12.31.2013

Truth and Anger in Ephesians 4:25-26


4.25   Therefore,  laying aside falsehood,  SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOUR, for we are  members of one another.  

4.26  BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger ...

Ephesians 4:25ff seemed to me like a bit of a muddled section.  Paul seems to make a list of imperatives about the type of lives that the Ephesians should live, but it reads like he gets sidetracked before coming back around again.  This is largely due to, I think, reading Psalm 4:4 with in Ephesians 4:26 outside of both the Psalms context and the preceding verse in Ephesians (v.25).  I do not think that 4:25-26 are two imperatives but one, spoken both positively and negatively.

Ephesians 4 starts out with Paul offering an extended interpretation of Psalm 68 (4:8-16), afterwards continuing on his original (main) topic of walking "in a manner worthy of the calling in which you have been called", taking off the old self and putting on the new (v.19-24).

When we arrive at verse 25 and 26 Paul quotes two Old Testament scriptures, Zechariah 8:16 and Psalm 4:4.  The 2 verses at first glance, seem to have nothing to do with each other, but Paul intends to combine them into one teaching.


Zechariah 8:16

Zechariah 8 is concerned with the remnant coming back to Jerusalem (the temple/God's presence) and resuming their role as the "people of God" (v.8).  Zechariah encourages them to listen to the prophet and there will be peace and prosperity.  God wants to do good for Jerusalem (i.e. the Holy Mountain, Temple).

In return, God asks that they, "speak truth to each other"

Both the immediate context and some of the out lying verses seem relevant to the Ephesian audience.  First the moral instructions in Zechariah are a little longer than what Paul quotes:

  • Speak the truth with ones neighbour
  • Judge with truth and judgement for peace (Psalm 4!)
  • Do not devise evil
  • Do not love perjury (Psalm 4!)
God hates these things, therefore they are not to do them.

But the larger section also is relevant to the Ephesians, since they are a Gentile congregation, a few verses later Zechariah tells Israel that the Gentiles will want to seek God with the Jew because they heard that "God is with you"

The verse therefore, seems to be chosen by Paul 3 reasons:

  • Deals specifically with speaking with truthfulness
  • It ties together Paul's temple language in with his ethical teaching which will continue on through chapter 5
  • It affirms that the Gentile hearers are now part of the "people of God" (Zech 8:23) and therefore subject to the ethical teaching that Paul is about to give.
Paul is still running with the temple imagery (God's people now form His temple) and applying the relevant Zechariah verses to the Ephesian churches - this is how the people of God act towards one another - because amongst them is the presence of God.  Paul will now say the same thing, negatively, through Psalm 4:4

Psalm 4:4

Where 4:25 offers a positive affirmation to "speak truth", this verse in a roundabout way tells the Ephesians not to speak falsehood of others (when angry).  As a link that binds these verses, Zechariah 8:16f also warns not to love perjury, which is very close to what Ps. 4 is all about.

This may not be apparent on an initial reading of the text, but when one considers Psalm 4 as a whole (rather than just the verse), it starts to make sense.

In Psalm 4 David speaks to God requesting that his prayers be answered (v.1).  He then starts speaking to the "sons of men" (those in authority [according to Word Biblical Commentary on Psalms] - v.2) - How long will they seek vanity and falsehood?  How long will they ruin his reputation?  David is more assured (even while writing) that the Lord will hear and answer his prayers, since he knows his position before God.

David addresses the "sons of men" again and tells them, "Be angry, and sin not".  The sin in this case is speaking falsely about someone else.  Even if they do not say a word they will feel the guilt about their angry thoughts as they lay to go to sleep.  Sin, in this context then is speaking falsehood.

Additional note: "Do not let the sun go down on your anger" (v.26) could easily be a warning based on the latter half of Ps. 4:4 warning of a pricked conscience while lying down to sleep.

Ephesians 4:25-26

Paul's argument in Ephesians then affirms/warns about speaking truthfully/falsely using Zechariah and David to bring about the message.  

First he quotes Zechariah about speaking truthfully to ones neighbours because they are members of one another.  In other words, they are, corporately, the temple of God (Ephesians 2:22) and this is how those who truly worship God act.  To act in any other way would grieve the Holy Spirit who resides in this temple (Ephesians 4:30).

Next, Paul quotes Psalm 4:4, if you are angry (with part of the temple, people in the Church) do not sin - which in the context of the Psalm (and the latter context of Zechariah 8) is speaking falsely about that person. Ephesians 4:26b also fits nicely as a reflection on Psalm 4:4b.

Therefore, what is often seen as 2 imperatives: 1 - speak truthfully & 2 - don't sin when angry, is actually one imperative communicated both positively and negatively: Speak truthfully about everyone, even when angry.  We are, after all, where the Truth dwells - His temple. 

11.26.2013

Silence

There has been silence on this blog for a very good reason.

During my last post I had no job, was living with my in-laws and had a (very) pregnant wife and a little girl.  Now, I have a job, live in a completely different city to my in-laws, my wife is no longer pregnant and we have two little girls.

This all happened with in the space of about 3 weeks (from the time I got a phone call to schedule a job interview to the time we moved into our new home - juggling 2 babies, one of them a week old).  Needless to say, I haven't had time to do anything constructive.  My new job has been taking up a lot of my time right now, and I've just started to catch up with my magazine subscriptions.  When those are caught up on, I'll continue with Kierkegaard (which I've noticed have been - unexpectedly - popular).


8.18.2013

Works of Love - Love is the Fulfilling of the Law - part 1

A summary of Works of Love - I make no claim to hold to anything written below, I'm only processing what I have read so for.  I hope to write a couple blogs on my thoughts on the book soon though. 

Kierkegaard starts this chapter by discussing "promises".  A promise is not an honourable act because it is not an act at all, it is something that is in place of an act, it is a delayed act, but not itself an act.  And it is certainly not anything good - it remains neutral until it is (un)fulfilled, then the act (or lack thereof) is judged.  Therefore, Kierkegaard stresses that we should make no promises, we should simply act.

He then discusses the parable of the Father with the disobedient sons.  One son says he will not do as he is asked (and does it anyways) and the other says he will do what he is asked (and doesn't do it).  Kierkegaard insists that the son who says no is in a much better position than the son who says yes.  Not because he chose to do what was asked of him, but because he made no attempt to deceive his father, while the "yes" son was deceiving his father and not doing the work promised.  Therefore the "no" son is more likely to see his fault since he is more truthful.

8.07.2013

Someone asks: "Is it Wrong"

Someone found my blog, recently, by searching Google for: "as a christian is it wrong to watch ..."

Blogger only shows my a short line and cut it off there, so I can't see the rest of the search.  I was tempted to answer the question as it stands, but I don't think that it's the right question; as even this partial question is a set up for failure.  I have found that asking "right/wrong" questions about ambiguous areas often creates a sense of self-righteousness and aloofness.

There is always the best of intentions to please God, and it may not happen right away, but eventually standards will come into contact with other standards and judgement will have to be passed.  If the question has only been framed in terms of right & wrong then anyone who does partake (when you do not), is wrong.  I came across this in Bible College all the time, some would triumphantly proclaim that they didn't (and others shouldn't) watch this or that.  And it was almost never just about them.

Better questions would be ones that steer away from this mindset, but also avoid the "Everything is permissible" thinking, such as:

  • Why am I watching this?
  • Where does this sit on the quadrant?
  • How will this program effect my relationship with God?
  • What does this tell me about life, culture, faith, & God?
  • How can I relate to some of the characters? Why do the characters act is certain ways?
  • What does it say about sin and the fallenness of mankind?

None of these questions ask if watching is right or wrong, and none of them will inform you as to what to watch, but they will reshape how you watch.  Also, there will be tell-tale signs (when answering these questions) that a program is not worth watching, I'll trust that's easy enough to work out.

After answering those (and other) questions, you are now in the position to talk about and critique what you've seen, it ceases to be entertainment in a strict sense and becomes something that you can learn from and grow from.  It stops becoming "mindless".

8.05.2013

Works of Love - *You* Shall Love Your Neighbour - part 2

Below is a continuation of both a chapter and a series.  This is merely summaries of the chapter - I have tried to keep my opinion out. See the first part of this chapter here.

Of course, Kierkegaard is not naive, and in the second part of the chapter he quickly highlights that leaving temporal distinctions untouched is never going to be a popular decision.  He calls it a double danger since one throws off his "rightful" circle and tries to be part of every circle.  This will not make anyone happy.  It is thought that one must exist for oneself (and ones circle) not for everyone.

Next Kierkegaard discusses one of the distinctions in the world, and their corrupted state: insignificance.  According to Kierkegaard, "corrupted insignificant" people (for Kierkegaard, everyone is corrupted to some degree or another) see anyone who is more powerful as an enemy.  However, since these people are more powerful, the insignificant do nothing about it and keep the status quo while complaining about their insignificance.  Using force or breaking away would only disadvantage the insignificant even more and so the they use the powerful while rejecting them out of envy.  They are guilty of covetousness.

8.03.2013

Human Value, Imago Dei & Kierkegaard

The one thing that Kierkegaard really pushes in Works of Love, that we have lost sight of today, is what "equality", for humans, actually means.  So many today think that equality is a levelling out of social class, privilege, and income.  Kierkegaard does not view equality in this way at all.

In fact, he is against the levelling out of distinctions.  In part, I think it is because he is against any sort of Platonic ideal of what it means to be human.  He is not seeking of a way for man to become cookie-cutter shapes (or Forms), all exactly the same, but that man would understand what it means to be human and what it means to treat others as humans (love your neighbour).  Although Kierkegaard does not use the phrase, there is a strong sense that he is implying that humans carry the imago dei (Image of God), this is what makes humans, universally human, equally human.  This is our equality.  Since we all carries the imago dei, we are all to love one another.

This imago dei gives equality without status, wealth, or privilege.  It does not require an earthly levelling of the playing field, people are intrinsically valuable and worthy of love.  Neighbourly love then would be meaningless if there were no distinctions, since it is love, despite our differences. This is what makes Christian love, love of neighbour, so great.


Today our culture has lost sight of any sort of imago dei.  Do not be fooled by thinking that this still has a (small) hold on secular culture because people still want to help the homeless, the third world, and the sick.  A lot of people help the homeless, sick, and third world because they view value as ability, health and wealth.  They help, not because people are intrinsically valuable, but because they are adding value to people's lives.  For Kierkegaard, this is selfish-love because the giver feels a superiority over the one whom the gift imparts a higher 'status'.  No one is higher or lower for Kierkegaard (or any Christian), we are all equal.

8.02.2013

Works of Love - *You* Shall Love Your Neighbour - part 1

Continuing my overview of Kierkegaard's challenging work on Christian love.  My goal is to reflect what Kierkegaard says, not what I think on the subject.

Despite not showing preference, one is not to stop loving their beloved, since to do so would be contradictory as the neighbour is everyone.  Only the preferential should be taken out of love, not the love itself.  The more preferentially one loves, the further from neighbourly love one gets.  Man's kinship is to God, and since God is love and man is to be in God's likeness, man must love as God loves - without prejudice and without distinction.

Therefore, the highest love is neighbourly love.  Friends and lovers die and leave, their love is lost, but neighbourly love is such that it can never die, it can never be lost or leave and it can always be found, because everyone is a neighbour, and you shall love them.  If love was meant only that which was extraordinary, then God would be unable to love since for Him the extraordinary does not exist.  Therefore Christian love, neighbourly love, is the most perfect love.

7.28.2013

Reading the Old Testament as Gentiles

"My proposal is that to read this story properly, as Gentiles, is to put ourselves in Rahab's place. Our origin lies not with the people who hear the command to kill, but with those who are to be killed. We belong with those who should be devoted to destruction because we offend against the holiness of God. And yet what has actually happened is that, like Rahab, we have received mercy through faith in the God of Israel"
The above quote is from Christianity Today's interesting article, "Gentiles in the Hands of a Genocidal God".  That we should read the Old Testament from the point of view of Rahab (ie. a gentile) is an interesting (and even helpful) interpretation, but I do not find it completely convincing (in all cases).  Yes, Christians (gentiles) were not led out of Egypt and the Old Testament is not written to us directly. But (and I think it's an important but) we have become the people of God through Christ. After all, what happened to Rahab after Jericho?  Wouldn't Rahab also be implicated after joining Israel?  Jericho was, you may recall, the very first city Israel came to after entering the land.  She may still be a Gentile, but in quite a different way since she has joined with Israel.

To me it seems that Cary's description of the Christian's place within Israel is to make them another tree (as if, after Jericho, Rahab went her seperate way) which the Jewish messiah saves, but Paul is fairly clear that God has actually grafted Christians onto the Jewish tree (Rahab did stay with Israel).  Cary mentions that Christians aren't part of Israel because they did not need to follow the whole law, but Paul (a Jew) also doesn't see the need to follow the whole law either, because of Christ.

Connected to this last point, Cary describes Israel as, "people of Israel, descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob".  However, John the Baptist (among others) would disagree with this assessment. Israel are the people who trust and obey God, first within the descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, then elsewhere (e.g. Rahab, the rocks, believers in Christ).

Cary's idea is good, as far as it goes, but I think the application is not to "Gentile Christians", but both unbelieving Israel and Gentiles (everywhere) - Look at Rahab, God is merciful.

A short Bible story (about Jericho) to close seems prudent: Joshua arrives at Jericho and is awaiting instructions from God on how he should proceed.  During the night the angel of the Lord comes to Israel's camp and he is stopped and asked, "Whose side are you on? Ours or our enemies?"

The angel's answer is telling: "Neither"

Evernote introduces Skitch integration

Evernote has kind of done what a lot of Evernote users have wanted (sort of).  And it's really not all that exciting.  EN introduced Skitch integration and I had a chance to try it while it was in beta and not limited to premium users.

I am not a premium user, and this will not make me a premium user.  I don't know what EN is thinking, I (personally) do not want integration with other programs, I want EN to annotate my PDFs, because I want them to stay in EN - it is, after all, the note taker.

Compared to my Preview method, using Skitch & EN together is super slow!  This should be the quickest option, and it is definitely not!  As well, for one reason or another, Skitch seems to load the PDF from the EN server, whereas my Preview method loads it straight from the computer.  Lastly, the integration had a lot of bugs!  I attempted (and lost) 3 different annotation attempts before EN and Skitch finally worked together and saved my PDF properly!  By the end of it I had used a good chunk of my MB allowance and time!

If you're looking for ways to annotate PDFs and use Evernote at the same time their Skitch "solution" is a lame duck, and not worth the cost.  Try my Preview method first (for Mac, I don't know Windows well enough to suggest anything on that side of the tracks) - it may not have all the features, but it's fast, easy and it will not lose your annotations like Skitch did for me.

Below (the break) I've pasted my method from the larger, earlier post:

7.27.2013

Works of Love - You Shall Love Your *Neighbour*

Recently I've been blogging my notes of Søren Kierkegaard's "Works of Love" as I've been taking them because I've found this book to be a confronting and challenging read, which at the same time is quite apt for today, despite being written nearly 200 years ago.

You can find previous chapters here, here and here.

----------------------------------------------------------------------

Kierkegaard opens this chapter with the idea that if it were not for the duty of love there would be no concept of "neighbour".  Christ, has taken preferential love (which is not Christian) off the throne and replaced it with the unconditional and eternal love of "you shall" (which is Christian love).

Many Christians, however have gone back to putting erotic love and friendship unduly back on the throne, which, for Kierkegaard, simply will not do.  These loves are loves of passion, they live based on either/or  - either they exist (and nothing else) or they do not.  It would be confusing if Christianity were to teach that both, these passions and Christian love, could live in harmony, because they simply can not.

Kierkegaard goes on to argue that we should not be deceived into thinking that Christendom, in its old age, has matured.  In comparison to it, Those with in it are yet babies.  Christians have not been enlightened to true love, but deceived.  Kierkegaard returns to the poetic vision of love that many have mistaken for Christian love.  It is not bad to consider the poets and artists, but the listener or reader has neglected to think deeply (indeed, Christianly) about them, therefore they have been brought down into their way of thinking.  We need to scrutinize the poet and ourselves in order to help others become deeper and deeper Christians.  Christendom then is not a destination, but a signpost.  We have not arrived, and Kierkegaard wonders how we ever will if the road is only followed one day a week.

Christian love is then is love of neighbour - the love of all - while erotic love and friendship is preferential - it's the love of one.  It is impossible to love in both ways simultaneously.  The poetic love is never an obligation, and there in lies the problem.  This Christian obligation to love, is to love everyone.

"Christianity never suffers a man to go in vain, not even a single step, for when you open the door which you shut in order to pray to God, the first person you meet as you go out is your neighbour whom you shall love.  Wonderful!"

What's wrong with passionate love?  It's arbitrariness makes it merely self-love.  Kierkegaard refers to the friend or lover as the "other-I" as friends and lovers expect reciprocation, in choosing who to love, one only loves oneself.  Christianity has a higher demand, self-renouncing love.  "Love your neighbour as you love your beloved", but expect nothing in return.

The neighbour is your equal.  If you love him and think him higher, you are not loving a neighbour.  Same, if you think him lower, your are not loving as a neighbour.  If you think him well educated, dumb, rich, poor - you do not love as a neighbour.


"One's neighbour is one's equal …. Loving one's neighbour means equality."

7.26.2013

Works of Love - You Shall Love - part 2

In the second half of this chapter Kierkegaard focuses mostly on the meaning and implication of the word shall and how it affects love.  Shall is eternal, meaning that love becomes a duty which can not be changed into something else.

To start out with, Kierkegaard marvels at the seeming fact that in all of ancient history the poets and philosophers never command that "you shall love". When thinking for himself, he discovered that he would never have come up with such a 'philosophy' on living life either, despite it seeming to be the true way to love.

The poetic version of love is a spontaneous love that is something less than Christian love because it makes an oath to love itself rather than something higher than love.  Poets (and their readers) have a distaste for duty as it does not serve their emotional purposes, but Kierkegaard sees Christian love (and all true love, or love that is worthwhile) as a duty.  Because of this duty, this "shall", love is eternal and unchanging - anything less than this is not Christian love - and will not remain as love. Kierkegaard feels that this undutiful love changes and morphs and thus is a cause of anxiety.  Because spontaneous love changes it can morph into a number of other things: hate, jealousy, habit and despair.  Dutiful love is the cure to anxiety (and the things spon. love morphs into) because it does not and can not change, it is secure and always love.

This means that Christian love does not require testing.  Testing love, in fact, is not a sign of loves strength but a sure sign of it's weakness since the test is testing contingencies and is due to the already present anxiety about the changing nature of (spontaneous) love.  Since no one can reasonably test for all contingencies, love (taken this way) is bound to fail.  If love is a duty there are no contingencies to test for, one just loves, and therefore it never fails.

For example, when one (poetic lover) says to another, "I do not love you", the other (Christian lover) will not respond, "Then I will not love you either", but since love is a duty, in all humility he will say, "I will still love you, no matter if you love me or not".

The shall is eternal - there are no excuses.

You shall love your neighbour.

7.25.2013

Works of Love - You Shall Love - part 1

Christianity has presuppositions.  A major one - for Kierkegaard - is that people love themselves, since it is at the centre of Jesus' commandment to love one's neighbour. Here he provides some insights that are vague or missing in the previous chapter.  For Kierkegaard - "self-love" is the love between friends and lovers, and is essentially self-motivated.  It's easy to do, and people do it all the time - Jesus says the same thing.  Loving your neighbour (i.e. anyone who is not you) as yourself is not self-love.  He writes that Christians should be loving without distinction and favouritism, and therefore be free of self-love (which is based on favouritism).

Therefore "Self-love" must NOT be confused with "love your neighbour as yourself" - they are very different!

Despite what the "poets" may write it is neither good nor proper to love anyone more than oneself.  This is something reserved only for God.  Therefore, when we love someone as ourself we do not love them in a way that obeys all their wishes - unconditional obedience is left for God. The loving thing one does for others is what one would find to be the most loving for oneself. Anything more than this Kierkegaard deems as adoration - Kierkegaard doesn't use the word, but idolatry may be implied here as well.  Love, in Kierkegaard's sense, is quite intolerant (given the modern definition of the word) and based on the moral grounding of the individual who loves, rather than the individual receiving love.

He writes that the command to love your neighbour as yourself is a complete and binding statement, something that doesn't require examples and theory, it's easy to understand and we know (if we love ourselves) exactly what our duty to our neighbour is. The only way out is to narrowly define who our neighbour is, but Kierkegaard insists that the neighbour can be no one else but the "other" - i.e. not you.  People are neighbours whether they like it or not, the question is whether they fulfill their duty as neighbours.

Works of Love - Love's Hidden Life

In the first chapter of Works of Love, Kierkegaard argues that love is something that must be believed in since it can not be seen. Because it can not be seen, people are deceived by love in 2 ways: 1) They think that there is love in someone when there is not or, 2) they are self-deceived and do not believe in love at all.  Those who do not believe in love at all are by far the worst off since they have cheated themselves out of love, and deceived themselves for all eternity (since Christian love is eternal).

Kierkegaard distinguishes between two loves: (what he calls) Erotic love (self-love) and Christian Love (unconditional love).  Since love is invisible and must be believed rather than seen, one must discern love by its fruits.  
"By the fruits one recognizes the tree"
For Kierkegaard self-love is not necessarily bad, it is after all, still love.  But it is a lesser love to that of Christian love.  It blooms in season and then dies out again, and therefore it would be foolish to consider this love as comparable to Christian Love.  Christian love is an unconditional love, an eternal love, the Love that every person should strive to achieve.  But this love does not bloom, since everything that blooms must die. Christian love, however, "produces" an eternal fruit and therefore never blooms because it never dies.

Since love is hidden no one can get to the origin (in God) of love.  Kierkegaard makes an analogy to the sun:  Love, like the sun's rays, lights the path ahead of us so that we can see, but the foolish try to examine the origins of the rays, only to be blinded by the sun itself.

Kierkegaard later continues with a tree/fruit analogy: just as the tree is to be known by its fruits, the life of love is knowable by its fruits.   However, for Kierkegaard, no expression (words or deeds) can prove or disprove anyones love, expression is not a fruit. The same words and deeds could be said/done by two different people and prove opposite results; conversely, opposite words could be said by two different people, still expressing love.  Therefore, love must be known by its fruits.

He warns that we must be careful that we do not seek for the recognition of our fruits, but that we only seeks the fruits themselves.  The hypocrite teaches that love is so hidden that the fruit is also hidden, or that the fruit (even poisonous fruit) proves nothing - for Kierkegaard, the Gospel teaches otherwise.  However, he then throws a wrench into the works: You should not think that you will be able to recognize and rightly discern others fruit from the tree.  No tree is set up to be the one that judges all other trees.  There are only two judges able to properly discern the fruit one produces : One's self and God.

Kierkegaard continues on about the fear of God and the fear of self.  It is these two attributes that will prevent one from being deceived by hypocrites.  At the end of the chapter he comes around to the first point, "believe in love": only those who abide in love can recognize love.  

Like is known only by like.

Questions/Comments:

It's interesting that Kierkegaard promotes that there is fruit that comes from genuine love but in the next breath denies anybody (other than the self and God) the ability to judge by that fruit, which Kierkegaard clearly thinks is visible (unlike love).

This puts a lot of onus on the individual.

I'm a bit confused on how Christian Love - demonstrated by temporal beings - could possibly be eternal.

I'd also like to know if Kierkegaard thinks we even achieve Christian Love or is it only an (unreachable) goal that the Christian presses for?

7.07.2013

Beyond the Gifts in Ephesians 4 & 1 Corinthians 12

Warning: Like my previous Ephesians post this is an (almost) midnight rambling.

I've been reading Ephesians for quite some time now.  I reached Ephesians 4:11f and was initially surprised by the continual overarching achievement of Christ's death and resurrection in the letter.  Normally, Christ's death and resurrection is seen as salvific from sin and human frailty, in Ephesians however, Paul has a much broader scope for the effects of Christ's sacrifice and glorification, providing not only salvation but also gift, power and people.

Coming from a pentecostal background the gifts that God gives are usually associated with the Holy Spirit, here, the Spirit is surprisingly absent, in all the areas a good charismatic boy would expect them.  The chapter opens up with the Spirit:

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”

(Ephesians 4:1–6 NAS95)

Then he quickly moves on to "Christ's gift" (4:7), which is not the Spirit (of God).  The Spirit is not mentioned again until Ephesians 4:30, well after these "gifts" have been fully discussed.  It is Christ who provides these gifts by virtue of his death and resurrection.

This whole train of thought got me thinking, there is another well known passage which talk about "gifts" of a very similar nature,  1 Corinthians 12.  So what happens when the gifts get mentioned there?  Well, the Spirit is (again) briefly mentioned in the beginning and disappears while Paul is on the topic of the "gifts".

And, while reading I noticed something else.  Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 have more in common than just listing some of the same gifts.  The structure of the content both before and after mention of the gifts is the same:

Eph 4:3 - Spirit provides unity
1 Cor 12:12 - Spirit provides Unity

Eph 4:1-5 - Unity of the Church
1 Cor 12:12-26 - Unity of the Church

Eph 4:11 - The gifts Christ gave to the Church
1 Cor 12:28 - The gifts God appoints in the Church

Eph 4:15-16 - Love
1 Cor 13ff - Love

It may be that there are some gifts that the Spirit provides, and some gifts that Christ/God provides - I'm not sure if Paul is making deliberate distinctions.  What Paul does mean to say (and quite clearly) is that the Spirit brings unity to the Church!  When Paul says that we should not quench the Spirit (Eph 4) he may have the unity of the Church in mind - it is after all, the very next time that the Spirit is mentioned in Ephesians after 4:1-5.

Anyways, I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

6.27.2013

Faith in Ephesians 2:8 & 3:12

Warning:  These are my midnight ramblings, they may make no sense to me come morning.

So I finished "The Faith of Jesus Christ" by Richard Hays a while ago and ever since I have been seeing other possible readings behind the Ephesians 2:8 text: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God"

What "that" refers to is ambiguous, most agree that it refers to "faith" or the entire proposition "For by grace you have been saved through faith".  That leads me to Hays.

Hays argues that "faith of Jesus" in Galatians is Christ's obedient death.  My question has been that since Christ's death looms large throughout all of Ephesians (but esp. chapter 2), can the phrase, "For by grace you have been saved through faith" be Christ's death?  A gift from God that is not from ourselves.  There is no "faith of Jesus" in sight but if the parallel is taken into consideration, "not of yourself" then there is a faith of someone implied.

Not only this but the next time faith is mentioned (3:12) the wording is even more ambiguous: the most common sense translation (from what I can see) would be: "in whom we have boldness and confident access through His faith."

Now, nearly all English Biblical translators express it as "through faith in Him" (and some add "our", which isn't even in the text).  It is a plausible translation that conforms more easily to certain Christian beliefs, but not the more obvious - at least when I read it (and yes, 5 verses later the believers faith is mentioned).

Could Paul possibly, in these two passages, be talking about Christ's faith (obedient death?)

Any thoughts?  Ideas?  Am I reading more into it than intended?

Again, these are midnight ramblings.

In case your wondering, here are all the uses of faith in Ephesians

1:15 - Paul has heard of the faith (of the people) in Christ
2:8 -   we are saved through faith - as a gift of God
3:12 -  We have boldness and confidence to enter διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ
3:17 - Christ is in our hearts through faith (ours)
4:5 - the faith (referring to the belief in Christ or Christianity)
4:13 - unity of "the faith" (corporate Christianity?)
6:16 - shield of faith - believers are called to take up faith to extinguish the fiery arrows of the devil

6:23 - in the benediction

6.09.2013

Tobacciana Apologetica

I am of a dying ilk, one that has recently been scorned and shamed for their activity.  My own mother has threatened me and my father just shakes his head, yet I stand in a line of some of the greatest Christian theologians and writers of the 19th and 20th century including, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Karl Barth and Charles Spurgeon.

What did they all have in common?  A love for tobacco.

Christian use of tobacco goes back a lot further than just the 19th and 20th century.  Johann Sebastian Bach is well known to be a lover of the weed and is even credited with writing a poem about it, the final two lines are well known amongst most pipe smokers:

On land, on sea, at home, abroad,
I smoke my pipe and worship God.

Charles Spurgeon is likely the most notorious Christian smoker, he had a love for fine cigars, and was often quite vocal about it.  Responding once to the criticisms of a Pentecostal preacher, Spurgeon remarked, "Well, dear friends, you know that some men can do to the glory of God what to other men would be sin. And notwithstanding what brother Pentecost has said, I intend to smoke a good cigar to the glory of God before I go to bed to-night."

JRR Tolkien is perhaps the most widely recognized pipe smoker in Christian circles.  His novels are filled with references to his characters not only smoking but also talking about smoking!  This is not just an oddity about the characters, Tolkien himself was passionate about pipe smoking.  Even in interviews he's often shown at least holding onto his pipe and sometimes even smoking it.  Often joining him for a smoke and a pint at the Eagle and Child pub was his good friend, C.S. Lewis.  His (Tolkien's) devotion to the pipe has led a number of companies to name pipe tobaccos after events, places, and characters in his novels.  Such including: Frog Morton, Longbottom Leaf, Treebeard, Shortcut to Mushrooms and Ruins of Isengard.  And the depiction of the "churchwarden" pipe (a long stemmed pipe) in the movies resulted in a resurgence of that style.

They were lucky to live only at the start of the bastardization of tobacco which occurred in the 1930's in the form of cigarettes; a move that turned a great gift for many people into a greater vice for many more.  Chemicals and additives were included to promote both inhaling the smoke (not widely done pre-1930) and addiction.  This is where cigars and pipes differ sharply from cigarettes, they are 'old school', the smoke is not inhaled, and it’s always (almost) pure tobacco ... but I digress ...

I understand these men's love for the weed, particularly in reference to pipe smoking (although I appreciate a good cigar every so often).  I find the ritual of pipe smoking relaxing, it clears my head of the distractions of the modern world.  I often sit outside on my chair as the thick smoke wafts through the air, I find it to be some of the best occasions to pray.  The smoke filling my surroundings with its sweet/smokey aroma; maybe that’s what my prayers smell like to God?  Sometimes I have a book, sometimes only my thoughts – it leaves me time for extended contemplation, forcing me out of my house and away from my tv, computer, phone, and ipad.  It's not done in order to satisfy a craving or to get a fix, and it won't be done in 10 to 15 minutes either (more like 60 - 90 minutes).  Pipe smoking demands that time for it is set aside, it demands the smoker's patience.  There is an art form to the filling, lighting and tamping of a pipe that only shows progress after months of practice.  There are numerous and subtle differences to the tastes of the various tobaccos that rivals the complexities of other items often discussed and critiqued by "snobs", such as coffee, beer or wine (all of which I enjoy, immensely).  It's not about the end, it's about the journey. 

This is not to say that some types of smoking are bad for people and others are not.  I was aware the risk for mouth, tongue, and lip cancer would go up before I ever started and there is no doubt that I would likely be healthier in the long run if I didn't touch a pipe.  But life is consisted of more than the chances I'm willing to take with my physical health, and I have found a disproportionate amount of God's grace and goodness in such a little and controversial event, that, for me, makes the event all the more worth my time.

6.07.2013

Culture of Death in the Maternity Ward

A couple things kind of happened at the same time, I've been flipping through my notebook from around the time Michelle discovered she was first pregnant (about 2 years ago now), and First Things magazine last month (which, I'm just getting around to now) had an article titled Medicinal Murder by Wesley Smith.  What do these two writings have in common?  Our culture of death.

It is rather ironic, I think, that it took a trip to the maternity ward of a hospital to fully appreciate and understand the term "culture of death".  Until that first hospital appointment, I had a vague notion of how many abortions were performed and where euthanasia has been legalized and for which illnesses, but I didn't know the true extant of the culture, until that day.

We walked into that first appointment, overjoyed at the prospect of this new life, and the first question the doctor - who according to a nurse, loves babies - asked was, "We need to decide this now because time is ticking, do you want an abortion?"

I was too shocked and taken aback to be offended.  Later in the same appointment she scheduled blood work and ultrasounds in case of genetic abnormalities - why? - so an abortion could be performed if there were signs of genetic defects like Down Syndrome.  There's a name for this, by the way, it's called Eugenics.


After that initial meeting I wrote in my notebook, "We choose death so we can get what we want rather than what is handed to us", in this respect, death has become the ultimate cure-all.

Youth Groups and the Young Atheists

The Atlantic has an insightful article on the young atheists.  Particularly insightful is the last paragraph, which says that the typically age when one decides to become an atheist is between 14 - 17.  This is also the age when huge changes are happening in every part of their lives: hormonally, psychologically, physically and socially.  It's curious then that the church (in my experience) has sought youth pastors who have little-to-no experience or education, and who can draw in a lot of youth with games and motivational (read: unsubstantial) speeches.  It turns out (rather obvious to me, I grew largely discontent with church youth groups) that this is actually not what youth are looking for in Christianity.  What they are looking for is a strong, unifying message/purpose that gives them answers to their hard questions and that is coherent.

In a time when unprecedented numbers of youth are leaving the church after high school, the church needs to get serious about youth, offering more than an underpaid part time youth pastor (who likely works full time, plus another job to make ends meet) and motivational speeches exhorting them to "be good".  After all, those things are not Christianity. 

Below is a quote from the article:


6.04.2013

Book Review: Parenting with Love and Logic

My little girl is growing up fast.  How fast things were moving didn't really hit me until she started walking, then I realized that there is no pause button, I have to start being the best parent I know how to be, now.  Unfortunately, I only know one way of being a parent, and that's the way my mom and dad were parents.  So, I turned to the advice of other parents and I found this book.

Jim Fay and Foster Cline set out to teach parents how to raise children who become responsible teens and adult.  The basic idea is that children need to have opportunities to make their own choices.  This does two things:

6.01.2013

Evernote Tips: Indentations in Word and Pages

If you're a frequent user of Evernote, as I am, you'll have tried to copy & paste from a Word or Pages document into Evernote.  If you've done this enough, you'll likely have discovered that a lot of the time (for myself at least) the indentations in the original do not copy into Evernote.  This is a nightmare!!

Indentation is so important, especially for note taking and study.  This is one of the biggest downfalls of Evernote, and I'm going to show you a fix that works well for me.