So Nimm Denn Meine Hande...

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Gospel According to Cindy Lauper...

Yeah. I'm on a lunch break but I had something on my mind. Today. it's no longer a question of WWJD (What would Jesus do?). No...instead now everyone is asking "How Would Jesus Market Himself"? I recently saw Revolve (the magazine 'bible') and was interested, so I checked it out. "Hmmm...That's interesting" I thought for myself. "Attempting to be culturally 'relevant' by putting the Bible into 'new clothes'...interesting!" I then saw the "New Century Version" and though "that's a strange choice of text. Why would they use a paraphrase instead of a translation?". So I opened it up and started skimming. On page 109 and you'll find this top ten list:

Top Ten Random ways to make a difference in your community

1. Plant a tree
2. Pick up someone else�s litter
3. Smile freely
4. Drop a dollar in charity boxes.
5. Offer to baby-sit your neighbors� kids for free.
6. Clip the plastic rings on soda six-packs.
7. Use washable containers instead of plastic wrap for your lunch.
8. Recycle cans and bottles.
9. Donate your old clothes to needy families.
10. Do yard work for the elderly or sick.
(Revolve, p. 109)


I was perplexed. Planting a tree is the best way to 'make a difference' in my community? Uh...I don't mean to be a punk, but if I live in a tree filled, garbage free, smiling, charity supporting, baby-sat, fish and fowel friendly, tupperware, recycled, hand-me-downed neighborhood with nice lawns, will that then get all my neighbors to heaven?

What a gong show. I mean, wouldn't the freaking gospel change my neighborhood a tad? What about inviting a neighbor to church? Why is there nothing spiritual in that list? (Well, the answer is obvious to me....but I won't say it. HA!).

Even worse, on page 286 there is a beauty tip. It says that when applying makeup, you need a strong foundation...much like how Jesus is the strong foundation in our lives. I mean, come on! Paralelling the messiah with make-up? No wonder young christrian girls are so stupid and shallow. I pity them and am engraged at those who lead them.

There are 'inserts' and 'top ten' lists on every page, but none of them talk about 'dying to self' or 'repentance' or 'sin' or 'righteousness'. In fact, none of them are spiritual at all. They're all dating tips, makeup tips, self image quizes, etc.

Oh, and it's all full of advertisments from Thomas Nelson publishers. No hiding around there..."buy my book". (Thanks Mr. Sulu)

Does the Bible need help being relevant? Does God need help being cool? Does God even care about being 'cool'? Is the truth of the Bible all about dating and make-up? Is the word no longer sufficient, perspicuous or efficaious? (Does ANYONE remember what those terms mean?) Does the Bible adapt to culture or transform culture? Can YOU answer any of those questions without using some form of the phrase "well, I think that..." or "In my opinion..."?

Have we got THAT stupid that we don't know the answers to these questions anymore? Well, Revolve gives us a blistering "yes". Chalk one up for Satan and Sung Tzu...working together successfully since 4004BC (that's a good slogan....I'm going to make a shirt!). Why attack an impenetrable fortress headon when you can erode it's foundation over time and watch it fall all by itself?

Until Next Time,

The Armchair Revolver

7 Comments:

Blogger Benyamen said...

Honestly Lyndon, would have expected better from you. I think it's attitudes like this that quite often hinder the gospel far more than what you're lambasting.

I'm not a huge proponent of "Revolve" but I think it is a relevant and useful evangelistic tool. To start with they likely use the NCV because of the fact that it is an easy to understand paraphrase, rather than a direct translation. This lets people without theology degrees that haven't grown up in the church understand the heart of the biblical message, rather than struggling through difficult phraseology.

Secondly, I think that the "10 Ways to make a difference in your community" are great ways of actually living out the gospel, and not just preaching it at people and hoping for results. If you do those 10 things, people will likely see the gospel in you and give you opportunities to share the salvation side of the gospel. There is more to the gospel than just "repent and be baptized", there is the whole part about actually being a disciple too and making a true difference in the world we live in and making it a better place. Not just preaching that others need to repent while we let the trees die, scowl at people, practice materialism, ignore our neighbours, screw the environment, and leave the sick and elderly to fend for themselves like far too many people that just concern themselves with "getting people into heaven".

Maybe you're not interested in "beauty tips", but it's called an illustration. Preachers use them some times. Sure it's a weak illustration, but that may be the level that the reader is at. Why attack them for not being as biblically literate as you?

And to answers your questions: YES, the bible does need help being relevant. If we preached 2000 year old sermons in greek and latin would that make you happier? Because if we preach in english, or translate the bible at all, we're helping make it more relevant to our lives. That is the point of preaching the gospel, making it relevant to people's lives. It's not changing the gospel if you use illustrations or don't have a direct translation, it's just making it applicable in an ever changing world that isn't interested in early 1900's revivalism anymore.

And YES, the words "sufficient, perspicuous or efficaious" still having meaning, but should an unbeliever have to understand them before they can read the bible of hear the gospel? You shouldn't need a M Div. to accept Christ.

And although it's true that God through the bible can change culture, God's word first has to be made relevant and preached within the culture it exists before it can change things. Again, would you preach the original greek, in a toga in downtown Saskatoon? If not, then you are making the gospel relevant to your culture. Don't slag people who don't think the gospel has to be stuck in the early 1900's, and that it can be made relevant to mainstream culture today to reach people for Christ.

Again, I'm really disappointed in your angry response to a method of preaching the gospel. It was Paul himself that said, "What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice." It shouldn't matter if you don't like the method so long as Christ is preached.

9:45 PM

 
Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

Ben Ben Ben! WOAH! Hold your horses little camper...

Now, I will concede the point on the makeup illustration. It is true that such an illustration is most likely at the point of where the reader is at. Well picked and duely rebuked.

But let's clear some things up:

I DO understand the purpose in using a paraphrase; becuase it's more 'readable'. That's the whole point behind a paraphrase. It's just that the NCV is a 'dynamic paraphrase', roughly translating concept for concept, with little to no concern for the wording or original text. At best, dynamic paraphrases are good tools to suplement the reading of an actual translation...but they're not a replacement for a translation. The whole point behind 'Revolve' was to get a 'bible' into the hands of girls in the format with which they are more familiar; ie. a magazine. I don't think, and I suspect that I'm in GOOD company, that any reputable Bible scholar would suggest using a 'dynamic paraphrase' as a REPLACEMENT bible or a STUDY bible. Unfourtunately, that's what Thomas Nelson publishing is trying to do. So I DO get the idea behind the paraphrase and the whole magazine layout but I still stand behind my distaste for Thomas Nelson's attempt to market a 'dynamic paraphrase' as an actual 'translation'. My point IS accademic and not a big deal though. That comment about the NCV was a passing comment and not the main thrust of my discontent with Revolve. I would certainly be happy if someone read the NCV as opposed to the book of Mormon. It's just not a replacement for a proper study bible.

Secondly, I didn't say that the gospel is simply 'getting people to heaven'. I think you have completely misunderstood me here...There is definite biblical admonition for social renewal and environmental stewardship and whatnot. That all accompanies the gospel. You said:

"There is more to the gospel than just "repent and be baptized", there is the whole part about actually being a disciple too and making a true difference in the world we live in and making it a better place. Not just preaching that others need to repent while we let the trees die, scowl at people, practice materialism, ignore our neighbours, screw the environment, and leave the sick and elderly to fend for themselves like far too many people that just concern themselves with "getting people into heaven"."

******************

What I said was:

"I mean, wouldn't the freaking gospel change my neighborhood a tad? What about inviting a neighbor to church? Why is there nothing spiritual in that list?"

*****************

My point was not that we should preach and then ignore the world. I don't want to simply get people into heaven, and I don't think I even suggested such. My point was that there was NOTHING spiritual on that list whatsoever, nor on any other list in all of Revolve. Nowhere, on any list or blurb or quote or stat or anything was there any sort of spiritual content whatsoever. Revolve is supposed to be a bible and yet EVERYTHING was makeup tips, relationship tips, random silly facts and whatnot. Is the GOSPEL exclusively about makeup tips, or what to look for in a boy? Sure there's tons of room for all that stuff, but is that ALL that there is?

Now there's one last comment. You said:

"And to answers your questions: YES, the bible does need help being relevant."

Also, you said:

"And although it's true that God through the bible can change culture, God's word first has to be made relevant and preached within the culture it exists before it can change things."

********

Now you backed that up by suggesting that translating makes it 'relevent', therefore I'm already doing what I condem. I think you understand my to mean 'translate' when I say 'relevant'...so let me explain.

If I have a Greek text and change it from Greek to English, that's called "translating". That's how I understand the word "translate".

The word "relevent", on the other hand, means "having bearing to the matter at hand; applicable, practical".

So, I think we are simply confusing terms and we're misunderstanding one another. Please do not confuse 'changing from one language to another' with 'increasing the applicability or practicality'. I am all for translation but I cannot, for a second, imagine that I could make the Bible MORE or LESS applicable or practical to a person's life.

To suggest that you, or anyone, can make the scriptures any more, or any less, practical or applicable is to essentially suggest that you are the Holy Spirit, who is responsible for the communication of the truth of the gospel to a person's heart. The Gospel is inherently relevant, and the Spirit produces belief and action (makes it practical and practice-able...if that's a real word...in the hearts of believers.) To suggest that I can make it LESS relevant, on the opposite, is to suggest that I have MORE power than the Holy Spirit and can hinder it's applicability or practicality in someone's life.

I would never preach in Greek or in a toga. That would render the message indiscernable to my readers. I could be saying "Jesus is Lord" or "Satan is Lord" in Greek, and nobody would know the difference because they wouldn't understand my language.

I translate (or read a translation of) the scriptures so that the words and phrases communicate concepts in the language of my listeners. That translation cannot make the bible more or less relevant. It DOES make it understandable though, in the sense of being in a language that the listener can comprehend. The Holy Spirit convicts the heart of it's truth and grants the faith to believe it. The word is inherently relevant...

...and for the record, the inherent relevance of the Bible is what's meant by the term "efficacious".

You also don't need to understand those three terms (perspicuity, efficaciousness, sufficiency) to be saved. I never even remotely suggested that is the case. I used those terms because the sheer existence of Revolve suggests that evangelicalism doesn't really believe that the Bible is perspicuous, efficacious or sufficient anymore. Giving the Bible 'new clothes' cannot make it any more true, and neither can 'new clothes' make it any more practical or applicable. In practice, we (as a body of believers) DO NOT believe that those three terms are true anymore...and your confusion of the second term is case in point; we also don't even remember what they mean anymore.

I hope I have made myself clear as to what I understand the term "relevant" to mean, and how it's different from "translate". Thanks for your interaction though...it's always good to be challenged and called to task. Feel free to rebut as necessary.

9:15 PM

 
Blogger Benyamen said...

See, thing is, I do think that translation is essentially the same as "making the bible more relevant". Our translations are never perfect, and the reason that we translate it IS to make it more relevant to people. The reason we translate it is to make it more accessable and applicable to our culture. To say that we should never change the method in which we portray the gospel is preposterous. The gospel needs "new clothes" for every generation or it will have less effect on the culture in which we live. I think there are definitely more and less effective ways of presenting Scripture, or the Bible. If that weren't the case it, spiritual gifts and affirmation that some are better preachers than others would be irrelevant.

About what you said about having spiritual aspects to that top 10 list; I would liken it to the make-up illustration. People who are just picking this up, more than likely, aren't going to be Christians to start with, or nominal Christians at best. To say that the first thing they should do when they get to make a difference in their community is to share the gospel, likely does not fit with where they are at. If they haven't yet accepted it, it would be tough for them to share it. These were practical ways of living out gospel truths that even non-Christians can accept, and it shows there is more to Christianity than just preaching. I think that is one of the major stumbling blocks for the propogation in our culture; that non-believers see Christianity as just a bunch of people preaching, but doing nothing to make the world a better place.

In closing, I appreciate a lot of what you have to say on your blog, and none of this is meant to be a personal attack. If it has been seen that way I apologize. I just think you may have been a little hasty in your judgment of "Revolve".

5:08 AM

 
Anonymous West Coast Meat Eater said...

Hey Armchair, great rant. You are exposing the corporate takeover of the church. The reason things like sin and repentance etc are never mentioned is because they are not popular. Jesus said the road to eternal life is narrow and few find it, well the business's that control the Christian media don't like that one bit, so they will water anything and everything down to hit sales targets. Anyway take it easy

6:09 PM

 
Anonymous West Coast Meat Eater said...

One more thing now that I have read through the comments. The whole concept of relevance (in music, teaching etc, style) is utterly exploited by WORD music, Zondervan etc. They have convinced Christians that the reason that their society is rejecting their message is becuase the package it came in was wrong. Now because they know christians want to reach their world, they can magically give them the means to do so through hip and cool resources that will 'sell' the gospel to the lost. Well, discipleship don't work that way. You want proof? Go to zondervan's web site and read their mission statement. Ask yourself if media resources really can change lives. Ask yourself why there are new life changing books coming out all the time to replace the 'old' life changing books. - Meaticus

6:25 PM

 
Blogger The Armchair Theologian said...

Ben, I think you should stop and read your comments...I think you're playing both sides without realizing it. I mean, you say:

"See, thing is, I do think that translation is essentially the same as "making the bible more relevant". Our translations are never perfect, and the reason that we translate it IS to make it more relevant to people. The reason we translate it is to make it more accessable and applicable to our culture."

First, you suggest that in making a 'better translation', we somehow make the scripture MORE relevant.

You then expand on this and say "The reason we translate it is to make it more ACCESABLE and APPLICABLE to our culture."

Translating DOES make the Bible more accessile, in that if presents the greek/hebrew/aramaic text in the vernacular of the reader...that way they can actually understand the word.

BUT to then suggest that changing the Bible from the original languages to the vernacular of the intended reading audience does something to alter how it is APPLIED, (which is what I'm meaning when I say application), is bizarre indeed.

I mean, imagine that I buy a VCR. I look through the manual and see all these squiggly characters and cannot figure out what they say. I can'ty figure out how to program the darn thing because I cannot understand the instructions. I cannot understand the instruction that says "hit the 'program cable' button on the remote control to input and program in all your cable channels", therefore I don't know how to program in my channels.

BUT, if I contact the factory and get them to send my a set of ENGLISH instructions, all of a sudden I can understand the instruction that says "hit the 'program cable' button on the remote control to input and program in all your cable channels" because it's in the language that I speak. I don't hit a different button or progam in my channels using a different method simply because my manual is in English.

Not at all! On the contrary, the application of the instructions is the SAME in both cases, beacuse the instruction is the same. I "hit the 'program cable' button on the remote control to input and program in all your cable channels". The translation of the instruction simply lets me understand it.

Obviously, the translation itself doesn't CHANGE the instruction. It doesn't CHANGE how I apply the instruction. It only changes how I understand it...or more so it changes the fact that I COULD NOT understand the instruction because it was in a foreign language. When I receive the instruction in my language, I can NOW understand it. Application does not and CAN NOT change...

...and the same is true with ANY text, whether it be a VCR manual or the Bible.

*****************

One more thing. You said:

"The gospel needs "new clothes" for every generation or it will have less effect on the culture in which we live. I think there are definitely more and less effective ways of presenting Scripture, or the Bible."

I don't understand how you can seemingly contradict yourself in subsequent sentences like this.

First you say that the GOSPEL needs "new clothes" and then you say that there are "definitely more and less effective ways of presenting Scripture".

Changing the gospel itself and changing how we present it are two different things, unless I'm completely misunderstanding you here.

Also, I don't understand how you think you and I can make the gospel any more or any less effective. The gospel is made effective by the Holy Spirit, and you don't have more power than the Spirit to render the gospel either potent or impotent. If you preach the truth and live in horrible hypocrisy, you STILL bear testimony to the gospel, even if that testimony is your glorification of God's justice by suffering in hell for eternity as opposed to your glorification of God's grace by enjoying him forever.

We preach. The Holy Spirit makes the gospel effective. People don't disbelieve your presentation of the gospel because of 'bad form' or 'hypocrisy'. They WILL use those as rational excuses, but they're only that; excuses. They disbelieve the gospel because they hate Christ and love sin. This doesn't mean that we try any less to evangelize, nor that we can get away with not 'living it'. If we do this, in the end we may be surprised when we discover we're actually the 'evil doers' of Matthew 7:21-23. This ONLY means that we don't beat ourselves up over something that is NOT our job.

If you think YOU can make the gospel MORE or LESS effective, you are to be pittied above all men for you, a mere man, somehow think you can fill the shoes of the Holy Spirit of God. If you still hold to the idea that you can change the effectiveness of the Gospel, good luck buddy; cause you're doing it ALL on your own. That's a quick ticket for suicide, let alone burn out.

8:54 PM

 
Blogger Benyamen said...

Hey, I appreciate the comments Lyndon, but I think you are misunderstanding a lot of what I'm saying about relevance and such. There aren't any inherent contradictions in what I'm saying. First of all, about the VCR instructions thing. Would those instructions be of any use to you at all if they were written in Chaucer's english? It would still be english, but it would be of no use to anyone except those who have been trained to understand them. That is why I think that these kind of "loose" translations are useful. Not for academic study by any means, but for those who haven't been trained in Christian vernacular. It doesn't change how the bible is APPLIED but it may make it more possible for people to understand and have it applied. Direct translations may be in english, but they may as well be in another language, b/c they are just as hard to understand for non-believers sometimes as greek.

And as for people "making it relevant". Believers are filled by the Holy Spirit and I believe that he works through his people to help people understand and apply the truth. It doesn't all have to be mystical. If all that mattered is that people see the words of the gospel in whatever form, why don't Christians just drop copies of the KJV from airplanes and live in closets? If it doesn't matter who or how presents it seems to me that would be as good a bet as we have b/c then Christians couldn't be hypocritical and hurt the gospel. Why do we go to Bible College's or Seminary's? We go to learn the truth of Scripture, and ultimately how we can minsiter more effectively.

I think that if you think that believers have nothing to do with the work of the Holy Spirit in others lives, then you are to be pittied. It's His work, but he calls us to be a part of it. He didn't call the bible to baptize people and make disciples, he called believers to baptize and make disciples. He didn't say "just give people tracts and bibles", he said go into all the world and preach, baptizing and making disciples. It's true the Holy Spirit is the one who ultimately convicts of truth and brings people to salvation, but if I am not constantly striving to make it the most understandable and applicable to non-believers at all times than I am not fulfilling the great comission. It is ultimately not I who makes it more or less applicable but the Holy Spirit in me that works and gives wisdom as to how it can be preached. To just say that any means or method is okay and that we should just toss it out there and hope something happens without endeavoring to make it as relevant as possible we are denying that the Holy Spirit does his work through people as well, and not just in some mystical form.

9:23 AM

 

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