John 3:16 and limited atonement

Yesterday I wrote about Bible Verses that Simply Can’t Mean What They Say, in response to Elder Eric’s satirical post on the same subject at Tominthebox News Network. I tried to keep what I wrote then in the same humorous vein. But the comment thread on Eric’s post has moved into a serious discussion of the issues I raised, and now I want to take this matter further.

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Some hints for getting rid of congregations

About a year ago I went to a day conference on church growth, here in Chelmsford diocese, by Bob Jackson, Archdeacon of Lichfield. Now Andy Griffiths, my Rural Dean here in Chelmsford South deanery, has posted a link to an online copy (PDF) of Jackson’s notes from a similar talk. The first part of this is serious and excellent material on church growth. The latter part, the slides “some hints for getting rid of congregations” (pp. 17-21) and the spoof church noticeboards (pp. 22-26), are hilarious!

Swimming with sharks and crocodiles

A few weeks ago Lingamish posted on Swimming with sharks, complete with a scary-looking picture of a shark jumping out of the water, supposedly near where he had been swimming in South Africa. But it turns out he never even saw a shark himself, he just got scared of them because of some pictures he saw in a British newspaper. In fact from this photo it looks as if he put on his swimming trunks but didn’t go within a mile of the sea.

This kind of wimpishness wouldn’t have gone down well in Australia where I spent six months in 2002-3. The sea all around the island continent was infested by sharks, but that didn’t stop everyone, including me, from spending as much as they could of the summer in it. The only sharks I actually saw were in an aquarium. But a friend of mine deliberately went diving with sharks, and showed me a video he had taken of his encounters. Apparently they are quite harmless if you know how to react to them: you should swim towards them and hit them on the nose!

Anyway, sharks are nothing to Australian crocodiles. And I went swimming with them as well – once in a place where there was a warning sign but we were assured it was in fact safe, and another time by mistake in a place which was not safe. I didn’t have any close encounters while swimming with them. But I did from a boat. These two pictures – full length photos with a normal lens – are not from a newspaper, I took them myself. Click to see them full size.


These photos are taken on the Adelaide river in the Northern Territory. These saltwater crocs are living in the wild but are fed from tourist boats like the one I was on, in effect trained to jump out of the water to take lumps of meat off a kind of fishing rod. They were so close that I could almost have touched them – but we were warned to keep our hands inside the boat, in case the crocs thought they were lumps of meat being offered to them.

John Hobbins and the Galatian heresy

I admire John Hobbins for attempting to build bridges with observant Jews, as is obviously his intention in this post and several other recent ones. Indeed his attempt has had some success, for the Jew David Guttmann has responded very positively.

Unfortunately I cannot give the same positive response. For John has made the same mistake, and a very serious one, as so many other Christians who have attempted dialogue with adherents of other religions. That is, in an attempt to find common ground with those other people, he has abandoned some of the basics of orthodox Christian teaching.

In John’s case, his error is made clear in the title of his post: Why Torah observance is rightly understood as a means of salvation. The problem is that in Christianity it is not – on any generally understood definition of Torah. John starts his post by claiming that

Most versions of Judaism and Christianity understand Torah as a means of salvation.

But, as I point out in my first comment, this is simply not true of any orthodox version of Christianity, Protestant, Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. Continue reading

Bible Verses that Simply Can’t Mean What They Say

Elder Eric of Tominthebox News Network reports the following:

Asbury Theological Seminary has published a statement that it hopes will assist evangelical churches fend off the increasing threat posed by Calvinism. Asbury, which according to its website “is rooted in the Wesleyan-Arminian theological tradition,” firmly stands against Reformed Theology. In order to stress this point, the faculty recently published a small pamphlet entitled, “72 Bible Verses that Simply Can’t Mean What They Say.”

The report goes on to list these 72 verses.

Not sure whether to believe this one? I’m sure I don’t.

But I can offer the following scoop:

In response to the statement from Asbury Theological Seminary, a spokesman for Tominthebox Reformed Calvinist Theological Seminary issued the following statement:

We are very concerned that our brethren in the Wesleyan-Arminian theological tradition have issued such a long list of “Bible Verses that Simply Can’t Mean What They Say”. We do not accept that any of these verses don’t mean what they say.

But we agree that there are some Bible verses which simply can’t mean what they say. We are currently working on a full list of these verses, but for the moment we will offer just one such verse as a sample:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Clearly this verse cannot mean what it says, for as good Reformed Calvinists we know that God only loves the elect and that eternal life is only offered to these same elect people.

For some reason Elder Eric dissociated himself from these comments, but as I pointed out elsewhere Calvin himself would not have accepted his arguments.

Meanwhile Doug Chaplin has this irreverent thought (his words) about the following verse, John 3:17:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world — he’s going to have a church to do that.

Rowan Williams remembers Charlie Moule

A few months ago I reported the death of Prof Charlie Moule, whom I had known when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge and he was a distinguished professor.

I thank Doug Chaplin for reminding me that Charlie’s memorial service took place recently, on Saturday 9th February in Cambridge. The preacher was Archbishop Rowan Williams. This was at the height of the recent sharia law controversy, and it was after this service that Williams was briefly heckled, but he made no mention of that subject on this occasion. (I will resist the temptation to bring in connections between that subject and this memorial service, out of respect for Moule.)

Doug has provided a link to what Williams did say at this service: a moving tribute to his former tutor. Doug provided some extracts; here I make my own partially overlapping selections from the address. Continue reading

Bible Translation as Bilingual Quotation

In recent months I haven’t blogged much about Bible translation, either here or at Better Bibles Blog. This doesn’t mean that I have been entirely silent on the subject. In the last few days I have been commenting actively on a recent post on this subject by John Hobbins, where I have been arguing that The Message may be “the closest thing we [English speakers] have to a DE translation for adults”.

Mike Pritchard of Zondervan has sent me a link to a post at the Zondervan blog which recommends a paper by Karen Jobes Bible Translation as Bilingual Quotation, a PDF download. Wayne Leman has also recommended this paper, at BBB and at TNIV Truth (it looks rather odd that he gave a hat tip to himself!), and John Hobbins has posted his own comments on the paper. Here I will weigh in with my own evaluation.

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St John's Shaughnessy leaves the Anglican Church of Canada

Last November I wrote two posts about St John’s church, Shaughnessy, in Vancouver, the largest congregation in the Anglican Church of Canada, and its controversial Rector David Short. Today the news has broken that this church, of which J.I. Packer is a member, has voted overwhelmingly to leave the official Anglican Church and affiliate to the Province of the Southern Cone. This decision is hardly a surprise, given that Short is a director of the Anglican Network in Canada which has as a whole affiliated to the Southern Cone, and Packer has given a presentation supporting this move. Nevertheless it is significant that the congregation has overwhelmingly accepted their position, even under the threat of legal action from their diocese to appropriate their church buildings.

Thanks to Michael Daley and Anglican Mainstream for the tip.

Archbishop Rowan and the Centaur

Essex vicar Paul Trathen offers an interesting image, apparently his own photograph:

“a Lapith pinned by an aggressive Centaur”, as portrayed in a marble from the Parthenon in Athens, currently in the British Museum. This could have made a good caption competition, but Paul has already offered his interpretation of it as relating to Archbishop Rowan Williams: Continue reading

A Revelation 13 government?

Ruth Gledhill reports an amazing statement by Bishop Graham Dow of Carlisle, at a meeting in connection with the Church of England’s General Synod. The bishop reportedly said:

I happen to believe that our Government is moving into the realm of imposing its morality and it has therefore become a Revelation 13 Government rather than a Romans 13 Government. In the view of the Book of Revelation, the Roman Empire had become a demonic beast and was imposing its morality.

When asked for clarification by Riazat Butt, the Muslim woman who is the new religious affairs correspondent of The Guardian newspaper, Bishop Dow expressed his surprise that press correspondents were present. But they had been invited. It seems that Rowan Williams is not the only bishop who needs some elementary lessons on handling the media.

But what of the bishop’s suggestion? We mustn’t forget that when Paul wrote Romans 13 the Roman empire was already much more repressive than any modern western democracy and strongly imposed its morality and religious practices on the whole empire. Our British government is in some ways moving in a bad direction, but it has a long way to go before it matches Romans 13, let alone Revelation 13. It is surely not helpful in a situation like this to throw around words like “demonic”, even in meetings which are thought to be private.