Friday, September 30, 2005

Leaky Bucket

Martin Luther is a fascinating guy for both Protestants and Romish polemics. In Romish polemics, many charges are hurled against Luther: he was unstable, he was psychotic, he was obsessive, etc.

Now, being a human being, it shouldn't be in the least bit surprising that Luther had faults. I personally don't think he and I would've been buddy-buddy, and he says a few things that make my eyes roll. But, in many other things, I think he nails it. In short, I give Luther the right to be a complex person who can potentially range along the continuum existing between absurdity and Truth.

Somehow though, there is this attitude among your internet Romanists that, if Luther's character can be sufficiently sullied, if Luther can be shown to be a real head case, then that weakens the case for the Protestant position.

Now given that most self-appointed internet Romanists don't seem to be able to exegete with any sense of nuance, nor do they know the difference between eisegesis and exegesis, it shouldn't be too surprising that, once again, they chase a will o' the wisp that really has nothing to do with showing Protestantism to be false. Instead of showing that our exegesis of the scriptural texts upholding Protestantism is faulty, it happens to be the case that Brother Martin, warts and all, is to bear the reproaches of Rome.

Let's grant for argument's sake that Luther was a real s.o.b. [Now, despite his warts and the simple fact that, like the rest of us, he was a sinner, a dung hill covered in snow [to steal his wording], I don't agree that Luther was a head case. But let's assume that the worst things the internet Romanists or others have to say about him are in fact true.] What does this logically or evidentially have to do with Protestant positions, such as justification by faith alone through grace alone, the Protestant view of the priesthood of all believers, the Protestant denial of the distinctly Marian doctrines of Rome, etc?

The correct answer is: absolutely nothing.

Why is this the correct answer? The answer to this in turn is simply that our positions are established exegetically, with grammar, lexicon, syntax, context, etc. The overall good or bad points of Bro. Marty don't enter into the mix. My denial of Mary's sinlessness, assumption, etc have nothing to do with whatever Luther thought --- and indeed he probably even in the later part of his life had a much higher view of Mary than I do --- and everything to do with the fact that such doctrines are only found by reading them into the scriptural texts or by appealing outside of scripture to a tradition that somebody like me would contend is self-selecting.

Where do I get justification by faith alone through grace alone? Not from Luther or Calvin. I would have [so I'd like to think] come to this position from a careful and prayerful study of Romans, say. They agree with my exegesis of Romans, but my exegesis in no way relies on Luther or Calvin's testimony to derive its impetus.

Luther and Calvin are magisterial and historically important men, but they're not authority figures. I'm not bound to what they said if I find their arguments specious or lacking in evidence. Some of the RC's with whom I've spoken over the years seem to functionally operate as if Luther and Calvin are our popes speaking ex cathedra. They're not.

Related to Roman polemics against Luther is the seeming blind spot that the argument against Luther really boomerangs back much more harshly on the Roman polemicist, for various popes and members of the magisterium have hardly been better than the worst Roman claims against Luther. If Luther's bad behavior is some sort of evidence against Protestantism, it is special pleading then to deny that the much more intense and sustained bad behavior by various popes is evidence against the Roman papacy, or even the RCC herself.

Again, I've told my RC friends and compatriots in real life that if they want to argue for Rome, to do so scripturally, for that is the coin in my kingdom. Telling me that Church Father X said Y about Z isn't an argument because I [as stated before] don't have an evidential basis to view X's writing Y as some sort of inspired work. So, show me where I'm wrong on, say, justification. Where have I gone wrong with the Pauline epistles? Telling me that [among other things] Luther was an sob who didn't put the toilet seat down when he was done hardly qualifies as an argument.

In closing, while attacking Luther [or any other Protestant historical figure] may make for an interesting pasttime, the argument that Luther's intrinsic warts [whatever they were] somehow impugn the evidence for Protestantism holds absolutely no water.

Dem Be Fightin' Words

Attempt to start a flame war with [sigh] another cheesy 80's reference:

LESS FILLING!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sola Scriptura: Not Self Refuting

Sola Scriptura: the canonical scriptures constitute the sole infallible rule of faith.

The usual claim from Romanist and Orthodox polemics is that SS is somehow self-refuting, since, so they contend, SS is a statement about God's revelation that isn't directly or implicitly stated in scripture itself. The idea of pulling an extra-scriptural statement and using this to in turn uphold the claim that the canonical scriptures constitute the sole infallible rule of faith is self-stultifying at worst, or viciously arbitrary at best. Or so the general Romish/Orthodox claim would go.

How would one attempt to parry this charge, if indeed it can at all be parried?

The first possibility is to exegetically demonstrate that the scriptures themselves teach or imply SS. If it can be exegetically demonstrated within reasonable bounds of confidence that scripture does present itself as the sole infallible rule of faith, then the Romanist/Orthodox charge of self-refutation dissipates into nothingness.

Some good Protestants take this line, by the way. People can evaluate on their own whether they find the arguments well-supported or not.

Speaking for myself here, such arguments leave me not fully satisfied. After reading such arguments, I find myself like the man who is still hungry at the dinner table while the hostess is already putting away the pots and pans.

My parrying of the charge that SS is self-refuting takes a different tack, and, at least in my own eyes, it is much simpler, yet I haven't seen this tack taken in much of the internet discourse [but then again I don't get around that much online]. I believe it is pretty obvious, or at least it should seem obvious after being presented.

This different tack, which I take, is not that I claim SS comes from scriptural exegesis. [As stated just above, I'm not fully convinced that it does, though I'm not saying that it doesn't either. I'm merely saying that I'd prefer more evidence.] My claim instead is, in line with my evidentialist idiom, that there is nothing else out there that has the evidence and attestation that it is God's revelation to mankind as do the canonical writings. In other words, the purported evidence and attestation of the Roman Magisterium and Tradition don't, so far as I can tell, measure up to the level of the evidence and attestation of the Roman Magisterium.

For example, why do I treat the Pauline Epistles [I hold all 13 of them to be genuinely Pauline, though I wonder about the authenticity of the very final doxology of Romans] as if they're the infallible Word of God? Answers:

(1) Paul was an inspired apostle. Why do I believe this? Because Paul had miraculous signs and wonders accompany his call as well as his work, and he didn't contradict the scriptures currently used in his time.

(2) The external attestation that Paul wrote, say, Romans or Galatians or Ephesians, etc, is strong enough for me to not really have too much doubt that the claim that Paul did write the letters that begin Paulos is a true claim.

Now, on the other hand, why should I accept portion X of [say] Augustine's work Y on topic Z to be the Word of God? [Clearly if X lines up with the OT or NT, then I should accept X. I'm assuming here that X is neutral with respect to scripture.] Perhaps there are arguments [philosophical, linguistic, contextual, etc] as to why X should be taken as true. But these arguments exist or fail to exist independently of whether we consider Augustine as capital-T Tradition. I agree with a lot of Augustine's writings, but I also don't agree with some of his writings, and, frankly, I have not the slightest shame in thinking him a bit batty on occasion, though overall he is one of the great voices of Christian antiquity who should in many ways be emulated. Apart from independent argumentation, why should I take part of what Augustine says as on a par with scripture? Where is the level of miraculous verification [and signs, wonders, etc] that accompany him to mark him as a prophet or apostle?

In the end, this evidentialist finds that while the early Christians have some good things to say, he has yet to find any evidence on a par with, say, St Paul, regarding miracles and such. If there is such evidence, I haven't seen it, though at the same time I don't know if I've seen all of the purported evidence out there.

So, from my [idiosyncratic?] vantage point, SS for me isn't a self-refuting thesis. It is a conclusion from looking at the evidence for/against other possible infallible rules of faith. After looking at the Roman Magisterium, the ECF's, etc, scripture still has the evidence to commend it. Now maybe I'm wrong, or maybe I've misevaluated the evidence, or maybe I haven't seen all of the evidence [or maybe I'm right]. Regardless, whether I'm right or wrong, SS as a thesis arrived at PP-style isn't self-refuting.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

It's Not Stealing If Bro. Phil Doesn't Catch Me!


Shamelessly stolen from Phil Johnson's most excellent PyroManiac weblog. Actually, let's just say that the cover was "borrowed without first asking Bro. Phil." Yes, that choice of wording sounds much better...

Victims See Pink

The narcissistic victim of today must see everything as a negative statement about himself or herself. Not even a color scheme is immune from being parlayed into victim capital: the color is about them and it offends them.

**************BEGIN ARTICLE*********
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The pink visitors' locker room at the University of Iowa's stadium is making some people see red.

Several professors and students joined the call Tuesday for the athletic department to do away with the pink showers, carpeting and lockers, a decades-long Hawkeye football tradition.

Critics say the use of pink demeans women, perpetuates offensive stereotypes about women and homosexuality, and puts the university in the uncomfortable position of tacitly supporting those messages.

''I want the locker room gone,'' law school professor Jill Gaulding told a university committee studying the athletic department's compliance with NCAA standards, including gender equity.

For decades, visiting football teams playing at Kinnick Stadium have dressed and showered in the pink locker room. The tradition was started by former Iowa coach Hayden Fry, a psychology major who said pink had a calming and passive effect on people.

As part of the stadium's two-year, $88 million makeover, athletic officials took the former coach's interior decorating ideas to another level, splashing pink across the brick walls, shower floors and installing pink metal lockers, carpeting, sinks, showers and urinals.

The controversy gained momentum and media attention last week when a visiting law school professor told reporters she had received death threats after voicing objections on her Web site.

**************END ARTICLE******

Here's the link for the article

http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=2174828

This sort of victim story speaks for itself.

Dissecting a Deficient Dichotomy

On a recently posted piece discussing the perspicuity of scripture, Mr David Armstrong writes, among other things:

This is the whole point from the Catholic perspective. Error is necessarily present wherever disagreements exist - clearly not a desirable situation, as all falsehood is harmful (for example, John 8:44, 16:13, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, 1 John 4:6). Perspicuity (much like Protestantism as a whole) might theoretically be a good thing in principle, and on paper, but in practice it is unworkable and untenable.

Yet Protestant freedom of conscience is valued more than unity and the certainty of doctrinal truth in all matters (not just the core issues alone). The inquirer with newfound zeal for Christ is in trouble if he expects to easily attain any comprehensive certainty within Protestantism. All he can do is take a "head count" of scholars and pastors and evangelists and Bible Dictionaries and see who lines up where on the various sides of the numerous disagreements.

Or else he can just uncritically accept the word of whatever denomination he is associated with. In effect, then, he is no better off than a beginning philosophy student who prefers Kierkegaard to Kant - the whole procedure (however well-intentioned) is arbitrary and destined to produce further confusion.


http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2005/09/perspicuity-clearness-of-scripture.html

There is nothing novel in this argument, nor is there anything in this argument particular to its author; it is selected because it is the easiest to reference for the time being. I myself have heard and read variations of this theme over the years as a student of Rome.

The situation described is this: the student of scripture comes to a difficult passage that possibly has multiple interpretations. Boiling the above down to the essentials, the idea is that this new student in confronting the question

(i) Takes a "head count" and sees what position has what support among the people supposedly in the know.

or

(ii) Hopes that his denomination, group, etc has gotten things right on this passage or matter.

The idea implied is that neither (i) nor (ii) are acceptable. And, in reality, they are not acceptable. The conclusion that is to be smuggled in is that we need some sort of allegedly infallible arbiter, and internet Romanists happen --- not coincidentally --- to have an allegedly infallible arbiter to which they can refer you, namely, the Roman Magisterium. The Roman Magisterium solves the problem.

There are two things here to discuss:

(1) Is the dichotomy a valid one? [We shall answer in the negative with the strongest conviction.]

and

(2) If the dichotomy were in fact valid, would this do any of the heavy lifting required to demonstrate the Romish claim that we need the Roman brand of infallible arbitration?

Let's discuss (1) first. The dichotomy is, so we contend, blatantly false, because there is at least one other option, namely, to study things and weigh the evidences for and against the position. This is not the same thing as counting heads [option (i) of the false dilemma] nor hoping with one's eyes closed that one's group just happens to be correct [option (ii)] of the false dilemma.

One can learn the Biblical languages, peruse commentaries, journal articles, etc, going to the sources themselves. One can contact the scholars, discuss things with them. One can spend time in careful and prayerful study of the issues.

As an example, I remember being rattled by the Watchtower claims regarding the deity of Christ. Their Bible [the New World Translation] had every Christological pasage referring to Christ as [ho] theos altered. But they told me and gave me literature that said that they, the Watchtower were correct, unlike those heretical faux-Christians who claim that the Son of God partakes fully in the divine essence. Now I could've counted heads as to who took the Trinitarian position [option (i) of the false dilemma], but I didn't; I could've hoped that the Lutheran Church was correct in affirming Christ's deity [option (ii) of the false dilemma], but I didn't. Instead, I undertook a rigorous program of self-study of Greek as well as anything related to the New Testament. Also --- and this is important! --- I prayed over the matter for an open mind and a willingness to be led where the evidence pointed. After attaining a solid proficiency in Koine Greek, and after acclimating myself to the scholarly works and commentaries out there, I came to the conclusion that the Trinitarian position is indeed correct, and, moreso, so correct that one cannot see it as such [upon seeing all of the relevant data] without having a serious "blinkered mentality" regarding such things. [And, to be sure, the JW's and the Mormons have this blinkered mentality.]

A second example, will suffice. I used to be rattled by Roman claims regarding justification, but, again, neither counting heads nor merely hoping that I happened to [luckily] be correct, I studied the issue carefully, carefully exegeting those passages of scripture that deal with the issue at hand. And, after a period of prayerful study, I came solidly to my present position on justification, which is echoed by the Westminster Confession of Faith. And, given that I find the Roman position to be more sensible from the perspective of what I'd a priori expect to be true, nobody can legitimately accuse me of favoring a certain outcome.

It might be replied that not everybody does this, and that many people do (i) and (ii). This is true, but it has no bearing on the fact that this third option [study and weigh the testimony] is available. If people want to be lazy or if people want to hope, then that is their doctrinal crapshoot, not mine.

In fact, that this false dilemma suggests itself to the Roman internet apologist is a rather sad statement as to his or her depth of thinking on the issue, as there is nothing particularly challenging here about this dilemma. Perhaps the Roman internet apologist, not having studied things himself or herself, relying on Old Mother Church to do his thinking for him, has atrophied to the point where every difficulty causes one to run to Mother and hide behind her Roman apronstring while waiting for her to wipe away his tears and give him a consolation cookie.

Let's now turn to (2), which means assuming [contrary to reality, we contend] that the dilemma is a valid one. That is, we assume now that when one is confronted with a scriptural difficulty, one can only count heads or hope. Does this get the Romanist anywhere?

It is difficult to see how this helps the Romanist. All the dilemma, were it true, would show is that if there is to be help, then it would come outside of mere hope or a scholarly consensus. The dilemma by itself doesn't point to Rome, and, if one wants to argue that it points to Rome, it may as well point to any other organization or magisterium that makes parallel claims to Rome: the LDS hierarchy, the Watchtower, the Great Guru who heads your local kookball cult, etc.

The Romanist [or the Mormon or the JW, for that matter] needs to mount a separate argument as to just exactly why his solution is in reality a solution. And, to be sure, merely showing that the potential solution has spoken clearly on a vexing issue doesn't go anywhere either, for this still doesn't go anywhere towards showing that the proposed arbiter's solution is in fact correct. That requires a separate argument.

Now in Rome's case, this separate argument is what is lacking. Why should I accept a self-selecting definition of Tradition? Why give portion Y of Church Father X's writings on Z to same credence as we would [say] Paul on justification? Where is the argument? What sort of verification of Father X's writings exist as were present with the apostolic writings? Were there miracles? What sort of evidence exists that X was directly commissioned by our Lord? In short, what sort of evidence is there to regard X's writing of Y on Z to be held in the same light as, say, a Pauline epistle?
When these questions can be answered in an evidential fashion as compared to a fashion that assumes the truth of the Romanist position to begin with, then the Romish position will at last begin to make some headway.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Heroic Challenge : Heroic Response

When not railing against Satanic manuscripts and living up to his/her/its Haysian description of a "certain androgynous potty-mouthed troll," this troll fetishizes his/her/its "seven complete Bible readings" while acting as if he/she/it is the only person to read "classic lit."

Go ahead and copy me, Christian bloggers. Post reading progress of a book. Any book. A Biblical book or any other book. I don't have it registered or copyrighted. In my previous internet existence one thing I found the internet to be practically useful for was for creating incentive for doing and finishing projects. When you post progress of a project it creates incentive to continue with it and finish it.

Since I love a good challenge, I have decided to quit my job so as to make a full-time affair of making it through 2 John. I can't dream of reading it seven times complete since I'm not that literate. However, a man can always dream big dreams, and my challenge is to make it through the thirteen harrowing verses of this epistle. I'll list the verses:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

I've read the first three verses, but that took a few months, and I'm suffering from burnout. However, now that I'm posting the results of my progress on 2 John, maybe, just maybe, I'll get a little bit farther than last year's attempt, and, perhaps, if my years are long and if good health is to be had, I'll finish 2 John [!!]. Perhaps at that stage, I too may emulate c.t.'s sanctified state. However, reading it seven times is clearly out of the question for a fellow like myself who considers reading something like Jughead with Archie Digest Magazine [oh those wacky Riverdale kids!] to be a taxing affair.

A Calvinist Looks at Orthodoxy

This interesting post is found at Steve Hays' Triablogue. From this blog's perspective, it isn't the act of the Calvinist's examination that is interesting, but it is the collection of comments on Orthodoxy that are interesting.

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2005/09/calvinist-looks-at-orthodoxy.html

My big problem with Orthodoxy isn't with the icons, the incense, the bells, and the otherworldly atmosphere into which one enters upon going to an Orthodox service. Instead, speaking only for myself [though seconded by the article writer above], my big problem is the diminishing of the doctrine of justification by faith alone through grace alone, a doctrine whose reality and implications are the main theme of Romans 1-8, not to mention other parts of the NT.

Leftist Victimization and Narcissism: A Boring Play in Three Acts

At the end of the previous post on narcissism and victimhood, I had mentioned that Ours is a politically correct age, where such a mechanism is combined with leftist groupthink to create the "sensitive totalitarians" we see in universities. I had mentioned that some comments will follow. These comments are based on my experiences, both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student at secular universities, as well as an assistant professor at a large Roman Catholic university.

(i) Early 90's. I had a left-wing black female professor for an African History course. At least that was the course name, but in reality, African History was used as a pretext for the predictable leftist diatribe [payed for by the taxpayers] about what is wrong with the US, white men, Europe, etc. I remember stating to this professor that my father loved oldie music, such as Al Jolson, big bands, etc.

Well, it turns out that upon hearing this, the professor immediately went into victim mode. Following the four steps (1)-(4) listed in the previous post:

(1) The professor decided to poke her nose into my father's choice of music. This, you'll note, has nothing to do with the course or whatever.
(2) The professor imputed the fact that my father listened [among other things] to show tunes featuring a guy in blackface as some sort of personal attack on her being, and, on blacks in general.
(3) The professor, based merely on the fact that my pop liked show tunes and oldies such as Al Jolson, coldly concluded "Then your father is a racist." An entire personal judgement, featuring one of the leftist smear words, based on the fact that somebody listens to Jolson.
(4) Along with this imputation of racism to a man she had never met, and, quite frankly, a man to whom she and her leftist ilk would talk condescendingly, she cried out about the need for more to be done against racism.

Talk about narcissism: the professor is so terribly important, such an integral part of the cosmos, that a student's father's choice of music somehow impinges on the core of her being. At least, that is how she acted!

BTW, this account is for an event when I was still an atheistic/agnostic/leftist hybrid. Let's hop a few years forward in the PP Time Machine, not to the year 800,000-something where the Eloi and the Morlocks are at enmity, but to the mid-1990's.

(ii) Graduate school, mid-90's. I was talking with a fellow graduate student, and I had mentioned that I did not support taking race and such into account, and that universities should stop doing so if they wanted to honestly claim that they went by merit. My final words were "special privileges for none." At this time, a rather militant buzz-cut black woman entered the elevator. She apparently heard the words "special privileges for none."

[PP note: The reader should note that much of university life is geared towards maintaining the mindset in non-white-males that they are victims, and that, having been dissed by the cosmos and white males, non-white-males have a right to a chip on their shoulder, and rules/standards should be bent whenever possible to make up for minority and female shortcomings.]

Here are (1)-(4) again for this incident:

(1) The militant buzz-cut black woman, hearing the words "special privileges for none," felt that she too was invited to the private and quiet conversation between my fellow grad-student and myself. She wasn't.
(2) The words "special privileges for none" were exegeted by the woman to mean "Hey Bo, let's load the Stars-and-Bars on our pickup truck and go shoot some of dem colored folks who be trying to eat in our rest'rants!" As such, she viewed these words as a great personal affront to the very core of her being.

Narcissists, as mentioned before, are not content with being the center of the universe. They have a vested interest in convincing themselves that everybody is talking about them, that any action people take is an action in reaction to them. Your tax dollars subsidize your higher institutions that promulgate this mindset among non-white-males.

(3) The woman claimed she was going to "send guys after me to beat me up." She said it with a wailing voice, and it was loud enough that it was rather surprising that it didn't create a ruckus. By the way, if I recall correctly, the woman had some sort of tolerance- or diversity-related position at the university. So the childish display part is rather fulfilled nicely.

(4) Given the way she marched out of the elevator with her threatening tone, it is a very safe bet that her dander was up for more clandestine forms of racism. Perhaps if she saw me prove the Central Limit Theorem [one of the four great results of probability, along with the Strong Law, the Weak Law, and the Law of the Iterated Logarithm], she could find the latent racism buried within the mathematics.

As mentioned, I believe this woman held some sort of tolerance- or diversity-related post at the university. Readers are expected to see the irony here without my having to point it out.

The sad part is that this narcissism and victimhood are encouraged by universities. And, for public universities, these professional narcissists and victims are paid to gaze at their navels and find new scenarios in which to see themselves as victims.

Let's go to the third act of this play, which might be interesting only to myself at this stage!

(iii) Let's turn to Shmuley Boteach, a rabbi. In the article linked, Rabbi Boteach displays his victimistic narcissism in rather egregious fashion. You see, Boteach views Christian efforts to proselytize the Jews and tell them the [most excellent] news that, yes, their messiah has come, and that he bids them to place their faith in Him, as oppressive and hateful.

We note that Rabbi Boteach had a chance to defend his brand of Judaism, to show it is the competitor in the marketplace of ideas. And, as a very public and outspoken figure of Judaism, Boteach is obligated to defend his faith. But we note that in the stead of defending his Judaism, Boteach went along with the woe-is-me three-hankie victim mentality. [Given that I don't find Boteach's liberal version of Judaism to be anything worth defending either, I suppose that could be the beginning of the process of finding common ground at the next ecumenical pancake breakfast.]

I assume readers will peruse the linked article, which was pointed out to me by Jason Engwer.

(1) The fact that Christians want to share Christ --- surely not a novel concept --- with others, and, in particular, with Jews, is somehow taken by Boteach to be some sort of personal assault on him.

(2) The proposition "Jesus is the messiah" is personalized by Boteach to mean that there are gas chambers and concentration camps waiting for him.

(3) Boteach, in response to the debate mentioned in the link, stated that "The Holocaust was due to evenings [i.e. the debate] like tonight." I believe the childishness here speaks for itself. One would think that one who is supposedly learned and a teacher, and who presents himself as a very public defender of a certain type of Judaism, would, just maybe, give some articulation for why Jesus is not the messiah. In technical terms: whatever, d00d.

(4) It again is a safe bet, given Boteach's comments, that he will find the Next Holocaust under his bed, in a dark closet. Perhaps he'll convert PP posts to Hebrew and perform some gematria-related analysis to determine that the entire world is anti-semitic.

There are three examples of narcissistic victimhood that immediately come to mind. There are plenty o' examples to go around, but the profile is meaningful. [I haven't even gotten to the prof days from '98-'05. But there are tales of narcissism to tell from these years as well, trust me, oh trust me.]

Most everybody manifests (1)-(4) now and then, as, after all, our sinful nature makes the inner I long for supremity. But, the idea is that as we grow to adulthood and mature, such flareups are the rare exception, and not the norm. For the people listed above, such flareups are the norm, and not the rare exception.

**********************

One trait of the narcissist that I wasn't clear about [or didn't mention at all] is that the narcissist expects the world to respond to him. This is because he is so terribly important [just ask him], people are [in his mind] expected to go through him and to take him into account. [Boteach, for example, seems to act as if any Christian activity or expression needs his approval for it to, in his eyes, be legitimate.] If people do go through him and worry about him, it reinforces the narcissism. On the other hand, if people do not go through, consider, nor worry about the narcissist, it also reinforces the victim complex of the narcissist, since he is now a poor victim in that he --- the very center of the universe, the ground of all being --- is cruelly being ignored, dissed, etc. It seems to be an airtight system, much like the famous Escher print of two hands simultaneously drawing each other. The narcissism feeds the victimhood, and the victimhood feeds the narcissism. Other clear examples have been given by the narcissists here.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

More on Narcissistic Victimhood

Part of one's being a narcissist is thinking that every conversation, word, and thought of others applies specifically to him. That is because he is the center of the world, he can't imagine people not talking about him [after all he is of prime importance], for he is the beginning and the end of all things. He thinks that he is on the minds of others, and that the only thing worth discussing is him. In today's parlance: it's all about him.

This plays into the victim status of the narcissist too. As mentioned, I see a strong link between narcissism and victimhood. Quite often, the narcissist has the following reinforcement mechanism:

(1) Observe or intrude or "poke one's nose" into something not having to do with them.
(2) Impute the discussion's origin, direction, focus, etc on to something fundamental to his character, being, essence, etc.
(3) He then feels victimized, making a childish display that only reinforces the fact that he views himself as the true center of the universe.
(4) This gives the narcissistic victim, at least in his mind, future warrant for even more strongly viewing himself as the tragic persecuted one, and, at least in his mind, supports the idea that conversations, thoughts, words are about him, the center of the universe.

Ours is a politically correct age, where such a mechanism is combined with leftist groupthink to create the "sensitive totalitarians" we see in universities. We'll comment on this a bit later.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Martha Burk: Victim

The following story is taken from the following link:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9457272

*****BEGIN CITATION*****

NEW YORK - Martha Burk is taking aim at the NHL’s newest television advertisement.

Burk, who led an unsuccessful effort to allow female members at Augusta National three years ago, called the ad “gratuitous” because it shows a scantily clad woman dressing a hockey player before he heads onto the ice.

Burk plans to send letters of protest to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports & Olympics. NBC is scheduled to run the ad next week.

The ad, shown Wednesday at The Museum of Television & Radio to the NHL’s corporate sponsors, is part of the “More Entertainment! More Passion! More Hockey!” campaign to launch the season that begins Oct. 5.

“Here the NHL is trying to portray itself as family entertainment,” Burk said, “and this ad doesn’t support that very well.”

The spot opens with a quote from Chinese military philosopher Sun Tzu: “A clever warrior is one who not only wins, but excels at winning with ease.” A bare-chested player sits on a wooden bench in the glow of a candlelit room with a backbeat of drums and rattling sabers. He is approached by a woman in a bra and gauzy robe, who touches his shoulders, asks “Ready?” and helps him put on his shoulder pads and jersey.

She says “It’s time,” and he heads to the ice to the cheers of a man and young boy in the stands. The ad ends with “My NHL, coming 10.05.”

NHL spokeswoman Bernadette Mansur said the ad is part of a five-part “Inside the Warrior” series produced for the NHL. It also appears on the league’s Web site.

“We’re surprised that Ms. Burk would come to that interpretation,” Mansur said. “This ad is very respectful of women. The woman is a spiritual and physical trainer for the warrior, and his mentor.”

Burk sees it differently.

“That’s a major stretch,” she said. “The woman is a sexual ornament, in my view.

“It’s appealing to adult men while trying to masquerade as something for kids. That’s deeply offensive to me. As a mother of two sons, they see enough sex and violence anyway. Why put it in warrior terms? That’s offensive, let alone the sexism.”

A Toronto Star reporter brought the ad to Burk’s attention, and reported her objections in Friday’s edition.

Burk said she has already received hate mail, which she also got after she sent Augusta chairman Hootie Johnson a letter in June 2002, asking him to open the private club’s membership. She helped stage a protest during the 2003 tournament that drew about 50 people and nearly as many counter protesters.

Burk is the chairwoman of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, a network of more than 200 women’s groups that represents 10 million women.

The ad is directed by MTV Video Music Awards winner Sam Bayer. Conductor, a California-based ad agency, produced the spots, which were filmed in British Columbia.

*****END CITATION*****

Attacking the right and privilege of a private organization [Augusta National] to choose its membership as it pleases isn't enough for today's honorary victim, Martha Burk.

In her publicity campaign against Augusta National [a campaign aided greatly by the New York Times, no less], Burk claimed offense on behalf of all women and on behalf of all those who were shut out of the white elite corporate power structure. Now, as I'm not a member of the Movers-And-Shakers club of the world, being an academic who is still sorting out what to do next in life, I certainly never felt offense at a group of people excluding me from their golf club. And I know plenty of women who also asserted the right of free association and the free usage of private property.

But this wasn't enough for Burk. She, in a feat of stunning narcissism, used the sympathetic left-leaning New York Times to put herself on the pedestal of speaking for ALL women, ALL people who are excluded by the corporate power structure. Her on-site protest [well, take "on-site" loosely if you remember what happened!] attracted little grass-roots attention [though the elite media with visions of their forced egalitarianism did its best], which is suprising in today's whacked-out modern culture.

And now, Martha Burk needs more attention called to herself. She has once again, in true narcissistic fashion, placed herself on the pedestal, implicitly claiming to universally speak for women and victims when she claims that the NHL ad campaign is sexually gratuitous and the warrior imagery is offensive.

Of course, in today's climate, one can't tell somebody that, if they're offended, nobody is forcing them to watch the ad or partake in the product offered by the ad. Instead, a spokesman for the NHL has to explain the ad in what appears to be an attempt to reassure poor Ms Burk that she, the center of the universe, is possibly mistaken in her assessment of it.

But, alas, the explanation still doesn't meet Martha Burk's approval. You see, Martha Burk speaks for all women, not merely the women in the various groups she heads. She is a victim --- somebody is forcing her to watch the ad at gunpoint, no less! She needs a compassionate society to protect her! She, the modern enlightened woman who is no doubt on a par with men, needs revival-by-smelling-salts when warrior imagery confronts her! You go, girl!

What we have here is the attempt of a pathetic individual to keep her name on the lips of the cultural elite so that she can continue her victimhood. It's bad enough that she can't have a golf date with Hootie and Company down in Augusta, but now, dearest Lord, she has to confront warrior imagery [gasp!] in an NHL ad broadcast on her living room television set. A league known for its rough physicality [and, let's be honest, the league is marketed in part by its goons and fights] uses warrior imagery --- what a horrible shock! Perhaps the NHL could have an ad campaign with daisies, butterflies, and cocker spaniels frolicking in green sunlit meadows instead.

However, for a victim and narcissist like Martha Burk, even that ad imagery would give her cause for offense, cause for fainting, and, ultimately, a cause for victimhood.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Victim and The Narcissist

The Victim sees himself not as a responsible agent in the world, but, as the title implies, he rather sees himself as a victim. His identity, far from being wrapped up in positive endeavors, is wrapped up on himself: how he has been oppressed, how others have been mean to him, how large portions of the world are against him, and how people haven't done as good of a job defending him as they should. In turn, the victimhood of The Victim further victimizes The Victim.

The Victim aggressively seeks out opportunities to be victimized or feel victimized, and this in turn feeds the victim complex manifested by The Victim. The Victim can then publicly display his hurt, his pain, his pathos; he can beat his breast and wallow in self-pity, and he can lobby for the sympathy of others, whereby he can further expound his victimization.

Everybody is mean to The Victim; to see this, merely ask The Victim and take his word for it. This allows The Victim to have a passive-aggressive stance: The Victim may throw stones because, being a victim, he knows --- at least, in his mind he knows --- that the cruel unfair world will thrown stones at him merely for his being who he is.

Such is the life of The Victim, a man who cannot function nor cope unless he can perceive himself to be the object of undeserved wrath, scorn, and tribulation. He wants you to feel sorry for him, but he also wants you to dislike him, so that he may claim in a statement of victimhood that you don't like him despite his really trying, etc.

Next, from the lead paragraph at the Wikipedia, we have the following statement on narcissism:

Narcissism, in psychology is the pattern of thinking and behaving which involves infatuation and obsession with one's self to the exclusion of others. It may be seen manifest in the chronic pursuit of personal gratification and public attention, in social dominance and personal ambition, braggadocio, insensitivity to others (lack of empathy) and/or excessive dependence on others to meet his/her responsibilities in daily living and thinking.

We live in a modern, progressive, enlightened age, where everybody is encouraged to see themselves as victims, to see the world as anti-them or anti-[insert group here]. And, it seems to me that The Victim can't in the end keep himself from being a narcissist, since The Victim must obsess over how the world unfairly perceives him.

We'll try to follow this theme in a few upcoming threads.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Memo to Mr. Vince McMahon

The structure of Romans 1-8 is important, as this blog has been occupied with the central epistle of the Greek New Testament. But, just as important, if not moreso, is my advice --- given here for free --- to the professional wrestling industry. Here is a public memo for a man whose business acumen is something to admire:

*******BEGIN MEMO*******

TO: Mr. Vince McMahon
FROM: The pro-wrasslin' loving faction in the Pedantic Protestant writing staff
REGARDING: Let's make wrestling fun to watch once more!

Pro wrestling, something with which I grew up with in the 70's and the ever-glorious 1980's, and enjoyed even up through the late 1990's, has gotten rather stale. It is time for the major promotions to try something new instead of the stale and old gimmicks they recycle every other year.

Here are some new ideas that perhaps your pro wrestling promotion could implement, thereby making my post-workout maximum-veg channel surfing more interesting:

(1) I've never, positively ever seen the referee get knocked out by a blow from the heel. And, I've never seen the heel's manager whack the babyface with a steel chair while the ref is knocked out, in turn knocking out cold the babyface. And I've never seen the referee come to consciousness right after the babyface is knocked over the head with a steel chair and give the three-count to the heel's pin of the babyface, thereby winning the match for the heel. Never seen anything like it.

(2) I've never, positively ever seen, in the middle of a singles pro wrestling match, a bunch of heels run in from the locker room and gang up on the 'face. Never seen anything like it.

(3) I've never, positively ever seen, a tag-team partner suddenly turn on his partner, beginning a feud that will culminate in the $50 pay-per-view match on cable. You'd think the wrestling outfits would have thought of this years ago.

(4) I've never seen the bad guy's manager distract the ref while the bad guy pulls a foreign object out of his tights to knock out the good guy.

(5) I've never seen two guys fight over a hot chick before. You'd think that after all these years somebody in your most excellent promotions would have figured out that love triangles make great plotlines.

(6) I've never seen the good guy [Hulk Hogan cough cough cough] get absolutely mauled for fifteen minutes straight, whereupon after this mauling, instead of being pronounced clinically dead by any competent physician, he suddenly "Hulks" up, and in thirty seconds turns the table on the bad guy, finishing him off, despite inflicting only 1% of the pain in the match.

(7) I've never seen chiselled guys with attitudes talk trash backstage. They need to market these guys more.

(8) I don't recall having ever seen a heel pick on some "random" kiddie in the crowd at ringside, only to be saved by the babyface running from backstage.

(9) I've never seen wrestling trivialize itself by forming marketing associations with celebrities.

I can assure you that seeing any of these suggestions implemented would cause me to mark out, like, totally, to the max. But perhaps these suggestions are too far-fetched, so I offer them most humbly, as a fan who craves something new.

******END MEMO*****

[Remember, dear readers --- it isn't just any blog that can talk about Romans one day and pro wrestling the next! :-) ]

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Romans 1-8 Clearinghouse

For whatever it is worth, if indeed it is worth anything at all, here is the one-stop shopping source for the entire series on Romans 1-8, with the links for the entire series given below.

I have personally found deep study of Romans 1-8 to be very intellectually and spiritually stimulating, and writing out my thoughts in what is hoped to be a respectably careful fashion has helped things to stick. I would almost go so far to say that I have the entire text of Romans 1-8 memorized in paraphrase form in my head as a result of reading things over and over and thinking about them. And, given that very few students come to my office hours, I've taken the opportunity to be a student of St Paul, as all believers must sit at his feet, inspired apostle that he was.

I've thought about going through all of Romans, which means doing posts on Romans 9-16. I have reservations about doing this; these reservations clinch the case [at least for the time being] for not doing such a series.

(1) I simply don't have confidence that I understand Romans 9-11 well enough to speak on it with any authority. I [think that I] understand the structure and parts of the big picture, but even if I comment only on the structure of a text, I do so having full confidence in my interpretation of the details. [For Romans 1-8, I have great confidence in my interpretation of the details, and I could probably write a good 400 page semi-scholarly commentary on the interpretation of the Greek text, hence I am confident about posting thoughts on this part of the epistle.]

(2) While all of scripture is God's revelation for us and to us, it isn't the least bit disrespectful to assert that some parts of it interest a person more than others do [though of course we're bound to those parts that don't interest us as well]. I find Romans 1-11 interesting, but 12-16 don't float this student's boat. I'd probably start the series with a bang and soon it would whimper out pretty quickly. [Pedantic Politics...cough cough cough]

(3) Referring back to (1), the blogging intensity is going to [so I say now] die down somewhat over the next few weeks for various reasons. Writing substantive entries is rather time-consuming, and, though I've done these entries for what is ultimately a selfish reason [so that things stick in my teflonesque-as-of-late mind], I'd really like to study a few high-level commentaries carefully and nail down Romans 9-11. Dr Svendsen of NTRMin fame told me in a personal chat that were I a Calvinist, Romans 9-11 would make perfect sense. Perhaps he's right. We'll see. [But if I take a Calvinist mindset, will I have to have a new circle of friends? Will I need to buy a whole new wardrobe? Will I have to change the blog name to Collegiate Calvinist?]

Oh well, the series is through for now, and, for the convenience of readers --- if I may be so bold as to presume that anybody would be interested in an autodidactic MDiv's semi-structured Romans romp --- here is the full collection of links, given in the chronological order in which they were posted.

(i) Link to the discussion of Romans 1-4

(ii) Link to the discussion of Romans 5

(iii) Link to the discussion of Romans 6

(iv) Link to the discussion of Romans 7:1-12

(v) For the link in (iv), it was mentioned that the identity of the "I" in 7:7-12 and 7:13-25 required some form of discussion. The "I" in Romans 7:7-12 is discussed at this link: Pauline "I" for the Exegetical Guy [Regardless of what one thinks of my conclusion, it is intellectual dishonesty not to give props for the thread name!]

(vi) In the same vein, we discuss the "I" of Romans 7:13-25 relative to the two major interpretations: the "I" has being unregenerate is at this link.

(vii) The interpretation of the "I" in 7:13-25 as regenerate is discussed and upheld in this link.

(viii) Upon completing Romans 7, I gave a summary of the thought-flows in Romans 1-7.

(ix) Discussion of Romans 8:1-11 was found here.

(x) Discussion of Romans 8:12-39 is found here.

In the end, the following pastoral words must be stated, not only for the benefit of readers, but, most of all, for the benefit of this student. The study of scripture is not an end in and of itself, but it is a means to an end, the end being a full and solid knowledge of those things God has specially revealed to us. The study of scripture is for our edification and defense against whatever enemies and antagonists to the faith [both external and interal relative to ourselves!] exist, as well as for the edification of others. And it is worth mentioning that in presenting Christianity to others, diligent study allows us to be accurate and careful with what we herald, not substituting our own philosophical hobby-horses for what God has revealed. In the end, appropriately quoting Paul here and the main theme of the Roman epistle, the scriptures attest to the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is true man and true God, who bore on our behalf our sins on His Incarnate body, who was raised from dead, who was glorified, and will come again to judge the living and the dead, and this gospel truly is God's saving power unto the salvation for all who believe.

Romans 8: Part Two [on Romans 8:12-39]

The previous post discussed Romans 8:1-11. To summarize:

(i) Romans 8:1 seems to follow as a consequence to 7:6, which in turn was part of an analogy that seeked to bolster up 6:14.

(ii) What is the general summary of Romans 8:1-11? It seems to be this:

There is therefore [via 7:6, which in turn comes from 6:14] now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, and this lack of condemnation in turn arises because the authority and direction provided by the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer has in Christ Jesus set the believer free from the law [in the sense of its condemning us] and death [ultimate spiritual death]. And if we ask just how the Holy Spirit has "in Christ Jesus" set us free from the law of sin and death, the answer is that God sent His Son, who assumed fallen human nature while remaining fully Himself, and, in the physical body of Christ, condemned sin decisively. As a result of all of this, the righteous requirement of the law [all the commandments viewed as a unity] is fulfilled in the believer, who walks according to the guiding and authority of the Holy Spirit [but still often falls to sin and his fallen nature --- Romans 7:13-25] and is not the subject of the tyranny of sin's untrammeled reign over him [that is, he can manfully begin to meaningfully resist sin's usurpation of his being, even though he will often lose whatever battles may come to pass]. There is nothing in common between submitting to the guidance and authority of the Holy Sprit and letting the sinful nature express itself fully --- but believers most assuredly are in the category of those who have the indwelling Spirit commanding their attention and guiding them [as compared to believers being in the category of still being completely subservient to their sinful nautre]. This assurance comes from the fact that on Judgement Day believers shall be quickened by the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, which in turn comes from the fact that Jesus Christ was quickened by God.

(iii) There seem to be three more sections of Romans 8: 8:12-16, 8:17-30, and 8:31-39. Relative to the densely packed wording and less-than-obvious flow of Paul's thoughts in 8:1-11, these sections seem [at least to this student of Romans] much more straightforward, and they provide the student a respite as he grapples and seeks to wrestle with the profound Spirit-inspired truths found in this epistle.

With (i)-(iii) at hand, we may now begin the actual new content of this post.

Romans 8:12-16

The first question deals with just how this block of the text relates, if it relates at all, to the previous material. We note the double logical connective in 8:12 [ara oun], "accordingly then" or "therefore then" or some English rendering that emphatically gives the sense of a conclusion. 8:12 might be translated as "Accordingly then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh so that we live according to the flesh..."
The question is thus "Accordingly then relative to what?" or "How does the claim that we are not debtors to the flesh relate to the previous material?"

My natural instincts tell me that the conclusion that we are debtors not to the flesh follows from the entire block of text 8:1-11. Cranfield [p 394] takes this view, and apparently it seems obvious enough [to him] that he merely states this as a given. On the other hand, Schreiner [pp 418-9] indicates that 8:12 follows from not 8:1-11, but from 8:5-11. That is, Schreiner believes that 8:5-11, which is "Believers can keep the law because they are constituted by the Spirit rather than the flesh" provides the basis for making the conclusion that we are debtors not to the flesh. But at the same time, Schreiner states that verses 8:5-11 "are not to be sundered from verses 1-4," so whatever route we take, the practical implications don't seem to be any different. It therefore seems natural to view 8:12-16 as following from 8:1-11. [Note that Schreiner view the second block of Romans 8 as 8:12-17, not 8:12-16.]

Paul states in 8:12 that "We are debtors not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh..." which means that we do not owe our sinful nature anything, that we let it rule over us as we seek to indulge it. The natural consequence to this statement would be something like "we are instead debtors to the Spirit, to live according to the Spirit." However, Paul does not state this natural anticipated statement. It seems that 8:13a, instead of giving the apodosis "we are instead debtors to the Spirit etc," contains a further warning regarding letting one's life be regulated by the desires of the sinful nature, namely, those who let their lives be regulated by the desires of their sinful natures will die. On the other hand, 8:13b has the corresponding statement that those who, through the Spirit's agency, put to death their sinful deeds, they shall live eternally in the sense that they share eternity basking in the full communion with God that God intended there to be between His creation and Himself.

Paul still has not given the apodosis "We are debtors to the Spirit etc" to the protasis "We are debtors not to the flesh etc" in 8:12. And in 8:14, the apodosis is still absent, for Paul wants to expand on 8:13b. Why is it the case that those who by the Spirit's agency put to death the deeds wrought by the desires of their sinful nature shall live? 8:14 answers this: those who by the Spirit's agency put to death the deeds of their sinful nature shall live because all who are led by the Spirit of God are His sons. But what sort of argument is this? It is not completely obvious to this student just how the statement "as many as are led by the Spirit of God are God's sons" supports the statement that "if, by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you shall live." The idea seems to be that God would not condemn His children, that is, God would not condemn those on whom He has conferred sonship with all of the rights and privileges pertaining to sonship. This seems to fit Paul's thought.

We now turn to 8:15, noting that the expected apodosis of 8:12 ["we are debtors to the Spirit, to live according to the Spirit]" is still missing. Again, 8:15 has a logical connective: "For [gar] you did not receive a spirit of servitude to lead you back into fear, but you received a Spirit of sonship by which we cry 'Abba, Father.'" The question here becomes just how the fact that Christians do not have a spirit of servitude but a Spirit of sonship is said to follow from what has been said earlier. It seems natural to this student to be that 8:15 follows from 8:14 in the sense that Paul in 8:15 reminds the Romans that they are the sons of God mentioned in 8:14, that is, the Romans are those who are led by the Spirit, having His aid in their daily putting to death the thoughts and deeds wrought by their sinful nature. Here Cranfield [p 396] and Schreiner [p 422] follow suit.

I agree with the following lovely words of Cranfield [p 401]:

Verse 15 (which in its turn will be confirmed by v16) harks back with its confident positive assertion, "you recieved a spirit of sonship," to the fundamental indicatives of 8:1-11 which are the context and presupposition of vv 12ff, and gives to the obligation "to live according to the Spirit", which was implied but never expressed in v12, its final and definitive expression in the relative clause "by Whom we cry 'Abba, Father.'" This then is what it means to live after the Spirit, to mortify by the Spirit the deeds of the body, and to be led by the Spirit of God --- simply to be enabled by that same Spirit to cry 'Abba, Father.' And it is here expressed not as an imperative but as an indicative: Christians do as a matter of fact do this. The implicit imperative is that they should continue to do just this, and do it more and more consistently, more and more sincerely, soberly, and responsibly. This is all that is required of them. It is what the whole law of God is aimed at achieving. Al that must be said about the Christian's obedience has been already said in principle when this has been said. Nothing more is required of us than that we should cry to the one true God 'Abba, Father' with full sincerity and with full seriousness. That his necessarily includes seeking with all our heart to be and think and say and do what is well-pleasing to Him and to avoid all that displeases Him, should go without saying. In the accomplishment of this work of obedience the "righteous requirement of the law" [v4] is fulfilled and God's holy law established.

Given Paul's usage of connecting particles, 8:16 is asyndetic --- no particle connecting it to what has been stated is present. However, it seems quite clear that 8:16 ["the Spirit Himself testifies to our spirit that we are children of God"]follows from 8:15 in that Paul views 8:16 as giving the grounds for 8:15. That is, what forms the grounding or basis for our crying out 'Abba, Father,' a crying that is enabled by the Holy Spirit? 8:16 provides the answer, namely, that "no less an authority than God Himself in His Spirit has assured us --- and continues to assure us --- that we are His children. The knowledge that we are God's children (not to be confused with any merely natural desire of weak human beings to feel that there is someone greater and stronger than themselves who is kindly disposed to them) is something which we cannot impart to ourselves: it has to be given to us from outside and beyond ourselves --- from God. Verse 16 is Paul's solemn and emphatic statement that this knowledge has been given to us. This knowledge is not to be identified with our calling God 'Father': it is rather the warrant for it. And the Spirit's imparting of it is not to be identified simply with His immediate inspiration of the prayer 'Abba, Father' (not even when that is understood as we have suggested it in the widest sense, as embracing all the obedience of Christians), but rather with His whole work of enabling us to believe in Jesus Christ, through whom alone we may rightly call God 'Father' ." [Cranfield pp 402-3]

We are now in a position to attempt a working summary of 8:12-16. The thought flow might be described in the following paraphrase of Paul:

By virtue of what I've said in 8:1-11, you Romans are debtors --- not to the flesh to live according to it [which would result in spiritual death], but are instead you are to mortify your sinful natures according to the Spirit's leading and hence live eternally. The fact that the Spirit leads you shows that you, yes you, are sons of God, and, furthermore, the Spirit allows you to truly and meaningfully address and view God as your Father. Not only do I assert this, but the Holy Spirit bears witness with me that you are [as just stated] children of God.

Romans 8:17-30

One can debate whether 8:17-30 is a separate section of Pauline thought, or if it is a continuation of 8:12-16. What isn't debatable is the fact that in 8:17-30 St Paul, having just stated in 8:16 that the Romans are in fact children of God, a fact to which the Holy Spirit Himself bears witness, now moves to the implications of being children of God, the implication being that the Christian life consists of [among other thing] hope.

Let's begin the examination. As usual, all translations [or mistranslations!] are mine.

8:17 And if [we are] children, [we are] also heirs; heirs of God on the one hand, fellow-heirs with Christ on the other hand, seeing as we suffer [with Christ] with the result that we shall be glorified together [with Him?].

Here, if I understand Paul correctly, he is presenting the worldly sufferings and tribulations of Christians as a pledge or guarantee of future glorification. So, far from the travails of life being something to make us doubt God's providence and care, we are to view sufferings as a promissory note for our future glorification, a glorification which will exclude once and for all any sort of suffering. Of course, when confronted with suffering and such, it is quite a difficult thing even for the mature believer to view his sufferings as a guarantee of future glorification.

8:18 "For gar I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory about to be revealed in connection with us."

What is the function of the "for" (gar) at the beginning of 8:18, the lead verse for this section? The obvious answer seems to be that 8:18 is a buttressing to 8:17, which asserts that the Spirit Himself testifies to our conscience that we are children of God.

The question now becomes just how Paul reckons that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared to the coming glory to be revealed in us. 8:19-23 seem to contain the answer.

8:19 For the eager expectation of creation awaits the revelation of the sons of God.
8:20 For creation was made subject to vanity, [not willingly, but by the one (God) sujecting it (to vanity)], in hope,
8:21 because even [or also] creation itself shall be freed from the servitude of corruption in the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.
8:22 For we know that all creation groans and agonizes with one accord up to the present time,
8:23 and not only do I say this, but I also say that we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit eagerly await our adoption --- that is, we eagerly await the redemption of our bodies.

Note the poetic language of Paul here: the creation "shall be freed," and creation "groans and agonizes with one accord."

Side question: what is "creation" (ktisis) here? The most probable answer to this student seems to be that it refers to the sum totality of God's sub-human creations.

So, how does Paul reckon that the sufferings of the present life are so minor relative to the future glory that it isn't meaningful to attempt a comparison?
The answer from 8:19-23 seems to be twofold:

(i) Because the sufferings of the present life are so minor relative to the future glory because no less than creation [here personified] itself, having been subjected to its futile state through the Fall, painfully yet eagerly awaits or glorification.

(ii) Because we already have the firstfruits of the Spirit, which, if I understand Paul's thought correctly, assure us that much more [and what is much better] is yet to come.

As a side note on creation: vv 20-22 indicate that our world today is frustrated according to the original intent of its creation, namely, our world today, using Paul's figurative language wishes to serve mankind, but, it cannot, itself being subjected to the bondage of corruption. "We may think of the whole magnificent theatre of the universe together with all its spelndid properties and all the chorus of sub-human life, created to glorify God but unable to do so fully, so long as man the cheif actor in the drama of God's praise fails to contribute his rational part." [Cranfield p 414]

As a second side note, the syntax of 8:20 is confusing. 8:20 states that "For creation was made subject to vanity, [not willingly, but by the one (God) sujecting it (to vanity)], in hope etc." What does the "in hope" mean? Cranfield [p 414] has an answer that seems as good as any: "The creation was not subjected to frustration without any hope: the divine judgement included the promise of a better future, when at last the judgement would be lifted. Paul possibly had in minde the promise in Gen 3:15 that the woman's seed would bruise the serpent's head. Hope for the creation was included within the hope for man." On the other hand, Schreiner [p 436] admits that Paul has overloaded the sentence [what a surprise!], making the thought difficult to follow, but in the end he [Schreiner] views "in hope" as that "...though God subjected creation to futility, it also has the sure confidence that it will be liberated from corruption." Paul needs to write more economical sentences while remembering that 21st century students are trying to interpret him!

As a third side note, what are the "firstfruits of the Spirit" given in (ii)? It seems to this student that the firstfruits of the Spirit represent (a) the evidences provided to us that the Spirit dwells within us, and (b) the guidance and authority that the Spirit exercises over our lives. Cranfield [p 418] seems to indicate as much, referring the firstfruits of the Spirit as "His present work in us."

We now turn to 8:24-25.

8:24 For we were saved in hope; hope [in something] seen is not hope, for who hopes in what he [already] sees?

8:25 But if we hope in that which we do not see, we eagerly and steadfastly await it.

Side note: Cranfield takes "in hope" as modal, Schreiner takes "in hope" to be an associative dative: "[the dative "in hope"] signifies that hope is the companion of salvation and inseparable from it." I prefer Schreiner over Cranfield, here.

What is the function of 8:24-25? The only answer that seems palatable to this student is that 8:24-25 amplify [in some fashion] 8:23: there, it was stated that we eagerly await the redemption of our bodies while having the firstfruits of the Spirit as a pledge to the reality of this coming redemption. How do 8:24-25 amplify 8:23, if indeed we're correct in making the claim that 8:24-25 amplify 8:23? The answer isn't obvious. Paul is talking about hope and the fact that what we're hoping for, while a reality, is not seen nor made manifest just yet. I see in 8:23 the mention that we await our adoption, that is, we await the redemption of our bodies; and, 8:25 concludes that we eagerly and steadfastly await the fulfillment of such a hope. Therefore, the answer for this student seems to be that 8:24-25 merely states in a different fashion that we have a firm and certain hope for the redemption of our bodies. Schreiner, pp 439-440, states something slightly different:

Verses 24-25, explain the exchatological thrust of verse 23, emphasizing that the hope that believers long for is still future. Interestingly, Paul speaks of salvation in the past, whereas he most often locates salvation in the eschaton (Rom 5:9, 10, 13:11, 1 Cor 3:15, 5:5, Phil 1:19, 1 Thess 5:19, 1 Tim 2:15, 4:16, 2 Tim 4:18). Yet even here the future dimension of salvation is not lost, for he adds the words "in hope", thereby anticipating the completion of the salvation now enjoyed. The dative elpidi should not be construed as instrumental [KJV], for Paul's intention here is not to identify the means by which salvation was obtained. Most probably the dative is associative, signifying that hope is the companion of salvation and inseparable from it. Paul proceeds to provide a description of hope that is not difficult to understand. Hope is not something that is now wee, for if that which is hoped for is not realized, it is no longer a hope but an attained reality. What is emphasized again is the "not yet" character of Christian redemption, for believers do not yet "see" their resurrection bodies. In verse 25 he closes the circle by saying that if believers hope for what they do not see, then they "wait eagerly" for that hope with endurance, with the prepositional phrase denoting attendant circumstances. This last statement ties the setion together in a profound way. The thesis of this section is that the future glories are so stunning and magnificient that they render present sufferings inconqsequential. What Paul stresses in vv 23-25 is that the reaization of the glory is still a future, although certain, prospet for believers. Given the wonder of the glory awaiting believers, they should endure present sufferings with eagerness, knowing that all suffering in the present can be borne because the reward before them is incomparably delightful.

Let's now go to 8:26-27.

8:26 Likewise too, the Spirit helps with our weakness, for we do not know what thing it is necessary for us to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with unexpressible groanings,

8:27 And He who searches the hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, namely, that he intercedes for the saints in accordance with God [or God's will].

On a pastoral note, these verses are very comforting [though they need to be taken in context and not viewed as a solitary unit]. Often, speaking only for myself here, I have attacks of doubt: am I "really" saved? Have I merely deluded myself into thinking that I believe when in fact I really don't? And when I pray for faith, how do I assuage the doubts that assert I'm an unregenerate man who is talking idly? Etc.
Paul, although not writing for my own existential worries and idiosyncrasies, does [unwittingly] provide a comfort of hope here, for God the Holy Spirit helps out with our weakness [and doubts are part and parcel of our weakness]. And, even if we are not sure of what to pray for [or even how to pray], we may rest assured here by Paul's very plain language that the Holy Spirit indeed assists or woeful efforts to cry out 'Abba, Father.' Furthermore, if God knows the secrets of the hearts of men, He must a fortiori be supposed to know the unspoken desires of His own Spirit. [Cranfield p 424]. Finally, woeful as we are, the Spirit intercedes for us. We have no less a co-belligerent than the Holy Spirit testifying on our behalf as we stumble, doubt, and fall as our sinful nature [Rom 7:13-25] lashes out.

The big question for 8:26-7 is just what is likewise means. Somehow, Paul is saying that the Spirit's helping with our weaknesses in 8:26-27 is like something he has previously mentioned. There are two main interpretations that I've seen for just how 8:26-27 connects with what Paul has written earlier.

(i) The comparison is this: as the creation groans and travails with one accord, and as we too groan and travail as we await the hope of our resurrection bodies, so too the Spirit groans [8:26] as He intercedes for us. [Cranfield, Dunn, et al.]

(ii) The point of comparison is that as we hope for our resurrection bodies, the Spirit Himself sustains our hope. [Schreiner, Murray, Moo, et al].

To this student, Cranfield's assertion of (i) seems rather forced. Although the groaning of creation and believers is mentioned in 8:17-25 and the groaning of the Spirit is mentioned in 8:26, the theme of groaning seems ultimately subsidiary to the big point of the believer's [and creation's] hope. It seems much more natural to go with (ii) here, and view 8:26-27 as connecting to 8:17-25 in that as we and creation have a certain hope, the Spirit Himself sustains this hope. This interpretation seems to connect what is the main theme [i.e. hope] of 8:17-25 with the implied hope given to us by 8:26-27 [we can certainly have hope when we know that the Spirit intercedes for us according to God's will and helps us in our prayers and weaknesses!]

Let's now turn to 8:28-30, the final subsection of this third section [i.e. 8:17-30] of Romans 8.

8:28-30 We know that, for those who love God, that is, for those called according to His purpose, all things work together for good. This is true because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to share in the form of the image of His Son, so that His Son might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, those same people He also called; and those He called, these same people He also justified. And those people He also justified, He also glorified.

There is a major exegetical questions that arise from the Greek text here: just how is panta sunergei to be construed? Cranfield, pp 425-8, lists no less than eight exegetical options. The arguments there are not appropriate for a blog entry that merely seeks to understand the flow of Paul's thought. On a personal aside, I found myself nodding off as I carefully studied the arguments for/against the eight positions. Please don't test me on them! [Ah, the devil is in the details.] If I'm understanding Schreiner correctly, he agrees with Cranfield's view that "all things" --- as compared to God or the Holy Spirit --- is the subject of the verb "work together," though plenty of commentators take God to be the subject of the verb "work together" [such as Metzger and Morris], while others take the Spirit to be the subject of the verb "work together" [such as Bruce and Fee]. See Schreiner pp 448-9.

What we're concerned with is the flow of Pauline thought. How do verses 8:28-30 relate to what has already been said? Schreiner here says [in a superior fashion] what my inclinations indicate [p 448]:

Believers are filled with hope because the Spirit prays according to the will of God and His requests are always answered affirmatively (Rom 8:26-7). The succeeding verses 8:28-30 reveal that the central goal of the Spirit's prayers is that believers become conformed to the image of God's Son, Jesus Christ. Believers can be confident that such a future destiny will be theirs because God works all things according to good for His children. We know that all things turn our for our good because God set His covenental affection upon us, predestined us to be like His Son, called us to salvatoin, justified us, and will certainly glorify us.

This seems to nail down just what was Paul's thought-flow here in 8:28-30.

Here's an important pastoral application. When Paul states that all things work together for the good for those who love God, what exactly is Paul saying? If this were an isolated statement of Paul, we might have sympathy for those who view their faith as entitling them to a comfortable travail-free existence in the here-and-now. We might also identify with those people who have had something seriously wrong happen in their lives [maiming, crippling, loss of fortune, destruction of property, death of a loved one, etc etc etc] and use this something to impugn God's integrity, or even His providence or, in the most extreme, even the reality of His existence. However, the statement that all things work together for the good for those who love God does not exist in isolation, but is woven in rather tightly to the tapestry of Romans 8. In the immediate context of this passage, St Paul is not talking about life-in-general, but he is talking about the hope we have in our ultimate salvation. And any natural reading of Paul [as would any natural reading of anybody else] must take the context into account. Paul is concerned here with the believer's hope in salvation and, ultimately the believer's salvation itself --- and this is the context in which all things work together for the good of those who love God. It is quite possible that, say, my life in the future will be filled with travail, as compared with the relatively easy living [who are we kidding --- EASY LIVIN' !!] that I presently have, but, if I understand Paul correctly, I must view future travails as having the ultimate benefit of working towards my salvation. Now I may be kicking and screaming like a village atheist when something bad happens, but Paul's words will put the lie to my thoughts and actions.

Note too that we are reading too much into Paul if we deduce that when bad things happen, the reason or "the how" of just how the bad thing happens to work towards the ultimate goal of our salvation will somehow be obvious. Quite often, I have seen, there is no seeming link between the bad circumstance and one's salvation. And, to be honest, when I think of, say, the athletic Christian guy who gets in a car accident and lives the rest of his life as a cripple in a wheelchair, I cannot see how this works together for his salvation. It would, personally, make me very bitter, and it would be a rather stiff test regarding just how seriously I take scripture. One can blog on it and talk about it, and, even when one is sensitive that one has an easy life while writing about "bad things," nothing is like being the victim or protagonist in whatever bad circumstances arise. Here, I suppose, we must resort to the inscrutability of God's purposes, if we cannot explain, say, the cripple situation above.

Let's now attempt a master summary of Romans 8:17-30.

Paul moves from being children of God in 8:16 to sonship in 8:17-30. This sonship allows us to be fellow-heirs of God's riches along with Christ, though we'll possibly suffer in the here-and-now. But if we do suffer and travail, this will end up being insignificant and inconsequential when viewed from the perspective of our glorification and resurrection bodies. This hope that we have in the future is attested to even by Paul's poetic references to the sub-human creation, which now exists in a state of vain ineptitude relative to the man-serving purpose for which it was originally created, for the creation itself groans and travails awaiting our liberation from corruption, which will trigger the creation's liberation from the corruption, allowing it to serve man as originally intended. And, on top of this hope, the Holy Spirit is there to help us in our lives, weaknessses, a prayers. With such a co-belligerent our hope is surely certain. And, also along the lines of our hope, we can have firm certainty that whatever happens in our lives works towards the ultimate goal of our salvation [even though it may make our present lives rather troublesome, and even though we may not see just how what happens works to salvation].

We now turn to the concluding section of Romans 8, namely, 8:31-39.

Romans 8:31-39

What is the function of this passage within Paul's thoughts here in the Epistle to the Romans? This is the first question that we must ask, as 8:31 states "What therefore shall we say to these things?" In other words, to what of the text prior to 8:31 does the therefore [oun] link? Related to this question is the question of just what Paul means by "these things" [tauta] ?

Here, in a welcome respite to the student, these questions seem [at least to me] easily answered. It seems that this section and the oun links back not only to Romans 8, but back to Romans 5-8, or, we might even say that this section's function is to give the conclusion of the text of Romans 1:1-8:30. Screiner [p 458] seems to take the view that 8:31 sums up Romans 5-8 since "the theme of hope that permeates 8:31-39 functions as an inclusio with 5:1-11, which propounded similar themes." Cranfield seems to view 8:31-39 as summing up the argument of the entire epistle [1:16-8:30] up to that point. Both Schreiner's and Cranfield's understandings of how this section links to what precedes it make good sense, and, for all practical purposes our interpretations of the particulars in this passage don't depend on who is exactly correct. "These things" will then mean the ideas and statements of Paul in 1:16-8:30 if we take Cranfield's view, or, if we take Schreiner's view, "these things" will then mean the statements of Paul in 5:1-8:30.

The tremendous hope and confidence displayed by Paul here is noteworthy. "The magnificent and exalted style in these verses is imeediately apparent, and the beauty of the txt may be unrivalled in all of Pauline literature." [Schreiner p 456.]

Viewing 8:31-39 as a summing up either of the epistle [up to that point] or of 5:1-8:30, Paul states that God is "for us," and, as a consequence, we cannot be meaningfully nor successfully opposed.

8:31 What therefore shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

But why is God for us? Or, we might ask just how is God for us? The global answer, based on all of Romans 1:1-8:30, is that God is for us in having sent His Son to bear on His fleshly incarnate body the righteous wrath of our sin, so that we may be justified by faith, which in turn leads to [among other things] peace and friendship with God [Rom 5], a transferral from sin's usurping tyranny to the servitude of righteousness [Rom 6], and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who helps us and intercedes for us [Rom 8]. The local answer though is given by 8:32, and it mirrors to a certain degree the global answer.

8:32 [God] who indeed did not spare His own Son, but gave Him over on behalf of us all, how will he not [with His Son] freely bestow all things to us?

The argument is that God is for us because [among other things] He gave His Son over on our behalf. And, viewing this giving of His Son over on our behalf as the difficult thing, Paul asserts that the less difficult thing, namely, God's freely bestowing all things to us, will easily follow as a consequence.

With this flow of thought in tow, Paul then states:

8:33 Who shall make a charge against God's elect? God is the justifier.
8:34 Who condemns [or shall condemn] [the elect] ? Christ Jesus, who died, and what's more has been riased, is at the right hand of God, and He [Jesus] too intercedes on our behalf.
8:35 Who [or what] will separate us from Christ's love? Persecution or affliction or distress or hunger or nakeness or danger or the sword?
8:36 Just as it is written: On your account we are put to death all the day; we are reckoned as sheep for the slaughter.

Verse 8:33 is asyndetic, and verses 33-36 as a whole expand on the idea that God has done the supremely difficult thing for us, not sparing His Son, and hence he is able to very easily do all lesser things, resulting in the fact that we can have the surest and most rock-solid hope possible.

It appears that 33-34 are restatements of the same question. God, having justified us, is, being God, not wrong in doing so. Having been acquitted by the highest court that there is, nobody can make charges against us. [This passage has obvious pastoral applications to the Christian whose conscience is stricken with the terrors and knowledge of sin.] God, having raised up His Son, shall surely raise us up too in the end. And, observe that, just as the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf in 8:27, here Christ is stated to intercede on our behalf. Our intercessors are therefore not fallible, wavering beings, but are none other than the Persons of the Son and the Holy Spirit. We may have full confidence that, where such Co-belligerents intercede, they shall be successful, for God cannot fail.

And 8:35-36 continues the theme of triumphant hope: though the Christian in this world is often beset with various travails and persecution [not to mention lack of material goods, though in first world countries we don't have this problem], none of these earthly phenomena can separate us from the love Christ shows us. Verse 36 is an OT citation used by Paul to make this point: we will have travails and persecution, the world will hate us, but the world-at-large is but the height of insignificance when compared with the power of Christ, namely, His love for us.

Having listed persecution, distress, etc, as the things that one might [mistakenly] think would separate us from the love of Christ in 8:35, and giving an OT citation from Psalter 44 [seeming to imply that such things will face the Christian at one time or another], Paul rounds out this subsection of Romans 8, and indeed [if I'm correct] the entire epistle up to this point, with the following words:

8:37 But in connection with all these things we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us.

8:38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor rulers nor those things present nor those things about to nor powers

8:39 nor height nor depth nor any other created thing shall be able to separate [us] from God's love [for us] which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What are "these things" referred to in 8:37? The answer is obviously the text that immediately precedes 8:37. We may understand Paul as saying in 8:37 that "By virtue of the fact that nobody can condemn you or bring charges against you, by virtue of the fact that nobody can separate you from Christ's love, we are completely and totally victorious through God's loving agency on our behalf.

For a discussion of the terms in 8:38, reference will have to be made to the excellent commentaries out there: Murray, Moo, Morris, Cranfield, Schreiner, et al. Regardless of whatever Paul exactly meant, the list there is surely given as an emphatic statement that nothing conceivable can separate us from God's loving ultimate destiny for us.

The final summary of Romans 8:31-39 would seem to go as follows:

On the basis of what has been said so far in the epistle, we may say that God is completely for us. Since He has done the difficult thing of condemning sin in the body of His Incarnate Son, we may rest assured that nobody/nothing can successfully bring charges against us nor separate us from an eternity in full communion with God, a communion that includes Christ's love for us. Indeed, solely through God's loving agency on our behalf, the man who is justified by faith is a complete and total conqueror.

With this uplifting and triumphant note, St Paul rounds out what most consider to be the first half of this epistle.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Christian = Hatemonger

While perusing the ESPN web page, the following article caught my eye. PP Commentary follows afterward.


*********BEGIN CITATION*********
WASHINGTON -- The chapel leader for the Washington Nationals was suspended Tuesday after a flap over a repsonse to a question about Jews.

Jon Moeller will not be allowed access to the clubhouse while the team investigates. The Nationals have asked the Christian ministry Baseball Chapel, which appoints and oversees the volunteers, to provide a replacement.

According to an article published Sunday in The Washington Post, Nationals outfielder Ryan Church said he asked Moeller if Jews are "doomed" because they do not believe in Jesus. Church said Moeller nodded, the Post reported.

A team statement Tuesday quoted Church as saying he is "not the type of person who would call into question the religious beliefs of others." The statement also quoted team president Tony Tavares as saying the reported remarks "do not, in any manner, reflect the views or opinions of the Washington Nationals franchise."

Vince Nauss, president of Baseball Chapel, said the group understood the Nationals' position, but added that Moeller had served the team well. In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Nauss said the group planned to talk with the team before taking any action. Moeller could not be reached for comment.

"The Nationals did a good job about bringing hate into the locker room," said Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, who leads the city's oldest Orthodox synagogue, Ohev Sholom Talmud Torah.

Herzfeld said he met with Tavares for about 30 minutes Tuesday after denouncing the reported remarks at a news conference interrupted by security officials outside RFK Stadium.

He described the meeting with Tavares as productive, but said he would continue to follow the situation.

Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, said it would be more appropriate if non-denominational prayers were offered so players of all backgrounds could participate.
*********END CITATION*********

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2167486

PP Commentary:

(1) Actually, if we want to follow the Jew-as-victim theme, the chaplain who nodded is not to be blamed, but instead the New Testament itself, or, even more to the point, to Jesus Christ, who just happened Himself to be a Jew, and said some things that our modern culture would consider pretty exclusivistic and intolerant, and some of it was to Jews. Perhaps Jesus was a self-hating Jew, but He was a Jew nonetheless.

(2) This is the modern progressive and tolerant mind: we are allowed to believe whatever we so wish to believe, provided that

(i) We do not act on those beliefs
(ii) We do not attempt to be consistent with what our beliefs imply
(iii) We do not apply the law of the excluded middle and assert that as we hold X, the negation of X is false
(iv) We do not attempt to view our beliefs and the grounds for our beliefs as transcending the antiseptic and politically correct mindset that never asks the most important question about a belief: is it true?

(3) The rabbi who claimed that the Washington Nationals "did a good job of bringing hate into the locker room" by having a chaplain who apparently had the audacity to say that yes, Jews, who by definition deny the deity of Christ, His atoning work, etc, are in grave spiritual peril, especially in a culture where they are surrounded by opportunities to hear the true gospel preached, is another fine product of today's ask-no-hard-questions Life-As-Sensitivity-Seminar mindset.

(i) Does the rabbi in question think that his brand of Judaism is true? If so, does he then deny the assertion that according to his beliefs those who disagree are wrong? [And if he makes such a denial, why should he care then if people disagree with him?] On the other hand, if the rabbi thinks that his brand of Judaism is not true, or that it doesn't matter, why is he imposing his standards of importance and unimportance on the rest of us? That's not very tolerant, is it, especially when the rabbi is ultimately throwing in his lot with the cultural tolerance police?

(ii) The question of just how person X's believing that person Y is doomed for whatever reason implies that X "hates" Y is not answered here. In fact, it is never answered, in part because in modern society the question is not allowed to be asked in polite company. We are to group hug and have three-hankie cries with each other each time we feel existentially threatened. Then we can gorge on chocolates while watching the Lifetime Channel [or the Oxygen Channel].

(iii) The rabbi had an excellent chance to defend Judaism against Christianity, but instead decided to give a performance more worthy of a guest-spot on Oprah than somebody who is supposed to be a teacher and leader of his faith. Since I too consider his squishy brand of Judaism to not be worth defending in any meaningful way, perhaps that could be a common area of agreement between the rabbi and myself.

(4) About the line of "calling into question the religious beliefs of others" [as if that is a bad thing], this runs squarely against the idea of preaching the gospel and making disciples of all nations --- things which are clearly presented in the Bible, and, furthermore, call into question the religious beliefs of others, for when we preach the gospel to non-Christians, we are calling into question either the truth-status of their present beliefs or we're calling into question the fulness-of-truth of their beliefs.

Let's end this post on an evangelical [small-e] note: as Christians, we contend that Jesus Christ is the way, truth, and life. He is our access to the Father. It is through His person and work that miserable sinners like us are through faith reconciled to God. He is the messiah, and He is true God and true Man. We deny these truths and rail against them at our grave spiritual peril, if not our sure condemnation, Jew and non-Jew alike.

And these contentions are not just subjective preferences, as if we have chosen our beliefs willy-nilly from the Sizzler buffet bar of worldviews: we hold in the face of our modern culture that our assertions are true: IN REALITY, Jesus is the way, truth, and life. IN REALITY, He is true God and true Man, and IN REALITY his physical life and work allow sinners to be reconciled to God, to be His friends. IN REALITY, those who deny Him place themselves in grave spiritual peril.

Wisdom from Ron Paul and Davy Crockett

Ron Paul is one of the very few Republicans who actually walks the walk with regards to the supposed Republican line of smaller government and fiscal responsibility. I'm surprised the R's haven't tried to get rid of him, to be honest. Here are some thoughts of Rep. Paul regarding federal relief for Hurricane Katrina:

********BEGIN PAUL ARTICLE

Some economists estimate that rebuilding New Orleans and other areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina will cost taxpayers at least $200 billion, which may be a conservative figure considering it could takes decades to fully restore the city. The problem is that our Treasury does not have an extra $200 billion dollars on hand. This means the money either will be printed or borrowed, both of which bode ill for the American economy. Several conservatives in Congress, however, are cautioning against throwing more and more taxpayer money at the problem with no accountability. While we all want to help the victims of Katrina, we must remember that no one is better off if we create record deficits that hobble our children and grandchildren for generations.

The tragic scenes of abject poverty and distress in New Orleans prompted two emotional reactions. One side claims Katrina proves there is not enough government welfare and government spending in general. The other side claims we need to pump billions of new dollars into FEMA, the very agency that performed so badly, while giving it extraordinary new police powers. Both sides simply assume hundreds of billions of dollars in new government spending are needed. But history shows us that “compassionate” deficit spending hurts poor people the most, by devaluating the dollar.

When the Treasury prints new money, the ruling class benefits because they can cash in on inflated assets like stocks or real estate early in the cycle of printing and spending. The poor, by contrast, are totally dependent on the immediate buying power of their meager resources. A fiat money system that engenders cycles of new money and deficit spending is not the savior of the poor, but rather their worst enemy. Every new dollar makes the dollars that eventually trickle down to the poorest Americans worth less and less. Do we really believe we can resurrect New Orleans, and address the needs of her poorest citizens, by printing money out of thin air?

Katrina also has exposed the failed welfare policies of the past 60 years. In New Orleans, hundreds of thousands of impoverished citizens lacked any resources to safeguard their families and their property from the storm. Virtually everyone who stayed behind was poor. It is time to recognize that government assistance over several generations did not eradicate poverty in New Orleans, but rather created a deadly form of dependency on government.

Congress reacted to Katrina in the expected irresponsible manner. It immediately appropriated over $60 billion with little planning or debate. As with all rapid government expenditures, the amount of waste and mismanagement will be staggering. Congress knows it won’t need to raise taxes to pay the bill, because the Federal Reserve will accommodate reckless deficit spending.

My simple suggestion to my colleagues is this: Find dollar-for-dollar offsets for all hurricane relief spending while public attention remains focused on the destruction in New Orleans. Once interest in Katrina fades, other spending priorities will reassert themselves and any sense that tax dollars are finite will be lost. Congressional spending habits, in combination with our flawed monetary system, could bring us a financial whirlwind that makes Katrina look like a minor storm.

******END PAUL ARTICLE

Also, here is an interesting piece on Davy Crockett, taken from this link. It discusses the fact that charity is your spending your money ---- not the government spending the money of other people. This basic fact is missed by the major parties today, as well as all those --- even those who fancy themselves as conservatives --- who have imbibed the statist cocktail.

*********BEGIN ARTICLE

From The Life of Colonel David Crockett,
by Edward S. Ellis (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1884)

Crockett was then the lion of Washington. I was a great admirer of his character, and, having several friends who were intimate with him, I found no difficulty in making his acquaintance. I was fascinated with him, and he seemed to take a fancy to me.

I was one day in the lobby of the House of Representatives when a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support – rather, as I thought, because it afforded the speakers a fine opportunity for display than from the necessity of convincing anybody, for it seemed to me that everybody favored it. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose. Everybody expected, of course, that he was going to make one of his characteristic speeches in support of the bill. He commenced:

"Mr. Speaker – I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has no power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it. We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money. Some eloquent appeals have been made to us upon the ground that it is a debt due the deceased. Mr. Speaker, the deceased lived long after the close of the war; he was in office to the day of his death, and I have never heard that the government was in arrears to him. This government can owe no debts but for services rendered, and at a stipulated price. If it is a debt, how much is it? Has it been audited, and the amount due ascertained? If it is a debt, this is not the place to present it for payment, or to have its merits examined. If it is a debt, we owe more than we can ever hope to pay, for we owe the widow of every soldier who fought in the War of 1812 precisely the same amount. There is a woman in my neighborhood, the widow of as gallant a man as ever shouldered a musket. He fell in battle. She is as good in every respect as this lady, and is as poor. She is earning her daily bread by her daily labor; but if I were to introduce a bill to appropriate five or ten thousand dollars for her benefit, I should be laughed at, and my bill would not get five votes in this House. There are thousands of widows in the country just such as the one I have spoken of, but we never hear of any of these large debts to them. Sir, this is no debt. The government did not owe it to the deceased when he was alive; it could not contract it after he died. I do not wish to be rude, but I must be plain. Every man in this House knows it is not a debt. We cannot, without the grossest corruption, appropriate this money as the payment of a debt. We have not the semblance of authority to appropriate it as a charity. Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much of our own money as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks."

He took his seat. Nobody replied. The bill was put upon its passage, and, instead of passing unanimously, as was generally supposed, and as, no doubt, it would, but for that speech, it received but few votes, and, of course, was lost.

Like many other young men, and old ones, too, for that matter, who had not thought upon the subject, I desired the passage of the bill, and felt outraged at its defeat. I determined that I would persuade my friend Crockett to move a reconsideration the next day.

Previous engagements preventing me from seeing Crockett that night, I went early to his room the next morning and found him engaged in addressing and franking letters, a large pile of which lay upon his table.

I broke in upon him rather abruptly, by asking him what devil had possessed him to make that speech and defeat that bill yesterday. Without turning his head or looking up from his work, he replied:

"You see that I am very busy now; take a seat and cool yourself. I will be through in a few minutes, and then I will tell you all about it."

He continued his employment for about ten minutes, and when he had finished he turned to me and said:

"Now, sir, I will answer your question. But thereby hangs a tale, and one of considerable length, to which you will have to listen."

I listened, and this is the tale which I heard:

Several years ago I was one evening standing on the steps of the Capitol with some other members of Congress, when our attention was attracted by a great light over in Georgetown. It was evidently a large fire. We jumped into a hack and drove over as fast as we could. When we got there, I went to work, and I never worked as hard in my life as I did there for several hours. But, in spite of all that could be done, many houses were burned and many families made homeless, and, besides, some of them had lost all but the clothes they had on. The weather was very cold, and when I saw so many women and children suffering, I felt that something ought to be done for them, and everybody else seemed to feel the same way.

The next morning a bill was introduced appropriating $20,000 for their relief. We put aside all other business and rushed it through as soon as it could be done. I said everybody felt as I did. That was not quite so; for, though they perhaps sympathized as deeply with the sufferers as I did, there were a few of the members who did not think we had the right to indulge our sympathy or excite our charity at the expense of anybody but ourselves. They opposed the bill, and upon its passage demanded the yeas and nays. There were not enough of them to sustain the call, but many of us wanted our names to appear in favor of what we considered a praiseworthy measure, and we voted with them to sustain it. So the yeas and nays were recorded, and my name appeared on the journals in favor of the bill.

The next summer, when it began to be time to think about the election, I concluded I would take a scout around among the boys of my district. I had no opposition there, but, as the election was some time off, I did not know what might turn up, and I thought it was best to let the boys know that I had not forgot them, and that going to Congress had not made me too proud to go to see them.

So I put a couple of shirts and a few twists of tobacco into my saddlebags, and put out. I had been out about a week and had found things going very smoothly, when, riding one day in a part of my district in which I was more of a stranger than any other, I saw a man in a field plowing and coming toward the road. I gauged my gait so that we should meet as he came to the fence. As he came up I spoke to the man. He replied politely, but, as I thought, rather coldly, and was about turning his horse for another furrow when I said to him: "Don't be in such a hurry, my friend; I want to have a little talk with you, and get better acquainted."

He replied: "I am very busy, and have but little time to talk, but if it does not take too long, I will listen to what you have to say."

I began: "Well, friend, I am one of those unfortunate beings called candidates, and – "

"'Yes, I know you; you are Colonel Crockett. I have seen you once before, and voted for you the last time you were elected. I suppose you are out electioneering now, but you had better not waste your time or mine. I shall not vote for you again.'

This was a sockdolager... I begged him to tell me what was the matter.

"Well, Colonel, it is hardly worthwhile to waste time or words upon it. I do not see how it can be mended, but you gave a vote last winter which shows that either you have not capacity to understand the Constitution, or that you are wanting in honesty and firmness to be guided by it. In either case you are not the man to represent me. But I beg your pardon for expressing it in that way. I did not intend to avail myself of the privilege of the Constitution to speak plainly to a candidate for the purpose of insulting or wounding you. I intend by it only to say that your understanding of the Constitution is very different from mine; and I will say to you what, but for my rudeness, I should not have said, that I believe you to be honest. But an understanding of the Constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the more honest he is."

"I admit the truth of all you say, but there must be some mistake about it, for I do not remember that I gave any vote last winter upon any constitutional question."

"No, Colonel, there's no mistake. Though I live here in the backwoods and seldom go from home, I take the papers from Washington and read very carefully all the proceedings of Congress. My papers say that last winter you voted for a bill to appropriate $20,000 to some sufferers by a fire in Georgetown. Is that true?"

"Certainly it is, and I thought that was the last vote which anybody in the world would have found fault with."

"Well, Colonel, where do you find in the Constitution any authority to give away the public money in charity?"

Here was another sockdolager; for, when I began to think about it, I could not remember a thing in the Constitution that authorized it. I found I must take another tack, so I said:

"Well, my friend; I may as well own up. You have got me there. But certainly nobody will complain that a great and rich country like ours should give the insignificant sum of $20,000 to relieve its suffering women and children, particularly with a full and overflowing Treasury, and I am sure, if you had been there, you would have done just as I did."

"It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing to do with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be entrusted to man, particularly under our system of collecting revenue by a tariff, which reaches every man in the country, no matter how poor he may be, and the poorer he is the more he pays in proportion to his means. What is worse, it presses upon him without his knowledge where the weight centers, for there is not a man in the United States who can ever guess how much he pays to the government. So you see, that while you are contributing to relieve one, you are drawing it from thousands who are even worse off than he. If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity. Individual members may give as much of their own money as they please, but they have no right to touch a dollar of the public money for that purpose. If twice as many houses had been burned in this county as in Georgetown, neither you nor any other member of Congress would have thought of appropriating a dollar for our relief. There are about two hundred and forty members of Congress. If they had shown their sympathy for the sufferers by contributing each one week's pay, it would have made over $13,000. There are plenty of wealthy men in and around Washington who could have given $20,000 without depriving themselves of even a luxury of life. The Congressmen chose to keep their own money, which, if reports be true, some of them spend not very creditably; and the people about Washington, no doubt, applauded you for relieving them from the necessity of giving by giving what was not yours to give. The people have delegated to Congress, by the Constitution, the power to do certain things. To do these, it is authorized to collect and pay moneys, and for nothing else. Everything beyond this is usurpation, and a violation of the Constitution."

I have given you an imperfect account of what he said. Long before he was through, I was convinced that I had done wrong. He wound up by saying:

"So you see, Colonel, you have violated the Constitution in what I consider a vital point. It is a precedent fraught with danger to the country, for when Congress once begins to stretch its power beyond the limits of the Constitution, there is no limit to it, and no security for the people. I have no doubt you acted honestly, but that does not make it any better, except as far as you are personally concerned, and you see that I cannot vote for you."

I tell you I felt streaked. I saw if I should have opposition, and this man should go talking, he would set others to talking, and in that district I was a gone fawn-skin. I could not answer him, and the fact is, I did not want to. But I must satisfy him, and I said to him:

"Well, my friend, you hit the nail upon the head when you said I had not sense enough to understand the Constitution. I intended to be guided by it, and thought I had studied it full. I have heard many speeches in Congress about the powers of Congress, but what you have said there at your plow has got more hard, sound sense in it than all the fine speeches I ever heard. If I had ever taken the view of it that you have, I would have put my head into the fire before I would have given that vote; and if you will forgive me and vote for me again, if I ever vote for another unconstitutional law I wish I may be shot."

He laughingly replied:

"Yes, Colonel, you have sworn to that once before, but I will trust you again upon one condition. You say that you are convinced that your vote was wrong. Your acknowledgment of it will do more good than beating you for it. If, as you go around the district, you will tell people about this vote, and that you are satisfied it was wrong, I will not only vote for you, but will do what I can to keep down opposition, and, perhaps, I may exert some little influence in that way."

"If I don't," said I, "I wish I may be shot; and to convince you that I am in earnest in what I say, I will come back this way in a week or ten days, and if you will get up a gathering of the people, I will make a speech to them. Get up a barbecue, and I will pay for it."

"No, Colonel, we are not rich people in this section, but we have plenty of provisions to contribute for a barbecue, and some to spare for those who have none. The push of crops will be over in a few days, and we can then afford a day for a barbecue. This is Thursday; I will see to getting it up on Saturday week. Come to my house on Friday, and we will go together, and I promise you a very respectable crowd to see and hear you."

"Well, I will be here. But one thing more before I say good-bye. I must know your name."

"My name is Bunce."

"Not Horatio Bunce?"

"Yes."

"Well, Mr. Bunce, I never saw you before, though you say you have seen me; but I know you very well. I am glad I have met you, and very proud that I may hope to have you for my friend. You must let me shake your hand before I go."

We shook hands and parted.

It was one of the luckiest hits of my life that I met him. He mingled but little with the public, but was widely known for his remarkable intelligence and incorruptible integrity, and for a heart brimful and running over with kindness and benevolence, which showed themselves not only in words but in acts. He was the oracle of the whole country around him, and his fame had extended far beyond the circle of his immediate acquaintance. Though I had never met him before, I had heard much of him, and but for this meeting it is very likely I should have had opposition, and had been beaten. One thing is very certain, no man could now stand up in that district under such a vote.

At the appointed time I was at his house, having told our conversation to every crowd I had met, and to every man I stayed all night with, and I found that it gave the people an interest and a confidence in me stronger than I had ever seen manifested before.

Though I was considerably fatigued when I reached his house, and, under ordinary circumstances, should have gone early to bed, I kept him up until midnight, talking about the principles and affairs of government, and got more real, true knowledge of them than I had got all my life before.

I have told you Mr. Bunce converted me politically. He came nearer converting me religiously than I had ever been before. He did not make a very good Christian of me, as you know; but he has wrought upon my mind a conviction of the truth of Christianity, and upon my feelings a reverence for its purifying and elevating power such as I had never felt before.

I have known and seen much of him since, for I respect him – no, that is not the word – I reverence and love him more than any living man, and I go to see him two or three times every year; and I will tell you, sir, if everyone who professes to be a Christian lived and acted and enjoyed it as he does, the religion of Christ would take the world by storm.

But to return to my story. The next morning we went to the barbecue, and, to my surprise, found about a thousand men there. I met a good many whom I had not known before, and they and my friend introduced me around until I had got pretty well acquainted – at least, they all knew me.

In due time notice was given that I would speak to them. They gathered around a stand that had been erected. I opened my speech by saying:

"Fellow citizens – I present myself before you today feeling like a new man. My eyes have lately been opened to truths which ignorance or prejudice, or both, had heretofore hidden from my view. I feel that I can today offer you the ability to render you more valuable service than I have ever been able to render before. I am here today more for the purpose of acknowledging my error than to seek your votes. That I should make this acknowledgment is due to myself as well as to you. Whether you will vote for me is a matter for your consideration only."

I went on to tell them about the fire and my vote for the appropriation as I have told it to you, and then told them why I was satisfied it was wrong. I closed by saying:

"And now, fellow citizens, it remains only for me to tell you that the most of the speech you have listened to with so much interest was simply a repetition of the arguments by which your neighbor, Mr. Bunce, convinced me of my error.

"It is the best speech I ever made in my life, but he is entitled to the credit of it. And now I hope he is satisfied with his convert and that he will get up here and tell you so."

He came upon the stand and said:

"Fellow citizens – It affords me great pleasure to comply with the request of Colonel Crockett. I have always considered him a thoroughly honest man, and I am satisfied that he will faithfully perform all that he has promised you today."

He went down, and there went up from the crowd such a shout for Davy Crockett as his name never called forth before.

I am not much given to tears, but I was taken with a choking then and felt some big drops rolling down my cheeks. And I tell you now that the remembrance of those few words spoken by such a man, and the honest, hearty shout they produced, is worth more to me than all the honors I have received and all the reputation I have ever made, or ever shall make, as a member of Congress.

"Now, Sir," concluded Crockett, "you know why I made that speech yesterday. I have had several thousand copies of it printed and was directing them to my constituents when you came in.

"There is one thing now to which I will call your attention. You remember that I proposed to give a week's pay. There are in that House many very wealthy men – men who think nothing of spending a week's pay, or a dozen of them for a dinner or a wine party when they have something to accomplish by it. Some of those same men made beautiful speeches upon the great debt of gratitude which the country owed the deceased – a debt which could not be paid by money, particularly so insignificant a sum as $10,000, when weighed against the honor of the nation. Yet not one of them responded to my proposition. Money with them is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people. But it is the one great thing for which most of them are striving, and many of them sacrifice honor, integrity, and justice to obtain it."

*****END ARTICLE

Hopefully nobody will see through this ruse to post something while I'm finishing up the serious material on Romans 8:12-39 !!