Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Controlling the Words

Anyone who reads the blogs of the leaders and celebrities of the Patriarchy movement is aware of their ongoing fascination with the Reformation. From the Reformation 500 to the many Reformation Faires held by Family Integrated Churches across the country, it is clear that the followers of patriarchy adore the Protestant founding fathers. Yet, one of the key points of the Reformation is ignored by the majority of Patriarchy leaders and followers. That is: having the Bible in your own language so that you can read it without the help of anyone else. Yes, you’re probably confused now so let me explain…. To quickly review, in the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church controlled Christianity because the Bible only available in Latin―which was not the common languages of the people. Once the Bible was translated into other languages, the Reformation began to take shape. Why? Because the people could read the Bible for themselves and they realized that many of the traditions found in the Catholic faith were not found in the word of God. In short, they found that their traditions were pure legalism. Now, this is not about bashing Catholics. If anything too much of that goes on in the Protestant church anyway. Still, I think most of us can agree with that when it comes to scripture, understanding the words and their meaning is vital to a growing relationship with Christ. However, do those in the Patriarchy movement truly understand scripture? It is common knowledge that Vision Forum and many of its associates promote the use of the Geneva or King James Bible. Now, there’s nothing wrong with these texts; they’re beautiful, historic, and very important for Biblical studies. However, it seems rather impractical for these translations to be the only ones read or used. For one thing, it seems silly to insist that one must buy a new Bible in order to fit into any group. Moreover, I believe that it is easier to promote false teaching with these versions of scripture because most people, especially tired homeschooling parents, do not have the time to research the full meaning of the words on the page in front of them. I hope it’s clear to everyone that we’re not living in Elizabethan England anymore and quite honestly, the language of the KJV and Geneva Bibles is almost a different language. Some words have nearly ceased to exist while others have completely different meanings. Back in the days when I liked Vision Forum, I read a King James Bible for my daily devotions. While I love the language, in the same way I love Shakespeare, it takes thought and time to understand what the words are saying. When you’re tired and have spent the day working on math equations and reading Dickens, you really just want to be able to soak in the Bible without the linguistic effort it takes to untangle Elizabethan words. Most of the time, I simply could not connect with the King James Bible. Finally, I switched to the NIV. It was wonderful; the Bible truly came alive in modern English and spoke to me in a way it never had before. I thought it was amazing to hear Jesus speak in my own dialect, as if he was speaking directly to me. While I kept and still like my KJV, I just use it for cross-references now. From my own experience, I can see that perhaps using the KJV and/or Geneva Bible alone is a dangerous thing. I’ve studied linguistics and even so, it can be difficult for me to decipher Shakespeare, let alone the KJV. If Doug Phillips or one of his cronies uses the KJV or Geneva Bible alone, he can probably say whatever he wants and twist the scripture to fit his theory. It’s easy to do when no one really understands the words. Do you honestly think anyone will dare admit they don’t adore, let alone understand, the translation of the Bible that Doug Phillips insists that they read? In addition, when we insist on reading only the Elizabethan versions of the Bible, we can make serious errors in understanding it. As Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales writes in his book Me, Myself and Bob,
“There’s that verse―Proverbs 29:18― “For lack of vision, the people perish.” Ha! I was big on that verse. I’d even been introduced with that verse. “Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint! Here’s Phil Vischer!” Yet….when we quote Proverbs 29:18, we always quote the King James Version. Check a modern translation like the New International Version and you’ll find the verse reads, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” What? Why so different? Because the King James Version was completed in the sixteenth century, long before the word vision had become a descriptor of creative brainstorming…. What we have here is a linguistic issue. Proverbs 29:18 has nothing to do with the children of God being “visionary thinkers” and everything to do with the children of God falling into chaos and sin when they ignore what God has revealed to them through his Word.”
Strange that one of the key verses behind Vision Forum is one of the most often misunderstood, isn’t it? Vischer continues,
“But I didn’t seem to be alone in my delusion. Megachurches, megaministries, mega Christian celebrities―we all seemed to be drinking the same cocktail. We were all casting our visions, emblazoning our BHAGs on banners, lapel pin, and PowerPoint presentations. And quite often, as the crowds cheered, we were standing behind entirely inaccurate interpretations of one little verse in Proverbs.” 1
It honestly disturbs me that the Patriarchy crowd is so obsessed with the KJV and Geneva Bibles, to the point of spurning all other translations. What’s wrong with reading the Bible in modern English? I seriously doubt that any of the reformers, especially the likes of John Wycliffe or William Tyndale, would be pleased with anyone clinging to their versions of the Bible and declaring them the only ones to read. They gave their lives, some literally, to translate the Bible into their language and they would expect us to use the Bible in our language. The Bible is a living book, so why must we try to make it a dead one?


1. Vischer, Phil. Me, Myself, and Bob. Nashville TN, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2006. 240-241

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