Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Is Wine Necessary to the Lord's Supper?

Some believers think that using grape juice for the Lord's Supper is unbiblical, but is it? Using my faithful, I searched for wine (Greek: οινος) and found no references to the Lord's Supper. All I can find is "the cup" (Matt. 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:17,20; 1 Cor. 10:16,21; 11:25-27) and "the fruit of the vine" (Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18). Although I myself believe in the legitimacy of taking alcoholic beverages based on the clear testimony of Scripture (Lev. 10:19; Deut. 11:14; Psa. 104:15; etc., etc.), despite the warnings associated with its consumption, I have to say that those who insist that wine is necessary have no Scriptural warrant.

The fact that it is the redness of "the fruit of the vine" that signifies the blood and that alcohol signifies nothing should be enough for those who berate the weaker brethren.

(This is the hyperlink for Keith Mathison's articles entitled "Protestant Transubstantiation: Examining the Use of Grape Juice in the Lord's Supper" quoted by Phil in the comments section. His articles are half-way down.)

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Question: Lawful Methods of Evangelism

Here are a few questions for the learned participants of my blog:

What forms of evangelism are warranted by Scripture? Is there such a category as unlawful methods of evangelism? What rules may be applied to determine the lawful forms?

Sunday, May 28, 2006

"Tradition, Tradition! Tradition!"

I'm a big fan of "Fiddler on the Roof". One of the best-known parts of the musical is when Tevye sings about the importance of tradition to his community and how the ideas of the young people were challenging this. He doesn't answer with God's Word or with common sense, just "Tradition!"

How much does our own belief and practice rest upon tradition, rather than the Word of God?

Some who are of a more modernising mindset may say, "Not me!" But do they delude themselves? Are they merely "neo-traditionalists"? Do their beliefs and practices rest as much on tradition (albeit modern evangelical tradition) as the old fuddy-duddies? One of the most amusing things I find is to hear NIV'ers use the same arguments as some AV'ers when confronted with the inadequacies of their favoured translation: "We've used it for so long." "I think it sounds better."

We all need to ask ourselves: are we seeking to know God's will, rather than our own will or that of others (even the Puritans!). Are we even depending on authority figures to interpret God's Word for us, rather than being like the Bereans who, even though confronted by the Apostle Paul, "were more noble-minded... for they examin[ed] the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so."

Are we imposing our traditions on others? Are we ridiculing others for traditionalism, when we ourselves are guilty of it? Are we assuming that others are being traditionalist, when they actually might be following Scripture?

Just as importantly, are we living up to what we profess? What hypocrites we can be!

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (James 1:22)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Frequency of the Lord’s Supper in the Early Irish Presbyterian Church

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart…” (Acts 2:46)

"Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread..." (Acts 20:7)

"Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper." (1 Cor. 11:20)

In J.S. Reid’s seminal “History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland”, he mentions the frequency of the Lord’s Supper amongst the early Irish Presbyterians (esp. those who were involved in the great Sixmilewater Revival of 1625), which is at variance with the common practice of partaking the Lord’s Supper merely twice a year.

Robert Blair of Bangor describes his arrangement with Robert Cunningham of Holywood: “[W]e also agreed to celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper four times in each of our congregations annually, so that those in both parishes who were thriving in religion did communicate together on all these occasions.” (Vol. 1 p. 115) This means that the more godly had the Lord’s Supper 8 times a year.

John Livingston of Killinchy states a similar practice in his area: “[T]he communion… was celebrated twice in the year… We need not to have the communion oftener, for there were nine or ten parishes within the bounds of twenty miles or little more, wherein were godly and able ministers that kept a society together, and every one of these had the communion twice-a-year, at different times, and had two or three of the neighbouring ministers to help thereat, and most part of the religious people used to resort to the communions of the rest of the parishes.” (Vol. 1 p. 117) Let’s say that these people only went to the communions at which their own preachers ministered, that would mean that they had the Lord’s Supper between 6 and 8 times a year. The relation concerning 9 or 10 parishes probably indicates even greater frequency. (Picture is of John Livingston of Killinchy.)

It may be that the frequency of the Lord’s Supper then degenerated into the twice-yearly tradition of today. This tradition is maintained by the belief that we will get more out of it. (The "Communion Season" also makes the observance cumbersome and is not found in the Apostolic Church.) Which shall we benefit from more overall: a twice-yearly remembrance of Christ’s propitiation, or a more frequent celebration? Would we really become so indifferent?

Without being dogmatic about a weekly Lord’s Supper, which is nearer the NT model of Acts 2: the early Presbyterian model or the current tradition?

What a blessing it would be to come together regularly with other congregations to partake of the communion of the Lord’s Supper! Truly, this would be a blessed manifestation of the oneness of Christ’s body and the communion of the saints. No wonder these men experienced revival!

(For further study, see this article and this one on the OPC website, and this further article. See also Calvin's Institutes Book 4 Chapter 17 Sections 44 - 46. Phil has since mentioned the side-menu relating to the Lord's Supper on Eric Svendsen's blog. Regarding daily vs. weekly see this.)

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Saturday: A Day of Preparation

"That day was the Preparation, and the Sabbath drew near."
Luke 23:54

How much do we see Saturday as the Preparation Day for the Lord's Day? Do we prepare to "remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy"? Are we getting to bed late? Have we organised our home on the Saturday, so we have don't have unnecessary work to do the next day?

Also, do we view Friday night as the Preparation Night for the Preparation Day? If we have some big task to do on Saturday, do we get to bed on time and get up early enough the next day, so we aren't getting too near midnight when we're finishing off, so that we're too tired to use the Sabbath as we should, or putting ourselves in a position where we have to work past midnight?

Indeed, do we view the whole week as a preparation for the Sabbath? Are we endeavouring to get sufficient rest during the week, so we aren't using the Sabbath as a day to catch up on sleep?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Apocryphal Psalms

I found myself whistling the tune "Melita" this morning and hearing the words, "Advancing still from strength to strength, they go where other pilgrims trod, till each to Zion comes at length and stands before the face of God." This is verse 7 (stanza 4) from Psalm 84B in the RPCNA's "The Book of Psalms for Singing" (and now 84B in the RPCI's new "The Psalms for Singing - A 21st Century Edition").

I love the tune, and I love the words and the ideas behind them, but a main theme in the verse is apocryphal! Verse 7 very literally says, "They go from strength to strength appearing before God in Zion." There is no idea of following in the footsteps of other believers.

Those of us who are Reformed and therefore hold to the Regulative Principle of Worship often quote the following verse: "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it." (Deut. 12:32) What about adding to Scripture itself?

To be fair, it's difficult to know what the authors could have done, but surely adding a completely new idea wasn't necessary. Any suggestions to replace this clause?

(P.S. Don't worry, not all posts will be negative!)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

John 1:3 in my Top 3 Translations

NKJV: "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made."

ESV: "All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made."

NASB: "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being."

Literal: "All things through Him came into being, and without Him came into being not even one [thing] that came into being."

Note that the NKJV sounds the best, but loses the "ex nihilo" naunce of the original Greek; the ESV loses it as well, but is more awkward than the NKJV; and the NASB is closest to the original, but sounds very awkward.

P.S. I have found that the OT in the ESV flows better than the NT, and that the Gospels seem to have the most awkward readings.

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ESV Responds!

I asked the ESV website the following question: given that the NASB existed, why was there a need for yet another translation? Their response consisted of the following pages of their website:

1. How is the ESV Different from Other Translations?
Verse by Verse Comparisons
3. Origin of the ESV
4. Wayne Grudem's Account

The first page says the following: "[T]he NASB’s commitment to strictly literal translation often results in wording that sounds awkward. The ESV... while striving for accuracy and faithfulness... flows more naturally than... the NASB."

They also say that "[T]he real origin of the ESV Bible goes back to the early 1990s, long before the gender-language controversy, when Crossway’s president, Dr. Lane T. Dennis, talked to a number of Christian scholars and pastors about the need for a new literal translation. He found a hunger for a Bible that conveyed the majesty and dignity of God’s Word, a Bible both accurate and beautiful. The ESV developed from this perceived need, not as a reaction to other Bible publishers’ doings..."

Grudem says, "[T]he ESV grew out of the appreciation of many scholars for the merits of the old RSV and a desire to see it updated, and not out of opposition to the TNIV Bible. The reason for my own involvement with the ESV was a long-standing desire to see an updated RSV, and had little or nothing to do with the TNIV controversy." (The TNIV was the proposed gender-inclusive version of the NIV.)

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Job Applicant Accidentally Interviewed on TV

A job applicant ended up being accidentally interviewed as an expert live on BBC TV due to a name mix-up. Please see here for the article.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Da Vinci Resources

Firstly, see, then there are a few books that I'm aware of, which are shown below. (Clicking on the images will bring you to their websites.) I was chatting to a friend who manages a Christian bookshop and he thinks that Clark's is best. I've read it and it does the job. (See here for others.)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

God's Word and Counterfeits

When one considers the current interest in the Gnostic Gospels, one is struck by the uniqueness of the Bible. Fundamentally, when we read the Bible we are struck by the clear voice of God speaking through His prophets and apostles, and the power of His authority. What a contrast are counterfeits!

When I have read the Qu'ran, the Book of Mormon, the Hinds Vedas, or any other writing that professes to be holy, it is so clear they are counterfeit. The attempt to try to be like the real thing is overworked.

'"The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the LORD.' (Jer. 23:28)

Friday, May 12, 2006

"The Messianic Legacy"

When I first heard of "The Da Vinci Code", I thought, "Ridiculous!" Then our church decided to have an evangelistic event about it soon after the film is released on 19th May, so I thought it would be wise to read it. It is quite an exciting thriller in its own way, even though it involves a blaphemous pseudo-history of Christ. It doesn't of itself provide much evidence to contradict the teachings of Christianity, but some other books do.

At the time of reading "The Da Vinci Code" there was a lot of controversy around a libel brought by the authors of another book, "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail", against Dan Brown. I have commented on this book below and, as I noted, their attacks are pretty pathetic. (It can be bought in Sainsburys for a good price.)

Today I bought their sequel, "The Messianic Legacy", in Tesco for £4.99 (better than the RRP of £8.99 - "Every little helps!"). This is probably the dodgiest book associated with "The Da Vinci Code," because it is more of an out-and-out assault on Christianity, and it is better known than more obscure works due to the controversy.

In this book, the writers do a better job than before by trying to summarise the latest "modern Biblical scholarship" on "the historical Jesus". I take this book very seriously, even though I've only just skimmed it. Never has modern liberalism been so conveniently popularised and disseminated (by Tesco!).

Although the vast majority of believers will read it and say, "Pathetic!" some weak believers may be troubled, and all believers, esp. pastors, must be ready to strengthen their weaker brothers and sisters. Also the unbeliever who respects Christianity may be provoked to think that Christians are a bunch of charlatans. It thus adds to the current overt raging against "dangerous Christianity" by the likes of Richard Dawkins.

On the flip side, those who profess to be believers but who have dead faith (James 2) may be sufficiently disturbed by what they read to start asking questions of pastors and Christians that they know. This could be a great boon. Their spiritual weakness will be exposed and their true state may become known to them, thus leading to true conversion.

'Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”' (2 Tim. 2:19)

'Forever, O LORD,Your word is settled in heaven.' (Psa. 119:89)

'But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear' (1 Pet. 3:15)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Incomparable Ryle

I'm reading J.C. Ryle's "Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew" in the mornings. It is so good to have Ryle's practical godliness first thing in the day.

Most of you will know Ryle well, but I just had to give thanks to God for this gift to the Church, and bring him to your remembrance again. Go on, you know you want to read a bit of Ryle!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Isn't the ESV a Bit Wooden?

Is it just me, or is the ESV unnecessarily wooden? Take my reading this morning from Matthew 14 as a random example: verse 20 says, And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.” Who would ever speak that way in normal life? “And they took up twelve baskets full of the left-over pieces” (or “left-overs” or even “left-over fragments”) would be better English and closer to the original word ordering. (They’re not even being over-accurate!) I have come across this woodenness time and time again in the ESV.

The ESV has become very fashionable of late, particularly in Reformed and Evangelical Anglican circles. It seems everywhere I go, every young person carries one with them, and increasingly it is the version of choice when quoting from a more accurate translation than the NIV. Having tasted this translation over a period, I can’t quite see why this should be, when translations like the NASV and NKJV have been around for a while. Probably it is because the ESV has been very well marketed, it has been well-circulated, and it has a very cool-but-sophisticated cover! Regretably, there may be a certain element of fashion! I think part of it is also the attitudes of some towards the best available modern translations.

The NASV is seen by non-Americans as an American translation, so there is a certain prejudice against it. It also doesn’t have the marketing power of Harper Collins behind it (and given that it is based on the RSV, Collins are probably happy about getting their hands on the profits of the ESV, now that the RSV is seen as a relic of the mid-20th Century and little-bought, and people are more aware that it was an ecumenical and inter-faith production). A third factor with the NASV is the opinion that it is a wooden translation. I find this claim quite ridiculous, having read it for some time after being an NIV-reader. I think what has happened is that the wooden reputation of the ASV has been transferred to the NASV through Chinese whispers (and maybe in a few places it has been too wooden, but not as much as the ESV in my opinion).

The NKJV has been popular for a while among Reformed Christians, but there was always the niggling concern among theological students that the NT translation is based on the Textus Receptus – shock, horror! I disagree with this disparagement of the Byzantine texts underlying the Textus Receptus, and the exaltation of the Alexandrian texts, but that’s for another day! I use the NKJV because I think that some of the arguments for the greater reliability of the Byzantine texts are convincing, and the arguments for the superiority of the Alexandrian texts are unconvincing. (I was brought up with the RSV for half my childhood, the NIV for the other half, the KJV for a year to try it out, and the NASB for my university days, so I’ve seen them all and have no prejudiced inclinations to any of them.) Also, what is the problem, when the Nestle-Aland/UBS text is given in the margin of the NKJV?

Non-AV'ers in the Reformed community were also beginning to admit that maybe the NIV wasn’t as good a translation as we would like: it dumped technical terms like “LORD of hosts” and “propitiation”, and added words not found in any original text, etc. In general, there wasn't sufficient respect for the actual words that the Holy Spirit chose to use, and these took second-place at times to modern sensibilities.

Some thought they needed an accurate translation that was largely based on Alexandrian NT texts, but didn't have “American” in the title, and had more marketing muscle behind it. Lovers of the RSV in the Evangelical Anglican community, and the likes of
Wheaton College and Trinity Divinity School, decided now was the time for the ESV!

"Why the outburst about the ESV?" you may ask. Well, once upon a time, there was one translation that was read in the pulpits, was read at home and was quoted in all the books: the AV. This was very helpful in engraving the Words of Scripture in the minds of believers. ("Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." Psa. 119:11)

When the British churches covenanted together for reformation in 1643 using the Solemn League and Covenant, they swore "to bring the Churches of God in the three kingdoms to the nearest conjunction and uniformity in religion, confession of faith, form of church government, directory for worship and catechising". They didn't need to mention uniformity in Bible version, because they already were united in using the AV! [Please note Crawford's comments on this.]

If only we had this concensus again, how useful it would be! Just when the English-speaking, Reformed churches could have
united around the NKJV, which was accurate, well-written and allayed the concerns that some Textus Receptus advocates had with the NASB and NIV (although some AV'ers will never change to a modern version), along comes the ESV!

Was it really necessary? Was it profitable? Do we really need another translation to add to the available plethora? To top it all off, it is wooden and awkward in too many places! Is this really the version to unite the Church? (Or am I one of the few remaining
British Reformed Christians who still aspires to the principles of our National Covenants?)

I ask ESV'ers: examine the ESV objectively; isn't too wooden, and if so, then is this really what we want to be the majority translation
in the English-speaking, Reformed churches? (Doesn't it really duplicate what the NASV has already done since the 1960's?)

If only the Church took control of Bible translation like it used to, instead of leaving it up to publishing houses!

P.S. Please don't take this article out of proportion. The ESV is still my number 3 choice, with the NKJV first and the NASB second. I just question the wisdom of another translation when the NASB seems to already be doing the job for Alexandrian types, esp. as it appears to me to be more wooden than the NASB.

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