Monday, December 19, 2011

Written vs Living Word

I was thinking...about reading the Bible...

I copied/pasted a status on my Facebook which is supposed to be a quote by CS Lewis:

‎"It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true word of God. The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him. We must not use the Bible as a sort of encyclopedia out of which texts can be taken for use as weapons." -C.S. Lewis

Some of the responses to the quote is what got me thinking...and I realize I can't exactly answer the questions…

Follow this…

"I won a test because I knew that the DVD player brought it's cords."

"And…I passed a phone number to someone while winning the test and molesting someone."

So…as an English-speaking person…did you just understand that I passed a test because I knew that the DVD player came with its cords...while bugging someone and giving someone my phone number?

You…didn't? 

If you lived in Guatemala and spoke Spanish you would have understood that perfectly. This is often how my own kids speak…they say things in English that are direct translations from Spanish into English…only we don't say it that way in English! We don't say that the DVD player "brings" its cords... We don't "win" tests… 

This is how easily a translation of something simple can get misunderstood by people living in the same year on the same side of the planet. So, I have to believe that even a word-for-word direct translation of the Bible from the original language into current English has got to lose or change meanings. 

One of my sons pointed out that when translating they are going to not just simply put the word-for-word translation they're going to put what the word "meant" like as in "win" they'd know to translate that to "pass". Well…here too we can run into another problem when it is up to people "today" deciding what a word from another culture 1000's of years ago "meant".

What if the Bible was written today and there was a verse in Proverbs talking about how some people just need to be kickstarted in the morning? Would we find preachers 1000 years from now instructing families to kick one another in the morning? Expressions in English are not necessarily found in other languages. That was another thing I learned as an English speaking American living in Guatemala was how I would often try to say something in Spanish that I was thinking in English…but in Spanish it made no sense…and vice versa. A man showed up at my house when I was fresh out of the shower once and said something to me about being "fresh like lettuce" and I never could figure out what that meant! That happened a lot…someone would use an expression…I'd ask what it meant…and I still wouldn't get it. It wasn't part of my culture. I had no place to put it.

We are not Jews living 1000's of years ago in the Middle East…without iPhones and electricity and running water. We have no experiential clue what their life was like. 

Even the simple word "off". 

You can:

Buzz off (go away: rude command)
Be off (your game isn't good today)
Be off (you're not working today)
Bite/break off (remove part of)
Back off (put distance between you and something lterally by backwards motion)
Back off (stop giving attention to a situation)
Be turned off
Scare off (scare away)
Bake-off (have a contest)
Turn something off
Turn someone off
Take off (remove)
Take off (fly away)
Get off on (sexually)
Get off of (literally)
Get off (of work)
Get offed (killed)
Off someone (kill someone)
(I'm sure there are more but this is what I got off the top of my head...)

As and English speaking American one has no trouble discerning the deeper meaning to the word "off" whenever, however, wherever it is used. We just know. But, that would not be the case for a non-native English speaker or even a non-American. Some expressions do not even cross the ocean and back to where our own language originated and our vocabulary is not exactly the same as the one in England or for that matter Canada, Australia, or Belize, etc…

And, what about words that only apply to things in our culture? Like, "unfriend". This is a new term that directly refers to Facebook. Without knowledge of what Facebook is you don't get the full meaning of what being "unfriended" is.

Do I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God? Yep. I do. In its original form, yes. But, I don't read Hebrew or Greek and I am not from thousands of years ago. That's why we were sent the Holy Spirit because the Bible does say we have "no need for anyone to teach us but the HS teaches us all things". 

The Bible is the printed word of God…stuff He said and did…but Jesus…is the LIVING Word of God. Jesus is stuff that God is doing and saying "now". The Living Word is stuff God is doing and saying in American English in 2011...to you and to me. I am not God. I am not part of God. I am not going to be a god someday. And, I am not all-knowing or even most-knowing. But, Jesus lives IN me. And, because He does…there are things I am protected from that no one can take from me…things that the printed words in the Bible are not protected from.

What do I mean?

Here's an example…

You're an "Average American" in 2011…you're not a Greek scholar and you don't have an interlinear Bible and you trust your pastor and friends know what they're talking about, so, you don't know that Psalm 51: 5 says, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me." (David lamenting that his mom was naughty! He did not share the same mother as his other brothers. Tsk tsk! In this sentence it is clear to see that the sinner in the sentence is the mother.) No. You don't get that deep into it…you have faith in the translation committee of the NIV (which included a feminist who believes Jesus was a woman, btw) and, you read in Psalm 51:5 that, "for I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" and you think, "Gosh! Wow! We're born sinful! The Bible says it! I believe it!" 

You believe it…but sadly the Bible doesn't say it! The Bible has been tampered with there. Intentionally? I don't know the hearts of those who did it, but, as my son pointed out when it comes to word-for-word translation a translator is going to translate things according to what they believe it means. And, there is the weakness of modern Bible translations: What the translators in our modern age think the writers in another culture, time period, and language "meant". 

If all you had was the Bible and no other way God communicated with you...you would believe things that God didn't say. It's just how it is. 

BUT…God was all over that one. He knew this potential was there. And, He knows how important the truth is. He died for it. So, to protect us from human error He has placed the truth on our hearts…and has displayed it in the Creation so completely and thoroughly that no faulty Bible translation should effect us…and He lives in you! God is that awesome.

And, so you read your NIV and it says that babies are sinful from the first splitting of the egg…and you go visit your friend who has just had a baby and you see the baby and what is something you're likely to comment? "What a sweet…innocent…baby…" Right? There it is. God's protection IN you. The TRUTH is there in your heart. You look at a newborn baby and you KNOW that that baby is innocent. You feel it in every pore of your body. And, you feel it in the outrage you feel when you hear that a toddler has been sexually abused. You feel that outrage when you hear that even an 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 year old has been sexually abused. You feel outrage that someone has harmed an INNOCENT child. The truth in you that children are not sinful cries out loudly. 

THAT is something no translating committee can take from you.

How 'bout another example?

You read some things in Proverbs about using a "rod" on your child. So, because you are not a Jewish historian and you've never had any experience with shepherding sheep you have no way of knowing that Proverbs is a book written "to" men about "male children who are not little"…you have no way of knowing that the shepherd's rod was actually a spiked weapon used on predators and that this is why David said that God's rod "comforted" him. You have no way of knowing all that. So, if the only "word" of God that leads you is the written words in the Bible the next thing you know you are going to have Christians preaching in churches that it's God's will we hit our children…even very small and female children. What was written "to" men about "teenage boys"…ends up being women with spatulas and wooden spoons beating their little toddler girls on the butt and believing it is God's will!

But again! How is this fair!? Not everyone has what it takes to deeply study the Bible to figure this stuff out! God is fair. God is good. God is love. So, God put it on your heart. if you are one of those people taking a whack at your child in God's name…as I once was…you can feeeeel it in every core of your being that what you are doing is not right. You NEVER walk away from striking your child feeling "good" about what you've done, and even science shows that this whole process is harmful to both us and to our children. The science is the physical stuff that God made. The Creation testifies that the act of striking children is wrong. Your body feels yucky after you do it. That is the truth that God placed on your heart. That is the Living Word of Jesus living inside of you in 2011 speaking to you that hitting children is wrong.

It is my opinion that while my life was changed for the better by plunging into the printed word of God. But, over the years there are many things that I thought I got out of the Bible that I have had to abandon and leave behind. Why? Because the Living Word, Jesus, corrected those printed errors. I have had to un-learn some of what I had learned in the Bible, but there is nothing that I have gotten from the Living Word that I have had to reject or undo. 

I spent my first three years or so as a Christian studying very studiously! I had so much stuff memorized! I did Bible study after Bible study and although "blogging" was nothing back then I did basically what I still do except back then I didn't post it on the web: I typed "essays" in my computer about things all the time! I loved learning! But, the more I "learned" the more critical, condemning, judgmental, and unforgiving I got. The more I read about Jesus…the less like Him I actually became.

It's all about "Love". And, love is not something you can study. Love is something you must experience. And, reading a book does not give you experience in loving. 

Once I got my nose out of the written words of a translating committee speaking for Jesus and got into the Living Word…I began to learn exponentially faster than I had when I was "studying"…and it was then that I began to feel the Love of God and to feel like Jesus was my best friend.

So, do I find no value in the Bible? Of course I do! I love reading it. But, I now realize that I could live without my Bible. I could never read another verse the rest of my days and I would be totally unscathed spiritually. But, I could not live one hour without the Living Word. He…I can't live without. 

I think the church seems to have this backwards and when the Living Word cries out within too many people that (for example) children are innocent, they choose instead to believe the corrupted written word. They choose to do this. They choose the translating committee over the Living Word. And, this leads them to other choices (like leaving babies to cry themselves to sleep and spanking) that has led to our culture in 2011 in which most of our population is on drugs (legal and illegal) just to get thru life. We live in a culture full of depressed, violent, lonely, divorced, and sexually messed-up people…yet we continue to choose to believe what our hearts cry out against. 

Christians wanna blame the current health of our culture on "the world" and on government conspiracies leading to prayer being removed from school and homosexual marriage…but these things are not the problem. The church is the problem. The pillar and support of the truth is no longer holding up the truth (Living Word)…we now hold up the translating committees for works like the NIV which are full of untruth. This is what we promote, live, believe, and preach and look at the mess the world is in.

Unfortunately one of the traps caused by bad translations is the corrupted view of "sin" that has led to Christians all doubting the Living Word inside them. Like a "Catch 22". The teaching that our bodies are only sinful and only desire or bend toward sin prevents us from responding to the truth on our hearts. We blaspheme, I believe, against the Holy Spirit when He says one thing and we accuse Him of being "our sinful nature".

The teaching that we are sinful leads mothers who are sleep training their little sinners to ignore the Holy Spirit who is crying out to for them go pick up their crying baby…and accuse Him of being their "weak flesh". And, this same mother will not only ignore the Living Word inside her but she will also encourage others to do the same. She will start classes at her church to prepare for parenting and teach other parents to do the same. Science (the evidence in Creation that God put there) will show mountains of research that this practice is damaging to children and mothers and the church will turn it back around and call it a "spiritual attack". All this damage done to the world because people follow the written words…corrupted…and ignore the truth on their hearts, in the Creation, and in the Living Word.

It's a vicious cycle. And, I can't help but think how much better off Christians might be without Bibles because of this. But, I don't really believe that we're better off without Bibles. I guess Christians would be best off with the most accurate translations they can get their hands on…even if it happens to be not as "easy to read" as an NIV. I'd say it's waaaay worse to easily read something incorrect than to have to think about something that's not as easy to read but correct…

Jesus would never lie to me. So, if my preferred Bible version had blatant errors in it…would that printed word really the word of God? 
Seems that might be  a good place to start…

I guess if I ever figure out exactly what I think about this…I'll type about it here again…
Till then...


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