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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bible Translations: Textual Philosophy

(continued from here)

When we see that there are several translations that fall under the word-for-word translation philosophy, we would suspect that any differences between them would merely be the English of the time of translation or perhaps small changes in word order or interpretation of a few words. However, this is assuredly not the case!

The KJV and the English Bibles translated prior to it used a specific Greek text for their work, called the “Textus Receptus” or “Received Text” (TR). The TR was the first printed Greek New Testament issued, and it was compiled and published by Erasmus in 1516. Erasmus had less Greek manuscripts than we do today to use for his work, and actually had to supply part of the Revelation from the Latin Vulgate (the only translation allowed by the Catholic church at the time). The TR was the basis for Luther’s German New Testament, as well as Tyndale’s translation in 1525, the language of which is retained in the King James Version. The TR was the Greek basis for the KJV of 1611, and all English Bibles until 1881.

More Greek manuscripts were discovered between the 16th and 19th centuries which were not in agreement with the TR. As some of these manuscripts were of a different text type than those the TR was based upon. The TR relied upon what is termed the “Byzantine” text types. Other text types include the “Alexandrian” and “Western” text types. Manuscripts within a text type tend to agree with each other much more often than with manuscripts from the other text types.

In 1881, the Greek scholars Wescott and Hort developed and printed a new Greek New Testament, which rejected much of the Byzantine text types and relied heavily upon the Alexandrian text type. Since 1881, English New Testaments have been based upon a text that is much closer to the Wescott and Hort Greek New Testament than the TR. The exception is the New King James Version, which is a TR-based translation. There are many differences in the two textual bases, the most obvious of which include the pardoning of the adulteress by Jesus, the last twelve verses of Mark, the declaration of the Trinity in 1 John, the traditional ending to the Lord’s Prayer, and Phillip declaring to the Ethiopian that faith is required for baptism.

There are basically four textual philosophies that become apparent when examining English translations. They are (from "New Testament Textual Criticism: A Concise Guide" by David Alan Black):

Radical Eclecticism: This philosophy holds that any manuscript can be the correct reading, regardless of age, agreement with other manuscripts, or text type. Instead, each reading is considered on the basis of its internal evidence alone (prefer the shorter reading, prefer the more difficult reading, author style and vocabulary, context and author’s theology, prefer the reading with less harmony).

Reasoned Eclecticism: This philosophy holds that internal (as above) and external evidence (number of agreeing manuscripts, age of manuscripts, agreement among text types) should be used to determine the correct reading. Proponents of this philosophy tend to assume that the Byzantine text type is not valuable for evaluating manuscript evidence and actually represents a predilection for the Alexandrian text type.

Reasoned Conservatism: This philosophy holds that each text type is independent and go back to the second century. Like Reasoned Eclecticism, this philosophy uses internal and external evidence to evaluate the readings. Furthermore, they believe that the reading attested to by the majority of manuscripts is more likely the correct one, adding a historical and traditional element.

Radical Conservatism: This philosophy holds that the Byzantine text type most closely resembles the original manuscripts, and always prefer the reading of the majority of manuscripts – which would typically be Byzantine.

Because these different textual philosophies exist, there are significant differences in the translations, even word-for-word translations! Most translations fall under the Reasoned Eclecticism philosophy. The KJV is prior to the development of these philosophies, but the NKJV is a Radical Conservatism translation. The ESV appears to be a reasoned conservatism text (they don’t exactly print their textual philosophy on the cover of English translations!).

Textual philosophy is another reason that our versions differ, and one we should be aware of when choosing a Bible for our purpose.

Next: Textual Philosophy analysis.

Friday, May 26, 2006

My Personality DNA

I wonder if these things are more fun for people who don't know themselves? I have to admit, I scored higher on "Attention to Style" than I thought I would. I also scored higher in "Trust in Others" because I was trying to game the trust questions. I was wondering when it asked about if I believed that others are basically honest, if it was really asking me if I was honest. It isn't.

Sometimes that M.S. in Psychology makes me think too much!

You are a Dynamic Leader.

Your solid grounding in the practicalities of life, along with your self-assuredness and your willingness to appreciate new things make you a LEADER.

You're in touch with what is going on around you and adept at remaining down-to-earth and logical.

Although you're detail-oriented, this doesn't mean that you lose the big picture.

You tend to find beauty in form and efficiency, as opposed to finding it in broad-based, abstract concepts.

Never one to pass on an adventure, you're consistently seeking and finding new things, even in your immediate surroundings.

Because of this eagerness to pursue new experiences, you've learned a lot; your attention to detail means that you gain a great deal from your adventures.

The intellectual curiosity that drives you leads you to seek out causes of and reasons behind things.

Your confidence gives you the potential to take your general awareness and channel it into leadership.

You're not set on one way of doing things, and you often have the skills and persistence to find innovative ways of facing challenges.

You are well-attuned to your talents, and can deal with most problems that you face.

Your independent streak and masculine nature allow you to make decisions efficiently and to trust your instincts

You prefer to have time to plan for things, feeling better with a schedule than with keeping plans up in the air until the last minute.

Generally, you believe that you control your life, and that external forces only play a limited role in determining what happens to you.
If you want to be different:

There's more to life than the practical - take some time to daydream and explore the aesthetic sides of things.
how you relate to others

As someone who is DYNAMIC, you do not have a hard time meeting new people, and you have a bunch of close friends.

You are not overly concerned with what others may think about you, which leaves you free to be thoroughly involved in the world around you.

There are those who find being around people exhausting—but not you! Interacting with others, whether at a party or in conversation, gives you energy.

You have a strong sense of what the world is like and how it should be.

You have enormous respect for those who have earned their success, and have little patience for those who try to bend the rules or ride on the coattails of others' hard work.

Believing in the importance of integrity and hard work doesn't stop you from believing that people will do the right thing—you know that people are good at heart.

You sometimes have trouble understanding why others feel the way they do, but it doesn't stop you from having faith and trust in those around you.

Part of what makes engaging with people so interesting for you is that you occasionally learn something new about yourself or about a problem you're having when discussing things with others.

Your strong worldview leads you to believe that people shouldn't rely on their emotions so much when making decisions.

Your independent streak and masculine nature allow you to make decisions efficiently and to trust your instincts

You prefer to have time to plan for things, feeling better with a schedule than with keeping plans up in the air until the last minute.

Generally, you believe that you control your life, and that external forces only play a limited role in determining what happens to you.
If you want to be different:

Taking some time to explore others' perspectives could make spending time with people even more compelling than it already is.

Making an effort to see the complexities of situations might open your eyes to alternative perspectives of how the world works.

Those who are as outgoing as you are often need to remind themselves that time alone can be just as fulfilling—take some time for yourself and you might find that there are many things in your inner world that are just as compelling as the world outside your window.

Hat tip: Mary Beth.

Christian Carnival

The most recent Christian Carnival is up at Wittenberg Gate. Surf by and see what grabs your attention!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bible Translations: Translation Philosophy Analysis

As UK John pointed out in the previous posts, there are strengths and weaknesses to each of the translation philosophies. These strengths and weaknesses suit each philosophy best for a certain purpose or purposes. Once we examine the relative strengths and weaknesses of each translation philosophy, the application of each becomes nearly self evident.

Formal Equivalence (Word-for-word) – Includes King James Version (KJV), NKJV, New American Standard (NASB), Revised Standard Version (RSV), English Standard Version (ESV), and the Amplified Bible (AMP).

1) Best demonstrates the actual words of the original languages
2) Words accurately convey the meaning of the original words
3) Less interpretation of the original texts, and therefore less reliance upon the translator for an accurate translation
4) Easier to trace the same form of a word used by the Biblical writers
5) More precision by using complex vocabulary and theological terminology
1) Awkward English at times; less readable
2) More ambiguity in the meaning of the English; relies on the reader for more interpretation
3) May lead readers to reach wrong interpretive conclusions in casual reading

Dynamic Equivalence (Thought-for-thought) – Includes TLB, CEV, New Living Translation (NLT), New Century Version (NCV), And the Good News Bible (GNT).

1) More readable for casual reading
2) Priority on conveying meaning; less ambiguity in the meaning of the English text
3) More interpretation of the original text
1) More interpretation of the original text!
2) Impossible to trace the same form of the word used by Biblical writers
3) Often more expansive by using a phrase or sentence to explain a technical term

Optimal Equivalence – Includes HCSB, New International Version (NIV), Today’s New International Version (TNIV), New Jerusalem Bible (NJB), New American Bible (NAB), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

Optimal equivalence translations are a combination of both formal and dynamic translations. They seek to maximize the strengths of both while minimizing the weaknesses. Ideally, they apply each method to translate the meaning of the original with optimal accuracy. When word-for-word rendering is clearly understandable, a literal translation is used. When it is unclear in modern English, a dynamic translation is used.

The Paraphrase type (The Message, the Living Bible) accentuate the strengths and weaknesses of the Dynamic equivalence type. Thus, it can be grouped with Thought-for-thought translations when discussing application.

Applications – each type of translation philosophy suits it best for certain uses. Here are some examples:

1) Best for in-depth bible study
2) Best for doctrinal questions
3) Best for determining connections between passages based upon vocabulary

1) Good for casual reading
2) Best for reading and comprehension by non-Christians or new Christians

Optimal Equivalence
1) Good for using as supporting information in other written works
2) Good for supporting study of a word-for-word translation

In summary, word-for-word translations are best for serious study and serious research. They are the best for answering questions between believers. Also, the sometimes choppy language of the word-for-word translations make them best suited for memorization, as the human mind remembers best not the trivial or mundane, but the out-of-the-ordinary. Thought-for-thought translations are best for those who are not familiar with the Bible, those with less education and those not interested in answering doctrinal questions.

The weaknesses of the dynamic equivalence translations and dynamic equivalence portions of optimal translations are best engaged by three questions:
1) Can a modern translation be certain of the original author’s intent?
2) Can a modern person ever know the impact of the original text upon its readers?
3) Why not insure accuracy of meaning by using words that are as close to the original as possible?

When encountering a word that may have several close meanings, the word-for-word translators will err to the vague, while the thought-for-thought translators will make the decision for you based upon their theology. On its surface, this may seem better for the readers (and in the situations suggested above, it is), the problems arise not because the words are interpreted, but what they are based upon. This will be examined further in the later posts.

The next section will be a discussion of the differing textual philosophies that underlie different translations – in essence, which text did they translate?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Bible Translations: Translation Philosophy

(Continued from here)

Perhaps the most important aspect of an English Bible version that we must consider is its translation philosophy. This may surprise many readers, but every Bible is not a literal translation of the Greek and Hebrew texts used by the translators! There are three basic translation philosophies:

1) Word-for-word (Formal equivalence). This is the translation philosophy that everyone expects their Bible is – a literal translation of the Greek or Hebrew to the English. However, you may also be surprised that even word-for-word translations must make a number of changes and interpretive decisions to render Scripture in intelligible English. Not only are there issues of word order and implied subjects or verbs, but there are also idioms. An English example would be, “son of a gun”. In any other language, a word-for-word translation would imply that the subject was the offspring of a firearm! Thus, idioms must also be translated in a fashion which conveys not necessarily their literal meaning, but their meaning to us. Word-for-word translations attempt to minimize this type of equivalence translation.

2) Thought-for-thought (Dynamic equivalence). Takes the sentences and attempts to convey the thought of the passage in a fashion which best communicates the idea to the readers. Specific words may be changed, added or left out at a far greater rate than with word-for-word.

3) Paraphrase. Similar to thought-for-thought, but extends its generalization to the entire paragraph. This will look wildly different than a word-for-word translation.

4) Optimal Equivalence. A mixture of Word-for-word and thought-for thought. Attempts to bridge the gap between them.

While translation philosophy appears to be made of discrete, separate philosophies, it is really a continuum from one end of the spectrum (word-for-word) to the other (paraphrase). Here is an example of each, from 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

Word-for-word - All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (New King James, NKJV)

Optimal Equivalence - All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (Holman Christian Standard, HCSB)

Thought-for-thought (1) – The Whole Bible was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is God’s way of making us well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone. (The Living Bible, TLB)

Thought-for-thought (2) – Everything in the Scriptures is God’s Word. All of it is useful for teaching and helping people and for correcting them and showing them how to live. The Scriptures train God’s servants to do all kinds of good deeds. (Contemporary English Version, CEV)

Paraphrase – Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. (The Message).

Not only do the words and presentation change along the continuum from thought-to-thought to paraphrase, but by the end, parts of the Bible have changed from being useful for four purposes to useful for only one of four purposes! It is clear that the translation philosophy of a Bible will affect what it says, sometimes even more drastically than above. Also, we can see that there are more differences between translations the farther they get from word-for-word. The next post will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each translation philosophy, as well as possible applications for them.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Bible Versions: An Introduction

We conduct a class every other year at our church that is called: Wading Through the Pool of Bible Translations. One of the neat interactions at the beginning of the class is when the leader says, “What Bible version do you use?” Typically about 40% of the class does not know without looking at the spine! As over 200 English Translations have been produced since the mid-sixteenth century and there are over 50 currently in print, what is a person to do who wishes to choose a Bible?

There are essentially four important distinguishing characteristics that there can be between Bible versions. I will discuss them in what I would present is the order of importance to the person choosing a Bible. They are:

1) Translation Philosophy – How true are the words of this Bible to the Greek and Hebrew they translate from?
2) Textual Philosophy – How did the translators choose which Greek or Hebrew to translate?
3) Theological Influences – Is the translation slanted as a product of translators who hold to the same specific denominational beliefs that are not critical to Christianity?
4) Language Issues – Are the English words appropriate for the meaning of the original languages to us today?

There are two thoughts I wish to introduce before expanding the four major points: the role of God in the inspiration and preservation of the Bible and the “KJV Only” position.

If we are going to consider the book that holds the key to faith, because it tells us of God’s will for us, his nature, his salvation and his works, we must not consider the Bible as “just another book”. It is ridiculous to believe that God had a hand in producing the Bible in the first place, but that he then allowed us to foul it all up! Therefore, there have to be right and wrong answers in Bible translation and right and wrong “Bibles”. While we cannot always be 100% certain, we can be as certain as men can be using the tools given to us – standard tests of literary reliability and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Both must be active for our discernment to be true.

Furthermore, be aware, if you do not know already, that there are a number of people for whom the King James Version (KJV or AV 1611) is the Bible of choice. There are essentially four categories of them:

A) The “I like the KJV best” group. Those who hold this view are not to be confused with the “KJV Only” crowd. They often hold solid reasons for preferring the KJV, but are not dogmatic about it, nor demand that others conform to their preference. They likely would not call other English translations wrong.
B) “The KJV is superior” group. These individuals (of which I am one) are convinced that the KJV is the best of all English translations. Their views are typically formed through a combination of textual, historical, and theological reasons. They do not hold that others must use the KJV, but that it is the best English translation. They also disqualify some English translations as worthless by the same criteria.
C) The “Received Text Only” group. These individuals hold that the underlying Greek text of the KJV is superior to that of the Greek texts used as the basis for the vast majority of recent Bible translations. Thus, modern English Bibles would almost all be disqualified from use in Bible study, because their underlying Greek texts are corrupted.
D) The “KJV Only” group. These blights on the landscape of discussions of Bible versions hold that the KJV is the inspired (or in slightly less radical cases, preserved) word of God, and ALL other English translations are part of a demonic attack upon the Christian faith. I have read their work extensively in my search for the truth, and have found that they rely heavily upon personal attacks and accusations of intentional twisting of the Bible when there simply is no evidence of such. These men and women make this entire subject hard to engage in, because their emotional vitriol often inspires similar reactions in their detractors. Many who wish to discuss Bible versions are either “pro-KJV” or “anti-KJV” because of their influences. I would hold that neither is a necessary starting point.

Discussion of the “KJV Only” position will be imbedded with the rest of the discussions of the four characteristics above.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Upcoming Subjects

I've spent a lot of blog-time in deep theology: theology which, on its surface, has little practical application - even though it does when you look deep into it. I am going to step outside of deep theology for a while, and plan on discussing Bible Versions, Engaging the Culture, and Divorce and Remarriage. I also hope to begin an occasional series about my times in the military.

I also am planning a blog redesign, which has already begun. I have added a sidebar section with recommended reading (shared ideas from Team Hammer) and music I am listening to. I think the era of robots on the title bar is coming to a close - I'm sure that John B. will be disappointed with that!

Grace Revealed: The Gospel

A Difference in Our View of Who God Is

Not only is Arminianism pride, it is idolatry. How so?

First, the Arminian always appeals to some kind of metaphysical “God is love” argument. They cannot point to a verse which states that a man who has been rejected by God can be accepted.

So, why would this be so? It is simple – we differ in our view of God – not in a fashion which curses the Arminian, but in a fashion that is entirely compatible with our fallen nature.

The Arminian thinks: God is good, holy and righteous. A good, holy, and righteous God would not deliberately save only some of the humans he created. Thus, in order for God to be good, He must have allowed us to reject him.

The follower of the Doctrine of Grace says: God is holy, good and righteous. Then he reads,

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” Romans 9:6-24

The follower of the Doctrine of Grace then says, “God has chosen, not us. As God is good, righteous and holy, this election must also be so, as he is unable to be anything else. I do not fully understand it, but I know it must be thus.”

In essence, the Arminian demands that God conform to the Arminian’s idea of what good, righteous and holy is. I quote John, an able proponent of Arminianism –

My problem is that I do not see how we can describe a random "choice" as righteous. If God chooses one and not another based on no criteria at all (as you've said) then that choice cannot be righteous in its nature. It could, I concede, possibly be made by a righteous being...[b]ut that choice itself is not righteous - it is random."

On the contrary, the proponent of Grace recognizes that he cannot possibly comprehend the mind of God, and recognizes that any action of God is the right one – whether we get it, or like it, or not.

When Mark mentioned that “free will” is greater than truth, he honestly expressed the mind of the unbeliever. However, this questioning of the actions of God is answered in the oldest book of the Bible, Job.

Job is very upset with God over the loss of all of his possessions and his children – and understandably so. After ranting at God for this, he is answered with a discourse on what exactly God was doing and why it was righteous….uh, no. Instead, he received:

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.”
Job 38:4

Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous? Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him? Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty. Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him. Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret. Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee."
Job 40:8-14

Finally, I end with a comment from “stacy”, from the Effectual Call post:

This post really hit home,and made me cry....because until you are truly saved you can’t understand this, and only Gods grace can open up our hearts and our eyes....God is so good.

Why does she cry? Because she knows the depths of grace. Grace that is merely yet another "choice", just like the "choices" to obey the commandments (which we all fail) would not be grace - it would be self-selection, which is a work of man. Grace is grace because God does for us what we could never do - he chooses right. The Gospel is Grace!

After reducing Arminianism to its logical conclusion, that it is paradoxical and contradictory, you have three “choices”:

1) You can recognize yourself for the false convert you are and reject Christianity, as I believe Mark has done, saying that if God won’t let us choose than we won’t follow him. While you will be damned, you can at least be confident in your intellectual honesty.
2) You can become an Open Theist, and declare that God does not know what you will do freely and does not have a purpose he wills you into. This was my road…for a while. However, it will eventually come into conflict with the Bible, and you will be forced again to evaluate who it is that you serve – the God of the Bible or the god of your own making.
3) The last “choice” is the right one – to recognize God’s righteousness and holiness to be imbued in everything he does, and be thankful for the grace that saved you, even though you would not choose Him on your own.

When you do, it will bring you to tears. There are no ungrateful Calvinists.

(To return to the start of this series click here: Grace Revealed)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Counting the Cost

While salvation through Christ is a “free gift”, there is some sacrifice involved on our part, so it is wise to count the cost before making this decision. A hasty decision is not usually a wholehearted one, and simply “believing” Jesus died on the cross and was raised to life as a sacrifice for our sins is not enough. If your “belief” in Jesus Christ has no more effect on your life than your “belief” that George Washington was the first President of the United States, then that’s not a saving faith. We must be willing to forsake our sins, deny ourselves (quit living our lives selfishly and begin living for God), take up the cross (be willing to risk rejection for Jesus’ sake) and follow Him (read the Bible, pray, obey His commandments, and seek His direction for our lives daily- see Matthew 16: 24). We show our faith by our works, not because they are necessary for our salvation (they are not!), but because the Spirit of Christ living in us compels us to do His work and we want to serve out of the gratitude of our heart for what He did for us. The thought of having to stop indulging in sinful habits may sound impossible, but if God can change me, He can change you, too. When you invite Jesus into your life, God will give you new desires that will help you to want to obey His commandments and He will give you the power to do so. That doesn’t mean we will live a sinless life or that sin will never be enticing, but following God’s ways will be our heart’s goal. When we do sin, we are convicted of it and go to God daily in repentance. We must continually ask for forgiveness so that our prayers will not be hindered. The Christian life is a high calling, but more fulfilling than anything the world has to offer.

What will you do?

I think that many people can live their entire lives consumed by the cares of this world and never even stop and take the time to think about eternity and their own mortality. “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3) Some don’t want to hear the truth and reject the gospel message: “but because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed…for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger” (Romans chapter 2). I believe many people don’t come to Jesus because they don’t want to feel guilty for the things they do, but the truth is, they already are guilty. Jesus came to take away our guilt and shame. Christ will justify you before God, just as if you’d never sinned before. He will make you pure in His sight- sinless. He will even purge your conscience so that you no longer have to carry a sense of guilt over past sins.

So, dear friend, “today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart. See to it…that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:8 & 12) The moment you repent of your sin and accept Jesus through prayer, God will write your name in The Book of Life permanently and the penalty for your sin will be erased. I’ll leave you with this final thought from the book of Revelation in the Bible:

“And I saw the dead… stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works... And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Is your name in The Book?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

ID Debate

UK John has begun a series which I think the readers of my blog will enjoy. It is called, “The ID Debate – Moving Forward”, but he begins the discussion with theology. One reason I like this is the intellectual honesty: our worldview shapes our interpretation of everything else. John begins by stating possible worldviews and their impact upon their resulting interpretation of scientific data.

I’ll evaluate and respond to John later, but for now, check it out yourself – it’s well worth it. Post #1 & #2 are the set ups, but you need them to best understand the meat of post #3.

Grace Revealed: Pride

From Whence Comes Arminianism?

Consider the following:

All Atheists believe that they choose freely. All Agnostics believe that they choose freely. All Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, Animists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they choose freely. Now don’t twist what I am saying – some of these groups believe that God picks who gets into heaven, but his pick is like picking kickball teams – he picks the best ones, those who “chose” right, either on one issue or over a lifetime of choices. The only adherents to Irresistible Grace and Unconditional Election? Crazy guys like St. Augustine, St. Paul, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, George Whitfield, J.I. Packer, etc. Oh yeah, and that Jesus guy:

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you… If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
John 15:16,19

Jesus chose the disciples before they did a single thing, so he can’t mean, “I chose you because you believed. No, he said, “Follow Me”, irresistibly, and they did, because it was God who spoke it into existence.

All men who stand in defiance of God believe that they choose. When I was converted, although I was eternally grateful to Christ who saved me (and would put it that way), I still thought I believed because I chose to, that I “accepted” the gift offered to everyone, yet others had not.

That in itself is convicting of the idea of free will – it is the idea inherent in the natural state of the fallen man, who is in rebellion to God at every turn. The first sin, and indeed all sin, is shaking our virtual fist at God and saying, “I know better than you, so I will not do as you say.” Our sinful nature desires to have the final say in our actions, which is why all unbelievers and many Christians believe that they can “freely choose” Christ – because we want to. Our desire to choose is born not out of love of God, but of pride - the first sin and all sin.

If the moral source of Arminianism is pride, and most Christians would not admit that they want to usurp God's authority, how do they logically convince themselves that they are the ones choosing? The very last post in this series will cover what must be the logical basis for Arminianism.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Only Solution to the Problem of Sin

Updated: Hammertime, while "helping" Mrshammer post this, accidentally broke up the post into two, causing readers to miss the first half of the post. It is now fixed.

Will You Go to Heaven or Hell?

While it is true that God is love, He is also a God of wrath and justice and He is “angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11). God does not grade on a curve by comparing our sin to others, and he can no more allow sin to go unpunished than a fair judge in the court system can allow a convicted criminal to go free without paying the penalty for his crime. He is not going to simply overlook our sins and let us into heaven just because He is “loving.”

The Bible says that the penalty for sin is spending an eternity separated from God in a place called hell. Hell is not for “bad people” and heaven for “good people”. “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12) The Bible describes hell as a real physical place where unrepentant sinners will go when they die if they do not accept Jesus as their savior. 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 says, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor thieves, nor covetous… shall inherit the kingdom of God.” And in Revelation 21: “…all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death… [They shall] be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Today is the day of salvation, when you die it will be too late, there will not be another chance!

The Only Solution

This sounds harsh, but remember: “God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) God made a way for us to be saved from this horrible place of torment. Imagine it like this: you broke the law. You owe a fine that you cannot afford to pay. Someone you don’t even know stepped in and paid the fine for you. Now you are free from punishment if you will only accept this gift of payment on your behalf. We broke God’s law (the Ten Commandments), we deserve an eternity of separation from God, yet Jesus set us free from the bondage of sin and death by paying our fine for us that we could not pay on our own.

The only person who has ever lived a perfect life without disobeying a single commandment is the man, God in human form, Jesus Christ. He took the punishment for my sin and for all those who will accept this gift when He died on the cross 2,000 years ago. He defeated death and made us right with God so that we may have eternal life in heaven when we die. God will forgive the sins of those who put their faith and trust in Jesus. “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We must realize that we have offended God by breaking His Law, confess to Him and turn from our sin (stop our sinful lifestyles), because without genuine repentance, there is no salvation: “unless you repent, you will perish.”(Luke 13:3)

I hope you can see that no amount of good works can earn your salvation. Salvation comes through Christ alone! Titus 3:5 says, “Not by works of righteousness we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” If there were a way for us to earn salvation on our own, then Jesus died in vain. Jesus said, “For if you believe not that I am [God], you shall die in your sins.” (John 8:24) Jesus is not an ‘option’ for a more spiritual life on Earth, He is a necessity for salvation.

To be continued...