Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Bible and 2012 American Politics

While I try to be generally non-political, I acknowledge that there are some moral values, which cannot be held apart from what occurs in current politics. Abortion is without question an institution that we should seek to abolish, using all of our means; this must include a large political element. That said, the Bible does not explicitly endorse or encourage strong political involvement. Our allegiance, trust, fervor and zeal should be in the kingdom of God. As Jim Cymbala once stated in his life-changing sermon The Anointing of God, Paul lived in far worse political conditions under Nero and Caligula who were far worse than we could reasonably imagine in the current American political scene, and he felt no need to mention politics beyond encouraging us to live peaceably in submission and prayer for our leaders.

This perspective does not seem to be common in the body of Christ, however. The current race for the Republican nomination seems filled with endorsements of candidates from the church on one side and speculation of conspiracy on the other. When I saw The 2012 Biblical Guide to Voting, I couldn't help but wonder if Christian publishers were beginning to use the Bible to create propaganda. I can imagine a publication that presented a balanced articulation of all sides of the major issues within a biblical context (The ESV Study Bible briefly attempts this in its the Ethics articles), but in the fervor of the current race, these kinds of publications strike me as treading a thin line, but this may be because I do not fit into an easy political mold.

On the other side of the issue I find the conspiracy theories related to Dominionism equally dangerous. The Daily Beast published an article that encourages speculation that Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann were involved in a Christian plot for national domination. When examining the Christian leaders in question on this specific issue, I find them innocent of attempting to establish a theocracy and many of them stated as much clearly. For those concerned about Dominionism I highly recommend the following posts from Gentle Wisdom:

 Dominionismism: A Conspiracy Theory Unmasked

Francis Schaeffer was Not a Dominionist

Peter Wagner Isn't a Dominionist Either

The result unfortunately is that Christianity is made to look like a political chip, a source of fear-mongering, a power hungry religion, a violent war-mongering religion. The image of the Bible and Christianity that gets projected into the political realm is often closer to fundamental Islam than to a revelation of Jesus Christ.

All of us who read the Bible as Holy Scripture cannot help but have our politics affected. My beliefs on some political issues have turned a 180 over the last few years as a result of the study of scripture, but we must be careful to distinguish between the sacred and the secular, the holy and the profane. In addition, we should not allow our political agendas be ruled by fear. The Bible does not provide for a fearful, frenzied response to political issues or losses. We can trust God to care for us and be faithful to us regardless of the atmosphere. Our lives in Christ can be just as rich under either party.

 Let us seek to spark a spiritual and moral revolution in every aspect of society, but don't let us cheapen the values we hold dear to add divine authority to political opinions, candidates or causes. Let the fruit of the Spirit control us as we represent Christ in our political convictions. Let us present them as we find them motivated by love, always rejoicing in the blessings God has given us regarding our political situation. Let us suffer long for a noble and Christlike pursuit of societal change. Let us endure wrong. Let us emphasize the kindness and goodness of God in His desire to change our politics. Let us be faithful to His character in our own desire to change it. Let us be gentle with people in spite of the moral depravity around us. Let us be in control. The Word and the Spirit agree on these things and the fact that we are to represent God's character here on the earth is far clearer than a mandate to represent God's interests in the political sphere. Let us tread carefully.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Experience vs. Doctrine in Relationship with Christ

Image retrieved from Creationswap.

One of the current trends in Christendom today is a vocal exaltation of doctrine over experience. This general phrase can be applied on numerous levels within numerous contexts. I've heard numerous reformed believers espousing it as a general principle and using it to rebuke and challenge pentecostal and charismatic doctrine and experience. I've also heard charismatic brothers espouse the principle generally and specifically in instances such as believing that you are healed in spite of experiencing symptoms. Some apply the principle as a compass or a litmus test, evaluating themselves to determine whether their beliefs are truly scriptural or merely based on their understanding as defined by life experiences, while others apply it to others exalting the word and the word alone  as the beginning and end of Christian life even decrying stalwart figures of the Reformed movement such as John Macarthur and Paul Washer as mystics because they speak of emotional experiences or encounters with grace. At some general level, almost every christian believes that doctrine trumps experience, our faith in the Word is what overcomes the world and what we see (1 John 5:4), but in the sometimes heated debate, we risk rhetorically undermining our own salvation.

One of the hardest challenges in scripture comes in 1 John 3:6: "No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him." It is an emphatic declaration that a believer's life is identified by holiness, but the phrasing John uses to make the point is significant. It doesn't say that no one who keeps on sinning doesn't believe, or that no one who keeps on sinning has false doctrine. It says that no one who keeps on sinning has either seen Him or known Him. One paraphrase could be, no one who keeps on sinning has had an experience with Jesus. We are not saved by affirmation to the correct doctrine. We are saved by grace through faith, by a revelation God provided in His grace which we grasp by faith and which leads us to Jesus and the Father. The Bible does not exalt itself as the highest revelation. It exalts Christ Jesus as the Highest revelation (Hebrews 1, Colossians 2:8-10, 1 Timothy 3:16, John 1:1-3).

The Christian life is not a mental assent, trust or even belief in the correct doctrine. It is a relationship with Jesus himself: "that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete" (1 John 1:3-4). The purpose of John's letter, the divine scripture of 1 John and the sound doctrine we esteem was that the readers would have fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. Doctrine is meant to lead us into fellowship with God, not just future fellowship in heaven, but current fellowship. John uses the present tense (indeed our fellowship IS with the Father. . .). The Christian life is a relationship and relationships are made of experience. You cannot have fellowship with someone and not experience their person on some level. Our relationship is not with the Bible, but with Jesus, and He is a person with a character and nature that is expressed and that we will experience. Our acknowledgement of that experience leads us into saving faith and onward into greater things in Jesus. Doctrine is meant to lead us into this experience by opening the door for us to believe and receive Jesus for all that He is, in all the ways that He expresses Himself. Doctrine is meant to keep us safe in this experience, guarding us from lies, mistakes, deceptions and the things of this world that don't align themselves with the truth of what Christ has done.

The Bible is not our primary revelation of God, and it is not our primary experience as Christians. It is meant to lead us into greater experience with Christ, guide us into more of Him and protect us from false experience and lies.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

CANA Translation - from Better Bibles Blog

Better Bibles Blog is an excellent resource for those interested in Bible translation and for those with questions about specific points. I often get questions about what the best Bible translation is. It is a hard question to answer. I can give you my favorites, but even those preferences have changed over time. I can give you my approach to picking translations, but I am not you. Better Bibles Blog offers some general thoughts about translations, their acceptance and their quality. The post is clear, simple and recognizes the spiritual qualities of translations as well as the academic.

I do know that people want their Bible to sound like a Bible. If we honestly believe that people would get a more accurate, clearer understanding of the Bible through some non-traditional sounding Bible, we have to be willing to set an example to others of the benefits that can come from CAN Bible translations. If we do, and if some people gain spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually from a Bible version outside a traditional mold, it requires a miracle that helps people Accept the newer version.
Check it out, it's worth the read.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Scripture Mementos and Purple Shoes

 One of the most potent tools I've used for memorizing scripture is a memento. Assigning a scripture to a significant object you see, use or put on everyday provides an opportunity quote scripture, jog your memory and provide a tangible, visible cue for your memory. Mementos may seem gimmicky at first, but much of the Old Covenant temple items and instruments were designed to remind the priests, the Israelites and future generations of the law, the scripture and the nature of God. In a similar way, attaching deeper meanings to physical objects can create habits for memorizing, quoting and confessing scripture.

I have a number of scripture mementos that I've created patterns around, but the newest one and the one I have received the most comments about are my purple shoes. Those of you who read an early post called The Purple Croc Gospel know the significance of the color purple and the idea behind colorful footwear. Isaiah 52:7 and Romans 10:15 extol the beauty of the feet that carry messengers who carry the good news. It's a complex but beautiful blessing for those who preach the gospel, a poetic tribute that in some ways is lost on our culture. Urban culture appreciates colorful footwear and I've received nothing but compliments on the shoes, and I've been able to explain their significance to people, so they work as a witnessing tool as well. Purple is also the color of royalty. Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 refer to us as "kings and priests" or "a kingdom of priests" depending on your translation. As sons of God and joint heirs with Christ we are kings of whom Christ is King and lords of whom Jesus is LORD.

Each morning as I put on my purple shoes I paraphrase a conglomeration of scriptures, "I am a king and a priest (Rev. 1:6). My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19) and I know how to possess this vessel in sanctification and honor (1 Thes. 4:4). I put on my shoes prepared to share of the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15). How beautiful are the feet of them that bring good news. (Rom. 10:15)." The simple act of quoting or even paraphrasing scripture vocally everyday, meditating on it and mentally applying it to myself and to my day is a great encouragement and renews my mind. The more I meditate on these words and apply them the more I believe them.

In Joshua 1:8 the LORD instructs Joshua to meditate on scripture day and night and to not let it depart from his mouth. Before written records were readily accessible, scripture was only accessible through rote. Verbal recitation and memorization was key. There was very little reading of the scriptures, but there was a high amount of reciting scripture. While reading is our main mode of learning and ingesting scripture today, it is a far more passive action than reciting or confessing scripture. Verbally quoting scripture or reading scripture aloud is a more visceral experience and can be encouraging. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Tying scripture recitation to an object, like my shoes, may seem gimmicky or childish, but it creates a routine of scripture meditation that truly has been mind renewing and life changing. I now have a few scripture mementos and I hope to add more as I'm able.

I'll be posting more on mementos, hopefully with more detailed explanation. In the meantime, you can comment below if you have some mementos or contact me through the button on the sidebar.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: Cambridge ESV Pitt Minion Reference Brown Calf Split

Bible aficionados have been blessed in the last month by the auspicious release of intriguing new Cambridge editions. The two most noted are the KJV Transetto and the KJV Clarion; however, Cambridge has also added to their classic Pitt Minion line by releasing a new edition of the ESV in an attractive Brown Calf Split binding. Calf Split is climbing in popularity as a medium in Bible binding, and Cambridge is releasing a number of calf split editions. Their KJV Cameo Reference edition in black pebble grain calf split, which included the Apocrypha was receiving rave reviews until a printing error manifested. I'm looking forward to its re-release in September, and in spite of the publication issue, the release proved the popularity of the material.

The Pitt Minion line has remained a tried and true edition maximizing portability and readability. The design choices result in a what is a "just right" edition for many. The ESV Pitt Minion Reference in Brown Calf Split maintains all the style, tradition and features loved in the Pitt Minion line while embracing the ESV text and a beautiful pebble-grain calf split cover.


The binding is really the appeal of this edition. Calf split remains far cheaper than goatskin, but presents excellent durability and feel. Cambridge explains calf split as follows:

Calf split leatherA superior grade to French Morocco leather, tanned to approach the quality and feel of full-grain calfskin leather.
French Morocco leather Leather taken from a split hide – sheepskin, calf or cowhide. Slightly thinner than the other grades of leather and therefore relatively flexible and soft even when new. A French Morocco binding offers high-quality real leather at an economical price.
My experience with Cambridge's French Morocco was that it was stiffer, higher gloss, but significantly thicker than "Genuine Leather" or pigskin. The calf split on the ESV Pitt Minion is an entirely different story. It's thickness and softness are every bit as excellent as the goatskin featured on the NLT Pitt Minion, in fact the calf split may be superior in softness. Additionally, the pebble grain is wide, beautiful and pleasant to the touch, far more desirable to my taste than the tight, high gloss grain on the previous Pitt Minion edition I have reviewed.

 This edition pairs the milk chocolate brown of the leather with a standard gilt rather than art gilt, which decreases the price and matches the overall aesthetic of the Bible well. Some will miss the art gilt pages, but the excellence of the cover material and the affordability of the edition should make up for the downgrade on the page edges.

The calf split leather is paired with a Smyth-sewn binding, creating flexibility and durability. The leather is a fair amount stiffer than goatskin, but still able to perform acrobatics fairly well. I had to coax it into the yoga position several times before I was able to take a picture, but with time and use I imagine this will soften up nicely and become much more flexible.

This edition features the standard Cambridge paper and Pitt Minion size, taking advantage of proven qualities in durability, portability and readability.


The Pitt Minion has maintained an excellent reputation among Bible lovers for its clear readable layout and this edition is no exception. Cambridge made excellent choices when designing the Pitt Minion line and this Bible makes use of the well proportioned compromise between portability and readability. For most, this is the most readable a portable, traditional Bible setting can get. For more details on the excellence of the layout view the review of the NLT Pitt Minion. This edition features red-letter text and the print is a rich, readable crimson.

While I praise many of Cambridge's editions for their quality, this edition also stands out in value. I actually prefer the calf split to the goatskin I've handled on the previous Pitt Minion and it's much cheaper. If I were to purchase a portable ESV, this is the one I would choose. The soft pebble grain texture combined with the readability of the Pitt Minion layout make this a high value contender.

My thanks to Cambridge for providing this complimentary review copy. I was not required to give a positive review, but an honest review.

ESV Pitt Minion Reference Brown Calf Split ES443:XR

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Jots and Tittles August 2011- 1.1

A few more things popped up after the last post that I felt I should round up as well, so enjoy the first Jots and Tittles 1.1 post.

The great Mark Bertrand has written a brief post on Marking Up Your Bible, inviting comments and discussion, which is where some of the real treasure lies. Surf over and join the discussion and let everyone know how you mark your Bible and what the best tools are for doing so. You can get even more discussion at the Bible Design Blog Facebook page which is a treasure trove of daily Bible-nerdiness.

Baker Bookhouse Connection features an intriguing new edition: The Complete Jewish Bible and NIV Bible Side by Side Reference Edition.

The Biblical World recommends an upcoming book on finding your way through biblical studies. Though it's designed for undergraduate students, it looks like it may be an excellent resource for all. 

Studies in Scripture features a post that's right up our alley: Marking Your Bible Without Marking the Text.

 I have linked to Studies in Scripture frequently and a reader brought up a concern that this is a Oneness Pentecostal site. Randy Brown, the author of Studies in Scripture, is a Oneness Pentecostal and not bashful about it. While I emphatically believe that God is one, I do not subscribe to oneness theology, specifically where it relates to the gospel. I firmly believe that the Father turned His back on the Son as Jesus became sin and endured the wrath of God for us. In spite of this major theological disagreement, I consider Randy a brother in the Lord and admire his zeal for scripture and the boldness of his convictions. I have not had interaction with other Oneness Pentecostals, and I understand people's concern with reports of legalistic and cultic behavior. I do not feel the need to address Oneness Pentecostalism as a movement or as a theological whole. My recommendations to Randy's writing is based on my evaluation of his work and my relationship with him as an individual. I thank God that we are not judged by our theological correctness but by the expression of our love and faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. He is the judge, not you or I. I know Randy would appreciate dialogue on his site, where he features numerous posts on his theology and fields comments, questions, dialogue and debate. It is a pleasure to partner with Randy in mutual encouragement and passion for the Word.

Crossway features a Burtonesque (I think I hear Danny Elfman) advertisement for their new ESV Grow! Bible.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Jots and Tittles August 2011

Dan Wallace reviews the NIV 2011

Crossway features a quick shot at 5 Strategies for Reading the Bible as Literature by Leland Ryken.

Michael C. Patton gives a shot at giving a four minute description of how to study the Bible and includes some book recommendations.


Jim LePage features an post on his project of reading the Bible while creating a graphic design for each book: An Idiot's Guide to Reading the Bible.
Jesus is frickin’ awesome. Like, really frickin’ awesome. I’d always placed all the stories in the Bible on kinda equal footing. Elijah did some cool stuff. Daniel did some cool stuff. Jesus did some stuff that was a slightly more cool. But after finishing the Old Testament and starting the New Testament, I was struck by how completely unique Jesus was. No one else in the Bible is like him. No one is even close. I was so amazed by how different Jesus was that I ended up devoting 7 straight weeks to designs based on passages about his death and resurrection.

Bibles-Online.net features an interesting collection of digitized ancient Bibles, including the first printing of the first edition of the 1611 King James Bible.