Joke of the Week
My apologies to any lawyers reading this joke. I really do believe you perform a valuable service, but I couldn’t resist posting this. You lawyers have a free pass to post any teacher jokes or Norwegian jokes in retaliation.
Research laboratories are replacing rats with lawyers as subjects for experimental study for several reasons:
- There are more lawyers than rats, ensuring a plentiful supply.
- The lab technicians don’t get so attached to them.
- There are somethings rats won’t do.
“Let’s eat grandma” vs. “Let’s eat, grandma.” Punctuation matters.
The following is a Study Note from Saluda Press’s book, James: A Study Guide. It refers to James 2:18. The punctuation in our Bibles was supplied by the translators as they rendered the Greek (which has no punctuation at all) into English. The punctuation derives from the translators’ interpretation.; now, for English readers, the interpretation is guided by the punctuation. I believe the translators got it wrong; the resulting English text is puzzling and sets the verse at odds with the rest of James’ argument in 2:14-26. Judge for yourself.
The punctuation in the ESV makes v. 18 confusing. We should remember that the original Greek of the Book of James had no punctuation at all; all punctuation has been introduced by the translators. I don’t think James is introducing an imaginary debater, “someone” who says he doesn’t need faith because he has works, as the clause, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works,’” suggests. If we move the closing quotation mark to the end of v. 18 and think of the whole verse as the argument of “someone” agreeing with James, the verse makes more sense. Verse 18 would then read,
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works.”
The “someone” is an ally of James, challenging the “faith alone” person to give some sort of evidence that his faith is real; the “someone” has works which are evidence of his faith.
Summer Reading for Your Kids
If your kids are readers, you know that during summer vacation they devour books like I devour tender garden peas. If they have not already read The Crescent and the Cross: The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad, buy it for them this summer. In brief, Sinbad sails away a Muslim looking to somehow get right with God and returns a Christian. The book is full of adventure and peril from beginning to end; it also presents the gospel and show how Islam cannot meet our true spiritual needs. Feedback from young readers that I have received suggests that they will sit down and read straight through to the end if you let them. A young neighbor (9 years old) of ours in our South Carolina condo building read it and wrote me a thank you note:
Dear Mr. Rogland,
Thank you for The Crescent and the Cross. I finished it in two days. It is so good. I recommend it to anyone. Love from Anne Hensley (received April 28, 2016)
You can buy it on Amazon for $12.95 + shipping, or you can buy it by going to Buying My Books at the top of this blog. If you buy before June 11, I will include a check for $6.00 as a rebate with the book.
Buy someone else’s books
Let me put in a plug for Doug Bond’s latest book for adults, Luther in Love. I’m about a third of the way through and I think it is one of his best. On Amazon. Also, former student and new author Alisa Triller Weiss has published her first novel, Swiftwater. I’ve started it and am being drawn in quickly. Good writing. Set in Roslyn, WA, it is a murder mystery–and more. You can pre-order it from Amazon or contact her at her website to get an early copy.
Luther’s 95 Theses for 20th Century Christians
12. In former times canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution as tests of true contrition.
At the time he posted his theses Luther accepted the Church’s right to impose acts of penance to prove an erring Christian’s real repentance. He also accepted the Church’s right to absolve the penitent of temporal (canonical) penalties for sin (Thesis 6, above).
We 21st century Protestants tend to think of the Church’s right and responsibility to absolve the penitent as a Roman Catholic error, but its practice is not without biblical warrant:
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” John 20:21-23
Our Lord himself told the leaders of his church that they had a right to forgive or withhold forgiveness. How are we to understand this?
Luther himself explained what true absolution is in Thesis 6, above. Briefly, it is to declare God’s forgiveness to the penitent. Re-read the exposition of Thesis 6.
The Church in “former times” may not have understood that in granting absolution it can only declare what God has done, but even then it required penance before absolution. Once a Christian is forgiven the Church cannot require acts of penance. It is true, as Luther points out, that the entire life of Christians should be one of repentance, but true repentance and acts of penance prescribed by the Church are not the same thing.