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The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: An Interview with Kyle Strobel

Jamin GogginThe Bible teaches a seemingly contradictory way to power: weakness. Are Christian leaders increasingly succumbing to the temptations of power and forgetting Jesus’ words to first give it up? What can be learned from the insights of J. I. Packer, Dallas Willard, Marva Dawn, Eugene Peterson, and other spiritual giants?

Bible Gateway interviewed Kyle Strobel (@KyleStrobel), who, with Jamin Goggin (@JaminGoggin), authored the book, The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church That Has Abandoned It (Thomas Nelson, 2017) (book website).

Kyle Strobel

What does the Bible say is Jesus’ path of power?

Kyle Strobel: Scripture is clear that Jesus could have employed what we normally think of as “power” any time he wanted. He tells Peter that if he wanted he could appeal to the Father and receive more than 12 legions of angels at his disposal (Matt. 26:53). The structure of the Gospel of Mark, for instance, is a journey from his calling in ministry as the Messiah (what we normally think of as a position of power), to the true task of the Messiah—walking the way of the cross. The whole of Mark turns on the key question in Mark 8, “Who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27) Most people wanted Jesus to offer power, and Jesus instead points to the cross. Jesus presents us with a different sort of power.

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In the way of Jesus, the way Philippians 2 claims is a descent down the ladder of power into service, is, paradoxically, where we come to know true kingdom power. But kingdom power is built on a different foundation than worldly power and it functions according to a different system than the flesh. Kingdom power is power found in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). Kingdom power is trusting that without Christ you can do nothing (John 15:5). Kingdom power is believing that if you try to save your life you’ll lose it, but if you lose it for Christ you’ll find it (Matt. 16:25). The question we’re faced with is: Will we trust in this way for real kingdom power?

How and why has the church abandoned it?

Kyle Strobel: When Jamin and I started this project we were inundated with stories of churches employing worldly power, but it was often not done with wicked intent. In other words, the churches had good goals in mind, but they failed to seek them in distinctively Christian ways.

Everything we do in life has a goal and a means by which we attain that goal. Our temptation is to believe that having the right goal is enough, but then turn to the wrong means to attain that goal. As Paul says in Galatians 6:7-8, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

The temptation the church continually faces, and has given into in many places, has been to try and sow the Christian life in the flesh and yet still believe they’ll reap in the Spirit. This is warping our churches from within. We must accept both Jesus and his way, and not simply accept Jesus and try to follow him according to the power system of the world.

What we have to be confronted with, in our Christian lives and in our ministries, is that Scripture is incredibly clear on this point: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). But do we really believe that Christ’s power is made perfect in weakness? That’s the question that should plague modern churches that have become incredibly savvy. We need to ask ourselves—really discern in our hearts—whether or not we’re interested in Christ’s strength in our weakness, or if we’re just interested in strength.

What happens when Christians embody a worldly approach to power and try to use that to advance Christ’s kingdom?

Kyle Strobel: When Christians embody a worldly approach to power they’re not trusting in the way of Christ. As James puts it, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?” (James 4:4) This comes right after James compares two different ways of living—the way from above and the way from below—and it’s not irrelevant that he goes on to say, “Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10).

This is the way of Jesus; it’s the way of entering into weakness to rest fully on the power of God. Ultimately, when we employ worldly power, we’ll be able to construct impressive edifices, but it won’t be the building Jesus is constructing. Like the disciples who proclaimed, “Look Rabbi, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (Mark 13:1), as they gazed upon Herod’s temple complex, we, too, are often easily impressed with feats of human strength. But the kingdom of Christ is built on an entirely different economy. In the economy of the kingdom, the people of God are known not for feats of power, but for the power of love (John 13:35).

Even now I find that, like the disciples, I’m often really impressed with the kind of power people wield in their own strength, and less impressed with the kingdom power wrought in weakness. I, too, need eyes to see and ears to hear the kind of work that Christ is interested in.

How does love factor into the proper use of power?

Kyle Strobel: Scripture advances two ways of power: the way of the world and the way of Christ, and each of these two ways has unique economies of power.

In the way of the world, we find power in strength for control (and possibly domination). In the kingdom we find power in weakness for the sake of love and humility. In the kingdom, love is power, but this kind of love can only be discovered through our weakness, dependence, and abiding in Christ alone. To bear fruit (Gal. 5:22-23) for the kingdom is to trust and abide in both Christ and the way of Christ. This fruit is oriented ultimately by love, and by Christ, which is why we have to abide in his love to thrive in his kingdom (John 15:9).

One sign that we’ve given ourselves to the way of the world is when we can no longer understand love as true power in the way of Christ. For many of us, myself included, we tend to assume that “power” is always worldly power. When worldly power is our assumption, the Christian life, and especially the church, will fail to make any sense to us. We’ll inevitably seek to use worldly means to enact kingdom ends, and, once again, we’ll reap what we’ve sown.

What’s the most powerful resistance to the way of evil?

Kyle Strobel: Jesus has defeated the powers and principalities on the cross, and Scripture tells us that he’s triumphed over them and put them to open shame (Col. 2:15). That victory is already won by Christ. Therefore, our resistance to evil will entail our abiding in Christ and trusting in his way.

But this is counterintuitive. We don’t want to trust in his way. What we want, in our flesh, is to conquer evil ourselves. In our flesh we want to employ our strength in autonomy to dominate and win.

But Christ took evil upon himself and accepted death on the cross. He humbled himself before the Father and was raised in glory. That’s the only way Christian power works—through an abiding trust in Jesus. This is the only way evil will ever be vanquished in full. Our calling in faith is to trust that Christ has done this, and he has done this for me.

How do you want your book to change readers?

Kyle Strobel: We hope that this project will confront readers with the reality that every Christian already has a power system they trust in; and for most of us, it’s not a distinctively Christian sort of power. Maybe more than anything else, the world’s views have shaped how many Christians understand power, and so they’ve given themselves to a way of life that ultimately undermines the Christian life rather than fueling it. If we give ourselves to worldly power for the sake of the kingdom, as we believe many are, it’ll destroy us from within. Our hope is to cast a vision for a different sort of way: the way of Jesus.

How has this project impacted you?

Kyle Strobel: The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb was the hardest book I’ve ever written. I was constantly confronted with places in my heart that wanted to seek out my own power rather than Christ’s, or to employ worldly means of power rather than the way of the kingdom. It was a humbling project. But over and over again, as we sat at the feet of the sages we interviewed, we kept being pointed back to Christ. We don’t lose hope because our hope is not in ourselves, but in Christ. This book led us into our weakness, but it was there that we discovered Christ’s strength anew.

Bio: Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel have co-authored several books, including Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics: A Guide for Evangelicals, Beloved Dust: Drawing Close to God by Discovering the Truth About Yourself, and The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb.

Jamin Goggin serves as a pastor at Mission Hills Church. He has been in pastoral ministry for eleven years, including several years as the Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Saddleback Church. Jamin speaks and writes in the areas of spiritual formation, ministry and theology. He holds two Masters degrees and is currently earning a PhD in systematic theology. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Kristin, and their three children.

Kyle Strobel is a professor of spiritual theology and formation at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University and is an emerging voice among evangelicals on spiritual formation, discipleship, and theology. Kyle speaks regularly and has written for Pastors.com, Relevant magazine (and RelevantMagazine.com), ChurchLeader.com, and DeeperStory.com. Kyle lives in Southern California with his wife, Kelli, and their two children.

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Bible News Roundup – Week of February 5, 2017

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Sophisticated Defense System Discovered at Biblical-Era Mining Camp
Live Science
Read about King David in Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary on Bible Gateway
Read about King Solomon in Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary on Bible Gateway
See the Biblical Archaeology section in the Bible Gateway Store

Documentary Answers: Are the Biblical Events of Genesis Real-Life History?
CBN News
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, A Visual Walk Through Genesis: An Interview with Stephen M. Miller
Read the book of Genesis on Bible Gateway

Bible to be Translated into Russian Sign Language Beginning with Gospel of Mark
Orthodox Christianity
Read the many Bible translations available on Bible Gateway
Read the Gospel of Mark on Bible Gateway

Warm Reception for Uganda’s Lumasaaba Bible
United Bible Societies
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Bible Translation Organizations

Wycliffe Associates Anticipating Record Number of New Bible Translation Starts for 2017
News Release
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Wycliffe Associates—Helping to Translate the Bible Where Persecution of Christians Is Severe: An Interview with Bruce Smith
Read the many Bible translations available on Bible Gateway

Lost City of Atlantis Tied to Biblical City of Tarshish
Breaking Israel News
Read about the city of Tarshish in Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary on Bible Gateway
Read Psalms 48:5-8, Psalms 72:10, Jonah 1:3, and Ezekiel 27:12 on Bible Gateway
See the Biblical Archaeology section in the Bible Gateway Store

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The NIV Application Commentary on Genesis is Now Available for Bible Gateway Plus Members (February Only)

The NIV Application Commentary on Genesis is now available on Bible Gateway PlusWe’re excited to announce that throughout the month of February, the NIV Application Commentary on Genesis is available as part of the Bible Gateway Plus digital library!

The NIV Application Commentary on Genesis is as deep as it is accessible: you can confidently use it for everything from personal Bible study to sermon preparation. If you’re a Bible Gateway Plus member, you can log in and access it right now! If you aren’t yet a Bible Gateway Plus member, click here to try it free for 30 days (and get access to the NIV Application Commentary on Genesis along with dozens of other titles).

The book of Genesis contains many of the Bible’s most famous and important stories, yet a casual reading of those stories often raises as many questions as it answers. That’s where the NIV Application Commentary on Genesis can help, equipping you to explore questions like:

  • What does a modern Bible reader need to know about the literary genres and styles used in Genesis?
  • Should we understand the Creation account, the Flood, and other important stories in Genesis as literal history?
  • How should we approach difficult stories like Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac?

The Tower of Babel--explore it in the NIV Application Commentary on GenesisOne of the the NIV Application Commentary on Genesis’ most important features is its relentless focus on the text of the Bible. Rather than trying to fit particular answers or a specific theological perspective onto Genesis, it instead sticks to what the text itself reveals to us. That means thoroughly examining the original language and cultural background to help you explore and answer questions yourself. Despite this depth, you don’t need an advanced degree to use and understand it—it’s written to be accessible to anyone, whether it’s your first time reading Genesis or your 50th.

The NIV Application Commentary on Genesis is one of the best reference works on Genesis available, and we’re thrilled that it’s part of the Bible Gateway Plus library. But remember, it’s only available throughout February, so don’t hesitate! If you’re a Bible Gateway Plus member, log in to start exploring Genesis today. (If you need a refresher on how to access your digital library, follow this short tutorial.) If you’re not yet a member, start your free 30-day trial today so you don’t miss out.

The NIV Application Commentary on Genesis now on Bible Gateway Plus

The Worship Pastor: An Interview with Zac Hicks

Zac HicksLeading worship is more than a performance; it’s about shaping souls and making disciples. How does the Bible offer a clear guide to leading worship?

Bible Gateway interviewed Zac Hicks (@zachicks) about his book, The Worship Pastor: A Call to Ministry for Worship Leaders and Teams (Zondervan, 2016) (book website).

Why do you emphasize that worship leaders are pastors?

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Zac Hicks: At the heart of many of today’s “worship problems” (ongoing style wars, thoughtless appropriation of cultural practices, segregation of ages, lack of theological depth, etc.) is the loss of a pastoral vision for what worship leadership is. Whether or not worship leaders are formally ordained, have seminary degrees, or bear the title “pastor,” what they do, week in and week out, has a shaping effect on the people they lead. The acts of planning and leading worship are pastoral works. Song selection, prayers, service structure, and even one’s actions and mannerisms, give people a certain vision of who God is and how he’s to be approached and followed. There’s no way around the pastoral nature of the worship leader’s call.

How were Adam and Eve the first worship pastors?

Zac Hicks: The Bible describes Adam’s vocation as “working” and “taking care of” the garden (Gen 2:15). Scholars point out that these terms aren’t actually the standard words for gardening. Rather, they’re “cultic” terms (meaning, “related to worship”)—words and phrases that we find being used of priests, whose job it is to lead worship (for example, Num 3:7-8; 8:26; 18:5-6). Scholars also point out the many linguistic connections between the way the garden is described and the way the tabernacle and temple are depicted. Eden, as a microcosm of all of creation, was a “house of worship.” One could say that Adam and Eve’s mandate as stewards of the earth was to be “worship pastors” of creation—to cultivate creation’s giving glory to its Maker.

How is the worship pastor a “corporate mystic”?

Zac Hicks: Christian mystics believe that encountering the presence of God is part and parcel to our discipleship. Depending on one’s tradition, this “mystical” idea that God is actually present with us as we gather corporately in worship may be lost on us. Worshipers always run the risk of downgrading worship into mere ritual. Worship pastors who take their call as “corporate mystics” seriously recognize the corporate worship experience as nothing short of Divine encounter, and they long for their local body to embrace the fullness of all that it means that God is present among us as we sing, pray, preach, baptize, and receive the Lord’s Supper.

What is a philosophy of worship?

Zac Hicks: A philosophy of worship is, most simply, one’s answer to all the “why’s” of worship. Why do we sing for long chunks of time? (The answer to that articulates your philosophy.) Why do we take an offering? (The answer again is your philosophy.) Why do or don’t we allow non-Christians to lead music? Can the sermon be replaced by a dramatic performance? Why do we utilize lights and haze? Why do we employ choir and organ? All these questions are philosophical. The reality is that every worship leader has a philosophy of worship. But the big question is: Is your philosophy biblical and intentional?

How should worship serve as a disciple-making opportunity?

Zac Hicks: For too long, we’ve separated worship from discipleship. We think of discipleship as all those things that take place outside of worship—small groups, Bible studies, one on one relational ministry, etc. Against that idea, we should see worship as disciple-making territory. Worship has a shaping effect on the way people relate to God the other six days of the week. It informs people’s theology. It teaches them how to pray. Worship leaders have a pastoral opportunity to understand that the worship services they plan and lead provide the core practices and principles of our spiritual formation.

How should the worship pastor use the Bible when planning a worship service?

Zac Hicks: Simply put, a worship service without the Bible is not a Christian worship service. It might be inspiring. It might motivate you to be a better person. But unless the Scriptures are central, it cannot be truly Christian. The Bible is the revelation of Christ. Without it, we have no sure hope of how to be saved from sin and death.

And yet the Bible is a daunting, intimidating book. I’d encourage the worship pastor to start with studying, praying, and meditating on the Psalms. Martin Luther called the Psalms “the little Bible,” and John Calvin described it as “an anatomy of all the parts of the soul.” The Psalms train us how to pray the Bible—how to worship biblically. Open up your Bible (or Bible Gateway), and read a Psalm a day. As you hear the Psalms, begin to ask, “Does the language of our worship services match the language (the emotional spectrum, the theological content) of the Psalms?” Chances are, if you ask questions like that one, you’ll find your worship more and more coming into conformity with the vision of worship laid out in the Psalms. And if your worship is conforming to the Psalms, it’ll conform to the Bible.

Briefly explain your chapter, “The Worship Pastor as Mortician.”

Zac Hicks: I know, it sounds morbid. But hang with me. Just as a mortician’s job is to carefully prepare a body for burial, so too one of our tasks as worship pastors is to prepare the Body of Christ for her encounter with death. In my North American context, death isn’t popular to talk about. We’ve invented thousands of ways to deny it, sweep it under the rug, and push it from out of sight. For this reason, death might just be the “elephant in the sanctuary” each and every week. Christianity doesn’t run away from death. Christianity answers death. More precisely, Christ answered death once and for all by rising from the dead. This means that, in a way, every worship service is Easter Sunday. And Easter Sunday is an answer to death. Worship pastors function as good “morticians” when they allow death to be addressed honestly in worship—through lamentation, through hope, through the gospel, and through a vision of the enduring, eternal Kingdom of God.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Zac Hicks: It’s not a stretch to say that I use Bible Gateway on a nearly daily basis. As a worship planner and leader, if a certain passage comes to mind but I can’t quite remember its reference, a quick search in Bible Gateway finds it for me. I also work in a church where our people come from a variety of backgrounds and traditions, which inevitably means that they’re reading different English translations. It’s very helpful to “cross examine” biblical passages simply by clicking from one version to another.

If Bible Gateway ever went away, for me personally there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth, and I would probably despair over whether the internet has not altogether lost its meaning and value. 😉


Bio:
Zac Hicks is Canon for Worship and Liturgy at Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham, AL. He’s the author of The Worship Pastor and he writes regularly at zachicks.com. He and his wife, Abby, have been married for over 15 years and have four children.

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James Moffatt on The New Testament

James MoffattIn the communities of the faithful, men had to impress upon themselves and upon others what Jesus said and did, for the more convinced they were that he was neither a Jewish pretender nor an unsubstantial deity like one of the deities of the cults, the more urgent it was for them to recall that his words were the rule of their life, and that his actions in history had created their position in the world; they had to think out their faith, to state it against outside criticism, and to teach it within their own circle, instead of being content with it as a mere emotion; they had also to refresh their courage by anticipating the future, which they believed was in the hands of their Lord….

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The common basis of their life was the conviction that they enjoyed a new relationship with God, for which they were indebted to Jesus. The technical term for this relationship was “covenant,” and “covenant” became eventually in their vocabulary “testament.” Hence the later name for these writings of the church, when gathered into a sacred collection, was “The New Testament”—New because the older relationship of God to his people, which had obtained under Judaism with its Old Testament, was superseded by the faith and fellowship which Jesus Christ his Son had inaugurated. It was the consciousness of this that inspired the early Christians to live, and to write about the origin and applications of this new life. They wrote for their own age, without a thought of posterity, and they did not write in unison but in harmony.

Excerpted from A New Translation of the Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments by James Moffatt (1870-1944), London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1935, New York: Harper, 1935, Introduction, p. xxii

Reading the Bible with America’s Founding Fathers: An Interview with Daniel Dreisbach

Daniel L. DreisbachNo book was more accessible or familiar to the American founders than the Bible, and no book was more frequently alluded to or quoted from in the political discourse of the age. How and for what purposes did the founding generation use the Bible? How did the Bible influence their political culture?

Bible Gateway interviewed Daniel L. Dreisbach (@d3bach) about his book, Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers (Oxford University Press, 2017).

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[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, American History’s Entwined Relationship with the Bible: An Interview with Angela Kamrath]

Who were the “American founders” you write about and how important was the Bible to them?

Daniel L. Dreisbach: I define the terms “founding fathers” and “founders” broadly to include an entire generation or two of Americans from many walks of life who, in the last half of the 18th century and early 19th century, articulated the rights of colonists, secured independence from Great Britain, and established new constitutional republics at both the national and state levels. This definition includes a cast of thousands who played their patriotic part at the local, state, and/or national levels. Among them were citizen soldiers, elected representatives, polemicists, and patriot preachers. I contend that no book figured more prominently than the Bible in the political thought of these patriots we call the founders.

Modern historians have traditionally minimized the role of the Bible in American political discourse during the 1700s (the age of Enlightenment), yet your book disputes that. Please explain.

Daniel L. Dreisbach: Although scholars have noted in passing that the founding generation was well acquainted with the Bible and frequently referenced it in their private expressions, few have examined closely the Bible’s influence on the political culture of the age, giving attention to the specific biblical texts and themes that appealed to the founders and may have informed their political pursuits. Indeed, as you point out, some historians contend that the era, sandwiched between two great religious awakenings, was an enlightened age when rationalism was in the ascendancy and the Bible was, if not rejected outright, relegated to the sidelines. Because so little scholarly attention has focused on the Bible in the founding era, at least compared to the extensive scholarship on Enlightenment influences, I thought this topic merited further inquiry.

Even though much of the scholarship gives little attention to the Bible’s influence on the founding, I believe it had a substantial impact on the founders and their pursuits. Legislative debates, pamphlets, and political sermons of the age were replete with quotations from and allusions to the Bible. Following an extensive survey of American political literature from 1760 to 1805, Donald S. Lutz reported that the Bible was cited more frequently than any European writer or even any European school of thought, such as Enlightenment liberalism or republicanism. Approximately one-third of all citations in the literature he surveyed was to the Bible. The book of Deuteronomy alone was the most frequently cited work, followed by Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws. In fact, Deuteronomy was referenced nearly twice as often as John Locke’s writings, and the Apostle Paul was mentioned about as frequently as Montesquieu.

How intrinsic was the Bible to the creating and success of the American constitutional government? Could the American political system exist without the Bible?

Daniel L. Dreisbach: The founders devised a constitutional system of republican self-government and liberty under law that emphasized limited, representative government and required the consent of the governed. I present evidence in Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers that the American founders, when framing their governments, looked to the Bible for insights into human nature, civic virtue, social order, political authority and other concepts essential to the establishment of a political society. They saw in Scripture political and legal models—such as republicanism, separation of powers, and due process of law—that they believed enjoyed divine favor and were worthy of emulation in their polities.

Their political discourse, for one example, included many appeals to the Hebrew “republic” as a model for their own political experiment. Most of what the founders knew about the Hebraic republic, it must be emphasized, they learned from the Bible. These Americans were well aware that ideas like republicanism found expression in traditions apart from the Hebrew experience, and, indeed, they studied these traditions both ancient and modern. The republican model described in the Hebrew Scriptures, however, reassured pious Americans that republicanism was a political system favored by God.

How did the American founders’ shared belief that people were fallen and shouldn’t be entrusted with unrestrained power spring from the Bible and influence the government’s structure of checks and balances?

Daniel L. Dreisbach: The Bible informed the founding generation’s views of anthropology. In 1776, most Americans of European descent were affiliated with the Reformed (specifically Calvinist) theological tradition. This perspective emphasizes original sin and mankind’s radically fallen state (Genesis 3). This view of human nature was a source of the founders’ reluctance to vest unchecked government power in the hands of fallen human actors. Their solution was to craft a constitutional system defined by the separation of powers and checks and balances that would restrain man’s sinful inclinations to seek government power for selfish ends and to abuse power.

How critical was Micah 6:8 in the American founding?

Daniel L. Dreisbach: I devote an entire chapter in my book to the use of Micah 6:8 in the political discourse of the founding era. The founders’ use of this verse captured my attention because it’s not a text I’d expect to see in this literature.

Micah 6:1-8 is a prophetic passage theologians call a covenant lawsuit text (see also Psalm 50). It tells of God’s grievance against his people for their unfaithfulness to him. Micah 6:8 is the climax of this passage because it lays out what the children of Israel must do to restore their relationship with God. I think the verse appealed to Americans because it reminded them that nations, as well as individuals, must be virtuous and righteous if they desire to be stable, prosperous, and tranquil—a nation blessed by Almighty God—and it sets forth God’s prescription for what a nation must do to enjoy divine favor.

Perhaps the most famous invocation of this verse in the founding literature is in George Washington’s 1783 letter to the state governors, written in anticipation of his retirement as commander in chief of the Continental Army. In his final, parting advice, Washington wrote that, if we hope to become a flourishing “happy Nation,” Americans must be disposed “to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion.”

Why were Americans in the founding era drawn to the Exodus narrative in the Bible?

Daniel L. Dreisbach: The Exodus narrative (Exodus 13-14) was a favorite biblical text for the founders. This passage has appealed to so many throughout history because it’s about liberation and liberty and God’s providential protection of his people.

There were many Americans in the Revolutionary era who believed that they, like the children of Israel, were oppressed by their colonial rulers, and they looked to God for deliverance from the tyranny of their pharaoh, George III. Just as the children of Israel were directed by God to depart from the land of their oppression with its tyrannical monarch, cross a great sea, and establish a new nation, so, too, the children of Great Britain were led by God to leave the land of their religious oppression, cross a great ocean, inhabit a promised land, and, eventually, resist a “tyrannical” George III and create a new nation in “God’s American Israel.”

Since the Bible (such as Romans 13) speaks of submitting to governing authorities, how did the colonists biblically justify their declaration of independence and revolt against England?

Daniel L. Dreisbach: Romans 13, by some accounts, was the most referenced biblical text in the political literature of the founding era.

Romans 13 instructs citizens to be subject to those in authority over them. This was a pertinent and challenging text for Americans contemplating resistance to what they regarded as oppressive, tyrannical British rule. This text was the subject of many treatises and political sermons; and, quite frankly, Americans were divided on whether Scripture would approve resistance to British colonial authority.

Many patriotic Americans adopted an interpretation of the text that held that God ordained and established civil government, but only to serve the common good. A civil government that oppresses its people and acts contrary to the people’s interests deposes itself, ceases to be a legitimate government, and, therefore, citizens are no longer obligated by Scripture to obey it. This interpretation led many Americans to conclude that they had not only a right but also a duty to resist the “tyrannical” rule of George III and Parliament.

Explain how Proverbs 14:34 guided political thought in the early days of America.

Daniel L. Dreisbach: Proverbs 14:34 was a favorite biblical text referenced frequently in public speeches, religious proclamations, political sermons, and the like by familiar founders, including John and Abigail Adams, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and George Washington.

This proverb, perhaps more succinctly and starkly than any other sacred text, expresses a biblical prescription for the success (or failure) of a nation and her people. The true greatness of a nation lies in its character, not in its economic or military power. The founders regarded this proverb as a reassuring promise and a warning that God elevates nations that behave in conformity with God’s standards but he withdraws his blessings from a people who disregard those standards.

How is the Bible associated with America’s Liberty Bell?

Daniel L. Dreisbach: The Pennsylvania provincial assembly commissioned the bell in 1751 to commemorate the 50th (Jubilee) anniversary of the 1701 Pennsylvania “Charter of Privileges,” which affirmed basic principles of the rule of law, “Civil Liberties,” and “Liberty of Conscience” in “Religious profession & Worship.” So the bell was truly a symbol of liberty. It’s called the “Liberty Bell” because it was cast with an inscription from Leviticus 25:10: “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof.”

What do you hope readers will come away with when they finish your book?

Daniel L. Dreisbach: I hope readers gain an appreciation for the many contributions the Bible made to the American founding and, thus, conclude that one should study the Bible alongside other intellectual traditions—such as British constitutionalism, Enlightenment liberalism, and classical republicanism—in order to truly understand the American founding. I hope Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers helps American readers understand themselves as a people, their history, and the great American experiment in republican self-government.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Daniel L. Dreisbach: I’m grateful for the various platforms and services available from Bible Gateway. These have been invaluable to me not only in my personal Bible study but also in my research for this book.


Bio: Daniel L. Dreisbach is a professor in the Department of Justice, Law, and Criminology at American University in Washington, DC. He earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar, and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia. He’s an academic advisor to the American Bible Society’s Faith & Liberty Discovery Center and he’s written extensively on the intersection of religion, politics, and law in the American founding, including Faith and the Founders of the American Republic.

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Bible News Roundup – Week of January 29, 2017

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Tornado Crushed Mississippi Christian University But Didn’t Touch Bible, Opened to Psalm 46
CBN News
CNN: Amid the tornado wreckage in Mississippi, a Bible is left untouched
Read Psalm 46 on Bible Gateway

2017 National Prayer Breakfast: US Senate Chaplain Speaks of Members of Congress Praying and Studying the Bible
C-SPAN (begin at the 22:48 mark of the video)
Browse the Prayer section of the Bible Gateway Store

Gutenberg Bible Printed Around 1455 Now Online at Gallica, National Library of France
Evangelical Focus

Vatican City Stamps Celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation
Linn’s Stamp News
See the Reformation Studies section in the Bible Gateway Store

Deaf Churches Find Healing in Scripture
Mission Network News

Oshiwambo Bible Translation Project Launched in Namibia
New Era Newspaper

First Inuit Bible Translation Conference
United Bible Societies

Bible Mission Annual Convention Begins in India
The Hindu

Norwich Quilt Exhibition on Biblical Journeys
Network Norfolk

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

“Which Bible Translation Is Best?” – Part 1: Why There Are So Many Bible Translations

Throughout the years Bible Gateway has been online, we’ve heard one question asked regularly. Can you guess what it is? It’s this one:

“Which Bible translation is the best?”

This is a perfectly reasonable thing to wonder, particularly if you’re new to the Bible and are bewildered by the dozens of arcane-looking acronyms (NIV, ESV, NRSV, etc.) facing you on Bible Gateway’s Bible selection drop-down (or on the shelf at your local bookstore.)

And this very reasonable question prompts other, equally reasonable questions:

  • Why are there so many Bible translations?
  • If Christians take the Bible so seriously, isn’t there a consensus on the best way to translate the Bible?
  • How can I be confident that I’m reading the “real” Bible if there are dozens of other translations out there?

[See the section in the Bible Gateway Store: About Translations of the Bible]

The short answer to that common question, “Which Bible translation is the best?” is simple but also a bit unsatisfying: there isn’t a Bible translation that we, fallible humans, can point to and confidently identify as “the best.” It is of course possible to translate the Bible well, or to translate it poorly—just as with any other human activity. But for the most part, the Bible translations readily available to us today don’t differ as much in quality as they differ in translation philosophy. A translation philosophy isn’t a philosophy in the “Socrates, Descartes, and Confucius” sense of the word. Rather, the translation philosophy behind a particular Bible translation represents the way that the translators chose to answer the questions that must be answered when translating any text.

What are those questions, and why do different translators answer them differently?

Let’s find out by doing a little translation exercise of our own!

Beating a Dead Horse: Why Different People Translate Scripture Differently

Imagine that you’re translating the following sentences into a different language:

Bob and Jane went into the house and began to argue. “You’re driving me crazy,” Jane said. “Stop beating this dead horse.”

The first sentence is pretty straightforward, right? It’s a simple description of activities that can be understood easily when translated word-for-word into most languages. Most translators will translate this in the same way.

But things get a little trickier with the second sentence: “You’re driving me crazy,” Jane said. If you translate it word-for-word, you are being very faithful to the original text in one sense. But you also risk changing its meaning for readers who don’t know that in English, driving somebody crazy means that you’re aggravating them, not that you’re actually driving them someplace or inducing insanity in them. Maybe translating it “You’re annoying me” is more accurate… but now it feels like it’s lost some of its original punch, doesn’t it? And it’s always possible that translating it this way has inadvertently stripped out an important nuance. What if, a few sentences later, Bob cracks a joke that relies on Jane having said the specific phrase driving me crazy to make sense?

And it gets even trickier with the final sentence. You know that beating a dead horse means pointlessly belaboring a settled point, but will your non-English reader? Maybe they’ll figure out what that phrase means by context, or maybe they’ll be completely stumped wondering why a deceased horse has suddenly entered the story. Maybe your reader’s language uses a completely different, unique idiom that conveys the exact same concept. Is it a more “faithful translation of the text” to translate it literally or to adapt it to the reader’s language and culture?

Now, imagine that the text you’re translating isn’t a silly paragraph like the example above, but is instead an intricate poem composed thousands of years ago in a culture that is long gone. Now add to that the understanding that you’re translating God’s holy Word, and that a poorly translated word or phrase can make a big impact on a reader’s understanding of God and the Bible! You can see why Bible translation isn’t something you can just do with Google Translate; it involves constant judgment calls and tough choices. And it’s natural that different translators are going to make different choices, even if they share the goal of translating the Bible accurately.

Word-for-Word or Thought-for-Thought?

As you can also see in the above example, there are two basic directions you can go when translating the Bible. You can choose to translate the Bible word-for-word, or you can choose to translate it thought-for-thought.

Here’s how pastor Mel Lawrenz describes how these two approaches affect your Bible reading:

So-called “word-for-word” translations have the advantage of showing the reader the specific word choice and phraseology of the biblical authors. Another approach is to go “thought-for-thought.” These versions are true to the biblical author if they authentically render the intended meaning. Free translations or paraphrases often render whole sentences in new ways. These versions benefit people looking to catch the whole flow of Scripture, not so much the verse by verse meaning.

Looking to our example above, a word-to-word approach would translate the phrase “beating a dead horse” as precisely as possible. A thought-for-thought approach would use a different phrase that means the same thing but which doesn’t necessarily use the original words or phrase.

All of the Bibles you see on Bible Gateway fall into one of three categories:

  1. Word-for-word Bible translations, which emphasize faithfulness to the original text’s literal wording. A popular example is the English Standard Version.
  2. Thought-for-thought Bible translations, which emphasize faithfulness to the original text’s intended meaning. A popular example is the Contemporary English Version.
  3. Bible translations that mix the above two approaches. A popular example is the New International Version.

Technically, all Bible translations mix the two approaches—no approach is purely word-for-word or purely thought-for-thought. Many Bibles tend toward one approach, but all fall somewhere in between the two extremes. Some Bible translations do make a special effort to evenly balance the two approaches rather than favor one or the other, and those Bibles fall into the third category above. All of these Bibles share the goal of making Scripture accurate and accessible to readers. It’s just the specific translation strategies that differ.

That’s Interesting, But You Still Haven’t Answered the Question—Which Bible is Best?

Bible Gateway PlusWe can’t tell you exactly which Bible you should be reading. But we can help you make an informed decision about which Bible(s) are a good fit for you. Next week, we’ll dive right into this with a guided tour of the major word-for-word Bibles you can find on Bible Gateway. We’ll talk about what makes each one unique, and give you enough information to decide whether or not one or more of them are a good choice for you. After that, we’ll do the same with Bible Gateway’s thought-for-thought Bibles, and lastly we’ll take a look at a few Bibles that fall in the middle of those two approaches.

Until then, keep reading your Bible, whatever version it is! But this weekend, here are a few questions to ask about the passages you read in your Bible:

  1. Are there words or phrases in this passage that confused me?
  2. Did I notice any modern idioms or phrases in this passage that couldn’t have been the original ancient text?
  3. Just from my reading of this passage, do I have a sense of which translation approach (word-for-word or thought-for-thought) this translation favors? What are the clues?

We’ll be back next week with a look at Bibles that favor the word-for-word approach. Until then, God bless your Bible reading, no matter which translation you use!

Exploring the Apocrypha at Bible Gateway

If you watched Donald Trump’s inauguration ceremony earlier this week, you saw that it started with a prayer offered by Cardinal Timothy Dolan. But did you recognize where in the Bible that prayer came from?

The inaugural prayer in this case drew from the Bible, but perhaps not from a passage you know. Here’s how the Common English Bible translates the passage from which Dolan’s prayer is drawn:

God of our ancestors and Lord of mercy, you made everything by your word. You gave shape to humanity through your wisdom so that humans might rule the creatures that you made, so that they might govern the world by holiness and by doing what was right, and so that they might be honest in passing judgment. Give me Wisdom, who sits enthroned beside you. Don’t reject me, out of all your servants. I’m your servant and the son of one of your servants. I’m just a weak human who will live a short life as other humans do. And I’m the least of all humans when it comes to understanding judgment and laws properly. Indeed, even if somebody might be thought of as perfect, this person is nothing without your wisdom.

Send her out to me from your holy heavens. Send her from your glorious throne so that she may labor with me here and that I may learn what is pleasing to you. She knows and understands everything. She’ll guide me wisely in all that I do. Her great honor will guard me.

Do you recognize that passage? If you’re a Protestant, the prayer certainly sounded like something from the Bible, but you may have trouble recalling exactly where in the Bible it’s located. That’s because it isn’t found in most Protestant Bibles—it’s from the book of Wisdom (specifically, Wisdom 9:1-6,10-11), part of the Apocrypha.

What is the Apocrypha?

The Apocrypha is a group of texts (sometimes called deuterocanonical texts) considered to be part of the Bible by some Christian traditions, but not others. These books are included in some Bibles but omitted from others. Some Christians, particularly in the Protestant tradition, do not consider these books to be part of the biblical canon—that is, they don’t consider them to be equal in authority to the other books of the Bible. The deuterocanonical books, thus, does not appear in most Protestant Bibles. Other Christian traditions, notably the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, do consider them canon.

Why are there differences in Bible canon between these Christian traditions? The question of which texts are and aren’t canonical is an old one; since the days of the early Christian church, Christians have discussed and debated which texts merit inclusion in the list of canonical Bible books. You might be surprised to learn that even some of the most well-known books of the Bible—for example, the book of Revelation—were the subject of much debate before they were widely recognized as part of the Bible canon. If you’re interested in exploring that history, DanieL deSilva has written a good overview at Christianity Today.

The Apocryphal books are usually grouped in with the Old Testament, both for thematic and chronological reasons. Several years ago, we created a chart showing how the Old Testament differs across the major Judeo-Christian traditions (click to enlarge image):

How to Read the Apocrypha on Bible Gateway

If you’d like to explore the deuterocanonical books for yourself, you can easily do so here at Bible Gateway. There are two ways to quickly access the Apocrypha.

1. Search the Apocrypha with the Search Box

If you know the specific deuterocanonical passage you want to read, you can look it up with the Bible Gateway search box exactly as you would look up any other Bible passage. You can find the search box near the top of BibleGateway.com:

Just type your desired passage—for example, Wisdom 9—into the search box. But there’s an important step to take before you click or tap Search! Most Bibles on Bible Gateway don’t include the Apocrypha, and if you search for deuterocanonical passages in a Bible that doesn’t contain them, you’ll get no results. You must first make sure that the Bible you’re using contains the Apocrypha.

To do that, use the Bible selection drop-down (just to the right of the search box) to select a Bible that contains the Apocrypha. The Bible selection drop-down looks like this:

There are several such Bibles on Bible Gateway; but if you’re new to the Apocrypha, try one of the following English Bibles, all of which include the Apocrypha:

Bible Gateway Plus

  • Common English Bible: a relatively recent Bible translation that features easily readable modern language; a good choice if you usually read the New International Version or other modern Bibles.
  • Douay–Rheims 1899 American Edition: a classic translation of the Latin Vulgate marked by majestic, sometimes archaic language that you’ll appreciate if you like the King James translation.
  • New Revised Standard Version: a very popular Bible translation recognized by many churches from different Christian traditions (Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox alike).

Once you’ve entered a passage and selected a Bible that contains the Apocrypha, click or tap Search. Bible Gateway will display your desired text like it does any other Bible passage; and if you’re logged in to a Bible Gateway account, you can take notes, highlight text, and mark favorite verses as you can in any other Bible passage.

2. Browse the Apocrypha by Book and Chapter

The second way you can explore the deutercanonical books is by browsing books and chapters. This is a good option if you aren’t already familiar with the Apocrypha, and mostly want to browse through it. To start, select a Bible that contains the Apocrypha in the Bible selection drop-down at the top of Bible Gateway. See the point above for some suggested Bibles to start with.

Once you’ve selected a Bible, click Bible Book List, which can be found directly below the search box:

This opens a panel listing the contents of the Bible you’ve chosen. If the deuteronomical books are present, they’ll usually be listed under a section labeled Apocrypha, although in a few cases they can be found listed in the Old Testament section (click to enlarge image):

Click or tap the book you’d like to explore. This opens a black bar at the bottom displaying each chapter in that book. Select a chapter number to open that chapter in Bible Gateway:

That’s it! Now you know how to access and read the Apocrypha using the same tools you use to read other Bible passages. If you’d like deuterocanonical results to appear in your Bible searches on Bible Gateway in the future, the key thing to remember is that you must have selected a Bible that contains the Apocrypha. If you’re a Catholic or Orthodox Christian who wants those books included in your Bible reading and searches, we hope this has helped you. If you’re new to the Apocrypha but curious to read it, we hope this has pointed you in the right direction.

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) Is Revised; Becomes Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

Browse the editions of the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) in the Bible Gateway Store

Buy your copy of the CSB Ultrathin Reference Bible, Black LeatherTouch in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every dayB&H Publishing Group has completed the revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). Renamed the Christian Standard Bible® (CSB) (@CSBible), the text will soon be available for reading on Bible Gateway, as well as in a full line of print Bibles for readers of all ages, with initial products releasing in March and available in the Bible Gateway Store.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Bible Table of Contents]

“We believe this is a translation that combines accuracy and readability without compromise,” said Trevin Wax, Bible and reference publisher at B&H Publishing Group.

The CSB Translation Oversight Committee includes Bible scholars from a variety of denominations, including Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Lutheran, and non-denominational backgrounds. Working directly from the original languages, they also solicited feedback from pastors, seminaries, and other conservative denominations. Those responsible for the translation are firmly committed to traditional, conservative principles and the timeless truth of God’s Word.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Bible Translation Reading Levels]

B&H Publishing Group also announces that fellow evangelical publishers David C. Cook and Baker Publishing Group will be using the CSB in resources.

Baker Publishing Group will begin publishing Bibles in the CSB in 2018. Its first release, the Baker Illustrated Study Bible, will draw upon Baker’s extensive image archive and collection of bestselling biblical reference works with contributions from today’s leading evangelical biblical scholars. New Bibles for adults, children, and students are also being created.

“I’m thankful for the vision of the Christian Standard Bible. And I believe the translation committee did something important” shared Brian Vos, Editorial Director for Bibles at Baker Publishing Group. “The CSB provides a strong foundation for serious study and clarity for use in all aspects of church and family life. We’re looking forward to using it in our publishing program.”

David C. Cook will use the Christian Standard Bible as the base translation for a new church-wide initiative designed to help more people engage with the Bible. Other product lines are also in development.

Executive Publisher of David C. Cook, Verne J. Kenney, commented: “At David C Cook, we seek to equip the church with Christ-centered resources for making and teaching disciples. We believe that because the Christian Standard Bible translation prioritizes both accuracy and readability, it will help us accomplish our mission. It’s a great fit with the publishing plans we have for a number of our product lines.”

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