Sunday, May 29, 2011

Whose Opinion Matters Most to You?

Some of us have been getting ridicule for taking a stand for our beliefs (Matt. 5.11-12, John 15.20-21), the most recent deliberate misunderstandings are based on voicing our beliefs on Christian modesty (if you're curious about the hate, you can see some in comments here and here). They can continue with their vituperation, but not only will they leave reality itself unchanged, but they will have no influence on our commitment to the teachings of the Word of God. They will have to explain themselves someday (Matt. 12.36, John 5.28).

Here is a song that demonstrates the standards of Bible-believing Christians, and it is also an encouragement to us. Petra has meant a great deal to me for many years, and this is another reason for it. The "video" is audio-only. Lyrics are below.

Words and music by Bob Hartman
Based on Prov. 14:12; Eph. 6:6; Gal. 1:10; 1 Thess. 4:1; Matt. 6:2, 25:23; Col. 3:23

So many voices telling me which way to go
So many choices come from those who think they know
There's a way that seems right to a man
But it only brings him death
I wanna go the way that leads to life
Till I draw my dying breath

Don't wanna be a manpleaser - I wanna be a Godpleaser
I just want to have the wisdom to discern the two apart
Don't wanna be a manpleaser - I wanna be a Godpleaser
I just want to do the things that please the Father's heart

Some make a sacrifice and never let it show
Some make a point of letting everybody know
Some will live their lives as unto men
And they have their reward
I just wanna do everything I do
With all my heart unto the Lord

I just want my life to glorify His Son
To make my Father proud that I'm His child before I'm done
No need to pat me on the back or stop the shake my hand
I just want to hear my Father say "Well done, well done"
I just want to hear my Father say "Well done"

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Saturday Resource: Are We Making Him Known?

As Christians, are we keeping the truth to ourselves? When we meet God on Judgment Day, will we have people say, "Yes, Lord, this one led me to you"? For that matter, are we sure that we are right with God, or are we playing religious games with ourselves?

Today's resource is not going to take you all that long (this time). It is about twenty minutes. You can click the link and listen to the audio, or right-click and "save as" so you can listen to it offline. It is by Dr. Charles Stanley, and it is called "Making Him Known". I sincerely hope that you will use this link and give it a listen.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday Resource: Evolutionists' Assumptions

Evolutionists like Dr. Richard Dawkins speak authoritatively as if their not-even-theory were as good as fact. But building a case for naturalistic evolution is like trying to build a house in midair. No matter how solid the construction, the house will collapse without a foundation. Thus, evolutionists must assume biblical grounds to support their worldview. These biblical grounds—such as logic, morality, and uniformity—stem from the nature and power of the Creator God as revealed in the Bible. Yet evolutionists deny the Creator while resting their faulty beliefs on His foundation. By challenging their faulty basic assumptions that the laws of logic, absolute morality, and the uniformity of nature exist apart from the Creator, the Christian can prove that reasoning, absolute moral standards, and science itself must be based on the biblical worldview.
Click here for the article.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Striking a Balance

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
(Rom. 10:14-17, NKJV)

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
(Matt. 28:18-20, NKJV)

It is interesting to me to see the different ways that I receive inspiration for some of my articles. In this case, I was writing a serious letter and thought, "You know, this could be my rough draft..."

As a bit of review, I want to restate the main points of this Weblog:
  • To encourage Christians to fulfill the Great Commission, sharing their faith with those who are perishing (Jude 1.23)
  • To encourage believers to be grounded in the Word and in love (Eph. 3.17-19)
  • To encourage Christians to be able to defend the faith (ἀπολογία, apologia, a speech in defense, 1 Peter 3.15) and show that we do not have to shut off our brains to become believers
  • To help equip followers of Jesus in both evangelism and apologetics; there are many resources available
  • To ask church people to examine themselves to see if they are, indeed, in the faith and to make certain of their relationships with Christ, and of their eternal destination (2 Cor. 13.5, Matt. 7.21-23), because being a "good (whatever)" is not a guarantee
  • To warn Christians about false teachers who can fool them, causing them to abandon their faith or get drawn into a cult

As Christians, we are sometimes accused of something resembling Fideism. Unfortunately, sometimes it is a valid claim. Children will ask their parents a question, and are told, essentially, "Shut up and have faith. It's a mystery", or a similar brush-off. Although there are some things we may never know or fully understand, true faith is not afraid of questions. Especially in this age, where there is plenty of information available and people to ask.

The Word of God is our sword (Eph. 6.16, Heb. 4.12) and we must preach the gospel message. It will do its job (Isaiah 55.11). I strongly urge people to listen to (or watch) "Hell's Best Kept Secret" and "True and False Conversion", and then watch the video, "What DID Jesus Do?" Those are here. This is urgent, because Hell is real and we do not want people to go there, despite what false teachers like Rob Bell will say.

On the other hand, people have honest questions, and many have fallen away from the faith because they did not get answers. We can spend a great deal of time convincing honest seekers of the truth, dealing with philosophies and giving evidences for the faith. We may end up with people who are intellectually satisfied but are still lost.

This is where I believe that balance applies. Apologetics is very important. The Christian faith is not just "because the Bible said so", and is supported by a great deal of evidence. We can show that our faith is reasonable, but we can lose souls if we spend all our time on giving evidence. So, we need to present the Word of God as well. Let it do its work, resonating with the conscience of the seeker.

Do we present the Bible, or do apologetics? My answer is: Both. Give a good effort to answer questions from honest seekers, but do not let people who are not serious waste your time. Some people take great delight in wasting the time of Christians, bringing up "rabbit trails", "red herrings", constant questions or objections and so forth. You have to prayerfully decide when it is time to move on. But do not forget to present the heart of the gospel message.

On the other hand, do not simply appeal to the Bible all the time. We do have reasons to believe, and our faith is not blind. It is a matter of keeping a proper balance, but it is not tricky or dangerous.

Do you care about the lost?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Getting Too Excited

"We have to answer the current scientific attitude toward Christianity, not the attitude scientists adopted one hundred years ago. Science is in continual change and we must try to keep abreast of it. We may mention such things; but we must mention them lightly and without claiming that they are more than 'interesting.' Sentences beginning “Science has now proved” should be avoided. If we try to base our apologetic on some recent development in science, we shall usually find that just as we have put the finishing touches to our argument science has changed its mind and quietly withdrawn the theory we have been using as our foundation stone."
— C.S. Lewis, "Christian Apologetics", 1945
The above quote ties in nicely with some things I have said in the past. Sometimes, Christians want to be convincing, so we resort to assuming that impressive (or sensationalistic) reports are true without verifying them. I have received the old "atheist professor and the chalk that would not break" e-mail that is not true. How about the debate on the King James Only controversy, and it has been falsely proclaimed that a man defending a newer translation of the Bible was stricken by God and lost his voice (that claim is answered here). Or the "Russians drilled into Earth's crust and heard screams from Hell" gag. (Imagine a Russian accent here: Please to be giving me large break!).

What happens when we trust new "discoveries" and proclaim them as earth-shaking truths, only to find out that they are incorrect, or worse, fake? We look like st00pid dumb Xtians! Embarrassing. I like what C.S. Lewis said above, that we should refer to something as "interesting", and not base our arguments on something that may vanish later.

By the way, for arguments' sake (yours and mine), I have some links to arguments that Creationists should not use. One is from Answers in Genesis, the other is from Creation Ministries International.

Now, keep on contending for the faith (Jude 1.3, 1 Peter 3.15). Without sensationalism, if you don't mind.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Like Bibles Part 3: Saturday Resource

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen 

Trevor's Stack 2
Trevor's Stack of Bibles
Although I risk stricter judgment by presuming to teach (James 3.1), this installment is significantly less objective than other things that I have done. But I still hope that you can get something out of it.

In our previous adventures, I told you a bit of my personal history, and then some of the history of English language Bibles. That last one was a great deal of work, but very rewarding. I left off somewhere around 1611, when the King James Version had been released.

Since then, not only has the KJV had several revisions, but other Bible revisions and translations have cropped up. I believe that is a good thing to some extent (I am most definitely not a "King James Only" advocate), but there are also drawbacks. One drawback that I will briefly mention is that Bibles have been rewritten by and for cultists like Joseph Smith, Johannes Greber and the Jehovah's Witnesses. I urge Christians to remove those from their libraries because of their negative influence (1 Tim. 4.1), with the possible exception of firmly-rooted apologists and researchers who know their doctrines and are aware of the spiritual warfare dangers.

Now I am going to attempt three more parts to conclude this series.

Multitudes of Bibles
The King James Version was revised a few times, and the 1769 version is the one that you probably have on your shelf. Others have come around many years later (such as the English Revised Version of 1881 and the American Standard Version of 1901), but the KJV remained the most popular Bible. It is an accurate translation and considered a masterpiece of literature. Today, there are one billion KJV Bibles in print! Although it will never "go away", more readable and more accurate (using better source documents that were unknown at the time of the King James Version) translations are to be found.

Today, there are more Bible versions in the English language than you can shake a pulpit at. Hooray for us. (Meanwhile, there are 340,000,000 people speaking over 2,000 languages who do not have a Bible translated in their language. Just thought you should know.) They range from scholarly translations like the HCSB, NASB, NIV, ESV and others to the dubious translations that are more like commentaries than translations, such as the New Living Translation and The Message. Personally, I do not care for the last two. I insist on accuracy in translation, and not what one man felt that the text should say.

Now, some of the versions are "gender neutral" or "gender inclusive". That really is not necessary. (My ESV has a footnote, "Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated 'brothers') refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God's family, the church..." Elsewhere, I have seen "or brothers and sisters" in the footnotes. But footnotes or not, I think we all know that God's word is intended for both men and women! Further, when some of these gender inclusive versions change the translation in order to please the public (or perhaps to be politically correct), that makes me wonder what else is being altered. If the word is masculine, I want it translated "he" for the sake of accuracy.

Some versions have a liberal bias (the Revised Standard Version is infamous for that). Some Bibles are not really new versions, but they have special notes and sections targeted to a specialty audience. I have felt that some of these have been a good idea, and some were desperate attempts at special-interest marketing, to be blunt. You can find specialty Bibles for all sorts of things, including:
  • Men
  • Women
  • Students
  • Military, fire, police, nurse and other professions
  • Cowboys
  • Apologetics
  • American history/heritage
  • Recovery (from Saddleback Church)
  • Women of color
There are some justifications for new translations, which usually sound like: "While other Bibles have met the needs of their times, we felt that a new version in the language of today..." I am wondering when we are going to make it trendy slang, "Yo! God is ticked at you, dude!" which will have relevance for about six weeks until new slang comes along. Meanwhile, the Word of God has been cheapened for the sake of sales. Yes, publishing companies are not charities. They are trying to make a living (1 Tim. 5.18). However, they seem to be competing and trying to make the "next big thing" to stimulate sales. I think that's wrong. 

King James Only-ism
I went to a Christian school for three years and graduated from it. This school claimed to be "interdenominational", but the faculty and staff were mostly Fundamentalists. This was quite a challenge to this United Methodist preacher's kid. There were several King James Only (I shall abbreviate it as "KJO") people there, and some grudgingly admitted that the New American Standard Version was "acceptable", even allowing the New International Version later on.

But there are people who insist that we should use the King James version exclusively. Other versions are evil, translated from manuscripts that are corrupted by Roman Catholics or are Satanic, "New Age" versions. They believe that the KJV itself is inspired by God; sometimes, they elevate the Textus Receptus (the source documents from which the KJV was translated) above other ancient manuscripts. Translators of ancient documents generally know that older is better. Not in this case. Even though the translators of the King James Version themselves made no claim that they were doing something extraordinary (although they took it very seriously indeed), their work is elevated in the eyes of the KJO people. One question is often asked: "If the King James Version is the true Bible, then what good were the Bibles that existed before then?" You see, the Textus Receptus plus the apparently inspired work of the KJV translators combined to make a special divine document.

When I begin writing about reasoning and arguments (in the real sense, not the "yes it is, no it isn't, you're a doo doo head" sense), I will use some of the KJO criticisms as bad examples. As soldiers for Jesus, we need to be able to know not only what, but why we believe (1 Peter 3.15), and be able to present some of the evidence for our faith. Sometimes, we get sloppy and run with a fantastic story to "prove" our point. If we had checked the facts, we would have saved ourselves — and our Lord — some embarrassment. To bolster the insane rants of people like Texe Marrs and Gail Riplinger, a very dishonest exaggeration has been touted, but is actually a lie. It was said that Dr. Don Wilkins "lost his voice" discussing new Bible versions on the John Ankerberg show. Not true. Such conduct, whether carelessness in checking facts or outright dishonesty, is disgraceful.

Since the KJV has been the standard for 400 years (even though we have seen that revisions stopped just over 240 years ago), some feel it should continue to be the standard. (By the way, they do not even like the New King James Version.) Sorry, but even though the KJV has been an important part of Christian history and should always be respected, I will not accept being considered a heretic, or even a lesser Christian, because I prefer the NASB, ESV, and NIV. Let me be certain that you understand this point: If the KJV is your favorite and you prefer it, great! Use it! I am not happy with some of the other modern translations for reasons touched on earlier, and not because I believe that the translators have an evil agenda or used corrupted ancient manuscripts.

Saturday Resource
There are several items available to you for investigating King James Onlyism.

First, John Ankerberg and John Weldon have several articles on the KJO controversy. There is no direct link, you will need to scroll down (at least they are alphabetical) or use your browser's search function for "King James".

Next, Dr. James White has done a great deal of research on this topic and written a book. Here are some articles. First, "New Age Bible Versions Refuted". Several other articles are linked here. Finally, a long video debate (which I converted to audio and heard instead of watching) is here.

So, even though my own personal feelings are evident, I believe that I have given you some things to think about as well as further materials.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Like Bibles Part 2: Some History

In the bigynnyng was the word, and the word was at God, and God was the word. This was in the bigynnyng at God. Alle thingis weren maad bi hym, and withouten hym was maad no thing, that thing that was maad. In hym was lijf, and the lijf was the liyt of men; and the liyt schyneth in derknessis, and derknessis comprehendiden not it. 
(John 1:1-5, Wycliffe, 1394 A.D.)
In our last episode, I told you a bit of my history, and that I have a fondness for Bibles. This time, I would like to go a few hundred years before my own history. No, not all the way back to "how we got the Bible in the first place", that is more than I am willing to take on (but you can check this out if you want more of that information, as well as this source). Instead, I am going to do an overview of English language Bible history.

The first Bible that was translated into English was done through John Wycliffe (or Wyclife). He trained teachers who translated the Bible from the Latin Vulgate in the 1380s. The printing press was not invented yet, so the copies were all done by hand. The Roman Catholic Church was the seat of both political and religious power, and the Pope did not like the Bible being made available in the language of the people. In addition, Wycliffe taught that Rome was wrong in several doctrines (including the papacy itself). After Wycliffe had been dead for about forty years, the Pope ordered his bones to be dug up, burned, and scattered on the river.

Move ahead in time.

The Reformation was underway, as Martin Luther had translated the Bible into German in 1522. In England, William Tyndale translated the New Testament and the Pentateuch into English from the original languages in 1525. Not only was this the first translation of Scriptures into English from the original languages, but it is also the first printed edition of the Scriptures in English. His reward? The Roman Catholic Church executed him for "heresy" (strangled and then burned at the stake). The Church confiscated as many copies as it could, and burned them as well. Fortunately, the public was fascinated and kept copies hidden away.

King Henry VIII broke with the Roman church and established his slightly Protestant Church of England. He was more willing to allow Bibles to become available. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer recommended that they create an official translation. The king approved, but Cranmer's bishops were reluctant to have the Bible available for reading in English. Along came Myles Coverdale, who took up where Tyndale left off. Since he did not know Hebrew and Greek, he combined Tyndale's work with the Latin Vulgate and Martin Luther's German translation. That is how, in 1535, we got the first complete printed Bible in English.

John Rogers was an associate of Tyndale. He, too, continued Tyndale's translation work (using manuscripts that Tyndale had been working on in his imprisonment), and translated the rest of the Bible. He used the name "Thomas Matthew", so he could stay alive and continue his illegal translation work, but was eventually martyred by the Roman Catholic Queen "Bloody" Mary because of his teachings against Catholic dogma.

Back to Archbishop Cranmer and King Henry VIII.

Cranmer persuaded the king to commission an official version through Myles Coverdale, who presented his revision of the John Rogers version. In 1539-40, the "Great Bible" was printed, the first English Bible authorized for public use. "Objectionable" content was revised (presumably the margin notes). It was "great" because of its size, fourteen inches. It was chained to the pulpit to prevent theft. (Ironic, really. Let me interject that I made a joke at the Barnes and Noble store that I was going to steal a Bible. The lady told me that Bibles are a high-theft item!) The "Great Bible" was a pulpit Bible, not something readily available to the people.

Henry VIII broke with Rome, renounced the Catholic Church and established his own. He was effectively the Anglican Church's Pope. Freedoms for printing the Bible increased and decreased, and his motivation for allowing such freedoms in the first place appeared to be simply to spite Rome.

Skip ahead to July, 1553. Mary I ("Bloody Mary"), daughter of Henry VIII, was the ruler of England (Not to be confused with Mary Tudor, "Queen of Scots"). She was Roman Catholic, and hated the Protestants so much that she had hundreds murdered, many burned alive at the stake.

English Puritans fled the persecution, and many went to Switzerland. A new translation of the Bible was done in 1560 by several men who were knowledgeable in Hebrew and Greek. Their translation was very accurate, the verses were numbered and the Bible was small enough to fit into a personal collection, unlike the larger volumes that had preceded it.

The Geneva Bible became popular quite quickly. This was expedited by the death of Bloody Mary in 1559 and the succession of the Protestant queen, Elizabeth I. Also, Romanism was fading in popularity with the English people because Rome controlled Spain and other countries that wanted to subjugate England. In 1599, it was reissued with extensive margin notes, making it the first "study Bible". (It contains ninety percent of Tyndale's translation work, which is quite a vote of confidence that these later scholars agreed with what he did.) Another probable reason for its popularity was that it was the first Bible printed in Roman type. What is less known today is that it was the Geneva Bible that first came to the New World on the Mayflower. Yes, the Biblical foundations of America began firmly rooted in this Bible version.
In the beginning was that Word, and that Word was with God, and that Word was God. This same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by it, and without it was made nothing that was made. In it was life, and that life was the light of men. And that light shineth in the darkenesse, and the darkenesse comprehended it not.
(John 1:1-5, Geneva)
The English rulers tried to rival the now-popular Geneva Bible, but the translators were afraid to imitate it too closely, and were not exactly competent. One of the goals was to have less inflammatory margin notes. So, the Bishops Bible of 1568 (a revision of the aging Great Bible) was produced, as were nineteen subsequent editions. But it failed to make an impression; the Geneva Bible was too good, and too popular.

However, the Bishops Bible is considered to be a rough draft of the next one, which was commissioned by the successor to Elizabeth I, which was King James I. It was commissioned to rival the Protestant Geneva Bible (Catholics were not the only ones to dislike and persecute Protestants, the Anglicans had their time with it as well). The work began in 1605, drawing from several Bible versions mentioned previously as well as the Catholic Rheims New Testament. Forty seven scholars were involved in the new translation. This version had fewer margin notes, which were primarily for word clarification and cross reference. Four hundred years ago, the 1611 King James "Authorized" Version was released.

In the beginning was the Word, & the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darknesse, and the darknesse comprehended it not.
(John 1:1-5, KJV 1611)
After several decades, the KJV became the English language standard, and the Geneva Bible fell by the wayside, eventually going out of print. Some feel that examination of the Geneva Bible along with the King James Version will show that the KJV translators were heavily influenced by the Geneva Bible.

The King James Version had numerous problems, and had several printing errors. It had several revisions over time. As a matter of fact, even though publishers use the preface of the 1611 version, that King James Bible you are holding is actually the 1769 revision. This aggravates people who maintain that the KJV is the "one true inspired Bible" to no end. However, the KJV is considered to be a very accurate translation.

Translations are continuing, and I believe that we have a glut of English translations. Yes, some are good. Others are biased. Discernment and research is required. But more about that another time. 

Anyway, I hope you realize that people died to be able to spread the written Word of God, so that people like you and I, in the English-speaking lands, can have more than enough copies available.

Part 3 of this series, including information on various "editions" and King James Only-ism, can be found here.

And now, a song:

I spent several hours preparing this overview. The people from whom I drew substantially and did the real work include: 
These sites will give you a tremendous amount of information.