Friday, May 02, 2008

Single Version of the Truth

"A Single version of the truth" is a cliché commonly heard in the context of information management and business intelligence. It seeks to address the problem when similar information is held but not in a standardised way or in the same location, this can mean that it is not coordinated, out of date or reported in a slightly different way so that the information appears to be in conflict. The quality and reliability of the data thereby becomes questionable and open to interpretation. It means a company can't analyse the information about its operation and benefit as a result. One single version of the truth is a single set of reports and definitions for all business terms, to make sure every manager has the same understanding.

While this may be obvious in business - in other smore vital pheres it seems less obvious to many. In the context of the Truth, the Scriptures and their message, liberal theology has long maintained that there are many versions of the truth. They are contradictory but that it because your's is just one version of the truth among many versions. They have applied this idea of the truth as variable and elusive in the direction of inter-faith integration.

Evangelicals have largely resisted this notion but it is coming under attack by post-evangelicals such as the Emerging Church movement. They are taking a postmodern turn dismissing the emphasis upon propositional truth. John MacArthur in The Truth War (Nelson, Spring 2007) argues that many self-styled evangelicals today are openly questioning whether such a thing as truth even exists. Don Carson has written in 'Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church', "For almost everyone within the movement, this works out in an emphasis on feelings and affections over against linear thought and rationalities; on experience over against truth; on inclusion over against exclusion; on participation over individualism and the heroic loner." This approach produces what Brian McLaren calls "a new kind of Christian," and a new kind of church.

In relation to the Scriptures, we find that evangelicalism is at sea in having adopted the idea that many competing versions of the Scriptures is no bad thing. Many people say in our own day that we cannot have one translation of the Scriptures in any given language that can deliver a single authoritative Bible and will also fulfil everyone's requirements. There are now many more than 100 versions of the Bible in the English language; so many that it is becoming increasingly difficult to count them. The potential for the individual Christian to be confused and bewildered as a result is significant. Which Bible is correct and authoritative or can any be regarded as such? Each modern version competes aggressively with its rivals by proclaiming its unique and superior qualities. The reader might well think to themselves that there is always a new, improved and more appealing (partly because it will be new) version which will shortly succeed any promising new translation. Everyone chooses the Bible translation that suits their preferences and taste. This idea, however, undermines the very nature and purpose of the Scriptures.

The purpose of God in delivering the Bible to the Church is otherwise utterly undermined by the multiplication of translations in a language. When the Church allows doubt and serious confusion as to what Scripture constitutes and how it is to be rendered, however, it must be driven about by every wind and wave rather than being steadfastly established and strengthened by the unshakeable foundation of the Scriptures. English-speaking churches and believers need an accurate standard translation that they can appeal to and share as the fixed rule of faith of the true religion.

We have had a reliable single version of the truth in the English language in the Authorised Version for many centuries and none of the emerging versions have surpassed it in its accuracy. Indeed they fall far short. The AV as a translation is not of course equal to the original - but it is a reliable translation which opens up the original to English speakers. We need only one such translation.

These thoughts are followed out more fully in the following article