Thursday, May 15, 2008

Reimagining the Bible in Pittsburgh

What are you dealing with when you are invited to participate in a "Bible distribution project" that has no plans to distribute Bibles? Before jumping to the uncharitable conclusion that someone is trying to deceive you, it might be worthwhile to consider the possibilities that words have meanings that shift or that some people are simply imprecise in their use of language.

CityReachers (R) Pittsburgh at times bills itself as a Bible distribution project (see this page for example) and at other times states very clearly that its plan is to distribute New Testaments. And therein is the space left for confusion. At last night's session meeting, for example, I learned that our elder commissioner came home from last month's meeting of Pittsburgh Presbytery with the mistaken impression that CityReachers (R) was going to distribute "a whole new Bible."

I am all for distributing Scripture whether in whole or in part. But I have to wonder how it happens that an organization that knows how to describe accurately its distribution of scripture portions would now produce so many publicity pieces that describe their version of the New Testament as a "Bible."

The most surprising to me was the letter signed by seven leaders of Christian bodies in the Pittsburgh area (even including Pittsburgh Presbytery). I know that at least some of those bodies have clear standards that recognize the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments as authoritative. But now their names appear on an endorsing letter that uses the word "Bible" interchangeably with "New Testament" or "book".

And the odd result is that the "Bible" to be distributed will not include the very scriptures the Risen Christ used when he interpreted to his disciples what was said about him in all the scriptures beginning with Moses and the prophets. (Luke 24:27)

In Pittsburgh it appears that "the Bible" has a whole new meaning.

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