Southern Baptist Convention Rejects Gender-Neutral NIV Bible But Embraces The Message, Renovare Bible, and Contemplative Books

This summer, the Southern Baptist Convention approved a resolution rejecting Zondervan’s new gender-neutral NIV Bible. A Christian Post article states:

“Southern Baptists repeatedly have affirmed our commitment to the full inspiration and authority of Scripture,” the resolution states. “This translation alters the meaning of hundreds of verses, most significantly by erasing gender-specific details which appear in the original language.”

Expressing “profound disappointment” with Biblica and Zondervan Publishing House, who printed 1.9 million copies of the updated Bible in the first run, the SBC “respectfully [requested]” that Lifeway Bookstores not sell the new version in their stores and encouraged pastors to let their congregations know of the translation errors.

While the SBC’s willingness to stand up against this new translation Bible translation is worth noting, we are puzzled that they find nothing wrong with Eugene Peterson’s translation The Message paraphrase and Richard Foster’s Renovare Spiritual Formation Study Bible. On their LifeWay Resources website, they sell The Message and the Renovare “Bible.” They also carry the New Men’s Devotional Bible (NIV), which includes “contributions” by New Age sympathizer Rob Bell.  They also carry books by contemplative authors such as Gary Thomas, including his book Sacred Pathways where he tells readers to repeat a word for twenty minutes and Sacred Marriage where he references several times a tantric sex advocate.1  They carry books by contemplative proponent Pete Scazzero including Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, a resource for those wanting to practice contemplative prayer. To get a good glimpse at Scazzero’s propensities, check out his favorite books section on his website – it’s a plethora of mystics, emergents, and New Agers sympathizers. And there are countless other examples of contemplative authors that LifeWay is selling. A search on the store website will bring these up.

The message that Southern Baptist Convention is sending out to its members by approving a resolution against the gender-neutral Bible yet continuing to embrace contemplative/emerging authors is that the issue of men’s and women’s roles is important but protecting the church from mysticism, emerging spirituality, and the New Age is not. A number of years ago, LifeWay removed books by authors such as Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, and Thomas Keating (all Catholics).2 But they have erred greatly if they do not realize that Nouwen, Merton, and Keating’s spirituality is still entering the Protestant church at breakneck speed through evangelical avenues – it’s the same spirituality as Nouwen, Merton, and Keating, just an “evangelical” outer layer disguising its true nature.

While we can understand the concern that SBC has over the gender-neutral Bible, we cannot understand their lack of concern over contemplative/emerging spirituality and its harmful impact on the Christian church.

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