Friday, July 30, 2010

Book Review

Dear friends of Cranmer House,

We're going from a monthly to quarterly newsletter publishing schedule, and we thought it would be a shame to waste all of the wonderful book reviews that Dean Crenshaw produces. So here's the first of our book review blog entries.

Darrell L. Bock & Daniel B. Wallace
Dethroning Jesus: Exposing Popular Culture’s Quest to Unseat the Biblical Christ (2007)

Bock and Wallace are both professors at Dallas Theological Seminary, progressive dispensationalists (the milder form), and very conservative. Bock has expertise in New Testament backgrounds, and is often called on by the secular media as an expert in such things as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Judas. Wallace has written the advanced Greek grammar used in most seminaries, and he is an expert in New Testament manuscripts and textual criticism, a hobby for me. This is the story of the Discover channel and its presentation of “alternative gospels,” how Bock was consulted and how they respond to Discover’s hatchet job on these materials discovered in 1947 (Nag Hammadi).

This is more tedious than Peter Hitchen’s book (reviewed in the summer edition of CTH Update), and delves into more scholarly issues, but still very readable for those with just a modicum of perseverance. Bock does a very fine scholarly job in demonstrating that the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Thomas were written at least 100 years after the New Testament was completed, if not longer, and that they were known by the early fathers and rejected by them. Reasons for their rejection were that the books were too late to be apostolic, too Gnostic to be true, and denied the faith as it has been handed down for at least 150 years. For example, the Gospel of Thomas states that a woman must become a man before she could be a Christian, which is conveniently overlooked by too many liberals in their zeal to discredit Christianity.

Bart Ehrman, who is on a tirade to destroy Christianity, having converted to liberalism from his Moody Bible College days, tries to demonstrate how the New Testament Greek manuscripts were tampered with by those allegedly untrustworthy early fathers, and Wallace comes to the defense of the integrity of both the fathers and the manuscripts. Wallace demonstrates many times how Ehrman leads people to believe things by innuendo. Having read Ehrman’s book, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, I concur wholeheartedly with Wallace concerning Ehrman’s subjectivity in many of his arguments regarding how changes took place in some of the early Greek New Testament manuscripts.

Attacking Christianity by attacking the Bible is not new, of course, but has been going on since Marcion in the 140s who tampered with the text, rewrote much of Luke and Paul’s epistles, and rejected the connection between Old Testament and New Testament. The fathers rose to the occasion, rejected his Greek texts that he rewrote, and rejected him. Then a few decades later, the fathers rejected the new gospels as an attack against orthodoxy, wrote against them, and maintained both the original four gospels and the gospel of the grace of God as contained in them. In this day of constant attacks by the media, we need to be armed to answer our people who may be concerned by these wicked wolves. As Peter said, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

--The Very Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What is Empty Religion?

By The Rev. Doug Sangster
Rector, Church of the Holy Trinity, Houston, TX

Lori and I have friends who live in Ft. Worth. They attend a gorgeous church with dark hardwood floors, an ornate rood screen, and a stunning altar that are perfectly coordinated with the rest of the sanctuary.

Once when we worshipped with them I heard the squeak of the door. I turned and saw three people cross themselves and slide quietly into a pew. A moment later, I heard the hinges again. More people signing themselves and settling into pews. By this time the priest was consecrating the elements. Then the hinges signaled a third time. Now there were more people in the back than in the front.

“Come to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.” Lori and I communed and returned to our pew. When I looked up I was shocked to see that the people who came in after the sermon were at the rail. Incredulity crawled across my face. My friend whispered, “They do that almost every week.”

During the next few moments, I realized that it’s possible to have all the accoutrements of worship and still turn God into a genie, a God Who “loves” people without reforming their lives. And it occurred to me that it’s possible to be heirs of the English Reformation and still be superstitious and impious.

Author David Wells writes the following about this condition. “It is one of the defining marks of our time that God is now weightless. I do not mean by this that he is ethereal but rather that he has become unimportant. He rests upon the world so inconsequentially as not to be noticeable. He has lost his saliency for human life. Those who assure the pollsters of their belief in God’s existence may nonetheless consider Him less interesting than television, His commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, His judgments no more awe-inspiring than the evening news, and His truth less compelling than the advertiser’s sweet fog of flattery and lies. That is weightlessness” (God in the Wasteland p88).

How do Churches slide into spiritual decline? Do you remember Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof? In the movie someone asks him how the Jews in Russia maintained their identity in a time of change. “Tradition,” he says. Then he is asked where tradition came from. “I will tell you,” he says. “I don't know!” Tradition and ignorance can be a toxic alloy that can easily morph into mindless tradition, a mere “going through the motions.”

As I sat in that beautiful church in Ft. Worth and looked at the long line of parishioners who regularly skip the reading and preaching of God’s Word, it occurred to me that the liturgy had become an end in itself, not a means to an end. That is spiritually perilous, and those who believe it’s okay to disregard God in that fashion are toying with their souls.