Thinking Out Loud

October 24, 2019

Calvinists Launch ESV-Only Movement

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:43 am

Because I work mostly on the retail side of Christian publishing, twice a week I get to deal with customers directly and witness transactions first-hand. What follows is not conjecture, extrapolation from a too-finite study, or exaggeration of a few anecdotal observations.

We are witnessing — if we have not already concluded this — the birth of an ESV-only movement that is equal in its militancy to the KJV-only movement with which which we are already familiar.

The final driver to write these words came just an hour ago, when a young man who had purchased a study Bible which he greatly liked, was basically forced by his pastor to return it for an ESV.

The other translation was not acceptable.

Knowing his story and having met with him and his wife personally, I would argue this the other way around: The ESV text is not appropriate.

His pastor probably doesn’t care.

Remember, the neo-Calvinists — the Young, Restless and Reformed (YRR) — are bullies. You do it their way or you suffer the label of apostasy.

I suspect the young man will occasionally think back to ‘the one that got away,’ or in this case the Bible he loved he was told he should (could) not keep. It takes all types of Bibles to connect with all types of people. He had made an excellent choice.

The ESV serves only one useful purpose: As a badge of identification for the ‘chosen’ ones of the modern, internet-networked Calvinist movements, of which this particular church is one.

To me it’s just sad.

No, it’s worse than that, it’s pathetic.


  1. So what version had he first bought? Yeah, I see the move to ESV as well! It was good to see you, if only briefly.


    Comment by imaginarywoman — October 24, 2019 @ 12:14 pm

    • It was an NLT. He really, really liked it. I think the pastor has too much control over his people.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 24, 2019 @ 1:02 pm

      • I would agree with telling him to return the NLT. However, I wouldn’t require ESV, but rather, any more literal translation such as ESV, NASB, LEB, NKJV, etc. NLT takes too many “interesting” interpretive choices.

        Comment by David — November 8, 2019 @ 6:02 pm

  2. Hi Paul…
    Just wanted to say this is not a universal Reformed position. Our pew bibles are ESV but among the body we use NIV and NKJ and NASB and NLT and I’ve never heard anyone chastised for their choices. The president of Toronto Baptist Seminary preaches regularly at our church and always preaches from the NIV.
    Thankfully no bullies in my YRR world 😁

    Comment by Deborah — October 24, 2019 @ 12:14 pm

  3. I grew up on the NIV, now read the ESV personally. But I’m not an ESV fundamentalist. And just because there are ESV fundamentalists doesn’t mean to say we should throw the baby out with the bathwater and reject the ESV outright. I do refer to other versions and recognise that a dynamic equivalence translation is probably closer to the spirit than the letter of the word. After all, if an angel spoke in today’s English, he wouldn’t say “fear not”, but “don’t be afraid”, even if that’s not the exact order of the original Greek…

    Comment by Robert — October 24, 2019 @ 2:27 pm

    • I would never advise anyone to reject it. I believe in free-market Bible translation! (Provided the translators are respected, which these are.)

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 24, 2019 @ 3:48 pm

  4. John 3:16 in context: those who believe are saved, those who don’t believe are condemned. If Jesus died for everyone, He failed, because not everyone believes in Him and is saved…

    Comment by Robert — October 24, 2019 @ 2:29 pm

    • This is interesting. You probably aren’t the first to say this, but something about how you’ve phrased it here has caught my attention.

      So you’re saying that ‘exhaustive’ or ‘comprehensive’ atonement — I’m trying to avoid using unlimited — is a ‘fail’ on the part of Jesus because not everyone is saved. So by limiting his atoning work to provide solely for those who ultimately accept it, he’s able to score a 100 on his report card for ‘completeness of atonement.’ But the incarnate Christ did offer himself to people who chose to walk away. I’ve never considered that a ‘fail’ on his part, nor does it diminish who he is in any way.

      Lots to think about with that one.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 24, 2019 @ 3:54 pm

      • Yes, the offer of salvation is to all, but the receipt of salvation is only by some. God is omniscient: He foreknew and predestined those He would save. He’s not wringing His hands at those who reject Him. He hardens those whom He will harden and saves those whom He will save. Pharaoh had ample opportunity to repent, but ultimately God knew He never would, and even hardened his heart against the message.

        Comment by Robert — October 24, 2019 @ 3:57 pm

      • It’s a matter of what was Christ accomplishing on the cross? Was he merely making an opportunity to save or did he actually save? I believe Scripture is clear it was the latter. None of Christ’s blood was spilt in vain. And he actually accomplished something on the cross paying for sins. If everyone’s sin was paid for, everyone is saved and we know that to not be the case.

        Comment by David — November 8, 2019 @ 6:04 pm

    • There’s a sense in which your last comment works with both limited and unlimited atonement, give or take the many issues with the KJV translation of ‘predestined’ and the dynamics of hardness of heart… but I feel we’ve moved too far down the road away from what this started out to be — the mandating of a particular translation, and that translation only — and I don’t want to get into a general discussion of the Doctrines of Grace.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 24, 2019 @ 4:08 pm

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