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BJU and the KJV

I'll make my comments and ponderings on this later.

(The following material was duplicated in its entirety from the Bob Jones University web site. Only the layout has been slightly modified: all content is in its original state.)

The following is a letter sent by Dr. Bob Jones III to pastors regarding the recent accusations questioning BJU's stand on scriptural integrity.

May 20, 1998

Dear Pastor:

Almost immediately after the school year was over, we received word about a video that Pensacola Christian College mailed out widely to pastors and others across the country accusing Bob Jones University of poisoning the stream of Fundamentalism.

Dr. Thurman Wisdom, dean of the School of Religion, and the Bible faculty have composed a rebuttal, which I am sending you for your understanding so that you will have some facts to rebut any criticisms of the University that you may hear as a result of the Pensacola video. There have been two prior videos produced by Pensacola, stating their KJV-only beliefs, and that, of course, is their privilege. Normally, we would never have taken notice of the videos, because any Christian college has the right to believe whatever it wants to believe. However, this third video is an attack upon the scriptural integrity of Bob Jones University, and we can't remain silent when that happens.

Most of you reading this trust the spiritual integrity of the University and, therefore, trust your young people to us for training. The tape from Pensacola calls the University's orthodoxy into question. If taken at face value the tape would cause one to wonder if the University believes God has preserved His Word. Of course, we do! We preach that from the housetops. The University's position on the inerrancy and infallibility of the Scriptures hasn't changed in the 71 years of its existence. We preach and teach the same thing the Hortons learned and believed when they were students here. I'm sending this open letter to you, which the Bible faculty has written to Dr. Arlin Horton, president of Pensacola Christian College, because I don't want anybody at any time to have any question about where the University stands on the Scriptures. The position we take is the historical and defensible one.

If you take the time to read the enclosure, you will appreciate more than ever the sound, sensible, and honest Bible faculty that God has raised up here. You will see how much they love the Lord, the Bible, and the truth. Kind regards.

Sincerely yours,

Bob Jones III


This video is the latest of three widely-distributed PCC tapes on the KJV debate. The seminar on which the tape is based was presented in the 1998 PCC Enrichment Conference. The speakers are Dr. Dell Johnson, who was recently appointed dean of the newly established Pensacola Theological Seminary, and Dr. Theodore Letis, a guest lecturer. Dr. Letis has a Ph.D. in ecclesiastical history from the University of Edinburgh. He is a Lutheran, who has recently published a book entitled The Ecclesiastical Text (Institute for Renaissance and Reformation Biblical Studies, Philadelphia, 1997). This book provides the basis for much of the argument in the presentations. We understand that the tape was shown to PCC students and that it has evidently been sent to virtually everyone on the PCC mailing list.

In effect, the tape represents Bob Jones University as the major agent in the spread of a defiling leaven in Fundamentalism. According to the theory of Dr. Letis, the renowned conservative theologian Benjamin B. Warfield introduced this leaven by arguing for the inspiration and authority of the Bible on the basis of inerrant original writings rather than on the basis of the "ecclesiastical text"--the in-hand copies of the Bible approved by orthodox believers in general. Allegedly, Warfield's decision to emphasize the inerrant originals demanded that he rely on textual criticism. Textual criticism is identified as the leaven that is defiling Fundamentalism, and all who utilize any form of textual criticism to decide which manuscripts seem to be closest to the originals are spreading this destructive leaven.

By means of a chart, the tape purports to show that the "leaven of Fundamentalism" was passed from Warfield to Dr. Charles Brokenshire (1885-1954), who served as dean of the School of Religion of BJU. Dr. Brokenshire passed this leaven on to Dr. Marshall Neal, dean of the School of Religion from 1964 to 1978. Dr. Neal passed it on to Dr. Stewart Custer, current Chairman of the Bible Department of BJU. Through the influence of such BJU scholars as Dr. Custer and Dr. Sam Schnaiter, faculty members and administrators of other Fundamentalist Bible colleges and seminaries have been infected. The tape identifies as key instruments in the spread of the leaven the following Bob Jones University graduates: Dr. David Doran (pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church and chairman of the board of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary), Dr. Gordon Lovik (Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary), and Dr. Larry D. Pettegrew (Central Baptist Theological Seminary).


May 22, 1998

Dear Dr. Horton:

Members of the Bob Jones University Bible faculty and administration have recently viewed the PCC videotape entitled The Leaven of Fundamentalism. It would be impossible for me to express the pain and dismay we feel. We are appalled that you would use the forum of a discussion of the Word of God to launch such a gratuitous and unprovoked attack on other Christian institutions and on a wide range of noble men of God, past and present, who have given their lives to the defense and propagation of the Scriptures.


Let me say, at the outset, that Bob Jones University stands on the Word of God exactly where it has stood since its founding. We have always used the King James Version; and in recent years, in response to the confusion resulting from the Bible version debate, we have made the King James Version our official Bible. We require that it be used in all services and classes on campus. We believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible, and we believe that God has supernaturally preserved every one of His inspired words for us today. We would not hire or retain a faculty member who did not heartily subscribe to these vital truths. Our 71-year reputation speaks for itself. People all over the world, friend and foe alike, will testify that Bob Jones University is absolutely inflexible in its convictions concerning the Word of God. We stand where we have always stood: in the mainstream of historic Fundamental Christianity.

This is why it grieves us so deeply to see representatives of a sister Fundamentalist institution that has so clearly been a favored participant in the legacy of Bob Jones University seemingly forget its heritage. Through a flagrant reinterpretation of the facts of history, PCC appears to be bent on claiming exclusive right to the higher ground of Fundamentalism--in lofty isolation, not only from BJU, but from virtually every other Fundamental Bible college and seminary. Dr. Horton, our position on the fundamentals of the Faith is exactly the same as it was when you and your wife attended Bob Jones University fifty years ago; and, as then, we continue to hold our beliefs in common with Bible-believing Christians, past and present, throughout the world.


A Tragic Missed Opportunity for Mutual Edification

We have always tried to maintain a brotherly relationship with Pensacola, and we still desire to. You may remember, Dr. Horton, that three years ago I wrote you a letter inviting Pensacola to participate in a conference for Bible faculty members of Fundamentalist colleges and seminaries. This proposed colloquy was designed to provide a forum in which faculty members from various institutions could exchange ideas and discuss issues of concern in their mutual ministry of teaching the Word of God. I was delighted with the favorable and enthusiastic response of every institution on the list--except Pensacola Christian College. I called your office and the office of one of your assistants two or three times to make sure you had received the invitation and to encourage you to send representatives. To this day, I have not received a response to my letter or phone calls.

I wondered at the time if this lack of response was a tacit rejection of constructive fellowship with your colleagues in the Faith or if it was simply the result of our all-too-human tendency to neglect the common courtesies of life. Whatever the case--whether we are dealing with tacit rejection or with human infirmities--I now see that Satan has taken full advantage of our missed opportunity for mutual edification; for the theme of the second annual meeting of this conference was the Word of God. Among those present were some who hold to the Textus Receptus position, and a paper was presented supporting the TR view of the text of Scripture and of the doctrine of preservation. The discussion that followed was frank, constructive, and congenial--as a discussion among Christian brothers should be. There were no innuendoes, no inflammatory words, no charges of ignorance, or of unorthodoxy, or of unspirituality. In fact, there is little room in these conferences for misunderstanding and misrepresentation; for with each presentation, ample time is allotted for discussion, questions, and clarifications. It grieves me now to think what might have been. What damage to the cause of Christ and to the fellowship of the saints could have been avoided had Dr. Dell Johnson and some of his colleagues been participants in this conference!


Public confrontation should follow the principles of ethical fairness. It has been well said that foundational to ethical debate is the ability and willingness to present your opponent's position in terms he would agree with. Dr. Horton, Pensacola's tape The Leaven of Fundamentalism grievously violates this foundational principle. It not only misrepresents the men of God it criticizes, but it demeans and ridicules their position, their spiritual discernment, and even (on occasion) their faith. The tape includes a number of factual errors, and it abounds in gratuitous assumption presented dogmatically as historical reality. However, in this letter I will concentrate on three major themes that expose the PCC tape to the charge of ethical unfairness.


1. The Flawed Assumption That Textual Criticism Is Always Destructive

Let me address, first, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Letis's use of the term textual criticism. Throughout the tape this term is used consistently and repeatedly to represent destructive criticism of the Word of God. In fact, the thesis on which the whole PCC tape is built is that the leaven of Fundamentalism is textual criticism. By implication and by repeated use of the negative connotation of this term, we are urged to believe that all textual criticism is leaven and we must purge out of Christianity all textual criticism. In sweeping, White-Throne-Judgment terms, Dr. Johnson decrees that "Those involved in textual criticism have abandoned the doctrine of preservation." Dr. Horton, I simply cannot believe that these two scholars are oblivious to the fact that the expression textual criticism has both a positive and a negative connotation.

We all practice some form of textual criticism. As you well know, and as I am sure they know, the term criticism can mean either "the act of criticizing and passing unfavorable judgments" or "the art of making discriminating evaluations." We have a course in our catalogue entitled "Critical Writing." We are not teaching students in this course to write in a judgmental and pontifical fashion. The course description reads, "Principles and techniques of analytical and evaluative writing." You and I, Dr. Horton, are in the bifocal age. Recently, while I was shopping for a new Bible, I engaged in a simple form of textual criticism. I examined two copies of the KJV and evaluated the text of each for readability and layout. When Bible teachers, such as Dr. Johnson, give verse memorization tests, they--or their paper graders--engage in textual criticism: they make discriminating evaluations of their students' written representations of the Word of God.

Erasmus and the KJV translators practiced textual criticism. When Erasmus studied the seven Greek manuscripts that served as the basis for the Textus Receptus, he engaged in the practice of textual criticism. The same must be said of the KJV translators. In the Preface to the original Authorized Version, they explicitly tell us that they diligently evaluated all the sources available to them. They engaged, in other words, in the practice of textual criticism. In fact, the KJV translators had such confidence in the priesthood of the believer that they made the choice to include in the margins of their translation over 8000 notes giving alternate manuscript readings and more literal translations of their renditions. Their defense of this practice suggests that they had encountered opposition from people who held that any change in the wording of a translation was, by necessity, an attack on the integrity of Scripture.

Some peradventure would have no variety of senses to be set in the margin, lest the authority of the Scriptures for deciding of controversies by that shew of uncertainty should somewhat be shaken. But we hold their judgment not to be so sound in this point.

This statement was based on the classic Biblical principle that a mature believer, endued with the Spirit of God, is able to engage in the practice of making "discriminating evaluations" of proposed interpretations and alternate readings of the Scripture. Nowhere in this tape did Dr. Johnson or Dr. Letis make a serious attempt to explain this legitimate meaning of the key term textual criticism. In fact, Dr. Johnson ridicules Dr. Edward Glenny's statement (The Bible Version Debate, p. 41) that textual criticism need not be destructive. These tactics constitute a grievous violation of the foundational principle of ethical debate.

2. The Flawed Theory That the Importance of Inerrant Originals Is a New Doctrine

As the central thesis of the tape--that textual criticism, all textual evaluation, is the leaven of Fundamentalism--is flawed, so is the supporting prop for the thesis. The proposed pillar by which, allegedly, we can gain the perspective to see the insidious nature of all textual evaluation is the proposition that Dr. Benjamin Warfield "sold us down the river" by foisting upon the Church the novel notion that only the originals of the inspired writers are inerrant. Before Warfield, we are told, no intelligent Christian--no orthodox church--made such an outrageous claim. "If you don't believe this," says Dr. Letis, "read my book."

With all due respect, Dr. Letis, I have read your book, and I still do not believe your claim. I am thoroughly convinced that genuine believers, whether young or old, educated or uneducated, intuitively perceive that the original writings are in a class by themselves. When I was saved at the age of nine, I immediately recognized that the words that came from the mouth of Jesus, and the words recorded by those who heard Him, were different from all other words. When, as a boy, I saw a Bible from which some unattended child had torn pages, it grieved me, but it did not disturb my faith one whit; for I knew intuitively that the words on those missing pages had come originally from God Himself and that they still existed. I am convinced that every genuine Christian has imprinted in the depths of his soul the perception that the original words of God have a spiritual quality that lifts them infinitely above and beyond the reach of human error--whether by careless scribes, or faulty printers, or malicious magistrates. Therefore, I am compelled to say (and I think that there is nearly universal accord among believers in this) that the written words of the autographs, whether they came directly from the hand of the inspired writer or from the pen of an appointed scribe, were preserved inerrant.

The willingness of Dr. Letis to tolerate errors in the originals! Consequently, I found it passing strange--indeed, shocking--that in his book, The Ecclesiastical Text, Dr. Letis (apparently with no felt need for a personal disclaimer) argues that the suggestions of certain Princetonians that there may have been errors in the original manuscripts tends to prove his case. He begins his argument with the following comment: "It is interesting to note that . . . the founding professor at Princeton Seminary, Archibald Alexander, felt no compunction about admitting the autographs were not inerrant . . . ." He then quotes Alexander as saying,

. . . it is even possible that some of the autographs, if we had them, might not be altogether free from such errors as arise from the slip of the pen, as the apostles [had amanuenses] who were not inspired.

Dr. Letis's conclusion from this observation is disturbing:

Alexander could afford to admit this error, because for him, as it was for the scholastics to whom he was indebted, the primary locus of authority was the in-hand texts at his disposal. For him there was no radical discontinuity between the lost autographs and the text he had before him. Therefore, if the extant text manifested errors the likelihood was strong that they were there originally [pp. 5-6, emphasis mine].

This is an incredible concession! Is this the price Dr. Letis would have us pay in order to gain an ecclesiastically approved Bible?

The questionable opponents of Warfield. In his quest to disabuse us of the notion that we should have faith in pristine originals, Dr. Letis enlists the aid of a renowned contemporary of Warfield, Charles Augustus Briggs. With apparent favor, he delineates the contentions of Briggs against the likes of Warfield.

It has been taught in recent years, and is still taught by some theologians, that one proven error destroys the authority of Scripture. I shall venture to affirm that . . . there are errors in the Scriptures that no one has been able to explain away; and the theory that they were not in the original text is sheer assumption, upon which no mind can rest with certainty (p. 67, emphasis mine).

In fact, Dr. Letis is so enamored with Briggs's arguments against Warfield that he devotes two full pages in his book to what he terms "a classic refutation of Warfield s position." In these two pages, Dr. Letis seems to see only one problem worthy of a disclaimer. Briggs, he says, "is being disingenuous" when he questions the authenticity of the resurrection account in the Gospel of Mark. Apparently, however, he sees no need to distance himself from the following comment by Briggs:

. . . it is altogether irrational to take the position that the inerrant Bible is solely and alone in the original autographs which no one has seen since the Church had a Canon, and which no one can ever see . . . . (p. 67).

Dr. Letis enlists the services also of historian Thomas Lindsay and theologian James Orr to support his thesis that Warfield's reference to inerrant originals was "leaven" destined to corrupt the Church of God.

My response to this triumvirate of scholarly authority is to call attention to a point that Dr. Letis trips lightly over. All of these men were advocates of higher criticism, and all had weak views of inspiration. Union Seminary professor Charles Briggs, for example, disavowed the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture and claimed that the term infallibility applies only to the Scriptures in matters of faith and practice. These men, therefore, had compelling religious reasons to seek to establish a rationale for expunging inerrancy from the creeds of the Church.

The testimony of history against the Letis theory. Is it indeed true that history supports the Dr. Letis claim that believers have been duped by Dr. Warfield's insidious promotion of the doctrine of inerrant autographs? Are we Fundamentalists being subtly led by this scholarly giant to the place called Doubting Castle? I mentioned previously that I am convinced that Christians have an intuitive conviction that the original oracles of God, whether written or spoken, are in a class by themselves--pristine and impervious to corruption. But is there historical evidence for this conviction? Let's begin with the translators of the Authorized Version. In the Preface to this historic translation, these men of God respond in part to their critics, first, by acknowledging the possibility of imperfections in their work, and then by affirming (unfortunately, in rather ponderous Elizabethan English) that only "Apostles or apostolic men . . . privileged with the privilege of infallibility" had produced a work with no imperfections. Those, therefore, who opposed the translated Word "did . . . despite the Spirit of grace, from whom originally it proceeded . . . . " These words, of course, reflected a sentiment that existed in the Church long before Warfield.

David L. Saxon, who recently received his doctor of philosophy degree in church history from BJU, wrote his dissertation on selected early Fundamentalists' views of inspiration, Bible translations, and Bible criticism. He concentrated on the writings of James H. Brookes (1830-1897), A. J. Gordon (1836-1895) and A. T. Pierson (1837-1911). After evaluating various views, including the one Dr. Letis espouses, Dr. Saxon has this to say about the convictions of early Fundamentalists concerning the relationship of the original writings to copies and translations.

Brookes says, "No one believes that the translation of the Bible into different languages is inspired, but the Bible itself asserts over and over that the original writings of words of the Hebrew and Greek were given by inspiration of God, men speaking as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" ("Answers to Correspondents," The Truth 15 [1889]: 357) . . . . Other Fundamentalists held to the same view. For example, Methodist evangelist L. W. Munhall says, "No one believes that the transcribers, translators, and revisers were inspired. The doctrine of verbal inspiration is simply this: The original writings, ipsissima verba, came through the penmen direct from God" (The Highest Critics vs. The Higher Critics [Philadelphia: E. & R. Munhall, 1896], 20-21). This section could multiply such citations almost indefinitely (p. 61, n. 34).

The questionable roots of the Letis theory. The theory of Dr. Letis seems to have its roots in the writings of Ernest Sandeen. In 1962, Sandeen published an article in Church History entitled "The Princeton Theology: One Source of Biblical Literalism in American Protestantism," and in 1970 he published a book entitled The Roots of Fundamentalism. In both of these works, the author espoused the theory Dr. Letis later sought to "sanitize" and develop--that Warfield, Charles Hodge, and A. A. Hodge departed from traditional Christian beliefs concerning inspiration and substituted the doctrine of inerrant originals. Ernest Sandeen (b.1908) had a special interest in the roots of Fundamentalism and in Biblical literalism. He was brought up as a Fundamentalist and attended Wheaton College. Later, however, he departed from the Faith and became a liberal. He received his doctorate, and his theological mind-set, from the University of Chicago. Consequently, as with several other authors Dr. Letis enlists to support his theory (Charles Briggs, Thomas Lindsay, James Orr, and Dewey Beegle), Sandeen had a passionate doctrinal disposition that was antagonistic to the concept of inerrant originals.

Writing from Princeton University, Randall H. Balmer, with the help of John D. Woodbridge and Mark A. Noll, demolished Sandeen's theory. In an article entitled "The Princetonians and Scripture: A Reconsideration" (Westminster Theological Journal 44 [1982]: 352-365), Balmer provides quotations from numerous nineteenth-century theologians who clearly were in complete sympathy with Warfield concerning the importance of the doctrine of inerrant originals. Dr. Letis (pp. 23-26) attempts to brush aside the massive evidence of Balmer by invoking the specter of textual criticism as the feature that distinguishes Warfield from the Church at large; but it is difficult to see how anyone with a mind unencumbered by dogmatic necessity could read Balmer's evidence and conclude that Warfield's promotion of the doctrine of inerrant originals represented a departure from historic Christianity. Balmer's findings were confirmed by other researchers. He notes that his conclusion was

. . . also . . . the conclusion, with some qualifications, of Marsden (Fundamentalism and American Culture, 113), Vander Stelt (Philosophy and Scripture, 90), and Mark A. Noll ("The Founding of Princeton Seminary," WTJ 42 [1979] 72-110 passim), all of whom see an essential continuity reaching through the Princeton tradition . . . . Moreover, the important work of John D. Woodbridge ("Biblical Authority: Towards an Evaluation of the Rogers and McKim Proposal," Trinity Journal n.s. 1 [1980] 165-236) has demonstrated that the essentials of the Princeton view of Scripture date back to the Patristic period (pp. 353-54).

Likewise, Warfield, in a chapter entitled "The Church Doctrine of Inspiration" (The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, pp. 105-128), provides abundant evidence of the importance of the doctrine of inerrant originals throughout church history. Notwithstanding the grievances of Drs. Johnson and Letis, I heartily recommend The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. For over seventy years, this classic work has strengthened and warmed the faith of countless thousands of believers in every part of the world.

3. The Flawed Claim That Opponents of the PCC View Reject the Doctrine of Preservation

Throughout the video, Drs. Johnson and Letis promote the theory that the in-hand texts, the copies of the Bible accepted by orthodox believers, at any given time in history should be recognized, not only as authoritative, but as infallible.

Do Drs. Johnson and Letis really believe that the in-hand texts are perfect? Is this conclusion concerning the infallibility of in-hand texts based on the conviction of Drs. Johnson and Letis that these copies of the Bible are exact replicas in every jot and tittle of the originals? In the tape these men definitely leave the impression that this is what they believe. For example, they repeatedly affirm by direct quotation or by dogmatic assertion that the extant text is "an absolute replica of the original . . . inspired and infallible." However, in his book, Dr. Letis clearly acknowledges thousands of textual variants in the extant texts. For example, in his discussion of Alexander's assertion that the originals may have contained errors, Dr. Letis says,

Furthermore, though Alexander was aware of at least 60,000 textual variants in his day, he was confident that they did not affected [sic] doctrine in any way. Like the scholastics, Alexander saw the uniformity of the extant text--in spite of some diversity--as explicit evidence of the enduring validity of the . . . promise of providential preservation (p. 6).

White lies, black lies, and statistics. Sixty thousand variants, by the way, would be an average of over 50 per chapter and of almost 2 variants for every verse in the Authorized Version of the Bible. If we assigned one word to each variant, this number would amount to about 8% of the words in the KJV. Nevertheless, Dr. Letis has no qualms about pronouncing such texts infallible; and his partner, Dr. Johnson, fulminates with righteous indignation against those who dare to say that there are questions about only 8% of the words in our modern copies and that these variants do not affect doctrine in any way.

In this connection, it would be good to remind ourselves of the tongue-in-cheek axiom that there are three kinds of lies: white lies, black lies, and statistics. I regard Dr. Johnson as a man of integrity, and I would never accuse him of deliberately lying. Nevertheless, his practice of stigmatizing his opponents in meteorological terms is extremely misleading (e.g., his argument seems to be that if a person believes that variants amount to 8-10% of the words of the Bible, there is a 100% probability that he is drifting into unbelief). In the first place, the 8-10% figure is a misrepresentation of his opponents' position. In the tape, Dr. Johnson made several derogatory references to the Central Baptist Seminary book, The Bible Version Debate. However, he seems to have overlooked the statement of Dr. Edward Glenny that of the New Testament variants, "About 98% are insignificant matters like spelling, word order, differences in style, or confusion concerning synonyms" (pp. 96-97). On page 61 of the same book, Dr. Glenny provides a helpful chart tracing the history of editions of the King James Version from 1611 to 1873. By means of this graphic display, he reminds us, among other things, that the 1769 edition, which is the basis for most modern KJV Bibles, "differs from the 1611 . . . edition in at least 75,000 details."

Is it possible to disagree with the PCC theory and still believe in the doctrine of preservation? Repeatedly in the tape, Drs. Johnson and Letis accuse their opponents of not believing in the doctrine of preservation. Their assumption throughout is that the doctrines of inspiration and preservation are so integrally connected with the Authorized Version that no one can be viewed as having intelligent faith in these doctrines unless he holds to the theory that the KJV is the divinely appointed channel of preservation. This assumption provides for them the "justification" for representing those who do not subscribe to their theory as having "abandoned the doctrine of preservation." The verses Dr. Johnson cites to correct our thinking are indeed wonderful assurances that God has faithfully inspired and preserved His words; but please note that not one of them declares that God promised to preserve His Word through one version or through a particular line of manuscripts. To read into these passages "Authorized Version" or "Textus Receptus" is tantamount to adding to the Word of God. Dr. Horton, if those who do not agree with the Textus Receptus position are guilty of denying the doctrine of preservation, why did you hire Dr. Dell Johnson? By his own admission, he did not hold to this position when you hired him. And Dr. Johnson, if you lived in darkness about this important doctrine for thirty years, shouldn't you be a little more moderate in your language about those upon whom this light has not yet dawned?

Does the Bible really tell us the means by which God has preserved His Word? There is no question that the words of the Bible clearly and emphatically declare that God has inspired and preserved His holy Word; but nothing in the Bible tells us the means by which He preserved it. Yet it is at precisely this point--the point at which God has chosen to be silent--that Drs. Johnson and Letis have attempted to draw the battle lines of orthodoxy. Is not this a violation of the principle established in Deuteronomy 29:29? According to this passage, "The secret things belong unto the LORD."

Why are we arguing about things God has not revealed? Dr. Horton, is this what we have come to in American Christianity? Is it really necessary for us to spend countless hours arguing about a point on which God has chosen to be silent? It used to be that when Christians gathered around the Word of God, they spent their time discussing what the Bible actually says. In Bob Jones University, I was taught, as you were, that God's revelation through His holy Word is complete and sufficient for the child of God. Have we now arrived at a place in the history of the Church where the Word is no longer adequate for our spiritual needs?

Will these arguments develop the image of Christ in us? The brilliant eighteenth-century pastor and teacher Philip Doddridge once divulged a prized secret for his remarkable understanding of difficult passages in the Bible. When other more learned helps failed, he would consult a poor old woman living near him; and generally he would accept her conclusions. I have known a few saints like that. Dr. Horton, suppose we had the opportunity of visiting such a saint as this poor old woman. We enter her threadbare house together. We see immediately that she has no need of bookshelves. Her only books are a well-worn Bible and a ragged edition of Webster's Dictionary. What would we feel compelled to say to this woman about her spiritual needs in our modern era? Would we say, "Mrs. Smith, you are a sweet lady. You have evidently learned to walk with God and you have the glow of Shekinah in your face. But, Mrs. Smith, if you wish to be complete in your Christian walk, you really must have my book. You see, this book explains, in simple terms guaranteed not to burden the mind, the vagaries of two millennia of the history of the sacred text."

Is not the Word alone sufficient for our spiritual needs? It took the KJV translators and publishers years, even centuries, to come to the realization that they didn't need to attach the Apocrypha to the Bible. Has the Christian Church now come full circle in its thinking? Do we need another Apocrypha, an addendum to the Bible, to rescue us from the danger of historical paradigm shifts? What has happened to us that we are spending evangelistic zeal on a message that God never gave us? Have we replaced the Great Commission with the Great Debate?


I appeal to you, Dr. Horton, and to anyone who has had the patience to read this ponderous letter: Let's stop examining one another by the feeble light of the glowworms of history. Let's examine ourselves and return to the holy Light God has given us. "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law."

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Thurman Wisdom
Dean School of Religion

We, the undersigned, representative members of the Bob Jones University Bible faculty, have read the above letter and are in full accord with its message and appeal.

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