Seminary Professor Chides "New Testament Magazine" on MSNBC

( [email protected] ) Sep 16, 2003 12:10 AM EDT

LOUISVILLE, Ky.— Russell Moore, assistant professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., reproved Thomas Nelson Publishers’ “Revolve” New Testament on MSNBC, Sept. 13. Saying the book, packaged to resemble a fashion magazine “trivializes the message of the Gospel,” Moore went head-on against Laurie Whaley, spokesperson for Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Designed specifically to appeal to teenage girls, the fast-selling product features New Testament books interspersed with items normally reserved for fashion magazines. Released in mid-July, the new Bible includes features such as dating tips, makeup secrets and interviews with teenage boys.

"The research that we did with teens across the country indicated that they find the Bible to be very intimidating ... and some of them even called it 'freaky,'" Whaley said. "... And so we asked them, 'Well, what do your read?' And the response that came back was, 'We read magazines.' And so that was where the initial idea came to take the message of the Bible and to put it in a format in which teen girls were accustomed."

In response, Moore asserted that the Gospel teaches a counter-cultural message that calls Christians to live a radically different life from the world around them. Revolve, while printed with good intentions, may actually compromise the Gospel message.

"The 'freakiness' of the Bible, as the publisher has just said, is precisely what gives it the power to save," Moore said. "It's a message that's not glamorous at all. It's a message of a crucified and resurrected Christ who calls all people everywhere to reconciliation with God through Him. It's that otherness of the Bible that gives it its power."

While fashion and dating articles in Revolve may help the New Testament to appear more relevant to teens, Moore warned that they may inadvertently compromise "the seriousness and the authority" of the Scripture.

"I think having the message of the crucifixion and the on the same page as beauty tips about Jesus as the foundation of one's makeup just tends to trivialize and make frivolous the message that comes with it," he said.

Moore specifically pointed to a segment in the magazine entitled, "Spiritual facials.” “Spiritual cleansing is like a facial cleansing. The fire of God's love burns out the sin the same way the hot steam routs the dirt out of your pores," the article writes.

Whaley said such features, rather than trivializing Scripture, help teens to see the relevance of the Bible to their lives.

"I don't think it trivializes," she said. "I understand the concern of trivializing. I think what it does is it pulls out points of relevance for teen girls today, and it shows them indeed that the Bible and that the message of the Bible and that the teaching of the Bible, that the truth that Dr. Moore was just referring to is prevalent throughout the entire New Testament."

Due to the success of “Revolve,” Whaley said Thomas Nelson plans to release a similar Bible geared toward teenage boys featuring articles on sex, girls, dating, cars, outdoors, sports, music and money.

Moore reiterated his concern. "I'm reading the text of this Revolve Bible, and I'm reading the text of the Bible, but I'm also hearing all of the values of Cosmopolitan magazine and Glamour magazine. ... This is a message that comes through saying that supermodels shall inherit the earth. That's not the message of the Gospel."

“I support any effort to reach teenage girls with the Gospel. But I think we need to do it with the Gospel and with the authority of the Word of God. And when you have right along with the text of what God is saying [to] us quotes from teenage guys about what they find attractive in girls, I think that confuses the message and tends to bring teenage girls to a point of confusion about the authority of the Bible, which is exactly what saves."