The ESV: Crossway reverses itself...

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Lane Dennis just announced his business made a "mistake" and is reversing their recent decision to leave the present text of his ESV unchanged, in perpetuity. Lane ends his statement announcing the reversal with this:

We believe deeply that the translation and publication of the Bible is a sacred trust and unspeakable privilege, and we want to do all we can to steward this calling, before God, with the reverence and care that it deserves.

The "we" is Lane speaking as Crossway's CEO.

Lane talks about his "sacred trust" and "unspeakable privilege." He says his business is zealous to "steward" this "calling" they have from God. The "God" is implied—"calling" is a slightly oblique way Christians invoke God's Name.

Lane says their Divine calling is deserving of "reverence and care." Read the statement and you'll find lots of flowery words accompanying their reversal. You'll even find the word "apology," but there's no hint of moral failure or plain ordinary sin...

Just that wonderful word "mistake" which is the kissing-cousin of "bad choice."

When Lane announced they were going to keep the present text of the ESV unchanged in perpetuity, I assured friends and family it would take a few years, but the text most certainly would change. I hadn't the slightest doubt.

I'm only surprised at how quickly Crossway reversed themselves.

One advantage I have is years of watching Evangelical publishers handling their Bible products. I remember Zondervan's International Bible Society making a similar commitment back on May 27, 1997. They announced to the world they weren't going to proceed with their plans to neuter the text of their New International Version. They promised they had "abandoned all plans for gender-related changes in future editions of the New International Version."

When I told a certain Reformed theologian I was working closely with at the time that Zondervan wouldn't keep their word, he said to me, "Tim, they wouldn't lie."

I said they most certainly would, and what in the world had happened to the depravity of man in his thinking about Zondervan?

He responded, "the problem with you, Tim, is that you spent so many years in the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA). But now you're among Evangelicals. These people are Christians! They wouldn't lie!"

It took less than five years for me to be proven right. Christians do lie. Christians break their word. On January 28, 2002, Zondervan's International Bible Society issued another press release, this one announcing a new edition of the New International Version which would implement "gender-related changes."

My friend has never admitted to me he was wrong.

Few parts of Clearnote Church's worship cause more offence to visitors from an Evangelical and Reformed background than our prayer of confession near the beginning of corporate worship. Some Reformed churches still have it, but it's pro forma. Most rid themselves of it entirely long ago.

Too, most Reformed churches have no preaching to the conscience, so of course they are embracing formalistic liturgy and sacramentalism.

Whatever happened to sin? To repentance? Whatever happened to the "law of sin and death?"

I have no objection to Lane Dennis's company reversing themselves, nor to their making a few good changes to the text of the ESV as time goes by.

What I do object to is that they ever said they wouldn't. It was ridiculous.

I also object to their changing their translation of Genesis 3:16. No one gets the fact that every writer uses ambiguity. It doesn't just "happen." Much of it is intentional, and that's speaking only of human authors.

When the Holy Spirit uses ambiguity, we ought never to remove it from the text of Scripture. What Crossway just did to Genesis 3:16 was to remove its ambiguity, and that's wrong. Sure, they think they're helping the cause of complementarianism by firming things up there. But God doesn't need us to defend His Word by cleaning it up. Spurgeon said defending the Word of God was a fool's errand; he'd rather defend a lion.

Above all, though, I object to Lane Dennis removing words from God's sacred Word because he and his company find those words embarrassing.

Put the word "μαλακοὶ" ("soft men" or "effeminate") back into 1Corinthians 6:9. Leaving it out is inexcusable and contributes to the effeminacy of Christian men that is so pervasive in the church today. 

Also, put the word "γραώδεις" ("old womanish") back into 1Timothy 4:7.

Sure, it's embarrassing for your complementarian Bible product to speak disparagingly of soft men and old women. I get that.

But do you, or do you not, believe in the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture? Are the words of Scripture inspired by God, or are they not?

Let God speak for Himself!

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!