Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Keeping religion completely private

Tim Keller
Just read this insightful piece by Tim Keller from his book "The Reason for God":
Another approach to the divisiveness of religion is to allow that people may privately believe their faith is the truth and may “evangelize” for their faith, but that religious beliefs should be kept out of the public sphere. Influential thinkers such as John Rawls and Robert Audi have argued that, in public political discussions, we may not argue for a moral position unless it has a secular, nonreligious grounding. Rawls is well known for insisting that what he calls “comprehensive” religious views be excluded from public discourse.[i] Recently a large array of scientists and philosophers signed “A Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism,” which called on the leaders of our government “not to permit legislation or executive action to be influenced by religious beliefs.”[ii] The signers included Peter Singer, E. O. Wilson, and Daniel C. Dennett. The philosopher Richard Rorty, for example, has argued that religious faith must remain a strictly private affair and must never be brought into discussions of public policy. To ever use an argument grounded in a religious belief is simply a “conversation stopper,” which the nonbeliever cannot engage.[iii]

To those who complain that this approach discriminates against religion, Rorty and others retort that this policy is simply pragmatic.[iv] They are not ideologically opposed to religion per se, nor are they seeking to control religious beliefs, so long as they are kept in the private sphere. However, in the public square it is divisive and time-consuming to argue constantly over religion. Religion-based positions are seen as sectarian and controversial, while secular reasoning for moral positions are seen as universal and available to all. Therefore, public discourse should be secular, never religious. Without reference to any divine revelation or confessional tradition, we should work together on the great problems of our time—such as AIDS, poverty, education, and so on. We should keep our religious views to ourselves and unite around policies that “work” best for the most people.

However, Stephen L. Carter of Yale responds that it is impossible to leave religious views behind when we do any kind of moral reasoning at all.

Efforts to craft a public square from which religious conversation is absent, no matter how thoughtfully worked out, will always in the end say to those of organized religion that they alone, unlike everybody else, must enter public dialogue only after leaving behind that part of themselves that they may consider the most vital.[v]

How can Carter make such a claim? Let’s begin by asking what religion is. Some say it is a form of belief in God. But that would not fit Zen Buddhism, which does not really believe in God at all. Some say it is belief in the supernatural. But that does not fit Hinduism, which does not believe in a supernatural realm beyond the material world, but only a spiritual reality within the empirical. What is religion then? It is a set of beliefs that explain what life is all about, who we are, and the most important things that human beings should spend their time doing. For example, some think that this material world is all there is, that we are here by accident and when we die we just rot, and therefore the important thing is to choose to do what makes you happy and not let others impose their beliefs on you. Notice that though this is not an explicit, “organized” religion, it contains a master narrative, an account about the meaning of life along with a recommendation for how to live based on that account of things.

Some call this a “worldview” while others call it a “narrative identity.” In either case it is a set of faith-assumptions about the nature of things. It is an implicit religion. Broadly understood, faith in some view of the world and human nature informs everyone’s life. Everyone lives and operates out of some narrative identity, whether it is thought out and reflected upon or not. All who say “You ought to do this” or “You shouldn’t do that” reason out of such an implicit moral and religious position. Pragmatists say that we should leave our deeper worldviews behind and find consensus about “what works”—but our view of what works is determined by (to use a Wendell Berry title) what we think people are for. Any picture of happy human life that “works” is necessarily informed by deep-seated beliefs about the purpose of human life.[vi] Even the most secular pragmatists come to the table with deep commitments and narrative accounts of what it means to be human.

Rorty insists that religion-based beliefs are conversation stoppers. But all of our most fundamental convictions about things are beliefs that are nearly impossible to justify to those who don’t share them. Secular concepts such as “self-realization” and “autonomy” are impossible to prove and are “conversation stoppers” just as much as appeals to the Bible.[vii]

Statements that seem to be common sense to the speakers are nonetheless often profoundly religious in nature. Imagine that Ms. A argues that all the safety nets for the poor should be removed, in the name of “survival of the fittest.” Ms. B might respond, “The poor have the right to a decent standard of living—they are human beings like the rest of us!” Ms. A could then come back with the fact that many bioethicists today think the concept of “human” is artificial and impossible to define. She might continue that there is no possibility of treating all living organisms as ends rather than means and that some always have to die that others may live. That is simply the way nature works. If Ms. B counters with a pragmatic argument, that we should help the poor simply because it makes society work better, Ms. A could come up with many similar pragmatic arguments about why letting some of the poor just die would be even more efficient. Now Ms. B would be getting angry. She would respond heatedly that starving the poor is simply unethical, but Ms. A could retort, “Who says ethics must be the same for everyone?” Ms. B would finally exclaim: “I wouldn’t want to live in a society like the one you are describing!”

In this interchange Ms. B has tried to follow John Rawls and find universally accessible, “neutral and objective” arguments that would convince everyone that we must not starve the poor. She has failed because there are none. In the end Ms. B affirms the equality and dignity of human individuals simply because she believes it is true and right. She takes as an article of faith that people are more valuable than rocks or trees—though she can’t prove such a belief scientifically. Her public policy proposals are ultimately based on a religious stance.[viii]

This leads a legal theorist, Michael J. Perry, to conclude that it is “quixotic, in any event, to attempt to construct an airtight barrier between religiously grounded moral discourse … and [secular] discourse in public political argument.”[ix] Rorty and others argue that religious argument is too controversial, but Perry retorts in Under God? Religious Faith and Liberal Democracy that secular grounds for moral positions are no less controversial than religious grounds, and a very strong case can be made that all moral positions are at least implicitly religious. Ironically, insisting that religious reasoning be excluded from the public square is itself a controversial “sectarian” point of view.[x]

When you come out into the public square it is impossible to leave your convictions about ultimate values behind. Let’s take marriage and divorce laws as a case study. Is it possible to craft laws that we all agree “work” apart from particular worldview commitments? I don’t believe so. Your views of what is right will be based on what you think the purpose of marriage is. If you think marriage is mainly for the rearing of children to benefit the whole society, then you will make divorce very difficult. If you think the purpose of marriage is more primarily for the happiness and emotional fulfillment of the adults who enter it, you will make divorce much easier. The former view is grounded in a view of human flourishing and well-being in which the family is more important than the individual, as is seen in the moral traditions of Confucianism, Judaism, and Christianity. The latter approach is a more individualistic view of human nature based on the Enlightenment’s understanding of things. The divorce laws you think “work” will depend on prior beliefs about what it means to be happy and fully human.[xi] There is no objective, universal consensus about what that is. Although many continue to call for the exclusion of religious views from the public square, increasing numbers of thinkers, both religious and secular, are admitting that such a call is itself religious.[xii]

[i] Robert Audi, “The Separation of Church and State and the Obligations of Citizenship,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 18 (1989): 296; John Rawls, Political Liberalism (Columbia University Press, 1993), pp. 212–254
[ii] On February 28, 2007, this document could be accessed at http://www.cfidc.org/declaration.html
[iii] Richard Rorty, “Religion as a Conversation-Stopper,” Philosophy and Social Hope (Penguin, 1999), pp. 168–169
[iv] See Richard Rorty, Consequences of Pragmatism (University of Minnesota Press, 1982) pp. 166–67
[v] Stephen L. Carter, The Dissent of the Governed (Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 90.
[vi] For example, Linda Hirshman makes a case against women staying out of the marketplace to raise children at home. She insists that it is wrong for women to do that even if it is their free, voluntary choice. “The familywith its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasksis a necessary part of life, but it allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government. This less-flourishing sphere is not the natural or moral responsibility only of women.… Women assigning it to themselves is … unjust.” (“Homeward Bound,” in The American Prospect 16, no. 12 (December 2005). Notice her argument is based on an assessment of “human flourishing” that could never be empirically proven. It is rooted in views of human dignity and society that on the surface seem secular but are certainly unproveable, controversial, and ultimately based on worldview faith-assumptions. David Brooks takes issue with Hirshman: “[She asserts] that high-paying jobs lead to more human flourishing than parenthood. Look back over your life. Which memories do you cherish more, those with your family or those at the office?” See “The Year of Domesticity,” New York Times, January 1, 2006
[vii] Gary Rosen, “Narrowing the Religion Gap?” New York Times Sunday Magazine, February 18, 2007
[viii] This interchange is adapted from C. John Sommerville, “The Exhaustion of Secularism,” The Chronicle Review (June 9, 2006)
[ix] Michael J. Perry, Under God? Religious Faith and Liberal Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 44. Nevertheless, Perry rightly argues that religiously grounded public discourse in a liberal democracy must be “deliberative,” not just “dogmatic.” That is, speakers must be willing to be criticized, to answer criticism, to deliberate and debate and seek to make one’s case as plausible to the other side as possible.
[x] See Perry’s Chapter 3: “Why Political Reliance on Religiously Grounded Morality Is Not Illegitimate in a Liberal Democracy” in Under God? above.
[xi] See John Witte, Jr., “God’s Joust, God’s Justice: An Illustration from the History of Marriage Law,” in Christian Perspectives on Legal Thought, M. McConnell, R. Cochran, A. Carmella, eds. (Yale University Press, 2001), pp. 406–425.
[xii] Stanley Fish, “Our Faith in Letting It All Hang Out,” New York Times, February 12, 2006.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Preterism: Were most of Jesus' prophecies fulfilled in 70 AD?

An acquaintance introduced me to this theory over the weekend.  Here is the theory in a nutshell:
  1. The predictions Jesus made in Luke 21 were fulfilled through the events surrounding the fall of the temple in 70 AD.
  2. Jesus said, with evidence to support the Preterist view added:
    a. "A time of wars":  Jewish revolt 66 AD; British revolt led by Queen Boadicea; Germanic revolt; Roman Empire suffered a series of imperial assassinations and coups.
    b. A foreign army would attack and lay siege to Jerusalem.  See Josephus, Wars VI (512-513).
    c. Period of unprecedented suffering; many will die of famine and plague.  See Josephus, Wars VI (512-513).
    d. False prophets would mislead many to their doom.  See Josephus, Wars VI (283-287).
    e. There would be heavenly signs. See Josephus, Wars VI (289-295).
    f. Huge numbers killed and taken away in captivity. See Josephus, Wars VI (259, 271, 275-276, 404, and 420-421)
    g. The city, temple will be completely destroyed. See Josephus, Wars VII (1-4).
    h. The Son of Man will be seen in the clouds.  See Josephus, Wars VI (296-300). See Tacitus, Histories V (513):  "There had been seen hosts joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of arms, the temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the Gods were departing."
    i. Before all this, JC's disciples would be hated and persecuted.
    j. When an army approaches Jerusalem, run for the hills, don't tarry. 
There are two forms of Preterism:
  1. Partial preterism:  Holds that the destruction of Jerusalem, the Anti-Christ, the Great Tribulation and the advent of the Day of the Lord as a judgement coming of Christ were fulfilled either in 70Ad or during the persecution of Christians under Nero.  
  2. Full preterism: Holds that the destruction of Jerusalem fulfilled all "end times" events, including the resurrection of the dead and Jesus' second coming and the final judgement.  

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Land monopolies

Every so often, Christian leaders in churches all over the world, gather together in leadership meetings to discuss how the church might become more relevant.

It has concerned me that many Christians don't realise that the bible has much to say about issues that are top of the mind in society today.

Let's take concerns over housing and the property market.  

All over the world, low interest rates, lax lending policies and globalization have resulted in rising land and real estate prices as cashed up investors look for bargains, bolt holes from potential conflicts or just to launder ill-gotten gains.

This has created enormous pressures for those who are entering adulthood, want to find cost effective housing for their families and increasingly the lower and middle classes are feeling like hard work is not going to allow them to own their own homes.

For example, in New Zealand, for most of the 20th Century, the average home was worth between 3-5 times the average salary.  Now it is sitting between 9-10.  The OECD reports that NZ housing ranks amongst the highest nations with overvalued housing when compared to long term averages price to income ratios. 

The social result is alarming:
  1. Young families crammed into garages, living out of cars, 3-bedroom homes with a dozen or more people living together; no surprise that respiratory diseases such as colds, flus and pneumonia are common amongst these households.
  2. Young couples putting off having families until they are well into their thirties, when their bodies are best suited to bear children in their early twenties.
  3. An increasing gap between the haves and the have nots.
  4. An increasing number of absentee landlords living in foreign countries.
  5. Rising numbers of land bankers evidenced by an increasing number of unoccupied households and undeveloped land.
Social commentators are talking about generations of people who will forever be tenants, with no chance of owning their own homes, with an air of acceptance and inevitability.

This is not God's view of how life should be.  Consider these scriptures (hover over them with your mouse to read them:
  1. Isaiah 5:8:  Land monopolies are a wrong.
  2. Leviticus 25:8-13:  In God's society, people were allocated land, and every 50 years, land transactions were unwound, so that each family had their allocation returned to them.
  3. Micah 2:2: Permanently disengaging a person from their land (their heritage) is an act of oppression.  
We have all played the game of monopoly.  We know how it ends.  It never ends well.

When discussing this problem with Christians the responses are less than encouraging:
  1. I saved for my house, no one helped me, why should I help anyone else?
  2. Everyone can own a house, said one Christian, it just needs good budgetting.
  3. It's a free market, the incentives are there for all to work hard and progress in the world.
  4. They should have saved, spent less, worked two jobs, used birth control...
But centuries of feudalism, class societies, aristocracy, slavery and oppression tell us unfettered free markets do require moderation and even intervention.  Without it, experiences such as the French Revolution and the rise of Communism, tell us that the inequalities become so severe that civil anarchy breaks out with much deadly violence.

The genuine Christian should be inspired by the bible to act vigorously to counter-act this great wrong. 

Sometimes Christians throw their hands in the air, frustrated that though they might like to see social justice done, they are perplexed and clueless on what can be done about it.  In fact, the actions required are well developed and have been for many years.  They are not difficult to implement where there is a will:
  1. Vote for land value taxes and reduce income and company tax.  
  2. Introducing standards of abandonment.
  3. Adopting principles of usufruct eg Leviticus 19:9-10 and Leviticus 23:22.
  4. Other ideas that include the application of easements, and real covenants.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Paul on Circumcision

Circumcision continues to be a controversial subject today.  I recently came across this from FFOZ's Torah Club Volume 5 (Parasha Lech Lecha), where they put forward their views on Paul's comments regarding Torah Observance and circumcision:

Paul and Circumcision

Genesis 17

Any discussion of the commandment of circumcision in Genesis 17 requires an investigation into the text of Galatians and the Pauline issues regarding circumcision. Some have supposed that Paul taught against circumcision. This is not true.

If Paul had been teaching lews not to circumcise their children, as was alleged of him in Acts 21:21, then he would have been an apostate from Judaism and a heretic. But as Acts 21 makes clear, Paul never discouraged Jews from circumcision. Instead, his concern was for Gentiles who were being compelled to enter circumcision as a means for attaining salvation and covenant status.

Consider, for example, the situation in Galatia. The Galatians were new believers, mostly non-Jews, converts out of paganism. They were the Gentiles of the cities of Pisidian—Antioch, Iconium and Derbe. Faith in Yeshua was their only rite of conversion. But subsequent to their conversion out of the kingdom of darkness and into the Kingdom of God, some brothers and sisters from Jerusalem paid them a visit.

The visitors from Jerusalem taught that it was necessary, in addition to faith in Yeshua, that the Galatian Gentiles should also be circumcised—thereby signifying their formal conversion to Judaism. Faith in Messiah was not adequate. According to these visitors, the Galatians also needed to become Jews.

Paul responded to this teaching with his scathing letter to the Galatians. Regarding those brothers, he lost his temper and accused them of teaching “some other gospel.” He said, “Let them be eternally condemned!” He even took it a step further than that. He said, ‘As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12 NIV).

Consider what the Apostle is saying. As if eternal damnation was not bad enough, Paul wanted them to be eternally damned with less than their whole apparatus! Paul’s rancor reveals his priorities. The Gospel of Salvation, full and free, specifically salvation proclaimed to the Gentiles, salvation by faith through grace, was his very heartbeat. The Gentile inclusion through faith in Yeshua was the Gospel to Paul! That was the good news. To him, anything that obscured that simple truth was some other gospel. Paul’s opponents were a very vocal, very active portion of the first-century believers, and by all appearances, theirs was the majority opinion.

All of Paul’s letters must be weighed against this ongoing argument he has with other Jewish believers regarding the status of non-Jews in the covenant. When we read his letters, we must always keep in mind that we are only hearing one half of the argument. The cultural context he was writing from and into was one that was overwhelmingly Jewish in its expression and practice. It was a context in which non-Jewish identity was threatened with extinction as the more conventional forms of Apostolic Judaism attempted to absorb the non-Jewish believers by forcing them to make formal conversion to Judaism.

The problem with this, from Paul’s perspective, was that any attempt to force a non-Jew to accept conversion was selling the work of Messiah short. In Galatians 2:7-8 Paul referred to himself as the ‘”Apostle to the uncircumcised.” Literally he calls himself, “The Apostle to the foreskinned.” But wait. Suppose you didn’t have a foreskin. Take Paul’s convert Lydia, for example: a weaver of purple cloth and, more to the point, a woman.Was she outside of Paul’s purview because she was a woman and he was the apostle to the foreskinned?

The point that needs to be made is the term ‘foreskinned’ does not refer to the literal state of being circumcised or uncircumcised. It is used categorically to refer to those Gentile believers who had not made a conversion to Judaism. In a similar way, the term ‘circumcision’ is used categorically to refer to Jews, and to proselytes who have come to Judaism via the rabbinic conversion ritual.

That’s why Paul is able to say, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God” (1 Corinthians 7:19). Notice the apparent contradiction: Circumcision is one of God’s commands. If keeping God’s commands is what counts, then surely circumcision is something. The way Paul uses the terminology, circumcision refers specifically to the rabbinic conversion ritual, not only the written Torah command of circumcision.

Thus Paul is saying, “Converting to Judaism or not is meaningless. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.” So Paul responded to the Galatians who were considering conversion to Judaism by saying, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3). The specific ‘flesh’ Paul was speaking of was a formal conversion to Judaism through the rite of removing flesh. In the eyes of men, circumcision allowed for a conventional, physical, human position in Israel.

It was a position attained through natural, physical, human methods. Paul asked the Galatians, “Are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? By natural means? Are you trying to buy your way into the Kingdom by converting to Judaism?” Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a fierce, impassioned argument against the requirement of Gentile conversion through rabbinic Judaism.

Paul contended that it was not necessary for Gentiles to convert to Judaism in order to be a legitimate part of the People of God. It was not necessary for them to be reckoned as part of the physical Seed of Abraham because the promise of the covenant of the Seed of Abraham had already received its ultimate fulfillment in the one singular seed: namely Yeshua.

From Paul’s vantage, for a Gentile believer to become circumcised under the auspices of a rabbinic conversion to Judaism was redundant. It was, if anything, an affront to Messiah because it implied that faith in Messiah was not adequate to secure a position in the covenant with Israel. It was a denial of the Gospel. Paul says, “If you receive circumcision (that is to undergo a formal conversion into Judaism as a necessary component of your salvation), Messiah will be of no benefit to you” (Galatians 5:2).

Messiah is of no value because the convert has opted to accomplish his participation in Israel through his own physical efforts. To Paul’s way of thinking, ritual conversion after salvation is like campaigning for an office to which you have already been elected. Paul responded to the bid for Gentile conversion to Judaism by forbidding the Galatians to circumcise. He may have even gone so far as to discourage all Gentile believers from circumcision as long as the commandment of circumcision was being misunderstood. 

In the case of Gentiles with authentic Israelite heritage, however, he does not hesitate to circumcise. In fact, Paul personally oversaw Timothy’s circumcision. Gentiles without Israelite bloodlines, like Titus or the Galatians, he encourages to remain uncircumcised, at least as long as circumcision is understood as the ticket into the Kingdom. Gentiles with Israelite blood, like Timothy, he circumcises without hesitation.

Misunderstanding Circumcision
In Genesis 17 the Lord gives to Abraham the everlasting covenant of circumcision. In spelling out the terms of the covenant, God methodically debunks several of the errant teachings prevalent today and throughout history concerning the mitzvah of circumcision.

    • To those who say it was “only temporary,” the Lord says that it is “an everlasting covenant” (17:13).

    • To those who say that it was “only for the Jews,” the Lord says that it is for “all males among [the people of Abraham] “ (17:10,12) and not just those who are descended from Abraham. This is why Abraham circumcised the servants of his household as well as his sons (17:27).

    • To those who say that the “true meaning of the covenant is ‘spiritual’ circumcision—of the heart and not of the flesh--therefore the physical sign is not necessary,” the Lord says “My covenant shall be in your flesh” (17: 13) and “you shall circumcise the flesh of your f0reskin” (17:11).

    • To those who say that “circumcision was for the ‘age of Law’ and we are in the ‘age of grace’ now,” the Lord says that “every male among [Abraham] shall be circumcised as an everlasting covenant, throughout all [Abrahams] generati0ns” (17:7,9-13). In other words, circumcision is an everlasting covenant, not confined to a so-called ‘age of Law;’ it is for all males among all of Abraham’s generations, not just those generations preceding the coming of Messiah.

It is as if the Torah anticipated all the contrivances that man would devise against the sign of circumcision.

Paul goes on to develop his argument from several angles. Later readers of the epistle, who were not aware of the contextual situation, interpreted Galatians to be an anti-Torah and anti-Jewish work. Based upon this sad and deeply flawed misreading of Galatians, we Christians jettisoned most of Torah observance and our connections to Judaism.

We began to believe that anyone who attempted to keep a commandment of Torah was under the curse of the Torah. In retrospect, it was an absurd proposition, but to those who expounded the idea, it was consistent with their misreading of Galatians. Ironically, the epistle to the Galatians is the very scripture that Christians most often use to refute Gentile believers who are beginning to return to their Jewish roots.

As Christians begin to involve themselves in the various aspects of their heritage (such as Sabbath observance, kosher laws, daily prayer, etc.), they are often rebuked by other believers quoting from Galatians. But that is turning it exactly backwards! Galatians was written to argue for Gentile inclusion in Israel, not Gentile exclusion from Israel! Paul concludes his Galatians argument by saying, “Neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:15-16).

When he says “circumcision” he means being a natural Israelite, specifically a Jew, whether by birth or by auspices of rabbinic conversion.
When he says “uncircumcision,” he means being a natural Gentile, specifically one who has not made a formal conversion to Judaism.

When he says “new creation,” he means Israelites or Gentiles who belong to Messiah.

When he says “Israel of God,” he means all of us.
The Jewish authors of the Jewish Annotated New Testament, say Paul's lack of hesitation to circumcise those with Jewish bloodlines is easily explained.  They believe that the Torah commandments were only given to the Jews at Mt Sinai and therefore Gentile believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not under their jurisdiction.  This is inconsistent with Paul's view where it is clear that he expected new Gentile believers to obey God's commandments. 

For many, First Century Judaism's conception of circumcision seems to have metamorphisized from its original intent.  It was meant to be a covenant sign, but for many, and even today, it has become an ethnic sign.  To be circumcised is to be Jewish, not necessarily a follower of God.  This concept needs to be returned to its roots.

FFOZ don't address the question:  If a gentile believer did understand that his entry into the Kingdom of God was not predicated on whether he was circumcised but should he still undergo circumcision as an act of obedience? 

Thursday, 8 September 2016

A J Heschel: The Malaise of Protestantism

Heschel was once asked to comment on the challenges facing Protestant religious life.  He then wrote a thought provoking piece, from which this is an excerpt:

A deliberate cultivation of differences from Judaism, a tendency to understand itself in the light not of its vast indebtedness to but rather of its divergencies from Judaism. With the emergence and expansion of Christianity in the Greco-Roman world, Gentile Christians overwhelmed the movement, and a continuous process of accommodation to the spirit of that world was set in motion. The result was a conscious or unconscious dejudaization of Christianity, affecting the church's way of thinking and its inner life as well as its relationship to the past and present reality of Israel – the father and mother of the very being of Christianity. The children did not arise and call the mother blessed; instead, they called the mother blind. Some theologians continue to act as if they did not know the meaning of "honour your father and your mother"; others, anxious to prove the superiority of the church, speak as if they suffer from a spiritual Oedipus complex.

The Christian message, which in its origin is intended to be an affirmation and culmination of Judaism, became very early diverted into a repudiation and negation of Judaism; obsolescence and abrogation of Jewish faith became conviction and doctrine, the new covenant was conceived not as a new phase or disclosure but as abolition and replacement of the ancient one; theological thinking – and its terms in the spirit of antithesis to Judaism. Contrast and contradiction rather than acknowledgement of roots, relatedness and indebtedness, became the perspective. Judaea is a religion of law, Christianity a religion of grace; Judaism teaches a God of wrath, Christianity a God of love; Judaea is a religion of slavish obedience, Christianity the conviction of free men; Judaism is particularism, Christianity is universal; Judaism seeks work-righteousness, Christianity preaches faith-righteousness. The teaching of the old covenant a religion of fear, the Gospel of the new covenant a religion of love; a Lohnordnung over against a Gnadenordnung.

The Hebrew Bible is preparation; the gospel fulfilment. In the first is maturity, and the second perfection; in the one you find narrow tribalism, and the other all-embracing charity.
The process of dejudaization within the church paved the way for abandonment of origins and alienation from the core of its message.

The vital issue for the churches is to decide whether to look for roots in Judaism and consider itself an extension of Judaism to look for roots in pagan Hellenism and consider itself as an antithesis to Judaism.

The spiritual alienation from Israel is most forcefully expressed in the teaching of Marcion, who affirmed the contrariety and abruptness discontinuity between the God of the Hebrew Bible and the God whom Jesus had come to reveal. Marcion wanted a Christianity free from any vestige of Judaism. He saw his task as that of showing the complete opposition between the Hebrew Bible and the Gospels. Although in the year 144 of the Christian Era the church expelled the apostle of discontinuity and anathematized his doctrines, Marcion remains a formidable menace, a satanic challenge. In the modern Christian community Marcionism is much more alive and widespread than is generally realised.

Notwithstanding the work of generations of dedicated scholars who have opened up new vistas in the understanding of the history and literature of ancient Israel and their relation to Christianity, the is an abiding tendency to stress the discontinuity between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

According to Rudolph Bultman (as summarised by Bernhard Anderson), "for the Christian the Old Testament is not revelation, but is essentially related to God's revelation in Christ as hunger is to food and despair is to hope… The God who spoke to Israel no longer speaks to us in the time of the new covenant." [1] (here is the spiritual resurrection of Marcion. Was not the God of Israel the God of Jesus? How dare a Christian substitute his own conception of God for Jesus' understanding of God and still call himself a Christian?

What is the pedigree of the Christian gospel? These are the words with which the New Testament begins: "the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of a Abraham" (Matthew 1:1; see also 1 Corinthians 10:1-3; 1 Peter 1:10ff). Yet the powerful fascination with the world of Hellenism has led many minds to look for origins of the Christian message in the world derived from Hellas. How odd of God not to have placed the cradle of Jesus in Delphi, or at least in Athens!

Despite its acceptance of sola scriptura which ought to have protected it from dejudaization, Protestantism has often succumbed to an individualistic Hellenised conception of the Christian tradition, to a romantic oversimplification of the problem of faith and inwardness, to pantheism and sentimentality. Only a conscious commitment to the roots of Christianity and Judaism could have saved it from such distortions. To the early Christians the premise of the belief that the word became flesh was in the certainty that spirit had become the word. They were alive and open to the law and the prophets.

In modern times there was a tendency to look for the spirit everywhere except in the words of the Hebrew Bible. There is no religio ex nihilo, no ultimate beginning. There is no science without presumption and no religion without ultimate decisions. An ultimate decision for Jew or Christian is whether to be involved in the Hebrew Bible or to live away from it. The future of the Western world will depend on the way in which we relate ourselves to the Hebrew Bible.  The extent of Christianity's identification with the Hebrew Bible is a test of its authenticity – as well as of Jewish authenticity. Lack of such identification lies at the heart of the malaise of Protestantism today.

Reconnection between Christians and Jews is critical to both traditions.  Without each other, neither will see the full potential of religious life envisaged by both Jesus, his disciples and Paul.  The "dividing wall" remains.  Heschel's view is a little harsh.  I think he underestimates how deep a culture can etch itself in the minds of a society.  It is not easy to understand how deeply the Hebrew worldview is different from a Hellenistic one.  It is even more difficult to adopt a new worldview and operate within it.  It's like trying to lose a foreign accent when learning English.  Hard work. 

Source:  Heschel, A J.  Insecurity of Freedom.  Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Logos: How to install a subset of your resources on a tablet

Tablets are increasingly being adopted as an alternate to a hard copy bible.  They're light and bring all the benefits of having a bible on a digital platform:  convenient search, cross referencing and access to other resources such as original language dictionaries and commentaries. 

Often tablets don't come with much hard drive storage.  These days a meagre 64GB doesn't usually have much left over once the operating system and manufacturer "added value" applications have been loaded. 

And then Office 365 will take some space too.

It isn't long before conserving space on the Hard Drive is a top priority.

With Logos Bible Software, a typical user might have over a gigabyte of resources.  I have about 8GB myself and I started out with the Silver bundle.  Lots of others have more.  What to do?

Logos doesn't make it easy to only install a subset of resources.  Logos prides itself on giving their users access to a huge number of resources.  Once purchased, Logos allows automated searches of the entire oeuvre of resources which can help users to relatively gain broader perspectives on a particular biblical passage or topic.  In Logos' eyes this is one of the primary benefits of their software so provisions for installing a subset of resources have been overlooked.

The good thing is they don't mind how many instances of Logos are installed.

Anyway, here's a workaround for installing a subset of resources; it works in Logos 6 (update December 7, 2017: and 7) but I haven't tested it on earlier versions: 
  1. Start a clean installation on the tablet 
  2. Select Custom installation 
  3. uncheck “Automatically Download Updates”
  4. Copy required resources to a folder    ----> this assumes you already have a full installation
  5. Sign in to Logos when installation has completed
  6. Run scan command  i.e. scan the folder at step 4
  7. Let it run and index
  8. When using it, don't click download updates.
  9. Use web link for software updates
  10. Use Scan command for resource updates ----> get them from a full installation
  11. Note that the books you choose will be files with the following extensions:-
*.logos4   ---->  Logos 4/5/6 format books incl. Vyrso
*.lbxlls     ---->  Logos 3 format books
*.lbspbb    ----> personal books
*.lbxclv     ---->  Clause Visualizers (if you want Syntax Search)
*.lbxtml     ---->  Logos 4 timelines
*.lbshtm    ---->  Interactive resources

Files with other extensions are your datasets that are all pretty much needed for your Logos to function e.g. reverse interlinears (NT/OT), pericopes, excerpts (Home Page), LCV (topics), morphology, lemmas, grammar, referents, events, ancient literature, pronunciation, preaching themes, etc. These can take up to 4 GB of space.

For future updates:
  1. Resources:  Go to your full installation and copy across the new versions and then rescan.
  2. Base programRun the newer setup on Windows:   https://www.logos.com/install
  3. Don't click the download link otherwise you will trigger a full install of all your resources.
Update (Sept 10, 2016):  I bought a 32GB microSD card with the hope of doing a full installation. 

My target device was a ThinkPad 10.  After installation on the card, Logos wouldn't run reliably at all, with a full installation.  Worked fine the first time, then on after a while, it freezes and an error message says that there is a problem and the application has to be closed.  Subsequent program launches result in crash to desktop.  I have 9GB of resources.  The index takes it up to around 12GB in total. 

Retried by installing Logos on the C: drive and leaving resources on microSD card but worked same result. 

Went back to installing on C: drive with minimal resources (1GB). 

Friday, 29 April 2016

Rachel Smalley: Lazy journalism

Rachel Smalley

Recently Rachel Smalley wrote a piece in the NZ Herald about the suspension of British politician, Naz Shah MP by the Labour Party for comments she'd made about Israel and Jews.  She had made remarks about moving all the Jews in Israel to the US and thereby solving the Middle Eastern Conflict. 

Smalley felt that Shah's comments hardly warranted a suspension and felt that "Israel is a country, it seems, that is above criticism."


She goes on to say that during the 2014 Gaza War, she had criticized Israel for attacking a UN School:  "And when I criticised Israel for that, the response was extraordinary. The letters, the emails, the abuse was quite unlike anything I'd had before - apparently I was anti-Semitic!"

Israel is subject to criticism all the time.  However, her critics should not be so precious that they and their own comments, might also come under scrutiny too. 

Both her comments regarding Shah and the UN School lacked context.  Shah made her comments in an environment when Labour and the comments of some of its more prominent leaders were coming under increasing scrutiny because they suggested a strong Anti-Semitic sentiment

The UN School in question was being used as a focus for Palestinian military activity.  Even during the conflict, the UN was publicly and repeatedly calling on Palestinians to stop using their facilities for weapons storage and as launch pads. 

It wouldn't have been difficult to carry out half an hour's desktop research to find out these things.

Lazy journalism.  Calling it an opinion piece or using some other excuse doesn't wash either. It's just lazy journalism.  Lazy journalism just leads to becoming a "useful idiot."