Why do evangelicals want to define the boundaries of their movement?

There has historically always been nervousness that theological drift is inevitable. On the other hand, there is the danger that you control it so tightly that you create as much chaos as you do structure.

Your book criticizes the way thecontroversy over Today's New International Version played out. How should it have happened differently?

It should have happened in ETS before it went public. The advantage of a society like ETS is that the major teachers and translators are all gathered in one place.

At the end of our TNIV panel at ETS this year, I said that this is precisely why the ETS exists, so that we can have a discussion on the merits of the case in public in the presence of Christians leaders so that they can hear both sides at the same time. Unfortunately, the TNIV discussion became a politicized issue before we really had the full discussion of the merits.

The key problem in all these controversies is being sure that the evangelical public gets both sides of the story directly from representatives as opposed to hearing it filtered through critics.

You write: "Maintaining balance on a tightrope always means keeping one's arms, left and right, outstretched and waving to adjust." How is this different from just finding the middle of the road?

There are concerns on both the right and the left that may expose blind spots that the other side has. Broad-based exchange gives an opportunity to be sure that we don't get broad sided because of a blind spot. In the process, it helps keep us honest and accountable. Public-square societies do a good job of keeping us honest, provided we walk in with a real desire to listen and engage.

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Editor's Bookshelf
David Neff
David Neff was editor in chief of Christianity Today, where he worked from 1985 until his retirement in 2013. He is also the former editor in chief of Christian History magazine, and continues to explore the intersection of history and current events in his bimonthly column, "Past Imperfect." His earlier column, "Editor's Bookshelf," ran from 2002 to 2004 and paired Neff's reviews of thought-provoking books and interviews with the authors.
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Plus: Darrell Block: 'Public-Square' Societies Keep Us Honest
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In the Magazine

February 2003

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