Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The sermon taster's solemn warning

The sermon taster comes in various forms. Some will gad about from
church to church looking for what suits them for the moment. Others
will only come to hear those that they consider worth hearing. Others
also rate the preachers against each other as though they were being
entertained. Apparently, it was popular among wealthy Londoners in
Victorian times to race across the city from one church to another,
sampling the preaching of the more popular ministers. Each Monday in
Parliament, meetings were held to discuss which preacher delivered the
best sermon.

Other sermon tasters like to hear their pet subject or theme and will
not be satisfied without this. There was a man in Scotland whose pet
theme was the second coming. He visited several Edinburgh churches at
one time. When he returned to his hometown, he was asked, "How did you
like the Edinburgh preachers?" "They all fly on one wing," he
answered. "They all preach the first coming of Christ, but don't
preach His second coming."

body language Other sermon tasters have a more damaging effect. They
are not getting on with a sermon and they don't mind if everyone
behind them knows that. The body language tells the congregation
behind, "Switch off, don't listen". The head hangs down, the shoulders
droop, sometimes the head is shaken and the face wears a displeased or
pained expression. Perhaps they start leafing through their bible as
though to say - "I'm not pleased with this and so I'm not listening".
It seems as if they would rather be elsewhere. What a discouragement
to those behind. They can't help but notice. If they weren't
struggling with the sermon, they will feel now that they should be.
Some of them need to hear the gospel and not be put off from hearing
it yet Satan uses this distraction before them to snatch away the seed
of the Word. What of their spouse beside them? Or if they have
children that share their pew? How would they take this example? Will
the word profit them?

Some sermon-tasters are keen to let everyone know how they did not get
on with the sermon afterwards. They will pick over the expressions,
gestures and illustrations of the sermon in order to find fault. What
is of value and benefit is left aside so that the 'defects' may be
exposed. Their pride will not allow them to profit and will also deny
the privilege to as many as possible. This is the most dangerous in
its effect upon others, particularly those of the immediate family.
They may be put off the gospel and the church permanently. The
question is whether or not there is error and if error of how serious
a nature can it be corrected in the most gracious way without deleting
all effect from the sermon, disparaging the person, their office or
the way it was presented.

The following is from William James Hoge's "Blind Bartimaeus and His
Great Physician"

"your criticisms may turn it into very foolishness, and a
stumbling-block, and the savor of death to some beloved one for whose
salvation you have been striving. I cannot better illustrate this
caution than by a true narrative from "The Central Presbyterian." " A
pious lady once left a church in this city, [Richmond,] in company
with her husband, who was not a professor of religion. She was a woman
of unusual vivacity, with a keen perception of the ludicrous, and
often playfully sarcastic. As they walked along toward home, she began
to make some amusing and spicy comments on the sermon, which a
stranger, a man of very ordinary talents and awkward manner, had
preached, that morning, in the absence of the pastor. After running on
in this vein of sportive criticism for
some time, surprised at the profound silence of her husband, she
turned and looked up in
his face. He was in tears. That sermon had sent an arrow of conviction
to his heart!
What must have been the anguish of the conscience-stricken wife, thus
arrested in the
act of ridiculing a discourse which had been the means of awakening
the anxiety of her
unconverted husband!".

Watch then, your words and spirit. Take care what you say, and before
whom you say
it. Are you about to speak in love, in humility, in the temper of
Christ? Will any one be the better for what you say? Will your
criticisms deepen your child's or your friend's reverence for Christ's
Ambassadors, and God's chosen instrument for saving souls?

When you have said what you wish, will you become thereby
fellow-helpers to the truth?'
If not, oh, leave it all unsaid, lest in criticising the flaws of the
earthen vessel, you be found
to have despised the heavenly treasure; lest you turn aside the sword
of the Spirit, and
with great sin to yourself, bring destruction on some most precious soul".

Did the sermon-taster pray for a blessing from the sermon? Do they
pray regularly for the minister and before every sermon for every
preacher? Do they pray for the preacher while he is preaching, that he
may be helped, especially when he may be struggling? In the Welsh
revival of 1859 two preachers were talking together. One said, "Have
you noticed how all the ministers are preaching a great deal better
than they used to?" "Yes," his friend replied, "but perhaps people are
listening a good deal better than they used to." "That may be true,"
said the first man, "but I think the sermons ought to be much better
these days." "Why is that?" said his friend. "Because all the
congregations seem to be praying for their ministers now."

Is the sermon-taster depending too much upon the public means for
their spiritual growth and feeding and not being diligent in the
private means and the secret place? If they profit more in the one,
they may find that they are in a different spirit to profit from the

The sermon-taster is responsible for themselves and not whether there
is or is not something deficient in the preacher whether in his life,
experience or style of preaching. Perhaps familiarity has bred
contempt and the sermon-taster has become too familiar with the
pet-themes, the mannerisms and turns of phrase of the preacher. They
may need to pray to be able to overcome this.

Has the sermon-taster examined their life and heart? Is there
something there that means that they are not profiting at all from
what they hear? Pride will certainly hinder it. There can be a carnal
response to what we hear. We are not getting the calibre of sermon
that we deserve, we think. We are not getting what we should. We have
particular spiritual needs that we want addressed and they are not
being addressed. But this does not mean that none of our spiritual
needs are being addressed. We forget that this, as with all other
things, is in the sovereign providence of God. This is to murmur
against that providence, wishing for one set of circumstances over
another. Surely if the man is orthodox, there is something that we may
glean from the sermon and meditate upon. Where this is not addressed,
a resentment can sometimes build up against the man and forms a great
barrier against profiting at all from any sermon. The resentment and
distaste eventually takes the sermon-taster to another preacher and
another congregation, but they have not submitted to God's providence
and learned from it, so it may be that the same thing will occur
again. They may need to consider whether they have what Scriptures
terms "itching ears".

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

O, Eternity

How long shall God and his Saints reigne? How long shall the damned
burn in Hell? For ever. How long is that? Imagine an hundred thousand
yeares. Alas! That is nothing in respect of Eternitie. Imagine ten
hundred thousand yeares, yea so many ages? Yet that is nothing:
Eternitie is still as long as it was. Imagine a thousand millions of
yeares. And yet that is nothing. Eternitie is not a whit shortened.
Imagine yet more, 1000000000000000000000000000000, a thousand,
thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand
Millions of yeares. Imagine, I say, the damned should burn in Hell so
many yeares, and yet thou hast not found the very beginning of
Eternitie. Imagine once more so many millions of millions of yeares as
there are drops in the sea, and yet thou art not come to the beginning
of Eternitie.

Let the consideration of the immortality of that precious soul, that
lies in thy bosom, curb thy corruptions at the very first sight of
sin, and make thee step back as though you wer ready to tread upon a
serpent. Not all the men upon earth, or devils in hell, can possibly
kill the soul of any man. It must needs live as long as God himself,
and run parallel with the longest line of eternity. Only sin wounds
mortally that immortal spirit, and brings it into that cursed case,
that it had infinitely better never have been, shall be for ever. For
by this means, going on impenitently to that last tribunal, it is ever
in the pangs of death, and never dead; not able to die, nor endure the
pain; pain exceeding not only all patience, but all resistance: there
being no strength to sustain, nor ability to bear, that which, whilst
God is GOD, for ever must be borne. What a prodigious cruelty is it
then for a man, by listening to the Syren songs of this false world,
or the devil's desperate counsel, to imbrue his hands in the blood of
his own everlasting soul, and to make it die eternally? For some
fleeting vanity, to bring upon it in the other world, torments without
end, and beyond all compass of conception? And his madness is the
more, because, (besides its immortality,) his soul is incomparably
more worth than the whole world.

Robert Bolton

Thursday, September 03, 2009

NIV revision

In their ultimate consumer marketing campaign the publishers and
translators of the New International Version have decided to do their
best to upstage the Authorised (King James) Version by publishing a
new revision in 2011 see website www.nivbible2011.com. "It is fitting
that the new edition of the NIV Bible will be coming out in 2011, the
year which marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Version,"
said Douglas Moo. "Our goal in the NIV Bible translation mirrors that
of the 17th Century translators themselves: to produce a Bible that
removes all unnecessary obstacles to comprehension by drawing on the
best available scholarship". This is of course marketing speak; the
principles adopted by the AV translators and those of the NIV could
hardly be greater. Gerald Hammond pointed out that "while the
Renaissance Bible translator saw half of his task as reshaping English
so that it could adapt itself to Hebraic idiom, the modern translator
wants to make no demands on the language he translates into".

The attempt to chase the mirage of contemporary idiom and the need for
publishers to profit from new products has meant the frequent revision
of translations such as the NIV. Keith Danby, Global President and CEO
of Biblica said: "we are recommitting ourselves today to the original
NIV charter, complete with its charge to monitor and reflect
developments in English usage and Biblical scholarship by periodically
updating the NIV Bible text. As time passes and English changes, the
NIV we have at present is becoming increasingly dated. If we want a
Bible that English speakers around the world can understand, we have
to listen to, and respect, the vocabulary they are using today."

Moo gives an example of the changes that are required. "In the 1984
NIV when Paul says (in 2 Corinthians 11:25) 'I was stoned,' we changed
it to 'pelted with stones' to avoid the laughter in the junior high
row of the church." The assumption is that (as Gerald Hammond puts
it), "a modern Bible should aim not to tax its readers' linguistic or
interpretative abilities one bit. If this aim is to be achieved then
it seems likely that a new Bible will have to be produced for every
generation - each one probably moving us further away from the
original text, now that the initial break has been made". On cue the
NIV is now being revised 25 years after the 1984 edition.

One of the NIV's best kept secrets is that it is actually full of
archaic and difficult vocabulary as the list at the following site
shows http://www.biblebelievers.com/Vance2.html. A comparison of
these words in context will show that the AV has actually in many
cases used a less difficult word such as Eph 6:4 "provoke" rather than
"exasperate" (NIV). See also the list at the bottom of this post.

The new edition will replace both the 1984 NIV and the 2005
gender-neutral TNIV. There is a bit of obfuscation in the official
position as to whether the new edition will be gender neutral or not
and if so to what extent. For the 2011 edition, more than a dozen
scholars will "review every single gender-related decision we have
made and make sure we are putting God's unchanging word into English
people are actually using," says Douglas Moo, chairman of the
Committee on Bible Translation. "I can't predict what will happen with
gender usage. My guess would be we made a lot of the right decisions
for the T-NIV but every one of those is open for consideration. We may
even be returning to what we had in the 1984 NIV". Noone really
believes that this will be the case, however, they are simply trying
to keep their market appeal to those who might be swayed towards
either the NRSV or NLT on the one hand and the ESV, NASB on the other.

Moo notes that marketing the bible for profit isn't always easy, you
have to launch a revision at the right time: "We recognize at the same
time that people often will buy a Bible, they will use it as their
Bible, they'll memorize it, churches will buy Bibles to put in their
pews, and I think we have to balance very carefully the need to keep
the Bible up to date in terms of where English is with the reality
that people don't want to have to be buying new Bibles every two or
three years".

Fresh from last year's 30th anniversary marketing campaign Zondervan
are keen to maintain their market dominance as their President
enthuses. "We are tremendously excited about this initiative and we
wholeheartedly support our colleagues from Biblica and the CBT as they
work again with the same recipe that made the NIV the most popular
Bible translation in the world," said Zondervan President Moe Girkins.
"Since its first publication in 1978, more than 300 million copies of
the NIV have found their way into the hands and heart of people
worldwide...We are going to take great care to prepare our customers
for this new edition."

Ironically the NIV marketers are using the anniversary of a bible
version which has stood the test of 400 years to launch a revision of
a bible version that has hardly lasted 25. Never mind its popularity
or whether it needs updating - to use Richard Bacon's article title -
the NIV is still simply a bad translation.

NIV Difficult vocabulary list
abashed, abominable, abutted, acclaim, adder, adhere, admonishing,
advocate, alcove, algum, allocate, allots, ally, aloes, appease,
ardent, armlets, arrayed, astir, atonement, awl, banishment,
battlements, behemoth, belial, bereaves, betrothed, bier, blighted,
booty, brayed, breaching, breakers, buffeted, burnished, calamus,
capital (not a city), carnelian, carrion, centurions, chasm, chronic,
chrysolite, cistern, citadel, citron, clefts, cohorts, colonnades,
complacency, coney, concession, congealed, conjure, contrite,
convocations, crest, cors, curds, dandled, dappled, debauchery,
decimated, deluged, denarii, depose, derides, despoil,
dire,dispossess, disrepute, dissipation, distill, dissuade,
divination, dragnet, dropsy, duplicity, earthenware, ebony,
emasculate, emission, encroach, enmity, enthralled, entreaty, ephod,
epicurean, ewe, excrement, exodus, factions, felled, festal, fettered,
figurehead, filigree, flagstaff, fomenting, forded, fowler, gadfly,
galled, gird, gauntness, gecko, gloating, goiim, harrowing, haunt,
hearld, henna, homers, hoopoe, ignoble, impaled, implore, incur,
indignant, insatiable, insolence, intact, invoked, jambs, joists,
jowls, lairs, lamentation, leviathan, libations, loins, magi,
manifold, maritime, mattocks, maxims, mina, misdemeanor,
mother-of-pearl, mustering, myrtles, naive, naught, Negev, Nephilim,
nettles, nocturnal, nomad, notorious, Nubians, oblivion, obsolete,
odious, offal, omer, oracles, overweening, parapet, parchments,
pavilion, peals (noun, not the verb), perjurers, perpetuate,
pestilence, pinions, phylacteries, plumage, pomp, porphyry, portent,
potsherd, proconsul, propriety, poultice, Praetorium, pretext,
profligate, promiscuity, provincial, providence, qualm, quarries,
quivers (noun, not verb), ramparts, ransacked, ratified, ravish,
rabble, rawboned, relish (not for hotdogs), recoils, recount, refrain,
relent, rend, reposes, reprimanded, reputed, retinue, retorted,
retribution, rifts, roebucks, rue, sachet, satraps, sated,
shipwrights, siegeworks, sinews, sistrums, sledges, smelted, somber,
soothsayer, sovereignty, spelt, stadia, stench, stipulation, sullen,
tamarisk, tanner, temperate, tether, tetrarch, terebinth, thresher,
throes, thronged, tiaras, tinder, tracts, transcends, tresses,
turbulent, tyrannical, unscathed, unrelenting, usury, vassal, vaunts,
vehemently, verdant, vexed, wadi, wanton, warranted, wield, winnowing
and wrenched.