The Message Bible is not a fan of St. Paul


I heard a sermon recently where the Pastor quoted extensively from The Massage Message bible. Specifically he read a long portion of Romans 9, and then made attempts to exegete it. I don’t even know why he bothered.

I have a theory on why pastors use the Message bible. I wrote in another post that:

Why use the Mb? Because it words things in a way that the pastor finds compelling and gripping and in which he thinks he congregation will get a kick out of. And the congregants go along with that because it has ceased being important for a translation to accurately reflect what was being said. It has ceased being important that Jesus’ words, meaning, and intent-without additions or interpolations- are immortalized and cannonized.

It has become wholly acceptable to abuse and molest the original meaning  because for some people, the intent isn’t to know what the original meaning is, but rather to develop an emotional response. And as long as that emotional response in brought on by something remotely bibley, they can interpret their feelings as a spiritual encounter, which is the source of their security, affirmation and joy. The Pastors putting these paraphrases are are not doing it so that will have a cerebral or intellectual impact, but rather an emotive one.  Its not for piercing clarity, but for vague etherialities. Its not for maximum accuracy, but for maximum sentiment. That’s the thrust of the appeal- because warm fuzzies are an easier sell than  rigorous faithfullness to the text.

What I wanted to focus on in this post is the issue of accuracy and what it means to faithfully represent what was written by the apostles. We believe that the Scriptures are given by inspiration of God and are theopneustos. That is, God-breathed. Some Bibles seek to get as close as they can to the original texts, with our best scholars who painstakingly pore over every nuance so that they can give us a product that represents the best and most accurate and most faithful rendering of the originals we have. The Message bible is not one of those bibles..

When doing a critical scholarship of all the manuscripts that we have, our problem isn’t that we don’t have enough of the original, but that we have too much of what came after. We don’t have 95% of the originals, but rather we have 120% of them. Its like we have a puzzle with 20 extra pieces, and by doing textual and source criticsm, we can weed out the extra pieces, the variants, the transcription errors, the scribal interplorations, etc. The ultimate objective of the textual critic’s work is the production of a “critical edition” containing a text most closely approximating the original.

The Message bible is wholly unconcerned with trying to figure out what was actually said or trying to minimize the excess. I think this is seen well in Romans 9. In the ESV translation, there are 734 words.  The NIV has 738. In Romans chapter 9, the Message bible has 836. In many ways the Mb is similar to Codex Bezae- a codex infamous for its many strange and bizarre renderings, as well as gratuitous flourishes and additions. The horrific gluttonous additions to the Mb is bad, but it actually gets worse than that. Not only are there many places in the Message bible where it’s incredibly bloated with whole sentences added in, there are other places where there are whole sentences missing! There are concepts missing.  There are There are important details missing. There are important statements about God’s character missing. There are important details about God’s purposes missing. In short- it’s just not there.

The twoexamples I wanted to examine are found in Romans 9.

Romans 9: 17 and 18

17. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. ESV

17. The same point was made when God said to Pharaoh, “I picked you as a bit player in this drama of my salvation power. Mb

18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. ESV

18. All we’re saying is that God has the first word, initiating the action in which we play our part for good or ill. Mb

Here we’ve left out half of a verse. Evidently its not important to know that God’s purpose in hardening Pharaohs heart was so that his name would be proclaimed in all the earth, and so that the demonstration of power would yield him glory. I don’t know why that wasn’t included. Its not like it would be difficult to add that segment in. So that is a little strange, and in continuing the trend we see verse 18.  In verse 18, its nothing but vague obfuscation.  There is no mention of God’s mercy, nor is there any mentioning of the hardening that God enacts on whoever he desires. There’s no way to read the Mb and find that information in the scriptures  It doesn’t bring clarity to the texts, and it does not accurately reflect what is trying to be said.

Romans 9:21-23

21-Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? ESV

21-Isn’t it obvious that a potter has a perfect right to shape one lump of clay into a vase for holding flowers and another into a pot for cooking beans? Mb

22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, ESV

23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—ESV

23 and 24 If God needs one style of pottery especially designed to show his angry displeasure and another style carefully crafted to show his glorious goodness, isn’t that all right? Mb

In verse 21, there is no mention of honorable use or dishonorable use in the MB. Instead we see merely a utilitarian difference . In verse 22 and 23, I actually can’t even figure out which verse is what. But look how much is being left out!

1. There is no mention that God has a desire to show his wrath

2.There is no mentioned that God is enduring the vessels of wrath

3.There is no mention that God is showing patience while doing so

4. There is no mention that these lumps of dishonorable use, these “pots for cooking beans” ‘are vessels of wrath

5. There is no mention that these vessels were intended  for destruction

6. “Glorious goodness” is not the same as “the riches of his glory”

7. There is no mention that the wrath of God towards his vessels of destruction was to show his glory to the vessels of mercy

8. There is no mention this this was prepared by God beforehand

9. There is no mention that this was prepared by God for the the purpose of glory

10. There is no mention that the eternal state of the Vessels of mercy is glory. 

It amazes me at how much is missing, and how much we are being robbed from knowing by following this so-called paraphrase. And again, evidently its not important that we know these things. I would also recommend checking out verses 30-32 in both translations. In the case of the Mb, it is shocking bad and inadequate.

The  point is this; the Message bible isn’t a neutral, clever paraphrase. It doesn’t merely “re-word” things, but it adds whole sentences and it removes whole sentences. It actively seeks to distort what God said through his Son and through the writers of the scriptures.  In the case of Paul and Romans 9, it doesn’t care what Paul said. The important thing in not that we have an accurate record of what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, and that we relate that to people, but rather its more important to tell people how one person remixes and reinterprets the words of Paul.  And so when someone reads from the Message bible from the pulpit, purporting it to be some kind of bible, it is very hard for me not to lose respect for them. Ultimately what they are telling me that its not important to know what God inspired the Apostles to wrote. That its not important to know what Jesus actually said. That its not important to share the actual revelation of God.

How I learned to speak in tongues, and then resolved to never do it again

I remember being at one youth conference when I was in my teens where the speaker was encouraging us to speak in tongues and telling us how important it was. He spoke of  how it would radically change our prayer life, our sin life, and our personal walk with God. At the time I was dealing with some pretty heady stuff and I had been taught a lot about this gift and there was nothing I wanted more than to receive this.

For the last few months I had been having a lot of spiritual teaching regarding this. In fact my pastor devoted hours working with us and teaching those who hadn’t received the gift yet some techniques to start speaking in tongues. He told us that first we had to clear our minds of any thoughts, that because our minds wouldn’t understand what we are doing, and would want to war against and question what our mouth was doing, and so it was important not to overthink it, or think it at all. Then he told us some methods that would help get us going, and used the analogy that it was like starting a car on a cold day. Asking to speak in tongues was like turning the key, and all you needed was a little kick to help the engine turn over and get it to start roaring.  These were some of his suggestions.

1 If you know a foreign language, start speaking that and ask God to transform it into a different one on the go. 2. Repeat the words “shoulda-bought-a-honda-couldove-bought-a-honda. or “shabbada-shabbada shaka-whaoh” over and over again. This will train your mouth and your tongue to lose control and get used to making strange sounds. 3. Pick a phrase from the scriptures and say it over and over again, as fast as you can, until the words become unintelligible  in your mouth. When you can’t say it anymore faster take a leap of faith and say the first things that come to your mind-oftentimes this will be your new tongues 4. Start making intercession with groaning that can’t be uttered. Start to groan and moan while curled up in a ball on the ground, from deep within your chest, and visualize your sounds transforming into words. 5. Read Bible verses but take out the vowels from what you’re reading,  and try to pronounce them all the while asking God to give you the gift- this oftentimes acts like a kickstart 6. Hold your hands over your ears so that you can’t hear yourself speaking, and start saying words and making sounds as the spirit leads, and then have a friend come over and listen. The reason you are plugging your ears is because as you are getting disappointed with the English words that are coming out of your mouth and then losing faith, which will kill it.  If you do start speaking in tongues, your friends will be able to hear it and confirm it for you.

I spent months practicing these things, trying to get my mouth to turn over, but to no avail. I especially tried the groaning one, where I would crawl into my prayer closet and start to heave as I pushed my hands against my chest, growling and moaning and making sounds that I didn’t know I could make. I was warbling by tongues and lips in between guttural gasps in an effort to make something happen. Anything. But to no avail. Consequently I had become hopelessly disappointed. I had gone to the altar on a weekly basis for prayer, my cheeks wet with tears as I sobbed and wept and asked God why everyone around me could do it, but I couldn’t. Didn’t he love me enough to help me speak in tongues? I had been told that it was one of the main proofs of salvation, and my heart was becoming a ball of confusion and distress. I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t have enough faith. I didn’t repent enough. I didn’t tithe enough. All these things rocked my little ship of faith. And then this conference happened.

It had been two days of manic worship music, ultimate frisbee, and sleep deprivation. A man with a bald head and a beard appeared on stage and said that he was going to slay us all in the spirit, and when we awoke we would have the gift of tongues. The room was hot and sweaty and the stench of stale body air was everywhere. Under blue and pink lights he approached us and had all thirty of us line up around stage and starting left from right, he would put his hands on people and almost throw them to the ground. Thankfully there were adults behind us who would catch us as we fall, to ensure that the impact of throwing a body gone limp would not crack our skulls on the floor.  “SHANDALA-HUNDARA” he screamed as he picked us off one by one. Boom! Boom! Boom! Bodies were hitting the floor as if being cut down in a swath. I could hear some of the girls who had gone first starting to rise and stir as sounds of giggles filled the room.

Finally he came to me. I couldn’t breathe with anticipation. Finally it was going to happen. I knew it was. Oh. My. God.  This was going to be amazing. All I could think about was the coveted tongues. I wanted it so bad, and the knowledge that I would go under and come up a new man was exquisite. He gripped my head with his hands. I braced my soul.  He blew a rush of air and spittle in my face and then  yelled “Spirit be released in Jesus’ name!”

But I did not fall as almost every other had. No- instead I felt none of the impartation that I had hoped for, that I had built myself up for. I wanted my knees to go weak. I wanted my legs to buckle. I wanted my mind to be assaulted by a hundred million senses and to come up for air with new words and a heavenly language and the powerful rapture of being so close to God that we shared a secret language that only we knew. Instead my legs remained strong. I did not bend or bow. Instead, despite being nearly hurled towards the carpet, my instincts kicked in and I twisted my body in such a way that I was  able to catch myself on the front row chairs as I reeled back.

The speaker, content with seeing me displaced, went back to the center and compelled the praise band up to keep on playing while my friends and strangers laid with their backs on the floor. Their hands were raised slightly at their side and facing heaven, weeping and laughing . I could hear the sound of garbled voices while I sat there. Heads in my knees. Begging God’s forgiveness for being such a disappointment to him.

To be continued…

The Message “bible” is STILL not a Bible


Just wanted to do some compare and contrast as we ask ourselves- what is a Bible and what does it mean for something to be considered Scriptures? What does it mean for something to be the word of God? Better yet, what is the advantage of reading what one person paraphrases the scriptures as “kind-of/sort of meaning”,  versus having our brightest minds and scholarly experts painstakingly recreate for us the exactness of what God actually says? I already told you to stop using the message Bible to preach, and I also told you all tongue-in-cheek that I was writing my own Bible version, and yet sadly no pastors who use the Message Bible took me up on my offer, even though I demonstrated its much better than Eugene Peterson’s version.

But here is some further think-a-long; I have a theory that people oftentimes don’t choose a Bible to know with precision what God actually said, but rather they choose it and use it for how it makes them feel when they read it. You see this all the time in pulpits. Pastors will throw up some notes on powerpoint and they’ll have 5 different translations/paraphrases ranging from the excellent  [NASB] to the good [NIV] to the bad [NLT] to the utterly and completely appalling [Message Bible]. Why use the MB? Because it words things in a way that the pastor finds compelling and gripping and in which he thinks he congregation will get a kick out of. And the congregants go along with that because it has ceased being important for a translation to accurately reflect what was being said. It has ceased being important that Jesus’ words, meaning, and intent-without additions or interpolations- are immortalized and cannonized.

It has become wholly acceptable to abuse and molest the original meaning  because for some people, the intent isn’t to know what the original meaning is, but rather to develop an emotional response. And as long as that emotional response in brought on by something remotely bibley, they can interpret their feelings as a spiritual encounter, which is the source of their security, affirmation and joy. The Pastors putting these paraphrases are are not doing it so that will have a cerebral or intellectual impact, but rather an emotive one. Its not for maximum accuracy, but for maximum sentiment. That’s the thrust of the appeal- because warm fuzzies are an easier sell than  rigorous faith fullness to the text. To that end, here is a segment from Matthew 5:1-10. ESV first, the Message second

1-2.  Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.  And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

1-2. When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

3“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

 

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

4“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

 

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

5“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

 

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

6“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

 

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

7“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

 

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

8“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

 

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

 9“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

 

10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

10“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

 

Examine those few verses. Are they saying the same thing? Do they even sound the same? Are things being added in? Verses 3 and 4 are especially grotesque in their ability to take liberties with the text and add flourishes that not only do not exist, but actually changes the meaning of what was actually said by Jesus. Why is it necessary to do that? It adds foreign concepts that are not biblical and which Jesus never intended to say. So let’s call The Message bible for what it is- A sad testament to our modern-day churchy evangelical culture that values manipulation of the text for personal gratification, over fidelity to the text for corporate sanctification.

Playful Puppies Bible vs Velociraptor Kitten Bible.

So there is a new Bible soon to be released from Zondervan, who quite frankly need to give their heads [or their paws, badum tish] a shake. According to their press release, which is 100% legit

Playful Puppies Bible

If you love puppies, you will love this Bible! Inside you will find 12 color pages of adorable puppy photos with inspirational thoughts that will encourage you day after day. The Playful Puppies Bible is just the right size to take along wherever you go. Features include: * Presentation page for gift giving * Ribbon marker * Words of Christ in red * 12 pages of adorable puppy photos, Scripture references, and inspirational thoughts * The entire Bible in the New International Version (NIV)

Here’s the deal- If this is not an example of crass consumerism then I don’t know what is, only that this is yet another example of the church conforming to the culture because they don’t feel the Word is sufficient enough. Doesn’t this also mean that its open season on any Bible I want? For anyone who likes this idea, could I not, by the very same arguments that created this bible, make my own bible called “The Cute Kitten Raptor Bible”? And inside would be 12 pictures of Kittens posing like Velociraptors, much like this one here;

Here would be my press release;

Cute Kitten Raptor Bible

If you love kittens and dinosaurs, you will love this Bible! Inside you will find 12 color pages of adorable kittens posing like velociraptors photos with empathetic thoughts that will encourage you day after day and show you that even if your friends and peers reject you, Jesus never will. The Cute Kitten Raptor Bible is just the right size to take along wherever you go. Features include: * Presentation page for gift giving * Ribbon marker * Words of Christ in red * 12 pages of adorable raptor kitten photos, Scripture references, and inspirational thoughts * The entire Bible in The Message Edition.

 

What do you guys think? Which Bible would you rather buy?

Why I can’t sing the song “Lord I give you my heart” anymore.

I was at Church a few weeks ago and the song “Lord I give you my heart” was queued up and was sung by the congregation. Up to this point I had been worshiping and my mind was fairly centered on the adoration of Jesus, but this song caused my mind to become disengaged and spiritually….disentangled. It was an awful, profoundly disturbing feeling.

Because here’s the thing- I like to sing worship songs in Church which allow me to tell the truth. That is, when I am communicating by singing to the Lord, I do not like it when I am put in the position of having to lie or exaggerate my soundness of faith, my motives, my intentions, or my devotion to Christ.  I do not like it when I have to sing promises and declarations to Christ which exceed my promise to fulfill, as that leaves me feeling like a liar- a cause for immediate disconnect from the song itself. It is one of those things that I’m mindful of and sensitive to. I like worship music with theological lyrics. I like psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with words that tell of deep Biblical truths about God. I don’t like singing falsehoods about who I am, what I do, and what my heart’s inclination is to Christ.

In short, I don’t like singing things I don’t mean. When I sing these songs which are about me, I become painfully aware that  I’m declaring things that I can’t and don’t back up, or which my heart is not convinced that it is able to do. I’m also aware that I am singing things contrary to my own nature, and that I’m singing words which confess that I am doing and am willing to do things that I am not able or willing to do. For example, any songs that have the lyrics “I will always love you. I will always worship you. You’re all I want. You’re all I ever needed.  You’ll always be my all. I will always follow you. I’ll never want anyone but you.

I would not say that these are bad songs, or that the writers have ill intent. Rather though, when I consider these in a theological context they strike me as impossible promises for me to fulfill.  To do these I would have to be fulfilling the works of the law perfectly, which seemed to me as a wretched proposition. Because I don’t always love Christ. And I won’t always worship him. And he won’t always be all I want. And he won’t always be all I need. And I won’t always follow him. So why am I singing that I do and will? Case in point-

Lord I Give You My Heart

This is my desire, to honour You
Lord with all my heart I worship You
all I have within me
I give You praise
all that I adore is in You
Lord I give You my heart
I give You my soul
I live for You alone
Every breath that I take
Every moment I’m awake
Lord have Your way in me

My desire to honor God does exist, as a new creation in Christ, so I’m fine with that, but the next line is problematic. I don’t worship the Lord with all my heart. Does anybody? I wasn’t worshiping him with all my heart that morning. Nor was I the week before. How about the next two lines? The third line is a bit wonky, as I’m not really sure what it means or how it connects with everything else, but that last line is also troublesome. I adore so many things that aren’t Jesus! I make idols out of sports teams, my family, my intellect., and I give adoration to things that rob Christ of glory rather than give him it. I raze the storehouses of this world for pleasure and peace- turning my affections towards inconsequential trivialities  instead of on my great God and savior. That does not strike me as the actions of a man who can say with honesty and with a straight face “All that I adore is in you”...

Line three of the chorus. “I live for you alone?” I don’t live for God alone. No one does. I can’t sing that with a straight face. I’m not sure how anybody else can. See- God knows our hearts and he knows the extent that we are “living for him”, so why am I declaring to my brothers and sisters that I’m living for him alone when I know that’s simply not true. I feel gross and deceptive when I sing that.  And assuming lines 4 and 5 are connected to line three- that is to say that with every breath that I take and every moment that I’m awake I’m living for God alone, that would be another false statement that I cannot bear to sing forth.

Am I alone in this? Am I the only one who is bothered by that? I’m not trying to nitpick, but rather to make a point that many of our worship sessions are loaded with songs that declare works, deeds, and intents  that our congregants have no intention of ever doing, or are simply by virtue of the nature of their will are unable to do. I don’t know if it makes sense that we’re singing the songs with the presuppositions that we’re only speaking of our best intentions, or in the present tense and not the future tenses. For some of the songs we sing I suppose it makes sense to look at them in the big picture, such as I generally love Jesus even if I don’t specifically do all the time, but that isn’t always the most helpful perspective.

I think this is why I prefer to sing songs that are Christ-centered, because I know that he is able to do them and has done all these things. This is opposed to  songs that are man-centered, because I know I have not done these things. With Christ-centered and Christ-focused songs, I have complete confidence in his ability to do as he says, and to keep his word and fulfill his promises. In this, I can sing those types of lyrics because I have a clean conscience when I do so. I don’t have to embellish or exaggerate my ability to complete and be faithful to the things that I am singing,  but rather I can breathe easily and rest in the grace that where my words and works fail, Jesus’ never do.

What do you guys think? Do you have any problem singing sons with lyrics like “I will always love you. I will always worship you. You’re all I want. You’re all I ever needed.  You’ll always be my all. I will always follow you. I’ll never want anyone but you.”? If not, how to you reconcile that with the reality and truth of the situation- which is that, quite frankly, you don’t?

What other songs do you have trouble singing, for similar-ish reasons?

*Note. The aforementioned post is a deconstruction and reconstruction of something I wrote last year, but with present day application.

Speaking Truth in Love; A Love Story

A while ago I posted a string of posts about a certain speaker coming to a certain church and saying certain things. It exploded on my blog and Facebook, garnering comments from the left and the right. It was, in many ways, a hand grenade tossed under the pews. People’s feelings were hurt and the emotional toll it took on all sides was profound and pronounced. In retrospect, after a bit of counsel, I see now that while my content and theological objections were immaculate and near perfect in their argumentation, my execution was less than helpful. What I said was true, and the objections I brought to  bear were important and weighty. The fact that few seemed to believe otherwise was disappointing, but ultimately that doesn’t change the fact that there were several ways I could have gone about it, and it seems I chose the one with the most carnage and the highest body count.

One of the comments that was sent my way in the combox was that I was not speaking truth in love. Its an objection that has been thrown my way on a few occasions, and at the time I spoke of my intent to disseminate that charge. In fact this post was to be a deftly handled rebuttal of that charge, incorporating a proper biblical exegesis to demonstrate the shallowness and irrationality of such an assertion. To be clear, I am tempted to assert that at the present time there is no single statement in the whole of the Bible which is so much abused and misquoted as this particular statement, and I believe I could bring this to bear.

While I may still do that if pressed on the matter, I thought a change a pace might be more appropriate, in tone and intent, and instead just share some thoughts that I have about this. What I think “speaking the truth in love” has become, divorced from its context and historical underpinnings, is a concept that has become entangled and conformed to our society’s ideal of loveless love and painless affection. Here’s what I mean. Growing up I would hear a lot about “speaking into my life.” What it meant for me was that I would pick a few people, mostly my peers [ who were as foolish and immature as I was]  but also some older men who I liked and viewed as wise and spiritually mature. These were the people that I allowed to “speak into my life”. That is, I acted autonomously and made the executive decision that these people were the ones who I would give the right to be able to rebuke me. These were people who I would allow to tell me when I need correction- when I was being stupid,  making bad choices,  having a poor attitude, and so forth. They were also the ones whose words carried a lot of weight with me when I sought advice, needed comfort, and who I counted on to help me grow and develop spiritually and emotionally.

There were other people who sought to correct me, to chastise me or reprove me. These people I either ignored or dismissed. After all, I didn’t give them permission to speak into my life. I didn’t allow them to do that. What was integral to the process as well was that I deemed that only those who had a relationship with me were allowed to speak into my life. I was not alone in this- everyone knew that only those who had a friendship and relationship with you were allowed to speak into your life. But these people didn’t have that, and it didn’t matter that they had legitimate scriptural objections to my behavior or attitude, or that they approached me with varying degrees of kindness or bluntness. My church environment and culture, which I would describe as an evangelical, protestant, mainline non-denominational denomination, did little to dissuade me from having this attitude and mindset, but rather encouraged me at every turn. I was the gatekeeper through which any criticism or praise had to go through. My heart was a vault and mind was a fortress, impenetrable and unrepentant unless I gave you a key, and even then I usually fought kicking and screaming all the way.

This was coupled with a very subjective view of what “speaking truth in love” meant. Truth could only be spoken into my life if I felt it was done lovingly by those who I allowed to speak into my life. That is to say, it was a vague, highly personalized and highly stylized love. It was culturally conditioned- having had taken on the character of what passes for love in our society today. It could not be harsh. It could not be emphatic. It could not be overly critical and it could not in any way tear someone down. It had to have the right tone and inflection, and it could not criticize someone else beliefs or presuppositions- mainly because we had abandoned the perspicuity of the scripture and so who were we to stand so firm and nonyielding when, after all, there was a certain amount of right and truth in everything?

Most important of all, any truth that was spoken could not hurt or hinder the unity of the body and our fellowship. This was the overriding precept that governed all we said and did.  Disagreeing too vehemently or vigorously was seen as divisive and not spirit-led. Telling anyone that what they believed was false,  idolatrous, unhelpful or sub-biblical, was viewed as an attack against the body of Christ- an act of aggression against the Church on par with the vilest of sins.  Truth in love was important, and If we had to pick sides, all of us would have fallen on the love side instead of the truth one. More often than not it didn’t matter how you said it- the fact is that you said it. And that was near unforgivable. “Unity! Unity! Unity!” was our rallying cry, even as we were being discouraged to wrestle with hard concepts amongst ourselves. We did not see that unity without truth was idolatry. We did not see that our ecclesiastical body of Christ had become a rotting and fetid corpse, being held together by sinews of timidity  and tendons of superficiality .

Truth could only be spoken in love-, that was true. But more often than not we discovered that the truth was viewed as unloving, and so instead of speaking the truth in love- we just spoke love; vapid, empty, shallow, culturally-crafted damnable love. Love that was dependent on our feelings. Love that was subjective and self-esteem based. Love that was devoid of scrutiny and sacredness, bereft of sharp edges and piercing honesty,  and which did not poke, prod or prick. A so-called love that was common, vulgar, and meaningless. A love which refused to wound and would not expose our self-canonization. The kind of love that was tepid and safe, spoken by people within the designated parameters and imposed restrictions I had placed on them- but in the end cannot satisfy or sanctify. We thought it was love! We really did- but now I see it instead for what it is, a brilliantly disguised form of hatred.

That’s the environment that I grew up in and cut my theological teeth on. That’s what I grew up in, and what I have since rebelled against. I don’t feel that way anymore, obviously. There are a lot of reasons for that.  But ultimately its because I don’t want a pretend love or a pretend unity which does not have as its foundation the word of the living God. I think there is something better than all that. – a true “truth in love” antithesis which bears itself out with weight and glory. An ideal that has as its center the person of Christ and truth of the gospel, foundational and firm, with implications for every arena of life it touches. It’s not an excuse for cruelty and callousness, but rather redeems both even as it brings light to the darkest of situations.  I spoke in love in those posts, literally the phrase is “truthing in love”- albeit imperfectly and not without a certain regret. Even so I know that it is not the same as what has been spoken of in the aforementioned paragraphs, but it is something that I would consider deeper, more painful, more loving and more rewarding.

I’m Writing My Own Bible Version. Which Church In Fort McMurray Will Use It?

Hey all. Just wanted to give everyone an update on a project I’m working on.  I’ve started the process of creating my own Bible version of the New Testament. I’ve tentatively titled it the Dustin Germain Standard Bible, [or DGSB] and am about halfway through writing out the book of Collosians, which will be available as a free downloadable PDF in the near future.  The purposes for writing this has been multifaceted. For one thing, I decided that the Bibles I typically use, the ESV, the NASB and the NRSV aren’t dynamic or relevant enough. The language is a bit too exact and precise for my liking.  I thought of using the Message Bible, but to be honest I’m not entirely satisfied with the Message Bible. It was a good attempt, but I think my translation can serve as a better medium for finding that common ground between the two. For example, in Collosians 2:8-10, the “original Greek” says this :

βλέπετε μή τις ὑμᾶς ἔσται ὁ συλαγωγῶν διὰ τῆς φιλοσοφίας καὶ κενῆς ἀπάτης κατὰ τὴν παράδοσιν τῶν ἀνθρώπων κατὰ τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κοσμοῦ καὶ οὐ κατὰ Χριστόν ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ κατοικεῖ πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς θεότητος σωματικῶς, καὶ ἐστὲ ἐν αὐτῷ πεπληρωμένοι, ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλὴ πάσης ἀρχῆς καὶ ἐξουσίας.

The ESV, which is a formal equivalent literal translation,  renders it as:

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority”

Whereas the Message Bible, a pseudo-dynamic equivalent  translations reads:

“Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.”

That’s a big difference in word count alone- the Message gets 110 and the ESV gets 57. My translation is not as flamboyant or creative as the Message Bible, but I think it does a good job in offering a readable, contemporary alternative which people might appreciate. The Dustin Germain Standard Bible reads:

“Take care to ensure that no one seizes you captive through empty deception and philosophies- which rely on human traditions and are according to the elemental spiritual forces of the world and don’t rely on Christ. For in Christ the entire fullness of deity lives bodily, and you have been filled up in Him, who is the head of all authority and rule”

My translation has only 64 words, and while similar word count alone does not mean its a good or accurate translation or Bible version, it does suggest less interpolations. Furthermore, while it may not have the addition of all the friendly little flourishes [or jots and tittles, as some might call them] that Eugene Peterson liberally peppered his text with, I think it still does a good job at conveying the thrust of the point.

For that reason I’ll also be looking for some Churches and pastors to partner with to help promote my translation. There are at least two Churches in the city who have made it a habit to utilize the Message Bible as one of their main translations, and have even had services where the preaches have exegeted it. I think those two are my best bet for furthering and developing this project. I’m not sure the exact timetable for when this will be launched, or if they are willing to commit to my project, but I hope they would. In fact, I  can’t think of a single good reasons why they might be adverse to using it.

Some well meaning friends have suggested that there might be a bit of push back. They have said that when people see the Bible verse on the powerpoint slide, replete with a mountain scene in the background and a “Dustin Germain Standard Bible” tacked on to the end, that after the congregants puzzlingly try to comprehend what a DGSB is,  they will grow upset and resentful. I’ve anticipated that critique and having given it some thought, am quite frankly not concerned at all. I don’t think anyone will voice those objections or think that. No one is going to care that they are reading my translation when I laud and promote it as a fresh new way to read the scriptures. They don’t do it to the Message Bible, so why on earth would they do it to mine?

So can I count on the pastors and preachers of Fort Murray to help me with this endeavor? Will you start using it from your pulpits? I will be contacting you all shortly to get your support and endorsements for this project. I  hope to see the DGSB quoted in your sermons very soon, and based on your already existing usage of the Message Bible, I am confident that I will receive it your hearty endorsements of my version with a “yea” and “amen”.