Communicating the Gospel message can take many forms and even use paraphrases effectively to communicate God’s truth as long as a verse or a passage is not taken out of context or manipulated to convey a message that was not originally intended by Scripture. At least, that is what Bob DeWaay thinks over at Slice of Laodicea where he is quoted as an authority on the exegetical standards or lack thereof in the Purpose Driven Life. I agree with him when he writes:
“Paraphrases can be valid . . . The Purpose Driven Life makes heavy use of paraphrases, particularly “The Message.” This is not necessarily problematic IF the original meaning is preserved.”
Unfortunately, Mr. DeWaay seems to have ignored his own exegetical standard, i.e., in his rush to criticize Rick Warren for failing to adhere to the “original meaning”, Mr. DeWaay fails to respect the original meaning and context of how Rick Warren clearly intended the verses he quoted in PDL to be understood.
Case in point: Bob DeWaay has put together a comparison of the Scripture verses and their various translations used by Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Life (PDL) along side of the New American Standard Bible. Most if not all would agree that the NASB is a literal translation that is faithful to the original text. DeWaay points out that in order to interpret the Bible correctly, we have to make sure we are being faithful to its meaning, its implications, and its application.
He claims that PDL contains “many errors at all levels of interpretation” and illustrates his belief by pointing to page 19 of the Purpose Driven Life where Warren uses The Message version of Matthew 16:25: “Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.” The NASB version reads: “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” Comparing those two versions side by side, DeWaay concludes:
“Warren wanted to warn against ’self-help’ so he found a translation with the term in it. He is right to tell people that self-help is useless. But rather than pointing them to the Cross and true discipleship, he uses a verse that teaches self sacrifice . . . Many world religions teach self sacrifice, but only Biblical Christianity has the Cross.”
Apparently, DeWaay did not continue reading chapter one of PDL because in the next 2 pages, Warren goes on to say that the only way an individual can discover purpose is through revelation as opposed to speculation. Moreover, Warren quotes Ephesians 1:11 also from the Message paraphrase which reads: “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.” The NASB reads in part:”In Him (Christ) also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose . . .”
Since the word “purpose” is such a central theme in PDL, I guess DeWaay has to wonder why Warren didn’t use the NASB translation instead?
But, I digress. Here is my point: In a few short sentences in chapter one, PDL has taken the reader from “It’s not about you” to finding out that the only way to discover our purpose in life is by establishing a relationship with Christ. If Warren had used the Message translation of Matthew 16:25 to argue for an ascetic lifestyle, then he would have been abusing the meaning that Jesus intended when He made this statement. But clearly, that’s not what Warren did.
So, in the context of the chapter, let alone the whole book, PDL is pointing the reader to redemption and the Cross. And in doing so, many are discovering a saving relationship with Jesus for the first time. I have to wonder how many people are finding a saving knowledge of Christ by reading Redefining Christianity?