No More OGL?

Act I: The Good Old Days

In the far-distant year 2000, gaming company Wizards of the Coast (publishers of Dungeons and Dragons, among other things) published the third edition of the popular role-playing game. Along with the new rules, they made what would become a watershed decision in the hobby: releasing certain parts of their system under a license called the Open Game License (OGL). This allowed third parties to develop RPG elements that were interoperable with D&D simply, to legally use elements of the official game itself, and to publish even big additions or modifications to the game without worrying about Wizards of the Coast descending upon them with lawyers demanding a cut.

Over the last 22 years, the OGL has been used for a lot of great gaming content: video games (including the beloved Star Wars video game Knights of the Old Republic), board games, card games, a massive number of D&D modules and adventures, and even whole new role-playing games such as the Lord of the Rings RPG Adventures in Middle-Earth, and my personal favorite, Paizo’s Pathfinder and Starfinder games. It wouldn’t be a great stretch to say that a very large percentage of the RPG hobby is built on the OGL.

Act II: The Misstep

Not that everything has been perfect this whole time. In 2008, the fourth edition of D&D came out; but it was released under a more restrictive agreement called the Game System License (GSL). This was widely considered a bad move, and may indeed have contributed to that edition’s failure in the market. But the OGL remained in place for the previous version of the game, leading a sizable percentage of their third party creator base to continue creating content that was compatible with D&D 3.5, the final version of the game released under the original version of the agreement. Notably, third party publisher Paizo released the first edition of their well-loved alternative system Pathfinder, an updated and expanded ruleset of 3.5, under the OGL during this time. For a while during this time, Pathfinder actually eclipsed D&D as the best-selling tabletop RPG in the industry.

When Wizards released the fifth edition of D&D in 2014, they returned to and updated the OGL agreement, placing the new 5e rules under version 1.0a of that license.

And then things exploded.

Act III: A Rise to Dominance

It’s probably not entirely about the Duffer Brothers’ Stranger Things, though Netflix’s smash hit TV show starring a group of nerdy kids from the 80s who loved the game certainly helped. It’s also probably not entirely about Brennan Lee Mulligan’s Dimension 20, Matt Mercer’s Critical Role, or Matt Colville’s MCDM, well-produced YouTube and Twitch shows about and featuring D&D games and tips.

But some combination of all these things contributed to bringing D&D to the public consciousness again; and the popularity of the relatively-new fifth edition, coupled with its accessible ruleset, led to a huge increase in D&D players, causing the game to regain its top spot, blowing past all previous records, and even lifting the number of players of all RPGs in the industry.

A good deal of this growth was buoyed by the OGL, as Dimension 20, Critical Role, and MCDM in particular utilized the license agreement to avoid legal trouble for their adaptations of their games and their add-on supplements that allowed fans to play with their rules at home, all the while increasing Wizards of the Coast’s bottom line.

Alas, but this golden age could not last.

Act IV: The Downfall

In August of 2022, Wizards of the Coast began the playtest for OneD&D, the next edition of the game. While it was underway, the text of a version 1.1 of the OGL leaked; first rumors began to roll out, then on January 5, 2023 the text leaked to tech news site Gizmodo, and then it was everywhere.

It’s pretty bad. The new agreement makes a division between paid and free content, and claims royalties for income over a certain total amount, for instance. It may even give Wizards of the Coast license or even copyright rights to third party work. But perhaps most unbelievable of all, it attempts to invalidate the old agreement; something that former Wizards of the Coast executives say shouldn’t be possible.

The response has been immediate and overwheming. “#openDND” began trending on both Mastodon and Twitter, easily overtaking the #oneDND hashtag that Wizards of the Coast had been pushing for the playtest of its new version. People are understandably upset about the possible torpedoing of their favorite worlds. Comparisons to the failure of 4th edition and the GSL were made almost immediately. Lawyers in the hobby (of which, perhaps unsurprisingly, there are many) are saying almost unanimously that this is probably not defensible but would be very expensive to challenge.

On January 10, a comical five days after the initial leak of the new agreement, the Twitter account for the player tools for the game, D&D Beyond, posted “We know you have questions about the OGL and we will be sharing more soon. Thank you for your patience.“—which, of course, went over like a lead balloon; since after five days people don’t have questions, they have opinions and concerns and even demands. The official D&D has yet to address the issue, beyond retweeting the D&D Beyond post.

Perhaps more interesting, though, has been the reaction from the third party D&D community themselves. In no particular order:

Also, some brands that are likely bound by NDAs not to comment on the OGL but still have strong opinions have made some moves:

Then, there are the third party publishers who are starting their own games, with unicorns and rainbows and no OGL at all:

Update 12 January 2023:

Since I originally published this article, there have been a couple of other major, notable moves in the industry! To wit: there are a couple of broader moves afoot to supplant the OGL entirely.

  • Third Party publisher Monte Cook Games has announced an extensive series of upgrades for their genre-agnostic Cypher System, which has already been released under the “Cypher System Open License.” It is worth noting, however, that the CSOL appears to suffer from the same critical flaw that the OGL 1.0a does (namely, its lack of irrevocability). It may be worth keeping an eye on the CSOL to see if they change that;
  • And Brian Lewis, former Wizards of the Coast general counsel and the original architect of the OGL, has announced that his current law firm is working on an open-source document and foundation to be constructed like the Linux license and foundation, which operate independently of any single corporation. But the really interesting thing is that his announcement included a link to a form where designers and publishers could sign up to participate—a form that was hosted on the domain.
    Further update: Paizo has officially confirmed their involvement and funding, as well as confirming that the agreement would be irrevocable, and announcing a few industry partners: namely, Kobold Press, Chaosium, Green Ronin, Legendary Games, and Rogue Genius Games, with plans to expand this list further. Perhaps most appropriately, the license—called the Open RPG Creative License—will be abbreviated to “ORC.”

Act V: What’s Next?

It’s tough to tell what the future holds for D&D, the OGL, and the Tabletop RPG (TTRPG) hobby in general. But clearly this has blown up in Wizards of the Coast’s face: they attempted to make “OneD&D” a more restrictive fourth edition, and it really looks like they’re doing it…with all the worst parts. The fallout is creating a million individual Paizo-like competitors, and undermining their de facto chokehold on the entire industry.

Their miscalculation was in assuming that the rules where what their player base loved. But even the biggest “grognard” Dungeon Master cares more about his world than about the ruleset. Nobody cares about the ruleset, in fact; people play D&D for their party, for their friends, for their character, for the world, and for the story (and maybe for the name “Dungeons and Dragons“) but not for the rules, which is really all Wizards of the Coast has to offer.

As a result, I think the Dungeon Masters who care about their worlds are going to hold onto the D&D rules much more loosely going forward, and publishers are going to be much more gun-shy about hitching their wagons to any horse they don’t have control over in the future. Fragmentation and competition is going to overtake the unity that was once a big part of the D&D world.

In essence, the loose unification around the D&D rules that the OGL facilitated is going to fall apart now; leaving Wizards of the Coast simply one of the many game developers making content, rather than the “Dungeon Master” at the TTRPG table. This is terrible news for Wizards of the Coast, because they release books infrequently; and the ones they do release are received quite tepidly. Their generic and basic game setting doesn’t stand a chance against the more colorful and adventurous worlds that exist. All they have now is name recognition and marketing dollars, which may not take them very far.

In short, like social media, tabletop role-playing games appear to be federating. Which is great news for the hobby…but terrible news for Wizards of the Coast.

Update 12 January 2023: And if a third-party behemoth like Paizo is on board, as seems to be the case, we may truly be seeing Wizards of the Coast fumbling their market share just like they did in 2008. It begs the question: if Pathfinder rises to dominance again, will Dungeons and Dragons even survive under their current, profit-at-all-costs owners?

The Steps of the Temple

On the first step, he stood—

Zerubbabel looked from the temple step, his eyes scraping over the tattered remnants of Jerusalem, but his ears inundated with the sounds of the exiles of Israel all around him. Two years returned, they clashed their cymbals with delight, invoking God’s promise: “The Lord is good; his love endures forever!” Their shouts swelled from the mountain and hope swelled in his heart, for though the temple was still little more than a foundation and an altar, the Lord would live among His people once more.

— — —

On the second step, he climbed—

Joshua, son of Jozadak, strode up to the temple to offer the sacrifices that would finally dedicate it as the place where the Lord would speak. Though its pinnacles were not as high nor its walls as sparkling as its predecessor, and though it had taken them decades to lay the final stone, his heart glowed with peace and resoluteness. Surely this time Israel would retain their fervor, and not be taken into exile again. The walls would still reverberate with the people singing “the Lord is good, His love endures forever!”

— — —

On the third step, he sat—

Malachi slumped, his shoulders rounded and head bowed with the weight of frustration. Barely one lifetime had passed since the last echoes of Israel’s promise of unending devotion had faded across the temple grounds. “The Lord is good, His love endures forever,” but His people forget and turn away so quickly. Crying out the words God whispered to him, Malachi implored Israel to return, but they shut their ears to him. His call to repentance hung in the air, the vanishing echoes of God’s last words for half an age before silence fell.

— — —

On the fourth step, she wept—

Anna, barely twenty and already a widow, carried the sharp-edged pieces of a broken heart; a barren woman climbing barren steps. Her ears and all the ears of Israel ached at the silence in the temple over the past four centuries, but this was still the only place she knew to come with her distress. The promise had long ago been made that “the Lord is good, His love endures forever,” so Anna came in the quiet and began her vigil.

— — —

Down the fifth step, he ran—

Zechariah dashed down the temple steps to his wife with a tangle of joy, fear, awe, and confusion. The Lord had shattered His long silence with a message for the two of them; one of hope and joy, that a son would come to them, to speak for God once more, to prepare the way for the salvation of all of Israel! Their disgrace was over! Zechariah had been silenced, but God renewed the promise through the old man’s shuffled steps that “The Lord is good, His love endures forever.”

— — —
— — —

A young woman and her new husband approach the temple steps with a swaddled baby in her arms:

She steps on the first step with the Temple that will be torn down and raised back up in three days—

She steps on the second step with the Exile that will call all the lost back home—

She steps on the third step with the Sacrifice that will cover all the sins of God’s people—

She steps on the fourth step with the Hope for all those waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem—

She steps on the fifth step with the Word of God, made flesh to dwell among us—

And atop the stairs of the temple, the people of God cry out: “The Lord is good, His love endures forever!”

• • •

My wife and I collaborated on this meditation for a collection of works compiled by our church for the Advent season.

Merry Christmas!

• • •

Scripture references:
Zerubbabel: Ezra 3
Joshua, son of Jozadak: Ezra 6
Malachi: Malachi 3
Anna: Luke 2:36-38
Zechariah: Luke 1:5-25
Mary: Luke 2:22-24

Flipping the Bird: How to Mastodon

Last time, we talked about the options for replacing Twitter if you want to “flip the bird.” I’ve made the choice to switch to Mastodon, at least to start; and I’ve really been enjoying it. If you’d like to make the jump, even if only to try it out, I’m here to help.

First of all, you should know that, despite Mastodon’s reputation for complication, that’s really more of a messaging problem than a real problem. Don’t worry; despite a couple of hiccups and bumps in the road, it’s actually set up pretty much exactly like email. If you have set up an email account, you can set up a Mastodon account. And I’m here to help.

tl;dr: If you can understand email, you can understand Mastodon. Don’t stress about choosing a server (instance); it changes very little about how you use the network, and switching is easy and lossless if you change your mind later.

What is Mastodon?

On the surface, Mastodon looks like a capable Twitter competitor (more technically known as a “microblogging social network”). It offers a 500-character limit on text posts, the ability to upload up to four pieces of media per post, the ability to edit posts, a “feed,” hashtags, following…all the basics.

But it’s different from Twitter in one key way: Mastodon is federated. We’ll talk more about that in the next article, as well as answering some other frequently asked questions; but what you need to know now is that it is not run by or beholden to any one operator. You can access the entire social network from any server, and you can pick up and move from one server to another in seconds.

The How-To

How do I join Mastodon?

People try to make a big deal out of how to join Mastodon. But don’t fall for it. It’s dead simple: just go to and click “Create Account,” or download the mobile app and tap “Get Started.” And here, admittedly, is where Mastodon’s first messaging hiccup can be found.

How do I choose a server?

This honestly isn’t as big a deal as it sounds. Most guides start with a long diatribe about this part of the process, but it’s actually pretty simple: scroll down the list at (or in the “get started” section of the app) and choose one you vibe with. The exact one you choose doesn’t really matter any more than the exact email provider you choose really matters.

But if I want to follow my friends, don’t I have to be on the same server?” Nope! With a few minor exceptions (usually related to bad behavior), anyone on any server can interact with anyone on any other server if they want. Just like email; you don’t have to have a Hotmail account to email people on Hotmail.

Do they have different features?” Not really, for the most part. Again, just like email, there are a couple of standard features; some servers might add a couple of bells and whistles (a longer post character limit here, a different visual design there), but for the most part you’ll get the same features on any server you join; and the Mastodon Server Covenant is an attempt to make sure they’re all safe.

But what if I choose wrong?” If you find that the server you’re a part of doesn’t meet your needs for one reason or another, just pack up and move to another. It’s easier than getting a new email address, because your follows and followers come with you.

Can you just decide for me?” Okay, okay. Check out,, and See if any of those catch your fancy.

How do I finish setting up my account?

After you’ve chosen a server, you’ll need to click “Create Account” in the top right if you’re on the desktop version; but if you’re on the mobile app, you should be taken straight to the next step.

After that, on both platforms, you’ll see the rules for the server in question. Note that this isn’t some super duper long license agreement; on most servers, you’ll have a half dozen, maybe ten rules to follow; usually in the general vein of “don’t do anything illegal and respect others.” You don’t have to give away any rights to participate on Mastodon. Kinda nice, isn’t it?

Once you’ve accepted the rules, just fill out the signup form and verify your email, exactly the way you would on any other online service.

How do I follow people?

Like any other social media service, you follow other people by typing in their username in the search box and clicking “follow.” The wrinkle is that usernames on Mastodon are composed of two parts—exactly like an email address. First comes the user’s handle (mine is “@ilinamorato”). Then comes the server where the user is based, which is formatted just like the end of an email address (mine is “”). Put them both together, and you have a full Mastodon username (@[email protected]).

Here’s where the second Mastodon Messaging Mistake comes in: if you’re on the desktop version of Mastodon, you should always look up profiles this way when you want to follow them. The search bar is at the top of the “Explore” tab; just paste the full Mastodon username into that bar and follow them from the search result that comes up. If you view a profile on their server instead of yours, you’ll be faced with a login page—and that can get confusing. So just copy the username (the full username!) into the search bar on your server and follow them from there. And if you use the mobile app—you probably don’t have to worry about any of this!

How do I tell people my handle so they can follow me?

On your profile, you should see a Share link. You can just use that, simple as anything.

Or you can tell people your Mastodon username the way you tell them your email address: by giving your handle first, then your server. They can paste that into their search bar and follow you easily.

Why is it so empty here?

Probably because you aren’t following anyone! Mastodon has no algorithm; you just get a chronological feed of every post by the people you follow, with no recommended posts. You can watch the “federated” feed (which is a firehose of every post by every user on every other server that your server knows about) or the “local” feed (a slightly less overwhelming firehose of every post by every user on your server); but the best way to get content on Mastodon is to follow people, or hashtags.

• • •

And that’s it! Everything after this is just answering FAQs. I’ll have a follow up post in a bit with some of those questions, but this is all you really need to know to have a great time on federated social media!

On the Ludological Decisions of an Oligarch

I’ve been trying to figure out what it is I find concerning about Elon Musk, but I think it’s this: he plays life like a game.

The people I know in real life who play it like that are insufferable, but Musk has the money to force other people to play it too.

Life isn’t a game.

I used to be a fan of his; largely because of SpaceX, which I’m still partial to. But he plays SpaceX like a game: rather than seeking excellence or science, he seems to seek spectacle in space; something NASA and ULA don’t do as much.

I used to want a Tesla, but he’s been playing that company like a game, too; all the work from home shenanigans, all the insistence on things being done his way, his attempt to rewrite the history of the company to get his name listed as founder.

The Boring Company is a game. The Hyperloop is a vaporware game that really only exists in concept so he can sell more Teslas. OpenAI doesn’t have much to do with Musk anymore, but it’s still kind of run like a game.

His family is a game, his sexual assault accusations are a game, his political affiliation is a game, the Ukraine-Russia war is a game. He makes his moves, he chuckles and giggles, he makes a pun, he posts a meme, and he goes on to his next move in the game.

Now he’s bought Twitter as a game, and I’m expecting him to run it as a game. Could this be when he finally gets serious and actually treats something with the gravity it deserves? Sure. But I’m not holding my breath.

Having fun with things, being whimsical, nothing wrong with any of that. But there’s a difference between that and treating other people’s lives (and the big forces that move people’s lives) as if they have no stakes that matter.

Because they don’t, to him. He has enough money to make ludological decisions about the lives of other people, while remaining insulated from their consequences himself. Every rich person does. But he has taken the additional step of assuming there ARE no consequences.

It feels like the reign of a clown king, holding unchecked power and facing no repercussions for his actions.

It feels like there should be a resistance.

I don’t much care who runs Twitter. But what I do care about is that people are cared for, that the helpless are helped, and that the voiceless have voice. That people are treated with dignity and worth.

And I don’t think you can gamify that.

AIPCs: Generating RPG Player Characters with AI

Hey! Let’s make some RPG player characters with AI!

Let’s start with the face. Stable Diffusion (which you can use for free here) makes some excellent faces. In the game I’m playing right now, my character just ran across a teenage girl who turned out to be more powerful than she appeared; so the prompt I’m using for this experiment is:

“teenage female human sorcerer smiling, fantasy art”

Those last two words are crucial for the vibe I want. Stable Diffusion came up with a couple of options (you can click any of the images in this post to get a bigger version):

(From left to right: a bit too old for the character, one too many limbs, beautiful but the wrong type of magic, too much…eye (?!?), and do they even have fluoride in this setting?)

But I really like this one:

The face is great. Her scarf is a little weird, I think it’s odd how it’s not sure whether she’s got flowing hair or a hood on her right side, and I guess…is that a book light on her magic spellbook?

But it’s a great start, and if all goes well, those little weirdnesses will be less visible because I’m going to enlarge it. Stable Diffusion doesn’t do outpainting yet, at least not in the demo environment I’m using, but DALL-E 2 does. I’m going to enlarge the canvas in Paint.NET, and upload it for some outpainting. Here’s the results from the first iteration:

I love all of these, especially how they all have a slightly unique take. I’m going to continue working with the first one; her hand is a literal ham, but that background is cool. I especially like the sparkling flames flying around her. Let’s try turning this from a medium shot into a medium full. Enlarge the canvas, reupload, erase the ham so it generates a new hand there, and here’s the second iteration:

Ahh! How did I not notice in the previous shot—her upper arms are WAY too long!  Still, DALL-E 2’s work on her clothes in each iteration is really unique. The sparklies are awesome, as expected, and so is the halo around her head.

(Incidentally, at one point I screwed up the outpainting tool and ended up creating four new images in Dall-E with the same prompt. The results were…well, they were indeed interesting. For some reason, DALL-E 2 has trouble with the “fantasy art” genre.)

But back to our sorceress; we have to do something about those arms. My second favorite from the first iteration is #2, so let’s make a second iteration from that image:

NOW we’re talking. The first one is a bit too Mulan for what we’re going for, and the fourth one seems like the artist phoned it in on for the bottom half. But numbers 2 and 3 are AWESOME. Meet Helena Morrigan, human elementalist wizard:

Maybe I’ll even stat up a PF2e character sheet for her; but either way, that was fun. I’m gonna do that again.

At this the whole assembly said Amen

In Nehemiah 5, the people of Israel were fresh out of captivity and barely had two coins to rub together; and on top of that, there was a famine. Nehemiah, the governor of Israel at that time, heard their cries.

Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews. Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.”

Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”

Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards.”

I’d like to point out that these are debts entered into voluntarily. They chose to take out a loan, and they were paying it faithfully and still going under. But Nehemiah was not mad at the borrowers. He didn’t tell them “you should’ve thought of how you’d repay it before you borrowed it!” No, he instead spoke angrily to the lenders.

“Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them—one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.”

So, basically, debt forgiveness. The lenders agree to do so. Now, I’m on the record warning that Israel is a church and also a nation; and we run into problems if we try to conflate the two in our modern context. But check this out (v13):

At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.

Notice that the “whole assembly” praised the Lord. Not just the borrowers, but the people who had already paid off their loans and even the lenders! The people of God rejoiced at the canceling of debt. Israel, as a church, rejoiced at what their governor had done on behalf of Israel, as a nation.

Some of my brothers and sisters need to do more praising and less grumbling. Yes, it’s unfair.

So is grace.

• • •

Scripture quotations from Nehemiah 5, NIV.

Severing Indianapolis

Here’s a map of Indianapolis.

While it might seem innocuous, note where the interstates are, and the color of the neighborhoods through which they run.

The map is a 1937 redlining map, outlining neighborhoods where white people and black people were allowed to buy houses. To be clear, the red areas were (and in most cases still are) majority black neighborhoods.

See how none of them go through the white neighborhoods, indicated by green and blue, even when it would’ve been a more direct or logical path for the interstate to take?

Look at Fountain Square. The South Split cuts it off from downtown almost entirely. Access to the neighborhood from the city is essentially only possible via one street. After the interstate, the neighborhood was decimated; formerly a working-class neighborhood of Black people, Fountain Square collapsed. It’s only recently become desirable again through the efforts of artists and community organizers. A similar story could be told about my own neighborhood of Windsor Park, or Martindale, Brightwood, anywhere on the Near East or South Side.

The interstates in Indianapolis were built in the mid-1970s, two decades after the civil rights movement began; eight years after the assassination of MLK and Robert F. Kennedy’s famous calming speech in what is now Kennedy-King Park (now also cut off from downtown by I-70). It wasn’t over then, and it isn’t over now. The biggest monument to racism in Indianapolis is a road specifically built through minority neighborhoods to allow white people to come downtown quickly and easily flee back to their suburbs without going through “dangerous” areas.

During his speech, Kennedy said, “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black…the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.”

We have so far to go.

Some might ask, “now what?” And I honestly think we should get rid of the interstates inside 465; but more immediately (and probably more helpfully) we should acknowledge how we white Indianapolis-ians have benefitted directly at the expense of Black residents so recently and work to see what systems exist in our city today that must be addressed if we are to truly live without division.

• • •


Map and context

Full text of Kennedy’s speech

A history of Fountain Square’s separation from downtown

You Can Trust Your Bible

“Very critical alert!” These really scary images have been going around social media recently. “You can’t trust your Bible!” they implicitly (and in some cases explicitly) shout. “It’s being corrupted by—” well, that’s part of the problem. It’s unclear who’s supposed to have corrupted the Bible, but apparently it’s happened.

In actuality, it’s not actually worrying at all because it’s asking the wrong question. This is a very long post about how you can indeed trust your Bible. But before we deal with the question they should be asking, let’s consider what the NIV and other modern translations are trying to accomplish from omitting these verses, if that were indeed what happened.

The Inscrutable Agenda

  1. If they were trying to advance some gay agenda (as this meme spuriously implies), why wouldn’t they remove, for example, Romans 1:27? What do they gain from trying to throw doubt upon this teaching of Christ that is not only preached elsewhere, but attested to by His very life and death? What do they gain from removing a verse that speaks to His love and grace?
  2. So do these verses represent a core doctrine of the faith? Well, kind of. By which I mean, yes, but not exclusively; it’s also in Luke 19:10 and John 3:17. So if Zondervan was trying to change the Bible and remove some core element of doctrine, why would they leave it intact in two other places? Why just these two verses?
  3. Further, If they were trying to remove these verses from the Bible, why did they include it? That’s right, it’s actually there; in footnotes for this verse in almost every published version of the Bible, the “omitted” words are actually included verbatim.

In short, if they were trying to remove a concept from the Bible, they chose poorly and did a remarkably bad job of it. And they’ve continued to do a remarkably bad job of it for almost 50 years now, apparently, as the NIV has undergone multiple revisions and I can’t find evidence that any further verses have been “removed.”

The Shady Publisher

Now, let’s see about the claim that this is some ploy by a secular publisher. It’s true that the NIV is published by HarperCollins, but it’s untrue that it’s not published by Zondervan; in fact, Zondervan was acquired as a subsidiary of HarperCollins in 1988, and remains a separate but wholly owned entity of the parent company.

This may seem semantic, but Zondervan does appear to enjoy a certain measure of autonomy from its parent company. Further, the change appears to have been made before the acquisition; if you’ll notice the timeline, Zondervan was acquired by HarperCollins four years after the publication of the third revision of the NIV to not include this verse.

Further, it’s disingenuous to suggest that HarperCollins is some liberal outfit trying to destroy good conservative people. HarperCollins is itself owned by News Corp, which was founded by Rupert Murdoch as the publishing arm of the same company that runs Fox News. News Corp has been spun off from its parent company, but is still run by Murdoch, well known as a profoundly conservative man.

Finally, while Zondervan publishes the NIV in the United States, the version has other publishers worldwide. Biblica themselves, the translators, publish the Bible digitally, for instance.

The Right Question

I said above that this meme is insinuating the wrong question. What I meant by that is that we shouldn’t be asking “why were these omitted from the NIV (and ESV, and almost all other modern versions)?” but “Why were they added to the KJV?”

The fact is, in the 17th century when the KJV was being translated, they didn’t have manuscripts as reliable as we have now. The manuscripts which include these verses are hundreds of years older than the manuscripts which don’t, and we’ve only found those manuscripts in the last few hundred years of archaeology. The Textus Receptus, which was a Greek version of the New Testament used by the King James translators for the Authorized Version, was assembled and collated by the scholar Erasmus only about a hundred years before the KJV began translation. The documents from which it was sourced are themselves also not original, dating largely from the fourth and fifth centuries; and Erasmus’ published version was “adjusted” to more closely match the Latin Vulgate version.

In the nearly half-millennium since the translation of the King James version, archaeology has exploded as a field of study. We have more examples of the Word of God available to us than ever, and by and large, they all say the same thing. Further, the New Testament manuscripts and fragments we have access to now are, in some cases, less than a century separated from the life of Christ and, when taken in context as a whole along with the Textus Receptus, can be seen to represent Scripture, preserved by God and handed down throughout the ages.

Kept Pure In All Ages

Most confessions and creeds hold that the Bible is God-breathed and infallible in its original manuscripts; the Westminster Confession, to which my church and I hold, agrees. I would further assert that, just as none of us individually are the people of God, but all of us together are, the whole of Scripture has been preserved as a community of texts through which we see what God originally inspired the authors to write.

But the 1611 KJV was not an original manuscript; it has longevity, and it is valuable, but it is not infallible. It shouldn’t be considered the source or arbiter of textual criticism, and this meme makes a mistake on that point.

Most Christian Biblical scholars also believe that, while God hasn’t inspired any further Scripture, He does protect the Scripture he already wrote. This meme makes a further mistake there, in assuming that the publishers of the Bible are more powerful than the Author of it and can stymie His will.

In the end, it seems we just reckon with a simple choice: did a hyperconservative chief executive order a publishing company he didn’t own to make make a liberal change in a version they didn’t author to two Bible verses which don’t change doctrine in any appreciable way for no apparent or discernable reason, and then maintain that deception until some random person on the internet noticed? Or was it just a mistake in the manuscripts available in 1611 that we discovered in the 350 intervening years between the KJV and the NIV?

The bottom line is, you can trust your Bible in most widely-available modern versions. It’s been independently verified by people smarter than this random guy on the internet, and it’s been protected by the God who wrote it.

On George Floyd

I’m pro-life. That’s why I’m grieved that George Floyd’s mother was given an extremely late-term abortion against her will by the Minneapolis Police Department.

I’m for rule of law. That’s why I’m furious that George Floyd’s guilt or innocence was not established in a court of law before his sentencing or execution.

I’m generally for smaller government intrusion on our lives. That’s why I’m concerned that the closest expression of government in the life of George Floyd committed such a broad overreach as to kill him.

I’m a fan of the Constitution. That’s why I’m upset that George Floyd’s Constitutional rights to free speech, due process, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, security in his person against unreasonable seizure, and protection against cruel and unusual punishment were all taken from him without writ or cause. That’s why I’m upset that the people protesting his death are being denied the right to peaceably assemble, forcing them to assemble unpeaceably (because when peaceable assembly is prohibited, unpeaceable assembly is required. That’s literally the story of the American revolution). That’s why I’m upset that the press is being denied their right to cover these events.

But more than any of those things, I’m a Christian. I believe that people are made in the image and likeness of God. That’s why I’m worried about the officer’s callous disregard for that image in George Floyd, and the same disregard in (thankfully fewer this time) Christians who would profess the same belief whenever it would concern a white man.

I haven’t spoken much about this, because what is there to say? Yes, if you were upset by Kaepernick’s knee but not by the knee on George Floyd’s neck, you need to examine your idols. That was said much better than by me. Yes, the commodification of life leads to looting when life is taken unjustly. That was said much better than by me. Yes, Trump’s rhetoric has encouraged this behavior and the reaction against it. That was said much better than by me.

But I was a Republican, so I see in this injustice something that need not be—should not be—a partisan issue, something that Republicans like I was can get behind. And I am a Christian, so I see the intersection here of divine grief and worldly sorrow that Christians (Evangelical and not) can get behind.

So I guess I must speak now.

• • •

This post was originally on Facebook. Apparently this is a problem, because it was removed without notice or explanation. So I’ve put it up here.