Ecclesiastical Latin Practice Sheets

Latin Practice Sheets

I have just posted practice sheets for the first, second, and third (“ō” type and “-iō” type), and fourth conjugation verbs in Latin (https://markfrancois.wordpress.com/language-resources/).  The reason I use these practice sheets rather than simply writing my paradigms on a blank piece of paper is that it’s very easy to forget which words I normally use for my paradigm words.  These sheets provide a convenient template for reviewing these verbs.  Answers for the practice sheets can be found in John F. Collins, A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1985), 377-88.  Enjoy!

 

New Testament Greek Review Template: Noun Declensions

greek-practice-sheets

I have just posted noun declension practice sheets for New Testament Greek (https://markfrancois.wordpress.com/language-resources/).  The practice sheets provide a template for reviewing first, second, and third declension nouns.  Years ago when I was reviewing Ecclesiastical Latin, one of the main problems I had was that I would always forget which words were used in the textbook for practising paradigms, which made it very difficult to practise paradigms when I didn’t have my textbook handy.  This practice sheet provides the paradigm words used in David Alan Black, Learn to Read New Testament Greek (3rd ed.; Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2009), 28, 35-36, 117-18, at the top of each chart and provides space to fill in the entire paradigm.  Answers for the practice sheets can be found on the pages listed above.

New Testament Greek Review Template: The Indicative Mood (Regular)

greek-practice-sheets

I have just posted practice sheets for the indicative mood of the regular verb for New Testament Greek (https://markfrancois.wordpress.com/language-resources/).  The practice sheets provide a template for reviewing the verb λύω according to the six principle parts.  In my opinion, this is the easiest way to review the indicative mood.  Answers for the practice sheets can be found in David Alan Black, Learn to Read New Testament Greek (3rd ed.; Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Academic, 2009), 112-13.

Practice Sheets for the Syriac Alphabet

syriac-practice-sheets

I have just posted practice sheets for the Syriac alphabet on the Syriac Grammar page on Between the Perfect and the Doomed (https://markfrancois.wordpress.com/syriac-grammar/).  These letters are in the Estrangela script and show how letters are written when they are not attached to other letters.

There are three main scripts that are used to write Syriac: the Estrangela script, the Serto script (also referred to as the Jacobite script), and the Nestorian script.  The Estrangela script is the oldest script and is the script used in most scholarly editions of Syriac texts, including the Leiden Syriac Peshitta (the standard critical edition of the Syriac Old Testament) and the various writings in the Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium series (e.g. works of Ephrem the Syrian, Syriac historical chronicles, etc.).  It is also the script used in Sokoloff’s A Syriac Lexicon (i.e. the updated version of Brockelmann’s Lexicon Syriacum).

The Estrangela script is a semi-cursive script, meaning that many of the letters are joined together to allow for continuous writing.  However, in certain situations the various letters of the Estrangela script will appear unattached and sometimes have a form that looks different from the form they would normally take when attached to other letters.  If you are learning Syriac, it is important to master these unattached forms.

While the Estrangela script can be written with a normal pen or pencil, you may want to purchase a calligraphy pen/marker in order to make the lines thinner or thicker when needed.  I use a Tombow calligraphy pen.

For those of you who know Hebrew, the fonts used for the Estrangela script are basically identical with how they look in manuscripts.  This is quite different from Hebrew where handwritten letters often look somewhat different from how they appear in printed editions of the Hebrew Bible.  This means that you will have little difficulty reading actual Syriac manuscripts if you master this script.  It also means that your own writing has the potential to look like Syriac writing as it appears in manuscripts.

Just a quick note.  Not everyone forms letters in the Estrangela script in the same sequence that I do for every letter of the alphabet, though most will be the same.  I have chosen this particular order because it allows my letters to be neater and, in the forms that are identical to how they look when they are attached to other letters, they allow the letters to be connected to the next letters more easily.

Enjoy!

 

What Does It Mean To Be Reformed?

reformed

A couple of days ago I listened to a very interesting episode of Mortification of Spin, a podcast for the Alliance of Confessional Evangelicals, about the tenth anniversary of the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement or, at least, the article that gave the name to that movement.

One of the most interesting parts of the discussion was whether or not the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement is really “Reformed” and the clear answer that they gave to that question was, as one “Reformed” theologian would put it, “Nein!”

Well, the issue of what actually makes a person “Reformed” is a pretty familiar topic but I thought that I would add my two cents.  But, instead of dealing with the criteria that they offered in the podcast, I thought it would be interesting to look at three fairly well-established ways that the term “Reformed” has been used (realizing that there are others, of course!) to show that the issue of who is and who is not Reformed is a little bit more complicated than most people think.

1. A Church Body That Holds to the Three Forms of Unity

So here’s the first definition for what it means to be Reformed: a Reformed Church is a church body holds to the Three Forms of Unity. Just in case you aren’t familiar with the Three Forms of Unity, the Three Forms of Unity are the doctrinal statements that are traditionally held by churches in the Dutch Reformed tradition: the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort. In Canada and the United States, if a church is named _________ Reformed Church, you can usually assume that it is a historically Dutch church that holds (or, at least, historically held) to the Three Forms of Unity.

So in this sense, it would be strange for a Baptist or some other type of generic evangelical to refer to themselves as Reformed since I personally don’t know of any Baptist churches that use the Three Forms of Unity or even a modification of the Three Forms of Unity as their official doctrinal statement. And if they were to call themselves “_________ Reformed Church” and put that on their sign, I think that most people would end up being pretty confused.[1]

But, in this sense, it could also be said that Presbyterians aren’t really Reformed either because they hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms rather than the Three Forms of Unity. In a Canadian or American context, if a Presbyterian Church put “__________ Reformed Church” on their church sign it would be just as confusing as a Baptist Church doing the same thing.  Of course, one could argue that the Westminster Standards have essentially the same doctrine as the Three Forms of Unity (which isn’t quite the case).  But, still, if a church was called “___________ Reformed Church,” most people would be surprised if they found out it was a Presbyterian Church.  What about the term “Reformed Presbyterian”?   Well, that just sounds really strange in my ear.

It should be kept in mind, though, that this first understanding of “Reformed” makes most sense in a Canadian or American context because of their very large number of Dutch immigrants that came to both countries. There are other Reformed Churches in Europe who use the term “Reformed” in their names but have historically only held to the Heidelberg Catechism and/or the Second Helvetic Confession.  But we can leave them out for the moment since those churches don’t have as strong of a presence in the United States of Canada (assuming that most people who read this are from those contexts).

 2. A Church Body That Historically Held to the Three Forms of Unity

This second definition is related to the first one. In this case, “Reformed” can refer to a church body that looks back to the Three Forms of Unity as their traditional doctrinal standard but don’t hold to it in any real sense of the term.

Let me give you one example of a “Reformed” theologian that falls into this category. For those of you who know me, you may or may not know this but I’m Dutch (well, part Frisian and part Dutch) on my mother’s side.  My mom’s maiden name is Kuitert.  Well, we have a very, very, very distant cousin named Harry Kuitert (we have a Kuitert family tree website in Dutch that goes pretty far back: http://www.kuitert.kuitert.info/Tjalling%20kwartierstaat%20met%20frame.htm). Harry Kuitert is considered to be a Reformed theologian. He was a professor of theology at the Free University of Amsterdam until 1989 and was actually the successor of G. C. Berkouwer. However, Harry Kuitert denies the deity of Christ, which means that he obviously doesn’t hold to the Three Forms of Unity anymore.  And I’m sure there are many other areas where he disagrees with the Three Forms of Unity. However, he is still considered by many to be a Reformed theologian because he was part of a church that historically held to the Three Forms of Unity.

Something similar can be said of Karl Barth. Karl Barth came from the Swiss Reformed tradition and is usually referred to as a “Reformed” theologian because of the church that he came from. I have to admit, I was taken aback the first time I heard Karl Barth being referred to as a “Reformed” theologian.  But that’s how people refer to him in academic theology.

3. A Church Body That Holds To a Non-Miraculous View of the Sacraments

This final definition will probably get the most objections from all sorts of different angles (and I’m very well aware of how poorly formulated this definition is) but here it is: a Reformed Church is a church body that holds to a non-miraculous view of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

Now I better pause here and define what I mean by “non-miraculous”. By non-miraculous I mean (a) that they don’t believe in the physical body of Christ being present in the Lord’s Supper and (b) that they don’t believe in baptismal regeneration. Again, I’m aware that “non-miraculous” is probably not the best word to use since (a) Calvin’s view of the Lord’s Supper probably wouldn’t be seen as non-miraculous by its adherents and (b) some historically Reformed beliefs about baptism border on baptismal regeneration for babies who also happen to be elect.

However, from a confessional Lutheran perspective, the term “non-miraculous” fits the bill. In this sense, “Reformed” means to hold to a non-Roman Catholic or non-Lutheran view of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism (restricting ourselves to forms of Christianity that historically have its base in Western Europe). In other words, if you’re not Roman Catholic and you’re not Lutheran, you’re Reformed. The issue here is not which confession of faith you hold to or whether or not you believe in a certain view of predestination/election: the issue is how you view the sacraments.

Now, of course, there would be very few people who call themselves “Reformed” who would define the term “Reformed” in this way, but it makes quite a bit of sense historically.  And even though there are other differences that separate confessional Lutherans from the Reformed (i.e. what is allowable in worship, the form of worship, the relationship between the covenants, church government), historically the most important difference is their views on the sacraments. And I would argue that at least some of these differences stem from differing views of the sacraments, but that is another issue. But the reality is that the sacraments, specifically the Lord’s Supper, were the main point of division between Lutherans and the Reformed during the early years of the Protestant Reformation and, from a confessional Lutheran perspective, still is.

Conclusion

So what does it mean to be Reformed? Well, it depends on who you’re asking and in what context. But I think it’s safe to say that defining “Reformed” as “adhering to the five points of Calvinism,” “believing in a Calvinistic view of election,” or “having a high view of God’s sovereignty” is a relatively new innovation. That’s one reason why Lutherans scratch their heads when people today call Martin Luther a Calvinist or believe that Lutherans today are Calvinists too. I think we can understand what they mean by that– it has to do with a belief in the bondage of the will (i.e. total depravity) and unconditional election – but it still doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps the day will come when the term “Reformed” is universally understood to mean what it means in the term “Young, Restless, and Reformed,” but it is not this day.  So, for at least some in the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement, I would add my “Nein” to the hosts of the Mortification of Spin.

[1] I think the term “Reformed Baptist” is getting close to being established enough for people to understand what that term means. Usually “Reformed Baptist” means “adhering to the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith,” a Baptist confession of faith based on the Westminster Confession of Faith.

If you believe in free will, you might not believe the Bible…

free-will-1

The Conversation

One of the biggest issues that people have to face when they get into discussions about predestination and election is what does the Bible have to say about free will.[1] As soon as the topic of predestination comes up, someone almost immediately asks the question: “What about free will?”

And at that point things go in a very predictable way. The person who believes in a Calvinist or Lutheran view of predestination, which says that the ultimate reason why a person is saved and will persevere to the end is because God chose them to be saved before the foundation of the world, will say, “Well, the Bible is pretty clear that we as human beings don’t have free will.” And the person they’re speaking with says, “That’s absolutely ridiculous! Of course we have free will!”

In my experience, when most people end up in conversations like this, neither side really understands what the term “free will” when it comes to this topic. And I have to admit that I’ve been pretty bad in explaining what the term free will means in this context. Part of the reason, of course, has to do with the way that free will is often explained: most explanations that I’ve heard are either way too complicated or they’re just plain confusing. But the main reason is that the term “free will” is used in a very specialized way when it comes to the topic of predestination – you can’t just look up the word in a dictionary and expect to find what it means in this context.

What Does Free Will Mean?

So what does the term “free will” actually mean in this context? Well, here is a very simple explanation:

The issue of freewill has to do with whether or not a person can come to saving faith in Christ on their own apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. If you say that a person can come to saving faith in Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, you believe in free will; if you say that a person can’t come to saving faith in Christ apart from the Holy Spirit, you don’t believe in free will.

And that’s all that’s meant by the term “free will” when it comes to salvation: the issue is whether or not the Holy Spirit is necessary to bring someone to saving faith in Christ.

Biblical Passages

When the issue is understood in that way, it’s pretty clear that the Bible says that we as human beings don’t have free will, at least not in this very specific sense – we need the Holy Spirit to work on our hearts before we can come to saving faith in Christ. Let me give you a couple of examples:

(a) John 6:44 – No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him and I will raise him up at the last day.  (NIV)

In this case we can assume that the Father draws people through the Holy Spirit. Either way, a person isn’t coming to saving faith in Christ on their own.

(b) Romans 8:7 – The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. (NIV)

This is talking about a person who isn’t saved, a person who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, a person who is still ruled by the sinful nature. That’s the contrast that’s being made in this passage. Unless the Holy Spirit does something to change this, the person won’t submit their lives to God.

(c) 1 Corinthians 2:14 – The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (NIV)

In this case “the man without the Spirit” is the person whose heart hasn’t been opened up by the Holy Spirit. To them the message of the cross is foolishness – unless the Holy Spirit does something to change that.

And we could go on to other passages as well.

But these passages make it clear that we as human beings are spiritually dead, that we have hard hearts, and that we are in rebellion against God. When left to ourselves we won’t accept the message of the gospel and we can’t accept the message of the gospel – unless the Holy Spirit does something to change our hearts.

This is something that every Christian should believe regardless of what they believe about predestination or election – if you don’t believe this, you don’t believe what the Bible has to say about human beings. This is something that Calvinists, confessional Lutherans, and Arminians all believe. Arminians are often accused of believing in free will. But real Arminians who know their theology actually agree with Calvinists and confessional Lutherans on this issue: real Arminians don’t believe in free will either. Roger Olson, for example, prefers to use the term “freed will,” which is a much better way of describing the Arminian position on this issue.[2]

The Real Areas of Disagreement

So what are the real areas of disagreement when it comes to the issue of free will? Let me suggest two areas:

(1) How far does the Holy Spirit open up a person’s heart? Does he only open up a person’s heart part of the way so they can make a free choice one way or the other or does he open up a person’s heart all of the way and guarantee that they will come to saving faith in Christ?

(2) And the second issue is this: Does the Holy Spirit do this for only some people or for everyone who hears the message of the gospel? How this question is answered will depend on how the first question is answered.

Conclusion

So does the Bible teach free will? No – the Holy Spirit has to work on a person’s heart and draw them to Christ, otherwise they won’t come to saving faith in Christ. If more people understood what the term free will really means in discussions like this, we might save a lot of time arguing about something we should all actually agree with and be able to deal with the real differences when it comes to these issues.

[1] Rom. 8:29-30; 9:1-29; 11:1-6; 1 Cor. 1:26-31; Eph. 1:4-12; 1 Thess. 1:4-5.

[2] See Roger Olson’s excellent presentation on the broader issue here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0RWF_XByMM

Pascal’s Wager and the Gay Christian Debate

Gambling With WatermarkPascal’s Wager is an argument that has to do with the existence of God.  It basically lays out four scenarios to show why believing in God is “the best bet”:

The first scenario says that if someone doesn’t believe in God and God doesn’t exist, then they haven’t lost anything.

The second scenario says that if someone believes in God and God doesn’t exist, then they also haven’t lost anything.

The third scenario says that if someone believes in God and God does, in fact, exist, then they’ve gained something of infinite value.

The fourth scenario says that if someone doesn’t believe in God and God does exist then they’ve lost everything.

Now there definitely are a few problems with Pascal’s Wager (e.g. Which God are we talking about?  Is that all that’s required to be a Christian? What if being a Christian results in you being tortured and killed, etc.) but I think that most people get the point.

Now to the subject at hand.  Over the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a lot of comments on Facebook and blogposts that say that it’s perfectly okay for someone to be a Christian and involved in a same-sex sexual relationship – as long as it’s a loving, committed, and monogamous same-sex sexual relationship.  Thankfully, now that same-sex marriage has been legalized in the United States (it’s been legal here in Canada for ten years now), we should be able to stop saying “loving, committed, monogamous,” etc. and just say “same-sex sexual relationships in the context of marriage”.

In the vast majority of cases, the arguments that I’ve heard are pretty weak – what can you expect from Facebook?  They know what they want to believe but they really haven’t thought through the issues very well. But there are some people, of course, who have thought through the issues and have done some serious reading on the issue.  In my experience, they’re in the minority.  And, just in case anyone asks, anyone who uses the “shellfish” or “mixed fabrics” argument or says “doesn’t the Bible say ‘judge not'” is in the former category.  Back to the point – this post is for both groups – those who have thought it through and those who haven’t – and anyone else who’s interested.

To be up front, I personally don’t think it’s consistent for a person to be a Christian and involved in a same-sex sexual relationship just like it’s inconsistent for a person to be a Muslim and believe in the deity of Christ.  I find most of the exegetical arguments of people like Matthew Vines, James Brownson, and Jack Rogers fairly weak, though some of the theological arguments they offer are much stronger and make you think.  I’m definitely open to debating those points but in this post I want to do something a little bit different.  Just to be clear, though, I don’t think that same-sex attraction is a choice, I don’t think that same-sex attraction can be “fixed”, and I don’t think that Christians should force their views about marriage on non-Christians, especially in the legal sphere.  Just need to get that out of the way just in case anyone makes any assumptions.  (If you do have a question about what I believe, ask or ask for clarification, don’t assume.)

In this post I want to look at the issue in a way that’s similar to Pascal’s Wager.  In this case we’re going to assume: (a) that God exists; (b) that heaven (or the New Creation) and hell are real and eternal; (c) that the Bible is the inspired, authoritative, and inerrant Word of God; and (d) that for a person to be a genuine Christian they need to repent of their sins, put their faith in Christ, and commit their lives to living for him.  Each of these points can be disputed but, for now, we’re going to assume that they’re true.  And even if you don’t think they’re true, pretend that they’re true for the sake of argument.

Here are the four possibilities:

1. If I say that same-sex sexual relationships are okay for Christians and they are, in fact, okay for Christians,[1] I will probably gain a few gay or gay-affirming converts to Christianity. More importantly, I will spare gay Christians a life of loneliness, depression, shame, and struggle. That being said, I also might lose a few converts from Islam or from cultures that disapprove of same-sex sexual relationships because approving same-sex sexual relationships might be a bridge too far for them.

2. If I say that same-sex sexual relationships are not okay for Christians and they are, in fact, okay for Christians, I may lose a few gay-affirming converts, a few same-sex attracted Christians, and condemn same-sex attracted Christians to a life of singleness and celibacy. But, if they listen to what I say, those same-sex attracted Christians will be saved for eternity and may even be rewarded for denying themselves for what they believed was God’s will.

3. If I say that same-sex sexual relationships are not okay for Christians but they turn out not to be okay for Christians, I may lose a few gay-affirming converts, a few same-sex attracted Christians, and make things difficult for same-sex attracted Christians but, in the end, those who listen to what I say will be saved for all of eternity. The price of singleness is high, but the price of losing eternity in the new creation is even higher (assuming 1 Cor. 6:9 applies to all same-sex sexual relationships).

4. If I say that same-sex sexual relationships are okay for Christians and it turns out that they’re not okay for Christians (a la 1 Cor. 6:9), I might end up gaining a few gay or gay-affirming converts, but, in the end, anyone who listens to me and involves themselves in a same-sex sexual relationship will be condemned for eternity. I realize that not everyone believes that and some people think that that’s absolute nonsense – but stick with the scenario. On top of that, I’ll lose converts from Islam or from cultures that disapprove of same-sex sexual relationships.  There will probably also be some severe consequences in terms of how Christians interpret their Bibles and view the inspiration, authority, and inerrancy of Scripture.

Now it’s clear to me that, based on all of these scenarios, that the safest course of action, if the four assumptions at the beginning are true, is to say that same-sex sexual relationships are not okay for Christians.  There are lots of factors that are involved and they shouldn’t be minimized, but saying that same-sex sexual relationships are okay for Christians does the most damage from an eternal perspective if same-sex sexual relationships turn out not to be okay for Christians.

Now I wouldn’t say that we should decide our theology based on reasoning like this.  The point is that no matter where we come out on this debate, we need to think through the consequences and be willing to take responsibility for those consequences if we’re wrong.  We’re with issues that have consequences in the here and now and consequences for eternity.  That at least warrants a better argument than, “The Bible also says you shouldn’t eat shellfish” or “Doesn’t the Bible say ‘judge not'”!  And for those of us who believe it’s inconsistent for a person to be a Christian and be involved in a same-sex sexual relationship, we need to make sure that we don’t minimize the consequences of what we say either.

I would be interested in hearing any feedback.  Please stick to the scenarios that were given and remember that this is an inter-Christian debate – we’re not talking about forcing our beliefs on non-Christians, we’re talking about what individual churches and Christians should believe and practise.

[1] From God’s perspective and from the perspective of the final judgment.