The Distaff

Should We Let Our Children Use the New International Version?

Deborah L. Rowen

The New International Version (NIV) is very easy to read and comprehend. Perhaps this is the reason it is given to so many children for their Bible study. Should we allow our children to use the NIV? Is it a reliable translation of God's word? Since we know that all scripture is given by the inspiration of God and is our source of authority for everything we do in the name of Christ, these are serious questions. This article will examine the accuracy of the NIV with a view toward any Calvinistic influence by the translators.

John Calvin

A study of the New International Version should start with Calvinism. John Calvin was a Frenchman of the 1500's. He was instrumental in the shaping of Protestant theology and a key figure in the Reformation movement. Most of the current members of Protestant denominations take for granted the Calvinistic doctrines of total depravity and predestination. To the Calvinist, total depravity means "on their own human beings can never achieve a true religious life based on the knowledge of God" (1); they must have grace (given by the Holy Spirit) to learn the truth about human depravity. All man's actions are tainted with evil which he inherited from the original sin of Adam and Eve. (2) This explains the practice of infant baptism since, to the Calvinist, all babies are born as sinners.

Calvinists also believe in unconditional predestination and election. This means that God chooses who will be saved and who will be condemned, unconditionally. The saved are directly touched by the Holy Spirit, which they call "irresistible grace", and of course anyone who has been chosen by God can never fall from grace. The person who receives this faith is saved without any further acts of obedience. Calvinists call this "faith only". Would you be surprised if I told you the New International Version of the bible is translated so that the Calvinistic proof passages support their doctrine? Let's examine some passages from the NIV.

The Sinful Nature of Romans

In John Calvin's commentary on Romans, he developed his doctrine of total depravity. Hence, many of their proof texts are from Romans 7-8. To make this more clear for the average reader, the translators of the NIV created a new phrase for the Greek word sarx. The word literally means the physical flesh of man. Look at Romans 7:5:

You can see that the NIV translators have changed "in the flesh" to being "controlled by the sinful nature". The Greek word sarx has been changed to sinful nature and now we are being controlled by it. Read verse 18 of Romans 7:

The same change is made in Romans 7:25. In Romans 8: 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, Galatians 5:13,16,17,19,24 and Galatians 6:8 the same change is made from flesh to sinful nature. Does it matter? Is flesh and sinful nature the same thing? "Calvinism teaches that one is born a sinner. 'Nature' has to do with one's birth; 'sinful' means full of sin. Therefore the conclusion, according to the NIV, is that one is born full of sin." (3) The flesh is our physical existence. When we are "in the flesh" we are not concerned with what is spiritual which is where God's word operates; in the spiritual realm. When we are "in the flesh", we are concerned with meeting fleshly desires which will lead to sin if not checked by a spirit educated by the word. In the same likeness, the NIV translators made some changes to Romans 8:6-7:

You see that the change has been made from a carnal mind to sinful man and sinful mind. I charge that these changes are not innocent but change the essence of the passage to support the Calvinistic doctrine of total depravity. Does the Bible teach that man has a sinful nature? We are created in the image of God. If we have a sinful nature, was it inherited from God? Of course not: sin comes from the free will of man, not from a nature created for him by God. If you have a NIV bible, mark Psalm 51:5 where the translators make David a sinner from birth, sinful from the time his mother conceived him. Examine this passage in a honest translation and make your own judgment about the NIV.

Faith Only

The Calvinist believes that a man is saved by faith only, apart from any act of obedience to the law of Christ. Was this view translated into the NIV? Look at Romans 1:17:

and Romans 10:10:

We see in these passages "righteousness that is by faith" is boldly added and belief toward (unto) righteousness and salvation is changed into outright "justified" and "saved". These are not honest translations but rather "more than a word-for-word translation" from the "eclectic" Greek text used in translating the New Testament as we are told in the preface of the New International Version (See paragraphs 7 and 12 of the preface).


"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV

These are but two examples of the perversion in the New International Version of God's word. Hopefully, this is enough to persuade you to be very cautious about this translation. Should we let our children use the NIV? Bible study habits are laid early in life. If a child is reared on the NIV, it will be the version which he will embrace later and which will sound the most familiar to him just as the King James Version comes to our minds when we quote a scripture even though we may use another version now.

Would you give your child a poisoned apple? I assert that the NIV is poisoned by the false doctrines of Calvinism and should be treated accordingly. We now have other choices for our children with the New King James and New American Standard that are more correct. Is it sinful to use the NIV? I will not make that judgment, however; it is very difficult to rightly divide the word of truth from the NIV since the truth is not in it. I urge anyone who owns a NIV to mark the incorrect passages in it and make notes inside the front cover. We know that the scriptures are truth (the only source of truth that man has) sent directly from God. The truth is precious and we must not allow its corruption to seep into our study of it.


Suggested Reading

For further study the following articles are recommended:

e-mail this author at

Return to Watchman Front Page

return to February 1999 index