Bill Bright as model
* My heart jumped for joy when I saw Bill and Vonette Bright on the July 14 Christianity Today cover. My nine years on Campus Crusade staff (1969-78) laid the foundation for a lifetime of ministry, and I'll be forever grateful to Campus Crusade and Bill Bright's leadership, which have shaped my vision for ministry. I still strongly believe in the "Win, Build, Send" philosophy; now, after many years of pastoral ministry, I work with t-net International to help churches develop and strengthen this philosophy in their more complicated environment.
I only wish that Bill's deep and devoted walk with his Savior had been underlined even more. Though he is a visionary and has a businesslike approach to organization, his whole drive is to please only the Lord he loves.
The image of God
* Karen Lee-Thorp's insightful thoughts conveyed a timely and realistic challenge for today's church ["Is Beauty the Beast?" July 14]. She offered the best foundation possible: the theological tenet of the image of God. With that construct in mind, it should come as no surprise that the "dualists" she cited serve as the primary opposition to her cause. For, as in the early church, contemporary believers must boldly confront all forms of Gnosticism and Doceticism—whether those heretical positions diminish the virtues of the Incarnation or a responsible look in the mirror.
Prof. Ronald T. Habermas
John Brown University
Siloam Springs, Ark.
Indebted to Wimber
* Evangelicalism owes John Wimber and the Vineyard movement a debt it may never be cognizant of [Conversations, July 14]. Wimber has simply applied the plain truth of Scripture to modern American Christianity and found that God truly is the same yesterday, today, and forever. As it stands now, the majority of the church has come to depend on force of personality rather than the power of God to proclaim the gospel. All the Vineyard has done is open the door to real New Testament Christianity.
Seeking true relationships
* I agree with Chris Rice on the dilemma of whites recognizing blacks in terms of achievement ["Why Tiger Makes Us Feel Good," July 14]. The editorial, however, underlines the more serious problem that African Americans face in dealing with our white brothers and sisters. Using terminology such as Negro and black as monikers in 1997 shows a lack of understanding of the African-American community and the larger community of people of color. At the risk of sounding politically correct, there are very sound reasons for not using the terms black and Negro except in cases of historical documentation. W. E. B. DuBois is still right. The problem of the twentieth century, and perhaps the twenty-first as well, is the problem of the color line. Until white Americans, especially Christians, cross over the color line and begin to seek true relationships with people of color rather than frail associations at work or church, there will be no progress. If Christ, who is our peace, has broken down the walls between us, why is it that African Americans must always be the first to step over the line to embrace whites? I hope in my lifetime I will see it the other way around.
Slow down the translation process
* I would agree with the title of your news article ["Bible Translators Deny Gender Agenda," July 14] that, more than likely, the motives of the translators of the NIV are sincere and proper. The question that needs to be answered, though, is whether the "inclusive language" changes are warranted. Answering this question will not happen in news articles, which attempt to find notable people on each side of the issue and then hint at a conclusion. The Christian community needs to make a major effort to decide what is right. And to do this, it is time to slow the English translation process down and study this question with a broad group of scholars, pastors, and, perhaps, laymen. The need will be to avoid looking for the majority opinion, and to honestly seek what is right.
* The statement by the "Conference on Gender-Related Language in Scripture" is revealing when it speaks of "the necessity within Bible publishing for greater accountability to the church."
As Michael Maudlin wrote [Inside CT, June 16], evangelicalism now thoroughly distrusts its own scholars. Instead, somehow Bible publishing is more accountable to "the church" when James Dobson and his selected men are involved! Forgive me, but when did Focus on the Family gain greater credibility and authority to speak for "the church" than evangelical biblical scholars?
The great gulf between the academy and the church will not be bridged when evangelicals are fed misinformation and sensationalism, nor when popular evangelical leaders assert their authority in areas outside their greatest competence. The sad fact is that sometimes "the church" does not know what is best, at least without adequate information and explanation from her own scholars—whom she is unable to hear.
Daniel J. Treier
Grand Rapids, Mich.
I am grieving. Others are outraged. So far, no one with whom I have spoken is happy with the way the body of Christ looks right now. To resort to name-calling ("Stealth Bible" [in World]) rather than conducting ourselves in a way worthy of the gospel gives more fuel to those who consider Christians just a quarrelsome, bigoted bunch. How I long to see the body "standing firm in one spirit with one mind."
How can CBT members, who would give their lives before they would compromise Holy Scripture, and who have given prayerful consideration to any revisions, be treated thusly?
I do not think the "climate in the evangelical church" is represented by people who drill holes in Bibles. I am among the fortunate, having a godly father, a loving husband, parents who rightly divided the word of truth and made it clear to me that when Jesus became a man, he did so to identify with the details in the lives of being men and women. Unfortunately, vast numbers do not have the opportunity to learn that women are included in this matter of Christ identifying with humanity.
Does the new NIV make God female or androgynous? Does a reading of Philippians 2:8 as "And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself and became obedient to death" (new NIV) really make Christ other than a man? Christ is still a man. Note the two personal pronouns. Is this not a "foolish dispute"?
Carol Stream, Ill.
* We talk about knocking down the walls in Christendom and we talk about racial reconciliation, but someday Christians will have to address the prejudices between the genders. We must accept our differences and let women be women and let men be men, but let's not be afraid to see the equality of both.
It seems to me that we are being hypocritical in the Christian church when from the pulpit we give clarification to the word men in a particular passage as meaning all people but yet we are afraid to change it in a dynamic equivalent translation such as the NIV. Or, are we saying that the Bible is literally just for men? I really don't think so, and neither do I think that Word Publishing Group or Zondervan Publishing House are trying to do away with female or male gender.
David J. McCullough, Associate Pastor
Agape Fellowship Church
* If the folks at the International Bible Society and Zondervan truly believe, as they insist, that they were pursuing the gender-inclusive version in order to improve the accuracy of the NIV, why did they abandon the project so quickly? Genuine improvement in the accuracy of a Bible translation is a worthy and highly desirable goal that all evangelicals would welcome. No amount of hue and cry should deter such a noble endeavor, but notice how quickly they caved in.
Zondervan and IBS disavow the charge that they were pursuing a feminist agenda or were being influenced by the feminist movement. They say they were merely responding to changes in the culture and in language. But what do they think is driving these changes in culture and language except the feminist movement, which has been quite successful in implementing a clearly defined agenda?
CT Senior Editor Ed Dobson (quoted by Michael Maudlin in Inside CT, July 14) laments "the intensity of the fuss" over the NIV controversy. In doing so, he unwittingly brings to the surface a tendency that I deem to be a problem with the NIV "translation," not just now but since its beginning. Ed Dobson says that "when I preach from the NIV and the text uses a male word that refers to all human beings, I always explain the use of that word" as having generic meaning. He goes on, "This is exegesis—interpreting the text for all to understand." That is exactly what the preacher should be doing—exegeting the text. But then he indicates that exegesis is also what the NIV translators are doing by next saying, "To call this [using 'brothers and sisters' when the original has 'brothers'] caving in to a feminist agenda … is … shocking." I agree that making changes like that to the text is exegesis and not properly a translation. It is trying to interpret what the author meant by what he said rather than translating what he said. But NIV translators—not just now but from the beginning—have been going beyond legitimate translation into illegitimate (for a translator) exegesis.
Douglas B. Ostien
It appears that many people have forgotten that the Bible is the Word of God, and that God has made sure, in all translations, that the truth is still there.
Our church uses the God's Word translation, but each member owns and uses different translations. The message is still there, at some times more obscured than others, but it is there.
Find a version that is comfortable for you to read, with wording that fits you, and the meaning will be there. The Bible is open for all, so allow all to read it in a form right for them.
Richard S. Swaine
It was with tremendous shock and grief that I read that Zondervan and the IBS had decided to abandon plans for a version of the NIV that speaks more clearly to women.
Zondervan and the IBS were not proposing an edition that excised all use of masculine pronouns. Of course God is called Father in the Bible, and Christ is unmistakably male. But women are directly affected by versions of the Bible that constantly use male pronouns when the intent of the text was to speak to all people or all believers.
The fact is that today's women are very sensitive to language. And so, if a translator knows a Bible verse applies to all people, that translator has a moral obligation to look for language that will actively include women rather than passively allow them to look over male shoulders.
Men who are inclined to minimize this issue need to read Bible verses such as Matthew 16:24-26 and 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, substituting feminine for masculine terms and examine their feelings about them. If their Bibles were addressed to women in this way, would they feel comfortable reading through the feminine pronouns to try to get at the meaning for themselves?
Joan Lloyd Guest
Carol Stream, Ill.
* I believe that much ado about nothing was what occurred concerning the NIV revision! I do believe that the IBS and Zondervan were unfairly condemned and attacked by World magazine, and many Christians have fallen into the worldly trap of finding the nearest tree to lynch the latest "subversion" of Christianity!
Although I would not personally choose to buy and use an inclusive language NIV translation, I recognize that there may be believers (and nonbelievers) who would be more comfortable (not with sin! or as in a tickling of the ears) with such a translation if only because a masculine slant to the Scriptures becomes a stumbling block for this day and this age. Our missionaries must often go into a foreign culture and adapt (methodologically) the gospel to that culture without compromising the message. So, too, we should be sensitive to our own subcultures in the West and adapt without compromise (and I believe an inclusive language translation as was proposed did so) to those cultures even if it means being able to give them the Scriptures in a form that allows them to see God and not the manmade elements.
When Mrs. Olasky criticizes [in her World article] the new NIV because they translate "Men of War" as "Warriors," then we have become guilty of buying into the fictionalized conspiracy of the X-Files, and fallen into the real conspiracy of Satan's efforts to divide Christendom over petty and insignificant issues.
Scot A. Schieferstein
You underestimate the intensity of feeling we have toward the NIV: it is the current standard for the church and we have been proving and defending its accuracy for years. Thousands of people are praying that this attack on biblical inerrancy would be defeated. The CBT should know better than to cave in to media-hyped demands of the feminists or to marketing pressures. I am thankful we are resisting the desires of the liberal social engineers to change the meaning of the Bible. Your article does not do criticism of the proposed "gender-inclusive" revision justice. Gender inclusivity involves interpretation of the meaning of the language beyond the bounds of acceptable dynamic equivalency: we should not establish doctrine based on a paraphrase cloaked as a translation. NIV revision could have been a "healthy debate" had those proposing the revisions done so openly and with listening hearts.
Pastor Rich Thorne
Bettles Bible Church
Bettles Field, Ark.
A "useless theory"
Jerry L. Walls's basic theory ["Can We Be Good Without Hell?" June 16] is rather useless since it is not applicable to anybody. It is not applicable to unbelievers because they cannot avoid hell by being moral. Only by accepting Jesus Christ and his atoning sacrifice can they do so. It is not applicable to believers because we have already been delivered from hell, and believers have other reasons to be moral. The doctrine of hell should motivate believers to proclaim Christ, and it should motivate unbelievers to accept him.
* Walls's article sets up the logic of Islam, and the Taliban of Afghanistan would agree that the only way to improve society is to reestablish the fear of hell. Using the fear of hell to effect change is the root of all kinds of legalism. New Testament change is by the power of the Holy Spirit to perfect us in love.
Battersea, Ont., Canada
* I feel compelled to express my amazement that an author in Christianity Today could write an article of that length dealing with that kind of subject without once referring to the Bible in support of his thesis. Oh yes, there was one Scripture reference to Hebrews 5:7, but that passage really had nothing to do with the thrust of his argument. In an issue where Managing Editor Michael Maudlin eloquently proclaimed CT's attitude toward Scripture in his Inside CT column with phrases like "We at CT revere God's Word … we love our Bibles," an occasional reference to the Scriptures in a theological piece would not just seem appropriate but absolutely indispensable.
James M. Kutnow
* Alleluia, hell is back. I have missed it. I mourned that clear cause-and-effect ordering of my moral universe. During hell's eclipse I read Dante's Inferno, which made me not only nostalgic for hell, but for purgatory, limbo, and medieval Italy as well. Dante's perfectly orthodox vision of hell is astonishingly applicable to my contemporary preferences and politics. It afforded me the comfort (and, I admit, the sport) of placing my neighbors and competitors in well-defined retributory arenas.
Has life lost all meaning?
I found "Deadly Compassion" [June 16] interesting and troublesome. As a Christian, it is difficult for me to accept the fact that the world we live in today has so degenerated that life has lost all meaning. Abortion at one end of life and physican-assisted suicide (PAS) at the other end are telling signs of the moral decay that has overtaken our society.
Dr. Lynn's comment that "my experience with churches has been fairly grim" highlights the role that the church has played in answering the needs of its people. In an era where the battle in the church has been between meeting the spiritual or physical needs of society, this article states clearly that we have done neither well. For society to have moved from the position of shock and dismay over PAS to one of complacency and a foregone conclusion—as Dr. Pellegrino states in his comments that he "expected that euthanasia will eventually be legalized"—demonstrates a clear message that the church has lost its ability to affect society.
It will take both the law of Scripture and the gospel of Christ for the church to undo its current position. We need a clear biblical understanding of our moral responsibilities and the grace of God to fulfill those responsibilities.
* I believe there is a silent majority that is in favor of some sort of PAS, but reticent to give verbal expression to it because it "would not seem Christian." But let's face it, "It is appointed unto man once to die," and one of the great questions that leaves us is "when and how." My guess is that in 20 to 50 years we won't be able to die—50 years ago we just died; today we face the matter of when to stop life support to the very ill. In 50 years we will be able to replace every single part of a human body, of that I have no doubt, and when we can do that the bar will be raised so high that it will be virtually impossible to die because the Christian community will expect us to use the newest technology to maintain life—what a dreadful prospect. What we need are some answers to managing this matter that rightly understand what human life is and when it needs to end, because if we get to where we are in the replacement business, we will have a problem so large that it will be beyond our grasp to solve.
Inside CT for July 14 ("Accusing the Brothers (and Sisters)," p. 4) did not, and was not intended to, accuse all critics of the inclusive NIV of "fundamentalist political correctness," but only those who resorted to attacking the translators' motives and fostering guilt by association.
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