Saturday, January 31, 2009

Apologies for the Bad Language

In my last post (which has since been deleted), I quoted a science-fiction character as an example of the humor used in the sci-fi show.

Apparently, however, I somehow made it to adulthood and either failed to learn or have forgotten that a word he used in the quote is deemed by society as cursing/offensive language/vulgarity.

Not wishing to contribute to the overall vulgar nature of society at large, and having learned that this word does so, I have removed the post.

Apologies to any who were offended.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Some Notes on Divorce

In the gospel account by Matthew, we are given a picture in which Yahshua begins his ministry, and shortly thereafter having his credentials and teachings challenged by the then-reigning religious establishment. This is no different than what we do in the modern day when a new teacher comes along: we "test" him, probing him with questions to see where he stands on various issues.

We see this happening in Yahshua's ministry. The first eight chapters of Matthew tell us of Yahshua's background and early ministry. By chapter nine, he has attracted the attention of the religious leaders. Several times over the next few chapters he has run-ins with the Establishment.

Part of this friction was a normal, healthy examination of what the new guy had to say.

Yahshua was not the only popular rabbi in his culture. Rabbi Hillel was running his school in Jerusalem about the time Yahshua was born, and Rabbi Shammai had been born just a generation or two before that. Both of these rabbis were very influential on the thinking in Yahshua's day. These two schools had different interpretations of how divorce was to be handled.

According to :
A husband could take another wife or concubine without consulting his first wife, and she was expected not only to welcome them into her home but also to live in harmony with them. Only the husband had the right of divorce. Moses permitted divorce if the husband found "some indecency in her" (Deut. 24:1, NASB). There were two schools of interpretation over the meaning of Moses' divorce law. The school of Shammai held that "some indecency" meant unchastity. The followers of Hillel, however, maintained that a husband was justified in turning his wife out of house and home for any reason of displeasure, even if he chanced to find more pleasure in another woman! The only stipulation was that he had to give her the sum of money prescribed in the marriage contract, which served as a form of alimony and child support. If she violated any number of rules, however, such as allowing a man to speak to her in public, she would forfeit the money. In practice, a divorced woman rarely was paid anything.
So when we get to Matthew 19 and find the Pharisees asking Yahshua his beliefs concerning divorce, they weren't necessarily trying to trick him in some way; rather, it appears to be an honest attempt to find out if this new rabbi agrees with the school of Hillel or the school of Shammai.

Yahshua's answer was that he agreed with the school of Shammai: "...whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery" (19:9 HCSB).

But rather than appealing to Shammai's interpretation of the Law, he went directly to the Biblical text itself (19:4ff HCSB):
Haven't you read," He replied, "that He who created them in the beginning made them male and female , 5 and He also said:

For this reason a man will leave
his father and mother
and be joined to his wife,
and the two will become one flesh ?

6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate."
When they pressed him further, asking why Moses then allowed divorce at all, Yahshua responded that it was because men are hard-hearted and always looking for the next skirt. He then answered more directly the question they had been asking, by revealing his belief that Shammai was correct, and Hillel wrong.

His disciples were apparently fans of the Hillel doctrine, because they challenged Yahshua: "If it's like this, I'd rather stay single!" (19:10, paraphrased).

And Yahshua's response is sobering: "If you can live celibate, great. If not, then live by the rules."

If I'm understanding the account properly, Yahshua is not making a blanket statement that divorce is always wrong except in very narrowly-defined situations; he's saying that divorce needs a real reason, not a mamby-pamby excuse for a man to kick another human being out into the cold for his own selfish reasons.

Think about what would happen to such a "used" woman alone in that culture. How would she put food in her mouth? Where would she live? What self-respecting citizen would befriend her? Prostitution would be about the only solution she'd have. Yahshua implied this result earlier in his Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:32):
[E]veryone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
In other words, a divorce for the sake of the husband's convenience taints everyone involved.

Would Yahshua be so strictly against divorce in the 21st Century Western world, in which women have much more independence than they did in his day? I'm not smart enough to say one way or the other, but I suspect he would, for two reasons:

1) God hates divorce - Malachi 2:16

2) Yahshua did not appeal to the results of divorce as a reason to avoid it, but rather to the original design of marriage. That appeal would still apply in all cultures, regardless of the results of divorce.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Christian Philosophy on a T-shirt

Some might disagree, but I believe the t-shirt I saw earlier today epitomizes the philosophy of Jesus. It said:
Comfort those who are disturbed.
Disturb those who are comfortable.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Recovered: Missing Dog

'Reo disappeared on the 30th from around South 20th and Sayles. Today NJ got a call reporting a dog matching his description at Eula. She drove out, and ... Praise Yah! ... 'Reo is on his way home.

He's tired and worn out, but otherwise in good shape.

Now, for the rest of the story ....

Last year, 'Reo broke his elbow. Of course, it was late at night when the only vet available was the expensive Emergency Clinic. Preliminary triage at the ER convinced us that with his age, and the severity of the break, and the general lifelessness he was showing, and his increasing blindness/deafness, the sensible thing to do would have been to put him down. The ER kept him sedated over night so we could get pictures and make better decisions in the light of day. Come morning, it was obvious that although he was suffering, he still had too much life in him to put him down; we decided to amputate.

But before doing that, we tried one more vet (Dearing, out near Buffalo Gap), and learned that the surgery to attempt a repair was only another hundred and fifty or so over the $400 or so it would take to amputate, so we elected to go with the surgery. Praise Yah, he came through surgery fine, and although he's still slightly crippled, it didn't stop him from traveling twenty miles in the past week.

Then 'Reo came to stay a night with me at my house. I forgot that I had put down some rat poison earlier in the week. And 'Reo, being the vacuum-cleaner he is, found it. Rat poison is an anti-coagulant (your grandpa might be taking rat-poison pills on a daily basis), and the dosage he took would have killed him over the course of a few days when his blood-clotting ability finally allowed him to bleed out (probably internally, where it wouldn't be noticed). Of course, this was late at night, when the only vet available was the expensive Emergency Clinic. But we took him in, and they induced vomiting, and put him on a regime of Vitamin K (an anti-anti-coagulant). Praise Yah, he came through fine.

Then about three weeks later, NJ left a 6-ounce package of cocao nibs where 'Reo could find them. She had been careful all his life to keep him from chocolate, but on this day, she just missed a detail. When she came home later, she realized he had eaten all the chocolate. As many of you know, chocolate is a poison to dogs. Of course ... this happened late at night when the only vet available was the expensive Emergency Clinic. But I did my usual searching of the Internet for all I could learn, and I tried various calculations to see if he could withstand the onslaught of the poison. By the time we had discovered that he had eaten the chocolate, about 12 hours had elapsed, and as far as I could tell from the research I did, there's really not an antidote other than to make him throw up, which by now was too late, so we withheld from taking him to the ER and I just prayed that he might survive. I was particularly concerned that NJ would feel guilty if he died. I told God that if 'Reo survived, I would only be able to conclude that it was God that healed him, because as far as I could tell, that amount of poison should have killed him.

About a week after that, I had decided that God had indeed delivered him from death, and I decided to wait one more day before emailing my friends so that I could publicly (to them) give credit to God for this positive answer to my prayers. It was that night that 'Reo went missing, and I just couldn't then bring myself to praise God to my friends when now it looked as if 'Reo might have disappeared forever.

NJ, with help from Don and Jenn and others, made fliers and handed them out and put up signs and contacted newspapers and online classifieds and vet offices and made daily trips to check on the "scraped-off-the-road" and "picked-up-strays" lists.

And then today, 20 miles from where he disappeared, this old, blind, deaf, crippled dog meets up with his owner, licks her face, and heads home with her.

Praise Yah!

UPDATE: He gained 9 pounds while living out in the street. That dog can find food anywhere.

The Unity of the Church

From a posting on the "Church_of_Christ" Yahoo! Group:
"Racoon" John Smith proclaimed at the 1832 Lexinton [sic] conference for unity, "While there is but one faith, there may be ten thousand opinions; and hence if Christians are ever to be one, they must be one in faith, and not in opinion."

Monday, January 05, 2009

Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth

Let me first bring to remembrance our oft-stated claim that we adhere to the Bible, not to human-made tradition. It's important to keep in mind that even a "firm" doctrine which we've known and believed all our lives may turn out to be unBiblical. When that comes to light, we have to make a decision to retain the tradition anyway, or to let it go in favor of the Biblical view.

We've had a tradition, for centuries and centuries, that the Bible is divided into two sections: the Old Testament and the New. We even support this two-fold division by quoting 2 Tim 2:15, which says, "Study ..., rightly dividing the word of truth."

But this two-fold division is not the division known by the early church, and presented by Jesus. We know from historical/secular records that the Jews of Jesus' day divided their scriptures into a three-fold division, that of the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Nevi'im), and the Writings (Kethuvim) (or the "Tanahk", a word formed (with vowels added) by taking the first letter of each of these divisions, TNK).

When the church was established, a fourth division was added to the Holy Scriptures, that being the inspired writings of the early church.

Jesus refers to the three-fold division of the Jewish scriptures, as well as making an oblique reference to the fourth, in Luke 24:44, where he mentions:

1. the Law
2. the Prophets
3. the Psalms (representing the Writings)
4. "my words"

Why does this matter?

1) Because that's the Biblical division. This should in and of itself be sufficient as a reason to recognize a four-fold division of the Bible rather than a two-fold division.

2) Because by lumping the three-fold division of the Jewish scriptures into a single unit, we then misunderstand the teachings concerning the "old covenant".

The term "old covenant" is referenced in 2 Corinthians 3:14, where it is equated in the next verse to "Moses", and thus by implication to the Mosaic Covenant, aka the Law, aka the Torah. To extend this term to also refer to "the Prophets" and "the Writings" is to go beyond the text.

The term "old covenant" is also referenced in Hebrews 8 and 9 where it speaks of the ritual components of the Torah of Moses. To extend the term to also include "the Prophets" and "the Writings" is to go beyond the text. This term is also explained by the writer of Hebrews as the covenant referred to by Jeremiah (see next point).

Jeremiah defined the covenant which would be replaced by the new covenant, in Jer 31:31ff. In this passage, Jeremiah makes it clear that the old covenant which would be replaced by the new is the covenant which YHWH made with the Israelites at the time He brought them out of Egypt, aka the Mosaic Covenant.

This means that the 39 books we know today as the "Old Testament" (aka TNK) have not been replaced by the New Testament. Only the T portion of the TNK (or more specifically, the Mosaic Covenant portion of the T portion) has been replaced by the new covenant. Or in other words, the portions of the Tanahk which are not part of the Mosaic covenant have not been replaced by the New Covenant, but are in fact, still in effect.

We see this is true by logic: we accept the rainbow of the Noahic covenant as still being in effect, trusting that God will not flood the earth again as he did in Noah's day. (If this covenant with the inhabitants of Earth is still in effect, we are still to multiply and be fruitful, and we should still execute murderers.)

We see this is true by the doctrine of Jesus, who based his teachings concerning marriage, divorce, and remarriage on the validity of the Creation account. If that text is no longer in effect, then Jesus' teachings about marriage are no longer in effect; he did not create a new doctrine out of his own authority, but used the authority of the Creation text. Do away with that authority, and you do away with Jesus' doctrine.

We see this is true by the doctrine of Paul, who explicitly says in Galatians 3 that we are part of the Abrahamic covenant, and that the Mosaic covenant was added in as a temporary covenant, but that this temporary covenant did not nullify the first covenant. It was this temporary Mosaic covenant which was replaced by the new covenant.

We see this is true by the example of the Beroeans in Acts 17:10ff, who turned to the Tanakh as their authority in measuring the words of the apostles, and were praised as noble for doing so.

We need to stop teaching people that the Bible is divided into two portions, the man-made division of the Old Testament and the New Testament. Instead, we need to make it clear that the old covenant which was replaced by the new was the Mosaic covenant, not the 39 books we refer to as "the Old Testament".