Posted by: stpowen | March 20, 2010

Affirmation 2010- A Reluctant Critique.

Affirmation 2010

In January, a new Statement of Faith and Practice was set forth under the name Affirmation 2010.  It was issued by twenty or so Ministers of Reformed churches; Baptists, Presbyterians and Congregationalists.  Details can be found at  www.affirmation2010.wordpress.com

The prime mover of Affirmation appears to be Malcolm Watts, Minister of Emmanuel Church, Salisbury.  He is also Chairman of the Trinitarian Bible Society (1) and of the Bible League (2).  I am sure Rev’d. Watts would not object to being described as conservative in his theology and churchmanship. Emmanuel Church uses the Authorized Version of the Bible and is the only Baptist church in Britain that I know of that sings only unaccompanied metrical psalms.  This conservative approach has not prevented Rev’d. Watts from building up a substantial congregation.  I have been privileged to hear him preach on a few occasions, to listen to his teaching at the Salisbury Conference which his church hosts each year, and also at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.  He is a powerful and earnest preacher, exceedingly knowledgeable concerning Church History and the Puritans in particular.

Of the other signatories to the Affirmation, two are known to me personally as I have preached in their churches occasionally as well as listening to their preaching and teaching;  two or three others I have heard with much benefit at one conference or another.  All of them, I am sure, are godly men serving the Lord faithfully in their various congregations.  It is therefore with no pleasure at all that I begin to write this critique.  My concern with the document that these men have signed is that it is unnecessarily dividing the people of God, and raising what should be matters of individual conscience (cf. Rom 14:1-13) into articles of faith.  Although the cause of Christ is generally at a very low ebb in Britain, there has been in recent years an increase in interest in Reformed theology.  Without doubt, therefore, it must be Satan’s concern to divide and destroy the Reformed churches.  I greatly fear that these men, in their misplaced zeal, are unwittingly causing division rather than unity among the Lord’s people and may paradoxically end up quenching the Spirit that we are hoping will revive our churches.

Affirmation 2010 consists of fifteen articles of faith, each with a corresponding rejection of what is seen as aberrant practice.  This is a good idea in many ways; Christians should be clear about what they reject as well as what they affirm.  However, the Affirmation contains an article on ‘separation’ and the clear impression is given that Christians are to separate from whatever is rejected.  So far so good; certainly we should separate from those who deny the Trinity, Penal Substitution and Justification by Faith Alone.  But are we really going to base our standards of orthodoxy upon which Bible versions we use and what hymns we sing?

Several of the articles I thoroughly approve of, and therefore I shall be making no comment upon the following:  2. The Trinity.  5. Penal Substitution.  6. Justification by Faith Alone.   15. The Second Coming of Christ.  16. The Eternal State.  I am in broad agreement with several other articles and shall comment on those only briefly.   With others, as will be seen, I have deep reservations.

1. Infallibility of Scripture.  I never supposed that I would find myself in disagreement with an affirmation of Scriptural infallibility.  Indeed, I have no problem with the article until the last two sentences.  Even where the Masoretic and Received texts are declared to be the ‘authentic and preserved’ texts, I am actually in agreement.  Those who have read this blog will know that I quote from the N.K.J.V. almost exclusively, and that translation uses those very texts.  Where I part company with the Affirmation is where it proclaims the Authorized Version to be ‘by far the best and most accurate English translation.’  I beg to differ; but I fully accept the right of any church to use the A.V. if it wishes.  I preach from time to time at churches that use the A.V. and I am always happy to use it if requested.   If the Affirmation went no further than that, I would not be writing this critique; I would simply leave the authors to their opinion.  However, the Affirmation continues, ‘We reject modern and unfaithful versions.’  All modern versions and their users are lumped together and rejected in the very same terms in which Unitarians, Socinians and other heretics are rejected in subsequent articles.  What should be a matter of liberty and personal preference is being exalted to a matter of primary importance and, in the light of Article 13, to a matter of separation.  If the composers of the Affirmation do not intend that, then they needed to say so.  It is worth mentioning that even the translators of the A.V. would not have signed up to the Affirmation.  In the Preface of the Translators to the Reader,  they wrote,  ‘We do not deny, nay, we affirm and avow, that the very meanest translation of the Bible in English set forth by men of our profession……containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God.’

I could easily be persuaded to join a campaign to promote the Received Text, and I would gladly give financial support to a new Bible translation using that text if it is felt that the N.K.J.V. is not good enough.  What I will not do is try to foist a 500 year-old translation with archaic language on the churches; firstly, because it’s a lost cause, and secondly because even if it succeeded it would be a retrograde step.  The A.V. shares one feature with every other translation:  it was made by fallible, sinful men.   Infallibility does not rest with the translators, it rests in the original Greek and Hebrew texts.  That is why it is helpful to have someone who knows those languages in every congregation.  The A.V. falls short on three counts:-

1.  The English language, like every other, has changed over the past four hundred years.  Words alter their meanings over time.  In 2Thes 2:7, the A.V. translates, ‘Only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.’  The word ‘let’ in the 17th Century, meant to restrain or hinder;  today, of course, it means ‘allow.’  Therefore the verse means the exact opposite of what the A.V. says it means.  The N.I.V. (and other modern versions) translate correctly, ‘But the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.’

2.  Some of the language in the A.V. is scarcely comprehensible even allowing for the archaic language.  Consider Ezek 41:7.  ‘And there was an enlarging, and a winding about still upward to the side chambers; for the winding about of the house went still upward round about the house: therefore the breadth of the house was still upward, and so increased from the lowest chamber to the highest by the midst.’  This may be a word-for-word translation, but what on earth does it mean?  A translation that is so literal that no one can understand it is of limited use.

3.  Supporters of the A.V. make great play on the fact that some modern translations omit references to the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ (3), as indeed they do (except the N.K.J.V.).  The most frequently cited verse is 1Tim 3:16, though there are several others.  Less well known is that there are two places where all the modern translations affirm the deity of our Lord, but the A.V. does not.

Titus 2:13, A.V.  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.’

Titus 2:13, N.I.V.  ‘While we wait for the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ’ (other modern versions are similar).

2Peter 1:1b, A.V.  ‘…..To them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.’

2Peter 1:1b, N.I.V.  ‘….To those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have obtained a faith as precious as ours’ (other modern versions are similar).

The only modern translation that supports the A.V. in these two texts is the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses!  Just in case it might be thought that the A.V. is right in these instances, let the reader look at 2Peter 1:11.  Here the A.V. rightly translates, ‘….our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’  Yet the Greek construction here is exactly the same as in 1:1.  I have no doubt that all the translators of the A.V. were staunch Trinitarians, but it ill behoves  A.V. supporters to sneer at the N.I.V. while the A.V. contains such serious errors.

There is also another place where the A.V.  finds itself in agreement with the J.W.s.  In John 1:32, it denies the personality of the Holy Spirit, referring to Him as ‘it.’  If a new Bible version appeared today with a similar error in it, the supporters of the Affirmation would be the first to pillory both the version and its translators .

Let me be clear once again.  I am not saying that the A.V. is a bad translation or that it is worse than the N.I.V.  The N.I.V. falls short on numerous occasions.  What I am saying is that the question of Bible translations should not be made an excuse for separation.  Let discussion continue by all means, but in a spirit of love while we contend for the Gospel of Christ.  I repeat, if the N.K.J.V. is not acceptable, let us have a new version based on the traditional texts, produced by a Christian organization.  I can think of no one better to do it that the Trinitarian Bible Society.  There is a Spanish Bible version, the Reina Valera, that is even older than the A.V., and based upon the same texts.  Yet this version has been regularly updated as the Spanish language has changed.  Revisions were made in 1909, in 1960, and now I understand that the T.B.S. is undertaking a new revision.  Quite right!  If the A.V. had been carefully revised every 50 years or so (4), there might not have been the need for the plethora of new versions.

3. Doctrine Of Grace.  It is no surprise that the Affirmation upholds the ‘Five Solas’ of the Reformation and the 17th Century Reformed Confessions, but it is welcome nonetheless.  As a Five Point Calvinist, I can support them unreservedly at this point.  It goes on to ‘Reject Arminianism in all its forms, especially modern ‘decisionism’ and ‘easy believism.’  There seems to be a tautology here.  If all forms of Arminianism are rejected, then how does one ‘super-reject’ its modern excrescences?  There is an older, less objectionable form of Arminianism with which Calvinists were prepared to unite on certain matters in time past.  Whitefield was willing to work with Wesley in the 18th Century, and Lloyd-Jones with Campbell-Morgan in the 20th.  Did these men get it wrong?

This article is the only place where there is any mention of preaching and the Gospel.  I was particularly sorry that there was no stronger affirmation of these matters.  I would have thought that they deserved an article to themselves.  Had Dr Peter Masters been involved in the composition of the Affirmation, they certainly would have had.  Those of us who have attended the Summer School of Theology at the Metropolitan Tabernacle have grown used to his polemics on this matter.   Yet he is surely right here.  In many churches today, the sermon has become little more than a homily.  We need to encourage not only the regular expository ministry that the Proclamation Trust promotes so effectively, but also persuasive  Gospel preaching where the minister reasons with unbelievers (Acts 17:2; 18:4; 24:25; 2Tim 4:1-2).  The Affirmation does indeed speak of the need to ‘Fulfil the evangelistic commission’ but I am surprised that it is so mealy-mouthed about the matter.  I know that Rev’d. Watts is a strong supporter of evangelistic preaching, and I am surprised that he has not had more to say about it.  While the Affirmation is so busy rejecting all sorts of other things, perhaps it could have rejected Hyper-Calvinism ‘in all its forms’ such as the reluctance to exhort sinners to come to Christ (cf. Ezek 18:30-32; Isaiah 55:1-9).

4. Six Day Creation.  Again, I am in full agreement with the Affirmation at this point, and it can also claim Dr Lloyd-Jones as a supporter.  A belief in ‘Theistic Evolution’ seems to me to make it very difficult to uphold the Doctrines of Original Sin and Substitutionary Atonement.  How can one believe that Christ is the ‘Last Adam’ (1Cor 15:45 etc) if one doesn’t believe in a first Adam?

However, the Affirmation goes on to ‘Deny all attempts to interpret Genesis according to scientific theories.’  Fair enough, but if this denial means that we separate from such people, then we are rejecting Dr Thomas Chalmers (the originator of the ‘Gap Theory’) and  B. B. Warfield, who were such robust defenders of the faith in former times.  Should we burn their books?

In the interests of brevity I pass over several other articles with which I have only minor reservations and come to

13. Separation.   Once again, I can agree with the sentiments expressed here.  The Churches Together Movement has been baneful for the spiritual health of the country as it has encouraged evangelical churches to accept even the most blatantly apostate congregations as true Christians.  Where I live, almost every other church is in Churches Together and all inter-church fellowship and cooperation is made through this organization.  It is a hard necessity to stand aloof from it.

However, the Affirmation advocates not just one-stage, but two-stage separation.  That is to say that not only must churches separate from non-biblical churches, but also from those who, though themselves otherwise orthodox, have fellowship with those who are not so.    2Thes 3:6, 14 is forced out of context and used as a proof-text for this.   This means, obviously, that Free Churches must have no fellowship with even the most evangelical Anglican or Methodist churches, since these are bound to be having fellowship with others within their denominations.  If this position had been adopted in past times, it would have meant that Philip Dodderidge could not have supported George Whitefield, and John Sutcliff and his friends would have needed to separate from John Newton because of his friendship with Thomas Scott.  Scott himself, of course, would (humanly speaking) never have been converted if Newton had refused him friendship as an unbeliever (5).

There is a Scripture that addresses all this.  ‘Who are you to judge anther’s servant?  To his own Master he stands or falls’ (Rom 14:4).  Most certainly, Pastors should jealously guard their pulpits against those who might mislead their people.  Nor should we pray together with unbelievers as if we were in unity together, lest we encourage them in their unbelief.  But to refuse fellowship to a Christian because we don’t like the company he keeps smacks of Pharisaism (Mark 2:16).  I recently attended for the first time an event held by the Proclamation Trust.  To my surprise, there were numerous Anglican, Methodist and U.R.C. ministers who had come to learn how to preach biblically.  One whom I spoke to had come under severe pressure from his local Deanery because of his firm evangelical stance.  I say we should be encouraging such men, not spurning them and saying, ‘Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!’ (Isaiah 65:5).

14. Revival.  Readers of this Blog will know that I am very passionate about Revival (6), and I therefore welcome any document that puts revival in the forefront of our thinking.  ‘Unless the LORD builds the house, they labour in vain who build it’ (Psalm 127:1).  However, once again there is a sentence in this article that causes me concern.  ‘Evangelism and outward reformation, in and of themselves, are not the answers to the dreadful lack of spiritual vitality and vigour, and mere activism on the part of Christians will never effect the desired transformation of Christ’s Church.’  It is the phrase ‘mere activism’ that worries me.  I got a faint whiff of fatalism in Article 3.  I am sniffing it again here.  I find it hard to believe that Rev’d. Watts is the author of this section.  A longing to see God coming in power on our land again must not cause us to slacken our efforts to reach out to the lost.  Matt 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15 give us no warrant to dilly-dally while we wait for God to act.

To sum up then, I say that this document, which I’m sure is meant to strengthen the Reformed churches, is far more likely to divide them.  Certain Reformed ministers whose signatures one might have expected to see, are conspicuous by their absence, and therefore those who have signed may find that they have circled their wagons even more tightly than perhaps they anticipated.  I don’t know what more to say other than that I find it very sad.

Notes.

(1) www.bibleleaguetrust.org.uk

(2) www.trinitarianbiblesociety.org

(3) See the TBS article by Rev’d David Blount.  www.trinitarianbiblesociety.org/site/articles/A121.pdf         or Three Modern Versions by Rev’d Alan MacGregor (Bible League Trust. ISBN 0-904435-87-3).  They both score some palpable hits without seeming to realise that a critique of the A.V. would reveal just as many shortcomings..

(4) In fact the A.V. was revised several times in the 150 years after its publication in 1611, culminating in the final Oxford Revision of 1769 which is the version used today.

(5) Read The Force of Truth by Thomas Scott (Banner of Truth Trust).

(6)  https://marprelate.wordpress.com/category/revival/

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Responses

  1. Thank you Steve for these concise thoughts!

  2. It is quite telling that Dr. Masters’ name is not among the signatories, representing his church (though there seems to be a few individual members of the Metropolitan Tabernacle listed … I suppose representing for themselves and not the church?). So what does this mean in the issue of “Separation”. Will those in the signatories separate from Dr. Masters’ church … because clearly Dr. Masters has not united with this declaration. Well … The School of Theology will be quite interesting this summer! 😀

  3. I think the churches today world wide is finding itself fighting in several fronts. I found this interview (based in mid-America) where in the beginning of the program, the one conducting this interview is lamenting over the Manhattan Declaration that was penned here in the USA, but the crux of the topic being discussed is the declaration that came out in Britain (Affirmation 2010). The interview is conducted with one pastors of the signatories of this declaration. I’m guessing that this program is “affirming” the declaration coming out in the Britain.

    I can sympathize with the one conducting the interview — especially concerning the Manhattan Declaration, but I do agree with you Steve in your reluctance of this Affirmation 2010. The interviewer didn’t really bring up the issues you brought up here. Sigh — could a middle ground be found for the churches?! It’s a fine line that the church must walk on!

  4. Hi Jade,
    I think you’re right. We have to steer a course between the Scylla of false ecumenism, where we find ourselves cooperating with unbelievers (cf. 2Chron 19:2) and the Charybdis of sectarianism (cf. Mark 9:38ff).

    I believe that the Manhattan Declaration errs in the first direction and the Affirmation in the other.

  5. Jade, I have just been listening to the programme. How disappointing, just as the Affirmation does, that the programme elevates choice of Bible versions to doctrinal the level of doctrinal truth.

  6. Arrived here via “pastor’s new” …. and find myself in absolute agreement with your thoughts on this

  7. I have been directed to this article and have found it very interesting. There are a few places I would disagree with you -for example on Warfield – he is widely misquoted, but overall it is a useful article.
    My preferred version is the AV, and I believe many modern version fall short of it. However we should not link them all together. I agree that it should have been regularly revised. A fellow church member remarked that if he came home and found his children reading the bible he would not worry about which version he would just rejoice! To make the translation a matter of affirmation unnecessarily divisive.
    The matter of division should be on our doctrine of Christ (1 John), whether we confess him or not.
    I fear trouble ahead between, and more worryingly within churches, from this, no doubt well intentioned, statement.
    The church today needs to concentrate on what unites it in it head, and lovingly, openly and firmly declare the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  8. I would like to respond to your thoughtful critique, appreciating the kind remarks you have made about those with whom you disagree. I hope I can alleviate some of your sadness, though I must state first of all that the opinions I express are my own, those of a lay person, and not an authoritative or official interpretation of the Affirmation. (I am, though, a member of a church whose minister is one of the original signatories, so I am hopeful that my interpretation is not so wide of the mark as to be of no value. Incidentally, we are another British Baptist church that sings only unaccompanied metrical psalms, but like Emmanuel Salisbury we prefer to designate ourselves as “Evangelical & Reformed” rather than “Baptist & Psalm Singing”).

    Although the Affirmation is self-evidently a statement of faith and practice, it is not a Statement of Faith and Practice, that is, it is not intended to be a Confessional Standard or a test of orthodoxy. It is what it says it is: an Affirmation, a public testimony to things which the subscribers believe to be of importance, offered in the hope that others will join them in making that testimony.

    When it was introduced at my church, the minister laboured the point that no church member should feel under any pressure to sign. It is a matter of personal conscience and voluntary assent.

    On the Bible, you claim that “All modern versions and their users are lumped together and rejected …”, but you have not quoted the Affirmation fully. Section 1 says nothing at all about the users of modern versions (I think you must be inferring this from Section 13 about Separation which I will come to in its place). The Affirmation rejects only those modern versions “based upon corrupted texts and making free use of dynamic equivalence in the translation”. The NKJV is neither based upon corrupted texts, nor does it make free use of dynamic equivalence, so I believe that it is not rejected by the Affirmation. (It is a matter of public record that some of the original signatories of the Affirmation do reject the NKJV, but that can only be upon different grounds. The Affirmation is more limited in what it rejects).

    I can see that the statement that the AV is “by far the best and most accurate English translation” remains an obstacle for those of your persuasion.

    Section 3 rejects “Arminianism in all its forms”. It is the doctrine that is rejected, not the persons holding to it, so the relationships between Whitefield and Wesley and between Lloyd-Jones and Campbell-Morgan are not being addressed by this section (unless, again, you are making an inference from Section 13).

    So to Section 13. I find it ironic in the light of your comments about the lack of Dr Masters’ involvement in the composition of the Affirmation that the Section which I perceive to be at the root of your concerns is the one where his influence is most obvious. No one has pressed 2 Thessalonians 3 v 6, 14 more forcefully in support of what you describe as “two-stage separation” than Dr Masters. The label “New Evangelicalism” is one that he has done more than most to give currency to in this context.

    I think you have overstated the Affirmation a little. It does not say we should “separate from”, “have no fellowship” or “refuse fellowship” with those who do not separate from apostate churches. It states that we are to “restrict fellowship – especially church, public fellowship”. So perhaps the Affirmation is not so far from your own position as you think?

    I think there is a case for greater clarity in this section. It mentions “cardinal truth” and “inviolable Truth” without defining them. I think it intends the core doctrines (the Affinity basis of faith, say) rather than the content of the Affirmation. “New Evangelicalism” is also undefined. I think this is intended to cover those who affirm for themselves the content of the Affinity basis of faith(for example) but also accept as Christians those who deny articles of such a basis of faith.

    I must admit that the two things that made me think twice about signing the Affirmation were what it said about Bible versions and about separation. Although I personally agree with the positions taken by the Affirmation, I am not sure they are quite as vital as the other things it includes, nor that they are more important than some which have been omitted (such as your own example of gospel preaching). I hasten to add that the judgment of any one of the original signatories, let alone all twenty odd combined, is likely to be better than my own in these matters (Section 12 – The Holy Ministry – has my hearty agreement).

    It would be sad indeed if the Affirmation became a source of unnecessary division. For my part I am greatly encouraged that the original signatories have collaborated publicly in this matter. I hope that perhaps it will lead to more collaboration in other areas where there I think there is a great need (training of ministers, missionary work to name but two examples), and lead away from what I perceive to be an unhealthy emphasis upon the absolute autonomy of individual local churches.

  9. Hello Martin,
    Thanks for your comments. I will check up on Warfield. You are exactly right: the Gospel and the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ should be our touchstone. Over these we must separate when necessary. Over other matters, though we may certainly have strong, Bible-based conclusions on them which we follow in our own churches, we should not divide.

  10. Hello Mr Main
    Thanks for your response. I have been hoping that someone would post in favour of the Affirmation. Thank you also for correcting my ignorance. I was not aware that Crosslanes Chapel was exclusively Psalm-singing. You wrote:-

    “Although the Affirmation is self-evidently a statement of faith and practice, it is not a Statement of Faith and Practice, that is, it is not intended to be a Confessional Standard or a test of orthodoxy. It is what it says it is: an Affirmation, a public testimony to things which the subscribers believe to be of importance, offered in the hope that others will join them in making that testimony.”

    If that were all the Affirmation contained, I would not have troubled to write my critique. However, with every affirmation there is also a rejection of what is seen as aberrant practice. As I wrote, this is not invariably a bad thing, but as in a battle, when you start loosing off artillery, you need to be careful that you are not firing at your own side. The main point of my critique is that secondary issues are being turned into primary ones and thereby dividing the people of God. You continue:-

    ‘On the Bible, you claim that “All modern versions and their users are lumped together and rejected …”, but you have not quoted the Affirmation fully.’

    The part from which I quoted was the ‘Rejection.’ ‘We reject modern and unfaithful versions, based upon corrupted texts and making free use of dynamic equivalence in the translation.’ Perhaps I am reading this wrongly, but it seems to me that the Affirmation is lumping all modern Bible version together and branding them as ‘Unfaithful.’ This is the practice of the Bible League as you will know if you have read Three Modern Versions by Alan McGregor and various other books and pamphlets put out by the Bible League and T.B.S. The fact that the NKJV uses the Received Text is acknowledged and then ignored.
    The main issue here is that the AV-only War has long since been lost. The Affirmation and the churches that support it are simply flogging a dead horse and perpetuating the existence of a tiny clique. They are also avoiding the real issue on Bible versions which is the proliferation of paraphrases of the Bible such as the GNB, CEV and Message. If you think the NIV and ESV are bad, ‘Turn again, son of man, you will see greater abominations than these’ (Ezek 8:13). Quite rightly, evangelical churches are going to teach their congregations with Bibles written in a language they can readily understand (cf. 1689 Baptist Confession 1.8). They need to be encouraged to use reliable translations, preferably based on the traditional texts. The Affirmation churches have nothing to say to them.

    Section 1 says nothing at all about the users of modern versions (I think you must be inferring this from Section 13 about Separation which I will come to in its place).

    You are correct. That is what I do infer. The Affirmation states, ‘We affirm the duty of making clear testimony to our Faith by separating from all error and therefore from all co-operation in religious activities with those who deny any cardinal truth of the Christian Faith.’ The issue of Bible versions has been placed under Section 1, The Infallibility of Scripture. Those who use Bible versions other than the A.V. are guilty of denying the infallibility of Scripture. I can read the Affirmation in no other way. A secondary matter has been turned into a primary matter and made an issue of separation.

    I find it ironic in the light of your comments about the lack of Dr Masters’ involvement in the composition of the Affirmation that the Section which I perceive to be at the root of your concerns is the one where his influence is most obvious. No one has pressed 2 Thessalonians 3 v 6, 14 more forcefully in support of what you describe as “two-stage separation” than Dr Masters. The label “New Evangelicalism” is one that he has done more than most to give currency to in this context.

    I’m sorry if I’ve given the impression that I am a Peter Masters groupie; I am not. I only mentioned him in connection with the Met Tab where I have heard Malcolm Watts and John Thackway speak. I agree with Dr Masters that there is such a thing as ‘New Evangelicalism;’ I disagree with how widely he casts that particular net, and also with his view on “two-stage separation,” though the issue of separation is more complicated than a mere slogan and perhaps I should write further on the subject. I also agree with Dr Masters on the issue of persuasive evangelical preaching and I feel that this is one of the most important issues facing the church and something that the Affirmation has glossed over.

    I think you have overstated the Affirmation a little. It does not say we should “separate from”, “have no fellowship” or “refuse fellowship” with those who do not separate from apostate churches. It states that we are to “restrict fellowship – especially church, public fellowship”. So perhaps the Affirmation is not so far from your own position as you think?

    The Affirmation does indeed say that, but I draw your attention again to 13:1 again. That very clearly refers to separation. Perhaps, as you suggest, Rev’d Watts and his friends need to clarify exactly what they mean.

    It would be sad indeed if the Affirmation became a source of unnecessary division.

    Too late, I fear! Here is a huge gulf between the FIEC and Affinity churches on the one hand, and the Affirmation-style churches on the other that is not based on anything to do with the Gospel. In 2008, I attended both the Met Tab Summer School and the FIEC ‘Bible Festival’ in Cheltenham. The preaching and teaching at both events were excellent and surprisingly similar, but the styles were poles apart. At the Met Tab, all the hymns were written by dead people; at the ‘Festival,’ even the older hymns were ‘jazzed up’ so that they could be played by a band. At the Met Tab, all the speakers wore dark suits and ties; at the ‘Festival,’ the speakers were apparently asked to remove their ties before preaching so that they would be more ‘contemporary’ and ‘down with the kids!’ How fatuous the differences are! How ridiculous to separate on such things and fight over them when thousands are slipping into hell each day for lack of hearing the Gospel! We don’t need to agree on such matters; ‘Let each be fully convinced in his own mind’ (Rom 14:5). I have never had a problem moving from one group to the other, and have been greatly blessed by both. How I would love to hear Rupert Bentley-Taylor speaking at the Met Tab and Dr Masters or John Thackway at the next FIEC gathering. Would the walls really come crashing down if In Christ Alone were sung at the Met Tab, or if a Psalm were sung unaccompanied by the massed ranks of the FIEC? May I live to see the day!

  11. “Those who use Bible versions other than the A.V. are guilty of denying the infallibility of Scripture. I can read the Affirmation in no other way. ”

    I think you are misreading the Affirmation. If my memory serves me correctly, two ministers who use the NIV have led the Salisbury Conference in prayer. I cannot conceive that Malcolm Watts would have invited them to do so if he believed that they denied the infallibility of Scripture.

  12. One of the original signatories belongs to a denomination in which many of the ministers and churches use modern versions.

    Some of the other original signatories are affiliated to Affinity, so they also are in fellowship with many churches and ministers who use modern versions.

    These signatories take a very definite position on Bible versions, but they have not made it a primary issue (in the sense which I think you are using that phrase). I believe the Affirmation is a re-statement of their long held position, rather than a change to a greater degree of separation on this issue, which you appear to be alleging.

  13. Mr Main,
    I hope you are right, but having looked at the Affirmation again, I see no evidence of it. The plain fact is that modern Bible Versions, ‘worldly dress’ (and who decides just what that is, by the way?) and other secondary matters are ‘rejected’ in exactly the same terms as Unitarianism and aberrant views of the atonement. Either secondary issues are being made into primary ones or primary issues are being downgraded to secondary ones.

    It would be nice to have a clarifying statement from either Mr Watts or one of the other original signatories.

  14. Yes, I acknowledged in my first comment that there is a case for greater clarity, which is evident from the fact that I am appealing to evidence that is in the public domain but outside of the Affirmation itself. A FAQ on the Affirmation web site would be a good idea.

    Thank you for your courtesy in allowing me to comment freely on your web site. Chris.

  15. Aside from the unqualified insistence on the A.V., I can find no issues with this document, provided it is read in the right light. I does seem that some turns of phrase could use further qualifications and specific examples. Certain of the particulars come across vaguely without further insight from the authors’ and signatories’ works and elaborations of the issues.

  16. This critique seems to exaggerate the section regarding Separation beyond what it says. Nowhere does the Affirmation insist that every proposition it contains is a “cardinal truth of the Christian Faith.” One making this Affirmation does not take on an obligation to separate from Christian brothers and sisters over the version of the Bible they use, because they dress less formally when leading public worship, or hold to the Gap Theory in interpreting Genesis. One can refuse to compromise on these issues in association with true brothers who differ, make your views known, and remain in gracious fellowship with those holding to Cardinal truths.

    What is the problem with questioning “mere activism” in evangelism and reformation? “Mere” implies the affirmation does done reject activity in proclaiming the gospel and efforts to extend the Kingdom. But, it says such activity alone is ineffectual without the power and work of the Holy Spirit.

    A human document will always lack perfect precision. The Affirmation does not claim perfection nor that every proposition is of equal value. However, every section does address an area of valid concern in the Evangelical and Reformed churches of today. After consideration, I decided to stand with these brothers, several of whom I know and respect, in adding my name. We need to be as gracious in understanding their intent as we would with brothers who may disagree with us on one or more of the non-essential points contained therein.

  17. Hello Mr Ferrell,
    Thanks for your comments. You wrote:-

    Nowhere does the Affirmation insist that every proposition it contains is a “cardinal truth of the Christian Faith.”

    It does not, but nowhere does it distiguish between what is ‘cardinal’ and what is secondary. In the past few days I have spoken to one of my friends who is a promoter of the Affirmation, and to another who is a signatory. They have both made the same point that you and Mr Main have made and I’m very glad to hear it. But that doesn’t alter the fact that the Affirmation, as it is written, does not distinguish what they will separate from and what they won’t. A natural reading sugests that what is rejected is to be separated from. What needs to happen is that either the Affirmation is revised, or an appendix added laying out what is primary and what is secondary.

    I would also urge, as I did in my original post, an additional article on the primary importance of preaching, including persuasive Gospel preaching and the ‘sinner’s warrant’ to come to Christ. With regard to your comments on ‘mere activism,’ I cannot help but wonder what the Aposle Paul would have made of the phrase in the light of 2Cor 11:23ff. It should be removed; it gives an excuse for inactivity to every idle minister.

    I might add that I am not the only one who has read the Affirmation as I have. I have had several conversations with brothers who are deeply distressed at it, particularly at the way it appears to cleave the Reformed churches in the UK into two camps.

  18. I recently had a conversation with one of the original signatories and asked if an NKJV user could sign the document. He would not give me a straight answer. I believe he was not being evasive, but simply could not do so.

    This becomes irrelevant if you do not consider the AV to be the ‘best’ version, because then you surely cannot sign anyway. That’s where I am now – if I were to nomnate the ‘best’ version for use today I would clearly take the NKJV.

  19. Jonathan – people won’t talk to you unless you caution them with ‘anything you say…etc’

    I was trying to be gentle but clearly that won’t do. You state your adherence to the Received Text yet you still consider that a version which undermines that text in so many places is ‘the best version’. As you hold that view, I say to you, ‘No, you cannot sign the Affirmation.’

    I would refer you to para 3 (concerning M.H. Reynolds) on p.62 of ‘Three Modern Versions’ by Alan Macgregor.

  20. Hello ‘Mick,’
    Your response clearly shows the divisive nature of the Affirmation. The website now declares in pained tones that is is not KJV-only, but as you make very clear, only the KJV will do for its signatories.

    NKJV users are excluded from your little coterie although we both support the Received Text. Why? Because we are not KJV-only. You referred to a quote from M.H.Reynolds. Here he calls the NKJV translators, “duplicitous.”

    So apparently NKJV users support duplicitous men and due to the ‘Two-stage Separation’ advocated by the Affirmation, presumably you have to separate from us. For what? Have you actually looked into the biographies of the AV translators? Several of them persecuted the Independents, one was instrumental in burning a heretic, and the Greek Grammar they chiefly relied on was written by a unitarian (hence the fauly rendering of Titus 2:13 & 2Peter 1:1). Should you not also separate yourself from them?

    When there is so much error and so much false teaching in the churches today, are we really going to divide over Bible versions? God help us all!

  21. Dear ‘Mick’

    It seems terribly wrong to call you that. I apologise to you if I have made public something I should have kept private, but I am profoundly glad, if not also profoundly sad, that you have stated the position of the Affirmation plainly.

    I sincerely wish that you had simply answered my question straightly the first time. I would not have been in the least offended and nor would my regard for you have been lessened.

    There may be a few people who won’t talk to me, and I grieve over that because it is (truly) my loss to be cut off from a number (if small) of well-beloved brethren. However, I am blessed by many brethren who not only speak to me, but encourage me greatly.

  22. In a straight e-mail exchange with one of the folk at Affirmation 2010, I was told outright that NKJV users were not welcome as signatories. I found it rather disappointing. This is not historic Reformed teaching, but a product of American fundamentalism. Spurgeon used the RV at times. Apparently he would not be welcome to sign the Affirmation!

  23. Here is a response to some of the main criticisms: http://affirmation2010.wordpress.com/critical-responses/

  24. Read it. It fails to deal with the facts of the matter, which is this: No-one is saying that the Affirmation 2010 folk adhere to the particular theology of King James Onlyism that they deny, but rather that they are promoting practical King James Onlyism – that is to say that the only English version they will allow is the King James. No exceptions for anyone. While I am very glad they do not promote the view that the AV was divinely inspired in and of itself, the fact remains that only those who exclusively use the AV are allowed to sign. Which is fair enough, but this would exclude Spurgeon!

    I would like to know WHICH “Textus Receptus” they refer to, and how it is that the longer version of Acts 9.5-6, which is found in a grand total of no Greek Manuscripts, can possibly be regarded as a genuine part of the Bible, but those are other matters.

  25. Sad to say, the writers of the Affirmation seem to be like the Bourbon kings of France of whom it was said that they learned nothing and forgot nothing. They have made no real attempt to understand the issues involved. Specifically, there is nothing in their response that tackles my main point of criticism; namely that the Affirmation does not distinguish between primary and secondary issues. They write, ‘Nowhere is it stated that we intend to “separate” from those unable to endorse everything included in the Affirmation.’ But it is!! Over and over again the document says, ‘we reject this; we reject that,’ and there is no distinction made between those who deny the Trinity and those who don’t wear dark suits and ties (which are actually as ‘worldly’ as you can get since they are the garb of bankers and politicians). There is a whole article on Separation (how much better if there had been one on preaching the Gospel!) which begins, ‘We affirm the duty of making clear testimony to our Faith by separating from all error.’ What are these errors from which they are determined to separate if not those very things that they have been ‘rejecting’?

    Mr Mehrshahi, I wish you or one of your colleagues would address this point.

  26. On the King James issue, it seems that “Mick’s” opinion as to who may or may not sign is purely his own, as I have recently been in contact with another signer of the Affirmation (who is also a personal friend), who says that as far as he is concerned anyone who uses the NKJV and holds it to be based on the best texts may sign. Thus for Mick’s “no you may not sign”, this gentleman says in effect “on the contrary, yes you may sign.”

  27. Brethern,
    Having read through these responses again, my worst fears are confirmed. This affirmation is divisive, and the comments on this thread are becoming increasingly aggressive. This is disappointing. This division and aggression is coming from both sides of the argument.
    I have no problem in discussing issues, or holding different views on many issues – indeed I would worry if I meet somebody who held exactly the same position as me on everything.

    The affirmation undoubtedly elevates the AV to an unnecessary position, but equally there is plenty of evidence here and elsewhere of the anti AV position I find in some reformed circles, where those who use and love the AV are considered to be somewhat backwards. It seems to me that this issue is equally important to both the pro and anti side of the argument and positions are often held with equal dogma.

    Let us each try to understand each others point of view. Everybody seeks to use the best translation of the Word of God. Each translation has its difficulties.

    Leaving aside the question of the necessity or otherwise of another “statement of faith”, it would be good to recognize the good in the affirmation, and concentrate on that. Remember it is the work of fallen men for fallen men, but done with the highest motivations.

    Everybody seeks to honour God by living to and for him. Everybody strives for the furtherance of the kingdom of God.

    We are the blood brought people of God. Let us pray for one another.

  28. To add to the above post

    Having reread the answers to the criticism, some of which is undoubtedly constructive, on Affirmation 2010 on the Aff 2010 website – one can not help seeing a lack of humility.

  29. The real shame is that an article on the infallibility of Scripture sent out in 2010 does not deal with the actual attacks on inerrancy coming from supposedly reformed folk, namly Peter Enns and Andrew McGowan, both of whom state that we cannot say that the Bible is without error. Both of these men taught (past tense, thankfully) at Reformed seminaries. One would have thought that it would be a good idea to have at least addressed them!

    For the record, I am not “anti-AV”, what I am against is making the AV what it was never claimed to be, the perfect English Bible that can never be replaced. I bring up the Acts passage because it is one of the very few places where the AV adopts a reading that is utterly indefensible (it seems fairly obvious that if it’s not in the Greek, any Greek, anywhere, it’s not original). Sadly it is necessary to voice the fact that the AV is not perfect in order to answer those who contend that it is! Note, I do not say it is no good, it is very good. It is not perfect, and in a very small number of places the translators have been overly influenced by the Latin. As far as I am aware, the Acts 9 passage (which is the result of harmonisation by a Latin writer with the two other accounts of Paul’s conversion in Acts) is the only one in the AV that has no Greek manuscript witness at all.

    I myself was brought up on the AV, and love its language. I would like to organise a celebration of the AV’s 400th anniversary next year at the church I pastor. My position has always been that if you understand it, use it. The role of the preacher in church is to explain the Bible text, so preach from the AV. I have no trouble doing it, and nor should anyone else. Just don’t separate from my church because the church decided to use the NKJV. And don’t try to use Gail Riplinger’s methodology, because I will have to argue against it, and that does involve having to point out that the AV has a few mistakes in it as well!

  30. I also love the AV. Martin, you are way off-track. Nobody who has posted here is ‘anti-AV’ although there are a number of such folk in existence of course.

  31. As I stated in my original article, I have no objection to the A.V. It is not my translation of choice, but I shall be using it tomorrow when I lead a Bible Study and again in a fortnight’s time at one of the churches I visit. The problem is not with the A.V., but with the Affirmation which ‘rejects’ all other translations. Moreover, the A.V. is only a part of the problem with the Affirmation, though it is the one on which most people have settled. There are other issues that I sought to explore in my article.

    As an aside, I notice that I have had more than 200 ‘hits’ on this blog in the past week- a record. Thanks to all those who have taken the trouble to visit. However, I notice that 140-odd of those were on this particular thread. There is some other stuff on this blog! I’d particularly like some feedback on my posts on the subject of ‘Revival.’ most of which are a study in 2Chron 7:13-14. Why not go to https://marprelate.wordpress.com/category/revival/ and check them out?

  32. Well, exactly! The trouble isn’t with the AV, it’s with the attitude that says that you shouldn’t use any other translation! That happens to be the major problem with the Affirmation in my view, hence the one I have the most to say about – mostly because I have had some fun (?) encounters with King James Only types on the web. I like the AV, and I dislike having to point out problems with it, which is however necessary when one has to point out it’s on a level with other translations.

  33. Ok. I am sorry if some think I am sticking labels where they don’t belong. Perhaps I didn’t express my thoughts too well – so I apologize for that.
    I 100% agree with most on this thread that Affirmation 2010 promotes the AV beyond its status. I 100% agree that the AV only, AV or its no translation, brigade need to rethink their position.
    However in these comments it is only the problems of the AV that are being highlighted, with no acknowledgement of problems in other translations.
    This Affirmation brings division where there shouldn’t be division, and I felt that these comments where adding that that divisiveness. I have also encountered in senior pastors (who are looked up to), of reformed churches, the belittling anti AV attitude I wrote of and it greatly saddens me. I felt the same here, but I accept I was wrong in this – please forgive me if I have offended any.
    It is also regrettable that the authors of this affirmation have chosen to react to comments and criticism here and elsewhere by entrenching their position, rather than contemplating it.
    I only want unity among the brethren, and I was appealing for that.
    My question is this – would you be willing, would you want to sign this affirmation if this part was removed?

    and yes I will look at your other articles later tonight

  34. When one is pointing out specifically that the AV is not perfect, one has to give examples from the AV. By the same token, one is not going to be pointing out issues with other versions (since it is being taken as read that the other versions are not perfect). Thus of course I am giving examples of problems with the AV, and not problems with (say) the NIV. Incidentally, however, the criticism of the AV’s inclusion of a passage in Acts 9 found in no Greek version is also a criticism of the NKJV, which includes the same passage. Remember, what is being criticized is the attitude that holds the AV to be basically perfect, while all other versions are horribly flawed – those being opposed already affirm errors in other versions! Also, if I gave equal space to problems with other versions, it would result in hugely over-long posts.

    If the article on separation was modified, and the statement on inerrancy modified to deal with serious threats such as Peter Enns, and not with the question of the transmission of the text through time (which is not historically regarded as part of the doctrine), I would sign the affirmation – and I have said so more than once!

  35. Highland wrote:
    On the King James issue, it seems that “Mick’s” opinion as to who may or may not sign is purely his own, as I have recently been in contact with another signer of the Affirmation (who is also a personal friend), who says that as far as he is concerned anyone who uses the NKJV and holds it to be based on the best texts may sign.

    But what if someone usually reads from the ESV, or NASB … are they considered out?

  36. Oh yes. Also it seems “Mick” is not alone, which is why I won’t be signing the Affirmation any time soon – because I’m not allowed to!

    The ESV and the NASB, in addition to having textual footnotes (like the original King James), are from texts other than those on which the King James is based, and therefore far beyond the pale.

  37. I hope a comment over four years later is acceptable – I was researching this subject yesterday.

    I checked on the Affirmation 2010 website. Just 22 ministers have endorsed the declaration. And six of those are from Scotland or Northern Ireland, where the church demographics are somewhat different to the rest of the UK.

    By way of comparison, FIEC has about 500 churches, and a website called GraceNet has a huge list of churches – I made it 32 screens worth – probably 500+ churches – which are described as “Reformed Evangelical”. I found a figure of 3,300 churches that belong to the Evangelical Alliance.

    So it’s fair to say that Affirmation 2010 represents a minute fraction of churches that identify as evangelical. Even in the more specific branch of conservative reformed evangelicals, they are a tiny minority.

    Putting it another way, the vast majority of reformed evangelicals reject Affirmation 2010.

    Clearly, the truthfulness of anything is unrelated to the numbers who believe it. But the myriad of reformed ministers who haven’t signed Affirmation 2010 are not liberals or “new evangelicals”, but experienced, educated, God-fearing, Bible-believing pastors who, I am sure, do not consider it is a correct summary of Biblical faith and practice.

    I’m even sure it is valid to call Affirmation 2010 divisive, because it hasn’t split God’s people. Rather, it would be better to say that it has been solidly rejected.

    What it has done it to confirm an existing division, namely that the Bible League Trust represents a tiny fringe of the church that enjoys minimal support. The last accounts available on the Charity Commission website (2011) state that about 1150 copies of the Bible League Quarterly are printed each edition. That’s trivial even in the small world of Reformed Evangelicalism. And, of course, we don’t know how many of the copies are actually bought and read – some may be given away or sent overseas.

    I’m aware that Affirmation 2010 is technically separate from the BLT, but that’s a totally artifical distinction. Affirmation 2010 was conceived by the BLT, organised by the BLT’s chairman, and 9 out of 10 BLT council members have signed it. It clearly embodies the beliefs of the BLT. It could even be described as an attempt by the BLT to impose their extremist views on the wider church.

    It is hard for me to see how the actions of the BLT are edifying the church. The organisation, and the people associated with it, seem to devote a lot of time to condemning those whose convictions are slightly different. Affirmation 2010 is a perfect example, clearly stating that it sets out true Biblical doctrine and practice and therefore anyone who disagrees with any part of it is in error. This arrogant and confrontational approach is contrary to Biblical principles of grace and brotherly love. Quite frankly, if the BLT is unable to repent and change its ways, the best way it can serve the church is to disband.

    One thing to remember is that, in our technological society, the internet gives anyone a voice, and in many cases (as we see here), that voice is much louder than it actually is. But I think you did the right thing by responding to it.


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