Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Why was Sodom destroyed?

It is often asserted that the defense that Sodom was destroyed for lack of hospitality is a modern interpretation part of the gay rights movement. I found the following little passage in the Zohar from many centuries ago:

As for S'dom, its people were punished because they refrained from giving charity. As it is written: "neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy" (Yechezkel 16:49). And this is why the Judgment upon them came solely from heaven--because "charity" and "heaven" are one. As it is written: "For your kindness is great above the heavens," (Tehilim 108:5) INDICATING THAT "CHARITY" AND "KINDNESS" ARE BOTH DRAWN FROM THE HEAVENS ABOVE. Because charity depends on the heavens, their Judgment is also drawn down from the heavens, as it is written: "from Hashem out of heaven." (Zohar 3.20.285)

Judeans and the scholars version

There is always a bit of complexity in trying to figure out what the best way is to handle the translation of Hoi Ioudaioi. A common literal translation is "The Jews". The problem with "The Jews" is that Judaism is seen primarily as a religion or ethnicity not a nationality. One someone uses the term "Italian American" what they mean is an American of Italian descent. They don't mean a person with dual citizenship. When someone uses the term "Catholic Americans" they mean an American who is a member of the Catholic church. "The Catholics" means the religious group. When Romans use the term Ioudaioi they were thinking of the people of Judea, or the religion of the people of Judea (the sacrificial cult from Jerusalem). A reasonable and literal translation of that term is "The Judeans".

The scholars version does precisely this, it translates the word literally. It doesn't tie it to a current day religion but rather to an ancient province. To avoid some of the anti-Semitic leanings of Acts and John translation like the CEV and the NLT typically use terms like "Jewish leaders" which is not justified by the text nor likely accurate. Their heart is in the right place since these verses are quite harmful in the current day. But I think the way the SV handles this accomplishes the same task is more accurate and more faithful.

Anyone agree or disagree?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Is it a choice?

This is a rather informative 4 minute commercial on the homosexuality issue. It addresses:
  • Is homosexuality natural
  • Is it genetic
  • Is it curable
While it is not terribly biblical it is a fast and entertaining way to address many of the scientific issues

For those disbelieving the claims of homosexual behavior in animals here is a link to a wikipedia article and the following video from National Geographic is rather striking:

The Wikipedia article on prenatal hormones and sexual orientation contains links to Bearman- Blanchard study in the video.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A few quotes by Ellen White

SDA is often accused of being a cult. Generally I've found them to be pretty reasonable on most issues. Here are a few quotes regarding discipline from Ellen White herself. We've recently been discussing what good leadership would do in trying to take a church which has become overly harsh and judgmental in a more reasonable direction. Those churches which many of my regular readers come from might do well to learn something from what she had to say to her lower leadership:

Perverted Discipline
In dealing with the erring, harsh measures should not be resorted to; milder means will effect far more. Make use of the milder means most perseveringly, and even if they do not succeed, wait patiently; never hurry the matter of cutting off a member from the church. Pray for him, and see if God will not move upon the heart of the erring. Discipline has been largely perverted. Those who have had very defective characters themselves have been very forward in disciplining others, and thus all discipline has been brought into contempt. Passion, prejudice, and partiality, I am sorry to say, have had abundant room for exhibition, and proper discipline has been strangely neglected. If those who deal with the erring had hearts full of the milk of human kindness, what a different spirit would prevail in our churches. May the Lord open the eyes and soften the hearts of those who have a harsh, unforgiving, unrelenting spirit toward those whom they think in error. Such men dishonor their office and dishonor God. They grieve the hearts of his children, and compel them to cry unto God in their distress. The Lord will surely hear their cry, and will judge for these things.--Review and Herald, May 14, 1895
Control Self First
Those who control others should first learn to control themselves. Unless they learn this lesson, they can not be Christlike in their work. They are to abide in Christ, speaking as He would speak, acting as He would act,--with unfailing tenderness and compassion.--Review and Herald, April 28, 1903. {ChL 65.2}

Pastoral Ministry 36.1:
Those with incorrigible, unbending, stubborn traits of character, when transformed, make the most valuable ministers.--Ministers have been presented to me, with their course of action and their character before they were converted--the hardest and most incorrigible, the most unbending, the most stubborn--and yet, every one of these traits of character was what they needed in the work of God. We don't want to kill that. It is needed in order to fill important positions of trust in the cause of God. There must be a transformation of character. The leaven must work in the human heart, until every action is in conformity to the will of God, and they are sanctified; then they become the most valuable. It is this very kind of individuals that God can use in the different branches of His work.--9MR 61.PaM36.1

HCSB Apologetics Study Bible (review)

Everybody (myself included) has been saying such nice stuff about the new NLT Study Bible, and that just doesn't fit with the sarcastic tone of this blog when it comes to reviews. So I went on a quest for the study bible with the worst notes. I had so hoped in would be the MacArthur bible, but alas twas not to be, the honor goes to Chuck Colson and the Apologetics Study Bible. Why would anyone pick Richard Nixon's hatchet man to write a bible? The HCSB is a reasonable evangelical translation well covered on a dozen other blogs so I won't bother critiquing that.

We will focus on the notes. The apologetics study bible has these little notes inserted into the text which give the up and coming apologist valuable information to counter the occult, atheists and other religious claims. There is a large note before genesis about creationism. Everyone already knows about that so it's boring. So lets go to the first small note pictured directly to the left.

The first paragraph asserts that Satan falls between verses 1 and 2, which is at the very least a sign of ignorance and at worst a heresy. Romans 5:12 is quite clear that Adam's sin is the cause of evil in the word, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin..." On the other hand we see Satan tempting Adam, and 1 John 3:8 that the devil has been sinning "since the beginning". That is Satan's fall predates Adam but is Adam's sin which introduces evil, Satan's fall is not the cause of evil. This incidentally is covered quite well in just about every standard reference materials like the Catholic Encylopedia entry on the devil, or Summa Theologica on the malice of the Angels, with the original source Augustine's City of God chapter 14 (which is on the subject of the origin of sin).

Maybe I'm being too harsh in asking them to look stuff up? So lets move onto the 2nd paragraph where we are informed about how Edgar Cayce taught about Atlantis existing 10 million years in the past and how it was inhabited by spirit beings (as per these verses) who took up with Adam and Eve.... Interesting story but absolutely none of it is true to Cayce. Moreover in my entire life I've met 0 people who believe in Edgar Cayce. Why are they bothering with this? And if they were wouldn't it be worth mentioning the best counter Cayce / Atlantis argument was he predicted Atlantis would rise again from 1958-1968 which hasn't turned out so accurate.

OK so what did Edgar Cayce actually believe? He accepted Plato, and Donnelly's dates for Plato and thus had Atlantis dieing 9564 BCE (not ten-million). For Cayce Atlantis was inhabited by normal people (not spirit beings), though many of the people alive today were reincarnations of the people from Atlantis. Not everyone lived there, there were other countries at the time. He agreed with Madame Blavatsky about it being the fourth "race" of humans (not the first), current humans are in the 5th race. (see sacred texts on Atlantis for details). So yes ever single "fact" in that paragraph is wrong. Chuck I'm impressed.

So now we advanced though our trusty apologetics study bible to Genesis 1:27.
where we encounter Lilith. Take a moment to read the entry to the right. Again I am curious which group this is supposed to refute. Vampires? Anyway, the connection between vampires and Lilith comes from a now defunct game called Vampire: The Masquerade. So these "modern-day" vampires are people buying a rule book for a game? The rest of the passage is a gross over simplification of the Lilith legend here some of the facts are correct sorta so let's just focus on mistakes:
  • Lilith isn't derived from Genesis she had a pre-existing mythos from Mesopotamia. No one claims she originated as a biblical figure.
  • They are confusing two versions of the story. In one she is Adam's first wife. In another she is a demon that Adam has sex with after Cain murders Abel. There is no version where both are true.
  • In the versions where Lilith gives birth to demons Cain is the father not Adam.
  • She is never said to give birth to all the demons of the bible, generally it is two Galiu and Alû (or Ailo).
  • She is never in any legend the Queen of Demons.
  • Outside of the game there is no association between Lilith and vampires. Within the game she is not a vampire and does not turn people into vampires, vampirism is the curse of Cain.
Finally I should mention that if they are going to do Lilith they miss the point entirely. The worship of Lilith is not ancient it is modern. Lilith was always seen as a demon in the ancient world. In the 20th century Jewish feminists picked her up as an icon (not a goddess since they were atheistic). They did this because she is a strong female character associated with rejecting procreation, i.e. masturbation for men and miscarriage for women. Gardner is influenced by them and Lilith comes into Wicca as a lesser goddess. The Church of Satan and Luciferianism then pick her up as a consort (not a wife) for Satan. At the same time directly from Jewish feminism she gets a more major role in modern Kabbalah cults. So if they are going to do Lilith they have completely missed the point.

I could keep going, but I've reached the end of the free Amazon preview. I'm sure there are some notes that are better than these two but I think we have a winner for worst notes in any study bible.

See also:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Miriam, a female church leader

Miriam is a minor biblical character who occurs in a few places. But those places are very telling:

2:1 A man from the household of Levi married a woman who was a descendant of Levi. 2:2 The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a healthy child, she hid him for three months. 2:3 But when she was no longer able to hide him, she took a papyrus basket for him and sealed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and set it among the reeds along the edge of the Nile. 2:4 His sister stationed herself at a distance to find out what would happen to him.

2:5 Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself by the Nile, while her attendants were walking alongside the river, and she saw the basket among the reeds. She sent one of her attendants, took it, 2:6 opened it, and saw the child – a boy, crying! – and she felt compassion for him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”

2:7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get a nursing woman for you from the Hebrews, so that she may nurse the child for you?” 2:8 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes, do so.” So the young girl went and got the child’s mother. 2:9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse him for me, and I will pay your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him.

2:10 When the child grew older she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “Because I drew him from the water.”
15:20 Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a hand-drum in her hand, and all the women went out after her with hand-drums and with dances. 15:21 Miriam sang in response to them, “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and its rider he has thrown into the sea.”

12:1 Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married (for he had married an Ethiopian woman). 12:2 They said, “Has the Lord only spoken through Moses? Has he not also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard it.

12:3 (Now the man Moses was very humble, more so than any man on the face of the earth.)

12:4 The Lord spoke immediately to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam: “The three of you come to the tent of meeting.” So the three of them went. 12:5 And the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent; he then called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward.

12:6 The Lord said, “Hear now my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known to him in a vision; I will speak with him in a dream. 12:7 My servant Moses is not like this; he is faithful in all my house. 12:8 With him I will speak face to face, openly, and not in riddles; and he will see the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” 12:9 The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he departed. 12:10 When the cloud departed from above the tent, Miriam became leprous as snow. Then Aaron looked at Miriam, and she was leprous!

12:11 So Aaron said to Moses, “O my lord, please do not hold this sin against us, in which we have acted foolishly and have sinned! 12:12 Do not let her be like a baby born dead, whose flesh is half-consumed when it comes out of its mother’s womb!”

12:13 Then Moses cried to the Lord, “Heal her now, O God.” 12:14 The Lord said to Moses, “If her father had only spit in her face, would she not have been disgraced for seven days? Shut her out from the camp seven days, and afterward she can be brought back in again.”

12:15 So Miriam was shut outside of the camp for seven days, and the people did not journey on until Miriam was brought back in. 12:16 After that the people moved from Hazeroth and camped in the wilderness of Paran.

20:1 Then the entire community of Israel entered the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. Miriam died and was buried there.

6:3 “My people, how have I wronged you?
How have I wearied you? Answer me!
6:4 In fact, I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
I delivered you from that place of slavery.
I sent Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to lead you.
The last verse particularly, Micah 6:4 indicates that Miriam is a leader at the level that Aaron is, that is Moses, Miriam and Aaron form a leadership triad but she is not on the same level as Moses. Calvin even though he disapproves of female elders agrees that both Miriam and Deborah were leaders with authority. That is he considers these two to be exceptions but does not deny they were leaders with authority. Moreover he asserts that this authority was granted directly by God:
Then he adds, I have set over thee as leaders Moses, and Aaron, and Miriam, the sister of them both.... With regard to Miriam, she also performed her part towards the women; and as we find in Exodus 15, she composed a song of thanksgiving after passing through the Red Sea: and hence arose her base envy with regard to Moses; for being highly praised, she thought herself equal to him in dignity. It is at the same time right to mention, that it was an extraordinary thing, when God gave authority to a woman, as was the case with Deborah that no one may consider this singular precedent as a common rule. (John Calvin Commentary on Micah 6:4)
Jewish legend also considers this a triad. Rashi, explains Ta’anith 9a (Ta’anith is the book of fasts and feasts) and provides the background needed to understand Micah 6:4.
Our Sages say that the three great Divine gifts that sustained the Jewish people in the desert-the Manna, the Clouds of Glory, and the Well-were in the merit of these three worthy shepherds, Moshe, Aaron, and Miriam respectively. "Miriam's Well," as it became known - a rolling rock that accompanied the Jewish people on their wanderings - provided fresh water in the desert, not only for the people, but also for their cattle and sheep. It also made the desert bloom with green pastures and beautifully scented flowers. Small wonder the people loved and respected this wise, G-d fearing and saintly prophetess. (Rashi/Chabad link)
This association with water comes from the bible itself, for those of a more mystical bent Numbers 20:1-2 presents a more interesting picture, Miriam dies and the water stops. Right after the song of Miriam the bitter water is made sweet, manah comes from heaver and Moses draws water from a rock. And of course Exodus 2:1-10 where she is associated with the river.

Going to numbers 12, this passage is often used against women teachers. However it says the exact opposite. God asserts quite clearly in 12:6-12:8 that he is directly sending Miriam visions and dreams. He contrasts that with the sort of direct conversation he has with Moses. And there is no question he considers Moses superior but the important thing in establishing female leadership that God is purposely tasking her with teaching. That is while this information is of lower quality than what Moses receives she most certainly is the recipient of revelation meant to be passed on to the people.

There is a lot of Jewish practice that is specific to women. Moses during the 40 years lays down laws that apply specifically to woman, but not in anywhere near enough detail for these instructions to be carried out. Also there are many other blessings and prayers that are woman's only, and presumably Moses wouldn't know these. That is Jews have very extensive customs and laws regarding duties including those that are exclusive and/or generally performed by woman (example menstral ritual purity and separation of dough) and mostly they are passed and taught by women to women. It would not be unreasonable that Miriam as the woman in the triad was the source of these. Especially given Aaron as the third this makes sense, i.e. Moses would have difficulty teaching things he was forbidden to actually do. So we could have Moses handles laws for the community as a whole, Aaron handled the rituals specific to priests, Miriam handled the rituals specific to woman.

So lets be clear on numbers 12. Being subordinate doesn't mean that one is not a leader. In fact in most denominations everyone is subordinate to some agency. In the Catholic church deacons to priests, priests to bishops, bishops to cardinals, cardinals to the pope and the pope to the councils (usually council of cardinals). I'd offer the story of Korah (Numbers 16) as a quick example that what happened to Miriam was because she was opposing Moses not because she was female. God himself states (Numbers 12:6-10) that it is because of his special relationship with Moses that Miriam and Aaron should not speak against Moses. There is no hint that what happened to Miriam is because she is a woman and the same thing happens to a male. So I think this proves that God did approve of Miriam as a leader, just not as one coequal to Moses. Everyone is subordinate to Moses, including Miriam, because he is a servant.

Again Jewish legend also upholds this interpretation, that the issue who she was opposing not that she wanted to teach. Rashi (commentary on Numbers 12:8):
against my servant Moses Heb. בְּעַבְדִי בְמשֶׁה, lit., against My servant, against Moses. Scripture does not say בְּעַבְדִי משֶׁה, against My servant Moses, but בְּעַבְדִי בְמשֶׁה, against My servant, against Moses . [The meaning is thus:] against My servant even if he were not Moses, and against Moses, even if he were not My servant, you should certainly have feared him, and all the more so since he is My servant, and the servant of the king is a king himself! You should have said, “The King does not love him for nothing.” If you claim that I am unaware of his actions, this [statement] is worse than your previous one. — [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:8, Tanchuma Tzav 13]
In Exodus 15 she acts as a music minister leading the woman in song and worship.

Miriam does not lead in the manner of a 21st century protestant on the list, she is depicted as almost 4000 years ago. But what the bible does teach is a divinely sanctioned teacher of the word who is a leader.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Gresham Machen (Invalid Excommunication part 4)

Anyway who is a regular reader will be shocked that Machen made the list, Machen spent a lifetime promoting the intolerance that this blog has frequently attacked. Had Machen's plan for requiring the statement of faith be interpreted to his standards, that is the removal of all liberal preachers from the church, the PCUSA would have had to carry something on the order a ten minister excommunications per day every day for over ten years. And what about the membership that would have refused to honor these excommunications? Then we are up to 1000 excommunications per day, a level of purging that would have required a state apparatus, and since none would have been forthcoming a failure. There wouldn't be a PCUSA if Machen had won, the debate with Machen leaving the PCUSA ended the only way it could have with a strong vote for tolerance, a virtue this blog supports. Moreover Machan wasn't excommunicated he resigned after being suspended from ministry. To compound things further in Machen's case I believe he was guilty of what he was tried for.

So the natural question is, why did he make the list of invalid excommunications? His trial was seen as farce of justice and the charges themselves were and still are even questioned. Even the opponents of Machen were offended. That is a valid excommunication carried out, without broad support can undermine the sense of justice required for church discipline to be effective. What is important about the Machen case is it shows how a failure in process, even when the defendant was guilty can do incredible harm. The mainstream denominations never recovered from the damage that the trial of Machen did them. All feeling that there was a prohibition against schism were obliterated in America of 1937 during the Machen trial. What had been conflict and tension before Machen's trial became open warfare.

The reader may want to see Six Steps of a Fundamentalist Revolt to see the natural progression that Machen was attempting to follow. It is first important to set the scene. The devastation of World War I, and the heavy use of propaganda that the government deployed create a profound skepticism about authority, which led to an explosion in popularity for the modernist cultural movement, including in the area of faith. While not in the majority of American clergy, Americans that subscribed to parts of German theology in a meaningful way were a substantial minority. Adolf von Harnack contended now that modern man rejected the supernaturalism of the bible the focus of Christianity and churches should be on the moral teaching of Jesus; a move away from John/Romans as the center of the bible toward the "red letter" parts of the synoptic gospels. Rudolf Bultmann had contended that historicity (the myth) was not central to the Christian faith (the kerygma) and through demythologizing one could recover the faith. To rephrase, a bit inaccurately but in modern American protestant terms, he argued that inerrancy was not crucial for a doctrine of infallibility. At the same time the prewar anarchist / communist social unrest had become the mainstream labor movement and woman's suffrage had been enacted. So for many Christians the way forward was for the churches via the social gospel to resume their leadership for the salvation of mankind (see defense part 6 for earlier history).

A conservative theologian by the name of Gresham Machen wrote a book in 1921 called "The Origin of Paul's Religion", where he asserted that the epistles were consistent with the teachings of Jesus, a response to American's who had been influenced by Harnack's ideas He was familiar with German theology due to having spent 1905 in Germany learning from Wilhelm Herrmann a leading theologian of liberal Christianity. The book was well received by theologically orthodox Presbyterians and Machen established a reputation as one of the defenders of orthodoxy against modernism.

Until the publications of Origin Machen had been known as a professor and a bit player in opposing the "Philadelphia" plan, an ecumenicist plan attempt by John D. Rockefeller and the Foreign Missions Board of the PCUSA to share foreign missions costs across most mainstream denominations. The Philadelphia plan collapsed quickly mostly due to non presbyterians wanting a more neutral organization, the Federal Council of Churches now called the National Council of Churches. Ecumenical programs were generally quite liberal, and so fundamentalists opposed them. Machen in particular was quite concerned with how they helped to create a "spiritual Christianity" divorced from either doctrine or historical revelation, "Christianity can not be spiritually true and historically false", in total opposition to the Bultmannesque theology of the plan's supporters. At was at this point the religious right was born. A unification of nativism, hatred of liberal Christianity and hatred of the liberal wing of the Republican party later to be headed by John D's son Nelson Rockefeller. Of course in the end the Religious Right would be more ecumenical and strive together over a wider group of issues than Rockefeller could have hoped for, a case of losing the battle and winning the war perhaps?

In 1923 Machen became a leader of the budding reaction movement with Christianity and Liberalism, a book that argued liberal Christianity was not Christianity at all. :
In the sphere of religion, in particular, the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology. This modern non-redemptive religion is called "modernism" or "liberalism."
The book was an apology for a policy of asking all ministerial candidates to explicitly affirm support for the inerrancy of scripture and the virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, miracle-working power, and bodily resurrection of Christ. This policy had passed In 1910, 1916 and 1923 the General Assembly of the church, distressed by the liberal theological tendencies of some ministerial candidates, declared that all candidates for ordination ought to be able to affirm "the fundamentals" in addition to the traditional confessions. What happened in the 1920s was the debate broke into the open: Shall the Fundamentalist Win, Shall Unbelief Win; where characteristic of debate at a lower level of intensity.

In 1924 the Auburn Affirmation (see appendix at and of article) directly challenged the 5 fundamentals as being essential for ministers:

Some of us regard the particular theories contained in the deliverance of the General Assembly of 1923 as satisfactory explanations of these facts and doctrines. But we are united in believing that these are not the only theories allowed by the Scriptures and our standards as explanations of these facts and doctrines of our religion, and that all who hold to these facts and doctrines, whatever theories they may employ to explain them, are worthy of all confidence and fellowship.
The 174 signers agreed to hold to scripture and the Westminster confession but not to the fundamentalist interpretation of those documents. In 1925 a split in the denomination was averted by the formation of a committee which in 1926 affirmed that the General Assembly was not authorized to create a litmus tests for candidates without the consent of the presbyteries. Which is to say in 1926 the General Assembly determined that the PCUSA would have a policy of toleration for liberals.

Its worth commenting why the conservatives lost in 1926 when they hadn't in the 1890s during a similar attempt at liberalization. The reason was the denomination was starting to split on gender lines. Woman were in very large numbers starting to support enhanced roles for woman and woman's ordination, theological liberalism was in favor of this position while theological conservatism was opposed. So, while nothing remotely approaching a majority of the PCUSA members supported higher criticism of scripture, a substantial minority if not a majority of the membership were willing to follow the liberals out the door if the denomination had split. And without the liberal counter balance the denomination would have gotten more conservative and pushed out moderates; so the moderates sided against the conservatives. And while no one knew this in 1926, the membership would continue to get more liberal for the next 60 years. Quite simply had this gone the other way, the PCUSA would be a fraction the size it is today.

The effect of losing on Machen and the Conservatives is they became much more strident and hostile. From 1926-1929 the liberals reorganized Princeton Theological Seminary to increase cooperation with the denomination. The effect was to disempower Conservatives and in 1929, Machen set up Westminster Theological Seminary as a conservative alternative. This wasn't quite schism but it was very close.

Immediately after this the next battlefield became the board of missions. William Ernest Hocking wrote a document for the Presbyterian church along with other churches called "Re-thinking missions a laymen's inquiry after one hundred years" (text pdf Time-Magazine article). The article argued for cultural sharing rather than gospel sharing being the core for missions work. In his view missionaries should be better trained and financed, they needed to cooperate with each other and even with non Christian religions in their aid work. A PCUSA missionary to China by the name of Pearl Buck went on a speaking tour in the US in favor of the report, and raised publicity sky high for the Hockings Report.

It is at this point that Machen and Buck clashed. Buck was completely at variance with the stated policy of the missions board: she denied core Presbyterian doctrines like salvation by faith alone and the virgin birth, “To some of us He is still the divine Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit. But to many of us He has ceased to be that.” She advocated for humanitarian efforts to be the principle purpose of missions and joining with non Christian religions and even defend the Chinese government's "protections" regarding doctrines like original sin which she consider a noxious superstition. Machen argued that missionaries should hold to all the 5 fundamentals and attacked Robert Speer's management for allowing people like Buck to serve and continue to serve.

In Machen's view Pearl Buck and other liberals were preaching apostasy from a PCUSA subsidized pulpit, "And so another opponent of the gospel enters the councils of the Church, and another false prophet goes forth to encourage sinners to come before the judgment seat of God clad in the miserable rags of their own righteousness." And he wasn't wrong in his assessment, Buck had been quite open in her views, “I do not believe in original sin”. And from Machen's perspective it was much worse that she was adored and respected with an audience, at least for her fiction, of millions. Buck was not some obscure missionary denying the virgin birth and preaching on the equality of all faiths but among Americans the most well known contemporary missionary of her time. Pearl Buck was perfect example for Machen of how liberalism was not a variant of Christianity but rather another faith and thus she presented an excellent foil for Machen in demonstrating how the moderates by not demanding strong adherence to the creeds had allowed variants they never would have intended to become acceptable views within the church. Christianity and Liberalism has a terrific passage which addresses his attitude towards the "close enough" ecumenicalism which Hockings and Buck were advocating:
What a splendid cleaning up of the Gentile cities it would have been if the Judaizers had succeeded in extending to those cities the observance of the Mosaic law ... Surely Paul ought to have made common cause with teachers who were so nearly in agreement with him; surely he ought to have applied to them the great principle of Christian unity. As a matter of fact, however, Paul did nothing of the kind; and only because he (and others) did nothing of the kind does the Christian Church exist to-day … Paul certainly was right. The difference which divided him from the Judaizers was no mere theological subtlety, but concerned the very heart and core of the religion of Christ.
To put Pearl Buck in perspective it is important to realize, the extent of her popularity. She was among the top 10 most respected woman in America for 20 years running. Her fiction had sold millions of copies and would continue to do so for many years. She had won the Pulitzer prize for The Good Earth in 1932, and would go on to win the Noble prize for literature making her the first American woman ever to win the Pulitzer, and one of only 3 people to win both a Noble and a Pulitzer. Which is to say that Pearl Buck was to the PCUSA what Tom Cruise is to Scientology today. She really was capable of speaking to the nation.

It seems to me in reading Pearl Buck's writings she was struggling to find a language for inventing multiculturalism. To use that language, she was arguing that the Asian community was discovering its own voice and history and growing in its understanding of how western imperialism harmed them. Anti-western attitudes that were developing made it likely that the entire east Asian missionary program could end very shortly if hearts did not shift. Pearl Harbor, the rise of Chinese nationalism and then Communism which led to the total collapse of East Asian missionary work proves that Buck was absolutely correct in her assessment. Buck's proposal for missionary work: genuine cultural integration, really understanding the people and working alongside them rather than above was the technique the communists employed successfully to win millions of converts (see The Ugly American). Machen, a man who wanted to control foreign missions while knowing nothing about the people missionaries aimed to convert provided a perfect foil for her present the alternative to the rethinking of foreign missions. We shall never know what would have happened, had the Hocking/Buck's proposals been accepted. It might have been too little too late. But it might have led to a hundred million new converts.

A heresy or an excommunication trial for Pearl Buck would be unmitigated disaster from the moderate's perspective. On the other hand Machen's attacks were doing real damage to donations. Machen followed up his attacks on Buck in speeches blaming the problems on Robert Speer (head of the Presbyterian Missions, and a man who was known for ecumenicism) with a book and then his own missions board. Machen's proposal was cutting off money to missionaries during the depression which Speer saw, not unreasonably, as extremely threatening to the well being of his people. That is for Speer and many other moderates Buck and Machen had put their own personal pet projects above the interests of the denomination. Conversely Buck and Machen both benefited from the controversy their fight generated as it helped publicize their minority views. The extremists from both sides were successfully putting pressure on the moderates by taking this dispute public and the moderates were horrified about the possible outcomes.

That is for Speer these two intellectuals were being self indulgent and destructive. The depression was on and raising money for missionaries was difficult. The Presbyterian church had a huge missionary commitment and infrastructure in East Asia that would take a generation or more to replace if funding levels were not maintained. A warm discussion about technique might have been useful; but that was not what they were doing both of them were attempting to deliberately provoke their own followers and were indifferent to offending the other side's donors. Machen with his books and the establishment of his own missions board, was diverting badly needed funds from the base of small conservative donors. To openly embrace Machen's ideas would have required repudiating the international peace movement led by Rockefeller which was a huge source of funding. What was vital to Speer, was that believers in international peace through the great commission and conservative Christians which saw the great commission as a Christian duty, continued to view themselves as working on a common project.

Machen's fundamentalism insulted the believers in international peace by questioning whether they were Christian at all. Buck went out of her way to mock fundamentalists. Her comments about the Hocking's report were designed to be an offensive parody of the doctrine of inerrancy, “I think [the Hocking's report] is the only book I have ever read that seems to me literally true in its every observation and right in its every conclusion." Many moderates felt that the language these two, and their supporters were using created the hardness of hearts that led to denominational splits. Any drop in funding could force hundreds of missionaries out of the field or worse leave them unfunded and stranded. And these two were from Speer's perspective cooperating quite well on making sure that a drop in funding would be inevitable. When Buck was forced to resign. Speer's own secretary was furious with him for pushing out Buck rather than Machen. Perfect evidence for what Speer was worried about. Both of them in their own ways were doing tremendous damage to the denomination's missions program.

Finally many moderates not concerned directly with missions saw Machen as preaching donatism. For them a key distinction needed to be made between a institutional heretical church and a church which is tolerant of a heresy. Machen in his broad based accusations was failing to make that distinction and hence himself committing the donatist heresy.

That is, there were 3 radically different viewpoints and all 3 of them were right. It wasn't question that any of them were wrong, but rather a question of priorities and values. In the end the moderates understood they couldn't side with either in this politicized environment and had to force both out. Henry Coray tells a story that he intends as a defense of Machen but really shows the sorts of pressures siding with either would have caused (note Das is a pet name for Machen):
"I wrote to the Board," said Das, "and asked what the Board intended to do about Mrs. Buck. The Board answered, saying, 'Dr. Speer (one of its secretaries) is a very fine man. 'I answered,' I agree that Dr. Speer is a fine man, but I would like to know what you are going to do about Mrs. Buck?' The Board's reply was, 'Dr. Machen, why are you so bitter?'" (Henry W. Coray essay)
Randy Oliver notes that Machen was seen by opponents as, “temperamentally defective, bitter and harsh in his judgments of others and implacable to those who [did] not agree with him.

And here I believe a decision was made to get rid of them both. This in my opinion was where the disaster happened. Not because I believe Machen was innocent, I absolutely believe he in fact was putting his pet project above the interest of the denomination. Rather there did not exist the necessary support for an excommunication. The attacks on the 8 ministers involved in Machen's missions board would pass by a narrow margin but without widespread support. And like any martyrdom once Machen was removed the issue would refocus, the subtle and situational aspects would be forgotten and Machen's "excommunication" (removal from office) would be taken entirely out of its context to become a broad indictment on all of mainstream Christianity. Here is how this unfolded.

After Buck's resignation the general assembly instructed Machen's board of missions to disband in the directives of the General Assembly of 1934. The General Council of the church, operating under what it called its "constitutional authority" "to superintend the concerns of the whole church," prepared a lengthy document, "Studies of the Constitution," contained in the Journal of the General Assembly of 1934, which concluded with specific directives. The four were:

  1. That "The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions" be and is hereby directed to desist forthwith from exercising any ecclesiastical or administrative functions . . . .
  2. That all ministers and laymen affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, who are officers, trustees or members of "The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions," be officially notified by this General Assembly through its Stated Clerk, that they must immediately upon the receipt of such notification sever their connection with this Board, and that refusal to do so and a continuance of their relationship to the said Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, exercising ecclesiastical and administrative functions in contravention of the authority of the General Assembly, will be considered a disorderly and disloyal act on their part and subject them to the discipline of the Church.
  3. That Presbyteries having in their membership ministers or laymen who are officers, trustees or members of "The Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions," be officially notified and directed by this General Assembly through its Stated Clerk to ascertain from said ministers and laymen within ninety days of the receipt of such notice as to whether they have complied with the above direction of the General Assembly, and in case of refusal, failure to respond or noncompliance on the part of these persons, to institute, or cause to be instituted, promptly such disciplinary action as is set forth in the Book of Discipline.
  4. That each Presbytery be and hereby is instructed to inform the ministers and sessions of the particular churches under its jurisdiction that it is the primary responsibility and privilege of all those affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America to sustain to the full measure of their ability those Boards and Agencies which the General Assembly under its Constitutional authority has established and approved for the extension of the Kingdom of Christ at home and abroad.
Machen's argued that the general assembly did not have the authority to pass such a resolution and secondly that the sovereignty of Christ, overrode their authority since the Presbyterian Missions Board had allowed heresy to creep in. This resulted (as expected) in Machen being charged with disobedience for maintaining a separate board of missions even when instructed not to. The specific charges were essentially (cite):
  1. Disapproval, defiance, and acts in contravention of the government and discipline of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.
  2. Not being zealous and faithful in maintaining the peace of the Church.
  3. Contempt of and rebellion against his brethren in the Church.
  4. Conduct unbecoming a minister of the Gospel.
  5. Advocating rebellion against the constituted authorities of the Church.
  6. Violation of his ordination vows.
Machen's defense was a proclamation on the doctrine of Christian freedom. He presented a five-point argument, with the body of the pamphlet devoted to a defense of his basic five points: (1) that obedience to the command would mean supporting a foreign gospel; (2) that it would mean substituting a human authority for Christ's; (3) that it would mean acquiescence to a mandatory Church tax; (4) that all of these things are forbidden by the Bible; and (5) that he had a full right to remain in the Church in spite of his refusal to acquiesce.

The question of mandatory contributions to the official Church agencies was considered at length by Machen, since he believed that such a tax was an extreme infringement on the personal liberty of Church members. He indicated that obedience to the order in the way demanded by the General Assembly would mean acquiescence in the principle that support of the benevolences of the Church is not a matter of free will but the payment of a tax enforced by penalties.

Thus if the members failed to recognize the authority of the Assembly over the Independent Board or over them and resign they were considered by the General Assembly actually to be guilty of a disorderly and disloyal act. That is for all practical purposes the General Assembly had already convicted them before any trial could be held, and this was all borne out in the very decision which later came in 1936 the court found against Machen, "When a church is organized under a written Constitution, which contains prescribed provisions as to giving for benevolent purposes, every member is in duty bound to observe those provisions with the same fidelity and care as he is bound to believe in Christ and to keep His commandments according to the doctrinal provisions set forth in that same Constitution."

One will note that the court didn't address the core of Machen's argument either in the fact that the missionaries were preaching apostasy nor did they address the legality of the general assembly's acts. Their argument was that ministers were ordained and the acts they were ordained for were: leading the singing of psalms, reading the Bible, preaching, catechising, the sacraments, a collection made for the poor, and dismissing the people with a blessing, violation of the collection was how they saw Machen's acts. So from a purely legal standpoint this might have been excusable but given Machen had a following this was seen as ignoring the defense. (newspaper article on the trial)
Before long several members of this board were brought to trial. I do not exaggerate when I assert that their trials constituted one of the greatest travesties of justice in ecclesiastical history. In 1934 the church made the astounding declaration: "A church member or an individual church that will not give to promote the officially authorized missionary program of the Presbyterian Church, is in exactly the same position with reference to the Constitution of the Church as a church member or an individual church that would refuse to take part in the celebration of the Lord's Supper" (Manual of Presbyterian Law for Church Officers and Members, published by the Presbyterian Church in the USA in 1936, p. 115). On that made-to-order and much worse than flimsy ground the defendants were condemned. But never once were they permitted to say in their defense why they had organized the Independent Board. The issue was patently doctrinal, but every doctrinal reference was consistently ruled out by the court as irrelevant. (R. B. Kuiper)
A good analogy is the trial of Luther before the court of Worms. In Luther's case the secular court couldn't determine whether the books where heretical, that was solely the church's authority. So in the secular court the only acceptable defense would have been Luther to prove the books weren't his. Because the secular court did not try the core issue, that is were Luther's books heretical, the secular verdict against him lacked popular support. Similarly Machen couldn't defend himself on the grounds that the board of missions had failed to act in a way consistent with its mandate. This created a feeling that the trial was a sham, part of a liberal coup d'etat not a religious court. Gary North's Crossed Fingers, is a very detailed history but the overriding theme of the book is that that the Liberals lied and stole the denomination.
This is a history of the liberals' strategy of infiltration and conquest of the Northern Presbyterian Church. This book is also a study in what could be called ecclesiastical entomology: bugs. Specifically, it is a study of ecclesiastical termites: liberals. By 1921, these voracious termites had eaten away so much of the Presbyterian Church that Princeton Seminary's greatest living theologian, Warfield, on his deathbed called the entire denomination rotten wood... Had it not been for the defection of earlier generations of Christians, we would not be in the place we are today: looking in from the outside on institutions that once belonged to God and His people rather than to the covenant-breakers who now occupy positions of institutional authority.
And this sense of grave injustice moved into fundamentalism. At first it just resulted in a minor split, Machen and a small group of followers left the church (time article). So in June 11, 1936, the Presbyterian Church of America (the name was changed to Orthodox Presbyterian Church after losing a lawsuit). He took with him only 4200 people (article from Time during the process).The conservatives themselves split into essentially the formation we see today, three splits within the conservative camp itself:
  1. The split between those who supported and those who opposed the founding of the Independent Board.
  2. Which led to a subsequent split of Westminster Seminary.
  3. The second split contributed to the split in the Presbyterian Church of America. The Orthodox Presbyterians opting for strict denominational control through church boards and the Bible Presbyterians for Independent Agencies. The bible presbyterians were led by Carl McIntire who became notorious for actions like picketing outside of World Council of Churches meetings about WCC collaboration with the KGB.
What these splinter groups took with them though were the the ideas in Christianity and Liberalism. There was widespread belief Liberalism was another religion entirely. It took time but in a generation the evangelical movement came about which had no compunctions about attacking the mainline denominations, the "seven sisters" ( Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the American Baptist Churches, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church) in the same way Machen had attacked liberalism. Because Evangelicalism believed Christianity and Liberalism they treated the mainline denominations like they were part of another religion. So what would become the evangelicals had no qualms about seeing them as genuine enemies, and in their efforts they were perfectly content to see a situation in which for every member they took another left the church in all but name forever.
When the invaders surrender cultural territory, we will regain it--not inside the four walls of liberal churches but in the culture at large. As for liberal churches today, let the dead bury the dead. Large brick churches in declining sections of town are not worth re-capturing. The heating and cooling bills alone would strap us. Had it not been for the defection of earlier generations of Christians, we would not be in the place we are today: looking in from the outside on institutions that once belonged to God and His people rather than to the covenant-breakers who now occupy positions of institutional authority. (Gary North)

Also because of the fact the movement was born in frequent splits, while paying lip service to the notion of large denominations they de facto accepted the congregationalist model and thus became instrumental in undermining the meaningful authority, financial resources and scope of denominations. The trial of Machen was a minor injustice done for pragmatic reasons that has gone on to cost the PCUSA 1/2 its membership and all its growth.

Additional resources:

Appendix on Auburn Affirmation:

The Auburn Affirmation was a response to the "5 point test" (note their are really 6 points, the name came from the 5 fundamentals which did not include the 6th item on this list) which was given as a test of orthodoxy:
  1. Inerrancy of the Scriptures
  2. The virgin birth (and the deity of Jesus) (Matt 1:18)
  3. The doctrine of substitutionary atonement (Heb 9)
  4. The bodily resurrection of Jesus (Matt 28)
  5. The authenticity of Christ's miracles
  6. His pre-millennial second coming

The statements of the affirmation were (full text):
  • The Bible is not inerrant. The supreme guide of scripture interpretation is the Spirit of God to the individual believer and not ecclesiastical authority. Thus, “liberty of conscience” is elevated.
  • The General Assembly has no power to dictate doctrine to the Presbyteries.
  • The General Assembly’s condemnation of those asserting "doctrines contrary to the standards of the Presbyterian Church" circumvented the due process set forth in the Book of Discipline.
  • None of the five essential doctrines should be used as a test of ordination. Alternated “theories” of these doctrines are permissible.
  • Liberty of thought and teaching, within the bounds of evangelical Christianity is necessary.
  • Division is deplored, unity and freedom are commended.

Mark 1:41 and the ESV

I was reading Bryon's blog on Mark 1:41 and getting ready to right a defense of the NA27 reading disagreeing with Ehrman and supporting the the conservative position (yes I can be fair). The issue with Mark 1:41 is that the evidence is heavily mixed. Here is an excellent text note from the comments on the NET bible which presents the evidence fairly:
The reading found in almost the entire NT ms tradition is σπλαγχνισθείς (splancnisqei", “moved with compassion”). Codex Bezae (D), {1358}, and a few Latin mss (a ff2 r1*) here read ὀργισθείς (ojrgisqei", “moved with anger”). It is more difficult to account for a change from “moved with compassion” to “moved with anger” than it is for a copyist to soften “moved with anger” to “moved with compassion,” making the decision quite difficult. B. M. Metzger (TCGNT 65) suggests that “moved with anger” could have been prompted by 1:43, “Jesus sent the man away with a very strong warning.” It also could have been prompted by the man’s seeming doubt about Jesus’ desire to heal him (v. 40). As well, it is difficult to explain why scribes would be prone to soften the text here but not in Mark 3:5 or 10:14 (where Jesus is also said to be angry or indignant). Thus, in light of diverse mss supporting “moved with compassion,” and at least a plausible explanation for ὀργισθείς as arising from the other reading, it is perhaps best to adopt σπλαγχνισθείς as the original reading. Nevertheless, a decision in this case is not easy. For the best arguments for ὀργισθείς, however, see M. A. Proctor, “The ‘Western’ Text of Mark 1:41: A Case for the Angry Jesus” (Ph.D. diss., Baylor University, 1999).
What prompted Bryon's comment I believe was the fact that the IBS had gone from "compassion" (NIV) to "anger" (TNIV). I think compassion with a text note (like the NRSV, NLT, GNT, CEV... do it) is a reasonable position. Because NA27 is meant to be a standard it should err on the conservatism when the evidence is mixed, which in this case staying with the TR/MT reading. And I don't think anyone can say the evidence isn't mixed here. That is I think it is reasonable and proper for translations to follow the UBS/NA studies here; if the NA28 or NA29 makes the change, which seems likely, then I'd be more critical of this approach in a translation based on them but they didn't so I have no problem with taking the conservative position on this verse at this time.

As Bryon mentions the REB takes the Ehrman positions and has "with anger" with a text note saying that many manuscripts have "with pity". Again a reasonable choice. It is likely they felt comfortable going with anger here because Dodd (NEB) handles this issue creatively with "In warm indignation Jesus ...."

Now turning to our favorite dishonest translation the ESV, goes with pity but makes no mention of the variant reading at all. Essentially removing a text note from the NRSV. They take the RSV's reading:
Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I will; be clean."
word for word. I don't have a problem with a 1950s translation missing this, I do with one from 2001. Just to pick from the opposite extreme the Scholars Version (Jesus Seminar) has several paragraphs on the importance of anger and messianic secret in their commentary (which is what prompts Ehrman's indignation about this change) yet they still honesty report they are going with a minority of the manuscripts. Again evidence that the ESV is more ideologically unbalanced in its treatment than the Jesus Seminar.

Why does anyone take this translation as anything more than conservative propaganda? It is beyond me.

Also coming in for some level of condemnation here is the NIV for not noting this properly, even though the debate had occured by then. I can almost excuse they rarely have text notes on variants and they are from a quarter century ago but still it deserves mentioning since I'm slamming the ESV so hard on this.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Quick comment on accuracy

Harry Neumann from Deep Bible Study has another website my bible version with a neat selection tool.  He has some accuracy numbers I don't fully agree with, but are reasonable and independent of my opinions.  By adding his "form" and "function" numbers you get something close to what I've been calling "accuracy".  So here are the stats from his site.

12: NRSV, NKJV, NJB,  
8: Phillips, TLB

I'm going to rare them myself just so you see that the accuracy issues I brought up in Is the ESV "essentially literal"? hold here as well.   

Bolded in ESV article
Very good 

You'll notice how closely we correspond which proves my point about literalness killing accuracy.  He doesn't have a distinction between great and good.  Also we don't seem to agree at all on paraphrases, but the article didn't really address what quality in a paraphrase meant.  So now if I exclude the paraphrases and the unrated, and remove the good vs. great the chart looks like:


Which is really close.  So close in fact that when I compute a statistical r it it .79.  Which means for moderate translations (classes 3-7 from the ESV article) choosing a balanced philosophy explains 79% of the accuracy using Mr. Neumann's statistics.  I couldn't ask for better evidence that attempting to be literal ends up damaging accuracy, just as I had asserted.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Final version of the Ascol amendment

Here is the final version of the Ascol amendment that passed the SBC:

WHEREAS, The ideal of a regenerate church membership has long been and remains a cherished Baptist principle, with Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message describing the church as a “local congregation of baptized believers”; and

WHEREAS, A New Testament church is composed only of those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Word, becoming disciples of Jesus Christ, the local church’s only Lord, by grace through faith (John 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9), which church practices believers’ only baptism by immersion (Matthew 28:16-20), and the Lord’s supper (Matthew 26:26-30); and

WHEREAS, Local associations, state conventions, and the Southern Baptist Convention compile statistics reported by the churches to make decisions for the future; and

WHEREAS, the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention annual Church Profiles indicate that there are 16,266,920 members in Southern Baptist churches; and

WHEREAS, Those same profiles indicate that only 6,148,868 of those members attend a primary worship service of their church in a typical week; and

WHEREAS, The Scriptures admonish us to exercise church discipline as we seek to restore any professed brother or sister in Christ who has strayed from the truth and is in sin (Matthew 18:15-35; Galatians 6:1); and now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 10-11, 2008, urge churches to maintain a regenerate membership by acknowledging the necessity of spiritual regeneration and Christ’s lordship for all members; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we humbly urge our churches to maintain accurate membership rolls for the purpose of fostering ministry and accountability among all members of the congregation; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the failure among us to live up to our professed commitment to regenerate church membership and any failure to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members (Matthew 18:15-18); and be it further

RESOLVED, That we humbly encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior’s teachings on church discipline, even if such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches, and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we humbly urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and their pastors to implement a plan to minister to, counsel, and restore wayward church members based upon the commands and principles given in Scripture (Matthew 18:15-35; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Bible translation: Ebonics and the aorist tense

Ebonics is the term for black English, what used to be called "Jive". The aorist tense is a verb tense that doesn't exist in standard English to indicate actions that are ongoing. "The river is flowing through the valley" gives an example of the sort statement that would be rendered in aorist, a river was flowing, is flowing now and will flow in the future. The NET bible has a great description of the aorist its notes:
The aorist tense is characterized by its emphasis on punctiliar
action; that is, the concept of the verb is considered without
regard for past, present, or future time. There is no
direct or clear English equivalent for this tense, though it is
generally rendered as a simple past tense in most translations.

The events described by the aorist tense are classified into a
number of categories by grammarians. The most common of these
include a view of the action as having begun from a certain
point ("inceptive aorist"), or having ended at a certain point
("cumulative aorist"), or merely existing at a certain point
("punctiliar aorist"). The categorization of other cases can
be found in Greek reference grammars.

The lack of this tense in standard English creates all sorts of mistranslation and misunderstanding issues when translating the bible.
Romans 6:8 Now if we have died (aorist) with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
When did we die with him? At the time with of his crucifixion? Paul in Greek indicates it is an ongoing process we die with him at all time or outside of time, but this is not apparent in English. So why not borrow from Ebonics the aorist tense? They have one, and the dialect is understandable to most English speakers (even if it sounds less refined). To use it you use the verb to-be followed by an -ing verb. Many standard English speakers don't recognize this construction as being aorist but it is understandable and with very little effort they can learn the meaning with respect to time easily. In both standard English and Ebonics we do a similar thing with the verb "have" to adjust the temporal nature, so for example "had taken" is the past perfect for to-take in standard English. The past perfect indicates the "taking" happened at an indefinite time in the past and may be ongoing, as contrasted with "took" which is completed by the present.
I had taken (past perfect) the train many times.
I took (past simple) the train last week.

Using the Ebonics aorist tense will sound ungrammatical but it is accurate. The English reader can then identify the tenses in the Greek. So we would translate the above as:
Romans 6:8 Now if we be dying (aorist) with Christ, we believe (present simple) that we shall live (future simple) with him
This cuts into the snob appeal but frankly I think accuracy is far more important than snobbery. Anyone agree or disagree?


After this post was made Sepia Mutiny (in a post entitled Brown Man's Bible) seemed to agree with this assessment in their review of the NCB.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

6 principles of Christian debate

Tom over at NeoFundamentalist had a great list of points which I think are terrific for any Christian debate. So I'm reposting them here (slightly decontextualized):
  1. Disagreement with you or your theology does not equal disagreement with God. Quit treating those who don’t accept your arguments as if they have rejected the gospel.
  2. Quit assuming things in your arguments that you refuse to affirm in their propositional form
  3. Admit it, you really don’t understand this as well as your confidence seems to indicate
  4. If what you are trying to articulate has contradictions (no human answer), admit it up front and don’t try to white wash that truth
  5. Don’t retreat to the theological hail mary, unless you are willing to let your opponent use the same shtick
  6. If you find yourself agitated and incredulous, go read 2 Timothy 2:19-25 with special attention to verse 24

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Female Leadership in churches debate over

My debate with Frank Turk (centuri0n) of TeamPyro on female leadership in churches is done. You can read it all here: unfortunately in reverse order link


On his blog the order of posts is reversed so read from the bottom. I'll post some exerts here later as articles. Feel free to comment or continue the debate here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Open discussion on banishment and void of coven

OK well after a web search I found almost nothing that explained this in great detail. So I'm offering an open invitation to witches and Wiccans to discusses these issues. And of course regular readers can join in.

Here is what I believe to be true given what I've been able to read please correct if I am wrong:
  1. There is no distinction between "excommunication" "banishment" and "void of coven". Banishment is the preferred term.
  2. The high priestess has the authority to banish from the individual coven
  3. For those in traditional lines there may be a higher authority that recognizes the banishment and thus people can be cast out of the "tradition".
  4. In general the community at large judges the actions, after the banishment has occurred while the coven judges before the banishments.
  5. Some covens are well known for frequent scapegoating and banishments and thus people can move quickly from those covens to a new one. In others banishments are very infrequent and the community sides strongly with the high priestess
  6. The most frequent reason for banishment seems to be speaking about coven activities publicly.
  7. The community is currently heavily divided on issues related to child sexuality (for example can minors participate in a circle where sexual magick is performed). This issue is dying in intensity as actual sexuality is being more and more replaced with symbolic reenactment, like lowering of a knife into a chalice.

So obviously I know close to nothing. Please tell me if I basically got the mechanism of banishment correct and the sorts of things persons are banished for. In particular what I couldn't find was any discussion of restoration (unbanishment) other than changing covens. I get the impression that once banished from a coven the person is out of that coven for life, is that true? Any personal stories are welcome and any topic related to banishment or witch-wars are welcome in this thread.