There is a new Bible being released by Bible Society out of UK that is focused on “the most important issues of the day.” It is called The Poverty and Justice Bible. Based on the Contemporary English Version (CSV), the Bible “highlights more than 2,000 passages that reveal God’s sorrow over poverty and injustice.”

N.T. Wright, president of the Bible Society, says, Poverty and injustice are two of the biggest issues of our day, challenging the minds of politicians and social activists around the world. . . The imbalance of global wealth, famine, water shortages, exploitation and corruption are all issues that invoke outrage and demand attention. But The Poverty and Justice Bible shows that, in speaking out on these issues, God got there first.

Emerging Christian leader and commentator Tony Campolo added, "Here’s proof that faith without commitment to justice for the poor is a sham, because it ignores the most explicit of all the social concerns of Scripture."

You can find the roots in this Bible primarily in the emerging communities, but you will also find significant influence from Rick Warren (who essentially laid its foundation) and U2’s lead singer and activist Bono (who has had significant influence over Rick Warren in the last few years).

‘We want the world to see that the Bible is relevant to life and not full of rules, finger-wagging and old-fashioned ideas,’ says Bible Society Chief Executive James Catford.

From the Bible’s website: 

“There is a generation of Christian young adults who are passionate about their faith but who struggle to connect it with the Bible. So this Bible starts where they are, with issues close to their heart. This special Poverty and Justice Bible gives them a way to begin to engage with Scripture, and we hope and pray this will be the first of many encounters for them.”

I am glad that Christian’s are focusing much attention on the need to engage social issues and I am sure that this Bible will make a fine edition to the plethora of study Bible’s out there, but I do have some initial hesitations concerning this project:

I can’t help but see this Bible as one possibly motivated by an imbalanced agenda. For example, commenting on Romans 13:8-10 the Bible has these notes:

“Paul was a great traveler. It is estimated that he travelled more than 10,000 miles during his ministry. I wonder, if he were alive today, would he be zooming around Turkey on the Asia Minor equivalent of EasyJet? Would he be insulating his tent and reducing his carbon footprint?

The Bible says that God will end the world, not global warming. But that doesn’t mean we can ignore it. Experts argue about the effects of climate change, but, like so many global disasters, it will probably be the poor who suffer the most. No one who loves others will harm them, writes Paul. If we truly love other people, we care about their lives, their prospects, their living conditions, their future. And that means changing our lives so as not to damage theirs. We make sacrifices for their sake.”

I am not one for promoting planetary stewardship underload, but I am not sure that this is the best example to use for Romans 13:8-10. It seems rather manipulative. After reading this, I thought that it should be called The Democrats Study Bible.

The tag-line from the Bible’s web-site says, “You know God cares for the poor. Now you can know how much.” Is the answer: “So much that he sent his own Son to die for the poor?” It should be. Yes, he does care for the poor. But he first cares for the poor in spirit. Those who recognize their need and utter dependence on him. We respond to his redemption by our good works, by our mercy, by our aid to those in need. Can we truly be expected to respond without this redemption being the focus?

The Bible is first a book of soteriological history revealing our need and God’s mercy. Isn’t it?

My single biggest problem with the idea of this Bible is that it might have the tendency to present God as an incompetent ruler who’s primary desires—justice, mercy, and environmental protection—are hamstrung until socio-political-theo activists can bring in his kingdom on earth through their own efforts. Please understand, I would say the same thing if someone were to put out a Bible entitled The Pro-Life Study Bible.

These type of maneuvers, which can be quite manipulative, cause people to have an imbalanced and distorted view of the Gospel. God becomes a cheerleader in a game in which He may not even be playing. Far from becoming more relevant, God can become sidelined while our game-plan is focused on quasi-foreign agendas. Is that what we really want?

The game that God is in is one where there is the tension between the Christian’s efforts to bring in God’s kingdom through the reality and necessity of suffering in a sin-infected world. Does this mean we sit on our hands? Certainly not (perish the thought!), but we do not see the alleviation of poverty and oppression as the ultimate victory until we see the alleviation of sin dealt with through the cross.

As an aside, I have yet to see anything about justice for the unborn in this Bible.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

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