ChurchETHOS

HCSB vs. ESV Update

Posted in book review by Nathan Creitz on March 31, 2009

d231828fd7a04b0a79a15110l[Update #2 – 4.28.09] There’s a rumor floating around that the 2nd edition of the Holman Christian Standard Bible will be coming out in September of this year. However, I got an email from Jim Baird, the Vice President of Marketing and Sales, informing me that it won’t be coming out until 2010.

[Update #1 3.31.09] I recently wrote a post about why I love the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation. Will at Anwoth tipped me off to the updated data that the HCSB has now surpassed the English Standard Version on the Christian Bookseller’s Association Best Seller List. You can find their bestseller lists here.

Last month when I wrote my previous post about the HCSB and the ESV, the NIV was #1, the ESV was #5, and the HCSB was #6. Now, the NIV is #1, the HCSB is #2, and the ESV takes sixth place. I predict that we will see the HCSB as the #1 Bible translation of choice within the next year.

Will does a great job of attributing the success of the HCSB to 3 factors:

1. It is readable and appeals to all English speaking Christians.

2. But it is very accurate, not willing to succumb to tradition or doctrinal biases in the translational choices. This appeals to the scholars.

3. Finally, though the marketing from the publisher hasn’t been particularly effective, the viral marketing has been very effective.

I think the ESV appeals to a lot of extremely reformed individuals and has been talked about by their champions (Piper, Driscoll, etc.) But, the HCSB is far superior as a translation because it seems to supercede the calvinism vs. arminianism debate. All translations have a slight bias but the HCSB may be the most unbiased translation ever to be produced in the history of Bible translations. So when I say that I really like it as a translation, I don’t think that’s a biased opinion. 🙂

You can buy the new Holman Christian Standard Bible here.

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One God, Two Gods, Three Gods, No God

Posted in christian thought, theology by Nathan Creitz on March 17, 2009

Is it reasonable to believe in god? If there is a god, how do we go about getting to know him / her / them? Has science ruled out the possibility that god exists?

These are a few of the questions that people who are seeking tend to ask. I’ve had this conversation on several occasions with people who are trying to figure out the answers. I’ve come to realize that when someone is seriously asking these questions it is helpful to remove some obstacles so they are free to explore all the possibilities.

The Ignorance of Tolerance

picture-1The first obstacle to people believing in god is the concept of tolerance. I understand where tolerance comes from. Tolerance comes from a sincere desire to keep religions from fighting with one another. The ideal of tolerance is that some people worship god one way, others worship god another way, and it’s okay for them to do that [just don’t be pushy with your beliefs, thank you very much]. The sentiment of a tolerant person is “can’t we all just get along?” — I can appreciate that.

But tolerance is ignorance…

or stupidity (depending on your frame of mind)

Most people simply go along with tolerance as an ideal because it is the foundation of our society (when it comes to various religions). They believe that all religions are equally right and/or wrong so there’s no need to force feed your beliefs on me (ignorance). Others know the shaky logic of tolerance yet remain steadfast and immovable (stupidity).

This needs to change.

Call A Doctor, I’m Feeling Polytheistic!

To help remove the obstacle of tolerance so that we can take another step towards authentic worship of god, we have to talk about the various religions of the world.

Tolerance is built on the foundation that all religions are true. Really? Can any thinking person see the problem with that assertion?

We have to realize that any statement made about god is either true or false – not both. All major religions make one of three basic statements about god: either there is NO god, there is ONE god, or there are MORE THAN ONE gods. When we say that all religions are true and that we should tolerate all viewpoints we are asking people to tolerate lies. Only one option can be correct. God’s existence and being are not dependent upon what I believe about god! God IS and we must either accept him as he IS, or flat out reject him by worshiping a false god of our own imagination.

So, when we survey the major religions of the world we discover several atheistic (no god) religions, several monotheistic (one god) religions, and several polytheistic (many gods) religions. If, for the sake of argument, each of these beliefs had one-third of the world’s population as adherents to their religions, then two-thirds of the world would be wrong! They are wasting their time! (At this point I’m not trying to make a case that my world-view is correct, just saying is all) Their life is being lived in pursuit of a lie! They think they are being sincere, but they are sincerely wrong!

The Truth Shall Set You Free!

But how do we go about discovering which one is true?

Each -theism has it’s own share of problems in establishing it’s validity. Like atheism: Hasn’t science proven that this is the most rational option? Not if god is spiritual and not material. Science has no tools to measure or observe or test the nature of god. I have a feeling that it never will.

What about monotheism and polytheism? If we say god or the gods can’t be observed isn’t that just a cop out? How can we prove there is a god or more than one gods if we can’t use our senses to find out more about him / her / them?

And by the way, do you think it’s remotely possible or even likely that god might have something to say about the matter? Does he know the truth? Has he ever offered humanity a clue as to who he might be? Or how we might know him? Or what his plan is for the universe (much less for little old me)?

The Audacity of Veracity

That’s where our search can begin: with the sacred documents of various religions. Either god exists or He doesn’t, right? If god doesn’t exist then there would not be any sacred documents describing the plan of god, the nature of god, etc. The sacred documents that we do have are simply fantastical human concoctions and to some degree they all share or plagiarize material from one another. All of them are wrong because there is no god.

But, if there are many gods then there could be many sacred documents (which there are). All of them could be true. When the Christian or the Jewish god says, “You shall have no other gods other than Me!” then you could say, well, he’s just upset with the other gods and wants all the power and glory for himself, but he’s only one of many gods. That’s a plausible theory and it actually accounts better for all the sacred documents than atheism. Wherever we are led astray comes from the gods themselves. Maybe one is lying to us by saying he’s the only god.

On the other hand, what if only one document has the Answer everyone is looking for. In that case, only the sacred document from that religion is Truth, all the others are forgeries penned by a man or woman with various motivations for doing so.

It seems to me that we need to search these documents and apply the veracity test to each of them. One could start with the predominant religions in each category. Study the sacred writings of Buddhism (atheistic religion), Hinduism (polytheistic religion), and Christianity (monotheistic religion) and simply see if anything stands out. This would be a good starting place.

Coming to Terms with Reality

One prominent atheist was confronted with all the religions of the world (including atheism) and finally had to conclude that god exists. He felt like all religions were either deep (spiritual and mysterious and only accessible by mystics, gurus and priests) or wide (easy to understand and accessible by the masses). He came to realize that only two religions were both deep and wide: Hinduism and Christianity. Since he had already come to realize that atheism is a lie, he decided to explore these two religions. In the end, after reading the Gospels in the Bible, he couldn’t escape the veracity of the story of Jesus. He couldn’t believe that a human could’ve come up with this on his or her own.

picture-2Though it was perhaps embarrassing for an established professor of literature at prestigious Oxford to admit he was wrong, C.S. Lewis became a Christian. It was the life of Jesus that made the difference. It made sense to Him. He said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” His eyes were opened and he was able to see God (notice the use of the capital G). Jesus exudes credibility. The Bible is reliable. God has revealed Himself and He is One God.

Personally, I see the universe around me and I see patterns, I see unity, I see evidence of one God. The person of Christ is unique, the Trinity is unique, the concept of Christianity is unique. It’s simple but it’s mysterious all at the same time. This isn’t proof, it’s just my personal experience of the Truth. I don’t have to prove anything to myself because I already know God. I won’t try to prove anything to you because you may be ignoring God or running from God. I’ll let you decide whether or not knowing God is in your best interests. My hope is that after reading this your curiosity will be piqued and you will have a desire to find out for yourself.

But please, please don’t say you are being tolerant by believing there can be both no god, one god, or many gods all at the same time. If you’ve read this all the way to the end then there is no room for ignorance on this matter any longer. Ignorance is simply not knowing the truth, and that’s fine, some people haven’t thought through the contradiction of tolerance. Foolishness is knowing the truth and rejecting it for selfish reasons. Ignorance is excusable, stupidity is not. After reading this post, ignorance is the only option not available to you anymore. Wisdom puts you on the path to finding God. Foolishness puts you on the path to finding nothing. If you are an atheist, you’ve already found nothing because that’s what you want to find. But for people willing to think, these are the two options before you: wisdom or foolishness.

PostScript

I share this post with you because I love you and God loves you. Truth can hurt sometimes and I don’t share the Truth with you because I’m gloating or angry. I sincerely want people to know God. God wants you to know Him. He’s given you a beautiful creation to enjoy. He’s given you His Word, the Bible, to understand Him. He offers you His love and, though we’ve all rejected Him and could even be considered as His enemies, He still wants to know you. I can understand if this post is offensive and I know you’re desire will be to bang out a hasty response in the comments section. That’s fine, as long as it doesn’t have offensive language, I will publish it. Feel free to ask questions, offer a contrary opinion, or debate my points. Just remember, I want to have a friendly, productive dialogue with my readers. Let this be a space you can use to explore the things I’ve articulated. God said, “When pride comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)

Related Post: Did Jesus Claim to be God? ::  Subscribe ::

Pursuing Prayer

Posted in christian habits, personal devotion, prayer by Nathan Creitz on March 10, 2009

Do Americans know how to pray?

I know I’ve been finding it difficult to talk with God and spend time with Him in the midst of such a busy schedule. But shouldn’t it be the goal of our life to simplify everything else so that we can increase our quality time with our Creator?

I tend to overextend myself. But I’ve been thinking about the things I commit to. The time that I give, does it belong to me? As a child of God, doesn’t my life belong to Him? Sure, most of the things I volunteer for are good things. But sometimes I miss out on prayer because I’m blogging helping a friend or meeting a need. Again, as noble as my motives may be – is it my time to give? My time, my resources, and my life are not my own.

Prayer is both the purpose and the process for getting our schedule under control. We need to spend time in prayer but if we don’t have time for God, prayer gets pushed to the rear. But prayer also enables us to get our schedule under control. How am I supposed to know how best to use my time if I’m not in communication with the One to whom my schedule should belong? I overextend myself sometimes because I mistake good things for the best things.

Prayer as Purpose

The end result of maintaining control of our time and resources should be that we can spend more on our relationship with God. If we are too busy to spend an hour a day loving and serving God then we are too busy. Some of that time could be spent in prayer. Some could be spent reading the Bible. Some could be sharing your faith or discipling a believer or investing in a small group of Christians with whom you are sharing life together.

But prayer shouldn’t be ignored. It’s easy to make it to a weekly worship gathering because people see you there and hold you accountable. Prayer is different. Prayer requires personal discipline. Prayer is a passion that you have to decide that this is more important than the American dream. It’s even more important than paying the bills. Overtime at work might help you put money in savings but it won’t keep you connected to God who is Jehovah Jireh (The Lord will provide). Prayer is the purpose. Prayer is the goal of a simpler schedule.

Prayer as Process

But prayer is also the plan. We are better able to comprehend God’s will when we communicate with Him and draw closer to Him. God is able to direct our steps but He won’t do it if we don’t let Him. If our schedule is packed from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed then there’s no room for Him. This is why Americans have such a hard time with prayer (including me). We work 50 or 60 hour work weeks (not to mention those who work even more). We fill our downtime with activity. We might get around to kissing our wife and hugging one or two of our children but that’s it.

I recently was sharing the vision of small groups and developing community with a group of church leaders. I was talking about the commitment to fellowship that seems to be missing and was encouraging a deeper level of commitment (like, say, 2 or 3 more hours a week) when one of them asked me, “How do you get people in the church not to think this is some sort of tax?” I think I handled my response appropriately but I couldn’t believe that a church leader would think that “being devoted to fellowship…” might be perceived as some sort of a tax on people’s time.

I totally understand the difficulty of spending time in community because I know how hard it is for us to even spend 15 minutes in prayer and in relationship with our God. But that’s not an excuse. Our current schedule is no excuse for not spending time with God, with our families, and with our community. We are ambassadors of Christ, not day laborers at our 9 to 5 job. God is not a task master but it should be our desire to do His will above all else. How can we know His will if we aren’t spending time with Him?

In times of prayer, God teaches us how to say “no”, but He also teaches us when to say “yes”. As we walk with God and talk with Him throughout the day, He directs our steps. He keeps us from burdening our lives with too much activity and helps us to say “no”. He opens our eyes to needs and opportunities where we need to say “yes”.

Stop saying “Yes” and start saying “Yes”

A few days ago I gave up something important to me because I knew my wife needed my time and attention. It was something that WE needed to do together and even though I hate cancelling something because it seems like I’m irresponsible, I know that has to happen sometimes. It should be the same way with God, we need to stop saying “yes” to every little thing that comes along that sounds good and we need to start saying “yes” to those things that bring glory to Him. If you’re like me, I always learn the lesson after I’ve already said yes to something and then I have to back out. This makes things difficult for everyone involved.

Americans know how to pray. But, just like the disciples, we need to be asking God to “Teach us TO pray.” Prayer is the easiest concept in Scripture to understand but it might be the hardest one to implement. Prayer at it’s basic definition is communication with God. We don’t need to ask “teach us what to pray, or how to pray, or when to pray, or how often to pray”. We need to ask God to help us carve out more room in our schedule to pray.

Related Post: My Top Concerns for the Local Church ::  Subscribe ::

Why I Chose the HCSB over the ESV

Posted in book review by Nathan Creitz on March 6, 2009

Be sure to read this 3/31/09 update!d231828fd7a04b0a79a15110l

I think I’m tired of hearing about the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. Let me be clear, I’m grateful we English speakers have so many versions of the Bible to choose from, but when a version is elevated to cult like status something’s wrong. I skim through a lot of blogs and people are always writing posts saying “Mark Driscoll said ‘x'” and “John Piper said ‘y'”. Since they are ESV users, all the Christian bloggers seem to jump at the chance to be like their hero.

The ESV-Only Crowd

I like Mark Driscoll and I like John Piper and I’m grateful for the ESV. However, I don’t think it’s the best English version of the Bible out there today and the only reason it is outselling the others is because of its cult-like following. I’m afraid that in 100 years when it’s time to move on to a fresher translation people are going to be “ESV-only” fanatics. People will be saying, “Don’t you know that when Moses received the Ten Commandments, they were written in ESV English?”

To be honest, the ESV is a “formal equivalence” or word-for-word translation that is too rigid and literal. I don’t see how ESV lovers see a difference in the ESV and the NASB (again, I like the NASB as much as I like the ESV – I just think they are too literal and hard to read). The only thing I’ve heard that is different about the ESV is that it seems to use less words to say the same thing as the NASB, so it is a simpler translation by comparison and therefore seems easier to understand.

That’s What I Thought!

On the opposite end you have the NIV. The NIV is a “dynamic equivalence” or thought-for-thought translation. The NIV is very readable but it looses a lot of the precision of a word-for-word translation. They both have their problems. One is too literal and rigid for an idiomatic language such as Greek. The other is too loose with its interpretations of the thought of the original author. Sometimes the NIV makes a decision about what the author intended that other scholars disagree with. But when you commit to a thought-for-thought you have to claim to know the exact thought the author intended.

Optimizing the Translation

Enter the only “optimal equivalence” translation – the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). Now, before I sound like other bloggers who think the ESV was handed straight to them while they were hiking up Mount Sinai one day, let me say that the HCSB also has its theological slants just like all translations. I’ve done lots of comparisons on a verse-by-verse basis between the Greek text, the HCSB, the NIV, and the ESV (especially in the New Testament) and I can tell you that there are some translations that will occasionally translate a verse better (in my opinion) than the HCSB. But time and time again I think the HCSB puts the verbage in a way that is both more precise than the ESV and more readable than the NIV.

Basically, “optimal equivalence” is a marriage between formal and dynamic equivalence translation. It’s the best of the ESV AND the NIV styles. The HCSB approaches translation with a word-for-word mentality, but when that just doesn’t quite get the essence of the meaning the translators used the phrase-for-phrase method. If there is something idiomatic in the text, the HCSB translators have the freedom to deviate from a literal interpretation and capture the sense of the author’s intent.

HCSB + ESL = A OK

The HCSB is the best English translation for both the understanding of the author’s original meaning and for modern English speakers. It is a bridge between the ancient world and the modern world. It is the translation of choice when I give a Bible to an international student who might be learning English.

Let me conclude by saying, I’m not in love with a translation. However, I felt it wise to push back against the cult-like following of the ESV and say that there are other options for people who don’t do everything Driscoll and Piper tell them to do. Our translations will always have a minor problem here or there and we should always strive for the best but let’s not get involved in translation wars. Whatever you’ve chosen as your translation (remember, The Message is not a translation) spend time in it, hide it in your heart, let it draw you closer to God. For those of you who are ESV users I’m grateful that you’ve found it helpful and understandable.

Note: Here is a great information source that includes video and history of the HCSB translation.

Update: The Christian Booksellers Association lists the HCSB as the 6th most popular Bible as of March 2009. The ESV is #5 and the NIV is #1.

You can buy the new Holman Christian Standard Bible here.

You Might Be a Milk Drinker If…

Posted in body of Christ, christian thought, discipleship by Nathan Creitz on March 3, 2009

milk-bottleMy walk with God recently has taken me through Hebrews and I was struck by a passage in chapter 5 and 6 that caused me to ask the following question:

“Is the church developing milk drinkers or meat eaters when it comes to spiritual maturity?”

Hebrews 5:11 – 6:3 talks about spiritual maturity. It says that we Christians ought to be cooking up solid food but instead we are consuming the breast milk of the church. Christians are meant to mature, to grow up. So how about you and me? Are we advancing on to finger foods or are we stuck breastfeeding?

From this passage in Hebrews, I’ve realized that you might be a milk drinker if…

…you aren’t maturing!

Again, the analogy here is a new Christian who won’t grow up. We are meant to mature. The role of the leaders in the church is to see to it that the body is growing. Colossians 1:28, Paul says, “We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Maturity means spiritual growth and health.

The same word for “mature” could be interpreted as “perfect”. Don’t let that scare you though. The idea is that we are healthy. Health is the normal way of life, sickness is abnormal. When we are sick, we take action to be cured. Sickness debilitates us. It keeps us from work or school. It makes us groggy or lazy. When we are spiritualy healthy and when we are maturing, we are in the normal state of being.

Whatever analogy you use, whether a baby growing to adulthood or a sick person becoming well, we should be seeing spiritual growth in our lives!

…you aren’t leaving!

Hebrews 5:12 says “you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation.” Then, chapter 6 verse 1 encourages us to “leav[e] the elementary message about the Messiah.” This implies that we don’t need to relearn the basics (though a review every now and then doesn’t hurt). Instead we are moving on to more advanced principles.

The image in my mind has to do with a classroom. Once we’ve taken elementary Algebra we shouldn’t have to take it again and again. It’s time to move on to advanced Calculus or Trigonometry (I don’t even know what those things are, but you get my point).

…you aren’t bearing!

That is, you might be a milk drinker if you aren’t bearing fruit! Let’s return to the baby analogy. An eleven year old should be helping with the chores in the house. A 30 year old should be earning a living or caring for other children and not living at home with mom and dad. But, if an eleven year old or thirty year old is still trying to fit a round object into a square hole, chances are something is wrong developmentally. As we mature, we also begin producing. As a Christian, this means that at some point we need to begin bearing fruit. Eventually, we begin caring for other Christians who are new in their faith.

…you aren’t discerning!

A mature Christian is able to distinguish between good and evil according to Hebrews 5:14. Spiritual maturity brings discernment. We can all look back at our teenage years and know that we didn’t always have the best judgment. We all know that we could’ve avoided a lot of trouble if we had listened to our elders. The problem is, if you are a milk drinker, you probably can’t discern that you are spiritually immature. That’s why it is important for the leaders in the church to take steps to present “everyone mature in Christ.”

…you aren’t teaching!

Are you teaching anyone anything? This is a scary diagnostic for spiritual maturity because probably 80% of church attenders aren’t doing any teaching of anyone. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean you’ve got to preach on Sunday morning or lead a small group every week. Those are important roles in the church, but there are other ways you can be a teacher. Some people mentor a teenager. Some people work with the children and teach them about God. Fathers can set an example by teaching their families. Some teach new Christians, others teach nearly Christians, while still others are doing their best to reach and teach anti Christians. We engage in discipleship, evangelism, apologetics, etc. and these are all forms of teaching. So, again, are you teaching anyone? Is there someone in your life in whom you are investing?

The writer of Hebrews was very clear, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation. You need milk, not solid food.” Members of the church should take note that we don’t leave the teaching to the hired “professionals”. Leaders of the church should take note that our job is to unleash the gifts and resources of the whole Body of Christ. We are to equip everyone to teach, to serve, to give, and to reach out to the world around us. Everyone in the church should be maturing to the point where he or she is able to sit at the table and eat the steak of God’s Word and not just the milk.

So pull up to the table and bring out the main course…I’m getting hungry!

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