Rudy Is Dirty, But He’s Not Alone

Can we not pretend that Rudy is the only dirty politician. Every politician of every party is in the money for influence game and they all have their little toadies doing whatever ‘needs to be done’ to gain and hold power.

Rudy is dirty, but he’s not alone.

When Rudolph W. Giuliani set out to dredge up damaging information on President Trump’s rivals in Ukraine, he turned to a native of the former Soviet republic with whom he already had a lucrative business relationship.

Etc.

Christians ought to remember two things when thinking about politicians:

Remember the doctrine of the total depravity of humanity.  Your politician is a depraved sinner.

and

It is idiotic to put your faith in a person.  Any person.  You have one Lord.  And he isn’t a politician.

You Need a Commentary That Helps Make Sense of the Bible

the-person-the-pew-commentary-seriesThe ‘Person in the Pew’ commentary series is the only series of Commentaries in modern history written by a single person on the entire Bible and aimed at layfolk .  Everyone needs a commentary on the Bible that they can understand and that answers their questions about the meaning of the text.  So I wrote one.

If you or someone you know wants to get a copy of the entire 42 volume collection in PDF format, you can do so from yours truly for the exceptionally reasonable price of  $75 by clicking my PayPal Link.  Leave your email in your paypal payment note so I can send it to you right away.

Should you only wish one volume, email me and we can arrange it.

***

Saint Paul knew more than I can ever imagine about Christians living in tension with the Gospel and with each other, and his several letters to the Church in Corinth are pivotal to the entire New Testament. Which is why I am so pleased to mention here some recent commentaries by a friend of mine, Jim West, on I and II Corinthians.

Subtitled ‘for the Person in the Pew’, and published by Quartz Hill Publishing House of Quartz Hill School of Theology, California, these two commentaries are in fact part of a much larger project by West to write similar commentaries on every book of the Bible, and to make them available in print and electronically for everyone to read. That project is now nearly completed and the results are tremendous.

I think there are three main reasons why these commentaries are so successful. First, West is a first-class Biblical scholar, one who makes the intelligent critical study of the text central to his theological interpretation. That commitment is rarer than one might imagine and to have it realized across the entire Bible is an astonishing feat that gives us now a unique resource.

Second, and delightfully, Jim West is a great writer: his pages fizz with sharp words and phrases and he appears incapable of saying anything boring about these texts. This ability keeps us reading along with him and, more importantly, reading along with Saint Paul. I have rarely come across any Christian writing project, aimed at ‘the person in the pew’, that has succeeded so brilliantly in bringing alive its subject matter.

Third, West couldn’t dodge an issue if his life depended on it, which can be an uncomfortable position for a Christian theologian. Corinth, as with most churches in most places, had some strange people believing and practising some odd things. The knack, as West points out, is to engage them endlessly with love and grace rather than self-righteous anger, but to engage them: ‘Paul lived with a purpose. And he urges the Corinthians to do the same. As we all who name the name of Christ must’ (West on I Cor. 9:27, p.60).

I am going to be talking to Jim about making these commentaries available through Ming Hua’s website, but inspect them for yourselves if you have the time: you will find them a superb companion to your own reading of the Bible and, as importantly, a great reminder of just how much the early Church struggled with some of the same problems we face now.

– Gareth Jones, Principal, Ming Hua Theological College, Hong Kong

Cheer Up… They Said. Read the Bible… They Said…

Is not human life on earth just conscript service? Do we not live a hireling’s life?
Like a slave, sighing for the shade, or a hireling with no thought but for his wages,
I have months of futility assigned to me, nights of suffering to be my lot.
Lying in bed I wonder, ‘When will it be day?’ No sooner up than, ‘When will evening come?’ And crazy thoughts obsess me till twilight falls.
Vermin and loathsome scabs cover my body; my skin is cracked and oozes pus.
Swifter than a weaver’s shuttle my days have passed, and vanished, leaving no hope behind.
Remember that my life is but a breath, and that my eyes will never again see joy.  — (Job 7:1-7)

Luther’s Silly Literalistic Take on ‘hoc est’ and his Hypocrisy on the Topic

Luther, famously, insisted that ‘hoc est’ in the Lord’s Supper had to be taken literally.  Funny, though, that he ignored the literality of ‘hoc est’ when it suited him.  For instance,

super inimicos meos instruis me mandata tua quia in sempiternum hoc est mihi (Ps. 118:98)

This ‘hoc est’ is ignored by Luther and yet to be consistent he is required to take it literally.  For the non-Latinists (i.e., Lutherans), here’s the verse in English:

You make me wiser than my enemies by your commandment which is mine for ever. (Ps. 119:98)

The context of Psalm 119:98 (118 in the Vulgate) is the glory of Torah.  Here the Psalmist says quite literally that the Torah is forever his, forever, that is, in force.

Naturally Luther presumed that the Gospel superseded the law.  And yet in the context of the Supper, again, he insists on the literalness of ‘hoc est’.  But he doesn’t here.

Hypocritical much, Martin?  Or just eisegetical?

Luther on the Origin of Heresies

If you want to know from whence heresy arises, Luther can tell you: it’s always from within the Church- like a cancer affecting the body.

lutherIt is obvious that no heretic has ever come from among the heathen; they have all come from the holy Christian Church.  … Now it has been of benefit to the holy Church that she confesses that those who have come out of her are heretics, condemns them, and does not maintain fellowship with them. [But] it must do us Lutherans no good that we, too, make our own confession and condemn all the sects (though they themselves deny that they have come from us) better than [the Papists] could do it themselves.

This is what befell even the Bible under the pope, when it was publicly called a heretics’ book, giving it the blame that the heretics made use of the Bible. They continue to do the same, crying: “Church, Church,” against and above the Bible. And the wise Emser refused to make up his mind about whether it would be advisable for the Bible to be translated into German, and perhaps even whether it should ever have been written in Hebrew, Greek, or Latin, seeing that it and the church are in such utter disagreement.

For since the Bible—which is the Holy Spirit’s own special book, writing, and Word—must suffer all this from them and be denounced as the mother and protectress of all heresy, why should we not have to suffer it all the more when they put the blame for all heresies upon us?

A spider sucks poison out of the lovely rose, yet the little bee finds nothing but honey in it. Can the rose help it that its sweet honey becomes the spider’s poison? And it is truly a wonder that they do not condemn their own body. For what good comes from it? The body eats and drinks the best of everything: bread, meat, wine, beer, even savory spices. And yet from it comes nothing but filth, snot, spit, matter, sweat, ulcers, abscesses, rash, scurf, menses, pus, feces, and urine. The body allows itself to be beautifully clothed with silk and gold, yet it emits lice, nits, fleas, and other vermin.   — Martin Luther

Don McKim has a New Book Coming out November 1: ‘Everyday Prayer with John Calvin’

It’s titled ‘Everyday Prayer with John Calvin‘.

Drawing from the Institutes and Calvin’s Old and New Testament commentaries, Donald K. McKim comments on Calvin’s biblical insights on prayer and intersperses his short readings with Calvin’s own prayers. Reflection questions and prayer points help you to meditate on Scripture, understand Calvin’s teaching, and strengthen your own prayer life.

Jennifer Powell McNutt likes it-

Everyday Prayer with John Calvin offers a helpful and thought-provoking guide to better understanding the purpose and practice of prayer in the Christian life. . . . There’s no better way to encounter Calvin at his best than in the reverence that he showed for the practice of prayer.”

The publisher has kindly sent along a review copy and I’m keen to dive in.  In fact, I’ll be taking it with me to Hong Kong in two weeks to read on the plane.  Stay tuned.  More anon.

Zwingli: The Smartest Guy in the Room

zwingli_marignanoIt is a great work to believe that Christ, nailed to the cross, is the Son of God. That this is the work of God, Christ Himself testified, Jn. 6:29: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” As many, then, as trust in Christ are built upon a rock, which no blasts of winds can shake, no inundating floods wash away. And as many as are built upon this are the church of Christ, for He Himself said “my.” But His church cannot be impure and wrinkled. Therefore it follows that those who trust in Christ are without spot and without wrinkle, for they summon up all their zeal to the end that they may not fall back into sin, in which beforetime they were dead, Rom. 6:2. But they who do not this utter noble thunderings with their lips, but by their deeds betray Christ, with the result that through them the name of God is in bad repute.

This is the church that cannot err—an attribute which the pontiffs arrogate to themselves with as much falseness as impudence. For this church rests upon the word of God alone, which is so firm and immovable that heaven and earth must pass away sooner than one jot of it [Mt. 5:18]. On the contrary, the church of the pontiffs rests upon its own word. They run, indeed, as if they had been sent by the Lord, but they speak visions, that is, things pleasing to their own heart [Jer. 23:16]. Hence they spread nothing but darkness before poor wretches’ eyes.

Truth

Your Must Read News Essay of the Week

Is this one.

Federal prosecutors say two businessmen had a motive for making illegal contributions to U.S. political campaigns. The two men sought to remove an American diplomat in Ukraine, according to an indictment unsealed on Thursday.

The two men, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, were associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. They also have business interests in Ukraine.

The indictment alleges that Fruman and Parnas made hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign donations, disguising the sources of the money and bringing some of it from overseas. They were about to leave the United States with one-way tickets on Wednesday when FBI agents arrested them at Dulles International Airport.

What was it about the little-known career diplomat that made the men willing to go to such lengths to have her dismissed?

Etc.  You owe it to yourself.

Quote of the Day

After last night’s Democratic ‘town hall’, John Fea tweeted

Beto is a man of conviction. But he also throws religious freedom under the bus, mobilizes Trump evangelicals, and damages any chance of winning a TX Senate seat should he run.

Indeed.  And Beto did more to undermine Democrats chances among conservative (and I’m not talking about trump-vangelicals) Christian voters than he can imagine.

Doubtless he gained points with some.  But he also provided massive amounts of ammo to use against Democratic candidates.

On the Anniversary of Zwingli’s Death… His Major Writings

Over at Logos

It’s surprising that Huldrych Zwingli isn’t better known. Zwingli, a contemporary of Martin Luther’s, was an important figure in the Swiss Reformation.

No kidding!  It is surprising that he isn’t better known.  He should be as well known as Luther and Calvin (and one of my life-goals is to make sure he is).

So, go right now and order this 7 volume set.  You won’t regret it.  And you will even notice that one of the volumes is by someone you know.  That’s right.  Go now and if you don’t want it for yourself get it for your Pastor.  Don’t allow him to wallow in ignorance one more day.

On The Anniversary of Zwingli’s Death Each Year…

That is, on 11 October, this is the passage read:

Schau herab vom Himmel und sieh herab von der Wohnung deiner Heiligkeit und deiner Herrlichkeit! Wo sind dein Eifer und deine Kraft? Das Aufwallen deiner Gefühle und dein Erbarmen – mir hast du es nicht gezeigt.  Du bist doch unser Vater! Abraham hat nichts von uns gewusst, und Israel kennt uns nicht. Du, HERR, bist unser Vater, Unser-Erlöser-seit-uralten-Zeiten ist dein Name.

Warum, HERR, lässt du uns umherirren, fern von deinen Wegen, verhärtest unser Herz, so dass wir dich nicht fürchten? Kehre zurück um deiner Diener, um der Stämme deines Erbbesitzes willen.  Für eine kurze Zeit haben sie dein heiliges Volk enteignet, dein Heiligtum haben unsere Feinde zertreten.  Wir sind wie die geworden, über die du nie geherrscht hast, über denen dein Name nicht ausgerufen wurde. Hättest du doch schon den Himmel zerrissen, wärst schon herabgestiegen, so dass die Berge vor dir erbebt wären,  (Isa 63:15-19 ZUR)

Another Free Book from Logos, And This is a Good One

Get your copy here.

When Pastors Become Instruments of the State…

I’ve been reading ‘God’s Spies‘ for a couple of weeks during some free time I’ve snatched and it’s absolutely a stunning and – frankly – depressing read.  Stunning because it’s so well written and because of the story it tells and depressing because it shows what happens to the Church when it partners with the State.

I have to tell you, the results are not good for the Church.  They never have been (curse you, Constantine, curse you).

The depressing bit comes in when you recognize that the Evangelicals in America are doing to the Church exactly what the Communists in East Germany did to it: weaken and disempower it.  And I don’t mean politically, I mean spiritually.

Anyway, get this book and read it.  My full review should appear next week sometime.

Luther Was Glad When He Heard of Zwingli’s Death- Because He Hated Him

In a most enlightening footnote, Schaff writes

The deepest ground of Luther’s aversion to Zwingli must be sought in his mysticism and veneration for what he conceived to be the unbroken faith of the Church. He strikingly expressed this in his letter to Duke Albrecht of Prussia (which might easily be turned into a powerful argument against the Reformation itself).

He went so far as to call Zwingli a non-Christian (Unchrist), and ten times worse than a papist (March, 1528, in his Great Confession on the Lord’s Supper). His personal interview with him at Marburg (October, 1529) produced no change, but rather intensified his dislike.

He saw in the heroic death of Zwingli and the defeat of the Zurichers at Cappel (1531) a righteous judgment of God, and found fault with the victorious Papists for not exterminating his heresy (Wider etliche Rottengeister, Letter to Albrecht of Prussia, April, 1532, in De Wette’s edition of L. Briefe, Vol. IV. pp. 352, 353).

And even shortly before his death, unnecessarily offended by a new publication of Zwingli’s works, he renewed the eucharistic controversy in his Short Confession on the Lord’s Supper (1544, in Welch’s edition, Vol. XX. p. 2195), in which he abused Zwingli and Oecolampadius as heretics, liars, and murderers of souls, and calls the Reformed generally ‘eingeteufelte [ἐνδιαβολισθέντες], durchteufelte, überteufelte lästerliche Herzen und Lügenmäuler.’ No wonder that even the gentle Melanchthon called this a ‘most atrocious book,’ and gave up all hope for union (letter to Bullinger, Aug. 30, 1544, in Corp. Reform. Vol. V. p. 475: ‘Atrocissimum Lutheri scriptum, in quo bellum περὶ δείπνου κυριακοῦ instaurat;’ comp. also his letter to Bucer, Aug. 28, 1544, in Corp. Reform. Vol. V. p. 474, both quoted also by Gieseler, Vol. IV. p. 412, note 38, and p. 434, note 37).*

You should always read the footnotes.  Luther could be the vilest of men, offensive even to his closest friends- and not just in his attitude towards the Jews.  Equally vile are all the modern haters of Zwingli, because they hate him without cause.  And nothing is more vile, more wicked, and more un-christian than hating someone with whom you aren’t even really familiar.

_____________________
*The Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes: The History of Creeds (Vol. 1).

The Democrats Want to Curtail Religious Freedom and the Republicans Want to Destroy What it Means to be A Christian

Neither party is worth supporting.

The Democrats want to turn religion into a political tool just as much as the Republicans.  The Democrats want to curtail religious freedom as a way of embracing minority politics and the Republicans have so identified with Trump and the immoral crassness that he embodies that anyone calling themselves an Evangelical can’t be taken seriously as a Christian.

Neither party is worth supporting.

The Democrats want to destroy Christianity from without, and the Republicans are destroying Christianity from within.

Neither party is worth supporting.

Zwingli the Translator

Worth remembering ozwingli_laptopn the anniversary of his vicious murder- Zwingli was a scholar who translated the Bible.

There’s a great little essay in Nota Bene that you ought to take a look at.  It’s about Zwingli and the Bible translation and exposition he did.  It’s grandly done.

Masada: From Jewish Revolt to Modern Myth

Two thousand years ago, 967 Jewish men, women, and children—the last holdouts of the revolt against Rome following the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple—reportedly took their own lives rather than surrender to the Roman army. This dramatic event, which took place on top of Masada, a barren and windswept mountain overlooking the Dead Sea, spawned a powerful story of Jewish resistance that came to symbolize the embattled modern State of Israel. The first extensive archaeological excavations of Masada began in the 1960s, and today the site draws visitors from around the world. And yet, because the mass suicide was recorded by only one ancient author—the Jewish historian Josephus—some scholars question if the event ever took place.

Jodi Magness, an archaeologist who has excavated at Masada, explains what happened there, how we know it, and how recent developments might change understandings of the story. Incorporating the latest findings, she integrates literary and historical sources to show what life was like for Jews under Roman rule during an era that witnessed the reign of Herod and Jesus’s ministry and death.

Featuring numerous illustrations, this is an engaging exploration of an ancient story that continues to grip the imagination today.

Of it Eric Cline writes

“Internationally renowned archaeologist Jodi Magness plunges the reader directly into the story of the fall of Masada, unpacking the dramatic tale as told by Josephus. She also recounts the fascinating adventures and misadventures of the region’s explorers, from the nineteenth century through the 1960s, and compellingly describes the excavations there, including her own, providing a welcome tour of the site.”—Eric H. Cline, author of 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed

Jodi has graciously arranged a review copy, so more once I’ve read through it.

A Gallery of Zwingli’s Passing

Listen to Peter Opitz’s Lecture on Zwingli

Here.

Or here directly-