Monday, February 28, 2005

Networking with like-minded Canadians

As a pastor in Canada, I am always eager to find like-minded Christian leaders I can network with. So far I have uncovered some possible avenues for building ministry bridges:

1. Sola Scriptura Ministries International
2. Trinity Baptist Seminary
3. Sovereign Grace Fellowship of Canada
4. Focus on the Family Canada
5. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

If you know of other organizations in Canada that may be helpful for me to know about, please let me know!

THE pressing issue, north of the border

Within the next few weeks or months, the federal government of Canada is poised to enact legislation that would redefine marriage to include homosexual unions. Everyone realizes the vote in Parliament will be very close, so please pray for the Members of Parliament and for Canadian churches in the days ahead. For more information, visit: Defend Marriage, Canada!

JT: Indonesia Blogging

Greetings from Indonesia. We’re in a house in a small city on the island of Sulawesi. Some of you won’t be interested in this, so feel free to skip this post! But for those who are, here are a few highlights.

We arrived in Jakarta yesterday from Singapore. We’ve definitely learned the word “bule” (=white man). As in a kid pointing and yelling “Hey bule!” Or a man in line nonchalantly turning around and saying, “Hello bule.” We stick out here like sore thumbs—especially me, given my size! I feel like a white Shaquille O’Neill surrounded by a lot of sweet short people. We're the first western men some of them have ever seen in person.

Women here don’t mind picking their nose in public. I couldn’t find a creative way to weave that fact into the narrative—so I thought I’d just say it.

In a line in Jakarta, I stepped backward and found—unfortunately—that my size 13 shoe was crushing the small shoe of a very made-up airline stewardess. I apologized profusely, but she gave me a very dirty look and was none too pleased. (I also hit a Japanese girl in the head with a water bottle in Tokyo, but she at least forgave me!)

Our flight to Makassar found us waiting for an hour on the runway—without the engines of the plane running and with the door of the airplane shut! It was amazing no one passed out. Oh, and Bill and I were in the front row of the plane, directly across from the stewardess’s seat. To my mortification, it turns out that the stewardess was the same woman whose foot I nearly crushed! She eventually forgave me!

Last night we went to a prayer team. I think it may have been the first time in my life that I’ve fallen asleep while singing. The jet lag was sinking in. On the way out of the prayer meeting, I took a misstep and found myself with my leg halfway down a sewer hole (called a “goat”). I’m happy—as usual—to provide the unintended comic relief.

We ate Pizza Hut pizza last night. Our friend Lori is right—the Pizza Hut is better in Indonesia than in America!

We stayed last night in a hotel. I think that my suitcase weighed more than the little Indonesian guy who had to carry it up three flights of stairs! The toilet and the shower are in one stall, so that made for an interesting crosscultural experience today. I have yet to experience the squatting toilet though (which will come tomorrow when we stay at an Indonesian family’s house).

We got up this morning at 5 am and left around 6 am for the 4-hour car ride to the village. The traffic here is unbelievable. I call it Indonesian Traffic Basket Weaving—or Perpetual Motion. The markings on the road are considered “suggestions” only. There are essentially four lanes of traffic on a two-lane road. Lots of people on motorcycles. It’s not unusual for a car to be literally inches away from a bike or from an oncoming car. I had the front seat on the 4-hour trek. Quite hair-raising at times.

The scenery—especially as we approached Soppeng—was absolutely gorgeous. Lucious green terraces and majestic mountains. My traveling partner Bill is an amateur photographer, and I think he’s going to have some great pictures.

This afternoon we joined Beth and Lori for their English class—which consists of seven Indonesian teachers of English. We answered some questions, and Bill showed photographs to illustrate the four seasons in Minnesota.

Tomorrow we’ll start living with our Indonesian host family for a couple of days. We’d appreciate your prayers!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

JT Here

It looks like Gary is holding down the fort just fine. Thanks, Gary.

I'm in the Singapore airport. It's 3 am here. We've basically spent the last 24 hours on planes (12 hours direct to Tokyo, then 9 hours to Singapore). Off to Indonesia in the morning.

Yet Another Audio Resource: The Great Debate between Dr. Bahnsen and Dr. Stein

One of the most enjoyable debates between an atheist and a Christian I have ever heard can be listen to through the Reformation Ink website. Follow this link, and search on 'Bahnsen' to find The Great Debate. If you haven't listen to this, you will love it!

Bahnsen does a masterful job of showing how all people, even atheists, believe in God at some level of their being (Cf. Romans 1:19, 21). If one masters Bahnsen's (and Van Til's) transcendental argument for the existence of God, he will have a sound, Biblical way to "refute those who contradict" (Titus 1:9).

If you like the debate, be sure to read Bahnsen's Van Til's Apologetic: Readings and Analysis and Always Ready. These are both wonderful books to read and digest.

Friday, February 25, 2005

More Audio Resources

Sermons and lectures by J. I. Packer, Iain Murray, John Murray, Van Til, and many others available for listening or free download here.

Don't forget about the 9 Marks Audio Archive, and

D. A. Carson on 'The Emergent Church'

Listen to two Carson lectures on the emergent church here. These are very helpful. Carson, is, as usual, balanced and careful in his review of this very significant movement.

Ron Nash on Politics, Economics, and "Advanced Worldview Analysis"

If you've enjoyed reading Ronald Nash's books on economics and political theory (including Social Justice and the Christian Church and Poverty and Wealth: Why Socialism Doesn't Work), you can now listen to his seminary lectures recorded at RTS on "Advanced Worldview Analysis," covering such topics as Marxism, Statism, and the Religious Left.

We should applaud the work of for making these seminary lectures (and others by Stein, Mounce, and Ware, with promises of more to come!) available to the world for free!

(It is my joy to be guest blogging for Justin while he is away, though I doubt I'll have as much to say! --Gary Steward, from St. John's, Newfoundland)

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Bible Translation: Without Form, You Lose Meaning

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned Leland Ryken’s excellent work, The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation. Ryken was the literary stylist for the publication of the English Standard Version (ESV). C. John “Jack” Collins of Covenant Seminary was the Old Testament chair for the translation. Collins contributes an excellent appendix to Ryken’s book, entitled “Without Form, You Lose Meaning.” It is a sane, calm, persuasive Christlike piece of writing. (Unlike, for example, this piece posted at World Magazine’s TNIV site.

He has four complaints about dynamic-equivalent translations:

  1. Such translations make interpretive decisions for the reader, and run the risk of deciding wrongly.
  2. Such a philosophy requires the translator to resolve ambiguities for the reader
  3. This philosophy urges the translator to interpret images and figures for the reader
  4. This philosophy generally leads to the loss of important repetitions.

What feature do these four defects have in common? “The reader is limited to what the translator allows him to see.”

Collins’s thesis is as follows: “My thesis is that, however capable the scholars—and that, mind you, is not under dispute—dynamic equivalence will almost certainly not represent the meaning more accurately than an essentially literal rendering. The very translation philosophy pushes the product away from accuracy.”

Here are some other helpful quotes from his chapter:

“The impulse to clarify . . . insists that the translator decide what it is and give that to the reader.” (p. 304)

“Old Testament wisdom works by giving you a concrete example and asking you to make the necessary changes in order to apply it to yourself.” (p. 305)

“I think the translation has overstepped a boundary: It is the job of readers and preachers to learn the rules for biblical interpretation and application, while translations should give an accurate idea of what the text says. Didn’t a daughter in the original audience have to do the same?

“This overstepping is the logical consequence of the requirement to clarify, combined with the discarding of the form of the original. That very form is the only thing that provided any constraints to clarification.

“These examples all share a common problem: They result from a translation philosophy that emphasizes “clarification” on behalf of the modern reader. The irony is that following this impulse has so often resulted in less accuracy in the end product.” (p. 306)

<>We ought not hide verbal parallels from the reader when those verbal parallels have a bearing on the same topic. (p. 311)

Losing the feel of an allusion leader to losing some of the message… (p. 312)

But in making it easier for the English reader they have actually deprived him or her or the chance to see something that is there. (p. 313)

My objective has been to discern whether or not dynamic equivalence (as it claims) does an equal—or even better—job of conveying meaning in comparison to the essentially literal approach. I find that it fails, and fails consistently, and the more dynamic the translation, the worse the failure. I think that the explanation for this lies in two main impulses that undergird the dynamic equivalence philosophy: the separation of form and meaning, and the desire to clarify the meaning of the text beyond what is actually present in the linguistic details of the text. (pp. 315-316)

I think that only an essentially literal translation philosophy has any hope of giving a Bible to the people that merits their regular use. (p. 316)

* * *

I'd encourage you to keep an eye on Mark D. Roberts' excellent series on the TNIV. Mark is more open to dynamic-equivalent translations than Collins is (or than I am), but I'm certain you will learn something not only from what says, but in how he is saying it.

Going, Going, Gone

I leave tomorrow for a short-term trip missions trip to Indonesia. I'll see if I might be able to post a blog or two from the Singapore aiport or from Indonesia itself. But in the meantime, I've asked my friend Gary Steward--now a pastor in Canada--if he'd "guest blog" for the week that I'm gone. Enjoy.

Martin Luther King

Christianity Today recently did an interview with Charles Marsh (author of The Beloved Community). (HT: STR)

I found it interesting that he refers to Martin Luther King as a "radical Christian."

The late Tom Skinner, an African-American evangelist, wrote in his Black and Free (1968).

I am not sure that Martin Luther King knew Jesus Christ in the evangelical Christian context. One of the few reporters to interview King on his religious thought, was Presbyterian layman Lee Dirks, of the National Observer. Dirks found few traces of the hard fundamentalism in which King was reared. King rejected the idea of original sin; that is, he rejected the concept that a person is born separated from God. MLK accepted the deity of Jesus Christ, and the fact that Jesus Christ was divine, only in the sense that He was one with God in purpose; he believed that Jesus Christ so submitted His will to God’s will, that God revealed His divine plan through Jesus Christ; but he did not accept the fact that Jesus Christ was actually God or actually the Son of God, or God manifested in the flesh. Reflecting much of the liberal instruction he received in liberal institutions, he considered the virgin birth a mythological story which tried to explain that Jesus Christ had moral uniqueness, rather than the fact that His birth was a literal fact--that is His virgin birth. . . . He missed on important fact, and that is that man must be regenerated, his attitudes must be changed, a revolution must first occur within his heart, before it can occur in society (pp. 136-138).

My own research into King’s writings in seminary has confirmed this. I’ve seen no indication that he ever repudiated or moved beyond the beliefs summarized below. In fact, the evidence suggests that he continued to believe them. Even raising the question will be seen by some as racist, or as seeking to undermine MLK's significant achievements. But we must care more for truth than for how others might misinterpret our actions and motivations.

Theological Issues

1. In his paper "What Experiences of Christians Living in the Early Christian Century Led to the Christian Doctrines of the Divine Sonship of Jesus, the Virgin Birth, and the Bodily Resurrection," MLK thought that in order to understand the true meaning of orthodox creedal doctrines—like the divine sonship of Jesus, the virgin birth, and the bodily resurrection—the literal element needed to be stripped away in order to uncover the true experiential foundation beneath it.

  • MLK believed that doctrine of Jesus’ deity developed due to Greek philosophical influence and because the early church saw him as the highest and the best
  • MLK believed that the “virgin birth” was unscientific and untenable; like divine sonship, this doctrine developed as a way for the early church to indicate how highly they valued the uniqueness of Jesus.
  • MLK believed that the doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus was an attempt by the pre-scientific early church to symbolize the experience that they had with Jesus.

2. Read in light of the above, it is clear to me that in the paper, "The Sources of Fundamentalism and Liberalism Considered Historically and Psychologically," MLK is self-consciously identifying himself with classical theological liberalism and rejecting the doctrines of fundamentalism.

  • MLK praised theological liberalism. In addition to the denial of the doctrines of divine sonship, the virgin birth, and the resurrection, MLK points out that there is also a denial of Scriptural inerrancy and the doctrine of the fall.
  • MLK scorned theological fundamentalism. MLK seems not to believe in the direct creation of the world by God, man as being in the image of God, the historical account of Adam and Eve, the person of the Devil, the Fall, hell, the Trinity, the substitutionary atonement, and the Second Coming.

3. In his paper, “A Study of Mithraism,” MLK suggests that the doctrines of the early church grew out of the Greek mystery religions and cults which flourished at that time.

4. In an interview with Time Magazine, MLK seems to indicate that it was at Crozer Theological Seminary (the setting for the term papers quoted above) that he saw that the ministry was a framework by which he could express his philosophy of social protest.

A bright student, he skipped through high school and at 15 entered Atlanta’s Negro Morehouse College. His father wanted him to study for the ministry. King himself thought he wanted medicine or the law. "I had doubts that religion was intellectually respectable. I revolted against the emotionalism of Negro religion, the shouting and the stamping. I didn’t understand it and it embarrassed me." At Morehouse, King searched for "some intellectual basis for a social philosophy." He read and reread Thoreau’s essay, "Civil Disobedience," concluded that the ministry was the only framework in which he could properly position his growing ideas on social protest.

Ethical Issues

1. Plagiarism

The staff at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project wrote in The Journal of American History (June 1991) that “King’s plagiarism was a general pattern evident in nearly all of his academic writings.” In 1991, a panel of scholars convened by Boston University found that MLK’s dissertation in theology was 60% plagiarized from a dissertation done by a student there just thee years earlier (Jack Boozer). Nevertheless, Boston University decided not to revoke his doctorate. Furthermore, the dramatic closing to MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech is virtually the same as Rev. Archibald Carey’s closing to his 1952 address to the Republican Convention.

2. Serial Adultery

It has been well-documented that King was a serial adulterer and womanizer. Here is an account of just one night—the night before his assassination—as recounted in Ralph Abernathy’s 1989 autobiography, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down. (Abernathy was a close friend of King’s and was with him that night).

  • King gave a rousing speech (“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”);
  • King then had dinner with a woman afterward and remained with her till 1 AM
  • King came back to his motel to spend the night with a second woman.
  • In the early morning hours a third woman came looking for King and became angry when she found the bed in the room he shared with Abernathy unoccupied.
  • When King reappeared, he argued with woman #3 and wound up knocking her across the bed.


I regret to say, then, that these theological positions and ethical practices make it impossible for me to consider Dr. King a Christian. He was a radical man. He was an ordained minister. He said and did many great things. God used him for good. But we must use caution in our labels, lest we unwittingly undermine the glory of Christ and mislead the church. If we take the Bible seriously, I think it will be impossible for us to refer to him as a "radical Christian."

Pictures in the Womb

Melinda Penner at STR's Blog writes:

"The National Geographic Channel is going to do some of our work for us. They are presenting a special program called "In the Womb" on Sunday, March 6 (8 p.m. ET). The program uses the latest 3-D technology to show children in the womb as early as 12 weeks - yawning, sucking their thumbs. This should be an awe-inspiring presention and a potentially powerful pro-life tool. You might consider taping it to show again or inviting pro-abortion friends and family over to watch and then leading a discussion afterward."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


An interview I just did on Reclaiming the Center, McLaren, the Emergent Church, etc. is scheduled to air online at CDR Radio this afternoon (Feb. 23), around 4 pm central time.

Update: Desiring God put my interview online if anyone wants to listen to it. I actually don't like the way I sound on radio, but oh well!

Critiquing the Utopian Vision of Posthumanity

Al Mohler reviews Wesley J. Smith’s book, Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World.

Smith, by the way, has a new blog: Secondhand Smoke. Its purpose:

This web log considers issues involving assisted suicide/euthanasia, bioethics, human cloning, biotechnology, and the dangers of animal rights/liberation. My views expressed here, as in my books and other writings, reflect my understanding that the philosophy of human exceptionalism is the bedrock of universal human rights. Or, to put it another way: human life matters.

High-Culture Worship and the Absence of Jazz Liturgies

Tim Keller—pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan—asks some questions about high-culture worship, jazz music, and aesthetic preferences:

Too often, advocates for “high culture” or “pop culture” worship music try to make their advocacy a matter of theological principle, when their conviction is really more a matter of their own tastes and cultural preferences. For example, when pressed, HW [Historic Worship] advocates admit that jazz is not really a product of commercial pop culture but qualifies as a high culture medium that grew out of genuine folk roots, requires great skill and craft, and can express a fuller range of human experience than rock and pop music. . . . On their own principles, then, there is no reason for traditionalists not to allow jazz music in worship, yet I see no HW worship proponents encouraging jazz liturgies! Why not? I think they are going on their own aesthetic preferences.

Timothy J. Keller, “Reformed Worship in the Global City,” in Worship by the Book, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002), p. 196 n. 7.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Shroud of Turin

Is the Shroud of Turin real, or is it a fake? These fellas--using the solution patterns of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown Mysteries--decided to conduct some experiments. Their solution is pretty interesting. Wilson's article ("Father Brown Fakes the Shroud") describing both how they formulated and tested the Shadow Theory will be published in the March/April 2005 issue of Books and Culture.

Hotel Rwanda

Sam Storms of Enjoying God Ministries, in his ministry newsletter, recommends the movie Hotel Rwanda, which I have not yet seen:

It's not for young children, but those in their late teen years can profit from it. If Revelation 21-22 describe Heaven on Earth, the events portrayed in this film might well be described as Hell on Earth. It is the true story of the genocide in Rwanda in the early 1990's and the incredible efforts of one man to risk everything for the sake of those called "cockroaches" by their enemies. You won't find a more riveting and graphic portrayal of both human depravity and human dignity than this. It is an amazing testimony both to the depths of evil and the profound impact of the grace of God. Catch it while it's still in theaters.

Michael Landon, Jr.

As the husband of a woman who loves the Little House on the Prairie TV series (directed by Michael Landon) and the Love Comes Softly books and now movies (directed by Landon's son) I found this interview with Michael Landon, Jr. (now a Christian) to be interesting.

Price Controls and Pharmaceutical Drugs

Throughout the centuries, price controls have had three effects over and over again:

  1. shortages
  2. quality deterioration
  3. black markets

So why would anyone want any of those things to happen with pharmaceutical drugs? So asks Thomas Sowell.

The Emergent Church

Greg Koukl says that Brian McLaren was recently "dis-invited" to an evangelism conference. Koukl agrees with the decision, calling the Emergent Church movement "the most theologically corrosive view/movement/trend in a long time."

The Emergent Church is the practical outworking of the Postconservative Vision. The former is the ecclesiastical manifestation; the latter is the academic version. Our book Reclaiming the Center primarily focused upon the academic side of the issues. For further explanation of what these movements are, who their leaders are, and why this is important, you can see my introductory chapter. For an alternative vision of the direction the church and the academy should be going, see Millard Erickson's chapter on "Flying in Theological Fog." I'm grateful for the kind works of Scott Oliphant (apologetics professor at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia), who writes that "This is a book, perhaps the main or only book, that one needs to read in order to ferret out the primary problems of postconservatism that face evangelicalism currently."

Again, our book doesn't focus upon McLaren and Emergent as much as it does upon Grenz and Postconservatism. For those who want to learn more about the former, I'd recommend checking out Don Carson's forthcoming book Becoming Conversant with Emergent. This book is based on a series of lectures Carson gave at Cedarville College. Based upon those lectures, those within Emergent have been highly critical of Carson's take. (See, for example, this critique by a professor in attendance. For more responses--positive and negative--see here.) Before moving on, let me make four quick comments about such criticism: (1) Just because we might highly respect someone like Carson, we shouldn't assume that he always gets it right--hence, we should listen to the critics, even if we agree in the main with Carson. (2) Some critics need to remember the nature of a summary lecture. It's not a dissertation. Generalizations are part of the genre. A broad lecture or book cannot always contain every nuance. (3) In my experience, too many proponents of Emergent, Open Theism, and the New Perspective on Paul claim "No one understands us!" I'd say in response: "No, some understand you quite well, you just don't like the critique." (I'm not equating these three movements by any means, but I do think that all three have revised some historic language, spoken in confusing terms or categories, and think that unless you agree with them you simply don't understand them.) (4) Some Emergent proponents seem to have the notion that if only a critic would talk to them, they would understand. And if you don't talk to them first, you aren't being biblical or charitable. In response, I'd say that this is often wise--but not required. If something is published or said in the public sphere, it's entirely appropriate to publicly critique or respond, without talking first to every single person you criticize. Emergent proponents need to be careful not to advocate a naive "everything-I-need-to-know-I-learned-in-Kindegarten" approach to theological debate.

The book to watch for, though, will be R. Scott Smith's Emerging or Submerging: Postmodernism in the Church. (Smith is an ethics and apologetics professor at Biola.) He contributed a great chapter to Reclaiming the Center. He is a brilliant guy with a pastoral heart. Two of the chapters have been posted online. I'm not certain when the book will be out, but I'll let you know when I hear a definite word.

Finally, on March 6 and March 13 the Reformed fellas at the White Horse Inn will be interviewing McLaren, Grenz, and others on the Emergent Church.

Update: Dr. Smith's book will be published by Crossway Books in September. It will be entitled Truth and the New Kind of Christian: Accessing the Emerging Effects of Postmodernism in the Church.

Monday, February 21, 2005


Thomas Hibbes reviews the best show on television (in my humble opinion).

Moral Equivalency: The Religious Left Gets It Wrong

Jim Wallis--author of God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It--has become a become a much sought-after advisor to liberals regarding how to speak to and win religious folk. One of his arguments is that caring for the poor is as important as caring for the unborn. But Chuck Colson explains why this is a false dichotomy. Money quote: "How can you be genuinely sympathetic to the poor and the downtrodden if you don't respect their most fundamental right? I would go so far as to say that unless you're consistently pro-life, you're not going to be a reliable defender of the poor." Colson also refers to an article by Mark Noll (explaining why he doesn't vote) and an editorial by Christianity Today (advocating moral equivalency on these issues).

Friday, February 18, 2005

Krauthammer on Bush on Social Security

Charles Krauthammer has some tough words for the way President Bush has been trying to sell the idea of social security reform: "We will never be able to reform the system if the chief reformer does not clearly articulate what the impending crisis is, when it is coming and why."

Parenthood 101

John Podhoretz pens a must-read column, Parenthood 101, in response to Newsweek’s badly misguided cover story on mothers.

Because of Winn-Dixie

Gene Veith writes in World: "Because of Winn-Dixie is a good movie: good as entertainment, good for the whole family, good artistically. It is also morally good, even spiritually good. Not many movies are as satisfying in all of these ways." Frederica Mathewes-Green reviews it in National Review. And Peter Chattaway reviews it in Christianity Today.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Medved and the Million-Dollar Movie

Michael Medved--a self-described "skeptic regarding one of the most absurdly over-praised movies in recent Hollywood history" [Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby"]--explains why he's been so critical of this movie with its sympathetic portrayal of assisted suicide and with its implicit message that premediated murder can be the ultimate gift of love, especially if the alternative means life in a wheelchair or a hospital bed.

My friend Vicki has been blogging on this movie at About Face Now. See her links here, here, here, and here.

Peggy Noonan on the Blogs

Peggy Noonan delivers a (typically excellent) piece today on the blogs and the mainstream media. I hope the Wall Street Journal editorial board is listening (if you don't know what I'm talking about, Michelle Malkin explains).

Don't Mess with Women from Texas!

Here's a hilarious voicemail recording--purportedly from an operations manager calling his boss explaining that he was running late for a meeting. Enjoy. (The audio clip is 4MB.)

Note: I've updated the link. Hope this one works better. Sorry about that!

Half of All Marriages End in Divorce?

Once, when trying to figure out how to fix our leaky toilet, I disovered the website "clear instructions on how to do (just about) anything." It helped!

It even tells you, unfortunately, "how to get a divorce." Their very first line? "It has been estimated that about half of all marriages end in divorce."

There's just one problem with that statistic, which is often quoted: it's not true. Thomas Sowell explains:

In a given year, the number of divorces may well be half as large as the number of marriages that year, but this is comparing apples and oranges. The marriages being counted are only those marriages taking place within the given year, while the divorces that year are from marriages that took place over a period of decades. To say that half of all marriages end in divorce, based on such statistics, would be like saying that half the population died last year if deaths were half as large as births. Just as most people were neither born nor died last year, so most marriages did not begin or end last year. Yet, on the basis of such gross misconceptions of statistics, the anointed not only assume airs of superiority but claim the right to shape public policy.

From Thomas Sowell's superb The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulations as a Basis for Social Policy, p. 59.

Mark Roberts on Translations

Mark Roberts--blogging pastor extraordinaire--has been blogging lately on Bible translations, with a view toward the TNIV and whether its publication is good for the church. At the end of the day, I suspect Dr. Roberts and I will have some differences, but I'm encouraged by what he's written thus far, and commend it for your consideration.

Bible Translations

Here are a couple of excellent articles on Bible translations and the problem with dynamic-equivalent translations:

"We Really Do Need Another Bible Translation,"
by Raymond C. Van Leeuwen, in Christianity Today

"A Bible for Everyone," by Alan Jacobs, in First Things

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Singing in the Rain

This is not only cool--it's a bit scary given what can be done with old videos!

(HT: In the Agora)

The Bible for Today's Generation

One of the rationales for the controversial TNIV (Today's New International Version) is that it is more understandable and more accurate for today's generation--especially those in the 18 to 34 year olds. The publishers of the TNIV tell us we need a translation they can understand. But who in the world--besides politically-correct academicians--speaks this way?

Genesis 9:6 "Whoever sheds human blood, by human beings shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made humankind.

McLaren's Generous Orthodoxy

Al Mohler reviews Brian McLaren's Generous Orthodoxy today. Key quote: "The problem with A Generous Orthodoxy , as the author must surely recognize, is that this orthodoxy bears virtually no resemblance to orthodoxy as it has been known and affirmed by the church throughout the centuries. . . . Orthodoxy must be generous, but it cannot be so generous that it ceases to be orthodox."

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

10 Reasons to Read Church History

Chris Armstrong explains Ten Reasons to Read Church History:

  1. Because Christian history is everywhere in our culture.
  2. Because Christian history liberates you from the tyranny of the present—and of the recent past.
  3. Because life is too short to learn by experience.
  4. Because whatever question is on your mind, someone smarter than you has already seen it clearer, thought about it longer, and expressed it better.
  5. Because the deeper our roots, the higher we grow.
  6. Because reading Christian history is a great way to meet fascinating people and hear dramatic, colorful stories. History is all about people.
  7. Because reading Christian history helps root out prejudice and foster sympathy and humility.
  8. Because reading Christian history shows us how we got where we are today.
  9. Because … well, if #8 depresses you by reminding you of the disunity and dysfunction of the church, then consider this reason, too: We need to read Christian history to remind us of our mission.
  10. Like the wine at the Cana wedding feast, the best reason has been saved for last: We should read Christian history because Christianity is a historical religion, based on a historical person and the words of two "Testaments" full of historical accounts.


Phil Ryken also has some counsel on how to deal with overload and overwhelmedness. Read the whole thing for his pastoral counsel, but here are his summary exhortations:

First, whatever else you do, make time for communion with Christ. Remember what Jesus said to Martha, that only “one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:42)—that is, to be with Jesus, listening to what he says and talking with him about what we need. It is only when we allow God to minister to us through Bible study and prayer that the rest of life makes any sense at all.

Second, embrace the limitations of your finitude. Rather than feeling anxious and distressed about everything you’re not getting done, or always complaining that you need more time, take satisfaction in the many daily reminders that you are not God. You are not all-powerful, all-present, and all-knowing. Only God is. So when the overload confronts you with your limitations, be reminded that you are only a creature who needs to rest in your Savior’s care (see Matt. 6:25–34; 11:28–30).

Third, choose wisely. The hardest choices in life are not the choices between the good things and the bad things. When it comes to discriminating the good from the bad, most Christians find it relatively easy to tell the difference. No, the hard choices are the ones between the good things and the best things. To make these decisions we need the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, who works through Scripture, through circumstances, through counsel, and through our conscience to help us “discern what is best” (Phil. 1:10; NIV).

Why Do Christians Have So Many Kids?

“Why is it that devoutly Christian families . . . tend to have more children than atheists or agnostics, or even than nominal Christians?” Phil Ryken looks at the positives of--and some concerns about--natalism.

Bible Translations

With the TNIV (Today's New International Version) recently published and back in the news, I thought it might be helpful to highlight some principles drawn from Leland Ryken's excellent book, The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation. Here is a summary of Ryken's main points:

Five Fallacies About the Bible
  1. The Bible is a uniformly simply book.
  2. The Bible is a book of ideas rather than concrete particulars.
  3. The Bible is a modern book.
  4. The Bible needs correction.
  5. The Bible is a book devoid of mystery and ambiguity.


In this chapter I have looked chiefly at prefaces and surrounding documents of modern translations to show that these translations reveal attitudes about the Bible that I believe to be fallacious. …I believe all of this to be the reverse of what is actually true. The truth is that the Bible is sometimes simple and sometimes difficult and complex. It is a book of stories and poetic images more than a book of abstract propositions. Furthermore, the Bible is an indisputably ancient book. As such, it is the book that in its original form is the book that God wants us to have, including much that is mysterious and requires careful pondering and unpacking. (p. 78)

Seven Fallacies About Translation

  1. We should translate meaning rather than words.
  2. All translation is interpretation.
  3. Readability is the ultimate goal of translation.
  4. The important question is how we should say something.
  5. Koiné Greek was uniformly colloquial.
  6. If Biblical writers were living today…
  7. Any difficulty in reading the Bible is the fault of the translation.


The positive counterpart to the fallacies I have delineated are as follows: The only way to keep a translation from wandering into subjective variability and to remain subject to verifiable criteria of reliability is to render the words of the original into English. There is a decisive difference between linguistic interpretation and thematic interpretation of meaning, and a reliable translation sticks to the main task of translation—namely, determination of linguistic meaning. An English Bible translation should strive for maximum readability only within the parameters of accurately expressing what the original actually says, including the difficulty inherent in the original text. The crucial question that should govern translation is what the original authors actually wrote, not our speculations over how they would express themselves today or how we would express the content of the Bible. The fact that the New Testament was written in koiné Greek should not lead translators to translate the Bible in a uniformly colloquial style. Finally, a good translation does not attempt to make the Bible simpler than it was for the original audience. (pp. 100-101)

Eight Fallacies About Translation

  1. Contemporary Bible readers have low intellectual and linguistic abilities
  2. The Bible is read mainly by people unfamiliar with it
  3. Bible readers cannot handle theological or technical terminology
  4. Figurative language is beyond the grasp of Bible readers
  5. Modern readers require short sentences
  6. Bible readers cannot be educated beyond their present level of ability
  7. The Bible is more difficult for modern readers than for the original readers
  8. Readers, not authors, determine meaning


The fallacies that some translation foster have resulted in a chaotic and inconsistent picture. On the one hand, these translations are embarrassingly patronizing toward their readers. They make it clear that the translators have accommodated their translation to readers characterized by low linguistic abilities, impaired comprehension and thinking skills, deficient theological capabilities, inability to read poetry, and impatience with any piece of writing that is not immediately understandable. Yet is these very readers that modern translations have regularly elevated over the biblical author and text to the role of determining what is put forward as the meaning of the original text.

There is only one way out of this morass, and that is to expect the same standards from Bible readers that we expect of readers in other contexts of life, to lend at least the same authority to the biblical authors and their texts that we expect of our own utterances, and to let the writers of the Bible (and ultimately God) say what they said. That is tantamount to saying that the antidote to the fallacies I have outline in this chapter is to produce an essentially literal translation of the Bible and to educate (or simply expect) English readers to understand what they read and hear preached. (p. 118)

Because of Winn-Dixie

WorldMagBlog points to a new conservative blog on films: Libertas. Here’s their plug for the new upcoming movie Because of Winn-Dixie:

…Because of Winn-Dixie
is the sort of film that American studios - long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away - used to make routinely. The film is charming, intelligent, wholesome without being cloying, and designed to reach children at a particularly sensitive stage of their development - namely, when they start to form their first important friendships. The film also depicts something we almost never see in major American films - smalltown America, free from the malicious stereotypes or awkward sentimentality so often purveyed in Hollywood fare.

Basically the movie tells the story of how a big-hearted dog enters the life of an otherwise lonely young girl, whose father is an itinerant preacher and whose mother has abandoned her. The dog becomes a kind of cheerful go-between for the girl as she meets some of the more reclusive personalities of the town. Unlikely friendships are formed, and a lot of otherwise hardened hearts are melted as we take a pleasant little tour of smalltown Georgia.

We’ll have more to say about this film later. It opens nationwide on February 18th, and you can find out more about the film here. Go see this film, and bring your family along, too … after all, it may be the only film your entire film can even see together this year!

Decision-Making and the Will of God

When making decisions in life, we need to avoid the temptation to only ask the question, “Is this action or attitude sinful?” We must certainly ask that question, but we must also ask the deeper, more profound question of whether or not our attitude or action will be glorifying to God and whether it will serve the advancement of the Kingdom. To that end, here are some questions that John Feinberg and Paul Feinberg suggest in their excellent book, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1993) [pp. 44-45]:

  1. Am I fully persuaded that it is right? (Rom. 14:5, 14, 23)
  2. Can I do it as unto the Lord? (Rom. 14:6-8)
  3. Can I do it without being a stumbling block to my brother or sister in Christ? (Rom 14:13, 15, 20-21, 22)
  4. Does it bring peace? (Rom 14:17-19)
  5. Does it edify my brother? (Rom. 14:19)
  6. Is it profitable? (1 Cor. 6:12)
  7. Does it enslave me? (1 Cor 6:12)
  8. Does it bring glory to God? (1 Cor. 10:31)

Mohler on Hewitt on the Blogosphere

Al Mohler provides a superb summary of blogs and the blogosphere today. Money quote: "Just how big is this new information revolution? Hewitt argues persuasively that we should see the emergence of the blogosphere in terms of Gutenberg's invention of movable type."

"Stand to Reason" Blog

Stand to Reason--a superb apologetics ministry--now has a blog.

(HT: Evangelical Outpost)

Monday, February 14, 2005

Top 20 Romantic Films of All Time

A while back I linked to Michael Medved's List of the Top-Ten Movies of All Time (with a serious caveat by Medved). So today, on Valentine's Day, I thought it might be appropriate to reproduce Medved's List of the Top-Twenty Romantic Movies of All Time (copied from FamilyLife's resource, Simply Romantic Secrets, featuring Dennis and Barbara Rainey and C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney).
  1. It's a Wonderful Life
  2. The Sound of Music
  3. Casablanca
  4. Mr. Holland's Opus
  5. Sleepless in Seattle
  6. Field of Dreams
  7. My Fair Lady
  8. Cyrano de Bergerac
  9. His Girl Friday
  10. It Happened One Night
  11. Tender Mercies
  12. Roxanne
  13. Sense and Sensibility
  14. African Queen
  15. The Family Man
  16. The Story of Us
  17. Cheaper by the Dozen
  18. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  19. Brief Encounter
  20. Princess Bride

Thomas Kinkade

Joe Carter writes today about the art of Thomas Kinkade. Carter expressing his frustration with Kinkade, for "he is both a creator of some of the most inspiring paintings of the past two decades and a producer of some of the worst schlock ever manufactured by a talented artist." In fact, his later work--the kind of stuff that's so popular in Christian bookstores today--"is a pseudo-referential nostalgia, a longing for what does not exist in reality but exists in the fantasy realm of possibility." For more, you can read the whole thing.

How Does Marriage Glorify God?

The early church father Tertullian wrote:

How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in home, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice . . . Nothing divides them either in flesh or in spirit . . . They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God's church and partake God's banquet, side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other's company; they never bring sorrow to each other's hearts . . . Seeing this Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present.

(Hat tip: Al Mohler)

Mohler, in today's Crossway Commentary, writes that "The church has recognized three great purposes of marriage, and all three of these have been subverted by the sexual revolution and its aftermath":

  1. The procreation and nurture of children, if God should grant children to the marriage.
  2. A remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication . . . that [believers] might marry and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body."
  3. Companionship throughout life, through good and bad, comfort and loss, sickness and health, until death parts the husband and wife.
He concludes in this way: "Remember these truths as you celebrate Valentine's Day. Perhaps we should seize this day in order to launch a Christian counter-revolution for marriage."

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Daniel Pipes

Daniel Pipes--one of the foremost experts in this country on the Middle East--is always worth listening to, in part because he has had an uncanny abiliity to forecast events with judgments that go against the popular grain. (He was warning of a 9/11-type attack years ago.)

In this interview last week, Pipes explains why (1) he's pessimistic about the Middle East peace agreement/ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (he estimates that 80% of Palestinians--including Mahmoud Abbas--have a goal of destroying Israel); (2) he doesn't think Israel currently has the capacity to take out Iran's nuclear facilities; (3) he "would not be shocked" if the United States eventually destroyed those facilities; and (4) is "sympathetic" to the idea that the US troops in Iraq should be withdrawn from Sunni areas, potentially to western enclaves, so as not to be drawn into the vortex of civil war.

"The Self-Esteem Hoax"

A few days ago I blogged on Al Mohler's article on Exploding the Self-Esteem Myth. If you're interested in this topic, especially as it relates to education (specifically of minorities in the United States), you may want to check out Dinesh D'Souza's article, "The Self-Esteem Hoax."

Friday, February 11, 2005

Easson Jordan Resigns

The blogosphere has done it again: CNN chief news executive (and American military slanderer) Easson Jordan has resigned. Hats off to La Shawn Barber and Captain Ed who--among others--drove the story.

If Abortion Becomes Illegal Again...

One of the issues pro-lifers have to answer is what they propose as legal punishment for abortion if abortion were to become illegal again in this country. Pro-choicers have formulated the issue as the pro-lifer being caught on the horns of a dilemma: either lack of compassion or lack of consistency.

The argument itself, I think, is not that difficult to answer. What is more difficult is what sort of proposal should be made regarding legislation for lawbreakers--both mothers and providers--after abortion is outlawed once again. I’d be particularly interested in hearing JivinJehoshaphat and Imago Dei weigh in on this one, as they are much sharper and articulate on these issues than me.

Francis Beckwith, in his superb Politically Correct Death: Answering Arguments for Abortion Rights (pp. 72-74), explores the issue. Much of what follows will be summarized from his helpful discussion:

The Objection

Here is how Beckwith frames the objection:

If abortion is made illegal, many women will be prosecuted, convicted, and/or sentenced for murder (a capital offense in some states), because the changed law will entail that abortion in almost every circumstance entails the unjustified and premeditated killing of an innocent person (the unborn). Such a situation will unnecessarily cause emotional and familial harm to women who are already in a desperate situation (i.e., seeking an illegal abortion).

Such laws, if instituted, will lack compassion.

If they are not instituted, the pro-lifer will lack consistency.

Two Responses

Beckwith gives two responses:

  1. If the argument is correct with regard to pro-life inconsistency, that does not prove that the unborn are not human persons or that abortion is not a great moral evil. It simply proves that pro-lifers are unable to consistently apply their position.
  2. This argument clearly ignores the pre-legalization laws and penalties for illegal abortion and possible reasons why they were instituted.

Pre-Roe, even though the law considered the unborn to be human persons, in most states women were granted immunity from prosecution. In other states the penalties were very light. In general, legislators which did incriminate the woman's participation generally imposed less severe penalties on the woman than one the person who actually attempted to induce the abortion


Beckwith writes:

By prudently balancing

  • the unborn's right to life,
  • the evil of abortion,
  • the desperation of the woman,
  • and the need for testimonial evidence in order to insure a conviction,

jurists and legislators in the past believed that the best way to prevent abortions from occurring and at the same time uphold the sanctity of human life is to

  • criminalize abortion,
  • prosecute the abortionist,
  • grant immunity or a light penalty to the woman,
  • and show her compassion by recognizing that in most cases she is indeed the second victim of abortion.

Five Considerations

Beckwith suggestion that if abortion is made illegal, legislatures will have to take the following five considerations into account:

  1. It is a reality that unborn humans are persons and to kill them is no different than killing a newborn baby, an infant, a small child, an adolescent, or an adult.
  2. Because of both the lack of education concerning prenatal development and the miseducation of abortion-rights propaganda that permeates the media, both men and women are often ignorant of the true nature of the unborn child and the philosophical arguments that support it.
  3. The woman who will seek and obtain an illegal abortion is really a second victim. Women who seek illegal abortions will probably do so out of desperation. It is likely that the woman will be lied to both by those encouraging her to seek an abortion as well as the paid abortion provider.
  4. Even if his intention may be to help the woman, the abortionist is a hired killer who is knowledgeable about his victim's nature and should be treated as such.
  5. The government has an interest in preventing unjustified and premeditated killing of persons, whether born or unborn, who live within its jurisdiction.

I think this is very well said.

Two Possible Objections

I see two possible objections.

First, there will certainly be situations in which the woman is (a) desperate, but (b) fully knowledgeable of what she is doing. Therefore, Beckwith's compassionate-law proposal doesn't adequately deal with her situation and guilt.

Second, it could be argued that no matter how compassionate we want to be, the effect of this law's penalty is to devalue the life of the unborn. If infanticide is a capital crime, then abortion should be a capital crime. Different penalties imply a difference of value between the unborn baby and the born baby.

Two Possible Responses

A possible response to the first objection is that laws, by their very nature, are general. They don't make distinctions. You have to write the law in such a way that it will apply to the broadest range of people. It's just not practical to write in exception-clauses into the law. (No speeding-unless you have to go to the bathroom really badly.)

Beckwith then responds to the second objection-which in some ways is also a
response to my first objection.

. . . sometimes the purpose of a penalty is not to make a value judgment about the nature of the act prohibited or about its victim, but to provide an incentive for the realization of the best possible circumstances for societal elimination of the prohibited act and protection of its victim, precisely because the act in question and the violation of its victim so morally transgresses what is indeed valuable and good. For example, in some states it is a capital offense to kill a police officer in the line of duty but not an ordinary citizen on the job, but this does not mean that the ordinary citizen has less value as a person than the police officer. Consequently, precisely because there is great value in prohibiting the act of abortion, since it entails the killing of an unborn human person, a prudent legislature will take into consideration all the variables and types of individuals ordinarily involved in the act, such as those presented in the above five acts, in order to protect as many unborn children as possible.

What do you think?