The NIV and the Southern Baptists

I’ve been using the NIV 2011 and I really like it and I endorse it enthusiastically. It’s now my preaching Bible. I cannot think of a finer group of Christian scholars than those on the Committee for Bible Translation, led by Doug Moo at Wheaton. I know these translators, and they take the Word of God very seriously, and they translated passages with words that they think best translate what the Bible says.

The NIV has proven its worth as a reliable Bible, and English-reading Christians all over the world are using it — I’ve seen in Denmark, Ireland, South Africa, Korea and Israel.

But recently the Southern Baptists have done something that I hope can be reversed. Not being a part of the SBC and knowing how old boy it can get, but also knowing that it has so many fine, fine leaders and scholars and pastors I have hopes that the following motion can be reversed, that LifeWay will sell the NIV 2011 (with no warnings attached) and that we can get back to what we are called to do — preaching and teaching and living the gospel, seeking for peace among all Christians, and all sorts of good and wholesome things.

What are the Southern Baptist leaders saying about this?

Here’s the resolution that I hope can be reversed:

WHEREAS, Many Southern Baptist pastors and laypeople have trusted and used the 1984 New International Version (NIV) translation to the great benefit of the Kingdom; and

WHEREAS, Biblica and Zondervan Publishing House are publishing an updated version of the New International Version (NIV) which incorporates gender neutral methods of translation; and

WHEREAS, Southern Baptists repeatedly have affirmed our commitment to the full inspiration and authority of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:15-16) and, in 1997, urged every Bible publisher and translation group to resist “gender-neutral” translation of Scripture; and

WHEREAS, This translation alters the meaning of hundreds of verses, most significantly by erasing gender-specific details which appear in the original language; and

WHEREAS, Although it is possible for Bible scholars to disagree about translation methods or which English words best translate the original languages, the 2011 NIV has gone beyond acceptable translation standards; and

WHEREAS, Seventy-five percent of the inaccurate gender language found in the TNIV is retained in the 2011 NIV; and

WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention has passed a similar resolution concerning the TNIV in 2002; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 14-15, 2011 express profound disappointment with Biblica and Zondervan Publishing House for this inaccurate translation of God’s inspired Scripture; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we encourage pastors to make their congregations aware of the translation errors found in the 2011 NIV; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we respectfully request that LifeWay not make this inaccurate translation available for sale in their bookstores; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we cannot commend the 2011 NIV to Southern Baptists or the larger Christian community.

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  • discokvn

    really? do they also ban the NLT? sorry that’s surreal!

  • Kenneth McIntosh

    Geesh, the SBC just seems to go out of their way to anger me (and other fellow Christians). I am well pleased with the 2011 NIV, and have finally replaced my 1978 (!) NIV with a nice new leather version of the 2011. I feel that some inaccuracies that encouraged sexism (compare the placement of headings in Ephesians 5) have now been removed and improved.

  • Jayflm

    As a Southern Baptist pastor, I assure you that this resolution has absolutely no binding authority upon anyone. It might make it impossible for Lifeway stores to carry the new NIV (although you will note that it only ‘respectfully requests’ that action), but beyond that it is nothing more than a statement approved by the messengers at the lowest-attended annual convention in years. Probably the best thing anyone can do is stop by the nearest Lifeway and ask for the NIV 2011.

  • It’s one thing to be legalistic. But, it’s quite another thing to appreciate the original text of Scripture. I applaud the efforts of the SBC to ascribe to the original text and remain gender specific. It’s for this reason that many, including myself, primarily enjoy the NASB, ESV, NKJV, and older variations of the NIV.

  • Sad. I’m sure many good people in the Southern Baptist Convention disagree with that resolution. Hopefully it will be overturned and soon.

  • waylon

    And the gap between the neo-fubdamentalists and everyone else continues to widen.

  • Scot McKnight

    Jayflm, thanks for weighing in. I understand that this is not binding on churches, but it is a strong set of words for Lifeway bookstores, as I understand it. Right?

  • JohnM

    Why was ANY new translation needed anyway? Is it that ALL previous translators were incompetent? I wonder if any other language besides English has so many different translations of the Bible.

  • rjs

    Given the fact that Lifeway bookstores bought out, for example, a major Christian bookstore chain in MN (not a hotbed of the SBC) and is now the only real option – this is not an SBC only issue. It (the “request” that Lifeway not sell the NIV) is appalling … it goes beyond appalling.

    The resolution is a demonstration of nothing more or less than the deep and abiding sinfulness of people. (And I do not mean the CBT here, although they are also fallible people of course).

    And unlike Scot or many others commenting, the NIV (1984, 1978, 2011, or “T”) is not my preferred translation – this isn’t about protecting or defending it.

  • Chris Martin

    The NIV 2011 does contain a few more generic
    terms, but as Jayflym has noted this carries no real authority. Because Southern Baptists believe heavily in the Autonomy of the local church, this is only seen as a suggestion and not an absolute authority from a higher board.

    The only way the resolution will be “overturned” is if either the Resolution Committee presents a counter resolution in 2012 in New Orleans or messengers from the floor(where this resolution came from this year) present a new resolution.

    It should also be noted that The elected Resolution Comittee did not see see a need to propose a resolution for this item but a few messengers did see that it was important.

  • Joseph

    Lifeway is encouraged not to sell the new NIV 2011, but they CAN sell The Message?!

  • Gender neutrality? Heavens! *sigh*

    I hold out hope that one day these little boys who are scared that the big bad wimmins will take over their place will grow up and learn to live as a whole human race, experiencing the social reality of redemption by the One in whom there is not male and female…

  • Dennis Moles

    Walls, walls, and more walls…I honestly wonder if this resolution is in response to what the NIV 2011 actually says or if it is a fearful response based on hearsay. I guess all the Bible believing SBC church member is left to do is run down to the nearest LifeWay Store and pick up a new Holmon Christian Standard Bible. At the end of the day I am just so weary of all the snipping

  • bryanb

    I believe this has more to do with finance than theology. The SBC has its own translation (Holman Christian Standard Bible)published by Lifeway. They have done everything in their power to get churches to switch to the HCSB including changing the Sunday School curriculum to that version and encouraging churches and pastors to switch. While I am sure there are some in the SBC that really do think the NIV 2011 is wrong, like it or not Lifeway is a business – a big business and sometimes business decisions mask themselves as concern about theology. Sorry if that’s too cynical, just the way I see it.

  • Jason Lee

    This is further evidence that the SBC is becoming more fundamentalist and less broadly evangelical. Although this statement is not officially binding on churches, I wonder if the version of the Bible you tote and read/preach from will now become another symbolic marker used to draw the circle of orthodoxy even smaller among SBCers.

  • scotmcknight

    bryanb, I’m unconvinced this has to do with money since LifeWay sells other Bibles besides the HCSB.

  • Scot McKnight

    It’s one thing to carp about this resolution and about the SBC; it is another thing to create constructive change or response. So I’ve added a question above, and wonder what is being done (or is nothing being done?):

    What are the Southern Baptist leaders saying/doing about this?

    Is there an avoidance of the issue? Are things happening behind the scenes?

  • Jason Lee

    Let me just say that I greatly respect this blog. I wrote something in a comment that was rather uncharitable …it caracatured the SBCers as mean ignoramuses. (I grew up SBC and have some resentment toward that body.) Anyway, I immediately felt bad that I’d written it. Then I noticed Scot had kindly edited my comment… leaving the substance and dropping the meanness I’d written. What a great blog.

  • Bill

    I am not surprised by the SBC. I attend an SBC church in Georgia, but no restriction of any translation is in place. But this sort of fundamentalistic mindset is disturbing. Thanks for what you do.

  • Jason

    Who of note is down on this translation?

  • Phillip

    While I disagree with the resolution, I hope this thread doesn’t become a forum to bash the SBC and assume ulterior motives (e.g. profit or fear of women in leadership) for them. It seems to me the golden rule applies here and that we assume sincere motives, even when disagreeing with the position.

    For the CBT’s response to the SBC resolution, you can go here:

  • Jayflm

    Scot, no doubt, the resolution does put pressure on Lifeway. But Lifeway did recently take the step of removing “warning” stickers from books they carried which were outside the normal scope of Southern Baptist theology. So I would suspect that any move to keep the NIV 2011 out would be temporary.

    As for the HCSB (Hardcore Southern Baptist)version, I have looked over it and determined that it is basically a warmed-over NIV. Where the NIV diverges from the original languages in sentence structure, the HCSB follows along. In my humble opinion they modified it enough to avoid copyright issues, and by using it in all Sunday School literature dropped what must have been a significant royalty fee.

  • Jonathan

    I don’t know that new translations are “needed” (how do we defined “needed”?), but they are defensible for two reasons:

    1. Understanding of the source language has changed, due to new insight/discoveries in the fields of archaeology, linguistics, textual criticism, lexicography, etc.

    2. The target language has changed. English, in particular, is probably the fastest-changing major language. Regarding the “gender-neutral” aspect, for instance, an increasing number of English speakers no longer understand masculine terms (“man”, “he”, etc.) as generic.

    Many of the discussions around these topics reveal very shallow understanding of what translation involves. There is no such thing as a literal translation (not even an interlinear is that). Traduttore, traditore. 🙂

  • Dn4sty

    I work as a youth minister in an SBC church and attend an SBC seminary. This resolution is sad. I for one read, teach, and preach out of the NIV 2011. I have also bought them for several students who have become Christians.

    Several weeks ago in staff meeting my pastor issued a warning to the staff about the NIV 2011. He cited the reason for the gender neutral language was in his words “because of the overwhelming acceptance of homosexuality in society.” I don’t even think that this deserves a response because it is so absurd.

    I don’t think I can exist and thrive in this church for much longer.

  • Robin

    I don’t think this has to do with money. I have been in lots of Lifeways, including the one on Southern Seminary’s campus and the HCSB gets no fanfare, it is tucked away with all of the other translations. The only translation I have seen given any prominence in the past decade is the ESV, which, as far as I know, the SBC doesn’t get any royalties off of. The ESV or ESV study bible is always located at the entrance to the store in its own display, and the HCSB sits lonely in the back with the NKJV and NLT.

    I do think this resolution, which was put forward, from what I can tell, by pastors and not by leadership, primarily sees the NIV 2011 as a threat to complementarianism. If you hold to that theological position, and the NIV goes and makes all of the pronouns gender neutral in passages you have long used to defend your theology, then reliance on this translation does indeed undercut your theology.

  • Richard

    Binding or non-binding, I think this reflects that sad reality that in many denominations (I wish it were just one), pastors seem out of touch with the major issues facing their people. Why not a non-binding resolution on generosity for the unemployed… ‘Cuz that’s not the pastor’s priority all too often.

  • BryanB (#14),

    You wrote: I believe this has more to do with finance than theology.

    This resolution was conceived and promoted by a lone Southern Baptist pastor who has no financial stake in the SBC as a national denomination. This was not motivated by money.


  • Robin

    One reason I think this is about complementarianism:

    The CBMW on 1 Tim 2:12

    The NIV 2011 rendered it, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” The NIV 1984 translated it “have authority.” No other major modern English translation translates it as “assume.”

    The verse, CBMW said, takes sides in the debate over female pastors. “As soon as a church adopts the 2011 NIV,” CBMW said, “the debate over women’s roles in that church will be over, because women pastors and elders can just say, ‘I’m not assuming authority on my own initiative; it was given to me by the other pastors and elders,'”

  • Ryan

    I am an SBC pastor and am saddened to see the hostility and mockery of my denomination on here. Is the SBC perfect? No. Can we be a little goofy? Yes. But it seems that some on here enjoy taking shots at us and trying to analyze beyond the evidence.

    The SBC as a whole is in major transition these days as it is recovering it’s roots of being people of the Book and centered on missions. Still to this day the SBC sends more missionaries than any other denominations and does more charity and relief work than any other denomination, yet these are never mentioned while calling us “fundamentalists.”

    The irony here is that on this blog and from some of the commentors, I bet there was little outcry about some denominations recently endorsing gay marriage, and homosexual pastors, but there is plenty of outrage because some in the SBC find problems with a certain Bible translations. Talk about missing the big “E” on the eye chart.

  • #28: This may be true, but I’ve already heard exactly that line of reasoning, based on current translations. “Assume” may lend strength to the thought, but it won’t really be “creating” a new line of thought in that discussion.

  • Jim Hampton

    #22 Jayflm – As a former editor for SS Curriculum (but with another publisher), it was/is my understanding that curriculum publishers generally don’t have to pay royalties to Bible publishers to quote from their version of the Bible as long as it adheres to length standards the publishers have set. (E.g. you can’t quote several chapters in a row.) They just have to make sure to cite the passages according to the standard the publisher asks for.

  • Robin


    I’m not evaluating the evidence, merely supporting my assertion that many in the SBC don’t like the NIV 2011 due to complementarian concerns.

  • John

    I am a member of a SBC church, and I can tell you that this resolution, like every other one, is not binding on either churches or individual members. I use the NIV 2011 and I’m sure many others do also.

  • John W Frye

    Ryan @ 29,
    Serious questioning is not “hostility” and wondering why the SBC would suggest banning a Bible from being sold in LifeWay bookstores is not “mockery.” The Christian community at large is watching the SBC and wondering what is going on. As Scot noted in his post, many wonderful scholars and pastors are part of the SBC. Scot wonders what they are doing about this divisive resolution.

  • As a SBC’er, I think Robin is correct when he speaks of complimentarianism. Sadly, after we get our mind fixated on something, you will likely approach the house and find a baby sitting in a pool of water and bubbles.

    They did abandon then NIV for the HCSB version because of royalty fees. I have it, but don’t like it. I’m an NLT/NASB guy myself.

    I just cannot see them reversing course, at least not now with the people in charge (and yes, Virginia, there are named and unnamed people who run the denomination). It’s one of the reasons people think we’re odd.

    The only group who could tell Lifeway not to carry it is the trustees of Lifeway themselves.

    But Lifeway is about to find itself is a pickle. Many publishers are moving to publishing ebooks only. Zondervan (and other publishers) have said that in the near future, over 50% of the books will be ebooks only. That creates a problem for Lifeway (and Family Christian for that matter) because they are primarily book stores. And Lifeway provides a nice chunk of change for the SBC, because all its profits are deposited into convention.

    I actually look for Lifeway to keep selling it – the name and branding are huge – but I don’t think you will see a reversal of the resolution.

  • Robin

    John Frye,

    Here are some examples of the hostility and mockery Ryan was alluding to>

    “And the gap between the neo-fubdamentalists and everyone else continues to widen.”

    Comment by waylon — August 1, 2011 @ 6:13 am

    “I hold out hope that one day these little boys who are scared that the big bad wimmins will take over their place will grow up and learn to live as a whole human race, experiencing the social reality of redemption by the One in whom there is not male and female…”

    Comment by Jason Barr — August 1, 2011 @ 6:45 am

  • Clay Knick

    Scot, It seems to me that there are a lot of pastors in the SBC who have been influenced by Grudem & Poythress’ book on Bible translation of a few years ago. Those who hold to that position, as you know, disdain any translation that is not “literal” or formal equivalent. Apparently this is where some in the SBC are now regarding translation and they seem to be entrenched in this position.

  • Ryan

    John Frye,

    I have no problem with questioning the resolution (I do so myself and think it was un-needed). Yet read the comments in this thread and you can see some devolve from questioning to mockery and hostility at the SBC pretty quickly.

    As I said before, why is this more important for Scot and others on here to get worked up about, than approval of homosexual behavior, which another noteworthy denomination has done in recent months? I noticed that this did not get much pub on here and I think that is telling.

    While the resolution on the NIV 2011 may be unwise, it is not sinful. Yet is seems to raise the ire of many on here more than what clearly is sinful. This is more clarifying of where evangelicalism is fracturing than labels like “neo-fundamentialist” and “neo-reformed” which seem to actually add very little value to the situation at hand.

  • rjs

    Denny (#27),

    I don’t think this resolution had anything to do with money. I do think it had everything to do with complementarianism and control (i.e. power).

    There is no way this was a lone pastor when it was passed unanimously in a form that allowed for very little dissent and actually raised none. It was immediately lauded by the presidents of major seminaries including Dr. Mohler.

    It is deeply permiated with sin because it is rooted in power and control and because of the way it was handled both during and after the fact.

    I am not saying that complementarianism is “sin” (or for that matter your extensive discussion of perceived shortcomings of the NIV2011) rather the process, misinformation, and controlling power and “politics” of the process are inexcusable and can only appropriately be classified as manifestations of human fallenness and sin.

  • Looks like I’m going to have get a copy of the NIV to see what the fuss is about, seems like its got all the right people upset.

    More seriously, it seems to me that the SBC’s reasoning is exactly backwards. If they have problem with the NIV, then they should lay out the textual and linguistic data and show where the flaws are in the translation. Instead, they are arguing from the results, which they apparently dislike, but arguing from consequences is never a valid argument. If they think the NIV misrepresents the Biblical messages, then they need to show where it does so using the Biblical texts, not their cultural prejudices.

  • scotmcknight

    Ryan, I agree that some of these comments are harsh and uncharitable, and probably sardonic or sarcastic. But the issue here is not what some of these folks — we get between 3,000 and 8,000 people come here so it’s an odd assortment of “some” — do about other topics. The topic today is the SBC’s resolution, and what we can do about it and how we can respond. The fact is that it passed; no one spoke against it; LifeWay doesn’t have to do what this resolution says, but it is under serious obligation to listen to the resolution; and what are the SBC leaders doing? Are they supporting this or are they working to do something else?

    So, do you agree with it? Do you not agree? What are you doing about it?

  • Whereas, the NIV2011 contains dangerous language that could cause women to think they have something to contribute . . .

    Interesting posts by Craig Blomberg and Bill Mounce:

  • Amen, to John Frye’s comments above. The disdain and mockery of the SBC resolution is unworthy of brothers and sisters that have honest disagreements.

    Let’s be honest. In the main, one translation is driven by an egalitarian view of roles and one is driven by a complimentarian view of roles. Defend your view. Don’t vilify your brother or sister for defending theirs.

  • Richard Jones

    Just a general plea: Can we stick to the point Scot was making concerning the acceptability of changes in NIV 2011 v. older versions? There is really no need to castigate other brothers and sisters over this issue.

    An unecessary reminder but here it is nonetheless: The SBC, lead by Adrian Rogers, went through a very nasty fight over biblical inerrancy some 20 years ago. Committment to Blical inerrancy won. Vigilence over this issue remains and I don’t know that any of us think that is a bad thing. At least until it bleeds over into matters that are non-essential. I favor a healthy ongoing discussion of the facts around NIV 2011 and therefore let iron sharpen iron. I do not favor insults.

    “In the essentials, unity; in the non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

  • Ryan

    Good questions Scot, and I in no way want to divert from the topic at hand. I was actually in my local Lifeway store last week and I saw some NIV 2011 copies in there.

    I am not sure if there is going to be pressure to stop selling them. Often, many resolutions are passed at the convention that are nothing more than ceremonial. This is where it would be nice to hear guys like Trevin Wax and Ed Stezer way in as they both work for Lifeway.

    The SBC church I pastor is not in the south so maybe my perspective is not accurate on this, but at least in my church and region, Bible translations is not that big of a deal. I have even preached out of the TNIV a time or to at my church.

    I just would hope that some would not broad brush all of the SBC and it’s churches as being obsessed or even aware of these issues at the local level.

    And to lay my cards on the table, I think on both sides the translation issue is way bigger than it should be. I have a copy of the new NIV and think it is just fine.

  • CJ

    I have never wanted the NIV 2011 more so than I do right now…

  • RJS (#39),

    You wrote: “There is no way this was a lone pastor.” Your speculation is factually incorrect. You can watch the video for yourself and see how this resolution came about against the recommendation of the resolutions committee. The relevant portion starts at 24:00. You can be sure that this resolution caught the leadership by surprise.

    If you’re still not convinced, I encourage you to take a look at Albert Mohler’s post-convention reflections.


  • scotmcknight

    Thanks Ryan, and we need more like you brother. That is why in the original post I said there are too many good and fine folks in the SBC to let this sit.

    My understanding is that LifeWay is selling NIV 2011s. How long will this be happening?

    But I want to stake a claim here: that resolution is uncalled for in a denomination that does have variety and diversity. There is no reason to block the reading/selling of the NIV 2011, which that resolution would do. Let’s be congregational here and let local churches and folks make that decision.

  • scotmcknight

    Denny, you know well that nothing about the NIV 2011 should have caught anyone by surprise. (1) There has been discussions with Zondervan for years on this one. (2) You yourself hammered the NIV 2011 in your publications, and to the degree that pastors read your stuff, to the same degree those pastors may have had concerns. (3) The resolution from the floor, therefore, shouldn’t either have been surprising in general or taken the leadership unawares.

  • How many women voted on this resolution? Were women given a voice in this issue? I am unfamiliar with the polity of the SBC. Can women be messengers?

  • Robin


    How does the fact that this motion was presented by a non-leadership, local pastor, and supported unanimously by those pastors, influence your thinking.

    Like the motion or not, you have to interact with the fact that this was a “populist” motion and was not lacking in support. I mean, this is something Paige or Al was out on the speaking circuit stumping for, like changes to the Baptist Faith and Message. This is a proposal that came from the membership and found unanimous support.

    What else does this say about the less conservative factions within the SBC? It says that they didn’t care enough about the denomination to show up. If there are big groups of moderates or liberals in the denomination, they are either so disgusted with the trend in the denomination or (more likely) care so little about denominational issues, that they didn’t even bother to show up for the national convention.

    So the only people that care enough to show up are conservatives, and when they propose and vote for things that they care about, we are outraged that they would dare to propose and vote for things that they care about.

  • rjs


    Thank for the link to Dr. Mohler’s blog. His comments on the impractibility of eliminating the NIV from lifeway are particularly interesting.

    If the “leadership” was taken by surprise they should have immediately and forcefully condemned the unfortunate aspects of the resolution (even while agreeing that the NIV is not endorsed). The limited discussion with no significant time allowed smacks of orchestrated politics, perhaps by a very small group not including the leadership – I have no inside knowledge of the SBC.

    Looking at the history of the church, not the SBC, but the church global over 2000 years, the sins connected to control, power, and politics, have devastated our church. It is never good, always destructive. I have no tolerance for anything that even gives the impression of such. Those who lead need to make decisions with all information and careful prayer.

    God acts despite our failings, but the ends never justify the means. We are called to appropriate actions at all times and will be held accountable fir our failings.

  • This is about one thing: The Holman Christian Standard Bible. They have their translation and they are trying to protect it.

  • Robin

    Developing on my last topic.

    This was a populist motion, passed unanimously by the members present. So if you break down the SBD world into to camps, you have those who care about denominational issues enough to show up, and those who don’t. In the former group the measure passed unanimously, so they are content with its contents. In the latter group, those who didn’t show, there are some who will agree with it, and some who won’t. If they agree with it, they are also fine with it, and would likely communicate such issues to their congregations, even in its absence.

    For the latter group, people who didn’t attend and are opposed to the resolution…through their absence they have already demonstrated that they care little for denominational issues, and the passage of the resolution is just another meaningless thing that happens at the convention that they won’t relate to their parishioners. Their moderate-liberal congregations won’t be affected by the resolution because their pastors don’t take denominational resolutions seriously.

    The only group that seems to be genuinely affected by the resolution is Lifeway, and I am unsure how I feel about this. In a denominational bookstore I think some censorship is warranted to ensure that the literature meets the standards set by the denomination [I wouldn’t be horribly offended if PCUSA bookstores refused to carry the ESV because of its perceived complementarian flavor], but I don’t the the NIV11 rises to that serious of a level to warrant its removal.

  • Resolution – Scmezolution. “Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”

  • Scot,

    (1) No one was surprised by the appearance of the NIV 2011. In the video I reference above, the resolutions committee commended CBT and Zondervan for the more transparent process that the CBT pursued this time around. I too praised that transparency in my review. So no surprises there, nor am I claiming that there was.

    (2) Yes, SBC pastors read the review. And yes, it had an influence on this specific pastor. But he acted on his own to turn this into a resolution. Don’t misunderstand me. I would have voted in favor of the resolution had I been there (I didn’t attend this year). I’m simply saying that the effort was spearheaded by him alone. And the messengers at the convention agreed with him.

    (3) The only way to answer this concern is with some inside baseball. Here is how things pan-out 99% of the time in the SBC. Once the resolutions committee declines to present a resolution to the convention, the resolution is dead. From time to time, a messenger whose resolution is declined in advance of the convention will take his resolution directly to the floor and appeal to the messengers to consider it against the wishes of the committee. 99.9% of the time that effort fails, and the resolution never sees the light of day. In fact, I’ve never seen it happen before. I knew about this resolution before the convention, and I thought it was DOA. So did everyone else.

    Having said all of that, the vast majority of Southern Baptists and leadership agree with the main thrust of the resolution. I’m just letting you know that the effort was grass-roots and surprising. As Paige Patterson said it, “It demonstrates anew that a grass-roots response on the part of Southern Baptists is still a unique feature of the DNA of the Convention, something that we must never lose.”


  • scotmcknight

    Robin, I can’t see the comment numbers from this spot so this has to do with the “how does the fact…” comment. I really don’t quite know what to make of the resolution. I don’t know how this stuff works well enough to say that it was populist or that non-conservatives don’t show up or that this guy waited til the end … what I’m concerned about for congregational polity is that a bookstore is being advised not to sell a book that many pastors and church members may well want. So it’s a little top heavy for a congregational approach.

  • Robin


    your last comment is borderline incoherent. You hate control, power, and politics…yet in the face of a democratic process with universal support you assert that the leadership should have “immediately and forcefully condemned the unfortunate aspects of the resolution.”

    In other words the leadership should have interrupted the normal, democratic resolution process, and utilized their outsized control, power, and influence to terminate a resolution that you dislike.

    Control and power are awesome when they get used, against a democratic process, to reach the conclusion you want?

  • scotmcknight

    Robin, thanks for your “developing…” comment. I think we agree. Yes, some pastors and churches (comments above confirm this) use the NIV2011. Yes, I do agree LifeWay does have to discern. Yes, the pastor’s resolution needs to be taken under advisement. That it was unanimous is substantive for LifeWay. And I wrote this post to raise a big red flag: Don’t follow this resolution. Let the folks in local churches and at local bookstores decide. We’re not dealing with heresy, I don’t care what some of the opponents of the NIV2011 say. Let’s see how the Bibles sell, and if no one wants them, then the “tribe has spoken.”

  • Robin

    More RJS,

    COnsidering Denny’s latest comment…control and power were already exercised regarding this resolution…when the resolutions committee refused to present the resolution. That is normal political power in this process, but political power was exercised – against this resolution. THe pastor in question, and all of the others in attendance said “we don’t care what the leadership wants, we want to vote on this any way” and they passed it unanimously. To which, you think the leadership should have exercised even more power and control and somehow stopped it or harshly criticized it and convince other people to go against it.

    Face it, the resolution passed through a majority (unanimous) vote, in stark opposition to the normal political process, not because of it.

  • Robin


    Are you saying that resolutions should only deal with heresy? When a clear majority of the convention feels strongly about a subject, they shouldn’t touch it unless it is clear-cut and sinful?

    This would give the convention a lot less to talk about, but maybe that is a good thing.

  • scotmcknight

    Fr. Thomas McKenzie, I disagree and I don’t think there’s a whiff of money in this resoluton. The only thing I smell is complementarianism and a desire to wipe out inclusive translation.

  • scotmcknight

    Robin, I can’t speak for RJS but I sense she’s connecting control to complementarianism more than to the resolution.

  • rjs


    Process can be manipulated. I am actually less concerned with the resolution itself than with the fact that it was introduced late, because of this there was no time available or allowed for real reflection and discussion.

    Yes, there are times when Christian leaders must stand for fair thoughtful and open discussion in reaching significant decisions, even if it stands against “democratic” process.

    I would suggest (not that they’d ever ask me) a rule that no resolution be introduced from the floor less than 48 hours before the end of a meeting to give a better chance for thoughtful, prayerful consideration.

  • Rick


    “in stark opposition to the normal political process, not because of it.”

    First the Tea Party, then the Arab “spring”, now the SBC.

  • Scot & Robin,

    There are very little who are non-conservatives that are active in the SBC on a national level. The non-conservatives rarely show up for a convention any more. The attendance at this year’s convention was the lowest in years…

  • scotmcknight

    David and Robin, I’m much less concerned with how those SBC conventions work than with LifeWay carrying, and continuing to carry, the NIV2011. If the convention’s resolutions don’t represent the majority, then LifeWay would be under less obligation, but Denny Burk’s suggesting otherwise on this issue.

  • JST

    Like another “biblical-supported” practice, slavery, patriarchy will die hard.

  • Scot (#62),

    You wrote: “I don’t think there’s a whiff of money in this resoluton. The only thing I smell is complementarianism and a desire to wipe out inclusive translation.”

    I think you are correct about the motives of the messengers. I would add one more important thing. The SBC has been shaped in this generation by last generation’s inerrancy debates. Because Southern Baptists by and large associate inclusive translation with a lower view of scripture, no doubt a concern for the authority of scripture was also in play here.


  • I’m not a Bible translator and unfortunately, I didn’t keep up with my Greek, so this post may just reveal my ignorance. It wouldn’t be the first time. I am a translation junkie. I read mostly from the ESV, which I used from it’s release, and recently have been enjoying the new NIV. I also frequently check the NAS, NLT, HCS, NET, and The Message, which isn’t a translation, per se.

    What I don’t understand is how translators such as Bill Mounce, Craig Blomberg, Darrell Bock, and others can work on various translations, each with different translation ideas (word for word, thought for thought, in the former way of expressing it)and have no issue with it. They seem to see the value in various translations and feel they’ve been faithful to the text. Yet non-translators who may know the languages but aren’t experts in it come along and call the whole thing into question, seemingly without any regard for the work of translators who love God and care deeply about translating it correctly. It leaves me thinking that they’re hiding their real concerns about the role of women in the church behind so-called concerns about getting the text right.

  • rjs

    Rereading the resolution, I see that the convention is only two days.

    The only reason the resolution is more than an internal SBC affair is because of the recommendation to LifeWay stores. Given current trends this may be a moot point in some few years.

    The only reason I would refer to it as “sinful” rather than misguided, is the process and response. There is the appearance of a power-play. The resolution itself is not necessarily sinful. (Although I think it is wrong-headed in a number of ways).

    Complementarianism and the desire to be faithful to the text are not sinful. To twist a comment by Stott quoted over the weekend – complementarians are Christian brothers and sisters trying to be faithful – as I am also trying to be faithful, even in my disagreement with them.

    The precise motivations of the people involved is a matter for introspection – I am not passing judgment here because I have no real information. (I do not think it involves money or the HCSB in any way).

  • Albertomedrano

    Do they do this with every new translation? I’m wondering what they’re gonna do with the CEB. It’s so gender neutral that the term “Son of Man” has been changed to “the Human One”. Of which I’m starting to like. 🙂

  • Jason Lee

    If what Denny (56) says is true, it may reflect the fact that the majority of southern baptists truly are gender hierarchicalists. More cosmopolitan and younger evangelicals may find this hard to believe, but if you look at the unquestioned gender hierarchicalism portrayed in family help material on offer in southern baptist churches and book stores, I don’t think it’s at all that hard to believe. Why wouldn’t we think there’d be push-back to the new NIV?

  • DRT

    Larry Barber#40 nails a good point. They are arguing from results they don’t like. This is the same position Mohler took in his support for a young earth by arguing they would have to change their theology if an old earth was true. Strange reasoning to me.

    Rjs#39 nails the motive if you ask me. This is a power play and they don’t use scare quotes, but they use scare language, scare formatting and scare delivery. They are trying to scare people into conformance. One more step toward the SBC becoming a cult instead of a denomination.

    And before people who are offended by my calling their reasoning strange and also calling them a cult, I honestly believe that those adequately describe the risk to the SBC. Al Mohler himself worried about them being seen as a cult.

    This is a leadership issue.

  • Anderson

    Albertomedrano (72),

    The CEB’s decision to go with “Human One” over “Son of Man” had nothing to do with gender neutrality. In short, the translators decided that many current-day English speakers assume that the phrase “Son of Man” speaks to Jesus’ divinity, when (according to the translators) the original intent of the Greek and Aramaic idiom (with ties to Daniel 7) was to emphasize Jesus’ humanity.

    Here’s a longer/better explanation of the choice:

    That said, I don’t expect Lifeway to carry a lot of Common English Bibles.

  • Jeremy Royal Howard

    As Bible Publisher at B&H Publishing Group, I am grateful to see Scot, Denny, and a few others weigh in with balanced responses. Many posts here convey misconception about the origin of the HCSB, the relation between HCSB and LifeWay Stores, and the nature of the NIV 2011 resolution that was passed at SBC this summer. By no means was this resolution orchestrated by LifeWay, nor could it have been foreseen given that it arose from the floor. It is disappointing that some people suspect greed lies at the base of this situation. LifeWay has stated that they will continue to sell the NIV 2011 while a group of scholars, not affiliated with LifeWay, is appointed to study the matter. I am confident that LifeWay leadership is taking the correct approach. No knee-jerk reactions; no capitalizing on the controversy; no condemnation of anyone on any side of this discussion; nothing to lend credence to the stereotypes. I extend my thanks to everyone who participates in this conversation with a willingness to question their pre-conceived notions.

  • scotmcknight

    Thanks Jeremy. This is a good approach. (Names,please.)

  • AHH

    Marty S. @43 said:
    In the main, one translation is driven by an egalitarian view of roles and one is driven by a complimentarian view of roles.

    Unless I misunderstood something, wasn’t the chair of the NIV 2011 translation committee a complementarian? That pretty much falsifies one half of the above statement.

  • JD

    as a southern baptist born and raised, i was angry when i heard about this resolution. the niv84 was never my favorite translation and while i had a copy of the tniv (which i received free from my southern baptist university in 2005 and which my hermenuetics professor readily endorsed) i was set against the 2011 update. but hearing this news made me rethink my opinion of it (which was admittedly unfounded) and i went out and purchased one. the lifeway store in my town has not stopped selling the niv11 and actually has more copies of it than the hcsb (which has a typo in the 2009 updated version: 2 samuel 1:11). i have two copies of the niv11 in my sunday school class and have switched to it in reading and studying (with supplemental versions like the esv and hcsb, of course.)

    to me, this resolution implies that the sbc is culturally insensitive (at least to english speakers) and a little arrogant in thinking that they can produce a superior translation than anyone else can. and the saddest thing about this resolution is that the vast majority of congregants, who know little about their english bibles, are now at the mercy of greek and hebrew scholars telling them what’s right and what’s wrong, with no ability or desire to find out for themselves.

  • Thanks for the good word, Jeremy. Right on.

  • TJJ

    I am a recent member of a SBC church mostly because there are not churches of my denominaion (EFCA) present in my area. But in my expereince with the SBC this resolution in not typical or representative of the SBC in my area (North Central KY). The resolution is silly and unnecessary. But there are many resolutions like this passed at those conventions that the vast majority of the “people in the pews” neither know about or care about, much less agree with. This most certainly is one of those.

    There are a small number of leaders who have these kind of narrow minded agendas, they are in positions of power that enable them to get these type of resolutions passed, but they are not representative of most rank and file in the SBC.

    So I would caution against criticism with too broad a stroke. Critize the resolution and those who are responsibler for it, but don’t attack the whole SBC as if it is a mololith and this is any kind of a resolution that came from the grass roots up, because I assure you it most certainly is not.

  • Red

    I perused some of the first comments. I don’t know if these issues have been addressed, but here is a news story from the Baptist Press explaining what this means for LifeWay Stores:

    In essence, the resolution places pressure on LifeWay, but it does not force LifeWay to do anything. The trustees of the company decide what to do.

  • Robert

    I noticed some other Southern Baptist ministers have posted here and I’ll do so as well. As a young SBC minister who is only 6 years post seminary and serving in a wonderful local church I have no good words for our convention’s decision on this matter.

    I know the SBC polity is confusing, but (as aforementioned) with local church autonomy this decision means nothing to me…well other than getting me frustrated. I can use the NIV2011 in my preaching, teaching, and writing. My church bookstore can stock it. My parishioners will carry it. There is nothing the convention can do to make it otherwise.

    The only binding issue is on the national bookstore chain and making themselves look silly…I’d say sillier but I don’t think its a word. This last convention was a waste of time and money. The lowest attendance since WWII and not much was accomplished. The network of buddies and nepotism continues to be firmly in place and flourish. As an outsider (due to my less than fundamentalist theology) I simply contribute to the Cooperative Program and do other things.

    I like the new NIV. There are some passages I don’t care for but that almost always has to do with the rendering given and is never (save one or two exceptions) about gender. If the SBC wants to be consistent then they should investigate the “gender-neutral” language in their own publication, the Holman Christian Standard Bible. This was a bad decision by the convention. I wish we could be better than this.

  • Rob

    My question is simple. Doug Moo made himself available at ETS/SBL two years ago, in order to verbally discuss this translation with anyone who had a question. Due to the recent backlash from the SBC and those members who publicly speak out regarding theology, I wonder how many of them took the opportunity to talk with the chair of the CBT prior to making all the negative post-publication comments?

    Personally, I don’t see how the SBC can make a resolution like this… however, exegetical reasons aside, as far as christian charity goes, in my opinion the SBC has acted shamefully. Instead of freely critiquing an entire committee, if you really feel there is a problem, why don’t you seek to be an agent of change rather than a voice of post-production criticism.

  • 1 Corinthians 2:10-12 King James Version (KJV)
    10But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

    11For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

    I don’t think the “right/wrong” version of the Bible is the problem… & I’m sure the SBC don’t have an exclusive on The Spirit. Little wonder the unchurched have decided not to commit their eternity to the fractured dogma of a religious cluster that can’t get our own “poop in a group”. Lord help us!

  • MKing

    Liberalism, again, rears its ugly head. Stick with the ESV and you can’t go wrong.

  • Tom F.

    From my admittedly quick reading of the blog posts, including Denny’s objections the TNIV, I still don’t understand one thing. I mean this in an honest way, not trying to score rhetorical points or anything.

    Many of the gender inclusive examples that people list seem to be things that no one seems to have any problem with admitting apply to both men and women, right? Words get meaning in context, and everyone is agreed that in at least most of these contexts, these masculine plurals are referring to both men and women.

    So if the biblical writers used a masculine plural to refer to both men and women, and modern English can use either a masculine plural or a neuter plural (“humankind” or “people” or some such) to refer to both men and women, than I am having a hard time understanding why some folks feel that the NIV is problematic SOLEY on the basis of gender inclusive language. I understand that people feel differently about gender roles and what not, but I can’t see why gender inclusivity is a problem when, it seems to me, that everyone is agreed the intent of the language is actually to include both genders.

    Again, honest question, and would welcome a response from anyone who feels strongly opposed to the gender inclusive language. I promise not to bite. 🙂

  • Andy Vanasse

    @Larry Barber (#40): I believe that the exegetical issues were discussed when the TNIV came out in 2002. This particular resolution refers back to the earlier version and notes that 75% of the “objectionable” material was retained. I would assume that the earlier objections still carry forward.

    Whenever the gender-neutral translation question arises the passage that jumps to mind is the section of God’s reply to Joel cited by Peter on Pentecost (Joel 2:28–32; Acts 2:17-21). What strikes me in this passage is the EMPHASIS on gender-inclusivity in the original language and patriarchal culture. While I personally tend to lean egalitarian, a passage like this gives me pause because I believe some of the power of the original is diluted or lost if broad-based gender neutrality makes the blessing appear commonplace. It’s a messy tension indeed.

  • Susan Isaacs

    I agree with the SBC. I think that the gender names should be left in.

  • Susan Isaacs

    I agree with the SBC.

  • Craig Blomberg

    I have been a part of the CBT for 4 years now. I had no involvement with the TNIV, even though in general I liked the results. I can, however, speak for what has transpired since Zondervan and Biblica announced their plans for the NIV 2011 edition. I have been present for every session of the committee in that period of time and not once has anyone’s complementarianism or egalitarianism (and yes, both are very well represented on the committee) influenced a vote on a wording of a passage. People may choose to disbelieve that but if they do it is not based on anything factual. They weren’t there.

    Instead, we have the twin goals of being as accurate to the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew as possible and of being as clear in twenty-first century English as possible. On numerous fronts, most unrelated to inclusive language issues, those two goals create some tension with each other. It’s easy to be “literal” (consider an interlinear) and unintelligible. It’s easy to be clear (consider the old Living Bible Paraphrased) and be inaccurate. The hard part is to be as accurate and as clear as possible as much as possible. Doug Moo provided the CBMW reviewer, and Al Mohler, and Lifeway representatives, and others with detailed and accurate information on this and related issues well in advance of their statements that was disregarded or skewed in the writing of the documents and in reacting to the documents that have led to such an unfortunate misrepresentation of the NIV 2011.

    Thus, for example, it is just plain false for the Southern Baptist Resolution to claim that 75% of the inclusive-language renderings in the TNIV that were not in the NIV were retained in the NIV 2011. What the 75% statistic should have been attached to was a statement that about that percentage of the ENTIRE number of changes from the NIV to the TNIV were retained, more than 2/3 of which had nothing to do with inclusive language. The sizable majority of inclusive language changes from the NIV to the TNIV were CHANGED again in the NIV 2011. And a substantial majority of these were changed in ways that no longer contradicted the Colorado Springs Guidelines of Grudem, Poythress, et al. Many of these are changes identical to procedures widely used throughout both the ESV and the HCSB. Many others introduced a brand-new way (for Bible translations) of dealing with texts that hadn’t previously been discussed to any significant degree, especially the use of the “distributive they” that the Collins Dictionary Group database (of 4.4 billion words of written English of recent vintage ranging from evangelical to secular from high-level to journalistic prose) demonstrated was the overwhelming choice of contemporary English writers (nearly 84% of the time). This is the construction that reads, for example, “Anyone who wants to do well on the exam ought to study their notes a lot.” The first word of the sentence makes it clear that the author is referring to an individual and the follow-up pronoun makes clear that men and women alike may be involved. But this construction was used only when the biblical contexts made it clear that both genders were involved. Many times, we reintroduced generic “mankind” and occasionally we reintroduced generic “he” and generic “man.” So the biggest problem with the CBMW review and the SBC resolution is that they are factually inaccurate and hence very misleading on these crucial points. That is what we need these organizations to publicly retract, correct and publicize widely if we are to retain the Christian mandate to speak the truth, to say nothing of doing so in love.

  • Comment by AHH at #78 you said, quoting my comment, “In the main, one translation is driven by an egalitarian view of roles and one is driven by a complimentarian view of roles.”

    and then followed with …

    Unless I misunderstood something, wasn’t the chair of the NIV 2011 translation committee a complementarian? That pretty much falsifies one half of the above statement.

    My initial thoughts: Not necessarily. While the committee chair was a complementarian, 1) that in no way determines how the final decisions will be made on a translation, 2) how the evidence for one translation or another is presented, 3) how the evidence is weighted by other persuasive members of a committee, 4)and there is also the effect that a consensus among a committee has of pulling all dissent toward the consensus as almost all sociological studies of group dynamics proves.

  • Comment to #91. Thank you for your post. Very helpful background information. I hope it helps move the debate along in a fashion that honors Christ.

  • Donna Byrd

    “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Rev. 22:18-19 That pretty much sums it up!

  • Jim

    Donna #94-

    So, women are free to add or take away from this prophecy whatever they choose.

    I mean, if John meant to include women in his warning, surely he would have said “unto every man and women.”