Monday, 26 December 2016

Monday quote

This is the wisdom that acknowledges the small are great, the last are first, the humble are exalted, and the servants are lords. For those who think in carnal categories, power is always power over, and this means that for them the difference between white magic and black magic has to be power over for good ends, and power over for evil ends. But the gospel is power under. Jesus humbled himself in obedience, even to the point of death on a cross, and God has therefore highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name.

Douglas Wilson

Monday, 19 December 2016

Monday quote

Opportunity may knock once, but temptation bangs on your front door forever.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Trump and white evangelical voters

I don't envy the choices that US citizens had during their recent presidential elections. Were I eligible I would not have wanted to vote for either of the main candidates, and even the Libertarian candidate does not seem that libertarian. In the lead up to the election and the aftermath there has been much analysis but I have not found it convincing. A  recent piece in the Atlantic by Merritt doesn't do much better.

One of the few things he gets correct is the appeal not to leave evangelicalism because of disillusionment over the election. There comes a time to leave groups but he is correct that this is not the time to be walking away from evangelicalism—not least because the US is smaller than the rest of the world.

But I want to challenge several of the assumptions here because the issue is a little more complicated than: lots of evangelicals voted for Trump.
81 percent of white evangelicals voted for the Trump ticket—a higher percentage than voted for George W. Bush, John McCain, or Mitt Romney.
A major premise of the article is that white evangelicals support Trump and in higher numbers than other Republican candidates of earlier elections. But did they? And what else explains their voting behaviour?

Using Merritt's source (which is exit polling data and will have a margin of error) we see that the numbers of white evangelicals for Republican and Democrat are

Percent white evangelicals voting for Republicans and Democrats
2004 R78% D21%
2008 R74% D24%
2012 R78% D21%
2016 R81% D16%

It is uncertain whether there is anything in such a small percentage change. It may well be within the margin of error. What it clearly does tell us is that historically evangelical whites have voted Republican and continued to do so this election consistent with historic trends.

But percentages do not tell us how many people voted, they tell us proportionally how people voted. If everyone voted the percentages would be helpful but not if the turnout is significantly different.

This election an estimated 133 million votes were cast* (55% of eligible voters), 129 million for Trump or Clinton. In 2012 129 million votes (55%). In 2008 131 million votes (58%). In 2004 122 million votes (57%).

Votes (millions)
2004 Bush 62 Kerry 59
2008 Obama 69 McCain 60
2012 Obama 66 Romney 61
2016 Trump 63 Clinton 66

But combining these tables is quite hard. We need to know how many white evangelicals actually voted. Pew tells us that the electorate is composed of 26% white evangelicals which is essentially unchanged since 2008. Do they mean by electorate voters or potential voters? If the later (which is what electorate usually means) that isn't definitive because potential voters are not actual voters and it could be that white evangelicals disproportionately vote (or don't vote) or didn't vote as much in a specific election. Either way, what we actually need to know is how many white evangelicals voted for Trump (or Clinton) and what that number is as a percentage of eligible white evangelical voters (each election), and has that changed over the last couple of decades.

Therefore we do not have definitive data to say that white evangelicals voted for Trump more enthusiastically than Republican candidates of yesteryear, nor can we say that the voting behaviour this year was significantly different based on reasonable inferences from data we do have. We see the same old same old, just as black females voted Democrat like they have done for the last several decades.

Which brings us to the second issue that Merritt fails to mention: Trump's rival. Merritt quotes several evangelicals who were unhappy with Trump as a candidate, to which I concur. (Ironically, that he can name so many examples kind of works against his argument). A large number of my conservative friends and colleagues disapproved of Trump. I have never heard more negative comments spoken by conservative Christians about a politician running on a conservative ticket. But one can't discuss Trump in isolation. He was running against Clinton. And a large number of conservatives have concerns about her also. They find her as dishonest as Trump if not more so. Interestingly—contra my comment about Trump above—only one of my liberal Christian friends denounced her. Now one need not necessarily vote for Trump for fear of a Clinton presidency, but it is an understandable position. Who did Merritt vote for? He did not say, though obviously not Trump. But Merritt's argument works both ways. If Christians want to wash their hands of evangelicalism because some voted Trump, cannot other Christians want to wash their hands of those who would vote for Clinton?


*Accurate numbers are hard to come by, this is a low estimate.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Monday quote

Yet as I read the birth stories about Jesus I cannot help but conclude that though the world may be tilted toward the rich and powerful, God is tilted toward the underdog.

Philip Yancey

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Antarctica is big

Really big. Wikipedia have same scale maps for comparison. The Antarctic map is ice covered so is larger than the ice-free continent would be, but it is still remarkably large: twice Australia; similar to Russia; half Africa.

Area (million square kilometres)

Antarctica: 14
Australia: 8.6
Russia: 17.1
Africa: 30.4













Monday, 5 December 2016

Monday quote

Believing in Jesus is not enough, only when belief becomes obedience does it mean anything.

Trevor Geddes

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Jesus quoting Scripture

These are all the quotations of Jesus from the Scriptures. The quote is italicised. How Jesus frames the quote is bolded. The Sermon on the Mount is excluded.

Matthew
  • But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” (Mat 4:4 | Deu 8:3)
  • Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Mat 4:7 | Deu 6:16)
  • Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” (Mat 4:10 | Deu 6:13)
  • But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mat 9:13 | Hos 6:6)
  • For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. (Mat 10:35-36 | Mic 7:6)
  • This is he of whom it is written, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.” (Mat 11:10 | Mal 3:1)
  • Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “ ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.’ For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.” (Mat 13:14-15 | Isa 6:9-10)
  • He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ ” (Mat 15:3 | Exo 20:12; 17)
  • You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” (Mat 15:7-9 | Isa 29:13)
  • He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? (Mat 19:4-6 | Gen 1:27; 2:24)
  • Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mat 19:18-19 | Exo 20:12-16; Lev 19:18)
  • Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” (Mat 21:16 | Psa 8:2)
  • Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (Mat 21:42 | Psa 118:22-23)
  • And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God:  ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? (Mat 22:31-32| Exo 3:6)
  • And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat 22:37-40 | Deu 6:5; Lev 19:18)
  • He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet” ’? (Mat 22:43-44 | Psa 110:1)
  • “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” (Mat 23:37-38 | Psa 118:36)
  • “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand). (Mat 24:15 | Dan 9:27)
  • Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ (Mat 26:31 | Zec 13:7)
  • The high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Mat 26:63-64 | Psa 110:1; Dan 7:13)
  • And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mat 27:46 | Psa 22:1)
Mark
  • He said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’ ” (Mar 4:11-12 | Isa 6:9-10 )
  • Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Mar 7:6-7 | Isa 29:13)
  • For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ (Mar 7:10 | Exo 20:12; 21:17)
  • Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ (Mar 10:5-7 | Gen 1:27; 2:24)
  • You know the commandments: “Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.” (Mar 10:19 | Exo 20:12-16)
  • He was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Mar 11:17 | Isa 56:7; Jer 7:11)
  • Have you not read this Scripture: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes”? (Mar 12:10-11 | Psa 118:22-23)
  • Have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? (Mar 12:26-27 | Exo 3:6)
  • Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mar 12:29-31 | Deu 6:4-5; Lev 19:18)
  • “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), (Mar 13:14 | Dan 9:27)
  • Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ (Mar 14:27 | Zec 13:7)
  • The high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mar 14:61-62 | Psa 110:1; Dan 7:13)
  • And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mar 15:34 | Psa 22:1)
Luke
  • Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’ ” (Luk 4:4 | Deu 6:13)
  • Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luk 4:12 | Deu 6:16)
  • And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luk 4:17-19 | Isa 61:1-2)
  • This is he of whom it is written, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.” (Luk 7:27 | Mal 3:1)
  • He said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ (Luk 8:10 | Isa 6:9-10)
  • For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luk 12:52-53 | Mic 7:6)
  • Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Luk 13:35 | Psa 118:26)
  • You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” (Luk 18:20 | Exo 20:12-16)
  • And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers.” (Luk 19:45-46 | Isa 56:7; Jer 7:11)
  • But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? (Luk 20:17 | Psa 118:22-23)
  • For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” (Luk 22:37 | Isa 53:12)
  • For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luk 23:29-31 | Hos 10:8)
  • Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luk 23:46 | Psa 31:5)
John
  • It is written in the Prophets, “And they will all be taught by God.” (Joh 6:45 | Isa 54:13)
  • In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. (Joh 8:17 | Deu 17:6)
  • Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?” (Joh 10:34 | Psa 82:6)
  • But the Scripture will be fulfilled, “He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” (Joh 13:18 | Psa 41:9)
  • But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: “They hated me without a cause.” (John 15:25 | Psa 35:19)


Verses included
Matt 4:4; Matt 4:10; Matt 4:7; Matt 5:21; Matt 5:27; Matt 5:31; Matt 5:33; Matt 5:38; Matt 9:13; Matt 10:35-36; Matt 11:10; Matt 12:7; Matt 13:14-15; Matt 15:3-4; Matt 15:7-9; Matt 19:4-6; Matt 19:17-20; Matt 21:13; Matt 21:16; Matt 21:42; Matt 22:31-32; Matt 22:37-39; Matt 22:43-44; Matt 23:38-39; Matt 24:15-16; Matt 26:31; Matt 26:64; Matt 27:46; Mark 4:11-13; Mark 7:10; Mark 7:6-7; Mark 10:6-8; Mark 10:19; Mark 11:17; Mark 12:10-11; Mark 12:26-27; Mark 12:36; Mark 14:27; Mark 14:62; Mark 15:34; Luke 4:4; Luke 4:8; Luke 4:12; Luke 4:17-19; Luke 7:27; Luke 8:10; Luke 12:52-53; Luke 13:35; Luke 18:20; Luke 19:46; Luke 20:17; Luke 20:37-38; Luke 20:42-43; Luke 22:37; Luke 23:30; Luke 23:46; John 6:45; John 8:17; John 10:34; John 13:18; John 15:25.

Verses that are Scripture references in the Sermon on the Mount
Matt 5:21; Matt 5:27; Matt 5:31; Matt 5:33; Matt 5:38; Matt 5:43; Matt 7:23

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Strong molten mirror

Job 37:18 says
Can you, like him, spread out the skies,/
hard as a cast metal mirror? (ESV)

will you, with him, spread out the clouds,/
solid as a mirror of molten metal? (NET)

can you join him in spreading out the skies,/
hard as a mirror of cast bronze? (NIV)

Can you, with him, spread out [raqa`] the skies [shachaq],/
strong [chazaq] as a mirror [r'iy] of molten [yatsaq] metal?

raqa` means to "spread out".

shachaq is more often translated "clouds" or "dust". It is less often used for "heaven" and the more common word for heaven is the Bible is shamayim.

chazaq means "strong", so "hard" or "solid" seems reasonable if the context is that of a solid object.

r'iy means means "appearance" and it is used here in Job and nowhere else in the Old Testament. The more common word for mirror is mar'ah. Mirror may seem an appropriate translation based on the meaning "appearance".  However the Septuagint doesn’t translate the word as “mirror” but “appearance”.

yatsaq means to "pour out". It is translated into English as "molten" only here. As mirrors were made of metal (not glass) poured out metal is molten metal. Thus a reasonable translation if mirror is also correct. Yet what is a molten mirror? One in the process of being cast (see ESV and NIV)? But a molten mirror would not be hard or strong, though perhaps mighty or powerful.

Going with the more usual meanings of the words (if the context allows it) we get, as per the NET,
will you, with him, spread out the [strong] clouds,/

Newman translates the whole verse,
Can you, with Him, spread out the mighty clouds,/
With an appearance of being poured out?
Or more colloquially,
Can you, with him, spread out the mighty clouds,/
that look like they have been poured out?

The Myth of the Solid Heavenly Dome: Another Look at the Hebrew (RĀQÎA‘) by Randall W. Younker and Richard M. Davidson, Andrews University Seminary Studies, No. 1, 125-147. (pdf)

Footnote 62: Job 37:18 records Elihu’s challenge to Job: “Can you, with Him [God], spread out [rāqa‘] the skies [šeḥaqim], strong [ḥāzāq] as a molten [mûṣaq] mirror [re’î]?” Newman, 13-15, examines this passage, and points out, 14-15, that the Hebrew word šeḥaqim normally means “clouds” and not “skies” elsewhere in Scripture. See HALOT, 1464-1465. Unless there is unambiguous evidence in the immediate context that the term should be translated “skies,” it is preferable to translate it as “clouds” here and elsewhere. Several major commentators (e.g., Tur-Sinai, Dhorme, Gordis, and Habel) have seen a reference to “clouds” and not “skies” in this passage (cf. NET which translates the term as “clouds”). Newman, 14, further calls attention to the fact that the word re’î, usually translated “mirror,” is not the normal word for “mirror” in the Hebrew Bible, and, in fact, is a hapax legomenon, translated by the Septuagint as (horasis), which means “appearance” in Hellenistic Greek, not “mirror.” This translation is supported by a slightly different pointing of the same Hebrew consonants (with a composite sheva instead of simple sheva), as (ra’î), which means “appearance” and is found four times in the OT, including a single passage in Job from the same speech of Elihu (Job 33:21). Newman, 15, also notes  that ḥāzāq can mean “mighty” as well as “strong,” and mûṣaq literally means “poured out.” He concludes that since in this verse the context is on-going weather phenomena rather than creation, the following translation of the verse is preferred: “Can you, with Him, spread out the mighty clouds, With an appearance of being poured out?” (ibid.). Regardless of the precise translation of the entire verse, if šeḥaqim means “clouds” and not “sky,” there is no reference to a solid domed sky in this passage. Instead, we have an example of “a non- solid object (clouds) being spread out with use of the verb rāqa‘ ” (ibid.). Alternatively, if one insists on translating šeḥaqim in Job 37:18 as “skies” or “heavens” “like a molten mirror” as in many modern versions, the passage still does not imply a solid metal dome. Kenneth Mathews, who follows this traditional translation, points out that “Job 37:18, which describes skies without rain as a ‘bronze’ expanse (cf. Deut 28:23), is figurative and does not support the common contention that the ‘expanse’ was considered a bronze dome by the Hebrews” (Genesis 1–11:26, New American Commentary 1a [Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996], 150).

Monday, 28 November 2016

Monday, 21 November 2016

Monday quote

Holiness requires of us uncompromising action against sin in our lives and communities. This entails being prepared to resist the urge of compassion towards people closest to us when that compassion would lead to compromise. Christ places a sword between the nearest of relations.

Alastair Roberts

Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Fall: Man

God cursed the man last
Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.
God rebukes the man for listening to his wife. It may be suggested that this interpretation is a problem in itself; rebuking listening would seem to conflict with other Scripture where women give wise advice, consider Abigail and Deborah. A possibility is that this a rebuke for listening and doing as she suggested, that is obeying his wife. There may be some credence to this view as it seems that Adam knew his action was rebellious. The curse hints at this and Paul distinguishes the behaviour of the man and woman in his letter to Timothy.
Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived (1 Timothy 2)
Though perhaps the rebuke is because he listened to his wife over God's explicit command. Paraphrased
You listened to your wife and did as she said,
but I said not to do this.
Therefore the possibilities for the rebuke to the man are
  1. Listening to his wife (heeding her opinion rather than just listening to God)
  2. Obeying his wife
  3. Obeying his wife over a direct command from God otherwise
The first is unlikely, the third is true regardless, and the second is a possibility as to the meaning here.

Understanding this preamble to the curse may give us insight into how the state of affairs were between husband and wife before the Fall. Although pre-Fall relationship can be garnered from other passages which then aids us in interpreting this verse.

The curse God gave to the man affected his work and his life. Work is not a result of the Fall, rather toil is.
God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." (Genesis 1)
Dominion over the earth was given to the man and the woman. While such dominion involved more than the provision of food, it would take work. Provision of food perhaps could be seen as merely sustenance in the face of the command to fill the earth and subdue it.

Though working the earth was still a significant component of the subduing,
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2)
In the same way that filling the earth with people became difficult thru the curse on the woman, subduing it became difficult because just the provision of food was now toilsome.

The curse of the ground is seen as the fault of the man. God says, "Because of you..." Is there a hint of a necessity here? The only appropriate response from God was to curse the land. Not cursing was not a possibility, there were no other options.

The word pain (`itstsabown) is repeated here. The woman has pain in childraising, the man has pain in provision of food. Eating being a metonymy; it is not the eating that is painful, it is the growing of food to eat. The sweat on the brow shows that these are not just nuisances, they are a very burdensome toil.

The curse has a passive and active component. The soil would not produce food easily, and the soil would produce harmful vegetation.

And the end of it all? Death. The poetical irony, man was made from dust, yet animated by God's Spirit. But at the end of his days he will become mere dust again. God's warning came to pass,
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for when you eat of it you shall surely die.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Monday quote

God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.

A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Idolatry in Gomorrah

There are occasional announcements of various Christians claiming that after some intensive research, thought, and prayer, that they have come to the conclusion that Christianity allows for same sex relationships. When this position is criticised the push back is quite furious with claims of judgmentalism, adiaphora, lack of love. Some deny that Christians can even comment on whether others are saved: how can anyone deny that homosexuals and advocates of this lifestyle are part of the kingdom of God?

Now this kind of critique can have merit. God sets the criteria for those he saves. As Christianity is about following a person; in a large degree it concerns the direction of our lives not whether we hold to specific doctrines. Even so, Jesus condemns a group for making their disciples twice the sons of hell that they are (Mat 23:15) and he asks them whether they can escape hell fire (Mat 23:33). Paul demands that people be put out of the church (1Cor 5:2). John warns against welcoming those who do not hold true doctrine else they share in their wickedness (2Jo 1:10-11). So while we may not know the exact status of all men—and many will be surprised that Jesus never knew them (Mat 7:21)—it seems that we can know that at least some men are under God's wrath.

This means that criticism of Christians who warn against accepting a homosexual agenda is often unwarranted. Warnings of the danger of the gay lifestyle are needed.

Even so, there is a more sinister issue attending this debate. Those promoting same sexual behaviour have placed sexual desire and behaviour above Christ.

Jesus tells us that we are to follow him. We are to deny ourselves and pick up our crosses (Mat 16:24). All our lives are to be under the lordship of Christ. Jesus came dividing households against each other: father against son, mother-in-law against daughter-in law (Luk 12:53). Those who leave their houses, land, family, for the sake of the kingdom are rewarded (Mat 19:29); which implies that such leaving is a preferable action even if it is not a necessary one. To follow Jesus means that we are to place him first. At times following him means we are to give up even good things: things that are not intrinsically sinful. Now sodomy is clearly condemned throughout Scripture. If we are to put off good things for the kingdom how much more do we rid ourselves of sin. Those promoting homosexuality as a righteous behaviour deny that such desires should ever be suppressed. Yet we see that God demands that he is primary. We must put God first. To refuse to leave something behind that God demands we abandon is putting that thing above God: it is idolatry. Same sex desire and behaviour is the one thing that the gay activists within the church deny should be denied for the sake of the kingdom. It is not just that they are wrong concerning the sinfulness of sodomy, they place the desire and the behaviour above God.

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul says that we must avoid sexual immorality, impurity and covetousness (Eph 5:5). Covetousness he identifies as a form idolatry, which he also does in Colossians 3. When we desire things above God we make them more important than God and thus they are an idol. It is interesting that covetousness is so often connected to sexual immorality. Sexual sin drew the Israelites into idolatry at Moab (Num 25).

Scripture makes it clear that sodomites who do not repent will not inherit the kingdom. But further evidence that it is immoral is that its apologists refuse to submit homosexuality to the lordship of Christ. Their idolatry shows the bankruptcy of their position.


For those who struggle with same sex attraction, you need to submit your whole self to Christ. It is true that the adulterer needs to abandon his adultery, the fornicator his fornication, and the sodomite his sodomy. Sexuality is a major and key area that we need to repent of. But it is not just your sexuality that needs to come under the lordship of Christ it is your whole life. God doesn't just want your sexuality handed over to him, he wants your time, your money, your friendships, your conversation, your job; he wants all of you.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Monday quote

A man may know that nobody has insulted him, but that he has invented the insult for himself, has lied and exaggerated to make it picturesque, has caught at a word and made a mountain out of a molehill—he knows that himself, yet he will be the first to take offence, and will revel in his resentment till he feels great pleasure in it, and so pass to genuine vindictiveness.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

Monday, 31 October 2016

Monday quote

What if living the abundant life isn’t about having better stories to share but about living a story that lets others live better?

Ann Voskamp

Monday, 24 October 2016

Monday quote

We really do today trust the learned about the things of which they are ignorant, and the traveller about the countries he has not visited.

GK Chesterton

Monday, 17 October 2016

Monday quote

Here is the worldly formula for happiness: Love things, use people. You want to know the right formula? Love people, use things.

Arthur Brooks

Monday, 10 October 2016

Monday quote

There is a determined though unseen bravery that defends itself foot by foot in the darkness against the fatal invasions of necessity and dishonesty. Noble and mysterious triumphs that no eye sees, and no fame rewards, and no flourish of triumph salutes. Life, misfortune, isolation, abandonment, poverty, are battlefields which have their heroes; obscure heroes, sometimes greater than the illustrious heroes.

Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Monday, 3 October 2016

Monday quote

This movement calls itself feminism for the same reason those who eschew meat call themselves vegetarians: the movements are named after what they consume, not what they protect.

John C Wright

Monday, 26 September 2016

Monday quote

Sheer tragedy is when people become so accustomed to the mercy of God that they despise it—even, and especially, in the act of seeking it.

Dale Ralph Davis, Such a Great Salvation.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Monday quote

To the degree I feel good when exposing the sin of another person, I am exploiting, not restoring.

Jeanne Mayo.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Monday quote

Yet what was peculiar about the West was not that it participated in the worldwide evil of slavery, but that it later abolished that evil, not only in Western societies but also in other societies subject to Western control or influence. This was possible only because the anti-slavery movement coincided with an era in which Western power and hegemony were at their zenith, so that it was essentially European imperialism which ended slavery.

Thomas Sowell, Black Rednecks and White Liberals.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Believing men persuaded

Men in Antioch preached the gospel and many became Christians. This was shortly after Peter preached to Cornelius' household and defended the inclusion of the Gentiles amongst those whom were to have life in Jesus' name.
But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:20-21)
This is an interesting passage, though variously translated. The KJV and many that follow it join the act of believing with coming to the Lord. The NIV does likewise.
  • KJV | And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
  • NKJV | And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.
  • NRSV | The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord.
  • NIV | The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
Thus the passage would be saying that a great number Hellenists were persuaded by the men of Cyrene and Cyprus and as a result turned to the Lord.

Though the ASV and several recent translations connect turning the the Lord with antecedent faith.
  • ASV | And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number that believed turned unto the Lord.
  • RSV | And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number that believed turned to the Lord.
  • ESV | And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.
  • LEB | And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.
  • NET | The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number (ἀριθμὸς) who believed (πιστεύσας) turned to the Lord.
Although the people could have just believed the message and thus turned to the Lord, are they believers? The question is: were they persuaded and therefore believed? or were believing men persuaded?

The NET study note says,
The participle πιστεύσας (pisteusas) is articular and thus cannot be adverbial. It is adjectival, modifying ἀριθμός (arithmos), but has been translated into English as a relative clause (“who believed”). 
I suspect that the study note is saying that the word "believing" is joined to the word "number" so it must be an describing the great number of people. The phrase could be translated "...a great believing-number turned to the Lord."

We have a potentially important distinction in this passage and elsewhere. The Great Commission was to tell the world about Jesus so that men may repent and be baptised; that they may become disciples; that they may have life in his name. This is quite obvious in our current age. Even so, the time of the New Testament was a time of transition. Jesus revealed himself as the Messiah. He is the true Israel. Christianity was in its infancy. So what are we to make of the faithful of that time? Anna and Simeon in the temple, the disciples, the family of Jesus (even they did not believe him (John 7:5)), Cornelius and other God-fearers. These people were part of God's kingdom but had yet to come to trust in Jesus. While it is true that many of the lost repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus for their salvation, there were others who were part of the kingdom but who were ignorant of how Jesus fulfilled the Messianic promises.

Could not these Hellenists* be men who were believers in the One True God, and because they were so, when Christ is preached they believe also in him? Could this not also be the situation with God-fearers among the Greeks?
Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.
Jesus had said that he had sheep in other folds before his death and resurrection (John 10:16). Jesus had told some Jews that everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to him (John 6:45), and told others that if God were their Father they would love him (John 8:42).

There were many people who loved God and on learning about Jesus loved him also, and turning to him, entrusted their lives to him.


*If the word is "Hellenists" then this would refer to the godly Greek-speaking Jews in Antioch, or perhaps proselytes. If the word is "Greeks" then this would refer to the Greek God-fearers in Antioch.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Monday quote

Christianity makes sense of who we are in the world. All of us need a framework in which to understand reality, and part of Christianity's appeal is that it is a worldview that makes things fit together. Science and reason are seamlessly integrated in a Christian framework, because modern science emerged from a Christian framework.

Dinesh D'Souza, What's so Great about Christianity.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Starlight and time

One of the most frequent examples criticising creationism that I encounter is the starlight problem and the age of the earth. Perhaps this is somewhat understandable in that the problem is relatively well understood, and is a real problem. They are not critical of the horizon problem which again may be understandable because the horizon problem is known about by many and not quite so easily understood. Nevertheless, both problems: distant starlight and a young earth; and the horizon problem, are starlight problems.

The starlight problem is this. God can create with an appearance of age, but most suggest that it would be at the level of what is required for a mature creation. So God creating several different types of rock as a foundation for the earth is reasonable even if that may appear to some to be a feature of age. But to claim that fossils of animals within rocks were created in the position to make it appear like they were buried despite never existing seems non-congruent with God’s nature. Most creationists, and most people, think fossils represent real animals.

Now God also created stars and they are a long way away. Adam would not have seen them until the light travelled here from the star. Now God could have created the light in transit which I think is fits with necessity of appearance of age. God made the stars for a purpose which involves seeing the star so creating the star and the starlight at the same time may be necessary. The problem with created light is that this light carries information. It carries information about what each star is made from, how fast it spins, when it becomes brighter (nova), and when it explodes (supernova), etc. Now I happen to think that the first 2 of these pieces of “information” (composition and spin) are legitimate to put into created light in transit, they represent the star as it is. But putting in information for the star’s destruction if it never happened seems a little like creating fossils of animals that never existed. Thus creationists think that supernova represent true star destruction. And supernovas more than 6000 light-years away should not be visible in a world only 6000 years old.

So the problem is: how did the light get from the star to earth in so short a period? How did light from a star more than 6000 light-years away get to earth in less than 6000 years. Now this is a real problem. However the stellar evolutionists have exactly the same kind of problem: the horizon problem.

The temperature of space is uniform and there is not enough time for light to have travelled across space to equalise temperatures, even after billions of years. This is well recognised by evolutionists and is called the “horizon problem.” The temperature of space in all directions is much more symmetrical than it should be.

Before we propose any solutions what is extremely important to note is that both creation theory and stellar evolutionary theory have a light travel time problem.

Even if we do not know what the solution is, it is logically invalid to dismiss creationism because of the light travel problem in favour of evolution when it has exactly the same problem. Goose and gander and all.

As it so happens, solutions are proposed by both schools. One may favour one over another, but if your solution has no scientific validation, it is tenuous to use the solution as proof of the truth of your theory. All you can do is claim you have rescued your theory.

The main solution of evolutionists for the light transit problem is the inflationary big bang model.

Creationists have proposed
  • c decay
  • white hole cosmology
  • Carmeli cosmology
While c decay (slowing of the speed of light) is out of favour with most creationists, I have some time for it.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Monday quote

Punching someone in the face is on my bucket list. If I have to, I’ll punch the nurse at my death bed.

Maggie Spiegel (age 11).

Monday, 22 August 2016

Monday quote

There are ultimately only two alternatives in the intellectual life: either one conforms desire to the truth or one conforms truth to desire.

E. Michael Jones, Degenerate Moderns.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Monday quote

And if there is any lesson that modern culture has taught us, it is that we have a right to our offenses, however we construe them. Offenses have become a form of currency. And, like the other fiat currencies, they succumb to hyperinflation.

katecho

Monday, 8 August 2016

Monday quote

Better the world know you as a sinner than God know you as a hypocrite.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Monday quote

We celebrate authenticity in vice over inconsistency in virtue.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Is the Bible historical?

Modern history as a discipline makes certain demands on the source material although this is also somewhat dependant on the underlying philosophy that one subscribes to. As a word "history" refers to the events that antedate us.

Fundamentally history can be considered as a question of truth concerning the events of the past. Now all narrative is flavoured by the author, even if it is just that way certain events are placed adjacent or separate in the story which may suggest that a correlation is or is not causative. Further, as various histories differ, or change over time, some postmoderns have argued that we cannot know history at all.

Ignoring the epistemological question, the change over time reflects some aspects of history more than others. Consider World War 1. Various histories could debate what they thought were the predominant causes for that war depending on underlying presuppositions, and how they weigh the significance of various events; but all histories would agree that there was a war throughout Europe between 1914 and 1918.

So while historians are interested in the why, the events and dates of history often stand on firmer ground. As often stated, chronology is the backbone of history.

A couple of problems that one could have in analysing Scripture is the lack of corroborating material for some events, and the way that certain events are narrated.

As a question of truth, the narrative portions of the Bible are presented as historical fact. It is history in that sense, and it is unreasonable to ask tho ancients to write in a format that moderns have come to prefer.

As to the way events are narrated and God's involvement in history, many moderns have an anti-supernatural bias which may lead them to minimise or discount biblical narrative.

This brings us to the corroboration question. In many ways this is just a question of certainty: the more (independent) people who discuss an event, the greater our confidence in it. Though true, we can only work with what we have. It is faulty to think that lack of further sources call into question a source. Rather we can hold something tentatively or securely depending on what knowledge is to be had.

That said, there are some considerations with Scripture that speak to its veracity. Firstly, there are some corroborations external to Scripture that confirm what Scripture says; both written sources and archaeological reconstructions. Secondly, when an author is shown to be reliable in one area it is reasonable to think him reliable elsewhere. Thirdly, negative features suggest reliability. It is one thing to diss the foreigners, another to reveal the warts of your own people. The frank honesty of the authors of Scripture with regard to the failures of both the leaders and the citizens of Israel is unusual.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Monday quote

Just as Adam's side was opened to bring forth the first woman, Jesus' side was opened to bring forth the church. His piercing produced a fountain of life for us!

Lee Grady

Monday, 18 July 2016

Monday quote

Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.

C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Women are feminine and men are masculine

I was reading this piece which is addressing the trinitarian debate on the "Eternal Subordination of the Son". The conclusion,
Being a wife is a role; being a husband is a role; being a servant is a role; being a citizen is a role. Being male and female are not roles. While our biological sex necessarily shapes the roles we hold (in marriage, a woman will be a wife and not a husband), submission does not stem directly from gender but from a role that exists in the context of relationship. A wife submits to her husband not because he is a “man” but because he is her husband and has committed himself to certain vows and duties in the context of their marriage. The same is true of a servant and master, a congregant and elder, and a citizen and his government. Submission happens in context of specific privileges and responsibilities found in specific relationships bound by specific covenants.

In contrast to the belief that women are ontologically (and therefore eternally) subordinated to men, we believe with Paul in I Corinthians 11:3 that “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. [Emphasis added]
And she is right that a wife submits to her husband and not to other men. In fact, wives should not submit to men just because they are men. Yet I think the author misses something.
Herein lies the problem. Grudem and Ware argue for submission of the Son on the basis of role. So far, so orthodox. But when they apply ESS [eternal subordination of the Son] to gender, they have tied submission to the essence of femaleness and not simply the role of being a wife. By necessity then, when they talk about the Son’s submission to the Father, it is almost impossible not to hear it as an ontological argument. Why? Because Bible-believing Christians know gender (more accurately, biological sex) to be an ontological category. We know that being female is an identity given by God and intrinsically bound up in the imago Dei. This is the fundamental argument against transgender positions: “So God made man[kind] in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them.” '

When these leaders emphasize female submission instead of wifely submission, they are speaking of submission as if it were an ontological characteristic. [Emphasis in original]
Now without getting into the trinity debate specifically, it seems to me that leadership is a masculine quality and that submission is a feminine quality. When a woman runs a household (whether servants or just children) she is exercising masculine qualities. And when a man obeys his boss he is exhibiting feminine qualities. All men and all women have both, but a man has more masculine qualities and should not neglect them, and women have more feminine qualities and should not neglect them either.

The problem isn't when men obey appropriately (being feminine) it is when they neglect leadership (lacking masculinity). Likewise, strong women are not necessarily a problem, in fact the attribute can be quite appealing. The problem is in women usurping authority and acting in a rebellious manner.

Therefore the question is not so much: Does submission stem from gender (female) or stem from a role (wife)? The question is more, Why do wives submit and not husbands (generally)? What is it about the roles and why do men and women fit those roles? Is it arbitrary? Or are there qualities that aid and inhibit leadership and submission? Does protection go with leadership? Does putting one's life at risk go with leadership? Does provision go with leadership? Does nurturing go with submission? Does respectfulness go with submission? Etc.

If those qualities in themselves are masculine or feminine, cannot a composite of the masculine qualities that make up leadership also be masculine? Likewise submission feminine? This means that a mother is masculine in relationship to her children when she is leading them. And (male) soldiers are feminine in relationship to their commander. There is nothing wrong with this as the commander is doing the protecting and the soldier is doing the respecting.

Yet women are intrinsically very feminine and men are intrinsically very masculine.

The authors are arguing for the submission stemming from the roles and not the gender without asking why the genders are assigned the roles.

As mentioned, I think (like these authors) that wives are to be submissive to their husbands not to men in general. Further, I would say to complementarians that they need to realise that the egalitarian argument for the high status of women needs to be heard.
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
The dominion mandate is given to them. It is given to the man and it is given to the woman. Together they are to fill the earth and subdue it. Together they have dominion. Everything in the earth in under the woman as well as the man.

But to the egalitarians I would argue that men and women are not interchangeable sans their genitals. Women are feminine and men are masculine. This will work its way out into society and culture and a culture where this distinction is not present is disregarding how God made us. Women should not be in combat, all things considered. By all means teach your daughter how to defend herself, so that when the army breaks down the walls, or when the criminal breaks in and her husband is away, she may put an evil man to flight. There is nothing wrong with having Jael know more that one use for a tent peg, or a woman being resourceful with a millstone, but you should not send your daughters to the frontline.

Considering other occupations, it is to be expected that more men will be in the dangerous occupations and more women in the caring ones. So the problem isn't any one example of a man being a nurse, or a woman being a cop. Given the habitus of the average person we need strong men to move patients in hospital. We also need lady cops involved in dealing with sexual crimes against women. But if all the cops are girls and all the nurses are guys something is awry. Especially if all the women also put their children in daycare, school, and after-school care from birth to adulthood.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Drawing men resistibly or irresistibly

In my post Drawn by the Father I conclude
It is not so much that the Father is drawing people who don't know God to Jesus; he is drawing those who know him to meet his Son.
That is, the passage is not so much about drawing men to faith in Jesus from a position of non faith, but drawing men who already belong to the Father so that they may also trust Jesus.

Others have commented that the passage
Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:43–44) 
means that the Father is drawing people to faith Jesus. That is to become a Christian from a position of unbelief one needs the Father to draw him.

Now I think that the passage as it stands alone could say that. Further, regardless of this passage I believe God is wooing men that they may come to him.

However, the larger context of John 6 causes me to question the common interpretation. As I show in my earlier post, Jesus is repeatedly associating himself with the Father and connecting his mission with the Father's mission. The point of the passage is to make this  connection. The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father, compare John 10:30. 1 John 2:23 says.
No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
John throughout his gospel and his letters identifies the Son with the Father. Although one could read the passage about the Father drawing in isolation to mean that God draws unbelievers to salvation in Christ, it is more in keeping with John's message here and elsewhere to read the passage as God drawing his own to Christ: the Father revealing Jesus.

Confirmation of this interpretation is seen in Jesus calling himself the manna from God. "It was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven [God did], but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven." Jesus is saying, "God is giving people me. God is drawing men to me." It is not about drawing men resistibly or irresistibly, it is about giving men Jesus.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Monday quote

One need only note that the choice between salvation as dealing both with “trespasses” or “debts” (plural) and with liberation from the power of (the) evil (one) was a choice apparently not faced by Jesus in his formulation of the Lord’s Prayer.

Simon Gathercole

Monday, 27 June 2016

Monday quote

Thankfulness is a soil in which pride does not easily grow

Michael Ramsey

Monday, 20 June 2016

Monday quote

If naturalism were true then all thoughts whatever would be wholly the result of irrational causes. Therefore, all thoughts would be equally worthless. Therefore, naturalism is worthless. If it is true, then we can know no truths. It cuts its own throat.

C.S. Lewis

Monday, 13 June 2016

Monday quote

It is not a serious matter for a physician to advise abstaining from foods for medical reasons, based on human wisdom. It is, however a very serious thing when men advocate abstaining from foods for religious reasons.

James Jordan, Pig Out?

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Status update: awesome

I don't care if you spend the rest of your life tripping over your shoelaces, you land a plane with 1 wing you are instantly and permanently classified as awesome.



Israeli pilot Zivi Nedivi lands F-15 with one wing.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Monday quote

The truth is that atheism is profoundly false. It is a misconstrual of reality at the most basic level.... perhaps most tragic of all is how deeply irrational atheism is—a form of irrationality that itself almost defies comprehension.

James S. Spiegel, The Making of an Atheist.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Monday quote

Though true repentance is never too late, yet late repentance is seldom true.

Thomas Brooks

Monday, 23 May 2016

Monday quote

The new morality: That if a book is a great "work of art" it doesn't matter whether it corrupts or not, because art matters more than behaviour. In other words, art matters more than life; comment on life, or the mirroring of life, more than life itself. This sounds very like nonsense.

C.S. Lewis. "Sex in Literature," Present Concerns.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Monday quote

The left is more interested in redistributing wealth than in creating it.

Dennis Prager

Monday, 9 May 2016

Monday quote

The devil knows your name but calls you by your sin. God knows your sin but calls you by your name.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Monday quote

What sort of freak then is man! How novel, how monstrous, how chaotic, how paradoxical, how prodigious! Judge of all things, feeble earthworm, repository of truth, sink of doubt and error, glory and refuse of the universe!

Blaise Pascal

Monday, 25 April 2016

Monday quote

The family, after all, is the original and best department of health, education and welfare.

William Bennett

Monday, 18 April 2016

Monday quote

Second Great Commandment—which I usually abbreviate "2C"—(second behind giving God first place in your life, 1C). In everything you do, you need to give the other person at least as much deference as you want for yourself.

Tom Pittman

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Does marrying early help avert the sins of pornography use and fornication

Doug Wilson has written a somewhat controversial post, 7 Reasons Young Men Should Marry Before Their 23rd Birthday. Though I don't necessarily agree with everything he has said, I think the principles behind it are sound. I would like to give my take on a few of his claims (though Wilson may not agree with how I have read him).

The distinction between gift of celibacy and the gift of singleness is probably important: a man with the gift of celibacy is not distracted by women.

Concerning the issue of age. I do not think Christians should approach marriage the way that Wilson recommends. I think we should be more circumspect and place more emphasis on prayer and hearing God in the situation. That said, we need to consider the situation Christians find themselves on a population basis. When are they marrying and why? What are their relationships like prior to marriage? Do they differ from their secularist friends? Are they subsequently divorcing?

It may be that Christian men should marry younger on average. Yet even if this were true this would apply to the group, there would be plenty of individuals who for specific reasons would marry later (and earlier) than average. The church can give general teaching on the nature of marriage and general principles and at the same time, give advice on learning to hear from God in their own situation. What this means is that (specific) people who marry significantly older than the average for good reasons are not an argument against the proposal that Christians (generally) may be waiting too long for marriage.

Something that may suggest people are waiting too long is how they are behaving. The Bible is clear that sex outside of marriage is wrong yet way too many Christians are fornicating. Now adultery is a much more serious sexual sin than extra-marital sex. And God can forgive fornication. Even so, it is a sin, a serious one, and one that Christians should not minimise, especially in the defence of other good things that people desire such as education and work. If the percentage of Christians marrying as virgins is low then perhaps the age of marriage may be part of the issue. Paul after all did write
because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. (1Co 7:2-3)
and
To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1Co 7:8-9)
So if a person is being tempted to have sex, or is even having sex, then Paul says it is preferable to be married. Arguments about needing to finish university, or having enough money, and many other important things, and largely irrelevant in this context. If you are old enough to be having sex you are old enough to be married, and if you are too young to be married you are too young to be sexually active (not physically, morally).

Which brings us to Wilson's comments on pornography.
The temptations of porn do not disqualify men for marriage. Rather they qualify men for marriage. God has a solution for sexual temptation for those not gifted with celibacy. That gift is called sex, bounded and surrounded with covenant vows.
He expands this in the article though one needs to read more Wilson if he disagrees with him here. Not that reading more may convince him otherwise, just that he will better understand Wilson's position.

Reading through the comments reveals significant misunderstanding of Wilson here. When Wilson says this about a consumer of porn
If a man despises women, hates his mother and sisters, and seeks out the kind of porn that specializes in degrading women, then no one should be surprised that marriage will fix nothing. Something else is wrong with him
he is talking about a person with a specific problem and is not talking about the pornography industry. Of course the industry is degrading and despising of women. But not every man who has seen or used pornography is as depraved as the industry or the hardcore consumer. This is not a defence of the mildness of porn, porn is dangerous and the industry is diabolical. It is saying that people are on a scale and the use of pornography, while always wrong, may be for mixed reasons. One of those reasons is we are sexual and struggle with our sexuality. Porn is an illegitimate outlet for this. Paul says that marriage is a legitimate outlet for this. (I think that refraining from sexual urges when not married makes it easier over time to be self-controlled, and indulging them—including using pornography—makes it harder. Porn feeds intemperance.)

Marrying early may help avert the sins of pornography use and fornication. There are other things to be considered but idea should not be overly contentious.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Monday quote

They never tire of telling us of the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome, but the Church was infamous because it satisfied the Greek intellect and wielded the Roman power.

G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936), The New Jerusalem.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Monday quote

Whenever the church picks up the sword, it lays down the cross.

Greg Boyd

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Bible text design

Publishers have improved the display of the Bible text over the years. I don't mind double columns, they allow a smaller overall Bible; still a single column Bible is preferable. It is many years since I have had a Bible with the text divided by verses; all Bibles should have paragraph format. Nevertheless, the chapter divisions are still quite apparent in modern Bibles. Chapters are often dropcaps 2 deep. There is no indent when chapters start a paragraph unlike the non-chapter paragraphs. In the uncommon situation where chapters do not start a paragraph the verse number "1" is included at the location of the chapter beginning.

Some prefer no verse or chapter divisions though numbers throughout the text have never bothered me. They are useful for reference but just need to be prevented from affecting the flow of the text.

Section headings are frequently included and can be helpful in locating a passage. As they are not part of the text they are often displayed in an alternative font. A bolded fontface makes them appear more important than they are.

What I would like to see is a paragraphed Bible where the verses and chapters are included but do not modify the flow. The best option it seems is to leave the verse numbers within the text (some Bibles remove them to the margins) and move the chapter numbers out of the text. A bolded chapter number the same size as the text is less noticeable than a 2 deep dropcap—bolded or unbolded.

A single column leaves page space on the other side of the text for section headings. Using a different font clearly differentiates the headings from the text. Italics may aid this though bolding will over emphasise the headings.

Further de-emphasising the references and headings can be accomplished by greying. An alternative option is the addition of colour which can be quite stylish though making these feature more prominent.

Here is a sample text which I think displays these features more optimally.

Genesis 14:17-15:6. ESV including section headings.

Paragraph indenting is double for poetry and 4 times for line overflow (not shown); no further indenting for parallel verses. Slightly greater line spacing.

The Bible text font is Calisto, as are the chapter numbers and verse numbers. Chapter numbers are the same size as text and bolded. Chapter and verse numbers are 50% grey. The section heading font is italicised Arial; 65% grey.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Monday quote

If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.

Timothy Keller

Monday, 21 March 2016

Monday quote

Among many other reasons, Christianity is good for the world because it makes hypocrisy a coherent concept.

Douglas Wilson, Is Christianity Good for the World?, p33.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Judah and Tamar

The story of Judah and Tamar raises questions for some Christians. The story itself seems a little unusual to moderns, and others have wondered why Tamar is called righteous, especially when engaging in prostitution.

The story is in Genesis 38 and is worth a read if you have not read it before or are not particularly familiar with it.

Briefly, Judah marries and has 3 sons. He finds a wife, Tamar, for his eldest son Er who is put to death by God for his wickedness before they have children. Tamar marries the next son who refuses to conceive children as any children through Tamar will be regarded as Er's brothers offspring not his, and God kills him also. Then Tamar is sent back to her father until the youngest son is old enough to marry her. Judah does not give the youngest to Tamar for fear he would die as well. Judah's wife dies. Tamar disguises herself and Judah has sex with her thinking she is a cult prostitute. On learning of Tamar's pregnancy Judah orders her execution, which is stayed because Tamar proves Judah is the father.

The story is more detailed and more dramatic than my brief summary. I wish to draw out some issues that I think helps understand this story. I used to think that Tamar's behaviour was wrong, just less wrong than Judah's; now I am more inclined to defend Tamar's actions.

Dealing with Judah's sons Er and Onan firstly. We are not told of the sin of Er, not that it matters greatly. God put him to death for his wickedness. As God is the ultimate judge; all human judges gaining their authority from him. If Er's actions warranted death in God's sight then he deserved death. And if God enacted that judgment then so be it.

The idea that a man had children for his deceased childless brother thru the widow appears to be an ancient custom. Moses describes the laws surrounding this situation in Deuteronomy 25 though this is over 200 years later. In cultures for much of history, and especially thousands of years ago a woman relied on her father for protection and provision. On marriage this responsibility passed to the husband. Now one's identity was strongly related to his family: posterity for men and raising children for women. A widow is left without protection and support. Childless women carried the shame of their condition, raising children being the focus of her role in society. Children also provided for one in his old age. So a childless woman has the shame of childlessness (though maybe not to the same extent as infertility), no child to help support her as she ages, and no husband to protect or provide for her at the time. This left her particularly vulnerable.

The brother in such society was to marry the widow. This immediately gave the widow provision that she lacked, but also the promise of children. The first child (or children) would be considered as a descendant of the deceased husband so as to preserve his name in future generations. The brother was able to take his own wife and have his own family. Of course some of his income would go to support his brother's widow. Note that Judah describes the marrying of a widow as a duty.
Then Judah said to Onan, "Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother."
While Onan took Tamar as his wife, his refusal to enable her to conceive was both an affront to Tamar as she was unable to be a mother, and an affront to his dead brother as he would be left without posterity. It was a very harsh situation. Essentially there was no other option for Tamar, as long as Onan was alive Tamar was unable to remarry yet she would stay childless and Er may remain without remembrance. I tend to think God was probably more concerned with Onan's mistreatment of Tamar than Er's sin. Onan's sin entailed significant mistreatment of others and for such wickedness God put him to death. We see elsewhere in Scripture God's great concern for the defenceless such as widows and orphans.

After Onan's death Tamar was now free to remarry and the duty now fell to Judah's next son Shelah. Apparently Shelah was too young and Judah sent Tamar back to her father. The real reason is that Judah feared for Shelah's life. A question is raised as to how old was Shelah and was he really too young. More importantly was it right for Judah to send Tamar back to her father. I am uncertain as to whether Judah should have taken responsibility for Tamar and provided for her in his own house. This seems possible based on the comment that Judah feared for Shelah, that is, sending her away alleviated Judah's fears.

Judah failed to give Shelah to Tamar when Shelah was of age. This is mistreatment of Tamar by Judah; she is in the same situation as when she was with Onan: unable to remarry (as pledged to Shelah) and unable to have children. Tamar's solution is to goes up to meet Judah in disguise. It is uncertain whether Tamar intended to appear as a prostitute in order to have sex with Judah, or whether she responded to his request for sex.
When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?”
The text may read that he thought she was a prostitute because of the veil. However it possibly just implies that he thought she was a prostitute because she was sitting at the entrance to Enaim and he did not recognise her because her face was covered with a veil. Judah's friend Hirah calls her a cult prostitute (qedeshah).

Tamar takes a pledge then leaves before Judah can redeem it. Tamar dresses like a widow again. Judah finds out she is pregnant and demands she be burned. Tamar was betrothed to Shelah so getting pregnant is proof of adultery. This was punishable by death. Adultery is a more serious crime than sex outside of marriage or prostitution by a woman who is not betrothed or married. The request for death by burning seems a little excessive by Judah. It is prescribed in Leviticus 21 for daughters of priests who become prostitutes, possibly because priests are to be holy.

Tamar returns the pledge to Judah making him aware the child is his. Then we hear this interesting comment by Judah
She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.
This is not necessarily claiming Tamar is righteous, the comparison is with him. Judah is acknowledging that his behaviour is worse than Tamar's. Judah is not claiming that he is indeed righteous, thus he need not be claiming that Tamar is either.

Nevertheless, I think Tamar's choice may be acceptable, and if not the best decision, surely an understandable response of a desperate woman. A key to understanding this episode is that Tamar's behaviour with Judah had nothing to do with sex. It was that from Judah's point of view, but for Tamar it was merely the means for her to gain the status and responsibility that she had failed to obtain; first because of her wicked husband, then because of her wicked brother-in-law, then because of her fearful and unfaithful father-in-law. It was right that Tamar be treated righteously, yet she wasn't. Perhaps she should have let God fight for her as we learn elsewhere in Scripture, but interestingly we have a Canaanite woman who acts honourably in all her dealings yet is mistreated by the people who worship the true God. The fact that Tamar secured her own rights is of less concern.

Judah makes right his failure to give Shelah to Tamar. He takes Tamar into his own house and provides for her and her children (she had twins), though does not lie with her again. Tamar now has both provision and children, she is honoured by her posterity (Rut 4:12), and she becomes an ancestor of the Messiah (Mat 1:3).

Monday, 14 March 2016

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Man of blood

David slaying Goliath, Rubens
David had designs on building God a house (temple). Nathan the prophet encourages David's good desire but after a revelation from God, Nathan tells David that he is not to build God a house but that God will built up David's house and one of David's sons will build God's house (1Ch 17). Later David charges Solomon:
Then he called for Solomon his son and charged him to build a house for the LORD, the God of Israel. David said to Solomon, “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house to the name of the LORD my God. But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth. Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.’ (1 Chronicles 22:6-10 ESV)
and
Then King David rose to his feet and said: “Hear me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord and for the footstool of our God, and I made preparations for building. But God said to me, ‘You may not build a house for my name, for you are a man of war and have shed blood.’ Yet the Lord God of Israel chose me from all my father's house to be king over Israel forever. For he chose Judah as leader, and in the house of Judah my father's house, and among my father's sons he took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel. And of all my sons (for the Lord has given me many sons) he has chosen Solomon my son to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. He said to me, ‘It is Solomon your son who shall build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. (1 Chronicles 28:3-6 ESV)
God forbids David to build his temple because David has shed much blood.
But it happened that the word of Yahweh came over me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have made much war; you shall not build a house for my name because you have shed much blood upon the ground before me. (1 Chronicles 22:8 LEB)

God said to me, ‘You may not build a house for my name because you are a man of war, and you have shed blood.’ (1 Chronicles 28:3 LEB)
God approves of David's desire to build him a house (temple) and offers to build up his house (posterity). David makes preparation for the temple: he collects much gold, silver, iron, wood and stone; and buys the plot for the future temple where God stays the angel's hand. David had fought his wars to defend the Israelites from her enemies, and at the direction of God. God said David was a man after his own heart. So why does being a man of war disqualify David from building the temple?

Don Richardson links this passage with the events surrounding Peter striking off Malchus' ear (Mat 26:51; Mar 14:47; Luk 22:50; Joh 18:26). His point, and I think he is right, is that the kingdom of heaven cannot grow through the power of the sword. Peter was using a sword in a situation which God was instituting his kingdom. Jesus had to die to secure our salvation and his followers were not to use force in this circumstance.

Because the temple represents God and God's kingdom, it is important that the builder of the temple be seen as a man of peace. The growth of God's kingdom is through persuasion, through God working in the hearts of men and men responding to God. The kingdom is never to grow through the threat of conquest: conversion must not come at the end of a sword.

This is not to disparage the power of the sword. The sword is a tool of judgment that God gives the state (Rom 13:1-4). As king, David wielded the sword appropriately (save Uriah). God judges men and nations; and brings discipline, destruction and, to the stubbornly rebellious, death. Yet God does not will the death of his enemies. God's purpose is to make his foes friends. To that end God is growing the kingdom of heaven, but tools of judgement are not the tools of mercy. The church is not to grow by conquest. A man who says, "Convert or die," is not speaking in the name of the Lord.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Monday quotes

Man ought to march somewhere. But modern man (in his sick reaction) is ready to march nowhere—so long as it is the Other End of Nowhere.

G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936)

Monday, 29 February 2016

Monday quote

Feeling good about yourself is not the same as doing good. Good policy is more important than good feelings, especially about yourself.

Theodore Dalrymple

Monday, 22 February 2016

Monday quote

Don't tell your problems to people: eighty percent don't care; and the other twenty percent are glad you have them.

Lou Holtz

Monday, 15 February 2016

Monday quote


To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.

George Washington

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Interview with Douglas Wilson

The BMJ runs regular interviews following a similar format. I thought the questions were interesting as they give you information that you may not gather from reading an author, or articles about a person.

Douglas Wilson has kindly agreed to answer these questions which I modified slightly. Some of the answers I suspected prior to sending it: specifically his father and CS Lewis; but most of this was new to me. And he reveals a dilemma I had been waiting to ask about on his blog at some stage: Why are there 40 odd books lying around his house (or on his computer) waiting to be published?

Interview with Douglas Wilson

1. What was your earliest ambition?
I remember that it was around the sixth grade, and I wanted to “make books.”

2. After Jesus, who has been your biggest inspiration: person? author?
The person would have to be my father, Jim Wilson.

The writer who has had the most influence on me—by far and away—would be C.S. Lewis.

3. What was the worst mistake in your career?
Besides apprenticing with El Chapo?

Actually, my besetting mistake is one I have made more than once. In starting things up, I have been too eager to be seen as “not grasping” and have consequently been too quick to delegate too much responsibility.

4. What was your best career move?
I have been privileged to start many ministries, and my name isn’t on any of them.

5. Who has been the best and the worst president in your lifetime? And why?
I would say that Ronald Reagan [(1981–1989)] was the best and that LBJ was the worst. Reagan did what he could to slow the gargantuan growth of government, and was moderately successful—while also winning the Cold War.

LBJ [Lyndon B. Johnson, (1963–1969)] was a cold Machiavellian, coupled really bad policy.

6. Who has been the best and the worst president ever (this can be the same as above)? And why?
Here I would say Calvin Coolidge [(1923–1929)] and Woodrow Wilson [(1913–1921)], respectively. Coolidge was president during the modern era and demonstrated that respect for constitutional limits is not limited to backward agrarian societies.

Wilson was a disaster, primarily in his treatment of those same constitutional restrictions.

7. Who is the person you would most like to thank and why?
Going back to an earlier answer, C.S. Lewis.

8. If you were given $1 million what would you spend it on?
I would (most likely) spend it on getting all that I have written editorially straightened out and cleaned up. I would get my blog archives indexed, tagged, and thoroughly edited for publication. All the material buried in my computer would be sorted out, edited and prepared for publication. Books already written would be organized and sorted out.

9. Where are (or were) you happiest?
I would have to say sitting around visiting after dinner with family is the best. Right after that would be having a great idea or “hook,” and writing it out while I am “in the zone.”

10. What single change has made the most difference in pastoring in your lifetime?
I would have to say the incorporation of personal computing power into everyday life. From email to social media, to writing for ministry, to sermon prep, to phone apps, the life of the average congregation is very different from what it was.

11. What book (other than the Bible) should every Christian read?
Pilgrim’s Progress. Which you can now do on your phone.

12. What further book should every pastor read?

Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon. A lot of books for pastors have great material, but this book is full of horse sense.

13. What poem, song, or prose would you like people at your funeral to hear? Which passage of Scripture?
Of course, we would construe it in a way completely differently than the way he did, but I love the words of Stevenson’s Requiem.
Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
Here he lies where he long’d to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
The passage of Scripture would be this:
And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people A feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, Of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined (Is. 25:6).
14. What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Besides my collection of Marvel comics in the basement? Just kidding. Probably cookie dough ice cream.

15. If you could be invisible for a day what would you do?
Investigative journalism at Planned Parenthood national headquarters.

16. What is your most treasured possession? (Not a person.)
I think I would say it is the Guild guitar that I bought in the mid-seventies.

17. What personal ambition do you still have?
I would like to write a comprehensive work that is called something like Institutes of Poetic Theology. And if it is not too much to ask, I would like for it to be really good.

18. Summarise your personality in three words.
Sturdy, humorous, hard-working.

19. What are your favourite 3 alcoholic drinks?
Rusty Nail, 23-year-old Pappy VanWinkle, and Fat Tire beer.

20. What is your pet hate?
Dishonesty in argument.

21. What do you consider your most important book?
I think I would say Reforming Marriage.

22. What would be on the menu for your last supper?
Wedge salad with bacon, filet mignon, cheese potatoes, green beans, and chocolate ice cream.

23. Do you have any regrets about becoming a pastor?
None at all. I tried to have preemptive regrets beforehand, but now, looking back, I see that this is what I was made for.

24. If you weren't in your present position what would you be doing instead?
I would want to be a political writer—books and opinion columns, not speeches.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Monday quote

Differences Between Religions 101: When Christians become "radicalized" they go to Burkina Faso and feed widows and orphans. When Muslims become radicalized, they shoot them.

Andy Webb (in reference to Mike Riddering).

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Peter Williams on the Bible and Slavery

The longer a video is the more it takes to convince me to watch a link. A few minutes tops as I prefer to read text. Partly because reading is generally quicker for conveying the same amount of information, and reading allows you to skim or skip around to see if you want to invest the time in reading the article. Nevertheless, this Peter Williams lecture is worth recommending even though it is over an hour long. I had not heard of Williams though came across this link twice in as many days. It was very useful, very sensible, very interesting.

For those who don't wish to invest the time Williams shows how "slavery" is a poor translation choice given how Westerners think of slavery, even though slave is increasingly used in modern translations. A helpful chart (reproduced below) from 22:31 minutes compares the rights of slaves (bondservants) in the Old Testament with Roman slaves and American slaves. He also introduces a very helpful interpretive point on Exodus 21:21 (from 25:40 minutes).

Does the Bible Support Slavery? by Peter Williams


Conditions OT Roman New World
Holiday Yes No Yes
Food enough Yes No No
Legal redress Yes No No
Sexual protection Yes No No
Kidnapped No Yes Yes
Chains No Yes Yes
Torture No Yes Yes
Physical abuse No Yes Yes

Hat tip: Mark Ward, Andrew Wilson.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Monday quote

Wealth, and net worth, are useful metrics when you’re talking about the rich. But they tend to conceal more than they reveal when you’re talking about the poor.

Felix Salmon

Friday, 29 January 2016

Dividing up the clay

In my previous post I wrote this quite deliberate sentence.
Paul is expanding the potter motif which we see in Isaiah and Jeremiah.
In Romans 9 Paul references a large number of Old Testament passages. His use of the potter clearly alludes to a Old Testament motif yet he also expands it. In Isaiah 29:16 God is the potter and the rebellious people the clay. Isaiah 45:9 compares the rebellious person to his creator (or parent). Jeremiah 18:6 describes a nations as clay and God as the potter. In Romans 9:19-21 Paul says,
You will say to me then, “Why does [God] still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you [singular], O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
The potter again is God but the clay is not necessarily the person answering back to God. He is included, in that Paul's response is that the moulded (clay) cannot answer back to the moulder (potter). Though Paul says more here. The clay gets made into both honourable and dishonourable vessels, so the clay must represent more than one person. This fits in more with a corporate reading of Romans 9-11. But there is even more to this. The clay in the Old Testament examples represents man. It represents the object being discussed: the rebellious people; the rebellious man; a nation. Yet in Romans the clay represents two groups; or rather one group that can be used in two different ways. So either the clay represents all men (Jews and Gentiles) being made into two types of vessels; or (more likely) the clay represents Jews being made into two types of vessels. The man talking back to God complains that God finds fault with the Jews but God can make from one group of Jews both people of mercy and people of wrath.

Which leads to Paul's next comment that it is not just the Jews. The Gentiles can be objects of mercy as well.

And what is God's criterion for being an object of mercy? Faith.

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