I wrote yesterday about the recent Southern Baptist Convention held in Phoenix June 14-15. I spoke of the new sense of unity in the Great Commission that many found encouraging, even historic. I sincerely hope that this will prove to be more than the euphoria of a convention in the desert. One of the great things that could happen for the church in America is for Southern Baptists to find their way again in terms of church planting and evangelism. It seems they have been in the wilderness with most denominations for some years now. All Christians should pray that all churches, where Christ is preached, will grow and mature.
But the SBC is generally a mixed-bag. This year was no different. A resolution was introduced, from the floor of the convention, regarding the 2011 New International Version of the Bible. It was pointed at the so-called “gender neutral” language of this updated version. (It must be noted, that the committee on resolutions did not bring this motion forward but a single pastor. This is one reason I grew to distrust Baptist polity so much.)
Tim Overton, pastor of Halteman Village Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana, brought his own resolution to the floor in spite of the committee’s earlier rejection. He said, “This is the word of God. The best-selling Bible translation in the United States is now gender neutral.” Overton claimed that the NIV retains 75 percent of the gender neutral language included in the TNIV, which was publicly denounced in the 2002 SBC.
Dr. Russell Moore, a member of the resolutions committee and a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said that the committee didn’t feel the same sense of urgency about this translation that they did about the TNIV in 2002. He noted that the new translation was transparent and the process was more open. He is absolutely correct in this regard. This was precisely what happened in the work on the 2011 NIV thus the translation was sensitive and careful about both the translation process and the way the committee opened things up to their critics.
But many are still not happy. Overton said, “As Southern Baptists, I don’t think we have the luxury of not speaking to this important issue. People are buying this translation unaware of what’s happening. We are the anchor of the evangelical world.” Read this last sentence again and realize that this language was actually approved by a significant number (a majority of those still in attendance at least) of Southern Baptist messengers to the convention.
The resolution further expressed “profound disappointment” with the NIV publishers, Biblica and Zondervan, for their “inaccurate translation of God’s inspired Scripture." The resolution concluded: “We cannot commend the 2011 NIV to Southern Baptists or the larger Christian community.”
The inaccuracy of these statements, combined with the sheer arrogance of saying “we are the anchor of the evangelical world,” is staggering. Did those who approved this resolution mean to say what they actually said? I am sure many wonderful Southern Baptists are as appalled by this resolution as I am. The question is thus clear: “What will you now do about it?” Please do not tell me these resolutions mean nothing since every year you continue to pass them. If they mean nothing stop them altogether, which would be a great solution so far as I am concerned. The method of expression is both unwieldy and cumbersome. But some of these resolutions become huge fire starters in the churches. They are anything but harmless.
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I assumed this is what you were going to write about. I am also former SBC. I grew up as an ABC pastor’s kids, but got a job while in seminary for a local SBC association. I worked for them for six years before being laid off because of lack of funds. It has been about 10 years now since I worked for them but I still keep fairly close touch. (Baptist Press has no way of unsubscribing and have never responded to me emailed requests to unsubscribe.)
While I am sure there are some that were disappointed in the SBC resolution (I know I am disappointed in several every year), I have not seen much disagreement in the baptist press or SBC blogs about it. I think at least part of the issue is that it has been ignored either pro or con. Maybe I am just out of the loop or not reading the right blogs and news. But I am not seeing it.
1. The 2011 NIV is not Gender-Neutral.
I’ve read the entire gospel of Mark, and Jesus is all MALE, a man’s man, his masculinity is not muted in any sense whatsoever.
I’ve also read the following chapters in their entirety:
1 Timothy 2 and 3, Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 11, Titus 1, Acts 6.
If the NIV translation team attempted to be Gender-Neutral, they sure did a sorry job of it.
2.Overton proclaimed, ““As Southern Baptists, I don’t think we have the luxury of not speaking to this important issue. People are buying this translation unaware of what’s happening. We are the anchor of the evangelical world.”
Mr Overton, with all due respect, ‘the anchor of the evangelical world’? “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven”. The anchor of the Evangelical world? Easy-believism and nominal Christianity are not only present in the SBC, they permeate much of the SBC.
Mr Overton, sometimes it is best not to speak to an issue, when we ourselves are unaware of what is actually transpiring.
An anchor is a large weight that keeps a larger ship from moving toward danger. I think the analogy is appropriate. Southern Baptists are a large part of the evangelical world whose dedication to the Bible is weighty. Dr. Mohler and Dr. Patterson have affirmed the resolution: http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=35663 . Why would anyone want Southern Baptists to remain silent about their convictions? “Hide it under a bushel, NO! I’m gonna let it shine.” Ok, that was cheesy but you get the point. Here is the report by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood on the gender-neutral 2011 NIV: http://www.cbmw.org/Resources/Articles/An-Evaluation-of-Gender-Language-in-the. Perhaps Ivan will find this interesting.
“We are the arrogance of the evangelical world” is the what I read between the lines of Mr. Overton’s statement.
Agreed, Overton went too far when he said that the 2011 NIV “is now gender neutral”. His [inaccurate] words could easily have misled others and this is a shame. On the other hand, there is evidence that the translators went out of their way to neutralize instances of masculine gender. In particular, some of the translations of singular “he” into plural nouns seem to materially change the meaning and in some cases reach the point of silliness. Examples like Psalm 8:4 in which the Hebrew “son of man” is translated as “human beings” and in the Proverbs in which so many occurrences of “he” and “him” become “they” and them” (cf. Proverbs 12:15 “the way of a fool seems right to him” vs. now “the way of fools seem right to them”) goes way beyond my linguistic capabilities — to the point of my not seeing either the logic or wisdom of taking us what must be further away from what was recorded in the original manuscripts. So even though the 2011 NIV is not gender neutral, it is somewhat gender-cleansed, and the way of them seems right to them but not to me.
It seems to me that Southern Baptists, given their view of Scripture, should be concerned only that the Bible is translated in a way most fitting to the original intention of the author (according to their theory of inspiration) while also having the added (but necessary) benefit of being maximally intelligible to a contemporary audience (which means communicating most clearly the “original intent,” at least as best as it can be discerned by the group of translators who are all bias in many different ways inasmuch as they are human).
If gender neutrality means gender inclusivity (as I am convinced it often does), then many of the Bible passages that refer to “the ways of man” or “men will become lovers of pleasure, etc.” should be translated accordingly, as they intend to be gender inclusive (e.g. “men will become lovers of pleasure” was intended to be refer to both men and women).
Given the state of gender identity in the US, it seems many people already have the impression that the Bible is so prejudiced against the female gender that it completely leaves women out of the picture in many such verses (e.g. II Tim 3:1-4). This is only sure to increase the more gender sensitive language is used in our culture. To be faithful to the original intent, plus helpful for such modern English speaking people, it seems that to simply assume that “gender neutrality” (which often refers to gender inclusivity and therefore overlaps with “original authorial intent”) is always a bad thing is a rash judgment that oversimplifies the state of affairs here.
This makes it seem like the fact that there is no major controversy over the resolution (which is what Adam Shields has said) reveals that most Baptists are OK with oversimplifying this state of affairs under a sort of conservative-polemical rhetoric that makes people think that faithfulness to Scripture is the same thing as fundamentalism. If this is not the case (and Adam Shields is mistaken, as he concedes he may be), then Dr. Armstrong’s point about a lot of unnecessary contention in the SBC because of a certain fundamentalist mentality are exemplified well in this case.
It is an excellent point that “gender neutrality” often overlaps with (is confused with?) “gender inclusivity”. And, as Bradley highlighted, the original author clearly intended gender inclusion in many passages — so we ought not corrupt these when translating into contemporary languages. In this sense, a translator is burdened with finding expressions that will not readily be misinterpreted by the audience — balancing the competing priorities of precision and understandability (often contained in the notion of word-for-word vs. thought-for-thought). It is in this context that I question the implied false dichotomy of either Baptists are okay with oversimplifying under conservative polemics or the SBC contains a certain fundamentalist mentality. While either or both of these perspectives might be true, it is hardly required by the current situation. Rather, a very reasonable view is that the 2011 NIV went beyond gender inclusion to the point of transforming passages such that they can now be misunderstood by the audience. (Just as Shakespeare’s puns can lose their double-entendre in translation (contemporarization), Scriptural references such as the Son of Man translated into “people” harm the intrinsically beautiful and recognizable systematics — the scarlet thread.) There are plenty of contemporary English translations and one need not subscribe to oversimplification via conservative rhetoric or fundamentalism when deciding that the 2011 NIV is not recommended reading.
I am just wondering what you think about certain groups putting their own take on what the bible means, in order to put a slur on certain people?