Thinking Out Loud

August 10, 2020

“Isn’t it great? All the new people have left.”

I was thinking about this story today, which was posted five years ago; this edition includes some updates…

homeschool fishFor seven months, Mrs. W. and I (but mostly her) were forced to become homeschoolers during a period when Kid One wasn’t quite fitting into the public school near our home. Despite the short period in which we did this, we became immediate friends with other people in the homeschool movement, and I would say we can somewhat understand their motivation.

So if you’re a homeschooler, let me say that I get it when it comes to not wanting your children to be under the influence — for six hours each weekday — of people who do not share your core values, some of whom may be 180-degrees opposed to your core values.

What I don’t get is not wanting to put your kids in the Sunday School program — some now call it small groups for kids program — of your home church. Not wanting anyone else to teach your kids anything. If your home church is that lax when it comes to recruiting teachers, or if you are that concerned that any given teacher in your church’s children’s program could espouse some really wacky doctrine — or worse, admit that he or she watches sports on Sundays — then maybe you should find another church.

To everyone else, if these comments seem a bit extreme, they’re not. Apparently, in one particular church, the homeschool crowd — which made up the vast majority of those in the ‘people with kids’ category at this church — had decided that absolutely nobody else is going to teach their kids anything about the Bible. (Those same parents said they’re too tired from teaching their children all week to take on a weekend Sunday School assignment.)

In other words, it’s not just people in the public school system who aren’t good enough to teach their kids, it’s also people in their home church.

I am so glad that my parents didn’t feel that way. I think of the people who taught me on Sunday mornings, the people who ran the Christian Service Brigade program for boys on Wednesday nights, the people who were my counselors and instructors at Church camp, and I say, “Thank you; thank you; thank you! Thank you for sharing your Christian life and testimony and love of God’s word with me when I was 5, 8, 11, 14 and all the ages in between. And thank you to my parents for not being so protective as to consider that perhaps these people weren’t good enough to share in the task of my Christian education.”

I also think of Donna B., the woman who taught Kid One at the Baptist Church that became our spiritual refuge for a couple of years. He really flourished spiritually under her teaching, reinforced of course, by what we were doing in the home.

What message does it send to kids when the only people who have it right when it comes to rightly dividing the Word of truth are Mommy and Daddy? And what about the maturity that comes with being introduced to people who, while they share the 7-12 core doctrines that define a Christ-follower, may have different opinions about matters which everyone considers peripheral?

Where does all this end? Are these kids allowed to visit in others’ homes? When they go to the grocery store, are they allowed to converse with the woman at the checkout? My goodness; are they even allowed to answer the phone?

I’m sorry, homeschoolers, but when you start trashing the Sunday School teachers at your own church, you’ve just crossed the line from being passionate, conservative Christian parents to being downright cultish.

…There was more to the story — A critical factor was missing in the original article that couldn’t be shared at the time. Because homeschool families made up the majority of this church congregation, it kind of stopped the Sunday School in its tracks. But more important, it ended up preventing any kind of mid-week program that would have been an outreach to neighborhood families that the pastor regarded as a vital element of the church’s ministry; and ultimately the church simply never grew.

However, when all attempts at outreach were ended — the pastor was forced to give up that agenda — one of the core family parents said, and this is a direct quote, “Isn’t it great; all the new people have left. That’s right, the new families that had wandered in got that spidey sense that told them they just didn’t belong and they all left that church, and the remaining families were glad that they left. Talk about backward priorities.

Epilogue — In 2015, the pastor of that church ended up leaving the denomination and continues to enjoy a ministry on another part of the continent. I do seriously question any Christian denomination allowing all this to happen without severing ties with the church in question. In that particular town, that particular denomination has a reputation and it’s not a particularly good one. If I were part of a district or national office staff, I would be quite concerned.

August 8, 2020

A Note to my Boys

Filed under: Christianity — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:24 am

We have two adult sons, 29 and 26. This is for them.

‘I can’t imagine what another generation lived through during the war.’

That’s a statement I could have made before March, 2020. Now I’m starting to get the hang of it.

When I say ‘war’ I mean one of the great wars. After 1945 there have been, to put it mildly, many skirmishes; but nothing that held the specter of the enemy landing on your doorstep.

Vietnam hung like a cloud over the United States, and with Afghanistan, Canada was drawn into the picture. But it wasn’t truly ‘life interrupted’ as occurred during the major wars of earlier decades. For those in North America or Western Europe, there was no rationing. There were no blackouts.

This is truly life interrupted.

Or is it?

In looking at the history of the world, it seems more like this is life. Period. We enjoyed a very, very long period of stability leading up to this. And tranquility. And prosperity.

You guys are in your 20s. Prime years. And I’m sure that in various ways your life was heading in some positive trajectories until you found yourself facing words like ‘lockdown’ and ‘quarantine’ and ‘social distancing.’ A world where your best and closest friends could carry the contagion of a virus that has potentially devastating effects.

A world where we haven’t seen you guys in person in 6 months now.

Or hugged you.

A world where for one of you, four gig-economy sources of income were shut down, when the whole point of having four is that if one fails you have the others on which to rely.

A world where you haven’t seen some of your closest friends in person for 6 months.

I’m sorry.

Hang in there.

Make the very, very best of the situation. Make the proverbial lemonade.

Do everything you can do safely within the limitations you and we and your friends now face. Including things that are ‘social’ even if hampered by physical separation.

Stay positive.

Be hopeful.

Keep safe.


August 6, 2020

Someone’s Story is Worth a Thousand Arguments

Filed under: Christianity, current events — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:06 am

Various editions shown here of The Negro Motorist Green Book can be accessed in the digital collection of the New York Public Library with the earliest from 1937, to the most recent as late as 1966. Click here to link.


As I mentioned a few days ago, I have a friend who keeps emailing me the latest podcast or video dealing with Critical Race Theory, Black Lives Matter, and other similar topics.

Because I live in the real world, I am concerned, but I find myself ill-equipped to deal with the subject matter at the level he is processing it. I’ve suggested some other forums.

It’s like my friend wants to play chess, and I do not play chess (at any appreciable level) and I suggest getting together with the guys in the park and yet he keeps saying, “I want to play chess with you.”

I am however increasingly convinced that much of our rhetoric about race (and gender, and politics, and so on) would resolve if we would just take the time to listen to each other’s stories.

There is a story I want to insert here, but I don’t want to do this without the permission of the person involved, but rest assured it would make you think twice about a lot of things that people of color face, especially in the U.S. (In some cases only in the U.S.)

But this one is also helpful. It appeared in The New York Times and other newspapers the third week of June and was written by Tariro Mzezewa. I would expect a search of the author’s name would include links.

It was about road trips and told the story of Nisha Parker, a special-education teacher in California who yearns to go on a road trip. But she needs to plan it out 100-times more carefully than you or I would consider.

Did you ever hear about The Green Book? It was a real thing, but it was also made into a movie. The guidebook told African Americans where it was safe to go; where they would be well-received. And where to avoid. Because that level of painstaking preparation was absolutely essential.

Here’s the part of the New York Times story that got to me…

…But Parker, 32, said that she can’t imagine just being able to pack up and go without a plan, like some white families might be able to do.

So for the past six months, she has been meticulously planning their journey. She knows which towns her family will stop in which they’ll drive straight through, and which they’ll avoid entirely. She also knows which stretches of the road her children won’t be allowed to drink juice or water on, to avoid bathroom breaks in towns where the family could encounter racism or violence based on their race.

“We try not to stop in places that are desolate, and we try to only stop in cities for gas,” she said. “If we have to stop for gas in a rural area, we use a debit card so we don’t have to go into the gas station store. If we are going to stay somewhere overnight, we look at the demographics to make sure we aren’t going to a place where we would be the only Black people or where we would be targetted, especially at night…”

Things you and I wouldn’t worry about. That’s the reality she and her family face…

…It’s August now. I hope their trip happened and went well.

I hope there’s a day they can just go like any other family.


July 31, 2020

A Closer Look at the New

Filed under: bible, Christianity, guest writer — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:33 am

Earlier this week, something about Clark Bunch’s review of the new Bible Gateway site really resonated, so with his permission, we’re sharing it here. You can also click the title which follows to read this at source. You might also want to visit the site, The Master’s Table.

Bible Gateway Update

by Clark Bunch

In addition to the occasional book review (I posted one earlier this week) I have reviewed a couple of Bibles in the last year at the request of Bible Gateway. Regular readers know about the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid and as a partner The Master’s Table posted reviews of The Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids and The Jesus Bible. A few weeks ago Bible Gateway asked Blogger Grid members to review the new website design at Bible Gateway. The new design has since rolled out so if you use that resource or follow our links from here then you have probably seen the changes.

New Design

According to Bible Gateway, the new design offers a cleaner, easier to read screen. To me, it looks like they took controls from the top and moved them to the left side of the screen. I don’t see anything that makes it easier to read. The difference was supposed to really shine when you start adding side-by-side parallel translations on the same screen. So let’s add NKJV next to the ESV text in each format and take a look:

Classic View

That’s a two translation parallel view on the classic layout. I have scrolled down the screen a bit, rolling the website banner and user controls off the top of the screen. The Bible text takes up nearly the full width of my laptop screen. Now look at the same text side-by-side in the new format:

New Design

The control panel to the left collapsed which makes the text field a little wider. But look at all that business to the right, and at how narrow the fields are that contain text. I could add three if not four translations side-by-side on the classic site before they get that narrow. This makes parallel study more difficult, not easier, in my humble opinion. Side by side translations, which is how I’ve been writing my sermons for years, was easier on the classic site than the redesign. Which is ironic considering the Bible Gateway claims.

Now, this next difference is going to be a picky little thing but it’s my picky little thing. On the left-hand sidebar of this blog (and if you’re reading this in an email or blog aggregator now would be a good time to pop in to the actual website) you see the Bible Gateway verse of the day. The text is in ESV followed by a reference and that reference is linked to that verse on the Bible Gateway website. Here is how the verse of the day for today’s date would appear on the classic site:

Classic View

And here is the landing page, the very first thing you see, when visiting Bible Gateway today:

New Design

In addition to the fact that the page just doesn’t look as good, the reference appears before the verse. Like I said, a picky little thing. But that’s how we normally display verses in print. If you share a verse on social media, make a graphic for a slideshow or write a verse at the bottom of a get well soon or birthday card, we write the verse and then add a reference. It would be the same if displaying a quote; first the words and then an attribution. If you click the link in the left-hand sidebar it will take you to the new Bible Gateway site not the classic site. The classic site is an option you can choose – at this time. When I visit the regular site, without getting technical, it recognizes me and displays the ESV text since that is my preference. If I click the link in the upper left of the screen for classic site those recognition protocols are no longer in place and the site defaults to NIV.

So, to copy and paste the verse of the day the way I like it and in ESV, I have to go to the website, click on classic, change the translation and then copy the verse and reference. I have discovered a work around but it still involves a few steps. I now go to the regular site, copy the reference and verse, paste it into my editor twice and then cut it so the verse comes before the reference. Like I said, I know it’s a picky little thing but it’s my picky little thing. And it’s not the only reason I prefer the classic view, namely that the side-by-side translation parallel was better before.

For the time being the new format of Bible Gateway and the classic site are both available. I don’t know if it will always be like that or just while users compare the two and get a feel for the new design. While I’m giving the new site design a negative review let me be clear: I have been using Bible Gateway for years and will continue to do. I will continue to include links on the sidebars and link scripture references I use when blogging to Bible Gateway. It has been and continues to be an excellent resource available anywhere I have my laptop or phone.

One final thought: since I mentioned my phone there at the end I was going to include a screenshot of the phone app. When I opened Bible Gateway on my Samsung (Android) smart phone, I noticed this little detail:

The reference for today’s verse shows two verses, Matthew 5:14 and 16. But on the website, new and classic formats, only verse 14 is displayed. The mobile app shows verses 14 and 16. I don’t know what that means but it is interesting. To me anyway.

July 29, 2020

Wednesday Things

Filed under: Christianity, links — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:47 am

“Will I ever get my job back?” asked the Wednesday List Lynx.

Most of my attention during the pandemic has been on our companion blog, Christianity 201. But I haven’t forgotten readers here. No this isn’t a Wednesday Link List or a Wednesday Connect, just a few things I’ve posted on Twitter over the last 30 days. But we’ll get there…

Dennis Hanabarger posted this yesterday. The sign above these books doesn’t say Christianity. It says Christian Living. In other words this ain’t no Barnes & Noble. This pic was taken in a Christian bookstore. These were the titles they were featuring on a top shelf. This was the best they had to offer. I find this extremely worrisome. For readers outside the U.S., this is Christianity in America. I’m sure there are some good thoughts in these books. But there are so many other things this store could be recommending.

The death of Texas pastor John Powell is heartbreaking enough, but made more so when you look at online pictures of his wife and four very young children. (I opted not to include those here.) He stopped on I-75 to help a motorist having a car fire and was hit by a transport truck. He was a former student of Russell Moore. More details at Religion News Service. A GoFundMe page is just 4K short of its 350K goal, but of course that won’t bring him back, and while I might have said that better, it’s just reflective of the sadness I feel.

Ross Brotman is a songwriter and musician based in Phoenix, AZ.  He writes, “I have been working professionally as a drummer for 25 years and have been writing songs in many different genres all along. I have been very active in music ministry over the entire course of my playing career in large mega churches and small cafeteria start up churches alike.” Check out this song.

The EFC (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada) is Canada’s equivalent to the NAE. Yesterday at 3:30 they reported their financial management service provider had a data breach (ransomware virus) including names, addresses, emails and contribution records of donors, but thankfully not credit card information. The breach actually happened back in May and donors found out yesterday. Details here.

Also in Canada, probably the biggest faith-based news story last week concerned a Toronto Baptist pastor who was male when hired six years ago, and then in June came out as a transgender woman. She was immediately fired by the church.

Tish Harrison Warren became the unlikely victim of a book counterfeiting scam last year involving her title, Liturgy of the Ordinary. We reported on that almost exactly a year ago. 2021 is looking better. She writes “We have a cover! Prayer in the Night deals with darkness, suffering, vulnerability, theodicy and doubt. It’s framed around one nighttime prayer. ‘Keep watch, dear Lord, w/those who work or watch or weep this night, & give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; & all for your love’s sake. Amen.‘ Releases late January.”

In light of this weekend’s church service, one writer compared John MacArthur to “a petulant teen slamming doors in his parents house.”

I’ll bet you don’t have this topic covered in your library. Often Christian/Religious publishers are tripping over themselves offering similar product. So I gotta say, Acts Against God: A Short History of Blasphemy got my attention. Chapters look at: Ancient Worlds, Medieval Christendom, Reformation, Enlightenment, 19th Century, 20th Century, Contemporary World.

This multi-faceted artist is both writer and musician. She has a book releasing this month with Harvest House Publishers with the provocative title, Getting Naked Later: Making Sense of the Unexpected Single Life. This music video is much different; an excerpt from a live worship album.

July 27, 2020

John MacArthur vs. The State of California

Filed under: Christianity, current events — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:04 am

“That was unusual.”

Those were the first words from John MacArthur yesterday when, after walking to the pulpit at the beginning of Sunday morning’s service, he was met with a round of applause from a fairly packed house of congregants joining him for worship in defiance of an order by the State of California banning such worship services.

It was also the phrase going through my mind when I watched a service from Grace Church in Sun Valley for the first time. It’s not my usual routine. Not even close.

The service itself was somewhat normal for a conservative Evangelical church. For each hymn, attendees were told to take their copy of “Hymns of Grace” and turn to the respective page number. It was repeated each time instead of the usual, ‘Take your hymnbook,’ almost like a recurring branding. I sense the books are available for purchase.

Hymns were accompanied by a small orchestra consisting of 4 violins, a viola, a cello, two clarinets and a double (string) bass, at least as far as I could see. Then the pulpit lowered into the stage for an unobstructed view of the small orchestra as they performed an instrumental piece. Later there was another hymn and before the message the orchestra accompanied a male soloist. The prelude and postlude on the organ were very high-church.

When it came time for the closing hymn, people were instructed to sing loudly, one of the issues at the very core of the ban on worship services. In some ways, that instruction was more defiant than the sermon content.

The scripture reading was from Daniel 6. It was a fairly long reading, and the congregation was asked to remain standing for the whole time it was read.

The message basically echoed the theme from Daniel 6, that Daniel would not follow the King’s edict but would follow God instead.

At this point I discovered I had scheduled a Zoom call for the same time, and cut away from the message, only to find it later posted on Capstone. I may have missed a few minutes from the middle, but the theme and the trajectory were quite evident and I’ll leave it to other sites to provide quotations.

Toward the end MacArthur focused on the fact that abortion clinics are wide open, and used the later minutes of the message to comment on the murder of unborn children, while at the same time discounting the possibility of people dying due to attending the large assembly he was conducting.

I say that because at supper, my wife asked, “What are the chances that everyone attending the service was virus-free?”

In California, not very likely.

This morning comes word from the LA Times that the State of California is threatening to cut utilities (power, water) to businesses defying the order.

Would they do that to a church? We’ll have to wait and see.

July 24, 2020

Children, the Pandemic, and Why I Can’t Read Anymore

Filed under: Christianity, education, parenting — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:24 am

Can a child lose their ability to read?

I did.

Imagine it’s the first week of regular school and the teacher calls you in for a brief meeting.

“I’m afraid that the extended time period without a formal education program has resulted in a giant step backwards in reading and math skills.”

Would you be surprised?

Actually it happens every summer. It’s called “Summer reading loss” or “Summer learning loss.” Copy both phrases into your search engine of choice.

Now Yale University and CNBC are among the news outlets reporting studies on the effects of longer school shutdowns due to coronavirus that parallel summer vacation studies previously reported by the Washington Post and Harvard University.

If some studies seem inconclusive, I think it’s because much depends on the student. While we speak of a “learning curve” that’s hopefully rising upward to the right, without practice, some people can take a step backwards.

So what’s my story?

I basically took a giant step away from formal piano lessons and lost of much of the ability to read music that I had. Instead, I learned how to read chord charts (basically guitar music) and with each passing day, although I sounded better and more confident, those little black dots connected to the five horizontal lines started to lose their meaning.

It could be argued that I wasn’t that good to begin with. That I hadn’t achieved the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell says is necessary for the mastery of an instrument. But today, my reading is not what it was, or more importantly, what it could have been. I was considered musically gifted, and could have easily become the next Yo Yo Ma, if it wasn’t for the fact that he plays the cello.

For a lot of kids today, information input comes through YouTube. It is, in many respects, the equivalent of my shifting from reading staff notation to reading guitar notation. We gone from literacy to orality, just as other parts of the world are advancing in the opposite direction.

Information output and sharing happens through pictorial platforms such as Instagram and through texting. (“Did U gt my txt?”) Cursive writing has disappeared and the need for correct spelling has been replaced by spell-check. (“Witch works quiet we’ll no matter wear your form.”)

I enjoy playing at church with worship teams and can easily help others. I’ve learned the guitarists’ language well enough to tell a novice, “You’re playing an A-major-7th instead of a regular A-seventh.”

But at the front of the auditorium is a giant pipe organ. Because my wife is the music director, I know where the keys are kept, so to speak, and I can crank out “A Mighty Fortress is our God” with enough passion that the images in the stained glass windows lift their hands and sing along.

However, I’m not reading it note-for-note out of the hymnbook. I wish I could render it as the book does. My sight-reading took a giant hit.

The store I work at sells supplemental workbooks for kids. I did a rough count today and we have about 175 in stock; each one is appropriate for a particular grade. I know the schools have been providing things online and those things are free, but some kids need some extra help in grammar, spelling, arithmetic, fractions and decimals, science, etc.

Since the lockdown that ‘department’ of the store has made two sales. Two. I’m not saying people don’t see the value in those products, I’m saying I don’t think parents see the potential of what their kids are losing by not, as my piano teacher would say, practicing daily.

What you don’t use you lose.

July 22, 2020

New Music

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:22 am

It’s been many months since we did Wednesday Connect, and I would like to think that a few of you miss the ♫ New Music ♫ featured links.  Since we don’t have a column of news we can embed the videos today. (Let me know how this works on various devices, and if any songs are blocked in your region.)

This is primarily contemporary and or modern worship. Suggestions from Spiritual Sounding Board Sunday Gathering, Life 100.3 in Canada, Praise Charts, CCLI UK, New Release Today. Songs available wherever you buy music.

Still here at the bottom of the list? Looking for more new tunes? Check out the Fresh channel at 96Five in Australia.

July 21, 2020

Remembering J. I. Packer

I can’t imagine readers here not also being tuned in to Religion News Service or Christianity Today or even Facebook or Twitter; so when I learned on the weekend of the passing of J. I. Packer, I didn’t feel the urgency to add anything to what was being said.

Days later, I’ve decided silence is not appropriate either. Here is an amended version of something I wrote on Saturday for another blog.

Remembering J. I. Packer

Christians around the world are remembering the man Wikipedia describes as an “English-born Canadian theologian;” J. I. Packer. His books — numbering over 50 — have been staples in Christian bookstores for decades. But his name probably appears elsewhere on your bookshelves, as John Stackhouse noted a few years ago, “Perhaps no one in history has written more endorsements and prefaces to the books of others than Packer did.”

Packer died on Friday at age 93, just days short of turning 94. Though I never met him or heard him in person, he was always nearby. While we were at Regent College last year we frequently drove by what some called “J. I. Packer’s church, “a church on the campus that he could easily walk to.” And back in the day, as an employee for IVP Canada, I remember packing and shipping many copies of Knowing God.

Though he surprised many with his decision to move from an important role with the Church of England to settle in Vancouver, his influence continued to span the entire world.

A year ago, The Gospel Coalition ran this list of declarations he said everyone should tell themselves daily:

  1. I am a child of God.
  2. God is my Father.
  3. Heaven is my home.
  4. Every day is one day nearer.
  5. My Savior is my brother.
  6. Every Christian is my brother too.

Though he was equally comfortable with Evangelicals as with Anglicans, he did appear in Time Magazine’s list of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals.

…Just over two years ago, we featured this lighthearted moment here:

At age 91, J. I. Packer isn’t too old to cruise the J. I. Packer section in the Regent College Bookstore, making sure his bestsellers are properly displayed! [June, 2018]

Much more information is available at this tribute at Christianity Today.

If you have a Christian library in your home or your church, you might want to peruse this list of his titles at Wikipedia.

Memorial gifts may be made to the J. I. Packer Scholarship at Regent College.


July 20, 2020

A Bible Translation Update You May Have Missed

Filed under: bible, Christianity, cults — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:38 am

Every once in awhile I come in contact with someone who wants to get connected with a copy of the NIV-1984. Often it’s a replacement for a Bible they have used that’s falling apart. Or it’s based on some of the many bizarre rumors about the revised NIV circulating online.1

But for most people, an NIV is an NIV. The Bibles available for purchase today are technically called NIV-2011.

Similarly the NLTs sold today are Second Edition, or NLTSE. For Roman Catholics the NAB (New American Bible) editions on offer today are the Revised Edition, or NABRE.

For the most part, only Bible nerds and retailers use these terms. An NLT is an NLT, right?2

Last week, a series of unusual circumstances found me in a 40-minute discussion with a leader in the Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in my area. (No, they didn’t come to the door, in fact, I was trying to get them to come to my door for a very specific reason, but the meeting was deemed unnecessary. It’s a long story…3)

For the record, the full title of their Bible is New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, with the words “Holy Scriptures” always in a larger font. If someone ever asks you if you’ve heard of the “Holy Scriptures” Bible, they may be thinking NWT.

I then learned that their exclusive Bible translation, the New World Translation had undergone an update in 2013. Wikipedia called it “a significantly revised translation.” Not moving in those circles, I suppose I had no way of knowing. This leader explained to me how the English language is always changing and Bibles need to keep up with that change.

If only he knew who he was speaking to. I told him he was preaching to the choir on that one. (I hope they understand that expression!)

[For the record, they completely removed the longer ending to Mark’s last chapter, and the entire narrative of Jesus and the woman caught in the act of adultery. In fairness, even some Evangelicals wouldn’t argue with that edit, since the “oldest manuscripts” principle should be equally applied.4]

Later in the call he quoted John 3:16 NWT to me, and something about the phrasing got me curious to hear a few more.

So since the translation is on their website, I decided to try and see how it rendered a few of your favorite verses. Nothing too controversial, I promise. (Okay, we might do John 1:1 since you asked.) Some day you’ll thank me for this, as their online Bible server is as slow as molasses. (And the text has more embedded code than even BibleGateway.)

I’ve highlighted in bold face type the parts which stood out to me.

Also, I’m not necessarily being critical of these renderings, rather they give us something to consider, and some of them are quite good.

John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”

Romans 8:28 “We know that God makes all his works cooperate together for the good of those who love God, those who are the ones called according to his purpose.”

Phil. 4:13 “For all things I have the strength through the one who gives me power.”

John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” 5

Matthew 28:19 “Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit,”

Ephesians 2:8 “By this undeserved kindness you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; rather, it is God’s gift.

Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the holy spirit comes upon you, and you will be witnesses of me in Jerusalem, in all Ju·deʹa and Sa·marʹi·a, and to the most distant part of the earth.”

2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness,”

Romans 10:9 “For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved.”  

And then there’s this, for which I provide three examples of many.

Colossians 2: 13b-14 “He kindly forgave us all our trespasses and erased the handwritten document that consisted of decrees and was in opposition to us. He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake. [i.e. instead of the word cross.]

Hebrews 12:2 “as we look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Philippians 3:18 ” For there are many—I used to mention them often but now I mention them also with weeping—who are walking as enemies of the torture stake of the Christ. 6

Wikipedia7 documents many of the critiques of the (original) translation:

In 1963, theologian Anthony A. Hoekema wrote: “Their New World Translation of the Bible is by no means an objective rendering of the sacred text into modern English, but is a biased translation in which many of the peculiar teachings of the Watchtower Society are smuggled into the text of the Bible itself.”

Julius R. Mantey, co-author of A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament and A Hellenistic Greek Reader, said about the New Testament of the NWT that it’s “a distortion not a translation.”

In 1982, Robert H. Countess in his critical analysis The Jehovah’s Witness’ New Testament wrote that the NWT “must be viewed as a radically biased piece of work.”

Theologian William Barclay concluded that “the deliberate distortion of truth by this sect is seen in the New Testament translation. … It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest.”

Theologian John Ankerberg accused the New World Translations translators of renderings that conform “to their own preconceived and unbiblical theology.” John Weldon and Ankerberg cite several examples wherein they consider the NWT to support theological views overriding appropriate translation.

And that wasn’t even half of them.

Even the Unitarians have a go at the whole “stake” thing. My goodness, if you can’t please them, I think you’re in trouble. (Though they seem to like it overall.)

In 1954, Unitarian theologian Charles F. Potter stated about the New World Translation: “Apart from a few semantic peculiarities like translating the Greek word stauros as “stake” instead of “cross”, and the often startling use of the colloquial and the vernacular, the anonymous translators have certainly rendered the best manuscript texts, both Greek and Hebrew, with scholarly ability and acumen.”

…I don’t want this to be a discussion about Jehovah’s Witness doctrine, but simply wanted you to be aware of the new translation and explore some of the wordings used. I’ll leave comments open (for now) but try to focus on the issue of translation, and not on JW teaching.

1 On close observation, the NIV rumors are unfounded; coming from the same spirit which produced the KJV-only movement. Conservative Christians love conspiracies, don’t they?
2 As true as this is, people have the right to remain loyal to the wording they’ve been using. The NLT’s predecessor, The Living Bible is kept in print — now in 7 different editions — for this very reason.
3 The mission we collect used books for received a donation of JW materials from the 1920s and 1930s. I know many readers here would tell me to destroy them, but I couldn’t help but think, ‘What if the shoe was on the other foot?’ Plus I figured it would be an excuse for contact and hence bridge-building. However, JW materials are often superseded by later writings and I was given the green light to put all the books in recycling.
4 For the record, I support including the John 8 passage as well as its placement following John 7 (no humor intended, it has to do with the content of that chapter) for a few reasons. It certainly fits the character of Jesus, doesn’t it?
5 I did warn you that one was coming. Lots of material about this online if you’re unfamiliar with the issue concerning the NWT’s addition of the indefinite article.
6 I’ve never understood the JW obsession with this terminology. It might create a better mapping with the bronze snake story in Numbers 21, but oddly enough the NWT doesn’t use that at verses 8 and 9 (“Moses at once made a serpent of copper and put it on the pole…”)
7 Yes, I twice provided the hyperlink to Wikipedia, so why not to the NWT Bible online? I figure you can find it if you need to. Their website branding is probably among the best out there. The version online is their study Bible edition with notes in a right side-column, at least in the desktop version of the site.

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