Filling in the Blanks on the Life and Death of Ian Paisley

Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley (1926-2014)

Dr. Ian R. K. Paisley (1926-2014)

Among the King James Onlyist writers I used to read back in the height of my fundamentalist zeal, one of the more scholarly, by comparison, was David Cloud, whose work may be found at his website Way of Life Literature, Inc. He was definitely a schismatic fundamentalist on many issues, but he did not descend into the nuttiness of Ruckmanism. I found many of his writings on the defense of the KJV to be somewhat more satisfying than the fringe lunacy of Gail Riplinger’s New Age Bible Versions, which was her personal regurgitation of many of Peter Ruckman’s views on the Bible version debate, up to and including the inspiration of the KJV, and David Cloud wrote a worthy critique of her book.

David Cloud also included short bios of many proponents of the exclusive use of the King James Version. Called, in classic fundamentalist typography, “TESTIMONIES OF KJV DEFENDERS (do they think we’re all deaf?),” my favorite is the one on OPC minister and Westminster Theological Seminary grad, Edward F. Hills (read it here), author of The King James Version Defended, which introduces the textual arguments of then Dean of Chichester, John William Burgon, the first great opponent of the Critical Text developed by the committee selected to revise the King James Version in 1881 which fell under the influence of, to hear modern fundies tell it, Roman Catholic-loving, heretic-defending spiritualists, Westcott and Hort (cue ominous music—BOM BOM BOMMM!) and misuses the presuppositional apologetic method, which he calls the logic of faith, to provide his unique twist to Burgon’s outdated scholarship. Hills’s book was my all-time favorite criticizing modern English Bible versions, because it was otherwise very informative with his short histories of “Unbelief” and “Modernism” and detail on the textual sources of many of the contested readings. Indeed, Hills, provoked by a quote of B. B. Warfield which praised higher textual criticism, went on to get the needed credentials and work as an actual textual critic in that field for 20 years before writing his book. Despite my critical description above, it contains many examples of fine scholarship when it comes to reporting the facts of the history of textual criticism and the translation of the King James Version, and it also planted many of the seeds of Reformed theology which would take root and bear fruit in my own mind and heart in the years to follow. It’s just the methodology by which he reaches his conclusions with which I disagree.

Another of the TESTIMONIES OF KJV DEFENDERS which intrigued me was that of the founder of the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster and Irish Protestant political leader, Ian Paisley (read it here) who died on Friday. It tells the story of a courageous public figure who endured violence and assassination attempts for boldly standing up to Pope John Paul II (footage) and calling him the Antichrist among other anti-Catholic activities and rhetoric. And although he was considered a revivalist, Paisley also was consistent with his fundamentalist anti-Catholicism when he boycotted a Billy Graham crusade for allowing the participation of Roman Catholics. And most relevant to Cloud’s appreciation of him was his rejection of modern English translations of the Bible. Cloud reprints at least part of a speech delivered by Paisley at a World Congress of Fundamentalism at Bob Jones University in 1983 called (again, reach for your hearing protection) “THE AUTHORITY OF THE SCRIPTURES VS. THE CONFUSION OF THE TRANSLATIONS.”

This TESTIMONY was last updated back in 2004. It only gives the reader the information regarding Paisley’s views which parallel those of American fundamentalists who consider the pope the Antichrist from the perspective of dispensational premillennialism, rather than post- or amillennialism, to which Paisley likely subscribed. It excuses his otherwise “heretical” Calvinism, denial of congregational polity and the leadership of only one elder, called either the pastor or the preacher, or just “Preacher.” It omits a dark period in which he was involved in the cover-up of sexual abuse against children in a boy’s home (HT: Jeri Massi). Cloud’s report also leaves out the details of the violence on the ground which Paisley’s political rhetoric inspired, or the man himself lead. Because his webpage remains so incomplete, Cloud also neglects to point out the fact that in 2007, after decades of spearheading the movement to suppress Roman Catholic civil rights in Ireland, which led to thirty years of violence in what is called “The Troubles,” and leadership of the Ulster Resistance which teamed up with other Protestant groups dedicated to violence against Roman Catholic civil rights, when the Catholic Irish Republican Army disarmed itself and promised an end to its terrorism, according to the New York Times obituary on the late fundamentalist Presbyterian minister and First Minister of Ireland, Ian Paisley, entered into a power-sharing unity government with a leader of his former Catholic opposition.

The day many thought would never come arrived in Belfast on May 8, 2007. Mr. Paisley, founder of the Democratic Unionist party, which sought continued association with Britain, and Martin McGuinness, a Sinn Fein leader and former commander of the Irish Republican Army, which had fought for a united Ireland, took oaths as the leader and deputy leader, respectively, of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government.

This is not to say that Paisley necessarily recanted his stern anti-Catholic views regarding the Pope, or his rejection of modern English Bible versions, or his other fundamentalist views, but it is to say that when all you know about someone originates from a fundamentalist resource, you will want to compare it to other sources of information to make sure you are getting the whole story. It is nice to hear that Paisley’s controversial career ended on a more conciliatory note the way it did.

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11 responses

  1. Always learn something interesting reading your blog!

  2. Thanks, Interested Reader!

  3. Well done, Captain.

    I remember a few years ago the firestorm created when Clarence Sexton invited Ian Paisley to preach there. He was invited because of his KJV stance, but when parents and supporters of the school found out a Presby/Calvinist was preaching there, people started pulling their kids out. That was our “go-to” school at the church I was attending at the time. After that, folks started pulling their kids out and sending them to Lancaster, CA.

    By the way, I too learned about Dr. Paisley from KJVO/IFB circles – not sure if it was David Cloud or not, but I did devour his materials in those days.

    1. “there” = Crown College
      “Lancaster” = West Coast Baptist College

      1. BTW, we now have a branch of Crown College out here in Ft. Worth. A merger with our local Norris Bible Baptist Institute has changed it to Crown Southwest–Norris Seminary.

      2. Oh boy…

        Fundies with handguns!!!

      3. What’s wrong with that? Perfectly consistent with Norris’ heritage! Besides, in Texas, it’s not just the fundies who are carrying.

      4. ha…ha…

        I went to high school in East Texas. I’ve seen my share of gun racks!

    2. Perfect contribution, Andrew! I knew Sexton got grief for “violating separation” rules, but didn’t have enough to go on to add it to my post. Well done, to you, too, Andrew!

    3. One more thing…

      It’s amusing that Cloud praises Paisley on an article about KJV, but condemns those that have him speak on account of his Calvinism:

      http://www.wayoflife.org/index_files/calvinism_on_the_march.html

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