deletes the references to the Lord’s Holy Name and adds a request not voiced
distorts the relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son.......
John 14:28 .....“The
Father is greater than I.”
The Message:. “The Father is the goal and purpose of my life.”
“The Message is the boldest and most provocative
rendering of the New Testament I’ve ever read”,
writes Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe general director of “Back to the Bible” broadcast and former pastor of Moody Bible Church. “The Message is certainly destined to become a devotional classic - not to mention a powerful pastoral tool” adds pastor Jack W. Hayford.
What does Eugene Peterson himself say? In his introduction to “The Message”, he tells us that
Remember, we are dealing with God’s holy unchangeable Word -not an ordinary book. God owns His message, we don’t. Only His own, well-guarded words can be presenteed as absolute truth. Yet, readers who trust NavPress and endorsers like Warren Wiersbe and J.I. Packer view this book as an authentic translation of the Bible rather than as Peterson’s personal interpretation.
Throughout both Old and New Testaments, God forbids us to distort His Word. Additions and deletions are strictly forbidden in Scriptures like Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, Proverbs 30:6, Galatians 1:8-9 and Revelation 22:19. Acts 17:11 exhorts us to learn from the Bereans who “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Eugene Peterson would probably agree. His own interpretation of 2 Corinthians 4:2 holds him accountable to this timeless standard. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather we keep everything we do and say out in the open and the whole truth on display so that those who want to can see the judge for themselves in the presence of God.
While the above verse corresponds to the original Greek, many other passages do just what The Message promises not to do -they twist God’s Word to suit human inclinations, in fact, the very next sentence (verse 3) fails the test - it does not keep the whole truth on display, instead it deletes the original references both to “those who are perishing” and to the glory of “Christ who is the image of God”. It doesn’t take a Greek scholar to recognise the appalling distortions of God’s holy Word. Any Bible student willing to compare Peterson’s Message with a Greek/English Interlinear Lexicon and take time to look up key words in a credible New Testament Bible dictionary will discover alarming deletions, distortions and additions to the original text - if Peterson is right then the Bible, the Word of God, is false!
See for yourself. The following Scriptures
compare with the KJV. To emphasise difference, corresponding words and
phrases are underlined. Please pray for discernment as you check the following
additions and deletions:
words that imply occult spirituality. Substitutes more finite, human influences:..
[We’re not just dealing with illusions. Deceiving
spirits and the timeless doctrines of demons are far more effective in
deceiving people than illusions and professional liars.]
reference to the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” and “sinful nature”......
The Message: ”It wasn’t
so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let
the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how
to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief and then exhaled
disobedience. We all did it, and all of us doing what we felt like doing,
when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat.”
occult dangers, deletes consequences:..
The Message: “The Anarchist’s coming is all Satan’s work. All his power and signs and miracles are fake, evil sleight of hand that plays to the gallery of those who hate the truth that could save them. And since they’re so obsessed with evil, God rubs their noses in it -gives them what they want. Since they refuse to trust truth, they’re banished to their chosen world of lies and illusions.”
[Peterson’s tendency to delete the supernatural
and minimize the consequences of sin reminds me of Romans 1:18 “The wrath
of God is being revealed against all the godlessness and wickedness of
men who suppress the truth.]
to sinful nature and occult practices, minimizing Satan’s power.
The Message: “It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time -repetitive loveless, cheap sex, a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage, frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness, trinket gods, magic-show religions; paranoid loneliness, cutthroat competition, all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants, a brutal temper, an impotence to love or be loved, ugly parodies of community. I could go on.”
[Idolatry and witchcraft are not the same as
trinket gods and magic-show religions! We’re dealing with spiritual forces
far greater than magical illusions].
as if this timeless tool of occultism is similar to a telescope. ....
The Message: “You don’t
need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness
of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him.”
The Message: “Unjust people
who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who
use and abuse each other use and abuse sex use and abuse the earth and
everything in it don’t quality as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of
you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you
were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh
The Message: “And so while
there has never been any question about your honesty in these matters -
I couldn’t be more proud of you. I want you also to be smart, making sure
every “good” thing is the real thing. Don’t be gullible in regard to smooth-talking
evil. Stay alert like this, and before you know it the God of peace will
come down on Satan with both feet, stomping him into the dirt. Enjoy the
best of Jesus!”
immorality” - adds “avoids commitmentand intimacy”..
The Message: “There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much a spiritual mystery as a physical fact. As written in Scriptures “The two become one”. Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever - the kind of sex that can never “become one.” ... In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love for “becoming one” with another.”
[One could conclude that “commitment and intimacy”
or becoming one..........the boundaries for acceptable sex.]
The Message: “Worse followed. Refusing to know God they soon didn’t know how to be human either - women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men - all just lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it - emptied of God and love. Godless and loveless wretcheds.”
[This strange wording leaves a loophole for
homosexuality to be permitted if it was an expression of love, not lust
- which many gay couples claim today. In other words, lust becomes the
sin not the choice of a same-sex partner. The consequencees of disobedience,
“due penalty” seems broader than “emptied of God and love.” Historically
it includes sexually transmitted diseases as well as spiritual death. That
politically incorrect possibility is deleted here.]
truth with a contemporary bias:..
The Message: “This makes it clear doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others, but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place, and it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everyone else? Ourinvolvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.”
[This interpretation endorses today’s false
standard of tolerance. Don’t expose or criticize another person just deal
with your own sin. It defies God’s guidelines concerning counseling, correction,
restoration and accountability and supports today’s tendency to condone
sin. See Romans 1:32, but not in the Message. It deletes this important
The Message: “Live creatively
friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your
critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before
the day’s out.”
to submission. Adds marital equality.
The Message: “The same goes for you wives. Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs....
[The same goes for you husbands. Be good husbands
to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of
your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace you’re equals. Treat
your wives then, as equals....”]
The Message: “But why
do you let that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet mislead my dear servants
into Cross-denying, selfindulging religion? I gave her a chance to change
her ways, but she has no intention of giving up a career in the god-business.
I’m about to lay her low, along with her partners, as they play their sex-and-religion
games. The bastard offspring of their idolwhoring I’ll kill. Then every
church will know that appearances don’t impress me.”
The Message: “Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us,keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir ... our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God....”
[No mention of endurance and hope - which implies
triumph in the midst of suffering as we reImages confident that God will
do all He has promised. In light of Peterson’s tendency to minimize the
disciplining side of God, his emphasis on a warm, feel-good God seems to
distort God’s revelation of Himself. Notice - “follow Christ Jesus” is
replaced by a Jesus who “gets along with us”.]
The Message: "We’re Christ’s
representatives God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences
and enter into God’s work of making things right betweeen them. We’re speaking
for Christ himself now. Become friends with God; he’s already a friend
|....Adds a promise
not found in the original Greek:.
The Message: “Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing; not even the worst sins listed in Scripture.”
This last passage seems consistent with Peterson’s
refusal to mention those “worst sins” in the various New Testament lists
of fleshly expressions. It also helps explain his commendation of medieval
mystic Julian of Norwich, whose teachings - often quoted by controversial
priest Matthew Fox, founder of Creation Spirituality - fueled the fourteenth-century
flower of pantheistic-mysticism. In his article titled
(Christianity Today, 11-8-93), Peterson wrote,
Like the culture around us many churches today seem to emphasize good feelings and subjective mature relationship with God. Peterson’s definition for spirituality in his article seems to reflect this drift from solid rock to shifting sand along with an alarming focus oneself rather than God.
Intimacy we want to experience, human love and trust and joy Transcendence: we want to experience divine love and trust and joy ... We hunger for divine meaning, someone who will bless us. And so spirituality, a fusion of intimacy and transcendence overnight becomes a passion for millions of North Americans ... It is heartening that our continent is experiencing a recovery of desire to embrace intimacies and respond to transcendence .... Peterson rightly points out the need to discriminate “betweeen the true and false” as people “ransack exotic cultures and esoteric groups in a search for wholeness.” But what does he mean when he tells his readers to acquire “a biblical imagination -entering into the vast world of the Bible and getting a feel for the territory, an instinct for reality.”
What part did his imagination
in the formation of The Message?
The inspired scribes of God’s holy Word documented facts and observations. They were led by the Holy Spirit, not personal imagination. God was the Creator, not man. No one should know this better than J.I. Packer, the beloved author of Knowing God. Yet in his endorsement of The Message, he uses the same questionable terms - words popularized by the New Age quest for personal empowerment and unbiblical energies.
Peterson’s introduction to Revelation gives
that impression. He identifies John as a pastor on Patmos, who is preeminently
concerned with worship - not sharing God-given visions of end-time events.
This first century pastor is also “a poet,
fond of metaphor and symbol, image and allusion” who challenges “our intelligence
and imagination.” Historical facts and
absolute truth made the Bible unique among the world’s religious documents.
Pagan myths on the other hand spring from imagination, personal feelings
and mystical experiences. Yet the author of The
Message repeatedly stresses the latter.
I realize that Peterson’s intent was “to recapture the tone” and subtleties of the Greek language. Whether or not he achieved that (personally I believe that his language reflects neither the heart of Jesus nor His followers’ fiery devotion to a holy sovereign God and the integrity of His Word), this noble goal can never be an excuse for “dumbing-down” Scripture to match our culture’s downward trends. The fact that essential Biblical terms are no longer part of our everyday conversation doesn’t give us license to soften God’s message. Shouldn’t we rather aim to use Scriptures to lift our communications to the level where our language reflects the eternal perspective of God’s revealed truth?
That seems to be the exhortation of
Deuteronomy 6:4-7 and 2 Timothy 3:16. When
we simplify Scripture by removing its mysteries, controversies and exhortations
toward God’s highest, we demean our Lord and misinform believers. Some
might ask, “Who are you to question the
wisdom and scholarship of respected Church leaders?”
The sad fact is that shepherds and leaders throughout history have turned
from truth to embrace new teachings. We are all called to “examine
Scriptures” and test our leaders as did
the Bereans and Ephesians. Our ability to exercise this kind of discernment
comes from the Holy Spirit - as God tells us in
II Corinthians 3:5,6. "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament;..."(KJV). Sad to say, Peterson deleted this wonderful promise of God’s sufficiency for any task He assigns us. “But isn’t most of The Message accurate?” ask some. Probably. So is the Jehovah Witnesses’ Bible. However, it only takes the distortion of a few key passages to reflect an entirely different message. When any part - even “the smallest letter” -of God’s Word is changed, the integrity of the whole is lost.
If The Message is accepted as Biblical truth, three distortions of New Testament teachings could spread and permeate the Church, conforming “truth” to popular consensus and false unity:
1. Since God is love, He wouldn’t be so cruel
as to cause someone to suffer, perish or burn in hell. So don’t mention
Biblical consequences or punishment.
2. Since God forgives, don’t be too concerned about specific sins such as homosexuality or adultery. Jesus wouldn’t want you to offend someone.
3. Since God is tolerant, don’t correct others. Be tolerant of all, except those who criticize.
(This politically correct attitude censors much-needed rational, objective criticism as a corrective force.)
The consequences of twisting God’s holy Word
are devastating. Throughout history, whenever God’s people followed distorted
teaching and ignored genuine truth, they would compromise with popular
culture and drift back to earth-centered spirituality. Its happening all
around us today. The masks for timeless paganism - whether they are Babylonian,
Canaanite, Roman or Native American - make little difference. All these
polythestic/pantheistic/monistic belief systems mocked God and established
deadly connection between gullible seekers and demonic spirits. Today’s
most seductive masks bear an alarming resemblance to Christianity. History
documents the results - both personal and cultural, a tragic blend of plagues,
drought, famine and wars. (I document these in Under
the Spell of Mother Earth). Humanism was
often an intermediary step
(see Ps. 12:4) and continues to provide an effective tool for banishing God until spiritual hunger draws people to all kinds of pagan, earth-centered alternatives. Romans 1 outlines this timeless slide.
The signs of compromise are multiplying - even in God’s churches. Congregations have traded truth for myth and Mother Earth for God our Father. Sunday School curricula teach native American shamanism and equate the Creator with the Great Spirit. Gay pastors teach spiritual guidelines, and children’s pastors teach Bible “truths” through comical skits that mock God.
What we need is truth - the whole truth and nothing but. Yet Peterson, willing to use words like consecration and antithetical refuses to use the word sanctification and deletes “holy is your name” from the Lord’s prayer. How can we cry over sin and apostasy when the holiness of God is concealed from His Word?
As we face an explosion of false teachings
and spiritual substitutes both in churches and in the world around us,
we had better be faithful stewards. It’s time to awaken all God’s people
to test, guard and follow the truth our King has committed to us. Therefore,
What you heard from me [Paul], keep as the pattern of sound teaching...
Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you - guard it with the help
of the Holy Spirit who lives in us...
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of Truth. (2 Timothy 1:13-14, 2:15).
* For a closer look at America’s rejection of truth and growing fascination with all kinds of myths - from seductive distortions of the Bible to the world’s earth-centered religions - read Under the Spell of Mother Earth. Available in Christian bookstores or order direct from Victor Books: 1-800-323-9409.
* Author of Newberry winner A Wrinkle in Time and many other books filled with occult imagery and psychic practices such as kything - a form of mental telepathy and communication between people, trees and any other part of creation. Kything is growing in popularity within God’s churches, especially among women. Sinful nature, a condition dealt with by the cross, is not the same as “doing what we felt like doing....”
* The lawless one is not an Anarchist. He will
mock God’s law but enforce plenty of his own laws. The New Englishman’s
Greek Concordance of the New Testament (Wilmington, Delaware: Associated
Publishers & Authors, 1972), 772. * This may sound good but makes me
uneasy. This sacredness of the body and the goal
of “becoming one” fits right into New Age and Neo-pagan views of the physical body and sex.
*Apparently “spiritual” refers to those who are filled with - and walking in - the spirit, thus ready to allow God to work through him.
*Peterson may not have realized that the title of his article, “Spirit Quest,” is the name given to the Native American initiation into adulthood. Indian youth still journey into the wilderness to connect with their guardian spirits or animal spirits. This occult ritual is promoted in classrooms nationwide and spiritual seekers flock to America’s sacred “power places” (Sedona, Mt. Shasta, Alberta...) in search of their personal spirit guide.
* Today, unlike a decade ago, the demonic personalities respond quickly to the summons - with devastating consequences to the host. Psychologists in Alberta, Canada, face an explosion of tormenting “multiple personalities” among gullible spiritual seekers and testify to acceleration of demonic activity in the area. This is no time to minimize the power of Satan, the destructiveness of sin, or the overcoming power of God.
An Introduction to Christian Mysticism, Lectures
given at the Abbey of Gethsemani, MS. (1961), 145.
Quoted by Kenneth Leech, Soul Friend (HarperSanFrancisco, 1992),146.
Roy Bailey and Mike Brake, Radical Social Work (1975), 1. Quoted by Leech, 147.
Encyclopedia Britannica, XI (Chicago: William Benton, 1968), 810. “Spirit Quest,” 30.
An expression used often to describe what is happening in public education, where teaching is geared to the lowest common denominator. Acts 17:11, Revelation 2:2 Personal consequences are listed in Scriptures like Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Peter 3:16 and Rev. 22:18-19.
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