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Section 8B ... Controversial Issues/
Controversies About The Bible

 

003white  Section 8B... Controversial Issues       >       Index To Bible Controversies       >        The Message

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 ‘The Message’

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Introduction

What Kind of Message is The Message?
Includes a comparison of quotes from The Message with corresponding Scriptures in other Bible versions.

The Message and The New Age

 

Introduction: “Described as a “contemporary rendering of the Bible from the original languages, crafted to present its tone, rhythm, events, and ideas in everyday language,” this “paraphrased” version of the Bible, in reality, is nothing more than Eugene Peterson’s thoughts and views. Peterson has taken the carefully translated words of the Bible and put them into his own words and chosen idioms. For example, consider the following portion of Scripture taken from John 3:17 - "that the world through him might be saved.” Peterson’s rendering reads:

    "He came to help, to put the world right again."

It does not take a biblical scholar to understand that "saved" means that we can be redeemed from the judgment we deserve for our sins so that we can go to heaven. It should be obvious that using "help" instead of “saved” completely distorts the meaning of what Jesus said. And "to put the world right again" has nothing to do with the salvation of souls. In fact this sounds like the social gospel to reform the world through political action.

Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Church, is a strong supporter of Eugene Peterson’s message. While Warren claims he quotes the Bible when he quotes The Message he is not quoting the Bible. He is quoting the thoughts of some man who thinks he is stating what the Bible states.

You may ask, so what is wrong with this? Isn’t it better for a seeker to be reading some version of the Bible, rather than not reading the Bible at all? Many Christians, although they have been believers for years, claim they still have difficulty in understanding the Bible that has been translated word by word from the original text. If someone can come up with a way to make the Bible more understandable, wouldn’t this be a great tool for planting seeds for the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Such a line of reasoning may sound acceptable. However we also know that what seems right to man, may be wrong from God’s perspective. Further when we rely upon man’s thoughts rather than God’s thoughts it’s almost certain that we will be deceived. With regard to Eugene Peterson’s The Message, there is one message that should be clear. If you want the truth and all the truth, read the Bible - not some man’s conjecture about what he thinks God has said. Otherwise you have the potential of committing spiritual suicide”. [The Emerging Church Revival Or Return To Darkness? Commentary by Roger Oakland]
 

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What Kind of Message is The Message?
Berit Kjos [www.crossroad.to]

The Message DELETES the reference to God's holy name, ADDS requests not voiced by Jesus, and changes the meaning of other verses. Follow the link and learn more about the phrase, "As above, so below." [Below]

    Matthew 6:9-13  

    "Our Father in heaven,
    Hallowed be Your name.
    Your kingdom come.
    Your will be done
    On earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our ādaily bread.
    And forgive us our debts,
    As we forgive our debtors.
    And do not lead us into temptation,
    But deliver us from the evil one.
    For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

    The Message:

    "Our Father in heaven,
    Reveal who you are.
    Set the world right;
    Do what's best -
    As above, so below.
    Keep us alive with three square meals.
    Keep us forgiven with you
    and forgiving others.
    Keep us safe
    from ourselves and the Devil.
    You're in charge!

The Message distorts the relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son:

    John 10:30 "I and the Father are one."

    The Message: "I and the Father are one heart and mind."


    John 14:28
    "...The Father is greater than I."

    The Message: "The Father is the goal and purpose of my life."

Riding a spreading tide of publicity and enthusiasm, Eugene Peterson's The Message is sweeping into Christian bookstores, homes and churches from coast to coast. In the first four months after its mid-July lease, 100,000 copies of this "New Testament in contemporary English" were printed by NavPress. Seventy thousand books were sold. Thousands were either donated or distributed at reduced prices to youth leaders, Young Life staff, and pastors who could share Peterson's message with their followers. Apparently, most readers were delighted. "The Message is so good it leaves me breathless," writes popular author Madeleine L'Engle [1] in her endorsement.

Considering this ground-swell of acceptance, we do well to ponder the question: What is Peterson's Message?

    "The Message is the boldest and most provocative rendering of the New Testament I've ever read," writes Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe, general director of "Back to the Bible" broadcast and former pastor of Moody Bible Church.

    "The Message is certainly destined to become a devotional classic - not to mention a powerful pastoral tool," adds pastor Jack W. Hayford.

What does Eugene Peterson himself say? In his introduction to The Message, he tells us that "This version of the New Testament in a contemporary idiom keeps the language of the Message and fresh and understandable in the same language in which we do our shopping, talk with our friends, worry about world affairs, and teach our children their table manners...."

This sounds like a good idea, but what if essential Biblical concepts are not part of our everyday conversation? Should we then rewrite God's holy Scriptures to fit today's more shallow and worldly communications?

Remember, we are dealing with God's holy unchangeable Word - not an ordinary book. God owns His message, we don't. Only His own, well-guarded words can be presented as absolute truth. Yet, readers who trust NavPress and the endorsement of Christian leaders such Warren Wiersbe and J. I. Packer view this book as an authentic translation of the Bible rather than as Peterson's personal, politically correct interpretation.

Throughout both Old and New Testaments, God forbids us to distort His Word. Additions and deletions are strictly forbidden in Scriptures like Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, Proverbs 30:6, Galatians 1:8-9 and Revelation 22:19. Acts 17:11 exhorts us to learn from the Bereans who "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."

Eugene Peterson would probably agree. His own interpretation of 2 Corinthians 4:2 holds him accountable to this timeless standard:

    "We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God."

While the above verse corresponds to the original Greek, many other passages do just what The Message promises not to do: they "twist God's word to suit" human inclinations. In fact, the very next sentence (verses 3-4), fails the test. It does not "keep... the whole truth on display." Instead, it deletes the original references both to "those who are perishing" and to the glory of "Christ, who is the image of God."

It doesn't take a Greek scholar to recognize the appalling distortions of God's holy Word. Any Bible student willing to compare Peterson's Message with a Greek/English Interlinear Lexicon and take time to look up key words in a credible New Testament Bible dictionary will discover alarming deletions, distortions and additions to the original text. If Peterson is right, then all our other Bibles - the KJV, NASV, NIV, Greek-English interlinear Bibles - are false.

See for yourself. We have compared quotes from The Message with corresponding Scriptures in Bible version generally considered "authoritative." Most of the time, we have used the New International Version -- not because we like the NIV or use it ourselves (we don't), but because, in all fairness, we wanted to choose a standard version that would come closest to Eugene Peterson goal of an "understandable" language. Please check the difference yourself by comparing the passages below from The Message with your own Bible.

To emphasize differences, corresponding words and phrases are underlined. Please pray for discernment as you check the following additions and deletions:
 

The Message:  "Yet we've narrowly missed being gods, bright with Edens dawn light." [Emphasis Added]

Psalm 8:5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

 

* Deletes words that imply occult spirituality. Substitutes more finite, human influences:

1 Timothy 4:1 "...in later times some will abandon the faith and follow seducing spirits and doctrines of demons." (KJV)

The Message: "...as time goes on, some are going to give up on the faith and chase after demonic illusions put forth by professional liars."

[We're not just dealing with illusions. Deceiving spirits and the timeless doctrines of demons are far more effective in deceiving people than illusions and professional liars.]
 

* Deletes reference to "the ruler of the kingdom of the air" and "sinful nature:"

Ephesians 2:1-3: "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature [2] and following its desires and thoughts."

The Message: "It wasn't so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn't know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat."
 

* Minimizes occult dangers, Deletes consequences:

Thessalonians 2:9: "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved."

The Message: "The Anarchist's [3] coming is all Satan's work. All his power and signs and miracles are fake, evil sleight of hand that plays to the gallery of those who hate the truth that could save them. And since they're so obsessed with evil, God rubs their noses in it - gives them what they want. Since they refuse to trust truth, they're banished to their chosen world of lies and illusions."

[Peterson's tendency to delete the supernatural and minimize the consequences of sin reminds me of Rom. 1:18 - "The wrath of God is being revealed...against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth..."]
 

* Deletes references to sinful nature and occult practices, minimizing Satan's power:

Galatians 5:19-21: "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like."

The Message: "It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religions; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved.... ugly parodies of community. I could go on."

[Idolatry and witchcraft are not the same as trinket gods and magic-show religions! We're dealing with spiritual forces far greater than magical illusions.]
 

*Adds horoscope, as if this timeless tool of occultism is similar to a telescope.

Colossians 2:10: "...and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority."

The Message: "You don't need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him..." (Emphasis added)
 

    * Deletes words like adulterers and homosexual which identify specific sins and adds a politically correct reference to environmentalism.

(Recall the environmental terminology in Eph. 2:1-3, "filled your lungs with polluted unbelief...")

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders [sodomites] nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified..."

The Message: "Unjust people who don't care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it don't qualify as citizens in God's kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I'm talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you've been cleaned up and given a fresh start...." [Emphasis added]
 

* Deletes reference to obedience and to the grace of our Lord:

Romans 16:19-21. "Everyone has heard about your obedience [the Greek word consistently refers to obedience or obeying][4], so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you."

The Message: "And so while there has never been any question about your honesty in this matters - I couldn't be more proud of you! - I want you also to be smart, making sure every "good" thing is the real thing. Don't be gullible in regard to smooth-talking evil. Stay alert like this, and before you know it the God of peace will come down on Satan with both feet, stomping him into the dirt. Enjoy the best of Jesus!"

 

* Deletes "sexual immorality." Adds "avoids commitment and intimacy:"

1 Corinthians 6:18-20: "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body."

The Message: "There's more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much a spiritual mystery as a physical fact. As written in Scripture, 'The two become one.' Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever - the kind of sex that can never 'become one.' ....In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for 'becoming one' with another." [5]

[One could conclude that "commitment and intimacy" or "becoming one", not marriage, set the boundaries for acceptable sex.]

 

    * Adds words that qualify homosexuality, providing a loophole for committed homosexuals who "love" each other. Deletes "God gave them over...":

Romans 1:26-27: "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion."

The Message: "Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn't know how to be human either - women didn't know how to be women, men didn't know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men - all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it - emptied of God and love, Godless and loveless wretcheds."

[This strange wording leaves a loophole for homosexuality to be permitted if it was an expression of love, not lust - which many gay couples claim today. In other words, lust becomes the sin, not the choice of a same-sex partner. The consequences of disobedience, "due penalty" seems broader than "emptied of God and love..." Historically it includes sexually transmitted diseases as well as spiritual death. That politically incorrect possibility is deleted here.]
 

* Distorts truth with a contemporary bias:

Romans 3:19-20. "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law, rather through the law we become conscious of sin.

The Message: "This makes it clear, doesn't it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! and it's clear enough, isn't it, that we're sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everyone else? Our involvement with God's revelation doesn't put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else's sin."

[This interpretation endorses today's false standard of tolerance: Don't expose or criticize another person; just deal with your own sin. It defies God's guidelines concerning counseling, correction, restoration and accountability - and supports today's tendency to condone sin. See Romans 1:32 - but not in The Message. It deletes this important point.]
 

* Deletes "spiritual" - spiritual readiness to receive God's resources for ministry. [6] Substitutes "live creatively," usually a reference to human resources, not God's:

Galatians 6:1-2: "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted."

The Message: "Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out."
 

* Deletes references to submission. Adds marital equality:

1 Peter 3:1, 7: "Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands... Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life..."

The Message: "The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs... The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God's grace, you're equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals...."
 

* Deletes references to sexual immorality, repentance, tolerating sin, the God who searches hearts and minds...

Revelation 2:22: "I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. so I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds..."

The Message: "But why do you let that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet mislead my dear servants into Cross-denying, self-indulging religion? I gave her a chance to change her ways, but she has not intention of giving up a career in the god-business. I'm about to lay her low, along with her partners, as they play their sex-and-religion games. The bastard offspring of their idol-whoring I'll kill. Then every church will know that appearances don't impress me."
 

* Misleading emphasis:

Romans 15:4-5. "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God..."

The Message: "Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it's written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we'll be a choir... our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God..."

[No mention of endurance and hope - which implies triumph in the midst of suffering, as we remain confident that God will do all He has promised. In light of Peterson's tendency to minimize the disciplining side of God, his emphasis on a warm, feel-good God seems to distort God's revelation of Himself. Notice, "follow Christ Jesus" is replaced by a Jesus who "gets along with us."]
 

* Replaces "reconciliation" (a spiritual work based on the cross) with "friend." Adds "drop their differences" (Could he be promoting a PC form of unity?):

2 Corinthians 5:20: "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." The Message: "We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you."
 

* Adds a promise not found in the original Greek:

Romans 8:35-37: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?" The Message: "Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:"

The last passage seems consistent with Peterson's refusal to mention those "worst sins" in the various New Testament lists of fleshly expressions. It also helps explain his commendation of medieval mystic Julian of Norwich, whose teachings - often quoted by controversial priest Matthew Fox, founder of Creation Spirituality - fueled the fourteenth-century flowering of pantheistic mysticism. In his article titled "Spirit Quest" [7] (Christianity Today, 11-8-93), Peterson wrote,

    "Single-minded, persevering faithfulness confirms the authenticity of our spirituality. The ancestors we look to for encouragement in this business - Augustine of Hippo and Julian of Norwich, John Calvin.... Teresa of Avila - didn't flit. They stayed."

Since Julian of Norwich is a spiritual model to the man who has interpreted God's Word for today, let's take a look at what she believed. Indeed, her teachings seem to echo some of the cultural biases that thread through The Message. They also fit today's uncritical search for experiential, feeling-centered spirituality. In his book, Soul Friend, Kenneth Leech describes some of her convictions:

    "Because she held strongly this belief in the closeness of man and God, Julian has an optimistic assessment of man and the universe, and a belief that sin is relatively unimportant... Moreover she claims that 'God showed me that sin need be no shame to man but can even be worthwhile.' She seems to mean by this that sins are disguised virtues, for 'in heaven what sin typifies is turned into a thing of honor.' [8]

    " ...In Julian's theology, we find the fullest expression of the concept of the femininity of God. 'God is really our Mother as he is Father,' she says. 'Our precious Mother Jesus brings us to supernatural birth, nourishes and cherishes us by dying for us, giving us the sacrament.... Her mysticism brings tenderness and 'homeliness' to the understanding of God our Mother.[9] (Emphasis added)

The same article introduces another spiritual model. Peterson writes that "Baron Friedrich von Hugel, a Roman Catholic layperson, was one of the most respected spiritual directors in England in the early years of this century." He devotes an entire paragraph to this leader whom the Encyclopedia Britannica [10] describes as "the precursor of the realist revival in philosophy and of the theological study of religious feeling." [11]

Like the culture around us, many churches today seem to emphasize good feelings and subjective experience rather than uncompromising faith based on God's revealed truth - the only foundation for a mature relationship with God. Peterson's definition for spirituality in his article seems to reflect this drift from solid rock to shifting sand - along with an alarming focus on self rather than God:

    "Intimacy: we want to experience human love and trust and joy. Transcendence: we want to experience divine love and trust and joy... We hunger for divine meaning, someone who will bless us. And so spirituality, a fusion of intimacy and transcendence, overnight becomes a passion for millions of North Americans.... It is heartening that our continent is experiencing a recovery of desire to embrace intimacies and respond to transcendence...." (Emphasis added) [12]

Peterson rightly points out the need to discriminate "between the true and false" as people "ransack exotic cultures and esoteric groups in a search for wholeness." [13] But what does he mean when he tells his readers to acquire "a biblical imagination - entering into the vast world of the Bible and getting a feel for the territory, an instinct for reality." What part did his imagination play in the formation of The Message?

The inspired scribes of God's holy Word documented facts and observations. They were led by the Holy Spirit, not personal imagination. God was the Creator, not man. No one should know this better than J. I. Packer, the beloved author of Knowing God. Yet in his endorsement of The Message, he uses the same questionable terms -- words popularized by the New Age quest for personal empowerment and unbiblical energies.

    "In this crowded world of Bible versions," writes Packer, "Eugene Peterson's blend of accurate scholarship and vivid idiom make this rendering both distinctive and distinguished. The Message catches the logical flow, personal energy, and imaginative overtones of the original very well indeed."

What does Packer mean? Does the Bible really have imaginative overtones?

Peterson's introduction to Revelation gives that impression. He identifies John as a pastor on Patmos, who "is preeminently concerned with worship" -- not sharing God-given visions of end-time events. This first century pastor is also "a poet, fond of metaphor and symbol, image and allusion" who challenges "our intelligence and imagination."

Historical facts and absolute truth made the Bible unique among the world's religious documents. Pagan myths, on the other hand, spring from imagination, personal feelings and mystical experiences. Yet, the author of The Message repeatedly stresses the latter. He writes, "We are after what we came for in the first place: intimacy and transcendence, personal friends and a personal God, love and worship." [14]

It seems paradoxical that someone who desires intimacy with God, would minimize or ignore the main obstacles to that intimacy: our sinful nature, our specific sins and our lack of submission and obedience to God. Could an answer to this paradox lie in the strange spirituality he propounds in his article?

I realize that Peterson's intent was "to recapture the tone" and subtleties of the Greek language. Whether or not he achieved that (personally I believe that his language reflects neither the heart of Jesus nor His followers' fiery devotion to a holy sovereign God and the integrity of His Word), this noble goal can never be an excuse for "dumbing-down" [15] Scripture to match our culture's downward trends. The fact that essential Biblical terms are no longer part of our everyday conversation doesn't give us license to soften God's message. Shouldn't we rather aim to use Scriptures to lift our communications to the level where our language reflects the eternal perspective of God's revealed truth? That seems to be the exhortation of Deuteronomy 6:4-7 and 2 Timothy 3:16. When we simplify Scripture by removing its mysteries, controversies and exhortations toward God's highest, we demean our Lord and misinform believers.

Some might ask, "Who are you to question the wisdom and scholarship of respected Church leaders?"

The sad fact is that shepherds and leaders throughout history have turned from truth to embrace "new" teachings. We are all called to "examine Scriptures" and test our leaders as did the Bereans and Ephesians. [16] Our ability to exercise this kind of discernment comes from the Holy Spirit - as God tells us in 2 Corinthians 3:5: "Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant." (NASV) Sad to say, Peterson deleted this wonderful promise of God's sufficiency for any task He assigns us.

"But isn't most of The Message accurate?" ask some. Probably. So is the Jehovah's Witnesses' Bible. However, it only takes the distortion of a few key passages to reflect an entirely different message. When any part -- even "the smallest letter" -- of God's Word is changed, the integrity of the whole is lost.

If The Message is accepted as Biblical truth, three distortions of New Testament teachings could spread and permeate the Church, conforming "truth" to popular consensus and false unity:

    · Since God is love, He wouldn't be so cruel as to cause someone to suffer, perish or burn in hell. So don't mention Biblical consequences or punishment.

    · Since God forgives, don't be too concerned about specific sins such as homosexuality or adultery. Jesus wouldn't want you to offend someone.

    · Since God is tolerant, don't correct others. Be tolerant of all, except those who criticize something you like. (This politically correct attitude censors much-needed rational, objective criticism as a corrective force.)

The consequences of twisting God's holy Word are devastating. [17] Throughout history, whenever God's people followed distorted teaching and ignored genuine truth, they would compromise with popular culture and drift back to earth-centered spirituality. It's happening all around us today. The masks for timeless paganism - whether they are Babylonian, Canaanite, Roman or Native American - make little difference. All these polytheistic/pan-theistic/monistic belief systems mocked God and established deadly connection between gullible seekers and demonic spirits. Today's most seductive masks bear an alarming resemblance to Christianity. History documents the results - both personal and cultural: a tragic blend of plagues, drought, famine and wars. (I document these in Under the Spell of Mother Earth.) Humanism was often an intermediary step (see Psalm 12:4) and continues to provide an effective tool for banishing God until spiritual hunger draws people to all kinds of pagan, earth-centered alternatives. Romans 1 outlines this timeless slide.

The signs of compromise are multiplying - even in God's churches. Congregations have traded truth for myth and Mother Earth for God our Father. Sunday school curricula teach Native American shamanism and equate the Creator with the Great Spirit. Gay pastors teach spiritual guidelines, and children's pastors teach Bible "truths" through comical skits that mock God.

What we need is truth - the whole truth and nothing but. Yet Peterson, willing to use words like consecration and antithetical, refuses to use the word sanctification and deletes "holy is your name" from the Lord's prayer. How can we cry over sin and apostasy when the holiness of God is concealed from His Word?

As we face an explosion of false teachings and spiritual substitutes both in churches and in the world around us, we had better be faithful stewards. It's time to awaken all God's people to test, guard and follow the truth our King has committed to us. Therefore,

    "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15

    "I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ... Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." 2 Timothy 4:1-5.


Endnotes:
[1] Author of Newberry winner A Wrinkle in Time and many other books filled with occult imagery and psychic practices such as kything - a form of mental telepathy and communication between people, trees and any other part of creation. Kything is growing in popularity within God's churches, especially among women.

[2] Sinful nature, a condition dealt with by the cross, is not the same as "doing what we felt like doing...."

[3] The lawless one is not an Anarchist. He will mock God's law but enforce plenty of his own laws.

[4] The New Englishman's Greek Concordance of the New Testament (Wilmington, Delaware: Associated Publishers & Authors, 1972), 772.

[5] This may sound good but makes me uneasy. This sacredness of the body and the goal of "becoming one" fits right into New Age and Neo-pagan views of the physical body and sex. It seems to me the NIV reference to oneness is a warning that we not become one with the wrong person (v. 16) - not a standard for immorality. Nor do commitment and intimacy define the Biblical boundaries for sex. Whether or not Peterson intended to use these terms rather than the NIV's prostitute to define right or wrong sex, it could be easily be understood that way.

[6] Apparently "spiritual" refers to those who are filled with - and walking in - the spirit, thus ready to allow God to work through him.

[7] Peterson may not have realized that the title of his article, "Spirit Quest," is the name given to the Native American initiation into adulthood. Indian youth still journey into the wilderness to connect with their guardian spirits or animal spirits. This occult ritual is promoted in classrooms nationwide and spiritual seekers flock to America's sacred "power places" (Sedona, Mt. Shasta, Alberta...) in search of their personal spirit guide. Today, unlike a decade ago, the demonic personalities respond quickly to the summons - with devastating consequences to the host. Psychologists in Alberta, Canada, face an explosion of tormenting "multiple personalities" among gullible spiritual seekers and testify to acceleration of demonic activity in the area. This is no time to minimize the power of Satan, the destructiveness of sin, or the overcoming power of God.

[8] An Introduction to Christian Mysticism, Lectures given at the Abbey of Gethsemani, MS. (1961), 145. Quoted by Kenneth Leech, Soul Friend (HarperSanFrancisco, 1992), 146.

[9] Roy Bailey and Mike Brake, Radical Social Work (1975), 1. Quoted by Leech, 147.

[10] Encyclopedia Britannica, XI (Chicago: William Benton, 1968), 810.

[11] "Spirit Quest," 30.

[12] Ibid., 28.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 29.

[15] An expression used often to describe what is happening in public education, where teaching is geared to the lowest common denominator.

[16] Acts 17:11, Revelation 2:2

[17] Personal consequences are listed in Scriptures like Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Peter 3:16 and Rev. 22:18-19.

The Message:  "Yet we've narrowly missed being gods, bright with Edens dawn light."

Psalm 8:5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.

     

Ips-Bar


The Message and The New Age
The following is an excerpt from Warren Smith’s latest book..
Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Church. (Warren Smith is a former New Ager who became converted to Christianity 20 years ago. Since then he has been warning Christians, through writing and speaking, that dangerous New Age doctrines are subtly creeping into the churches. In his most recent book, which is being offered by Discernment Ministries, Smith recounts the considerable influence that the Rev. Robert H. Schuller has had on the ministry style and teachings of Rick Warren. The mystical leaven of New Age teachings, which Robert Schuller controversially introduced the church several decades ago, is now being reintroduced and assimilated into mainstream evangelicalism through the writings and activities of Rick Warren. Deceived on Purpose is a book with an easy reading style that should be given to pastors and parishioners everywhere. The following is an important excerpt from the book, Chapter 3. It chronicles a noteworthy example of how Rick Warren’s "seeker sensitive" emphasis can lead straight into dangerous metaphysical New Age doctrines.

 

…"As above, so below; as below, so above." This maxim implies that the transcendent God
beyond the physical universe and the immanent God within ourselves are one.
[1] As Above, So Below. Ronald S. Miller and the editors of New Age Journal

Eugene Peterson’s The Message seems to be very important to Rick Warren. It is the first Bible version that he quotes in The Purpose-Driven Life. He cites it at the bottom of his dedication page. He cites it again on the page that precedes his first chapter. He uses quotes from The Message to open and close his first chapter. Five of the six Scriptures that Rick Warren cites in his first chapter all come from The Message. Even the title of the first chapter, "It All Starts with God," is taken from The Message paraphrase of Colossians 1:16, which appears right under the chapter heading.

    For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, …everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.…2

The King James translates Colossians 1:16 as follows:

    For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

It wasn’t Peterson’s use of the phrase "got started" instead of "created," or even the word "purpose," that jumped out at me, as much as his use of the phrase "above and below" instead of "heaven and earth." When I was in the New Age, it was well understood that the words "above and below" had metaphysical/New Age connotations and were routinely substituted for "heaven and earth." In fact, the term "as above, so below" was a commonly accepted New Age phrase.

In reading through The Message, I discovered that Peterson had actually inserted the entire phrase "as above, so below" into his paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer. I compared Peterson’s version of the Lord’s Prayer with the King James Version of that same prayer.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

    The Message
    Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes. 3 [Emphasis added]

    King James Bible
    Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done
    in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. [Emphasis added]

Peterson had deliberately substituted "as above, so below" in place of "in earth, as it is in heaven." In Colossians 1:16, Peterson again chose to use the terms "above" and "below" instead of the commonly accepted "heaven" and "earth" found in most Bible translations. The "above" and "below" in Colossians 1:16 is an obvious derivative form of the "as above, so below" he had used previously in his paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer. This derivative form of the more complete phrase "as above, so below" is also common to the New Age. The fact that this whole "above" and "below" issue was presenting itself on the first page of the first chapter of Rick Warren’s book was unsettling. Was I reading too much into this? Was there some other reasonable explanation for Eugene Peterson’s use of the term "as above, so below" in the Lord’s Prayer and its derivative form in Colossians 1:16?


Ancient Egypt and Oneness
Right about the time I was looking into Eugene Peterson’s use of the term "as above, so below," I was at a book sale at our local library. Almost lost amongst some cookbooks and business manuals was a book written and published by the editors of the New Age Journal. It was entitled As Above, So Below. I picked it up and began reading it. In the introduction the chief editor of the book, Ronald S. Miller, had written:

    Thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, the great master alchemist Hermes Trismegistus, believed to be a contemporary of the Hebrew prophet Abraham, proclaimed this fundamental truth about the universe: "As above, so below; as below, so above." This maxim implies that the transcendent God beyond the physical universe and the immanent God within ourselves are one. Heaven and Earth, spirit and matter, the invisible and the visible worlds form a unity to which we are intimately linked. [4]  See Footnote For Details

He continued his explanation by quoting Sufi scholar Reshad Field.

    …"‘As above, so below’ means that the two worlds are instantaneously seen to be one when we realize our essential unity with God…. The One and the many, time and eternity, are all One." [5]

The New Age Journal editor went on to state that old forms of religion no longer serve people, and that the term "as above, so below" describes the "emerging spirituality" that is quickly moving onto the world’s scene. He concluded his introduction to As Above, So Below by writing:

    The breadth of this exploration suggests that we are living in an age of spiritual reinvention, a transitional age that leaves the safety and security of the known to seek out the new, the untested, the possible. 6

Moving from the library book sale to the Internet, I put "as above, so below" into the Google search engine to see what would come up. There were countless references. The very first reference listed by Google for "as above, so below" read:

    This phrase comes from the beginning of The Emerald Tablet and embraces the entire system of traditional and modern magic which was inscribed upon the tablet in cryptic wording by Hermes Trismegistus. The significance of this phrase is that it is believed to hold the key to all mysteries. All systems of magic are claimed to function by this formula. "‘That which is above is the same as that which is below’…. The universe is the same as God, God is the same as man…." [7]

See Footnote For Details

As I checked out the most popular websites for "as above, so below" each one described the term as having the same mystical, eastern, New Age, esoteric and magical sources. One site stated:

    This ancient phrase, "As above, so below" describes the Oneness of All That Is. [8]

The phrase "as above, so below" headlined a page from the Theosophical Society’s website containing the "esoteric" teachings of New Age matriarch Alice A. Bailey.

[Read More About Alice Bailey, The Lucis Trust, World Goodwill and The Reappearance of ‘The Christ’]

A derivative form of the term—similar to Peterson’s abbreviated use of "above and below" in Colossians 1:16— appeared on the website in a quote from Theosophy founder Helena Blavatsky’s pioneering New Age work, The Secret Doctrine:

    Above, the Son is the whole KOSMOS; below, he is MANKIND. [9]

To see if there was any other explanation for Peterson’s use of this mystical New Age phrase, I put the term "as above, so below," along with the term "Christianity," into the search engine of the computer I was using. There were only seven references. None of them had anything to do with biblical Christianity. The first reference was entitled "Mystical Christianity" and said:

    …to help the seeker of an inner spiritual path find resources to aid their spiritual journey towards a mystical and magickal Christianity. [10]

In all of my searching I could find no good reason for Peterson’s using "as above, so below" in his paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer. Nor could I find any good reason for his use of the obvious "above and below" derivative, that appears in his Colossians 1:16 paraphrase that Rick Warren used at the very beginning of his book to initiate his readers into The Purpose-Driven Life


So what?
I guess if Rick Warren or anyone else says, "So what?" I would say, "So how come?" How come Eugene Peterson inserted a universally accepted, mystical New Age term right into the middle of the Lord’s Prayer? And why does a derivative of the saying show up in his paraphrase of Colossians 1:16? Even if you thought there was some "good" reason for using the term "as above, so below," why would you? Why would you choose a term that so clearly has its origins in the magic of ancient Egypt, and is so heavily identified today with the New Age and the New Spirituality?

"As above, so below" agrees with the "immanent" New Age view that God is not only outside of creation, but also within creation. It means that God is "in" everyone and everything. It perfectly denotes the New Age concept of "Oneness" and provides apparent support for the New Age contention that "We are all One."


Seeker friendly?
I tried to imagine what it would be like for a confused New Ager today coming into a Purpose-Driven Church that uses The Message, and finding this popular New Age phrase right in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer. Or what it would be like for that person to be handed a copy of Rick Warren’s book, only to find an abbreviated form of this same New Age phrase as part of the lead-off Scripture introducing them to The Purpose-Driven Life. This hardly seemed to be the way to introduce the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an unbelieving New Ager.

Rick Warren’s reintroduction of The Message into my life only reinforced the concerns I had originally voiced… when Peterson’s book first came out. Why was Rick Warren so drawn to The Message? The Message not only obscured prophetic Scriptures like Matthew 24:3–5, it also introduced paraphrased material like "as above, so below," that made it appear that some of the teachings of the Bible were "at One" with the teachings of the New Age.

In Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel, I had observed:

    And it is, indeed, very disturbing to see many Christian leaders today using many of the same words and expressions commonly used by their [New Age, ed.] "new gospel" counterparts.11

    Unfortunately, undiscerning Christian leaders have not adequately exposed these [New Age, ed.] "new gospel" teachings and, as a result, the spirit behind the "new gospel" has entered the Church.12

     

Chapter 3 Endnotes:

1. Ronald S. Miller and the Editors of New Age Journal, As Above, So Below: Paths to Spiritual Renewal in Daily Life (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1992), p. xi.
2. Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life, p. 17, citing Eugene H. Peterson, The Message, p. 415.
3. Eugene H, Peterson, The Message, p. 21–22.
4. Ronald S. Miller and the Editors of New Age Journal, As Above, So Below, p. xi.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid., p. xiv.
7.(http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/a/below_above.html).
8.(http://www.mothermaryspeaks.com/as_above_so_below.htm), p. 1.
9. Helena Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine. p. i 60, quoted on Http://theosophy.org/tlodocs/AsAboveSoBelow.htm.
10. (http://www.esotericchristian.com/home.html).
11. Warren Smith, Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel, p. 68.
12. Ibid., p. 6.

 

Footnote:

As Above So Below
This phrase comes from the beginning of The Emerald Tablet and embraces the entire system of traditional and modern magic which was inscribed upon the tablet in cryptic wording by Hermes Trismegistus. The significance of this phrase is that it is believed to hold the key to all mysteries. All systems of magic are claimed to function by this formula. "'That which is above is the same as that which is below'...Macrocosmos is the same as microcosmos. The universe is the same as God, God is the same as man, man is the same as the cell, the cell is the same as the atom, the atom is the same as...and so on, ad infinitum."

This message theorizes that man is the counterpart of God on earth; as God is man's counterpart in heaven. Therefore, it is a statement of an ancient belief that man's actions on earth parallel the actions of God in heaven. This pivots on the belief that "all things have their birth from this One Thing by adaptation."

To the magician the magical act, that of causing a transformation in a thing or things without any physical contact, is accomplished by an imaginative act accompanied by the will that the wanted change will occur. The magical act and imaginative act becomes one and the same. The magician knows with certainty that for the change to occur he must will it to happen and firmly believe it will happen. Here it may be noted that magic and religion are akin: both require belief that a miracle will occur.

The purpose of all rituals in ceremonial magic is to unite the microcosm with the macrocosm to join God, or gods when invoked, with the human consciousness. When such a supreme union is achieved the subject and object becomes one. ……

When feeling unison with the universe the magician knows he has reached his Higher or True Self because he has attained mastery of himself and the universe.. Some magicians, including Aleister Crowley, claimed that when the magician reaches this ultimate peak of altered consciousness the miracles are no longer important, the extreme goal becomes the direct union with God. [http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/a/below_above.html]
 

The Emerald Tablet
or the Emerald Table, as it is frequently called, is part of the Hermetica and is one of most revered magical documents in Western occultism. Hermes Trismegistus is portrayed in art as holding an emerald upon which he inscribed the entire Egyptian philosophy… A Latin translation of the Tablet came out by 1200, preceded by several Arabic versions. None of the translations are identical, and little on the Tablet appears to make sense. The most significant part of The Emerald Tablet is within its opening:

    "That which is above is like that which is below and that which is below is like that which is above, to achieve the wonders of the one thing."

Therefore,

    "This is the foundation of astrology and alchemy: that the microcosm of mankind and the earth is a reflection of the macrocosm of God and the heavens." [http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/e/emerald_tablet_the.html]

Hermes Trismegistus
The alleged teacher of the magical system known as Hermetism of which high magic and alchemy are thought to be twin branches. The name Trismegistus means thrice greatest Hermes, and is the title given by the Greeks to the Egyptian god Thoth or Tehuti, a lord of wisdom and learning….

According to legend Hermes Trismegistus is said to have provided the wisdom of light in the ancient mysteries of Egypt. "He carried an emerald, upon which was recorded all of philosophy, and the caduceus, the symbol of mystical illumination. Hermes Trismegistus vanquished Typhon, the dragon of ignorance, and mental, moral and physical perversion."

Surviving Hermes Trismegistus is the wisdom of the Hermetica, 42 books that have profoundly influenced the development of Western occultism and magic. [http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/h/hermes_trismegistus.html]

Hermetica

The forty-two sacred books of wisdom allegedly written by Hermes Trismegistus or "thrice great Hermes." The books combine the mythological wisdom and attributes attributed to the Egyptian god Thoth and the Greek god Hermes.

The dating of the books is somewhere between the third century BC and the first century AD. Their influence has been tremendous on the development of Western occultism and magic.

Most of the Hermetic books along with others were lost during the burning of the royal libraries in Alexandria. The surviving books were secretly buried in the desert where they are presently located. A few initiates of the mystery schools, ancient secret cults, supposedly know their location.

What remains of the surviving Hermetic lore has been passed down through generation and published in many languages. Most important of all are three works, the third of which is known as The Emerald Tablet, or the Emerald Table. [http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/h/hermetica.html] [PLACE IN TEXT]

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