Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez - A Layman's Question of the Supreme Court's Decision

I'm not a lawyer so I don't feel qualified to comment on the merits of the recent Supreme Court decision which would force student groups to allow outsiders who disagree with their beliefs to become leaders and voting members.  This has been termed an "accept-all-comers" policy.  I will offer my biggest concern. 

What's to prevent a group from being joined by a majority of students who disagree with the beliefs and then voting in a majority of those of the dissenting viewpoint who could then change the very nature of the organization to become the very antithesis of the purpose of it's original formation?  Justice Alito expresses this very concern in his dissent.  It seems the court says a group may impose membership requirements “designed to ensure that students join because of their commitment to a group’s vitality, not its demise.”  Alito's comments after this are spot on:
"With this concession, the Court tacitly recognizes that Hastings does not really have an accept-all-comers policy—it has an accept-some-dissident-comers policy—and the line between members who merely seek to change a group’s message (who apparently must be admitted) and those who seek a group’s 'demise' (who may be kept out) is hopelessly vague."
"Here is an example. Not all Christian denominations agree with CLS’s views on sexual morality and other matters. During a recent year, CLS had seven members.Suppose that 10 students who are members of denominations that disagree with CLS decided that CLS was misrepresenting true Christian doctrine. Suppose that these students joined CLS, elected officers who shared their views, ended the group’s affiliation with the national organization, and changed the group’s message. The new leadership would likely proclaim that the group was “vital” but rectified, while CLS, I assume, would take the view that the old group had suffered its 'demise.'  Whether a change represents reform or transformation may depend very much on the eye of the beholder." (35-36)
Alito ends his dissent with this:
"Even if the United States is the only Nation that shares this commitment to the same extent, I would not change our law to conform to the international norm. I fear that the Court’s decision marks a turn in that direction. Even those who find CLS’s views objectionable should be concerned about the way the group has been treated—by Hastings, the Court of Appeals, and now this Court. I can only hope that this decision will turn out to be an aberration." (37)
My vote is with Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Roberts.  But alas, four votes wasn't enough and my vote doesn't count.  You can find the compete opinion here.  The Christian Legal Society press release is here.  The transcript of the oral argument given on April 19, 2010 can be found here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Year of Bible Sales

Since I did a post on my top 10 best sellers for the academic department I thought I would run a report on the Bible department. This time I ran a report on the sale of Bibles by translation for the last year. These figures do not include children or One Year Bibles. Foreign language does not include Spanish. This would be Chinese, Russian, German or French.

NIV – 2,424
ESV – 1,623
KJV – 468
NKJV – 454
NLT – 396
MSG – 365
NASB – 180
TNIV – 157
NRSV – 88
AMP – 44
HCSB – 38
Jewish – 14
Voice – 11
Young’s Literal – 11
NAB – 9
GW – 7
Living Bible – 6
NET – 6
RSV – 4
Foreign Language – 4
Good News – 4
NCV – 3
CEV – 1

Clearly the NIV is my best seller. If we throw children’s Bibles in the mix it would be much higher. The NIV Adventure Bible is our best-selling children’s Bible. The ESV makes a strong showing and the rest trail by quite a bit. Part of the reason the NIV does so well for us is our close relationship with Zondervan. They work hard with retailers to provide specials which allow us to run frequent sales. While we pass on some we take advantage of as many as we think will work best for us--and it shows. It’s a partnership we value and appreciate. Their customer service department is five-star in our book and our rep, Larry Avery, is simply the best.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

God's Battalions: The Crusades for Christ - First Impressions

God’s Battalions by Rodney Stark is a fascinating read. I’m just over half way and I can’t put this book down. I’ve never read much on the crusades but I’m quickly learning that I’ve been duped by the all too common misperception of the crusades as a ruthless conquest by greedy and heartless Christians who wanted to plunder and pillage the land of peaceful Muslims. According to Stark, and most contemporary crusade scholars, this is as absurd as it is wrong. He says, “A great deal of nonsense has been written about Muslim tolerance . . .” (28) This caricature of the crusades probably “began with Voltaire, Gibbon, and other eighteenth-century writers who used it to cast the Catholic Church in the worst possible light. The truth about life under Muslim rule is quite different.” (38)

Stark begins not with the initial call for the crusades by Pope Urban II in 1095 but rather with “the rise of Islam and the onset of the Muslim invasions of Christendom. That’s where it all started—in the seventh century, when Islamic armies swept over the larger portion of what was then Christian territory.” (9)

Stark carefully traces the invasion of the Muslims throughout established Christian territories. Some have asked how could a “bunch of desert barbarians roll over the lard, trained armies of the ‘civilized’ empires?” (23) Stark provides a couple of reasons. First, “the more ‘civilized’ empires did not posses any superior military hardware, with the exception of siege engines, which were of no use in repelling attacks.” (24) (This would change dramatically in later centuries when the ‘civilized’ empires developed more advanced weaponry.) Second, the troops of the empire by this time were not very dedicated or disciplined. Rather “these forces were recruited from hither and yon, and mostly drew ‘foreigners’ who served mainly for pay, which placed limits on their loyalty and their mettle.” (24) Third, and perhaps most important was the use of the camel by Muslim invaders. “The use of the camels made the Arabs the equivalent of a ‘mechanized force,’ in that they so greatly outpaced the Persian and Byzantine armies traveling on foot.” (25) As Stark explains, “given the geography of the area, the Muslims could always outflank the imperial forces by using desert routes, and, should it be necessary, they could always withdraw into the desert to avoid battle.” (25)

Once the Muslims were in power “Jews and Christians were prohibited from praying or reading their scriptures aloud—not even in their homes or in churches or synagogues—lest Muslims accidentally hear them.” (28) “In 705 Muslim conquerors of Armenia assembled all the Christian nobles in a church and burned them to death.” (29) But there is plenty of blame to go around. Stark observes, “This is not to say that the Muslims were more brutal or less tolerant than were Christians or Jews, for it was a brutal and intolerant age. It is to say that efforts to portray Muslims as enlightened supporters of multiculturalism are at best ignorant.” (29)

In chapter three, “Western ‘Ignorance’ versus Easter ‘Culture,’” Stark defends the thesis that the Dark Ages “never took place.” (54) Not only did this period see huge advancements in European culture but the alleged advancements in the Muslim culture can virtually all be traced to the assimilation of conquered populations. For example, “Avicenna, whom the Encyclopedia Britannica ranks as ‘the most influential of all Muslim philosopher-scientists,’ was a Persian.” (59) Furthermore, “Al-Uqlidis, who introduced fractions, was a Syrian, Bakht-Ishu’ and ibn Ishaq, leading figures in ‘Muslim’ medical knowledge, were Nestorian Christians. Masha’allah ibn Athari, the famous astronomer and astrologer, was a Jew. . . What may have misled so many historians is that most contributors to ‘Arabic science’ were given Arabic names and their works were published in Arabic—that being the ‘official’ language of the land.” (59) Stark goes on with several pages with more details. “The so-called Arabic numerals were entirely of Hindu origin.” (59) “‘Muslim’ or ‘Arab’ medicine was in fact Nestorian Christian medicine; even the leading Muslim and Arab physicians were trained at the enormous Nestorian medical center at Nisibus in Syria. . . In fact, prior to the ninth century, nearly all the learned scholars in the [Islamic area] were Nestorian Christians.” (60) It was natural then that “when in the fourteenth century Muslims in the East stamped out nearly all religious nonconformity, Muslim backwardness came to the fore.” (61)

Consider also “that following the Muslim conquest of Egypt, the rest of North Africa, and Spain, the wheel disappeared from this whole area!” (67) Everything was hand-carried or packed on camels, donkeys or horses. Why? Because the Arabs thought it was of little value. Wheels require streets and roads. Camels and pedestrians don’t. The “Dark Ages” saw huge advancements in transport, agriculture and military might for Europeans. The comparisons between European and Muslim advancements during this time are like night and day.

The book is not only full of revelations for me it is incredibly well written.  It is in many places truly a page turner.  I can't wait to finish. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In Store Now - The Heresy of Orthodoxy

If you've read anything by Bart Ehrman and are wondering if even half of what he says is true then you need to read The Heresy of Orthodoxy by Andreas J. Kostenberger and Michael J. Kruger.  I bought my copy today and want to start it sometime in the next week or so.  Consider this endorsement from D. A. Carson:
"In the beginning was Diversity. And the Diversity was with God, and the Diversity was God. Without Diversity was nothing made that was made. And it came to pass that nasty old 'orthodox' people narrowed down diversity and finally squeezed it out, dismissing it as heresy. But in the fullness of time (which is of course our time), Diversity rose up and smote orthodoxy hip and thigh. Now, praise be, the only heresy is orthodoxy. As widely and as unthinkingly accepted as this reconstruction is, it is historical nonsense: the emperor has no clothes. I am grateful to Andreas Köstenberger and Michael Kruger for patiently, carefully, and politely exposing this shameful nakedness for what it is."
—D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Or this from Daniel B. Wallace
"Köstenberger and Kruger have produced a volume that is oozing with common sense and is backed up with solid research and documentation. This work is a comprehensive critique of the Bauer-Ehrman thesis that the earliest form of Christianity was pluralistic, that there were multiple Christianities, and that heresy was prior to orthodoxy. Respectful yet without pulling any punches, The Heresy of Orthodoxy at every turn makes a convincing case that the Bauer-Ehrman thesis is dead wrong. All those who have surrendered to the siren song of postmodern relativism and tolerance, any who are flirting with it, and everyone concerned about what this seismic sociological-epistemological shift is doing to the Christian faith should read this book."
—Daniel B. Wallace, Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

Andreas J. Köstenberger is director of PhD Studies and professor of New Testament at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is a prolific author, distinguished evangelical scholar, and Editor of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Michael J. Kruger (PhD, University of Edinburgh) is associate professor of New Testament and academic dean at Reformed Theological Seminary, and the author of a number of articles and books on early Christianity.

The Heresy of Orthodoxy is a paperback from Crossway with 256 pages and sells for $17.99. 

Monday, June 21, 2010

In Store Now - Angels: A History

I don't read a lot of books on angels but I get a lot of requests for them.  A couple of my favorites are Peter Kreeft's Angels and Demons: What Do We Really Know About Them and Mortimer Adler's The Angels and Us.  I've also recommended C. Fred Dickason's book Angels: Elect and Evil.   Dickason's book is a good resource for a more traditional evangelical audience though many will disagree with his position that a Christian can be demon possessed.  Billy Graham's book Angels: God's Secret Agents has never interested me so I've never read it.  It might actually be quite good.  I simply don't know. 

But, I really am enjoying a new book we received today by David Albert Jones.  It is simply called Angels: A History and it comes from Oxford University Press.  One of the things I'm enjoying is how the book is informed from all three of the Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For example, I never knew that in Islam Satan is not viewed as a fallen angel but rather as a "'djinn', a third kind of creature that is neither angel nor a human being."  (11)  And from Judaism I learned that the Talmud identified the three angels who visited Abraham as Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.  (8)  I've finished the first two chapters which cover a brief history (chapter one) and picturing angels (chapter two).  In the second chapter Jones gives the history of the development of "wings and halos" and angels playing harps which is a fairly recent development.  My biggest surprise so far (and I'm not really this far in the book but found it with my initial skim) was the notion of "Jesus as the Great Angel."  Jones explains:
"In the early Church, one of the ways this was expressed was to say that Jesus was an angel, or rather the angel, the 'great angel.'  They called him an angel because, in the book of Isaiah, the savior was described as an angel. . . When this passage [Isaiah 9:6] was translated in the Septuagint, the Jewish translator was perhaps embarrassed about calling the savior 'mighty God' and instead he wrote: 'For to us a child is born . . . and his name shall be called 'Angel of Great Counsel.'"  (63)
Good thing for Handel the LXX translation didn't become more popular.  And, why haven't the Jehovah's Witnesses camped out on this since they believe Jesus was an angel?  Jones explains that the title lost its popularity since it was potentially misleading given the doctrine of the incarnation. (65) 

Here's the table of contents:

Chapter 1 - Preface
Chapter 2 - A brief history of angels
Chapter 3 - Picturing angels
Chapter 4 - What is an angel?
Chapter 5 - Divine messengers
Chapter 6 - Ministering spirits
Chapter 7 - Heavenly hosts
Chapter 8 - Fallen angels
Chapter 9 - Wrestling with angels

The book also includes sources for further reading and an "index of locorum" which includes both passages from the Bible and the Quran.  A subject index makes this short book (only 140 pages of text) even more accessible. It is a hardcover and sells for $19.95.  I'll keep you updated on the rest of the book.  So far--I love it! 

David Albert Jones is the Academic Director in the School of Theology, Philosophy, and History at St. Mary's University College, Twickenham, Great Britain.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Trailer for Voyage of the Dawn Treader Released

The trailer for the next Narnia movie is now out.  From what I've read so far this movie promises to be much better than Prince Caspian and a lot more faithful to the book which is important to Narnia fans.  You should also know that the next book in the series that Baker Books has been doing will also be out in October.  Devin Brown's book is called Inside the Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  I thoroughly enjoyed Brown's first two books and look forward to this third one.  The movie is due out December 10.  You can see more at If you've not seen the trailer then here you go:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Remembering Joshua

Today would have been my son's 24th birthday.  In his memory I wanted to tell you just a couple of stories about him.  When he was in middle high he had to build something which incorporated six simple machines.  I have no aptitude for this kind of thing so I wasn't much help.  Anyway, we were coming down to the wire and I took him to the hardware store to pick out the supplies he needed.  We were walking up and down the aisles and I asked to see what he had drawn up so I could help him pick up what he needed.  He pointed to his head and said, "I've got it all up here."  I couldn't believe it.  I didn't believe it.  I envisioned us walking the store for hours (like we did when he was shopping for a new toy years before).  He picked up a bunch of stuff and we took it home.  A couple of hours later he came in from the garage with this great little gizmo that, to my amazement, worked quite well.  I was super proud of my boy. 

Joshua also loved music.  He enjoyed playing his trumpet although he was never very disciplined to work hard at it.  Nevertheless for what effort he did put into it I rather enjoyed listening to him play.  One of his favorite things to play was the theme song from Jurassic Park.  He couldn't play the whole thing but he had portions of it down pretty good.  We hired a tutor to work with him but it didn't last long.  The trumpet lost to his growing interest in skateboarding.  Again, he was never as good as he wanted to be and that frustrated him but he loved the challenge.  The last job he had before joining the Army was at Lowe's.  This gave us something in common--retail sales.  We would often swap stories of our experiences.  I miss those talks.  I miss him.

Since his death this past September I can tell you that God has sustained my family and me in ways we could never imagine.  The staff here at the store has become a second family as they supported us during those first few days and weeks and still today are an encouragement in ways that they are not even aware of.  The Army personnel staff both in Hawaii and here have been incredible.  To say they "bend over backwards" would be an understatement.  I told more than one of them that as a veteran of the Air Force I've never been so jealous of the Army.  They are a credit to their profession and their country.  Finally, there are countless friends who supported us with prayers and monetary support.  One couple in particular (who would probably prefer to be nameless) gave us a substantial gift when our money ran out due to our unplanned prolonged stay in Hawaii.  My family has been the recipient more than once of their selfless giving.  It will take an eternity to thank them.   Through all of these people God consoled us and kept us from what could easily have led to utter despair.

Thank you..  Many still ask us how were doing.  All things considered we are well and we owe a big part of that to you. Where was God when Joshua died?  He was in your hearts as you grieved with us and prayed for us.  We saw him . . . in you!   Happy birthday Joshua.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In Store Now - Memories of Jesus

If you enjoy Historical Jesus studies and James Dunn in particular have I got a book for you.  We just received Memories of Jesus: A Critical Appraisal of James D. G. Dunn's Jesus Remembered edited by Robert B. Stewart and Gary R. Habermas.  James Dunn is a familiar name to those involved in New Testament studies.  As the subtitle states this is an appraisal on one particular work of Dunn, namely Jesus Remembered.  For those not familiar with Dunn consider how Paul Rhodes Eddy opens his essay in the Memories of Jesus:
"With the 2003 publication of Jesus Remembered, James D. G. Dunn has joined the ranks of the likes of John Dominic Crossan, John Meier, E. P. Sanders, and N. T. Wright--the ranks of those contemporary New Testament (NT) scholars whose work on the historical Jesus all future studies will have to reckon with if they wish to be taken seriously."  (227)
This list of contributors reads like a who's who of scholars: Scot McKnight, Craig Blomberg, Samuel Byrskog, Markus Bockmuehl, Craig Evans, Charles L. Quarles, Ben Witherington III, Stephen Davis and more.  Plus Dunn provides a final chapter where he responds to his interlocutors.  You may recall that Dunn was a contributor in the IVP multi-view book The Historical Jesus: Five Views where he interacted with Robert Price, John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson and Darrell Bock.  And from our very own Baker Publishing Group Dunn wrote A New Perspective on Jesus: What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed.  The Memories of Jesus is a serious engagement of Dunn's book with appropriate praise for the work but also weighing in with some serious criticism. 

The book comes from B&H Academic and is a paperback with 334 pages and sells for $29.99.

Robert B. Stewart is associate professor of Philosophy and Theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Gary R. Habermas is chairman, Department of Philosophy and Theology, School of Religion, and distinguished research professor of Apologetics and Philosophy at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School in Lynchburg, Virginia.

James D. G. Dunn is Lightfoot Professor Emeritus of Divinity at the University of Durham in England.

Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making, Volume 1 is from Eerdmans Publishing and is a hardcover with 1036 pages and sells for $58.00.  Volume 2 was released last year entitled Beginning From Jerusalem: Christianity in the Making, Volume 2.  It is also a hardcover with 1392 pages and sells for $80.00.  The project will be complete with a third volume. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mark Galli - Should the Church Make People Comfortable?

Mark Galli has an interesting article on the growing lack of Christian symbols in churches today. The article was occasioned by a court case. A high school was planning on having their graduation ceremony at a church and five of the students, one of them being Jewish, said they would feel very uncomfortable in this church given the amount of symbols that adorned it. I don’t care to comment on the merits of the case but it’s Galli’s comments about the growing trend among new churches not to include distinctive Christian symbols including the cross that interests me. He recognizes some churches have theological reasons for not including them but this is not where his concern lies. It is those churches who seem to boast in the fact that they don’t have Christian symbols in the interest of making everyone comfortable and more conducive to secular events. Galli asks, “But does it strike anyone else as odd how reticent many churches are to make it plain to visitors that when they enter the church, they are entering a sovereign state where someone besides the State is Lord?” Some who responded to Galli emphasized that the church is not a building but the people and that there are plenty of dead Christians in ornate buildings and plenty of vibrant Christians in simple buildings with no stain glass windows. This seems to miss Galli’s point. He never suggests that more ornate buildings or the mere presence of symbols will guarantee any kind of spirituality in those who worship there as opposed to those who worship without such adornments. His point is that the building should reflect who is Lord of the space. He says,
“There was a time in the church's life when people were killed for stating or symbolizing their allegiance to another lord besides Caesar. One can understand why some would flinch and stick their cross necklace under their toga, or meet secretly in places (like catacombs) bereft of Christian symbols. Caesar had no patience with people whom he suspected served another. And yet most did not flinch, and most continued to affirm in word and symbol the church's earliest creed: Jesus is Lord.”
“Today, when there is no risk to symbolizing one's allegiance to another Lord besides Capitalism or Democracy or America, why are we so hesitant to do so? Why is it that in the one place where we have the right and opportunity to proclaim the Lord of the kingdom of heaven, so many of us want to make it a place that is "conducive to secular events"?”
The most immediate response might be that our economic times being what they are a church is just being a wise steward of its resources if it can make a building available for other functions and recoup some of its cost for the facility. That being said I think some churches that are so lacking in anything distinctively Christian can foster a mindset that it is a place really no different from the shopping mall or a high school gymnasium. I’ve watched families put out a veritable picnic for their children to keep them entertained (no kidding--juice drinks, bananas, granola bars etc). Can we not abstain from eating or drinking for one hour? The focus has become primarily making people feel relaxed and comfortable during worship instead of fostering a sense of awe because we are uniquely in the presence of God. When I visited a local Orthodox church he commented how for the Orthodox it is important that all of the senses are impacted in worship (sight, sound and smell). He asked me, “Why are Protestants so comfortable meeting in a gymnasium?” His question was an honest one. I realized that as I looked around my eyes saw one reminder after another of the glory of the Lord.

Now I know there is nothing wrong with being comfortable and we should be. But comfort can quickly become casual and commonplace. When I visit churches I have to admit that the older churches create an entirely different mood in me. I know that even the most ornate churches can become commonplace to those who frequent them week after week but I still sense a difference. Yeah, it’s just a building. But it’s a building built first and foremost to the honor and glory of the Lord. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ted Kluck and Zach Bartels Coming to Baker Book House

This Thursday we will host authors Ted Kluck and Zach Bartels.  They will be discussing the first book from their newly formed publishing company called Gut Check Press.  The book, Kinda Christianity, is a parody on all things emergent.  The evening promises to be an engaging time with two guys who have a sharp wit and just a bit of impatience with traditional publishers.  Part of the reason they started their own publishing company was because the process seemed to take too long from concept to bookshelf.  Here's how Ted put it in an interview from their website:
"I've met and built relationships with a bunch of fun, smart, hardworking people in publishing. But I also think it's weird that making a book (from idea to bookshelf) is usually an eighteen-month process. These houses all employ an army of full-time employees with health benefits and cubicles, most of whom are away at a conference when you try to call them on the telephone. The publishing industry loves conferences. We figured we could handle this on our own and potentially have a lot more fun doing it."
The Grand Rapids Press has a nice article on the book and the publishing company.  The event is this Thursday at 7:00 pm.  As always, come early for the best seating. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A New Look and a Sneak Peak at The Life of Christ

I spent an hour or so playing with some buttons that I didn't know I had and here's the result.  I'm still tinkering with it.  "Tinkering" really is the right word because I have no idea what I'm doing but I'm having fun doing it.  I'm pretty happy with it.  I did finally resolve the problem of my YouTube posts getting cut off!  If you have any suggestions please feel free to comment.

One more thing.  When John Dickson was here he showed a short clip from a series he did on the Life of Christ.  It looks very well done and will be released in the US this August from Zondervan.  Here's the clip he showed:

The Life of Jesus - preview! from on Vimeo.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Coming Soon from Oxford University Press - Bible

2011 will mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Version Bible.  I've already heard from three of my vendors that plans are well under way to contribute to the celebration.  Coming this October from Oxford Unviversity Press we have a book by Gordon Campbell called Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611 - 2011.  Here's the catalog description and the table of contents:
"Produced during the lifetime of Shakespeare and Donne, the King James Version of the Bible has long been viewed as the most elegantly written and poetic of the many English translations. Now reaching its 400th anniversary, it remains one of the most frequently used Bibles in the English-speaking world, especially in America."
"Lavishly illustrated with reproductions from early editions of the King James Bible, Bible: The Story of the King James Version offers a vivid and authoritative history of this renowned translation, ranging from the Bible's inception to the present day. Gordon Campbell, a leading authority on Renaissance literatures, tells the engaging and complex story of how this translation came to be commissioned, who the translators were, and how the translation was accomplished. Campbell does not end with the printing of that first edition, but also traces the textual history from 1611 to the establishment of the modern text by Oxford University Press in 1769, shedding light on the subsequent generations who edited and interacted with the text and bringing to life the controversies surrounding later revisions. In addition, the author examines the reception of the King James Version, showing how its popularity has shifted through time and territory, ranging from adulation to deprecation and attracting the attention of a wide variety of adherents. Since the King James Bible is more widely read in America today than in any other country, Campbell pays particular attention to the history of this version in the United States. Finally, the volume includes appendices that contain short biographies of the translators and a guide to the 74-page preliminaries of the 1611 edition."
"A fitting tribute to the enduring popularity of the King James Version, Bible offers an illuminating history of this most esteemed of biblical translations." 
Table of Contents
1. The Bible in English
2. The Commissioning of the KJV
3. Translators and Translating
4. The Translation
5. The First Edition
6. The Seventeenth Century
7. The Eighteenth Century
8. The Nineteenth Century
9. The Bible in America
10. The Cambridge Paragraph Bibles
11. The Revised Version
12. The Early Twentieth Century
13. The KJV in the Modern World
Appendix 1: The Companies and Later Revisers
Appendix 2: The Preliminaries to the KJV Further Reading Index

Gordon Campbell is Professor of Renaissance Studies at Leicester University.  Watch for it this October.  Bible will be a hardcover with 256 pages and sell for $24.95. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

In Store Now - Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites . . . and Other Lies You've Been Told

Move over unChristian there’s a new sheriff in town. I’ve been excited about this book ever since it was first presented at sales conference. (The cover has changed quite a bit from then. See my first post to see the initial cover design.  Really, you won't believe the difference.) Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites. . .and Other Lies You’ve Been Told by Bradley R. E. Wright seeks to help the reader better assess the interpretation of statistics as well as debunk a number of myths that have been perpetuated with the alleged support of statistics. Written in a clear and engaging manner Wright offers a much-needed corrective to such myths as “only prostitutes rank lower than evangelicals in terms of respect in the mind of the public,” the youth of the church are leaving in alarming rates, the divorce rate among Christians is the same as non-Christians, and other “dire” situations facing the church today. I’ve only finished the first couple of chapters and will comment on those in a future post but you should know Wright has a great sense of humor. He comments on how statistics are often used to create fear in people. Once the fear is instilled then it is easier to “sell” the solution. So as not to miss the appeal himself Wright offers the following as the reason to buy his book:
“You should buy this book because ‘there is a deeply disturbing trend of bad statistics that is sabotaging American Christianity and destroying the American way of life, and if you ignore it your entire body will soon be covered with boils. The good news, however, is that if you buy this book and read it carefully, you will avoid this calamity; plus you’ll live longer, have fresh breath, and your kitchen knives will always stay sharp.’” (24)
I don’t know about you but I can’t stand dull knives. That’s enough for me to read it! Wright’s message, however, couldn’t be more serious. Here are a few of the early endorsements:

"Buy this book and read it carefully. Then buy one more and give it to your best friend and ask that person to do the same thing. I hope this book goes viral because this book shows that there's lots of good news when it comes to the condition of the church in the West."
--Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University

"Amid the widespread, distorted, alarmist, and erroneous claims about American Christianity, it is always good to learn some basic, reliable facts. Brad Wright pulls together a lot of good ones in the pages here to reconnect people to reality. Let us hope that the misinformed critics and alarmists pay attention."
--Christian Smith, Professor of Sociology, University of Notre Dame

"This is an extremely needed book that is a delight to read."
--Rodney Stark, Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences, Baylor University

"Brad Wright's book is well-written and intelligent, and does a fine job of challenging received wisdom on a wide variety of topics. I hope the book finds the audience it deserves."
--Philip Jenkins, Penn State University and Baylor University

"A welcome, calming voice to the cacophony of data interpreters of American evangelicalism. Using insider sensitivity combined with a nose for objective data sources, Wright has offered evangelical Christians a real gift with this book. I hope they recognize it."
--Mark Regnerus, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin, Author, Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers

Bradley R.E. Wright, PhD is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. After receiving tenure, he switched his academic focus from crime to religion in order to research American Christianity. Brad received his PhD in sociology from the University of Wisconsin, the top-ranked sociology graduate program in the United States.

Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites . . . and Other Lies You've Been Told is from Bethany House with 256 pages and sells for $14.99. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

John Dickson Event - Reflections

Last night we hosted John Dickson in the store. We set up chairs for 45 people but they filled up fast. We put out our reserve chairs and those filled just as fast. Minutes before we started we were pulling chairs from every office we could find. Last count before we started—80! At the end of the presentation we gave out just over 100 books! So attendance exceeded our biggest expectations.
John spoke about an hour and was an absolute delight to listen to. He started by briefly describing the difference between Australia and the US. Australia is much more secular than the US. As a matter of fact the first church built in Australia was “mysteriously” burnt down. The first schools were started by churches and then the government took over but with the agreement that there would be “Scripture Lessons” for one hour a day. This was part of early Australian law which has gradually been done away with. But when John was a boy he was in a state which still had Scripture Lessons. The lady who taught his class, Glenda, also opened her home and served hamburgers, shakes and scones. John realized what she was doing when he realized he was too full to move from the sofa. Glenda had a captive audience. But her efforts were blessed by God as a number of those students not only became Christian but three of them are now in full time ministry. John highlighted a few of the points from his book and was passionate in his delivery. One of those points was on the importance of prayer. John told how when he went back and asked Glenda what her “secret” was. She answered without hesitation—“prayer.” In prayer, he says, “we lift the work of the gospel above mere circumstances and into the hands of the One who governs everything.” In the Q and A session someone asked about the quote from Francis of Assisi who said “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary.” John said he was uneasy with the expression because we can’t eliminate the need for the message of the gospel. Too often people use that as an excuse to get out of having to verbally present the gospel. But we should always be ready to talk about our Lord Jesus. Not in a forced or contrived way but in the same way you would talk about your spouse or children. It’s natural to talk about them because you love them so much. Our attitude should be the same about Jesus.

The evening could not have been better. Thanks to all who came out. You are wonderful. Thank you John for challenging us with a bigger vision of what evangelism is. And finally, many thanks to the kind folks at Zondervan for sharing John with us and providing the books for those who attended the event. 

Here's a few photos from the night:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

John Dickson - In Store Tonight

One last reminder that John Dickson will be in the store tonight.  For more information on John you can see the article in the Grand Rapids Press here.  If you can be here you won't be disappointed.  We've asked John to speak for about a half hour and then he will offer a Q & A session.  Those who attend will receive a free copy of John's book The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission.  Tonight at 7:00 p.m. Come early for the best seating. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Should I Call Myself a Calvinist?

I started perusing Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism and found myself challenged as to whether I could legitimately claim to be a Calvinist. In the Introduction David Allen and Steve Lemke raise the fact that Calvinism comes in many forms. Some Baptists, like me, consider themselves “Calvinists” of some form since they hold to four or five points of the TULIP. I thought I was on safe ground with this given the history of groups like the Particular Baptists and having read works like By His Grace and For His Glory by Thomas Nettles. But Allen and Lemke quote Richard A. Muller to prove that this is wrong. Here’s the quote from Muller in its entirety:
“I once met a minister who introduced himself to me as a ‘five-point Calvinist.’ I later learned that, in addition to being a self confessed five-point Calvinist, he was also an anti-paedobaptist who assumed that the church was a voluntary association of adult believers, that the sacraments were not means of grace but were merely ‘ordinances’ of the church, that there was more than one covenant offering salvation in the time between the Fall and the eschaton, and that the church could expect a thousand-year reign on earth after Christ’s Second Coming but before the end of the world. He recognized no creeds or confessions of the church as binding in any way. I also found out that he regularly preached on the ‘five points’ in such a way as to indicate the difficulty in finding assurance of salvation: He often taught his congregation that they had to examine their repentance continually in order to determine whether they had exerted themselves enough in renouncing the world and in ‘accepting’ Christ. This view of Christian life was totally in accord with his conception of the church as a visible voluntary association of ‘born again’ adults who had a ‘personal relationship with Jesus.’”
“In retrospect, I recognize that I should not have been terribly surprised at the doctrinal context or at the practical application of the famous five points by this minister—although at the time I was astonished. After all, here was a person, proud to be a five-point Calvinist, whose doctrines would have gotten him tossed out of Geneva had he arrived there with his brand of ‘Calvinism’ at any time during the late sixteenth or seventeenth century. Perhaps, more to the point, his beliefs stood outside of the theological limits presented by the great confessions of the Reformed churches—whether the Second Helvetic and the Heidelberg Catechism of the Dutch Reformed churches or the Westminster standards of the Presbyterian churches. In short, an American evangelical.” (6-7)
Allen and Lemke further comment that Muller “disdained ‘Particular Baptists’ such as John Gill because Gill did not embrace the rest of the Calvinist doctrines. To be fully Calvinistic [Reformed] requires much more than the five points often associated with the Synod of Dort. For Muller, to be truly a Calvinist requires the affirmation of other beliefs such as the baptism of infants, the identification of sacraments as means of grace, and an amillennial eschatology.” (7)

So should I still call myself a Calvinist? It would seem that Muller would say it is void of its historic meaning for me to do so. I think he’s right. But must Calvinism retain its same shape and form as it did in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? Again, I think to some degree it should. I don’t think it’s fair for people to claim to be Christian when what they believe is nothing like what the New Testament describes as Christian. Maybe I should just say I’m a Baptist who believes in the five points of Calvinism. Muller might say I’m inconsistent at best or at least very confused. I know many people don’t like labels. Just call me a “follower of Christ” they insist. Labels are, for me, nothing more than a convenient way to identify myself and others theologically. Nothing more, nothing less. It saves time rather than going through a long of list of saying, “What do you believe about . . .?” I’m certainly a follower of Christ first and foremost but I see no disparity between being a follower of Christ and calling myself Baptist, Calvinist, Wesleyan or a host of other labels. I don’t lose sleep over this sort of thing but do want to convey the right information with the right label. Before moving to West Michigan I could call myself a Calvinist and a Baptist without raising much ire. But West Michigan is home to a strong Reformed community which has definite ideas about what qualifies someone as a Calvinist. Perhaps I’ll just tell people I’m Baptist first and let the conversation go from there. I’m not sure if they would understand if I said I’m Baptist with a five-point pinch of Calvinism.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Is "Out of Print" Going Out of Business?

I've heard about these machines for a few years now but have never seen one in action.  The Espresso Book Machine (version 2.0) will print up and bind a book for you in a matter of minutes.  If a book goes "out of print" then just find one of these machines and have a new one printed for you.  At just under $100,000 they will be a little hard to find but there is one here in Grand Rapids.  I'm sure you'll understand if I don't mention where since they are my competition.  The video is almost five minutes long but if you skip to 2:30 it will give you a "closer look" at the binding process.  Enjoy!

Friday, June 4, 2010

30 Days to Understanding the Bible - Review

I sometimes get asked for a book that would be a good basic introduction to the Bible for adults. A handbook to the Bible is sometimes useful but if the person has no background in the Bible even that can be a little intimidating. I ran across a book by Max Anders called 30 Days to Understanding the Bible and there is much here to commend its use for adults with no Bible background (though I have some cautions which I’ll explain later). It’s been out for a while but I’ve not seen it before.

Anders begins with a proposition: “If you’ll give me fifteen minutes a day for thirty days, I’ll give you an understanding of the Bible . . .” (7) During the month Anders covers “all the major men and women, all the major events, and all the major points of geography.” It presupposes no prior knowledge of the Bible on the part of the reader. It is filled with charts, graphs, diagrams and symbols it help with remembering key people, places and concepts. I especially enjoyed his emphasis on geography. I recall my first class in Biblical geography. It was such an eye opening class and I’ve since then made frequent use of my favorite Bible atlas. Anders covers eight major bodies of water and seven locations in the Old Testament. They are reinforced in the New Testament. The Bible is divided into nine major eras. Each era is then given a central figure. For example, Creation has the first man Adam, Patriarch has the first patriarch Abraham, and Exodus has Moses as the leader of the Exodus and so on. Remember, this is an overview so there is a lot of material not covered. Anders is simply trying to give a bird’s eye view of the Bible. If you use this book in a class for new believers or individually you can always supplement it as you deem necessary. After covering the Old and New Testament Anders covers ten great doctrines: Bible, God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Angels, Man, Sin, Salvation, Church and Future Things. Each of these is divided into four major subdivisions. The book concludes with a summary of the Bible, and articles on “What the Bible Teaches, in 1,000 Words” and “The Message of the Bible.” The appendix has a number of nice features including reproducible images for teaching. Overall, this is a good book to give to a new believer who wants an introduction to the basic storyline of the Bible.

A couple of concerns. Anders says “No attempt has been made to interpret the Bible. The information is presented at face value as it is found in Scripture.” (7) I appreciate what Anders is saying but “interpretation” abounds throughout. Man is dualistic (218, 236), the Bible is recorded “without error” (265), the Church begins at Pentecost (136, 244), the Christian receives his “new body” immediately at death (237), and the sin at the Tower of Babel was disobeying God’s command to fill the earth (44). It is clearly a Protestant work since it excludes the apocrypha and says “our salvation is completed at the death of the body.” (236) For a Catholic these are matters of “interpretation” made by Protestants. Anders takes all the numbers throughout the Pentateuch at “face value” even though many scholars believe these can be understood in other ways. The decision to take things at “face value” is an interpretive decision in itself. There is no discussion of the death of Christ as an atonement for our sins in the chapter on Christ (the four subdivisions are Deity, Humanity, Resurrection and Return). It is not covered under “salvation” either. I would have replaced the chapter on “Angels” with one on the atonement. This would be an area I would surely supplement.

My concerns aside I still like this book and think it can be used by a new believer to start to put the pieces together as he/she begins to read the Bible for the first time. Here’s some other good news. The book retails for $16.99 but we are offering them for only $5.00! You can’t beat that. You can see many of the charts, graphs and diagrams at Thomas Nelson’s website here.

Max Anders (Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary, Th.D. Western Seminary) became the Senior Pastor of Castleview Baptist Church in January 1999. A graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and Western Seminary, Dr. Anders is the author of 22 books, including the best-selling 30 Days to Understanding the Bible, and a ten-volume series entitled What You Need to Know About. In addition, he is the original developer and general editor of The Holman New Testament Commentary. A former college professor and adjunct seminary professor, as well as instructor with Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, he is listed in Who's Who in the Midwest. Max and his wife, Margie, live in Indianapolis with their two children, Tanya and Christopher, whom they adopted from Russia.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Top 10 Best Sellers - Year to Date

Every now and then I like to check my best seller reports to see what's selling in my department.  I have 23 different categories in my department which include commentaries, theology, Biblical studies, apologetics, philosophy and a lot more.  I did a report showing my best sellers from Jan 1, 2010 to May 31, 2010 (we're not open on May 31st so don't ask me why I include that in my calculations).  We'll start with number 10 and work our way up. 

#10 - How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, Zondervan

#9 - Be Real - 1 John by Warren Wiersbe, Cook Publications

#8 - Reason for God by Timothy Keller, Penguin

#7 - Africa Bible Commentary ed. by Tokunboh Adeyemo, Zondervan

#6 - Doctrine by Mark Driscoll, Crossway

#5 - Calvin's Commentaries by John Calvin, Baker Publishing Group

#4 - Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller, Penguin

#3 - Why I am a Christian by Norman Geisler, Baker Books

#2 - Zondervan Compact Bible Dictionary, Zondervan

#1 - Prodigal God by Timothy Keller, Penguin


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission

Books that purport to give a “secret” about things immediately make me a bit wary. So when I say John Dickson’s book entitled The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission I was leery. Then I saw the endorsements on the back and I was immediately impressed by the scope of the names I saw: N. T. Wright, Christopher Wright, I. Howard Marshall, Timothy George, Tremper Longman III, Richard Bauckham, Timothy George, Alistair Begg and more. From scholar to pastor, all wrote in glowing terms about John’s book. It didn’t take long for me to begin to share their excitement.

John begins with the story of his own experience with “evangelism.” Prior to his formal training he was excited and sharing his faith seemed natural. His church was so impressed with him that they sent him off for training. It was after the training that all of the sudden his “joy and ability at passing on the faith evaporated.” (18) He found he was self-conscious about his “presentation” and he would now stumble through what was now a very uncomfortable exercise. John is quick to observe that the problem did not lay in the course; many are helped by them. Nevertheless he found his experience was common among others he talked to. So part of the reason for his writing this book was to provide a fresh look at the topic of evangelistic mission that would “go some way toward dispelling Christian self-consciousness.” (19)

John draws an important distinction between “proclaiming the gospel” (evangelism proper) and “promoting the gospel” which is a wider category which “includes any and every activity that draws others to Christ.” (23) So what’s the best kept secret? It is simply that Christian mission in the Bible includes “a whole range of activities that promote Christ to the world and draw others towards him. These include prayer, godly behavior, financial assistance, the public praise of God (in church) and, as already mentioned, answering peoples’ questions. . . They are all ‘mission’ activities, and only a couple of them involve the lips at all.” (22) Whereas many in the past, including John himself, have tried to encourage people to evangelize with a narrow understanding of what this had to look like. John now presents a broader perspective which he hopes “will inspire you to see everything you do in life as a tool in God’s hands for the benefit of those who don’t yet know Christ.” (24)

John starts with asking what the Bible’s most basic doctrine is. He answers simply: “there is one God.” (26) He links this monotheistic premise to mission by stating “If there is just one God in the universe, everyone has a duty to worship that Lord.” (27) It is here that the premise of the book reveals its radically theocentric theme. He says, “If there is one Lord to whom all people belong and owe their allegiance, the people of that Lord must promote this reality everywhere.” (31) When I read the following two paragraphs I wanted to get up and shout amen!
“We promote God’s glory to the ends of the earth not principally because of any human need but fundamentally because of God’s/Christ’s unique worthiness as the Lord of heaven and earth. Promoting the gospel to the world is more than a rescue mission (though it is certainly that as well); it is a reality mission. It is our plea to all to acknowledge that they belong to one Lord.” (35, emphasis his)
“Why promote Christ to your atheist friend with a nice car and the self-confidence to match? Not simply because he would be happier or more fulfilled with Jesus, but because in reality your friend belongs to the one true Lord (revealed in the gospel). Why take the gospel to cynical retirees with a lifetime of worldly experience and a fat nest egg to enjoy? Not simply because they will soon face eternity, but because right now they exist for the pleasure of the one true God. Why reach out to the super-student with the first class honours degree and wardrobe of designer clothes? Not simply because Christianity will make her more moral or productive in life, but because in reality she is the possession of her one and only King. Why send out (and support) missionaries to Mongolia or Burkina Faso? Not only because Asians and Africans need rescuing from God’s judgment (as well all do) but because they too are creatures of the one Creator, and he alone deserves their worship.” (35)
There is passion on every page which is informed by a scholar’s mind and delivered with a pastor’s heart! More to come later.  Don't forget, those who can come out to see John next Tuesday will receive a free copy of The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Lukan Authorship of Hebrews - First Impressions

Over the weekend I spent some time in David Allen's new book Lukan Authorship of Hebrews.  Early on he writes "[i]t has been fashionable for some time now to dismiss the possibility of the Lukan authorship of Hebrews by parroting previous commentators without so much as a second look at the historical or linguistic evidence.  This is true for both German and English commentators with rare exception."  (22)  I wasn't surprised by this because I recall when Peter O'Brien's commentary in the Pillar series came out I specifically looked at his discussion of authorship and found this statement: "Luke has been proposed as a candidate, but the points of connection between him and Hebrews are too slight to support a theory that he wrote the latter."  (6)  Mmm, sounds familiar.  Here's what D. A. Carson and Douglas Moo say in An Introduction to the New Testament: "Neither Luke nor Clement of Rome draws many votes today.  The points of connection between Luke and Hebrews are too slight to support a theory of common authorship."  (602)  In spite of the fact that Allen's book is a publication of his doctoral thesis (completed in 1987) on the topic and he has published a couple of journal articles on the subject neither O'Brien or Carson and Moo cite any of his works in their bibliographies. 

But let's put Allen aside for a moment.  Are the "points of connection" really "too slight"?  If it is really so small and seemingly hardly worth any consideration then why would such writers as Calvin, Aquinas, B. F. Westcott, Franz Delitzsch, Godet, and G. Campbell Morgan all see some kind of relationship to Luke even if not independent authorship? (Some thought Hebrews was originally written in Hebrew and Luke translated it into Greek.)  F. F. Bruce, who did not hold to Lukan authorship, wrote "Stylistically Hebrews is closer to the writings of Luke than to anything else in the New Testament; but this may be because our author and Luke approximate more closely than other New Testament writers to the models of literary Hellenistic--our author even more so than Luke." (The Epistle to the Hebrews in NICOT, p. xli n. 84).  Henry Alford wrote "The students of the following commentary will very frequently be struck by the verbal and idiomatic coincidences with the style of St. Luke."  (Hebrews, p. 53) 

Now Bruce, Alford and others who did not espouse Lukan authorship had various reasons for denying it but they did see some significant similarities between the two works enough to comment on it and felt a need to offer some sort of explanation.  It would seem that the scholarly world has settled on either agnosticism (understandable as that is) or Apollos.  But Luke is not even worth considering.  So either Allen has just treated us to 379 pages of complete fantasy or there is more to this than meets the eye.  Allen mentions a number of other commentaries (mostly from the 19th century) that support Lukan authorship or influence which makes me wonder if the dismissal of Luke has been rather too casual by some today.  I continue to read Allen's book with great interest.  I'll keep you updated on my progress.