The ESV Study Bible and Seminarians

The new ESV Study Bible, out in October, looks very cool. I just love the creativity (including design sense!) and energy Crossway is showing in their production and promotion of the ESV.

And there’s substance, too. (Sometimes I forget about that briefly in my delight over good design…) The contributors are solid commentators and exegetes; this is one to buy for your family.

But here’s my question: What place should a study Bible have in the life of a seminarian himself, not just that of his family? Obviously, I am not too good to read other people’s interpretations! But I do think it unwise for seminarians who should be doing their own exegesis to make a steady diet of others’ interpretations—at least without being provided with the underlying exegetical reasoning. So I wonder openly: Will the ESV Study Bible (like the NET Bible, which I do really appreciate, especially after it shipped with BibleWorks) have any space to tell me how it came to its conclusions?

If not, that’s totally fine! Not every study Bible (in fact, few to none) should be written for pastors or seminary professors.

A solid study Bible may give me a quick reminder of the most God-honoring and scripturally faithful way to view a given text. Great! I need that.

And a solid study Bible may provide me a helpful chart or map or picture or cross reference or shekel equivalent. Great!

I do plan to get one, and you probably should, too.

Five-Point Macism

Sometimes a good blogger must cannibalize his e-mails for content.

Sometimes mediocre bloggers must do the same.

Five-Point Macism

I was recently asked:

“I’ve never taken the plunge into Mac World because of all the investment I’ve made into PC software. So I can still use that stuff using Parallels? Is it worth the extra money? Convince me! :)”

I answered:

Why Macs are Better

  • QuickLook! This is just a very, very cool idea. Preview all kinds of common files (and get freeware plugins for more) without opening the program. And it’s lightning fast.
  • Spotlight. Mac superiority goes into little things like being able to run calculator functions in Spotlight, the integrated search program.
  • iLife integration: iCal with Address with Mail. If someone sends you an address or an appointment in Mail, Address Book or iCal picks it up and you can easily click it into either program.
  • Built-in camera and mic. I have made quick “scans” of all kinds of things that didn’t need to be high res.
  • Similar menus for all Apple programs: I really like the consistent keyboard shortcuts in the various design programs. E.g., I hit Shift+Cmd+M to crop a picture in Pages and Keynote.
  • Stronger core architecture; far fewer restarts: I have to admit it: Right after I promoted five-point Macism in an e-mail list, I started having a little trouble with my MacBook. It doesn’t want to stay asleep for some reason. But I’ve been using it like 10 hours a day for a year and a half. I think a reinstall of Leopard (which should be easy with Time Machine backups at hand) will do the trick. I can say, however, that force quits of individual applications (mainly of Firefox) are fast and painless. I’m back up and running in a minute.
  • Installing programs is so much easier: It really is amazing: drag and drop! And I have a freeware program that makes deleting programs even easier than Mac makes it.
  • Apps installed in one spot = easier upgrades: Apps stay in the Applications folder, so you don’t have files scattered as much over your system.
  • Hot corners, Dashboard, Exposé, Spaces: This is just awesome. I use it a million times a day. I run my cursor to any corner of the screen to do various tasks I prescribe. I love Expose. If you don’t know what it is I think you’ll have to look at the Apple site. Basically it’s just a real handy application and window switcher. And with Spaces I can easily separate Mac OSX (Space 1) and Windows (Space 2). I hit Ctrl+1 to get to the first and Ctrl+2 to get to the second.
  • Keyboard shortcuts easily manageable: I’m a maniac about these, and I have used a very cool freeware program called Spark to automate a lot of my common typing tasks, from entering my username and password in Novell Border Manager to removing the extraneous text from a New York Times article I’ve saved.
  • Quicksilver: Awesome, awesome! You just have to see it—at I think. I use it a million times a day. It’s an application and file launcher—and oh, so much more!
  • Good looks inside and out. Eye candy! I admit it. This matters to me a lot. I hate clunkiness. I was a graphic design major and I still do a lot of design on the side. I feel more creative in a good-looking GUI, like I’m working with a tool that understands me.
  • Drag and drop on springloaded folders: Very handy. I can drag a file from a folder up to the top left corner of the screen to clear the desktop, then I can drag it onto a folder there—which pops open—then onto another folder—which pops open—then where I want it.
  • Switch keyboard layouts quickly. With one keystroke I go from English character set to Unicode Greek. It’s fully customizable, of course.
  • iWeb and iPhoto make you look good with no work. I’m a cheap designer to use it, but iWeb has saved me time. And I prefer finder to iPhoto, but if I ever make a slideshow, iPhoto is my thing.
  • Easily put any folder in a Finder (equivalent to Windows Explorer) sidebar.
  • OS comes with screenshot shortcuts. Unbelievably useful for a designer. You have lots of control, too, over what size and shape you want the screenshot to be. Leopard improved this already very useful tool.
  • Stacks: cool eye candy.
  • Well-engineered keyboard.
  • Terminal gives you great power over your computer.
  • Automator lets you, well, automate tasks.
  • Built-in Oxford American Dictionary/Thesaurus, with German, Latin, and other plug-ins available for free.

Mac superiority, I admit, is not focused in a lot of big things (though there are a few, like QuickLook), but in a whole lot of little ones, in attention to detail.

If you do buy a Mac, make sure to check out And I would recommend purchasing a wireless Mighty Mouse. They’re not cheap, but 360º scrolling is just very handy.


And this very day I was asked by someone else what to buy now that he has a MacBook with Tiger.

I answered: RAM, Parallels, Leopard, and a blogging client.

I added the attached annotated image to show what free apps to get.



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American Idol Sings Shout to the Lord

One of the most powerful choral experiences I have ever had was when the choir from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland stopped by BJU and gave an impromptu concert in the student center. I stood right in front of them and heard them sing powerfully and skillfully in a beautiful, challenging arrangement: “Kyrie, eleison! Kyrie, eleison!” I started to cry because so many people my age, headed to hell were crying out, “Lord, have mercy!” without any idea what they were saying. I did try to speak with some afterwards; they stayed only a short time.

Segue: American Idol

I have paid utterly no attention to American Idol except last year when a former fellow student made it to the top 10.

But it hit the blogosphere yesterday that the contestants sang Darlene Zschech’s “Shout to the Lord” on the show. I watched a clip, and it brought the same tears to my eyes that the Polish choir did. The contestants were singing, “My Jesus, my Savior” (actually, they changed “Jesus” to “Shepherd” and then changed it back again for a second rendition). They sang, “Let every breath, all that I am / Never cease to worship You.” They sang, “Forever I’ll love you.” They sang, “All of my days, I want to praise / The wonders of Your mighty love.”

I did a little research in the contestants’ bios, and only one of the eight singing the song laid any claim to Christ—and that contestant’s interests (as might be expected!) were, sadly, very worldly by the best definition of worldly which I know.

Is it cynical for me to wonder whether it is right for Christians to view this positively? Should praise of the God of the universe become a pop standard? I suppose you could say that if Christians don’t praise the Lord enough, He will cause even the rock stars to cry out… But “they honor Me with their lips while their hearts are far from Me!”

Imprecatory Psalms

At my previous, abortive attempt at a blog, I posted some material I’d produced for the BJU Press Bible Reading Program (buy it here and here when the third editions come out) on imprecatory Psalms. I invite your comments on this material, which was written for tenth graders. I want to represent God’s Word accurately, neither extracting its teeth nor filing those teeth to a sharper point than they already have.

Imprecatory Psalms

As you read Psalms, you will come across many statements that may shock you because of their violence. “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? . . . I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies” (139:21–22). “Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them. . . . Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous” (69:24, 27–28). “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked” (58:10). The most shocking may be what the exiles say to their cruel captors in Babylon: “Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones” (137:9).

The psalms in which similar violent ideas predominate (7, 35, 52, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 83, 94, 109, 129, 137, and 140) are called imprecatory psalms because to imprecate means “to call down a curse on someone or to passionately call on God to punish others.” Can these curses be part of the same Bible where Jesus tells us, “Love your enemies”? Consider carefully the following points because they will help you understand this seeming contradiction.

  1. The psalmists aren’t saying that they’ll go out and wreak vengeance themselves; they’re asking the correct authority (God) to act. This is proved by David’s actions during his two easy opportunities to kill Saul. He refused to kill the Lord’s anointed king even though he himself was the next divinely anointed king! He left vengeance on Saul in God’s hands. This is a very important point because it reveals that David, who wrote of most of the imprecations in the psalms, didn’t have a vindictive or vengeful character. On the contrary, he took chivalry and gallantry to an almost unheard of extreme!
  2. David was the king of a theocratic nation, a country that God was the ultimate ruler of. So in that day God’s people had real physical enemies. Today’s Christians don’t make up a country, so their enemies aren’t other countries but, generally, spiritual forces. When David prayed for violence against his enemies, he was sometimes just praying that the forces on God’s side would win whatever battle they were facing.
  3. Even though you more than likely have no physical enemies, many believers today do. From China to Saudi Arabia and from Belarus to Turkey, Christians have real enemies who actually threaten their lives. They need to love these enemies and turn the other cheek, but at the same time they can pray as the psalmists did for God’s name to be vindicated even if that means destruction from God on those enemies.
  4. The violence that made the psalmists so angry was committed against them despite their being friendly to their enemies. “They rewarded me evil for good. . . . When they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth” (Ps. 35:12–13). “For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer. And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love” (109:4–5). Receiving evil for good may be the background for some or all of the imprecatory psalms. Psalm 52 is David’s prayer against a man who murdered eighty-five priests—just because they were kind to David.
  5. God already promised Abraham, “I will . . . curse him that curseth thee” (Gen. 12:3), and He said through Moses, “I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.” (Deut. 32:41). God made these promises to Abraham, so Abraham’s descendants may righteously ask Him to fulfill these commitments.
  6. Scripture never suggests that the imprecations of the psalms are merely false words of men, like those of Job’s friends. Even sinless believers in heaven call on God to avenge their deaths (Rev. 6:9–11).
  7. Some imprecations may be hyperbole, a word you might have learned in English class. This means they are purposeful exaggerations for literary effect—something very different from lies! For example, did Jeremiah really mean it when he cursed the man who reported his birth for not killing his still pregnant mother (Jer. 20:15–17)? No, but his exaggeration makes a point: He deeply and passionately wished he was dead.
  8. It’s not impossible to hate someone and love him at the same time. God hates, despises, and abhors His enemies: “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing [lies]: the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man” (5:5–6). Sinners, not just sin, will be cast into the lake of fire. At the same time, God loved sinners so much that He sent His one and only Son to die in their place (John 3:16). So you should hate wicked people—whether movie stars, athletes, scholars, or your next-door neighbor—for their rebellion against God while at the same time having a deep, loving desire for their salvation. But this hatred must not exist because they have offended you personally, but because they have offended God. As with all aspects of your Christian growth, this can only be done by God’s power and means. Only the holiest of people can hate with pure hearts.
  9. The same Jesus Who said, “Love your enemies” could call Herod “that fox” and threaten hotter hell for the city of Capernaum than for the city of Sodom. Yes, Jesus came to bring salvation, but that also means His judgment is closer, too.
  10. Paul said that anyone who doesn’t love the Lord should be accursed (1 Cor 16:22). Apparently, some people are so hardened in their sin that there comes a point when it may be appropriate to call down God’s judgment on them. At the same time, none of us knows for sure when that point has been reached. So you should be very careful before you pray this way.
  11. The apostle Paul calls down curses on Jews who refuse to believe in Jesus: “Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always” (Rom. 11:9–10). But in that same chapter Paul says that God has the power to restore the Jews to their place if they repent from their unbelief (Rom. 11:23). God is so merciful that He gives people time to get out from under His curses.
  12. The Bible teaches that revenge is supposed to be left totally in the hands of the Lord. You’re not even allowed to be happy when God brings judgment on your enemy: “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: lest the Lord see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him” (Prov. 24:17–18).

Reepicheep and King David

Some time ago I blogged on Planet Narnia , a fascinating and truly thick book of literary criticism which argued that the seven Chronicles of Narnia are each organized around themes suggested by the medieval (and even more ancient) myths which rose up around the seven planets.

Here’s my own modest literary critical contention, reinforced after a recent read through 1 and 2 Samuel: Reepicheep is King David.

Who but King David had the almost shocking gallantry (and holy bravado!) of Reepicheep? King David cuts off a portion of the robe of the man who is trying to murder him—and he feels guilty for violating the honor due the Lord’s anointed… even though he’s the Lord’s anointed, too! And he kills the man who admits he helped Saul commit suicide. Likewise Reepicheep is ready to fight to the death anyone who would insult the honor of Queen Lucy.

Who but King David has such sweet, passionate, adventurous, and even martial love for the Lord—the same love that led Reepicheep to sail his punt off the edge of the world?

Reepicheep is King David.