The Authorised Version (AV) is often promoted and defended on the grounds of its accuracy and of the Greek text (the Received Text) underlying its New Testament translation. The Received Text is the “Church text” of the Reformation, adopted by the Reformers and the Churches, whereas most or all modern versions use Greek texts which, it is not unfair to say, have been cobbled together by unbelieving scholars and are heavily dependent on a few grossly erroneous early manuscripts which these scholars insist on referring to as “the best”. This in itself should make English-speaking Christians wary of abandoning the AV in favour of modern versions (was Satan inactive in the preparation of these new Greek texts?), but there are a host of other reasons as well.
One of these is the distinct patterns of behaviour that accompany the use of the AV and of modern versions.
It is a general rule, for instance, that in churches that use the AV, the men will be wearing suits and ties, and the women hats and skirts; whereas in churches that abandon the AV these things tend to disappear. It can hardly be the case that all the women in these churches have re-exegeted 1 Cor. 11 and concluded that head-coverings are not in fact obligatory: what has obviously happened is that the nature of the worship has changed. It is no longer as solemn as it used to be and people feel comfortable coming to church in more casual clothing. But if the nature of the worship has changed, then the view of God must have changed. He has lost (in the minds of these people) something of the awe and respect that is due to Him. A further indication that this is so is that the doctrine of hell tends to be less explicitly preached in churches which use modern versions. The experience of the last fifty years has shown that modern versions are a slippery slope in matters of worship, conduct, and doctrine.
Another reason is that no modern version is able to command the field, so that the adoption of a modern version inevitably opens the door to multiple versions.
The NIV, the NKJV, and the ESV are all popular at the moment in different circles in Britain. This multiplicity throws away the great advantage of having a single version, because when there is one accepted version then we can all recognise quotations from the Bible and in the course of a lifetime we can memorize large parts of it. The effect of having multiple versions has been to make church-goers relatively ignorant of the Bible. Users of modern versions often do not recognise passages familiar to AV users, because what was striking and memorable in the AV is bland and unmemorable in their current version (which may soon be superseded anyway). The resulting ignorance of the Bible makes the Church vulnerable to error and to false teachers.
A third reason is that the use of the AV marks a different view of the Church and of Divine Providence.
The AV was the culmination of the various English Reformation translations (Tyndale, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, etc), and for three centuries it was the English-speaking version. The AV is a principal part of the Protestant heritage of Britain and it provides an entrance to the writings of the Reformers and Puritans, to the English Protestant confessions (the Scots Confession, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Westminster Confession, etc), to the history of God’s dealings with the Church in Britain, and to the example and experience of English-speaking forefathers in the Church. All this is very precious, and it is something that we should wish to profit from and to transmit to future generations.
The unfortunate tendency of modern versions is to distance people from all these things. The very decision to use a modern version carries with it an implicit rejection of this heritage: the person has decided to make a ‘fresh start’ and not to walk in the old paths of the English-speaking Church. Such a mindset is in itself unwise, and the decision has the further consequence that the writings of the past soon become ‘difficult’ because people are less familiar with their language. In a little while, the whole heritage is lost, not excluding Bunyan and M‘Cheyne, and people approach church issues as if they were the first generation of Christians and it was their place to relay the foundations. The resulting ignorance, weakness, and chaos can be seen throughout the evangelical Church in Britain.
Experience suggests that the choice of a Bible version is as much a spiritual matter as a rational one, and that some people are wedded to modern versions because they are deliberately escaping from the Protestant heritage of Britain: they do not wish to be part of it. Others may adopt modern versions because they think, misguidedly in our view, that modern versions are more effective for evangelistic purposes. But whatever the reason, such people cannot be allowed to drag the rest of the Church with them. We regard the step that they have taken as dangerous (for the reasons given above) and divisive, and we cannot imperil the well-being of the Church just for the sake of unity with them.