|Terry Watkins||Dial-the-Truth Ministries|
Frequently we receive emails or phone calls asking our opinion on the various "teen" Study Bibles. Recently we acquired the Zondervan New International Version [NIV]Teen Study Bible. The NIV Teen Study Bible is the number one selling teen Study Bible, boasting of over one million copies sold.
While the NIV Teen Study Bible scripturally explains many subjects and provides teens with some helpful insights for their teenage world, the Teen Study Bible also contains some very disturbing information. It is especially disturbing in light of the impressionable and often confused teenage mind.
It is also alarming that a major publisher would include some of the shameful information found in the Teen Study Bible. It is even more disturbing that the staff at Zondervan actually reviewed it, edited it, approved it and published it.
The Zondervan Teen Study Bible is in the typical "in your face, extreme, radical, graphic, colorful, hip, cool" style that supposedly appeals to the average teenager. Throughout the Teen Study Bible are various notes addressing topics specifically relating to teenagers, such as dating, sex, self-image, school, drugs, et al. Most topics are explained in a fairly, conservative, evangelical, though "watered-down" manner.
Scattered throughout the Teen Study Bible are 20 full-color pages that Zondervan describes as "a Christian perspective on contemporary issues" and giving "biblical answers to the toughest questions asked by today’s teens". These pages easily stand out from all other pages. They are much thicker and much more graphic and colorful. As I first thumbed through the Teen Bible, my eyes instinctively stopped at these pages. Each page gives a stylish-colorful-wow-teen graphic presentation discussing a specific topic. The topics discussed are sex; money; death; stress; guilt; school; addiction; entertainment; prayer; witnessing; self-image; church; dating; friends; parents; and siblings.
It is some of the information on these pages that is alarming. These pages give the standard dictionary definition for the topic, and then Zondervan provides an "alternative definition" for the topic. The "alternative definition" is obviously aimed directly at the Christian teenager.
For instance, on the color presentation page for "money" the Teen Bible gives the standard dictionary meaning: "mon-ey (mun*ee) n. –the official currency, as coins and paper notes issued by a government". And the teen "alternative definition" given is a harmless "what you never have enough of when you go to the mall". Ok. No problem. Most of the "alternative definitions" are trivial – but some of them are hard to believe. . .Take the topic of "sex". The Teen Study Bible gives a standard dictionary definition, but the "alternative definition" is disgusting. Remember this is aimed directly at impressionable Christian teenagers. The "alternate definition" (1993 edition) for "sex" is "another fun thing mean adults tell teenagers to keep away from."
Are you listening?
Sex is "Another FUN THING MEAN adults tell teenagers to keep away from"! Does anyone seriously believe that such an "alternative definition" would DISCOURAGE hormone-crazy, Christian teenagers to abstain from sex? Is that not like throwing fuel on the fire? Can you imagine a parent telling their daughter, "Yes. Honey, we don’t want you to have sex because it’s so much fun".
Compare the Teen Study Bible’s "alternative definition" with God’s "alternative definition" of "sex":
2 Timothy 2:22
Suffice to say, the Lord’s "alternative definition" is slightly different from Zondervan’s "another fun thing".
By the way, God makes a crystal clear distinction, even using a different word, between God-ordained "sex" within the marriage union versus immoral "fornication" and "adultery" outside marriage. Completely contrary to Zondervan’s alternative definition of a "FUN THING" the Lord defines "fornication" as "sin", (1 Cor. 7:8), "defile" (Matt. 15:20), "evil" (Mark 7:23), "worthy of death" (Romans 1:29-32), "unrighteousness" (Romans 1:29), "wicked person" (1 Cor. 5:13), "which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on" (Colossians 3:6) and "abominations and filthiness" (Rev. 17:4).
God warns several times "BE NOT DECEIVED" NO "fornicator" will inherit the kingdom of God!.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
And if that was not enough warning God condemns whoremongers (fornicators) to an eternal burning, tormenting lake of fire!
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Still think "sex" is "another fun thing mean adults tell teenagers to keep away from"?
Note: The 1998 edition of Zondervan’s Teen Study Bible changed the "alternative definition" for "sex". It took five years – but hallelujah, somebody at Zondervan finally woke up (or maybe somebody actually read a King James Bible. . . it could happen. . .) Of course, the "alternative definition" in the 1998 lacks much to be desired when compared to God’s serious warning of fornication. The 1998 "alternative definition" for sex reads "a three-letter word with some really l-o-n-g consequences".
Another troubling "alternative definition" is given for "prayer". The great preacher John Wesley said, "God does nothing but in answer to prayer". The German reformer Martin Luther said of prayer, "None can believe how powerful prayer is, and what it is able to effect. . .." Evangelist Dwight L. Moody wrote, "Every great movement of God can be traced to a kneeling figure." The King James Bible mentions prayer over 540 times!
The Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6 strongly encourages prayer:
1 Thessalonians 5:17 commands us to "Pray without ceasing."
Ready for Zondervan’s Teen Study Bible’s "alternative definition" for prayer? You might want to get your pen ready – you’ll surely want to record this "nugget". Here it is: "prayer talking to the ceiling and wondering if anybody’s listening." Now be honest – doesn’t that make you run to the prayer closet?
Isn’t that pitiful? Could that possibly encourage a teenager to pray? Where is any application of "faith" and "believing" in "talking to the ceiling"?
Again compare Zondervan’s "alternative definition" to the Word of God.
The VERY FIRST requirement to please God is to "believe that he is"! Not simply "talking to the ceiling" and "WONDERING if anybody’s listening"!
Jesus Christ defines "believing" as the foundation of prayer.
There is no "wondering if anybody’s listening" – God sees and hears it all!
Many more scriptures could be given emphasizing the importance of faith in prayer.
The Teen Study Bible "alternative definition" for "church" is "what you have to get dressed up for so you can be bored for an hour at a morning service". Now, that is really helpful to get teenagers interested in church. Beware pastors: after that encouraging definition, teenagers everywhere will be breaking down the church doors just to get in. I can testify from first-hand experience, as the father of three teenagers, "bored" is the teenagers "worse nightmare". Defining "church" as "boring" is the same as screaming to the average teenager "STAY AWAY!"
Again, the Lord’s definition is different than Zondervan’s: The Lord says the "church of the living God" is the "house of God" and get this – "the pillar and ground of truth".
1 Timothy 3:15
And Hebrews 10 reminds Christians against "missing church" – "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. . ."
Perhaps the most disturbing "alternative definition" in the Teen Study Bible is given for "witnessing". Witnessing is one of the most important (and neglected) duties a Christian can do. Not only a duty, but an honor to tell someone about the wonderful Lord Jesus. What greater joy is there than seeing a lost soul come to the Lord Jesus! The Bible says "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth" (Luke 15:10) Wow! It doesn’t get any better than that! That is the ultimate. No wonder the "soul winners crown" is also called the "crown of rejoicing". What greater rejoicing is there than a soul being "born again" into the Kingdom of God?
1 Thessalonians 2;19
The Teen Study Bible’s "alternative definition" for witnessing is a shame and mockery of the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their "alternative definition" for "witnessing" –"a way to get friends to laugh at you by telling them about God". Oh my soul. . . "A way to get friends to laugh at you. . ." Does the Teen Study Bible and Zondervan seriously believe witnessing for the Lord Jesus is a "joke" or a "comedy act"? God help us. . .
It certainly was no joke to the Lord Jesus Christ. In Matthew 5, Jesus Christ said to cut your hand off, or pluck your eye out - if that would keep you out of hell. The people that heard the Lord Jesus Christ "witnessing" were not laughing. No sir. . . Witnessing to the Lord Jesus Christ is "no laughing" matter.
John the Baptist was a "man sent from God" (John 1:6). Jesus Christ said John the Baptist was the greatest man "born of women" (Matthew 11:11). Do you know why this "greatest man born of women" was "sent from God"? FOR A WITNESS!
Yes. Some will laugh. Sure. Some will ridicule. But thank God there are some who will get saved! Thank God for the friend that witnessed to me. At first I ridiculed him. I thought he was nuts. But I KNEW he was right! And thank God on July 30, 1975 I received the Lord Jesus Christ and I can truly say with Fanny Crosby – Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine!
Another interesting comment on the "witnessing" page in The Teen Study Bible says, "Witnessing isn’t: grabbing a friend’s shirt and yelling, "You’re going to hell!" You may not want to grab their shirt (although there are some you might have to) but if you are a true friend – you need to tell them "you are going to hell without Jesus Christ". Jesus Christ warned of hell – over and over. If there is no hell. . . If it’s not a million times worse than anything we could imagine – Jesus Christ was the most deceived man that ever lived. Today’s thin-skinned, "hip-hop","cool", non-judgmental Christians shudder at the thought of telling someone about hell. In fact, Zondervan’s masterpiece, the NIV, removes the word "hell" 40 times!
Warn your loved ones! Warn your friends! Warn your neighbors! Tell them, over and over, that without the shed blood of Jesus Christ covering their sins they are going to hell – for ALL ETERNITY!
Note: The 1998 edition of the Teen Study Bible changed the "alternative definition" for witnessing to "telling your friends about God and sometimes having them laugh at you."
THE FALLACY OF THE TEEN STUDY BIBLE
The intent of the NIV Teen Study Bible is take the Word of God and make it "hip, cool, extreme, radical, etc." with the definitions, lingo and fashion of the world. This is the root problem with most youth activities, teen Bibles, and music of today. They take Christianity dress it in the "fashion of the world" to appeal to teens. But the Bible is clear. A Bible-Believing Christian will NEVER be "cool or accepted" in the eyes of the world. A Christian serving Jesus Christ, whether young or old, will always be against the world.
In fact, the world hates the Lord Jesus Christ – and anything that represents Him!
If a Christian teenager (or adult) truly serves the Lord Jesus Christ, they will be "separated" (2 Cor 6;17), "peculiar" (1 Peter 2:9), "hated" (Mark 13:9), "suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3;12), "pestilent" (Acts 24:5), "foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:18) and as history has shown, many times "killed" (Matt 24:9).
There is simply no way to camouflage Jesus Christ and the Word of God in the carnal, fleshly, clothing of the world. This "fleshly, hip-hop, copy-the-world, alternative, radical, extreme" concept portrayed by the Teen Study Bible, music, and much of today’s Teen’s programs is contrary to the plain teaching of the word of God.
1 John 2:16
People ask, "If we don’t use these ‘hip, cool’ tactics how will we ever reach our young people? If we don’t speak to them in ‘their language’ with tools such as rock music, alternative definitions, dramas, et al. how will we ever reach them?"
I’m reminded of the answer from the late-great, evangelist Lester Roloff:
A lady came up to Brother Roloff and asked, "Brother Roloff, do you have any programs in your church for young people?" Brother Roloff answered, "Oh, yes ma’m. We have a wonderful program for our young people". And she asked "What is it?". And Brother Roloff replied, "Preaching".
Young people will never truly KNOW God with the "wisdom of the world". The wisdom of the world will NEVER save them. Salvation comes through the "foolishness of preaching".
1 Corinthians 1:21
The Barna Research Group published a study titled Third Millennium Teens: Research on the Minds, Hearts and Souls of America’s Teenagers. The research consisted of extensive nation-wide surveys of teenagers. Using statistical analysis the margin of error is less than 5%. Every pastor and youth pastor needs to prayerfully read and digest this book. It clearly documents the complete failure of our youth ministries. And I can personally testify the failure rate is universal. As far as the approach, there is not much difference in the youth ministries of the King James Bible Believing churches than the Charismatic Ecumenical churches. Most dumb-down, add beat-oriented music (the Charismatics use rock, the Bible Believers-Baptist use Country and Bluegrass) and generally teenage-ize" the things of God. Many times, the youth program so waters down the things of God – the Holy Spirit is nowhere to be found.
I do not find anything in the Bible that even hints at different methods, lingos, dumbing-down, messages, alternative definitions, etc. of reaching different age groups or different classes of people with the Word of God. The method I do read is And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL men unto me. [John 12:32]
After studying their extensive analysis of Christian teenagers, Barna Research writes of the consequence of these "water downed" youth programs:
"The consequence is a watering down of Christian theology to such a low standard that it often conflicts with, rather than conforms to, Scripture."
We no longer train Christian soldiers – we entertain and amuse the "kiddies". And we are reaping the fruit.
Here’s some of the troublesome observations, Barna Research discovered during their exhaustive survey of today’s teens:
"Similarly, while teenagers are enthusiastic about spirituality, relatively few have an abiding faith in God based on a true relationship with Him – and few have either the direction or inclination to pursue such a relationship, in spite of its conceptual appeal"
Absolute truth (found in the Bible) is so far away from most Christian teenagers, they do not even know where to look. Incredibly, less than 8% would even look in the Bible for the truth!
Barna Research summarizes this lack of truth among teenagers as due to the "the distorted and contradictory teaching and modeling they receive from adults". Exactly what is found in the pages of the Zondervan Teen Study Bible and most of our silly, amusement-minded youth activities.
"Without a doubt, teen America’s confusion regarding truth is a reflection of the distorted and contradictory teaching and modeling they receive from adults." (Ibid, p.44)
But what are our young people looking for?
The Contemporary Christian Music crowd and the Christian Country-Bluegrass bunch claim it’s the music. Just pipe in that "beat oriented" music. . . Get them young people clapping their hands and tapping their toes – and that’ll do it. . . That will get them involved in church. That will get them serving God.
Surprisingly,. Barna Research discovered just the opposite:
"Among the surprises emerging from the research is that teenagers do not come to church because it has hot music. They can get a performance fix from many places, and the church that that provides the sound with the substance is too uni-dimensional for teens. . . .Similarly, if the church provides the trappings of substance (hot music, casual and friendly ambiance, fun activities) but not the substance, they are not likely to return." (Ibid, p.68)
In fact, when teenagers were asked "what they looked for in a church" they listed 18 reasons to come to church. And down at the bottom, number 14 on the list was "the type of music". Preachers, number two on the list – the quality of the sermons.
What are our young people REALLY searching for?
"When pressed to identify the single, most important reason why they attend a youth group, the picture changes significantly. It turns out that relationships bring the kids to the place, but they will not return unless the church delivers the goods. What are they looking for? Substance. Learning practical and credible insights about God was listed twice as often as anything else as the most important reason for returning" (Ibid, p.59)
Wow! Have we ever "missed the boat"!
While we try to "trick" teenagers into serving God with the trinkets and ticklers of the world – they are begging for a "morsel of meat" from God’s Word! No wonder our young people can not wait to get away from the "church". No wonder they do not want to "run the race that is set before them" (Heb 12:1) While we are feeding them a "junk food" diet of fun and frolic – they are spiritually starving to death!
To show how we have completely failed our teens, read Barna’s shocking analysis:
"Myth: today's youth group attenders are tomorrow's church leaders.
Unbelievable. . . According to Barna’s shocking analysis – the more active a young person is in church – the LESS likely they will attend church as an adult! And I have seen this far too many times. When that Christian, church-bred, young person gets out of high school, away from mom and dad – any trace of God and the church disappear from their lives. They react as a man released from prison. They can not wait to get out.
Why? Where have we failed? Where did we go wrong?
Here’s Barna’s simple answer:
"The reason is so simple that we often overlook it: we are not delivering the goods. (Ibid, p.67)
And Barna concludes:
"If we continue to minister the ways in which we are doing so today, we are strategically facilitating the demise of the Church we exist to build." (Ibid, p.67)
And that brings us to the next question. . .
WHICH IS THE BEST TEEN BIBLE?
There is one Bible that leads all others in ease of understanding; reverence; pleasure to read and study; accuracy; availability; appreciation and a majestic amazement.
Only ONE Bible can match that description – the King James Bible.
People have been conned with the lie that the new versions are much easier to understand:
But the facts tell a different story. . .
Gail Riplinger has a chapter in her best-selling New Age Bible Versions titled "King James for Kids". Mrs. Riplinger provides 23 pages of irrefutable evidence proving the King James Bible is far easier to understand and read. She lists over 350 examples in the New Testament where the King James Bible is much easier and simpler to understand.
In comparing the first chapter of the first and last books of the Old and New Testaments, the Flesch-Kincaid research company’s Grade Level Indicator shows "The KJV ranks easier in 23 out of 26 comparisons" (Riplinger, New Age Bible Versions, 1994, p. 195) betrays the strictly
Mrs. Riplinger writes:
"Why is the KJV easier to read? The KJV uses one or two syllable words while new versions substitute complex multi-syllable words and phrases." (Ibid, p. 196) She lists over 270 examples in the New Testament. Mrs. Riplinger also attributes the King James’s ease of understanding to "Simple sentence structure. . .." (Ibid, p. 204) She again lists many examples.
In her book, The Language of the King James Bible, Mrs Riplinger continues her research in the readability of the King James Bible. Mrs. Riplinger documents under the subtitle "Statistical Verification of Readability":
The Bible for Today published an interesting and revealing book titled, The Comparative Readability of the Authorized Version by D.A. Waite, Jr. Using computer readability software (Grammatik 4.0, Grammatik 5.0, Word for Windows) Mr. Waite, spent hundreds of hours, lasting over three years, analyzing every word in the King James Bible, the American Standard Version (ASV), the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the New American Standard Version (NASV), the New International Version (NIV), the New King James Version (NKJV) and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
Mr. Waite did not twist, nor slant any of the results but simply let the results speak for them selves. In fact, Mr. Waite confessed before beginning the research, he was fully expecting the newer versions to out score the "old" King James Bible. Mr. Waite writes, "Quite frankly, I was surprised at the results." (D.A. Waite Jr, The Comparative Readability of the Authorized Version, p. 4) The Comparative Readability of the Authorized Version is an exhaustive and serious study. It contains very detailed tables, charts, documentation, analysis of every conceivable readability tests known. The King James Bible outscored the new versions in virtually every test.
Some of Mr. Waite’s analysis:
"According to the F-K [Flesch-Kincaid] formula 74.3% of the books [in the KJV] are on or below the sixth grade level, and 94% are on or below the seventh grade level! . . . And the FRE [Flesch Reading Ease] rated 97% of the KJV books as Fairly Easy or Easy! These were all first place statistics!" (Ibid, p. 80)
Mr. Waite summarizes his extensive analysis:
"If any of these seven versions is authorized to boast about its success in these rigorous readability contests, it is the Authorized Version. [KJV]. If any has the right to flaunt the crown of victory, it is the KING James Bible." (Ibid, p. 80)
It’s also worth noting, the New International Version (NIV), continually scored the worst, in some cases, much worse. So much for the nonsense about the King James "harder to read".
Dr. Rudolf Flesch is the leading authority, researcher and author on readability studies. Dr. Flesch is the originator of the famous Flesch-Kincaid readability standards. His book Why Johnny Can’t Read is a eye-opening, best-seller. In Dr. Flesch’s book, The Art of Plain Talk, he makes the following noteworthy statement about the King James Bible:
"The best example of very easy prose (about 20 affixes per 100 words) is the King James Version of the Bible: . . ."
Several times in his book, Dr. Flesch praises the King James Bible for it’s ease of reading. And may I remind you, this is from the leading authority on the subject.
Echoing the opinion of Dr. Flesch in The Art of PLAIN Talk, the Apostle Paul writes the scriptures use "GREAT plainness of speech".
Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:
As a fitting comparison, notice the NKJV and the NIV (as do the other new versions) lack the "plainness of speech".
The national bestseller, The Story of English, writes of the simplicity of the King James Bible:
"The King James Bible was published in the year Shakespeare began work on his last play, The Tempest. Both the play and the Bible are masterpieces of English, but there is one crucial difference between them. Whereas Shakespeare ransacked the lexicon, the King James Bible employs a bare 8000 words—God’s teaching in homely English for everyman."
The Norton Anthology of Literature, selected the King James Bible as one of the finest examples of writing style in existence. (cited in New Age Bible Versions, p. 212)
The Story of English crowns the King James Bible as, "probably the single most influential book ever published in the English language." (Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil, The Story of English, p. 109)
One of the amazing personalities of the King James Bible is it’s poetic beauty. Nothing ever penned in the English language can match it’s sound and rhythm. For a work of it’s volume and serious subject matter – the poetic splendor defies human logic. The very sound of reading of the King James Bible bears the resemble of a music concerto. It’s timbre grabs you, as it’s melody sings God’s word. What an amazing book!
It’s worth noting the emphasis the King James translators placed, not only on the readable text of the King James Bible, but also it’s sound. Before the King James Bible was published and after the initial translation work was completed, a re-working took place, The Story of English describes this unique process, "they were to go through the text, re-working it so that it would not only read better but sound better, a quality for which it became famous throughout the English-speaking world." (Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil, The Story of English, p. 112)
The words of Romans 10:17-18 comes ringing through:
Romans 10:17-18, KJV
Notice how the NIV completely loses this melody in the "sound" of the "words". It’s now simply a message and a voice.
NIV, Romans 10:17
There is a wonder and amazement at the majestic words of the King James Bible. They literally capture you with their beauty and awe: Former President Ronald Reagan, during one of his famous radio addresses, spoke on the God News for Modern Man Bible in comparison to the King James Bible. Mr. Reagan describes the difference:
"The sponsors of the ‘Good News’ version boast that their bible is as readable as the daily paper—and so it is. But do readers of the daily news find themselves moved to wonder, ‘at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth’"?
If the new versions are so much "easier to understand and read" why is it that according to surveys by Barna Research of people who read their Bible on a daily basis, "The King James Version is more likely to be the Bible read during the week than is the NIV by a 5:1 ratio."(Barna Research, The Bible survey, http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/PageCategory.asp?CategoryID=7)
Why do people, including teenagers, ACTUALLY read the King James Bible FAR more than any other Bible?
Simple. . .
Borrowing the words of Barna Research. . . "it delivers the goods".
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
Questions, Comments, Suggestions? Please tell us. . .
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