Preaching Articles

"Moralistic sermons are non-gospel because they turn everything on us. I want to hear what God is doing," Peterson says.

Eugene Peterson was for many years James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College. He also served as founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. A prolific author, he is probably most well known for The Message, his translation of the Bible in the language of today. Now retired from full-time teaching, Eugene and his wife Jan live in the Big Sky Country of rural Montana.

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David Buffaloe

commented on May 26, 2012

Pure hogwash. Take up your Cross and follow Christ. The Gospel is REPENT, BELIEVE on Christ, BE BAPTIZED, and FOLLOW Jesus. God works through the willing, making the worthless priceless. Abraham believed God, but MOVED where God told him to move. Jonah refused to move, so God forced him to Ninevah. God's people are to be light, to move, to carry the Gospel to others by the way they live, love, and move.

Gordon Besel

commented on May 26, 2012

I agree with Eugene Peterson. Ephesians 2:8-10 says that we are saved by God's grace without any works of our own. That's the Gospel we need to preach. But if we leave it there it becomes cheap grace. Verse 10 reminds us that God saves us by grace so that we can do good works and be disciples of Christ - obeying everything He has commanded. But it starts with the Gospel - Jesus saves us without our works because we can't do anything on our own. It is all about what God is doing in our lives - including as David Buffaloe says, repenting, believing and following Christ.

Myron Heckman

commented on May 26, 2012

Wow, "pure hogwash"? The Good News isn't what we do, but what God in Jesus Christ has done and is doing. When we tell that, then we can call people to respond. But it is the Gospel that is the power of God to salvation. God called Abraham, God called Jonah and steered him to Ninevah. They obeyed (eventually) but in response to God's call. The direction of grace is from God to man, not from man to God. And when we keep that order straight, what a blessing. Eugene Peterson isn't denying our obedience, but emphasizing the joy of knowing that God is at work.

Roger Wilson

commented on May 26, 2012

I too want to hear what God is doing, but we must never forget that we are called to "repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). In repentance we meet God in what He is doing in us. God uses us to accomplish His purposes here on earth. Jesus told us to GO and make disciples. Yes, it is the Holy Spirit that convicts man's heart to repentance, but while the part we play in no wise lends itself to our savlation, we are nonetheless called to be obedient and to roll up our sleeves and go to work for the kingdom. Grace is not cheap, but neither is discipleship. I want to be a disciple and willingly follow my Lord Jesus. Yes, I love to see what God is doing, espescially when He uses me in the doing!

Jack Lawrence

commented on May 26, 2012

I, respectfully but strongly, disagree with Dr. Peterson. Western societies are in moral decline and people want to hear only certain things but not the whole counsel of God. They have ears to hear but do not hear and eyes to see but do not see. Declaring the whole counsel of God includes explaining the eternal moral truths of God and His expectations of men and women living by those truths. Humans have a responsibility in God's plan of salvation. There is a constant in the convenantal relationship with God. "IF you will...THEN I will..." says God to all of us.

Paul Wilkerson

commented on May 26, 2012

As a pastor I have found that message that i bring to the church vary.... There is no right message to me... Sometimes they are instructional, others full of grace, others moralistic. My faith is God know what and where His people are and I pray that I am open to recieve that and bring forth the right message in the season of the people... Always being sensitive to the nonchurch non believer there... meaning never to talk down to them but express God's love for them in all messages... God Bless you all

Wendell Ray

commented on May 26, 2012

Is obedience moralistic?

Paul Igbinoba

commented on May 26, 2012

Repentance and obedience form the basis of our discipleship and relationship with God. God, being a holy God, cannot display His signs and wonders to an unholy and immoral people. The word of God is so balanced, so we should be mindful to propagate a balanced doctrine.

Rick Griffis

commented on May 26, 2012

The scriptures plainly tell us that we are to preach the whole council of the word of God .In trying to preach only that which people want to hear we then become people pleasers and not a God pleaser . Paul said it was going to happen , that people would heap to themselves that tickle the ear and would turn from the truth and the truth is that we need to hear the whole truth and not just the parts that are pleasing to us . I trust if we pray that God will give us what the people need and not only what they want to hear .

James Walker

commented on May 26, 2012

Can an intelligent person like Eugene Peterson be more WRONG? The scripture itself crosses his remarks. Instructions to Timothy and to all of us who preach ... 2 Timothy 4:2 (NKJV) Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. Regrettably I have noticed huge discrepancies between Mr. Peterson's The Message and the actual Scripture to the extent that I seldom use it. Now I better understand the license he takes with his opinion versus Sacred Scripture.

Robert Herron

commented on May 26, 2012

I highly disagree with Mr. Peterson, it sounds like he wants to hear what God will and can do for him. When I preach, I preach about what God has accomplished in the world, what He is doing in the world, and practicle application. Sorry Mr. Pererson if all you want to hear is what God is doing for you, you've obviously missed something.

Gordon Dorsey

commented on May 26, 2012

SHALOM saints this is a very good article as pastors we cannot preach what they want to hear and turn service into entertainment.we are tp preach the entire word of YAHVAH(GOD)if you start that you will find yourself in a stiuation that you cannot get out of .if you teach the complete word your congregation will respect and exspect that type of teaching you give them if you entertain them then you open the door for only entertainment preaching which is very dangerous.teach the true word of GOD SHALOM PASTOR DORSEY

J.henry Gross

commented on May 26, 2012

What I understand Dr. Peterson to say is that there are too many "formula"s for the flesh" being passed off as Bible teaching. And I think he is Sspot on! Pharisees want formula's. God wants us to meet Him in the Bible...to know His heart!...to experience His presence. I have never met Dr. Peterson in person, only in his writings and I find a freshness there that I thank Jesus for.

Larry L. Bartlett

commented on May 26, 2012

Eugene, is part of the problem. Look at his private interpretations in his paraphrased bible, The Message. He has tired to destroy the Word of God by his meddling with the words of the Authorized King James Bible. Two things that are different cannot be the same. His paraphrased version is so far off . . . Paul said, in II Cor. 2:17 - For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. He doesn't believe even his bible is inspired. He believes his own version has errors in it! Hardly, anyone believes the BOOK anymore. No wonder we are in such a mess! There are several that I agree with here in this thread as far as they go . . . Rick Griffis, James Walker (except for the NKJV); Jack Lawerance etc.

Dr. Thomas Norton

commented on May 26, 2012

“Pure hogwash?” That seems very harsh to me. St. John of the Cross wrote, "Love is the measure by which we will be judged." Last time I checked, Jesus said that apart from Him, we could do nothing (John 15:5). I went back and listened to this video again to see if I missed something that a number of responses seemed to focus upon. I don't think I did (miss their point). However, Peterson’s point is that when the preacher focuses “mostly on what I am to do, and not mostly on the gospel,” he said that was when he quit listening. We need the gospel preached and practiced every day of our lives. Even if Peterson is wrong (and I don’t believe he is), he is trying to encourage us to focus on the preaching of the gospel. After all, it is the “power of God for salvation to all who believe” (Rom 1:16, ESV). God began a good work in us and will complete that good work (Phil 1:6). Paul writes that he was the worst of sinners (1 Tim 1:16, NIV). May we never forget we were saved by grace and we are kept by grace. No amount of good works will ever make us right with God or keep us right with God. The kergyma, the preaching of good news is all about God’s amazing grace! Soli Deo Gloria!

Jack Lawrence

commented on May 26, 2012

Dr. Norton, Dr. Peterson's words were not focused on "works" per se, but "moralistic sermons." Both of you rightly point out the importance of Kergyma, but miss the equally important point of Didache. Preaching must include both, if it is only Kergyma, there will be no "rooted and grounded" position in the ones we are to disciple. Their faith will be "a mile wide and an inch deep;" similarly, if ministry is just Didache, the hearers become Pharisaical and the church becomes stunted and ceases to grow. As you know the great commission is to "go make disciples" not just converts. One of the great needs in this relativistic age is to teach God's eternal moral truths to this generation. It is sad that Dr. Peterson says that he will quit listening when that happens.

Fernando Villegas

commented on May 27, 2012

It seems to me that a lot of people on here are reacting against something that Mr. Peterson is not actually saying, which is a shame because what he IS saying is actually quiet powerful. Mr. Peterson is careful to define what he means by "moralistic sermons": sermons where the pastor is talking ALL or MOSTLY about what I'm supposed to be doing. Despite what some have been posting, Mr. Peterson is not talking against things like obedience, human response, preaching the whole counsel of God, or repentance. Repentance, by the way, is not simply something we do, but primarily is a gift from God (Acts 5:31); so that repentance is included in what God is doing. Keep in mind, this is a 96-second clip. It is unfair to judge him so harshly for not being as nuanced as some would like him to be. If you read any of his books or hear him speak in person, you will discover that he DOES speak positively about many of the issues that have been brought up by some of the critics. All he is trying to say is, let's put things like obedience, repentance, belief, etc., in its proper Gospel context, rather than making those things the primary thrust of our sermons.

David Grachek

commented on May 28, 2012

You can't agree with Rev. Dr. Peterson because his translation is not akin to the "authorized" King James version? Seriously? This video is spot on! Thank you for sharing Eugene.

John E Miller

commented on May 28, 2012

The clip is far too short and has no context for it to be properly assessed. What is certain is that Eugene Paterson's "The Message" is not a sound translation of the word of God. It misrepresents the truth of God's word in its loose paraphrastic style. Because of that it undermines the purity of God's truth revealed in His word.

Dr. Thomas Norton

commented on May 28, 2012

I would remind us as shepherds of the sheep is that we must lead exemplary lives before our people, and that certainly should include how we deal with those we disagree with online or face to face. Though I am not KJV only, look at the following challenge: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:13–16, KJV 1900) In Jesus’ prayer in John 17, he prays, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:21, KJV 1900) May God help true Christians to walk in unity so that the world may believe Jesus has been sent from God, because our discord sends the opposite message.

John E Miller

commented on May 29, 2012

Dr Thomas Norton, I address you respectfully having read your sermon outline. Do you believe that we can be united around a so-called "translation" of the word of God that is not faithful to the original God-breathed writings? Would you not agree with me that absolute adherence to the exquisite accuracy of God's word is a prerequisite for everyone who claims to be a Bible translator? Perhaps I have mistaken the thrust of your post. If so, please forgive me.

Doug Engel

commented on Jun 5, 2012

I love the heart of what Eugene Peterson has to say (What is God doing?) and am very disapointed that some have used this forum as a protest concerning translations. By the way, the language of the Bible is Hebrew and Greek, not King James English and these languages have changed since the Bible was written originally.

Mark Baker

commented on Jun 5, 2012

The point, Doug, is the accuracy of the Scriptures. It is never disappointing to me when people seek the accuracy of God's Word AND point out errors--especially of a one-man-paraphrase (i.e. not a translation). There have been many articles that have demonstrably proven the errors of "The Message."

Fernando Villegas

commented on Jun 5, 2012

Mark Baker, the problem is that no one is actually pointing out errors; people are simply asserting that there are errors in the Message without actually offering any evidence, which is unfair. Until such evidence is offered, this conversation has nothing to do with the supposed "accuracy of Scripures", no matter what people say.

Mark Baker

commented on Jun 6, 2012

I guess this reveals yet another problem. I guess I was naive to think/hope that we would have done research--thorough research--BEFORE we quote, use, or rely on a presumed ?paraphrase.? Also, I had hoped that the problems/errors in The Message would have been discerned easily enough. I was wrong. Many others have written about and documented the many, many egregious errors in Peterson?s words (i.e. they are not God?s Words). We are not suppose to put websites in here, so do a search for ?The Message? (and ?errors? or ?New Age? or ______) and Warren Smith, Berit Kjos, Justin Peters, The Berean Call, etc. One simple, yet flagrant and stunning reversal of superlative truth is the damage that is done to John 3:14-15. I let everyone do their own research. I wish more of us ?leaders? would warn Mr. Peterson and others of these destructive changes to God?s Holy Word of truth.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Jun 6, 2012

Mark Baker, you wrote: "I let everyone do their own research." No one is asking you to do any research for us. All I'm saying is that if you're going to charge someone with error, on a public forum such as this, you should at least have the integrity to back up your accusations with some type of evidence. Neither of your posts have done so, so the fact remans that neither of your posts have either pointed out error or had anything to do with the accuracy of Scriptures. In fact, neither of your posts has had anything to do with the actual content of the video. So what you are doing in essence is trying to destroy Mr. Peterson's credibility by making unsubstantiated accusations on an issue which is not directly related to the topic on hand, anyway. If you want to disagree with Mr. Peterson, you are certainly free to do so. Just back it up, though. Do it with integrity. If you're not going to back it up, then don't make the acccusation. Now, regarding Jn 3:14-15, I read that passage in the English Standard Version, and then again in the Message. Quite frankly, I don't see what "flagrant and stunning reversal of superlative truth" you're talking about. Could you please show me what you're seeing there that I'm not?

Mark Baker

commented on Jun 6, 2012

I?m sorry, Mr. Villegas, I should have been more clear. While I was responding to what you wrote, I was not responding to you--I was merely writing for anyone who was curious about the many problems in The Message. I was simply putting this information out there for all who are genuinely concerned about God?s Word and any falsehoods, errors, etc that might be taught or paraphrased as God?s Word. If they are concerned--and if they want to do the research for themselves, and if they care to discern the differences between the message and The Word--then what I wrote is for those people.

John E Miller

commented on Jun 6, 2012

These are thw words of Eugene Peterson in an interview with one of the "pastors" of Mars Hill Church. "One of the Devil's finest pieces of work is getting people to spend three nights a wek in Bible studies". He continues in explanation of this outrageous statement, "Well why do people spend so much time studying the Bible? How much do you need to know? We invest all this time in understanding the text which has a separate life of its own and we think that we are being more pious and spiritual when we're doing it. But it's all to be lived. It was given to us so we could live it. But most Christians know far more of the Bible than they're living. They should be studying it less, not more. You just need enough to pay attention to God." These words are taken from an interview that is on the internet. They demonstrate a careless lack of respect and reverence for the word of God and explain the loose inaccuracy of Mr Peterson's attempt to paraphrase the inerrant, God-breathed original manuscripts. I will not dignify the word according to Eugene Peterson by quoting from it. It is in print and anyone who is a born-again child of God would quickly discard it after brief study.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Jun 6, 2012

Mark Baker, I appreciate your clarification, and I get where you're coming from. I understand that this is not the forum for an exhaustive critique of the Message. But the charges of error that some people here so flippantly throw out there are quite serious, and they deserve at least some sort of evidence to back them up. Just one brief, concise example is enough. I just think that's the honest, Christian thing to do to keep serious conversation from degrading into cheap name-calling. By the way, if anyone is concerned about possible errors in the Message, there is a better way to research for themselves than simply googling "the Message". You're going to find way too much silliness doing that, and a lot of what you find will be a waste of time. The best way for someone to research for themselves is simply to read one WHOLE book from the Message. Don't just take verses out of context; that's the kind of stuff KJVO people do, and it's the kind of stuff that will come up a lot on an internet search. Instead, read a whole book through several times. Get a good sense of its flow, its arguments, its ideas. And then compare with several of the more trustworthy translations (and with the Greek or Hebrew, if you have the facility) and see if the message has been essentially changed in any significant way. This is a far better method for researching for yourself than anything you will find on Google.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Jun 7, 2012

John E Miller, I appreciate you providing us with Mr. Peterson's quote, which I've actually come across on some occasions. Yes, some of the things he writes, some of the ways he expresses himself, makes me cringe, too. But I think the point he's trying to make is that too many people are more concerned with STUDYING the Bible instead of LIVING its teachings. Studying the Bible is good. Studying the Bible is important. BUT studying the Bible is not enough. Jesus himself rebuked the Pharisee because they studied the Scriptures, they knew the Scriptures backward and forward; and yet, here was the one that the Scriptures pointed to, standing right in front of them, and they missed him completely! So, yes, I think the Devil can keep many Christians so busy "studying the Bible" and make us feel spiritual and pious for doing so, that we don't actually put what we learn into practice. "[M]ost Christian know far more of the Bible than they are living." Boy, if that was not true, the Christian church would look A LOT different from what we see today! No, the solution is not to study less; and he may have said that tongue-in-cheek. Sometimes that kind of communication can be obscured when a spoken interview gets written down. But I think the point should be well taken. Rather than demonstrating a lack of respect and reverence for the Word of God, it could conceivably demonstrate otherwise. I think he's saying, "Are we really going to take the Bible seriously? Are we actually going to do what it says? Are we going to order our lives according to its teachings? Or are we simply going to give it lip service? Are we going to study the Bible so that we feel good about ourselves, but the moment we close that Bible we go back to living like the rest of the world?" I've read enough of Mr. Peterson's writing to know that he has great respect for the Word of God. He just expresses it in a way that is different than some people are used to. Anyway, that's the way I understood what he was trying to say in that interview. Obviously, you understood it differently, and that's fine. This is one of those areas on which we can agree to disagree. I just thought you'd like to know that there's an alternative way to understand that quote. I hope you have a wonderful day!

Mark Baker

commented on Jun 7, 2012

Again, Mr. Villegas, I wrote this for those who are honestly and deeply concerned about error and truth and the purity of God's Word. My point is that, for anyone who wants to research it for themselves, there is an over-abundance of evidence documenting the error and destruction of truth in Peterson's personalized version. I said much more than *googling* the message. I gave many specific names of those have done very good and thorough research already [for those who want the truth and to read it for themselves]. I'm both puzzled and concerned that the problems with the specific verses I gave were not more evident. It normally reads: *Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.* But Peterson, on his own accord, ADDS to Scripture. He does not only add, but reverses and perverts what could be argued as the most important aspect for Believers [i.e. faith, by which we are saved, and please God, etc]. He ADDS that we are to *see and then believe* [he also adds *look*]. This not only contradicts this vital concept and Scriptures (Heb 11:1; 2 Cor 4:16-18; 5:7; 1 Pet 1:7-8; etc) it provided a way for a very popular author to expound on this grave error. She concluded that *we must see in order to believe.* Now, as a result, millions have read this and their faith, literally, is probably damaged. That is one of many reasons why the message, and many attempts like it, are so damaging to truth and the body.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Jun 7, 2012

Mark Baker, yeah, don't worry, I got your point. That's why I dropped the isssue of Jn 3:14-15 and focused on how one actually does research for oneself. See, it occurs to me that despite your words, you're not actually encouraging people to research for themselves. Rather, you want them to read what OTHERS who have researched for themselves have written about the Message; which is, frankly, intellectually dishonest. Would you not agree with me that when doing research, one must base their conclusions primarily on PRIMARY SOURCES (in this case, the Message), rather than on SECONDARY SOURCES (in this case, those "specific names" you mentioned)? It's the difference between preparing a sermon based on your own personal study of the Scriptures (primary source), and preparing a sermon based on what you read in the commentaries (secondary source). Your approach may be easier than mine, sure. But I wouldn't call it "doing research for yourself."

Fernando Villegas

commented on Jun 7, 2012

Mark Baker, since you did bring up Jn 3:14-15 again: I can't really comment on what you wrote since we're not even on the same page in terms of hermeneutical methodology. Debating under those conditions would be like trying to communicate with each other while speaking different languages! I use that metaphor because your example of Jn 3:14-15 does at least give the occassion for exploring the issue of the nature of language. I don't know if you are bilingual or not, but those who are will understand intuitively the argument I'm about to make. Let me give you a simple example: Let's say I want to tell my wife, "I am hungry." But my wife and I speak to each other in Spanish, so what I tell her is, "Tengo hambre," (literally, "I have hunger"). The first thing you may notice is that the thought I wanted to communicate to my wife in English uses three words, but when I spoke to her in Spanish I only used two words. So I took away one word. In this case, the word I took away was the subject, "I", because in Spanish the subject is understood from the inflection of the verb, just like it is is in Greek. Now, if I was determined to be as "literal" as possible, I could've included the "I" in the translation. But then I would be emphasizing something that I never meant to emphasize orginally. So, while the translation would've been that much more literal, it would've also been that much LESS accurate! The second thing I did was to change the verb from "is" to "have" ("Tengo"= I have). I had to, because translating the verb literally would've resulted in a translation that was not good Spanish. Finally, because I had to change verbs, I then also had to switch the adjective "hungry" to the noun "hunger." So in this one simple example, I removed the subject, changed a verb, and switched an adjective to a noun! AND YET--I had to do all that in order to communicate "I am hungry" ACCURATELY into Spanish. That's simply how language works! So, what I am I trying to say by all this? My next post will try to pull everything together.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Jun 7, 2012

Mark Baker, the type of research you are suggesting seems to me to consist of reading people whose arguments against the Message are similar to the one you made regarding Jn 3:14-15. These are the kind of people who take an isolated verse or verses, and then point out how Mr. Peterson added this or took away that or changed this or put in some phrase that has some supposed New Age meaning. And since the verses are devoid of context, the critic is free to interpret these "changes" according to whatever crazy speculations come across their imaginations. Now, if you genuinely desire for people to research the Message for themselves, wonderful! I would agree with you. But the method you are suggesting isn't it. The method I'm suggesting is. It is based on the understanding that changes MUST occur when translating from one language to another; and so the fundamental question is: "Is the essential meaning of the original text communicated accurately by Mr. Peterson, or has it changed in a significant way?" You just can't answer that question by looking at individual passages. You have to read at least one whole book, do some basic exegesis of it--or at least of a few of the key passages--, discover the meaning that Mr. Peterson is communicating, and then compare that meaning with the results of study based on trustworthy translations and, preferrably, the original languages. I know this sounds like a lot more work than simply reading articles on the internet. But as you, yourself, said, is it too much to ask that we do THOROUGH research for ourselves before passing judgment on any translation or paraphrase? By the way, one final point: I have no vested interest in the Message. Whether people accept it or not, I could care less. I keep my focus on preaching and teaching the truths of Scripture, and teaching my church members how to study and interpret the Bible for themselves. I have found that focusing my ministry in this way has a wonderful way of helping those in my care learn how to test all things, hold fast to what is good, and abstain from evil (cf. 1 Thess 5:21-22). So I don't care if some on here don't accept the Message. But what I DO care about is that we Christian pastors, teachers, and leaders promote methods of research that are intellectually honest, and distance ourselves and those under our care from methods that may be doing nothing more than simply validating our own personal preferences and prejudices.

Mark Baker

commented on Jun 8, 2012

John: Amen! I read most of that interview a while back, and I even quoted part of what you quoted in a book on the emerging church and compromising Christians.

Dr. Thomas Norton

commented on Jun 8, 2012

John Miller, I am sorry I was not able to respond to your question earlier. I am a pastor in Korea and my youngest son was preparing to leave for college. I would never say we are to unite around any translation of the Bible (only Jesus), though my preferred translation is the ESV. I preach mainly from the NIV as our congregation from all over the world is most familiar with it and the Korean members have a NIV/Korean, two in one version. We who know English are so blessed to have an abundance of translations/paraphrases because as Pastor Villegas put it so beautifully, one cannot translate from one language to another without a number of modifications. Whether literal, thought by thought, or paraphrase options, all add to our understanding of what God has given to us in the original manuscripts. Are all these options as helpful and accurate as others? By no means. Nowhere does the Message deny the Trinity or the deity and substitutionary atonement of Christ. Therefore, can we not “eat the meat and spit out the bones?” If one does not care for one translation or paraphrase, then leave it alone. We must not demonize a brother or sister because we disagree with them. Francis Schaeffer wrote that the mark of a Christian is evidenced by “our unity in love” (John 13:34-35, 17:11; Eph 4:1-6). Remember that “Accuser of the brethren” is one of the titles of satan. We must speak the truth in love remembering that on this side of heaven our vision is not too clear (Eph 4:15, 1 Cor 13:12). God forgive us for thinking too highly of ourselves in our haste to judge and condemn a servant of the Lord who has been greatly used of God in my life and in many others.

John E Miller

commented on Jun 11, 2012

Dr Norton, I appreciate your sentiments and do not disagree in principle. I certainly do not demonize any fellow-believer in Christ. I do believe that we must evaluate all teaching that professes the name of Jesus Christ and judge it by reference to the word of God. The Bereans were praised for so doing. The inspired, God-breathed word in its accuracy is the most precious physical possession that any human being can have. Any translation that strays into paraphrastic language instead of holding fast to what was inspired by the Holy Spirit of God is a misrepresentation of God's revealed truth. We cannot get into a detailed critique of The Message here but there are many passages that obscure what the Spirit of God is saying in very plain language. I will take one verse as an example. It expresses a truth that was crucial in Martin Luther's journey to faith in Christ, Romans 3:28. Take the NASB translation and read it. It is a clear, simple statement of the truth in the word of God. That verse, translated in The Message is little more than New Age mumbo-jumbo. I have to differ from your belief that in translating God's word to different languages that its truth must be modified. I have no objection to modern language but strict adhesion to the original texts, as par as is possible, must be observed. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my question. I pray that God will bless your ministry in Japan.

Dr. Thomas Norton

commented on Jun 11, 2012

Mr. Miller, I apologize if you thought I was referring to your demonizing other believers. I was referencing so many Christians, especially those who seem to like to send personal flame bombs towards other believers whose words, views, or actions differ from their own. That is a point I have repeatedly brought forward in my posts. As far as the modifications of translations, my argument was that translation cannot be done “word for word” from one language to another. I never said nor do I accept that truth must be modified in that process. Unless one knows the Hebrew or Greek, one must accept an English or Korean etc. version to begin to understand the Word of God in a language we can understand. Obviously, NASB and ESV are very literal translations and the Message is a paraphrase, which stands alongside the more literal or dynamic equivalence translations. No doubt, Peterson did not do a perfect job on the Message—but neither has any other translator or translation committee. When you compare the Message to the NASB, you are not comparing it with the original manuscripts, but the efforts of one such committee, which did a very good job (though they revised their first edition in ’95). The Message was not meant for Bible study, but rather for reaching those who wouldn’t typically pick up a KJV or NASB and read it. Following is what Dr. Peterson wrote in his preface to the Message: “The Message is a reading Bible. It is not intended to replace the excellent study Bibles that are available. My intent here (as it was earlier in my congregation and community) is simply to get people reading it who don’t know that the Bible is read-able at all, at least by them, and to get people who long ago lost interest in the Bible to read it again. But I haven’t tried to make it easy—there is much in the Bible that is hard to understand. So at some point along the way, soon or late, it will be important to get a standard study Bible to facilitate further study. Meanwhile, read in order to live, praying as you read, “God, let it be with me just as you say.” I know many who have heard from God and whose lives have been changed through the reading of The Message. I read through the Message in one year with great personal profit. Shalom.

John E Miller

commented on Jun 11, 2012

Dr Norton, thank you for your response. We obviously differ on our appraisal of The Message. You say that you know many who have heard from God and whose lives have been changed by The Message. I believe that only the word of God can reveal to a soul the need of repentance and faith in Christ as the only way to know salvation through His atoning death. The only seed that can produce the new birth that is essential for the reception of Eternal Life is the word of God. The Lord Jesus makes that clear. It is not for me to dispute your statement nor will I do so. A book produced as a Bible translation that does not even claim to be faithful to the original manuscripts but is couched in language which conveys what the author believes the Holy Spirit was attempting to convey is counterfeit. The word of God is eternal in its clarity, purity and power and man's mind can add nothing to it of value, but can dangerously undermine its inerrant truth. I wish you every blessing in God's work.

Fernando Villegas

commented on Jun 11, 2012

John E Miller and Dr. Thomas Norton, I have enjoyed following your conversation over the last few days. How wonderful for two brothers in Christ to be able to disagree and yet present their arguments in a respectful manner. This is the kind of conversation that I long to see more of here. I would like to share a few additional observations of my own, if I may. First, the Message does in fact claim to be faithful to the original manuscripts. Mr. Peterson did doctoral work in Semetic languages and taught Greek and Hebrew at the seminary level before becoming a pastor. For most of his adult life, his reading of the Bible has been in Greek and Hebrew. And the original Greek and Hebrew was the basis for his translation. I just wanted to clarify that, because John E Miller said that it does not claim to be faithful to the original manuscripts; when, in fact, it does. Also, "language which conveys what the author believes the Holy Spirit was attempting to convey" is not counterfeit--it is simply the nature of what translation IS. Like I told Mark Baker, I don't know if John E Miller is bilingual or not; but those of us like Dr. Norton and I who are understand intuitively that translation is not primarily about defining individual words, but about conveying the MEANING of the thoughts that those words placed in context are communicating. I affirrm with Dr. Norton that this does not mean we modify truth. Rather, we understand that words, grammar and syntax, BY NECESSITY, must be modified sometimes in order for truth NOT to be modified! As I demonstrated in my earlier example, sometimes a more literal translation is actually less accurate to the original. Anyway, I hope these observations have been helpful. I wish God's richest blessings to you both, today.

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