Tom Pittman's WebLog

2019 December 2 -- Charity vs Love

I don't often get a podium to express my opinion about why men feel excluded from American churches, but I had just finished reading the book of Job in the Bible (see my essay "A Christian View of Climate Change" a couple weeks ago for the most recent insight from that reading, and "The Job Affair" for the most important lesson from the book), and the pastor asked my opinion on that reading. So I told the group both insights, being careful to explain that the First Great Commandment (of which Job is the stirling example) is better translated "charity" (as in 1Cor.13 in the KJV) than "love" as the modern translations inaccurately render it.

One of the guys there allowed as it didn't make any sense to tell his wife "I charity you," and he was exactly right! The warm fuzzy feelings he gets for his wife, and (much more importantly) the feelings she gets when she hears him say that, is a very different concept from what God tells us to do for our neighbor and (much more importantly) how we must relate to God Himself. It's not about feelings, it's about what you do, and this pastor knows that. So when the pastor uses the word "love" to describe what God commands in us, there is no way this poor guy will understand what he is saying, because he knows what "love" means, and that it accurately describes his feelings for his wife. No amount of explaining from the pulpit (or even one-on-one in person) will ever convince this guy that what he knows about the English language is wrong -- because it's not! What the pastor is trying to do is what's wrong. But I think much too slowly to be able to say any of that in real time.

Many pastors in America are waking up to the fact that their congregation mostly have no clue what the King James Bible says, no matter how hard the pastors try to persuade the people in those pews that "this word really means something different from what you think" over and over for half the words, so even the pastors who are stuck on the KJV for their own use will sometimes read from the (slightly) modernized "New King James" in the pulpit, but they still need to do a lot of translating -- which still is completely futile because everybody already knows what those words mean, and it's not what the pastor says they mean. Well, maybe for 20 minutes on that particular Sunday morning, but not the rest of the day and certainly not the rest of the year.

This particular pastor refuses to budge. "The Bible gives the definition of that word," he said, "and that's what it means." But that is no different from the pastor who says "The KJV was good enough for Paul and Silas, and it's good enough for me." The KJV did not yet exist when Paul and Silas were sitting in the Roman jail, they were reading and quoting the Bible in Greek, not modern English, and especially not Elizabethan olde Englishe. And if that Greek Bible "defined" any word at all, it was the Greek word being spoken 2000 years ago, and not some modern English word that some translator thought might be a good translation of it. The only correct definition of the modern English word "love" (or any other word) is found in a modern dictionary (or on the internet); any attempt to redefine it to mean something else will thoroughly muddle whatever use he tries to put that word to in his sermon. In fact, he himself has probably confused the normal English definition and his private redefinition in his own mind: it's really hard to keep two different definitions of the same word separate like that.

It's even worse when the redefinition and the modern sense overlap somewhat, like "study" in the KJV version of 2Tim.2:15 (which the NIV accurately reads as "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved..." with no reference to Bible study at all, see my blog post "KJV vs Greek" four years ago). I have heard it argued that one way to "work hard" at presenting yourself approved to God is by studying the Bible -- and that may be true, although Bible study is not mentioned in the Two Great Commandments that Jesus seemed to think are what is needed to present yourself to God as one approved [Luke 10:28] -- and therefore (so this reasoning goes) 2Tim.2:15 is about Bible study, which the KJV obviously (but incorrectly) makes clear. Similarly, when the Apostle Paul wrote that "husbands should charity their wives as Christ charitied the Church and gave himself for her," it might indeed be that telling their wives that they "love" them is a small part of that charity = doing uncomfortable things for her benefit, the way Christ suffered on the Cross for the benefit of the Church, but it's certainly not the biggest part, and using the same word there obliterates that important distinction. You can be sure that Jesus was not experiencing warm fuzzies on the Cross, and that Cross is what the Apostle had in mind when he told husbands to do the same thing for their wives.

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