Gender Neutral Bibles—Bad for Women?

I was recently perusing the blogosphere when I came upon a blog from one of my favorite authors and speakers, Dr. Mary Kassian. She teaches at Southern Seminary (Louisville) and is an expert on the feminist movement and gender-related issues. She wrote a blog titled, “10 Reasons Why the New NIV is Bad for Women.” I encourage you to read the entire blog post, but let me highlight a few of her reasons here.

Mary lists several recent gender-inclusive Bibles: Today’s New International Version (TNIV), New Revised Standard (NRSV) and Common English Bible (CEB). I blogged previously about the CEB and the problem created by substituting the word “human” for “man” in Genesis 2 as well as other issues. In her list, reason number four, “It is less inclusive of women,” really resonated with me as it pertains to many of the issues we discuss at AiG.

Gender inclusive Bibles cast women as “other” rather than part of the collective whole. God collectively named male and female “man” (Hebrew: ‘adam. See Gen. 5:2) to indicate that male and female would share a common condition for which He would provide a common answer. Because both male and female are ‘adam, both are equally represented by the first man, Adam. Both are fallen and in need of a Savior. The good news of the gospel is that both are also equally represented by the Second Man—the Last Adam—Jesus Christ. When God named male and female ‘adam, he had the Last Adam in mind. So when, in order to appease modern sensibilities, we change “man” to something we think is more inclusive,” we diminish the theological meaning and exclude woman. If woman is not specifically identified as “man” then how can she be represented by the first man, Adam? What’s more, how can she be represented by the Second Man, the Last Adam, Jesus Christ? Gender inclusive Bibles are supposed to be more inclusive of women, but pardoxically, the language theologically does the exact opposite. It excludes women from the collective whole.

Once again, we see that changing the truths in Genesis to “fit” what is more scientifically and culturally acceptable in the world directly harms the gospel! This is why we fight so hard for the historicity of Adam and Eve—currently a huge debate in evangelical Christianity. If Adam is not a real, historical person who sinned, then we are not sinners, and we don’t need Jesus Christ to be a real, historical person who died on the cross to save us from our sins (1 Corinthians 15:22).

Reason number nine, “It encourages further changes to Scripture,” shows how changing the Bible to have gender-inclusive language is a slippery slope that may also change the terms we use to refer to members of the Trinity.

I know of at least one Muslim that is aghast that Christians would have the audacity to tamper with the wording of our Holy Book. And since we’re audacious enough to tamper with gender wording for humans, it won’t be long till we’re audacious enough to tamper with gender wording for God. Translators will undoubtedly feel the need to update God’s names so that HE becomes more gender inclusive. Terms like “Mother-Father God,” “Jesus, child of woman and man,” “Great Source of Being in the Sky” and our “God-Goddess” communicate the concept of a gender-inclusive deity much better than the male-gendered language of the Bible. Don’t be naive. I’ve studied feminist theology long enough to know that naming self leads to naming the world leads to naming god.  It’s audacious indeed!

As we say so many times here at AiG, this is a matter of biblical authority! If Genesis is not a real historical account of origins then how can we believe anything the Bible says after that? Where does truth in the Bible begin? This is an issue of what God said, not what I want Him to say or what He could have said or what science or culture think is acceptable to say. I have no problem with God using the term “man” in Genesis 1:26 because I’m smart enough to know from the context that this refers to both man and woman and if I wasn’t then Genesis 1:27 would clarify that for me! Pray for Christians involved in Bible translations to not bow to worldly pressures and to translate carefully and effectively the inerrant Word of God (Proverbs 30:5).

Keep fighting the good fight of the faith!