Friday, August 17, 2007

Romans 8:15 in the TNIV

I've been using the TNIV for a while now and really enjoy it. I used it originally because I was teaching a class using a book that speaks highly of the TNIV and I wanted to check it out. For a couple terrific reviews, check out Craig Blomberg's review and one by a guy named Rick Mansfield (ht: Jeremy).

But this morning I was reading in Romans 8 and ran across v15, which reads like this:
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

It caught me off guard because I'm used to something like the NIV, which reads, "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear..." Part of the reason why I like reading different translations is that it offers different renderings that cause you to go back and look at what Paul is really saying, which is what happened here.

I'll tell you what I don't like about the TNIV rendering: it causes an unnecessary tension with other passages where Paul clearly tells us that we are slaves (or servants, they are the same word in Greek). For instance, in Romans 6:22 Paul says, "But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." So the question is: are we slaves or not? The answer, of course, is that we are slaves, but to whom? This is the key to understanding the difference between slavery in 6:22 and in 8:15.

But if one read Romans 8:15 in the TNIV in isolation, they would assume that Paul has no place for "slavery" in the Christian life. However, when you read 6:22, and even note that Paul starts this letter with "Paul, a slave [servant] of Christ Jesus", you realize that Paul is quite comfortable with such language (as is the rest of the New Testament). Being both slaves and sons, servants and children, is an apparent paradox, but nonetheless a powerful truth. I think that the TNIV muddies the waters a bit when it doesn't have to, but perhaps I'm missing something. Can any of you think of a reason why the TNIV translation is preferable in this instance?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

on passing out tracts

I don't know too many folks who prefer to pass out tracts as their means of sharing the gospel. I do know of a few, but I wonder if it's a generational thing. My friends and I are reticent to use this form of evangelism, yet I know of some folks older than I who carry them around just in case. We have all sorts of reasons for not liking to pass out tracts, but most, I would imagine, center around our cowardice.

Late last night, my good friend Bruce and I went out and passed out water and tracts to folks cruising the bar scene in Allston. It was fairly simple, we had a folding table set up with some water and tracts. As people walked by, we offered them free water, if they stopped and took a tract, great. If not, we just said "have a nice night" or "God bless" or something like that, pretty harmless. I don't think either of us were expecting to shake the whole area or anything. No bars closed down, no healings, no mass conversions- just meeting a simple need (hydrating folks who drink too much alcohol) and offering a tract.

Now, I don't think that passing out tracts is necessarily the best form of evangelism. I think that we're better off sharing the gospel through consistent friendships and lifestyles. Generally speaking, if someone observes you and talks with you over a longer period of time, they are more likely to be impacted by what you say than if they are handed a tract by a random stranger on the street corner.

But I think we ought to reconsider our reticence. One, I don't think the damage done is nearly as bad as we would like to think. We make excuses about "scaring people off" and "leaving a bad taste in their mouth", but let's be honest: very few, if anyone, walks away from receiving a tract or pamphlet thinking "now I'll never believe in Jesus." Most are willing to walk away and throw away the tract and leave it at that, and will probably never give it another thought.

Two, it's true that the percentage of people who receive a tract and actually follow Christ is probably pretty small. Obviously we can't know that for sure, but I'd be willing to grant that point. But who cares? For little-to-no risk, if anyone is impacted isn't it worth it? I realize the "if one person comes to the Lord..." saying is as cliche as they come, but there is some merit to it. Besides, take a look at all the people you interact with any a fairly regular basis: family, friends, coworkers, corner market employees, neighbors, mailmen, coffee shop workers, etc. What percentage of these folks are coming to Christ by our "friendship evangelism" method? If it's fairly high in your life, God bless you and please share your secret. But most of us probably aren't doing too well, so we can't use the "how effective is it?" excuse regarding tracts. (Oh please Lord, help me.) While you're at it, take a second and read Mr Genor's Testimony. You can probably find the audio, I just found this transcript.

Three, there's something to be said for forcing us to do something that makes us uncomfortable. Last night I absolutely did not want to go out. Bruce and I had talked about it, and when I was more pumped up with zeal earlier in the day I was all for it. By the time 11:30pm had rolled around, I was ready to go to bed. I called Bruce and asked him what he wanted to do, to which he replied "let's go out." I think my answer was something like "that was not the answer I was rooting for" and Bruce replied "same here." Neither Bruce nor I are extroverted people, we don't strike up conversations with complete strangers on a regular basis. I'll give Bruce credit, he really pushed us out there and took the lead. Both of us wouldn't choose this form of evangelism, but it forced us to be more reliant on the Spirit than we normally would. If nothing else, we took a chance we normally wouldn't take. But, you never know, maybe one drunk frat boy will wake up this morning and read that little pamphlet two strangers handing out water gave him.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Boston Trades, Part I: the Red Sox

Note: this past week was an exciting week to be a Boston sports fan, with both the Red Sox and the Celtics making trades and generating excitement all throughout the city. These 2 posts are some thoughts I have on those deals and the implications of them.

It's interesting that a team can lead their division by 8 games and everyone in Boston is wondering what deal they'll make to help their team. But, that's Red Sox Nation. The consensus is that they had 2 needs: a right handed reliever and a right handed power hitting outfielder. They were unable to pick up a right handed hitter, although they tried to get Jermaine Dye from Chicago. The Sox had the advantage of not needing to make a trade involving one of their big prospects (Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Jacoby Ellsbury), which is probably what Chicago was asking for. While getting another bat would have been nice, it isn't worth trading a major prospect for a .220 hitting rental.

They did, however, fill the need of a right handed reliever. It seems odd to say that they had a bullpen need, since they have what is widely regarded as the best bullpen in baseball. But there are potential problems with this bullpen: Hideki Okajima (the best setup man in baseball right now) has surpassed his highest number of innings pitched and it's the first week in August, Mike Timlin is hurt again, and Donnelly is out for the rest of the season. Papelbon is secure as the closer, though you have to be concerned with him wearing down.

What surprised me, though, is that the Sox went out and got a guy who has always been a closer. Eric Gagne was one of the best closers in baseball in Los Angeles, but he's been hurt the last couple years. His contract only runs through the end of this year, so we aren't stuck with a huge salary hit for years to come. Apparently he was willing to come and take a different role in order to have a good shot at winning a World Series, and you can't blame him. That gives us 3 guys in the bullpen who may finish with sub-2.00 ERAs. If the Sox have the lead going into the 7th, it'll be tough to come back on them.

Actually, this team now reminds me of the 2002 Angels, who won the World Series that year. Their starting pitching was good, but their bullpen was unhittable. Their offense was good enough to win, but nothing that blew you out of the water. The Sox should have a better offense than that, but they've been shaky, especially in clutch situations (which has been their area of expertise the last few years). I'm hopeful now that Manny is hitting well again that things will turn around, but they still need some more help (if only JD Drew would actually hit something...anything).

So this trade helps them solidify their place at the top of the AL East and keeps them among the top 2-3 teams in the AL. The other contenders (Tigers, Angels, Yankees, Twins) did nothing at the deadline to help their teams, which is odd. And while I'm sad to see Kason Gabbard go (I loved keeping score a couple weeks ago when he was pitching and looking at the scorecard to see so many ground ball outs, what a great performance), the trade was a good move. Now if our bats can hit enough to get us a lead by the 7th inning we should be all set.

Boston Trades, Part II: the Celtics

I'm sure you all recall last Saturday's post where I discussed the rabid obsession the city of Boston has with offseason sports talk. Normally, this involves the Red Sox and the Patriots, but this past week the Celtics finally made some waves. For the past few years, most of the city couldn't care less about the Celtics during the season, nevermind talking about them at the beginning of August. That all changed with two words: Kevin Garnett.

Here's a little background for those of you who aren't too familiar with the Boston Celtics. The Celtics have won 16 titles, the most of any NBA franchise. But there hasn't been a championship since 1986. Prior to that point the dominated the 50's-60's, won 2 titles in the 70's, and 3 more in the 80's. They had the greatest center of all time (Bill Russell), the point guard that changed the game (Bob Cousy), one of the most underrated superstars of all time (John Havlicek, who scored over 26,000 points without a 3-point line), one of the greatest clutch performers in sports history (Larry Bird) and the genius who ran the whole show (Red Auerbach). Secondary performers on this team would have been "the man" in many other places (Kevin McHale, Sam Jones). The Celtics were the best franchise in basketball, hands down, perhaps the most successful franshise in all of sports.

But in 1986 the Celtics drafted Len Bias from Maryland with the number 2 pick, then he promptly died a couple days later of a cocaine overdose. After that the stars starting getting injured, with McHale playing on a bad foot that troubles him to this day, and Bird sitting in traction all day for his back then showing up to play a game at night. They looked like they had a chance with Reggie Lewis in the early 90's, but he died suddenly with a heart condition. They've struggled in mediocrity ever since, becoming irrelevant on the Boston sports scene.

Danny Ainge returned a few years ago to help rebuild the franchise and make them a contender. He opted, understandably, to go young and give a few years to rebuild. He drafted Al Jefferson, who will be a superstar, and a few other youngsters to team up with Paul Pierce. This method didn't work too well and the Celtics have been mired in mediocrity and the apathy of their fanbase. The problem: the Red Sox and Patriots won titles and contended most years while the Celtics were irrelevant.

On May 22 the Celtics didn't get one of the top 2 picks in the draft and the general feeling was that they had lost out on their chance to become relevant again. But, give Ainge credit, the "go young" plan was thrown out the window and they traded for Ray Allen on draft day, a high scoring shooting guard from Seattle. I wrote on June 30 that the Celtics had to make another deal to get themselves into title contention. I also wrote "Thankfully, Jefferson is, as of right now, still a Celtic. If you're guaranteed a title by trading him, then maybe it would be okay; but that isn't likely to happen, so the best thing they could do is keep him."

I was right, the Celtics did have another deal to make, and it involved Jefferson. While they aren't necessarily guaranteed a title (which I suppose is impossible anyway), they are now front runners to do so. They got Kevin Garnett, one of the top 10 players in the game today, probably top 5. That gives them 2 of the top 15 (Pierce and Garnett), and 3 of the top 25 players in the game (with Ray Allen). They are the best team in the East on paper, and easily in the top 5 of the entire NBA (I'd say 4th behind San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas). They are relevant.

There are problems, or at least potential problems. Outside of the big 3, they have a young and not-quite-ready point guard (Rajon Rondo), a starting center who would be a solid backup (Kendrick Perkins) and not much else. Oh yeah, they still have a shaky coach in Doc Rivers (though Bill Simmons has pointed out that the lack of decent players may help solve Doc's inability to come up with a consistent rotation- by only having 7 NBA-quality guys he can't really mess it up). I think the big 3 is enough to win the East, I'm not sure they're enough to beat the top teams of the West, especially if one of them gets injured.

What I love about the big 3 is the "hunger factor." All 3 have had disappointing teams: Pierce has always had to carry an undertalented team, Allen has been stuck in places like Milwaukee and Seattle, and Garnett has been exiled with awful teams in Minnesota. These are 3 All-Stars who have never seriously contending for a title, and now that they are in their early 30's, they are dying for the opportunity to win it all. It bodes well that we now have 3 highly competitive veterans who are hungry to hoist the championship trophy.

I'm sad to see Jefferson go, and I hope he tears it up in Minnesota. But the bottom line is that if you have a chance to win a title soon, you make the necessary moves to do so. Give Ainge credit, he tried the youth movement and failed, so he ditched it and was able to pull off two deals to put themselves in a position to contend. Boston is now a place where veteran free agents want to play, which 2 months ago was unthinkable. And Boston is talking about the Celtics in the middle of the Red Sox leading the division and the Patriots starting training camp with an amazing roster. That was unthinkable not only 2 months ago, but for the past few years.