The case, for and against, bible’s use of gender-inclusive language: TNIV vs. ESV

In evangelical circles, the debate between the Today’s NIV (TNIV) and the English Standard Version (ESV) is being fought by its translators and supporters. The ESV and the TNIV are the latest new translations created by Good News/Crossway and the Int’l Bible Society. Though the ESV is a literal translation, it does use some gender-inclusive language throughout but is not nearly as gender-inclusive as the TNIV. The ESV translators wanted to remain faithful to the intended meaning of the original biblical languages. Dr. Wayne Grudem, editor and a translator of the ESV, said on an interview with James Dobson (Focus on the Family), that the TNIV changed 3,600 male references into gender-inclusive references. On the other side of the debate, the supporters of the TNIV believe that references to he in the original Greek language was actually intended to refer to both genders. This could very well be true. It is reasonable to assume that during the time of New Testament writers, a male-dominated patriarchal society neglected to address women directly, even though they may have truly intended to be referring to both men and women. It would be hard pressed to think that the apostle Paul did not intend to speak to women. The TNIV’s rationale for using gender-inclusive language is to correct this imbalance so that scripture speaks to the originally intended audience, which would include both men and women. Today’s postmodern generation expects to be treated equally and respectfully. Either way, both rationales are legitimate. Both sides make a very good case either for, or against, their philosophy of translation. We should look past the differences to see that both sides are doing our bible reading community a favor. I am not polarizing the issue of gender-inclusivity; in fact, I am trying to depolarize it by recognizing the benefits of both philosophies regarding gender-inclusivity. One side is preserving and protecting the traditional meaning of the Holy Scriptures, and the other side, is making sure that the Holy Scriptures speak with relevance and is properly directed to an ignored sector of the writer’s intended audience.

On both sides of the debate, all translators do want to be true to scripture, whether to the originally intended meaning (i.e., ESV, NIV, NASB), or to the originally intended audience (i.e., TNIV, NRSV). While both sides fight it out, I will sit at home, and try to enjoy all my bible translations, the ESV, NIV, TNIV and NRSV. It is no secret that there is also the financial motivation to grab a bigger market share, which is why they are battling it out. Zondervan, now owned by HarperCollins, is a huge company that has deep pockets and can do hugely powerful marketing campaigns; they publish numerous other bible versions other than the TNIV/NIV. GoodNews/Crossway, on the other hand, is much smaller; the ESV seems to be the only translation they publish.

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Have a Merry Christmas.

We celebrate the birth of Jesus who came to save the world and give a fresh start to all. Christmas is not about shopping at the malls for presents, buying and opening gifts, being with friends and family, a white “snowy” Christmas feeling, or even about singing Christmas carols. It is simply about the birth of Jesus Christ. No matter how we consumerize Christmas and hide the season behind a Santa Claus, reindeers, presents, or multi-colored lights, when it all comes down to it, and at the center of it , Christmas is about Jesus Christ. Have a Merry Christmas and a great new year in 2007.

Preaching that moves the heart and soul

Sermons preached from the pulpit are sometimes heard loud and clear, but most sermons are heard most loudly when it is done softly in the power of the Holy Spirit. Preaching empowered by the Spirit moves the heart and the soul to action, repentance, and submission to Jesus Christ. Dry intellectual-type of sermons like this overly-theological stuff on my blog doesn’t do much for the soul either. Finding the right balance is tricky sometimes. Perhaps a preaching style with a combination of John Wesley, Charles Finney… and Veggie Tales might work? (photo: Rev. John Wesley, a revivalist preacher)

Why does society seem void of common sense?

How do we return back to some common sense? Secular society has become a God-less society rathering than a God-blessed society. It has rejected the logos, which makes possible our ability to grasp and shape reality, therefore, one’s technical reasoning becomes empty, and prone to corruption. Without the “revelation” from the logos, modern society cannot grasp values, meanings, structures and processes. Through modern philosophy’s rejection of classical reason and the logos in return for empty technical reason, society cannot possibly “reason” without the insight of “revelation”. Our modern secular philosophy has rejected classical reasoning (or ontological reason) in the classrooms. Theologians like Paul Tillich would likely say that we need to return to using classical reason in the classrooms. It’s easier said than done. Our secularized public university system has rejected religious philosophy and has “cleaned out” all concepts of the logos word in the name of emancipation–“freedom from religion” instead of “freedom of religion”. How tragic! How do we return to some common sense? We need to make incremental changes in the classrooms of society, and through prayer for our nation (and hope we don’t caught for praying publicly in a public place!). (photo: U.S. Supreme Court; Canadian Parliament)

Justification by faith: Catholic vs. Protestant

Do Catholics and Protestants have a similar understanding of “justification by faith”? Some suggest that if we combine the Protestant and Catholic understandings of justification, we would have a more complete understanding of what justification means. Is this possible? Or are these two views necessarily exclusive views?

Catholics believe that serious sin breaks the bond of charity between us and God. When one commits mortal sins one in a sense, rejects God’s supernatural grace and is no longer in a state of grace. This state of grace can be reestablished by the sacrament of reconciliation: confession of the sin, repentance, and forgiveness. Catholics use the term “infused grace” (related to “effective justification”) to emphasize that in salvation, grace comes to be present in us. One remains in a state of grace only as long as by one continues to be reconciled with Christ, then this infused grace, which makes one righteous, continues to be present. It is still viewed as a supernatural gift that comes from God alone. For Catholics, justification is a sort of a process where one cooperates in maintaining a right relationship with God after one commits serious sin. Protestants fear that this process of cooperation can lead to “works righteousness”.

Protestants of the Protestant Reformation like Luther, Calvin, and Melanchton believe that one’s relationship with God continues in full force even after mortal sins. One has an unbreakable relationship with God. Sin can never break one’s relationship with God because of our bond with Christ. Even though sin may hurt the heart of God, our relationship is never broken. Protestants use the term “imputed righteousness” to emphasize the righteousness that comes solely from Christ and is not from human works (related to “forensic justification”). For Catholics, serious sin breaks the bond of charity between us and God. Catholics fear that one could fall into a moral and spiritual laxness because one might become complacent and doesn’t feel a need to maintain a right relationship with God. (photos: top: John Calvin; middle: Martin Luther; bottom: Philipp Melanchton)

Sin and power, and the power of sin

Is power in and of itself bad? Why do we as a just society try to equalize power between the haves and have-nots? In our liberal-democratic society, power in the hands of the few will inevitably cause a clash between those who “have” and those who do “not have” access to power or the leverage to power. Historian Lord Acton (1834-1902) issued epic warnings that political power is the most serious threat to liberty. Acton observed that a person’s sense of morality lessens as his or her power increases. He states: “Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end…liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition…The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to to govern. Every class is unfit to govern (rich or poor)…Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said Lord Acton. After the “have-nots” in Russia and China gained power and put the Communist Party in power, the working class Proletariats began to abuse their power by violating the most basic human rights of even ordinary people; millions died (conservative estimates of 5-10 million in Russia, and 15-30 million in China). Whether one is the pope, religious leader, or president of a multinational corporation, one must be aware of and accept one’s own limitations. No one is free from potential corruption because of ‘original sin’ or concupiscence that resides in each person. We are so curved inward that our self-centeredness eventually gets the best of us. If we are so privileged to hold political power–whether religious, social or economic–we must recognize that people will one day fall short of the mark. Thus, true humility is a personal virtue and a virtue for one’s whole community. (photo: Lord Acton)

Is social justice for Christians

Why do Christians relegate justice issues to the backburner? Social justice issues like looking out for the marginalized in society as the psalmist speaks of in Psalm 82:3-4 show the importance of the environment, administering justice to the weak, the orphan, the needy, and protecting the rights of the lowly, and the destitute. God will issue judgement upon the rulers as Psalm 82:1 shows us. The word for judge “shafat” in Hebrew is in the imperative, which has connotations implying: “do it!” God seems to take it seriously. If so, will our political leaders be held accountable by God to the injustices people suffer even today? Will Christians also be held responsible? If we all start to take responsibility, individually, and corporately as churches, we can make a more just, fair, and equitable society, even without government intervention. (see thepeaceplan.com) (bottom: These lovely women in Llappa, Peru are fighting against the gold mining companies’ destructive mining practices which is destroying their farmland and drinking water with toxic chemicals. Their sole source of income and health is being jeopardized without any compensation, or acknowledgment from the Peruvian government)

My personal reformation by the Word and Spirit

How do we experience a personal reformation? By hearing the teaching, the preaching and by experiencing the sacrament of the living word who is Jesus Christ. This has been my personal experience. As one hears the living active word, the Holy Spirit awakens faith within a person’s spiritual inner being. The Holy Spirit arouses our inner spirit-being to be regenerated, bringing new life. One will never be the same again. This is what Martin Luther calls regeneration; today’s evangelicals call it being “born again”. Luther actually said: “It was like I was born again.” Though some Lutherans will deny that regeneration is not the same as being “born again”, it really is the same thing but using different words. It is all semantics; however, the evangelical definition of “born again” has connotations of evangelicalism. Thus, Lutherans seem to want to keep the definition of “regeneration” distinct–but it is actually the same thing. Evangelicals have an easier time pointing back to an experience they can remember; whereas, Lutherans are called to “remember their baptism” as a continual everyday thing. (see my posting on Dec. 28, 2006) [photo: Watchman Nee who in 1952 was imprisoned for his faith, tortured and beaten black & blue; he remained in prison until his death in 1972. His words remain an abundant source of spiritual revelation and supply to Christians throughout the world.]