LOVE, TRUTH AND MARTYRDOM

Stoning of St Stephen (circa 1660) by Pietro da Cortona (from here)

Over the years I have noticed something mildly distressing. I receive the most compliments when I point my readers to other people’s blogs. So it is I have begun to understand why some writers become critics. Even if we cannot think and write as well as others, we can still criticize and receive praise for doing it. We just have to select better writers.  So here are some pointers.

On Friday, I read this in the newspaper.

Conservatives have come to expect that they might be protested, ridiculed and disinvited when they venture to speak on college campuses, but the penalty for telling students something they disagree with has taken a more violent turn.

Buttressed by an ideology that views “hate speech” as violence and its suppression as self-defense, students increasingly are resorting to the destruction of property and assault to keep conservative speakers quiet. (continued here)

That news article went on to discuss an editorial in , Free speech is not violated at Wellesley. That editorial contains this self-contradictory paragraph.

This being said, if people are given the resources to learn and either continue to speak hate speech or refuse to adapt their beliefs, then hostility may be warranted. If people continue to support racist politicians or pay for speakers that prop up speech that will lead to the harm of others, then it is critical to take the appropriate measures to hold them accountable for their actions. It is important to note that our preference for education over beration regards students who may have not been given the chance to learn. Rather, we are not referring to those who have already had the incentive to learn and should have taken the opportunities to do so. Paid professional lecturers and politicians are among those who should know better. (from here)

Fortunately, many (like that article in the newspaper) have begun pointing out that this excuse for hostility is just that, an excuse.

So how does that relate to some blogs I have read lately?

dpatrickcollins has written a couple of my favorite posts on this subject: A Social Justice Warrior Meets Jesus and A Social Justice Warrior Meets Jesus, Part 2. These posts provide a fictional account of irate students stifling free speech. Unfortunately, reality is stranger than fiction. posts stresses the inability of student Social Justice Warriors to argue their case, but this on only partly true. Because their instructors have taught them to be almost totally intolerant of  “hate speech”, few students have practiced debating those they self-righteously hate. Yet there are those who have been, and we kid ourselves when we forget that. Therefore, when we read ‘s posts, we must not forget that the students protesting “hate speech” actually do possess a coherent ideology. However, because the mainstream news media supports and does not challenge the social justice ideology, relatively few students think deeply about it. So relatively few have the capacity to articulate what they believe. Most have been indoctrinated, but only a few have been educated.

From where did the social justice ideology originate? Oddly enough, I think it has its roots in a distorted version of Christianity. The Social Justice Warriors have made a fetish out being “nice”. It is love, love, love…. The great sin is offending or hurting anybody’s feelings. After all — goes the thought — Jesus would not do that. Jesus is not hateful. Jesus would not make anyone unhappy.

Are the Social Justice Warriors wrong? I think so. Jesus hated sin, and He angrily criticized the conduct of those He saw sinning. Rather than be silenced, He died on a cross.

Yet what is true Christianity? I have some definite ideas, but I don’t claim to have the one true vision of TRUTH that stands out above all the others. What is the problem? How would we know the TRUTH? We can each point to Jesus, but we don’t all see the same Jesus.

Some will say the TRUTH is the Bible. However, it is not quite that simple. We have to “interpret” the Bible. Consider, for example, Subversive Jesus by Mel Wild. reminds us that God is love. stresses how we must set aside our excuses and strive to love God and each other. Subversive Jesus (and the posts to which it links) focuses upon the fact God is love, and He expects us to be loving.

Does deal with the subject of God’s hatred for sin? That Jesus was not just about how we are supposed to be nice to each other? Yes. God said what?! – Part One begins a six-part series on the wrathful God of the Old Testament. However, does not accept what he calls the hidden underbelly of Scripture at face value. Instead, what his six-part series provides is a justification for interpreting scripture in a particular way.

In the series that begins with God said what?! – Part One, uses as his example God’s command to the Hebrews to exterminate the Canaanites. He quotes this verse.

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. (Deut. 7:1-2 NKJV) (from here)

finds such statements from the God of the Old Testament incompatible with the Jesus of the New Testament. So he is anxious to resolve the conflict, and he has adopted a method of biblical exegesis that allows Him to do that.

Is ‘s method of biblical exegesis correct? He has put much thought into it, but I have my doubts.  When I read Romans 9:14-29, it occurs to me I am no position either to judge God or Scripture. Like I cannot help but wonder why God did some of the things He did. Nevertheless, God is the potter. In His Hands, we are only clay. So I am somewhat more inclined to swallow my pride, accept my ignorance, and be thankful God has chosen to be merciful to me.

Would agree with the student Social Justice Warriors? No. What ‘s posts illustrate is how we can develop a scheme for interpreting scripture that leaves us considerable leeway. As explains, each of us seek ways around the complex difficulties the Bible poses. Nonetheless, there is a profound difference between and the Social Justice Warriors.  Whereas questions God’s call for violence in the Old Testament, the Social Justice Warriors seek an excuse for unjustified violence. What the Social Justice Warriors are looking for is anybody guess, but ‘s posts call for us to seek the narrow gate.

SEARCHING THE BIBLE FOR WISDOM

The garden of Eden with the fall of man
(from here)

What Got This Post Started?

Your Biblical Belief is 42 years old … by Jamie Carter illustrates why I consider debating the Bible worthwhile. This is actually a form of Christian fellowship. The subject is God, and we share our understanding of Him.

In her post, comments on Susan Foh‘s 1975 article, WHAT IS THE WOMAN’S DESIRE? What is that about? Well, consider how  ends her (guessing since I am not certain of ‘s gender) post.

Before Foh pioneered this meaning for the word desire in 1975; the main school of thought was that ‘desire’ referred to a woman’s sexual desire for her husband; though Calvin thought that it meant that a woman will desire what her husband desires and will have no desires for herself. Some thought that women will be plagued with desire itself bordering on a disease. What wasn’t up for debate was that whatever it meant, men had to rule over women as a result of desire.

So if you believe that a man is the head of his family, that the curse on women was to be in rebellion against her husband’s headship because her desire was to be contrary to his headship and the man would rule over his wife, your Biblical belief is somewhat older than I am. Ain’t that something? (from here)

Apparently, thinks that what complementarians believe about the Biblical basis for the relationship between men and women is of relatively recent origin, and that the recent origin Biblical basis for Complementarianism undermines the argument.

What is Complementarianism? It is the counterpart to Egalitarianism.

Summarized by “The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” complementarianism is the viewpoint that God restricts women from serving in church leadership roles and instead calls women to serve in equally important, but complementary roles. Summarized by “Christians for Biblical Equality,” egalitarianism is the viewpoint that there are no biblical gender-based restrictions on ministry in the church. With both positions claiming to be biblically based, it is crucially important to fully examine what exactly the Bible does say on the issue of complementarianism vs. egalitarianism. (continued here)

What Is This Post About?

After I first read ‘s post, I found myself digging into what Susan Foh had written and the debates she had engendered, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that while gender issues are quite important to  they were not the subject of her post.  Her issue is how complementarians arrived at their version of Biblical truth. Hence, I am not going to try to resolve the debate between complementarians and egalitarians. The subject here is how we search for Biblical wisdom.

Consider something Isaac Newton said.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. — Isaac Newton (from here)

We build understanding by building upon the wisdom of the people who went before us. That is, what we know depends upon what the generations before us taught us, especially our parents and grandparents. That includes our understanding of the Bible.

People have studied and debated (sometimes quite unpleasantly) the meaning of the Bible since God started inspiring men to write it. If we look up the history of universities, we soon find that medieval monks started them in Christian cathedrals. Of course, theology was the big focus. In fact, if we go back further and look up the Church Fathers, most of what they did was study, debate, and preach scripture.

Most of us think for ourselves. Even when we are trying to obey God, most of us think for ourselves. That independent spirit both causes problems and helps us in seeking God.  When Eve bit into the apple and Adam followed her example (Genesis 3), instead of obeying God, both sought to be like God. That did not please God. When we study the Bible diligently and try to understand it so we can understand, love, obey, and seek God; we please Him.

What Is The Debate Over Genesis 3:16 About?

So what about the difficulty of interpreting Genesis 3:16? Consider some different translations.

Here the word “desire” is used. That is more common.

Genesis 3:16 New King James Version (NKJV)

16 To the woman He said:

“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.”

Here the word “control” is used. Some adopted that translation after 1975.

Genesis 3:16 New English Translation (NET Bible)

16 To the woman he said,
“I will greatly increase your labor pains;
with pain you will give birth to children.
You will want to control your husband,
but he will dominate you.”

Another version of the Bible, one developed by Catholics, provides a relatively unique translation.

Genesis 3:16 Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

16 To the woman also he said: I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over thee.

Here, from Bible Hub, is a listing of various translations of Genesis 3:16. If you are particularly interested in this verse, I also suggest reading the commentaries on Genesis 3:16 at Bible Hub. Of course, those commentaries predate Susan Foh‘s 1975 article, WHAT IS THE WOMAN’S DESIRE?

What Causes Our Disagreements About The Bible?

So why do the various translations differ, sometimes significantly.  Well, the Bible is only the Word of God in the original language. Once we start putting the Bible in our language we have to put up with translation errors and the biases of the translators. This is no secret. It is one of the reasons why the Catholic Church was reluctant to have the Bible translated and to let the people read it for themselves. The Bible Translation That Rocked the World, for example, discusses the challenges that Martin Luther encountered when he translated the Bible into German.

What does a word represent?  When we think of a word, we generate a concept in our mind.  When we speak a word to someone else we compel whoever is listening to generate the concept they associate with that word in their mind. Therefore, when we translate words from one language to another, finding the best match between the words in the source language and the target language involves finding the word or phrase that correctly portrays the desired concept in the mind of the reader.

Unfortunately, even if the translator well understands both the source and target languages, sometimes there isn’t a good word match. Sometimes, in the case of a language that has not been spoken for a long time, scholars have to work quite diligently to understand what concepts the words in the source language were meant to generate in the minds of the people who spoke that language.  So it is we get translations that are mostly the same, but some differ significantly.

What Is The Word In Question?

What is the word in question? It is the Hebrew word teshuqah. Google produces about 3200 hits (click on teshuqah). So that word has generated much commentary.

Most of the translations of teshuqah use the noun form of the word “desire”.  Let’s look at the origin of the word, “desire”.

desire

v. early 13c., from Old French desirrer (12c.) “wish, desire, long for,” from Latin desiderare “long for, wish for; demand, expect,” original sense perhaps “await what the stars will bring,” from the phrase de sidere “from the stars,” from sidus (genitive sideris) “heavenly body, star, constellation” (but see consider ). Related: Desired ; desiring.

n. c.1300, from Old French desir, from desirer (see desire (v.)); sense of “lust” is first recorded mid-14c.

Curiously, the word “desire” was first associated with the stars. Sexual lust is an element of desire, but “having” is the primary emphasis of the word, and that something is from the stars.  What we desire we want. What we desire is something we long to have in our possession and under our control.

Is desire the wrong word? Maybe not. “Covet” is a synonym for “desire”, and covetousness is a sin. What we desire — what we put at the forefront of our life — rules us.

What Is The End Of This Discussion?

I tend to enjoy John Wesley’s concise commentary. What did he have to say about Genesis 3:16?

Verse 16
[16] Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

We have here the sentence past upon the woman; she is condemned to a state of sorrow and a state of subjection: proper punishments of a sin in which she had gratified her pleasure and her pride. (1.) She is here put into a state of sorrow; one particular of which only is instanced in, that in bringing forth children, but it includes all those impressions of grief and fear which the mind of that tender sex is most apt to receive, and all the common calamities which they are liable to. It is God that multiplies our sorrows, I will do it: God, as a righteous Judge, doth it, which ought to silence us under all our sorrows; as many as they are we have deserved them all, and more: nay, God as a tender Father doth it for our necessary correction, that we may be humbled for sin, and weaned from it. (2.) She is here put into a state of subjection: the whole sex, which by creation was equal with man, is for sin made inferior. (from here)

Wesley saw Genesis 3:16 as being about punishment, and for thousands of years the social standing of women has been lower than that of men. Among the Jews, women were generally treated better, and with the advent of Christianity, the social standing of women began to slowly rise. However, that verse was about sin and punishment. Because they had sinned — because they would continue to sin — Adam, Eve, and their progeny would suffer from sin.

Other verses in the Bible call upon men to love their wives as they love themselves. Other verses call upon women to love their husbands and submit to the love of their husbands. What all those verses mean, not just one, Christians and non-Christians study and debate.

Can I resolve this debate? Of course not, but I can suggest that each of us needs to ask God what He wants us to do and do it. Whether God made us a man or a woman, He did not do so to curse us. Our own sins do that, and that is what most people get out of Genesis 3. What Genesis 3 tells us to do is to love and obey our Creator. That Adam, Eve, and we have too often failed to do.

What about punishment God inflicted upon Adam, Eve, and all of humanity? Just as God punishes us, don’t we punish our children to teach them to behave? In spite of the fact we punish our children, is not most of the punishment they receive — we receive — self-inflicted? When we sin, don’t we suffer from our sins? If a 120 pound woman totally desires 180 lb man, who is going to be controlled? Oddly, because the man wants to rule over the woman, it doesn’t always work out the way one might expect.

And so it is that for the sake of a tempting piece of fruit, Adam and Eve gave up paradise and their selfless love for each other.

Additional References

Empathy is Not Forgiveness — Reblogged

Cheyenne moccasins (from here)

insanitybytes22 writes posts that hit at the gut level. Such is what Empathy is Not Forgiveness does. What I write I like to think appeals to the intellect. That informs people, I guess, but is more likely to get to the heart and persuade.  So it occurred to me it might be worthwhile to reblog ‘s post and just include my comment.

Empathy is not forgiveness. That was a real stumbling block for me, but empathy can be a bit like trying to rationalize away sin. We’re seeking a logical explanation for human behavior, some cause and effect, and trying to walk in someone else’s shoes compassionately. That all sounds very good, very charitable on the surface, but it is not the supernatural grace of forgiveness.

You will wind up extending mercy to everyone but yourself. We’ll call it “self-abuse,” because you’ll be filled with forgiveness, confusion, frustration, while attempting to rationalize away the entire world’s poor behavior.

Battered women do this all the time. He doesn’t mean it, it’s not his fault. People married to alcoholics do it, they rationalize, it’s just the addiction talking. We do it in crime, bad childhood, lousy neighborhood, poor job training. What winds up happening in the end is that you are surrounded by totally irrational people doing stupid things for what seems to be good reasons and all of this somehow becomes your fault. Also, now you’re even more bitter and unforgiving because everyone in the entire world has an excuse for treating you poorly…. (continued here)

So what do I have to add? A little Bible study.

Excellent post! It inspired me to do a little Bible study.

It is a curious thing. Empathy is supposed be a Christian thing, but anyone would be hard put to find the word in the Bible.

Empathy sounds like a great idea. There is that old Indian proverb (=> http://grammarist.com/phrase/walk-a-mile-in-someone-elses-shoes/), but forgiveness and empathy have different purposes. When we walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, we don’t do it to forgive them. We do it to understand them, to perceive what motivates them. When we understand the motives of another, we can react more appropriately.

What is forgiveness? It is not holding a grudge (Leviticus 19:18). It is continuing to love another. As this passage puts it, it is overcoming evil.

Romans 12:9-21 New King James Version (NKJV)
Behave Like a Christian

9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The person who cannot forgive cannot give up vengeance, but vengeance does not belong to us. We don’t have the wisdom or the right. Because we belong to God, vengeance belongs to God.

We don’t punish criminals out of vengeance. We punish criminals to discourage crime. Our job is to love each other. If we don’t forgive each other, we cannot love each other.

Because God requires justice, however, He does take vengeance.

Psalm 99:8 New King James Version (NKJV)

8 You answered them, O Lord our God;
You were to them God-Who-Forgives,
Though You took vengeance on their deeds.

We cannot thank God enough for taking upon Himself the full measure of vengeance we deserve.

 

PUTTING THE END AT THE BEGINNING

How should a book be organized?  I just finished reading the Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli. When I got to the end, it occurred to me that the end should have been at the beginning.

What did the authors put up front? It was proper and perhaps the best thing. The title of the first chapter is: “The Nature, Power, & Limitations of Apologetics”. Since  most people probably don’t even know the meaning of the word apologetics, that chapter has to be up front. Still, when we don’t know where we would be headed, there is not much reason to start the trip. I suppose that is why some people check out the last chapter before they buy the book.

What is at the end of this book? The authors call that chapter “The Bottom Line”. It is about the four steps to becoming a Christian.

  1. The first step is mental belief. This is the point of apologetics. This is why Kreeft and Tacelli wrote their book.
  2. Next is repentance. Once we believe in Jesus Christ we turn from sin.
  3. After repentance, we must put our faith in Jesus. Whereas repentance involves turning from sin, faith requires us to turn toward Jesus.
  4. Finally, we must live out the teachings of Jesus Christ.

How do we put all that more succinctly? I believe Pastor Randy

at Kingdom Pastor has just written a post that explains that, 3:16. Here is the verse that he writes about (for the sake of providing a different emphasis, I cited my preferred translation).

Colossians 3:16 New King James Version (NKJV)

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Once we believe in Jesus, that He is real, that He is our savior, then we must make Colossians 3:16 central to our life. Then we must accomplish what Kreeft and Tacelli call steps 2 – 4.

Want to understand Colossians 3:16 better? Read post. Read 3:16.