Book Review: Reformation Anglican Worship

Reformation Anglican Worship: Experiencing Grace, Expressing Gratitude (The Reformation Anglicanism Essential Library, Volume 4)

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Short, mostly easy read (occasional Latin thrown in).

Summary

The book is generally what the title says. For those confused from the ‘Reformation’ part, I was, too. I’m not sure why the author(s, it is a series) didn’t use Reformed, as this seems to be what they are discussing. Canmer (who wrote the Book of Common Prayer, and was the main influence on Anglicanism) was heavily influenced by the Reformation and it’s new focus on Biblical reading in the vernacular and Justification by faith. 

Jensen focuses mostly on the Reformed, as opposed to Anglo-Catholic, side of Anglicanism. He makes a strong argument for it being the way Anglicanism started, but does a good job of putting things into a historical context as well as modern impacts. 

This is a short book broken into six chapters – The Heart of Christian Worship, Worship in the English Reformation, Reading and Preaching the Scriptures, The Gospel Signs: The Sacraments, Prayers of Grace, and Music: The Word in Song. There is also a brief introduction where he lays out his goal for the book. Chapter one, lays a basic theological groundwork on worship, based on the Trinity. The remaining five chapters are pretty clear by the title. 

My Thoughts

This was an interesting book to me. I am not an Anglican, but am in the Reformed tradition (though I understand there is a good bit of difference between the two). I’ve recently gained some interested in the Anglican tradition, mostly due to my recent discovery of the use of the Book of Common prayer. Jensen does a great job of weaving thoughts/writing from Cranmer and portions of the Book through each chapter (for those wondering why the BCP didn’t warrant its own chapter).

He doesn’t rely solely on Cranmer, but points to other Bishops at the time and even some writings from the royalty. I thought chapter three (Read & Preaching Scripture) was the most interesting. Knowing a good bit about the Reformation and continuing in the tradition, I was familiar with the focus on the Word Preached. Much less focused on, but apparently quite important in Anglicanism (especially as exhibited in the previous version of the BCP) is the direct reading of scriptures. This includes multiple readings from throughout the Bible at each service, as well as a reading plan that takes you through the OT once and NT three times a year; and the Psalms once a month. 

Sacramentalism is one of the divergent points between Anglicanism and Reformed traditions, but the chapter was interesting and informative. The Music chapter was the shortest, but was quite powerful. This is especially true if you are a member of church that freely uses ‘modern worship’. His critique is harsh, but completely accurate. He points out the irony of the fact (which I was unaware) that Reformation era churches were heavily focused on the performance of music, specifically coral music which can be hard to sing. Now, we’ve moved back to performance. The irony being, we fought to have the congregation be able to sing, to now, being focused on entertainment, with many songs that are not made for congregational singing (or are often hard to sign, but hey, guitar solo). 

The interest on this book would be fairly narrow, btu I do think everyone who cares about proper worship would benefit from this book. If you are interested in worship, you should certainly buy this book.  If you are Anglican, or Reformed, or have an interest in church history or the various aspects of the Reformation, put this on your list. 

*I received a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review. 

Modern Cloister: Wisdom and Kingship in the Psalms

Modern-Cloister-NEW

Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms Modern Cloister

In this episode, we take a closer look at wisdom and kingship psalms and the ways they have been and continue to be used by Christians and the church. This includes reading select psalms in these categories that are meaningful to us. This is the 6th and final episode in our series on the psalms.  In the 1st episode in the series, we provided an overview of the psalms, including their history, organization, difficulties, themes, language style and poetic nature, along with our personal stories in coming to love and appreciate the psalms. In the 2nd episode, we discussed how the psalms were used historically within the church and shared practical insights into how to use the psalms today in both corporate and private worship and prayer, including several on-air, live examples of praying and singing the psalms. In the 3rd episode, we explored praise and thanksgiving psalms. In the 4th episode, we talked about lament and confessions psalms. In the 5th episode, we discussed confidence and remembrance psalms.  You can listen to those episodes below: A Guide to Understanding the Psalms How To Use The Psalms Praise and Thanksgiving In The Psalms Lament and Confession In The Psalms Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms If you're new to the Modern Cloister, check out our first full series on community via the links below and listen to our introductory episode to learn all about the "why" behind our podcast.  Welcome to the Modern Cloister A History of Christian Community The Decline of Community The Future of Community The Impact of COVID-19 on Community Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms
  2. Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms
  3. Lament and Confession In The Psalms
  4. Praise and Thanksgiving In the Psalms
  5. In The News: Supreme Court Takes Up Abortion, Russell Moore Leaves SBC, God Bless the USA Bible, and CDC Guidance

Part six and the final episode of the Modern Cloister series on the Psalms is out, you can find info on Part 1 – a Guide to Understanding the Psalms – here, Part 2 – How to Use the Psalms – here, and Part 3 – Praise and Thanksgiving in the Psalms – here, Part 4 – Lament and Confession – here or listen in the player below (I didn’t have a chance to do a write up on episode 5, but you can listen to it in the player.

In this Episode, we continue diving into different genres of Psalms. We have broken them into eight genres, and we cover Wisdom and Kingship, which are two genres people may not think much about. We also discuss the Hallelujah Psalms that end the book. 

Hope you have enjoyed the series. 

I’ve reviewed two of the best books out there (that aren’t commentaries) on the Psalms – How to Read the Psalms & Learning to Love the Psalms – if you are interested in reading more. 

You can listen to the Pod on the player below, or subscribe anywhere podcast are found. You can also listen at our YouTube Channel. Or, of course, come check us out at ModernCloister.com. Hope you enjoy, feedback is always welcome. 

Modern Cloister: Lament and Confession in the Psalms

Modern-Cloister-NEW

Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms Modern Cloister

In this episode, we take a closer look at wisdom and kingship psalms and the ways they have been and continue to be used by Christians and the church. This includes reading select psalms in these categories that are meaningful to us. This is the 6th and final episode in our series on the psalms.  In the 1st episode in the series, we provided an overview of the psalms, including their history, organization, difficulties, themes, language style and poetic nature, along with our personal stories in coming to love and appreciate the psalms. In the 2nd episode, we discussed how the psalms were used historically within the church and shared practical insights into how to use the psalms today in both corporate and private worship and prayer, including several on-air, live examples of praying and singing the psalms. In the 3rd episode, we explored praise and thanksgiving psalms. In the 4th episode, we talked about lament and confessions psalms. In the 5th episode, we discussed confidence and remembrance psalms.  You can listen to those episodes below: A Guide to Understanding the Psalms How To Use The Psalms Praise and Thanksgiving In The Psalms Lament and Confession In The Psalms Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms If you're new to the Modern Cloister, check out our first full series on community via the links below and listen to our introductory episode to learn all about the "why" behind our podcast.  Welcome to the Modern Cloister A History of Christian Community The Decline of Community The Future of Community The Impact of COVID-19 on Community Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms
  2. Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms
  3. Lament and Confession In The Psalms
  4. Praise and Thanksgiving In the Psalms
  5. In The News: Supreme Court Takes Up Abortion, Russell Moore Leaves SBC, God Bless the USA Bible, and CDC Guidance

Part four of the Modern Cloister series on the Psalms is out, you can find info on Part 1 – a Guide to Understanding the Psalms – here, Part 2 – How to Use the Psalms – here, and Part 2 – Praise and Thanksgiving in the Psalms – here,  or listen in the player below. In this Episode, we continue diving into different genres of Psalms. We have broken them into eight genres, and we cover Lament and Confession, which are related, but also a little different. I think most people are familiar with confession, but having Biblical examples are helpful. I do not think most people are familiar or comfortable with lament. Mostly because it seems like we are just whining and complaining to go. Fortunately, there are numerous examples of Lament in the Psalms. Many show how to appropriately bring complaint to God. We do always have to be happy or positive, but can readily bring real sadness and distress to God and plea for His help. 

I’ve reviewed two of the best books out there (that aren’t commentaries) on the Psalms – How to Read the Psalms & Learning to Love the Psalms – if you are interested in reading more. 

You can listen to the Pod on the player below, or subscribe anywhere podcast are found. You can also listen at our YouTube Channel. Or, of course, come check us out at ModernCloister.com. Hope you enjoy, feedback is always welcome. 

Father’s Day 2021 Recommended Reading

If you are a dad of a young child or a soon to be dad, I have a few recommendations for books to check out this Father’s Day. Or if you are someone related to one of these people and don’t have a gift yet, click the link and get it just in time (or go rent from the library, you’d be surprised at what they have).

Best pre-dad book I’ve reviewed – The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life
Best pre-dad I haven’t reviewed – Be Prepared
Another good pregnancy/first few months book that has a great guidebook style (my review) – We’re Pregnant! The First-Time Dad’s Pregnancy Handbook
Best book for early childhood – Brain Rules for Baby (Updated and Expanded): How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five
Best Gospel-centered parenting book (my review) – Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family
Best book for men in general, but certainly has a few value for fathers and husbands (my review) – Disciplines of a Godly Man (Paperback Edition)

*This book is more focused on women, but is actually a pretty good read. My advice to dads and pre-dads who fear their wife might be over-protective is to have them read this book (y’all both read, she’ll appreciate the effort if nothing else) – Bringing Up Bébé

A few others to consider:
Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less (my review) The flashcard trend has died down since this book was written, but the research into how children learn is quite fascinating.

The Pregnancy Instruction Manual: Essential Information, Troubleshooting Tips, and Advice for Parents-to-Be (Owner’s and Instruction Manual)
The Baby Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance
How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

The suggestion skew young as they are all about pre-dad to preschool, mostly baby and toddler books, but I’m young (ish) and young children (added two since I first made this list three years ago, Sprout has aged out, so I may need to find some new books), so I don’t know what to tell you other than to check back in the next few years for more. For broader parenting books I’ve reviewed, but don’t necessarily recommend, check out my review of Fearless Parenting and my review of Talking with Your Kids About God.

Book Review: God’s Word Alone

God’s Word Alone—The Authority of Scripture: What the Reformers Taught…and Why It Still Matters (The Five Solas Series)

My Rating – Probably not worth your time

Level – moderate (having a little knowledge church history is helpful), medium to long (just under 400, but longer than needed, as it was a bit redundant).

Summary

 If, based on the title and subtitle, you expected a book that mostly had a historical focus that placed itself in the time of the Reformation or a book that was mostly about the authority of the Bible, this is not the book you are looking for. More on why not in ‘My Thoughts’ below. The book is broken into three parts with three to four chapters in each. Part One is called ‘God’s Word Under Fire, Yesterday and Today’ which includes chapters on the Reformation, the modernist shift, and today ‘Crisis over Biblical Authority’ (which is mostly about inerrancy). Part Two is called ‘God’s Word in Redemptive History’, there are also three chapters and they go through the redemptive history of the Bible – these chapters have much of the internal apologetics you would expect to find in a book like this. Part Three, ‘The Character of God’s Word and Contemporary Challenges’, is four chapters – Inspiration, Inerrancy, Clarity, and the Sufficiency of Scripture. There is also an intro and conclusion, as well as a ‘series notes’ (this is book one of five on the Solas published at the 500th anniversary of the Reformation), and a forward. 

My Thoughts

This is probably the most mixed review I’ve ever written. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this book, nothing I would particularly disagree with (perhaps with the exception of a possible implication that you are not a Christian if you do not believe in inerrancy – as defined by certain people). However, this book really is a missed opportunity. Barret is a great writer and I’ve heard him in a few interviews, and always really like what he has to say. Part of my excitement for this series was based on him being the series editor. That being said, I can’t really recommend this book. The main issue being so much of the focus was on inerrancy. If you cut 100 pages of inerrancy discussion out of this, it would still be longer than any of the other four books in the series. The fact that Mohler wrote the forward should have made me aware what the real focus would be. Not that I disagree with inerrancy, per se, but if the you are going to make a book in a series longer than two others (Grace, and Glory of God) combined, it should really focus on Authority, which was the main issue during the Reformation. 

Inerrancy certainty matters, but I was expecting a book on the authority of Scripture, especially as it related to the Reformation. Of course, the view of inerrancy in this book is based on the Chicago Statement, which is often interpreted in extremes, being at once so narrow as to seemingly be an argument for the inerrancy of particular interpretation, or qualified and excused to be so broad as to be meaningless. I can’t be the only person who is tired of the Evangelical obsession with Chicago Statement inerrancy. Go read Five Views on Inerrancy , if you are unsure what I’m talking about (I’ve also written a longer post, On Inerrancy, if you have time). 

That being said, Chapter 1, ‘The Road to the Reformation’, and Chapter 10, on sufficiency of Scripture, are great. I’d recommend everyone read them. I also really appreciated Chapter 2, ‘The Modern Shift in Authority’, which dove into our time since the Enlightenment and the Modernist/Fundamentalist controversy. I think that chapter is a value addition to the historical point of authority, as during the Reformation the issues was Scripture vs. Scripture plus Tradition/Councils, whereas now it is more of Scripture (or even Scripture plus) vs myself (self being the ultimate authority in modern life). He also does a good job throughout the book pointing out that Scripture alone does not mean only scripture, which I think is another important modern concern (as we so often in the American Evangelical streams are anti-intellectual and will often reject creeds and catechisms). 

Part two of the book was a little odd. It was well written and a great mini-study on redemptive history, but it didn’t really feel like it fit very well. Finally, Part 3 was what you would expect in this book, outside of more historical notes/narrative. I think there is an odd contradiction made in the sufficiency chapter vs the inerrancy, in that we are seemingly alright with one’s focus being only on spiritual matters while rejecting the idea that it wouldn’t be narrowed in another. The clarity chapter did well in pointing to the nuance in understanding scripture, maybe the best I’ve seen it handled. Inspiration was also well written, but I can see the critiques that we are arguing a circular logic in that we believe the Bible is true because it says it is.  It might have been nice to see some more apologetics on the trustworthiness of Scripture. 

Ultimately, the book fails in what is seemingly its purpose, to argue for the authority of Scripture. One of the reasons I mentioned above that Part Two didn’t seem to fit, is because there are many people who would wholeheartedly agree with everything written in this part, but they play little role in authority, with the exception of the last chapter, on Christ. Similarly, there are many who believe in inerrancy, yet not authority. Most Catholics believe that the Bible is the word of God, yet not the ultimate authority, as do many modernist or Mainline Christians who put their experience over and above Scripture (sometimes without even realizing it). This obsession with arguing the nuances of Chicago Statement inerrancy is really an intra-conservative (possibly, broadly reformed) protestant disagreement. In the grand scheme of life, this is a small segment, and we continue to ignore everyone outside at our own peril. While the book is good, it is mostly an apologetic for inerrancy, narrowly define, with some quality historical notes and other attributes of scripture discussed alongside. So, if you are looking for a book on Sola Scriptura that focuses on the authority of Scripture, this book is probably not worth your time. 

Modern Cloister: Praise and Thanksgiving in the Psalms

Modern-Cloister-NEW

Part three of the Modern Cloister series on the Psalms is out, you can find info on Part 1 – a Guide to Understanding the Psalms – here and Part 2 – How to Use the Psalms – here, or listen in the player below. In this Episode, we start diving into different genres of Psalms. We have broken them into eight genres, and we start with Praise and Thanksgiving, which are related, but also a little different. 

I’ve reviewed two of the best books out there (that aren’t commentaries) on the Psalms – How to Read the Psalms & Learning to Love the Psalms – if you are interested in reading more. 

You can listen to the Pod on the player below, or subscribe anywhere podcast are found. You can also listen at our YouTube Channel. Or, of course, come check us out at ModernCloister.com. Hope you enjoy, feedback is always welcome. 

Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms Modern Cloister

In this episode, we take a closer look at wisdom and kingship psalms and the ways they have been and continue to be used by Christians and the church. This includes reading select psalms in these categories that are meaningful to us. This is the 6th and final episode in our series on the psalms.  In the 1st episode in the series, we provided an overview of the psalms, including their history, organization, difficulties, themes, language style and poetic nature, along with our personal stories in coming to love and appreciate the psalms. In the 2nd episode, we discussed how the psalms were used historically within the church and shared practical insights into how to use the psalms today in both corporate and private worship and prayer, including several on-air, live examples of praying and singing the psalms. In the 3rd episode, we explored praise and thanksgiving psalms. In the 4th episode, we talked about lament and confessions psalms. In the 5th episode, we discussed confidence and remembrance psalms.  You can listen to those episodes below: A Guide to Understanding the Psalms How To Use The Psalms Praise and Thanksgiving In The Psalms Lament and Confession In The Psalms Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms If you're new to the Modern Cloister, check out our first full series on community via the links below and listen to our introductory episode to learn all about the "why" behind our podcast.  Welcome to the Modern Cloister A History of Christian Community The Decline of Community The Future of Community The Impact of COVID-19 on Community Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms
  2. Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms
  3. Lament and Confession In The Psalms
  4. Praise and Thanksgiving In the Psalms
  5. In The News: Supreme Court Takes Up Abortion, Russell Moore Leaves SBC, God Bless the USA Bible, and CDC Guidance

In the News: Abortion on the Supreme Court Docket, Russell Moore leaves the ERLC, God Bless the USA Bible, and updated CDC Guidance.

Modern-Cloister-NEW

In this episode of the Modern Cloister, we discuss some news from May, including the Supreme Court deciding to hear a Mississippi abortion law; Russell Moore steps down as president of the Ethics and Religious Life Commission; the upcoming ‘God Bless the USA’ Bible; and the updated CDC guidance on masks and gatherings (like church). 

It will be about a year before we hear anything else about the abortion case. It could be a more in the right direction, but I remain skeptical (I’ve written before about Trump and the Supreme Court). It has been a wild six or so years with Evangelicals in the news for politics. We (or at least 81%, though less in 2020) abandoned our morals (we went from most likely to say character matters in 2012, to least likely in 2016) and often the reason told was, ‘for the judges’. So, not is the chance, I suppose, to see if it was worth it. It is important to remember that this case would not ban abortion in America (nor would overturning Roe), which is one reason I’ve written that Evangelicals shouldn’t be single issue voters. I’m tired of writing about politics, and even more tired of talking about it. Hopefully, In the News next month won’t have any, though that seems unlikely. 

After we published, news also came out that roughly 15% of Americans believe in QAnon; though it looks like some, including 538, have issues with the polling. However, apparently, even asking different ways, at different times, surveys still finds support to be around this level (and up to 20%). Supporters are disproportionately Evangelical whites and Hispanics. Meaning it is a huge part of our church. So, while major denominations and famous pastors are obsessed with ‘wokeness’ and rooting out CRT (while denying the Trinity, as I’ve written about before), a huge proportion of our people in our pews believe things such as a global pedofile ring is in control of the media/Washington or that Biden is a body double. Meanwhile, 60% of people can’t tell you the Great Commission, and only 9% of people can name the 10 Commandments (a staggering 14% can name only 1). The disconnect is so great that the current hero for the SBC is an atheist, while Russell Moore no longer works for them (if you are curious as to why we brought up the SBC again). 

Also, and I can’t seem to find too many good sources on this, but we mentioned Zondervan was part of the Bless the USA Bible. It appears the content is published elsewhere, Zondervan was only involved as they are the copyright holder to the NIV. It appears that they have pulled their licensing and will not be involved. I’ll try to update as more comes out. I applaud them for their decision, but they still allowed the NIV in the ‘Patriot’s’ Bible, which similarly doesn’t have any commentary or notes, but a few articles interspersed throughout, that have incorrect historical notes about American from an amatuer ‘historian’ (looking at his bio, he has neither pastoral or history training from any accredited institutions.) Also, you can read a good article from the perspective a non-American, that I mentioned during the Pod.

Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms Modern Cloister

In this episode, we take a closer look at wisdom and kingship psalms and the ways they have been and continue to be used by Christians and the church. This includes reading select psalms in these categories that are meaningful to us. This is the 6th and final episode in our series on the psalms.  In the 1st episode in the series, we provided an overview of the psalms, including their history, organization, difficulties, themes, language style and poetic nature, along with our personal stories in coming to love and appreciate the psalms. In the 2nd episode, we discussed how the psalms were used historically within the church and shared practical insights into how to use the psalms today in both corporate and private worship and prayer, including several on-air, live examples of praying and singing the psalms. In the 3rd episode, we explored praise and thanksgiving psalms. In the 4th episode, we talked about lament and confessions psalms. In the 5th episode, we discussed confidence and remembrance psalms.  You can listen to those episodes below: A Guide to Understanding the Psalms How To Use The Psalms Praise and Thanksgiving In The Psalms Lament and Confession In The Psalms Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms If you're new to the Modern Cloister, check out our first full series on community via the links below and listen to our introductory episode to learn all about the "why" behind our podcast.  Welcome to the Modern Cloister A History of Christian Community The Decline of Community The Future of Community The Impact of COVID-19 on Community Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms
  2. Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms
  3. Lament and Confession In The Psalms
  4. Praise and Thanksgiving In the Psalms
  5. In The News: Supreme Court Takes Up Abortion, Russell Moore Leaves SBC, God Bless the USA Bible, and CDC Guidance

On Bible Translations

Most people either think too much about which translation of the Bible to use or don’t think about it at all; I fall into the former group. In High School, I pretty much only knew of two translations – the New International Version, which seemed to be a standard, and then the old King James. Sometime in college, I also found out about the New Living Translation. I don’t think I dug into the differences or philosophies of translations until around my mid to late 20’s, when I started trying to take studying the Bible seriously. I assumed the best thing to do was to get the ‘most accurate’, which actually the original languages, but most people mistakenly believe is the ‘most literal’. This led me to the New American Standard Bible, which I rarely used after reading. I was also my foray into Study Bibles (more on that in a later post), specifically the Apologetics Study Bible, where I ended up with the Holman Christian Standard Bible (they have since dropped the Holman). I actually really liked this translation, but the truth is, I only ended up with it because it was cheaper than some of the others. Joining a PCA church in 2012, the standard seemed to be the English Standard Version, which is what my current church uses exclusively. A few years later (with a few more study Bibles) and I realized, I don’t really like the ESV. So, right now, I’m in the market for a new (non-study) Bible, and I’m unsure which translation I may buy. I’ve also considered writing a short series on Bible study, one on translations, Study Bibles, and Commentaries; so I guess now is as good a reason as any.

You may have some awareness, as I did years ago, that some some translations are more literal and some just try to give the general idea (there are also paraphrase, but I get into that later). The terms most often used are formal equivalence and dynamic (sometimes called functional, because alliteration helps to confuse people) equivalence. People also like to call this word for word vs. thought for thought. Now, there really is no such thing as literal, as Greek/Hebrew word order doesn’t match English, or sometimes words do not have a clear translation (which is why there are so many). So, some work is needed to make it readable. The readability is often the reason given for moving from word for word. There is also the issue of idiom. If I said ‘his nose was red’ or ‘their teeth will be clean’ or Samaritans don’t share pottery with Jews, you probably don’t know what that means in English. Now, if I said, ‘her belly was enlarged’, you might realize it means pregnant. So, how should translate the idiom ‘literally’. You could use the old language, you could try a more modern one, like ‘with child’ (which just sounds weird), or maybe ‘she was showing’. Or just say pregnant.

Two other issues in translation are reading level (compare to grade level) and what I’ll call churchyness (or using poetic/odd/archaic language, just because it ‘sounds’ right). Grade level is an important consideration. If you have a middle-schooler, someone who doesn’t like to read, or someone who’s first language is not English, something like the NASB or NRSV, 11th and 10.5, respectively, might not be helpful (let alone the King James). Similarly, if you find the Old Testament confusing, trying the NLT (6.5) may be helpful. I think this is an often overlooked matter when people do look for translations and ‘readability’. Though, generally speaking, the more thought for thought, the easier it will be to read. Churchyness would is typically going to fall into the idiomatic issues I mentioned above, like ‘with child’, others include – lead us not into temptation, or valley of the shadow of death, or darkness is my only companion – when those are more familiar or ‘sound right’, while not being the best translation. These are the issues that come with translation of any kind. I found this chart here, which also has other valuable charts and comparisons.

Briefly, I want to hit a few stats for you, then go into what I consider to be the five main translations, and then two other popular ones that are just bad, and you probably shouldn’t use them. Like many things, the answer to which is the most popular translation will vary depending on who (and how) you ask. In my moderately reformed world, ESV is about all there is. However, it is rarely used outside of the US. If you asked English speakers, my guess would be that NRSV would be by far and away the most known, as it is authorized by the Catholic and Anglican churches; as well as just about the only translation used in scholarship. For America, The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University and Purdue University asked American’s which Bibles they read and it found King James was first at 55%, NIV (19%), NRSV (7%), New American Bible (6%), The Living Bible (5%) as the top five with all others equaling about 8%. I am skeptical about the methodology, but that is beyond the scope of what I want to discuss here.

My main focus is American Evangelicalism, which is also the group that uses the widest variation, so I will give you a few stats from them. That National Association of Evangelicals asked their members for their preference, and the top five were the NIV (39%), NASB (20%), ESV (13%), NKJV (9%), and NLT (7%), with all others being under 2%. Thom Schreiner has an interesting article about the change from 2011 to 2020, as reported by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. The NIV and KJV reamined 1 and 2. The NLT moved from 4 to 3, the ESV moved from 5 to 4, the NKJV dropped from 3 to 5. Other notes in the top 10, the H/CSB stayed at 6 both times, the Reina Valera (RV, a Spanish language Bible) went from unranked to 7, which is kind of cool, and the NASB dropped from 7th to 10th.

You’ll notice below my big five doesn’t necessarily line up with the most used, but I will explain why in each, and then hit on two others that are worth noting. However, all seven are in the top lists (depending on definition). In each section, I will list the acronym, link to the Wiki article, which is actually pretty good for history and overview, then the reading level, then I will jump into why the translation is important and my general thoughts. Since this is how so many people think in terms of how to pick, I will start with the most word for word and move to the most thought for thought.

New American Standard Bible (NASB, History, 11) – This is the most word for word of the 25 or so most popular translations (there is one or two more ‘literal’, but they are hard to find and you won’t see them published from major groups or used in any study Bibles). I’ve heard this is considered the ‘academic’ version for conservative scholars. This translation can be valuable for study, especially if you are trying to get to the most literal version. However, as an everyday reader or devotional, I think it would be tough. It is a hard read (rated hardest to read from one site I found), and has the second highest ‘grade’ rating of all major translations (King James is higher, more on that below). It is generally considered a good version for conservative Evangelicals.

English Standard Version (ESV, History, 7) – This is the one I have the most familiarity with and the one that seems to be gaining in popularity the most. They refer to themselves as ‘essentially literal’. It seems that they are almost as word for word as the NASB, but tries to keep some of the churchyness of the King James. For me, that makes it even clunkier to read than other translations. I don’t like archaic language mixed with literal approach. The readability suffers from this approach, though the level isn’t that high.

Outside of that, my major issue is the amount of harmonization that occurs in the translation (which is kind of the opposite of ‘literal.’ I won’t go much into it here, but if you compare something like Kings vs. Chronicles, or Paul’s conversion accounts in the ESV to other translations, you’ll notice that it doesn’t match often. This is because the translators specifically chose to change the meaning from the Hebrew and Greek for theological reasons or for fear of ‘contradictions’ in the Bible.

This is considered a good version for people who are moderately reformed. People will also point positively and negatively that it is good for complementarians. It is also a common choice in conservative Evangelical churches.

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV, History, 10.5) – I am probably the least familiar with this version, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard it in a church setting. I do have one copy and have to say, I think it is the best in terms of readability. It is a little more thought for though than the ESV (both versions are revisions to the RSV of the 70’s, with something like 96% agreement between), but still ‘essentially’ literal. It also drops old idioms and uses modern English. It is often attacked for being ‘liberal’ due to be being the standard in Mainline denominations and academia.

It is the also the only major version that was ecumnical in the translation committee, having ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ Protestants, Catholic, Orthodox, and Jewish members. Due to this, it is pretty straight reading (in some ways more ‘literal’ in the sense that it may be closer to the actual words of the text) because there was no dominating theological bent (this also explains it’s use in academia). It is famously criticized for translating ‘young woman’ in Isaiah. However, that is what the Hebrew says. Interestingly, the LXX (pre-Christian Greek vision of the OT) translates to virgin in Greek. But if you are truely after the most accurate, then ‘young woman’ seems to be what the text calls for. I won’t get much into the ‘gender language’ issues here (nevermind, a few notes below).

I’ve read more than a few people say they wish the ESV was just a reorientation of the theological bend of the NRSV, because, well, they wanted a conservative translation, but also because it has superior readability. This versions is generally considered good for everyone except conservative Evangelicals (not that it is bad for us), though you can find quite a few conservative study Bibles that use this text (though not nearly as many as the ESV or King James).

New International Version (NIV, History, 8) – Many consider this to be the true mid-point on the word for word and thought for thought spectrum. It is a little newer than the NASB, but with far superior readability, which was why it because the stand replacement of the King James in most Evangelicals circles. While they harmonize Paul like the ESV, there are at least footnotes explaining the original Greek. They do not harmonize Kings/Chronicles, but instead note the apparent contradictions, which I find to be a far better treatment than simply change the words of scripture out of fear. They do make a few odd choices, especially in Timothy regarding the husband of one wife, which the translate as being faithful to one’s wife. I guess the translation committee considered this to be the thought (interestingly the NRSV says married only once). This is considered a good translations for conservative Evangelicals, but with broader theology than the ESV.

New Living Translation (NLT, History, 6.5) – I was actually a little surprised to see this make so many top five list. I actually really like it. It is the newest (including updates) of the ‘living’ or ‘modern’ English, though I believe it is an older translation than all the above. It is probably the premier example of a thought of thought translation, it is certainly the best one, in my view. At a sixth grade level, it is also one of the simplest to read and usually ranks as one of the easiest to read. It is great for middle/high schoolers and new Christians. I actually use it often for Old Testament readings, and I recommend it to people trying to read the prophets or Job. They also have a few of my favorite OT scholars, at least one of whom is an expert in Hebrew poetry. Relatedly, as they aren’t going word for word, they have more leeway to be poetical in the Psalms and Wisdom literature. You can find many good study Bibles that use this, but not many in depth or scholarly ones. People seem to be torn whether this is considered good for study or not, but most people find it valuable for devotion or day to day reading. You won’t like it if you want ‘literal’ or disagree with the translation philosophy. It is generally considered good for conservative Evangelicals, and like the NASB or NIV, there isn’t a particular theological bend.

I want to briefly mention two other versions that I think you should avoid, the King James and the Message. First, the King James (KJV). I was surprised to see how popular this still is. It is a version to avoid for two reasons – the language is hundreds of years old, and it is not based on the best available copies. The grade level is actually 13, because you are essentially reading Shakespeare’s English. I know that is the appeal to some people, and if that is you, then this might be a good supplement, but updated language is needed. Not only do some of the words not exist anymore, but in some instances words have completely different meanings than they did, rendering the text inaccurate. There are also many mistranslations due to lack of knowledge of the original languages, especially Hebrew (there are Unicorns in the Psalms). Some KJV only people will tell you that it is based on the best text. This is patently false, and no scholars agree; no other translations use the Greek text used (all the above use the same as each other, as this is the consensus among everyone except KJV only people). There are so many better options, please choose one.

The Message is not a translation, it is a paraphrase and one not meant to be scholarly or accurate in anyway. Paraphrase is well past the thought for thought concept. No scholar or pastor would recommend using this as your everyday reader, not even the translator. You are basically getting one guy’s thoughts on how to paraphrase what he things one verse means to him. If you are curious, it is written at a third grade level. I have heard a few people say this could be helpful in study, but only if viewed/used as something like a commentary. It is not an accurate example of the Bible. If you don’t like reading or are looking for a simple version, please do not choose this, use the NLT.

Hope this was helpful. I’d love to hear from anyone on which versions they prefer and why.

You can see the chart below for more translation philosophy/comparisons. You can also go here and here for more comparisons/summaries of different translations. I did go too much into the ‘gender neutral’ controversy, mostly because I think it is pretty overblown. For one, people were really mad in the 90’s and early 2000’s, but even the ESV uses some ‘gender inclusive’ language now, so, to some extent it has blown over. I’m fine with ‘brothers and sisters’ when it is a group, especially as we know it was read to everyone, and even within some letters there are specific call outs to men, and then also to women’. Something like teach your ‘children’ instead of ‘son’, also makes sense in light of modern English. I don’t have that particularly liberal, and more to the point, find the harmonizing mentioned above to be more egregious. I won’t say any more about that, but Bill Mounce has a good article on it, plus a note on literalism.

Edit: I forgot to mention another issues I have with literal or churchyness, using old measurements. I cannot understand how or why, in modern English, we’d use cubits and baths instead of feet and gallons (or meters and liters, for the rest of the world). Similarly, saying the 6th hour, instead of around noon. Those on the more word for word side should at least translate in footnotes, i.e. ‘9 feet’, not ‘a cubit is roughly 18 inches’; the worst are those that give no conversion metrics. Thought for thought versions tend to translate to modern measures and footnote the original.

Modern Cloister: How to Use The Psalms

Modern-Cloister-NEW

Part two of the Modern Cloister series on the Psalms is out (you can find info on Part 1 – a Guide to Using the Psalms – here, or listen in the player below). In it, we discuss using the Psalms for praying, reading, and singing, both privately and corporately. We take a look a reading plans, various ‘divine hours’ in which Psalms are incorporated (including medieval monks who read the whole book once a week), how to use Psalms as prayers and in learning how to pray, and finally, Mrs. MMT teaches you had to sing the Psalms. 

I’ve reviewed two of the best books out there (that aren’t commentaries) on the Psalms – How to Read the Psalms & Learning to Love the Psalms – if you are interested in reading more. 

You can listen to the Pod on the player below, or subscribe anywhere podcast are found. You can also listen at our YouTube Channel. Or, of course, come check us out at ModernCloister.com. Hope you enjoy, feedback is always welcome. 

Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms Modern Cloister

In this episode, we take a closer look at wisdom and kingship psalms and the ways they have been and continue to be used by Christians and the church. This includes reading select psalms in these categories that are meaningful to us. This is the 6th and final episode in our series on the psalms.  In the 1st episode in the series, we provided an overview of the psalms, including their history, organization, difficulties, themes, language style and poetic nature, along with our personal stories in coming to love and appreciate the psalms. In the 2nd episode, we discussed how the psalms were used historically within the church and shared practical insights into how to use the psalms today in both corporate and private worship and prayer, including several on-air, live examples of praying and singing the psalms. In the 3rd episode, we explored praise and thanksgiving psalms. In the 4th episode, we talked about lament and confessions psalms. In the 5th episode, we discussed confidence and remembrance psalms.  You can listen to those episodes below: A Guide to Understanding the Psalms How To Use The Psalms Praise and Thanksgiving In The Psalms Lament and Confession In The Psalms Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms If you're new to the Modern Cloister, check out our first full series on community via the links below and listen to our introductory episode to learn all about the "why" behind our podcast.  Welcome to the Modern Cloister A History of Christian Community The Decline of Community The Future of Community The Impact of COVID-19 on Community Remember to rate, review and subscribe to be the first to get our newest episodes! And connect with us to share your thoughts and feedback at moderncloister@gmail.com. 
  1. Wisdom and Kingship In The Psalms
  2. Confidence and Remembrance In The Psalms
  3. Lament and Confession In The Psalms
  4. Praise and Thanksgiving In the Psalms
  5. In The News: Supreme Court Takes Up Abortion, Russell Moore Leaves SBC, God Bless the USA Bible, and CDC Guidance

Book Review: The Church

The Church: An Introduction

My Rating – Probably not worth your time

Level – Short (the goal of the series), some academic language, but mostly readable. 

Summary – The book is technically broken into two sections, Foundational Issues and Mere Ecclesiology and More Ecclesiology. However, part one, really functions as more of an extended introduction. The two chapters of this section are The Triune God and the Church, and The Church According to Scripture. The latter looks at the different words used for church, gathering, and temple in the Old and New Testaments. 

The bulk of the book is found in part two, which is broken into six chapters – The Identity, Leadership, Government, Ordinances or Sacraments, Ministries, and Future of the Church. The ‘mere’ versus ‘more’ ecclesiology is a rubric of sorts, wherein each chapter he discusses the ‘mere’ of the particular topic first, which is the basic agreements that all churches have now, or have had in the past. The ‘more’ part is where he dives into the differences between various churches or theological views. 

There is also the series introduction, and an introduction by Allison, conclusion, ‘further reading’, and indexes. 

My Thoughts – Allison is a strong writer, who has had success at the popular level. I’ve read a few of his books and always enjoyed them, but something just wasn’t working right in this. It could have been an editor situation, or the way the put the book together, but it often became quite redundant. I mean in a verbatuum since, he would write an intro paragraph for each chapter that end with ‘I will show X in turn’, then ended the chapter with, ‘I have shown X’. It was oddly academic for what I had assumed was meant to be a more popular writing. His Historical Theology text is more readable than parts of this. Additionally, the ‘mere/more’ was repetitive in the same way and a bit contrived. The actual content, outside of the framework, was very accessible and readable. I’m not sure what was going on. 

The content itself, was kind of a mixed bag. I appreciate his defense/discussion on the Trinity, but it didn’t seem to fit. The Church According to Scripture was helpful and interesting. Identity was quick and solid. Leadership was perhaps the worst chapter. He makes the claim that ‘elder’ and ‘bishop’ are used interchangeable, which is pretty clear not only in the Greek, but also in the way it is used in the NT. However, he also claims ‘pastor’ is interchangeable with these two terms as well. He offers in example nor any linguistic proof, but rather points to Peter saying that elders should be good shepherds (the word translated is how we get the word pastor). He then quickly moves on. I am not entirely sure why he makes this claim, which is clearly lacking support, but I could speculate a few reasons that are beyond the scope of this review. 

Government, Ordinances, and Future were the strongest parts of the book. He explanation of governing options was one of the clearest concise write-ups I’ve seen. The baptism part of Ordinances was short, but I think that is actually a better way to handle. I’ve seen interesting arguments that there aren’t really four views of communion, but really just three, but he sticks with the traditional four views and does a pretty good job with the nuances. Much like Government, the chapter on the Future of the church was one of the best, concise writings I’ve seen. These two chapters function very well as almost a cliff-notes, without sacrificing too much understanding. 

That being said, this book is still probably not worth your time. While still short, there is too much unnecessary writing and the ‘mere/more’ distinctions really fell a little flat. There are a few strong chapters, but others are mixed. I appreciate what Crossway is trying to do by basically giving you chapters on what would be a Systematic, but meant to be shorter and more readable. However, based on this one, I wouldn’t really recommend that approach. Additionally, there are other books that focus on the Church that are better, though not many hit on the future (but there are hundreds of those). Unless this is a topic you are just starting to read on, and really need somewhere to start (in which case you could benefit from the ‘further reading’ section), this book probably isn’t worth it. 

*I received a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.