(with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, for riffing off his meme)
If you automatically assume that someone honoring another person in stained glass is venerating them and conferring sainthood on them, youuuuuuu might be a Roman Catholic.
(with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, for riffing off his meme)
If you automatically assume that someone honoring another person in stained glass is venerating them and conferring sainthood on them, youuuuuuu might be a Roman Catholic.
A little more than a month ago, a newly-published Bible translation came to my attention, and I was able to get a copy of it. The Voice, a translation commissioned by Chris Seay and the Ecclesia Society, is an interesting approach to translation that I believe is quite good, for what it seeks to be.
Before I go on, it’s probably best to get some comments out of the way about Bible translation.
A Messy Business
Unless you happen to speak fluent Hebrew, Greek and a smattering of Aramaic, you have to depend on somebody to translate the Bible for you. There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 words in the English language, whereas there are only about 80,000 words in the Hebrew language, with only about 8,000 different Hebrew words used in the Bible. Because of this, translators have to make lots of choices, informed by their own theology, as to what words and phrases they will use in English to approximate the words and phrases used in Hebrew/Greek. As a result of this, whenever a translation is published, its language pattern is somewhat dated as time goes by (think of the Shakespearean English of the KJV compared to our day-to-day English).
In some cases, there is no real equivalent word in English, or a word is used as a special title, so the translators choose to transliterate the word, creating a “new” English word. Examples of this are “Christ” and “baptism”. In other cases, there are examples of wordplay in the original languages that are difficult to translate into English, so they translators have to decide between translating “word for word” (sometimes called “literal” translation) and translating “thought for thought”. Other translators want to give readers a more narrative or “readable” version, so they choose to include some level of paraphrase in a “dynamic” translation.
Each type of translation has its own strengths and weaknesses. It is important for Christians, as the readers of each translation, to understand what type of translation they are reading, why they are reading it, and not to try to make the translation to something it is not meant to do. So long as you keep this in mind, there is really no such thing as a “best” translation. If you are doing a word study, a dynamic translation is a poor choice. If you are looking for a version to read out loud, or for a 90-day-through-the-Bible plan, a word-for-word translation will be frustrating for the reader.
Some folks get their panties in a twist over translations, claiming theirs is the only legitimate one (i.e. the KJV-only crowd) or they go the legalistic route of declaring the use of certain translations (or paraphrases) as sinful. They all miss the point.
A Unique Voice
Probably the most well-known dynamic translation is The Message, a translation written by Eugene Peterson. While it is more a paraphrase than a translation, The Message gives us Scripture in late-20th-Century English.
The Voice, also a dynamic translation, sits somewhere between The Message and thought-for-thought translations, like the New Living Translation. A group of 120 individuals were involved in translating the original texts into The Voice. Initially, a group of about 80 pastors, artists, musicians, writers and poets translated the Bible into literary/readable manuscript and then gave it to a group of 40 Biblical scholars. Members of the translation team came from a cross-section of modern, orthodox Christianity, representing a healthy diversity of denominational backgrounds.
They wanted to have both intellectual rigor in translating from the original languages along with an artistic eye to assist modern readers in accessing Scripture. This meant that they would have to make some choices, some of which contained no small measure of controversy.
Probably the most discussed choice they made was with the word “Christ” – a transliteration of the Greek word Christos, which was, itself, a translation of the Hebrew word for “Messiah”, which also meant “Anointed One”. The translators of The Voice chose to translate this word, instead of transliterating it, as “the Anointed One”, or – when referring to Jesus’ role – as “The Anointed One, the Coming King”. I remember a friend of mine who thought that “Christ” was Jesus’ last name (and that his parents were Jesus and Mary Christ), and this mistake is not uncommon. The translators of The Voice sought to prevent this problem, as well, bringing cries of pain from the expected quarters of ODM-land.
Even so, this seems like a good choice.
Probably one of my favorite aspects of The Voice is that the translators chose to differentiate between the direct translation and the paraphrase by italicizing the paraphrased words. In many cases, as well, the paraphrase pulls in referenced facts from earlier in Scripture (to remind the reader what the writer is referring back to) or to call out something that is foreshadowing later events.
Another feature of The Voice is that it is written in “screenplay” format, where speakers are called out in highlighted text (as if in a screenplay), which is very helpful in many of the conversation-heavy portions of Scripture.
If you are looking for a dynamic translation, I would recommend The Voice as superior to The Message – both for its readability and for the increased rigor in the translation. I would recommend that you download the New Testament portion of The Voice, which is available for free at the publisher, here, and try it out for yourself. (NOTE: You may have to add “.pdf” to the end of the file, depending on the browser you are using.)
Remember, though, if you’re looking to do a word study or teach a Bible Study, you should look to use a “word-for-word” or even a “thought-for-though” translation. But if you’re looking to read through the Bible, or for a dynamic translation for other purposes, The Voice fits the bill very well.
When I read how Rick Warren was misrepresented in the press I wondered how our old friends would react. I was not too surprised to see one of them twist the story (much like the original reporter did) into yet another opportunity to attack a brother.
On his blog, Wittenburg Church Door, Pastorboy takes Warren to task – again. What I found interesting was the headline – Rick Warren Retracts ‘Chrislam’ Statements made to OC Register.
I read several clarifications written by Rick Warren and none of them can be called a retraction. A retraction is a public statement, by the author of an earlier statement, that withdraws the original statement. This is not what Warren did. Warren did not say anything that needed to be withdrawn… and I believe Pastorboy knows this full well. Yet he posts a blog that implies that Warren promoted a synergism between Christianity and Islam.
In the blog post that precedes the one linked to above, Pastorboy makes blatantly false comments and accusations against Rick Warren, a brother in Christ. This shameful, it is deceptive and dishonest, but it is not unexpected.
The original article that began the controversy was wrong – either accidentally or otherwise. The same can be said of Pastorboy.
UPDATE – May, 2012
In checking the links above I see the articles in question have been removed. It would have been better if Pastorboy posted an admission of the error and false treatments about a brother in Christ – but even his removing the false accusations and twisted gossip is better than I expected.
…their fingers are typing.
This brilliant turn of a biblical phrase sums up the sympathy Dan Kimball expressed for Chris Rosebrough. Why? Because Chris had the nerve to spend time with Dan Kimball and as a result declared him a brother in Christ. Apparently this brought a slew of accusations against Chris Rosebrough on his Facebook wall. Not being a friend of Chris’s on Facebook, I did not see any of the attacks, but the excerpts make the point.
In response Chris Rosebrough dedicated his show on November 15th to an interview with Dan. I urge that you follow this link and listen to it: Fighting for the Faith, November 15, Dan Kimball Interview. I was excited to hear someone we have addressed as an ODM take the time to read Kimball and research his beliefs – and come to the conclusion that Kimball is a Bible-believing Christian who holds to the uniqueness of Christ, the existence of Hell, the authority of Scripture, a denial of universalism… etc. And even though Chris and Dan disagree on methodology… they look at each other as brothers in Christ.
Of course this does not settle the issue. As Kimball has said, some still accuse him even after being giving all the nescessary evidence to the contrary. And although in the interview Kimball affirmed that his theology has always been conservative and that he wished he had made more clear distinctions in the earlier years of the Emerging Church conversation, one site responds to the interview by posting;
Regardless of where he may, or may not, be now it’s simply beyond question that one of those involved with the [Emerging Church], right from very early on, would be Dan Kimball, author of The Emerging Church; no amount of attempts at obfuscation on anyone’s part can obscure that.
‘Tis true – out of the overflow of the heart the fingers type blogs, and the hearts of some still overflow with bile. But this is not the case for Chris Rosebrough. I am sure that there will be many things Chris says in the future that will make me cringe… yet at the risk of sounding condescending… I am thrilled and pleased to see Chris take discernment seriously.
(i.e. shooting fish in a barrel)
As I have noted before, debunking the theological hokum that runs rampant in the God-blogosphere has never been a primary purpose for this blog, but has been described for years as “the lowliest” of the six tasks that this blog seeks to accomplish. This perspective was, IMHO, strengthened by the somewhat recent name and URL change that we underwent here.
But in the words of Dr Horrible, sometimes “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”. Especially when it’s this dadgum funny (in the “ludicrous” sense of the word).
A little context first:
Mark 4:11 – And [Jesus] said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God …”
Romans 16:25 – Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began
1 Corinthians 2:7 – But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,
1 Corinthians 15:51 – Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed …
Ephesians 1:9 – having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,
Ephesians 3:3-4 – how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),
Ephesians 3:9 – and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;
Ephesians 5:32 – This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Ephesians 6:19 – and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,
Colossians 1:25-27 – the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 2:2 – that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,
Colossians 4:3 – meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,
1 Timothy 3:9 – holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.
1 Timothy 3:16 – And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.
Notice a pattern? Is it too much of a stretch to say that the word “mystery” is often used in Scripture to describe (or at least be associated with) good things?
Now, admittedly, there is a verse in Revelation that associates this word with something bad:
Revelation 17:5 – And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
So, let’s see. Fourteen associations with good things. One association with something bad. Is it too much of a stretch to say that it would be at least fallacious (if not downright silly) to somehow imply that the Revelation verse is the only standard by which we should measure the word “mystery” (ignoring the other 14)?
Yet that’s exactly what this post does.
Now granted, I have some major problems with Brian McLaren (the “attackee” of that post).
They used to be purely theological until I heard him sing. But I digress.
But how am I supposed to take seriously anything said about him (or anything/anyone else) from a source so devoid of basic logic?
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
Oops! Wrong Tale…
While it was nice to have a long vacation, in some ways, it is always nice to be back home. Another nice thing about taking a break is that it tends to recharge your batteries and help you see some new and old things in different lights. And speaking of lights…
My son Jordan and I were in Vegas last Saturday night, at the end of our 19-day journey, and we had the evening to do a walkabout up the LV Strip, just for the sheer spectacle (and to have a couple more conversations, along the lines of lesson at Caesarea Philippi). So, with the temperature in the triple-digits and the humidity nonexistent (with the sun going down), we headed up the strip.
Early on, we passed a line of young latino men and women wearing signs advertising “LIVE GIRLS TO YOUR ROOM IN 20 MINUTES OR LESS”, clicking business cards together, trying to hand them out to all the folks passing them. [We'd already discussed the importance of using the "Suzi rule" - my wife's long-time advice to me that when you walk around in a big city, you avoid making eye contact or answering folks on the sidewalk who are trying to get your attention.]
Just past these peddlers, there was a man, probably in his mid-40’s, with a T-shirt that said (in big letters) “JESUS LOVES YOU”, and beneath it, in smaller print “and I do too…” He also had a small stack of paper in his hands, though they were booklets which had on the cover “You don’t have to live like this“, along with a smaller logo and print identifying them as being from the Central Christian Church of Las Vegas. I smiled at him, and gave him a small nod and wink, which he returned to me. He actually stood out, somewhat, because he wasn’t trying to push his fliers into peoples’ hands, but he handed one to people who stopped by him and at least seemed to be paying attention.
A couple blocks later, we crossed the street to take a look at the fountains in front of the Bellagio. Unfortunately, much of the corner was clogged, with people spilling out into the street, because there was a small entourage of street preachers with megaphones, hollering at folks (who did their best to walk around them, since they were blocking the way through what was probably the busiest intersection on the strip). In addition to the bullhorn guys, they had four or five little kids with them, with “repent or perish” shirts on, shoving tracts into folks’ hands as they walked by (not all that differently from the guys in the “LIVE GIRLS” shirts). The guys with the megaphones were doing a great job shouting the Roman Road at folks, along with all of the great $10 words like “propitiation”, “substitutionary atonement”, “salvation” and every other Christianese phrase that would do a Dutch Reformed heart proud.
I later thought it was funny that my son chose the caption for our photo (above) in Flickr: “Sometimes you wish folks would stop being on your side…” It was sad, but true – and it didn’t require an 18-year-old to notice the stark difference between a Christlike witness and those just being “Jerks for Jesus”.
About four hours later on the way back down the strip, I noticed that the gentleman with the “You don’t have to live like this” fliers was having a discussion with two of the “LIVE GIRLS” guys, and none of them paid attention to us as we walked by (they were speaking in Spanish, so I don’t know what was being said). In some way, I wondered if the “LIVE GIRLS” folks weren’t the actual audience to which the older gentleman was wanting to speak to, in the first place.
Teller Like it Is
And it’s not just Christians who notice this.
Penn & Teller, a comedy/magic duo somewhat famous for their dark humor (their Vegas ads proclaim “fewer audience injuries than last year…”) are also famous for being atheists, as well – and fairly vocal ones at that. Even so, I recently read an interview (language warning) with the talking half of their act, Penn Gillette, who also narrates a Showtime program that “debunks” various religions and charlatans (except for Scientology, because the network won’t let them, and Islam, because they value their lives):
You do go after Christians, though … Teller and I have been brutal to Christians, and their response shows that they’re good ****ing Americans who believe in freedom of speech. We attack them all the time, and we still get letters that say, “We appreciate your passion. Sincerely yours, in Christ.” Christians come to our show at the Rio and give us Bibles all the time. They’re incredibly kind to us. Sure, there are a couple of them who live in garages, give themselves titles and send out death threats to me and Bill Maher and Trey Parker. But the vast majority are polite, open-minded people, and I respect them for that.
And what’s funny is that he’s pretty much spot on when evaluating the Christian blogosphere, as well. Many are incredibly kind, and it’s just sad that there are a (very vocal) few of them who live in garages, and give themselves important-sounding titles (like “Pastor-Teacher”) and lie and speak eternal death threats against those who won’t follow the narrowly legalistic, eisegeted systematic theology they claim to follow. Which is probably where the saying comes from that it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch.
And it’s not just Vegas.
When I got home this weekend, I saw this story which pretty much mirrored what I saw out in Las Vegas – again a tale of two witnessing Christians, but in a different city.
Apparently, there was a “gay pride” event (let’s just call it a mini-Vegas) at which a guy was simply planning on handing out Bibles and talking to folks who were interested in speaking to him. The organizers of the event sued him to prevent him from showing up, but the court threw out their suit.
So, this guy, his wife and son showed up
wearing yellow T-shirts printed with the words “Free Bibles.” They pulled rolling suitcases full of Bibles and attracted little attention, stopping only to hand out Bibles or to engage in conversation when asked. They encountered a few challengers and bemused glances from festival attendees familiar with the court case, but attracted little attention until a gaggle of television cameras began to follow them.
“We’re not interested in preaching, and we never were,” Johnson said. “We’re not here for all that stuff in the news. We’re the ones that meet and have honest conversations with people, and we have our own rules that we go by as far as conduct is concerned.”
Johnson said he believes that homosexuality is a sin, but he insisted that he is not forceful about his message.
Meanwhile, a Jerk for Jesus decided to show up, as well.
[He] attracted far more attention than the [Bible Guy] as he stood on a box with a sign that read “You are an abomination to God, You justify the wicked,” preaching to a jeering crowd. [He] attracted shouts of disapproval and arguments from passersby. Eventually, Pride attendees stood in front of him with signs that read, “Standing on the Side of Love.”
And, just to demonstrate the inherent legalism within both his preaching and his orthopraxy, the second man “brought a decibel meter to prove, he said, that he was acting within the law by not being disruptive.” (… and they will know we are Christians by our decibel meters not pegging out loud enough to be called ‘disruptive’.)
As I thought of both cities and both types of Christians – the humble and the boorishly proud – I was reminded of one of Rich Mullins’ favorite quotes (paraphrased from Wilhelm Stekel)
An immature Christian wants to die nobly for a cause, but the mark of a mature Christian is that he wants to live humbly for one.
(And yes, this title is a riff off of one of the more measured — but still wrong — criticisms of Piper’s decision.)
It was noted earlier this year that John Piper has invited Rick Warren to speak at this year’s Desiring God national conference. This has been public information for at least a couple months, but was more formally announced in recent days.
When this announcement was made, to quote Tillie in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? , “all hell done broke loose”.
Now, admittedly, I was a bit surprised by the invitation. There are some things that Warren has written which strike me as being in error, as best as I interpret Scripture. And, then there’s those dang Hawaiian shirts.
But, on the other hand, some of the criticisms of Warren take asininity to a height that would give a Sherpa a nose-bleed.
Either way, I wouldn’t consider Warren to be part of (what I affectionately have termed) “the Piper posse”. But hey, I have a great appreciation for Pastor John. And ya know what? Before further investigation into any issue, if he and I disagree on something, I’m putting my money on him turning out to be the one who is right.
Does that mean that I give him a free pass and blindly follow whatever he says or does? No, not by a long shot. (And I’d venture to say that he wouldn’t want that, either.) In fact, I know there are some issues that he and I disagree on, and I’m fairly certain that my view is correct.
There is, admittedly, a part of me that wants to say, “C’mon; this is John freakin’ Piper we’re talking about!!” But even setting aside any “celebrity pastor” status, we have to look at the man’s track record. And ya know what? At the end of the day, we’re talking about the track record of John freakin’ Piper.
(And the circle of life is complete.)
Seriously, if I’m going to claim anything even approximating intellectual honesty, I need to hear him out even if he says that all 43-year-olds should be painted purple and hung upside-down from a flagpole next Wednesday. Granted, that one would probably need a long expository explanation; but, to whatever degree I ought to give the benefit of the doubt to any Christian brother or sister, Pastor John should be getting it ten-fold.
And yet we’re hearing nothing but criticism for Piper’s decision. Some of it may be valid; some is tiresomely obtuse, rehashing sad (and untrue) whacks at Warren; and some of it takes the form of crap like this (referring to Piper’s upcoming sabbatical):
If [I] had just endorsed Rick Warren and brought him to my conference, I’d take a sabbatical, too. Permanently.
But all of it (that I’ve seen, anyway) is ostensibly coming from those that like and/or admire Piper. With friends like these ….
What I am completely incredulous about, though, is that Piper made clear why he made this decision and some of the criticisms actually quote his reasoning — verbatim — and yet miss the whole thing. Part of what Piper said was this (emphasis mine):
When I wrote [to Rick Warren] … I said “the conference is called ‘Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God.’ I want you to come. You are the most well-known pragmatist pastor in the world. I don’t think you are a pragmatist at root. Come and tell us why thinking Biblically matters to you in your amazingly pragmatic approach to ministry.”
One of the corollaries to Occam’s Razor says, “Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity.” In that spirit, I’m going to assume that those who quoted Piper (and yet totally whiffed on the content of the quote) did so out of a mistake and not a willful blindness born of a hatred for Warren. So let me spell it out. And let me do so by past example.
A few years ago, Piper invited Mark Driscoll to speak at a DG conference. The God-blogosphere was all abuzz with what a Bad Idea this was. Most of it surrounded predictions that Driscoll’s invitation would result in a plague of locusts in downtown Minneapolis and a protest headed by Chris Rock and Quentin Tarantino over all the foul language that Driscoll would use.
And when, at the conference, Piper gave Driscoll a mild bit of fatherly admonishment, many of the critics took this as validation of their prognostication, as though Piper had rent his clothes in agony and apologized for screwing up so badly by inviting Driscoll. When Piper heard that his words were being used to bash Driscoll, he was appalled.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve noticed (and if you only listen to him to find new stuff to criticize, then you probably haven’t), but Driscoll has become a bit more mature and a bit less rash over the last few years. In short, Mark is growing. While all credit goes to God on this one, I’d bet dollars-to-doughnuts that his relationship with Piper is one of the tools that God is using in this process. And maybe, just maybe, the fact that Piper invited him to speak at DG helped to show how much Piper meant business.
So now Piper is cultivating a relationship with Rick Warren. And here’s what I hear Piper essentially saying:
There are many ways in which you and I, foundationally, believe the same things. Now in my sphere, the way that this plays out in my life and the lives of many of my peeps is XYZ. But in your life, this plays out differently. Show us how you get from point A to point B.
Honestly, this is a challenge that Piper has presented to Warren. But not in the sense of throwing down a gauntlet. I believe that Piper truly believes that there is a path from point A to point B, and he is genuinely interested in seeing how this plays out. Right there is enough reason for Piper to have extended the invitation.
But even if we assume the worst, and there is not a path from point A to point B, and Warren falls flat on his theological face, who’s to say that the whole Piper posse influence doesn’t cause Warren to step back and think some things through? While Warren is not a young buck (so he probably won’t have the Timothy-Paul relationship with Piper that Driscoll has), it’s hard to imagine him being involved with someone God is using mightily and not being affected in some way.
There are only three conclusions that I can reach about much of the virulent criticism:
Perhaps there is a fourth, more charitable, conclusion out there. But, frankly, I ain’t holdin’ my breath.
I have a colleague who appreciates modern art. He really really appreciates it. I like it, but I’m not sure I always appreciate it. Whenever I question the value, or worse, the talent of the artist of a piece, the response is inevitable; “This says more about you than the artists/art.” He may very well be right.
This response is what came to my mind when I read a blog questioning John Piper’s decision to invite Rick Warren to fill the pulpit at Desiring God 2010. I believe the angst says more about the blogger than Piper. If you have read the comments here for any length of time you are familiar with both the blogger and the arguments against Warren… the sad, tired arguments.
For the record, this is not so much a defense of Warren as it is a critique of this brand of discernment, of Christ and culture, logic, and tiresome accusations. In a recent blog Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk took Warren to task for suggesting Easter can be leveraged for church growth – I think I understand Warren, but it sounds bad. I agree with Chaplain Mike, and if you read his blog you will see the difference in approach.
Apparently the blogger at Whitenburg Church Door does not agree when Piper says “…I don’t think he’s emergent. At root I think [Warren] is theological and doctrinal and sound.”1 That he disagrees is obvious by the first question the blogger suggests Piper ask – “What is the Gospel ? Be as complete as possible with your answer.” Clearly Piper promotes the true Gospel, which is designed to imply that Warren does not… so it makes sense that this would be the first question. But Warren better pay close attention to the condition – he best be as complete as possible. As we have seen, if he assumes anything, is he leaves out a word, if he uses the wrong words – his Gospel will be rejected. If the blogger really wanted to know the Gospel which Warren believes all he need do is read it.
The rest of the list shows a lack of cultural discernment and questionable logic. The list of questions is not supposed to be “an exhaustive list” – oh but it is… it is very exhausting. It is exhausting to see, yet again, the tiresome arguments of “Issa” and “Murdoch” and “Ecumenicalism.” The latter point best illustrates the real issue – guilt by association. Whether it is associating yourself with Arabs, or associating in person with a President, or associating with Catholics – it’s all about outward appearances, about associations, about some perceived endorsement. Fortunately, Piper is not so worried about such tangential things. Piper wants to get to know Warren, to see what makes him tick, because (like many of us) he likes Warren but is frustrated by some of his stuff. This is the respect one servant of the Lord should show another… the respect one brother should have for another brother.
1 Piper quotes taken from Wittenburg Church Door blog transcript.
Ephesians 5:21 NLT
And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
I Corinthians 16:15-16 NLT
You know that Stephanas and his household were the first of the harvest of believers in Greece, and they are spending their lives in service to God’s people. I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, to submit to them and others like them who serve with such devotion.
Hebrews 13:17 NLT
Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.
The issue of accountability has always been a no-brainer for me. I guess I owe my strong feelings about that value to my parents and in particular to my father who, despite his disagreements with the denomination he was in, chose to submit and stay accountable to them. Because of this I find it strange that Christians deny the necessity of accountability to one another and a leadership structure.
One area where accountability is sorely needed is the world of blogging and that has been said here and elsewhere a number of times. This issue of non-accountability seems to be more prevalent on discernment blogs where bloggers often criticize people supposedly knowing the will of God (in particular WoF/Prosperity preachers) and I think they are right about that most of the time. But then they in turn often claim to know the will/judgement of God about others in the same shaky way that those preachers do. When it comes to knowing or discerning the will of God I think we especially need to be accountable towards Christians around us.
It is then perplexing to me when I read something like the following:
There is a criticism – a protest, if you will – that discernment websites are accountable to no one but themselves. It depends on the context and what they mean by ‘accountable’, of course. On the one hand this is a self-refuting argument; calling out those that are perverting the simplicity of the Gospel to accountability of God’s word is by the same definition making oneself accountable to the word of God. On the other hand, to whom exactly should discernment ministries be accountable to? Should we institutionalize all these type of ministries under one banner and make them all sign some relevant decree? What happens if that institution itself becomes corrupt, then what? And if discernment ministries were accountable to an institution would false teachers take heed when warned? Of course not, it’s a dishonest criticism to begin with
It sounds to me like the author is excusing himself and other “discerners” from being accountable to other Christians. Be that as it may, it raised a question with me that I would like to explore with all of you here:
Important Note: I realise that the values of submission and accountability can be abused by leaders like a lot of other good stuff. But I don’t think those abuses gives us the licence to throw these values away.