In December of 2011, a similar headline appeared on Intrepid Lutherans:ELS doctrine committee recommends against NIV 2011. In that post, we reported that the Doctrine Committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), “based on preliminary study of the NIV 2011” upon which they found “significant changes to the text of the NIV (1984)... diminish[ing] the accuracy of the NIV,” proceeded to publicly “recommend against the use of the NIV (2011).”
In August of 2012 – coincidentally, shortly following the last of the WELS 2012 District Conventions – the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) issued a similar, though more lengthy, statement expressing their opinion on the strength of the NIV 2011 as a suitable translation for use in the congregation, specifically with reference to its rendering of the Biblical texts in gender inclusive language. The statement was issued at the request of LCMS Synod President Rev. Matt Harrison. The name of this document is CTCR Staff Opinion on Inclusive Language in the New International Version (2011). They conclude on page four:
...[W]e find the NIV's Committee on Bible Translation [CBT] decision to substitute plural nouns and pronouns for masculine singular nouns and pronouns to be a serious theological weakness and a misguided attempt to make the truth of God's Word more easily understood. The use of inclusive language in NIV 2011 creates thepotential for minimizing the particularity of biblical revelation and, more seriously, at times undermines the saving revelation of Christ as the promised Savior of humankind. Pastors and congregations of the LCMS should be aware of this serious weakness. In our judgment this makes it inappropriate for NIV 2011 to be used as a lectionary Bible or as a Bible to be generally recommended to the laity of our church. This is not a judgment on the entirety of NIV 2011 as a translation – a task that would require a much more extensive study of NIV 2011 – but an opinion as to a specific editorial decision which has serious theological implications.
(NOTE: in all quotes from this Statement, emphasis is mine)
Leading up to this conclusion, the August 2012 CTCR Statement makes plain that the issue of Gender Neutrality is not one that hasn't already been thoroughly investigated by the LCMS. Unlike WELS, they are not just beginning to discuss it as a Synod, but took the issue of gender neutral Bible translation seriously when it first emerged in the 1990's. Responding to gender neutral editorializing of the Bible, such as that taken up by the translators of the New Revised Standard Version, the CTCR examined the issue closely and at length, issuing in 1998 a document entitled, Biblical Revelation and Inclusive Language (BRIL). The August 2012 CTCR Statement on the issue of inclusive language in the NIV 2011 quotes at length from this 1998 document. It states that, while BRIL “recognizes that 'language evolves' and so takes no position with regard to the propriety of inclusive language in everyday life,”
[t]he concern that led to [BRIL] had to do with the removal of gender specific language from translations of the Holy Scriptures... and the substitution of gender inclusive language that is not present in the original languages and texts of Scripture. In this regard [BRIL] takes a clear position grounded in the understanding of revelation itself that is held by us as Lutheran Christians:
This raises a different set of difficulties, for the Scriptures are not merely the rendering of a culturally based understanding of God. They are to be regarded as revelation whose author is finally God himself. Moreover, not only the concepts of Scripture but the very words of Scripture have been given to the biblical authors to write (1 Cor. 2:9-13; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; Jer. 30:2). While the church will certainly wish to accommodate modern sensibilities and translate anew where the language of the Scriptures allows, the church is not free to alter the language of revelation.
Quoting from BRIL, the August 2012 Statement of the CTCR goes on to say,
It is in the Word made flesh (John 1:14) that God has fulfilled “his purpose for humankind's eternal destiny.” This purpose, in one particular Person born of Mary at a particular time and place, is revealed in the particularity of Holy Scripture and most specifically “in the written testimony of the evangelical and apostolic writings of the New Testament.” The specificity and particularity of the Word made flesh and the sacred Scriptures compel the church to “resist demands to change the words of Scripture or to replace them with words derived from common human experience, cultural predilections, or the ideas of philosophers and lawgivers.”
Biblical Revelation and Inclusive Language considers two aspects of the debate about masculine language in the Scriptures: the language that is used to refer to God and the language that is used to refer to humanity (both Christians and humanity in general). With regard to biblical language about God, the CTCR concludes: “If one wishes to translate accurately the words of the Scriptures, the language of both the Old Testament and the New Testament is clear enough concerning the terminology about God. God and his Spirit are consistently referred to in masculine terminology.” With regard to language about people, BRIL asserts that whenever the Scriptures speak about people, the texts should be translated in a way that is consistent with “the language which the biblical authors in fact use.”
While merely interpreting concepts and rendering them “with words derived from common human experience, cultural predilections, or the ideas of philosophers and lawgivers” (the way that NIV 2011 does), instead of translating the actual words and grammar “which the biblical authors in fact use,” doesn't adversely affect the meaning of a translation in every case, the August 2012 CTCR Statement stresses that this ideology of translation itself violates our understanding of Biblical revelation in principle, and that this is sufficient grounds for rejecting it, and thus also the NIV 2011. Nevertheless, this brief statement goes on to give two “very significant” examples where the meaning of Scripture is, in fact, adversely affected by the gender inclusive principles espoused by the translators of the NIV 2011. Rather than reproduce the entire Statement here, I leave it to the reader to download and digest its contents. Again, those documents are as follows:
It should not escape the readers notice that, based on the CTCR's appeal to the Lutheran understanding of the very nature of Biblical revelation, for WELS to continue embracing the NIV 2011 as a viable translation that is not only suitable but recommended for use in our pulpits and in the homes of our laymen for private study, and which will serve as the Standard translation in all WELS publications – from devotions to hymnals, catechisms and commentaries, and even theological works published by Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) – is to invite a rift with nearly all other confessional Lutherans in America over the nature of Biblical revelation itself, including the doctrines of inspiration, inerrancy and perspicuity.