A Reflective Christian

All for God’s Kingdom

For those who pray…

please be in prayer for my family. My grandfather passed away this morning at around 11 AM. He had suffered from lung cancer, so we expected it to happen sometime soon but not this quickly.

I’ll be back around sometime in the middle of next week.

October 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“Freedom to” and “Freedom from”

One of the distinctions that must be made when we discuss freedom is the type of freedom we are referring to. In our current world, when we refer to freedom, we refer more to the individual freedom of unhindered choice to fulfill what we want.

But another type of freedom may give liberty for one group, but it will cause the lack of liberty of another group. When the government allows it citizens the right free speech, it takes away a hindrance for individuals to speak their mind, but by the government restricting itself. Two things to observe with that:

1) This restriction is actually the exercise of freedom on the part of the governmental leaders. It is a voluntary restraint, which is freedom.

2) But this itself does not guarantee freedom for an individual to speak as one wishes. There may be other groups that exert control in such a way (whether directly or indirectly) so as to take away such a freedom.

What recourse would the government have in that situation in order to ensure the individual’s freedom to speak as they wish in public? They would have to take away another entity’s (whether it be an individual or a group of individuals) freedom to do something that would somehow restrict the freedom (whether directly or indirectly) of the individual to speak as they want to in public.

What this entails is that for the government to ensure freedom to do something requires the restriction of freedom upon other entities more than just the voluntary restriction of itself. But then, the government is no longer only voltunarily restricting itself, it is also restricting others (without their own choice in the matter). To not do that would be anarchy. Viewing it in a different manner, for a person to have freedom to do something, it requires the taking away of other’s freedom to do something. Guaranteed individual freedom to something requires many “freedom from’s“.

All freedom to do something (or what might also be called rights) then is always had by either the voltunary or involuntary restriction of other individual’s freedoms. This is not to say that all freedoms are valued equally. The freedom to happiness is to be valued over the freedom to kill. But, rights entail by their very nature required restrictions. And if all the people are not motivated to voluntary restrict themselves, in accordance to personal freedom, then it requires the involuntary restriction through force and the taking away of particular freedoms.

October 21, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 3 Comments

100th post

I have finally reached my 100th post. Here are some stats during that time period

100 posts

93 days

1.07 posts/day

50 days with at one least post

1156 pageviews

12.4 pageviews/day (30.5/day for October)

100 comments

May not seem like a whole lot necessarily, but for comparison sake on my old blog it took me over a year to amass 140 posts.

BTW for the tournament of theologians thing, it will be done. I just have to marshall my energy to actually do it. I have had some unexpected things come up recently and that was the first thing to go.

October 21, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ten things to watch for if you are giving a dull sermon

At least, this list is what that list is for me, even though it is technically titled “Ten Things to Do During a Dull Sermon

October 20, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians not a single letter?

I have been leading a Bible Study at a couple of my churches on the letters of 1 and 2 Corinthians (still in the first letter right now). A definitely difficult study to make because the letter of Corinthians, more than any other of Paul’s letters are dependent upon an unwritten context to make sense of it. But also, 1 Corinthians has always been a difficult letter because of the seemingly random shifts exhibited throughout the letter. For instance, 7:20-24, 11:2-16, and 14:34-35 all seem to interrupt the flow of the letter. If they were excluded, it would be a much smoother read. And my Study Bible (The Oxford Annotated Study Bible with the NRSV) seems to imply a bit of doubt regarding 11:2-16.

To me, 1 Corinthians can not simply just be one whole letter. Rather, I would contend it is a base letter from Paul combined with other of Paul’s instructions to Corinthians at various times. What could have happened is that the church in Corinth at later times, having frequent correspondance with Paul, would put together an anthology of different teachings from him in order to draw from. What they had was all genuinely Pauline, but it wouldn’t be merely one letter.

This would make sense of the positional descrepancy of 14:34-35, which are placed at the end of the chapter. To a group that made 1 Corinthians as we have it, the traditional position may not have been that troubling, even if it seems to be disjoined, because they knew it wasn’t the letter as it originally was from Paul. But it was placed there because of the common theme between “women (or wives) speaking in church” and the way prophesy and tongues were to be done, in a certain order. But for a later person reading 1 Corinthians who believed it to be a letter, it would have seem totally out of placed and it would have been moved a few verses later.

But 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 could potentially make a lot of sense being part of a separate letter with a common theme and/or within closer proximity of the text 11:2-16 (and maybe even 7:1-19, 25-40). But yet these sections seem out of place on where they are in 1 Corinthians.

Furthermore, the nature of the “base letter” would favor this. The odds of the letter of 1 Corinthians surviving for later times would have been unlikely on its own. 1 Corinthians was addressed to an individual church, which a lot of hostility within, and no instructions to deliver the elsewhere. Why would the Corinthian church make copies of this letter, enough that would have allowed for its survival? It is unlikely. If we look at all the other Pauline letters, they have potential characteristics that would explain copying and distributing the letter

Romans – Potentially a circular letter with the first part of chapter 1 and chapter 16 added on when it was deliver to Rome. With Rome being a center of influence, the letter would have been copied over rest of the destinations. Or maybe just by luck it was the Roman version over the others/

2 Corinthians – It was for the church in Corinthin and for people through Achaia (2 Corinthians 1:1), which would probably call for copying and distribution in order for it to be pass to all them.

Galatians – Written to the “churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2)

Ephesians – Like Romans, potentially a circular letter, where the Ephesus was the most influential of the cities. Or maybe just by luck the Ephesian version (along with an unmarked one) survived.

Philippians – Has a polemical nature and doctrinal nature to it, making it prone to copying and dispersal.

Colossians – Colossians 4:16 urges the readers to read it to other churches, which would probably lead to copying it, and the recipients also copying it since it was a letter copied, delivered, and read to them.

1 Thessalonians – Similar to Colossians potential in 1 Thessalonians 5:27. This may have been reason to copy it.

2 Thessalonians – Delivered to the same church and not to far apart in time, probably would have been included in copying.

1 & 2 Timothy and Titus – Letters delivered to people who were (supposedly) charged with watching over many churches, so they would have delivered the letter to each church.

Philemon – Perhaps in the personal collection of Philemon and seen after his death and copied as part of a newly found letter of Philemon

Now this is all assuming all the letters are genuinely Pauline. And maybe my rationale as to why they would have been copied, and thus more likely to surive, may not be 100%. But however, my point is to contrast the nature of the other letters with 1 Corinthians. It is not a flattering letter, so why would it be dispersed unless another value of the letter was given it like turn it into a collection of Paul’s teachings (including the original base letter)?

This hypothesis is speculative (and it may have already been proposed before), so it can not offhand be affirmed fully. However, I think the evidence allows for it and it (or ideas like it) makes the best sense of the evidence we do have. Of course, this would make 1 Corinthians somewhat of an exegetical challenge if this is true (not as much context to rely upon)!

October 20, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dreams of Freedom?

Watch this video clip along with the five others. While I think the case is a bit overstated at times and too simplistic of an explanation, it is definitely a cause for us to rethink both our concept of freedom and actually how we view others.

October 20, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

The Jesus of History and Faith

In God and History, Laurence Wood traces the relationship between the theological enterprise with history, tracing it through Kahler, Barth, Bultmann, and finishing with Ebeling. Bultmann created a divorce between the Jesus of history with the Jesus of faith. Bultmann in the end echoes the philosophy of Heidegger, in which there is no objective meaning but only the future possibilities that we then strive for. Bultmann adopts this type of thinking, but makes Jesus that future possibility that we follow after, even if there is no objective history about him that corresponds with the Jesus of faith. But that is kind of like making a story of a man who makes wax wings and flies by moving his arms up and down the the example to follow.

If human possibilities are limitless, then perhaps a divorce of faith and history is suitable. But if we recognize the very limitation of human living, then a story that is not grounded in history may in fact be beyond our limitations. Why should I follow the example of Jesus and not Daedelus? Or I could make up a story of a man who morphs himself into other creatures?  Why not follow that?

In the end, we recognize the limitations of our own ability. And this goes so far as even psychology, in which without outside aid, people can not do many things. A person with a phobia of spiders can not hold a tarantula, unless there is a support system to help desensitize them. And there are many things that are not possible without the judgment that they are mental ill.

And in the, that is how many skeptics view Christians who believe in resurrection. Denying the premise that Jesus rose from the dead (or anyone else), a person who dies expected to be raised is seen as mentally ill. And indeed, they may perhaps be if they don’t believe anyone has been resurrected before but that they will be the first.

And the life of purity without giving in to temptation? Unless we view ourselves as purely autonomous beings who have free will at every point in their lives (which can not readily correspond with a causal system), what hope do we have of overcome all our self-concerns to do what is best for all? If Jesus didn’t do it, why should we believe that we might be capable?

The historical aspect of Jesus is the very foundation for the Christian life and hope. If we haven’t seen it done before, why should we be so arrogant to believe that we can do it? A Jesus of faith but not history is no better than a myth. It doesn’t show human potential, but only the cognitive ability to put together a story.

The Jesus of faith must be what we believe to be the Jesus of history, or we create a hypothetical religion or a religion that relies upon hidden and supernatural forces, which can serve as a “tabula rasa” to justify any believe. But why should we believe in that proclaimed spiritual working over other forms of spirituality if there is no earthly, historical basis to even begin to make it feasible?

And where the Jesus of history goes, so our faith.

October 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Watch out Obama?

What looked like a sure fire win for Obama is taking an interesting approach and it is getting very close. Over the past few days, the daily Gallup poll, one of the most accurate polls, has shown a narrowing lead. Their traditional poll of likely voters had it Obama and McCain only separated by 4 points as of only the 12th. Now it is separated by 2 points.

On the flip side, the expanded versions of Gallup’s likely voters poll, still show a 6 point lead, down 1 point from 7 on the 12th. The expanded version makes a more inclusive definition of likely voters.

So, the race is tightening up. It comes down to how many of the groups that are less likely to vote will actually vote. If young people and minorities vote more, then Obama is clearly going to be a winner. However, I do not think young people are going to be that much more likely to vote than they are any other year, because young people are always energized about the election, but it generally turns out to be a vocal minority that actually vote. African-Americans will have more voters almost assuredly, but I don’t see what is going to make other minority groups more likely to vote.

But I think this goes to show the weakness of Obama more than anything else. If Obama was a strong candidate, with the economy as it is and the relatively lackluster McCain and the fading star of Palin, then this election would have been done and over at this point. We would be comparing this election to Reagan/Mondale already (originally wrote Dukakis, but I got my insignificant losing presidential candidates mixed up!).

Don’t get me wrong, I still stand by my prediction and think Obama wins this election, regardless of how many young or minority people vote. But the fact that Obama could not put away a reeling Republican party and candidate signals to me a foundational weakness with either Obama and/or the Democratic party.

October 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 6 Comments

It is official

I have now joined the SBL with a student membership

October 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why the rich get richer (part 4)

In my previous post in this series, I described how the rich get richer because they have the ability, resources, and the motivation necessary to create wealth for themselves that those who are not as rich do not have. Now one of these resources is money, which isn’t necessary by itself nor is it sufficient. But it can take an important role in the accumulation of further wealth.

Now when generally people picture wealthy people, we imagine them as having all this wealth readily available to them. We might think them as simply being like the rich man who of Luke 12:16-21 who simply accumulates wealth and stores it away. But for the majority of the wealthy, this is not true. Most of the wealthy do some simply have loads of cash and goods that own by themsleves that are stored away. Much of their wealth is actually tied into businesses, whether it be the majority owner in a company of a realtively wealthy doctor who puts some of their money into the stock market.

This becomes the most effective way to create more money because investing one’s own wealth is more valuable than providing actual good or service. Money has a greater value than a good or service, because it can be turned almost immediately into a good or service which acquires more value because of the situation in which it is actually needed. Money can be exchanged for many things easily and quickly when they are needed, whereas an actual good or service can not. It generally must be sold first, and then the money can then be turned around for something else that is needed. In other words, money’s value is that it can be easily exchanged for what is needed. And it is for this reason that the quickest way to make money is to use money. Plus, it doesn’t have the restriction of energy that labor has in creating a good or providing a service. Money is only limited by itself, wheras actual labor is limited by ones own energy level.

But when this money is invested into a corporation, while it benefits the investor, they are not the only one who benefits from it. The corporation provides jobs to people for their labors and skills, which in turn provides money to the laborers. And as the corporation expands, the invested wealth of the individual expands and so does the amount of jobs that are provided.

So, whereas the rich man of Jesus’ parable is storing away his goods where it does not good, the rich man of American capitalism is not necessary doing the same thing with all that they own. Their wealth, in fact, is providing other people with goods, services, and jobs that they need or want.

And this leads us to one of the two primary reasons why the rich get richer at a faster rate than others do. What they provide is the most easily transferable “good” that can be quickly be transferred to what is needed at the right moment. The component of time makes money more valuable than itself, since its ease and quickness of use gives it a high potential to create wealth. So those who have money to spare can get richer quicker than other people can.

But as I said, money itself requires the knowledge necessary to turn it into more money. It requires knowing when, where, and how much to spend one’s money in order to down the road turn it into more money. Or it requires knowing those who have that capability to make money. Without either sets of knowledge, making money with money is like trying to hit a target blindfolded.

So, within a capitalist system, the rich will get richer, but only if they have the ability and knowledge necessary to turn it into money. And it is often times that knowledge and ability that is what provides them with the money needed to invest in the first place (not many millionaires inherit money that allows them to become rich). Their ability is reward because it provides a service or a good to others. And with the investment of money, it provides benefits for others in creating those services and goods AND jobs for other people.

The rich get richer, but their progress will benefit everyone below them also as time progresses. While the gap between the rich and the poor will grow, the amount of people who can not obtain basic necessities are reduced (the income of the 10th percentile in the US over time did increase, even after taking account inflation).

There are injustices that happen within a capitalist system, but is that because of the system itself or something other than the system. Capitalism is based upon basic economic freedom (although with some accountability such as through making financial records public so people can potentially know who can make money and who can’t), but itself espouses no particular action except that which the individuals who own a corporation and the group whom the corporation serves value. It does allow for corporations to perform injustices, but the majority of injustice is not a direct consequent of corporation action. Much of injustices is the result of a world with resources incapable of being utilized to help everyone and the way of the world that can not be easily affected, if at all, by human intervention (such as death, weather patterns that lead to famines, etc.).

The value of capitalism is that it is the most effective way for growth, which in turn allows for more resources that can capable be utilized for human good and desire. Other systems do not allow for this growth as easily. Other systems are more effective at distributing obtained wealth. But the problem comes down to whether there is enough created wealth (which in the end, is merely a valuation of goods, labor, and knowledge) that can provide for all needs of everyone effectively. The rich may get richer quicker than others do, but is this issue (which I would hesitate to call an injustice by itself) enough to necessitate a change of system? And do the benefits of another economic system that use more control being used in this present time outweigh the benefits of capitalism?

I would say this (and I know I have gotten off my main topic at this point): capitalism, with all its weaknesses, is best fit to provide the human race the knowledge and resources necessary to be able to provide for all the needs of all people. Once those knowledge and resources are actually obtained, then movement to another system would be better for all people (although it can not be forced through revolution like it was in Russia for it to be good). But to move to that point before then is an injustice to everyone now and in the in future as we can not possible provide everyone’s needs at this current point in time, and more regulated economics do not facilitate the growth necessary to obtain the needed knowledge and resources needed to reach that point.

October 17, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment