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John 15:20 and Modus Tollens

March 27, 2015

For millennia, logicians have recognized a number of basic argument forms that are inherently valid based on their structure.
According to the form called Modus Tollens (‘by way of taking out’),

If p, then q.
Not q.
Therefore, not p.

Or to put it in a clear example,
‘If I am in the shower, I will be wet.
I am not wet.
Therefore, I must not be in the shower.’

In the middle of John 15:20, the Lord gives a simple conditional statement which makes for a perfect example of the first premise in such an argument.
“If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you,” says Jesus.

If we follow this out and apply Modus Tollens to it, it would read:
If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you.
They are not persecuting you.
Therefore, they did not persecute Me.

In other words, if the world does not have a problem with us, it must not have a problem with our Jesus.

But clearly, the Jesus of John’s gospel was persecuted. The world definitely had a problem with Him. So it forces me to ask:
If the world does not have a problem with us, could it be that we are not showing it the same Jesus that John shows?

A Sad Distinction

January 30, 2015

I was just listening to NPR in the car, and some reporter was doing a local human interest story about how the public library is going to be hosting a big screen Super Bowl Party. Referring to the remarkable diversity of the people who were coming to reserve seats, he said, “I talked with one guy who is a conservative evangelical. Then I talked to another guy who is an advocate for low-income housing.”

The Drawn-Out Knight Rises

November 30, 2014

So, apparently, Moses is now a violent revolutionary.
Moses the Revolutionary
I haven’t seen the new movie Exodus: Gods & Kings. But I’ve seen the commercials. Christian Bale plays Moses in the latest Bible-character-action-hero blend. And from all I can see, he is a version of Moses that looks more like Muhammed than the shepherd from Midian. Once again, we see that problems are solved by faith and prayer …plus the sword!

The same thing was done with the movie A Beautiful Mind 2… er… uhhhh… I mean… Noah. (Sorry. I sometimes get confused between movies where Jennifer Connelly plays the loyal and patient wife of a driven psychotic played by Russell Crowe.) The whole idea of a man of faith who quietly obeys and sees GOD do the amazing is lost amid the noise and chaos of “good” violence.

One of the most fascinating aspects to this whole thing is the lack of intelligence and imagination it betrays. Movie-makers obviously can no longer deliver an epic plot that doesn’t involve explosive action scenes and in which evil is only overcome by force. Which means, of course, that movie audiences can no longer handle such plots.

My chief complaint about Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies is the sad pandering to moronic audiences who need every film to be louder and more explosive than the last. He had a perfect opportunity to show a quieter, slower, more considered story from Middle-Earth (all he would have had to do is stay within two or three miles of the book), and he forsook it for a comparatively insipid cash cow. But this is apparently what movie-goers now expect for their ticket money. Give us shows that go BOOOOM! I wonder when they’ll make a new movie about Gandhi which shows him as a violent revolutionary. If they did, people would probably pay big money to see it… provided a sufficient amount of bullets and bombs making carnage in the streets of Calcutta.

I shudder at the thought that many Christians will probably think it’s cool that Moses is portrayed as a warrior—the same Christians who seem to think that the point of the temple-cleansing scenes in the gospels is to show that Jesus was a manly, muscular butt-kicker who got in people’s faces and said, “Oh no, you ditn’t! Not in MY house!”

In all of the commercials and pictures from the Exodus movie that I have seen so far, Moses looks grim and angry while Pharaoh looks thoughtful, painfully concerned, and a little taken aback by the rage of Moses. I wonder what that is supposed to signify. Maybe that the prophetic types who hear from God tend to need to get the job done by going a little over the top, and so those who represent the system will likely feel attacked by mean-spirited jerks?… I don’t know.

At any rate, without having seen the movie yet, it is already clear that we will be treated to another colossal study in missing the point. Sure, Moses did the good violence thing once. He smote and killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. And the narrative of Exodus is written to show us that this did not succeed in bringing about God’s good end. As James puts it, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (1:20). Following Moses’ attempt to use violent means to address injustice, God brought him out into the wilderness to tend sheep for forty years. Then he sent him back to Egypt to draw out Israel, not to draw out a sword. (“Drawn-Out” is the meaning of the name “Moses.”)

In the great scene in which the newly free Israelites find themselves caught between Pharaoh and the deep Red Sea, it is not violence which secures their deliverance. It is not ANY human machination whatsoever. Here is what Moses actually says to Israel at that moment:
Waht Moses Actually Said
It is not our weapons, nor even our courage, nor even our faith in God which delivers us. It is GOD who delivers us! All by Himself, without any help from us, He will bring us His Yeshua (salvation). He wants all the credit for Himself.

Maybe this new Exodus movie will feature a scene like this:

Moses: “Let my people go!”
Pharaoh: “I will. I swear to God!”
Moses: “Swear to ME!”

[Rolled eyes and tired sigh go here.]

Okay. So here is the good news.
Christians, this is our time to shine like stars in the world, holding out the word of life. This is exactly how we should be different from the world around us. It’s not that the world is violent and we are non-violent. That is the outward sign of the Truth. The point is that world cannot imagine a faith that does not need to secure the good by force. But we can show them that… Can’t we?…

I mean it when I say this is the good news. The good news we share with the world is about how we were powerless to do anything about our plight and God stepped in, sending His Yeshua to save us. And now, amid the scariness of a world wherein the violent threaten us, financial security is a vanishing dream and our own sins threaten to destroy us, we can, by faith, stand still and watch the salvation of the Lord!

Sexist Assumptions: Alive and Well in the 21st Century

October 23, 2014

Observe the following dialogue between two of my students yesterday:

Girl:  I hate the fact that women get paid less than men for doing the same job.

Boy:  What do you mean?

Girl:  For instance, say you have two people working as nurses. The woman will only make 80% of what the man makes.

Boy:  Wait…  You mean DOCTORS and nurses?

Liberalism as Atmosphere

October 10, 2014

Liberalism brings a complicated mixture of good truths, deeply embedded assumptions, and attractive dangers. And since it does, in fact, offer some good truths, it can be difficult to see its assumptions and dangers. (N.B. As always, I use the term “liberalism” in its original sense, the sense in which Reagan, Bush, Limbaugh and Beck are all liberals along with Clinton, Obama, etc.)

The problem is that here in America, we are all brought up inside liberalism the same way a deep ocean fish lives its whole life in the sea. Such a fish has no concept of anything other than the watery world it knows. The water is its very atmosphere. In fact, as CS Lewis pointed out, fish don’t feel wet. Such a fish does not think, “I love being under water.” It only thinks, “This is the world.” Imagine the fish was intelligent and could understand human speech. If one were to try to explain life out here in the air and on land, the fish would find it very difficult to understand. And if it ever ends up out of the water, it will have no categories for understanding the experience–it’ll just freak out.

That’s what it’s like sometimes, trying to get liberals to imagine a good world beyond liberalism. Of course, they can imagine things outside of liberalism, but only evil, Mordor-like regimes. The only good world they can envision is one where “peace” comes through the protection of superior force, capitalism blesses the industrious with material prosperity, and so on. And since that is the height of their imagination of the good life in a good world, they reason that it must be what God wants. And so the Bible is made to read as a formula for a modern, western, liberal society.

But what if the good world the Bible pictures is not like any of those concocted by the men of this world? What if the kingdom of God really is something wholly different (John 18:36)? Perhaps Isaiah 2:2-5 might give us a better picture:

Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
And many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.
Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.

‘Ahhhhh,’ says the liberal Christian, ‘But this is talking about the future (millennial?) reign of God over the earth, and does not address our present world. For now, it just makes for a nice inscription on a wall at the UN.’Isaiah 2 at UN
Fine. Let us say that this Isaiah passage describes the future kingdom to be realized when the Lord returns and sets the world aright. The question is: What is the church to do and to be NOW? Is she to settle for choosing the “best” option among those currently made available by the powers of this world? (This, it seems to me, is what liberal Christians do.) Or is she to be a foretaste of the kingdom to come?

I would suggest that the difference between this world and the world to come is not that the kingdom of God is only to be found in the latter. The difference is that, for now, the kingdom of God is to be found only with the people of God, but in the world to come it will be the whole world. This means that, in the present world, the church becomes an advance outpost of the kingdom that is coming. We are a “colony of heaven,” to use the phrase of Hauerwas and Willimon.

This may be difficult to understand or to envision in precise detail. But the first step is this: Christians in the West have got to stop breathing the atmosphere of liberalism and start letting the Spirit of God’s kingdom fill our lungs. Who knows what kind of pure oxygen might get to our brains, if we did?

Church and Bible: Hokey Religions and Ancient Weapons…?

September 7, 2014

Found this while looking for some pics to put in some notes I am writing for one of my History classes.
Solo Scriptura
Of course, Han says the line that is being parodied here on the Millennium Falcon en route to Alderan, not while in the cantina with Greedo. Still hilarioius, though! :-)

About Christian Enjoyment of Fantasy Literature (for Families at SMCA)

September 2, 2014

This fall, I am reading The Hobbit with my two English classes at Spring Mountain Christian Academy. For some of the families, there is some question as to whether fantasy is a legitimate genre of reading for Christians. So I have written a document to discuss the idea. It is written with this audience primarily in mind, but obviously, anyone who is interested is free to down load the doc below and check it out! Just click the link!
If you are someone from the school community, welcome to astheneia! Please let me know what you think of the document after you have read it!
Spasubo! :-)

About the Fantasy Genre for SMCA Parents, 8-25-14


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