Southern Baptists and the NIV 2011 Translation

John ArmstrongSouthern Baptists

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.

ImageServerDB.asp 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.

hdr 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.