Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, by Klein, Blomberg and Hubbard

There is much in this book that I like.  Still, there are a few, um, doozies, which standout and deserve a rebuttal.  One section is on Liberation "Theology" (the quotes are mine).  The authors go half way in pointing out the problems, yet there are some issues:

"... Many of them are Christian believers denied a decent wage and basic human rights by the large multinational corporations or corrupt national governments that employ them as virtual slave labor.  Yet many conservative Christians explicitly or implicitly continue to support right-wing regimes and ultra-capitalist policies that only exacerbate the physical suffering of their Christian brothers and sisters."

This is drowning in problems.  The starting point is the linking of a large corporation that dominates a country to the point that it can run the government and reduce people to slavery.  Yes, this has happened.  No, it isn't capitalism.  It is more like fascism, which is something that can't be sensibly discussed these days.  The Liberation Theology solution is invariably to replace the few multinational corporations and the quasi-independent government with a government sponsored monopoly.  What was never capitalism in the first place is replaced with something seven times worse.  The only issue here is the complete inability of liberation zealots to see any evil lurking behind populists, together with their wild condemnations of anyone who they imagine stands in their way.  But I think we can go further.  Thanks to the conflation of envy with poverty, and the ability to sell future generations into tax slavery, the liberation zealots will be responsible for more slavery than all the multi-national corporations of history.  The last few decades have thankfully seen much of the third world lifted out of poverty.  The thanks to this goes to God first, but the social vehicle that seems to have been the most visible cause is Capitalism. 

Of course the real question is about care for the poor.  This gets to a person's heart for which I only really know my own.  Leftists fight harder for the poor.  For a fee.  Conservatives give a higher percentage of their own income voluntarily, even after paying the taxes imposed by the Leftists.  We will need to wait until the Final Judgment to know if it is truly leftists or conservatives who care more.

Yes, the poor need someone to speak on their behalf.  No, we don't need that voice to be coming from a pack of thieves and charlatans.  

On Feminsm

"These critiques notwithstanding, all Bible students, particularly those from more conservative backgrounds, would do well to reread Scripture through the windows of various feminist perspectives."

Um, no.  I will be blunt:  Western woman are the most spoiled and coddled women in history.  Feminist perspective have done nothing except break down the family, create more anger and disillusion, and prompt more feminist perspectives that just make things worse. Those last two sentences are paradoxical when taken together, but it is just the puzzle that the feminist has lowered herself in her desperation to raise herself.  Or to put it another way, the worst fate for a Liberated Woman - actually any woman - is to fall into a relationship with a Liberated Male, but the only way to Liberate Women is to Liberate Men.  Feminism is a total catastrophe for women.

That being said, there is a reason to study feminist "perspectives".  Christianity has a tradition going back to the time of Irenaeus ... who studied the "perspectives" of the gnostics. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Solon the law giver: Regarding the utility of good laws

Solon was the one who gave the city of Athens its laws.

"My laws were not destined to be long of service to the Athenians, nor have you done any great good by purifying the city. For neither can the Deity nor lawgivers do much good to cities by themselves; but these people rather have this power, who, from time to time, can lead the people to any opinions they choose; so also the Deity and the laws, when the citizens are well governed, are useful; but when they are ill governed, they are no good." - The Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers, Diogenes Laertius

Solon was worried about Tyrants.  The later history of Athens was that of a people willfully choosing leaders who were worse through Democratic means.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, by Klein, Blomberg and Hubbard

I have done some of my reading, but this is the first one to get my ire up a bit, so I will make a few remarks.

The second chapter is one on the history of Biblical Interpretation.  This is a very broad topic, so to be fair they likely have no hope of doing the job adequately, and any group would find a pretext for grumbling.  So with that caveat, I will start grumbling.

0. "When God created the universe (Gen 1), he was the only one there the first five days, and since Hebrew as a distinct language probably emerged ca. 1000B.C., obviously someone wrote the report later than that."

I am not quite sure how to process that.  It sounds like the authors are young earth, 6-day creationists who reject Moses and consider the Torah to be a hoax.  This anomaly is probably a combined result of committee authorship and a desire not to run afoul of statements of faith, but my hermeneutic for determining this is admittedly fairly ad hoc.

1. There is no acknowledgment of the existence of an Eastern Church.  This is a huge loss both in terms of the historical development, what they passed on to Western Europe and the fact that the Eastern Church is a huge player in Christianity today.

2. The Jewish diaspora is lumped entirely under the category of Philo of Alexandria.  From the book of Acts, I have the impression that Apollos and John the Baptist were far more influential.  After having read a big chunk of Philo's writings, I think we can reinforce this even more by asserting that few Jews would have stayed awake long enough to have been theologically influenced by Philo.

3. The Renaissance was substantially mis-characterized along the lines of modern revisionism.

4. The "Schoolmen" who figure so prominently in the Reformation and later writings don't exist in this book.

5. The atheist literature was given mention, along with the mainline response, but the mainline apostasy didn't get any mention.  This stream seems to carry into the Barth/Bultmann era, which although it is good that they retreated from modernism, I don't see them as particularly relevant to anything.  But this is acknowledged in the book:  "Conservative scholars might regard their conclusions as rather meager, ...".

6.  The only stone cast is throne at conservatives for "proof texting", which I believe is the process of trying to find support for your opinions from the text, and perhaps making a list that can be recalled later.  And the alternative is?

As usual, the only group under the sun that is not to be taken seriously is the conservatives.  The first two chapters were part of the assigned reading, and the next two chapters aren't.  But now I am curious to see what the authors say in these next two.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

1,671 Pages

"Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness." - James 3:1

The books have been ordered for Fall semester.  These books (5 in all) are on the required list for two smaller classes representing 4 credit hours.  A full load of 16 credit hours would presumably require much more reading.  The good news is that only selected portions of the books are required for reading.  The flip side is that there are a number of additional recommended books to read, plus some online reading assignments, plus the books have their own recommended further reading if I care to do anything more than meet the minimum requirements.  With the Hebrew class winding down now, the challenge is to get as much of the next semester's reading done before things get busy with writing papers.

I had hoped to continue with learning Greek, Hebrew, and other languages, but this must be delayed.  Our church is short of preachers, and, well, they seem to want me to preach, even though I am quite content to only be a teacher.  Nor have I even wanted to preach, since I am an introvert and quite paranoid about standing in front of large groups doing a monologue.  Yes, I have a much easier time relating to computers than people, so why should I want the ultimate people job?  But in the past, I have been coerced into filling in now and then.  Consequently, some well meaning church members deduced that I loved being up on the stage and was anxious to do this in spite of my training deficiency, and this deficiency should be corrected as soon as possible.  The irony here is that the overall challenges and responsibility for being a good teacher are similar to that of being a good preacher.  At the same time, our age thinks nothing of putting a 20-year old, new Christian in charge of teaching, but vast quantities of training are expected of a preacher.  Thus, one class I have been required to take is for preaching.  Because this class has a prerequisite of hermeneutics - proper interpretation - I have also been compelled to sign up for this as well.  My initial survey of the material indicates that the material is good and well written, although it is of the wordy sort of writing that pastors are known for.  The good news in this is that I now have a pretext:  "Sorry, I can't preach that Sunday because I am too busy with my classes"!  Onward!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Orthodox Faith, by John of Damascus (676-749AD)

The Orthodox Faith showed up on Librivox.org as one of their recordings.  I had known nothing about John of Damascus, but have since gotten a little education that makes me feel like I should have learned about him earlier.

Islam:  When the Muslim hordes began their conquests, there was little in the way of recording of their beliefs.  John of Damascus is the first to study them and write about them.  This was before the Islamic Golden Age of learning started, so something for my todo list is to look more at the writings of John of Damascus on Islam.  Of course our modernist era believes that religion is whatever you want it to be, so none of this is relevant to anything.  Unless you aren't a modernist.

Saints:  A long standing struggle in Christianity is what to do about saints.  According to much of Christian theology, they are alive and in heaven standing before God.  At one extreme, we have a view that we can pray to them and ask favors of them according to their status as heavenly beings.  The other extreme is that of directing all our prayers to God, and God the Father, alone.  John of Damascus tries to argue a middle course more to the first direction, where we can actual pray to the saints.  

Scholasticism:  What really surprised me about this work is that so much of the discussion is in the manner of the scholastics of three to four centuries later.  A key part of the US government education which is expected that all American children be taught is that Christianity had eliminated all learning from Western Europe, and learning was re-introduced from Islam.  Then there are the extremist idiots (e.g. me) who point out that the morally degenerate pagan culture of southern Europe was overrun by illiterate northern barbarians, and Christianity was the reason for the education of these northern barbarians.  Islam had nothing to do with it.  A few of the other early middle age writings I have reviewed emphasized the flow of learning between the Christian eastern, Greek speaking Byzantine Empire and the Latin West, which was much easier to accomplish than interacting with the Muslims.  

Odds and Ends:  A few ideas that are unfamiliar to me are in this work.  One is a belief that Mary did not experience any pain when Jesus was born.  Another is that olive oil should be included in the water of baptism to accomplish an anointing. A third is more about how things are expressed regarding baptism.  It is the idea that all baptisms are dual:  There is the washing of sin from the body that is done through the water.  There is also the washing of sin from the soul which is done by the Holy Spirit.  The final teaching that would separate me from the Orthodox Faith is that of transubstantiation.  This is the idea that during church communion, when we take a bit of bread and wine, that the bread and wine are transformed into the actual, literal, physical body of Christ as they are consumed.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Keeping up with the San Francisco news: Naming the Asiana airlines pilots.

You would think that in my neighborhood, the San Francisco Bay Area, the local journalists would have learned a bit about Asian names, but ....


I am not sure if MSNBC is making matters better or worse by referring to the names as "racially offensive epithets", given that it is a universal feature of language to use puns on names.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Hebrew Paper #4

Almost done!  Something got pinched in my back last week, which gave me a few days stuck at home barely able to move. Then there was a holiday, so I was able to lay back and listen to my last few Hebrew lectures and get most of the final paper done.  What a relief.  A few of the remaining tasks are contingent on something else happening, but otherwise I am a month ahead of schedule.  Hopefully the back will be completely healed in the next week so I can get back to exercise..

What to do with all my free time?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Life Without Google Reader

Much is changing in our civilization, including how we follow blogs.  The end of Google Reader was yesterday, thus, an old friend is no longer there to help me accumulate all the postings.  In spite of the diminished blogging due to taking classes and working, I still make some effort to follow things.  The reader that I have switch to is feedly.com.

Monday, July 01, 2013

BART Strike

Yikes!  I am glad I don't commute that direction.  A few hundred thousand cars will likely be dumped onto the clogged commute routes into and around San Francisco.

It looks like the pretext is soaring ObamaFare costs.  This is eating into their paychecks, so the union is all in a tizzy ... against the BART management and the commuters of San Francisco.