Monthly Archives: December 2012

Christian Hedonism in The Idiot (Published 1869)

images“Exactly as is a mother’s joy when her baby smiles for the first time into her eyes, so is God’s joy when one of His children turns and prays to Him for the first time, with all his heart!’ This is what that poor woman said to me, almost word for word; and such a deep, refined, truly religious thought it was—a thought in which the whole essence of Christianity was expressed in one flash—that is, the recognition of God as our Father, and of God’s joy in men as His own children, which is the chief idea of Christ.”

Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin (aka, “The Idiot”), the protagonist in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s, The Idiot, (quote is from the Kindle version).

I just finished reading this work for the first time. Dostoevsky’s portrayal of the Gospel – through a character who sees all people for who they are, loves them regardless of their faults (covering all Ten of the Commandments), takes all faults of others upon himself, is labeled an “idiot” even though he clearly is not, and then is found innocent of all wrongdoing except loving too much – is incredible. It was well worth the time invested in reading it. Thank you Timanda Wertz and Jon Beall for pointing me toward this book, and Timanda for enticing me to read the book with this quote from another version of the text. The quote is found on page 213 of my Bantam Classic edition (1983).


The Gospel in Dostoevsky

The Burden of Vision: Dostoevsky’s Spiritual Art; (original edition)


Originally posted on Daniel B. Wallace:

There’s an old Italian proverb that warns translators about jumping in to the task: “Traduttori? Traditori!” Translation: “Translators? Traitors!” The English proverb, “Something’s always lost in the translation,” is clearly illustrated in this instance. In Italian the two words are virtually identical, both in spelling and pronunciation. They thus involve a play on words. But when translated into other languages, the word-play vanishes. The meaning, on one level, is the same, but on another level it is quite different. Precisely because it is no longer a word-play, the translation doesn’t linger in the mind as much as it does in Italian. There’s always something lost in translation. It’s like saying in French, “don’t eat the fish; it’s poison.” The word ‘fish’ in French is poisson, while the word ‘poison’ is, well, poison. There’s always something lost in translation.

But how much is lost? Here I want to explore…

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Originally posted on Daniel B. Wallace:


At the annual Society of Biblical Literature conference held in Chicago last month, the latest edition of the Novum Testamentum Graece, or the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament, was unveiled. This has been a long time coming—nineteen years to be exact. The Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung (INTF) in Münster is behind this production, and deserves accolades for its fine accomplishment. This is the first new edition of the Nestle-Aland text since the death of Kurt Aland, the founder of the INTF.


Inexplicably, even though the new text was available at SBL—both as just the Greek text and in diglot with English translations—it could not be acquired through Amazon until later. I pre-ordered a couple copies last April; the diglot arrived in November but the Greek-only text will not be released until January!

Several gave presentations on the new Nestle-Aland text at SBL. Klaus Wachtel of INTF gave an…

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The President’s Expression of Christian Hope

Obama-speaks-at-Newtown-vigil-2-on-stage-jpg“Thank you, Governor. To all the families, first responders, to the community of Newtown, clergy, guests, scripture tells us, ‘Do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly, we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all, so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven not built by human hands.’”

(Text of President Obama’s Speech at Newtown, Connecticut memorial service, December 16, 2012, quoting 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1 (NIV [2011]).

I have been an outspoken critic of the apparent disconnect between President Obama’s professed Christian belief and his actions as President. The President has given his support to same-sex marriage, which clearly violates Scripture’s prohibitions against homosexuality and disregards the Divinely established institution of heterosexual marriage. Arguably he is the most pro-choice President in modern history, showing no regard for the sacredness of the lives of the unborn or the Sixth Commandment’s, “You shall not murder.” Moreover, he rarely participates in a public worship service unless it is related to a national event.

However, last night, during his speech in Newtown, Connecticut, the President did something different: He maintained his Presidential responsibility to comfort the country in a time of national tragedy while also expressing a Christian vision of hope. Three things stood out.

First, President Obama opened his speech quoting Paul’s hope of the “eternal weight of glory” eclipsing the suffering of this life. This is different than quoting The Golden Rule while hollowing out the rest of the teachings of Christ. By referencing the 2 Corinthians passage, the President offered an apostolic view of suffering and hope as the means by which he is making sense of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. To suggest that the deaths of more than a score of 6 – 7 year olds at the hands of a deranged gunman poses “a momentary and light affliction” for their parents, that community, or the nation, is a view that is uniquely Christian. To anyone else, such belief should seem ludicrous at best and completely insensitive at worst.

Second, the President litters much of his speech with references to Christian concepts of depravity and redemption. Consider this paragraph:

“As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other. You’ve cared for one another. And you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered, and with time and God’s grace, that love will see you through.”

Inserting “God’s grace” proclaims to the Newtown citizens that human effort alone is not sufficient to provide the strength necessary to return to a sense of normalcy in the future. The President returns to this idea later in the speech:

“We know our time on this Earth is fleeting. We know that we will each have our share of pleasure and pain, that even after we chase after some earthly goal, whether it’s wealth or power or fame or just simple comfort, we will, in some fashion, fall short of what we had hoped. We know that, no matter how good our intentions, we’ll all stumble sometimes in some way.

We’ll make mistakes, we’ll experience hardships and even when we’re trying to do the right thing, we know that much of our time will be spent groping through the darkness, so often unable to discern God’s heavenly plans.”

The allusions to Romans 3:23 and James 3:2 also are unmistakable as we “fall short” and “all stumble” while trying to discern “God’s heavenly plans.” Later in the speech, in this sovereign plan, the President says God also “calls [the slain children] home.” Rather than grasping for the ubiquitous “rest in a better place” rhetoric, President Obama pulls his understanding of death from Christian themes.

Third, the President directly quoted Jesus as a historical figure. What he did not say is important: He did not say, “The Bible says that Jesus said,” possibly suggesting Jesus is a literary figure of the Christian textual tradition. Instead, he said “‘Let the little children come to me,’ Jesus said, ‘and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven,’” drawing upon Matthew 19:14. For our Comforter in Chief, the slaughtered children landed in the arms of Christ.

In spite of making one mention of “all the world’s religions,” the President left no option of eternal hope or life after death through any other religious schemes or houses of worship. He risked offending every Muslim, Jew, and atheist. Yet he provided powerful words of comfort for the entire listening audience – and he did so by looking to heaven through Christ.

I recognize that the rest of the speech is typical, full of the common condolences the American people have come to expect and respect in the wake of national tragedies. I also know that these remarks might not reflect a full working of the Gospel in the heart and mind of President Obama. Yet itis a good start, and a welcomed sign of Christian-like convictions. I only pray and hope that this will be a sign of the influence of Christ in all that the President will do the next four years.

May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bring the great comfort of heaven to the families and community of Newtown, Connecticut who lost their loves ones during last’s week’s tragic and senseless act of violence.



Poythress’ Work on Harmonization of the Gospels at WTS 50% Off

9781433528606mVern Poythress’ Inerrancy and the Gospels looks good. WTS Bookstore has a pdf sample at their site. Currently they have the book on sale at 50% off at $9.00. I will add it to my 2013 reading pile.

Publisher’s Description:

Serious Bible readers all recognize that there are differences between accounts of the same events in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and no responsible reader can simply sweep these differences under the rug. But can all of the accounts still be reconciled with a belief in biblical inerrancy?

Responding to the questions surrounding the gospel narratives, New Testament scholar Vern Poythress contributes a worthy case for inerrancy in the gospels and helps readers understand basic principles for harmonization. He also tackles some of the most complicated exegetical problems, showing the way forward on passages that have perplexed many, such as the centurion’s servant, the cursing of the fig tree, and more.

All those interested in the authority of Scripture will find in this volume great encouragement and insight as Poythress has provided an arresting case to stem the tide of skepticism.


Inerrancy and Worldview


Dr. Robert Cameron Received into Glory

robcameron2It is with great sadness that I received word yesterday of the passing of Dr. Robert Cameron, founding pastor of Mt. Carmel Church (OPC) in Somerset, NJ. Dr. Cameron was a senior statesman among African American pastors within the Reformed traditions. He was author of, Last Pew on the Left: America’s Lost Potential, a work about racism and society. A few of his sermons are available on Dr. Cameron preached Christ  crucified. I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Cameron through the work of my friends Chris Arzen and Joe Lasardo. Dr. Cameron will be missed.


Originally posted on C.S. Lewis Minute:

If you paid close attention to my recent contest you noticed the opportunity to get a FREE booklet (PDF) containing the “Best of the C.S. Lewis Minute.” If you didn’t catch how to get that be sure to read below for details about how to get it. Plus, learn more about TWO biographies on C.S. Lewis being released next year by one person (Alister McGrath).

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