Saturday, November 29, 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]

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.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Voice: The Emergent 'translation'...

If you think that the Message was bad, try this new "version" of the Bible done/promoted by the Emergents from Thomas Nelson publishers called The Voice.

About the Voice:

Chris Seay's vision for The Voice goes back 15 years to his early attempts to celebrate the beauty and truth of the biblical narrative. As western culture moved into what is now referred to as postmodernism, Chris struggled with a deep desire to preach the whole story of God. Much like the Hebrews at the time of the New Testament, emerging generations today connect with story rather than isolated facts. Too often, preaching is reduced to articulating truth statements somehow hidden in a complex, powerful, and redemptive story. Jesus taught through parables and metaphors; modern Christians have attempted to translate His teaching into a system of irrefutable fact statements and something seems to be getting lost in the translation.

Hence, a group of writers, poets, scholars, pastors, and storytellers have committed to work together to bring the Scriptures to life in a way that celebrates both beauty and truth.

The result is a retelling of the Scriptures: The Voice, not of words, but of meaning and experience.

The Voice is a fresh expression of the timeless narrative known as the Bible. Stories that were told to emerging generations of God's goodness by their grandparents and tribal leaders were recorded and assembled to form the Christian Scriptures. Too often the passion, grit, humor, and beauty has been lost in the translation process. The Voice seeks to recapture what was lost.

From these early explorations by Chris and others has come The Voice, a Scripture project to rediscover the story of the Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers and Ecclesia Bible Society have joined together to stimulate unique creative experiences and to develop Scripture products and resources to foster spiritual growth and theological exploration out of a heart for the mission of the church and worship of God.

They are making the Gospel of John version online for free so you can look at their creative distortion "interpretation" of the Word of God.

Here is a look at the "translation" of Jn. 1:1 from this new Emergent translation:

Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking. The Voice was and is God (John 1:1 -The Voice)

Chris Rosebrough on his radio show has critiqued this New Emergent Translation (beginning about 50 minutes into the show) and posted one comparison of John 1:9-14 on this blog here. I agree with Chris that this version "is a text that obscures the gospel, distorts Jesus substitutionary work on the cross, teaches Pelagianism and promotes a liberal form of works Righteousness".

Just as a side note, those who deny the ability of language to perfectly convey truth (Neo-Orthodoxy) have no epistemological basis for invalidating this "translation". After all, how can they state that this translation is bad since the words are irrelevant anyway? What matters is the essence of the message, and as long as the message in the text is "Christocentric" (whatever that means), they have no right to object to this "translation".

And as for the anything-goes Bible proponents, their theory of dynamic equivalence (D-E) has made this skubalon possible. All they can object to is that the message is distorted, but without fidelity to the text of Scripture, their objection is liable to be cast as being just a differing interpretation. In the end, they must go back to the original languages, and woe to those of them who do not know how to read the original languages of Greek and Hebrew. As I have said and will say again, the D-E theory in the end breeds eliteism in exegesis and [conceptual, not lexical] interpretation of Scripture.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Homo-bigots attacking Christians

Here is a video of the homo-fascists in San Francisco in action attacking Christians. Here is the official report of what exactly transpired:

November 18, 2008

Last Friday night (11.14.08) our team of thirteen people, mostly ranging from eighteen to twenty-two years old, left the house around 5:30pm to head to the Castro District as we have done for the majority of Friday nights for the past three years. Over the course of the week we had actually been out in the Castro every night, singing and worshiping in the neighborhood. This night we arrived at Castro and 18th Street, with one guitar to simply worship and bring the presence of God to the Castro District. We understood that since Proposition 8 had passed it would seem instigating to talk with people, so we decided to only play the guitar and sing rather than to engage with anyone on the streets.

Our intention was not to stir up anger, but to worship Jesus on the streets the way we had worshipped there for the past three years. As we were worshiping a man approached us and began yelling "You are haters! Get out of here!" A girl on our team simply told him "We are only here to worship God. We love you." This man became angrier and was screaming at her using profanity and obscene language. When he noticed that we were standing in front of a memorial that had been dedicated to an AIDS/HIV activist he became even more enraged. We had stood on that particular street corner numerous times when there had been a memorial and it had never been an issue before this night. She continued to answer him "We are only here to worship God. We love you and Jesus loves you," and eventually he left the street corner. A police officer then came and asked us how long we would be out there. We told him until nine o clock and he said "ok" and left.

Our team continued to sing as a young man approached us. He stood near by until another man joined him. He was wearing a headdress, which led us to believe that he was affiliated with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. This man in the headdress began to surround us with a cloth and shoving us to encircle us fully with the cloth. He wanted to do this so that people on the outside could not see us. While this was happening the other man instigated to people walking by that we were the "Yes on 8 people". When in reality, we were only doing what we had always done at the Castro since before proposition 8 was even in sight. This was not a proposition 8 event.

At this point our team was standing in a circle holding hands singing "Amazing Grace." While they were holding the cloth around us someone from the crowd threw hot coffee over the cloth and it hit our team, including splashing two of our girls in the face and one on her head going down her back. At first the girls thought it was boiling water until they smelled that it was coffee.

During the event people lunging through the crowd to get at us hit a couple of our girls in the face.

Then a man picked up one of our Bibles and started to walk away with it. A girl from our team walked out of the circle after him and said, "Excuse me that is our Bible. Could I have that back please?" He turned to her and said "no" then hit her on the head with the Bible knocking her to the ground, then began kicking her legs. A man from the crowd pulled him off of her. A police officer then came and detained the man who hit her. One officer asked the girl on our team if she would like to press charges. She said "No. Tell him I forgive him."

A couple of the people who were holding the cloth around our team walk up to her and said "We are sorry that happened to you." and "He is not with us." referring to the man that hit her. Then the man who had been responsible for making the crowd think we were there concerning Proposition 8 said to her "I'm glad to see that you're feeling better, but let that be a lesson to you not to come here."

At different points throughout the night one girl on our team had her camera and was able to film some of what was happening.

The crowd around began to grow as people started to scream "Shame on you! Shame on you!" over and over. They were yelling all kinds of obscenities and cursing us. That is when one of the young men who was with us called the police department to let them know what was happening. It was difficult to say how many people were surrounding us due to the chaos of the situation. We were trying to focus on worshiping rather than the masses, but we would guess anywhere from 200 to 500 people. One of the girls then stepped out to see how the girl who got hit was doing. And as she rejoined the team singing, she overheard a few men saying things like "we should grab them." As well as "yeah we should grab their butts." At that point we realized that it was climaxing into a really hostile situation.

Then it seemed like out of nowhere hundreds of whistles were being blown in our ears. Around that time someone removed the cloth which enabled the crowd to enclose around us turning the situation into what resembled a mob frenzy. The people in the crowd were shoving us against the wall blowing the whistles in our ears so close that we could feel the spit from the whistles hitting our faces. Around that time we began to sing "Oh the Blood of Jesus." Things grew more intense and the crowd came in closer around us shoving and pushing us. Some men from the crowd began grabbing a few of the young men on our team inappropriately, sexually assaulting them and trying to take down the pants of one of them. When that began the young men with us quickly pulled all the girls into the middle so that no one could get to them.

The intensity of the mob around us grew until finally the police had to shove the crowd off of us and they made a wall between the crowd and our group. There was one moment when a man from the crowd around us pointed out Roger, the leader of our team, and said, "I'm going to kill you!" An officer overheard and said to him "What did you say!?" The man said "nothing." And the officer replied, "I heard what you said."

Then one officer said to Roger "Do you want to leave?" and he replied, "We would like to stay" because we knew we had the freedom to be there. A few minutes later as the crowd was growing quickly the officer said to Roger "I am sorry, but we need to get you out of here because we fear for your life, you no longer have a choice." Roger turned to our team and explained that we were going to honor the police and follow them. The officer came back, asked us where we were parked and told us we would be moving out in five minutes. At that point there was somewhere between 15 and 25 police officers. They surrounded our team and escorted us to 20th and Eureka Street where our van was parked. As they were escorting us to our van the crowd followed our team and continued to scream and threaten us. They even threatened to follow us all the way home. As we were being escorted out a man with a news camera showed up and began filming us. (Later we found the footage on KTVU, a local news station in the Bay Area) They had reported that we were doing a religious march regarding Proposition 8, when in all actuality we were being escorted out of the Castro. Realizing the hostility of the people who were still following us, and their threats to "follow us all the way home" we covered our license plate with post-it notes that a guy on our team had in his wallet. We did this so that they could not identify our vehicle later. We then loaded our entire team into the van and drove home. The time when we left was 8:30.

In closing, though this event was one of the scariest moments in our individual lives, because of those who have died in America to purchase freedom, we felt in this situation we were to stand firm and not be intimidated out of our rights. Furthermore our faith in Christ calls us to be willing to die for the sake of the gospel, and we are not to sacrifice for the sake of comfort or a false peace. Though the American church has not often been tested in this, these days seem to be upon us. We love the LGBT community and we do not believe that everyone in this community is filled with hate or anger. What happened on Friday night was different than what we have ever encountered. We forgive those who assaulted us physically and sexually. We forgive the anger and threats of violence against us. Our desire has always been to be a bridge to bring the love of Jesus.

Thank you, JHOPSF team.

Shame on you, you homofascist bigots! But then, what can we expect from unregenerate Man anyway.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Article: A Primer on the Topic of Law and Gospel

I had collated the various posts on the latest series on Law and Gospel, and have improved on them at various parts, correcting spelling and grammatical errors as I see them. Also, quite a couple of footnotes and references were added so as both to clarify various terms and teachings mentioned, as well as substantiate various claims with literary sources. Here is the improved article here entitled A Primer on the Topic of Law and Gospel. May God use this for the edification of the Church, Amen.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Mosaic Covenant: Works or Grace?

Here is an interesting excerpt on the Mosaic Covenant from Witsius' The Economy of the Covenants at Reformation Theology:

A Repetition of the Law of the Covenant of Works: “…in the ministry of Moses, there was a repetition of the doctrine concerning the law of the covenant of works.” The Mosaic Covenant, then, seems to be a sort of republication of the covenant of works. Of course it is not identical to the prelapsarian covenant, but there is that condition “by which formula, the righteousness, which is of the law, is described, Rom. x. 5. And the terror of the covenant of works is increased by repeated comminations; and that voice heard, ‘cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them,’ Deut. xxvii. 26… as the requirement of obedience was rigid under the ministry of Moses, the promises of spiritual and saving grace were more rare and obscure, the measure of the Spirit granted to the Israelites, scanty and short, Deut. xxix. 4. and on the contrary, the denunciation of the curse frequent and express; hence the ministry of Moses is called, ‘the ministration of death and condemnation,’ 2 Cor. iii. 7,9. doubtless because it mentioned the condemnation of the sinner, and obliged the Israelites to subscribe to it.”

A Repetition of the Covenant of Works which is in Opposition to the Gospel: “…when the law was given from mount Sinai or Horeb, there was a repetition of the covenant of works.” Witsius goes on to quote Calvin on Heb. xii. 10, “Whatever we read is intended to inform the people, that God then ascended his tribunal, and manifested himself as an impartial judge. If an innocent animal happened to approach, he commanded it to be thrust through with a dart; how much sorer punishment were sinners liable to, who were conscious of their sins, nay, and knew themselves indited by the law , as guilty of eternal death.” Thus mount Sinai, says Witsius, is set “in opposition to mount Sion, the terrors of the law to the sweetness of the gospel.”

A Republication of Works to Point to Christ: Thus far it would seem that Witsius might hold to a pure covenant of works, absent of any grace, yet this is also not his view. He states that this republication of the covenant of works was not “repeated, in order to set up again such a covenant with Israelites, in which they were to seek for righteousness and salvation.” For such a thing is impossible. And for God to provide another way “then the law had been contrary to the promise, made to the fathers many ages before.” The law cannot nullify the previous promise. Stated positively, the purpose of republication of the covenant of works was “to convince them [Israel] of their sin and misery, to drive them out of themselves, to shew them the necessity of a satisfaction, and to compel them to Christ. And so their being thus brought to a remembrance of the covenant of works tended to promote the covenant of grace.” The whole purpose of the law was to bring us to Christ!

A Covenant Presupposing the Covenant of Grace: Despite the Mosaic Covenant being a republication of the covenant of works, it is not like the prelapsarian covenant of works since grace is necessarily involved here. God is dealing with sinners and not sinless man and that he does not destroy us is due to his promise to Adam after the fall. Though it was not the case formerly, here grace is necessarily presupposed. ”There likewise accompanied this giving of the law the repetition of some things belonging to the covenant of grace… that God should propose a covenant of friendship to sinful man, call himself his God (at least in the sense it was said to the elect in Israel), take to himself any people, separated from others, for his peculiar treasure, assign to them the land of Canaan as a pledge of heaven, promise his grace to those that love him and keep his commandments, and circumcise the vengeance denounced against despisers within certain bounds, and the like; these things manifestly discover a covenant of grace: and without supposing the suretiship of the Messiah, it could not, consistently with the divine justice and truth, be proposed to man a sinner.” The republication of the covenant of works involves the covenant of grace in that it is presupposed!

Having stated these four premises Witsius goes on to state his answer:

Not Formally the Covenant of Works: “1st. Because that cannot be renewed with the sinner, in such a sense as to say, if , for the future, thou shalt perfectly perform every instance of obedience, thou shalt be justified by that, according to the covenant of works. For, by this, the pardon of the former sins would be presupposed, which the covenant of works excludes. 2dly. Because God did not require perfect obedience from Israel, as a condition of this covenant, as a cause of claiming the reward; but sincere obedience, as an evidence of reverence and gratitude. 3dly. Because it did not conclude Israel under the curse, in the sense peculiar to the covenant of works, where all hope of pardon was cut off, if they sinned but in the least instance.”

Nor Formally the Covenant of Grace: “Because that requires not only obedience, but also promises, and bestows strength to obey. For, thus the covenant of grace is made known, Jer. xxxii. 39. ‘and I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever.’ But such a promise appears not in the covenant made at mount Sinai. Nay; God, on this very account, distinguishes the new covenant of grace from the Sinaitic, Jer. xxxi. 31-33. And Moses loudly proclaims, Deut xxix. 4. ‘yet the Lord hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.’ Certainly, the chosen from among Israel had obtained this. Yet not in virtue of this covenant, which stipulated obedience, but gave no power for it: but in virtue of the covenant of grace, which also belonged to them.”

A National Covenant Between God and Israel: “…whereby Israel promised to God a sincere obedience to all his precepts, especially to the ten words; God, on the other hand, promised to Israel, that such an observance would be acceptable to him, nor want its reward, both in this life, and in that which is to come, both as to soul and body. This reciprocal promise supposed a covenant of grace. For, without the assistance of the covenant of grace, man cannot sincerely promise that observance; and yet that an imperfect observance should be acceptable to God is wholly owing to the covenant of grace. It also supposed the doctrine of the covenant of works, the terror of which being increased by those tremendous signs that attended it, they ought to have been excited to embrace the covenant of God. This agreement therefore is a consequent both of the covenant of grace and of works; but was formally neither the one nor the other.”

As a result, the decalogue can be viewed in a twofold manner:

Precisely, as a law: “they are the rule of our nature and actions, which HE has prescribed, who has a right to command. This they were from the beginning, this they still are, and this they will continue to be, under whatever covenant, or in whatever state man shall be.”

As an instrument of the covenant: “they point out the way to eternal salvation; or contain the condition of enjoying that salvation: and that both under the covenant of grace and of works. But with this difference: that under the covenant of works, this condition is required to be performed by man himself; under the covenant of grace it is proposed, as already performed, or to be performed by a mediator.”

Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed), Vol. II, 181-87.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Homo-bigotry - Homofascists attack church [UPDATE!]

This does not need much introduction:

On Sunday morning, amidst worshiping congregants and following unifying prayers that our President-elect be granted wisdom as he prepares to lead our nation through difficult global, social and economic challenges, the Michigan left declared open war on peaceful church goers.

They did it with banners, chants, blasphemy, by storming the pulpit, by vandalizing the church facility, by potentially defiling the building with lewd, public, sex acts and by intentionally forcing physical confrontations with worshipers.

[more]

[HT: Aomin.org]

UPDATE: A nice video footage of the bigoted homo-fascists in action. Ignore the last false sentence about "hate on both sides".

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Disallowing homosexual marriage is forcing our moral views on homosexuals?

One argument made by the pro-homosexuals (and in fact many secular humanists on various sundry issues) is that we [especially Christians] should not force our morality on others. That argument obviously presupposes there is such a thing as neutrality when it comes to moral issues, when there isn't. Absolute neutrality by the state would logically lead to anarchy, since the state is not supposed to intervene in any moral dispute (including punishing anyone for any crime since that presupposes some form of morality) for by doing so it would cease to be neutral. With regards to the issue of homosexual "marriage", the key question is this: If disallowing homosexuality is the equivalent of "forcing" Christian morality on the homosexuals, then isn't allowing homosexual marriage "forcing" immorality on non-homosexuals?

A simple example would suffice. Let's take the example of a Christian living in a country/state which has legalized homosexual "marriage". Does he have the right not to treat the "couple" as one since in his eyes they are not married? Is he given the liberty to decline usage of non-public facilities such as churches for the celebration of homosexual marriage, and not to be forced to listen to homosexual propaganda? The answer should be rather obvious as seen in for example the behavior of the homo-bigots in the state of Massachusetts.

So next time the homo-bigots throw out that same old canard, inform him kindly that he is at least just as much attempting to impose (im)morality on others. If the so-called Religious Right commit "hate crimes", the pro-homosexuals commit at least the same in their promotion of their immorality. Why is one type of "hate crime" acceptable and another not acceptable?

Of course, there is no true moral equivalence between the positions of Christians and pro-homosexuals. For it is a truth that God has by His common grace given Man His Law (or rather the works of His Law) in every man's conscience (Rom. 2:14-15). The pro-homosexuals are thus condemned by their very own consciences even while they continue to sin, so their position is utterly vacuous indeed. Rather than "forcing our moral views" on others, laws which disallow homosexual "marriage", in fact even criminalizing homosexuality, conforms with the law of the conscience given by God and as such it is absolutely proper and moral to legislate against the abomination that is homosexuality. This does not mean that we should stone homosexuals, but the action itself must be seen as a sin and a sickness, and those caught up in it as victims to be loved so that they may be healed from their moral illness.

Those who promote homosexuality however are a different matter altogether. We do not condemn the sick and dying, but we should punish those who purposely make people sick and murder them. Similarly, homosexuals are not to be punished, but those who promote homosexuality should be punished. I guess this would be the best tactic against militant homosexuals — Jail those bigots for their hate crimes!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

James White on Christians and Culture

I do believe that a regenerate heart will impact how one views society. I think they are clearly biblical guidelines to ethics and morality, and when the Lord changes the person's heart, then He makes them obedient to the Word of God and therefore those standards began to impact how we view the culture

- James R. White

[Taken from the Dividing Line broadcast about 28 minutes into the show]

Says a lot about the state of Christians (pastors or not) who have an unbiblical view of both the Christian faith and the culture. Two wrongs never equal a right.

Obama the Messiah?

I do not want to talk politics here, but this is too good a link to pass up. Check this out! Now, which "christ" will Obama be? Maitreya?

Paul Helm, logic, and the necessity of making good distinctions

Here is an interesting article by Paul Helm on the importance of making good distinctions, which is something especially needed when studying, reading and thinking theology.

Helm first shows that there is a difference between consistency, inconsistency and entailment, such that each of these propositions are different.

  1. Propositions p and q are consistent.
  2. Propositions p and q (~p) are inconsistent because they are self-contradictory.
  3. Proposition p entails proposition q, such that if p is true, q must necessary be true

You can read more about it and other distinctions here.

[HT: Justin Taylor's Between Two Worlds]

Sunday, November 09, 2008

James White a hyper-Calvinist?

So claims some Arminians who it seemed were having a "John 3:16" conference (which certainly had nothing to do with the true biblical interpretation of John 3:16). According to one Dr. Allen:

Dr. Allen asserted that Dr. James White is a hyper-Calvinist according to Phil Johnson’s primer on hyper-Calvinism, as Dr. White says that God does not have any desire to save the non-elect.

Phil Johnson has replied to this allegation with the following statement:

Let me go on record here: I know James White well, and he is not a hyper-Calvinist.

The webpage Dr. Allen cited from me says nothing whatsoever about what God "desires." What I have consistently said elsewhere [check out footnote 20 in that link] is this: Optative expressions like desire and wish are always problematic when it comes to describing God's demeanor toward the reprobate. God does all His pleasure, and to suggest that He helplessly wrings His hands over unfulfilled "desires" is quite inaccurate—indeed, it is one of the central fallacies of the Arminian concept of God. So I try to avoid such terminology most of the time.

I do, however, occasionally employ such terms in order to make a point— but only when I have an opportunity to explain the point: I do think there's crucial meaning in God's own pleas and expressions of willingness to be reconciled to any and all sinners (e.g., Ezekiel 33:11; 2 Corinthians 5:20). And I likewise think it is vital to see that all unbelief and sin is a rejection of God's will and purpose with regard to what we are responsible to do (Luke 7:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).

At the same time, I recognize and affirm the equally-valid point being made by those who steadfastly reject the language of "desire" or "will" when we are dealing with God's overtures of mercy to the reprobate. We should not load those expressions with Arminian freight. Some choose never to use optative expressions with regard to God, and they might argue that the use of such language in any context is illegitimate. Dr. White may be of that persuasion. I don't know. In all our many private conversations, I have never had an occasion to discuss it with him. However, I would not call someone a "hyper-Calvinist" merely for holding that opinion.

Moreover, although my notes on hyper-Calvinism are just notes and not an academic treatise, in the section of those notes where I dealt with the issue of God's will toward the reprobate, this was all carefully qualified. I expressly acknowledged that there is a strain of classic high-Calvinists who deny that God's expressions of goodwill toward the reprobate may properly be called "love," but who are not really hyper. I said, "They are a distinct minority, but they nonetheless have held this view. It's a hyper-Calvinistic tendency, but not all who hold the view are hyper-Calvinists in any other respect." I cited Arthur Pink as the best-known example of that view.Let me add this: if the average Baptist preacher were one-tenth as committed to evangelism as James White, Arminians in the SBC might actually be in a position to carp about hyper-Calvinism's detrimental effect on soul-winning. As it is, those who say these kinds of things ought to sit with their hands over their mouths and learn some things from Mr. White.

Mark aka Tartanarmy summed up this episode really well:

Now, just a couple of things to say.

First is the irony that Dr White is currently in London defending the faith once again, whilst these shameful people are nicely tucked up at home enjoying the freedom to cast assertions against the evangelist James. Yes, the evangelist. The very thing that is supposed to define what a Hyper Calvinist IS NOT! Oh the irony and hypocrisy of it all.

James has made his own comments here and here.

Phil Johnson has also commented here.

It seems my old foe Tony Byrne's material was part of the material used by the confused Dr Alan.

Why do these Ponterites show up in these exchanges all the time? Where are they when Calvinists are debating Muslims, Roman Catholics, Mormons, JW's and others? That is right folks. They are nowhere to be seen, except hiding behind their keyboard lobbing bombs over the enemies heads and hitting the evangelistic Calvinists. It is a shame and a sham.

Now my next point is a serious one, and it is something I have said for years.

Whilst I truly support Phil Johnson and his ministry, I have tried in the past to suggest that his Primer on Hyper Calvinism is not quite up to scratch. Now I realise, he never envisioned how others would use it against other Calvinists, but maybe now is the time to revise it a wee bit. It has been used several times and publicly against true Calvinists.

And with regards to Tony Byrne:

Let me finish with this thought. Go to Byrne's website and read it.

The man has one subject and one subject only. The extent of the atonement, free offers and universal views about the atonement.

That should be enough for any serious person who wants balanced theology to run away from his site. The people he quotes are all dead and cannot answer for themselves the selective quoting done to their writings and CERTAINLY cannot get the opportunity to CORRECT the presuppositions contained in the views that Byrne and Ponter and the rest of the Ponterites hold to.

Law and Gospel: Application and Conclusion

Application in an analysis of various movements

The Epistle to the Galatians — the harshest letter ever written by Paul in the Scriptures. Yet all of this was necessary because of the importance of the doctrine being subverted by the Judaizer heretics. The doctrine of salvation by faith alone apart from works and law-keeping is the doctrine by which the Church stands or falls, and also the doctrine by which the salvation of each individual believer stands or falls too. Paul pronounced an anathema against the Judaizers for distorting the doctrine of salvation as their false "gospel" distorts the true Gospel message. This message of Paul is as relevant to us today as it is to the Galatian Christians of that time.

In our times, a multitude of false "gospels", all deserving the anathema of God, have spread across the land. Such false "gospels" divert people from the true Gospel which saves, and we would look at some examples here: Strict Sabbatarianism, Roman Catholicism and Purpose-Drivenism aka Warrenism.

Strict Sabbatarianism

The issue of a mandatory keeping of the Sabbath on a particular day in a particular manner, whether it be the seventh-day variety as seen in Seventh-Day Adventism, or of the more historically reformed heritage of the first-day Sabbath, constitutes strict Sabbatarianism. Besides being impractical and absurd, such strict rules invariably breeds a form of Legalism. This can be seen explicitly in the case of Seventh-Day Adventism with its emphasis on Sabbath keeping being necessary for continuation in the state of being saved, as Sabbath-keeping is God's mark of salvation[1]. As opposed to this form of hard legalism, the reformed variety is expressed most strongly in the example of the Puritans, who sometimes have an imbalanced focus on keeping the law till they fall into soft legalism — keeping the rules and regulations otherwise one is deemed to be disobedient towards God and thus not in a right standing with Him.

As we have seen throughout the exposition of Galatians, Paul's contrasted the law with grace, works of the law with faith, and never the two shall meet (being antithetical to each other), at least not in this plane. Our salvation and standing before God is all of grace, and none of works. The Scriptures do not differentiate between various aspects of the law, nor do they differentiate between works done for salvation and works done for the continuation of salvation. In fat, as we have already seen, the error of the Judaizers IS precisely salvation by faith PLUS continuance in works. Hard legalism as seen in Seventh-Day Adventism thus fall into the exact same error as the Judaizers, and are therefore subjected to the same anathema as them. Ditto for soft legalism, except that the reformed variety typically inconsistently embraces the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and therefore the problem arise only in those who emphasized more on their doctrine of legalism at the expense of the doctrine of free grace.

Roman Catholicism

If strict Sabbatarianism is analogous to the Galatian heresy, Roman Catholicism with its express denial of the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone, coupled with the attendant doctrines of the Treasury of Merit, Indulgences, Purgatory, Penance etc make the Judaizers look like children with regards to false doctrine. Roman Catholicism not only (officially) proclaims salvation by faith plus works, they oftentimes unofficially practice salvation by works especially with regards to their laity. Romanism far surpass the Judaizers in their heresy, and the biblical judgment against her is therefore a strict anathema.

Purpose-Drivenism aka Warrenism

Notwithstanding Rick Warren's profession to be a Protestant (and a Southern Baptist at that!), Warren through his behavior does not show the genuineness of his profession. The compromise with Rome logically leads to a denial of the Gospel, and Rick Warren through partnering with Romanism practically denies the Gospel. This is not to mention the entire focus on works that his PEACE plan is based upon; a "second reformation" that is based on "deeds, not creeds". The Bible is most certainly interested in our true beliefs as opposed to our professed beliefs, and Warren's works do show that his profession is just "lip-service" and cannot be a belief from the heart (Is. 29:13), as his life is not consistent with his profession.

The focus on works in Warrenism runs counter to the message in Galatians, of which the message is on the grace of God and our faith in Him. The entire purpose driven paradigm is thus built on the sand of Man's works apart from faith in Christ, and thus face the anathema of Scripture. For God pays no regard whatsoever to what we pay lip service to, but to what we actually believe in.

Conclusion

In conclusion therefore, let us learn to run the race of faith. Let us learn not to trust in our works to save us or even to put in a better standing with God, but to trust in Christ who is our perfect righteousness. May we learn from this epistle to the Galatians and know the functions of Law and Gospel, so that we can be more firmly rooted in living the Christian life to be one of faith and lived by the Spirit, and not to be one burdened by the Law. Amen.


Reference:

[1] See the teaching of SDA apologist Walter Veith's teaching here on the traditional SDA doctrine on the Great Controversy, which I have refuted here and here. Also see Ellen G. White's teaching on the subject in The Great Controversy (Harvestine Books, Altamount, TN, USA, 1998), p. 69, 641

The Sabbath will be the great test of loyalty; for it is the point of truth especially controverted. When the final test shall be brought to bear upon men, then the line of distinction will be drawn between those who serve God and those who serve Him not. While the observance of the false sabbath in compliance with the law of the State, contrary to the fourth commandment, will be an avowal of allegiance to a power that is in opposition to God, the keeping of the true Sabbath, in obedience to God’s law, is an evidence of loyalty to the Creator (p. 641)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Law and Gospel: Galatians - The practice of Christian Liberty

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5:1)

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Gal. 5: 13-26)

As we come to the end of our look through the book of Galatians on the topic of Law and Gospel (of which I have nowhere come close to exegeting it in detail — those who desire to have a more detailed exegesis can consult Martin Luther's Commentary on Galatians for an excellent treatment of this epistle), let us finish with a look at the practical implications of this topic for Christian living.

Previously, we have shown that the idea of the Law being the schoolmaster or guardian is a guard against the heresy of Antinomianism. Even when Paul was focused on condemning Legalism and works-righteousness in the Epistle to the Galatians, he did not for once give any leeway to its opposite error, Antinomianism. Rather the Law still had value in Paul's eyes, and in the sight of God too, though not for salvation through our justification before God.

In the passage further down in Gal. 5, Paul approached the Christian Life from a different point of view. Having destroyed the Law as an instrument of salvation, Paul did not attempt to set forth a new law for Christians based upon the Gospel for obedience. For doing so would not only confuse his audience and remove the force of his previously strong denunciation against Legalism and works-righteousness, but he did not have to do so at all. After all, the important thing in the Mosaic Covenant was never the letter (which Paul denounced strongly), but the spirit behind the letter of the Law (cf Deut. 10:12; Ex. 34:5 - note especially its context). The letter of the Mosaic Law was the "scaffolding" necessary to point towards its inner reality[1], the spirit of the Law, which is now being fully revealed in the New Covenant.

Paul's manner of approaching the topic of Christian living therefore went straight to the heart of the issue — the spirit of the Law, without using those terms as such since the terminology is not that important. This has the advantage of not needlessly causing confusion by using the term "Law" in more than one sense also. We can however see that this is what Paul was getting at as seen in Gal. 5:14, in which Paul states that the Law is fulfilled in the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves, thus in this case focusing on the horizontal aspect of Christian living. Like Jesus who mentioned that first in response to a question from the Pharisees (Mt. 22:35-40), the essence of the Law or the spirit of the Law is here put forward as the way of living the Christian life. Christian liberty therefore is to walk in the Spirit and not by the letter (Legalism), or by the flesh (Antinomianism) (Gal. 5:13, 16)

As for living the Christian life, Paul uses therefore comes from the direction of the Spirit- flesh divide to convey the idea of the spirit of the Law. In Gal. 5:17, Paul depicts the both of them at war against each other. After adding a reminder to be led by the Spirit and not by the letter of the law (Gal. 5:18), Paul waded in and showed us the way of Christian living. We are not to indulge in the works of the Flesh in any shape reformed, of which an entire list of sins are given in Gal. 5:19-21. What is shocking here given the theme of Christian liberty is that those who practice such things are stated as not inheriting the Kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21ff), which means they would not be saved. But we do know that Paul is not advocating works salvation here since he has already denounced it in the previous four chapters, so what is he getting at? In light of the Spirit/flesh dualism stated earlier in Gal. 5:17, which parallels the faith/works dualism in Gal. 3:12a, Paul is here suggesting that walking according to the flesh is evidence that one is not walking according to the Spirit and therefore not saved. In other words, if we are saved, we will walk according to the Spirit, and then we will not produce bad fruit. And therefore producing bad fruit would means that we are not walking according to the Spirit, and therefore not saved (Modus Tollens: If p, then q. ~q. → ~p)

In contrast to the evil fruit of an unregenerate heart that does not walk according to the Spirit, the Scripture shows us the fruit (singular) of the Spirit which all believers will have in an ever-increasing manner as we walk in the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Gal. 5:22a). Switching between the Spirit/flesh and the faith/law dualisms, Paul declared that there is no law [letter] operative on the things of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22b). Rather, Christians neither live according to the [letter of the] Law nor the flesh, but according to the Spirit [of and behind the law].

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Gal. 6:9-10)

As Paul wraps up the Epistle to the Galatians proper, Paul exhorts the Galatian Christians to walk by the Spirit as they have lived by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25), of which examples that they are not to be conceited, provocative or envious of each other were given (Gal. 5:26). Good works therefore as designed for believers (Eph. 2:10) is nothing more than living out the Christian life by the Spirit. We are all, like the Galatian Christians whom Paul addressed, exhorted to do good to everyone, especially to our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord; the household of faith (Gal. 6:10).

With this, let us conclude and see the relevance of the epistle of the Galatians to all of us especially to the modern movements of our day.

[to be concluded]


[1] C. Matthew McMahon, A Simple Overview of Covenant Theology (Puritan Publications, New Lenox, IL, USA, 2005), p. 58