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August 15, 2008

On Wednesday evening I was coaching first base when, from behind me, I overheard a chat between two of the parents from other team. “That first baseman was so nice. He would tell our guys, ‘Nice hit!’ even though he is on the other team. What a nice boy!” With just a bit of pride I smiled, knowing they weren’t talking about just any first baseman; they were talking about my boy.

It was a bit of a tough season for Nick. It started off well enough, with him collecting a few hits over his first couple of games. This year his team was facing a pitching machine flinging the balls at 40 miles per hour. It was a big adjustment from the year before when the boys saw nothing more than soft tosses from their own coaches. But once they made the adjustment, they began to hit well. I worked hard, with the other coaches, to help them work on their swings and by the end of the season we saw some remarkable progress. But Nick struggled. Around the mid-point of the season our team was playing the Red Sox when one of their players, a friend of Nick’s from school, was hit by an errant pitch (though, honestly, the machine threw it straight—it was the kid who stepped in front of the plate and hence in front of the pitch). There was no great damage done to the boy, but something clicked in Nick’s mind and he determined that the machine was out to get him. For the rest of the season he struggled to hit, subconsciously stepping away from every pitch, obviously worried that he would be hit as well. He collected a few hits through the rest of the season but mostly he flailed away, striking out time and again.

We prayed with him a lot. We assured him that God cares even for things as silly as little league baseball. We did not want him to become too discouraged with striking out and prayed that God would let him hit, at least occasionally. Nick is an above average fielder and loves playing defense. He often wished that his team could have a designated fielder just like American League teams have a designated hitter. But if he wanted to play, he would have to bat. And so he did, facing that machine three or four times every game. Mostly he struck out.

If Nick became discouraged, he did not often let it show. The boys on the team would occasionally tease him about his inability to hit, but he would brave it out. He was the boy on the team with the best head for the game and he was the one with the most enthusiasm. While his teammates were goofing off behind the bench, Nick was cheering for the one at bat and the one or two on base. When the boys came off the field after striking out, Nick would give them a high five and tell them, “Nice try!” He cheered the loudest and the longest. But still he struck out.

With only a couple of weeks left in the season, the head coach announced that he was going to hand out three team awards. He wanted the boys to vote for one another to decide who would win the award for the Most Valuable Player, the Most Improved and the Most Sportsmanlike. He gave no stipulations—just that the boys could not vote for themselves and that they had to realize that these awards meant a lot because they came not from the coaches or the parents but from the boys themselves.

Wednesday’s game was a tough one. It was the last game of the season and one we would need to win to have any hope at all of making the playoffs. Even then it was a long shot. The boys played well but faded at the end, unable to hold off a stronger offense. Twice Aileen heard boys on our team making fun of Nick, laughing at him or calling him names for his inability to hit. Twice Nick choked back tears and put a brave face on, continuing to cheer for his teammates.

At the end of the game, a loss, the coach handed out the awards. The MVP went to the obvious candidate—a boy who was our best hitter and among our most skilled fielders. The Most Improved went to a boy who had a lot of trouble throwing and catching at the beginning of the season but, who by the end, was hitting regularly, making solid contact; his fielding had improved significantly as well. And then it came time for the Most Sportsmanlike award. I’m not one of those parents who values sportsmanship above all else; I don’t adhere fully to the “as long as we all have fun” philosophy. I figure that if we are going to play sports, we ought to try our hardest and do our best. If I held to the “as long as we all have fun” philosophy in web design, I would not run a successful business! When Nick plays baseball, I expect that he will give it his best effort. Yet sportsmanship matters. It is the award that reflects character more than skill. And as a Christian parent, I value character much more highly than skill.

TrophySure enough, when the coach announced the winner, he announced Nick’s name. Taunting comments were forgotten, at least for a few minutes, as Nick accepted his trophy and accepted applause from his team, his coaches, and the parents. Though his teammates may have made fun of him at times, they had to acknowledge his love for the game, his loyalty to his team, and his character. As we walked off the field and headed home, Aileen and I told him how proud we were. We told him that we would much rather have a son who shows character—who stands brave in the face of trials and who is encouraging to his friends—than a kid who can hit the ball all over the diamond (though we wouldn’t complain if he could do both!).

It was a tough year for my boy, but a good one in which he showed a lot of growth. As Aileen said afterward, Nick is learning a skill, and that is being encouraging teammate with a good attitude and strong character. And really, that is going to get him a lot further in life than hitting a baseball out of the park. Of course this won’t keep us from spending some time in the batting cages during the off-season…

August 04, 2008

It is a holiday in most parts of Canada today. It is known as the “Civic Holiday” throughout the nation and may have other names assigned locally (such as “Simcoe Day” in Toronto). It is one of those holidays that seems to have been created mostly just for the joy of having a summer day away from the office. We’re not complaining. We’ve decided to make this a quiet day and we have no plans to run to any of the area’s tourist attractions, the only kind of businesses that will be open today.

Last week we actually made a rare venture to one of these spots. Marineland is Canada’s answer to SeaWorld. It combines roller coasters and rides with dolphins and whales. After riding the coasters and ferris wheels you can feed the bears and watch the dolphin and whale shows. (You can buy Corn Pops to feed the bears—throwing it down on them from about 15 feet up. Poor bears) It’s a fair bit of fun as it needs to be when it costs a family of four $160 to get in. I had no intention of riding the roller coasters or going on any of the rides. But we had a young Aussie guy hanging out with us for a few days and he wanted to ride a coaster—the world’s largest steel roller coaster, apparently. I told him I’d walk with him to the start of the ride to gauge how long the wait was going to be. After I walked all the way up there I was feeling too prideful to walk the pathway back, with all the people no doubt laughing at me as if I’d been too scared. So I rode the ride after all and even enjoyed it a bit. But my favorite part of the day was watching those whales and dolphins performing. It is amazing to me that with nothing but a whistle and a hand signal, humans can make whales and dolphins and seals and walruses and just about any other animal do the craziest things.

Throughout the summer those of us who attend Grace Fellowship Church have been enjoying a summer series on the book of James. The pastor’s assistant Julian is preaching in the absence of our pastor who is on sabbatical. In the last couple of weeks we’ve been studying the well-known words of James 3. “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” I couldn’t help but think of those words as I watched the whales jump and splash and kiss spectators. And I couldn’t help but think of those whales as we read the words in church yesterday morning. Human ingenuity has taught us to tame even whales so we can climb into a pool and swim with them and so with nothing more than a whistle we can make animals so much vastly bigger and stronger than we are do our bidding. And yet, as we saw those whales obey the command to splash the crowd, we heard swearing and cursing; we saw people lashing out in anger and frustration. Everywhere we looked we saw the evidence that James is exactly right.

Every beast and bird, every reptile and sea creature can be tamed. But that tongue remains a “restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

August 03, 2008

It was been far too long since I’ve had a new King for a Week around here. King for a Week is turning into King for a Month or more. Somehow it just seems to skip my mind. But today, because of the insistence of some friends and their reminders that I really do need to update this feature, I’m nominating a new King for a Week. If you’re new to these parts you should know that King for a Week is an honor I bestow on blogs that I feel are making a valuable contribution to my faith and the faith of other believers…or sometimes just because I really like them. It is simply a way of introducing my readers to blogs that they may also find interesting and edifying. Every now and again I select a blog, link to it from my site, and add that site’s most recent headlines to my right sidebar. While this is really not much, I do feel that it allows me to encourage and support other bloggers while making the readers of this blog aware of other good sites.

The new King for a Week is Take Your Vitamin Z, a blog owned and operated by Zach Nielsen. The blog is something like a Jr. version of Justin Taylor’s Between Two Worlds, but with a greater range or variety in the articles. Zach scours the Internet and finds all kinds of interesting articles to point to. They range from theology to music, from comedy to consumerism. I try to check his headlines each morning before I post A La Carte as I often glean some interesting news from his blog. He has a ridiculous man-crush on John Mayer, but if you can see past that, I’m sure you’ll come to enjoy his blog as I have.

In the coming days (and/or weeks) you will be able to see the most recent headlines from this blog in the sidebar of my site. I hope you will make your way over to look around.

July 08, 2008

As I continue reading through Waltke’s Old Testament Theology I continue to dig up pure gold. Today I’ll share yet another example.

In one of the earliest chapters Waltke writes about man’s fall into sin and discusses “the shape of temptation.” Here he shows how Satan’s original act of temptation is an archetype or sorts. All of the temptation that would follow through the long line of human experience would mimic this one. Satan tempted the second human being in the same way he tempts the 20 billionth (or whatever I happen to be). As I read this portion of the book and reflected on it, I could see that this really is the model of temptation. It is not just Satan who works in this way, though, but all human beings. We are prone to following Satan in luring others into sin in the same way.

Here are five steps to leading someone into sin.

Be a theologian. There is little doubt that Satan is a theologian, and a skilled and outspoken one at that. He has had a very long time to study God and, as a leader among angels, once enjoyed free access to Him and close communion with Him. Satan knows God and knows about the character of God. But unlike the theologians we seek to be, Satan is a theologian who despises God with every bit of his being. When he turns to Eve and says, “Did God really say…?” he brings Eve into a dialogue that opens her mind to a new realm of possibility, one she would not have thought of on her own. He knows God well enough to know what God has said and done.

But there is more. Satan is not only a student of God but also of men. From the moment God first spoke of man, Satan must have been watching and observing. Knowing that man was the crown of creation, Satan was surely looking for an opening, a way to destroy this jewel. He became a student of the ways of men. As a theologian, a psychologist and an anthropologist, Satan has unique skill at leading men astray.

Turn commands into questions. Satan takes the command of God and rephrases it as a question. “Did God really say?” What was a clear statement suddenly becomes hazy. Posing as a theologian he asks, “Are you sure about this, or is this only Adam’s testimony as to what God said? Are you sure? How do you know? Is this really a command? Can we discuss this a little bit? Is it possible that you misinterpreted what God said? Is it possible that there is some context here we’ve ignored?” Waltke says, “Within the framework of faith, these questions are proper and necessary, but when they are designed to lead us away from the simplicity of childlike obedience, they are wrong.” And so we see Satan raising questions of interpretation and authority necessarily designed to create doubt and confusion and to lead away from the simplicity of a childlike obedience.

Emphasize prohibition over freedom. Satan carefully and deliberately distorts, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden” into “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” He overlooks the great freedom God gave Adam and Eve and instead overstates the one prohibition. He gets Eve to focus on the prohibition rather than the gift and the freedom. Instead of focusing on the Tree of Life, from which she was free to eat, and on the millions of other trees available to her, Satan got her to focus her heart on that one tree from which she was not allowed to eat. And Eve began to focus not on what she had been given, but on what had been forbidden. And suddenly nothing but what was forbidden could satisfy her.

Doubt God’s sincerity and motives. Satan casts God’s motives as self-regard rather than love. “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He convinces Eve that God is limiting her, that He is not giving her the full measure of humanity. He is holding back, reserving for Himself things that she deserves to know and to experience. As Waltke says, we hear this message all around us today. “Be liberated! Be free! Self-actualize! Unleash your inner potential! The Serpent’s message even echoes in the church. Instead of sanctification, the church seeks self-improvement. Instead of holiness, the church seeks happiness.” When you hear such things, you can rest assured that the Serpent is once again at work seeking to convince you that you need to be something other than what you were created to be.

Deny what God says is true. In the final step, Satan flatly denies what is true. “You will not surely die.” The fruit of all of the doubt and the resentment is unbelief. If God’s words happen to hinder us from becoming what we want to be or from doing what we want to do, Satan convinces us that we can safely ignore them. In the church today many people de-emphasize sin because it may hinder the quest for self-actualization or it may make people feel guilty or damage their self-esteem. “Sadly many evangelical churches are in the process of buying into a guilt-free, pain-free, judgment-free gospel.”

In the face of such temptation, the woman yields to Satan’s denials and half-truths. “Having stripped Eve of her spiritual defenses, Satan’s work is done.” Without God, the decision will be made purely on the basis of pragmatism, of what works best to bring about the desired end, on the basis of aesthetics, of what is beautiful, and on the basis of self-improvement, of what will bring her supposed wisdom. It is only one short step from here to outright disobedience.

And so Satan works through questioning, doubt, focusing on what is forbidden and finally on outright denial of the truth. And Eve is only the first to be drawn in and to succumb to the temptation. Every one of us has fallen for the same old trap. If you think of your own life, I’m sure you will think of examples where this pattern was used against you, perhaps just in your own thoughts or perhaps in a book you have read (and there are many books in the bookstores, both Christian and non- where this same pattern is used). Satan’s first tactic worked so well that I don’t think he has ever felt it necessary to modify it too much. The shape of temptation has not changed.

July 07, 2008

Imagine, for a moment. You wake up one morning and, as you stumble downstairs to grope for the coffee maker, you notice that the front door of your house is wide open, the brisk morning air blowing into the room and clearing your mind just a little bit. You stare at the door for a moment to process the fact that it is open. Your first thought, of course, is for your family. You race upstairs and throw open the door of your son’s room. He is lying peacefully asleep. Breathing a prayer of thanks you cross the hall, opening the door to your daughter’s room. Her blankets are in a heap beside the bed, her nightlight on, but she is nowhere to be seen. Frantically you search the house, calling for her, begging her to answer you. But she is gone.

Before you can pick up the phone to dial 911, it rings. You answer it before the second ring and discover that it is a reporter from a local newspaper. He awoke this morning to find a strange package on his front doorstep. Opening it, he found that it contained a warning that someone had taken your daughter. A letter detailed a series of steps you would have to take if you ever hoped to see her alive again.

The reporter begins to read the letter, but you shout, “I don’t have time for this! Just give me a summary!” Or do you? Of course not! It would be ludicrous for you to do anything but ask him to read the letter slowly and with dead accuracy. You would not want the summary but would want to hear and understand and ponder the kidnapper’s every word. You would not want his understanding of the kidnapper’s demands, but would want to hear the words yourself so you could come to your own understanding. Only then might you ask for his understanding of it. You would want to know, study, understand and follow every detail of that letter.

Words, it seems, are important. This applies not only to series of words, but to individual words. We see the importance of words all the time in legal documents, recipes, love letters, interviews and quotations. Think of a courtroom. Even if you have never been involved in a court case, you may have seen cases tried on some of the court shows like People’s Court or Judge Judy. Maybe you took time off work to watch the O.J. Simpson trial. When a lawyer or judge asks a person to recount the details of a case, does he allow the person to provide a summary, or does he dig deeper and demand the exact words and phrases that were used? It is not enough for a person to testify that “the defendant threatened my life.” The judge will demand to know the exact words the defendant used. Did he say, “Give me your purse or I’ll kill you?” or did he say, “Give me your purse or else…?” In either case there was a threat, but only one can be accurately shown to be a threat against the person’s life. The other was merely interpreted to be so. In this instance it may or may not be the case.

Whether following instructions to find one’s daughter or standing before a court in an attempt to put an assailant in prison, individual words play an important and even crucial role. It strikes me as odd, then, that though we place such importance on individual words in so many areas of life, we are so willing to read translations of the Bible that, in many ways, are mere summaries of the actual words. If we agree, and I’m sure most of us do, that there are no words more important than those written in Scripture, why do we read versions of it that make a mockery of the words that were breathed out by God?

Consider just a couple of quick examples. Romans 13:4 discusses the role of civil government. The authorities, says Paul, have the right to “bear the sword.”

But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” (ESV) The word translated as “sword” is machaira and means “sword.”

But consider this passage in some less-literal translations:

But if you are doing something wrong, of course you should be afraid, for you will be punished. The authorities are established by God for that very purpose, to punish those who do wrong.” (NLT)

If you do something wrong, you ought to be afraid, because these rulers have the right to punish you. They are God’s servants who punish criminals to show how angry God is.” (CEV)

But if you’re breaking the rules right and left, watch out. The police aren’t there just to be admired in their uniforms. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it.” (The Message)

Noticeably absent from these three translations is the word “sword.” The translators have seen fit to provide what they feel is the main idea of the passage, that the civil authorities have the right to punish those who do wrong. But this is a verse that has long been used to discuss the Christian view on capital punishment. It is an important verse in this context and in others. But in these three translations there is nothing to discuss, for the “sword” has been removed and punishment, which may be imprisonment, fines or community service, among other things, has been substituted. This same word is used in Acts 12:2 where we read of the murder of James the brother of John. In this passage the NLT speaks explicitly of a sword, while the CEV suggests one with the words “cut his head off” and The Message speaks of “murder.” In either case, the translators have, in this second passage, translated a word in a way that is inconsistent with how they have translated it in another passage. They have done so in order to interpret and not to make a more clear translation.

Let’s look at a second example. A standard translation of Psalm 32:1 might read as follows: “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (ESV) This translation is not a transliteration, or direct translation of word position, punctuation, and so on, but is a readable translation that attempts to translate each word that is in the original language. Now let’s look at a few translations from less-literal versions of the Bible.

Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean.” (The Message)

Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!” (NLT)

Our God, you bless everyone whose sins you forgive and wipe away.” (CEV)

What has become of the word “covered?” It has been replaced by “wiped clean,” “put out of site,” or “wipe away.” But is “covered” not one of the words God breathed out and wrote in His book? Should we, as the reader, not have access to that word? Conversely, “fresh start” is foreign to the text and is provided as an addition to the passage without alerting the reader that these are not God’s words, but the translator’s.

Consider even the words of Solomon, written to his lover, describing her unsurpassed beauty. “Your hair is like a flock of goats leaping down the slopes of Gilead.” (ESV) The Message renders this, “…like a flock of goats in the distance streaming down a hillside in the sunshine.” Note that addition of “sunshine.” The author may claim poetic license, but the fact is that he has added a word that is foreign to the text. The New Living Translation adds a small amount of interpretation, suggesting that her hair falls in waves. “Your hair falls in waves, like a flock of goats frisking down the slopes of Gilead.” If I were to write a love letter to my wife, do you think she would want it word-for-word, or does she merely desire access to the content of my thoughts? Again, translators have interpreted rather than translated.

What I mean to show in these examples is that anything other than an essentially literal translation of the Bible may work to subtly undermine the Christian’s confidence in the Scriptures. This is a topic that I cannot adequately cover in only a small article and I do realize there are complexities I have not considered. But on the basis of these examples I would urge you to consider this matter on your own. As Christians, people of the Book, we need to have confidence in our text. What basis do we have for our faith if we cannot have confidence in the Bible? We cannot overestimate the importance of ensuring that what we study is the clearest, best, most accurate translation of God’s Words that we can possibly find.

July 04, 2008

Though I’m certainly no scholar, I do enjoy putting a lot of time and effort into studying God’s Word (and especially so as I have increased opportunities to teach and preach to others). As I’ve found real joy and benefit in such study, I’ve quickly realized the benefits and importance of commentaries—good commentaries. I’ve also learned just how inadequate my commentary collection really is. To that end I’ve been working towards a solid collection that will serve me well for a good long time. Because of the relatively high cost of commentaries and because of the danger inherent in a truly bad commentary, I have proceeded quite carefully, attempting to thoroughly research the options. I wouldn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on commentaries only to find that they are nearly useless. Plus, I enjoy a good research project.

Here are a few principles I have discovered about commentaries.

Focus on individual volumes rather than sets. While some sets are excellent, and while they look awfully nice on a bookshelf, all sets tend to be at least somewhat uneven; some titles within the set will necessarily be of much lesser quality than others. Therefore…

…the best strategy for a modest library (and a modest budget) is to purchase the best one or two commentaries on each book of the Bible. The difficulty, of course, is discovering which are the best. Fortunately…

…there are resources available to help find the best commentaries. When purchasing commentaries it is wise to depend on the expertise of others, at least when you are purchasing your first volumes. Even though no two people will agree entirely on which commentaries are best, it is possible to do research and come to some level of agreement. At the end of this article is a partial list of the resources I used to compile my selections. Do remember…

…there are many kinds of commentaries and they are geared to different audiences. Be sure that you choose commentaries appropriate to your level of education and expertise. Do not buy a Greek-heavy commentary if you do not know the language!

Though the best bang for the buck is in individual commentaries, there are some sets worth owning (or in my case, worth coveting!). The New International Commentary on the New Testament appears to be the best complete New Testament set and 22 of the volumes are available bundled together for just over $500. Its Old Testament equivalent, the New International Commentary on the Old Testament offers 22 volumes for around $650. Both sets come with most but not all of the volumes so a few of the most recent titles will need to be purchased separately.

Here, then, based on extensive research (I own only a small handful of these, so I am relying almost entirely on secondary sources), is my assessment of the best two commentaries on each book of the New Testament (my Old Testament list is still a work in progress). Generally speaking I would recommend purchasing the first one listed before the second. Looking at this list, I can see that I have a lot of work to do to build even this basic collection (so, you know, keep clicking on those banners on my site before buying anything at Amazon!). I hope you find the list useful.

Matthew
Carson, D.A. Matthew (EBC), Zondervan 1984.
France, R.T. The Gospel of Matthew. NICNT, Eerdmans, 2007.

Mark
France, R.T. The Gospel of Mark. NIGTC, Eerdmans, 2002.
Lane, William L. The Gospel According to Mark. NICNT, Eerdmans, 1974.

Luke
Bock, Darrell L. Luke (2 volumes). BECNT, Baker, 1994 (volume 2).
Marshall, I. Howard. Commentary on Luke. NIGTC, Eerdmans, 1978.

John
Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. PNTC, Eerdmans 1991.
Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John. Hendrickson, 2003.

Acts
Witherington, Ben. The Acts of the Apostles. Eerdmans, 1997.
Bock, Darrell L, Acts. BECNT, Eerdmans, 2007.

Romans
Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. NICNT, Eerdmans, 1996.
Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans. BECNT, Baker, 1998.

1 Corinthians
Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. NICNT, Eerdmans, 1987.
Garland, David E. 1 Corinthians. BECNT, Baker, 2003.

2 Corinthians
Barnett, Paul. The Second Epistle to the Corinthians. NICNT, Eerdmans, 1997.
Harris, Murray, J. The Second Epistle to the Corinthians. NIGTC, Eerdmans, 2005.

Galatians
Bruce, F. F. Galatians. NIGTC, Eerdmans, 1982.
Longenecker, R. Galatians, WBC, Word, 1990.

Ephesians
Bruce, F. F. The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. NICNT, Eerdmans, 1984.
O’Brien, Peter T. The Letter to the Ephesians. PNTC, Eerdmans, 1999.

Philppians
Fee, Gordon D. Philippians. NICNT, Eerdmans, 1995.
O’Brien, Peter T. The Epistle to the Philippians. NIGTC, Eerdmans, 1991.

Colossians &Philemon
O’Brien, Peter T. Colossians, Philemon. WBC, Word, 1982.
Bruce, F. F. The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians. NICNT, Eerdmans, 1984.

1 & 2 Thessalonians
Wanamaker, Charles A. The Epistles to the Thessalonians. NIGTC, Eerdmans, 1990.
Bruce, F. F. 1 and 2 Thessalonians. WBC, Word, 1982.

Pastoral Epistles
Mounce, William D. Pastoral Epistles. WBC, Word, 2000.
Fee, Gordon D. 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus. NIBC, Hendricksen, 1998.

Hebrews
Ellingworth, Paul. The Epistle to the Hebrews. NIGTC, Eerdmans, 1993.
Lane, William L. Hebrews (2 Volumes). WBC, Word, 1991 (volume 2).

James
Moo, Douglas J. The Letter of James. TNTC, Eerdmans, 2007.
Davids, Peter H. Commentary on James. NIGTC, Eerdmans, 1982.

1 Peter
Davids, Peter H. The First Epistle of Peter. NICNT, Eerdmans, 1990.
Grudem, Wayne A. The First Epistle of Peter. TNTC, Eerdmans, 2007.

2 Peter and Jude
Bauckham, Richard J. Jude, 2 Peter. WBC, Word, 1983.
Moo, Douglas J. 2 Peter and Jude. NIVAC, Zondervan, 1997.

Johannine Epistles
Kruse, Colin G. The Letters of John, TNTC, Eerdmans, 2004.
Stott, John R. W. The Epistles of St. John, TNTC, Eerdmans, 1988.

Revelation
Beale, G.K. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. NIGTC, Eerdmans, 1998.
Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation. NICNT, Eerdmans, 1997.

Here are a few of the resources I used to compile the list:

If you have anything to add, either by way of tips on collecting commentaries or on suggestions for individual commentaries, feel free to post a comment.

July 03, 2008

As I mentioned in a brief post yesterday, I have begun making my way through Bruce Waltke’s Old Testament Theology. It is a massive book and is perhaps just a bit intimidating, but I have been enjoying it a lot. It is my first attempt to read an Old Testament theology and even through the opening chapters I can see that there is much to learn.

After six introductory chapters, Waltke turns to Old Testament theology proper in a chapter entitled “The Gift of the Cosmos” and here, as we might expect, he discusses God’s work as creator. He argues here that it is critically important that we read the opening chapters of Genesis properly, acknowledging the author’s intended literary genre. Though he eventually argues that this section is meant to be read as “ancient near eastern cosmogony,” which in turns leads to supporting his views on theistic evolution (a view I do not support) I found something very useful in this section. He explains how a wrong reading of the creation account leads to further and deeper problems. He shows how culture’s refusal to acknowledge the creator necessarily leads to the anti-God worldview so apparent in society around us. “Christians now live on a mission field with worldviews that besiege the message of ethical monotheism.” He says that this new paganism has six faces and one proceeds from the one before it.

1. The common worldview of the Western world since the time of the enlightenment has been materialism. This philosophy says that matter and its motions constitute the entire universe. Everything in the universe has to be regarded as due to material causes.

2. There is an implication to materialism. Since everything is material, ideally and theoretically, everything is subject to empiricism. Here he quotes Alan Reynolds who says, “empiricism, which insists that all knowledge is based on observation, experimentation, and verification, has led to belief in a self-sufficient universe that can be understood on its own terms, without any need of the transcendent or of God.”

3. Together materialism and empiricism entail a belief in an inherent coherence within nature between cause and effect. This, in turn, has led to belief in determinism, which understands reality as mechanical and without inherent value. Life’s origins and the nature of humanity have natural rather than divine causation.

4. Secularism is a political or social philosophy that embraces each of these “-isms”—materialism, empiricism and determinism. It embraces natural causation and and rejects religious faith and worship in the public square. Nature, society, and government become instruments dedicating only to fulfilling our material desires which masquerade as “rights.” This is fast becoming the dominant worldview among Western intellectual elites.

5. Secular humanism is a system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values and dignity are predominant. This leads to a kind of intense pragmatism that calculates everything in terms of its benefit to humanity. There is no acknowledgment of God and his rule of the created order.

6. Post-modernism or New Ageism marks what is really a return to old-fashioned paganism, though with a distinctly modern twist to it. New Ageism takes distinctives of Eastern religion and distorts them with Western concepts. Post-modernism replaces the objective reality of God as revealed in special revelation with subjective deifications of individual expressions of spirituality. Waltke says, “it rejects the notion of a revealed moral code and instead tests truth by its therapeutic value.” In this worldviews there are no better or worse cultures but merely differences between them.

I was able to see through these six faces of the new paganism how important it is that we get Genesis right! The irony, I suppose, is that I am not at all convinced that Waltke is correct in his views on creation. Still, he acknowledges the creator, of course, and acknowledging God as He reveals Himself in the Bible is a safeguard against the post-modern, secular humanistic viewpoint that pervades society. Those in our society who refuse to admit the existence of this God are soon left with materialism and from there empiricism and all that these -isms entail.

July 01, 2008

canada_flag_sunset.jpg

Today is Canada Day and I, like just about every other Canadian, am taking the day off from work. But it does give me a good opportunity to add a new article to the “It’s a Fact, Eh?” article archives.

Every year on July 1, Canada pauses for one day to focus on our nation. Though often compared to America’s Independence Day, Canada Day celebrates something quite different. The day marks the anniversary of the joining of the British colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada into a federation of four provinces. At this time what had previously been the Province of Canada was divided into Ontario and Quebec. This all happened on July 1, 1867. However, even at this time Canada did not become entirely independent and it was not until 1982 that Canada fully and finally severed political ties with Great Britain.

Though Canada Day (or Dominion Day as it was known then) was first instituted in the 1860’s there is no record of any substantial celebrations being held at that time. The Canadian citizens still considered themselves British and saw little reason to mark the occasion. In fact, the day really only became an important national holiday in the middle of the twentieth century. The centennial celebrations in 1967 really kicked off the tradition of marking the day in a special way. This year marks the 141st anniversary of Confederation and also the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City, which also marks the founding of Canada. It is a good day to celebrate Canada.

Today many Canadians will mark the day by attending public events or celebrations—parades, festivals and the like. Most towns will hold public fireworks displays when night falls (around 10 PM in this area). The “official” ceremonies will be held on Parliament Hill on Ottawa and this is where our Prime Minister will make his Canada Day appearance. The province of British Columbia is celebrating in a very strange way by instituting a carbon tax that will raise the already-high gas prices by 2.4 cents per litre (10 cents per gallon) this year, rising to almost 8 cents per litre by 2012. Personally I prefer our plans, which involve heading to a local park and watching the kids have fun in the splash pad over there. Then we’ll probably enjoy lunch at McDonald’s (well, the kids will enjoy it) and head on home for a quiet afternoon. Because the fireworks are so late and because my girls are absolutely terrified of them, we’re unlikely to take in any of the local shows. We’ll have to wait until the kids are a little older before we do that. And, of course, we’ll pause to celebrate one of the greatest things about being Canadian—we’re not American.

Enjoy your Canada Day!