The TNIV controversy: a matter of theology, of language, or of world view?
Then that is where you and I, at least, disagree. I don't think we could ever come to any mutual agreement on the TNIV with such different understandings of language. That is the crux, here.In a previous comment he had written:
The changes which the TNIV seeks to entertain I believe to be bad changes in language - changes that come as a result of political agendas and the dumbing down of the English language itself.This is interesting. Is this indeed the crux? Is the difference of opinion over TNIV really purely one of approaches to language, and not of theology at all? Or is it perhaps more an issue of general world view?
In forums like this it should be easier to discuss questions of language than of theology, because we can do so without implicit accusations of heresy, and because hopefully people's positions are not quite so entrenched. Nevertheless I continue to be surprised at just how inflammatory this language issue seems to be, even among those who don't try to argue that there is a link to theology.
On some blogs there is extensive discussion about post-modernism, and whether the shift from modernism to post-modernism has any positive aspects for the Christian faith. But the issue we are dealing with here seems rather to be whether to accept the shift from pre-modernism to modernism. Modernism is based on believing what one sees, and what logically follows from that, rather than the pre-modernist or mediaeval approach of accepting what one is told by traditional authorities.
This shift from pre-modernist to modernist thinking started with the Renaissance, which rejected the mediaeval reliance on ancient authorities like Plato and Aristotle, and on contemporary ones like the church of Rome. And this modernist thinking was continued by the great Reformers, who rejected the authority of the church in favour of their own interpretations of the Bible. The same pattern of thinking was followed by the early scientists, who observed and experimented rather than relying on classical writers. Later, during the Enlightenment, the authority of the Bible was also rejected by many, and deism and atheism became common. So I am by no means claiming that modernism is necessarily more Christian than pre-modernism, or than post-modernism. But modernism was certainly the approach of the Reformers.
Yet it seems rather ironic that in the United States of America, a nation which was founded on the modernist rejection of traditional authorities and on the principles of the Enlightenment, there should currently be such a strong revival of pre-modernist, even mediaeval, ways of thinking. I see this in certain strands of theology, especially those which treat as authorities certain Reformers, or for that matter the King James Version. This reliance on authorities from centuries in the past is an essentially mediaeval world view. The irony is that if these people truly accepted the authority of the Reformers, they would also accept their world view which would cause them no longer to accept them as authorities!
Well, perhaps theology is a special case; after all, even I accept one ancient authority, the Bible. But I see the same general attitude displayed in all areas of life. Now, for example, I see it in attitudes to language. People do not accept that the English language is what they actually see written and hear spoken, and insist that it is instead what has been defined by some traditional authority such as a prescriptive grammar book - in this case an authority which has in fact never been authorised by anyone. Or, when they are forced to accept that what they hear and read is different from what the authority says, they resort to value judgments like "bad changes in language ... dumbing down", and try to assign guilt for such changes to those who have allegedly promoted them.
Thus for example, Chris Hill is correct to write that "there have been cultural ... changes to the English language in recent years", but he is quite out of order to insert after "cultural" the value judgment "(read: political, agenda driven, etc.)". Language does change, in part to reflect cultural changes, but rarely as a result of people accepting agendas. Even those with strong negative views about homosexuality have changed their usage of the word "gay" over the last few decades, and this change does not imply that they have accepted anyone's agenda. Similarly those who avoid generic "he" and use singular "they" have not accepted anyone's agenda, they are simply following widespread changes in language, to which no positive or negative value can rationally be assigned.
It seems to me that, while some people claim to reject TNIV and similar versions because of their supposed theology, this is in fact a pretext. In fact there is no real theological difference between NIV and TNIV, despite the nitpicking of some. (At least, there are no differences which relate to orthodox theology, including evangelical theology, although there are some that relate to the novel and poorly thought out doctrine of "male representation".)
The issue is in fact more about language, and the attempts by some to resist changes in English. These attempts are of course bound to fail, as have all past attempts to control language change, at least when not enforced by violence. The most that such people could hope is to prohibit such language change in the Bible and the church and so ensure that the language in them falls further and further out of step with that of the common people, which would have huge negative effects on the kingdom of God. But do these people care about that? Apparently even those who claim to be evangelical Christians do not.
So, it seems to me, the real driving force here is something which these people hold on to even more dearly than their Christian faith, an idol which is dearer to them than God himself: their world view. There seems to be a deep and growing conservatism in much of the USA, of a kind which is completely foreign to us here in the UK. According to this conservative world view, anything new and any significant change is bad, at least unless proved otherwise. This is coupled with a reverence for traditional authorities which is frankly mediaeval.
Now I don't claim that the modernist or post-modernist world view is necessarily better than this mediaeval view. Perhaps my own world view is also an idol which is dearer to me than God himself. If so, I need to repent and renounce my idol as much as others need to. But of one thing I can be sure: if any attitude or world view we hold, such as Chris Hill's presupposition that language change is bad, or my own wrong presuppositions which I am not yet aware of, is hindering the work of the kingdom of God, then as Christians this is the response we should make to God:
"The dearest idol I have known,PS: I don't intend to pick on Chris Hill, whose views are probably not exceptional, but he happened to provide a convenient explicit statement of the views I am discussing here.
Whatever that idol may be,
Help me to tear it from its throne,
And worship only thee."(William Cowper)