Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Late Present For You

I am not sure but I think traditionally Christmas songs are not to be sung until after Christmas maybe until Epiphany or something like that (12 Days of Christmas are the days after Christmas, I think). So here is a present for you:

Καλα Χριστουγεννα

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mice Skeletons

My dad is working on finishing the basement so we have been cleaning and putting some kind of sealant on the floor. As I was sweeping in one area, I found a couple little dust piles, but then I looked closer. There were mice skeletons in the piles. Death has been on my mind a lot in the past several months as I have pondered the first creation and the fall and the entrance of sin and death then as I have been reading Surprised By Hope by N.T. Wright. Did some form of death exist before the fall? What did God mean when he said "You shall surely die?" How can death be the enemy, the final one to be conquered and yet Paul is able to say death is gain. What should our relationship to death be? Should we look forward to it as gain or should we despise it as an enemy?

I think I might use this as a reason to do some studying. I will report back to you.

Monday, December 29, 2008

For That Linguist Deep Down Inside

Forvo is a cool little website that offers pronunciations for words in different languages by native speakers. I can see it being a great help for learning a language so for those learning German, Greek (Modern pronunciation), Hebrew, Turkish, or even Klingon, check it out. For that matter, indulge your inner philologist and listen to all the languages. You know you want to.

Friday, December 26, 2008

An Interesting Quote

Simone Weil (I have no idea who this is, I got it from the Christianity Today review of the Spirit which I have not seen) said, "Imaginary evil is romantic and varied: real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring: real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating. 'Imaginative literature,' therefore, is either boring, or immoral, or a mixture of both."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Merry Christmas

I have been having a wonderful time at home, spending time with my father, my mother, my sister, and my two adorable nieces. I have three new books in my possession, one of which may appear here as a review. One of the others I received was Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion which I am happy to say was one of my niece's favorite gifts. She wanted to flip through all the pages, and she was very sad when I took it into the other room. God bless you all on this Christmas Eve.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Beauty of Winter

I arrived back in my hometown of Peoria, IL, to find ice and snow everywhere. Down in TN, not much snow and ice are to be seen. Even though it is absolutely frigid outside, it is also amazingly beautiful. God has done well in coating the landscape in white.

This reminds me of a question my grandmother asked me: "If there was no death before the Fall, was there winter?" It is interesting that the season of death can be such a beautiful season. I sure hope there were seasons before the Fall, but even then, it could be a sign of God's working good in all things. Or both. Mere Speculation. I will just enjoy God's beautiful creation and dream of the one to come (I am not sure if that is a double entendre or not).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Review: The Orthodox Study Bible

I have finally gotten around to reviewing the Orthodox Study Bible. Here it goes:

The Orthodox Study Bible, published by Thomas Nelson, is a new study Bible with two interesting features. First, all of its notes and articles are written from an Eastern Orthodox perspective. Second, the Old Testament is translated from the Septuagint (LXX), which the Eastern Orthodox use, rather than the Masoretic Text (MT). These two features make it a valuable resource for most students of the Bible, Eastern Orthodox or not. For this review, it will be important to note that I am not an Eastern Orthodox, so my thoughts will be those of an outsider.

First, the edition I have is the hard cover. It comes with a nice, sturdy dust cover with a beautiful icon of Christ on the front. The colors of the cover match that of the icon, red and gold, very pleasing to behold. Removing the dust cover, the Bible looks a lot like many standard pew Bibles (at least for many of us Baptists). It is maroon with the "Orthodox Study Bible" written in gold on the front with the Eastern Orthodox cross also gold. The font of the text is decently sized (big enough to be read without being a large-font Bible), and the font of the notes are as well very readable. Some of my favorite parts of the Bible are the paintings/icons that are placed throughout the text. They are beautiful, and many seemed to be filled with theological depth.

The study Bible contains several articles and resources at the front and back of the book. The introduction explains the differences in numbering at some places (Psalms, Jeremiah, and Malachi) between the LXX and the MT. There is also a list comparing the Old Testament books in the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant traditions. The different books are: 1 Esdras (a variation of Ezra), Tobit, Judith, 1-3 Maccabees, Psalm 151, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Baruch, Epistle of Jeremiah, the Prayer of Manassah, the additions to Esther, and the additions to Daniel. While I do not consider these to be inspired, the church throughout history has found some value in them as well as it has quoted from them. If you do not have some form of the Apocrypha, here is a good place to get them. The study Bible also has a section with a brief overview of all the books of the Bible. This section is very brief and is not really something to write home about. There is also an introduction to the Eastern Orthodox church which is very informative.

In the back of the book, there are a set of articles entitled "For Prayer, Reading, and Study." The first article in this set is "How to Read the Bible" which explains four characteristics of Eastern Orthodox Bible reading: it should be obedient, ecclesial, Christ-centered, and personal. There are a lot of good things in this article that should apply across branches of Christianity, though there are some specifics I disagree with, but they are not necessarily bad (for instance, how the ecclesial characteristic works out, I am not sure liturgy is the best way to interpret through the Church, though it definitely could play in). The next tool provided is a lectionary. It offers reading based on the church calendar. Sadly, due to my Baptist background, I lack much knowledge about this tool, but it does offer some insight into the way the Eastern Orthodox think, how verses apply and the like. It also has a glossary, again useful for the Eastern Orthodox understanding of different topics. After the glossary, there are morning and evening prayers. I have yet to really use written prayers (someday I think I want to), but there are some good things in these prayers. They also contain the Nicene creed (sans the filioque clause) and some Psalms to use in the morning which I have used and I have enjoyed.

Then, there is an index to the notes which not only point out themes but also references to church fathers. This could be extremely useful if you wanted to find what a certain church father said on various things. This seems like a good time to discuss the notes themselves. The notes are not focused on a specific subject. They are generally explanative from the Eastern Orthodox perspective. Because of that, typology and allegory are used more frequently. Also of interest is that many of the notes come from church fathers. This gives a historical perspective that we do not often find in newer commentaries. Plus, if we do get a historical viewpoint on a passage, it is unlikely to come from the church fathers who are an important part of the church and the whole church has much to learn from them (as well as other parts of the church). Another type of note points out verses that are used for different occasions in the church calendar.

After the index of notes, there is the index to the study articles. These articles address many of the important issues. They attempt to address differing interpretations on the issues (but for instance in the article on Justification by Faith, they seem to misinterpret the idea of sola fides), and offer some idea of Eastern Orthodox theology on the big issues.

Overall, this is a very good study Bible even for those not Eastern Orthodox. The Eastern Orthodox, at least for many Protestants I know, are a mystery, and this study Bible clears up some of the theology and mindset. It is helpful in learning to respect this important branch of the Body of Christ. It, however, should not be the primary Bible of Protestants. It seems, though, to offer much for the Eastern Orthodox Christian, and I am glad to see this tool available for them, despite my disagreements in theology.

The Joy of Organization

Speaking of the end of the semester, one thing that I have been able to do that has immensely improved my mood is to organize my room. Last night, I put all my new books from this semester in my library, reorganizing it as well, and then I bought some file folders and organized all my papers and articles. Loose papers are the bane of my existence and really put a damper on my mood, but now they are all sorted and I feel better. During the middle of the semester when my roommate and I were writing all our papers, articles and books were scattered everywhere. It was unpleasant for my state of mind. Now, however, everything is the way it should be, tidy…tidier at least.

Another Semester Down, One to Go

Yesterday, I had my last final. It feels very good to be done with classes because it was a hard semester, but it was a good semester. I had History of Christianity, Biblical Theology, Elementary Hebrew, Contemporary Christian Life and Practice, and the book of Hebrews. They were all really good classes and I have learned a lot. Biblical Theology especially has altered my understanding of how the Bible fits together. I exhort everyone to go get Graeme Goldsworthy's According to Plan to get an introduction to Biblical Theology.

I only have one more semester left at Union. Then, it is off to seminary. I am going to need God's wisdom and provision for that.

Christmas Giveaway!

Trevin Wax at Kingdom People is giving away his ten favorite books of this year and an ESV Study Bible for subscribing to his blog. I encourage you to check out his blog and subscribe.

As a sidenote, I should giveaway some books to get more visitors. Anyone want some John Phillips' commentaries?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Am a Thinker

The Typealyzer is an fun little site which analyzes your personality based on your blog. I am a Thinker based on this site :-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Word of the Day: Καίνος

As I read and research for my paper, the topic is slightly morphing. It seems that I am focusing a lot on the word καίνος "new." As John writes in Revelation: And the one sitting on the throne said Ιδου καινα ποιω παντα 'Behold! I make all things new'" God is working toward making all things new. When Christ returns, there will be a new heavens and new earth (Rev 21-22, 1 Pet 3) (Just so you know, I would argue that God will transform the heavens and the earth, rather than destroy and remake, but either way God is making things new).

Even though God will make all things new upon Christ's return, he is in the process of making things, particularly us humans, new now. This is through our salvation in the Cross. When God shines his light in us (2 Cor 4:6; an echo of Gen 1), we partake in the new creation (2 Cor 5:17). We are to take off the old man and put on the new man (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). This new man is renewed according to the image of God (Col 3:10; reference to Gen 1:26-27) (Note the constant reference back to Genesis. I think that is going to be the main point of my paper).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Word of the Day: Γένενις

Γένεσις (Genesis - birth, history, lineage) is the first part of my Biblical Theology paper I need to start working on soon, particularly the genesis of man. What I am basically planning on discussing in this section are man's creation, man's place in the rest of Creation, dominion mandate, and image of God. The overall purpose of the paper is to trace the idea of man's creation-new creation throughout the Bible. It is going to take a lot of work.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Talking Robot

Language Log is a great site for all your linguistic urges. They linked to a site about a talking robot. At the bottom of the page, there are several videos of this thing in action. What makes it cool is that it is using (imitation) human speech instruments to accomplish its sounds. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Word of the Day To Return (I Hope)

I am going to try to start up Word of the Day again (not that it really started last time...). I figure since this site is named for this feature, the feature ought to be there...And in honor of this hopeful return:

Word of the Day: ἐλπίς (elpis - hope, expectation)

BDAG gives it the definition "the looking forward to something with some reason for confidence respecting fulfillment." It seems to me as a casual English user that hope and expectation have different meanings in English. Hope (μὲν) is more of a wish or desire that has no reasonable chance or at least a very small one of actually being fulfilled. Expectation (δὲ) has a decent chance of being fulfilled.

Thus, if you really wanted a nice new Lego set for Christmas but your parents have made no mention of it and have in fact hinted at socks and underwear, you might hope for Legos but expect socks. Now, if you wandered into their room while they were gone and find a way to look on the top shelf (obviously for pure reasons) and just so happen to see a Lego set, you would no longer hope for Legos, you would expect Legos. There is now a basis for your desire.

The Greek word, at least when used by Christian authors, has the same connotations as the English 'expectation.' Our hopes in Christ are not unfounded, but have a basis in his death and resurrection, and the faithfulness with which God has interacted with his covenant people throughout history. Particularly, we have a basis that Christ will certainly return, judge the living and the dead, and consummate the marriage with the Church even though it has been 2000 years since he left.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Review: Billy

Billy by William Paul McKay & Ken Abraham
Billy is a (somewhat fictionalized?) biography of Billy Graham’s start as a evangelist, his interactions with Charles Templeton, who was at one time an evangelist and eventually renounced his faith, and the struggle of faith to which these interactions led. The biographical information is framed by a story of an interview with the aged Templeton.
I see there being two parts to a book review: the writing and the message. Concerning the writing, this book was not outstanding, but it was not awful. The writing at the beginning was slow and weak. It seemed much like the way some of my papers start out, a writer’s block exercise. Once the authors, however, got into the book, any imperfections in the writing faded to the background, and the story took over. One concern I have is where the line between truth and fiction is. The back cover says this book is “based on the remarkable true story.” I am not an expert on the life of Billy Graham but from what I could find, the major events mentioned are all correct. I am assuming that the conversations for the most part have been fictionalized. Fictionalized does not mean bad though. The authors have crafted a wonderful story of love of God, romance, doubt, and a strengthened love of God. One minor problem was on pages 57 and 62, the authors mention the Greek word for sin. They, however, use the word metanoia which happens to not be the Greek word for sin but for repentence. The Greek word for sin is hamartia. It could be possible that they were trying to show the greenness of the young Billy Graham at his first preaching engagement, but since they don’t point out the correct word, I doubt it.
The message of the story was thought-provoking. The contrast between the questioning of Billy Graham which leads to faith and the questioning of Charles Templeton which leads to apostasy offers much to think about and is something that many people need to consider. I know I have doubts and how I deal with these doubts influences how my faith grows. Charles Templeton’s problem was his lack of theological basis. Without that, attacks on faith aren’t blocked by anything; they can just come in and take over. Billy Graham didn’t have much training but he had some, and that bit he had gave him something to stand upon. But more importantly, he clung to God through his doubts. His example in that is encouraging; God can guide us through doubts.
The strangest thing that the authors did was toward the end of the book when Billy Graham was wrestling in prayer about his view of the Bible. The authors add in the forces of Heaven and Hell battling over Billy Graham’s soul. It felt a bit contrived. Also, while they did portray Satan as being on a leash (something that it seems many Christians don’t realize anymore), they also put God on a leash saying that God could not do anything to influence Billy Graham except keep Satan at bay (well, I should say angelic forces, not God, because God does not partake in this struggle). I disagree with the theology of this section, but there are a lot of Christians whose view of theology I disagree with, but they still have something to offer that I can learn from. And, this book offers a portrayal of two faiths, one that dies and one that survives, and we can learn from that.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

What is Life?

One of my friends posted this letter by James Dobson as though he were a Christian writing from the 2012 where Obama gets elected (Note: unless you are an extreme conservative who confuses Christianity with the Republican party, this will really annoy you). I don't have any real desire to critique the letter here; I think its own absurdity accomplishes that. However, I found this rebuttal which mentioned something very interesting.

In our current political culture, the phrase "Pro-Life" only refers to abortion. There is something seriously flawed with that. Why is abortion the only Life issue? The author of the rebuttal says:

"You make a mistake when you assume that younger Christians don't care as much as you about the sanctity of life. They do care--very much--but they have a more consistent ethic of life. Both broader and deeper, it is inclusive of abortion, but also of the many other assaults on human life and dignity. For the new generation, poverty, hunger, and disease are also life issues; creation care is a life issue; genocide, torture, the death penalty, and human rights are life issues; war is a life issue. What happens to poor children after they are born is also a life issue."

That is a statement I can stand behind. Abortion is very important, but you can't chase after that, claiming you are "Pro-Life" when you let so many other die. The last line of that quote is especially true. What use is it to save a baby's life if we shove it out on the streets as soon as it is born, neglected by its drug-addicted parents, barely getting enough food. That isn't "Pro-Life."

I am not saying that abortion should be allowed, but we should make sure we actually care about Life as a whole, instead of just in the womb.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Concerning the Greek Verb

As a student of the Greek language, I read and am taught things that make sense, but I often wonder: Was this really how the original speakers thought about their language? For instance, I am reading Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek by Constantine Campbell. He argues that Greek verbs do not have tense (past, present, future, perfect) contained in the words themselves. Only when the verbs are in a context that calls for tense do the verbs show tense. What the verbs do have is aspect, i.e. how the action is viewed, and remoteness, i.e. how close the viewer is to the action. While I am not trying to reproduce his book here and so this might not make much sense, it really does make a lot of linguistic sense to me. The scheme fits well.

However, is this how the Greeks viewed their verbs? Well, at least according to one of their grammarians, Dionysios Thrax, not really. He says (my translation), "There are three times: present, past (having gone by), and future (about to be). The past has four different sections: imperfect, perfect, pluperfect, and aorist. There are three relationships between these: present to imperfect, perfect to pluperfect, aorist to future" (the original). He views the verbs more in terms of time (though, that last line is interesting...I might return to that sometime).

The next question is whether or not the Greeks' own view is important. If someone calls all trees trees without recognizing the distinction between the different types of trees, he isn't completely wrong but he lacks the botanical sophistication to point the distinctions out. Or maybe a better example might be the difference between an interior decorator and a normal guy. To the normal guy there is just green, maybe a dark and a light green, but green nonetheless. To the interior decorator, though, there is forest green, jade green, emerald green, sea green (I am a normal guy; those were the only crayons I could think of). The interior decorator has an increased sophistication when dealing with colors.

So maybe, the Ancient Greek grammarians lacked the needed sophistication to recognize what was truly occuring in their language. Maybe they only saw the verbs in context and, therefore, drew conclusions only from the context, which usually showed tense, but they did not have the linguistic sophistication that we have now to look at unaffected meanings.

We have two views (there are other views out there as well). One uses modern linguistic tools to examine what authors have written and considers what might be occurring in the text. The other is looking at the language from within but without the current linguistic tools and discussions.

Which is correct?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Taste of Church Politics

I have been experiencing church politics lately. At the church I grew up in, I was too far removed from anything to see what goes on, but at my current church, I have had my eyes opened. We have been in the process of finding a new pastor. We brought in a really good guy for the interim position that has preached very biblically, and as a result, most of the church loves him. Notice the word "most." There are a couple in the church who...I can't say they are about Anti-Calvinist? I don't know that they have a really good idea why they believe what they believe because they never seem to bring up their points and support them.

Our interim pastor, on whom the church will vote in a couple weeks, is a Calvinist, but he is well-spoken and biblically grounded, loving man. I find myself likewise in the Reformed tradition, but I don't think that a pastor's ability as a pastor is hindered by their position on this matter. If a pastor was recommended that was an Arminian who preached the Bible faithfully, being true to the text, wrestled honestly with what the Bible says and still came out as an Arminian, then by all means, let him preach. But for this couple, I don't think it matters how biblical someone is as long as they are not Calvinist.

We had a business meeting last night. One of the couple brought up the pastor's view of free will. He has been going through systematic theology and started last week on the Providence of God. The one who asked the question wanted to hear the rest of the discussion before she voted (It won't be until the night of the voting that he can continue the Systematic theology). That wouldn't have been so bad except he has never been silent on his views. Last Sunday, he preached a wonderful sermon on the kingship of Christ, and his views came out. Several other times, it has been brought up. There was no question for any other member in the church as to what he believed.

It was actually amazing because the whole church, mostly not we younger Reformed guys but the older members, stood up for the pastor and said that he has stated his views and basically, we have been given all the information on this topic to make a decision. To see people think through things and be open-minded and greatly-loving solid preaching is a wonderful thing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Food. Fridays. Fathers.

I love it when my roommates get food from family. It means I get food.

Also, Fridays always start out at bad days but somehow I end up enjoying them.

I mostly don't mind turning into my father except for the fact that he always falls asleep when he reads. I am starting to do that. I have too much reading I want to do in life to have that characteristic.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Jesus of Invitation Hymns

Here is a John Donne sonnet I was introduced my Freshman year in Written Comp II:

Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

I thought of this again after we sang The Savior Is Waiting at church last night:

The Savior is waiting to enter your heart,
Why don’t you let Him come in?
There’s nothing in this world to keep you apart,
What is your answer to Him?

Refrain: Time after time he has waited before,
And now He is waiting again
To see if you’re willing to open the door,
O, how He wants to come in.

If you’ll take one step t’ward the Savior, my friend,
You’ll find His arms open wide;
Receive him, and all of your darkness will end,
Within your heart He’ll abide.

These two things paint two completely different pictures of our Savior. John Donne shows God violently taking us out of our bondage to sin. He uses a couple of strong images: a town that has usurped against the rightful ruler and an unwanted betrothal to the desired man's enemy. Donne desires God to restore the rightful rule to the town and reclaim him from the marriage. The Savior Is Waiting displays Jesus standing outside our hearts hoping that we might open the door. He wants to come in but he is powerless to do anything about it. Time after time, he has waited and so far you have said no, but he is still waiting, hoping fingers crossed that this time you might say yes. That song hurts my heart. On the other hand, Donne's poem causes me to rejoice. How amazing it is that God has rescued us from sin.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Word of the Day: Νομιζω

I suppose this is the first word to be considered. Νομιζω: I suppose, consider, think. It is quite fitting since I will consider many words here. Most of the words will probably come from Koine Greek, but I may find other words especially when I start to learn Hebrew come this fall. I will find a word and unleash my thoughts upon the unsuspecting world.

Now νομιζω had the meaning "I hold as a custom; I use customarily" in classical Greek (according to BDAG, it is used once with this meaning in Acts), but it also had the additional meaning of "I suppose, consider, think" which became the primary meaning in the New Testament. Νομος is a related word meaning "law, custom."

I got The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright by John Piper today from one of my friends who went to the Together For the Gospel conference but already had this book. It looks very interesting.

A great side thought: Paper books will always be better than electronic books for their ability to enable me to waste a lot of time. The interesting words one can find in lexicons.