Please Boycott

Monday, June 29, 2009

So I got my paper catalog from Christian Book Distributors today.  My wife and I have purchased many books and resources from CBD over the years, especially during seminary (who could imagine getting an entire TDNT set for $99?).  But I am thinking about kicking the CBD habit, because of their ugly bias.  Let me explain.

On the front page of today’s paper catalog was a colorful box featuring the King James Kids’ Study Bible.  First of all, the mere idea of a KJV kids’ Bible is absurd.  No offense to the KJV-only crowd out there, but the KJV belongs in a college English literature classroom and not in the hands of little kids in church.  Try explaining the meaning of 1 Samuel 25:22, 34 to a 7 year old (go ahead; click on the link and read those verses; I dare you!).  Pandering to the KJV-only sects is spineless on CBD’s part.

On the other extreme, CBD often promotes the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.  In their annual Bibles catalog, an entire page is devoted to The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV), the HarperCollins Study Bible (NRSV), the Wesley Study Bible (NRSV), and the New Interpreter’s Study Bible (NRSV)–none of which would qualify as remotely conservative or evangelical.  The Oxford is basically a secular, non-religious resource.

But in all this, where is the Today’s New International Version (TNIV) of the Bible?  You remember: the evangelical update of the all-time best-selling New International Version (NIV)? The translation that largely improved its predecessor?  The one that was boycotted by a group of reactionary windbags who spoke without reading a word of it?  Nope, the TNIV is not in the newest paper catalog.  Not in the Bibles catalog. Not in any of their paper catalogs that I’ve ever seen.

So why, pray tell, would CBD promote the very conservative KJV Kids’ Study Bible and at the same the very liberal New Oxford Annotated NRSV Study Bible but completely shun the mainstream, evangelical TNIV translation altogether?

Unless someone out there has a better explanation, I’m left to believe that it’s just ugly bias against the TNIV and capitulation to those who called for its boycott.  Maybe it’s time for a different boycott.


13 thoughts on “Please Boycott

  1. D. Leon,

    Thanks for your comments!

    Yes, I know that CBD carries TNIV Bibles passively on their Web site; that is, if you know about the TNIV and want one, they will sell you one. It’s their printed material that lacks any kind of advertisement or endorsement of TNIV. Yes, they want to sell ESV’s and even KJV’s, because they are, after all, a business. But hiding the TNIV in the back room smacks of bias, that’s all I’m saying.

    And yes, I do like the ESV very much, and I own an ESV Study Bible. The ESV is a great translation for church, academy, and personal devotion. I just think the TNIV (and the NIV, for that matter) has a definite niche for communicating God’s Word to new or potential Christians in a way that a more formal translation doesn’t.


  2. Personally, I would put the blame on Zondervan, not the retailers. If Zondervan wanted to promote the TNIV they would be doing so, and it would be front and center in the advertising of retailers such as CBD. I think they are just biding their time until the next update of the NIV tradition, which will naturally have to have a different acronym to see any sort of acceptance in the mainstream.

  3. Ray —

    I find it amazing they carry the NISB and not the TNIV. It seems to me like Zondervan wants to lose to the NLT.

    D. Leon —

    If you want a bible that is faithful (i.e. more formal) the NRSV is far far closer to the original text. Choose virtually any place they disagree (other than on pronouns) and you’ll be struck that 99% of the time the NRSV is either better or equally good. And if you want to go more formal: NASB or some of the interlinear translations: like Brown&Comfort or the Concordant.

  4. Interesting post.

    I think CBD trusts it’s consumers to exercise discernment regarding which purchases are most beneficial and edifiying to that particular believer/reader. Plenty of theological diversity exists within CBD’s selection; they don’t function as a censor for the consumer – only putting forward “safe” books, and skipping “dangerous” titles.

    Their FAQ touches on this:

    I think Nathan Stitt is on to something regarding Zondervan’s lack of support for the TNIV.


  5. Sam,

    I realize that CBD is a business above all, and I know they sell a huge variety of books. We also receive their “Religious Book Club” catalog (their alternate imprint), which gives them license to sell other non-Christian, non-evangelical books without offending their base of customers, which I discern is more evangelical Protestants.

    I’m just concerned that they are following the lead of the anti-TNIV squawkers who called for its boycott from the beginning. It’s the same with almost all CBA bookstores: not a TNIV in sight.

    Maybe a better title for my post should be, “Demand the TNIV at CBD and your local Christian bookstore!” Or maybe even “Demand that Zondervan get off its duff!”


    P.S. The thing about the KJV kids’ Bible is just a personal preference used to point out irony of them not promoting a more mainstream (IMO) title.

  6. I’m partly with Nathan. They’re been promising tweaking of the TNIV for a couple of years now and nothing has happened.

    But if CBD is cowering because of the anti-TNIV folks, shame on CBD.

  7. I think there has to be a little bit of cowering going on, just because what retailer would want to tick off the vocal spokespeople who most dominantly influence their fan/customer base?

    But I think you already uncovered the most logical rationale for the lack of visibility given to the TNIV in your post,, where you conjecture “Maybe it’s that there isn’t any market for the TNIV”.

    If the customer base is at all influenced by the vocal spokespeople you mention, and respond by closing their eyes and wallets to the TNIV, then what reason would CBD have for giving their precious adspace to a poorly performing product (or product line)? That’s probably why you can find it pretty easily online, but not in the catalogs. I imagine catalog adspace has to be very well planned and would probably be wasted on TNIV advertisements.

    Makes me laugh about the KJV, though. I’m with you on the kids-KJV disconnect.


  8. Also, in my opinion the TNIV doesn’t really answer a felt need amongst most evangelicals (aka CBD’s customer base). People who are really fans of the NIV weren’t really clamoring for a new and improved edition, at least not in circles that I traveled, so I don’t think it landed like Zondervan expected.

    All that to say the swing-and-a-miss that was/is the TNIV, might not have been all due to the “big talkers” of the EV-right. But more akin to the New Coke scenario where it didn’t really meet the needs/interests of it’s fan base. The original recipie was refreshing enough.

    Just another angle.


  9. You’re right, kirstara: This post is 3.5 years old, and since then the subject has become passé. In 2011, the CBT produced one new NIV (that is not the same as the TNIV, by the way) and discontinued the dual-track 1984NIV and 2005TNIV. A bold decision! And CBD has pretty well fallen in line, selling the NIV, except that they seem to always have splashy ESV layouts in their paper catalogs.

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