Thinking Out Loud

May 31, 2009

Jonah: Preferring Prophesying To The Converted

Filed under: bible, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:33 pm

This week in our family Bible study we studied the story of Jonah.   Since this is very familiar territory, we were looking for new insights into the story.    We came up with a few, with a little help from the ESV Study Bible.


Chapter One
There is a great deal of bigotry that plays into this story, but not in the way we often think.   We tend to assume that Jonah simply didn’t like the people of Nineveh and simply didn’t want to go on that basis.   But it’s more accurate to say that Jonah was afraid of the success of his mission.    Do we do that?

  • What if that terrible family down the street become Christians and start going to our church?
  • What if that guy where I work became a believer and started expecting me to mentor him in his faith journey?
  • What if so-and-so in our extended family got serious about reading the Bible and started asking me why, if I’m also a Christ-follower, have I done some of the things I’ve done?
  • What if those poor people I prayed with downtown and left my phone number expect us to help them out?
  • What if all the people who put up their hands at the movie our church showed start coming ever week… there would be more of them than us?
  • Everybody knows the terrible things that _____ did; now that he’s been a believer for two years, is he going to expect a leadership position?
  • That’s the woman who hit our car in the parking lot last Christmas.   What’s she doing at our small group meeting?

Chapter Two
The ESV Study describes the four chapters of Jonah as containing seven episodes, with the first three paralleling the second three.   Jonah speaks to two similar audiences in the story.  The crew on the boat heading for Tarshish were each praying to their own God, but then after Jonah explained to them what was causing the terrible storm, they prayed to Jonah’s God.   Success!   Just as he will experience in Nineveh. His ministry as a prophet was constantly bearing fruit.   But inside the great fish, Jonah’s prayer is mostly thankfulness for his own safety and deliverance.   There’s no mention of the sailors or the people who he was originally sent to.   A rather egocentric prophet, don’t you think?

Chapter Three
Jonah shows up several days (or weeks) late for his assignment and delivers his message, albeit halfheartedly.    Today we have preachers who read powerful scriptures and then deliver messages containing great truths — even if ‘borrowed’ from the internet — and yet don’t realize the power of the Word they are handling.    It’s just a job.    The people of Ninevah may matter to God but don’t matter to Jonah.  He’s apparently quite disappointed that God doesn’t destroy the city.

Chapter Four
Maybe God will destroy the city after all.   He’s already changed his mind once.   So instead of taking the first train, boat or great fish out of town, Jonah hangs around to see if anything develops.    The closing phrase of the story shows how out-to-lunch his priorities are, as God’s final appeal is basically, “If I destroy the city, think of all the animals that would perish.”  Since Jonah has a thing for houseplants, God figures he’ll appeal to Jonah’s sense of nature.   Not a good ending for Jonah really.    Final score:  Ship passengers and crew – 1; People of Nineveh – 1;  Jonah – 0.

We ended our week reading the story from The Street Bible by Rob Lacey, known in North America as The Word on The Street. He devotes almost half of his writing to Chapter Four.    Maybe someone should re-tell this story for kids, using the last chapter as the basis for the story, and then recreate the opening scenes backwards in light of the closing.    Call it “Jonah and the Plant;” or “Jonah and the Worm.”   Or instead of pitching this story for kids, it should really be part of Church Leadership Lessons 101.

Graphic: Stephen Rue, Jonah in the Whale, oil on canvas, 26.25″x25″, 2006; from the website Artist Trust.   Say what you will about Jonah, packing the waterproof matches was good foresight.

May 19, 2009

Nick Page Takes on the ESV Study Bible

Filed under: bible, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 3:23 pm

Nick PageNick Page is another of my favorite British Christian authors.   Many in North America know him for a Zondervan Bible handbook he produced, The Map. No cow is too sacred, as demonstrated in this older post — October 8th, I think — that I just discovered where he questions one aspect of the selection of contributors to the ESV Study Bible.  Even though it’s an older item, its message bears repeating.   (RSS readers will need to visit the blog for this one…)

Nick Page on the ESV

Click anywhere on the blog text above to read the whole piece.

Related item in this blog:   Book Review– Nick Page, The Church Invisible

February 15, 2009

The “Extras” In Bibles Reflect the Theological Temperature and Overall Spiritual Climate

Filed under: Christianity, Religion — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:56 pm

Last night I gave the kids a break from our usual 25-minute devotional time and just read a single page from a devotional booklet that comes by mail.   Unaccustomed to such a short reading, I threatened to read “everything in this Bible” as I reached for a gigantic family Bible from the 1870s which had been donated to us to find a home for.   (There were actually two of them — one has already been relocated — and the donation was conditional on both of them not being sold, which means I can’t invest in restoration.)

esv-study-bibleIf you think your brand new ESV Study Bible is packed with features, you ain’t seen nothing like this.   Hundreds and hundreds of pages containing both pictoral and textual background on all manner of aspects of life in Bible times, not to mention the canon itself.

The one part the kids were most interested in — and our total time actually extended to almost an hour — was the article on various denominations.   Making no actual distinction between other faith groups, false cults and Christian denominations; the article listed many groups which still exist, and many which have suffered relative extinction in the last 140 years.    Some of the beliefs had us splitting our sides laughing; one was so bizarre that I actually read it twice; though because splinter spin-offs of this group are still active, I won’t divulge it here.

My oldest pointed out though that there was no mention of Islam or Hinduism, though Buddhism was listed.    We concluded that in the eyes of the western world, those other two faiths simply weren’t yet on their radar.

family-bibleI was also impressed with the sophistication of the printing on the few pages that included intense colour printing, and the colour printing on the map pages.   (Re. “colour;” yes, this blog has gone back to ignoring American spellings!  See “neighbour” in previous post.   We’ve got lots of Brits, Aussies and Kiwis reading this besides Canucks.)   The intense detail — over 1,200 of what were termed “superfine” illustrations — of the black-and-white images rivalled anything we see in print today.

Another key feature of this Bible was the Chrono-Genealogical table, showing both Joseph’s family tree as recorded in Matthew, and Mary’s as recorded in Luke spread out in something rembling a DNA double-helix converging at a few points — such as King David — with the length of lives lived shown as well

While there were dozens of other features, the best one at the back was a Psalter, in which the essence of all 150 Psalms (145, actually; the last page was missing) was distilled into rhyming and rhythmic hymn stanzas; many more stanzas than we would actually sing today, but of a nature that a contemporary worship leader would still want to find a use for some of them.  (Psalm 119 is 132 verses long; actually 44 verses shorter than the Biblical version.)

The New Devotional And Practical Pictorial Family Bible (very similar to the one pictured) was published by Nelson & Phillips; a forerunner of today’s Thomas Nelson perhaps?  It’s interesting to see what was important to Bible publishers of that day.   No doubt what we include as study Bible features reflects the spiritual climate, or theological temperature of the times.

January 11, 2009

Blog Updates

lynxMedia Section

In the lynx links section today I’ve added two new listings under “Media.”  The documentary on Lonnie Frisbee has been covered here before, but today we’re also adding a link to a Canadian documentary that deals with “fringe” churches.    Here’s how I described it in an e-mail this week:

one-size-fits-all2Some of you may have heard Joe Manafo speak at the Canadian Youth Workers Conference.   Joe is part of an alternative church plant in Sarnia called theStory and founder of Thinkerlabs. He has recently completed a 43-minute DVD documentary called One Size Fits All? – Exploring New and Evolving Forms of Church in Canada …   The documentary covers church plants in every province except Newfoundland.   You can learn more at The price is $24.99 CDN and we’re carrying these to support Joe’s efforts both at film making and research, hoping that you’ll want to do the same.

If you’re one of my local readers, we picked this up for our bookstore; if you’re reading from anywhere else you can order it from the website.   Unfortunately, I didn’t ask Joe to include a “demo” at this stage, but you’ll find some sample clips on the website.

This Just In:

No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver or purple.   (Interesting that three of those are colors, since there’s also no way to really describe color.)   Break into groups of three or four and discuss.

linksMore About Lynx Links:

I also added a couple of new blogs to the links today.   What I’m always looking for is something that is generally Christ-focused (or at least church-focused, or Bible-focused) on a day-to-day basis, with frequent new posts, that is not too dry or too deep for the average person, visually engaging, and not solely of interest to professional clergy, and not too Twittery (i.e. self-focused).   Got suggestions?

ESV Study Bible clarification:

Jon Rising, who blogs at Word and Spirit sent me this the other day and I thought I should share it:

Tim Challies does not agree that the ESV Study Bible is strongly Reformed in its theology. Here is what he blogged:

esv-study-bible“…The ESV Study Bible, on the other hand, offers a wider or less-defined perspective. Where the doctrine is clear and undisputed among Evangelicals, so too are the notes. But where doctrines are controversial and within the area of Christian freedom or disputable matters, the notes tend not to take a firm position, even when the author or editor is firmly in one camp or the other. Whether this is positive or negative may well depend on the individual reader.
To satisfy my curiosity, I opened my NIV Study Bible, Reformation Study Bible, MacArthur Study Bible and ESV Study Bible and compared their notes on several areas of controversial theology—end times, predestination and spiritual gifts. None of these Bibles offered notes that were unbiblical so I was left looking for the differences in perspective.

In general I found that theMacArthur Study Bible offered the most defined position. This makes good sense as it represents the position of a single individual. This was followed by the Reformation Study Bible which offers the position of many individuals but each of them drawn from a very consistent theological position. The ESV Study Bible came next, offering a charitable but open view on most of these issues. The NIV Study Bible seemed almost to shy away from some of the issues.

So while it is clear that the ESV Study Bible is not distinctly Reformed in its position, neither is it Arminian. It is not cessationist or continuationist and is neither amillennial nor premillennial. In fact, it seems as if it emulates the parent who tells one of his children to cut the last piece of cake in half and the other to choose the first piece. In many cases a person from one perspective wrote the notes while a person from the other perspective screened them. This ensures the notes maintain both charity and some degree of objectivity in those areas of dispute.”

December 19, 2008

Quotes for a Friday

Filed under: Christianity, Faith, Religion, theology — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:16 pm
“Jesus understood his miracles differently from the way other miracle workers saw theirs.  He used them to link Himself to the kingdom of God (Luke 11:20).  He interpreted them as God’s invasion of the natural order through Himself.  The combination of Jesus’ supernatural feats and His claim to be God are unique.  One without the other leaves room for doubt but the two together are shocking and demand serious reflection.”
~ Dr. Rick Cornish, 5 Minute Apologist, NavPress 2005; page 142

Worry not about the origin of the species; but rather, concern yourself with the final destination of the species.”
~ Source unknown

“God’s plan is to save his people from their sins — and to bring his people finally and fully to himself (Matt 1:21, 2 Tim 2:10).  Christians experience salvation in this life in both a past and present sense, and we anticipate salvation in a future sense.  Christians have been saved from the penalty of our sins; we are currently being saved from the power of sin; and one day, when God’s plan of salvation is completed and we are with Christ, we shall be like him, and we shall be saved even from the very presence of sin.  This is God’s plan of salvation.”
~Mark Dever, ESV Study Bible article, “God’s Plan of Salvation”, page 2503, Crossway Publishing, 2008

Create a free website or blog at