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Archive for September, 2011

Bible Translation

September 30th, 2011 No comments

Joel Hoffman has posted a series of articles about Bible translation at his “God Didn’t Say That” blog. A good place to get started is with this one about the false dichotomy between accuracy and readability.

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Pray for Yousef Nadarkhani

September 30th, 2011 No comments

Have you heard about Yousef Nadarkhani? He’s a Christian pastor in Iran who is facing state-approved murder for the “crime” of apostasy.

Apostasy is turning away from a belief, either to another faith or to atheism. It’s a crime punishable by death in some (all?) countries with Islamic legal systems. In civilized places, it’s a free choice people exercise daily.

As it happens, Yousef Nadarkhani isn’t even an apostate. He never was a Muslim. But Iran set its barbarism knob to “11” back in 1979. Their so-called judges say, that’s okay, because Nadarkhani is of Muslim ancestry. Even though he never was a Muslim, some of his ancestors were, and his “apostasy” consists of turning away from the faith of his ancestors. (Seems to me there was a fellow in Mecca in the 600’s who did that, PBUH.)

What can be done now? First, we can pray for Nadarkhani and his congregation. Pray for all Christians suffering under the heels of repressive governments, and pray that their oppressors develop a conscience.

Second, we can publicize his case. Jesus said “All who do evil hate the light” (John 3:20). The Iranian clerics judging Nadarkhani think they can perpetrate this evil in the dark, with nobody seeing. They’re wrong.

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Peter’s Act of Obedience

September 26th, 2011 No comments

When Jesus, a carpenter, gave Peter, a fisherman, advice about fishing, Peter obeyed. What can we learn from him?

Luke tells of Peter’s reply, when Jesus told him to put his boat out into deep water and let down his nets for a catch:

Simon replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing. But because you say so, I’ll drop the nets.”

Calvin comments on Peter’s remark:

…a particular instance of faith, rendered to a single command of Christ, would not have made Peter a Christian, or given him a place among the sons of God, if he had not been led on, from this first act of submission, to a full obedience.

Being a Christian isn’t about obedience. It’s about faith. Peter wouldn’t get any “credit” for obeying Jesus in this instance, unless it led him into a deeper faith in Christ.

But, as Peter yielded so readily to the command of Christ, whom he did not yet know to be a Prophet or the Son of God, no apology can be offered for our disgraceful conduct, if, while we call him our Lord, and King, and Judge we do not move a finger to perform our duty…

But Calvin then asks how many of us who claim a deep faith, fail to offer even the obedience of a non-believer like Peter was at that point in his life? A good question!

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Single and Loving It

September 24th, 2011 No comments

Here’s an ad for a girl’s outfit that should make you think:

Read more…

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Pat Robertson and Alzheimer’s Ethics

September 16th, 2011 No comments

Well. Pat Robertson says it’s okay to get a divorce when your spouse has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. (To be fair, he does say there is an obligation to ensure that custodial care is provided.)

Now here’s the thing: I appreciate he isn’t just responding with a knee-jerk “God said it / I believe it / that settles it.” It’s a tough problem. I see people in church struggling to do what’s right when their spouse has dementia.

But “disability is vocation.” We believe that God is sovereign, and if the road we walk is a tough one, we should walk it nonetheless, because if God didn’t want us to, he wouldn’t have made the road that way. We say the road can be walked because God is with us on the way, and, if it comes to it, God will carry over the worst parts. We say that if (or when) we fall down, God will pick us back up and set us on our feet.

Difficult circumstances aren’t license to sin, they are our calling. Slaves are to obey their earthly masters, even when the master is cruel (Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22, 1 Peter 2:18).

That’s what we say to teens who are tempted to premarital sex. It’s what we tell homosexuals about any kind of sex. It’s why women should submit to their husband’s authority, and why men should should give their lives for their wives.

But do we believe it when the tough circumstances are our problem, or just when they’re other people’s problems?

(A separate observation is that Robertson seems to be using worldly wisdom here. How does the Gospel of Jesus Christ change the equation? I know a non-believer who is taking care of their spouse partly from residual affection and partly from a stubborn unwillingness to break their marriage vows. What are they to make of Christianity when a popular preacher holds them not to a higher standard, but a lower one?)

Finally, let me answer an obvious question about vocation. Must we bear up under whatever our circumstances, or may we seek to change them? If I’m born with poor eyesight, am I forbidden to wear glasses? If there’s a medical breakthrough that cures dementia, can I use it? I’d answer those questions no, no, and yes.

The hardest Scripture on this subject is probably 1 Corinthians 7:20, which says:

Let each of you remain in the condition in which you were called.

Here’s how John Calvin and I interpret that:

Now it were a very hard thing if a tailor were not at liberty to learn another trade, or if a merchant were not at liberty to betake himself to farming. I answer, that this is not what the Apostle intends, for he has it simply in view to correct that inconsiderate eagerness, which prompts some to change their condition without any proper reason, whether they do it from superstition, or from any other motive.

Farther, he calls every one to this rule also — that they bear in mind what is suitable to their calling. He does not, therefore, impose upon any one the necessity of continuing in the kind of life which he has once taken up, but rather condemns that restlessness, which prevents an individual from remaining in his condition with a peaceable mind and he exhorts, that every one stick by his trade, as the old proverb goes.

If you’re not a fan of Calvin, here’s what Wesley said:

Wherein he is — When God calls him. Let him not seek to change this, without a clear direction from Providence.

(It’s amusing that the Armenian says to do nothing except if God directs you, and the Calvinist says you’re free to act. But that’s a completely different topic for another day.)

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Age-Segregated Worship On the Way Out?

September 8th, 2011 No comments

Here’s an interesting sign of the times:

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale now offers only one service at 10:15 a.m. with, essentially, blended worship – that means no more separation based on age, likes and comfort.

For years Coral Ridge was the best-known Presbyterian Church (PCA) in the country, due to the influence of the late Dr. D. James Kennedy. But now, under Senior Pastor Tullian Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham, it’s ending its practice of offering two distinct worship styles (“contemporary” and “traditional”).

The article assumes that preferences in worship style is synonymous with age, which is not always true, but it’s right a lot more often than it’s wrong.

My camp of Presbyterians, the PC(USA), believes that children should be part of worship, as stated in our Directory of Worship, §W-3.1004:

Children bring special gifts to worship and grow in the faith through their regular inclusion and participation in the worship of the congregation. … The session should ensure that regular programs of the church do not prevent children’s full participation with the whole congregation in worship, in Word and Sacrament, on the Lord’s Day.

If that’s true of children and worship, how much less reason is there to segregate different groups of adults?

(Sorry I can’t provide a better link to our Directory of Worship. There don’t seem to be many people in our denomination who understand things like open standards, permalinks, etc.)

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