Thinking Out Loud

April 17, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Build a Pharisee

Wednesday List Lynx

Wednesday List Lynx

Lots of good stuff this week. Take the time!

Now Go Do It

About the Blogroll:

This blog has a rather interesting link list in the sidebar. Blogs mentioned are chosen because they are (a) faith focused and (b) posting regularly. The doctrinal flavor of the blogs listed is quite varied, but I don’t include blogs that appear to have more “agenda” than content. Some blogs are listed somewhat permanently, some disappear and return a month later. Together, they represent almost one fifth of the bloggers that I have bookmarked in my computer and read regularly. Some of the blogs appearing in the Wednesday link list end up on this page later on, while others have a key post that I feel is worth mentioning, while at the same time I haven’t gotten to know them well enough yet to establish them as a link or imply endorsement. Recommendations are invited.

March 7, 2013

The Edge, Shock Value and Shifting Standards

There are going to be people who think me a little too conservative for not posting the cover of the book referred to in today’s earlier post. Sigh.

no-godIt seems that we live in a time when standards are shifting, and even if your values are less progressive, it never hurts to go for shock value, as in Peter Enns’ article Why I Don’t Believe in God Anymore. Perhaps it’s just that people who blog on the Patheos platform are expected to be more controversial, but the word “God” with the red circle and red slash through it seems a bit over the top.

Peter Enns actually does believe in God, at least in the way most of you think. His article is saying that for him it’s really about trust.

…“Belief” in God connotes–at least as I see it–a set of ideas about God that may, if time allows, eventually make their way to other parts of my being…

…I see a huge difference between “I believe in a God who cares for me” and “I trust God at this particular moment.” The first is a bit safer, an article of faith. The latter is unnerving, risky–because I have let go…

In a way, Enns’ view is at the heart of Christian living. As people approach crossing the line of faith, our great desire is to see them reach that point of belief; but once the line has been crossed, the center of the Lordship of Christ is trusting Him with every area, every department of our lives.

I know someone who hasn’t crossed that line yet, but I know the ‘gay’ question is going to come up at some point and when it does I’m going to say, “Look, I want to let you in our playbook. Right now our concern for you is about believing, but for those of us on the inside, the fundamental question is: Can God be trusted? Can we see that out of good, better and best, He does indeed have a best for each of us, an ideal which represents His highest intentions?”

Trusting God has having our ultimate highest good in mind is a better way of framing difficult questions. It’s possible to look at people in an adulterous relationship and say, “I know you expect me to say what’s wrong with what you’re doing, but I want to ask you, ‘What’s right about what you’re doing? What do you derive from this that makes it worth the various inconveniences?’” I believe you could equally ask, “What’s right about your incestuous relationship that makes it worth the effort of keeping the secret?” or “What’s right about your gay relationship that makes it worth the separation from your family?”

It’s not rhetorical.  You’re going to get some answers in most cases. What makes it good. And then it’s easy to say, “I believe God’s intention was beyond good, beyond better. I believe God had a best, but we’re afraid of fully trusting Him.”

However, it’s important not to let this much more compassionate, much more sympathetic approach not undermine the idea of trusting God for the best. It’s vital that in the process, we don’t take scissors to scripture and excise the passages we think don’t fit.

Which brings us to United Methodist pastor Dave Barnhart’s article How Being a Pastor Changed My Thinking on Homosexuality. This piece has received a lot of attention online and is emblematic of what happens when theological convictions are transferred to real people engaged in real living in a real world.

Most people who have wrestled with this issue have come to recognize the personal disconnect that takes place when the convictions we would write on a list shatter in the face of people who have been damaged by dogma. No one reading scripture thoroughly can help but be caught in the middle of God’s holiness and judgment versus God’s compassion toward those who ‘miss the mark’ of His greatest standards.

The article says,

Being a pastor is more about being willing to be led by God and changed by the people I meet than issuing infallible decrees from a pulpit, more about admitting I’m wrong and sharing my frailty than pretending I know God’s will on a given subject. One friend describes preaching as a “homiletical wager,” and I’ve come to believe that pastoring, presuming to be a spiritual leader, is bit like gambling with God, where the stakes are very high but I’m betting the game is rigged toward grace.

So again, the title is edgy, it certainly goes for shock value, but has the writer really changed his view on the standards that God holds up for us, or has he simply come to see those standards in the light of mercy, come to a desire to confront the way The Church attempts to mete out its version of upholding God’s best?

Conservatives and traditionalists may feel the spiritual sky is falling, but I prefer to think of the present spiritual climate more in terms of a shaking. Too many people wrote things in ink that they should have written in pencil, or even chalk. But a massive rethink of terminology or approach doesn’t mean that we’ve completely tossed all our formerly held convictions.

As pendula swing wildly, the place of balance, the place of rest, is ultimately somewhere in the middle.

September 7, 2012

Redefining “The Written Word”

The picture above is of a scripture selection my eldest son chose to write out by hand almost a year ago and post on his bedroom wall. It’s remarkable for two reasons, the first being that a few years earlier his efforts at cursive writing would never have produced anything so legible, the second being the love that he has for the Word of God, evidenced by the time he spends in scripture each day.

Writing out Bible passages by hand has become somewhat archaic in a world of word processing. But it’s just one of a number of subtle changes taking place within Western society in terms of our relationship with the printed word:

  • Many of us leave our Bibles at home on Sundays, finding it more convenient to use Bibles provided at weekend services
  • Many choose to use Bible apps on their smart phones instead of following from a print text
  • Many have their devotional and Bible study time driving to work using a devotional on CD or listening to a preacher on the car radio
  • Scripture memorization has become less commonplace in our children’s and youth ministry programs
  • People like myself often ‘absorb’ scripture throughout the day through online articles and blogs but don’t directly read anything at source
  • Our worship music is ‘vertical’ which can derive from psalms and similar passages, but is therefore less reliant on the ‘Scripture in Song’ type of choruses that were based more directly on a wider spectrum of scripture passages
  • The giving out of tracts has died as a practice; many of these began with scripture and contained several Bible passages
  • The reading of Christian books has diminished in a screen-saturated world
  • Scripture plaques, often seen in the living rooms and kitchens of homes have been deemed inadequate in a world of interior decorating and replaced by “inspirational” wall art with single word admonitions like “dream,” “believe,” “hope,” etc.
  • Where once people would add a scripture verse by hand to a greeting card, today we purchase Christian cards with a verse already included

Combine all these, and the handwriting my son did might seem rather quaint. But I’ll bet that taking the time to do this means he knows this passage well.

Of course, more than writing scripture on the doorframes and gates of our houses, God desires for us to write his words on our heart. But how we do this if we don’t know the passages and precepts in the first place? God is revealed to us first and foremost in scripture; this is the primary revelation of God in our times.

So here’s the challenge. Take a passage and write it out by hand today. I did this a few weeks ago with Titus 3: 3-8 or you might consider Colossians 1: 9-14 or the Galatians passage above, or a passage of your choosing. (Those are just two that I’ve done myself, so I’m not asking you to do anything I haven’t done.)

And then allow the words to be written on your heart.

July 14, 2012

Manipulating Scripture

Filed under: bible — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:41 am

I am sure that some people will read today’s title and assume this to be a discussion of how to force scripture to say something it isn’t saying; to use a Bible verse as a proof text in order to make some point; or simply do a terrible job of interpretation.

But I am thinking of manipulate in the sense of

to handle, manage, or use, especially with skill, in some process of treatment or performance [Dictionary.com]

If it is true that in Old Testament times, scripture was regarded as a jewel or precious stone — one that reflected and refracted the light in infinite ways depending on how it was held — then we ought to approach scripture with similar expectations.

A few weeks ago I was focusing on the verse that, in the old KJV reads, “Thou wilt keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.”  I couldn’t help but notice there were several four-letter words there: Thou, wilt, keep, mind, thee.  I got to wondering if I could compose the whole text with words of four letters. This has nothing to do with whatever some of you are associating with “four letter words,” and in fact, I did another verse that week with five letter words, but can’t recall now what it was.  Anyway, I came up with:

Thou
will
give
them
pure
calm
when
they
keep
body,
mind,
soul
firm
with
thee.

Nothing particularly profound there, and I did take the liberty of adding ‘body’ and ‘soul’ to what was originally just ‘mind.’  (And I’m normally not a ‘Thee’ and ‘Thou’ person!)

But I can’t say how much this little exercise, and a few others, kept me focused on that scripture, brought related scriptures to memory, and crowded out other thoughts which would have brought me down instead of lifting me up.

Is this too far outside the definition of “meditating on scripture” for you? Or does this fit the idea of figuratively holding the verse in your hand and watching the light (the truth) reflect and refract in different ways?


Read another related thought-life post here from a few weeks ago: You Control This Moment.

September 2, 2011

CT Comments on Bible Translation Long on Emotion, Short on Rationality

When the piece says “A Christianity Today Editorial,” you know that it was the joint product of the editorial staff, not one rogue writer.  It also means, “this is serious.” In this case, it’s a thoughtful piece that explains the balance that one finds in the 2011 edition of the New International Version (NIV) and the total hypocrisy of the SBC in proposing to ban the translation from its churches, while its bookstore chain is ringing copy after copy after copy through its cash registers.

However, over in the comments section, here’s some of the venom and misinformation that’s out there [with some responses from myself]:

  • Translations, like NIV2011, that distort the original language to facilitate a theological agenda that is contrary to God’s Word should not be promoted, encouraged, or tolerated in the church.  [actually, the Committee on Bible Translation represents scholars from various churches]
  • Well, this article is deceptive with it’s generalizations rather than specifics with its closing statements … [no actually the closing paragraph is fairly specific, the SBC as a whole is talking one thing and doing another]
  • Bible sales have gone up, but what is the major translation that has flooded the market? NOT the NIV spoken of in this article, but the NKJV & the ESV [actually some people in the publishing industry would care to differ with your interpretation of the ESV stats -- if you have any -- and the NKJV is fairly flat right now as well]
  • I am even more concerned that there seems to be no author credited for this editorial.  [see my comment in the introduction...don't you just hate it when there's no individual to attack?...]
  • The dissatisfaction with this latest, “gender-accurate” translation of the NIV is widespread, crossing denominational lines.  [uh, actually it's relatively limited to the SBC]
  • I will not use the NIV 2011 version in our ministries and I’m afraid the NIV folks have lost many people like myself. Simply put, they have lost my trust.  [but did you actually read a single chapter of it?]
  • The NLT and NCV never made themselves out to be anything but paraphrases with a more gender inclusive nature. [first of all, there's no such word in linguistics as 'paraphrase;' secondly, with 128 translators -- not paraphrasers -- the NLT is the most translated Bible on the market.]
  • …As a pastor, I will not allow a TNIV nor an NIV2011 cross the threshold of my home or office. They are theological poison! Personally I’m a KJV kind of guy… The KJV presents to us the perfect and finished work of the cross. Other translations make faith an outward working which leads us into bondage. [and I hope when you get to heaven, you get to meet people who were saved through the new NIV -- this 'poisonous' translation -- because they will certainly be there...]
  • An example is Romans 1:17. The NIV translates that in the gospel “a righteousness from God is revealed.”  [talk about missing the point...yes the 1984 edition does say that, but the NIV 2011 moves much closer to what the author of the comment wants -- too bad he didn't bother to check before posting the comment]
  • The author must have attended the same seminary as Brian McLaren- Oh wait, he never went to seminary and has no theological education of any kind. Why do we let people like this represent us. Christianity Today is out of touch with what Christians believe. This is not about translation methodology, but politically correct tinkering with the text to sell more Bibles to liberal denominations.  [this comment is a fail on so many grounds: (a) the senior staff at CT have sufficient training -- including seminary -- to do their job and (b) the NIV market has always been Evangelicals; the "liberals" the author describes aren't going to touch it no matter how hard anyone tries]
  • For a critique of modern translation theory and practice, see Leland Ryken’s… pamphlet, Choosing a Bible. [probably one of the most overt examples of ESV propaganda out there, and published by the ESV's publisher within weeks of the ESV translation's release]
  • I’m most worried about the true motivations of publishing houses feeding the 80-90% of the world where we already have reliable modern translations with newer translations when those same scholars and publishing houses could be actively partnering to translate and publish for unreached and under-reached people groups.  [on the surface, a good point, but you have to have learned those languages to do that work; instead English translators wrestle with issues that provide background to foreign language translators]
  • …Tinkering with one thing today is a prelude to tinkering with many more things later depending on one’s own interpretation.  [but actually, if you read Mark Strauss and Gordon Fee's How to Choose a Translation for All It's Worth -- admittedly published by Zondervan -- you learn that with the TNIV, the translators actually reverted back to older forms and poetic structures]
  • Are we going to rename “Manchester” to “Personchester”? (and any way Chester is a man’s name….)  [Manchester. Yes. That's where all this has been heading all along]
  • …more to follow, I’m sure…

With all of this taking place, there’s been little notice of a quietly growing — now in its third printing — new translation, The Common English Bible (CEB).  Has anyone taken any time to look at the same issues in the CEB? 

July 20, 2011

Wednesday Link List

John McPherson of Close to Home fame kicks off and ends this week’s link list.  Click the images to view more.  I wonder if Rob Bell bought the print or t-shirt of the one above?

  • Is the term ‘Evangelical’ losing its meaning or become too broad a term?  Randy Alcorn digs deep into that question.
  • A year too late, as it turned out, I discovered Lance, who made some of the best fan videos for Christian music songs I’ve ever seen.  Check out God of this City.  Anybody know if he’s making these under another user name?
  • And speaking of music, Dan Kimball returns — I think he’s covered this before — to question the whole notion of “worship equals music” which can cloud our thinking about true worship.
  • How could I not link to an article titled, “Oral Tradition of the Gospels and Justin Bieber”? Actually, Dan Rodger makes a good point about the reliability of scripture.
  • Can I still use the word “missional” without sounding dated?  Andrew Jones aka Tall Skinny Kiwi has a great video embed titled Church Without a Wall.
  • You’d be forgiven for not knowing this, but the Roman Catholic Church has done some serious thinking about the use of worship music in its services.  Read about this at Internet Monk.
  • Anyone who has ever dealt with foreign language issues knows the absurdity of some of our Bible translation debates, as Dana illustrates with a couple of Spanish examples.
  • As her book Not Afraid of Life is published, Bristol Palin talks about abstinence with Christianity Today.
  • Brad Lomenick gets Jon Acuff to say funny things.  BTW, Jon guested at Cross Point Church at all the weekend services; audio/video is at iTunes.
  • As promised we end with another John McPherson.  If I’m remembering correctly, back in the day John had a book or two of his religious-flavored panels published by Zondervan.

January 29, 2011

Dogs and Cats in the Bible

Filed under: bible, Humor — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:35 am

cat

Some weekend fun with a post that first appeared in January of 2009:

Hands up everybody who has been told this at some point:

The cat is the only domestic animal not mentioned in the Bible

But I’d like to offer a corollary to this great axiom:

…but the dog is never exactly depicted in a positive way

In fact, given these verses, I’ll take the absence of a mention in scripture over what follows. Think about it:

Revelation 22:15
Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

Luke 16:21
and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

Matthew 15:26
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

Matthew 7:6
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

Philippians 3:2
Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.

…and those are just the New Testament examples; imagine if we include a few OT ones like:

Isaiah 56:11
They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain.

Proverbs 26:11
As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.

1 Samuel 24:14
“Against whom has the king of Israel come out? Whom are you pursuing? A dead dog? A flea?

Exodus 22:31
“You are to be my holy people. So do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts; throw it to the dogs.

Psalm 59:14
They return at evening, snarling like dogs, and prowl about the city.

By the way, I think “dog” has got to be one of those words which doesn’t change according to various English translations of the Bible. (There are 40 instances in the NIV.)

Stay tuned next week for another chapter in Superficial Bible Studies.

Related post — April 2008 — Cold Noses at the Pearly Gates — where Charles Colson argues our pets won’t be in heaven

Related post — August 2008 — Remixing Cold Noses — where I backtrack on my endorsement of Colson after reading Randy Alcorn.

I included “Theology” in the tags… that’s gonna disappoint a few people; but if you’re one of them and that’s what brought you, now that you’re here, check out some other posts in this blog.  (It can only improve from here, right?)

January 12, 2011

Wednesday Link List

A rather bizarre lynx links list this week if I say so myself…so we brought back the Iberian Lynx for only the second time ever…

  • Tomorrow, this blog is one of the stops on a blog tour promoting W. P. Campbell’s book, Turning Controversy Into Ministry, a study of the church’s response to homosexuality.  I’ll be reviewing chapter ten, a pivotal chapter that kicks off the practical part of the book, Section III.
  • The video to watch this week is the young Lutheran boy who really gets down to preachin’ it in Jesus in Every Book of the Bible.
  • Top blog post this week — but it will take you a few minutes — is Darlene Parsons’ excellent analogy concerning cilantro and legalism.  Well written with a sharp taste just like the herb in question.  Don’t miss this.
  • At Q-Blog, Andy Couch brings a list of the top ten cultural trends of the last decade includes a few that may surprise.
  • Apparently signs at church exits stating, “You Are Now Entering the Mission Field” are more widespread than I realized.
  • Shane Claiborne visits a Christian bookstore only to find it freshly stocked with military merchandise and regalia. “Studies show that not only is the institutional church hemorrhaging economically, but the Christian industrial complex is in really bad shape…”
  • And in a somewhat related post, Shaun Groves gets ready to record his first studio album in five years, and carefully notes the way the Christian music industry has changed.
  • I’ve heard this story presented as a sermon illustration, but didn’t know there was actual video available. It should be called ‘Don’t Sleep in the Subway,’ because over a thousand people were asleep at the switch. Watch for a few minutes before reading the full story.
  • Zac Hicks thinks that worship leaders have a major obligation to present orthodox theology. “A great place to start is by studying the attributes of God, and particularly His incommunicable attributes (those characteristics of God which he does not share with humanity).”  Read more and bookmark this site if you are responsible for weekend worship in your community.
  • Ron Edmondson’s 10-year-old son figures when we get to heaven, they’ll have “one contemporary service and one traditional.”  Ron’s not so sure.
  • Think before you answer this one:  Did Jesus ever get the flu?  You might be surprised at Russell D. Moore’s answer.
  • Here we go again:  A Canadian Senator wants to criminalize spanking children.  Be sure to read the anecdote that Michael Coren relays before you think this isn’t a major issue.
  • Are dead birds falling from the sky a sign of the end times?  Former Left Behind movie actor Kirk Cameron thinks a reporter would do better to call a veterinarian.
  • True, Steve Saint is the son of South American missionary martyr Nate Saint; but also has an identity that’s all his own that springs from his own response to events that January day in 1956.  Such as working for Mission Aviation Fellowship.  Including going back to the same tribe that killed his father.  Lately, he’s been busy building a flying car.  Yes, you read that right.
  • If you enjoyed yesterday’s top Christian books chart here yesterday, you’ll really enjoy the U.S. Top 100 Christian Books for 2010 posted at Michael Hyatt’s blog.
  • The Toronto Star profiles Aiden Enns and his unusual Christian magazine, Geez, a faith magazine for the unchurched.  (Geez is the name that won out over Cripes.  Seriously.)   Enns got the idea for the magazine while working for Adbusters.
  • Here’s a video link to a great Sonicflood song from a couple of years back: Psalm 91.
  • Most comments indicated that this editorial on all things Crystal Cathedral was a miss more than a hit.
  • The Bible makes it into Gasoline Alley.  Not in a good way, though. At the blog The Comics Curmudgeon, a post last week focused on spiritual themes and noted in this case, “Gasoline Alley has continued its attempt to ditch its goody-goody image by dabbling in blasphemy. Today [Jan 5] it suggests that the Holy Bible is best used as a weight-loss aid.”  See for yourself:

  • Then again, I thought we needed a better note to end this week’s list on, so seeing it’s just a few days past Epiphany, this one from Sacred Sandwich seems to be timed just right:

August 18, 2010

Wednesday Link List

This was a week for reconstructing the blogroll here.   “Oh, Oh, The Places You’ll Go” lists all the things that are NOT blogs, along with, for a limited time, a description of each one on-screen — you don’t even have to mouse hover — which for some strange reason Made Every Word Start With A Capital Letter.

The actual blogs are now found further down in a new section called “Blog Stops.”

And now on to this week:

July 15, 2010

Currently Reading: The Book of Tobit

The Old Testament deuterocanonical book of Tobit is fourteen short chapters and may be read in under 15 minutes.   I’d read a number of these books a couple of decades ago, but took advantage of not being the driver on a short car trip to read this one again.

Most of the story centers on Tobit’s son Tobiah and his soon-to-be wife Sarah, and an incognito angel named Raphael.    Tobiah is cooling his feet in a stream when a fish grabs hold of one foot and the angel advises him not to discard the fish because cooking some of the organs can expel demons and heal eye cataracts, which is key to the resolution of the plot.

This aspect of the story seemed to me to be the one which sets Tobit apart from other O. T. books which are part of the 66-book Protestant canon.   But then I thought about that other fish story, the book of Jonah with its regurgitated prophet, and wondered how we would react to that if it were not part of our heritage (or how the unchurched react to the creation narrative with its talking snake and seemingly magic tree.)

Tobit contains a couple of Psalm-like chapters of worship to God’s greatness and provision.   There is nothing in the story which directly conflicts with Protestant belief and it is historically and geographically rooted enough to suggest that the characters are real.    God’s dealings with Israel in the O.T. were both weird and wonderful by contemporary standards, and I haven’t studied enough on this book to dare to suggest it never happened.

As Tobit was part of the original 1611 King James Version, you can read that online here.    If you’re curious however, I’d prefer to recommend reading it as I did in the New American Bible.   It’s also in the Catholic NRSV and Catholic Good News Bible.

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