Problems With The Message

Written June 21, 2006

Many who are reading this have probably heard of Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message. I have become increasingly concerned about this over the years, and at this point, I can't even consider it to be a regular paraphrase. Sometimes The Message actually says the exact opposite of what the Bible really says, and I will give an example of that later in this article.

Some who use The Message understand that it is a paraphrase, and not a translation…but my greatest concern is for those who do not understand this. I am also concerned that even some pastors who have defended the Bible (such as Chuck Swindoll) do not seem to see the serious problems with The Message.

A Serious Situation

In order to understand the seriousness of this situation, one must understand that we are “born again…by the word of God (1 Peter 1:23). We must understand that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). It seems that there are fewer people who are grasping these facts now days, because many churches are now putting more emphasis on experience than on the word of God. Some people who do have a love for the truth have even said that they cannot even find a church which teaches the Bible.

Now please understand that I am not opposed to experiences…but the Scriptures which I have just quoted make it clear that it is the word of God which renews us. So if people are being lead to believe that they are reading the Bible when they are reading some ones ideas about what the Bible says, they are going to have some serious problems! If Eugene Peterson’s ideas are sometimes the exact opposite of what the Bible says, then this is even more serious!

I feel that this needs to be addressed because The Message seems to be very popular today, even among church leaders. Rick Warren for example, has continually quoted from The Message in his popular book The Purpose-Driven Life, giving some readers the impression that he is quoting from the Bible. While I do not doubt the sincerity of some of those who have used and supported The Message, I am still very concerned that the churches today are being weaned from the word of God, by which we are born again.

Simplicity or Distortion?

One of the things that really astonishes me is that there are some people who see The Message as a children’s Bible. Frankly, I find this to be rather puzzling, because The Message certainly does not simplify the Bible…in fact, much of it actually distorts the plain meaning of some Scriptures which are already simple enough for a child to understand. Here is one example of what I am talking about….

In Revelation 3:22, Jesus said “He who has an ear, let Him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”. In The Message, Eugene Peterson changed this verse to say “listen…to the Wind Words blowing through the churches”.

One would have to wonder what Peterson means by “Wind Words”. What does this even have to do with the Holy Spirit? On the other hand, the original meaning of this verse is simple enough for a child to understand, as it is with other verses that The Message distorts.

Serious Distortions

As I previously mentioned in this article, sometimes The Message says the opposite of what the Bible really says. Here is an example....

In John 4:23, Jesus said “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him”. In The Message, Eugene Peterson changed this verse to say, “That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship".

Rather then telling us to “be our self”, Jesus made it clear that the Christian life is about denying our self (See Matthew 16:24). So worshiping God in spirit and truth is not about being our self, but it is about denying self and looking to God.

As for Matthew 16:24-26, The Message has changed the 25th verse to say, “Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.”

So we find that the meaning of that passage has been changed from denying yourself to finding yourself. Here are some more examples of some serious distortions....

John 3:36 says “…the wrath of God abides on Him”. In The Message, Eugene Peterson changed it to say “all he experiences of God is darkness; and an angry darkness at that”. Yet 1 John 1:5 clearly states that “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all”.

John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word...” In The Message, Eugene Peterson changed this to say “The Word was first....” This is clearly not what John 1:1 says, nor is there a first or second in the Godhead.

John 3:17 says “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” In The Message, Eugene Peterson changed the last part of this verse to say “He came to help put the world right again.” As Dave Hunt has said, this sounds like political or social action. First of all, Jesus did not come to help put the world right, but He wants to live His life through us in order to enable us to do His will (See Galatians 2:19-21).

Second, this world is never going to be made right, and that is why God’s judgment will soon be coming upon this world. Jesus even went as far as to say “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Paul wrote “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).

Furthermore, Revelation 16 shows us what the world will be like just before Jesus returns in the second coming. According to that passage, God will send many plagues upon the earth because of man’s rebellion, and man will blaspheme God because of these plagues. Does this sound like the world will be made right?! This world will never be made right because of man’s rebellion, and that is why God must put an end to it someday. If He didn’t, then mankind would end up destroying each other.

Hebrews 11:1-2 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony”. In The Message, Eugene Peterson changed it to say “…faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living…what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd”.

I shouldn’t even have to say anything about that one, because the meaning to it has been changed completely.

More Info

The main purpose of this article is to give some obvious examples of how The Message distorts God’s word. If you would like to continue comparing differences between The Message and the Bible, you can do so at Bible Gateway.

Warren Smith - Shack, Message and Purpose Driven (You Tube Video)

The New Age Implications of The Message “Bible’s” “As Above, So Below”, by Warren Smith

The Message “Bible”— A Breach of Truth, by John Lanagan

The Message of The Message "Bible" (Radio Interview With John Lanagan)

Eugene Peterson’s Mixed Message: A Subversive Bible for a New Age, by Warren B. Smith

Further addition and deletion in The Message “Bible”

More Info About The Message

The Message for little kids

Weaning Evangelicals Off the Word-Part 1, by T.A. McMahon

Weaning Evangelicals Off The Word-Part 2, by T.A. McMahon

Weaning Evangelicals Off The Word-Part 3, by T.A. McMahon

T.A. McMahon Discussing 'Being a Berean' on 'Stand Up For The Truth' (Radio Broadcast)

WIDE IS THE GATE - The Emerging New Christianity, Volume 1 (DVD)

WIDE IS THE GATE: The Emerging New Christianity, Volume 2 (DVD)

WIDE IS THE GATE: The Emerging New Christianity, Volume 3 (2 DVD's)