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

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

The creator of Dilbert, Scott Adams, has been partially dumb for the past 18 months due to a condition called Spasmodic Dysphonia, which means that he could only speak under certain circumstances. In his case, he could speak in public, but virtually not at all in private.

He recently seems to have been able to re-map his brain by stimulating it through reciting rhymes, so that he has had an almost complete recovery in the short-term.

To read more about the fascinating phenomenon, click here.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

His Heart is Steadfast, Trusting in the Lord

Yesterday, we heard the shocking and unexpected news that there were to be more redundancies at work and the affected staff would be informed today. They said that there would be less than 5, but still we all were asking the question, "Is it going to be me?"

Despite the logic that told me that it was unlikely to be me, I still had this nagging doubt that it could still possibly be me. It was hard to get rid of that shocked, heavy, drained feeling at the possibility of redundancy, even with prayer.

What really helped was to sing Psalm 112B from the new RPCI Psalter to the tune Ellers.

We give thanks to God that I was spared today.

Psalm 112 B Ellers (alt. Eventide)

PRAISE to the LORD! The man is blessed indeed

who makes the LORD's commands his great delight.

2 His children will be mighty in the earth;

descendants of the upright will be blessed.

3 Abundant riches are within his house;

his righteousness endures forevermore.

4 The darkness of the just will turn to light,

for all his ways are gracious, kind and fair.

5 That man is good who gives and freely lends,

and who with justice governs his affairs.

6 The righteous man will never be removed,

and ever will his memory endure.

7 At evil tidings he is not afraid;

his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.

8 His heart is steady; he will never fear;

he comes at last to look upon his foes.

9 With open hand he offers to the poor;

his good endures; his head is lifted high.

10 The wicked sees and grinds his teeth in rage,

for he despairs; his cherished hope must die.

Click here for Psalm 112B.


Some Thoughts on Devotions

Nothing earth-shattering here, but it has often struck me how prayer is emphasised as the main part of the 'regularised' private devotions of the saints in Scripture. This is not to say that Bible reading isn't vitally important, but what is emphasised with the Bible is meditating on it throughout the day. (Obviously one needs to read something to meditate on! Do we meditate throughout the day?)

I think maybe one reason that prayer is emphasised so much is that we find it easier to read and study Scripture than pray.

I often think (to use hyperbole) that we need to focus on 3 things in our devotions: discipline, discipline and prayer. Discipline is the foundation of our devotions; without it, nothing gets done.

As I said, nothing earth-shattering, but often it is the basics of the faith that we need to be reminded of again and again and again...


Sunday, October 22, 2006

Could the Alexandrian Text of the NT be the Product of Textual Criticism?

“... [T]he LXX presents marked differences from the Hebrew text. In the first place, the order of the prophecies against foreign nations differs in the LXX from the Hebrew… In the second place, the LXX is considerably shorter than the Hebrew. In fact, it is shorter by about one-eighth (about 2700 words, or six or seven chapters).

How are these divergences to be explained? ...The LXX translators, being Alexandrian Jews, were doubtless influenced by Greek philosophy. Hence it may be that they deliberately sought to introduce what seemed to them a more logical arrangement of the prophecies. Evidently they were, to an extent at least, moved by such considerations. For example, in the phrase ‘the Lord of Hosts,’ the words ‘of hosts’ are generally omitted by the LXX. Also, in the phrase ‘Jeremiah the prophet’ we find the words ‘the prophet’ often omitted.

An Introduction to the Old Testament by Edward J. Young, pp. 234, 235 (Wm. B. Eerdmans 1964)

This post is pointed at those who think about the current debate about the value of the Alexandrian text-type vs. the Byzantine tradition.

It is often argued, in general terms, that one reason why the Alexandrian text-type should be preferred over the Byzantine tradition is because the Alexandrian usually has a shorter reading, whereas the Byzantine has a longer reading, based on the textual theory of lectio brevior praeferenda (the shorter reading is to be preferred).

One thought I would offer in regards to this is: there seems to be a tradition of preferring shorter readings when doing textual criticism in that region. Given that is the case, could it be that the Alexandrian Text diverges from the Traditional Text because it is the product of textual criticism that was biased toward shorter forms of the text? The fact that the Alexandrian Texts meshes with modern critical canons may be simply down to the fact that they used the same canons to produce that text type. It could be analogous to a "self-fulfilling prophecy".

After reading quite a bit from the various sides of the argument, but not professing in any way to be a critical expert, I remain sceptical about the arguments for the priority of the Alexandrian tradition, esp. since I am suspicious that the arena is still suffering from the 'afterglow' of the explosion of W&H's theory about the Byzantine/ Alexandrian debate. There is still this assertion that because the Egyptian manuscripts are older that they are to be preferred. The reality is that the Egyptian manuscripts are older because they survived due to the climactic conditions of that region. We don't have evidence of what the text was like in the Byzantine region at that time. This is more of an argument from silence. See here for some discussion about this debate from a source not naturally disposed towards the Byzantine tradition.

About 200 AD, Tertullian wrote a treatise entitled ‘The Prescription against Heretics’, in which he write the following in Chapter 36:

"Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply it to the business of your salvation, run over the apostolic churches, in which the very thrones of the apostles are still pre-eminent in their places, in which their own authentic writings are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of each of them severally. Achaia is very near you, (in which) you find Corinth. Since you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi; (and there too) you have the Thessalonians. Since you are able to cross to Asia, you get Ephesus. Since, moreover, you are close upon Italy, you have Rome, from which there comes even into our own hands the very authority (of apostles themselves).”

Does it seem likely that the churches which had the autographs were more likely to have the true text, or that churches far removed from these areas should have a purer text? (Some dispute that this refers to the autographs, but does this seem likely? Why tell them to go to the actual churches themselves? He at least is referring to the purity of the texts.)

From a neutralist/ naturalist perspective, why shouldn't the later manuscripts of the Byzantine region be considered as any less close relatives of the earlier manuscripts of this region as early Egyptian manuscripts? I haven't yet come across arguments to shore-up the theory that Alexandria should come first, or that Byzantium shouldn't be given priority. This does not say they don't exist, it is just a statement of where I'm at.

Given that this is the case, should we turn from the general textual family providentially preserved and transmitted through the centuries by the Greek church, used by the general church for its originals, and forming the majority of texts, to texts undiscovered and unused in God's worship for centuries, esp. when the scholarly practice of Alexandria would produce the sort of text that we do find? I admit that such theological concerns are anathema to naturalists.

(Note that I am not a TR advocate. Clearly it needs revised as most, even Burgon, admit, esp. in Revelation. I do remain sceptical about the priority of the Alexandrian text and cannot arbitrarily poo-poo the "providential preservation" argument. )

Please note these are meandering, sceptical thoughts about modern textual criticism, not water-tight arguments for the Byzantine text-type.

Read the rest...

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Scottish Firefighters Disciplined

Some of you may remember me reporting about some Scottish Firefighters going before a disciplinary hearing over their refusal to hand out leaflets at a gay pride march in Glasgow.

I forgot to report that they were disciplined. See here for more information.

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Paedocommunion in the OPC

A brother sent me this link to the OPCs discussions on paedocommunion. I'm sure you'll find it profitable. For the record, I don't agree with paedocommunion.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How Bad Alcohol Abuse is

An article on the BBC News website says that "48% of men and 39% of women aged 16 to 24 drink above daily recommendations".

How much of the money spent on health, policing and other public services are a result of the abuse of alcohol?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

My Problem with Karl Barth

I've been asked what my problem with Karl Barth is, so I thought it would answer this through a few posts on my blog.

I confess at the outset that I am not a Barth expert, and that I once tried to read one of my uncle’s volumes of Church Dogmatics and gave up in disgust. I found Barth unreadable due to his mystical pretension to profundity. He strikes me as one of those modern scholars that try to impress you through convoluted and mystical statements, like Rowan Williams and other Neo-Gnostics. Take this for example (please note his statement that Christ's incarnation is atonement and accomplishes reconciliation)...

“It is in the particular fact and the particular way that Jesus Christ is very God, very man, and very God-man that He works, and He works in the fact and only in the fact that He is this One and not another. His being as this One is His history, and His history is His being.”

Church Dogmatics IV/I, p. 128

“[T]he being of Jesus Christ, the unity of being of the living God and this living man, takes place in the event of the concrete existence of this man. It is a being, but a being in history. The gracious God is in this history, so is reconciled man, so both are in their unity. And what takes place in this history, and therefore in the being of Jesus Christ as such, is atonement. Jesus Christ is not what He is – very God, very man, very God-man – in order as such to mean and do and accomplish something else which is atonement. But His being as God and man and God-man consists in the completed act of the reconciliation of man with God.”

Church Dogmatics IV/I, pp. 126,127

Okay, so he’s slightly more intelligible than Rowan Williams!

I also confess that my knowledge of Barth is from secondary sources rather than primary ones, but I trust my sources
(esp. when they quote Barth), unless they are contradicted by quotes from Barth. I’m not going to purchase all 14 volumes of his Church Dogmatics and his other writings (notably his commentary on Romans) and read it, when there are better things to do! The sources are primarily 20th century Reformed systematic theologies (Berkhof, Boice, Culver, Grudem and Reymond).

One of the great problems with Barth is that he often makes seemingly orthodox statements that contradict his anti-orthodox statements, but I suppose this should not be surprising in one who delights in the mysticism and irrationalism of ‘Christian’ existentialism, and the contradictions and ‘paradoxes’ of dialectical theology.

James Montgomery Boice makes this telling statement in his Foundations of the Christian Faith (p. 673) about the destructive influence of Barth:

“One analyst of the secularizing movement in today’s theology is John Macquarrie (variously classified as a secular or process theologian). In his study of the intellectual history of many secular theologians, God and Secularity, he describes many of these men as ‘disillusioned Barthians.’ Since Karl Barth denied that the Bible was the Word of God, calling it only man’s witness to the Word of God, and since Barth stressed the transcendence or hiddenness of God, those who followed him wondered if anything could honestly be termed a revelation. And if not, or if one could not be certain of such a revelation, then the secular world with its vacillating but audible words was the only place to which one could turn for direction.”

Read the rest...