More unmerited mercy

"More unmerited mercy" Continued...

Issue: "Tour d'America road rage," Feb. 11, 2012

The sad part of this scene is that citizen involvement produced little response from the Austin city council. One of my neighbors said, "The environmentalist side of town doesn't care about our environment." That was the truth. Affluent environmentalists who dominated Austin politics spent more time discussing a development that threatened a species of cave spiders west of the city.

Protecting people or cave spiders? I wrote biweekly columns for the Austin daily newspaper at that time and didn't win friends by critiquing an ideology that preferred eight legs to two. "You're an idiot," one citizen responded, and others sent stronger messages.

I made no progress in that local debate, but in the Bible battle pastors and theologians like Wayne Grudem, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, and Al Mohler supported WORLD's position and pointed out CBT mistranslations. Jerry Falwell ordered 50,000 reprints of our article.

Meanwhile, IBS felt the heat from supporters who had contributed over the years to get the Bible into the hands of more people, and not to have more hands transforming its meaning. Under enormous pressure, the IBS board announced it would preserve the traditional NIV and discontinue all plans to put out a new, gender-neutral version.

IBS and Zondervan executives even agreed to a statement declaring "many of the translating decisions" made by the re-translators to be "not wise choices." But they could not regain the trust they had lost. Other groups developed or pushed ahead with plans for new translations: Southern Baptists created the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Crossway Books would soon bring out the English Standard Version.

Neither of those tried to mute biblical concepts. Both cut into the NIV's "market share." Zondervan and IBS in 2002 would come out with Today's NIV, the same ideological translation they had shelved in 1997. Last year they dumped the traditional NIV and came out with a translation that incorporated some anti-patriarchalism but dropped the worst mistranslations. But by then, few cared all that much. The NIV was no longer standard, and new translations provided good options.

It was good to defend the Bible's integrity 15 years ago, but it was dangerous to WORLD. The Evangelical Press Association (EPA) created a committee to review an ethics complaint against us. The key charge was this: "WORLD seems to be unconscious of its duty to protect the good names and reputations of Zondervan Publishing House, International Bible Society, and Committee on Bible Translation."

Would WORLD survive? We had lost book advertising, as expected. We had unexpectedly gained some readers. But now some EPA members wanted to ruin our reputation. We awaited the outcome, noting that "The members of the ethics committee have before them a historic decision: they have the power to promote independent Christian journalism or to stifle it."

Meanwhile, I was still a professor at The University of Texas at Austin. None of my colleagues wanted to teach the 500-student introductory course for journalism majors, Critical Thinking for Journalists, so I seized the opportunity.

"Critical thinking" on college campuses is often a euphemism for Marxist thinking, but here was an opportunity to examine overreaches on the right and the left. Students would see how press coverage of the pro-life and Intelligent Design movements was biased. They could become journalists with a much wider lens than many of their peers.

The course readings I chose introduced them to Noam Chomsky and others on the left but also to Thomas Sowell's new book The Vision of the Anointed, which criticized secular liberalism. Sowell wrote of reporters lying for supposed social justice, turning homeless folks from central casting into mascots, and never wasting a crisis that could be used to grow government.

The course quickly became controversial. Some students complained that they were hearing from me ideas that directly contradicted what they had learned from other UT professors. That was exactly the point.

Some of my faculty colleagues were exceptionally weird: One refused to state whether s/he was a he or a she: S/he announced that on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays s/he was "male," and on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays "female." But I didn't try to get to know this human being: Maybe on Sunday I acted as a Christian, and on Monday through Friday I was a condemner. Could it be that the temptation to mock the weirdness arose when I forgot the basic gospel message: God saves sinners, of whom I am the worst?

Many professors believed what I had believed before Christ grabbed me. One whose office was a few doors down from mine put up hard-core socialist posters and sign-up sheets. I didn't talk with her. Instead, I put up a Ronald Reagan poster showing in one column forecasts by academic experts that the Soviet Union would grow stronger, and in the other Reagan's prediction that the evil empire soon would crumble.


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