Monday, June 30, 2008

something of a postscript

This is a photo of, what i think is Bulgaria's answer to Forum. Thats all the BXCC staff, and leaders. I think. Nacionalna Konferenciq is probably 'National Conference' isn't it?

What i learn from goodbyes

That the Gospel is true, or better, worthwhile.

Now, of course if the Gospel was neither of these things i'd have never gone to Bulgaria in the first place, but saying goodbye to people and places that i love teaches me that the Gospel is worth doing so. If it wasn't i'd stay in a church i love, doing a job i love with people as close to me as my family. But the Gospel is worth the tears, Matthew 24:14 is true, so we press on.

That we weren't meant for broken relationships.

Look at Genesis 1-2, any broken relationships? Any goodbyes? No. The reason saying good bye to people is hard and feels wrong is because our hearts weren't made for the transitory. They were made for the eternal. They weren't made for saying goodbye, but for enjoying extended fellowship that never ends. Our sin, my sin has broken that, and for a while, a short while, we must live with the consequences. And yes, a million times yes, it's not Heaven if Christ isn't there, but i'm looking forward to not saying goodbye to my friends ever again!

That Church is a great idea.

If you care about the spread of the Gospel, you care about the local church. I would never want to be in a church that i didn't weep for the last time i pulled out of the car park, never want to follow men who i didn't hate saying goodbye to. Never want to be part of a SUPA team that wasn't more about 9AM banter than chairs. I'd never want to do this Christian thing on my own, thank God i'll never have to.

That there's a world outside England and my career.

The world's getting smaller all the time. But it's still huge. Phone calls make us feel like we're in the same room, but four thousand miles is still a long way. But the nations are out there, and they need reaching, the world doesn't stop at the Bristol Channel, there are people needing salvation everywhere, and how will they hear unless we tell them. Why not stay in Reading? Earn a few more quid and build a proper life there? Why not do a long term job, my dream job in many ways, with a mission agency i adore. Because there's a world outside of it, because God has called me there, and because my 'career' or being somewhere that people value my opinion on things ultimately doesn't matter at all. When i look into His face, i'll only ever wish i'd given Him more.

That in all these things, Christ is magnified.

No cross, no good things to be sad about saying bye to. No cross, no good things to look forward to. No cross, only Hell forever. The Gospel is worth it because Christ is worth it, moving is worth it because Christ is worth it. And something else. Through all these punctured relationships, one is unchanged. One is still the same. Christ is with me, for comfort, vision, hope, strength, joy and best of all, salvation leading to Himself. And in the final reckoning, He is all anyone needs.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


This seems to be an appropriate way to end the 'Reading era'

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Missions are good, no?

Just got this email from a friend spending her summer in northern Bulgaria.

Bulgaria is going well, it is sooooo hot lately. and I think it's made me a little sick, but I'll be alright. I'm living with a girl named xxxx who is a Christian. She got saved in Tim and Lydia's church about 7/8 months ago. She used to be a party girl, I'm talking every night at the club, it's amazing to see how much she's growing. The first week I was here she showed me all of the clothes you loves but can't wear anymore, they were pretty slutty, AND she used to go "monokini" at the beach, which means topless. She's super fun, but yesterday I took her to the train station because she's leaving to go and work at the sea the rest of the summer...That totally bummed me out. The other girl I'm living with is xxxx. xxxx is not a Christian and she's still in the whole club scene, it's common for her to come home at 4am or to call xxxx and say she's not coming home at all.

It's pretty sad, and xxxx doesn't speak much English at all past introductions. She also works a lot so I haven't really been able to connect with her much. But yesterday was AWESOME. So xxxx's mom teaches me Bulgarian. At the end of every lesson she has me read a few pages of a children's book. Yesterday when I got done reading she told me I didn't mess up at all and asked me if I had been reading the paper or something.

Well, I had been reading the gospel of John to Cvete cause she helped me with words, so before xxxx got on her train she gave me her Gospel of John and had written in it. And xxxx's mom speaks no English so I pulled it out and said I've been reading this. She smiled, opened it and had me read the first chapter to her!! Who would have thought the first time xxxx's mom would hear the Bible is me reading it to her like a first grader?! Then she told me for homework to practice the 2nd chapter and she'll dictate parts of it to me to write down tomorrow. So Bulgarian just got better. Learning the language is like a roller coaster, some days you feel like wow, i've learned so much, and other days you just feel like you're wasting your time. But it's worth it when you see how excited people get to hear you speak their language.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Heinz advert

Now, correct me if i'm wrong, but i'm not sure this advert 'pushes gay marriage' as some websites have declared. Surely the point is 'our filling tastes so good that your sandwiches will taste like they've been made by a generic New York deli worker.' (yeh, thats why i'm not in advertising). Or am i being naive? What do you think?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Anxiety and loaves

I just read this: 'five loaves plus Jesus equals 10,000 loaves, or something like that.' Which ends in a call to remember this story and trust that God wil, in accordance with Phillipians 4:19 abumdantly supply all our needs in Jesus Christ.

Whcih got me thinking about nthe way i've been feeling for the last couple of weeks. I've been really anxious about getting my visa to live and work in the USA next year. The sort of anxiety that ties itself up in your stomach and doesn't let you sleep...that sort that made me worry that my greatest treasure was going to be a piece of paper in my passport rather than the Lord of Heaven and Earth.

But the most worrisome and deceptive thing about this feeling was that i didn't really notice it until it was gone. It was replaced, not by another feeling, but by a pleasant lack of feeling, a sunny void where the ball used to be, a good nights sleep. Jeremiah tells me, and he's right, that my heart is deceptive above all things, desperately sick...who can understand it? My heart is so sick i don't know when it's sick. My heart is so broken i don't even recognise it. I don't know that i'm worried about something until i'm not worried any more.

How neccesary is the psalmists cry to the Lord to search me and know my heart, to declare me innocent of hidden sin. The problem is not that i sin, although that is a problem, but that i am sinful. My heart needs the Word, it needs prayer, it needs guarding, it needs the blood, or it will never be clean. Without those things i'd never even know it was dirty...

Why we're not emergent: A review

I had an odd pre-relatio nship with this book. I was going to buy it, then i wasn't then. Then i was...then i definately wasn't. Then i did. It caught me blindsided, i think it weas the suprise of finding something worth reading in my local 'Christian' bookshop, hidden among Shame Lynch and Don Piper. It's co-authored by two guys, one a Pastor, one a sports writer, from East lancing, Michigan, near what i guess you could call the emergent heartland of Grand Rapids. So these guys are well placed to know what they're talking about. It was also cool to read a book by two different people, as i'll expand on later.

Why i liked it.

The biggest reason i liked it is because it's really clear and communicative about the Emergent issues, without being too philosophical. I'll be honest, even though Carson's book on the Emergent church has been near the top of my 'to read' list for a while, i'll probably never actually get onto it. The beauty of this book is that it's written at a popular level, for people, like me, who feel they should know more about the Emergent church, but don't. So good for them1

I also liked the fact it was co-authored. The two men writing have very different but complimentary styles. DeYoung, the pastor, has longer, more involved chapters about the ecclesialogical dangers of Emergent, whereas Kluck writes about meetings he's been to, books his read (or at least pictures he's looked at!), and how hard he found the whole thing. Also he occasionally quotes from wikipedia. I liked this very much.

It's clear this book is opposed, and worried about the Emergent church, but it's tone is never less than loving, and it's concerns clearly voiced. It never becomes a polemic. A danger we all need to be wary of when trying to critique a movement. And it's very good looking...well done Moody press, who'd have thought that red, orange and green would work so well!

What i liked less.

Not much really. I found some of DeYoung chapters hard to read, although thats probably more to do with him than me. And there was always another Kluck chapter with an obscure film quote or american football analogy around the corner. What impressed me most is how they've both clearly engaged with a great deal of Emergent material.

So what?

I'm really pleased i read this book. It's a gentle but serious introduction to the Emergent church, and the positives and pitfalls therein. I think it really reinforced in my mind the great tragedy of the Emergent Church movement. So many of the questions they ask are no good, even necessary to think about in twenty first century Christian life. Concerns about megachurches, marketing over preaching, dry ice and light shows over exposition, and loveless but orthodox evangelical churches are well founded. These are problems that must be addressed. The problem is that too many Emergent types seem to go the other way. They won't stand firm on Biblical truth, they don't trust the Bible, they won't talk about hell, they hardly mention sin. A relationship without boundaries is meaningless. I think Jesus is very much about who's in and who's out. Very much indeed. Yes, we must love what God loves: justice, social action, a concern for the oppressed and the marginalised, the environment, but ought we not to hate what God hates as well?

I think the biggest thing i learnt from this book is that the Emergent movement isn't all that 'new'. Much of it is just classic liberalism dressed up a bit, some of it is just modernism plus. It's almost definitely not as breathlessly exciting as many people seem to think it is. In twenty years in could just be a footnote in history, but one that the Evangelical church has learnt much from...i sort of hope so.

Oh, and read the epilogue as's aces!

Monday, June 23, 2008

What does an ESV look like?

This...sort of:

HT: Justin Taylor

Monday Seven

There are a lot of reasons why i like are seven of them.

1) Slow, unhurried time with the Lord.
A while ago i decided to get up earlier so i could spend more time praying. It seems that no matter how early i start, i only just feel like i've got going when it's time to leap in the car and hotfoot it to London Street. Monday mornings aren't like that.

2) Reading time.
Not tired end of the day reading, but slow considered time with a book. I've not had much today mind.

3) Domesticity.
The washing and hanging out of clothes is not an exciting venture, yet there's something so simple and almost comforting about it. Likewise food shopping. I get to do that on Mondays.

4) Lots of time with Rachel.
On the way to work, at lunchtime and in her way home. Normall i'm worn out by the time she's done with working. Not on Mondays!

5) It's a long time till Sunday.
We've so far encountered no crises leading up to sunday, no ones loosing sleep over run orders or dvd lengths, sermon prep time isn't yet slipping though our fingers. Lovely.

6) Sunday was only yesterday.
Time to sit and reflect, to enjoy what was preached, to hum the songs still in your head. Time to rest and consider.

7) Last night's Top Gear on the iPlayer.
'i can only assume at some point there's going to be a horrible accident.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

'long for Jesus'

I know some in my generation have a hard time with truth claims. But i'm convinced there are just as many of us - Christians and not - in our postmodern world who are tired of endless uncertainties and doctrinal repaintings. We are tired of indecision and inconsistancy reheated as paradox and mystery. Some of us long for teaching that has authority, ethics rooted in dogma, something unique in this world of banal diversity. We long for Jesus. Not the shapeless, formless ethical good teacher Jesus, but the Jesus of the New Testament, the Jesus of the Church, the Jesus of faith, the Jesus of two millenia of Christian witness with all it's unchanging and edgy doctrinal propositions.

DeYoung and Kluck, 'why we're not emergent', P116

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

1 Corinthians 5 (and a bit of Exodus 12!)

One of the best reasons i can think of for blogging is to help me think. I'm meeting up with Lorenzo tomorrow for some 1 Corinthians 5 action, and i'm not sure i'm really there maybe this will help. These thoughts owe a lot to Joel Edwards.


The Corinthian church didn't care about sexual purity, they didn't care about being a church after Christ's heart. We can see this because they didn't deal sufficiently with the man caught in incest. Maybe they were worried about what the rest of the city would think if they started kicking people out. maybe this guy was a leader, maybe he was well supported by his faction. Paul calls them to remove him from membership (i guess thats what 'hand him over to satan so he might be saved). This was serious, this was purity. They didn't care.


I'm slightly obsessed by this at the moment. Perhaps providentially i was studying Exodus 12:1-29 earlier also for tomorrow. I've never been sure what to do with the middle bit about future dinner plans in the description of the narrative. Paul quotes it here and it's fairly clear he's talking about deal with sin, and the pervasiveness of sin. Get rid of the leaven, because it affects a whole lump. But that can't be a fair application from the Exodus passage can it? That can't be what the Israelites were thinking when they were told/read it at the time/years later. Text + context = meaning i guess.


Paul doesn't want the church to avoid all the immoral people of Corinth, that would mean hiding from all of them! God will judge the outsider, their conduct was outside the jurisdiction of the church. The insider, however, wasn't. The church needs to deal with this immoral behavior. They need to look different to the world for the sake of the world.

Grace isn't licence. It's not a chance to indulge in sinful passions knowing that it will be ok because of the blood. Christ bought us a new life on the cross, life to the full. Not a life doused in sexual immorality. The church is a group of sinners, so we need to look after eachother. To look out for eachothers sin. Not because some people are without sin, but because all are wary of it's consequences.

As Paul says, Christ, our passover lamb has been sacrificed. So, like the exiting Jews should have done, we need to live in the light, and truth, and beauty of what happened on the cross. And help others to as well...

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Race

The Race have just emerged from the studio having recorded their second album, “In My Head It Works”, with famed producer Dave Eringa - Their debut album “Be Your Alibi” received enthusiastic critical acclaim on its release on Shifty Disco Records in September 2006:

“Forget Razorlight and their ‘All my life/I've wanted to shift units in America’ empty gestures, The Race are the real winners in the anthemic indie stakes” NME;

Besides this, two of them are regulars at Reading Family Church, so do independent music a favour, and check out their website:



The fixtures for the new football league season were released today. Wycombe start at home to Morcambe before trekking to Chester on the second weekend of the season. Exeter at home and Gillingham away over Christmas and Notts County at home on the last day of the season. Not bad, but it's all a bit underwhelming. When you could have been playing Leeds United and Leicester, home games with Bury and Barnet seem less attractive somehow.

I guess that's how if feels to support wycombe wanderers at the moment. it's too soon yeh? I still see Liam Dickinson firing stockport into the play off final in May i still see Tommy treading on the ball and Leon not getting back quick enough, and then, in a moment, the season's gone. We'll never look as beautiful as we did heading up the M6 that day. Not for a while at least.

Recently another set of fixtures were released as well. ECU Pirates start away at Virginia Tech and then at home to Virginia, they play at UAB in Alabama on the Thanksgiving weekend, and finish off at home to UTEP (no idea who they are). Those are their Conference USA games anyway, there are some 'Bowl' games as well apparently. I don't really know what they are, but i do know ECU won the Sheraton Bowl away in Hawai'i last season. Now thats an away game i could get excited about...surely i deserve a trip there after all my away games to Mansfield and Rotheram!

Here's the nub though. I don't really understand the different between the C-USA games and the Bowl games. I can sit and tell you why i think the late 20s early 30s Wycombe team was better than the team of the fifties, but not the seventies team. How i'll always be biased towards the early nineties team because i grew up watching them. I can also give you a little parenthesis about how interesting it is that Wycombe's glory years coincide with the best periods of English domestic football (fifties, seventies and nineties) whereas the eighties were generally a horrible write off ( we were awful in the eighties).

So when it comes to sporting life in eastern North Carolina, i haven't much got a clue. Everything's different. Even North Carolina's one pro football team (Carolina Railhawks) have a section in their websites FAQ entitled 'what happens if it rains?' They 'play on' apparently. Well yeh. And they play somewhere called the SportsMed Park or some sort of other silly franchised name. So everything different. Apart from one thing. The Gospel.

Hey, people in North Carolina still need to be called to repentance, still need to be baptised, still need to gather with other believers for worship and instruction. The Gospel's still true. People get squeamish about the Gospel. They'll say that we can't possibly call people all over the world, in every tribe, tongue and nation to believe on Jesus. How western, how white. How Republican. But, Reading or Washington, RG1 or 27889, the Gospel is true, Jesus is the only way to the Father, and people need to hear about it. Jesus is still providentially ruling for His glory and His people's joy.

What hope, what joy, what security we endanger when we think about throwing out the uniqueness of Jesus. What silliness.


1) Starbucks with Tim for the last time. Great to end with the challenge to 'not waste our minas'. Great that Jesus made it unflinchingly to Jerusalem. Great that his revolution wasn't an earthly one.

2) 'Through the gates of splendour' by Elisabeth Elliot. Probably impossible to read that book and not be moved by it.

3) The last student bar-b-q of the year at Scotts house. As it began so it ends. Probably a good thing the water pistols didn't work in the end!

4) Euro 2008 comes alive. 'we are going to have to readjust our parameters of whats possible in a game of football'

5) Thank yous and goodbyes

6) 'yet i tell you, the least in the Kingdom of Heaven will be greater than him'. Desiring spirutual greatness with all my heart more than worldly greatness.

7) Great, long hearty and helpful conversations with my helper. 362 days to go...

Friday, June 13, 2008

'one word from God, and galaxies come into being'

I think this is probably the best promo for...anything...i've ever seen. Not just because of Sinclair Fergusons lilting tones or Paul Tripps nifty facial hair, or the incredible music of the neccesirty of the message...but all of it.

One word from God...ONE WORD and galaxies are created, one word and and all the is around us is made. The Lord up holds the universe by the power of His Word.

I wonder how long the drive from eastern North Carolina is to Minnesota. A long way i'd guess...

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Knowledge, for Christians, is not an academic category, it's a moral category. We know we have understood not when we have mentally comprehended the Bible, but when we do what it says. Non-Christians can get the meaning of a lot of the Bible, but they haven't understood it because they don't obey. Its just an exercise in epistemology. If Christians leave biblical understanding at the level of knowing in the abstract then there are reasons to doubt whether we have understood anything.

From the Grauniad

Through the gates of splendour

The life of a missionary calls for infinate adaptability- from winning a national oratorical contest to struggling with an unwritten language...from starring on the college football field to teaching a bunch of small indians to play volleyball...from prospects of a law career in a north american city to a life in the jungle of south America. marilou, who had been music director in a big church slowly and carefully taught the indian children to sing two line songs which seh and Ed had written in the Quichua language...They were fully prepared to be fools for Christ's sake
'Through the gates of splendour' Elisabeth Elliot P42 .

There is no such thing as attainment in this life. As soon as one arrives at a highly coveted position he only jacks up his desire another notch or so and looks for further achievement- a process which is ulitmatly interuppted by the interventio of death. Life is truly likened to a rising vapour...coiling, evanescent, shifting. may the Lord teach us what it means to live in terms of the end, like Paul who said 'neither count i my life dear unto myself, that i might finish my course with joy.
Jim Elliot quoted in 'Through the gates of splendour' Elisabeth Elliot P7

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I once was blind

Luke 18:9-19:28 seems to be about sight. Some people can't see Jesus, some can. Those who can, can because Jesus opens their eyes.

So what do the disciples, the blind man and Zacchaeus have in common? None of them can see. The disciples hear of Jesus imminent death, but the meaning is hidden from them, so they can't see. The blind man is blind, his lack of sight is obvious, Zacchaeus can't see, because (and when i discovered this i actually said 'wow' out loud) he was too short and had to climb a tree.

Eventually all three people/groups see. The blind man and Zacchaeus straight away, the disciples when Jesus rises and explains. This sight belongs to Jesus, He will impart it on those who faithfully seek. Also Zacchaeus was rich which proves the rich young rulers problem earlier on was not simply that he was rich.

I love Luke's Gospel. Luke is so clever at arranging material to show us who Jesus is and how we must respond. I don't think me and the doctor would be best mates, i'm far too messy for him i would imagine, but from the pages of his Gospel i admire him from afar.

Discipleship 101?

One thing i love about reading the Gospel's slowly is that i'm picking up on (really obvious) stuff i would have missed otherwise. The middle bit of Matthew 10 is a good example of this.

Jesus is sending out the twelve on their first, maybe the first, short term mission. He's told them where to go and what to focus on, he's told them to beware persecutions, both long and short term, and now, in verses 24-31, he'll tell them how to react. How to live, how to be a Christian in a hostile Devil ruled environment. How to sing the songs of Zion in Babylon.

1) Don't be surprised (24-25)
If people hated Jesus, they're bound to hate those who serve Him. And probably much more. They hate the master, they'll hate the servants, they hate the teacher, they'll hate the pupils. This shouldn't surprise us. We shouldn't be put off by it. In fact it's means we get to be like Jesus! We get to know, in a small, small measure what He went through. Their hatred of the twelve, and us will be different, but it will be the same in type. Don't be surprised. Don't be discouraged.

2) The truth will be known (26-28)
Don't fear them, says Jesus. Nothing that is not known now will be hidden forever. All we be uncovered all righteousness will be made known. Their evil and your good, revealed for all to see. So don't fear them. The truth will be known. What have you got to fear. And since this truth will be known, make it known. What Christ has told you in the dark, tell in the light, what you have had whispered to you, shout from the rooftops. What you see in the Bible in study and under preaching, make known to all. Cut with the flow of Divinely appointed history, and preach the Gospel.

3) Do not fear (29-31)
And as you do this, don't be afraid. People will hate you for it, but don't be afraid. Why not? Well not only because all righteousness will one day be revealed, but there is a much greater reason than Jesus gives here. That reason is Himself. Man can kill us, man could kill all twelve of the disciples, and, with the obvious exception, eventually did, as far as we know. But that's all man can do. Jesus can destroy you forever in Hell. So fear Him. I mean, even when man kills you you're just being sent to enjoy eternal pleasure and fullness of joy. You will go to God, your exceeding joy. So don't fear man who can kill, but Jesus who can destroy. Why else shouldn't we fear man? Because we are of more value than many sparrows. Jesus illustration moves from the minor to the major. If the Father knows intimately the movements of sparrows, how can he not know about you? Indeed, He loves you, and knows the hairs on your head.

So preach the Gospel, get hated for it...even get killed for it, because the body they may kill, His truth abideth still.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Over the weekend i started reading the book of Numbers, which is good, because there are a lot of numbers in my life at the moment.

10: working days left in RFC office
10: days until my US Visa interview
19: days until i leave Reading again
31: days until i see Rachel again
18:9-19:28: The last Bible study i'll lead with Tim
367: Days until i get married

And yet i must focus with all my might on the words of Clyde Kilby and: 'try to live well just now, because the only time that exists is just now'

Pocket Puritans

To read the work of a Puritan doctor of the soul is to enter a rich world of spiritual theology to feed the mind, heart-searching analysis to probe the conscience, Christ-centred grace to transform the heart, and wise counsel to direct the life. This series of Pocket Puritans provides all this in miniature, but also in abundance.” – Sinclair B. Ferguson

Banner of Truth have started doing a series called 'Pocket Puritans'. 120 pages booklets taken from a greater work outlining a Puritans thoughts on certain areas, for example Jonathan Edwards on Heaven from 'Charity and it's fruits' or John Flavel on lust from 'The harlot's face in the scripture glass'.

Go get...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

something about Lakeland

I say again: When it comes to the new movements of the Spirit, so what? I've got my hands full and so should you. You don't need any new stuff. All the old stuff is plenty good enough. It's been good enough for 2000 years of Christendom. It will be good enough for the next 2000 years.

My counsel to you is not to be distracted by new-fangled Christianity, but instead be diligent to know and practice the faith that's been once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).


1) The unity and togetherness of the whole church this morning after The News was unleashed... It's a joy to be part of this local church

2) Preaching the Gospel at St Georges on thursday evening. When the nerves turn to a buzzing in my stomach as i stand up. Can i do this forver?

3) Goodbyes. 'thanks for always inspiring me to preach the Gospel Ed'

4) What Tommy thinks. It's nice to know, sometimes, that your quiet thoughts aren't lonely ones

5) Eric and Josh on the Bible, along with, well, more or less all of 'when i don't desire God on the marriage of the Bible and prayer

6) Creation to Noah with Josh. 'I never do it like this, normally we do 20 verses and i have questions in front of me, so this might be a total disaster' It wasn't though. And why are they naked at the end?

7) Acts 14 on Calvinism and Arminianism. I can never tell how it's going when i'm talking, but i thought this went pretty badly. At one point i nearly left, nevermind anyone else! I was overwhelmingly wrong judging by the feedback i had though.

Friday, June 06, 2008

IN:Whitley one week on

Scott Taylor shares his thoughts.

Eric Simmonds on the Bible

Whats the point? Growing in a vision for dilligent study.

From NA08, excellent, especially Josh Harris's note at the end.

Preach the Word, save the world.

Driscoll on biography

For me, the two most helpful books i've read in the last 12 months have been the biographies of Hudson Taylor and Jonathan Edwards. They, like Abel, even though they are dead can still speak to us through their faith. I need to learn from such men, how they lived with their wives, how they raised a family, how they preached, how they communed with God. There is a weight in old things which we risk losing, and losing respect for today. i'm looking forward to hanging out with jim Elliot soon.

'you have this life given by God for one reason'

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Why Trust the Bible (3)

Are there errors in the Bible?

If we are serious about treating the Bible as God’s word then the answer has to be no. Numbers 23:19 says ‘God is not man, that He should lie’, John 17:17 says ‘your word is truth’ and Psalm 12:6 says: ‘The words of the LORD are pure words’
But how can we defend Biblical inerrancy? The word inerrant means ‘containing no errors, or simply infallible. I think there are four or five reasons.

1) The Bible can be inerrant and still speak in the ordinary language of every day speech.
For example, the Bible can talk of there being 8,000 people somewhere, when in fact there were 7,800 or 8,100 and still be inerrant. I can say ‘I live a mile away from the office’, and whether I live three quarters of a mile or a mile and a half from the office my statement is still inerrant in that it’s not untrue. If I lived five miles from the office, then I’d be wrong. Inerrancy is to do with truthfulness not degrees of precision.

2) The Bible can be inerrant and still contain loose or free quotations.
This is a question of culture. In the period the Bible was being written the importance of quoting someone word for word was much less than the importance of getting the gist of what someone said. Content was more important than words. So if someone says to me ‘I’ll be there in five minutes’ and I write down ‘he’ll be here soon’ what I’ve written down is still error free, even if it’s not word for word what was said.

3) The problem of original manuscripts.
Some people might object that we can only claim inerrancy for the original manuscripts. These originals no longer exist, we only have copies of copies of what Paul, or Moses or Solomon wrote, so what’s the point of defending a stance that is irrelevant to the Bible we actually hold in our hands. Surely no one can tell us that this Bible right here is inerrant, even if we think the original manuscripts were?

This is a good question, but it has a good answer. We can, in fact, be sure of 99% of the words in the original. Even where we’re not sure, the meaning is usually obvious, and where it’s not it changes nothing of the meaning of the verse or overall point. We don’t even have to speak Greek or Hebrew to know where these variations occur, because our Bibles actually tell us. Look at the end of Mark’s Gospel, or try looking up Luke 17:36. The fact that the Bible itself tells us where the problems occur should give us a tremendous amount of confidence in this area.
That’s not to say that we need to do away with the debate over variations for good. In fact, the more research scholars have done on this issue, the closer we’ve actually come to knowing what the original manuscripts said.

For most practical purposes then, we can be sure that the published scholarly texts on which our Bibles are based are the same as the originals. So when we say we believe that the original manuscripts were inerrant we are saying that what we read every day is inerrant, because we know they are 99% the same. Inerrancy directly concerns our every day Bibles. Because of this, we must obviously defend the inerrancy of the original manuscripts.

4) The problem of contradictions.
People are keen to make this argument. I’ve often found that it’s best to ask them which particular text they have in mind before leaping into a defence. First of all, because it’s easier to talk in specifics than in generals in this area, and secondly because in most cases they don’t have an example, they’re just repeating what they’ve heard from others. Most perceived contradictions can be dealt with according to a careful reading of the text, and an attention paid to context. Text plus context equals meaning. For example the commands of the law might seem to contradict the commands of the Sermon on the Mount. When they’re carefully put into their redemptive historical context, the problem is sorted. Remember always that the whole Bible is about Jesus.

What about what many people view as the deepest contradiction in the Bible, that of the perceived contradiction between the character of God on the OT ands NT. This idea, again, just doesn’t stand up to Biblical analysis. In fact if anything it’s the wrong way around. Look at how God deals with Noah, or Lot, or indeed the returning exiles. Look at how God gives Pharaoh nine chances to repent, or how He gives His enemies four hundred years to repent. Witness Jesus calling the Pharisees a brood of vipers, or Him saying that he comes to bring division on the earth. Or the fact that He spoke more about Hell than anyone else. Now, obviously I’ve missed out large parts of the story in both testaments, but you take my point.

Even areas such as the differing reports of the death of Judas should not cause major problems. Whether he died by hanging himself, or fell open in a field the point of the scripture is that Judas died. Even those two accounts are not necessarily mutually exclusive. There is also material on this question from the Apostolic Fathers (explain) that says that Judas did indeed hang himself, but that he didn’t die then, but lived on, and eventually became so fat that just fell over and sort of popped.

Scholars are aware of no ‘problem text’ that causes a problem that can not be solved. Ultimately we must remember that the Bible has been in its present form for 1900 years. The problem passages have been there all along, and inerrancy has always been believed in.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Isn't the body clever?

Every square millimeter of the body has a different sensitivity to pain so that a spec of dirt may cause excruciating pain in the vulnerable eye whereas it would go unreported on the tough extremities. Internal organs such as the bowels and kidneys have no receptors that warn against cutting or burning—dangers than they normally do not face—but show exquisite sensitivity to distention.

When organs such as the heart detect danger but lack receptors, they borrow other pain cells ("referred pain"), which is why heart attack victims often report pain in the shoulder or arm. The pain system automatically ramps up hypersensitivity to protect an injured part (explaining why a sore thumb always seems in the way) and turns down the volume in the face of emergencies (soldiers often report no pain from a wound in the course of battle, only afterwards).

Pain serves us subliminally as well: sensors make us blink several times a minute to lubricate our eyes and shift our legs and buttocks to prevent pressure sores. Pain is the most effective language the body can use to draw attention to something important. (Philip Yancey, “That Hurts,” in Books and Culture, May/June, 2008, 32-33)

(HT Desiring God)