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Why Reason Must Stand Above Scripture

September 20, 2014 Leave a comment

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I was walking down the street with a homeless gay man. My college roommates and I had been letting him crash on our couch for a few weeks while he put his life together. We left my apartment and headed for the coffee shop down the street.

He walked with a limp.

It bothered me how slowly I had to walk in order for him to keep up with me. Finally I couldn’t take it any more. I was irritated.

“Sit down right here on the curb. I’m going to pray for you.”

I put my hand on his leg and commanded it to be healed in the name of Jesus.

“Get up. How does it feel?” I asked.

“It feels better!” he exclaimed. He started jumping up and down. He was immediately able to walk at regular speed, completely without a limp. He couldn’t believe what had just happened. For me, this was just normal Christianity.

We proceeded to walk to the coffee shop where we sipped our flavored coffees and inhaled the perfect aromas that wafted over to us from behind the counter. I counseled him that he needed to yield his life completely to God, give up homosexuality, and follow the Bible.

The Bible as Foundation
Through my 20s, my faith was grounded my personal experience that the power of the Bible is real. I saw miracles, received amazingly answered prayers, and had God reveal things to me that I couldn’t have known any other way.

Experientially, I knew the power of Christian faith was real.

If I encountered something in the Bible I disagreed with, I would yield my belief and conform to the Bible.

But I began to ask myself how did I know that it was true?

These Simple Questions Devastated My World
Couldn’t it be that lots of what we believe about God is wrong, but that God meets us where we are at anyway?

And couldn’t God meet other people in other religions where they were at too?

How did I know they were wrong just because I had seen miracles?

Those questions started to bother me. A lot.

I couldn’t seem to find any answers that satisfied me. If experience alone can’t prove the truth of the Bible, then there must be other good reasons for believing the Bible. But none of the reasons on offer seemed very compelling to me.

  • You can look at fulfilled prophecy. But most of the prophecies in their original contexts seemed to be talking about something else.
  • You can look at the historical accuracy of the Bible. But being historically accurate does not make something the Word of God. We have lots of history books which are historically accurate.
  • You can look to the resurrection of Jesus. But I found that the evidence for the resurrection was not nearly as strong if I didn’t already have a reason for believing in it. And since belief in the Bible was the very question on the table, my previous reasons for believing were quickly evaporating.

I almost lost my faith.

How My Faith Was Saved
Then I encountered George Lindbeck’s The Nature of Doctrine. It reoriented my entire understanding of faith.

Drawing on the work of modern religious anthropologists like Clifford Geertz, Lindbeck observes that religions are social constructs which provide religious rules for the members of the community.

He compares doctrine to the grammatical rules of a language. Members of a religious community must be taught the “language” of the religion in order to function within the community.

He calls this a “cultural-linguistic” understanding of doctrine.

What struck me about Lindbeck’s proposal was that it was grounded in our best anthropological insights. In other words, it is very difficult to disagree with him without also completely ignoring a vast body of anthropological evidence. Religion may well be more than just a cultural-linguistic system, but it is certainly not less.

When I combined this insight with my experience of God, I came to see the Bible as a cultural-linguistic system that, regardless of whether it was true, it presented us with a covenant between God and humanity that God appears to honor.

Instead of functioning like a science or philosophy book, I began to see the Bible functioning more like the Constitution for the church. Whether it is “true” is much less important than whether we live by it.

But what if the Bible is wrong?
This new understanding of the Bible potentially placed every other religious community’s holy book on par with the Bible. After all, the Book of Mormon functions as the constitution for Mormons; the Qu’ran functions as the constitution for the Muslim community; and even Anton LeVey’s Satanic Bible functions as the constitution for a group of occultists. What sets the Bible apart?

As I thought about it, I had two realizations:

First, you don’t have to have all knowledge of every religious system in order to follow your own. You don’t have to know why another holy book is wrong, or even assume that it must be wrong, in order to follow your own holy book.

Second, a reasonable requirement of any holy book, whether theirs, mine, or someone else’s, was that it must not require its followers to do anything that is morally wrong. It can’t violate your conscience.

A Trial Case: Terrorism
The terrorists who flew the planes into the World Trade Center should have known better. It is self-evident.

They knew in their hearts that it was wrong.

If they had quieted themselves before God instead of submitting uncritically to their interpretation of their holy book and drowning out the voice of God, they would have had to acknowledge that what they were about to do was evil.

I will be the first to admit that placing conscience above scripture is far from being comprehensive or perfect. Our consciences are not always reliable guides. Just because our conscience isn’t warning us doesn’t mean that something is okay.

But the opposite is usually true: if your conscience is going off, it is a good bet that the thing in question is probably wrong.

So our conscience is the only internal guide we can have. If we don’t submit our scriptures to our consciences, what would prevent us from flying airplanes into buildings if we really believed our holy book said to do it?

The Man With a Limp
So finally I came to a place of peace with my faith. Regardless of whether the Bible is true, I came to believe that at the very least, God honors the covenant it offers. So long as it does not require me to do anything that is morally wrong, I can follow it with all my heart. I think it would be fair to challenge a Mormon, Muslim, or occultist to submit to this simple rule. Therefore I ought to be willing to submit to it also.

This whole ordeal had been the most difficult time I had ever gone through in my life until then, and I didn’t come through unchanged. Like Jacob, I had wrestled with God and came away with a own limp. Unlike my homeless friend, that limp didn’t get healed.

It was a limp that would set me up for another crisis of faith a few years later…

Categories: Epistemology, Theology

3 Ways to Think About the Problem of Free Will

October 8, 2012 5 comments
Brother Jed open air preaching to college students

Are students free to respond to the gospel when Brother Jed preaches on their campuses?

When someone is presented with the gospel and asked to respond, is that person really free to accept or reject the message?

Well that depends on what you mean by “free.”

We could ask whether we are really free to do anything. This the question of free will in the “formal” sense, and it is primarily a philosophical question. But it is not really a very useful question. Even if it were not logically possible for any human to ever make a “free” decision, we would still be presented with choices, and many of these choices have the appearance of requiring a free will decision.

Ultimately the real question is: Are we free to respond to the gospel in the same sense as we are free to choose chocolate rather than peach gelato? This is the question of free will in the “material” sense.

Historically there have been three major families of theological answers on this topic.

1. The Calvinist answer. Following John Calvin (1509-1564), this position fully accepts the implications of Total Depravity. God chooses or elects some individuals to receive grace which empowers them to receive the gospel. God’s grace is said to be both irresistible and efficient, meaning that it always accomplishes salvation in the individuals God chooses. On this view, you are not free to accept or reject the gospel in the same sense as you are free to make other kinds of day-to-day choices.

2. The Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian positions.   The Pelagian option is to deny or temper what we have said about Total Depravity. Pelagians, who derive their name from Pelagius, a fifth century British ascetic, deny the doctrine of Total Depravity altogether. Semi-Pelagians argue instead that humans are only partially depraved. For Semi-Pelagians, individuals have a real choice when presented with the gospel, but they are predisposed against it. Their choice, though free, is perhaps more like choosing between chocolate gelato and rice patties.

3. The Arminian answer. Following Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), Arminians also fully affirm the doctrine of Total Depravity.  The effects of depravity can only be overcome by God’s grace, but on the Arminian view, this grace, called prevenient grace is given freely to all of humanity. In contrast to the Calvinist view, God’s grace can be resisted but it empowers people to be able to respond to the gospel despite the effects of Total Depravity. The final result is to affirm both material free will and Total Depravity.

Can I ask you for a favor? I’m really trying to restart this blog, and what makes blogging exciting is the comments. You’ve taken the time to read the post, so now please take an extra minute and leave a comment.

What do you think? Which answer makes the most sense to you? Have these three exhausted all the options?

Photo by madmannova

What Eatting Gelato Can Teach You About the Problem of Free Will

October 4, 2012 Leave a comment

eatting gelatoAre humans really free to make choices, or have our choices been predetermined?

The concept of free will is one of the thorniest and most difficult for both theologians and secular philosophers. To complicate matters, within Christian theology, there is not just one problem of free will. There are two.

And lots of smart people who should know better regularly get them confused.

1. The formal problem of free will

The formal problem of free will is the question of how human will is related to the divine.

In philosophy, the question is whether our choices are really our own, or whether they are dictated by genetics, environment, and conditioning.

In theology, the question is how our decisions can really be our own when God is in control of everything.

In his entry on “Will” in the New Dictionary of Theology, Paul Helm states that no matter how one chooses to understand free will, “there is a prima facie problem of reconciling the activity of the human will with the divine. Those who have attributed powers of contrary choice or self-determination to the human will have often attempted to effect such reconciliation by limiting the scope of the divine decree in some respect… Others have rested content with maintaining that while God foreordains all human actions he is not the author of sin.”

The position that we have true freedom to choose any option when given a choice are often called libertarian free will.

The position that we are free only to choose according to our motives and personality is usually called compatibilist free will because it is this view is said to be “compatible” with God’s divine choice as the ultimate cause of all of our human choices.

2. The material problem of free will

The material problem of free will is the question of whether we have the ability or power to follow through on a choice we have already made.

You might choose to start a new, aggressive plan for working out. But that doesn’t mean you’re really going to do it.

So even if you are logically free in a libertarian sense, you still may lack the material willpower to follow through on my decision, a commitment to exercise for instance. Likewise, even if the compatibilist position is true and your will is logically constrained, you may still have the discipline or “freedom” to follow through on your decisions.

What does gelato have to do with it?

Let’s put it in more concrete terms.

Let’s say my wife and I decide to get gelato from the Millstone, a popular mom-and-pop restaurant in Iola. Let’s say I have a choice between chocolate and peach.

I sit and stare at the choice. I go back and forth because they both look good. Finally I decide upon chocolate.

As I’m eating my gelato, I muse philosophically, “Was I really free to choose peach, or did I choose chocolate because God wanted me to choose chocolate?”

My wife turns to me and says, “You think too much.”

That’s because whether we have free will in the formal sense is really irrelevant in our day-to-day lives. What we care about on a day-to-day basis is whether we have free will in the material sense: we all know that I could just as easily have chosen peach, but for whatever reason I chose chocolate.

The good news

Christians believe that our material will is naturally constrained because of sin. Through faith in Jesus, you can be transformed so that you are finally free in every sense that matters.

If you have been “freed from sin and enslaved to God” (Romans 6.22), you receive the benefits of true freedom, to live as God intended and designed you.

Photo by pierofix

Why Is the World Such a Screwed Up Place? Here’s How Ancient Christians Tried to Answer that Question

October 1, 2012 Leave a comment

MorpheusSomething’s wrong with the world.

We can feel it. We know that this is not how things are supposed to be, but we can’t explain what the problem is.

Morpheus in The Matrix put it this way:

You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. That you are a slave… Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind.

Of course this is real life, not a movie. The matrix is not our problem. The ancient Christians said the problem goes much deeper than that.

Why should we care what ancient Christians said?

The views of the ancient church are recorded in the Bible. I have close friends who don’t accept the Bible. They believe they have good reasons for rejecting the Bible. Why, they ask, should we take the time to listen to what the Bible has to say?

I would give two answers.

For one thing, even if it was merely written by men, it is a classic of Western literature. Until a couple hundred years ago, it served as the foundation for the fundamental ideas of the leaders of our society. That alone should count for something.

Beyond that, there’s the fact that countless Christians, both modern and ancient, have had their lives completely transformed by it. It’s worth looking at.

The Problem

The Bible consists of 66 very diverse books written by multiple authors and complied into the book we have today. The statement of the problem is surprisingly consistent. Consider the following sampling of verses from nearly every strand of biblical material:

  • Genesis 8.21: “[T]he Lord said to Himself, ‘…the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth…’”
  • 2 Chronicles 6.36: “…for there is no man who does not sin…”
  • Isaiah 53.6: “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…”
  • Rom 5.12: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
  • 1 Cor 2.14: “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”
  • 1 John 1.10: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.”

The ancient Christian believers taught that the main problem is that humans are dead in sin. The conventional name for this doctrine is Total Depravity.

Loraine Boettner, one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century, describes the doctrine of Total Depravity in his book, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (X.2). Though he is from a stream of the Christian tradition that I would disagree with on many points, I agree with him on this point:

…since the Fall, man [sic] rests under the curse of sin, that he is actuated by wrong principles, and that he is wholly unable to love God or to do anything meriting salvation.

How bad is it?

It is somewhat unfortunate that we have inherited this particular term in the Christian theological tradition because the word “total” would seem to imply that humanity could not be any more depraved, and that we are as wicked as we can possibly be.

Boettner says that the doctrine, “does not mean that all men are equally bad, nor that any man is as bad as he could be, nor that any one is entirely destitute of virtue, nor that human nature is evil… His corruption is extensive but not necessarily intensive.”

Total Depravity means that every aspect of our character has been infected by sin, and on our own we can make no decision apart from its influence.

Anthony Hoekema suggests that the alternate term, “Pervasive Depravity” would be more appropriate. But that would spell complete and utter disaster for the five points of Calvinism, which would become PULIP instead of TULIP. For the sake of continuity, and so as not to tick off the AAAAA (American Association Against Acronym Abuse), it is perhaps best to retain the traditional term.

Summary

The doctrine of Total Depravity sums up several key themes. Humans, in their natural state, are dead in sin, unable to obey God, unable to please God, unable to free themselves, and unable to understand the things of God.

The doctrine of Total Depravity is another way of stating the need of every single person to be transformed. It is the doctrine that is necessarily entailed whenever someone says you should be “born-again.” The ancient Christians believed that this could only happen through the power of Jesus.

Before you write it off, ask yourself: Are you disagreeing because you have evidence that it’s not true, or are you disagreeing because you don’t want it to be true?

Image by ebenri

Categories: Theology Tags: , ,

Faith vs. Reason: Are You Fighting On the Wrong Side?

September 17, 2012 Leave a comment

War. What is it good for?There is a war going in the Christian Church at the moment.

In one camp are the warriors of Faith. They take the Bible seriously. They hold tent revivals and give altar calls. They’re about making sure that the Christian faith stays Christian.

They’re so concerned with resisting compromise that they shut their minds off to anything that might challenge them. They talk about a “leap of faith,” even to the point of saying that evidence detracts from one’s faith.

In the other camp are the warriors of Reason. They are the courageous soldiers who follow truth wherever it may lead. They are not afraid of rejecting a doctrine that does not conform to the standards of logic. When the evidence conflicts with their own desires, they ruthlessly follow the evidence.

Their commitment to rationality sometimes causes them to cut out large chunks of the faith. In reworking Christianity to defend it against its cultured despisers, they create something which some say has stopped being Christian altogether.

A simple Christian pilgrim can easily get caught in the crossfire.

War is hell

For the most part these two groups never talk to each other. Except to launch theological grenades at one another before running back to the safety of their own familiar camp.

Occasionally someone will defect. A person from the Faith camp will get fed up that the difficult questions are all swept under the rug and go join the camp of Reason. Then someone from the Reason camp will get frustrated with the moral decline around them and move over to the Faith camp.

When this happens, the convert is held up by the new camp to show everyone why their side is really the right side and the other side has got it all wrong.

Can you make it out alive?

I was personally wounded in this battle. It nearly killed my faith. One of the reasons I started this blog was to help me work through my own doubts.

I took a few years and become a theological draft-dodger. Slowly I have been making my way back. Now I believe there is a better way.

How to survive

The problem is that the warriors of Reason have actually embraced two different ideas and rolled them into one. On one hand, they are firmly committed to embracing logic and weighing all the evidence. On the other hand, often what passes for “evidence” in the Reason camp is just one’s own thinly-veiled cultural biases.

So miracles are rejected, not on the grounds that they are logically impossible, but on the grounds that they are incredible to modern sensibilities. Sexual ethics are rejected not on the grounds that they are logically contradictory, but on the grounds that we don’t like them.

We need to separate the principles of the Reason camp into its two components: reason and culture. From the Faith camp, the important principle is their high view of scripture. Therefore, if we’re going to sort out this mess, we need to figure out how reason, culture, and scripture relate.

I contend that the best way to relate these three principles is like this:

Scripture trumps culture.
Reason trumps scripture.

This way of cutting things up allows for a more robust doctrine without compromising the character of our Christian faith.

What does it all mean?

1. If the Bible really is the Word of God, we would expect the scriptures to conflict with our culture at various points. Most of the critiques of scripture from the reason camp have turned out on closer examination to be an arbitrary elevation of culture over scripture. In contrast, when we say “scripture trumps culture,” we allow ourselves to be critiqued by the scriptures.

2. “Reason trumps scripture,” means that we do not shut our eyes to the evidence. We resist attempts by either the defenders of scripture (or the defenders of culture) to “cook up the evidence.”

3. The principle that “reason trumps scripture” applies equally to other religions. I would hope that a Mormon, a Muslim, or anyone else would subject their holy book to the bar of reason. I can only expect that we would do the same.

4. “Reason trumps scripture,” means that there are conditions upon which I would reject scripture. If I found that the Bible commanded me to commit genocide or to slay my neighbor, I will not blindly follow it.

5. Some will object that saying, “reason trumps scripture,” means that we are elevating ourselves above God. They would argue that scripture alone should trump everything else. But if I ask why, they will inevitably give me reasons, which implicitly acknowledges that scripture ought to accepted on the basis of reason. In practice, we use reason to evaluate everything we come into contact with. All I am advocating is that we remain consistent in our use or reason to also evaluate our faith.

6. Some will object that reason is itself culturally-bound. Even my examples above are culturally influenced. I can only agree. However it is still the most objective standard we have. Some things will be obviously more culture-specific than other things, and we can use reason to decide between them. What I mean by submitting to reason is that we follow the rules of logic and we do our best to admit all the relevant evidence.

7. Some will object that I have left no place for the Holy Spirit. I would say that the guidance of the Holy Spirit would fall under my commitment to scripture. After all, I believe in the Holy Spirit because I believe in Scripture. And because our encounters with the Holy Spirit are always mediated by experience, these experiences are subject to all sorts of interpretations. Our personal experiences of God must especially be subject to reason.

8. In saying, “reason trumps scripture,” we are actually strengthening the conditions upon which we can accept scripture. If we find that reason is not in conflict with scripture, we have stronger grounds to accept it. Rather than fearing what reason might do to our belief in scripture, we can embrace it.

9. Contrary to popular belief, reason does not detract from faith. The faith that the Bible advocates is not believing that God exists (James 2.19), but rather trusting that God will do what he has promised. Trust is built on the basis of evidence, not in spite of it.

10. In saying, “reason trumps scripture,” we acknowledge that some things in the Bible sit in tension with our best reasoning. I don’t understand Joshua’s conquest of Canaan or Abraham nearly sacrificing his son Isaac. I would say they count as evidence against the Bible. I think the evidence in favor of the Bible is a lot stronger, but I refuse to let my belief blind me to the fact that these are difficult stories – stories that make me mad when I read them.

So there you have it. Could there be an end to the war between the camps of Faith and Reason? I doubt it, at least in my lifetime. But maybe we can save some of our friends who are being caught in the cross-fire.

What do you think? Are you comfortable with my formulation that “scripture trumps culture and reason trumps scripture”?

photo by jeffeaton

Categories: Theology Tags: , , ,

Are Christians Required to Keep the Sabbath?

September 9, 2012 3 comments

I recently received a question from a friend who believes that Christians are required by scripture to keep the Sabbath, which he believes has been changed to Sunday. He asked, “Do you believe that the Christian has no Sabbath day that brethren may gather together for worship?” Here was my response:

Dear J—,

I reject the assumptions inherent in the question. It’s a bit like asking, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” I suppose the technical answer is no, but only because I cannot stop doing something that I have never started to do. Similarly, your question assumes that gathering together for worship requires a Sabbath day. I affirm, with you and most scholars, that the church from the New Testament times has generally met on Sunday mornings for worship. There is, however, no scripture that requires this. Hebrews 10.25 commands us not to forsake our own assembling together.

Both of our views, your (so-called) Sabbatarianism and my non-sabbatarianism, can be held consistently with scripture. What I mean is that both you and I have plausible theological explanations for verses that the other would use to support his respective position. (By contrast, for instance, anti-trinitariansim cannot be held consistently with scripture.) However, there are stronger reasons to accept non-sabbatarianism.

First, if my position is true, we would expect to find verses that say that Christians are not bound to keep the Sabbath. In fact we have such verses in Col 2.16 and Rom 14.5. If the sabbatiarian position is true, we would not expect to find these verses at all. Perhaps, as others who hold your position have suggested, these verses are referring to the ritual demands of the Sabbath. But if such was the case, we would expect Paul to make this explicit in these verses. After all, it would behoove Paul to warn those in his charge that failure to keep the Sabbath is sin, especially when the verses as they stand seem to indicate otherwise.

Second, if your position is true, we would expect to find to find strongly worded commands in the New Testament to keep the Sabbath. But such explicit commands are nowhere to be found. Certainly in a book like 1 Thessalonians, written to a city without a synagogue and without a population of Jewish converts, it would be important to instruct them in Sabbath observance as part of his moral exhortation. Or else we would expect at least a passing reference in one of Paul’s other epistles. After all, every single epistle contains Paul’s moral exhortations on what it means to live as a Christian. It is significant that not one of them contains a command for Christians to keep the Sabbath.

Third, since we know that Christians met on Sunday instead of Saturday, then either God altered the Sabbath to Sunday, or the Christians met on a different day than the Sabbath. But Jesus said that the Law cannot be altered, not even the smallest “jot or tittle” (Matt 5.18). Therefore, the Sabbath cannot have changed to Sunday. We must conclude that the early Christians did not keep the Sabbath.

Fourth, the Hebrew word Sabbath seems to be etymologically connected to the word “Seventh,” meaning the seventh day = Saturday. It would be strange for God to command that we keep the Saturday (=Sabbath) on Sunday.

What do you think? Was my answer sufficient? How would you have responded?

Categories: Theology Tags:

Free Theology Books for the Kindle

January 19, 2011 16 comments

SBL's Greek New Testament displayed on the KindleMy new Kindle came in the mail a few days ago. I finally broke down and used some Christmas money to get it. Best purchase EVER!

I have spent the past few days putting books on it. I have not bought any books from Amazon – all the good books are old enough to be free. Here are the best sites to find free books:

  1. Amazon.com – there are a few good books you can find for $0 here. I downloaded G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, the first book I have read cover-to-cover on the Kindle. They did not have Chesterton’s Heretics, so I had to go elsewhere for that. Other books I got from Amazon are Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason; Plato’s  Republic, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, and Timaeus;Aristotle’s Ethics; Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion; Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; Luther’s Concerning Christian Liberty; Aquinas’ Summa, and the complete ESV and HCSB bibles. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can still get yourself all these great books by downloading their Kindle emulator for the PC. That’s how I decided I wanted a Kindle in the first place.
  2. Project Gutenberg – While Amazon has some public domain books for free, they also sell a lot of public domain books. If you don’t know better, you might think you have to buy them. Think again. Project Gutenberg has tons of public domain books formatted for the Kindle. Stuff I got here includes Seneca’s On Benefits; Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot and Brothers Karamazov; Tolstoy’s War and Peace; Nietzsche’s The Antichrist; and the complete KJV Bible.
  3. The Internet Archive – This is a really cool site. They have the text of classic books, but the original title pages and covers are scanned in as images. So I downloaded B.B. Warfield’s own copy of Darwin’s Origin of Species. I also got J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism here. Machen’s book, I am told on good authority by folks at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (where I attend as a seminary student), is a book everyone really ought to read. And now you can because it’s completely free.
  4. Mobipocket Creator – Not a site with books per se, but this is the site that makes the Kindle all worth it. Download this software and you can turn any text, html, Word, or PDF document into a regular Kindle book. That means you’re not limited to the regular layout of a PDF document, which the newest generation of Kindles can read, but you have to zoom-in and scroll around on the page. It’s a real hassle to try to read a book this way. But with Mobipocket Creator you can resize the text so it fits perfectly on the Kindle. Sa-weet!
  5. Christian Classics Ethereal Library – this is the most likely site to have the best theology books, like the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers. Unfortunately they are all in Text or PDF format, so you will want to run them through the Mobipocket Creator software (#5 above) first.
  6. SBL’s Greek New Testament – Two things are amazing about this. First, it is a scholarly Greek New Testament that has very liberal terms of use, making it effectively free. Second, the Kindle displays the Greek VERY WELL. It is easily the easiest-to-use Greek Bible I own, though it is somewhat limited because it can’t search in Greek. SBLGNT came in PDF format, so I also had to run it through Mobipocket, but it was ready to use on the Kindle in about seven minutes from the time I started downloading.
  7. The Septuagint (LXX) – To me, one of the most useful things about knowing Greek is not reading the New Testament in its original language, but reading the Old Testament in the language of the early church. Unfortunately I was not able to find a free version of the Septuagint that has breathing and accent marks. Jeff, who runs the site, promised in 2008 that he would try to add all accents, but it doesn’t appear to be available yet. Nevertheless, when run through Mobipocket, it is a fairly readable version. If I have any problems, I can always consult the old paper edition.
  8. The Psalms of David in Metre – I had to cut-and-paste these into a Word document, and then convert them. It was more work than the others, but it was worth it. I recently discovered this translation of the psalms from the Scottish Presbyterian church, done in 1650. The language is a little archaic, but it makes it really easy to sing the psalms for personal prayer.

The new Kindle has all kinds of additional features, like an experimental web browser and a very basic mp3 player. It is set up so that you can clip quotes from a book and post them directly to Facebook or tweet them on Twitter. The only major thing it’s lacking is a basic notebook program for writing down notes. But overall, I feel as if I have been given ownership of the world’s greatest theological library for just $139.

Categories: Books, Theology