I like Eugene Peterson (more as a writer than Biblical “paraphraser”). I particularly like his admonition on our use of poor language in our attempt to appeal to non-believers. Here is an excerpt from an interview with Christianity Today in 2005 entitled, Spirituality for All the Wrong Reasons:
Interviewer: …evangelicals rightly tell people they can have a “personal relationship with God.” That suggests a certain type of spiritual intimacy.
Peterson: All these words get so screwed up in our society. If intimacy means being open and honest and authentic, so I don’t have veils, or I don’t have to be defensive or in denial of who I am, that’s wonderful. But in our culture, intimacy usually has sexual connotations, with some kind of completion. So I want intimacy because I want more out of life. Very seldom does it have the sense of sacrifice or giving or being vulnerable. Those are two different ways of being intimate. And in our American vocabulary intimacy usually has to do with getting something from the other. That just screws the whole thing up.
It’s very dangerous to use the language of the culture to interpret the gospel. Our vocabulary has to be chastened and tested by revelation, by the Scriptures. We’ve got a pretty good vocabulary and syntax, and we’d better start paying attention to it because the way we grab words here and there to appeal to unbelievers is not very good.
I am particularly struck by his suggestion that many want intimacy with God because we want more out of life. He paints this in a negative light that I agree with because it doesn’t include followng Christ and making sacrifices. However, we have entire churches based on this fact that God can give us more out of life. And I’m not just talking about prosperity gospel style churches.
I’m talking about some of OUR churches.