Monday, 20 February 2017

Monday quote

Where a reputation for intolerance is more feared than a reputation for vice itself, all manner of evil may be expected to flourish.

Theodore Dalrymple

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Diversity in truth

Christians often say that differences are good, and diversity is to be celebrated. This is all very good when it comes to evangelising all the nations, and recognising that we have different personalities, and God gives various gifts. Not everyone in the church needs to have the same favourite meal, or drive the same car.

But there is a problem with applauding differences in our post modern age. Not all differences are good. Some differences are bad. They may be useful, but still best avoided.

An obvious example: it is not good that some Christians oppose murder and others think it a good idea. It is not good that some Christians think that Jesus literally rose from the dead and other read this figuratively. Or try: it is not good that some Christians oppose fornication and others don't have a problem with it.

God is a God of truth. And in as much as a value has a truth component then all men are better off believing this truth; especially in the church.

Now this is not going to be the case. God takes us where we are are makes us like Christ. It can be difficult to jettison cultural values we have accrued but are in opposition to kingdom values. This is okay, and we grow in Christ and the strong are gracious with the weak. Nevertheless, this is not saying that it is good that Christians have different views on truth. We may have different perspectives on complicated issues. But in as much as we resolve these perspectives, our beliefs will increasingly align with Jesus. Paul says
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)
There are a range of things we need to do as Christians, not the least works of obedience. Paul says that we are also to renew our minds. We are to modify our thinking to conform it to God's. By this we understand God's will. By this we know what is good, what is acceptable, what is perfect.

Likewise to the Philippians he writes
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, (Phi 1:9-10)
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, (Phi 1:27)
It is the case that we will (initially) differ in our thoughts about some things. But this is not a good thing, it merely is. We are to strive for like-mindedness. This suggests—at least in part—a common cause. But extends to knowledge and discernment.

Elsewhere Paul notes disagreement among the Corinthians.
I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. (1Co 11:18-19)
Does this suggest that at times disagreements over truth and doctrine are good? Not at all. Such disagreements may be useful, but it is certainly problematic if you are the example of error by which others are commended. Just before this Paul writes,
But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. (1Co 11:17)
Disagreements are not to be commended. It is the case the Paul was rebuking behaviour that led to people being left out. Even so, he rebukes their behaviour saying this is how they are to act. This is the truth of the matter and your behaviour is to align with this. Their factions may have been useful in demonstrating those who were in the right; still, best not be in the errant faction.

Now it is possible to be correct and be churlish about it. No one should want to be that guy. We are to speak the truth in love. But be wary of those who celebrate diversity of opinion in matters of truth. They may happen to be right on a particular point. But they may also wish to hold false views while refusing to accept correction. And let not a cheerful disposition deceive you. Falsehood with a veneer of niceness is diabolical all the way down.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Monday quote

If Yahweh is to be their Savior, Baal must go. Baal may be tolerant, but Yahweh is jealous. There can be no "limping between two opinions"

Dale Ralph Davis, Such a Great Salvation.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

James and Paul on justifying faith

Paul and James both write about justification by faith. Paul says it is by faith without works and James says that it is faith and works. Moreover, they both use Abraham as an exemplar.

Paul writes
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Rom 3:21-4:8)
Whereas James writes
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (Jam 2:14-26)
What should be noted is firstly, Paul is talking about works of the Mosaic Law, not doing works in general. Secondly, James is contrasting faith with faith; Paul is contrasting faith with works.

James is declaring the type of faith that justifies. Faith justifies. But one cannot just say he has faith, i.e. he believes such and such. The demons believe certain things and are not justified. We have faith by trusting. Trusting is proved in obedience. Anyone who does not obey does not trust. So faith isn't a word that means "believe" or "trust", rather it carries actual trust. Faith is more orbed than what those who were challenging James were claiming. James is saying that when we are talking about justifying faith, faith means something that both believes certain things and acts on those beliefs.

Paul is not addressing this aspect when he talks about faith. Paul is discussing the issue of earning one's salvation. Paul is not contrasting faith with faith a la James, Paul is contrasting faith with works; and in a way that addresses the aspect of working (obeying the Mosaic Law) as a way of earning salvation.

So the Jew who is obeying the Law as a way to get into heaven is told this will not get you into heaven. You don't get into heaven by doing what God commands because you will fail. You can't earn your way there, you must have faith in God.

But the man who knows that faith and not works is the way of salvation may be tempted to rest in just believing God exists. He needs to know that faith in God for salvation is deeper than just acknowledging his existence.

So if you are trying to earn your way to heaven you need to know that you can't. You must have faith. If you think that this faith is merely an intellectual assent that God exists and that Jesus rose from the dead then you need to know that it is not, faith is active.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Abortion and pro-life credentials

Matthew Lee Anderson argues for abortion being an important focus of the pro-life movement. He titles his article "People criticize pro-lifers for focusing so much on abortion. But there’s a reason we do."
Beneath these disputes lies a simple charge: Pro-lifers care about what happens in the womb, and nothing beyond it. Such a depiction is almost certainly a caricature. And yet it aggravates a real phenomenon: The pro-life movement has emphasized embryos in the womb for reasons that go to the heart of being “pro-life” itself.
And he makes some interesting arguments for why this is the case.

Yet I think that this is a problem with applying reason to something that is intended to be rhetorical. "Anti-abortion" used to be a term used by groups who oppose abortion. But it was seen as negative term. "Pro-life" was a more positive term and potentially more rhetorically effective. Perhaps it was. But to expand the term to cover all sorts of other issues takes away the focus from abortion. Now some of the other so-called pro-life positions may be worth addressing: the debate over euthanasia comes to mind. Some are particularly unhelpful, such as opposition to capital punishment or war. This equivocates on killing and conflates innocent humans with those who are not innocent, or those killing the innocent with those who may be protecting the innocent.

But whatever the merit of other "pro-life" positions, the emphasis on everything else except abortion takes the focus off abortion. Wilberforce fought against slavery. Perhaps rather than antislavery we could frame his fight as pro-liberty. And what other concerns should pro-liberty have? Opposing excessive taxation. Opposing laws that limit our freedoms? These other issues have merit and their relationship to slavery may be even closer than many people realise. Nevertheless, such an insistence on these other issues changes the focus of the fight which is reforming and removing laws concerning slavery.

Abortion is a battle worth fighting on its own. A man need not prove his credentials that he is "pro-life" however his opponents define this. Perhaps it is time to re-use "anti-abortion". Do we need to use a positive term for rhetorical effectiveness? God, after all, hates idolatry (Deu 16:22), wickedness (Psa 45:7), false witnesses (Pro 6:19), and arrogant men (Pro 6:17).

Monday, 6 February 2017

Monday quote

What a movement needs for its own survival is not a set of concessions won in the past, though these may be celebrated, but an inventory of demands still outstanding, grievances still unassuaged, and "enemies" still to be dealt with.

Thomas Sowell, Affirmative Action Around the World.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The right to promiscuity

Ex-feminist Kristen Hatten gave a speech to a pro-life group on the connection between Marxism and feminism. A moderately interesting read; interesting that she was not familiar with the history of communism until more recently. This suggests that a large number of people, and especially Millennials, may be ignorant of the evils of Stalin and Mao and not nearly cautious enough about socialist and atheist ideology.

Unrelated to communism but commenting about attaching the pro-life movement to other objectives she mentions a scene from King of the Hill which is somewhat perceptive
There was one episode where Bobby, the little boy, got really into Christian ROCK. His mom was all for it, because she was just happy her boy was into Jesus. But the dad, old uptight Hank Hill, wasn't into it. And the entire episode you're sitting there thinking, c'mon Hank, lighten up! So there's a little bit of ROCK involved. He's still loving Jesus!

At the end of the episode Hank takes his son into the garage and hands him this box and says open it up. And inside the box are all these lame old things that Bobby used to think were cool. Like, imagine Pokemon being in that box in like ten years, although Pokemon may never die, it seems. But Bobby looks at all these old toys and says, “Yeah, these are lame, I was such a baby.”

And Hank says, “Son, one day soon, this Christian ROCK is going to go into this box. And I don't want Jesus going in there with it.” 
Now this may have been as much of a slur—an unwarranted one—on Christian rock music. Nor are these types of concerns necessarily likely to actualise. Though it does remind us to keep the central things central.

Considering abortion: recently there has been media coverage of women protesting the president in the United States. Other than the odd idea that women's liberty amounts to little more than unfettered access to abortion, modern protest signs and props for solidarity among women are most intriguing. This is not new but I had not noticed the connection before.

Modern women protest with a focus on vaginas; the ignorance of many, including adult women, of the difference between a vulva and a vagina not withstanding. The vagina is the symbol. Rhetorically this focuses on coitus. Women are justifying their sexual liberty and condemning those who would restrict sex. The focus is on the right to promiscuity. We see the same message in a slut walk.

Except this symbol has not been the focus of womanhood previously. The symbols of a women were not vaginas but wombs and breasts. The focus was not on the ability to have sex, rather the ability to conceive and carry a child. And after birth to nurture through nursing. This change kind of makes sense in a perverse way. The freedom to have sex and avoid pregnancy, or remove the child if one inadvertently gets pregnant, would not well be served by the symbols of fertility, parity and lactation.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Monday quote

If you go to a theater for a $10 flick, and you hand the cashier a $20, you expect $10 in change, not $5 or $2. It doesn't matter that in "his truth" or in "his story" $5 + $10 = $20, the real truth is that $10 + $10 = $20, and nobody can tell you different. Even if you are a card-carrying post-modern, some things are absolutely true. Math is one of them, at least when you are buying and selling using your own money.

Tom Pittman

Monday, 23 January 2017

Monday quote

It had never occurred to me, as a general moral principle, that two educated men were for ever forbidden to talk sense about a particular topic, because a lot of other people had already voted on it. What is the matter with that attitude is the loss of the freedom of the mind. There can be no liberty of thought unless it is ready to unsettle what has recently been settled, as well as what has long been settled. We are perpetually being told in the papers that what is wanted is a strong man who will do things. What is wanted is a strong man who will undo things; and that will be a real test of strength.

GK Chesterton

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Hypocrisy: false virtue signalling or injustice

The New York times references a study on why we dislike hypocrites.
We contend that the reason people dislike hypocrites is that their outspoken moralizing falsely signals their own virtue. People object, in other words, to the misleading implication — not to a failure of will or a weakness of character.
The authors blame the issue of honesty: hypocrites signal virtue that they do not have

I don't think this rightly identifies the reason we dislike hypocrisy, though in part this may be due to the definition of hypocrisy. From the abstract
We propose that hypocrites are disliked because their condemnation sends a false signal about their personal conduct, deceptively suggesting that they behave morally. We show that verbal condemnation signals moral goodness (Study 1) and does so even more convincingly than directly stating that one behaves morally (Study 2). We then demonstrate that people judge hypocrites negatively — even more negatively than people who directly make false statements about their morality (Study 3). Finally, we show that “honest” hypocrites — who avoid false signaling by admitting to committing the condemned transgression — are not perceived negatively even though their actions contradict their stated values (Study 4). Critically, the same is not true of hypocrites who engage in false signaling but admit to unrelated transgressions (Study 5).
Hypocrisy is more than not practising what you preach. Paul noted that some preach the gospel out of envy and that, motives wrong, at least Christ is preached (Phi 1:15). Their false virtue signalling, while rejected by him, did not put him him out of sorts (though perhaps Paul was able to identify a benefit that most cannot?). I am not so sure that we dislike hypocrisy because we encounter people fail to live up to what they claim.

The issue of hypocrisy is more in the condemnation aspect of it. Hypocrites do more than just fail to live their morals. Rather that they exempt themselves from the rules for specious reasons while asking others to abide by them. It is as if you and they are being judged in the same court for the same thing and they are the judge. Then they condemn you and acquit themselves.

It is an attack on justice. Not so much an issue of honesty, that they falsely claim their virtue; but an issue of injustice, where a hypocrite demonstrates that he is, in fact, an unjust person and yet he takes on the role of judge and jury.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Monday quote

How quickly death unrobes the great.

Charles Spurgeon, (1834–1892).

Friday, 13 January 2017

Husband help

While men can be unobservant to a fault, their wives can have unreasonable expectations and they can find the negative in genuine attempts at helpfulness. Ingratitude will make a husband believe that while he needs to be kind, at times it does not seem to be worth it. Here is some (increasingly difficult) suggested advice.

Wives, if you are expecting to do a job and your husband does it for you; don't complain, be grateful.

If he completes the job
  • Don't complain that he did not do the job the way you would do it;
  • Be grateful that you do not have to do the job.

If he does not do the job to your standards
  • Don't complain that the job is substandard;
  • Be grateful the job is essentially done and can be quickly spruced up.

If he doesn't finish the job
  • Don't complain the job is incomplete;
  • Be grateful that there is a smaller job to do than otherwise.

If he creates as much work as he saves
  • Don't complain that he created work for you, he didn't;
  • Be grateful he is wanting to help.

If, in the unlikely scenario, he creates more work than he saves
  • Don't complain about all the work he caused you;
  • Be grateful he made a gesture;
  • And if this happens on a regular basis, let him know at an appropriate time that he may be better suited to other tasks.
And whatever you do, don't ask a man to do a job for you while he if actively doing it.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Monday quote

We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. Therefore, to the same natural effects we must, so far as possible, assign the same causes.

Isaac Newton

Monday, 2 January 2017

Monday quote

If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.

Mark Twain.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Monday quote

This is the wisdom that acknowledges the small are great, the last are first, the humble are exalted, and the servants are lords. For those who think in carnal categories, power is always power over, and this means that for them the difference between white magic and black magic has to be power over for good ends, and power over for evil ends. But the gospel is power under. Jesus humbled himself in obedience, even to the point of death on a cross, and God has therefore highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name.

Douglas Wilson


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