T Bone Burnett was slated to be the keynote speaker for the International Bluegrass Musicians Association recently. He wasn’t able to make it, so he had someone else read his speech for him. The speech is partly about O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but along the way, he talks about the music industry (quoting Larry Poons: “We live in an age of music for people who don’t like music”), “rock and roll” (a phrase that goes back to the late nineteenth century, he says, and used to include what we’d call swing and bluegrass and country and some other styles of music, too), what makes for good banjo playing, and what went wrong with country music. He says,
To me, however, the interesting thing about the sound of O Brother is not, as many have accurately remarked, that it is true to the sound of that period. The interesting thing is that it sounds so completely modern. It has high fidelity. Fidelity to what was happening in the room when the singers and players were singing and playing all at once. All of this is to say that by the grace of God and the Coen Brothers, people are once again listening to other people play and sing music.
I note that T Bone has teamed up with the Coen Brothers to form DMZ Records (with Bono from U2, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, and others on the board). In this press release, T Bone describes DMZ as a “musician-centered label,” and says, “We’re not going to concentrate solely on traditional American music. We’re going to do music that is good, music that will become traditional American music.”
They’ve just released a CD by the 75 year old mountain musician Ralph Stanley, who sang the haunting “O Death” in O Brother. “We’re going to have a 75-year-old rock star,” T Bone says here. Almost makes me want to listen to some bluegrass. Almost? Well, actually, it does.
Here is a helpful review of the English Standard Version by Kathleen Nielson. Nielson notes that the ESV has “the obedience of faith” in Romans 1:5 and 16:26. The benefit of the translation “the obedience of faith” is that it leaves the work of interpreting that phrase up to the reader, whereas many translations simply give the translators’ own interpretation. The NIV, for instance, has “the obedience that comes from faith” in Romans 1:5 and reworks 16:26 so that it reads “so that all nations might believe and obey him.”
Many translations, it appears, shy away from anything that might seem unclear or ambiguous on a first reading, which seems strange on the face of it: Why couldn’t Paul write something that you wouldn’t fully understand until you had read further in his letter? Should we assume that everything Paul wrote was immediately clear to his first readers so that they would never have to wrestle to figure out his arguments or what he meant by a phrase like “the obedience of faith”?
Nielson notes, as well, that the ESV has “the obedience of faith” in both Romans 1:5 and 16:26. One of my pet peeves with a lot of translations, a peeve I share with Nielson, is the inconsistency with which they translate certain phrases. Nobody reading Romans 1:5 and 16:26 in the NIV, for instance, would guess that Paul uses exactly the same phrase (“the obedience of faith”) at the beginning and end of his letter. But surely the repetition of that phrase is important, isn’t it?
Nielson also addresses the idea that the goal of translation is to produce a version of the Bible which is easy to read:
In one sense, the ESV might be accused of being more difficult than some other contemporary versions. Two responses come quickly to mind. First, this accusation of difficulty is not a problem with the translation; it is a problem with the Bible and with taking the time to read and study it. I remember the first time I taught Shakespeare. The play was King Lear, and one of the first questions from my first-year college students was: “Couldn’t we read this in a modernized version?” My answer was no, because I wanted them to read the words Shakespeare wrote, to understand them, learn from them, and delight in their beauty. By the end of that class, most of those students had taken in that play wholeheartedly, memorized parts of it, and enjoyed it thoroughly.The process did require a bit of work. Anything worthwhile does. For good reason the church has developed teachers and preachers and theologians, to help us dig into the riches of the inspired word of God. The ESV is certainly not difficult to the degree that Shakespeare is! It does, however, respect readers enough to give them the biblical text in all its demanding beauty.
Is there a perfect translation out there? No. (One of these days, though, I will have to check out the ESV.) But articles like this remind me why I spend time working through each passage I preach in the Greek or Hebrew instead of simply relying on an English translation.
A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that the arrival of my new bookshelves was bittersweet since I might be moving. Someone named Sarah (Sarah who?, I wonder) asked why. Here’s the report I’ve put off writing for the last few weeks. On July 28, after three months of discussions between the elders and me, the consistory read this letter to the congregation following the morning service:
An open letter to the Congregation of Trinity Reformed Church.
One of the issues that consistory has recently had to deal with is the matter of children at the Lord’s Supper. This issue, which is often referred to as “paedocommunion,” came to a head for consistory when we were required to make a decision on Tim Gallant‘s Appeal to the Classis of Western Canada (June 6 & 7, 2002). In his appeal, Gallant challenged the ruling of Classis 2000 “that the Reformed Confessions require a profession of faith as a prerequisite for the reception of the Lord’s Supper.” Mr. Gallant felt he could not sign the form of subscription if Classis placed the paedocommunion view outside of confessional bounds.
In our discussions on this issue, our consistory has maintained that those who approach the Lord’s Supper must be of a proper age to examine themselves and to commemorate the Lord’s death according to the commands of I Corinthians 11:25-29. It is, therefore, the position of consistory that our confessions do require a profession of faith as a prerequisite for reception of the Lord’s Supper. This position was supported unanimously by our consistory and was fully supported at Classis 2002. Our consistory also supports the rationale that Classis gave in denying Mr. Gallant’s appeal.
The reason that you are receiving this letter is that out of these discussions we became aware that our minister, Rev. Barach, is currently struggling with his views and beliefs on paedocommunion. At this time Rev. Barach does not have a firm position on the issue; rather, he is actively examining the arguments (for and against) trying to see what Scripture has to say on this matter. This became an issue for him in 2000 when Mr. Gallant first brought his appeal forward. It was not an issue for Rev. Barach when he signed the form of subscription himself in 1999. It should be noted that Rev. Barach has not preached, taught or promoted paedocommunion in our congregation.
The problem we face is that Rev. Barach cannot agree with the consistory and classis position that those who hold to the view of paedocommunion subscribe to a belief that is outside of confessional bounds. He is unable to support consistory in the stance we have taken and the direction we wish to pursue on this issue.
Based on this history, it was decided at our last meeting that:
The consistory of Trinity Reformed Church dissolve our relationship with Reverend Barach pending Classis approval in accordance with article 11 of our church order. Our intent is to dissolve the relationship with the following two provisions:
1) That Rev. Barach maintains his full ministerial duties until such a time that he can find a new position or until December the 31st of this year.
2) That consistory will continue to provide Rev. Barach with his full salary until such a time that he can find a new position or until July 31, 2003.
Consistory would like to stress that this is a mutual agreement between consistory and Rev. Barach. We agree that this is the best action that we can take at this time to keep and promote unity in our congregation and in the church of Christ at large. Consistory has a great appreciation for the love and leadership Rev. Barach has brought to our congregation over the last 3 years. It is our desire to proceed in this manner [sic: matter] in such a way that his name is upheld and the communion of the saints is maintained. We ask that the congregation support us in this matter with your prayers, discussions and actions.
If you have any questions about the current situation please talk to your district elder.
On Behalf of Consistory,
Gerrit Greidanus (Clerk)
Article 11 of the URCNA Church Order reads:
If, for reasons other than such as warrant ecclesiastical discipline, either a minister of the Word or the congregation he is serving desires to dissolve their pastoral relationship, that dissolution shall occur only upon mutually satisfactory conditions and only with the concurring advice of the classis. If the released minister desires to receive a call to serve another congregation, the council from whose service he is being released shall announce his eligibility for call, which eligibility shall be valid for no more than two years, whereafter he shall be honorably released from office. If the minister released from his congregation desires to leave his office in order to seek non-ministerial labor, he must receive the approval of the classis before doing so.
The consistory also included a letter from me:
I want you to understand that I too share consistory’s concern for the peace and purity of the church. I love this congregation, with its commitment to God’s Word and its appreciation of God’s sovereignty and God’s covenantal bonds with His people. I deeply appreciate the love that the congregation has shown me and the assistance and encouragement that you have given me. It has been a wonderful three years. It is my hope that we can continue to work together as brothers and sisters in Christ until such a time as I secure a new ministerial position. I trust that we will be able to do this together under God’s grace and with His blessing.
Rev. John Barach
The consistory’s decision has been very painful for me. I had asked the elders to allow me to withhold judgment on the issue of paedocommunion and I had promised not to promote it or militate against our current practice. Nevertheless, the elders decided that it would be better for us to work to dissolve our relationship and I acquiesced to that decision. I’m grateful that they have stated in their letter that I have not been promoting paedocommunion publicly (I wasn’t the one who brought up the issue!), and I appreciate their desire to uphold my name. But it’s going to be very hard to have to leave Lethbridge.
According to the Church Order, this decision still needs to be ratified by a classis. My guess is that the earliest we could have a classis would be the first couple weeks of November.
In the meantime, I’m continuing to preach and carry on my other ministerial work. I’ve preached (from Philippians 2, in particular) that the path to vindication and exaltation with Christ is not the Adamic path of self-seeking and self-assertion, but the path Christ took, the path of self-sacrifice, humility, and submission. And now the Lord has given me the opportunity to back up my preaching by my example.
If you want more information, you can e-mail me. I appreciate your prayers for the congregation and for me.
My sister has written up her account of her 1200 km ride.
As I reported a while back, my sister Charlene rode in a 1204 km race through the mountains of British Columbia and Alberta. They’ve now posted her times. You can find pictures of the ride here and here.
Here she is recovering somewhere along the way:
And here is Char with my dad, who was working as a volunteer:
Char’s Achilles tendons are still killing her, but other than that, she’s feeling pretty good. She spent a week with our grandmother out in British Columbia and is now back at work. I haven’t talked to her since the ride, but I hear that she’s planning to write up an account and I look forward to reading it. (And for those who wondered, yes, she did pass a couple of bears, one of which was fairly large.)
This morning, my bookshelves arrived — seven of them. It took the elderly gentleman who made them a couple of hours to make sure all the shelves fit, and then I spent the next couple of hours filling them with the books which, for as long as I’ve lived here, have been piled up around the walls of my bedroom. The arrival of the shelves is somewhat bittersweet, however, since I’m not sure how long I’ll be living here, and I’m reluctant to unpack all the boxes of books I have stored downstairs in case I have to pack again a few months from now.
I had supper tonight with Keith and Jenn Griffioen. After supper, we went to see Insomnia. It’s not perhaps a great movie, but I enjoyed it. It’s a murder mystery, but the mystery isn’t the main focus.
Al Pacino plays Detective Will Dormer from Los Angeles who has come to Alaska with his partner to help find the killer of a teenage girl. But things go wrong in a way that might lead people to suspect Dormer himself of a crime. Dormer covers things up. After all, if he’s under suspicion, his entire life’s work could be undone; criminals he’s arrested in the past might go free if there’s any suspicion cast on him and his methods as a detective. But Dormer can’t sleep, and the midnight sun doesn’t help. Add to the mix the fact that the suspect in the murder knows what Dormer has done.
The film presents a number of moral questions worth pondering, primary of which is whether the ends justify the means. Jeffrey Overstreet at Looking Closer writes,
This movie should be seen, discussed, and pondered more than once. Movies regularly sell us the lie that a hero is somebody willing to do anything to catch the bad guy. Most big screen heroes work in varying methods of vigilante justice. Many commit small crimes in order to stop those who commit big ones. And audiences cheer. But who’s to say that the criminals themselves weren’t trying to accomplish what they saw was good through unclean methods? Insomnia is a tragedy, but it tells the truth about the wages of sin. It’s one of the best American thrillers I’ve ever seen.
The scenery was breathtaking. Although the story is set in Alaska, the film was shot in northern British Columbia, in a town that Keith had visited a few times.
Now I’m off to have a cup of tea and read a bit more of Holifield and the last short story in Gene Wolfe’s Endangered Species.