"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 1, Number 2, February, 1998
Response to our initial issue (January, 1998) was for the most part very favorable and highly encouraging (a small handful did ask to be removed from our mailing list--and all were of a particular persuasion regarding English Bible translations that is at odds with my know opinions. So be it). I am still toying with the format so that it will not arrive with the lines of text all out of kilter, and am trying to learn how to use a mailer program so that all the address codes will be hidden (chiefly to "clean up" the appearance). So, be patient with this old dog who is struggling to learn some new tricks.
If I seem to be "obsessed" with documentation of quotations and sources, it is simply because I am. Many times, I have read quotes or been told that a source said thus and so-- often when I had great reason to doubt the accuracy of the quotation--but with no specifics on the where and when given. As a result, I could not check out the source for myself or with confidence quote it. In writing on controversial subjects (the present Bible translation controversy being one, or anytime Spurgeon's views on anything are referred to, for another), documentation is exceedingly helpful and almost crucial. A number of times, I have read statements ascribed to Spurgeon or Westcott or others which were nothing short of gross misrepresentations of their actual views--as I discovered after laboriously tracking down the original quotation. As a service to the reader, when a source is quoted, full documentation will always be given (as far as possible). And then, if you so desire, as a friend of Squawks McGrew used to say, "you could look it up." (Sorry, I can't find the documentation for that one!)
The great tragedy of the recent accusations of gross sexual impropriety aimed at our "scandal-of-the-week" President is not that his conduct, his track record, is such that these accusations are entirely credible, though that is true (who, by contrast, would have believed similar accusations if they had been directed against Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford or Nixon?). The real tragedy is the amazing indifference of the American people to Mr. Clinton's apparent depravity. If the public opinion polls are to be believed (and I for one hope that they are grossly in error), a large majority of the American electorate sees nothing particularly blameworthy in the President's apparent sexual "indiscretions," though there is some mild condemnation of him if he has in fact lied in denying his involvement with Monica Lewinsky. The vox populi thereby declares that private conduct and public service are wholly disjointed and unconnected, and that personal character is simply not important or relevant in elected officials.
Is this mass dementia of the American people a result of five-plus years of one scandal after another, that is, is the indifference now a result of being step-by-step inoculated against outrage by a steady stream of Clinton scandals?-- Jennifer Flowers, Whitewater, cattle futures, Travelgate, Rose law firm billing records, the FBI files, Vince Foster, Web Hubbell, Ron Brown, illegal campaign contributions, illegal fund-raising phone calls from the White House, Paula Jones, ad infinitum? Or are both the moral and ethical relativism of the Clinton administration and a majority of the public a consequence of a cultural phenomenon, namely the systematic government-mandated exclusion of God from all public life, beginning with the ban on the Bible and prayer in government schools in the early 1960s? I think that both are in part the cause of the present situation.
For 35 years, our nation has been officially without a moral compass since God was sent packing, to fulfill the Supreme Court's demand. For 35 years, school children (including our current First Family) have been taught de facto that God was completely irrelevant to their real life, and that His commands, prohibitions, and warnings were just so much myth and fable to be ignored at will, with no fear of consequences or retribution. The very idea that something is inherently right or inherently wrong is viewed as a quaint notion that only the most rigid dogmatists believe in, and they can safely be ignored. The only "sin" now is to denounce the conduct of others as sin, and the only wrong is being careless and getting caught.
Of course, I do perceive some "selective" indifference in both the news media and the American public. In the 1980s, Republican Senator John Tower of Texas was nominated to be Secretary of Defense. His nomination was rejected by the Democratically-controlled Senate largely on the grounds of Tower's known extra-marital sexual affairs and his not- infrequent drunkenness. Apparently character did matter then.
Conservative Republican Clarence Thomas was virtually lynched in the press and nearly denied a seat on the U. S. Supreme Court because of the unsupported and wholly unsubstantiated accusations of one woman that he had made some lewd comments to her and had pestered her for dates a decade earlier. Apparently the mere accusation of wrong-doing, even if wholly contrary to a man's known character, was sufficient grounds for defaming him back then.
Republican Robert Packwood left the Senate in disgrace because of charges (certainly for the most part credible) of his sexual harassment of more than 20 women. Character-- or lack of it--did matter in his case, though similar conduct and worse on the part of Democrat Ted Kennedy spanning several decades has been merely overlooked.
We will discover as a nation, sooner or later, that such things as character, integrity, honesty and morality do matter. We can thank God that in the times of great national crises, He mercifully gave us men of character. Washington led our armies to victory in the Revolution and set a very high standard for presidential conduct.
(Incidentally, can you imagine anyone believing Clinton if he signed a document like the Declaration of Independence which ends with a pledge of "our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor"? Clinton's cowardice during the Vietnam era shows that he would not pledge his life to anything but himself, and "sacred honor" is a concept wholly alien to his very nature. He has no honor to pledge).
During the Civil War, God gave us Lincoln, a man of limited experience but of surpassingly great character (character molded by the reading of Scripture and Shakespeare). Had Lincoln been a man of defective or limited character and integrity, our Republic, our "house divided against itself," would not have stood, and the last, best hope of mankind would have perished from the earth.
We can thank God that no great national or international crisis has occurred these past five years. Should such a crisis occur in the next three, we will view firsthand the grave consequences of political leadership devoid of principle and wholly lacking in character. From a President with no guiding star, with no deep sense of right and wrong, with no reserve of personal integrity to draw upon, we can expect little else than confusion, chaos, and disaster.
"Concerning the fact of the difference between the Revised and the Authorized Versions, I would say that no Baptist should ever fear any honest attempt to produce the correct text, and an accurate interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. For many years Baptists have insisted upon it that we ought to have the Word of God translated in the best possible manner, whether it would confirm certain religious opinions and practices, or work against them. All we want is the exact mind of the Spirit, as far as we can get it. Beyond all Christians we are concerned in this, seeing we have no other sacred book; we have no prayer book or binding creed, or authoritative minutes of conference; we have nothing but the Bible; and we would have that as pure as ever we can get it. By the best and most honest scholarship that can be found we desire that the common version [i.e., the King James Version] may be purged of every blunder of transcribers, or additions of human ignorance, or human knowledge, that so the word of God may come to us as it came from his own hand." Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 27, 1881, pp. 342-343 (Pasadena, Tex.: Pilgrim Publications, 1984 facsimile reprint).
[For a more detailed--and fully documented--analysis of Spurgeon's published views on Bible texts and English translations, see Doug Kutilek, An Answer to David Otis Fuller: Fuller's Deceptive Treatment of Spurgeon Regarding the King James Version, a 16 page printed booklet, which may be order for $2.00 postpaid, by writing to the editor at 10921 Rolling Hills Drive, Wichita, KS 67212-5959]
"I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: Just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing,--the way to heaven; how to land safe on that shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way: For this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri [Latin for "a man of one book]." The Works of John Wesley, 3rd edition (Peabody, Mass.; Hendrickson, 1991 reprint of 1872, Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, London, edition) vol. 5, "preface," p. 3.
While the Jewish understanding of the Old Testament in the centuries before and after Christ is obviously no infallible guide to Bible interpretation, nevertheless, it is often of exceedingly great interest and forms a valuable backdrop for understanding the New Testament, its theology, and the theological controversies between Jesus and the Pharisees.
One particular doctrine expounded in Jewish literature that carries great interest for Christians is the Jewish understanding of the Messiah foretold in the O.T. It is worth knowing that, for example, Jewish literature interprets Genesis 3:15 and 49:10, Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 12:10 as Messianic (to list only a very few among the many passages so interpreted). Fortunately for those interested in this subject (and I am amazed that so relatively few conservative Christians are), an approximately-complete list of all such O.T. passages is provided as "Appendix IX: List of Old Testament Passages Messianically Applied in Ancient Rabbinic Writings" in Alfred Edersheim's The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971, 2 vols. bound as one), vol. 2, pp. 711-741. Edersheim, a master of Rabbinic literature lists all 456 O.T. passages interpreted Messianically by the ancient Jews, and gives the references to the Jewish literature where these interpretations can be found. A few hours examining this listing and Edersheim's explanations will prove singularly valuable.
Another source for such knowledge is the O.T. portion of John Gill's commentary on the Bible. Gill (1697-1771) was perhaps the greatest Christian authority on rabbinic literature in the 18th century (and perhaps any century). While his commentary is deserving of some very severe criticism at several points, its surpassing excellence is its use of and knowledge of Jewish literature. Most of the time, if a particular verse or chapter was Messianically understood by the ancient or medieval Jews, Gill notes and explains that fact (though his documentation, often heavily- abbreviated Latin, is frequently unintelligible; cross-checking with Edersheim is usually sufficient to locate sources).
And, by the way, if I could do exactly what I want to do, I would spend my time studying for and teaching a class of eager students the life of Christ, using A.T. Robertson's Harmony of the Gospels and Edersheim's Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah as textbooks, and we would go carefully and thoroughly through the whole taking a full year or two for our study. What could possibly be more profitable than that?
Going beyond first-year Hebrew grammar can be very intimidating. Gesenius' century-old grammar is very technical, often obscure, and difficult to use, while Waltke and O'Connor's more recent volume is massive, and frequently uses unfamiliar terminology. As a step beyond the basics but not so overwhelming as a full-scale grammar, this is where Williams' grammar shines. In the brief compass of 122 pages, Williams leads the student through the outlines of Hebrew syntax: nouns, verbs, particles, and clauses. Anyone who has tried to make sense, for example, of the Brown-Driver-Briggs entry on the Hebrew preposition "b" will welcome the infinitely more comprehensible treatment in Williams (pp. 44-46).
We did find objectionable Williams' following the NRSV in rendering Genesis 1:1 as "When God began to create the sky and the earth...," a translation designed to drag Genesis down to the level of the Gilgamesh Epic, and rob God of His ex nihilo creation of the universe (to say nothing of its violation of the much more obvious--and literal--translation of the verse as found in all ancient and most modern translations of the passage). There were a few other "politically correct" renderings (ala the NRSV) elsewhere as well, particularly "neutralizing" masculine terms.
No one, of course, would agree with Williams' classification of usage of every single example he cites, but it provides an excellent place to start. The book is thankfully supplied with a bibliography and indices of Scripture references, Hebrew words, and subjects, all of which greatly enhance its ease of use.
Any student who applied himself in first year grammar could easily go through Williams without assistance and would gain a much better picture of the outlines of Hebrew syntax. It would sharpen his analysis of the Hebrew text and strengthen his skills as an interpreter of the Old Testament, which is, after all, the whole point.
John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) was called by Spurgeon, "the best man in the Church of England" and no doubt this little book was one of the reasons Spurgeon held him in such high regard. Ryle's approach is simple: he asks the reader, "Do you pray?" and then explores the subject by answering all the evasions or excuses commonly made to his question. So effectively written is it that on my first reading of the book some 14 years ago, I stopped half-way through because he absolutely "had my number" in the matter of prayer. Along with E. M. Bounds' Power Through Prayer, and R. A. Torrey's The Power of Prayer, Ryle's brief treatment is among the very best books on prayer I know of.
Often reprinted, this little book is currently available through Trinity Book Service, P.O. Box 395, Montville, NJ 07045. Write them and ask for their catalog. They specialize in Puritan literature, particularly Banner of Truth stuff, and have a monthly list of specials, with heavily discounted prices.
Few things give me greater delight than reading about the life and ministry of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. And among living authors, there is none more expert in regard to Spurgeon than Eric W. Hayden, one of Spurgeon's successors as pastor on the Metropolitan Tabernacle in Southwark, London. Hayden's previous books on Spurgeon include A History of Spurgeon's Tabernacle (1962), Searchlight on Spurgeon (1973), A Traveller's Guide to Spurgeon Country (1974), Letting the Lion Loose (1984), Highlights in the Life of C. H. Spurgeon (1990), and The Spurgeon Family (1993), all of which are or have been available from Pilgrim Publications.
The present volume under review may be characterized as a "companion volume" to Searchlight on Spurgeon which is a topical compilation of Spurgeon's own words regarding his life, conversion and ministry, as well as various doctrines, theology and Christian practice, all gleaned from the 63- volume set of Spurgeon's sermons. The Unforgettable Spurgeon is Hayden's gleanings from the 28 years of Spurgeon's monthly magazine, "The Sword and the Trowel" which he began and edited during his lifetime. These magazine volumes have been all but ignored by Spurgeon biographers, to their (and our) loss. Among the things Hayden unearthed in Spurgeon's magazine was his strong anti-evolutionary stance combined with a vigorous rejection of the day-age theory regarding the interpretation of Genesis 1. There is also a valuable section on Spurgeon's view of the Revised version when it appeared in the 1880s and his opinion of the KJV, all very much "relevant" to the English Bible controversy in our own day. The "Downgrade Controversy" is analyzed, as are the subjects of the Darbyites, public invitations, as well as a host of other themes and subjects. Every admirer of Spurgeon will want this volume. And if you are not yet an admirer of Spurgeon, read this book and become one.
[Pilgrim Publications has compiled in 6 volumes the writings of Spurgeon himself as found in "The Sword and the Trowel" for the years 1865-1882, with plans to eventually complete the set].
Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield (1851-1921) has a justly- deserved reputation as a staunch defender of biblical inerrancy, being at the same time a thorough and highly competent scholar. Living in an era when the enemy-- destructive higher criticism--was sweeping in like a flood, Warfield stood against this error, and was a vigorous proponent of Biblical orthodoxy.
In Counterfeit Miracles, Warfield's purpose is to distinguish true Biblical miracles from the so-called miracles of post- New Testament Christianity, especially the alleged miracles of professing Christianity in the period after Constantine corrupted Christianity by legalizing it, as well as modern claims of miracles in the Catholic Church (especially at Lourdes), the miraculous claims of the Irvingites in the mid- 1800s in England, the faith-healing movement beginning in the latter half of the 1800s (and continuing to the present hour), and the "mind cure" phenomenon best known in its "Christian Science" form.
Warfield's thesis is that the purpose of New Testament miracles was as a temporary phenomenon designed to confirm the message of the Apostles as from God (cf. John 3:2; 5:36; Hebrews 2:3,4) until a divinely-inspired record of their message could be written. When that revelation was complete, that is, when the writing of the 27 books of the New Testament was finished, the very raison d'etre of the miracles was gone, and their termination could be expected. Supporting this view is the fact that the New Testament always presents the transmission of the miraculous spiritual gifts as a prerogative of the Apostles alone, a power which they could not delegate to others (see pp. 21-24; 245-246). In short, the charismata were transferred to others only by the Apostles, and when the Apostles died, these charismata disappeared (a conclusion with which I am in complete agreement). As a result, all subsequent reports of alleged miracles involve either witting or unwitting deception or fraud, or involve naturalistic phenomena that are either misunderstood or overlooked.
Warfield heavily documents his work (97 of the 325 pages in the book are endnotes--which should be read, since very much valuable information is to be found in them). In light of the widespread charismatic confusion and claims of modern- day miracles by both charismatics and Roman Catholicism, the continuing value of Warfield's research is patently obvious.
[I recently completed an 18-page research paper on how the charismata were transmitted in the New Testament, and will send a copy of the paper to anyone who is interested for $3 ($4 outside the U.S.) to cover the cost of photocopying and mailing--DK]