Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Bible Debate Part II

I will be posting a sidebar link to The Better Bibles Blog soon. I greatly appreciate the readable, informative, scholarly and calm approach used by Wayne Leman and his colleagues on that bog. Anyone interested in Bible translations should make a regular visit there.

Meanwhile, after reading their blog posts about Focus on the Family and the TNIV (Today's New International Version) debate, particularly Dobson's interview with Dr. Wayne Grudem, I listened to the broadcast via a link at FOTF. I was dismayed at the tone, and the fact that while Dobson admits there are differing views from "reputable Christian people," no attempt whatsoever was made to allow any sort of discussion on this admittedly "controversial" topic.
(How I wish people would stop calling this Bible translation "gender neutral." I have one, and I assure you it is no such thing.)

I wrote FOTF expressing my concern and suggesting they have someone from Zondervan on the program as well. Dr. Stan Gundry perhaps?

Here is their response:

Greetings from Focus on the Family.

It was good of you to share your reaction to our recent broadcast with Dr. Wayne Grudem, "The Problem with the _TNIV_" (October 26-27, 2005). Thoughtful, honest feedback like yours is always welcome here at Focus headquarters; as a matter of fact, we believe that the ministry's relationship with its constituents is never stronger than when it takes the form of a two-way conversation.

With regard to your assertion that this discussion was "imbalanced," we feel compelled to state the obvious - Dr. Dobson has very strong feelings on this subject. Accordingly, he has no interest whatsoever in presenting "both sides of the issue." It was never his intention to invite a mixed panel into the studio to debate the pros and cons of the _TNIV_. On the contrary, his goal from the very beginning was to inform, educate, and warn our listeners about what he regards as the *dangers* of this translation. Those who don't share his perspective are certainly free to publicize their views by any means available to them. But they shouldn't look to Dr. Dobson to provide them with a forum for arguing their case. That would be like expecting cattle producers to invite an animal-rights activist to address their national convention.

We hope that this reply has clarified our perspective for you. Thanks again for caring enough to contact us. Don't hesitate to let us know if we can be of any further assistance. God bless you.

Amy Campbell
Focus on the Family

Clarified their perspective? Well, yes indeed. Based on this letter, Dobson's intent was to "inform and educate" the public on--well--on his "strong feelings."

I don't agree with Dr. James Dobson on all issues, but I appreciate his fight against pornography and his desire to help families be healthy and strong. Dr. Dobson,in my opinion, has some valuable insights into psychological issues, and I have used some of his materials in the past. But he, by his own admission, is not a biblical scholar! Why should his "strong feelings" on biblical translation be authoritative? I am dismayed. Dobson is not, as one of my friends recently called him (tongue in cheek), "the Protestant pope." He is not the voice of authority on every topic. (No offense intended to any Roman Catholics reading this blog.)

It is increasingly clear that I can't tune in to Focus on the Family if I want to hear something a bit more reasoned than what Dr. Dobson happens to feel.

I am not saying I believe the TNIV has no flaws. I don't think a perfect Bible translation exists. Some of Grudem's comments deserve consideration--and for some lengthy but fascinating discussion, see the aforementioned blog.

But don't look to Focus on the Family for unbiased information. Be warned, Dr. Dobson thinks that sharing his opinion--in this case making some alarming remarks about the motives of reputable biblical scholars--is "educating" the public.

Christian people need to learn to think for ourselves. We are to study. We are to be right dividers of the Word of truth, according to 2 Tim. 2:15.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Since we are not all Greek and Hebrew scholars, when it comes to issues of linguistics and translation we need to hear from a variety of people who have some knowledge and expertise. We need to STOP looking to Chritian celebrity personalities, no matter how well-intentioned, to tell us what to believe and how to think. The implications are frightening.


Wayne Leman said...

SingingOwl, I received the same reply from FOTF and have just posted about it, also. It is a serious matter. You wrote well about it in your blog post.

Anonymous said...

Who wo you think Amy was refering to when she mentioned 'cattle'?

Beth Quick said...

Found your post via WesleyBlog. I really like what you said about "Christian Celebrity Personalities" - right on.
Thanks for your thoughts!

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...
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Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...
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Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...
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much2ponder said...

Good article! Very well written and to the point. Have you considered taking this a step further, maybe publishing it else ware? This is a strong comment, but needs to be said! “Be warned, Dr. Dobson thinks that sharing his opinion--in this case making some alarming remarks about the motives of reputable biblical scholars--is "educating" the public.” Well said! I for one would like to make up my own mind about the Word of Truth.

LoieJ said...

I just found your blog a few days ago and just today I started looking at some previous posts. I followed the link to the discussion of the Bible translation controversy and read through the whole thing. I was dismayed that it degenerated into some "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" type discussion, but even worse, the overgeneralizations and negative judgement rendered against whole groups of sincere Christians. As a consequence, I posted the following comment, but I suppose it is so long after the initial discussion that it is irrelevant.

I just came across this discussion. I was amazed that the guidelines state the following, "Posting guidelines: Blog posts and comments should focus on Bible translation issues, not personalities. Try to support claims with evidence. Please do not question the spirituality or motives of anyone, including Bible translation teams." yet one of the contributors writes the following, "
As for NRSV, one very good reason for its relative failure is that there is only a small market for "essentially literal" translations outside conservative evangelical churches, and those churches did not endorse NRSV because of its gender related language, and because the translators were not evangelical. But NRSV has sold well in traditional denominations and in the academic world, for which it is very suited. The reasons why these traditional denominations continue to decline is not because of the Bible version they use but because they fail to preach the true Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Of course if they had promoted a readable Bible version rather than an essentially literal one, more people might have read it and found truth and salvation through it - but such individuals would not bring revival to churches led by those who lack true biblical faith."

I will not question the spirituality of someone who would make this statement, but I would question the logic and scholarship of someone who would make that statement. Surely it is a statement of gross overgeneralization. Or maybe I'm wrong; maybe this person has met all these individuals and can make this statement in truth.

Such judgments belong to God not to man. (Singular, masculine.)

11:02 AM

Another topic:
I used to listen to Dr. Dobson, as well, some 25 years ago, but even then I felt that he often rendered generalizations based on his "opinion" often in areas he isn't qualified accademically to comment on, such as medicine. He isn't a doctor in the sense of physician, which is what most people think of when they hear "doctor." He is a PhD, I believe, but worked in a hospital. My physician husband quite frequently commented after Dobson was on that he was wrong on some medical facts. It is disturbing to read the response you received that shows that his organization has no interest in what might be the Truth with a capital T. But I'm not surprised, as I have written to the organization in recent months and gotten similar responses on other topics. For example, they have liturature that supports the idea of gaining money and wealth, but they state boldly in answer to my questions about Christian stewardship that this is out of the realm of their mission.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

FEP, I was certainly not saying that Dr. Dobson had to be a scholar in order to listen to him. I listen to all sorts of people who are not scholars, as do we all. Dobson is a psychologist. I value his insights in that area.

THis program was well beyond the scope of his program, IMO.

That is why for FOF to tell me that Dobson wants us to know "his opinion"--well, it is ludicrous. Who cares?

And why should we think he "knows his scholars?" Because you agree with Grudem's view?

Well, I'm sure we will just disagree on this one.

I prefer to hear both sides and think for myself.