Sunday, January 30, 2005

Bible Breaks at Public Schools Face Challenges in Rural Virginia (

A recent article in the Washington Post tells of a controversy in rural Virginia where a handful of schools allow children to leave school during the middle of the day to attend a voluntary weekly Bible school, that takes about 30 minutes a day. (Children who don't attend engage in that most celebrated right of childhood: recess!)

But some of the parents of the children who don't attend are angry with the school for allowing the others to attend Bible class. The reason? "Bible study hinders efforts to meet state and national standards for test scores."

Here is a quote from the article:

"For 65 years, weekday Bible classes have been part of the fabric of growing up in this town of 24,000 in Augusta County and in a score of other small towns and hamlets in rural Virginia. It is such an accepted tradition that 80 to 85 percent of the first-, second- and third-graders in Staunton participate.

But now, the practice is being challenged by a group of parents who have asked the School Board to end or modify weekday religious education. Not only do they fear that their children are stigmatized for not attending, but in a decidedly 21st-century twist, they also argue that interrupting class for Bible study hinders efforts to meet state and national standards for test scores. "

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Abortion, Race, Gender, and Christ

Speaking of John Piper (in the bottom of my last post...)

At the Desiring God web site, there is a wonderful sermon by John Piper entitled Abortion, Race, Gender, and Christ.

His thesis, which he backs up with hard data, is that abortion is often both racist and sexist. It is sexist in that abortion is often used as a method of sex selection in China and India (guess which sex is often prefered...) and racist in that is it practiced in disproportionately high numbers by minorities, especially blacks.

The biblical basis for this sermon is Exodus 1:1-22, where Pharoh orders the destruction of all male Jewish babies. Even in ancient times, abortion (infanticide) was all about race (Jews) and sex (boys).

Holy Bible: English Standard Version

Lately I've been working on a massive bible study of the book of Galatians. As part of that study, I'm making use of every single modern English language version of the Bible I can get my hands on, plus the old reliable King James Version. Since the "English Standard Version" (ESV for short) is a new translation, I included it.

Now you must realize that my main study and reading Bible for the past 20+ years is the extremely popular New International Version from Zondervan. I purchased the very first NIV Study Bible back in 1985, and have used various versions of the NIV ever since.

Recently, though still extremely happy with the NIV, I have encountered some small (very small) flaws with the way it translates a few of the underlying Greek and Hebrew texts. Of course these flaws have been known about for years, and serious students of the bible usually use a more literal translation like the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

But I really don't like the NASB. While it may pride itself on it's literalness, it makes use of very awkwardly phrased English to bring forth the Good News. Often I find myself have to re-translate the NASB's English into something I can understand, something I never have to do with the NIV.

Well, I think I've found a literal translation that combines the literalness of the NASB with the fluidity of the NIV. With the likes of J.I. Packer and Wayne Grudem guiding the translation process, one can be sure that the English Standard Version is true to the underlying Greek and Hebrew texts as well as being very theologically accurate.

But one of the best characteristics of the English Standard Version is it's pedigree. The ESV is the latest in a long line of outstanding English language translations that goes all the way back to William Tyndale. The most recent revision in this lineage is the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of 1946. Until the advent of the NIV, the RSV was truly the best English language translation one could get. But unfortunately it was widely rejected by the evangelical Christian community because the scholars who did the translation "under translated" key texts that dealt with certain key doctrines of Christianity, including the virgin birth and propitiation. But despite these flaws (and they were really very minor), the RSV was an outstanding update of the King James Bible, and is still highly regarded by many conservative scholars, despite it's minor flaws. It is, in many ways, a much better translation than the NIV in terms of it's ability to accurately translate the underlying texts and it's use of modern English in a fluid, readable fashion.

The liberal (theologically, socially, and politically) organization known as the National Council of Churches bought the copyright to the RSV and came out with their own update, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). This is, for the most part, an very good update except for one major problem: it's politically correct. The translators removed any and all references to the use of male gender nouns and pronouns when they were being used in a generic fashion. For instance, this famous passage from Matthew 7 in the ESV reads:

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
(Matthew 7:3-5)
But the NRSV translators decided to make it gender inclusive:
Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
(Matthew 7:3-5)
The underlying Greek shows that Jesus was using the Greek word for "brother," not "neighbor." But in order not to offend militant feminists, the NRSV translators removed the male gender reference. This is one example of literally thousands! Any place where a generic male example was used in any biblical book, it was neutered--literally.

The ESV is also a "New Revised Standard Version" but without all the politically correct gender-neutral revisions. One might say the ESV is "evangelically correct!" Now there are some places where a gender neutral rendering is the correct way to go, so it's not as if the practice has to be completely rejected, but one must be careful to match the rendering to the underlying context.

During a recent visit to a local Christian bookstore I found a very nice leather bound ESV Bible for 50% off. The discount was due to a personal name that was imprinted incorrectly on the Bible! Once a name is imprinted on a leather cover, it cannot be removed or changed. So the store owner had to get another copy of the ESV and re-do the imprint, and regulated his mistake to the bargain bin. So now I have my own leather-bound copy of the ESV, with someone else's name on it.

The more I read the ESV the more impressed I am with it. I'm not sure it will replace my NIV any time soon, but I certainly plan to read more from the ESV in the near future.

Well known pastor and theologian John Piper has switched to the ESV. You can read his reasons why here .

Monday, January 24, 2005

Bad Christian Books

Most Christians I know who take their faith seriously also take book reading seriously. The reason is simple: many of the greatest insights into the Christian faith are contained in books, and those who wish to deepen their faith desire to find out what the great masters had to say on any given subject. There are some fantastic books out there, some of which I've listed on the sidebar to the right. (scroll down to see all the books, and be aware that some are just interesting non-fiction books that don't necessarily have a Christian theme!)

One thing I've realized through the years is that there may be many "inspirational" books out there, but not all inspirational books are created equal; and some are quite a bit less equal than others.

One such example is the book Disciplines of a Godly Man by R. Kent Hughes, pastor of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. I bought this book because I'm very interested in the concept of spiritual disciplines. While it does have some spiritual disciplines in it, it is really much more about sin management. In other words, it just a bunch of do's and don'ts categorized by type. Of course there are a lot of do's and don'ts listed, far too many for any sane person to keep track of.

In my many years of being a Christian, I have discovered that there are many Christians and Christian leaders who seem to think that the most important element to a victorious life in Christ is the near complete total removal of sin. While I am certainly no fan of sin, I find that excessive focus on "right" and "wrong" living does nothing but breed spiritual pride and triumphalism. Not only that, but those who are having a truly difficult time struggling with sin and temptation dare not mention it! And if one should decide to talk about it, you will usually get pat answers concerning verse memorization, accountability, prayer, and so forth. For all the time many Christians spend discussing sin and sin avoidance strategies, they really don't have a clue what the real cause of sin is. This seems to be especially true of those most steeped in a Calvinist tradition, for with Calvinism everyone is just a totally depraved loser from the start. There's nothing to understand about sin, it's just wrong. Of course this attitude is found even beyond Reformed churches; other traditions are equally clueless about the origins of sin. (And no, I'm not talking about the Garden of Eden…)

Most inspirational, "Christian Living" type books at the local Christian bookstore are just like Hughes' book: everything you ever wanted to know about avoiding sin and living a righteous life. But there are precious few books--if you can find any at all--on the subject of intimacy with Christ. In my many years as a Christian, I've found that focusing on greater intimacy with Jesus is the best "sin management" program of them all. And the best disciplines are those that bring you closer to God.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

It's pronounced "Five Two"


One of the most interesting and original artists in all of Christian music is a rapper named KJ-52 (pronounced Kay Jay Five Two). I discovered him by accident, seeing his "KJ Five Two" video on a recent "WOW Hits 2005" DVD.

Of course KJ-52 has his own web site, and there is a very nice feature that automatically plays several full length, high quality tracks from his latest album.

If you like Christian music that makes your booty move, then there's nothing better than KJ-52.

Friday, January 21, 2005

How did the dinosaurs become extinct? Global warming, of course...

Not satisfied that we are taking "global warming" seriously enough, the fear-mongers of the far left have now found "new evidence" that global warming was the true cause of the mass extinction of pre-historic beasts.

But it was the result of ancient greenhouse gas spewing volcanoes, not SUV's, that caused this global mass extinction.

According to the article "Global Warming not Collisions caused mass extinction on Earth," no evidence has been found that a large object, like an asteroid or comet, had hit the earth. (Obviously the large pre-historic crater in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico doesn't count...)

Well, at least Walt Disney has now been vindicated. It was in his movie "Fantasia" (during the Stravinsky tune "Rite of Spring") where we see a tremendous global famine caused by an intense heat wave wiping out the dinosaurs.

Well, at least India is happy...

According to an article that appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, a majority of the people of India are very happy that Bush won a second term as President of the United States. In a recent poll, 62% of Indians answered "postive" to the question "Do you think [President Bush's reelection] is positive or negative for peace and security in the world?" Only 27% responded "negative" and the rest weren't really sure one way or the other.

India was one of only three countries polled where there was a favorable response towards four more years of Bush. Poland and the Phillipines were the other two.

On the other hand, only 4% of the respondants in Mexico were "positive" concerning George W., and 58% were definately "negative."

But in Turkey, Bush is 50% more popular than in Mexico, gaining a large 6% "positive" rating. However, there were quite a few who were not so sure about George, and 82% responded "negative;" the largest negative response in any country surveyed...

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Suzy Wells

Suzy Wells

My most favorite singer and songwriter, Suzy Wells, has a blog where she is keeping a daily log during the recording of a new album. (Make sure to check out the daily pictures!!!)

Suzy is one of the most annoitned and powerful singers I've ever heard. She currently only has one album out: "Simple" but that one album is one of my very favorites in my extensive collection of albums and CD's. (Yes, I still own vinyl!)

I higly recommend Suzy to anyone who likes awesome worship music.

Syria could be next...

Well, I was wrong. The next target of the United States military might is NOT going to be Iran. It seems as if there is a place on earth that is causing us even more headaches than the ayatollahs in Tehran...

Barbara Lerner in her article Setting Sights on Syria makes a case for the USA to invade Syria. Well, maybe not invade, but perhaps flex a little military muscle in their general direction...

It is no secret to anyone who's been watching the international scene for the past three decades or so that Syria is the #1 hotspot for the recruitment, arming and training of all sorts of terrorists. Just ask anyone who lives in Israel.

There is good reason to believe that Syria is also helping out with the car bombings and terror incidents that are a daily part of life in Iraq. If we want to "drain the swamp" of terrorism, it does little good to send forces into Afghanistan and Iraq and leave places like Syria and Iran untouched. (There's other non-military ways that we are dealing with other hotbeds of fantaticism like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt...)

Terrorism is not something that involves just one or two countries, but is an epidemic that is truly global in scope, and has especially found good soil in the 10-40 window. If the western world (a.k.a. "United States") wants to deal decisively with terrorism, it will have to ignore soveriegn boundaries, especially if those boundaries are being used to shield those that need to be brought to justice...wether it's Iran or Ireland...

In order to effectively fight terrorism, it may also take the resurrection of a type of warfare that not many people would like to see come back to life: total warfare. Let's pray it doesn't come to that...

Friday, January 07, 2005

Aircraft Carriers are not just for fighting wars...

USS Abraham Lincoln

W. Thomas Smith, in his article Angels With Rotary Wings points out something that isn't being taken into consideration by most of those frantic about doing something to help the victims of the recent Indian Ocean tsunami: those people who were some of the first on the scene, and doing the most to help the victims, were members of the United States military. Surprise, surprise.

The centerpiece of this effort is an aircraft carrier battlegroup. The American Navy has lots of helicopters, and when deailing with a large-scale humanitarian crisis, helicotpers are the prefered method of transportation, evacuation, supply, and support. As soon as the US Navy realized what sort of disaster occured in the Indian Ocean, a carrier battle group was immediately dispatched to provide whatever aid and comfort possible. Also, an amphibious warfare battle group was also sent, who's flagship is a large helicopter carrier!

Together, all these ships, planes, helicotpers, men and supplies represents tens of BILLIONS of dollars in equipment and resources, all working solely for the aid and comfort of the tsunami surviors.

This terrible disaster is an excellent demonstration of the power and usefulness of an aircraft carrier. One of the most awesome and expensive weapons of war is now being used--and quite sucessfully at that--to bring aid and comfort to a hurting people. A floating airport of helicopters! But air support isn't it's only contribution: the shipboard water purification plant is being used to create 400,000 gallons of water each day; a critical function when local water supplies have been contaminated. Of course this isn't the first time an American aircraft carrier has been used for humanitarian purposes, but this disaster, because of it's wide scope and nearness to coastal areas, showcases the charitable contributions of seapower unlike any other.

It is only fitting that the lead flagship of the carrier battlegroup is the aircraft carrier named the USS Abraham Lincoln.