Links to share…a mediocre life, idolatry of biblical womanhood, book publishing, book giveaways

Enough Light

I often share links for my own future reference, but figure an article might interest one of my blog readers too.

** Certain types of Christianity are all about having “the best life now.” Or we can be challenged to do “great things” for God in this world. I see more problems with the former, than the later. But what if all this striving to do big things leads to the neglect of the little things in life? Focused on grand things, we miss the small needs right around us. I recently had a blog post entitled: “Keep plugging away. God is at work in the small.” You can find it, if you want. But I wanted to direct you to another article: What if all I want is a mediocre life?

** I recently shared this statement on twitter: “I don’t want to be like the Proverbs 31 woman. Rather…

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Book Write-Up: Say Goodbye to Regret, by Bob Santos

Bob Santos.  Say Goodbye to Regret: Discovering the Secret to a Blessed Life.  Search for Me Ministries, Inc., 2017.  See here to buy the book.

This is the third Bob Santos book that I have read.  Some of what he said in this book overlaps with things that he said in his other books.  But there were also new things that he said in this book, and the old things that he said did not get old.  Santos has a weighty, thoughtful style, and this book is interspersed with compelling, relevant stories, both personal and from the news.  The stories accomplish a variety of things: they provide an inviting tone, grab the reader’s attention and interest, illustrate the author’s point, and present the author as one who empathizes with our struggles, since he has experienced struggles himself.

As the title indicates, the book tackles the topic of regret.  Some of the book talks about attitudes that we can take to move on past regret: remembering that God is forgiving, and avoiding a hardened heart.  Santos also discusses prevention: how can we avoid doing something that we regret?  Remembering that actions have consequences and having good influences on our lives are part of this preventative approach.  A lot of the book, though, is about living the Christian life.  Santos addresses the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and what was so bad about it.  As in his book, The Divine Progression of Grace, Santos encourages people to depend on God rather than self, and he discourages legalism and self-righteousness.  Many topics that Santos covers relate tangentially to the topic of regret, if they relate to it at all, but what Santos has to say about these topics is still worth reading.

In terms of giving practical, concrete things to do, Santos’ book falls short, even though it does this occasionally, and its suggestions for group activities are creative.  Where the book excels is that it talks about the sort of constructive attitude that we can have as we walk the Christian walk and go through life.  Santos does not necessarily offer suggestions on what to do, but he provides insights on how to look at situations.  In this, the book is especially helpful.

Santos in one place said that God is not a grandfather who approves of all of our choices.  At times, that is the sort of God that I would like to have.  But Santos says that God is tougher than that: “Grandfathers tend to spoil kids, but a wise and loving father trains his children to maturity” (page 194).  What is ironic is that reading this book was like wrapping myself in a warm, comfortable blanket, even though the book may have tried to distance itself from that.  That was on account of its warm, friendly, and empathetic tone.

There were some insights in the book that I appreciated in light of other books that I had read.  For example, Santos’ discussion of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil reminded me of J. Todd Billings argument in Union with Christ that God wanted Adam and Eve to have union with God even in the Garden of Eden.  As Santos says, their sin was that they sought wisdom apart from a relationship with God: they sought autonomy, that they might be gods themselves.

In one case, Santos was making a point that other Christians may have made before, but he did so with such conviction that there was a weight to what he was saying: “Humanity’s problem, you see, is not that our Creator has somehow let us down.  The bigger issue is that we simply fail to see Him for all that He is.  That is what wisdom helps us to do—-to see God more and more in his holiness” (pages 239-240).  It’s like Santos has experienced something yet wants to experience it at a deeper level than he currently is.  And he wants us to experience it, too.

The “About the Author” part of the book talks about how Santos and his wife got involved in church activities soon after their conversion, yet felt empty.  Elsewhere in the book, though, he talks about the importance of service and having a mission beyond ourselves.  Santos appeals to our reason in this discussion.  Santos did not explicitly resolve these tensions, and yet the picture that he presents—-reliance on the God who loves us and knows us—-may be a part of that resolution.

I have not been disappointed in a Bob Santos book so far.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Bookcrash.  My review is honest!

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The stabbing of Eglon and the fall of Jericho


I want to comment on the odd geography of the story of the assassination of Eglon and the revolt of the Benjaminites in Judges 3:12-30.

The obese Moabite sheikh, Eglon, has seized Jericho and made some Benjaminites his vassals. There follows a well-told, humorous story of how Ehud brought tribute to him and killed him leaving a locked room murder mystery for his lax secret service to figure out.

But the geography of the story is kind of confusing. Most assume that the hill country of Ephraim (v. 27) puts Benjamin in or near the Benjaminite territory north of Jerusalem. But Eglon supposedly is at Jericho (the city of palms), which is just west of the Jordan.  Ehud would have to cross from the east to come to him. Also, when Ehud flees back to the Benjaminites, he goes to Seirah, which means “toward Seir”.

So on the basis of…

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The Different Forms of “Idios” in John 1:11

At church last Sunday, I learned something about the Greek of John 1:11.  Some of my readers may already know what I am about to share, but it was new to me, since I have not read the Gospel of John in Greek since I took New Testament Greek in college.

John 1:11 states regarding the Word who became Jesus Christ: “He came unto his own (neuter plural), and his own (masculine plural) received him not” (KJV).

As you can see, the first “his own” is in the neuter plural.  The pastor translated this as “his own things.”  The second “his own,” however, is in the masculine plural, which refers to people.  The pastor translated this verse as: “He came unto his own things, and his own people received him not.”

What is the significance of this grammatical point to the meaning of John 1:11?  The pastor made a point that is similar to a Muslim concept that I have heard: that creation is naturally submissive to God, but human beings are not necessarily, since they have free will.  The Word who became Jesus Christ came to his own things, but his own people did not submit to him.

I checked a variety of commentaries: George Beasley-Murray’s Word Biblical Commentary on the Gospel of John, David Rensberger’s comments in the HarperCollins Study Bible, John Calvin’s commentary, John MacArthur’s study Bible, and the E-Sword commentaries (Albert Barnes, Cambridge, Adam Clarke, John Gill, Jamieson-Faussett-Brown, etc.).  Essentially, they said that the verse means that God came to his own property, and his own people received him not.  And what is God’s property?  Some say the world, whereas others say Israel, which was God’s own possession (Exodus 19:5).

The “world” interpretation may have the preceding verse going for it.  John 1:10 states: “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not” (KJV).  In this interpretation, the world belonged to the Word because the Word created it: the Word came to the world, his own property, and his own people there did not receive him.

On BibleWorks, I looked up the Greek word “idios” (own) in the Gospel of John, specifically when the word is in the neuter and lacks an accompanying noun (as in John 1:11).  A few times, it means one’s own home (John 16:32; 19:27).  Interestingly, a footnote to John 1:11 in the HarperCollins Study Bible translates “ta idia” as “to his own home.”  The Word came to his own home.  I thought of such passages as Sirach 24 and I Enoch 42.  In Sirach 24, wisdom searches for a home and settles in Israel, especially Zion.  In I Enoch 42, wisdom searches in vain for a home on earth and then returns to heaven.

Many commentators have interpreted the Word (Logos) in John 1 in reference to Wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-31 and other wisdom literature.  Could the author of John 1 have had passages such as Sirach 24 and I Enoch 42 in mind?  If so, perhaps we see irony in John 1.  Jesus, as Wisdom, came to what was supposed to be his home, Israel and Zion, and many in his home did not receive him.  Or, in reference to I Enoch 42, Jesus sought a home on earth but was not successful; he went back to heaven (John 8:21; 13:36), yet he has not turned his back on the earth (John 12:32).

John 15:19 is noteworthy from a grammatical perspective: “If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world– therefore the world hates you” (KJV).  “Its own” there is in the neuter, yet it is applied to people, the disciples if they were to belong to the world.  That being the case, “ta idia” in John 1:11 could refer to people, regarding them as God’s property.  The different forms of “idios” in John 1:11 do seem to go together: he came to his own, and his own received him not.  “His own” in both cases appears to have the same reference point: he came to his own, and you would expect his own to receive him, but his own do not.

I do not like to rain on people’s attempts to go more deeply into the Bible, in search of features that are not immediately obvious.  Maybe there is significance in John 1:11’s usage of different forms of “idios.”  That “his own home” interpretation may have potential.


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Book Write-Up: The People’s Book

Jennifer Powell McNutt and David Lauber, ed.  The People’s Book: The Reformation and the Bible.  IVP Academic, 2017.  See here to purchase the book.

As the title indicates, this book is about the Protestant Reformation and the Bible.  It consists of essays from the 2016 Wheaton Theology Conference.  In this review, I will comment on each essay.

Chapter 1: “Teaching the Book: Protestant Latin Bibles and Their Readers,” by Bruce Gordon.

This essay dispels the Protestant myth that places the Roman Catholic church on the side that was against vernacular Bibles and for the Latin Bibles, and the Protestants on the side that was for vernacular Bibles and against Latin Bibles.  Not only did Catholics produce vernacular Bibles, but Protestant scholars also valued Latin Bibles because Latin was the language of biblical scholarship during the time of the Reformation.  The Roman Catholic stance on vernacular Bibles is an issue that recurs throughout this book (pp. 143, 180, and 230): another essay affirmed that the Catholic church supported vernacular Bibles (while opposing the Protestant ones), and two essays said that the Catholic church was reluctant to place Bibles in the hands of the masses.  In my opinion, the authors in this book should have attempted to integrate these different facets into a coherent picture.  This essay by Gordon was also interesting because it discussed the view of humanists and Protestants towards different versions of the Bible: the Hebrew, the Septuagint, and the Latin Vulgate.

Chapter 2: “Scripture, the Priesthood of All Believers, and Application of 1 Corinthians 14,” by G. Sujin Pak.

The main argument of this excellent essay is on page 50: “In effect, while in the early 1520s early Protestant reformers called upon 1 Corinthians 14 to empower laypersons, from 1525 forward Lutheran and Reformed leaders increasingly employed 1 Corinthians 14 to consolidate Protestant clerical authority.”  You can read the essay for yourself to see how the interpretation of I Corinthians 14 played a role in that!

Chapter 3: “Learning to Read Scripture for Ourselves: The Guidance of Erasmus, Luther, and Calvin,” by Randall Zachman.

According to this excellent essay, Erasmus, Luther, and Calvin emphasized different things in their argument that people should read Scripture.  Erasmus stressed discipleship and the spiritual life, Luther emphasized being able to answer the devil’s accusations by appealing to God’s grace at the last judgment, and Calvin wanted a widespread familiarity with Scripture so that people would be able to test what their pastors were teaching, as good Bereans.

Chapter 4: “The Reformation and Vernacular Culture: Wales as a Case Study,” by D. Densil Morgan.

This chapter concerns the production of Welsh-language Bibles in sixteenth century Wales.  The pastor at a church that I attended for four years would probably appreciate this chapter, since he is Welsh and enjoys reading about Welsh religious history.  What interested me in this chapter was its description of the Protestant myth that the Elizabethan faith re-established the authentic Christianity of the Old Celtic Church, which Joseph of Arimathea allegedly instituted, and which Augustine of Canterbury allegedly corrupted.

Chapter 5: “The Reformation as Media Event,” by Read Mercer Schuchardt.

This essay provides background about Gutenberg, who initially made mirrors that were used to capture relics on pilgrimages.  (You will have to read the chapter to see what that was about!)  Schuchardt argues that the printing press not only assisted the Protestant Reformation, but also what Martin Luther opposed: the indulgences, which the printing press produced in mass numbers.  In addition, the essay interacts with Victor Hugo’s profound claim that hearing contributes to community, whereas seeing (and, by implication, reading) fosters individualism.

Chapter 6: “The Interplay of Catechesis and Liturgy in the Sixteenth Century: Examples from the Lutheran and Reformed Traditions,” by John D. Witvliet.

This essay argues against Catholic Virgil Michel’s argument that Martin Luther emphasized the catechism  and divorced it from the liturgy.  This essay includes Protestant hymns that tried to teach people the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and Christian doctrines.

Chapter 7: “Word and Sacrament: The Gordian Knot of Reformation Worship,” by Jennifer Powell McNutt.

This chapter explored different Protestant views on the sacraments and their relationship with Scripture.  It is an informative chapter: for instance, it includes critical statements by Luther of transubstantiation.  A criticism I have, however, is that the chapter said that the Catholic Church served bread but not wine to congregants at communion, without (as far as I could see) explaining its rationale for that policy.

Chapter 8: “John Calvin’s Commentary on the Council of Trent,” by Michael Horton.

This chapter provides the historical background for the Council of Trent.  According to Horton, many Protestants expected it to be a farce, even though they may have supported the existence of some council to serve as a check on the papacy.  John Calvin defended Protestant ideas such as the notion that a Christian can be assured of forgiveness, but he also appealed to history in arguing against Trent.  Calvin argued, for example, that the priority of the Roman bishop did not go back to the time of the church fathers.  From Horton’s telling, Calvin valued the fathers, and Calvin defended some of his Protestant beliefs about church tradition and the marginalization of the apocrypha in reference to them.

Chapter 9: “The Bible and the Italian Reformation,” by Christopher Castaldo.

This chapter will interest people (like me) who did not know about the Protestant Reformation in Italy during the sixteenth century.  Castaldo actually says that this “may come as a surprise” to a lot of people!  But there were Catholic reformers and Protestant vernacular translations in Italy, the “bastion of the Roman church” (page 171).  Protestants challenged doctrines and were persecuted there.  Castaldo also discusses how Protestantism may have influenced Michaelangelo’s work.

Chapter 10: “Reading the Reformers After Newman,” by Carl Trueman.

John Henry Newman was a Protestant who converted to Catholicism in the nineteenth century.  As Trueman argues, other people did that, too, but many talk about Newman because of his effectiveness in explaining his conversion.  Trueman counters some of Newman’s claims: that Protestantism devalued church history, and that Luther was an antinomian.  Trueman also observes Newman’s odd relationship with the usual conservative-liberal boundaries: Newman criticized liberalism because he stressed the importance of dogma, but his insistence that the dogma be upheld by Rome placed him on the opposite side of Protestants and evangelicals, who themselves emphasized dogma.  Moreover, Trueman contrasts trends in contemporary Protestantism with classical Protestantism: whereas prominent elements of contemporary Protestantism emphasize religious experience, classical Protestantism focused more on dogma, Luther’s tower experience notwithstanding.  This chapter was informative, but it was slightly unclear on page 198, where it discussed the question of whether “Christ is mediator according to his person, not simply according to his human nature[.]”  Trueman seemed to be saying that the Catholics believed Christ was mediator according to his person and that the Protestants challenged this position, but then he appeared to depict the Protestant argument as saying that a person, not a nature, intercedes.  But was that not the Catholic position?  Trueman could have been clearer here, but Trueman provides references to Aquinas and Calvin in a footnote, so those may provide greater clarity.

Chapter 11: “From the Spirit to the Sovereign to Sapiential Reason: A Brief History of Sola Scriptura,” by Paul C.H. Lim.

John Calvin believed that the Holy Spirit interpreted Scripture for the believer.  Would that not lead to subjectivism, as each Christian asserts that his or her interpretation is Spirit-led?  As Lim points out, Calvin was aware of this problem, for it was occurring in his time!  Lim did not thoroughly explain how Calvin got around this problem, however: Lim merely says that Calvin acknowledges that our understanding is partial right now and will be full in the eschaton (a la I Corinthians 13).  Perhaps Lim should have raised certain considerations that other essays in the books raised: the importance of scholarship and the church in biblical interpretation.  That could have improved, not only this essay, but also the book as a whole, by showing how Calvin held different concepts (i.e., scholarship, community, and Spirit-led interpretation, even by the laypersons) together.  This chapter was interesting in that it discussed how Hobbes and Locke interacted with the problem of individualistic interpretation.  Hobbes said that the sovereign should have the primary authority to interpret, like Moses, whereas Locke stressed the importance of reason in interpreting the Bible.  Lim did not really explain Hobbes’ rationale, unless that rationale was that somebody needs to give the final interpretation lest there be chaos, and that somebody had might as well be the sovereign!

Chapter 12: “Perspicuity and the People’s Book,” by Mark Lamberton.

Is Scripture perspicuous?  As Lamberton notes, Calvin affirmed that it was, and yet Calvin still felt a need to write volumes of commentaries to explain it!  Lamberon affirmed the importance of Christian community in interpreting Scripture, but, really, the chapter was more impressive in its questions than its answers.  To quote from page 232: “Is a highly trained, technical reading of…1 Corinthians 13 necessarily a better reading than an obedient and embodied, nontechnical reading?”

My critiques notwithstanding, I am still giving this book five stars.  It is informative, thoughtful, deep, and sophisticated.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  My review is honest!


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Notes on Kant and Aquinas Against Anselm

Theologians, Inc.

“Thus when I think a thing, through whichever and however many predicates I like (even in its thoroughgoing determination), not the least bit gets added to the thing when I posit in addition that this thing is. For otherwise what would exist would not be the same as what I had thought in my concept, but more than that, and I could not say that the very object of my concept exists” (Critique of Pure Reason, A600/B628).   
It is important to note the context of Kants rejection of existence as a predicate, which is his criticism of the ontological argument. Kant, as he says above, took Anselm to be arguing that predicating the concept ‘being’ of anything added something to the concept of a thing. This is not entirely correct, however, when we look at Anselm, who says that something which exists only in the understanding is not…

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I am not ready to start a longer term reading project.  So I am reading some online articles.  I am struck by the quality of some of what is available online.

Today I am linking to this one. It is “The Veto on Images and the aniconic God in Ancient Israel” By Trygve Mettinger.

Mettinger has done a lot of work on the concept of aniconism, the avoidance of images to represent God. Aniconism, he shows, was a feature of several religious cultures and not just Israel. Mettinger studied in detail the use of standing stones as non-graven images to represent, but not envision, the presence of deity. This is what he calls material aniconism.

He has also developed the concept of empty space aniconism. This means there is a space for the deity like the space above the cherubim in the Jerusalem Temple. He found several examples of this…

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