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Friendliest book in the world

Tony Campolo sets his record straight on Bibles and endorsements

Issue: "Samuel Alito," Nov. 12, 2005

In a recent column on new Bible translations ("Worldly Word," Oct. 15), my second-to-last paragraph garbled together two different versions: The Inclusive Bible and the Good As New translation. In that paragraph, I was discussing the latter, but while Good As New is an inclusive Bible, it is not The Inclusive Bible.

The paragraph said, wrongly, that Tony Campolo had endorsed The Inclusive Bible. His son, Bart Campolo, wrote to point out that, contrary to my wording in the column, his father had never even seen a copy of The Inclusive Bible.

So, sincere apologies to Mr. Campolo.

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But here is how I should have written the paragraph:

The Good As New translation describes itself as "women, gay, and sinner friendly." Thus, when Paul says that it is better to marry than to burn, the Good As New translation says, "If you know you have strong needs, get yourself a partner. Better than being frustrated." The Good As New translation follows the higher critics in leaving out the Pastoral Epistles and Revelation, and it follows The Da Vinci Code by including instead the gnostic Gospel of Thomas. This translation is endorsed by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and evangelical leader Tony Campolo.

Now Mr. Campolo did endorse the Good As New translation, which is even more radical than The Inclusive Bible, a version that avoids gender-specific words for God, Christ, and even Adam (an "earth creature") and which replaces "husband" and "wife" with the gay-inclusive "partner." Good As New does that sort of thing, too, but adds changes to make the Bible conform to contemporary culture, so that "demon possession" becomes "mental illness," and "salvation" becomes "completeness."

The publisher, O-Books, has on its website a list of quotations about this Bible headed "Endorsements." Among them was this from Mr. Campolo: "It spoke to me with a powerful relevancy that challenged me to re-think all the things that I have been taught."

That was labeled an endorsement, and, to me, it sounded plainly to be an endorsement of the Good As New Bible.

But Mr. Campolo's son countered that this "is nothing like a wholesale endorsement. To say that a book is powerfully relevant or that is has challenged you to rethink what you have been taught about the Bible is hardly an unqualified confirmation of its content."

OK. So, disregarding his shots at WORLD's lack of "intellectual openness," we asked, could his father tell us the results of his rethinking? Did this "women, gay, and sinner friendly" version make him change his mind on any issue? Did he revert back to his original beliefs despite the challenge? What parts of the translation does he approve of, and what parts does he disagree with?

Finally, Tony Campolo sent us the following statement, which was also to be forwarded to the publisher:

"I reviewed the Good As New translation because its author, John Henson, is a dear friend. I praised it as powerfully relevant because it is so clearly designed to appeal to those most vulnerable people who Jesus loved but who His Church lately tends to reject. I praised it as intellectually provocative because it challenged me to reconsider how the Biblical canon was put together in the first place. Nevertheless, as an evangelical Christian leader, I could not and cannot endorse Good As New. While I have always encouraged the use of inclusive language wherever it is appropriate, I believe John's translation goes too far, and while I am not afraid to consider other points of view, I remain confident in the traditional canon. By virtue of the surpassing grace it reveals, our traditional Bible needs no radical revision to be the friendliest book in the world for every single one of us."

As of this date, the publisher has not removed the original Campolo statement from the website and replaced it with Mr. Campolo's new paragraph above. Still, this ought to set the record-in a manner of speaking-straight. The regular Bible is friendly enough.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith


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