J. W. Roberts' "Faith Only" Doctrine — (Guest Editorial)
From the Firm Foundation, March 9, 1971, I notice that J. W. Roberts, of Abilene Christian College, believes in, and is teaching, the "faith only" doctrine. He assures us that he does not teach the same thing as those who say that salvation comes at the point of faith before and without baptism. But he also seeks to indicate that he does believe the same thing about it that Martin Luther believed; and that he believes the same thing which is believed by Dr. Robert G. Bratcher, the Baptist author of Today's English Version, sometimes referred to as TEV, and Good News For Modern Man. In fact, his article was written for the express purpose of commending and defending this and the other recent versions made by modernists. Here is his own statement of his doctrine:
"The fact is that there is a very real sense in which the Bible teaches salvation by faith only — not the modern denominational doctrine of salvation at the point of faith without baptism (a doctrine Martin Luther did not teach) — but the fact that the only way to salvation is by a faith system which excludes human works of righteousness. This the Bible, including Romans 1:17, does teach."
A little further on he has this nostalgic note concerning the first edition of Bratcher's book, in which he says that Romans 1:17 says that justification is "through faith alone." This note also explains that the new edition is changing the wording:
"Again, since it is speaking of something altogether different, this is no comfort to the denial of baptism when understood in the context. However, inasmuch as it will inevitably be confused with the argument over baptism, it is probably well that the TEV committee is changing it. But in some ways I am a little sorry to see it changed. If it had been left as it was, it might have caused some of us' to dig deeper to see just what Paul did say!"
He and two or three others, if my memory serves me correctly, had a meeting with this TEV committee to ask for this change. From what he has said in this article, just imagine the kind of consultation they had. He tells them that he understands what they are saying in the passage, and that Bratcher's version is correct; but that because of so many of us poor ignorant, prejudiced people who do not know Greek he would like to see it changed. Read the article and see if that is not the way he thinks of himself as a scholar in Greek and the way he thinks of others who are alarmed at the careless treatment of the text in this version. Observe these samples:
"As a student and teacher of the Greek New Testament and one whose major academic work is in this field, I think I have some competence to judge the matter."
"Let us be sure that when we enter — the war of conservatism we are on the right battlefield. There is a large group of people in the church today, both old and young, who have studied Greek, textual criticism, and principles of translation. Nothing turns them off quicker than uninformed crusades."
Perhaps one of Dr. Roberts' major problems is that he has been messing around with the Greek so much that plain English has become Greek to him. Let me show you what I mean. In the first statement quoted from him he makes the following two phrases mean the same thing: (1) "salvation by faith only"; (2) "the only way to salvation is by a faith system." The latter says that salvation is not had apart from faith. The former says that nothing" but faith is involved. Notice the understanding which a number of poor uninformed souls have of this difference, even though they do not consciously understand a word of Greek. They have preached for years that the only way into Christ is by baptism; that is, there is no way a man can get into Christ without it. On the other hand they have insisted that it is not by baptism only. Then they have reasoned that they could argue salvation by baptism only with as much reason as the others could argue salvation by faith only. They could do it on the same confusion of phrases which Dr. Roberts makes. If he does not know or apply the English any better than in this instance, how can he be trusted to evaluate the quality of a translation from Greek?
J. W. Roberts knows that there is no word for "only" in the Greek following the word for "faith" in Romans 1:17 and other passages where Bratcher has placed it, except in James 2:24, where justification is declared to be not by faith alone. He knows that we know it. He knows that every man can examine the two passages in the Greek text and see the difference. He further knows that many who have never studied a minute of Greek know that the Bible does not teach salvation by faith only, and that they do not need to study it to know this fact.
Most people understand that there is good purpose served by revisions and new translations. They know that words and phrases change in meaning and usage. They know that it makes for easer reading to have the Scriptures in modern language. On the other hand, they also know when some man has contradicted the teaching of the Bible by making a certain passage fit his doctrine by making up his own words. Instead of making the Bible clearer, such so-called versions make the teaching of the Bible more obscure. That is the serious danger involved in TEV. It sounds so clear in modern English that people are more easily duped with the false doctrine inserted by the author. Even Dr. Roberts has swallowed it.
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