Friday, December 7, 2007

Movin' On Up

Soul DeSAenz has moved!  Please look for me at 

thank you all for reading this blog, I have moved all the posts and comments over to wordpress, I hope you like the new digs!


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

On The Free Will of Man, II

I have chosen to respond to the comments left by ElShaddai Edwards by starting a new post rather than reply in the combox. Hopefully we can both be edified by this.

The understanding I've come to is that God knowingly created man with the natural inclination to sin and desire to choose to be selfish over selfless [Genesis 8:21].

21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse [1] the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. The context of the passage is not dealing with man's free will. Noah has just finished building an altar to the Lord and offered up a sacrifice v.20. Of all the people on the planet only Noah and his family found grace in the eyes of God, Gen. 6:8, the rest perished in the flood. After the flood, Noah was being obedient to offer a sacrifice and the aroma of the sacrifice is what was pleasing to the Lord. God then states that man's heart is evil from his youth that would include Noah's heart as well. The doctrine of Total Depravity is not that all men are as evil as they can possibly be but that every aspect of them has suffered due to the fall, no one can come to the Father unless the father first draws him, John 6:44. The topic of Genesis 8 is not about mans free will or his choosing to be selfless and even if you wanted to use it in such a manner you would have a hard time demonstrating that from just that verse since it never mentions that Noah, of his own free will did these things.

From the start, God also created the framework of redemption whereby sinful man could be reconciled to God: through the blood of Christ, the perfect form or pattern of redemption [Revelation 13:8], which was first revealed through the Law.

Redemption has always been through grace and not by the law. As I mentioned earlier, Noah found favor with God (Gen 6:8), Abraham's faith was accounted to him as righteousness (Gen 15:6), and Moses as well (Exo 33:12,13). God's redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was not a framework but rather it was a perfect work. Jesus did not make salvation possible, he made it a finished work on the cross. Jesus' salvation of the elect was accomplished on the cross and not when man of his free will chooses to be saved. Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus saves to the uttermost and is even now interceding for us with the father. Not just that, it was God who chose His people before the foundation of the world, Eph 1:4 v.5 tells us that he predestined us to adoption. Man is incapable of predestining himself to salvation. Read John 6, salvation is the work of God, not of mans free will choice.

God's will exists on a sovereign level and a moral level, but not on an individual level [cf. Garry Friesen]. We can choose to make choices based on the wisdom of God's moral will, i.e. the Bible, or continue in a selfish manner without his guidance.

God's will is personal. He call us his sheep, he knows us by name, he chose us and predestined us to salvation. He works all things according tot he council of His will (Eph 1:11), surely his will is individual and personal. Of course we are free to make choices but that does not mean that we can freely choose God since we are spiritually dead and enslaved to our sin. ElShaddai, can you unpack this premise in your second sentence?

God has given us the moral wisdom to accept his unmerited gift of salvation, but we still have to choose to accept that gift. Our salvation is not secure until we confess our innate sinfulness and ask to be expiated by the blood of Christ, accepting him as Lord.

If then the final say on salvation is man's choice it follows that salvation is not based grace but rather works. It takes the completed work of Christ and makes it void and meaningless until man exercises his freewill to be the final piece of this puzzle called salvation, it is not a complete work until man acts upon it. Christ then died for no one in particular only making it salvation possible. But then is not God that called us, foreknew us, predestined us, conforms us to the image of Christ, justified us and will glorify us? Romans 8:28-30

With this acceptance in mind, we begin to be transformed so that our thoughts and actions are not guided by reaction and impulse and human pretension, however well intentioned, but by the discipline of obeying God [Romans 12:2].

Romans 12:2 is not addressed to the world in general but to the elect in Rome. Paul is speaking to the believers, telling them not to be conformed to the world but transformed by the renewing of the their mind. The non-believer is not subject to this appeal because he is dead in his sin.

Finally, the free will of a Christian is not the freedom to make any choice that we care to, but the freedom to make the only choice of forcing every thought to be a captive prisoner of Christ and subject to His sovereign will.

Once again, the validity of mans free will is assumed but never demonstrated. The natural man is at enmity with the Lord, the sinner hates God and God hates the sinner. Psalm 5:5, Romans 8:7-8

ElSheddai, thanks for commenting on my blog!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

On The Free Will of Man

Several days ago I was having dinner with a couple of friends.  During conversation the topic of mans free will came up.  They are not Reformed in their theology thus they hold fast to mans free will.  It is interesting to try and speak with someone regarding this topic because in my opinion, those that proclaim the validity of it are demonstrating their sinful, humanistic nature in that they deny the sovereign will of God and hold their will as an equal to that of the Lord and creator.  Ultimately, if the final decision regarding salvation is mans and not God's then man has usurped the will of God, the election and predestination of God, the atoning, propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

If the free will of man is so apparent as a doctrine, can it be as fully explained through scripture as the Trinity?  With many of the people I have discussed this with, free will is always assumed and never even demonstrated through scripture, at most they only offer verses that deal with an individual making choices but never demonstrate free will.  Sadly,  most equivocate when using the term or they do not understand that a denial of free will is not a denial of an ability to make choices.  The apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans tells us that God's mercy and compassion on man is not based on the will or exertion of man but rather on God, Rom. 9:16.  This follows right after the demonstration of God's purpose of election in verse 11.  Here, Paul establishes that God's election of Jacob over Esau was not based on the works of either since the election was before either had done anything good or bad.  This verse too follows after Ch.3 v 11-12,  where Paul tells us that there are none righteous, none seek after God and that none do good... not even one.

Who then is sovereign?  Is man? Is God?  Are they both sovereign or do they both work together to secure salvation?  If then God alone is sovereign then His election to salvation is not based on anything outside of God including mans choices.  If salvation is based on the free will choices of man then God is no longer sovereign since His election to salvation is now dependent upon man's free will choice.  If then salvation is wholly dependent upon man choosing then the work of Christ on the cross has been made void and empty until that very day that man decided to choose.  The propitiatory sacrifice is no longer a perfect work that saves to the uttermost rather it only makes salvation a possibility which is only effective when and if man so chooses.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Famous or Infamous?

Earlier this year I began looking for a new Bible.  I had been more than a little disappointed with my most recent purchase which at that time was a little more than a year old, a Life Application Study Bible.  It is a large book at 6.5" x 9.5" x 2", bound in bonded leather and the spine is glued.  The price of the Bible was around $70.00 which to me at that time seemed like a lot to spend on a Bible but thought it was an investment.  Sadly the Bible didn't last quite as long as I had expected.  Thus began my search for my next Bible.

I started looking for a new study Bible as well as a new translation.  I decided on The Reformation Study Bible(ESV) but along with it I also was interested in and bought the 1599 Geneva Bible after reading a review by J. Mark Bertrand.  He had an entire section in his blog that was all about Bibles, nice Bibles.  I read and re-read all he had written about Bibles and I finally had an understanding of what a fine binding was.  Ever since buying my first Bible I wanted a truly nice Bible but didn't have an idea of what that was as most Christian bookstores do not usually stock premium Bibles.  

Thankfully there are companies that still make these very expensive books and people like Mark Bertrand who take the time write about and photograph them.  He now has a new site that is strictly dedicated to this pursuit.  Here, Bibliophiles can talk about the aspects of Bibles and Bible design that are of interest.  Recently, one of the regular commentators to the blog sent a picture of his stack of Bibles to Mark.  After posting in the comments section all of my recent acquisitions, Mark asked me to send him a picture of my Bibles so he could write about as well.  Read it here

I guess this sort of shopping spree is unusual.  Hmm, thats just odd!

From top to bottom; 1) Cambridge Pitt Minion NASB goatskin,  2) Cambridge Cameo KJV blue Morocco,  3) Lockman Wide Margin NASB blue calfskin,  4) Crossway Deluxe Heirloom ESV black calfskin,  5) Crossway Single Column Reference ESV black calfskin,  6) R L Allan Reference ESV black Highland goatskin,  7) Crossway Thinline Cordovan ESV calfskin,  8)  Lockman Wide Margin NASB black calfskin

J. Mark Bertrand is my homeboy!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bible Paper. Too Thin or Not Opaque Enough?

In the previous post on Crossway's Single Column Reference Bible I did something that led me to write this. I used to work as a machinist in the aerospace industry, although that didn't last long I still have some of my old tools including my micrometers. Since I was writing about the SCR and the biggest issue in the minds of possible customers to this fine Bible is the thickness of the paper. I brought out my two micrometers, one is a cheap, no name brand $20 throw away that I haven't yet thrown away. The other is a Swiss made Etalon Series 260 model 71.115899

It took me a little longer than expected to re-learn how to read these micrometers. I measured the paper on the SCR and it came out to .0017" thick. I measured the paper carefully so as not to damage the paper nor to compress the paper and get a bad reading. There is a chance I didn't read the micrometer properly but that may not be as important as long I was able to demonstrate a difference between various Bible paper.  I decided to measure all my Bibles and found something very interesting. The paper used on the SCR is not the thinnest and it seems to be the standard. I measured paper from several different publishers and paper thickness is not the culprit as much as opacity is. I have discussed the right type of pens to use for writing in your Bible but there are those that do not write in their Bibles yet bleed through is still an issue for them.

I am not an expert on paper. I know that is made of wood pulp along with other items such as cotton or linen, binders and chemicals to whiten or color the paper. Bible paper is made thin for obvious reasons, the Bible is quite a lengthy book. Were it to be made with regular book paper the Bible would be about 3" thick. Imagine trying to street witness with a Bible that is over 3" and weighs over 5 lbs.

Cambridge Pitt Minion Reference Bible NASB.

Classic Thinline Reference Bible ESV.

Tyndale Life Application Study Bible NKJV.

.0014"- Cambridge Cameo King James Version (out of print)

Tolle Lege 1599 Geneva Bible.

Lockman Foundation In Touch Ministries Wide Margin Edition NASB.

R L Allan Cross Reference ESV.

Ligonier Ministries The Reformation Study Bible ESV.

Crossway Single Column Reference Bible ESV.

Crossway Deluxe Heirloom Bible ESV.

The Deluxe Heirloom is sadly out of print. After the remaining stock on hand is sold there will not be any more made. This Bible was printed on 27 lbs. paper with wide margins and a 10.2 size font, a great edition for note takers. Of the Bibles with the thinnest paper, there wasn't one that was noticeably more opaque than the other, well the Life Application Study Bible appeared less opaque than the Pitt Minion or the Classic Thinline. This may be due to the size difference between the two smaller Bibles and the massive LASB. Of the Bibles that measured in at .0017", the Wide Margin NASB from The Lockman Foundation was nearly as opaque as the thicker Deluxe Heirloom ESV. The RSB the Geneva Bible and the ESV from Allan's all appeared about equal in opacity and just slightly less opaque than the Lockman NASB and the Single Column Reference Bible slightly less opaque than the previous three. I believe that the SCR was printed on 21 lbs. paper and the Thinline on 19 lbs. The weight of the paper is measured by weighing 500 sheets of 25" x 38" sheets. I have no objective way of measuring the opacity of the paper and simply went by my eyes. In case it matters I have 20/20 vision.

I hope that Bible publishers will realize the importance of providing a quality product and that there are a few whom are willing to pay extra for owning great books. I do not know the price difference in using thicker or more opaque paper per Bible. The opacity of the paper is increased by the use of titanium oxide. I am sure that the use of thicker or more opaque paper will make for a more expensive Bible... but how much more expensive? Crossway and Cambridge both make Bibles that are near or over $200 but can be found for anywhere between $90 and $150. R L Allan make some truly fine Bibles but the ESV in Highland goatskin is, depending on the exchange rate, $175.00. They have editions that are over $200. Clearly there is a market for truly premium Bibles. I used an inexpensive Bible for many years even though I wanted a "better" Bible, I didn't know exactly what a "better Bible" was. Most bookstores, Christian or not, do not usually carry these premium editions. Most people do not demand for better because they do not know better is available. That may be why cheaper and cheaper paper is used and why very few publishers offer sewn bindings and premium leather covers, not that hard plastic that is being passed for genuine leather. The surprise of all the Bibles I measured was the Cameo KJV from Cambridge. This is an old Bible from the late '70's. It's paper is 0014" and is just as opaque as Deluxe Heirloom ESV whose paper is .0020" thick.

If you build it, we will come.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

ESV Single Column Reference Bible... Or The Myth of The Too Thin Paper

Truth be told, I am a little late jumping on the ESV bandwagon.  So I have decided to drive my own bandwagon.  This is not the first review of the Single Column Reference Bible in the ESV translation published by my friends over at Crossway/Good News Publishers.  I will be reviewing the SCR in black premium calfskin leather and will attempt to give more than a perfunctory review.  Yes, I am a fan of the ESV translation but it is not the only translation I use nor is it the only one I recommend.  I think everyone should use more than one translation, including the KJV, NASB and NIV.  I also recommend the use of a Bible quiver, more than one Bible for specific use.
By God's good grace we live in a time and place when where we can own a Bible let alone a plethora.  Believe it or not, there are places on this planet where Bibles are outlawed and have to be smuggled in.  Trying to keep things in perspective, there are saints that are happy to have just one Bible. One!  They probably do not care if it's a paperback or hardback, genuine leather or Trutone or whatever proprietary name is given to the fake leather.  They are happy to own a Bible,  lest we forget what a luxury we have.  I say this only because there seems to be too much nit-picking about Bibles.
This leads me to why I have decided to write this blog.  The internet, like most other things have very good aspects to them that can easily be exploited.  In the dark ages b.p.c (before personal computers) news travelled much... much slower than it does today.  News used to take hours, yes... hours to get to us, now with everybody owning computers and with new technological advancements like the Apple i-Phone you can get news as it is happening no matter where you are.  Another thing that travels at the speed of life, aside from the news, are myths and urban legends.
Far too many Bible reviews are simply bogus.  According to Rick Mansfield there are 84 translations or paraphrases of the Bible in English.  Aside from all the translations available there are different bindings, covers, colors and sizes to choose from.  If that wasn't enough, you can also get a Bible that's made specific to your needs such as a Soldiers Bible, Marines Bible, Adventure Bibles, Blossom Complete New Testament, Duct Tape Bible, Revolution: The Bible For Teen Guys Bible, Mom's Devotional Bible, True Identity Bible and even a Woman Thou Art Loosed Bible... I am not joking.  It is safe to say that there are Bibles that fill just about every niche out there, although I am still looking for a Too Fat and Too Old to Skateboard Bible in the SCC Version (So Cal Cholo.)  

Since there are countless combinations of translations, bindings, covers, colors and sizes to choose from it is ridiculous to give a Bible a bad review for something that it was not intended for.  I've seen people give a thinline Bible a bad review for having thin paper, or a compact Bible for having type too small for reading.  If you are are willing to use only one Bible then you will have to compromise.  If you want a Bible with large print set in a paragraph format with study notes, cross references, concordance and maps... you may have to give up portability.  Judge a Bible for what it's intended purpose is.  Study Bibles tend to be large and bulky, compact Bibles are small and portable.  It's unreasonable to give a Bible a poor review for something it wasn't designed for so buy the Bible that suits your need.

Which leads me to Crossway's Single Column Reference.  According to many reviews, it appears to suffer from paper that is too thin.  Too thin for the purpose of note taking. Having been made with wide margins, note taking seems to be what it was made for.  More on the paper, later.

The SCR was released earlier this year and features the ESV translation with the minor updates from 2006 which, really are very minor.  The calfskin used by Crossway is among the best leather available by any publisher.  The black calfskin is a matte black, it doesn't have the sheen that the goatskin leather on Cambridge or R L Allan Bibles.  The cover is cut slightly larger than the book block itself and it is also leather lined making the covers very limp and durable.  This copy has very soft leather with grain that is striated and a smell that is wonderful.  The spine has 6 raised bands giving it that "old world craftsmanship" look.  The stamping on the spine is precise, clean and straight.  The leather cover itself is framed by a line that has been rolled or stamped  1/2" inside of the edge.  When open, the book stays that way no matter where its opened to, in the hand, it feels like an old broken in baseball glove, an extension of your hand.  This has much to do with the a binding that is smyth sewn, making this a Bible that will probably out last me.

The book block itself is 6.5" x 9.25" x 1.5", the leather cover is slightly larger but not a true semi-yapp.  The Bible has color maps in the back with presentation page, marriage, birth and death page in the front.  As with all ESV Bibles I have seen, this one has the preface which speaks of the history and philosophy behind the ESV translation as well as a section that gives an explanation to the features, such as how to use the cross references as there are over 80,000 of them.  The Bible also features a concordance with over 14,500 entries.  All this goes to make a very usable Bible for the purpose of in-depth studies.

Another feature that will help in making this a usable Bible is the readability.  The font size is 10 point which some may say that it should be larger but because of the setting is more than enough to make this a very easy read.  The layout of the page is not cluttered, the verses are not crammed and the cross references are on the inside margin making this a very neat layout.  The chapter introductions are brief and are printed in a shaded portion at the top, as each chapter starts a new page.  The chapter title, also at the top of the page and it's in a font different than the verses.  

The feature that sets this Bible apart from many on the market is the single column setting.  Most Bibles available are in a double column setting with cross references in the middle, this one however has the cross references on the inside margin and there is only one column of verses.  Each verse starts a new line and there are paragraph marks to let the reader know when a paragraph starts.  The space between the verses is roomy, especially in the poetic portions of the Old Testament.  The side margins are a little more than an inch wide which is plenty of room for me to make my notes, but others may need slightly wider margins. The verses are bracketed by a thin line at the top, bottom and along the side inside of the cross references which is a very aesthetically pleasing detail.  The type is distinctive and very readable even at arms length.  

Now, to the paper.  Everywhere from blogs to the comments section at Amazon, people mention the paper being too thin and it suffering from too much bleed through.  This is a matter that has been blown out of proportion by a vocal few and been carried along by those that have yet to handle this book in person.  This to me is a very subjective matter, although there is bleed through, it is not as distracting as some have suggested.  If bleed through is an issue, this may not be the Bible for you but if it is something that is not so important.  In my opinion it is not much more than other Bibles and for as good a Bible as this is, it something that should be overlooked.  If you are going to take notes in this Bible do not use highlighters, use pigment liners to underline.  Not only will they not bleed through they will keep your Bible looking neat.  For writing your notes use the 005 and for underlining do not use anything bigger than a 03, 01 or 02 are preferable.  The 01 will appear as dark as the print itself from the other side.

Paper too thin?  I don't know, maybe.  As I said thats a subjective matter.  What I can tell you is that I dug out my old micrometers and measured the thickness, well, attempted to measure.  It's been such a long time since I had used them I am not sure if I read them correctly but the paper is .0017" thick.  There is some bleed through but it's not distracting and if you use the right pens, underlining and note taking will not be a problem.  You can even use colors that will be less not noticeable than black, be sure to try them out prior to use in less visible spot like the concordance to be sure you are happy with the results.   The only issue I have with this Bible is the ribbon markers, much too thin for a book this big, aside from that, kudos to Crossway for putting together a very elegant and useful tool for the study of Gods Word. 

Check out the WTS Bookstore for the best price on the Single Column Reference ESV.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Hamlet... finally on DVD

In the summer of 1996, I sat in the old Laemmle's Royal Theatre on Santa Monica Boulevard not realizing what it was I was about to experience.  The theatre itself is old, not shabby or unkempt but old and it wasn't even a multiplex, when was the last time you sat in a single screen theatre?  All of this was only part of what I consider to be one of the greatest movie going experiences ever.  The other part of it was the movie itself.  Hamlet.

What is considered by many to be the greatest play ever written by the greatest writer of the English language.  William Shakespear's Hamlet  starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh is quite possibly the greatest version of this great work but also one of the greatest films of all time.  Branagh put together a varied cast of very talented and able actors, set the film in a late 19th century setting, used a lavish setting but more importantly shot the movie using 70 mm film stock.  Few are the directors that can take 70 mm film and create works of art.  David Lean(Lawrence of Arabia) is one, Branaugh happened to be another.  At four times the size of 35 mm film, the larger format provides amazing color and wide angle that lesser directors get lost with, for example, Ron Howard with  Far and Away.

After its theatrical release, Branagh's Hamlet was mired with distribution problems that delayed its release on DVD for 10 years.  The wait is now over with the recent release by Warner Home Video.  Branagh's version is by far the best.  It is unabridged and runs nearly four hours.  The acting by Branagh is better than that of the great, Olivier, who's Hamlet was narcissistic and a bit whiney.  In 1991, Mel Gibson starred in the title and seemed almost overwhelmed by the role.  The depth and complexity inherent to the play is handled effortlessly.  The film is stylish without being pretentious and it takes its time without being slow.  

This uncut version is so superior to those that came before because it allows for the full development of all the players.  The action isn't rushed and the depth of the play becomes easier to grasp.  The soliloquy from Act III Scene I is amazing as Hamlet speaks to his reflection in a large mirror.  Branagh's cinematic skills are in effect without overpowering the film, the camera work is fluid.  If you haven't yet seen it, do yourself a favor and do so!