Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Theology and Bible Translations

While much has been written about Bible versions it is often very subjective. Some defend using only the King James Version but use arguments which would be useless for a person who doesn't read English while others would promote some new version which will be out of print in a decade. In this essay I'll attempt to explain some theological truths about Bible translation which could be helpful in any language and will not become obsolete. 

A foundational doctrine of Christianity is verbal plenary inspiration. In laymen's terminology, that means we believe by faith that God gave each individual word of scripture and did not merely give the general ideas to men. This is taught in the second epistle of Peter which says, Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. And Jesus said, For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

If one believes God breathed each word of the Bible then it is logical to believe he preserved the individual words for us. If God saw it important to give each word, and the scriptures are for our learning, then God must have preserved each word for us. The second letter to Timothy states, All scripture is given by inspiration of God.  This is both inclusive of every word of scripture but is in a present tense which indicates that the Bible is still the Book God breathed and not just a similar work after hundreds of times being copied. 

Before the scriptures can be translated into English, Chinese, or any other language the translator must first have a copy in the original languages. A question then arises over which Greek text the translator will work from. This question can be answered correctly from a theologically sound worldview.  

If the words of scripture have been preserved, the translator merely needs to collect good present hand copies of each portion of scripture and use this compilation to translate from.  This is the theological basis for the received text from whence Luther's German Bible and the Geneva and King James English translations come from. 

If God didn't breath each word of the Bible or preserve them, then it is just like any other old work. We can never be sure it's just like the original and it must be revised according to the oldest documents we can find, even if these are evidently sloppy copies.  This is the heretical basis for Westcott and Hort's Greek text. Modern translations are often made from this critical text, so even if the translator does excellent work his version will have numerous flaws because of using a bad copy of the original.  

A second way in which sound theology can guide a translator and those choosing a translation is by determining the method of translation which should be used. Since God inspired the words of the Holy Writ the translator must translate word for word. Of course some grammar must also be translated or we get an incomplete translation with words in our common tongue but grammar in Greek or Hebrew. 

Unfortunately many modern translations, like the New International Version, do not translate word for word. Dynamic equivalency or paraphrase methods make sense if you wrongly believe that God didn't give and preserve each word. But when we choose a version in our common tongue in light of good doctrine we must look for a word for word translation of the preserved text. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Education Emphasis

       We worship education!  Our nation spends about three-quarters of a trillion dollars on schooling each year while we only have less than a third of a billion people in our country.  That means we average spending more than $2,000 dollars each on schooling year in and year out; yet a fifth of high school graduates are not functionally literate!  
A while back I looked up in the Bible the words teach and taught because I wanted to know what subjects we were to teach and how they were to be taught.  I would recommend others who want to know more of God's plan for teaching do their own similar search.  What you will find is that the scriptures do not command us to diligently teach grammar or mathematics but rather God's word.  Some of the specific terms used to refer to the matter to be taught are: ordinances, laws, commandments, statutes, judgements, the fear of the LORD, the way we should go, wisdom, understanding, and other similar things.  One obvious thing is that the Bible has a completely different emphasis for the content of teaching than that which is required by the government and society.
Because of this significant difference, when we make schooling too important we are in danger of changing our priorities from those which God has given to those which come from the world.  An example of this is when we require children to do their schoolwork but we leave their Bible reading or study up to their own personal desires.  I'm thankful that my parents allowed me to spend time memorizing the Bible even if it meant I was more relaxed in how I studied my physics. 
We also tend to prioritize schooling over real research of important things that are extracurricular.  In other words, we make the learning of  common core subjects more significant than pursuing wisdom and understanding.  
I could go on and write about how we make school more important than work or family relationships but for now I will wrap up.  The conclusion is that we need to have different priorities than the world.  We all have a tendency as humans to want to be like everyone else around but in the areas of schooling, the world is mistaken. We need to look to the Bible to see what God's will for us is in teaching children.  We need to focus on teaching the things which God commands, how He commands to teach them and fit other things in as they relate to what God does command but give them secondary importance.

Friday, April 19, 2013

All Men Are Created Equal

     In schools today, students are graded like produce.  If you take tests well you may be grade A and if not maybe grade C. The IRS will categorize into different graduated levels based on your income.  In India, people are sometimes viewed in different castes, and even in the west peoples lives are thought of as being more or less valuable based upon their abilities, achievements or backgrounds.  But the fact is that God is not a respecter of persons.  this means that God does not view one person as being more important than another based on his position.  
     This truth has application for how we view others.  People are prone to be intimidated in the presence of a dignitary.  A person might be intimidated in the presence of someone like Bill Gates, because he has been involved in so much and made so much money.  But, we should not be intimated by people of position in science or law or government or whatever else, because all men are created equal.  And for this reason we should also not idolize a personality in Christendom or someone of wealth lest we become respecters of persons.  Neither should we despise the weak or poor.  An elderly person who is close to the end of life may not have the same capabilities as one who is young but he is just as important and so is the child who has not been born.  Some think that abortion may be okay to save the life of the mother, but when considering difficult situations we must remember that each person created in the image of God is equally important.
     This should also affect the way we see ourselves.  Gideon and Saul seemed afraid to do what God desired for them because they thought that they were to low.  We can look at people of God in history or the Bible and think that they were somehow higher than us and we can't expect or do things like them but God has made us just as He did them and He will be just as faithful to us and will use us if we obey Him.  On the other hand we need to recognize that no matter who we think we are or what we have done we are not better or more important than anyone else.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dealing with Bad Government - Part I

       When the founding fathers were working out our constitution they had many specific and sophisticated ideas about how government should be run.  They understood some of the basic Biblical ideas about government but they also saw that the scriptures had great depths of wisdom for details of how each area of the state should run.
       We will never be in the same position that they were but there is just as much wisdom available to us for the situations that we face with our government and for each area in life if we will ask God for it and seek the scriptures.  I do not know all the things that we will face in the days to come, but I believe it would be prudent for us to seek wisdom about the proper course of action if we were to face the outlawing of firearms, the limitation of family size or some other outrage before we are actually in the undesirable position.  Daniel and his three friends purposed in their hearts that they would not defile themselves and then they were ready to deal with the situation they faced.
      One idea to consider is that we should not be surprised if a bad government makes illegal something that we should do.  We see in Babylon that prayer to God was prohibited and I think the example of Daniel can be very instructive in what we ought to do if we face some similar thing.  Daniel could have stopped praying except to the king or he could have hid or perhaps even tell the king, "I'm not going to listen to your new law."  What he did was to not change what he did whatsoever!  If a preacher were going through Genesis teaching on topics that came up and the state said, "No more talking against Sodomy," he should not let that prohibit him from speaking about what he would have otherwise.  If he were in the habit of putting his sermons on the internet he should not keep one on Sodom and Gomorrah off because it would be to volatile but rather deal with it as normal.  We see in the case of Daniel that God honored his steadfastness and changed the decree of this empire and He could do the same for us but even if He did not we should still do what's right.  Daniel did have to go to the lions before there was a change and we may have to face similar things even if God does change a decree.  I'm grateful that there were people who were willing to go to jail for homeschooling so I could be homeschooled and before that people were willing to die so I could have the Bible and many other such things.  We may not be called to face such things but we should know what we believe it is our duty to do no matter what and be prepared to know how to respond to difficulty.

Friday, November 9, 2012

R.C. on D.C.

There's a man who rules this country,
          and we have trillion dollar debts.
There's a man who rules this country,
          and socialized medicine is not just in our rear-view mirror, it's tail-gaiting us.
There's a man who rules this country,
          and there's blood in our streets up to our knees.
Beloved, there's a man who rules this country,
          and He wasn't even born in this country......He was born in Bethlehem.
As dark as these days may be,
          the Lord Jesus Christ reigns today.
                    Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr., July 2010

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How I Examine a Film

When I'm examining a movie the first thing that I consider is whether or not it recognizes that the LORD is and that He is God. I'm not interested in buying and having my children watch the Beverly Hillbillies. I do not mean to pick on this show. I've only seen one or two and that a few years ago they may be better or worse than I know. I enjoyed them but I do not know of them ever reading or quoting the Bible, praying or attending church. So even if there were nothing else questionable I'd just not want them because if one is not for Christ he is against Christ.

If a movie accepts that the LORD is God then I consider if there are bad things in it which make it unacceptable to watch. If a picture is a horror film it is not acceptable even if it's somewhat Christian! There are some things which are a shame to speak about and how much more to portray in a film. It should be noted though that by sticking with movies that recognize God as God, most films with things that should not be viewed will be eliminated.

Though I'd reject many films because of the sin portrayed in them, most stories will have some bad antagonist in them and this is okay, for the Bible is full of stories of men's sins. But when bad things are portrayed I have two questions about how they are portrayed. First is it dealt with discreetly and tastefully? Second are things that are bad clearly recognized as bad and those that are good as good?

It seems to me that even if some sins are portrayed with some discretion and made to be bad a young child can still be disturbed because of not understanding the whole matter and so I think that I, as a father, need to be sure that I interpret what my children see for them so they know what's going on. And there may even be some very good movies which it would perhaps be wise of me to wait to let my children see till some older age.

I do think that the quality of cinematography, acting, music, and other aspects of a film are important. It is good to have an appreciation for good work, but I want to be certain that I do not care more about the technical aspects of a particular picture, than about the more important aspects.

Each family may perhaps have differing standards and varying ways of evaluating movies. This is altogether fitting and good, for each Christian is at a different place in sanctification and may have more or less issue with certain things. All Christians, however, should be conscious and intentional about what they watch and try to see that Christ would be happy with their films. We must avoid bad movies, but on the other hand I think we should have good movies in our homes. Films can communicate quite powerfully and a good sermon or documentary that is done well can greatly benefit a family. Some dramas are also very good and can help or encourage us like some of the Christiano or Sherwood films.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What About Pictures?

     God does not change and what is good and evil does not change.  Throughout history many groups of people have come and gone but all men are sinners and generally face the same issues just in different manifestations. For example, the Romans had violent games in the Colosseum for entertainment. We do not have that today, but many people are entertained by violent games on the computer. 
     Movies are something that most people today watch.  I do not know of any time in history before now when people had movies.  And yet, at different times in history people have had theaters (Acts 19:31), plays, pictures, and music.  Some have called a movie a "picture."  While all of the issues that relate to movies have probably been dealt with before, films seem to be more complicated because they bring together so many different issues.  There are pictures, words, music, and a story line; but they are also related to television, theaters, and a general captivation with entertainment.  Because they are so popular today everyone has to deal with them in one way or another. Some in the world seem to be fine with anyone viewing any amount of any movies, but the Christians I know generally have some standards for what movies they will watch and often how much time they will spend watching movies. Some think we should watch no videos in our own homes, but while I'm not going to discuss it now, I believe the medium of film is very legitimate to use.  People can watch too much and become like one who is sitting back and watching everything, but never doing anything, but I'm not going to discuss that aspect now either.  In this post I'd like to share some thoughts on evaluating the content of movies.
     I've noticed that different Christian families have different things that are key in their evaluation of movies.  Some are especially keen about violence and others about clothing.  One thing people are often careful about is bad language.  Each of these things is a moral issue.  I believe it is very important to properly evaluate morals in a film, but there is something more important than morals.  That is whether the movie is Christian or humanistic.  If a movie has no swearing and is somewhat moral, but completely leaves God out as if He does not exist, it is a humanistic film.  Some films treat life as if God exists and the Bible is His word. Of course we would think of the modern Christian films like Time Changer or Courageous, but there are also many other movies that do this, such as Sergeant York and some Roy Rogers.  But many films on the market acknowledge another god.  An example could be Star Wars which recognizes a "force" that is similar to Buddhism.  Some films acknowledge the state as god, but many just make selfish humans to be god.  The theology of a movie is more important than it's morality, because morality is determined by God.  If we do not the LORD as God we have no basis to maintain any morality.  Numbers 33:52 says, "Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places." (emphasis added)  Just as the children of Israel were not to tolerate the pictures of the heathen, we should not tolerate motion pictures that are heathen.  This includes Harry Potter, but also many other films that we may think are innocent. 
     For sake of time I'm not going to discuss anything further in this post.  Perhaps I shall have more to say another time. 
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8