A message about The Message

I’m usually pretty liberal (seriously!) about Bible translations.  I prefer the ESV now, but have read the NIV the most and the Living Bible was the first one I read all the way through.  The NASB is a more literal translation and is great for zeroing in on key words.  In general I just encourage people to read it and not just talk about reading it.

But I’ve never liked The Message translation.  It is way too “cutesy” for me.  And the more I learn about it and the author, the less I like it.  Here are some more reasons to avoid it, via Sola Sisters: The Message “Bible” Inserts Earth Reverence, God of “Green” Hope.

A generation has been raised on this disturbing “paraphrase” of the Bible. This is the primary version so many now rely on, and nationally known preachers quote from it with regularity. Yet, as we have seen, The Message flat out omits the sin of homosexuality from several key passages. We see this in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, and also in 1 Timothy 1: 8-11.

Does the acceptance and use of The Message explain why many Christians are lukewarm on the issue of homosexuality? Certainly The Message is not the only factor–we dwell in a pro-homosexual media/culture–but place this “Bible” in a person’s hands and it can have, over time, significant influence. How can we understand God’s Truth when Truth is no longer there to be read?

“My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart.” (Proverbs 4:20-21)The beloved author of The Message, Eugene Peterson, has now endorsed two heretical books: The Shack, and Rob Bell’s sly ode to universalism, Love Wins. The Message, bluntly stated, seems written to make Christians less knowledgeable about the Word of God. While that may seem a strong comment, please consider what Eugene Peterson himself said about the Bible:

“Why do people spend so much time studying the Bible? How much do you need to know? We invest all this time in understanding the text which has a separate life of its own and we think we’re being more pious and spiritual when we’re doing it….[Christians] should be studying it less, not more. You need just enough to pay attention to God….I’m just not at all pleased with the emphasis on Bible study as if it’s some kind of special thing that Christians do, and the more the better.” [1] (Bold mine)I believe The Message is forerunner to a christless, sinless bible that will be used by the false church. There will be a “christ” mentioned, but not our Christ. Not the sinless Savior of humanity. Sin will be addressed, of course, but perhaps more in line with the Alcoholics Anonymous generic theology of “wrongs” and “making amends.”

Homosexuality will be perfectly acceptable, even sacred. And nature, the earth itself, will be worshiped. We have already addressed Eugene Peterson’s removal of homosexuality and other sins in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, but healso inserts the phrase “use and abuse the earth,” something the Lord did not place there at all.

Here is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 from The Message:

“Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who do not 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 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 by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.” (Bold mine)Did you catch that? Peterson’s version claims those who “use and abuse the earth” will not be saved!

Here is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, from the NASB:

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”You will not find this apparent form of earth-reverence in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 in any reputable translation of the Bible. It simply is not there.

Read the whole post for more of the “earth worship” problem.

In a move that should surprise no one, Peterson is now a loud-and-proud supporter of oxymoronic “same-sex marriage.”

13 thoughts on “A message about The Message”

  1. Eugene Peterson has LONG been very New Age-y. Drives me bananas when Bible study writers (like Beth Moore) quote him left and right as if he were some sort of serious theologian! Check out this quote of his – tells you something:

    “Why do people spend so much time studying the Bible? Christians should be studying it less, not more. I’m just not at all pleased with the emphasis on Bible study as if it’s some kind of special thing that Christians do, and the more the better.”


  2. I think publishers of paraphrase bibles ought to be under a self imposed obligation to market it as a paraphrase and that it should be taken as “the jist of the bible.”

    I had used the NKJV when I became a Christian because thats what the church I first attended used. Then I learned of apologetics and textual criticism and immediately switched to the NASB.

    I would rather have to read the passage more than once slowly and understand the actual text, than rely o n someones “understanding” of what they think the authors should have, or meant to say.


  3. Years ago, while listening to a sermon at a church we no longer attend, the pastor began reading from the message book. He had told us where he was reading from and I turned to that place. He began reading and I was utterly shocked at what I was hearing, as not only was it in different words, but it was an entirely different meaning of the passage!! Definitely a question we ask (what do you consider a “Bible?”) as we seek a new church to attend!


  4. I agree with your “cutesy” opinion. A church I formerly attended used the Message as their source. It was horrible for study purposes…which, I guess is just fine with E.P.

    I wonder if it comes down to laziness…people don’t care to invest time studying in order to understand the difficult parts.


    1. Mike, I think you’re right. And after reading more about the Message in the links left here I’m switching my description to “too cutesy and too creepy.”


  5. Ahhh the version debate. A few years ago I was doing the version debate with my mom who recenly decided that the KJV is the only accurate version of the Bible. Growing up I always memorized from the KJV but generally read & studied from the NIV. Now I pretty much only use the NIV but have several other versions to use for reference if I need them. As far as the Message goes, my mom was 100% against anyone using it as a Bible. But in the front pages, Peterson says that it isn’t supposed to take the place of a more accurate version. Personally, I think it is foolish if churches preach, teach, & memorize from it. The parts of it that I have read remind me of a novel. I think that if a non Christian picked up the Message, it is possible for them to get saved after reading it but it would be the responsibility of Christians around them to direct them to a more accurate version for study & growth. Do I think that Peterson will be held accountable for people that were lead astray because they believed the Message was the exact Word of God? Yes, I do.


    1. I don’t like the fact that Peterson endorses “The Shack” either. But that book is a whole other debate.


  6. Is it possible to live out your faith as a Christian and preach The Gospel without having to make a public stand on the issue of homosexuality? For instance, if asked, you can say,

    “Here’s what the Bible says about homosexuality. I don’t really understand why it says what it says. However, I put my faith in Jesus and that his sacrifice on the cross was enough to cover all our sins to those who put their faith in him?”

    I guess I’m just anti confrontational and don’t really feel the need to debate tertiary doctrinal issues.


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