Evangelicals, for some strange reason, feel the need to defend the Message. In a recent video, a commentator on Bible translations advocates for it as a helpful tool that should be used to get Christians out of their Bible reading ruts. It is not a Bible in every place, but it is a Bible in some places, and therefore should be used. The overwhelming perspective that conservative Christians share on the Message is that it is not a Bible, and should be avoided, but there has been a recent push to crush this line of thinking.
I used to joke that the “Calvinist Starter Kit” included slamming the Message and listening to Paul Washer. Now it seems that Calvinists are welcoming the Message into the standard lineup of acceptable translations. Sadly, Calvinists seem to be leaders in accepting bad ideas into their doctrinal corpus. In every case that I have seen of people advocating that Christians use the Message, they also advocate that the King James should not be used. Such is the case for Andrew Naselli, author of the critically acclaimed textbook, How to Understand and Apply the New Testament.
The phenomenon of conservative evangelicals warming up to the Message is commentary on the doctrinal downgrade happening in the church. Rather than teach people what difficult passages mean, pastors would rather just hand them a dumbed down Bible that often times is so paraphrastic it misses the point of entire verses and passages. It demonstrates that there is a trend within conservative evangelical churches to have a low view of the Bible, and a low view of the pastorate.
More importantly it reflects a downgrade in Bibliology. Since the modern critical approach to the Bible sets forth that there is not a single representative text that can be called “the very Word of God,” all translations must be viewed as a corpus to help Christians access Scripture. We don’t have the very Word of God, so we have to use every means necessary to access what we do have. They say that not a single Greek text represents the original, and not a single translation renders those incomplete Greek texts 100% accurately into the target language (in this case, English). Since this is the modern academic orthodoxy being pushed out of the seminaries and into pulpits, it should surprise nobody that modern evangelicals have such a low view of Scripture. The modern church is fine eating scraps off the floor like a dog when Christ has offered them a meal at His table.
You might take issue with the claim that modern, Bible believing, evangelicals have a low view of Scripture, but it is true. I am not just asserting that for shock value. There used to be a standard for what Bible was acceptable in churches. Now, the only rule is that it can’t be a KJV. If Christians actually held Bible publishers accountable, there would be much less translations and paraphrases on the market. Instead, academics are actually supporting the idea that a translation can be poor, because they all have their value in some regard or another. The goal for these scholars is not, and never has been, to give the people of God something tangible to hear the voice of their shepherd.
This is the product of a low view of Scripture. Christians should expect that a Bible translation would get more and more accurate until all of the kinks are worked out and a final product can get to market. ESV tried to do this in 2016 and received such push back that they had to recant. Even a common novel like Harry Potter can be accurately translated into 80 different languages accurately. Why can’t the scholars, who allegedly have much more interest in the Holy Bible than the translators of Harry Potter have in an entertaining story, continue to produce translations that they admit aren’t 100% accurate? Instead of aiming for a 100% accurate translation, these academics say, “They all are imperfect, so read them all.”
The scholars and academics will continue pushing this on the church until it is the accepted orthodoxy. The time to push back on this lunacy is now. The church needs to stop letting the “niceness” of a scholar determine whether or not an idea is good or bad and simply evaluate what is actually being said. If you have such a low view of the Bible translation you read that you feel the need to go out and supplement it with the Message, it is probably time for you pick up another translation that is adequate in every regard.