On April 21, 2016, RelevantMagazine.com, in a post titled, “Bono and Eugene Peterson Are Making a Film About the Psalms”, reported that Bono, the frontman of U2, and Eugene Peterson, author of The Message “bible,” are partnering together to make a film about the Psalms. On April 26, 2016, the 21:00 minute film “Bono & Eugene Peterson | THE PSALMS” was released by Fuller Studio on YouTube.
As many of you know, Bono is considered to be a leading spokesperson for the Emergent Church Movement. Many people, young and old, are being influenced by his unbiblical approach to Christianity which is often times outside of the scope of biblical Christian living. Our video, “The Emerging Church and the Bono-Screwtape Connection,” exposes the many concerns we have with the U2 frontman.
Of course, Eugene Peterson is best known for his paraphrase version of the bible, The Message.
This appears to be an “emergent match made in heaven”. Below is an article written by our friend Elliott Nesch about some of the issues concerning their short film.
BONO & EUGENE PETERSON TWISTING THE PSALMS
By Elliott Nesch
Holy Bible Prophecy
Studying the Emerging Church, I was amazed at how often the leaders of the movement exalted Bono as its role model. Bono, the Irish singer for the band U2, is arguably the most famous rockstar in the world. He is certainly one the most, if not the most, politically influential celebrities of our time. In addition, he has been labeled by some to be the icon of the Emerging Church. Thus, in my book, Hath God Said? Emergent Church Theology, I devote an entire section to how Bono is the Emerging Church icon. In the Emergent book called Get Up Off Your Knees, several contributing authors including Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, praise Bono and U2 as a prophetic voice. Thus it is no surprise that Fuller Seminary sponsored a recent video conversation with Bono and Eugene Peterson, author of the postmodern paraphrase of the Bible, The Message.
Fuller Theological Seminary has launched Fuller Studio, an online source of “podcasts, long-form reads, contemplative films, and other resources for a deeply formed spiritual life.” Two months ago, Fuller Studio released Bono & Eugene Peterson | THE PSALMS, a short film which documents the friendship between U2 frontman Bono and Eugene Peterson, author The Message. The 21-minute video revolves around their common interest in the Psalms. The film “highlights in particular a conversation on the Psalms that took place between Bono, Peterson, and [David] Taylor at Peterson’s Montana home.
The video opens with a 2002 video message from Bono to Eugene Peterson:
Mr. Peterson, Eugene, my name is Bono. I’m the singer with the group U2 and wanted to video message you my thanks and our thanks from the band for this remarkable work you’ve done. There’s been some great translations, very literary translations, but no translation that I’ve read that speaks to me in my own language, so I want to thank you for that. Take a rest now, won’t you? Bye.
Obviously Bono considers The Message not only as one Bible translation among many, but also a “remarkable work” that “speaks to him in his own language.” But The Message Bible is not a word for word translation of the Bible like the KJV or other modern translations. The Message is actually a paraphrase which converts the original languages into the tone and rhythms of modern-day American speech. Notice the differences between the two versions for Psalm 23 in The Message and the KJV:
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Psalm 23, KJV)
1-3 God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.
4 Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.
5 You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.
6 Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life. (Psalm 23, The Message)
Do you see the major differences? Speaking of Psalm 23, Bono’s version is most blasphemous. In the U2 song “Love Rescues Me” Bono twisted the 23rd Psalm. Bono sings:
“Yea, though I walk
In the valley of shadow
Yea, I will fear no evil
I have cursed thy rod and staff
They no longer comfort me
Love rescue me”
Bono has cursed God’s rod and staff saying they no longer comfort him, whereas King David wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). However, Bono says that love rescues him, as if love is at odds with God’s rod and staff.
Though Peterson consulted the original languages, The Message itself is not a word for word translation. In his own words, why he wrote The Message:
I began to realize that the adults in my class weren’t feeling the vitality and directness that I sensed as I read and studied the New Testament in its original Greek. Writing straight from the original text, I began to attempt to bring into English the rhythms and idioms of the original language. I knew that the early readers of the New Testament were captured and engaged by these writings and I wanted my congregation to be impacted in the same way. I hoped to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people: those who hadn’t read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become ‘old hat.’ (Source)
His primary goal was to “capture the tone of the text and the original conversational feel of the Greek, in contemporary English.” If one further compares The Message to the KJV, they will discover some very serious theological errors. For example, in Psalm 32:1 The Message says, “Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be.” The KJV says, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1). This blessing has nothing to do with luck.
Let’s consider Psalm 25. In the KJV, Psalm 25:10 says: “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.” But Peterson translates, “From now on every road you travel will take you to God.” Every road will take you to God? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6) and “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14). According to The Message, all roads lead to God. This expresses the postmodern maxim, “Truth is subjective and therefore relative.”
When the KJV says in Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” The Message says, “Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture.” But sin is absent from the list Paul gives of that which can separate us from God. Paul says that nothing external can separate us from the love of God. But sin will sparate you from God. Eugene Peterson says that not even the worst sins listed in Scripture can separate us from God, while the prophet Isaiah says, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
Consider also the New Testament passages about homosexuality. Eugene Peterson did a horrible job capturing the tone of the text and the original conversational feel of the Greek in those cases. He deleted the politically incorrect words like “effeminate” and “homosexual.” The Message states in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11,
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 from experience 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. (The Message)
What kind of message is this? Obviously to a Christian, those who “use and abuse sex” would include homosexuals, but to an unbeliever this vague phrase could mean something completely different. To unbelievers, this justifies fornication and even homosexuality in their minds as long as it is accompanied with commitment. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, The Message deletes the phrase “Flee fornication” (KJV) and says instead, “There’s more to sex than mere skin on skin,” and “we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy.” Again, to an unbeliever, this “kind of sex” could refer to sex outside of marriage and even homosexuality, as long as there is intimacy and commitment. This is an abomination! And this is why Bono can celebrate The Message and also celebrates the homosexual marriage vote.
Bono has often called The Message his favorite Bible “translation.” This is the “Bible” the singer read to his dying father and quoted before “Where the Streets Have No Name” during U2’s 2001 Elevation tour. Bono said, “The poetic heart of The Message is that there is no dogma apart from the flesh becoming word [sic].” In other words, The Message has no authoritative set of principles which are incontrovertibly true, according to Bono. Thus The Message has been a favorite “Bible” of those who desire to live a worldly life. Notice Bono said, “the flesh becoming word.” I found this quotation in numerous sources, but couldn’t find the original. Nonetheless, the statement accurately describes The Message. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh,” i.e., the Incarnation, but Bono says the dogma of The Message is the opposite: “flesh becoming word,” i.e., the works of the flesh becoming the word. The “flesh” often denotes mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God. Perhaps Bono meant to cite John 1:14 and got it backwards, but the “flesh becoming word” nonetheless accurately describes the message behind The Message.
Psalm 40 is interesting in that it suggests a time in which grace will replace karma, and love will replace the very strict laws of Moses (in other words, fulfill them). I love that thought. David, who committed some of the most selfish as well as selfless acts, was depending on it. That the scriptures are brim full of hustlers, murderers, cowards, adulterers and mercenaries used to shock me. Now it is a source of great comfort. (Source)
In another interview, Bono describes his belief about grace:
It’s a remarkable thing, the idea that there’s some sort of hierarchy to sin . . . It’s something I can never figure out, the idea that sexual immorality is somehow much worse than, say, institutional greed. Somewhere in the back of the religious mind is this idea that we reap what we sow is missing the entire New Testament and the concept of grace completely. (Source)
However, this idea that we reap what we sow is specifically taught in the New Testament. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:7-9).
In the Fuller video, the two men meet together as friends. Bono says that Eugene Peterson’s writing has “kept him sane.” Peterson calls Bono a “companion in the faith.” They also have a conversation about the Psalms. Peterson speaks highly of U2’s song “40” which is Bono’s rendition of Psalm 40, and Bono also reads from Eugene Peterson’s Psalm 40 in The Message.
Others have also been alarmed at this short video. Pastor Jim Jenkins completed his doctorate at Fuller Seminary at the height of the Church Growth movement. He recently wrote an article called He Still Hasn’t Found What He’s Looking For in which he shared his thoughts about the recent Bono and Eugene Peterson video. In relation to the progressive “Christianity” of Bono and Peterson, Jenkins said:
He [Eugene Peterson] illustrated his motivation for writing it [The Message] by telling that he had a relative in mind and wanted a particular Psalm to resonate better with her so she would understand it better.
He prefaced this remark with a telling testimony… “I grew up believing that every word in the Bible was true…you don’t mess with it. But when I thought about it I read that God kept tears in a bottle… God is a Rock? Come on!” At that point, He and Bono shared a good laugh. He then waxed eloquent about what a metaphor is. He went on to tell how he approached one of his relatives. “I picked a Psalm and translated it in a way that I thought would fit them.”
That’s when it hit me. Many Emergent Church writers have taken a similar tack. Brian McLaren, Tony Compolo, Jonathan Merritt, Donald Miller… all, in one form or another, communicate that the Scriptures ‘as is’ are somehow offensive or inadequate to reach this special generation.
Bono talks about the Bible in very postmodern terms. This is why the Emerging Church likes his hip and worldly “Christianity” so much. Bono shared his irrational view of the Bible by suggesting that it changes depending on the moment you’re in. He says:
I don’t read it as a historical book. I don’t read it as, “Well, that’s good advice.” I let it speak to me in other ways. They call it the rhema. It’s a hard word to translate from Greek, but it sort of means it changes in the moment you’re in. It seems to do that for me. (Source)
According to Vine’s, ῥῆμα: denotes:
“that which is spoken, what is uttered in speech or writing;” in the singular, “a word,” e.g., Mat 12:36; 27:14;2Cr 12:4; 13:1; Hbr 12:19; in the plural, speech, discourse, e.g., Jhn 3:34; 8:20; Act 2:14; 6:11, 13; 11:14; 13:42; 26:25;Rom 10:18; 2Pe 3:2; Jud 1:17; it is used of the Gospel in Rom 10:8 (twice), Rom 10:17, RV, “the word of Christ” (i.e., the “word” which preaches Christ); Rom 10:18; 1Pe 1:25 (twice); of a statement, command, instruction, e.g., Mat 26:75; Luk 1:37, RV, “(no) word (from God shall be void of power);” Luk 1:38; Act 11:16;Hbr 11:3. The significance of rhema (as distinct from logos) is exemplified in the injunction to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” Eph 6:17; here the reference is not to the whole Bible as such, but to the individual scripture which the Spirit brings to our remembrance for use in time of need, a prerequisite being the regular storing of the mind with Scripture.
But Bono says the meaning of the Bible changes in the moment you’re in. This sounds like lawlessness and anarchy to me. In fact, there is a very strange connection in regard to Bono’s idea of the Holy Spirit and Eugene Peterson’s The Message. Bono says:
The Spirit is described in the Holy Scriptures as much more anarchic than any established religion credits. (Christian Scharen. One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press. p.53)
What “spirit” is Bono talking about? Anarchy describes disorder and nonrecognition of authority. It is in Bono’s favorite Bible “translation” The Message that the Antichrist is described as the “anarchic” one, not the Holy Spirit. Eugene Peterson calls the Antichrist the Anarchist in his version of 2 Thessalonians 2:6-12:
You’ll also remember that I told you the Anarchist is being held back until just the right time. That doesn’t mean that the spirit of anarchy is not now at work. It is, secretly and underground. But the time will come when the Anarchist will no longer be held back, but will be let loose. But don’t worry. The Master Jesus will be right on his heels and blow him away. The Master appears and—puff!—the Anarchist is out of there.
The Anarchist’s coming is all Satan’s work. All his power and signs and miracles are fake, evil sleight of hand that plays to the gallery of those who hate the truth that could save them. And since they’re so obsessed with evil, God rubs their noses in it—gives them what they want. Since they refuse to trust truth, they’re banished to their chosen world of lies and illusions.
I believe the ultimate reason Bono prefers The Message is because it tends to allow the Bible to say whatever a postmodern generation wants it to say. It does not convey the transcendent authoritative message which is applicable to all generations. Rather than celebrating the Psalms, Bono and Peterson have been twisting the Psalms. This is why they are so popular among progressive “Christians.”