Tuesday, February 27, 2007

small god, small worship

a lot of my reading lately has been in the area of theologies and practices of worship, and the expectations or assumptions of our culture of what worship is or should be.
here are two quotes i have come across in the past couple of weeks that, upon reading were both refreshing (because it needs to be said) and painful (because it is so true).

the first from cornelius plantiga jr.

if we know the characteristic sins of the age, we can geuess its foolish and fashionable assumptions – that morality is simply a matter of personal taste, that all silence needs to be filled up with human chatter or background music, that 760 percent of the american people are “victims”, that it is better to feel than to think, that rights are more important than responsibilities, that even for children the right to choose supercedes all other rights, that real liberty can be enjoyed without virtue, that self- reproach is for fogies, that god is a chum or even a gofer whose job is to make us rich or happy or religiously excited, that it is more satisfying to be envied than respected, that it is better for politicians and preachers to be cheerful than truthful, that christian worship fails unles it is fun.(1)

and from a.w. tozer

we have the breezy, self-confident christians with little affinity for christ and his cross. we have the joy-bell boys that can bounce out there and look as much like a game show host as possible. yet, they are doing it for jesus’ sake?! the hypocrites! they’re not doing it for jesus’ sake at all; they are doing it in their own carnal flesh and are using the church as a theater because they haven’t yet reached the place where the legitimate theater would take them. (2)


it is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. it is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend the meeting where the only attraction is god. one can only conclude that god’s professed children are bored with him for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.(3)

(1) cornelius plantiga jr., not the way it’s supposed to be: a breviary of sin (grand rapids:eerdmans,1995), 126 –127.; as quoted by d.a. carson in worship by the book (grand rapids:zondervan, 2002), 30.

(2)A.W. Tozer, Tozer on Worship and Entertainment: Selected Excerpts (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1997) 104-105.: as quoted by r. albert mohler in his convocation address at southern seminary The Whole Earth is Full of His Glory:The Recovery of Authentic Worship, January, 1998.
(3) Ibid. from tozer 120, 121.

Monday, February 26, 2007

a bone to pick with james cameron ...

a documentary by director james cameron, of "titanic" fame, will air the first week of march on the discovery channel.
the title? "the lost tomb of christ".
in the documentary, cameron suggests that he has found the tomb (bones included) of jesus and his family, including his mother, mary, and of course, his wife mary magdalene.

here we go again.

why didnt he name it "davinci code II, have you heard the one about..."?

you can read the press release here

in response, paul maier, author of a skeleton in god's closet, responds with why we should not fear that mr. cameron has found anything that would harm the claims of the christian faith. (HT: justin taylor)

Please, lose no sleep over the Talpiot “discoveries” for the following reasons, and here are the facts:.

1) Nothing is new here: scholars have known about the ossuaries ever since March of 1980. The general public learned when the BBC filmed a documentary on them in 1996. James Tabor’s book, The Jesus Dynasty, also made a big fuss over the Talpiot tombs more recently, and now James Cameron (The Titanic) and Simcha Jacobovici have climbed aboard the sensationalist bandwagon as well.

2) All the names – Yeshua, Joseph, Maria, Mariamene, Matia, Judah, and Jose -- are extremely frequent Jewish names for that time and place, and thus most scholars consider this merely coincidental, as they did from the start. One-quarter of Jewish women at that time, for example, were named Maria.

3) There is no reason whatever to equate “Mary Magdalene” with “Mariamene,”
as Jacobovici claims.

4) So what if her DNA is different from that of “Yeshua” ? That particular "Mariamme" (as it is usually spelled today) could indeed have been the wife of that particular “Yeshua.”

5) What in the world is the “Jesus Family” doing, having a burial plot in Jerusalem, of all places, the very city that crucified Jesus? Galilee was their home. In Galilee they could have had such a family plot, not Judea. Besides all of which, church tradition – and Eusebius – are unanimous in reporting that Mary died in Ephesus, where the apostle John, faithful to his commission from Jesus on the cross, had accompanied Mary.

6) If this were Jesus’ family burial, what is Matthew doing there – if indeed “Matia” is thus to be translated?

7) How come there is no tradition whatever – Christian, Jewish, or secular – that any part of the Holy Family was buried at Jerusalem?

8) Please note the extreme bias of the director and narrator, Simcha Jacobovici. The man is an Indiana-Jones-wannabe, who oversensationalizes anything he touches. You may have caught him on his TV special regarding The Exodus, in which the man “explained” just everything that still needed proving or explaining in the Exodus account in the Old Testament! It finally became ludicrous, and now he’s doing it again. – As for James Cameron, how do you follow The Titanic? Well, with an even more “titanic” story. He should have known better.

although we are in no danger of finding out information that discredits christianity, we must be prepared to put 1 peter 3:15 into action for those who would come to us with questions about jesus' wife or his corpse- both of which we know do not exist.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

blaspheme christ, win a video!!

this video is a nightline broadcast of a campaign asking people to put a video of themselves on line blaspheming (in a mis-interpretation of mark 3:29) in order to geta free dvd.

from the website http://www.rationalresponders.com/

The Rational Response Squad is giving away 1001 DVDs
of The God Who Wasn't There, the hit documentary that
the Los Angeles Times calls "provocative -- to put it mildly."
There's only one catch: We want your soul.
It's simple. You record a short message damning

yourself to Hell, you upload it to YouTube, and then
the Rational Response Squad will send you a free
The God Who Wasn't There DVD. It's that easy.
You may damn yourself to Hell however you would like,

but somewhere in your video you must say this phrase:
"I deny the Holy Spirit."
Why? Because, according to Mark 3:29 in the Holy Bible,

"Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never
be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." Jesus will forgive
you for just about anything, but he won't forgive you for
denying the existence of the Holy Spirit. Ever. This is
a one-way road you're taking here. Of course, how likely i
s it that there actually is a sky God who has a son who will
take you to Heaven if you don't insult a ghost? Isn't it just
as likely that there is a sky god who has a son who will take you
to Heaven only if you do insult a ghost? Sure, we just made up
that scheme, but it is as equally supported by evidence as the first one.
All we're saying is, you're taking chances either way. So why not get a free DVD?...


Here are some great ideas to help you with your video:
Don't simply "deny the holy spirit." Give it your own personal touches.

Possibly add extra blasphemy or maybe even a background story
as to why you feel the way you do.

Record your video in a Church or outside of a Church.

Walk up to people on the streets exclaiming your joy that you deny the holy spirit, and how good it makes you feel inside!

Mention "My name is ______ and I'm from the Rational Response Squad."

Plug your own atheist website or project!

i wish i were making this up as a joke, but unfortunately, i am not.
the joy and smiles on the faces of the people in these videos breaks my heart.

how do we respond? in anger? by overloading their websites with venemous attacks and threats?

might i suggest that we respond in humility by
praying for those who openly mock the one true
and living god and his grace.
we can go further by taking seriously peter's
exhortation to be ready to have an answer for
the hope we have (1peter 3:15) and by recognizing
that we are called to share the gospel with everyone around us,
even the normal looking guy/girl next door
who may have grown up in church, but smiles and laughs
when proclaiming that they deny christ.

Monday, February 19, 2007

in addition...

(the following is an appendices i wrote for the article i posted last week)

How Should I Choose a Bible Translation?

* Should be based on the best available and most realiable Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.
* Based on the latest (most accurate) knowledge of language and culture.
* Maintains a healthy balance of accuracy and understandability. (1)
* Remains dignified. (no irreverancy for content or in presentation)
* Avoids bias

(1) Formal Equivalancy - a word for word translation (i.e. New King James, New American Standard, English Standard Version)

Dynamic Equivalancy - a thought by thought translation (i.e. New International Version, New Living Translation)

Paraphrase – A translation based on a “how I would say it” approach not usually dependent on original languages. (i.e., "The Message")

Recommended versions for Bible Study:
New American Standard
English Standard Version
Holman Christian Standard

How Do I Read the Bible?

· The starting point is NOT “What does this verse mean to *me *?” Avoid this type of interpretation in your own Bible study and from others.
· Know the literary genre (poetry, wisdom literature, hyperbole, parable, personal correspondance, apocalyptic, etc.) Each genre has its own rules of interpretation.
· Who was the author?
· Who was he writing to?
· Why was he writing this? What is the point the author wanted his original audience to receive?
· Seek out what implications for your life come from what the text means.
· Always remember the context of the passage.

Recommended Resource: (click titles for links)
A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible: Playing by the Rules. Robert Stein. Baker, 1997.

According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. Graeme Goldsworthy. Intervarsity Press, 2002.

Friday, February 16, 2007

authority continued... (part 3)

(part 3 of 3)


The following is a brief outline of the history of the English Bible.

· 315 A.D. - Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, identifies the 27 books of the New Testament

· 405 – Jerome translates the Latin Bible (Vulgate)
The Bible of the “common people” took shape in the form of wood carvings, stain glass windows, etc.

· 1382 – 1st English translation by John Wycliffe (handwritten)

· 1414 – Capital Punishment is declared for reading Scripture in one’s native tongue. In 1428, Wycliffe’s bones were dug up and burned

· 1454 – printing press invented

· 1526 – William Tyndale published first printed New Testament

· 1530’s – Martin Luther works on German Bible

· 1535 - William Coverdale prints first full English Bible, burned at the stake in 1536

· 1560 – Geneva Bible : first Bible in America, used by Pilgrims and the Puritans, also by Shakespeare

· 1611 – King James the 1st broke away from Catholic Church to get a divorce, started Anglican church and printed their own Bible, the King James Version.
(many errors are made, revised many times)

· 1881 – English Revised edition

· 1901 – The American Standard

· 1952 – Revised Standard Version

· 1963 – New American Standard

· 1978 – New International Version

· 1982 – New King James Version

· 1989 – New Revised Standard Version

· 2001 – English Standard Version

· 2004 – Holman Christian Standard Version

As Americans, the fact that we have our own Bibles, and for many of us,
multiple copies, should give us pause. People were killed for trying to give
a copy of the Bible to people in their own language.
It is a blessing, not a right, that we have God's word in our own language. It is to our detriment and our shame if we do not read it, learn it, and obey it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

authority continued (part 2 of 3)

[part 2 of 3 , see previous post]

“The Book”

What we refer to, as “the Bible” are the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. Those books are:

Old Testament:
Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy Joshua Judges
Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings2 Kings1 Chronicles2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Esther Job Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes
Song of Solomon Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Ezekiel Daniel
Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah
Haggai Zechariah Malachi

New Testament:
Matthew Mark Luke John Acts Romans 1 Corinthians 2Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians 1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy 2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter
1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation

The Bible is divided into two sections known as The Old Testament
and The New Testament. “Testament” is just another word for “Covenant”.
Thus, the Old Testament is the account and record of God and His people
during the Time of the Old Covenant (Adam and Eve to Abraham up until
approximately 400 years before the birth of Christ), and the New
Testament covers the life, death, and ressurection of Christ, through
the ministry of the Apostles.

The Old Testament

The Old Testament (“tanak”, formed by taking the first letter of each section; “torah”, “neviim”, and “kethuvim”) was originally written in Hebrew, with some sections in Aramaic. The “torah” or books of the law were written by Moses around 1400 B.C. The law is made up of the first five books of the Old Testament, Genesis through Deuteronomy. The books of the prophets or “neviim, were finished around 430 B.C., with Malachi. The “writings”, the poetry and wisdom literature known as the “kethuvim”, round out the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, the Old Testament is often referred to by Jesus and the apostles as “the law and the prophets”, “the writings”, or “as Moses said” (the law).
(Matt 23:1-3; Luke 16:28-31; Luke 24:25, 44 for just a small sample)

The Old Testament as we have it has been recognized as complete and authoritative from as early as 170 A.D. John Piper, in his Bethlehem Institute seminar Why We Believe in the Bible, quotes Melito, Bishop of Sardis:

When I came to the east and reached the place where
these things were preached and done, and learnt
accurately the books of the Old Testament, I set
down the facts and sent them to you. These are
their names: five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus,
Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of
Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kingdoms, two books
of Chronicles, the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of
Solomon and his Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Song of
Songs, Job, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, the
Twelve in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra.
(Cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 4.26.14)[i]

The order that Christians follow in our Old Testament is the order of the early Greek translation called the Septuagint (“LXX”), translated about 250 B.C.

So what were the criteria for counting certain writings Scripture and not others? In summary, the following were essentials:
· Anything revealed by God and recorded by Moses
· Books written by true Prophets (as defined by Deuteronomy 18)
· Writings that were consistent with the character of God
· Books received and used by the congregation of the people of Israel.

These sacred writings were carefully copied and preserved by Jewish scribes. In 1947, fragments of every Old Testament book but Esther were found in caves in Qumran dating as far back as the 3rd century B.C.


Originally written in Greek, with some Aramaic, the books of the New Testament are:
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John

Why these books? F.F. Bruce puts it best when he writes:

What is particularly important to notice is that the New Testament
canon was not demarcated by the arbitrary decree of any Church
Council. When at last a Church Council – the Synod of Hippo in
AD 393 – listed the 27 books of the New Testament, it did
not confer upon them any authority which they did not already
possess, but simply recorded their previously established
(The Books and the Parchments, pp. 112-113.)[ii]

This is an important point to make and so bears repeating. The Church did not arbitrarily decide what was scripture and what was not. Rather, they took the collections of writings that they had and simply recognized what already possessed authority. Authority was derived from:
· having been written by an Apostle or a close associate of an apostle
(Luke with Paul and mark with Peter)
· having been in continuous use by the Church
· having unity/agreement with the rest of Scripture

While there are no original copies of these documents, consider this:

There are 5, 300 known copies and fragments in the original Greek,
nearly 800 of which were copied before 1000A.D. Homer’s Iliad, one
of the most famous literary works of Western civilization has 643 copies
of manuscript support. Within those, there are 764 lines of text that are
disputed as to the accuracy, whereas there are only 40 lines in all of the
New Testament that are disputed, none of which would compromise a
major doctrine of Scripture.[iii]
In fact, many people are unaware that each of William Shakespeare’s
37 plays (written in the 1600’s) have gaps in the surviving manuscripts,
forcing scholars to “fill in the blanks”. This pales in textual comparison
with the over 5,300 copies and fragments of the New Testament that,
together, assure us that nothing is lost. In fact, all of the New Testament
except eleven verses can be reconstructed from the writings of the early
church fathers in the second and third centuries.[iv]

With these things in mind, not to mention the wealth of internal
testimony of Scripture, we can be sure that the Scriptures we have have
been kept from dilution or error.
It is important to note that these 66 books are the only ones
recognized by the Early Church as authoritative. Some other
religions or denominations may include other books collected
under the title “Apocrypha”, or have additional authoritative
books or manuals such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
Day Saints’ (the cult known as the Mormons) Book of Mormon,
Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. Also made
popular by the recent Davinci Code book and movie of the same name,
the Gnostic gospels have been getting a lot of attention. These books
are not Scripture and are not binding as the word of God. To explore
these other writings and discuss why they are not Scripture is a worthy
task, but beyond the scope of this present article.

(final installment next...)

vi Why We Believe the Bible: The Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Authority of the Bible A Seminar for The Bethlehem Institute, John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700. p.11
[ii] Ibid, 16
[iii] Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Moody, Chicago, 1986, p.367.
[iv] Ibid, Ch.24

Saturday, February 10, 2007


over a year ago, i posted an article i wrote for an online magazine on the revelation of god titled
"god, revelation, and dr. phil" (found here)

i just finished a follow up article and will post it here, in its unedited (and capitalized) form, over the next several days. as always, comments are welcome.

As Evangelical Christians, inheritors of the Protestant Reformation,
which reclaimed the truth of “Sola Scriptura” (scripture alone),
the Bible is our sole source of authority. No Pope, creed, council,
or other decrees of man supersede the authority of what God has
revealed to us through His word. For Evangelicals, the authority
of Scripture is not only important, it is essential.
Many denominations and groups have seen fit to summarize
their stance on the authority of Scripture to leave no room for

The Westminster Confession of Faith states:

The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be
believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or Church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the Author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.[i]

The 2000 Baptist
Faith and Message writes :

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's
revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth,
without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is
totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the
end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.[ii]

The Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing
Evangelicals instructs:

We reaffirm the inerrant Scripture to be the sole source of written
divine revelation,which alone can bind the conscience. The Bible alone
teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured.We deny that any creed, council or individual may bind a Christian's conscience, that the Holy Spirit speaks independently of or contrary to what is set forth in the Bible, or that personal spiritual experience can ever be a vehicle of

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, a
watershed document in the History of the modern
Evangelical Church affirmed the following:

1. God, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has inspired
Holy Scripture in order thereby to reveal Himself to lost mankind through Jesus Christ as Creator and Lord, Redeemer and Judge. Holy Scripture is God's witness to Himself.

2. Holy Scripture, being God's own Word, written by men prepared and
superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters
upon which it touches: it is to be believed, as God's instruction, in all that it affirms, obeyed, as God's command, in all that it requires; embraced, as God's pledge, in all that it promises.

3. The Holy Spirit, Scripture's divine Author, both authenticates it to
us by His inward witness and opens our minds to understand its meaning.
4. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is
without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about
God's acts in creation, about the events of world history, and about its own literary origins under God, than in its witness to God's saving grace in individual lives.

5. The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if
this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made
relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible's own; and such lapses
bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.[iv]

These statements and others show the importance that having an
accurate record of God’s revelation to man. God has not left His
people to wander aimlessly through life wondering what it is they
are to do and how they are to do it. We are not like the prophets of
who cut themselves in a desperate attempt to communicate
with their God. We know what pleases Him, and
we know what displeases Him. Our God has spoken
clearly to us through His Word, the Bible. We can know God because
He has revealed Himself. We can feel confident in what we know because
neither He nor His word ever changes. We are not governed by emotions
or opinions that are always coming and going and developing. We are not
left under the dictates of men who age, die, and make mistakes.

As John Armstrong puts it;

The authority of the Scripture, then, is not located in human
brilliance or witness. It is not found in the person of Moses,
Paul, or Peter. The authority is found in the sovereign God
Himself. The God who "breathed out" the words through
human writers stands behind every statement, every doctrine,
every promise and every command written in the Scripture.

Scripture itself speaks to the importance of God’s Word. in its
existence, uses and application. For example:

…and that from childhood you have known the sacred
writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads
to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All
Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching,
for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so
that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every
good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets
in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has
spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things,
through whom also He made the world.
(Hebrews 1:1-2)
Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. (John 17:17)

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any
two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul
and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the
thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12)

The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.(Psalm 19:7-9)

Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for
they received
the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily
to see whether
these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

How can we be obedient to God when we don’t know what
is asked of us?

How can we worship a God we do not know?

How can we be saved without the Gospel being explained?

All of these answers are found in the Bible. Indeed, most of us
would agree Scripture is essential to the Christian life.

But how can we be sure that the book that we carry to Church
with us and read during our devotional times is what God intended
for us to have? How did God’s word go from old parchments written
in foreign languages to nice and neatly bound books in our own language?
Why are there so many different versions?

What follows is a brief and very general outline of how the Bible that
you own came to be.

(continued soon...)

[i] Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) Chapter 1 article IV
[ii] Baptist Faith and Message (2000) Article I
[iii] The Cambridge Declaration (1996) Thesis One
[iv] Chicago Staement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) Summary
[v] John H. Armstrong. Chapter 4 Sola Scriptura!: The Protestant
Position on the Bible. Don Kistler, General Editor, Soli Deo Gloria
Publications, 1994.