Holy books, wholly understandable

I try, every year, to read the scripture of some other faith. That is, read the books themselves, not just a second-hand analysis of them

In 2016 it was the Koran, which I found well worth the read, if a little repetitious. It is about 4/5 the length of the New Testament.

In 2017 I have read the Bhaghavad Gita, which is a substantially shorter book. And I have just started the Book of Mormon, which is twice as long as the New Testament.

The two books I did as Audible recordings, of which I am a major fan, the Book of Mormon on LibriVox.

My observation here has to do with clear communication:

The Koran I read was the Penguin edition (1956) by N. J. Dawood; it is meant for non-specialists and was very understandable. Click HERE.

The Bhaghavad Gita I accessed two ways; first through then through the wonderful introduction and translation by Eknath Easwaran. And much, but not all, of the 2000-page commentary by Swami Ramsukhdasji, a gift from a dear Hindu friend.

Especially in the case of the Eknath Easwaran edition (click HERE), the rendering is very clear, with technical terms carefully explained; and then before each chapter, the author sums up the previous context, then gives a summary of the new chapter. In other words, it couldn’t be easier for the non-Hindu.

Foment curiosity and independent thinking? Sure! Create confusion? No!

All to say that, in both cases, someone exerted a great deal of effort to make clear to me the basic message of the holy books of another faith. In neither book was I ever lost, although of course my understanding of them remains superficial.

The application for the Christian should be clear.

How much more should someone who is interested in communicating our true message take great pains to

  • study it seriously,
  • meditate on it deeply,
  • pray about it thoroughly,
  • rely on God’s grace to live it authentically, and
  • seek God’s direction to proclaim it truthfully and powerfully.

Also, I would add, use straightforward language instead of flowery or technical; and to employ good English – rather than Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, or Bohairic, or who knows what. (See my long article on this issue HERE). To give Paul’s statement a different but legitimate application: “in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” And out of the church, even more so.

These versions of holy books remind me of our dear late professor, I. Howard Marshall; the first sermon I heard him preach, in Kings College Chapel in Aberdeen, was on the theme of “repentance” from Romans 2: “Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” He was speaking to a mixed group, some of whom were not very familiar with the Bible. I paraphrase him: “Repentance is not making ourselves out to be the worst person that ever lived,” he began, and then gave us a simple short sentence on what it does mean to repent. Clear as a bell. The handful of times I went to hear John Stott preach, same thing.

That is the apostolic way, it is the way of love.

“Holy books, wholly understandable,” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

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The gift of tongues in the post-apostolic church: a rejoinder to Cleon Rogers

Click link to download the article as a pdf file: Shogren_The gift of tongues in the post-apostolic church

PentecostIn 1965 Cleon Rogers published a short study about the gift of tongues in the centuries after the apostles.[1] It is late in the day to refute an article already a half century old; but since people keep quoting it as authoritative, it is worthwhile pointing out some of its grave logical and historical flaws.

Rogers examines the Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Montanus, Origen, Chrysostom; he sums up his argument (143):

After examining the testimony of the early Christian leaders whose ministry represents practically every area of the Roman Empire from approximately A.D. 100 to 400, it appears that the miraculous gifts of the first century died out and were no longer needed to establish Christianity. Furthermore, it is very evident that even if the gift were in existence, in spite of all the testimony to the contrary, it was neither widespread nor the normal Christian experience. The only clear reference to anything resembling the phenomena is connected with the heretic Montanus and those influenced by his erroneous views of the Spirit. All of the evidence points to the truth of Paul’s prophecy when he says “tongues shall cease” (I Cor. 13:8).

Even for the reader who wishes to be positively disposed, Rogers makes broad claims out of meager evidence. (more…)