Scripture and You

Finding the Right Bible: How has Postmodernism influenced the Evangelical Church's view of the Bible?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Postmodernism has introduced wrong motives for Bible translation and interpretation.
From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part 3 of a series Read Part 2

Postmodernism has introduced wrong motives for Bible translation and interpretation.

Man-Centeredness Prevails

The influences of postmodern philosophy have not only infected the Bible publishing business; they have also corrupted the Evangelical church. Beginning in the 19th century, postmodernism spawned the philosophy and practice of higher criticism in Bible translation. Higher criticism treats the Bible as a fallible text created by human beings for their own motives, rather than as the inspired, inerrant, supernatural Word of God. Postmodernism also spawned a view of literature which says that the author's intended meaning of words in any book - including the Bible - is irrelevant. What is relevant is not what the author meant, but "what the book says to me" or "what it means to my community."

"Has God Indeed Said...?"

To insist that the words of the Bible have one and only one meaning in context - the divine Author's meaning, independent of individual opinion or group consensus - has become an increasingly foreign concept even among Evangelicals. To further insist that, because the words of the Bible have defined meaning, Scripture is absolute truth and communicates a clear-cut, unambiguous body of Christian doctrine, is increasingly considered irrelevant as well as intolerant.

And to be so bold as to insist that Christianity as defined by the Bible is the only true faith, and therefore all others are false - including others that wear a "Christian" label - is becoming the most intolerable thing of all. Evangelical thought leaders like Dr. Tony Campolo say that every human being has Christ living in him, see the "feminine side of Jesus," and proclaim that church leaders need to free themselves from the restrictions of orthodox teaching and become more "creative" in their doctrinal outlook.1

At its worst, postmodernism has produced the travesty-Bibles we described in a previous article. Of course, most of the Bibles published in recent decades are not in-your-face with error and blasphemies, and some are much more sound than others. Still, many bear the influences of postmodernism. And like the serpent of old, postmodernism is most dangerous when it is most subtle. Postmodernist thinking has produced Bible versions whose pages bear the watermark of the serpent's words to Eve: "Has God indeed said.?" And they often do so in ways that the undiscerning Christian might easily miss, or might think do not matter.

The Proper Motive for Bible Translation

There is only one God-honoring motive for Bible translation: Accurately and faithfully translating the text from the original languages into another language, so that the reader can have the authentic Word of God in his own language. But postmodern thinking has produced Bibles that bear the marks of other agendas.

Other Agendas - And Pointed Questions

Today many publishers develop and advertise their Bibles in experiential terms. They speak of a "passionate" rendering - a "vibrant" translation - "a Bible that reads like a novel" - or a Bible "made for real-world use." Several stress the fact that their Bibles for adults are written in grade-school language. Some tout the fact that they have minimized or eliminated doctrinal terminology. Some claim to sacrifice neither accuracy nor readability, as though the two were in conflict. Today, much of Evangelicalism prizes these attributes.

But the Christian who is committed to the authentic Word of God must ask pointed questions: What do these considerations have to do with the proper motive for Bible translation? What makes an accurate, authentic translation of the Scriptures? Does a Bible written at grade-school level, or in order to "read like a novel," faithfully translate the original? Does "passion" or "vibrancy" produce authenticity? Can doctrinal terms be eliminated or downplayed? Are these translations in fact the Word of God? How should I choose a Bible?

Next - The Main Ingredient for Faithful Translation: Nothing But the Word of God




1. Postmodernism pervades Dr. Campolo's more than forty books such as Carpe Diem: Seize the Day (Thomas Nelson, 1994) which contains an entire chapter promoting the feminization of God. See also "Our Mother Who Art in Heaven: A Brief Overview and Critique of Evangelical Feminists and the Use of Feminine God-Language" at (TTW does not officially endorse the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, but we believe this article is valuable.)


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