Friday, January 30, 2009

Using Greek/Hebrew in the Pulpit

This is a great article on using Greek/Hebrew in the pulpit. Well worth a read.

Finally, you use a knowledge of Greek and Hebrew to explain why the translations are different. Before the ESV was available, I used another translation that was a little freer in its translation philosophy. There were two Sundays in a row where I had to correct its interpretation to make what I thought was the true point of the passage. After the service a new Christian came to me and asked, "Can I not trust my Bible?" Ouch! So here is one of the big no-noes from the pulpit. Do not correct the English Bible. Ever! Never say, "the translators got this wrong." The damage you can do to a person’s trust in Scripture is unimaginable.

So what do you do it you think a particular translation did get it wrong, while at the same time not holding yourself up as "God’s Anointed" that no mere mortal (i.e., pew sitter) may touch! I think there are ways to do it, and a lot of it has to do with how you say it. Be courteous. Be gentle. Be fair. There is a good chance that the translators with whom you are disagreeing know a lot more than you.

How would you disagree with them if they were in the front row that morning? I think you can say things like, "This is a difficult verse to translate, and perhaps you noticed that the XXX version does it differently than the XXX version." And since you are the pastor and have a responsibility to lead your flock, tell them what you think and why. Nothing wrong with fair, gentle, disagreement. What is wrong is to move into an ad hominem argument where you cast doubt on the translators’ ability to do their work.

This is where footnotes really come in handy. If the interpretation you prefer is in the footnote, you are home free. You can say something like, "If you look at the footnote on this verse you can see that there is some question on how to understand this verse. My personal preference is to go with the footnote." This does not make anyone mistrust their Bible, and it encourages them to watch the footnotes for themselves.

Tim Challies "iPology"

It's really true that some make Macs sound like they will solve all their problems and end world hunger. The truth is probably a little more like 'they put out a pretty good product.' Tim Challies offers his confession from being a mac 'hater' to a 'user'.


What I've come to realize is that I don't dislike Apple computers. No, I just dislike the people who use them! I'll grant that there are some exceptions, some people who are humble Mac users. But far too often I've come across these Mac apologists, the kind who feel the need to disparage all things Microsoft and to boast in their own superiority. They are the ones who make you feel like you're missing out, like you'd be so much better and more popular if you'd just become part of the in-crowd. I've never wanted to be part of that crowd. All along I've allowed the people to influence my perception of the product. Shame on me.

So I offer this brief article as my ipology to all of those humbly orthodox Mac users whom I've ever mocked or belittled or persecuted because of their choice in computers (you know who you are!). I admit it now: Apple really does do things well. I guess you were right all along. I was wrong. And I ipologize.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Discerning at Your Christian Bookstore

Outside the local church, there is probably no place in the community with more spiritual influence than the local Christian bookstore. For many believers, books provide the primary supplement to what is heard on Sunday. But just because something is on the shelf doesn't mean it is doctrinally accurate or spiritual beneficial. After all, biblical discernment is not just for sermons. It must also be applied to chapters and articles.

Nathan Busenitz, Fools Gold, pg. 45

Expository Preaching

My time in seminary has taught that there is a type of 'expository preaching' which misses the point. I've fallen prey to it a time or two. There is a type of 'expository preaching' that digs deep to mine out all the significance of the Greek/Hebrew and then uses these 'nuggets' as bad illustrations of one's own point. Stories make more powerful illustrations than fallacious word pictures from Greek etymology. Using illustrations that make educated people say 'that's interesting' doesn't mean you've got the point of the passage, nor does it mean that you have exalted Christ. I pray we can do both.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I've always associated courage with pride. In movies those with courage are often most arrogant. But true humility takes quite a bit of courage because real people fail.

A Word from Matthew

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 18:3-4

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Should We Let Little Jane Do Special Music?

Our church doesn't have special music. At least not yet. Tim Keller made an interesting point in a recent podcast I listened to. He said something to this effect: you wouldn't put someone who wasn't gifted to preach up in the pulpit, why put someone who is not gifted musically on stage? He also made the observation that the lower the skill level of the musician/artist the more narrow the impact their music/art will have. If we all know little Jane we're more apt to be touched by her terrible solo. While if we don't know her, we'll wonder why she's singing. Same goes for refrigerator art I suppose... He also added that he thinks perhaps professionalism (putting on a show) and colloquialism (letting Jane do the worship) are both extremes to be avoided. His church strives for 'excellence' (without using that term) without hiring-out professional musicians who would be performing rather than expressing worship.

Interesting thoughts at least...

Sermon Subtexts

Reformed Theological Seminary on iTunes has posted a lecture series called "Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World" featuring Edmund Clowney and Tim Keller that is worth a listen: CLICK (itunes required)

In one of the lectures titled "Adoring Christ: Spiritual Reality" Keller talks about the for subtexts of sermons. He says the subtext is what the sermon really communicates apart from the words that are said. The subtext is the real purpose of the sermon under what is said on the top.

Here's a brief breakdown of the four subtexts. These will really make you think, especially #2. Keller himself said of #2 that he feels its very difficult to avoid this one right out of seminary but that recognizing the demon is half the battle.

1. Reinforcement - "aren't we great" subtext, a ritual or stylized communication which is used to reinforce boundaries and contribute to a sense of security and belongingness...many churches are committed to a reinforcement subtext I'll call 'gatekeeping.' These churches do not want to be challenged, stretched, convicted. What they want in a sermon is for you to say the things that we say because we are this kind of people who believe these kind of things. The stated purpose of the sermon is: "I want to teach you this." But the real purpose is: We're here to remind ourselves that we a neat people and we're the kind of people who say these things and believe these things and we're not like the people who don't...The motive is to strengthen the ghetto.

2. Performance - "Am I ok? Don't you think I'm good?" The purpose of this sermon is a performance goal. The speaker is seeking to exhibit his goals and promote the products of the church. The subtext of the sermon is: "Don't you think I'm good? Isn't this a great church? Don't you want to come back? Don't you think you should bring your friends?" At some level the audience will realize that the speaker is actually not concerned about them. The reason for this is mainly to win people over. This is a selling subtext.

3. Training - "Isn't this a great truth?" - the purpose of my sermon is to train, to teach people what they don't know. The average mature preacher in America is probably here.

4. Worship - "Isn't Christ great?" The sermon subtext is: "Don't you see how much greater Christ is than you thought? Don't you see how all your problems stem from the fact that you didn't see that?" The motive is to get people to worship.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nooma Goof

ht: Andy Naselli
I was recently talking with someone about these Nooma videos by Rob Bell. Naselli posted about them here. I think this is worth pointing out not because we should point it out any time anyone makes a mistake, but because with Bell this seems to be less the exception, more the rule. It's not ok to use scripture in whatever way makes your point.

Related: See Greg Gilbert’s thoughtful reviews of Nooma videos 1-19: parts 1 | 2 | 3.

Tebow Makes John 3:16 Hottest Google Search


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Urban Plant Life, Contextual Mission

ht: Mark Vance

Many of my thoughts recently have been directed toward this subject. How can a church be 'relevant' in the midst of a culture that does not share its values. This is the vision I would have if I ever pastored/planted a church.

Listen: Urban Plant Life Contextual Mission

More here

Improving the ESV: Strauss

As much as I like the ESV this article is good to point out it has its share of problems. More particularly, this is helpful in displaying the translational difficulties of any version. Some think it is as easy as matching up the Greek/Hebrew word with the English one. But it is more complicated than that, indeed an art and a science.

Why the English Standard Version (ESV) Should not become the Standard English Version, by Mark L. Strauss

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Gregg Strawbridge on Music

This is perhaps the best article I've ever read responding to the arguments against contemporary 'Christian' music. Strawbridge is very balanced and biblical but ruthless with bad argumentation. A version of this paper was presented at ETS.

Music in the Bible and Music on the Radio