Thinking Out Loud

July 16, 2017

We’re Back from Europe

We are back from eleven days in Europe

In the early days of my reading faith-focused blogs — approximately 2005 to 2009 — I was often disappointed to turn to some of my favorite writers only to learn they had taken the day to talk about their latest vacation. This occurred at a time when even an out-of-state (or province in our case) trip would have been impossible. Over the years there have been four significant factors preventing us from going anywhere. In order:

  • Raising children, including one who would have been considered special needs at the time.
  • My health; though we did take some road trips.
  • Economics, especially in the sense of affording air travel.
  • My parents health which perhaps wasn’t always as much a barrier as we thought, but certainly did require us to be in daily contact, which would have complicated an overseas holiday.

So when the opportunity to catch up arose, we selected a package which took us to Hungary, Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. We also passed through Slovakia which I later got to visit more closely while Ruth took a different side trip.

I knew nothing of these countries prior to leaving and did not have time to do much research. I probably could have pointed to Germany on a map and said something about wiener schnitzel, polka music and beer. (For the record, I don’t remember hearing an accordion and my beer consumption consisted of splitting one with my wife on the last day of the trip.)

As familiar as sightseeing destinations are in Paris and England and Rome, the recent terrorist activity in the first two doesn’t lend itself to worry-free touring. (I’ll grant that Germany has not escaped such events.) So we chose this particular set of countries. They were different. They were unknown. They were a nine-hour flight away.

The trip was certainly eye-opening. As I sit typing this at 5:45 in the morning — my body confused by the six hour time difference — I am reminded particularly of our reaction the first day to the historical sections of Budapest on our first full day, and our first glimpse of the old town of Prague last Wednesday. It was surreal.

We were there. It wasn’t a movie set. We saw it. We felt the bricks. We walked on the cobblestones. We pinched ourselves a few times to make sure it wasn’t a dream.

In North America, generally speaking nothing old is older than the late 1700s. Our old buildings are mostly mid-to-late 1800s. In Europe, tour guides speak of a structure saying, “this was erected in the year 921” as casually as they are reminding you not to leave personal belongings on the bus. “…And the one on the left was built in the 1100s.”

Europe is also all about cathedrals. Our last tour director — the trip was in two stages — told us that many travelers reach a the ABC stage, meaning “Another bloody castle.” But they might also say, “Another bloody cathedral.” You know your brain is saturated when, knowing the ornateness and beauty that awaits inside, you pass by because you are simply cathedraled-out.

But it does offer the opportunity to consider a number of faith-focused things. Tomorrow we’ll look at the emergence of a new group of conservative Christians in Germany, and then move on to look at

  • The very not-seeker-sensitive synagogue district in Prague
  • Resenting the church’s wealth
  • Church funding in Germany
  • Meeting people who grew up Godless

and other topics as I think of them and go through our pictures.

So that’s the line-up for this week, plus hopefully a return of the link list on Wednesday.

If you don’t want to hear about someone’s holiday excursion when having one of your own seems remote right now, please understand I totally get that.



The Eugene Peterson Thing

On the last few days of our trip an interview Religion News’ Jonathan Merritt did with Eugene Peterson blew up into a major tempest and then within 24 hours, as quickly as it had begun, the gale subsided. We’ll obviously be focused on other things this week, but here’s a 7:00 AM Sunday morning update from Religion News in case you missed it:

  • Jonathan Merritt’s column was actually the third in a series of Q&As with the author. | Read the story
  • Merritt’s question to Peterson was by no means unfounded, especially given what he said in this 2014 video. | Read the story
  • Our summer intern Madeleine Buckley looked at other prominent Christians who’ve had a change of heart on LGBT issues. | Read the story
  • Commentator Jacob Lupfer says the controversy shows that Peterson is exactly where most non-mainline Christians are — “confused, conflicted, and torn between fidelity to beliefs … and compassion for people they know and love.” | Read the story

Note: I thought what Peterson said about engaging in hypotheticals in interviews like this was brilliant; it’s hard for a pastor to answer a question which begins if there was a gay couple and if they were Christians and if they asked you to marry them…

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May 1, 2016

20 Minutes with the U2 Guy and The Message Guy

Bono and Eugene Peterson discuss the Psalms. I know this has been posted all over the internet, and I was going to save it for a link on Wednesday, but it’s really worth the extra attention:

[Interview at Point Loma Nazarene University, 2007:]
Dean Nelson:
Yes, but the rest of the story is that he invited you to come and hang with them for a while. You turned him down.

Eugene Peterson:
I was pushing a deadline on The Message. I was finishing up the Old Testament at the time, and I really couldn’t do it.

Dean Nelson:
You may be the only person alive who would turn down the opportunity just to make a deadline. I mean, come on. It’s Bono, for crying out loud!

Eugene Peterson:
Dean, he was Isaiah.

Dean Nelson:
Yeah.

October 8, 2015

The Message 100: A New Type of Bible Reading Engagement

We live at a time when Bible publishers have offered us a degree of choices and formats that previous generations would never have imagined. Different editions compete both in terms of brand identification and in their desire to readers engaged in the scriptures.

The Message 100The Message 100: The Story of God in Sequence takes the complete text of Eugene Peterson’s version of the Bible and divides it into 100 readings and although the reader is encouraged to go at their own pace, this means that one could read this Bible in 100 days, an acceleration of the usual “read the Bible in a year” type of approach.

Starting in Genesis, I decided to time myself with the first section and clocked in at 26 minutes, though I may have rushed the two genealogies. Still, at less than a half hour, and with only 99 readings left, I was impressed that day how easily this pace of reading the whole Bible might be accomplished.

Because the publisher of The Message, NavPress has merged their marketing and distribution with Tyndale (publisher of the NLT) I was a little wary that this new Message might follow the One Year Bible format which scrambles the text considerably.

Instead, The Message 100 keeps whole books of the Bible fully intact, the First and Second Testaments are completely separated, and the first 30 sections follow the traditional sequence. After that, all bets are off: The minor prophets are co-mingled with books of history, and the wisdom literature is placed at the very end with Psalms wrapping up the 79 OT sections, reminiscent of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) where Prophets come before Writings.

The New Testament begins with the synoptic gospels, then Acts, then the letters (epistles) in a more accurate chronological sequence, not the sorting-by-length with which we are familiar. The writings of John, including his gospel, concludes the 21 NT sections.

The Message 100 also contains a short introduction by Bono — himself quite familiar with the version — which makes it an instant collector’s item for U2 fans.


Connect to the full text of Bono’s intro at fellow-blogger Dave Wainscott’s review.

The Message 100 is 1,808 pages, available in both paperback and hardcover editions, with a North American release date of Tuesday, October 15th.

February 2, 2015

David The Shepherd King: Bible’s Most Detailed Narrative

Leap Over a WallI’m trying to continue my routine of alternating between reading a currently-published book — the ones publishers send to me — and a previously published title.  Two weeks ago I was encouraged to look at Leap Over a Wall by Eugene Peterson, an author who I am increasingly drawn to read more of.

The book would fit in well to what is described as an “application commentary,” though I suspect one publisher may have a copyright on that phrase. He looks at the life of David in the Old Testament books that are named after Samuel and provides insights for the modern reader from the Bible’s most-covered character.

But Peterson also provides insights from his own career as a pastor.  He knows people, what motivates them, what frustrates them; and he knows church life intimately. The subtitle, Earthy Spirituality for Everyday Christians is most appropriate.

There are 20 chapters each going several directions at once.

First we see each part of the narrative involving David’s interaction with another person (Doeg, Abagail, Mephibosheth, plus the expected ones) or place (Brook Besor, En-Gedi, Ziklag, Jerusalem) and having a theme (Imagination, Sanctuary, Wilderness, Suffering, etc.)

Second, each begins with a quotation from the New Testament. Although this is a First Testament story, it has links to the Second Testament gospel, with a number of parallels to the life of Christ.

Third, I believe each chapter has a link to one of the Davidic Psalms that was written around the same time as the narrative, poetry which gives us a great window into David’s heart. So the book can be seen as a limited commentary on the Psalms as well as on I Samuel or II Samuel.

Fourth, each chapter very much relates to the human condition; to the state we find ourselves occupying in the 21st Century. There is a lot of David in each of us, we are perhaps most acquainted with our failures, our brokenness; but there is also the resident potential for much achievement as we allow God to be reflected in and through us.  

This book can be read in one or two sittings, or as I did, you can read a chapter-a-day devotionally. This is a book I would also want to return to a second time.  

Also, I want to especially recommend this to people who are familiar with Peterson’s work with The Message translation but like me a few years back, hadn’t checked out his other writing.

David is proof that God can use us in our weakness, in our broken condition perhaps we are more attuned to him than at times we would think we had it all together.


Note: A study guide for the book is published separately.


 

 

 

March 11, 2014

Comparing The Voice, The Message and The Living Bible

Bible translation issues

This is an article about three specific Bible versions, but has more to do with the form of each; the purpose is not to delve into specific translation issues associated with the use of words, phrases, sentences or the doctrinal implications of different translation practices.

Defining Terms

reach outThe Living Bible refers to the Bible originally begun in the 1960s by Ken Taylor to give his ten kids a better understanding of scripture at their suppertime family devotions. It is an English-to-English simplification of the ASV. This is not the same as the New Living Translation (NLT) though there is obviously shared history. The Living Bible is currently available for purchase in only two editions, a padded hardcover and an imitation leather anniversary edition. Anything else currently offered for sale is an NLT.

The Message BibleThe Message refers to the Bible written by Eugene Peterson beginning in the 1990s to help people not knowing the original languages a better feel for the dynamics and nuances of Biblical passages. It is Hebrew-to-English and Greek-to-English, so it is a translation (regardless what anyone tells you) but a translation that uses American colloquialisms and a conversational reading style.

The Voice BibleThe Voice is the most recent of the three and was developed over the last ten years by the Ecclesia Bible Society, and while it is also a translation, the translators worked with stylists (poets, playwrights and musicians) to create something that blended traditional approaches and some radical departures in form.

Similarities

All three Bibles were quickly embraced by people looking for an alternative, fresh take on the text, and therefore each has impacted a different generation. Similarly, all three were roundly criticized by traditionalists and conservatives as taking too many liberties or not being “Bible enough.” Some people simply have an automatic aversion to new translations, or are influenced by church leaders who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo in all things.

All three were released in stages; The Living Bible began as a series of smaller books, Living Letters, Living Gospels and Living Psalms and Proverbs being three examples; The Message Old Testament came out as a series of four hardcover books; The Voice issued a variety of editions consisting of individual Bible books and two music CDs.

Completed versions of all three came out in 1971, 2003 and 2012 respectively, and all three spread in popularity through word-of-mouth recommendations.

Unique Characteristics

Today it’s hard to think of The Living Bible as radical, but several publishers rejected it, so Ken Taylor created Tyndale House Publishers and released Living Letters with a whopping print run of 2,000 copies in 1962. A year later, Billy Graham endorsed the project and gave away many times that number on his crusade telecasts. While sometimes a publishing company will work to fill a void by creating a Bible, this is a Bible that created a publishing company. By today’s standards, Taylor’s work wasn’t all that controversial, but his decision to render the Psalms as prose rather than poetry is one of the features that was later undone in the creation of the NLT.  Taylor was fortunate to have predated the internet; today bloggers would be lining up to dissect every jot and tittle, but at the time, it was a simply matter of you either liked it your didn’t. Tyndale House today publishes Randy Alcorn, Francine Rivers, James Dobson and the Left Behind series.

I once read an interview where Eugene Peterson was surprised when churches started using The Message as part of Sunday liturgy. He envisioned the project having more personal application. Besides taking a straight-forward, in-your-face approach to many Biblical images and narratives, The Message originally came to market sans verse numbers; the only allusion to them being guides at the top of the page where chapters cut across several pages. Later editions added verses numbers in varying degrees, but even today, the most numbered editions tend to group three or four verses together which is, in many respects, more consistent with what’s needed to render the English equivalent to the original texts. There are some among the Christian community who are more than willing to totally dismiss the project, but reading some of Peterson’s more recent writing helps me appreciate his clout as a Bible scholar that he brought to this project. The Message is published by NavPress, the book division of The Navigators discipleship ministry.

The Voice Bible in many respects honored the work done by the KJV translators in retaining two of their strategies. First, where words were added to the text they were set in italics to show that they were not to be found in the original languages.  Second, the aforementioned stylists were added to the mix to work with translators to bring about a finished product that sometimes goes out of its way to try to find new ways to restate old things (i.e. rendering Yahweh and Elohim as “Eternal One.”) But The Voice’s most unique contribution to the world of Bibles is its use of dramatic script (play) form wherever there is any type of dialog (see page sample image.) The Voice also borrows from The Amplified Bible in its application of word meanings in the italicized sections, and because of its desire to produce a dramatized script, what would normally be introductory or supplementary notes are embedded in the text between verses so as to give a type of stage direction. Unfortunately, The Voice also suffered at the hands of a vocal internet community that was as willing to pounce on a new translation as King-James-Only-ites were to decry the NIV. Trade distribution of The Voice is handled by Thomas Nelson.

Bible Translation Continuum

Why It Matters

It has been said that a religious group that does not impart its sacred writings to its children is one generation away from extinction. We live in an ADD-plagued, media-saturated, Biblically-illiterate world. Over the years publishers have tried to encourage new readers with everything from devotional Bibles to Biblezines. A kids edition was issued with a faux fir cover for girls and a lockable metal chest cover for boys.

Still, sometimes we need to address the translations themselves; to rethink the base texts on which creative editions can be based. Furthermore, the language itself is ever changing, always evolving. Just as the radio industry once offered a choice of a half dozen or so formats (pop, country, classical, progressive rock, etc.) today’s cultural fragmentation means there are now dozens of different types of music channels. Similarly, the days of all of us at small group Bible study reading from the translation are probably over.

So while the last few years have also brought us The Expanded Version, the HCSB and the ESV, which would appeal to former Amplified, NKJV and NASB readers respectively, we also need the creative vision of those willing to boldly go where no translation has gone before.

Ken Taylor, Eugene Peterson and the people at Ecclesia represent that kind of vision. Nobody is forcing anyone to read a particular version — people who dislike one of the above tend to dislike all three — but just as some visionaries said forty years ago that “it takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people,” today we might add that “it takes all manner of translation styles to reach all types of people.”

Comments not directly on the specific topic of this article will not be printed. If you’ve come to this article with an agenda please comment elsewhere.

March 23, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Intro, intro, blah, blah, blah… [nobody reads this paragraph anyway…]

  • Opening and closing cartoons today are from Sacred Sandwich
  • So what do you when you’re Rob Bell and everybody who has read Love Wins and everybody who hasn’t read Love Wins is asking, “What’s up with that?”  Answer: You do what you do best and go on tour renting large auditoriums in places like New York.
  • Though I’ve never been able to visit his church, this five-minute clip demonstrates why Pete Wilson is one of my favorite pastors.
  • Honestly, I don’t make these links up.  The choir members at the big glass church must sign the “Crystal Cathedral Worship Choir and Worship Team Covenant” affirming the church’s stand against homosexuality.   Yet oddly: “John Charles, a spokesman for the cathedral, said this does not mean gays are banned from the choir.’This contract is to educate choir members about what our church believes in,’ he said.”  Read for yourself.
  • My prediction:  Within 3-5 years a segment of Calvinists and neo-Calvinists will complete their breakaway from the rest of us and form an isolated denomination called The Gospel Coalition that will separate them from both Protestantism and Evangelicalism.  They’re already building concensus for their own hymnbook.
  • The Message Bible translator — and I do mean “translator,” not “paraphraser” — Eugene Peterson has a new book out, The Pastor, A Memoir (HarperCollins) and it’s reviewed at Christianity Today by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, co-editor with Shane Claiborne on the recently released Common Prayer liturgical resource.  The review contains this quotation from the book: “”North American culture does not offer congenial conditions in which to live vocationally as a pastor. Men and women who are pastors in America today find that they have entered into a way of life that is in ruins.” The impression one gets of a book that is half autobiographical and half prescriptive.
  • Ryan Dueck asks the musical question, “Why Should We Then Blog,” which should be must-reading for those of us who blog.
  • Hannah Goodwyn at CBN News has a list of the top ten current Christian bestsellers you should read, though I personally disagree with her #1 choice, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  All are recently released except for Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.  And no mention of Crazy Love which we covered here yesterday.  Not sure why people do these lists.  Not sure why I just linked to it.
  • Speaking of books, Jason Hood writes at Christianity Today that Eric Metaxas’ book on Bonhoeffer may lead to misunderstandings as to where, from an Evangelical perspective anyway,  the subversive/pastor “fits in” theologically.
  • Meanwhile, Sherry at Semi Colon blog recommends using Bonhoeffer‘s Cost of Discipleship this year for Lent.
  • If you watched the Grammy Awards, or have an awareness of current music, you may be somewhat aware of a song that was performed as “Forget You,” but also has another similar, but different title that can’t be printed here.  So here’s an equally disturbing parody of the song from a Christian perspective, “Bless You.”
  • Mark Almlie at Out of Ur asks the question, “Is being a Protestant single pastor like being a married Catholic priest? Is it an oxymoron?”  Okay, that was really two questions.  If you’re an Evangelical, have you ever known or had a pastor who was unmarried?
  • Zac Hicks’ worship blog reviews a Neue magazine article and carefully differentiates between traditionalism and tradition.
  • The original Friendly Athiest (the one that’s not Matt Caspar) breaks out the list of the Ten Most Religious and Ten Least Religious U.S. States.  By the way, is it just me or is “Utah Jazz” a rather conflicted name for a sports team?
  • Anthony Bradley says the best apologetic is simply to live a radical Christian life, and that’s how believers in earlier generations understood it.  “Being different is a struggle for American Christians who often find it desirous to be as much like our society in every way except for the occasional Sabbath from culture for religious activities.”
  • Thom Rainer, CEO of Lifeway, which regular readers know is one of my favorite Christian publishing company in the whole world [Note to not regular readers: That was a lie] offers four principles for pastors and leaders who find themselves in a change-resistant church.
  • For Lent he went on an all-beer diet.  Seriously.  It’s a long story. He’s now up to day 15 of 40.  Personally, based on yesterday’s post, I’m not so sure that J. Wilson is going to go the distance.  The above link is to his blog, this one to a media story about him.
  • Link suggestions are always welcomed.  Here’s another from Sacred Sandwich (click images to link).


August 6, 2010

Let’s Look at the Amish

Somewhere near the end of our vacation, we were in a town where suddenly a horse and buggy appeared in the opposite traffic lane. Not knowing if my wife had noticed, I simply said; “Amish;” to which she replied; “Oooh! Let’s look at them.”

The strange remark — which I got right away, but you may not have — is a dry reference to people we know who say they are going to go to Pennsylvania to “look at the Amish.” Not shop in their stores and buy jams, jellies or crafts from them. Not spend a week helping out on one of their farms — the way one might volunteer on an Israeli kibbutz — as much of an adventure as that would be. Not attending one of their worship services.

No… just “looking at the Amish;” the way we might visit a town if everybody there had two heads.

But maybe, just maybe, we should take a minute to ‘look at’ (in the sense of ‘consider’) the Amish.

While everybody else in Christendom has suffered the fate of slowly being dominated and shaped by the spirit and culture of the world, these people have managed to truly understand what it means to be “set apart;” what it means to not ‘give in’ to the dominant culture and its ways of seeing the world.

And isn’t that

…continue reading here…

Photo is from Daily Encouragement by Stephen & Brooksyne Weber.

May 21, 2009

Psalm 19 in The Message – Excerpt

Filed under: bible, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:16 pm

7-9 The revelation of God is whole
and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of God are clear
and point out the right road.
The life-maps of God are right,
showing the way to joy.
The directions of God are plain
and easy on the eyes.
God‘s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
with a lifetime guarantee.
The decisions of God are accurate
down to the nth degree.

Something about the wording of this really struck me the other night.    I hope it helps someone out there today!   The Message is a modern-language rendering of the Bible by Eugene Peterson.   Although some call it a ‘paraphrase,’ it’s important to note that Peterson worked from the text in the original languages, not another English version.   We prefer to call it a ‘loose translation.’

February 10, 2009

The Gospel According to William Shakespeare

My wife is currently reading the book, The Unnecessary Pastor (Eerdman’s 2000) in which Eugene Peterson and Marva Dawn alternate chapters intended to give encouragement to pastors.  I checked out where it was bookmarked this morning and in her first chapter, Marva Dawn borrows an analogy from N. T. Wright’s The New Testament and the People of God (Fortress Press, 1992) which she mentions has also been picked up in a variety of other books.   (If they were bloggers they could just insert an “HT” or a “via”!)

shakespeare91Suppose we found an incomplete play by William Shakespeare, how could we produce it?  If we discovered the first five acts and the last bit of the seventh, we could try to write the missing parts — but who could ever write as well as Shakespeare?  Besides, Shakespeare is no longer alive for us to check out our attempts with him.

She later defines the analogy, the acts in question are:

  • Act I – creation
  • Act II – the fall
  • Acts III and V – stories of Israel and early Christians
  • Act IV – the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus
  • Act VI – missing
  • Act VII – we have only a fragment of the drama’s ending from the book of Revelation

But I’ve jumped the gun and introduced the analogy before she was finished setting up the premise; but you already had that figured out, right?   Which makes this paragraph that much more interesting:

Instead we could go to Ashland, Oregon which has one of the finest Shakespeare festivals in the world and there we would secure the best Shakespearean actors we could find — people who have performed lots of his plays, who know his ways, his idiosyncrasies, his twists of language.  They would immerse themselves in the acts that we do have and then we’d let them improvise the parts that are missing.   Since the audience would be different every time the play was performed, it would be improvised differently every day according to who is there and what is happening.   Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

(She also suggests that Christians have an advantage because we can, in fact, check with the Author as we go!)   Basically, that’s what we’re doing; improvising Act VI. As Christ-followers we know how the play began and how the play ends.  Our job is to live out Act VI.

[In case you’re wondering, my wife isn’t a pastor in that sense, but fulfils a pastoral role to some of the people she serves in ministry.   Instead of wondering about her, a better question for everyone reading this to answer is, “Who are you a pastor to?”]

January 25, 2009

Eugene Peterson on the Difference Between Listening and Listening

Filed under: bible, Christianity, Church, God — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:24 pm

This appeared last week on the blog formerly known as Danno’s Dangerous Mind, now simply known as 12ddm.   He got it from a Christianity Today interview with Eugene Peterson:

clock-spiralIn the last class I taught at Regent, a young woman came up to me and was very irritated. “Dr. Peterson,” she said, “three times during the lecture you did not say anything for twenty seconds. I know because I timed you. I’m from Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, teachers go: Bang! Bang! Bang! I want my money’s worth.”

We’re going to have people like that, people who want very polished and efficient teaching. But when I see people in my congregation taking notes during the sermon, I stop and say, “Put your pencils away. I want you to listen. LISTEN to the Word of God. It’s not something for you to figure out; it’s something for you to respond to.”

It’s slow work, and pastors are not patient people.

I also found this quote interesting in light of the Michael Frost/Alan Hirsch book I mentioned last week, which has a chapter dealing the Hellenistic way of thinking vs. the Hebraic way of thinking; the western approach vs. the eastern approach.

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