Sunday, December 31, 2006

I Got What Tim Challies Wanted for Christmas...

One of my Christmas presents was the DVD of Petra's Farewell tour. I thought I would take a moment to reminisce a bit. Only a year and a day late for Petra Appreciation Day...

My history with the band Petra stretches back all the way to about 1985. I had heard the song "Blinded Eyes" at a church youth group, and I decided I needed to hear more of them. It turns out that my dad's best friend from high school (the same one who produced To End All Wars) knew the band (specifically Bob Hartman, if I remember right). He gave me a copy of Not of This World, which is still my favorite Petra album. They were on the Beat the System tour at the time, and Mr. Hafer was also kind enough to get us tickets to the concert, as well as backstage passes.

The concert was great. Opening for them were two unknowns (unknown to me anyway). One was a young lady with an amazing voice; it was Kathy Troccoli. The other opening act was a guy and his band--a bunch of rowdies jumping around on stage in basketball jerseys and a Gumby head on. But what made an impact on me that night was when the band left, and under a single spotlight he played this new song from a couple of yellow legal sheet pages. The song was "Rocketown," and the artist, of course, was Michael W. Smith.

After Petra was done, we were able to go backstage and meet the band. I don't remember much about it, except that the "X" in Greg X. Volz's name stands for nothing (he has no middle name), but it was great.

Shortly after that concert, word came out that Petra was breaking up, and their live album, Captured in Time and Space came out. By that time, I had picked up Beat the System, and over the course of time, I was able to go back and pick up all the old albums, including the original self-titled album and Come and Join Us. (I suffer from a completist compulsion, which I suppose goes along with my perfectionist tendencies).

Petra added John Schlitt as the new lead singer, and my mom and sister took me to see them on the Back to the Street tour. We all remember the same thing--it was loud! The Celebrity Theater in Phoenix is a great venue for a lot of different types of events, including concerts, but not rock concerts. Ironically, DeGarmo & Key, who opened for them, was actually louder than Petra, though that may have been a combination of them not having adjusted the two piles of 6 speakers until after them, as well as the earplugs they handed out at the break.

In any case, I followed Petra at a slight distance from that point forward, still collecting albums up through Unseen Power. Out of the John Schlitt albums I have, I think the best is Beyond Belief. In fact, I think that may actually be their best album period--polished pop rock produced by the Elefante brothers.

But no matter the new albums that came out, the Volz era remained my favorite. Songs like "Run for the Prize" and "Second Wind" came to mind as I participated in high school sports. Just something about that voice, I guess...

In the meantime, I had gotten older, married, and was buying music that my wife and I both liked, I finally decided that the new direction wasn't as interesting to me, so I didn't really follow them anymore, except if they had a song that hit Christian radio (and if you're familiar with the band, you'll know how seldom that is).

The DVD is a real joy to watch. There were some songs I wasn't familiar with, but which were good nonetheless. Former lead singer Greg X. Volz and former keyboardist John Lowry come up on stage for a few songs, as well as being included in interviews.

Petra is one of those bands that you think "they'll go on forever," and it's hard to believe that it's finally over. Although I just read on the website that Bob Hartman & John Schlitt are teaming up for a new worship record, so who knows...

(A belated) Congrats to the guys on 30+ years of ministry and music.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Fat Man Dwarfeth

This picture, recently given to the TR Secret Police by an anonymous source, was reportedly taken outside the house of a prominent TR Blogger's home.

If true, this would violate Section 15, Sub-section 8, Paragraph 4, regarding PDIS (Public Display of Inflatable Santas) height limits.

Any information regarding the owner of this home should be forwarded immediately to TR headquarters...

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Letter 2006

No internet since about 2pm yesterday. Wasn't sure whether I would be able to get this posted Christmas Day or not.

Here is the Gumm Christmas letter for 2006. Enjoy.

Dearest Family and Friends,

As another year comes to a close, we again find ourselves so thankful for God's provision in our lives. Of specific note this year is the birth of our fifth child (and fourth son), Isaac Brenton. God's blessing remains upon us, and we can truly rejoice that our quiver is full!

Our daughter (and princess) Averee is in Second grade; she is reading up a storm, as well as enjoying piano.

Trevor, our eldest son, is in Kindergarten this year, and is learning to read. He is a whiz at math, and demonstrated natural talent on the soccer field this year, too.

Our four year old, Caleb, is loving preschool, and enjoys his therapy, which is good, because he gets speech, occupational, and developmental, in part (we think) because of the one-on-one attention he receives--something that has been hard for Hollie or me to provide. He is making huge strides in his development.

Jayden is talking almost non-stop, and gets remarks every week on his high degree of cuteness. He loves to play with his siblings and his friends at Sunday School.

Isaac is a sweet baby, and has been a true joy to all of us. Each of the bigger children takes seriously their role as big brother/sister to "Baby Isaac," and they have been wonderful with him.

With this crew, Hollie is busy, as you might imagine. She also homeschools the older two, and is the primary logistician in the household, which probably equates to 3 or 4 full-time positions in the work world. As it is, she does it with composure and grace, and we struggle to adequately express our appreciation for all she does for us.

In September, I undertook my largest job change to date--I left Stephens, Inc. (and financial services altogether) and joined Capital Research, doing commercial real estate appraisal. I'm grateful for my time at Stephens, but also thankful for this opportunity, as it will provide more schedule flexibility, which is important as the kids grow older.

One highlight of my new job is that I am taking classes to get certified. Actually, the classes themselves weren't the highlight, but the fact that I was able to stay with our friends Laurie and John while I was in Dallas, and Scott and Kim and their two sons in Boca Raton, Florida. Both of those times were very special.

The word "Christmas" evokes many different thoughts, and word associations; but something that most people don't think about during Christmas is God's wrath--His anger and His punishment. Yet, if Jesus came as a Savior, it must be to save us from something. That something was our sin and the resultant punishment. Many people are indifferent to the Savior, just as the chief priests and scribes were in Matthew chapter 2; they knew he was in Bethlehem, but they didn't care to go see him. Some, like Herod, become disturbed, or even angry, because if Jesus is more than just a baby in a manger, then there might be something he requires. But some, like the Magi, find Jesus, and are filled with exceeding joy, and worship him.

That is the true meaning of Christmas, and we hope and pray that you and your family will find and worship the one who is the Savior of the world.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The "Primer" primer

When I mentioned the movie Primer a couple of weeks ago, Nate (who says I never link to him) wanted to know what blew me away. But I wasn't sure I could do it justice, so I called in the big guns.

TheLyamhound, a gentleman who some of you may remember from our atheist discussions earlier in the year (he represented the Buddhist perspective in our discussions), has kindly agreed to write a brief intro. He is imminently eminently more qualified than I, since he is actually "in the biz," so to speak--he is an actor, involved in the arts, and because of that he brings a unique perspective to the table.

So Matt posed a question several posts ago as to whether any of his readers had seen Primer, noting that he and his spouse had been "blown away" by the film. I concurred, but offered little else on the film. Now, for the benefit of a member of Matt's audience--hi there, Nathan--I've been asked to describe the film in greater detail (though hopefully not to explain it, as I'd be hard-pressed to do so).

Let me first say that the last time I recall seeing a film dealing with the issue of time travel that was so patently unreliant on F/X was probably back when Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour did Somewhere in Time, and that was less a time travel movie per se than a seeping historical romance with a time travel element to offer a tragic twist to the end as silly--and as effective--as the deus ex machina of your choice. That film was a sentimental favorite. But Primer revels a good deal more freely in the mechanics of time travel itself, as its characters attempt to evade responsibility, courting paradox and dissolution at every turn.

The premise would be simple, were it not so maddeningly vague: Two men working on a machine designed to . . . well, I'm not sure, really, but it seems like something wonkish and numerical, like a statistical error-checking machine (the beauty of marketing a science fiction film to me is that I can claim only the broadest, most abstract understanding of any science whatsoever). In any case, they begin finding mold in the machine that takes longer to grow than the machine has been in existence, and realize that they have inadvertently created a time machine.

Given that setup, it's only fair to say that not much happens in Primer, at least not on the surface. The guys try to profit from use of the machine, and things, predictably enough, go wrong; they then spend the remainder of the movie trying to undo the paradox created while each still attempts, subtly, to subvert the other. The whole thing weighs in at a lean 78 minutes. What I find impressive is that the film relies on the talents of its cast and its script; direction is highly economical, even spartan, and the real joy and drama emerges from the endless--and, for me, ultimately unsolved--puzzle presented.

Also, as a 30-something actor/writer with no film credits, it's heartwarming to see a 30-something actor with no film credits pull something together that's so deceptively simple, and that manages to inject some high-minded ingenuity into a genre that's needed a good kick in the backside for a few decades.

To that, I can only add that after you see the movie, if you want to try to unravel the mystery, you might take a look at this site, which offers discussion of the movie, as well as a graphic that tries to piece together the sequence of what happened.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Anonymous Expert weighs in on James 1:21

OK, so the next part of my James 1:21 series was going to be a discussion of the meaning of σῴζω and ψυχή, but then Frank posted this, and seriously, anything that I could say about the matter pales in comparison.

So I am reprinting Anonymous Expert's critique, and I will close out the series later on hopefully really soon with a discussion of what I think 1:21 means (I'll throw an abbreviated discussion of the translation part in with it).

Take it away, Anonymous...

One of the problems of the GES in defending their views from the LXX is that they don't seem to take into account theological development. In particular, the belief in the bodily resurrection and (thus, implicitly, the afterlife) doesn't appear explicitly until Daniel 12. Hence, any texts prior to the sixth century BC would not be relevant to the discussion. At the same time, there are several references listed in the LXX, three of which are in apocryphal works and thus late. This is of course useful information, but whether it is entirely relevant may be a different matter.

A critique, however, would be as follows:

1. The use of BAGD is myopic: although marshaled as an authority on each word, the author of the piece on Jas 1.21 does not look at what BAGD (let alone BDAG) says about the usage in Jas 1.21. There, the lexicon lists swvzw in Jas 1.21 as meaning "save/preserve from eternal death." So, is the GES author claiming that this lexicon is mistaken in its assessment? BDAG is remarkably objective; the authors have few axes to grind. Perhaps the error is on the part of the GES interpretation rather than on the part of everyone else.

2. The author did not look at the apostolic fathers. But on a theological trajectory, it is important to see how the expression was used in the Greek immediately after the NT was written by those who followed the teachings of the apostles. Further, in the AF the bodily resurrection and afterlife is already well established. Thus, apart from three instances in the LXX that come after Daniel, we might say that the usage seems to move in a different direction-toward salvation from hell. Cf. 2 Clem 13.1; 15.1; Barn 19.10; Shep 61.1.

3. Of course, in the rest of the NT we would expect to see the best parallels. To be sure, the phrase does refer at times to saving a person from physical death (cf. Mark 3.4 and parallel, Luke 6.9). But that seems hardly to be the force in Matt 16.25 and parallels (Mark 8.35; Luke 9.24): If someone loses his life he saves it: does this mean that if he loses his physical life he saves that? or does it mean that if he commits his life to the Lord it is eternally saved? Surely the latter is closer to the truth.

4. The reliance on Moulton-Milligan strikes me as myopic as well. Why should we expect to find treatments of eternal life and death in the non-literary papyri? (BTW, the author consistently misspelled papyri as papyrii.) If belief in the afterlife was not prominent among non-Christians (cf. 1 Thess 4.13), then should we expect the phrase to bear this meaning in their writings?

5. The collocation of 'save' with 'soul' and with other key terms used normally for eternal life and death matters is ignored by the GES. In Jas 5.20 we read "the one who turns a sinner back from his wandering path will save that person's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins." Sinner, save, soul, death, sins are all terms that are theologically rich. Where else do we read of such a cluster of terms where only physical life is in view? This strikes me as the greatest single error of the GES in this matter: they refuse to look at the collocations in James when making their judgment. Of course, the cluster in Jas 2.14-26 that has almost a dozen verbal and conceptual parallels with Rom 3-4 is not to be missed in this discussion. That is way too many for a mere coincidence (as GES members would assert). There, 'soul' does not occur but 'save' does. Even by itself, the verb can often, especially in certain contexts, bear the sense of save from hell. To ignore all of the contextual clues and simply to look at statistics is hardly the way to do proper lexical research.

Blogger/Blogger Beta

For those out there who have done both, are you glad you switched? Any reason not to do it?

English Grammar Links

For all you homeschool moms (and wannabe Greeklings) out there, I found this reference page that lists links to English grammar.

I haven't reviewed the individual pages yet, so I don't know the overall value. Maybe someone with an English degree can go check them out and do a review.

What I do know is that most of the Greek books I have indicate that people's problem with learning the language is usually a deficiency in understanding English grammar.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Gojira Weighs In

Gojira has gotten a spark from something Danny said here, and it looks to have moved to a full-fledged fire. (Notice how I refrain from quoting the James passage about tongues and fire, despite the delicious irony).

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Who's This "We" You're Talking About?

A point has been raised, and I think it's a good one. "Why are you saying we shouldn't use the Septugint for our vocabulary definitions when the lexicon you've referenced says that the LXX is by far one the most influential of their own sources?"

That's a fair question. So let me amend my previous statement with this qualifier about who "we" are. We are not everyone in the world who want to know what Koine Greek means. We are people who haven't spent their lifetimes studying the language, various papryii, documents from not only the New Testament, but also the NT psuedopigrapha, the writings of historians, philosophers, and the common people, as well as the LXX. And if you are one of those people, I would suggest that you would do well to start your search for what a word means with a reference book devoted to that purpose, instead of a translation of another document, even if the translated document had a profound influence on the development of a language.

Think about it this way. If you were going to try to found out what an English word means, would you go to the King James Bible, or would you go to the Oxford English Dictionary? Most people (the "we" here) would go to the dictionary, despite the fact that the King James Bible had a profound influence on the development of our language.

In the same way, we have no need to limit ourselves to a single source, because we have a source that discusses those words--it talks about the semantic range they have, and it discusses them in context. And that source, as I've previously mentioned, is A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.

By the way, as an aside, if you want to know which one you have, the easiest way to tell is the cover. Blue boards are BAG (1957), green boards are BAGD (1979), and maroon boards are BDAG (2000).

I'm still one my way to discussing the meaning of the two words in question (σῴζω and ψυχή). We'll follow that with a discussion of how people have translated James 1:21 (not interpretation yet) down through the years, and why it's significant the no one has translated the phrase "save your souls" as save your lives. And finally, we'll end with a discussion of the verse in context, and attempt to reason out it's meaning.

Hope you'll stay with me while I, er, we, make this journey together.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Nature of Septuagint Greek

Let's examine the assertion Antonio made--that we should use the LXX as our guide for the meaning of Koine Greek words. In his post, Antonio then goes on to give specific examples of the phrase "save your souls" is used in the LXX (all 11 times it occurs it means "save your life"), and from there, he concludes that this is how we should understand it in James.

Now, I'm going to set aside progressive revelation, Jesus' own teaching, and the fact that a standard lexicon for NT Greek already exists for the moment, and compare Antonio's view of the LXX with what some scholars say.

Antonio says:

The common language of the then-known world at that time was Koine Greek. The Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) were translated sometime between the 3rd and 1st centuries B.C. into Koine Greek, in what is now known as the Septuagint. Also, known as the LXX, the Septuagint is a rich resource for Koine Greek word studies, for it is roughly three times the size of the New Testament, and such studies net authoratative results because of wide and plentiful usage of words.

No one would dispute that the Septuagint is valuable. But in this case, the question we must ask is, is the nature of that document (and the syntax used within) such that it should be used to establish common usage for the New Testament?

Thankfully, we're not the only ones to ask this question, and certainly not the first. People have been looking at the nature of Septuagint Greek for more than a hundred years now. But more on that in a minute.

First, I want to highlight a current effort to provide a new translation of the LXX in English. It is called A New English Translation of the Septuagint and the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included Under that Title, or NETS for short. It is an academic work, and will eventually be published by Oxford University Press, and they have posted their provisional translations on the web in PDF form. This is a great LXX resource.

The following statement is taken from the General Introduction to that work (with footnotes added into the text, surrounded by [ ]):

While it is obvious that the so-called Septuagint in time achieved its independence from its Semitic parent and that it at some stage shed its subservience to its source, it is equally true that it was in its inception a Greek translation of a Hebrew (or Aramaic) original. That is to say, the Greek had a dependent and subservient linguistic relationship to its Semitic parent. More particularly, for the vast majority of Septuagint books this linguistic relationship can best be conceptualized as a Greek inter-linear translation of a Hebrew original within a Hebrew-Greek diglot. Be it noted immediately, however, that the terms "interlinear" and "diglot" are intended to be nothing more than visual aids to help the reader conceptualize the linguistic relationship that is deemed to exist between the Hebrew original and the Greek translation. In other words, "interlinear" is a metaphor and as such it points not to the surface meaning of its own components but to a deeper, less visual, linguistic relationship of dependence and subservience. Be it noted further, that the deeper linguistic reality, which the metaphor attempts to make more tangible, is in no way contingent on the existence of a physical, interlinear entity in 3-1 BCE. What precise physical format the linguistic relationship took historically we may never know. A variety of possibilities is not difficult to imagine.

Looked at from a different perspective, NETS is presupposing a Greek translation which aimed at bringing the reader to the Hebrew original rather than bringing the Hebrew original to the reader. [Cf. Brock, S. P. "The Phenomenon of the Septuagint," OTS 17 (1972) p. 17] Consequently, the Greek's subservience to the Hebrew may be seen as indicative of its aim.

NETS has been based on the interlinear paradigm for essentially two reasons. First, this paradigm best explains the "translationese" Greek of the Septuagint with its strict, often rigid quantitative equivalence to the Hebrew. As Conybeare and Stock [Conybeare, F. C. and Stock St. G. Grammar of Septuagint Greek. Hendrickson, 1995 (expanded and reprinted from the edition originally published by Ginn and Company, Boston, 1905) p. 21. ] (and others) noted nearly a century ago, Septuagintal Greek is often "hardly Greek at all, but rather Hebrew in disguise," especially in its syntax. Secondly, the interlinear paradigm of Septuagint origins makes it legitimate for the NETS translator to draw on the Hebrew parent text as an arbiter of meaning, when appropriate. "Translationese" is here a purely descriptive, linguistic term, meant to indicate that typically the Greek of the LXX is different in kind from standard Greek used for original compositions in the Hellenistic period. Furthermore, NETS rejects the notion that the Greek of the Septuagint simply reflects the language of Alexandrian Jewry, even for the basic pentateuchal books.

I will also add that Conybeare and Stock's Grammar of Septuagint Greek is a great tool for anyone who is interested in learning about Septuagint Greek, and you can view it for free from CCEL (or download it, but registration is required).

Did you catch what they were saying here? There was a lot there, and in case all that translation-speak made your head spin or your eyes roll, I'll try to highlight what I think is important.

The folks that are sponsoring this new Septuagint translation into English think that typically the Greek of the LXX is different in kind from standard Greek used for original compositions in the Hellenistic period. That's a powerful statement. In fact, they feel so strongly about the difference LXX Greek from the Greek of the period that it has affected the structure of their entire project. Their "interlinear paradigm," the driving force behind all they've done, considers Septuagintal Greek "translationese Greek," with "strict, often rigid quantitative equivalence to the Hebrew." And they quote Conybeare and Stock, the men who a hundred odd years ago wrote in a Grammar of Septuagint Greek, characterized LXX Greek as often "hardly Greek at all, but rather Hebrew in disguise."

What can we say, then, about the Septuagint? First, we can say for certain that it was used and quoted in the New Testament in some places. Moreover, in the Old Testament (depending on your translation), it even carries what textual critics consider to be the original reading.

But whatever we decide about its value, it seems clear that, from a scholar’s point of view anyway, we would not use the LXX as our guide to vocabulary, since it is so formal, rigid, and stringent in its translation that it ceases being common usage. (This reminds me a bit of what was said about the ASV’s approach to the New Testament--good Greek, terrible English).

More importantly, we have no need. There already is a lexicon that fills that role admirably--A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition (commonly referred to as BDAG).

In the future, we'll take a deeper look at the definitions of σῴζω and ψυχή, and talk about James 1:21 in translation.

Reply to Danny

Danny has been waiting patiently for a reply from me. He's asked a couple of times for my views on James. Here's his latest comment:

Gummby, I do hope you don't take a soteriological view of James 1:21. James affirms that his readers are regenerate in v. 18, and then tells them to receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save their souls. Some of my fellow Free Gracers see the expression of "saving the soul" as referring to saving themselves from a ruined life, not necessarily death. However, in 1:15, he does mention death. And I still think Antonio has a good case based on the LXX. Also, have you noticed that in 2:12-13, James makes a refernce to the Judgment Seat of Christ, before moving on to the faith without works discourse? Some of people in FG take a Bema view of 14-26. That is, the salvation in 2:14 refers to being saved from a merciless judgment (with the attendant loss of rewards).

For Danny (and anyone else wondering where I've been headed with this), I don't have a firm opinion on what James 1:21, 2:14ff, etc., mean. I'm still looking into it.

What I can say, with dogged certainty, is that the kind of research that Antonio has done will in no way persuade me to take his view.

Why? Is it because I'm a dogmatic Lordship Salvation guy, who just ignores everything anyone else says? Or maybe it's because I've just been beguiled by this guy Centuri0n, and I've forgotten how to think for myself.

Danny, it's because Antonio's argument isn't a very good one, and it isn't made very well, either. I'm about to knock the LXX peg out from under the tent. But even without doing that, I'm quite disinclined to listen to Antonio's research, for two reasons.

1) I don't know his methodology. How did he arrive at those passages he quotes as parallels? How do I know there aren't others? Unless I know what steps he took (whether he used software, or a concordance, or just speed-read the Bible), I'm just putting my trust in what he says.

2) I don't trust what he says. Let's take his quotation of BAGD, for example. He quotes the definition as being a possibility, and then moves on, as though his point has been made & supported.

The problem is, BAGD has a lengthy citation about ψυχή, including actually mentioning the James 1:21 passage, all of which Antonio left out. It would be one thing if he said,"Here's what the lexicon says about ψυχή, and here's why I think I'm right and they are wrong." Instead, his statement gives an impression of support for his position which just isn't there.

Earlier today, Centuri0n suggested that Antonio doesn't know how to use the reference material, meaning that he wasn't intentionally being misleading, he just didn't know better. And I'm OK with that. But it means that when he posts a lexical study, and then gets all fired up that folks are "going to great lengths to wiggle out of the evidence," I'm going to yawn and go back to verifying comparable sales.

All that to say, if you want to know what I think about James 1:21, stick around; I'm getting there. No need to rush--it's important to do a job right.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Before We Continue

Before we press on, I just wanted to take a moment to respond to some assertions Antonio has made at various blogs recently. His statements are of the "you people" variety, which lumps me in with all the other mindless Lordship Salvation people, so-on and so-forth.

Let me be clear. I do believe in Lordship, and I believe it for the same reason I believe in Calvinism: because the Bible teaches it. If someone, be it Antonio or someone else, can convince me from Scripture that what I believe is incorrect, I will be first in line to change. That is, after all, what this blog is about--Still Reforming.

That said, the work that Antonio has done recently is what I would characterize as prooftexting. He has indeed done some work, only he has conveniently left out all the pieces that don't fit his thesis. It doesn't stand up under scrutiny.

Since there's a lot there, I'll continue to use his post as a springboard for areas that I think will be of interest and edification to my readers (I'm not just trying to be part of a big blogfight here); the first of those, which I hope to publish soon, will be on the nature of Greek in the LXX.

In the meantime, I am willing to review evidence from any and all quarters that doesn't suffer from the same selective bias.

(P.S. to Bobby Grow: if Blogger keeps giving you fits, feel free to use the Anonymous option, and just sign your name.)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Three Reasons Antonio is Wrong

Well, Antonio published this article about saving your souls, ala James 1:21. The specific wording that is under debate here is τὸν δυνάμενον σῶσαι τὰς ψυχὰς ὑμῶν, hyper-literally, "the one being able to save souls your," or in more standard English, "which is able to save your souls." (Quick note here: for ease of discussion, I'll be quoting from the New King James Version, which I believe is the one Antonio uses most often; and as a reference, I have the handy The NKJV Greek English Interlinear New Testament, which is a compilation of the NKJV & The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text.)

Antonio quotes a lot of statistics to make this point. But in the end, statistics alone don't win the argument. I'd like to point out 3 significant issues with Antonio's argument.

1) Where's Jesus?

Antonio says: [The Greek reader] obviously would not consider the meaning “salvation from hell” for the Greek words “soteria” and “sozo” (salvation and save, respecively [sic]) as the first, knee-jerk option when he read it. This would be especially true for the early Jewish Christian readers of James, absorbed as they would have been both in Koine Greek and the Septuagint (which was read in their synagogues). He bases this on the age of James (it was written fairly early on), its audience (which is primarily Jewish), and the meanings of those words in the Septuagint (LXX).

Sounds pretty convincing, except for one thing: Jesus.

The Jews were waiting for the Messiah, the conquering king, to come and deliver them. Over and over, they looked for a temporal deliverance. Yet Jesus teaching about salvation is one of spiritual deliverance, not a physical one. For example, at Christmas, we often hear quoted Matthew 1:21 "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people...". From what? Their oppressors? No--"their sins." Jesus came to seek and to save--not just temporally, but spiritually, and eternally.

Now I am sorry to say that, at the moment, I don't have the resources to purchase the software necessary to do the searches on every occurrence of a word in the New Testament. If someone does, and would like to help, it would be appreciated. Until that time, I will not state the affirmative without knowing it to be true; instead, I will just say that Jesus actually talked about saving in a soteriological sense, and that since James was his (half) brother, I think it is a fair assumption that Jesus' teaching had some impact on his brother, as much if not more than the Septuagint.

The principle of progressive revelation stands with me on this, BTW.

(As a late entry in this category, I'll submit Antonio's post on NT occurrences of σῴζω. You can review all of the instances for yourself, paying special attention to who speaks about physical/temporal deliverance, and who speaks about spiritual.

But don't take Antonio's word for what is what--read the passage and context, and then decide for yourself. For instance, Matthew 18:11, speaking about seeking and saving that which was lost, Antonio puts in the temporal category--the calling of the nation of Israel to repentance. But Antonio ignores the real context of this passage, which in Matthew 18 is talking about the Kingdom of heaven, and he mentions a parallel in Luke 15, about repentance, but again, the context seems, to me at least, to be speaking about spiritual salvation, not temporal.)

2) Lexical meaning of ψυχή

Antonio says: BAGD (2nd Edition, 1958, pg 893), the standard Greek lexicon, gives the entries “of life on earth in its external, physical aspects” and “earthly life itself” for psyche (soul/life).

First of all, BAGD (as the second edition is known) was published in 1979, not 1958. It certainly must be the second edition (the one I don't have), because BAG has the entry on pg. 901. But Antonio's quote here leaves out a lot of context--sort of like if I boiled down the definition of love to "deep affection for someone."

In any case, here's a better idea of what ψυχή means, from BDAG (that's the third edition, published in 2000).

BDAG has definitions separated into broad categories, followed by more specifics within a category. It provides three broad categories for ψυχή (all formatting in the original, unless otherwise noted; for the sake of space, time, and copyright, I'm only including the first three sub-entries for each entry):

1. life on earth in its animating aspect making bodily function possible

In this category, it includes
a) breath of life, life-principle, soul, of animals;
b) the condition of being alive, earthly life, life itself;
c) by metonymy, that which possess life/soul; a living creature

2. seat and center of the inner human life in its many varied aspects, soul

In this category, it includes
a) of the desire for luxurious living
b) of evil desires
c) of feelings and emotions

3. an entity w. personhood, person ext. of 2 by metonymy everyone

It's important to note that the folks that produce this volume don't assert these things in a vacuum; they put references in for each and every entry--giving the lexical reason why they believe the word means what it does.

They list James 1:21 under #2, letter "d," with the following entry:

d. as the seat and center of life than transcends the earthly.

The BDAG folks appear to be on the side of this being more than a merely temporal deliverance.

Alexander Souter, whose small lexicon I consider to be a real gem, despite its age (and is available for free download from this page), has this to add to our discussion:

In the LXX, there is, in general, a lack of sharp distinction between ψυχή (lit. breath [cf. anima], breath of life in the individual), πνεῦμα and καρδία, though ψυχή general refers to appetite and desire; it is there as a rule a translation of the Hebrew nephesh, one of the words for the 'breath-soul', the personal soul; in Paul, soul (ψυχή) and spirit (πνεῦμα) are hardly to be distinguished (yet cf. I Cor. XV 45): . . .The general use of the word in the Bible is in the sense of whatever is felt to belong most essentially to man's life, when his bodily life has come to be regarded as a secondary thing. It comes near the modern conception, self.

I think it's fair to say that if it does mean temporal deliverance in James, it is a marked exception, not the foregone conclusion Antonio makes it sound like.

OK, before we leave #2 here, just one other note here that concerns what we've just looked at.

You can clearly see that a single word can have a variety of meanings. Linguists call this a "semantic range;" if you clicked on the link for the definition of love above, you'll see 21 different meanings.

But perhaps an easier way to understand (and remember) it is like this: I love my wife, and I love blogging. You implicitly know that I'm talking about two different things, even when I use the same word.

It's possible to make an error, especially if what you're reading is not your first language (like when I read that "the Word became meat" in John 1:14); but it may also happen when reading reading a literal translation, if we automatically assume that the same word will always mean exactly the same thing, regardless of the context.

Here's why I bring this up: Antonio says that James 1:21 is the first instance of “sozo” in his epistle, and can give an indication of the type of “saving” he has in mind in the remainder. This is true, up to a point.

But consider here Luke 12:19-20, quoted from the NKJV.

And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’

Is it reasonable to state that both uses of soul here are the same? No. In fact, the NIV renders the first one "myself," and the second one "life." So we must be careful to make sure the context fits what we say it means.

Therefore, we cannot just take it for granted that James is using the word in the same sense each time he uses it in his letter--we must look at the context.

3) Translation of ψυχή in James 1:21

You've already read part of the issue, if you read Frank's Question 4 on Debate Blog.

The bottom line is this: these translators are not dummies, and Frank didn't just use literal translations, which (according to Dynamic Equivalence advocates) have a tendency to under-translate; if they thought it should be "life" instead of "soul," they could and would have put it there. No one translates it "life" because that's not the best fit, in context.

So, while Antonio wants to make this an argument between knowledgeable, linguistic-savvy Free Grace Advocates and Lordship Salvation and Reformed Soteriologists who are unwilling to do careful lexical work and instead import a present-day understanding of "save the soul" into the text, it is actually between well over 400 years of translators from all theological persuasions stacked up against two people with a clear agenda and an interest in making the text say something that supports their assertions.

Update: Unbeknownst to me, Centuri0n was also working on a response to Antonio's post. If I did my math right, he was up almost as late as I was working on part 1.

He has just posted part 2, which includes a scan of BAGD's entry for ψυχή (the paper one is BAGD--the one Antonio quotes from; the BibleWorks one is BDAG--same as the one I quoted above). This is particularly important since Antonio has thus far refused to answer my question about what BAGD itself says about James 1:21. Regardless of your feelings about what I've written in this post, you owe it to yourself to compare what Antonio says BAGD says with what it actually says. Then ask yourself,"Is this the kind of rigorous research that I want to rely on?"

Friday, December 08, 2006

The purpose of music

Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;

Praise him in his mighty heavens!

Praise him for his mighty deeds;

Praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;

Praise him with lute and harp!

Praise him with tambourine and dance;

Praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
Praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
---Psalm 150---

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My Favorite Blogging Tool

Back when I was just getting started on the blogging scene, I was casting about looking for something to help me with Haloscan comments. I came across TED Notepad, and it has since become an essential tool for me. It is on every computer that I use with any regularity and every USB drive & floppy disk that I use for writing. It's that good.

Here are some reasons I like it:

The price is right: free--like most software I use. I hate to pay for software.

It's small--Only takes up about 120K; as a result, I have it loaded on every USB & Floppy I use.

This is why I use it for blogging. I have the HTML codes for italics, bold, & hyperlink on keyboard shortcuts. As I mentioned, this is particularly useful for Haloscan comments, which is why I draft my comments almost exclusively now in TED (anything longer than about one sentence), as well as most of my blog first drafts (I occasionally have to add things through the Blogger tools, but I still edit most everything in the HTML).

Other features I like
Minimize to tray: I love this one--this makes it useful as a notepad; I use it for my To Do list at work
Save settings on exit: you can omit this box, which will make it come up the same size every time (again, perfect for a To Do list), or else remember the last state you had it in.
Unicode support: For Win XP, you get Unicode support, so you can actually cut & paste other languages. Greek, for instance, looks like this: Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. (I don't claim to be the Unicode expert by any means, but if you choose to do this, my suggestion is to save everything as file type UTF-8. I'll tackle fonts some other time in another post, but when working in TED I prefer monospaced fonts, like Courier or Lucinda--some computers have the full fonts to recognize the letters, and others will just give you the annoying boxes).

There are many other features that are too numerous to mention; you're really only limited by your imagination.

Even if you have no interest in hand coding your blog entries and prefer a WYSIWYG editor (or even Microsoft Word), you should still pick up a copy, to use for Haloscan, or just for a better all-around notepad.

To get more information, you can visit the homepage, and here is the download page. It is constantly being updated (in fact, I just noticed there is a 5.0 release available--I have 4.5.3). If you want to edit in Unicode, make sure you download the one that is not labeled "RE Clone."

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Such a Blessing

I'm still commiserating with my wife over the Hogs' loss to the Gators, so to help me work things out, I'm posting this.

Last week, I had a very rare treat--I got to meet someone "offline." I got to meet Even So himself.

I'm the one in the glasses.

He was there with Mrs. Even So.

Aren't they a cute couple?

They had driven from Florida all the way to Oklahoma, and were willing to change their homegoing route just to come up and meet us.

Ok, not just for that--they also wanted to watch Florida/Florida State.

We met at TGI Fridays. It was such a wonderful time.

All of us together. Aren't we purty?

As J.D. said, we'd better get used to each other--we'll be spending an eternity together in the future.

Here's his version of events. I just want to tell them both again how much we appreciated the opportunity to meet and talk with y'all last week. I'd take your side over the McCoys any day of the week.

Oh, and in case you missed it, J.D. also has a book coming out--a series of devotions, based on the blog. More details to come, I'm sure.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Has anyone seen this movie? My wife & I watched it last night, and we were blown away.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


I just gotta say here, how did I ever live without Bloglines?

While going through my Sitemeter stats, I noticed that a couple of readers (Nate & Rebecca, I believe), used Bloglines. I finally decided to go through the process of setting it up, and I love it.

There are so many reasons to like it, but chief among them is, I don't have to set up any feeds on my computer's RSS reader. I just log in to Bloglines, and there they are. I have three different computers I use regularly, and so this is a real help. Not to mention how nice it is when I'm away from home.

Also, it comes in handy for those blogs where people don't post very often. You always know when someone posts something new--it's nice not to miss it.

They've also added a "playlists" feature, so you can create groups for your blogs. I have a daily group, and plan on adding a news group, and so on.

The only downside I've seen so far is that it relies on RSS feeds, which menas you can end up missing formatting, and sometimes it does some weird stuff (I think Buggy keeps republishing his blog just so it will drive me crazy).

But all in all, it is a tool I heartily recommend for those who are regular blog readers.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

But You Don't Look Any Different

My son told me today "Daddy, you don't look any different than you did when you were 35." Of course, since my birthday was yesterday, I would hope not.

But, if you were to compare now with, say, my engagement pictures, you'd see several differences--shorter (and whiter) hair, the beard, a few wrinkles, and a few extra pounds, just to name a few.

I think our spiritual life is like that, too. It's hard to measure sanctification on a day-by-day basis; it's only when we look back over time that we can see God working in us to make us more like Him.

Now if I were to look exactly the same as I did 12 years ago (assuming that I'm not Dick Clark), something would be wrong. In the same way, if my life spiritually looks the same as it did back then, I think you would be hard pressed to say that any growth took place. And in fact, I would argue that if no growth is evident, you ought to question whether there was ever a birth.

So as this body slowly deteriorates, I'm reminded of the change that is happening on the inside, and I praise God for that.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. (2 Cor 4:16, NIV)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Thanksgiving Proclamation

The interesting thing about Thanksgiving, as someone pointed out to me last year, is that it is inherently a God-honoring holiday. To whom would we be giving thanks, if not to Him? An interesting point, that.

In any case, here is a thanksgiving proclamation made by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. (When I grow up, I hope I have a fraction of this self-educated man's eloquence.) Happy Thanksgiving!

Proclamation of Thanksgiving

July 15, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

It has pleased Almighty God to hearken to the supplications and prayers of an afflicted people, and to vouchsafe to the army and the navy of the United States victories on land and on the sea so signal and so effective as to furnish reasonable grounds for augmented confidence that the Union of these States will be maintained, their constitution preserved, and their peace and prosperity permanently restored. But these victories have been accorded not without sacrifices of life, limb, health and liberty incurred by brave, loyal and patriotic citizens. Domestic affliction in every part of the country follows in the train of these fearful bereavements. It is meet and right to recognize and confess the presence of the Almighty Father and the power of His Hand equally in these triumphs and in these sorrows:

Now, therefore, be it known that I do set apart Thursday the 6th. day of August next, to be observed as a day for National Thanksgiving, Praise and Prayer, and I invite the People of the United States to assemble on that occasion in their customary places of worship, and in the forms approved by their own consciences, render the homage due to the Divine Majesty, for the wonderful things he has done in the Nation's behalf, and invoke the influence of His Holy Spirit to subdue the anger, which has produced, and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion, to change the hearts of the insurgents, to guide the counsels of the Government with wisdom adequate to so great a national emergency, and to visit with tender care and consolation throughout the length and breadth of our land all those who, through the vicissitudes of marches, voyages, battles and sieges, have been brought to suffer in mind, body or estate, and finally to lead the whole nation, through the paths of repentance and submission to the Divine Will, back to the perfect enjoyment of Union and fraternal peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this fifteenth day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-eighth.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

(Obtained from Collected Words of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 6)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Worth Repeating

Nate had this to say about my Thanksgiving post, and it was worth repeating...

I also believe a big impetus to thankfulness--paradoxically according to the world's wisdom--is generosity with one's earthly resources. Our nature is to demand the physical blessings we believe we deserve. Hard to be grateful when you don't feel as if you have everything you're supposed to have.

We won't be thankful people until our hearts urge us to hasten our steps to Beulah Land. Our expectations then will be so fixed on eternity that we'll feel a little surprised--albeit pleasantly--when God blesses us with temporal comforts and luxuries. That's where thankfulness begins: with a heart that expects nothing, and so rejoices when it receives the unexpected.

So true.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tis the Season

Thankfulness is seasonal? Well, yes, actually. At least in my life.

The thankfulness season starts around Halloween/Reformation Day, and runs until January 1st. It encompasses "the holidays," as people call them these days--the holiday season.

Thanksgiving makes me thankful. My birthday, and my oldest son's birthday fall during this time. Christmas makes me thankful; my wife's birthday falls during that time as well.

The problem with all of this is something rather simple: a believer's life should be marked by thankfulness all the time. There is no season for thankfulness, any more than there is for joy, peace, patience, etc. Those are the fruit, and they should always be in season in our lives.

So how do we cultivate this? Well, I think a good first step is just thinking about it.

In Philippians, it talks about thinking on things that are true, pure, holy, and so on. I would add to that list things to be thankful about. Dwell on those things, and they will become a part of life.

So my challenge to you (and to me) is to make this season the start of a lifestyle of thankfulness. Thankfulness is something that's always in season.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Brief Defense of Free Markets

Why Capitalism and Christianty are eminently compatible

We've been having an interesting coversation over at Cent's place about a bishop in the Anglican Church who supports what amounts to infanticide. In the meta, frequent commenter David has posed some questions.

One of his more recent questions asks this:
If we assume that to live with believers as in Acts 2 should be normative for us, why do we want a govermental system that is so antithetical to that lifestyle?

(Note: this is actually a two-part question, because David then wants to apply it back to our debate about health care; however, I'm only going to tackle part one now.)

First, let's admit right off the bat that no system is perfect. The main problem with all systems is the same: sinful man always finds a way to abuse the system and use it to his own advantage.

With that in mind, then, we must ask ourselves "which system best takes into account and compensates for man's nature?" I would answer that capitalism is such a system.

At its core, Capitalism operates on a simple principle: it rewards people based on their contribution to society. Sound familiar? Paul said something similar in his second letter to the Thessalonians. In Chapter 3, he states that he didn't have any handouts, and worked for what he received, and then says of the lazy man "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat" (2 Thes 3:10, ESV).

Now, Capitalism certainly works better in a society founded on Biblical principles, and absent those principles, there can be lots of unhappy consequences. Take pornography, for example. In a free society, it is allowed. In a perfectly moral society, there would no demand for that product, and therefore the market would snuff it out of existence. As it stands, it is a huge blight on our society. (And though it is beyond the scope of this brief post, I would assert here the government's role here--passing laws to prevent sinful people from taking advantage of the system, but also in upholding moral standards--something that used to be taken seriously but now has become rather passe to most people.)

"What about the person who is unable to contribute to society," the astute observer will ask. And this is a truly excellent question. How do markets deal with people, and doe businesses have a responsibility beyond mere business? One of the most prominent free market economists, Milton Friedman, has famously stated it this way: "So the question is, do corporate executives, provided they stay within the law, have responsibilities in their business activities other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible? And my answer to that is, no they do not."

We can certainly debate whether business has any responsibility whatsoever (and being newly self-employed has given me a new perspective on this, which perhaps I'll share at a future date), but on the whole, I think it is at least fair to say that business' primary responsibility ought to be business. I don't think it is the responsibility of business to take care of society; neither do I think it is the job of the government. It is the church's job.

Again and again, throughout the Bible, God's people are commanded to take care of the poor, and widows, and orphans. Those who can't effectively take care of themselves. Or, to put it another way, those members of society who aren't able to contribute.

See, if the church takes care of those who are less productive members of society, that frees up business to do its job (make money flow throughout society), and leaves government in the role of making and enforcing rules to protect society and prevent evil, including the evils perpetrated by sinful businessmen.

So these roles are perfectly compatible. And while some might argue that a passage like as Acts 2 tells us what kind of system we need to have, that must be qualified by understanding that it is speaking of believers that are in fellowship together--or to put it in modern terms, the church. Those passages have nothing to say about government, because at the time, the government was The Roman Empire. Rather, God institutes all governments (including evil, unbelieving ones) for His own sovereign purposes, and we are to submit to them fully (Rom 13), except in an area where the government would command us to do something that would be unbiblical (China's mandatory abortion policy comes to mind here).

Returning to Uncle Milty, I'll throw out one more quote: "What kind of society isn't structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of a system." I would qualify this by saying that this is true only to the extent that people are basically evil (sin nature), and that limits must be put in place for this, either through government, or ideally through the hearts of the people (via the church).

Monday, November 13, 2006

Did the Anglican Church really come out pro-euthanasia?

HT: Cent for this article. I'm a little skeptical, since newspapers are known to lead with whatever will sell.

Still, it reminds me very much of this article, which I mentioned awhile back.

If nothing else, it shows what happens when the Church aligns itself too much with any government.

Friday, November 10, 2006

From the Blogroll

I'll be adding Theologian of the Cross shortly. HT: Sebold. Check out Lazarus and the Glory of God. (As an aside, the topic of John 11:5-6 is something I hope to return to in a future post.)

Speaking of Charlie, he said he plans to blog less. I hope not. It's not like his testimony is all he has to say about Christ, any more than any of us are limited to that.

Also, check out my buddy Rulerman's post on DNA. He was disappointed that only 6 people came to read that post, and 5 of them were related to him.

And finally, despite the death of his own blog, it turns out my buddy Chris Pixley has found time to write, under the group blog Expository Thoughts. Too bad I had to find out from a CD of a Phil Johnson's message. Oh well. Check out Avoiding the Homiletical Hermeneutic--turns out even pastors have to remind themselves about context sometimes.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mercy and Grace (and Justice)

I read this story to the junior high group tonight.
There was this guy named Horace.

Horace had never been an especially “good” guy. He’d been a bully at school. He stole money from his parents, from his grandmother, from the offering at church, from the Salvation Army Christmas kettle, from his best friend, from his best friend’s mother, from his brother, from the Pastor, from a visiting missionary, from a six year old kid, from the convenience store, from the grocery store, from the music store, and from the Gospel Lighthouse Bookstore. Horace stole tickets to the fair, and then he stole one of the big stuffed animal prizes. Horace’s neighbour asked Horace to feed his dog while he was on vacation. Instead, Horace stole his neighbour’s dog’s food and gave it to his own dog. Then he kicked his own dog. Then he went back to the neighbour’s house and kicked that dog too. Then he hung his neighbour’s cat up by the tail. Then he broke a window, went inside the neighbour’s house and stole some jewelry, cookies, and beer. Then he watched the wrong sort of movie on the neighbour’s tv.

That was when Horace was a kid. But now Horace was all grown up. He still stole things, because he needed money for his various “habits”. He stole from his boss. He stole from his boss’s customers. Horace had a wife and kids. He stole from them. He hit his wife. He abused his kids. Horace told his kids that he hated them. Horace beat up his wife’s parents.

One night, Horace had been drinking heavily after work and was on his way home. Horace was driving too fast, and was all over the road. Then before Horace knew what was happening, he had hit a pedestrian. The front bumper of the car snapped the pedestrian’s knees at 110 km/h. The pedestrian was launched over the hood, the pedestrian’s head was smashed on the windshield, and then the pedestrian flew 80 feet through the air before landing on the pavement.

Horace decided not to stop. He drove home, put the car in the garage and washed it. He told his wife to shut up when she asked him what he was doing. Then he shut the barn door, set the barn on fire, and went for a walk.

Two firefighters died that night fighting the blaze. A third one was horribly burned and mutilated, and spent eight months in the hospital, and had to get skin grafts and all sorts of nasty procedures. Three of his fingers were burned right off.

As for the pedestrian, she lived. But both her legs were amputated, and she never came out of her coma because of her severe head injury. She had a husband and three small children… She had also been pregnant, but the baby was lost because of her injuries.

No one figured out that Horace was at fault. The insurance company paid him for the barn and the car. Then Horace went to Niagara Falls and gambled the payment away.

When he came home, he decided he had enough of his kids and especially his wife. While she was sleeping he slit her throat. He murdered all of his children too. Then he went on the run, terrorizing and stealing wherever he went.

But Horace is finally being brought to justice. The bailiff read out all the lengthy charges against Horace. The trial was straightforward. Horace is guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. The judge passes sentence:
“This court shows mercy to Horace, and does not require him to receive any punishment for his crimes.”

The judge doesn’t stop there.
“This court extends grace to Horace, and grants him a life-lease on a $2 million lakefront home, and also grants him a $10 million trust fund sufficient for all his heart’s desires.”
The laughter tailed off uncomfortably partway through the story, and soon the silence thickened. The kids were very distressed by this story. When the sentence was pronounced, they were not happy. “He deserves the death sentence,” was a common complaint. But Horace was not being punished for his crimes. On the contrary, he was being rewarded. A couple kids would not rest until they found out if this story was true. The unsatisfied justice worried and outraged them. When I assured them that it was completely false, the relief on their faces was immediate.

Mercy entails me not getting the punishment I deserve. Mercy is not just.

Grace entails me receiving good things that I did nothing to merit. Grace is not just either.

Our God is merciful and full of grace. But he is also holy and just.
21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.
--- Romans 3:21-27a
In my black heart, I am Horace. I am Horace to the core. But the righteous Judge has extended me mercy, and has granted me grace. He did this and satisfied justice by taking the punishment on my behalf, by becoming the substitute for me.

Read that again: instead of sentencing me, the Judge satisfied justice by taking my punishment Himself. That is astonishing. Words are insufficient to communicate how boggling this is.

There is nothing for me to boast about. There is quite a bit for me to rejoice about.

Praise the Lord!

What's a Political Junkie to Do?

It's election day here in the States, and we've just completed our civic duty. I took one of my sons in with me, and let him push all the buttons on the voting machine for me. It went fine--except that he kept wanting to vote for the Green Party Candidate. But you can't expect perfection from a four year old.

So now I'm back home, and ready to watch the returns. But since most of the election coverage has moved to cable news stations, what's a cheapskate like me (who refuses to pay for TV) to do?

I've checked the local news channel websites, but they aren't exactly helpful. And one of my standbys from last election, NPR, doesn't hold the interest because there's too much national coverage, and too little local.

So right now, I'm listening to 840 WHAS out of Kentucky (through the magic of radio propagation and clear channel stations), which is running Fox News Radio programming. For local coverage, all of the stations have the returns on the bottom, but unfortunately no good programs to watch while we're doing it.

Oh, did I mention that this year I'm pulling for gridlock?

You Tell Me

How busy is someone really when he says he has no time to blog, but has time to stop by your blog and make a mutinous post like this?

Well, fine then

If Matt hasn't resurfaced by the time we get home from the youth group tonight, then we will simply have to post a coda.

Hear that Matt? It's only a matter of time before we wrest complete control of Still Reforming from your tenuous grasp.

Come back while you still can...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Well, that's all

We're all done. Sorry for breaking your blog, Matt. See you in the funny papers. Nora may or may not have some parting words of her own. She's never let me speak for her before, so why would she break tradition on this occasion?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Learning to decrease

As I was starting my morning get-ready-for-the-day routine, a verse came floating into my mind, from John 3:

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)

This was spoken by John the Baptist after some malcontents came to him to complain that Jesus was baptizing others. Perhaps they were a little confused that this man Jesus was interfering with the work of John. Of course, John knew exactly how to respond, and he humbly informed all who were listening that it was his job to decrease, while Jesus increased. Jesus was the reason John was preaching in the first place. He was to prepare the way for something better. John's assertion that he must decrease whereas Jesus was to increase was the correct way of thinking.

I was thinking about how this applies to me as a Christian woman. This principle of decreasing is not something that is restricted to John; it is for all of us. Paul reminds us of this in Philippians 2:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, thought he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

This passages echoes what John says. To have this mind of Christ, we must make ourselves nothing; we must decrease.

But what does this look like in every day life? Where can we see this put into practice? I was thinking about this today with regard to my children. My kids are 17, 14 and 12. The natural course of things is for them to increasingly become independent. While we will still have a relationship, the future of our relationship is one where we must give up time with them, where we must give up control of some of their decisions, to trust them to do things on their own. Sometimes, it means seeing them widen their circle of friends, and spend time with other people who mean a lot to them. It means, eventually, allowing a spouse to become more important than their parents. How is this an example of me decreasing and Christ being increased? Because it is putting someone ahead of myself. Seeing my children become more independent can be a sacrifice, because it may mean that I have less time with them. It may mean that they don't follow my advice; it may mean that they make a decision that I don't like, but which they feel is the one God would have them make. It means allowing them to be guided by Christ on their own, without me harping at them and reminding them. It means trusting God that the way we have raised them has been a way that they will continue to embrace on their own. Ultimately, it's an act of faith. We relinquish control because we trust that God loves our children more than we do and wants what is best for them.

When our children are little, we as parents are often larger than life. We begin to shrink a little as they get older. Actually, when they are teenagers, we really shrink. The nice thing is that as our children get older and have children of their own, we get a little bigger again. However, the ultimate goal is not for me to be bigger in the life of my child than Christ. My desire for my children is not to see myself reign supreme in their lives, but for Christ to do so. The goal for both parent and child to be continually decreasing as Christ increases in our lives.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

This Is Where I'm At Right Now--My Worst Nightmare!!

Checking in from the road. I'm at the lovely Boca Raton campus of Florida Atlantic University taking my class right now.

Unfortunately for me, the campus is a Pepsi-only campus--no Coke anywhere!

Someone save me.

The War of the Five Sacrifices

There are five basic types of sacrificial offerings described in Leviticus: the Burnt Offering, the Grain Offering, the Peace Offering, the Trespass Offering, and the Sin Offering.

The offerings are all so foreign and strange to our current-day sensibilities. If you're reading this, then your daily activities likely concern computers, electric toasters, electronic fuel injection automobiles, a hot shower, processed meat and perfectly symmetrical loaves of bread. You don't keep a sword at your side in case a band of unruly Arameans come over the hill, you don't depend on capricious wadis for your potable water, light pollution prevents you from seeing the glory of God in the dazzling stars every night, and you don't speak with your child in the heat of the day about the laws of God, because before the heat of the day arrives you have commuted to your job to earn money to pay for the electricity to run the toaster.

Nevertheless, those offerings are meaningful. They are brim full with meaning for us today.

Those five basic types of offerings described in Leviticus all foreshadow the life and the single, once-for-all-time death of Jesus Christ. And they do it in myriad ways. The apostles who were inspired to write the New Testament said so, and Jesus said so himself.

The offerings are bloody and gory and smelly and greasy and smoky and messy. Most of them involve the terrified death of the sacrifice. Believe it or not, but the offerings are incredibly beautiful!

Each one of the five describes specific and distinct functions performed by the savage torture and crucifixion of God, the man Jesus Christ, in approximately 30 anno domini. And at least one of these offerings (Grain Offering) also describes the real physical actual bodily resurrection of the broken body of the Christ.

Obviously Jesus Christ didn’t die five times, once for each offering. He died once, at the consummation of the ages. The five different offerings show us five different views of the cross, and communicate five different efficacies of Jesus' horrible death that day.

The first three are known as the “sweet savour” or "fragrant aroma" offerings, and they actually brought pleasure to God. The imagery we are given is the smoke of the offering ascending up as a sweet savour to the nostrils of God. He enjoyed them. That's right... God enjoyed the death of Christ in a very real sense, and he enjoyed the ancient Israelite Burnt Offerings, Grain Offerings, and Peace Offerings that foreshadowed this death.

What a horrid notion! How and why could God enjoy Christ's death?! The answer is to be simply found in the narration of the offerings.

In Leviticus 1, we find that the Burnt Offering was voluntarily presented, and was a sacrifice without any blemish whatsoever. It was perfect in every way. It was examined inside and out to assure this. And it was completely consumed upon the altar. God accepted it completely. It's a wonderful picture of the perfection of the Son of God, his voluntary determination to walk to Jerusalem to present himself for examination by God and man, the inability of mankind to find true fault in him despite looking for it furiously, and the delight that God displayed when He found no fault in the Christ. The Burnt Offering describes the love that the perfect Son had for the Father. Only God could fulfil the ultimate spotlessness required by the Burnt Offering, and only God could love enough to make such a holy and pure offering. The Father absolutely breathed in and reveled in this display of love by the Son. The cross was the voluntary goal of the Christ all the days of his life.

In Leviticus 2, we find that the Grain Offering was the fruit of the field, tilled by human hands and offered in gratitude for the harvest. Leviticus is chock full of types, words and themes that are consistently used throughout the Bible to represent other words and themes. The Grain Offering is the celebration of a human life, the loftiest human life ever lived (grain and fruit are a common type for humanity), one that was without sin (leaven), one that was empowered and anointed by the Holy Spirit (oil, and in fact the very names Christ and Messiah mean "anointed one". The Grain Offering was literally doused with oil.). The Grain Offering was used to celebrate the Feast of First Fruits (when God planned from the foundation of the earth for Jesus the human being to arise from the dead), and was used to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost (when God planned from the foundation of the earth for the anointing of the Holy Spirit to fall upon his Church). Where the Burnt Offering celebrates Christ the Son, the Grain Offering celebrates Jesus the sinless human. The Father absolutely breathed in and reveled in this memoriam of the human life as perfected in Jesus the second Adam. The cross was the culmination and end of this human life (at least until the third day!).

In Leviticus 3, the Peace Offering celebrates the reconciliation of God and man. It marks the end of war, the assuaging of the wrath of God that formerly abode upon man. In this offering God's heart's desire is realized: the sweet fellowship of man and God, unbroken by sin and death. How could the Father not enjoy this aspect of the crucifixion? The cross was the end of the enmity between created and Creator.

The final two sacrifices are not about enjoyment. We are not told in Leviticus that God enjoyed them. They merely did the job. I say merely, but were it not for the sin-atoning nature of the Trespass Offering in Leviticus 4 and then later and finally the Sin Offering, nothing else would really be of note for us sin-infested humans. The Trespass Offering atoned for "minor" or "unintentional" sins. But the Sin Offering covered it all. The cross of Calvary was a place where God conducted great business, and that fraught with justice, mercy and grace. The Trespass and Sin Offerings were Jesus Christ taking on the sin of his friends, friends who as yet did not know they were his friends. The Trespass and Sin Offerings were Jesus dying for his enemies, showing greater love than has ever been shown. These aspects of the cross were Jesus becoming sin behalf of His friends and imputing His righteousness to them. This didn't bring pleasure to God, because it involved meting out justice for sin. The wages of sin is death, and death had to be delivered to God's own Son before the gift of God, eternal life, could be put under the Christmas tree.

That spring day in Jerusalem approximately 1,975 years ago was the moment that all the violent evil of mankind perpetuated from Eve right on down to you and me (and our great-great-great-grandchildren should the Lord tarry) came to a head . No, God is not bound by time. Remember, He created spacetime. The sins of all time were addressed on that day. That was the day for action. It was the culmination of the glorious Son's mission as a sinless human being to reconcile humanity to God.

Slaves to our depraved wills, we were at war with God. Nevertheless, while we were yet sinners, Christ the helpless crucified warrior battled with our slavemaster Sin. Leviticus describes the five-pronged attack.

In a thrust completely unforeseen by human eyes, Christ won the war by dying. Then he proved the victory by rising.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Explode the Code

That title is actually the name of a homeschool phonics program. I have never used it, but I'm told it is pretty good.

However, the kind of code I am talking about is a language that looks like code to a 12 year old boy. I'm talking about Koine Greek.

I am a very verbal person. Words appeal to me, and I find using them not difficult for the most part. I have come to see over my years of learning, that having a grasp of language as a whole is very beneficial to all learning. I am a firm advocate that children should be provided with instruction, even very basic instruction at that, in classical languages. English is not a pure language. It's a mongrel. There are a plethora of influences in our language. We are famous for adopting words from other language families and making them our own. However, the basis of English remains Greek and Latin, especially Latin.

I have taught Latin to my children. There are excellent programs out there. Latin Primer is one that I tried to use, but it isn't fun or user friendly. I used Latina Christiana also, which is published by Catholics. Now, don't get all fussy on me here. You don't have to teach transubstantiation alongside Latina Christiana. One fact remains about Catholics teaching Latin. They know the language; they have a lot of experience using the language. It was a good program, and even though it was odd hearing Latin being spoken by someone from Kentucky, my kids learned a lot. For my own self-study, I chose to use Henle Latin, which was written by a priest. It is very Catholic, but I'm a big girl, and was able to filter it out. Its teaching approach is pretty good. Lots of repetition and practice, which is needed when you study a language.

Latin, despite its benefits, however, does not always appeal to young boys. They find it dry. They find those boring Latin phrases a little too much. Who wants to read quotes by Ovid or Augustine when you're 12 years old? My #1 son suffered in silence through both levels of Latina Christiana, and was happy to be done with it. My #2 son did pretty much the same thing. Despite their Latin loathing, however, they did learn something, and it is apparent in their ability to recognize roots of words. They can protest all they like, but I know that it was beneficial to them.

Koine Greek is another story altogether, or at least it has been with my 12 year old son. At first, when I told him that he would be getting introduced to Koine Greek, he resisted. Another dead language; what for? As we began learning the alphabet, his view began to change. As we began memorizing John 1:1 in Greek, he began to show an interest. He started enjoying it. I can only chalk it up to the fact that learning a language that has a different alphabet must feel more exotic to him. It's like deciphering a code. I could have told him that translating Latin is like deciphering a code, too, but I guess it's more like a code when the letters look strange. I think another element of interest is that occasionally, from the pulpit, our pastor will talk about what a word means in the original Greek, and knowing a little of Greek may seem to have more of a use than Latin. Understanding Latin means that we can read original documents, such as untranslated versions of Dante or Augustine, but what young boy wants to do that? He may some day, but he doesn't want to now. Koine Greek can assit us in our study of Scripture, so perhaps there's more incentive to do well with it.

The Greek program we are using is called Elementary Greek, and it could be used by someone as young as 8 or 9 years old. My 12 year old can race through an entire week in a day if he so chooses, but memory work is still important, so we shouldn't race too far ahead. I also have Bill Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek, which I try and pick away at just to refresh my memory. I took Koine Greek about 15 years ago, so my memory is dull.

I know that technical subjects and math and all that are important in our technical world, but I think being as verbal and literate as possible can only be a good thing. I think if I had to do it again, I would start classical language instruction with Greek as opposed to Latin.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Still Reforming on Reformation Day

Listen to the MIDI melody here.

You know Gummby, you can't ask me to mind the store and then expect me not to post bad blank verse and strangely unsatisfying melodies.

Still Reforming
Still reforming, still entangled by sin
Sanctification is taking longer than I
Expected but
there lies the real problem
Reformation of my life cannot succeed using my steam

Still reforming, but now trusting Jesus
Who said He would be with me
To the end of the age
And that’s all I’ll ever need.