Friday, March 30, 2012

Study Bibles Gone Awry

“And further, by these my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end…” These words, written by Solomon in Eccle.12:12 could be revised today. It could read, “of the making of many study Bibles there is no end…” What is the reason for the American evangelical’s love affair with the study Bible? Understand, I am not on a one-man crusade to put an end to the publication of study Bibles. Be very clear about this. Having been tagged with sundry labels, some given fairly and some unfairly, I do not want to add “bibliophobe,” censor or book burner to the list. However, enough is enough.

A quick search on the website of Christian Book Distributors shows that they offer 1,094 varieties of study Bibles viewable on 44 pages. Among the study Bibles listed are: The MacArthur Study Bible, The Chronological Study Bible, The Joyce Meyers Everyday Life Study Bible, The Life Application Study Bible, The Patriot’s Study Bible, The C.S Lewis Bible, The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible, and the list goes on and on. What becomes painfully obvious is that the study Bible craze is more personality driven than need or content driven. The latest evangelical rock star is expected to offer his or her version of a study Bible. It was only a matter of time that current obsession with C.S. Lewis would result in someone putting together a study Bible with his name attached. I wonder if Lewis would have endorsed this.

Study Bibles have had a long history in America. Perhaps the earliest and best known is the Scofield Reference Bible, which is still being printed. Scofield’s notes allowed the most casual reader to have a basic grasp of particular passages in the Bible. One of the drawbacks of the Scofield (and any other study Bible for that matter) is that the notes that appear on a page may be taken as the final word in how a passage is to be interpreted. Some may even go so far as to give the “notes” the same level of authority as Scripture.

This rant was prompted when I was introduced to the latest entrance in the study Bible pageant. Whoever hatched this brilliant scheme must have been smoking something funny. The newest study Bible on the market is – and I am not making this up – The NIV Lesson from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter. The book description reads:

The NIV Lessons from Life Bible takes Mr. Carter's years of teaching Sunday school lessons at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, GA, and meshes them with the text of the NIV Bible. Through 'In Focus' articles, 'Bible in Life' notes, in-depth studies and insightful observations and reflections, President Carter's teachings in this Bible provide fresh insights for you to study and contemplate.

In the Huffington Post, Paul Brandeis Raushenbush interviewed President Carter and asked him about “the hardest questions presented in the Bible.” Here is an example of Mr. Carter’s answer to one of these hard questions:

Raushenbush: Jesus says "I am the way the truth and the life" (John 14:6). How can you remain true to an exclusivist faith claim while respecting other faith traditions?

Carter: Jesus also taught that we should not judge other people (Matthew 7:1), and that it is God who judges people, so I am willing to let God make those judgments, in the ultimate time whenever it might come. I think ‘judge not that you be not judged’ is the best advice that I will follow. Maybe it is a rationalization, but it creates a lack of tension in my mind about that potential conflict.

There are many verses in the Bible that you could interpret very rigidly and that makes you ultimately into a fundamentalist. When you think you are better than anybody else -- that you are closer to God than other people, and therefore they are inferior to you and subhuman -- that leads to conflict and hatred and dissonance among people when we should be working for peace.

According to Mr. Carter, if you take an exclusivist approach to salvation – if you actually believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (and note that the rest of the verse was omitted: "no one can come to the Father except by me" which is even more exclusivist), then you are a fundamentalist that thinks “you are better than anyone else – that you are closer to God than other people, and therefore they are inferior to you and subhuman.”

There is no question that Jimmy Carter has been an active former president, working for social justice and fighting poverty. But by what stretch of reason and good sense does anyone think that he has the credentials to publish a study Bible? There is nothing new in President Carter’s commentary. It is the same old postmodern, politically correct drivel that has been offered for years.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Alex Knapp gives one of the best essays on leadership I have read in a long time. That I am an aging "trekkie" may have someting to do with it. Read "Five Leadership Lessons From James T. Kirk."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Review: Invitation to Biblical Interpretation

Invitation to Biblical Interpretation is a toolbox for the Bible student and teacher. Andreas Köstenberger and Richard Patterson have provided a tool that is an essential volume to any Biblical library.

Subtitled, Exploring the Hermeneutical Triad of History, Literature, and Theology, the authors attempt to show the important interplay of these features of Biblical interpretation. Since it is a book about interpretation, the bulk of the attention is given to the literary aspect of Scripture. However, even in this, the authors are careful to direct the reader’s attention to the story line of the Bible, the salvation history through which the literature must be understood.

Köstenberger and Patterson touch issues of canonicity, genre, discourse analysis, and even discuss the elements of good preaching. My contact with these subjects was spread over several college and seminary courses. Here is a book that ties them all together.

This is designed to be a textbook. Each chapter ends with a glossary, study questions, assignments, and a bibliography. Each chapter begins with objectives and an outline.

The only disadvantage to the book is its length; and that is a disadvantage only if it is considered as a textbook. Modern seminary and upper level college courses on hermeneutics usually last 1 semester. At 849 page (before indices), it would be quite a chore to do justice to the work within the confines of a semester.

Having taught college level hermeneutics, I wish I had this book as a resource. Regardless of one’s experience in preaching, Invitation to Biblical Interpretation will challenge you and make you re-examine your approach to sermon preparation.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Thursday, March 1, 2012


"You must take heed of making God to have a hand in men’s sins. Is it likely that God is the author of sin and the avenger of it? Is it a likely thing that God should make a law against sin, and then have a hand in breaking his own law? God permitted their sin, which he never would, if he could not bring good out of it." - Thomas Watson