I’m not talking about Christians who don’t always live by what God’s Word says. We all have that problem, including me. No, I’m talking about a more recent phenomenon: Bible paranoia.
A few weeks ago I got a call from an assistant pastor of a large, Bible-focused church. I thought he might want to talk about our E100® Challenge program and I was excited to think that such an influential church might “take the challenge.” But he had something else on his mind.
“One of our members gave me a copy of your Bible Guide…” Uh, oh. I was back in the principal’s office. “It has a quote from The Message,” he continued. “Does Scripture Union endorse that translation?” It felt like a trap, but I told him our policy. “No, Scripture Union doesn’t endorse any specific translation of the Bible,” I said. “Sometimes we include a short quote or phrase from a classic or contemporary version, but our material is usable with any translation.”
That wasn’t good enough. “Well, we don’t want our people reading The Message,” he said. “I’ve been instructed to bring your answer back to our elders.” We had a friendly chat for a few more minutes and I assured him that whenever people ask about translations, we refer them to their pastor, minister or priest. “Like I said, we don’t endorse any translation,” I reiterated. “Our goal is to get more people reading and living the Bibles they already have.”
But as I hung up, I felt conflicted. That assistant pastor is a good man, and I’m thankful his church has a high regard for the Scriptures. And personally, I’m not a big fan of The Message. But if we really believe the Bible has the power to change lives, shouldn’t we be less paranoid about which translation people read, and more encouraging of their efforts to start reading any translation at all? And with research showing a decades-long decline in Bible engagement, even in the church, isn’t that the bigger issue? That’s why at ScriptureUnion we’re committed to helping people of all ages meet God in his Word, any way we can.
|Charles H. Spurgeon|
Since that call I’ve been thinking about a friend of mine who has a high-level job in a Fortune 500 company. He’s a faithful church-goer and very committed to helping the needy. Yet he’s never been much of a Bible reader. Then he got hold of The Message, and now he reads the Bible all the time. He even quotes from it in meetings. In fact, he reads his Bible so much the binding is falling apart.
His experience reminds me of what Charles H. Spurgeon, the 19th century preacher and author, once said, “A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” I agree. And I’d say that’s a lot more important than never, ever reading the “wrong” translation.