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.