Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
PART 1, “Can You Hear Me Now?”
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God… (1 John 4:1-3, ESV).
On Hearing and Using Your Words
My audiologist explained an interesting effect of hearing loss, even in the mild to moderate range, where, when the listener doesn’t pick up on certain letter sounds in words rendering the words gibberish, eventually the brain discards those unintelligible sounds/words. He used his hand to “swipe away” the sounds and words as an illustration.
This is especially the case if hearing is not aided or restored, he said, and particularly if the individual lives alone or has few occasions to converse with others where he/she might ask them to speak up. Such clients are also advised to read out loud to retain recognition and comprehension.
Besides the “losing words” aspect of this kind of hearing loss without remediation, studies reveal that it might also cause false positive results on tests for Altzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Thus it has become the practice of doctors suspecting dementia in a patient to refer him or her for a hearing test.
My audiologist cited a case where one of his clients was referred because the elderly man had performed poorly on a routine dementia test and his family reported he also struggled with both hearing and comprehension when they visited him.
They had already begun paperwork to have him admitted to a memory care facility, but were advised first to have his hearing tested. He tested in the profound hearing loss range. This was addressed, remedied, and his next dementia test revealed he was still within normal limits of cognition.
It occurred to me this is another good application of the old exercise adage, “use it or lose it.”
It also occurred to me that there is a specific, and very timely, spiritual application that has a two-part ramification of not only hearing words correctly but also comprehending their meaning. For Christians, those would be words sourced in the Bible.
On Hearing and Using God’s Word
The reason I used the expression “words sourced in the Bible” is because there are myriad religions, belief systems, philosophies, ideologies, and so on, that are of a spiritual nature, many of which have their own religious texts and some of which have incorporated their own, non-Christian tenets into their own version of the Holy Book.
For Christians, however, there is only one true source with Jesus Christ at the center of meaning.
When I worked as an administrative assistant long ago for a minister who counseled with people just coming out of religious cults, I kept the files on the, then, dozens of cults from small to worldwide, each with their own doctrines and mandates–and printed materials.
Now there are likely hundreds more, particularly with the advent of social media where ideas spread like wildfire and can be quickly curated to their best and most persuasive advantage.
So it becomes a challenge, especially for new believers, to figure this out, to sort through the tares for the wheat, the weeds for the crop, the counterfeit for the real.
It’s often as much of a challenge for “old” believers, too, given the mandate to continuously (emphasis added!) “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV).
Making this especially difficult is that until the “ear” appears on both wheat and tare, citing that biblical analogy for truth and error, it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference.
More importantly, when tearing out the tares some wheat may be inadvertently discarded, too. For several views on what a difficult task this is not only in the literal field but also the spiritual field, here are a number of Bible commentaries for additional insight.
But the big question for most believers is, once you do find the Christian’s text, the Bible, how do you know what is the right version? Because, and no surprise here, the sower of the tares has been busy sowing error there, too, mixed in with the wheat.
In short, some versions you can trust, others, beware.
A general rule of thumb in my small fellowship is to stick with older versions of the Bible (say, pre-1970, or so) before the influence of everything from modern liberation-theology versions, to gender-studies-inspired versions, to seeker-friendly, politically-correct and other contemporary-minded versions.
There are of course classic versions that deny the miraculous, introduce heresies, define the work as more myth and legend than the anthology of history, science, literature, doctrine, and so on, that it is.
Indeed, the work of selecting the cannon, or officially recognized, works of the Bible that exists now was a lengthy and controversial effort, to say the least.
So the challenge for new–and all believers–to “hear/read” and to comprehend the most accurate words of the Bible is always going to challenge faith.
But it can be done, observing a few guidelines for starters, suggestions below*.
Just as physical hearing–and comprehending what is being heard–takes time and practice (and if distorted, takes remediation), the same is true of hearing and comprehending God’s Word.
Rather than focusing on what to avoid and why, here is a general discussion of guidelines many believers have found to be useful and some suggested versions to use:
*”Why are there so many Bible translations, and which is the best?”
PART 2, “Picking and Choosing”
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared… (Matthew 13:24-26, NIV)
Here are more perspectives on discerning truth from error when it comes to knowing God’s (real) Word drawn from two past posts on weeding my own plants and shrubs–not tares and wheat, as per the biblical analogy, nevertheless, just as challenging for THIS gardener!
On Tending Truth and Wrangling Weeds
Weeds 2: Location, Location, Location (Devotional)
Thank you Phyllis for another thoughtful post. I agree with you about the choice of Bible translation, that generally those published pre-1970 are more trustworthy. One exception is the ESV, published in 2001, which is a conservative upgrading of the RSV which was published in 1952. In a way the plethora of translations is a nuisance and very confusing for newcomers to the faith. My advice to is avoid paraphrased versions, such as the Good News Bible and New Living Bible, and any that resort to PC gender-inclusive amendments to the text, especially the New Revised Standard Version.
And thank you for your additional recommendations.