Monday, 12 March 2018

Monday quote

Moderns believe in genetics only because it is not fashionable to believe in astrology.

John C Wright.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Letter to the Galatian church

Galatians has a theme running through the letter which is important to recognise in order to understand the epistle rightly. Paul's concern is that the Galatians wish to enforce the Mosaic Law on Gentile Christians. This is problematic because not only is it incorrect and unnecessary, it denies the essence of the gospel. By trying to enforce this the Judaisers were denying salvation through faith in Christ alone. Paul begins his letter identifying this very issue:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel (Gal 1:6).
What follows in the letter is an extended treatise on how Christ supercedes the Mosaic Law.

Paul states that there is only one gospel; that all other gospels are false; that anyone who preaches otherwise should be accursed; that Paul did not get this gospel from man but directly form Christ himself; that this is evidenced by his conversion from a persecutor of the church to a preacher of the gospel to the Gentiles; and that he confirmed with the apostles that the gospel he taught to the Gentiles was the true gospel.

It was evident to the apostles that just as they had been entrusted the gospel to the Jews, Paul was entrusted the gospel to the Gentiles. From this background Paul speaks against Gentiles having to obey the Mosaic Law. The Judaisers claimed that the Gentiles coming into the church had to obey the Mosaic Law including becoming circumcised. Paul therefore uses circumcision to refer to Jews and uncirumcision to refer to non-Jews. He proves his position first by referring to the situation in other churches and then by appeal to Scripture.

Concerning the situation in other churches Paul states that Titus the Greek was not compelled to be circumcised. He also notes that Peter was eating with Gentiles even though Jews do not eat with Gentiles. It was only after Judaisers infiltrated the church that Peter stopped eating with Gentiles, others followed suit. Paul labels the Judaisers the circumcision group, and not only did they persuade Peter but other Jews as well. Paul states that such behaviour is hypocritical and points out that he, Paul, had to rebuke Peter for trying to get the Gentiles to obey the Mosaic Law. If Peter, though a Jew, was permitted to behave like a Gentile, how much more so were Gentiles allowed to do so, That is, Gentiles do not have to behave like Jews: they do not have to obey the Mosaic Law.

It is uncertain what Paul is saying next. Translations differ as to whether Paul's rebuke to Peter ends at verse 14 or verse 21. If the quote ends at verse 14 then the subsequent discourse could be a development of Paul's rebuke of Peter or a new argument. If the quote ends at verse 21 then it must be a development of the rebuke. Of greater consequence is whether Paul means that Jewish Christians are found to be sinners (that is sinning) or to be among sinners (with Gentiles). Either way these Jews are "sinning", but the former position is sinning against the Law and against God, yet if the latter, Paul is implying a "sin" against the Law but not a sin against God.

Assuming the former, that is Jews are found to be sinners (against God), Paul is saying that he and others are Jews by birth, not Gentiles, not so-called sinners. Even so, as a Jew, as someone belonging to the group that God gave the Mosaic Law to, Paul knows that it is not obedience to the Law which justifies him but faith in Christ. In fact in it impossible to made right with God through obedience to the Law. Yet what about a Jew who is not trying to be made righteous through the Law but is trying to be made righteous in Christ? Such a person will inevitably disobey the Law at some point and is therefore identified as a sinner. Paul asks, because they are a sinner, even though they have faith in Christ, does that make Christ himself a servant of sin? That is, Jews are sinners because they disobey the Law yet are righteous because of faith in Christ; and if Christ is making  righteous those who are otherwise sinners, is Christ himself facilitating sin?

Assuming the latter, that is Jews are found among sinners, Paul is still saying that the Jews, who are not so-called sinning Gentiles, are not made righteous by obeying the Mosaic Law but through faith. However Paul then goes on to say that Jews are seeking to be justified by Christ while at the same times they are found to be with sinners, that is, eating with Gentile sinners. And if eating with Gentiles is sinful then is Christ facilitating sin?

The answer to either question is: Absolutely not!

Paul then illustrates why Christ is not facilitating sin.
For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. (Gal 2:18 ESV)

For if I build up again these things which I destroyed, I show myself to be a transgressor. (LEB)

If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker. (NIV)
The LEB and ESV are saying that if a person tears down something then at a later stage rebuilds it, the fact of rebuilding shows that the person now knows that they were wrong to destroy it initially. Rebuilding is an admission of guilt. The NIV assumes the same but with the added implication that because rebuilding would prove transgression, Paul is in fact not rebuilding. Going with the LEB and ESV Paul says that Christ is not facilitating sin because the transgressor is the sinner not Christ. Going with the NIV Paul is saying that Christ is not facilitating sin because the charge of being a sinner is false and Paul is not rebuilding what he tore down.

It is difficult to decide between the two options. Paul elsewhere makes it clear that even as Christians we are not without sin. And he uses somewhat similar arguments in other letters (Romans 6:1; 7:13). But the connection of the argument with Paul's rebuke of Peter gives credence to the second view: Paul is not rebuilding what he broke down, it is not sinful to eat with the uncircumcised, and Christ is not facilitating sin. It also implies that those who would rebuild the barrier between Gentiles and Jews are admitting guilt and are the sinners.

Either way, through the law Paul died to the law so that he might live for God (Gal 3:19).

How did Paul die through the Mosaic Law. He says,
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
Elsewhere he says that anything that hangs on a tree is cursed (Gal 3:13). Christ died under the Law and Paul died with Christ. Paul died through the law just as Christ did. And now he lives for Christ.
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Gal 2:21)
Paul tells the Galatians that not only can righteousness not be obtained through the Mosaic Law, were it able to be thus obtained, then Christ died for nothing. Because Christ did die and he died for us, then by his death we know that righteousness through the Law is impossible. Further attempting to obtain righteousness through obeying the Law is tantamount to denying that Jesus needed to die. It is a denial of the gospel!

Paul now explains further why the Mosaic Law no longer holds: the Law was temporary while waiting for God's promise. God promised Jesus who is our righteousness. God gave the Law while we waited for Jesus to come.

The sons of Abraham are not those who are descended from Abraham but those who have the faith of Abraham. Covenants are final once ratified. No one can change them or annul them (Gal 3:15). God made a covenant with Abraham and this cannot be changed or annulled by any person. This covenant was a promise to Abraham concerning Abraham's seed. While seed can be a collective singular (Gal 3:29), Paul specifies that seed here refers to a single descendant, not all Abraham's descendants. The Mosaic law came after the promise and it cannot change or annul the promise. The promise to Abraham was Christ and it remained Christ until he came, even during the time of the Law. If this is the case then why did Moses give the Law? God gave it because of transgressions (Gal 3:19). It was given to regulate sin until the promise came through Jesus.

Paul develops the giving of the Law in an interesting way.
[The law] was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
More than one what?
  1. One party? God being one party and the Israelites being the other. 
  2. More than one Israelite? The Israelites needed a representative who was their intermediary.
Paul then asks if the Mosaic Law is opposed to God's promise. In other words, if the promise is primary, and the law is temporary and given to regulate transgressions, then is the law contrary to the promise? No. If there were a law that could bring life then it would be given. There is no law that can bring life which is why the promise was given, and why Jesus had to die. Scripture imprisoned everything to be a slave to sin. We were imprisoned and held captive under the Law. God did this so that the promise could come to those who believed God, until the revealing of faith.

The law is like a guardian. It exists until we become heirs of the promise through Christ. But faith has now come, we are no longer under the guardianship of the law. Christians do not need to defer to the Mosaic Law. Differences that were previously apparent: Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, are no longer present. We are one in Christ and we are Abraham's seed because we belong Christ.

We are heirs of the promise in Christ. The heir while he is a child is like a slave. A child under a guardian is as a slave. Before Christ we are slaves under the law. Slaves to elementaries. Elementary principles or elementary spirits.

Prior to knowing God they were enslaved to that which by nature are not gods. This could mean principalities and powers: elementary spirits. Now they are turning back to special days and seasons. This could mean elementary principles. Paul may be appealing to both meanings. Note that Paul is not averse to describing spiritual beings as gods (1Co 8:5) though they clearly are false gods and not God (1Co 10:20-21). Satan is the god of this age (2Co 4:4). Elementary principles may be the preferred reading.

Then to reiterate that promise has priority over the Law. Paul uses the example of Hagar and Sarah. The birth of Ishmael came via the normal method which is analogous to the Law. And Hagar was the maidservant of Sarah, which represents the slavery under the Law. Sarah was made fertile after menopause as a result of a promise of God. This is analogous to the promise of faith in Christ. Sarah, the free woman, is the mother of the faithful. Jerusalem corresponds to Hagar, the Jews who do not know Christ, the Law. In Christ we are no longer residents of the Old Jerusalem, we are children of the promise, residents of the New Jerusalem. We are free in Christ. To be circumcised is to revert to the Law, to become a slave again, to reject salvation through Christ. And the only way you can have salvation is to keep every last regulation of the Mosaic Law without a single mistake. It is Christ or the Law, you cannot have both.

Throughout Paul appeals to the Galatians that they may hold to the truth. Paul refers to Judaisers as false brothers (Gal 2:4). He entreats them to listen to him because of their love for him (Gal 4:14,15) and his concern for them (Gal 4:19). Others do not care for them and use them for their own purposes (Gal 4:17). They only want to boast in their own flesh (Gal 6:12) and in the flesh of those they persuade (Gal 6:13). Paul wishes that those who draw the Galatians away from Christ would emasculate themselves (Gal 5:12).

Christ is freedom from the Law. And if anyone is tempted to sin, Paul reminds them that because faith supercedes the Law, then if we have Christ we can live by the Spirit. Walk in obedience to the Spirit who now dwells in you. Fleshly desires are contrary to the Spirit. But if you obey the Spirit you are not under the Law (Gal 5:18), there are not even any laws against the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23).

Paul warns the Galatians concerning sins to avoid and how to help others caught in sin. He reminds them to sow to the Spirit and not to the flesh. And finally,
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (Gal 6:15)
Paul was persecuted by the Jews for this teaching. Those promoting circumcision wanted to avoid persecution. But Paul would not deny the gospel even though that meant persecution. God gave a promise. That promise meets its fulfillment in Christ. The Law was never the promise, it was temporary because of sin. One can try and obey every law but there was no Law that could bring salvation. Or one can trust in the promise and put his faith in Christ.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Monday quote

Ignoring the meaningless propaganda about "the college experience," parents and students can experience a tremendous amount of financial freedom by picking local schools, especially ones that offer in-state tuition benefits. Some Christians unwisely automatically dismiss this as "delayed adulthood," but I can assure that what happens in most university dorms bears not even a passing resemblance to adulthood.

Samuel James.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Monday quote

If you're going to speak authoritatively about the Christian "God," you should at least try to show some knowledge of what the Christian tradition means when it says "God." In short, know your opponent; else you may end up bringing the proverbial knife to a gun fight. Doug shows how Dawkins has come to this showdown with a rubber band and a paper clip.

Joel McDurmon, The Deluded Atheist.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Monday quote

It takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown, and fewer still to ignore someone completely.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Monday quote

Belief that a man is born in a prison cell is distinct from the belief that the man is incapable of acknowledging that he is in a prison cell and accepting help to escape when it is clearly offered.

Leighton Flowers.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Monday quote

Of all ignorance, the ignorance of the educated is the most dangerous. Not only are educated people likely to have more influence, they are the last people to suspect that they don't know what they are talking about when they go outside their narrow fields.

Thomas Sowell.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Monday quote

We want to receive forgiveness dispensed from a fire hose, and we want to ladle it out with a teaspoon. But Jesus came to save us from our parsimonious selves.

Douglas Wilson, Hebrews Through New Eyes.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Restating our opponent's perspective

Social media has been abuzz about an interview of Jordan Peterson by Channel 4 News in the UK. This kind of thing would usually frustrate me but the interviewer so often misrepresented and mischaracterised Peterson it made the whole think farcical and therefore amusing. Perhaps the funniest comment was by John C. Wright,
Please count the number of times in this video the female interviewer says the words “so what you are saying is” and then count the number of times the male interviewee agrees and says, “Yes you have understood me exactly.”

By my count, the first number is infinite, and the second is zero.
Though I agree with some things that Peterson says and disagree with others, it seems that Cathy Newman was not even interested in understanding his position, whether that be because of ignorance or intentional distortion. There are things to be learned from this episode such as claims of subsequent threats against Newman were generally false and therefore we need to be suspicious of many claims by the media. Or that requesting your allies to refrain from bad behaviour will be used by your enemies as justification that such behaviour is occurring. But there was a comment made in the Atlantic which is worth highlighting. Conor Friedersdorf writes about an interview technique that he sees used increasingly frequently: where the interviewer restates the interviewee's response in his own words,
Then, another person restates what they purportedly said so as to make it seem as if their view is as offensive, hostile, or absurd.
After going through several examples Friedersdorf comes to this conclusion,
Newman repeatedly poses as if she is holding a controversialist accountable, when in fact, for the duration of the interview, it is she that is “stirring things up” and “whipping people into a state of anger.” 
Exactly. The divisive person paints his opponent as divisive. This is the problem many have with the left. It is not just that we disagree with their position, it is the dishonesty combined with the fact that they are being divisive at the same time claiming that their opponents are the divisive ones. It is rank hypocrisy.

Creating dissension for the sake of it is a tactic of the evil one. It is to be avoided. Paul pleads with Euodia and Syntyche to get along (Phi 4:2). Elsewhere he says to warn a divisive person twice before having nothing further to do with them (Tit 3:10).

Now I have left leaning friends that are very honest, and I grant that many people on the left and right genuinely believe things that happen to be false. Further, this tactic is wrong when those on the right (or purported to be so) use it. But the use of this technique is an argument that the media (predominantly the left learning) are biased against righteousness: they use tools of the Devil. I am not saying here that the left are against truth because they are often wrong (though I think they are), I am saying that they are the most guilty of deliberately mischaracterising their opponents to justify their own narrative.

Friedersdorf concludes that he  wrote his article as,
an argument that the effects of the approach used in this interview are pernicious.
Exactly. We restate our opponent's perspective so that they may clarify whether or not we understand them. Not so that we can put lies in their mouths, lies that they do not even believe.

One may argue, what of rhetoric? Is not rhetoric the same kind of method we use in debates to win arguments?

In short, no. The point of rhetoric well done is to appeal to emotion in making an argument. But the man of God is only to use rhetoric in pursuit of the truth. Showing the consequences of an opponent's argument is not the same as saying he holds to premises that he most certainly does not.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Saved through childbearing

The interpretation of "saved through childbearing" in Paul's first letter to Timothy is enigmatic with a surplus of suggestions as to its meaning. Is Paul talking about Eve here, or a woman, or all women? Why does he change from the singular to the plural? Paul writes,
Likewise also the women should adorn themselves in respectably, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothing, but with good deeds which are fitting for women who profess godliness. A woman must learn in quietness with all submission. But I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman, because she was deceived, came into transgression. But she will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control. (1 Timothy 2)

A common interpretation is to see the salvation through childbearing to be a reference back to Eve, and then incorporating all women if they continue in faith, love and holiness with self-control. The childbearing would refer to Eve being the ancestor of Jesus and the promise of deliverance in the curse on the serpent. That Eve will be saved (future tense) seems slightly unusual although it may be that this is used because of its application to other women that Paul then makes. But why just women? Surely men are also saved through Jesus and must continue in faith.

The following is a possible solution. The Greek word gyne is usually translated "women" in this passage. Were the term to mean "wife" in this context this could modify how we read Paul here. The passage would read,
Likewise also wives should adorn themselves in respectably, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive clothing, but with good deeds which are fitting for wives who profess godliness. A wife must learn in quietness with all submission. But I do not permit a wife to teach or to exercise authority over her husband, but to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but [his] wife, because she was deceived, came into transgression. But she will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control.

Thus when Paul talks of "saving through childbearing," he may be referring back to this sentence: "I do not permit a wife to teach or to exercise authority over her husband". If so, then it makes sense for him to use the singular "she": the wife of her husband. But when Paul adds the qualification to continue in faith, this qualification refers to all wives, not the exemplar wife Paul was specifying in his original instruction.

What does Paul mean by saved through childbearing? Childbearing may well be a synecdoche for raising children. The curse in Genesis is likely a synecdoche as conception is hardly painful. That is, a wife can and will be saved in the role of motherhood even if such a role may seem less prominent in the church. Of course a wife who raises children must still remain faithful to Christ in that role and Paul specifies this.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Monday quote

If your life is Christ, then your death will be only more of Christ, forever. If your life is only Christlessness, then your death will be only more Christlessness, forever. That's not fundamentalism, that's the law of non-contradiction.

Peter Kreeft, Jesus-Shock.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Monday quote

Few are so conformist as rebellious youth.

Theodore Dalrymple

Monday, 8 January 2018

Monday quote

The standard for how fast and in what direction the car should go cannot be how fast and in what direction the car is currently going.

Douglas Wilson, The Deluded Atheist.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Monday quote

Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.

Jaroslav Pelikan.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Monday quote

Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: "a virgin's womb and an empty tomb". Jesus entered our world through a door marked,"No Entrance" and left through a door marked "No Exit."

Peter Larson


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