Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for November, 2010


With the upcoming release of a updated NIV (already available online), the whole gender-inclusive language issue rears its ugly head again.  This morning I was reading my NLT and was curious about their inconsistent use of Messiah in the New Testament, so I looked up their principles of translation in the Introduction.

In the New Testament, the Greek Work Christos has been translated as “Messiah” when the context assumes a Jewish audience.  When a Gentile audience can be assumed, Christos has been translated as “Christ.”

Yet, in James 1 which is written to Jewish Christians, they used Christ.  Hmmm.  Why do translations inconsistently transliterate rather than translate names & titles?  Aside from that interesting bit of curiosity, I spotted the section on Gender-Inclusive Language.  Here’s some of what they say:

“The English language changes constantly.  An obvious recent change is in the area of gender-inclusive language.  This creates problems for modern translations of the ancient biblical text, which was originally written in a male-oriented culture.  The translator must respect the nature of the ancient context while also accounting for the concerns of the modern audience.  Often the original language itself allows a rendering that is gender inclusive.  For example, the Greek word anthropos, traditionally rendered “man,” really means “human being” or “person.”   A different Greek word, aner, specifically means a male.

I guess the question is “to what degree is the Scripture reflecting culture and to what degree is culture a reflection of creation principles?”  Their example is a good one.  The language has the capability to be clear, and we must honor that.  We must also remember when women are included/assumed in a general statement like “brothers.”  Most people have no problem with recognizing that and saying “brothers & sisters”, though their use of “Christian friends” is problematic.  It takes the text out of the context of the Church as God’s household and it’s members as adopted sons (and therefore heirs).  This is an example of the danger that happens with some attempts of gender-inclusive language.  It can strip the text of its context and lose meaning (as well as impart unintended meaning).

Overall, I think the NLT does a good job.  There are places a wince a tad.  But the translation is very readable (which I really can’t say for the ESV though I am using it more often these days).  I like it for a devotional Bible, but I’m not comfortable using it to teach or preach.  Yes- there is a significant difference in my mind.

Last week I began to read The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.  In his preface, John Frame acknowledges that some women (and men) may be unhappy with his book and why he did not use gender-inclusive language (in the mid-80’s).  I find some of his arguments important for today with a much more important text- the Scriptures.

He starts with a caveat of sorts:

My practice does not reflect a belief that women cannot be theologians.  Quite the contrary.  For according to this book, everyone is a theologian!  I do believe that only men are called to the teaching eldership of the church, but the interest of this book is wider than that.

This distinction is important, and often lost on the “all or nothing” egalitarian crowd.  Women are also theologians.  All Christians are theologians (the question is whether they are good or bad theologians).  Theological study is not beyond the capacities of women.  They are fully capable of learning theology.  In 1 Timothy 2, where Paul famously forbids women to teach or have authority over a man he also says they should learn!  Learning, and teaching others (aside from men) is both encouraged and necessary.  Complementarians are often falsely accused of thinking that women are dense or incapable of ‘doing theology’.  Patently untrue.

(more…)

Read Full Post »


This week I’m working through Matthew 1:1-17.  In part I’m grappling with the incarnation.  The Eternal Son, who was fully God, became man.  This is pretty much how one of the children’s catechisms puts it.  Simple, but utterly incomprehensible.

We have a tendency to keep Jesus in the cradle.  My kids love “baby Jesus” and are excited to see the holiday (a compound word meaning holy day btw) lights and manger displays.  But we run the risk of trying to keep him baby Jesus, meek and mild.

One of the funniest scenes in Talladega Nights is the debate over which Jesus to pray to- grown up Jesus or the  8 lbs. 6 oz Christmas Jesus with his little baby Jesus powers.  And it gets worse.  “I want to be formal, but I’m here to party.”  “I like to picture Jesus as a ninja, fighting off samari.”  It is a guilty pleasure, teetering on blasphemy (If you watch the clip, it does contain foul language and violations of the 5th commandment).

They have domesticated Jesus in order to serve their own interests.  They grapple with the mystery of the incarnation, but don’t bow before it.  A domesticated Jesus.  A made in their own, or preferred image Jesus.  A counterfeit Jesus!

(more…)

Read Full Post »


Advent is coming.  This year I’ll be preaching out of Matthew.  We get to celebrate the incarnation, a much assumed but not well understood doctrine.  It is essential to biblical Christianity.  So, here are a  few options to read up on the Person of Christ.

  • Incarnation in the Gospels is part of the Reformed Expository Commentary series.  It is geared for pastors and driven by the text more than by systematic theology.
  • B.B. Warfield The Person and Work of Christ.  One of the best of the Old Princeton theologians working through both His person and His work on our behalf.  The incarnation took place for the work to take place.  They are essentially connected.
  • Donald MacLeod The Person of Christ.  From the Contours of Christian Theology series MacLeod follows the development of the church’s understanding of this important doctrine.
  • G.C. Berkouwer The Person of Christ.  This is part of his Studies in Dogmatics, which is a rather lengthy series.  R.C. Sproul spent time studying under Berkouwer.  It is fairly academic.

What is interesting to me is that I have read none of these books.  In seminary we used David Wells’ The Person of Christ.  I might still own the Berkouwer volume.  The commentary is a relatively new volume I am interested in purchasing and using.  This shows us how little there is out there focusing on this subject.

Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo? touches on the incarnation as a basis for the atonement.  This I have read, but he is not really wrestling with texts.  It is written as a dialogue between 2 people.

 

Read Full Post »


The last 2 letters of Rev. William Bull were written near the end of John Newton’s life.  The first just before his 76th birthday, and the second just after his 78th birthday.

Rev. Newton enjoyed fairly good health, though his eyesight was nearly gone which is why he wrote so infrequently at this point in his life.  But he still maintained a public ministry.  His statements to his younger colleague are quite appropriate for all who approach the finish line of life.

“But pray that I may be enabled to leave the time and manner of my dismission entirely in the Lord’s hands; that if he sees fit to summon me suddenly, that I may be willing to go without delay; and that if he is please to lay me aside, I may be as willing to retire and wait his time.”

He wanted to submit to the Father’s will, regardless of what it was.  He did not want to retire, but remain useful.  However, he recognized that he may have to retire and wait, with joy, for his summons home.  But his is also concerned with how he spends those days.

“Pray likewise for me that no gross imprudence or misconduct may stain the latter part of my life, but that I may be enabled to exemplify in myself what I have labored to inculcate upon others from the pulpit.”

He wanted to “finish well”.  His desire was to continue to live consistently with his faith rather than stumble and fall as one spiritually enfeebled.  He had seen others not finish well, and did not dare assume he would apart from grace.

“I have known good men in advanced life garrulous, peevish, dogmatic, self-important, with some symptoms of jealousy, and perhaps envy, towards those who are upon the increase while they feel themselves decreasing.”

He repeats this theme 2 years later.

“I wish to say from my heart, Lord, grant that the short uncertain remnant of my time may not discredit my profession, by pride or any evil tempers…”

I have heard of many who did not finish well.  They grew lax and fell into sin.  It is not a sin only of the aged, but for Christians of all ages.  But there is a particular danger to laxity when a fleshly motive, one’s career, is removed.

“I am sure that He does all things well, and that his choice for us will eventually be better than anything we can choose for ourselves.”

Here is the eye of faith, resting in God’s character and providence.  Sometimes we can rage because we encounter an unpleasant providence.  Note the word ‘eventually’ (or e-vent-u-al-ly as Manuel used to enunciate in Fawlty Towers).  Time will reveal that his choice was ultimately better than what we would have planned for ourselves.

In keeping with this idea- here is Steve Taylor’s song Finish Line from the Cornerstone Festival in 1994..

Read Full Post »


I have been a Christian who holds to the theology expressed in the 5-Points of Calvinism (a response to the Arminians) for approximately 20 years.  It was a view that grew out of my reading of Scripture, but the puzzle became clear when I read R.C. Sproul’s Chosen by God.

You can imagine that I’ve heard a few objections, theological and philosophical over the years.  There are also practical objections that are common raised as well.  One of them is that the Reformed doctrine of election undermines personal holiness or righteousness.  It is an important objection, though I think an unfounded objection.  Sure, there are people who are confessionally Calvinists but who are either in great obedience or are counterfeit Christians.  Rightly understood, the biblical texts regarding election point us in a very different direction.

Let’s start in Genesis 18.  God is speaking of Abraham.

19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” (NIV, 1984)

The Hebrew for chosen here is ‘yada’ which means to know.  It can mean to know intimately.  As such it is often used as a euphemism for sexual intercourse.  It can also mean to discriminate or distinguish.  This is the meaning the majority of modern translators use.  God knew Abraham and chose him.

Here we see one of the purposes tied with the great promises of Genesis 12.  He was to direct his children in the “way of the Lord”, a way that means doing what is righteous and just.  Abraham was not chosen because he was righteous and just, but so that God would make him righteous and just.

In order to be a blessing to the nations, Israel had to be righteous and just.  To be righteous is to live in conformity to the law (which is a reflection of God’s character).  It is about our actions with respect to the law.  To be just is to act toward others with respect to their actions with respect the law.  I give them what they deserve.  Just people protect the oppressed and bring the oppressors to account for how they exploit others.  Our sin and injustice curses others.

Righteous and just communities are formed by families that are righteous and just.  Those families are not accidental, but have parents (particularly fathers) who instruct their children in God’s ways.  This is the point of Deuteronomy 6:6-7.  Godliness usually begins in the home.  Proverbs was written to instruct children in godly living- which starts in that commitment of faith the book calls them to in the early chapters.

(more…)

Read Full Post »


Death is a strange thing.  We were not meant to die, but at times it is a welcome thing.  I think of my remaining grandparent who is wasting away.  Were I to stop in (after traveling thousands of miles) she would not know who I am.  In some ways she’s been dead for years- the person I know disappeared under disability and dementia.  Sometimes death can bring relief to suffering.

In one of his letters, John Newton brings up the death of friends.  He was getting on in years (I’m starting to become familiar with that myself) and many of his friends had died.  Here is his response:

“I have often thought that though I loved my friends well while living, and wished them to live as long as possible, yet if the Lord saw fit to remove them, and I had hope that they died in the faith, I could pretty well make up for my own loss, by considering to whom they were gone, and how they were employed, when I could see them no more. … I thought, now they are safe and happy; now neither sin, sorrow, nor Satan can touch them.  They are escaped from the turbulent, tempestuous sea of this work, and are entered into the haven of eternal rest.  These, and such kinds of considerations, soon and perfectly reconciled me to part with them for a time, expecting, before long, to receive them again for ever.”

(more…)

Read Full Post »


A few weeks ago the on line Bible I often use unceremoniously switched from the NIV (1984) to the revised 2011 version as their default English Bible.  They since added notification, and have the older version(s) of the NIV available [note, I have an update at the end of the post].

I “grew up” on the NIV as a young Christian.  I use a variety of translations for my personal devotions, but have consistently preached from the NIV except when using my own rough translation.  Like many people, I did not approve of the earlier attempt to make the NIV gender inclusive.  There were times when they used inclusive language when they should not have used it.  While translating “brothers” as “brothers and sisters” is no big deal, there were some instances I consider a big deal in light of the context- historical & cultural.

So, I wonder what they new, updated NIV 2011 does with some of those very important texts.  Looking at the Big Picture, John Dyer has put out a graph.  It is helpful to see an overall consistency.  But the problem of particular texts remains.  We must examine the trees to see how healthy the forest really is. Dyer and Robert Slowley have ALL the changes.  Here are some I find important with regard to complementarianism.

Passage 1984 tNIV 2011
John 1:5 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Romans 8 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. … 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. …19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. … 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 

 

9 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Ephesians 1 In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…
1 Timothy 2 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »