Buffeting History

The exchange with Kent over his view of the TR/KJV has caused me to go fetch Wilbur Pickering’s the Identity of the New Testament Text (which, incidentally, is out of print), and I have been paging through his arguments for the priority of the Byzantine text type.

Here’s the place where I couldn’t take it anymore. Between pages 129 and 134, Pickering tries to answer the question of why there is no early witness to the Byzantine text family earlier in the archeological record. Now, I kid you not, his argument is three-fold:

[1] The early Byzantine-type texts wore out, which is why you can’t find them – in the same way that you can’t really find any small churches in Europe of the medieval period but you can find cathedrals, (because the small churches fell apart and were never repaired) you can’t find any Byzantine manuscripts because they wore out with use and were destroyed after they were copied.

[2] The reason for seeing other text types is that they were abandoned and not used, therefore they were better preserved.

[3] However, the reason that the Alexandrian text type isn’t well-represented in the later texts is that it was abandoned by the churches as inferior.

Now, yeah: I know. Plenty to blog about there. Let’s remember that this is an out-of-print book which is representing what I have already called a cultic view of the text of the Greek NT. What I want to do is show you something about the history of the church here.

Look at this map:

That’s a Google map of the Mediterranean region, with drop-pin “A” as the site of actual Alexandria – the locus classicus (as they say) of the Alexandrian text type. The purple stuff is the penetration of the Christian church in this region c. 500AD, more or less. And by “more or less”, I didn’t attempt to do a city clock by city block census of the ancient world to make sure I had all the hard lines drawn.

But I provide that to show that the Christian church in 500 AD had a very broad geographic expanse in a world where there was no blogs, no radio or TV, no newspapers or moveable type, and the means of mass producing paper didn’t exist. That is to say: that’s a big world in which to communicate with quill pens and scrolls and the primary means of spreading the New Testament around. They didn’t have a 50-cent ESV to had out.

In that, it’s not surprising that the text of the NT had some variation from place to place and church to church. Unless someone is willing to say (and they are) that much of this map is actually populated with non-churches which were proliferating non-scripture in order to create non-orthodoxy, if you walked around the Christian world in 500 AD what you’d find is a certain diversity of text-types. The archeological record is clear on that.

Now, look at this map:

And think about this – this is the same region in 800 AD, only 300 years later. The blue stuff is the encroachment of Islam on the Christian world – and as you can see, Alexandria is plainly over-run by 800 AD. It’s not a massive surprise, then, that by 800AD the Alexandrian text type is almost non-existent by 800 AD: those who were using it were being, um, evangelized by Islam, and the Christian texts they had previously revered were being discarded and frankly destroyed by the religious policies of Islam.

That state of affairs was true well into the 19th century, which is when archeological research was able to recover many texts which represented what those churches had in terms of religious texts.

Now, here’s my point: whether you buy Pickering’s point [1] or [2], his point [3] is so far-fetched when compared to what historically happened as to rate as the worst kind of historical revisionism. If his view is that it is as-likely for a text type to survive under severe persecution as it is to survive under the official sanction of the government, I think he needs to thinkl about what he’s saying, and what part of history he is talking about.

On with you. History is not a buffet. You must eat your vegetables and not just the Jello and the pudding.

5000 years in 90 seconds

Many of you will have seen this before, but here's a brief history of the major religions of the world:

Now, believe it or not, thius actually has something to do with the KJV argument that's going on in and around the blog right now. Stay tuned.

Just something else to keep it spicy

This is the third anniversay of Hurricane Katrina, remeber? "K"atrina -- meaning the ABCDEFGHIJ(k)-11th tropical storm/hurricane of 2005 happened at the end of August in 2005.

We're tracking tropical storm "G"ustav today at the end of August, 2008. That means we only had ABCDEF(g)-7 tropical storm events in 2008 in the same period. Not to get all statistical and everything with you, but that means we have had 36.36% fewer tropical depressions this year, ytd.

Because the end is near, people. There's a crisis, and we have to do something about it.

Hey Russellville, AR!

Where do you go to church?


Somehow, John McCain has the ticket which, superficially, looks like the greater change from the status quo. Will Hillary voters choose a woman Veep -- which is its own kind of historical first -- over Barack Obama?

Personally, I am looking forward to the Veep debates. It's on baby. I hate that these are the choices we have left, but it is on, and it's all going to be fought in the battle for the center.

Hey: wake up

I know many of you have already nodded off in considering the dust-up here with Kent over the TR, and for that I apologize. You come here to think about the Gospel and apply it to the things you encounter in real life, and that's good.

It turns out that Kent's view of the Bible is something you will encounter in real life, and the Gospel is ultimately the solution to that, too, so we have to spend some more bandwidth on it for a little while.

A great article on what's at stake and how we should approach that question can be found here, by Dr. Daniel Wallace.

Enjoy that while I get my self together over here.


Just read this post.

There are no comments I can make which will add any value to that. You can read that post and ponder why such a thing is happening.

HT: Doug Wilson

ne becomes somewhat indifferent when dealing with those whom every word offends. I notice that, when I have measured my words, and weighed my sentences most carefully, I have then offended most; while some of my stronger utterances have passed unnoticed. Therefore, I am comparatively careless as to how my expressions may be received, and only anxious that they may be in themselves just and true.

-- Charles Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry, pp. 282-283

The KJV Cult

Some of you may be following the little bruhaha at TeamPyro over the origin of Scripture as it relates to God's sovereignty, which I thought was going to go one way and it has gone somewhat another.

But, of course, because Phil mentioned Scripture, Kent Brandenberg showed up to wave the flag of KJVO/TR enthusiasm, and I called his belief "cultic". He, of course, isn't pleased with that label because, by Beza, that's the confessional position -- I'm the one with bizarre beliefs because I think that the historical record shows that Erasmus, Stephanus, Beza and others all edited the TR over time so that even if we call the 3rd edition of Erasmus' TR the actual TR, we have the problem that this is not the textus we receptus today.

Why call Kent's view "cultic"? I mean: there are lots of ways to say he's got a mistaken belief -- why up the ante and say, "Kent, do you realize that your ethusiasm for one eclectic text and one specific translation has gone from preference to demand to obsession?"

You know: because there's nothing wrong with the KJV if you receive it as a flawed translation. I mean: every translation has flaws, doesn't it? The KJV translators certainly thought so -- they had a very cautious approach to saying that their work ought to be held up as the ultimate version in English. But to get to the place where the NIV and the NASB are not just flawed but devil-inspired because God must have preserved the Greek and Hebrew perfectly in the edition of the TR which the KJV translators used ... seems a little wide-eyed to me.

Here's why I called Kent's view "cultic", and you can say what you want about that opinion in the meta: Kent is willing to say things about the process which produced the TR which he is not willing to say about the same process when it produces the UBS4 or the NA27. When the same process is called "divine" in the first pass and "satanic" in the second or third or 10th pass, you know that something fishy is afoot.

Something akin to "[a] great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad [b]: the object of such devotion [c]: a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion."

You see what I am saying? Be with the Lord's people in the Lord's house on the Lord's day, and try not to look too far down your nose at the ones not using the translation you're using. Worry more about whether the words of Moses are telling you about the savior both you and the other guy need equally.

¿yo no se?

Apparently, even Mexico believes that Global Warming is a past fad. Forgive that link's interesting English as it is the Google translation of the page.

This is where I am right now

I'll be traveling today and tomorrow, so the various hornets nests I have jostled the last 5 days will have to just buzz amongst themselves.

If you're praying, pray for safe travel, real wisdom, and God's provision for this trip. I'm gonna need all of it.

Inflammatory Weekend post

OK: look at this. Serious, look at this.

I set that little web app to track the price of oil and gas over the last 12 months, and I got this:

I added the bright greeen lines. Now, label "A" shows us the last time Crude oil was at $111 (like it is right now today); Label "B", wehre it intersects the blue line, is the price of gas at the pump the last time oil was $111 -- it was about $3.38 nationwide, and about $3.23 here in Arkansas.

The lowest price in AR right now is $3.44.

That's aggravating.

corresponds to what?

Kobra came back to the meta last night to make his first pass at my response to him, for which I credit him. Here's what he said:
First, the corresponding "this" in the beginning of the quoted passage is Noah's Ark and the events surrounding it. Peter is saying that just as Noah was saved from the flood via his ark, so now it is Baptism that "now saves you." BUT before we focus on that I hope that you will answer a couple of questions.

1.) Is the "appeal to God for a good conscience" necessary for salvation?
2.) Is there a means, apart from Baptism, to make an "appeal to God for a good conscience?"
To which I say (and have already said in the meta):

[1] Yes.

[2] Yes. The thief on the cross apparently made one, unless you would argue he did not get saved by Christ.

Kobra's problem is that he thinks that the appeal in baptism is the sine qua non -- that without which there is nothing, for those of you who didn't have the Jesuits torture you with Latin in H.S. -- and that one can make that appeal for someone else. The text here, however, makes it clear that it saves "you" because "you" make an appeal to God.

I have to admit that this passage speaks of baptism in the highest terms -- higher, in my view, than the correspondence to Noah. And here's what I mean by that, From 1 Peter 3:
    For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
Now, the reason the first clause is highlighted is to point out that it is the main clause of this sentence. That is: the point of what Peter is writing here is that Christ died for sins, as the great exchange, put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. That's his main point, which is the Gospel.

After he concludes his subordinate flourish, which expounds on what Christ did for us and also for those who were even disobedient to Noah, he then says, "Baptism corresponds to this". And I would be willing to admit that almost all readers of this passage think the "this" refers to "the saving in the ark". But that makes the antecedent of "this" the subordinate issue which Peter was talking about rather than the main issue which Peter was talking about -- which is the death and resurrection of Christ.

Peter is saying here that Christ suffered and died, and was raised from the dead, and now baptism corresponds to Christ's work -- showing we have died and have been raised to new life, not as a washing away of dirt but as a plea for a new conscience.

This is a much higher expression of what we mean in baptism, but ironically it is the correspondence view of the work itself: baptism is not the work of Christ, but it corresponds to the work of Christ, and shows the work of Christ.

I am more than willing to admit that baptism saves as it corresponds to Christ's work. But Kobra has to admit that it speaks of baptism in which the believer interacts with God.


Our friendly adversary Patrick Kyle has pointed out that "this" here is actually a referent to the "water" in the previous passage by virtue of Greek Grammar. He is 100% correct, so insofar as you can detach that from what I said here and still have what I said here make any sense at all, do so. We don't anathemtize posts here, but we do offer corrections whem we make mistakes, so note my mistake and more on.

an accident, or a conspiracy?

In NJ, it's always hard to tell.

technology, therefore evil

I am sure you have all seen T. Boone Pickens' TV commercials about the huge opportunity to go wind-power for 20% of the US's electrical power, right? It looks like the ultimate jackpot as wind-powered turbines (they are not windmills; "windmills" are technically pumps) literally sweep the world and product power by doing nothing more that harvesting the kinetic power of the weather to produce megawatts of electricisty. win: win. No pollution.


Holy mackerel: wrong. Apparently they produce a low-level hum which makes human life completely unbearable. It may decimate the human race.

So back to the fossil fuels, people! Save a life -- burn gas!

Kobra Konquest

Well, the meta was down yesterday for some inexplicable reason, and while the good people at haloscan tended to their wounds I had a moment to consider a link from our, um, friend “Kobra”, the Lutheran advocate from our baptism posts, who has posted a link he is happy with about what Baptism is good for. This is how he tells it:
I really enjoy talk radio. My absolute favorite radio-talker is a man by the name of Dennis Prager. He is not my favorite simply because I agree with his political views or his understanding of specific events, but because he is truly wise. One of his joys, and great pleasures, is in finding clarity above and beyond finding agreement. I hope to do the same here. While I'd love that all Baptists become Lutheran in their theology after reading this post, I'll be satisfied if those who read it find clarity. I just want Baptists, and the Reformed, to walk away, after reading this, saying, "Ok, I think I understand where Lutherans are coming from now."
I think one of the problems here is that Kobra, as he has been wont to do since I have known him, thinks that somehow Baptists have never poked their heads out of their sad little non-conformist circles and seen the world.

We have read, Luther, Kobra, and we find him less than convincing. Prager notwithstanding.
One thing that must be understood is that Lutheranism is a top-down theology. For example, Reformed theologians, when speaking of God, begin with an abstract, philosophical concept of who God is. The Reformed begin to explain their understanding of God through statements like, "God is sovereign," and "God is immutable," etc... Lutherans, on the other hand, do not begin with what Luther might call, "the hidden things of God" but rather, they start to understand God through the incarnation of Christ. Christ is, after all, "the express representation of the Godhead." Further, if you have seen Christ you have seen the Father. Thus, Lutherans begin with Christ and work out from Him when seeking to understand the truth of God.
Fair enough, I guess. A little smug, but Lutheranism is itself a little smug. Go on.
Why this is important to understand when approaching the topic of Baptism is that it helps us to see just why God would choose elemental means for the communication of the Gospel. Just as God had to descend from Heaven in Christ, so He now descends again to meet us where we live, face to face in the muck and mire of our fallen world. Only when He does descend are we able to meet Him and receive all the benefits of fellowship with Him--peace, a clean conscience, the washing away of sin. We still, even as Christians, cannot ascend to meet God in the nether regions of a non-elemental world.
See: this is where the smugness shows up – in the slipping in of 1 Peter 3 as if that passage says Baptism bestows a clean conscience rather than this:
    Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
You know: that baptism is itself an appeal from you, through Christ, to God as an act of repentence, an act of faith.

Listen: I don’t mind coming to a place where we have clarity, but what has to be clear here is that the confessional Lutheran approach to that passage is, at best, atomistic as it breaks off the “saves you” from the other things which are “from you” in that passage. I can grasp that the Lutheran reads this passage as baptism bestowing grace; I cannot grasp how he gets there from the text.
The place to start when discussing Christian Baptism is Scripture. We must begin by asking the question, "What does the Bible say?" This question isn't one that first and foremost demands an intricate and nuanced systematic answer. All that it demands is that one look to the passages that address Baptism, and try to first understand them for what they are. What they are, these passages, are simple sentences that carry a simple, grammatical meaning. How these sentences fit into the larger scheme of Lutheran theology can be dealt with in future posts. But first, as one prominent Lutheran professor passionately commands, "Just read the texts!" In doing so I think that we can arrive at a point of clarity.
I cannot agree too much with that affirmation. But if we go with “just the texts”, the Lutheran has a lot more reconsidering to do than the Baptist.

Let’s see ...
The first passage one needs to look at is Acts 2:38. Peter has just preached a sermon and now calls for people to react to the words he's spoken. He says:

"And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

What is Baptism for according to this passage? The Greek word eis is translated for in this passage, and it means more specifically into. It is through the act of Baptism that one is united with Christ into his death and resurrection. It would be a grammatical error to read the passage as if it were saying that Baptism were merely a symbol of something that had already occurred. Baptism here is the means by which one enters into remission, and not something that one enters into after remission has taken place. For instance, doesn't the grammar demand that we understand Baptism to be the entrance into remission of sins and not merely the representation of something that has already occurred?
Um, wow. Where to start then?

I don’t know anyone who would use this passage to underscore that baptism is “merely a symbol”, and for those who are actually serious about Baptist theology, I don’t know who would say “merely a symbol” in the sense Kobra is here arguing against. What this passage does, in fact, say is that it is repentance and baptism which is “[eis] the forgiveness of your sins”.

Another relevant point here should be noted from the translator’s note for this passage from the NET Bible:
There is debate over the meaning of εἰς in the prepositional phrase εἰς ἄφεσιν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ὑμῶν (eis afesin twn Jamartiwn Jumwn, “for/because of/with reference to the forgiveness of your sins”). Although a causal sense has been argued, it is difficult to maintain here. ExSyn 369-71 discusses at least four other ways of dealing with the passage: (1) The baptism referred to here is physical only, and εἰς has the meaning of “for” or “unto.” Such a view suggests that salvation is based on works – an idea that runs counter to the theology of Acts, namely: (a) repentance often precedes baptism (cf. Acts 3:19; 26:20), and (b) salvation is entirely a gift of God, not procured via water baptism (Acts 10:43 [cf. v. 47]; 13:38-39, 48; 15:11; 16:30-31; 20:21; 26:18); (2) The baptism referred to here is spiritual only. Although such a view fits well with the theology of Acts, it does not fit well with the obvious meaning of “baptism” in Acts – especially in this text (cf. 2:41); (3) The text should be repunctuated in light of the shift from second person plural to third person singular back to second person plural again. The idea then would be, “Repent for/with reference to your sins, and let each one of you be baptized…” Such a view is an acceptable way of handling εἰς, but its subtlety and awkwardness count against it; (4) Finally, it is possible that to a first-century Jewish audience (as well as to Peter), the idea of baptism might incorporate both the spiritual reality and the physical symbol. That Peter connects both closely in his thinking is clear from other passages such as Acts 10:47 and 11:15-16. If this interpretation is correct, then Acts 2:38 is saying very little about the specific theological relationship between the symbol and the reality, only that historically they were viewed together. One must look in other places for a theological analysis. For further discussion see R. N. Longenecker, “Acts,” EBC 9:283-85; B. Witherington, Acts, 154-55; F. F. Bruce, The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary, 129-30; BDAG 290 s.v. εἰς 4.f.
That is, Kobra’s theological predisposition to this passage isn’t necessarily warranted by the Greek in spite of his retreat to that place.
Also in the book of Acts we find an interesting dialogue between Ananias and the apostle Paul. We are made privy to this as Paul gives his "testimony" or "confession" concerning his shift in behavior. Paul is, in other words, offering an apology for his theological change in thinking. He relays the story of his confrontation by Christ on the road to Damascus. He tells of how he was blinded and sent to the house of Ananias. After speaking with Paul Ananias says to him:

"And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name."

Hadn't Paul's sins already been removed from him? Wouldn't Ananias have done better to say, "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and testify that your sins have already been washed away, calling on his name." This simply would not make sense.
What is troubling here is trying to interpret what Ananias did say by what he might have said or by what he didn’t say. I would be wholly-willing to accept at face-value the commendation from Ananias that baptism will “wash away sins” if, indeed, Kobra would be willing to admit that baptism is also Paul’s action of calling upon the Lord. See: Kobra – indeed, the traditional Lutheran approach to this matter – grabs at the saving value apparently implied here without accounting for the “calling on his name” part. Somehow, Scripture says both are necessary – whatever theological explanation we adopt, we should also say both are necessary.
Later on in Paul's apostolic ministry his teachings on baptism are concordant with both the words of Peter and the words of Ananias. Paul in his letter to the Galatians states:

"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."
    But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Which, again, is the full context of the “put on Christ” language – and the “putting on” is subsequent to the question of “your” “faith”.

Baptism cannot come before faith – and the Lutheran view simply ignores this.
In the book of Romans he asks his readers:

"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?"
Likewise “all of us” who have been baptized in Rom 6 are the “all of us” who have faith in Rom 5. The precondition of being baptized is faith.

We can talk as long as anyone wants about what happens to us in baptism after we have, as Kobra might say, “clarity” about what constitutes an actual baptism.
So, let this start a discussion on Baptism. It could have been a much more extensive post, but I've found that when participating in internet discussions less can be more. Here are a few starter questions:
I’m in for the starter questions, after we have clarified the errors listed above. However, as a sign of good faith, I’ll offer preliminary answers to those question.
Does Baptism deliver the forgiveness of sins that Christ won upon the cross?
Yes, when we understand that baptism is the place where a person publicly makes (cf. 1 Peter 3) a plea for a good conscience in Christ.
Where is Baptism mentioned as a mere symbolic act or a representation of what the person being baptized already possesses?
Baptism is never mentioned apart from the precondition of faith – it is a consequence of faith, and act of faith. In that, there is nothing “mere” about this act. The question is only if somehow the words “sign” or “symbol” do any injustice to what is said, for example, in 1 Peter 3 where baptism is explicitly said not to be a washing but a plea. We know that it is in fact a washing; if by washing we make a plea, I suggesting the washing represents something else, making it a sign and a seal.

Have at it.

Smithers, release the robotic Richard Simmons

Because you must see this to believe it, somebody is "simpsonizing" people in the form of a blog.

This is what the internet has come to, and I love it.

No one will want to kiss me after this, eh, Smithers?

The power of Sycophancy

For those of you who don't get it, the Scum of the Earth blogroll has gotten 90,000 page views. That means that 90,000 times someone has clicked thru to see one of the pages listed.

That number will only get bigger if more people get added.

No pressure: I'm just sayin'.

When Art History class finally pays off

There has been a little stinky-face going on about Third Day's last CD cover, which, btw, began back in May when Chicago's ArtBlog noticed that the CD art looked something like the CD art from Radiohead's "Hail to the Thief". Which, you know, yeah: it does.

What several sources are doing, however, is knocking Third Day for "thou shalt not steal" and other such jejune attempts at accusing Christians of being hypocrites.

My problem with this is not that CCM can be very derivative -- because it can; it is. I like Third Day and they have some good tunes and some bad albums, and if we want to sort those out at a future date, well, whatever. My problem is with the historically-blank idea that somehow Stanley Donwood's cover for "Hail to the Thief" is itself wholly-original and not derivative of anything.

Here's the piece for those of you who have never seen it:

Now, in the early 20th century, there was this Swiss guy named Paul Klee who was an expressionistic artist, and he made all kinds of paintings which, today, people are still puzzling over. He's consider a great artist, and his work influences many people today -- that means they do stuff because his work has helped them see a way of expressing their craft which they didn't see before, or maybe they are trying to pay homage to Klee's work.

I bring it up because when I saw Donwood's CD cover, I had this flashback to 1988 when I was in Art History class and I saw this painting called "Castle and Sun". The painting is landscape-sized, but I have cropped it for comparison:

Listen: it seems transparent that Donwood was influenced by Klee -- and by other things as well, such as pop art and minimalism. That doesn't make him a thief, does it? Let me suggest that the person(s) who were influenced by Donwood to make the Third Day CD sleeve weren't thieves, either: they are graphic designers, and they simply adopted one design paradigm and used it for the CD cover.

That's how art works. That's how art works especially in our culture where art generally sells product. People who are in the business of doing that should know at least that much, especially when they are seeking to be allegedly "missional".

Crisis, therefore action

Because the actual data indicates that so-called "global warming" is mostly over, the advocates for global warming have got to get more shrill and desperate to make their point.

However, this is my favorite part of this article:
To see how far this process could go, look 55.5m years to the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, when a global temperature increase of 6C coincided with the release of about 5,000 gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, both as CO2 and as methane from bogs and seabed sediments. Lush subtropical forests grew in polar regions, and sea levels rose to 100m higher than today. It appears that an initial warming pulse triggered other warming processes. Many scientists warn that this historical event may be analogous to the present: the warming caused by human emissions could propel us towards a similar hothouse Earth.
I just want to point out that there were no humans, in the secular view, 55.5 million years ago -- so whatever caused the temperature spike then wasn't because of cars or campfires. And it seems to me that if what happened then is happening now, maybe we should think about what caused it then to understand what is allegedly causing it now.

Because shrill accusations that burning fossil fuels will cause a 4C global temperature spike when something prior to the formation of the fossil fuels we use today caused a 6C spike doesn't seem more reaonable: it seems desperate.

The Golden Tables

First of all, let me heap my unadulterated scorn on Office 2007. I used to be productive with Office, and now I spend half my life trying to find things in the “ribbon”. Hey Redmond: thanks for wasting July 2008 for me, you coneheads.

OK – with that off my chest, I have mentioned this before, but I really loathe study bibles. On the one hand, they are way too much for the average person to grasp – I mean, what do I read first? Do I read the notes at the bottom of the page first, or read the page, then the notes? And what are all these little letters in the text – they’re not verse numbers? And is that map inspired or merely helpful?

And on the other hand, a study bible is usually not even enough to get after real study of the actual text. The closest thing to serviceable I have ever encountered in that respect are the billion notes included with the NET Bible – and even those have the problem of not really being consistent in content or intent. If you want scholarly emendations, you ought to go grab a book about your question and get the actual answer and not the headline of the actual answer.

And really, those complaints are actually symptoms of my larger concern here, which is the actual reading of the actual Bible. You know: people have a hard enough time getting past the book of Exodus as it is. When Exodus becomes an archeological conundrum or geographic puzzle or sociological interpretations of cross-cultural baloney, the average guy will give up and go listen to Joel Osteen or something because at least Joel has a wife who’s tough enough to punch a flight attendant when she doesn’t get her way in first class.

I mean: we want people to read God’s word, right? We’re Protestants after all, and if we make the Scripture into something which requires a Scribe or a Pharisee or academic magisterium just to get past the introduction, our man Wycliffe may be rolling in his grave.

So I say all that to say this: at some point, I’m going to post a review of the new evangelical translation of the Golden Tables (also known as the ESV Study Bible), and I come at the job with a pretty obvious and unashamed bias against the genre. I read the “Literary Study Bible” and found it “helpful”, but frankly I wouldn’t hand it to a new Christian. He needs to read the actual book of Hebrews and not the high-falootin’ grad-school spin about genre and style those of us with too much time on our hands might enjoy with a cigar and a glass of brandy.

Stay tuned for that.

You won't believe it

iMonk asks very real, serious questions and publishes the sober, sound, pastoral advice of a level-headed traditionalist.

I think I just heard a shout and a trumpet. The end has come -- see you on the other side.

Praise. God.

Art Monk.

Are most blogs boring?

I said over at JT's blog today that most blogs are boring. Is that a slam, or if that a mere fact?

Judge for yourself. There are more than 112.8 million blogs in existence today (in English, per Technorati; there are allegedly 72 million blogs in addition to that in Chinese, but most of you don't read Chinese, so that's not a relevant fact)

112.8 million blogs. Now, seriously: my blog has a faithful following of about 300 readers and 100 linkers -- and that puts me in the top 5% of all blogs. If you do all the math there, that means that if I am at the very bottom of the top 5%, 107,160,000 blogs have fewer readers than I do.

With that point in mind, consider a second point: how many blogs do you actually read? I glance at all the blogs in my blogroll about twice a month, but on a daily basis I read about 6 blogs -- two of which I write (unless you count the meta). Anybody actually read more than a dozen blogs a day?

The question "why?" then has to be answered, and the obvious first "why?" is that you only have so much time. Right? I have 15 minutes a day to catch up on things, and that means I can only read so much. But the other ridiculously-obvious answer is, "and these are the only blogs I can stomach or that can hold my attention."

If there were more blogs which you found interesting, you'd get them on your RSS or something. Subscribe to updates and read later. But you don't -- because most blogs are -boring-. YAWN!

That said, the take-away here is not, "stir up more controversy to get more readers" -- because that approach to blogging is, in fact, disreputable. Michelle Malkin blogs like that; the watchblogging community blogs like that (gut check: when was the last time any of them blogged about something positive they enjoyed?); don't you go and blog like that. But what you can do is learn to write better prose. You could write better prose, you know: you just have to read a little and write a little more.

I was on the phone with somebody yesterday, and he said something I think the rest of you should think about. He said that he's always surprised to meet most bloggers because they are -nothing- like the blog they write. His meaning was that most bloggers are a lot more interesting in person than they are on their blog.

Isn't that a shame? Well, shame on us, people. Blog better -- it is actually in you to do so.

'nuff said

Over at the vacationing Justin Taylor's blog, an essay by Tim Keller and David Powlison has been posted, and in the meta over there I posted this response:
So is this a bad report on the bringers of a bad report?

I respect the vision here -- a Biblical vision of turning a brother away from his sin. I reject the idea that every "bad report" is inherently sinful. The book of Galatians is, itself, a public "bad report" from Paul against those in Galatia who were defacing the Gospel -- and Paul didn't go to these guys first and say, "listen, I didn't want to say anything in front of the whole church, and I certainly am not suggesting that you are bad guys, but is your paradigm for the inclusivity of Christ's work excessively biased to Old-Covenant mores and boundary markers?" I think Paul's language is markedly more aggressive and pointed than that.

I'm fairly on-record against the excesses of watch-blogging, and if that's what this brief essay is trying to get at, so be it. But it is one thing to repudiate hyperbolic accusations for matters of secondary (or tertiary) importance, and another entirely to say that all disagreements are inherently private disagreements which need to be settled over a cup of coffee, face to face, without any regard to the public scope of the point in contention.

The proof of this lies simply in answering the question, "How does one refute or repudiate the excesses of watch-bloggers?" The way that engagement would have to unfold -- as a mixture of public exposition and private mediation -- seems to me to look a lot more like the multiform method of engaging error in the NT than the (if I can be forgiven for saying so) simplistic view being advanced here.
Coupla other things occured to me after I posted that, so let me spill those out for you and then dac or anyone else who thinks that this is just a matter of being nicer people can say their peace.

First off, I prefer open and honest discourse. Really. I'd much rather put all the cards on the table -- especially when something has been said or done in public -- than clam up and hope that later someone will, because they are so very concerned and grieved and troubled, ask me what I think. And I think most often, the dialog itself is instructive and therefore useful to other people -- when it is a dialog.

You know: when it's not actually a give-and-take, it's not even worth engaging at all.

But that said, there are also some things you have to do someplace other than the center ring of the 3-ring circus or the main podium at the U.N. And church discipline is one of those things.

So someplace between the right-mind application of church discipline and the rght-minded application of public dispute lies the answer to the question Dr. Keller and Dr. Powlison have asked. And the test case for whatever solution you think you have for this question is, in fact, dealing with watch-bloggers.

On the one hand, we have events like the ones I accidentally found out about yesterday in which Ken Sliva got shut down by his ISP because Richard Abanes was going to "contact his lawyers" over a somewhat-older post Ken had made about Abanes -- and it seems to me that this particular situation demonstrates everything that is wrong with watchblogging. Could Ken have been a little more charitable? I think yes. Could Abanes have been -- and still be -- a little more transparent about what his intention were/are? Yes, I think so. His explanation that the phrase "contact my attorney" (or words to that effect) could mean anything in the context he provided is a little coy. So rather than have an open and public discussion -- even across blogs -- about the matter at hand, what we have instead winds up looking more like the problem in 1 Cor 6 where we let non-believers judge our disputes than like James 5.

The truth is that watchblogging tends to be a mixed bag -- because it is generally a very serious hobby in which very serious people are very concerned about things with eternal value. And to that end, Amen. We should be serious about the eternal question and value of the Gospel. But it is not just seriousness we need to have in this matter: we need to have a little bit of joy and a little bit of humility towards truth, too.

Of course, I am the perfect example of what I'm talking about, and if everyone was just like me the blogosphere would be a lot more informative and funny and edifying. So go back and read my whole blog from the beginning, including the Santa debacle, and learn from my mistakes God-inspired wisdom so that you can engage people without having to beat them to a bloody pulp.



What are you laughing at?

Not from the Bible

But useful: 10 Ways to Reduce Your Divorce Risk.

The 2-year courtship thing seems like a bit much to me, and this list omits advice I would deem indispensable like "do hard things together" (she says just "do things together", which I think is less than the minimum), and "plan your family's future".

However, for someone who's not marriage at all, this list is a good place to start thinking about what it means to be married and not just in a relationship.


After coming back from vacation, Doug Wilson said:
It would be far better to say that Jesus came to solve all our worldly problems. The difference is that He does not do it the same way we do, which is to say, ineffectively. He really will save the world, and all our tinpot messiahs won't. Salvation is only through Jesus, but it really is salvation that will be manifested in this world. Related to this, salvation from our worldly problems won't come from conservative armies or from liberal nannies.
Which, of course, is exactly right.


This morning Facebook informed me that I have 19 fans and Dan Phillips only has 13 fans. It seems a little incongruous that I have almost 50% more fans than Dan, but yeah, OK: facts are facts.