Tag Archives | scripture

Feed Or Be Fed | Donald Gee

Donald GeeWe do not need to be fed on the Word, we need to feed on the Word: a big difference. If I was still feeding my children in their teens with a spoon, then something would be drastically wrong.

—Gee in Hollenweger, The Pentecostals, 215.

The Bible Tells Me So … | Peter Enns

The cover of Enns' The Bible Tells Me So ...Fear not.

Those two simple words comprise the most common command in the Bible. Ironically, though, many Christians live in—if not precisely fear—at least a certain uneasiness about scripture. Here are some of the big issues:

  • How could God command the genocide of the Canaanites?
  • How could God annihilate the entire human race in a flood?
  • Why do different passages of scripture take opposing views?
  • How can Genesis speak intelligently to the modern world?
  • How did Jesus and Paul get away with interpreting scripture so … creatively?

Many Christians repress or explain away these issues, but deep down, the tension remains.

Peter Enns confronts the questions head on. His solution is simple: the Bible isn’t an instruction manual on God, it’s the account of how flawed human beings experienced God.

Reading the Bible responsibly and respectfully today means learning what it meant for ancient Israelites to talk about God the way they did, and not pushing alien expectations onto texts written long ago and far away. (65)

If the Bible is analogous to incarnation (fully God and fully human), Enns swings the pendulum from our longstanding Evangelical Docetism (not fully human) towards the Ebionism (not fully divine) side of the spectrum.

Now, you may not agree with Enns. Many people don’t. (There’s a great joke in the Acknowledgements section about the “Evangelical Witness Protection Program.”) You do have to respect a man who is so transparent with his views that he lost his teaching post at Westminster Theological Seminary. He also handles these issues with a genuine laugh-out-loud sense of humour.

Whether you agree or not, “fear not.” God is more than big enough to handle our questions.

—Peter Enns, The Bible Tells Me So …: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It (New York: HarperOne, 2014).

Scripture’s Scaffolding | Martin Luther

Go to the Scriptures, dear Christians! Go there alone, and let my exposition and that of all other teachers mean no more to you than the scaffolding on a building, so that we might understand the simple, pure Word of God, accept it as our own, and hold it fast.

—Martin Luther in Timothy George, Reading Scripture with the Reformers (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 198.

Scripture is a Gift | Timothy George

Scripture is a divinely bestowed, Spirit-generated gift of the triune God and should thus be received with gratitude, humility and a sense of reverence.

—Timothy George, Reading Scripture with the Reformers (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2011), 31.

Captive to the Word of God | Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf perceives the world on a deeper level than most. He has given time and thought to the theological lens through which he understands existence—something self-evident in all of his works.

Captive to the Word of God demonstrates this depth of perception. After an original essay which explains his method (“Reading the Bible Theologically”), this volume collects five essays written over the course of sixteen years. Each essay demonstrates a life and thought process infused with an understanding of God’s Word.

Two essays stood out. In “Peculiar Politics: John’s Gospel, Dualism, and Contemporary Pluralism,” Volf undermines the so-called dualisms implicit in John’s Gospel (dark/light, death/life, etc.) and demonstrates the various shades of grey. For example, What is the salvific status of Nicodemus? How can we hate the world if God loves the world? Volf then applies his understanding of the Gospel of John to our contemporary pluralistic-leaning society with penetrating observations and insight.

“Hunger for Infinity: Christian Faith and the Dynamics of Economic Progress” is another gem. Using the book of Ecclesiastes, Volf torpedoes the myth of process and reveals how our understanding of God has been co-opted to serve the “hamster wheel” of desire:

Masters of subtle religious ideological manipulation engineered a gradual metamorphosis of the God of Jesus Christ into the god of this world. They were shrewd enough not to overdo it, however, The mask of the old God was retained; appearances must be kept up, you know. (170)

Volf is never easy reading, but a deliberate and careful reading pays dividends with this short collection of essays.

The Message Remix | Eugene H. Peterson

Let’s get things straight: I’m not interested in writing a review of the Bible—I don’t even know how you would approach something like that! As a follower of Jesus, I submit myself to the Spirit of the Jesus who speaks to me in and through the written word.

That said, every English Bible we have is a translation and every translation is an interpretative judgment. I will offer my thoughts on Eugene Peterson’s very popular colloquial translation of the Bible.

One more disclaimer before we begin. My childhood was spent with the KJV, my youth years were spent with the NIV, my ministry life began with the NASB, my Seminary days were spent with the NRSV, and I’m currently living out of the ESV. I am not devoted to any one translation of the Bible. Every translation has strengths and weaknesses, reflecting the strengths and weaknesses of the translators who are just as human as the rest of us.

That said, I am predisposed to take a favourable view of The Message because Peterson has been such a positive influence in my life.

  1. It’s often remarked that the language of the New Testament (Koine Greek) is the common language of daily life and commerce. Therefore, our translations should reflect street-level literacy. While I take the point, I also know the extreme artistry that has gone into many of the books and letters that make up Scripture. 1 Corinthians, for example, is an extremely finely structured masterpiece (see Bailey’s Paul through Mediterranean Eyes). Many people who support the KJV do so because if it’s literary artistry. I think we need to use common language—but use it carefully and artistically. Here’s where Peterson is very strong. You don’t need a degree in literature to understand his language and metaphors, but he uses this common stock of vocabulary in very artistic ways. Peterson translates scripture like a poet.
  2. Every translator of scripture interprets while translating. Peterson is no exception. Unlike many of the other translations, Peterson’s interpretative judgments are more transparent due to his through-for-thought paraphrase style. It can be easy to forget that woodenly literal translations are still interpretations. You can mistake the English container for the actual word. On the other hand, when I read a phrase that surprises me in The Message, it sends me straight to other translations or BibleWorks to research why he wrote the way he did. Whether you agree with his judgments or not, you have to respect the increased transparency this provides.
  3. Peterson’s translation is lively. If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you’ve probably heard many verses the same way many times. Reading a paraphrase like Peterson’s will help the text to come alive in your mind. You will see things a way that you’ve never seen them before. Sometimes novelty helps the Spirit to get to our heart.
  4. Of course, the danger with any colloquial translation like Peterson’s is its timeliness. The more colloquial the vernacular, the more tied to one era that translation will be. Some of Peterson’s phrases will sound dated more quickly that a those used in a more literal translation. If you’re interested in reading this translation, read it now: by its very nature it will grow stale.

I’m glad I took the time to read The Message cover-to-cover. Many verses came alive to me. Many times Peterson’s choice of words cut through my over-familiarity and worked their way into my life.

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