I was brought up by the short hairs yesterday afternoon when I read a post by TC Robinson over at New Leaven blog about what John MacArthur has now said about the TNIV. I commented on that post, and also on another post I read this morning by Jeff at Scripture Zealot in which he includes R.C Sproul and John Piper in with John MacArthur, and rightfully so, I believe.
Both posts included an embedded video of MacArthur making his comments concerning the TNIV and other translations. But I didn’t make the time to view that video until this morning. I have now done that.
In all honesty, much of what he said is right, in that he said there are things that must not be done in Bible translation which would accommodate the Holy Scriptures to the current culture, rather than using the scriptures to comment on, and hopefully change, the culture.
The problem is, he openly leveled those charges at the TNIV, as well as a few other contemporary translations, without naming them. And when you listen to what he says about the TNIV, it’s all lies! He’s just repeating the charges laid against the TNIV by those who attacked it in that big misinformation attack a few years ago when it came on the market, that hurt the TNIV so much and helped to make the ESV a big seller. They are nothing but lies, and he also then brings into question the motives of the Committee on Translation in making it, and Zondervan as well, whom he names.
Over at New Leaven, commenter Scott W makes some very good observations in his comment:
It’d be easy to ascribe all kinds of unsavory motivations to McArthur and his cohorts, but I think the problem is a type of “group think” which happens when you just surround yourself with people who think in a certain way. And in reaction to what he sees as the values he espouses being embattled, the repsonse is to flex his influence to push back. The problem is that when one is convinced they are doing “God’s will” without the requisite self-criticism one can slip into a type of arrogance which can lead to unscrupuous behavior (e.g, bullying, misrepresentation, even lying). As this twisted self-perception develops, most opposition, even constructive criticism will be perceived through the grid of persecution in the service of a righteous cause.
That’s exactly what I see, too. It’s not just MacArthur, it’s his people!
And while I’m not about to ascribe arrogance to Pastor MacArthur, I can see from the video how he seems to come off that way. He’s always so positive he’s right.
But I believe he’s wrong. Usually when I find myself disagreeing with him, I’m willing to say he may be right and I may be wrong. But my personal experience with the TNIV has convinced me that it is an excellent Bible translation, worthy of our consideration right along with such noble names as the NASB, ESV, and NKJV; and possibly better than any of those. I don’t see any accommodation to the culture in it. There’s no feminist agenda in it. There’s no possibility of anybody thinking it’s a pro-gay Bible either (though I don’t believe MacArthur mentioned that.) It’s just a good, solid Bible translation in contemporary English.
I reiterate what I said earlier. I don’t believe John MacArthur is an expert on Bible translations or on the translation process and issues. I believe he is just mouthing what his people, whom he trusts, have told him about it. And in fact he has many followers who come up and ask him, “what is the best Bible translation?” and, “what Bible should I choose for myself?” He’s really just trying to give them a good answer, and so he has spoken with his team about it. Unfortunately, I think they have given him bum advice this time, and I don’t think he realized what an uproar he would cause by saying what he did about the TNIV.
Personally, I doubt that John MacArthur has ever held a TNIV in his hands and actually used one for a period of time to actually see for himself whether or not it is a good translation.
So I have to agree with Jeff at Scripture Zealot. In his open letter to MacArthur, Sproul, and Piper, he said, “Please stop commenting on Bible translations!”