Worldview

Exegesis

Piety

Theology

Love the Sin and Hate the Sinner

This is a great insight into a precious truth from Doug Wilson:

Christians are accustomed to distinguish the sin from the sinner. This distinction is good and right, but it is only possible to make this distinction because of what Jesus did on the cross. It is possible for a man to be forgiven, which is to say, it is possible for a distinction to be made between that man and his sins. The man can now be taken in one direction, and his sins in another. He may be established on dry land, and his sins are in the deepest part of the sea (Mic. 7:19).

In Doug’s article he gives a sad example of how our world is loving sin and hating sinners.

Bible Typography

ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set: A “New” Old Bible

This review originally appeared in the Christian Library Journal. It is used here by permission.

The ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set, published by Crossway (cloth over board with cardboard slipcase), is something old, something new, something different, and something blue green—if you get the beautiful cloth-over-board edition, which is what’s best for libraries. It’s old, because presenting text in a simple, beautiful, and typographically intelligible way is an old idea. It’s new, because hardly anyone has ever made a Bible so innovatively old. It’s different, because Bible design has been in a deep rut since longer than you can remember.

What is theESV Reader’s Bible? Look:

No chapter numbers, no verse numbers, no double columns—this is a Bible with type set like a regular non-fiction book. You can’t see it in the image above, but the Bible also has uncommonly large type for easy reading and thick paper so text doesn’t show through as much as it does with normal (and very thin) Bible paper.

The ESV Reader’s Bible has come in a single-volume edition, with that thin Bible paper, for several years. What’s brand new—and exciting for those who care about the confluence of form and meaning in Bible typography—is the beautiful six-volume set. All Christian libraries should acquire it, not because of the hype currently surrounding Bible typography (yes, in a portion of the Christian world there is genuine hype over this topic), but because there is something of genuine substance being recovered by “reader’s” Bible editions.

That something—as detailed by writers like Glenn Paauw (Saving the Bible from Ourselves: Learning to Read and Live the Bible Well), Christopher R. Smith (After Chapters and Verses), J. Mark Bertrand (The Bible Design Blog), Andy Naselli (professor), and me, Mark Ward (presenter of “Why Bible Typography Matters”)—sounds something like this: divvying up the Bible into chapters and (especially) verses is not always conducive to healthy Bible reading practices. In particular, Christian people can tend to read verses out of context when each verse is treated (typographically) as a separate paragraph. A reader’s Bible, which is available in many translations besides the ESV (the NIV, TNIV, KJV, and [modified] ASV all have reader’s editions now), uses all of the typographical conventions skillful modern readers rely on for other nonfiction books: single columns, paragraphs, poetic indents, and simple, beautiful typography. Gone are not only the verse divisions but the superscript numbers and letters and the cross references and the columns and the study notes—all the things that clutter up and sometimes positively obscure the Bible text on the page.

The ESV Reader’s Bible is not an attack on verse numbers. This reviewer works for a Bible software company (Faithlife, makers of Logos Bible Software), and without those numbers our work would fall apart. Commentaries, confessions, reference works, sermons, and countless other Christian resources rely on the verse reference system. It is helpful for many, many things—but not, ironically, for reading. Now that we all have Bible apps which can find any verse, why do we need verse divisions in our printed Bibles? Truth be known, most Western Christians already have multiple Bibles in their homes. We have not needed all of them to be feature-studded study editions (rather than reader’s editions) for a long time.

The six-volume ESV Reader’s Bible comes with a slipcase, cloth-over-board bindings, thicker and creamier paper, and an attention to design detail that clearly borrows from the design of the past and the present. It even arrives in a beautifully designed box. Some have suggested that it and other reader’s Bibles (particularly Bibliotheca, a massively successful Kickstarter campaign that the ESV Reader’s Bible beat to the public by a few months) are hipster ephemera like other bespoke throwbacks—making one’s own pickles, vinyl record stores, handlebar mustaches, etc. But the aesthetics of the unboxing can be viewed from another perspective: the value of place. There is a story to reader’s Bibles, an infused delight in the craft of printing and design, a return to typographical roots.

I am convinced, and have been for over a decade, that reader’s Bibles are not a gimmick. I therefore hope and pray that it will not be a mere fad. Christian librarians, whose lives are spent in the pages of books, would do well to read up on reader’s Bibles, capitalize (yes) on the hipsteria over them, and help Christians see the value of reading the Bible as story, prophecy, poetry, and epistle rather than as reference volume. Whether the ESV Reader’s Bible gets read as an artificial marketing gimmick or an authentically valuable way to encounter the Bible is up to readers and those who serve and educate them.

Mark L. Ward, Jr., CLJ

Books

Theology

Review: Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President

Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer PresidentAbraham Lincoln: Redeemer President by Allen C. Guelzo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nothing less than a tour-de-force. I’m tempted to say that only a religious person—particularly a Christian—could understand this almost certainly unbelieving politician and thinker. Guelzo finds a theme in Lincoln’s theology that he, successfully in my opinion, traces throughout his life, namely a predestinarianism shorn of belief in God’s personal goodness to Lincoln himself. This fatalistic theology guided Lincoln into making the most difficult decisions of the war. This is the key insight from the book, in my judgment:

Lincoln’s own peculiar providentialism, his Calvinized deism, in fact played a controlling role in the outcome of the Civil War. In the most general sense, his appeal to the mysteries of providence in the fall of 1862 gave him permission to ignore the manifest signs on all hands that the Union was playing the war to no better than a draw, and that any resort to emancipation was folly. But in the most specific instance, providence was what allowed him to overrule the moral limitations of liberalism. To do liberalism’s greatest deed—the emancipation of the slaves—Lincoln had to step outside liberalism and surrender himself to the direction of an overruling divine providence whose conclusions he had by no means prejudged. (447)

What does Guelzo mean? He explains a little more early on in the book:

[Lincoln] would come at the end … to see that liberalism could never achieve its highest goal of liberation and mobility without appealing to a set of ethical, even theological, principles that seemed wholly beyond the expectations and allowances of liberalism itself. While he would hold organized religion at arm’s length, he would come to see liberalism’s preoccupation with rights needing to be confined within some public framework of virtue, a framework he would find in a mystical rehabilitation of his ancestral Calvinism and an understanding of the operations of divine providence. (20-21)

Liberalism, as Stanley Fish never tires of observing (and I never tire of observing him observe), has no transcendent norms to appeal to. (And here I’m not taking a potshot at Democrats; Guelzo and Fish and I mean here “classical liberalism,” the kind which encompasses nearly all significant American politicians on any side of any aisle.) Liberalism is supposed to maintain procedural neutrality among competing visions of the good. But what that means in the end is that might often makes right. And in 1861, as Lincoln took the helm of a divided nation, mighty interests on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line preferred that the slaves not be freed. Lincoln himself saw clearly that praise and blame could not be apportioned neatly to North and South, respectively. It took an appeal to the Declaration of Independence’s Creator—who created all men equal—to free the slaves. Serious voices in 1860 argued that the Declaration was not law, but thankfully it remained a moral polestar.

I have never dug this deep into Lincoln before, encountering him mainly through his most famous speeches, the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural, both of which Guelzo analyzes with great insight—and in both of which he easily finds Lincoln’s predestinarian deism. One thing that really impressed me was how accidental Lincoln’s role as sage and Great Emancipator really was. I mean that as no slight against him; when the time came, he worked with great skill and dedication. But the time was long in coming. He wasn’t born with a desire to free the slaves. The conviction came on him slowly, and even very close to the last he was considering various political deals which fell short of full, lasting emancipation. If the war hadn’t been so fierce, the slaves may have remained in bondage. But Southern victories forced Lincoln’s hand. It was fascinating to watch what I, too, see as the hand behind that hand in freeing America’s oppressed legions.

I was also surprised to be taught a fact that I should have known: it was not at all obvious to anyone at the close of the Civil War what the future of the nation would be. We view Lincoln’s acts through a prism of national success and even national unity under multiple trials, especially two world wars. But the prospect that legal challenges to emancipation would negate all the blood spilled in the Civil War was all to real as Lincoln lay in a deathbed “fate” chose for him. It speaks to his wisdom that I moved from South Carolina to Washington last year with no trouble.

It was also fascinating to me to hear Guelzo’s expert summations of previous Lincoln biographies, going back to the very first. Americans have long molded their view of Lincoln to their liking. No doubt Guelzo has done this in some way, too. But it does appear to take the passing of many decades before party loyalties and political issues fade enough to give historians a fair crack at someone like Lincoln. I’m late to the praise and should have read this years ago, but Guelzo has written a triumph.

Piety

Preaching

Born to Die: A Video Reflection on the Incarnation

I had the chance to do a little video meditation on Hebrews 2:10–18, paying special regard to its connections with the Christmas season. It’s part of a much longer series of videos featuring many other evangelical teachers—one for each week of the year. And my video is now up for free on Faithlife TV.

I’ve got two others in the series, one on Eph 5:8–14 and one on Psalm 40:1–11. You can buy the whole thing here.