Monthly Archives: June 2014

Peleging the Babel

I have always been bothered by the way pastors handle certain names, linguistically in the Bible.  For instance we are always told that Nabal means ‘fool’.  I’m sure it does, today and in the day when his story was recorded in I Samuel.  In fact I’m sure it was the case every day after the story happened.  Now we are told that names were earned, people did things and were renamed to depict their accomplishments or failures.  But I think the opposite is true, perhaps more so.  People with certain names give them meaning.

"And as she rode on her ass, she came down by a secret place of the mountain, and behold, David and his men came down against her, and she met them. . .And when Abigail saw David, she hasted and lighted off her ass."

“And as she rode on her ass, she came down by a secret place of the mountain. . .And when Abigail saw David, she hasted and lighted off her ass.”   Simon de Vos. 1640

The story of Nabal is not insignificant, it was recorded in the book of Samuel for all of time, which is why we have it 3000 years later.  The events, themes, images and names have influenced Christendom and they certainly influenced the Jewish people.  Nabal was a descendant of Caleb, he was harsh and badly behaved, while his wife, Abigail, was beautiful and discerning.  (As an aside, the Bible just made a characteristic statement about physical appearance.  This isn’t talking about inner beauty in some make-the-ugly-feel-better sense. Because it gives two adjectives, beauty a qualification about outer appearance and discernment a qualification about inner appearance.  She had beauty and brains, as it were.  There is nothing wrong with such statements, and trying to minimized the fact of beauty or ugliness is silly.  We have been given what we were given.  The problem is, in post Constitution America, we have confused equality before the law with equality in everything.  We think everyone should be the same in every way and when a difference pops up we have to explain it away, egalitarian whac-a-mole.  Just because you are ugly does not mean you are any less a person created in the image of God, worthy of human rights.  Note, not special rights.  Human rights mean that when conflicts arise, you will be treated the same as everyone else before the law.)  David and his merry men are fleeing Saul and they are in need of food.  There was an existing relationship here David had taken care of Nabal’s men, so he is seeking reciprocity.  Nabal refused them and so David vowed to wipe them out.  Abigail hears this and intervenes to save them.  David is pacified and God strikes down Nabal.  Then David adds Abigail to his wife collection.

The statement where all the action happens for this topic is I Samuel 25:25 where Abigail says “Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him.”  Abigail is creating something here, she is associating this guy with folly.  It is obvious that no mother named her kid ‘fool’.  So we have two options, either Abigail is calling him ‘fool’ and his name was something else, or his name was ‘Nabal’ and she was saying it might as well be ‘fool’.  But it’s clear, to her and probably the whole household this guy and fool were one in the same.  I’m sure that around the estate this was their nickname for him.  And by this story they are the same for us, and for all of time.  That’s how language works.

When you look up the word Nabal in a Hebrew dictionary it says ‘dolt’ and has the same consonants as nebelah which means ‘a flabby thing’.  Now where did the dictionary get these definitions?  The authors found the words somewhere in Ancient Hebrew texts and ascertained the definition from the context.  Similar to how Noah Webster compiled the first American English dictionary, in fact his dictionary often sites the proof texts in Shakespeare or Milton or whoever.  So when the story was recorded, this story was probably already known, it certainly was know afterward and when the dictionaries and texts we have were written.  Language changed at this point.

You can see the same thing happening in the New Testament with ‘Judas’.  People don’t generally name their children Judas these days.  In fact the author of the book of Jude in our canon was actually named Judas, but after the betrayal of our Lord the name took on a significantly negative connotation.  Whatever it meant before, Judas now means betrayer.  Whereas Jude means a sultry English actor–um–I mean the brother of James who was martyred for his faith.

The same thing happens today in our culture.  Most of the examples I could think of were negative, that is names turned into terms of derision.  Positive name stay names and become prolific.  ’George’ and ‘Washington’ became names for everything in this country.  I’ve heard certain countries have laws against naming children Michael Jordan because everyone names their kids after the basketball star.  On a smaller scale there is a sort of naming progression in this country where names start with celebrities and descend through the social strata.  Gemma, yesterday’s elite name for daughters of the rich and famous is tomorrow the name of every white trash dancer in Vegas.  As far as negative names that take on another meaning; Benedict Arnold now means traitor after he betrayed the fledgling United States.  Uncle Tom is someone who sold out their people to get along with whitey.  Recently we have ‘Clinton’ or ‘Lewinsky’ referring to a sex act.  What a great legacy for a U.S. President.

Back in scripture, in Genesis 25 we have “To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan”.  Again people probably didn’t name their kids ‘division’.  But a significant event happened while he was prominent and so it came to mean division.  It was passed down in stories or possibly children’s memory devices, like how we would associate Lincoln with the Civil War and Eisenhower with World War II and Obama with–what–failure?

It is interesting to think about how this type of linguistic change has affected a text like the Bible.  The text has relayed meaning for thousands of years across changing language and changing culture.  The Jews are probably the people most averse to change on this earth, which bodes well for the purity of their text.  But since the Biblical language has left Hebrew and transitioned into Greek, Latin and English.  The way translators convey the meaning is very complex.  The existing words are changing because the people change and the words change the people.   So which came first the name or it’s meaning.  I don’t know but I do know that observations of language now can be helpful in understanding the past.  Also, there is Tolkien.

 

3D Printed Reality

A new 3D-printed material boasts a strength-to-weigh ratio of 803!  

Big deal right?  Unless you are familiar with engineering this means almost nothing.  If we add that the ratio for titanium is 509 and stainless steel is 61, that might help a little.  We now have a little bit of context but most people don’t really use titanium on a daily basis.  ”Tougher than some forms of steel and lighter than water.”  Ok, now we are getting somewhere, we have more meaning, that is more relationships between words.  Words that most likely have relationships with normal people.  Steel and water are very common, they are part of our lives, we know them.  And so this new thing can be part of our story now because it has been related to our story.  This is the reality of all things science.  Of course the numbers are important, if you actually want to study and build complex things with any material.  The ability to measure and create things precisely has given us all sorts of time saving and life saving devices, vehicles and buildings.  But without the metaphors and the story communication about science would not be possible, science would not be possible.

Since modern times, there has appeared a dichotomy between the scientific and the metaphoric.  It extends into a split between hard science and religion or physical and metaphysical.  The physical is what we really know, and the metaphysical is just feelings and emotion, so the modern says. If your senses can detect something it’s real and everything else is just lies.  As if this were not a story.  Can you touch a story? We all but worship science because of what it has enabled us to created.  The way it allows us to manipulate this world for our own good, it is almost magic.  Which is why many historic Christians compared science to magic as the industrial revolution began.  But the so called ‘scientific’ really is nothing without the story.

What good does it do you if your senses detect that this new material has a strength-to-weight ratio of 803, if you have no way to express it to others?  A necessary part of the scientific method is the ability to reproduce results, this requires communication.  On a larger scale  a story paints a picture made up of metaphors made up of words.  But even a word is a metaphor.  The word ‘red’ is not red, it is three characters from the English alphabet, representing sounds, yet they make us understand redness.  They are a set of symbols that stand in for something else.  We understand red even though our senses have not perceived anything red.  Maybe red is all a metaphysical lie.

Every group of people, large or small inevitably communicate and make their own language or dialect or technical diction.  Without this there is no advancement, there is no science.   There are just meaningless events happening.  We as Christians know there are no meaningless events, every event is speech, the speech of God.

And all this is still just the fundamental level, this is still inside the operations of science.  The real problem these days is what happens as the scientific community tries to communicate with the greater public.  They can say almost anything and we ignore the fact that they are not giving us science they are telling us a story.  That story may or may not have any relationship to what actually happened in the lab.  But their words and the words of the media reporting it are not infallible, cold hard, empirical data, they are a metaphoric, poetic, retelling of the data. With huge political and monetary incentives to tell a certain story there is really no reason to believe any of them.  They come to the people with a supposed problem, which they claim to have observed, and they want millions of dollars to study a solution.  Or they come to the people with a solution and they want millions of dollars to implement it.  Since the people with money these days are the politicians, because they stole it from us, for the children, then scientists are forced to be political.  If you want the money you have to tell the story the right way.  None of this sounds very scientific to me.  It’s almost as if we have been putting our faith in a big lie, instead of empirical evidence.

We do the same thing with the Bible.  We talk about literal vs. poetic or metaphorical interpretations.  Usually these sorts of comparisons are made by people trying to tell you how their interpretation is correct because it is the most literal, while that other guy down the street is just a crazy allegorizing fool.  Really there is no literal meaning, as if you could have meaning sitting in a box in a room separate from anyone.  Meaning is relational, that’s how it works, because thats how our God works.   He is three in one.  He is love because he has relationship within his person.  The Bible is real words written by real people.  It’s authors were relating truth to a specific audience.  We are a different group of people and relating that truth to us takes a deep understanding of the metaphors used then and how to use our metaphors to relay the truth to us now.  There is no literal as a real or objective thing.  But you can almost guarantee that people who talk of ‘literal’, have gotten it wrong, because they don’t know how words work they won’t be looking for the right things.

True empiricism might evaluate the actual results of all this so-called-science.  It’s hard to get more empirical than the free market.  If your problem was real, people would know about it.  If your solution worked, it would be obvious.  This is reality, if you don’t meet the demands of the real world you fail. Which is why innovation and business have always gone hand in hand.  And why politics, waste and lies all go hand in hand–in hand.  Innovation is dealing with the constraints of reality to find something that actually serves a purpose.  It’s like a powerful computing device without Steve Jobs, it might be interesting in theory but what good does it do anyone?  The device has to actually work or no one will buy it.  Not so with this new political scientific alliance.  Whole fields such as the social sciences can be completely fruitless, or worse, counter productive and yet they are kept alive in the name of science.  Money is spent on schools and professors raising up students who raise up the next generation of students.  Nothing is ever accomplished, no one is ever benefitted.  But the money keeps on being spent.  Then we need jobs for all these students so we create huge bureaucracies that do nothing.  They provide jobs for all these people with their fancy degrees but the net effect on GDP is negative as they annoy the people actually trying to innovate. As we watch billions of dollars disappear into ‘green’ programs.  What have we to show for it?  The economy of Spain was all but bankrupted in the quest for green.  Here we have Solyndras by the dozen.

True empiricism doesn’t quite work with spiritual matters.  We are to live by faith and not by sight, because we can’t see the whole story.  The little bit that we do see often looks bad like a bad military campaign in a greater war.  The war will be won but that fact can be lost in the pain and suffering of now.  But on the other hand we are given real benchmarks for success in the Church.  The fruits of the Spirit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control; against such things there is no law.  Well until this becomes popular for 2000 years and corrupted to what we have now, where accepting sin is ‘love’, and ‘peace’ does not mean peace with God but getting along with sinners. There are also other benchmarks, Paul criticize the Corinthians for still needing milk when they should have matured to solid food, I Corinthians 3:2.  Jesus tells us you can recognize them by their fruit Matthew 17:15-20.  He seems to be implying here that we already know how to evaluate good fruit.  But he also tells us there will be lots of fakers, darnel among the wheat planted by the enemy, Matthew 13:24-30.

On the other hand evolution or global warming aren’t all that empirical either.  Who has seen evolution?  Have you seen global warming?  Have you even seen an atom?  Have you seen the earth go around the sun?  The story is the key.  And we, as Christians, have the correct story.  It is proven itself over and over.  Jews and Christians are the most blessed people on this earth.  Those who leave the word of God do so at their own peril.  So the next time you are tempted to believe a different story masquerading as literal science, think twice.

 

Decapolis Demoniac

So, I am continually and still having a problem with this whole ‘clear your thoughts for worship’ thing. If you can’t focus on your Lord in Church, how are you going to do it the rest of the week?  Maybe he’s not really your Lord.  Maybe the worship service is not engaging enough.  Church should be preparation for fighting the good fight the rest of the week. Can you imagine a bunch of troops gathered for battle and the leader gets up and say “i know there are a lot of extraneous things in your head but now you have to focus on this war”?  Hello, why else are we here?  If you are focused on something else during the pep rally, you are apt to be asleep during the battle.  Maybe if our church was covered with complex meaningful icons.  Maybe if our music was riveting battle hymns instead of sweet love songs. Maybe if our serviced addressed the rest of life instead of an exercise in hermeneutics.

The Swine Driven into the Sea. James Jacques Joseph Tissot. 19th century

The Swine Driven into the Sea. James Jacques Joseph Tissot. 19th century

Well I’m marching on, and so was our Lord, King Jesus.  Mark has historically been known as the gospel portraying Jesus the King, the lion.  The King layed out in the Old Testament was always meant to be a servant king.  Christ earned the position at the Father’s right hand by serving, by laying down his life.  But there is also a conquering aspect.  Israel had never quite finished the job, then they were carried off to exile and never fully restored, now they were under the Roman Empire. But then the king burst on the scene.  He relived Israel’s history then he entered the land and began conquering the evil spirits, Mark 1:21-28.  The religious leaders were no match for him.  Disease and need were no match for him.  The weather was no match for him.

I was searching for the Old Testament typology in the passage of the legion of demons cast into the swine, but nothing really fit.  There are illusion to the binding of the strong man.  Which reminds us of the parable Jesus told a few chapters earlier about binding Satan.  There is something to the passing over the water of the sea.  But nothing really made sense until I thought about it in a Roman context. Crossing the sea often refers to far away Gentile nations.  The Decapolis, where this took place and where this demoniac later worked was the Roman frontier.  It was the edge of the conquered Roman Empire.  As such, the Romans had built significant cultural and military centers in these cities.  The Roman policy was generally assimilation, that is allowing the cultures they conquered to blend into the empire, while retaining what aspects they could.  So though the Jews were controlled by Rome they were allowed to go on being Jews in many ways.  There was always Roman military presence, but they were given Jewish leaders, though they were often puppets, they were kept on a fairly lose leash.  Jewish and Roman law existed simultaneously, where possible.  Yet the Romans put in place much of their infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and aqueducts.   But the Decapolis was different.  These areas were more strictly Roman.  Roman generals were left in place and given much land to settle and maintain.  They were to be outposts of Rome.  Those born in these cities were full Roman citizens.  They were like embassies are today, a home away from home.

And so Jesus invaded much like the Romans.  He conquered the demons and left his general to spread the gospel and maintain his culture in these cities.  It’s interesting that the man wants to be with Jesus, the demons begged Jesus to stay, this man cleansed of demons begged Jesus to leave.  But Jesus tells the man he must stay and gives him his task to spread his story to the Decapolis.  Jesus generally tells people to remain silent about the work he has done for them, but he leaves this man as his embassy to the Decapolis.

Churches Founded Before Persecution oby Diocletian 304 AD

Churches Founded Before the Persecution of Diocletian in 304 AD.

And we can be sure that the gospel took hold in this region very early on.  This man was a successful ambassador for Jesus.  Churches in Pella and Damascus are some of the oldest after those in Jerusalem and Galilee.  By the third century many of the cities of the Decapolis had significant churches.  In fact many Christians would flee to this region when the Jewish revolt began in 63 AD about 30 years after this event.  The Jews are a rarity on this planet, while many, most nations of this earth are conquered and mixed with their conquerers the Jews never mixed.  They always remain their own people.  And so the Maccabees were the heroes of Jesus day.  Their successful revolt in 167-160 BC was the motivation for the Hanukkah celebration, which Jesus celebrated John 10:22,23. This was a good thing in the history of Israel, the temple was rededicated and Jewish worship continued until the time of Jesus.  But Jesus was clear when he preached in Israel “those who live by the sword would die by the sword”.  And so every Jew who rebelled against Rome was killed.  Ending with the last stand in Masada in 73 AD.  Interesting that the conflict began over issues of paying taxes to Rome.  Sheds further light on the render to Caesar passage.  Rather than being maxims for every time and place, Jesus was warning his Church.  And those who listened to his words were spared. “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place ( let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”  The mountains were the mountains across the Sea, to the Decapolis they fled and were spared.  The demoniac had done his job and the church would continue to grow.  The Christian presence in this area actually continued to this day, until recent unrest, on Obama’s watch, caused them to flee.

Meanwhile the Jews continued and continue to this day to want a messiah without repentance.  They want the benefits of salvation from earthly oppressors only, without turning their hearts to their God.  They cling to part of the promise without doing their part.  Of course we can do the same.  We want the Lord to return without doing the hard work of repentance.  We want to be spared hardships without living godly holy lives.  We want to be made kings in heaven without sacrifice.  We want glory without the cross.  Will we be forced to flee to the mountains of China across the sea?  I would prefer repentance.

Further reading:

Jesus’ Hideout

Pella

 

 

John the Prophet

Was John the Baptist killed for the gospel?  I think it’s an interesting question because these days we   like to talk about the primary nature of the Gospel.  We don’t want anything else getting in the way.  But I think we have so minimized the Gospel that there is almost nothing left.  This is the legacy of all-I-need-is-my-Bible radical reformers like D. L. Moody.  Now Moody did a lot of things right.  And perhaps he was the person with the message for his time.  But the legacy has turned into something that is utterly unthreatening to the evil forces in this world and ultimately not the Gospel.

The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, Caravaggio, c.1608

The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, Caravaggio, c.1608

We say we don’t believe in compartmentalization, that is the division between sacred and secular.  But we function as if we do believe in such a divide.  We believe that religion is confined to a personal relationship that can get us through tough times but that every other area of life requires a secular specialist.  We don’t think there is any room in politics or the public sphere in general for our religious ideas.  That would be too ‘judgey’

But John the Baptist, spoke up against Herod, a civil ruler, for marrying his brother’s wife.

For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet.  Matthew 14: 3-5

And so John was a prophet.  He had a  special duty, he was the forerunner of Jesus, a herald of the messiah.  But why was he off telling the ruler of the land what to do? That’ wasn’t his purpose. Church and state are supposed to be separate, right?  In reality, prophets in the Old Testament were not that common, and they were the most common during the time of the Kings.  There is something to the separation of church and state, the protestant tradition goes back to Calvin.  There should be two realms but they must interact, and it’s clear that the civil magistrates must not mess with the church but that the church should inform the civil magistrates.  That’s what you see a lot of times with the prophets of the Old Testament and that’s what you see here with John.  I think it’s very helpful to spend time thinking about John as a prophet, because he is the closest to our hearts and our knowledge because we tend to know the New Testament better.  The OT prophets tend to be distant and mysterious and we come to all sorts of silly conclusions about them.  But connecting them to John can bring us back to reality.

I think we view the prophets as people who just had strange visions about stuff no one understood, but that was guaranteed to happen.  They provided fodder for modern prophecy speculation in it’s many forms, TV evangelist, apocalypse movies and Christian fiction.  Which is unfortunately left behind in the dust by secular culture.  But that’s no John.  John had a specific task.  He pointed people to the Messiah.  He participated in some living metaphors  such as passing people through the waters of the Jordan the way the people of Israel passed through the Jordan before they conquered the land, Joshua 1:10.  And, he criticized Herod.  And so, he was put to death like most of the other prophets, Hebrews 11:37.  But I don’t recall the prophecies of John the Baptist being applied ever time something happens in the Middle East. Every time someone carves a statue it fulfills the prophecy “God can raise children from these stones.” Matthew 3:9  When people are cutting down the rain forests, oh “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 3:10.  The end is near, operators are standing by to get your credit card numbers.

I used to be bothered by this clip from the Matrix:

It seemed like the oracle was being deceptive or manipulative.  But really she was being interactive, of course she was trying to change the outcome by what she said.  She never really said he was not ‘The One’ but she let him think it while encouraging him to act like it and prove he was. I had the idea that is common from the ‘prophet test’ in Deuteronomy 18:22.  Basically if what he says happens he is a true prophet.  But this should be seen in light of all the Old Testament prophecies, many of which had contingencies.  If the people repented then a prophecy of judgement might be delayed.  If the people did not repent a prophecy of blessing might be postponed.  The prophets were there to interact, like John they called for repentance, because the people were in sin.  God said he would destroy Nineveh in 40 days, but the people repented and he did not, Jonah 3.  Daniel read the prophet Jeremiah and saw that the 70 years were almost up, so he began praying for his people for repentance.  He didn’t just wait for history to happen, he realized that his people had not repented and so they did not deserve blessing.  As it turns out the people never did come out of exile, fully, as was promised, because they never repented.

The prophets, encouraged the people to change and change the course of history, their history.  We have become like the Greeks thinking that prophecy is a fatal trick played by the Gods.  I think of the legend of Perseus; an oracle told his father that he would kill him, so his father set about a course of events that lead to Perseus killing him.  It was a trap, a game played by the gods with man.  But the prophecies of Yahweh are not like that, he lays out what might happen if we disobey his commands, he tells us the blessings that await if we repent.

The same applies to us today.  The church was told

Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you   -II Peter 3:11-15

We hasten the return of the Lord the same way that blessings were secured in the Old Testament, by  holy, godly living.  God delays when we are wicked, because he is patient.  We almost think the opposite these days.  We view the difficulties of persecution and hardship as inevitable and so we welcome their coming as if that will bring in the return of Jesus.  We need to follow the advice of John today “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is here.” Matthew 3:2,3.  Our church and our nation must repent, or we aren’t getting whisked away while everything blows up, we will be in the middle of the explosion and it won’t be pretty.  If you want him to come back quickly, get to work ensuring that every knee bow, starting with your own.  This is not a fatalistic trap, this is the God of the Universe patiently waiting for every tongue and tribe and nation to be saved.  So get to it!

 

Further study:

Isaiah Through Malachi, Dr Richard L. Pratt Jr.

Lisa Simpson Rebel

I think when I watch the Simpsons.  I think when I watch anything and I don’t think this should be a rarity.  It does seem to annoy most people who like to drink in TV and other media as if it were beer or any number of other escapes.  But Scripture is clear monkey see, monkey do Matthew 6:22.  What comes out of a man is what he puts in Galatians 6:7.

I wonder about rebellion in the Simpsons.  Much of the show is about rebellion, because much of humor is about rebellion these days.  I’m not sure there is much else left to rebel against in our culture but no one seems to mind the thinness or the establishment of rebellion.  It’s like an organized anarchy movement.  ”But I thought anarchy was against organization?”  The reality seems to be that the mockery of institutions and morality results in the next generation not respecting them.  And so early Simpsons’ episodes don’t really seem cutting edge anymore, Bart’s rebellion yesterday is now standard behavior in today’s culture.

LisaSimpson3And it is always Bart that we see as the rebel.  But I wonder about Lisa.  Lisa is the politically correct child.  She would make Hillary Clinton proud.  She is always in tune with the Progressive agenda.  She dabbles with, Socialism, Environmentalism, and all the -isms.  Of course in order to refrain from insulting mainstream America they are often tempered or played of as innocent jokes. But the fact is that Lisa is a rebel too.  She rejects the standard morality and ideology of her parents.  But it is seen as ok and somehow the opposite of Bart, because rather than simply rebelling in overt male ways like Bart does by destroying things or, pulling pranks, Lisa seeks the more better way.  The more better way is that more spiritual more moral path that the Liberals are always telling us about.  It’s burning bras on campuses, it’s “Hey Ho Wester Culture’s Got To Go!” It’s destroying our whole economy to save the planet or to make up for slavery.  It pretends to be more moral than God, rejecting his ways in favor of a better way.  Rejecting war or violence in favor of talking.  Rejecting traditional patriarchal families in favor of egalitarian ‘freedom’.  Killing your unborn children in the name of ‘choice’.  But this is the worst kind of rebellion.  This is just like the first rebel, as Saul Alinsky noted by dedicating his book to Lucifer the first radical.  Hillary is revered for writing her thesis on Alinsky, and Lisa Simpson would probably do the same.  It is worse than the rebellion of Bart because it is subtle. The whole idea of the Progressive Left is a slow progression towards their goals. As if their goals were inevitable and evolution to something better. They move slowly pushing bit by bit.  This is the way of Lucifer.  He can’t be up front about what he wants he must slowly lull us.  Oh look at that fruit, it’s so pretty, touch it it feels nice, surely you won’t die if you eat it.  Then bang, human race in darkness.  This is how sin always works.  Jesus warns people to consider the cost before following him Luke 14:28-33.  Satan say “try sin out”, “just a little bit”, then “just a little more, you will like it”.  Temptation isn’t a written law, it’s a deceptive possible, maybe, guarantee.

And so Lisa isn’t as bad as bad, but she is as far Left as culture will allow.  Just like most of her kindred politicians in Washington.  They push as much as they can, saving the rest for later.  But she wants to overthrow the old order all the same.  It is the female way.  Deception is the characteristic female mode.  It can be used for good or evil.  We often see female heroines in the Old Testament deceiving their enemies.  Jael lulled Sisera into her tent and nailed his head to the ground.  And she was called most blessed of women Judges 5:22.  Rahab the prostitute lied to the king of Jericho about the Jewish spies and only her and her household were spared in the destruction of the city. This is good deception. But these womanly powers should be used for good or you will find yourself a Jezebel, or Delilah.

LisaSimpson5And so I see Lisa Simpson.  Bart is at least having fun as he plays pranks.  Lisa is undermining the very society which brings us the most advanced civilization the world has ever known.  We like to point back to the caveman, and always point out he was a man.  But this more better way, is what turned Noah the great shipbuilder into the caveman. It is sold as progress, but it is only progressing towards more rebellions.  And rebellion does not lead to prosperity.  It leads to the caveman.  It has before and it will again.  It is happening in the Middle East right now.  Lisa Simpson, for Sharia Law.  I’ll be waiting for that episode.

War Fatalism

In response to Jonah Goldberg’s column here.

I mostly like the first section of this. In fact I disagree with what he calls fusionism, the belief that societies must be free to be virtuous because it’s only virtue if it’s freely chosen. I think societies kept benign at gunpoint are still good, and maybe the best that we can expect from some. Which ties into this idea about success and failure in war. In WWII we knew how to win wars. We didn’t know about the Holocaust going on Germany and it’s occupied countries when we went in. We just knew that Hitler was invading countries and England was begging for our help. Later we discovered the atrocities and so history can recored it as a just war, without question, because we did the hard work. We did what it took to win, we sacrificed our men and treasure and only asked for enough ground to burry our dead. Then we left a military presence in those countries to this day. And there has not been a problem in Germany or Japan since. Unlike after WWI when we depended on a treaty to subdue Germany which lead to WWII.

Ever since, we have started wars and then let the politicians lose them for us for political gain. Rather than doing what needed to be done we decided that when it got difficult that we should have conversations and discussions and talk about whether we should even be there in the first place, as if we could rewrite history. Second guessing, third guessing, forth guessing. This is how to lose wars. The Democrats are pros at it. Now we just left Iraq, because that’s the academic ideology, it’s up to Iraq to fix it’s own problems. This is worse than how laissez-faire capitalism is viewed by the Liberals. Just let them do whatever they want. This has lead to less stability in every country in the Middle East under this administration. How hard is it to look back to WWII and see what worked?

This fatalism that is all to common is strange to me.  Success doesn’t just happen.  It’s not written in stone that we had to lose ever war since WWII.  It’s because we gave up when it got difficult. It’s because we set impossible goals, trying to wage a war with no civilian casualties or destruction, and our rules of engagement that tie the hands of our troops. It’s because we left before the job was done. It’s because the Democrats talk too much and think that talking can restore peace to the world.  Democrats have turned reality on it’s head for political gain.  Sure no one wants to fight wars.  But the fact is that on this sinful earth, wars are a reality.  Bad men exist.  Putin’s not living in the past he is living in reality, where aggressive force is how things are done.  They are only prevented by force.  Republicans have understood this just as those who composed the Constitution, and so they are for a strong military.  But now when your presidency is a complete failure, what better move for your party than to destroy the legacy of the last Republican president by turning the foothold we held in Iraq into a loss?  Never mind the fact that we have invested men and treasure there.  Never mind that one of our allies is begging us for help.  Let me be clear this is despicable.

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, and unpitied sacrifice is a contemptible struggle.  -Edmund Burke, Thought on the Cause of the Present Discontents

And this is the fusionism mentioned earlier it applies to individuals and countries.  Did any of us individually get to where we are without other guiding us and disciplining us when we went the wrong way? Did our country get here without the same?  Yet now we only value persons or countries who choose to do good on their own as if it were spontaneous.  This is completely unbiblical.  God puts governments in place to stem evil, because we need it Romans 13.  He puts countries in place to conquer other countries to stem their evil, because they need itAmos.  Even the church given the very Spirit of God still must be trained, we still must be guided.  Why else would we be given the Scripture and the tradition of Apostles and Prophets to guide us.  Why else would we be told to meditate on them and study them diligently?  And then you expect the nations of the world to just spontaneously be virtuous?

Don’t Worry, I’m an Adult

“I’m and adult.”  ”You’re an adult.”  I’m sure you have heard these before.  To me, they represent an entire culture which has become very common and too common in the church.  We are adults so we can do whatever we want and it will be fine.  We can endure any temptation, we can make a wise decision in any situation.  We don’t need other people, “who am I to tell you how to do whatever, you are an adult”.  It’s the obverse of “how dare you judge me!”  ”I’m sure you can handle it, you are an adult.”  So walk right into that temptation.  You hit a magical age and you just do everything on your own, it’s the American way.

Well it’s pretty clear that Scripture paints a different picture.  Sin is dangerous, you need to beware of it Galatians 6:1.  And we aren’t good enough on our own, we need the body of Christ, the whole body of Christ, that is the Church I Corinthians 12:21.  And we need the body to be active in protecting us from sins we are too stupid to see Matthew 18.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.            -James 1:14

Temptation, are we even allowed to use that word anymore?  We don’t like to even mention sin when it manifests itself, much less the smaller things that lead up to sin.  That’s just silly or puritanical, we say.  But Scripture calls us sheep, sheep without a shepherd.  We are dumb.  We screw up everything we can.  But we don’t have to.  Which is why all peoples of the past put things in place to prevent their falling into sin.  They passed laws and held each other to social standards. In the same way we put a railing on a roof top to prevent falling.  We understand physical safety, perhaps a little too much, but we don’t have much use for moral safety.  We throw away social constructs designed to prevent temptations at every level, individual, family, collectively.  We flaunt setting ourselves up for disaster as some sort of freedom.  Look at me I took the brakes off my car, now I’m truly free!  I’m an adult I can handle anything.

The Garden of Earthly Delights: Allegory of Luxury, central panel of triptych, c.1500 (oil on panel). Hieronymus Bosch.

The Garden of Earthly Delights: Allegory of Luxury, central panel of triptych, c.1500 (oil on panel). Hieronymus Bosch.

I think one of the most glaring examples of this in our culture is sex.  It doesn’t even seem like we, as a culture, try anymore.  Scantily clad women, which would be considered pornography a generation ago, are plastered everywhere.  We dress our little girls up in barely anything and then wonder why they increasingly come home pregnant before marriage.  Outright porn is easily available, internet sites encouraging cheating on your spouse and every other form of immorality are allowed to operate by or governments.  Past generations took steps to prevent such things. They ensured that boys and girls were not left alone.  Virginity was prized by fathers and suitors as it should be.  But we rush headlong into disaster, and mock these preventatives from the past.  How’s that working out for us?  Now we have terms like ‘consensual sex’ and  ’date rape’ as if two drunken teenage fools are picking out mutual funds.  The reality is that they don’t have a choice, they are slaves to sin.  And this far into temptation, with no societal ‘judging’ being allowed, the hormone driven sin-nature wins.  We are on the same path with drugs.  It’s all fine just don’t let the tobacco companies advertise to children, because that is an unfair advantage, as if adults fair much better.  Especially the caliber of spoilt brat masquerading as an adult these days.

I have noticed a growing movement of libertarianism even amongst Christians.  The thinking goes something like this.  If you are not saved and going to heaven, in the vapid Evangelical sense, then who cares if you are the worst person in the world?  If you are saved god will help you magically endure any temptation and even if you do sin he won’t really care.  Everyone else is going to hell anyway so what difference does it make how they act.  We might not say it so bluntly but it’s how we act by foolishly thinking “all I need is the Bible” or that implementing Christian morality in civil government is somehow a theocracy.  As if there is another morality worth basing laws upon.  Recent history as well as Biblical history should show us how foolish this is.  As sin becomes socially acceptable, culture degenerates as more and more perverse sin is slowly tolerated.  Even Christians are caught up in it. If we are supposedly adults, then think like one.  Permitting an atmosphere of constant temptation is just setting us all up for disaster.

We are supposed to pray, “lead us not into temptation” Matthew 6:13  “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” II Timothy 2:22  ”

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire”  Matthew 18:7-9

Which leads right into Jesus discussing what to do with a brother in sin.  It’s not an opportunity to bring out the big guns and pounce on someone who finally went too far.  It’s a constant daily process which involves doing whatever it takes to suppress sin in ourselves and in those around us.  Church discipline isn’t something rare and extreme it’s something common and normal.  And it isn’t just church discipline, in the sense that we leave it up to an institution of professionals. Most sins can be resolved by a few words of apology and forgiveness, without Church leadership.  And many more sins can be prevented in the first place by being part of the body.  The purpose is to restore a brother, to stop sin.

Appreciate the Wind and the Waves

So I had some unanswered questions during the sermon on the end of Mark 3.  Namely, why were the disciples so shocked that he calmed the storm when they seemed to be asking him to do just that?  Which leads to: Why did they wake him up in the first place?

As we can see by their reaction, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” that they were more scared that he calmed the storm than they were by the storm.  So what does that mean about this statement, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” ? It seems like they wanted him to be awake and worrying with them instead of sleeping.  Or perhaps they just wanted to complain.  Then when he actually did something about the problem they were shocked.  We never do that do we, ask God for something, without believing it will actually happen?  Or just complaining about our situation without doing something or actually asking God for what we want.  We really are very fatalistic, like the Muhammedan, we think God does whatever he wants and we really can’t make a difference with our prayers or actions.  We talk about prayer as a means of aleviating our frustrations or as something we are supposed to do, but it couldn’t be that the God of the Universe would actually respond–to us.

Rembrandt_Christ_in_the_Storm_on_the_Lake_of_Galilee

Rembrandt, Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee

But I think this is precisely what God is rebuking them for.  They lacked faith.  We think of faith as some sort of personal feeling, but faith must have an object.  Faith that, fill in the blank.  Faith that this or that will happen or not happen.  Faith in a particular thing at a particular time.  Regardless of who Jesus was, the disciples were not taking their faith in God very seriously.  If they feared for their lives they should have prayed.  Their worries were not doing any good.

Time and time again we see Jesus telling people that their faith has healed them.  ”And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven”  They had real problems, and they had real faith that those problems were not the way it should be and that the God of the Universe and his representative Jesus could set those problems to right.  Faith believes that you do everything to make things the way they should be. No matter the difficulty of the circumstances or the roadblocks put up, even by Jesus himself (Mark 7:24-30 ).  Keep pushing, keep petitioning, nothing is written in stone, except the compassion of our God.  Faith knows that blessings are often disguised as hard work or tragedy.  And faith knows that even if you don’t get what you want, that it all must be done for your good.

But these are Jesus’ disciples and they were worried about their lives and a storm.  They knew he was the Messiah, they knew they were chosen to usher in his Kingdom.  Yet now they were sure that they were going to get wiped out by this storm and the whole movement would be over.  They had no personal, individual faith as proved by the fact that they acted incorrectly in this real, actual situation.  They didn’t say “Jesus stop the storm”.  They didn’t follow his example, they worried.

There is also an historical element to faith.  Faith isn’t just blind it appreciates the workings of God it has witnessed or heard about in the past.  I was struck recently by the profound way in which our entire country takes everything for granted. As with most things it is the fault of the Church, we have been unappreciative and so the world has followed suit.  Now they take this great edifice of civilization which has been built by Christianity and use it to ridicule Christians.  For example the whole notion of a hospital was a Christian invention.  Before Christendom, the sick and weak were left outside the city gates to die, unwanted children were left on the road side, this was normal.  But Christians came along and built hospitals and orphanages.  Yet today we think we have a right to hospitals, and Christians who want to mix sound economic wisdom with the blessings of modern medicine are abused for denying someone something.  Many ideas we take for granted like freedom of speech, high view of women, love for your fellow man, tolerance of those who differ from you, science, etc. all things which were very rare on this earth before Christianity are now used to bash Christians.

We live in a time of unparalleled wealth and prosperity.  And again instead of appreciating how rare this is in human history, it is used as a way to mock Christians, because some people are not as wealthy as others.  Never mind that even the poorest of the poor live much better than most of humanity has.

We live in a time of unparalleled peace.  War is about the most common thing to happen to large groups of humans on this planet.  But we enjoy the luxury of not having to participate in war and to hardly feel it’s effects.  Yet people think we can disband the military threat that makes this peace possible and they complain about every dollar spent on it.

College graduates enter a world with unprescedented opportunities.  Technology enables them to take any idea and almost instantly turn it into reality.  Financing is available, people are available, machines are available which our grandparents could only dream of, all at the touch of a few buttons.  Yet if they are not handed a job making what their parents made after a life of hard work, they go protest in a bunch of city parks like children.  They are children, but not in the good sense, the faith sense, in which case the faith of a child always trusts that things are ok that God is working things out and that they just need to learn to appreciate it.  We, the church, need to appreciate it if we ever want to see it done by the world.