Dr. Hills’ honesty is a breath of fresh air. If he had not begun with the assumption of the superiority of the TR, he would undoubtedly have been led to a conclusion in favor, at the very least, of the “Majority Text” rather than the modern critical texts. But another argument precluded his coming to any conclusions other than the ones he presented, and that was the “argument for certainty” as I call it. This argument is the “glue” that holds the KJV Only position together. It is the common thread that ties Dr. Hills to someone as completely different in approach and mannerism as Dr. Ruckman. Since it is central to the KJV Only position, we will take the opportunity to review the argument as presented in its best form by Dr. Hills. We can see how it functions in this quotation by Dr. Hills:
In short, unless we follow the logic of faith, we can be certain of nothing concerning the Bible and its text. For example, if we make the Bodmer and Chester Beatty Papyri our chief reliance, how do we know that even older New Testament papyri of an entirely different character have not been destroyed by the recent damming of the Nile and the consequent flooding of the Egyptian sands?
The desire for absolute certainty in all matters plainly lies behind statements such as this, and the much less polished (and much more emotional) versions of the same argument that are encountered in less scholarly KJV Only materials. It is argued that unless we embrace the KJV as our “final authority,” we have no final authority at all, and hence all is subjectivity and uncertainty. People do not want subjectivity, but desire certainty and clarity, and so we must hold to the “traditional” text.
This argument is extremely powerful and should not be under-estimated. Many people fulfill their longing for “certainty” in religious matters by swearing allegiance to a particular leader or system. For example, many Roman Catholics find the idea of an infallible pope very “comforting,” for when things get confusing they always have a source of certainty and absolute authority to turn to. In a similar way many Mormons look to the Prophet and the Apostles in Salt Lake City, and Jehovah’s Witnesses look to the Governing Body in Watchtower headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. Others find a TV preacher or evangelist and, without stating it in so many words, invest him or her with some level of infallible religious authority. The fact that groups that offer this kind of “trust us and we will give you absolute certainty in all religious matters” mentality continue to attract followers should tell us that the lure of “absolute certainty” is a strong one indeed.
Protestants, however, should be quick to question any such notion of absolute religious certainty. The concept of the individual’s responsibility before God is deeply ingrained in Protestant theology. We cannot hand off our responsibility in religious matters to someone else. We cannot say “the pope told me to do that” or “the prophet instructed me to believe that doctrine.” God holds us individually responsible for our beliefs and our actions. This was one of the great scandals of the Reformation: the idea of the plowman and the merchant carrying and reading the Bible was unthinkable to the medieval Catholic theologian. How could the layman understand religious things without asking the priest? The Reformers preached a radical concept: a man is responsible to learn God’s Word as best he can, and to follow what he learns. We are called to be students, responsible men and women who make learning, and studying, God’s Word a high priority in our lives. We cannot blame anyone else for our ignorance, or our errors.
As imperfect human beings we will make mistakes. As Paul said, we see in a glass darkly in this life. There are things that are unclear, things that are simply not as plain as they someday will be. The KJV translators themselves said in their Preface, quoted earlier, “For as it is a fault of incredulity, to doubt of those things that are evident: so to determine of such things as the Spirit of God hath left (even in the judgment of the judicious) questionable, can be no less than presumption.” Those who offer us certainty beyond all questions, the translators would rightly say, are being presumptuous with God’s truth. Those who offer absolute certainty do so at a cost: individual responsibility.
If we say that we can have no certainty regarding the biblical text unless we embrace the KJV (or the TR), we are simply moving the question one step back and hoping no one notices. How can we be certain of the textual choices of Desiderius Erasmus, or Stephanus, or Theodore Beza? How can we be certain that the Anglican churchmen who chose amongst the variant readings of those three men were themselves inspired? Are we not, in reality, saying, “Well, I must have certainty, therefore, without any factual or logical or even scriptural reason for doing so, I will invest the KJV translators with ultimate authority.” This is, truly, what KJV Only advocates are doing when they close their eyes to the historical realities regarding the biblical text.
—The King James Only Controversy, pp. 93-95.