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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cliff Notes to Spotting False Teachers II

A little over a week ago, I posted one easy way to spot a false teacher. Basically, anytime a person approaches the Word lightly, that's a pretty good sign that false teaching could follow closely behind. Of course, a loose handling of Scripture can manifest itself in a variety of ways, so I'll probably post thoughts about it from time to time.

Follow the Bouncing Translations

Quick, what translation does your pastor typically use? Can you remember it? Does he even have a typical translation?

One should be concerned if their pastor is regularly bouncing from translation to translation during the service. This obviously does not mean that one can not refer to multiple translations (they are all fallible if we understand the doctrine of inspiration as refering to the original writings). Often, to help diminish "things being lost in the translation" it is necessary for us to see multiple translations working together.

However, if you sit in a message and the pastor begins with one translation, cross references to a passage in another translation, and then circles around again to another translation, he may be looking for the Word to say what he wants, rather than what God desires.

Allow me to illustrate. Matthew 16:19. If your pastor preaches from the NIV he will need to refer either to the NAS or HCSB or another translation that captures the future perfect passive tense. This does not mean your pastor is bouncing from translation to translastion, but rather, he is using other translations to capture the meaning of the greek language in our english.

But be wary of the pastor who flippantly bounces from translation to translation, with no explanation. Doing so reveals a number of concerns:

1.) Can the Body test what they are hearing? If a reference isn't given, and if a translation isn't stated, how can the Body follow the teaching to test whether it is proper or not?
2.) Is the pastor only working in the English? Are they connecting words and thoughts only in the English and not in the original language. There's only one word for love in the English. The greek has three. I shouldn't confuse the love of God with passions that men have. In English only, I could make those errors.
3.) Is it exegesis or eisegesis? When you want Scripture to validate a point you want to make, rather than a point it makes, it's easier to do so if you can use whatever English translation you need. If a speaker (or author) has to bounce around to too many translations (especially without validating that they are doing so because it more closely reflects the original Greek or Hebrew intent) to make their point, maybe Scripture doesn't actually make their point.

If you can't name the translation your pastor typically uses, I would recommend the following action. Go ask your pastor. He may be using a very good translation that you just don't know about. (Since the NIV and NAS can be similar in quite a few passages, I regularly have people who have only been exposed to the NIV ask me what translation I use.) If the pastor tells you that he doesn't really have a specific one but uses several from the pulpit, ask him why? If he doesn't say that he uses whatever most closely reflects the original greek for the passage, I'd be concerned. If he says he jumps around depending on what he feels is the most accurate, ask him what translation he thinks is accurate most often. Then watch and see if that is the one he preaches out of most often.

If he continues to use a bazzilion translations in his messages, make "Bible Translation Bingo Cards" for your family. When one in your family gets 5 accross, yell out "Bingo!" This will expose the problem to the entire Body. (Just kidding there. Actually, maybe not. It would be kind of sweet!)


  • At 12:25 PM, Blogger You'd love to know said…

    "The approach to spirituality in the modern church has been to adopt the world's educational model. Sunday "School" reflects the basic assumption that the path to Christian maturity involves the acquisition of biblical information. (This assumption means that there were very few growing Christians before people could carry leather-bound, codex versions of the Scriptures. Of course, they couldn't have read them even if they had had them.).....In a premodern (and Postmodern) world there was not the interposition of text between soul and God, nor did spiritual maturity rely so much on human reason's ability to grasp, understand, and explain."

    "The result of the modern church's form of spirituality is a North American church that is largely on a head trip."

    excerpts from: The Present Future, Six Tough Questions for the Church by Reggie McNeal (2003)

    Just something to ponder...

  • At 1:23 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    good thoughts ella. it should make us delight in the grace of God that we live in an era where the Scriptures are so readily available to us. (and should make using a good translation that much more important, since we can get our hands on them!).

    however, i would argue that the church has historically used the Word of God. reading through the book of Acts, we see the apostles using the Scriptures (Old Testament) to instruct the church. paul says that timothy knew the Scriptures because his mother and grandmother raised him according to them. whether i am reading from papyrus or i've memorized the text (as the church has done wonderfully at until our century), it's still the Word of God.

    it is not the knowledge of God's Word that is the problem. it is the lack of application. i find it humorous (and sad) when a student tells me the quit reading the Word for a while because it's just become a chore and an obligation. someone please explain to me how reading God's Word can ever be a bad action? the problem is that of repentance, setting my heart on Christ, and then approaching His Word. the problem wasn't with the Bible. the problem was with me.

    if the american church is too heady, it sure isn't because we know too much (though we have the most information at our disposal, we're probably the most Biblically illiterate generation of all time), it's because we aren't applying what little we do know.

  • At 2:30 PM, Blogger You'd love to know said…

    oops! Certainly didn't mean to suggest NOT reading or studying the Scriptures. And I couldn't agree with you more on the problem being lack of application, but I think knowledge of the Scriptures can most certainly be a problem. It was with the religious leaders in Jesus' day, wasn't it? Of course, this is not the fault of the Scriptures, we just tend to get very arrogant when we "know so much." The best that we can do is to read the Scriptures and pray for the Holy Spirit to teach us. Studying, cross-referencing, translation comparing, commentary reading can all be great things, but face it...who really has the right interpretation of anything? Answer: God. Am I saying that Truth cannot be known? No, I'm not saying that. We just need to hold onto our "truth" very humbly knowing that we are very fallible in our understanding. (... not only our understanding, but also the understanding of our seminary professors and celebrity theologians *wink*)

    I will tell you how reading God's Word can be a bad action. When someone uses it as a check- listed duty on the spiritual maturity chart. Some people actually believe (and maybe have been taught) that if they accomplish certain behaviors, they're good to go...kinda like church attendance. Even wonderful things like the act of reading one's Bible or attending a worship service can become an idol which we worship.

    A common question I hear from my pre-Christian friends, especially those in their twenties and younger, who have actually attempted attending church or a Bible Study is, "Why do people sit around and tell each other how much they know about the Bible?"

    Yes, you are right. The problem is not with the Bible, it's with me.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  • At 7:17 PM, Blogger ~d said…

    i hesitate to admit this to you, danny, but i like to read from several different translations - not all at once, of course, but as a change of pace. i find that it keeps scripture fresh and helps me stay more focused when i know i'm not reading the exact same words for the 79th time. i also like that some of the newer translations are so "down to earth" and readable yet accurate. maybe not word for word, greek to english, but still accurate. for example, the niv of psalm 21:23 reads - "he who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity." the same verse in the nlt reads - "if you keep your mouth shut you'll stay out of trouble." for some reason that just speaks to me - someone whose mouth can get her into some trouble from time to time - a little more clearly. it's also way easier to memorize, so i know i'll remember it better than the niv translation.

    so, while i think i understand the point you were making in your post, i also don't see the problem with pastors using a few different versions on a sunday morning just to make sure all the people are "getting it."

  • At 11:09 PM, Blogger RevPharoah said…

    Danny, if what you are saying is true than that would mean that Rick Warren is a . . .

    Wait. Let's not go there.

  • At 11:46 PM, Blogger danny2 said…


    had a similar discussion with charity over dinner. my post isn't that clear, i think.

    preaching is a different animal than personal devotions. according to james 3, the stakes are so high, i must be terribly careful.

    i have no problem with using several translations in study (it's a GREAT inductive study method.) again, without multiple translations, we don't get the right understanding of the greek/hebrew.

    i also don't have a problem with a pastor sharing several translations of the same verse (i preach from a parellel Bible, NIV and NASB, even though the NAS is so much more accurate...i'll post on that some other time...there are times that the NIV says it clearer.) your example is a perfect illustration of that point.

    however, if a pastor rotates around to all kinds of different translations in the midst of his sermon, not referring back to a consistent translation at all...that is possibly and indication he is not referring back to the original language either.

    probably a lot of this is amplified by a lack of context...another sign to be addressed in a future post.

    rev pharoah,

    my wife actually accused me of writing this post with him in mind. while that is a major concern i have about his book, i was actually thinking of some of the characters i referred to on christian television last week. but hey, if the shoe fits!

  • At 10:14 PM, Blogger Gary Underwood said…

    two words: Rick Warren.


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