Friday, March 14, 2008

Blessed Diversity or Money Changers in the Temple?

On leap day (yeah, I know it’s been a few weeks) my wife and I were blessed to have someone watch our children for us while we went on a date. Our date was nothing extravagant, but if you have (or have had) multiple little children, any excursion without children is extravagant. We went to Subway for dinner and enjoyed some uninterrupted conversation, we then went to Barnes and Noble to look for some books, and then we ended our evening relaxing for a bit at Caribou Coffee.

Our date was wonderful with but one exception. The reason I wanted to go to a book store was to look for a pulpit Bible to use when I’m preaching. The nearest Christian book store was too far away for us to get to, and so the nearest Barnes and Noble had to do. I should have been prepared for something frustrating, but I truly wasn’t. After overhearing a nice, sweet, grandmotherly lady ask a sales associate where to find a book about “The Secret,” we made our way to the religious section.

When I then made it to the few cases of Bibles (four side by side cases), I began to get increasingly disgusted. If I had been able to find what I was looking for, I would have found an NASB about the same size as my current one (perhaps a bit bigger) but with no cross-references or footnotes of any kind. I was not overly optimistic about being able to find one, but I thought that I’d give it a shot. It wasn’t the fact that I didn't find what I was looking that disgusted me; it was what I did find that disgusted me.

Now, remember, that Barnes and Noble isn’t the main place to go peruse all of the various editions and choices for Bibles. They did have a decent selection of sizes, fonts, and other packaging-type variations for some good translations (KJV and NKJV mostly), but they had a ton of other things that just started to turn my stomach. I noticed and counted 40 different versions and editions of the Bible. Here’s a list of the variations that I noticed:

Divine health NT (magazine Bible)
Becoming 2 (NT magazine)
Becoming 2008
Sanctuary – a devotional bible for women
Catholic Women’s devotional bible
Women’s Devotional Bible NIV
New Women’s Devotional Bible
Family Life Marriage Bible
Today’s Devotional Bible
Mom’s Devotional Bible
Recovery Devotional Bible
Couple’s Devotional Bible
The Devotional by Max Lucado
Women of Faith Study Bible
Maxwell Leadership Bible
The Everyday Life Bible:
The Power of God's Word for Everyday Living
John MacArthur Study Bible
Billy Graham Training Center Bible
Sportsman’s bible
Military Bible
Life Principles Bible
Literary Study Bible
Illustrated Study Bible
Harper Collins Study Bible
Essential Study Bible
NIV The Learning Bible
TNIV /The Message Parallel
Archeological Study Bible
New Extreme Teen Bible
NIV Student Bible
College Devotional Bible
Youth Walk (NIV)
Teen Study (NIV)
Student’s Life Application Bible
Catholic Teen Bible
Aspire – the New Women of Color Study Bible
Ultimate Teen Study Bible
Discover God Study Bible
Dead Sea Scrolls Bible
Daily Study Bible for Women

I think that I am just sick of the way that the Bible seems to be dealt with so casually that so many different people are trying to “corner the market” on certain demographics to make a profit on their cleverly marketed Bible. That being said, I am not taking a complete shot at the idea or presence of study Bibles as a whole or even at most of these individually. I happen to think that study notes are helpful (as commentaries are helpful), and if you can find a Bible that has study notes by a trusted group of theologians or an individual pastor or theologian (i.e. MacArthur, Scofield, Geneva, etc.), the notes can be very useful.

One of the chief things that got to me was the intense amount of variations done by the same group. Now, I like to read the NIV. I don’t preach from it or use it as my primary source for study, but I do enjoy the reading of it to help me get a grasp on some things. That being said, just of the ones that I noticed at Barnes and Noble, eleven of them were variations of an NIV Study Bible.1 Now, my concern is not with any one specific edition or study Bible, but I have to wonder what deep and meaningful differences could there be between the “Women’s Devotional Bible”, “New Women’s Devotional Bible”, and “Mom’s Devotional Bible” (perhaps you could even through in the “Women of Faith Study Bible” too). Yes, there are probably some differences, but how much different could they be? They’re all directed toward the same group of people and they’re all in the same translation. So what is the deal? Furthermore,

Almost more disturbing than the variations on study Bibles for women that the makers of the NIV put out is the fact that there are so many for various life situations. I envision a mom wanting to encourage her family in spiritual matters picking up her “Mom’s Devotional Bible” during her own private quiet time (the old “Women’s Devotional Bible” and even the previous upgraded “New Women’s Devotional Bible” are now relegated to the back of a bookshelf), but then when she wants to do a devotional with her husband, they both pull out their “Couple’s Devotional Bible”. Later that same day when it is time to do the family devotions, they all pull out their own “Daily Walk” family devotional Bibles.

I can’t, nor would I want to, judge any one person’s motivation for compiling a study Bible or devotional Bible. I have tried very hard to attempt to think that whenever any one of these study and devotional Bibles were put out, it was with the utmost respect for Scripture and a desire to correctly and effectively articulate and explain what God meant by what He said in His Word. So not judging the motivation of the producers, I do want to sit back and ask a question of the situation: just how much of the motivation to make different Study Bibles for teens, tweens, teen guys, and teen girls was based on the almighty dollar instead of the Almighty?

I have concerns with study Bibles in general (I’ll deal with that at a different time), but is it possible that the truth of the Bible itself is getting lost in the shuffle of all of the accessorizing, marketing, and general commercial exploitation of the Scriptures? I praise God that someone may be brought to salvation by reading through a “Divine Health” New Testament. Like Paul, I want rejoice that Christ is preached – whether it is done in pretense or in truth. But, how much of the muddled state of Christendom today is focused more on the packaging, the benefits, and the various life applications of the Bible instead of the God of the Bible Himself.

In my home, we have two children’s picture Bibles, a story-book Bible, two or three Study Bibles, and probably a dozen or so other versions of the Bible. I love the fact that both of my boys have a Bible that they can carry to Church (initiating habit forming behavior), that they can look at and “read” without my concern that the pages are going to rip too easily, and I love that they can associate with different stories. My oldest son usually turns to the page in his Bible that pictures the back of Jesus’ thorny crowned head to hear about Jesus when we sit down to read from his Bible. I have benefited in reading from the various translations that I have and studying what various theologians and commentators have written in order to expound and articulate what God meant by what He said.

So, again, I am not taking a shot at all different types of ways to communicate the truths of the Bible to different ages of people. I am just unsettled that as a prosperous society, we have produced a huge store of Bibles that, by the way that they are marketed, become outdated and somewhat useless for a new circumstance in life. There is a large difference in the understanding of a three, four, or five-year-old child and that of a man or woman at the prime of his or her mental acuity, discernment, and Spiritual growth. I understand that. And there seems very well to be a place for Biblical materials printed that are written at their level of understanding. But if that gets to a point where a child “needs” a devotional or study Bible for a pre-teen, then a tween, then a teenager (different for girls and boys), then (maybe finally) a college student, I am concerned that the focus tends to be more on the packaging and the commentary rather than on the substance. Is this multiplicity of editions of the Bible an example of a God honoring and blessed diversity, or is it a modern day example of money changers in the temple?

This very well could be a worthless rant of mine. I don’t think so (obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t have written it), but I am willing to be persuaded that my concerns are overblown. May the God of the Word move my heart (and your heart) to become evermore in need of the substance of His Word so that we can know and understand more about the God whom we serve.

1 Women’s Devotional Bible, New Women’s Devotional Bible, Family Life Marriage Bible, Today’s Devotional Bible, Mom’s Devotional Bible, Recovery Devotional Bible, Couple’s Devotional Bible, Women of Faith Study Bible, NIV The Learning Bible, Youth Walk, Teen Study

1 comment:

steph said...

as always, I enjoy and appreciate your heart and devotion to our God and His Word. I am so glad to have married you.

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