DO YOU THINK MIGHT MAKE RIGHT? — PART 1

bibleHere of late I have been reading The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It is an excellent book, and I would like to share here one of the things I learned from it. When we witness for Christ Jesus, we should share our personal experience. We should share how we came to believe. Since I prefer to think of truth as something we can each objectively observe, I found that observation a bit difficult to accept. Nonetheless, I see the wisdom in it. Consider how we learn. We learn from the experiences of others. Consider how we decide to act. We imitate the example of others.

Why I Choose To Talk About The Application Of Christian Theology To Politics

I don’t see much advantage in talking about myself.  I consider my life ordinary, not an attention grabber. Since I work in the computer industry, I suppose I could talk about some subjects interesting to techies, but there are plenty of people who know more about computers than I do, and I would rather listen to them. So I don’t talk about me or something where I can claim certified expertise. Instead, I talk about something relatively few talk about, the application of Christian theology to politics. I talk about a subject most people avoid. The people with the expertise either won’t touch the subject, or they say things that even a little study reveals as not true.

Who would I expect to talk about the application of Christian theology to politics? Christian ministers, of course. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the Ministers of the Word regard politics as divisive distraction, and few develop any particular expertise. To get the members of their church to study the Bible, most ministers just want to focus on their primary task, teaching the Bible.

The ministers that do get into political issues? I suppose they fall mostly into two camps.

  • Some ministers will speak to specific concerns such as the definition of marriage or abortion, issues where they believe the Bible provides clear guidance. These apparently believe that when the Bible specifically declares something wrong, their knowledge of that truth compels them to speak out.

    Ezekiel 3:17-19 Good News Translation (GNT)

    17 “Mortal man,” he said, “I am making you a lookout for the nation of Israel. You will pass on to them the warnings I give you. 18 If I announce that someone evil is going to die but you do not warn him to change his ways so that he can save his life, he will die, still a sinner, but I will hold you responsible for his death. 19 If you do warn an evil man and he doesn’t stop sinning, he will die, still a sinner, but your life will be spared.

  • Some ministers exemplify the Apostle Paul’s warning to Timothy.

    2 Timothy 4:3 Good News Translation (GNT)

    The time will come when people will not listen to sound doctrine, but will follow their own desires and will collect for themselves more and more teachers who will tell them what they are itching to hear.

    To show how much they “care,” some ministers preach a “Gospel” of “rights,” “rights” that exist at someone else’s expense. These ministers tell us that God wants us to be happy, not holy. To these ministers how we feel is important; biblically sound doctrine is not.

Thus, although the American Christian clergy has not been completely silent, they have left the field clear for laymen like myself to speak out and discuss how we should apply Christian theology to the operation of government. And like a lookout for my country, I see the need to give warning.

Here is what follows:

 

10 thoughts on “DO YOU THINK MIGHT MAKE RIGHT? — PART 1

  1. AMEN Tom. You are so right. All of us are called to differing ministries and vocations. I thank the Lord for the Christians who are devoted to taking God’s Word and applying it to specific areas of living, such as our human government. Lord bless you and your ministry, helping us to see the need to have a government that aligns itself with God’s Holy Word.

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    1. We each must decide for our self what God has called us to do. That is the nature of freedom.

      Because that is the task he taken up, we have a right to expect a Christian minister to honestly teach God’s Word. We have no right to demand that a Christian minister tell his flock specifically for whom they should vote. Instead, we must pray, hope, and have faith that people who believe in Christ Jesus and know His Word will make the right choice.

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  2. Well, I cannot agree with you concerning Rick Warren’s book considering that he uses the most corrupt, most New Age, version of an interpretation of scriptures, The Message, for a great many of his references. It grieves my heart to see any minister of the Gospel use such a scripture twisting book that cites New Age beliefs throughout it. One can google to find out the many problems with that book and Warren himself with his paradigm shift/3 legged stool idealogy. Many Christians have used their discernment concerning The Purpose Driven Life and found it wanting.

    But! I do agree with your post concerning sharing our faith.

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    1. Sherry, let me make two points. First, The Message (MSG) is one of a number of Bible Translations use in The Purpose Driven Life. Warren believes, rightly I think, that reading multiple translations of the Bible aids our understanding.

      Second, you have raised a difficult issue. Consider why Warren thinks it helpful to read different translations. Because translation is a difficult process, when you and I read the Bible, we do not actually read what God inspired. Does that sound horrifying? Well, consider your reaction to the MSG. Other folks have similar reactions to different translations. Because we each have our own point of view and unique biases, we each tend to have our own preferred translations.

      I suppose that’s one reason we have to pray before we read scripture. Because so few of us can read scripture in the original language, and because we are just stubbornly dumb and entangled with evil, in addition to our own efforts we must have the Holy Spirit’s aid to understand what we read.

      Anyway, I have found reading different translations of the Bible helpful to my understanding, even those I think somewhat suspect. When I started seriously studying the Bible, I purchased a copy of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) that included detailed commentary. At first, I was pleased with my purchase. Unlike the MSG, NRSV is a literal translation, and the commentary helped to make The Book more easily understood. However, I soon discovered NRSV has stirred up of controversy over how it has translated certain passages. As the same time, when they wrote about prophecies, I realized the academics writing the commentaries preferred explanations that placed the writing of a prophecy after the event prophesied.

      So did I throw away my new Bible? No. I just compare and contrast it with other translations and pray. Strong faith requires a foundation of knowledge. To preach the Gospel, we must be prepared for the most common objections.

      So what should you do about the MSG. If you just think the MSG flawed, well so is every other translation. If you find the colloquial language used in the MSG irreverent (The Authorized King James Version is definitely more lofty and refined.), I don’t see why you would want to use it. There are plenty of other translations. If you think the MSG is corrupt, then you should, of course, point to what is wrong with it and warn folks.

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  3. Translations are inherently problematic. They are always approximations of the original language. The skillful translators capture the rhythms, substance, and nuances of the texts they translate, but they would be the first to acknowledge that a successful translation is one that comes close, but which never can be exact. KJV is much loved because of the power and sonorities of its language, language which has become engrained not only in religious observances in English-speaking countries, but in our general cultural awareness. Having said that, KJV is not a particularly good translation, dependent as it was on a limited supply of Greek manuscript scholarship at the time. Nonetheless, there are times when I just want to read 17th Century English when I am doing devotions. I like it, I grew up with it, I frequently find it familiar and soothing.

    If the complaint about more modern translations is that the language seems “too modern” or “too colloquial”, people should keep in mind that the original Greek of the NT was not particularly lofty or refined. It was a lingua franca of the Mediterranean trading world in the first and second centuries. Jesus, as far as we can tell, didn’t even use it. The KJV translators probably talked, or at least wrote, like Shakespeare. Jesus probably did not. The koina Greek of the New Testament would have caused Pericles to wince, Herodotus to grimace, Sophocles to sob (We can make a bit of an exception for the Gospel of John and Letter to the Hebrews, the authors of which – whoever they might have been – seemed to have a better grasp of classical, formal forms than did most other authors of what has become the New Testament canon). Paul’s scribes no doubt sanded off some rough edges of his Greek speech (to live as he lived and to have accomplished what he accomplished, St. Paul must have had a certain amount of linguistic agility, but he probably was not fluent in Latin and Greek.

    By now, we are in an age of translations of translations. Mistakes or less-than-optimal word choices can get carried forward. There are such things as truly awful translations. An absence of scholarship and a lack of care for the extreme, layered complexity of books like the Gospel of John, Hebrews, Revelations can lead the free-lancer astray. For that reason, the committee approach to translation has been a common protection against arbitrary recklessness with meaning.

    I agree with Tom that one should have a good study Bible, should sample different translations, and should realize that there is not one “best” translation. It depends on what you are looking for in your devotional reading at a given moment. Spiritual awareness is a matter of such profundity that there is no one simple way to enlightenment. The striving is what is important.

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    1. novascout — Thank you for an interesting and thoughtful comment.

      I think we are both fans of the KJV. Is the KJV good translation? I suspect it’s better than some of the modern translators would like to admit. If you are inclined to produce and sell alternative translation, of course you are going to say what you have is much better. Admittedly, Modern translators do have the advantage of better resources, but the KJV did an excellent job with resources they had available. I think our main problem with the KJV is how much the English language has changed over the centuries. If when we use the same words, they don’t necessarily mean the same thing.

      Anyway, if someone loves their KJV, I doubt either of us would suggest they switch.

      Off the top of my head I am not sure how many languages Paul spoke and wrote. I have never investigated the Bible with that in mind, but it would be an interesting study. In Acts 21 Paul switches between Greek and Hebrew. So we know that much with just a little effort.

      We know Paul was well educated and that he was a Roman citizen. As a citizen of Tarus, I suspect he spoke wrote languages appropriate to both a Greek and a Jew. Latin too? Probably. If Paul could write (or dictate) the Book of Romans, he was certainly capable enough. Yet with the gift of tongues? Miracles do complicate an investigation. 😆

      Again, thanks for the comment.

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  4. I would definitely think Greek, Hebrew (or Aramaic) and some Latin would have been in Paul’s toolbox. He could not have accomplished what he accomplished in Greece without being able to communicate in the informal Greek of the day. Palestine was a small area at the intersection of several other cultures, so it is probable that anyone from that zone at that time would have had some facility in several languages. And, as you say, the Holy Spirit could accomplish some tremendous things when the occasion demanded.

    PS: I don’t know why I can’t seem to post consistently under “Scout” or “NoVA Scout”. there seems to be some artifact in the system that at times randomly picks up my long-abandoned previous handle. I hope its clear that we are the same people.

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    1. Well, I have figured out “Scout” and “NoVA Scout” are one and the same, but I cannot speak for everyone. I expect you need to clear the cookies from your browser.

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  5. I have said as much before. If I ever get to the point where I can clear cookies from my browser, my kids will think there has been some sort of divine intervention. Perhaps I can put a teenager to work on it.

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