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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Know Your Sources

If you read UK John’s post on the recent Anglican events, you’d think there were two bad parties, both of which were chastised and told to repent, and only one obeyed. He quotes the Guardian:

“Both sides – the liberal Americans and the homophobic Africans – were asked to apologise. Everyone was asked to listen to the experience of gay people, so that we might learn and move forward together. In the meantime, there were to be no more gay bishops, and parishes or individuals who could not bear the liberal regime in their own area could apply to a new international commission for special anti-homosexual pastoral care.

America complied, apologising for the hurt that it might have caused to others by its actions. It agreed that for now there would be no new bishops at all, gay or otherwise. The Africans issued no apology, denounced all gays and liberals once again, and crowed at their success in establishing the commission.”

Here is the actual text of the commission to the ECUSA:

Mindful of the hurt and offence that have resulted from recent events, and yet also of the imperatives of communion - the repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation enjoined on us by Christ - we have debated long and hard how all sides may be brought together. We recommend that:
• the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to express its regret that the proper constraints of the bonds of affection were breached in the events surrounding the election and consecration of a bishop for the See of New Hampshire, and for the consequences which followed, and that such an expression of regret would represent the desire of the Episcopal Church (USA) to remain within the Communion
• pending such expression of regret, those who took part as consecrators of Gene Robinson should be invited to consider in all conscience whether they should withdraw themselves from representative functions in the Anglican Communion. We urge this in order to create the space necessary to enable the healing of the Communion. We advise that in the formation of their consciences, those involved consider the common good of the Anglican Communion, and seek advice through their primate and the Archbishop of Canterbury. We urge all members of the Communion to accord appropriate respect to such conscientious decisions
• the Episcopal Church (USA) be invited to effect a moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union until some new consensus in the Anglican Communion emerges.
We particularly request a contribution from the Episcopal Church (USA) which explains, from within the sources of authority that we as Anglicans have received in scripture, the apostolic tradition and reasoned reflection, how a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ. As we see it, such a reasoned response, following up the work of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church (USA), and taken with recent work undertaken by the Church of England[94] and other provinces of the Communion, will have an important contribution to make to the ongoing discussion.

The fact is, the Africans were not asked to issue an apology for their “homophobia”, thus no apology was given. Furhtermore, the ECUSA did not issue any justification for ordination of homosexuals. The new head of the ECUSA was able to get the apology passed by telling her bishops that the compliance wouldn’t really mean anything:

Jefferts Schori later came speak to the deputies. "I am fully committed to the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in this church," she said. "I certainly don't understand adopting this resolution as slamming the door. I think if you do pass this resolution you have to be willing to keep working with all your might at finding a common mind in this church. I don't find this an easy thing to say to you, but I think that is the best we are going to manage at this point in our church's history."

The Archbishop of Canturbury saw the falsity of the ECUSA’s compliance statement, that it was not what was requested, and initially responded:

“It is not yet clear how far the resolutions passed this week and today represent the adoption by the Episcopal Church of all the proposals set out in the Windsor Report. The wider Communion will therefore need to reflect carefully on the significance of what has been decided before we respond more fully.”

And the “homophobic Africans?” I missed any crowing about anything.

“The Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA), meeting in Kampala on June 21-22, issued "An Open Letter to the Episcopal Church USA" on June 23. The letter, signed by Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, says, in part, that the Primates are "saddened that the reports to date of your elections and actions suggest that you are unable to embrace the essential recommendations of the Windsor Report and the 2005 Primates Communiqué necessary for the healing of our divisions. At the same time, we welcome the various expressions of affection for the life and work of the Anglican Communion."

Perhaps the Guardian’s leftist ideology keeps it from reporting responsibly. Both the Times of London and the Telegraph put the facts straight. While the Guardian piece was an opinion piece, one need not lie to give their dissenting opinion about a person or group!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Hammertime's Dream Sport

If the opportunity ever arrives, I'll be there. My wildest recreational dreams have come true.


"Two competitors face each other in 11 alternating rounds, six of chess, five of boxing. A bout begins with chess, which is played on a board placed directly in the middle of the ring. Each round of chess lasts four minutes. After each chess round, the bell sounds, and workmen remove the chessboard for a two-minute round of boxing, the gloves go back on, the punching recommences. Participants win by way of knockout, checkmate, referee's decision, or if his opponent exceeds the allotted total of 12 minutes for an entire match on the chessboard."

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I know few men who are capable of a good chess match and a good boxing match. I would love to meet these guys...and knock them out, one way or the other.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bible Translations:Textual Philosophy Analysis

(Continued from here)

A challenge with textual philosophy and English versions is the absence of notification. That is, the translators do not provide a note stating what their textual philosophy is. Thus, in order to determine what the textual philosophy of the translators was, you have to compare your translations with those that are of a known, different translation.

Furthermore, the textual preferences of the translators sometimes is more evident in the notes and markings as much as in the text itself. An example is Mark 16:9-20. Some translations have a footnote. Some have brackets around the text. Some have a horizontal line separating the entire text from the rest of the chapter. The footnotes vary as well. Some say, “The most reliable early manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9-20; some say, ” “Verses 9 through 20 are not found in the earliest manuscripts”; some say, “Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close after verse 8” or “some of the earliest manuscripts do not include verses 9-20”, and the KJV does not have a footnote at all.

What is the evidence of Mark 16:9-20? It is presented best in the Inspirational Study Bible (NKJV) “Verses 9-20 are bracketed in NU-Text (the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, essentially the industry standard for Greek New Testament translations) as not original. They are lacking in Codex Siniaticus and Codex Vaticanus, although nearly all other manuscripts of Mark contain them.”

Here lies the danger in textual philosophy. If you are studying your Bible, you wouldn’t know what “some ancient authorities” means. If you read “the earliest and most reliable manuscripts” you would think that the verses likely do not belong in the Bible! However, a review of the textual apparatus of the Nestle-Aland Greek NT shows that the NKJV used in this case is correct – that there are two codices that lack the verses. Furthermore, Codex Vaticanus has the precise amount of space necessary to include the verses – showing that they were known at that time by that scribe!

As I read the different textual philosophies, I would tend to believe that the “Reasoned Conservatism” approach would be the best. However, nearly every translation, except the KJV and the NKJV claims to use a “Reasoned Eclecticism” approach. Furthermore, the Reasoned Eclecticism approach is almost always a preference for the Alexandrian text type, of which Codex Vaticanus and Siniaticus are part. It is almost humorous to see the English versions that call them “the earliest and most reliable” manuscripts, for it is the case that the two differ from each other more often than they agree against the TR.

Most textual philosophies reject the place of church history in the development of the canon. Until 1880, Christians did not consider texts such as Mark 16:9-20, Matthew 6:13, John 7:53-8:11 or 1 John 5:7-8 to be questionable. Those who study most English translations these days will have questions about these texts, all of which are cited by the earliest church fathers.

What effect do the textual philosophies have on selecting your English Bible? Simply put, you must know what the philosophy is. Comparison will be your best method of discerning the textual philosophy and choosing a translation to focus upon for study.

Next: Denominational Influences

Monday, June 19, 2006

Caught Up in the Loopholes III

What if some at the Judgment are judged according to their works and found worthy? Does this mean they have a chance to get into heaven, even if they weren't "saved"? Could this be a loophole for those of other beliefs who live pristine lives and do good works to be "saved" in the end?

When we stand before God at the Judgment, there will be no loopholes to save us. Our works cannot save us because, “There is none that doeth good [or is worthy], no, not one” (Psalm 14:3.) God’s standard is PERFECTION (see Matthew 5:48), and there is only One who lived a perfect life, and that is Jesus Christ. No matter how pristine our lives may look to others or how many good deeds we have done, it is not enough to get into heaven by our own self-righteousness. Jesus is the only way to the Father-our only sure salvation.
God gave us the Ten Commandments (His Law) to act as a mirror to us to show us our sinfulness: “so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the Law; rather, through the Law we become conscious of sin.” (Romans
3: 19-20) Not one of us can say that we are completely without sin.

God’s penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from Him, because He is so Holy He cannot even look upon sin or allow it in His presence. God requires payment for sin, “and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22) Jesus shed His blood to make the payment for our sin. He makes us pure, as if we had never sinned, before the Father.
Without Him, we get the punishment we deserve, whether we feel our sin was “that bad” or not- God says it is.
Justice is something we earn and deserve for the sins we commit, but God’s grace and mercy is undeserved and something we can never earn on our own. Good works are important, however, because our obedience to God is the proof that we love Him. Works are not our means of salvation, but our method of demonstrating our gratitude for the salvation we have received as a free gift.

Those of other beliefs have sinned against God by breaking the First and Second Commandments- even if they had kept all the others- by worshipping false gods. I don’t dispute that many are sincere religious people-but, you can be sincere and be sincerely wrong in your beliefs. Remember that “there is a way that seems right unto a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12) God takes sin extremely seriously and His anger and wrath is on those who break His Commandments and worship the idols of false
religions: (Leviticus 26:30) “And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.” This is only one of many, many verses in the Bible which warn against idolatry and tell of the terrible destruction to come for those who choose to disobey God’s Laws.

God wants to forgive those who truly repent and turn to Him, but you can’t have one without the other. You can’t repent and then trust in yourself to earn you a place in heaven, nor can you trust in Jesus and give your life to Him without recognizing your sinfulness and repenting of it. We can be secure if we are trusting in Jesus to save us. Don’t put your faith in your own efforts of trying to balance your good works with your bad ones hoping to make it into heaven. You don’t stand a chance without Jesus!

Mrs. Hammer's Personal DNA

about you

You are an Architect

  • Your preference for concrete, visually pleasing things, combined with your confidence and your respect for order make you an ARCHITECT.

  • You are logical and detail-oriented, which allows you to get things done efficiently.

  • You are quite sure of yourself, so that you tend to know the best ways of doing things.

  • Your eye for aesthetic beauty and style indicates that you know a lot about design.

  • Having a routine and sticking to it is important to you; you find comfort in tradition and familiarity.

  • Self-reliance is something in which you take great pride—you are confident and down to earth.

  • You have a basic faith in yourself in many areas of your life, allowing you to be self-assured when facing challenges.

  • You're not one to force your positions on a group, and you tend to be fair in evaluating different options.

  • You're not afraid to let your emotions guide you, and you're generally considerate of others' feelings as well.

  • 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:

  • Try moving beyond the things that you find comfortable—open yourself up to a broader range of experiences.

  • Question how much you know about things by imagining different possibilities.

  • how you relate to others

    You are Attentive

  • Because you like spending time with others, understand their feelings, and often know what is best for them, you are ATTENTIVE.

  • Some people are merely concerned about others, but you take action, helping people when you have the opportunity.

  • Although you care about others, you are hesitant to trust them to act in the best way on their own.

  • You don't let your concerns with people go unnoticed: if someone has hurt your feelings, that person will hear about it.

  • People energize and excite you—you are able to have fun and be yourself when you're around others.

  • You also learn a lot about yourself by talking things out with people, even if you don't always share things that are important to you.

  • You have a strong sense of right and wrong, and you're not hesitant to express yourself.

  • Understanding the dynamics of a situation is an important skill that you have, and you often intervene to clarify things for others.

  • You're not one to force your positions on a group, and you tend to be fair in evaluating different options.

  • You're not afraid to let your emotions guide you, and you're generally considerate of others' feelings as well.

  • 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:

  • You care about people, but finding the ones you can truly trust will allow you to get closer to them.

  • While you have strong opinions about what is right and wrong in the world, you risk coming across as judgmental—be sure to consider different perspectives when voicing your opinion.

  • Wednesday, June 14, 2006

    Caught Up in the Loopholes II

    “Although I understand the connection between repentance and salvation, I don't understand the connection between belief and salvation. I don't understand why God would make belief in Him the door to salvation. That doesn't seem fair, especially when you consider the fact that, despite hundreds of years of missionary work, the vast majority of human beings on this planet are still not Christians. And of all those people, there are very many good, decent human beings among them- people who don't want to give up the religions they were taught, be it Buddhism or Islam- certainly (in my opinion) don't deserve to go to hell.“

    The comment you made that you didn’t get the connection between belief and salvation reminds me of the argument “all roads lead to God”. The idea that all religions lead to God simply cannot be true. If Jesus’ words were true, “I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life- no man comes to the Father but by ME.”(John 14:6), then all other religions must be false. For any one religion to be claimed as truth, ALL others MUST be false. Just as one plus one equals two and therefore cannot equal three or four or five, Jesus was either the biggest liar that ever lived and all Christians who claim to have a personal relationship with Him are disillusioned nut cases, or He is God as He claimed to be. There can’t be any other answer. If you believe Jesus was who He said he is, then you also have to believe all that He taught and all that the Bible says. Jesus himself made the claim that He is the ONLY way to God the Father and therefore discards all other religions as a means of finding forgiveness of sins. The Bible also states, “For there is ONE God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. (1 Timothy 2:5) Also the verse: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) supports His claim of belief in Him being the only door to salvation.

    It may sound intolerant to say that there is only one way to be saved from hell, but Jesus taught that the vast majority would reject Him and choose to live for themselves rather than for God. Listen to what Jesus taught in Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” I also know of many people I would consider to be “good people”- upstanding moral people who I don’t think deserve to go to hell. But, as you pointed out, this is our opinion, and our opinions count for nothing in light of God’s holiness. We may say that we are “good”, but God says that we are not (see Psalm 14:2-3). His opinion is the only one that will count on Judgment Day. He is the One who knows our every thought and intention. Looking at the Ten Commandments, we can see that we have failed miserably in “being good” and have broken every commandment. Anyway, how good would be good enough to enter heaven? What would be the standard of goodness? Moral relativism is the law of the land today, where everyone makes up their own standard of what’s right and wrong based on what feels right at the moment. Man made “goodness” is ever changing, whereas God never changes and His standard of righteousness is crystal clear. God requires perfection to enter His presence in heaven (Matthew 6:48), and since none of us is perfect, and Jesus was the only One to live a perfect sinless life, we must trust in Him as our means of salvation. All other religions are works based and a way for people to try to “earn” their right standing with God. If we are trusting in our own goodness to earn us a place in heaven, we are insulting the Lord by saying His agonizing death on the cross was in vain.

    “That’s not fair!” is not an argument that will work with God on Judgment Day. “Fair” is that we all deserve an eternity of separation from a perfect and holy God because of our sin. Thank God for His grace and mercy that He chose to save us from the fate we were destined to! No one will receive injustice when standing before God at the judgment. We’ll either receive what we deserve (justice) or mercy- the choice is yours.

    I understand your concern that people who “don’t want to give up the religions they were taught” don’t deserve to go to hell. It may be all they have ever known, but when they do hear about Jesus and choose to reject Him, they are making a choice just as any other person is making a choice and being asked to make a sacrifice to forsake their sin and follow Christ. Everyone has to give up something to follow Christ (see “Counting the Cost”), some just more than others.

    It is also important to note that intellectual “belief” does not equal salvation. Simply “believing” in Jesus is not enough. Jesus taught that to be saved, we must be “born again”. This means trusting in Jesus and following Him with our lives.

    Saturday, June 10, 2006

    Caught Up in the Loopholes

    My previous series sparked a number of conversations with friends and family members about spiritual matters. I've been asked questions that have challenged me and strengthened my faith as I've sought the answers. I will be starting this new series based on these conversations and I hope that they will stregthen your faith and answer some of the same questions you may have wondered about.

    Can you explain the parable that states that a camel has more chance fitting through the eye of a needle than a rich man getting into heaven? How do Christians reconcile that parable, found in no less than three gospels, if they own any wealth? I would think true believers would give it all away and strive to live in poverty.

    Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”...
    [Jesus replied]“If you want to enter life, obey the Commandments.”
    “Which ones?” The man inquired.
    Jesus replied, “’Do not murder’, ‘do not commit adultery’, ‘do not steal’, ‘do not give false testimony’, ‘honor your father and mother’, and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
    “All these have I kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
    [Jesus answered], “One thing you lack…Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
    When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
    (Excerpted from Matthew 19:16-28, Mark 10: 17-31, Luke 18: 18-30)

    The rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what good work he could do to be saved. He didn’t understand faith and the fact that good works cannot earn eternal life. Jesus hit the man’s point of pride- self righteousness. Jesus shows the man that he had not kept the Ten Commandments as he thought he had, and therefore he needed God’s grace. Jesus identified the one area that revealed the man’s true lack of devotion to God- his love of money. When Jesus told the rich man that in order to have eternal life, he would have to “sell all that he had to the poor…and come, follow me”, the rich man was very sorrowful because money was more important to him than following the Lord, and he didn’t want to give up his riches. This is why the Bible says, “you cannot love both God and money”, because greed consumes and the love of money takes the place of the love of God in people’s lives. Matthew 6:21 sums it up: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Anything in our lives that is more important to us than God is a form of idolatry and if it keeps us from coming to the Lord in repentance then it is “harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” than for us to get into heaven without forsaking our “riches” (whatever they might be) to follow Jesus Coming to Jesus requires a humble spirit, and people with an abundance of money and stuff don't think they need anything else to fulfill them, much less God to save them.

    It is hard to give up material possessions, but if they are what is keeping us from a relationship with the Lord, then it would be better to live a life of poverty (and we aren't all called to do that, but we must be willing to if we are) than end up in hell for eternity. We can't take any of our riches with us when we go, anyway! I think many true believers are called to give up their possessions to follow God's calling on their lives. Christians are not all called to sell all we have to the poor and live destitute lives for Christ, but making a decision to follow Jesus with your life does require sacrifice (see my blog entry called 'Counting the Cost'). You have to be willing to give up what is most important to you- for the rich young ruler it was his money- to put the Lord first in your life. What you get in return is worth much more than any seeming ‘sacrifice’ you have to make. What is keeping YOU from coming to Christ?

    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Summer School

    As I will be taking a summer course over the next two weeks, (all day long!), I won't be posting until at least the 16th. Perhaps Mrs. Hammer will, if she finds the time, but with my greater absence from home during this period, she probably won't. See you all after 3 credit hours in ten days!

    Thursday, June 01, 2006

    My Best Life Now

    Today is the fourth anniversary of Team Hammer’s marriage. If you are unfamiliar with the story, I put together a three-post series on it starting here. We will celebrate today when I get home from my second job at about 4pm, by playing with the kids, completing household tasks, eating family dinner, putting the two toddlers in the bath and the bed, and my retirement from the family events at 7:30pm as I attempt to get 5 ½ hours sleep for work tomorrow. How romantic! We’ll be lucky if we get a passionate kiss in front of the kids in.

    Mrs. Hammer and I run on a budget so tight that if I forget my lunch at home, I don’t eat lunch. (Mind you, our cars are paid for and we have no consumer debt). I never see her alone during the work-week, and our Friday nights follow a humorous cycle that terminate with Hammertime getting cranky in his 22nd hour of wakefulness after 10pm. Compared to now, my soldier days were full of free time!

    Today, I want to make my anniversary card to my wife public. I am an incredibly blessed man and no more so than in my wife. She more than completes me – she makes me better. She makes me more than I ever would be mentally, spiritually and emotionally. She has supported me as I transitioned the family from a $70,000+ a year job with great security and unbeatable benefits into two months of unemployment, full-time seminary, two part-time jobs with stupid hours (for one of them), little personal time or shared parenting time and less than $25,000 a year. She teaches me about myself, about people and about the Holy Spirit. I will go so far as to say that we may actually have the perfect marriage. Now, perfect is a relative term, so it is as perfect as humans can get in a fallen world. It’s not that we never fight, but we are never disrespectful. It’s not that we don’t disagree, but we know when the discussion is over and it is time to move on. It’s not that we don’t make mistakes, but we share grace as our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us, and always forgive, even when the other has hurt us. It’s not that we haven’t been betrayed before and may even occasionally face those fears, but know in our hearts that such fears are unfounded and choose instead to trust. We know each other, know our roles, and trust that God the Father has given us and will give us what we need, when we need it.

    I honestly could not think of a woman who is any more perfect for me than she is – a woman who is independent and intelligent, yet recognizes when it is time to submit to a final decision; a woman who is incredibly attractive yet modest in dress; a woman who reads her Bible and prays with faith and expects God to show up; a woman who wants to learn thing on her own but isn’t afraid to ask me to help with something she may not understand, yet won’t accept an explanation that doesn’t jive even if it is from me; a woman who is frugal yet fashionable, a master cook and house manager, who loves her Lord and her friends enough to risk all to bring them together, and who weeps when the ones she loves refuse the salvation offered them. She is a woman with a heart for God, a heart for people, and a heart for me.

    Simply put, after the Triune God, there is no greater blessing in my life than my wife. When I talk to single friends, I tell them that there is a lady out there for them who is nearly perfect – but as good as she may be, she won’t be Mrs. Hammer. Perfection has been laid aside for me, because I am hers and she is mine. I don’t preach a gospel of “Your Best Life Now”, because it is heretical – but for me, my wife is the blessing from God that, despite financial distress, physical exhaustion, family troubles, and uncertainty of the future, has given me my best life now.

    Happy anniversary, darling. Thank you, Lord.