|Erwin Raphael McManus|
In our preaching and teaching the Bible, do we ever feel the need to “clarify” the text to let people know that it doesn’t really say what it appears to be saying? On page 80 of The Artisan Soul, Erwin McManus shares this funny story about an interpreter trying to “clarify” one of his talks. He writes:
“I remember in Germany once stopping the interpreter in the middle of my talk and challenging him in front of the thousands in the audience. I was certain that he not only had not translated what I said but had in fact reinterpreted my words and said quite the opposite. So I stopped, stepped into this uncomfortable moment, and asked him a simple question. It was really more of a statement. ‘You didn’t say what I just said, did you? In fact, you said the opposite of what I said. You just said what you thought I should say, but not what I did say.’
After a long pause, he acknowledged that I was exactly right. Afterward, he asked me onstage, ‘How did you know that?’
I’m not completely sure how I knew. But I do know that I have a pretty good sense of how an audience will respond when a certain statement is made. The statement I made was somewhat controversial. The response of the audience was immediate and willing adherence. I knew that thousands of Germans would not respond in such a positive way to what I had just said. Interpretation is far more than language; interpretation goes to essence. Interpretation is the translation of the soul.”
How often do we do this with God?
When we teach the Bible, how often do we reinterpret it to say what we think it should say, not what it actually says? Like when a passage doesn't fit into our theological system? Or when our heroes of the faith do things that are neither heroic or faithful? Do we need to "correct" these passages?
The Bible is the word of God. But it's also unsettling in places. It's offensive in places. It creates tension. This is God teaching us to wrestle. Instead of shoehorning the text into our sensibilities, let’s form fuzzier sensibilities about revelation.