Tagged: faith

To My Christian Readers

Saints, ministers of the Gospel, I can imagine some of you are a bit disturbed by my attitude when it comes to the Marchers. Or maybe not. In any case, do not think that I have not considered it. To keep it brief, here is my defense.

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Picking up in the middle of Elijah’s speech found in first Kings chapter eighteen we find:

“‘…Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.’

And all the people said, ‘That is good idea.’

So Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, ‘Choose one ox for yourselves and prepare it first for you are many, and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.’

Then they took the ox which was given them and they prepared it and called on the name of Baal from morning until noon saying, ‘O Baal, answer us.’

But there was no voice and no one answered. And they leaped about the altar which they made.

It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, ‘Call out with loud voice, for he is god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.’

So they cried with loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention.”

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I’m Pete, not Elijah. But I do know how to read.

Sidebar: See the rest of the story if you think the LORD plays games when it comes to his name.

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I Love Conversation

My good friend and I are trying to civilly gain some understanding of each other’s opposed views which have surfaced alongside this whole “March for Our Lives” thing. If you didn’t see, he left a much-welcomed and presumably expensive comment on yesterday’s post.

We belong to the same Toastmaster’s club, having serendipitously met there some six years ago. Tomorrow morning after the meeting we both have time to chat. In order to make the short time we have most fruitful, I wanted to respond to his thoughts here. I also cannot deny that I think our back-and-forth is the best one on the internet at the moment. Enjoy!

To begin, a word of caution. Please, please do not hear my assertions in the tone of, “I am god.” Instead, here me say, “This is how I see it.” We clearly disagree on many things; I am aware of this. Even after your thorough comment though, I am not sure you understand how I see it. My reasons for not being sure include that you didn’t say, “Well, Pete, we’re coming at this from two totally different angles. You’re taking a more philosophical approach, and I’m operating within the practical, legal approach. I’m also not even sure we are addressing the same problem.” Or some such thing. Maybe that’s what you do think. Time will tell.

That said, to be as clear as I can be, for me (and the status quo which I portend to represent) the issue is not gun violence. Moreover, I don’t think stating this makes me incompetent or ignorant or any other unbecoming trait. Nor do I think anything you have written marks you in such a way.

When I write, “I want these shootings to stop too,” I do not have in mind that I would prefer the violence to be committed by some other weaponry. More specifically, I guess I could have said, “I want the instances of unarmed, unprepared, and unsuspecting deaths of any size group of Americans (or any folks standing on American soil) who are attempting to better themselves to stop.”

It’s intriguing to discover that I fight my seminary professors’ views on the Bible for the same reason that I debate you about the second amendment.

While I am happy to see such a thought-out defense of some position on an issue that it would include taking into consideration grammar conventions of the late eighteenth century, I would never go that route. I would never go that route for the foremost reason that grammar conventions are nothing more than completely baseless speculations, unless you can show me that the writers included a legend or key of some sort–in which case the very conventions you highlight are no longer unfounded and speculative conventions but actual fact.

If the Constitution (icapitalizedtheenglishlettercatthebeginningofthewordconstitutiontoindicateimeanamericas), if the Constitution included some sort of definition of terms similar to what you wrote, then I have no way to disagree with what you wrote about the value of capitalization in interpretation. (And perhaps they did, though I have not ever heard of that section). If they did not, then I, and everyone with my point of view, am free to say, “I’m sorry, friend, but people do not live or die because of capital letters, and neither did the founders want us to think they thought so.”

Words matter, not their shape on paper.

Additionally, when I say, “the amendment,” I do not meant to claim that I know what the second amendment means in the sense with which you shared in your self-declared legal opinion. Besides what I wrote in that post, I believe that (philosophically) the law is the act of people giving up their rights in order to be free. With the so-called Bill of Rights, and specifically the second amendment, I believe we have, within the law and as one particular law, some one designated arena which the law is not–that being arms. In other words, I believe that in the act of people giving up their rights in order to be free, the second amendment declares that when it comes to arms, the law has no place. Put another way, I believe that the second amendment (along with the other amendments in the Bill of Rights) declares (both philosophically and actually) that there are some rights which if given up do not beget freedom.

The beautiful part of the Constitution, and by beautiful I mean spectacular, is that it provides for change. And here is the pay dirt.

The founders lived in a pre-hyrdogen bomb world. Yesterday former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens advocated repealing the second amendment in a NY Times op-ed piece which featured an image of a musket juxtaposed against an AR-15. Ultimately the ex-Justice and I see the same reality. But he did not make the not the proper comparison. The proper comparison would have been that of the most destructive weapon of 1791 and the most destructive weapon of 2018. I’m imagining an image of a cannon vs. a mushroom cloud. One reason the second amendment could be repealed these days (and along these lines I think I might be fine with it being repealed) is because guns are melted by hydrogen bombs. Life is, I believe, fundamentally and irrevocably different today. The American people do not stand a chance against some dystopian American tyranny. Who are we fooling?

Do I think the American founders knew that future battlefields would be able to be melted by the heat equivalent to that of the surface of the sun when I support the Constitution so dogmatically? Do folks who think these weekend marches are pointless think the Constitution should never be changed? No to both questions. But I do think that the Constitution writers showed almost divine philosophical foresight in their writing, and I kindly ask that you re-consider whether these shootings (or, “these instances of unarmed, unprepared, and unsuspecting deaths of any size group of Americans ((or folks on American soil)) who are attempting to better themselves”) can be stopped by anything less than a re-evaluation of whether the overall arms circumstance on planet Earth has changed since the Constitution was written.

If so, amend.

If not, look in a different direction to stop the shootings.

Perhaps towards Christ.

The Amendment

In my last two posts (three if you include the book review) I have done my best to indicate that while I disagree with you, I do hear what you’re saying. I’m now asking, do you hear me?

In a surprising turn of events for me, whereas I initially wanted to effectively smear your claim, I have instead concluded that at the root of your claim, you are calling for the law. This is a very reasonable claim, a very humane claim. But there is a problem with it.

You think these shootings, the school ones especially, evidence that we are living in a state of chaos–in some situation similar to that which is before the law–and you desire to do something about it.

However, the law is already here. We are not in a state of chaos in the United States of America. Several hundred, perhaps even one thousand people have broken the law in the last twenty years in ways that previously seemed unimaginable. This is new, yes, but it is not chaos.

Hear me now. These events do not indicate that we have returned to the state of nature. They do not even indicate that we are in a trajectory towards the return to the state of nature.

Do you hear me? I’m asking you to listen. I listened to you. It’s the least you can do.

The law is not determined by elections. You (meaning literally you, the person reading this, and not meaning the generic “anyone”), you cannot vote the law out or in.

What to do?

The only option you have is to amend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that is a very real option which I do believe we (you and I–folks who disagree) should examine through civil discourse. But I wonder if you even know how it is done? If you do not, then you definitely are in no position to accomplish this possibly desirable task.

I know you don’t want to hear this, but I say this is the only option you have because I believe that every other option is anarchy–a subversive dismantling of the law. And this dismantling is a step in the opposite direction of what you want if you really want to keep certain firearms out of the hands of civilians while in the hands of the warriors.

In pictures from the marches, I saw a sign which said, “America, the world is watching.”

Do you hear them?

If you amend the Constitution, then we follow the footsteps and stand on the shoulders of our founders and teach the watching world the law. If you pass any other legislation–any whatsoever–then we demonstrate that we do not value the law. This, again, is the opposite of what you have said you desire.

And this is the precise point of disagreement.

Do you hear me?

The amendment is the precise point because I am confused by why you think there is any other option. I will listen and read anything you have which you think will help me see your point more clearly. I want the shootings to stop as much as you do.

Do you hear me?

Your turn.

Response to Comment from Friend about the March

(You’ll have to read this morning’s post to catch up. Apologies, but you can do it!)

My friend responded, “Your analysis or logic and certainly the conclusion escapes me. But, then again, in 1999 my two children were attending high school in Littleton, Colorado. Our home was less than fives miles from Columbine. The massacre that took place on April 20th, 1999 at Columbine High School cannot and will not be subject to the cavalier dismissal of your post. The millions of synchronous marchers, worldwide on March 24th are the empirical proof. That is a stronger, better conclusion… one guided by a light of hope… that last Saturday’s “March for our Lives” in Denver, is part of a larger, grander plan; one that this mortal can only guess at.”

My pastor is the man whom, nearly weekly, publicly declares the above conclusion in his prayers (assuming you’re referencing the LORD/battle/army sentence). As a veteran with first-hand battle and army (Air Force) experience, I cringed for the first two years of hearing the man say it. But for some reason I stuck around and gave him the benefit of the doubt. This past year of hearing it brought the payoff (and essentially re-reading the entire Bible). Similar to Aquinas’ thoughts on the law (i.e. counterfeit law), there is only one way that the conclusion makes sense and it involves re-orienting your understanding of reality. No small thing–and only possible with Christ.

I try to keep posts around 300 words, and so I cut out about half of what I initially wrote and hoped the meaning would still be clear. I am responding here because it seems to me that you may not feel confident in stating my point of view accurately, which I humbly submit is near the status quo’s point of view. Do you think you understand our point of view?

In short, assuming we agree that I have faithfully re-stated the claims made last weekend, I think the situation as more similar to calling for the end of cruel and unusual punishment or the end of certain forms of the death penalty than it is similar the Civil Rights movement wherein the African-Americans simply saw no reason why they weren’t allowed to vote. The call today is to restrict rights, not promote them. This is a very unique cry in human history in my reading of human history (unique in one sense, in another sense, it is the most common cry).

I’m not sure how my use of Columbine was seen to fit into the cavalier analogy of the big picture. I fully mean that I can see a future where historians in the future may find themselves describing all these “lone wolf” type mass shootings as early guerrilla warfare type acts of war which led to…

Regarding empirical proof, either more than seven billion four hundred million people worldwide, or more than three hundred twenty million in the United States did not get up from their couch. Empirically, in my mind, single-digit millions are not enough anymore.

On the whole, I still think (but might be wrong) that my analogy is an accurate assessment of the marchers’ claims, if a bit cavalier, in that it admits that the marchers’ are not calling to stop playing the game (which would be calling for an end to violence or the like, Beatles style). My point in getting to the root of the claim is to show that simply desiring things go in their proper place is not something that can be legislated. Instead, that desire is merely the call for the law to come into existence.

But it is possible that I do not understand what the marchers really want.

Pete

Reaction to Saturday’s “March For Our Lives”

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This post is an exercise in the time-honored tradition of trying to state the opposition’s point of view.

As for Saturday’s events, as far as I can determine, two main claims were repeatedly made.

  • We need to end gun violence. (Sir Paul McCartney and Yolanda Renee King)
  • We need to keep weapons of war out of the hands of civilians. (Delaney Tarr and Cameron Kasky)

Regarding ending gun violence: it is not possible for me to imagine how to un-invent something as prevalent as guns, so I’ll not spend time assessing this claim.

Regarding keeping weapons of war out of the hands of civilians: I can imagine that, and so I’ll do my best to get to the heart of their desire.

Certainly the claim needs much more specificity. Surely they don’t mean to include knives (carried and used by warriors to this day), just as they surely do not believe other weapons of war (nuclear bombs) are obtainable by civilians. I also do not believe they intend to keep revolvers or single-shot rifles out of the hands of civilians. Nor do I think they wish to keep pump-action shotguns or the like out of civilians’ hands. In short, I think I feel the pulse of the claim rightly when I say that they desire to keep away from civilians any gun that resembles an AR-15, with its incredibly powerful and quickly replaceable “banana” clip (or the “I-always-thought-that-was-a-handle” thing).

Put another way, at the risk of oversimplifying things to an unfeeling level, the opposition to the status quo wants to make sure the star shape is only placed into the star opening.

This seems sensible, and yet the trouble with this view is that through it the opposition to status quo shows that it has not taken into account two very pertinent facts.

First, make no mistake, these shootings–beginning with Columbine–if not earlier, are acts of war, and to win a war you do not disarm the good guys.

Second, this is not a war against flesh and blood. Until the opposition understands the power of the Gospel, the limitless power of grace, they are fighting for the losing side.

The LORD has never lost a battle and he is captain of every army.

Three Reasons the Bible Is Not Pro-Gun Control

By most accounts, I am not even “old,” and yet I feel old enough to say it is time to take the gloves off. I want to maintain what grammarians might call a syntax of gentleness, but truth is important too. This might be more true than gentle. We’ll see.

First: You’re a sucker, or what Jesus called a sheep, if you think the Bible has anything to say one way or the other about gun control. Just sayin.’ It is not pro-gun anymore than it is anti-gun. In fact, in all my reading of the Bible, in the words of three different languages and many more different dialects of English, I have never come across the word gun. Let this first point, then, be a lesson from a friend: don’t play the fool.

Second: The Bible is most certainly pro-death and it is most certainly anti-death. We die. All of us. If any written words have ever been indubitably aware of this fact, they are found in the Bible. This is a good thing. Only upon understanding this situation can we begin to see the invisible, to see the spiritual.

Third: One way– *one*–that I, the-looking-through-the-dim-mirror-sheep-that-I-am, view the school shootings is through the story in the end of the book of Judges wherein some Israelite’s concubine was raped and abused through the night by men from another tribe of Israelites with whom they were staying, presumably for safety. She ends up dead, lying at the threshold of the man’s door in the morning. He then chops her up into twelve pieces and sends a piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel and the recipients say, “Nothing like this has ever happened or been seen from the day when the sons of Israel came up from the land of Egypt to this day. Consider it, take counsel and speak up!” At this, civil war was the determination. The LORD did not spare his own people.

The reason that comes to mind is because of the emphasis it has on that the atrocity was committed by their own people–their own family, as it were. While our culture isn’t as segmented by bloodlines as those ancient cultures, I am comfortable with saying that when some current or former student murders his own classmates, in his own town etc. that it is similar enough to be meaningfully the same.

A lot of you like to say, “History repeats itself.” Or, “Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.” Bullocks, I say. History does not repeat itself, nor are any two situations ever the same. But the LORD is righteous and he will not tolerate sin for forever. Accordingly, from today forward we can give future historians the data they need to record how these shootings turned out to be the preamble to civil war (or the less extreme, more simple crumbling of Western civilization), or we can give future historians the data they need to record how these shootings turned out to be the warnings we heeded to return to the LORD. The future has never been done before. I say let’s return to the LORD. (The Bible does talk about this being welcomed by him–every time.)

The Tongue

Don’t worry. This one is approved for all audiences.

Over my winter break (yes, I’m thirty-six and still have such things–though I do work full-time during them) I have been renewing my Certified Flight Instructor license via online testing. Truth be told, I haven’t flown in six years, but as I watch H- get older I am pretty sure that she will be my next student. So I keep my license in the event that, as ol’ Leo noted, “For once you have tasted flight…there you will long to return.” Plus, what kind of schmuck would I be for not teaching my daughter how to fly? Anyhow, that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is to demonstrate how to use a current and trending event as the launching point for spreading the Gospel.

Current Event: Oprah seems to have reached a tipping point in her life. Will she run for president of the United States of America?

Launching point: Critics of Oprah have already pointed out that she is just a greedy celebrity, categorically the same as President Trump. One piece of evidence the critics cite is her recommendation and belief in the tactics of the best-seller The Secret, those tactics being positive thinking–often in opposition to medical science and other fruits of western civilization. Positive thinking, of course, is to the gracious non-believer exactly and only all that Christianity ever could be.

Spread the Gospel: Explore this Christianity-is-just-positive-thinking-like-The-Secret-and-therefore-unbelievable-too notion with the non-believer using James’ words. Here’s an example discussion.

Christian: So you don’t think positive thinking is the end-all-be-all, then?

Non-believer: Of course it isn’t. Go to the doctor if you’re sick for crying out loud.

Christian: You do know that Christianity does not believe in merely positive thinking, right?

Non-believer: Well, I know that there isn’t a god–no offense–and so all your praying and hoping is just helping you stay positive in this sometimes depressing life.

Christian: None taken. Here’s where I would like to have a moment to clarify something. Can I clarify something?

Non-believer: Sure.

Christian: I don’t know your thoughts. And neither does the Bible tell me that I do. And vice-versa. We can’t read minds-

Non-believer: -surely.

Christian: -but we can hear what each other says.

Non-believer: Surely.

(Here’s the key move)

Christian: So this discussion isn’t really about positive thinking, is it?

Non-believer: I guess not.

Christian: To further evidence this, it was you, not me, who actually mentioned prayer first.

Non-believer: Ya got me. So what?

Christian: The question, then, at least in your mind–I know what I believe–is whether or not prayer is real. I’m not suggesting that I believe you or anyone else lies awake at night wondering this or even actively thinks about it often at all, but, at this moment, what appeared to be a question of positive thinking was actually a question of talking, a question of our tongue’s power. Agree?

Non-believer: I’m a bit lost and am not sure how to feel about how Oprah’s speech took us here, but yes, this is where we are.

Christian: We don’t have to keep talking about this. It’s heady and a bit deep, and I know you’re busy. Do you want to switch subjects?

Non-believer: No, I’ll hear you out.

Christian: Okay. You know and I know, basically everyone knows that human history includes this notion of praying, of talking, to beings that are not necessarily immediately in our presence or even claimed to be visible at all.

Non-believer: Sure. People used to believe and do a lot of other silly things too.

Christian: Some still do–like me–though I wouldn’t call it silly.

Non-believer: Noted.

Christian: What I want to ask is, “Why don’t you think the tongue is powerful?”

Non-believer: I never said the tongue isn’t powerful?

Christian: You didn’t?

Non-believer: (silence)

Christian: It’s okay. We’re talking about powerful things right now.

Non-believer: I didn’t say the tongue isn’t powerful.

Christian: Two thousand years ago Jesus’ brother James’ audience–if we can use James’ words to evidence his audience’s struggle–James’ audience seemed to think that since the tongue is so small it surely couldn’t be powerful. Unlike those primitive people, two thousand years later folks like you and me commonly say, “Ant’s are able to lift many, many times their own body weight,” alongside many other claims which scientific study has validated over time. So to us, it’s not even a question if small things are powerful. But then to James–not his audience–it wasn’t either. His claim was that the tongue was powerful, not that small things were powerful. He had no more trouble persuading his audience that small things were powerful than we have today. He simply said, “Look at the rudder on a ship if you’re unconvinced.” (Sidebar: If you’re waiting for the connection to the opening flying talk, planes have rudders. 🙂 )

Non-believer: Interesting.

Christian: Maybe now you can see why Jesus doesn’t seem to have written anything down.

Non-believer: Huh?

Christian: Christianity is a big boys game. It couldn’t be any other way. Our tongues matter. You know this, I know this. What we say matters. So now, and you don’t have to answer me this instant, I want to ask you another question.

Non-believer: What’s that?

Christian: It’s the same question Jesus asked long ago. Before his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus was teaching about the so-called “Son of Man” and his listeners were offering various names as to who the different and competing groups of the time suspected this person to be. As the answers came in, none of the answers were “Jesus” or “you.” Then Jesus narrows his question and says, ‘Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” To which Jesus answered, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” So I’m asking you, out loud, with my tongue, “Who do you say Jesus was?”

Non-believer: (Go. Find out for yourself what he or she says. Their answer may surprise you.)

Eve

And she said, “I have gotten a manchild with the help of Yahweh.”

Cain’s shoulders rose and fell. The deed done, his fight for air was not over. Eve had watched him come to her from the field. He ran at first. He walked the last length before stopping with his face before hers.

The moment was no different than any other for Eve. As long as she could remember she had known precisely how she felt and what she wanted to say, but often, and again on this day, she did not have the words.

Cain slowly regained his breath while he watched Eve walk from tent stake to tent stake. Her course never wavered. She simply would look at Cain then bend down and pull the stake out of the ground. In response, the animal skin previously held taut would slacken. Cain stood still as he watched his mother. When she pulled from the ground the fourth stake, the tent no longer held its shape. But when she grasped the fifth stake, the earth did not release it so easily. She calmly tried again. The land still held tight. Standing up, she looked once more at Cain. Then she pushed her sleeves back and reached down again.

“Stay!” she cried out as Cain began to move towards her.

He obeyed as the wood sliced through her palms, her own blood now adding to the difficulty. Unable to be still any longer he walked towards her. The noise she made was so loud it stopped him. She seemed to break her voice with it. But what he did not expect was the speed and force with which she pushed him back. He looked down and saw two dark hand-prints on his skin. He watched his right thumb raise and slowly smear through her blood. Her rapid, wild strikes against his shoulders then his chest awoke him from contemplation. He did not resist. Only when she wildly began to beat his head did he cover her fists with his own and restrain her.

Then he caught his mother as she collapsed before him in exhaustion. Watery tears fell from her eyes and guttural moans escaped from her mouth. Then she lifted her head towards his. She grasped onto his hair and pulled his ear to her mouth.

“You are Cain. My son.”

My Papers Are Available On Request

My semester has ended. Over the course of it I wrote three papers. If you’d like to read any of them, just let me know and I’ll send ’em your way.

I called the first,

Exegetical Paper on Proverbs 1:1-16.

It was for a class on Biblical Hebrew, but is written in English. Though, I will warn you that many of the English words I had to use are essentially a foreign language. It includes sentences like, “Specifically, the many infinitives with which the book opens cause many to attempt to clarify just what exactly they mean and who exactly the audience is.” And this gem, “To begin, we read the names David, Solomon, and Israel.”

Now that I think of it, it’s probably best if you skip this one in favor of just reading that proverbial passage here. 

Next, I wrote this doozy,

2 Samuel 6:12-23:

Side-by-Side Comparison of the 2006 Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuaginta Text with the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia Text, English Translations of the Same, and A Brief Treatment of the Discrepancies along with Several Resultant—and Short—Exegetical Considerations.

It’s probably my best work of the semester–including over 13 pages of handwritten Hebrew and Greek, and includes sentences like, “Given some of the BHS text’s morphemes’ ability to contain what later became several RH morphemes, a reckoning of additions to the BHS in the RH amounts to twenty-one morphemes (of the three hundred eighteen total) which cannot be accounted for by the preformatives, sufformatives, and direct object markers of the BHS text.”

As you can see for yourself, only about three people on the planet have the training required to read it–and two of them don’t care. So, again, the eternally better option is to just read the passage itself, which can be found here.

Thirdly, I wrote one which I called,

Wisdoms Compared:

An Examination of an Early Passage of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians in the Tradition of the Same Greeks from Whom the Apostle Paul Separated Himself 

This one is by far the most important paper I wrote. It includes sentences like, “Against Paul’s elsewhere more clear rebuttals of the first two, being A. Torah as wisdom and 2. Docetism or Gnosticism, Corrington submits that what Paul is concerned with addressing here is the distinct notion that thirdly, wisdom itself was power.” And, “So, instead of that, Paul redirects his cessation sentiment and continues with indirect admonishing, and explains why they should not be with anyone except Christ.”

Again, you are much better off if you just click here to read the passage itself. Enjoy!

 

Surely

If Handel’s Messiah is playing near you, go. H- and I went tonight and it is amazing. Every word is from Scripture. The most striking and awe-inspiring songs included For Unto Us a Child is Born, and All We Like Sheep (whose last part was unexpectedly dramatic), and, also unexpectedly, the new-to-me song Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs.

Most of you know I am a member of a black church. I mention this because the first song that the chorus sang made me tear up and I thought about how I would react to the Hallelujah Chorus and whether I would stand by myself or not. For those who do not know, it is a tradition to stand for that one, and so we did. It was sublime beyond compare. Praise Yahweh. Praise the LORD. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.