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Bruce, In Your IFB Days Did You Encounter Peter Ruckman?

errors in the king james Bible

Matt asked, In your IFB days did you ever encounter Peter Ruckman? If so what was/is your assessment of him?

For readers who are not familiar with Peter Ruckman, Wikipedia has this to say about him:

Peter Ruckman was an American Independent Baptist pastor and founder of Pensacola Bible Institute in Pensacola, Florida (not to be confused with Pensacola Christian College).

Ruckman was known for his position that the King James Version constituted “advanced revelation” and was the final, preserved word of God for English speakers.

Ruckman died in 2016 at the age of ninety-four. He was a graduate of Bob Jones University, and for many years the pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida. Bible Baptist’s website describes Ruckman this way:

Dr. Peter S. Ruckman (November 19, 1921 – April 21, 2016) received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Alabama and finished his formal education with six years of training at Bob Jones University (four full years and two accelerated summer sessions), completing requirements for the Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Reading at a rate of seven hundred words per minute, Dr. Ruckman had managed to read about 6,500 books before receiving his doctorate at an average of a book each day.

Dr. Ruckman stood for the absolute authority of the Authorized Version and offered no apology to any recognized scholar anywhere for his stand. In addition to preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible, Dr. Ruckman produced a comprehensive collection of apologetic and polemic literature and resources supporting the authority of the Authorized Version of the Holy Scriptures.

The thrice-married Ruckman was either loved or hated by IFB preachers. He was a man known to engender strife, believing that rightness of belief was all that mattered (except, evidently, what the Bible said about divorce). Much like their mentor, his followers are known for their arrogance, nastiness, and argumentative spirit.

peter ruckman

I first met Peter Ruckman at Camp Chautauqua in Miamisburg, Ohio — an IFB youth camp owned and operated at the time by the Ohio Baptist Bible Fellowship. I attended Camp Chautauqua two summers in the early 1970s. Attending camp was one of the highlights of my teenage years. Lots of fun, lots of girls, and yes, lots of preaching. One year, Ruckman was the featured speaker. I don’t remember much about his sermons, but I vividly remember the chalk drawings he used to illustrate his sermons. Ruckman was a skillful, talented chalk artist, so he naturally used his art to “hook” people and reel them into his peculiar brand of IFB Christianity.

This would be the only time I heard Ruckman preach. I later would read some of his polemical books and commentaries and come into close contact with some of his followers. While I believed, at the time, as Ruckman did, that the King James Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God and the only Bible for English-speaking people, I found his personality and ministerial approach (and that of his devotees) to be so caustic and abrasive that I wanted nothing to do with him.

I would later learn that King James-Onlyism was not only irrational and anti-intellectual, but in its extreme forms, it was a cult. I know a few pastors who are still devoted followers of Ruckman’s teachings. They are, in every way, small men whose lives have been ruined by arrogance and certainty of belief. The only cure I know for this disease is books written by men such as Dr. Bart Ehrman. Until they can at least consider the possibility that they might be wrong, there is no hope for them.

In 2005, I candidated at a Southern Baptist church in Weston, West Virginia. The church was very interested in me becoming their next pastor. One problem — I had preached my trial sermons from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. One of the core families was a follower of Peter Ruckman. The pulpit committee asked if, out of deference to this family, I would only preach from the KJV. I told them that I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) make such a promise. The church decided I wasn’t the man for them. Such is the pernicious effect of Ruckmanism; causing controversy and division wherever it is found.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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    It was better for you to find out while a candidate that King James Onlyism would be an issue at that church!

    Ah, Bob Jones University – their K-12 school curriculum is something from which I had to work hard to deconstruct! I have a visceral reaction when BJU, Pensacola Christian College, or Tennessee Temple University are mentioned.

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      Some of my aunt’s church friends sent their children abroad to study at Pensacola – yes, American Evangelicalism is exported around the world.

      Eventhough she is an Evangelical herself, she still has common sense and she thinks that it is a bad idea to send children to a non-accredited institution.
      (By accreditation, I am referring to a real local/state-based accreditation as it applies in the US, not some dubious accreditation issued by nation-wide religious bodies).

      Furthermore, she told me that one of her friend’s son, who studied at Pensacola, showed very weird behaviour. Whenever he was asked about what he was studying – not theology for sure – he would open his bible and start preaching from John’s Gospel.

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    I don’t have much dealings with Fundamentalist Baptists, but I do have an extensive experience living with Calvinists. I am very much persuaded that some people have a pathological need to be right all the time. They seem to enjoy being the intellectual King of the Hill, righteously towering above the ignorant and less privileged heathens and heretical Christians.

    For these people, Hell has to be real and God has to be angry. Where is the real value of salvation and knowledge of the “true living God” if everybody is able to receive them? To them, a gift is no longer a gift if it is available to everyone and so exclusivity is paramount.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    I can’t, for the life of me, understand how anybody can think any translation–especially of a book with such a checkered provenance as the Bible–is “the one.”

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    The missed out Pastoral gig reminds me of the job interview in Ghostbusters. “If there is a steady paycheck in it, I’ll believe anything you say.”
    “King James-Onlyism irrational and anti-intellectual” Yes, but isn’t all religion? Even the concept of irrationality itself comes from the Pythagorean math cult.
    While it is a bit bizarre that one English translation would itself become sacred, it actually fits into the mold of all sacred texts. They all start out as mundane and become elevated to sacred. Because King James’ English is so dated it gives the user a feeling of not only coming from the past, but from God Himself. (I also find it interesting the Joseph Smith imitated the thees and thous for the Book of Mormon.)

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