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Not the Fundamentals: Family Size

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Gentle Reader,

Accepting the Bible to be inspired by God necessitates the belief that God affirms the value of life, and therefore children. So before we even begin this emotionally-charged discussion, know that I stand firmly within that belief. (Especially as a pacifist). All the kids in my life are special. In no way do I think that there should be governmental restrictions on the amount or gender of children that a couple has. Basically, kids are a good thing.

Nevertheless, despite this affirmation, I strongly object to the Quiverfull movement and it’s often-attendant theology of Dominionism. (Please note that not all people who ascribe to the Quiverfull movement also ascribe to Dominionism, but the two can be generally linked). In essence, Quiverfull adherents believe that any and all forms of birth control are sinful, because a married couple should always be open to the blessing of more children. Dominionism is a complex system, but essentially makes no distinction between Israel and the Church; the Church is subject to the same blessings and curses found in the Sinai covenant and it’s subsequent reiteration in Deuteronomy. Dominionists believe that Christians must bring about the total reformation of society as a whole, distinct from the mainstream idea of Christ changing the individual. When the two systems are linked, the focus lies on “outbreeding” everyone else, especially secular humanists and even other Christian groups, which may or may not be seen as legitimate.

As you might imagine, the families treading this path live within a very legalistic structure, with emphasis on outward conformity. (Again, this is a generalization. Certainly not all Quiverfull families are legalistic. However, based on what I have read, there is a great deal of pressure toward certain “norms.”)

Dominionism is based on a poor hermeneutic, one that I simply cannot get behind. The Church has not replaced Israel; at the very least, Romans 9-11 makes that clear. The prophecies found in Revelation were not all fulfilled in the years immediately following Christ’s ascent. Certainly, some of them were, but many of the prophecies can and do have a dual meaning and therefore a dual fulfillment. Christians aren’t to set up Christ’s kingdom before He returns. Outward conformity does not indicate true faith.

I could go on, but we’ll leave it at that.

The Quiverfull movement is based on a poor understanding of Scripture and of medical science. Firstly, the movement bases itself on Psalm 127:3-5 -

Children are a heritage from the Lordoffspring a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.”

As far as I know, you won’t find a single Christian person who disagrees with the above. Children are a blessing. Children are from God. Yet how one jumps from this to “have as many babies as possible” is still somewhat mystifying to me. And yes, surely, God did command Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), but taking this as a literal command for all future generations fails to take context into account. Additionally, the argument that the Bible “doesn’t talk about birth control” means nothing. The Bible also doesn’t talk about smartphones.

Contrary to their beliefs, birth control does not cause abortions. Birth control prevents pregnancy from happening. Unless you believe that an egg and a sperm are, on their own, viable human life, this should be apparent. No fertilization and no implantation equals no baby. Furthermore, the alarm cry that using birth control directly leads to breast (or other) cancer is far too loud, as this clearly points out.

There is a willful blindness at play. I’m all for trusting God to provide, but I’m also all for the common sense that He gave each of us and that is enhanced and developed by the Spirit. For example, if you have three kids and know that you aren’t in a position to take care of a fourth, then don’t have that fourth. If there are medical issues that would prevent you from properly caring for children, don’t have them. In neither case does this point to a lack of salvation or faith. It means that you’re using the brain God gave you to recognize your situation and handle it appropriately.

Those who have been reading this blog for awhile know that I am unable to have children, but that isn’t why this issue is so important to me. I hate what kids suffer because of the actions of their parents. I don’t dislike it, it doesn’t annoy me. I hate it. Children don’t ask to be born. They don’t ask to suffer because of a lack of time, money or other resources. They don’t ask to be neglected. They don’t ask to take on adult-sized responsibilities long before they are able. They don’t ask to be the children of selfish people who should never have been parents.

This is what the Quiverfull and other fundamentalist movements fail to take into account. God does not call each of us to the exact same life. Singleness is blessed. Marriage without kids is blessed. Marriage with two kids is blessed. Marriage with one kid and the mission field is blessed. Marriage with adoption is blessed. Blended families are blessed. So long as one is walking with the Lord, there are as many variations as there are Christians.

Finally, I fail to see how the size and shape of my family is the business of anyone but myself, my husband and God. I know large families and I know small families. I know blended families. I know families who have adopted. I know widows, widowers and never-marrieds. To say that any of them are outside the will of God claims a sight that I know no human to have.

Grace and peace along the way,

toujszda2


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Not the Fundamentals: Bible Translation

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Gentle Reader,

Jesus loves me, this I know, for the 1611 Authorized Version, also known as King James, tells me so.

Take that as a good-natured rib. I’m devoted to my New King James. My parents bought me my first Bible at Easter when I was seven; it was the Precious Moments edition of that translation. I still have it tucked away among other keepsakes. The NKJV introduced me to the riches of God’s word, and I’ve never had a desire to switch to anything else, though I do use the fabulous BibleGateway to compare passages, often in the New International Version and the Message. So, right away know that this isn’t about having a preference for one translation over another. Whatever Bible you’ve got, use it! Learn from it! Love it!

Just know that the Bible you have isn’t really “better” than the Bible somebody else has.

The art and science of translation, for it is both, is complex. Hebrew and Greek do not lend themselves easily to English. There are some Hebrew words that have multiple meanings and the translator has to rely upon the surrounding context to decipher which one applies. Greek nouns are themselves a headache – they are classified by gender (masculine, feminine or neuter), number (singular, dual or plural) and, depending on their function within the sentence, are then further divided into the five cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative or vocative). English, as an ever-changing and ever-lazier language, doesn’t have any of that. (For information, please see the Institute of Biblical Greek, because, honestly, it’s all Greek to me).

Then there’s the different styles of the authors themselves. Although writing under the inspiration of the Spirit, the personality of the Biblical authors shines through. Luke writes in polished Greek. Paul is famous for huge, run-on sentences. David’s poetry isn’t the same as that of the Sons of Asaph. And the style of God Himself when it is clear that He is the speaker; much of the word-play and humor found in the original language is lost in English.

It is no mean thing to sit down and translate Scripture into English. (And I imagine that it’s just as great a task in other languages). That is at least one reason why most of the work is done in a committee format. When a decision regarding word choice or grammar has to be made, better to have a discussion than to allow the theological bent of one person to hold sway. While commentaries and study notes are unapologetically biased, the text of Scripture itself must be accurate and fair.

There is no doubt that we all track together up to this point, but when formal vs. dynamic equivalency comes into play, the gloves are off. Should the structure of the sentence remain as close to the original as possible, even if that makes for clunky reading and requires a thick dictionary? Or should the sentence reflect the meaning of the original, while expressed in a modern format? Should the committees stick to the Textus Receptus, the basis of the King James? Or should they seek out the most recently-discovered copies of the originals, some of which correct the Textus Receptus? Or should all of this be combined and taken into consideration?

Oh, boy.

Again, preference is one thing. My husband loves the NIV. I can’t stand it and use it only for comparison. A friend uses the New American Standard; I think it reads like a brick. But I don’t for a second believe that my husband and my friend aren’t reading Scripture. I don’t think that either of them has a “wrong” Bible. And while I wouldn’t use the Message as a study Bible (that’s not what it’s meant for), I don’t think it’s an invalid translation. Neither is the New Living Translation or the English Standard. Each of these translations falls on the formal vs. dynamic scale and all were worked on by people devoted to God. Each of these Bibles stands in sound scholarship.

It’s another thing entirely to insist that one translation is “better” than another. I frequently drive by two churches in my area, both proudly proclaiming that the KJV is IT. Unfortunately,

“some have gone so far as to adopt what has been called a ‘King James only’ mentality. Thus the King James Version is not only considered to be the best translation of the Scriptures but the only acceptable one. This position has escalated to the point where there are some who believe that the translation of the King James Version was providentially guided by the Holy Spirit and the translation is without error. Even the original texts of the Hebrew and Greek can be corrected by it.” 

The idea of the KJV committee being guided by the Spirit in the same way the original authors were, and that the original authors can be corrected by the work of the KJV committee, is an extreme position. There are not many groups who would articulate their adherence in these terms. Nevertheless, the idea that the KJV is the only acceptable translation is wide-spread and deeply divisive.

Here’s the thing, though: The original authors didn’t speak Elizabethan English! Neither do we. For example, Matthew 19:14 in the KJV reads:

“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Compare this with the NKJV:

“But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’”

And the NIV:

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”

Which is easier to understand?

Oddly, some prefer that Scripture be difficult to understand, holding that being able to decipher it is a mark of true faith. Does such a position really make sense in light of that fact that we serve a God who has gone out of His way to make Himself understood? He went to great lengths to spell out exactly what He wanted from His people. Are we to believe that the Hebrew and Greek were only understood by the spiritual “elite?”

Warning! Gnostic (heretical) waters ahead!

It is a mark of our privilege as English-speaking and -reading people that we even spend time fighting about this. There are places in the world today where believers would give anything for just a page of the Bible in their own language, let alone the entire thing. There are people who wind up in jail (or worse) for distributing one of the Gospels or a section of the Psalms. Missionaries and translators in foreign fields sometimes have to invent the alphabet for an exclusively oral language.

Do we really expect these hungry brothers and sisters to learn English, and possibly the English of the 1500 and 1600s, in order to read the Bible? Do we really expect the men and women who labor with so little recognition to put the context of other languages aside when working with other cultures?

God is not limited to English. He is not limited to the KJV. Or the NKJV. Or the NIV. He desires that His word be available and accessible to all. I have no doubt that He blesses the faithful people who have worked to do just that.

Grace and peace along the way,

toujszda2

 

 

 

 

P.S. – If you want to dig into this subject, check out the articles Dynamic Equivalence and Its Daughters and Is Your Modern Translation Corrupt? 


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Not the Fundamentals: Alcohol

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Gentle Reader,

There are valid reasons to abstain from alcohol. Some people, like me, simply don’t like the taste of most of it. Others have never had the inclination. Those who grew up in homes with alcoholic parents or who have had problems with alcohol themselves often eschew drinking vehemently. Some medications interact badly with alcohol, as is the case with many antidepressants.

However, to say that Scripture forbids drinking is not a valid reason.

The command simply doesn’t exist. We are absolutely told not to get drunk, just as we are told not to lie, not to habitually overeat, not to be vengeful. Consistently and constantly, we are reminded that only God is to have mastery over our lives. Any addiction, from substances to relationships, is to be dealt with and turned away from.

Amazingly, what appears to be perfectly clear is often muddied by those who insist that alcohol is itself a sinful substance, and that imbibing is just about the worst possible thing that one can do.

This is especially seen in connection with the life of Jesus, as some that teach that in the Cana wedding miracle (John 2), He did not make fermented wine, but some other substance akin to grape juice. R.A. Torrey writes:

“[Jesus] provided wine, but there is not a hint that the wine He made was intoxicating. It was fresh-made wine. New-made wine is never intoxicating. It is not intoxicating until some time after the process of fermentation has set in. Fermentation is a process of decay. There is not a hint that our Lord produced alcohol, which is a product of decay or death. He produced a living wine uncontaminated by fermentation. It is true it was better wine than they had been drinking, but that does not show for a moment that it was more fermented than that which they had before been drinking.”

Torrey’s argument is a case of reading an opinion into the text. There isn’t a hint in John 2 that all, many or even some of the guests were drunk at the point of the miracle, but can we take this non-mention to mean that nobody was intoxicated? Furthermore, the Greek word for “wine” used throughout the passage is oinos, the common word for fermented wine – not grape juice. 

Was the wine watered down? Some say so:

“Wine today has a much higher level of alcohol than wine in the New Testament. In fact in New Testament times one would need to drink twenty-two glasses of wine in order to consume the large amount of alcohol in two martinis today.” (A Christian Perspective on Wine-Drinking, Bibliotheca Sacra, Issue 553, 1982).

And yet Greek, Hebrew and Roman sources all speak of wine with at least a 15% concentration of alcohol; even if mixed with three parts water, the resulting 5% would be higher than that found in most beers today.

Not only did Jesus make wine, and wine that was alcoholic, Luke 7:33-34 is one of several passages showing that He also drank it:

“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”

Obviously, our Lord was without sin and so was neither a glutton or a drunkard. The accusation reveals the prejudice of the religious leaders, who had a problem with everything Jesus did and said. Surely the Messiah would conform to their expectations!

In Matthew 26, Jesus celebrates the Passover with His disciples, at which four cups of wine were drunk. The Gospel records:

“Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (vs. 27-28)

The cup that Jesus had His disciples drink from was most likely the third, which is:

“The cup of redemption, which reminds us of the shed blood of the innocent Lamb which brought our redemption from Egypt. We see that Jesus took the third cup in Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25. . .This was not just any cup, it was the cup of redemption from slavery into freedom. This is our communion cup.” 

I ask you, how gorgeous is that?

As in our discussion on food, we turn to Paul in Romans 14 for a final word:

“Why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (vs. 10)

Alcohol is not something we should fight about. It’s not something we can judge each other on. Certainly we can talk to a brother or sister if the inappropriate use of alcohol is seen or suspected. Getting drunk is a serious thing that can cause innumerable problems. But a glass of wine or a bottle of beer with dinner? Not something to yell about.

Grace and peace along the way,

toujszda2

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