WORLD magazine, one of the largest Christian publications in the United States, once canceled publication of the Bible. Or at least a translation of it.
Back in 1997, WORLD reported on an up-to-then-uncontroversial plan by Zondervan to release an updated version of its best-selling New International Version Bible. The new version would include more gender-neutral terms, which Zondervan claimed would be more accurate. WORLD asserted the change was driven by a feminist agenda.
The magazine published a series of antagonistic reports and opinion pieces that stoked controversy within evangelical circles, eventually resulting in cancellation of the revised NIV. Only years later did the altered version make its debut — but Zondervan renamed Today’s New International Version to distinguish it from the untouched NIV.
While ideologically victorious, WORLD’s role in the kerfuffle did not go unnoticed. The ethics committee of the Evangelical Press Association censured WORLD for falling “seriously short” in its journalistic ethics in publishing articles about the topic that were “distorted and sensational.” Ironically, the censure was later withdrawn due to a violation by the ethics committee of the EPA’s established processes for holding its own members to account. (In full disclosure, Word&Way is a member of the EPA, which recently named our monthly magazine “best in class” for small circulation magazines.)
The editor-in-chief of WORLD during that ordeal was Marvin Olasky, who made headlines last month after resigning his post over disagreements with his board about the editorial direction of the publication. Specifically, Olasky opposed the launch of a new opinion section to be led by Albert Mohler (yes, that guy) focused on advancing politically and culturally conservative ideas.
“I am not interested in the project of a conservative opinion magazine — there are lots out there already and that’s not my vision of WORLD,” Olasky told Ben Smith of the New York Times. Left unsaid by Olasky, but noted by many others, is the tension between many WORLD readers, evangelical leaders, and Olasky over his trenchant criticism of former President Donald Trump.
For bearing the costs of this principled stand, Olasky understandably garnered much praise. Yet, this adulation in the present mostly ignores much of Olasky’s career. In this edition of A Public Witness, we cover the strange effort to recast those previously vilified (often for good reasons) as heroes. Is this evidence of tribalism, an indicator of collective amnesia, or a sign that the present dangers are so grave that past transgressions are forgiven without any demand of repentance?