Monday, 25 March 2013

Monday quote

One of the most foolish, and most dangerous, things one can do is to take love for granted, instead of nurturing it and safeguarding it as the prize jewel of one’s life.

Thomas Sowell (1930–).

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Politicians are still failing to make the grade.

British survey of 1018 adults (pdf).

Question from Ipsos MORI Trust Poll in February
I am going to read out some different types of people. For each, please tell me if you would generally trust them to tell the truth or not.

Trust to tell the truth Do not trust to tell the truthDon't know
Doctors 8992
Teachers 86113
Scientists 83117
Judges 82135
Television news readers 69247
Clergymen/ priests 66277
Police 65287
Man in the street 642610
Civil servants 53389
Pollsters 503416
Trade union officials 414713
Business leaders 34579
Estate agents 24706
Bankers 21754
Journalists 21727
Politicians 20746

Saturday, 23 March 2013

A bent in our hearts

It has been said that the Fall of Man is the one doctrine of Christianity which is evidently true. It is certainly important and foundational to Christian theology. Yet I think it is misused by some believers to imply that all actions are intrinsically evil.

Jeremiah tells us the heart is deceitful
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
And Jesus called his interlocutors evil (Luk 11:13). Yet I have seen this used to argue that people do not seek the best for others, or look for the best in others.

I once said to an unbelieving friend that I think people are intrinsically evil, yet I look for the best in them; and that she thought people were intrinsically good, yet looks for the worse in them. She affirmed this assessment. This illustrates an important distinction that is often missed.

This distinction may be described as the difference between ontic-evil and praxic-evil. The Fall established a bent in our hearts. We desire wrong things, our motives are mixed, we reason incorrectly at times, we rationalise, we justify ourselves. The essence of being is broken and evil dwells there. Ontic-evil.

Yet we are also made in God's image. This image remains—though marred. So while we struggle against base desires not everything we do is intrinsically evil. Men do righteous acts. Moreover, some men are called righteous by their constant choice to do good.

Even the passages in Jeremiah and Luke establish this. Jeremiah says,
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind [lit. arm],
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:7-10)
Despite having an evil heart a man can trust the Lord. God tests our mind to see if we act rightly; literally "arm" which may suggest God looks at what we do. Jesus specifically says that evil men can do good actions, indicating how much more will a good God do good things.
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)
It is false to claim that all our actions are evil because we are intrinsically evil. We can wish for the best for others, we can act selflessly at times; and to assume that our friend or spouse wishes the best for us is not a denial of the fallen state of man.

Some may argue that we are saved by faith not works thus our acts are not truly righteous. And what are we to make of Isaiah's declaration?
We are all like one who is unclean,
all our righteous acts are like a menstrual rag. (Isaiah 64:6)
Taking Isaiah first, it is likely he is talking to the unrighteous, or those who are doing unrighteous things. Even this man's "righteous" acts are not righteous. Compare God's disposition to the righteous man earlier in this passage,
You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways. (Isaiah 64:5)
As to salvation by faith, this is true. Belief is righteousness
Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. (Romans 4:3)
A man who trusts God is indeed righteous. We have faith in God and God saves us. We still do works of righteousness, the issue is not that we don't work, it is that we don't earn (Eph 2:10; Tit 3:5). Remembering the distinction between ontic-evil and praxic-evil, we do good works but our nature remains fallen. As such, no amount of good works (praxic-good) are able to remove the sinful nature (ontic-evil). The core of our being needs to be made righteous.

People, believers and unbelievers alike, do all manner of righteous and unrighteous acts. It is false to claim that humans never do right things, even when viewed from God's perspective. But we are all sinful at the centre of of being, we all need a saviour.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Monday quote

The overwhelming appearance of design strongly affects the burden of proof: in the presence of manifest design, the onus of proof is on the one who denies the plain evidence of his eyes.

Michael J. Behe (1952–)

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Principles of translation

The KJV had several principles of translation. They are different to many that moderns may consider important. I am not familiar with lists of principles that contemporary versions have followed. Below is my list; it may be incomplete because I have not thought thru this exhaustively.

I do not speak a second language. I have learned the preliminaries of a few languages including elements of their grammars. I favour a more literal approach to translation of the Bible, though I find translations that have followed this principle to be difficult to read at times. I think that this is because they try to be literal in ways that do not work well in English.

I would classify these principles as falling into 1 (or more) of the following categories, though I have not assigned each rule to a category. Accuracy is a translation issue, paragraphing is a style issue, and use of Septuagint in a passage is a manuscript issue.
  1. Principles of translation into English T (Translation)
  2. Principles of English style and formatting S (Style)
  3. Principles of textual source choices M (Manuscript)

Principles of Translation

The translation is to be accurate. The resultant English text must faithfully convey the underlying meaning from the original texts.

Translation should be at the smallest level of meaning. Idioms will need to be translated at the level of idiom, ie. clause or sentence. Shorter phrases may need to be translated at that level. Translate words or groups of words where possible.

Match meaning not words. It is not necessary to translate a single word with a single English word.

Every unique word in the original should be generally translated by the same English word, concept or phrase as much as practicable. Multiple synonyms should not be used for the sake of greater English variability.

Neologisms and new word forms are permissible.

Preferably translate nouns and verbs with nouns and verbs.

Variable fluency of language in the original need not be smoothed. Courser and more refined language can be represented in English.

Ambiguity in the original should preferentially be translated into a similarly ambiguous English phrase.

Minor spelling variations need not be translated.

Use additional word forms for verbs to enhance clarity and conform to English usage, especially: “be”, “have”, and “do”.

Plural and singular forms of “you” and “who” should be identified with a dagger (†) superscript for singular and asterisk (*) superscript for plural.

Hebrew name forms and the equivalent Greek name form should be the same in English. Differences within Hebrew or Greek should be maintained in English. Where personal names have a meaning not present in translation but necessary for understanding in a particular passage a literal name shall be added inline within brackets [].

Word order provides meaning in English. Maintain meaning not word order from Hebrew and Greek. Word order can be kept if there is not sacrifice in meaning or ease of reading. Prefer issues of style and usual word order in English over word order from the source languages. Provide emphasis and other features of word order from Hebrew and Greek by corresponding features in English. Word order in lists can be maintained.

Prose is to be be formatted as paragraphs and poetry in lines.

Verse and chapter divisions can be inline or marginal.

Section headings are to be marginal.

All non-Scriptural text such as verse and chapter divisions, section headings, and footnote markers, are to be delineated by font face, font size, font style, or other such font marker or a combination of the above.

Footnotes should include but not be limited to:
  1. Noting unclear meaning in the source text; noting various plausible source texts, or where there is significant disagreement amongst translators as to likely original text;
  2. where pronouns are substituted for names, or vice versa, for clarity;
  3. where non-literal translations are used in the main text;
  4. where ambiguity in the original is lost in the translation; and
  5. where there are word-plays in the original.
The era of the original text and the typical word use of the author can be taken modify translation choice. Consider: differences between the Greek of the Septuagint and koine Greek of the New Testament; subtle differences in use of particular words by the gospel authors; quotations of Septuagint Greek by New Testament authors.

The textual basis is to be an eclectic text, choosing the most likely source texts according to principles of textual criticism and choices made by early translators into other languages. The Septuagint, Masoretic text, Dead Sea Scrolls, and other Hebrew sources and scribal traditions should all be consulted and given due weighting for the Old Testament. Paragraph divisions in the Hebrew should be noted in the translation, though not necessarily be the choice of divisions in English.

Parallel passages should be translated by the same words in as much as the source texts are the same or similar, or have the same grammatical structure.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Monday quote

In relation to the biblical God, secularists may be skeptics. But in relation to their own God substitutes, they are true believers.... Their skepticism is only on the surface. It is for use on other people's beliefs. They are not nearly skeptical enough about their own beliefs.

Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Atheists and stamp-collectors

Peter Hitchens reviews The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and for Humanism by it A.C. Grayling. He refers to an interesting analogy by the author,
‘Atheism is to theism,’ Anthony Grayling declares, ‘as not collecting stamps is to stamp-collecting’. At this point, we are supposed to enjoy a little sneer, in which the religious are bracketed with bald, lonely men in thick glasses, picking over their collections of ancient stamps in attics, while unbelievers are funky people with busy social lives.
He finds the analogy wanting,
But the comparison is flatly untrue. Non-collectors of stamps do not, for instance, write books devoted to mocking stamp-collectors, nor call for stamp-collecting’s status to be diminished, nor suggest — Richard Dawkins-like — that introducing the young to this hobby is comparable to child abuse. They do not place advertisements on buses proclaiming that stamp-collecting is a waste of time, and suggesting that those who abandon it will enjoy their lives more.

Professor Grayling is too pleased with himself to have realised this. Intoxicated with amusement at his own dud metaphor, he asks: ‘How could someone be a militant non-stamp-collector?’ I rather think he has written the manual for anyone who might like to take up this activity.
But I think Hitchens should have pushed this admittedly poor analogy. Atheists are the men who make use of the postal service; who frequently write and receive letters; yet claim stamps are both undesigned and have no purpose; and the postman is a fiction.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Monday quote

I meant only to deal with that particular argument, which, as you rightly say, has been used by Fundamentalists (and Calvinists) as well as by Rome. I was not proposing a discussion on the Roman position in general. Indeed if Faith... in the the Church of Rome only comes by supernatural gift, there is not much room for discussion.

C.S. Lewis (1898–1963), Letters to Children.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

The deity of Christ in John

The Bible begins
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
John introduces his gospel in a similar manner
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
The Greek in John uses the same initial two words as the Septuagint.
  • ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν (Gen 1:1)
  • ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (John 1:1)
This allusion testifies to the divinity of Jesus. Beyond the connection of the "Word" with "God" in John, John links God as creator in Genesis with the Word as creator in his gospel. Genesis states that God is creator of the heavens and the earth, a merism for everything,
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)
John tells us that the all things were made through the Word, and he emphasises this with the negative: there was nothing made without the Word,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
The first thing created within the new cosmos was light,
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:3-5)
Still alluding to Genesis John informs us that just as light came into the world, the Word is light to mankind.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
John's use of Genesis makes it clear that the God who created the world is the Word.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Word was God

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
Concerning the last clause of this verse some claim that the Greek implies that the Word is a god. This is not a valid claim. This has to do with grammatical construction in Greek. This is my understanding as a non-Greek reader.

In English we can have the sentence,
1. The dog chased the cat.
This is different from,
2. The cat chased the dog.
In sentence 1 the "dog" is the subject and the "cat" is the object. In sentence 2 it is the opposite. In English we get this from the word order. If we change the word order we have to rewrite the sentence, usually in the passive, to get the same meaning,
The cat was chased by the dog.
In several other languages including Greek the subject and object can be identified by the ending on the noun. So you could put either the subject or the object first (or even the verb!) depending on what you wish to emphasise. That is, word order doesn't give meaning in Greek the same way it does in English (in general).

The problem is the verb "to be" is an identifier, an equating verb. So both words are the subject. There is no object. Take,
The man is the father.
Both man and father are the subject as the "man" is identified with the "father". However the sentence,
The father is the man
while still equating the man and the father does not mean the same thing. In English this is not a problem as the word order gives us the meaning. There is a problem in Greek though because both the words are the subject, this means that the nouns have the same ending, this means we cannot tell which word is being identified with which. Take the Greek phrase (using English words)
God love be.
What would this mean? Does it mean?
"God is love"
"Love is God"
Very different meanings! Therefore the Greek phrase
ο θεος ην ο λογος

the God to-be the Word
could actually mean (in English)
"The Word was God"
"God was the Word."
In Greek the definite article "the" is not included with the word which is being equated (predicate noun) if that word precedes the verb and the definite article is included when it follows the verb. So if we are equating "God" with the "Word" and the word "God" comes before the word "to be" we drop the definite article "the."

Thus, if the intention of the sentence is
The Word was God
then it would be written
θεος ην ο λογος (God to-be the Word)
Which is what we see. The lack of the article says nothing about Jesus being "a" god rather than "the" God. Incidentally, Greek has no indefinite article, we add it in English. Further the definite article is frequently used in Greek (eg. in front of personal names) but it is left off in English because that is not how English is spoken.

This is not the full story however. While the idea "the Word was God" is written in Greek as recorded in John 1, what is written there could also have other meanings. Thus if "a god" was intended it would possibly be written the same way. While the claim—that the construction of the clause proves that "a god" is intended—is a false claim; the counter claim—that it must mean "God"—is not sustainable. A refutation of a negative claim may not actually be a positive claim.

Others have claimed a further interpretation of this construction. The NET Bible notes state,
Furthermore, Colwell’s Rule did not deal with a third possibility, that the anarthrous [without the definite article] predicate noun may have more of a qualitative nuance when placed ahead of the verb. A definite meaning for the term is reflected in the traditional rendering “the word was God.” From a technical standpoint, though, it is preferable to see a qualitative aspect to anarthrous θεός in John 1:1c.
Thus the word order has implications in Greek (though different implications than English). The claim is that placing "God" before "to be" is qualifying the following word "Word" with itself; both words have a dual identity. Thus the meaning of the phrase would be,
What God was the Word was.
This has a slightly different meaning than, "The Word was God," though the implications are similar.


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