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Chris, Thanks for posting this!!! I found it very informative as well as the interview in its entirety. It is important to know where they jumped the rails.

Matt Warren

How do you define "changeable"? You said in your post, "The message itself was NOT changeable." In what sense is it not changeable? I am interested to hear your take on the translatability of the Gospel into different cultures and how that might relate to innovation. It seems to me that we can be innovative in how we translate the message, but that the message must remain true to that which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). I understand your concern to not alter the message of the Gospel. But how would you communicate that message to an individual that operates with a postmodern cultural framework? They may speak English, but they may not speak your language, if you catch my drift. Conceptually, what you say is Greek to them. So how do you translate the message into postmodern culture from where you stand?

Take care,




Your post is gobbledegook. You translate a message into different languages, not different cultures.

If the message is "CAUTION: Wet floor" you do not change print a sign in 3 cultural millieus.

You might set up a message to each culture in a different way, but the message does not get reinvented for cultural factions.

What if a bathroom attendant put up a post-modern sign: "Some may feel like the floor is wet, slick, or shiny, and they're not quite sure if water, bodily fluids, cleaining agents, or some sort of oil or chemical spill. I personally wouldn't walk on it with too much flair, or set personal belongings on it. I wouldn't lie down and roll around in it, only because its not my thing, but if you want to roll in it you're welcome to. I'm not going to eat a meal on it, although if it doesn't look too shabby the 5-second rule could apply. I'm not sure what I'm trying to communicate, but if you want to have a conversation about it feel free to use this pen to write or draw in space below, or on the walls or to perform a rhythmic dance of emotion in the event that I might return. Peace."



I'm still annoyed with your comment. There is nothing more irritating than trying to infiltrate a subculture by recasting things in it's lingo and jargon. It is simultaneously creepy and comical. You comment reminds me of 80's movies where the dad would try to learn teen-speak from a book, or more modern examples of parents using text-speak.
Dad high-fives "Right Off, Dude!" or mom texts you "W-T-F" meaning "Why the Face?"

It's both ridiculous and laughable. How do you suppose we spread the gospel to technogeeks? Such attempts are both insulting and idiotic. It is as if you're saying, "You're so stupid, that the only way you can understand language is if I put into your specialized lingo and worldview"

Instead the Bible seems to indicate that people are capable of undestanding the gospel on its face, even if their cultural millieu considers it foolishness or a stumbling block. Scripture informs our worldview rather than succumbing to it.

Matt Warren

Hey, Matt again.

Here are some comments RE: your first response. I mean this to be spoken collegially and in Christian charity. Forgive me if it is not so received.

1st. I disagree with your second sentence. You said, "You translate a message into different languages, not different cultures." But isn't language the primary expression of culture? I don't know how you could even separate language from culture. It seems that translation necessarily implies cross-cultural engagement, and I do mean engaging beyond merely "set[ting] up" the message. The message, from first to last, must be couched within the other persons cultural framework in order for it to be grasped. I admit that the Gospel leaves no culture unscathed, it judges all cultures, including our own; but I also think that it is impossible to communicate the Gospel apart from particular cultural expressions. There is no a-cultural or mono-cultural expression of the Gospel.

2nd. I don't think that your postmodern sign example is a faithful representation of post-modern thought. Nor do I think it is charitable. It surely represents what Peter Leithart terms "surface postmoderns" in his book entitled Solomon Among the postmoderns. I think, here, you paint a gross and overgeneralized stereotype of postmodern thought and fail to allow for its more sophisticated expressions. So, no offense, but you seem to be fighting a straw man.

3rd. You said this, "You might set up a message to each culture in a different way, but the message does not get reinvented for cultural factions." Which leads me to believe, though I could be wrong, that you missed the following statement from my first comment. I said, "It seems to me that we can be innovative in how we translate the message, but that the message must remain true to that which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3)." I never said that the translation of the message implied its reinvention. In fact, I affirm quite the opposite.

Take care,



i agree with beon. for those who hold to matt's views or similar, God knew what He was doing. we do not have to do anything, because this message is eternal.

we seem to forget that Salvation is of the Lord. God will teach His people. His spirit converts His people. we just have to be obedient in the words of Scripture and carefully transfer it faithfully to its originality. we should not change it. it is not necessary! because in the end it is God who works in people. not through our fleshly human devices, but by His power!

soli Deo Gloria!

Matt Warren

Hey. It's Matt.

Here are some comments RE: your second response to my first comment.

1. I think that your example proves my point quite nicely. I agree with you that the dad and mom in your examples are...ridiculous is a good word. But the problem is not that they are 'trying to translate,' it's that they are 'failing to translate.' If we are to communicate the Gospel, and I use that phrase intentionally, we must succeed, by God's grace, in translating the message. And we can only do this through understanding the language, the cultural framework, the worldview, etc. of the other person or community. If the parents in your examples properly understood their son or daughter's culture, they would not make these 'simple' mistakes. In other words, they would be able to communicate meaningfully.

2. I think the main problem with your response is your focus on "jargon" and "specialized lingo." Again, I smell a straw man, which, I must say, you nicely knocked down. You used another word, though, that I think is very important: "worldview." That is exactly what I am after. I am not talking about being cool, learning the latest fads, or speaking technical jargon. We need to understand the conceptual frameworks through which people see, interpret, and understand the world. And I don't think that this is condescending, as your comment, "You're so stupid, that the only way you can understand language is if I put into your specialized lingo and worldview," seems to suggest. Rather, I think that it is respectful, loving, longsuffering, and more. I'd like to say more but this is already getting long.

3. If you do anything in your next response, I'd like for you to explain to me this phrase from your second comment: "capable of unde[r]standing the gospel on its face." First, what is "the gospel on its face"? And second, know that I think you are conflating the intelligibility of the message and the acceptance of the message. Translation is important because it makes the Gospel intelligible to people of other cultures. But adequately (and faithfully) translating the message into another culture does not guarantee its acceptance within that culture.

Thanks for the rousing discussion.

God bless,


Christine Pack

"The growth will grow up and will become the treetops" (Doug Pagitt, on Emergent)

Well, the emergents are certainly aiming high in their aspirations...



It's striking that we have no record in Acts of the apostles bickering over how to change the message to reach match the desires of those in the hundreds of cultures they encountered as God scattered them, cultures that did not have TV to unify them. The apostles paid some attention to culture in order to communicate the *same message in 1 Corinthians 15 (of first importance)* to the people within each culture, but the fact that they were killed from city to city reveals that they were not so sensitive that they changed the meaning or the content. If they had changed it, they would not have been whipped, stoned, beaten, crucified, robbed, etc. I would submit to you the the favorite passage in Acts 16 on mars hill is simply an example of the Apostle using gateway language the people could understand to strike up a conversation, but the content of the message of the gospel was clearly proclaimed. Perhaps not as detailed, but clearly preached. Half of the hearers thought it foolish and the other half believed.. a miracle of God through *the Word of Christ* preached.

"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." Gal. 1:10

The apostles did not worry about this issue though their hearers were so diverse that it required a divine miracle of tongues to proclaim Christ to all of them. Yet they didn't spend hours and hours of time devising ways of being more relevant in order to appeal to them or attract them. They simply went out and preached the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. The honor and glory goes to Christ, not to our methods. This is a key component of sound preaching and is at the heart of why Christ saved us. To vindicate his holy name (Ez. 36). The entire seeker approach is a clever way of avoiding the reproach we gain when we speak the gospel with clarity and a grab at the glory of God, which would be robbery for us to take for ourselves. It is avoidance the hatred of men -- It is the embracing of their approval over Christ's.

May we repent and trust in Christ alone to save both ourselves and our hearers through his gospel - foolish as it is to the flesh.

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