A Reflective Christian

All for God’s Kingdom

One of the greatest understandings of the gospel narrative ever…

For those of you who haven’t experienced these videos, you must. Forget NT Wright. These videos put all of the gospels into perfect perspective. You might want to turn up the volume to get all the greatness that is in these videos.

September 29, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Why I am glad the bailout bill got rejected

I admit, I haven’t studied the precise nature of the bill. Many other things have had a higher priority for me right now than to read a 110 page document. But nevertheless, it is good that this bill did not pass.

From what I have read, it was primarily a buying out of bad debts so that banks could survive and maybe even homeowners get an extension on this mortgages. But see, the principle problem here is that if one bails out such a big entity, one is essentially encouraging what would be otherwise foolish, and ultimately inefficient, risk taking. Basically, if the big risks the market (and the government, mind you) were involved in were simply over looked, what would happen the next time a potential big risk came around. It would still be taken because the feeling that if one loses economically, one could get the government to solve the problem.

This in the end doesn’t take into a cost-benefit analysis that actually lead to the benefit that is ultimately based upon wealth creation, but rather the benefits are derived from an entity that itself does not create wealth (the government, which gets its income from taxation). For the individual corporation, it does not matter how they get the money to offset costs and risks, only that they do. But for an economy to grow, corporations must contribute by contributing goods and services that actually benefit the economy as a whole. The notion of bailouts change the dynamics of economic decision making for corporations. Not that without bailouts, corporations are looking out for the benefit of the whole group, but they at the least have one less option that becomes ineffecient usage of resources.

Now looking at this on the level of individuals, I have to say I have little pity for the majority of mortgage owners. The American dream is to own one’s home and the whole country bought into this luxurious ideal portrayed as a need. So people took out loans, where they were barely able to pay their house payments. Once a crunch happened, they were in a bind. Which, in the end, is irresponsible.

Besides, it is not as if the majority of people do not alternatives for living arrangements. There are some who are legitimately left out in the cold, but God forbid we actually have multiple households living in the same roof. And lets not downsize our living styles, moving back into an apartment. No, we must have our own space the American mentality goes. And in the end, I don’t see why the government should be in the business of financing luxurious living, and bailing out inefficient and foolish choices on the parts of covetous Americans (because that is what this “American dream” amounts to, really).

Plus, the majority of banks still seem to be viable. Perhaps I am wrong on that, but if that is true, the failure of certain parts of the sectors does not doom the whole banking and loan industry (although I think the idea of interest on loans is ultimately inefficient over the long haul). There will still be loans made, but only to those where it is a safer investment for them. Sure, the average joe may not be able to get a house loan. But again, who says the life the way it should be should be is in owning one’s own home? We become mini-Neros when we take that stance.

September 29, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

Matthew’s “the end of the age”

A phrase that is pivotal to understanding Jesus’ apocalypse, especially Matthew’s version of it (Matthew 24), is to understand the meaning of the phrase “the end of the age” which the disciples inquired about in conjunction with Jesus’ coming according to Matthew (Matthew 24:3).

The phrase is used 5 times in the New Testament, and all five times are use in the Gospel of Matthew. It is used three times in the parables (Matthew 13:39-40, 49), once in Matthew 24:3, and once in the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:20).

Interesting enough, in the disciples question that lead to Jesus’ apocalypse, only Matthew has them asking about “signs… of the end of the age.” The other two synoptics have them asking about “the sign when all these things are about to take place,” referring to Jesus’ prediction of the Temple’s destruction. In addition, the two parables in which the phrase “the end of the age” occurs, the parable of the wheat and tares and the parable of the net, do not occur in Mark and Luke.

Now when we look it’s usage in the parables, it seems to be associated with a judgment, or more specifically a separating of the righteous and the wicked. Furthermore, the angels are spoken of as instruments of this judgment by removing the wicked from the presence of the righteous. The combination of judgment and angelic judgments also occurs in Matthew 25:31-46, also not in Mark and Luke.

This reflects one of Matthew’s theological purposes, to speak of a coming judgment separating the righteous from the wicked. So when we come to Jesus’ apocalypse, which speaks of Jesus’ coming on the clouds (echoes of Daniel 7:13-14 and the Son of Man’s authority) and of the angels gathering (although in this instance, the elect), it should be of no coincidence that Matthew would have the disciples asking about “the end of the age” (which was asked about alongside Jesus’ coming, as king).

Furthermore, “the end of the age” seems to be Danielic also. Although the Greek words are different between Daniel 12:13 and Matthew, the both have the same meaning. Also, in explanation of the parable of the wheat and tares, Jesus speaks of the righteous shining like the sun after the judgment that comes upon the wicked, which is an allusion to Daniel 12:3 (replace sun with stars).

This leads to conclusion that Jesus’ reference to the his coming on the clouds doesn’t refer to some vindication or distant ideal of authority from afar in heaven, but rather that he comes with angels and gathers everyone together to separate the righteous and the wicked and bring judgment upon the wicked, at least according to Matthew. Either that, or we have to regard to similarity in language as as coincidental.

The options we have before us then are:

1) Matthew misinterprets Jesus

2) Jesus was mistaken in reference to His coming

3) Jesus’ apocalypse does not refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD

4) There is a gap between the destruction of Jerusalem (signified by a solar and lunar eclipse that follows) and the coming of Jesus to reign as king and judge

NT Wright’s interpretation cannot fit within the evidence at hand without rejecting the first premise (at least not without further taking more language without any reference to a literal meaning). Skepticism and critical readings enslaved to one form of interpretation accepts the second. Popularized eschatologies accepts the third option. I, however, have been arguing for the fourth option as I presented here. There remains difficulties with it, but I will attempt to address them in the near future.

September 29, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments

Overgeneralizations in the name of politics does no one any good

Here are some corrections to a few generalizations that people base their political agenda upon, but in fact are wrong.

1. Wealth in the US is not mostly inherited. It is mostly earned.

2. Most poor people in the US (who are not in fact poor in an absolute sense) do not remain poor, but work their way up. For instance, college graduates start off as lower class and then move up

3. Most people on welfare are not simply lazy and many who do seem lazy have tried and the inability to move forward has made them feel helpless

4. A large group of the “permanent poor,” as opposed to the “mobile poor” I describe in 2, either feel helpless or have other hindrances that prevent them from moving up, such as mental disorder, lower intelligence (this society favors technical intelligence highly), substance abuse problems, etc.

5. In the US, the poor are getting poorer if we compare them to the rich, but if we compare them to the rest of the world they are getting richer.

6. The distinction between Democrats and Republicans is not regulated vs. free market. Rather, it is much regulation vs. some regulation in economic terms.

7. The current economic crisis wasn’t just the market’s fault or the government’s fault. It was the government who encouraging lending principles that the market then took part in.

None of these statements in and of themselves determine ethics. But to base ethical and political ideals upon generalizations rooted more in supporting an ideal and one’s idea of how to solve the problems (why do we continue to trust our own intellect to solve such huge problems?) is foolish. The more I read from people, on all sides of the spectrum, the more I realize that democracy is bad because of the majority of people who do in fact make uninformed decisions, even the ones who think they are so smart (like many people my age fresh out of college) and think they are doing the moral thing in the name of Biblical ethics.

September 29, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Darn Europeans…

And their liberal interpretations

September 27, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 1 Comment

A modern interpretive paradigm for Romans 6:15-23 and socio-political application

As I finish making preparations for my sermon tomorrow, I noticed a certain principle that Paul seems to be trying to establish, albeit from a more ancient context.

The question the hypothetical Jewish objector brings up is the question of whether one will still commit sin because the Torah is no longer the primary mode of God’s work with His people, but rather grace? In other words, if people don’t have a specific external code to govern behavior, wouldn’t one just continue to sin. The objection is raised in light of the fact that Paul had in 1-14 argued that it is through Jesus and his resurrection that we ourselves commit ourselves to death and so commit ourselves to live for God..

Paul’s response is that one who submits themselves to someone as a servant (or slave), one will be obedient to them. Implied here is a notion of repentance. Furthermore, Paul goes on to say that they become obedient from the heart. In other words, the person is internally motivated to obey God, not merely to having an external force in the Torah to bring about obedience.

Basically, it is the principle of external control vs. internal submission. The former, being used in the way of the Torah, did not make things better. As a matter of fact, Paul says that during the Torah, sin increased. That is not to say the Torah was the cause of it. One could well say that if there was no Torah, things would have gotten even worse more quickly. That seems to be implied in a contrast between pre-Noahic flood civilization vs post. The latter did get worse, but not like the former times that lead to the flood. The main difference that can be attributed to the difference is the Torah.

But when one is internally motivated to submit, it is effective and there isn’t a need for external control. 1 Timothy 1:8-10 kind of falls in line with this.

How does this apply to the socio-political scene? Quite simply, one can not expect for real progress to be made by attempting to control a people. It is best suited for preventing things from spiraling out of control, but if one attempts to try to force a system of working upon a group, it will not be effective in the long run. The Torah didn’t make Israel a righteous nation. Nor did Communism’s state run economy make for a prosperous nation. Nor did the US government’s attempt to try to mandate certain types of loans, such as sub-prime loans. As a matter of the fact for two of those instances, one could say it made things even worse.

Using an external control on someone can work if they fear the probability of getting punished for their actions and if the punishments are strong enough to dissuade someone. However, they will still attempt to find a way of getting around it. And if effective enforcement subsides, so will the obedience to the rules set forth. Furthermore, the control might not be enough motivation. Matter of fact, such a control may incite them and cause a strong counter reaction (maybe with violence). It may cause even worse disobedience. Paul speaks about such in the Torah in chapter 7, where through it the sinful nature was aroused. Beyond all that, one must in fact be knowledgeable enough to know what is effective control and what isn’t. God is, and so the Torah was successful in restraining Israel more so than the rest of the world (but not making them a righteous nation). However, people aren’t. And if they are not careful, their attempts can destroy.

One must be internally motivated for one to in fact do what is truly good. External force doesn’t create this motivation, but it only creates temporary submission so far as the controls are effective enough. This is good for restraining murderers, thieves, rapists, etc. but not so much for where we want specific types of actions to occur.

For the United States, this means that the people have to change if things for the US is going to get better (although, quite honestly, the US is very well off, no matter how much one might complain about the economy or what the numbers on growth say). But it is not something that looks to happen anytime soon, because it is much easier to look to the President and Congress to make things better because it seems to offer an easier hope, even though it is a false hope.

Control would also be ineffective in trying to put a restraint on the spread homosexuality, where one can not effectively prevent certain behaviors that happen in private even if one protected marriage. And if one could get into the privacy, it might incite a strong counter reaction where things in fact would get more polarized and worse.

But for Christians, we trust in the expansion of God’s Kingdom, which makes a call to and woos the hearts of people through Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, through Scripture, and through a holy Church.

September 27, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

The relationship between Daniel 7:13 and Jesus’ apocalypse

I have already gone once on the topic of Jesus’ apocalypse to his disciples here. However, as I continue to try to finish up Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God (seminary reading and sickness slowing me down), I feel a further discussion on the relationship between these two passages are warranted.

Wright is correct in noting that Daniel 7:13 itself does not refer to a future second coming as envisioned by modern eschatologies. The text itself actually speaks of the Son of Man coming into the presence of the Ancient of Days. The Jewish language is that of ascent, not descent. And as the Son of Man comes to the Ancient of Days, he is given the authority to rule over the entire world.

It is reasonable to think that the notion of the “Son of Man coming with clouds” became invested with that meaning. That a person who came on a cloud was in fact the royal ruler. While knowing the context from which the phrase is used, it obtained a meaning that isn’t quite as nuanced as the interpretation of the text. Clouds would represent the authority such a person had, but the idea of ascension would not be retained in the connotation of the phrase outside of its original home in the text.

So when Jesus uses such language in his message to his disciples, his intent is not to speak about the precise meaning of the original context of the language, but rather the meaning that is invested in the idea of a person being upon a cloud. In other words, if he descends in a cloud, then he is the one who ascended to the Ancient of Days with a cloud. This might be the reason Acts 1:11 makes explicit the notion that as Jesus ascended on clouds, he will descend the same way. Latent in the early tradition is a belief that Jesus will return as he left, with a cloud standing as a symbol of his royal authority. He has authority to enact his rule of Israel, and the world. And all three of the synoptic gospels say that he is coming with authority and glory.

So it doesn’t become necessary for Daniel 7:13 to be invested with meaning of a “second coming” for Jesus to use language in such a way. Jesus is using the idea of coming upon clouds to convey the authority he has, not to say that “his coming” as Matthew 24 asks about is a fulfillment of the Danielic prophecy.

September 26, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

To top off my posting frenzy for this morning, a bit of humor

From the “Christian faith is an excuse for cheesy music” department

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The source of Biblical authority

The trust of the authority of the Bible is not rooted in any particular theory of inspiration, or otherwise our faith relies upon abstract human reasoning and human attempts to explain the hidden God’s methods of revelation. Authority is had in simple trust that it is authoritative because we believe God’s act of revealing has been shown to be true in history (all of which relies only upon our passive acceptance of what is claimed to be God’s work) and not in any logical conclusion as to how the Scriptures are inspired.

It is “faith seeking understanding” and not “faith relying upon understanding.” It is still subject to rational criticism, but it does not demand a rational framework to accept. To do otherwise is to bring the knowing of God primarily through our own intellect and to destroy the basis of faith, which the belief in the things not seen, not to accept things one has seen. Faith is not to be merely the summary of our logic, but rather an extension of what we do know into that which we do not and can not be certain of rationally. To demand certainty before belief is to destroy what belief in the Biblical sense stands for.

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 4 Comments

The reason for God’s wrath

God’s wrath is not for himself. It is not because he is simply like man in wanting to seek vengeance for one’s own sake. God’s wrath is in fact rooted in His love, in His love for His people, in order to protect them and remove the sources of pain and disobedience from His people. The final judgment then is about creating a community of those who love and are loved, and the removal of all who would act to destroy that balance in the new creation.

September 25, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment