Will Twitter save the TNIV?

HT: Mike Aubrey (via Facebook)

The New York Times has a new article up on “The All-Purpose Pronoun“, in which legions of Twitter users are bemoaning the lack of a good non-gendered pronoun to refer to everybody and anybody. This, of course, is familiar ground for those dezions familiar with the debate on gender language in the Bible.

The middle of the article contains some interesting historical info on the introduction of “he” as a universal pronoun and what was used before it:

If any single person is responsible for this male-centric usage, it’s Anne Fisher, an 18th-century British schoolmistress and the first woman to write an English grammar book, according to the sociohistorical linguist Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade. Fisher’s popular guide, “A New Grammar” (1745), ran to more than 30 editions, making it one of the most successful grammars of its time. More important, it’s believed to be the first to say that the pronoun he should apply to both sexes.

The idea that he, him and his should go both ways caught on and was widely adopted. But how, you might ask, did people refer to an anybody before then? This will surprise a few purists, but for centuries the universal pronoun was they. Writers as far back as Chaucer used it for singular and plural, masculine and feminine. Nobody seemed to mind that they, them and their were officially plural. As Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage explains, writers were comfortable using they with an indefinite pronoun like everybody because it suggested a sexless plural.

So there you go – the TNIV has history on its side. And perhaps if the tweeting masses catch on, history will repeat itself:

In fact, so many people now use they in the old singular way that dictionaries and usage guides are taking a critical look at the prohibition against it. R. W. Burchfield, editor of The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, has written that it’s only a matter of time before this practice becomes standard English: “The process now seems irreversible.”

[…] Its fate is now in the hands of the jury, the people who speak the language.

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Are you a 4-point American Evangelical?

An interesting sermon yesterday, and I mean “interesting” with every bit of passive-aggressive nuance that Minnesotans are famous for. We’ve been on a short summer series called “Unshakable”, looking at stories of the “heros of faith” in Hebrews 11. Not an especially earth-shattering topic, but it’s a chance to consider various aspects of faith. Yesterday we considered the story of Stephen, “a case study of faith to die for.” The underlying premise/question was “Do I have a faith worth dying for?” In that certain inimical pastoral way, the answer was boiled down to a four-point sermon outline.

Consider first that our church is a conservative, leaning very conservative, Minnesota Baptist church. I would call it a stereotypical conservative American Evangelical Protestant church, but that might sound negative (there’s that passive-aggressive tendency I referred to above). As such, we get a fair bit of “culture war” preaching in the guise of Biblical principles.

With that context in mind, “a faith worth dying for” was couched in the terms of the question, “what is biblically certain, but politically incorrect?”, with the story of Stephen woven throughout. Yesterday, at least, the answers – vastly summarized here – were:

  1. Life begins and finds its value in God. As human beings, we do not have the authority to determine for ourselves when to create and when to end life. (Gen 1:1)
  2. Male and female express God’s explicit design. Any other pattern or expression of relationship is biblically incorrect. (Gen 1:27)
  3. Israel is the Covenant land and people of God. There is no distinction between Israel the political state and Israel the Covenant land of God. (Gen 17:8)
  4. Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. In the vortex of a pluralistic, relativistic culture, there has been, is and will only be one path for eternal salvation. (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Rom 10:9-10)

Essentially, we ought to be willing to defend and/or die for any one of these expressions of faith. Or more generally, we ought to be willing to defend and/or die for an explicitly biblical lifestyle against the prevailing winds of current culture.

I know that in terms of accepting the above four points, I choke hardest on #3, Israel. TC just wrote about dismantling dispensationalism on his blog, rejecting that -ism’s viewpoint that “God has a distinct program for Israel and a distinct program for the church” in favor of Jesus as the New Israel with all peoples united in him (Eph 2:15-16). I don’t know for sure if my pastor is a dispensationalist, but my hackles tend to raise whenever someone starts pushing support of Israel as “the Christian thing to do”, whether it be political, economic, religious or theological. I guess I tie it too closely to escapist eschatology and ridiculous rapture watching, especially those American Christians who make a trip to “the homeland” as some sort of pilgrimage.

I wonder, which or how many of the above four points would you be willing to wager your life on?

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Meme: The Honest Scrap Award

After getting passed over for a few rounds, I’ve finally been picked tagged with the latest blog meme: The Honest Scrap Award (HT: Kevin and Gary). Here are the rules:  share 10 honest things about yourself, and then tag 7 bloggers to return the favor.

My list:

  1. I think that the Bible in translation has as much authority as “the Bible” in its original languages.
  2. Although I went to grade school, junior high and some high school with Lincoln Brewster and Jewel, I don’t have any strong memories of them.
  3. Verbal communication is not my strength – if you want me to do something, write it down. And even then…
  4. As long as you’re not an escapist, your views on eschatology don’t bother me – unless you’re mixing up politics and theology.
  5. It bothers me that the cross is not centered on our church’s main stage.
  6. I grew up in a youth group with Sarah Palin’s foremost Alaskan critic (and I agree with her – not Ms. Palin – more often than not).
  7. I haven’t played my trombone since Easter.
  8. Tortilla chips and salsa are the new manna.
  9. I primarily studied physics and astrophysics in college for two years before switching to be a music major. I vicariously live out the former focus through science fiction books and movies.
  10. The thing I miss the most about Alaska is not the mountains or the water, but seeing the expanse of the Milky Way against the absolute blackness of a clear winter night.

As for seven bloggers to tag in return, I’m going to appeal to my stats and tag the last seven blogs that sent links my way (if they’ve already done the meme, I’ll provide the direct link):

  1. New Epistles (Kevin)
  2. Bible Design Blog (Mark)
  3. New Leaven (TC)
  4. Baker Book House Church Connection
  5. Scripture Zealot (Jeff)
  6. The Sundry Times (Gary)
  7. Anwoth (Will)
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Calminianism and Open Theism

In a recent post on Koinonia (HT: Peter Kirk), Craig Blomberg lays out a mediating position between traditional Calvinism and Arminianism, which he slyly calls “Calminianism” – otherwise known as “middle knowledge”:

Simply put, middle knowledge affirms, with classic Arminianism, that God’s predestining activity is based on his foreknowledge of what all humans would do in all possible situations that they could find themselves in. But it also observes that God’s omniscience is so great that it is not limited just to what all actually created being would do but to what all possibly created beings would do in all possible situations. Because God creates only a finite number of persons between the beginning of the universe and Christ’s return, his sovereign choice is preserved, because he must choose to create some beings and not others. Thus, with classic Calvinism, his sovereign, elective freedom is preserved.

Essentially, Blomberg seems to be saying that God knows how different types of people will respond to different situations in life. Based on that knowledge, God chooses whom to create (and presumably when they are created), thereby sovereignly affecting the course of human events.

It is interesting to me that with the change of one single letter, Blomberg’s position might echo that of Greg Boyd, a leading proponent of open theism. That is, if the statement, “God’s predestining activity is based on his foreknowledge of what all humans would do in all possible situations that they could find themselves in” were modified to read “[…] what all humans could do in all possible situations […]”, then open theism fits.

In his introductory book on open theism, God of the Possible, Greg Boyd lays out the basic model is that God is sovereign and has imagined or created all of the possibilities of choice in life, but leaves the actual choosing up to us. Sort of a grand book of Choose Your Own Adventure, where we are free to make decisions that take our lives down different plot lines, but the paths that we go down have already been imagined and thought of by God.

The difference between open theism and a more traditional model is whether God foreknew what choices we would/will make, before we make them. The traditional view says, “yes, God foreknew what choices we would make and thus knows what path our life will go down”, while open theism says, “no, God does not know what choices we will make, leaving our life’s path a sequence of open possibilities.”

As for the second part of Blomberg’s position reconciling middle knowledge with Calvianism, I don’t see a conflict there if open theism were in play: based on God’s knowledge of our tendancies, he chooses to create some beings and not others. The difference is whether God has specific people in mind for specific tasks/outcomes in history, or whether he uses specific types of people, who may or may not respond “appropriately”. In either case, God’s “sovereign, elective freedom is preserved” through the intentional creation of human beings throughout history.

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The wine of wrath and the dregs of depravity

One of the most trumpeted visions in Revelation is that of the Word of God appearing on a white horse, followed by the armies of heaven (cf. Rev 19:11-21), waging war on the beast and its followers. Part of this vision are images of a sword and of a winepress of wrath, which John seemingly borrows from similar passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah, where both objects are also associated with God’s call to judgment on Jerusalem (cf. Jer 25:29), Israel and the surrounding nations:

Jeremiah Revelation
Jer 25.15-16: These were the words of the Lord the God of Israel to me: Receive from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink from it. When they have drunk they will vomit and become crazed; such is the sword which I am sending among them. Rev 14.9-10: Whoever worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on his forehead or hand, he too shall drink the wine of God’s anger, poured undiluted into the cup of his wrath.
Rev 16.19: God did not forget Babylon the great, but made her drink the cup which was filled with the fierce wine of his wrath.
Isa 63.3: I have trodden the press alone, for none of my people was with me. I trod the nations in my anger, I trampled them in my fury, and their blood bespattered my garments and all my clothing was stained. Rev 19.13, 15: He was robed in a garment dyed in blood, and he was called the Word of God. […] Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to smite the nations; for it is he who will rule them with a rod of iron, and tread the winepress of the fierce wrath of God the sovereign Lord.

In Jeremiah, God sends a sword among the nations that causes a reaction like vomiting and drunkenness. In Revelation, we see the sword coming from the mouth of the Word of God. The writer of Hebrews says:

The word of God is alive and active. It cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword, piercing so deeply that it divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it discriminates among the purposes and thoughts of the heart. Nothing in creation can hide from him; everything lies bare and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render account. (Heb 4:12-13)

broken-dregsParaphrasing Jesus in Matthew 10:34, the word of God is not a sword of peace. The reaction of those who have been pierced and cut by the word of God is like the nations to the cup of the wine of wrath: laid bare, they reject his message like vomit and become crazed in opposition to it.

And who is pierced by the word? All of us. All of us must drink in order to be awakened to the extent of our depravity. Once crazed, we can choose to drink the dregs of the wine of wrath, ensuring our eternal destruction, or to drink of the blood of Christ, ensuring our eternal salvation.

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Christian fruit smoothies

In response to a recent comment on Facebook about Greg Boyd’s “Animate” sermon series on imaginative prayer, I commented:

I’d like to throw the fruit of [Greg] Boyd, Rob Bell, Gorden Fee and Eugene Peterson into a big Christian Life blender and see what comes out – that ought to be a big time Spirit-led, prayer-driven smoothie of a life!

What about you? What combination of pastoral, theological or authorial fruit would you like to mix together?

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My pet, God

Too many of our worship songs are more about us than God. [… We] praise God for holding us close, for keeping us secure, for making us feel loved and blessed and forgiven and warm and cozy in our electric blanket of eternal security (with a warm comforter of national security thrown in too). We congratulate God on how well God is meeting our needs. When we say, “You’re such a good God,” it sometimes sounds like comforting words spoken to a pet.

– Brian McLaren, Christianity Today (2004)

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Election is not about heaven…

“Election is not about who gets to go to heaven; election is about who God chooses […] to bring healing to the world.”

— Brian McLaren, Christianity Today (2004)

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Which Modern Evangelist/Theologian are You?

For my friends on Facebook:

ElShaddai took the Which Modern Evangelist/Theologian are You? quiz and the result is Rob Bell

You are the Pastor of Mars hill Bible church in Michigan. You are the author of a number of books including “Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith” and “Sex God.” Despite what many think, you actually hold to traditional doctrine, but you have a completely different & unique way of explaining it. As a result, you are VERY controversial…but you actually kind of like that. (At least it makes people think) You are an artist and it shows. Be careful about too much “Post-modernist” language. It confuses people a lot of “Traditionalist,” who don’t want to have to think to hard.

Just in case you’re curious, my answers were:

  1. An M.Div is helpful, but you still need the Holy Spirit to help you out as you study.
  2. “It’s not about YOU!”
  3. Hey, there’s an empty strip-mall. Let’s fix it up and use that.
  4. Everything you do is Spiritual, wether [sic] you realize it or not.
  5. “Death Proof” (Or possibly “Apocalypse Now”) [EE: no idea what “Death Proof” is, but I love “Apocalypse Now” — my other choice would have been “Time Bandits”, which doesn’t change the result.]
  6. Remind everyone that Jesus already did the heavy lifting for them. All they have to do is embrace that reality.
  7. Anything “Techno” by D.J. Teisto or Paul Oakenfold
  8. Standard fair with a contemporary worship service.
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Something’s missing from their translation shelf

On the new Biblica (IBS) website, there is an interesting new Bible translation chart:

 

I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine which major contemporary translation is not shown on this chart…

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