Saturday, May 26, 2012

Massaging the real message

I recently read an insightful letter from Pastor Gervase Nicholas E. Charmley to Chris Rosebrough of Fighting for the Faith on the blog Letter of Marque.  I know that's a mouthful but as an English teacher I want to make sure my documentation is accurate.  Pastor Charmley identifies nine reasons why The Message, a paraphrase, should never be substituted for an accurate translation. Charmley's closing paragraph is excellent: 

So what is to be done? The Message is obviously not a Bible translation, or even a terribly good paraphrase. Rather than allowing the Bible to expand his understanding, Peterson has often contracted the Bible to fit his own ideas, omitting those bits that he cannot fit, and adding his own material in far too many places. With the aim of making the Bible and the Gospel comprehensible, he has actually done something quite different; he has made them manageable, which is not to be done. While paraphrases can be useful, they must be faithful to the original material, and that is precisely where The Message falls down. To read The Message in Church as if it is a Bible translation is misleading and wrong. When The Message is read, the reader must be aware that he is reading what Eugene Peterson thinks God meant to say, not what God actually said. The charge may sound harsh, but it is quite accurate

Read Charmley's nine reasons that brought him to this conclusion.  I've heard The Message used in chapel messages and I've never understood why a pastor would use a faulty paraphrase as opposed to an accurate translation.  Is God's Word not good enough?  Can the Holy Spirit not work through His Word?  Are high school students simply too dumb to understand God's Word?  They take AP Chemistry, AP Literature, AP Nuclear Sub-Atomic Farbulating Physics, they memorize the periodic table, they debate the literary merit of Shakespeare, Faulkner and Homer so I don't think young men and women lack intellect.  With effective teaching and preaching they can handle God's Word and not have to rely on "what Eugene Peterson thinks God meant to say."

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