Logos Bible Software Review.

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If you love studying the Scriptures – you’ll want to get your hands on a copy of Logos Bible Software. Logos is probably the largest manufacturer of bible software – and while there are competitors out there none can compare with both the sheer quantity of material available and the quality of the Logos 4.0 underlying software engine.

I buckled down and put myself on a payment plan and purchased the Logos Bible Software Scholar’s Edition Silver and I haven’t looked back since. This software is amazing and a huge blessing in my Scriptures studies and teaching!

Software Engine Highlights:

Logos is built on an impressively robust software engine that runs on both Windows and Mac computers. There are also user interfaces for the Apple iPhone and the web. Here are a few of the features I love:

  • Mouse over any word in any resource and see a dictionary definition of the word.
  • Extensive cross-referencing with a variety of resources – beyond the usual linking to commentaries, concordances, and bible dictionaries – for example, the inclusion of related images (of high quality and relevance), links to audio and transcripts of sermons on the same topic, and PowerPoint layouts for specific sections of Scripture.
  • The automatic passage and word study guides that appear when you search for a specific passage of Scripture and garner together the innumerable resources you need to pursue your studies.

Content Highlights:

The underlying engine would be magnificent in its own right, but it is really the content that I am most interested in and that will attract others. You can buy Logos at many different levels and each level includes differing content. I would suggest getting at least the Scholar’s Silver Edition. You can go on a payment plan and the resources included are simply amazing. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • New American Commentary – This commentary series is written from an evangelical perspective and is exhaustive in its approach. It offers a tremendous amount of background and content analysis before one even dives into the commentary and the commentary focuses on providing insight not only at the verse level but also at the thought level. The cost to purchase this commentary set alone in print nearly covers the cost of Scholar’s Silver Edition.
  • The Bible Knowledge Commentary – A smaller, two-volume commentary on the entire bible written by the faculty at Dallas Theological Seminary it is a bit dated at this juncture and will upset some for its heavy dispensational focus – but provides excellent insights from a conservative, evangelical, dispensational perspective in a concise format.
  • The Bible Exposition Commentary – Warren Wiersbe’s ‘BE’ commentaries covering the entire New Testament. These commentaries are more lay/devotional in nature but still include a good bit of technical thought and are useful in sermon preparation or other teaching/devotional arenas.
  • Holman New Testament Commentary – A series on the entire New Testament. This series is written more for pastors/teachers than academics – but does a good job of providing applicable insight into various passages.
  • There are numerous volumes of a practical nature also included – these books focus on effective ministry and are extremely useful for anyone working in ministry.
  • Just about any bible version you can imagine is included such as the NASB, NET, ESV, NLT, KJV, HCSB, and The Message.

What’s Missing:

There are a few enhancements I’d like to see Logos make. I’ve outlined them below:

  • Audio Pronunciations: I’m self-taught in reading, and this is great except for when one needs to pronounce complex or unfamiliar words. I have sometimes been embarrassed when I accidentally butcher a word I’ve only seen on the printed page and never heard anyone speak aloud. It would be great to simply click on a word and hear a correct enunciation of English, Hebrew, and Greek words.
  • Latin to English Translation: There are oftentimes phrases in Latin in the commentaries and various resources. Unfortunately, I don’t read Latin. It’d be nice to have a built-in translation facility to convert these phrases into English.
  • Processing Offloading: The Logos software has always been known for being a bit heavy – liable to slowdowns and freezes – due to the heavy processing it is doing behind the scenes. Its certainly worth it for the intelligence the software has in providing the correct resources on-the-fly, but my Intel Centrino Duo laptop with 4 GB of RAM and a 256 MB video card still grinds to a halt. I’d like to see Logos work on offloading some of this processing to centralized servers, rather than doing all the work on my machine – and thus hopefully speeding things up a bit. They should still have the ability to do it on my local machine, in case I’m not connected to the internet or have a slow connection – and should do a quick analysis to determine which method will be faster – but this could make Logos an amazingly fluid application.

A Philosophical Difference:

I’m a bit of an open source fan. I grew up in a poor family – there was not a lot of extra money floating around. My computers were always several years behind the times and oftentimes were given to me by generous individuals in the church or at great sacrifice in saving by my parents, or later, through significant endeavors on my own to earn and save money. I had no money for software and learned to scavenge for free alternatives for many years – out of necessity not b/c I didn’t want to spend anything on software.

Logos dominates the market and rightfully so…but I would like to see them move to a more open source philosophy. No, no, I’m not suggesting they abandon their model entirely. I’d like to suggest a nice hybridization which would be beneficial to those less economically fortunate individuals looking to study the Scriptures as well as to Logos.

Specifically, I’m suggesting that Logos continue to raise purchases of public domain resources as they do now – that is the way they gather together individuals who are willing to pay for the software to cover costs before they begin producing the software – but then once they have recouped the costs they move the public domain resources to be free.

Yes, yes, I understand that they bring significant added value to these free resources via all the interlinking, cross-referencing, and other features they integrate, but…that’s what the prepub would exist to accomplish.

How would this benefit Logos? Individuals such as myself used free applications like e-Sword for years. Many of the individuals using free alternatives know nothing of the power and content of Logos. Imagine getting your shoe in the door. Many a poor college student who currently uses a free application would switch to Logos – and when they secured their first position, purchase upgrades. Many individuals who now can only afford the base might one day secure a different economic position that allows them to purchase more content.

This would be a significant commitment on Logos part. They offer a significant number of public domain products at fairly high prices and these products make up a significant portion of their base products – but still, I think they could maintain their economic income while expanding their user base.

Further, I would suggest it is necessary to open the process of developing resources for Logos. They could use a verification process like Apple does for the iPhone app store to keep people from creating illegal materials – but there needs to be an ability for third parties to create resources – at least free resources – there could still be a licensing fee / royalty structure associated with premium resources.

Conclusion:

Logos Bible Software is simply amazing and well worth the monetary investment. I hope that Logos will move towards offering a free base edition which includes public domain resources. I believe this would allow Logos to consolidate its market leader position and would significantly assist the spread of the gospel throughout the world.

My Struggle with Faith (Joseph Girzone) – Review Part 1.

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When I read books I take notes. Usually I take these notes on my computer – so that I can search through them at a later time – when I want them for something I am writing or a sermon I am preparing. When a book is especially filled with interesting or noteworthy material I end up taking a pen to it – b/c I am too impatient to write all the entries while reading into my computer…then I’ll go back later and put the notes into the computer (or at least so I tell myself…sometimes it doesn’t happen). On rare occasions there are books that are so filled with wisdom that I almost end up underlining the entire volume. Girzone’s book falls high on this scale.

Over a number of upcoming posts I’m going to delve piece by piece into Girzone’s My Struggle with Faith, an autobiographical and gently polemical explanation of his theological understanding. I want to take this as an opportunity to both laud the highpoints of the book as well as note some areas of disagreement which my personal theology reflects with Girzone, and specifically where those disagreements reflect the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism.

For those who are not familiar with Girzone, he was a Catholic priest who after retiring began writing books about a man named Joshua – a modern day Jesus – and how this man interacted with the church as well as the rest of the world. They are beautifully and powerfully written and enjoyed by both Protestants and Catholics.

Girzone writes his book in a somewhat unique unfolding manner that follows him through his personal ventures with faith and reveals bit by bit what he learned with age and struggle. As such, one feels much as a co-traveler throughout much of this extremely readable and yet profound book. Lets begin just with the introduction and opening chapter today…

Introduction:

Only two pages long rather than explain I will simply quote a key portion of this note:

“Belief itself is not simple. It is not a single conviction or idea. It is a complex network of convictions that subconsciously evolves over a lifetime into what becomes our philosophy of life, and the engine that drives us, and in the process transforms all our relationships with God and all God’s creatures.” (pg. xi)

Chapter 1. Is There a God?

Girzone shares how in childhood he had a deep and experiential faith and was a model follower of Christ. But as he progressed in age he found himself questioning:

“My problem was the guilt I felt in questioning what I had been taught. But then I began to realize that I was not being disloyal; I was just trying to understand. My next question was: Am I losing my faith? I knew that my faith was still strong, but I had a need to understand why I believed. And that did not mean that I was losing my faith.” (pg. 2)

He went off to seminary at the young age (to me) of fourteen and notes that during the first year experientially his relationship with God was amazing but that during his sophomore year, “I could no longer feel God’s presence. I could no longer feel the love of Jesus in Communion. My heart had turned cold and empty. I became depressed and frightened.” (pg. 3)

Girzone throughout this chapter reflects heavily upon the deadness of his emotional/experiential relationship with God – something which I can identify with during significant portions of my life…I sometimes ponder if I have been destined in part to repeated Dark Nights of the Soul (St. John of the Cross).

Girzone reports, “…it all left me cold…could not pray. It was a drudge. It was without feeling or comfort.” (pg. 3) I love how he reflects on Moses leading forth the Israelites from Egypt – so many hundreds of thousands of people – and how this was depressing rather than relieving to him. I have echoed this fear of success or calling in my own life.

He powerfully describes his continuing struggle on page 5, “At night I would slip down to the chapel and, in the darkness and emptiness, hope I would find God again. It didn’t happen. I just sat there dumb and broken. Gradually a deep depression drifted through my being like a heavy fog that settles on a mountainside and obliterates all reality of the village below. The spirit world was now deeply lost in that fog, and all the joy and comfort it used to bring me.” Haha, I apologize if I focus on this too much – but these passages struck such a resounding echo in my own life.

In the midst of all this Girzone never doubted that he was called to be a priest, even though at his ordination he was still suffering from doubts – more than ten years later! Yet Girzone also notes that all was not empty. While the feelings were not present the growth in knowledge and grace was present, “even though I no longer had the emotional sense of God’s presence, that presence was revealing itself in a much deeper way and at a higher level than mere emotion, as if God was leading me somewhere that was unfamiliar…” (pp. 6-7)

It is at this juncture that we get the first hints that Girzone will not be the ideal image of the religiously and politically conservative priest. He argues strongly against capital punishment and suggests it is worse than murder (pg. 7) and he begins for the first time to begin offering insight into the resolutions to some of his questions of faith – particularly how his observations of the complexity of nature and the reality of the universe inspired his belief in God. I think both arguments are fairly strong – and powerful when you read them in the context.

So far it is a great read – I recommend it. 🙂 I’ll unfold my perceptions as we work through the book – much as Girzone unfolded his – allowing the complete thought to be slowly unfurled.

An Introduction to Intergenerational Ministry.

So, tomorrow I’m preaching and I mentioned that the topic would address multi-generational interactions. Steve Weir pointed out that my terminology was incorrect (thanks!) and that the correct term is “intergenerational.” I googled it – and boy did that make finding relevant articles and sites easier!

In any case, I just wanted to highlight several excellent posts on the topic by Kara Jenkins over at Ministry to Children’s site. Each is meticulously researched, relatively short, and worthwhile reads. If you aren’t familiar with the concept of intergenerational ministry – give these articles a gander!