Wednesday, December 25, 2019

He really was born...

Be deaf, therefore, when anyone ever speaks to you apart from Jesus Christ, who was of the family of David, who was the son of Mary; who really was born, who both ate and drank; who really was persecuted under Pontius Pilate, who really was crucified and died while those in heaven and on earth and under the earth looked on; who, moreover, really was raised from the dead when his Father raised him up. In the same way his Father will likewise also raise up in Christ Jesus us who believe in him. Apart from him we have no true life.

(Ignatius To the Trallians #9; “The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts and English Translations” 3rd Edition; Michael W. Holmes)

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

"Willie Stark Syndrome "

It was probably Monday, June 19, 1972 when I first heard the news reports that there had been a break-in at the Democratic National Committee office at the Watergate Complex in Washington, DC.

My immediate thought at the time was, “That was stupid and totally unnecessary.” Of course my immediate presumption was that somebody related to the Nixon Republican campaign was probably involved.

It was stupid because by all accounts Nixon was projected to whoop the Democratic Candidate George McGovern by more than a healthy margin. And in November that is exactly what happened. There was nothing to be gained and a lot to to put at risk by snooping around the DNC offices.

But of course we know what happened. More and more facts came to light. The evidence brought the investigation closer and closer to President Nixon. Evidence implicating higher ups and a White House connection had been destroyed in a blatant obstruction of justice. In the end, evidence came to light that implicated the President himself. President Nixon’s support in Congress suffered a bi-partisan collapse pointing to impeachment in the House with a subsequent trial and conviction in the Senate.

President Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974; the first POTUS to do so in our country’s history.

Those of us who had supported his election and campaigned and voted for him were betrayed. It was like being kicked in the gut. The rest is history.

In retrospect it is clear President Nixon was betrayed by his own insecurities and pride; pride which the ancient Greeks called hubris, and of such was the subject of the Greek tragedies.

In the 20th century, the updated version of the Greek tragedy plays is found in Robert Penn Warren’s novel “All the King’s Men” published in 1946. It was in this southern tragedy we are introduced to Willie Stark.

Wille Stark comes to power by riding a populist wave of discontent with the current political establishment. As governor of his deep south state, he institutes programs and reforms, playing to the populist base on which his political power was built. And he plays hardball with his political opponents; digging up dirt and blackmailing them into subservience.

In the end Willie is undone by his own conniving and pride. His life ends in the bullets sent his way by one who had been a ally, but whose trust had been betrayed in the bed.

In a YouTube video entitled “Gods and Devils Aplenty: Robert Penn Warren's Civil War” (https://youtu.be/e-JxArcSyYg). Historian David Blight comments that when he asked Warren who “All the King’s Men” was about, Warren replied that it was about Julias Caesar. The Romans had their issues with hubris too.

Hubris, pride, the corrupting influence of power; It’s all there; the "Willie Stark syndrome".

In December 2019, 47 years after Watergate and the events leading to President Nixon’s resignation; once again a sitting POTUS is facing impeachment hearings. As I watch events unfold, I am unable to avoid a sense of deja vu; we’ve seen this before. It remains to be seen how much current events will parallel those of over 40 years ago. It is not so clear how current events will eventually play out. What is not to hard to see though, is that we may well be observing another case of “Willie Stark syndrome”.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

"The world was not worthy of them."

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Through faith

There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:35b-38)

We love the Bible stories of those who "conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies" (Hebrews 11:33-34). But how little we want to talk about the possibilities of our Christian life involving "torture", "flogging", "chains and imprisonment", or being "killed by the sword"?

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But the path of faith is also a path that more often involves suffering. How often do we like to think about that? That doesn't exactly resonate with our "prosperity gospel" propensities. In fact a Biblical theology of Christian suffering brands the "prosperity gospel" for the damnable heresy it is.

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May our minds in all things be conformed to the mind of Christ.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Worship as Aliens

"So we must gather on a regular basis for worship. To speak about God in a world that lives as if there is no God. We must speak to one another as beloved brothers and sisters in a world which encourages us to live as strangers. We must pray to God to give us what we cannot have by our own efforts in a world which teaches us that we are self-sufficient and all-powerful. In such a world, what we do here on Sunday morning becomes a matter of life and death..."

Citation from "Resident Aliens"; Hauerwas & Willimon; (Abingdon Press, 1989 ; pg. 154

Saturday, February 09, 2019

The Way God Is

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"As we have argued, Christian ethics arise out of the very specific tradition of Jesus of Nazareth and the church formed in faithfulness to his way. As believers, we are called to act right, not simply because an act can be demonstrated to be universally right. but because it is an act God commands. We are called to base our lives and actions on something which, to Kant, seemed woefully contingent--a Jew from Nazareth. Our claim is not that this tradition will make sense to anyone or will enable the world to run more smoothly. Our claim is that it just happens to be true. This really is the way God is. This really is the way God's world is."

("Resident Aliens"; Hauerwas & Willimon; (Abingdon Press, 1989) pg. 101)

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

How Many Isaiahs?

[ I composed this some time ago, and just realized I never published it. In this brief study I set forth my understanding of the authorship of Isaiah's prophecy.]

Time frame of Isaiah’s ministry:

Historical Setting:

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. (Isaiah 1:1)

Isaiah’s call during the reign of Uzziah (Isaiah 6:1-3)

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

The Length of each King’s reign:

Uzziah (Azariah):

In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, began to reign. 2 He was sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. (2 Kings 15:1-2a)

Jotham:

In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, Jotham the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, began to reign. 33 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. (2 Kings 15:32-33a)

Ahaz:

In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, Ahaz the son of Jotham, king of Judah, began to reign. 2 Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. ( Kings 16:1-2a)

Hezekiah:

In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. (2 Kings 18:1-2a)

The last historical mention of Isaiah is in the 14th year of Hezekiah’s reign as set forth in 2 Kings 18:13 - 20:21 and restated in Isaiah 36-39. Apocryphal tradition says that Isaiah was martyred by Hezekiah’s wicked son Mannasseh.

Conclusion:

Doing the math for the length of Isaiah’s ministry, by the time of Hezekiah’s 14th year, we come up with a total of 47 years of prophetic ministry up to that point. We do not know how old Isaiah was when he received his call to the prophetic ministry in that last year of Uzziah’s reign. That said, it is reasonable to think that by the 14th year of Hezekiah’s rule, Isaiah was very probably well over 60 some years old.

My hypothesis is that Isaiah had already written much of the first 39 chapters before that time of Hezekiah’s reign and finished up those chapters shortly after that point. Chapters 40-66 were then written in the remaining 15 years of Hezekiah’s reign. In other words the bulk of Isaiah 1-39 was written over the course of those 47 years of active ministry, and chapters 40-66 were the result of the Holy Spirit using Isaiah’s theological maturity and meditative reflection in his “retirement” years. There were “two Isaiah’s” but they were not different “Isaiahs”; they were the same person at different periods in his life.

We are given good reason in Isaiah 39 to believe those last fifteen years of Hezekiah’s reign and life were relatively peaceful and tranquil. We read in verse 8 that Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my days.”

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas, Culture, & the State

Christmas with its celebration of the Incarnation doesn't depend on any local, state, or federal government approval, participation, or recognition. I don't expect non-Christians or a predominantly materialistic secular culture to celebrate Christmas in the same way I do. Let's say the US, government decrees Christmas is no longer a national holiday. That doesn't make it any less of a traditional holy day of celebration for the Church and for Christian believers.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Resident Aliens

"The church exists today as resident aliens, an adventurous colony in a society of unbelief. As a society of unbelief, Western culture is devoid of a sense of journey, of adventure, because it lacks belief in much more than the cultivation of an ever-shrinking horizon of self-preservation and self-expression."

"Resident Aliens"; Hauerwas & Willimon; (1989, Abingdon Press); pg. 49

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Neo-Barbarianism

"Barbarians are people without historical memory. Barbarianism is the real meaning of radical contemporaneity. Released from all authoritative pasts, we progress towards barbarianism, not away from it."

Philip Rieff as quoted by Rod Dreher in The Benedict Option"; pg. 154

Tuesday, November 06, 2018