Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A call to death to self, to life in Christ, and a note on the handicap of having a false Bible.

As I mentioned a few posts back, I've been appreciating the writings and talks of Zac Poonen, of Bangalore, India. I've listened and read enough now to have encountered some areas I disagree with him about, but overall his main message is so true to Christ I'm going to overlook the disagreements for now. This is exhortation to the Spirit-filled life that we just don't find except in old books, at least as old as A.W. Tozer and Leonard Ravenhill and Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

His main page:

A page of books you can read online or order for cost:

A page of links to topical Bible studies:

And along the bottom of the page are links to other pages of sermons and teachings.

His teaching solves for me the problem of the charismatic errors while supporting the basis for genuine Pentecostal and charismatic expectations, my hope for revival, the enlivening of the Lord's true people in these last days. He believes in the gift of tongues for today but judges that some 90% of them are counterfeit. I can go with that -- at least until I have solid reason to think otherwise. He's never been in a charismatic congregation, he simply takes his understanding of the spiritual gifts for today direct from the Bible and because of his strong emphasis on what the Christian life costs, I find him believable.

His denunciations of the prosperity teachings as the complete contradiction of the Biblical message are sharp and to the point. His main message is the Exchanged Life, that is, the giving up of our life for Christ's life within us. The more we die to self the more we live to Him and for Him and through Him. This is more than just getting sin out of our lives, it's also mortifying the flesh in giving up everything we are to Christ. The more we mortify our flesh the more we have of the Spirit. This is classical Christianity, but finding it in the morass of apostasy and confusion these days is not easy. If you have a strong spiritual leading in this direction you can pick out the occasional gems from the muck, but usually it means you need to go to the older writers.

And we need to do this because we need the right kind of spiritual food, the right kind of exhortation, to strengthen us in these days of silly self-indulgent fleshly "Christianity."

I do have to say that it bothers me a lot that Zac Poonen is trusting in the new Bible versions. Clearly he wants a simple English text to get across the simplicity of the gospel, and he thinks the KJV is not accessible to his people. So he goes to the Amplified or the Living Bible at times. I do find it disappointing to hear him quote a well known passage in anything but the KJV wording. It's just another proof of how Westcott and Hort damaged the church. A Spirit-led preacher can still make use of the bad versions, but it's discouraging to hear him make a case for, say, how God's word has "eyes of the heart," going on to explain that this is because it's the heart that concerns God more than the intellect, apparently not knowing that the KJV has "eyes of the understanding." Also, to call the Holy Spirit the "helper" isn't exactly wrong, but "comforter" was the choice of the truly God-inspired KJV writers.

See, most preachers and teachers of the Bible think all the versions are merely different translations of the same basic word of God. They trust the translators to have given them viable options that all express God's own mind and heart, and if they prefer one word over another themselves, it's usually on the basis of what they think their hearers will grasp best. The idea that one is right and another wrong does not necessarily enter into it.

If they try to inform themselves of the controversy and the history of the versions, they usually stop with the apologists for the modern versions. They may be (rightly I think) put off by some of the extreme King-James-only advocates.

You'll hear a talk from time to time on the Reliability of the Biblical Manuscripts which simply never gets into the subject of the different lineages and qualities of manuscripts, or anything relevant to the KJV only position. They'll argue from the great many manuscripts in existence, and from techniques of textual criticism that can establish lineages back to the originals, that our Bible is reliable, as if all our Bibles were basically the same, without ever mentioning that there are whole lineages of corrupted texts as well as trustworthy ones, that also go back to ancient times.

The KJV translators were aware of these textual traditions and rejected those they found to be corrupt in their own judgment, which included the texts that were later preferred by Westcott and Hort and now made the basis of almost all the non-KJV Bibles today. Now the different lineages and traditions are treated more or less as equal, more or less as God's word, but if they get into it at all a modern scholar will simply flatly claim that the Westcott and Hort texts are superior, only because supposedly they are older. (Recently I've run across the assertion that as a matter of fact there are other ancient texts that still survive, even from the lineage that underlies the KJV, texts OLDER than those that underlie the new versions. My argument has been (basically Burgon's I believe) that a text that happened to survive from the 2nd century has no particular claim to being superior to a whole lot of texts that survive from the 4th, 6th or 10th centuries, because all it means is that the older one wasn't used as much, wasn't copied as much, wasn't appreciated by the church. In fact the Sinaiticus text that now underlies the new versions was found in a wastebasket in a ruined monastery. But if there are even older portions of the Bible of the KJV type, that's great to know.)

So preachers in all good faith accept the modern versions, accept whatever rationalizations they've learned from the modern scholars, are probably put off by the shrill and denunciatory tone and outlandish claims of some of the KJV-only camp, and so the church limps on to the Last Day with its sword a tad dull and its shield more often than not dangling uselessly at its side.

Well, I think some good preachers can for the most part rise above the handicap. But they are a rare breed.