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Brett's monthly letter for December 2013

Each November the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) holds its annual meeting where a few thousand scholars, ministry leaders, pastors, publishers, and graduate students gather to listen to academic papers. The topics are far-reaching, covering disciplines like theology, biblical studies, history, archaeology, science, philosophy, ethics, and beyond. Here are a few paper titles from this year’s conference:

  • Craig’s Nominalism—A Refutation of his Theory of Reference and an In-Principle Objection to Nominalism

  • Is it Plausible to Argue for Supernatural Causation for the Synoptic Miracles?

  • Using Plutarch’s Biographies to Help Resolve Differences in Parallel Gospel Accounts

  • Functionalism, Supervenience, and Neo-Lockeanism About Persons

Sound like riveting topics, yes? Life-changing information for sure, right? You’re probably thinking, Of course not! I don’t even know what those titles mean. If so, your reaction would be the very same response of 99% of Christians if they were to read those titles. You can’t begin to assess the value and significance of these topics unless someone translates for you.

In Romans 10:17, Paul writes that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” He didn’t mean faith comes from merely hearing audible sounds. By “hearing” Paul means understanding. We must understand the truth of Christ before it can impact our faith in Christ. To be transformed by a message, we must understand it. To understand a message, it must be translated into a language we know. Even God’s Word, originally written in different languages, must be translated. However, if the rendering is done poorly, the message gets lost in translation and its impact thwarted.

Notice that the ETS paper titles listed above are written in English. It’s likely your primary language is English, and yet you still need the titles converted into something understandable. Thus translation is vital even within a given language. A doctor may be able to explain a disease and its treatment in precise and technical medical terms, but for his patient to understand, he must translate. Likewise, I’m in the business of translation.

Read the following statement:

#1 – “The question of what it is for a statement to be objectively true has itself been a focus of realist-antirealist disagreement. Metaphysically speaking, objective truth requires mind-independence, at least in the sense of being true independently of what anyone knows or believes. That is, the truth relation is instantiated if and only if a truth-bearer, take propositions, corresponds with a truth-maker. The epistemic status of the proposition is neither necessary nor sufficient for its truth.”

Makes sense? Probably not. Now imagine what it would sound like to junior high or high school students. Can you picture the glazed-over eyes? However, this paragraph gives us important information about objective truth, a concept students must understand in the midst of a relativistic culture. So, translation is needed. Let’s give it shot:

#2 – “Think about the difference between ice cream and medicine. Is there one true flavor of ice cream? Is there a single flavor everyone should affirm as the exclusive best-tasting flavor? Of course not. Our choice in ice cream is a matter of personal preference. It’s subjective. If I think Reese’s peanut butter cup ice cream is delicious, that’s true for me, but it may not be true for you.

But do we take this same approach when it comes to medical decisions? If a doctor discovered you had Type I diabetes, would you ask for treatment you like or prefer? Of course not. You want medicine that works, an objectively true prescription. The proper cure is not dependent on your preferences or beliefs. It’s dependent on the facts of reality. You might believe Reese’s peanut butter cup ice cream can control diabetes, but if that’s your course of treatment, you’re in trouble. In the case of Type I diabetes you need insulin, not ice cream.”

This important information has been translated into a language students can understand. Now they can see the difference between an objective or subjective approach to religious truth claims. Now they can properly view Christ not as a mere preference, but as the only medicine capable of curing mankind’s sin disease. And now the truth can impact their young hearts and minds.

I may not be in a different country, but I am immersed in a different culture—youth culture. And your support enables me to translate the truths of God’s Word into a relevant message, with the potential to transform student’s lives. Thanks for your partnership.

Article | Student
Dec 1, 2013