“Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and in the presence of all the people who were standing in the house of Yahweh, and the prophet Jeremiah said, ‘Amen! May Yahweh do so; may Yahweh confirm your words which you have prophesied to bring back the vessels of Yahweh’s house and all the exiles from Babylon to this place.
‘Yet hear now this word which I am about to speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people!
‘The prophets who were before me and before you from ancient times prophesied against many lands and against kingdoms, of war and of calamity and of pestilence.
‘The prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, then that prophet will be known as one whom Yahweh has truly sent.'” (My italics.)
A few posts ago, I shared that I was on my third reading of Jeremiah. One of the intriguing parts of Jeremiah is its candid accounts of prophet battles. The above is taken from the middle of one such scene. I used to think that Israel’s prophetic history was clean. But reading it for myself has revealed that it was anything but clean. This Hananiah claimed to be speaking the Word of Yahweh, no different than Jeremiah. Moreover, the account has Jeremiah acknowledging this fact.
So how does Jeremiah suggest, in front of all the people, that their dispute be resolved? He says to wait. But in his suggestion is the subtle claim that Hananiah should be able to see that when involved in prophesying, one sides with true prophets when one prophesies against earthly powers. Instead of this, Hananiah had just prophesied earthly peace, you see?
But here’s the tricky part. Jeremiah wasn’t suggesting that earthly powers needed to be exchanged by other earthly powers that would do better, no. He was declaring, like the true prophets of Yahweh who came before him, that the people of Israel had disobeyed Yahweh for so long that Yahweh would not stop the oncoming judgement. (War, calamity, pestilence.)
Implied in this entire scene, and Jeremiah’s claim, is the fact that Yahweh is running the show and that Yahweh expects obedience.
On this Independence Day I am thinking of this passage because it is so very different from what we hear and say today. Our prophets, the 20, all claim to be speaking against the man, capital T. But not one of them measures up to the prophet bar Jeremiah set. This, of course, is no surprise. The 20 would hardly announce themselves as prophets of Yahweh. And yet half, and perhaps more than half, of the voting public in our country is behaving like the Israelites who apparently ate up and drank up Hananiah (as indicated by their lack of repentance) and his declarations that peace was on the way.
The next president will not bring peace or liberty. You’re a fool if you believe he or she will. And Jeremiah knew this. That’s why his words are worth reading on this day.
The question that remains is do you know who has the power to bring peace and liberty?
It was the fall of two years ago, putting me shortly after my thirty-sixth birthday. I was in the midst of some men who were mostly fifty plus years old.
The particular interrogator I faced carried his ninety-seven years venerably. He was respected by all, by which I mean all jumped at the opportunity to serve him–even the seventy year olds who were twenty years his junior. Most often, if the short time I spent with him indicated anything, the service rendered was simply bringing a blanket to keep away the cold.
His topic of inquiry: Origins. Beginnings. Genesis.
He asked me because he had heard me say that I studied such things.
I didn’t know what to say.
Reader, don’t misunderstand me. I had my answer at the ready. Yet I was quieted by the emotional aspect of the stated query. This elder is about to meet his maker. Possibly that weekend. And he’s not only respecting me enough to see what I’ll say (though I have always suspected he’d cast a fool’s line), he’s maintaining his tight grip on the joy of investigation.
The content of his question eludes my memory, but it was something to do with the peoples of earth that the Bible characters met and from where they spawned. I told him, “I don’t know.” But I went on to tell him, “No one knows. Moses didn’t tell us. And we should be very careful when listening to someone who makes a claim otherwise.”
Today I will add that this, as with Paul’s comments on another profound topic within Beginnings talk, “This mystery is great.”
I couldn’t tell if he approved–of either my answer or me.
My reason for sharing this experience here is to give a glimpse into what I think is one of life’s pleasures which is unique to Christianity.
This is more for me than anyone else. It’s just a musing that I am working out. But I felt like sharing.
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – Ben Franklin
Liberty lives in the heart of veterans like me. Like me, some of my war buddies have an as of yet unaccounted for revulsion to all this talk about equality that is everywhere these days. Girls are equal to boys. Children are equal to adults. All religions are equal. All cultures are equal. All countries are equal. It’s all hogwash–at least according to me and my pals.
Why? Because we didn’t fight for equality. Men don’t fight for equality, certainly not with their flesh. Lawyers and judges and statesmen might consider their fight to be for equality. But the fighting man? The warrior? (And, no, not the metaphorical warrior, folks). No, sir. He fights for freedom. And when he is finished with his fight, then he desires it. He needs it. Why? Because if he can’t have it, then he must fight again.
I want to offer for your consideration something new. I offer the idea that equality is synonymous with security, synonymous with safety.
How would you distinguish them? I no longer see the distinction that might have once been in my mind.
This Sunday, the church I have been a member of for three years now will recognize any/all graduates. It’s a fairly depressing ceremony as the congregation has lost so many members over the years that there are only a few remaining “youth” or “grandkids” that can be mustered out for display. For my part, I will be recognized for my post-undergraduate certificate thingy.
This calls to mind two things. First, I am sure I know more about the Bible, text-criticism of it especially, than my pastor and I’m not sure what to do about that. Second, I am sure someone will suggest I finish the master’s degree proper at some point when they realize I didn’t get one.
Here’s the thing. I will never attempt to do this. My reasons are not difficult to understand to me, but to all you encouragers I feel like my reasoning requires moving a mountain.
This is my final attempt. I stumbled upon this little gem in my Great Books of the Western World, Vol. 2. On the topic of “being” the following is included.
“It has seldom been supposed that reality exhausts the objects of our thought or knowledge. We can conceive possibilities not realized in this world. We can imagine things which do not exist in nature.“
Every professor at the school I attended for three years, including those who sit on the NIV translation committee, believe that reality does exhaust knowledge. For example, they believe numbers are not imagination, but real. (As are triangles, nouns in the genitive case, and the like.)
Folks can believe what they want. But coupling this belief about the world with the one painted by the Bible makes it flatly a lie. They are wrong at a level which touches evil. Worse, in all my discussions with them, they never even acknowledged that they knew there was another option. Well I’m it. And I won’t fight them. I won’t. It’s foolishness.
There is huge trouble brewing–like you should be afraid–when men-of-god do not discern the difference between a circle or noun and the Exodus. One is only in our mind, the other happened. In that moment, the instant separation fades, the moment the circle “happens,” pride envelopes them and the meaningful distinction between creature and creator blurs. Aside: One thing I haven’t yet had time to research is just when precisely the academic types stopped declaring themselves divine. We know the infamous and hell-bound Greeks used to, and we know that they don’t anymore. But I’m curious when they stopped actually asserting it. By my thinking, the folks who think the LORD is in some way involved with grammar etc. are just closet-deity-declarers. Here’s the test question for you laymen. Can the all-powerful LORD make Frodo not throw the ring into Mordor? If you think the LORD can stop Frodo, how would He? And if you think the LORD cannot stop Frodo, what is preventing Him?
Do not mis-read me. Men-of-god can have as deep of imaginations as Anne Shirley. But they have to admit when they’re using them.
For example, I have reached far enough back into Ancient Near Eastern history to believe that the reason the adversary in the Garden is “the serpent” (versus some other predator) is because of how serpents bind their prey. Sin–disobedience to our Heavenly Father–binds us up just like the serpent binds its food. Serpents don’t use fingers, they don’t use arms and legs, they use everything that they are. That’s precisely how the adversary works. He doesn’t mess around and he desires us. And a really neat part of this is that no matter how much we struggle, we cannot get free. It takes someone outside of us to save us. Just like the Gospel recorded happened some two thousand years ago.
But that is all part of my imagination. The Word of God says no such thing. It draws no connection, and it never seeks to answer my question of, “Why the serpent?…besides the fact that it was the serpent.”
So that is my imagination. You don’t have to believe it. It probably isn’t true. But it satisfies me.
Finally, you may ask, “Why not track down some seminary that is in line with your understanding?” Ah, but there couldn’t be one. The LORD holds all power. Christ holds all power. It is His to give. Understand?
In retrospect, I should’ve went to Law School. Or Engineering.
Oh well. I can translate some cuneiform. That’s something.
Sometimes I want to believe that you read past comments on posts and consequently are in the loop. Naturally, this would be asking entirely too much, so here I’ll share a bit of the back and forth I had with another blogger named Pete. And this sharing may help ease your fears after yesterday’s post.
The moment was way back on March 28th. The March For Our Lives had just accomplished nothing. Yet there was another Pete out there who wanted to chat. After exchanging a few clarifying comments, I read a post that he had written after Sandy Hook and I replied,
ME: “Again, my point is not to persuade–not yet–but to see if we each can paraphrase what we each are saying. After reading your piece, I think the fundamental difference between your and my thoughts is best illustrated by the ‘time to show the world…violence is not in our DNA.'”
See, I believe violence is in our DNA. Anyhow. I then tried to paraphrase our two sides to the debate and so wrote,
ME: “As I see it: I believe the issue is whether arms are a protected right anymore. You believe the issue is determining how non-violent people can keep gun violence to a minimum. Am I close? I don’t think you’ll like what I said about you, but that’s the softest way I could come up with quickly.”
In my attempt to paraphrase his side, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the oxymoron which I couldn’t help but include in the phrase “non-violent people can keep gun violence to a minimum.” I chuckled because how in the hell does a non-violent person commit violence?
And yet, unlike all of you save one yesterday, he furthered the conversation and this other Pete wrote,
Other Pete: “‘You believe the issue is determining how non-violent people can keep gun violence to a minimum. Am I close?’
Yes… sort of. I’m convinced that the U.S. can reduce gun violence by serious federal legislation, which we have never really had (just minor dribs and drabs, mainly at the state level). Gun deaths and their frequencies (and styles) are increasing. The NRA option of ‘more guns’ is shameful and a total joke. We can reduce gun violence if we would only elect responsible politicians, who do not sleep with the NRA, to pass significant legislation. While I personally have no problem with repealing the 2nd Amendment, we can still keep that wretchedly worded thing, without ‘violating’ it, with the common-sense proposals espoused by organizations like the Brady Foundation and other gun control groups. And I’m behind ‘March for Our Lives’ all the way.”
Now, the only way I can make sense of his “Yes… sort of” is that this other Pete thought I meant that fellas like me and him (don’t forget to include yourself and your friends and family) are actually benevolent non-violent types capable of coming together to keep the gun violence to a minimum.
And in that moment, I again lost all hope for written conversation making any headway. Pete read what he wanted to read. And Pete read what he wanted to read.
So now I write what I want. Again. Still. Because Pete cannot be wrong.
Side A: More gun control in some form or fashion.
Side B: The only gun control they’ll respect is repealing the 2nd Amendment–but then they’ll secede.
Sounds crazy, no?
Whether crazy or not, that Side A must advocate nothing less than ‘repeal’ is so obvious to me that I cannot see any other way. I almost want to lead the charge to repeal just to show them how it is done. Isn’t that what Side A wants? If not, if you’re on Side A, please do explain why you don’t want to repeal. I cannot understand how anything less than a repeal accomplishes what you want.
As a reminder, here is the opening of the Declaration of Independence:
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Late last year when actresses began revealing that the situation in Hollywood was exactly as most of Middle America had always known it to be, I made a small non-monetary wager with one male relative of mine who shall remain unnamed. Pride was the only thing worth winning or losing. I said, “This whole thing will blow over by summer. Quit acting like trending hashtags have power.”
Well, you can imagine that he has been quick to point out that summer is here and the #MeToo movement still moves.
My angle has always been H-. What do you want me to tell H-? I believe that the only thing to teach her on this topic is what the Bible teaches. Its words have at least two elements which women need to be raised hearing repeatedly. The first element is that men rape women. As many skeptics point out, this behavior is recorded as occurring more than once and sometimes even by the so-called hero of the story. No argument here. Thousands of years later, however, we should not be shocked to discover we have not evolved or some shit.
The second element is the teaching that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. How many victims believe that about their body? Maybe all, maybe none. No women mention it in their accusations is all I know.
As a divorced man, I can tell you that I will never understand the “stay” aspect of #MeToo. The “safe word” notion seems reasonable if you’re into some kink. If he doesn’t agree to it, well, at least you know where he’s at. But to be frank, well no. Frankly I just “can’t get there from here” as they say. (LEAVE.)
You know what one of you once told me? She said, “On dates I never think about how I am being treated. I think about how mad my dad would be if I let myself be treated bad.” Obviously I haven’t forgotten that. And not so obviously, after three years of ancient language study, I think that is a near perfect word-for-word translation into English of the Apostle Paul’s Greek, “your body is the temple of the holy spirit.”
Lastly, if the I’m-only-sharing-this-now-because-I-want-to-prevent-further-victims sentiment that falls under the #MeToo umbrella, if not is the umbrella, continues past the summer, I cannot see how anyone still associating with #MeToo is not a fool in the sandy biblical sense. Unlike, say, the American Revolution or the Civil Rights movement, in this case, the longer you last, the weaker you become. You set it up that way.
Then again, reading “20 Years Strong: #MeToo Movement Denies Allegations of Impotence As It Considers New Gender-Neutral Logo” on some future day does not seem unlikely.
I fear I may have driven one good friend away during my week of slandering the marchers. That’s no good. Time will tell. Here I want to happily prove that I miraculously still have one or two remaining friends, address some white/black cultural issues, and comment on the value of blogging as distinct from other forms of writing.
Remember my proposed Amendment XXVIII? Here it is again, “In time of peace, arms shall no longer be secured by the people.”
I still love it, but the sense I get is that most folks think it is quite ridiculous, if not totally immature, willfully ignorant, and completely impractical. While it’s always nice to be encouraged, I don’t find generality particularly beneficial for philosophical debate.
Out of the blue, however, one pal responded with, “What about new citizens? Your amendment doesn’t seem to account for them. Seems like you’d be fine with them securing arms during peace time.”
Two things should be readily apparent by that rejoinder. First, you couldn’t know this, but he responded within, oh, less than a few seconds. To note this is important to me because at the seminary the word “smart” is passed around and desired as if a mantle of holiness. It isn’t. And frankly, I cannot get anyone, professor or student, to coherently describe what they mean by “smart.”
Sidebar: I recognize only two traits of the mind. Speed and retention. Some people think faster, and some people retain more, but I have yet to meet someone who is smart. Consequently, then, my friend demonstrated that he is at least a fast thinker. I like to think I, too, possess a mind which is je ne sais quoi, rapido? and that that’s why we’re friends. Who knows?
Second, his particular reply–unlike general criticisms and/or silent anger–demonstrates that he respects me enough to consider my idea. This feels good.
In addition to this, I think I have just today gained some clarity regarding what drives my posts of late, the ones wherein I cry out for the remnant of living souls who know what we have accomplished in the United States to speak up before it’s too late.
You see, I have purposefully been engaging with other cultures. What can I say? I like to learn. While we’re all Americans, we are definitely not all the same culture. And I now see that my reactionary writing (such as the last joint movie review) is likely the manifestation of my own culture gasping for air.
Here’s the thing. Both cultures which I interact with, while I maintain that I am not fully a member of either (White Evangelicals and the Black Community), both of them believe in the Word of God in the dual senses of “…bread alone but every word that comes out of the mouth of God” and “…and the Word became flesh.” However, I reject the White Evangelicals because they preach that the Bible supports that mathematical truth is God’s truth. (Nowhere in scripture does any writer indicate that the LORD cares if one plus one equals two.) And I struggle with the Black Community because they preach that the Bible supports the notion that extra-biblical knowledge has no value. (These are sweeping generalizations. Rest assured, more are on the way. Rerax! It’s a blog post.)
By my thinking, the only important thing, the thing that the Bible explicitly states over and over again, is that there is a difference between the two. It’s not that man’s knowledge isn’t important, it’s just that it can’t possibly all be the LORD’s knowledge. There must be two types. And, point of fact, the word “holy” itself is just the church-ified version of the word “separate.” Again, the Word of God says that there are two types. Just don’t unify the two and you’re fine. (Seriously, don’t.)
The real question is how to get the White Evangelicals to stop insisting Christianity is the “smart choice,” and how to get the Black Community to care about math. As for me, I’m the smartypants who uses google for algebra problems. Bet the Arabs didn’t see that coming!
This takes me to blogging.
For me, it is holy catharsis. How about for you?
Nearly three years ago I applied for and was accepted into a 78-credit hour Masters of Divinity in Theology program. I later attempted to reduce my workload and transferred into the more reasonable 50-credit hour Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies degree. I am now out of quarters, as they say, and have decided to cut my losses. I will leave with the 24-credit hour Graduate Certificate in Biblical and Theological Studies to show for my efforts. I have 56 credit hours total, but stubbornly and, I believe, biblically, I refused to complete the required thesis and thus forego the actual graduate degree.
24 of the other 32 hours I passed were in ancient languages. When it comes to scholarship, I prefer word study to anything else. How precisely do words work? Answering that is endlessly fascinating to me.
I confess that I would have loved to see future bio’s read, “Pete earned his Master’s of Divinity…” or hear, “…Pete comes to us having earned his Master’s…” But I had to do things my way. The truth is that I think the theological and biblical higher education degrees are the paper equivalent of bullshit. There. I said it.
First of all, any title that can generically cover studies in several religions are misleading from the beginning. Divinity? Who’s soul has divinity saved? You know the answer is, “No one’s,” and you don’t have a degree in Divinity. Amazing!
Secondly, the Bible is full of very intelligible words. Words like mountain, rock, rain, serpent, turn, and blood. Unity is another one. By my thinking, if we are not in unity as Christians, it often means we’re simply off topic. Let’s admit it. For Christians, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only topic. See for yourself if you doubt me. In any case, talk about it. Reconciling evolution with creation is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you enjoy engaging in that type of mental gymnastic and know others who do too, by all means talk about it. If you lose friends over it, don’t talk about it; skip it like you would a difficult crossword puzzle. Keep the unity.
Thirdly, if I ran a seminary today, to accurately communicate to the fallen world what I was doing, I would confer to graduates only one degree: a Masters of Power. And I definitely would not recommend anyone enroll at my school. Can you imagine someone claiming to have earned a degree in power? And how could power be taught by books? What a joke he’d be. My first question to the new man-of-letters would be, “Which power, exactly? The wind? Heat? Speed? Darkness? Light? Forgiveness? Love? Make an actual claim, man!”
As it is, “Masters of Divinity” or “MA in Theology” plays only on a bygone era’s final unbroken string and merely reassures church-goers that they don’t need to read their Bible for themselves. Divinity and Theology are so general that their teaching solely requires that the institution’s curriculum be limited to trending positive ideas. But the Masters of Power degree, my way, would necessarily demand further specification. And instead of reassuring church-goers that they’re not being duped by some hack with a Bible, it would be an excellent metric by which to measure the preacher. Is he preaching that there’s power in some book? Power in some culture? Power in guilt and remorse? Or is he preaching that there is power in the Blood of Jesus? Power in the Word of God? Power in repentance? Power in holiness? Surely we all possess the mental faculties to discern the difference between these things.
Here me clearly: Jesus Christ is Lord of all. He holds all power. The adversary, the great serpent of old is defeated. This is good news. If someone let’s you know they disagree with this, thank them for their honesty and then pray that the Holy Spirit uses you to reveal Christ to them. When answering questions (they will have them) stick to Scripture and the spirit of Scripture. Think of yourself as the translator. You know their vocabulary and you know the Word of God. Be the friend they need. Feed them. In doing so, you’ll help them see the good news that they are already free.
No different than the school shootings, we all have opinions on liberal education. Oh, you may disagree in this moment, but watch this: What do you think? Are all entitled to receive a liberal education or only the wealthy and powerful?
See what I mean?
Endearing Backstory: My school’s library had apparently been amassing donations of book sets for a few years and last Monday morning there was a long awaited sale. Each book cost a mere $2, but the catch was you had to purchase the entire set. I had heard rumor (cuz im sooo street) that they had a set of the famed Great Books of the Western World (hereafter GBWW). $126 poorer, and I am the proud owner of that 54 volume set. (They had 53 volumes=$106. I had to track down the missing volume on Amazon for $20. It’s best not to dwell on such things.)
Volume One explains and defends the project. There is no better title for it than The Great Conversation. I would know, because, as you know, I love conversation. According to Hutchins et al. however, what I actually love is the freedom to converse. No argument here. And inherent to our beloved way of life–as presented in GBWW–is the belief in liberal education for all. Put another way, we believe everyone gets a say and no one has the last word.
The one critique I have of the project is that Hutchins writes that the editorial board believes the–now 118 year–lack of teaching great books will be viewed by future historians as an aberration. I am happy to read such clear writing, but where I distinguish myself from Hutchins is that I believe that the lack of teaching the great books, whether someday viewed as an aberration or not, manifests something much worse. It is the evidence that in some very meaningful, though elusive, sense we are no longer the Western World.
Western Civilization, the great conversation it has had, ends with silence.
So speak up, I say! For Christ’s sake, speak up!