Today I am going to pull away from my reflections on discipleship. I received an email from my sister asking what I thought about the explanations given in relation to the 2011 release of a new version on the NIV. You might want to read what the translators have said about the new edition: http://www.biblegateway.com/niv/Translators-Notes.pdf.
Here is a copy of my reply:
This is a pretty good statement confronting the issues that translators face in dealing with the biblical text. It demonstrates much of the sensitive nature in balancing what the biblical text meant in its original context with what it means for us today. Subtle issues still remain related to biblical authority and whether a biblical world view that clashes with modern scientific understandings or current cultural realities should be retained.
Many Christians hold on to what I would call a "flat Bible." By that I mean that every word in the Bible is equally accurate and authoritative as any other word in the Bible. That's a little hard to maintain when Jesus and a number of New Testament writers expound views that reinterpret, override, or "fulfill" some of the Old Testament passages that were understood differently in their original contexts; but once you acknowledge that, the question arises as how far can we go in doing the same thing to New Testament passages that clash with scientific or cultural realities. Some hold so tenaciously to biblical authority that they deny the guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, while others claim the guidance of the Holy Spirit in validating contemporary cultural practices that clearly contradict explicit biblical teachings.
Because the Bible is such a foundational document, believers always will find some points of interpretation with which they will disagree; but too often the "written word" is absolutized to the detriment of the "Living Word" (Jesus) and the role of the Spirit in guiding the church through the moral quagmire of our modern world.
The Bible needs to be recast for every generation in ways that will make its message alive and relevant; but given our human frailty, too often that recasting will reflect accommodation to views and popular opinions that stray from important biblical principles. But, of course, the biblical principles themselves are not universally accepted--otherwise we would not have a gazillion denominations and independent churches. Sometimes the church loses its prophetic edge in an effort to be popular and accommodating. Sometimes it loses its moral bearings by endorsing popular and contemporary views. Always it reflects the imperfect human nature that tries to twist things to accommodate to "my own perspective of what is right and wrong." That means, "What I think is right and what you think is wrong if you disagree with me." Quoting Scripture and reinterpreting it to support my views is the end result. If 70% agree (the NIV's standard), then that settles it for the translation. But spiritual discernment guided by the Holy Spirit almost always shows that the minority has a more prophetic voice that cannot and should not be silenced by taking a vote.
This defense of the NIV will not silence its critics. People who are searching for what the Bible really says will not find a "perfect" Bible; but when we study the Bible with reverence and openness to the guidance of the Spirit, we will hear the "word of the Lord" with enough clarity to convict us of our shortcomings and beg for God's mercy.