Columnists > Mailbag


Issue: "The tolerance police," Dec. 19, 1998

Clear as mud

I have a suggestion to address the inclusive language/gender neutral language controversy ("Buyer beware," Nov. 21). My company had a similar problem in a case study that was used in a training program for new employees. In an attempt not to offend anyone (e.g., women), the whole case study was revised to have "he/she" instead of the generic "he." So, our company's new trainees get to filter through language such as "Your client is A.J. Jones (using initials eliminates stereotyping clients as either male or female). He/she is somewhat chauvinistic, and his/her wife has never worked, having stayed at home to raise his/her family. In dealing with him/her, you must gauge his/her business needs, then prepare a proposal that he/she is inclined to accept." We could also easily apply this method to verses such as Luke 9:23-"If anyone would come after me, he/she must deny himself/herself." This type of language always leads to easy reading, better clarity, and adherence to original intent (NOT !). - Bill Peck, Abingdon, Md.


The audacity of Dean Merrill is astounding ("October surprise," Nov. 21). For him to imply that the instructions the board of IBS gave were directed at only licensees and not employees is similar to President Clinton's reasoning about his testimony. Unfortunately, the end result for me is that I don't believe a word IBS says, which will affect whether or not I purchase and/or recommend its products! - David Cullum, Westchester, Ill.

WORLD doesn't get it

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Two comments about your articles concerning inclusive language. First, your coverage was an atrocious example of lambasting fellow evangelicals, simply because you disagree with a certain position. Vern Poythress accuses "feminists" of "load[ing] 'he' with connotations," as a means of attack. Yet, he and your other writers are guilty of loading radical images upon evangelicals, like myself, who are in favor of inclusive human language. Second, any good translator is going to have as his goal communicating a message from one language to another. This is the task of biblical translators. Now the question is not whether or not the Bible changes. We know it does not. But the issue is how to best translate the Scripture into American English, which does change. Generic masculine language used to be understood by nearly everyone as including all people. This is not the case anymore, whether we like it or not. So, if we want a general audience to understand that texts like 2 Corinthians 5:17 refer to people other than males over the age of 18, then we cannot use generic masculine language. This is not an argument about the English language, arguing whether or not it should work this way. It is an argument about how best to communicate the Scripture in a language that does work this way. - Eddie Bromley, Milburn, Ky.

Get with it

As a former member of Wycliffe (and ongoing supporter), I was surprised to learn that the Summer Institute of Linguistics is the translation arm of Wycliffe ("Gender neutralized," Nov. 21). Actually, Wycliffe is the translation arm of SIL. That detail aside, I found myself disturbed by the one-sided presentation given to the discussion of gender-neutrality in that issue. Knowing something about the principles of dynamic translation, I can scarce believe that the issue is so cleanly delineated into right and wrong: This is a topic on which Christians of good will and sound faith can disagree. But as it stands, gender-neutrality now keeps company with outcome-based education and whole language as things that no right-thinking Christian would dare consider, and again we affirm ourselves to the world as unreflective and reactionary. - Bill Leal, Athens, Ohio

Deja vu

Maybe "October surprise" could have been titled "October deja vu." I thought it was another scene from an act I've been following in Washington: IBS chairman (a.k.a. president) Victor Oliver knew "nothing" about the reprinting. Mr. Merrill said he acted unilaterally in deciding to reprint (probably what Webster Hubbell would say if he'd talk). Every excuse offered could be rewritten, "It was an economic decision, stupid." And Mr. Merrill's statement to the effect that there was nothing in the board's instructions to staff forbidding his action sounds vaguely familiar: "You told me I had to go to bed, you didn't say I couldn't read under my covers with a flashlight!" P.S.: Can I pay for my next subscription with a couple of cats? - Randall A. Macdonald, Flora, Ill.

One change too many

When you catch a long-term employee stealing from you, especially if he's stolen big, it's only prudent to assume that this wasn't the first time. Ever since you broke the news of the gender-neutered NIV, I've ceased using my old copy. I know by hearing the NIV read in church that the IBS has made many smaller changes in it since it was first published. I just can't trust any of these, however innocent most or all of them may be. Instead, I now use the NKJV New Geneva Study Bible. - Art Thomas, Lawrence, Kan.


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