Is Easter Critical to Christianity?

Related imageI should be outside, enjoying this beautiful Easter Monday. Instead, here I am, typing away. Sometimes, I question my priorities. On the other hand, I simply had to write and process some things I read this morning.

In yesterday’s New York Times, an opinion writer, Nicholas Kristof, had a rather interesting, and disturbing interview published. His interviewee was, Dr. Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary, in New York.

First, I think I’ll Link the article. You’ll Find it HERE. That way, no one can accuse me of taking anything out of context.

I have nothing against Dr. Jones. She seems like a decent person. I have no intentions of slandering her or the school. It’s merely the thesis of her interview that bothers me to my core. The short version is, she does not believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead, in his virgin birth, the necessity of the cross, or even in the efficacy of prayer. And she still calls herself a Christian Minister.

She has every right to believe, or disbelieve, anything she likes. The U.S. Constitution grants her that. I will fight for her right to believe, stand for, and even proclaim her beliefs publicly. My problem is this: you cannot deny the fundamental core of Christianity, and still call your theology, Christian. That is simply not fair to either Christians, or non Christians.

Even a cursory glance at the New Testament, will demonstrate that the Resurrection from the dead of Jesus of Nazareth, was the central doctrine of the early Church. It is the cornerstone of all four Gospels, including Mark, which she says doesn’t have it. In all 4 of them, and in the Book of Acts, the resurrection of Jesus is central to the very being of Christianity. In Acts, for example, the Resurrection is the core teaching of every gospel sermon recorded. In I Corinthians 15, Paul says it is of “first importance”, and that if Jesus is not raised “we are of all men, most miserable.”

It is Jesus resurrection that gives meaning to the Cross. Without it, its merely the story of a murder, or a public execution. It gives validity to the Christmas story of the virgin birth. Otherwise, it’s just a tragic tale of a pregnant woman giving birth in a stable.

The Resurrection, gives meaning to all of Jesus teaching. It validates every thing he said. In short, there simply is no Christianity, if Jesus did not rise from the dead.

You don’t have to believe it. Although I encourage you to do your homework and read about it. I would encourage you to read the Gospel of John, to begin, then investigate the claims.

You you can’t call yourself a Christian, yet deny every central claim of it’s belief system. I’m sorry. Neither Christianity nor logic will allow it. I stand by my initial arguments; Dr. Jones is entitled to every jot and tittle of her beliefs. But she cannot call it Christianity.

I was hoping I’d feel better, getting that off my chest, but I don’t. I feel absolutely rotten because of the many people who will read the article in the NYT and come away confused. Please, read the New Testament for yourself. You may not believe it, though I hope you do. But you’ll see with absolute clarity that Dr. Jones does not align with Christianity as taught in it’s pages.

That was a dare. Let me say it more clearly. Read it. I dare you. At least read the Gospel of John, and the Book of Acts.

Good Bye NIV, Hello ESV

Image result for ESV images public domain

Today’s topic is rather personal, and spiritual. I know some of you are not even remotely interested in Spiritual things, so I’m warning you ahead time. I hope you’ll keep reading, because you might get something out of it. Besides, it’s just us, so of no one will know you’re reading someone discussing the Bible.

The year was 1972. I was a teenager. I was skinny and had a full head of hair. My how things change with time. I already loved the Bible. And I loved Jesus. I had submitted to Him a few years before and loved reading His Word.

In those days, that was the King James Version. That’s pretty much what everybody read. I did have a Good News For Modern Man (Today known as the Good News Version, or Today’s English Version). but I read about a brand new translation that was hitting the market called, The New International Version. I raced out to a Christian Book Store and bought one. It was only the New Testament, that’s all that was completed at that time. It was brown leather. Just like a Bible should be. Kidding. Mine was a large print edition. In those days that was an option I didn’t need. Now it’s a requirement.

This new Bible was like magic. I understood it. Every word. It was like it was written just for me. I absolutely fell in love with it. In 1974, I went to college at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, MO. In the bookstore, my first day, I saw and purchased, a whole Bible in the New International version. I was in heaven.

Throughout my college years, I was introduced to many translations. I liked some. Disliked others. Some I have to this day. A few I have as an app, but no actual hard copies. But I always loved the NIV.

Then in 1979, I went to Cincinnati Christian University, called Cincinnati Bible College in those days. One of the professors there, Lewis Foster, had been on the team of translators for the NIV, especially the Gospel of John, and played a role in the Book of Joshua team as well, but I don’t remember what he told me his role was. I will just say, Dr. Foster was an awesome man who loved the Word and the God who inspired it. I truly enjoyed his classes and spending time with him. I treasure those memories.

I was ordained into the ministry in 1978 in Cynthiana, KY in a Church where the minister was King James only. He was adamant about it. He disliked me very much for the fact that I was sold on the NIV and even used it when I was preaching and teaching. He only agreed to participate in my ordination because my dad was an Elder in the Church. I remember some dandy conversations with the Pastor as we would go about our days.

I also remember NOT getting hired by a church in KY once because I used the NIV rather than the King James. Those were weird times in churches. In fact, I would carry a King James AND an NIV with me when I was traveling and raising support to be a missionary, so I wouldn’t offend people if their church was still sold on the KJV.

When I got to Buckie, Scotland in 1980, I boldly preached from the New International version. Most of the people stuck to their King James, but converts used the NIV. Eventually, it became the majority version in the Church in Buckie, as well at in Forres which I planted in 1986, and in Cumbernauld, born in 1988.

I stayed true to the NIV, even when The New Living Bible became so popular in the late 90s. My wife loves that translation. She uses it all the time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It’s just not me.

I received a beta version of Today’s New International Version of the New Testament to read and comment on sometime in 2000 or 2001. It was published in 2002. I read it and HATED it. It was, lets say an attempt at political correctness. It was just awful. And I said so.

The Old Testament was finished in 2005. The translation was totally unacceptable to serious believers in Jesus and His Word. Eventually it just faded away and ceased being published.

Then in about 2012 a new edition of the NIV came out. I had bought a new Bible and was teaching a class at Northwest Christian Church in Acworth, GA. As I was reading, I became aware that some of the translation was just terrible. I laid my bible down and told the class that this version was crap. The NIV had implemented some of the translation model that had been used in the TNIV and the NIV was ruined.

The next week, I went back to my 1984 edition of the NIV. It was the last sound version of the NIV. It is now only possible to buy it from used bookstores or backrooms at Christian bookstores. Despite all the furor, I stuck faithfully to the 1984 edition of the NIV. And I will continue to use it in personal study.

But today, I am announcing, primarily because the 1984 NIV is so rare, that I will begin this week, preaching from the English Standard Version. It is considered a literal translation, yet it reads pretty smoothly for one. It is used by many conservative Churches in English speaking countries. In fact, it is the translation used at Brittan’s and my home Church in GA, Crosspoint City Church.

Frankly, this was an extremely difficult decision to make. I wish the publishers of the New International Version had never forced me into it. But they did, and that’s that. It’s done. Here I stand.

If you want to understand more about translations of the Bible, I recommend my book, (Re)Discovering the Bible Vol. 1. Its a short book. And inexpensive, too. Just click on the link. You’re welcome.

So, farewell, New International Version. You have been a faithful translation. You have served me well. I cherish the many memories I have had using you to reach people in the U.S.A., Great Britain, Jamaica, Canada, and any other English speaking country I’ve visited. But it’s time to move on.

Hello, English Standard Version. You have big shoes to fill. But I believe you have what it takes. Let’s do this. The Gospel of Jesus is too important. There’s no place to go but on.

Thanks for listening folks. At least now you understand a little bit about why this is so important to me. Use the comments section and tell me about your favorite, or least favorite, Bible translation. See you next week.