Wednesday, May 18, 2022

My Current Events Links on Wordpress

 These days, my blogging has consisted of posting links to opinion pieces. I do this sporadically on Wordpress. Here are links to those posts:

https://jamesbradfordpate.wordpress.com/2022/05/03/the-z-man-the-partys-over/

https://jamesbradfordpate.wordpress.com/2022/04/01/david-cole-on-the-absurdity-of-wapo-fact-checking-and-the-woke-words-kill-meme/

https://jamesbradfordpate.wordpress.com/2022/01/29/fair-what-you-should-really-know-about-ukraine/

https://jamesbradfordpate.wordpress.com/2021/12/20/nymag-joe-bidens-big-squeeze/

https://jamesbradfordpate.wordpress.com/2021/10/13/the-new-american-celebrate-columbus-divided-history-and-deserves-to-be-defended-not-upended/

https://jamesbradfordpate.wordpress.com/2021/09/05/morning-wire-chinas-socially-conservative-reasons-for-banning-video-games/

https://jamesbradfordpate.wordpress.com/2021/09/03/fair-the-media-myth-of-once-prosperous-and-democratic-venezuela-before-chavez/

https://jamesbradfordpate.wordpress.com/2021/09/02/elder-platform-for-california/

Tucker’s 5/17/2022 Monologue

Takeaways:

A. The Buffalo shooter was mentally ill and gave indications that he was mentally ill prior to the shooting.

B. Should we ban the expression of ideas because someone acts violently on them? Pol Pot committed mass violence after reading Marx. Should we ban Marx?

C. Biden often failed to visit areas in which a non-white mass shooter was the assailant.

D. The left, Democrats, and anti-Trump Republicans have gloated about the browning of America and how that could result in white people becoming the minority and Democrats gaining power over Republicans. Do not they bear some responsibility when someone acts violently in response, since they smugly rub white people's faces in their demographic and electoral decline?

E. The left may be politically miscalculating in their assumptions about the browning of America, since many Hispanics may agree more with Trump than with Nancy Pelosi. I (James) think there is something to this. As David Cole has stated repeatedly in his columns, immigrants do not carry the "white guilt" about American history that white liberals in America do. Also, living in a cosmopolitan area, I notice a religious, cultural, and social conservatism among many from the Third World. If they take the place of white liberals, is that necessarily a bad thing, from a conservative perspective?

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/tucker-democratic-party-change-electorate

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Book Write-Up: The Alchemy Thief, by R.A. Denny

 R.A. Denny. The Alchemy Thief. 2021. Go here to purchase the book.

This book is the first of R.A. Denny’s “Pirates and Puritans” series. Whereas her previous series, “Tales of Tzoladia,” was fantasy, this book is a combination of historical and science fiction.

Two people from the twenty-first century end up in the seventeenth century. One is Ayoub, a member of ISIS. The other is Peri, short for “Experience.” They do not know each other and accidentally end up in the past at different times, with neither knowing about the other until later in the book. Ayoub is on a pirate ship with other Muslims, whereas Peri is with the Puritans, among whom her name “Experience” is not unusual.

Ayoub initially struggles to understand and to fit into his new surroundings. The Muslim crew finds him unusual and speculates that he is possessed with a jinn, especially when he tries to explain twenty-first century weaponry to them. They take him to an Islamic mystic, who proves to be a gentle presence throughout the book. Over the years, Ayoub comes to attain a prominent and respectable position among the crew. The question then becomes whether Ayoub will use his knowledge of the future to change history and establish a caliphate, right when America is in its infancy stage.

Peri confronts her own set of challenges among the Puritans. She is arrested for witchcraft due to the nature of her arrival and controversial things that she innocently says, but she is rescued by the Puritan leader John Winthrop, who is unsure what to make of her but has his own affinity with alchemy, which arguably overlaps with witchcraft. (Not that he would say that, but he would be more open to the bizarre or the paranormal than the average Puritan.) Peri also tries to adapt to a patriarchal society with stricter sexual and social mores.

Other characters are Peri’s love interests. In the twenty-first century, there is Liam. Unknown to Peri, Liam is a secret ISIS recruit, reaching out to her as part of a larger agenda whose intricacies are hidden even from him. He encourages her to take a class with Professor Bey, who turns out to have his own mysterious history. In the seventeenth century, there is Daniel, a gifted Native American convert to Puritan Christianity.

The struggles by Ayoub and Peri to adjust to new surroundings, and those surroundings’ attempts to grapple with them, are an asset to this book. Perhaps that element could have been enhanced had the Puritan characters not spoken in contractions (“can’t,” “don’t”). At first, they were formal in their speech, but their speech became less formal as the book went on.

This part of the book is profound, as it highlights the nuances of historical characters and how they are more rounded than their conventional portrayal suggests:

“[Willam] Harris had spoken up for some pacifists which caused Roger Williams to call him an anarchist. Peri had never heard of this controversy. She had been taught that Williams was the most tolerant of the Puritans. She wondered if Harris had hanged.”

Other noteworthy aspects of the book include how a conventional Western young man like Liam could become drawn to ISIS, and how God led Daniel, within his own Native American culture, to become open to Christianity. The latter will resonate with those who enjoy Don Richardson’s Eternity in their Hearts, which concerns how God reveals Godself in non-Christian cultures and thus makes them open to the Gospel.

The best part of the story itself is when Peri finally meets Ayoub, with each of them surprised to encounter another time traveler.

This book is clearer than Denny’s “Tzoladia” series. I was still confused in some places, perhaps because of my own struggle with reading fiction. Non-fiction is better at laying things out, whereas, with fiction, the reader needs to do more work on his or her own part. Not really understanding what a “bodkin” is may have sown some confusion on my part, as the bodkin plays a significant part in this book; there is also the factor, if memory serves me correctly, that there are two supernatural bodkins, yet both are the same one: the one in the museum, and that bodkin in the past.

I was a little unclear about how Peri could marry Daniel when she was Ayoub’s captive.

Then there is the identification of the mysterious Dr. Bey. He turns out to be another character who is in the book, but my response was “Who?” I do not think he was the Islamic mystic, since the Islamic mystic is a good person, but I am unsure. Sorry for the spoiler there. Perhaps that aspect of the book could have been resolved had Denny included in the back a guide about the main characters, like her excellent guide about the historical personages in the book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. My review is honest!

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Book Write-Ups: The Servant of the Lord and His Servant People; Reformation Commentary on John 13-21; Every Leaf, Line, and Letter

Here are some reviews of IVP review books I was sent. The reviews will be succinct. These will be the last IVP review books that I review in a long time. I enjoy them, but there are other books that I want to read, without necessarily having to blog about them. In the near future, I will review R.A. Denny’s The Alchemy Thief, but that will probably be the only book review that I write in a long time.

A. Matthew S. Harmon. The Servant of the Lord and the Servant People: Tracing a Biblical Theme through the Canon. IVP Academic, 2020. Go here to purchase the book.

As the title indicates, Harmon goes through the concept of the “servant of the LORD” throughout the Bible. What stands out in my mind is his interaction with the scholarly argument that the New Testament rarely applies Isaiah 53 to Jesus, questioning whether Isaiah 53 was even significant in and formative of early Christianity. The reason that this stands out to me is that it was an issue that one of my advisors wanted me to engage in my M.Div. thesis, which argued that Isaiah 53 predicted Christ. (This was Harvard Divinity School, where such a thesis would be controversial.) Harmon contended that, indeed, the New Testament was significantly influenced by Isaiah 53.

B. Reformation Commentary on Scripture: John 13-21. IVP Academic, 2021. Go here to purchase the book.

Like the other books in this series, this one quotes Lutheran, Calvinist, Anabaptist, and pre-Tridentine Catholic interpretations of biblical passages. In this case, the passages are John 13-21. John 13-21 is a fruitful section of Scripture. There are passages about God giving believers whatever they request in Jesus’s name, Jesus’s promise that the disciples will do greater things than Jesus did, the promise of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus’s statement that the disciples will be able to forgive and retain sins. I was edified in reading the book, but all I remember at this point is the interpretations of how the disciples will do greater things than Jesus did: that it applied to the first century apostles, not believers afterwards. I guess these Reformers were not Pentecostals.

The glossary in the back refreshed my memory about some things that I read in the previous Reformation Commentaries’ glossaries. For example, Henry VIII did not become a Protestant simply because he disliked his wife and the Catholic church would not grant him an annulment. Rather, he had an Old Testament reason for the annulment: “Believing his marriage cursed as it transgressed the commands in Leviticus against marrying a brother’s widow…” (What about Levirate marriage?) That was the official reason, but then I read in E. Michael Jones’s Barren Metal that Henry VIII was not even consistent in this stance.

C. Timothy Larsen, ed. Every Leaf, Line, and Letter: Evangelicals and the Bible from the 1730s to the Present. Go here to purchase the book.

Various scholars contribute to this book, which primarily concerns the interpretation and application of the Bible in eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth century America. There are a couple of chapters that go outside of the United States, such as one on charismatic renewal in 1960’s Britain and New England, and another on evangelicalism in a global context. I will not go through each chapter but rather will comment briefly on select chapters:

Kristina Benham, “British Exodus, American Empire: Evangelical Preachers and the Biblicisms of Revolution.” Mark A. Noll, “Missouri, Denmark Vesey, Biblical Proslavery, and a Crisis for Sola Scriptura.”

I include these chapters together because both highlight a tension in attempts to apply the Bible. On the one hand, the Bible encourages submission to authority. Romans 13 comes to mind. The Bible also appears to condone slavery. On the other hand, the Bible condemns authoritarianism. American revolutionaries and abolitionists drew more from the latter strain of thought. How they sought to reconcile their views with the former is where they become interesting. One abolitionist, for example, sought to explain Leviticus 25’s statement that Israelites can hold non-Israelite slaves in perpetuity by referring to the circumcision of non-Israelite slaves in Exodus 12: when they are circumcised, they become Israelites and thus can be released on the seventh year, like Israelite slaves. Maybe, but does that not make Leviticus 25’s statement meaningless and unnecessary? Unless, I suppose, Gentile slaves in Exodus 12 could choose to remain uncircumcised.

Jonathan Yeager, “Faith, Free Will, and Biblical Reasoning in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards and John Erskine.”

Edwards did not see humans as automatons as much as I thought, and Edwards leaned, somewhat, towards a Catholic view on justification. At this time, I lean heavily onto the “Christ’s imputed righteousness” model, since my own moral thoughts fall dramatically short from where Christians say they should be. But there are a variety of views out there. That is why I cannot be dogmatic in sharing a canned “Romans Road” or “Way of the Master” Gospel with people.

Mary Riso, “Josephine Butler’s Mystic Vision and Her Love for the Jesus of the Gospels.”

Josephine Butler stressed the significance of suffering in spirituality. Such a message does not resonate with me currently, since things are going fairly well in my life: I take Zoloft, I have a job, and people there seem to like me, or at least they act like they do! The same incel (not violent incel, but just incel) feelings are still present, but I am living with them. Of course, there are other people who are suffering, and I should try to cultivate empathy. (Note: This is why I hate blogging. I write a thought, fear that people will call me self-centered, then feel a compulsion to qualify what I am saying, resulting in a jumbled mess.) Anyway, where this chapter resonated with me was when Riso started talking about Butler’s alienation from organized Christianity, particularly the doctrine of hell.

Timothy Larsen, “Liberal Evangelicals and the Bible.”

Larsen critiques Vernon Storr, a liberal evangelical Anglican in the early twentieth century. This chapter is effective in showing how Storr’s liberal evangelicalism is inadequate: Storr believes the Bible is errant and stresses its human aspect, with the result that he cannot provide a solid authoritative basis for Christian doctrine or theology. Larsen, however, seems to go to the opposite extreme, acting as if the Bible lacks problems and even seriously entertaining conservative attempts to reconcile how many animals went onboard Noah’s ark. Larsen has one humorous insight, though: when he observes that Storr appeared embarrassed when a biblical prophecy actually was fulfilled! Storr’s proposed approach to the Bible was essentially to look at the main idea rather than the details of biblical passages. That may be one way to reconcile the apparently problematic nature of the Bible with Christian faith, but it makes the Bible boring. One reason I like to read the Bible is to figure out why it says what it says, as it says it: it provides unending intellectual stimulation. If all I can get from the Bible is “be nice to people,” then it would be a dull book.

Malcolm Foley, “‘The Only Way to Stop a Mob’: Francis Grimke’s Biblical Case for Lynching Resistance.”

Francis Grimke made a lucid and compelling case against lynching in the South. This may seem obvious, but if you read and listen to white nationalists, you get the impression that lynching was understandable because it was carried out against rapists. Grimke provides an effective counter-point to that position. Foley also notes James Baldwin’s observation that, notwithstanding southern whites’ condemnation of miscegenation, there were white slaveholders who had children by their black slaves. White nationalists can retort “But that doesn’t mean miscegenation is right,” but that inconsistency in white Southern culture should be addressed, somehow, considering the importance of anti-miscegenation arguments in defenses of segregation.

John Maiden, “‘As at the Beginning’: Charismatic Renewal and the Reanimation of Scripture in Britain and New Zealand in the ‘Long’ 1960s.”

Maiden talks about how charismatics were discontent with the overly intellectual nature of evangelicalism and sought (maybe even had) an emotional Spirit-filled faith. These days, the intellectual content of Christianity appeals to me. I am hanging onto my faith like a thread, but I can still enjoy Charles Hodge, with his dispassionate approach! When it come to the charismatic movement, I feel, as I long have, that either God is leaving me out, or that charismatics are too dogmatic about God’s views, or that charismatics show Christianity to be too “real” for my comfort.

Catherine A. Brekus, “The American Patriot’s Bible: Evangelicals, the Bible, and American Nationalism.”

This chapter is nauseatingly and predictably woke, but its critique of the American Patriot’s Bible does highlight nuances in American history and thus is an effective critique of “Christian right” conceptions of U.S. history. In my view, the secular humanist progressive conceptions are problematic, too.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Books Write-Up: Obadiah, Jonah and Micah; Letters for the Church; the Paradox of Sonship

I will be catching up on book reviews in this post. IVP Academic sent me complimentary copies of these books. My reviews are honest!

A. Daniel C. Timmer. Obadiah, Jonah and Micah. IVP Academic, 2021. Go here to purchase the book.

Daniel C. Timmer teaches biblical studies at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and also in Montreal, Quebec at the Faculte de theologie evangelique. As the title indicates, this book is a commentary on the biblical books of Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah.

Some items:

—-The sections on Jonah and Micah are more interesting than the one on Obadiah. The Obadiah section still engages some intriguing scholarly views, such as one that the ancient Judahites hated the Edomites because the Judahites feared that the Edomites had replaced them as God’s people. Not surprisingly, Timmer rejects this view, but what is amazing is the ideas that scholars put out there in an attempt to be fresh and original.

—-The Jonah section is noteworthy because it treats the Book of Jonah as historically accurate and as pre-exilic. That contrasts with the picture I long got about the book in my reading of scholarship: that it is some post-exilic fable promoting inclusivism towards Gentiles when there was controversy about inclusivism and exclusivism within the post-exilic Jewish community. Timmer’s commitment to Jonah’s historicity is manifest in three areas. First, Timmer contends that the language of Jonah reflects pre-exilic Hebrew and defends the idea that the Hebrew is authentically archaic as opposed to being post-exilic archaizing. Second, Timmer notes the deterioration of the Assyrian empire in the ninth century, which would have made the Ninevites receptive to Jonah’s prophecy of doom. Third, Timmer harmonizes the text of Jonah with history. Jonah 3:6-9 mentions a king of Nineveh and, because Nineveh was not Assyria’s capital city prior to 705, Timmer concludes that this “king” is not a king of all Assyria but rather a magnate over one of the fragments of the Assyrian empire.

—-Timmer offers intriguing possibilities and engages scholarly speculation. He speculates that Jonah himself may have commissioned the ship that took him to Tarshish, meaning Jonah was more than a mere passenger. And, contrary to those who maintain that Jonah’s message to the Ninevites is solely one of doom, Timmer notes possible indications that Jonah preached repentance to the Ninevites.

—-In the section on Micah, Timmer attributes the false prophecies of the false prophets to demons. I am hesitant to accept Timmer’s conclusion here because I think that it projects later demonology onto a pre-exilic book. Plus, it brings to mind annoying tendencies of my religious background, which attributed anything supernatural outside of a rigid religious construct to demons. Still, Timmer’s conclusion does raise profound questions. First, to what did the Hebrew Bible attribute false prophecy? Were the false prophets lying? Did they receive their visions from a supernatural source other than God? There are places in the Hebrew Bible that appear to engage this question. Jeremiah 23:16 asserts that false prophets are speaking their own ideas, not the words of God; here, they are deluded or lying. I Kings 22:21-23, however, depicts God himself sending a lying spirit to the mouths of the false prophets. On a similar note, Deuteronomy 13:1-3 asserts that a false prophet may be part of God’s testing of the Israelites’ faithfulness, implying, perhaps, that God sent the false prophet to test the Israelites. Second, while I doubt that pre-exilic ancient Israelites conceived of an arch-enemy of God, Satan, having a retinue of demons seeking to undermine God’s plan, that does not mean that they lacked a demonology altogether, and they may have seen at least some demons as more than pesky spirits, which is how some scholars tend to portray the ancient conception of demons. Deuteronomy 32:17 states that the false gods to whom Israelites sacrificed were demons (shedim); these were more than pesky spirits but were able to impersonate deity.

—-Since I became aware of the historical-critical method, I have wondered how to approach the eschatological passages of the Old Testament prophets. Micah forecasts the dramatic, supernatural restoration of Israel and the Davidic king in reference to the nations of his time, such as Assyria. Micah 5, which Matthew 2:6 applies to Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem, depicts seven princes defeating Assyria, a power in Micah’s own time that had largely vanished from the scene by the time of Jesus. Is Micah 5 Micah’s view about what would happen in his own day, within his own geo-political context, as opposed to being a prophecy about the distant future? Timmer engages this question, treating the references to Assyria in Micah 5 as paradigmatic and typological for Israel’s foes in general. Timmer states on page 181 that “this typological understanding of these two empires fits well with Micah’s use of Nimrod for Babylon (cf. Gen. 10:8-10).” As Nimrod in the Book of Genesis could foreshadow later Babylon, so could Assyria be a type for Israel’s eschatological enemies.

—-Timmer states on page 228: “‘Zion’ will no longer be limited in terms of space and geography, so will be able to welcome many nations (4:1-4) from across the globe (7:11-12). Her newly arrived citizens, particularly those of non-Israelite ethnicity, will radically expand her population (it is important that Daughter Zion identifies herself as Abraham’s offspring, rather than extending that title to all ethnic Israelites).” Timmer essentially sees continuity between Micah’s eschatology and the New Testament’s inclusion of Gentiles into the people of God. How convincing this is, is a worthwhile question. Timmer, of course, has to deal with Micah 4:5’s declaration that the nations may walk in the name of their own gods, whereas Israel will walk in the name of the LORD. Does this envision a time of eschatological tolerance and pluralism, when Gentiles will worship their own gods rather than becoming part of the people of Israel and worshiping the LORD alone? Timmer’s solution appears to be that Israel recognizes she had better be faithful because that would be what would attract the nations to the God of Israel; otherwise, the nations will continue to worship their own gods. There is also the focus on ethnic Israel throughout Micah and all of the Old Testament prophets, for that matter, which makes me question whether Micah is downplaying ethnic Israel in favor of a spiritual community that includes Gentiles. Moreover, one may wonder if the nations in the “inclusivist” passages of the Old Testament prophets are necessarily joining the people of God or rather are becoming subordinate to the Israelites, meaning that their honor for God is an aspect of their political subordination to Israel. If so, such prophecies may concern Israel’s political prestige in the eschaton more than the nations becoming closer to God.

B. Darian R. Lockett. Letters for the Church: Reading James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude as Canon. IVP Academic, 2021. Go here to purchase the book.

Darian R. Lockett (Ph.D., St. Andrews) teaches New Testament at Biola University. This book goes through the Catholic epistles—-James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude—-while noting themes that unite them.

A few items:

—-Lockett largely accepts the traditional views of authorship, as he engages scholarly skepticism about said authorship. Some of his solutions are predictable, in light of conservative scholarship: attribute stylistic features to a secretary, patristic support, etc. In his discussion of II Peter, though, he refers to elements of II Peter that appear to regard the letter as a sequel to a previous letter, meaning one person may have written I-II Peter.

—-Where Lockett may stray, somewhat, from conservatism is in his treatment of Jude’s quotation of I Enoch. He surveys conservative scholarly denials that Jude regards I Enoch as divinely-authoritative and simply does not find them convincing. If Jude does regard I Enoch as divinely-authoritative, then that has profound implications, including Christians having another book in their canon.

—-Love is a theme that recurs in the book. This troubles me, as a shy introvert with grudges and social anxiety who cannot bring himself to love people and questions whether Christians manifest the unconditional love they judge me for lacking. That rant aside, Lockett, in some cases, shows how love fits into the argument of the Catholic epistles: James opposes favoritism for the rich over the poor, and James’s stance, of course, is consistent with love. In some cases, Lockett perhaps could have more effectively showed where love fits into the equation. In II Peter 2:21, for example, the author criticizes those who turned away from the sacred command, and Lockett interprets that sacred command as the command to love. Yet, Lockett also regards the context for that passage as pertinent to apostasy: leaving the faith and returning to pagan sensualism and hedonism. How does rejecting love fit into that apostasy?

—-In Jude 9, Jude refers to Michael’s dispute with Satan over the bones of Moses. The interpretation that I usually heard of that incident is that Satan wanted to make Moses’s bones an object of worship. Lockett, however, offers a different interpretation: that Satan was saying that Moses did not deserve proper burial because Moses had killed an Egyptian. Whether there is a basis for this interpretation is a good question, especially since, as Lockett states, the story “most likely comes from the lost ending of the Testament of Moses” (199).

—-Lockett is especially effective in painting the perspective against which II Peter contends, one that draws together different elements of the book. Why does II Peter focus on the inspiration of Scripture and divine judgment? Because people were saying that the prophets were merely conveying their own ideas, not divine revelation, and they were denying that divine judgment was something to fear, since things have continued the same way for millennia.

C. R.B. Jamieson. The Paradox of Sonship: Christology in the Epistle to the Hebrews. IVP Academic, 2021. Go here to purchase the book.

R.B. Jamieson (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is associate pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.

When the Epistle to the Hebrews refers to Jesus as God’s “son,” what does it mean? On the one hand, Hebrews appears to manifest a high Christology: Jesus is Son of God in that Jesus is God. Through the Son, God made the worlds (Hebrews 1:2). The Son’s word sustains all things, and the Son is the brightness of God’s glory and the image of God’s person (Hebrews 1:3). The Son is called God in Hebrews 1:8, and the Son is superior to Moses because Moses was a servant in the house, whereas the Son built the house, and the ultimate builder is God (Hebrews 3:1-6). The Son also, like God, lacks beginning of days and end of life (Hebrews 7:3).

On the other hand, Hebrews seems rather adoptionistic, in some places, meaning that the man Jesus became God’s Son rather than always possessing that status by virtue of inherent divinity. Hebrews 1:5 appears to suggest that God begot Jesus as Son on a specific day, which differs from God the Son being eternally begotten. Hebrews 2:10 affirms that Jesus was made perfect through sufferings. Does that imply that he was not perfect before? Is not God eternally perfect?

Jamieson’s solution is that there are two types of Sonship in Hebrews. First, Jesus has always been God’s Son in the sense that he himself is divine: he is, and always has been, God. Here, Jamieson rejects the conventional scholarly tendency to divorce the New Testament from Nicaea and Chalcedon, as if the latter cannot be used to understand the former. The latter, for Jamieson, is what makes sense of the former. To quote Jamieson on page 146, “Hebrews is not merely a significant step along the way to Nicaea but is, in a crucial sense, already there.”

But, second, being the Son of God also means being the Messiah, God’s chosen ruler. The Davidic king was considered the son of God (II Samuel 7:14), ruling on the throne of God (I Chronicles 29:23). The king became God’s son at his coronation (Psalm 2). Jesus, likewise, became God’s Son, the ruler of the cosmos, at his resurrection. Jesus attained a rulership and Messianic status that he lacked before. What, then, does Hebrews 2:10 mean when it says that the Son became perfect? Jamieson interprets that to mean that the Son, through suffering, qualified to become the high priest of humanity. By becoming human and suffering as a human, Jesus atoned for sin and became better able to understand Christians who struggle with sin (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15).

Some items:

—-Jamieson elucidates how Melchizedek fits into Hebrews’s argument. When Hebrews 7:3 affirms that Melchizedek lacked beginning of days and end of life, what does it mean? Was Melchizedek eternal? Was Melchizedek Jesus? Jamieson, of course, replies that Hebrews 7:3 is noting that Melchizedek lacks a genealogy: his mother and father are unmentioned in the Old Testament. How, though, does that fit into Hebrews’s argument? Jamieson’s response is that, according to Hebrews, Melchizedek is a type of Christ. What is true of Melchizedek merely on paper is true of Christ in reality.

—-Ordinarily, Jamieson is judicious and detailed in his argumentation. One aspect of his interpretation of Romans 1:3, however, is a stretch. Jamieson, echoing other scholars, argues that Jesus was Messiah due to his descent from Mary, who was a descendant of David. That was how Jesus was of the seed of David according to the flesh. Here, he is trying to reconcile Romans 1:3 with the virgin birth. If Jesus were not the seed of David through Joseph, since Joseph was not his biological father, then Jesus had to be the seed of David through Mary. But questions need to be addressed. Can Messianic status pass through the mother rather than the father? If Luke 3’s genealogy is indeed Jesus’s genealogy through Mary, does that not disqualify him from being the Davidic king, since the Davidic dynasty was through David’s son Solomon (II Samuel 7:14), not Nathan, the son of David mentioned in Luke 3? And is there any evidence that Mary had Davidic descent?

—-Jamieson at one point seems to deny that Hebrews envisions Christians reigning with Christ, as it focuses on Christ as king. That could be: from a historical-critical standpoint, one should focus on what the text says rather than importing what it does not say. But does not Jesus in Hebrews bring many sons to glory (Hebrews 2:10)?

—-Where I am unclear, and this may be rectified through a rereading of the book, is where Jesus’s divinity fits into Jesus’s Messiahship. On some level, Jamieson appears to go an Anselmian route: only God could atone for the sins of all of humanity. Jamieson also seems to think that, according to Hebrews, Jesus’s divinity is part of his qualification to rule, and that it even elevates the concept of Messiahship beyond that of a mere Davidic king.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Common Dreams: Biden Applauded for Executive Order Targeting ‘Insidious’ Anti-Worker Practices

“‘The measures encouraged by this EO represent a wish list progressives and other pro-competition advocates have been promoting for years, and in some cases decades,’ David Segal, director of the Demand Progress Education Fund, said in a statement.

“‘From a ban on non-compete agreements that suppress wages and keep employees tied to jobs they would rather leave, to pushing for importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada—and from helping people switch between banks to addressing anti-competitive behavior in online marketplaces, these initiatives would improve the wellbeing of workers, small and mid-sized businesses, and consumers across essentially all major sectors of the American economy,’ Segal added.”

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/07/09/biden-applauded-executive-order-targeting-insidious-anti-worker-practices

Monday, July 5, 2021

Booknotes: Shanghai Conspiracy, The Mission of Demythologizing

Some booknotes:

A. Major General Charles Willoughby. Shanghai Conspiracy: The Sorge Spy Ring. Western Islands, 1965.

This book was originally published in 1952. Charles Willoughby served as chief of intelligence under General Douglas MacArthur, who writes the introduction to this book.

This book is about the Communist spy ring of Richard Sorge, a Communist agent who was part of the Nazi government in Germany. The book focuses a lot, however, on his espionage towards Japan. Another figure in this book is Agnes Smedley. Willoughby argues that she was a Communist, her denials notwithstanding. Part of her job was as a propagandist for the Chinese Communists, portraying them to the West as agrarian reformers. A significant part of the book is Sorge’s own account, which includes how he became a Communist, effective techniques of espionage, and the goals of the espionage.

Some items of interest:

—-Sorge’s discussion of the techniques of espionage sounded like common sense. First, you want to be educated about the region where you are conducting the espionage. Sorge states that he was not particularly popular among his fellow Communists, but they still came to him because he knew a lot. Second, Sorge often used intermediaries in Japan. It would look suspicious to the Japanese if a white guy like him were going around asking questions. Consequently, he relied on native Japanese. Some of these native Japanese became Communists because they were discontent with the Japanese oligarchs. The Communist network, according to Sorge, was vast: one person would report to someone, who would report to someone else, and so on.

—-Some of the Japanese Communists whom Sorge profiles were interested in internal subversion, but the focus of this book is more on Russia’s geopolitical interests. One purpose of espionage towards Japan was to see what Japan would do so that Russia could act accordingly. Japan and Russia were enemies. When Russia learned that Japan was going against China or the U.S. at Pearl Harbor, it could breathe a sigh of relief, because at least Japan was not going after Russia at that time. Russia could then focus its resources on other goals. Sorge occasionally mentions his personal knowledge about Nazi deliberations. Nazis were debating, for example, whether to pursue an alliance with Japan or China.

This book is not as juicy as a lot of John Bircher-type books. Russia does not come across so much as a monster trying to care over the world but as a nation seeking to preserve its own interests; other reviewers on Amazon, however, arrived at a different impression, as might I were I ever to reread the book. Perhaps Willoughby’s point is that the Communist network does exist, and the very existence of such a network should be cause for alarm.

B. David W. Congdon. The Mission of Demythologizing: Rudolf Bultmann’s Dialectical Theology. Fortress, 2015.

I bought this book for a low price in 2015. It was selling like hotcakes! I decided to read it years later.
As Congdon narrates, Barth and Bultmann were estranged from each other because they felt that their theological approaches were different. Barth thought that Bultmann’s demythologization was an attempt to keep Christianity up with the times. But Congdon argues that their approaches actually overlap and complement each other. Barth’s approach focuses on the divine side of the equation: God uses the Bible to act as the Word of God, challenging and transforming the hearer. Bultmann’s focus was on the human side of the equation: the person’s existential response to the revelation, after grasping its core.

Part of the problem, according to Congdon, is that people misunderstand what Bultmann’s demythologization was all about. It was not about keeping Christianity up with the times, as if modern science deserves a privileged status. Rather, it was about translating the Gospel for moderns and unveiling to them its essence. Many people today have a different worldview from the original historical audiences of the Gospel, due, in part, to new scientific knowledge. The message underneath the myth needs to be uncovered, both as a missionary and translation endeavor, but also so that Christianity can focus on its essence as opposed to idolizing and absolutizing its mythical trappings. This essence is an existential encounter with God’s grace, which frees people to live for others.

The book is over eight hundred pages. It was repetitive in making its points, but I still feel it was worthwhile to read. Perhaps this is because it came across as meaty and deep. The biographical aspect of the book is engaging, as it chronicles the views of Barth and Bultmann towards each other; the book also goes into the background and the influences on their thought. A brief appendix discusses examples of demythologization, for example, with the atonement. The book could have used more of this.

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