[*] 2.5 of 3: Who was Jesus?

I was scanning Doug Wilson's blog today, and I happened to come upon this nugget:
    I am continuing with some occasional remarks on various aspects of N.T. Wright's work.

    "What, then, was the agenda of Saul of Tarsus? We may draw it together in three points. First, he was zealous for Israel's God and for the Torah. This was a matter of personal piety, no doubt, and of fervent prayer and study. His zeal for the Torah was not, however, a Pelagian religion of self-help moralism. It was zeal to see God honoured which necessitated stamping out, by whatever means were necessary, all forms of disloyalty to the Torah among Jews . . ." (What St. Paul Really Said, pp. 34-35).

    As I have noted elsewhere, I believe that N.T. Wright has many particular things of great value to offer the Church. But it is here, in his treatment of the unconverted Saul, that I think his entire project (taken as a whole) goes astray.

    The converted Saul had a much lower estimate of his pre-Christian activities than do many advocates of the NPP. Note some of the descriptive elements above -- zealous for God, personal piety, fervent prayer, and so on. Sounds like a pretty good guy. But after his conversion, Saul described himself as a wicked and insolent man. I have no doubt that Saul was looking forward to the vindication of God for all Torah-keepers like himself. But when God did intervene, it was to reveal that Saul was actually a Torah-breaker. On the Damascus road, Saul discovered more than who Jesus was. He discovered who Saul was -- an evil man, and one who in substance and at the fundamental level, despised and hated the Torah.
We should take that as a kind of seasoning for the rest of the discussion on Wright, I think. When someone like Wilson is willing to go on-record to say that Wright has the relationship between pre-Damascus Road Saul and post-Damascus Road Paul "wrong", there is an opportunity to open the discussion wide.

[*] 2 of 3: Who was Jesus?

The reason I started to provide posts about Wright’s small book was really that he makes some extremely good evangelical points as he writes there, dismissing what he himself calls advocates of “a Jesus of their own imagining”. But the greater reason, I think, to start looking at Wright’s work from this place and this book in particular is that his #1 concern is for us to do something which some of the dissenting voices I link to on this page are not very clear about.

In the last installment of this topic on this blog, I listed 5 questions Wright lists as critical to the question of “Who was Jesus?” Wright makes this point about these questions:
    These, I suggest, are the question which ought now to be addressed in serious historical study of Jesus. They are also the starting-point for the serious theological study of Jesus. It will not do, as we have seen many writers try to do, to separate the historical from the theological. ‘Jesus’ is either the flesh-and-blood individual who walked and talked, and lived and died, in first-century Palestine, or he is merely a creature of our own imagination, able to be manipulated this way or that.
    (Who was Jesus?, 18)
I’d be excited to see someone argue otherwise, but it is clear to me that here Wright is throwing down a very conservative – somewhat radically-conservative – view of Jesus who we call Christ. That view is 100% in-line with the view Paul espouses in 1Cor 15 when he says:
    12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Sure: Paul is here talking about the resurrection as a historical fact, but Wright is taking that point and applying it more broadly to the person who was, in fact, raised from the dead on that first “Easter” Sunday. Wright is saying that whatever theology we are espousing, we must be true to the person and work of this person called Jesus.

Well, holy mackerel. You mean N.T. Wright makes an ad fonts claim regarding how we ought to think about our theological systems? How can that be? Hasn’t he read Derrida or De Mann? What does he think history is, anyway?

He thinks history is a set of actual events, as it turns out – that we, in whatever well-meaning manner we might participate in, sometimes forget about for the sake of some argument we are making. In that, Wright says this:
    Jesus himself, on the strictly orthodox view, laid himself wide open to misunderstanding, ridicule, abuse and even death. The church has no vested interest in preventing people from coming up with new ideas about Jesus. Indeed, I shall myself be arguing … {that} the real, historical Jesus still has many surprises in store for institutional Christianity.
    (Who was Jesus?, viii)
In the last installment, I’m going to cover what Wright summarizes to be a short list of those surprises as a kind of foundation for future discussions of Wright’s work, and to what degree he sticks to his own assertions. But here let me say this: the claims that Wright makes in this book are no more or less foundational in epistemology than those made by James White, Eric Svendsen, or any of the historical/grammatical critics I link to in this blog. The matter of what constitutes “new ideas” is probably one which deserves deeper investigation, and I concede that here for the sake of time and space.

It is possible that I have misread Wright, and that his claims are not foundational in nature. However, his appeal here is to a kind of truth that only the foundationalist considers: that is, the historical, objective truth of some particular which is thereafter transmitted to us via language. There is no doubt that Wright places value on “community” – particularly “faith community”. The question is whether he believes that is it right to allow the community to influence to transmission of history, or if the transmission of history ought to challenge and shape the community.

Here I think it is the latter. Stay tuned for the final installment.

[?] Off Good Friday

Mt 27:27The soldiers assigned to the governor took Jesus into the governor's palace and got the entire brigade together for some fun. 28They stripped him and dressed him in a red toga. 29They plaited a crown from branches of a thorn bush and set it on his head. They put a stick in his right hand for a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mocking reverence: "Bravo, King of the Jews!" they said. "Bravo!" 30Then they spit on him and hit him on the head with the stick. 31When they had had their fun, they took off the toga and put his own clothes back on him. Then they proceeded out to the crucifixion.

32Along the way they came on a man from Cyrene named Simon and made him carry Jesus' cross. 33Arriving at Golgotha, the place they call "Skull Hill," 34they offered him a mild painkiller (a mixture of wine and myrrh), but when he tasted it he wouldn't drink it.

35 -36After they had finished nailing him to the cross and were waiting for him to die, they whiled away the time by throwing dice for his clothes. 37Above his head they had posted the criminal charge against him:


38Along with him, they also crucified two criminals, one to his right, the other to his left. 39People passing along the road jeered, shaking their heads in mock lament: 40"You bragged that you could tear down the Temple and then rebuild it in three days--so show us your stuff! Save yourself! If you're really God's Son, come down from that cross!"

41The high priests, along with the religion scholars and leaders, were right there mixing it up with the rest of them, having a great time poking fun at him: 42"He saved others--he can't save himself! King of Israel, is he? Then let him get down from that cross. We'll all become believers then! 43He was so sure of God--well, let him rescue his "Son' now--if he wants him! He did claim to be God's Son, didn't he?" 44Even the two criminals crucified next to him joined in the mockery.

45From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. 46Around mid-afternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"

47Some bystanders who heard him said, "He's calling for Elijah." 48One of them ran and got a sponge soaked in sour wine and lifted it on a stick so he could drink. 49The others joked, "Don't be in such a hurry. Let's see if Elijah comes and saves him."

50But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last.

51At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces. 52What's more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. 53(After Jesus' resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.)

54The captain of the guard and those with him, when they saw the earthquake and everything else that was happening, were scared to death. They said, "This has to be the Son of God!"

(taken from the Message)

[$] "NEXT BLOG" button

I started playing this game on Monday, and I can't stop -- even though my eyes hurt. It's called "next blog", and it goes like this: I load my blog in the browser, and click the "next blog" button in the Blogger header and read whatever comes up.

I can hear some of you wince. I know: I should know better -- especially given some of the blogs I link to. The "blog" as an object has reached the stage of popularity of cellphones -- which means that while blogging is a great idea with some real-world applications that make your head spin (think: freedom of the press, or global distribution of ideas), it is so ubiquitous that even jerks who can't spell "ubiquitous" are blogging, making 98% of the blogs you read completely worthless. Like the cellphone, the idea is futuristic and mesmerizing: you mean I can self-publish instantly and my work will be available to billions in a few seconds? Of course, there is something lost in translation: the disciple of an editor.

So in playing "next blog", I have found many, many, many spammy blogs: blogs that link to insurance pitches and viagra-to-your-home websites. Who didn't know those would be there? Kudos to Blogger, btw, that I have not found any explicitly-"adult" blogs. Not sure how they did that, but good on them: Blogger is mostly safe for kids.

That is, if you find people who visit the Taj Mahal and can only muster "my best memories are of eating fish and chips and getting drunk on beer" "mostly safe for kids". Or if blogs dedicated to painful breakups that are weeping and bleeding over the loss of one's own true love "mostly safe for kids" (man, they're like 1 in 6 out there, even if we don't count Red's blog).

Thank heavens about a third of the random blogs out there are in Spanish. Because that way I can fool myself into thinking that very metropolitan Europeans and South Americans are blogging about existentially-vital matters that we stupid, monolingual Americans aren't fit to read because of our provincial, puritanical and xenophobic worldview -- rather than admitting that even those blogs are completely self-absorbed journals about video games, some insignificant local band scene, the never-discovered (with good reason) poetry of some emotionally-burdened adolescent, or the evils of corporate employment.

You play it yourself -- see if you can validate my findings. I think this is a great sociological experiment. I'll leave it up to you, blog reader, to determine the hypothesis and the results. The method, however, is addictive.

[#] Analogy and Clarity: Scripture

One of the great parts of being a dad is living with your kids when they are growing up – except when they wake up at 1:30 in the morning, climb into your bed, and then proceed to kick you for the rest of the night so you don’t actually sleep in spite of having to work the next day.

Sure: I hear you. Don’t let them in the bed. Yeah. Whatever. That’s advice from non-parents in the same class as, “clean out the van every time you come home.” When you live that way for more than two days in a row, write a book for the rest of us idiots to read and from which to learn.

I say all that to note that it is not all downside when your son will not respect your need for 7 hours of sleep. I was able to crack open a few books last night regarding the matter of Scripture and whether it says anything of particular use, and I have a few thoughts on the matter which might be of value to the blog.

The first is this: anyone who is willing to either read or write has no business contesting the ability of the writer/reader relationship to take meaning from one end of the process and transmit it to the other end. I’m sorry: while I agree that in the strictest sense language is analogical, analogy is not a process by which the “real clear” meaning is lost or obscured beyond utility. We all love Van Til and Frame as brothers in Christ, but I agree with Robert Reymond when he says this:
    Christians should be overwhelmed by the magnitude of this simple truth that they take so much for granted – that the eternal God has deigned to share with us some of the truths which are on his mind. He condescends to elevate us poor undeserving sinners by actually sharing with us a portion of what he knows. Accordingly, since the Scripture require that saving faith be grounded in true knowledge (see Rom 10:13-14), the church must vigorously oppose any linguistic or revelational theory, however well-intended, that would take away from men and women the only ground of their knowledge of God and, accordingly, their only hope of salvation. Against the theory of human knowledge that would deny the possibility pf univocal correspondence at any point with God’s mind as to content, it is vitally important that we come down on the side of Christian reason and work with a Christian theory of knowledge that insists upon the possibility of at least some identity between the content of God’s knowledge and the content of man’s knowledge.
    (Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 1998, Thomas Nelson, 102)(Italics from Reymond, underlined emphasis added)
To those who at this point say, “well, duh!” but then go on to complain about the use of historical/grammatical exegesis as a means of receiving the truth of Scripture, God spoke and wrote for the express purpose of being understood. Even Reymond, in outlining the WCF’s doctrinal confessions of Scripture, elaborates emphatically
    The Scripture’s doctrine of Scripture, espousing its own revelatory and inspired character, binds us to the grammatical/historical method of exegesis. … that each biblical document and each part of any given biblical document must be studied in its immediate literary context and the wider situation in which it was written. This will require an understanding of (1) the structure and idioms of the biblical languages, (2) a document’s literary genre (is it prose or poetry, history or allegory, parable or apocalypse?), (3) the document’s historical background, (4) its geographical conditions, and (5) its Sitz und Leben (“life-setting”), that is, what occasioned it? What problem or question did it intend to address? (Reymond, 49)
It is not arrogant (or, as Reymond points out, idolatrous) to read the text closely, critically, even grammatically to try to begin to comprehend it. It is in fact what Scripture calls us to do.

So what is the point of confessing that language is analogical? What does one actually mean by confessing that? Here’s what I mean, and you can take it for what it’s worth as it agrees with fellows like Gordon Clark and J.I. Packer: it is a terrible mistake to think that language is the thing itself, but it is equally damaging in the systematic sense to think that analogy, as Van Til has said, has no point of contact with the thing itself.

Reymond gives Clark’s example of knowledge about King David, but I’m going to offer another one which, I think, accounts for “more parts” of the problem. Let’s say that Timothy is in Ephesus, and of course God knows Timothy is in Ephesus. But Timothy is thinking about Jerusalem for a moment as he reads Paul’s letters, and he turns to face Jerusalem for whatever reason. Of course, Timothy does not have a GPS or even a geographically-exact map, so when he turns to face Jerusalem he turns roughly Southeast and thinks about the city.

Now think on this a second: God knows Timothy is in Ephesus, and knows that Jerusalem exists not at exactly 45º East off the North-South Longitude but more like 47.5º, so when Timothy is facing Southeast, he certainly does not know the position of Jerusalem as God does – he knows the position of Jerusalem “analogically”, which is to say well enough to get there from here, but not ontologically or categorically.

But there is a problem with taking this fact – that Timothy’s knowledge of Jerusalem is not as complete as God’s – and concluding that Timothy and God share no points of contact regarding the truth: both Timothy and God know that Jerusalem exists. In fact, they both know that Jerusalem and Timothy exist. Thus while Timothy’s knowledge of Jerusalem may be analogous to God’s knowledge of Jerusalem, it is illegitimate to say that God and Timothy share no qualitative coincidence. Timothy can know what Jerusalem is, and if he is there, even if he cannot know (as God does) how many people are there at any particular moment or at what point in redemptive history exactly Jerusalem finds itself in during Timothy’s lifetime – the hour and the day, so to speak.

This truth is underscored by Reymond who makes this particular point
    What I am urging here is that the success of any analogy turns on the strength of the univocal element in it. Or as Edward John Carnell has stated, the basis for any analogy is the nonagalogical, that is, the univocal.(97)
Speaking of man’s reception of, and understanding of, God’s truth as analogical does not change the fact that God intends man to know something in particular about Himself. Moreover, this analogical understanding of man’s understanding of God’s mind cannot be parlayed into enough skepticism or equivocation to overturn the exegetical apple cart.

So what’s the point? I think there are at least three:

(1) Opting to advance the position that Scripture truth is analogical truth (which I would do) is not the same thing as saying that univocal truth is obscured in such a way that man must find some other co-validators to help achieve some degree of certainty about a given text.

(2) Understanding the basis for analogy – which is, for those keeping score, foundational at its core – allows us to receive analogical data in epistemologically-reliable ways.

(3) Because the source (that is, God) of the analogy we are speaking of (that is, the Bible) is actually a univocal source and also the source of the actual truth being represented (that is, God), there is a strong basis to approach the text without fear of distortion, given the orthodox presupposition that the testimony of the Holy Spirit, removing the blindness of sin, allows man to see the testimony of Scripture.

I have to get ready for work now. I’m sure this will come up again.

[#] A parable about Manitowoc, WI

My wife and I used to live in Wisconsin, in a town called Manitowoc. Manitowoc has a great full-service marina (allegedly the only one on Lake Michigan), and is a great place to live in the summer. The lake does a really swell job of keeping the temperature in Manitowoc enjoyable about 6 months out of the year -- 60's in the daytime, and 40's at night.

The problem with Manitowoc is that in the winter, it is far enough north (like Green Bay) that many nights dip way below zero -- like -20°F and -30°F . That's cold. In fact, it is so cold that if you don't have a heater, you're probably going to freeze to death.

I can remember one week in particular when we lived there that the temperature did not get above 5°F. That’s cold – so cold that salt won’t work on the streets and sidewalks, so everything is just frozen over. That's so cold, in fact, that you can hardly even make a snowman because the snow has little or no cohesion -- the flakes don't have any dampness to stick together, so they stay a fine powder. Even the air has zero humidity -- which you can feel in your nostrils.

I was sure glad, during that week, that I could get up and turn the heater on for myself – because if I couldn’t, I’d be dead right now. Some of you might think that would be a good thing, but my kids would be dead, too, as would my wife. I think it’s amazing that I wouldn’t be here right now except for the fact that a machine kept me and my family alive during those cold weeks in Manitowoc.

Of course, even though I couldn’t have possibly kept myself warm those weeks when the temperature was too cold, at least I could feed myself. Thank God I didn’t need a machine to keep me warm and to feed me. Who would have bothered to turn my machine on if I needed to be kept warm and also to be fed?

Apparently, nobody.

[*] 1 of 3: Who Was Jesus?

Well, OK: after a week of doing other things (like watching both discs of the Incredibles 3 times -- which should be mandatory for anyone who thinks they like either animation or comic books), I've finally gotten back to the blog, and to the matter of NT Wright's book Who was Jesus? Sadly, this is actually a rather old book (c. 1992), but I think that its implications are just seeing the light of day in popular conversations, and it is worth thinking about them for that sake.

Really, I think I have 3 things to say about this book, and this is the first: Wright asks 5 questions in the first chapter of his book that any self-respecting Christian ought to ask. They are:

(1) What was Jesus' relationship with Judaism of the day? Readers of this blog will recognize this question in substance if not form, but Wright asks specifically what Jesus shared with his fellow Jews, where did He contrast them, and most importantly, what did Jesus "say and do that related to Jewish hopes for the immediate future"?

(2) What were Jesus' actual claims? Wright "turns this question around" to ask what Jesus expected people to do if they were listening to Him.

(3) Why did Jesus die, and was a violent death part of the vocation He himself anticipated for what He set out to do?

(4) Why did the early church begin? In other words, what really happened at Easter?

(5) Why are the Gospels what they are? Are they, as Wright asks, "like the better newspapers, substantially true but slanted? Or are they, like the worse newspapers, substantially slanted and untrue? Or what?" And what does this tell us about Jesus and His followers?

It is important to note, I think, that at his foundation, Wright is coming up with his questions from and through the right place: an honest faith. That is to say, Wright is unwilling to advocate his position(s) at all costs. I have touched on this in other forums before, but if one is an advocate (or, as in the realm of the Christian faith, and apologist) for something, one cannot advocate for the truth with a lie. So, for example, if we say that Jesus was the Son of God but He himself denied such a thing, well, that seems to be a pretty big problem if we want to say our belief is true.

Fortunately, Wright does not believe that Jesus denied He was the Son of God. But what is more important is that Wright advocates that Christians ought not to be afraid of the truth about Jesus, whatever it might actually be -- and we should reform our beliefs based on what is actually discovered (or re-iterated) to be true.

So after all that, let me be clear that any self-respecting Christian ought to ask and ought to be able to provide some kind of factual answer for Wright's 5 questions. I think the answers are available at a rudimentary level from the Scriptures, but they are also available by reading some basic Christian history, like Schaff or Kelly -- so you cannot be distracted by ignorant tongue-wagging. If you cannot answer Wright's 5 questions, you probably need to go back to your books before you start arguing with anyone about what you think you think.

Stand by for part 2 …

[*] Intro: Who is Jesus, by NT Wright

I am sure many people reading this blog right now are having flashbacks to the new Star Wars trailer just by seeing the image at the right, thinking of palpatine saying to young Skywalker, "not from a jedi ..."

Just keep your hand over your mouth as you stand there gape-jawed, OK? I read this book last night (literally, all in one night), and it's got a lot going for it -- especially in the context of the discussions I have had with Tim Enloe regarding the nature of truth.

So while I still strongly recommend, with only a few comments, the Church Government book, this is the book I’m going to spend some time examining over the next few posts. Hope no one is bored by that.

[#] Perspectives on Church Government

You can see this book (and buy it, if you're so inclined) in the recommended reading column on the right, so I'm not going to paste an image here in my brief review of it.

This book has been out for about 6 months, I guess, and I have been through it twice for various reasons -- not the least of which is that I was looking for something a little less, um, one-sided than Strauch's book on Biblical Eldership. See: I think it's an important part of the in-house discussion about a topic like church polity that we not just stake out a camp and then defend it with blind zeal. If we are going to be honest about our selves and our motives, it is useful to get counsel of a reasonable few who are godly men and not necessarily of our like opinion. SUre: I have a bias about the "right answer", but men of good faith whom I respect come to a different answer than I do on this question, and it helps to see why.

One great reason to read this book is that it has affirmative and critical essays in it from two of my favorite "religious stuff" writers: Robert Reymond and James White. The really fun part here is that none of the 5 essayists are writing from a bland academic viewpoint: they are all writing in advocation of their particular demoniational viewpoint. I think the reading is always better when the writer obviously has a vested interest.

Anyway, who should read this book? Well, Christian theological "hobbyists" should read this book -- people who enjoy reading about secondary doctrines of the faith from the various non-fringe perspectives will enjoy the accessibility of this book.

I think pastors who are trying to open an ecumenical dialog with other denominations should read this book. Let's face it: seminary is not always a place where you get a balanced analysis of the practical views of the faith, and this book does a great job of not villianizing anybody. Even when Paul Zahl criticized James' White view of ecclesiology as too "high church", (which I find funny every time I read it, because Zahl is an Episcopal Bishop), it is done in the right spirit -- which is to say, it is given appropriate context to wave off any suspicion that anyone is taking a cheap shot.

Most importantly, in our world where Evangelical laymen and "deacons" or "elders" are frequently under-informed about important (though not necessarily deal-breaking) theological matters because they are too boring or don't fit into the program of a purpose-driven church, this book is for anybody who has concerns about what the church ought to look like from the inside. Does is put every action under the microscope, testing which pass the litmus test of James 1 for true religion? No, it does not. But if your church, for example, is taking under consideration the matter of whether it ought to adopt eldership as the model of accountability and church polity, or if you do not understand why your church does what it does in terms of church polity, this book gives you the introductory summary -- complete with fair criticisms -- of each of the 5 major views of Protestant church goverment.

overall rating: *****(4 stars)

[?] oh yeah -- almost forgot ...

Happy St. Patty's Day!

I have a link to Schaff's historical comments about St. Pat someplace, but I can't find it under all the corned beef and cabbage on my desk. I know, I know: that's not really Irish food.

Look: you eat what you like, and I'll eat what I like.

[#] Today's Nearly-Inerrant Version

Ok -- the subject line is not very fair reporting, but I'm not a reporter, and if you're reading my blog for your daily news you need a hobby, bub. However, for an equally-imbalanced short article on the TNIV, take a look at this.

I don't like the TNIV, but to say it "banishes" the word "saints" is a little over the top. And the problem with stories like this one is that it doesn't really cover the matter of Bible translation in a way which helps someone who's trying to read his KJV AV 1611 and can't get through the text because he can't understand 17th century English figure out whether a more contemporary translation might help him.

Honestly: there's nothing wrong with the KJV that a college education wouldn't cure (the exceptions to this rule could be another blog entry), and there's nothing wrong with the TNIV that reading it parallel with a more formal translation wouldn't cure. But the question under all the hoopla really ought to be this: did Zondervan really have to come out with the TNIV for the sake of the reader, or the sake of the church?

Look: today there are a LOT of translations of the Bible in English. I have a chart in the bookstore which lists literally 80 different translations in English -- KJV, NKJV, KJV21, AKJV, ASV, NASB, NLT, Living Word, YLT, Darby, D-R, RSV, NRSV, NAB, NIV, NIrV, TNIV, NCV, GNT, ESV, HCSB, MSG, AMP, etc. There are good reasons to have more than one translation in English, and there are even good reasons to have paraphrases like MSG and AMP. But as I asked above, does the NIV really need a facelift?

Consider this: the NIV as a translation is the best-selling Bible of all time. It continues to dominate about half of all Bible sales in English -- and even in a town like mine where the KJV is sometimes preached as if Jesus spoke King James English, the NIV is the best-selling translation. The reality check is that the NIV has broad inter-demoniational approval, and it doesn't really grind any theological axes. It has its limits becuase it is a translation, but understanding those limits is the job of teachers and pastors who should be rightly handling the word of God.

So why an NIV facelift? Was there a serious editorial problem, or translation issues which have been ironed out in the last 30 years? No. But there has been the problem of Bibles like the NASB and the more-recent NLT, ESV and HCSB coming out and making an impact on the Bible marketplace. To be fair, HCSB and ESV are technically the "fastest growing" bible translations, but they only have a small fraction of the Bible marketplace -- maybe together they sold 10% of the total number the NIV sold last year.

So the NIV, from a marketing standpoint, needed to compete with the "new" kids on the block, and since it is already called the "New International Version", they couldn't really call it the "New and Improved Internaional Version". The other big stumbling block for them is the perpetual paper mill of the KJV-Only crowd. While it is usually true that any press is good press, why stoke the fires of Ruckmanites and (can you believe people still read her?) Riplingerers by calling the NIV the NIIV, which seems to tacitly say, "well, there were problems with the NIV ..."?

Thus: TNIV. Apparently, the formal English of the 70's has fallen into disuse or ill-repute, and TNIV overcomes the gender bias of the translators (sic). And it also can compete, apparently, with the LifeWay retail apparatus which will be glad to sell the Holman Christian Standard Bible to anybody at wholesale, but still maintains Beth Moore as a proprietary author and will not wholesale her bible studies to non-LifeWay stores. And Thomas Nelson has a new NKJV paperback which is 3-columns per page that you can get for about a buck -- from me, or about anybody. Nelson is trying to sell 1,000,000 bibles this year, and they don't care how. A bible for a buck.

OK: when, exactly, have we turned the Father's house into a den of thieves? When has the method become more important than the message? I'm not against Christian Retail: I'm against slavery to the new and different. Relevance is one thing: marketing to greed is another. The Bible should not be a franchise.

[$] Eventually, everything makes sense

I have to go back on my word not to comment on the TELIP tattoo because of thisnews story. Yes, technically, they say that no health risk has been measured or clinically proven, but if this much copper was in your drinking water, the EPA would be in your kitchen assessing you and your water provider with a fine. If this level of nickel was found in the fish in the local lake, some smelly tree hugger would be protesting the evils of Western Civilization.

The good news, btw, comes at the end of the article:
Right now, tattoo removal is a fairly difficult process -- often requiring several laser treatments to lighten the tattoo, with varying aesthetic results. It's possible, Wagner said, that knowing the exact composition of tattoo pigments will help refine tattoo removal techniques.
And that will be the last time I mention this. Unless I can find another funny joke about it.

And for those of you reading the time & date stamp, yes I do stay up all night worrying about Red. My kids are turning out just fine, so I have to put that leftover energy to some good use.

[$] It's Monday -- where's a BLOG Update?!

um, my dog ate it.

Hey: you work two jobs and find time to play with your 2 kids under 6, and then you tell me how many blog updates I should post per week.

Sheesh. It's free. I appreciate getting 200 hits in about 35 days, but we're not married ...


[#] On a more spiritual note ...

The bookstore sponsors the annual Pastor's Appreciation banquet in NW Arkansas, and the last one I got to attend was in 2003 when Andrew Peterson and Jill Phillips performed for the edification and enjoyment of about 200 local pastors and their wives.

I bring that up because I have been previewing Jill Phillips' new CD (which will only be available at Munce stores after Easter -- HA! Take that Family and LifeWay!) which is call "Kingdom Come". All hymns. All new arrangements.

I like Jill Phillips. A very clean, simple pop-folk sound; a very direct message of the hope of Christ for the rags and dispair of human life. I'd recommend it and link to it in the blog for your purchase, but (1) it's not released yet, and (2) it won't be available except for Jill's website after the first 30-or-so days. If you want one, I can sell it to you, but you'll have to e-mail me. I'm not even sure what the retail is yet.

I only know this: if the only 2 songs on this CD were "What wonderous love is this" and "have thine own way", it would be worth $9.99. However, you also get "Man of Sorrows", "Christ the Lord is Risen today" and 6 other cuts.

So why's that such a spiritual note? I guess it's not unless you get edification from the fact that once in a while the purveyours of "Christian" products do actually get something out that actually points to the Gospel. My actual spirital note for this blog entry is this:
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit ’till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.
I was listening to Jill sing this song today as I was driving to work and found my mind wandering over something I realized was actually sinful. Now think about that: here I am, a Christian listening to a hymn of praise for Almighty and merciful God, and I'm not decent enough to let the song stop before my mind engages in sin.

If God were only justice, and only Holy, He would have been perfectly right to drop me into hell right there. Instead, not only did He not make me pay for that sin on the spot, He convicted me to confess here to all of you and to make a point about His mercy so that He could be glorified by the mercy we receive in Christ.

Listen: if you're the kind of Christian who thinks that you're better in God's eyes because of your choices -- like the choice, below described, to be a temperate drinker or a tea-totaler -- you're fooling yourself. Your acts of human will are not to your credit: your acts of human will prove that you are in trouble and need a savior. It is not what you do -- or even what you think you are doing -- that makes you righteous. You don't have it in you.

But God has it. He can put it in you. He can reform you not just in your acts but in your heart, in your motive for doing anything. Indeed: have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!

[#] More about our allegedly-dry county ...

The last time I wrote about this topic, it was to discuss the issue of whether it is right to do something (in this case, legalize alcohol sales) for the sake of the revenue that it would provide. I’d like to point out that since my letter has been in print (newspaper & blog), the Cherokee casino across the state line has publicly said that Oklahoma’s new legalization of poker tables for their operation has been a phenomenal boon to them. I’m sure that’s exciting news for those who think we do not change what kind of people we are by changing the kinds of laws we keep in place.

However, since then we have also begun to hear from the "other side" of the dry county debate, and frankly they surprised me. Both writers to the local newspaper (published in the week of 3/9/2005) underscored the value of human choice regarding the legalization of alcohol – that is to say, adults have a God-given right to the choice to drink if they want to.

Well, sure. Let me say up front that I would condemn no one for drinking responsibly in appropriate social contexts. But before you finish reading this blog entry, head over to the grocery store (or if you are reading this at home, look in your fridge) and look at a gallon of milk. Pick it up and think about drinking that whole gallon of milk in one sitting. Think about how much milk is in one gallon. And think about this question: can one gallon of milk (at a time) satisfy someone’s exercise of choice to have milk and to drink milk?

The answer is “yes” – even for my 3-year-old who is constantly drinking milk. But the somewhat surreal part of the arguments in the 3/9 edition of the newspaper is that just 3 days earlier the Sunday paper published a feature on the wet/dry county debate concerning the private ownership of alcohol. In that feature, The Arkansas Democrat Gazette told us that it was completely legal for any adult to own up to a gallon of wine in our “dry” Benton county. That stipulation is due to State regulations concerning “dry” legislation. However, much like the current writers in the local paper, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette portrayed a kind of stunned shame at such a thing – as if a gallon of wine is not enough.

Let me be clear that I’m sure the writers I’m responding to would admit that they have never in their lives consumed a whole gallon of wine in one sitting. A gallon (which is to say, about 3-4 bottles) of wine is plenty of wine with which, as one of them said, to "let your conscience dictate what you do", and it turns out that anyone can own up to a gallon of wine in Benton county if they want to. How “dry” is that, really? Is their choice actually in danger in some way?

The problem, I suppose, is that it is not convenient to come by a bottle of wine in some parts of Benton county. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a place where this is true in particular, but I’m sure those who are advocating a wet county could give us a list. Whether or not that list can be assembled, let me propose that the current state of things advances a particular end: responsible drinking.

So what is the definition of responsible drinking? I found one on the internet on a site called “brad21.org”, dedicated to the advocation of responsible drinking (not a tea-totaling site by any means) in memory of a Michigan State University junior who died at a party from alcohol poisoning. Tbey say this: “Remember: Careful planning of a party can increase the pleasure for both the guests and the hosts.” What some are calling a matter of human rights or high-handed legalism is in fact simply an inconvenience that requires a person who wants to drink to plan ahead. Is that actually something to oppose?

There is no one in the “dry” camp who wants to undo the 21st amendment, or who wants to start policing anyone's home personally with a measuring cup. But we do not want to be people who will do anything for a tax buck, and we certainly do not want to be a people who enact laws that make irresponsibility convenient. I don’t condemn anybody for choosing to drink responsibly, but I cannot see how making Benton county like every other wet county in Arkansas advances the cause of responsible drinking.

[?] the devil take yer FireFox

I just found out that FireFox doesn't "get" the recommended reading box in the right-hand column.

Curse you, Mozilla. I will pwn you when the time comes ...

UPDATED: Having pwn'd the HTML and thereby pwning FireFox, centuri0n takes the rest of the day off.

[?] Beyond Jabez!

For those of you who are 1337, I say, "w00t!" There's a new part of the Prayer of Jabez franchise coming out this month, and we'll be proud to review it here for you.

Those of you visiting our little blogspot may have noted the "recommended reading" box at the right. As the blog grows and we interact with more books, we'll be listing the best in the side bar and linking to all reviewed books as a CBD affiliate.

Hope that helps. Please forgive our dust as we remodel ...

[#] Yet more on the Jewish Jesus

Since there is apparently a problem with the way I am expressing myself, I'm going to cite some commentaries on this matter to attempt to indicate what I am saying through other sources more reputable than my own feeble typing.

Jamieson, Fausset, Brown says this:
stature--or better, perhaps, as in the Margin, "age," which implies the other. This is all the record we have of the next eighteen years of that wondrous life. What seasons of tranquil meditation over the lively oracles, and holy fellowship with His Father; what inlettings, on the one hand, of light, and love, and power from on high, and outgoings of filial supplication, freedom, love, and joy on the other, would these eighteen years contain! And would they not seem "but a few days" if they were so passed, however ardently He might long to be more directly "about His Father's business?"
That's a somewhat fruity rendering of what I'm trying to say, so let's try someone more level-headed. Matthew Henry says it thus:
That he improved, and came on, to admiration (v. 52): He increased in wisdom and stature. In the perfections of his divine nature there could be no increase; but this is meant of his human nature, his body increased in stature and bulk, he grew in the growing age; and his soul increased in wisdom, and in all the endowments of a human soul. Though the Eternal Word was united to the human soul from his conception, yet the divinity that dwelt in him manifested itself to his humanity by degrees, ad modum recipientis—in proportion to his capacity; as the faculties of his human soul grew more and more capable, the gifts it received from the divine nature were more and more communicated. And he increased in favour with God and man, that is, in all those graces that rendered him acceptable to God and man. Herein Christ accommodated himself to his estate of humiliation, that, as he condescended to be an infant, a child, a youth, so the image of G! od shone brighter in him, when he grew up to be a youth, than it did, or could, while he was an infant and a child. Note, Young people, as they grow in stature, should grow in wisdom, and then, as they grow in wisdom, they will grow in favour with God and man.
I think that Henry is saying that the "communicatio idiomatum" was "in concreto" as the human incarnation was ready, and I think we can agree on that.

Robertson's Word Pictures says:
Advanced in wisdom and stature (proekopten th sopiai kai hlikiai). Imperfect active, he kept cutting his way forward as through a forest or jungle as pioneers did. He kept growing in stature (hlikia may mean age, as in Genesis 12:25, but stature here) and in wisdom (more than mere knowledge). His physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual development was perfect. "At each stage he was perfect for that stage" (Plummer). In favour (cariti). Or grace. This is ideal manhood to have the favour of God and men.
Robertson's note from Plummer really pegs the matter for me: "At each stage he was perfect for that stage". If we take Plummer's note as the (re)starting point, we have to ask: does that mean He was perfectly -Jewish-, or does that mean He was perfectly -sinless-?

I think it means He was perfectly -sinless- even if his human knowledge was incomplete.

Another issue is the matter of the assortment of beliefs that comprise Jewish theological thinking at the time. As another participant at RBDL pointed out, "you have to remember that Judaism was hardly a monolithic system either religiously or politically." So "being Jewish" culturally really doesn't mean "He had to believe 'X'" or "His view was molded by 'Q'" -- because there is no basis to say that being Jewish means believing either 'X' or 'Q' any more than being American and Christian in 2005 means being Republican or Democrat. (though I can see why some would want to dispute that)

The final matter is whether the aggregate Jewish culture was inherently the sinless view of God that Jesus had to have in the final account. The answer has to be "no".

In all of that, the "Jewish Jesus" arguments come down to a basic assumption: Because Jesus was Jewish (culturally), He must have been influenced by the various forms of Judaism (or one particular kind of Judaism) in order to come to His final mode of teaching and theology. That is, if we better understand characteristic "X" of Judaism, we will better understand Jesus because "X" formed Jesus' view of God/theology.

If the Jewish views were not sinless, but Jesus was sinless, the Jewish views were not the formative constraints on Jesus' views. When Lk 2 says Jesus grew "in wisdom and in stature", it is talking about a natural progression of development in the human sense, but not a development from error to (God willing) less error as we all (who are not both God and man) go through in life. Jesus may have developed from less-comprehensive knowledge to more-comprensive knowledge, but He did not develop from an errant boy into a morally-infallible Savior.

That is why I am advocating that we must view the paradigm of a "Jewish Jesus" with some skepticism. Jesus, intellectually, was not formed by Judaism: the higher constraint -- the greater formative principle -- has to be sinlessness because that is a characteristic of the divine which the human nature of Christ was never without, but was not the case in Jewish paradigms. Only if Judaism can be said to be error-free (and Jesus says it is not error-free; even the other RBDL poster in pointing out the diversity of Jewish thought demonstrates it is not error-free) can we say that it was formative in a way meaningful to the discussion of whether Jesus was speaking through a Jewish context to make a "Jewish" point.

[#] More on the Jewish Jesus

OK, I admit that the point I'm trying to make here has a pretty limited appeal, so for those of you having a hard time keeping your eyes open, sorry 'bout that.

As I am about to post another item on this matter, I just wanted to clear something up: this is not about the faults of Judaism or Jews as a culture per se. As I said before, Jesus was certainly a "Jew". The real question is "what does that mean?" and not "He couldn't be a Jew because Jews are evil."

I hope that keeps people from drawing the wrong conclusions.

[#] The Jewish Jesus

For those of you not subscribed to the Reformed Baptist Discussion list, I have opened a can of worms there regarding the matter of the “Jewish Jesus”. While I am trying to maintain a discussion on the topic, I think I have failed to make my essential points perfectly clear.
  1. I’m not a historian. I admit it. The worst grade I ever receive in school was in history (Sophomore history in High School, c. 1981), and while I appreciate the need to understand any historical artifact in the context of the events which produced it, I am simply not a historian. That’s an essential point only in the fact that it indicates the limits of the commentator.
  2. Jesus was certainly in the line of David. He was human. In that, He was “Jewish” – He was part of a Jewish family, lived in a Jewish town, went to Synagogue and Temple, etc.
  3. I reject the idea that this “Jewishness” was a conforming constraint on the mind of Jesus. By way of metaphor, it is one thing to say that a broken clock is right twice a day, and another to say that someone is required to base all time-telling off the objective reference of the broken clock. Jesus certainly agreed with the Pharisees on some matters (cf. Mt 23:3a), but His view of God was not the same as their view and could not be a result of conforming to their teaching.
  4. Jesus’ human mind was a sinless human mind. In that, His mind did not go through the process we go through to receive truth about God. That is to say, Jesus’ teachings did not “develop”. There was never a time, for example, that Jesus would have thought some other commandments were more important that the two Great Commandments; Jesus never consider the Corban rule debatable. While it may be said that as Jesus grew from the infant in the manger to the man on the Cross His human knowledge grew, it cannot be said that at any time in that process His incomplete knowledge contained a sinful/heretical error about God.
  5. This sinlessness does not diminish the humanity of Christ, but is itself an over-riding conforming constraint on the mind of Christ. On the balance, it is far more important to consider and apply the sinless truth of Christ’s mind than it is to consider or apply the “Jewishness” of Christ’s mind.
  6. True “Jewishness” is the faith of the remnant, not the genetic relationship of any person to Abraham.
  7. The Pharisees did not possess the faith of the remnant; Mt 23 and Acts 7 assert clearly that those who stoned the prophets and killed those sent by God are the hard-hearted, not the ones who have a heart for God – and those described in these passages are the Pharisees and their followers.
  8. Jesus is plainly the object of faith for the remnant.
  9. When Jesus speaks to the faithful or about the faithful, He cannot be speaking out of a false context toward some kind of synthetic or syncretic goal of finding truth. He must be speaking as the object of faith, not as a student formed by Pharisaic teaching.
  10. Apparent historical contexts cannot trump the person of Christ as the object of faith. That is to say, without regard to what others at the time of Christ might have said or done, their actions are not the standard by which we should judge or interpret Christ: we must understand all things by the standard of Christ.
I have no idea if this makes any sense. I’m going back to work to try to clear my head …