Transformers or Translators

assorted books on brown wooden shelf

In his helpful book on theology, author Millard Erickson outlines two different approaches to talking about God in our modern day. He describes one method as “transformers” and the other “translators.” One category speaks to a temptation and the other to Christian duty.

The transformers are those who recognize that culture is always changing. They believe people are always changing as well. Therefore, they reason, theology must change if the Christian faith is going to remain relevant. Their goal is to save Christianity from becoming antiquated or obsolete.

Erickson contrasts this with a different approach to theology, one that recognizes the objectivity of God’s truth. Instead of transforming Scripture to accommodate the times, the goal is to find contemporary language that accurately communicates the truths of Scripture. Francis Schaeffer captured this approach when he said, “Each generation of the church in each setting has the responsibility of communicating the gospel in understandable terms, considering the language and thought-forms of that setting.”

Which are you, a transformer or a translator? The reality is we all can relate to the instinct to try to make God’s revelation better fit how we want to live in the world. It would be easy to slip into a transformer mindset. We have to realize, however, if God exists and has revealed himself in Scripture, we are doing ourselves and others no favors by ignoring or altering his Word.

So that means we all have a big job ahead of us in seeking to faithfully communicate God’s revelation in winsome ways. While some may not make the error of editing God’s Word, they may be found unfaithful in the call to share it effectively with others. Translating theology is no small task, but it’s not an optional one for either. Let’s get to work.