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By In Counseling/Piety, Wisdom

Solomon on Porn

Proverbs seems aimed at a young man–someone who is at least an adolescent since he is capable of being sexually tempted. He may be old enough to be a young married man. After all, one of Solomon’s exhortations is to be satisfied with one’s young wife (Proverbs 5:18-19).

I don’t know at what age men got married in Israel in Solomon’s day, but his wisdom seems aimed at males ranging from adolescence to early marriage.

As Scripture, Proverbs is a book meant to be read by all people, young and old, male and female. But to apply the lessons, if you are not a young man, then you need to imagine being a young man in most cases, so you can apply Solomon’s warnings to yourself.

Solomon’s warning in Proverbs 7 is specific and detailed. He wants the young man to avoid the trap of a married, wealthy, immoral woman. He doesn’t explicitly say she is older, but Solomon doesn’t call her young. The impression we get is that she is older than the youth, and certainly more experienced.

And she is not tempting the young man only with sex, but with the enjoyment of wealth that is not his and he did not earn. Her bed is a luxury that the man could not afford unless he was wealthy. Her mention of the husband’s “bag of money” that he took on his trip emphasizes his immense wealth. If he has so much money to risk going somewhere far away (an inherently dangerous endeavor in the ancient world) then we can safely assume he has far more wealth in his home estate.

So, here’s a rich woman offering a night of sinful pleasure to a young man.

 

The adulterous temptress of Proverbs 7 seems unprecedented in the Bible. The closest situation is the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. But Joseph was a successful and capable manager. The wife’s desires, while wrong, made more sense. She wasn’t offering herself to a young stranger who hadn’t accomplished anything. Joseph was a genuinely admirable man. (more…)

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By In Theology

Understanding Romans 3:21-26 in Context

Romans was an important book in the sixteenth-century Reformation, as was the topic of how one was justified in the sight of God. And one part of the cultural revolution that occurs was over how sins were punished. For instance, here are a couple of Martin Luther’s theses:

– The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.

– The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.

Our passage in Romans 3 has something to say about that, but let’s remember some of the context.

Paul tells the Romans early on that he’s not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). It would be interesting to consider why Paul would even bring up the possibility of being ashamed of the Gospel, but we’ll leave that aside for now.

Paul also says that, in the Gospel “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith” (Romans 1:17). That’s a wordplay and there is some debate on what Paul meant. I think he is referencing that God’s righteousness is revealed from God’s faithfulness to our faith. There are parallels in Romans 3 that I think point to that understanding.

But it is noteworthy that Paul goes on to say that not only is God’s righteousness revealed in the Gospel, but God’s wrath is revealed from heaven (Romans 1:18).

Now here is where I think we can go wrong and miss Paul’s point about how God wrath is involved in his Gospel. What follows from Romans 1:18 is not a description of God’s wrath but of the human behavior and unbelief that provokes God’s wrath.

(more…)

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By In Theology, Wisdom

Upgraded Humanity: From Tribes to Kingdom (Part 2)

In Part One, I used a metaphor from the science fiction novel Snow Crash which re-imagined the Tower of Babel story as a place where human beings were “upgraded” from programmable worker to self-conscious human individuals. Perhaps a more popular story is found in Arthur C. Clarke’s sci-fi novel, 2001. Like the Obelisk upgraded the hominids in the story, the Tabernacle was meant to change human beings in their thinking and acting over the generations.

There was lots of disobedience and idolatry in Israel, but eventually the Israelites came to the next stage in their development.

Thinking about Proverbs

Proverbs is inspired Scripture. It is one of the most generalizable books in the Bible. There is very little in it that gives it a historical context (the authorship of Solomon would be an example of such context). It contains wisdom for everyone.

So why did it come so late in history? Most of Leviticus was dictated by God to Moses. He could have dictated most of Proverbs and given it to guide generations of Israelites. There is wisdom in the Pentateuch, of course, but Proverbs gives a fuller and more concentrated articulation of wisdom. It is tied to the history of Israel somehow, but not like the prophets who are usually responding to certain historical events.

To put it another way, we would never ask why Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles weren’t written earlier. It is self-evident that they were grounded in events that occurred at a particular time. And even though there may be sections of the prophets that could possibly be such far distant predictions that they could have been given earlier, most of them are also set in a historical context.

But except for the bare fact of authorship, Proverbs doesn’t seem to have such grounding. Obviously, God used the history of Israel culminating in Solomon’s wisdom to produce Proverbs. But given the fact that God could simply have dictated it to Moses, what is the reason God chose to leave Israel without that fuller revelation of his wisdom until centuries later?

The only explanation I can think of is that people were not ready to hear it. They needed time with the Mosaic administration to give them ears to hear.

(more…)

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By In Scribblings

C. S. Lewis and the #FakeNews of Atheism

I’ve read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity several times but I’ve never read his second essay (“Miracles”) in the collection, God in the Dock, until this afternoon. It was a “sermon” he preached on November 26, 1942.

It far out-powers what I remember of Mere Christianity, and it is, no matter what Van Til said about Lewis or any other mistakes Lewis might have made, Presuppositionalist.

The collection also contains a column he wrote for the Coventry Evening Telegraph, published on January 3, 1945. It is chapter 7: “Religion and Science.” Written to be more popularly accessible, Lewis promoted some concepts that he had also argued for in “Miracles” in the form of a remembered conversation with a skeptic.

But he also added one: that there was a conspiracy of disinformation behind the widely held belief that the ancients were ignorant about nature.

“These are rather niggling points,” said my friend. “You see, the real objection goes far deeper. The whole picture of the universe which science has given us makes it such rot to believe that the Power at the back of it all could be interested in us tiny creatures crawling about on an unimportant planet! It was all so obviously invented by people who believed in a flat earth with the stars only a mile or two away”

“When did people believe that?”

“Why, all those old Christian chaps you’re always telling about did. I mean Boethius and Augustine and Thomas Aquinas and Dante.”

At which point Lewis pulls Ptolemy’s Almagest off his bookshelf and read that first paragraph of Book 1, chapter 5, which indicates Ptolemy, who was the authority throughout the Middle Ages, know that the stars were an unimaginable distance away.

“Did the really know that then?” said my friend. “but — none of the histories of science — none of the modern encyclopedias — ever mention the fact.”

“Exactly,” said I. “I’ll leave you to think out the reason. It almost looks as if someone was anxious to hush it up, doesn’t it? I wonder why.”

And then Lewis emphasizes the point in his conclusion.

The real problem is this. The enormous size of the universe and the insignificance of the earth were known for centuries, and no one ever dreamed that they had any bearing on the religious question. Then, less that a hundred years ago, they are suddenly trotted out as an argument against Christianity. And the people who trot them out carefully hush us that fact that they were known long ago. Don’t you think that all you atheists are strangely unsuspicious people.

(Cross-posted)

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By In Theology

Family Solidarity & Genesis

The Bible encourages love and community in families, and sees that love as a way to spread harmony in wider society, but it doesn’t assume family solidarity is natural.

A while ago I was listening to an expert on twin studies as an effort to come to some conclusions on the problem of “nature v. nurture.” She said something I didn’t expect and yet immediately reminded me of the Bible. She said there is no such thing as “identical twins.” Yes, that’s the name we give twins who are genetically identical. But in the womb, she stated, they don’t get equal access to limited resources. By the time they are born, they are already showing developmental differences.

Naturally, I immediately thought of Jacob and Esau.

 

In the Bible, family solidarity is often invoked as the key to social peace. When the tribes offered to be subject to David, they appealed to it: “Behold, we are your bone and flesh.”

But it is a mistake to assume this means that family solidarity is natural or in any way easy. Laban said the same thing to Jacob, yet that family connection meant exploitation and competition for limited resources. Jacob’s struggle in the womb with his twin brother became a struggle to get out of slavery and poverty against his father-in-law and his brothers-in-law.

I’ve understood the start and finish of Genesis as being significant. It starts with the exalted Adam who loses his kingdom when he seizes what is forbidden. It ends with Joseph who refuses to touch forbidden “fruit” though he is a slave, and is exalted to rule a kingdom as a result.

But thinking about twins has led me to another observation.

The first two brothers mentioned in the Bible, and indeed the first brothers in human history, are also the characters in the first homicide. The second Fall in Genesis is the story of Cain and Abel. Adam was driven out east of Eden, but Cain was driven further east to the land of Nod.

Genesis tells us that the first homicide was a fratricide.

The last story in Genesis is also about brothers. All Joseph’s brothers hated him. The majority of his brothers wanted to murder him. One of the brothers schemes to save his life but that plan is partially thwarted when an opportunity arises to profit by selling Joseph to slave traders.

The rest of the story of Joseph depends on that event: brothers acting in murderous hatred against a brother much like Cain and Abel.

Between those two stories, Genesis has several other stories recording God’s covenant to save humanity. The majority of those stories are about domestic strife. If they don’t feature sibling rivalry, they present us with other conflicts such as father against son, mother against father’s son, father-in-law against son-in-law, and father against daughters. Reading Genesis, one would think the kingdom of God depends on a soap opera. Perhaps Jesus was thinking of Genesis when he said

For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:52-53; ESV)

But why should this surprise us?

All the temptations and anxieties of life that would cause a person to selfishly try to exalt himself over others are concentrated in the family. Siblings compete for real and imagined rewards, whether financial resources or honor in the sight of their parents. Parents love their children but, in seeing their children as blessings, can impose themselves on their children, not even realizing how selfish they are being. Isaac and Laban have different motives but both exploited Jacob.

All the trials a person will face in outside life are there in his or her family relationships. If anything, the problems in the family as a society are more intense.

Perhaps that is why Genesis seems to spend so much space on soap-opera-like stories.

Family solidarity isn’t natural, but it is a great blessing to society. If one can master oneself in the way one functions in the family, one will be an asset in other relationships. If an entire family can do this, they will be a city on a hill.

 

Genesis starts with fratricide. It ends with the solution to fratricide: faith in God’s providence and forgiveness:

So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:4-8; ESV)

And then it repeats the lesson later, as a second witness that this is what the story of Joseph teaches us, as the climax of the stories of family conflict in Genesis.

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”

Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:15-21; ESV)

Jesus our brother says the same thing to us.

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By In Theology

Upgraded Humanity: What was Biblical history for? (Part 1)

One of my favorite novels of the nineties was the “cyberpunk” thriller Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson. (Content warning: not a Christian book.) The most unrealistic element in the book, however, was the posited “true meaning” of the story of the Tower of Babel. In the book’s retelling, humans used to be programmable using something a lot like machine code. Consciousness and free will came about through a virus introduced into the human race at Babel.

To repeat: this was the most unrealistic part of the novel, but it allows conflict as Hiro Protagonist (his real name—the novel doesn’t take itself too seriously) discovers a global conspiracy to reverse the virus and make humans programmable again. I took it as a metaphor for the quest for unity versus the value of freedom despite the social costs.

How Do You Upgrade Human Software?

But recently I’ve been thinking again about this fictional alternative to the Biblical story and the Bible’s own information about how humans are upgraded. After all, at Babel, something like a change in human “software” did miraculously take place. God wiped out a vocabulary and rules of grammar in people’s brains and uploaded new words and grammar rules in their place. The analogy to computer programs isn’t that much of a reach.

But when God called Abram (the story that follows the story of Babel and the scattering of humans into diverse nations), he does so in a way that makes clear that Abram is his “tower.”

And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:3-4; ESV)

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3; ESV)

We know from the miracle of Pentecost that God wanted the divisions imposed at Babel to be ameliorated so that a unity could be provided through the Gospel.

But what was the purpose of history between Babel and Pentecost? What was God doing?

Maybe we should ask ourselves how human “software” is normally “installed” or changed. Unlike what some science fiction may lead you to imagine, one can’t change thinking and behavior simply by plugging the brain into a computer. Brains are part of bodies, not machines.

How do people normally acquire language? Outside of the events of the special creation of Adam and Eve and the tower of Babel, we get our language from being immersed in a speaking and acting culture from the time we are born. We learn language not only by listening, or listening and watching, but by bodily interacting with others. We learn through our bodies.

And perhaps that’s the answer. Consider what the Bible tells us about God feeding Israel with manna in the wilderness. He gives them food to gather day by day six days a week. Any attempt to save up for the next day is frustrated because it becomes inedible except on the sixth day. On that day, they can gather for the daily bread and for the seventh day. And on the seventh day no manna appears on the ground.

God didn’t simply tell the people to work six days and rest on the seventh; he trained them to do so. (more…)

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By In Culture, Theology, Wisdom

Angel, Absurdism, and Faith (not the girl)

Angel absurdism (i.e. pushing absurdism on the TV show) relies on you missing the real absurdity.

Atheism tries to make sense by pretending that not making sense is a special virtue. You can see it especially clearly in the brief exchange below in which Joss Whedon mentions the story in Season 2, episode 16 of the TV show Angel, “Epiphany“:

YouTube – Joss Whedon: Atheist & Absurdist.

I used to love Whedon, who has now moved on to the Marvel Avenger franchise. His browncoat-betraying anti-Romney propaganda, in which he pretended all sorts of central-planet death myths like overpopulation were true, pretty much ended my positive feeling toward him. I confess I harbor a fantasy that he was offered the work with the Marvel movies by a mysterious figure who made him sign in blood.

angel kate

But I still think the exchange above is profitable to think about.

I have extreme skepticism about what Whedon claims he has suffered for his atheism. I also hate the hearing the word “faith” used for an opinion on God’s existence. Whether or not God is trustworthy is a matter of faith. Whether or not he exists has nothing to do with faith (and Hebrews doesn’t say otherwise).

But I’m posting this because I remember actually liking Angel’s slogan: “If what we do doesn’t matter; then all that matters is what we do.” And I feel really stupid for not seeing the irrationality of it immediately. Sometimes I think paradoxes give off the glint of hidden wisdom when they are just plain nonsense.

Angel’s conclusion at the end of Season 2 (or near the end) was that (to repeat) “If what we do doesn’t matter then all that matters is what we do.”

If what we do doesn’t matter, then anything might matter except what we do. You can’t draw the contradiction of a premise from that premise as if it followed as a conclusion from it.

Now that I’ve gotten that issue out of the way (in my own mind, at least), let me say why I think Whedon’s view appeals to people, especially to Christians.

Being able to evaluate and value one’s decisions and commitments without having knowledge of the eternal plan for them is a requirement for the human condition. It is set forth most starkly in the Bible in the book called Ecclesiastes.

So, I think the appeal is precisely because Whedon’s view is a close replica of the truth.

But I don’t think it works if there is no plan at all. (And claiming there is no plan seems to actually assert endless knowledge rather than humbly deny it. But that argument would be endless, so I’ll let it go.) It is one thing to make decisions and do your best without understanding why your circumstances exist or how you fit into a larger picture. But it is another to say that there is no picture.

To really act as Angel does actually requires faith. And that, in my opinion, is why Whedon had to include a miracle in his story. Viewers would have felt like there was no point without it.<>создание тур а

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