The Holman New King James Reader’s Reference Bible

I have bought quite a few Bibles in the past year, most of them used and quite old. I hope to post about them soon. The one new Bible I have purchased is the Holman New King James Reader’s Reference Bible, which provided a cheap and unique alternative that excited me. What attracted me to this edition is the type, the version (I am moving back towards really liking the New King James), the price, and the unique layout.

What this Bible does is explained in the Introduction:

This single-column Bible does something unique in that it shows quotes of the New Testament alongside the Old Testament text, showing the fulfillment of promises made. In the New Testament, quotes also appear showing “that the background and foundation of New Testament truth are Old Testament promises, prophecies, etc.”

You can see an example of this style of citation in this picture:

An example of the inline citations.

Johs Haahr has an excellent overview of the concept behind this Bible here. Haahr works for 2K/Denmark which is the firm behind the typesetting in most of the best new Bibles on the market today. This Bible uses the Karmina Serif font by TypeTogether and which I think is eminently readable. The headings and cited text appear in blue, which is something of a 2K standard now:

The paper shows some ghosting and I am not a fan of the tabs that this Bible uses, but in a Biblically illiterate age, making the Bible accessible is understandable. For a relatively low price, this is a nice pick-up and I recommend it highly.

Election shock

I am as shocked as everyone else is by Donald Trump’s victory last night. I was a political junkie when I was a kid, so by age 30 I was burned out and disillusioned with politics (it helps to start young). I was dismayed by Bob Dole, George W. Bush, Barrack Obama and many, many others in public life. Bad candidates, betrayals, unjust wars, and spineless leaders left me jaded by politics.

The two Obama elections were, I believed, the last nail in the coffin for any hope of rolling back abortion. The two Affordable Care Act decisions from the Supreme Court, coupled with the Obergefell decision meant that American elites had jettisoned thousands of years of jurisprudence in favor of the Sexual Revolution, and had handed the State unlimited power in relation to the citizens. When Justice Scalia died and Marco Rubio bowed out, leaving Donald Trump as the last man standing on the GOP side, I thought all hope was lost in my lifetime. Scalia was the leader of sane forces and his death was a devastating blow. Now President Obama would replace him and Hillary Clinton would be able to replace another 3–5 justices in her two terms as President.

The Gipper and the Judge

I was disgusted by Donald Trump, seeing him as a liberal masquerading as a conservative. His embrace of the Sexual Revolution was every bit as troubling as that of the Democrats. I signed up for a William F. Buckley conservative movement and ended up with Sean Hannity — what went wrong? Some of my fellow Christians made the case that this was not a conscience issue, but rather a pragmatic choice between Clinton and Trump, but this did not change my thinking. I ended up voting for Darrell Castle and expected a Clinton electoral landslide as last night arrived.

I thought I would have an early night and be in bed by 10:30, with Clinton having wrapped it up. Exit polls seemed to confirm my view. When polls closed in Florida, I expected a quick call for Hillary, and thought I could start thinking about other things…but then Florida was not called. Certain counties were tighter than expected. Suddenly, Trump was competitive in North Carolina and Virginia…Virginia? Things were muddy, Clinton was not getting the electoral votes she should have been getting, and a glimmer of doubt was creeping into the TV coverage.

The night dragged on and I realized that Trump had a real chance at this thing. Leftists on my Twitter feed were weeping and gnashing their teeth over the results…could it be possible? And as the night went on, my elation grew. I didn’t support this man, but seeing the wisdom of the entire Inner Ring annihilated in a single night was too delicious not to love. And so events unfolded and he won. In the mystery of our Republic, people were referring to him as “President-elect Trump” by the end of the night. Imagine that!

And now I wake up in a world where the crushing premiums of the ACA may vanish, the innocent unborn may have hope in a refashioned Supreme Court, the economy might have the shackles taken off of it, and we may not rush off to whatever war the neo-liberals want us to fight next. How can I not breathe the fresh air and feel a new sense of possibility?

And yet….in the sea of all the post Election navel-gazing, Peter Hitchens article stands out to me. He describes how he has pleaded with liberals to use reason in their mad rush to destroy Western Civilization and how he warned that if they did not listen, something worse might arrive. As he puts it:

I said (as I recorded here a few weeks ago) to such people that they should listen to me while they could. I was content if they would only listen to me and moderate their policies. I did not even seek to wrest power from them, if they would only moderate their dogmatic revolutionary drive. I believed (and still believe) that they had made a mistake even on their own terms, that they could not possibly want the consequences of what they were doing. In the end, this was the Weimar Republic and they were courting a grave risk that they would eventually drive people too far. The response was sometimes personal abused, sometimes total, frozen indifference, very, very occasionally a brief, fairly uncomprehending attempt to see my point which came to nothing.

And he movingly summarizes:

Someone has cut the ropes, and we are adrift on a strange, sinister, powerful current towards an unknown destination which it might be better never to reach at all. The liberal democracies have exhausted their form of government, which is increasingly using democracy to reject liberalism, but in an angry and impatient way. This, no doubt, is due to the policies pursued by our existing rulers for 50 years. But I do not think that will make the experience any more comfortable. Anger and contempt for your opponents are poor foundations for civilised government.

I too think we may not have arrived in a sunny, new spot but rather are out to sea and moving towards a darker destination. It is much too soon to know, and I hold out hope that we come to our senses on killing babies in the womb, but I am also trepidatious about how we got here.

The problem with America, circa 1920

Sinclair Lewis, writing in 1920’s Main Street:

…of course we all know there isn’t anything, nor cleverness or gifts of gold or anything, that can make up for humility and the inward grace and they can say what they want about the P.E. church, but of course there’s no church that has more history or has stayed by the true principles of Christianity better than the Baptist Church…

…As I was saying, of course I agree with Reverend Zitterel in thinking that the great trouble with this nation today is lack of spiritual faith — so few going to church, and people automobiling on Sunday and heaven knows what all. But still I do think that one trouble is this terrible waste of money, people feeling that they’ve got to have bath-tubs and telephones in their houses…”

Quackodoxy

James Jordan describes what he calls quackodoxy:

Quackodoxy exists between orthodoxy and heterodoxy (heresy). Quackodox ideas are ideas that are wrong but are held by people who are orthodox Christians. If a quackodox idea is pushed far enough and hard enough, it becomes a destructive heresy. Generally speaking, though, quackodox ideas simply trouble the church and make headaches for pastors.

Let me illustrate with several examples. One of the most prominent forms of quackodoxy today is the “home everything” movement. It is fine is you want to practice home birth, for instance, but it becomes quackodox when you try to say that home birth is the best, most Biblical way to have a baby, and then try to pressure other people into it. It is fine if you choose not to circumcise your son, but if you start calling circumcision “mutilation” you are getting pretty close to heresy (calling God a mutilator), and if you start pressuring people about it you are definitely quackodox. You choose to home school? Fine, but don’t say that the Bible teaches home schooling as the best way, because the Bible teaches no such thing. You choose not to use birth control and have twenty children? Fine, but don’t say that the Bible teaches against birth control, because in fact the Bible teaches that family planning is an aspect of Christian maturity (as are all forms of planning).

The Rushdoony-wing of Christian Reconstructionism has a number of quackodox ideas running around in it. One is their belief that the Sinaitic dietary laws are binding as laws of health for Christians. If you choose not to eat shrimp, that’s fine; but don’t try to say the Bible teaches it, because the Bible clearly teaches that Christians are not under these laws. Another quackodox idea that runs through California Reconstructionism is “Biblical geocentricity.” If you believe in a geocentric model of the cosmos, that’s fine; but don’t try to tell me that the Bible teaches it, because it clearly does not.

California Reconstructionists also virtually despise the institutional Church, and in this regard they are close to moving out of quackodoxy into full-blown heterodoxy.

Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo versus Rick Warren

Bishop Alexis

Something strange has been happening in Rwanda lately. An Anglican bishop has attacked Rick Warren publicly in an online article. Bishop Alexis Bilindabagabo had this to say of Warren:

Pastor Rick Warren has played a role in the creation of Peace Plan organization, but it is not his initiative, as the idea came from other people who co-founded the organization. In the first and second year, Rich Warren attended the annual conference of Peace Plan and contributed some money. But now, we thank God for not allowing Rick Warren to attend Peace Plan conferences and not allowing him to give his money. We praise God for the fact that Rick Warren has not been in Rwanda for a while, because when he comes, he hijacks actions that are not his and people are mislead and attribute him the Peace Plan conference.

The Peace Plan that Bishop Alexis is talking about is an initiative to ostensibly fight poverty and other social ills across Rwanda. You can read more about it here. Bishop Alexis has been around since before the genocide and is connected to Gen. Salim Saleh Akandwanaho, the brother of Ugandan dictator Museveni. General Salim helps raise funds for the new cathedral being built in Gahini. Bishop Alexis is now the chairperson of the Purpose Driven Ministries’ PEACE Plan. This article on the recent Rwanda Shima Imana celebration makes no mention of Rick Warren! He is being written out of the script.

Until recently, Rick Warren was a best friend of Paul Kagame. Warren has a long history of praising Rwanda and being praised by Rwandans. For example, in 2009 Rwanda’s Anglican Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini visited Saddleback, and Warren’s church presented dictator Paul Kagame with an award. A communication from the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) said:

“There is unity in the one holy catholic and apostolic church. Having Rick Warren there [as preacher] was a blessing.”

While in the LA area, the Archbishop was able to connect with old missionary friends he had been with in the Congo, but hadn’t seen for 12 years. In addition, he participated in and offered an opening blessing during the Saddleback Civil Forum on Reconciliation at Saddleback Church. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, was awarded the International Medal of Peace for his “dedication, sacrifice and leadership in reconciliation, the fight against poverty and disease and efforts towards economic development of Rwanda.”

As recently as the summer of 2015, Fr. Brandon Walsh, an American who works for Archbishop Rwaje met with Rick Warren. He wrote:

…the Archbishop and I traveled the country working on Walk With Rwanda. Our very first meeting was with Rick Warren at Saddleback- who has committed to help us with Walk With Rwanda by promoting it with his (millions strong!) social media presence and by putting one of his top strategists on our board of advisors. He was a humble and kind man who loves the archbishop- it was the best way to start our journey.

Rick Warren, Archbishop Rwaje and Brandon Walsh

What is going on? This article says that the website that published the article lambasting Warren is close to the Rwandan government, and we know that Rwanda is a locked-down dictatorship, so views that are not popular with the government are not published, period.

David Himbara served under Paul Kagame from 2006 to 2010 as the head of strategy and policy in the Office of the President and from 2000 to 2002 as the principal private secretary to the president. He says:

Bishop Birindangabo would not dare trash Warren without approval from the Rwandan dictator Kagame. It is more likely that instructions to embarrass Warren came from the top. That is how Rwanda works.

Himbara pointed out in this post that Warren never followed through or showed up for a much-hyped All Africa Purpose Driven Church Congress set for Kigali in 2015:

The August 2015 conference never happened. Further, Rick Warren was a no show in Rwanda on February 20, 2016 at the annual prayer he normally attends.

At one time, Warren was on Kagame’s “Presidential Advisory Council”, a group of Rwandans and Westerners who meet annually with Kagame. For example, you see his name on the list for the 2009 meeting. In recent years however, Warren seems to have dropped off, as this picture from 2015 attests:

No sign of Rick Warren here

We can only speculate as to what has caused this rupture between Paul Kagame and Rick Warren. Does it come down to money? Did Kagame’s grasp for a third term as President open Warren’s eyes? Did the website Saddleback Can We Talk? cause a stir? Is Kagame’s record as a murderer and oppressor catching up to him in the West? It is impossible to say at this time.

As an Anglican, watching the re-emergence of Bishop Alexis as the mouthpiece for government speaking points is quite interesting. He played a central role in the collapse of the Anglican Mission in America, but seemed to be sidelined a bit when it was succeeded by PEARUSA. With the end of that organization and the transition to Rwanda Ministry Partnerships, perhaps Anglicans in Rwanda are more “free” to support Kagame in public.

State surveillance in Rwanda

Scholar Andrea Purdeková has an article in the new issue of African Studies Review called “Mundane Sights” of Power: The History of Social Monitoring and Its Subversion in Rwanda. In it, she traces the history of the surveillance state in Rwanda from colonial times to now, highlighting the continuity at play in all phases of Rwandan history. She describes the levels of control that exist:

In the case of Rwanda, care and coercion have been tightly intertwined. State presence across epochs has been coercive and overbearing, and continually excused through projections of “benevolent leadership” (Desrosiers & Thomson 2011:437) and references to service provision and security. Both the developmental drive and securitization have nonetheless been augmented after the genocide, leading to increasing state presence and surveil- lance of daily life. This is so despite the abolition of the nyumbakumi in 2006 and the reduction of umuganda to a once-a-month obligation. The new lowest official administrative level today — the village, or umudugudu — is governed by an umukuru, who, with a committee of four, is responsible for fifty to two hundred houses. The next level up (the “cell”), consisting of about five hundred to one thousand houses, is overseen by the responsable, with a seven-member committee and five Local Defence Forces (LDF) personnel (Purdeková 68).

She describes how people keep tab on one another at all levels of society:

But state reach in Rwanda is more diffuse yet, and cannot be fully captured through the sum total of formal and informal institutions and responsibilities. The more generalized sense of “being monitored” is tied not only to the intricate structure of state presence but also to forms and perceptions related to information gathering. As an informant told Susan Thomson, “there are a lot of people watching you, checking on your actions and the people you are with.” Rwandans, she says, “all know of state surveillance. . . . Dense networks of spies are known to exist throughout Rwanda (and abroad) and the Department of Military Intelligence is rumored to pay for valid information’ (2013:123,124). The word spy, however, might not capture the diversity of informer types and the dynamics of often ad-hoc informants or people in a variety of functions asked to “keep tabs on” or to “figure out” people (in this sense “sorting” and categorizing political character, seeking answers to the key question of “What does the person think of the government, is it a friend or foe?”) (Purdeková 69).

She also points out the mandatory nature of participation in Rwandan indoctrination programs:

Participation in civic education camps is mandatory and all participants receive a certificate of attendance upon graduation, which serves as a way to check and identify compliance and hence potential dissent. Government- sponsored university students must produce the intore/ingando certificate to gain entry to university and university students must present their ingando certificate in order to graduate (Purdeková 78).

Mark Driscoll as the Pope

Beth Allison Barr has a fascinating look at the parallels between Mark Driscoll and the Avignon papacy in her post: Of Pastors and Power: Mark Driscoll and the Avignon Papacy. She writes:

My curiosity about his teachings was soon replaced by a fascinated horror. Driscoll’s obsession with pastoral power–the “first among equals,” as he wrote–reminds me of medieval arguments for papal primacy (which seems really ironic to me, given Driscoll’s rejection of his Catholic background). Driscoll, for example, emphasizes that “senior leadership” is needed to preserve unity, that the senior leader has the power to make decisions without compromising, and that pastoral authority stems from the authority of Peter, the “leader of the elders.” This isn’t exactly papal primacy; it is just scarily similar.

Read the whole thing. She concludes:

Mark Driscoll’s attitudes toward pastoral power suggest that he too has “strangely forgotten” his origin. Pastors, according to his teachings, should be authoritarian in their rule: not tolerating dissent, not giving into compromise, requiring obedience and respect from their congregants (which includes high salaries), and “guarding the gate” of church leadership to “ensure unity and success.”

These attitudes didn’t work out so well for the medieval papacy….I can only pray that modern evangelicals will choose to learn from history rather than repeating it.

I would add that Driscoll’s position is not unique to him, but rather is rampant within the megachurch world, Calvary Chapel and Sovereign Grace. I think we see hints of it in some Anglican bishops as well, as the Chuck Murphy explosion that cratered the AMiA shows.

Freedom of speech, just watch what you say

The following quote is so accurate that I had to blog it (source):

People in ancient societies thought their societies were obviously great. The imperial Chinese thought nothing could beat imperial China, the medieval Spaniards thought medieval Spain was a singularly impressive example of perfection, and Communist Soviets were pretty big on Soviet Communism. Meanwhile, we think 21st-century Western civilization, with its democracy, secularism, and ethnic tolerance is pretty neat. Since the first three examples now seem laughably wrong, we should be suspicious of the hypothesis that we finally live in the one era whose claim to have gotten political philosophy right is totally justified.

But it seems like we have an advantage they don’t. Speak out against the Chinese Empire and you lose your head. Speak out against the King of Spain and you face the Inquisition. Speak out against Comrade Stalin and you get sent to Siberia. The great thing about western liberal democracy is that it has a free marketplace of ideas. Everybody criticizes some aspect of our society. Noam Chomsky made a career of criticizing our society and became rich and famous and got a cushy professorship. So our advantage is that we admit our society’s imperfections, reward those who point them out, and so keep inching closer and closer to this ideal of perfect government.

Okay, back up. Suppose you went back to Stalinist Russia and you said “You know, people just don’t respect Comrade Stalin enough. There isn’t enough Stalinism in this country! I say we need two Stalins! No, fifty Stalins!”

Congratulations. You have found a way to criticize the government in Stalinist Russia and totally get away with it. Who knows, you might even get that cushy professorship.

If you “criticize” society by telling it to keep doing exactly what it’s doing only much much more so, society recognizes you as an ally and rewards you for being a “bold iconoclast” or “having brave and revolutionary new ideas” or whatever. It’s only when you tell them something they actually don’t want to hear that you get in trouble.

Western society has been moving gradually further to the left for the past several hundred years at least. It went from divine right of kings to constutitional monarchy to libertarian democracy to federal democracy to New Deal democracy through the civil rights movement to social democracy to ???. If you catch up to society as it’s pushing leftward and say “Hey guys, I think we should go leftward even faster! Two times faster! No, fifty times faster!”, society will call you a bold revolutionary iconoclast and give you a professorship.

If you start suggesting maybe it should switch directions and move the direction opposite the one the engine is pointed, then you might have a bad time.

Try it. Mention that you think we should undo something that’s been done over the past century or two. Maybe reverse women’s right to vote. Go back to sterilizing the disabled and feeble-minded. If you really need convincing, suggest re-implementing segregation, or how about slavery? See how far freedom of speech gets you.

In America, it will get you fired from your job and ostracized by nearly everyone. Depending on how loudly you do it, people may picket your house, or throw things at you, or commit violence against you which is then excused by the judiciary because obviously they were provoked. Despite the iconic image of the dissident sent to Siberia, this is how the Soviets dealt with most of theiriconoclasts too.

If you absolutely insist on imprisonment, you can always go to Europe, where there are more than enough “hate speech” laws on the book to satisfy your wishes. But a system of repression that doesn’t involve obvious state violence is little different in effect than one that does. It’s simply more efficient and harder to overthrow.

Reaction isn’t a conspiracy theory; it’s not suggesting there’s a secret campaign for organized repression. To steal an example from the other side of the aisle, it’s positing something more like patriarchy. Patriarchy doesn’t have an actual Patriarch coordinating men in their efforts to keep down women. It’s just that when lots of people share some really strong cultural norms, they manage to self-organize into a kind of immune system for rejecting new ideas. And Western society just happens to have a really strong progressivist immune system ready to gobble you up if you say anything insufficiently progressive.

And so the main difference between modern liberal democracy and older repressive societies is that older societies repressed things you liked, but modern liberal democracies only repress things you don’t like. Having only things you don’t like repressed looks from the inside a lot like there being no repression at all.

The good Catholic in medieval Spain doesn’t feel repressed, even when the Inquisition drags away her neighbor. She feels like decent people have total freedom to worship whichever saint they want, total freedom to go to whatever cathedral they choose, total freedom to debate who the next bishop should be — oh, and thank goodness someone’s around to deal with those crazy people who are trying to damn the rest of us to Hell. We medieval Spaniards are way too smart to fall for the balance fallacy!