Modern Pensées

Reconsidering theology, philosophy, culture, economics, and politics

Archive for the ‘Eschatology’ Category

Best Links of the Week

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Dealing With Difficult People:  Narcissists.  The best article I’ve read this year.

IBM computer to play against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.  Should be another interesting man vs. machine conflict.

Doug Wilson piece entitled “Calvinism, Eschatology, and the New Media

Andy Crouch, “Ten Most Significant Trends of Last Decade

A number of people in California recently won $150 by correctly guessing 4 of the 6 numbers of the California Lottery.  The winning numbers were:  4, 8, 15, 25, 47, 42

Apparently the Catholic Church is doing a realty series on exorcism, but I heard this was news to the Vatican.

New US $100 bills to have 3-D technology.

AIG is recapitalizing.  Unbelievable… have any lessons been learned?

Banks repossess over a million homes in 2010.  Also, foreclosures rising.

Drunk Scientists accidentally pour wine on semiconductors and make some scientific discovery.

WSJ article entitled “Bye-Bye PCs and Laptops

The Catholic Church and science.  Personally, I am a huge fan of science and think there is a fair degree of agreement between science and Christianity, far greater than many acknowledge.

Green blob from Hubble Space Telescope.

Major Dick Winters passed away earlier this month.  Thankful for this man and countless anonymous men just like him.

China’s new stealth fighter.

Haitian amputee soccer.

Is the Black Church Dead?

The precipitating event was an essay posted last February on the Huffington Post by Eddie Glaude, Jr., a young African-American religion professor at Princeton who gave his column the eye-catching title, “The Black Church Is Dead,” and continued that with an equally arresting lead:

“Of course, many African-Americans still go to church,” Glaude began, noting surveys that track the higher-than-average religiosity of American blacks. “But the idea of this venerable institution as central to black life and as a repository for the social and moral conscience of the nation has all but disappeared,” he said.

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Why the Final Episode of LOST was so Frustrating

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I feel like I’ve got to get this out of my system to justify spending 6 seasons watching a compelling narrative only to be severely disappointed.  WARNING, this will contain spoilers, read on at your own risk.

There were two things that were compelling about the LOST narrative:  it’s characters and it’s mythology.   I believe that humans are hard-wired for stories.  The most compelling stories are stories that illuminate some aspect of the Biblical storyline of creation-fall-redemption-re-creation.  LOST focused heavily on the brokenness, alienation, and self-destructive patterns of its characters/candidates.  We can empathize with the fallen condition of these characters – sons that didn’t measure up to their overly-expectant/deceptive/abusive fathers, addiction, purposelessness, and low self-esteem.  We can empathize with the arcing of their characters as they realize their brokenness is due to a lack of community and that when we ask for help, redemption comes.

My frustration with the LOST narrative is its re-creation (I am not prepared to speculate about whether the flash-sideways end state of most of the characters is purgatory, a kind of heaven, or some sort of eternal recurrence, so no comments there).   The fallen condition was redeemed through community and I was tracking with the arc of the storyline until the re-creation narrative (the final 10 minutes of the show).   One of the things I have thoroughly enjoyed throughout LOST has been its intelligence and inter-textuality, continually making reference to excellent works of literature and philosophy.  I share the same love for many of the authors referenced:  Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, Fyodor Dostoevsky, C.S. Lewis, and Søren Kierkegaard.  However, if the writers had even a cursory understanding of these writers (or philosophy in general), they would quickly dismiss the blatant syncretism of their own re-creation narrative.  Stephen Prothero, religion professor at Boston University, dismembers the ‘One God, Many Paths’ sentiment of our day, showing that it is reductionistic and dangerous to pretend we are all the same.  The quality of dialogue between Jack and his father was poor, the imagery was trite and reductionistic, and the final montage cliche.

My two cents, feel free to disagree with me…

Nietzsche vs. Christianity: Part 2

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This lecture is an explanation of the Protestant Christian worldview from Genesis to Revelation.  Audio is available here.

I.  Creation

A.  Ex Nihilo

B.  Out of God’s pleasure

C.  Creation was good

D.  Man made in image of God: male and female

E.  Cultural Mandate

F.  The task given Adam was to make the whole Earth like Eden by:

“numerically and geographically expand God’s image over the face of the

entire Earth”

  1. Covenant of Works (Hosea 6:7)
    1. Adam is Federal Head (Rom. 5:12-21)
    2. Blessings for obedience; curses for disobedience

a.  Blessing – Life

b.  Curse – Death

c.  Divine benevolence, Human loyalty

II.  Fall

  1. Serpent tempts Eve, questions God’s goodness
  2. Adam was there and doesn’t say anything
  3. Curse:
    1. All humanity fell in the Fall because of Adam’s representative nature
    2. All creation fell and feels the frustrating affects of the fall
    3. Proto-Euangelion – Gen. 3:15-20
  4. Seed of the woman vs. Seed of the Serpent

Abel                 Cain

Seth

Enoch               Enoch

Lamech            Lamech

Noah

Shem/Japheth   Ham

Abraham

Isaac                Ishmael

Jacob               Esau

III. Redemption

A.  Covenant of Grace

1.  Noah – establishes stability on the Earth (Gen. 6, 9)

-Baptism:  deliverance from waters of judgment

2.  Abraham – establishes promised offspring who will bless all nations                  (Gen. 12:1-3; 15; 17), (Gal. 3:16)

3.  Moses – establishes law and order above natural law (Ex. 19-24)

-“I will be your God and you will be my people”

4.  David – establishes eternal king/throne (Psalm 89)

5.  Christ – fulfillment of the covenant of grace (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36/37)

B.  Historical Summary

Creation, Fall, Expulsion, Cain/Able, Flood, Babel, Shem

Abraham moves, Abraham/Lot, Abraham/Melchizedek, Abraham Covenant, Abraham buys land in Canaan/Eden

Isaac, Jacob/Esau, Jacob/Israel, 12 Sons, Joseph into Captivity, Famine

400 Year Enslavement/Exile, Moses/Pharaoh, Passover, Egypt to Sinai

Sinai, Law at Sinai – Tabernacle, Priesthood, Purification, Yom Kippur, Feasts:  (Sabbath, Passover, Sabbatical year/Jubilee, Weeks, Tabernacles)

Wilderness Wanderings, Encampment at Canaan, Canaan Conquest/Joshua, Jericho vs. Ai, Land Divided

Judges-Ruth – ‘Everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ (Judges 17:6)

Eli, Samuel, Rejection of YHWH as king, Saul

David – covenant – line/throne, unification, conquest (iron), Bathsheba

Solomon – Temple, wealth/wisdom, Phoenicians, foreign wives/gods

Divided Kingdom – Rehoboam (S – Judah), Jeroboam (N – Israel/Ephraim)

North – Babsha, Omri, Jehu, Ahab/Jez/Baal vs. Elijah, Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II, 3 kings –  Menaham, Pekahiah, Pehah, Hoshea… Assyria/exile

South – Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Hezekiah, Manassah, Josiah – Amon/Jeremiah, Jerusalem Sacked – 586

Cyrus’ Decree, Return from Exile, 2nd Temple/Wall (Ezra-Nehemiah),

Late Pre-exilic

-Nahum – God’s wrath on Nineveh

-Zephaniah – The Day of the Lord

-Habakkuk – Resolving questions about God’s justice

-Joel – Day of the Lord is both near AND future

-Lamentations – God as source of both good and hard providence

-Obadiah – pride goes before a fall

Exilic

-Ezekiel – Judgment and restoration of Judah

-Daniel – God’s rule and care for his people

Post-Exilic

-Haggai – setting priorities

-Zechariah – God’s restoration of zion

-Malachi – Honoring God

400 years of silence

C.  Prefigurations

1.  Melchizedek

2.  Angel

3.  Manna

4.  Rock

5.  Tabernacle

6.  3 fold office:  Prophet/Priest/King

D.  Jesus

1.  Virgin birth

2.  Hypostatic Union – God/man

3.  Prophet/Priest/King

4.  Law – civil/ceremonial/civil

5.  Penal Substitution – great exchange – my sin for his righteousness

-New Record

-New Heart

-New World

6.  Death/Resurrection

7.  Ascension

8.  Enthronement – Intercession

IV.  Consummation

1.  Redemption of all of creation

2.  Redemption of the church

3.  Inauguration/Continuation/Consummation

Nietzsche vs. Christianity: Part 1

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Here is the AUDIO for the first lecture.

I was struck by a few things in doing my research on the life, thought, and influence of Nietzsche.  First, I am struck at how dark, bleak, and sick was Nietzsche’s early world.  Second, I was struck by the damning affects of the poison that flowed from the Tubingen School, particularly in the thought of Strauss, Feuerbach, and Schopenhauer (Tubingen was the school that started all of the criticism of the Bible that eventually led to the splitting of Protestantism into its conservative and liberal branches).  Third, I am struck by how different Nietzsche’s thought changed over time and how he moves beyond all of his influences.  Fourth, I am struck by both the radicalness and the consistency of Nietzsche’s atheism, he is the one atheist who says that morality is contingent on the existence of God.  Fifth, I am struck that Nietzsche is really a kind of Greek thinker in the vein of Dionysus and that the goal of his whole philosophy is life affirmation.  Sixth, I am struck by how much I agree with Nietzsche both in what bothers him and what he affirms.  Finally, I couldn’t agree more with David Hart when he says, “The only really effective antidote to the dreariness of reading the New Atheists, it seems to me, is rereading Nietzsche.”

Below is the outline and audio from the first lecture:

I.  Biography and Psychology

A.  Death

B.  Boarding School at Pforta

C.  Chronic Illness

D.  Bonn/Leipzig

E.  University of Basel

F.  Franco-Prussian War Medical Orderly

II.  Intellectual Influences

A.  David Frederick StraussDas Leben Jesu

B.  Ludwig von FeuerbachThe Essence of Christianity

C.  Friedrich LangeHistory of Materialism and Critique of its Present Importance (Geschichte des Materialismus)

D.  Dionysus

E.  Arthur Schopenhauer

F.  Richard Wagner

III.  Nietzsche’s Thought

A.  “The Death of God”

B.  Nihilism

C.  Master and Slave Morality

D.  Übermensch

E.  Will to Power (der Wille zur Macht)

F.  Eternal Recurrence (ewige Wiederkunft)

IV.  Nietzsche’s Influence

A.  William Butler Yeats

B.  Martin Heidegger

C.  Albert Camus

D.  Michel Foucault

E.  Jacques Derrida

F.  Martin Buber

G.  Adolf Hitler (sort of)

“Waiting for Armageddon” Movie Trailer

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I ran across this movie trailer today on Hulu.  It is a film analyzing the impact of classical Premillenial Dispensationalism on Israel, American culture, neo-conservativism, American foreign policy, Islam, and Mideast peace.  Suffice to say, without having seen the film, I most likely agree with the disturbing affects of classical Dispensational Premillenialism on all of the aforementioned spheres.

Should a 150 year old doctrine that isn’t taught at any seminary drive American foreign policy?  Your thoughts?

Why Socialized Health Care… is Unbiblical

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Bronze Serpent in Wilderness

I have heard a lot of talk and conjecture here recently about social justice and national health care.  I agree with Kevin DeYoung when he says the term “social justice” should never be used unless it is defined.  Perhaps a lot of the discussions concerning a national health care plan are futile with the “Ted Kennedy” seat going to Scott Brown.  However, it is important for Christians to be able to think about everything from a Christian worldview.

Are we thinking with a Christian or Republican worldview (aren’t they the same)?

I have been a bit saddened by the lack of evangelical disagreement with the socialized healthcare debate.  For the most part, all I hear is that I am a conservative and/or republican… and my party disagrees with that.  This may be true but it does not get at the heart of a Christian view of government.  Now, there is substantial disagreement of what the proper relationship of government is to the church and vice versa.  Much of this disagreement comes down to one’s eschatological position (some Postmillenialists favor theonomy, Dispensational Premillenialists favor Neoconservativism and pro-Israel).

Why do we have human kings?

Before we delve into what the Scriptural principles given to non-theocratic governance, we must first look at the history of the Hebrew people.  Up until Saul, Israel was a theocracy where God was King and the Mosaic Law was its governance.  God’s people rejected YHWH’s kingship and instead wanted a human king like the cultures around them.  God warned them of the error in asking for this but granted them Saul.  Saul’s regime was oppressive and tyrannical (especially in comparison with his predecessor YHWH).  He imposed hefty taxes on Israel.  The question of church and state was not a question until Israel asked for Saul, ever since, it has been an issue.  We shall examine the issue of church and state at more length in a later post.  However, suffice to say that I think it good for the state to keep their nose out of the church and for the church/Christians to have a worldview – a worldview that includes political thought.

What does the Bible say about human governments?

Romans 13 is clear that God’s sets up and takes down rulers.  They are not somehow outside his providence.  This does not mean that human rulers are just, righteous, or equitable.  This does mean that they are accountable to God for their actions and that God will use their actions, moral good or moral evil, for His purposes.  The Scriptures do establish a non-theocratic (civil) government’s authority to establish certain rights for its citizens.  The Scriptures establish a civil government’s authority to protect negative rights.  Negative rights are rights that prevent harmful or morally evil things from happening to its citizens.  For example, the civil government is obliged to protect its citizens from murder, theft… etc.  It does so by establishing and enforcing laws that punish moral evil.  In my view, the Scriptures do not establish a civil government’s authority to protect/assert positive rights.  Positive rights are rights that affirm that some beneficial thing ought to be provided for its citizens.  In other words, Scripture does not affirm that it is a civil government’s responsibility to care for the sick.  Scripture does not affirm that it is the civil government’s responsibility to give alms to the poor.

If not the civil government, then whom?

It is principally the church’s responsibility to care for the sick and the poor amongst us.  During some points in our history Protestants have been good at doing this through the establishment of hospitals and such.  However increasingly these hospitals have come out from under the care of denominations and become secularized and institutionalized… succumbing to all of the ails of reactive health care, pharmacological manipulation… etc.

Final Thoughts

The church needs to take better care of the widow and the orphan.  Our churches have become so narcissistic and inward.  Caring for others is a blessing.  If someone is truly in need (and not all with an open hand are…) then we ought to be caring for them.  I would strongly recommend reading When Helping Hurts:  Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… and Ourselves.  I would also recommend forming a partnership with organizations that have experience in Biblical community development (vocational, health, counseling…).  One such organization for Biblical vocational community development is Jobs For Life.  I can wholeheartedly affirm their ministry firsthand.  I would also recommend reading Marvin Olasky’s books The Tragedy of American Compassion and Compassionate Conservativism.

I think it is also important for us to remember that human kings will always be imperfect and will never be fully just. Human kings ought to make us long for the perfect king in Christ whose kingdom is righteous, just, and perfect.  His administration is flawless.  His world, Universe, and creation redeemed.  His Kingdom and His government need no alms.  His Kingdom and His government needs no health care.

Post-Script

For point of clarification, the church (nor the people of God) does not have a monopoly on common grace.  The government can be an agent of common grace in a culture, society, or world.  However, civil governments are not Biblically mandated to be the institution that provides all the “good” things in that culture.  If anything, the Biblical narrative presents civil governments in a very negative light that is nearly universal:  The Egyptians, the Canaanites, Saul, Jeroboam/Rehoboam, Judah/Israel and almost every king in the divided Kingdom period, the Assyrians, Babylonians, and the Roman occupation.  The few kings that are presented with any measure of high regard are David, who prefigures Christ, at points Solomon, and Cyrus, who God raises up to release Israel from exile.  But even those kings all had major blunders that hurt both their people and the perception of those people.  I do not think it is a huge interpretive jump to say that the Biblical narrative supports smaller government.  It is really quite simple, if civil government is run by fallen humans and the Biblical/historical record shows a pattern of oppression and tyranny, then we can expect tyranny from human governments unless we afford for checks and balances to their power.

Another point of clarification, I think socialized health care is unbiblical in our present American context.  The church and the private sector have the ability to provide these means of common grace.  There is no reason to cross pollinate our hospitals with the ills of the DMV or the Postal Service.  In entirely different, largely secular contexts, pragmatism will win the day (for better or for worse).  If a country has the economy to support it, then health care will/ought to be taken care of by the private sector.  If a country is small enough a social health care system could theoretically ‘work.’  Least common denominator services help no one.  Hospitals already don’t turn people away.

Things such as roads, or city infrastructure (water, sewer…) are drastically different cases than health care.  The U.S. Interstate system was built initially primarily for military purposes.  Sometimes roads are built by the private sector also though (toll roads, turnpikes, some bridges…).  Pragmatism can dictate (and this is not always evil) that the government, local or federal, take on some project that is beneficial to all of the society.  The critical distinction between these infrastructural elements to society and a socialized health care system is that no one is ‘hurt’ if a new interstate is built, or you now have water/sewer access to your home/business that was not their before.  Whereas, with health care, substantial harm could be done to the quality of one’s own health on the altar of “social justice” or “equality.”  Laying pavement is much different that a quadruple bypass.  Laying pipe is much different than cancer removal.  In my view, federal-government has the anti-Midas touch.  We all like our roads, but even the DOT is quite a mess.  If the private sector can provide a product that the federal government is monopolizing and disallowing competition, I think a strong case be made (both through sound reason and moral principles) that privitization is the right thing.  Further, I think the burden of proof rests on big government folks and not small government folks.  I see no Bible verses commanding that government be large and tyrannical.  The Biblical burden of proof is on those who play the ever-so-vague “social justice” card.

Evangelicals have shirked and punted many responsibilities to the federal government.  Previously (here and here), I have traced this habit back to the split of Protestantism into liberalism and conservativism (the fundamentalists originally, who are now called evangelicals) .  I do not think it would be all that massive of an undertaking for evangelicals in the country to completely eliminate the foster care system.  This would take 250,000 families adopting one child into their family.  I think this is feasible.  Elders at local churches would vet potential families, and the deacons at those local churches would oversee the transfer of children out of government foster care and into adoption into elder-approved families.  I think the whole process could take less than 10 years.  It is highly idealistic with regards to the current status of American evangelicalism but, in my view, entirely possible.

Unless, non-governmental institutions step-in to provide value-added social care for a nation-state, one runs the risk of the endless march of bigger government and tyranny, as its government continues to expand its power and control by nationalizing previously private businesses and service sectors.   It is one thing to keep a wealthy nation with a small military of 10 million people in check… it is entirely another thing to keep a nation of 350 million (with a strong monopoly of violence) in check.  Evangelicals cannot think that merely voting will stem the tide of bigger government and/or socialism.  If you do not want to see this happen, then I suggest we corporately affirm James 1:27:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Avatar Causing Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

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Pandora: The Fictional Utopian World in Avatar

Disclaimer: I have not seen the film Avatar.  Here is a link to a story about audience members who have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts, due to the fact that they cannot live in the utopian Pandora.   My initial thought was this is completely pathetic…  it is just a movie promoting pantheism (or perhaps panentheism) while bashing American imperialism.

However, on second thought, there is something more profound here.  It is not new or revolutionary for humanity to long for peace, prosperity, and flourishing life.  The people who are feeling these ‘side-affects’ are really longing not for Pandora.  They are longing for the Shalom that God will usher in at the Second Coming of Christ.  These people are longing for the fullness of the Kingdom of God where everything is made right, everything is made new, and there is no injustice.  Its the same longing for the end of winter in Narnia, the destruction of the ring in Lord of the Rings, or Christian’s journey to Mt. Zion and the Celestial City in Pilgrim’s Progress.  There is a palpable intensity to living in this broken world.  The reality of fallen creation can be bleak and depressing and promote both anxiety and despair.  All of man’s attempts at utopia have failed:  communism, capitalism, pantheism/panentheism/Walden’s Pond, communalism…  We need the reality of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, making peace through his propitiatory sacrifice the wrath of God towards the sins of man.  We need Christ’s church to do her work throughout the Earth.  We need Christ to return and establish the New Heavens and the New Earth.

Come quickly Lord Jesus.

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