Changes Called "Unacceptable" by Conservatives...
Having failed to successfully promote an alleged "gender inclusive" version of the Bible from 2005 to 2009, publishing giant, Zondervan, has elected to try again. This time, however, instead of publishing an edited version of the NIV in addition to the standard 1984 edition, Zondervan has elected to simply kill the original NIV and call what's coming out this month an "update." If some of the problems inherent in the original NIV weren't troubling enough, Zondervan editors and management appear bent on revising it to fit the tastes of the modern world, i.e., inclusion and feminism. As they do, they also appear to be content with alienating at least a portion of their base in the process.
In reality, the "updated" NIV appears to be little more than a rehash of the aforementioned 2005 gender neutral mishap known as Today's New International Version (TNIV). According to a March 14, 2011, article in The Christian Post, statistics compiled by Christian web techies Robert Slowley and John Dryer show that "31 percent of the TNIV is retained in the updated NIV." The Christian Post story also reported that The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, one of the leading critics of the short-lived TNIV, have released a statement saying it could not recommend the new NIV Bible because of "over 3,600 gender-related problems" that were previously described in its critique of the TNIV.
The Christian Post also articulated the ongoing tug-of-war between conservatives and liberals in saying, "In other initial reviews, some evangelicals praised the clarity of the new edition while others were still unconvinced that the gender-related problems of the TNIV were resolved." "Clarity of the new edition"? What? This make my head spin! Who are these "evangelicals" who would praise "clarity" over accuracy? Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Marcus Borg, Jim Wallis, or the evolution defenders at Bio Logos? Has evangelicalism completely lost its collective mind? Is the only important criteria to be that phrases and words need to sound modern and are well used and popular today? This actually appears to be all about marketing and very little about the integrity of the Word of God. The head of the translation committee, Doulass Moo, defends the new version as "accurate" but admits that the committee did some research to see what words evangelical Christians - who are most likely to buy the new NIV - prefer. I wonder, will the prospective ad campaign read, "Heretics and hacks agree, the 'updated' NIV is bound to use words we can all agree on!" Sounds like an Emergent Church "conversation," where everybody gets a say and no conclusion is ever reached.
It would appear that, having watched the times change - and the standards drop - Zondervan's brass must believe that now, after sufficient conditioning, the Church is finally ready for the next phase in a gender inclusive Bible. After all, the general lack of discernment in our day surely means that the "updated" NIV will be a cash cow for Rupert Murdoch's company. In fact, the reaction to Zondervan's effective promotion of the new inclusive NIV has induced them to print 1.9 million copies of it, up 500,000 from the original projections for the first printing.
I suspect that, having tracked the downward spiral of the Church's apparent attitude towards the Bible over the last decade, far fewer will rise up and oppose the kind of bastardization that was evident with the TNIV edition in 2005. Thanks to the rise of "Seeker Friendly" and "Purpose Driven" movements, the craziness of Todd Bentley, and the popularity of happy-go-lucky, biblically bankrupt baloney that Joel Osteen and others serve up, selling a further corrupted NIV to the unsuspecting should be a snap. Now, with the rise of the Emergent crowd, the growth of theological liberalism, and the shocking lack of discernment displayed by those buying The Message as an authentic Bible and The Shack as a "Christian" book serve to clearly illustrate the sad situation we find ourselves in today. Plus, the driving force who opposed the TNIV in 2005 - Dr. James Dobson - is now nearly retired. Who will organize the resistance? Who will lead the fight for truth?
Along with the "updated" NIV itself, Zondervan is about to release over 200 books and products utilizing the new NIV with nearly 200 more slated for release next fall. I suggest that pastors, teachers, and authors alike should carefully select just what they'll refer to as "the Word of God" and what they quote as "Scripture." Their reputation and authority will be scrutinized by some in the know if they insist on promoting specious versions of the Bible that do disservice, even damage, to the original texts. It is easy to bring into question the theological integrity of an author or speaker when they carelessly - or with great intent - set out to manipulate a version (or versions) of the Bible to imply what they desire it to say instead of being faithful to the original context. (1)
I know those who have been ardently opposed to the original NIV are surely thinking, "I told you so." Considering these developments, I believe they do have even more reason to shake their heads. As for me, I'm sticking with the time-tested King James Version and the reliable manuscripts from which it was derived. I preach from, write with, and study the KJV but, before you think I'm just pontificating as a "King James Only" advocate, if I have any question about anything I see in any text claiming to be God's Word, I immediately check it out against the original languages - King James Version included. Those who really care about truth might think of downloading a good Greek and Hebrew concordance to help you do likewise. Using one of these tools doesn't take a college degree and isn't over anyone's head. However, it will assist you immeasurably in deciphering the real meat found in the texts. These days I constantly find myself exploring new vistas in the Bible - all because of word searches conducted with the Strong's Concordance on my cell phone, or the one on my lap top, or even with the book version sitting in my office - as archaic as using an actual book might sound to some.
There will likely be some positive pieces promoting what Zondervan has done in updating the NIV. However, from what I have seen of this new version myself, I believe there will be many very scholarly reviews which will detail the failings of it, as well. Like many of you, I'll be watching and reading those more studious future analyses when they appear. However, as a lover of God's Word and one of many called to defend it unreservedly, let these few thoughts serve as a warning that, from many quarters and in many ways, the precious Word of God remains a primary object of the devil's ire. Nothing has changed from the very beginning, when the serpent questioned Eve "Hath God said?" In our world today, right has become wrong and so many sources we once thought we could trust have become, as Peter proclaims, "wells without water" (II Peter 2:17). This is surely the case with some denominations, some seminaries, and, yes, some Christian publishers. This is why I suggest that dedicated Christians investigate for themselves and then stand up in the spirit of the Bereans (Acts 17) and reject Zondervan's further clouding of God's truth through the "updated" NIV.
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
- 2 Timothy 2:15
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.
- 1 Thess 5:21-22
1. Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life illustrates a manipulative and now popular technique that I have deemed "scripture fishing." In his monumental best-seller, Warren trolls across 15 different versions of the Bible in a blatant effort to find passages and specific wording to support his theology. The widespread acceptance of this practice by parishioners and pastors alike signals an alarmingly low regard for the importance of both the content and context of the Bible. For more on this see: Examining the Purpose Driven Philosophy.