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Archive for May, 2012

For the past two weeks, I have been diving deep into studies. I’ve watched about 20 hours worth of lecture, read and re-read notes and text books, and memorized all the significant bullet points from those study materials. My hybrid class makes exams especially hard. The material is drawn from online lectures, but the exams are put together by a different professor. I had no idea was going to be on the exam. I basically had to know everything. I doubt any of you really want to know the Biblical chronology of the minor prophets or ten *vital* character traits of Nehemiah. I didn’t really want to have to memorize all that either.

My other classes were better. For Medieval Rabbinic Commentaries I had to translate Rashi’s interpretation of Psalm 110:1. For Historical Hebrew Grammar, I had to trace the development of the Hebrew language. Right now, I’m just going through the post-exam hangover. I realize I can dedicate my mind to learning something different, but I’m still working up the motivation to do so. Anyways, I’m glad finals week is over. Now, if you excuse me, I’m going to recuperate from lost sle…………….

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Amendment One supporters and opposition have spilt much ink (or used many pixels whichever you prefer) on the issue of same-sex marriage. I am not really a hot-button-feeding-frenzy kind of guy, so I don’t plan on publishing my own thoughts about the issue. Instead, I will let my friend, Ben Marsh, voice some thoughtful words on my own blog. And by that I mean, I’m going to rip some quotes out of his blog post and post them here. You really ought to read the whole thing here. Here are some of the thoughts I liked:

 Here is the problem with utilizing a political solution to a cultural debate: the political solution will not change the definition in the minds of those on the losing side. In other words, no matter what the outcome of this debate from a legal perspective, the cultural debate will remain and may become more heated after the law passes or fails. The example of Roe v. Wade has taught us that no cultural questions are ever finally answered in legal venues. In other words, I believe that we are only glimpsing the beginning of a larger and, eventually, more vitriolic debate over the meaning of marriage and domestic legal union in North Carolina.

I have read numerous times from numerous choices that a vote for amendment one is a vote against love. This is a silly statement. If I am convinced that homosexual relationships are damaging to self and society, then protecting homosexual marriage is a very unloving thing to do, indeed. If I am convinced than public transportation poses a grave threat to man’s ability to walk and society’s overall well-being, then the most loving this is to deprive my bus-loving grandmother of her weekly ride to the grocery store, even if the short-term effects seems unloving. Godly men and women in the Bible and the God of the Bible commit many deeds that seem quite unloving but are in fact very, very loving. The most loving act in history was an incredibly cruel and unusual punishment followed swiftly by a vicious death. Just because something seems or feels unloving, does not necessarily mean that an act is truly unloving. This is why we must be people who love truth, as our convictions determine what is truly loving. The most loving thing to do is to pursue the truth, to act on it, with a willingness to change one’s convictions when presented with authentic evidence and biblical reasons to the contrary.

Ask this rather complex question: have your actions surrounding this amendment lead others to Jesus? This question is complex because the gospel is quite complex and Jesus was and remains infinitely complex. Sometimes, leading someone to the gospel or to an encounter with Jesus is a guilt-inducing, painful encounter with one’s moral failings. Jesus did not pull punches. He called people away from sin and ordered repentance. He was also incredibly tender, though, even with the most incorrigible sinners and the lowest of the low.

Hope that the Spirit can change hearts and minds. Hope that God calls sinners of all stripes to repent and believe and be baptized. Hope that one day we will sit at the feet of the King and listen as he sorts all of this out for us. Hope that one day political enemies will stand side by side and worship the King who made us and calls us and will bring us home. Hope that there will be an end to these disagreements. Hope for love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and gentleness and faithfulness and…

Thank you Ben. Your words were encouraging, enlightening, and appropriate for this important issue.

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“Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us. Above us only sky.” Contrary to what Lennon’s utopian-celebrating hymn suggests, I find “imagining” no heaven difficult to do. Not because I’m emotionally attached to the idea of a deity, but because without the existence of God, and more specifically the God of the Bible, the world has no meaning – no interpretive value. Our minds and senses, however, are interpreters of meaning. We can touch a rock and feel its hardness, but we have no access to the rock “itself” i.e. the rock apart from interpretation. The same is true for historical events. We have access to most events via the medium of newspapers, books, video, our own eyes and ears. All those mediums interpret the event, but we have access to the event “itself.”

Honestly, I think to talk about a thing “in itself” apart from interpretation is ambiguous. What does a thing “in itself” look like? We have no access to those things. Even if we were to try to sketch in our minds an abstract of some ideal (rock, event, whatever), our ideal would be subject to what we know already. Our knowledge is limited to what we see, hear, touch, think, etc. No heaven above, no hell below, no way to know anything on earth, and no way to form an ideal “thing.”

Unless everything is imbued with an interpretation, we have no real access to the world around us. I find that Christianity offers the most satisfying answer to this problem. Before anything was made, it was intended for a purpose. The author of all things gave things meaning and interpretive value. I do not mean that a rock can tell us the future or speak to us in sundry and mystical ways. I mean that we can be sure that our senses and our minds are telling us about the rock correctly. Meaning is not separate from the thing. Brute facts (things in themselves) do not exist. Frame, I think, offers a good explanation of this phenomenon:

All facts have been interpreted by God, and since all things are what they are by virtue of God’s eternal plan, we must say that ‘the interpretation of the facts precedes the facts’ (Van Til). The idea of ‘brute fact’ is an invention intended to furnish us with a criterion of truth other than God’s revelation. Yet, as with all other such substitutes, it cannot even be made intelligible. A ‘fact’ devoid of any normative interpretation would be a fact without meaning, devoid of any normative characteristics – in short, a nothing…The basis of Christianity and of all thought is God’s revelation. The ‘facts’ are the facts of that revelation, interpreted by God, known and therefore already interpreted by man. There are no facts devoid of such interpretation, and if there were, they could not be known, let alone used as the basis of anything.

God’s revelation, by creation and his word, gives things meaning. Our interpretive faculties have the ability to ascertain the meaning of such things (from events in history to rocks) and know those things truly and accurately. A reality without that revelation is an imagined reality that offers no basis to understand the world around us.

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