THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT IN A FALLEN WORLD

22 thoughts on “THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT IN A FALLEN WORLD

  1. Tom, Tsalman

    In my opinion, there is a difference between faith and belief.

    Perhaps this article excerpt explains how to simply differentiate between “I don’t know” vs. “I don’t know but this is what I believe about my faith?”?

    Building Your Faith Is Simpler than You Think

    But our problem is really with unbelief, not a lack of faith.
    The good news is that we can change our unbelief into belief. It’s really a fairly simple, straight forward process. We just need to become more fully persuaded of the truth instead of the misconceptions and lies that we are currently holding on to.
    The more we expose our minds to the truth, the more we become persuaded and convinced of that truth.
    And the best way to expose our minds to the truth is to study the Bible. The more time we spend exploring the truth of the Bible, the more our minds become convinced of that truth.
    The more firmly convinced of the truth we become, the more confident we’ll grow.
    Then it won’t be long before we find ourselves doing things differently, acting in more faith.
    Do you want more faith? Then invest more time reading, studying, and thinking about the Bible. You’ll find your faith will just grow as a result because you will change your beliefs.
    That’s pretty simple, don’t you think?

    https://newcreeations.org/the-difference-between-faith-and-belief/

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Scatterwisdom

      Well said!

      Here is another verse from James that goes with that article you cited.

      James 2:19 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      19 You believe that [a]God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. CT, for a very in depth look at the Role of Civil Government and Christ’s Sovereignty, Kingship, Authority, And Rule Over All Countries I have been posting a series each Sunday since 01/26/2020 entitled ” Sunday’s Sermon Series – Civil Government: Part *** ” It is a series of sermons and lessons by James Wilson from the early 1800’s that are totally applicable today.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You seem to want to make a good many assumptions about my theological beliefs that are simply not true:

    First, you cast me as a straw man for some supposedly opposing ideological camp that apparently denies your 18th Century invention of “God given rights”. One can only presume, this opposition derives their objection from their Utilitarian contention that these Self evidently emoted, supposedly divinely ordained rights either don’t exist or that such individual rights must be sacrificed at the alter of what your opposition worships as the greater good.

    Let me say as clearly as I can, I don’t have any investment in either side of this debate. I honestly don’t believe that asserting the greater good and still believing in individual autonomy are mutually exclusive positions – depending on the issue, the Left and the Right often change sides. I don’t see this presumed either/or dualism as helpful or enlightening for most issues. My legal experience tells me that, other than obvious issues, most dilemmas require some balance between rights and responsibilities. However, it seems to be your only argument for everything political.

    I’ve told you over and over again, I don’t know if God grants rights. There is nothing in Scripture that DIRECTLY makes this assertion. There wasn’t even a word for “rights” as we define it now known to exist in any languages (including biblical languages) before the Middle Ages. Paul would have found the issue completely foreign to his theology. He thought that the slave and the slaver could be redeemed as a matter of how they voluntarily loved, not their political powers, or lack thereof.

    Even though I don’t know if such God given rights exist or not, I definitely believe that God given responsibilities exist. And whether these unicorn rights exist or not, I just don’t find the question of such rights helpful to my or anyone else’s actual salvation, whereas I do believe that the acceptance of our God given responsibilities appears to be critical.

    Why is “I don’t know” not good enough for you on this issue? Is it because this question has more to do with political manipulation than divine inspiration? Politics is why Locke conjured such rights it and why Jefferson plagiarized them, wasn’t it?

    Second, you appear to presume that I don’t believe in one narrow understanding of the many levels of meaning that can be found in our biblical version of a creation myth, a story that shares its universal God given truth with numerous very similar versions from remote cultures and times, some of which preceded the writing of the Bible. In general terms, what you have said about Genesis is one level of looking at it. I don’t really disagree so much as I think this mystery has many possible theoretical meanings, none of which probably comprehend the entire truth of our estrangement and atonement with God. My response is more like, “yes, and . . . “ rather than, “no, but . . . .”

    Finally, you seem to think that I am incapable of salvation unless it is reveal to me in the same way that it is reveal to you. The Gospels would not have been read by most Christians for centuries after Jesus lived, and yet those people, slave and slave owners, rabbinical Jews and scripturally ignorant Gentiles, could not be saved just by hearing of the story of Jesus and taking a leap of faith God offers us?

    For someone who constantly tells me that he distrusts experts, you seem to present a very Pharisaic and elite attitude about Scripture. You accuse me of not reading the Bible (not true), but instead reading what other people say about the Bible. And yet, you are not reading the Bible. You are reading translations, maybe many translations, written by others. As you read those translations, don’t you derive the meaning of a given passage by reading the interpretations that true biblical scholars give to that passage and to its context within a given theological construct.

    The fact is that to be an actual biblical scholar, one has to read what a good many other theologians (readers of ancient scriptural languages) have written about the Bible. For example how many very different Greek words are there in ancient scripture copies for the single word “love” we find in English translations? Why is one kind of Greek “love“used sometimes and another word another time, and how does that fit into the general message on love that Paul, for example, was trying to convey? I cannot think of a more important word than “love” to Christian belief, and yet, depending on who translated it and what theologian with what theological axe to grind interprets that passage, we can miss the meaning entirely.

    And these actual theologians have been arguing over the meaning of scriptural interpretations, both large and small, literally since right after Jesus resurrected. Even the Apostles argued over who could be saved and how. Wars were fought, people were tortured to death, rulers deposed, and Jesus was crucified, over what – legalistic biblical interpretations.

    There doesn’t seem to be much hope for this, but maybe in the case of claims of knowing what God wants, we should do what Jesus said: stop our Pharisaic focusing on the letter of the law and give our open hearts over to the spirit of the law. I have a theory about this. We seem to be at our worst at living the spirit, the sacrifice, the deepest meaning what Jesus lived when, instead of this loving spirit becoming our political interactions with our brothers and sisters, our preferred pride of politics becomes our religion.

    That is a lot. It would probably be best to break this down into more bite size issues if you want. What exactly is it that you claim to believe about your theology of redemption from a finite and fallen world through atonement that you think I am ignorant of? If you want to focus on Genesis 3, then I have lots of questions for you:

    Have you considered that an infinite God must have known that Adam and Eve would succumb to temptation for an eternity before he created us? Do you think God is confined by time and is constantly surprised by Her creation? If God proclaimed His creation “good” weren’t humans “good” too? Why would God get mad about something she had to create us specifically to do? Why would God get mad period? Considering that God is the uncaused cause, the unmoved mover, why is our Biblical God often so godawful fickle? What is the symbolic meaning the tree of knowledge of good and evil? The tree of life? What is the meaning of all the obvious sexual symbolism in the story? Don’t you think that the ancient herders who first wrote and read the Bible would have gotten all the sexual references? Why a snake? Why is it tempting Eve, but not Adam? Why a garden? How did natural sexual attraction and sexual shame become a duality? Does any other animal in paradise or out suffer this duality? How does this comport with their sudden sexual recognition of their nudity? Why the significance of Eve being sentenced to suffer in child birth? How is procreation and death, resurrection and descent,, Heaven and Hell, God and the Devil, all necessary in God’s plan? Is death the punishment or was our self imposed willful separation from God the real death, the real punishment? Was disobeying a divinely mandated dietary law really the sin, or was it the human prideful and selfish exercise of God given free the sin where we separated ourselves from God rather than the other way around? And if so, does this Fall preordain our eventual rising by our freely choosing God’s love? Is this choice toward our atonement (literally our “at one ment”) and eternal life our simply our choice to return to God? Has God as Christ (the “Alpha and the Omega”) for all of existence in all the universe been with us, a part and a brother in all material suffering, and therefore was Christ as Jesus an apex teachable moment of something that is actually eternal? How is sacrificial suffering for others eternally redemptive? Have you considered that the knowledge that we have that differs from our animal ancestors is our sentience, our existential dread of our own mortality? Was this existential dread that defines us as human symbolized by the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge? How is the universal Christ eternal in matter, just as He became matter in Jesus, always dying and resurrecting, entropy and recreation, destruction and creation, the yen and the yang, in everything that is matter and energy? Is that what makes this universe finite and fallen? In Eden, other than the forbidden fruit, weren’t all natural choices morally neutral, just like the natural inclination of a tiger to kill and eat a gazelle is neither good nor bad? Is a characteristic being human, of defining finite and fallen, that many of our choices are no longer morally neutral? That a choice can be made out of love or selfishness? Is it the nature of being fully human (as God lovingly created us) to have that “knowledge of good and evil” defined by those choices that makes for us the world as finite and fallen? Would we really be human without that metaphorically forbidden knowledge? Was the first act of being human the choice God granted us to be born and to die?

    One could spend one‘s whole life studying Genesis, looking at all the layers of meaning and truth in that wonderful set of storirs, and still not scratch the surface of the psychological and metaphysical depths that God imparted with it. To say that there is one correct and perfect understanding of it just leaves me laughing at the pride that such an assertion reveals. I’m happy to discuss anything that you want about it and I will look forward to learning something, but nothing you’ve said so far surprises or enlightens. I’ve heard it all before. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disagreeing with your view. My attitude instead is “yes, and, and, and, and ….“

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    1. @tsalmon

      First, you cast me as a straw man for some supposedly opposing ideological camp that apparently denies your 18th Century invention of “God given rights”.

      You are a victim? I am your persecutor? Who knew?

      And you suggested that I write this post?🤨😏🙄

      I’ve told you over and over again, I don’t know if God grants rights. There is nothing in Scripture that DIRECTLY makes this assertion. There wasn’t even a word for “rights” as we define it now known to exist in any languages (including biblical languages) before the Middle Ages.

      The legal concept of human rights has changed over the years, but the notion that we are all equal before God and that each of us has rights goes back to Moses, at least.

      Have you forgotten what I said about the Ten Commandments? Let’s look at the ones that protect us from each other.

      Exodus 20:8-17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
      8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who [a]stays with you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

      12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

      13 “You shall not murder.

      14 “You shall not commit adultery.

      15 “You shall not steal.

      16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

      17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

      The Sabbath? This is what the Liberal Democrats call a positive right. Even slaves (servants is a euphemism) have a right to a day of rest. In other words, we cannot force another to work on the Sabbath Day.

      Honor your parents? Another positive right? Parents have rights? It seems that those in authority have at a minimum the right to the respect due their office.

      You and Doug may need to think more carefully about what you say about Trump, for example.😏

      Murder? The first of our “negative rights”?Even all those little babies Democrats want to abort have a right to life.

      Adultery? When a man and a woman enter into a marriage contract, each partner has the right to expect the other to honor their vows. Think about the fact that the marriage vow is the only one mentioned in the Ten Commandments.

      Steal? A prohibition against stealing presumes the existence of property rights. Otherwise, why the prohibition?

      False witness? What right is implied here? A good reputation? No. Don’t we have to earn that? Still, we have the right to the reputation we have earned.

      No coveting what belongs to your neighbor? We have an obligation to leave others in peace because we each have the right to be left going about our lives in peace. Because it requires them to leave others in peace, busybodies probably hate this commandment most of all.

      Anyway, your comment is all over the place. You make it sound I am making the Bible say things it does not say, that you have to listen to me to be saved. Yet all I have done is cite parts of the Bible. If you disagree with my interpretation, you have the right to do so, but you never explain the reason for you disagreement. Your response is ridicule and obfuscation.

      Unicorn rights?

      “I don’t know”? After calling the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness unicorn rights. What is it? The rights don’t exist (as you have said they don’t), or you don’t know?

      Second, you appear to presume that I don’t believe in one narrow understanding of the many levels of meaning that can be found in our biblical version of a creation myth, a story that shares its universal God given truth with numerous very similar versions from remote cultures and times, some of which preceded the writing of the Bible.

      We can spiritualize the Bible to the point of meaningless. If the Bible is the Word of God, then that would be foolishness.

      For someone who constantly tells me that he distrusts experts, you seem to present a very Pharisaic and elite attitude about Scripture. You accuse me of not reading the Bible (not true), but instead reading what other people say about the Bible.

      This is a direct attack on me. Why don’t you deal with what I said instead. If I am wrong, then why am I wrong. Because I actually think the Bible has something to say to us? Because I think the commandment against murder is a commandment against murder? That makes me a Pharisee?

      Have you considered that an infinite God must have known that Adam and Eve would succumb to temptation for an eternity before he created us? Do you think God is confined by time and is constantly surprised by Her creation? If God proclaimed His creation “good” weren’t humans “good” too? Why would God get mad about something she had to create us specifically to do? Why would God get mad period? Considering that God is the uncaused cause, the unmoved mover, why is our Biblical God often so godawful fickle?

      God is not fickle. He is omniscient. He knew His plan from the beginning, but we don’t know what He is doing. So, we are fickle, and God appears fickle because He allows us to experience the consequences of our own choices.

      Think about Romans 8:28. Even the bad thing that happen to us are ultimately for our good. How? We usually don’t know. That’s why belief in God requires faith.

      Do theologians argue over the meaning of the Bible? Yes. That is why we each need to read it.

      Just because some guy has a degree doesn’t mean he wants to believe the Bible is the Word of God? God is scary.

      Atheists argue that Christians need God as a crutch because we are afraid of death. True. Up to a point, but no man would invent the God of the Bible.
      1. God does not need us at all. There is nothing we have that He did not give us.
      2. God is holy. When we worship God, all we can do is demonstrate our love and gratitude. Bribery is pointless.
      3. God is all-knowing and omnipotent. There is nothing we can do to fool God.

      We are totally dependent upon God. Without God, we are adrift and lost in universe too big for us. No one would invent a God like that because no one wants to be so dependent.

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      1. So Scriptural porcine dietary restrictions means that pigs have rights? Brilliant convolution Tom!

        Regardless of whether God in scripture actually secretly, after thousands of years, intended the 18th Century rationalists to suddenly divine their own amorphous rights out the obvious responsibilities God mandates in the Bible (even though, given the detail to which God went into explaining the hundreds of responsibilities, one would think He would have been just a little more directly obvious in ordaining our rights), don’t you see that the point for both Locke and Jefferson was manipulation of the governing order by giving a divine authority to the rational of their politics, not the salvation of souls? Don’t you see how this wonderful invention of social contract rights conveniently abrogated the divine right of kings (a concept that you have already shown has much more ancient biblical support then any new fangled divine human rights theory) at just the right time for some revolutions to ultimately replace God with reason? Seriously, aren’t you just trying to give your definition of certain rights a supposedly divine political authority while saying that your political opposition’s rights are just manmade? Are you so focused on advancing yout own parochial political agenda of the moment in time that you can’t see that in the bigger historical picture this has less to do with what God wants or grants than it has to do with the age old manipulative political gamesmanship of people trying to control people and using God as their excuse? At least, the cynical atheist is honest about his underlying selfishness in wanting HIS own rights protected at law without pretending God sanctifies his peculiar own equations with divine authority.

        Even assuming God clearly scripturally ordained something like our intellectual property rights, why can’t you give me a place in the world or a time in human history where these rights actually existed in practicality if they were not systemically defined, arbitratable and enforceable at law by a government?

        It’s a dumb argument, but it’s the only argument you want to have. Why? Because I can’t be saved if I just do my best with faith and God’s grace to live up to my God given responsibilities (particularly my responsibilities to love as God commanded) even though the government of the moment grants me no rights at all, positive or negative? Wouldn’t a democratic society of actual followers of Christ in trying to live up to those God given responsibilities imperfectly formulate laws and institutions that imperfectly grant each other in an imperfect finite and fallen universe filled with a finite and fallen
        people some imperfect and changing balance of rights and responsibilities?

        You want to give this finite and fallen man attempted balance a permanent and absolute nature that misunderstands the both the limits and the blessing that God afforded us when She created this finite and fallen world which is defined by the almost endless moral choices that Adam and Eve lacked, except for that one dietary choice. Don’t you see that your wanting to give divine perfection only to YOUR perfect God given choices is a prideful and endlessly doomed attempt to avoid our hard responsibilities to one another, responsibilities that have no hard and fast perfect divinely granted answers? A perfect paradisal world does not provide the human blessing of such impossibly difficult moral choices, but a finite and fallen one does.

        Choice is a gift of a loving God just as His eternal suffering with us in this finite and fallen world is a gift. Let’s not pretend God made this easy by blaming Him for the bad choices we make about the myriad of imperfect laws that govern our politics. It is the nature of human fallibility and divine infallibility that God gets only the credit and we have only ourselves to blame. 🙂

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        1. @tsalmon

          So Scriptural porcine dietary restrictions means that pigs have rights? Brilliant convolution Tom!

          That’s the best you can do?

          Don’t you see how this wonderful invention of social contract rights conveniently abrogated the divine right of kings (a concept that you have already shown has much more ancient biblical support then any new fangled divine human rights theory) at just the right time for some revolutions to ultimately replace God with reason?

          I supported the divine right of kings? News to me. Read 1 Samuel 8. Paine cited it in “Commonsense”. God did appoint King Saul and then King David, but He was clearly not happy that the people of Israel wanted a king.

          Anyway, as usual, my deficiencies are the primary basis of your argument. Supposedly, I could not possibly believe what I believe unless I had something wrong with me. Still, I am sort of flattered. Who else would put me in the company of the likes of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson? Thanks.

          Note that neither Locke or Jefferson sought to replace God with human reason. That’s the French Revolution, not the American.

          Even assuming God clearly scripturally ordained something like our intellectual property rights, why can’t you give me a place in the world or a time in human history where these rights actually existed in practicality if they were not systemically defined, arbitrable and enforceable at law by a government?

          The answer to that question is not obvious? Until they sinned, I assume God served as Adam’s and Eve’s government. Then Adam and Eve sinned. Since then the world has been in a fallen state, and we need a government to protect us from each other.

          We are waiting for the second coming of Jesus. Until then we will need a government to protect us from each other.

          It’s a dumb argument, but it’s the only argument you want to have. Why? Because I can’t be saved if I just do my best with faith and God’s grace to live up to my God given responsibilities (particularly my responsibilities to love as God commanded) even though the government of the moment grants me no rights at all, positive or negative?

          Who said salvation requires you to share my political beliefs? The problem is what you have chosen to vote for. I don’t think the people you support ethical. The desire to redistribute the wealth, for example, too often stems from covetousness, not love, and that is blatantly obvious.

          Choice is a gift of a loving God just as His eternal suffering with us in this finite and fallen world is a gift. Let’s not pretend God made this easy by blaming Him for the bad choices we make about the myriad of imperfect laws that govern our politics. It is the nature of human fallibility and divine infallibility that God gets only the credit and we have only ourselves to blame.

          Here we get to the crux of the matter. Love! Love! Love! We want to believe God is an indulgent old granddaddy, and if we don’t believe God is indulgent, then we are blaming Him?

          The issue is not about who to blame. Fixing the blame — like you blame Trump — doesn’t fix anything. First we identify the problem. Then we consider alternative fixes. That is what I have tried to do. Perfectly? No. Not capable of perfection, at least not now. In the next life? God knows.

          The way you used the word “choice” is revealing. Remember. You vote for ProChoice politicians. And no, I don’t blame God for that.

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          1. “That’s the best you can do?”

            Well, actually no, however this is all that is simply necessary to dispel the fallacy that conflates every one of hundreds of scriptural commandments as each procreating a unicorn divine right.

            “Anyway, as usual, my deficiencies are the primary basis of your argument. Supposedly, I could not possibly believe what I believe unless I had something wrong with me. “

            Please get over your injuries Tom. YOUR arguments are the primary deficiencies of YOUR. arguments. If you are going to take every time that I point out the fallacious nature of of YOUR arguments as a personal attack, then aren’t you just admitting that your arguments can’t stand up on their own merits without your pride constantly propping them up? Be honest with yourself when you’ve made a good point and when your point fails. Quit trying to have it both ways and taking it personally when I use your own words against you (or even agree with you).

            “Note that neither Locke or Jefferson sought to replace God with human reason. That’s the French Revolution, not the American.“

            No, but that was the ultimate result when rationalists tried to put an infinite God into reason’s necessarily limited epistemological box. Our Founders were creatures of the Enlightenment. Jefferson was a great fan of the French Revelation long after the Jacobins started beheading the clergy and burning or clising the churches.

            There is literally a “reason” why most of our most influential Founders were Deists or, like Washington, closet Deists. Deism’s defining characteristic was its disdain for the miraculous and the spiritual. As such, Deism at the very least was the Godfather of modern day atheists and the more rabid secularists.

            Don’t get me wrong, I think reason is a gift if God. I think it is one thing that defines us as human. I also believe, like you I think, that the benefits of modern democracy derived directly from our Founder’s efforts to demystify politics through reason and separate religious control from the state (and also over business and science). However, you are not the student of history that I think you are if you cannot see the direct evolution between the authors of the Enlightenment and the modern cynicism about religion, and it’s equally cynical fundamentalist backlash.

            “Here we get to the crux of the matter. Love! Love! Love!”

            There you go mocking Christian love again. Are you sure you are not a modern day Pharisee?

            “The answer to that question is not obvious? Until they sinned, I assume God served as Adam’s and Eve’s government. Then Adam and Eve sinned. Since then the world has been in a fallen state, and we need a government to protect us from each other.
            We are waiting for the second coming of Jesus. Until then we will need a government to protect us from each other.”

            Does a wild kangaroo need government? Have you ever considered that Eden was the bliss of ignorance that we were before God evolved human reason and sentience into us? That the Tree of Knowledge was the keep from an extintual Wild this into a human who knows his own eminent mortality? Something to consider.

            Anyway, so you’re now saying that in the finite and fallen world, wherever we believe such rights ultimately derive, we need imperfect governments made of of imperfect people to imperfectly define, arbitrate and enforce our rights. Set, point, match! What were you trying to enlighten me about then? 🙂

            “I don’t think the people you support ethical. The desire to redistribute the wealth, for example, too often stems from covetousness, not love, and that is blatantly obvious.“

            Well, no it’s not. All political and economic systems seek to redistribute wealth. Arguably, the more the system is purely capitalistic, the more that it uses self interested “covetousness” to efficiently generate and distribute wealth whereas the more purely socialistic the system is the more it altruistically (and often inefficiently) distributes society’s wealth. That’s what is blatantly obvious. The data shows that neither pure ideological systemic survives for long, but that hybrids seem to be the most ethical and the most prosperous balance. Anyway, you voted for Trump and you are criticizing the personal ethics of the people I voted for – that’s a good one brother!

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          2. @tsalmon

            Unicorns? I take your arguments as seriously as you take the Bible, which you obviously equate with mythology.

            Who is God? I don’t proclaim to know. Who understands the mind of another, much less the mind of God?

            I agree God is love. I have never said otherwise, but you are not proclaiming Christian or even agape love. Why not? God has many facets. God is also Truth, and that is especially relevant here. If we ignore the truth, we cannot love in truth. Our supposed love for others just becomes a self deluding fantasy.

            When we love God in truth, we will try obey His commands. If we don’t actually love God, we will ignore His commands, pay His commands lip service, at best. We may speak of glowingly of love, but our love will be self love. Unless we strive to understand God and learn what He wants from us, we have not given God any part in our love for either Him or our brothers and sisters.

            So what about your arguments?

            You attack me? What is the point? Frankly, so long as I am just pointing to the Bible, what you think of me is not relevant. Have I interpreted the Bible correctly or not?

            The Founding Fathers were just Deists spouting words for political effect? Actually, each of these men risk their families, their own lives, and their fortunes opposing the most powerful military force in the world. The unvirtuous don’t play the odds that way.
            Read https://citizentom.com/2008/09/10/deism-and-the-founding-fathers/

            If you read about John Locke, you will find he also risked his life for the sake of principle.

            Pigs have rights? Because they are fundamentally different, the New Testament does not require Christians to obey the dietary or sacrificial laws. Yet here you are equating the restriction against eating pigs with protecting the rights of pigs.

            We expect government to protect our rights?

            Anyway, so you’re now saying that in the finite and fallen world, wherever we believe such rights ultimately derive, we need imperfect governments made of imperfect people to imperfectly define, arbitrate and enforce our rights. Set, point, match! What were you trying to enlighten me about then? 🙂

            So if government protects our rights, government must define our rights? If government defines our rights based upon the rights God has given us, then is God or the government defining our rights?

            Brother, this is not heaven. If we believe in Jesus and seek to walk with Him, then He is with us, but we are works in progress. We don’t do anything perfectly.

            Philippians 1:6 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
            6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

            Yet you like hybrid Socialism? Does government exist to redistribute the wealth for the sake of redistributing the wealth? Or do we tax each other to provide our leaders the resources they need to maintain justice and order?

            All political and economic systems seek to redistribute wealth. Arguably, the more the system is purely capitalistic, the more that it uses self interested “covetousness” to efficiently generate and distribute wealth whereas the more purely socialistic the system is the more it altruistically (and often inefficiently) distributes society’s wealth. That’s what is blatantly obvious. The data shows that neither pure ideological systemic survives for long, but that hybrids seem to be the most ethical and the most prosperous balance. Anyway, you voted for Trump and you are criticizing the personal ethics of the people I voted for – that’s a good one brother!

            At what point do we have enough Socialism in this hybrid? Why can’t you define that point? Were Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin, Mao, and all those other socialists dictators altruists? To prevent them from abusing their powers, don’t we have to find some way restrain our leaders?

            Socialism is a form of government that exists for the sake of redistributing the wealth (taking what actually belongs to one person and giving it to someone else). Socialism is not altruistic. Socialism is just government sanctioned thievery, and it takes all the restraints off our leaders.

            Socialism gives the government all authority over property, giving our leaders (whether generous to a fault or greedy for power) enormous power and influence. Capitalism helps us to restrain our leaders by denying them control over our property.

            Capitalism allows each of us to decide how to dispose of our own incomes as we see fit. Individuals may be altruistic, or they may be selfish. In a free country, that is just the way it is. We accept what seems to us the imperfections in our neighbors. We don’t enslave them. We belong to God, not our government.

            Do hybrid Socialist/Capitalist governments exist? Yes. Are there lots of foolish people? In this world? What else would we expect?

            We elect people, not angels. Politicians have a reputation for pragmatism because some people will do and say whatever it takes to get elected. That doesn’t make what they do right or good. It just means that some people, quite a few of us I fear, don’t adhere to any principles (or virtues). We just do what seems good at the time.

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    1. Too many straw men and I have no interest in continuously knocking them down. No I’m not Lennon, Stalin, Moa or Satan. I’m not Ayn Rand or Milton Friedman either.

      I rather just deal with reality if you don’t mind.

      1. The Bible and Theology

      Yes, SW, I’m a believer too. Thanks. Scholarly Pharisaic or rabbinical scriptural knowledge is wonderful and I applaud it. I don’t think it’s necessary for salvation though. I read the Bible regularly and have read a range of theological books throughout my whole life. That said, I believe the message of Jesus in the Gospels is fairly simple to understand, takes faith to believe, requires God’s grace to for it to be fully revealed and is impossible to perfectly live. But with God, all these things are possible.

      At least in my Christian denomination, and I think in most Protestant denominations, I’m pretty orthodox in my theology. I’m a particular fan of the theology and writings of the current Pope, Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, Karen Armstrong, Fr. Richard Rohr, Alastair MacIntyre, Timothy Keller, Reinhold Niebuhr, Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine, Saint Francis of Assisi, G.K. Chesterton, Dostoyevsky, Kierkegaard, Reverend Mel Wild and my own confessor and counselor, Father Greg.

      I also like and agree with a good bit of what you write Tom. However, though I think your heart is in the right place, I sometimes think your emphasis on unambiguous, Old Testament, rule oriented legalism is misplaced.

      2. Christian Cosmology

      In keeping with my Catholic orthodoxy, I think that their are many levels of more profound truths to all of Genesis besides just the literal historic factuality of the stories. There was a reason why Jesus taught with parables and if we are so focused on the factuality of the story, then we are missing the most important psychological, symbolic, metaphorical and yes, mythological messages that God is conveying to us. If you are trying to understand the cosmological truth on Genesis and you are not reading the views of Freud, Jung, Campbell, Armstrong, MacIntyre and others, or someone like then, then you may be missing a lot, particularly if you want to lecture other people.

      That said, at least within my denomination, there is no heresy my understanding of the mythological symbolism in Genesis. God created us to learn our moral norms best in stories, not just reason and facts.

      3. Ontology

      What does it mean to live in a finite and fallen world? Apparently Eden was a certain kind of pre-rational, presentient animalistic bliss. There was sexual shame because there were no bad sexual choices. A tiger has no sexual shame. There was no moral shame because there were no moral choices. A gazelle is incapable of evil. The was no existential dread of death, maybe because Adam and Eve were literally eternal in the story, but I think a more profound ontological understanding is that it was because, like a wolf, they simply were innocent of death because, unlike us today, they lacked, the rational capability to be sentient of death. In other words, they were human, perhaps prior to the Sapiens’ giant leap in rational cognitive ability.

      Then God metaphorically offered the choice that would begin all moral choices – stay in perfect animalistic innocence and bliss, or, mythologically, open Pandora’s Box, “fall” down like apes from the Tree of Knowledge and walk upright becoming rational man. The universe was always finite, but to be rational is truly to be fallen into knowledge of that imperfect finiteness.

      A characteristic of the universe being “finite” is that, to the fallen man and woman who now can utilize reason to make choices, imperfection of choice (or sin) is the nature of human “being”. In the finite and fallen universe therefore, rational determinism is the constant illusion that replaces the hole that once was full of God.

      We keep trying to escape our moral fallibility and guilt by trying to get back to the garden of blissful innocence (and mindless ignorance) with escapism, with addiction, with consumerism, with extremist ideologies and finally, with formulaic and Pharisaic rule following that makes us wallow in the misery of this life by offering what Richard Rohr calls an evacuation plan to the next life.

      I’m not saying that this is the only way to interpret scriptural ontology, or that is even close to the whole truth, but again, it has come to be a fairly common view in the scholars of my faith, even though it is not understood or accepted by everyone.

      4. Eschatology

      I have come to believe we are “saved” in and for this life. The eternal connection with God we seek is now. We do the right and loving thing (or in other words, follow God’s commandment to interpret all commandments) because it connects us and atones (“at ones”) us with God now, in this life, not only because we hope it will in the next.

      There is much, much more to this eschatology than I can, or am qualified, to give in this short space. I can refer you to several books, or just go to Mel Wild’s website. I love the way he explains things.

      Once again, however, I can assure you that there is no heresy (at least not in my denomination) to any of this. It has complete scriptural basis. The fact that it is little understood is a function of our human frailty at living up to what Christ wanted from the beginning and wants now, not because it is new or revolutionary. I don’t claim to understand or live it as well as I should, but I’m learning and trying.

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      1. @tsalmon

        Playing the victim again.

        1. The Bible and Theology

        So you are a fan of various authorities? We don’t go to authorities so that they can be our demigods. We go to authorities when we have trouble understanding something, in this case the Bible. When we need the assistance of someone who has studied God’s Word more carefully, we consider the reasons they give for their interpretation..

        Consider 1 Corinthians 3 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians+3&version=GNT).

        If who we go to for guidance matters more than what the Word of God says, we have made an idol out of our teacher.

        2. Christian Cosmology

        I have not spent much time studying Freud, Jung, Campbell, Armstrong, or MacIntyre. Since I cannot read everything, I am forced to be selective. The Bible comes first.

        Because they were designed to confuse, Jesus explained His parables to His disciples. Only then did those parables become illuminating.

        Why did He speak in parables? Jesus explained this in Matthew 13:10-16,34 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+13%3A10-16%2C34&version=GNT). He cited Isaiah 6:8-10 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+6%3A8-10&version=NKJV).

        When Moses wrote Genesis, there is little that indicates God wanted him to write mythology or teach with parables. The Creation story certainly does not appear to be filled with symbolism.

        Is the Bible full of symbolism and metaphors? Yes. Songs and poetry too, and it tends to be obvious when we are not suppose to take something literally. If you don’t think the Hebrews that read the first five books of the Bible in Moses’ day took the Creation Story literally, you are kidding yourself. How they read it — how it was intended to be understood — is how we should read it.

        3. Ontology

        When we strive to see ourselves and all creation from God’s point-of-view, we begin to understand why He made us, what we exist to be. When we insist upon leaning upon our own understanding,… Well there is a proverb.

        Proverbs 3:5-6 New King James Version (NKJV)
        5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
        And lean not on your own understanding;
        6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
        And He shall [a]direct your paths.

        4. Eschatology

        I think Mel Wild has lots of insights. I enjoy studying and learning from his website.

        I also don’t think Mel reads things into the Bible that are not there. Nevertheless, he has troubles with Penal Substitutionary Atonement. Frankly, I have not yet figured out Mel’s position on atonement, but I have had better luck understanding rocket science and orbital mechanics than I have had understanding why Jesus had to die on that cross.

        We are sinners. Our sins are so awful that to redeem us Jesus had to die on a cross. Jesus’ sacrifice forces us to look upon our own sinfulness with horror, and we don’t want to do that.

        We have trouble taking our eyes off a dreadful problem and enjoying a beautiful solution. With respect to the atonement, I tend to think we need to focus on the fact God loves us so much He gave His life for us. We need to be grateful, return His love, and do all we can to obey Him.

        The Bible says we are saved in this life for the next life. Jesus was unambiguous about that, and He made that abundantly clear to the Sadducees.

        Luke 20:27-40 New King James Version (NKJV)
        The Sadducees: What About the Resurrection?
        27 Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, 28 saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children. 30 And the second [a]took her as wife, and he died childless. 31 Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven [b]also; and they left no children, and died. 32 Last of all the woman died also. 33 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.”

        34 Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37 But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”

        39 Then some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.” 40 But after that they dared not question Him anymore.

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        1. Tom,

          As I have pointed out before, it is impossible to read the Bible without resorting to authority. Notwithstanding the fact that it was originally written in some languages that were later translated into others, even the most original version of the languages it was written in have evolved over time so that we have to rely on the authority of not just translators, but the expertise of linguistic anthropologists. Ultimately you are depending on the expertise of such authorities who translated the Bible into English (and are thus subject to the insights and blind spots of those translators) even if you read many different translations. (Who do you think educates, funds and authorizes the scholars if not religious institutions with their own theological rice bowls to protect?)

          Second, any scholarly study of the Bible requires that, for any given passage, you read the interpretations of scholars (preferably many such authorities) who have studied that passage in its most original languages, studied the history of the times and can give you an understanding of how this passage would have been understood by an Israelite, Jew or Gentile at the time and for whom it was written.

          Finally, theologians give us a thematic understanding of the Bible and can show us how a given passage fits in context to their reasoning and revelation of the overall theological theme.

          Is any given expert fallible? Sure, that’s why we have thousands of denominations of Christianity, each (including you) proclaiming their own expertise in scriptural interpretation and God inspired revelation of the thematic whole. If you rely on the methodology of exegesis to study the Bible, which I believe you do, then you are dependent on numerous biblical authorities. If you are making these authorities your “gods” then you are as stupid as you apparently think I am. You do tend toward an insulting extreme hyperbole sometimes brother, even if you don’t think you do. 😉

          Can a simple person who is not a scholar just read her Bible, understand its simple, but profound message of love, receive the grace of God through faith and be saved? Of course. I would go so far as to assert that the vast majority of Christians before the modern era were illiterate and simply heard that good news, took the leap of faith and were saved. Biblical scholarship of the kind you strangely both preach and disdain may be a hinderance to that good news when it becomes Pharisaicly legalistic, closed minded, narrow and threatened by competing Hod given revelations just as much as it may be.a help when it is open minded, discursive and collegiate (just like I hope we are attempting here).

          I’m not sure what Mel will think about your contention that I have made a god out of him, but I really enjoy the way that he presents his theological views (particularly his eschatological views) with patience and congeniality rather than being overbearing and pontificating. I wish I were better at that. Intellectual arrogance, it seems to me rubs in our family and is often based upon the fear we have of ambiguity and uncertainty. A completely perfect understanding of the rational behind the mystery of the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as the Christ in history may not be humanly possible. I happen to prefer the more universal vision of Mel Wild, Father Richard Rohr and Pope Francis. I think it’s more inspiring than the transactional theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement that Saint Anselm, a Benedictine Monk, theorized in the High Middle Ages, or the other Ransom Theories that proceeded it. If we start with a childlike openness to such fathomless mysteries, then which rationalist human theory that inspires us to a greater loving relationship toward God is less important than the relationship itself, don’t you think? As such, we should view all these mysteries for what we can learn and use to inspire rather than as dogmas we can absolutely know and enforce with any real authority upon others. That’s just my opinion though.

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          1. One other thing Tom. You think you are making a point when you throw out a scriptural passage as if to say “see what I mean” apparently thinking the Bible has spoken for your exclusive understanding. This probably works very well for someone who already shares your interpretations of that passage and how it fits in the context to your own theology (or how it may extrapolate to some shared political philosophy). The problem is that I read the same passage and either see it as proving something completely different, even the opposite of your contention, or else it leaves me with more questions than the finality of understanding you seem to advocate.

            For example, let’s look at your use of Luke 20:27-40 to somehow prove that we should follow certain rules in this life to as what Rohr coined it get our “evacuation plan” for the next. I am not disputing an afterlife – I’m simply saying that we may have built a mythology around just some nebulous afterlife that is counterintuitive to the joy of Heaven, the eternal life, that is present NOW in our connection through love with a loving God.

            If we are only focused on an afterlife, then what exactly is Heaven? Where is Heaven? If all our focus is on afterlife Heaven, then why did Jesus say: “For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”

            So perhaps we are saved in this life as much for this life as for the next. I don’t think that the two things are mutually exclusive. Paul has much to say about the joy of living through, with and in the eternal Christ NOW, not just for Heaven in afterlife. We endure our suffering because suffering in and with God has its own joy, it’s own blessing and it’s own eternal reward NOW. God did not abandon us so we could only find Him after we die. The universal and eternal Christ suffers with us NOW in this material world. He has always suffered with us and in all material creation and He always will. Jesus is the pinnacle moment and manifestation of His eternal presence and love always.

            This does not conflict with the promise of afterlife – it profoundly adds to it. Enduring life’s inevitable suffering with Christ in God’s Love through the example of Jesus is not just a penance for our sins (or Original Sin) that we pay for a better life later, it is the joy of being with a God who suffers with us for a better more meaningful life now. Jesus , as Christ, does not free us from sinning by making us suffer, He frees by suffering with us, for us and through us with NOW.

            Unlike you, I don’t claim to be a scriptural expert, but I have read enough Scripture and I have read enough from the experts who know scripture better than I to know that there is no conflict in this eschatological view, only confirmation. And it doesn’t mean that this is the whole or exclusive understanding of this mystery – it just gives an expansion and a wonderful window of insight into the infinite. At least that’s what I’ve come to believe.

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          2. One other, other thing as to myths and symbolism. Only a child playing peek-a-boo thinks we can see him because he can’t see us. Your answer here is similar – you have not studied and don’t understand it, therefore it’s not true. Just because you don’t understand how you literally “think” doesn’t mean you are not “thinking” that way anyway.

            A letter is not something, it is a symbol for something. Letters make up words, but the words are not something, they are symbols for something. Symbols join into sentences and paragraphs to abstract in our minds into thoughts and observations but they are not actual reality but an incredible construct that our mind used to interact with reality. Thousands of years ago, even Plato came to this understanding. The Cartesian existential understanding and proof reflects this philosophical dilemma. We cannot think any other way except symbolically and indeed, although our symbolic thinking because of its inherent sensual limitations means we cannot perfectly know reality with the omniscience of God, because we “think” we believe we exist in reality (and we also may sentience God’s presence in thought with us). (“I think therefore I am”).

            Myth are archetypal symbols. That means that, like the ability to reason, myths are universal in human cognitive understanding throughout history and from culture to culture no matter how remotely diverse those cultures are.

            It is not only impossible to read the Bible without resorting to symbolic understanding, it is impossible to get to the truth of of the Bible unless one comprehends the archetypal metaphorical myths that are imbedded in the messages. You say that the ancient Israelites would have seen Genesis as history, but historical and the metaphorical would not have had the dichotomy that it does for the modern rationalist.

            You could I suppose use some other, more advanced specie’s brain to talk to God, but God wrote the Bible to talk to our brain and the human brain comprehends in symbols and archetypes more than is apparent to the humans who “think” that way. Rationalism has disguised our own “thinking” to us today even more so because we live more under the illusion that all “thinking” is all reason, like the mind is nothing more than a computer, but the universal depths that our minds “think” in, below the surface of reason and sensual empiricism, are almost fathomless and God lives in those depths with us just as He lives with us everywhere else.

            In any event, anyone who reads Genesis without comprehending that it is shock full of the truth that is found in understanding archetypal symbolism is kind on like the kid playing peek-a-boo – just because he does not see it doesn’t mean it’s not abundantly there. 🙂

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          3. @tsalmon

            Can a simple person who is not a scholar just read her Bible, understand its simple, but profound message of love, receive the grace of God through faith and be saved?

            Works for me.

            1. Authority

            As I have pointed out before, it is impossible to read the Bible without resorting to authority.

            This statement is true. However, with our Lord’s help we should seek to make the Bible itself the authority, not any particular scholar or group of scholars.

            We have a wide variety of Bible translations and numerous commentaries. When the translations and the commentaries appear to be in conflict, we should look up what other passages of the Bible have to say on the subject in contention. That is, to the extent we can we should use the Bible to interpret the Bible.

            2. Heaven is now?

            The Bible makes it clear Jesus is with us — always with us — but this is not Heaven. What we can have now is peace, contentment, and joy in the knowledge Jesus has overcome the world. We have already been saved.

            Will we/do we suffer in this life? Yes. Will we suffer in the next life, in heaven? That’s something to think about.

            3. peek-a-boo

            Your peek-a-boo analogy got away from you. Effectively you said no one can read the Bible literally. So, your complaint is?

            When I read something like the Creation story, I think it best to keep things simple. The more convoluted our explanation, the more likely we are misinterpreting what is being said. In other words, when we find symbolism in a passage that the author never intended, we risk misunderstanding what we are reading.

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          4. “Your peek-a-boo analogy got away from you. Effectively you said no one can read the Bible literally.”

            No, actually I didn’t. The Bible was designed by God to be understood by the human mind in a variety of ways. The fact that Genesis 3 has a talking snake, unabashed naked first persons, a Garden and magical trees means that there are many archetypal themes and symbols that are universal to other origin myths, but it doesn’t make it less real, less true, it makes it more true. I don’t think that there is a clear divide in the human mind between the symbolic and the literal. As a metaphor, a snake is a universal phallic symbol, but to paraphrase Freud, “sometimes a snake is just a snake”.

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          5. “The Bible makes it clear Jesus is with us — always with us — but this is not Heaven. What we can have now is peace, contentment, and joy in the knowledge Jesus has overcome the world. We have already been saved.”

            Yes, that is basically true, and yet I have come to believe it is a bit more than profound than that.

            We have been taught that all human suffering is a punishment for corporate Adam’s evil. I’m not saying that this is untrue so much as I have come to realize the universally redemptive and meaningful, rather than just the transactional quality, of sacrificial suffering in particular.

            In Greek mythology Prometheus, a Titan (a type of primordial Greek God), gave man the gift of fire. Zeus, fearing that this made men too powerful and independent, punished the immortal Prometheus by leaving him chained to a giant rock where every day he lay helpless as an eagle pecked at and ate his liver.

            Does this preChristian messianic crucifixion myth sound familiar? Is there an universal message about the meaning, the moral quality, of this sacrificial suffering that God was trying to evolve in us that foreordained the actual apex moment of the one God as Christ coming to us in actual history as Jesus?

            In this view that I’m poorly attempting to explain, sacrificial suffering has an universal meaning that transcends the mere transactional quality of a debt owed to God by corporate Adam and Eve (or the older idea of a ransom being paid to the Devil to redeem men’s souls). It means that, although all suffer in a finite and fallen universe (even God with us always), our suffering has eternal meaning (and I believe even joy) if that suffering is offered as sacrificial suffering done in Christ, through Christ and with Christ out of love.

            This is directed at all your readers here Tom. Look at something in your own life, as I have in mine, where you are undergoing some small or large sacrificial suffering for someone that you love. Doesn’t this suffering give meaning to your life? Although you are suffering, don’t you feel a quality of joy, of the transcendental and the eternal in Christ, even at the worst moments of that suffering? If you are experiencing this with the grace of this revelation, then you probably grasp on some level what I mean even if it is hard to rationally explain.

            In the symbolism of words, it is no accident that the Greek word for “apocalypse” means “revelation” or epiphany. The fact that we are all (the whole world) suffering physically and economically as a result of this Pandemic is unimportant – all life in a finite and fallen world is suffering and death, if it is not the crisis, it will be another (perhaps a world war or global warming). The eternal question in Christ is how do we give meaning through sacrifice and compassionate love to that suffering and to all human suffering, meaning that transcends ourselves?

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          6. I should add to the above that there is often no perfectly right answer to the question above. We use expertise and experience to balance competing goods and competing evils. We do the best we can (and we don’t let perfection be the enemy of just better) but, because we are fallible, even with the best of intentions, we disagree and make mistakes. That too is the nature of a finite and fallen universe. That kind of rational “perfection” isn’t what we are always striving for – it is perfection in God’s love, perfection that is not possible, except with God all things are possible.

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