New translations always evoke emotional responses. I well remember the fracas when the NIV came out in 1978. All the KVJ purists came out the woodwork on witch hunts and Zondervan as well as bookstores were threatened with boycotts and all kinds forms of protests. Look now all these years later, there is no threat to the evangelical faith and community from the NIV, and you will also note the “KVJ purists” have not gone away. They co-exist.
Now comes this “new translation”, of which many of the books of the New Testament appeared in single volume books when they were published over the last five years. I have copies of Matthew, Luke, John, the Book of Acts, and the Book of Hebrews. I have found them a refreshing way to recover the “narrative nature” of Scripture, recovering the very idea of story, metaphor, and parable, the very essence of the teaching style which Jesus himself employed while in Palestine during His earthly ministry.
It seems Evangelicals fluctuate between “two opinions” often like little kids playing on a teeter totter. One goes up, and the other down, and vice versa. Either pro or anti, and a little ambivalence. I well remember John Lennon saying, “Love me or hate me, just don’t be indifferent.” This will evoke all kind of emotional responses, and those who are the naysayers will fall into two categories:
1) Opposed due to the methodology and resulting translation, who are objective and don’t take the resulting translation personally. They are secure in themselves and have an objective opinion, and refuse to take offense or give offense. (BTW – this kind of person is a rare bird, especially in evangelicalism)
2) Opposed because they have taken personal slight, and taken offence (where none was given or intended), and find it their “Christian duty to call out and ‘critique’ in the name of ‘defending the Word of God’ (as if God and His word needs defending), and the result is vitriolic attack, often resulting in the personal attacks on the person who was involved in the translation.
A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF EVANGELICAL OVER-REACTION: LOVE WINS
All you have to do is look at the conservative wing of Evangelicalism and its response to Rob Bell, and the vitriol that flowed last year when Love Wins was published. Compare that to the reception that Francis Chan got for his book, Erasing Hell, which was lauded by the evangelical critics and press, but which was in fact nothing short of a piece of propaganda defending the status quo of the theological discussion on the subject of hell.
It became especially evident while reading the chapter of Chan’s book on what the dominant teaching and opinion was among the Judean academics of the day when Jesus walked the hills of Galilee, and the streets of Jerusalem. All the quotes were from the extra-biblical sources, the Apocrypha. Chan could not biblically refute what Rob Bell postulated, and that was the whole point of Love Wins.
Grace and salvation have been watered down and the efficacy and the fullness of the finished work of Christ minimized by the Evangelical church theological police machine. All Chan did was prove that Bell and his argument for the Love of God winning, actually did win! Jesus made a way and His grace is so vast and His reach so wide for those whom He loves, and that is why the grace of God is so great. NO ONE, not the Pope, not the theologians and guardians of the creedal formulations of the doctrines of men, NO ONE, has the right to minimize the extensive and full reach of God’s love for humankind.
WE ARE NOT CALLED TO POLICE AND PROTECT – THAT’S GOD’S JOB
In the Kingdom of God there is no “Heresy Police” and there is no spiritual gift called “witch-hunting”. Let God be true, and every man a liar. Let God take care of the saving, and let all who are called by the name of Christ, and are His disciples, love, and embrace all with the agape love of Christ. He saves. We love. And yes, it is that simple. So simple that a child will get it. We need to stop being a hindrance to the spread of the Good News, and we need to get out of the way and let Jesus (who lives in us) love the people He brings across our path.
GIVE RESPECT AND HONOUR
So when it comes to this new translation, let’s give it its place. Each generation needs to be able to read the Bible in the language it understands. This is one of the reasons I like all the many translations. They all address and speak to issues from a particular context that one respects the ancient languages and syntax and construction of the language, and at the same time, uses the living and breathing language of our day, which is radically different than even thirty years ago when the NIV first appeared on the scene. Let’s not be reactive like Francis Chan’s response to Rob Bell. Let’s walk in grace, and honour and prefer those who are attempting to make the Bible available to a new generation of people who just don’t get it when they read the older translations. Let’s tell the old old story in a way that reveals Jesus as to who He is and what He has accomplished for humankind, and the offer He still offers to those who humbly and diligently seek Him.