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Did you hear that there’s a brand-new translation of the Bible in print?
While it hasn’t hit the mass consumer market just yet, this updated version of Scripture already has the Big Eva sector of evangelicalism dancing in the pews. Even the Baptists!
And for good reason.
To hear them tell it, the Apostle Paul has finally been given a fresh coat of paint, a necessary makeover to render him more empathetic and understanding to America’s secular mores.
“Big Eva,” if you don’t know, is the expression coined by Grove City Professor Carl Trueman that describes evangelical conferences, organizations, and personalities desiring to “shape the thinking and strategy” of the American Church, but who are often marked by their limited accountability to the local church and their adoption of left-wing priorities.
In particular, when it comes to this new translation of the Bible, the text of Acts 17, verses 16-34, is garnering raucous praise, especially from Wheaton College’s “Gender and Sexual Identity Institute.”
This passage, as a reminder, depicts Paul’s visit to the Greek city of Athens. He’s waiting for Timothy and Silas to join him on his missionary journey, but before the duo arrive, Paul notices something disturbing about the region: It’s chockful of idols. This realization has Paul spitting mad, or as the English Standard Version puts it, “his spirit was provoked” at the site of these counterfeit gods.
His spirit was so “provoked” that he used his spare time to rebuke and debate the philosophical gurus of his day. Paul eventually found himself in the middle of the Areopagus, the go-to venue to hear and argue about the latest vogue ideas.
Paul wasted no time, if you recall, making his case for the one-true God, contending that any worship to “the unknown god” was wildly off base. “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you,” Paul states. Then he preaches the creation story, the resurrection of Christ, repentance from sin, and God’s righteous judgment on the world.
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent,” Paul concludes.
Biblical translations will differ slightly in the wording, but that was the gist of Paul’s encounter with the Epicurean and Stoic thinkers. He didn’t let the propagation of destructive ideologies go unanswered. According to Paul, there was no bland, middle-of-the-road position to take on God’s design for humanity because “‘In him we live and move and have our being.’”
Indifference wasn’t an option. A side must be taken.
This impassioned presentation of the Gospel, however, has long offended the liberal sensibilities of the “Big Eva” crowd, chiefly from those who don’t think we should be asserting biblical truth as a prerequisite to shape public behavior.
Sure, Genesis 1:1 starts off with “In the beginning God” as the governing premise for all of life, but that’s only because the men inspired by the Holy Spirit to pen the Bible never had the opportunity to sit through a lecture by Christian professor Paul D. Miller on the primacy of “neutrality” in the public square.
That’s an oversight that’s now been fixed, thanks to the deconstruction of Acts 17 through the lens of the ACLU’s ahistorical reading of the First Amendment.
So, in this newest translation, which we’ll call The Big Eva Amplified Version, as the Apostle Paul is walking through the streets of Athens waiting for Timothy and Silas to join him, his “spirit” isn’t “provoked” at the sight of these graven images and false gods.
To the contrary, his “spirit” is elated.
“Holy Damascus!” he shouts. “Pluralism at its finest!”
Rather than preach a message of repentance from sin and a call to righteousness, we read how Paul felt at home amongst the Epicurean and Stoic blowhards, rattling off something about how their pluralistic society was “a win for the common good.”
Ironically, this phrase, “a win for the common good,” is exactly how the once-respected magazine Christianity Today hailed the “Respect for Marriage Act,” the ludicrously titled legislation making its way through Congress which would codify same-sex “marriage” into U.S. law.
Weird how Christianity Today’s capitulation on a subject as fundamental as marriage mirrors The Big Eva Amplified Version.
Or maybe not so weird.
In The Big Eva Amplified Version, when Paul arrives at the Areopagus, he’s greeted by a believer named David French, a celebrated lawyer known for his vigorous defense of grown men wearing wigs and lipstick as they entertain little boys. “What better way to epitomize viewpoint neutrality,” Paul exhorts to French, “than to showcase adult males shaking their prosthetic breasts at 5-year-olds while reading them books!”
Hence, Paul rises before the august body and declares:
“Men of Athens, I perceive that you represent how pluralism is supposed to work. Whereas it’s been said that ‘In Him we live and move and have our being,’ I affirm to you a greater standard for evangelism: In a diverse, pluralistic republic, granting the same rights to others that we’d like to exercise ourselves should be the default posture of public advocacy and public policy. We should avoid being disruptive to the lives of our secular neighbors.”
Careful readers might observe that the italicized portions of this Apostle Paul sounds a lot like support for the “Respect for Marriage Act” put forward by a professing Christian today who also happens to be named David French… but that would be purely a coincidence.
It turns out that Paul’s forceful advocacy of pluralism as our guiding principle was widely received by the people of Athens, to the point that he convened another Jerusalem Council, this time to discuss the integration of believers with non-believers.
Barnabas doesn’t accompany Paul on this trip, as previous translations note. Instead, The Big Eva Amplified Version introduces its readers to another co-laborer of Paul, the sociologist and author Samuel Perry.
Once the Council was convened, Perry, at the request of Paul, cautioned Peter, James, and the other Jewish elders against opposing unbiblical beliefs openly, specifically as it pertains to the divine institution of the family.
Perry said: “Christian, however you feel about same-sex marriage personally, it’s the law now with a large & growing majority of Americans supporting it. There are only 2 ways of reversing that: a time machine or minoritarian rule. And you’re fresh out of time machine.”
The Council was confused, as they had never heard of either time machines or Americans, but as The Big Eva Amplified Version explains, this admonition was prophetic, echoing the words of a Christian academic in 2022 named Samuel Perry who would be quoted favorably in the media because of his obsessive commitment to curb Christian influence in civic affairs.
The Big Eva Amplified Version is running into a hermeneutical snag, though.
The longstanding Apostle Paul, unlike the modernized one, wasn’t a fan of pluralism in the Big Eva sense. That Apostle Paul didn’t believe that laws or customs could remain value-neutral, and that’s because God’s law itself is “good” if used “properly” (1 Timothy 1:8) and because Christ Himself is Lord over all (Acts 10:36).
Paul knew a “pluralism” that didn’t presuppose God’s moral code for mankind would inevitably lead to the chaos portrayed in Romans 1. Thus, Paul’s bold preaching didn’t just result in the salvation of individuals; it “disrupted” the pagan ethos of his culture (Acts 19:23-27). In fact, Paul’s church planting efforts were so “disruptive” to the status quo that he was accused of turning “the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
The hermeneutical snag, then, for the editors of The Big Eva Amplified Version is this: The Apostle Paul neither championed a society where God is merely presented as one option among many nor did he encourage Christians to find “harmony” with “worldviews” that are hostile to God’s created order, as David French suggests we do.
The editors can’t simply revise Acts 17 while leaving the rest of Paul’s writings intact.
What to do?
Replace the Apostle Paul with David French. Obviously.
Follow Jason on Twitter! @JasonMattera
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.