Sunday, August 31, 2014

Love, the Purpose of Life

At church this morning, the pastor said that the purpose of life is not to get rich, but to learn how to love.

I do not always know how I, as an introvert, can love other people.  One thing I liked about a recent book that I read about love, however, was that it was sensitive to that very point.  It was by a pastor of a church that is renowned for reaching out to the community, and he said that some do service work for the church without interacting with others.  They work behind the scenes, or they do the actual hands-on labor (i.e., washing the cars).

I get a little leery at Christian talk about putting other people first.  I’ve been watching The Thorn Birds lately, a miniseries from the 1980’s.  In the first episode, Frank is telling his little sister Meggie to accept the priest’s offer to provide her with an education.  She needs to do something for herself, he tells her, because nobody else is going to look out for her.  That advice may be a bit one-sided, but it is not totally wrong.  What’s ironic, though, is that I admire Frank in that scene precisely because he is thinking about somebody else—-his sister—-desiring her well-being even if that does not affect him personally.

I would not say that the purpose of life is to get rich.  I do hope, however, to get to the point where I can provide for my needs, and maybe have enough left over for my loves, books and movies!

At the same time, I think that I should be conscious of others.  There are other people in the world, with thoughts, feelings, and needs, just like me.  I would be wrong to disregard that.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I Chronicles 25

Heman’s sons sang and prophesied with musical instruments at the sanctuary.  Psalm 88 is attributed to Heman.

What catches a number of scholars’ attention is I Chronicles 24:4, which lists the sons of Heman:

“Of Heman: the sons of Heman; Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel, and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti, and Romamtiezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, and Mahazioth” (KJV).

More than one scholar believes that there is a sentence, or a piece of a psalm, in this verse.

The commentator on this verse in Peake’s Bible commentary believes that the sentence starts at “Hananiah” and ends at “Mahazioth.”  He translates it to say: “Be gracious unto me, Yah, be gracious unto me; my God art Thou, Thee do I magnify and exalt; my helper when I am in trouble, I say, give me fullness of visions.”

Roddy Braun in the Word Biblical Commentary quotes W. Rudolph’s rendering of the psalm piece: “Be gracious to me, O Yahweh, be gracious to me; You are my God.  I exalt (you), I praise (my) Helper.  Sitting in adversity, I said, [or, Fulfill my request] Clear signs give plentifully.”

E.W. Bullinger starts the sentence later, at “Giddalti”: “I have magnified, and I have raised up help; Sitting in trouble, I have spoken many oracles.”

The commentator in Peake’s commentary speculates that “Although these appear now as proper names they were possibly not so originally…”  The commentator still notes that the names appear as proper names “elsewhere in the chapter.”

E.W. Bullinger says that Heman may have named his sons with that psalm in mind, since parents at that time often named their children with some purpose in mind—-to convey a message.  Indeed, we do see this in the Bible, especially in Genesis.  Still, I have a hard time envisioning Heman naming one son in reference to the first word in a Psalm, then the next son in reference to the next word, and so on.  How would he even have known that he would eventually have enough sons to complete the sentence?  Maybe he was just trying, not knowing if it would work out or not.  “The names are good names, even if I do not get to finish the sentence,” Heman may have thought.  Or perhaps Heman prophetically knew at the outset that he would have enough sons to complete the sentence/psalm.  He is said to have prophesied in I Chronicles 25:1, and v 5 calls him the king’s seer.

Braun refers to Rudolph’s view that “individuals or groups of singers may actually have taken their names from psalms which were especially sung by them” (Braun’s words), but he goes on to say that D.L. Petersen “finds unconvincing the Sumerian parallels that are quoted.”

Braun refers to another idea: that the names are not one psalm verse but rather are the beginnings of various psalms.  Braun does not find that convincing, however, for “no satisfactory psalms are apparent in our psalter for the last two groups of names.”  Braun may be correct that there are no psalms that start with, say, “abundance,” or “visions” (the meanings proposed for some of the names).  Still, I wonder if a psalm could have such titles: if a Psalm is about visions, could it have had a title of “visions”?

I looked up the meaning of the names.  I went to Brown-Driver-Briggs, Strong’s, and Blueletterbible, which referred to Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon and also an “Outline of Biblical Usage.”  I will share my findings here:

Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: “whom Jehovah gave”
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “God has favoured”
Strong’s: “Jah has favored”
BDB: “Yah hath been gracious”

Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: : “favourable”
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “gracious”
Strong’s: “gracious”
BDB: maybe abbreviation of Hananiah

Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: “to whom God comes”
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “God has come”
Strong’s: “God of (his) consent”
BDB: “God has come”

Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: doesn’t give meaning
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “I make great”
Strong’s: “I have made great”
BDB: “I magnify (God)”

And Romamti-ezer:
Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: none
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “I have exalted the helper”
Strong’s: “I have raised up a help”
BDB: “I have made lofty help”

Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: “seat in a hard place”
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “seated in hardness”
Strong’s: “a hard seat”
BDB: pertains to “seat”

Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: “my fullness”
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “I have uttered”
Strong’s: “I have talked”, “loquacious”
BDB: “I have uttered” (from piel of m-l-l)

Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: none
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “abundance.”
Strong’s: “he has caused to remain”
BDB: “abundance, superabundance” (from y-t-r, “remain”)

Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon: “visions”
BLB Outline of Biblical Usage: “visions”
Strong’s: “visions”
BDB: “visions”

As I look at these, I can see the bases for the various translations of the alleged psalm piece.  Some of the translators understand certain words differently, however: more than one, for example, translate “Eliathah” as “you are my God,” the idea being that “Eli” is “my God” and “athah” here is the second person singular, “you.”  I question whether the names come together to create a smooth-flowing sentence.  Moreover, as I double-click on the names on my BibleWorks, I notice that many of the words do not appear in psalms in the Book of Psalms, and that leads me to doubt if these names are all part of a psalm fragment at the outset.  But some believe they are.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Write-Up: The Forgotten Man, by Amity Shlaes

Amity Shlaes.  The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression.  HarperCollins, 2007.

I enjoyed Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression.  Whereas her biography of Calvin Coolidge was rather heavy, her prose in The Forgotten Man was light, and she explained economics in a manner that even non-economists like me could understand.  Moreover, she made the people in The Forgotten Man seem real.  Her biography about Coolidge had a lot of information, but I finished that book not really feeling that I knew Coolidge that well.  The Forgotten Man, however, was different because it had a stronger narrative and characterization.

Shlaes writes largely from a conservative perspective.  She favors lowering the tax rate on the rich and on corporations, since they are the ones who invest and create jobs.  She favors more of a supply-side than a demand-side emphasis, favoring the producers rather than assuming that the consumers having more money to spend will lead to economic growth.  She leans towards free-trade.  On monetary policy, she strikes me as rather flexible.  She is not keen on the Federal Reserve tightening the money supply too much, for deflation can lead to problems, especially for people who borrowed money (they essentially owe more than they borrowed).  At the same time, she notes that President Franklin Roosevelt’s undermining of the gold standard did not help matters, for other countries thought that destabilized the currency.

Shlaes’ perspective is evident in her narration of the Great Depression.  According to her, the tax increases by Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt hindered economic growth, while attempts by these two Presidents to keep wages up so that consumers would have money to spend did not significantly ameliorate the dire economic situation; neither did their public infrastructure projects, for that matter.  The New Deal targeted businesses (big and small), and that discouraged investment, since why would people invest if they did not know what the government would do to them next?  The Federal Reserve during the Hoover Presidency was too tight in its monetary policy, according to Shlaes, and that stifled investment.  Shlaes also agrees with economists who argue that the Smoot-Hawley tariff was part of the problem, for she contends that this tariff increased production costs, discouraged European countries from buying American products, and hindered Americans from buying European products, which would have helped Europeans earn money so they could pay off their debt to the U.S.  While Shlaes is critical of many of President Franklin Roosevelt’s policies, she does praise him for helping to bring about lower tariffs.  She also thinks that FDR’s Security and Exchange Commission was a good idea, since that policed Wall Street abuse.  She says that many thought that FDR was letting the fox watch over the hen house when he appointed Joseph Kennedy to head the SEC, but that this actually turned out to be a good decision: Kennedy knew the tricks of the trade, so he could do a good job policing Wall Street!

Another problem with the New Deal, Shlaes argues, is that Roosevelt could not make up his mind.  Some elements of the New Deal contradicted each other.  Roosevelt got tired of people receiving relief, so he created government jobs so that unemployed people could work.  He wanted the workers to receive a good wage, and yet he also wanted to balance the budget because he thought that would improve the economy.  Meanwhile, he signed the Wagner Act, which promoted unionization and allowed strikes.  But that could be pretty problematic when WPA workers decided to strike!  There also appeared to be some waffling on whether bigger was better: do we want big business, or do we want smaller businesses (and anti-trust rules) that compete with each other?

Shlaes acknowledges that the economy steadily improved under the New Deal.  It just never returned to pre-1929 levels!  The Depression lagged on until World War II.  At the beginning of each chapter, Shlaes gives readers the unemployment rate for the year, and also the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

I cannot say that I found myself disliking most of the characters of the book.  The leftists who were enamored (and, in some cases, later disappointed) with the Soviet Union struck me as well-meaning idealists.  The same goes for the New Dealers, who tried to improve people’s situations and came up with innovative ideas, such as living units for migrants.  Wendell Wilkie sought to protect private electric companies from Tennessee Valley Authority competition, which was understandable on his part, and yet I cannot say that the TVA came across as that bad in Shlaes’ book (though she did seem to disagree with it), since it provided cheap electricity to poor families.  Other characters include Andrew Mellon, who was under investigation for tax evasion yet managed to find a common cause with FDR by helping to establish a National Art Gallery, donating his fine collection of art.  The African-American evangelist Father Divine also is prominent in the book: he was critical of New Deal relief programs, but he also helped the poor, pressured Roosevelt to take an anti-lynching stance, and even moved onto what used to be Franklin Roosevelt’s property.  (Eleanor Roosevelt said that she welcomed him as a neighbor!)

If there was one character I disliked, it was this one New Deal lawyer who was going after the Schechters, Jewish chicken sellers who were accused of violating National Recovery Administration rules.  The lawyer made a big deal about Mr. Schechter’s lack of education, which struck me as cruel and elitist.  For that matter, I also did not care for the pro-Roosevelt journalists who exploited anti-Semitism in defending the prosecution of the Schechters (who, it appears, were probably supporters of Roosevelt, notwithstanding the NRA’s attack on them).

The Forgotten Man is an interesting and thoughtful book.  Personally, what Shlaes says and what Robert Reich says (about the need for a strong consumer base) both make sense to me, even though they have different perspectives.  Investment is necessary, but so are a lot of consumers with money to spend!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book Write-Up: From Paradise to the Promised Land

T. Desmond Alexander.  From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Pentateuch, Third Edition.  Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012.    See here for Baker’s page about this book.

In From Paradise to the Promised Land, T. Desmond Alexander explores what he considers to be the themes of the Pentateuch—-the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy in the Hebrew Bible—-as well as the application of those themes in the New Testament.  The third edition contains a lengthy and helpful summary and discussion of modern biblical scholarship regarding the Pentateuch, covering form, source, and tradition criticism.  Alexander’s conclusion in that discussion is that the Pentateuch contains a variety of traditions, many of which may be quite old (as in second millennium B.C.E.), but that the Pentateuch was not edited in its final form prior to the sixth century B.C.E., the time of the exile and the beginning of the post-exilic period.

According to Alexander, the Pentateuch is about God coming to dwell with humanity, as well as the promise of a royal seed who would bring blessings to the peoples of the earth.  God dwelt with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which was like a temple, but they forfeited God’s presence and blessings through their sin.  God chose Abraham’s seed to bring blessing to the peoples of the earth, and God would later dwell within Israel through the Tabernacle, a precursor to what God planned to do for all of humanity.

Regarding the promised royal seed, God said that a seed would crush the head of the serpent from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15), that kings would be descended from Abraham (Genesis 17:6), and that a singular seed would possess the gates of his enemies (Genesis 22:17).  Plus, Abraham does kingly things, and Alexander regards this as an indication that God’s plan was to use a royal figure to bless humanity.  Alexander argues that God initially planned for the royal seed to come from Ephraim (a tribe descended from Joseph), since God chose Ephraim over his older brother Manasseh, Joshua was an Ephraimite, and God’s sanctuary of Shiloh was located in Ephraim.  But, according to Alexander, God changed God’s mind, Shiloh was destroyed, and God chose Judah (David’s tribe) as the tribe from which the royal seed would come, in accordance with Genesis 49:10.  Alexander seems to believe that the Pentateuch predicts the coming of an eschatological Messiah.

My main problem with From Paradise to the Promised Land is that Alexander often disregards the diversity of the Bible and fails to engage alternative points-of-view.  Let me clarify that I am not saying this in reference to his chapters on modern biblical scholarship, for those chapters were excellent in summarizing and engaging various scholarly arguments, and Alexander also arrives at the judicious conclusion that the Pentateuch contains diverse traditions.  But my impression was that Alexander largely departed from this approach in the rest of the book, as he discussed what he considered to be the themes of the Pentateuch.  Granted, Alexander acknowledged at the outset that he intended to pursue a synchronic, holistic approach to the Pentateuch, but I believe that the diversity of the Bible can challenge Alexanders’ arguments about what the key themes of the Pentateuch actually are.  Does the Pentateuch envision God dwelling with all of humanity?  That is not explicit within the Pentateuch itself, and, if one wants to consult the prophetic writings of the Hebrew Bible, one will arguably encounter a variety of eschatological expectations, some of which are more hostile to Gentiles and nationalistic.  Does the Pentateuch present the promise of a royal seed—-a Messiah—-bringing blessing to humanity?  I do not find that to be explicit in the Pentateuch, either.  The Pentateuch’s references to kings may simply refer to the kings of Northern or Southern Israel, not the hope of a coming Messiah.  Moreover, Alexander fails to consider how Saul and the anti-monarchic voices in the Hebrew Bible would fit into his scenario.  God in the Pentateuch intended to bring the royal Messiah from Ephraim, then changed God’s mind and decided that the royal figure would come from Judah instead?  Why, then, did God choose Saul, a Benjaminite, to be king?  And what about the voices within the Hebrew Bible that oppose Israel even having a king?  Alexander should have engaged these questions.

From Paradise to the Promised Land did have its assets, however.  There were gems, such as Alexander’s comparison of the original Passover ritual to save Israel’s firstborn with the rituals of anointing priests, as Alexander argued that the firstborn were becoming a sort of priesthood through the Passover.  There was Alexander’s interpretation of God’s promise that Abraham and Sarah would become the parents of a multitude of nations, as Alexander contended that Abraham was a father of Gentile nations in the sense that his seed would have a positive impact on them; similarly, Joseph in Genesis 45:8 is called a father to Pharaoh, even though Joseph was not Pharaoh’s literal, physical father.

Alexander’s chapters on the sacrificial system and clean and unclean foods were also worth reading, in my opinion.  My problem with his chapter on the sacrificial system is that he maintained that the burnt offering was substitutionary—-that the animal was dying in place of the person offering it.  I did not think that Alexander supported that point, and his reference to the ransom in Exodus 21:30 did not help his case, since the ransom in that verse appears to be money, not a burnt offering.  Alexander did well, however, to note that blood, as life, had a cleansing effect in purifying people and objects of defilement, as well as to note that, the greater the sin, the greater the defilement was on the sanctuary.  On clean and unclean foods, Alexander explored different explanations for the designation of animals as unclean and clean, and he settles on the view that the dietary laws served to remind Israelites of their status as God’s chosen people, separated to be holy.

From Paradise to the Promised Land is intended to introduce people to the contents of the Pentateuch.  In terms of whether I would recommend this book for an Introduction to Hebrew Bible class, I would offer a tentative yes.  If I were a teacher, I would not rely only on this book to introduce students to the contents of the Pentateuch, but I would require them to read parts of the Pentateuch first, then I would refer them to Alexander’s book so they could read attempts to explain the Pentateuch’s content.  Of concern to me is the book’s evangelical Christian emphasis: while that may be appropriate for an evangelical seminary, I question whether it would suit a secular university.  Still, there are pieces of Alexander’s book—-his discussion of modern scholarship and his chapters on sacrifices and clean and unclean foods—-that are not overly preachy and that would arguably be appropriate within a secular academic context.  I would also add that his chapters on modern biblical scholarship can assist graduate students studying for comprehensive examinations in Hebrew Bible, or seeking a summary of what modern biblical scholarship has been saying about the Pentateuch over the past few centuries.

I would like to thank Baker Academic for sending me a complimentary copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Matching Labels

A while back, I started following someone's posts.  She used to work for an abortion clinic, then she quit that line of work as she concluded that abortion was murder.  What especially got on my nerves were her posts that said “if you (such-and-such), then you are not pro-life.”  “If you believe in exceptions to an anti-abortion law, then you may not be pro-life.”  And so on and so forth.

I found those posts to be a bit baffling.  I mean, why should I care if I fit her label of what is pro-life?  Why should I care whether or not I am fitting anyone’s label of pro-life, for that matter?  It’s just a label.  I’m not running for the Republican nomination of any political office, which would require me to show how I am more conservative or pro-life than someone else.  Consequently, why should I care if my beliefs meet a certain label?

I saw something similar in a blog post from another perspective.  A feminist was saying that, if you support legal restrictions on abortion, then you are not really a feminist.  Again, so what?  It’s a label, people!  If the feminist blogger has problems with legal restrictions on abortion, then that is understandable.  But saying people with certain points-of-view aren’t part of the feminist club?  I don’t see why people are so preoccupied with that.

Yet, I have to admit that I used to be the same way.  I would make judgments about whether people were true Republicans.  Now, on some level, that was understandable.  As a Republican, I wanted to vote for someone who was close to my definition of what counted as Republican ideology.  Fair enough.  But the problem was that, when I was debating liberal Republicans, I would accuse them of not being true Republicans.  Why did I do that?  Does meeting a label truly matter?  I should have just stuck with the issues!

There will come times when meeting a label will matter.  If you are running for the Republican nomination of something, then you will probably want to present yourself as the true conservative, and the other candidate as non-conservative.  If you are applying to teach at a conservative Christian seminary or to pastor a conservative Christian church, you may want to pass someone’s doctrinal tests of what counts as “Christian.”  Since I am not doing either of those things right now, I really don’t give a rip if my beliefs match someone’s label.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Pagan Sailors' Religious Beliefs in Jonah 1

I am going through the Book of Jonah for my daily quiet time.  In my reading this morning, something puzzled me, but I was unable to articulate why it was puzzling me.  I had a hard time formulating my question, let alone arriving at any answers!  But I checked out a commentary, and that cleared things up a bit.

In Jonah 1, God tells Jonah to go to the wicked city of Nineveh and preach against it.  Jonah does not want to go, so he hops on a ship to Tarshish.  On his journey, a fierce wind threatens the ship and those on it, and each shipman is crying out to his god.  The shipmaster finds that Jonah is sleeping and tells Jonah to cry out to his (Jonah’s) god.

This passage looks pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?  So why was I confused?  Well, as I said, I was struggling to articulate to myself why exactly I was confused, but I knew that the topic of my confusion concerned how the book was portraying the pagan shipmen’s religious beliefs.  Each person has a god.  Each person is crying out to his god in hopes that the tempest will go away.  Moreover, they seem to believe that each person’s god exists—-the pagan shipmaster did not tell Jonah to cry out to any pagan gods but rather to cry out to his own (meaning Jonah’s) god.  It sounded to me like a belief in patron deities, in which each person has a god looking out for him or her.  But why cry out to one’s own personal god?  Why not cry out to the god of the sea, who is responsible for what goes on there?

The IVP Bible Background Commentary clarified to me my question and offered a reasonable answer:

1:5 each cried to his own god.  Patron deities were rarely cosmic deities, so the sailors would not have thought that their personal or family gods had sent the storm.  In the polytheistic context of the ancient world, one could generally identify divine activity with confidence, but it was another matter altogether to discover which god was acting and why.  The sailors call out to their gods in the hope that one of their patron deities might be able to exert some influence on whichever god has become disturbed enough to send the storm.  They are calling out for assistance, not in repentance.  The more contacts made the better, so the captain awakes Jonah so that he could also call upon his patron deity.”

So they were calling upon their patron deities because they thought that these deities may have connections with whatever cosmic deity was causing the storm.

Questions still remain in my mind, though.  Okay, Jonah tells them that the Hebrew God is god of sea and land and is the one causing the storm.  The shipmen agree that the Hebrew God YHWH is the one causing the storm and they eventually make vows and offer sacrifice to the Hebrew God.  But the IVP Bible Background Commentary denies that this means that they abandoned polytheism and converted to monotheism.  It says that “the sailors may have vowed to offer a memorial sacrifice of some sort to Yahweh each year on the anniversary of this event.”  They still probably continued to worship their own gods, though.

Where, now, is my confusion?  I wonder what exactly they thought about YHWH, during the time that they accepted that YHWH was the one causing the storm and also when they offered sacrifice and vows to YHWH.  Did they come to agree with Jonah that YHWH was the god of the sea and land?  How would that impact their religious worldview?  One would think that the God of the sea and land is pretty significant and high up in the divine hierarchy.  Would YHWH take the place of their cosmic deities, in their minds?  Or could they still go on believing in their cosmic deities, while seeing YHWH as higher than them in the hierarchy?  Or maybe they just believed that YHWH was simply another cosmic deity and that Jonah was wrong to see him as the God of sea and land, even though they acknowledged that Jonah’s god was the one causing the storm.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Write-Up: Illusion, by Frank Peretti

Frank Peretti writes Christian fiction.  Some have called him the Christian Stephen King because he has written Christian horror, plots that have demons or monsters.  There are times when his work does not have those things, though.  I think of his book, Prophet, which is about a news anchorman with a prophetic calling that could disrupt his life.  And, while The Visitation had demons, it was far from being a horror book, and I found it to be a thoughtful exploration of such issues as Pentecostalism, disappointment with God, and different denominations.

Frank Peretti’s Illusion is a different kind of novel, in comparison with what Peretti usually writes.  Don’t get me wrong, though: it is classic Frank Peretti, the sort of book where the characters seem real and you want to keep on reading to see how mysteries get resolved.  But there is not much emphasis on the supernatural—-at least not if one defines that in terms of demons, angels, or spirit beings; there is still magic and extraordinary phenomena, however.  The book has a scientific focus, and, while I did not understand half of the time what the scientists were saying, that did not prevent me from following the plot, plus I took comfort that some of the characters did not fully understand what the scientists were saying, either!  Christianity is still in the book, but its presence is not as salient or overt as it is in other Frank Peretti books.  It is far from marginal, however, for the book does have Christian lessons and characters.

The book is about an old magician named Dane Collins.  He and his wife, Mandy, had a famous magic act for forty years.  Dane is broken after he loses his wife in an automobile accident.  And yet, something strange happens.  The Mandy of the 1970’s—-a nineteen year-old Mandy who has not yet met Dane—-has somehow come to be present in 2010.  Moreover, she has certain abilities: she can go places without being noticed and cause people and things to levitate.  Mandy changes her name to Eloise, and she begins to gain renown as a magician in her own right.  She encounters Dane, who reluctantly becomes her mentor. There are so many things about Eloise that remind Dane of his late wife, and part of the tension within the book was that I continually wondered when Dane and Mandy would reveal to each other what was on each of their minds, as strange as that might be.  Here is Dane, baffled that this Eloise is so much like Mandy.  And here is Mandy, hiding from Dane the fact that she is from the 1970’s and is struggling to understand 2010, with its odd devices.

I do not want to give too many spoilers, since part of the pleasure of reading Frank Peretti is wondering how the mystery will be explained.  In response to Christians who criticize Illusion for not having a spiritual focus, I will say that it does, in its own way.  One of my favorite parts of the book is when one of the scientists acknowledges his limitations, the limitations of science, and even the existence of the soul, something that Dane sees as unusual for a “materialist scientist.”  I also liked the scene in which Dane, Mandy, and other people in Mandy’s act join hands in prayer, even though they all come from different religious (and even non-religious) backgrounds.

Good book!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Praying about Current Events, "God's Not Dead" Bible Study, Getting Out of the Way

I have three items for my write-up on this morning’s church service.

1. During the children’s part of the service, the pastor and his puppet, Jake, were addressing what Christians can do in response to the problems in the world. The pastor was talking about the slaughter of Christians, so I assumed that he was speaking about what ISIS is doing. The pastor said that we can pray.

Do I buy that? Soon before the Iraq War started, a relative of mine said, “We won’t have a war. God won’t allow there to be a war!” But God did allow that war to take place, at great cost of American and Iraqi lives.

I do not know if prayer will make things better. I do believe, though, that I should pray for my leaders, that they might make a good decision. I want for the slaughter of Christians to be stopped. But I don’t want for Americans to be entangled in another hopeless quagmire. There may be a proper way to go about this: to form alliances so that we can defeat ISIS. I just hope our leaders make decisions that turn out all right.

2. My church will begin a new Bible study. It will be a curriculum about the God’s Not Dead movie. The movie is about a Christian student who challenges an atheist professor.

For a variety of reasons, I do not plan on attending this study. But I can somewhat sympathize with my church for choosing this particular Bible study curriculum to go through. More than once at my church, I have heard people complain about atheists. They may encounter atheists on Facebook. One person referred to a bumper sticker he saw that said “I will not think in your church, if you do not pray in my school.” He said this bumper sticker was “not cool,” and he lamented that Christians are not equipped to challenge atheists. My church may be going through this curriculum to learn about arguments that would hopefully make Christianity look credible to the outside world.

They will learn those arguments. The thing is, will they also learn (if not from the curriculum, then from their interactions) that atheists have their own answers to those arguments? Maybe, in which case the Christians may choose to dig deeper, or they may write the atheists off as stubborn and blind to the truth. Who knows what will happen.

The movie, according to my understanding, depicts the atheist professor as one who was mad at God because his mom died when he was young. I hope those who go through this Bible study don’t assume that all atheists are like that.

3. The pastor said in his sermon that he was reading a book about the Welsh revival. He quoted one of its central figures, who said that he was impacted by the revival, rather than causing it. God was the one initiating the revival, whereas the alleged “central figure” was merely caught up in what God was doing. It was all about God. On a similar note, the pastor told about a singer who consulted a faith healer, and the faith healer told her that it is not about him but Jesus Christ. And the pastor told the story of how Norman Vincent Peale and his wife received a timely, unexpected donation so they could continue publishing their faith-affirming periodical, Guideposts. They attributed that to God.

I thought of a Christian radio program that I occasionally listen to. The host was advertising a worship retreat in the woods, and he said, “Don’t worry, I’m not some performer doing tricks! It works better when I get out of the way and let God do his work!” I find that sentiment to be profound. I am someone who is thirsty for glory. I want people to notice and appreciate ME. And there is nothing wrong with that, as long as that sentiment doesn’t go overboard. But I admire those who are able to see themselves as part of something bigger, who are so caught up in God that they are willing to step out of the way so God can get the glory. They do not lose out in doing this, for God loves them, and they want others to experience God’s love, as well.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I Chronicles 24

I Chronicles 24 is about the twenty-four courses of priests who would officiate in the Temple.  They were descended either from Aaron’s son Eleazar or Aaron’s son Ithamar.  These twenty-four courses would rotate their service, with each officiating at specific times in the year.

The twenty-four courses figure prominently in later literature.  In the Gospel of Luke, John the Baptist’s father Zacharias belonged to the eighth course (Luke 1:5).  This detail features in many Christian attempts to discover the date of Jesus Christ’s birth: they try to determine when Zacharias was ministering in the Temple, since that was the time when the angel announced that Zacharias’ wife would have a son.  Then, they would take into consideration the factor that Jesus was born six months after John the Baptist.

The Maccabees were descended from Jehoiarib, who belonged to the first course (I Maccabees 2:1).  The Jewish historian Josephus also claimed to belong to the first course (Life 1.2).

All of this raises questions in my mind.  How could Josephus, a priest, be a leader in battle, with all the purity regulations to which priests were subjected (Leviticus 21)?  Priests were subjected to very stringent laws against coming into contact with a corpse; would not battles be a place of rampant corpse contamination, however?  Actually, I wonder this about more than one priest, such as Aaron’s grandson Phinehas, who went into battle (Numbers 31; Judges 20:28).

(UPDATE: Within rabbinic tradition, there is a priest anointed for war, and he cannot officiate in the Temple service once he is so anointed; rather, a deputy high priest takes his place.  See here, especially Babylonian Talmud Nazir 47b.)  

How could Josephus, a priest, go around exploring different sects, as Josephus says he did?  How would John the Baptist, a son of a priest, be out in the wilderness preaching?  Or, if you don’t believe that John the Baptist really was of a priestly line, why would Luke have no problem depicting John the Baptist as a son of a priest who is out in the wilderness?  Could not priests be exposed to contamination that way?  Would they not be safer from that in the Temple?  Leviticus 21:12 says that a high priest cannot leave the sanctuary, for anointing oil is upon him.  Does that refer to a specific situation, not all times?  Or were the twenty-four courses technically not high priests, even if they were descendants from Aaron, and thus they could venture outside the sanctuary?

Another issue in my study that interested me was how some of the priestly families were questioned or missing, only to be accepted back, eventually.  Only four courses came back from exile (Ezra 2:36-39; Nehemiah 7:39-42; 12:1-21).  Hakkoz’s descendants were not allowed into the priesthood because their record in their genealogies could not be found (Ezra 2:61).  Yet, Hakkoz is included in the list in I Chronicles 24:10.  The note in the HarperCollins Study Bible says that the list in I Chronicles 24:10 must be later and the family of Hakkoz “had made gains in having its claims acknowledged.”

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Blog Is 7!

Today is my blog’s birthday.  I started blogging on August 22, 2007.  That makes my blog 7.  This coming year, I hope to continue to blog about books, my weekly quiet time in Scripture, and my weekly church service.  I have also jotted down some other topics.  I have about two pages of those.

My stats have been doing well this year.  At least they’re good in terms of my blog and what its stats have been in the past.  The thing is, I kind of miss how I used to blog: going through books, identifying what stood out to me in each day’s reading, writing a blog post about that.  I did not get as many visitors in those days as I do now, though.  Still, I liked those posts.  Also, I was thinking.  Suppose, say, I decide to blog through something that interests me but that others may not find particularly interesting.  Am I so in love with seeing high stats that I would not do that?

Anyway, just some ramblings.  Thank you to my readers.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ramblings on Ideological Changes

Something that interests me whenever I reconnect with old friends and acquaintances is their current religious or political views.  Some of the people who were gun-ho conservative Christians back when I knew them are now atheists, agnostics, liberal Christians, gay activists, or indifferent to religion altogether.  Some of the people who were politically apathetic when I knew them now like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

There are some people who have not changed a whole lot ideologically.  They may have developed their positions a bit, but they still believe essentially the same things that they did back when I knew them.  Or they may still hold on to most of what they used to believe, while diverging from it in a few areas.  One person I know was a Christian right-winger back when I knew her, and she is a Christian right-winger today.  Yet, she is also a public school teacher, and so she disagrees with certain right-wing proposals on education.  She actually urged people to vote Democrat rather than Republican in a state superintendent race!

Could I have anticipated back then where my friends and acquaintances would be today in terms of ideology?  Am I surprised at where they are now?  In some cases, yes.  But, in many cases, I can somewhat understand how they arrived at where they are now.  I was in a Bible study group with one person, and he left the group to study the Bible and Christianity on his own.  He had doubts and questions.  He wanted to look at the Bible from a critical perspective.  He told me that he wants to find out if Christianity is true, or if Christians are deluded.  Today, he is an agnostic, and he likes Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.  I may not agree with him entirely, but I can sympathize with how he arrived at where he is today.  When prominent versions of Christianity say that the Bible must be inerrant or Christianity is not true—-and middle grounds between these two extremes appear mushy, muddled, or just plain unconvincing—-then I can see why some become atheists or agnostics.

Then there is my change.  I used to lean more to the right.  Now, I am more politically progressive. In terms of religion, I am definitely not a fundamentalist, but I do try to be open to evangelical ideas, especially when they acknowledge what critical scholarship has to say.  I want the Bible to mean something spiritual to me, and I am open to considering how evangelical scholars have interacted with the Bible’s difficulties.  Moreover, I want to live a healthy, spiritual life, and so I consult evangelical sources on that.  Maybe I should read secular self-help books, too!

Believe it or not, some people have reacted to my changes.  I was known as a big-time right-winger in high school and college.  I would write articles and letters to the editor.  I would challenge teachers in class if they said something even remotely liberal.  Many found me annoying; some actually admired me.  Now, those people who used to admire me see I am more of a liberal now.  One person I know said that broke his heart!  He may not have meant that too seriously, but my point is that some are surprised by where I am now.

The thing is, I do get a bit tired of telling the same old “I used to be a conservative, now I’m a liberal” story, like I used to be blind and now I see.  Even now, I don’t thoroughly dismiss conservatism.  I read conservative stuff each day.  Actually, to be honest, I find reading about conservatives to be much more interesting than reading about liberals.  Plus, I don’t think progressives and progressivism are perfect.  I was not blind when I was a conservative.  I had some legitimate insights.  But what I learned was that the world is not black and white—-there are shades of grey.  Plus, it is hard to make one’s way in the world, and so I have little sympathy for the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality that is rampant within conservatism.

But, to be honest, I cannot be a liberal in the same way that I used to be a conservative.  Back when I was a conservative, I felt that I had to show that the Republicans are perfect whereas the Democrats are flawed.  And, given enough research, I could back that up.  It is not hard in this age of the Internet to challenge the outrageous attacks from the “other side”—-whatever that “other side” may be in relation to you—-for any side may have a legitimate reason for what it is doing, or some explanation, or some ability to point to positive things that were done on its watch.  I am open to that.  But I also realize that no side is perfect.  Thus, while as a conservative I felt a need to defend George W. Bush from every criticism, to uphold him as perfect, I feel no compulsion to do that with President Barack Obama now that I am a progressive.  Sure, I’ll respond when I feel a need to respond, but I am under no illusions that President Obama or the Democrats are perfect.  They’re not.  They’re human.  Humans are flawed and make mistakes.  This is true of all sides.

You may think in reading this that I consider myself an open-minded, level-headed fellow.  Well, not everyone who knows me will affirm this self-description!  I can get pretty combative in online and group discussions about political and religious issues.  But I think that I tend to be more open-minded when I am alone—-by myself, reading and considering issues—-without some need to prove myself to others, or to combat those who are shoving their beliefs down my throat or acting as if their way of seeing things is the only legitimate perspective.

Anyway, those are my ramblings.  I went from how people I knew changed to….well, wherever I ended up!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

More Questions About Clinical Depression

I have been consulting Tony Attwood’s The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome (2007) as a reference.  (Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of autism that includes deficits in socializing.  I have it.)  Attwood makes a statement on page 123 that I find interesting in light of the current discussions about clinical depression.

“Limited social success, low self-esteem and exhaustion can contribute to the development of a clinical depression.”

What this seems to imply is that clinical depression is not always the result of how the brain is.  Rather, there is a clinical depression that can result from bad things happening in a person’s life.  I do not know if my depression is technically clinical, but I can testify that my limited social success in life has led me to have low self-esteem, fear, and depressing thoughts.

I remember one person (a science major) saying that anti-depressant medication will not help those who lack the chemical imbalances that are causing the depression.  Is that true?  I know people with Asperger’s Syndrome who take medication.  They testify that it puts them in a flat mood, or that the things that used to bother them obsessively do not bother them as much now due to the medication.

Could the fact that they were bothered obsessively be a sign of chemical imbalance or clinical depression?  I am different from some people I know (or know of) with clinical depression.  For me, there are outer causes to my depression—-things not going well in my life—-whereas many with clinical depression are depressed regardless of outward circumstances.  At the same time, I can easily find myself obsessing over problems—-a slight from someone here, a social blunder I made there, etc.  Is that obsession a sign of clinical depression?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Write-Up: Coolidge, by Amity Shlaes

Amity Shlaes.  Coolidge.  HarperCollins, 2013.

Amity Shlaes is a conservative.  And she appears to be a fairly well-connected conservative: How many Acknowledgements have you read that thank a recent President (in this case, George W. Bush), saying that this former President was excited about the author’s project?  She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, which would probably set off some John Bircher radars (conspiracy! conspiracy!)!

I first heard of Amity Shlaes when I was at a bookstore and saw one of her books, The Forgotten Man, which is about the Great Depression.  I read the inside jacket of the book, and it intrigued me.  Later, I saw her on ABC This Week and learned that she had written a biography of Calvin Coolidge.  I wanted to read that book because I have had somewhat of an interest in Coolidge: he was a quiet man, like me, and some have also maintained that he was more progressive in his political worldview than many might think.  I had read another biography of Coolidge a while back—-I believe it was Robert Sobel’s Coolidge: An American Enigma.  Sobel’s book had useful information, particularly his defense of Coolidge against the charge that his policies led to the Great Depression.  Overall, however, I had difficulties getting into Sobel’s book (though I did finish it), and so I was open to reading how another author told the story of Calvin Coolidge.

Shlaes’ book has plenty of anecdotes.  We learn about Coolidge’s close relationship with his father, his struggle to fit in when he went to Amherst College, his personal generosity to people, and yet his extreme thrift, which led to clashes with others.  We see that Coolidge was a quiet man, and it was often up to his warm, extroverted wife to smooth over his awkward social encounters.  We read of Coolidge’s attempts to move on after his son, Calvin, Jr., had died, and how Coolidge blamed himself because Calvin, Jr. got the fatal infection while playing tennis, and Coolidge figured that none of this would have happened had he not been President, since Calvin, Jr. would then not have used the Presidential tennis courts. Coolidge also appears respectable, in comparison with modern politicians: Coolidge preferred not to attack his political opponents in campaigns, believing that his positions on the issues and his record could stand on their own merits.

Some of the anecdotes I found rather endearing.  As President, Coolidge made his son, Calvin, Jr., work in the tobacco fields. One of Calvin, Jr.’s acquaintances found that to be unusual.  “If my father was President, I would not work in a tobacco field,” the acquaintance said to Calvin, Jr.  Calvin, Jr. replied, “If your father were my father, you would.”  In another story, a down-on-his-luck thief is trying to rob Coolidge, unaware that he is robbing the President of the United States!  Coolidge talked the guy out of robbing him and loaned him money.

Coolidge as a Massachusetts politician was rather progressive, for he supported women’s suffrage and the minimum wage.  Ordinarily, he tried to accommodate labor unions when there was a dispute.  Yet, there were conservative aspects of Coolidge’s thought, even during his early political career.  Coolidge tended to believe that regulations hindered business.  Whereas Theodore Roosevelt read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and decided that the government had to do something about the meat business (due to unsanitary conditions surrounding the meat’s production), Coolidge figured that consumers were the ones who should be responsible for what they bought.  Coolidge was also reluctant to support new laws—-he seemed to be temperamentally conservative!  Eventually, as Governor of Massachusetts, Coolidge would place himself on the map of national politics by firing policemen who were striking, even though he could have just put them in jail and allowed them to return to their jobs once they got out.  Coolidge won respect on account of this bold move, and it may even have marked a turning point in his approach to unions, as he came to view them rather negatively.  My impression is that Shlaes attributes Coolidge’s earlier progressivism to the tendency of many politicians at that time to show off how progressive they were, to out-progressive each other, if you will.  As Coolidge was developing his own political beliefs, however, they were turning out to be conservative.

Shlaes discusses Coolidge’s policies, especially the controversial ones.  Coolidge was against increasing the government bonus for veterans, disliking the cost and believing that it was the responsibility of the states (and Shlaes points out that nineteen states increased their bonus for veterans).  In Shlaes’ telling, Coolidge was still beloved by veterans, even after telling a group of them that they had served their country and should remember that rather than trying to receive money from the government!  Although Coolidge had a farming background and even owned a farm, he opposed increasing farm subsidies; not only did he dislike how they increased prices, but he even questioned whether so many farms were necessary: people were moving to the cities, after all!  He grew up in a state that had floods, yet, as President, he did not believe that the national government should play a significant role in the aftermath of natural disasters; he thought this was a state concern.  While he supported offering some relief, and his Commerce Secretary, Herbert Hoover, was quite instrumental in raising money for that, Coolidge drew the line when it came to the reconstruction of damaged areas.

Coolidge’s tax cuts are a significant topic in Shlaes’ book, for Shlaes may be presenting them as a model for good public policy.  After the tax cuts, there was growth in federal revenue, and that was used to pay off federal debts.  The economy was also good under Coolidge, and unemployment was low.  As I read the book, there appeared to me to be some variation in the tax policies that Coolidge and his Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, supported.  A constant throughout their proposals was that they supported lowering the income tax rate for the upper economic classes, believing that would trickle down.  Their proposals varied, however, when it came to what taxes they believed should go up: one of their proposals was to increase the corporate tax rate and the tax on dividends, for example, but later they advocated a lower corporate tax rate.  (And Mellon as President Herbert Hoover’s Treasury Secretary would actually endorse higher taxes, to keep up with government spending!)

Also of interest were Coolidge’s stances on immigration, tariffs, and international relations.  On immigration, Coolidge has been criticized for signing a bill that restricted or prohibited certain people-groups from coming to the U.S.  Shlaes does not discuss this issue in depth, but she does note that Coolidge opposed restricting Japanese immigration, fearing this would antagonize Japan.  Coolidge compromised on this to get his tax cuts passed, but he would look at increasing Japanese antagonism towards the U.S. and conclude that he was right in his apprehension.  On tariffs, Shlaes depicts Coolidge as saddled with Republican protectionism, as if he were carrying a burden that he did not want to carry.  Critics were saying that Coolidge should support lower tariffs because that meant lower prices—-the same motive for Coolidge’s opposition to increasing farm subsidies.  Moreover, Coolidge supported lowering some tariffs.  On international relations, Coolidge supported and helped to bring about an international peace treaty.

Shlaes’ biography of Coolidge is informative, albeit dry.  On Coolidge’s policies, there were times when I believed that Shlaes’ explored the “other side”—-as when she briefly mentioned the conditions that led policemen to strike, or referred to other options that Governor Coolidge could have pursued besides firing them—-but I wish that she had discussed criticisms of Coolidge’s economic policies.  Moreover, there is the question of whether Coolidge’s policies would work today.  Andrew Mellon believed that the upper economic classes would pay their workers more if they got a tax cut, and maybe that happened in the 1920’s, when production was on the rise, Henry Ford was paying his employees a good wage, and there was not as much global competition.  But can we assume that we would see the same results of such a policy today, when wages stagnate, and corporate profit is not necessarily tied with what is good for workers?

Still, Shlaes’ biography is a must-read for those wanting to learn more about Coolidge, and I am looking forward to reading her book, The Forgotten Man, which is on my nightstand!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Write-Up: The Word Changers, by Ashlee Willis

Ashlee Willis.  The Word Changers.  Conquest Publishers, 2014. ISBN-10: 0990397912. ISBN-13: 978-0990397915.  See here to purchase the book.

The Word Changers is Christian fantasy for young adults.  While I am not part of the book’s target audience, I enjoyed reading it.

The book is about Posy, a fifteen-year old from a dysfunctional family.  She is pulled into a fantasy book about a land with a king, a queen, a prince, a princess, intelligent owls, centaurs, and mermaids.  The reason that Posy was pulled into the book is so she can take the place of the Princess Evanthe, who ran away.  Posy is now to act as Princess Evanthe.

The characters are fully aware that they are characters in a book that has readers.  Whenever a reader opens the book, the characters are supposed to assume their roles and act according to the plot.  (As one of the characters in the book says, you do not know what the book’s characters are doing when you are not reading it!)  The problem is that the king and the queen have altered the plot in an attempt to attract more readers (or so people believe).  In this new plot, the princess is sacrificed.  And yet, death is not exactly permanent, for the princess comes back to life whenever a new reader reads the story.

The king and queen have usurped the role of the Author, who represents God.  The characters wonder where the Author is, and if the Author even cares about the story anymore.  Meanwhile, there is political turmoil.  Creatures have been exiled from the kingdom, and the king is advised by owls who have their own interests at heart.  In the midst of this situation, the cynical Prince Kyran and Posy venture out to find the missing Princess Evanthe.

The Word Changers has Christian symbolism.  The Author represents God.  The topic of free will vs. determinism looms large in the book.  There is a purple mist, who is like a still, small voice, and who speaks to people (or creatures) when they are quiet and receptive to listening.  Love and forgiveness are also significant themes, as is personal growth.

The Word Changers does not tell readers everything.  We are given glimpses into how the king and queen became the villains that they are, but not the full story.  Overall, this did not detract from the book.  There was one place, however, where I was intrigued and wished that the book would elaborate.  The king and the queen are talking, and there seems to be a mutual assumption that sacrificing one of the characters actually accords with ancient written law (page 294).  This would make sense, from a Christian perspective, since Christianity emphasizes the sacrifice of Jesus.  The king and the queen were not just sacrificing a character to draw more readers, as some of the other characters believed, but they were somehow perverting the truth.  Part of me wishes that The Word Changers expanded on this; another part of me actually likes how The Word Changers handled it, since it preserves a sense of mystery—-it communicates that there are more layers to the story than meets the eye.

The Word Changers is engaging and inspiring, and it also has a sweet ending.  I recommend it to lovers of fantasy, especially those who enjoy fantasy that has Christian symbolism and lessons.

I received a complimentary copy of this book (as an e-book) from BookCrash, in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Heaven and Faith

At church this morning, there were two things that stood out to me.

1.  The pastor was preaching about heaven.  He was saying that there will be no physical pain there, and that resonated with a number of people, who had to deal with aches, pains, and illness.  The pastor also said that rejection and jealousy will be long forgotten.  That resonated with me.

There was a season of my life in which I really longed for heaven.  I felt lonely.  Jonathan Edwards’ sermon on heaven really ministered to me at that time: Edwards said that, if you find that you have no companions, don’t hate those who reject you, but look forward to heaven, which will be a world of love.  That kind of hope got me through bad days.  At the church that I attended at that time, a lady liked to sing, “I want to go to heaven and rest, I’m tired of living down here, I’m tired of toils and troubles, I want to go to heaven and rest.”

There is a skeptical part of me: How do I even know that there is a blessed afterlife?  Maybe that’s all wishful thinking.  I find that, nowadays, I do not think about heaven all that much.  But the pastor’s sermon this morning reminded me of a time when I did.  And it reminded me of why so many other people long for it.

2.  Someone from the congregation gave a testimony.  He was saying that he was on Facebook, and there was a lot of nastiness.  He was not too specific about what that nastiness was, but my hunch is that he may have interacted with some atheist trolls.  He said that he came to the church and prayed.  He concluded that faith is something that is within, and he talked about the clarity and the comfort that his faith has given him.

I would probably agree with some of those atheist trolls on certain issues.  Still, in terms of my faith, I have faith on account of the same reasons that the young man gave this morning: it gives me clarity and comfort.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I Chronicles 23

I Chronicles 23 is about the Levites.  The Levites assisted the Aaronic priests.  In the Book of Numbers, their primary responsibility was transporting the holy objects (i.e., the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, etc.) from place to place, since Israel was on the move from Egypt to the Promised Land.  Even after Israel arrived in the Promised Land, there were times when holy objects needed transporting—-when the location of the sanctuary changed, or when the Israelites went out into battle and took the Ark of the Covenant with them—-and, in those cases, the Levites were the ones who were supposed to transport the holy objects.

According to Numbers 4:35, Levites between the ages of 30 and 50 were the ones who were to serve.  Numbers 8:24 says that the starting age is 25, and rabbinic sages sought to harmonize this contradiction (or apparent contradiction) by positing that Levites began their training at age 25 but actually started serving at age 30.  Why age 30?  David Rothstein in the Jewish Study Bible proposes that the idea is that, during the wilderness journey, the Levites needed strength to carry the Ark and enough experience to transport the holy objects correctly, as mishandling the holy objects could bring death.  In light of this, 30-50 is a good age range, since people in that age range have arrived at a state of strength, experience, and maturity.

David in I Chronicles 23 initially numbered the Levites over thirty and assigned to them responsibilities: being officers, judges, and gatekeepers, praising God with instruments, and assisting in the sanctuary itself.  But David then decided to enroll the Levites between 20-29, as well.  The reason for this is given in vv 25-26: the Israelites are now at rest, and they are no longer on the move.  Consequently, their sanctuary is not on the move, and so the Tabernacle and its vessels no longer need to be transported by the Levites.  The text does not say why specifically this is relevant, but some have proposed that David’s reasoning is that the serving Levites no longer need to be in the 30-50 age range, the best age range for transporting the holy objects, for the Levites no longer needed to transport holy objects.  Another rationale may have been that David was expecting the Temple to be larger than the Tabernacle and thus to require more men to support it: you reduce the starting age for Levitical service, and you have more Levites serving!

David Rothstein in the Jewish Study Bible proposes that perhaps Israel’s post-exilic setting—-the milieu in which the Book of Chronicles was composed—-explains why I Chronicles 23 presents the starting age for Levitical service being lowered.  Ezra 8:15-20 seems to indicate that post-exilic Israel had difficulty finding Levites; thus, it would make sense that requirements for Levitical service would become a bit looser at that time.  I Chronicles 23 itself does not present a dearth of Levites, but perhaps it addresses the need of post-exilic Israel: post-exilic Israel needed Levites for service and thus felt a need to lower the starting age, and I Chronicles 23 depicted an important figure in Israel’s history, King David, doing precisely that.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Motives to Stop Sinning, and Testimonies

I read the devotional Our Daily Bread every day.  My church gives them out.  Some of the daily devotions really speak to me.  Some of them, not so much.  The one yesterday really spoke to me.

The author told the story of when he was running into a friend’s house to flee from bees, and he inadvertently left the bees in the friend’s house.  The result was that the friend got stung and got an allergic reaction.  “My actions had caused a lot of pain for my friend”, the author narrates.

The author then goes on to liken this to interpersonal relationships.  “We hurt others when our actions aren’t Christlike”, he says.  “Even after an apology, the ‘sting’ sticks.”

The author then says that people in the world look to Christians and expect to see more mercy, compassion, and encouragement, and less anger, judgment, and criticism.

That’s one aspect of evangelicalism that I never particularly cared for: feeling that I have to put on a show before a watching world.  (One commenter on my blog a while back questioned whether people even are watching Christians, or care what Christians do or don’t do.)  Of course, speaking for myself, I do expect for people who toot their horns about how Christian they are to behave in a certain way, so why should I be surprised if others have the same expectations about me?  But, overall, I think that I should try to be a good person because that is the right thing to do, not because being bad will “blow my witness,” whatever that means, or make God look bad, as if God’s reputation depends on me being perfect.

I know that, when I hurt someone, I can apologize and receive forgiveness.  But the sting is still there.  The emotional wound is still there in the person I hurt.  This is also the case with me, when somebody hurts me: I have a long memory.  A desire to avoid hurt should be incentive enough for me to work on myself, with God’s help—-to cultivate love, peace, patience, joy, etc.

I read an article recently about someone who kissed evangelism good bye.  The author said that she did not like sharing her contrived testimony, in which she had to portray herself as such a horrible sinner before Jesus saved her.  I agree with her.  I always hated giving my testimony.  I would talk about how I would mouth off to my Mom before I became a Christian, and young people listening to my testimony would scoff at that.

I don’t give testimonies.  My problem is not just how I was.  My issue is struggling with how I am.  I believe that’s true of everyone, on some level.  That’s why I feel I need God.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Questions About Clinical Depression and Religion

In the aftermath of the recent tragedy with Robin Williams, people have wrestled with the issue of depression and how that intersects with religion.  Here are some questions.

1.  Do people with clinical depression who commit suicide have no choice?  Could they have chosen differently, or did their depression push them inevitably towards the act?  Where does free will come into the picture?  Or does it?

2.  The Bible says that a fruit of the spirit is joy.  Does that mean that Christians cannot be depressed?  But there are many Christians who are.  Can they be said to have joy, somehow?

3.  Many have said that Robin Williams is in a better place now.  I read one person who questioned whether that was an appropriate thing to say—-whether that can encourage suicide because there is a pleasant afterlife awaiting us.  That’s a good question, but, ultimately, I can think of reasons to keep on living: I may be needed here, I do not want to hurt my loved ones, etc.

4.  Personally, I appreciate tips people give on how to have a positive attitude.  To someone who is clinically depressed, however, they may not be helpful.  I can only say what has worked for me.  For me, I depend on God to maintain a good attitude.  But that may not work for someone with clinical depression.  Why not?  Is God not more powerful than clinical depression?  If reliance on God does not work for everyone, how can I be sure that it will always work for me?

I hope that my questions do not come across as judgmental.  I am sincere when I say that I do not have an answer to all of these questions that is satisfactory to me.  My response to these questions is largely a blank.  I do not know where God is, when it comes to people’s clinical depression.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lauren Bacall

Actress Lauren Bacall has passed on.  I only saw a few of her movies with Humphrey Bogart.  I also saw her in the Stephen King movie Misery, in which she played author Paul Sheldon’s agent.  Apparently, she was also in an episode of Family Guy, but I would have to watch that episode again, as parts of it I remember, and parts of it are fuzzy to me.

I was thinking this morning about Ann Coulter’s reference to Bacall in her book, Treason, which was Coulter’s defense of McCarthyism.  According to Coulter, both Bacall and Bogie ultimately distanced themselves from the Hollywood Ten, who refused to answer questions by the House Committee on Un-American Activities about whether they were members of the Communist Party USA.

This stood out to me because I had often heard that Bogie and Bacall traveled to Washington, D.C. to support the Hollywood Ten, but not that they later rescinded that support.  Ann Coulter narrates that Bogie and Bacall were embarrassed by the Hollywood Ten’s extreme rants, such as the claim of one of the ten that the congressmen were Nazis and that concentration camps would be set up in America.  Lauren Bacall said, “We were so naive it was ridiculous.”  The article that Coulter cites for the Bacall quote, however, contextualizes it differently: Bacall was saying she was naive because reporters were asking her hard questions, and the actors and actresses there were accustomed to softball questions from movie magazines.  Bacall, after all, went on to say, “When the press started to ask us questions, they had a field day.”

Wikipedia acknowledges that Bogie and Bacall distanced themselves from the Hollywood Ten, but it narrates it a bit differently, as if Bogie and Bacall were trying to protect themselves:

“In October 1947, Bacall and Bogart traveled to Washington, D.C., along with other Hollywood stars, in a group that called itself the Committee for the First Amendment (CFA). She appeared alongside Humphrey Bogart in a photograph printed at the end of an article he wrote, titled I’m No Communist’, in the May 1948 edition of Photoplay magazine,[47] written to counteract negative publicity resulting from his appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Bogart and Bacall distanced themselves from the Hollywood Ten and said: ‘We’re about as much in favor of Communism as J. Edgar Hoover.'”[48] 

Moreover, wikipedia’s article on the Hollywood Ten states: “In his 1981 autobiography, Hollywood Red, screenwriter Lester Cole [who was one of the Ten] stated that all of the Hollywood Ten had in fact been Communist Party USA members.[66] Other members of the Hollywood Ten, such as Dalton Trumbo[67] and Edward Dmytryk,[68] have also admitted to being Communists at the time the Committee questioned them.”

You can click on the footnotes if you want to see wikipedia’s sources.

Why was this of concern?  Because there was fear that Hollywood Communists would use movies as Communist propaganda, portraying the Soviets as good and capitalists as evil.

Whatever she did during the Hollywood blacklisting years, Bacall remained a liberal throughout her life.

Anyway, this was a rather tedious post to write.  Maybe someone will find it interesting.

R.I.P., Lauren Bacall.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams

I was surprised to learn yesterday that Robin Williams had passed away.  I just take for granted certain people being alive.  I had even thought about Robin Williams a couple of times not long before his death.  I saw him in the movie, The Butler, in which he played President Dwight Eisenhower.  I saw a YouTube video of one of his comedy routines.  I was even watching the “Prince Ali” scene in Aladdin and thinking to myself that Robin Williams was so awesome as the genie!

To be honest with you, I like Robin Williams’ dramatic acting more than his comedy.  His comedy often struck me as silly and over-the-top.  But, when it came to his dramatic acting, my response has always been “Wow!”  He played a desperately lonely man in One Hour Photo.  He was an inspiring and unconventional teacher in Dead Poets Society.  He was a brooding therapist who showed tough love in Good Will Hunting. Even the movies Good Morning Vietnam and Patch Adams had a serious side to them.

My favorite Robin Williams movie is Mrs. Doubtfire, in which Robin Williams’ character dressed up as an old English woman to get to spend time with his children as a housekeeper, after he and his wife had divorced.  There was plenty of comedy in that, but there was also a serious side to the movie: the Robin Williams character got to interact with his family in a new way, to understand his wife’s point of view, and to offer comfort to someone else who was dealing with the challenging realities facing modern American families.

A while back—-I think it was in 2005—-I watched a movie about Mork and Mindy, the show that made Robin Williams a star.  I had to respect Robin Williams for putting himself on the line in that job interview, acting silly, telling the interviewers they may never want to see him again, and then getting the job!  The movie was also about Robin Williams’ battle with drugs, especially cocaine: at its end, Robin Williams walks away from drugs.  He does not need them, he wants a stable life, and he has a promising future ahead of him, so why ruin it?  Robin Williams even after that would struggle with addiction and would try to maintain sobriety.  I respect him for that.

R.I.P. Robin Williams.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Write-Up: Tolstoy, by A.N. Wilson

A.N. Wilson.  Tolstoy.  New York and London: W.W. Norton and Company, 1988.

Leo Tolstoy was a Russian author, who lived from 1828-1910.  Examples of his works include War and Peace and Anna Karenina.  He also wrote short stories that have a Christian or a moral theme, such as “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”, which criticizes greed, and also a story about a man who was actually helping Christ when he was helping those in need.

I wanted to learn more about Tolstoy.  I read Anna Karenina over a decade ago, and I loved it, for it is about an insecure man who finally gets the woman of his dreams years after she had rejected him, and it also explores profound religious themes, such as belief in God and the difficulty of forgiveness.  A friend of mine who had read War and Peace told me that this book, too, explores religious themes, for one of its main characters, Pierre, is on a quest for truth and finally arrives at faith in God.  In addition, I had been aware that Tolstoy was a pacifist, one who interpreted Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount literally, and I was curious about that.  When I visited my local public library, A.N. Wilson’s biography of Tolstoy looked like a good book for me to read.

Overall, I was surprised in reading Wilson’s book.  Perhaps the greatest surprise to me was that Tolstoy embraced the ethics of Jesus while dismissing as unimportant what many Christians would define as orthodoxy: miracles, Jesus’ resurrection, etc.  What is more, Tolstoy was not always a Christian, but there were seasons in his life when he leaned towards Asian religions, with their notion of passive acceptance, while criticizing the Christian God.  A clear asset to Wilson’s book is that Wilson goes into how this evolution in Tolstoy’s thought influenced Tolstoy’s work: in earlier drafts of War and Peace, Pierre did not become a Christian, for example, but remained a disenchanted liberal.  Even as a Christian, Tolstoy would be alienated from Russian Orthodoxy, especially on account of his pacifism, which the Russian Orthodox Church did not share.

Even though Tolstoy’s thought evolved, there was a sense in which it remained constant.  Tolstoy was strongly influenced in his younger years by reading the philosopher Rousseau, who stressed the importance of the populace while having a critical attitude towards government.  Tolstoy would come to be a pacifist, and he also did not believe in property or the existence of government.  Tolstoy was not always this radical, but there were indications that he was leaning in this direction, even when he was serving in the military and in government and had a large landholding with serfs.  Tolstoy was recognizing that the Crimean War was basically useless—-it was not an attempt by Russia to protect itself but rather was a war that involved Russian expansionism.  He tended to judge for the underdog in cases.  He was appalled by Russian authoritarianism, along with a case that was decided against him unfairly (in his eyes).  Plus, he tended to have a benevolent attitude towards his serfs.

Sexual desire was also a key theme in Tolstoy’s life.  Tolstoy saw himself as ugly, but he satisfied his sexual desires by visiting brothels.  He would also sleep with some of his serfs.  Tolstoy came to the point where he valued celibacy, even though he and his wife did have lots of children.

As in many accounts of Tolstoy, Wilson’s book explores Tolstoy’s turbulent relationship with his wife.  She was continually jealous of Tolstoy, thinking that he neglected her and his children and was cheating on her.  She also had to assume the brunt of taking care of Tolstoy’s property, since Tolstoy was not doing so himself, thinking property was meaningless.  Tolstoy, meanwhile, loved his wife yet felt dismayed by her bitterness, and he eventually left her.  In terms of his relationship with his kids, Tolstoy doted on one daughter, while another daughter was disappointed because she was striving to live according to Tolstoyan principles yet received no recognition from Tolstoy for doing so.  Even with his religion—-and in some cases because of it—-Tolstoy had feet of clay.

Wilson described Tolstoy’s writing processes.  Whereas a number of writers of novels do not read too many novels themselves, Tolstoy was the opposite: in preparing to write, he would read a lot of novels, especially Dickens.  In addition, Wilson contends that Tolstoy was very self-absorbed, which was why Tolstoy wrote extensive journals about his thoughts, feelings, struggles, and experiences, and why so many characters in Tolstoy’s work reflect himself.  Yet, Wilson states, Tolstoy could narrate his works in a detached manner, which was part of their attraction.  Wilson also goes into the events of Tolstoy’s time that made their way into his work: Anna Karenina, for instance, committed suicide by throwing herself under a train, and there was an incident in Tolstoy’s time in which a woman did precisely that.

Another asset to Wilson’s book is that it shows how Tolstoy intersected with his times.  Tolstoy lived from 1828-1910.  His life overlapped with the American Civil War and Gandhi.  He lived a little bit before the Russian revolution, in which Communism took over Russia.  Wilson tells us about Tolstoy’s reaction to the anti-slavery book Uncle’s Tom Cabin: Tolstoy was moved by it, yet initially did not believe its message was relevant to his having serfs.  Wilson informs us of Tolstoy’s correspondence with Gandhi, who was influenced by Tolstoy.  Wilson also goes into Lenin’s attitude towards Tolstoy and how Communists coopted Tolstoy for their own purposes: they downplayed Tolstoy’s religion and opposition to government while embracing his anti-property stance.

It was difficult for me to see how Tolstoy’s views held together, or even how some of them made sense.  What would Russia do without a government?  Tolstoy’s answer to this question was to point to the ills that Russia’s government was inflicting!  Wilson himself does not think that all of Tolstoy’s views made sense, or that Tolstoy consistently presented them in a lucid, rational manner.

Wilson’s book added quite a bit of nuance—-maybe even confusion—-to my understanding of Tolstoy.  I still hope to read Tolstoy’s other works, at least some of the main ones, like War and Peace and Resurrection.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

An Active Trust

At church this morning, the theme was the story in which Jesus walked on water.  Jesus’ disciples were on a boat in the water, the wind was fierce, and they were afraid.  But Jesus comforted and reassured them.  Similarly, the pastor was saying, Jesus can comfort us.  And yet, the pastor continued, our faith in this should not be passive, but it should encourage us to go out, to take risks, and to show love to people.  As examples, the pastor referred to two people in our congregation: one was the lady who spearheaded our Vacation Bible School this summer, and the other was a lady who was preparing lots of meals for a charity that provides support to older people who lack a support network.

I do not know if I have the level of faith to take risks.  I am not saying this to beat up on myself.  It’s just that, sometimes, when I look at the state of this world, I wonder if there indeed is a God who takes care of us.  While I may tell myself that there is as a way to help myself to calm down, I am not sure if this notion is enough of a reality to me that it motivates me to go out into the unknown and to take risks, or to sacrifice in times that are already uncertain.

But I do believe that we need to get outside of ourselves, that our faith should encourage us to make a difference in the world.  In some cases, that may entail us getting outside of our comfort zones.

I liked my pastor’s references to the two people in our congregation.  It shows that our church is on the move—-it is taking initiative in reaching out to the community.

Nicolle Wallace as a Host of The View

I am not a regular viewer of The View, but I have watched the show, now and then.  A lot of my viewing of it has been through You-Tube: I want to see if a controversial guest (i.e., Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, maybe Jesse Ventura) holds his or her own, or I want to watch Rosie O’Donnell’s historic clash with Elisabeth Hasselbeck over the Iraq War, or Whoopie Goldberg’s lecture to Elisabeth about race.  I watch the YouTube video, You-Tube recommends to me other excerpts from The View to watch, and I then watch those.

I have occasionally watched the show in the morning.  This has usually been when I have known that certain guests would be on it.  I think of Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, or Rachel Held Evans.

Rosie O’Donnell will soon be a host on the view again, after a long time of absence.  And I have also learned that Nicolle Wallace will be one of the hosts.

Nicolle Wallace worked on the McCain campaign in 2008.  You may have seen the movie, Game Change, which was about John McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin.  Well, the character of Nicolle Wallace in that movie was the lady with the blond hair who was trying to advise Sarah Palin on what to say in interviews.  In the movie, and in real life, Nicolle ultimately decided not to vote for John McCain due to her doubts about Sarah Palin’s qualifications.

I’m wondering what The View will be like with Nicolle Wallace as a host.  I was rooting for her to be on it, but there is a part of me that thinks that she may be too smart, too nice, and too careful about what she says to be a host for the show.  She is a conservative, but I question whether conservatives will root for her as they did for Elisabeth, on account of Nicolle Wallace’s criticisms of Sarah Palin.  (Also, see this article, which questions whether she is even conservative.)  And I have difficulty envisioning a knock-down, drag-out clash between Rosie O’Donnell and Nicolle Wallace, or Whoopie Goldberg seeing any need to lecture Nicolle Wallace on race.  Nicolle Wallace will probably present her point-of-view in an intelligent, polite, yet strong manner, as she has in the past.

Maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe Nicolle Wallace will bring the debates on The View to a higher level.   Unfortunately, that may be at the expense of the raw honesty that drew viewers to the show.  But the show would focus on substance and issues.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

I Chronicles 22

In I Chronicles 22:7-10, King David relates to his son and future successor, Solomon, that God did not allow David to build the Temple because David had shed a lot of blood and waged great wars.  Solomon, however, a man of rest who would preside over a time of peace for Israel, would build the Temple.

Why would David waging wars disqualify him from building the Temple?  Did not God command or sanction David’s warfare, as a way to defeat Israel’s enemies and bring Israel to a state of peace?

The Orthodox Jewish Artscroll commentary lists a variety of reasons that David’s warfare disqualified him from building the Temple, as it draws from commentators.  One commentator stated that David killed innocent people, both in his military campaigns and also apart from those (as when David had Uriah killed so that David could take Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba).  Another commentator said that David’s warfare demonstrated that David was a man of strict justice, perhaps because David was punishing foreign enemies for their sins, whereas the Temple was to be a place of forgiveness and mercy.  In essence, the Temple was to be a place of rest and peace.  Exodus 20:22 forbids an iron instrument from being used to manufacture the stones of the altar, and a traditional Jewish interpretation is that this is because iron instruments related to warfare, and the altar was to be disassociated from warfare.  David may have fulfilled God’s role for him in conducting wars—-and even here some question whether David’s conduct of the war accorded perfectly with God’s will, since David killed innocent people.  Still, God was bringing forth a new era of peace, in which the Temple would play a significant role, and God wanted a man of peace to be the one who would build that Temple.

Even though God turned David down when David wanted to build the Temple, however, David still found ways that he could contribute so as to make things easier for his successor.  The nineteenth century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon had a good sermon about this, and how we should find things that we can do for God.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Struggles with Daniel 2, Part 2

I talked in my post yesterday about the statue in Daniel 2.  I said that I identified with liberal scholars who argue that the legs represent Greece and the feet represent Alexander’s successors, the Diadachoi.  Conservative scholars tend to argue that the legs and feet represent Rome.

But there is one problem I have with the “liberal” position: what do the silver breast and arms represent?  Liberal scholars tend to say that they represent the Medes.  That means that the head is Babylon, the breast is Media, the thighs are Persia, the legs are Greece, and the feet are Alexander’s successors.  Conservative scholars, by contrast, tend to regard the breast as Medo-Persia.  That would mean that the head is Babylon, the breast is Medo-Persia, the thighs are Greece, the legs are Rome, and the feet may be a revived Roman empire of the future.

So what is my problem?  I have issues with the liberal argument that the silver breast represents the Medes.  While Daniel 5 says that Darius the Mede conquered Babylon, it also affirms that the Babylon will be given to the Medes and Persians.  In Daniel 6, Darius the king follows the law of the Medes and Persians, which tells me that Darius the conqueror of Babylon (according to Daniel, that is) is the king of the Medo-Persian empire, not just the Medes.  Consequently, it makes more sense to me for the silver breast to represent Medo-Persia as the kingdom that will succeed Babylon, not just Media.

Still, I cannot ignore the overlaps between the legs and feet, as well as the fourth beast of Daniel 7, with what Daniel seems to say about Greece and Alexander’s successors: the unsuccessful attempt to foster peace through intermarriage, the little horn persecuting God’s people, etc.  I just don’t know how everything squares together.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Struggles with Daniel 2

I am reading the Book of Daniel for my daily quiet time.  A few days ago, I was reading Daniel 2.

In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has a dream about a statue, which is made of various metals.  A stone from heaven shatters the statue, and the stone becomes a mountain filling the entire earth.

The Jew Daniel interprets that dream to the king and says that the statue represents the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar and the kingdoms that will come after him.  In the days of these kings, Daniel says, God will set up a kingdom that will fill the earth.

I grew up on this vision, since the church of my upbringing emphasized Bible prophecy.  We were taught that the statue’s head of gold was Nebuchadnezzar, its silver breast and arms were Medo-Persia, its bronze thighs were Greece, its iron legs were Rome, and its feet of clay and iron were a revived Roman empire, which would be the Antichrist whom God would overthrow in our future.

Many biblical scholars have interpreted the statue differently.  They see the iron legs as Greece, not Rome, and the feet of iron and clay as the divided Greek empire after Alexander the Great died.  The idea is that the author of Daniel 2 (or someone who added things to Daniel 2) was expecting God to set up God’s kingdom in the days of the Diadachoi, the Greek successors to Alexander.

As I was reading Daniel 2, that scholarly interpretation was making sense to me.  V 44 says that God would set up God’s kingdom in the days of those kings.  What kings?  Could it be the kings whom the statue represents—-Babylon, the Medes and Persians, and Greece?  Was the author expecting God to intervene when these kingdoms were still around?  If so, how could we say that Daniel 2 is about God setting up God’s kingdom in our own future, when there is no more Babylonian empire, Medo or Persian empire, or Greek empire?

V 42 says that the iron-clay mix means that this particular human kingdom will be strong, yet brittle.  That applies to the Diadachoi: they were strong, yet not as strong as Alexander’s empire, since they were divided.  And v 43 says that the iron and clay will mix with each other by human seed, which the NRSV translates as marriage.  As the HarperCollins Study Bible note states, “The Ptolemies and Seleucids unsuccessfully sought peace and stability between themselves through intermarriage…”  Daniel 11:6-7, 17 appears to describe this very attempt.  Are the iron-clay feet that will be overthrown by God’s kingdom a revived Roman empire of the future?  Or are they Alexander’s successors in the past?  Did the person who wrote these passages in Daniel 2 expect for God to overthrow Alexander’s successors and to set up God’s kingdom, only for that not to happen?

Of course, what I am saying poses theological problems.  Is Daniel’s prophecy human (rather than divine) in origin and incorrect in its ultimate prediction?  I suppose one could try to rescue Daniel by saying that the Seleucids are a type of the Antichrist that will come, or something like that.  But does that work, or is it an artificial attempt to explain away difficulties?

How can I read Daniel from a religious perspective, then?  Well, I do respect how people in Daniel stand up for what they believe, notwithstanding threats and potentially life-threatening consequences.  I also believe in God, on account of people’s experiences that indicate to me that there is a spiritual world, and also some hope that I have that a God who created this world will one day fix it.  I can honor Daniel as an expression of that hope.

Search This Blog