Saturday, October 20, 2007

Who is Harmed When We Sin?

In a combox of a Catholic blog, from a user purporting to be a high profile Catholic (who I will abbreviate FB), I heard this:

"profaning the Lord is just a wrong against God, but God, who is perfect, cannot be diminished by this harm"

It reminded me of almost the same remark by Shabir Ally, a Muslim apologist:

"It doesn't hurt God in any way if you or I sin. It does not take anything away from his greatness. It does not reduce his power in any way if we sin. When we sin we hurt ourselves. And this is why we are taught to pray: 'Our Lord, we have wronged our souls, and if You do not forgive us, have mercy on us, then surely we are the losers.'"

Shabir's comments are actually an interesting paraphrase:

Proverbs 8:36 But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.

But both Shabir and FB see only part of the equation. There is another side though:

Malachi 3:8-9
8Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
Yes, when we sin we harm ourselves, but consequently not directly. We harm ourselves, because our sins cause us to be guilty.

But when we sin, we also wrong God. No one can take away from God's power and greatness, as Shabir correctly noted, and we cannot diminish the perfection of God (in fact, God is glorified when we sin), but sin is still an offense against God.

God cannot tolerate sin, for holiness is an essential attribute of God:

Isaiah 6:3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

That is why we pray not with the words of Proverbs 8:36, but with the words of the prophet Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 14:20-22
20 We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee. 21Do not abhor us, for thy name's sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us. 22Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.

Micah 7:18 Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.

Jeremiah 3:12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.

Isaiah 64:9 Be not wroth very sore, O LORD, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people.

Isaiah 57:16 For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.

For indeed:

Psalm 5:4 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.

Psalm 138:8 The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.

Exodus 34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,

Psalm 86:15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

But there is a difference between the elect and the reprobate:

Psalm 37:28 For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

And again:
Hebrews 10:30-31
30For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Hebrews 10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

And God's Justice must be satisfied:

Jeremiah 3:5 Will he reserve his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest.

So then, let us pray, to the one true God, to this God:

Isaiah 45:21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.

To the Just God and Saviour,


A Fly in the Charismatic Ointment (Pun Cheerfully Intended)

John Chrysostom, Homily IV on Paul's Second Epistle to the Thessalonians:

"Because if he meant to say the Spirit, he would not have spoken obscurely, but plainly, that even now the grace of of the Spirit, that is the gifts, withhold [the AntiChrist]. And otherwise he ought to have come, if he was about to come when the gifts ceased: for they have long since ceased."

This comment is a bit of a fly in the ointment of those who claim that the spiritual gifts have not ceased, but is also a bit of a fly in the ointment for those who think that Christians were unable to tell that prophecy had ceased, and that the only revelation they could work from was that had been committed to writing and providentially preserved by God. That is not to say that there may not be some Christians who had difficulty discerning imitations in the first few generations after the apostles.

It's also a bit of a fly in the ointment for those who assert that their church has continually had prophets since the days of the apostles, as some "Orthodox" have apparently asserted, pointing to the mystical experiences of ascetic monks on Mt. Athos and in other places.

I'm sure that modern "charismatics" have developed an explanation for the absence of positive historical evidence of the continuation of the gifts, possibly along the lines that those of the "Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints" (who also claim to have living prophets in their midst).


Declension of Thou

Apparently some people find reading Elizabethan English challenging. For their benefit, the following irregular declension.


Thou / Ye

E.G. Thou shalt not kill.



Thou / Ye

E.G. O ye of little faith.



Thee / You

E.G. He shall rule over thee.



Thine / Your

E.G. Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.



Thy (Thine) / Yours

E.G. Take now thy son, thine only son, Isaac ...


Was that so hard?


After Evolutionism Therefore Because of ...

Well, not really because of Evolutionism per se, but the following linked article is exactly the result one would expect from a pure naturalist (link) attempting to deny the Providence of God (i.e. that God's Creation acts as God has decided), just as Darwin denied the Creation of God (i.e. that God created the world how and when He claims).


Friday, October 19, 2007

How does Paul Show Christ to People?

Moses said: "thou shalt not make any ... likeness [to worship it]."

John tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, but John does not provide an insight drawing: Instead John writes:

We beheld his glory the glory, as of the only begotton of the Father, full of grace and truth.

That glory is still visible in the pages of Scripture, but is mocked and obscured in gilt paintings.

As Paul put it:

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

3But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 5For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. 6For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

So then it is by the preached word that we see Jesus, not by gazing at an idol.


Why do People think the NIV is better?

It is a perennial amazement to me that many folks actually believe that the NIV is a "better" translation than some of the older translations, such as the KJV.

As a translation, it really is not better. It frequently attempts to convey the sense (as determined by the translation committee) at the expense of the literal expression. When it does this, it mixes the roles of translators and commentators.

Certainly, we must agree that sometimes judgment as to the sense is required when making translation, but the NIV is quite free in many places. This fact was immediately demonstrated by advocates of the traditional translations, but it seems that the word is not out there.

Likewise, we must agree that one could do far worse than the NIV. There are translations that employ deliberation mistranslation (such as the New World translation) and gender confusion (such as some of the feminist translations). There are also translations that are little more than paraphrases of an earlier English translation.

One thing that complicates the analysis is that the NIV relies on the so-called "critical text," rather than the more traditional "majority," "Byzantine," or "textus receptus" texts. In consequence of reliance on the "critical text," in some places the NIV omits material that ought to be included, though some of the omission is at least partially made up through the use of footnotes.

Another thing that complicates the analysis is that the KJV uses some terms that have become non-standard or archaic, or for which the meaning has changed over the years since the KJV was published. Typical anecdotes along this line recount the congregational bafflement over "Suffer the little children" in the KJV text. "Why would God want little children to suffer?" was the punchline question of the humorous account.

Thus, because of the challenges associated with building a varied vocabulary and understanding the beautiful intricacies of the language, some people have attempted to find versions that lack the flower language and challenging vocabulary of the KJV.

Neither of those issues, the translation source document or the wording style, is really a translation issue per se, though both issues are well connected with the translation procedure. The former is a pre-translation consideration, and the latter is a matter of expression - which is well within the freedom of the translators.

This author is not one to call it the New Idiot's Version, but the NIV is simply not that great. If one must have less flowery and precise words, more modern vocabulary, and translation based on the questionable critical texts, then go with the ESV or the NASB, not the NIV.

Please do not get this author started on the TNIV.


Timely Post on Sola Scriptura

Here's a timely post on Sola Scriptura (link) that may be of interest those who have been following the debate (link to debate).


P.S. And here is some interesting commentary on said post (link).

P.P.S. Linking does not necessarily imply the present author's full approval with the content of the links.

When You Lose Sight of Moses, You Turn to Idols

Thus saith the LORD, by the pen of Moses, in the Second Book of the Law, the Book of Exodus, the Thirty-Second Chapter, First Verse:
Exodus 32:1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

"And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount ..."

Note how the people missed Moses. Moses had become for many of the people the mouthpiece of God. They turned to Moses for advice, for counsel, for guidance and encouragement. To them, Moses was a visual reminder of God's presence.

And consider why Moses delayed to come down: God was giving Moses the law, instructing Moses in how to obey. He had explained the moral law to Moses, and described the creation of the earth in six days. God was providing revelation not so much for Moses' benefit but for the benefit of the people.

Yet the people grew impatient - they wanted a leader.

"... the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron ..."

Notice what happened: the crowd gathered, the mob assembled. The mechanism is not stated: did a few riot leaders sound the horns or did murmurs travel from tent to tent throughout the camp? We do not know. All we know is that Aaron did not call the people, yet the people came to Aaron. Aaron was the good speaker: the man who talked for Moses, though the people knew who was behind the scenes.

The people came to him as the sort of ceremonial head: they recognized his role was ritualistic, not substantive. He did not speak of himself, but reported what Moses told him. Nevertheless, the people - the enormous crowd of work-hardened Egyptian slaves came to Aaron.

" ... and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us ..."

Note the way they phrase their statement, not as a request: "would you please make us gods," but a demand "Up! Make!" The people did not come to Aaron with respect and reverence, but with an order: with a pretty clear implication: do something, or else.

It's worth noting that "gods" here is Elohim: a name of God. It is not "Elohims" (plural) but Elohim itself is already a plural noun. The English translators here followed the custom of providing a literal translation "gods" despite the ambiguity.

Note the purpose of these "gods": to go before the people. That is to say, these "gods" were to provide a visible leadership.

" ... for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt ..."

Notice who the "gods" are supposed to replace: Moses. The people, you see, viewed Moses the miracle-worker as their visible leader. With him out of sight, they were weak. Unable to rely on faith, the evidence of the unseen, they sought an idol: something visible and tangible.

" ... we wot not what is become of him."

For those born in the last 20 years, "wot" means "know." In other words, the people claimed that they did not know what happened to Moses. They seem to be suggesting that Moses is dead, or lost. They are afraid to set foot on the mount to go searching, for a fence has been put up, and it is a capital crime for anyone to set foot on Sinai. But the people are impatient - they want a visible leader, and they want one now.

The underlying problem is significant: we are to walk by faith, not sight. Thomas and the other Apostles were blessed with the tangible presence of Christ. We are not. We must walk by faith in the unseen. We must eschew the error of trying to make God after the image of man: for no painting can represent God. Even a true photograph or hologram of Christ would not suffice, for God is a Spirit, and they who worship Him must do so in Spirit and Truth, just as Moses commanded.

Which is what makes this so interesting as a metaphor:

Those who lose sight of Scripture make Icons and Images.

Do you want to see Christ? Look at Genesis! Look at the Psalms! Look at John's Gospel! But don't look at a painted board, or a piece of glazed ceramic, for God is not to be worshiped with the works of men's hands.

Praise be to the Living and True God!


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pretext Illustrated

By this new logo (link). Who was it that said that every heresy seeks to justify itself from Scripture? This is nothing new. The logo is cleverly worded to confuse Protestants (who will think that it means Scripture teaches Catholicism, which it does not) while corresponding to the objective of the author of that blog, namely to tack Scripture onto Catholic dogma that never came from Scripture, as S&S has been demonstrating in his on-going series at Contra Gentes (Against the Heathen) (link).

It's one thing for me to note that the "Biblical Evidence for Catholicism" or "Catholic Verses" are all imposition of the heresy of Catholicism on the Bible, and another thing to demonstrate it. Hats off to S&S for the latter.


P.S. Meanwhile, of course, most of what appears on the web site is not even pretext at Biblical apologetics, just inflammatory material like this exemplar (link).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Baptism Debate

Those who enjoyed the Shishko vs. White debate on baptism may enjoy the debate reported here (link).


Persecution Update

A martyr in Gaza (link) tortured and killed by those who, if they do not repent, will receive far worse in the life to come. It is a subjectively fearful thing to face torture for Christ, but it is objectively a far more fearful thing to torture someone who is Christ's.

Nevertheless, Saul of Tarsus received mercy, and perhaps the Gazites who did this may yet be turned to the Lord.

May God be Praised!


Those following the debate ...

... may be interested to compare the answer I gave (link) regarding how I know Esther and the Johanine epistles to be Scripture, to this answer that I was unaware of (or at least only subconsciously aware of) at the time I wrote my answer. (link) (in accordance with my long-standing policy, since I'm linking to something written by that guy, I'm linking to something roughly the same written by Wesley - link)


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

JP2 in Flames in the Afterlife

Is this an ironic claim or what (link)?

All humor aside, God alone knows the heart.

Since I don't pray to the dead, I don't have to worry about disembodied spirits trying to motion "stop" (cf. link).

But then again, if I didn't listen to Moses' prohibition of necromancy and idol-worship, I'm not going to believe if someone were raised from the dead.


P.S. I note that not all Roman Catholics are equally enthused (link).

Monday, October 15, 2007

Methodological/Empirical Criticism of Textual Criticism

One of the rules of thumb of modern textual criticism, is that a scribe is more likely to insert than omit. This rule of thumb needs to be reexamined.

1. Methodological Considerations
The rule of thumb does not appear to have been derived empirically. Instead, the rule of thumb seems to have a popular solution to the dilemma that often faces textual critics: did document 1 add or did document 2 omit?
The supportive reasoning is usually that scribes would have been timid to leave anything (even marginal notes) out, because they would not want to subtract from the Holy Writ. Furthermore, there are occasional examples that can be identified in which a scribe apparently inadvertently copied a marginal note into the text.
Another supportive reasoning is that scribes are more likely to explain something hard than to omit the explanation of something simple. Thus, this reasoning argues that scribes are more likely to provide an explanation than to omit it.
Neither of these tenets, however, appears to be readily testable. The warning against subtracting from Scripture is paired with a warning about adding to Scripture. Furthermore, a hurried scribe might omit an explanation that seemed obvious to the scribe. Thus, neither supporting reasoning is motivationally compelling. Neither supporting reasoning is the result of a method of analysis designed to figure out what errors actually do occur, in order to decide what default rule to use in questionable cases.

2. Empirical Considerations
The known subtractions/omissions heavily favor subtractions as the default error. There are few cases that we can identify where a "sleepy scribe" (as the 19th century collators called them) had inadvertently copied in a marginal note. On the other hand, homoioteleuton is a frequent scribal error.
On top of that, it is clear that transcribing texts by hand was tedious. Taking shortcuts rather than long cuts is a well documented observation of human nature.
Finally, especially early on, marginal material was clearly distinguishable, falling outside the relatively neat columns of letters, and varying in size and hand from the original. In some cases there may have been troubles to distinguish between corrections and commentary, but the unusual situation is more likely to have made the scribe pay attention than doze off.

In view of those two considerations, the present author takes a different default position, namely that all things being equal, it is more likely a careless scribe omitted than that a careless scribe inserted material.

This different default position happens to change the preferred reading of many passages from the modern critical text back to the Textus Receptus, restoring (in this author's opinion) the original fullness of the text.

May God Greatly be Praised,


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Turn us again, Shine on Us, and We shall be Saved

Psalm 80

1Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. 2Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh stir up thy strength, and come and save us. 3Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

This Psalm is so rich theologically. Asaph begins by calling to God, using the metaphor of "giv[ing] ear." God, of course, has no ears; it is just an anthropomorphism asking God to listen.

Notice that Asaph identifies the Shepherd with God by stating that the Shepherd dwells between the cherubim (or cherubims, if you prefer the KJV spelling). The invisible God, dwelling in a cloud, unseeable and not represented with imagery: he is the Shepherd of Israel. The New Testament makes it clear that this same Shepherd is Jesus.

What is interesting is that Asaph appeals to the strength of Shepherd. He asks him to "stir up" his strength. The image is that the Shepherd will make use of the strength at his disposal. Asaph's request is simple: "Save us."

To this simple request, Asaph appends an explanatory refrain "Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved." It's an almost syllogistic refrain:

1) If God turns us to Him; and
2) If God shines on us, then
3) We will be saved.

Notice how Christocentric Asaph's prayer is: it is not "offer us salvation and we will gladly take it." No, Asaph begs for salvation, even begging to be turned. This simple segment of the prayer is the (1) in the syllogism.

4O LORD God of hosts, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people? 5Thou feedest them with the bread of tears; and givest them tears to drink in great measure. 6Thou makest us a strife unto our neighbours: and our enemies laugh among themselves. 7Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Now, Asaph turns to (2), the shining of God upon them. Here they have turned, they are praying, but God has not yet showed mercy to them. Instead, they are still suffering under discipline/punishment. Asaph's appeal here is one of begging for pity. Asaph does not demand that God stop punishing immediately. Instead, Asaph humble asks how long this punishment will last, and points out that the punishment is continuing.

8Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it. 9Thou preparedst room before it, and didst cause it to take deep root, and it filled the land. 10The hills were covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars. 11She sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river. 12Why hast thou then broken down her hedges, so that all they which pass by the way do pluck her? 13The boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it. 14Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine; 15And the vineyard which thy right hand hath planted, and the branch that thou madest strong for thyself. 16It is burned with fire, it is cut down: they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance. 17Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself. 18So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name. 19Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Finally Asaph puts 1 and 2 together begging for 3. Asaph asks God, in essence, to have mercy appealling not to any right of the people of God, but to God's own purpose. Asaph reminds God that he brought the vine up out of Egypt. The immediate reference here is the nation of Israel, which was brought up from Egypt and planted in Canaan (the Canaanites being ejected by genocide). Asaph reminds God of how Israel flourished, but is now in ruins. Asaph asks God to "look down," not as though God has not seen (for Asaph acknowledges that the people are perishing at the "countenance" of God), but to have pity.

But the vine is also Christ, who was brought up from Egypt and raised in Canaan, but then persecuted to death. Yet, God shone his countenance and raised Christ ("the son of man") from the dead.

And of course, we are united with Christ, as the branches of the vine. We died with him (as Baptism reminds us) and will be raised with Him.

Notice the language that Asaph uses: "Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself." For Asaph it is all about the activity ("hand ... madest") of God for his own glory ("for thyself").

So to, Asaph ascribes the whole accomplishment to God: "So will not we go back from thee: quicken us, and we will call upon thy name." That is to say: Regenerate us, and we will call on you. It is the message of Scripture and the message of Calvinism: God regenerates and we worship Him. It is God who turns us to Him - it is God who regenerates us for His own glory. It is God who does the work of salvation from beginning to end. If we are saved, so that we will not perish, it is from Him from start to finish.

It is the prayer not only of the nation in distress, but it should be your prayer, dear reader, if you fear judgment for sin.

"Turn us again, be merciful to us, and we will be saved." Christ is sufficient. Praise be to the Shepherd!


More of the Same News

Now it's not just chimps (link), but dogs are making choices too. (link) And, interestingly, dogs are behaving more the way humans should (sometimes even than humans do)!

The articles are interesting from another point of view, though, than just as evidence that "free will" (if you simply mean the ability to make choices) is present in other creatures besides man. The articles are also an interesting form of opposition to evolutionism. How so? Dogs apparently have a choice mechanism that is more similar to humans than the choice mechanism of chimps. This means that evolutionism has to make yet another appeal to parallel ("convergent") evolution or re-nest the hierarchy. Either way, the special pleading becomes more evident.


Pray for Rain

Apparently the southeast United States is suffering under an unusually severe drought. More than a few Christian brethren live in that part of the World, and a goodly number of them live off the land as farmers. Pray that God will provide for their material need, in this case of water:

(more details) (and especially here)

Such prayer is generally agreeable to God's revealed will:
James 5:16-18
16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 17Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

For those of you who try to communicate with dead people, don't you think it is odd that James did not advise here to ask Elias to pray for us, since he was eminently "good" at obtaining answers to prayer? Isn't the easiest explanation that James would never in a million years have thought of such a thing?

Don't get any ideas,


A Word of Encouragement

Just a note of encouragement to my Christian brethren over at TeamPyro (link). I notice that they have new blogroll policy (link). It's pretty neat that they have become popular enough to be able to make demands on those who'd like a link-back! Their graphics are great, as are many of the articles. Another nice feature are the frequent (normally weekly) Spurgeon selections (available as a list here).

Fanning the flames,