Wednesday, February 23, 2011

He revealed Himself. On Purpose. Part Deux.

Picking up where I left off yesterday, I'd like to take up this topic of God's revelation of Himself and why the images and language matter.  Two examples I'd like to point to as to how, in my opinion, it's okay to do contextualization of the message of God in Christ into the culture of our day.  I'll take one today and one tomorrow.

As a recap, this all started when a gal I knew at Baylor didn't like me razzing anyone and everyone who claims Jesus is My Valentine (see post on that here).  My point then, my point yesterday, and my point today is the same:  you can't just pick and choose who you want Him to be (though I don't think that was my friend's intent).  But, more dangerous to American evangelicals, neither can you talk about Him like you want to.  Classic, though overused, examples include The Man Upstairs or The Big Guy in the Sky.  It's right and good to help people understand who God is (a.k.a. contextualization).  But if you change the message of God or pick up metaphors from the culture which confuse the message of God (i.e. Valentine Jesus), that's not good.

Now to the example I mentioned earlier.

Christianity Today is running a great article on translating the Bible into Arabic and some of the issues it's causing.  Collin Hansen writes in his informative article, Son and Crescent, about the misunderstanding that the phrase, "Son of God" causes among Muslims.  In a word, they think it means God had sexual relations with Mary and thus it brings up some real issues because they have no context for trinitarian theology.  Because of the confusion, some of the translators use the phrase, "Beloved Son who comes from God."  It's theologically precise while not culturally confusing.  Others have taken issue with the fact that they have changed the Scripture by not using the literal phrase, "Son of God."  I think everyone who objects probably shouldn't ever use an NIV or NLT Bible since they use the same translation philosophy, technically called Dynamic Equivalence.  In essence, DE means they translate phrase for phrase to capture meaning in the translation rather than word for word.

So what does this mean for you and me, the average people on the street?  For me, it's a big fat reminder that I can't create or translate God into my own image.  No matter how cool it might seem, how many friends it might fetch me, how easy it might make evangelism, or how many people it might convince, I can't do that.

What good is it translating God to my neighbor if it's not really the true God I'm talking about?

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

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