Which Bible?

A question that appears to arise every few years, and whenever a new Bible translation is released is “Is this a good translation?”

There are three things that make a good Bible translation:

  1. Accuracy to the original text
  2. Accurate to the original meaning
  3. Translated by a Group of scholars

The Word of God is what the original author wrote in the first century. The job of the translator is to make it readable to us in english while still capturing what the author originally wrote. If the translator changes the words to something else it’s no longer the Word of God. The benefit of using a group is that they are able to keep each other accountable, and stop any personal preferences from accidentally creeping into the translation.

The ESV does a great job of maintaining the original text. While it can sometimes be a little difficult to read, it is almost a word for word translation. The difficulty can often be a lower understanding of the culture in which the scripture was written.

The Good News Bible or Todays English Version is a fairly good translation that attempts to translate the meaning of the original text into english. The original wording isn’t seen as important as the original meaning of the text.

The HCSB manages to strike a fair compromise between these two methods.

My recommendation is to have two translations: An ESV and an HCSB would be ideal. Reading the ESV as standard, and checking the HCSB for any difficult passages would prove to be a brilliant way to learn to understand scripture and to better understand God’s Word.

 

A Final Note.

A new book has been released and I’ve noticed several fellow Christians using it. It is known as the Passion Translation. In reality, this is not a translation. It was translated by only one person, which is immediately cause for caution. Secondly, it neither captures the original text nor the original meaning of scripture.

Galatians 6:6 (ESV): “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” This teaches the idea of sharing life and finances with elders and pastors (Those who teach).

Galatians 6:6 (TPT): “And those who are taught the Word will receive an impartation from their teacher; a transference of anointing takes place between them.” This moves away from the original greek text, instead creating an idea of an anointing being given from the teacher to the student. This is not existent in the original text at all, and is a complete fabrication by the apparent translator.

My only recommendation is that Christians stay as far away from this book as possible and stay reading the Word of God.

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Are we actually doing what God wants?

The last few years I’ve seen an increasingly liberal approach to practice develop in the conservative christian world. While most will claim to be following the teaching of the Bible, and will often throw out Bible verses that apparently support their ideas, it is still a liberal approach.

Liberal Christianity works on the idea that God can be known through the world. This is opposed to conservative Christianity which believes that God actively participates in the world, and therefore, while a few things can be known about God through the world, the main way He should be understood is through His direct revelation found in the Bible. While aspects of God can be found in the world (That God loves beauty, that God is logical, that God is powerful), He cannot be known intimately or personally or deeply without direct revealing.

This is similar to an artist or an author. Much can be known about JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, such as her creativity, or her high regard for selfless love. However, nothing personal can be gleaned from the pages of her work. Unless she is interviewed, or writes about herself, it is impossible to know anything with any certainty about her identity. And yet, this is what liberal Christian attempts with God.

Essentially, the conservative Christian believes that God can be known because He tells us about Himself.

What becomes troubling is when people who would claim to believe the Bible is the Word of God, endeavour to understand God through the natural and then attempt to support their claims through out of context passages of scripture.

One example of this is the common understanding in conservative Christianity that it is good to work a “9 to 5” job, to buy a house, to have a wife and kids, and to live what can only be described as “the American dream”. While this might sound perfectly good, it has no basis in scripture, and is instead informed by the culture of consumerism. In fact, scripture speaks against security and materialism. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-20). “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26). Matthew writes that we should not worry about worldly needs because God cares about us. This is not a guarantee of security, but is still an instruction to trust God and not trust finances.

“To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am.” (1 Corinthians 7:8). Paul teaches that single people should not marry, which flies directly in the face of what is prevalent in most churches. This is because these Christians take their theology from the world and from nature rather than from the Bible.

Leadership can be another example of bad theology. We follow people who are extroverted, confident, and self-assured; all qualities of secular leaders. I’ve heard people support this by describing these people as “full of authority”, or “full of the spirit”, or even “anointed” in order to give  reasoning for why they are followed. However, the biblical example is of God choosing all types of people to lead His people and His Church. Moses couldn’t speak in public, Peter was outspoken, Samson quick tempered, Barnabas compassionate. Leaders throughout scripture do not fit any mould that humans attempt to create, and instead are defined by their being chosen by the Lord.

A final example is an idea that has been permeating the Christian church, especially in heavily capitalist countries. The idea of success coming to those who work. “God helps those who help themselves” is a commonly quoted idea, but this isn’t found in scripture. The idea that you will be successful if you work hard enough, or that God doesn’t like free healthcare is foreign to the scriptures. However, what scripture does say is that everyone should contribute.

What we do must be biblical or else we are making ourselves the arbiter of truth, not God. We would be making ourselves gods. We must read scripture and allow it speak without colouring it through our culture. We can only do that by reading the Bible as much as possible.

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Liberal and Contemporary Conservative Christianity

Historically, liberal Christianity has been primarily concerned with Natural Theology. Natural Theology assumes that God can be understood through general revelation, that we can figure out truth by watching how the universe unfolds, by seeing politics and government, by studying science and math, using logic and reasoning, and interpreting God’s providence. The idea then with Natural Theology, and thus liberal Christianity, is that God has left His mark on the world, a divine thumbprint, that allows humanity to figure out who He is, what He is like, what is good and bad, and what humanity’s role in the world is.

The enlightenment philosophers and theologians reasoned that, by removing pre-conceived ideas and understandings, and by using reason and logic, they could interpret all things that happened in the world in such a way that they could figure out truth and God. Providence was a strong interpretive framework; If God loved something, then through His divine power, he would sustain it. If God preferred a certain government, then God would keep them in power. If God loved a country then He would providentially cause them to be successful in their endeavours.

This idea, coinciding with the rise of nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries led to Churches becoming fervent in their belief that God loved their country more than any other. Unfortunately, and depressingly, this also led to support of extreme nationalism throughout Europe. The Great war at the start of the century and World War two were initially supported by liberal churches as it was considered to be a work of God; God would decide who would prevail, thus ensuring that His will was done. Further, through the wars, something more about God would be revealed, if the correct logic was applied.

Karl Barth was a pastor of a liberal Church in the early 20th century until he recognised the danger of liberal theology. He began to understand the importance of recognising the separation of God and humanity, and thus the impossibility of humans understanding God through natural means. This separation necessitates a special revelation rather than a general revelation. Humans need God to personally reveal Himself. Humans need a revelation moment directly from God, through the HolySpirit, primarily through the Scripture and Preaching. This is what conservative Christianity is built on.

Interestingly, certain parts of conservative Christianity have begun to place strong importance on the world, on history, and on politics. They believe the world is getting better, they believe that God is revealing Himself through wars, as well as through the politics of various countries. I am as yet uncertain whether these are conservative Christians who are making strong use of general revelation (which the conservative Christian should only do through the careful interpretive lens of the entirety of Scripture), or if they are, perhaps unwittingly, interpreting general revelation through their own preconceptions and then applying them to the Special Revelation in Scripture. This is the same practice that was and still is done by liberal Christians.

This is a great reminder that Christians need to read scripture within the context of itself, ask God to reveal truth to us, attempt to find any of our own biases, discover what the early church believed about passages, and only then apply it to our lives. In this way we can develop a full theological framework through which to develop a worldview that is in line with God’s truth.

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The Authenticity of Scripture

There have been many attempts to explain why the Bible we have today looks the way it does. The historical development of the Bible is fairly easy to follow, and simple to describe, however in order to explain why evangelical, conservative Christians see the Bible as scripture and as inerrant is a completely different pursuit. I will attempt to explain why the Bible has the books it does, and why we can see the Bible as the Word of God.

To begin let’s break the Bible down into separate sections. The most obvious being the Old Testament and the New Testament.

We can then break up the OT into 3 sections: The Torah (Books of Law, Books of Moses, The Pentateuch), The Nevi’im (The Prophets), The Ketuvim (The Writings, Wisdom Books). We can also break the NT into several sections: The Gospels, Acts, the Epistles (Letters to the Church), Revelation.

Before we go any further, I want to explain a word that I will be using. Canon is a word that developed from a greek word kanon. It was used to described a straight stick used for building purposes. a Kanon was used in order to keep a building straight. If a building diverged from the kanon, then obviously the building was no longer straight and needed to be fixed. We use canon today when speaking of scripture. If something is canon then it can be used for teaching and for keeping the teachings in line with truth. If teaching or belief doesn’t align with canon then it needs to be fixed.
By the beginning of the first century AD, the Tanakh did exist, however not all of it had yet become canon. The Torah and the Nevi’im were considered to be canon, and the Ketuvim, though the books it contains had been written, was not yet canonised.
In order for a book to become part of canon it was necessary for it to be considered inspired by God. The main consideration when uncovering which books should be part of canon is the legitimacy of the author. According to Jewish tradition, the Torah was written by Moses (though this has been questioned since the mid 19th century AD). The Nevi’im was written by the prophets who proved themselves to be hearing from God since their proclamations came true. It is for this reason that the Tanakh is considered canonical.

 

So, Jesus was alive in a world that had the Torah and the Nevi’im as canon, and the Ketuvim as highly regarded writings.
The apostles met with Jesus, were taught by Him that He was the son of God, and God Himself. They believed this, proclaimed it, and were eventually killed for these beliefs. Without a doubt, they believed what they were teaching. These apostles had what we now call Apostolic Authority. They knew Jesus, were taught by Jesus, and had indisputable authority. When apostles wrote letters to churches it was read with great care, since what the apostles taught was from Jesus. For this reason, the canonicity of the NT is founded on this apostolic authority.

In 2 Peter 1:20 Peter explains the meaning of “scripture”. He describes it as the Word of God, not being the writing or words of man. In 2 Peter 3:15-16 Peter refers to the writing of Paul as scripture on par with the Torah and the Nevi’im. This is significant for a Jewish man to say and would not have been said lightly. Then in 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul refers to both Luke 10:7 and Deuteronomy 25:4 as being scripture, thus thinking of them as equal. It is quite easy to see that the apostles considered each others writings to be the Word of God, not merely their own thoughts.

This explains why the Pauline epistles, 1 & 2 Peter, 1 2 & 3 John are part of canon. The gospel according to Matthew, and the gospel according to John were held, by the early church, to have been written by the apostles Matthew and John. Mark was written by Peter’s interpreter and translator. He wrote down the stories told by Peter. Luke was a companion of Paul’s and wrote down the stories stat Paul told. Additionally, as is written in Luke 1:3, Luke “followed all things closely” and gathered the stories of many apostles. These links to the apostles allows these books to receive canonical status.

James was the brother of Jesus and an elder of the church in Jerusalem. Jude, similarly, was a brother of Jesus. There are more interesting things to discuss about Jude, but this will have to wait for another week.

The book of Revelation was written by the apostle John from the island of Patmos and it receives its canonicity this way.

Finally, the book of Hebrews is difficult to assign apostolic heritage. The author is unknown. However, despite this anonymity, Hebrews is included an canonical due to its interpretation of Judaism in light of the resurrection and atonement of Jesus. It brings light to the actual intent of Judaism.

The overarching theme of the entirety of the New Testament is that it was the teaching of the Apostles. We must bare in mind many of the early Church Fathers were personally taught by the Apostles, Papias for example was a disciple of John the Apostle. As such, they were able to authenticate the teaching presented in the letters and books.

The scripture should be seen as being the Word of God, not merely the writings of man due to the authorship being linked to Jesus, either directly or through the Apostles. The authority of scripture is second to no man.

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A Call to Submission to Elders in Teaching and Church Discipline

Despite my positivity for the Church as the culture continues moving into a pluralist, post-modern paradigm, I am also concerned. On the one hand, while the Church appears to be realising that our role as Christians is not to dictate and control unChurched culture (Afterall, the kingdom of God is the people within the Church, and it will come in its fullness when Jesus returns), but to share the Gospel (This is more than just evangelism, but that’s another post).

Conversely, the Church appears to be moving into pluralism, and into syncretism, without even realising. At this time, like every moment in the Church’s history, it is vital for the local Church to be teaching doctrine by teaching through scripture (Titus 1:9, 2 Tim 3:16-17), and to apply church discipline in a gospel centred manner (Matthew 18:15-20).

As members of the body of Christ, we must willingly submit ourselves to our elders as they go about these important functions. As a dear friend and co-labourer in the faith said to me only moments ago “You just have to keep in perspective that you are the biggest problem in the church”.

Test that what your elders are teaching is what the Apostles taught by checking in scripture, do so with humility, and submit to their leadership and guidance.

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Room for Truth in a Post-Modern Paradigm

Room for truth in a post-modern paradigm

One of the underpinning ideas in post-modernism, despite what countless authors and popular knowledge might suggest, is not that there is no truth. Instead, post-modernism depends on the idea that whatever truth might exist, humans are not able to see it.

All humans have a lens through which they perceive and understand information.

A group of people are walking around Australia. The geologist sees a rock they will know exactly what rock it is, will be able to categorise the rock, and explain a geological history of the rock. The physicist will see the rock and will be able to explain the developmental history of the earth as a planet. The layman will see the rock and will merely see a rock. The Indigenous Australian will see the rock and perhaps not see a rock at all; Instead they will see ‘country’ and recognise a link between this world and the dreaming.

The lens that each person has is inextricably linked to culture and to language. This is shown by the Indigenous Australian’s understanding of the rock; He won’t be able to explain the concept of country or dreaming to the rest of the group as the proper words don’t exist in English. These concepts cannot be explain fully in a different language. Likewise, the western idea of a lifeless rock will not make any sense to the Indigenous Australian. The language and culture in which a person lives is a lens through which all truth is filtered.

Another part of the lens is the meta-narrative. A narrative is a story that functions to legitimise power, authority, and social customs. A meta-narrative is an over-arching explanation of these narratives. An example of these is found in science. There is a narrative that the sciences should receive more funding. The meta-narrative behind this is the idea that science allows progress for society, and that society is progressing.

This same ‘progress’ meta-narrative leads the western world to believe that other countries have not yet made as much progress (shown in the concept of ‘First world’, ‘Second world, and ‘Third world’ concept). The cultures that have not ‘progressed’ as far are considered ‘primitive’.

These meta-narratives add to the lens that is between all humans and truth.

Post-Modernism recognises the existence of these lenses, and rejects that any of them are any more true than another; Truth is real, but perception of truth is not stationary. 

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A Response to “A Sample Statement on Regular Church Attendance: 7 Reasons why faithfully showing up matters” from The Gospel Coalition

A Response to “A Sample Statement on Regular Church Attendance: 7 Reasons why faithfully showing up matters” from The Gospel Coalition: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/a-sample-statement-on-regular-church-attendance

Introduction

The article begins by using 1 Cor 11, 1 Cor 16:2, and Heb 10:24-26 to support regular gatherings of a local Church on Sundays, to worship and serve God, and to eat the Lord’s Supper.

1 Cor 11 does speak of the Lord’s supper. Paul reminds the Church in Corinth of the the person of the Lord’s supper, and gives guidelines on how to proceed with the ordinance. He also gives stern warnings about taking the ordinance lightly. However, Paul does not mention a day of the week, nor how regular the meeting is. He only mentions that the Church should, when it comes together, partake in the Lord’s supper.

Now, 1 Cor 16 does mention a day; specifically Sunday (Or at least the first day of the week). However, this is not in regards to a gathering of the Saints, but to individuals within the Church. “Each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper.” The instruction from Paul is for each individual member of the Church to set aside money each week so that when Paul comes, the each person can bring a large amount to share. The day of the week is not a reference to a meeting day. Further, Acts 2:46 suggests that the Church gathered daily, not on a specific day.

Hebrews 10:24-25 does remind the Church to meet together, as some have neglected. But once again, this is not in reference to a specific day, or to an event, or to a frequency. It’s a reminder that the Church should meet together, and encourage each other, and to stir each other up to love and good works.

Despite what the article claims, from the passages provided there is no Biblical established pattern. There may be a historic one, but that is not what the article claims.

The claim, without biblical support, that attendance on a Sunday service, regardless of midweek activities or midweek gathering of the Saints, is a reflection of a commitment to the Gospel is weak at best, and is a claim made out of Church culture rather than through scripture.

1. Faithful attenders confirm the power of the gospel and support evangelism, whereas

non-attenders make evangelism harder.

The global Church are all in one (John 17:21). No one can honestly claim that this passage is speaking about the local Church. It would be ridiculous for every Christian to physically meet as one. This passage is speaking of a spiritual oneness due to the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, and a belief in the Word of the Apostles, the Gospel.

John 13:35 teaches the Church to love one another, and while this is a glorious ambition that all believers should strive towards, this has no link to the other verses offered, and nothing to do with a Sunday service.

Evangelism should not be the responsibility of a person speaking from a pulpit, with the exception of those called to be an evangelist). A pastor preaching the Gospel should not be the normative way for a person to first hear the Good News. 1 Peter 3:15 teaches the believer to always have a defence for the hope that is in them; namely the indwelling HolySpirit through the power of the Gospel. The believer should always be ready to share the Gospel, not just inviting someone to hear a clergy share the Gospel.

It is suggested that a believer who doesn’t attend Sunday Services is living their lives apart from the Church, and they are counterfeit Christians. Again, there has been no evidence provided that attending a Sunday service is scripturally normative, let alone Biblically mandated.

Further, the suggestion that believers who don’t attend Sunday services aren’t living like Christians is absurd. It is a slanderous accusation with no evidence provided.

2. Faith attenders confirm Christ-centred lives for new believers, whereas non-attenders confuse them.

New believers do need good models. Ironically, the first of these example passages provided is of Priscilla and Aquila taking Apollos aside and teaching him privately. They exampled and taught the truth of the Gospel in a small, private gathering of the Saints, not in a Sunday Service. None of these examples speak of Sunday services, instead they assume that the Saints are meeting together and, to borrow some Church language, “doing life together”.

Again, this article is equating Sunday Services with having a connection with the local Church. Sunday services should not be the only time Christians meet together. In fact, I would suggest that little interaction happens on a Sunday aside from congregational singing (which is hopefully worship), and listening to a speaker’s monologue (which is hopefully preaching).

The suggestion that there are countless passages scripture (There aren’t that many, and i’ve already disproven the few that are offered) is mere rhetoric.

3. Faithful attenders encourage other regular attenders, whereas non-attenders discourage them.

I agree with everything is this paragraph. Saints should meet together, they should encourage each other. If a believer does not engage with the body then they should not remain members.

4. Faithful attenders comfort their leaders by their adherence to the truth, where non- attenders worry them.

Elders and Pastors are burdened with the spiritual teaching and guidance of their congregation. The congregation should submit to the authority of teaching that Elders and Pastors are burdened with. If an Elder and Pastor is only checking on the spiritual health of their congregation at Sunday services then they are failing in their duty. It isn’t hard to send an email, to make a phone call, to visit a congregant, or to have another leader check on them.

5. Faithful attenders are positioned to exhort, correct, and encourage their fellow members according to God’s Word, whereas non-attenders are not.

Again, I agree with this. If believers are not meeting together, then they cannot encourage, correct, and exhort each other. This, of course, does not refer to a Sunday service, but to any meeting of the Saints.
6. Faithful attenders will steadily grow in respect to their salvation, whereas non-attenders will not.

These are all beneficial things that the Church is called to do, but a Sunday service is one of many ways they can be experienced. The preaching of the Word of God can happen during a conversation, during a counselling session with another believer, during a Bible study, during a home group, or over coffee. Communal worship is not just music played in a large group, but also in smaller groups. Serving the body of Christ is far greater than just what takes place on a Sunday service. Thinking that these things takes place only during a Sunday service restricts worship to a specific time and a specific place, something that Jesus did away with at the atonement.

John 4:24 teaches us that we no longer need a priest, since we are all indwelt by Holy Spirit. It teaches us that there is no requirement to worship in a temple, but instead anywhere is appropriate. It teaches us that we don’t need to worship at specific times of the year, like at festivals, but instead are able to, and should, worship in all moments of our lives.

Reserving those growth experiences for a Sunday service is silly.

7. Faithful attenders will be helped to persevere in faith, whereas non-attenders endanger theirs souls.

Hebrews 3:13 says “exhort one another everyday.” Communion with the Saints preserves us in salvation. Hebrews 10:19-31 is irrelevant to Sunday services, as is 12:25-13:17. Attendance at a church service does not help a believer to persevere in faith; Communion with the Saints does.

Conclusion
The primary issue with this article is it equating Sunday services with communion with the Saints. If all of its points had been about communion with the Saints rather than specifically about Sunday services then there would likely have been little theological issue with it, aside from some poor exegesis. If the article had not attempted to use scripture to back up its position, and had used support from tradition, then there wouldn’t have been issue, except that this baptist Church would (I assume) pride itself on being abundantly Biblical. If the article had even decided that attendance at Sunday services was a requirement of membership at their Church with no biblical support, or tradition support, but that it was a decision made by their leadership then there wouldn’t have been issue. But, as it stands, this article borders on abuse of power through misinterpretation of scripture.

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