in King James, so when I hear a quote from another Bible version, I have to translate it into King James in order to put it into context.
My faith is NOT in a particular version of a Book, but in its Author. I recall a time when I was a staunch KJV purist, arguing the case that God only wrote one Bible, and that the KJV was it.
My argument was predicated on the fact that the KJV remained substantially unchanged since 1611, and that it was translated from the most faithfully preserved translations of the original Scriptures. I had faith in my argument, and in my understanding of the KJV.
Until it occurred to me that all it would take to shatter my faith would be evidence that one translator, somewhere along the line, got something wrong.
My faith, I realized, was not in the Bible’s Author, or even in the Bible itself, but in the ability of the scribes to produce perfect copies and the ability of the translators to produce a perfect translation.
I still believe the KJV to be the most accurate translation of Scripture available to English-speaking believers, but I will no longer debate it as an issue. My faith isn’t in a translation, it is in the Message it contains.
The Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years by forty different human authors, most of whom had not only never met, but in many cases, had never even heard of each other or the different works they produced.
But each flows together in a cohesive, harmonious narrative that takes humankind from the point of creation to the threshold of eternity.
The integrity of its historical and geographical record is supported by archeology. The accuracy with which it has been copied and handed down to us has been confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran.
Originating neither in the East nor the West, but in the Middle East–the cradle of civilization–the Bible is a living Book that speaks to each generation of history as if it were written specifically to their time. The Bible says of itself that its contents were ‘God-breathed’ and it’s accuracy has withstood all the tests that time could throw at it.
But my faith isn’t in the KJV, it is in the Scripture itself. If my faith rested on the King James Version of the Bible, it would begin to crumble at the moment I pondered Russian, Italian, French, Swahili and Swedish translations of Scripture.
I recall, shortly after being saved, attending a fire-and-brimstone, King James only, ye must be born again, long skirts for ladies, short hair for men, door-knockin’, throw out your TV, old time Bible Baptist Church.
I thought the preacher was the most Spirit-filled, inspired and God-centered man I had ever met. With him at my side, I would have charged Hell with a bucket of ice water. Until he turned out to have feet of clay.
I’ll spare you the details, but those details threw me into a spiritual spiral that, had the Lord not reached down and pulled me out in time, would have seen my faith crash and burn like an Arab jet fighter in an Israeli dogfight.
I almost lost my faith because I didn’t remember where I had put it last. I put my faith in a man of God, and not in the God of man.
For a time, I put my faith in my interpretation of the timing of the Rapture of the Church. I would argue with anyone who was willing (and there was never a shortage of volunteers) about when the Rapture would occur and why it must occur before the Tribulation begins.
I am as certain today as I ever was that the Rapture precedes the Tribulation Period. But some of those with whom I jousted were equally certain of their interpretative understanding. Since we were both arguing based on our faith in our own ability to discern the Scriptures, our faith was misplaced.
If I were successful in my argument, my opponent’s faith would be shattered. Some ‘victory.’
On each side of the debate, our faith was in when He comes, rather than Who is coming. And when we crossed that invisible line between sharing our own understanding to demanding it be accepted as an article of faith, the debate becomes a pointless exercise in what is nothing less than breathtaking spiritual arrogance.
Nobody will ever be able to say ‘I told you so’ — and the timing of the Rapture plays no role in whether or not a believer will participate in it. Both sides walk away from such a debate diminished.
The Scriptures tell us, “let God be true, but every man a liar.” (Romans 3:4)
There are as many interpretations of Scripture as there are different denominations within Christendom.
One can run the gamut from the replacement theology of classic Protestantism to Dispensationalism, from the high liturgy of Lutheranism to the relaxed atmosphere of a non-denominational Bible church, and find within them sincere, born-again believers who put their faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation.
It is faith in the completed Work of Jesus Christ at the Cross that saves us. Not faith in our own interpretative abilities, the infallibility of our doctrine, faith in a particular English translation of the Bible, or faith in a particular preacher or teacher.
One loses one’s faith when one forgets where he put it.
By Jack Kinsella