Missionaries are often required to fill out questionnaires before they are given a meeting at a church. The pastor wants to know, and rightly so, what the missionary believes and practices. Some important questions, however, are seldom asked: Are you and your wife prepared spiritually and emotionally for the mission field? Are you prepared to face and win the battle of the culture shock that destroyed many before you? What specialized training have you had in linguistics, and language and culture learning? Are you going to be able to learn the languages you need in order to reach the people on your field? Pastors of “our stripe” will invariably ask: What do you believe about the King James Bible? The issue of the Bible is very important to us, amen? We certainly are not interested in supporting a missionary that doesn’t know where he stands on the Word of God for the English-speaking people, right?
I’m not a pastor, but I’d like to take a turn at asking questions: Is this Bible debate only for English speakers? The questions the missionary seldom if ever receives are: What Bible will you use on the foreign field? What is the textual base of this Bible? Have you personally checked its textual purity? What criteria or checklist did you use to examine this Bible? If the Bible has serious problems, what do you plan to do about it? How many languages are there in the country where you will work? Do these languages have scriptures? Are you prepared to help them get a Bible if God should so lead? And I ask us all: Do we deserve a perfectly preserved English Bible, while people who speak other tongues don’t? A solution to a problem usually begins with someone asking some pointed questions. Questions get the ball rolling, so to speak. Maybe when enough pastors ask the right questions, missionaries will feel the need to do something about the Bible problem on their fields.
I once picked up a Portuguese Bible from the display table of a veteran missionary. I looked at a few verses and asked, “Do you realize that this is a corrupt, critical text Bible?” He admitted that he did. I told him that Portuguese also has a good received text Bible and asked why he doesn’t use it. He said, “We can get these Bibles cheaply and easily from the Bible Society.” My stars, is that the criteria, what is cheap and easy? What he could have said was, “The Bible I use in Brazil is not an issue to the churches as long as I am a King James believer while here in the United States!” Bible-believing missionaries have worked in places like China and Japan for many years and have used corrupt Bibles. The missionary may say, “Yes, our Bible has problems, but it’s all we have.” Well, brother, why not do something about the problem? He will probably say that he is not qualified. But why can’t he get qualified? Are we Independent Baptists somehow limited in mental capacity and disqualified from the field of Bible translation? Can we only win souls and build churches on the foreign field? Must we only go to languages that have Bibles and avoid people groups that don’t? Must we leave Bible translation to neo-evangelicals, liberals, and the worldly Bible societies?
Another reason given for using inferior Bibles is: There are no real doctrinal differences. That is what many (even some Fundamentalists) say about the corrupt English Bibles, but it is a lie of the Devil. Sometimes we hear: I know there are problems in my Bible, but it’s what most fundamental missionaries and national pastors use. As a child, did the everyone is doing it excuse work with your parents? It probably won’t work with God either!
Three last questions: Is our missionary using a textually pure Bible? Does it matter? If he isn’t, what should he do? First, he must determine the textual basis of his Bible. Is it based on the received text or the critical text? (You may request a digital copy of an eleven hundred-point checklist showing differences between the received and critical texts.) Secondly, if he finds textual corruptions, he should pray about the problem. Thirdly, he should document the textual problems in his New Testament. Fourthly, he should investigate to see if there is a more faithful translation that he could use. (I suggest inquiring of the William Carey Bible Society.) Fifthly, he should share his concerns about the problem with like-minded national pastors and missionaries. (However, he should definitely not discuss it with their church members.) He must approach them with the facts, having done his homework; but he must also display a humble attitude. Finally, he may need to study linguistics and Bible translation principles. (We suggest he do this before going to the field.) Then he can form a translation team and go to work.
God is no respecter of persons. He doesn’t love English speakers more than others. It is time for us to give other languages an accurate, received-text Bible. It is time for the missionary to work with a pure Bible. And it is time for pastors to add a few new questions to their questionnaires.