Recently The Atlantic ran an article crowing about the feminist victory at the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptists Embrace Gender-Inclusive Language in the Bible*:
Last fall, the publishing arm of the 15-million member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) released the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). LifeWay Christian Stores, America’s largest Christian retailer, which is owned by the SBC, sells the translation at hundreds of its locations nationwide and touts it as a work of superior scholarship. But patrons are largely unaware that the denomination-approved translation is gender-inclusive.
Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) President Denny Burk was incensed at the accusation, explaining:
The CSB is not a gender-neutral translation of scripture, nor were the CSB translators trying to produce one. On the contrary, the translators intended to produce an accurate translation that faithfully renders what the authors of scripture intended to communicate. The CSB has admirably achieved this goal. The critiques of Merritt and Robinson in The Atlantic are completely off-base.
According to Burk this is a made up controversy. Burk contrasts this with the NIV translation, which he opposes for being gender inclusive. He also points to the Colorado Springs Guidelines as the gold standard for the Complementarian position on the right and proper way to replace masculine terms with gender neutral ones in Bible translations.
Dr. Wayne Grudem explained how the Colorado Springs guidelines came to be created in Personal Reflections on the History of CBMW and the State of the Gender Debate:
Eventually Dr. James Dobson called a meeting of twelve people at Focus on the Family in late May, 1997. It included representatives from CBMW, World magazine, the NIV’s Committee on Bible Translation, Zondervan (the distributor of the NIV), and the International Bible Society (the copyright holder for the NIV), and some others. But just before the meeting began, the IBS issued a statement saying they had “abandoned all plans” for changes in gender-related language in future editions of the NIV. So we thought the controversy was done and the NIV would remain faithful in its translation of gender-related language in the Bible.
Little did we know, however, that the Committee on Bible Translation for the NIV had not “abandoned all plans”! Far from it! Unknown to anyone outside their circles, for the next four years the Committee on Bible Translation, apparently with the quiet cooperation of people at Zondervan and the International Bible Society, continued working to produce a gender-neutral NIV. They had publicly “abandoned all plans,” but privately they were going full-steam ahead.
The distinction Burk and other Complementarians are making is that there are good Complementarian gender neutral translations (CSB), and bad feminist gender neutral translations (NIV). The difference is that the Complementarian gender neutral changes are only made to make the Bible easier to understand, while the wily Committee on Bible Translation at NIV is caving to feminist pressure and sneaking in feminist changes.
But the line demarking feminism and complementarianism is much more blurred than Burk and others will admit. From the very beginning, the CBMW has tried to split the difference with feminists. In their founding book, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, the CBMW presented a new interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:13, one that turned the Apostle Paul’s words upside down in order to allow women to preach**. They brought in Dr. Douglass Moo to write an entire chapter justifying this new feminist friendly interpretation of Paul’s prohibition on women preaching.
Twenty five years after Grudem and Piper brought him in to provide a new feminist friendly interpretation of 1 Tim 2:13, Dr. Moo is still on the cutting edge of scriptural interpretation. He is now the Chairman of the Committee on Bible Translation for the NIV, chairman of the same committee that lied to Grudem in 1997***. Just like Burk defends the latest gender neutral CSB, Dr. Moo defends the latest gender neutral NIV. The whole controversy over the NIV gender neutral translation is made up. There is no feminist agenda, as the wording is only being changed to make it easier to understand:
Books At a Glance:
Okay, if I may, I’d like to turn to a question a bit more controversial and give you opportunity to respond. There has of course been a lot of noise made over the question of the NIV’s “gender neutral” translations, some people even contending that the CBT has an egalitarian agenda. Would you speak to this for us? And from a translator’s perspective, just what considerations give rise to this issue in the first place?
Our decisions about gender are part and parcel of our fundamental translation philosophy: figure out what the text is saying, then find a way to express that meaning in natural, contemporary English…
To put it simply: our “agenda” on the CBT is clear and single: to put the meaning of the Scriptures into accurate, natural, and contemporary English. We view our gender decisions in this context – and only in this context. To render expressions in the original text that clearly refer to human beings in general with words such as “man,” “he,” etc., is to betray our mandate to put the Bible into accurate English.
The fundamental lie that complementarians like Moo and Burk are telling themselves is that there is no feminist rebellion. They deny the envy and temptation to usurp that motivates feminism inside Christianity, and therefore pretend that all they are really doing in accommodating feminists is helping readers understand what the Bible really meant all along. But the feminists at The Atlantic and Slate know exactly what is going on, and they are ruining the whole charade.
*H/T Vox Day.
**The CBMW claims women can preach, but with nebulous restrictions. As John Piper explains, women like Beth Moore can preach to both women and men, so long as the men she is preaching to don’t see her as a leader: “there is a certain dynamic between maleness and femaleness that when a woman begins to assume an authoritative teaching role in your life the manhood of a man and the womanhood of a woman is compromised.”
***Dr. Moo joined the NIV Committee on Bible Translation in 1996, the year before Grudem says NIV publisher lied to him by claiming they had abandoned the project. Moo has therefore been involved with the gender neutral translation from the furtive (according to Grudem) beginning.