Friday, June 17, 2011

SBC Condemns NIV. Sisters and Brothers Shrug.

The increasingly inward looking, numerically declining and institutionally sclerotic Southern Baptist Convention has condemned the 2010 revision of the New International Version of the Bible for its use of gender-neutral language.

And no one cares.

SWNID won't review the silliness of the controversy about gender neutrality in the translation of the Bible, except to say that it is linguistically legitimate because the relationship between sense (a particular word's specific definition in a particular setting) and referent (the thing in the world to which the word refers in a particular setting) can vary from language to language and era to era (in Greek adelphoi has the sense "brothers" but readily refers to members of both sexes, not so the English "brothers" in much usage presently).

Well . . . and also to say that the NIV does not extend gender-neutrality to language about God, who remains "Father" and "Son." SWNID isn't down with those who ignore the historically countercultural stance of the Bible in eschewing the pervasive depiction of deities as women.

Rather, we observe that the SBC, once the "anchor of evangelicalism" as an SBC conventioneer described it still, has through its recent generation of internal squabbling, politicking and recriminating, become so inwardly focused that its once rapid rate of expansion has become a rate of slow decline. Christians with ties to the SBC who care about what the NIV translators cared about have or eventually will migrate out, to churches of other denominations and no denomination who do deliberately and well what SBC churches used to do deliberately and well: invite people to follow Jesus and nurture them in the subsequent following.

Those who prefer to find inconsequential issues on which to separate themselves as the "true church" from others who claim to follow Jesus will continue to find a big, big house in the SBC, one with "lots and lots of [empty] rooms."

Incidentally, we collate, if not correlate, the increasingly inward focus of the SBC with the triumph of Reformed dogma among its visible leadership. Once known for its commitment to evangelism, the SBC is now known for spokesmen like Albert Mohler, who can precisely split any hair, indifferent to the evangelistic consequences because it's all been preordained anyway.

There's an eerie similarity between the insistence that adelphoi not be translated "brothers and sisters" and the insistence that "because all sinned" means that Adam's sin made all humanity guilty and unable to respond to the gospel without a divine zap. It's a habit of reading Scripture to find what has always been found, a commendable commitment to historic orthodoxy if one recognizes the historic debates and the historical constraints on them but an excuse for reactionary self-absorption otherwise. Ironically enough, the Reformed shouldn't worry so much about their biblical translations, since for them the Spirit is mediating the message directly anyway, with the Word as a coincident element not strictly necessary to the process except by divine fiat. Really, aren't those who will be misled by "brothers and sisters" just proving by their being misled that they are predestined to perdition?


carl said...

holy smackdown batman!

Chief Grinder said...

Nobody is safe. Catholics, Mormons, SBC - you are on a roll this week. Fear the Mortar Board!