Monday, 23 February 2015

Monday quote

The philosophers Hume and Kant, in a frenzy of high conceit, helped to banish “testimony” from the modern world as a reliable source of knowledge. We want an idolatrous way of knowing that we think is indubitable. But we are finite, and so it has to be testimony or nothing. Jesus is Lord, so it is testify and live or languish and die.

Douglas Wilson.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Monday quote

He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts—for support rather than illumination.

Andrew Lang.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Books of the Bible: a Reader's Bible

A few years ago I posted on The New International Translation's The Books of the Bible. I
bought one some time ago and have read it from time to time so I have some further thoughts. I am not going to comment on the translation because the selling feature of the book is layout; other than say I grew up on the NIV (pre-update) and I like it. It is quite an easy reading version which probably helps a Reader's Bible. And I think that the NIV update made some improvements in translation but its gender neutral accommodations were unnecessary.

In general The Books of the Bible is a reasonable Bible to buy or use; I say this as I have several negative comments (of various levels of importance) below that may suggest otherwise. I wrote this current post before re-reading my earlier post and many of my thoughts before I bought the book turned out to be the case on reading it. The change in book order now seems less sensible.

It is important to read the Bible in detail at times, but reading the Bible as a story, at least the specific books as a story, is just as important. While meaning can hang on a clause, a word, or even a tense; the larger context is vitally important and mitigates against over-interpreting. I am more likely to read larger passages of the Bible (1–3 chapters) at a time than a few verses so I am not certain that a Reader's Bible is as important to someone like me but I have heard that others are reading larger chunks of Scripture this way. As such, Books of the Bible is a useful addition.

Positives

Single column. I would prefer all Bibles use a single column. I realise that because the Bible is over 700,000 words, creating a book-sized Bible can be difficult and various solutions include font size, font face, thin paper, and double (even triple) column. The column width is about 80 characters, I think readability would possibly be enhanced reducing this to 70 characters.

Paragraphing. This should be standard for Bible and is common to my experience. I grew up reading paragraphed Bibles and infrequently read one divided by verses. That verse formatted Bibles are still produced makes no sense. Verses are solely for reference, not for interpretation.

Speech. Dialogue is paragraphed in a modern format, that is, new paragraphs with a new speaker; the same format as one would find in a novel. Why some modern paragraphed Bibles do not do this is unknown to me.
Poetry. The poetry is indented but the parallelisms are not indicated, that is the second line of verse is not indented further than the first. This is my preference as it allows the reader to decide on what are the parallels or whether they exist; some of the parallelisms in the dual indent system found in other Bibles seem forced or even mistaken. Stanzas are rightly separated by line spaces which is the equivalent of paragraphing in poetry. The only problem is that the NIV also uses a list format for some of its prose which is effectively formatted the same as the poetry; I am not certain of a good solution.

Section headings. There are none. Not that I mind them but they shouldn't be in a Reader's Bible. Personally I think that section headings should be to the side of the text, and probably in a different font-face rather than bolded, italicised, or enlarged.

Neutral

I prefer chapter and verse numbers, even with this style of Bible. I think they can be made more indistinct by lightening them to grey, and making chapter numbers smaller and removing them from the textblock. I do not think verse numbers significantly affect my ability to read but I am aware that for many this can be a distraction. I once had a Bible with Strongs numbers* attached to various words and coding for tenses of verbs, as well as verse numbers, footnotes and cross references. A friend found my Bible impossible to read and couldn't understand how I could: I just ignored the numbers and letters when I didn't need them.

No red letter. I don't have strong views on this. It is probably preferable for a Reader's Bible.

First Testament. This is the name given to the Old Testament. Though I don't mind it I think it unnecessary. We have the New Testament, Jesus describes the new covenant in his blood, and refers to new wine and old wine. Thus Old Testament is accurate and not in anyway disparaging.

Endnotes. I generally hate endnotes through a book (usually at end of chapters). Footnote or back of entire book for me, preferably the former. The benefit is that the footnotes do not distract you, the negative is that when you want to find the note it takes time to find the endnotes for the book and then the specific one on the page, reading through them all to find the passage (notes are not numbered). Probably the right decision but a hassle if you are a regular reader of footnotes.

Negatives

Paragraphing. 4 levels of paragraphing! Intent, line space times 1, 2 and 3. 3 line spaces is also followed by a dropcap for the new paragraph. How do they justify this? 1 level of paragraphing is adequate and at the most 2: indent and single line space. And no capital words or dropcaps.

Book order. The Old and New Testaments are completely rearranged. Now I have some sympathy with placing the Old Testament in the order from the time of Christ and grouping them into the Law, Writings and Prophets. The Books of the Bible groups them differently using History, Prophets and Writings and includes several books in History that the Jews would include in the Prophets or Writings (such as Judges and Ruth). But the New Testament order is completely unhelpful. Firstly it is difficult to navigate without the contents because the order is unfamiliar. But the order is not overly sensible. One could go with the traditional order or the Greek Orthodox order. But they group them around the gospels and this is forced in places. Luke is grouped with Acts (sensibly) but also all of Paul which therefore accounts for the bulk of the New Testament. Paul's letters are chronological which could be helpful. John is grouped with his letters and Revelation (makes sense). Mark with Peter's letters (Peter source of Mark presumably) and Jude (probably due to similarities with Peter). Matthew with James and Hebrews because they're left over. But Hebrews would be better with the Lukan section. The letters are not like the gospels. And if another gospel is going to oust Matthew for pole position why Luke? Mark if they think it written first or, better still, John for its parallels to Genesis.

Number of books. This just fails. Samuel, Kings and Chronicles were single books that were split in the Septuagint. I have long thought that in modern Bibles these 6 books should be 3. The Books of the Bible starts the process then joins Samuel to Kings (why) and Chronicles to Ezra and Nehemiah. Luke is adjacent to Acts and Acts is titled separately but they are incorrectly considered a single book in the contents.

Name. The Books of the Bible. Really! It does show up in an internet search but most of the results are tables of contents for the Bible.

*Goodrick-Kohlenberger numbers actually.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Monday quote

Physical courage, which despises all danger, will make a man brave in one way; and moral courage, which despises all opinion, will make a man brave in another.

Charles Caleb Colton

Monday, 26 January 2015

Monday quote

His role as a "conservative" is to conserve the changes that are imposed by the progressives.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Monday quote

Authority naturally flows to those who take responsibility. Authority routinely flees those who seek to blame others.

Douglas Wilson.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The name of God

Some men worship the sun god. Some worship the moon god. Others worship the god of the harvest, the gods of the weather, the god of fertility; gods of love and gods of power, gods of life and gods of death, gods of justice and gods of war.

I worship the Creator God: the Most High God. He made the sun, the moon, the plants. He made all the gods.

Who is this God?

The Creator God? Yes. But he existed before the sun shone, or the moon ruled the night. Before there was lightning and thunder, and water to make the plants grow. Before the earth and sky were made. Even before there was light and darkness.

The Most High God? Yes. Though he made all the gods. Before there were any angels he was God. He existed before the principalities and powers; before the cherubim and seraphim; before any creature to whom men bow.

He is Creator God but he was God before he made creation. He is the Most High God but he was God before he made the gods. Before anything was he was God. Who is this God? What do we call this God? What is his name?

Before anything God existed. He has always existed; he exists now; he will always exist. His name is
I AM

Monday, 12 January 2015

Monday quote

Believing in Jesus counts for very little until belief becomes obedience.

Trevor Geddes

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Faith and works

Faith is contrasted with works when we suppose that somehow our behaviour merits God's grace. It doesn't. But to suppose that what we do does not otherwise matter is false. God saved us to do good works. The work we are to do is either general commands (eg. show hospitality) or specific tasks that God has for us. This is why James says that he shows his faith by the works he does (Jam 2:18). His works are not salvific, but they demonstrate his salvation. We must not think works are unimportant, or optional for the Christian. Dallas Willard writes in The Spirit of the Disciplines.
We have simply let our thinking fall into the grip of a false opposition of grace to "works" that was caused by a mistaken association of works with "merit". And history has only made things worse. It has built a wall between faith and grace, and what we actually do. Of course we know there must be some connection between grace and life, but we can't seem to make it intelligible to ourselves.
In fact, to not do the good works we are commanded to do is disobedience. Obedience is a necessary component of the Christian walk. Redeemed men cannot walk in disobedience. To walk in disobedience is to not be included in the elect. But to try and earn our salvation by doing good works is a failure. We cannot be completely righteous and and righteous acts do not atone for our sin. We need righteousness imputed to us. As John says, Jesus is the atonement for our sins yet,
Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1Jo 2:4-6)
Lest this seem impossible, God gives us grace, and grace comes before obedience. God delivered the Israelites from slavery before they were given the Law. We receive Christ's salvation before we are to walk in obedience to him. But just as many died in the desert because of disobedience, so we should also tread carefully lest we be wanting (1Co 10:12; Eph 5).

Monday, 5 January 2015

Monday quote

Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance for survival. There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.

Winston Churchill (1874–1965).

Monday, 22 December 2014

Monday quote

I think one of the most intense dangers to modern Christianity is the assumption that sin is wrong because it harms someone.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Monday, 15 December 2014

Monday quote

Many of the leading postmoderist ideas borrow much of their imagery and not a little of their social prestige from scientific notions of relativity, uncertainty, and incommensurability.

Garrett Green, Theology, Hermeneutics, and Imagination.

Monday, 8 December 2014

The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

Sunday, 7 December 2014

On changing theology after backsliding

People change their theology in large and small ways. This may be due to increased understanding, though it may also be in part relate to where they worship, their Christian friends, and what they read.

There are some who leave the church and then return. Some of these people may blame poor theology as a reason for them to backslide for a time. They leave the church rejecting one belief and return espousing another. Although bad theology is a possible contributor to backsliding I am not inclined to give this claim much weight. We have various people becoming more serious about Christ adhering to opposing theologies: there are Arminians who become Calvinists, and there are there are plenty of "recovering Calvinists"; I read of creationists becoming evolutionists and vice versa; some change denominations.

Granted, not all people significantly changing their theology have had a time of backsliding, and some theological positions are more biblical than others; yet as a reason for turning from Christ I increasingly see theology as a minor issue and rebellion and sin as a much greater issue. The Protestant who leaves God and returns as a Catholic probably was wanting to go his own way when he left the church, and those around him who encouraged him back may have been Catholic. Thus his return has to do with the beliefs of those around him at the time he is repenting. Still better a God-honouring Catholic than a rebellious ex-Protestant. (I say this as a Protestant who believes that Protestantism in general is more theologically accurate than Catholicism).

It is not that I think that truth is unimportant; the truth does set us free. But if your theological struggles coincided with your rebellion perhaps you should consider your former beliefs in greater depth.


Monday, 1 December 2014

Monday quote

“Intersectionality,” the study of “intersections between different disenfranchised groups or groups of minorities.” In other words, it’s a game of one-upmanship to determine who belongs to the largest number of intersecting victim groups and is therefore the most oppressed.

Robert Tracinski.

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