The Message “Bible”— A Breach of Truth by John Lanagan is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The Booklet Tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklet Tracts are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of The Message “Bible”— A Breach of Truth, click here.
The Message “Bible”— A Breach of Truth: How Eugene Peterson’s The Message Omits Homosexual Sin—and Other Strange Deletions, Additions, and Alterations
By John Lanagan
Can we just say it? Homosexuality is going to be the dividing line between the true church and the rising apostate church. And Eugene Peterson’s The Message is being used by those who want to avoid or deny the truth that homosexuality is a sin.
The Message flat out deletes homosexuality as sin from two key New Testament passages and gives a politically correct spin to a third (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy 1:8-11, Romans 1:25-27).
For this reason, The Message and other ungodly imitations of the Bible will be increasingly promoted by those who practice a “form of godliness” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) that includes acceptance of homosexuality.
Preaching and teaching from The Message rather than the Bible also makes it easier for those who are unwilling, afraid, or just too tired to resist the politically correct juggernaut of homosexuality.
I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing. (Hosea 8:12)
Pastor Carl Lentz oversees Hillsong Church in New York City. Like its parent church in Australia founded by Brian Houston, Hillsong NYC is enormously popular. Celebrities flock there, younger people rave about Hillsong, and secular media give it a free pass.
Such popularity and acceptance would cease if Carl Lentz treated homosexuality like any other sin (i.e., biblically). But Lentz refuses to do so from the pulpit, during interviews, or in any public forum. Among other excuses, he claims he does not deal with homosexual sin publicly because “Jesus rarely dealt with morality or social issues” but with “the deeper things of the heart,” he says.1
During one of his sermons, Lentz used The Message version of 1 Thessalonians 5:14 to assert that Hillsong is biblically obedient in refusing to “make polarizing statements about certain things in our Christian community.”2
According to 1 Thessalonians 5:14 from The Message:
Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs.
Lentz waxed eloquent over one particular phrase from the passage. He repeated, “Be ‘attentive to individual needs.’ That’s interesting. Isn’t that cool? That’s why some churches want us to give blanket answers on huge issues, well, my Bible says be ‘attentive to individual needs.’ So we’re not gonna make polarizing statements about certain things in our Christian community right now. No matter who says what we won’t be pressured into giving blanket statements to individual needs. Never!”3
That sounds kind of heroic, doesn’t it? There is one slight problem: The phrase “attentive to individual needs” is not in any reputable translation of the Bible. It is not in the original Greek. It can only be found in The Message.
In other words, Carl Lentz used a non-existent verse to justify Hillsong’s politically correct silence about homosexual marriage and homosexual sin!
In another sermon, Lentz lamented about biblical illiteracy—and then, ironically, proceeded to teach from The Message. He said:
If you don’t know the Bible, it’s okay. Get to know it. We have a biblically illiterate generation coming up right now where you’re gettin’ second hand information, second hand revelation, second hand stuff that don’t get you through the first hand battle, so make sure you know it for yourself.4
Lentz then told his audience to go to, “James, chapter three. . . . I’m gonna read from The Message.”5 This is further irony because chapter three of James begins by warning that teachers will be more strictly judged.
On more than one occasion, Lentz has assured his audience that The Message is a valid text. Speaking at Judah Smith’s City Church, Lentz stated:
And this morning I’m reading from The Message paraphrase. It’s not a literal translation, but I believe if you check it with all the other translations, it’s right on the money.6
Lentz depends on a phrase not found in genuine translations to justify Hillsong’s politically correct silence about homosexuality.
The Message Versus the Word of God
On a homosexual website, a former evangelical pastor, now living as a homosexual man, uses The Message to assert homosexual relations are God-honoring if performed in love rather than lust.
Tim Evans, author of On Being Gay, relies on The Message versions of 1 Corinthians 6 and Romans 1:25-27 to make his case. He writes:
Reading these renditions and then re-reading the traditional texts without the lens of prejudice, the point is as plain as day. Lust and abuse is wrong and destructive, but love—now that is a different matter.7
Let’s compare The Message passages with those from a genuine Bible.
First, here is 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (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.
Now, 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.”
How many people even realize what Peterson has done here? Peterson’s version claims those who “use and abuse the earth” will not be saved! Homosexuality has been removed, and nature/earth reverence has been added! Homosexuality out, earth reverence in! Yet, the Lord tells us:
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)
The second passage used by the author of On Being Gay is Romans 1:25-27. Here is the passage from the KJV:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust toward one another; men with men, working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
Compare that with Romans 1:25-27 from The Message:
Refusing to know God they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretcheds. (emphasis mine)
All lust, no love? Commenting on Eugene Peterson’s altered meaning of this passage, Berit Kjos, the author of “What Kind of Message is The Message?,” notes:
This strange wording may leave loopholes for homosexuals that make “sex” seem permissible as long as it is viewed as an expression of “love,” not lust—which many gay couples claim today.8
As Tim Evans has ably demonstrated in On Being Gay, The Message serves as a potent weapon for those who deny that homosexuality is sin.
Before examining one final verse where the sin of homosexuality is deleted in The Message, let’s briefly look at a few other verses that have been changed. This is simply to demonstrate there are deletions, additions, and alterations throughout The Message.
For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:27)
Remember, a generation has now been raised on this “Bible.” For many, it serves as a preferred or even primary text. Nationally known pastors like Rick Warren and Carl Lentz frequently teach from it.
So, just to get a sense of what Eugene Peterson has done, below are two psalms, a verse from Romans, a verse from John, and one from Colossians. We’ll compare The Message versions with those from the KJV.
First, Psalm 1:1:
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
Now, The Message, Psalm 1:1:
How well God must like you—you don’t hang out at Sin Saloon, you don’t slink along Dead-End Road, you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.
Eugene Peterson’s psalm evokes images of clowns pouring forth from a tiny car, running around in helter-skelter fashion, honking their hand held horns.
Sin-saloon! (Honk, honk) Dead-End Road! (Beep, beep) Smart Mouth-College! (Honk honk, Beep beep)
Several years ago during a radio interview, I read aloud Psalm 1:1 from The Message. The Christian talk radio host exclaimed, “That sounds like a cartoon!”
Let’s compare verses from another psalm. Here is Psalm 32:1-2, KJV:
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
Now, Psalm 32:1-2 from The Message, Eugene Peterson’s “lucky” psalm:
Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean. Count yourself lucky—God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from Him.
Eugene Peterson has taken away “blessed” and added “lucky,” thus changing the very meaning of the verse.
The Lord warns us:
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. (Proverbs 30:5-6)
Now, let’s see what has been done to Romans 15:13, The Message:
Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope! (emphasis mine)
What God of “green” hope? Here is the same verse from the KJV:
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Romans 15:13)
Just as he did in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, where he deleted homosexuality and added “use and abuse the earth” as a sin, Eugene Peterson has inserted a potential God/nature reverence interpretation into Romans 15:13 that is not in any reputable translation of the Bible.
Should we care for the environment? Of course. Should we insert our man-made agendas into passages of Scripture? That is blasphemous.
Keep in mind that many brand new Christians are given The Message because of its readable, everyday language.
I and the Father are one heart and mind. (John 10:30, The Message, emphasis mine)
I and my Father are one. (John 10:30, KJV)
The Message version of John 10:30 changes understanding about Christ’s relationship to the Father. Eugene Peterson changed the very words of Christ.
The following verse is also bold on Peterson’s part, considering the Lord hates attempts to divine or foretell the future. Why the mention of a forbidden practice (along with telescope and microscope) as if it were a legitimate activity?
You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. (Colossians 2:10, The Message)
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2:10, KJV)
Why has Eugene Peterson done all this? 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 do it. . . . [Christians] should be studying it less, not more. You just need enough to pay attention to God. . . . I’m just not pleased with all the emphasis on Bible study as if it’s some kind of special thing that Christians do, and the more they do the better.9 (emphasis mine)
In contrast, the Word of God encourages us:
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
The Lord commands us to neither add to nor delete from the Bible. We see this in Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32, Proverbs 4:20-21, 30:5-6, 1 Corinthians 4:6, 2 Corinthians 4:2, and Revelation 22:19.
It is a mistake to consider Eugene Peterson as some kind of elder statesman of the faith. Not only has he spawned The Message, Peterson has also endorsed two heretical books: The Shack, and Rob Bell’s sly ode to universalism, Love Wins. The latter disputes whether the unsaved will really spend eternity in Hell.
Peterson has been praised and admired for so long that it may be difficult for some to accept that The Message is an offense to God. Yet, as Paul writes:
And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. (1 Corinthians 4:6)
Let us heed Paul’s admonition, and not put “men above that which is written.” Not our pastors. Not Christian authors and musicians. And certainly not Eugene Peterson.
That being said, this deception is spiritual in origin as Scripture tells us:
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)
The Message’s Effect on the Church
Now, let’s return to the issue of homosexual sin. We are at the point where many in the church are wavering about homosexuality.
As with 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, homosexuality is again deleted in 1 Timothy 1:8-11. According to The Message:
It’s true that moral guidance and counsel need to be given, but the way you say it and to whom you say it are as important as what you say. It’s obvious, isn’t it, that the law code isn’t primarily for people who live responsibly, but for the irresponsible, who defy all authority, riding roughshod over God, life, sex, truth, whatever! They are contemptuous of this great Message I’ve been put in charge of by this great God.
Here is 1 Timothy 1:8-11 from the NASB:
But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted. (emphasis mine)
The Message is weakening the church. Our long-term acceptance and use of The Message explains in part why many Christians are lukewarm on the issue of homosexuality. Society continues to undergo a paradigm shift. Christians are daily being exposed to a barrage of pro-homosexual propaganda via media, entertainment, politics, and education. Certainly, The Message is not the only factor—but place this “Bible” in a person’s hands, and it can have, over time, significant influence.
This booklet has not been written as a weapon against homosexuals. Far from it. My wife and I (and many others) have repented of this sin and trusted the Lord with our lives. True love is holding to what the Bible says about homosexuality, rather than glorifying the sin, which is what is happening in the culture.
I believe The Message will be increasingly used by on-the-fence churches, apostate churches, and by homosexual “Christian” activists.
The Bible says: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).
But how can we understand God’s Truth when Truth is no longer there to be read?
Satan has always tried to twist or deny the truth of God’s Word (Genesis 3:1-5). Jesus Christ Himself showed us the importance of the Word of God. When the devil tempted Him in the wilderness, Christ fought the devil’s lies and temptation by answering with Scripture. Three times our Lord responded with “It is written” (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10).
Men like Tyndale and Wycliffe put their lives on the line so common people could have access to the unadulterated Word of God. Now, centuries later, there is relatively little objection when the Bible is altered, revamped, or tinkered with.
Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)
If you have been using The Message, please don’t feel embarrassed or condemned. After all, The Message has been endorsed by numerous well-known Christians and has been with us for a long time now. People appreciate its everyday, accessible language. So this booklet may come as a bit of a shock.
We have primarily concentrated on the passages where homosexuality is deleted or given a politically correct spin. We have noted what seems suggestive of earth/nature reverence in two other passages, and we have also looked at two altered psalms; then we examined a verse from John and found that The Message offers a different understanding of the relationship between the Father and Christ. Eugene Peterson’s “horoscope” verse was also examined.
The fact is, there is so much wrong with The Message it would take a book (maybe two books) to cover it all. Some other “Scriptures” in The Message you might want to investigate by comparing them with the real thing are: Romans 8:35-37, Matthew 6:9-13, Ephesians 2:1-3, Galatians 5:19-21, and Romans 16:19-21. There are many others.
It is rather amazing how the earth reverence insertions and the altered or deleted passages about homosexual sin play into current political correctness. The Message is seemingly made for worldly churches. But I have often wondered if The Message is the precursor to a sinless, Christ-less “Bible” that will be used by the false church.
That “Bible” will have so-called sins included in it, but more along the lines of the 12 Steps—more generic in nature. A “Christ” figure will be included as well—but not the sinless Savior, our King of kings. Homosexuality will not be a sin but will be treated with reverence.
Christian use of The Message is not a good thing.
The Message is not a translation of the Bible. It is not a para-translation, as its publishers have so cleverly called it. Nor is it a paraphrase, because Eugene Peterson has omitted, and he has added.
The Message should not be used by the body of Christ at all.
To order copies of The Message “Bible”— A Breach of Truth, click here.
1. Carl Lentz with Katie Couric http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3wLm6pPvRY.
2. Carl Lentz, Huffington Post interview with clip of Lentz preaching (go to18:01 in video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrdJd1vD2MM.
4. Carl Lentz, LOVE IS RED Conference (go to14:38 in video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wqXIAS9B0A.
6. There Goes The Neighborhood (go to 6:19 in video) hhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_60hICs834.
7. Tim Evans, On Being Gay (http://www.courage.org.uk/articles/article.asp?id=219)
8. Berit Kjos, “What kind of message is The Message?” (http://www.crossroad.to/Bible_studies/Message.html).
9. Michael J. Cusick, “A Conversation with Eugene Peterson” (Mars Hill Review, Fall 1995, Issue No. 3, http://www.marshillreview.com/sojo/peterson.shtm), pp. 73-90, quoting Peterson.
To order copies of The Message “Bible”— A Breach of Truth, click here.