Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Irony of the Resolved Conference

Every year Grace Community Church (GCC, John MacArthur) puts on a youth gathering called the Resolved Conference. I'm not sure where the idea of the "youth conference" came from, but I know before GCC invented theirs, it was popular in revivalist fundamentalism. I don't know of a "youth conference" that doesn't play off of the "youth culture." Resolved, from what I can see, seems to promote itself as a kind of anti-youth-conference youth conference with the use of Jonathan Edwards' resolutions. It is a nice idea for a youth gathering. I emphasize "idea." Edwards' resolutions start with "Resolved," from which comes the conference name. Of course, resolutions denote the operation of the "will," something that you will find is big in Edwards' writings. I'm writing this post to say that "Resolved" lacks in an Edwards-esque resolution. Even when you look at the home page for the conference, it has youth culture written all over, and not really a kind of "innocent" brand of youth culture---roller coasters, skits, tube tug, and mini-golf---but something that fits starkly within the world's youth culture.

Resolved tries to set itself apart as different with the preaching. They don't bring in "youth speakers" per se. They bring in what most would consider to be mainstream adult leaders in conservative evangelicalism, not straying much, if at all, from their normal content and presentation style, with the exception of the leisure clothes and open collars. Those alone do say "youth culture," but they are very minimal bows to the culture of leisure that so characterizes the modern generation (see any of David Wells' books to read about this as an expression of modernism). So if you listen to the preaching, you will get sermons from GCC's reformed friends. I emphasize "reformed," because cessationist doctrine is not one of the resolutions here with the inclusion of Charismatic C. J. Mahaney.

Either GCC and Resolved already are, have been, or have become Mahaney-like, or Mahaney has influenced GCC and Resolved in the bow to a Charismatic style of "worship." The stage of Resolved with its grungy, post-modern look, rock band with electric guitars and trap set, and showtime lighting does send a giant statement to the attendees about the emphasis of Resolved. The scene is very urban, gritty, loose, edgy, and "authentic"---actually quite contextual, a concept commonly sneered at by GCC but perfectly acceptable to them on their own terms. This is the setting the leadership chooses for depicting the themes of Scripture and for portraying Jonathan Edwards-like resolution. The people in charge are letting this youth crowd know that they "get it," that they know "what's happenin'," that they for sure didn't fall of the back of the turnip truck. They "get it" and so, by the way, it's OK for you to be a Christian and " get it" too. It's very fine to be right there with all the worldly lingo and fads. And this is the great irony for anyone who reads Jonathan Edwards.

It's as if the GCC and Resolved people think that by pasting on the Jonathan Edwards label that it automatically becomes Jonathan Edwards. Edwards is who he is. He's been dead for awhile, so he can't really offer his say on what he thinks of the association of him with this, but I can tell you for sure, with complete assurance, with airtight confidence, that Edwards would hate Resolved. Hate it. "Resolved, I hate Resolved," he would most assuredly write. But, of course, what does it matter what Jonathan Edwards thinks, because what really matters is what God knows. I think that was Edwards' concern too, so I believe that God also hates it. And I'll give you a hint. He hates the syncretism.

I give as my major exhibit the inclusion of the "worship" of their chosen rock group, Enfield, and then Bob Kauflin, the leader of the Sovereign Grace music group. I include a sample of "the worship" (click on link to get to video of conference "worship"), so you will have a basis for knowing what I'm talking about. I would have embedded the video into this post, but I don't want someone to be able to watch and listen to that here.

This is where I want us to consider what Jonathan Edwards, the original author of "Resolved," said about the "religious affections." Edwards wrote his Treatise on the Religious Affections in order to differentiate false spiritual happenings from true ones during the first great awakening. The greatest differentiation that Edwards pointed out was between the passions, which originated with the flesh, and the affections, which started in the mind. Edwards taught that God wanted our religious affections, certainly our affections should arise above a level of indifference, but not to be confused with passions.

Some of what was being produced by religious folk during the first great awakening was nothing more than passions. These passions, Edwards contends, were not good. The passions is what Resolved attempts to produce. Succeeds, I believe, at that. And, of course, the participants are fooled into thinking that these are legitimate expressions of spirituality. They think that God has been honored, when He has not. Edwards was very serious about this. And I know that what Edwards was concerned about, and pointing out as unorthodox, was not as pernicious as what is done at Resolved and in the name of Edwards.

There's a lot I could write about what I see in the Kauflin, Resolved, video that I linked to, about the worldliness of the music, the actions, the look, and the participants. Some might think that what they see is a lot of earnestness. What you see as supposedly so authentic, so real, is produced by the fleshly nature of the music. The words, some of which are good, other kitsch and trite, get dragged through the profanity that is the medium. The whole show reeks of it.

You should just go ahead and read Edwards' Religious Affections, but the following are a few excerpts that apply.

The affections and passions are frequently spoken of as the same; and yet in the more common use of speech, there is in some respect a difference; and affection is a word that in its ordinary signification, seems to be something more extensive than passion, being used for all vigorous lively actings of the will or inclination; but passion for those that are more sudden, and whose effects on the animal spirits are more violent, and the mind more overpowered, and less in its own command.

And,

If it be so, that true religion lies much in the affections, hence we may infer, that such means are to be desired, as have much of a tendency to move the affections. Such books, and such a way of preaching the word, and administration of ordinances, and such a way of worshipping God in prayer, and singing praises, is much to be desired, as has a tendency deeply to affect the hearts of those who attend these means.

Such a kind of means would formerly have been highly approved of, and applauded by the generality of the people of the land, as the most excellent and profitable, and having the greatest tendency to promote the ends of the means of grace. But the prevailing taste seems of late strangely to be altered: that pathetical manner of praying and preaching, which would formerly have been admired and extolled, and that for this reason, because it had such a tendency to move the affections, now, in great multitudes, immediately excites disgust, and moves no other affections, that those of displeasure and contempt.

And,

Indeed there may be such means, as may have a great tendency to stir up the passions of weak and ignorant persons, and yet have no great tendency to benefit their souls: for though they may have a tendency to excite affections, they may have little or none to excite gracious affections, or any affections tending to grace. But undoubtedly, if the things of religion, in the means used, are treated according to their nature, and exhibited truly, so as tends to convey just apprehensions, and a right judgment of them; the more they have a tendency to move the affections the better.


And,

As from true divine love flow all Christian affections, so from a counterfeit love in like manner naturally flow other false affections. In both cases, love is the fountain, and the other affections are the streams. The various faculties, principles, and affections of the human nature, are as it were many channels from one fountain: if there be sweet water in the fountain, sweet water will from thence flow out into those various channels; but if the water in the fountain be poisonous, then poisonous streams will also flow out into all those channels. So that the channels and streams will be alike, corresponding one with another; but the great difference will lie in the nature of the water.

And,

Lest their religion might too grossly discover itself to be nothing else but a piece of art, there may be sometimes such extraordinary motions stirred up within them, which may prevent all their own thoughts, that they may seem to be a true operation of the divine life; when yet all this is nothing else but the energy of their own self-love touched with some fleshly apprehensions of divine things, and excited by them.

And last,

And as the motions of our sense, and fancy, and passions, while our souls are in this mortal condition, sunk down deeply into the body, are many times more vigorous, and make stronger impressions upon us, than those of the higher powers of the soul, which are more subtle, and remote from these mixed animal perceptions: that devotion which is there seated, may seem to have more energy and life in it, than that which gently and with a more delicate kind of touch spreads itself upon the understanding, and from thence mildly derives itself through our wills and affections. But however the former may be more boisterous for a time, yet this is of a more consistent, spermatical and thriving nature. For that proceeding indeed from nothing but a sensual and fleshly apprehension of God and true happiness, is but of a flitting and fading nature, and as the sensible powers and faculties grow more languid, or the sun of divine light shines more brightly upon us, these earthly devotions, like our culinary fires, will abate their heat and fervor. But a true celestial warmth will never be extinguished, because it is of an immortal nature; and being once seated vitally in the souls of men, it will regulate and order all the motions of it in a due manner the natural heat, radicated in the hearts of living creatures, hath the dominion and economy of the whole body under it. True religion is no piece of artifice, it is no boiling up of our imaginative powers, nor the glowing heats of passion, though these are too often mistaken for it, when in our jugglings in religion we cast a mist before our own eyes: but it is a new nature, informing the souls of men; it is a Godlike frame of spirit, discovering itself most of all in serene and clear minds, in deep humility, meekness, self-denial, universal love to God and all true goodness, without partiality, and without hypocrisy, whereby we are taught to know God, and knowing him to love him, and conform ourselves as much as may be to all that perfection which shines in him.

The feelings produced by Kauflin and Enfield bypass the mind and go straight for the flesh, for the feelings, for the passions. The music is sensual, like the wisdom of this world is (James 3:15). The listeners and participants are convinced that this is something spiritual. It isn't. It is not a religious affection. Some may even feel sincere. What makes the deceit of it difficult to discern is much like that of the Charismatic experiences. People feel something and it seems genuine. However, if it was something in line with God, pure and sacred, not targeting the emotions or the body, true affections for God could be manifested. It is not that emotions are wrong, but that the emotions should be a byproduct of the right intellect and volition. All the squinting and swaying and waving and the throbbing, pulsating beat fool people into thinking that they are having some genuine experience of worship, getting in touch with and pleasing God to some greater extent. That's all manufactured by the music. It's deceiving. God isn't pleased by the passion or the worldliness that it is.

I'm sure that the Resolved and GCC leaders would find it interesting to see what would happen to their conference if they made the platform plain, orderly, and beautiful, and then played and sang hymns with only a piano and strictly by the book. Just the music without all of the passion involved. And then see what kind of response their conference would get from the youth. I'm guessing that every year Resolved would get a little bit smaller, more streamlined. And how could that be a success?

I would be one in opposition to the whole Falwell and Liberty University scene. Recently a lot of folks in the GCC and Resolved circles have savaged Liberty for the whole Ergun Caner fiasco, his lying about his biography for pragmatic purposes. Pragmatic purposes. Like if you associated your conference with Jonathan Edwards and Resolved, but yet you were the furthest thing from what what was important to Edwards. The Caner thing was bad, but which is worse? I'm at least as repulsed by the Edwards corruption.

All of this does a very damaging thing. It damages the discernment of thousands of professing Christians. That's what the Charismatic movement is very much known for with its confusion on the true nature of spirituality. A discussion about the content of this post would take on the nature of one had with a Charismatic---offended or peeved over criticism of the experience. "I know what I felt and I know it was genuine." I believe that Resolved also confuses these young people on the true nature of spirituality. This is what Edwards wrote and warned about.

Side Notes: A few asides. In the video, what's the point of the urban windmills on the back wall? I get the decaying bricks---very hip, very inner city, so authentic, right where people live. The hood. The noble savage. Next, Bob Kauflin sings effeminate (besides not singing very well). What's with men with this contemporary music singing like women? I think I understand. Men becoming like women is popular in this culture. It's hip too. "Get in touch with your feminine side." Do we think that is what male youths need to have in front of them, to be listening to? And you know, by the way, that it's contrived, because when he shouts out phrases and talks, his voice is much different than his singing voice. He does all the throaty improvisation to sound Hollywood. I could say much more, but I'll stop there.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Fundamentalism Associating with Syncretistic, Pagan Profanity

A blogroll contributor for SharperIron (SI), a professing fundamentalist web-blog and forum, is promoting hip-hop and rap music (I warn you about the lewdness of this link, blaspheming our blessed Lord). Even though SharperIron does not endorse everything that's said among their blogroll participants (in this case paleoevangelical, Ben Wright), this promotion of rap and hip-hop has not led to any kind of negative assessment, objection, or sanction from SI for this blatant advocacy for rap or hip-hop. The impression is that rap and hip-hop are not cause for separation within fundamentalism. It seems that the most recent position of many fundamentalists, if not all evangelicals, is that music is amoral. This point has been furthered by the inclusion of this post, whose author is also a part of the Southern Baptist Convention.

This particular hip-hop and rap has "Christian words," that is, some kind of biblical theme to the lyrics. The idea is that the alliance of the "Christian words" with the profane medium will somehow sanctify the rap or hip-hop. The reality is the opposite. The scurrilous, vulgar medium defiles the words. The collusion of the words and the medium adulterates the content. The combination creates a false worship, something pagan and barbaric, that is unacceptable to God. The medium gives people the wrong message about God, dragging God, the one and true, holy, Almighty God through the filth of this salacious medium. These professing conservative evangelicals take the name of the Lord and reduce it to the degradation of the medium.

These professing "conservative evangelicals," Mark Dever and Ben Wright, among others, produce this pollution to the name of our loving, majestic, and pristine God. SI remains indifferent to it. I have read no one that has criticized the exhibition and hyping of this abominable work, with the brief exception of Scott Aniol, who commented that he shouldn't be surprised, even though he was. We are to take, I surmise, that it met his disapproval. For this very light disapproval, Ben Wright found it necessary to take a jab at Aniol in response. Wright implies that this filthiness would further the cause of biblical ecclesiology.

This activity illustrates the woeful lack of discernment in evangelicalism and fundamentalism. It also depicts the recent evaluation of the loss of manhood in America, as seen in the fear of opposing rap and hip-hop as ungodly. These people anticipate the charge of racism that will likely follow (as if music, the notes on a page and instrumentation, have anything to do with skin color). Many are afraid of being ignorantly perceived as intolerant or bigoted.

Side Note: I was talking with my wife about this post. I played her a little of the hip hop/rap. When I did, her face twisted up in dislike and disbelief. I stopped it about 15 seconds in. She said, "Even if I was an unsaved person, I wouldn't want my children to listen to this. It's not just wicked. It promotes stupidity." I agree. It doesn't just blaspheme God and break down godly living. It sounds mentally retarded. Jesus grew in wisdom. This will diminish that.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

WOT 2

WORD OF TRUTH CONFERENCE HEADQUARTERS

The information for the Word of Truth Conference will be stored at this site. More and more will be added as the time gets closer.

The dates for the 2010 Word of Truth Conference are November 10-14, Wednesday through Sunday. During the evenings of Wednesday through Friday, there will be two preaching sessions per night. Thursday to Saturday mornings will feature sessions on the doctrine of ecclesiastical separation. On Thursday and Friday mornings, there will be an extra preaching session as well.

Supper will be served to guests on Wednesday to Friday nights. Lunch will be served on Thursday to Sunday afternoons. The conference is at Bethel Baptist Church, 4905 Appian Way, El Sobrante, CA 94803 (map). We will keep you updated on a possible conference hotel if you want to take advantage of a conference pricing. Here is a google map with various hotels nearby the church property.

Pastor Mike Custer, pastor of Bible Baptist Church, Grand Forks, North Dakota will teach one of the sessions on separation and preach one other occasion during the week. Pastor Dave Mallinak, pastor of Berean Baptist Church, Ogden, Utah will also teach one separation time and preach once. Other pastors in attendance may be preaching other times, since this is a preaching conference.

Here is the website for the conference. If you are coming, the RSVP for the conference is here. Click on that to let us know you're coming.

Monday, June 21, 2010

YPSO in Alaska This Week

My two oldest daughters, Julia (furthest left) and Natalie (furthest right), left for Alaska today (along with Clarissa Sutton, second from left), arriving in Fairbanks tonight on the longest day of the year (that's pretty significant in Alaska---the sun barely sets). They will play a concert midweek along with the Fairbanks Youth Orchestra, travel down to Anchorage, stopping at the Denali National Park on the way. They will play on the Kenai Peninsula on Friday night and then in Anchorage with the Anchorage Youth Symphony on Saturday night.

Here are links I found with information about the tour:

Fairbanks Youth Orchestra


Alaskan Newspaper, Anchorage Daily News, Play


Alaska Center of the Performing Arts

YPSO Site

Doug Dunderdale's YPSO Trip Blog (with pictures)

I'll add more to this post as some blogs and write-ups appear during and after the tour.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What Kind of Music Should Be Used in the Church

I've heard some criticism of our church music. At least three different visiting preachers have said something. A visiting family member has said something in the past and a couple of church members through the years. Here's what I have heard from the preachers. First, visitors don't know these songs. They're unfamiliar to visitors. Another preacher asked why we used "orthodox" music, him meaning something like "Eastern Orthodox" or perhaps Anglican. The third said that the songs were hard to sing and that they had a "high church" sound.

Don't get me wrong. More people have liked our music than not. What's not to like? No one says the music is "bad." The criticisms are superficial, really. I think that I ought to listen to criticism. I do. But when I'm criticized, I wait for something substantive, something that refers to scripture.

The essence of the church music issue is simple to me. Here it is. Does God like our music? Why do I ask this question? Because the music is being played and sung to God. God is the only audience of our music. Truly the congregation is a bystander. The assembly overhears the communication to God. The church benefits, but in a secondary kind of way.

I believe there are priorities to church music, regarding this question of whether God likes it or not. Surely we must be able to sing it. It must be singable. If it isn't singable, then it can't be sung. But whether it's easy for us to sing it or not isn't that important a consideration. I know, by the way, that our songs are singable, because they have been sung much longer than the songs found in almost all more modern hymnbooks. Their singability relates to what people are accustomed to singing today.

When someone says something like "orthodox" or "high church," I understand it as it relates to his perspective, but I can't help but think it's ridiculous. If someone says that visitors won't know the songs, I don't even care. I'm really ambivalent about that criticism. Our music is for our church to sing to God. More than ever people not in the church will not understand church music. I'd be happy to know that's the case. Most of them can't praise God anyway. They're going to have become a part of the church and learn how to praise God.

The kind of thinking that results in these types of criticisms is damaging and even destroying church music. What's at stake is God isn't being worshiped. I believe God is a lot less receptive of what we like than what we think He is. I say that based on what I see of what God rejects in Scripture. He will not accept from us what doesn't conform to His nature. So that ought to be what we think is important. Worship is giving God what He wants. It isn't giving God what we like and expecting Him to accept it anyway. Do you see who is in authority in that situation? We are.

I don't believe we have some kind of inside knowledge that is not available to other Christians. We haven't been sucked up into some kind of mystical understanding of God that is unobtainable to others. Just the opposite, we're looking at this as objectively as possible. We learn who God is. We learn what music says. This is more sure than what people make it today. What music says must conform to or fit with Who God is. And then there is a matter of degree. Some music is much better than other. Some merely passes. Other music nails it. I ask, "Why not nail it?" Why not try to have the music fit exactly with God? And then when it comes to the lyrics, the words, let's have them be the best words---most scriptural in content and best said. We can know what good poetry is, what good writing is. We should have God hear that. His name is excellent and the praise should be excellent.

Much music considered to be conservative, and, therefore, acceptable to God, is actually kitsch and banal, not fitting with God's nature. I could use other words to help you get the point: cheesy, commonplace, carnival, or trite. When you go past those horrible descriptions of the quality, you get to saloon and honky-tonk.

We want the best for God. We seek out the fitting tunes or compositions with the best possible words. We examine the psalms as a model for the content. Jesus said that when men come to Him that they start with "deny self." We've got to deny ourselves if we're going to come to Jesus. Self can't be a consideration in worship.

The following should not be considerations:
  1. What We Like
  2. What Is Easy For Us
  3. What Makes Me Feel Good
  4. What Do Unsaved People Like
I think that what God likes or wants has become the actual enemy in most churches today. We see the influence of man on worship. The music has become our music, not His.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Aaron on TSKT, part four ---- Introduction

Aaron Blumer has written his fourth post on "the doctrine of preservation." Let's be completely forthright here. Aaron says he wants a "doctrine of preservation" that is "taught in Scripture." I hope so. I would like to believe so. But do we really believe that, in essence, the following is what is taught in the Bible about its own preservation? --- Every word of God exists someplace on earth, yet we don't know what or where those words are, but we do know that we will have sufficient enough words to believe and practice like God wants us to. If that's what God's Word teaches about itself, I want to believe it. I want to be convinced by the Bible of what it says about itself. But is that really what is "taught in Scripture"? Aaron got that out of the verses of the Bible? That doesn't even sound like preservation. It certainly doesn't conform to the verses that I read about preservation. It does, however, fit very nicely with a critical-eclectic text position, which didn't happen to start with biblical presuppositions. It started with the "science" of textual criticism. But this is where Aaron gets upset with me. I can't say that he got his position from rationalism. OK. I don't want to do that; however, if I not only don't see his position in the Bible, but neither do I see him going about to establish a position from the Bible like someone would who is trying to establish something from the Bible in any doctrine, then I think that he got it from someplace else. That's not really an argument for my position. It's just stating an observation. I don't think we should get our positions from our own reasoning, because that would mean that we're not getting them from the Bible.

What I read in Aaron's series was not some biblical theology of preservation of Scripture. What I read was a criticism of someone else's work. Aaron hasn't dealt with all the passages, that is, all of what is "taught in Scripture." I have a pretty good idea as to why eclectic text guys don't go directly to the Bible, but instead try to poke holes in our exegesis. A common sense reading of the passages on preservation do teach our view. By dealing with our book, he's dealing with a history of preservation. He's dealing with what we said. He should just go to the Bible, like he says that he wants to. If he did, he would deal with way more verses than even what we did in TSKT. There are more that I've dealt with recently (Isaiah 59:21 and Revelation 22:18-19) and we're not even done yet. There are more in the Bible that we'll deal with in TSKT-2. If Aaron was looking for what the Bible taught, he would do the same, that is, open the Bible and find every place that deals with preservation. Instead, he finds out what PTP (Perfect Text Preservation---his terminology) guys are saying, and he deals with that. Why would someone who says he's not concerned so much about history go to what other guys have said in order to deal with what the Bible says? Just think about it.

As Aaron and I have had this conversation, he has said that he doesn't want to strawman me and he doesn't want me to strawman him. He doesn't want us to obfuscate. OK. That's all good. I don't want to do that either. That's why I offered to send my last post to him, so that he could criticize it early to cut out all the obfuscation he thought was there. Does that sound like someone who wants to obfuscate? Aaron refused that offer from me. And then after I posted, he proceeded to complain about my strawman and obfuscation. Hmmmmmm. The readers are going to have to determine who is doing the strawmanning and obfuscation. And let's make one thing clear---this should all be about pleasing God. It really should all be about living by faith. In the end, we want a position that represents what God says, because that will please Him. It's not about a constituency, about a club, about a society, about seminary buddies, or about a group we are friendly with. It should be about God.

Now Aaron says that he's going just to start with what the Bible says. Based on what he writes, you know that I don't think that's what Aaron's series is about. It's about it some, but not in a way that I am accustomed to someone going to the Bible first. I can be thankful for the advertising for TSKT, but I would have been fine and even better if he just went straight to scripture and attempted to exegete those appropriate passages on his own without any reference to TSKT. One of the reasons he does go to TSKT is because we did go to the Bible. He himself says in one of his comments to his fourth article that he doesn't know of a dealing from scripture done by someone with his point of view (I didn't think he had a point of view---ooops---but we all already knew that, didn't we?). So there is nothing in the critical-eclectic text position that started with scripture? And at the same time it isn't rationalism? Someone's got sum splainin' to do. But again, I'm not against critical-electic because it's rationalistic, but because it isn't biblical. The rationalism occurs because that's what you're left with when you don't start with the Bible.

I want to give you an example of the kind of argumentation that is used by critical-eclectic guys. Let me start with John 16:13, for instance. Here's the first part of the verse:

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.

If you read that, you might think it means that believers will have every Word of God. And I think that would be good. That's even how Christians have taken it historically. They haven't read it like the critical-eclectic text men, who are now reevaluating the historic teaching, you know, just to make sure that Christians really did know what they were talking about. But that idea clashes with the critical-eclectic idea. So it can't be saying that. OK, so now we get the eclectic-critical argumentation. It really is a scorched earth methodology. The next paragraph is the argumentation.

First, in that verse, Jesus is talking to the apostles. He was really telling them in the context that He would provide for them the rest of the New Testament. That's what it was about. It has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit guiding believers after the apostles. We've got to look at this in its context. Notice also that it says "all truth." "Truth" and "words" are not synonymous. "All truth" could certainly be "all the doctrines." Not only that but are there not "truths" that are not in the Bible, truths that even God knows that haven't yet been discovered by man? So when the verse says "all truth," it doesn't even have to be Scripture. It can just be "truth," which would include extra-scriptural truth. And truth itself is not bound by just words. Truth itself is an idea that is not reduced to mere words. So when He said He would guide them into all truth, He meant those ideas that words represent, but not necessarily the words themselves. Now based upon all this of what I just told you, John 16:13 neither teaches nor clearly implies the perfect preservation of God's Words. Men would like it to mean that, because they so enjoy and appreciate and strive for certainty, but it really doesn't mean that.

Here's the commentary by the friends of the critical-eclectic text people afterwards. "Oh that was just really, really good. I've never thought about it like what you wrote there. But it's so true. It doesn't teach what these KJVO guys say. They're just reading into the text to support their KJVO positions." "I really appreciate your dealing with the verse. I think that KJVO is a scourge to evangelicalism and fundamentalism and Christianity and the world." "These KJVO guys are a piece of work, huh? You've done a great service by exposing their clear eisegesis."

But let's go back to the verse again. It's above in block quote.

In the very next chapter, Jesus says some things about the truth. He really does define truth as it relates to what He was teaching the apostles, in essence, the first New Testament congregation of believers. First, John 17:8:

For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

And then John 17:17:

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

"All truth" is "all scripture," every Word, "the words." And the same Holy Spirit who indwelt the apostles continued to indwell believers. That's why believers knew there were 66 Books. They would know what the Words were. This is a theological presupposition as it relates to scripture. Believers will be guided by the Holy Spirit to the very Words of God. Nothing would have us believe that we would not know what the Words are, they would be lost, and then we would need to use scientific means, forensics, to decide what they were, still never knowing for sure.

If Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide into all truth, and all truth is all Words, then we should believe that we would have all Words available to us. Now this is the kind of thing that Aaron says is neither taught nor clearly implied. He can have that opinion. It's a free country. But you'll have to decide if he's right. Believers of the past haven't taken his position and that should be tell-tale. Aaron says that he doesn't know history. He hasn't read it. That's too bad. Because someone should be concerned if his position is non-historic, one that believers haven't taken. He says he doesn't really need it, he can just take his position from the Bible. But he is one man saying that he is taking his position from the Bible contradicting what men have written in the past on this doctrine. In other words, he's formulating new doctrine. These men had it wrong in the past, and he's correcting them. Now he might say that he's not doing any correcting, but nevertheless he is. That's why knowing what men believed in the past is important. To be sure, the Bible is sole authority---not history, not tradition. I want that to be clear. We settle the argument with Scripture. But what men said in history relates to scriptural teaching---no private interpretation, no total apostasy, the continued, leading presence of the Holy Spirit---these doctrines. And we also have the benefit of knowing that new positions on the doctrine of preservation are being crafted now in light of textual criticism. So we must be aware of this.

In the next post, I'll deal with the details of Aaron's part four.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Was the King James Version the Standard for the English Speaking People for 300 Years?

Recently in a comment section of a blog post, someone (an Erik DiVietro) asserted that the King James Version was not dethroned as the standard for the English language only because of authoritarian government control. That didn't sound right to me. It was something that I hadn't read. Now I had not read much on this, I didn't think. I've read a couple of the histories of the King James Version, without cherry-picking my sources. But also I've seen comments in many other books that took the position that the King James Version was the standard for the English speaking people for at least three hundred years. I've read this point in books by those espousing a different New Testament text than that of the King James Version, not just rabid King James supporters. It's all I've read. My understanding was that God's people loved the King James Version.

Here's the key portion of the comment:

Your argument breaks down because in the period you're describing, the KJV was the Bible of the English-speaking people because there was no other permitted translation. In the British Empire, it was illegal to use any other translation of the Bible. Any new effort at translation had to be disguised as a ‘paraphrase' and even then the opposition was intense. And any suggestion of revision or retranslation was stoutly opposed not by your group of the faithful but by the academic, political and religious elites.

The English-speaking scholars of your period of use were already arguing for a revision of the Greek text, and by necessity the English. Here's (sic) just a few items to note:

* In 1684, Richard Baxter was imprisoned for paraphrasing the New Testament.
* Daniel Mace, a NT scholar, printed a colloquial translation of the Scriptures in 1729; but his work was ignored because 1) he was a Presbyterian and 2) his translation dared to use current language.
* Richard Bently of Cambridge proposed to restore the text of the New Testament by "By taking two thousands errors out of the Pope's Vulgate, and as many out of the Protestant Pope Stephen's…" His Protestant Pop (sic) Stephen is the editor of the Stephanus 1550 textus receptus.
* In 1731, Leonard Twells wrote a call for correcting Stephanus and was literally shouted down by the Anglican Church.
* As early as 1741, Robert Lowth was calling for a revision of the KJV translation of Hebrew poetry because it did not take into consideration what was becoming known about the workings of said poetry.
* There were somewhere around 40-45 translations into English of the whole Bible, books or sections done between 1700 and 1800.
* It was Archbishop Thomas Secker who sidelined the idea of revising the KJV in the early 1760's. At that time, it was being seriously by many scholars. (I cite Neil Hitchin's 1999 essay on "The Politics of English Bible Translation in Georgian Britain" for further notes.)

In short, it was not your God-fearing remnant who kept the KJV in print and refused any kind of revision. It was the monstrous behemoth that is the Anglican Church.

I will conclude with also pointing out that during this entire time (from the first printing of the KJV in 1611 until the American War for Independence), there were something like 65 different British editions of the KJV floating around – all with variants that were confusing and frustrating. Not surprisingly, the Americans were almost completely cut out of printing Bibles, having to import them from the Crown-licensed printers.

So much so that in 1790, Isaiah Thomas – an American printer – compiled every edition he could find and produced a new edition reconciling the editions. (By the way, Thomas' work was masterful and the basis of all American editions since.)

The young man (an Erik DiVietro) writing the comment called himself a historian, that he was a historian of the English language. With a lot of bluster, he showed irritation that his documented history was not taken seriously. I've read a lot of history, in part because I've taught history for over 20 years. I don't consider myself an expert at any particular area of history. I'm willing to bow to someone else's expertise. However, neither am I naive. I was willing to give this point of view a hearing. Now I do know when I am reading something that is persuasive and then trustworthy. I have a pretty good handle on judging sources. I am very suspect if I hear something new like this view that he was promoting. Historians are usually biased. They often must be taken with a grain of salt. But again, if I'm going to learn, I've got to be open minded.

This self-professed historian of the English language suggested that I would be greatly helped if I read two sources that he recommended, one a lengthy book on the history of the Bible in the English language and the other an article which first appeared in the Royal Historical Society publication in 1998. I obtained both of those books that represented the deep research that swayed this young man, who considers himself to be an expert in this field. By the way, if someone is recommending just two sources, the two that agree with one another, I'm already questioning what's happening. Any historian would. This is supposed to overturn the only position that I've heard.

In the book he exalted as the supreme source to understand the history of the King James Version, The Bible in English by David Daniell, I found the author to be very biased, ridiculously so and obviously so. His sources were not convincing. I was left with the observation that this man had a bone to pick with those who support the King James Version. I will show how what he wrote reveals this. The other source was the article, The Politics of English Bible Translation in Georgian Britain by Neil W. Hitchin. In his second sentence, Hitchen writes:

The long tenure of the King James, or Authorised Version (AV), has caused historians to overlook the existence of the scores of translations which were attempted between 1611 and 1881-1885, when the Revised Version was published.

First, I challenge the premise here that historians overlooked other translations made. Hitchen had plenty of source material to show these translations. Others have made note of these, belying the idea that historians overlooked them. Second, they weren't "attempted"—the translations were completed. They weren't accepted—that's different than being just attempted. In a footnote (fn 8) Hitchen mentions books on the history of the English Bible that either make no point of eighteenth century English translations or as he asserts, "lack an interpretive scheme." He decries the lack of interpretation for the rejection of these translations. Perhaps there was no "interpretive scheme" because no interpretation should have been made. Their dismissal should have been taken at face value.

Hitchen's article centers on "an unsuccessful campaign to get the Crown to convene a committee to produce a new authorised version." Concerning those who wanted this translation, Hitchen writes:

The dissenter's support for a new official version seems to reflect an assurance that they had a stake in the nation's religious life. If so, theirs was a sophisticated use of a key national text to redefine the assumptions of national religious culture either to obtain the limited goal of toleration for themselves.

This should give some hint as to why none of these translations was accepted. Hitchen describes the attempt of a new translation (p. 78):

[T]he ideology of nature was quietly displacing the reformation ideology . . . in the modern idea of ‘science' being applied to biblical texts. The substance and style of early eighteenth century divinity were modelled on scientific precision and sobriety. . . . Jones described a critical technique which treated the Bible as a parallel of nature and the biblical student as a scientist. In early 1789 Edward King's Morals of Criticism advocated an ‘application of modern science to biblical texts', which his reviewer found ‘very interesting'.

We should be happy that a new translation based on these premises was not accepted.

The young historian with which I had my discussion talks as though powerful forces worked against a new translation. Hitchen, speaking of those who had an influence on Archbishop Secker, referred to Benjamin Kennicott, who "expanded the textual knowledge of the Hebrew bible vastly, supported by money from the king." Kennicott (pp. 86-87) "concluded in 1780 by saying that ‘none of the variants was a threat to essential doctrine or increased historical knowledge.'" That doesn't sound like some political conspiracy against a translation. In his conclusion, Hitchen says:

The point at issue in the debate over the English version was whether the old translation illuminated or obscured the Gospel, and whether a new one was likely to be hijacked by heretics. All sides had doctrinal agendas.

This was not a point of authoritarian power being abused, the idea the young "historian" wanted to read into the rejection of a new English translation.

It is helpful to look at the source from which the young man tries to find conspiracies where there are none. The young man mentions Richard Baxter being thrown into jail for making a paraphrase. That is true, but the context of that situation was very local, not national—the case of an over-eager and biased judge overreaching his authority. Nothing more came of it. He says that Daniel Mace had his work ignored because he was a Presbyterian and because the English was too current. He takes this conclusion from Daniell's book, a man who we cannot rely upon for an unbiased view of the King James. Daniell's "historical" position about the King James comes from one major source: Bruce Metzger. When Daniell criticizes the poor textual basis of the King James, he is not making a historical judgment. He takes that from reading Bruce Metzger's twentieth century work of textual criticism. After a quotation of Metzger on p. 510 to criticize the New Testament text behind the King James Version, Daniell writes:

One of the curiosities of Bible history is the superstition about this text, a rigid religious loyalty of many Christian to this textual monstrosity that to try to amend it, or even criticise it, has been branded as near-sacrilege — indeed, still is, in some places.

And then in a footnote attached to this particular sentence, Daniell recounts a story that helps us understand his feelings:

I myself have been publicly reviled for speaking well of Wescott and Hort, the scholarly makers of the pioneering 1881 two volume The New Testament in Original Greek, not knowing that I could in any way be giving offence to a member of a North American lecture audience in the late 1990s. For her, the Textus Receptus was the Word of God.

Can you imagine a "historian" including such an anecdote in the midst of what is supposed to be history? I guess if someone is preaching to the choir, it would be well-accepted. As far as Daniel Mace is concerned, first concerning his "current" English, Luther A. Wiegle of Yale Divinity school regretted Mace's "pert colloquial style which was then fashionable" (p. 509). Mace lost his influence where he was, not because he was a Presbyterian, but because "local congregations were suscepitble to Whitefield's and Wesley's gospel fire" and "in that time [Mace's] flock dwindled." The work of the gospel was a reason for the rejection of Mace. Isn't that a good thing?

As you look at much of the source for Daniell's material about textual revision, you read Bruce Metzger (including the Bentley quote about "Pop (sic) Stephanus"). So we don't have any kind of fresh hardcore uncovering of a conspiracy afoot regarding the acceptance of the King James Version as the standard for the English speaking people.

The young historian says that Leonard Twells had written a call for the correction of Stephanus. It is absolutely just the opposite. When Mace attempted to challenge the textus receptus, Twells wrote a defense, published in three volumes in London, against Mace's text, entitled: A Critical Examination of the late Testament and Version of the New Testament: wherein the Editor's Corrupt Text, False Version and Fallacious Notes are Detected and Censur'd. It really is a joke that he would use Twells as a basis for dislike of the textus receptus, when the man wrote a three volume series both defending it and then criticizing the edits of Daniel Mace.

The young historian writes that Robert Lowth was calling for a revision of the KJV because of his expertise on Hebrew poetry. No. Daniell himself writes (p. 516):

Scholarly understanding of the nature of Hebrew poetry, following Robert Lowth in 1741, was one reason for increasing calls for revision of KJV.

Daniell does not give any evidence of Lowth calling for a "revision of the KJV," just that men were calling for a revision based on Lowth's work---again, not Lowth himself. This is just a blatant falsehood by the young "historian," perhaps with the hopes that no one would check him out.

Later in his book, the supposedly trustworthy Daniell, with reference to Lowth, makes these comments about men's attitudes about the KJV in the mid eighteenth century:

By the end of the 1760s, another view was appearing, one that itself became a myth, supported by carefully manufactured other myths. This was the birth of ‘AVolatry', the elevation of KJV to such heights of inspiration as to be virtually divine and untouchable. From 1769, effectively, there grew the notion that KJV was peculiarly, divinely, inspired. To bolster the supposition it was announced that this translation had been especially venerated from the moment in 1611 that it appeared.

Daniell speaks of double inspiration originating in 1760. Ruckman was a bit behind the times, I guess, according to this account. That's an entire paragraph on p. 619 from Daniell. No documentation is supplied, so where do you think that Daniell got this idea? Now if he's right, those who think this movement started in the mid twentieth century with Benjamin Wilkinson's Our Authorized Bible Vindicated are going to have quite a problem. You can't have it both ways.

It is true that Isaiah Thomas was a historic American printer, who printed the King James Version in 1791 (not 1790, as our young historian wrote). His goal was to make the printing exactly correct. People in the colonies could buy their own American copy of the King James Version. He also printed in 1800 the first American edition of the Greek New Testament. There had been Greek New Testaments in America for a long time, imported from Europe. These Greek New Testaments all were the textus receptus. For the conspiracy theory of young DiVietro to be correct, Isaiah Thomas would have needed to have been forced to print only the King James Version by the British Crown, or at least by the Archbishop of Canterbury. What do you think the chances of that are? No, America was a free country and people wanted the King James Version. They wanted it as their Bible. They wanted to buy it. And they believed in the New Testament Greek text which was behind it.

The assertions made by this young man, who considers himself to be a historian of the English language, are inaccurate and in certain instances, blatantly false on the level of lies. It is the kind of work that is often done to attempt to back up something that sounds brand new. It sounds so new because it is new. I decided to check it out, however, because I would rather get it right than just win an argument. So if you hear it again, know that it is fabricated, made out of whole cloth. Unfortunately, there will be those who read this for which the facts make no difference. They are more concerned with winning the argument. They want the statements to work whether they are true or not, or whether they are being taken out of context or not. I hope that isn't you.

This conspiracy theory that the King James was anything but the standard for the English speaking people for 300 years is false. It can't be supported with facts. People loved both their King James and their textus receptus. These were what biblical, English-speaking Christians accepted as their Bible.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The They-Just-Talk-About Dodge (Dodge #1 in the Dodge Series)

If I'm a chronic liar, I want to change the subject from lying. It's a minor issue. What's important is the gospel, justification by faith, bodily resurrection, and the deity of Christ. If you even bring up lying, it's obvious that you are not interested in the deep doctrines of God. In the way that you bring up lying you are actually devaluing the gospel and, therefore, cheapening it. By cheapening as you are, by talking about lying, you are actually guilty of something far more serious than lying. You've distorted the gospel. So there, we're off the subject of lying now.

The lying isn't just about lying. It's about God, about displeasing Him, about not living the gospel, and about abusing God's grace. It relates to all those, so-called, major doctrines. If someone is into pornography, he might also be into all the major doctrines, reading about them deeply, and regularly talking about them. I've seen this. A man could sit and read three deep theological books while his wife is out working to bring home the bacon. He can't keep a job because that doesn't interest him so much.

I'm an expository preacher. I preach books, preach through them, all their verses. I preach the vast, heavy doctrines of the Bible when I preach through all the passages of scripture. But I will find myself talking about those areas most in which someone is having trouble, like how he's treating his wife. Paul does the same kind of thing. For instance, when Paul writes the Thessalonian church, of all the things he would choose to talk about to a church where he left after three weeks? The way they went about acquiring or obtaining a wife or a husband (1 Thess 4:1-9). Meddlesome, huh? Really missing the majors.

The they-just-talk-about pants and versions and bad music is nothing more than a dodge. It would be like Nadab and Abihu criticizing someone for bringing up the subject of the recipe for the altar of incense. They both died for messing with the ingredients. On this blog, I write most about those areas that people are not hearing about in evangelicalism and from which fundamentalism has mostly departed or is at least slipping. That means, of course, that I don't think about salvation, God, my sermons I prepare for my church, or heaven. At least that's got to be what it means when I bring those subjects up all the time. I think of nothing else; that's just got to be what it is.

And pants are not really about pants. They are about God's design and the roles of men and women, keeping the distinctions. And that's about God. That's theology. And the version issue is not really the version issue. It's about the inerrancy and authority of the Bible. And that relates to all the other doctrines, including the so-called deep and important ones. I heard someone on an evangelical radio program recently mock men preaching against music with a "beat in it." That's, by the way, typical of the reforming fundamentalists or the young fundamentalists. It's also a lie. Nobody preaches against music having a beat. That's ridiculous. But again, the music issue is about worship of God, and what is more important than whether God will be worshiped? Someone can make these types of issues sound like they're not important, but that doesn't mean they're not.

What's really important for you is that area where you are disobedient or that doctrine where you don't believe right. What's important to you is the teaching of scripture from which you have strayed. If someone deals with that issue, it's no wonder that you would want them to change the subject. And there is no wonder that you don't think it's an important doctrine. The nature of preaching, and you see this in the epistles, is to deal more with where people are off, then only repeating what they already know and where they are on.

It's pretty easy to see why it is that certain issues today are controversial and disliked---the pants issue, the version issue, the dress issue, the movie issue, and the music issue. Those are places where Christians have clashed with the world. Now churches have just taken the characteristics of the world and those professing Christians don't want to hear about it. So they use the "they-just-talk-about" dodge. They dodge having to hear about it with their "aren't there more important doctrines?" argument. It's a red herring, a smokescreen. It doesn't fool God. God still sees it and knows it.

What I'm saying is please let go of this excuse. That's all it is. And it doesn't work. We're either doing what God says or we're not. We're believing what He said or we're not. And if we're not, we need to hear about it.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Guess That Cadet

During the final week of school this year at the United States Military Academy at West Point, there was a traditional alumni ceremony, laying a wreath at the foot of Thayer's statue at trophy point. The alumni walked through a corridor of cadets lined up across from one another. On the left here is a cadet our readers might know, a picture taken from the West Point photo stream from graduation week.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Two Things in the Realm of Current Events that Seem Obvious

First Thing. United Nations and hundreds of nations independently castigate Israel for her recent incident on the ship traveling to Gaza. Israel's military was responding to obvious provocation. On the other hand, they say nothing about North Korea's unprovoked sinking of a South Korean ship, killing 46. This indicates at least rampant and widespread anti-semitism all over the world. It also relates directly to the new way the United States, this present administration, is handling Israel. This also shows how obviously ridiculous the United Nations is.

Second Thing. Democratic Senatorial candidate to Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak, testifies that he was approached by the White House with an offer to leave the Senate primary race against Arlen Specter. The White House says it used Bill Clinton to tempt Sestak with some advisory committee to leave a Senate race. This seems obvious that it isn't true. I don't think I need to explain. They tried to bribe him to leave the race with something that would make him want to leave it. A powerless advisory position doesn't seem possible.