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Church, Culture, God

Noah, the social gospel, and the twisting of scripture

Keith Jacobson

A few weeks ago at church the pastor was giving a sermon and in this sermon he spoke about Noah.  While discussing it he read chapter 6 verse 9 (he was using the NIV) which reads:

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.”

Then he went on to say that because of this verse we know that Noah “lived publicly with the people.”  I found this to be a strange take on this verse since I’ve never understood it that way.  Essentially what he was saying is that the phase “blameless among the people” refers to how Noah lived amongst his contemporaries, from his contemporaries’ point of view.  I had always understood it to mean that Noah was the only man of his generation who followed God fully.  So I decided I would look up the verse in other translations and see how they rendered the verse.

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” ESV

“Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.” NASB

“Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.” NLT

“Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” NKJV

Clearly these translators did not see the text in the same light my pastor did.  Now, I know what my pastor was going for.  He’s very into the “social gospel” thing.  We should be only helping people as they live in this world, not telling them about what’s to come.  Speaking more to their physical and emotional needs than their need of a savior.  My issue is that if you need to twist scripture to get it to say what you want then maybe the message isn’t there.

Something I found particularly funny about the sermon is that just a short while later he said there wasn’t a hint that Noah ever preached a sermon, told anyone the world was going to end, went door to door, and a few other things.  Why is that funny?  Well two reasons.  First there’s not really any hint that Noah lived “publicly with the people” even though he seems to have imagined it in Genesis 6.  Secondly the scripture reading for the sermon was Hebrews 11:6-8.  Verse 7 reads, “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” NKJV  Now while I would not claim this as iron clad proof that Noah did any of the listed things (preached, went door to door, warned of the end, etc.) it does mean he did something that condemned the people.  I would think it would be logical to conclude that Noah told someone about God telling him to build the ark for the flood otherwise how would building it condemn anyone?  At least it’s a hint that he did that.

I emailed my pastor and he said that basically righteousness is between man and God but blameless is a human relationship term.  I found that interesting so I did some digging.  I looked up the Hebrew word used there (tamiym) and looked to see where else it was used.  It’s used a lot when the Bible speaks of a sacrifice being “without blemish” but is also used in Genesis 17:1 where God is telling Abram to stand before Him and be perfect.  It is also used in Deuteronomy 18:13 where it says “You shall be blameless before the Lord your God.”   I think we can definitely say it’s not a human relationship word.  When I asked him about what I was found he essentially patted me on the head and sent me on my way.  It seems to me that he’s twisting scripture to fit what he wants to say, not what is actually said.

So am I off base here?  I don’t think so.

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