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Thursday, 26 March 2015

Germanwings Flight 9525: The Religious Connection

Inasmuch as I have become a source for research on air disasters, I'm compelled to write about the most recent no-survivors air transport crash. As soon as I heard that the plane descended smoothly into the side of the Alps in clear weather, my only response was, "Islamic pilot." I listened over the next few days to hear the name of the pilot, but when it was finally released, along with the information that the pilot had been locked out of the cockpit (an ironic unintended consequence to post-911 security), the name was not Islamic after all. It appears that mental illness, not religious duty, led the copilot to commit mass suicide.

Indeed, there could be an element of mental illness in all recent mass suicide air disasters. Carrying a parachute could have saved a life in many of these cases, but banning passengers from using cell phones aloft has, in another unintended consequence, limited what can be learned from them.

Apparently the main reason for limiting the use of electronic equipment aboard a cruising airliner is due to their potential drain on the plane's wifi bandwidth--as if a simple cell phone or laptop would be capable of doing such a thing.

Getting back to copilot Andreas Lubitz:  It turns out that his outwardly happy life wasn't so happy after all: his girlfriend, whom he intended to marry, had broken off with him. This makes this tragedy another unintended consequence of the decriminalization of adultery: adulterers no longer face the death penalty--but, if they are pilots, their passengers face death all the same.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The pro-Calvinist slant of the NIV

I have not written on the NIV for some time, but recent posts by Brian Abasciano brought out the fact that a pro-Calvinist interpretation of Acts 13:48 is firmly ensconced in the NIV, despite his promotion of a translation that preserves the ambiguity of the Greek. Here is a link, with some relevant parts quoted (with the spelling standardised):
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Back in December of 2009, I wrote [this] letter to the NIV Translation Committee recommending a change in their translation of Acts 13:48[:]

The present NIV has this for Acts 13:48 — “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”

Of course, the main translation issue has to do with the translation of tetagmenoi, which the NIV translates (together with esan) as “were appointed”. This is such an important text theologically because it gives the impression that the people referred to believed because God first appointed them to eternal life. Some consider this a slam dunk proof for Calvinism/unconditional election. Indeed, some consider this to be the most powerful text in favor of Calvinism. So I would argue that it is especially important to take care to be fair-handed in the translation and indicate if there is any serious alternative. Now I don’t think this is the best translation, and a number of scholars have objected to it. But even if one disagrees with the alternative, I think it would be most fitting at least to indicate that there is a legitimate alternative.

An alternative has made it into a legitimate lexicon. Friberg’s has: (2) passive, with an abstract noun ὅσοι ἦσαν τεταγμένοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον as many as had become disposed toward eternal life (possibly AC 13.48) or all those who were appointed to eternal life (probably AC 13.48)

Now I note that Friberg does think “disposed” less likely, but that is essentially an interpretive decision. That then means context etc., not grammar or pure lexicography, must decide. And the context favors taking the Gentiles as being set on eternal life in contrast to the Jews of the same episode who judged themselves unworthy of eternal life. It is imperative to note that this alternative rendering is a rendering of the passive; it does not construe tetagmenoi as a middle. . . .

Turning to BDAG, it is significant that this most authoritative lexicon for NT studies does not take tasso as “appoint” in Acts 13:48. It gives two major meanings for tasso: (1) to bring about an order of things by arranging — arrange, put in place; (2) to give instructions as to what must be done — order, fix, determine, appoint. BDAG places tetagmenoi in Acts 13:48 in the first meaning. Now BDAG happens to assign a specific sense within that meaning that would practically arrive at a similar theological place as “appoint”, but with a decidedly different lexical meaning for the word: “belong to, to be classed among”. Nevertheless, it is significant that they conclude that the meaning of tetagmenoi in Acts 13:48 lies in the domain of placement/position, and specifically under the meaning of people being put into a specific position. It is also worth noting that BDAG places the use of tasso in 1 Cor 16:15 under this specific heading (people being put into a specific position), an instance that specifically means “to devote to” (speaking of the household of Stephanus: “they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints”, which obviously refers to an inward positioning of will or intent, a disposition/commitment or something along these lines). The use of tasso for disposition can be seen in non-biblical texts as well such as Philo Quod. Det., 166. . . .

In Conclusion:
I believe that the current translation of Acts 13:48 in the NIV is inaccurate, and that the best understanding of tasso in Acts 13:48 is that it refers to Gentiles who were in position for eternal life / ready for eternal life / even intent on obtaining eternal life (particularly in contrast to the Jews of the same episode who opposed Paul and rejected the gospel, and so who judged themselves unworthy of eternal life [Acts 13:46]), and that the most accurate translation of the phrase in question would be something like: “as many as were disposed to eternal life believed” or “as many as were aligned for eternal life believed” or “as many as were positioned for eternal life believed”. However, I recognize that this would be to take a very specific view of the passage, and might not be appropriate for the NIV. So, remembering that BDAG places the instance of tasso in Acts 13:48 not under the meaning of appointment but under the meaning of being placed in position, and that Friberg’s lexicon notes “disposed” as a possible meaning, I would suggest a more neutral translation: “as many as were set for eternal life believed”. This can readily be understood either of these Gentiles having gotten set in position for eternal life (by whatever means or agent[s] one infers from the context) or having been set (by absolute and effectual appointment) for eternal life by God. Thus this translation preserves the ambiguity of the Greek. I would then suggest adding a footnote along these lines: “or appointed or disposed”. This would probably be ideal for the reader to feel the sense of the Greek and know the two main ways it could be taken. If the committee is reluctant to change the present NIV translation, then I would urge that at least a footnote be added to the verse mentioning that it could be translated “as many as were disposed to eternal life”.
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It does not appear that his letter had any effect on the CBT, as the NNIV reads the same.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Indiana Revival Report: Days 53-82

Well, it appears that the Revive INDIANA story is far from over. It's going to stay in the news, but if you want to know a lot of the inside scoop, you're going to have to keep turning to the White Man's exclusives.

First, this report has come in from a visitor to Maple City Chapel on Sunday, March 4:

Those used to having to save seats hours in advance to get a direct-sight view of the stage were in for a treat when they arrived for the special 10:00 am service at MCC. Ushers assured arrivers that there were still some seats available up front, although the overflow was almost full. A glance around indicated that not only were the 9 and 11 am worshipers congregated together, but a lot of Revive attendees from other churches just hadn't been able to break the habit yet and had returned to a familiar venue yet again.

"Welcome to Day 57 of Revive INDIANA!" proclaimed the worship pastor (it was actually Day 56). And what followed was almost indistinguishable from a regular Revive service--especially the music, which was followed by a reprise of Day 52, in which Pastor Shetler called up all the members of the MCC staff to publicly thank them for "exploding their box" over the past eight weeks. Then, nine baptisms in the same tank that Revive had used. The remainder of the service was given over, first to another Revive-style mass communion, and then to testimonies from Revive, several by parents of the children who had just been baptized. And, of course, a fellowship meal followed with everyone invited.

So much for Maple City Chapel. How about Clinton Frame Mennonite Church, the weekend venue for Revive? Well, they started up something called Ice Cream Sunday, a 5 pm informal get together around ice cream and acoustic guitar music that hopes to carry on the ecumenism of Revive through the active participation of multiple churches. It started up the last week, so word went out and a small but growing smattering of the community has started to show up for it--so far, without any need for parking attendants!

And, despite the proclaimed 30 Days of Rest, local Revive leaders (with Kyle's blessing) are already planning to Go Forth on Saturday, March 21.

This page will stay open throughout the 30 Days of Rest, to accommodate any further updates.

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Revive continues to be on everybody's lips. Just as an example:

The weekend of March 14, Elkhart County hosted an national conference of ultra-conservative Amish, Mennonites, and Brethren. Following each lecture, there was a time for questions and answers--allegedly open to the hundreds of women in attendance, but they knew better and kept their silence. Opening it up for questions, you see, can easily lead into something else. And thus it was with the final "question" of the conference, when Wes Weaver stood up to sound a clarion call of warning against Revive INDIANA. They are an Emergent Church movement, he warned the 800 or so in the audience, operating in the Spirit of the Antichrist. With their rock and roll music, they are out to get your children--and some are already gone.

When he sat down, moderator Nathan Overholt thanked him for that report, saying he'd wanted to take in one of the Revive meetings but hadn't had the chance. He lives in Florida!

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On March 17, there was a meeting at the Community Church in Oak Brook, IL between Revive INDIANA staff and pastors, and Chicagoland staff and pastors preparing for participation in this summer's Christ for All Nations Gospel Crusade at the Allstate Arena. This collaboration is significant, because of the similarities and differences between the two ministries. Although both are inclined toward ecumenism and charismata, Time to Revive is primarily focused on discipleship, whilst CFAN is primarily focused on mass altar calls. While Kyle Martin may hope to greatly expand his reach through this collaboration, it cannot help but dilute his message.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Indiana Revival Report: Day 52

What a day. Everyone knew it was going to be crazy, after Kyle implored the tens of thousands who have been following ReviveINDIANA to do whatever it took to be there for March Forth. At 7 am, Maple City Chapel already held thousands of people. Fortunately one last downward plunge of the thermometer had ensured that the grass parking lot behind the building would be useable, rather than a sea of mud. Most surrounding business (notably including Menards, whose competitor Ace Hardware has received about 52 promotions from the pulpit, and notably not including the bank, whose drive-in window had unfortunately been blocked the third Wednesday) had opened up their parking lots, either next door, down the street, or even across the highway.

After an in-your-seats breakfast (there were still over 500 donuts left at the end), somewhere upwards of 500 4-person teams were assembled and sent out in waves. The last teams to be made up barely had time to go anywhere before returning to Goshen to assemble at Rogers Park at 12:30, where 2000 people somehow all fit in a single pavilion for a snack lunch (15,000 had been made up, and were also distributed to the satellite locations so attendees there could also share a fellowship meal) and a brief song. Then, for about half an hour, a steady stream 2-3 people wide issued forth to walk over the bridge, past the courthouse, and around the old jail. The vanguard returned long before the end of the march had left the park.

It was cold and icy, with a biting wind; one woman slipped on the driveway of the park and suffered injury when she fell. Many young people hadn't worn gloves or boots. And there was a bit of an outcry from the surrounding businesses who found their parking lots and restrooms overrun by a couple thousand people and their cars. But, no matter the weather, at least they did March Forth.

The prolonged march also cut into the time for afternoon teams--crazy it was. Then, by 5:30 the parking attendants were already turning away anyone without a reserved seat, sending them to one of 7 simulcast locations spread over 4 counties (the closest, only about 3 miles away). The regular overflow area was full; all but the center aisle of the sanctuary were full; the cafeteria area was full (requiring another in-your-seats snack meal). All three theaters were full, with extra chairs in the side aisles. Best estimates are that 4000 people were in attendance, and the Fire Marshall came that close to shutting everything down.

More craziness: Nine baptisms, or eight if you count the fact that two teens got baptized together. Yes, and what a touching scene it was: a severely disabled girl was brought up in her lay-down wheelchair, and her friend explained how she had reached out last week to share the gospel with her at school. Now that they were sisters in Christ, she wanted them to be baptized together. She then climbed into the stock tank, while her friend was lowered into her arms; then they passed through the waters together.

Then Kyle spent quite a bit of time bringing up the entire Time to Revive team and introducing them. Somehow, even the ones in charge of the Children's Ministry managed to get on the stage.

On all 47 days, a local pastor had the opening. This time is was Phil Byars, of Elkhart Baptist (he'd spoken much earlier, being one of the leading members of the pastoral team). He shared an extensive clip from his favorite movie, the Wonkavator scene from Willy Wonka. By the time he was done applying it to the present situation, it was almost nine.

When Kyle finally got up, he was pretty brief. He'd been sharing for the previous two nights on stages in the life of a hair follicle, and admitted that he'd long had a problem with the third one: it stops going and goes into a time of rest. But this is what God had showed him: Taking a cue from Mary v. Martha, ReviveINDIANA was to take a 30-day rest, and then come back together again on Holy Saturday. No meetings, no outreach teams. Spend time in the Word, both individually and in the 50-some Bible Studies that ReviveINDIANA is setting up across the area. But on Day 83, the team will be back to Pray, Eat, Revive, and Repeat--and he's convinced that they'll be able to do so without having lost any momentum.

This brings an end to The White Man's reporting on ReviveINDIANA.

Unless it doesn't.


Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Indiana Revival Report: Days 47-50

Fourteen baptisms on Day 48, nineteen on Day 50. As Kyle says, when you're doing discipleship, you're going to have a lot of baptisms. One boy had his leg in a cast, so the dipping was a little creative. It's interesting to see some who got baptized a few days earlier, now administering baptism.

Day 47 was the regularly scheduled training night, but Gary and Tony had finished their course, so Kyle did some training on how to pray for healing. This mostly involved about a fourth of the audience coming forward for prayer. But beforehand, Monica stood up and testified how she had come into the meeting in a wheelchair three weeks earlier, unable to stand up without intense and lingering pain. Heather (who flew in from Germany for the first week and still hasn't left) shared how she and at least a dozen others had "prayed relentlessly" for her until Monica finally got the faith to respond to their repeated urgings to "stand up!"  When she finally did, she proceeded to walk all the way up the aisle.

Heather has been in contact with her ever since, and even drive the 3 hours to see her. Monica met her at the door dancing! There weren't any spectacular results this night, other than a 28-year old woman who ran to the front and threw down a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, declaring that for the first time in 16 years she was free of her addiction.

Day 48 included a touching video of Bill Lantz, whom Kyle and his team had prayed for weeks earlier, just before Bill was hospitalized for his terminal illness. But that week, he was released to home hospice care, and Kyle was invited back to pray for him again. Kyle told him that God was keeping him alive until he was ready to say "Yes" to Jesus, to which Bill responded, "You're scaring the heck outa me. Does that mean I'm going to die today?"

Basically, yes. Bill did give his life to Jesus, and by the end of the next day he was in heaven.

Day 50 started the wind-up to the Day of Jubilee on Wednesday. A record crowd filled the overflow, and a cry went out for more children's workers. Kyle began a 3-part series on growth, based both on the first half of Acts 16 and a vision his sister Jeanette had about hair follicles. His cousin was back from Canada to paint another picture, this one slightly abstract to illustrate "Breaking out of your box." Kyle urged the audience, and specifically his brother Shannon (manager of Ace Hardware in Middlebury), "Don't go back to your box."  There are still over 200 names of contacts waiting for discipleship, which will kick into gear beginning on Day 53. Here is what was sent to REVIVE's email subscribers:

When Old Becomes New...


What do we do when we have new patterns of living, of walking in the Spirit, of eating together, and of frequent worship in community? Today is Day 50 of Revive Indiana.  On Day 52 we will March Forth and we will move into yet another phase of life. For me, the last week has been a flurry of activity in itself and I am tired. When we have lived with this revival for 52 days, the new can become old.  But as God changes our lives, we wonder how these changes will carry forward as we return back to our old lives. Here are some ideas to make this transition:
  1. Don't Go Back at All. Some of you may look at what it means to go back and realize that if you do go back, you will lose everything you gained. For you, it may be important to find a new job, a new place to live, or moving to a new community. Ask God what new thing He has for you and earnestly seek it. 
  2. Go Halfway Back. If you are married, live honorably in your marriage vows. If you have minor children, be the parent God asks you to be. But even within these commitments, there is space to make changes as God invites you into new things. Perhaps you will make some radical shifts in your social life and hobbies. Don't automatically start
  3. Embed in a New Way. This may be the most difficult choice. We have all kinds of triggers around us that remind us how we used to be, and shame can shut us down and temptation can pull us back. But perhaps you can shift all the parts of your life to effectively live differently where you are.
No matter which direction God leads you, don't just go back. Don't go back to the old habits; binge watching, eating or drinking. At the core of all of these changes is a continued attentiveness to God and the Holy Spirit's guidance to have everyday encounters with people. Remember the joy that has been given you and continue to engage in activities that feed that joy. Intentional practices of prayer, worship, gathering with believers, and going out into the streets together will sustain and support your continued joy. 

We also need places to cross over and gather with believers from other churches. Last night we gathered with about 60 people from variety of ages and churches to have ice cream, worship, sharing, and games at Clinton Frame. We will continue to do that each Sunday at 5 with a continued welcome for everyone to attend. Perhaps there will be other ways these kinds of gathering will continue on a regular basis. Revive Indiana will have monthly gatherings in April and May with a week long outreach effort in June. Pastors will continue to meet every other week for fellowship and prayer. God has brought us great joy by bringing us together. Let's live in that joy.

John M Troyer
Pastor of Youth & Young Adults

Clinton Frame Mennonite Church