The NIVI And The Future Of Evangelicalism -- By: Ronald J. Sider

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 11:4 (Fall 1997)
Article: The NIVI And The Future Of Evangelicalism
Author: Ronald J. Sider

The NIVI And The Future Of Evangelicalism

Dr. Ronald J. Sider

Dr. Ronald J. Sider is professor of theology at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, president of Evangelicals for Social Action, and a prolific author. Another version of this letter is also being published in PRISM magazine, Jan/Feb 1998.

An Open Letter to James Dobson, Paige Patterson, Wayne Grudem, Lars Dunberg and Bruce Ryskamp... and the other signers of the Colorado Springs Guidelines

Dear Brothers in Christ:

As someone who has long been committed to a thoroughly evangelical viewpoint, I write to share my concern with: the process surrounding the decision to withdraw the inclusive-language version of the NIV (NIVI), the May 27 guidelines, and their implications for the future of evangelicalism.

I fear that both some of the tactics used in the debate and also the process by which the IBS reversed directions and the guidelines were issued threaten the unity and cohesion of the evangelical movement. Many evangelicals—probably a majority— disagree with your position. That we disagree over some important issues, however, in spite of our common evangelical commitments, is not fundamentally dangerous. But the way we deal with those differences could become disastrous.

Dr. Patterson, in your attack on the NIVI, Zondervan and Willow Creek Church, you denounce Willow Creek leaders for their “feminist ideology” and lack of tolerance toward other views (because they have decided that all leaders there must support women at all levels of church leadership). Then you add: “What will be next at Willow Creek—openness to same-sex marriages, even more openness to the killing of preborns in the wombs of their mothers? Who knows...? All these ideas are the frequent riding partners of the feminist gang” (National Liberty Journal, May 1997).

Dr. Patterson, you know that Willow Creek does not in any way endorse same-sex marriages. Would you want this kind of false innuendo used against you? Do you consider it an honest, fair way to debate important issues within the Christian community? Do we not seriously damage the evangelical movement when we use this kind of tactic against each other?

I am puzzled by your charge that Willow Creek has a “lack of tolerance.” Dr. Grudem, you even comment with reference to the Willow Creek position that “the way an egalitarian view triumphs is by a suppression of information and discussion” (World, March 29, 1997). Yet all of you put enormous pressure on the IBS and Zondervan to withdraw the NIVI so that nobody else could use it. Would it not have been far more consistent with this plea for tolerance to have urged IBS and Zondervan to continue...

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