Menu Close

Bruce, What Was Your View on the King James Bible?

bible thumper 4

Richard asked: During your time in the IFB what was your particular view on the KJV? Did you change this view prior to leaving Christianity?

I grew up in Baptist churches that only used the King James Bible. These churches weren’t King James-only per se. It is just that the King James Bible was the only version these churches used. I don’t remember ever hearing a sermon on why church members should only use the KJV. This all changed with the publishing of the New International Version (NIV) in 1978 and the New King James Version (NKJV) in 1982. This forced Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches and pastors, along with IFB colleges and seminaries, to stake out positions on English Bible translations. The college I attended in the 1970s, Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, was decidedly King James-only. Professors and students were required to use only the KJV, and chapel speakers were required to do the same. Using a different translation was grounds for immediate expulsion. At the same time, however, the KJV extremism of Peter Ruckman was also banned, I suspect out of trying to avoid the infighting that Ruckmanism tended to foment. (Please read Questions: Bruce, In Your IFB Days Did You Encounter Peter Ruckman?) That said, Ruckman’s teachings found fertile ground in which to grow, and more than a few Midwestern graduates became Ruckmanites. These pastors advertise their beliefs about Bible translations by displaying on their church signs and literature KJV 1611. (Back in the day when Polly and I were looking for a church to attend, we took KJV 1611 on a church sign to mean: Danger! Infected with an incurable disease. Do not enter!)

I entered the ministry as a defender of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Word of God; “Word of God” being the King James Bible. While I was never a follower of Peter Ruckman — I despised his nasty, vulgar disposition and that of his disciples — I generally believed as he did: that the King James Bible was God’s perfect word for English-speaking people. I wasn’t one to spend much time preaching about Bible translations. Everyone knew that at the churches I pastored we ONLY used the King James Bible.

In the late 1980s, I read several books that called into question my belief that the King James Bible was inerrant. I concluded that no translation was without error, and that inerrancy only applied to the original manuscripts. I took the approach that the KJV was the best and most reliable translation for English-speaking people. I held this position until the late 1990s.

In 1995, I started a non-denominational church, Our Father’s House, in West Unity, Ohio. I would pastor Our Father’s House for seven years. It was here that my theology, politics, and social values began to change. In 2000, I decided to change which Bible translation I used when preaching. I had already been reading other translations in my studies, but using anything but a KJV for preaching was a big deal, at least for me. Congregants? They couldn’t care less. I used the New American Standard Version (NASB) for a year or so, eventually moving to the English Standard Version (ESV). I was still preaching from the ESV when I left Christianity in November 2008. Devotionally, I read Eugene Peterson’s masterful translation, The Message. I found great joy and satisfaction when reading The Message translation. It was a Bible that truly spoke the language of the common man.

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.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.


  1. Avatar

    The KJV-only thing concerned me when fundy. As a teacher of 5-7yos, I did extra training in ways to help children who hadn’t hacked the skill of reading during their first year or two of full-time education. I also taught Sunday School/bible clubs for this age group and naturally wanted my teaching to be age-appropriate. So I privately wondered how kids who could barely read ‘The cat sat on the mat,’ were expected to understand and learn memory verses from the KJV. Kids who went to the american IFB church plant in our village recounted to me verses like ‘Walk worthy to them that are without.’ When I now read atheist blogs about fundy law-makers in the USA wanting the 10 commandments to be on the wall in every school….I do wonder how they expect kids to understand – or teachers to explain number 10 – ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s ass…….’ Language moves on, so Shakespearian english gets further and further away from today’s english with every decade. My own 7yo g/son asked me recently what the word ‘thy’ meant.

  2. Avatar

    The IFB church that I was baptized in, way back in 1979, was so “KJV only” that when they received promotional materials for their Christian school, the men would gather around and inspect the illustrations (think – photos of an open bible on a school desk as a child prays). What the men were doing were trying to determine if the bible in the photograph was a KJV or not (because it sure as hell better be). As a young man of 20, I found this behavior to be very odd. I didn’t last much longer in that church, though I did primarily read from the KJV for the next 10 years.

  3. Avatar

    I don’t remember Bible translations being a big deal in the Southern Baptist church I grew up in – rather, the pastor or Sunday school teachers would identify which version they were using whenever we read anything. But the fundamentalist Christian school was KJV-only. Typical of 11-year-old me when I started that school, I had to question why the big deal over the KJV; and my mom said she figured it was because we had to memorize large blocks of verses, so they wanted us to memorize the same thing to make it easier for teachers to grade. That explanation sounded reasonable to 11-year-old me.

  4. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Matilda–You understand why things need to be re-translated: Language changes. How anyone can think any translation is the “right” one–or an old or new one is more “authoritative”–is beyond me.

    By the way, KJV English and Shakespearean English are very different.

    • Avatar

      Our main missionary interest/giving for decades was to a big bible translation mission and we saw many pics of semi-naked, mud-hut-jungle-dwelling ethnic groups rejoicing as missionaries taught them to read and then gave them the NT in their own languages. So I also always wondered privately how some of these missionaries, themselves from KJV-only backgrounds and supporting churches squared this with their translations….there were no written17thC versions of those tribes’ languages….so the translations they gave these folk must surely be inaccurate and should be frowned upon for being ‘modern.’ IDK! Yet another example, one among a gazillion, of dissonances in the world of fundy-ism.

  5. Avatar

    I remember growing up in the Southern Baptist church one of the churches we attended certainly made a big deal to only use KJV. Several of the teens and young adults started bringing in the Good News bible and I would hear whispering from other churchgoers to not even look at it. It caused such a ruckus that the pastor had to bring it up in a sermon a few weeks later. How funny they are so afraid for people to read anything different that might make them think differently than what they had been ordered to think!

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away! If You Are a First Time Commenter, Please Read the Comment Policy Located at the Top of the Page.

Bruce Gerencser