tag:qohelet.io,2013:/posts Qohelet 2019-09-06T15:50:46Z tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1452483 2019-09-06T15:48:44Z 2019-09-06T15:50:46Z The forgotten frontier

For those of suburban Christian faith, developing the capacity for spiritual consciousness tends to be the forgotten frontier. At least that's true in the Protestant tradition in which I grew up and which I, for the most part, still inhabit. The kingdom of God belongs to the busy, to those who know how to work, to the spiritual entrepreneurs. The highest compliment to pay a young woman from the rural culture in which I was raised is: "She's a hard worker (and a good cook)." My suburban neighbors are a bit more sophisticated: "Mary is on the traveling soccer team and has the lead in the school play, and she has three hours of homework every night! Oh my God, can you believe it?"

Add to that the suburban environment of security, efficiency, and opportunities—and the overindulged self, which desperately needs all three—and spirituality morphs into activities: Bible studies, small group meetings, reading yet another best-selling book on the key to victorious Christian living, even serving at the local homeless shelter. It's the reverse, through, of what should happen. Such activities or practices should open our eyes to the larger world. Instead, they obscure it. I've always felt cheered by the comment a friend made about his prayer life: he said he didn't really like the actual act of praying much, though he loved the open space that praying created in his life for God to work.

In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Pulitzer prize-winning writer Annie Dillard writes that "the mind's muddy river, this ceaseless flow of trivia and trash, cannot be dammed, and that trying to dam it is a waste of effort that might lead to madness." The muddy river of suburban life cannot be stopped. It simply is. The muddy river of illusion cannot be escaped, really. There's not much use in moralizing about it, mocking it, thumbing your nose at it, treating it with light disdain—or sacrificing your way out of it (I'll drop everything and become a missionary or move to a Wisconsin cabin to live the simple life)....

You can try to slow down your life, adjust your lifestyle downward, give more, pray more. Another study group, another stint on a church committee, another year as the nursery coordinator, another mission trip to a Third World country—all good things—but not necessarily superhighways to the deeper life....

For centuries, the classic spiritual disciplines and practices enlarged the capacity of ordinary people to engage the Sacred. Spiritual practices are not really a direct route to an awakened God-consciousness. Some days, they seem stupid, quite worthless, even just one of the many activities that keep me from God. Yet over time they awaken us to a brave new world that is, ultimately, more satisfying and true to who we are than is what we encounter without them....

... [But] [d]oesn't Jesus require something more radical? Doesn't Jesus demand immediate results, fresh sacrifice, more doing?....

But more what? More sacrifice? More church activities? ... The Protestant tradition loves the heroic call to sacrifice all for the kingdom of God. But the call to sacrifice often feeds, ultimately, mostly the ego.... The kingdom of God often appears plain, ordinary, small, in the moment.

David L. Goetz, Death by Suburb: How to Keep the Suburbs from Killing Your Soul (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2006), 14–17.]]>
Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451954 2019-09-05T00:41:48Z 2019-09-05T01:14:11Z The pursuit of happiness

Medieval people believed with great seriousness that final happiness lay on the other side of death. They did not expect it in its fullness on this earth. But the methods of modern science provide no grounds for belief that there is anything beyond death. Hence, the whole freight of human happiness has to be carried in the few short and uncertain years that are allowed to us before death ends it all. The quest for happiness becomes that much more hectic, more fraught with anxiety than it was to the people of the Middle Ages.

There is a further implication of the emergence of the concept of human rights.... [T]he concept would have been meaningless in an earlier age. "Rights" only exist where there is a legal and social structure that defines them. Anyone can, of course, assert a need or express a wish apart from such a legal or social structure. But a claim to a right must rest upon some juridical basis. Asserting a right where there is no such basis would be like writing a check on a nonexistent bank. Therefore, if the right of every person to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is asserted, one has to ask, "Who is under obligation to honor the claim?" In the Middle Ages the answer was found within the network of reciprocal rights and duties. The man farming the land had a duty to provide troops to fight his lord's battle and a corresponding right to his lord's protection. Duties and rights were reciprocal. One could not exist without the other, and all were finite. But the quest for happiness is infinite. Who, then, has the infinite duty to honor the infinite claims of every person to the pursuit of happiness? The answer of the eighteenth century, and of those who have followed, is familiar: it is the nation-state. The nation-state replaces the holy church and the holy empire as the centerpiece in the post-Enlightenment ordering of society. Upon it devolves the duty of providing the means for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And since the pursuit of happiness is endless, the demands upon the state are without limit. If—for modern Western peoples—nature has taken the place of God as the ultimate reality with which we have to deal, the nation-state has taken the place of God as the source to which we look for happiness, health, and welfare.

Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), 26–7.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451951 2019-09-05T00:13:48Z 2019-09-05T00:13:48Z Books are carefully folded forests
Books are carefully folded forests
void of autumn
bound from the
sun
Saul Williams, , said the shotgun to the head (New York: Pocket Books, 2003), 8.]]>
Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451665 2019-09-04T04:32:38Z 2019-09-04T04:33:26Z Only a prehistory
[In] natural science and technology, the history of their discoveries is not an essential part of themselves, but only a prehistory. Only the datum is significant, not how it came to be. In much the same way, the history of exegesis has degenerated for the [contemporary] exegetes into a prehistory with which their own efforts are not directly concerned.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), Part 1, Section 2 E, p. 133 (emphasis added), as cited in Mary S. Ford, The Soul's Longing: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Biblical Interpretation (Waymart, Pennsylvania: St. Tikhon's Monastery Press, 2015), 165.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451664 2019-05-19T17:00:00Z 2019-09-04T04:23:31Z Following instructions

My oldest daughter just turned four. In preparation for her birthday party, we instructed her that if someone gave her a gift containing something she already owns, she should simply say thank you (and not point out that she already owns it).

At the party, someone gave her a few books and she already had all but one of them. She began to speak but caught herself, then I could see the little gears in her head turning. She then said, “Mommy, I don’t have this one!”

She followed our instructions to the best of her ability, and it was hilarious.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451663 2019-05-03T17:00:00Z 2019-09-05T01:31:08Z We are living through a moment of extreme irrationality

“To some extent, of course, politics has always played out, even in the most enlightened times, through visuals and suggestions, through hints and insinuations, and has always gone to work on us at an affective level. But new tools for carrying this work out, tools that combine both creative imagination and technical expertise, have ceded an outsized responsibility for our political destiny to the technologically literate but argumentatively sub-literate, to the meme-makers, to online subcultural insiders. It should not be altogether surprising that these sectors of society were not necessarily prepared to wield their new, tremendous power in a responsible way.

“We are living through a moment of extreme irrationality, of fervency and ebullience, of destabilization and fear. An important part of the story of how we arrived here seems to be the collapse of traditional safeguards for the preservation of rational procedures and deliberation.... Again, there are many people who evidently welcome this turn. It is rather those who value caution and reserve who feel suddenly as if they belong to another era, and have woken up to find their concerns, their habits—in short, their world—simply gone. It is those who have a weakness for legitimation from a crumbling establishment, from what will soon be the ancien régime, who have the most to lose, those who seek to preserve the old way of doing things: maintaining subscriptions to print media, publishing books, getting humanities degrees, supporting mainstream candidates in mainstream political parties, listening to well-reasoned arguments. These are the people who likely feel the sharpest disappointment at the seizure of the internet by the forces of aggression and chaos, at a moment when we can still hear echoing, from the most recent past, the grandest claims about its power to serve us as an engine for the rational ordering of human life in society....

“... we have most recently discovered the irrationality at the heart of the algorithm, or at least the impossibility of applying algorithms to human life while avoiding their weaponization by the forces of irrationality.”

Justin E. H. Smith, Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason (Princeton University Press: 2019), 17-18.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451662 2018-06-11T17:00:00Z 2019-09-04T04:18:57Z Myths about capitalism Check out Dr. C. Clark Carlton's podcast entitled, "My Two Cents on Capitalism". Both the audio and a written transcript are available.]]> Dan tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451661 2018-06-10T17:00:00Z 2019-09-04T04:17:13Z Discerning the Messenger

Western thought frequently examines messages independently of their messengers (even insisting on the inherent value of such an "objective" approach). But in the spiritual life, discerning the identity of the Messenger is of utmost importance, regardless of any abstract merits of the message itself.

"All things are lawful for me," but not all things are beneficial. "All things are lawful for me," but not all things build up.1

I'm frequently guilty of this when interpreting Scripture. Having been trained in the methodology and tools of historical criticism, I turn to my own reason and the interpretations of the academic guild before seeking the voice of God and listening to the Church Fathers.

Humanity's interpretative choice

This is an ancient problem that precedes East and West. It goes back to the foundations of humanity:

And the Lord God commanded Adam, saying, "You shall eat for food of every tree that is in the orchard, but of the tree for knowing good and evil, of it you shall not eat; on the day that you eat of it, you shall die by death...."

And the snake said to the woman, "Why is it that God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree that is in the orchard'?" And the woman said to the snake, "We shall eat of the fruit of the tree of the orchard, but of the fruit that is in the middle of the orchard, God said, 'You shall not eat of it nor shall you even touch it, lest you die.'" And the snake said to the woman, "You will not die by death, for God knew that on the day you eat of it, your eyes would be opened, and you would be like gods knowing good and evil." And the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was pleasing for the eyes to look at and it was beautiful to contemplate, and when she had taken of its fruits she ate, and she also gave some to her husband with her, and they ate.2

Dr. Mary Ford offers a great perspective on Eve's decision:

In this account, Eve is faced with two interpretations of reality.... One interpretation of this fruit and why it was forbidden was given by God, Who created Eve and everything else, and another one was given by the serpent, a fellow creature....

Eve, we could say, at this point decides that all that matters is the "text" alone—the two interpretations or statements made—along with how things look on the surface to her own eyes, which is only the superficial, physical reality. Apparently she doesn't stop to consider who it is giving each interpretation, and what her relationship is with each interpreter. Like many modern-day commentators, she thinks that interpretation can be impersonal, "objective." "Don't ask God about this," the serpent implies; "He is not trustworthy. He doesn't really love you. He doesn't really want the best for you." Then he implies, "And don't ask Adam, either. Judge for yourself—you don't need others to help you discern the truth."

The fruit really is beautiful. It looks good to Eve, and what the serpent says seems reasonable to her "unaided reason," so she decides to accept the interpretation he offers, and to act on his statement—an action which the serpent implies she can make completely independently. However, Eve doesn't realize that in choosing the serpent's interpretation, and in acting with her supposed autonomy, she in fact chooses communion with the serpent over, and instead of, communion with God and her husband.3

Dr. Ford goes on to quote St. Gregory the Theologian:

...[T]he tree of knowledge was not planted originally with any evil intent, nor was it forbidden in a spirit of jealousy. Let not the enemies of God make any such suggestion or think to imitate the serpent. On the contrary, it was good if eaten at the right time; for as I understand it, the fruit was contemplation, which is only safely attempted by those who have attained a more perfect state. But it was not good for those at a lower stage of development, ... just as mature food is not profitable for those of tender years who still need milk.4

She then notes:

...[I]t was entirely right for Eve to want to be godlike—that was God's plan all along. What was wrong was wanting this apart from God, and on her own terms and timetable.5

Humanity chose the creation over the Creator, independently evaluating the interpretation of the snake without considering our relationship with the interpreters.

A short story

     Faysal had never experienced a vision from God, but he believed such things were possible. He found it perplexing that his friend Roya claimed to have had one. She seemed so confident the vision was from God, but Faysal wondered if she was mentally ill or otherwise being deceived. His pastor had never dealt with this before, but encouraged Faysal to practice discernment by comparing the message of the vision to the Bible. But the message seemed so personal and didn't really conflict with any Bible verses Faysal could find.
     He knew of an old hermit at a local monastery who daily sought God in prayer and decided to ask him for help the following morning. Perhaps he might have some guidance, Faysal hoped.
     The next morning, Faysal went to visit the hermit, and asked how he could discern whether his friend's vision was from God or not. He explained how he had looked up various Bible verses related to the message of the vision but wasn't sure if any of it applied. After patiently listening to Faysal's concerns, the hermit asked him, "Does Roya know God?"
     "Well sure, she's gone to church her whole life," Faysal replied.
     The hermit smiled and said, "It seems you've been focusing solely on the contents of the vision, rather than on the identity of the messenger. If the vision is from God, then there is no reason for concern."
     Faysal objected, "Well, surely some messages would clearly conflict with God's Word and be evidence of deception."
     The hermit paused for a moment. Then he asked, "Do you have any children, Faysal?"
     "Yes, a son," he answered.
     "If God spoke to you in a vision, and in that vision told you to murder your son, would you say that vision is not from God?"
     Faysal shot back, "Of course that vision wouldn't be from from God! It violates God's commandment not to murder!"
     "And yet," the hermit replied gently, "Abraham obeyed God's voice when given this very message as a test, and God blessed him because of his faith and obedience." He continued, "Wouldn't you agree that the messenger, and the recipient's relationship with him, is of utmost importance?"6

Footnotes

1 1 Corinthians 10:23.

2 Genesis 2:16–17; 3:1b–6, NETS (LXX).

3 Mary S. Ford, The Soul's Longing: An Orthodox Christian Perspective on Biblical Interpretation (Waymart, Pennsylvania: St. Tikhon's Monastery Press, 2015), 50–51.

4 Oration 45:8 on Easter; excerpt given by Panayiotis Nellas, Deification in Christ: The Nature of the Human Person (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1987), 204; as quoted in Ford, 51.

5 Ford, 51.

6 This story was inspired by Ford, especially the above-quoted paragraphs and pp. 53–55. Full disclosure: I don't write fiction. I apologize for the wooden dialogue.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451660 2018-06-09T17:00:00Z 2019-09-04T04:12:19Z Irrational residue
For St. Basil, not the divine essence alone but also created essences could not be expressed in concepts. In contemplating any object we analyse its properties: it is this which enables us to form concepts. But this analysis can in no case exhaust the content of the object of perception. There will always remain an 'irrational residue' which escapes analysis and which cannot be expressed in concepts; it is the unknowable depth of things, that which constitutes their true, indefinable essence. In regard to the names which we apply to God, these reveal his energies which descend towards us yet do not draw us closer to his essence, which is inaccessible.

Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997), 33.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451659 2018-06-02T17:00:00Z 2019-09-04T04:10:56Z Hermeneutic of love

Whoever, then, thinks that he understands the Holy Scriptures, or any part of them, but puts such an interpretation upon them as does not tend to build up this twofold love of God and our neighbor, does not yet understand them as he ought. If, on the other hand, a man draws a meaning from them that may be used for the building up of love, even though he does not happen upon the precise meaning which the author whom he reads intended to express in that place, his error is not pernicious, and he is wholly clear from the charge of deception. For there is involved in deception the intention to say what is false; and we find plenty of people who intend to deceive, but nobody who wishes to be deceived....

Whoever takes another meaning out of Scripture than the writer intended, goes astray, but not through any falsehood in Scripture. Nevertheless, as I was going to say, if his mistaken interpretation tends to build up love, which is the end of the commandment, he goes astray in much the same way as a man who by mistake quits the high road, but yet reaches through the fields the same place to which the road leads. He is to be corrected, however, and to be shown how much better it is not to quit the straight road, lest, if he get into a habit of going astray, he may sometimes take cross roads, or even go in the wrong direction altogether.

For if he takes up rashly a meaning which the author whom he is reading did not intend, he often falls in with other statements which he cannot harmonize with this meaning. And if he admits that these statements are true and certain, then it follows that the meaning he had put upon the former passage cannot be the true one: and so it comes to pass, one can hardly tell how, that, out of love for his own opinion, he begins to feel more angry with Scripture than he is with himself. And if he should once permit that evil to creep in, it will utterly destroy him. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Now faith will totter if the authority of Scripture begin to shake. And then, if faith totter, love itself will grow cold. For if a man has fallen from faith, he must necessarily also fall from love; for he cannot love what he does not believe to exist. But if he both believes and loves, then through good works, and through diligent attention to the precepts of morality, he comes to hope also that he shall attain the object of his love. And so these are the three things to which all knowledge and all prophecy are subservient: faith, hope, love....

And thus a man who is resting upon faith, hope and love, and who keeps a firm hold upon these, does not need the Scriptures except for the purpose of instructing others. Accordingly, many live without copies of the Scriptures, even in solitude, on the strength of these three graces. So that in their case, I think, the saying is already fulfilled: “Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” Yet by means of these instruments (as they may be called), so great an edifice of faith and love has been built up in them, that, holding to what is perfect, they do not seek for what is only in part perfect—of course, I mean, so far as is possible in this life; for, in comparison with the future life, the life of no just and holy man is perfect here. Therefore the apostle says: “Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity:” because, when a man shall have reached the eternal world, while the other two graces will fail, love will remain greater and more assured.

Augustine of Hippo, "On Christian Doctrine," in St. Augustine’s City of God and Christian Doctrine, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. J. F. Shaw, vol. 2, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1887), Book I, Chapters 36-9, pp. 533-4.

You can read this work beginning at Book I, chapter 36, for free on CCEL by clicking here.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451657 2018-03-31T17:00:00Z 2019-09-04T04:09:05Z Strong's Concordance is a great resource, but it's not a lexicon

Strong's Concordance is a helpful tool that lists every Hebrew and Greek lemma (root word) present in the King James Bible (and it has been edited to conform to other translations as well, albeit usually with the original numbering system). Along with listing these, the tool also generally gives a 'gloss' for each word (some tools actually link Strong's Concordance to lexicons such as Thayer's Greek-English lexicon). The tool is popular because it is free on many Bible-related websites. With that said, I'd like to give some advice (and caution) to anyone who relies on this tool for original languages research in the biblical texts.

Using a concordance as a lexicon is problematic

It's like trying to hammer a nail in using a screwdriver—it's simply the wrong tool for the job.

A lexicon gives an inventory of all of the lexemes in a given language; Strong's Concordance is based only on a specific English translation (the KJV). Lexicons also function as dictionaries in that they define lexemes from the original language using English words that best capture their meaning, explaining any relevant grammatical features that impact their translation.

While Strong's Concordance gives a gloss for each lemma, this is not the main purpose of this tool and as such should not be used as a lexicon nor as a dictionary (a collection of glosses is rightly called a 'glossary'). Here are a few reasons why it is problematic to use Strong's Concordance as a lexicon:

  • Lexical ambiguity: Consider the following sentence: "She is looking for a match." Is the subject trying to light a candle or find a romantic partner? The 'gloss' definition here is ambiguous and gives us no help disambiguating the meaning in this context. Grammatical features should also be examined, which Strong's Concordance offers no help with.1
  • Nuances of meaning: Sometimes there is more than one meaning listed for a term (this is often the case for prepositions, but there are also verbs that change meaning depending on their voice and other grammatical features). Strong's Concordance offers no help when determining which (if any) gloss is most appropriate in context. Often knowledge of the original languages is required to determine what grammatical and contextual features are present in order to determine the correct gloss (if any). Also, authors can use the same word differently in various contexts.

The meaning of a lexeme is that intended by the author using it. Strong's Concordance often sheds little light on what this meaning is in context. Therefore, providing the meaning of a specific word in a given context on the basis of the Strong's Concordance is not a reliable claim, nor is challenging an existing English translation solely on the basis of a gloss from Strong's Concordance.

Etymological fallacies

I often see folks try to determine the meaning of words in specific contexts using their root lemmata. The problem here is that etymology and the later meaning of a word are often orthogonal concepts. Here are some examples:

Etymology is not the primary tool for understanding the meaning of a word in a specific context, and it is often meaningless when making such a determination.

What if Strong's Concordance is linked to a lexicon?

Several free online tools have linked Strong's Concordance entries to lexicon entries. Unfortunately, most of them use either Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon or Smith's Bible Dictionary for definitions, both of which were published prior to 1895. These resources are now considered to be obsolete by scholars (and contain much inaccurate information):

"...in 1895, Adolf Deissmann published his Bibelstudien - an innocently titled work that was to revolutionize the study of the NT. In this work (later translated into English under the title Bible Studies) Deissmann showed that the Greek of the NT was not a language invented by the Holy Spirit (Hermann Cremer had called it "Holy Ghost Greek," largely because 10 percent of its vocabulary had no secular parallels). Rather, Deissmann demonstrated that the bulk of NT vocabulary was to be found in the papyri.

The pragmatic effect of Deissmann's work was to render obsolete virtually all lexica and lexical commentaries written before the turn of the century. (Thayer's lexicon, published in 1886, was outdated shortly after it came off the press - yet, ironically, it is still relied on today by many NT students.)"2

Smith's Bible Dictionary was last updated in 1893 and is therefore subject to the same limitations as Thayer's lexicon.

These are so popular because their copyright expired and so they are generally free to use, but unfortunately they are now largely obsolete.

How to properly use Strong's Concordance

Strong's Concordance can be used effectively as an index of the occurrences of a lemma in the original languages of the biblical texts (at least in those manuscripts used by the King James Bible, which is a limitation of this tool, although some later revisions of it have addressed this to some extent). It's a great tool for identifying other occurrences of a lemma by using it's number (as this does not require that you can actually read the alphabet of the original language). This makes an original languages concordance accessible to those who cannot read those languages.

The gloss definition given by the concordance (or even a definition given by an outdated lexicon) can be helpful here in giving a general understanding of the lemma's meaning, but this should not be used as the sole source to justify the meaning or definition of the word in a specific textual context. However, it can help you see how the word has been translated in its other occurrences, which can give you a broader understanding of its semantic range and how it is generally interpreted in similar contexts (using multiple English Bible translations will help catch differences and nuances of meaning, which can lead to good questions about the meaning of lemmata in specific contexts, where someone versed in the original language can assist you in better understanding the passage). Pay close attention to differences in grammar, author, audience, genre, and historical setting as these can all influence the meaning of a lemma in a specific context.

Concluding warnings and encouragement

Strong's Concordance is an index of occurrences of a lemma in the original language of the biblical texts, it is not a lexicon/dictionary (and thus is not a reliable source for the meaning of a lexeme in a specific context). However, this tool is a great resource for those who wish to better understand how a lemma has been understood by English Bible translators in its other occurrences, and biblical study conducted using Strong's Concordance can provide the impetus for many good questions about the biblical texts where someone trained in the original language(s) can assist you further with understanding the meaning of a lexeme in a specific text of interest (perhaps your interest in these questions will even drive you to study the original languages for yourself!).


Notes

This article has been adapted from one of my posts on the Biblical Hermeneutics Meta Stack Exchange site. Stack Exchange user contributions are licensed under cc by-sa 3.0 with attribution required.This article was heavily influenced by a series of blog posts that address this superbly on the Armchair Theology site.

Footnotes

1 I took a course on the Bible during my undergraduate program where a classmate argued that the woman in Luke 8:43-44 had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) on the basis of the King James Version translation and corresponding Strong's Concordance gloss. The relevant text in the KJV translation reads, "And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years ... Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched." She understood 'issue' to refer to a 'problem in' the woman's blood, rather than as (the correct understanding of the Greek text which is) 'the flowing or coming out' of blood from the woman's body, i.e. hemorrhaging (likely a medical condition related to menstruation).2 Daniel B. Wallace. The Basics of New Testament Syntax: An Intermediate Greek Grammar. Zondervan, 2000, p. 21.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451656 2018-03-29T19:00:00Z 2019-09-04T04:04:16Z Tradition vs. Traditionalism
Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.

Jaroslav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition: The 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984), 65.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451655 2018-03-29T17:00:00Z 2019-09-04T04:03:22Z The engineer's perspective on "the glass"
To the optimist, the glass is half-full. To the pessimist, the glass is half-empty. To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

Source unknown

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451654 2018-03-23T21:00:00Z 2019-09-04T04:02:20Z The paradigm is the problem

The economic paradigm of human organization doesn’t care. About life. Yours, mine, our grandkids, our planet’s. In any of it’s three aspects: not it’s potential, nor it’s possibility, nor it’s reality—life a beautiful and universal quest for self-realization. It’s sole end is maximizing immediate income. It doesn’t care if you’re happy or miserable, if you’re fulfilled or hollow, if you’re humane and gentle and wise or cruel and brutish and spiteful, if you flourish or wither as a human being, if the oceans dry up and die or teem joyously, if the skies turn to ash, if if you, me, our grandkids, or the planet, dies young or old, or if any of us live or die at all, in fact. It just doesn’t care. It wasn’t designed to. Thus, all that possibility, all that potential, is never realized: it’s used up to maximize immediate income. More and more, maximizing immediate income minimizes life’s potential....

Climate change happens when the planet’s well-being is used up to maximize immediate income. Stagnation happens when people’s well-being is used up to maximize immediate income. Inequality happens when a society’s well-being is used up to maximize immediate income. And extremism is a result of all that ripping yesterday’s stable and prosperous social contracts to shreds. Today’s great global problems are just surface manifestations of the same underlying breakdown — a badly, fatally, irreparably broken paradigm of human organization.

The paradigm is the problem. A solely, paradigmatically, one-dimensional economic approach to human organization. That old, rusting, busted, industrial-age, economic paradigm is what’s created the Massive Existential Threats the world faces today. The single-minded pursuit of maximizing short-term income (versus, for example, optimizing long-run well-being) is what’s ignited inequality, stagnation, climate change, and extremism—and the later problems that are likely to stem from them.

And so—it’s no coincidence—here we are. Desperately clutching the controls in a nose dive of human possibility. But the controls don’t seem to work anymore, do they?

Umair Haque, "The Story: Life, the World, Now, You, and Me" (Eudaimonia & Co. blog, Sep. 14, 2017), retrieved from https://eand.co/the-story-eea04d97062b.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451653 2018-03-23T18:00:00Z 2019-09-04T04:00:43Z Why we’re underestimating American collapse

I recommend reading:

Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse: The Strange New Pathologies of the World’s First Rich Failed State

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451652 2018-03-20T17:00:00Z 2019-09-04T03:58:30Z True criticism of a dogma
The true criticism of a dogma is its history.

David Friedrich Strauss

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451651 2018-03-15T17:00:00Z 2019-09-04T03:57:29Z Jesus didn't hold on to any rights

"We carefully respect your choices, so we work within your systems even while we seek to free you from them.... Creation has been taken down a very different path than we desired. In your world the value of the individual is constantly weighed against the survival of the system, whether political, economic, social, or religious—any system, actually. First one person, then a few, and finally even many are easily sacrificed for the good and ongoing existence of that system. In one form or another this lies behind every struggle for power, every prejudice, every war, and every abuse of relationship. The 'will to power and independence' has become so ubiquitous that it is now considered normal...."

" ... Jesus didn't hold on to any rights. He willingly became a servant and lives out of his relationship to Papa. He gave up everything, so that by his dependent life he opened a door that would allow you to live free enough to give up your rights."

Wm. Paul Young, The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity (Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007), 125-6, 139.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451650 2017-08-20T17:00:00Z 2019-09-04T03:55:56Z I am gravely disappointed with the white moderate

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: "All Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.

Martin Luther King, Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" (letter dated April 16, 1963). Retrieved from the University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center website.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451645 2017-06-23T17:00:00Z 2019-09-04T03:54:21Z Forgetting our inheritance
A classical inheritance is all around us, recognized or unrecognized. Yet there has been no period since the Renaissance which is as intent on forgetting the classical past as today. The images and language that flooded the minds of previous generations now need a guidebook. A painting of a classical myth must have an explanation on its museum label, every classical reference in a poem needs a footnote. What for centuries was the foundation of Western culture, a shared resource of the imagination, has been systematically uprooted in modern educational systems across the West, with inevitable consequences for public culture. Modernity has come to mean amnesia—amnesia about the past, about cultural tradition, about the passions and interests of our own history. Like adolescents who believe themselves the first to discover swear-words and sex, and who can only stare with incomprehension at their parents' desires, modern culture finds it hard to notice that it is forgetting its inheritance.

Simon Goldhill. Love, Sex & Tragedy: How the Ancient World Shapes Our Lives (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 2.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451644 2017-03-27T17:00:00Z 2019-09-04T03:53:01Z Adrift on a sea of anxiety

A seemingly rudderless and anchorless society has cast us all adrift on a sea of anxiety. And man, being in honor, did not understand; he is compared to the mindless cattle, and is become like unto them (Ps. 48:12). This condition makes us ripe to fall for the old adage, "any port in a storm," and that is just what we do. By the thousands, the millions, we give ourselves to whatever seems to offer some sense of identity or direction, some meaning to life, be that what it may: a life of sensual indulgence, politically correct social activism or the superficial "spirituality" of the self-help league. Even self-immolation upon the altar of the false god of nihilism is to be preferred to the frightening emptiness and naked despair which threatens to overwhelm our fragile hold upon reality.

Why do ye spend money for that which is not bread and labor for that which satisfieth not? (Is. 55:2). These words of the Prophet Isaiah may echo in our ears, yet one who is starving will eat whatever food is offered, even if it be rotten or mixed with poison. This is all the more true of the spiritually starving generation being raised now amidst the enthralling global culture of apostasy; a spiritual famine for the Life-giving Word of God has come upon us.

St. Theophan the Recluse, The Spiritual Life and How to be Attuned to It, tr. Alexandra Dockham (Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1995), 25-6.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451643 2017-01-31T18:00:00Z 2019-09-04T03:51:14Z Layers of meaning in Scripture

Origen experiences none of the anxiety that we moderns might feel about fixing the meaning of the text with one sense. The truth of the interpretation seems to depend not on making sure we have seen some thing that is really there in the text. Its truth, rather, seems to come from a sense of fit: does the spiritual meaning fit details of the text, other texts in other parts of Scripture, proper Christian doctrine, and ethics? No doctrine of particular ethical proposition is founded simply on this text or one of the interpretations. The allegorical reading is an expansion of meaning into other realms of Christian truth, not the exclusion of a literal meaning or the foundation of new knowledge.

This observation does raise a problem, especially for many of us modern readers. If the meaning derived from the text is not foundationally a source for Christian doctrine or ethics that can be used over against other sources of knowledge, such as doctrine, tradition, or experience, but is rather one expansion of Christian meaning along with all others, how can we avoid simply reading Scripture to reinforce some kind of Christian bubble we already live in? . . . If Scripture is part of Christian culture, rather than the thing that will challenge or change Christian culture, how can Scripture work to correct or reform the church or ourselves?

The answer to this problem is again in remembering the necessity of human agency for the interpretation of Scripture and the advocacy of reform, correction, or change. We may avoid living in our own Christian bubble and simply reinforcing our already held beliefs and prejudices not by seeking a source for knowledge in the independent meaning of the text, but by listening to one another and even to others outside Christianity. We allow others to challenge our readings. We work ourselves to see Scripture always anew. We profit from our imaginations and the imaginations of other human readers, and we trust in the providence of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to shake us out of Christian complacency.

Dale B. Martin. Pedagogy of the Bible: An Analysis and Proposal (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), location 839 (Kindle edition).

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451642 2017-01-27T23:30:00Z 2019-09-04T03:49:05Z Perfection isn't fullness

St. Irenaeus stated that God did not create human beings "perfect" at the outset, and he offered various reasons why.

He suggested, for instance, that Adam and Eve, whom he depicts as infants in paradise, needed to grow in order to achieve perfection, the fullness of being human to which they were called by God. For example, a mother could give a newborn child meat rather than milk, though this would not benefit the infant at all. Likewise, God could have given us a full share in his life and existence from the beginning—but we would not have been able to receive such a magnificent gift, without being prepared by learning through experience.

A newborn infant may have "perfect" limbs, but needs to exercise (and to fall) before being able to walk and to run; so, too, creatures need to be exercised in virtue before they can share in the uncreated life of God.

John Behr. Becoming Human: Meditations on Christian Anthropology in Word and Image (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2013), 58-9.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451641 2017-01-27T23:00:00Z 2019-09-04T03:47:30Z The lack of unanimity in historical Jesus research

Many have remarked, with some chagrin, in the sundry conclusions of academics writing books and articles on the historical Jesus. The lack of unanimity bothers me less than it may others, for historical and religious studies belong not to the sciences but to the humanities, and waiting for a consensus on any noteworthy subject within the latter is like waiting for Godot. The main point here, however, is that the traditional criteria, which were devised as checks and balances for our subjectivity, have not delivered. The scope of diversity proves that we are still as embedded as ever in that subjectivity. All our methodological erudition, our repeated attempts to refine and heed criteria, have failed to impose order on our discipline: the Jesus of one book often does not look much like the Jesus of another book, even when those books employ more or less the same method. Surely we are no closer to any uniformity of results to-day than we would have been had we never heard of dissimilarity, multiple attestation, coherence, and embarrassment.

Doing history, which is an art requiring imagination and conjecture, cannot be identified with the mechanical observances of directives. The rules of chemistry mean that, if you follow the instructions, you will get the same result as everybody else. The criteria of authenticity are more like the rules of language: you can use them to say just about anything.

Dale C. Allison, Jr. The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009), location 762 (Kindle edition).

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451640 2017-01-27T22:00:00Z 2019-09-05T00:07:01Z On nationalism and pledging allegiance

[There is] an impulse that can be dated back to the beginnings of the modern era and the rise of the state. Before the latter’s ascent, memberships in various social settings were overlapping and varied, ranging from families, neighborhoods, townships, boroughs, regions, guilds, Church (parish and Catholic), nation, even empire.

The state undermined competing allegiances by demanding primary allegiance to itself alone, and only secondarily and ‘voluntarily’ to these preexisting institutions. Such memberships became less and less ‘constitutive.’ Rather, such associations and memberships came to be viewed as secondary to our primary allegiance to a State that reserves the right to control, oversee, and define any other institution....

The only liberty that could be recognized was the liberty of individuals to 'pursue his or her own ends.' The ancient rights, privileges, immunities and liberties of institutions—the Church, universities, guilds, localities—were redescribed as forms of oppression. The increased power, even intrusiveness, of the state, was justified not as a form of oppression, but rather in the name of liberation of the individual....

During the bloody twentieth century, the Church stood against the totalitarian ambitions of Fascism and Communism. A third ideology is clearly flexing its muscles today—threatening to make those victories of the last century merely Pyrrhic. The totalitarian impulse today is embedded in the very logic of liberalism, which seeks to expand its dominion into every aspect of life and against every competitor to its demand for the exclusive allegiance of individuals. We need to keep firmly in mind the picture that adorns the Leviathan, and resist our absorption as individuals into the body of the state by retaining deep, abiding, and even primary allegiance to family, locality, and Church.

Patrick J. Deneen, "President Obama's Campaign For Leviathin" (First Things blog, October 3, 2012).

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451638 2017-01-27T21:30:00Z 2019-09-04T03:44:25Z The Religion of the Market
[For] all of the religions of the world, however they differ from one another, the religion of The Market has become the most formidable rival, the more so because it is rarely recognized as a religion. The traditional religions and the religion of the global market ... hold radically different views of nature. In Christianity and Judaism, for example, "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and all that dwell therein." The Creator appoints human beings as stewards and gardeners but, as it were, retains title to the earth.... In The Market religion, however, human beings, more particularly those with money, own anything they buy and—within certain limits—can dispose of anything they choose.

Harvey Cox, "The Market as God," Atlantic Monthly, March 1999, 18-23.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451637 2017-01-27T20:00:00Z 2019-09-04T03:42:58Z Epistemological humility or potluck?
The Emergents confuse incomprehensibility with agnosticism, while they make mystery into an excuse for doubting divinely revealed propositions, and they pervert paradox by denying the very ground on which it is created: an a priori commitment to absolute, logically consistent Truth. Their doubting is not any kind of "epistemological humility"—it's intellectual (and spiritual) suicide. Finally, Emergents repudiate logic while simultaneously angling the conclusions of their own humanistic reason against the Scriptures. It's an epistemological potluck on the village green, complete with half-baked chicken, stale heresy-crackers and the moldy rolls of relativism. I've also heard the salad isn't too fresh.

"Recovering Orthodox Epistemology — An Open Letter to Conservative Evangelicals", THEOparadox blog (December 4, 2009), retrieved from http://theoparadox.blogspot.com/2009/12/recovering-orthodox-epistemology-open.html

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451636 2017-01-27T19:00:00Z 2019-09-04T03:40:34Z The life cycle of a theory
In the life cycle of a theory, it starts off simple and then gets fancier and fancier, as brainy thinkers mount objections and the theory's proponents develop a more subtle, complex, and well-defended theory to stave them off. Then it dies. Actually, before it dies, it lives in a special preserve for theories too complicated to survive in the wild, called a university.

Eric Kaplan, Does Santa Exist? A Philosophical Investigation (New York: Penguin Group, 2014), 39.

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451635 2017-01-27T18:00:00Z 2019-09-04T03:38:24Z Reading multiple perspectives
Read and listen to one thinker and you become a clone; read two and you become confused; read ten and you get your own voice; read a hundred and you start to become wise.

Timothy Keller

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451633 2017-01-05T18:00:00Z 2019-09-04T03:36:58Z Knowledge as treasure on earth
"What happened was, I got the idea in my head—and I could not get it out—that college was just one more dopey, inane place in the world dedicated to piling up treasure on earth and everything. I mean treasure is treasure, for heaven's sake. What's the difference whether the treasure is money, or property, or even culture, or even just plain knowledge? It all seemed like exactly the same thing to me, if you take off the wrapping—and it still does! Sometimes I think that knowledge—when it's knowledge for knowledge's sake, anyway—is the worst of all. The least excusable, certainly.... I don't think it would have all got me so down if just once in a while—just once in a while—there was at least some polite little perfunctory implication that knowledge should lead to wisdom, and that if it doesn't, it's just a disgusting waste of time! But there never is! You never even hear any hints dropped on a campus that wisdom is supposed to be the goal of knowledge."

J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1961), 146-7. Franny is speaking the quote in the story "Zooey".

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Dan
tag:qohelet.io,2013:Post/1451632 2016-12-30T21:30:00Z 2019-09-04T03:35:16Z I can permit myself to understand another person
I have found it of enormous value when I can permit myself to understand another person. The way in which I have worded this statement may seem strange to you. Is it necessary to permit oneself to understand another? I think that it is. Our first reaction to most of the statements which we hear from other people is an immediate evaluation, or judgment, rather than an understanding of it. When someone expresses some feeling or attitude or belief, our tendency is, almost immediately, to feel "That's right"; or "That's stupid"; "That's abnormal"; "That's unreasonable"; "That's incorrect"; "That's not nice." Very rarely do we permit ourselves to understand precisely what the meaning of his statement is to him. I believe this is because understanding is risky. If I let myself really understand another person, I might be changed by that understanding. And we all fear change. So as I say, it is not an easy thing to permit oneself to understand an individual, to enter thoroughly and completely and empathically into his frame of reference. It is also a rare thing.

Carl Rogers. On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy (New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995), 17-18.

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Dan