Wednesday, December 31, 2008

True vs. false ideas on spiritual disciplines and retreats

I recently had my personal spiritual retreat on Monday afternoon (December 29th): to seek God especially for His direction for the new year (2009). I have been clearing leave during this season so I have had the free time to slow down and take stock of this passing year, and Monday afternoon was the time I had set aside to seek God exclusively for an extended period of time. It has indeed been a very refreshing time, though also one in which the flesh rails against the spirit the most. But I digress.

Normally, I prefer not to reveal more personal stuff publicly on the Internet, focusing instead on more important stuff like doctrine and Christian issues. After all, I am nothing but dust but Christ is everything; Christ alone is eternal and worthy of praise, and that's why we should talk about Him and not ourselves, let alone me. Yet I will concede in this post so that my life experience in this particular episode may hopefully be used to instruct others — not that my life is that great, for I know my sins and weaknesses, but that Christ be magnified in the proclamation of His truth.

The idea for this post came about in the course of the retreat itself as I prayed over the terrible blight of spiritual poverty in the [Visible] Church. It must be admitted that modernist Evangelicalism, with all its positive thinking, 12-steps-to-this and 7-steps-to-that programs, is spiritually bankrupt and the thirst for true spiritual reality has swept many professing Evangelicals into the contemplative camp in search of spiritual satisfaction yet all they receive are counterfeit trinkets. Yet the Protestant Reformed tradition has the biblical answer to the heart's yearning for spiritual reality, and the tragedy is that so many overlook the truth, and even worse when they ignore it altogether. Instead of following God's way, they prefer their own methods; they have forsaken the fountains of living water for broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jer. 2:13). What utter folly! Yet like irrational animals (Jude 1:10), they refuse to listen to God and tumble into the pernicious error of Contemplative Spirituality, thinking that they can approach God under their own terms in their own manner (cf Lev. 10:1).

In this post therefore, I will share my own experience of how a biblical spiritual retreat is done which I am sure is reasonably biblical, and contrast it with the anti-Christian practice of Contemplative Spirituality. May this be edifying to the saints.

I started my retreat after lunch, which I had done outside somewhere in the Central district in the city. Finding a relatively quiet spot in the outdoors (ie no distraction except moderately soft background noise), I proceeded with the retreat proper. I don't have a particular liking of fixed schedule of things to do as it reminds me of Modernism (although fixed order/liturgies are not Modernism, yet Modernism does consist of them) and anyway this was a personal retreat, so the activities during the few hours of retreat was more or less done in a dynamic fashion "as the Spirit leads" so to speak. First of course was prayer to dedicate this portion of time to the Lord, then the remaining time was spent alternating between prayer, reading the Word, reading a good Christian book I had with me (A Heart for Reformation — review here) and worship. The retreat was finally closed with a closing prayer after all was done.

Prayer is a two-way conversation, although NOT in the way the Contemplative spiritualists have made it out to be. In prayer, the focus must be on God and on God's Will, NOT treating God as if he is a Santa Claus to be thrown a shopping/wish list at! That is not prayer. Unless one comes before God in humility and contrition of his sins, God will not hear. The focus is always on God (theocentric) not on fulfilling our own whims and fancies or even our yearnings for spiritual reality. In prayer especially when we desire sweet communion with our LORD, there must be preparation in terms of genuine repentance and we must live in obedience to Him. It is no coincidence that the first few propositions in the Lord's Prayer asks us to glorify God and calls for His will to be done. God speaks to us today through His Word as the Spirit illuminates it to our hearts, and therefore knowledge of the Word of God and doctrine is important as God uses His Word to speak to us. Isn't it any wonder therefore when few Evangelicals can hear God speaking to them, for they know not the Word of God nor biblical doctrine? How can anyone claims to love God and want to know Him, yet refuse to read and understand the primary love letter God has written to us in the Bible? Whose fault it is when Evangelicals complain that they cannot hear God and have communion with Him? If they refuse to learn the language of God's revelation and believe its truth, they have only themselves to blame; God does not reward disobedience!

Traditional Christian spirituality revolves around what are termed the "means of grace" to nurture our walk with God (progressive sanctification). In our personal walk, these includes prayer and the Word. (Corporate means of grace includes hearing the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments). Contemplative spirituality however guts both means of grace and replace them with counterfeits. In place of the Word of God, they offer mantras loosely based upon the Word of God (ie Lectio Divina). In place of biblical prayer, they offer contemplative prayer. In the former substitution, an easy method of repeating biblical words/phrases over and over again in counterfeit meditation is given. Such is Jeroboam all over again. Remember the reason given by King Jeroboam of the northern Kingdom as to why he made the two golden calves in the first place? It was because it was too hard to go up to Jerusalem to worship God (1 Kings 12:28 - NIV), so here was an easier alternative to be pious before God, or so it was claimed. The biblical method of reading and using your mind to understand God's truth is so hard (and we don't want to appear too doctrinaire, right? Why, that would be just like the Pharisees!) for many, and so substituting it with Scripture as mantra is just so much easier to do in order to purportedly get the same spiritual benefits.

Along with a counterfeit "Word" comes counterfeit prayer. Why should we spend so much time understanding God's Word, and then after that we are "forced" into contrition and repentance as the Word of God exposes our sins? No, no, no! That wouldn't do at all! Here's an easier method which requires little effort and promises the same benefits as the harder one PLUS, you do not need to feel uncomfortable as the Spirit pricks your conscience over your sins. Practicing Contemplative prayer and hearing God "speaking out of the silence" is much more alluring than having the Holy Spirit communicating God's truth to us while devastating our idols and pride. Why the necessity for pain when there is an easier alternative?

True biblical spiritual disciplines and retreats are done wholly dependent and in obedience to the Word of God, while false spiritual disciplines and retreats are practised according to the vain imaginations and philosophies of Man (Col. 2:8). Biblical spiritual disciplines center on the means of grace as spelled out in Scripture, and thus comprise thoughtful reading, understanding, systematizing, meditation on and application of the Word of God and its truths in the lives of Christians. Coupled with that is prayer which is done intelligently based upon a proper understanding of the Word of God and submission to His Will. A time of spiritual retreat is therefore a period of time set aside and devoted to God whereby all worldly and even ministry matters are placed to one side so that the believer can spend that period of time focused on reading God's Word, praying and worshipping God. The "silent retreat" promoted by the contemplative spiritualist mystics however voids the Word of its power and promotes spirituality without God and therefore leads people away from God. Such laziness in contemporary Evangelicalism is definitely not acceptable before God and will be punished by Him. As it is written

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied (Prov. 13:4)

It is very unfortunate that this doctrine of demons has entered the Evangelical Movement through the Trojan horse of Quaker Richard J. Foster and his organization Renovare. Through his best-selling book The Celebration of Discipline, Foster introduces undiscerning Evangelicals to the so-called Desert Fathers and the "Christian" tradition of contemplation, a tradition which developed during the Dark Ages as the Church then has sliden into apostasy. Just as we do not tolerate the doctrine of Arianism (that Jesus is not truly God) just because it was once embraced by some who call themselves Christians at one time or another in church history, it is simply stupid to argue that we should consider the "Contemplative tradition" as being a legitimate Christian tradition just because some who call themselves Christians once practiced it.

As we have seen, Contemplative Spirituality is un-biblical and anti-Christian in its outlook. We must remember that Contemplative Spirituality is not about being quiet as opposed to being pre-occupied by other matters (that is a straw-man), but about seeking intimacy and communion with God apart from the God-appointed means of doing so. By attempting to short-circuit the process of growth, Contemplative Spirituality pits itself against Christ and His Word, and is therefore not to be promoted or partaken of by Christians. Remember:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death (Prov. 14:12, 16:25)

With this, let me close with this exhortation to all believers. If you value your walk with God, I implore you to have nothing whatsoever to do with the blasphemous and anti-Christian methodologies of Contemplative Spirituality. Reject them like the plague that it is, and turn back to the simplicity of the Gospel and the pure spiritual milk therein (1 Peter 2:2). Otherwise

30 Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (Ez. 18: 30-32)

Amen.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Book review: Church on the Rise

Pastor Larry De Bruyn of Franklin Road Baptist Church has written an interesting book entitled Church on the Rise, not widely publicized though, on the Purpose Driven paradigm. I have read the book and here is my review of it.

You can get a copy of the book from VCY America here.

Book review: A Heart for Reformation

This book A Heart for Reformation by C. Matthew McMahon (which can be bought here) is indeed a very interesting book on the topic of Individual and Church Reformation. All of us are to strive towards growth and reformation in our individual lives, and in the life of the Church, and in this McMahon has written an excellent book in this regard.

As such, I have written a review of the book here, and here are some excerpts from the book itself:

No one wants to hear that they way they "do" religion is wrong, and people certainly believe that their individual experiences with God should be just that — an individual experience. However, individual experience does not and cannot determine the manner in which sinners should approach Him. Let the record be set straight — God determines the manner in which sinners are to approach Him, and the Bible was given to His people that they might know the truth on the matter. Only the truth will set men free to worship God rightly, and live before Him in integrity. It is not enough for people to simply hear what they want to hear, rather, they must conform to what God commands. (p. 48)

And a pertinent word for "Reformed Christians" so-called:

Second, with the neglect comes the sin, because Reformed Christians, who hold the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its purest expression, have this tendency to shout out, "I'm Reformed... so I am okay." Why is it that many people see the Reformed Christians as the frozen chosen? They have knowledge, but they do not seem to have a tendency to share it openly, or be as excited and evangelistic as the Arminian or Socinian or Liberal heretic who doesn't have the truth and yet ‘ holds to a zeal without knowledge. The greatest abuse of the means of grace are by those who know those means best — the Reformed Christian. It cannot be argued that the Gospel is most carelessly believed by those who know it the best. Reformation theology can cause Christians to become like the Jews of old. "I'm a Calvinist," and "I'm Reformed..." That is good, but that does not ensure a Christian's growth in Christ. It will not maintain or advance their growth in Christ. Sanctification is only effectual by the operation of the Holy Spirit upon them while partaking of the means of grace with a whole heart. Reformed Christians, then, arguably more than others, should be told to "Amend your ways and doings..."

Reformed Christians, all Christians, should be demonstrating a theology put into right practice empowered by the Spirit — walking in the Spirit. It is then that all will see true biblical reformation in the mind and hearts as individual Christians, and as a collective unified covenanted community. Mortification of sin and new life in the new man day by day is not won simply by knowledge. It must be knowledge that has been formed into practice and is ignited by the spiritual power of the Spirit of God. (p. 69-70)

All in all, this is a very good book. I highly recommend it to all those who desire reformation in their lives and in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

EPC on the Offer of the Gospel

Here is an official article by the EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) of Australia on the topic of the Well-meant Offer. It is indeed interesting that the same Spirit which works in the hearts of believers show them the exact same truth about this irrational teaching as being that more in line with Amyraldism (or Amyraldianism) than historic orthodox Calvinism. I would not call the movement Moderate Calvinism however, any more than I will allow Norman Geisler (in his book Chosen but Free) to call his Modified Arminianism "Moderate Calvinism".

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In preparation for 2009

As Christmas is drawing near, I would be spending some personal time with God in a personal retreat. Therefore, besides a post nearing Christmas, I would not be blogging much until the new year. I have found my time being taken up petty stuff recently, and desperately need to spend time with God instead of spending my time doing all kinds of stuff.

In addition, I would be praying over the year 2009 and the Lord's direction for me as I contemplate going full time in the future. Next year is the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birthday, so something should be planned then (Await further details in the next year). To my readers: Do pray that the Lord will show me His direction and that I will be refreshed as I seek Him.

So besides the few posts I have planned to write, I would be off for the rest of the year. God bless and may His richest blessings be with you this festive season.

Soli Deo Gloria, Daniel.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Some thoughts on Infant Baptism

I was recommended this book some time ago by Vincent as being one of the better books by a Credobaptist defending Credobaptism from the viewpoint of Covenantal Theology. There are many many books to be read, so I would always love to read the best on the subject so as to encounter the best arguments for or against whatever position they are arguing for. I have therefore recently gotten myself a copy of the book and have read the book. Here is a short review of the book (as for a comprehensive review I might as well just write a book on the topic, which I have no interest in as of now):

As a Pedobaptist, I must say that I am impressed with Dr. Jewett's work on this subject. Though his Baptist bias shines through the work at various places, and there are some of the typical Baptist errors in argumentation throughout (ie attempting to find evidence for infant baptism instead of looking at it correctly from the direction of Infant inclusion in the Covenant), the work as a whole attempts to analyze the subject of Infant Baptism in a holistic manner. I must say that if your view of Pedobaptism cannot pass the muster of Jewett's work in a consistent biblical manner, it is not worth holding onto.

I have read about both Schreiner's and Malone's works promoting and defending Credobaptism, which I will get in the future. Obviously, I have my own thinking on the subject, but I am open to any arguments from Scripture that does successfully disprove my view, but I haven't seen any yet, though Jewett's work does come close at certain points.

P.S.: Just in case you are wondering, my view is not one of the Reformed views critiqued by Jewett. My current opinion on this topic as it works out in the practical arena lies somewhat along the reasoning similar to the ones I have advanced against Neo-Amyraldism in terms of federal/corporate collective-ness versus individuality.

P.P.S.: For the reading comprehension-impaired, this post does not state anything with regards to pedobaptism or credobaptism, except my opinion of Jewett's book. Contrary to the view of my critics, not everything that I post is prophetic (as in forthtelling prophecy). Lighten up!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Rob Gagnon responds to homofascist promoter Lisa Miller of Newsweek

Dr. Robert A. J. Gagnon has posted a powerful rebuttal against the bigoted homofascist and homosexualist article by Lisa Miller of Newsweek magazine, here. With regards to the mainstream magazines, I agree with Gagnon:

The question must be asked: What is it with the “elite” newspapers and newsmagazines over the past decade? Are they so obsessed with promoting the homosexualist agenda that they have now given up even a pretense to objectivity, balanced research, and good sense? Do they care nothing for destroying their reputation, built up over many years, as credible sources for news and commentary? These news sources are more and more resembling a homosexualist Pravda—a different agenda but the same style of propaganda “news” reporting that would make the old Kremlin leadership proud.

... However, their support for a homosexualist ideology is so brazen and offensive in its blatant misinformation—obviously they are very angry about the passage of Proposition 8 in California—that subscribers to Newsweek should give serious consideration to canceling their subscription. For such homosexualist zealots as Miller and Meacham, reasoned argumentation is unlikely to have any major impact. They will understand the language of money, though. It is clear that, ultimately, Miller and Meacham have little desire to make responsible arguments about the merits of moral appeals to Scripture (their refusal to consider any major argument against their position is evidence enough of this).

I have not renewed my Newsweek magazine subscription some time back for the simple reason that I did not thought it was worth the monetary investment. But anyway, all Newsweek subscribers should cancel their subscription to communicate their displeasure in the only language the "elite" can understand — money.

P.S.: Do ignore Gagnon's off-hand remark that the Creation accounts "do not have to be taken too literally in all details". It is indeed relevant, since otherwise the authority of Scripture will be undermined.

Friday, December 12, 2008

James White's *final* reply to Byrne the Neo-Amyraldian

This is James White's hopefully final reply to Byrne's libel against him and Dr. Reymond as being "hyper-Calvinists":

I agree with White that "this is one of Byrne's biggest problem: that he doesn't allow for context for anybody — Robert Reymond, myself [James White] or anyone else for that matter".

[HT: The Crumbs which fall]

Also, please do check out the latest Dividing Line whereby Dr. White discusses this issue with TurretinFan.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Some book reviews

Here are some book reviews that I have done on the books I have recently finished.

Called to the Ministry by Edmund P. Clowney (Review here)

Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray (Review here)

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies (Review here)

All of these books are highly recommended. Although I have bones of contention with John Murray with regards to the promotion of Neo-Amyraldism, this particular book — Redemption Accomplished and Applied is excellent in its biblical presentation and defense of Reformed soteriology.

Books sold in New Creation bookstore

Yesterday Saturday, I was at Suntec Mall for lunch with my parents and their friends, after which I was to meet my friend at 3pm. We finished lunch earlier so I had some free time, during which I decided to visit New Creation's bookstore at The Rock. Here is what I have seen been sold in there (Sorry for the poor image quality; I was using my handphone camera)

Books by E.W. Kenyon:

Books by Kenneth Hagin:

Books by Kenneth Hagin Jr.:

Books by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland:

A book by Kathryn Kuhlman:

Books by Joyce Meyer:

Joel Osteen's latest book Becoming a Better You:

Don Miller's book Blue Like Jazz:

A book on the Roman Catholic practice of Breath Prayers:

With such books being sold by New Creation bookstore, I do not see how NCC can spin the fact that they are promoting the heresy of the Word-faith cult, even to the source writings of E.W. Kenyon and Kenneth Hagin, not to mention Joel Osteen's self help book. In my opinion, they can protest all they want that they are not a Word-faith church (if they do protest), but the selling of such books show that they ARE indeed Word-faith. It is also interesting to see Emergent writer Don Miller's book Blue like Jazz being sold there, plus one book (at least) promoting the unbiblical mystical practice of Breath Prayers.

Oh, and just btw, the CDs of Joseph Prince's teachings are really expensive — SGD30 for two DVDs or so! I wonder just how many hundred percentage points of profit does Prince make on the sale of just one DVD set.

Poll: Gender-neutral 'bible translations'

gender neutral bible versions

It has been some time since the last poll (and there wouldn't be a new one for some time). Anyway, the poll question was "What is your view on 'Gender neutral' or inclusivist Bibles ie the TNIV?" The response is indeed good and shows that at least most of the readership are not for such "versions" of the Bible, with 37/65 or 56% stating that it panders to the feminist agenda and anther 9/65 or 13% stating that such a translation is less literal. The 6 people that stated that such versions would be better translations entered the poll early and are probably the anything-goes group who are supporters of the theory of Dynamic Equivalence which I was interacting with then. All in all, a good poll.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Satire: MDA on sedition trial

In a twist to my usual style, I will use satire to make my point about what I think about the opening of the trial of the couple charged for sedition for distributing "seditious" tracts.

A news report you will probably never see in the Straits Times (Any use of real names is accidental and coincidental):

The chairman of the MDA [Media Development Authority], together with two other top-ranking officers who approved the showing of the Da Vinci Code movie, went on trial on Thursday.

Col. Tan Kai Hsiang, 54, the chairman of the MDA, together with Dr. Goh See Tet, 46, and Dr. Justin Lee, 50, are facing two counts of sedition each.

They are accused of giving the green light to the showing of the Da Vinci Code movie in Singapore, as well as ignoring numerous complaints about the blasphemous contents of the show.

The film is said 'to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between Christians and non-Christians in Singapore' according to the charge.

Mr John Brown, a small-time Christian businessman, told the court that he noticed the movie theaters in Singapore showing and promoting the film.

After watching the movie, he felt angry and very offended.

He said the movie was 'somewhat condemning' of his religion.

There were also other offensive references to Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, and to the Church.

At the start of cross-examination, the MDA's chief lawyer, Mr Silva de Carlo, defended his client's decision as the expression of free speech and done all in good fun.

Mr Brown, who had made a police report that day (Jan 9), countered that such did not give the MDA the right to allow the screening of a extremely blasphemous film.

'The behavior of the recalcitrant MDA in this episode is simply reprehensible. The government has previously chosen not to reproduce the Muhammad cartoons because of the offence they cause to Muslims, yet in this instance the MDA has decided to offend Christians by allowing the public screening of this blasphemous film', he said. 'Especially in light of the recent sedition charge against a Christian couple for distributing Chick tracts, there is simply no excuse and precedent for such inflammatory actions. That couple has offended only one person, and possibly three others, but this movie is an affront to the entire Christian population in Singapore which number in the tens to hundreds of thousands. The chairman and officers of the MDA should immediately issue a public apology to Christians and resign from their positions.'

When asked, spokesmen from the MDA declined comment, except to say they are consulting the ISD [Internal Security Department] for further advice. The trial continues.

[HT: Word and Verse]

Mark on Ponter and Byrne's misquote of Ursinus

Mark aka Tartanarmy has done an excellent job here checking out the primary sources for Ponter's and Byrne's quotation of Ursinus, which I have interacted with a bit here quite sometime ago, showing some of the distortions of primary source texts by Ponter and Byrne in service to their hobby horse of Neo-Amyraldism.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

James White's response to the latest attack article by David Allen
PLUS Tony Byrne's sinful crusade

Here is a clip from Dr. White's latest Dividing Line broadcast, in which he refutes the false allegations made by David Allen about him being a hyper-Calvinist.

In other news, Neo-Amyraldian schismatic Tony Byrne continues his ill-founded and sinful crusade against Dr. White. His action in attempting to tell Phil R. Johnson what Phil actually meant in his own written article (check out the meta in the post by Phil here) has backfired on him and destroyed whatever credibility he has (If you cannot even allow a living author to interpret his own words, why should anyone believe you can interpret the words of departed saints in any meaningful fashion?). As it is, Byrne's actions in this entire fiasco in siding and aiding the militant Arminians has proven that he is no friend of Reformed theology, protestants notwithstanding. He can call himself a "Dordtian Calvinist" or whatever labels he fancies, but his behavior and Amyraldian beliefs show he is a crypto-Arminian; a Trojan horse for Arminian theology. It is written: You shall recognize them by their fruits (Mt. 7:20), so with such fruits by Byrne, can anyone continue to believe he truly is a Calvinist?

It is time to call a spade a spade. Byrne is bearing false witness against both Dr. James White and Dr. Robert Reymond, and is thus sinning against them and against God. Both Dr. White and Dr. Reymond are seminary professors and respected leaders in the Church, and should be respected at the very least. What makes it even more deplorable is that Byrne does not interact with the Word of God in this matter at all, attacking others based upon the writings and interpretations of theologians (or rather how he "understands" their writings acontextually). It is time to denounce Bryne as a schismatic and call him to repentance for his despicable behavior, failing which to treat him as the schismatic that he is.

Addenum: Timmy Brister has a timeline of the events that has been occuring in this latest controversy here. [HT: The Crumbs which fall]

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Sermon: The Devastating Consequences of Modern Preaching

One of Dr. White's sessions at the Battle for the Truth conference in Durham, North Carolina, 21st Nov 20008.

Monday, December 01, 2008

John Calvin on Christ meriting salvation for His people

I have recently finished reading the book by Michael Horton entitled God of promise: Introducing Covenantal Theology, which I think is a good primer on Covenant Theology, being much more readable and biblical than O. Palmer Robertson's The Christ of the Covenants. In the process of reading the book, I came across an interesting paragraph quoting John Calvin on the Covenant of Works. Since I have Calvin's Institutes with me, albeit by a different translator and publishing, I can check the two cross-references for the quotes in context. What I have found has indeed confirmed Horton's points, and pours cold water on those who claim to be Reformed in the tradition of John Calvin yet deny the Covenant of Works in any form.

On pages 87-88, discussing the biblical proofs for the Covenant of Works,

With the covenant of redemption, in which the Son is made the mediator of the elect, and the covenant of creation (or works), under which terms the Son, acting as mediator and second Adam, won eternal life under the law, "earning eternal life has forever been taken out of his [man's] hands.... On this point, the entire Reformation, both Lutheran and Calvinist, took exception to Rome, which failed to appreciate this fundamental truth."[20] In other words, the covenant of redemption contrasts the salvation of the elect to Christ's meritorious fulfillment of personal obedience to God's law.

Although this view of things is hardly representative of a fully developed federal theology, Calvin does assert the main features of the covenant of creation.[21] In a number of places, Calvin refers to Christ's having "merited' salvation for his people by his obedience, once more emphasizing the satisfaction of law as a necessary prerequisite for everlasting life.[22]

Footnote 21 reads thus:

21. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 1.15.8: "In this integrity man by free will had the power, if he so willed, to attain eternal life. Here it would be out of place to raise the question of God's secret predestination because our present subject is not what can happen or not, but what man's nature was like. Therefore Adam could have stood if he wished, seeing that he fell solely by his own will.... Yet his choice of good and evil was free, and not that alone, but the highest rectitude was in his mind and will, and all the organic parts were rightly composed to obedience, until in destroying himself he corrupted his own blessings. Hence the great obscurity faced by the philosophers, for they were seeking in a ruin for a building, and in scattered fragments for a well-knit structure. They held this principle, that man would not be a rational animal unless he possessed free choice of good and evil; also it entered their minds that the distinction between virtues and vices would be obliterated if man did not order his life by his own planning. Well reasoned so far — if there had been no change in man. But since this was hidden from them, it is no wonder they mix up heaven and earth!"

Here is the text from the same section in the translation by Henry Beveridge (Wm. B. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI, USA, 1989)

... In this upright state, man possessed freedom of will, by which, if he chose, he was able to obtain eternal life. It were here unseasonable to introduce the question concerning the secret predestination of God, because we are not considering what might or might not happen, but what the nature of man truly was. Adam, therefore, might have stood if he chose, since it was only by his own will that he fell; [but it was, because his will was pliable in either direction, and he has not received constancy to persevere, that he so easily fell.] Still he has a free choice of good and evil, and not merely so, but in the mind and will there was the highest rectitude, and all the organic parts were duly framed to obedience, until man corrupted its god properties, and destroyed himself. Hence the great darkness of philosophers who have looked for a complete building in a ruin, and fit arrangement in disorder. The principle they set out with was, that man could not be a rational animal unless he has a free choice of good and evil. They also imagined that the distinction between virtue and vice was destroyed, if man did not of his own free counsel arrange his life. So far well, had there been no change in man. This being unknown to them, it is not surprising that they throw everything into confusion.

(Text in square brackets comprise the section marked out by ellipses in the previous quote)

Footnote 22 reads thus:

22. Ibid. "By his obedience, however, Christ truly acquired and merited grace for us with his Father. Many passages of Scripture surely and firmly attest this. I take it commonplace that if Christ made satisfaction for sins, if he paid the penalty owed to us, if he appeased God by his own obedience ... then he acquired salvation for us by his righteousness, which is tantamount to deserving it... Hence it is absurd to set Christ's merit against God's mercy" (2.17.1,3, emphasis added).

And here is the Henry Beveridge's version of the quoted section:

That Christ by his obedience, truly purchased and merited grace for us with the Father, is accurately inferred from several passages of Scripture. I take it for granted, that if Christ satisfied for our sins, if he paid the penalty due by us, if he appeased God by his obedience; [in fine, if he suffered the just for the unjust], salvation was obtained to us by his righteousness; which is just equivalent to meriting. ... Hence the merit of Christ is inconsiderately opposed to the mercy of God.

(Text in square brackets comprise the section marked out by ellipses in the previous quote)

As it can be seen, John Calvin teaches that prelapsarian man — Adam, by nature have a free will to choose good or evil. The focus is that it is such by nature, although in fact it is not independent of the environment and most definitely of God. But because of his nature, therefore in terms of volition, Man is neutral with regards to sin and temptation (ie able to sin and able not to sin), although he is ontologically righteous.

The second footnote show here completes the seed form of the Covenant of Works in Calvin's theology. Horton earlier has quoted Geehardus Vos on page 88 of his book as seeing a connection between the Covenant of redemption and the Covenant of Creation (Works), in that the active obedience of Christ has its foundation in Christ fulfilling that aspect of the Covenant of Works on our behalf as our second Adam. In this section of Calvin's Institutes which has its chapter titled "Christ rightly and properly said to have merited grace and salvation for us", Calvin shows why it is proper to use the word merit when it comes to Christ's active obedience towards God. Earlier on in the first section (2.17.1) which was not quoted by Horton, Calvin proved that there is nothing wrong with using the word "merit' even though it may seem to make God a debtor (which God can never be). As Calvin says,

1. ... I admit that were Christ opposed simply, and by himself, to the justice of God, there could be no room for merit, because there cannot be found in man a worth which could make God a debtor; nay, as Augustine says most truly, "The Savior, the man Christ Jesus, is himself the brightest illustration of predestination and grace: his character as such was not procured by any antecedent merit of works or faith in his human nature. Tell me, I pray, how that man, when assumed into unity of person by the Word, co-eternal with the Father, as the only begotten Son of God, could merit this." — "Let the fountain of grace, therefore, appear in our head, whence, according to the measure of each, it is diffused through all his members. Every man, from the commencement of his faith, becomes a Christian, by the same grace by which that man from his formation became Christ." Again, in another passage, "There is not a more striking example of predestination than the Mediator himself. He who made him (without any antecedent merit in his will) of the seed of David a righteous man never to be unrighteous, also converts those who are members of his head from unrighteous into righteous," and so forth. Therefore, when we treat of the merit of Christ, we do not place the beginning in him, but we ascend to the ordination of God as the primary cause, because of his mere good pleasure he appointed a Mediator to purchase salvation for us. Hence the merit of Christ is inconsiderately opposed to the mercy of God. It is a well-known rule, that principal and accessory are not incompatible, and therefore there is nothing to prevent the justification of man from being the gratuitous result of the mere mercy of God, and, at the same time, to prevent the merit of Christ from intervening in subordination to this mercy. ...

Therefore such merit is not achieved by getting "plus points" as it were from God which is impossible, but as an expression of covenantal fulfilment/blessings. Christ's active obedience therefore gives us the righteousness we need to stand before God. The type in Adam was therefore required to similarly "merit" active righteousness by choosing good (eating of the tree of life) over evil (eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil).

Note: Just in case anyone was wondering, this is NOT an attempt to prove the Covenant of Works or any other doctrine from the Scriptures. This is rather an exercise in historical theology.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Kong Hee: Growing the "Church" without the Gospel?

This is surely an *interesting* article on Kong Hee and Phil Pringle's (of Christian City Church in Australia) lauding of Kong Hee's ministry. I guess the article speaks volumes.

"the key to church growth lies in the importance of the leadership of the pastor"

So "pastors" are the key to grow the church now? I think God will surely not agree.

And I [Jesus] tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Mt. 16:18)

And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47b)

(Bold added)

Not to mention the reference to futurist Erwin McManus. I sure would *like* to see what emerges when you blend the Word-faith, New Apostolic and Emerging Church paradigms together. God help us all.

Do read also Huaizhi's excellent thoughts on this issue at his blog here.

[HT: Romans 11:36]

Minority Report of 15th General Assembly of the OPC

Here are the [majority and minority] reports of the 15th General Assembly of the OPC in 1948 with regards to the issue of the "Free Offer" or rather Well-meant offer of the Gospel. Thanks to Gordon Clark's allies, the doctrine of the Well-meant offer was not established as THE Orthodox position in the OPC, at least back then, and here is the minority report of that General Assembly, which should be very pertinent especially in light of the attacks of the Neo-Amyraldian Ponterites. As it has been said, those who refuse to learn form history will repeat it.


On the free offer of the gospel, the undersigned find themselves unable to concur with the report of the committee for the following two reasons:

  1. It is not clear that the exegesis and the conclusions drawn have been conclusively substantiated.
  2. The standpoint of the report goes beyond the expressions adopted by the Reformed churches in the past, and if it should become the viewpoint of our church, might result in the erection of barriers between our church and certain other Calvinistic groups.

What has been the real point in dispute in connection with the free offer of the gospel? It is not the fact that "God freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation through Jesus Christ" (Conf. of Faith, Chapt. on God's Covenant with Man). It is not the gospel offer as God's revealed Word that is in dispute, but the element within the Divine will that prompts and grounds the offer. Nor is it even in dispute that God desires the salvation of sinners and proclaims to sinners, viewed simply as such, his desire for their salvation. The point or rather points in dispute appear to be the following:

  1. Whether the term "desire" is employed after the manner of man or whether it is to be understood literally as implying an emotion in God.
  2. Whether God desires the repentance and salvation of the reprobate sinner qua reprobate or whether God's desire refers to the connection between the repentance and the salvation of sinners, qua sinners.
  3. Whether God's desires are to be views by us as standing unreconciled with his decrees.

(1) This discussion of emotion is oriented not to the committee's report (which refrains from assertions concerning desire as emotion), but to the passage in the Complaint (p. 13, col. 2). That the term desire is employed after the manner of men and is not to be understood literally as implying an emotion in God may appear in view of the following Scriptural principles:

(a) There is frequent employment of anthropopathic language in Scripture, in which grief, anger, jealously, curiosity, and repentance are ascribed to Deity. Such Scripture passages teach that God acts in a manner which we are taught to view as corresponding to the manner of action of human beings moved by such passions. From these Scriptures the presence of such passions in God cannot be inferred.

(b) Elements in human desire unsuited to the perfection of God can be mentioned. Desire suggests a want or lack in the one who desires which can be fulfilled only by the gratifying of the desire. This is incompatible with the self-sufficiency of God. Desire is something weaker than the firm determination of the will. No such weak wishing can properly be ascribed to God whose will is firmly fixed and fixes all things. God has not a will that can be frustrated as well as one that cannot be.

(c) The particular passages of Scripture alleged to support frustratable desires no more prove desire as an emotion or passion in God than the assertion "it repented God..." etc. proves a real change of his mind, or that God actually desired to know that the wickedness of Sodom was as it had been represented to him.

This position, far from being rationalism, as the Complaint alleges, is in accord with the teaching of the Confession of Faith that God is without parts and passions. The eminent Westminster divine, Samuel Rutherford, says in connection with representations of distress, grief or sorrow in God: "'Tis a speech borrowed from man for there is no disappointing of the Lord's will, nor sorrow in him for the not-fulfilling of it" (Christ Dying..., p. 511). In connection with Ps. LXXXI:13, Rutherford remarks, "Which wish, as relating to disobeying Israel, is a figure, or metaphor borrowed from men, but otherwise sheweth how acceptable the duty is to God how obligating to the creature" (ibid, p. 513; note Complaint, p. 13, col. 2).

(2) That God desires the salvation of the reprobate viewed as reprobate is an absurdity not sanctioned by the language of Scripture nor precedented by the language of Reformed theologians. Two points are here involved:

(a) Does God desire the salvation of the reprobate, or is the object of his desire not rather the connection between the compliance of sinners with the terms of the gospel offer and their salvation? The Ezekiel passages make express the divine approbation of the connection between repentance and salvation. Samuel Rutherford, in reference to passages of gospel invitation, speaks of "A vehemence, and a serious and unfeigned ardency of desire, that we do what is our duty; and the concatenation of these two, extremely desired of God, our coming to Christ, and our salvation: This moral connection between faith and salvation, is desired of God with his will of approbation, complacency, and moral liking, without all dissimulation, most unfeignedly. And whereas Arminians say, we make counterfeit, feigned and hypocritical desires in God; they calumniate and cavil egregiously, as their custom is" (ibid, p. 511). Of God revealed will in the gospel offer Rutherford asserts: "it formally is the expression only of the good liking of that moral and duty-conjunction between the obedience of the creature and the reward; but holdeth forth not any intention or decree of God, that any shall obey, or that all shall obey, or that none at all should obey" (ibid, p. 512). To say absolutely, God desires the repentance and salvation of the reprobate is to go beyond the mode of expression. To say God desires the salvation of the penitent sinner, God desires that if any sinner repent, he be saved, is to give expression to the meaning of the Ezekiel and similar passages as understood by Rutherford. The gospel offer, in other words, is conditional or hypothetical and as such it is universal. This leads to a consideration of the second point:

(b) Does God desire the salvation of the reprobate, or is it the salvation of sinners as sinners which Scripture represents to be the object of the Divine approbation and complacency? Surely it is the latter. Nowhere in the invitations, exhortations, commands, expostulations or offers in Scripture are the reprobate singled out and made the objects of special Divine concern. Sinners without distinction or discrimination are invited in the external call of the Word.

(3) When God's free offer of salvation to sinners is understood in these terms, while an amazing and even inscrutable diversity within the Divine will is brought to light, it cannot be said that there is a logical conflict between the gospel and reprobation (Complaint, p. 13, col. 3), or that the two should be permitted to stand unreconciled alongside each other. It is not in accord with Reformed theology to assert or suggest that the Lord's will is irrational, even to the apprehension of the regenerate man. Rutherford argues against the Arminians that their view of the desires of God "maketh the Lord's desires irrational, unwise, and frustraneous" (p. 512). The denial of an unreconciled contradiction for our minds between God's desires and decrees is not to be identified with the denial of mystery in the will and ways of God or with the adoption of rationalism.

Wm. Young
Floyd E. Hamilton

A former Calvinist "saved out of Calvinism"?

Urgh!

No exegesis, all experience. Notice also how the person giving his "testimony" said he was not born again while he was a Calvinist, which means he is saying he was not saved UNTIL he realized that God loves all Man! So Calvinism is not only unbiblical, it is anti-Christian? I can always counter with my own experience — that God is more real to me now compared to when I was an Arminian, so what does his or mine experience prove with regards to truth? Nothing!

Note also how the response by the J316 speaker was something along the lines of "we need to come together as baptists". I think that reminded of an episode during Spurgoen's time, called the Downgrade Controversy. Oh well...

[HT: Aomin.org]

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Tony Byrne show: Crusade against James White

Well, the charge of James White being a hyper-Calvinist doesn't seem to go away. The Neo-Amyraldian Tony Byrne and fellow Ponterites are intent on smearing both Dr. White and even Dr. Robert Reymond as being *gasps* Hyper-Calvinists!

This time around, however, Byrne's efforts may have backfired. He utilizes Phil R. Johnson's Primer on Hyper-Calvinism against Dr. James White, and Phil has responded to deny that David Allen and Tony Byrne have properly represented the teachings of his own article on this topic. Unlike the many saints of old who have passed on including John Calvin etc, Phil Johnson can respond to any misrepresentation of his position which he has indeed done. It would truly be interesting to see how this works out though, since Byrne is trying to force Phil's hand on this topic and Phil is not taking the bait. After all, IMO it is rather hard trying to defend both high Calvinism and Neo-Amyraldians such as John Murray and Iain Murray. As an example, go read the article by John Murray and Ned B. Stonehouse entitled the Free Offer of the Gospel here, and you will see why any balancing act is very tough, if possible at all.

Still further, it is necessary to point out that such "desire" on the part of God for the salvation of all must never be conceived of as desire to such an end apart from the means to that end. It is not desire of their salvation irrespective of repentance and faith. Such would be inconceivable. For it would mean, as Calvin says, "to renounce the difference between good and evil." If it is proper to say that God desires the salvation of the reprobate, then he desires such by their repentance. And so it amounts to the same thing to say "God desires their salvation" as to say "He desires their repentance." This is the same as saying that he desires them to comply with the indispensable conditions of salvation. It would be impossible to say the one without implying the other.

...

(3) Our Lord himself in the exercise of his messianic prerogative provides us with an example of the foregoing as it applies to the matter of salvation. He says expressly that he willed the bestowal of his saving and protecting grace upon those whom neither the Father nor he decreed thus to save and protect.

[John Murray and Ned B. Stonehouse, The Free Offer of the Gospel, n.d.. Bold added)

I honestly don't know how much spin you can put on those particular statements - I am not holding my breath for that to happen.

Dr. White has somewhat responded to the issue in his blog articles here and here. Interesting analogy here: Byrne and fellow Ponterites are "one-string banjo players who seem to have little else to do in life but to pluck their very limited number of notes".

Mark aka TartanArmy has commented on this issue also especially in light of his history with Tony Byrne and Gene Cook of Unchained Radio.

Book Review: All Old Testament Laws Cancelled by Greg Gibson

Some time ago, I was contacted to see if I wanted to review a upcoming book by Greg Gibson entitled All Old Testaments Laws Cancelled. It was an interested topic for sure, and from the excerpts available seemed like a good read from the perspective of New Covenantal Theology, so I agreed to do so. The shipping duration was rather long, but I finally got to reading it and then thinking over how to formulate the review before penning it down. Fresh off from my series-to-article on Law and Gospel, I was in the process of moving on to a few books on Covenant Theology, so the timing could not have been more perfect.

Anyway, after prayer and reading of the Scriptures, here is my review of the book, which I have emailed back to them. Thanks Greg and JesusSaidFollowMe Publishing for giving me the privilege to review your book.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Response to Mike regarding the flawed methodology of Dynamic Equivalence

Over at the meta of the post on Extreme Theology about The Voice perversion, a fellow by the name of Mike left a rather lengthy reply to my attack on the Dynamic Equivalence (D-E) translational methodology. In this post, I would like to interact with what he has said about the topic and defend my position on this issue. Mike said:

Fact #1: There is a difference between translation and interpretation.

Fact #2: All Dynamic Equivalence (D-E) translations distort God's Word in some way or another

Fact #3: The Voice is the logical conclusion of the D-E philosophy as worked out through the interpretative matrix of the Emergents.

Fact #4: All that the D-E proponents can say is that they disagree with the interpretation and think that it is in error, but their position commits them to arguing about conceptual error without having anything to say about translational error.

As a linguist who has studied Greek, language in general, communication theory, translation theory, semantics, and meaning, I must say that these "facts" reflect very little knowledge of what it takes to transfer the meaning of the original text into another language. I am also not any sort of postmodernist or emergent anything. I am a translator. I do not care for the voice - I think its crap, but that doesn't give anyone the excuse to think that dynamic (which is the wrong word, the correct one is "functional") translation distort scripture. Please forgive me for saying so, but that's show a complete lack of awareness of how language and meaning function.

Fact #1 is false. Any change from one language to another requires interpretation - ANY CHANGE. When you translate even a single word someone always interprets. Since we're in John, let's look at λόγος (logos). What does it mean? One might say that it means word. That's it, right? No interpretation there. Not a chance. To accurately translate the word from Greek, we must look at its usage. Let's see what the lexicon says about λόγος.

Louw & Nida suggest there are ten different senses of the word:

  1. "that which has been stated or said, with primary focus upon the content of the communication—‘word, saying, message, statement, question.’"
  2. "the act of speaking—speaking, speech.’"
  3. " the content of what is preached about Christ or about the good news—‘what is preached, gospel.’"
  4. "a relatively formal and systematic treatment of a subject—‘treatise, book, account.’"
  5. "a title for Jesus in the Gospel of John as a reference to the content of God’s revelation and as a verbal echo of the use of the verbs meaning ‘to speak’ in Genesis 1 and in many utterances of the prophets—‘Word, Message.’"
  6. "a record of assets and liabilities—‘account, credit, debit.’"
  7. "a reason, with the implication of some verbal formulation—‘reason.’"
  8. "a happening to which one may refer—‘matter, thing, event.’"
  9. "that which is thought to be true but is not necessarily so—‘appearance, to seem to be.’"
  10. "a formal declaration of charges against someone in court—‘charges, accusation, declaration of wrongdoing.’"

Now when a translator chooses one of these definitions to apply to a given instance of the word in the text, he makes an interpretive decision. "Now wait a moment," you say, "Look at definition #5." I'm not making an interpretation, the lexicon says what John means. Now that's true, if a translator follows that route and simply takes the definition that the lexicon uses, he's not making an interpretation. But someone still is. And in this case, its the the compile of the lexicon. If the translator goes that route, then he's simply allowing the authors who dug through the usage of λόγος to make the decision for them. That's still interpretation. Its just someone else's. Let's hope they got it right - for the sake of the people using your translation.

Fact #2 is false. Or I should say, its too limited. ALL translation of any kind distorts the source text. Our Greek commenter in the comment above could surely tell you that even the ESV fails to convey all the meaning of the original text - And I'd being will to say that even translations that update the New Testament into Modern Greek loose some of the original meaning. That's because language is culturally conditioned. There is not good way to translate the Greek phrase typically rendered "casting lots" into English because we don't have "lots." The closest cultural equivalent is "drawing straws." But translating such phrases that way would misrepresent the cultural activity. Or consider an example from the ESV - Psalm 1:1

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners..."

In English the phrase, "stand in the way of sinners" conveys the idea of blocking someone from going somewhere or doing something. We stand in people's way as a preventative measure. But in Hebrew, the idiom means the exact opposite. To stand in the way of someone in Hebrew means to follow along after them, doing what they do. Now you might say that someone whose been in the church will be taught that. But why should the meaning of a translation have to be explained or taught? If you have to explain the meaning after you translate, doesn't that destroy the point? Isn't the purpose of translation to convey meaning? All translations distort meaning.

Fact #3 is false. The claim that The Voice is the logical conclusion of Dymanic translation simply proves that the person wrote the "fact" doesn't truly know what Dymanic translation is. And in fact, that term "dynamic" itself hasn't been used by translators since the 80's because the term caused so much misunderstanding for those who weren't professional translators. The correct term is "Functional Equivalence Translation." And this method (not philosophy) of translation is based on the work of hundreds of translations in hundreds of languages around the world. Here are the fundamental principles of Functional Equivalence translation theory:

  1. Each language possesses certain distinctive characteristics which give it a special character, e.g. word-building capacities, unique patterns of phrase order, techniques for linking clauses into sentences, markers of discourse, and special discourse types of poetry, proverbs, and song. Each language is rich in vocabulary for areas of cultural focus and the specialties of people.
  2. To communicate effectively [which, I hope everyone can agree is the goal of translation] one must respect the genius [see #1] of each language.
  3. Anything that can be said in one language can be said in another, unless the form is an essential element of the message. For the average person the potential and actual equivalence of languages is perhaps the most debated point about translation. He does not see how people who have no snow can understand a passage in the Bible that speaks about "white as snow." If the people do not know snow, how can they have a word for it? And if they do not have a word for it, then how can the Bible be translated? ... The point is that snow as an object [grammatically speaking] is not crucial to the message.
  4. To preserve the content of the message the form must be changed. This is quite apparent when we look at words λόγος "word, message, etc." No English word looks or sounds like that Greek word and has the same meaning. The form of words must be changed. It follows quite easily that the form of phrases much be changed and that the form of clause must be changed. Translators must as the question, how do native speakers of the target language express this meaning. What if a language doesn't have participles? Does it become harder to translate Paul's letters which are full of them? No, because the meanings expressed by participles are expressed by other forms - the forms must be changed.
  5. The languages of the Bible are subjct to the same limitations as any other natural languages. Greek and Hebrew are sipmly languages, like any other languages, and they are to be understood and analyzed in the same manner as other ancient tongues. They both possess extraordinarily effective means of communication, even as all languages do.
  6. The writers of the Biblical books expected to be understood (even the author of Psalm 1:1).
  7. The translator must attempt to reproduce the meaning of a passage as understood by the writer. This is true regardless of the form of the target translation. And this foundational principle of Functional translation theory make makes it impossible for a translation such as The Voice to be the logical conclusion of the D-E philosophy - regardless of who is working it out emergent or otherwise the Voice cannot be a Functional translation if it fails to convey the passage as understood by the writer.

All these points were directly taken (with commentary) from Eugene A. Nida and Charles R. Taber's The Theory and Practice of Translation (Leiden: Brill, 1974), 3-8.

Fact #4 is false I find it interesting that this claim is made when the writer show so little awareness of what Functional Equivalence translation truly. The fact is, the F-E translation process, as performed by such international translation organizations such as Wycliffe/SIL, the United Bible Society, Pioneers Bible Translators etc., have multiple error checking sessions where translations are checked and checked for translation errors for every single book of scripture. This results in probably hundreds of translation error check even for s single New Testament, much less the Old!

Get your facts straight about F-E translation before you talk about it. Go reading something written about translation from someone who studied linguistics, translation, and communication.

Before I begin my response, I will freely admit that in terms of academic qualifications and competence in the original languages, I am not as good as Mike. I am currently in the process of learning Greek and my knowledge of Hebrew is non-existent. Yet, regardless of the topic, all doctrine must be logically coherent and consistent with the rest of the doctrines of Scripture, and it is my opinion that the translational methodology called Dynamic Equivalence by itself is flawed because it undermines the doctrine of the authority and essence of Scripture, which I will hopefully show as we go along.

The first issue to deal with is Mike's insistence on using the term "Functional Equivalence" as opposed to "Dynamic Equivalence", since the methodology embraced by the D-E/F-E proponents claims to translate the funtional meaning of the original languages into the text in the receptor language. The reason why I refuse to do so is because I do not agree that such a methodology does actually fulfil its goal. Therefore, while they claim that they are translating the functional meaning of the text, I disagree that their methodology does in fact translate the functional meaning of the text. Since I disagree that their methodology can indeed achieve their goal, I would rather use their previous nomenclature of "Dynamic Equivalence" which I think is a better description of what they are actually doing.

Without further to do, let's logically analyze Mike's points, and then I will wrap up the issue with the theological aspect of the issue.

Fact #1 is false. Any change from one language to another requires interpretation - ANY CHANGE.

It seems that Mike has not realized yet the difference between lexical interpretation and conceptual interpretation. Of course, any change from one language to another requires interpretation. That is NOT the issue I was driving at. Lexical interpretation requires that each individual word or phrase is translated from one language to another and string together according to the grammer of the receptor language in a manner that parallels the structure of the source language as closely as possible. In other words, lexical interpretation tries not to change or alter any of the words/ expressions in the sentence being translated. Conceptual interpretation however tries to make theological/ philosophical sense out of the sentence and renders it in such a way that the essence of the sentence shines through. THAT is the issue, not whether any type of interpretation is required at all.

Mike follows through with a look at the translated meaning of the word logos in John 1:1. Before touching on the difficult-to-translate words however, can it be agreed firstly that simple words are to be translated literally? The issue here is this: Is Mike trying to use difficult-to-translate Greek words and phrases as a case study in order to make a conceptual translation the norm, instead of making such cases an exception? The Greek word logos after all is a word utilized in Greek philosophy among others, and thus is NOT an easy word to translate. But what about relatively simple words like kai, huios or machaira?

So even if (not that it will be) some form of conceptual interpretation is required to translate the Greek word logos, that does not prove Mike's point at all. Our contention has always been that as little conceptual translation should be done at all times, and thus pointing to exceptions in order to invalidate the norm is plainly in error.

As a bilinguist myself (English and Chinese), and having learned a bit of Japanese and German before, let me just say that there is indeed a world of difference between lexical translation and conceptual translation. Just as an example using Chinese (a language very different from any of the Western languages in many ways), here is how you can translate the following phrase from the Nicene Creed:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, ...

Translated lexically:

和一主耶稣基督,上帝的独生儿子,全部星球之前而上帝所生,神之神,光之光,实在的神之实在的神,受生,非创造出来的,...

Translated conceptually:

和独一主耶稣基督,上帝的独生子,在万世之前为天父所生,出于神而为神,出于光而为光,出于真神而为真神,是受生,乃非被造,...

For those who know Chinese, the first sentence should sound strange but it is still perfectly understandable. Unfortunately, I do not know any other language good enough to do translation in such a manner so I will not attempt any example for those who cannot read Chinese; you just have to take my word for it that the first example IS indeed what is considered an essentially literal translation from the English (not Latin) which utilizes only lexical translation. Note also that the fact that the languages (English and Chinese) are very much dissimilar does not mean that lexical translation is NOT possible.

So let us look at Mike's argument regarding logos (λόγος):

Since we're in John, let's look at λόγος (logos). What does it mean? One might say that it means word. That's it, right? No interpretation there. Not a chance. To accurately translate the word from Greek, we must look at its usage. Let's see what the lexicon says about λόγος.

Louw & Nida suggest there are ten different senses of the word:

  1. "that which has been stated or said, with primary focus upon the content of the communication—‘word, saying, message, statement, question.’"
  2. "the act of speaking—speaking, speech.’"
  3. " the content of what is preached about Christ or about the good news—‘what is preached, gospel.’"
  4. "a relatively formal and systematic treatment of a subject—‘treatise, book, account.’"
  5. "a title for Jesus in the Gospel of John as a reference to the content of God’s revelation and as a verbal echo of the use of the verbs meaning ‘to speak’ in Genesis 1 and in many utterances of the prophets—‘Word, Message.’"
  6. "a record of assets and liabilities—‘account, credit, debit.’"
  7. "a reason, with the implication of some verbal formulation—‘reason.’"
  8. "a happening to which one may refer—‘matter, thing, event.’"
  9. "that which is thought to be true but is not necessarily so—‘appearance, to seem to be.’"
  10. "a formal declaration of charges against someone in court—‘charges, accusation, declaration of wrongdoing.’"

Now when a translator chooses one of these definitions to apply to a given instance of the word in the text, he makes an interpretive decision.

As I have mentioned earlier, the word logos is a difficult-to-translate word. Dr. Gordon H. Clark has written an entire book primarily focused on it especially as it is used in the first chapter of John, in the book The Johannine Logos, 2nd Ed. (Trinity Foundation, Jefferson, Maryland, USA, 1989). So pointing out that there are difficult Greek words to translate which thus require interpretation does not mean that requiring interpretation is the norm.

However, Mike's example fails to even prove an exception to the rule since the word logos is only one Greek word, and thus the interpretation needed here is restricted to lexical interpretation. Whatever the interpretation of the word logos, the translated verse in any good English translation would read: "In the beginning was the ____, and the ____ was with God, and the ____ was God". Mike's example is therefore refuted.

Fact #2 is false. Or I should say, its too limited. ALL translation of any kind distorts the source text. Our Greek commenter in the comment above could surely tell you that even the ESV fails to convey all the meaning of the original text

Mike here equivocates on the meaning of the word "distorts". "Distort" as a word implies that the translation alters the meaning in such a way that the new meaning is contary to the original meaning, not the losing of certain minute nuances and distinctions in the source langage which is a new definition of the word "distorts" Mike uses.

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, so I will raise this issue again. Upon what basis can D-E versions like the NLT remove the word "sword" (Greek machaira) found in Rom. 13:4? Doesn't this not distort the message of the verse if indeed Rom. 13:4 is suppsed to teach capital punishment and just war theory? We will re-visit this particular verse later.

There is not good way to translate the Greek phrase typically rendered "casting lots" into English because we don't have "lots."

Context! Context! Context! I remember understanding the meaning of "casting lots" when I was a young boy about 20 years or more ago without being taught what it was, and nobody I knew cast lots then. The problem is that few wants to read the passage in context first before trying to decipher and understand what any particular verse and phrase means.

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners..."

In English the phrase, "stand in the way of sinners" conveys the idea of blocking someone from going somewhere or doing something. We stand in people's way as a preventative measure. But in Hebrew, the idiom means the exact opposite. To stand in the way of someone in Hebrew means to follow along after them, doing what they do. Now you might say that someone whose been in the church will be taught that.

Again, Context is key! I do not particularly see why translations have to be done such that any lazy person can choose a verse at random and is supposed to be able to understand what it says without reading the context and anything else!

But why should the meaning of a translation have to be explained or taught? If you have to explain the meaning after you translate, doesn't that destroy the point? Isn't the purpose of translation to convey meaning? All translations distort meaning.

If the person refuses to learn for himself and wrestle with the text to get the answers, then that he has to be taught is his own fault. Intellectual laziness is not a virture, and I do not see why we have to ammend our translational philosophy to accomodate such lazy people! Just by the way, the ESV did not distort the meaning of the verse Ps. 1:1; it is the intellectually and spiritually lazy people who refuse to do their homework who eisegete the text.

Fact #3 is false. The claim that The Voice is the logical conclusion of Dymanic translation simply proves that the person wrote the "fact" doesn't truly know what Dymanic translation is. And in fact, that term "dynamic" itself hasn't been used by translators since the 80's because the term caused so much misunderstanding for those who weren't professional translators. The correct term is "Functional Equivalence Translation."

As I have mentioned, I refuse to call it Functional Equivalence because functionally equivalency is not truly acheived. Previously, I have raised the issue of Rom. 13:4, of which the verse reads as follows:

for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. (Rom. 13:4 — ESV)

The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong (Rom. 13:4 — NLT)

As it can be seen, the NLT omits the word "sword" in its translations, instead rendering it as the phrase "power to punish you". Now, the Greek word machaira which means sword is present in the Greek New Testament, so there is no good reason why it should be altered since there is no ambiguity over what machaira is.

Enters the D-E translational philosophy. According to their express goal, they desire to translate the verse in such a way that the verse in English should accurately and functionally represent the meaning in the receptor language. However, what if the idea of capital punishment for example is meant to be taught by Paul in Rom. 13:4? Has the D-E philosophy as practiced in the NLT succeeded in " reproduce the meaning of a passage as understood by the writer"? No, it doesn't and as such the functional equivalence is not present in the verse in translations such as the NLT.

It may be objected that capital punishment is not taught in Rom. 13:4 at all. However, that is only the objector's interpetation of Rom. 13:4, but others have interpreted the verse differently to teach capital punishment. So therefore, is this case of Rom. 13:4 a matter of one's personal theology driving one's translation? In their bid to translate so as to reproduce the meaning of a passage, doesn't the D-E philosophy give rise to the spector of the translators' views on various matters and doctrines to drive their translation, as it has apparently happened in Rom. 13:4 in the NLT? The D-E philosophy therefore facilitates placing one's theology before the text, instead of deriving one's theology from the text.

And this foundational principle of Functional translation theory make makes it impossible for a translation such as The Voice to be the logical conclusion of the D-E philosophy - regardless of who is working it out emergent or otherwise the Voice cannot be a Functional translation if it fails to convey the passage as understood by the writer.

Again, who or what determines what is the meaning as understood by the writer? The Emergents who penned this Bible certainly and truly believe that they are "reproducing the meaning of passages as understood by the writers"! Is this going to be a battle of competing authorities then? Or maybe something along the lines of "I know Greek and Hebrew better than you" type of argumentation?

Fact #4 is false I find it interesting that this claim is made when the writer show so little awareness of what Functional Equivalence translation truly.

Mike here does not seem to understand what is the difference between translation, lexical interpretation and conceptual interpretation and thus misses the entire point of fact number 4. Contrary to what he says, I do know about F-E translational philsophy, but I reject the name because it is a misleading term which does not deliver at times like the example of Rom. 13:4 seen above, and therefore I revert back to the proper description of D-E.

The fact is, the F-E translation process, as performed by such international translation organizations such as Wycliffe/SIL, the United Bible Society, Pioneers Bible Translators etc., have multiple error checking sessions where translations are checked and checked for translation errors for every single book of scripture. This results in probably hundreds of translation error check even for s single New Testament, much less the Old!

Nobody is saying that D-E translations are choke full of errors. Yet also, the appeal to committees is fallacious becuase numbers mean little when it comes to truth. It has been said that if you dislike what one scholar says, just find five scholars from the opposite camp to endorse your position or translational choice to counter the influnce of that one negative vote. In the making of such D-E versions, has there been any consultations from scholars of the essentially literal camp (not scholars who work on essentially literal translations)? Probably not! When a group of scholars who are already committed to the D-E philosophy engage in error-checking, the only thing that can be surmised is that that group of scholars share the same opinion on that one verse. Imagine if a group of Arminian/Semi-Pelagian D-E scholars come together to translate Rom. 9 for example? Instead of saying "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated", the translation would read "Jaboc I loved, but Esau I loved less"!

Now we go on to the theological aspect of this issue. I have mentioned in the beginning that the D-E philosophy undermines the doctrine of the authority and the essence of Scripture. How this is true is apparent especially when we look at the case of Rom. 13:4. How can the NLT version of Rom. 13:4 be trusted to teach all of God's truth when it has already narrowed the interpretative options of the text and omit the possibility of capital punishment from being considered as a legitimate interpretative option? If capital punishment is part of God's truth, then the NLT version of Rom. 13:4 has removed this aspect of God's truth from the text of Scripture. A truth removed from the all-suffucient truth of Scripture would render the text not sufficient since there is one truth missing, and therefore the essence of Scripture is undermined. It matters little actully in this discussion context whether capital punishment is truly taught but more of the D-E methodology resulting in interpretative options which may be biblical being removed. As stated, the text should drive our theology, not the other way around. D-E philosophy, sadly to say, allows Man to do the latter.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

More proof that D-E philosophy lends itself to the defense of the distortion of God's Word

Over at Extreme Theology discussing the horrible "translation" called The Voice, a commenter by the name of O.H. Lee wrote this:

As one competent in biblical language, this is the exact reason why I say: There's no such thing as bible translations — only bible commentaries.

The question then is, does the text accurately reflect the origional [sic] Greek? The answer here is clearly, no; especially how it takes massive liberties with the passive voice. I read whole sections of this. It's no longer a bible but propoganda [sic] for pop-Christianity, and an unfaithful commentary disembodied from the original text.

To which I replied,

O.H. Lee,

"As one competent in biblical language, this is the exact reason why I say: There's no such thing as bible translations — only bible commentaries."

Looks like you are one of the anything-goes crowd who do not know how to differentiate between lexical interpretation and conceptual interpretation, as Leland Ryken expounded in his article in the book Translating Truth by Grudem et al.

Fact #1: There is a difference between translation and interpretation.

Fact #2: All Dynamic Equivalence (D-E) translations distort God's Word in some way or another

Fact #3: The Voice is the logical conclusion of the D-E philosophy as worked out through the interpretative matrix of the Emergents.

Fact #4: All that the D-E proponents can say is that they disagree with the interpretation and think that it is in error, but their position commits them to arguing only about conceptual error without having anything to say about translational error.

As this exchange shows, the pernicious erroneous translational philosophy of Dynamic Equivalence undermines any serious attempt to condemn any so-called "translation" like The Voice, which is nothing but a distortion of God's Word. After all, the D-E proponents have opened the Pandora's Box for all and sundry distortions of Scripture, and their only weak protests to distortions such as The Voice is that they reject the interpretation of the Greek (and Hebrew) texts offered by the Emergents. But.... if all "translation" is actually interpretation, upon what basis can the D-E proponents reject the interpretation offered by the Emergents who penned The Voice? Oh yes, the argument will shift to the original languages. Somehow this sounds similar (not same) to the argument of Rome pre-Reformation as to why the Scriptures should not be translated to the vernacular. Instead of the official Magisterium now however, we have the "evangelical scholars" to tell us what IS and what IS NOT the correct interpretation of the text!

Update: See comment thread where O.H. Lee clarified his comment as one of cynicism.