Thinking Out Loud

May 31, 2011

Translation Arguments Really About Preferences

Eddie Arthur at the Bible Translation blog Kouya wrote this with his tongue firmly planted in cheek, but it is oh, so very, very accurate.

The Definitive Guide To Bible Translation Terms

One of the problems with the whole issue of Bible translation is that people use such confusing terms. For someone who just wants to understand the merits of a particular translation or who is perhaps looking to buy a Bible, the geekish terminology that surrounds the subject can be a real stumbling block. So, in order to help those who have not been initiated into the secrets of translation terminology, I would like to present this definitive guide.

  • Meaning Based: “a translation which prioritizes the meaning rather than the form of the original language.”
  • Form Based: “a translation which prioritizes the form of the original language rather than the meaning.”
  • Literal Translation: “a form based translation”
  • Word for Word: “a form-based translation and I don’t know much about languages.”
  • Free Translation: “I don’t like this meaning based translation.”
  • Paraphrase: “I really don’t like this meaning based translation.”
  • Accurate: I like it.
  • The Most Accurate: means either
    • as an opinion (I believe this is the most accurate translation) “I really like it.”
    • as a statement of factt (this is the most accurate translation) “I know nothing about translation theory or languages.”
  • Dynamic Equivalence: “I read a blog post about translation once.”

May 30, 2011

Reconstructing Bible Times

Over the weekend I’ve been almost randomly paging through a type of book which has, so far, been foreign to my experience.  It’s one of those Bible reference books which attempts to give readers a fuller understanding of life during the Old Testament and/or New Testament times.  Some popular books in this genre include:

  • The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times, Revised and Updated by Ralph Gower
  • Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim
  • Everyday Life in Bible Times by Arthur Klinck
  • Essential Companion to Life in Bible Times: Key Insights for Reading God’s Word by Moises Silva, releasing in August from Zondervan

I guess part of the reason I’ve never been drawn to reading these is because (a) I rely on people like Ray VanderLaan to fill in those blanks, and (b) I grew up in an experimental middle school and high school environment which left me with very little studies in and appreciation for history, let alone archeology.

The book I was reading was Harper’s Encylopedia of Bible Life by Madelieine S. and J. Lane Miller (Castle Books edn. orig. published by Harper & Row in 1978; out of print) and in particular a section on The Life of the Farmer which runs from page 144 to 188.  Yeah…imagine… me reading about farming.  But I digress.

What so impressed me about this — and it was only part way through I developed a full understanding of what I was reading — was that instead of just presenting the data, they assembled all of the Old and New Testament scriptures which have any reference to agriculture, and created a fictional character, Abiram, and wrote about the typical routines for himself and his family in various sections of the agricultural calendar year.  This is Biblical fiction done with research taken to the nth degree.

This was not hastily put together in an afternoon.

It showed, among other things, a very high regard for scripture; hardly a paragraph went by without multiple references, several of which I stopped to look up.   And the insights that it brought out lined up with other scripture passages that were already familiar, bringing them to even greater life; a few of which I also stopped to read again.

This type of study can only enrich your Bible reading, but realizing that many of you are, like I was, somewhat distant from Bible reference texts of all kinds, I want to give you another option.  Rob Bell — yes, that Rob Bell that you’ve been hearing so much about lately — has done some excellent messages both at his home church and at Willow Creek.  I tried to find one from “Summer at the Creek” from 2010 where he explained the background behind, “If someone asks you to go one mile, go two;” but even though I watched it just a few days ago, it seems to have vanished off their site.    But you can get some older ones from the Seeds Bookstore, look for the New Community (dark brown) logo on this window.  (Dust and Day of Atonement are recommended; Dust is a much longer exposition of the material on the Nooma DVD.)  

Or check out the material from Ray VanderLaan in his various DVD series.  These are expensive to purchase, so it’s recommended they be bought for group use.

There is so much depth in scripture — especially scripture where analogies and parables are so tied to agrarian culture — that we miss reading through the lens of our 21st century life.  Resources like this help us to see the things that give the stories greater a greater richness.

Win a Copy of Not A Fan

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:33 am

Today Thinking Out Loud and Zondervan are giving away three copies of the new book Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman.  I believe this book is going to be really significant in the lives of its readers, following in the wake of books like Radical and Crazy Love.    Since all our winners last time were from Canada, we’re going to give Zondervan a break on postage this time and open this giveaway to readers from the United States.  So here’s what you do:

  1. Go to the original review published here last Monday.
  2. Read the review.
  3. Add a comment — if you commented before 5/30, please add a new comment!
  4. Three winners will be selected on Wednesday morning; you must agree to supply a mailing address.

Because comments are required on the original review, comments on this post have been disabled.  Winners will be notified by e-mail and names listed as a mid-day update to the Wednesday link list.

May 29, 2011

Christians Everywhere, Meet Your New Spokesmen

These are, as far as the media and many of your un-churched or non-Christ-following friends are concerned, the people who represent everything you believe and stand for.   Meet Harold Camping, Terry Jones and Fred Phelps…

…Notice anything?

May 28, 2011

Crystal Cathedral Land, Buildings To Be Sold in June

In a desperate bid to eliminate debt, an Irvine, California real estate partnership will acquire the land and buildings and then grant the church the option to lease back the facility for 15 years.   The church has been cutting back expenses, but membership, weekly attendance and revenue have kept falling faster than the cutbacks.

The debt relief could also allow what the Orange County Register terms “23 insiders” to continue to live in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.  Although it limits salaries, there isn’t mention of the ever conspicuous “housing allowances” paid to key staff.  The newspaper reports:

Greenlaw Partners would pay $46 million for the cathedral and surrounding buildings, leasing back the cathedral to the ministry. Most of the cash would go to creditors.

After four years, the ministry would have the right to buy back the cathedral, parking lots and most other buildings for $30 million. Greenlaw would get the right to build apartments on some of the 30-acre property…

…The key to the plan is real estate development. Greenlaw wants to build apartments – potentially hundreds of apartments – on what are now parking lots, low-slung buildings and lawns near the corner of Lewis Street and Dawn Avenue.The deal is critical to the ministry’s precarious financial health. Each apartment Greenlaw builds would knock $20,000 off the price the ministry pays to get back the cathedral and its core buildings. In an example cited in court papers, 400 apartments would reduce the repurchase price by $8 million…

…The family of founding Rev. Robert H. Schuller would give up some of its financial power over the cathedral to an independent board. Although the elder Schuller and his wife, Arvella, would sit on that board, an executive board controlled by outsiders would set the ministry’s budget and would also appoint the chief financial officer.

In addition, the bankruptcy plan limits the salary of the ministry’s chief executive officer, Schuller’s daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, to $69,525 a year.

The church owes about $7.5 million to unsecured creditors including many longtime vendors who provided services for its annual Christmas and Easter pageants. Church administrators say the cathedral will continue its local worship services, community outreach programs and its weekly “Hour of Power” broadcasts. Also, the plan will immediately eliminate both the church’s mortgage and the majority of its vendor debt, they say. Any remaining vendor debt will be repaid over the next 42 months, officials say….

Continue reading the story at OC Register.

Crystal Cathedral staff are quick to lay the blame on economic factors, but readers of this blog know otherwise.   While megachurches elsewhere are booming, the difference lies clearly in the message preached.  Even though some identify the big glass church as within the parameters of Evangelicalism, the church’s “positive thinking” teaching more resembles that of mainline Protestant churches — most of which are also seeing rapidly declining numbers — if not, on some Sundays, coming across with a message that would be fully acceptable to most Unitarians.

The cathedral’s court filings’ blame its financial troubles partly on “unsettled leadership” but mostly on the recession.

However, a financial statement filed Friday shows that the ministry’s losses predate the recession…

Perhaps they predate even the founding of the church.  Let me explain.  Like Chicago’s Willow Creek, the Crystal Cathedral was founded on the basis of a door-to-door survey.  But while Bill Hybels’ neighbors (a) didn’t want to be asked for money and (b) wanted to be anonymous or not singled out; those in Schuller’s survey made it clear they didn’t want to be judged, or preached condemnation.  On that premise, and under the influence of Norman Vincent Peale, Robert H. Schuller embarked on a message of self-improvement that at times is indistinguishable from that of Oprah Winfrey.  In a church-saturated country, it wasn’t the message that either those within the fold, or those outside it craved.

Evangelicals have always admired the quality of the Hour of Power’s television productions, the choir and orchestra, and the colorful list of weekly guests.   But the message was always watered down, light years away from the “full gospel” of Pentecostals, and often not even a “half gospel” that more conservative Christians could endorse.

In the end, Schuller’s own son, Robert A. Schuller couldn’t endorse it either; and the pastor, who credits a Billy Graham crusade with his own personal conversion, began a more aggressive exposition of Biblical texts, much to the dislike of some in the church’s executive branch.

The younger Schuller’s dismissal and absence from the weekly telecast was the wake up call that many faithful viewers needed to realize that there was indeed trouble in the camp. 

And so, the once mighty Crystal Cathedral limps onward, but a shadow of its former self. 

What Modern Worship Has Done to Church History

On March 27th, 2009, I took the unusual step of posting an item on this blog which linked to a contemporary song having its basis in the biography of Mona Mahmudnizhad, a young woman martyr in the history of the Baha’i faith.    For the past week or so, the song and story have come back to me, and they continue to haunt me.  I feel that we’ve lost the channel by which to communicate to our next generation the stories of the past.  By creating one particular genre of music, we’re denying the power of music to accomplish other goals.

A movie commemorates John Newton, but what of Wycliffe?   John Calvin gets daily space in the blogosphere, but what of Athanasius?  Oswald Chambers’ devotional book is read by millions, but what of Thomas Chambers?  C. S. Lewis is beloved by children, but who has heard of G. K Chesterson? What of Don Richardson’s story as told in Peace Child or the prayer saga of Brother Lawrence?  Or what of doctrine?  The recent “rapture weekend” discussions frequently quoted the Larry Norman song, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready;” but are songs like that being written today? …And more to the point, have we lost the ability to use our music in non-worship settings?   That was what was on my mind two years ago when I wrote this…

With the entire cast of Christian musicians currently preoccupied with writing vertical worship music, it does the beg the question, who will tell our stories? What aspects of our faith is not being transmitted to the next generation due to our sidelining of music with narrative or didactic lyrics?

mona_mahmudnizhadWhat got me thinking about this was a YouTube viewing of a song by Canadian musician Doug Cameron, Mona With The Children, which tells the story of a young Baha’i girl, Mona Mahmudnizhad, who was one of ten women martyred in Iran for teaching her faith to children. Her heroic story is inspiring on so many levels. It is hard to just dismiss the strength of her conviction just because our beliefs are different. But more important is my longing for a Christian equivalent to this type of music. Sadly, there isn’t much out there.

Kids that form Christian bands believe that they are bound lyrically to what they sing in church and at youth group. It was not always this way. I love modern worship, but I believe we are severely limiting ourselves. As Christians, we need to the huge resources of our “Christian music industry” to praise God and to teach and tell stories to the next generation of personal salvation and heroes of our faith.

May 27, 2011

Friday Link List

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “Shouldn’t the link list be on Wednesday?”  Well, these are a couple of longer items that bear closer scrutiny, and I didn’t want them to get lost in the list the day before yesterday.  So here goes…

  • Left Behind Theology.  Not everyone agrees with it, but it dominates Christian publishing, most eschatological discussions, and last weekend’s non-rapture event.   Won’t we be “caught up to meet Him in the air”?  The Greek word apantesis more implies going out to meet someone on the way, the way you might walk out to the driveway to welcome the family you invited for dinner, or perhaps, the way the invited guests might line up on the road to meet the bridegroom in a Jewish wedding in Bible times.  Also, according to Matthew Dickerson, the references to Noah are key to understanding Jesus’ statements about the last days.  Check out the Christianity Today article, Who Gets Left Behind?
  • Ever wonder what motivates some people to pursue the ministry ventures they do?  Pastoral callings are a little easier to understand, but callings to parachurch organizations are usually more complex.  In his continuing “five questions” series — though this one is actually nine Qs and As — Rick Apperson talks to Wess Stafford, the president and CEO of Compassion International.   Look… I know you guys aren’t big on clicking, but at least read the first question and answer, and I guarantee it will draw you into the rest of the article.  It’s a true survival story.   Check it out over at Rick’s blog, Just a Thought.
  • Here’s a bonus item; someone posted this video yesterday as a comment to a rather old item here, but the video is new.  The soundtrack is Timothy Keller preaching, author of The Reason for God and The Prodigal God.  If you go to the source, there’s also a copy of the text, which some of you might want to keep on file.  [Note: Vimeo takes about three times longer than YouTube to load fully.]


Songs with substance
If you check the right hand margin over at Christianity 201, you’ll see that all of the various music resources that have appeared there are now listed and linked alphabetically. Take a moment to discover — or re-discover — some worship songs and modern hymns from different genres.

Today’s links list lynx is a Canadian Lynx as photographed by Max Waugh. Click the image to link to the lynx. 

May 26, 2011

Small Is Big: Exploring the Simple Church Concept

As churches of all size discover the ‘small group’ or ‘cell group’ concept, many choose to call what they do ‘home church’ or ‘house church,’ the latter term heretofore reserved for entirely different.  So Tony & Felicity Dale, longtime pioneers and advocates for the other kind of house church, have chosen to go with the term ‘simple church’ to describe their efforts and their vision. 

The full title of the Barna Books paperback is, Small is Big: Unleashing the big Impact of Intentionally Small Churches, and is itself a revision of a title from two years earlier, The Rabbit and the Elephant.  (A gratis copy was provided by Tyndale House.)   Unlike its oft-confused counterpart, a true simple church is a freestanding model lacking nothing in terms of resources that a larger church might have to offer, though with obvious downscaling of programs and amenities such as nurseries, youth ministries, worship bands, etc.

Having said all that, toward the end of the book, the authors relate ways in which simple churches and megachurches are in fact sharing resources, and how megachurch staff are studying the intimacy and community of the microchurch to see what might be learned. 

But in another section, where there is discussion of people exiting larger churches missing the diversity and excitement of the larger crowd, they refer to a period of ‘detox’ while withdrawing from the large church experience.  Personally, I think the language might have offered a better term, because whether or not the authors intended it, there is the implicit suggestion that there is something ‘toxic’ from which the former parishioner must be cleansed.

The authors’ experience and knowledge of this movement both in the UK and the USA is probably quite unrivaled. As I read it, I thought of people I know who are doing this very thing, and considered that this could be a ‘calling card’ of sorts to fully explain what they do to anyone curious.  This book defines both the blessings of this rapdily growing type of church experience, as well as the pitfalls and dangers of beginning incorrectly.

One of my concerns about the house simple church movement has always been that it tends to attract those from the charismatic end of the larger evangelical spectrum.  Several times here, the language used to describe their gatherings talks about ‘prophetic words’ and ‘moving in the gifts of the Spirit;’ terms that are familiar enough to many of us, but equally unfamiliar to, for sake of illustration, Baptists.  And I suppose that if the simple church movement is really going to sweep across a broader or more mainstream Evangelical landscape, I’d like to see people doing simple church in a way that, for sake of illustration, a Baptist would be comfortable attending. 

Or maybe I’m wrong on that altogether.  Perhaps the simple church movement is in fact a movement in a slightly more Charismatic direction; that in the absence of structures and programs and hierarchies, dependence on the Holy Spirit has to be elevated.  This is reinforced when you consider that if you were to attend a simple church with Tony and Felicity, one of the first two things you might notice is that no one individual is in charge and there is no prescribed ‘order of service.’  While the worship might consist of a few songs you know, there is also spontaneous worship and what we know as ‘sermon’ is often replaced by a much more interactive time of people sharing insights into God’s word, and linking testimonies to teaching.

There are some aspects of Small is Big that reiterated material I had already covered in books by Michael Frost and Frank Viola and Wayne Jacobsen, and reinforced many things I already believe.  But if the simple church concept is new to you, I would suggest (a) read the book, as it is a complete encyclopedia of everything you need to know about this subject; and (b) find out if there is a simple church meeting somewhere nearby and make arrangements to attend.

It might be the closest you get to experiencing what the early church in Acts experienced.

May 25, 2011

Wednesday Link List

There are a couple of blogs I read where there are well over 30 links represented weekly.  Trevin Wax at Kingdom People does a summary of each one, at least four a day with some longer lists;  while Zach Nielsen at Take Your Vitamin Z turns each one into a post of its own.  I guess that relatively speaking I’m not that dedicated.  …The Iberian Lynx makes a rare appearance here this week, while these weekly links do contain items that deserve a few clicks:

  • A Christianity Today item last week reported that atheists want to be participants in military chaplaincies, in a story appropriately titled, Atheists in the Foxholes.
  • Here’s a fun activity for those of you who studied the maps in the back of your Bible, it actually was an ad-link from the above the story; you simply click and drag the push-pin from the tribe name to the territory on the map and thereby Locate the Lost Tribes of Israel.  (I did not do well…)
  • Living Bible Explorers, a ministry organization in Winnipeg, Ontario which tries to steer younger youth away from gang activities believes that gang member wannabes are responsible for fire destroying their three buses.
  • A Christian counselor suggests that, of all things, humility is the key to a Fresh Approach to Facing Fear.
  • Yawn!  In case you missed it yesterday, Harold Camping, everyone’s favorite prophet, has revised the 5.21.11 date… it’s now 10.21.11
  • Russell D. Moore tears a strip off the romance novel genre, and before leaving the topic suggests that while some of their Christian equivalents are different, some are not.  Can Romance Novels Hurt Your Heart?
  • Is a lazy pastor one who simply wastes time, or one who chooses the easy approach over the difficult?  Darryl Dash shifts the priority emphasis at The Pastor Who Jogged While Mowing His Lawn.
  • Justin Holcomb at Resurence thinks perhaps the parents of young girls need to consider Eleven Ways to Protect Your Daughter from Barbie.
  • Julia Rhodes guests at SCL and attracts over 300 comments with another look at the need to Proofread your Worship Slides.
  • Some of you know that in addition to whatever we do on Sunday morning, every Sunday night at 6:00 EST since last fall I’ve been part of virtual church with Andy Stanley at NorthpointOnline.TV.  Well…this week I also checked out what Pete Wilson is doing at Crosspoint.TV; a service which features a live Q&A after the message.  Their time is 6:00 CST which is an hour later, or 7:00 PM Eastern.  His guest was Jon Acuff and together with host Jenni Catron the program was both informative and entertaining to the point where I began to wonder if Leno and Letterman might have some competition.
  • It’s too bad the retail book industry was such a “sitting duck” for online takeover, and too bad that non-computer-user book-lovers have to pay a great price for the changing paradigm in book sales; as I rant yet again in Anger in the Face of Retail Contraction.
  • A timely cartoon from Sacred Sandwich

May 24, 2011

Francis Chan on Erasing Hell

The hot topic of the spring of 2011 will forever be recorded as “Heaven, Hell and the Hereafter,” but probably the response of Francis Chan will be noted as one of the more heavyweight contributions, given the huge ongoing popularity of his first book Crazy Love.   The ten minute video clip below initiates that response and also serves to promote the July 5 release of Erasing Hell: What God said about Eternity and the Things We Made Up from David C. Cook.  I’ll get to that in a minute.

But first let me pause and point out a serious liability of the whole video upload thing.  Unlike a blog, where I have control of whose comments are posted, it would appear that YouTube selects “featured comments,” in this case choosing one for which I’m sure the uploader would not approve.  So let me encourage you to watch the video here, and to link your friends back here, not because I need the stats, but just to avoid a lot of nonsense.

I think what’s going to happen with this book is that a lot of people who are down on Rob Bell are going to say, “Finally, here’s a book to stop Love Wins in its tracks.”

And in case you miss it, I think what Francis Chan is saying is that we’re fighting over doctrine and missing the point that this is about the souls of real people some of whom we interact with on a daily basis; and saying basically, how dare you trivialize this or reduce this to a doctrinal debate.

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