Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Home for the Homeless

A couple of weeks ago, I met Justin.  While sitting at a fast-food restaurant with a group of preachers, he came in and sat behind part of the group.  We had been having some wonderful conversation and this young man (twenty-two years old) had been sitting there a while; I wondered if he was listening.  The talk turned to the matter of a loss of power in preaching despite somewhat of a recovery of sound doctrine among some preachers of this generation.

 

Then a strange thing happened.  One of the men among us, a pastor of many years, turned toward the young man and said, "That young man needs God."  Now, I had hoped that the young man would profit from our conversation and even wondered about some of us talking to him – but this was an unexpected (yet quite direct and simple) way to turn the conversation!

 

It turned out that Justin was homeless and a drug addict.  He had been in and out of rehabilitation, and had been clean for a couple of weeks, according to his statement.  Evidently he had come into the restaurant to ask someone to buy him a meal, which was done.  But his need for food and a home in no way overshadowed to us his need for the bread of life and a home in heaven.  By the grace of God, Justin received compassionate but serious and urgent warnings and a clear presentation of the gospel from us that night.  He was warned that his idea of God may be an idol as he seemed to claim a pursuit of God that was detached from His Word and people.  One pastor told him that he was walking on the edge of hell and that he did not have the power to change himself but Christ did.  One of the men with us was once addicted to drugs and spoke to him from his own experience and pointed him clearly to the Savior who came and died for sinners that He might give them life.  Justin was also reminded of the accountability we all have before God and the urgency of trusting Christ now, as none of us has the promise of another day.

 

This experience was a combination of joy and sadness.  I rejoice that the Lord gave us boldness to speak the truth to this young man.  I rejoiced to see brothers who believe in the sovereignty of God in salvation were actively and lovingly seeking to evangelize a sinner.  I rejoiced to see a clear presentation of the gospel with a clear warning as well as a clear welcome to come to Jesus.

 

But the sadness is that our words seemed to go in one ear and out the other.  Justin appears to still be darkened in his understanding.  He appears to think that he can still do better instead of seeing his need to trust in Christ to change him.  Even as we often get distracted from the eternal by the temporary, his focus seems to be on his present, immediate earthly needs instead of his eternal needs, which are just as present and immediate although perhaps not visible to him. 

 

Please pray for Justin.  He needs to be in the Word and under the sound of the preaching of the Word.  He needs to turn in faith to the Savior held forth in the Word to get the most important thing straightened out – his relationship with God.  Please pray that Justin's heart would become good soil in which the seed of the gospel takes a deep root, that God would open his eyes and that he would know his spiritual hunger satisfied by the Bread of Life and have a permanent dwelling place with God.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Guest Blogger, Feb. 1-8, 2008

No miscellanies or resource pages this Tuesday, but an announcement:

On Friday, Jason Button will begin guest-blogging through February 8. I have benefited from Jason's writing and from his service as editor of Sharper Iron book reviews (both as a reader of them and a book reviewer). He will be sharing some fruit from his study on the Psalms - writing original articles as well as pointing us to resources to help us understand and apply the Psalms. I've received a sneak peek, and I am certainly looking forward to what he has to share with us. Here's a little biographical info. on Jason, taken from www.sharperiron.org:

Jason Button received a B.A. in Bible from Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) and has begun work on an M.A. in Theology. He serves as the Book Review Editor for SharperIron and is the creator of TheoSource, a project to compile comprehensive lists of recommended books for Bible study. Currently, he is a layman serving in various roles at West Ashley Independent Baptist Church (Charleston, SC). He is married to Tiffany, and they have two children, Caris Joelle and Asa Livingstone.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Chilling Words: "Peace and Security in My Days"

2 Kings 20 is a chilling passage of Scripture.

In that chapter, Hezekiah, King of Judah, was about to die, but he prayed and God extended his life fifteen years. Presents and an entourage came from Babylon, since the king of Babylon had heard that Hezekiah had been sick. Hezekiah welcomed them and granted them a full tour of his house and realm, including the showing off of treasures. The prophet Isaiah asked Hezekiah what the men had said, where they had come from, and what they had seen. Hezekiah informed him, and then Isaiah prophesied that those things would one day be carried away to Babylon and that Hezekiah's own sons would be taken away and "be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon" (2 Kings 20:18 ESV). After this came the chilling words: "Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, 'The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.' For he thought, 'Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?'" (2 Kings 20:19 ESV)

That Hezekiah, who had demonstrated faithfulness to God and dependence on Him in chapters 18 and 19, could utter such callous words seems incredible. How could he be content for peace and security to be around in his days and not grieve at the coming trouble upon the nation and his own family? He reminds me of folks whose concern about social security is such that they are not concerned about the next generation, so long as things go well with them now. He reminds me of those who are glad for the measure of freedom still present in the United States of America but do not worry about threats that another generation may have to relinquish that freedom. He reminds me of some pastors who serve themselves while neglecting the training of future ministers and the needed ministry of the Word into individual lives because all they care about is themselves. He reminds me of myself when I become so consumed with my agenda that I lose sight of the fact that there are eternal investments I need to be making, and that I do need to care about the future, not just for myself, but forothers who will come after me.

May the Lord grant that we be those who do care about the future generation and live in a way that demonstrates that concern. Here is an incentive for unselfish living and the wise use of our time. Here is an incentive to speak out and work against evils such as the murder of the unborn. But ultimately, the next generation will only reap eternal benefits if they know the Gospel of Jesus Christ and respond to it in repentance and faith. So here is an incentive to be diligent in teaching spiritual truth and modeling it before our children. And here is an incentive to share the Gospel with the unconverted in the hopes that they will know peace and security, not necessarily in this life, but for eternal days in the next one.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The King James Version Only Debate in Light of “The Translators to the Reader”

by Doug Smith

This article first appeared as a two-part series at SharperIron (click for Part 1 and Part 2), entitled “The KJVO Debate in Light of ‘The Translators to the Reader,’” on January 14 and 16, 2008. I have also posted a list of resources related to the KJVO Controversy here.

[Author’s Note: I have provided page numbers for quotations using The Holy Bible: King James Version (1611 Edition. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, n.d.). From the title page: “a word-for-word reprint of the First Edition of the Authorized Version presented in roman [sic] letters for easy reading and comparison with subsequent editions.” I have updated some words with modernized spelling and inserted my own explanatory notes in brackets, however.]

Many of us have been exposed to or embroiled in debates relating to the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible. Is it the only legitimate English translation? Should it be revised? Was it really good enough for Paul? The list goes on. The point of this article is to consider some issues raised by proponents of some form of the King James Version Only (KJVO) position and how those issues were addressed by the translators of the KJV in their preface.[1] The listing below should not be taken as an accusation that all KJVO advocates hold to all of these ideas, but they are ideas that have been advanced by various advocates of a KJVO position.

The KJV, which was translated by committees amounting to 47 men, included an epistle dedicatory (dedicating the work to James I, King of England). Translator Miles Smith penned “The Translators to the Reader.” Unfortunately, this preface is omitted in most, if not all, editions of the KJV today (except for facsimiles and reprints of the original 1611 edition, such as those available from Thomas Nelson Publishers in Nashville, Tennessee, and Hendrickson Publishers in Peabody, Massachusetts). This 11-page, small type, verbose preface may seem irrelevant, but it actually contains much helpful material related to Bible translation in general and much that is applicable to the KJVO debate in particular. Although the KJVO position was not around in their time (although similar arguments had been used for the Septuagint and Latin Vulgate centuries earlier), we can see how the KJV translators would have been likely to respond to certain issues raised by KJVO advocates, with the significant exception of which textual traditions are most reliable (since the wide variety of New Testament manuscripts available now were unknown to them). In addition, it is hoped that this article will stimulate parties of all sides in this debate to actually read, in its entirety, “The Translators to the Readers.” Such time would be well-spent if it resulted in eliminating much of the “zeal without knowledge” that characterizes many KJVO discussions and writings. Let us see how it bears on seven areas of discussion.

1. The Idea of an Inspired or Perfect Bible Translation

The KJV is not the first translation alleged to be inspired or perfect. Some viewed the producers of the Septuagint (LXX) as inspired, calling them prophets, but Smith writes,

It is evident . . . that the Seventy [translators of the Septuagint] were Interpreters, they were not Prophets; they did many things well, as learned men; but yet as men they stumbled and fell, one while through oversight, another while through ignorance, yea, sometimes they may be noted to add to the Original, and sometimes to take from it; which made the Apostles to leave them many times, when they left the Hebrew, and to deliver the sense thereof according to the truth of the word, as the spirit gave them utterance. (p. 4)

Given these words on the Septuagint, it is quite doubtful that the KJV translators would have considered themselves to have produced a perfect work on the level of the prophets.

The KJV translators did not believe that a translation had to be perfect to be designated as the Word of God.

We do not deny, nay we affirm and avow, that the very meanest [most undistinguished] translation of the Bible in English, set forth by men of our profession, (for we have seen none of theirs of the whole Bible as yet) containeth the word of God, nay, is the word of God. As the King’s speech, which he uttereth in Parliament, being translated into French, Dutch, Italian, and Latin, is still the King’s speech, though it be not interpreted by every Translator with the like grace, nor peradventure so fitly for phrase, nor so expressly for sense, everywhere . . . A man may be counted a virtuous man, . . . though he have some warts upon his hand, yea, not only freckles upon his face, but also scars. No cause therefore why the word translated should be denied to be the word, or forbidden to be current, notwithstanding that some imperfections and blemishes may be noted in the setting forth of it. (p. 7)

In regard to using imperfect translations, the Septuagint comes up again.

The translation of the Seventy dissenteth from the Original in many places, neither doth it come near it, for perspicuity [clarity], gravity [seriousness], majesty; yet which of the Apostles did condemn it? Condemn it? Nay, they used it, (as it is apparent, and as Saint Jerome and most learned men do confess) which they would not have done, nor by their example of using it, so grace and commend it to the Church, if it had been unworthy of the appellation and name of the word of God. (pp. 7-8)

So, we even have precedent from the apostles to use imperfect translations, according to the KJV translators.

Furthermore, the KJV Preface discourages us from expecting any post-apostolic translation to be perfect. “For whatever was perfect under the Sun, where Apostles or Apostolic men, that is, men endued with an extraordinary measure of God’s spirit, and privileged with the privilege of infallibility, had not their hand?” (p. 7). The KJV translators themselves evidently did not think they were producing something on the same level as the apostles. Nonetheless, their goal was to produce as excellent an English Bible as they could:

Truly . . . we never thought from the beginning, that we should need to make a new Translation, nor yet to make of a bad one a good one . . . but to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against [i.e., objected to]; that hath been our endeavor, that our mark. (p. 9)

The translators thought that the frequent translation and revision of secular works offered an argument from the lesser to the greater for continual translation and revision of the English Bible: “Now if this cost may be bestowed upon the gourd, which affordeth us a little shade, and which today flourisheth, but tomorrow is cut down; what may we bestow, nay what ought we not to bestow upon the Vine, the fruit whereof maketh glad the conscience of man, and the stem whereof abideth forever?” (p. 7)

2. The Propriety of Modern English for Translations

Some think that the KJV language was inspired and that the Bible does not need to be translated into modern English. But the KJV translators spoke of people of ancient times who “provided Translations into the vulgar [common language] for their Countrymen, insomuch that most nations under heaven did shortly after their conversion, hear CHRIST speaking unto them in their mother tongue, not by the voice of their Minister only, but also by the written word translated” (p. 5). This is the need in our day as well. There is no good reason to continue to advocate an unnecessary language barrier. The KJV translators and their forebears (such as William Tyndale) would argue for a translation in a language that is common enough to be understood. Seventeenth century English usage is not common enough to be understood widely today. Language changes; therefore, updates, revisions, or new translations are necessary from time to time.

3. Marginal Notes—Helpful for Clarification or Harmful by Confusing?

Some allege that marginal notes or footnotes concerning alternate translations and/or textual variants create uncertainty among God’s people, suggesting that we are not sure what exactly God’s Word is and how it should be translated. Therefore, such notes are considered dangerous. But the KJV translators thought differently. The preface states:

There be many words in the Scriptures, which be never found there but once, (having neither brother or neighbor, as the Hebrews speak) so that we cannot be holpen [helped] by conference [comparing] of places. Again, there be many rare names of certain birds, beasts and precious stones, etc. concerning the Hebrews themselves are so divided among themselves for judgment. (p. 10)

So, some words are so rare that marginal notes are needed to give an alternate rendering since the meaning is quite uncertain.

They also argued that an honest uncertainty was far superior to an unwarranted insistence on what might even turn out to be wrong, both in the case of the meaning of a passage and in the acknowledgment of a textual variant.

Now in such a case, doth not a margin do well to admonish the Reader to seek further, and not to conclude or dogmatize upon this or that peremptorily? For as it is a fault of incredulity, to doubt of those things that are evident: so to determine of such things as the Spirit of God hath left (even in the judgment of the judicious) questionable, can be no less than presumption. Therefore as Saint Augustine saith, that variety of Translations is profitable for the finding out the sense of the Scriptures . . . so diversity of signification and sense in the margin, where the text is not so clear, must needs do good, yea, is necessary, as we are persuaded . . . They that are wise, had rather have their judgments at liberty in differences of readings [i.e., alternate translations and textual variants], than to be captivated to one, when it may be the other. (p. 10)

Some allege that marginal notes undermine the authority of Scripture. The translators recognized that

some peradventure would have no variety of sense to be set in the margin, lest the authority of the Scriptures for deciding of controversies by that show of uncertainty, should somewhat be shaken. But we hold their judgment not to be sound in this point . . . Yet for all that it cannot be dissembled, that partly to exercise and whet our wits, partly to wean the curious from the loathing of them for their every-where plainness, partly also to stir up our devotion to crave the assistance of God’s spirit by prayer, and lastly, that we might be forward to seek aid of our brethren by conference, and never scorn those that be not in all respects so complete as they should be, being to seek in many things ourselves, it hath pleased God in his divine providence, here and there to scatter words and sentences of that difficulty and doubtfulness, not in doctrinal points that concern salvation, (for in such it hath been vouched that the Scriptures are plain) but in matters of less moment, that fearfulness would better beseem us than confidence. (p. 10)

So, uncertain places in the text were seen not as occasion to doubt God’s Word, but as grounds to trust His providence and call out to Him for help. These areas in no way threatened to overthrow any established doctrinal point that concerned salvation. Integrity dictated the recognition of passages that were difficult to translate or that contained textual variants. While not specifically referenced in the preface, their marginal note on Luke 17:36 is an example of what many KJVO proponents oppose in modern versions: “This 36. verse is wanting in most of the Greek copies.”

4. The Source for Translations

Instead of translating from the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament (the original languages of the Bible), some have advocated using the KJV as the basis for their translations into other languages. What would the KJV translators have thought?

Smith said, regarding the source of the translators,

If you ask what they had before them, truly it was the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the Greek of the New. These are the two golden pipes, or rather conduits . . . If truth be tried by these tongues, then whence should a Translation be made, but out of them? These tongues therefore, the Scriptures we say in those tongues, we set before us to translate, being the tongues wherein God was pleased to speak to his Church by the Prophets and Apostles. (pp. 9-10)

Prior to the Vulgate, Latin translations of the Old Testament

were not out of the Hebrew fountain . . . but out of the Greek stream, therefore the Greek being not altogether clear, the Latin derived from it must needs be muddy. This moved Saint Jerome, a most learned father, and the best linguist without controversy, of his age, or of any that went before him, to undertake the translating of the Old Testament, out of the very fountain with that evidence of great learning, judgment, industry, and faithfulness, that he had forever bound the Church unto him, in a debt of special remembrance and thankfulness. (pp. 4-5)

So, clearly, the KJV translators believed that one should translate the Bible from its original languages. While a translation from the KJV to another language may be better than no translation at all (so long as it is expressing the teachings of the Bible clearly), it will necessarily be “muddy” in comparison to the translation that could be made from the fountains of Hebrew and Greek.

5. The Existence of the Septuagint

Some KJVO advocates allege that the idea that the Septuagint existed before the time of Christ is a fairy tale. But what did the scholars of the early 17th century say? Smith wrote that

it pleased the Lord to stir up . . . Ptolemy Philadelph King of Egypt, to procure the translating of the Book of God out of Hebrew into Greek. This is the translation of the Seventy Interpreters, commonly so called, which prepared the way for our Saviour among the Gentiles by written preaching . . . the Greek tongue was well known and made familiar to most inhabitants in Asia, by reason of the conquest that there the Grecians had made, as also by the Colonies, which thither they had sent . . . Therefore the word of God being set forth in Greek, becometh hereby like a candle set upon a candlestick, which giveth light to all that are in the house . . . It is certain, that that Translation was not so sound and so perfect, but it needed in many places correction; and who had been so sufficient for this work as the Apostles or Apostolic men? Yet it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to them, to take that which they found, (the same being for the greatest part true and sufficient) rather than making a new, in that new world and green age of the Church, to expose themselves to many exceptions and cavillations, as though they made a Translation to serve their own turn, and therefore bearing a witness to themselves, their witness not to be regarded. (p. 4)

Obviously, the KJV translators believed that the Septuagint existed.

6. Conspiracy Theories

New Age Bible Versions is not the first source to allege a diabolical conspiracy in regard to translations. The KJV was controversial even before its release. The translators heard from those who said, “Hath the Church been deceived . . all this while? . . . ‘Do we condemn the ancient?” They replied, “In no case: but after the endeavors of them that were before us, we take the best pains we can in the house of God’” (p. 6). While one may not agree with all their choices on texts and translation philosophy, producers of many modern versions may be able to sincerely echo the answer of the KJV translators.

7. Does Using a Variety of Bible Translations Unnecessarily Confuse God’s People?

It need not. The translators themselves thought it was profitable to consult a variety of translations.

Neither did we think much to consult the Translators or Commentators, Chaldee, Hebrew, Syrian, Greek or Latin, no nor the Spanish, French, Italian, or Dutch; neither did we disdain to revise that which we had done, and to bring back to the anvil that which we had hammered: but having and using as great helps as were needful, and fearing no reproach for slowness, nor coveting praise for expedition, we have at length, through the good hand of the Lord upon us, brought the work to pass that you see. (p. 10)

The preface looks to early church history for a commendation of using a variety of translations. In the context, this refers to alternate readings in the margin, but based on the principle and on the fact that they utilized many other translations themselves, the KJV translators would think it absurd to only use the Bible they produced. “Therefore as Saint Augustine saith, that variety of Translations is profitable for the finding out the sense of the Scriptures” (p. 10).

Conclusion

The KJV translators may not have the final word on the KJVO debate, but their voices should not be ignored when thinking through these issues. They may not have written their preface by divine inspiration, but their helpful thoughts are worthy of consideration. They certainly reveal how unlikely the translators would be to embrace a KJVO position if they could speak to us in person today. Rather, they would desire to see an English Bible that faithfully conveyed the words of God in today’s vernacular.

Notes

[1] I gladly refer the reader to the following journal article for a more thorough treatment of the KJVO controversy and the KJV Preface. See William W. Combs, “The Preface to the KJV and the KJV Only Position” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, vol. 1, no. 2 (Fall 1996), 253-267. Download for free at http://www.dbts.edu/journals/1996_2/Preface.pdf

[2] F. F. Bruce, History of the Bible in English. 3rd Ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 98.

[3] For a free downloadable version of this document, see “The Translators to the Readers: Preface to the KJV” as printed in the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, vol. 1, no. 2 (Fall 1996), 269-290, available at http://www.dbts.edu/journals/1996_2/KJVPref.pdf

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tuesday Miscellanies – 1/22/2008

I posted a new resource page: online audio resources.

Here are some items that caught my eye this past week:

Timmy Brister interviews Mark Dever on Richard Sibbes (click here for additional info).

Should we endeavor to learn the biblical languages? In a follow-up to his post on “Brothers, Bitzer Was a Banker,” Jason Button posts a testimony called “Brother, Ballard Was a Recovering Alcoholic.”.

Allen Mickle recommends Al Mohler’s new book, Culture Shift.

Al Mohler reviews Thabiti Anyabwile’s book, The Decline of African-American Theology and Tim Challies’ The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.

Highlights from recent Mohler radio programs:

- An interview with Thabiti Anyabwile on his book

- An interview with Mark Dever on evangelism

- An examination of Joel Osteen – Mohler’s conclusion: Osteen isn’t preaching the true Gospel

Justin Taylor posts a video showing what happens in an abortion.

Resource Page – Online Audio Resources

I spend most of my time driving listening to something edifying and instructive. Lately it’s been the Bible on audio CD, but I often listen to sermons and lectures. This is also great if you take your mp3 player when exercising. Below are collections I have come across that have some good content:

Collections:

Faith by Hearing - faithbyhearing.wordpress.com – is a collection of some good resources, and the home of the nice graphic above.

Reforming My Mind (mp3’s) – psalm305.blogspot.com – is the home of Paul Schafer’s work of cataloging messages by various speakers. Very helpful resource.

Sermon Audio – www.sermonaudio.com - contains many good messages and a variety of ways to search them. You probably won’t find any liberals here, but it is a mixed bag as a whole spectrum of conservative churches is included. One neat feature is that they will point out ministries within a certain radius of a zip code, so if you find a sound preacher and are looking for a church or know someone who is, this could be a good place to start!

Ministries and Churches:

The Albert Mohler Program

Chapel messages and lectures at SBTS in Louisville

Capitol Hill Baptist Church (Mark Dever, Michael Lawrence, others)

Desiring God Ministries (There’s tons of stuff here from John Piper, but I especially commend his biographies from the pastors’ conferences.)

First Baptist Church, Pennington Gap, Virginia (Matt Mitchell)

9 Marks Leadership Interviews

Sovereign Grace Ministries (good selection of conference messages by a variety of good speakers)

Together for the Gospel

Free Seminary Course Lectures:

Biblical Training (various evangelical scholars)

Covenant Worldwide (Covenant Theological Seminary)

Reformed Theological Seminary on iTunes

Free Software:

Free audio editing program: Audacity is a great program for recording audio sermons and saving them as mp3s; a lot of flexibility for a free program.

Are there audio resources that you recommend?

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Surprising Incentive for Replacing Sin with Obedience - Others!

All sin is a failure to glorify God (Rom. 3:23). Instead of displaying God's supreme importance, it demonstrates that we would rather be in charge. Sin is so serious that Christ died on the cross to take the punishment of sinners who deserved God's judgment, so that all who trust in Him may be forgiven. Having received this forgiveness, one of the reasons we should hate sin is because it belittles the glory of God.

During our church's monthly men's theology discussion this month, we took on the topic of mortification of sin (killing sin in our lives). One of the men brought up passages that teach that we must not only get rid of sin but replace it with something positive. Another pointed out that there was no such thing as a private sin, that eventually our rebellion works its way out and demonstrates itself, and it has effects on others. This should be no surprise to us, but perhaps we need to be reminded. We are to love God supremely, and then to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:36-40). The Ten Commandments themselves include instructions that explicitly have reference to our dealings with others (particularly the ones detailed in Exodus 20:12-17).

Our sin is inherently selfish, focusing on gratifying our own sinful desires. It does not regard the glory of God and it is dangerous to the true good of others. Perhaps that is why Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit exhorts his readers the way he does in Ephesians 4.

After reminding us to put off the old man (Eph. 4:22) and to put on the new man, Paul reminds us that this new man is created by God "in righteousness and true holiness." So, we are to be living for the glory of God. But notice what follows several of his instructions (I have added underling below):

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. (v. 25 KJV)

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. (v. 28 KJV)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as it fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (v. 29, ESV)

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking [slander, ESV], be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (v. 32)

According to these passages, it is not enough merely to stop these sins. We must go a step further. It will not suffice to stop lying; we must speak the truth and do so because we belong to one another. It is not enough to stop stealing; rather, we ought to work hard so that we can share with others, desiring to be "givers" rather than "getters." Our speech should be more than harmless, it should be positively helpful to others. We must do more than shed malicious attitudes and talk, but should actively show kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness to others since God has forgiven us for Christ's sake.

One area in which we can readily see the relevance of this teaching is that of abortion. This is a sin that obviously harms others, in this case, an unborn child who is completely helpless. We remember that 35 years ago, Roe v. Wade legalized the murder of the unborn. We certainly should desire to see the day come that such an ungodly decision would be overturned. It should figure into our voting. But it is important that those of us who are anti-abortion are also truly pro-life. We should not merely be against abortionists and the decisions of those who choose abortions, but we should positively encourage and help young mothers and young mothers-to-be who are in need. One way of doing this is through donating money, goods, or time to a ministry such as abortion alternatives/crisis pregnancy centers. Another way is by befriending mothers who have unwanted, unexpected and even out-of-wedlock pregnancies, even in our local churches. If we have opportunity to interact with the men involved in such a situation, we should try show them that abortion is not the solution to their "problem." Instead, a man should be a responsible provider for the children he fathers. We certainly ought not to condone sin, but helping someone in need is not always the same as endorsing the actions that got them into that need. We must offer the forgiveness of Christ, who can forgive those who get pregnant outside of marriage as well as those who perform, encourage, or choose abortions. These people should know from our lips and lives the power of God to change a sinner from one who only cares about his or her self to one who truly loves God and others, and to help those who are trusting Him to continue in such a path. It is not enough to be against the killing of the unborn, but we must positively work from a perspective that views children and parenthood as gifts from God.

As we who are followers of Jesus continue to put to death the sin in our own lives, let us consider the danger we pose to others when we disobey God. The poor example others might follow, the harm we might inflict, and the good we neglect should be sober reminders of the ugliness and deceitfulness of sin. May God grant that we replace sinful attitudes and behaviors with mindsets and actions that seek to actively benefit others, so that God would be glorified in our lives and theirs.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Spiritual Formation and the New Media (Part 3 of 3)

 

 

This post is excerpted from Dr. Jim Hamilton's paper, "Spiritual Formation and the New Media: Making Good Use of the Mammon of Unrighteousness," presented at the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in November 2007, and is posted here with his permission. The whole article is available online from a link at this page. Dr. James M. Hamilton, Jr. is the assistant professor of biblical studies, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Houston Park Place Campus, and the preaching pastor at Baptist Church of the Redeemer in Sugar Land, Texas. He is also the author of God's Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old & New Testaments (B&H, 2006). Visit his blog at www.jimhamilton.info.

 

 

Spiritual Formation and the New Media:

Making Good Use of the Mammon of Unrighteousness

 

by Dr. Jim Hamilton

 

 

Part 3 of 3

 

Mind-Renewing Means

 

How, then, do we come to the new media with an attitude that will make good use of the mammon of unrighteousness? The most basic answer to this question is that we must come to our computers seeking to serve the church for the glory of God.

 

First a comment on how we should not pursue this. We should not tolerate any attempt to allow some form of online "community" to take the place of a real, live, local church made up of real, live people whom we actually see face to face. It almost seems absurd that this even has to be written, but Google the words "Internet Church" and you will find that this really is being attempted. Anyone who has participated in the life of a church knows how difficult it is to cultivate the vulnerability and authenticity necessary for church members to walk together in holy intimacy. When we approach this kind of love for one another, we enjoy true community. A church that only meets online will never accomplish this. We were not made to hide behind keyboards and monitors.

 

Followers of Jesus are commanded to make disciples, and this goal has as its end the glory of God. The New Testament program for disciple making is the church. When the New Testament describes people coming to faith, it also describes them being incorporated into the church by means of Baptism. When the New Testament describes people growing in the Lord, the context in which this happens is always a local church. Individual members of the church are members of the body of Christ, united to him by faith, joined to other believers who also enjoy union with Christ by faith. This is the group of people who are to practice the "one another's" of the New Testament.

 

This is why Christians exist: for the glory of God in the church. Everything that Christians do should be somehow related to the ultimate end of serving the church for the glory of God. Is this why you make use of the new media? Is this why you surf the web? Is this what you are looking for as you stare at your screen?

 

The new media will not give us hearts that seek the glory of God through the proclamation of Christ for the transformation of people. We will only come to the internet with the mindset of glorifying God in service to the church if the following is true of us:

 

1) We must be born again. Those who have not experienced the miracle of regeneration are unable to live by faith for the glory of God in service to the church. If, however, by the power of the Spirit we have been made alive (John 6:63; Eph 2:4–5) and given the gift of faith (Phil 1:29; Eph 2:8–9) that comes in the hearing of the word of Christ (Rom 10:17), we have been lifted out of deadness in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1–3) and have a new ability. This new ability allows us to perceive the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor 3:18). Whereas the unregenerate see Christ and the Gospel and perceive it only as folly (1 Cor 2:14), those who have experienced regeneration are taught by the Spirit and enabled to understand the wisdom and power of God in the Gospel (1 Cor 1:24; 2:6–14).

 

2) We must abide in Christ. Jesus tells his disciples in John 15:5 that they can do nothing apart from him. Do we believe this? As he exhorts his disciples to remain in him (15:4–6), he tells them how to remain in him in verse 7 when he refers to his word abiding in them. Insofar as we are conscious of the words of Christ, we are abiding in him. God mediates his presence to us through his word. The word is made active in our hearts by the power of the Spirit. In order to abide in Christ, we must be mindful of his word by the power of the Spirit. It is tragically possible to go, almost instantaneously, from thinking about the Bible to thinking about sin—if we are thinking about the Bible in the power of the flesh. We abide in Christ as we are empowered by the Spirit to proceed through life with the Bible as the frontlet on our forehead, filtering what we see and do, think and say through the word of God.  

 

3) We must be walking in the Spirit. Paul explains in Romans 8 that those who walk according to the flesh will die, while those who walk according to the Spirit will live (8:5–6). We must put to death the deeds of the body, which is dead because of sin (8:10), by the power of the Spirit (8:13). We do this by deriving our understanding of who we are, what life is about, and what we should do with our time from the Bible, taught by the Spirit, and abiding in Christ as we go through our days conscious of biblical reality. This is what it means to walk by the Spirit.

 

Born again people who abide in Christ by remaining in his words and walking by the Spirit will approach the internet and the new media in distinctly Christian ways. The following is only a sample:

 

1) We are not our own. We were bought with a price (1 Cor 6:19–20). We do not live for ourselves but for God (Rom 14:7–8). This means that we do not access the internet and the new media for our own-personal-private-compartmentalized-selfish interests. Rather, we live for God. We think for God. We exist for his glory and the advancement of his Kingdom in the good of his church.

 

2) The fact that we are not our own implies that we do not access the new media merely for our own benefit. We approach these new outlets of information seeking to grow in our knowledge of God and our serviceability to the local body of believers with whom we are seeking to advance God's Kingdom. At least, we should approach it this way. If we ask ourselves whether what we are doing is helping us know God and better serve his people, we might filter out some ways we are failing to redeem time in these evil days (Eph 5:16).

 

3) Our lives have purpose. Jesus commissioned his people to make disciples. The Spirit gifts believers for the common good of the church (1 Cor 12:7). Our task is to discern what we are called to contribute to the glory of God in service to the church. Once we have identified what it is God has given us to do, or how he has called us to serve in his Name, if we know him we will plunge into that task with holy urgency. Preserving this urgency in the long, slow obedience of life's daily grind, not forsaking kindness and patience, is one of the great challenges we face in this life.

 

The church is God's program for spiritual formation, and the new media is a mammon of unrighteousness that can be used for good or ill. Having argued that everything depends on the state of one's soul, how might the internet and the new media be used for glorifying God in service to the church?

 

When we pause to consider the possibilities offered by the new media, we should be astonished at the opportunities it provides. Before I say anything else, though, I begin with the assertion that the internet and the new media, with all their promise, are not the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Spirit, the access to information available through the new media as well as the opportunities it yields to disseminate the truth are only sounding gongs and clanging cymbals.

 

With that caveat, consider where we find ourselves in world history. Never before has it been easier to connect with like-minded people. This connectivity affords mutual encouragement, mutual instruction, mutual benefit. Never before have people been more connected not only to one another but also to truly staggering amounts of information. Google any topic—what formerly required a visit to a library, stacks of books, encyclopedias, journals, magazines, newspapers, and other reference tools—is suddenly on screen. Never before has help in understanding the Bible been easier to access. And it isn't just print media.

 

No longer must one travel to where some brilliant preacher or teacher is expostulating to listen and learn. Many of the most stimulating teachers and preachers in the world today have posted hours and hours of sermons and lectures online. It is possible to allow this availability to cut us off from people, making us less connected to real people, less involved in real churches, and more privatized and selfish. But wise use can be made of these truckloads of information to supplement one's ordinary diet of instruction.

 

The instructional possibilities of the new media hold out profound help for those seeking the glory of God in the church. For those who think that education will cure the ills of society, the new media could be the great hope. For those who know that information is only truly beneficial to the wise in heart, the new media is an opportunity to exercise discretion. Never before has it been possible to be so informed about so many situations across the globe. The wise heart will be spurred to prayer by this information: prayer for those in difficult situations, and prayer for insight to hear wisdom crying out in the streets and on the webpages. Never before has it been so easy to find reliable book reviews and helpful interaction with key ideas. The wise heart will not be bamboozled by this easy access. There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom, just as there is a difference between image and character.

 

Character comes from endurance that grows out of rejoicing through affliction in the hope of the glory of God being revealed. Such character produces hope, which is empowered by the love of God being poured out in the heart by the Holy Spirit whom God has given to us (Rom 5:1–5). We should not look to the new media to produce character. Used wisely, it can strengthen existing character. Those who come to it without virtue are like soldiers without training marching into battle. The fight is not the place to train.

 

If, on the other hand, we come to new media with mortified flesh, mindful of the One who searches minds and hearts, wielding the sharp sword of the Spirit, seeking the glory of God in the up-building of the church, the internet and new media can provide us with many helpful resources that can aid spiritual formation. Everything depends on the state of one's soul. The task of making disciples was given to the followers of Jesus, and it requires teaching everything Jesus commanded. Jesus taught his followers to make good use of unrighteous mammon, and from this teaching we learn how to deal with the new media. Unrighteous mammon does not conform people to the image of Christ. The church is God's program for doing that. Those conformed to the image of Christ, however, will use unrighteous mammon well.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tuesday Miscellanies - 1/15/2008

Locally, I have added two resource pages – links on the KJV Only Controversy and Advice for Bloggers and Blog Readers.

Some other things of note around the web and blogworld:

Thad Noyes has some good advice for you if you are "Already Behind in Your Bible Reading" for this year.

Dustin Benge pleads with pastors to mentor.

Phil Johnson has some thoughts on preaching from 1 Corinthians 1:21-22.

David Prince preached a challenging message in chapel at Southern Seminary on November 15, 2007, entitled, “When the Glory of God Becomes and Idol: Ministry in the Kingdom of Christ” (.mp3 format) and argues that those truly committed to the glory of God will do more than just talk about it with their buddies – they will talk to the kind of people Jesus talked to and be fervent in evangelism. Highly recommended listening!

Thabiti Anyabwile posts a list for reading on evangelism in 2008.

Tom Ascol supplies an excellent quote from John Newton on “zeal blended with benevolence and humility.”

Kevin Bauder is writing a series on “Fundamentalism and Scholarship.” Read: Part 1 - Part 2

Jason Button helpfully interacts with John Piper’s chapter, “Brothers, Bitzer Was a Banker,” (click here for the chapter from the book and here for the original article it was based on) from Brothers, We Are Not Professionals. This resource calls us to be diligent students of the Scriptures, encouraging original language study.

Tim Challies has started a series on the inerrancy of the Bible (see here, here, and here).

Phil Johnson and Dr. Bob McCabe (here, here, and here) have been posting on total depravity.

John MacArthur reminds us that spreading the gospel, not politics, should be our primary concern.

Allen Mickle issues a call for more scholarship in the realm of Baptist history and gives a good example.

Dr. Albert Mohler talks about a change of pronouns in speaking of abortion

Said at Southern has posted an audio message of Martin Luther King speaking at Southern Seminary in 1961.

Owen Strachan shares some reflections on his last day working in the office of Dr. Albert Mohler.

Books

Albert Mohler has a new feature on his blog – “The Reading List” – and one of his earliest posts is a brief but worthwhile review of Mark Dever’s The Gospel and Personal Evangelism.

Trevin Wax gives a brief review of an excellent resource, J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism. Although close to a century old, it is still quite relevant. In it he shows that liberalism and Christianity are two completely different things. This book would be especially helpful for those in nominally Christian colleges and seminaries to read.

Douglas Brown gives a helpful review of Bruce Waltke’s commentary on Genesis.

Is the recently published Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (edited by Carson/Beale) worth getting? (I certainly hope so, as I just ordered it the other day!) Here are some opinions:

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Tomorrow, look for the conclusion of Dr. Jim Hamilton's article on "Spiritual Formation and the New Media: Making Good Use of the Mammon of Unrighteousness" (Part 1 and Part 2). Have a great day!

Resource Page - The King James Only Controversy: Links

The following are resources related to the King James Only Controversy.

Weblinks:

I have written an article on this subject, entitled The King James Version Only Debate in Light of “The Translators to the Reader”

Excellent collection of articles touching on a myriad of claims made by various KJV only advocates (ranging from the seemingly plausible to the ridiculous):

http://www.kjvonly.org

At this site, you can find more resources on this issue, including a pamphlet quoting notable church leaders, pastors, and missionaries in regartd to this issue.

http://www.mountcalvarybaptist.org/pages/resources.aspx?fsId=13&returnUrl=/pages/resources.aspx

Gary E. Gilley has a helpful 2-part series on Bible translations:

Part 1- http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/26-scripture/580-the-bible-translation-debate-part-1

Part 2- http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/26-scripture/581-the-bible-translation-debate-part-2

More on the issue from James R. White's ministry:

http://www.aomin.org/kjvo.html

A number of helpful articles are available from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary's journal website: http://www.dbts.edu/journals/

The Preservation of Scripture by William W. Combs

Errors in the King James Version? by William W. Combs

New Age Bible Versions: Review Article by S. E. Schnaiter

Erasmus and the Textus Receptus by William W. Combs

The Preface to the KJV and the KJV Only Position by William W. Combs

The Translators to the Reader: Preface to KJV

Books:

Roy E. Beacham and Kevin T. Bauder, eds., One Bible Only?: Examining the Claims for the King James Bible

D. A. Carson, The King James Version Debate: a Plea for Realism

James D. Price, King James Onlyism: a New Sect

Paul D. Wegner, The Journey from Texts to Translations: the Origin and Development of the Bible

James R. White, The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations?

James B. Williams and Randolph Shaylor, eds., Form the Mind of God to Mind of Man

James B. Williams and Randolph Shaylor, eds., God's Word in Our Hands: the Bible Preserved for Us

Resource Page - Advice on Blogging and Blog Reading

I hope you will find the following articles helpful if you blog, read blogs, or comment on blogs (or any combination of the three).

Uber-blogger Tim Challies has some helpful tips on blogging here.

Timmy Brister also shared some good thoughts on what makes for quality blogging (here and here).

Trevin Wax has some good practical advice here.

Owen Strachan helps us think about how to glorify God in blogging and how humility relates to this matter.

Ben Wright gives a helpful warning about personal information on the web here.

Dr. Albert Mohler calls for more Christian bloggers to engage the culture.

Abraham Piper shares some good thoughts on reading and commenting on blogs here.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Beginning to Read with M'Cheyne

One of the helpful things about a Bible reading plan like M'Cheyne's is that the reader is immersed in four different areas of Scripture at once. In January, the calendar takes one through Genesis (chapters 1-32), Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (chapters 1-8), Matthew, Mark (chapters 1-3), Acts, and Romans (chapters 1-3).

One of the advantages of this variety is that one may observe the unity of the Bible quicker than consecutively reading through from Genesis to Revelation (although there's nothing wrong with that approach!). My wife and I have thoroughly been enjoying the private readings in our time alone with the Lord and the family readings in our time together. Once or twice a month I would like to post some reflections from one or more readings the calendar includes in that month. These will not usually be comprehensive summaries of the readings, but thoughts on certain key points. In addition, this could be a place where others who are reading through the Bible on M'Cheyne's plan could post comments reflecting on passages from the month.

Right away, the Bible shows us some key things about God and ourselves. God is the uncreated Creator. He is so powerful that He speaks and things come out of nothing. Everytime God speaks, it says "and it was so." He is good and wise and provides habitats and food for his creation. He creates spaces and then fills them. He makes promises and fulfills them (the readings in Ezra, Matthew, and Acts are replete with references to fulfillment). We have a faithful God who creates by His Word and keeps His promises.

He creates mankind out of the dust of the ground. But He makes Adam and Eve "in His image" to reflect His glory, to be fruitful and multiply, and to have dominion over the creation. Yet man rebels and spurns God's warning against disobedience. A curse comes on the earth and life as we know it (marriage, childbearing, and work being affected immediately) is changed forever. Death is now certain for man, and so the genealogies repeatedly say "...and he died," with the exception of Enoch, who walked with God and was taken by Him.

The definition of the kingdom of God advanced by writers like Graeme Goldsworthy and Vaughan Roberts seems to be seen early on in the Scriptures. What they call "God's people in God's place under God's rule enjoying God's blessing" is seen early on. When God created the world and placed Adam and Eve on the earth, they walked with Him in the garden of Eden, obeying Him and enjoying His blessing. But their disobedience changed all that. When deciding to make the rules themselves, they were banished from the garden and life was cursed. Yet there was hope for a return, as the promised seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent one day (Gen. 3:15, the first prophecy of the coming Redeemer, Jesus Christ). The rest of the Bible is about that return to being God's people in God's place under God's rule enjoying God's blessing, and aspects of that theme are present in the other passages of this month.

The story of Abraham is a cornerstone in setting the stage for the drama of redemptive history. Although there were instances and foreshadowings of God's redemptive plan in the early chapters of Genesis (such as the promise of 3:15, the taking of Enoch, and the salvation of Noah's family), things really start to unfold in Genesis 12. God calls Abram (later Abraham) to go into the land that He will show Him and promises to make him a great nation and give him a multitude of descendents. Abram had already started toward Canaan with his father, after they left Ur of the Chaldees, but God appeared specifically to Abram after his father's death to call him to the land. It is quite interesting that the very place God calls Abram from is in the area to which his descendents are later exiled for their disobedience (Chaldea/Babylon).

It is in Abraham, and ultimately, in Christ through whom all the promises of God are yes and amen, that all nations will be blessed. And Matthew recognizes that in the genealogy he gives of King Jesus, as the lineage is ultimately traced back to Abraham. He introduces the King, Jesus, who tells us with divine authority how God's people must live in order to enjoy the fullness of God's blessing (chapters 5-7).

In Ezra, we read of the exiles returning to the land. These were Jews who had been in captivity in Babylon, a consequence for them failing to worship God alone when they were in the promised land. But now God was granting mercy to go back and restore His public worship and live as His people again.

In the second chapter of Acts, we see at Pentecost a reversal of the confusion of languages that took place in Genesis 11, as everyone hears God's Word in their own language. People had been scattered because of their rebellion, but now God was saving people of different languages through the gospel of Jesus Christ. This, of course, is a prelude to the day that God's people from every tribe and tongue will be gathered to praise God in heaven (Rev. 5:9; 7:9).

That leaves us to ponder this question: are we headed toward the promised land of God or toward exile? There are only two ways to live and only two final destinations for eternity. Either we are trusting in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone or we are trusting ourselves. Christ was the God-man who was a sinless sacrifice for sinners, Who rose from the dead and lives forever and who is coming back to judge the world in righteousness. Everyone who trusts Him is accepted by God, but those who reject Him are rejected by God and will be forever banished from God's blessing. While God's people will enjoy His blessing forever in the new heaven and earth, those who reject Christ reject a place in the people of God who lovingly live under God's rule in God's place and enjoy His blessing forever. For those who die without Christ, this life is as good as it gets, because eternal conscious torment in the lake of fire is their destiny. But for those of us who are trusting Christ, this life is the worst it gets. We have much to look forward to in the age to come, and we have much to whet our appetites as we continue to read His Word this year. May this privilege of reading help you and me to live as much as possible as faithful, loving subjects of the King here and now so that we may enjoy Him all the more when we see the kingdom in its fullness.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Spiritual Formation and the New Media (Part 2 of 3)

 

This post is excerpted from Dr. Jim Hamilton's paper, "Spiritual Formation and the New Media: Making Good Use of the Mammon of Unrighteousness," presented at the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in November 2007, and is posted here with his permission. The whole article is available online from a link at this page. Dr. James M. Hamilton, Jr. is the assistant professor of biblical studies, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Houston Park Place Campus, and the preaching pastor at Baptist Church of the Redeemer in Sugar Land, Texas. He is also the author of God's Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old & New Testaments (B&H, 2006). Visit his blog at www.jimhamilton.info.

 

 

Spiritual Formation and the New Media:

Making Good Use of the Mammon of Unrighteousness

 

by Dr. Jim Hamilton

 

 

Part 2 of 3

 

Manifold Misappropriations

 

The greatest danger posed by the internet and the new media is the enemy within the person signing on. I am not referring to some virus or malware that has snuck into us. The enemy within is our own desire for evil. We are prone to pride. We lean into lust. We harbor hatred. We are inclined to self-destructive, God-dishonoring perversions of true pleasure.

 

This means that the most important thing to be vigilant about when signing on is the state of one's own heart. At a computer, alone, it is very easy to forget the members of the local church with whom one is in solemn covenant before the Lord of heaven and earth. When we lose sight of our relational commitments, foremost of which is our consciousness of God, his presence, and our place among his people, our vision becomes blurred and we no longer clearly see the consequences of our thoughts and actions. In such circumstances, it is very easy to become a poor steward of one's time, one's emotional health, and one's virtue, indeed, one's very soul.

 

Anyone who regularly reads weblogs knows the danger of the easy drift into frittering away hours reading about someone else's controversy. At some point a valid desire to be apprised of current events crosses into an irresponsible neglect of one's responsibilities. It is all too easy to abandon the all-consuming task of writing to see if anything juicy has been posted on our favorite blogs, to forsake the long labor over texts in Greek and Hebrew to check email, again, or to allow the window of time for prayer and meditation to be closed by some other new media outlet. We must be good stewards of the time given to us.

 

It is easy, and unrighteous, to make bad use of the time that we do have for the projects on which we are working. I do not think that the apologies made in prefaces to books to the wives and children who were neglected during the writing process make up for time that cannot be recaptured. I suspect that neglected wives and children are not any more impressed with these prefaces than I am. Which is more important: writing a book or managing one's household well? If wives and children must be neglected in order for writing to happen, better for writing not to happen. Sacrifices do have to be made for valid and necessary work to be done. But we are not good stewards of our resources if we exhaust our working hours consuming the ever-available new media and then steal family time from our wives and children to finish our work. If we are in church leadership, we must manage our households well. That simply cannot be done without time. If we are neglecting our wives and children because we are foolishly wasting our time consuming enough news to keep up with the pundits, that neglect will show itself.

 

We should also be wise enough to recognize that there are great books in the world that will elevate the souls of those whose eyes are blessed to pass their pages. These books, by the likes of Homer, Virgil, Augustine, Dante, Luther, Calvin, Shakespeare, Milton, Bunyan, Owen, Edwards—name your favorite—should not be allowed to suffer neglect because we are too busy with our daily blogs. Great readers are made by great books, and those who do not read great books become, as C. S. Lewis put it, "men without chests."[1]  We leave these books unread to the detriment of our own souls, and denying our souls the high thoughts and lyric lines of this literature deprives the church of leaders whose minds would otherwise be lifted above the constant chatter of the chest-less chattel.

 

There was something stable about the news formerly coming at certain times from certain outlets. I can imagine the age now over, one in which the daily paper arrived on the doorstep in the morning book-ended by the nightly newscast after dinner. Before the days of the twenty four hour news network, that was it. Working hours in between two healthy doses of daily doings. Now it is not so, and this transitions us into the perils to emotional health presented by the internet and the new media. Not only is it crouching there on the desk, distraction ready to pounce at the slightest mental difficulty, through it we now have unparalleled access into other people's business. All this access makes it all too easy to be silent gossips, going about from site to site reading and typing things that have little or nothing to do with what we are called to accomplish, things that are not necessary (1 Tim 5:13).

 

And all of this gives our wicked hearts a willing accomplice, one that would serve as a vacuous vanity able to cause virtue to vanish. Not only could we waste our lives reading blogs instead of the lofty thoughts of the best thinkers, being distracted by the daft deluge of daily dither, we could be defiled by the tempting advertisements that fund the new media, whether on the side of the site or popping up when it opens. Come to the web weary, avoiding the day's labor, see the wrong advert, and suddenly an irrational lust ravages the soul.

 

We must recognize our propensity to sin, and if we are not mortifying sin before we open the web-page, we are making provision for the flesh and its lusts.[2]  Whether these lusts are for images of human bodies, for the juicy tidbits of scandals that should not be named, or for the (sick) pleasure of meanness to those with whom we disagree, the internet and the new media will feed us these falsehoods that drip honey but in the end are bitter as gall (Prov 5:3–4).

 

We are sinful people. God is a holy God. He will call us to account for what we have done. Our only hope is the mercy of God in Christ, whose death on the cross satisfies God's justice, whose resurrection seals the justification of those who believe, and whose ascension to the right hand establishes him as the reigning King who will return. This establishes his claim on the allegiance of all men. Those who know God by trusting Christ are further summoned to renew their minds.  

 

Notes

 

[1] See C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man: How Education Develops Man's Sense of Morality (New York: Macmillan, 1947). 

 

[2] A great help in fighting for our lives has been made available by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor, who have edited three classic works by John Owen in Overcoming Sin and Temptation (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006).

 

This series concludes next week.