Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Helping Kids Understand the Problem of Evil

I am privileged to be the 5-6 grade Sunday School teacher at Riverview. It's just me and usually 4-5 kids. It's been a lot of fun.

Our curriculum this year is "My Purpose Will Stand" put out by Children Desiring God. It's a fantastic curriculum that teaches kids about the providence of God.

Last week our lesson was focused on how evil fits into the sphere of God's providence. Does God control evil? Is he more powerful than evil people? Does he even (gulp) ordain evil things to happen? The answer to all of those questions, as we saw last week, is a resounding, "Yes!"

This week the lesson focuses on how God can allow (and even ordain) evil and still remain good. It's essentially a theodicy for 5th and 6th graders. This week we are learning that God remains good and righteous because he merely allows sinful people to do what sinful people want to do. This being understood, however, God is still powerful enough to intervene and prevent evil if and when he chooses.

Coupled with this idea is one that asserts that all the good things we have are evidences of God's mercy towards us. The lack of good things and existence of evil, then, can also be understood as God sovereignly and providentially removing his hand of mercy from us so that evil might occur. But how is this fair? Since God is loving, couldn't he be accused of wrongdoing by removing his hand of mercy from upon us and allowing bad things to happen? This week's lesson provides what I thought was an excellent example of how God remains just in removing mercy and allowing evil:

Suppose it were really cold out. I have dressed warmly for the cold with a coat, hat, mittens, and scarf. But you didn't wear a hat or scarf or even mittens. So I say to you, "Why don't you use my hat and mittens for a while?" You don't deserve to use my hat and mittens. I don't owe you the use of my warm clothes. I am offering them to you out of the goodness of my heart. So you put on my mittens and my hat. After a while, I say to you, "I'd like my hat and mittens back now." Am I bad to ask for my mittens and hat back? Am I doing wrong by taking back my warm clothes? Is it sinful for me to put my mittens and hat back on? No. I didn't owe you anything. You did not deserve my warm clothes. I was being kind by letting you use them for a while.

This is similar to how Job saw the situation with God allowing Satan to touch him. Job was undeserving of any mercy from God, yet God gave him health, wealth, and a family. Job had done none of these things - they were all given to him from God's heart of love. God had blessed Job, and kept Satan from touching Job time after time. God had extended mercy after mercy to Job. God allowed Satan to touch Job this time. This is kind of like saying, "I think I'll take my hat and mittens back for a while." Job did not have the right to demand mercy from God. God is the Most High; he has the right to do whatever he wants, and whatever he does is right. He is wise and he is loving.

Most of the time when we think about God and evil, we end up trying to justify ourselves - trying to assert that we don't deserve evil because we are such good people. In reality the opposite is true. We deserve evil but receive mercy. This should put life's trials and difficulties in a pretty different perspective. In R.C. Sproul's book The Holiness of God he says that the proper question to ask when something bad happens isn't "Why me?" Rather, we should be asking "Why not me?" Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil (Job 2.10) Pretty deep stuff for 5-6 graders, but I think they're getting it, and they're coming to know and love God more. It's a lot of fun.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Suggestions for Professors

I'm rounding out the third year of my seminary education. Tonight marked the beginning of my spring quarter classes. After my class tonight (and the last three years of seminary) I was motivated to come up with a list of suggestions for seminary professors as to how they should think and act regarding graduate level teaching. If you've been through some sort of higher education, you can probably identify with some of these. These suggestions come as a result of working with professors from both Sioux Falls Seminary and Bethel Seminary the last three years.

But before I get into the suggestions (which are mostly formed from negative experiences I've had in seminary) I have to say that I've had just as many outstanding professors as I have poor ones (see here and here). Unfortunately, however, it always seems the poor ones have the most influence. So kudos to you who teach fairly and honestly. Jeers to those of you who treat your position as trivial, and don't realize the monumental impact you have on the hearts and minds of the students you teach. So without further ado, here are my suggestions to seminary professors.

1. Don't ridicule someone (or a group of people) who doesn't hold your position. You probably don't realize it, but any student who finds themselves holding the position contrary to the one you espouse feels silently ridiculed by their association to those whom you find to be ignorant and uneducated. You can certainly think what you want, but to teach in such a way that undercuts the opposing viewpoint without providing a reasoned argument for your position is intellectually dishonest, arrogant, and logically fallacious. Point out strengths and weaknesses of the positions of those with whom you disagree, as well as your own position and let the student decide. And do so in a way that is respectful and edifying.

2. Don't act as though obvious things are significant revelations that only you have discovered. Most of the time, you do this in order to undercut those who disagree with you and to further your own agenda and ideas. It's not intellectually honest.

3. Don't cite yourself in your lectures. It sounds incredibly arrogant (because it is, most of the time) when you talk about how you've "explained all this in detail in my book." No one cares. Yeah, you're smart; yeah, you've written a book. Get over it. The rest of us have. Also, don't try to validate your position by citing yourself. It's fallacious.

4. Don't use your position as a professor simply to further your academic career. Teach because you want to teach. Don't teach so you can write a paper and get a promotion. Students pay good, hard-earned money to receive an education from you. Hold yourself accountable and do your job without always looking for the next step. This makes you a bad teacher, because you're more invested in your own interests than those of your students.

5. Do use class time wisely, and use all of it. When you break down the numbers, students pay an astronomical amount for each minute of class time. So make sure to use the available class time well. Don't let your classes out early. Don't slough off class time by assigning "small group time." I have a suspicion that you sometimes don't make the most of class time because you don't have enough material to fill the whole time. If this is the case, redesign the class, charge less, and hold yourself accountable. Again, students pay a lot for this time, so use it wisely.

6. Do value the level of your students' learning more than you value the idea of yourself holding a position within the academy. I have found that there are a lot of professors who love the idea of themselves as being a professor. Like number 4 above, this makes you a bad teacher, and for the same reasons.

7. Do realize that a lot of the students under your care will take everything you say as gospel truth. True, you are not responsible for students who do not discern the truth for themselves, but you are responsible for their intellectual growth at least to some extent. In their eyes, you are a very educated person who knows what he or she is talking about (and for the most part, you do). But many of the students in seminary are young and impressionable, and are more than willing to sacrifice what they've believed for the newest and trendiest academic opinion. Be careful.

8. Do realize that as trendy as your current position might be, someday it will be dated and out of fashion. Someday you will be the one that young seminary professors are taking shots and, and it will be your views and ideas that will be ridiculed and treated as uniformed and anti-intellectual. Be humble, because someday you're going to be the guy whose views everyone looks at and asks, "What was he thinking?"

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thoughts On My First Wedding

This post's title needs a bit of explaining. I've only been married once, and I plan to keep it that way. The first wedding that I'm referring to is one that I officiated. Ken Marz and Sarah Heckathorn tied the knot today and I was privileged to be the one to be a part of it. Truth be told, I only did the vows, ring ceremony, and pronouncement (the easy stuff). Another minister did the message. I just basically had to find some vows to use and a traditional ring ceremony. No problem. The biggest concern I had was just not messing it up during the ceremony. All in all, it was a pretty cool experience, and I'm glad to have been a part of it. Thanks to Ken and Sarah for having me be a part of their wedding.

After the wedding I stopped at a local gas station to get some stuff I needed for my Sunday School class. The clerk noticed that I was dressed up, and actually asked if I was going to a wedding. I told him that I already had been. He asked if I was then on my way to the reception (it was about 5:30 PM). I told him that was already over too. He was in disbelief. He couldn't believe that the reception was already over at such an early time. But I guess that's what happens when you have a pretty "tame" ceremony. One without booze or dancing (not that there's anything wrong with those things; I just think it was a neat testament to the convictions of the couple - so kudos to Ken and Sarah for that).

My systematic theology prof at Sioux Falls told a neat story about a minister he knew who began each wedding ceremony he conducted by having the bride and groom sign the marriage certificate, hand it to him, and then he threw it on the floor and said, "Now that we've rendered unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, we will render unto God that which is God's." He did this to underscore the fact that a marriage is first and foremost a covenantal relationship that finds its meaning in the eyes of God, and not in the eyes of the state. His point was, yes, the state says you are married, but what does God say? The spiritual significance of marriage is much more important than the legal significance.

That little story stuck with me, and I've thought about it quite a bit. I really like it. I told Ken and Sarah that I was going to make a similar distinction when I did their vows. I wasn't as dramatic as to throw the marriage certificate on the floor, but I did make sure to mention that the important business was about to take place (making a covenant with and before God), and that the unimportant business (signing the marriage certificate) was just that - unimportant. I don't think the significance can be overstated.

All in all, it was a good experience, and I'm looking forward to repeating it many times in the future.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Teaching My Kids To Hate

Don't be too concerned with the title of this post. It's not really what it sounds like. Well, maybe it is.

As kids usually do, my oldest has picked up on my own use of the word "hate." Like, "Oh, I hate when that happens," or "I hate when the toast lands butter side down!" or something like that. I use the word to express disgust or disappointment at every day things. It's a common part of my vernacular, and I usually don't think twice about it when I say the word. That is, until my 3 year old started saying that he hated everything. "I hate this show!" or "I hate this toy." When he started saying that, I wasn't too much of a fan of the word "hate."

We started to tell him that it was not OK to say "hate," which meant I had to watch my own use of the word as well. I could't hold him to a standard that I wasn't willing to hold myself to. The reason we gave him for not using the word was that to hate something was to really dislike it very much, almost as if to wish something didn't exist. It's just a strong word that we didn't want our kids using on a regular basis.

But then I got to thinking about it: there are some things that are worthy of hatred; some things that it is right to hate. For instance, murder, or abortion, or injustice. So rather than tell my kids not to hate anything, I've switched to telling my oldest that we must love the things God loves and hate the things God hates. But before we better be really sure that God hates something before we go around hating it too.

Yesterday while Ferg and I were driving home from Grandma D's house, he said to me out of the blue, "Grandma doesn't say 'hate.' Then we got to talking about how we should love the things God loves and hate the things God hates. Kind of deep for a three year old, but I think he started to get it. At first, he didn't seem to understand how God could hate anything, but I explained to him that God hates sin, and he hates it when we treat each other badly. This was still pretty tough for him to grasp, so I think it's going to be a process.

I think this is a good exercise, though. I hope it gets my kids to start thinking theologically about the world and how they think: Is this something that God hates? How do I know? Is this something that I should hate?

If all this sounds weird, it might be a bit - at least within our culture of tolerance. Nobody likes to think about hatred, or ever wants to be known as someone who hates. But I, for one, would proudly state that I hate abortion. Hatred of one thing implies love for its opposite. I hate abortion because I love children. I hate injustice because I love fairness. I hate sin because I love righteousness (by God's grace). So we all hate something. Even people who claim to love tolerance must then hate intolerance (as ironic as that is). The key is hating the right things - the things that God hates. This is what I'm trying to teach Ferg. It'll probably be a long and delicate process.

An Animal-Gender-Inclusive Bible

You can file this under the category, "If You Don't Laugh, You'll Cry." Turns out the PETA folks have noticed the new gender inclusive rendering of the NIV Bible, and have encouraged the translators to refer to animals in the Bible as either "he" or "she" instead of "it." No, this is not a joke.

What is a joke (even though this is totally true) is that this suggestion is actually spurring some conversation amongst some folks. Get serious people.

What I find to be a bit confusing is why PETA people would even bring up this issue in the first place. Certainly the Bible does not see animals in the same light as the PETA folks. Animal sacrifice, anyone? How do the PETA people justify that in their reading of scripture. It seems to me that anyone who subscribes to PETA's philosophy would deplore the way animals are treated in the Bible. Then why bother with the personal pronouns?

Phil Johnson tweeted that he predicts that Zondervan would have an animal gender inclusive Bible published within the next five years. Considering all the crazy Bibles that have been published recently, I can't say I would be surprised if he's proven right (unfortunately).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Rob Bell May Be Done

Yeah, the Rob Bell posts are getting kind of old, but more and more stuff just keeps coming out that is too good to pass up. This time it comes from Frank Turk from Pyromaniacs (one of the top Christian blogs out there) in the form of one of his open letters. Good stuff.

When the content of Bell's latest book became public, John Piper tweeted "Farewell, Rob Bell," which incited a firestorm of criticism about the tweets meaning, although I think Piper was simply referring to the fact that with this book Bell was taking a significant step away from orthodox Christianity. From what I've been reading, I think Piper's tweet may have been prophetic. It's getting harder and harder to take Rob Bell and those like him seriously. These guys are so far away from orthodoxy at some points that it's becoming difficult to be a part of their "conversation."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Response from Rob Bell.

Here it is. Take a look at it. Judge for yourself. Some of the comments are interesting. From all that I've read (including this response and explanation of his beliefs from his own mouth), I think it would still be most accurate to describe Bell's position as universalism. He denies the identification, however, and says that the essence of love is freedom, so God cannot force people into heaven who don't want to be there. What he very slyly walks around though, is his belief that everyone will choose God because God's "love wins." That's just another brand of universalism.

Monday, March 21, 2011

John 2 (JSV - Joel Standard Version)

Another translation attempt. Check here, here, and here for info on my translation procedures.

And on the third day a wedding came to be in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. But Jesus and the disciples of him were invited to the wedding. And lacking wine, the mother of Jesus said to him, “Wine, they do not have.”

And Jesus said to her, “What with me and you, woman? Not yet is here, the hour of me.”

The mother of him said to the servants, “Anything which he may say to you, you do.”

But there were there stone water pots from the purification of the Jews, containing each two or three gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots of water,” and they filled them to the brim.

And he said to them, “Now draw out and carry to the headwaiter.”

So they carried. But when he tasted – the headwaiter – the water to wine it became, and he had not known from where it is, but the servants had known, the ones having drawn the water.

The headwaiter called the bridegroom and he said to him, “Every man, first the good wine he sets out, and when they drank much, the poorer. You have kept the good wine until now.”

This he did, the beginning of the signs of Jesus, in Cana of Galilee, and he manifested the glory of him, and they believed in him, the disciples of him.

After this he went down into Capernaum, he and the mother of him and the brothers and the disciples of him, and there they remained not many days.

And near was the Passover of the Jews, and Jesus went up into Jerusalem.

And he found in the temple those selling oxen and sheep and doves and those changing money seated, and having made a scourge from cords, he drove all out from the temple, and the sheep and the oxen and the money changers. He poured out the coins, and the tables he overturned, and to those selling doves, he said, “Take these things from here, do not make the house of the Father of me a house of merchandise.”

They remembered – the disciples of him – that it is written, “The zeal of the house of you will be consuming me.”

Then the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign do you show to us that these things to do?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it.”

Then the Jews said, “Forty and six years it was being built, this temple, and you in three days will raise it?”

But that he said about the temple of the body of him.

When, therefore, he was raised from the dead, they remembered – the disciples of him – that this he said, and they believed the scripture and the word which Jesus said.

But when he was in Jerusalem in the Passover feast, many believed in the name of him, seeing the miracles which he did. But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because he did not have a need that anyone may testify about man, for he knew what was in man.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My Thoughts On Hell

A lot has been going on in the Christian blogosphere regarding Rob Bell's new book "Love Wins." It has inspired post after post from some of the leading evangelical voices about the doctrine of hell, and why it is essential to the gospel. I've even posted on Bell's book here and here. It turns out that Bell is headed smack dab into universalism, which is exactly where one tends to turn when one has rejected the doctrine of hell.

One of the main questions that Bell brings up in his book (it should be noted that I have not read his book, nor do I intend to, but I have read several reviews, such as this one, and have even heard from Bell's own mouth what he thinks, and I think I've got a pretty good grasp of what the book is all about) is, "If God is loving, then how can he send people to hell?" Bell says that if we say that God loves us so much that he wants to save us, but if we are tragically killed by a bus or something, that same God would then send us to an eternity of punishment and suffering. For Bell, those two ideas don't jibe. In fact, he says that the God who loves a sinner before death, but would punish a sinner with hell after death are two different gods altogether. From what I gather Bell believes that, in the end, "love wins" and God saves everyone.

For me, and the way I understand scripture, the idea that God loves everyone (since God is love) and yet will send those who have rejected him to an eternity of torment and punishment are not opposed to one another - in fact, they are essential to each other. That is to say that God's love cannot be separated from his justice (the fact that he will judge some for their sins and send them to hell). Moreover, I would say that God sends people to hell because he is love. Try wrapping your mind around that. Here's how you do it.

Mark Driscoll makes the excellent point that if God were going to save everyone, and that if in the end "love wins" (note: the kind of "love" that Bell is talking about when he says "love wins" is not the love of God), then that means that everyone will end up in heaven: you, me, pimps, thugs, child molesters, rapists, murderers, and the list goes on. That doesn't seem very fair, does it? Would a loving God let a child molester's sins go unpunished?

Here's the crux of the issue: if God is love, then he must punish evil. In fact, if he did not punish evil but instead allowed it, and moreover, rewarded it (by giving the wicked the promise of heaven), he would be unjust. And injustice is one of the most unloving things anyone can ever do. Therefore, since God is love, he must judge and punish sin. God's love and justice are inextricably linked - they cannot be separated.

If a child molester faced his day in court and was found guilty but was not punished, we would consider that to be a travesty of justice. So it is with God. God cannot let the guilty go unpunished. To do so would be unloving. So he condemns sinners to hell.

The catch here is that all human beings in one way, shape, or form, are guilty. No, you may have never molested a child or physically murdered someone, but you have undoubtedly stolen, hated, coveted, disrespected parents, lusted, etc. These are all damnable sins according to God's scales of justice. So then, every person who has ever lived is deserving of an eternity of punishment and torment in hell - everyone. You, me, the child molester, the murderer, the nice old lady next door, my kids - everyone. The real question isn't "How can a loving God send people to hell?" but rather, "How can a just God allow people into heaven?" Try wrapping your mind around that (and read the book of Romans for help)!

This is where Bell's example of God loving the sinner until he is tragically killed by the bus breaks down. It assumes that the person is not deserving of eternal punishment, when in fact he is. So when he is tragically killed by the bus, God doesn't flip a switch and become a vengeful, angry God. He remains who he is: loving and just.

The answer from scripture is that God made a way for those who would believe to be justified through the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus took the punishment that sinners who believe so richly deserve, making them just in God's sight and removing them from judgment. The righteousness that was Christ's now belongs to us, and the judgment that belonged to us was given to him. That's the beauty of the gospel. And it's not that we believe out of fear of a vengeful God, but rather we believe out of gratitude for, you guessed it, his great love! God is love. This is why he sent his son as a sacrifice for all those who would believe, and why he justly punishes sinners. The Christian realizes the severity of his or her own sin and the depth of his or her own deservedness of hell, and then looks at the cross and realizes the debt has been paid. What love!

One of Bell's follow up questions to that, however, would be "What about those people who have never heard of Jesus? Like people in the deepest, darkest jungles of Africa? Would God send them to hell because they've never heard about Jesus?" Well, first of all, I reject the question, because the Bible never says that people who have never heard about Jesus will go to hell, it says that people who have sinned will go to hell. And the Bible also says that all people have revelation from God in two ways (Romans 1), whether they live in the metropolis or in the deepest jungles of Africa. God has made himself plain to all people through his acts of creation (the creation proves there's a Creator) and he has written the law on all hearts (people inherently know right from wrong because God has shown it to them). This revelation, I believe, is enough to cause someone - anyone - to realize that GOD IS. And it is also enough to condemn them to judgment and punishment. That being said, I believe God is a kind and merciful God, not willing that any should perish. In other words, I believe that if there is someone in a deep dark jungle somewhere who connects the dots (realizes that creation proves the Creator, and that he has a moral standard given by a Moral Lawgiver) that God is powerful enough to direct that person to the gospel (through a missionary, or through the westernization of the world - Bibles are constantly being published in new languages, and churches are being built all the time all over the world for people who have never had them before).

It is in this sense that the question "Why would a loving God send people to hell?" is faulty to begin with. In one sense, God does not send people to hell - people send themselves there by rejecting the revelation of truth that has been given to them. True, God is the one who is sovereign over their punishment, but the sin of a person is what induces God's judgment. God doesn't send people to hell - he judges their sin, which is deserving of hell.

At the same time, I personally believe (and this is my personal belief - not something I would die for) that there are and will be levels of punishment in hell based upon the amount of divine revelation a person was exposed to in this life (Luke 10.10-16). This means that those in the deep jungles of Africa who have never heard the gospel will receive a lesser judgment than those who live in America, own a Bible, have heard the gospel numerous times, gone to church all their life, etc. but still do not believe the truth. This lesser judgment will not be desirable, to be sure, but I think that those who have been so exposed to the truth and have still rejected it will be held even more accountable than those who have not (I would also argue that this is why babies or children who die at an extremely young age will not be sent to hell - God is a kind, merciful, and graceful God).

This is just a small taste of this discussion, and I would recommend that you check out the articles I linked to earlier. These are just some of the thoughts that have been rattling around in my head lately.

The doctrine of hell is essential to the gospel. Without it, the gospel loses all value (not to mention that if everyone is saved, and if in the end "love wins," then why bother preach the gospel at all? It seems to devalue the Great Commission to me). Again, I think the real issue here is trying to understand how a just God can allow me - a sinner - to be justified, and to spend my time trying to figure that one out. And to praise and glorify God that I have not received the punishment that I so richly deserve; and to magnify Christ, who would take my place on the cross and bear the full force of God's wrath in my place. "O how marvelous! O how wonderful! And my song shall ever be, O how marvelous! O how wonderful! Is my Savior's love for me."

Friday, March 18, 2011

NIV 2011

UPDATE: Here's some more info on the 2011 NIV from the mouth of Chip Brown, Senior VP for Bibles at Zondervan.

This article caught my eye yesterday. I had known that the 2011 NIV revision was coming out for some time now. has had it on their site for months before the print version was released. Not being a big fan of the NIV, I didn't really look into it. The 2011 NIV was thrust into my view last week, though, when one of my regular professors took ill and couldn't teach a class. He had a fellow faculty member fill in for him, who just happened to be on the translation committee that did the 2011 NIV revision. Dr. Janine Brown told us quite a bit about what it was like to be a part of that process. It was very interesting.

Among the discussions we've had in my hermeneutics class this past quarter has been a discussion as to which kind of bible translation is preferable: formal equivalence (word for word) or functional equivalence (thought for thought). The NIV is definitely more of a functional equivalence translation. That is, the translators were more concerned that the meaning of the text was communicated in the translation than they were that the actual words used in the original languages were conveyed in the translation.

Personally, I think that each philosophy has a solid argument for its use. My professors argued that functional equivalence translations were actually more accurate, because they conveyed the meaning of the text, rather than just the words (leaving the determination of meaning up to the reader). For example, Matthew 5.12 in the ESV reads: "And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying..." while the new NIV renders the same verse simply as: "...and he began to teach them." The ESV is closer to the original language, but in order to really understand it you need to know that saying that someone opened his or her mouth before he spoke is a commonly used idiom in the Greek language. It doesn't really mean anything other than that someone was speaking. The NIV translators (and other functional equivalence translators) chose to just interpret that part for you and give you something easier to read, hence "...and he began to teach them," instead of "And he opened his mouth and taught them."

The thing I don't like about functional equivalence translations is that there's always an element of trust that must be given to the translators. I have to trust that when a translator makes a leap from "And he opened his mouth and taught them," to "...and he began to teach them," that he or she knows what they are doing by making such a leap. In most cases, this is not an issue. People who translate the Bible are very smart and have put a lot of time and energy into what they do. In other cases, however, the chasm that must be leapt over in the translation process can be pretty wide, and the reader is forced to trust that the translator has made the right decision. This is more trust than I am willing to give.

Also, I think there is value in forcing oneself to get down and dirty with the text. Yes, when we convey that someone is speaking, we usually don't say "And he opened his mouth." We usually just say, "He said..." But to remove that element of the text takes me as a reader one step further from what was actually written. It might mean more work for me to understand what was actually meant by the original writing, but I'm OK with that. I'd rather put in a little more effort and maybe have to learn a bit more about the text to get the meaning myself than have to trust someone else to do that work for me.

The article that I linked to above talks about some gender issues with the new NIV revision. You may or may not remember that when the TNIV (Today's New International Version) came out, there was quite the hubub about pronouns being switched from masculine to being gender neutral. In most cases, this does not effect meaning, but in others, it does. Apparently some of those same issues exist in the 2011 NIV as well.

For example, when an author of scripture refers to his "brothers," (as in, fellow Christians) he almost certainly doesn't mean just men, but rather men and women of the faith. So the 2011 NIV renders those verses as "brothers and sisters." While I have no problem with gender inclusiveness, I think this is an issue of formal vs. functional equivalence, and again, I would prefer the formal equivalence translation. While I agree that the use of the term "brothers" refers to more than just men, it is still one step further from the original writing. And I'd like to be as close to that as possible. But maybe that's just me.

Take a look at the article. It has a lot of good information.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Grace to Drive (or Park)

One of the only things that George Carlin ever said that I've actually appreciated was something to this effect: "Have you ever noticed how, when you're driving, everyone is an idiot except you? Do you think that might be a little strange? What are the odds that you're the only non-idiot on the road?" The man's got a point. In other words, when we're behind the wheel, we automatically justify whatever it is we do (even if we're clearly in the wrong) and tend to demonize other drivers when they make a mistake (even though we've probably done the same thing many times ourselves). There's a significant disconnect there.

On Wednesday morning I was mailing some packages at the Signal Hills post office. After I had done my business, I got in the car and put it in reverse. I looked in all three of my mirrors and over each shoulder, like I normally do when I'm backing up. I didn't see anyone or anything. I proceeded to back out of my spot and made a 90 turn in reverse out of the parking spot. When the car stopped and I put it in "Drive," I heard a loud banging on my rear window. I looked in the mirror and saw a woman standing there, saying something to me. I opened my car door (because my window doesn't work) and she walked up to me where I was sitting. She said, "You almost ran me over, why didn't you look?" I was dumbfounded. I said, "I did look. I'm sorry I didn't see you." She then said in a really angry voice, "You were so busy backing up that you weren't looking. You could have run me over." I said once again, "I was looking, but I somehow didn't see you. I'm sorry." She huffed at me and walked away. I closed my door and drove away.

What really happened? Who knows. Obviously she feels that I was not taking the necessary precautions. I feel that I did take those precautions, but she somehow was in a place that I couldn't see clearly. I'm just glad that she wasn't seriously injured, and I hope she comes to understand the sincerity of my apology. I could have gotten all worked up about it and yelled at her for walking behind an obviously moving vehicle, or how she must have clearly seen that I was moving, considering she was all the way at the end of my 90 degree back up procedure. But whatever. I'll admit that I might have been in the wrong and apologize for it. The point is, we all goof up, especially when driving (or parking, as it were). I need grace when I'm driving, and I need to give it to other people too.

Rob Bell Gets the Smack Down

Even Martin Bashir can tell Rob Bell's a goof. Although to be fair, Bashir's interviewing methods were not maybe all that fair. It seemed as though he already had a bias against Bell. In the interview, Bashir says, "One critique of your book says this, 'There are dozens of problems with Love Wins - the history is inaccurate, the use of scripture, indefensible.' That's true, isn't it?" Bell's best response: "No, it's not true." That's it? That's how he defends himself against his critics? Oh well. Couldn't have happened to a better person.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Love Wins

I had heard a while ago that Rob Bell was coming out with a new book, and that a lot of leaders in the evangelical world were having somewhat of a bad reaction to the content of the book. There was some evidence here and there that pointed to Rob Bell adopting universalism and rejecting the idea of hell and eternal punishment. Instead it was beginning to seem that Bell was asserting that all people would be saved and receive the promise of eternal life. Blogs were written, and some of the same leaders who had previously expressed worry about what Bell's beliefs seemed to be morphing into began writing the man off and labeling him as a false teacher.

Meanwhile, fans of Rob Bell wrote on their own blogs in defense of the pastor, arguing for his universalistic tendencies (including some who attempted to downplay Bell's tendency toward universalism), and also to decry those who would question him. One blog I read (a "friend" on Facebook posted it, who is also a fan of Bell) rips John Piper and Justin Taylor for judging Bell before the book was even released (which is ironic, because to say that someone is judging someone else is a judgment against that person). This particular blogger doesn't even seem to have read Justin Taylor's blog that originally criticized Bell's upcoming work. Taylor never claims to be making absolute judgments, but that he is simply connecting the dots of what Bell has been saying/writing/teaching/preaching lately.

One of the main criticisms leveled against conservative evangelicals is that they perhaps appeared to be unfairly criticizing Bell and his book before the book was even released, although after looking into the criticisms leveled against Bell, I don't think this was the case. No one was claiming that Bell was a universalist, but just that certain things said, written, and video recorded and put on the internet seemed to suggest that Bell was trending that way.

Well, now that Bell's book has been released and reviewed, it would appear that all concerns that Bell was trending toward universalism (and even promoting universalism) have been confirmed. Here's Kevin DeYoung's review of the book (it's rather long, but it's worth the read, if for no other reason than to learn more about universalism and to be encouraged in sound doctrine).

I have one or two of Bell's previous books, and they both have a permanent position on the "Heresy Shelf" of my library. And this was before it was known that Bell was a full-fledged universalist. It would seem that my own and others' fears about Rob Bell were not unfounded. I used to chomp at the bit to read books like this, but nowadays I just don't have the stamina needed to get through them anymore. Most false teaching is just the same recycled garbage that has been around for centuries.

I think the proper response to this guy and his teachings should be one of two things: 1) we should pray that he would repent, be restored to the truth, and cling to sound doctrine, and failing that, 2) we should pray that God silence him and/or show his teaching to be unsound and unorthodox. Rob Bell is one of the most prominent Christians in the country right now. Tens of thousands of people cling to what he teaches. Some have even said that he is the "next Billy Graham." May it never be so.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pro - "Whole Life"

This bi-month's issue of Relevant Magazine featured 50 Ideas That Changed Everything. The collection is a celebration of Relevant's 50th issue. The 50 ideas include things like the rise of Indie music, pop culture trends in filmmaking, Tivo, the Emergent Movement, and theological trends in the church. It's a pretty big smorgasbord. One of the "ideas that changed everything" that caught my eye was number 24: "Pro Life Should Mean More Than Just Abortion Opposition." The magazine says, "Over the last 8 years, young Christians have embraced a more holistic definition of 'pro-life.' Though they are still opposed to abortion, that's not where pro-life stops now. Instead, this generation has adopted a whole-life ethic, which means they are opposed to unjust war, torture, the death penalty, oppression, and the crippling poverty that can be a death sentence for people around the world." In an earlier issue, Relevant editor Cameron Strang voiced the "whole-life ethic" by saying, "... the example Jesus set for us to stand up for the defense of the innocent does not end at birth. Just as they do for abortion, Christians should be on the forefront of standing against things that take millions of innocent lives around the world every day - systemic poverty, preventable disease, unnecessary wars, slavery, genocide. The list goes on."

I've got some problems with this way of thinking, and I've talked about it before, here and here. But my biggest problem with this way of thinking is that it implies that the church has traditionally ignored issues of poverty, torture, unjust war, and oppression in the past, and that fighting for life in these areas is somehow a new thing with this upcoming generation. This implication, however, is completely ignorant of the historical and present reality of the ministry of the church to the world in all areas of life. If this is what this generation thinks, it's ignorant and needs to take a church history class and look into current local and global missions work and Christian humanitarian aid efforts. Christians all over the world are fighting for life. In America, we focus on abortion because it is an incredibly serious problem in this country. But, to be sure, Christians are concerned for all threats to life everywhere. You can take that to the bank.

Here's the proof: columnist David French ran the numbers, and it turns out Christians today (and yesterday, and 100 years ago, before abortion was even an issue) overwhelmingly support "whole-life" ministries and charities. And I mean overwhelmingly. The amount of time and money Christians give to anti-abortion and homosexuality charities or campaigns (although homosexuality isn't really at issue as much in this debate) are literal blips on the radar screen compared to how much we give (in time, money, and resources) to fighting poverty, illness, and oppression.

So then why this push for being so called "Pro Whole-Life?" If it turns out that Christians already are pro whole-life, then why does a generation of Christians think we aren't, and why do they feel it is there responsibility to call the church out on this issue? I can only think of two possible reasons: 1) the current generation is painfully and dangerously ignorant of the historical and present ministry of the church in the world, or 2) it's a strategy for promoting a liberal social agenda in this country and abroad. I tend to think it is the latter rather than the former, although I almost hope it's because we're just that stupid. This is the problem I've had with Cameron Strang and the folks at Relevant for some time now. They espouse a lot of social justice gibberish that sounds really good and noble, but in the end it seems to be good for nothing put promoting their liberal social agenda. The quote from Strang above is prefaced by an assertion that "This is where those on the right don't get it..."

Either way, the numbers don't lie: Christians are pro whole-life. I don't say that as a point of pride, because there is certainly more to be done to fight for life in the world, and the battle is never over. But to accuse the church of sleeping on the job just isn't accurate, helpful, or edifying.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Savior's Love

Lots of great songs in worship today. But the one that ministered to me the most was "My Savior's Love." I've sung this song a hundred times throughout my life, but it really struck home today. The refrain, when sung in context with the stanzas, is particularly powerful.

I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene
And wonder how He could love me
A sinner, condemned, unclean

O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior's love for me!

For me it was in the garden
He prayed: "Not My will, but Thine."
He had no tears for His own griefs
But sweat drops of blood for mine

He took my sins and my sorrows
He made them His very own
He bore the burden to Calvary
And suffered and died alone

When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see
Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Biggest Sandwich Ever

My kids love this book. It's called "The Biggest Sandwich Ever." For some reason, they have both been really drawn to it. They both have gone through phases where they want it read to them each night (the youngest one is still in this phase). They've heard it so many times that they've started memorizing it. Here's Ferg's "reading" of the book from December of last year.

Now the Hanburger has started memorizing it. Here's her "reading."

If nothing else, it just goes to show you what kids are capable of. My kids certainly aren't geniuses, nor are they particular adept at memorization. But if they hear or see something enough, they will pick up on it (scripture memorization, anyone?).

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Variation on the Jump

The kids wanted to build a jump tonight, so we did. Except, by the time I came into the living room after gathering the pillows, the kids had thrown them all on the couch. They said that instead of having the jump on the floor as usual, they wanted it on the couch, and they would just run into it. It didn't look nearly as fun that way to me, but they seemed to like it.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sick Again

A few weeks ago I had some not-so-pleasant experiences. I was probably the sickest I remember being in my life. I think it was the flu, but I guess I'm not sure since I never went in to see the doc. Well, last night, my throat began to hurt during Greek class. By the time I got home it was killing me, and I was flying high with a significant fever.

This morning I was feeling terrible - more fever, really sore throat, and my head was killing me. My fever was up to 102. I finally relented and went to see the doc tonight. Considering I'm preaching this Sunday, I thought it was best. It turns out I've got strep throat.

I feel just aweful. My head's still killing me, I'm still flying high, and my throat still hurts. I've got some amoxicillin in me, and hopefully things will look better tomorrow.

This has certainly been a winter to remember.