The NIV-Only Controversy:

A Parody “Celebrating”(?) the 10th Anniversary of an Extremely Flawed Book


by T.L. Hubeart Jr.


©2005 by T.L. Hubeart Jr.


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(Posted 1 April 2005)


An Introduction


The parody you are about to read is meant to recognize the tenth anniversary of the publication of James R. White’s The King James Only Controversy, a book that I have deplored in various sections of my site for its superficiality, its frequent inaccuracies, and general mean-spiritedness. I have sometimes pondered writing a detailed analysis of the deficiencies of this book, as many writers such as my friend Dr. Thomas Holland have done; I also found at this link an appendix from The Ecclesiastical Text by Theodore P. Letis where White’s qualifications and method are rather searchingly—and in my view quite effectively—critiqued in a few short pages (e.g., Dr. Letis asserts that White “has no qualifications for writing on these subjects other than the basic ability to read secondary sources and so critique a woman [Gail Riplinger] even less qualified than himself” [p. 223] Yeowch!!) 


A more comforting idea was to simply ignore White’s book in the belief that the Christian public would gradually realize its lack of real merit and allow it to fade away quietly. But sadly, I see even some I consider true scholars, such as Tyndale authority David Daniell, citing this exceedingly flawed work (in Daniell’s The Bible in English) and thereby helping to perpetuate it. Additionally, when I see White’s derogatory term “KJV Only” becoming widely used as a substitute for actual intellectual engagement of the issues at hand (much like those U.S. politicians who use scare terms like “tax cuts for the rich” to stifle discussion and allow themselves to demagogue), it occurs to me that not everyone, by any means, understands the true, essentially negative value of White’s book.


There’s much that I could say about how deficient a book The King James Only Controversy is, but in the interests of keeping this to a reasonable length, I will only link back to what I said about the book itself on the page that features it. In this introduction, I will simply make some observations about the portrayal of this “controversy” by White.

A “Rather” Telling Comparison


Although it is the more sensational quotes against himself that Dr. White seems to enjoy citing (e.g., “You are a devil, plain & simple . . . . Why dignify the lying claims of a servant of Satan!” [–Texe Marrs, as quoted in King James Only Controversy, p. VIII]), I am afraid I do not have anything so colorful to say about the man himself. I do not have any reason to think that Dr. White is less than sincere in what he has written. Instead, as I see it, White is much like former CBS anchor Dan Rather in truly believing in his own good faith “reporting” and the genuineness of his worldview, as well as in giving himself the repeated benefit of the doubt for good intentions in those instances when he has lashed out against his opposition. Like Rather, White has also had later events seriously challenge the soundness of his claims, with little apparent realization or engagement by him of the changing scene. 


Furthermore, as one who has had more than one online encounter with this author—though one is necessarily limited in being able to delineate personality traits from message board postings, e-mails, or even published books—, it’s my considered opinion that White, like Rather, does not even consider the possibility that his outlook may be even slightly invalid. In a message board exchange of 1995, where I expressed concerns about the inaccuracy of his claim that Robert Barker, King James’ royal printer, was the only one who could print the KJV for 100 years, White’s response was that I did not get the “point” of what he was saying with his discussion of Barker. To me, this is a stunning reply to being demonstrably wrong about something, since the end does not justify the means any more in a purportedly non-fiction book than it does in real life.  (If I were to write a biography of George Washington and to present Parson Weems’ discredited story of young George chopping down the cherry tree as factual, it would be no defense against my critics to say, “You missed my point, which was that Washington was an honest man.”) Incorrect “facts” simply cannot be excused on the basis of an alleged “point” that is being made, unless perhaps one is a rank partisan (consciously or unconsciously) of a given viewpoint who is willing to take a holiday from accuracy.


But unless I am much mistaken in my reading of the man (and I have every reason to think I am not), James White believes that the commercial success of his book—alongside the laudatory cover blurbs from Bruce Metzger, John MacArthur, et al.—sufficiently demonstrates the validity of The King James Only Controversy and proves his critics’ claims invalid. White is, after all, a man with chutzpah enough not only to challenge the points made in Dr. Holland’s critique of the book, but even to insist that Holland “withdraw [it] from circulation” (see the final paragraph of White’s “A Colorful Response” for this utterly bombastic demand)!  One can only imagine the derision that Dr. White would freely lavish on anyone who suggested a recall of White’s own book on the basis of its demonstrable deficiencies—but in fact it would be difficult to prove, from White’s many rebuttals of his critics, that he has ever conceded even the slightest degree of factual inaccuracy or misstatement in this work. (Again, we find a “Rather”-striking similarity with Dan’s feigned ignorance of the fraudulent nature of the alleged National Guard documents on George W. Bush’s service!) Ten years would seem like enough time to have at least a few second thoughts about one’s own piece of writing, or a few wishes that something had been better phrased, but either Dr. White believes himself to be as free from error as the KJV is thought to be by those he calls “King James Onlies,” or he studiously avoids any possibility of conceding even the most minor point for fear that “the enemy” will use it against him. 


KJOC: “Talking Points” But No Insights


Consequently, it will be no surprise that if a reader is looking for a comprehensive understanding of what is going on with modern versions, including why many Christians (including a lot of people who cannot by any means be considered KJV advocates) are troubled by them, one will search The King James Only Controversy in vain for any insights into this subject, although the book does usefully summarize the “talking points” a modern versions apologist might use. Compare the very real concerns expressed by someone like Dr. Leland Ryken in The Word of God in English, the misgivings expressed by Professor Daniell in various of his writings (such as his prefaces to his Tyndale translations) about the verbiage of newer translations, even the qualms about the proliferation of versions expressed in a recent middle-of-the-road survey by Baptist minister David Dewey (“Not only is the choice [between English translations] confusing, it is almost immoral. Why should any language have two Bibles, let alone twenty or thirty, when so many languages—over four thousand—have none?” [–David Dewey, A User’s Guide to Bible Translations (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), p. 24]). One will find little or nothing in White’s book corresponding to these very real clouds on the modern versions horizon.


If, however, one is merely looking to have one’s prejudices reinforced—to feel smugly superior to other Christians and to find insulting names by which to degrade them—, he or she will find White abundantly rewarding. Indeed, an honest analysis of what is going on with Bible translations would likely not have had the sensationalistic appeal that The King James Only Controversy has had in certain quarters.  Like watching the evening news, reading White on this issue leaves the reader with little solid information but with the misimpression that he or she “understands” the issues involved—at least until some solid facts come to light that challenge one’s complacent assumptions.

A New Kind of “Onlyism”?

Beyond this, although much, much more could be said, I think I will let this send-up speak for itself. The recent publication of the complete Today’s New International Version has created a real problem for White’s argument, in that the same positions he lampoons as being “KJV Only” are now being taken by NIV advocates, who do not want their Bible—in this case the NIV rather than the KJV—changed (see the documentation in the piece below; these references are not made up for satirical purposes but are real). That is the starting place for this parody, consisting of a fictional flyer for a book called The NIV-Only Controversy, whose author employs White-like tactics to attack the NIV and advocate its replacement by the newer TNIV. Along the way, several points are implicitly made using the medium of satire, and although I do not want to spoil them by giving you a sharp nudge in the ribs as to everything to watch for, I will say that not all of the parody is directed at Dr. White’s book: I have also had some fun at the expense of Christian bookstore marketing (which too often loses sight of its purported purpose, to spread the gospel). I also hope the touch about my fictional youth minister Jeff Blanco lobbying to replace the pew Bibles illustrates that what White writes as a blanket condemnation of KJV supporters—“Anyone who does not ‘know what they know’ needs to be told quickly, and most often, forcefully” (KJOC, p. IV)—is true to the same degree of many modern versions supporters. In Blanco’s fevered imagination, however, only those who stand in the way of what he considers progress are to be condemned, while his own actions in trying to throw out pew Bibles and in insulting his Sunday School members with confrontational teaching are 100% right and not at all to be regretted. Blanco exemplifies double standards, in other words, although he would utterly and even belligerently deny that he does so.

Therefore, without further ado, I proudly present my parody, The NIV-Only Controversy. I am confident that some who are real-life equivalents of the fictional Blanco will not be pleased with it at all, but if I’ve done my job right, those who know the background and are fair-minded individuals should find it very true to life, and hopefully humorous as well.  

Click this link to go to The NIV-Only Controversy

(Posted 1 April 2005)