Friday, February 27, 2009

Links Again

Why so many link posts lately? My five-year old's been wanting a lot more of my attention recently, and I'm giving it to her. I'll try to do a little better, but no promises.

Now that I think about it, I'm surprised I've never linked to my Flickr page before.

=Speaking of kids, Dr. Timothy Paul Jones says, "The clothes that our children wear do not merely cover the nakedness of their flesh; they shape and reflect the contours of our children’s souls." Some good food for thought; I recommend the whole thing.

=Have you heard about the Red Envelope Project? I'm not sure what it'll accomplish, but it's worth trying.

=Randy Alcorn has a piece on pro-abortion (there really is no other term for him) "bioethicist" Peter Singer, "one of those rare people who is consistent with his worldview." The part about Singer starts a few paragraphs in. Disturbing but important.

=On a lighter note, you've heard of Google Earth; how about:
-Google Mars
-Google Moon
-Google Nukes -- ok, it's really an applet that uses Google Earth to show the damage potential of various nuclear bombs (and an asteroid).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Review: Bible Study Magazine

Logos Bible Software has introduced a bimonthly publication devoted to Bible study called Bible Study Magazine. I was given a review copy and find myself more than happy to make a review.

This magazine has regular columns on Bible study as a part of life, how to use Bible study tools, doing language studies, study tips, one called “I dare you not to bore me with the Bible,” and more plus feature articles on varying subjects related to Bible study. Each of these were interesting, well-written, and useful.

In this issue, the features covered Josh McDowell on apologetics and Bible study, the “Great Isaiah Scroll” from the Dead Sea scrolls, and choosing a Bible translation (pdf). It also had a neat little piece comparing the canons of various branches of the Christian family:

What's in Your Bible? Find out at

“Wait, you said this was put out by Logos? Does that means it’s –”

– One continuous commercial for their products. Well, in some ways, yes. Most pieces mention Logos products in some form or another, and many pages have a small box with a comment (and url) about something they sell.

But many of those boxes don’t mention Logos products at all (e.g., one mentions, one a blog series by Dan Wallace at, and every article that mentions their products contains information that is clearly useful whether you use their software, someone else’s, or only hard copies.

Though this magazine is certainly imperfect and obviously designed as more than just a magazine, it still looks promising. I think it will be a good tool for laymen looking to go deeper into the scriptures.

My final verdict? I subscribed.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Doubting Over Details

I’ve been going over a list of Bible “contradictions” and objections that I plan to blog my way through. Most of these can probably be categorized as “taking two verses completely out of context to find a contradiction.” Many would be appropriately described as “failure to recognize subtle nuances.”

Then there are those that fall under “I won’t believe if I don’t understand every little detail.”

Where is heaven? What is it like? Where is hell? What is it like? Where is your soul? How can God be one and three? How can God be eternal? How can God become human?

My inability to explain every detail of Christian theology does not disprove Christianity. For that matter, having a convincing explanation for everything doesn’t necessarily prove it’s true either.

I think it’s reasonable to expect an authentically divinely revealed religion will have things that are hard – even impossible – to understand. An eternal, holy, omnipotent God is not going to be easily described to finite, terrestrial, limited humans. Some aspects of noncorporeal existence will be difficult for corporeal beings to understand.

So we should expect aspects to Christian theology that are hard, even impossible, to explain. That shouldn’t stand in the way of believing based on those things we can understand.

And it doesn’t in any other context.

One of my professors told me once that there are maybe a dozen people alive who understand general relativity. (Some say that is overly optimistic.) Another said that no one really understands quantum mechanics – and yet lots of people believe it.

In science, medicine, and philosophy we expect things to find things that are over our heads, beyond our comprehension. Theology should be the same way.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Review: Orthodox Study Bible

I think it’s important to look at different perspectives on everything and most especially the Bible. It’s not that I think what I’ve been taught is wrong, but sometimes the other traditions have a useful perspective, and occasionally I find that the most accurate description of a biblical truth is somewhere in the middle of two extreme positions.

And, of course, we have to know what other people believe to know what and why we don’t believe.

To that end I have in my library some diverse Bible study resources including the Africa Bible Commentary, a Roman Catholic commentary, some rather liberal (even skeptical) works, and now an Orthodox Study Bible (full disclosure: a review copy).

What do I think of the Orthodox Study Bible?

Let me first say that I’m not qualified to say whether this is a good study Bible for those of the Orthodox tradition. My interest in it is, as I said above, as a tool for getting a different perspective and maybe learning something about Orthodox thought.

I’ll leave it to the reader to look at the official list of “features” of the Orthodox Study Bible, but I want to highlight some that grabbed me.

First, the commentary notes include quotations from the church fathers – including Athanasius, Irenaeus, and John Chrysostom. Second, it has an index of the notes by topic. Third, it has quite a few beautiful photographs of Christian art with … an eastern influence. Fourth, it includes a modern translation of the “deuterocanonical” books.

First and foremost, the notes and articles present, as I understand it anyway, a good picture of the Orthodox perspective – e.g., their views on justification, deification, and Mary.

This study Bible is also very good at showing connections between the OT and NT. The commentary is often devotional as well as informative. Finally, it sees Christ and/or the Trinity in everything in the OT.

It sees Christ and/or the Trinity in everything in the OT; sometimes it seems to be a bit of a stretch. It also sees an apologetic for the Orthodox Church in strange places (e.g., Leviticus 10).

The OT translation is occasionally a little odd (NT is NKJ, OT is a new translation based on the LXX), and the OT chapters are occasionally numbered (Psalms) or ordered (Jeremiah and Malachi) differently than what we in the West are used to. Finally, the notes and articles occasionally present protestant views in ways I felt was not entirely accurate in the process of trying to refute them.

So what do I think of the Orthodox Study Bible?

I would certainly never recommend that anyone have this as their sole study Bible, but I think it would be a useful addition to the library of any who are interested in examining varying perspectives on the Bible.

Rating: Well worth reading (3 ½ stars)

Friday, February 13, 2009


=6 Faith Mistakes We Make at Work
1. We engage in religious activity when we should be working.
2. We often use words to represent Christ when our actions have not earned us a measure of respect.
Plus four more things to make you say, "Ouch!"

=Improvement of the Mind
A summary of Isaac Watts' (yes, the hymn writer) classic on learning to think well and rightly.

=Jesus the Logician
The index to Joe Carter's project that got numerous bloggers to look at how Jesus used logic and clear thinking in His interactions as recorded in the gospels.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Debt Relief and the Jubilee

There is a movement attempting to convince Western governments to forgive the debts of poor countries, particularly in Africa. Religious supporters of this idea often invoke the biblical Jubilee as an example and also as justification for large-scale debt relief.

I’ll let other people argue the merits of African debt relief. I’m more concerned about the references to the Jubilee. Is it appropriate to use the term in this way?

What is a Jubilee?
The Jubilee first appears in the Bible in Leviticus 25. The Israelites were to celebrate the Jubilee every 50 years:

“Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. … Each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan” (Lev 25:10).

The Jubilee year was to be a Sabbath for the land (v11), but more to our point, in that year all land that had been sold reverted back to the original owner (v28) and all Hebrew slaves were freed (v41) – which is interpreted by many as the forgiveness of debts.

But it is obviously forgiveness of very particular debts. Specifically, if you’ve sold your land or yourself to pay your debts, you get that back. If, however, you simply borrowed money from someone, that does not appear to be mitigated by this passage (or any other I can find).

This concept was built into their society. The sale (or more accurately, lease) price for land was based on the length of time until the next Jubilee (v15). Everyone knew when the Jubilee would come and what would happen.

Liberty for All
Another notable feature of the Jubilee was its universality. Everyone’s land reverted back to the original owner, even the land of the rich (c.f., Ez 46:17). You may recall the biblical injunctions against favoring the poor over the rich (Ex 23:3, Lev 19:15); every single person was supposed to have the exact same rules to follow.

Is This a Jubilee?
Given the above, does this concept of debt forgiveness for poor countries correspond to the biblical Jubilee? I don’t think so.

First, we’re talking about general debts, not the specifics mentioned in the Bible. Second, this, like bankruptcy, involves someone eating the debts as opposed to the graduated system used as the Jubilee approached. Third, to be a “Jubilee,” it would have to involve everyone, not just the poor; no one is suggesting the US be forgiven its debts.

So Why “Jubilee?”
Why do people use the term when it clearly doesn’t apply? I think there are two possible reasons.

The first is simple intellectual laziness. Some say, “Forgiveness, forgiveness, we got a match, let’s go.” They simply don’t look that close. Some of those who use this term are not generally associated with intellectual laziness, but it can happen to anyone, especially when they step out of their usual field of study.

The second is a bit more sinister. Biblical language can get the faithful to listen to you when they might not otherwise. Moreover, it can get the faithful to go along with you when they might not otherwise.

Is the use of “Jubilee” an attempt to get people to accept the notion of debt forgiveness without critical thought? It may well be.

“I’m not sure I’m comfortable … oh, it’s biblical; ok.” It can be a very effective way to cut off debate.

Is this what’s happening? I’ve seen this term used to stop disagreement – the implication being that if you’re not on board you’re disobeying God.

Am I over-reacting? Is there another explanation? Is this nothing? Or are people coopting biblical language to stifle debate? Of course, I’m assuming that’s bad; is it ok to give new meaning to biblical terms like this?

Monday, February 2, 2009


Forgot one: This month's free audiobook from Christian Audio is Not for Sale.

That's My King
If you haven't encountered this before, it's a snipet of a sermon by SM Lockeridge. This never gets old.

A few words on evangelism by a famous atheist.

15 Pro-Life Truths

An Unlikely Gay-Straight Alliance
worth reading about.

For an unspecified period of time, you can get the Libronix version of the Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer for $62.50 with the coupon code "Schaeffer."