Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
Saturday, July 11th, 2009
A Visual History of the English Bible
by Donald L. Brake
Hardback, 349 pages
I spent several happy hours perusing A Visual History of the English Bible. The author, dean of Multnomah Biblical Seminary, is an addicted rare books collector, so his love of the story of the English Bible comes from caressing the books in his own collection. I especially enjoyed reading the sidebars highlighting his collecting exploits.
The book begins with John Wycliffe (ca. 1325-1384) and his desire to translate the Bible into English – at this point only available in Latin to the clergy. Wycliffe was vehemently opposed by the Church. To put the Bible in the hands of the common man would be to reduce the power and monopoly the Church had on dispensing truth as it pleased them. As we see in our own day in places such as China, the presence of truth available to all is a serious threat to tyrants.
Wycliffe was finally burned at the stake in 1384 as was William Tyndale (c. 1494-1536), who translated the Bible into English a century and a half later – when the printing press made wide distribution possible. When Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1535, the rise of the Puritans changed the religious climate and made way for reformation. By 1537 Henry VIII had granted approval for two “authorized” Bibles, Matthew’s Bible and the Coverdale Bible.
One interesting section is Brake’s account of the translation, printing, and various versions of the King James Version (1611). I learned that the King James Version was revised twice – in 1638 and 1762. He outlines some famous editions of the Bible, named after their mistranslations:
- “Wife-beater’s Bible” (1549) A note on 1 Peter 3:2 says, “And yf she be not obedient and helpful unto hym, endeavoreth to beate the feare of God into her heade.”
- “Judas Bible” (1611) includes a misprint where “Judas” is substituted for “Jesus” in Matthew 26:36.
- “Wicked Bible” (1631) in Exodus 20:14 reads: “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Oops.
- “Unrighteous Bible” (1653) renders 1 Corinthians 6:9 as: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the Kingdom of God?”
The book has weaknesses, however. Brake’s accounts of the history of the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries seemed weak and sometimes repetitious. His treatment of translations since the Revised Version of 1887 is merely cursory. His comparison and evaluation of modern versions is flawed, relying too much on others’ opinions and not enough on his own research. He tags the NIV as “sometimes inaccurate,” while the RSV is “considered liberal, often wooden,” and the NRSV is accused of “liberal bias.” In my own study of the original languages, I’ve found every translation inaccurate or biased here and there. But overall the NIV, RSV, and NRSV are excellent, trustworthy, faithful translations.
The book is abundantly illustrated with photographs of various editions of the Bible, which adds greatly to the book’s appeal. If you want to learn the fascinating and courageous story of how the Bible was translated into English, this book is an excellent and entertaining source. Recommended.
Thursday, June 25th, 2009
If you’ve spent much time in a medium size to larger church, then simplicity begins to sound very good.
But simplicity is neither easy nor cost-free according to the authors of Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples (Broadman & Holman, 2006, ISBN 0805443908, hardback, 257 pages), by Thom S. Rainer and
Thom Rainer, Ph.D., is a church consultant as well as president and CEO of the LifeWay Christian Resources, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptists. Geiger is a young researcher. In a study of over 400 churches from a variety of evangelical denominations in 37 states, the authors determined that the healthiest churches in America tend to have a simple process for making disciples.
It’s easy to misunderstand this book and think that it’s about simplifying church life. That’s not the point. It’s about defining and then implementing a simple, clearly-stated process of making disciples. This isn’t a book about doctrine or style or denomination or church size. It’s a book about clarity concerning the process of making disciples.
Here is the authors’ definition:
"A simple church is a congregation designed around a straight-forward and strategic process that moves people through stages of spiritual growth."
In other words, this is a strategic process tied carefully to the purpose or the vision of the church.
This isn’t a book about developing a purpose statement, however. It is about developing a process statement — describing a sequential process of making disciples that intentionally moves people from one stage of discipleship to another. From the examples in the book, it’s likely that a church’s process will have 3 or 4 steps or stages.
To be most effective, say the authors, the discipleship process have four elements:
Clarity — the ability of the process to be communicated and understood by people. The authors recommend that either a metaphor or visual diagram by used to illustrate the process so that it is clear. The most famous example of such a process diagram and metaphor, of course, is Rick Warren’s baseball diamond with four bases that people move around.
Movement — the sequential steps in the process that cause people to move to greater areas of commitment. Here is where the authors’ concept varies from a purpose statement (which focuses on the result) or an entry-points diagram (which focuses on doors through which people come into fellowship with a congregation).
Alignment — the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple processes. Instead of each ministry doing its own thing in its own way, the same processes guide each ministry.
Focus — the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside of the simple ministry process. Here’s the hard part for most churches, getting rid of sacred cows that don’t contribute to the discipleship process. But the result of the pain of discarding the non-essentials is a leaner, simpler, more effective, more vibrant congregation.
This isn’t simplicity for simplicity’s sake. It is simplicity in order to be effective in making disciples. I think that the concepts of Simple Church are exciting and powerful. For those churches that will discipline their life and ministry using these guidelines — embracing all the struggle and change that this will involve — there is a great deal of hope for vitality and health.
Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009
I just finished John A. D’Elia, A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America (Oxford, 2008; ISBN 0195341678, hardcover, 271 pages).
I was a student of Dr. Ladd’s from 1973-1976, during his final three years of active teaching at Fuller Theological Seminary before retirement. He profoundly influenced my understanding of the New Testament and challenged me to grow both in faith and in a critical examination of the text. He even paid me the compliment of suggesting that I pursue graduate studies at the University of Heidelberg — a direction I did not pursue.
I found A Place at the Table at once fascinating, insightful, and sad. Ladd’s brilliant mind and quest for Christ-honoring scholarship was crippled by his emotional weaknesses and personal demons.
I came away from the book with a renewed awareness that we ourselves are often not capable of assessing our impact. We’re often discouraged, sometimes in despair. Ladd saw himself as a failure, but God used him and still uses his influence to bring evangelical scholarship to a new level — and touch many lives through the preaching and teaching of those he trained. God’s plans for our lives are often not our own — and God is quite able to use us in spite of ourselves.
Friday, May 22nd, 2009
On May 8-9 I attended the Doing Church conference in Pleasant Hill, California. One of the speakers, Michael Frost, Professor of Evangelism and Missions at Morling College, Sydney, Australia, was particularly stimulating.
He spoke about the missional church. He mentions that all churches have four main functions: worship, fellowship, discipleship, and mission. For most of its history, the Christian church has been organized around the worship function. Worship has been the central organizing idea from which the other functions radiate. What if, he says, the organizing function of the church is mission, rather than worship? What would the church look like then? Radically different and much more motivated.
I haven’t integrated all his ideas into my own understanding yet, but find them very stimulating. You can read more in his book: Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post Christian Culture (Hendrickson, 2006), ISBN 1565636708.
MP3 recordings of the conference are available online, if you’d like to listen. Prepare to be challenged.