Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Writing Through

Some of you are perhaps frightened or angered by my last post. Some of you just want me to go on posting about my legion of children. And I will. But the Scriptures have been on my mind lately. At Via Media they have begun what will be, I think, a good discussion about the Scriptures.

I believe that we are too set on defining the Scriptures. We can describe them, but that's something different completely. Inerrancy tries to define the Scriptures - tries to put them in hand. If we are able to name something, we have a certain amount of control over it. And I think that's what we try to do with this tag. We want to be able to make the Scriptures something we've got mastery of, instead of being mastered by the authority expressed by and through them. But because some people choose to question this tag, or not discuss it, the traditional church tries to marginalize them. And this defeats the whole purpose of unity to which we were called. And I want unity.

Mostly, I'm just trying to write through this issue. To explore it in my writing and to be able to, I hope, better understand the Scriptures. I'm not turning my back on my faith. But I am trying to better understand it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Do Not Remove

I remember getting a new, tabbed, leather-bound Thompson Chain Reference NIV as I started high school and how I just wanted it with me - I was in love with it; we dated, I think. This book was fresh off the lips of God. I didn't really know how to open it, how to read it, how to take it all in; nevertheless, I wanted it with me. As time went on, though, I was able to build complex scaffolding around it (all prefab, of course) - systems that helped me compass it. I understood the scaffolding. And it was good.

But I've started thinking about this strange construct of mine. I've begun to think about a word I've used to describe the scriptures: inerrant. This word has helped me systematize and categorize the Scriptures. But now I'm wrestling with it. And not because I see the Scriptures as rife with error (I don't) but because I wonder why I feel the need to put it there. Why not be satisfied with the Scriptures' own description of themselves? Why this insane desire to classify, to define, to measure, to have the Scriptures in hand? Does the word inerrant even adequately describe them? Is it the highest word I can use to describe the Scriptures? Psalm 119.96 says that all perfection has limits, but God's commands are boundless. Shouldn't that mystery be wherein I dwell? I've begun to believe that inerrancy binds the scriptures. I want to unbind them again. I want to let them be bigger than me, broader than me, purer than me - to let them break through the scaffolding. Instead of trying to compass or measure the immeasureable ocean before me, I want to dive in and explore its riches, confident and happy that I do not have enough time to exhaust them. I want in on this Story.

I know, I'm mixing metaphors. I know, you're far more concerned that I'm ripping off the tag. The tag says not to. But I am anyway. I don't mind if you keep yours. This is personal. I love God. I love his words. (Oh, how I love them!) And I'm going to let them be what they are. I'm going to dance with them. I hope that's enough for you. I hope you'll understand.

Rambling through the Ornery

72 degrees today - can you believe that? Humid from all the rain. I've been feeling ornery lately. If it's not one thing, it's another. I am overly critical and combative. No, no, it's true. My wife would say that's the status quo, but it's not. Depression is the status quo, ornery is me engaging. But that's me just being ornery and depressed. Joy is the status quo. Depression and orneriness just come with rain and friends moving out-of-state and doubts and wishing that Christmas break were here.

My last post is a nice little ornery rant. I like it. I like that it has some teeth. I even think there's some validity to what I have to say. But it is a rant and it doesn't cover every base - it isn't meant to. I actually really like the song too - just as my wife does. I just don't think it belongs on the worship roster. Enough said. Just me ranting and rambling and smoothing down the orneriness.

Today was an ornery day. But there was a lot of good in it too. A couple of things offhand: (1) We set up the Christmas tree last night. So all day today I've been seeing Christmas lights reflected in the dark eyes of my babies - talk about sublime. I wish I was a good enough photographer that I could get some pictures of it. I want to capture it. I don't want to let it go, or let it be. (2) Today I cooked a simple but good supper - pierogies with sauteed onions. I havn't cooked supper in so long, it isn't even funny. And I love to cook. I guess with all the cereal and macaroni-and-cheese . . . I don't know. I need to cook more adult meals though - for Laura and me.

Oftentimes, in the orneriness, in the frustration, I find myself saying, "I hate [fill in the blank]." Lately when I say this, I purposely reduce it: "I hate." "I hate" - ouch. We're not talking about broccoli either. We're talking about other drivers, you know - those stupid people that share the road with you. (Oops, I said the S word.) We're talking about little frustrations in my life, obstacles in my life, speed bumps, distractions. Anyway. There is hate in me. But there is something bigger than hate in me. There is someone bigger than hate in me. So hear it: I love. I LOVE! I love rain. I love people. I love my family. I love Jesus. I love. YAWP!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Impart What?

If you love Michael W. Smith's song "Ancient Words" (written by Lynn DeShazo), please skip this post. I'm feeling critical and grammatical and downright villainous.

I was sitting in church today and we began to sing "Ancient Words." You're probably familiar with the song, but in case you are not, here are the lyrics:

Holy words long preserved / for our walk in this world, / They resound with God's own heart / Oh, let the ancient words impart.

Words of life, words of hope / Give us strength, help us cope / In this world, where e'er we roam / Ancient words will guide us Home.

Ancient words ever true / Changing me, and changing you. / We have come with open hearts / Oh let the ancient words impart.

Holy words of our faith / Handed down to this age. / Came to us through sacrifice / Oh heed the faithful words of Christ.

Holy words long preserved / For our walk in this world. / They resound with God's own heart / Oh let the ancient words impart.

We have come with open hearts / Oh let the ancient words impart.

And while we were singing this song, I looked around at the congregants. They were worshiping. A few people had their eyes closed and their hands in the air. And I thought, We are worshiping the Bible. The song is not a song of praise to God for his revelation. It is a song praising the revelation. I certainly don't mind singing the praise of things in poem or song - this bird's regal bearing, that lady's beauty, yonder rock's jut, or even the scriptures' authority. And I am not trying to disrespect your favorite artist or Ms. DeShazo. But we don't bring these kinds of songs or poems into our church and use them to worship God. "Ancient Words," regardless of what else you might think about it, should not be peddled with the likes of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" and "In Christ Alone" any more than "She's Got a Way" should be. It's not that songs or poems praising something's beauty or singularity cannot or should not be used in church, but that they ought not to be used to lead people in God-adoration.

(My wife, who loves this song, is frowning fiercely nearby. So I'll shut it.)


Sometimes I just feel. I can't express myself legibly. I can't express myself properly poetically. But sometimes I can't help but just feel.

It's raining today.
It's raining down gray.
I'm lonely and cold
And left here, I stay . . .

It's raining and still -
The woodpecker's drill
Unheard and untold -
I'm praying it will . . .

It's raining, and dead
Trees' leaves fill my head
With whispers so bold -
I swear that I bled . . .

It's raining. The rain
Drums on on insane
Never stop never fold
Rolls feverish brain . . .

It's raining, raining,
The world is hanging
And I have been sold
Without so much gaining.

It's raining and cold.
It's raining and cold.
It's raining and cold.
It's raining, I'm told.

And I am still lost.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Exhortations and Blessings

Thanksgiving is a day for feasting. And that, my friends, is a good thing. Worship God with eating. Do not spoil the feast with miserly thoughts of self or of judgment. And after you have loosened your belt, thank God for his abundant provision in all things. Feast upon him. Enjoy him by enjoying your family and your time together. Be gracious to one another.

May God's grace and peace rest upon each one of you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Raccoon Is on the Move

Will on the Stump

The older the raccoon becomes, the more boy he becomes. He's evolved into Apollyon, the Destroyer Raccoon, in the last few months. He likes to clobber and investigate and climb and get into everything that I do not allow him to get into - and nothing else. He's particular in that way.

Yes, he still likes the garbage - the egg shells and coffee grounds are sweet rewards. But that's child play, in some respects. There are toxic cleaners in the world; toilets - basins of fun, pools of pleasure; computers to bang on; and, in general, messes to be made. And the raccoon is smart. He knows things. It's scary what he knows. He refuses to speak English, but do not be fooled - he knows it. Smart and destructive are two characteristics I do not like to see working together in such harmony, so mutually enraptured with one another.

So what does a man do? Play ball with him, wrestle with him, hug on him, kiss his cloven earlobe. I suppose, that's all a man can do. After all, at the end of the day, he is my raccoon.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Incarnation: A Kingdom Archetype

The scriptures tell us that in order to see God, we must look at Jesus. The incarnation of YHWH in a young Jewish man is the beginning of the re-creation of creation from within it and without. And Jesus is more than just God embodied, more than the mortal clothes of Immortality (for instance, as I might wear a snowsuit or, God forbid, a wetsuit). Jesus is the very union of divinity and humanity. And I don’t understand it.

I find incarnation as a grand archetype emerging in other Kingdom venues as well: Eucharist, Scripture, and the Church.

Before I go too far let me explain what I mean by archetype. An archetype is a “recurrent symbol or motif in literature, art, or mythology.” It is the often-imitated original. The savior or rescuer is an archetype within ancient, modern, and postmodern stories. Some examples include Beowulf, Arthur, William Wallace, and Hester Prynne. Superman and Neo are more recent types. By the way, this isn’t blasphemy or sacrilege. The purpose of these types, though not always intentional, is to point us to the archetype. Types aren’t copies of the original, but imitations, signposts, reminders of the original.

The Eucharist is a type of incarnation. Many of us Protestants view the Eucharist as merely a memory or symbol of Christ and his work for us. Catholics view it as the very presence of Christ, realized somehow in all senses. But right now I prefer the Anglican view of the Eucharist: It is the real presence of Christ in every sense, except the physical sense. So when we partake of communion we are, in reality, receiving Christ and his cross-work into ourselves. The Eucharist is holy and it is incarnational.

The scriptures are a type of incarnation – a product of the Spirit-flesh union. Some of us focus on the spirit and so we say that the scriptures are, literally, the very words of God. Some of us focus on the flesh and so we say that the scriptures are man’s record of God’s revelation. But, as I understand them, the scriptures are both and neither. The scriptures are an incarnational work, a Spirit-flesh work, a creation of divinity and humanity.

And finally, the church (and, to some extent, the individual members of the Kingdom) is incarnational. We are the body of Christ. God is present within each of us, and the church together is the fullness of Christ. What are the implications of this truth? First, as Christ's body we must strive for unity - to be one body - in all things.

All incarnation is inexplicable - it is only a matter of degrees. It is believed, not fully understood. It is reasonably embraced, but it is not rational.

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are

Last night I watched Hide and Seek with Robert De Niro and Dakota Fanning. My wife, you see, wanted something that would keep her awake, something scary. Now, I don't like scary movies as a rule. And some of these new horror flicks with the jerky-motioned dead people in them just ain't my cuppa, if you know what I'm saying. I get into my stories. And when I watch a movie it takes me a few minutes to extract myself from it once it's over. Oh yes, that's my toilet and my broken window blind. It takes me a minute.

Hide and Seek is pretty creepy. You have your blood and your dead people and your eerie music - and, of course, the obligatory freak-child. Interestingly, the tone of the movie - the very genre of the movie - changes near the end. Overall the movie is done well and I enjoyed it.

I've been told that all horror movies are no-no's for Christians. What do you think? And more broadly, is Philippians 4.8 a checklist for determining which movies we watch and which books we read and which music we listen to?

Whatever is

of Good Repute/Report
has Excellence/Virtue

Meditate on these things.

Friday, November 18, 2005

It's the Little Things That Are the Big Things

I am resting on the bed trying to lose a migraine when Anna sits down behind me. She begins scratching my back and says, "I peewishiate you, Daddy."

The Lordship of Jesus and the Empires of the World

Some talking points from Wright's lecture:

  1. The problem of postmodernity within empire and empire within postmodernity. (Postmodern criticism doesn't succeed against empire, but colludes with it.)

  2. The Lordship of Jesus against the lordship of Caesar.

  3. How can we be people of New Creation within postmodernity, within empire?

Wright said some fascinating things last night and it was difficult to scribble notes fast enough, but I would like to share a couple of items. Though Wright believes that Christians must go through postmodernity (rather than stay in modernity), he believes we ought to punch through to the other side. In modernity, the I carved up the world as it saw fit. It distanced itself from God - God became something I did in my solitude and had no part in the rest of my life. Modernity's hamartia, or flaw, is the problem of evil. And postmodernity's God-appointed task is to preach the Fall to modernity. But we also need redemption from the Fall.

  1. Empire actually co-opts postmodernity's critique by turning, or spinning, postmodernity against itself. In other words, as postmodernity speaks truth to empire, empire simply says to postmodernity, "What is truth?" So postmodernity fails in its critique of empire.

  2. God's "new" way of knowing is love. Love celebrates the other as well as the close relationship. All knowing should partake of the model of love.

  3. The metanarrative, or big story, of modernism is pulled down by postmodernity. But underneath both is God's story: love, Jesus, New Creation. And God's story is not a power story, but a love story. It reached its climax in Jesus and is waiting to be implemented through us in the power of the Holy Spirit. The vocation of love, therefore, is the appropriate Christian critique of empire.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The End of the World As We Know It

I was going to condense some of last night's lecture. In the process, I realized that I would not be condensing anything unless I presented a minutes of the talk. The only way to explain N.T. Wright is to break off a few pieces and start chewing. For you Wright fans, probably none of this material will be new; if I misrepresent him or his beliefs, please correct me.

  • Wright's view of apocalypse is more about his view of Easter. (Ultimately, Jesus and the gospel are apocalypse - the unveiling of the righteousness of God.) The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning, the birth, of the New Creation and the New Creation is, for Wright, what "the end of the world" is all about. As I understand it, Wright does not believe in a rapture or a literal millennial period of history (though I need to read more about his view of millennial prophecy - my guess is that he would find it either metaphorical or descriptive of the New Creation).
  • The material world is the locale of evil - it is not evil. It was and is meant to be our home. We are not bound for Heaven, more Wrightly viewed, Heaven is bound for us. And even to use the word bound creates problems because Wright believes that we create a distance between Heaven and Earth that is not revealed in the biblical record. Jewish thought viewed Heaven and Earth as two interconnecting, overlapping spheres. Thus Heaven could be peered into by Elisha and his servant (surrounded by a heavenly host) and John could pierce through the veil as well. The temple is perhaps the best example of this interconnectedness. The Israelites did not go to the temple in order for them to be in a place like Heaven. They were going into the very presence of God - into Heaven itself.
  • Apocalyptic events in our lives include (1) the preaching of the gospel, or the proclamation of Jesus as Lord, (2) Christian worship, in which we join together with all the saints and the angels, and (3) in Christian ethics - not about a set of rules, but about the fact that the New Creation has begun and we are agents of that New Creation. Each of these events is apocalyptic because they unveil God and his righteousness and they unveil the New Creation begun in us.
  • The sacraments are apocalyptic as well - unveiling more than remembrance, substance as well as symbol. The Eucharist, for instance, is apocalyptic as it reaches forward into the future and reveals our fellowship with Christ in the present. Just as the spies brought back the fruit of the Promised Land to be enjoyed in the wilderness, so the Eucharist brings back the fruits of the New Creation into the "wilderness" of our present lives.

Anyway, a few ideas. If you have thoughts, questions, additions, or corrections, please share.

The Bishop Took Me out to the Woodshed

Tonight I shook the hand of the Lord Bishop of Durham. He signed a couple of books for me and we had a moment of small talk. I was at the first of two lectures that he is giving at Davidson College. Tonight's lecture was "It's the End of the World as We Know It: Apocalyptic Then and Now." Bishop Tom Wright took me and many of my ideas out to the woodshed - and I enjoyed every minute of it. So I'm going back for another beating tomorrow night, Lord willing. Why the sudden masochism? He provided an explanation that is more rich and interesting and palatable (and, I believe, scriptural - though I still have plenty to check out) than the one with which I entered the building. In other words, I feel as if I'm trading up.

I have a lot of material to digest in the coming days, but, Man! it was a good time. I wish you all could have been there with me. I took five pages of notes and when I have the time I will try to condense some of it into something meaningful that I can post here. I'm sure the lectures will also eventually be posted at N.T. Wright's homepage.

Anyway, I'm headed back tomorrow night to hear him lecture on "The Lordship of Jesus and the Empires of the World."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

About the Boy

Our first three children are girls. They are as different as one flower is from another, but each of them are flowers. I didn't know what to expect with the fourth, a boy. Something wild, I supposed, something more mushroom than flower.

And he was born, ready or not, in the middle of a thunderstorm, wrinkled like a morel.

He is surrounded by pink and bright and Barbie dolls. It's hardly the ideal environment to grow a mushroom. But Barbies make nice clubs and there are increasingly more cars and balloons and balls for him to play with.

. . . . . . . .

And Anna just threw up. Nice. Everyone in the house, taking their cue from Daddy, begins crying for Mommy. Gotta run.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Shake It Up, Baby

Do you want to know a secret? I had a friend in college, we'll call him Charlie Brown, whose testicle twisted up on him - 720 degrees as a matter of fact. Half of the bugger spun around twice, in other words, resulting in abdominal pain like you wouldn't believe and creating a life-threatening situation. He had to be rushed to the hospital and have the testicle removed. His roommate and I went to visit him and, as the school nurse was coming out of the room, his roommate asked, "So, did you get everything straightened out?" We doubled up in laughter and have been making jokes ever since. Often we'd start humming, whistling, or singing "Twist and Shout" when he was with us in the weeks that followed. (How can something so bad feel so good?)

As Charlie Brown recovered, he asked the nurse if he would be able to have children with one testicle. Personally, I would be more concerned with being able to ever show my face again in public. But people value different things. The nurse assured him that he would have no problems.

And while we each had our own favorite theory about how and why it happened, the doctor told Charlie Brown that this sort of thing can occur willy-nilly. Scary. Who needs to be afraid of the bogeyman or the Count when you have something like this lurking in the back of your mind? So for the last 15 years, every odd ache or strange twinge in my groin always leads me down the road of panic: Is it my time? I wonder. Is one of them twisting? But it has not, not yet, been my time to sit down and cry.

(By the way, the last time I heard, Charlie Brown had three children.)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Tom Wright

Anyone want to come down to see an N.T. Wright lecture or two with me? He's speaking about an hour from here at Davidson College on Wednesday and Thursday nights (7:30 each night) on "Biblical Faith in the Postmodern World." Wednesday night's lecture is "It's the End of the World as We Know It: Apocalyptic Then and Now" and Thursday night's lecture is "The Lordship of Jesus and the Empires of the World." Tickets are free - we just have to show our pretty faces at the door.

Anyone game?

(Sorry for the late notice, by the way, I just found out about it myself late last night.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Exorbitant Price of Gas

My dad is a funny man - embarassingly so for his children. Public places failed to reign in his moodiness and he refused to be servant to society's proprieties. Unfortunately. Then again sometimes things just slipped out, so to speak.

One little anecdote: My dad and oldest brother were at Quality Dairy to buy some doughnuts. The lady at the counter asked my dad what he wanted and my dad bent over to get a good look. As he bent over, he farted loudly. My brother quickly, though non-chalantly, wandered to the back of the store. My dad, however, simply looked up at the lady at the counter and said, "I don't want one of those."

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Ten Things That Make Me Laugh (and Cry) and Why

Rating Warning: Blog-14 [LSVD]

  1. Flushable Butt Wipes: Though, admittedly, useful at times, butt wipes are a relatively new product on the market attempting to convince us that we have really smelly asses. I am reminded of the SNL skit/commercial for Ass-Don't-Smell, the aerosol butt deodorant.
  2. Teeth Whiteners: Some of you people are burning holes in my retinas. Leave the bright-white for linens, Dogg.
  3. Caffeine-free Mountain Dew: Okay, isn't the caffeine why we drink this stuff? Same goes for decaffeinated coffee.
  4. Fat-free Dairy Products: I'd rather be jiggly.
  5. ED Commercials: Four hours? Sign me up.
  6. Gerber's Graduates and Finger Foods for Toddlers: Let my (little) people go!
  7. Flying the Confederate Flag: Why do so many bedsheets in my town have holes in them? (It's not about heritage, people. It's about marginalizing, rather than loving, your neighbors.)
  8. North Carolina Winters: Did I say winters?
  9. Energy Drinks: I'd rather be sleeping.
  10. Harry Potter Censorship and Book Burnings: Prevents our children from becoming practicing witches and, simultaneously, makes unbelievers slack-jawed at believers' excellent understanding of literature and its purpose. Good job, guys.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Praise Him with Harp and Lyre. Praise Him with Acorns.

I have a new favorite sound of fall: acorns hitting a tin roof. There is violence in the collision between seed and metal. Up in my office, in my half-story, I hear them overhead: Crack. Clunk. Fall. They bounce loudly sometimes: Paink. Pink, pink. Do the squirrels sleep in the midst of this forceful manna? Or does it make them even more twitchingly nervous? I like to think it calms their tails and quiets their whiskers, soothing them with the sure knowledge of food for tomorrow and for the winter that approaches.

Oaks are beautiful trees, so liberal with their acorns and so conservative with their leave - good and true trees. They are hoary old fellows, wrinkled with age. And though they are not autumnally attractive - their leaves simply brown on their limbs - they say fall, they praise, just the same as the golden pecan trees and the dazzlingly bright maples. But they say it percussively, with acorns striking tin roofs.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Life can be sublime. Last night's central-North-Carolinian sunset is an example. The blue sky richened, the clouds grew pink. I sat down on the porch with my daughter and watched the waxing moon shine brightly through ethereal pinkness, framed in the golden leaves of a pecan tree, and we sang a Night Song: We praised the beauty of the evening. We thanked its Creator.

It was a perfect evening. And I wanted to drink it in. I wanted to become intoxicated with its beauty. I wanted to reach into its expanse, embrace sublimity, and somehow draw it back into my being, let it saturate and re-create my soul. I wanted to be baptized in it.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Church Lost Penguins Blankey

We skipped church today. We are frustrated and unsure of what to do at this point. Do we continue, each week, searching for a new church home or do we look sporadically while still attending our old church (40 minutes from home)?

So today we just skipped. I attended the Church of Lost, Season 1, instead.

Oh yeah, I've been catching up on Lost. I've ordered the DVDs from Netflix and I am halfway through the first season. Good stuff.

I have never been able to get into this TV show before - it didn't make much sense and now I think I know why. It's a narrative - a series of narratives - that grows. Very organic, very difficult to start in the middle of a season.

Unfortunately I've already missed the first two or three episodes of this season (I started watching at episode 3 or 4). So I'm behind. But I'm catching up. And now I'm addicted. This has got to be, imho, one of the finer television shows in recent history.

I took the girls to see The March of the Penguins at the $2.00 theater yesterday. Have you seen this documentary? Too many babies die. Sophie began crying about halfway through it because of all the baby chicks and the unfortunate mommy that just don't survive. (She's so tenderhearted.) Nevertheless, she did like the movie. I would like to see it without the wriggling and talking and crying children.

This yellow-haired child loves her Raggedy Ann and Andy blankey. I've talked about her veneration before, but it amazes me sometimes. Yesterday, when we were leaving for the movie she gave me an I-don't-want-my-blankey line. She's getting so big. So of course I grabbed it and brought it along anyway. Sure enough, within two minutes of getting in the van, she was screaming for it. It's like crack. Soft, red-and-blue, velvety crack. What will we do if this thing ever gets lost? Not that the holy shroud will ever be out of sight long enough. . . .

Saturday, November 05, 2005

More on Intentionality and Gender-Neutrality

My last post was unclear about intentionality. Let me attempt to clarify by saying that there are at least two views on the intentionality of the TNIV and NLT translators. One group believes the intentions of the translators are cultural sensitivity and political correctness. The other group believes the intention of the translators is accuracy. Therefore, in either group, I say people instead of Man, fellow believer instead of brother. I do so in the former group because it is sensitive to readers. I do so in the latter group because it more accurately corresponds to the meaning of the text (God did not just create men; "sister" is also intended by the text). And in order not to create a false distinction between the two, both intentions might accurately represent the concerns of the translators. Cultural sensitivity, of course, creates fear in some concerning what we might change next in order to be sensitive to our neighbor. Will we stop referring to God with gender? Will we change other parts of the text lest we offend – references to homosexual sin, for instance? That is the fear, though it is a poor argument against what is.

There is another, more conservative, group, that is opposed to gender-neutral language simply because it does not translate the text word-for-word. This group says that "God created Man" was the phrase spoken by God and therefore we should not touch it. In fact, to touch it would be to change the actual words of God. I understand this concern and share it to some extent, but it also strikes me as being somewhat naive since even the most literal translations are correctly referred to as only being "essentially" literal. Meaning, of course, that there is no way we can translate from the Hebrew and the Greek word-for-word without changes and have it still make perfect sense in English. (The NASB makes this clear by italicizing words not found in the most reliable manuscripts.) There is also the issue of words with multiple meanings, and translators must decide which meaning is meant by the text. Sometimes this is a simple matter, while other times it becomes extremely complex (and sometimes the "simple" cases can be some of the most complex). When we touch the text, we necessarily change it. Our goal, of course, is to represent the original language and the authorial intention as accurately as possible. That is the NASB and ESV’s translators’ goal, and I believe that is the TNIV and NLT’s translators’ goal. And if you do not trust these translators’ intentions, then teach your children to read Hebrew and Greek. Then they can compare the multiplicity of manuscripts and interpret the scriptures as seems best to them.

Fear is at the heart of this argument. Fear that we might lose the integrity of the scriptures. Fear that we might offend the holiness of God. Fear that the words we use or don't use might offend our neighbors. Fear that our copy of the scriptures will be somehow less than trustworthy, less than inerrant, less than inspired.

We are prone to error. We make mistakes. We mess up. We muddy what is clear and attempt to clarify what is necessarily muddy. God, however, is gracious, strong, and faithful. The scriptures will be as perfect and as pure and as true and as authoritative for our grandchildren as they are for us.

Friday, November 04, 2005

TNIV, the NLT, and Gender-Neutrality

I've reversed my position on this topic recently, in the past six months or so. But let me define the term at the get-go so no more people than necessary misconstrue what I'm about to say. By gender-neutral I don't mean a Bible that talks about God as our Parent. I also do not mean a Bible that removes all references to gender. I simply mean a Bible, as the TNIV or the NLT, that instead of saying God created Man, says God created human beings/people. In other words, anytime the scriptures are addressing both men and women, the translators try to make that clear.

We must realize by now that all translations are interpretations. Even wooden translations take words and add them to the scriptures so that the scriptures will make sense in modern English. Sometimes, in difficult passages, the translators will take a little more liberty in their translations (yes, even the wooden/literal translations do this).

So why do we balk at a few translators making the Bible more gender-inclusive? Isn't that the intention of the author as he (or possibly, she) writes? Isn't that the sense that you take from the text when you read it? If it is how you understand the text as you read it, why is it wrong to translate it as such?

At its core, I believe the discussion is about intentions. Trying to make a text that is more accurate and, simultaneously, less offensive is what I believe to be the goal and intention of these translators. (It is, by the way, more textually/scripturally accurate in today's English to say "God created people" than it is to say "God created man.") Some people believe the intentions of the translators are to water down the scriptures. Contrariwise, I believe that hanging on to an Anglian word that has clearly run its course, is creating another Authorized Version of the scriptures.

The fear is, of course, that in ten years the same companies will be producing Bibles that say, "Our Parent, who is in heaven." Much of the discussion arises out of that fear. So if that is your beef, let it be your beef. And remember, that is not what these translators have done.

(As a footnote, I think it's necessary to inform the reader that I have been doing some devotional writing for the NLT's not-yet-published Web site. I took the job before I realized that the NLT was a gender-neutral Bible. And when I discovered that it was, I also discovered that it was not an issue for me.)

P.S.: Currently, my favorite translations are the ESV and the NASB.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

They Call Me Steve

It's true, they do. Whenever I meet new people, invariably, someone will call me Steve. Not Sam, Sven, Stu, or Stan; not Soren, Solomon, Saul, or Socrates; not Sheldon, Sydney, or Skipper. Not Scott. Just Steve. It started in college. During my freshman and sophomore years, I roomed with Steve Glover. ("It's 'lover' with a 'G,' " he said.) Occasionally people started calling me Steve. I didn't think much of it. We were roomies; we were often together, and Steve and Scott are similar names. I left college. I got married. I moved 600 miles away, but it kept happening.

Since that time, every place I've lived, worked, or gone to church has been populated with people who call me Steve. I correct them, of course. No use in their being embarassed. Then I correct them again and again. It becomes a joke. And still I correct them.

Perhaps it's because there are famous Steve Lyonses out there. There's the hurricane doctor on the Weather Channel, Dr. Steve Lyons. And of course, there's the infamous Steve Lyons of the White Sox who dropped his britches at first base in Detroit to brush away some dirt.

So what is it that calls Steve to mind when people meet me? Is it the swath of destruction I leave in my wake, or is it my propensity to drop trou at arguably inopportune times?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


I swanny, I don't know why I give food and drinks to these midgets I keep.

  • Hand out baggies of cereal, 8:45.
  • Change dirty diaper, 9:03.
  • Sweep up crushed cereal and empty baggies, 9:38.
  • Pour cup of juice, 10:02.
  • Wipe up cup of juice, 10:04.
  • Fuss at children, 10:04-noon.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Taking Out the Trash

My children trust me, normally. If I'm there, in the room with them, they trust me. If I'm gone, fear sets in. For instance, I have taken out the trash some mornings only to discover when I return inside that the yellow-haired child is crying after me - screaming after me. Waking up, she's looked everywhere in the house for me and has been unable to find me. So she assumes that I have left her. She believes that she is alone.

I tell my children that they do not have to be afraid. I tell them that I will not leave them. But they don't learn to trust, to trust me even when I cannot be found, until they have had years and years of experiencing my trustworthiness.

Likewise, God asks us to trust him. But we still find it so difficult, even after years of experience, because we trust him for the wrong things.

Alumni magazines depress me. I get jealous. I get disappointed with what God is doing in my life. I expect more - fame, success, affluence, a job, fame.

A friend of mine and his family is moving. Within a short period of time, a very short period of time, he has a promising interview and several contacts - good news. I rejoice with him, but I also am jealous. I get disappointed that after a year and a half I have only had three interviews. I get disappointed with what God is doing in my life. I get disappointed that God is doing something other in my life.

I saw some old friends that I used to work with last night while we were trick-or-treating. "So what are you doing now?" I don't have a job, if that is what you mean. Not a job that I get paid for. Well, I have a couple of writing gigs that bring in money for bubblegum and shoelaces. Oh, and I make a mean box of macaroni-and-cheese and I wipe asses and powder buns with the best of them.

I shave my head. I grow a beard. I walk around in my pajamas half of every day.

Is this what God wants me to be doing? Is God doing in my life what he has always wanted to do in my life - what he has always dreamed of doing in my life? Why are my dreams for my life so different?

And while I'm becoming depressed about how my life has turned out, here's the thing that gets my goat: I love making macaroni-and-cheese and wiping asses. I love freelance writing and walking around in my pajamas half of every day. I love growing a beard. I love not sitting in a cubicle all day long. I love the spiritual path God has placed me on.

But I struggle with not being a provider, the provider. It's a struggle with my being a man, a husband, and a father; it's a struggle with my culture. And sometimes it just hurts deep in my soul. Partly because it was not my choice to stay at home. Mostly because it wounds my pride. It ruins my pride. Not enough, not yet, and that's why it is still so painful.

And yet God's dreams for me are being birthed in these runny noses and this messiness. His divine imagination is becoming the flesh on my bones and the shoes on my feet. All my education and experience and life are not converging into the job of my dreams. My life is converging onto a path altogether different from anything I ever imagined. It is a path of divine dreams. And maybe, just maybe, I'm beginning to trust in the dreams of God.