Why We Never Use or Recommend the NIV

Why we never use or recommend the NIV in our professional clinical
or life-coaching work with our clients.

Many of our clients, especially those who are just coming in for therapy for the first time, ask the same question, either to our front-office Earth Angels, or to me as well: “Why do you ask that we don’t use the NIV as part of our therapy here?”

Great question, since so many seem to prefer that version. Let me give you a little scenario that will help explain this policy:

Suppose you go out to celebrate something special at your favorite Mexican restaurant. You order enchiladas with all the sides.

When your meal arrives, Plenty of rice and beans, salsa, guacamole, and even a bowl of pico de gallo.

Only problem is . . . NO ENCHILADAS!

Or instead, you and the family head for an upscale steakhouse. You can’t wait for the best steak in the house. 

Only one problem, along with the baked potato, salad and veggies, NO STEAK at all. None.

How would you feel and how would you react to both scenarios? Are we happy yet? I don’t think so. Might spoil the celebration; sure would for me.

Here are two true stories to share with you . . .

About 20 years ago or more, I was working with a client who was having serious struggles with impure invasive thoughts. He knew, alright, that this was sin, but did not know how to get lasting victory over this habit that caused him overwhelming guilt, and that guilt drove him away from the Lord with feelings of unworthiness.

So, as we typically do in our counseling sessions, I asked him to “please read to me slowly what you hear God saying to you in 1 Peter 1:22.”

Here’s exactly what he read from his own Bible: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.”

Could not believe my ears—sure didn’t sync with what I know that verse says. So I asked him to please re-read it aloud so we’re sure he’s not missing something important.

He did just that and I was stunned and shocked. I asked, “Can you tell me what version of the Word you are using?” “Sure,” he says, “the NIV…I always use the NIV.”

I then said, “How about we do this then; can you read the same verse for us from the New King James or the King James Version?”

When he did just that, he was himself totally amazed when he read, "Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” (emphasis added by me).

“Why do you say ‘WOW!’ when you read this version?” I asked. He says, “Whoa, I can’t believe this…the Holy Spirit is totally left OUT!”

I showed him that using the NIV, it was entirely up to him to let the truth purify his soul, and the Holy Spirit is shut out of the healing process.

Then, with another client who had been severely emotionally and sexually abused as a child and was struggling to forgive those who had so mistreated her, I asked her to please read aloud to us Matthew 5:44.

In those days I always let the client choose the version they were most comfortable with during their sessions.

It was my purpose in her therapy to walk her through all 4 key parts of this verse that reveals God’s will in such a case.

She read, "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Again, could not believe my ears. “What version are you using” I asked? “The NIV” she replied.

So, I asked her, “Can you please read aloud for both of us this same verse in the King James or New King James Version?”

Here’s what she read and she could not believe what was missing: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”

Two key parts to this profoundly-important verse deleted by those who cobbled together the NIV.

I then said, “Can you see it? If you really want a close walk with Jesus, and you slowly meditate on each verse so you can put each part of that verse into action, can you see what you would be missing or losing out on in the NIV?”

Like our first client, she kept saying, “Wow, I don’t believe this, this is huge!”

I could go on and on with dozens of other real-life-counseling examples just like these, but I think you get the point.

Do we really want, for the sake of easy-to-understand, conversational language, want to (1) leave out the Holy Spirit Himself as if He’s irrelevant altogether, or (2) omit 2 parts of a verse just to simplify things for the reader? 

To me, as a Biblical Christian Therapist, I would never want to do anything to stumble or weaken or water down the impact of the Word of God for any of my clients. Ever. (check out Romans 14:21 NKJV).

To me, this is way worse than missing the main course at a restaurant, that’s for sure!

The more I encountered jaw-dropping examples of this with far too many of my clients, I was led to do my own research on the NIV itself, especially since it is so popular these days.

As if these kind of examples of perverting and diluting Scripture weren’t bad enough, did you know that the NIV deliberately DELETES 16 verses altogether? I didn’t either, until I saw it firsthand.

You can see for yourself. Check out this in-depth website and it will blow your mind:


Just one quick example: Do you think it matters at all that “For the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost.” Well, that only speaks about where we all spend eternity, right?

That’s Matthew 18:11. Look that up in your NIV. What do you discover?

I must admit, Zondervan has done one masterful PR and marketing job. Look up any Bible verse on Google and what is the first version you always find?—You guessed it, the NIV.

So, we jokingly, but sadly, refer to this as the “Non-Inspired Version” or the “Nearly-Inspired Version” with our clients. It’s good for a laugh, but not for hearing His voice.

But all joking aside—God warns in at least 3 places about ultra-serious consequences for anyone who would “take away from or add to” the Word of God (check out Deuteronomy 4:2 & Proverbs 30:6 & Revelation 22:18-19).’’ Can’t get more serious that that.

If you want a deep-dive study of the problems and risks of using the NIV, this will keep you busy:


But for us at Browning Therapy Group and the Foundation for Applied Biblical Counseling, here’s the bottom line. When we or our clients read the inspired and inerrant Word of God, we don’t want any man, regardless of their motives, diluting or twisting what the Holy Spirit is saying to us, here and now.

And how has He chosen to reveal Himself and His will and His Kingdom to us, His beloved and treasured children? How does the Holy Spirit cause us to “hear His voice” (John 10:27)? One way—The Word of God Itself, and the Holy Spirit turning those Words on the page into power to overcome the things that overcome you.

There you go, I hope that helps you understand why this version finds the welcome mat removed for us and those He entrusts to our care to bring healing, hope, help and deliverance to “set the captives free” free indeed.

And, Lord, cause us to remember to pray for all those who choose to replace in-depth relationship with the Author with the easy-reading shallows of religion or tradition (check out Matthew 15:6).

His grace in truth to you!
Dr. Charles Browning
Matthew 4:1-11  (but not in the NIV!)

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