Friday, August 31, 2012

Weighing in on the Republican Convention

I watched a significant part of this convention, on Fox of course because it was more likely to show the whole thing.  I watched Ann Romney's, Mike Huckabee's, Marco Rubio's, Clint Eastwood's, and Mitt Romeny's speeches.  I wanted to watch Paul Ryan's but was exhausted Wednesday night and just couldn't stay up.  Nor did I hear one of my heroes, Condi Rice, so I hope to watch those online today. 

I was amazed, and not unhappy, with the snarkiness of it.  Some great lines, especially Ryan's on the twenty-somethings living in their parents' basements and looking at the faded Obama posters and wanting to get on with their lives.  I have one of those twenty-somethings (he is taking care of his grandmother now, as she is going through chemotherapy).  I am angry about his job situation.  He has three interviews for a job and is told . . . well, sometimes nothing.  This has happened at least three times, maybe four. 

As to Clint Eastwood's, it was funny but not entirely appropriate.  His line, Joe Biden is the intellectual center of the Democratic party, was rough.  He is too worldly for most Republicans, who are not Hollywood types.  I laughed but don't think he should be that disrespectful to the president.  Of course, the Dems are not above the same type of stuff, since they claim Mitt Romney to be a felon, murderer, etc. 

Mitt Romney's line, "President Obama promised to slow the rising of the oceans and heal the planet.  I promise to help you and your family" I think will define this election, for good or bad.  Pres. Obama  overpromised and fed into the mythology of his saviorhood.  He has done nothing about oceans rising, but who is he, Moses?  Yet people so stupidly believed that nonsense (I don't want to call it rhetoric because I have an M.A. in rhetoric and don't want to demean my field). 

I do, of course, plan to vote for Mitt Romney because I could not vote for Obama under threat of imprisonment. Romney is, as Bill Clinton said, more than qualified to be president. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Giving Back

At the risk of seeming like a curmudgeon today, I am going to take issue with a common phrase, "giving back."

Giving back means something that was given is being returned.  It is a common term for community service that is voluntary as opposed to court-mandated.  People use it with good intention, but as with most cliches they aren't thinking about the actual meaning.

The people most likely to give back are people who haven't taken much in the first place, who have been giving all along, paying their taxes, making opportunities for others, teaching, working hard, building something.  It seems to me that the people who should give back would be those people who have lived off the community (or state) largesse for years, not those who are making the state largesse possible.

Yes, we all benefit from the work of those before us.  Nobody is stupid enough to argue that we don't stand on the shoulders of giants or, more likely, normal people who worked hard and did what they were supposed to and didn't even know they were doing anything special to raise their kids, go to work, pay taxes, serve in the military when called.  I'm talking about our grandparents and great grandparents here.

I have no intention of giving back.  That doesn't mean I don't have an intention of serving my community, just like I always have.  But it's not under the guise of some obligation I have because my success, feeble as it is, is due to the federal government, the state of Georgia, or even Catoosa County, per se (even though, full disclosure, I work for the state of Georgia and work dang hard, too).  I do it because I am a human being who values my community and because I am a Christian believer who strives to do all to the glory of God and the benefit of his creatures.  Do I do enough?  That's not the question.  In human terms, we will never do enough.  And that's the problem with giving back.

On an earlier blog I quoted Ann Voskamp, who quoted Dorothy Sayers and Mother Teresa in the thought that if we see our service as to people, we will get weary in well doing (I am paraphrasing) but if we see it as to God, our reaction to lack of gratitude from people will be different.  I quote Mother Teresa below.  Our north star must always be God; we must have a theocentric view of our lives, not some vague sense of "giving back." 

Mother Teresa wrote: "People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives,; be kind anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight, build anyway. (skipping) The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway. You see in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them."

Great -- and Wrong-- Expectations

On my Kindle I am reading this fabulous Dickens tale.  What's wrong with writing today is that we don't read enough Dickens.  But that is not the point of this post.

Last night, against my better judgment, I had Hannity on TV.  Not a fan.  Strident, one-note, almost megalomaniac opposition to Obama.  The point of the show was to review/dissect/promote a documentary called "The Hope and The Change."  It is about people who voted for Obama talking about how disappointed they are and how they won't vote for him again.

Well, my response to this is just plain "Duh."  I have three levels of criticism on this.

1.  Anybody who voted for Obama in 2008 and is whining now should just plain be ashamed and not have the nerve to get on a movie and be seen.  Those persons did not have the critical thinking skills to look at who Obama was then and is now.  The facts were there.  His political positions were not hidden.  They were taken in by white guilt, his charm, and his ability to give a speech.  They projected what they wanted onto a blank canvas.  They got what they deserved.

People are blaming Obama for "not keeping his promises."  What promises?  To fundamentally transform America?  Yeah, he's doing that.  You just heard one thing and not what he was actually saying.

Take responsibility for your choices.  Repent, don't blame.  If you drink to excess, don't blame the liquor bottle.  Blame yourself.

2.  More to the point, the people were such whiners.  "I have to live on a budget now."  Oh, my word!  A budget?  How awful!  "I have to tell my children we can't afford that."  Oh, what a tragedy.  I was getting nauseous. 

Now, I know it's been hard for many people.  The lack of jobs has hit us, too.  But living on a budget and not giving your children everything they want is not hardship.  Secondly, we got into this situation, partially, by people buying houses they couldn't afford and running up credit card debt living beyond their means.

3.  Finally, where in the world did we get the idea that the president is some kind of savior?  This is what bothers me the most.  The president is not a king.  He is not a god.  He is not a Messiah.  Read the ever-loving constitution.  There are limits to power.  The real problem is Congress and Obama's relationship to Congress and Congress's inaction (especially the Senate).

Now, all that said, I want him out of office as much as the next person.  I don't care about whether or not he kept his promises--I didn't like his promises in the first place, so I'd rather he didn't keep them.  But I have so many disagreements with him on every level, and I believe that he is so toxic to our country, that I pray daily that we are rescued from him.  BUT, that's not the real issue.  The problem is us.  The problem is our selfishness and wrong expectations.  The problem is our lack of understanding the constitution.  The problem is our misplaced blame.

The problem is in ourselves, Horatio, not in our stars.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Don't Postpone Joy

I saw that on a bumper sticker yesterday, in Atlanta (or vicinity).  I like that. 

I did not wait until I was retired to go to Europe.  I went five times, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003 (although I haven't been back since and haven't traveled much in general because of my son's education).   I am glad I did not postpone it, and I tell everyone they shouldn't wait.  Waiting until retirement to do everything is foolish.  I think living for retirement is foolish in general, but I have a better job than most people.  I love my job. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Great Preaching

I teach rhetoric.  That's public speaking, among other things.  Last night I head Dr. Russell Moore of Southern Baptist Seminary preach, for the second time.  Man, is he good.  That's preaching, old school yet very contemporary. 

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Great Speech by Bill Clinton on D-Day, 1994

 Although I am not a huge fan (understatement) of Bill Clinton, he is an amazing politician.  Being tall helps, I guess.  He usually went overtime when he spoke, but not this time.  I think this is his best speech, one I use as an example in class because of his wonderful line:

"Today, many of them are here among us. Oh, they may walk with a little less spring in their step and their ranks are growing thinner, but let us never forget -- when they were young, these men saved the world."

I Have a . . .

Dr. King gave the “I have a dream” speech, not “I have a plan” speech.

Unfortunately, most people only know a few quotes from that speech.  More of his writings, especially Letter from a Birmingham Jail, should be required reading.

Voskamp VIII: What We Can Rely On

In writing about her little boy’s hand being severed (almost), she returns to what we all  can rely on, the Word (as distinct from her thanking journal about soap suds and bubbles) and the Cross and the Person.  The Word makes clear, the Person shows us, the Cross proves it.  The Person cups our face in his hands and tells us, shows he, he understands the perspectives of humans, pain, loss, torture, rejection.  As Piper writes, he was tempted in all points as we were, and his temptation is not less because he could not sin, it is more—Satan would have thrown everything at him.  We give in so quickly to temptation.

Voskamp VII: Seeing

Voskamp is also about seeing.  Seeing is an interesting metaphor.  People often talk of “looking through the lens of ……”  I understand what they mean, but I would argue that lenses are on the eyes (I wear contacts), not something easily slipped on and off.  Real seeing in embeddedness, not just perspective taking. We cannot be thankful unless we see with different eyes, surprised eyes, open eyes, fresh eyes.

Voskamp VI: Learning

Beautiful passage in Voskamp.  I read something last night about how adult learning necessitates sensing there is never an end, that we keep learning.  Retirement has caused us to stop, maybe.  I learn every day.  I learned last night that I cannot trust my dogs but I also make unwise and hasty decisions.  My desire to see Nala run—a beautiful sight—overtook my wisdom and knowledge that she is ADD and won’t come when called, unless she is convinced I have food in my pocket.  

People often preach, Unconfessed Sin keeps us from God, from having our prayers answered.”  Maybe there is Biblical truth in that, but it’s only known and harbored sin.  As we grow, we see sins we didn’t know were there.  I am more conscious of certain sins that were there before but I didn’t see them—my racism, for one. 

Voskamp V: Goodness of God

Chapter 8 of Voskamp is less poetic and wild than the previous chapter (where she is chasing a moon--that was a bit much for me).  The chapter is typically devotional, but honest.  It is about fear, faith, rust.  These are our core issues in 2012.  We do not have trouble believing God exists; I'm not sure we have trouble believing God is sovereign (how could He be God and not sovereign).  But we do have trouble believing He is good and loving, for some reason.  We do doubt He loves and cares.  We see too much pain, even if we don't feel so much of it ourselves, we see and hear of it constantly through the news media, whose only purpose is really to publicize evil, and to what end?  Unless we take what we see on the news as a call to prayer or activism, what good is knowing the stuff in the news.  I cancelled my subscription to the paper, and I've survived over a month now without it.    
Her list of 1000 things seems to be like training wheels to help her be thankful for the hard things.  Disease, loss.  Loss is not so bad if we remember we don’t really own anything in the first place.  We can enjoy, but not truly possess.  Someone else will eventually own everything we say we own. 

Voskamp IV: Thankfulness

Ultimately, what Voskamp is saying is that all from God is a gift, all is good, and that thankfulness for everything is the core virtue, the key to all.  I cannot argue theoretically with that, but I can question it existentially.  She struggles, as do all Christian writers, with the problem of pain and suffering, the existence of the non-good, the evil.  We grapple with it the best we can, in the moment; I don't think we can store up faith and grace for the times we need it; it is a gift at the moment, when it's crucial for taking the next step.  This is walking in faith.

Job is invoked here; we see him sitting by a fire surrounded with pieces of clay pots (symbolic of the pieces of his life) and covered with sores.  Interesting that the Bible gives us a drama, with dialogue here, rather than a treatise, on suffering.

Voskamp III: Service

My favorite part, I think, is how she directs us to see our service is to God, not to men.  She quotes Dorothy Sayers, "When service is unto people, the bones can grow weary, the frustration deep.  Because, whenever man is made the enter of things, he becomes the storm centre of trouble.  The moment you think of serving people, you begin t have a notion that other people owe you something for your pains . . . you angle for applause.

The insight is that service must be, beginning to end, for Christ, and people get the benefit of it.  This is radical, because we have been influenced by the secular notions of "giving back."  What will glorify Christ most in our service o people?  That is a hard question.  Obedience first, making it clear you are doing it in his name, ot out of divic responsibility (although there can be two duties here, just don't confuse them).   That we serve because we are redeemed and loved, not out of guilt of "distribution of wealth."  How is God glorified in my doing the laundry.  In this blog?  It's hard to make the connection, but it is obedience to the command to love my family.  I do it in joy, heartily, as unto the Lord.

Sayers is right, if we focus on service to mankind, it will never be enough, because human need never ends.  This sounds cold; but it doesn't have to be.  Feeling like it is never enough only makes one angry at those who do not make the same sacrifices, who don't give enough.  I am doing Christ's laundry, because "if you do it to the least of these. . ."

I remember an article in Atlantic Monthly written by some Ivy League graduate who was having trouble with motherhood.  She talked as "s---" work of motherhood, as if she was too good to wipe her own baby's butt, because she could get a job where she made enough money to hire a nanny to do that.  Yet this woman probably voted Democrat!

Voskamp II: Surprise

She writes about her own history of anxiety and stress and her ongoing wrestling with it.  She writes about joy and where it comes from, a lack of expectation.  Joy comes from surprise, the opposite of being continually disappointed with what you don't have, a symptom of our age.  Therefore, thankfulness is possible because of surprise.  And she writes about not punishing her kids over their rowdiness, how she tries to open to God.  I have much to be tense about right now, much to worry about.  Yet worry adds nothing, not one cubit to your stature.  I want to control this situation and it is beyond mine.

She tells a powerful story about a homeless man who accosts her and a group of teens from her church's youth group.  They are on the main drag of Toronto, headed toward a mission.  These re coutnry kids, and a city is so alien to them.  The rought-drug-burned out homeless man (so Canada has them, too?) frightens them but can recite Romans 7 and 8 from memory.  Voskamp says he and she are the same underneath the facade.  I don't know that I agree with that--another post for another day.  But she says something wonderful:
What is time for if not to bless?

Voskamp: Please Read!

As a note, this blog is coming up on its 900th post, at which time I will take a hiatus because the school year starts for me tomorrow and my mom's treatments go forward.  I thought I had 894, but I went back and deleted drafts and found out I only have 880, now.

I recently read Ann Voskamp's work A Thousand Gifts.  I highly recommend it.  She is truly gifted, and the book gave me much to reflect on.  At times I had to laugh under my breath at some of her "gifts," such as bubbles and "jam on bread." (I would be thankful for blueberry preserves on whole wheat toast, though).  She reminds us to live a fully embodied and embedded life, to not shuck off this "mortal coil" because God said that the physical world is good, despite its being affected by the fall. 

How We Got the Bible

Not an easy story, but one filled with intrigue and martyrdom and long, quiet lives of scholarship.  Just like thousands of people have died to give us the free country we live in, thousands of people have died to make sure we have these Bibles.  Even today, in other countries, people put their lives in the balance to get the Word to others.  For their sake, as well as the people of the past, and of course for the sake of the Lord who gave us the Word, we should have great respect.  I am disturbed when I see people throwing Bibles around and not taking care of them, or worse, ignoring them.   We have far too many Bibles in our house that we have accumulated over the years and I would like to put them to better use than sitting on my shelf.

But the reality is, we want a message from the Word but some aspects of Bible study are not easy.  We have questions such as:
How did we get the Bible, how can we be sure it’s all there and we aren’t missing parts, what is the best way to study it, is all of the Bible equally important to our lives, why are some of the strange parts included, and why are there so many different versions?  I hope I can answer some of these questions.

How did we get the Bible?
  1.  First and foremost, we have to start with the belief that “God wants to communicate to the world.”  
    1. In the Great Commission Jesus said, Go into all the world and preach the gospel….”  Although we take that first of all as a command to do missions, and it is, it has a more foundational truth:  God communicates.  God has a message and he has put it out there for everyone.  A key verse is Hebrews 1:1.  1.God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets,2.has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
    2. Paul states in Romans that the Jews were the primary instrument through whom God communicated for many centuries.  Romans 3: 1.What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?2.Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.3For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?4.Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: "That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged."
    3. Jesus told us in the sermon on the mount, Mathew 5:14:  You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel,  but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.   Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
    4. In Acts 26:26, Paul is speaking to King Agrippa and Festus, and Festus accuses him of madness in preaching the resurrection, but Paul says, “26.For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner.
    5.  The fact that God communicates will be important when we look at some of the esoteric or mystical texts that are behind things like the DaVinci code.
    6. An important theological question is, does God still communicate today?  Let’s talk about that.  Did revelation end with the apostles?  Why do we believe it did?  Does God speak in other ways?  How?  I heard Sarah Palin say something about God speaking to her, and I know the secularists go wild with that, but I believe God speaks to us constantly—we just don’t listen.  But I don’t believe he is revealing new doctrines or theological truths.  That would be chaos.  I’m not even sure that we are revealed guidance for other people.  God can take care of that.
  2. So how did/does God communicate to the world.  Two verses in the NT are usually quoted in this respect.
    1.  2 Timothy 3:16
    2. 2 Peter 1:20-21
    3. These tell us a lot, but scholars still debate what they mean.  There are different theories of “inspiration.”
                                          i.    God dictated directly to the writer, without his conscious knowledge.  In that case, why would it matter who wrote it?
                                        ii.    God moved the writer but used his own personality and style; the word “superintended” is usually used here.  Other words used are Plenary and Verbal, meaning all of it is inspired and the words themselves are inspired (God breathed), not just ideas.  This is the hard part for us to get our heads around, but it is one way that scholars know about the unity of a book.  Paul’s writing is very similar throughout, especially with personal and biographical details (and this is why Hebrews is not referred to as Paul’s writing—why would he have not claimed it?)
                                       iii.    God gave general ideas and the writer went from there.  For example, Paul knew he needed to write about submission to authority but the actual commands about how it should work was up to Paul.  Paul does say, I don’t have a command from the Lord on this in a couple of places, meaning the rest must be inspired.  I Corinthians 7.
                                       iv.    More liberal theologians would say the Bible is only inspired like literature is or that it is “inspired” when we read it and it gives us a message. 
                                        v.    Any belief we have about inspiration has to include it at the time of writing, not just when we read it (although that is also true, John 16:13), and the choice/individuality/personality of writer.
                                       vi.    The Bible claims itself to be inspired—this is not something people made up later.  And Peter refers to Paul’s writings as inspired.   
                                      vii.    Is the Bible all that God wants to tell us?  I think it is, but it’s not everything about God there is to know.  There’s a lot we don’t know, and so sometimes I think we Christians act like we are so smart when we really have very limited knowledge—we know what God wants us to know.  Jean Cauvin said that in the Bible God used “baby talk.”  I understand what he meant, when you think about it.  Other theologians talk about progressive revelation—that what was revealed to the OT saints and patriarchs was a part, then later we got more (Hebrews 11:40 seems to bear this out). 
                                    viii.    I believe all the Bible is for us to read but not all of it is applicable to us.  This is where I might differ from some people, and we will get
Into this next week.  Some of the Bible is for the Jews, but it contains truths about God we need to know. 
  1. These are the foundational truths.  The writers, however, actually produced the “autographs” (original manuscripts) in different ways.
    1.  Secretaries or amanuenses.  Paul refers to this many times at the ends of his books; he even mentions that he is signing his own name. Col 4:18 and at another he says, “see how big my handwriting is” Gal 6:11
    2. Research:  Luke was more like a modern historian, going to different sources and compiling them (Luke1:1-4, Acts 1:1-2).  Matthew also probably used parts of Mark in his gospel.
    3. Writing directly down as they get a message.
    4. They wrote on papyrus in rolls.  Parchment is animal skins, and it is also mentioned. 
    5. They wrote in Hebrew, Aramaic (rare), and Greek of the marketplace. 
 papyrus (a plant, strips, glued together, Egyptian)  roll
“We now know that the normal form of book, from the great days of the classical literature of Greece to the beginning of the fourth century after Christ, was the papyrus roll. The roll might be of various dimensions, according to need, but practical convenience dictated that it should not be more than 30 to 35 feet long -- a length which was sufficient for a single book of Thucydides or a single Gospel. The height might vary from about 5 inches for a pocket volume of poetry to 15 inches for a register of taxes; but a normal height for a work of literature was about 10 inches. The writing was arranged in columns, which for poetry would be regulated by the length of a line of verse, but for prose were generally between 2.5 and 3.5 inches wide. There would be narrow intervals (usually about half an inch) between the columns, and wider margins at top and bottom, where words accidentally omitted would sometimes be inserted. There was normally no ornamentation, no separation of words, and very little punctuation. It is very odd that this should have been so, since it must have added to the difficulty of reading quickly, and increased the probability of misunderstanding through a wrong division of words. Also it must have occasioned a good deal of difficulty in the verifying of quotations, and encouraged a writer to quote from memory rather than take the trouble to look up a passage in a roll. Yet this habit continued throughout the classical period, and it is a fact that with practice the non-separation of words does not occasion great difficulty, but only occasional hesitation. Certain it is that the separation of words only came in gradually during the Middle Ages, first for Latin and later for Greek; and that punctuation continued to be casual and incomplete until after the invention of printing.
  1. Needless to say, the Bible we hold in our hands is a miracle.  66 books, 39 and 27, It is the work of over 40 authors over close to 2000 years.  The oldest book is Job, which may have been written by Moses, who also wrote some psalms, and the last Old Testament book was Malachi, 400s B.C).  Oldest New Testament book was James, 45 AD, youngest is Revelation, 96 AD, John being the last apostle to die (he was quite young during Jesus’ time on earth.  And they were not written by scholars.  All kinds of jobs—fishermen, shepherds, kings, farmers, prophets, physician, tax collector, etc. 
  2. However, the biggest question of the last twenty years has been, why are these particular books the ones the church accepts?  There were in the Bible times other writings by Jewish writers that were considered sacred.  In 90 AD a group of rabbis and scholars decided which books were truly OT and which were not.  The ones that were not are called the apocrypha.  They are worth reading if interested in the history of the Jews, and you will find them in some Catholic Bibles.  The church leaders of the time agreed with the Jewish scholars, so we get what is called the OT canon.  Canon means ruler or standard, and the Jews had a ruler or standard for deciding which ones went in. 
  3. On the other hand, how did the New Testament books get chosen?  That is a much more complicated and controversial issue.  By about 170 AD, there was a set of books that were considered the NT by church leaders.  In the first three centuries, the church was persecuted, and on top of that there was a fight for true Bible doctrine, especially about who Jesus was (the Son of God, Trinity) and what was necessary for salvation (no works, faith alone).  The books that were accepted taught these truths and were written by eyewitnesses and apostles, that is, they were not written after all the apostles had died.  Many critics will say that the books of the NT did not get chosen until 325, Constantine, and were only chosen to support the people in power, and that many books that were widely accepted at the time were thrown out.  Why do they say that?
  4. It has to do with the Nag Hammadi library.  What is the Nag Hamadi exactly?  In 1945 a group of farmers in this area of northern Egypt found 13 books in leather cases in an earthenware jar.  These 13 books had fifty texts.  They burned one, but the others were kept.  They are believed to have been buried there by a group of monks who lived in a monastery nearby.  They are written in Coptic.  They contain writings that were probably being buried because the church would have considered them heretical.  They were Gnostic writings.  Gnosticism emphasizes secret knowledge that only specially initiated disciples were allowed to have, not for everybody.  Think of the church as if it were a Masonic lodge.  You get to go up steps or degrees and know more and more of the secret knowledge.  Gnosticism also is more mystical and not based on historical fact.  This is directly against everything the Bible teaches:  Go into all the world and make disciples of all.  Doesn’t sound like secret to me.  Also is the origin of the Sophia mythology, feminism worship, has records of things Jesus said and did.  I read some of the gospel of Thomas, the most talked about of these.   It was clearly more “hidden knowledge” oriented and not like what Jesus would normally say, coming from a different view.  It was also Eastern, sort of like Buddhism or Hinduism, not based on the cross, or on Judaism.  Some are just plain weird.  Whereas Christianity is based on the historical truth, the Gnostic and hermetic trends attach great importance to symbolism and even the allegorical.”

29. Jesus said, "If the flesh came into being because of spirit, that is a marvel, but if spirit came into being because of the body, that is a marvel of marvels.
Yet I marvel at how this great wealth has come to dwell in this poverty."
30. Jesus said, "Where there are three deities, they are divine. Where there are two or one, I am with that one."
69. Jesus said, "Congratulations to those who have been persecuted in their hearts: they are the ones who have truly come to know the Father.
Congratulations to those who go hungry, so the stomach of the one in want may be filled."
70. Jesus said, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not have that within you, what you do not have within you [will] kill you."
114. Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life."
Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven."
Some of them sound like the Bible, if you don’t know what Jesus really said.  Points:
KNOW THE WORD.  Others of them are clearly about “self-salvation”
Thank the Lord for preserving his word.  There is a reason those books were hidden for hundreds of years!  They weren’t right.  I am reminded that Satan will send them a strong delusion.

How did the Bible get translated into English, and why are there so many English versions
  1.  First translations were even before printing, but printing made the translation and                                                     
  2.  dispersal of the Word possible, also, to be honest, lucrative.
2.            Several English versions before the King James.  The New Testament is based                                                               
 on what is called the Textus Receptus, or a set of Greek texts that were available at the time and 
compiled by a 
scholar named Erasmus.  At this point in history,   there was no archaeology.   
People really didn’t value something from ancients civilizations like we do, and didn’t dig for it. 
Manuscripts/texts that were available were copies of copies of copies;  they were old, but since them                                                                    archaeologists  found older manuscripts that go back to within 200 years of their writing; 
they found them in monasteries and old churches
 in the middle east, for example.  So, in the 1800s                                           
these newer manuscripts were found (called codices, because they were books, not rolls or scrolls). 
A new compiled set of the Greek texts was found, and there were places where the
Greek texts used by Erasmus were different from the new ones—but nothing major, nothing
Having to do with doctrine, salvation, the deity of Jesus, or anything like that.  The two big
Differences, and you have probably seen this in your Bibles, are the end of Mark and the story
Of the woman taken in adultery, John 8.  I would never teach that passage for that
Reason.   However, the thing to keep in mind is that we have a very, very reliable collection
The ancient manuscripts in our hands.  Most modern versions will tell you where there is
A “difference” between the Textus Receptus and the newer manuscripts. 
On top of that, in the 1940s, the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, authenticating the OT.   
Modern scholars have very few manuscripts of Julius Caesar’s writings or Plato’s and
Aristotle’s.  In comparison, there are over 24,000+ New Testament
manuscripts, the earliest one dating to within 200 years after Christ.

However, saying that, does not mean that all versions are created equal.  I could at this
Point become pretty critical about the state of Bible translations.  We have dozens and
Dozens of English versions and there are countries that have none, so I feel like too much
Of this is for money, not for the right reason.  Like I said, I have too many copies sitting
Around and I am not going to read them.  Each version has its own idiosyncracy.

Original King James Version—beautiful language, but Textus Receptus and too hard for most
People to understand.   Language has changed too much in 400 years.  Yet I memorized
All my scripture in it!
New King James:  
NIV – uses newer texts and a method of translating called dynamic equivalence, instead of
Literally translating.  Dynamic equivalence tries to make the Bible make sense for the
Culture it is being translated into.  In some Ways it is easier for people to understand but in                                others it oversimplifies for people, tries to take out “paternalistic language” and makes 
the Bible read like the newspaper, which it is not.  However, it
Sounds like you’re being elitist if you try to make it as it the Bible shouldn’t be readable by
Everyone.  I think of it as milk vs. meat.  A young Christian should read the easy versions, but a
Christian who really wants to study the Bible should use the literal translations and compare.
The Message, The Living Bible:  not translations.  Paraphrases by one man.

Conclusion:  This has just been a start at looking at the origin of the Bible.  It is a subject
Of much debate and I am enjoying my study of it.  But three things to remember:  God preserved
His word, and we must know it to be protected from Satan and secular onslaughts.  Third:  it’s
About Jesus.  If you study the Bible for any reason other than to know about Jesus, you are
Missing the point.

Jesus in all 66 Books of the Bible
Old Testament
In Genesis –        He is the seed of woman.
In Exodus -          He is the Passover Lamb.
In Leviticus-        He is Our High Priest.
In Numbers-        He is the Cloud by day and a Pillar of Fire by night.
In Deuteronomy- He is the Prophet like unto Moses.
In Joshua -           He is the Captain of our Salvation
In Judges -           He is our Judge and Law giver.
In Ruth  -              He is our Kinsman and Redeemer.
In 1 & 2 Samuel - He is our Trusted Prophet.
In 1 & 2 Kings  -   He is the Lord our King.
In 1 & 2 Chronicles -He is our Reigning King.
In Ezra -                He is our Faithful Spouse.
In Nehemiah   -     He is the Builder of broken down walls.
In Esther   -           He is our Mordecai.
In Job        -           He is our Redeemer.
In Psalms     -        He is the Lord our Shepherd.
In Proverbs        -  He is our Wisdom.
In Ecclesiasties  -   He is our Lover.
In the Song of Solomon -He is our Beloved Fair one.
In Isaiah- He is the Prince of Peace
In Jeremiah – He is the The Balm of Gilead.
In the Lamentations - He is the weaping Prophet.
In Ezekiel – He is the wonderful four faced Man.
In Daniel  - He is the fourth man in the Fiery Furnace
In Hosea – He is the faithful Husband
In Joel – He is The Holy Ghost Baptizer
In Amos – He is the Burden Bearer
In Obadiah – He is Mighty to Save
In Jonah – He is our foreign Missionary
In Micah – He is the Messenger  with Beautiful feet
In Nahum – He is the Avenger of Gods Elect
In Habakkuk – He is God’s Evangelist
In Zephaniah – He is Our Savior
In Haggai – He is The Restorer of God’s Lost Heritage
In Zechariah – He is the Fountain Open in the house of David
In Malachi – He is the Son of Righteousness with Healing in His Wings.
New Testament
In Matthew -He is The Messiah
In Mark – He is The Wonder Worker
In Luke – He is The Son of Man
In John- He is The Son of God (he is the Word)
In The Acts – He is The Foundation of the Church
In Romans – He is our Justifier
In 1 & 2 Corinthians – He is our Sanctifier
In Galatians – He is the Redeemer from the curse of the law
In Ephesians – He is the Christ with Unsearchable Riches
In Philippians – He is The God that Supplies All of Our Needs
In Colossians – He is the Fullness of the Godhead Bodily
In 1 & 2 Thessalonians - He is Our Soon Coming King
In 1 & 2 Timothy- He is the Mediator between God in Man
In Titus – He is The Faithful Pastor
In Philemon – He is the friend that sticketh closer than a brother
In Hebrews – He is The Blood of the Everlasting Covenant
In James- He is Our Great Physician
In 1 & 2 Peter- He is The Chief Shepherd
In 1- 2 & 3 John  - He is Love
In Jude- He is The Lord Coming with 10,000 of His saints
In The Revelation – He is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Jane Eyre

I was glad to see this original post was linked on The Bronte blog, a very nice literary criticism/all things Bronte blog.

On Thursday I tok a vacation from most of my life and spent the day reading (rereading, although it's been decades) Jane Eyre.  I read it on my Kindle.  I have seen five of the perhaps nine film versions.  For some reason, it seems to be the actor playing Rochester who gets remembered or top billing!

1.  Orson Welles/Joan Fontaine.  She is too pretty for the part, too ethereal.  I felt like it was a typical vanity piece for Welles, who directed also.  It didn't include the whole story and felt very truncated.  It left out the story with her newfound family; the Lowood portion is, as usual, given short shrift, except that Helen Burns is played by a very young and unbilled Elizabeth Taylor.
2.   A TV one back in the 70s with George C. Scott, which I don't recall very well.
3.  The Timothy Dalton one from 1983.  It's long; I stayed up one night quite late in the early '90s and watched it on video.  The actress I have never heard of again.  He looked the part.
4. The William Hurt/Charlotte Gainsborough version, which I actually have.  Whenever the filmmakers try to condense it into two hours, the film just doesn't work.  William Hurt is no Rochester; too blond and comatose.  Moody, but no passion.
5.  The 2006 PBS version, which I loved and consider the best.  I have not seen the 2011 theatrical version.  The PBS one was long and did almost every part of the book, but the acting and chemistry was most natural and real.  I felt much more Jane's resolution not to be a victim, either from Lowood or as a dependent female (read mistress); at the same time Ruth Wilson plays her vulnerability and youth.  In this version, it is understandable why she falls in love with Rochester (really attractive man).  This version portrays their physical passion without anything inappropriate.  I am anxious to watch it again; it's on YouTube in pieces (how do people overcome the copyright infringements? by posting them in pieces?)

Jane Eyre is the first feminist in literature, I think.  She is hard-headed in the Romantic era; she is no Romantic.  She despises the frivolity and dependency of the woman of her times, the Blanche Ingrams.  She doesn't run across the moors like a crazy woman.  I am half convinced Charlotte Bronte had read Mary Wolstonecraft Shelley's, A Vindication of the Rights of Women, which advocates for women's education and ability to work to be self-supporting.  Jane has every intention of providing for herself as long as she can.  Jane refuses to be seen as Rochester's love on the basis of his money.  She will be his equal, or nothing.  She will not be his mistress because it violates God's law and because it violates her self-definition as an equal.  Equal perhaps not in social class, but as a human.

I think discussions of the book often overlook the religion of it and Jane's feminism.  It is a far more moralistic book than Bronte's sister's singular work.  Rochester wants her back and is ready to get married when she returns, but he also confesses to a repentance and conversion from his former life, due to his humbling, blindness, and injury.  Earlier, however, he seems to be saying, "Just be my mistress; it will be all right."  He does, and he doesn't.  He knows what makes Jane Jane is the fact she won't give in to being his mistress far away in Italy, and she is right: he will cease to love her if that happens.  She is willing to live by a principle and her own self-definition more than to have the physical passion fulfilled which she desperately, probably as much as he does, wants.  There is a lot of smouldering passion here, but no bodice ripper.

I find it interesting she calls him "my master."  In terms of employment, this is an overstatement.  In terms of her desire for equality, it is ironic.  In terms of her heart, he is the master of her heart but not her mind and not her body.  She is that master.  I can't help but think of 50 Shades of Mommy Porn, where a master/subordinate relationship is celebrated.  Biblically, we are "coheirs with Christ" in marriage, if believers, so subordination and submission are mutual.

Why does she love Rochester?  To this point in her life, she has had no relationships with men, other than the horrid Mr. Brocklehurst and her equally horrid cousin, and a servant or two.  Men have done little for her, so a desire for self-sufficiency is only logical; dependency does not fit her conceptual framework.  Who falls in love first?  Rochester does, but cannot act because of his position and age.  We see her thoughts and think she is falling in love with someone who would never return it, but Bronte gives it away; Rochester's words, actions, and the way he censors himself tells us he is in love.  Jane would not fall in love with a dandy, and it is not clear to me in the novel whether Bronte wants us to see Rochester as handsome or ugly.  Is she falling in love with him because there is no one else?  I don't think so.  Anyway, how many of us is that true of?  When another loves us first, do we not far more consider the possibility?

A friend told me to reread Austen, which is of course wonderful, but the women in Austen for the most part (perhaps because it is about 40 years earlier) have one goal in life:  to find a husband.  It has to be the right kind of husband, of course, but finding a husband is the goal.  Jane is not looking for one; love surprises her; as I think it should.

Much could be made of the second part of the book.  Many film versions ignore it, and skip to Bertha falling off the flaming mansion, the only impediment to a happy ending.  But Bertha is not the only impediment, really.  It is what she means; Rochester's past, and that includes the cruelty he has done Jane.  How can we like him when he is trying to marry a second wife?  He is a wannabe bigamist trying to keep it from an innocent.  Is she stupid and a victim and codependent because she loves him anyway?  The love is not the problem; the submission to him would be.  And she does not. I have grown to believe that we cannot help who we love, but we can help who we associate with and give ourselves to.  Bronte understands that emotions are strong but not over strong. 

Does Bronte make the ending too easy, with Jane becoming relatively wealthy and finding her family?  In a way, but if she is going to get help from anyone in her destitution, it's going to be a minister, and Bronte plants the seed of her fortune much earlier, so it doesn't come out of the blue.  The fact that the minister happens to be her cousin is a bit far-fetched.  It's interesting that marrying one's first cousin was not seen as a problem, but we see this in other English literature.

In terms of the second part also, I see St. John Rivers as what she could be, without her passionate heart:  disciplined, self-contained, a person of integrity who goes too far in that.  What I love, in the end, about Jane Eyre, is that she doesn't give in, even when pressured, either way--to cold religiosity or sexuality that will end in loss of self-respect. 

Beyond that, I marvel when I read Dickens and Bronte versus reading contemporary writers.  Surely their descriptive powers surpass ours today, and their vocabularies--I didn't know there were so many words in the English language.  The characters are real and human.  I don't get to read much fiction anymore, and have to be selective.  I think I'll stick with the founders of the novel form.

Friday, August 03, 2012

The gift that keeps on giving

I've always loved Peggy Noonan.  Here's a link.

Chick-Fil-A ad nauseum

Now all the Christians are being chastised for not being loving enough for going to chick-fil-A.  (I did not.  I sat with my mother during her chemo treatment all day.)

Please.  Why do people overlook all the ministries Christians do in times like this?  If the Christians all went on strike for a week, did absolutely no mission work in the name of Christ, what would happen?  Millions would go hungry.  Give me a break.  I am not going to made to feel guilty because of a chicken sandwich.  That is insulting.

Never have so many said so much and so little about a chicken sandwich.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Aftermath of August 1, 2012

Never has a martyr made so much money in one day.
Paul Tucker, my son

In reference to Dan Cathy's comments and resulting brouhaha.

Was he bullied?  Is criticism bullying?  What's the line?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Being Special, Being Ordinary

As usual, the bloggers at Christianity Today hit the nail on the head.

As someone who has tried hard to be "special" all my life, I now appreciate the freedom of ordinary.  But the younger generation has been fed a lie.  In Generation Me, Jean Twenge addresses the irony that our young people have been told they are special all their lives, have been taught to have self-esteem, etc., and yet have such trouble with depression.  They know they can't live up to the specialness they've been fed, and they feel like they have failed.  I am sitting here with my unemployed son, who did well in college and graduated in four years, has no tattoos, no debt, great credit, no record, has never been in the wrong kind of relationship--but isn't a wunderkid.  So he can't find a job.

When reading the blog at CT, I was reminded of Ann Voskamp's work.  She portrays herself as ordinary, a pig farmer's wife with six kids in the middle of Canada.  She teaches us to revel and praise and thank God for the ordinary beauties we take for granted.  But she is not ordinary!  For one, she is a magnificent prose-poet.  She is a best-selling author.

None of us is ordinary, really, but most of us are not standouts.  I have tried hard to be that, especially through writing.  But now I want to be left alone, not a good place for an author.  

Public Speaking Online, Part IV

During the Web Speech             One of the helpful suggestions from the business writers used for this appendix ...