Saturday, May 28, 2016

Understanding the Congregation's Authority - by Jonathan Leeman

Understanding the Congregation's Authority by Jonathan Leeman is a short and yet quite thorough explanation and defense of what Leeman calls, "Elder-Led Congregationalism".  He does not advocate congregationalism nor Elder-Rule, rather he presents the concepts of 'congregational authority' as 'responsibilities' and the role of the pastors/Elders he presents as the God-given 'trainers/councilors' of the congregation. 

Each member of the congregation is responsible to prod one another to love and good works, building and discipling their brothers and sisters in Christ (which may involve correction) and coming to be discipled as well, to attend church regularly not making a habit of forsaking the assembling of their church family, and the congregation is also responsible to submit themselves to the elders of the church(the Elders do not make them submit), which Elders are to train up the congregation to fulfill their responsibilities by preaching/teaching the Word of God.

I thought that the author's overall premise was good and I thought that he argued most of his points very well, the things that I didn't feel comfortable with were his 'reformed' terminology, for instance referencing Christ and Christians as the 'true Israel', his referencing the observance of 'the Lord's Table' as being a time of Communion with the Lord and it also being a sign of the new Covenant.  I don't think that I agree that the church exercises the authority of the "Keys" through baptism and the Lord's Supper (a man is to examine HIMSELF as to his manner of living while taking the Lord's supper), I don't really see that in the Bible rather I see the congregation cutting off an erring member from fellowship because they are not living in a Christ-like way (not primarily cutting them off from partaking of the elements though that necessarily follows). But perhaps I didn't understand what he meant.  And lastly I didn't agree with a lot of his 'Priest-King' hermeneutic, that Adam was basically a priest-king mediating between God and creation and then applying the term to Abraham, Moses, David and then all Christians….it didn't make biblical sense to me.

Aside from the above and perhaps some other things, I really liked Leeman's argument and would recommend the book to other Christians as he does a great job at showing that if you're  a Christian, whether or not you are an Elder you  have a God-given job to do and you should take it seriously. 

I'll end with a quote from the book: "You, as a baptized Christian and ordinary member of a church, are responsible for protecting the gospel and the gospel's ministry in you church by discipline other church members.  Remember Ephesians 4:15-16.  The church builds itself up in love as each part does its work.  You have work to do to build up the church and part of that includes the ministry of words.  A few verses later, Paul says, 'speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another'(V. 25).  Speak truth to them, and help them to grow. Our words should be 'good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear' (Eph. 4:29).  Also, make yourself available to be spoken to.  Are you willing to listen?  Basic Christianity involves building up other believers.  It is a part of fulfilling the Great Commission and making disciples."

Many thanks to B&H Publishers for sending me a free review copy of this book! - My review did not have to be favorable.

You may purchase this book at websites like Amazon and Christian Book Distributors

Friday, May 20, 2016

NKJV Chronological Study Bible

This edition of the Chronological Study Bible NKJV is a nicely bound chronological Bible.  It has a simple, studious looking  'Leathersoft' cover, brown in color with a big dark blue stripe across its center.  This Bible is full of extra content, almost to the point of being distractingly cluttered.  It has charts and 'timepanels', background notes,  full color illustrations (some are very neat looking while others are not very decent), and maps throughout. 

I have some problems with it though, besides some indecent works of art,  some of the notes and commentary seem rather eisegetical.   For instance, some of the notes dealing with wives being submissive to their husbands make it more of a concession to the culture of the time rather than God ordained. They say things like,  "Paul's command 'Wives, submit to your own husbands' (Eph. 5:22) is at least partly related to concern for Christian witness within the surrounding culture, and is quite mild in comparison to the rest of his culture. What is significant is that Paul modified the culture's values, calling on all believers to submit…Wives were to submit 'as to the Lord' (Eph. 522), and husbands were to love their wives 'as Christ also loved the church"(5:25)  and, "…the structure of these traditional codes was adopted in Christian letters,".

 But the reasons given in the New Testament for wives submitting to their husbands was because of the structure that God had set up, not one man had set up.  It's not that the apostles were adopting and then modifying cultural authority structures in the family and that the headship of a husband over a wife and her submission to him were just necessary cultural evils, rather they were explaining how to correctly implement the authority structure set up by God (husbands loving their wives, wives submitting to their husbands and children obeying their parents.  Ironically, the commentators in this Bible are imposing modern cultural family-structure (equality of husbands and wives = no submission required) views on the Scriptures. 

And of course, you can presume, based upon the hermeneutical method used in interpreting the above concepts in the Bible there are other things that are probably erroneously interpreted as well.  One hint of it is in their use of dates, the numbers they use (like 26,000 years ago) hint at an 'old earth' or theistic evolutionist perspective. 

Oh, and I didn't like some of the chronological arrangement.  For instance, they have some prophecies from Isaiah being read after the fall of Jerusalem.  Part of their reasoning is that, "Other prophetic passages speak of times later than the traditional date of composition for the passage itself.  For example, parts of the Book of Isaiah refer to events that took place centuries after the prophet Isaiah lived.  Though Isaiah prophesied in Jerusalem during the 8th century B. C., the passage of Isa 44:28; 45:1 refers by name to Cyrus, a Persian king who lived in the 6th century .  For this reason , some chapters form the Book of Isaiah appear in the time of Cyrus…"  Umm… didn't God have the prophets prophecy LOTS of things that hadn't happened yet?  It would hardly be unthinkable for God to have the prophets give out a particular name of someone in the future.  Besides, right before God starts prophetically addressing Cyrus He states, "I am the Lord, the maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself, who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns  it into nonsense, who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers."

Overall, this Bible is very nice looking inside and out (excepting the indecent pictures), but several of the above mentioned aspects keep me from recommending this Bible highly, though there are several redeeming factors, like the timelines, charts, and even other study notes that aren't so biased.  I had reviewed the NIV version of this Bible a while back but seem to have forgotten about several of the problems that I had with it.

I am grateful to have received a free review copy of this book from the Book Look Blogger program(My review did not have to be favorable)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The NLT Guys Slimline Holy Bible

The NLT GuysSlimline Holy Bible is nicely bound, very slim and lightweight. The cover has some of the 'leather-touch' material that feels very nice (not that boys will care that much), and the bright blue lines intermixed with the black should make it very easy to spot if misplaced and also catches the attention which would hopefully be a reminder for young guys to read it each day.   The letter font on the inside is small but not too small, I found it quite easy to read.  At the back of the book, Bible includes a dictionary/concordance, a list of suggested memory verses on various topics, a Bible reading plan and of course the usual maps of the Holy land and Europe.

The translation itself is very readable, the translation notes say that they were trying for a mix of formal equivalence and dynamic, I think this translation leans a bit more to the latter, a 'thought for thought' type of translation which then necessarily has some heavily imposed biased interpretation on certain texts.  I'll give a couple of related texts as an example,   Matthew 19:9: "….whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery - unless his wife has been unfaithful"  and 1 Corinthians 7:15, "But if the husband or wife who isn't a believer insists on leaving, let them go.  In such cases the believing husband or wife is no longer bound to the other…"   Both of these verses evince a bias on the part of the translator.  In the Matthew text they make the 'exception clause' permit remarriage rather than just a separation of the couple, and in the Corinthians text they make it sound as though the couple are no longer bound to one another in marriage (in God's eyes) rather than using the simple statement, "no longer bound." Which statement does not give the impression that the marriage is done in God's eyes.  I do not see how people don't see the problem with the 'remarriage allowed' interpretation (which in my view is an eisegetical interpretation not an exegetical one). When you think about it for a moment you realize that: if a marriage is ended in God's eyes by adultery or separation then the couple CANNOT forgive one another and stay married - they MUST legally divorce and separate if the marriage is finished before God, otherwise the couple would be living together out of wedlock (in God's eyes) even if they are not legally divorced.  Legal divorce was permitted by Moses because of the hard hearts of the people, but Christ came to give us NEW hearts.  Remarriage after legal divorce should not be an option in a Christians eyes because they have a new heart, not a hard heart and if they must be separated from their spouse then they should be willing to live a celibate life for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 19:11-12, 1 Cor. 7:10-11).  I know it's hard to accept but we should not reject or accept what we like in God's Word simply because "it's not fair" or "I don't feel that God would allow that".  Our feelings and our idea of fairness are not the authority, God is, and His Word is our standard, not ourselves. So, as you see, I think this translation is a bit too biased/not literal enough.  *Cough* sorry for rambling on, I just had to get that out and it's been on my mind because we're hitting the topic at my church.

I also didn't understand why some traditional words like, "Justification" were changed to "made right with God" but others, like the word "tongues" in 1 Corinthians 14 were kept instead of changed to "different languages".  It just seemed rather inconsistent.   There were several translations of verses that I liked and thought did a pretty good job of carrying the original idea of the passages over into modern English but overall I think that they could have done a better job, (the ICB seems to be more consistent in that area).

Overall the translation is okay (maybe a little too clear/modern/explicit a translation in some parts- especially for kids) though I strongly prefer the NASB.

Many thanks to the folks at the Tyndale Blog Network for sending me a free review copy of this Bible (My review did not have to be favorable)