Patriot's Bible editor Richard Lee responds to Greg Boyd
by Richard G. Lee
Editor's Note: When we received Greg Boyd's review of The American Patriot's Bible, we sent it to the folks at Thomas Nelson Publishers and asked them if they wanted to respond. The Bible's editor, Richard G. Lee sent us this reply.
Over the past several years it has been my privilege to work together with a wonderful group of scholars and editors developing The American Patriot's Bible. As the general editor of this title, I felt it was important to present a clear and accurate understanding of why The American Patriot's Bible came together as it did, and how it is to be used to enlighten the readers of the undeniable role that the Word of God has played in the formation and continuation of our great nation.
The American Patriot's Bible's clear purpose is to present the "strong cord" of the Bible's influence that runs through the fabric of our nation's past and present. Our great nation has not used the Bible to form some system of "nationalism" and "superior isolationism," but rather our founding fathers learned from its teachings the principles, values, and ethics of law, government and proper social order.
Does this mean that America has any more right to the Bible and its promises than any other nation? Not at all. When the Scripture teaches us, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord," (Psalm 33:12) that means any nation of people who will follow after Him would be blessed by Him. That truth is the reasoning behind sending American Christian missionaries around the world with the Gospel, so that other nations may know the God who has so richly blessed us.
This video was produced by Thomas Nelson, publisher of The American Patriot's Bible. Be sure to read Greg Boyd's scathing review of the Patriot's Bible, and stay tuned for a response from the editor.
A few excerpts from the video:
"For the first time ever, the history of Americaâ€™s Christian heritage and the Holy Bible are woven together in a single volume."
"Its pages contain an accurate archive of Americaâ€™s strong ties to the Holy Bible and the God of the Bible. It highlights people and events which demonstrate the godly qualities that make America what it is today.... It is the one Bible that shows how a light from above shaped our nation."
"If you love America and the Scriptures, you will treasure The American Patriotâ€™s Bible."
It's perhaps not coincidental that the Patriot's Bible offers no commentary on any passages related to our instruction to love and do good to our enemies.
But the Revolutionary War is not by any means the only nationalistic violence celebrated in the Patriot's Bible. To the contrary, the glory of nationalistic violence permeates this Bible. For example, every book of the Bible opens with a montage of national monuments, symbols, stars and stripes, etcâ€¦ which include, with few exceptions, images of armed soldiers, bombers and battleships. Most stunningly, each Gospel opens with a scene that includes soldiers struggling to raise a flag under the words "In God We Trust." All the subsequent books of the New Testament open with a montage that includes a flag waving behind the Statue of Liberty on one side and armed marching troops on the other. It's quite breathtaking - and I don't mean this in a good way.
Similarly, a very high percentage of the commentaries sprinkled throughout this Bible exalt American wars and their heroes. To give but one example, a comment in 2 Samuel about how "the mighty have fallen in the midst of battle" (2 Sam. 1:25) elicits a half page commentary entitled "Duty-Honor-Country." In it the commentators review a famous speech given by General Douglas MacArthur in which he claims that "[t]he solider, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training â€“ sacrifice." In facing danger, MacArthur adds, the soldier "discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when He created man in His own image."
The soldier on the field, prepared to die and kill for his country, apparently exemplifies the greatest act of religion and the best expression of what it is to be made in the image of God!
Greg Boyd says the American Patriot's Bible is nothing less than "idolatrous."
by Dr. Gregory A. Boyd
Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, The American Patriot's Bible (henceforth Patriot's Bible) consists of hundreds of commentaries on various patriotic themes, ranging in length from one sentence to four pages, inserted at various points throughout the New King James Version of the Bible. Every special interest Bible imposes a certain agenda that to some degree colors the Word, but the Patriot's Bible takes this "coloring" to a whole new level. There's not a single commentary in this Bible that even attempts to shed light on what the biblical text actually means. To the contrary, the text of the Bible is used merely as an excuse to further the patriotic agenda of the commentators.
There are a multitude of problematic aspects to the Patriot's Bible, including the remarkable way it excludes from consideration almost every aspect of American history that could blemish the image of America or its heroes. For example, on the basis of Zechariah's prophecy that the Messiah would "speak peace to the nations" (Zech. 9:10) we are given a full page eulogy of Christopher Columbus that celebrates how God had destined this "devout Catholic" to bring the good news of salvation to an unreached people group. Absent from the commentary is any discussion of how he and his fellow pioneers deceived, maimed, raped and murdered a large number of these unreached people.
Yet, the selective retelling of American history found in the Patriot's Bible is not what concerns me the most. What disturbs me more is the way the commentators attempt to give their idealized version of American history divine authority by weaving it into the biblical narrative.
The central assumption that undergirds the Patriot's Bible is that America is, in a unique sense, a nation established, governed, blessed and protected by God. Throughout the Patriot's Bible, but especially in the Old Testament, an explicit parallel is drawn between Israel and America.
My post from yesterday elicited a couple of comments asking for further information about the Moody Pastors' Conference going on this week. It wasn't my intention to be unhelpful, but I was. So, thanks, Jarrod and PastorM. You asked good questions. Here are my answers.
I saw no Twittering--in the sessions I was in, there were not even any laptops. A pretty low-tech crowd.
As for diversity, I was actually impressed by the racial makeup. Based on my unscientific observation, I would say the Moody conference was more ethnically diverse that Catalyst and NPC. Significant numbers of Hispanic and black participants. I can't say anything about the international makeup--I met a Canadian. Other than that, I don't know.
The majority of the breakout sessions were issues and/or methods focused--how to grow your church, increase giving, responding to homosexuality, etc.
As for the "hidden curriculum," I'd say the difference in Catalyst and Moody could be described like this: At Catalyst, all the talk was about contextualization and mission. At Moody, it was about doctrine and faithfulness. That observation is based on John Piper's presentation on Tuesday night and the audience's response to him.
As for women, no--there was very little female participation. In fact,
Skye and I are at reFOCUS, Moody Bible Institute's pastors' conference, this week. Skye is leading a breakout session, and I'm making the rounds to see what's what.
This is my first time at a Moody event. The last conference I attended was Catalyst (last month), and this is quite a different experience. We haven't made it to a general session, so I can't say much about the difference in content. But this conference is clearly aimed at a different demographic. At Catalyst, I saw more skinny jeans than I'd ever seen in one place before. Here--I've seen no man purses or boy bangs. The standard dress is polos and khakis. And, as the wardrobe might suggest, the crowd skews older.
The breakout sessions offer a little something for everyone. While Skye was talking about his book to one group of pastors, I slipped into to a presentation by Douglas Beaumont. He was talking about his book The Message Behind the Movie, in which he calls Christians to take their brains with them to the movies.
We're looking forward to sessions by Andy Crouch, among others, the afternoon and to John Piper in the general session tonight.
A new survey shows most churchgoers support torture. What should pastors say?
by Skye Jethani
A political dissident is arrested for leading a movement that threatens the stability of a region. He is ambushed and apprehended by his enemies, detained without a public trail, and tortured by soldiers at the command of their political leaders. No, I'm not describing Kalid Sheikh Mohammad or any other detainee held at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I'm speaking of Jesus of Nazareth.
The fact that Christians draw their faith, life, and identity from a Messiah who was the victim of political torture seems ironic in light of new research by the Pew Forum that indicates 62 percent of white evangelicals believe torture of suspected terrorists is "often" or "sometimes" justified. The research shows that people who attend church regularly were more likely to rationalize torture than those who do not go to church.
How do we explain these findings? Are Christians being more influenced by Jack Bauer than Jesus Christ?
Lurking behind this passive support of government torture is a utilitarian ethic that believes the ends justify the means - torture is justifiable if the information attained will save innocent lives. But David Neff, editor of Christianity Today, points out a problem with this argument:
The conversation based on Eric Reed's report, "Trouble Brewing," in the latest issue of Leadership has been...stimulating. What should church leaders be modeling for their flocks? Everyone agrees that sobriety is essential, but is enjoying an alcoholic beverage ever okay? Or should we prohibit ourselves and other leaders from drinking out of sensitivity to "the weaker brothers" among us?
We wrap up with two insights. First, a video depicting the era of Prohibition that shows how the church spoke about the issue in decades past.
And finally, a comment posted by "J. Joyce" from our previous post on the subject. Joyce has an interesting perspective on abstinence as it relates to other "sins":
Unlike his previous volumes (Pagan Christianity and Reimagining Church), Frank Viola's new book From Eternity to Here is not about church practices and forms. Instead, it tells the story of God's eternal purposes in redemption from Genesis to Revelation. "I wrote the book," Viola explains, "to bring back into view the greatness, the supremacy, the centrality, and the incomparable glory of the Lord Jesus Christ in the face of God's immense purpose." Leadership assistant editor Brandon O'Brien asked Viola a few questions about what his book means for local churches.
Do you think that someone could agree with you completely about what the church is and could be but disagree about the form a local church should take (i.e. traditional, denominational church vs. house or organic church)?
Absolutely. In fact, Christians from a wide variety of church forms and expressions have been encouraged by the book: Ed Stetzer (Baptist), Alan Hirsh and Dan Kimball (Missional), Shane Claiborne (New Monastic), Myles Munroe and James Goll (Charismatic), Brian McLaren (Emergent), Greg Boyd (traditional evangelical church form), Leonard Sweet (Methodist, and who knows what else!), Michael Spencer (New Covenant-Reformation), Ralph Neighbor (Cell Church) are just some of them. In addition, I've received a fair share of enthusiastic mail from Anglicans on the one hand and Reformed folks on the other, both of whom have resonated strongly with the message of the book.
All told, From Eternity to Here is a book written for all of God's people irrespective of which church forms and structures they might embrace.
Do you believe in ordination? Or, more accurately stated, do you believe in denominational structures that regulate who is ordained for ministry based on prerequisites, credentials, and education?
Tony Jones, author and a leading voice of the emergent church, has started a ruckus on his blog about the legitimacy of denominational ordination after watching his friend, Adam Walker-Cleaveland, endure a slow and difficult ordination process. According to Jones, Adam has "suffered abuse" through the ordination process of his denomination. Jones wrote:
Few things piss me off as much as the sinful bureaucratic systems of denominational Christianity. When rules and regulations trump common sense, then the shark has officially been jumped.
But what gets to me even more is that bright, competent, and pastorally experienced persons like Adam continue to submit themselves to these sinful systems. They assure me that it's not for the health insurance or the pension. They do it cuz they feel "called." And if I hear another person tell me that they're sticking with their abusive denomination because, "They're my tribe," I'm gonna go postal.
Jones' frustration led him to launch an online petition calling Adam to circumvent his denomination and accept ordination by "the body of Christ."
Will the economic downtown bring people to church?
by Collin Hansen
The CNN headline echoed hopeful reflection I've been hearing in churches: "Shaky economy forces Americans to rediscover community." Optimistic Christians suppose the community they will rediscover is a local church that demonstrates how putting your faith in markets or government is a fool's errand compared to the incomparable power that comes from knowing Jesus Christ the Lord.
But the article by John Blake qualified the stark headline. And by qualified, I mean the article proved the headline wrong. It turns out the economic collapse has forced Americans to watch more movies. Blake reported that Netflix profits have increased 45 percent since the beginning of 2009. Gross movie ticket sales have jumped nearly 20 percent.
The headline writer might have avoided this mistake by reading Robert Putnam's comments to Blake. Of course, Blake called the famous Harvard sociologist and author of Bowling Alone by his middle name, David, so you can understand the confusion. Putnam explained that economic crises do not ensure that people will come together.
"Almost everybody believes that during the [Great] Depression that everyone got cuddled up next to each other and said, 'We're all in this together,'" Putnam told CNN. "I'm not denying that some of that occurred, but what's more typical is that people hunker down and pull in."
If the Great Depression didn't promote community, at least World War II did. And during the decades of prosperity that followed, civic pride flourished. So did local churches.
"They had just been exposed to five years of war bond drives, scrap metal drives, and Boy Scouts asking people to give up rubber mats in their car for the war," Putnam explained. "They lived with a sustained notion of we're all in this together."
But while the American economy boomed, European nations were crippled by the second global conflict that century. So were their churches. The wars shook Europeans' confidence in public institutions. Organized religion did not escape their ire. And the churches have never fully regained that trust.
Why a small church mindset is crucial for ministry innovation.
An interview with Bobby Gruenewald from LifeChurch.tv
The following interview was excerpted from the latest issue of Catalyst Leadership--our new free digital magazine created in partnership with the Catalyst Conference. For instructions on reading the full text, see the note at the end.
Any church with a virtual campus in Second Life and an iPhone app used by thousands of people deserves the title "Innovative." The brain behind many of LifeChurch.tv's creative ventures is Bobby Gruenewald.
Bobby Gruenewald's journey into ministry was anything but typical. Like thousands of others, he started attending LifeChurch.tv ten years ago as the church experienced rapid growth. After a stint as a volunteer keyboardist, Gruenewald joined the staff in 2001 as the "computer guy" overseeing IT.
But Gruenewald's earlier career in start-up businesses and venture capital equipped him to help LifeChurch.tv as it moved toward a multiple site strategy. By 2003 the "computer guy" had become the "new campus development guy." Today, Gruenewald combines his entrepreneurial instincts and talent with technology as LifeChurch.tv's "Innovation Leader" - yes, that's his real title.
The editors of Leadership spoke with Gruenewald about the nature of adaptation in ministry, the risks of constant change, and why innovation has less to do with the resources available to a church and more to do with the mindset of leaders.
What is the danger of focusing on technology and innovation in ministry?
One of the biggest dangers for our team is focusing too much on what we do and overlooking why we do it. God was doing amazing things at our church long before we were using a lot of technology. We had 3000 people attending before we had a lick of video. That reminds us that technology isn't what fuels our ministry; it's simply a tool.
You can apply that same lesson to innovation. It's not about innovation for innovation's sake. We innovate because we're really passionate about seeing people connect with God. It becomes dangerous when you trust in how you're pursuing the mission rather than trusting in God.
How do you fight against that danger?
We make sure that every team member understands that technology is not the center of our ministry. We don't believe in change for the sake of change. Our goal is to reach people for Christ, and we're going to do everything short of sin to accomplish that.
I spent a semester abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, during college and attended a great church there. On my first visit to the head deacon's house for dinner, he asked me what I'd like to drink. I asked him what my options were. "Well," he said, "we have beer, lager, ale, stout, scotch, sherry, wine - whatever you like."
"I'll have water, please."
It became more obvious the longer I was in Edinburgh that abstinence from alcohol was not a Christian distinctive. Christians decried drunkenness. But the pubs were where they had spiritual conversation and met for small group.
I chalked up the differences between my teetotalling background and Scottish license to cultural differences. A lot changes when you cross the Big Pond. But now a growing number of American pastors are passing the bottle in the name of Christian liberty. As Eric Reed reports, the changes may be leading to a new battle over prohibition.
The excerpt below is from Eric's article, "Trouble Brewing." Follow the link below for the full text.
Are we really in love with Jesus, or with the experience of loving Jesus?
by Scot McKnight
A peculiar development occurred in the medieval age regarding love. Behind closed doors and in the rush of brief encounters, there developed what has been called "courtly love" or "romantic love." Married men found themselves emotionally carried away with either another married woman or a single woman. This courtly love, so we are told, remained at the emotional and non-physical level.
The interpretation of many is that the Lover, because of the emotion it generated, preferred the nearly intolerable absence of the Beloved over the presence of the Beloved. The Lover preferred the titillation of fantasy over the toughness of fidelity. The essence of courtly love was to become intoxicated with love, to fall in love with love. It was to prefer the fire of love over the Beloved and delight in the experience of love over the presence of the Beloved. Think Tristan and Isolde. Perhaps even Romeo and Juliet.
Friends of mine today worry about consumerization or commoditization in the church. I offer a slightly different analysis of what might be the same thing: for many, Sunday services have become the experience of courtly love. Some folks love church, and what they mean by "loving church" is that they love the experience they get when they go to church. They prefer to attend churches that foster the titillation of courtly-love worship and courtly-love fellowship and courtly-love feelings.
They say they love worship, and by this they mean they love the courtly-love-like songs that extol the experience of loving Jesus or the experience of adoring God or the experience of a concert-like praise team that can generate the sound of worship intensely enough to vibrate the very soul of the worshiper.