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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

'Born on this day'

D.L. Moody had his first spiritual birthday, April 21st 1855, when he was converted to Jesus Christ through Robert Kimball. “It seemed to me I was in love with all creation. I had not a bitter feeling against any man, and I was ready to take all men to my heart.” (1) DL Moody went on to saturate himself in the Bible of the English speaking peoples: the King James Version. As a result he made it accessible to the countless urban masses in the nineteenth century looking for a hope to carry them through a difficult life. He was thought to have travelled more than a million miles and addressed more than 100 million people.” (2)

What did DL Moody believe about the Bible? He accepted it literally for a start. ”Moody rejected attempts to set aside literal interpretation of the crossing of the Red Sea, the story of Jonah and the fish . . . as being essentially objections to the supernatural character of the Bible, and not worthy of the Christian’s serious consideration. “I notice,” said Moody, “if a man goes to cut up the Bible and comes to you with the truth and says, ‘I don’t believe this and I don’t believe that’ – I notice when he begins to doubt portions of the Word of God he soon doubts all.” Verbal plenary inspiration involved verbal infallibility of the scriptures as originally given in Hebrew Aramaic, and Greek, and the King James Version . . . “(3)

Moody lacked the training to approach the Bible critically, and so take its words apart. In that weakness was his greatest strength, for he was thus prepared to affirm what few of our educated contemporaries are willing to believe. He sharpened his general affirmation that the Bible is true with statements that all the Bible is inspired, “yes, every word of it.” [Likewise, Dr. Billy Graham was formally trained in anthropology, not theology – so neither did his training take him away from the KJV]. Such a comment today would be seen by many as unintelligible, even stupid. Yet the highly accomplished textual scholar John Burgon, Dean of Canterbury, held the same view, as he lauds the extreme accuracy of the Received Text (transmitted via the KJV):

". . . [T]his Day's Sermon has had for its object to remind you, that the BIBLE is none other than the voice of Him that sitteth upon the Throne! Every Book of it,-- every Chapter of it,-- every Verse of it,--every word of it,--every syllable of it,-- (where are we to stop?) --every letter of it -- is the direct utterance of the Most High! -- Pasa graphe theopneusto. ‘ Well spake the HOLY GHOST, by the mouth of' the many blessed Men who wrote it. -- The Bible is none other than the Word of God: not some part of it, more, some part of it, less; but all alike, the utterance of Him who sitteth upon the Throne;-- absolute,-- faultless,-- unerring,-- supreme!". (4)

DL Moody’s understanding of God and the needs of the human heart were simply phenomenal. Had the Apostle Paul foresight he might have been thinking of Moody when he said: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.(5)

Because he was prepared to be thought foolish, God chose Moody to confound the wise, and he became an immense blessing to countless numbers of needy people. I guess Proverbs 3:5 was a key thought for him, as he said: “It is easier for me to have faith in the Bible than to have faith in D.L. Moody, for Moody has fooled me lots of times.” (6)

(1) 1963 JC Pollock Moody without Sankey, Lon: Hodder, p. 25

(2) 1974 JD Douglas New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, UK: Paternoster.p. 675.

(3) 1976/99 SH Gundry Love them in: The Life and Theology of D. L. Moody, ILL: Moody Press, p. 209

(4) 1861 JW Burgon Inspiration and Interpretation, LON: Parker. Quoted at
VII SERMON IV.(5) 1 Cor. 1: 27-29

(6) Quoted in Christian History, Christianity Today.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Loss of the single eye

The American National Collegiate Athletic Association decided this year to ban all words and logos, all numbers or other symbols, when embedded in the players' eye black. Eye black has been used for centuries to help reduce the glare of sunlight or stadium lights which impair vision of an airborne ball.  The decision to ban ‘other use’ came out of the controversial habit of hundreds of college football players using their eye black to boast of their hometown, home area code, or their love for mother or girlfriend. But Tebowa dedicated Christian, decided to use his eye black to display a Bible reference, and so promote his faith in Jesus Christ.  After a recent Championship Game, 92 million people googled "John 3:16," the verse Tebow ‘wore’during the game. They needed to find out just what the verse actually said. Do you know?

Anyway, is there a parable here? Why should Tebow have offended other players or spectators, just by putting John 3:16 under his eyes? It suggests American College students might know what the verse says, and don’t need to look it up. Maybe the practice was too confronting, when the symbolic use of eyesight is considered. I “see” means “I understand.” “When you look at me like that, it makes me feel you see my faults!” “How can I make my plays when you look in my direction? What are you saying about me, anyway?” “I’m playing this game for God” means, “I’m obeying Jesus’ words when He implies I should do everything - including sport - with “a single eye” to God’s glory, Matthew 6:22. But, is using eye black in that way really preaching? Apparently so. There must be hope for the future of America!

According to the KJV translators Jesus said in Matthew 6:22,

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light..

I have yet to discover a single more modern translation which has kept the term ‘single eye’ here! Not that “single” is objected to, for being the basic meaning of the original word ‘haplous.’ Rather, it’s that most moderns think Jesus was using the word in a broader sense, of being ‘sound’ or ‘generous.’ The eye is “sound” because there is no speck in it to cloud the vision. Or, it is “generous,” because the translator feels Jesus is still on-topic with his reference to money just before, vss. 19 -21. But, if Jesus meant “sound” in v. 22, he would probably have used the less ambiguous Gk. adjective ‘hugies,’ referring to being sound in health. If he had meant “generous,” then that ties in the expression solely to the immediate context of being generous in giving. But, the saying does not need the supposed link with the earlier verses. It can stand on its own, and the link is not patent. When Jesus gave the Sermon, there’s no proof that the thought in v. 22 immediately succeeded vss 19-21. Matthew collected his material and structured his Gospel without the same concern for rigorous chronological sequence as we might assume. Neither should we assume, as contemporary translations do, that Jesus left the application of v. 22 to be inferred by the audience. On the contrary, it should be spelt out for all to see. Thus, the KJV translators opted for the word’s basic meaning, which is ‘single.’ “It would be quite impossible to improve on’ single’ by which our Translators have rendered it,” says Richard Trench (1).  Any other rendering keeps the literal artificially apart from the figurative, as if Jesus never mixed the literal with the metaphorical in the same breath? Here, he immediately compares the figure of the eye filling the body with light with the ‘single eye’ [someone with only one motive in all he does - to glorify God], which pure motive is, metaphorically speaking, a light on a godly person’s path in every step he/she takes. The effect of removing the idea of a single motive from the translation is to deprive the reader of the immediate application that Jesus intended, which is, as Paul put it, Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (2)

This lifestyle is otherwise referred to by Paul as having “singleness of heart”.(3)

David the Psalmist described it when praying Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. (4) Removing the rendering from which we have derived the expression ‘a single eye’ is a loss to the idiomatic stockpile of the English language.

(1) 1880/1985 R.C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, MI: Eerdmans, p. 204.

(2) 1 Corinthians 10:31

(3) Eph 6:5; Col 3:2

(4) Psalm 86:11

Friday, 16 April 2010

Nature takes the machine out of the skies

Today’s hot news is about a travel crisis after an eruption under a glacier in Eyjafjallajoekull Iceland, the second eruption in less than a month. "The ash . . . is expected to move south overnight. Up to 5,000 flights could be affected. The Republic of Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and Finland all later shut down their airspace entirely, while there is also major disruption in France, Germany, and Poland. Normal air traffic control services cannot be provided to flights in airspaces affected by volcanic ash, requiring the temporary suspension of air traffic. Experts warned that the tiny particles of rock, glass and sand contained in the ash cloud could be sufficient to jam aircraft engines. . . . The problem could persist for a further 48 hours and could last for a few days. The move silenced Heathrow airport, the world's second busiest and stranded tens of thousands of passengers around the world. “All I can do, like anyone else, is sit and wait."(1)

I ask myself, Is this a reminder of the angel’s words to the prophet Daniel But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.(2)

Harry Ironside says, “Men seem to have a perfect mania for travelling from place to place; and human inventions of all kinds are pressed into service to accelerate and make comfortable those who run to and fro. Coupled with this we have the ever widening diffusion of the productions of the printing press, so that knowledge of all kinds is indeed increased.” [For “printing press” read “Internet”!]. On the other hand, E.J. Young says of the phrase “Many shall run to and fro”: “This phrase is extremely difficult to interpret. . . Calvin translates many shall investigate, and Jerome . . . refers the action to the study of the book itself. . . . However . . these views . . do not . . reflect the force of the Heb. verb [which] means “to go,” “to rove about”.” Young then quotes Job 1:7b and Amos 8:12 in support of the literal sense, saying, “The verb appears to describe a vain travelling about in order to discover knowledge . . . for the sake of increasing knowledge.”

Whether the reader sees in these words a specific fulfilment of prophecy just prior to the Lord Jesus’ return to earth, depends on whether he is living in daily expectation of such an imminent event. Gleason Archer’s comment on the verb in “many shall run” is: “[M]any of God’s people who pay heed to these prophetic sayings will eagerly seek to understand how they are presently being fulfilled or how they are going to be fulfilled in the future.” Thus, if we read Daniel 12:4 from the standpoint of Christ’s imminent return, we will not fail to miss the force of this verse. There’s never been so much travel, nor such an accumulation of knowledge. The KJV translators got it right [cp. NRS]. We can read it as it stands; it’s an entirely accurate prediction of current events and conditions.

Image acknowledgement:

(1) Quoted from on the day.
(2) Daniel 12:4.
(3) 1911/74 H.A. Ironside, Daniel the Prophet, NJ: Loizeaux, p. 223.
(4) 1949 Edward J. Young Prophecy of Daniel, MI:Eerdmans, p.258.
(5) 1985 Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 7. MI: Regency, p. 154