Sunday, August 11, 2019

Killed While Headed To Be Baptized?

We've all pondered the question:
What about the person headed to the river to be baptized, when a tree branch falls on his head and kills him? Is he saved?
Well, he didn't complete the act of obedience, but he had the faith that led him to try to complete the obedience.

We see the same thing with Abraham, in sacrificing his son Isaac. Abraham didn't complete the act of obedience, but he had the faith that led him to try to complete the obedience.

James says that Abraham was justified by his works, even though Abraham didn't complete that work of obedience. Paul explains that it was Abraham's faith that justified him.

The believer who doesn't complete the work of obedience of being baptized, who has the faith that leads him to try to complete that obedience, is likewise justified by his faith, and he is justified by his works, even though he didn't complete that work of obedience.

Originally published at:
https://kentwest.blogspot.com/2019/08/killed-while-headed-to-be-baptized.html

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Denominational Nature of the First Century Church of Christ

The "true church" of the first century *was* divided into different branches over opinion.

The two broadest divisions were the Circumcision Church (the thousands of Jewish believers who still kept the laws of Moses, including Paul - Acts 21:20ff) and the Uncircumcision Church (the Gentile believers, who Paul taught should not be influenced to keep the law of Moses). The Holy Spirit deemed this two-fold division as "good" (Acts 15:28), provided that both divisions remained eager to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, being one body, having been united when Jesus tore down the divisive wall of "rules-keeping" (Eph 4, 2).

Smaller divisions occurred in Corinth. These divisions were not acceptable to the Holy Spirit, not because they were the result of different opinions, but because they distracted loyalties from Jesus onto other rabbis. Still, even though this type of division was condemned, Paul referred to these various "denominations" collectively as the church of God, as saints, as sanctified, and as being part of all believers calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, both theirs and ours (1 Cor 1, esp v 2).

As specifically to division over opinions, Paul says in several places (cf Rom 14 & Col 2:16ff) to let every one have their own beliefs about gray areas, such as which day we should keep holy, or which foods/drinks we can consume, etc. These are not kingdom matters. Kingdom matters are the internals, not the externals.

Jesus allows for much more variety in how we express the externals than many of us seem to allow. The very first church of Christ praised God daily in an environment where musical instruments were used and animal sacrifices were made and incense was offered up, making Nazirite vows requiring purification rituals and animal and burnt-hair sacrifices, where a healed man was free to jump and holler within the assembly as he praised God, with no one feeling the need to speak against or remove themselves from any of this. The later churches of Christ, being more Gentile and removed from the central hub of Jewishness, looked far less Jewish. We have modeled ourselves after these later churches, and then try to re-erect that wall of rules-keeping that Jesus died for to tear down, only we turn the rules around to match our understandings.

Dividing from other believers because they don't see things "our way" does not honor Jesus; it dishonors him.

Originally published at:
https://kentwest.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-true-church-of-first-century-was.html

Friday, July 12, 2019

Two Into One

Have you ever noticed that in the Great Commission, Jesus tells the eleven to go to the uttermost parts of the earth, which is a hint that this Messiah thing is bigger than Judaism?

In fact, Jesus specifically says, "Go to all the nations", which as most of us recognize, means "non-Jews".

This was revolutionary.

Further, when Gentiles converted to Judaism, they had to be circumcised and immersed, but Jesus says nothing about circumcising them, saying only to immerse them. This dovetails exactly with what the Holy Spirit revealed in Acts 15 when the Pharisee Christians were still insisting on both circumcision and immersion.

This, too, was revolutionary.

And Paul continues the meme, that Gentiles are grafted in, that the dividing wall has been torn down, that Peter's racist attempt to re-erect that wall was not in accordance with the Good News, that both the Circumcision Christians and the Uncircumcision Christians were now one body, united in spirit in the bond of peace, while still having different practices.

Originally published at:
https://kentwest.blogspot.com/2019/07/two-into-one.html

"'I've changed my mind. But I'm not telling you; you'll just have to figure it out yourself."

On the morning of the Acts 2 Pentecost, everyone mentioned in Acts 2 knew that God had established that he wanted to be praised in song accompanied by instruments.

Then, by lunchtime, according to our brotherhood's longstanding doctrine, God had changed his mind about that.

Yet there's not a single word mentioning that change.

And no one mentions any controversy that a new message of "Stop using instruments! They're now sinful!" would have generated. Certainly the Jews who weren't yet converted would not appreciate being told they were now sinning, and the freshly-converted Jews surely would have had some issue with being told they had to stop using instruments.

Yet we have concluded that God changed his mind between 8am and 10AM that Pentecost morning about how he wanted his praise music conducted.

Notice that we don't get that conclusion from any statement in the text; we get that conclusion from the silence of the text.

We have decided God no longer wants what he specifically said he wanted, because he hasn't repeated himself that he still wants it.

And then we divide, and condemn, because some people don't understand that God's silence about changing his mind means he has definitely changed his mind.

Originally published at:
https://kentwest.blogspot.com/2019/07/ive-changed-my-mind-but-im-not-telling.html

Repent or Else

I'm not entirely sure that the two "repent or else" statements by Jesus in Luke 13 weren't political rather than religious statements. Here's the first. Notice how the topic opens with political action.
Luke 13:[1 ]Now there were some present at the same time who told him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. [2 ]Jesus answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered such things? [3 ]I tell you, no, but unless you change your mindset, you will all perish in the same way.
Doesn't that sound like a warning against having a politically rebellious attitude, especially since they would perish "in the same way" (that is, by the hands of the Romans)?

And here's the second. Think of the towers around the temple compound that originally served as a Hebrew last-line-of-defense fortress/refuge, and later as garrisons for Roman soldiers policing the compound. As a Hebrew fortress, the Romans could have torn it down to get to Jewish rebels; as a Roman garrison, the troops housed in the tower could have "fallen" on their enemies. Notice that in either case the victims were "offenders", not "sinners" as in the first case.
[4 ]Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and killed them; do you think that they were worse offenders than all the men who dwell in Jerusalem? [5 ]I tell you, no, but, unless you repent, you will all perish in the same way.”
Is Jesus telling his listeners to repent in the same way John told his listeners to repent, a moral, spiritual, religious repentance, or is Jesus saying, "If you don't want Rome to come destroy you, you better change your thinking"? Or maybe he's tying Roman destruction to the peoples' moral mindset, the way so much of their scripture repeatedly warned of God using foreign nations to "day of the Lord" rebellious Israel?

At any rate, it just seems maybe we're using this passage out of context to support our "Repent" step.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Thoughts on Transgenderism

My friend, Lucas Necessary, wrote the following.

======

I shared the following article about a male-to-female transgender athlete. I consider this to be a part of the war on women, but in a much newer way, and starkly more deleterious. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/jun/3/cece-telfer-franklin-pierce-transgender-hurdler-wi

Below are my thoughts. These represent a mere fraction of what informs my view, and I hope that I present them not stridently, but with some gentleness, and in a way that, should you disagree even most emphatically, is not angering. I also hope that it might be understood that I detest injustice; I will go to bat for anyone who is being oppressed, as I am able, because I highly value the human life, and have been helped in the past by those whom I have only hurt. 

Transgenderism is a troubling and, as Dawkins would say, seemingly "memetic" thing. That is, once it entered into the public consciousness, it spread in a manner that is almost viral. It is also associated with a high-rate of co-morbidities. According to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center,

"30 percent of transgender youth report a history of at least one suicide attempt, and nearly 42 percent report a history of self-injury, such as cutting. The study also discovered a higher frequency of suicide attempts among transgender youth who are dissatisfied with their weight." ["Suicidality, Self-Harm, and Body Dissatisfaction in Transgender Adolescents and Emerging Adults with Gender Dysphoria. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior" (19 AUG 2016)]

So, before I mention anything else, I need to be up-front and say that being vicious, cruel, and unloving is simply not needed, nor is it profitable. There is a tendency to simply lose perspective, and to become human steamrollers, covered in spiked words and fueled by bile. This is not what any of us are called to do, nor should we behave so unbecomingly. Every life should be regarded as having amazing potential, no matter how much we disagree with its current state. That said, examining ideas carefully and with charity can be helpful in considering a portion of the population that is seemingly statistically worse-off. We must always be vigilant to tear down ideas, but not people.

At the most fundamental level, I think that encouraging gender transition is not only damaging, but also represents a profoundly troubling view of the human body and mind. Under this view, the body may become a persistent and seemingly damaging impediment to the mind, as one sees the two as entirely disconnected. Broadly speaking, there are three views of the mind-body interaction in this regard. They can be construed as,

A. The body provides guidance as to who one (the mind) is and how one lives one's life.
B. The body is disconnected from the mind and provides no guidance, but may act as an impediment to the mind/spirit.
C. There is no such thing as the will or mind, and such is an illusion. (This is the terminus of atheistic thought, as I've noted before.)

Transgenderism seems to fall along the lines of view "B" above. The body has no guiding force in one's life; it is a mere collection of cells; an allocation of atoms that, in some cases, are seen as having given one a collection of 50% of the wrong chromosomes. It causes a person to ask,

"Why should my body, my identity as male or female, have any voice in my moral choices, what I do sexually? Why should my chromosomes determine in any way who I am?” More specifically, Jessica Savano, a male-to-female model, commented,  “Why are you even looking at my penis anyway? I am a woman!” Jessica remarks on Kickstarter,

"Jessica's mission lies in helping people love themselves and break free from dogma and mediocrity and to live a life of true fulfillment and Joy."

Yet it seems that with the memetic spread of transgenderism, true fulfillment does not result. How can it? At the most basic level, it's a view that is thoroughly disrespectful to the human body, which says, "No, my body is not my authentic self."  And so, the implication is that all that counts really is my mind, feelings, and desires.

But consider the desires. A person wishing to transition to a different gender often attempts to model the exterior, classic appearance of the other sex as well. That is, one denies that gender is based on exterior genitalia or chromosomes, but, when transitioning, still desires to mimic the exterior of the other sex (upon, which, remember, we are saying that gender is not based).

How can one have true fulfillment when one knows that, no matter the external change, one's external genitalia have been altered? That, no matter what, one's skeletal structure is different than that of what one wishes to be? That one's entire chromosomal makeup is 50% "incorrect." It is a creeping thorn in the flesh that one can deny, but of which one can never truly be rid.

It seems to me that we have a number of different options. We can encourage people to take atheism to its terminus, in which there are no actual choices or free will, and in which case, none of this matters. We can teach people that their DNA—the information that makes them, them—is not only faulty, but that their bodies are not their authentic selves, and that this must be challenged, altered, and trod upon.

Or we can teach people to embrace and love the bodies they have been given; to align the mind and body in harmony. A memetic spread that appreciates the body of the authentic self might perhaps have a population wherein the following is not true:

"30 percent of transgender youth report a history of at least one suicide attempt, and nearly 42 percent report a history of self-injury, such as cutting. The study also discovered a higher frequency of suicide attempts among transgender youth who are dissatisfied with their weight."

There is much more that we should all examine, and ultimately, it is my firm conviction that we need to decide if there is anything such as the mind/spirit, or if determinism is fully sound.

With love,

Luke

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Grace/Faith vs Law-Keeping

Paul never contrasts Law-of-Moses law-keeping with Law-of-Christ law-keeping; he contrasts law-(albeit usually of Moses)-keeping with grace/faith.

IOW, the contrast is never between two legal systems; it's between a legal system and a grace/faith system.
 

When Paul wrote Gal 2:21, he specifically had in mind the Law of Moses, as that's what was poking him in the face over and over. But I think the *context* of Gal 2:21 makes it clear that he wasn't *just* talking about the Law of Moses; as he writes in the next chapter (3:21b), if any legal system could make alive, it would be the law of Moses.

In addition, Paul thrice, and James once, outlines the principle that if you're going to be justified by keeping law, you have to keep ALL of that law. It doesn't matter what law it is:

WEB Gal 3:10b For it is written, “Cursed is everyone who doesn’t continue in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.”

Gal 3:12 The law is not of faith, but, “The man who does them will live by them."

Rom 9:5 For Moses writes about the righteousness of the law, “The one who does them will live by them.”

James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law, and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.

So if you seek to be justified by keeping some system of law, any system of law, you have to keep every jot and tittle. And if that's the route you choose, then you are no longer on the path of grace, the path of Christ, but rather you're on the path of law-keeping (at which you'll fail):

Gal 5:4 You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace.

The true law-keepers now are not those who are circumcised (or not), or who keep certain holy days (or not), or refuse to eat certain meats (or who do), or sing without instruments (or do), or keep the Lord's Supper every Sunday morning (or Saturday night), or (dare I suggest it?) who has been properly immersed (or not); the true law-keepers are those who fulfill the law, not in letter, but in spirit:

Gal 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Rom 10:4 For Christ is the fulfillment of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

James 2:8 However, if you fulfill the royal law, according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well.
 

This contrast between grace/faith and any sort of legal system is the entire thrust of Paul's letter to the Galatians. The "different gospel" of which he speaks in chapter one is not a different name on the sign out in front of our assembly building, or a different understanding of what is a "pastor", or how many cups we can have in the Lord's Supper, or whether women must be 100% silent in the assembly, or 90%, or the same percent as anyone, according to decorum and propriety and submission to one-another; it's the seeking salvation by keeping a set of rules. This is Paul's theme throughout.

Paul has nothing against keeping the law, even the law of Moses (he himself walked according to the law of Moses, even to the point of animal sacrifice in the Jewish temple after having undergone Temple purification rituals, to end his Jewish Nazirite vow - Acts 21ff - a law which he "upheld" - Rom 3:21). What he objects to is *justification* via that law-keeping - *any* law-keeping. That's the "other gospel which is not another".

This is why he is able to say, "don't worry about holy days and eating this and touching that; these things look like good religion, but they're useless in ascertaining what your heart is doing. These things are just external elements of our world, shadows, not the real thing" (Col 2:16ff). It's why he's able to say, "It's okay to come to different conclusions on all these external things; just get along!" (Rom 14). It's why he's able to say, "Jewish believers can be Jewish, and Gentile believers can be non-Jewish - the two are now one, despite the external differences, because in Christ, the wall has been torn down, and now there's one body, not two, so be eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, regardless of your differences" (Eph 3-4).

The specific law spoken of in Gal 2:21 was indeed the law of Moses, but the principle, as seen by both the immediate context, and the context of much of Paul's writing, is of *any* legal system, as opposed to grace/faith.


Originally published at:
https://kentwest.blogspot.com/2019/06/gracefaith-vs-law-keeping.html

Friday, May 31, 2019

Google Docs Desperately Needs Styles

Yes, Google Docs has Heading styles, which can be modified, but:

1) they can't be used as character styles

2) you're limited to just the few styles provided

3) styled paragraphs using heading styles then show up in the Navigator and Table of Contents, etc, making these features useless.

Google Docs desperately needs styles.

(LibreWriter is such a better word processor than Google Docs or Microsoft Word, but LibreOffice.org doesn't maintain an online version (which is needful to move from computer to computer while having access to a centralized document repository), and there are "issues" with the third-party online versions I've tried (https://www.rollapp.com/home and https://www.offidocs.com/index.php/libreoffice-file-manager-online).)

As much as I like LibreWriter, the sharing features and access-from-anywhere feature of Google Docs sometimes makes it the better option. But it sure is a weak word-processor. (And Microsoft Office365's offerings just make me feel dirty.)

Google Docs desperately needs styles.

Originally published at:
https://kentwest.blogspot.com/2019/05/google-docs-desperately-needs-styles.html

Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Biology Experiment

On my drive to work today, a thought crossed my mind.

Since our bodies have more viruses/bacteria than own own cells, we are not really individuals; we're biomes.

I wonder if a married couple sharing their biomes become similar in part because of the shared biome.

So I thought of this experiment:

Find two volunteers (a male and a female, of similar age), who know nothing of one another.

After verifying that neither has a communicable disease, the experimenter would act as an agent to share their biome with each other as much as possible: mouth biome, face biome, genital biome, hand biome, torso biome, hair biome, etc.

After a period of time (three months? a year?), bring the couple together into a common living arrangement for a short while (a week?) and observe how they get along, and whether they have similar habits, etc.

I'm not sure yet how best to do this, how to have a control group, etc, but I think it has potential to be a very interesting experiment.

Originally published at:
https://kentwest.blogspot.com/2019/05/a-biology-experiment.html