Jim West, Miley Cyrus and the Wrath of God

Miley CyrusIn case of any misunderstanding, just because last week I awarded myself one of Jim West’s Dilly awards, that doesn’t mean I agree with his latest Dilly winner, Miley Cyrus.

But maybe she is not quite as wrong as Jim suggests. In another post he writes:

‘The wrath of God consists in God’s not stopping or rescuing people in their wrongdoing.’  – Arland Hultgren

That is, the wrath of God is God allowing people to reap what they sow.  In short, the worst thing that can happen to you is, well, you.

I’m not sure that is quite the whole story, but it is certainly a large part of it.

But if Miley Cyrus takes Jim’s advice

take a few minutes to look at Romans 1:24ff

and reads it in the light of this view of the wrath of God, and also reads the preceding context starting at verse 18, she just might find that this passage doesn’t condemn gay marriage as clearly as Jim seems to assume it does.

Better a universalist than a Calvinist

Roger E. OlsonRoger Olson asks How serious a heresy is universalism? Universalism, the belief that everyone will be saved, has been a popular topic of Christian discussion since Rob Bell was wrongly accused of it. Olson makes it clear that he considers universalism to be a heresy. But he concludes that there are different versions of universalism and some are more seriously in error than others.

He also makes it clear that he considers universalism, at least in some versions, to be a less serious error than Calvinism – or at least than some versions of Calvinism. He writes:

I’m not a universalist.  On the other hand, I’d rather be a universalist than a true Calvinist (i.e., a five point Calvinist who believes in double predestination).

Someone once asked me whether I would still worship God if somehow I became convinced the Calvinist view of God is correct.  I had to say no.  Sheer power is not worthy of worship.  Only power controlled by love is worthy of worship.

If somehow I became convinced that universalism is correct, would I still worship God.  Yes, but….

I would have to wonder how a God of love can enjoy love from creatures that is not given freely.  Of course, someone might argue that, in the end, every creature will freely offer love to God and be saved (e.g., Moltmann).  I would just call that optimism.  There’s no way to believe that true other than a leap of optimistic hope.

Indeed. Universalism born from optimistic hope may be unrealistic but it is not a serious heresy. Believing in a God who condemns most people to everlasting torment without offering to them the grace they would need to be saved is a serious heresy because it turns the God of love into a monster. Like Olson, I could never worship a God like that.

But read the rest of Olson’s post before condemning him.

Goodbye John Stott

John StottI would like to join many other bloggers and writers in offering my final respects to John Stott, who died a few days ago. I was too busy moving house to write anything immediately. But I don’t want to leave his passing unmarked.

John will long be remembered for his well balanced Christian wisdom and for his important part in reinvigorating British evangelicalism in the second half of the 20th century. I have nothing else to add to what I wrote only three months ago for his 90th birthday.

There is much more to read about him available on the Internet.

Dan Wallace concludes by strongly endorsing NIV 2011

Dan Wallace contra mundaneDan Wallace has now completed his four part review of NIV 2011.

Last week I posted here about part 1 of the series. I now regret describing it as “excellent”, as I later discovered some serious issues with Wallace’s history of Bible translation, most noticeably the way in which he silently ignored all dynamic equivalence translation.

Then I posted at Better Bibles Blog about part 2. Since Wallace says that literal translations “will inevitably be uneven and inaccurate” and ignores dynamic equivalence translations, it is not surprising that he expresses a quite a strong preference for the mediating style of translation of NIV.

Nevertheless, given Wallace’s reputation as a strong complementarian, I expected part 3 of the review to start with a big “but” concerning gender language. I would not have been surprised to see something like Denny Burk’s condemnation. But the matter of gender was ignored, apart from the following:

At bottom, I think the gender issue has been overblown by people who have reacted to what they thought the TNIV would say, long before it was published, and the same attitude has carried over to the NIV 2011—even though for both translations it is difficult to find passages where they are at fault.

The serious issues I do have with part 3 relate to the way in which Wallace appears to commend translation into odd English. As I wrote in a comment at BBB, he practically identifies strange syntax, memorability and elegance:

the language [of NIV 2011] is so much closer to the way people speak today than just about any other bona fide translation that it is not memorable. … The KJV reigned supreme on memorability (or elegance) …

Well, as foreign hotel signs often demonstrate, any fool with a dictionary can write translated sentences which are so odd that they are memorable, but does that imply that they are elegant?

Then part 4 Wallace concludes that NIV 2011, while not being perfect, is one of the “gems” among translations:

for readability, the NIV 2011 has no peers. … As with the handful of other exceptional translations, the NIV 2011 definitely should be one that the well-equipped English-speaking Christian has on his or her shelf, and one that they consult often for spiritual nourishment.

I would not describe what Wallace wrote as a gem of a review. But I am encouraged by his conclusions. Here is a major complementarian leader not just being lukewarm about NIV 2011 but giving it a strong endorsement. I hope this will help many people to stop fighting the battles of the 1990s, as Denny Burk is still doing, and to unite around this generally excellent new edition of NIV.

Apologies for broken links

Broken linkI would like to apologise to my readers for some broken links from one post to another on this blog in the last few days. The problem is with links from before I set up the separate Gentle Wisdom domain in 2009. Old links of the form http://www.qaya.org/blog/?p=nn are not working. They can be made to work by changing the link to http://www.gentlewisdom.org.uk/?p=nn.

This is, I hope, a temporary problem. It has come about because I moved the domain registration for qaya.org to the same company which hosts my blog and manages the registration for gentlewisdom.org.uk.

For those interested in the technicalities, the old registrar had no problem redirecting qaya.org/blog/ to gentlewisdom.org.uk/qaya/blog/, which then redirects to gentlewisdom.org.uk/. The new registrar claims that this cannot be done, and that I cannot even redirect all traffic for qaya.org to qaya.gentlewisdom.org.uk (which redirects as wanted), without purchasing a separate hosting package for qaya.org. This is despite their clear advertising domains to be registered as aliases for other domains. For the moment I am not naming and shaming the hosting company in the hope that they find a solution. At the same time I am working on my own independent solution.

Meanwhile blogging here is slow as my wife and I are in the process of moving home, for the moment back to Chelmsford, Essex, where we were living last year.

Proud to be a Montanist and a Jim West heretic

TertullianJim West writes about me:

he loves being a Montanist, a heretic.

Yes, I am proud to identify myself with the Montanists, a much maligned prophetic movement in the early church, but one which was never formally declared heretical. The great Church Father Tertullian joined this movement, while remaining a member of the Catholic church.

I am also proud to join such luminaries as Rick Warren, Rob Bell, Joyce Meyer and, yes, Todd Bentley in the admittedly not very select band of those Jim has publicly called heretics.

But I am confused. Not so long ago (well, it is three years) I wrote that Jim West endorses Todd Bentley, in the following words (but the quote is from Jim’s now deleted old blog):

I had intended to take a break from blogging about Todd Bentley. But I can’t resist this quote, which appears to be genuine, from Jim West:

you can learn as much from benny hinn and todd bentley as you can the ‘fathers’ (with the singular exception of Jerome …)

So Todd’s and Benny’s teaching is as valuable as that of the “Fathers” of the church? Why, I thought I was praising Todd rather highly in comparing him with Jesus and Paul, but I was only saying that he was trying to follow their example. I would never have dared to compare Todd’s teaching with that of any of the respected theologians of the church. But Jim West seems to value Todd and Benny above such towering figures as Tertullian, Origen and Chrysostom. High praise indeed!

Surely Jim can’t have changed his mind about Todd?

But since Jim also calls me “a dilettante of the first order”, why hasn’t he given me a Dilly award?Dilly the Dilettante

@ESVDaily Bible verse: abusing Scripture with Twitter

ESVMy Twitter home page invites me to join 22,583 followers of ESV Daily Verse. No, thank you. This service would send me just one Bible verse each day, out of context. It jumps around the Bible – recently in Proverbs, Deuteronomy, Lamentations and Mark in four successive days – with no sign of day to day coherence. This abuse of Scripture encourages the worst kind of proof texting, the basis of all kinds of theological errors. Crossway, publishers of the ESV Bible and apparently also of this Twitter feed, ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Twitter encourages us all to reduce our thoughts to 140 character soundbites. It is a useful service for distributing titles and links – this is how I use the account @Gentle_Wisdom. But content snipped to the length of a tweet tends to be as meaningless as a bird’s tweet.

Long term readers of Gentle Wisdom will remember that I have various issues with ESV, as with other literal Bible versions. Some of these issues relate to the way in which its translation choices are justified by proof texting. But my point here is not against ESV as a translation. Other versions could be presented in just the same way on Twitter. Indeed very likely they already are. But my objections would be the same.

Shopping for a church which accepts gifts

Roger MugsRoger Mugs writes, in a post Church Shopping:

I hear a complaint frequently about church goers. Mostly it comes from the leadership of churches when they have people come in and out of their congregation while “church shopping.” I’m not sure who coined this term, but the church goer sees it as a necessary thing to find a church which suits them, and the pastors see it as a bad/sinful thing motivated from unbiblical American consumerism. Afterall, the church isn’t about what the individual can get from the church, they’ll say, but rather what the individual can give to the church.

Roger continues with his own interesting observations on this phenomenon. But I would like to offer a different one. Yes, I’m sure that some people go church shopping looking for “what the individual can get from the church”, and I agree with Roger’s criticism of this. But others, like myself sometimes in the past, go church shopping for “what the individual can give to the church”. After all, if one wants to give something, is it not right to shop around to find a worthy recipient of one’s gift, someone who can be trusted to put it to good use?

Even more to the point is that one needs to find a recipient who will actually accept one’s gift. If a church wants to keep the people who visit it on their church shopping trips, it needs to work on receiving what they have to give. I don’t mean their material offerings – most churches are quick to accept these from visitors. I mean the natural abilities and spiritual gifts, and the time and energy, which these people may have to offer to the fellowship. Too many churches let “lay” people simply sit in their pews and don’t show any interest in what they can give to the body. The same pastors who complain that “the church isn’t about what the individual can get from the church” often don’t give individuals the opportunity to do anything else. No wonder people tend to look around until they find a place where they and their gifts are appreciated.

Dan Wallace on NIV 2011 and English Bible history

Dan Wallace contra mundaneAt Reclaiming the Mind Dan Wallace offers part 1 of a review of NIV 2011. This first part is in fact a review of the history of English Bible translations, mostly from 1885 to the present day. In general this is the kind of excellent work one would expect from Wallace. See also my brief post at Better Bibles Blog.

There are, however, some small points which I could take issue with. Specifically, concerning the NRSV rendering of 1 Timothy 3:2, Wallace writes:

The text now sounds like Paul would allow women to be elders/bishops, but that seems to be a case of historical revisionism.

I realise that this is a very brief statement of what many scholars including Wallace have argued elsewhere in great detail. Indeed I discussed this same phrase in detail in a six part series here at Gentle Wisdom, five years ago. But I don’t think Wallace’s passing comment should be allowed to pass without comment from me. Firstly, there is no real evidence that Paul would not allow women to be church leaders, as a general rule rather than in the specific situation of this letter (2:11-12). Secondly, if, as Wallace concedes might be true, the Greek phrase here means simply “married only once” without specifying gender, then it would be wrong to translate it with a phrase which does specify gender.

I look forward to the other three parts of the review, which will presumably appear soon at the same place. I expect that Wallace will have something to say about gender language in NIV 2011, and I will very likely respond to that.

Newfrontiers elder condemns Driscoll, Virgo silent

What Mark Driscoll wrote on Facebook a week or two ago was shameful. Indeed even Driscoll himself seems to have realised this it was inappropriate, as, without apologising properly, he has admitted “I need to do better” and “I’ve erred”. Indeed about the only person who has mentioned Driscoll recently without condemning his words was Terry Virgo of Newfrontiers.

Among those who defended Virgo in comments here, perhaps out of loyalty to their leader, was Newfrontiers elder David Matthias, otherwise known as Blue, with a hint of amber. So it is good to read in David’s latest blog post a clear condemnation of Driscoll’s words, and of his failure to say “Sorry”.

It would have been better still if Terry Virgo had written at least a little of the same, on his blog (now working again) or in any of the his dozen or so tweets since his one about Driscoll. Then perhaps other Newfrontiers members would understand that their complementarian position is not a licence to express sexist or homophobic sentiments. And maybe even outsiders like Dave Warnock might start to be convinced that they are serious in wanting to welcome radical feminists.