The need for personal salvation slipped away as education, optimism, positive thinking, good works, and noble ideals became its substitute. In some circles, salvation ceased to mean everlasting life but instead came to mean deliverance from meanness and selfishness, a concept in perfect harmony with the increasingly popular notion of Darwinian evolution. In liberalism, the object of a Christian’s hope for the future was shifted from the return of Christ to a hope, and then a certainty, of improving the world. Any idea of Christ’s returning to quell evil in a violent battle and then to reign with a rod of iron was thought absurd. For the liberal, the hope of the future was the church’s success in its ever-growing mission to improve humanity. If Christ were to return at all, the mission of the church was to so uplift society as to make it a fit place to which the Messiah might without embarrassment return. -Dave Breese, Seven Men Who Rule the World from the Grave
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “gay is the new black.”
Let’s assume it’s true for a moment, and follow the logic chain to see where we come out. First, let’s accept that being gay, whether or not it’s genetic, is still a behavior. In other words, whether or not you’re inclined, genetically, to be gay, sex (of any sort) is still something you do — in fact, it’s something you choose to do. “Gay is the new black,” does not distinguish between genetic inclination and the choice to pursue some line of action. As someone on Acton’s blog recently said,
A person may or may not choose sexual orientation (science has yet to figure that out), but a person does choose behavior. -Acton
What does this mean?
First, if “gay is the new black,” then the racists were right to tie the color of a person’s skin, through their genetics, to their actions. If a person can’t help but to engage in gay sex, then a person with a particular skin color might not be able to help but to engage in other acts. That people of certain skin colors are tied to specific behavior patterns which they cannot avoid is the entire foundation of racism. So, “gay is the new black,” is actually racism in a new form.
Second, if “gay is the new black,” then we, as a culture, must admit that some specific forms of action are genetically determined, and therefore cannot be morally condemned. Are we truly prepared to say that for any and all actions for which we can find a genetic marker, should be considerable acceptable under law? Are we ready to extend the same recognition, to say, rape?
If we aren’t prepared to accept these results, then we should stop saying, “gay is the new black.” Regardless of your position on homosexuality or homosexual marriage, this conflating of race with sexual behavior is bad all around.
Some 120 papers published in established scientific journals over the last few years have been found to be frauds, created by nothing more than an automated word generator that puts random, fancy-sounding words together in plausible sentence structures. As a result they have been pulled from the journals that originally published them. -Fox News
As an avid reader of theological and computer science journals, I can tell you that it’s often hard to figure out what point the author is trying to make — other than, “I’m important because I’ve published an article in a peer reviewed journal.” The result above, then, doesn’t surprise me. But it does leave me with one puzzling question:
How can they tell the difference?
Fox news, above, argues this is a result of the “publish or perish,” model of modern academics. If you’re under pressure to publish, you sometimes take the shortcut, just publishing made up stuff to get another notch on your CV. They then ask the tougher question — if these are supposed to be peer reviewed journals, why didn’t the reviewers notice something wrong? How does this stuff get published in the first place?
The answer here isn’t just that people are busy. Instead, a lot of this is based on the desire not to hurt anyone’s feelings; we don’t want to make someone feel bad, it might discourage them from trying again later. Particularly in the case of “disadvantaged authors,” there’s a tendency to overlook bad work in order to avoid the charges of racism or sexism.
Or perhaps we could just blame it all on our postmodern view of text. If the reader is going to supply the meaning, then there’s no point in the author actually putting meaning into his writing. The reader, in this case some peer review committee, sees a lot of stuff that sounds really good (or matches his belief system), and imbues the text with enough meaning to give it a pass.
Toward Rediscovering the Old Testament
Walter C. Kaiser, 1991
There are few books written on the Tanakh that fall between commentary, introduction, and background — this is one of those books. Written at a lay, rather than technical, level, this is also one of the best books the average Christian can read on the relationship between the Old Testament and Christian theology. Dr. Kaiser begins by examining the Old Testament as a problem for the Christian believer, including such questions as whether or not the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New; whether the Christian must accept the Old Testament entirely, or only in part; how can there be both continuity between the testaments, and yet also be discontinuity; and finally, what can the Christian say about the plan of salvation across the two testaments?
After explaining these problems, Dr. Kaiser sets out to explore the answers. He begins by examining the place of the Tanakh within the Canon, asking questions such as why these 39 books should be considered authoritative, what evidences there are for the acceptance of the Tanakh as part of Christian literature, and whether or not the church should include Israel in its thinking about the Tanakh. In the third chapter, the author deals with criticism of the Old Testament, effectively countering the many claims that contradict the veracity and reliability of the manuscripts, and hence the Old Testament as we have it.
Dr. Kaiser then moves into five ways of looking at the Tanakh. In the Old Testament as the Promise-Plan of God, he prefigures his later (and more completely developed) work in the space of finding a theological center, or an overriding narrative, that can bring the two testaments together. In the Old Testament as a Messianic Primer, the author works through the character and nature of the Messiah as revealed by the prophets who lived before Christ.
In the Old Testament as the Plan of Salvation, Dr. Kaiser takes on the method and experience of salvation for believers who lived before Christ. This is probably one of the most useful sections of this book, as it directly addresses a serious stumbling block to a wide array of believers – and it does so in a way that respects and honors the Mosaic path to salvation as faith in a specific set of beliefs about God, God’s character, and God’s promises. The solution Dr. Kaiser expounds in this chapter works well with his promise-plan construction, while also providing a solid way to deal with the continuity/discontinuity issue.
In the next chapter, Dr. Kaiser addresses the problem of what to do with the Mosaic Law in everyday Christian life. In the next to last chapter, the author discusses preaching from the Tanakh; this chapter is primarily useful for those who do, in fact, preach. Finally, he includes a concluding chapter that brings the entire book together.
Overall, this is a great book for any Christian to read who is trying to understand the relationship and use of the Old Testament in day-to-day living. It’s not as extensive as Dr. Kasier’s later works in the same space, but it’s also less technical, and therefore often more readable, for the average Christian.
Joshua is dead. What is Israel to do without this strong and able leader — a leader who led them through the Land, destroying the opposition armies, leaving the cities open to occupation by the Jewish people? The obvious answer isn’t the answer Israel chose. Instead, Israel dallied, letting these cities rebuild their forces and their defenses. Uncertain how to move forward, Israel let their military advantage fail.
We are plagued with the single question, “Why?” Why shouldn’t they take the Land God had promised them? Why shouldn’t they move forward, doing what God commanded? The answer comes in three surprising stories contained in the first chapter of Judges. In a sense, the book of Judges is a book of lamentations — a lamentation over the fall of a people who had just recently been victorious in military and spiritual life. A lamentation of lost opportunity in a land of plenty. These three narratives tell the story of all of Judges in the small.
They found Adoni-bezek at Bezek and fought against him and defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. Adoni-bezek fled, but they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and his big toes. And Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off used to pick up scraps under my table. As I have done, so God has repaid me.” And they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there. Judges 1:5–7
The first is the surprising story of Israel Canaanized. Israel, the nation of God, is supposed to hold itself aloof from the Canaanites; to detest their religious and social practices, to form a nation that would be a witness of purity to the world. God knew the weakness of men, and strove to drive out all the inhabitants of the land before Israel. In forbidding Israel from making treaties, and placing a number of the most power cities under a ban of total destruction, God was clearing out a place where Israel could build a nation, and a culture, that would honor God as a witness. Instead of rising to the challenge, Israel falls to the level of those they are driving out.
So in the first scene, we see Israel practicing what the Canaanites practices. As awful as death would have been, it was worse to have your toes and fingers cut off, and be left to gather scraps of food to survive. Adoni-bezek was being kept as a human trophy, a plaything of sorts. While the text is ambiguous to his final fate, one possible reading is that Israel then took this former king before the walls of Jerusalem, as an example to those in the city before which they stood and fought of what would happen to their king, as well. Here Adoni-bezek, mercifully, died, doing Israel no credit, and tarnishing their witness.
And Caleb said, “He who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter for a wife.” And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter for a wife. When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs. Judges 1:12–15
The second story provides us with a second insight into the character of Israel. A ruler offers his daughter to the man who will the battle against a city. A man — a hero by implication — takes up the task. The city is taken, and the daughter is given in marriage. As a dowry, the man is given a piece of land — but the land isn’t well watered; it isn’t fit to build a city or a family on. The daughter urges her husband — a hero, remember — to ask her father for springs of water to go with this land, to make the land valuable. And then a strange thing happens: the daughter asks for the springs of water, rather than her husband! This is the heroism of Israel in action? What kind of hero is not afraid of battle, but afraid of his father-in-law?
And the house of Joseph scouted out Bethel. (Now the name of the city was formerly Luz.) And the spies saw a man coming out of the city, and they said to him, “Please show us the way into the city, and we will deal kindly with you.” And he showed them the way into the city. And they struck the city with the edge of the sword, but they let the man and all his family go. And the man went to the land of the Hittites and built a city and called its name Luz. That is its name to this day. Judges 1:23–26
In this third example, there is no consulting with God, nor any thought of how to cleanse the land from the influence of those God asked Israel to drive out. Instead, these trusting warriors of Israel ask a man to betray his city, and then reward him with a new city within the Land for his efforts. Here is futility itself — the waste of destroying a city to take it by subterfuge, only to have another city containing the same culture, and the same people, pop up in another place within your territory. Israel didn’t drive these people out, they simply moved them from one place to another, to no total effect.
These three surprising stories illustrate why the first chapter of Judges moves from Israel asking God for advice, to God appearing to Israel to chastise them for their disobedience. They tell us why Israel begins as an instrument of God’s judgment on the Canaanites, and ends as the object of God’s judgment through the Canaanites. They give us a microcosm of the book of Judges, a small image of what will be repeated and expanded through the rest of the book.
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We all know the tyranny of the immediate. We must get that email done, we must respond to this tweet, we must watch that ball game… Because it’s in front of us right now, we must take action right now to… Well, whatever it is. But there is another side to this tyranny, one we [...] [...]