When I lived in Glasgow the hunt for children’s resources, or guarded optimism, or even (once) a rain storm would occasionally drive me through the glossy glass doors of Wesley Owen. This was usually a frustrating experience. They wouldn’t have what I wanted. They would try hard to sell me things I didn’t want. And everywhere, there was the burble of eager young Christians being nice to each other. I feel somewhat guilty about this, but I have to confess: I always found it oppressive. After 15 minutes of being bombarded with niceness, I had to flee — grabbing whatever books I hadn’t had time to realise I didn’t want.
But one day, it was quiet, and I lingered a bit longer. I stayed long enough to look at what I though was a lovely new display of filofaxes — better and brighter than any I’d seen. To match any mood, any set of vestments, any handbag. But on closer inspection, I found they were not filofaxes, but bibles — of a sort. Row after row of beautifully bound books called The Message — a bible paraphrase that has been wildly successful in some circles.
Another confession: I haven’t actually read The Message yet. I have meant to. So many people have found it a helpful tool, and so many people are buying it in place of more formal translations, that I suspect it would be worth asking why.
What do you think?
Is the version in The Message helpful? Shocking? Inaccurate? Refreshing?
And those of you who know more about this than I do: can any one comment on how people actually use The Message? Is it a ‘starter bible’ — with the idea that the paraphrase is read alongside other translations later. Or is there a whole new generation of Christians out there who think of The Message as their bible in the same way that so many think that it’s King James or nothing? And if so, how will it shape the church?