Thursday, September 06, 2007

My New Bible

I finished reading "The Message" about a month ago, and had the hardest time finding a new Bible version to start reading. I finally settled on the Holman Illustrated Study Bible (

Here's what I wrote about it to a friend:

The new Bible draws me; I haven't had as much time to read it as I'd like; I've only gotten through Gen. 11 so far. But I pretty much like it so far. I've been irritated to find three typos in the accompanying material (Introduction, captions on pictures, etc), but I haven't seen any in the Bible text itself. But those typos create in my deep psyche the idea that the workmanship on this Bible is shoddy. Another part of me thinks the workmanship on this Bible is very good. But very many more typos and that deeper psyche part may get stronger; it's a definite negative for me.

I also didn't like their "How to be saved" page, which was very, for lack of another term, "Baptist-y". I know the majority of Christians in America believe one is saved by praying the "Sinner's Prayer" (perhaps you do also), but I just don't find the "Sinner's Prayer" in the New Testament, anywhere. I believe the New Testament teaches that one is saved by God's grace through the process of a person turning to and committing to Jesus as The Way, but that it's "made official" by the "signing on the dotted line" at immersion (traditionally (and wrongly, in my estimation) rendered "baptism"). It's at that point that one is buried to the old dead life, and then raised into a newness of life, according to Romans 6:3ff. It is after immersion that the Ethiopian eunuch "went on his way rejoicing", not before (Acts 8:39). It is at the point of immersion that one's sins are forgiven, and the gift of the Holy Spirit is given (Acts 2:38). It is at the point of immersion that one is added to the church (Acts 2:41,47). As Peter puts it, "baptism ... now saves you", but it's not the physical act of getting dunked that saves; Peter continues: "[it's] not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God" (1 Peter 3:21). So as I understand it, immersion is the "signing of the contract", the pledge made official. That's not to say that God can't make exceptions as he sees fit; I think he's more interested in the heart of a person than in the technical legalities (and besides, Jesus was immersed, not because he needed it, but so that he could fulfill the technical legalities for us -- "to fulfill all right-ness" (Matt. 3:15), which right-ness he gives to us as a free gift). But I think it's a dangerous thing for humans to preach a method of salvation that can't even be found in the New Testament. I think perhaps the people who preach this doctrine have never paid attention to the conversions recorded in the book of Acts, all of which include immersion as an integral part of salvation. If the Apostles were to attend a modern day "Gospel Meeting", I think they'd be stunned that no one was getting immersed; the Apostles always immersed their converts at their "Gospel Meetings". I tend to think we should tend to do things Biblically rather than inventing our own methods.

(I realize that the differences in culture necessitate some invention on our part, and prevent the exact duplication of Biblical methods, but I think that adhering to Biblical methods should be our general course of action.)

I also realize that other people place more emphasis on "being led by the Spirit" (perhaps such as the "Charismatics"), and other people place more emphasis on tradition (perhaps such as Catholics, relying on church tradition), but I believe the black-and-white of the text indicates that we should stick with the black-and-white of the text, as indicated by Paul when he wrote, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal. 1:8)

Again, let me make it clear that I'm not saying anyone who has failed to be immersed in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins is unsaved -- I believe God can save who he wants when he wants based on his criteria, and that he seems to place greater emphasis on the heart than on the outward technicalities. But what I am saying is that we humans have no business ignoring the first century examples of conversion in favor of something that's not even found in the New Testament.

Some people claim that the thief on the cross gave us an example of the "Sinner's Prayer", but there's at least three flaws in this thinking: 1) This was before Jesus' command to make disciples, immersing them. 2) Jesus has the right to make exceptions to his rules anyway; we don't. 3) There's a good chance that the thief was immersed (Matt 3:5-6), which would invalidate the claim that he was saved before/without immersion.

All that to say, I don't like my new Bible's page on "How to be saved"; I believe it's unBiblical.

But I think this Bible as a whole has a lot of great potential. I was surprised last night to find that when it's talking about the people in Babel all having one language in Gen 11:1, the literal phrase is "one lip and the same words". Not that this is important; I just found it interesting. And as I was reading the Table of Nations in Genesis 10, it really helped to have a map on the same page that was color-coded to the three sons' families, along with many of the city names mentioned. I have a better grip on the dispersal of the human race across EuroAsia than I've ever had. There have been several little things like that.

As mentioned, I haven't really gotten into it far enough to really know for sure how well I like it, or if I'd recommend it. But so far, yeah, I think I like it pretty well.

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