A Comparison of Certain Popular English Bible Versions

May 16, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Bible, Ministry Helps

CSL047The chart below represents a comparison of certain popular English Bible versions. The chart is listed in the following categories:Bible Version; Year Completed; Group of Origin and Reading Level (approximate).

CEV (Contemporary English Version) 1991 American Bible Society 5.4

KJV (Authorized or “King James” Version) 1611 Anglican / Puritan 12.0

LB (The Living Bible) 1971 Evangelical 8.3

MES (The Message) 2002 Evangelical 5.0

NAB (New American Bible) 1970 Roman Catholic 6.6

NASB (New American Standard Bible) 1971 Evangelical 11.7

NIV (New International Version) 1979 Evangelical 7.8

NKJV (New King James Version) 1982 Evangelical 8.0

NLT (New Living Translation) 1996 Evangelical 6.4

NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) 1990 Mainline (gender neutral) 8.1

PHL (J.B. Phillips Translation) 1963 Anglican 4.0

RSV (Revised Standard Version) 1952 Mainline 10.0

Michael Bogart

Why Questioning the Bible Is Fashionable

May 15, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Defending the Faith

old-bibleBackground of and Reaction to Higher Criticism.

The philosophical movements of the Enlightenment (roughly the 1700s) focused on a fundamental questioning of the certainties of the Middle Ages and a reaction to the clashes over truth during the Protestant Reformation. Traditional views of religion and culture came under severe inquiry and even open attack.

For example, Rene Descartes began his philosophic inquiry by questioning everything, except his own existence. He then built the philosophy of Rationalism from one presupposition. “Cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am).

Enlightenment thinkers reasoned that unless something made rational sense (Rationalism) or could be tested and proved to the senses (Empiricism), it should not be accepted. The Cosmos was seen as merely “the product of cause and effect in a closed system.” Enlightenment thinking obviously had a dramatic impact on religion, excluding the supernatural as a factor in real human experience. Religious dogma and doctrine were questioned and discarded, not only by those of marginal religious commitment, but by some within Judeo-Christianity.

In the early 1800s the philosophy of George Hegel took the next logical step. Hegel began by asking certain basic questions: If the supernatural is not a factor in the routine workings of the Cosmos, how did things arrive at their present state? Are things moving in the direction of progress? If so, what mechanism causes things to progress?

Hegel’s answer was his Dialectic Process, which stated that the Cosmos is a closed system of cause and effect, driven by the conflict of the principles of thesis with its opposite, antithesis.  In other words, the Universe is propelled in the direction of progress by a clash of opposing forces or ideas. The interaction of these opposite forces produces a blending of the two, which Hegel called synthesis. Hegel saw this process as a manifestation of Absolute Mind, which was the term he used for the source of reality (similar to the concept of Brahman in Hinduism).

This dialectical philosophy quickly became the dominant theory in Western intellectual and academic circles. Variations of the Hegelian dialectic were quickly adapted to other disciplines by those eager for an explanation of reality which did not need a Creator. For example:

Biological diversity and environmental suitability were explained by Charles Darwin as the survival of the fittest. The clash of species and the resulting adaptations and genetic mutations used Hegel’s dialectic in the Theory of Evolution (Origin of Species, 1858).

Politics was seen by Karl Marx as a violent conflict between social classes, ultimately resulting in a redistribution of wealth and a communist utopia (The Communist Manifesto, 1848).

Bible scholarship also took a page from Hegel in the Higher Critical Movement, which began in the late 1700s, and became academically dominant in the second half of the 1800s. The Bible was seen as merely a collection of folklore, religious codes of behavior, political propaganda and even downright forgery edited late in biblical history.

Higher Criticism. The Higher Critics were led by German scholars such as K.H. Graf and Julius Wellhausen, who studied the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy) using a theory called the Documentary Hypothesis. The premise of the Documentary Hypothesis was that the Pentateuch couldn’t possibly have been written in the form in which we now know it. Therefore, the documents must have “evolved” over time through a process similar to Hegel’s dialectic, from primitive religious ideas and practices, ancient oral stories, legends and early written fragments of questionable historical value.

These sources were then woven together over time by various editors, who blended and changed them into distinct religious documentary traditions within Israelite tribal groups (Jahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist and Priestly). Finally, these four documents were further edited and combined into their current form in the Pentateuch. The Documentary Hypothesis opened the door to other critical approaches to studying and understanding the biblical documents of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.

The basic flaw of the Critical Approach is in making certain arbitrary assumptions:

1. History and religion should be understood as fundamentally naturalistic. True to its Enlightenment roots the Critical View explains reality in purely naturalistic terms, dismissing the possibility of the supernatural. Miraculous accounts in the Bible are seen as embellishments made to gain credibility by certain groups and individuals, or merely as legends perpetuated by simple tribal people.

2. Critical methodology is always assumed to be superior to other approaches. Wellhausen and other early critics took almost no notice of archeological discoveries in their day, which sometimes disproved their assertions. Since then, the basic gist of Higher Criticism has never been revised despite a wealth of new information and findings, many of which have tended to support the accuracy of the biblical accounts.

3. The ancient Israelite peoples were ignorant nomads. For instance, the early Critics asserted that writing was extremely rare in ancient times and unknown to ancient Israelites. Yet ancient writing and documents are routinely uncovered by archeologists. Egypt, Sumer, Indus Valley, Mesopotamia and Meso-America all had writing early in their histories. It was expedient for the Critics, however, to take the position that ancient Hebrews had little or no access to writing so that they could argue that, if figures like Moses and the other greats of the scriptures existed at all, they couldn’t possibly have written a document of the stature of the Pentateuch.

4. The Patriarchs are essentially legendary figures. Critics see Abraham, Jacob, Moses and the others as Paul Bunyan-like heroes developed by people who needed to see their founding fathers as larger-than-life. Critics believe that the biblical stories of the Patriarchs actually tell us nothing about the Patriarchs themselves. All that can be learned from the biblical accounts is what the times may have been like when the stories were first told, and what the composers of those stories thought life may have been like in earlier times.

Traditionalist Reactions to Higher Criticism. Traditionalists were initially caught unprepared by the critical onslaught of the late 1800s. At first, those loyal to the inspiration of scripture simply responded with vehement opposition to Higher Critical views and with indignant denouncements of these new theories. This initial emotional reaction was followed in the mid and late Twentieth Century by more thoughtful scholarship, factual defense of the Bible and interaction with the views of critically-oriented academia.

Jewish Reaction. The more conservative groups within Judaism either defended the divine origins of scripture or took the approach that the origins of Scripture were irrelevant because the traditions have become a time-tested glue holding Jews together. The more liberal elements of Judaism have been influenced to large degree by Critical thought. Hence, they are freer to redefine traditional observance of the Torah (Moses’ Law) and blend with the society around them.

Roman Catholic / Eastern Orthodox Reactions. The Vatican and the various Eastern Orthodox bodies have maintained their longstanding positions on the divine inspiration of scripture, though there is much internal debate on unofficial levels. The issue has not been quite as major among Roman Catholics or Orthodox as for Protestants, because both of these groups have other sources of divine authority besides the Bible. For example, both groups also accept the decisions of various ecumenical church councils on a par with the teachings of the Bible. Roman Catholics further accept the pronouncements of popes as binding.

Protestant Reactions. Protestant Christianity has been deeply divided on the issues raised by Higher Criticism and related movements of modernist theology. Fundamentalist groups have flatly denied the arguments of the Critics, refusing to become involved in academic debate and increasingly retreating into cultural isolation. Evangelicals have been more willing to dialog with the larger culture. They have attempted to defend scriptural inspiration and reliability based on the disciplines of textual criticism and manuscript study. Since the mid Twentieth Century, Evangelicals have entered the debate over the reliability of scripture with growing confidence. However, the ascendancy of Post-modern thought in the years just prior to the dawn of the Twenty-first Century has changed the focus of the debate away from the factually-based defense Evangelicals have labored so hard to assemble, toward a larger debate over the nature and meaning of reality itself.

Modernist Protestants have attempted to accommodate Christian faith and doctrine to the viewpoints of academia and of the larger society. In doing so, they have become culturally mainstream, but have arguably tended to lose much of their Christian distinctiveness. This trend is attested to by their dramatic losses in church membership, as people have either ceased to think of themselves are particularly Christian, or have migrated to churches which emphasize distinctive Christian teachings.

Michael Bogart

Classic Arguments for the Existence of God

May 15, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Defending the Faith

the-thinkerOver time, certain tried and true arguments have been used to “prove” the existence of God. These can be seen primarily as arguments for monotheism, but they can be adapted somewhat to certain other theistic views as well.

The Ontological Argument. Credit: Anselm of Canterbury, circa 1033-1109 CE. “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1). To even deny God’s existence, a person must grasp the concept of a supreme deity. A supreme deity is the greatest possible being; nothing greater can be conceived. Logical points:

Premise 1: God is the greatest possible being.

Premise 2: At the very least, God exists in the minds of people.

Premise 3: A being who exists only in the mind is not as great as one who exists both in the mind and in reality.

Premise 4: If God exists only in the mind, he is not the greatest possible being.

Initial Conclusion: Therefore, since he can be conceived in the mind, God must exist in both the mind and in reality.

Possible Refutation: To conceive of God only tells us what he would be like if he existed, not whether he exists.

Overall Conclusion: Though not a completely convincing proof, the Ontological Argument may show that belief in God is at least reasonable.

The Cosmological Argument infers the existence of God from the existence of the Cosmos (either as a whole or from specific objects). It has also been called the First Cause Argument. Credit: Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle; In the medieval era Thomas Aquinas 1225-74 CE used this argument in his Summa Theologica. In brief, the Cosmological Argument argues that the Cosmos appears to be contingent. That is, it exists, but could have just as easily not existed. Since it requires something outside itself to bring it into existence, it appears to have been caused by something that is self-existent.

Premise 1: Certain contingent beings and objects exist (the Cosmos).

Premise 2: If any contingent things exist, then a self-existent thing (First Cause) must exist.

Initial Conclusion: Therefore a self-existent thing (or Being) must exist. (If we call this thing “God”, then the argument is successful.)

Possible Refutation 1: Perhaps the Cosmos itself is eternal. Reply: If that is true, it is still contingent and would require a First Cause.

Possible Refutation 2: Perhaps the Cosmos is not contingent. The French existentialist author Albert Camus believed the Cosmos to be absurd. That is, it exists as a necessary cause but with no apparent explanation as to how or why. Reply: If this is true, then, by definition, the Cosmos is itself the First Cause, which does not appear to fit the discoveries of science.

Possible Refutation 3: Perhaps the Cosmos is infinitely contingent. Reply: An infinite series of contingent things is an incomplete series.

Overall Conclusion: This argument seems compelling to many. It does not necessarily require a Monotheistic God as First Cause, but could also allow for Deism and even Pantheism.

The Teleological Argument. This point of view is related to the Cosmological Argument, but focuses on the Cosmos as an orderly system. It is also called the Argument from Design. Credit: Various Greek philosophers; Aquinas.

Premise 1: The Cosmos contains many instances of design. For example, the order of heavenly bodies, chemistry, physics and the biological world.

Premise 2: Evidence of design implies a Designer.

Initial Conclusion: The Cosmos is the result of a Designer.

Possible Refutation: Order and progress may happen by pure chance. This is essentially the reasoning behind the theory of Materialistic Evolution (given the existence of raw matter, huge lengths of time and random chance, order and benefit can be produced). Reply: Even Evolution requires some sort of constructive force driving the process.

Overall Conclusion: The Teleological and Cosmological arguments are probably are complementary. Their defects are each cancelled out by the other. The Cosmological Argument argues for a First Cause, the Teleological for that cause being personal, intelligent and beneficial.

The Moral Argument has also been called the Argument from Conscience. Credit: Plato talked about “the form of the good”. Immanuel Kant said that the idea of moral order makes the postulation of God necessary. C.S. Lewis discusses the Moral Argument at length in his book, Mere Christianity. This argument is not popular among most contemporary philosophers, but is often used by average people.

Premise 1: Basic concepts such as love and justice are universally understood in world cultures.  In other words, the concept of a set of universally binding moral values seems to exist and be accepted in every culture.

Premise 2: Without a God, there cannot be absolute (universally binding) moral values. Teodor Dostoevsky wrote in The Brothers Karamozov, “..if there is no God, then everything is permitted..”

Premise 3: Since Absolute Values can only come from a source outside the human race, there mkust be a source for these things either hard-wired into the Cosmos or outside it altogether.

Initial Conclusion: Therefore, as the source of a universal morality, God exists.

Possible Refutation 1: Could not universal morality originate from some cause besides God? Perhaps moral obligations are grounded in self interest or natural instinct. Reply: People seem to conceive of moral absolutes even when they do not appear to involve self-interest or natural instinct. For instance, the case of a soldier falling on a hand grenade to save his comrades.

Possible Refutation 2: Right and wrong are not universally binding, but are products of human culture. Reply: The variance in human morality is exaggerated. There seems to be a basic trans-cultural understanding of morality with only the details and circumstances in question. Also, just because cultural variance in morality exists, it does not logically follow that no absolute morality exists. It is entirely possible that some cultures may be mistaken in their understanding of moral details. For example, Adolph Hitler’s extermination of the Jews was largely condemned by the world and the Nazis held responsible for atrocities regardless of their own logic supporting their actions.

Overall Conclusion: The existence of concept of universal moral obligations makes more sense in a Cosmos designed by a moral being than it does in a Cosmos where moral beings are a product of impersonal and amoral forces. Together with the Cosmological and Teleological Arguments, the Moral Argument adds the dimension of holiness to a personal Creator.

Summary: These arguments depend on the individual accepting or rejecting each of the premises as true. All of the premises seem to be true to some, but not absolutely proven to everyone. The best that can be said is that, taken together, these avenues of logic make a very plausible case for the existence of God to many rational people.  M. Bogart

Various Types of Theism

May 15, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Defending the Faith

Theism simply signifies a belief in a deity.  It is usually used in a very non-specific manner, for instance as opposed to atheism (God does not exist) or agnosticism (the truth about the existence of God cannot be known).  However, theism can be broken down into several distinct types as follows:

Deism believes there is one God or source of reality, but this deity is detached and only semi-personal.  He is not intimately involved in the affairs of his creation.

 Monotheism teaches that there is only one true God, who is personal and intimately involved in his creation.

Polytheism practices belief in and worship of a plurality of personal deities.  Many pagan and tribal religions (both ancient and modern) practice this type of theism.

Henotheism is also a belief in multiple deities, but practices supreme allegiance to only one. 

Pantheism is a belief in a non-personal source of reality, which is in some sense identified with the entire Cosmos. Therefore Nature is God.

Pan-entheism is similar to pantheism, except that God is in some sense bigger than just the Cosmos, while including it within himself.

Absolute Monism is similar to pantheism, except that the cosmos is illusory.  In this type of theirm, God is the Great Unity which manifests itself in the less-than-real world.       

Dualism teaches that there are two opposite and equal deities in perpetual conflict.  The clash of good versus evil deities drives the Cosmos forward.

M. Bogart

Faith-Based Healthy Marriage Policy

May 15, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Ministry Helps

We the pastors and ministers of ______________________________ (organization, association, etc) covenant to provide a minimum of  _____ sessions of premarital counseling to couples requesting our input or participation in their weddings.  

We further promise to encourage married couples under our care to attend a scripturally – based marriage enhancement workshop as a periodic aid to a healthy marriage. 

We are convinced that marriage education is an essential component in creating an environment in which marriage can thrive.  By taking a stand for biblical marriage counseling and education we are providing couples with the tools they will need for a successful marriage, as well as creating healthier environments for children, decreasing the rate of separation and divorce and providing a means of outreach to un-churched families.

__________________________________________         

Signature of Pastor / Minister

__________________________________________

Church or Organization 

_________________

Date

 

Issues for the Family in Christian Service

May 15, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Ministry Helps

family-in-churchThe following is a brief look at some biblical guidelines with discussion questions aimed at exploring issues related to family involvement in ministry.

Biblical guidance for family life and involvement in ministry:

Marriage:

  • Basic information on the marriage relationship (Ephesians 5:22-6:4 / Colossians 3:18-21).
  • Pricilla and Aquila as New Testament examples of a married couple in ministry (Acts 18:24-28; Romans 16:3-5a; 1 Corinthians. 16:19; 2 Tim 4:19).
  • The issues of married ministry in the context of Paul’s recommendation of singleness as an easier lifestyle in rigorous ministry (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).

Children:

  • The Christian leader and family relationships (1 Timothy 3:2-5, 8-13).
  • The poor examples of Eli and Samuel raising children in ministry (1 Samuel 2:12, 17, 22-25; 8:1-5).

Discussion Questions:

  • Does God call both husband and wife to Christian service?
  • Does God also call children of Christian servants to be a part of family ministry while they are living with parents?
  • In what ways can a spouse enhance the ministry of his/her partner?
  • In what ways can a spouse cripple the ministry of his/her partner?
  • What are the reasonable minimum expectations Christian people may have for a family who serves them in ministry?
  • What sacrifices should ministry families reasonably expect to make for the sake of their ministry and their “flock”?
  • What are the reasonable minimum expectations a ministry family may have toward their “flock” concerning their care, upkeep and well-being?
  • What are some signals that active, public ministry should be scaled back or temporarily discontinued for the sake of family well-being?
  • What types of training do ministry families need for effective long-term service?
  • What issues should be discussed in line with what individual family members expect in ministry lifestyle?
  • What habits and practices should ministry families develop to show appreciation for church volunteers and faithful members?
  • What training and modeling should be provided to develop the practices of forbearance and forgiveness?
  • Discuss the issues of rest, renewal and recreation in ministry.
  • In what ways should congregations be trained in caring for ministry families?
  • Discuss the issues of adequate (generous) salaries for paid staff; respecting staff time off;  respecting certain areas of family privacy; allowing those in ministry to be “people in process”.
  • What is the role of those in ministry to facilitate or present this training?

Michael Bogart

Michael Bogart

Opposing Kingdoms

May 15, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Thoughts

The World: Christ’s Kingdom:

Seeing is believing Believing is seeing (John 20:25)

Preserve your life Lose your life (Matthew 16:25)

Become religious Seek Christ’s Kingdom (Matthew 6:33)

Be first and greatest Last is first / least is greatest (Mark 9:35)

Look out for your self first    Seek the interests of others (Philippians 2:4)

Make your good deeds known      Keep good deeds secret (Matthew 6:3)

Appear wise at all costs OK with seeming foolish (1 Corinthians 3:18)

Love is based on circumstances Love is unconditional (John 13:34)

Hate your enemies / seek revenge Love / bless enemies (Matthew 5:44)

Hold grudges Forgive as you are forgiven (Colossians 3:13)

Cover up your mistakes Confess your sins (Proverbs 18:33)

Rely on human resources Rely on God’s power (Zechariah 4:6)

Some things are impossible All things are possible with God (Mark 9:23)

Partial peace by negotiation True peace from the Prince of Peace (Philippians 4:7

Source Unknown

Sword Drill: Trials

May 14, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Sword Drills

1 Peter 4:12  Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.

James 1:2-3  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

Acts 14:21-22  They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

1 Peter 1:7  These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

1 Thessalonians 3:2-3  We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker[a]in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.

2 Corinthians 8:2  Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.

Hebrews 11:36  Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.

FINAL ROUND:  2 Peter 2:9  ….if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.

Sword Drill: Missions

May 9, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Sword Drills

Psalm 2:8. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.

Isaiah 61:1-2. The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.

Matthew 28:19-20. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Luke 14:23. Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.

Acts 1:8. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Romans 1:14. I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.

3 John 7-8. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.

FINAL ROUND: Acts 13:47. For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’

Sword Drill: Christian Identity

May 9, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Sword Drills

Deuteronomy 14:2 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession.

Isaiah 63:16 But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.

2 Corinthians 6:18 I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.

Romans 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Hebrews 2:11 Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.

Ephesians 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,

FINAL ROUND: Hosea 11:1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

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