God's Word for today
Not since the forum on women in ministry in 1996 has a ct article generated so much mail. The June 16 News story "Hands Off My NIV!" produced an outcry from readers on both sides of this issue, with the mail almost evenly divided between those who regret the decision by Zondervan and the International Bible Society not to publish a new "gender-accurate" edition of the New International Version Bible, and those who are relieved and vehemently insist that updated versions must never use "inclusive" nouns and pronouns in referring to the human race. Feelings run deep, as shown by the sampling of letters in this issue.
World's "directed reporting"
* In the June 16 news report on Zondervan's ethics complaint againstWorld magazine ("Hands Off My NIV!"), it wasreported that I had previously registered a complaint with the EvangelicalPress Association. You stated, correctly, that I remain unsatisfied and donot consider the matter resolved.
The major problem with World is a practice Olasky calls "directedreporting." According to the editor of World, it is hisresponsibility to send his reporters out with a clear "direction" on theslant that will be given to the story. The slants were clear in both thearticle that reported on the conference I was involved in and theNIV issue.
Ostensibly, the slant is predetermined to be the authentic Christian world-view.In reality, however, the slant is more likely to be southern, conservativePresbyterian evangelicalism. This means, then, that if individuals,organizations, conferences, publications, and so forth do not supportlaissez-faire economics, libertarian politics, and right-wing evangelicalconservatism, World's reporters are "directed" to write negative accounts.
Sadly, World's confusing of right-wing politics with authenticChristianity perpetuates the view of many unbelievers that evangelicals aremerely conservative Republicans with religious trappings. It's too bad thatFrancis Schaeffer is no longer here to give them the scolding they need.World needs to get off the political/economic low road and back onto thehigh road that values biblical truth and Christian ethics over sensationalismand conservatism.
I am dismayed by the outrage over the "gender accurate" edition of theNIV. I would have opposed this change as an evangelical seminarystudent. But after ten years of preaching in the real world to congregations,half of whom are female, I welcome and encourage the change.
Please, International Bible Society, please go ahead and publish the "InclusiveLanguage Edition" in the United States. Do what is right, even if it affectsyour financial bottom line.
Pastor Mike Tatman
Westchester United Methodist Church
One problem is reflected in the article's title: MyNIV, per se, is not the issue; it's our Word, givenby almighty God. The CBT's Barker affirmed "the Bible as theauthoritative, infallible, inspired, and completely truthful Word of God."Why then try to "improve" on it? Translation is one thing, but "timelyinterpretative" translation is wholly different. It implies tergiversationby God. But by nature and character, he's not evasive, ambiguous, doesn'tequivocate, or is different at different times for improvement. Wecan bank our very lives on his saying exactly what he wants, intends, andmeans to say when first he says it! The issue is "Don't mess with our InstructionBook." Thank God its authoritative infallibility is beyond political correctnessand the vagaries of worldly cultural agendas arriving to have the very wordschanged, not only to tell God what he meant to say, but moreover, what heshould have said to bring him up to "the nineties."
W. L. Ryder, M.D.
Lake Charles, La.
* I am thankful that the International Bible Society has decided notto make inclusive language changes in the NIV; however, Iam distraught that they are basing their decision on public pressure insteadof on godly conviction. The church is increasingly becoming more concernedwith pacifying the masses and financial security than with the integrityof Christ and his Word.
* I really do like my nrsv Bible, so imagine my surprise to discoverthat it (like the apparently doomed "gender neutral" NIV),is a feminist threat to my faith! A "Stealth Bible"? A femme fatale? Methinksrather that someone has a case of verbal flatulence, perhaps brought on byoverexcitability. (For those so affected, I pass on my mother's remedy, aglass of milk at bedtime. And stay away from both pens and keyboards 'tilmorning.) There are some real questions that ought to be answered regardingjust how translation works. I, for one, will read CT's upcomingissue on the topic with avid interest. But the punch line seems obvious:All of us, er, "humans" need God's Word real bad. A final note: why is itthat almost all the detractors from the "inclusive" versions of Scriptureare both white and male?
Jesus People USA
* Zondervan is accused of being guided by the cultural forces of feminism,whereas their accusers seem to be guided by the subculture forces ofsensationalism and antischolarship. Shouldn't we as evangelicals be guidedboth by the mind of Christ—which would want us to use the best scholarshipavailable in translating his Word accurately—and by the heart of Christ—whichwould want us to reach out to the lost in the culture around us in a languagethat they can understand?
The Reverend Dr. David A. Currie
New Hope, Pa.
* I am not even remotely interested in neutral language for God, whois our Father, but I would love to see language which includes women morefrequently. The most notable passage for me came to the surface when we werehaving an anointing service for a woman in our congregation. The elder readJames 5:14 from the NIV, which consistently uses the malepronoun. During the service he mentioned the inappropriateness of the pronoun.I was pleased to be able to refer him to the nrsv reading of this same text.The reading is comfortable while being inclusive. Now what would be so wrongwith helping the women of our churches finally feel more included in thelanguage of Scripture?
Pastor Nelson J. Shenk
Boyertown Mennonite Church
* The precise reason why I and many others raised our voice in protestwas because a committee felt it perfectly permissible and desirable for themto take votes on whether or not God's meaning could be better transmittedin contemporary English if they inaccurately changed the gender used by inspiredwriters.
Gender-accurate it was not. Our acceptance of theNIV as suitable to displace older versions was in fullrecognition that changes were being made and that most of them were wellmade. Here came changes based not on any new textual considerations but entirelyon lack of faith that inspired writers correctly knew what they meant tosay about gender.
A century ago the state had a compelling pecuniary interest in keeping itsolder citizens alive, because they represented conservation of capital, whichcapital was essential to the achievement of banking and financial-marketstability. Accordingly, America's medical schools and public-health systemsbecame models for the world; the U.S. now has an abundance of senior citizenswhose aggregate accumulated capital contributes indispensably to the strengthof the American economy.
But today, perversely, the state has a compelling pecuniary interest in theearliest possible demise of us seniors, not only to accelerate its collectionof taxes from our iras and pensions, but, even more desperately, to mitigatethe social security and Medicare liabilities we also represent. Just as childrenhave become unaffordable, and abortion has lost its moral stigma, so arewe elderly becoming unaffordable, and euthanasia is maneuvering forrespectability ["Deadly Compassion," June16].
The die was cast when social security went into effect in 1936. My grandfathers,both retired Calvinist ministers at the time, predicted it: legalized euthanasia.
* In "Can We Be Good Without Hell?"[June 16], Jerry Walls makes the mistake of allowing heaven and hell to playa part in the motivation for moral actions. When people must be bribed todo what is right, obviously their characters are corrupt and their actionshave no moral worth. The fact that "self-interest dictates that we followthe laws of heaven" is irrelevant from the moral perspective. We should actmorally even if it were to go against every calculation of self-interest.We ought to be motivated simply by goodness itself—to act morally becauseit is moral. The fact that many of us do not find this reason "persuasive"tells us nothing about the nature of morality—it simply illustrates thefallen nature of human beings. While heaven and hell should not be the motivationof our actions, these concepts are crucial for understanding the meaningand consequences of sin and grace.
* Walls argues that the only sure foundation for morality is beliefin God, heaven, and hell, but especially hell. If I understand him correctly,Christians should preach some form of hell because of its utilitarianism.Never mind that most who reject the idea of hell do so either because itappears mythical—like telling children that if they behave badly they willget coal in their stockings for Christmas, only worse—or because it suggeststhat God is cruel. Walls sounds as if we can ignore their objections andpreach hell simply because it scares people into being good. Granted, heallows that any hell will do that teaches some form of last judgment, butin his mind the more traditional one's hell, and therefore the scarier, thetruer.
We Christians must go beyond fear. Utilitarian, hell-based ethics cannotpoint us to absolutes. Is there an ultimate ethic? How can we know? The reasonwe know there is an ultimate ethic is Jesus.
Director of Ministerial In-service Education
Worldwide Church of God
Loving gays and lesbians
I wish to clarify information that was in your recent article about supportgroups for families and friends of homosexuals[North American Scene, June 16].
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)has been supporting and "considering the feelings of parents and close friends"for quite a while. Much of that support has been given to Christians fromChristians who are members of over 400 pflag chapters. ManyPFLAG meetings are conducted in Christian churches.
PFLAG is about loving our gay, lesbian, bisexual, andtransgender family members and friends for who they are. Also, our missionis to educate and support. We celebrate our families and friends; we don'ttry to change them.
As a Christian and board member of a local PFLAG chapter,it has been very hard for me to hear the rhetoric from some Christians regardinghomosexuality. I know God loves Jack. How could he not?
Lisa K. Zuber
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Correction: Karen Ann Quinlan did not die from starvation, as statedin "Deadly Compassion" (June 16, 1997,p. 19). Rather, she was removed from a respirator and then fed intravenously.Quinlan lived for nine years in a persistent vegetative state without therespirator, then died of pneumonia.
Brief letters are welcome. They may be edited for space and clarity andmust include the writer's name and address. Send to Eutychus, Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188; fax: 630/260-0114. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters preceded by "* " were received online.
Copyright © 1997 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.