The time has come for each congregation to center its life on one version.

Inerrancy is an important issue today, but so far as the Bible and the life of the church are concerned, it is not the foremost issue. Inerrancy has to do with what we think and say about the Bible. The deeper issue is how we use the Bible.

There are reasons to question the kind of use the Bible is put to in churches today. A recent Gallup poll pointed to serious biblical illiteracy even among church members, in spite of the evangelical resurgence in recent years, and Scripture memorization has become a lost art. The plethora of Bible translations into English—approximately 70 of all or parts of the Bible in this century—may only have nourished a spirit of novelty among us, making us samplers rather than searchers.

If a church is to use the Bible systematically, it must center its whole life—preaching, teaching, family, and personal devotions—upon one major version, because repetition aids learning. Moreover, a congregation working from a Bible common to both pulpit and pew receives the message by the eye gate as well as the ear gate, providing another aid to understanding.

At present, it appears the foremost contenders for that one version are the Revised Standard Version, sold widely on this continent for 30 years, and the New International Version, which is already second in volume of sales even though it has been on the market only three years.

With this question of usability in mind, my wife and I read from both versions daily for more than two years, she from the rsv, I from the niv. We tested them for clarity and savored their diction. The niv won hands down. Before telling you why, let me share something of my history so you can judge the evenhandedness ...

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