Monday, 29 April 2013

Monday quote

In those days he was wiser than he is now—he used to frequently take my advice.

Winston Churchill (1874–1965).

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The semantic range of "to be"

Don Carson discusses several meanings for the linking verb "to be". He lists
  1. Identity
  2. Attribute
  3. Cause
  4. Resemblance
  5. Fulfilment
Examples of these 5
  1. A cat is an animal
  2. The coat is leather
  3. Listening is wisdom
  4. People are sheep
  5. That is what I said would happen
We can expand these sentences to restrict the semantic range of "is" and remove potential ambiguity by modifying the verb.
  1. The cat belongs to the group animal
  2. The coat is made of leather
  3. Listening makes a person wise
  4. People behave like sheep
  5. This event corresponds to what I said would happen
Note that Identity is not always Equivalence. Equivalence is a special case of Identity where the subject and object can be interchanged such as "Clark Kent is Superman" or "aubergines are eggplants".

A 6th category (or perhaps a special case of "Attribute") is "Temporal/ Spatial," "the coat is on the floor."

Identity and Attribute can be essential (always belonging to the subject) or incidental (happening to belong to the subject).

Carson discusses this using the Greek verb (eimi) which appears to have a similar semantic range to English. His examples from the Bible are
  1. Is the law sin? (Rom 7:7)
  2. No one is good except God alone. (Mar 10:18)
  3. To be carnally minded is death (Rom 8:6)
  4. The tongue is a fire. (Jam 3:6)
  5. This is what was spoken by the prophet (Act 2:16)
The context usually makes the meaning of "to be" clear, but discussion is needed about what is meant when there is ambiguity. Disputable or ambiguous passages include "this is my body" and "the Word was God".

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Nebuchanezzar and the kings of Judah

Synchronisms of the reigning years for Nebuchanezzar king of Babylon and the kings of Judah. A is for accession year. Dates from Jeremiah, Kings, and Chronicles.

I date Jehoiakim's reign commencing c. 560 BC.

Nebuchadnezzar Jehoiakim Jehoiachin Zedekiah
A 3
1 4
2 5
3 6
4 7
5 8
6 9
7 10
8 11 A A















Relevant texts: 2 Kings 23:36; 2 Kings 24:1; 2 Kings 24:12-14; 2 Kings 24:18; 2 Kings 25:1-4; 2 Kings 25:8-9; 2 Chronicles 36:5; 2 Chronicles 36:9-11; Jeremiah 1:1-3; Jeremiah 25:1; Jeremiah 25:8-12; Jeremiah 32:1; Jeremiah 38:28; Jeremiah 46:2; Jeremiah 52:1; Jeremiah 52:4-7; Jeremiah 52:12; Jeremiah 52:27-31; Daniel 1:1.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Significant passages on suffering

To come to a right perspective on suffering one needs to understand 3 significant passages of Scripture. There may be more but at minimum there are 3 aspects it would do well to fully comprehend. The 3 passages are found in Genesis, Job, and the Gospels.
  1. Genesis 1-3 gives us the nature of the created world and the Fall of man.
  2. Job discusses the suffering of the righteous.
  3. The Gospels, especially the latter aspects of them, teaches us about redemption of suffering.

So the passages cover the:
  1. Reason suffering exists;
  2. Righteous suffering; and
  3. Redemption of suffering.
The 3 passages primarily address each of these, though they also give us insight into the other 2.

The world was broken by man when he choose disobedience over life. The world created perfect is now flawed as a result of Adam's sin. The choice to eat what they were forbidden to brought sin, suffering and death into this world. The entire universe suffered as a result of man's disobedience. All suffering came after this event and is caused by it. It is unlikely people can overestimate how great was our fall from grace. It is imperative to grasp that no sadness, pain or death existed in the world before the Fall; and that all suffering resulted from it.

While the suffering of the wicked may appear consistent with justice, the suffering of the righteous seems unfair. And while all men are sinners, including Job, suffering is frequently not the result of personal sin. The innocent frequently suffer because of others. This strikes us as extremely unjust. The story of Job addresses this and teaches us that, contrary Job's friend's advice, the righteous do suffer. There is much to learn from Job including that suffering can do good. Not that suffering is good, rather it can produce good; God brings good out of evil, sometimes greater good than would have been had the evil not occurred, but woe to him who brings about evil (Mar 9:42; Rom 6:1-2).

Jesus is the quintessential example of the righteous sufferer. The 3 aspects mentioned above occur in these and other passages. However we also learn about God's redemption of suffering. The death and resurrection of Jesus an enormous good out of such a horrendous evil. And God used it to redeem us. The death and resurrection work against the very core of suffering and removes it. It allows for God to completely do away with suffering. Sin, suffering, evil, sadness, pain and death itself are on their way out and will be no more.

Monday, 22 April 2013

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, "A Horror Story."

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Looking at the other guests

In an post about the gospel I discussed faith versus work in passing, but wish to expand on this further. We have Paul saying that faith not work saves (Eph 2:8-9) and James telling us faith without works is dead (Jam 2:14). And if both Paul and James were preaching the same gospel we need to resolve these and other statements.

No helping the issue is a definition of "work" by some which makes "work" a synonym of "do", and sometimes even "think"; but Greek has many words too.

Now clearly we do not gain salvation by works,
Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. (Rom 9:31-32)

Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Gal 2:16)
 Yet we have much work to do, even Paul tells us this.
  • For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10)
  • Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. (1Ti 2:9-10)
  • All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2Ti 3:16-17)
  • Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Tit 2:7-8)
  • Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Tit 2:13-14)
  • The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. (Tit 3:8)
  • let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. (Tit 3:14)
So there is plenty for us to do.

Now it is clear that Paul does not equate working with doing or thinking for he tells us what we must do in order to be saved,
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
Confessing being something we do and believing being something we think.

Israel had it wrong because they were trying to earn their salvation. When Paul contrasts faith and work he is contrasting the gift freely given with the wages someone earns. Much of my activity could be considered work in that we are performing an action; expending energy—we could measure the wattage even and find a manpower to horsepower ratio. When we work for another we are earning wages whether we do that by manual or intellectual labour; or in Pauline terms obedience to God's Law. But we are fully incapable of obeying perfectly. We cannot earn the wages of obedience that we may buy salvation, we are only capable of earning the wages of sin and we don't like what that purchases  (Rom 6:23).

Isaiah teaches us as much,
Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live; (Isa 55:1-3)
God invites us to buy, but it is not with money we have earned. No, it is without cost. God gives to us freely. Certainly drinking and eating are activities and perhaps work in some men's eyes, but such activity is not earning and the feast is not paid for by us. Let us stop equivocating with the word "work" and consider are we trying to earn our way with God, or trusting him for what he has done? James can say that faith without works is dead because the work he is referring does not result in wages, it is not earning one's salvation. Such work is obedience to a God who saves us. If we are not eating at the feast we can hardly say we have accepted the invitation. Delighting yourself in rich food is not sitting at the table looking at the other guests.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Evidence and policy

I wanted to link to this column for the money quote.
Well, he’s a bishop, and churchmen don’t get listened to except when they say something insane.
I thought of using it as a stand alone quote but context helps somewhat here. The media ignore the church when she states the truth if the truth is offensive to their politically correct ears. But the nutcases....

West goes on to say,
People in more traditional relationships are more likely to vote Conservative – married women are far more likely to vote Tory or Republican than unmarried ones, so it makes sense for conservative parties to encourage conservative lifestyles. Financially punishing stay at home mums is a strange move for a Conservative government,
to which my immediate response was that conservative governments are not particularly conservative. West subsequently notes this,
The reason for this is probably that the British Conservative leadership are not really culturally conservative;
The article is quite good, my partial disagreement is with this comment,
Yet the whole point of evidence-based policy is that evidence is morally neutral; whether it’s offensive is irrelevant.
I am not certain it is morally neutral. Nevertheless, the problem here is that policy is not derived from evidence based research. Evidence can contribute to policy stating whether something works how it is intended, or not. But this is the is/ought problem. Ineffectual policy may be pointless, but effectual policy remains a moral decision. If seatbelts do not save lives it would be silly to legislate for them; yet if they do save lives this is not reason to mandate them. Personal liberty and responsibility may be overriding factors. I am not certain West would disagree with me here. I mention it as I constantly see evidence of benefit conflated with policy.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Daniel's Chaldean education

I have previously been asked how Daniel's service to King Nebuchadnezzar can be reconciled.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah.

As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.

In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. (Daniel 1:1-6; 1:17-2:1. Emphases are the chronological data in this passage.)
The beginning of Daniel's time in Babylon is dated to Jehoiakim's 3rd year at which time Nebuchanezzar was called king. Daniel and his 3 friends were to be educated for 3 years. At the end of the 3 years they were brought before Nebuchadnezzar and found competent. In Nebuchanezzar's 2nd year he has a dream and orders the wise men to be killed as they are unable to tell him the dream. Daniel tells him the dream and interprets it then he is promoted to ruler over the province of Babylon.

So how can Daniel be educated in 3 years and subsequently appear before Nebuchadnezzar after only 2 years?

It seems likely that the events surrounding the dream occur after Daniel and his friends complete their training. While having Daniel appear before the king during his training may solve the chronological problem, it raises other problems, such as how Daniel would be promoted yet remain in training.

Here are some possible solutions.

Accuracy of number
The number could be miscopied. It is likely that many minor numerical copy errors crept into the Hebrew text before the numbers came to be written out in full. Alphabetical glyphs doubled as numerical glyphs in Hebrew and several letters were similar in form. The resolution would be to say that this event was not in Nebuchanezzar's second year but some time later.

Accession reckoning
The year Nebuchadnezzar brought Daniel to Babylon may have been his accession year. Nebuchadnezzar came to the throne during the year, the remainder of the year is his accession year if the Chaldeans used accession reckoning. The New Year marks the beginning of his first regnal year. By Nebuchadnezzar's second year Daniel had trained for parts of 3 years: accession, regnal 1, regnal 2. Hebrew reckoning includes parts of a year so this would be considered 3 years.

The first chronological datum above references King Jehoiakim's 3rd year, not Nebuchadnezzar's reign. Nebuchadnezzar is called a king but this event may have occurred before he became king thus anachronistic. He subsequently became king and the author refers to him as such, much as we could refer to, say, when King David was born.

Nebuchadnezzar may have been a coregent. If Nebuchadnezzar was made a coregent with the previous king then his own rulership would be dated from when he became sole king, usually on the death of the previous king. Jeremiah tells us that the 4th year of Jehoiakim was the 1st year of Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 25:1). It is possible that Daniel's mention of Jehoiakim's 3rd year was the previous year, which may have been Nebuchadnezzar's accession year (as per the above option).

It is important to bring all the chronological information to bear on biblical chronological problems, as well as the cultural, textual and linguistic issues before concluding errors. Not all solutions are realistic, but neither are all problems real.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Pyongyang University of Science and Technology

James Chin-Kyung Kim is a South Korean-American who set up a university in North Korea. From 2009,
Kim, who had emigrated from South Korea to the United States in the 1970s, had been a frequent visitor to Pyongyang over the years in pursuit of what, to many, seemed at best a quixotic cause. He wanted to start an international university in Pyongyang, with courses in English, an international faculty, computers, and Internet connections for all the students. 
Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) is the first private university in North Korea.

It is most impressive that Kim has been able to do this after he was held in a North Korean prison as a spy.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Monday quote

Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.

Edward Abbey (1927–1989), A Voice Crying in the Wilderness

Monday, 8 April 2013

Monday quote

Man and coyote both eat chickens. But the more coyotes the fewer chickens, while the more men the more chickens.

James Wanliss, Resisting the Green Dragon, p.30.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Christianity and homosexuality. Part 4

So far I have discussed the issue of anatomy and physiology, the commands of Scripture, and the lack of children as it relates to homosexuality. Our biological design makes it clear that heterosexuality is our purpose and that homosexuality thwarts this. The Bible clearly prohibits sodomy and catamy (1Co 6:9-11). And raising godly children is a reason for marriage.

This information grants us enough for obedience. It is clear how God designed sexuality and God has forbidden us from misuse. Though this does not directly address the question why, which was my friend's question,
I can’t see why God would have a problem with homosexuality, assuming that is was ‘good’ homosexuality. We have many, many examples of ‘bad’ heterosexuality. If we take all of what we say a monogamous, loving, ‘Godly’, heterosexual marriage should be and call that a ‘good’ relationship then I can’t see any difference if you just slotted in the word homosexual instead of heterosexual.
What I wish to do here is consider why this might be the case. A knife may not be as effective as a screwdriver but is is not immoral to use it as one.

We need to remember that we are created and God is eternal; our perspective is often anthrocentric but the universe is actually Christocentric. The Godhead is eternal and everything derives from him. As such material things are often reflections of eternal things. Jesus is the son of God but this is not a biological relationship. He did not become the son of God because he was born of Mary via the Holy Spirit, he is the son of God by virtue of his relationship to the Father, of which human sonship is a reflection. Humans are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26).
I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family [fatherhood] in heaven and on earth is named. (Ephesians 3:15)
This may mean that God names, that is defines, family/ fatherhood; or possibly that family/ fatherhood derives its name from who the Father is. Regardless of which is intended here it is clear that earthly fathers are representative of the Father (cf. Mat 7:11; Heb 12:7).

Reproduction does not require 2 genders, some species reproduce asexually and some plants have both male and female components within a single organism. Humans are in the image of God and have 2 distinct genders so it is worth considering if there is a reason for this. Are the sexes representative in some way? Paul addresses this question.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)
When God decided to create man it was his intention to create relationship. Humans were to know and be in relationship with God. This relationship between people as a group and God is the primary reason for creation.
Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37-38)
The most important command for all mankind is to love God. Our relationship to God is also primary over our other relationships between each other and this includes marriage. The vertical precedes the horizontal.

So we are created from the beginning to love God. This relationship between those who love God (the church) and God is primary, and of which marriage is a reflection. Marriage between men and women is an image of the relationship between God and man. In the same way that fathers are an image of the true Father, whom they are to imitate; so marriages are an image of the true Marriage between Christ and the church. God created the 2 sexes (at least in part) so we would have an image of our relationship with Jesus. This explains the use of the term bridegroom as applied to Jesus and bride to his followers (Joh 3:29); and this is not just an analogy (Rev 19:7; 21:2; 22:17).

We live in a fallen world, one where we have many marred reflections of Christ and his bride. God even allowed divorce in situations where continuing a marriage is worse than it ending; though that is not what God intended (Mat 19:8). As my friend has noted there are many examples of bad heterosexuality including both bad marriages and refusal to marry. Nevertheless, such bad heterosexuality is a poor reflection of Christ and the church whereas homosexuality, whether so-called "good" or "bad," is not a reflection of Christ and the church at all. Homosexual relationships at their core misrepresent our relationship with God. Created beings cannot define the world from their perspective, they must accept the intents of their creator. If the creation of the 2 sexes (male and female) and marriage between them was invented by God in order to reflect the relationship between mankind and God then we must accept his design and submit to it. Refusal to do so is an affront to God and rebellion against his plans.

Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Monday quote

The issues are important, but no sense getting really worked up over it. If we were all sitting on a used car lot, and one of the F-250 trucks began questioning the existence of Henry Ford, we would all think it was a serious situation, but that is not the same thing as thinking it was a serious question

Douglas Wilson, God Is.


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