Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Pope and Mary

(continuing from the last post)
The middle questions don't concern me too much. I did want to analyze the last one:
"At the cross we witness a poignant dialogue between Jesus and his mother in which Jesus says to Mary: 'Behold your son”, and to John, 'Behold your mother.'"
This is entry into what could cause a big debate on the role of Mary. But it starts out well:
"These words of Jesus are, above all, a very human act. We see Jesus as a true man who makes a human act, an act of love for His mother, entrusting the mother to the young John so that she might be safe. A woman living alone in the East at that time was an impossible situation. He entrusts his mother to this young man and to this young man he gives his mother, therefore Jesus actually acts as a human with a deeply human sentiment. This seems very beautiful to me, very important, that before any theology we see in this act the true humanity of Jesus, his true humanism."
That is very true. The first application is always to those people at that time, in that context. We must cross connect many different things to go further.

But he goes on:
"it is also true that this Mother expresses the Church. We cannot be Christians alone, following a Christianity based on our own ideas. The Mother is the image of the Church, the Mother Church, and entrusting ourselves to Mary means we must also entrust ourselves to the Church"
Of course, this is not new. The Eastern Orthodox are even more extreme in their Mariology (if that is imaginable). It is of course, very hard to understand Biblically. Nowhere in the Bible is the Church referred to as Mother. In fact, nowhere is there talk of a "Church" that is separate from either a local body of Christians or all Christians everywhere - that is, people are the church. Thus, "the church at Corinth" refers to "the called out ones of Corinth" or "the saints at Corinth" (where every believer is a "saint" - holy, set apart to God).

The word "mother" is used 8 times from Romans to Revelation:
  1. Romans 16:13 - this is in the final salutation, where Paul says hi to Rufus' mother
  2. Galatians 1:15 - Paul refers to God's purpose for him, "from his mother's womb"
  3. Galatians 4:26 - "Jerusalem is the mother of us all" (as opposed to Hagar). This is part of a great exposition on Sarah and Hagar - the mother of freedom, and the mother of slavery. Here, Hagar represents the burden of the Law, while Sarah represents the freedom of grace (which is ironic, since it was a descendant of Sarah's child who received the Law).
  4. Ephesians 5:31 - "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother"
  5. Ephesians 6:2 - "Honor thy father and mother"
  6. 2 Timothy 1:5 - referring to Timothy's faithful mother
  7. Hebrews 7:3 - "without father or mother" (referring to Melchizedek, who is a type of Jesus)
  8. Revelation 17:5 - "Mystery Babylon the mother of harlots"
There are other references ("mothers", "daughter(s)", "nurse"), but they don't fit. For example, 1 Peter 3:6 says that faithful Christian women are the daughters of Sarah. 2 Corinthians 6:18 says we are sons and daughters of God the Father.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Pope and Suffering

An odd post from Ignatius Insight:
"the first question that comes from a seven-year-old Japanese child who says:'My name is Elena. I am Japanese and I am seven years old. I am very frightened because the house where I felt safe really shook a lot and many children my age have died. I cannot go to play at the park. I want to know: why do I have to be so afraid? Why do children have to be so sad? I'm asking the Pope, who speaks with God, to explain it to me.'"
Ok. Japan is the least Christian first world nation I can think of (unless one counts Russia as first world). This little girl has very likely never heard the Gospel, or about sin, or anything Christian. We need a strong proclamation of who God is, and what Jesus did.
"I also have the same questions: why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease? And we do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent, and that the true God who is revealed in Jesus is by your side. This seems very important to me, even if we do not have answers, even if we are still sad; God is by your side and you can be certain that this will help you. One day we will even understand why it was so. At this moment it seems important to me that you know 'God loves me' even if it seems like He doesn't know me. No, He loves me, He is by my side, and you can be sure that in the world, in the universe, there are many who are with you, thinking of you, doing what they can for you, to help you. And be aware that, one day, I will understand that this suffering was not empty, it wasn't in vain, but behind it was a good plan, a plan of love. It is not chance."
Let me start by saying that I am not the right person to witness to a seven year old girl who just had thousands of people killed nearby. You need a nice, motherly lady - not a troll who lives in a basement! :)

That said, there is a nice way to say what I say - not a dumbed down, watered down, or vacuous thing to say - to deliver the truth in love, with full truth and full love.

With that disclaimer, what this girl needs to hear about is sin and God's righteousness, and His demand for justice. How the world is in rebellion against God, and how we must surrender to Him.

That Jesus' death wasn't just a senseless act against an innocent.

That Jesus paid the price for sin.

And, if we turn from sin and trust Him, we can have our sins forgiven.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

David Koresh

An unusual article at CNN about survivors from the cult of David Koresh.

It is tempting to dismiss Koresh as a nut (which he certainly was). Atheists will use him as an example of how "religion poisons everything".

But this is a real life example of how theology matters, and we should take advantage to learn as much as we can (for many people paid a terrible price, we should not squander it).

The article doesn't address theology directly, but it is there to be teased out:

Page 2: "[believers are] resurrected so they can travel to a kingdom cut off to nonbelievers".

This is a fairly common (and mostly Biblical) belief. Mormons have a mult-level afterlife, where believers get the best and unbelievers get second best. Only the truly evil (in man's eyes) need to be relegated to Hell. It doesn't say what happens to nonbelievers, we would assume it is comparable to the Mormon idea.

Page 3, Doyle says "You don't have to believe as I do". This is interesting. First, what is the fate of unbelievers? If it is Hell, then you are doing a great disservice not to warn them. If not, I would assume the "believer's kingdom" is better than whatever nonbelievers get. Do you not want to share?

At the end of page 3 and into page 4 we are introduced to the horrors of this theology. It is interesting that things almost always devolve into either sex or money (and, for some reason, rarely both). That no one would stand up to him is sad. That Doyle would say "I couldn't argue because he'd show you where it was in the Bible" shows the importance of hermeneutics.

Page 4 also gives us this odd (singular) statement of Koresh's theology:
"There are three crucial points to understanding the Branch Davidian brand of religion.
First, God can appear in the flesh as a man. Second, that man doesn't have to be a good person. Third, if you question whether that man is God, then you are questioning God. In other words, the devil is responsible for your doubt."
There's a lot of problems here, but I am trying to be concise.

The first point is taking the special and making it general (as people do with the gift of tongues). Just because it's in the Bible doesn't mean we should do it! Many of the stories there are instructional ("These people did X, then they were destroyed").

The second point is just wrong. In John 8:46, Jesus challenges the crowd to convict Him of sin - and there are no takers. That people could be deceived in this matter is a troubling point for rationalists, but all too common as a result of sin (here people may feel unwilling to speak up out of their own wrong fears).

The third point shows the danger of human authority, particularly the authority of an individual or small minority. Human authority must always be spread out (a local church needs many elders, with no one of them elevated above the others). Human authority must be challenged, and accepted only when supported with Biblical arguments. Tradition and history are excellent guides here - both for what is right, and for what will destroy us.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Secular Confusion

An interesting article from CNN:
"The argument that criminals could abuse the niqab is not compelling enough to deny the fundamental freedom of religious expression to a group of French citizens"
This is an excellent point (among many in the short opinion piece). How can the secular state claim to be all in favor of human rights, then forbid a right - all the while claiming it is to "protect people's rights".

As the author rightly says:
"And the irony and hypocrisy of claiming the ban protects women from oppression is glaring: Freedom must be 'protected' by denying women their freedom to choose how to dress."
The underlying problem is that secularism has no foundation, it is adrift in the sea of ideas. They want to assert some things are "right" (correct) and other things are "wrong". At the same time, they have no standard for right and wrong - so it must be "anything goes" (at least, anything the majority can agree on).

Of course, the majority is currently against a takeover by Islam. But anyone can run the numbers, and see that soon the majority will be a minority...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Evolution of Language

One area I have little exposure to is the history of language. This is something I would like to look into more. If the evolution of language supposedly began as soon as the development of the physical structures for making sound and brain capacity (that is, well before the time for "Out of Aftrica") - then there should be one root language (common ancestor).

From Ars:
"The authors were able to identify 19 strong correlations between word order traits, but none of these appeared in all four families; only one of them appeared in more than two. Fifteen of them only occur in a single family."
This was only examining a single feature (subject-verb order).

Monday, April 4, 2011

Death and Evolution

An interesting study at Ars (ignore the stuff about bottomonium, or not, I guess):
"Have an undergrad ponder death and, suddenly, anything they learned in intro to bio doesn't look so hot; they'll feel less inclined to accept evolution (or want to hear about it from Richard Dawkins), and more prone to find intelligent design appealing. The same held true in a random population recruited over the Internet. This didn't hold true for students in a natural sciences program, though.

The authors went on to show that it was possible to reverse this effect with a dose of Sagan (an experiment controlled with what the authors termed a "no Sagan" group). Have people read a passage from Carl Sagan in which he celebrates the wonder of the natural world, and the appeal of intelligent design faded into the background."

So thinking about death is protection against evolution - very interesting!

Also, those in the natural sciences have in some way had their consciences seared (or something).