Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mark Driscoll: A Leader We Shouldn't Follow



(Please read Mark Driscoll, Apology Accepted here)

As a young pastor I keep getting told that I need to learn from the leadership training of Mark Driscoll, who is the leader of the Acts 29 Network and pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. He is considered to be a leadership guru for young church leaders, but I believe that his methodology is dangerous.

To Driscoll’s credit, he teaches a lot of good theology. Most of Driscoll’s fans seem to be in the emerging church, but Driscoll himself is no fan of the emerging church. He is the first to point out the fact that they do not believe in absolute truth, and that they care more about handing out “muffins and hugs” than they do about preaching the gospel. In a day where the emerging church spends more time giving happy pep talks, Driscoll is a teacher of theology. And while I do not agree with all of his theology, I do appreciate that he is teaching it. Unfortunately, it is guys like him that say just enough good stuff to give themselves credibility.

First of all, he admits to and even brags about committing theft in his book Confessions of a Radical Rev. He boasts that he never had to pay for electricity in one of his first buildings because “the building was illegally hooked up to the power grid and all our power was stolen (p.125).” And in case you think that is no big deal and I am just being picky, consider that he stole something tangible as well. “I stole an unused sound console from my old church, along with a projector screen, which were sins Jesus thankfully died to forgive (p.62).”

Talk about making a mockery out of grace! He is bragging about being a thief and making a joke about the blood of Jesus! It would be a different story if he premised these accounts by saying he regrets what he did or he has repented, but it is this type irreverence that makes him too immature to be considered a good leader.

I also disagree with him on the issue of drinking alcohol. I am not going to use this blog to make the case for abstinence from alcohol, but I certainly believe in it. Driscoll feels differently, making comments that “God has come to earth and kicks things off as a bartender (The Radical Reformission, p.30)” He makes comments about drinking beer frequently in his books and sermons, but the thing that gets me is that he requires the people he trains to brew their own beer at home. He has a chapter titled The Sin of Light Beer in The Radical Reformission where he makes the case that light beer came about to please feminists, and that good Christians should oppose feminism by drinking “good beer.”

With that knowledge of good beer versus sinful beer, Driscoll says in Confessions of a Radical Rev. that he holds boot camps to teach guys how to “brew decent beer (p.131).” He also says that he became convicted of his “sin of abstinence from alcohol. So in repentance, I drank a hard cider over lunch with our worship pastor (The Radical Reformission p.146).”

I also have a problem with the way that he uses the secular to make his points. I know that Jesus and Paul made illustrations of things like fishing, running, and farming, but those things are not sinful. In Driscoll’s book The Radical Reformission he includes examples of radicals on mission with him. Among them are David Bruce from Hollywood Jesus, who calls himself a missionary because he takes clips from movies and uses them to make comparisons to Christianity (I have been a long time critic of using movies that are full of curse words, sexual content, and God’s name in vain as “witnessing material”). He also features Icabod Caine, a country music DJ in Seattle, who said we are “basically clueless” as to the difference between the secular and sacred, and yet he views himself as a missionary even though he daily plays music that is filled with drunkenness, divorce, and profanity.

Another example of Driscoll using the secular in place of Scripture comes from his owning and operating of The Paradox, which was a venue that was designed to host concerts. Driscoll said he rarely used the venue to host Christian bands because his goal was to get unsaved people into the building. But the problem is that the gospel was never presented to these unsaved kids; they would basically pay secular bands to come perform (thus supporting what they stand for), then let the crowd leave unchanged. Instead of being a pastor, this makes Driscoll nothing more than a concert promoter. In his own words, Driscoll never “preach[ed] at the kids” or did “goofy things like handing out tracts (Confessions of a Radical Rev. p.127).”

The basement of the building, he says, was a place where local junkies would do black tar heroine, and the back is where junkies would “shoot up drugs and poop on the ground (p.125),” and he laughs about the Japanese punk band that randomly stripped naked during the show. Don’t worry though, because during these concerts Driscoll saw “many kids come to faith through relationships (p.127).” This might sound elementary, but relationships don’t save people, faith in Jesus and repentance does.

He also has one of his church leaders routinely lead discussions on movies they watch, including “unedited R-rated” movies, to teach people to think critically (Confessions, p.157). Humans are totally depraved; why do we need to look at sin in order to critique it?

But what drives me crazy about Driscoll is his crudeness. I will break down this final point into three areas: his general crudeness, his obsession with crude sexuality, and his crudeness when referring to my Lord.

His language is foul, crude, and offensive. I can’t even do justice to how crude he is because I refuse to write most of the words he uses. He makes no apology for the time he “cussed out the poor guy” who came to him for counseling when he was having a bad day (Confessions of a Radical Rev. p.128), or for the fact that he “cussed a lot” when he was frustrated (p.129), including cussing at the bare offering plate (p.47). On page 133 he uses a crude word for prostitute and a crude word for an illegitimate child.

In The Radical Reformission he uses yet another crude term to refer to a loose woman (different from the one mentioned above) on page 29. In Vintage Jesus he quotes Brad Pitt from the movie Fight Club, where he uses the longer form of being P.O.’ed (p.201).

His crudeness is also sexual. In Confessions he refers to intercourse as “banging (p.128).” On the same page he admits to being burned out in the ministry due to “an unspectacular sex life,” and he makes a reference to a woman being “hot like hell.” On page 96, when admitting that he isn’t like most pastors, jokes about using words in sermons like a term to refer to the male reproductive organ, as well as having “an aluminum pole in the bedroom.” Some of those “sermons on sex were R-rated (p.134).”

One of those R-rated sermons was when he gave all the guys two stones to symbolize what they needed in order to be real men (p.129). His lingo was cruder.

In Radical he says that Adam and Eve were “horny (p.28—on that page he also uses a crude term for a prostitute)” and he makes a joke about a gay orgy on page 33. He makes wisecracks about people using Viagra on pages 75 and 165. There is also a joke about a vasectomy on page 76.

Driscoll talks frankly about a threesome on page 92, and about girls’ tight pants making their backsides look big on page 95, about a girl having “junk in her trunk” on page 119.  On page 187 he references a man’s genitals, and on 185 he brags about teaching on subjects like the different ways that a woman can climax.

In Vintage Jesus he refers to intercourse as “knocking boots (p.11) and “shagging (p.41).” While attending a Monday Night Football game, he writes that “half-naked young women provide eye candy (p.164).”

On page 169 he says that our culture worships “good old-fashioned naked crazy-making” and he makes yet another reference to eating Viagra on page 183.

He also makes references to graphic sexual practices that take place, both as couples and alone, dozens of times. Not only does he talk about these topics that shouldn’t be mentioned, he does it in such a crass way. These references do not include his forthcoming book which will deal with these topics and much more (http://www.christianpost.com/news/mark-driscoll-answers-the-can-we-do-that-questions-in-upcoming-book-55728/print.html).

But the worst of all of his crude comments comes in a conversation he felt the need to include in Confessions when a member of his church called him during the night crying, and told him that he had just watched a dirty movie. Driscoll asked him, “Was it a good porno?” When the young man asked for prayer, this is the prayer that Driscoll records: “Jesus, thank you for not killing him for being a pervert. Amen.” Driscoll then told the man not to call him at night when he is sleeping, and said he didn’t have time to be his accountability partner.

But it gets worse. When the man asked for advice, here is Drsicoll’s reply: “You need to stop watching porno and crying like a baby afterwards…a naked lady is good to look at, so get a job, get a wife, ask her to get naked, and look at her instead (p.60).”

Not exactly a good leadership technique.

Mark Driscoll is also crude when speaking of Jesus. In Vintage Jesus he has a four-word sentence: “Jesus was a dude (p.31).” This dude “did things that normal people do, like farting, going to the bathroom, and blowing boogers from his nose (p.32).” 

On page 43 he says that Jesus acted as if He needed Paxil, that He was cruel for calling the Pharisees hypocrites, that He needed sensitivity training, and that He commissioned His disciples to “take a donkey without asking like some kleptomaniac donkeylifter.”

On page 44 he says that Jesus yelled at his disciples for sleeping “as an obvious workaholic who needed to start drinking decaf and listening to taped sounds of running water while doing aromatherapy so he could learn to relax.”

I don’t care who this offends: I’m not taking leadership advice from a “pastor” that calls my Lord a pill-popping, cruel, insensitive, workaholic kleptomaniac dude who farts and blows boogers out of His nose. And neither should you.

I know Driscoll defends himself by saying that humor is his thing, but there is nothing funny about belittling the King of the universe. Jesus is not a dude or my homeboy, He is my precious Lord and Savior. I would not let anyone talk about my wife that way, so why would I let him talk that way about the one who has saved me?

But that is just one book. In Radical he refers to “the God-Man” going “through puberty” and speculates that He had to have received at least one wedgie (p.29).

I have called Mark Driscoll a pervert from the pulpit, and will do nothing less here. If you are a pastor or leader who looks up to this man, or if you are a believer who reads or listens to him, please consider who he really is. I know the hip thing in churches is to be edgy and be the opposite of your grandparents preacher who wore a suit, parted his hair on the left, and used the KJV exclusively. And that is fine. But if you are looking for a good preacher, look for one who loves and respects the Lord and His Word, and do not turn your ears to these shock and awe men who are ear pleasing.

Consider Paul, who was a godly man that the young pastor Timothy looked up to. Paul warned Timothy to preach the Word because the day would come when people would recruit teachers to say what makes them feel good, and Driscoll is one of those men.

Finally, consider these paradoxical excerpts from Vintage Jesus. On page 159 he explains that lordship means that “Jesus has authority over the… shows we watch.” Then on 160 he says that we are to “say no to ungodliness in all its forms.” And on page 167 he uses the TV show South Park as an illustration, even referring to it as “hilarious.” If you know anything about that show you know it has the worst language on TV; South Park was actually the first show to ever use the “S” word on TV, and after weeks of advertising that they were going to do it, they kept a counter on the screen that kept track of each time the word was used, totaling 162 times on a half hour show.

Real hilarious, Mark.

And if Jesus has authority over the shows you watch, and you say no to ungodliness in all its forms, then how does South Park fit into that equation?

I wonder if Driscoll ever preaches from Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth.”

Pastors, if you want real leadership I have a suggestion. “Look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).”


   

Monday, November 21, 2011

Literal Translation vs. Dynamic Equivalence



When it comes to deciding which Bible to purchase, use, or trust, there is a good test to use. Since a new translation seems to come out about every fifteen minutes in this country, there is no way to have a memorized list of which translations to trust.

The test is simple: open the Bible and see if it is a literal translation or if it is a dynamic equivalent. This information will be located somewhere on the inside cover or in the first couple of pages. This final installment of the Bible Blog will show the difference between the two.

Literal Translation

For the last 2,000 years the textus receptus, also known as the majority text, has been one the most trusted and accepted set of documents that we have. In the first century the Bible was just our Old Testament, which was written in Hebrew but was already available in Greek. So as the New Testament was written, it was written both in Greek and Latin. Therefore, the earliest Bibles were written mostly in Greek. Some of the best and most trusted documents made up what would later be known as the textus receptus.

It was from these documents that other translations came to be, including the 1611 King James Version. The reason that I am such a big supporter of the King James Bible is I am a big supporter of where it came from.

The KJV translators did a meticulous job of translating word for word, making sure that they had the best English translation of the Bible. They even continued to meet for almost two hundred years (other people, obviously) to make sure they still had the best. This word for word rendering is what is meant by the term literal translation.

In 1971 the New American Standard Bible (NASB) was produced by the Lockman Foundation, but instead of using the textus receptus, they used the Biblia Hebraica and Nestle’s Greek New Testament, 23rd edition. This project took over a decade, and this is considered by most scholars to be the best English Bible available.

A hundred years passed without an update to the KJV, and in 1982 Thomas Nelson Publishers commissioned 130 people to produce an updated version of the Bible. This team went right back to the textus receptus and translated what came to be known as the New King James Version of the Bible. They simply took what had been done in 1611 (and the next 200 years) and updated the English words, not the meaning of the document.

Other good literal word for words translation include, but are not limited to, the American Standard Bible (1901), and the English Standard Version (2001).

Dynamic Equivalence

While the literal translation takes a word for word translation approach, the dynamic equivalence (or “functional equivalence”) takes more of a paraphrase approach. This method is not as concerned with getting the word for word message, but for just getting the message across. The obvious problem with this is that key words can be left out, we are not getting the Bible the way it was inspired, and we can lose a lot of the cultural heritage.

The most notorious dynamic equivalence is the New International Version (NIV), which debuted in 1978. I have problems with this translation for the reasons stated above, and also for the fact that this was a gateway translation in that it opened the door for more liberal documents to emerge. Not the least of these liberal documents was the NIV’s daughter, Today’s New International Version (TNIV, 2002), which was like a feminist’s rendition of the NIV.

The dynamic equivalence also gets messy when one considers that in 1971 The Living Bible (TLB) came out, which was not a translation of an ancient text, but a paraphrase of the KJV. TLB’s author, Kenneth Taylor, simply took his KJV and rewrote it.

It is a very dangerous game when we embrace a book that calls itself a Bible, and yet that book was not translated literally word for word. The margin of human error becomes magnified exponentially, and liberalism begins to creep in. This whole notion of just translating the gist is what eventually gave way to the heresy known as The Message.

When it comes time for you to make a decision on which Bible you will trust as the Word of God, use this little test to see if it is a word for word rendering of God’s Word, or if it is just the basic idea.

As one who has read many of the dynamic equivalences out there, believe me, there is nothing dynamic about it.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

KJV Only


Is the King James Version of the Bible the only translation of the Bible that we should read? As a child I was taught that it was the only accurate Bible, and my BA degree in Bible came from a KJV only college. I love the KJV, and it is the only translation I have ever taught or preached from. But is it the only Bible we should read?

Before I begin, I want to be clear that this is by no means an exhaustive review of this topic, for that could go on and on. This is just designed to point out a few surface level points.

The KJV only crowd likes to criticize the newer translations by asserting that they are leaving out words, phrases, or verses, and that they change words. The problem with this line of thinking is that they are comparing these newer translations to the KJV and not to original texts. For example, when the KJV-onlies criticize some for leaving out verses 9-20 of Mark 16, they are missing the fact that those verses do not appear in any ancient texts. Those verses were actually additions by the KJV translators who were worried that Mark’s gospel didn’t include any eye witnesses of the resurrection.

Other words and phrases that were allegedly left out are actually just phrases where the old English of the KJV was unnecessarily repetitive. 

KJV only defendants use verses like “I am the Lord, I change not” to defend their point. If that verse means that we should not change from the Bible that we have, then we had better all become fluent in ancient Hebrew and Greek. As I will point out here, they make the mistake of believing that the KJV was the first Bible ever produced.

They also use biblical commands to not add to or take away from the Word of God. They use these verses to usher in strong warnings about these newer translations, but again, theirs is the one that has added to. [1]

So the question isn’t whether the NIV left out verses, but whether the KJV added them. It isn’t fair to attack a translation for leaving out something that was not inspired in the first place.

Websites like http://jesus-is-lord.com/kjvdefns.htm have a list of verses that are left out of the NIV, but the reality is that these verses were added by the KJV.

In the same way that the KJV translators added verses for clarification, they also tweaked other words to please King James. John the Baptist should be known as John the Immerser, but King James did not believe in immersion for baptism, so the word was changed.

KJV-onlies like to say that theirs is the most formal translation. They believe that there is more holiness in their thee’s and thou’s and their adding “eth” to every other word. The King James Version has many words that have other meanings today, and all of this together makes the document difficult to understand.

On this point, I once had a KJV only pastor point in my face and scream at me, “If you can’t understand the KJV with a simple dictionary, you have problems.” But the real problem is the fact that the KJV requires a dictionary. The New Testament writers chose to write in a style of Greek known as koine, which was the most common and understood form in its day. It would be the equivalent of an elementary school comprehension level.

So while I agree that the KJV is very poetic in its sound, especially in the Psalms, that is not a reason to condemn other translations. The Bible was never meant to be something that required a Master of Divinity to understand; it was written by common people for common people.

Even though I preach from my King James, when I come to a passage that mentions a donkey, I say donkey out loud, but we all know that there is another three letter word used for donkey. The king James also refers to men as those who “[urinate] against the wall.” Of course, their word for urinate is a word most of us would wash our children’s mouth out with soap for using. On this passage I once heard a pastor say that those words aren’t foul because the Bible says all the words of Christ are wholesome words. Once again, this mindset shows that the KJV-onlies think that Jesus spoke King James. The Holy Spirit didn’t inspire those words, He inspired them in Greek and Hebrew, and now, hundreds of years after their English translations, those words have a different meaning.

Other words in the KJV are different. The KJV uses the word conversation to mean lifestyle, and it makes a huge mess out of Hades by always translating it as hell.  When newer translations try to update these words, the KJV only proponents get upset. But this is contradictory because the KJV translators themselves used to do this.

1611 was the year that the KJV was authorized and translated into English. Every few years a team of scholars met to update the words in that translation, always being careful to make sure that the words had their true meaning and that it was on the common man’s level. But 1798 was the last year that this happened. So when the New King James Version (NKJV) was released, it was nothing more than what the KJV scholars had done for almost two complete centuries, and yet the KJV-onlies were against it. All the NKJV did was change the thou’s to you’s and leave off the eth’s (they also corrected the hell/Hades problem).

To be clear, I do not support every translation that comes down the pike. My last blog (The Message by Eugene Peterson, http://tommycmann.blogspot.com/2011/11/message-by-eugene-peterson.html) shows that, and my next blog will as well. I am a textus receptus fan, which I will blog about next, and that is where the KJV came from. A KJV only pastor, who was one of my college professors, said that he supported the KJV because it came from the textus receptus. I asked him if he would support a newer translation if it came from the textus receptus, like the NAS, and his reply was, “Just stick to the KJV.”

It has become apparent to me that the real reason that people are KJV only is that they were raised that way. When confronted with simple logic that refutes their beliefs, they become explosively angry and spout out verses like, “Forever, oh Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” (That verse in no way proves their point, and once again shows that they think that Paul and Peter directly wrote the King James) There is no logic that affirms that the KJV is the only accurate English translation.

This blogeth wast copyrighted; thou shalt not add unto nor taketh away from, lest thou be smitten with copyright infringement.


[1] To be clear, these commands are in reference to people changing God’s Word for their own gain. When translating a document from one language to another, there will always be words added or subtracted. There are thousands more Greek words than there are English words, so entire phrases have been added to English Bibles. Good translations will italicize those added words. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Message by Eugene Peterson

The Message by Eugene Peterson brands itself as “The Bible in contemporary language,” but is it really a trustworthy easy-to-read Bible? I intend to show you why this book is dangerous and should not be considered the Word of God.

Every English Bible had to have come from somewhere; that is, they had to be translated from something since the Bible was Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin long before it was English. The opening pages of each Bible will tell the potential reader where this translation drew from.

For example, translation like the KJV, NKJV, and NASV are literal translations from the textus receptus, meaning that they are literal word for word translations from Greek to English, Hebrew to English, etc. Translations like the NIV are dynamic equivalents from English Bibles, meaning they took someone’s English Bible and simply updated words. There is no literal word for word translation, just taking the general idea and tinkering with it. I have long been critical of this line of translating, and I do not trust any dynamic equivalent.

But which method did The Message (TM) use? Its publisher, NavPress, isn’t really sure. Their description and advertising material begins: “For the first time, all sixty-six books of the Bible are now available in one book!”

Not to sound picky, but I’m pretty sure all 66 books of the Bible have been together in one book for quite some time. This handy all in one version of the Bible is called The Bible.

But the description continues: “Translated directly from the ancient Hebrew and Greek texts…” So it must be a literal translation, right? But the problem is two-fold. First, it doesn’t tell us which texts, which can mean literally anything, including Gnostic texts. Second, it doesn’t claim to just be a literal translation. The publisher’s description invites the reader to “join the millions of readers who have been drawn to God through Eugene Peterson’s…paraphrase.” In one paragraph the publisher says it is both a literal translation and a paraphrase.

This might sound like small potatoes (sorry The Message gets me the mood for some idioms), but this is a big deal. There is no Scriptural authority or support for anything found in TM. The Publisher knows better; they are aware that Bibles are judged by their cover, or inside cover, for that important information. They cleverly chose to slip both methods into this one. This information sets the tone for the rest of this review, because it shows that Peterson isn’t giving us any way to check his facts. We are just relying on the fact that he is smart, most people don’t read Greek or Hebrew, and he used ancient texts.

One of the loudest criticisms for this book is that the Bible tells us not to add to or take away from its pages. Verses like Proverbs 30:5-6 warn against this: “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield unto them that put their trust in Him. Add thou not unto His words...” Look how Peterson conveniently side stepped this warning:

“Every promise of God proves true…so don’t second guess him.”

Instead of “every word of God is true” Peterson tells us every promise of God is true. Don’t add to His words becomes “don’t second guess him” There is a huge difference here. And unfortunately for Mr. Peterson, he is not the only one who reads Greek and Hebrew. The word used for words in these verses actually means “utterance, speech, or word,” not promise. Likewise, the command to not add to the Bible also means exactly what the Bible said it meant.

He also leaves out part of the exchange between Jesus and Satan in Luke 4:4. The Bible says, “It is written that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Peterson rendered this passage this way: “It takes more than bread to really live.” The problem is that Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy verbatim, and Peterson left out the command to live by every word.

So with the groundwork laid (unclear origin and no command against altering the Word), Peterson is now free to write whatever he wants.

There are weird insertions, like characters named Madame Day and Professor Night in Psalm 19:2, and a person named Syzgus to Philippians 4:3. These are both bizarre because nothing in Scripture indicates that these characters should appear here. There are also a host of alleged omissions, but these cannot really be confirmed, because again, Peterson doesn’t tell us which texts he directly translated his paraphrase from.

Peterson’s book changes God’s plan of salvation. John 3 is a great passage to show the need to change one’s life for salvation, that we must be born again. In the 17th verse of that chapter, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “For God sent not His Son into the word to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” But Peterson uses this verse to say that Jesus “came to help, to put the world right again.”

Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again; Peterson is telling him that Jesus will just set things right. This is universalism, not biblical salvation. It is also Gnosticism.

Gnostics believe that we are all gods at the core of who we are, and by enlightenment we will come to recognize our true selves. We don’t have to do anything to be saved except to realize who we already are. His rendering of John 17 is in keeping with that idea.

So is his translation of Matthew 5:45 and John 1:12. The Mathew verse tells us that we can become the children of God (ginomai in Greek, which means to instantly become). TM says that if we love our enemies, instead of becoming the children of God, you are “working out of your true selves.”

The John verse says that “as many as received [Jesus], to them [God] gave the power to become (ginomai) the sons of God.” TM says that these people who said they would believe in God, God made them “to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.”

These references to true selves are not just some cool terminology from the man who didn’t want people to be bored with the Bible; this is central to Gnostic theology.

Peterson’s seeming obsession with the word luck is also Gnostic. As Christians, we commonly say that we don’t believe in luck or coincidence, but it is clear that Peterson believes in luck. TM uses the word luck in 31 verses and lucky in 32 verses. He uses the phrase “bad luck” in 11 verses, and luckless or unlucky in 13 verses. 27 times he replaces “blessed” with “fortunate” or “fortune.” An example of this is in Psalm 25:22 and 73:14 where the discipline of God is referred to as “a run of bad luck.” (Footnote #1)

In Luke 23:29, speaking of the end times, Jesus said, “For, behold, the days are coming, in which they shall say, blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.” Peterson’s version uses the word lucky three times in this verse.

This is important because anyone familiar with Gnostic literature would see what he is doing. The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas (v.79) says, “A woman in the crowd said to him, Lucky are the womb that bore you and the breasts that fed you." He said to [her], "Lucky are those who have heard the word of the Father and have truly kept it. For there will be days when you will say, ‘Lucky are the womb that has not conceived and the breasts that have not given milk.’” Peterson altered the Gospel by directly quoting a Gnostic gospel!

In further Gnostic style, Peterson reduces the deity of Jesus. Instead of having Jesus say that He and the Father are one (John 10:30), he has Jesus say “My Father and I are of one heart and mind.” He also has Jesus say that the Father “is his goal (John 14:28).”

He has clearly reduced Jesus into something less than God. He has presented Him as a child of God, no different than everyone else, according to the Gnostics. This is further evidenced by his descriptions of Jesus. TM never uses titles such as Lord Jesus, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, or Our Savior Jesus Christ, despite the fact that those titles are used over a hundred times in the Bible. More shocking, while the Bible uses Lord or Jehovah almost 8,000 times, those words appear a total of 62 times in TM, and not all of those even refer to Jesus (Footnote #2).

We also see Gnosticism in other places. The model prayer begins Hallowed be thy name in Matthew 6:9, but Peterson begins it with “Reveal who you are (enlightenment).” “Lead us not into temptation” in that prayer is changed to “keep us safe (because we aren’t sinful),” and his use of the term “as above, so below” is more Gnostic theology.

Peterson himself had something very interesting to say about Gnostics in his 1991 book Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer. On page 76 he says that for Gnostics “metaphor is an affront to their gossamer immaterialities and inner-ring whispers, a loud fart in the salon of spirituality. Metaphor is the psalmic antidote to the dematerializing venom of the Gnostic.” While his language is harsh on Gnostics in 1991, he points out that their weapon is their pen and their ammunition is their use of the metaphor. And his Message, which is heavily Gnostic, is teeming with metaphors. If he isn’t a Gnostic, he has certainly taken a page out of their playbook.

I could go on with more offenses he has committed against the Word of God, but I believe the point has been made. Peterson wanted to create a bible that wasn’t boring, one that was easy to read with “no distracting verse numbers.” Which I appreciate, because we all know how distracting those pesky verse numbers can be. But what he created was a Gnostic’s version of the Holy Bible. To prove my point, the book’s publisher has a single review posted on their website. It says:

"After all the time I spent reading the Bible, nothing has enlightened me more than The Message. I now feel I am worth something to God."

Did you catch the word enlighten there? I’d say Mr. Peterson has accomplished his mission.

I don’t believe The Message by Eugene Peterson is the Word of God, but the message of Eugene Peterson.


(1) http://www.seekgod.ca/msgdoctrine3.htm
(2) http://www.life-everlasting.net/Pages/Corrections/Why%20the%20Messege%20bible%20should%20NOT%20be%20used.htm