Monday, March 21, 2011

It's about accuracy

Well, it's happening again. The International Bible Society (IBS), which holds the copyright on the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, has released a revision and some groups and individuals are complaining about it. Why are they complaining? The NIV of 2011 uses more gender inclusive language than the NIV of 1984, the previous revision. There was a time in English language usage when the noun "man" and the pronouns "he" and "him" were used in the generic sense to refer to males and females. For decades now English teachers have been instructing writers to avoid generic usages of male nouns and pronouns. When I was in college more than 20 years ago, I was taught to use gender inclusive expressions and if I lapsed into generic usages of "he," "him," or "man," then the professor marked my writing as incorrect. Gender inclusive Bible translation is about taking into account this change in English usage. Here is one example related to the current controversy connected with the new NIV:

  • Mark 8:36, NIV 1984:"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?"

  • Mark 8:36, NIV 2011: "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"
According to the article linked above, some are complaining that the gender inclusive language in the new NIV distorts the Bible in various ways. I disagree. It seems clear that failing to use gender inclusive translation is likely to result in misunderstandings of the biblical message. The NIV is a thought-for-thought translation. It seeks to convey the thought of the original language in the clearest possible terms according to current English usage. It is a simple fact that writers of our culture have been taught for a long time that they should not employ generic male nouns or pronouns to refer to both males and females. My children, who are all adults, were never instructed to use "he" or "man" in the generic sense. From the beginning they were taught to use gender inclusive language in their writing. English translations of the Bible that do not use gender inclusive language are just not as accurate according to English usage of today, plain and simple. Those who scream "scripture distortion" due to the gender language in the new NIV are guilty of their own brand of distortion by failing to recognize that the English language has changed in this area and that change has been in place for a long time. Gender inclusive translation, generally speaking, results in greater precision in conveying the thought of the original language of the text. Having said all that, I have concerns about the NIV 2011. Back in 2005, the IBS released the Today's New International Version (TNIV), a separate translation very similar to the NIV 1984. However, the TNIV utilized gender inclusive language. I have not read very much of the NIV 2011, but it appears that it is less gender inclusive than the TNIV. For example, it appears the NIV 2011 does not shy away from the term "mankind." The TNIV does not use "mankind." Here is one example:

  • 1 Tim. 2:5, NIV 2011: "For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus ..."

  • 1 Tim. 2:5, TNIV: "For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human ..."

I was taught to use other gender inclusive phrases rather including the term "mankind" in my writing. In at least this respect, the NIV 2011 seems to take a step backward in gender inclusive translation. Making matters worse, the article linked above indicates that the IBS is replacing both the TNIV and the NIV 1984 with the new NIV 2011. So it appears that a scenario has been established in which some may reject the NIV 2011 because it goes too far with gender inclusive translation and others may reject it because it does not go far enough in this regard.

I like the TNIV. It is the version of the Pew Bibles that we use here. I'm sorry to see it go.

This is the third time that the IBS has been at the center of an inclusive language controversy. In 1996 a gender inclusive version of the NIV was released in the United Kingdom, which caused a stir here in the United States. When the TNIV was released in 2005 some complained about its gender inclusive language. And now the NIV 2011 is creating the same sort of debate once again.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Movie Mulling: The Adjustment Bureau

I don't see too many movies in the theater but the previews of The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, intrigued me. Based on the trailers it appeared that maybe the story was about an old biblical argument: How much of your life is planned for you by God and how much do you decide for yourself? My wife, Terri, and I went to see it last night and that's exactly what The Adjustment Bureau is about. But the theoretical/philosophical explorations of the movie are wrapped in a story that it is one part romance and one part suspense.

David Norris (Damon) is an ambitious senate candidate who meets a beautiful dancer named Elise Sellas (Blunt). The two fall hard and fast for each other. But there is something or someone trying to keep them apart. David accidentally discovers the forces arrayed against him in his efforts to find and woo the woman of his dreams. Then the stage is set for a struggle between David's will and the will of the Adjustment Bureau.

Whose will would prevail? You'll have have to go see the movie to find out, but I'll clue you in on this much ... It might not really be an either/or proposition in the end.

Underneath a pretty good story of love and suspense, The Adjustment Bureau gives viewers a lot to think about. I'm going to be pondering the implications of this flick for a while. But if you are interested in a good tale that will keep you thinking after the credits begin to roll, then go see The Adjustment Bureau.

Friday, March 4, 2011

We may have to stop reading altogether

Oh no! What are we going to do? Lifeway bookstores, a chain connected to the Southern Baptist Convention, will no longer warn us about books that might contain heresy. They had this labelling program through which certain books were branded as follows: "This book may contain thoughts, ideas, or concepts that could be considered inconsistent with historical evangelical theology. Therefore we encourage you to read it with extra discernment." Now Lifeway has ended that program.

Isn't that scary? Without this service from Lifeway, how will we ever figure out when to read books with "extra discernment" versus ... um ... normal discernment or maybe no discernment? How will we know which books might contain radical and dangerous ideas and which ones don't? Does Lifeway honestly think we can figure this stuff out on our own? What were they thinking?

Please contact Lifeway right away and demand that they reinstate their warning labels. If they don't, we may have to stop reading altogether.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jesus: "Let nothing be wasted."

In doing some Bible reading early this morning I was struck by this simple command of Jesus: "Let nothing be wasted" (John 6:12, TNIV). The context was the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 in which Christ feed thousands of people with five pieces of bread and two small fish. After everyone had eaten, Jesus told the disciples to gather up the leftovers and that's when the Lord expressed his desire that none of that food should be wasted.

What do you think? Should the Lord's desire be our desire in this regard? If so, then we Americans do not typically do a very good job in the area of not wasting food. I poked around a little online and found one nearly eight-year old report saying more than 350 billion pounds of food is wasted each year in the United States. That's a lot of wasted food.

I saw another article about Project MANA of Incline Village, Nevada that last year rescued more than 65,000 pounds of food bound for dumpsters. They collect food from area markets that has nearly expired "best if used by" dates stamped on it and distribute it to those in need. The Loaves and Fishes Community Food Pantry housed here at Brunswick Islands Baptist Church does the same thing in this area. Such efforts by many food pantries across the nation are wonderful missions to heed our Lord's command not to waste food.

Despite the efforts of many food pantries to let nothing be wasted, I wonder how much food ends up in dumpsters in this country? How much food do we waste in in our homes? What steps can we take to better conform to our Lord's desire?

In the context of gathering leftover food, our Lord said, "Let nothing be wasted."

[I turned in my final project report for my DMin work earlier this week, so I plan to get back to blogging bit more now. I still have to defend the report in a few weeks and then I will likely have to make some revisions. But, you should be seeing the number of entries increase, especially after graduation on May 13.]