Thursday, September 18, 2008

9 Marks Ministries Weekender

Right now I am in Washington D.C. I am attending a small pastoral conference put on by 9 marks ministries. 9 marks ministries is a ministry that promotes biblical ecclesiology. One of the important aspects of Baptist ecclesiology that they have helped to recover is the plurality of elders. Pastor Mark Dever is the pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He is probably the most influential ecclesiologist in Baptist life today. He has written extensively on the theology of the church, Baptist History, puritan history and practical theology. He hold a master of Divinity at Gordon-Conwell Theological seminary, a Master of Theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (the greatest seminary ever!!!) and a PhD in ecclesiastical history from Cambridge University. Academically he is in a league of his own. Yet, he is one of the most light hearted guys I have ever met. He is constantly making jokes. This weekend I am staying in his home. I have never been in a home with as many books as his home. Right now next to my bed are books from the 19th century on Baptist history!

Today I had a two hour break between lectures so I decided to walk a few blocks over to the Capitol building. Both the Church and our nations capitol are in D.C.'s historical district. All the buildings are from the 19th century and are kept up. There are little cafes on the side of the street. I had fun except I was not with Kym. Our nations capital is so much different than I thought it was from TV. The city is much more busy. The distance between the Supreme Court building, the Library of Congress, and the White House is much shorter than I expected.

Any how I am enjoying my stay here in DC.

written by Stephen Stanford

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bible Translation

What Bible translations do you use for bible study? Yesterday I bought the new NLT study bible. I am loving it. The study notes cover a lot of material... it is impressive. I cannot wait till the ESV study bible comes out. Now there are 4 basic translational philosophies.
First, there is the paraphrase. The paraphrase is not really a translation in the strictest sense of the word. Basically the author of the paraphrase attempts to retell not translate what the original text says. Examples of a paraphrases are the Living Bible of the 1970 and the Message. I will bypass discussion over these paraphrase because I question how useful they really are for serious bible study.
Second, there is the dynamic equivalence ( I will call this DE). DE translations are probably the most popular. The NLT, NIV, TNIV are examples. The DE translation seek to translate thought for thought rather than word for word. The advantage of this kind of translation is that it helps modern readers understand the orignal text when phrases do not translates well literally. The disadvantage is that there is not always a consistency in word usage. Another problem is that sometime they do not use important theological words.
Third, there is the literal or essentially literal. Essentially literal and literal are actually two different categories but we will throw both of these into one category for our discussion. The advantage of this kind of translation is that it sticks, as best as possible to the original words of the biblical text. Also there is a consistency of translated words. There is also less interpretation over the meaning of the text, although there is obviously still some. The disadvantage is that the translation does not always fit within normal English word usage. Another problem is that idiomatic expressions are sometimes not given in English with an equivalent expression. That can actually be good and bad. The term literal translation can be kind of misleading. It is kinda like the term decalf coffee. No translation is strictly literal. If it was it would be unintelligible to read at times. Examples of a literal translation are the New American Standard Bible, the New Revised Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, the English Standard Version, The New English Bible, the King James Version and the New King James Version.
Fourth, there is a new translational philosophy called the optimal equivalence. The Holman Christian Standard Bible is an optimal equivalence translation. The optimal equivalence translation seeks the best of the literal translation and the best of the dynamic equivalence. However, because it seeks to do what both the literal and the DE does it also has the weakness of both to more or less degree. I also think that the ESV is more or less an optimal equivalence translation. It leans more toward the literal translation while the HCSB may move more toward the DE.
Now which translation philosophy is the best? This has often the cause of controversy. Some say that DE is the way to go others say that literal translation is the best way to go. I think that they are both good. I think everybody needs a copy of at least one from either translation philosophy. The ESV is my main translation. This is because the word for word translation allows you to pay attention to word consistency. Also I think that the word for word translation correspond to expository preaching better than a thought for thought translation. Also, It allows you to see the translation with less interpretation into the text. Second translation that I go to is the HCSB. Third is the NLT and fourth is the TNIV (todays new international version). So as you can see when I study a passage I look at all types of translations. It is good to use at least two translations that you know will differ in how they are translated. This allows more objectivity as you approach the text.
When trying to find a translation to use remember this: all translation are just that, translations. If you want to be exact and precise you will have to learn the original languages. There are all kinds of online classes that are available. We live in a pretty awesome day in time.
One of the most important considerations when picking a translation to use is: what is the textual basis for the translation. When translations are made it is important to use the most accurate manuscript. For instance the NIV uses the USB3 while the TNIV uses the USB4. The USB4 is a more accurate text so if you use a translation you probably would rather go with the TNIV rather than the NIV. That does not mean the TNIV is perfect it just means it is translated with better manuscripts.
Anyhow, what translations do you use and in what order? What are your thoughts on translational philosophy?
My greek professor quotes an Italian proverb "traditorre traditore" (which I am not quite sure I spelled it right) but basically it means translators are traitors. The words sound exactly alike. The point is that no translation is perfect.

written by Stephen Stanford

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Incarnational ministry?

How are we to minister to the world? Do we present a social gospel, a social and spiritual gospel or a spiritual one. Who should we imitate, Jesus or Paul? Perhaps, I should say should Paul's or Jesus' example of ministry be the basis of ours?

I think that the message we preach is most certainly spiritual over all the other options, despite the fact that it has effects on society. Christ's ministry on earth was not primarily social, for he did not come incarnate to relieve the temporal poverty of the Jews, but to the fulfill the Law and sacrificial acts of the High Priest as explained in Hebrews. His ministry to the poor was for their eternal salvation, as seen in his teachings which emphasized Love of God, obedience, and the danger of hell. He ministered to the poor, because the were humble, knowing they are sinners (Matt. 9;12). His goal was not the alleviation of poverty (Matt. 26;11), but the the proclamation that the kingdom is at hand(Matt 4;17) and proving his authority as messiah through miracles (Jh. 14;11). John's version of the the Great commission does not emphasize a social gospel but rather that we are given authority through the Holy Spirit and are to proclaim the kingdom (Jh. 20;21). We are called to suffer like Christ for the gospel ministry (Matt. 5;11, Jh 15;20, Phil 1;29).

The stated reasons make clear that Jesus ministry to the poor was spiritual. The Jewish context was special in that they had the Law and the promises and the word. He went to the Jew, not the gentile and rejected political involvement. Throughout Acts we see Christ proclaim as savior and the apostles as witnesses. It is Paul that is specifically sent to the gentiles and Paul that says he is all things to all people (1 Cor. 9;19-23). In addition to this it is Paul that sells us to be imitators of him as he is of Christ (1 Cor 4;16-17, 11;1). If then we are to imitate Christ, which we are, then we should imitate him in the way that Paul imitated Christ. We should apply his understanding of what it meant to imitate Christ. By pointing this out, I want to show that instead of looking to Christ as our example of how to minister we should look at Christ through Paul. Where Christ tells us to make disciples of the nations, Paul shows and instructs us in the way that we should do that. So, how did Paul imitate Christ? He suffered and gave up his freedoms, even privileges for effective ministry. While Christ's work with the Jews may be descriptive (an example) of a contextualized ministry, it is Paul that tells us to do that in 1 Cor. 9.

Interpreting missions and ministry through Paul will help us to better understand in what we are to imitate Christ and in what ways his ministry was truly unique. doing the reverse will undoubtedly lead to misapplications of the gospels and how we are to minister. The key to how we are to glorify God in ministry is to imitate Paul as he imitated Christ (1 Cor. 11;1).

Samuel Gantt

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Contextualizing the Gospel

One of our readings from missiology class was about contextualizing the gospel. Basically, how do we reach across cultural barriers and communicate the gospel effectively. Do we, like postmoderns, conform the message to the ideas and concerns of the culture? Do we see the meaning of scripture to be flexible and changing with time? If not, then how do we reach other cultures?

Once, I was speaking with a Japanese friend about Christianity, and the topic of values came up. My friend explained that the Japanese cherish things that are temporary, that don't last. For example, the cherry blossom only blooms once a year and for about a week. This tree's blossoms are considered most beautiful, especially since their beauty escapes you. It does not remain forever. The Japanese take their families and friends flowering viewing during this time to enjoy the experience while it lasts. But this is not limited to flowers, they cherish loved ones, and relationships and life because it is fleeting. So, life is meaningful because it is impermanent. If that is so, Christianity does not make things important, rather it makes them unimportant.
I propose that this is very different from Christianity, obviously. In response, I told her that Christians don't cherish things because they are permanent or impermanent, but because their value comes from God. This being true, we can appreciate things that are impermanent and those that aren't. At the time I wanted to say that we can appreciate impermanent things too and agree with her that they are valuable, but I realized that agreeing with her didn't make sense. So, I explained why we can appreciate things and value them for different reasons.

We didn't discuss the gospel at that time, but what we talked about did have to do with a Christian view of values versus a Shinto/Buddhist view. What is important, agreeing or disagreeing with unbelievers? Should we show the contrast in ours beliefs or the similarities? But really, are not we obligated to explain why we believe something, whether we are in agreement or not? My point is to ask, how do we teach others about the faith, whether they are Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, protestant or pagan? What do you think our priorities are in contextualizing the gospel?

by Samuel Gantt