Synod Carman 2013 — Prognosis (3)

10 April 2013 by Wes Bredenhof

Synod Carman begins on May 7th.  For the last few synods, acts were posted on the federation website as they became available.  There’s every reason to expect that the same will happen this time around.  As one of the website committee members, I’ll do my best to get the news out as soon as possible.

Speaking of the website committee, our report is one of those “business as usual” reports.  The only item of possible interest has to do with the digitization of the acts of all previous synods.  We were mandated to work towards “making all the acts of all the general synods available on the website in searchable format.”  We investigated it and discovered that it can be done, but to do it right will involve some expense — about $1250.  The second provisional agenda doesn’t show any letters from any churches on our report.  I suspect that the synod will adopt our recommendations on this and other points.

The other committee I serve on is the Committee for Bible Translation (report here).  This committee was first busy with the question of what to do about the new NIV.  We decided that the 2011 NIV could not be recommended to the churches because of concerns with some passages touching on the special offices of the churches.  This paragraph from the report is worth quoting in full:

Though it was noted that we could accept the rendering of 1 Tim. 3:11, the 2011 NIV translation of Rom. 16:1-2 and 1 Tim. 2:12, as well as the translation of Phil. 1:14, 2 Tim. 2:2, and James 3:1 were deemed to be problematic.  These passages are now either unnecessarily ambiguous or they are misleading in their presentation of who may participate in the special offices of the church.  The CBT is concerned that if this new translation was approved for use in the churches, in time there could result among the membership a detrimental confusion in the view of the offices.  It can be granted that the matter of gender roles in the church has been, and will continue to be, a point of discussion and even contention in our federation.  In our judgment this makes it all the more important that we use a Bible translation that clearly expresses the will of God on this matter.  The 2011 NIV is simply not accurate enough on this point, and for this reason we cannot recommend it to the churches.

Unfortunately, a recent issue of Clarion included an article arguing for a continuing place for the NIV in our churches, downplaying the concerns expressed in our report.  Meanwhile, this new NIV is being used in our churches already.  I was recently visiting a neighbouring church where there was a reading service and the presiding elder read from the 2011 NIV.  I stand by the conclusions of our committee and pray that our upcoming Synod will say farewell to this Bible translation.

The question then becomes:  what can replace the NIV?  Our committee is proposing that our churches go with the ESV.  The NASB and NKJV were also considered, but when all things are considered, the ESV is the best choice.  I have been using the ESV for about 18 months, for personal and family devotions and more.  I’ve grown to appreciate it, though it has its quirks.  Our church has made a decision to adopt the ESV, though we have delayed the implementing this decision until later this year.

So what will Synod 2013 decide on Bible translations?  There are at least three letters from the churches interacting with the report.  I imagine that some of these letters are critical of the report and will ask the Synod to retain the NIV as a recommended translation for the CanRC.  Will the Synod do that?  I wouldn’t venture to guess.  In our churches, the question of Bible translations is often like music.  As with certain musical genres, some develop a sentimental attachment to a certain Bible translation and they find it hard to let go, even when the writing is on the wall about where this translation is heading, and even when most of the conservative & confessionally Reformed church world has long ago abandoned the NIV.  As for the ESV, it is already a recommended translation for our churches.  Churches are free to use it if they wish.  Therefore, a possible outcome at our Synod could be the status quo.  While we might hope and pray for a clear direction and a united approach, what we might get is more diversity among the churches.