IVP - Online Pulpit - April 2013 Archives

April 17, 2013

The God We Believe In

by Tim Jennings, M.D.

Have you ever met someone who said they didn't believe in God, and when you asked them to describe the god they did not believe in, you discovered you didn't believe in that god either? Or worse, you heard someone describe the God they did believe in, and you found you also didn't believe in that version of God?

According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, as of 2001 there were 19 major world religions, divided into 270 large religious groups, and subdivided further into tens of thousands of smaller sects. Within Christianity 34,000 separate groups have been identified, and despite many contradictory beliefs essentially all claim the Bible as their basis of faith.1 Even within the same congregation heated battles over divergent views of God occur.

With so many different views of God being taught, the question arises, does our understanding of God make a difference, or is it enough to simply believe in God? Could our belief in God, if that belief is distorted in some way, actually cause injury, pain and suffering?

Jesus taught that eternal life is founded on truly knowing God (Jn 17:3). And Paul tells us that if we exchange the truth of God for a false-god construct, the mind becomes darkened, depraved and futile (Rom 1:28-31).

Fascinating new brain science has confirmed that Paul was right! Our beliefs do make a difference. The God we worship actually changes our brain circuits, activating different pathways, altering gene expression and literally changing who we are. Depending on the God we worship we either become more like Jesus, with greater capacity for love, compassion, understanding and wisdom, which corresponds with development of higher brain circuits, or we become more selfish, fearful, arrogant and exploitive, which corresponds with greater development of more primitive brain regions.

All the contradictory views of God cannot be right. Paul tells us we must employ divine weapons to demolish everything that "sets itself up against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor 10:3-5 NIV). But what are those weapons and how do we employ them? According to Scripture, God has provided us with three types of spiritual weapons.

These three weapons are:

  • Scripture "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim 3:16).
  • Science "Since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse" (Rom 1:20 emphasis added).
  • Experience "Taste and see that the LORD is good" (Ps 34:8); "Then [Jesus] said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe' " (Jn 20:27).

God not only inspired the Scriptures but is also the Creator of nature and the author of its laws. Rightly understood, science and Scripture always harmonize and lead to ever increasing knowledge of and appreciation for God. But when these three threads—Scripture, science and experience—are separated, misunderstandings arise. Science without Scripture leads to godlessness. Experience separated from science and Scripture leads to mysticism and fanaticism. And Scripture without science and experience is vulnerable to a variety of distorted God constructs resulting in 34,000 different Christian groups all claiming the same Scripture yet often teaching divergent beliefs, many of which are actually harmful to the human condition.

In The God-Shaped Brain I explore how our view of God changes us, either increasing our capacity to love or hardening our hearts, depending on which view of God is believed. I examine divergent God constructs and demonstrate the profound impact a change in belief about God has on mental, physical and relational health.

With so many competing views of God, often occurring within the same church, I invite you to consider this book a tool to assist in comparing the different views and enhancing our journey toward ever increasing intimacy with him.

1 David B. Barrett, George T. Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson, eds., World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), cited in B. A. Robinson, "Religions of the World," Religious Tolerance.org, September 28, 2011, www.religioustolerance.org/worldrel.htm#wce.

JenningsOP.jpgTimothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board certified Christian psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, lecturer, international speaker and author. Dr. Jennings was voted one of America┬┤s Top Psychiatrists by the Consumers' Research Council of America in 2008, 2010 and 2011. He is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and President-Elect of the Tennessee Psychiatric Association. He also serves on the board of the Southern Psychiatric Association and is in private practice in Tennessee.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 9:24 AM

April 3, 2013

Translating Faithfully and Accurately

by Dave Brunn

This question was paramount in my mind when my wife and I first arrived in Papua New Guinea in 1980. As a new missionary-translator I was committed to translating God’s Word as faithfully and accurately as possible. I thought I had a good understanding of what that meant, but when I started translating into the Lamogai language, I quickly realized that my view of translation was incomplete and even a bit idealistic. Bible translation is an incredibly complex undertaking, but somehow I had developed an oversimplified view of the translation process.

It didn’t take me long to realize that some of my standards of faithful and accurate translation were based on English grammatical features that do not exist in Lamogai. If those standards were really God’s universal standards then Lamogai would automatically be disqualified from having a faithful or accurate translation of God’s Word.

One piece of the puzzle that I had not taken into consideration is the fact that English and koine Greek are related languages—both members of the Indo-European language family. That means the degree of literalness that exists in some English versions of the New Testament is largely due to the fact that the translators were translating from one Indo-European language into a distantly related language.

I realized that I had unintentionally made English the ultimate standard for Bible translation. This realization became even more noteworthy when I learned that only 6 percent of the world’s living languages are classified as “Indo-European.” That means 94 percent of the languages spoken around the world today are not related to koine Greek in the way English is. My view of translation was based on a pretty narrow segment of the worldwide linguistic landscape.

As I continued translating the New Testament into Lamogai, I frequently compared various English versions side-by-side. That is when my idealistic perception of translation really started to unravel. It quickly became apparent to me that the English Bible versions identified as “literal” versions are not nearly as literal as I had previously thought.

As a career translator, when I would hear Christians arguing about Bible translation, it was apparent to me that much of the debate was based on an incomplete, oversimplified view of the Bible translation process—similar to the view I held when I first started translating. So I set out to document some of the things I had learned about translation through my twenty-one years as a translator in Papua New Guinea.

During that time, I read a lot of books and articles that deal with the ongoing translation debate. I found that most of those books and articles focus almost exclusively on theoretical “ideals” and do not attempt to give an objective, comprehensive view of “real” translation practice. The authors would generally start by explaining their predetermined point of view and then use a few carefully selected translation examples to support their philosophical position.

As I continued to document the things I had learned as a Bible translator, I determined I would not argue translation philosophy, and I would not disparage any translation of Scripture. Instead, I resolved to humbly and respectfully present objective evidence that had often been left out of the translation discussion. My aim was to raise the light level of the average English-speaking Christian, allowing the truth about translation to dispel unwarranted disunity related to this issue.

Eventually, my writings came together as a book, designed expressly for the church in the English-speaking world: One Bible, Many Versions, published by InterVarsity Press. My prayer is that Christians will read this book with an open mind—sincerely seeking to gain a truer understanding of what translation is all about. When they do, I am convinced that their perspective of translation will be broadened, challenged and in some cases transformed.

BrunnOP.jpgDave Brunn is dean of academics for New Tribes Mission (NTM) USA Missionary Training Center. A missionary, translator and educator, Brunn spent over twenty years in Papua New Guinea where he served the Lamogai people through church planting, literacy training and Bible translation and consultation. Among his works is a complete translation of the New Testament into the Lamogai language.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 2:59 PM