Tuesday, April 26, 2016

He still hasn’t found what he’s looking for

Bono meets Eugene Peterson 

David Taylor of Fuller Seminary, Bono and Eugene Peterson (Source)

By Pastor Jim Jenkins 

It’s entirely possible to look at something so long that you can’t really see it anymore. For years I have been calling people back to simple faith in the inerrancy of God’s Word. I’ve been patronized, mocked and more times than not, simply ignored.

I completed my doctorate at Fuller Seminary at the height of the Church Growth movement. I was exposed to all the marketing influence, the obsession with numerical growth of churches—and it was there that I was first introduced to the term “Progressive Christian.”

We were required to read the book Marketing the Church by George Barna. Some notables at Fuller at the time were C. Peter Wagner, Bob Logan, Carl George, and Eddie Gibbs. The message that permeated the core of the Doctor of Ministry Degree program was that the Church needed to be run as a business, and that the message needed to be contextualized against the backdrop of the culture.

Today Fuller Seminary rolled out its inaugural video of a new media site FULLER studio. It is a 20-minute piece featuring Eugene Peterson, author of The Message Bible which sold 17,000,000 copies and the rock star Bono. They are discussing their joint affinity for the Psalms. Accompanying the video is the above picture of Bono with the Petersons at their home in Montana.[1] Bono is lifting his index finger. Many believers would say, “Oh, I didn’t know Bono was a Christian.” 

Here is another picture of Bono that more accurately depicts his view of Christianity He is sporting a headband with the COEXIST motto.

I saw a video of one of U-2’s concerts in which Bono is leading the thousands of fans in a song and he begins to speak almost in a whisper, “Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha all the same. Jesus Mohammed, Buddha all the same.” He is pointing with the index finger to the headband. His idea of One Way means that we are all worshipping the same God. One Christian reporter saw another concert in which Bono offered a variation on the same theme: 
At a recent U2 Concert, one writer discussed her turmoil in hearing Bono point to the Cross, the Star of David and the Crescent Moon on his bandana and repeat: “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed-all true. Jesus, Jew, Mohammed-all true.”
I can resonate with a little "discomfort" at the words "all-true," but I was more unnerved by a Christian being "devastated," as she put, at the thought that other religions might have something in common with Christianity. We may not believe in Mohammed, but we certainly worship Allah (despite the differentiation K-Love and Focus on the Family try to make - historically, He is the same God, and if you want to say the God of the Jews and the God of Islam and Christianity are all different, then so is the God of Catholics, the God of Baptists and the God of Pentecostals).[2][bold added]

Back to the interview. Eugene Peterson kept referring to The Message as a translation. In fact, it is a paraphrase—a big difference. He illustrated his motivation for writing it by telling that he had a relative in mind and wanted a particular Psalm to resonate better with her so she would understand it better.

He prefaced this remark with a telling testimony… “I grew up believing that every word in the Bible was true…you don’t mess with it. But when I thought about it I read that God kept tears in a bottle… God is a Rock? Come on!” At that point, He and Bono shared a good laugh. He then waxed eloquent about what a metaphor is. He went on to tell how he approached one of his relatives. “I picked a Psalm and translated it in a way that I thought would fit them.”

That’s when it hit me. Many Emergent Church writers have taken a similar tack. Brian McLaren, Tony Compolo, Jonathan Merritt, Donald Miller... all, in one form or another, communicate that the Scriptures ‘as is’ are somehow offensive or inadequate to reach this special generation.

McLaren (Everything Must Change), for instance, declared a moratorium on even discussing gender issues. What he neglected to report is the fact that he had already presided over a ceremony in which his son ‘married’ another man. Jonathan Merritt (A Faith of Their Own) also eschewed the fact that the church was speaking out about homosexual marriage and abortion. Only later did it come out that he had been outed by a man with whom he had an affair.

I mentioned at the beginning that it is possible to look at something so often that you fail to see the obvious. What I gleaned from the conversation between Eugene Peterson and Bono was that picking Scriptures that we select, and tweaking them with our ‘take’ on them, and mocking the ones we deem insufficient—may be tied to something as simple as our preferences.

For example, Rick Warren in his runaway best seller The Purpose Driven Life used no less than 15 translations and versions of the Bible (The Message was cited often). Reviewers of the book made some interesting observations, 
"The Purpose Driven Life" maintains and promotes a poor theology stemming from an inadequate bibliology. Verses are used out of context from numerous paraphrases and placed in the author's own context. References and the version to the passage of the Bible being quoted are not in the immediate text but are included as endnotes at the back of the book. This is unfortunate as many people who read books do not read the endnotes.
Warren includes an appendix for why he uses so many versions, and why sometimes he will quote only part of a verse. The reasons he gives are:
1) To avoid missing nuances and shades of meaning.
2) To, "see God's truth in new, fresh ways." Italics not added.
It is interesting that his second reason contradicts the first. If you look at objective truth in new, fresh ways, you are almost surely introducing additional nuances, and shades of meaning. Seeing God's truth in new, fresh ways is reminiscent of the author's misuse of Prov. 18:15 in his book "The Purpose Driven Church" (Page 68.) He quotes Proverbs 18:15 from the Living Bible, "The intelligent man is always open to new ideas. In fact, he looks for them." He uses this to justify a pragmatic approach of learning.
We are not to look for new ideas. We are to look for the objective truth of Scripture and to apply that to the situation we are placed in.
Proverbs 18:15 "The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge."
The Bible contains objective truth which is inspired by God, sufficient, and authoritative. While the application varies, the meaning remains the same.
The author's misuse and careless handling of the Bible gives evidence regarding the author's view of the inspiration, sufficiency, and authority of the Bible in a practical sense.[3][emphasis added] 

Another reviewer wrote: 
There is a serious impact to Warren’s use of so many translations. It shows his view of the inspiration and sufficiency of Scripture. It seems that he does not believe that the Bible as God wrote it is sufficient for people today. He must believe that a very loose paraphrase like The Message can impact people in a way that the real translations cannot. He shows that he is not a faithful expositor of the Bible.[4]

As I watched the video of Peterson and Bono I thought of a verse from John’s gospel. Much is made by Emergent writers that people today have had enough of a judgmental, angry god. The verse from John is pretty clear.

“This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world and men preferred the darkness—because their deeds were evil.”
John 3:19 

I never met Bono or Eugene Peterson. Each in his own sphere of influence has influenced millions. I ascribe no nefarious motive to their beliefs. I will say, however, that the Psalms are not metaphors. They are the Word of God. What Peterson said about his childhood is accurate. The Church did believe that we have no right to change the meaning to suit the culture regardless of our good intentions.

I have been at the bedsides of dying people many time over the years. I can tell you authoritatively that they needed and wanted to be certain that every word of the Scriptures that I quoted about eternal life and heaven were true… absolutely true. I have no right to pick and choose which ‘offensive’ verses to tweak.

I remember once reading “God has created man in His own image and likeness. Now man has returned the favor….” Isn’t it interesting Muslims are not confused about their scriptures? They are said to be literally ‘uncreate.’ That is, they were dictated by Allah to Mohammed, every word of it directly from Allah. Do they take it seriously? Ask Salman Rushdie (The Satanic Verses), that is if you can find him. The Fatwah against him has been resurrected in recent days.

Let’s be clear: Bono and Eugene Peterson are not celebrating the Psalms because they believe they are God-breathed, or that they are ‘alive and active sharper than any two-edged sword’ (Heb. 4:12). No, I fear they have found a way to water down the meaning to such an extent that the offense of the Gospel will just go away.

By the way, the site announcing FULLER studio has the subtitle, Resources for a deeply formed spiritual life.[5] That needs to be covered in another article....

1. See the video at this website: http://fullerstudio.fuller.edu/bono-eugene-peterson-psalms/?utm_campaign=fuller-studio-launch&utm_medium=email&utm_source=imodules-d04262016&utm_content=bono-peterson-psalms-video 
2. See: http://www.emergingchristian.com/2005/12/bono-and-antichrist-allegations.html
3. See: http://www.biblebb.com/files/tonyqa/tc03-148.htm
4. See:  http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/book-review-rick-warrens-the-purpose-driven-life 
5. See: http://www.fuller.imodules.com/controls/email_marketing/admin/email_marketing_email_viewer.aspx?sid=1453&eiid=1155&seiid=586&usearchive=1&puid=3a1e142c-db90-4046-ab05-4b3cb7bb2f15

Dr. Jim Jenkins is the author of Fatal Drift: Is the Church Losing Its Anchor? (Deep River Books, 2014). See: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2016/02/fatal-drift.html and also read http://herescope.blogspot.com/2016/03/mind-numbing-narratives.html.