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Torquay - Paignton - Brixham


From the Superintendent Minister

The power of the pen

The written word is almost always taken literally and, in its black and white starkness, there is no room for any humorous overtone or tone of voice which might soften or reshape the words into something approaching what the author intended. The written word is sometimes described as “committing your thoughts to paper” but it might equally be called committing yourself to criticism and blame if your words upset or offend, even when there was no intention to do so.

We attach a lot of importance to what we read. I think that is why we insist that important transactions in life are written down: we have a written birth certificate and a marriage certificate; if we make a Will it is in writing; if we finish paying off the mortgage we own the deeds which are written documents; and we sign (by writing) our agreement to important things. The power of the pen is indeed mightier than the sword after all. If it is written down it is less open to interpretation.

Many Christians take this view of the Bible. What is printed on the page of their favourite version is the committed word of God: “the Bible says…” becomes their watch word. But this approach is not without its dangers: Read John 13:27b, Matthew 27:5b, and Luke 10:37b[1].  Now some may be offended or upset by the thought of treating the Bible so lightly, but of course that is not my intent. What it shows is that looking only at the written word and without any other information you have very little clue as to whether or not it is meant to be humorous or serious.

It is also important to realise that what is written down by humans often has an agenda behind it, When we understand the agenda it helps us to explore the truth of what is written in greater depth. A newspaper story is written to attract readers and so emphasises facts which are deemed to be attractive to readers while other facts, even contradictory facts, will be downplayed or even omitted. A letter written under threat of persecution and death may properly reflect the truth of the author’s faith and belief when compared with a letter of complaint to the local newspaper – you need only read Paul’s letter to the Romans to spot the difference.

Even different translations of the Bible have their own agendas – The NIV for example seeks to provide an accurate translation of the original languages, the NRSV gets the translation even closer to the original languages (which is why it is sometimes hard to understand!) but also includes political correctness so we get “brothers and sisters” rather than “brothers” and “people” rather than “men”. The Good News Bible tries to pass on the meaning rather than remaining accurate to the original language text.

But all versions of the Bible contain the inherent truth about a God who loves us and is uniquely revealed to us in Jesus Christ. So whichever translation or version you choose, remember “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16) and that it is written down so that we can always refer to it and that we can rejoice in the power of the written word.

 Yours in Christ


[1] Jesus said to him, "Do quickly what you are going to do.", “he went and hanged himself”, "Go thou and do likewise.".

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