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God’s English
Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 10:56 AM

Another article now available online from the new issue of Touchstone:

 Gods English

God’s English

The Making & Endurance of the King James Bible, 1611–2011
by Barton Swaim

The King James Version of the Bible (KJV) is fast becoming one of the great unread books of Western civilization—remembered and admired but not used. True, there is still a small band of believers in the fundamentalist tradition whose loyalty to the KJV remains uncompromised. But the vast majority of Christians in the English-speaking world think of the King James Bible as a hindrance rather than a help: an interesting document but, in the twenty-first century, pointlessly difficult to understand; an artifact prized by one’s grandparents because it reminded them of another time.

It’s the sad but inevitable end to the greatest of all biblical translations—sad because the translators’ goal was to make the Scriptures more, not less, accessible: a goal they achieved on a worldwide scale. Miles Smith’s preface to the first edition explains that goal beautifully.

Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the water, even as Jacob rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well, by which means the flocks of Laban were watered. Indeed without translation into the vulgar tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacob’s well (which was deep) without a bucket or something to draw with; or as that person mentioned by Isaiah, to whom when a sealed book was delivered, with this motion, Read this, I pray thee, he was fain to make this answer, I cannot, for it is sealed.

For well over three centuries in Britain and North America, the King James Bible was the Bible. Its language permeates our literature. In twenty-first-century Britain, where biblical illiteracy is almost total, phrases from the King James Bible still echo across the cultural landscape—a fact attributable to the nation’s Christian past, but also to the biblical translation that defined that past.

Even so, the Authorized Version, as it used to be called, is now thought of chiefly as an historical novelty. Young people raised in Christian homes today are hardly aware of its existence. Accessible translations, some of them very good, proliferate. You can hardly blame a modern congregation, one with no historical or emotional ties to the King James Version, for avoiding it—all the thee’s and thou’s and begat’s and whithersoever’s can sound bizarre to younger Christians. Yet somehow it seems tragic that a young Christian in an English-speaking country should enter adulthood with no experience of the KJV’s language.

As the King James Bible turns 400, it’s worth reflecting on what we’ve lost.

continue reading . . .

The Licentious Spirit of this Age
Tuesday, April 26, 2011, 1:26 PM

From the May/June 2011 issue of Touchstone, now online (homepage, archives).

 The Licentious Spirit of this Age

Arousing Ourselves to Death

Porn Is Ravaging Our Churches
by Russell D. Moore

The couple will typically tell me first about how stressful their lives are. Maybe he’s lost his job. Perhaps she’s working two. Maybe their children are rowdy or the house is chaotic. But usually, if we talk long enough about their fracturing marriage, there is a sense that something else is afoot. The couple will tell me about how their sex life is near extinction. The man, she’ll tell me, is an emotional wraith, dead to intimacy with his wife. The woman will be frustrated, with what seems to him to be a wild mixture of rage and humiliation. They just don’t know what’s wrong, but they know a Christian marriage isn’t supposed to feel like this.

It’s at this point that I interrupt the discussion, look at the man, and ask, “So how long has the porn been going on?” The couple will look at each other, and then look at me, with a kind of fearful incredulity that communicates the question, “How do you know?” For a few minutes, they seek to reorient themselves to this exposure, wondering, I suppose, if I’m an Old Testament prophet or a New Age psychic. But I’m not either. One doesn’t have to be to sense the spirit of this age. In our time, pornography is the destroying angel of (especially male) Eros, and it’s time the Church faced the horror of this truth.

continue reading . . .

In this issue Dr. Moore also addresses another aspect of this sexual sin that affects our families and churches: Christian Courtship & the Awkward Question of Sexual History.

Read Touchstone Online
Tuesday, April 26, 2011, 11:56 AM

The May/June 2011 issue of Touchstone is now available online to subscribers. Login to the Digital section of the Touchstone website with the first seven digits your subscription account number and zip code to access the entire issue online.

 Read Touchstone Online

 Read Touchstone Online

 Read Touchstone Online

Christ is Risen in Beirut
Tuesday, April 26, 2011, 10:01 AM

This is a video of a "flashmob" singing of "Christ is Risen" [from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life"] at a mall in east Beirut, sung in Arabic, and Greek.

“I Will Not Believe”
Tuesday, April 26, 2011, 9:53 AM

Thomas's refusal to believe, initially, that Jesus has been raised from the dead, was where the Gospel reading for this past Sunday's "Agape Vespers" ended. Odd. After the services of Pascha in the Orthodox Church, the congregation regathers in the late afternoon on Easter Sunday to hear the closing words of the Gospel, "I will not believe"–and not just once, but over and over again in as many languages as possible (depending on the languages that can be read in the parish). On at least one occasion we heard John 20:19-25 read more than twenty times in twenty languages (including Sign Language), all ending, "I will not believe." This multiplication of languages perhaps can be seen as a foreshadowing of the close of the Easter Season right at the beginning, the close being, of course, Pentecost, with its gift of tongues. But it also stands for the next step in the Gospel proclamation to all nations: every hinges, as Paul wrote, on whether Jesus was raised or not. This matter of the Resurrection, following the unfolding path of the Great Commission, is put before all nations over time. "Christ is risen" is the essence of the Gospel in history, the culmination of His Incarnation, Passion and Death on the Cross, the opening of heaven to otherwise fallen Man. (Of course, the Ascension should not be forgotten!)

Fr. Robert Hart has written a worthwhile Easter meditation here on belief in the Resurrection as history and the Easter faith of the martyrs, including the earliest eyewitnesses. 

Of Gods & Films
Monday, April 25, 2011, 9:06 AM

If one were to judge be the number of films made (and books written) on "spiritual" topics lately, you might conclude that there is no danger that Christian faith will succumb to the allurements, such as they are, of atheism or at least secularism. Is there a growing hunger to connect with the divine? In this pluralistic age, that desire can lead in many directions. Last night, Mt. Athos on 60 Minutes; today (at least in Chicago) public television is airing Mysteries of the Jesus Prayer. I have not seen this so I don't know its quality (though I've heard good things about the companion book). It is airing in various cities around the country, and there is a list here. I do note that it was not being aired by any PBS station in the vicinity of New York City. Is that because it really is a bastion of secularism? Just a question. 

Worthy of note, also, is the current run of the film Of Gods and Men about the Trappist Monks of Algeria who were slain not so long ago, the coming release of There Be Dragons, about Christians in the Spanish Civil War (including the priest-founder of Opus Dei) and Cristiada, a film about the persecution of the Catholic Church by the government of Mexico in the 1920s. And, also, a recent film by Emilio Estevez starring Martin Sheen called The Way, about a father who takes up the pilgrimage on Camino de Santiago, The Way of St. James, across northern Spain when his son dies there on the pilgrimage. I do not know the spiritual content or "message" of each film, but do suspect that they at least take faith very seriously. Many are wondering if they know The Way.

Mt Athos on 60 Minutes
Monday, April 25, 2011, 8:25 AM

In case you didn't catch this yesterday, 60 Minutes had a highly privileged filming opportunity on Mt Athos and the two-part report it aired last evening was respectful. The two-parts can be viewed on-line.

The Case for Hell
Monday, April 25, 2011, 8:20 AM

This by Ross Douthat in the New York Times argues that Bell's Hell has problems. He makes some good points.

Blessed Easter
Saturday, April 23, 2011, 6:19 PM

Christ is Risen! We at FSJ wish all the blessings of God Almighty through our Lord Jesus Christ on this the Feast of his Resurrection from the dead. "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!" (Paschal Troparion in the Eastern Churches).

Good Friday
Friday, April 22, 2011, 8:45 AM

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that he desired to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and him crucified. It is one of those statements that we've exegetically and theologically taken care of. Next verse, please.

Yet what does Paul mean by this? Perhaps we can say that he means a constant remembrance of the sufferings of Christ upon the Cross "for me" and for all sinners. On Good Friday each year we are invited to a Crucifixion that in the words and theology of St. John's gospel is also the glorification of Christ. In his suspension on the Cross, in the nails, the spear, the loud voice, the promise to the Good Thief, the loud proclamation, "It is finished," and the bowing of the Head, we are given insight into the severity of sin and death to which we are subjected (I might add willingly), as well as the depths of the divine love and mercy that enflamed the heart of Jesus in his willing embrace of the Cross for us.

In a dialogue in the services of the Orthodox Church, Jesus says to Peter just after Peter insists he will not deny Christ: "Thou dost not comprehend, O man, the depth of the wisdom and the knowledge divine; thou hast not fashioned my decrees. For since thou art flesh, vaunt not boastfully for thou shalt deny me thrice, whom all creation doth bless, and glorify unto all ages."

"O Simon Peter," said the Lord, "Thou shalt presently deny all thy convictions, as it hath been said; for a maiden shall suddenly appear and frighten thee. Then thou shalt weep bitterly, but thou shalt find me forgiving, whom all creation doth bless, glorify unto all ages." Christ knows the distance that we are from embracing His Cross, by our pride and ego, yet invites us all the same and forgives our weaknesses. The scene to which we are invited:

On Good Friday afternoon we sing:
Today He is suspended on a Tree who suspended the earth upon the waters.

A crown of thorns was placed on the head of the King of the angels. He who wore a false purple robe covered the heavens with clouds. He was smitten who, in the Jordan, delivered Adam. The Groom of the Church was fastened with nails, and the Son of the Virgin was pierced with a spear. Thy sufferings we adore, O Christ. Make us behold thy glorious Resurrection!

We are invited to see what Paul, and Peter, both treasured and carried in their hearts, as they later testified when they followed in the steps of Christ, martyrs testifying to the Cross and Resurrection that saves the world.

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