As anyone who's been reading this blog for a little while knows, I think most of the venomous language from those who are more conservative about gender issues against inclusive translations is just thoroughly immoral. This includes the literature produced by the Society for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, whose worthwhile original goal of defending complementarianism has been greatly damaged by their vehement ignorance on this issue. I think the overall argument for not wanting any inclusive language is linguistically insensitive. It involves cultural reactionism against what is perceived as a new phenomenon that in reality is so entrenched that anyone resisting it now just seems 19th century. The issue is basically over linguistic facts, and some of the people involved have raised it almost to the level of a gospel issue. That's just incredibly sad.
Still, I don't think all the points against inclusive language are wrong. On some particular issues, the criticism is sound. Some decisions the NLT, TNIV, NRSV, and other translations have made in the attempt to ensure gender neutrality have disguised important theological points. Of course, all translations have that sort of thing. To preserve one element of what a text means, you end up losing another, and sometimes that's something important. The NIV, for instance, translates a word in Philemon 6 that means fellowship in a way that almost guarantees younger evangelicals to interpret it as being about evangelism. It was supposed to make one element of the meaning of that word clearer, and it ended up masking what the passage is really about. One element of the gender neutrality movement in translation does exactly that, and a thoughtful post by Carolyn Custis James at Common Grounds Online points out what that issue is.
Toward the end of the post, she raises the issue of the biblical use of son terminology. Just as believers are called 'adelphoi', the masculine form of the word for brothers and sisters (the masculine was always used for males and for mixed groups; the feminine only for all female groups), so too believers are all called huioi, or sons. The same sort of ending rules apply here, so the masculine has to be used. However, there's one element of sonhood and daughterhood in the biblical context that isn't parallel to brotherhood and sisterhood. Sons inherited. Daughters didn't unless there were no sons to inherit. The concept of sonhood as applied to believers is clearly tied up with that in the biblical discussions of the sonhood of believers.
Many scholars think this is deliberately masculine and not just because some of the people involved are male. Just as humanity was created in God's image, male and female, so too are we all inheritors of God's salvation and all that comes with it. That means all, male and female. Therefore, in the concepts of the immediate context, we're all sons, male and female, not sons and daughters. Carolyn says, "I am a daughter, to be sure. But my heart is deeply encouraged because I know God values, views and counts on me as a son. I carry on my Father's name, build His kingdom and am a full heir alongside my brothers."
That's exactly what you miss out on with inclusive language translations, though I want to be careful here. This sort of missing out doesn't just happen with inclusive translations. It happens with traditional ones just as easily with exactly the same phrases. If the goal of translating the scriptures is to capture what was originally meant in a way our culture can understand it, we have a dilemma. Do we capture the sense that it includes women by translating it as sons and daughters, or do we capture the implication that even women are sons by translating it the way translations have traditionally done so? Each captures a different element of what the original saysh, and each loses the other element of what the original says.
In this case, I can understand going either way, but I think this is an important point not to lose in our translations, which is why I think it's good to have both kinds of Bible translations. Different translation philosophies lead to different emphases, which bring out different elements of the original than you might get if you just use one translation. So what I'm saying here isn't a complaint against the TNIV or other inclusive language translations. It's a complaint against those who would use only that sort of translation, though it's also a complaint against those who insist on using only the opposing kind. You miss out on what the scipture says if you don't take into account the various options for translating with these difficult matters.