Author Archives: Fuller1754

We Need More Politicians Like Mitt Romney

About three years ago, before election day 2016, I wrote my opinion of Donald Trump. I feared the direction politics would take if he were chosen by Republican primary voters, let alone elected President. He was, and things have been worse than I thought. They’ve been about as bad as possible as Trump has been and continues to be an glaring example of pettiness, immaturity, self-service—and worse.

On Tuesday, the right-of-center news and opinion outlet The Bulwark ran an editorial about reactions to Mitt Romney’s personal evaluation of the Mueller Report. Rarely have I read anything so sensible. Romney posted in part:

I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President. I am also appalled that, among other things, fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia—including information that had been illegally obtained; that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement; and that the campaign chairman was actively promoting Russian interests in Ukraine.

For anyone familiar with the now-public Mueller Report, these feelings seem well justified. Donald Trump did not, apparently, conspire with Russian agents to influence the election, and Russia engaged in massive amounts to tampering on its own, feeding anti-Hillary fires of both right-wing and left-wing (think, pro-Bernie) persuasion. But members of Trump’s campaign or associates thereof did indeed know about Russian designs to undermine Hillary’s campaign, met with Russian operatives, remained passive (at the very least) when they knew they stood to benefit from Russian activity, and lied about Russian contacts on many occasions. Trump himself publicly welcomed help from Russian sources that could produce Clinton e-mails, regardless of how they were obtained. Romney simply reminds us that this misbehavior is radically distant “from the aspirations and principles of the founders.”

For these comments, Romney was mercilessly attacked by some of the lowest rhetoric I can imagine. I don’t see much of Twitter nowadays, but after seeing replies to Romney’s posting, I was fuming, almost white-fisted in indignation, after about sixty seconds. Twitter is truly the dump it’s criticized of being. If this weren’t enough, the President of the United States, a man who proves again and again that fools multiply words, added his own insulting tweet to the fray:

If @MittRomney spent the same energy fighting Barack Obama as he does fighting Donald Trump, he could have won the race (maybe)!

Honestly, how dare he? To call it unpresidential doesn’t begin to express how cheap and inappropriate such a remark is. Romney gave all he had to his 2012 campaign (and I can’t help but reflect on how much better off we would be if he had won).

The truth is, the Donald Trump effect has infected our politics in such a way that there is not much room for Republicans who criticize Trump, despite his deep and numerous flaws, both political and moral. Those few who do quickly receive the lashing of their peers. This is unhealthy. It is all the more unhealthy in light of the fact that President Trump is fraudster, a liar, and a lowlife. He is without a doubt the worst thing that has happened to the Republican party, and indeed to American politics, in a long, long time. As conservatives continute selling their souls for perceived political gains, those who speak up truthfully and continue to insist on character are ever more vital. At this strange political juncture, we really need a lot more politicians like Mitt.

Extra Credit: https://thebulwark.com/romney-alone/

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If Only There Were a Mediator

Job was hit with a one-two-three punch. He lost all his livestock, which was his wealth and livelihood; his children; and his health in a swift streak of misfortunes. Job could not have known the dialog between the Lord and the Devil that preceded his suffering, but he instinctively felt that he had been wronged by the calamity that befell him. Though he initially showed submission to God’s sovereignty over his circumstances, he soon thereafter began to voice his complaints.

In the ninth chapter of of the book, Job, daunted by the infinite imbalance of power between he and God Almighty, raised the following cry:

He [God] is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot.

Job 9:32–35

Job is right: God is no mere mortal, so that we have either the power or the standing to talk back to him or to defend ourselves when he brings the rod against us. God is holy, and we are not. As Job later says, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth” (40:4). If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from us, so that his terror would no longer be a threat to us! But there is someone!

God knows where we stand. He understands our predicament. And he, God himself, provided a Mediator, a mediator who stands in the gap between us and God and deflects the punishment of God which we had coming. We do have such a mediator. Job seemed to come to this realization later, as in chapter 16, after again lamenting God’s harsh dealings, he said:


Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend.

Job 16:19–21.

Job did not know the precise identity of this friend and advocate as we do. But his faith rested on this person, this intercessor. And in any case, whatever Job may have been thinking when he said this, these words anticipate the true Advocate we have on high (1Jo 2:1). We know him. We know that it is Jesus! He is the only mediator between God and mankind, and he ever lives to intercede for we who come to God through him (1Ti 2:5, He 7:25). God has not left us to face his holiness and his power in our frailty and in the sin which estranges us from him. He has given us one who brings us together, just as Job hoped for so long ago.

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Luke 2:52

Yesterday I read my wife the first two chapters of Luke, covering the miraculous birth of John the Baptist and then of Jesus, and ending with Jesus, at twelve years of age, discussing theology with the teachers in the temple area. The chapters are full of amazing facts, and they end with a succinct summary of the life of the growing Jesus, between this episode at the temple and the time when he begins his earthly ministry almost twenty years later. Says the historian Luke: “And Jesus grew is wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (v. 52).

I think that we can basically understand what it means that Jesus grew in stature and in favor with man. He was, after all, human, and grew up in the normal way. He matured physically and over time would have earned the respect of those who knew him. But what does it mean to say that Jesus, the perfect one, the Son of God, grew in wisdom or that he grew in favor with God? We must conclude that the incarnate divine Son who never sinned nevertheless matured not only physically but spiritually. It is a striking realization. This cannot mean, of course, that Jesus had to be sanctified in his behavior and learn to reign in and diminish his sin. Nor can it mean that Jesus ever acted foolishly and had to grow in wisdom in the sense of correcting his folly—as we do. Jesus was never foolish or sinful. But the statement remains: he grew in wisdom and favor with God.

He Grew in Wisdom

Jesus grew up in a God-fearing home, with godly parents. God made sure that this would be the case. Mary certainly was specially chosen by God and serves us well as an example of one fully committed to trusting obedience even in the most awkward and difficult of circumstances. Joseph also was chosen by God. Matthew 1:19 informs us that he was “faithful to the law” (NIV), or “a just man” (ESV). We can be sure that Jesus was taught the scriptures his whole childhood. There is the temptation to think that Jesus had a supernatural insight into the meaning of Scripture. I don’t believe that is the case. I think that Jesus learned the Scripture by the same means as anyone else: study and meditation, believing in the holiness of Scripture and depending on God’s Spirit for help in understanding, and that by these ordinary means he gained the wisdom contained in God’s word. In Luke 2:46, when Jesus’ parents find him in the temple courts, the boy Jesus is not teaching the teachers. Not yet. Instead, he is “listening to them and asking them questions.” He is learning. Now certainly, he had learned a remarkable deal for his age, as those present were also “amazed at his understanding and his answers.” He was ahead of the curve, as we might expect. But I do not think this is because he was being beamed the answers from heaven. Jesus loved the scriptures because they were the Word of God. He was committed to seeking the wisdom, the understanding, and the will of God as contained in the scriptures. He did this his whole life. When he is grown, we still see him in the synagogue on the Sabbath (as in Mark 1:21). At that point, he is teaching. He had been doing this regularly, probably for years. In Luke 4, we see that going to the synagogue to read and discuss the scriptures was Jesus’ custom, his routine. If Jesus simply had the scripture in his mind by virtue of his divine nature, habitual scripture reading at the synagogue would hardly have been necessary. But Jesus was not operating on earth as his divine nature would have allowed. He emptied himself in the incarnation. He operated as a man, a man of God. Part of this was the fact that he was not born wise. He, like we, had to grow in wisdom. But he, unlike we, never failed to use the means or revelation God has given us to grab hold of the wisdom God wants us to pursue. He always understood that “the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Pr 2:6). As Jesus got older, he also internalized the truths of what God had revealed. Jesus also put these truths into practice, so that as he grew up, he was also growing in wisdom.

He Grew in Favor with God

For those who affirm the sinless perfection of the holy, glorious, and eternally existing Son of God, the idea that Jesus grew in favor with God may be even more puzzling than the idea that he grew in wisdom. Can this mean that Jesus was ever out of favor with God? Certainly not. Rather, one of the best insights I was ever given regarding this statement is that it reflects covenantal language and speaks of Jesus’ active obedience on our behalf. Sometimes we talk about Jesus’ “passive obedience,” which is his obedience in being willingly subjected to the cross, and his “active obedience,” which refers to his life of positive obedience to the Law of God.

This obedience to the Law is sometimes overlooked but is actually extremely important for Jesus’ role as our Savior. Adam and Eve related to God in a covenant of works—that is, a covenant in which they had to follow the terms set out by God, with blessing promised for obedience and curses promised for disobedience. Adam sinned and violated the covenant. He failed. And we with him, as he was the representative of the human race. Jesus comes to us as the second Adam, that is, a second representative of all who are united to him. We are all united to Adam by birth. We are united to Jesus by faith and rebirth. The covenant given on Mt. Sinai is a recapitulation of the covenant of works. This is important, because for Jesus to redeem us from the curse of the Law, he must bear up under the weight of the Law where Adam stumbled. He must keep the terms of a covenant of works where Adam failed to keep such terms. And he must represent a people as Adam does, so that we can cease to be “in,” or represented by, Adam, and begin to be “in,” or represented by a new head, who fulfilled the law and earned God’s blessing rather than God’s curse. In God’s long script of redemption, Moses gave a covenant of works, with blessings and curses attached, so that a thousand years later, “when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Ga 4:4, 5). Since no one is able to obey the terms of the covenant, Moses’ ministry is called a “ministry that [brings] death” (2 Cor 3:7). In the New Covenant, Jesus’ law keeping is credited to us through simple faith, making Jesus’ ministry a “ministry that brings righteousness!”

To go back to Jesus’ childhood, we see right before our statement at the end of Luke 2 that Jesus went back to Nazareth with his parents and “was obedient to them.” Jesus was obedient to his parents and to God all his life. As he grows up, he continues to keep the terms of the Law. He continues to succeed in obeying the Law. So when it comes time for Jesus to be ordained for his earthly ministry in verse 22 of the next chapter, God the Father can review Jesus’ life and say to him, “with you I am well pleased.”

Even up to the time of the cross, Jesus was going through a process. The writer of Hebrews gives us an insight in chapter 5 of his letter. He says:

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience through what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him and was designated by God to be High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Strange though it may seem, Jesus underwent a learning process during the time of his first advent. He was born a man, a boy. He was born under the Law of the Old Covenant. He had to grow and develop and learn. By living a life pleasing to God, by submitting to God, by humbling himself and becoming obedient (Phil 2:8) he grew in favor with God, since God “therefore” (that is, due to his obedience) exalted him to the highest place. That’s the language of covenant keeping.

NIV Sola Scriptura: a Review

It was the spring of 2015. My wife and I had watched a video about typography and the Bible. Typography is simply the art of formatting words for reading, with consideration given to the layout and the typeface (font). The “layout” consists of many different elements, like how the letters should be spaced and aligned. The use of ligatures (letter pairs, as below, that are made into a single glyph where the normal pairings are awkward) is also a typographical consideration. In the picture, the first two ligatures are standard (common and considered more important), whereas the third would be considered discretionary.

typomarks-ligatureB

At the same time, Kickstarter had funded Adam Greene’s Bibliotheca project, the first multi-volume reader’s Bible that we had seen or heard of. We bought it, with the expectation that it would ship in about six months. It took two years. But it finally came. I offered my review of that set previously. I loved it. It is a finely crafted Bible set with exquisite typography and build quality. I had only one complaint: the American Literary Version used as the Bibliotheca text, and done especially for Bibliotheca using the American Standard Version as its starting point, is too old fashioned and jarring for smooth, long, distraction-free reading. Sadly, this undermines the very thing the project sought to accomplish.

Fortunately, other Bible publishers got the message: the reader’s Bible format is a wonderful way to present God’s word. Crossway followed with their six-volume English Standard Version reader’s Bible set. That set, by all accounts, is also very well done. But those who have read my blog over the past year know that my real wish would have been for a similar set in the New International Version. In October of this year, Zondervan made my dream come true.

I give you the NIV Sola Scriptura project—a four-volume reader’s Bible set.

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The Name: Sola Scriptura

There can be no doubt that the project’s title, “Sola Scriptura,” carries a double meaning. The set was released at the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, the seminal provocation that grew into the Protestant Reformation. The doctrine that the Bible alone, and not church tradition or papal authority, was the rule and standard for belief and practice was at the heart of the Reformation movement. This title celebrates that bedrock of the true Christian church. But I think there is something else. As a reader’s Bible, Sola Scriptura does away with all the verse numbers, cross references, study notes, textual notes, and section headings, leaving you with nothing but the scripture itself. It seems likely that this facet of the project is also alluded to in its name.

Physical Features

Sola Scriptura, as mentioned, breaks the text of the Bible, which is a book of books, into four volumes. The multi-volume format is used so that pages can be thicker (no more “Bible pages”), making the reading experience better. This is the case here, as we would expect, which eliminates the ghosting often seen in single volume Bibles. Each volume is a cloth-over-board hard cover book with a blue ribbon marker. Each volume contains a preface about the Sola Scriptura project and at the back, the NIV translation information.

The presentation of the content of the Bible does not exactly follow the traditional Western order. Rather, Sola Scriptura follows the NIV Books of the Bible in using a “fresh yet ancient presentation of Scripture” in which the books are presented as they were to the ancient readers of the Torah, or following a more logical, content-oriented sequence. For example, in Volume 4 (the New Testament), we are told that Sola Scriptura:

Expresses the ancient concept of the fourfold gospel in a fresh way. Here each gospel is placed at the beginning of a group of closely related books. In this way, the books can be seen as giving four witnesses to the one gospel of Jesus the Messiah.

The four volumes of the set are:

  1. The Torah and the Former Prophets
  2. The Latter Prophets
  3. The Writings
  4. The New Testament

But don’t worry. Together these volumes comprise the standard sixty-six books of the Bible, no more, no less.

IMG_20171209_180840643

9780310448129A sweet surprise to me was the project’s use of classic marbled endpaper, that is, the inner lining of the book covers. I have seen this on many older books and to me this unexpected design choice gives the book a friendly feel.

The book spines are navy blue with a wheat-colored, well, wheat design, as seen in my previous photo. This too I like. Other reader’s Bibles sets had gone with the handsome but risk-averse minimalist approach to the spine design. Sola Scriptura tried something a little more eye-catching, and I think it succeeds.

The set comes in an elegant slipcase made of thick cardboard that also features the ear of wheat design. However, the slipcase leaves virtually no room to grip a book and pull it out. The books fit snuggly, too. This left me picking at the spines with a fingernail. To save the spines and my wits, I ended up putting a foam “stopper” inside the case so that the books stick out about an inch. Problem solved.

 

Typography

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Randy Brown, another Bible reviewer, identifies the font as size 10.3 Karmina. It indeed appears to be Karmina, though I will defer as to the precise size. Suffice it to say, the text is large enough to be comfortable, as in an average book. Overall, the formatting is perfectly mundane and there is not much to say. However, typographical formatting is where Bibliotheca truly excels. I have a few minor scruples with the typography. First, I would have increased the space between lines of text just ever so slightly (this is called the leading).

IMG_20171209_183905606

Here I show Sola Scriptura on top and Bibliotheca on bottom for comparison. You can see that Bibliotheca has more space between lines for a less dense body of text and easier reading. The fact that while the volumes of each these sets are about the same width, the Bibliotheca volumes are about a centimeter taller may make the more spacious leading possible.

IMG_20171209_191753635Also, if you look at the word fish/fishes in the text, you can see that Bibliotheca is making use of ligatures, while Sola Scriptura is not. This puzzles me, as Karmina supports ligatures and incorporating them should be as easy as checking the box in your publishing software. The only thing I can say is that the kerning(spacing between letters) in Sola Scriptura does seem wide, and the upper terminal of the “f” does not collide with the dot of the “i”. Expanding the kerning may have eliminated the aesthetic advantage of ligatures.

Third, in Bibliotheca, the text is left aligned and “jagged” on the right. I prefer this over the “justified” text in most books, which forces every full line of text to be the same length by adjusting the space between words.

Conclusion

Reader’s Bibles are a recent trend, but I hope they are here to stay. This set by Zondervan is a welcome addition to the library of available multi-volume reader’s Bibles, and I was personally very excited when it was released. It is reasonably priced, being listed at $99.99, but easy to find for closer to $70. If you are considering a reader’s Bible set, I can recommend this one without hesitation. If you are reluctant to spend the money and want to get your feet wet before diving in, the NIV Books of the Bible single volume Bible may be a good place to start.

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Dressing Up

A couple weekends ago, my wife and I went to a wedding. One of the interesting things to do at an event like this is to look around and see what other people are wearing. It is especially interesting to me to see how the men have decided to present themselves.

Southern California in 2017 has a hyper-casual society. One of the consequences of our slavish devotion to ease and comfort in dress seems to be that many men are actually unprepared when that rare occasion does come up that still, at least in principle, demands some level of formality. A wedding seems to be such an occasion, at least for the present. The result is a lot of men making a lot of simple mistakes that prevent their outfit from coming together nicely. I decided I list the four most common garb gaffes I saw.

  1. Clothes don’t fit. Plain and simple. And ninety percent of the time, that means too big. A lot of men wear shirts that are just too big, sometimes much too big. This looks awfully unflattering, and it’s such an easy thing to fix. Often, I’ll see men’s sleeves beginning down their arms. When sizing a shirt, the best rule of thumb is to make sure the seam that attaches the sleeve to the shoulder is right at the top of your shoulder. It shouldn’t be slinking down your upper arm. On the other hand, if the seam is up on your collarbone, try the next size up. Formal pants should break at the ankle (or higher if you’re feeling bold) and not bunch up like an accordion around your shoe. If you’re sitting or crossing your legs, you should be flashing some sock. Honestly, simply wearing clothing that fits would make a big difference. And since I’m at it, this goes for causal clothing too. I constantly see men wearing t-shirts and polo shirts about two sizes too large. It’s like an epidemic! Hint: if your short sleeve shirt goes to your elbow, try something smaller.
  2. Bad shoes. We’ve all seen it: guys trying to get away with wearing black work boots or, worse, black tennis shoes in otherwise business casual or semi-formal wear. This does NOT work. If you don’t have any, go ahead and buy a pair of true dress shoes—yes, even if you think you’ll only need them this once. It’s worth it. In fact, the dress shoes will look better on you even when you’re strolling along in blue jeans. Get the shoes. Don’t quibble. Get them. I’ll wait. (And please don’t be the bro wearing Converse with a suit if you’re over 17. It’s not cute past that age).
  3. The wrong trousers. I think the reason men wear bad pants to a semi-formal occasion is because they don’t even own the right kind. That’s a problem in itself. But if you ever are in possession of a wedding invitation but not in possession of any dress pants, head to your local department store. Do not attempt, under any circumstances, to try to “dress up” dark work pants, like Dickies, or black jeans. Do not wear cargo pants to the event. (Actually, just don’t wear cargo pants ever.) Khaki and chino pants can be fine in a semi-casual atmosphere, but know what you’re doing. The safest bet is dress pants … that fit.
  4. The fourth trouble area I will call “accents”. I mostly mean belt and socks. This isn’t hard, but you’ll often see slight blunders here that throw off a man’s look. First, match your belt and your shoes (are they brown or black?). Your socks should approximately match the color of your pants. Never wear white socks (unless wearing a white suit, but if you are, then this blog isn’t for you—you’re already dressing on a higher level entirely). If wearing dress pants, wear a narrower leather dress belt. (Not any black leather belt is dressy enough to work.) If wearing khakis or chinos, a wider leather belt can look nice—just know what you’re after.

Knocking out a good getup is easy. And if all the men did it, it wouldn’t mean they they’d all look the same; they’d just all look good. There is plenty of room for variety. The main obstacle is simply that many men either don’t care enough (and this includes the unwillingness to spend the money) or just don’t know how to build an outfit. This isn’t entirely their fault, since we are a generation or two into a very casual society. But c’mon, guys. Wedding receptions can look better than this!

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The Padres in Brown

The San Diego Padres, also known as the hard luck Padres, los pobres Padres … you get the picture. San Diego fans are acquainted with grief. Even now, the Friars are sitting on a .447 record for the season with no hope of postseason play. This is about average, actually, since as of 2015, their all-time win percentage stood at 46.4. But, there’s always next year (and there always will be). Needless to say, the Padres haven’t made a name as an aspirational team like, for instance, the New York Yankees—the most successful team in baseball historically, with an all-time win percentage of 56.9 and a whopping 27 championship titles.

But never fear, because there is something the Padres can do to improve their image. I’m talking uniforms. The Padres should bring back the brown.

A few years ago, I’d never thought I’d say that. In 2004, when Petco Park opened for the first time, the team uniforms also got a makeover, and the colors were changed to sand (a light tan), navy blue, and white. I really liked it. It looked subdued and professional, and incorporated the seaside location of the gorgeous new park. I thought they should never change it. But the Padres have never stuck with one uniform for too long. After several years, the sand was replaced with light gray. This looked nice, but maybe too subdued. Maybe even … a bit boring.

Let’s wind the clock back a little. I’m not going to fact check this, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Padres, though a young MLB team, born in 1969, have altered their look more than any other MLB team. (The Yankees never have in over a hundred years, and the they won’t, either.) In the spring of ’69 the brand new Padres sported brown and gold. They wore some combination of brown and gold for quite some time, adding orange as an accent color in 1980. Beginning in 1985, the Padres dumped the gold and used brown and orange on pinstriped jerseys. In 1991, the brown was ditched and the Padres thence used navy blue and orange, retaining a white home jersey with pinstripes, but blue pinstripes. (Perhaps thinking this was the secret to the Yankees’ success.) Remarkably, the Padres kept this basic look until 2003.

In 2016, the Padres gave a nod to the past in two ways. One was introducing a light yellow-orange as an accent color. The ball cap with a white S and yellow-orange D was reminiscent of the ’90s ball caps. Also, they introduced a brown and gold home alternate jersey, worn on Fridays. This is paired with a brown and gold cap resembling the cap worn between 1972 and 1984. The yellow-orange was a one-season deviation, but they kept the browns in 2017. And you know what? Those alternate jerseys look good!

Brown, properly executed, has at least three things in its favor. One, it recalls our roots. The Padres began in brown and used it a primary color for 21 seasons. In this way, it makes sense. This would not be an arbitrary color change, but a deliberate shift towards something that is culturally San Diegan and identifiable as such. Which brings me to thing number two: brown is unique. No other MLB team uses brown. How many teams use blue? About half of all the teams! Brown and gold uniforms would stand apart. Third, when done right it looks good. Really good. (See 1972 for how not to do it.)

Naturally, I have my own ideas about implementation. I don’t want some kind of “replica” jersey. It would be a modern iteration, using brown and gold as the coloring scheme. Pants would be white or gray because colored pants don’t go over well in baseball like they do in football. Don’t know why; they just don’t. But I’m not the only one with ideas. Below are a couple fake mock-ups of what this might look like.

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This mock-up is created by a guy named John Brubaker. He calls is a “little PhotoShop dream of a better looking team.”

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This is also a mock-up by the same guy. Now, below are some real pictures of the Padres’ current brown alt jerseys:

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Don’t those look good? These shouldn’t be the alt jerseys. These should be the main jerseys! We should lose the blue and reform our identity around the brown. We need to stop the changing around all the time (like the yellow-orange from last year). When someone asks what the Padres’ colors are, the question should have a simple answer―something you can take to the bank, something that identifies the franchise, linking it to the past and carrying on as long as balls and strikes, innings and outs, stolen bases and double plays shall endure.

https://www.gaslampball.com/2015/1/8/7514153/padres-brown-uniform-mockups-by-john-brubaker-are-awesome

http://www.bringbackthebrown.com/

http://caglaze.cts.com/

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The Cambridge Clarion: A Brief Review

I went and bought another Bible. But with good reason, I think.

Around the time I switched from the ESV to the NIV, I had to buy a Bible (we had not so much as an NIV in the house; I had been test reading it in digital format only). So I did. I bought a $30 Slimline NIV, one of the few text-only, black-letter NIVs available at the local Bible book store. It has a synthetic cover (a nice enough synthetic cover, but synthetic). I did not know if this would satisfy me long term. Needless to say, after carrying it for about a year and a half, I decided to buy something better.

Crossway, publisher of the ESV in the U.S., has done a mighty fine job of making sensible leather-bound editions of the ESV. Zondervan, publisher of the NIV, has not. I know it hasn’t always been that way, because my wife has an old, red, top grain leather NIV she kept at work. But searching the Zondervan website for an NIV Bible leaves your head swimming in a sea of specialty study Bibles. Their text-only Bible selection is lousy. I knew I would have to look elsewhere, but I didn’t know where to go. Maybe there were no high quality NIV Bibles! This was discouraging.

But a few Bing searches unlocked the gate into the world of premium Bibles. There are a lot of people who are serious about the quality of their Bibles. And you know what? I think the Bible deserves it. I would not think twice about dropping $200 on a mobile telephone which will be replaced in three or four years. Why budget just $30 for a Bible?

The premium Bible world, I discovered, is dominated by a few very good publishing houses that produce the best Bibles on earth. These include Cambridge University Press, R.L. Allan Bible, and Schuyler Bible Publishers. Crossway has also joined the fray with its Heirloom ESV, and they’ve done a good job. It is widely accepted that the best outlet for these is evangelicalbible.com.

I researched my options, and in the end I picked the Cambridge Clarion Bible. J. Mark Bertrand gave it a rave review over at his blog, an authoritative resource on Bible design, and it appeared to be all I wanted from a Bible. I had to save my pennies for two and a half months to be on budget (boy, it felt longer than it sounds), but my Bible has finally arrived. So excited. Here’s a review.

Binding and Cover

This Bible has a quality, sewn binding, as opposed to a glued binding. In a Bible of this price, a sewn binding goes without saying. It’s the cover that’s more exciting, and a lot more tangible. It’s black goatskin, hand-stitched around the edges. It is amazingly soft and pliable. More importantly, it is also durable, superlatively handsome, and gives it that new Bible smell. Just holding the Bible in your hand feels nice. The binding and cover flexion also combine to allow the Bible to be laid flat without pulling shut, even in Genesis or Revelation. The spine of the Bible features gold stamped lettering, while the front cover is beautifully blank.

Paper

The paper is also very nice. True, it is a bit thin (28 g/m² weight), but has surprising opacity. Nonetheless, there is some ghosting. To ameliorate this, Cambridge has used line-matched printing, meaning that a line of text on one side of a page precisely overlaps the line of text on the opposite side of the page. This reduces the ghosting effect so significantly, that it almost ceases to be an issue. Finally, the outside edges of the pages feature art-gilding, giving them the classic pinkish gold sheen.

Typography and Format

Since the main purpose of the Bible is for reading, the typography and format are of great importance. The text used in the Clarion is a typeface called Lexicon No. 1, in size 8.75. That may sound a bit small, but I was impressed by how clear it is. Besides, it is larger than the type in the NIV Slimline Bible I was using, so for me it is an improvement. Lexicon No. 1 really is a good-looking typeface, with wonderful lowercase “e”s and striking punctuation marks. The words of Christ are printed in black.
This is a cross-reference Bible. Often, such Bibles have two columns of text per page, with references positioned between them, as in my leather ESV cross reference Bible. The Clarion is set in a single column per page, more like a normal book, with references in the margins. It’s wonderful. I would say that this page layout was the foremost consideration for me that tipped the scales in favor of the Clarion over other premium Bible options. (Schuyler’s Caxton Bible, which comes in a few tempting colors, would also have been a major contender, but is, alas, only available in the NLT. Yes … the NLT.)

Features

The Bible comes with fifteen maps, a color-coded map index, a concordance with 2,474 word entries (I counted them … just kidding), and a weights and measures table—not necessarily in that order. Another feature: two long red ribbon markers.

Size and Weight

The Bible is small, at 19 cm long by 14.5 cm wide. But it is chunky at about 4 cm thick. I like it. This ain’t no skinny Bible. When you pick it up, though, it feels lighter than it should be. I don’t know if this is due to its blockish appearance (which makes it look heavy) or to a light coating of pixie dust.

In Closing, a Word About the Translation

The New International Version is not so new anymore. The full NIV Bible was published first in 1978 and quickly gained wide acceptance among evangelicals, eventually becoming the most popular English translation. By now, the NIV is in fact the Bible that many adult Christians grew up on and memorized. The publishers of the NIV (rather predictably) claim it to be “accurate, readable, and clear.” In the case of the NIV, it is my assessment that it does an excellent job in living up to its own promises.
When it comes to how to translate the Bible, we often hear about the spectrum between formal equivalence and functional equivalence. We know that this is not an either-or choice, but a continuum and that a translation can be the product of more or less of one or the other. However, we also often hear that the NIV uses the thought-for-thought approach of functional equivalence, while the NASB and ESV use the word-for-word approach of formal equivalence. That is, translations are often positioned as examples of one or the other method. This is a bit misleading. The NASB does tend to employ the strictest form of formal equivalence among the popular, evangelical English translations (NASB, NKJV, ESV, CSB, NIV, NET, NLT, CEV) and suffers for it. I will not comment on translation philosophies here. But I do want to point out that the NIV is not by any stretch far out on the idiomatic (as opposed to literal) end of the spectrum. The reason I said that the contrast between the ESV and the NIV is misleading is because the ESV and the NIV are really not that far from each other. This being the case, these are my two favorite translations—the NIV being my day-to-day preference because it renders so many passages much more gracefully than the ESV.

The Christian Standard Bible (CSB), which purports to be more conservative than the NIV, is in between these two, filling the already small niche between the ESV and the NIV in terms of formal equivalence. (One needs only read the marketing for the CSB to see that it puts a premium on adhering to something between formal equivalence and functional equivalence, which it calls … drum roll please … “optimal equivalence”!) This is a bit of smoke and mirrors since both the ESV and the NIV also land somewhere in the middle of the spectrum and each translation team probably thought their own choices were optimal, given what they believed a translation should be. The NIV itself often retains formal equivalence, insofar as this will still result in natural-sounding English. Reading a more idiomatic translation such as the NLT will reveal just how traditional and familiar the NIV sounds. The CSB, I might add, tends not only to lose the NIV’s advantage of clarity but also fails to retain the traditional beauty of the ESV or the NIV.

The NIV was updated in 1984 and again in 2011. The 2011 update to the NIV is 95% the same as the 1984 text, but does have a number of positive changes. You can read about these in a paper by the current NIV translators explaining the 2011 updates. For one, the new NIV is more gender accurate in rendering pronouns and other referents. This increased accuracy is what caused the greatest hubbub over the 2011 update among conservative evangelicals (with whom I myself identify). The “neutral he/him” is seldom used anymore, and the NIV translation committee has the stats to prove it. The 2011 update seeks to use gender-inclusive language where, and only where, the original authors of Scripture intended gender-inclusivity. I think a convincing argument can be made that neglecting to do this is less faithful to the original text. The ESV goes a fair way in using gender-inclusive language (often using “the one who” instead of “he who” and things like that), but not quite so far as to be as accurate as the NIV. The CSB, though a newer translation than the ESV, does even more poorly in this area. The NASB? Forget it. It even uses the phrase “sons of Israel” to refer to the Israelites. That is an unclear translation.

I will mention a couple other changes since it might be assumed that any “modernizing” of the NIV would tend toward a “loosening” of the translation, making more idiomatic at every turn. Actually, some changes “tighten” it up a bit. For instance, the translators say that “for the sake of smoothness of style and facility of reading, a number of uses of the connective gar (‟for” or ‟because”) were left untranslated in the 1984 NIV. A select number of these have been restored where they seem particularly crucial to preserving the flow of thought.” Three cheers for “for”! Next, “the flesh” is now used in most places to translate the Greek word sarx where the 1984 text had “sinful nature.” “The flesh” is more literal and less interpretive, and although it most cases “sinful nature” does capture the right meaning, the 2011 team decided to change it. Also, “Translations that leave open important scholarly options have often been chosen. Thus, for instance, ‘righteousness from God’ in Romans 1:17 and related passages has been changed to ‘righteousness of God,’ and ‘observing the law’ (erga nomou) has been changed to ‘works of the law.’” In other words, in important places where a literal rendering leaves an ambiguity, the ambiguity has been reintroduced in the 2011, in verses where the ambiguity was previously eliminated by the translators’ interpretation. And as a final example, in 1 John 2:16, the previous NIV said “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world,” whereas the 2011 text brings back the old, familiar “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life”―with the translators remarking: “Has anyone really improved on the KJV rendering of these three expressions, to which the updated NIV returns? […] The language still communicates, and the poetry and style to which the NIV has returned is magnificent.”

To close, I will just state the obvious. Having an expensive Bible has never made anyone a mite holier than they were before. A Bible is not like the open box of baking soda in the back of your refrigerator: its mere presence does not keep you cleaner. I think the apostle James said it best: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

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Why Would God Take a Long to Time to Make the World?

Christians disagree about the age of the earth. Some believe it to be no more than about ten thousand years old, while others have been convinced that the planet is something like four and a half billion years old. That’s a huge difference, to say the least. This controversy can at times become quite heated, but I believe that it will in time be more or less resolved and the Christian church will reach a consensus. But as for now, we have to wrestle with the issue.

There are many things to discuss regarding this that I will not discuss here. But if the earth is billions of years old, one of the natural questions to ask is why God would take that kind of time to make it. Surely an omnipotent God could have done things much faster. In fact, Augustine, in seeking to resist ideas about pagan gods, believed that God created the world instantaneously, and that the six-day sequence in Genesis 1 was a poetic framework. He may have been right about that last part, but most of us would agree that God created the world sequentially over the space of some time, whether 144 hours, or billions of years. Did he have to do this? Even six solar earth-days is longer than God would need. But billions of years? Billions of years is so mind-bogglingly long, that John MacArthur believes it would have been a giant waste of time, that God had no reason to use so much time when he had other goals in mind, such as kicking off redemptive history, beginning with Adam and Eve. I respect Dr. MacArthur greatly, but the idea of billions of years being a waste of God’s time is illogical. For God, a thousand years are like a day. He is not daunted by any length of time. But still, why would he take so long if he did not have to? I want to offer a few thoughts on that question from a layman’s perspective.

First, I think it is safe to say that God takes the long view of things. He looks ahead and he doesn’t rush. Think about how God works in the lives of individuals. God transforms people. He changes them slowly, over time, using life experiences, difficulties, and discipline. Along the way, there are many missteps and retractions on our part, but over a lifetime, people are brought to an increasing maturity in Christian living. This can be a painful process sometimes with challenges that come from our own sinful inclinations. But the Holy Spirit is in us and God teaches us through trials. Hebrews 12:11 reminds us that discipline at God’s hand may not seem pleasant at the time, but that “later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” The idea of producing a harvest only emphasizes the fact that this is a drawn out process. I once asked my wife why God didn’t just change people all at once. She surprised me by saying that maybe he couldn’t. That is to say, if God immediately baked into us the results of a lifetime of growth, it would not be real. You would have the effects without the requisite causes. We cannot be altered that way, or at least, that’s not how God chooses to work. This seems like a valid consideration and will inform our views about the creation process.

Second, I will point out that God took the long view in redemptive history. I have sometimes wondered why God waited so long before sending Messiah to save the world. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. This is what God had always meant to do. In fact, it was the crux of God’s dealing with man for God’s own glory. He came to save us from the consequences of our sin and cleanse a people for his own possession. So why did he let thousands of years pass between the Fall and the cross? First, there were thousands of years before God called Abraham. Then Abraham had Isaac, who had Jacob, who had Joseph, who went to Egypt, where his descendants were enslaved for four hundred grueling years before—finally—we get the old covenant under Moses’s leadership, which has all kinds of clues within its rituals about the Messiah. Then, there are some 1,500 more years of trial and error on the part of God’s chosen nation, before our Redeemer arrives on the scene, at long last! Why did so many people and so many generations have to live and die before Jesus came to save the world? I don’t fully know. But the basic answer is, for some reasons known to God, the world just wasn’t ready. It wasn’t fully prepared. In Galatians chapter 4, Paul writes, “The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” The metaphor of we being “underage” and under guardians “until the time set by [our] father” shows that there was prep work God had to do. Most of human history has been lived prior to Christ’s first advent. And even now, as we wait with eagerness for Jesus to come again, God has been biding his time for two thousand years, and he will bring this age to its consummation only when the time is right.

What do these considerations show? They show that God reaches his planned ends using intermediate means. He doesn’t just skip to the results. The results must actually have resulted from prior causes. God lets things play out over time to get them the way he wants them, rather than simply manufacturing a finished product out of whole cloth. But wouldn’t we say that creation is a unique case? There was nothing prior to God’s creation, so God was, at least this once, making a finished product from whole cloth, was he not? We call this creation out of nothing, or creation ex nihilo. This is what I want to think about. Everyone (young-earther and old-earther alike) agrees that the earth had to be prepared in stages for human habitation. In fact, we know that Augustine was wrong about an instantaneous creation because in Genesis 1:2 we find an earth, but one not yet ready for us. It is “formless and empty.” I think the old American Standard Version gives the proper sense here, when it says “waste and void.” We might think formless implies some shapeless cloud, but the earth has an ocean (the deep), so it is a solid planet. But it’s not ready to be peopled. It’s a desolate waste. It’s not livable. What God accomplishes over the following six days of creation will make the earth a beautiful “biodome” for Adam and Eve. So let’s think about what it takes to turn a waste and void earth into a habitat for humanity.

Many of the resources humans depend on in order to thrive appear to have resulted from long processes—thousands or millions of years long. For instance, there are things like sandstone and other sedimentary rock, mountain ranges (which affect weather patterns and the water cycle), topsoil, coal, crude oil and other biodeposits. Keep in mind that I am not (here) putting these examples forth as evidence for an old earth per se; I am putting them forth as examples of things that could help Christians understand that God may have had reason to take a long time in preparing the earth for Adam and Eve. In this blog, I do not mean to ask whether the earth is old, but only to ask whether we can see any plausible reason an almighty and unlimited God would have to create the world over long ages (from our perspective) rather than all at once or in some other miraculously truncated period of time. Would doing so be no more than a waste of time, or might there be a case in which taking an extended period of time would be preferred, or even the only honest method?

To go back to my examples of topography, sedimentary rocks, fossil fuels, etc., let me just reiterate that these things, which we have in abundance today, by all accounts appear to be the results of very long, slow processes. Yet we need them to live, or at least to be able to launch and sustain advanced human civilization—or, to put it another way, to be capable of fulfilling God’s mandate to “fill the earth and subdue it” and “rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” To have these resources in place on Day Six required either 1) an extended amount of time, or 2) a miraculous creation of a kind that would bring about prematurely what would under normal circumstances have taken a long, long time, and would appear to have done so. That is to say, the presence of these things tells a story about the past.

Young earth astronomer Jason Lisle has made the point that any attempt to calculate ages based on present-day observations requires assumptions be made about initial conditions. I concede that this must be the case. However, we may rightfully ask what assumptions are legitimate. Below is a picture of a palm tree outside my workplace.

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Anyone who studies this tree for a few minutes would see that the trunk appears to be made up of layer after layer of the old bases of palm leaves. Now, I know nothing about palm trees. But this tree trunk tells a layman like me a clear story about the past. I feel certain just from looking at it that the trunk is made of layers that grew and broke off in stages as the palm tree got taller. The tree tells a story. There is no mistaking it. I have to wonder if God would create a tree instantaneously in this state. Honestly, I can hardly imagine that he would. To do so would be to create, along with the tree, an implied but false history where no history really existed. I find this a troubling idea. And, as we observed in other areas, God does not seem to skip the necessary steps when making anything that requires a succession of real causes. In other words, God does not seem to save himself time by immediately (i.e., apart of mediate causes) and instantaneously bringing about a thing which can otherwise only be the consequence of preceding events.

Creating a grown man (or a grown salamander) would necessarily not be like this. A grown man may conceivably be created whole and functioning without any signs of having aged to get to his current state, even if we know of no other instance in which a man has not aged. Maturity and signs of age are not always the same thing and may not always correspond. Topsoil and crude oil, however, cannot exist in any state that would not show signs of age, since each is by nature the result of the decay of previously living matter. And there are so many biodeposits we need in order to flourish! God could, I suppose, have created mountain ranges that did not show signs of age, but our mountain ranges do, as they are so obviously the result of plate tectonic activity (as most young earth geologists agree) and seemingly millions of years of it. These are just a couple examples.

In closing let me repeat the question. Is there any good reason we can think of that an omnipotent God would have taken long ages to create the world? I answer yes. This is because: a) there are features of the planet and its biosphere that would have required under normal conditions thousands or millions of years of prep time (including many thousand of generations of organic things living and dying); and b) some of these features are requisite for human habitation; c) God, who is timeless, may have decided to accomplish the preparation of these features without resorting to means which would bypass the necessary causes, because by doing it this way, d) God would avoid embedding within his handiwork a discernable and compelling story which was in fact false. For these reasons, God would not have been wasting his time in creating progressively over billions of earth years’ worth of time before finishing his creative work with the creation of humankind.

I actually believe that most of what I have said here is not very controversial. The controversy comes in because nature is not the only story-telling revelation God has left to us. He has also given us the Bible, which tells stories not in clues but in language. The debate comes in because there is a question over whether the Bible’s account puts a severe restraint on the age of the earth (or of the entire cosmos), limiting it to about ten thousand earth years’ worth of time. If so, it would take precedence over the apparent story told by nature, leaving us with two more difficult options. Either 1) that means we have a miraculous creation of a kind that would bring about prematurely what would under normal circumstances have taken a long, long time, and would appear to have done so; or 2) the scientific consensus is way, way off in all its reading of the facts and in reality the earth appears to be quite young—the features I mentioned being attributed to the catastrophic and (under this interpretation) globe-engulfing flood of Noah’s day. This latter interpretation is becoming more untenable over time. But these are not questions I will tackle today.

In an era where it is ever more important for Christians to lock arms in defense of a thoroughly Biblical worldview, why should I blog about this disagreement within the church? One reason is that I am a recovering young-earther, and so I have inherited the natural zeal of anyone who has ever made a major turn in their thinking about a big question. But more importantly, I think this is a question that the conservative Bible-believing church has to wrestle with for two important reasons. First, because truth matters—plain and simple. We need to seek the truth―and the evidence for an old world is weighty. Second, I think the question has somewhat urgent apologetic ramifications. I believe that in a hundred years, this question will be resolved (on the old-earth side), but that the transition will not be easy, as it was surprisingly difficult for the church to let go of the idea that the earth was literally fixed and unmoving. I think there is need for respectful and mutually sympathetic discussion between Bible-revering Christians on this matter and that too often the sides misunderstand each other or, unfortunately, even slander the other side (often “you’re compromisers” from young-earthers, or “you’re stupid” from old-earthers). This needs to end. In closing, I will mention that I was partially inspired to write this blog by the Creation Project of the Henry Center for Theological Understanding that is facilitating the very kind of discussion about this topic that I am eager to see. One public discussion that can serve as an example on how dialogue should be conducted was the debate between Albert Mohler and C. John Collins.

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The Bibliotheca Bible: a Short Review

In the first quarter of 2015 my wife ordered me a special Bible for my birthday (which is in the summer). The Bible had been funded on Kickstarter and was still in production, with plans to ship that year. But things did not go as expected for Adam Lewis Greene and his Bible printing project. Some surprises were good―he received far more financial backing than he thought possible. That being so, he decided to increase the manufacturing quality of his project. Other surprises included the unanticipated difficulty and effort involved in “respectfully updating” an archaic English translation (more on this later), and other production hiccups. In the end, the project took far longer than he thought. It was finally packaged and delivered in December 2016. Greene calls the four-volume Bible set Bibliotheca. In an e-mail update dated 5 October 2016, Greene said:

I sincerely wish we had been able to deliver the finished product sooner. We did our best—and I’m confident that because we took the time we did, we have made the best books we could have shipped to you. The editorial team, the researchers, the proofreaders, the scholars, and Kösel have all brought their expertise to the table to create something that I trust you’ll find enjoyable, enriching, and enduring.

The Bible is a four-volume set. Each volume is very well made, having a cloth-over-board cover of a gray tone, with gold embossed title on the spine. Greene decided to spare no expense on the binding and the paper. The paper is a woodless, stone-based paper that is a hearty thickness for a Bible and allows very little “ghosting” of the text (where the writing on the other side of a sheet shows through). The books feel good in the hand, and are lighter than your typical Bible because it’s not the whole thing in one. Oh, and each one has a ribbon marker. Nice touch.

The main attraction of the Bible is that the text is laid out like that of a normal book. There are no verse or chapter numbers, no footnotes, study notes, or cross references embedded in the text. It is a clean and easy reading experience, without all the clutter we have somehow come to expect in our Bibles. The typeface (font) used for these books is a custom serif drawn by Greene himself especially for this project. Greene is a book designer by trade. The lines of text are aligned on the left, not justified (aligned on both sides), and I really prefer this. Even the ESV six-volume readers Bible and the NIV Books of the Bible have justified text, as do most books. This, I suppose, is because editors think the evenness on both sides looks better (it may also fit more text on each page). But justifying a column of text requires the word processing program to adjust the size of the spaces between words on each line. The unequal spacing that results can create visible “rivers” of white space on a page. Left-aligned text avoids this, as it leaves the spacing alone. Who cares if the text is “ragged” on the right side of the column?

The space between the lines (called the leading (pronounced “lehd-ing”)) in Bibliotheca is nice and generous. This reduces the density of the text on the page and makes for more pleasant reading. It is easier for the eye to track from one line to the next one. And the font size itself looks to be around size 10 (it is impossible to tell precisely). Many Bibles have smaller letters and lines packed closer together. This is understandable since the Bible is, well, really really long, and if you want it all inside of one volume, the laws of physics dictate that you’ll have to make some trade-offs. By splitting the Bible into four volumes, Greene was able to make each volume more spacious, with nice thick paper and a excellent typographical layout.

So, what’s not to like about Bibliotheca? Adam Greene and company really poured their hearts into this project and the end product is beautiful. There is only one possible place for critique, and that is the translation itself. Can a translation affect the reading experience, just like the size of the font and quality of the paper? Of course it can.

The text of Bibliotheca is based on the American Standard Version, published in 1901. The ASV was in turn based on the Revised Version, which was a revision of the King James Version, done in England in the 1800s. Adam Greene’s original idea was simply to replace the thees and thous and whatnot with modern equivalents. But updating a translation, it turns out, is not so easy. He ended up using some more of his funding on hiring some translation specialists of some kind to help with the update. The result is probably just what Greene was hoping for. (I heard an interview with Greene where he talked about what he wanted in the translation.) Now, I do not know how different the Bibliotheca text is from the original ASV. Granted, all the thees and thous are gone, but this was no “modernization” of the ASV. The Bibliotheca text has that very old and somewhat distant sound to it that some readers are sure to love. I, however, find reading it to be like chewing tough meat. For instance, on page 309 of volume I, we read about the time Balaam “smote” his “ass” because she stopped walking. On page 26, we read that the waters of Noah’s flood “assuaged.” We sometimes―though not often―talk of assuaging anger, but not water. Archaisms like these are not the only problem with this kind of translation. The phrasing and word order can also be odd and unnatural. Again, there are others who really enjoy this. To them, this is what “the Bible” sounds like! But the result for me, sadly, is that I often find myself reading my NIV Books of the Bible edition, a single-volume NIV readers Bible, instead of this beautiful and lovingly crafted set.

Some final notes: The original ASV is one of the few Bibles to transliterate the Tetragrammaton in the Hebrew Old Testament. That is, the covenant name God revealed to Moses―Jehovah, or Yahweh. The ASV uses “Jehovah.” Most English Bibles, including the KJV, follow the practice of the Greek Septuagint (LXX) and use “Lord” (often in small caps) wherever the Tetragrammaton occurs, as did the Apostles in authoring the New Testament under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. (The Tetragrammaton does not appear in the Greek New Testament at all, even in quotations from the Old Testament from passages that include it―since the Apostles quoted the Old Testament out of the LXX.) There is some controversy as to which practice is better. Bibliotheca, an update of the ASV, employs “YHWH” in small caps. This looks very nice. I think it was better than retaining the ASV’s “Jehovah” since there is even more controversy about whether we should use that particular pronunciation. This in fact leaves the reader to choose a pronunciation or not to pronounce it all (since four consonants are not pronounceable without the reader’s express and personal addition of some vowel sounds, at least mentally). Finally, be it known that Bibliotheca prints the words of Christ in black, just like all the other words … as should all Bibles.

P.S., I had originally planned to include some pictures of my Bibliotheca books for this review. But good book pictures are hard to take and probably wouldn’t turn out well. And besides, professional pictures have already been taken. Have a look-see here: http://www.bibliotheca.co/#about

A (Now) Open Letter to Reasons To Believe

Open letters are usually letters of critique. The letter I am making public below, however, is a letter of thanks to the creation science ministry called Reasons to Believe, founded by Christian astronomer Hugh Ross. I wrote the letter in April 2015 some time after reading Ross’s book, A Matter of Days. I am publishing it here because I desired at some point to write about why thinking about the physical age of the world is important for Christians, and realized that this letter already contained a good introduction to my thoughts.

Dear Reasons to Believe:

My purpose is simply to thank Dr. Hugh Ross and your ministry for the work you do, and to tell you about the impact Dr. Ross’s book A Matter of Days has had on my perception of the physical world.

I am 32 years old, and, by God’s grace, have always been a Christian. But growing up, it was fairly assumed that being a Christian and taking the Bible seriously meant holding to a young earth creationist model of origins, which I did. Like many young people, I found science very interesting. That interest in scientific topics never faded (though I did not study science in college). In high school I read Henry Morris’s Scientific Creationism, which is a heady tome for someone that age. Though much of it was beyond me, I basically understood the arguments from biochemistry against abiogenesis, which were extremely compelling. As time went on, I began to understand other things, like the rudiments of information theory; irreducible complexity in the cell, in organs and higher organisms, and even in ecosystems; and the case these discoveries made for intelligent design. If the creationists I was reading had done anything well, it was exposing the flaws in evolutionism.

But of course, there was also the issue of the age of the cosmos. Understand, I not only enjoyed reading creation science, I actually attended San Diego Christian College (formerly Christian Heritage College), cofounded by Dr. Henry Morris himself. Henry Morris, John Morris, Duane Gish, and Ken Ham were household names for us. I had from time to time visited the Institute for Creation Research museum. I was familiar with the arguments for a young earth and a global flood, which at the time seemed sufficient. There was no real argument for a young universe, though we all expected this to be forthcoming as science advanced. Until then we just assumed it was young and that explanations for its apparent age would emerge. For a while, I was quite excited about Russell Humphrey’s and John Hartnett’s white hole model.

It is only over the past year or so that I began to doubt the idea of a planet less than 10,000 years old. But after reading a useful little title by Keith Mathison called A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture [currently free for Kindle], I began to realize in a clearer way what I would have affirmed verbally all along—namely, that natural revelation from God in the physical world around us is a source of true knowledge, when properly understood, and that it may be helpful on some occasions in clarifying the meaning of certain things revealed specially in the Bible.

At the same time, I was losing faith in “appearance of age” arguments. These seemed to suggest that even if many lines of carefully considered data all converged to indicate an age of the universe or the earth of billions of years, these lines of data either must be completely misunderstood or they may be authored by God, despite being practically illusory. Even many YEC scientists were rejecting the “light in transit” explanation of visible distant stars, because supernovas greater than 10,000 light years away would requires us to believe the exploded star never really existed and that the perceived explosion was simply a light show God had made. This obviously has unsettling philosophical ramifications about God’s way of communicating, and our belief that the world we live in is real, and not an illusion, as the Bible says (and contrary to some eastern and new age views), and that God has given us senses that accurately perceive this real world, as the Bible assumes. Appearance-of-age explanations for other phenomena, whether geological or astronomical, are likewise problematic.

I began to research interpretations of Genesis 1-2 from Gorman Gray, Meredith Kline, and Mark Futato. This lead me to consider for the first time that a young-earth interpretation may not be the only interpretation that respects the text or authorial intent.

Still, I did not yet know just how compelling the evidence for an old earth was, nor how thin arguments for a young earth were. Besides, in all my reading of science articles from YEC sources, I had heard of this “Hugh Ross” character many times, and knew he was up to no good! But, after opening up to the possibility of an old cosmos, I was interested, hungry even, for more information. I began perusing Reasons.org. Eventually, I wanted to find out what RTB had to say about all this in depth. Still being slightly suspicious, and on a budget, I didn’t want to pay full price for Dr. Ross’s opus, so I “donated” ten dollars to RTB and got the book as a “free gift.” Sorry!

I devoured the book. I sometimes comment that I read it in “a matter of days.” It helped me understand the large volume of evidence for an old earth and universe. This volume of evidence is a real problem for a YEC interpretation of the Bible. YEC proponents often (rightly) point out that facts don’t interpret themselves, and that there are facts and then there are interpretations of the facts. This is true. But likewise there is the text of Scripture, and there are interpretations of it. A true interpretation of the Bible will submit to the Bible’s literary forms, and will integrate the whole, and will not turn a text on its head—words do have understandable meaning, and interpretation has definite limits. So I am not saying the Bible can be “interpreted” to accommodate just anything. On the other hand, this must also be true of natural revelation, since God is its author. Interpreting facts of nature in such a constrained way so as to make them basically incomprehensible also does damage to the idea of God as a revealer of truth, or about the possibility of science at all. And the Bible encourages science (e.g., 1 Kings 4:33). The more we discover about the universe, the more material we have for which to praise a mighty and wise God. There is no need for me to repeat back to you all of your own reasons to accept an old age of the earth. Suffice it say I have been convinced that the earth is old.

I used to view all of secular science with a degree of suspicion. Granted, many of these sources begin with a presumption of atheism. Not that all the contributors are atheists. I simply mean that they will only allow for naturalistic causes of all things. But now I find reading from Nature, National Geographic, or the Smithsonian can be much more exciting, because there is no need to be constantly denying the old-cosmos timeline that is everywhere present. There will always be the need to read all sources with a discerning mind. But maybe these scientists do have much to teach, often unbeknownst to them perhaps, about the glories of the Creator. Maybe they have much to teach about the realities around us—things we can learn. (John Calvin thought so.)

After finishing A Matter of Days I read the Presbyterian Church in America report on the hexameron cited in Dr. Ross’s footnotes. I will also read the Westminster Seminary report. Being Reformed (Baptist) in my own understanding of Scripture, I have much respect for these sources and what they say about the acceptable ranges of interpretation for Genesis. Thank you for pointing them out.

But most importantly, thank you for pointing out the facts of God’s world. God’s people are to be a truth-seeking people. Truth is truth. Believing in a God of truth and revelation, and in an intelligible world created by a law-giver who gives us sensory perception and the laws of logic themselves, and who upholds the universe by fixed and uniform laws, we can pursue the clues of nature methodically to come to accurate conclusions. The irony is that it is the Christian alone who understands the basis in God for math, logic, uniformity of nature, and language. It is this pursuit of truth that concerns me most. It is this, I fear, that YEC proponents may be giving up in order to adhere to their tradition. Dr. Ross’s book was a real eye-opener for me, and I pray that RTB can continue to impact the world for Christ by pursuing truth in all spheres, both theological and scientific.

Sincerely,

J—

 

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