Stott bowdlerized

The Basic Christianity people are buying and reading today is a bad imitation of the original.:

Meddling with its text in an effort to make it popular again—dumbing its language down, making its pronouns gender-neutral—can only rob the book of what power it might still have. Anyone who picks up Basic Christianity today will do so because he wants something altogether different from the products available in his own age. He wants something from the past. What he gets instead sounds almost as if it were composed yesterday: chatty, choppy, bereft of much difficulty, with an improbable hint of political correctness. In a sense, then, the updated book is a metaphor for the modernizing urge so typical of contemporary religiosity. Nothing achieves irrelevance quite so consistently as the feverish attempt to stay relevant

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Bert Perry's picture

Along the same lines, I remember being perplexed that people would need to revise My utmost for His Highest.  OK, we can't understand what the guy wrote in 1914?  Seriously?  I get that the AV can be difficult to understand, but hey-- a couple of weeks in German class ought to give someone the hang of "thee" and "thou".   Do we need updated works, or do we need to tell readers to grow up and learn to read things worded a bit differently than we'd do it today?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I just realized I have the "revised" version!

On a related note, I am very disappointed in all the "revised" classics out. There is a "revised" Matthew Henry commentary in "today's language." There is a "revised" Pilgrim's Progress for children, etc. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

Really, the basic argument made by peddlers of revised classics is that a 25 year old with no credits to his name besides his master's thesis in English literature is a better judge of what is readable than hacks, like Bunyan, Chambers, Shakespeare, Austen, and the like.  

Have never seen the original text of Chambers.  Maybe on Google books or something?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

josh p's picture

Oh come now you snobs:). Revised versions are more about bringing the literature up to date so that modern readers understand it than correcting the original writer. Apparently that's not the case with the Stott book however. 

Bert Perry's picture

Josh, I confess fully to being a snob about these things, I guess, and I concede 100% that the goal of someone updating a work should be to make it readable for the modern generation.  However, the ugly reality is that too many editors approach the text with a very strong bias--very often it's an anti-religious bias--and the resulting revised edition has been more or less gelded.  Evidently the revision of Basic Christianity is in this mold with the removal of what's known as "grammatical gender" where the male pronoun is neutered.

And yes, I'm harsh on this, especially because the people who first complained about being "unable" to understand grammatical gender were in elite schools in the Ivy League.  They're not ignorant, and they're not incapable of understanding this.  Rather, they're assuming malice on the part of the original authors instead of a grammatical tool that's been in use for thousands of years.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

1.  Eerdmann does not exercise editorial control over the books it publishes.  Guys, might want to take a look at that.  Just sayin'.  

2.  Stott approved of this.  Well, yes, he was presented with the choice "approve this revision scheme or your book goes out of print."  Hmmm......sorry, my great uncle was an editor (newspaper), I know how the system works.

3.  He does not address the central issue, which is whether it is appropriate to use "inclusive language" (his words) or "gender neutral language" in a revision.

Obviously I fall on the side that says that revising classic works to make them "inclusive" or "gender neutral" invariably ends up damaging not only the original work's style, but also the message.  Plus, if you can't read grammatical gender in a book with 1958 copyright, then good luck understanding our laws, classic works of theology that haven't been revised, and the like.  

Like or hate grammatical gender, it's a concept that any educated person needs to understand.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.