Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More on the NGV

Mr. Mansfield challenged me to cite a single incorrectly translated verse, especially one with theological implications, in the NGV or TNIV. Well, here's a little list from CBMW from the New Testament, and here's another one from the Old Testament. Here's an analysis of some of these verses. Has, as Mr. Mansfield claims, the thesis of Grudem (and a lot of others) been refuted? Is the concern really overblown?

No; as my links still work, and that demonstrates that Grudem, Ryken, Polythress, Thacker, Mohler, Piper, Strauss, and others certainly haven't been convinced by TNIV advocates. Rather, I'd argue that CBMW's thesis has largely been confirmed by the creators of the TNIV themselves, as the 2005 revision took pains to remove some of the more egregious errors in the 2002 TNIV. One doesn't fix what isn't broken, no?

But why does this matter? Well, per Mr. Mansfield's suggestion, let's take a look at one example, Psalm 8:4.

NIV: What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
TNIV (2005): What are mere mortals that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

OK, first of all, the TNIV commits stylistic malpractice here, transforming a majestic meditation of David into something worthy of a science fiction cartoon or comic book. Strunk & White, stat!

Second of all, the TNIV changes "son of man"; this is a prophetically significant phrase. Do this a few thousand times, as the TNIV does, and you will tend to obscure some very important doctrines. When the TNIV changes "he" to "they" it obscures in many points the reality of personal accountability before God--say in Revelation 3:20 and elsewhere.

And yes, this does have other effects. Let's consider how the TNIV translators might update the Declaration of Independence, specifically the phrase "all men are created equal".

One might say "men and women," or "people", or perhaps "white male landowning slaveholders", depending on one's point of view, no? One could get a great argument for, or against, any one of these, right?

Which is the central objection I have to the TNIV, and to paraphrases in general; even if they get the "sense" of a passage right, they've made all of the decisions for the reader, and the reader is powerless to use the hints provided by the author to apply the text to other writings. I'd rather have someone read the "NGV" than no Bible at all, of course, but when there are so many translations that are more accurate at the same reading level, I really fail to see the need for the TNIV.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Credit reports and Bible translations

First of all, a bit of public service; your credit reports can be obtained for free from www.annualcreditreport.com. Even if your debt is all paid off and you're in your dream job, you might do well to take a look and make sure that nobody's piggybacking on your good credit. Like, say, a criminal or illegal immigrant. Again, if you're tired of paying for welfare (half a trillion dollars annually) and such, charity starts at home.

I was also thinking about the actual implications of the "New Gelded Version" translation/paraphrase of the Bible. Never heard of it? Well, Zondervan calls it the "TNIV," but I think "NGV" is a better description, as what is masculine in the NIV is often removed in the "NGV."

And the significance? Well, the argument for why the "NGV" is needed is that people today don't understand "grammatical gender," specifically the common use of masculine pronouns to refer to both sexes. Hence, when it's "he" in the Greek or Hebrew, sometimes the NGV will use "he or she" or "they."

The theological problems with this approach are legion, starting with the fact that (e.g. Hebrews 12:7) that human, familiar relationships model God the Father's relationship with us. But sadly, it goes further.

To wit, it is not only Scripture that uses grammatical gender, but also literature, poetry, journalism, law, and more. So to argue that Scripture cannot be understood in its historic form by many is simultaneously to argue that these people are not capable of understanding any document not written by gender feminists.

In other words, it is to argue that our educators, especially gender feminists, are guilty of stunning educational malpractice. By arguing that historic authors--including the Author of Scripture, ahem--are guilty of gross misogyny by using grammatical gender, they've rendered their more gullible students unable to understand great works of literature, law, history, and the Scriptures.

Justice would be to close all "women's studies" (oops, "womyn's studies") departments and send their professors to productive work, optimally being a waitress at a southern cafe where they still call the customers "hon." Failing that, we might do well to avoid buying books from the publisher of the "NGV," Zondervan.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

TV and movies

OK, I admit it. My television isn't going to be wearing out from overuse any time soon. Commercials for "E.D.", along with prominent sexuality and violence have persuaded me that most television (and movies) really aren't worth my time. From time to time, I wonder whether I would return if this objectionable content was removed and...shot, of course. Is there something on worth watching? Should I spare the RCA from the firing squad?

This series of articles (by my favorite seminary president) asks, but does not completely answer, the question. The argument is twofold, but oblique. First, the historical position by Christians is that we don't belong in the theater--this really only changed in this century, at least among Protestants. Even among Catholics, appreciation of the theater is something of a Renaissance and modern era phenomenon.

Probably more persuasive is that the theater has unique power, more or less, to manipulate emotions. Dr. Bauder notes that he was once persuaded to cheer for the murder of a character; my children get afraid when it's evident that Archibald the Asparagus might drown. Even great stories, like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, are drastically changed in the retelling--I noticed about half a dozen changes from the book in the promotional poster alone.

Are we better to experience this? Are we better to learn to withstand the emotional manipulation, or not? Do we become less vulnerable to manipulation in real life, or do we simply become callous to real emotions?

I am reminded of a friend's perspective on roller coasters. Having fled Serbia's recent civil war, she noted that her countrymen didn't ride them because they'd had enough excitement already, thank you very much. Maybe we'd start to think the same way if we stepped away from the television, too.

Oh, and married men, don't forget that turning off the television may have other benefits.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Church discipline, part 2

Perhaps it would be fun to announce here that I am currently under church discipline. Really. So are you, if you're a member of a church.

Now, of course, you're probably not aware that you, or I, have committed some grave sin which compels your, or my, church to limit the privileges of your membership. However, that's not the point.

The point is simple; "discipline," or "paideia" in the Greek, is not just "chastening" or punishment. Rather, it encompasses all areas of training us to be more like Him. To use the military metaphor that Paul uses, military discipline is not just Beetle Bailey serving "kitchen patrol" while his friends enjoy some R&R. It's the scope of training that a soldier goes through, from physical training to war games to the time spent in target practice.

In the same way, church discipline, Biblically speaking, ought not be seen merely as expulsion from leadership or membership, but rather active participation in the ministries of your church. Embrace it--it's 90% of church discipline, and 100% of the fun of church discipline.

Monday, January 22, 2007

It's gonna be a long couple of years....

....even before people are officially announcing candidacy for the Presidency, they've already started to attack each other over poll numbers. One wonders if they've ever heard of "issues" and such.

But on the bright side, it seems that the inability of Hennepin County officials to contact a "realtor" to get an accurate "appraisal" of land desired for a new Twin(kies) stadium might possibly derail this $522 million boondoggle. At the very least, a delay in stadium fascism is a good thing.

Friday, January 19, 2007

A troubling series of columns

Charles Murray, famous (infamous?) for his book "The Bell Curve," has a series of columns in the Wall Street Journal about our need to remember that there is such a thing as innate intelligence, and that our nation would do well to remember that when setting public policy. I agree with part of his argument--a lot of time & pain could be spared if we remembered that not everyone needs to be an engineer, doctor, or lawyer, and that "marginal" college students might be better encouraged to learn a trade instead of going to "The U."

What troubles me, though, is his argument that for many students, this is the best they can do--that many, or most, won't be able to process a logical argument.

I don't buy that. For starters, the most likely place you'll see an egregious ad hominem attack is at the university--and the more elite the university, the more egregious the personal attacks, it seems. Ask Larry Summers (formerly of Harvard) about this one. So for my part, it seems that people are more likely to see some basic logical fallacies when they have less education and less innate ability. In other words, the common Joe is more likely to realize he's just insulting people (and making no point) than Professor Joseph.

Going on, republican government and Protestant theology both rely on the ability of the common man to process logic. For example, if I am a sinner, and sin merits death, I will die unless my sin is somehow removed.

Somehow, both republican governments and Protestant theology have survived and even thrived. I would posit that one big reason for this is that even the "slower" among us can process many arguments--just more slowly than those who are quicker.

In short, thank you, Dr. Murray, for reminding us of the significance of intelligence, but I dare suggest that he makes a little bit too much of it.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

More on art

In a couple of previous posts, I seem to have stirred up a bit of controversy regarding the art world. Perhaps I should clear things up a bit; I am not against art in general, or even modern art. I've spent many a happy hour in art museums, and even have a few original pieces in my own home.

What I was getting at is simple; meaningful, significant art represents something, and our appreciation (or rejection) of it ought to depend upon our knowledge of what it represents. Is it David, or Eros? The girl next door, or Aphrodite, or Picasso's soon-to-be ex-girlfriend? A landscape of London, or Kabul? Culinary art, or cannibalism? Talent, or the scribblings of a two year old?

I would suggest, moreover, that when art involves nudity, the Aphrodite/Eros hypothesis should not be discarded lightly. Again, that is the way nudity returned to art in the western world after a hiatus of over a millenium--it shouldn't be controversial among those who know art history, really.

Can it become pure? Well, that's not the conclusion of most historic Christian and Jewish theologians, for whom to "uncover one's nakedness" meant to instigate sexual relations--as is hinted in Leviticus 18. Not a direct argument, but a strong hint from Scripture that there is something amiss.

A stronger question derives from the nature of art; what is its message? What are we supposed to carry away from the painting or sculpture? Is that a message we need to be carrying around in our minds?

I won't presume to answer for everyone, but I must admit that I'm having trouble figuring out pure and holy messages that would be communicated in this regard. Maybe it's just me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

An ode to government incompetence

The New York Times (h/T James Lileks) has an ominous-sounding story (registration required?) about how now only a minority of adult women are now living in marriage. One little problem, though; the Census Bureau, which conducted the study, counted all women over the age of 15 . No, Robert Byrd didn't succeed in moving the Bureau to West Virginia! Just a colossal, money-wasting goof that should have been caught by any employee who saw the study--including the janitor, of course.

Not the only case, sadly. Got a crime problem in Minneapolis? Why not build a new library and put grass on the roof of City Hall? Too many poor people? Let's pay young women to have children out of wedlock. Even better, let's fail to enforce immigration laws and let prevailing wage rates fall to plunge millions of workers into poverty--and then pay for welfare programs to make up the difference between their wages and their needs. The taxpayers won't miss that half trillion dollars! (annually)

Got a terrorism problem? No, don't expel illegal immigrants from the countries that attacked us, silly. Instead, create a monstrous bureaucracy costing tens of billions of dollars, but let's not use any of that money to, say, teach anyone how to translate Arabic. The last I heard, the FBI had only 34 people who were competent in that language.

The ugly reality here is that the main path to promotion in government is not to competently perform one's duty on time and under budget. It is simply to manage an ever-larger bureaucracy, no matter what the consequences.

The 10th Amendment never looks more beautiful than when it's compared to the results of modern bureaucracy.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The virtue of patience

I was reminded of a key benefit to the virtue of patience, as well as a great way to please one's wife, last weekend when I pulled two steaks out of the fridge and cooked them. They'd been sitting there for a week, and believe it or not, I hadn't just forgotten they were there.

Rather, I've become aware that beef is not like chicken, fish, or pork, and (to an extent) it gets better as it "wet-ages" in the package. I've also learned that meatpackers are increasingly failing to age beef (and lamb) properly. If you've tasted a steak and wanted to nail it to your Sunday shoes because it was so tough, this is one of the reasons.

And so the best way of ensuring a quality dining experience may be to let that piece of beef sit in the fridge for a while, "wet-aging" it to its proper tenderness. This may sound gross, but when it has a couple of small brown spots on it, it's at its best.

For the truly adventurous, one can try "dry aging"; a roast is placed in a humid, cool environment (say a compartment of one's refrigerator with a damp cloth to provide humidity) for a week or two. If done correctly, it is said to be as superior to wet-aging as wet-aging is to no aging. I'm trying it with a rib roast now--we'll see how it turns out.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Cool Cars

From time to time, I see people's ratings of cool automobiles, but generally they don't have crucial features like the ability to tow a boat, gracefully carry a deer or elk carcass, or safely convey a horde of screaming kids. Somehow most car writers really appear to think that "coolness" in cars translates mostly to a couple or sports car with leather seats.

Horsefeathers! Here's Bike Bubba's list of the top eleven cool vehicles. No currently available car ranks up with the all time winner (Buick Roadmaster station wagon), but these are pretty good and available today without 150,000 miles on them.

1. The Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL. Room for 8 or 9, V8 power, 4 wheel drive, and space for stuff to boot. The new version gets pretty decent mileage, too.

2. The new Toyota Sienna. Having grown up in steel country and gone to school in Michigan, I hate to admit this, but they've done a good job. Seating for eight, towing, and available all wheel drive.

3. The Chevy Venture/Uplander/Pontiac Montana/etc.. Not quite as much power as the Sienna, and the new Uplander lacks seating for eight. However, it's got the most space of all the minivans.

4. The Chevy Express/GMC Savannah 1 ton van. Not as good of mileage as a minivan, but plenty of space and a 350cid V-8 that every backyard mechanic in the world has worked on at one time or another. Seating for up to 15 people, and it can fit in your garage.

5/6 Ford Econoline/Dodge Sprinter 3/4 and 1 ton. Trails the Chevy/GMC because they're too tall for most garages.

7. Chevy/GMC 1/2 ton van. Seating for eight, good towing, good mileage, fits in the garage. Low weight capacity drops this one below the 1 ton.

8. Chevy Tahoe/GMC Yukon. Seating for up to eight, towing, good mileage due to displacement on demand. Lower than the Suburban because it doesn' t have space for stuff.

9. Ford Freestyle; seating for seven, towing, continuously variable transmission. Just not enough room.

10. Honda Odyssey. Scores high on passengers, power, features, safety, and towing. Why can't they fix the styling on this one?

11. Chevrolet Corvette. If you have one of these, you can sell it and buy a Suburban, or any other top 10 car! (or ten used Roadmasters)

Honorable mention; GMC Acadia, Ford Expedition, Chevy/GMC Trailblazer, Toyota Sequoia (sp?), Ford Freestar, Chrysler/Dodge minivans and Dodge Magnum. All are downgraded due to lack of size. Crew cab pickups of all makes also make honorable mention.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

On church discipline

Yesterday at my church's prayer meeting, something interesting happened; my favorite seminary president (again, the only one I know) preached a sermon from 1 Corinthians 5 about the necessity and reality of church discipline.

Two things struck me. First of all, Dr. Bauder noted that previous generations of Christians didn't just punish people for divorce and adultery; greed and other sins also qualified. Sobering...and I also seem to remember that the Puritans would punish fathers for failing to catechize their children. Maybe they were on to something.

Second, Dr. Bauder noted that physical illness is one reasonable explanation of the phrased "delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh." Certainly it might also be seen as destruction of fleshly inclinations, but another reasonable and probable understanding is that when someone living in sin becomes sick, that is God's way of bringing him to repentance.

In fact, exactly that was the main point of the sermon; the whole point of church discipline is not punishment, but rather restoration. We pray for the healing of the unrepentant sick man not as physical healing first, but as spiritual healing.

Bears some thought, I think.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Please, no anonymous posts

A Chicago columnist named Mike Royko once commented that a lot of people will say things over the Internet that they'd never say in a bar, or even a coffee house. If you wish to join the discussion, please use your real name or your posts will be deleted.

Also, commenters to my posts regarding art would do well to actually read what I've written.

One deleted post commented on how wonderful it is that Sweden's museums are free, and that's a nice thing of socialism. Well, they'd better be, since about 20-25% of the population isn't employed in a regular job. Yes, the museums in Europe are often free, and the citizens are all too often free to enjoy these free museums, and might have difficulty paying the admission fee to boot.

(the "official" rate is much lower, but it doesn't include people on unemployment aid and such...even Labor admits Swedish unemployment is around 15% or higher)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What not to do...

...if you're trying to combat obesity, or "Lesson # 2536 about why units matter." Here's the scoop; public health people have been arguing that the best thing they can do to combat childhood obesity is to calculate "body mass index" (BMI, ratio of weight to the square of height, in kg/m^2) and warn parents if their child is over a certain ratio.

The problem is twofold; first of all, as the article indicates, children are susceptible to eating disorders when told they are fat. So the advice may be causing more problems than it solves to begin with.

Second, the correlation between BMI and health problems is tangential at best. Most of the NBA and NHL--no couch potatoes there--fail the BMI test, but are in excellent health. The real problem as far as health is concerned is primarily excess fat, and teachers are generally ill-prepared to diagnose this.

Of course, the one saving grace here is that, thanks to government education, 20% of adults are functionally illiterate, and their children will never know that they're considered fat.

What is art?

Over Christmas, my two year old daughter greatly amused by step-brother and his girlfriend by presenting them with drawings that clearly were the equivalents of modern art staples of the San Francisco area--art that sells for up to $10,000 per copy as a print.

My justifiable pride in my daughter aside (as well as the hope of getting some of her artwork sold for such sums!), I must wonder if the art world has lost its course, if not its marbles.

In a sense, it has--from a walk through a university art school to my "A" for a pile of scrap wood (glued together and painted "manure" brown) to Picasso's confession that his work is in respects an extended practical joke, I dare suggest that the artists have lost their direction in a very real way.

But to really make this case, don't we need to know what art is? A poster to an earlier comment of mine makes the case; if we discard the classics, are we simply left with Thomas Kinkade and his buildings with three dozen chimneys and fire pouring out every window?

Perhaps it would be instructive to remember what, etamologically speaking, art is. It is not shocking people, as the modern artists believe, but rather a skill; as in "useful arts." Notably, most modern "shock artists" (e.g. Mapplethorpe) are more or less excluded from the art world by the historic definition.

And yet this is not the extent of art; if art is a skillful representation of the world, how do we differentiate Rembrandt from a photocopier, or von Karajan from a "boom box"? Is it not the way a work speaks to the heart and mind?

Again, here the modern art establishment gets another punch to the kidneys. Sorry, but shouting obscenities (standard NEA funded work) doesn't exactly speak to the mind, and the response from the heart hardly qualifies, either.

And Kinkade? His work does show the warmth of hearth and home, speaking to the heart, but hardly qualifies as a Rembrandt in either skill or message. Still art, though, which differentiates it from many modern artists.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Some environmental suggestions

My wife's alma mater (and mine), Michigan State, sends us reading material from time to time, even though we are not members of the alumni association. One interesting thing came recently from the journalism school; an environmental journal. As would be expected, it was heavy on socialism and light on science, encouraging people to recycle and drive hybrid cars and so on.

As a little service, here are some suggestions for how to be environmentally more aware in the coming year.

1. Instead of flying, rent a Suburban or a Hummer and drive if you can. As long as you have three or more people in it, it actually pollutes less than flying and renting a hybrid.

2. Don't buy organic produce if you don't know about the source. The careless use of manure as fertilizer can not only give you disease, but also can poison water supplies.

3. Don't use ethanol in your vehicle if you don't need to. Maize/corn production is one of the biggest polluters of water there is.

4. Write a letter to the editor against socialistic policies. It's not an accident that the world's worst environmental disasters occur in socialist areas.

5. Avoid leaking methane (a dangerous greenhouse gas) into the air by using a charcoal or wood grill.

6. Stop a cow from leaking methane into the air by eating a nice big piece of beef tonight. Cook it over a charcoal or wood fire.

7. If you own an environmentalist dream car like a Subaru with visible emissions, take it to the junkyard so they can make it into a bumper for environmentally sensitive vehicles like the F250 or Tahoe.

8. Write a letter to Robert Bruininks asking him to take the Gophers football program to D-2 so they don't need to pave hundreds of acres over for a new football stadium.

9. Write another letter to the same guy asking him to stop offering remedial courses just so thousands of people who don't belong there can be there, driving their Subarus with visible emissions.

A new hero of mine

My church, Fourth Baptist Church, is currently celebrating its 125th anniversary, and one of the things our seminary has done to help us celebrate is give out a former pastor's (R.V. Clearwaters) autobiography. Although he retired 25 years ago now, his ministry still affects virtually everything we do--mostly for the good.

One of the most interesting things he did in his career did not involve the pulpit, but rather the bar--no, not the kind that served Hamm's, but the legal bar. It appears that many of the Baptist churches in the upper midwest, as well as at least one Bible college, owe their liberty to preach God's Word to Dr. Clearwaters.

It's worth noting how he did it; as the defendant as the American Baptists tried to take properties from theological conservatives, he had a "two-step" defense.

1. "Do you have the deed?" (the answer was always no)

2. "Have you read the American Baptist articles of association?"

...and with that, the argument was more or less over. The articles to which he referred did not grant perpetual property to the association. Dr. Clearwaters preserved the properties of theological conservatives--saving them years of investment and struggle--by reminding those who would deprive them of those properties of the very principles they were founded under.

It's worth remembering today. God calls us to peace as much as depends upon us, but we ought not forget that an enduring peace often follows a moment of conflict for principle. Thank you, Lord, for Doc Clearwaters.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

But what about art?

One reasonable objection to my earlier post about pornography is to ask where one might draw the line between legitimate art and execrable pornography. Perhaps a bit of the history of nude art might be in order here.

When one sees such art over the centuries, a consistent major theme is fertility and love goddesses--Venus in particular. Venus/Aphrodite was supposed, of course, to be the goddess of love, specifically erotic love. For the Greek students out there, it's not phileo, and definitely not agape. It's that of her attendant Eros. The mythological "sea foam" origins are also, well, a bit idiomatic, to put it gently, and worship was along the lines of any other love/fertility god or goddess--what the Greeks and the apostle Paul called "porneia."

So what does this mean? Well, for starters, it does mean that the line between art and pornography really isn't as clear as we'd like to believe. It's certainly less disgusting, and somewhat less degrading those involved, but the recurrent theme still is that of the worship of sexuality.

Unfortunately, I'd argue that this carries over to "non-Venusian" art as well. Consider Michaelangelo's "David"; David is divested of his staff, shepherd's bag & pouch, his cloak, and probably a youth's beard--and miraculously obtains the return of his foreskin to boot. In a manner of speaking, Michaelangelo isn't portraying the King of Israel, but rather a Greek "eromenos"--youth in a pederastic relationship--or Eros himself. Donatello and Verrochio do about the same thing to David, making him into quite the pretty boy.

Although I will not argue that nudity in art is completely proscribed, I will suggest that art lovers would do well to think seriously about what many great works really represent.