Jonathan Edwards on Differing Capacities for Happiness

~ It is often understood that in Heaven there will be differing degrees of happiness (just as in Hell there will be differing degrees of unhappiness and suffering). Here and there though, the question arises as to how in Heaven, Joe and Jane can both be fully happy and yet still differ in how much happiness each has. I have wondered about this and found a great answer to this on-line in the following article at Reformed Answers. What follows is a link to the article, and some quick excerpts:

Jonathan Edwards on Degrees of Reward in Heaven   Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Question
I do not understand Edward’s on in his degrees of happiness, if the saints are completely happy how can there be degrees of hapiness?

“There will be a perfect harmony in that society; those that are most happy will also be most holy, and all will be both perfectly holy and perfectly happy. But yet there will be different degrees of both holiness and happiness according to the measure of each one’s capacity, and therefore those that are lowest in glory will have the greatest love to those that are highest in happiness, because they will see most of the image of God in them. And having the greatest love to them, they will rejoice to see them the most happy and the highest in glory.”  

So, to the question, ‘If all saints are perfectly and completely happy how can there be degrees of hapiness?

Edwards mentioned “capacities.” An illustration may help: Some may have a 8 oz cup of capacity based upon thier works and others may have the capacity of the ocean. When each arrive in heaven, they will each be perfectly happy because each one will be filled to the fullest of their capacity, but the person with the “ocean capcity” will of course have the greater happiness, while the 8 oz worker will not miss what the other has. Anthony Hoeksema answers and says:

“When one has studied music and has attained some proficiency in playing a musical instrument, his capacity for enjoying music has been greatly increased. In a similar way, our devotion to Christ and his kingdom increases our capacity for enjoying the blessings of that kingdom, both now and in the life to come. Leon Morris says, “Here and now the man who gives himself wholeheartedly to the service of Christ knows more of the joy of the Lord than the half-hearted. We have no warrant from the NT for thinking it will be otherwise in heaven.”

Timothy Larsen ~ Notes

Timothy Larsen is the Carolyn and Fred McManis Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College. There is a certain area in which he has done research in that I find to be very interesting. The following consist of some links to stuff that I have found online related to his research.

1) Doubting Doubt: An Interview with Timothy Larsen (by David Moore) at the Jesus Creed Blog (Scot McKnight)

2) Project Muse:

2.1) The Bible and the Victorians: An Interview with Timothy Larsen by Donald A. Yerxa @ Project Muse

2.2) A People of One Book: The Bible and the Victorians by Timothy Larsen (review) by Peter W. Sinnema

3) Timothy Larsen | Anthropologists and the Christian Faith ~ Youtube Interview by Greg Wheatley

4) A Closer Look at Victorian Christianity: A Conversation with Historian Timothy Larsen ~ Audio interview by Al Mohler @ Thinking in Public

5) Victorian Skeptics on the Road to Damascus ~ by Timothy Larsen at Christian History

6) A Portrait of America’s First Atheists by Timothy Larsen @ Christianity Today

7) Theology for Life (Ep. 11): Crisis of Doubt/Perseverance in Faith ~ Can’t locate the audio at the moment. I only see a description. I will look again later.

From New Age to Jesus – My Testimony | Steven Bancarz

~ I watched this testimony on Youtube. It is fantastic. I urge everyone to watch it. There are links below.

One of Steven Bancarz’s links: http://www.exposingthenewage.net/

~  There are other links listed below his youtube video. I urge you to check them out. 

Testimony at Reasons for Jesus:  From New Age Blogger To Christian: When I Encountered Jesus

~ Note: While I have only skimmed the written testimony, it does contain different material from the youtube one. 

Got Story? ~ Alasdair McIntyre Quote

~ The following is a quote from Alasdair MacIntyre’s book, After Virtue. (Pg. 216). I made it w Xara PGD. I find the thought to be quite intriguing. I mean what if the story that you are a part of does not cohere? What if your story is broken – I mean after all life is full of brokenness.  Also . . . is there a Story behind all stories, giving life to the stories?

 

Aldous Huxley Quote

~ I just made this. The above is a quote by Aldous Huxley found on page 293 of the book, What About the Big Stuff?: Finding Strength and Moving Forward When the Stakes Are High (2002) by Richard Carlson.  Aldous Huxley is of course the author of the famous novel, Brave New World.

Upon reading the quote, I couldn’t help but think to myself,

“Huh? What? – Thats it!?! Thats all you can say???”

This nothing but an empty platitude that anyone anywhere can mouth off.  This is it from the great Aldous Huxley? What a disappointment. 

Psalm 23 & God In Pursuit

~ Here and there I have heard Pastor John Piper say of Psalm 23:6, that a more literal Hebrew translation of it would be “Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.” 

In fact here is an excerpt from an article by him that states as much:

“God does not bless us begrudgingly. There is a kind of eagerness about the beneficence of God. He does not wait for us to come to him. He seeks us out, because it is his pleasure to do us good. God is not waiting for us; he is pursuing us. That, in fact, is the literal translation of Psalm 23:6: ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.'”

How Much God Wants to Bless You @ Desiring God Ministries

I have always wondered about this.  Is that really one more valid way to translate the Hebrew? Because most Bible versions seem have the word follow in verse 6:

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (NIV)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me … (ESV), (KJV), (NKJV)

Of the Bibles found at BibleGateway.com, about 30 Bibles use “follow” and about 12 use “pursue”. 

So which is it? And why is it important?

~ Let me start with the question of which is it? For this, I will take a quick look at the Hebrew. One sec. 

This is the verse in question. Don’t worry if you do not follow the Hebrew. I myself am very rusty and you can get the point.  

The word that I have cirled, yirdphuni, comes from the word radaph ~ rdp, which it turns out really does mean pursue:

Here is a more colorful picture from Logos. I love these:

~ So a literal translation of the Hebrew really can be “Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.” Interesting.

Ok. So why is this important?

One reason why is personal. I personally just find the idea of goodness and mercy being in a hot pursuit of us, to be something cool.  It’s as if they pursue us so as to tackle us and I like that picture.  I like the idea and image of being jumped by God’s mercy and goodness.

A second reason why I think it’s important is because there is quite often an asymmetry that governs our lives.  We all too often remember or notice the bad things that take place in our lives but rarely the good.  This is will help us to be more sensitive to the good in our lives.

A final reason why is that this is really about God pursuing us more than anything. All too often we are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as the ones seeking God. It really is the opposite – all through our lives… all the days of our lives.

You can read more about all this at the Piper article linked to up above. I will end for now.


*Note 1: All of the above and the following were accessed via Logos Software and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia in Logos.

Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia : with Westminster Hebrew Morphology. (1996). (electronic ed., Ps 23:6). Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society; Westminster Seminary.

*Note 2: I was just reading Proverbs 13 during my quiet time and noticed that it says in verse 21 “Adversity pursues sinners, but the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity.” And yes. Sure enough. The word for pursue here is the same one discussed up above.

Effective Praying involves Reasoning from God to God

~ The best prayers are those which reason from God to God. That is to say, we go from God’s character and His acts to our requests and petitions. God is the ground of our seeking something. He is the foundation for what we want.

A classic case of this is Abraham reasoning with God when God reveals to him that He is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.  Abraham intercedes saying,

“… Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?  Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”  ~ Genesis 18:23-25

Note what Abraham is appealing to. He is appealing to God’s goodness and justice.

Another example: It says in 1 Samuel 2:30: ” …Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.” 

I think that Nabeel Querishi (see previous post) is totally honoring God with his joy, hope, faith and so on. He is like a living embodiment of Romans 12:12,

“Joyful in hope,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.”

Praise God! So my point is that in my prayers to God, I can basically pray to God telling him that Nabeel has honored him, so do honor him also.  Why is honor important for Nabeel and really God at this moment in life? I mean he has Stage IV cancer with a 1% chance to live. Doesn’t he have better things to worry about than honor?

Well – there have been people who have alleged that the reason why Nabeel has cancer is because he converted from Islam to Christianity. Apparently this is some kind of divine punishment from Allah.  They have urged him to return to Islam so that Allah may heal him.

My personal concern here is that if Nabeel passes away, then this will discredit and dishonor the God of the Bible. So while I think we have good reasons to be hopeful that Nabeel will survive the cancer, I still think that if things go otherwise, we must pray that the living God will not be dishonored. So we can make our appeal on the basis of 1 Samuel 2:20. We ask God to honor Nabeel + the entire situation + its outcome because of what God said there. We appeal to God’s glory and honor here.

One last thing: Another 1 Samuel 2:30 related video from the movie, Chariots of Fire.  I will leave out the explanation since this has been long enough already.

The What and the When of a Calling

~ I am listening to Conrad Mbewe’s testimony on SermonAudio.com. He is the pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church out in Lusaka, Zambia.  In his testimony, he talks about his calling to the pastoral ministry and in the process passes on something that I think is sage advice. This is something I wish I had heard years ago and so I am noting it down here.


“I then moved over to start studying Mining Engineering at our local government owned university. About a year later, I began to sense in my own spirit, that God may be calling me to Pastoral Ministry. You have to appreciate that I was only a year old in the Lord and I didn’t know anything about how God calls men to the Preaching Ministry.

So I sought the counsel of an older Christian who was in our hall of residence whose understanding of the Bible I really admired and he – if I could summarize the way he put it to me. He basically said:

“It is one thing to know what God wants you to do. Its another to know when He wants you to do it.”

He basically used Romans 1 and argued for the fact that if I thought it was the Lord calling me, then I should go and have dealings with Him in prayer, but then wait for Him to open the door.  And between that point and His opening the door, I needed to be faithful to all the responsibilities that He would give me.

And thats what I sought to do for 7 solid years. From my first year in the University to the time that God finally opened the door for me to enter into the Pastorate of Kabwata Baptist Church.”

Getting back to the bold-faced statement up above:

~~> “It is one thing to know what God wants you to do. Its another to know when He wants you to do it.

I find this thought to be quite a powerful thought.  Its one thing to know what what God is calling you to do, but quite another to know when.  There are several stories of people who sensed God calling them to missions and what not in another country. However it was not about to happen overnight.  Patience would be needed as the call would only be realized many years a later.

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14

BTW, here is ~~> Conrad Mbewe’s site

And … Here is a another post I wrote on a related topic: The Long Hard Wait.

Sacerdotalism

~ I recently discovered that David H. J. Gay has a website where he freely makes available a lot of his books and articles. Thus far I have been following him on Youtube or on occasion have gone to Amazon to purchase some of his works but now – wow! I have discovered a spiritual treasure trove or resources at his website and its all free.

Now, in case you are not familiar with him, I will just say quickly that he is a preacher and theologian who is one of the clearest and most prolific expositor of New Covenant Theology, a theology which stands in contrast to Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism.

That all said…

In the past two days I have been googling Sacerdotalism – “Yes. I know… Sacerwhat? Sacerhuh?” This is something most people have never heard of. However I have been looking around for a church to attend to and one group that I have looked into, the Anglicans, has been described as such. So I have been doing some research to get clarity on the matter. Anyway here is a link to the pdf version of his book if you want to read it:

Paul’s Mystical Experiences…

In Chapter 12 of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul talks about a man who he knows, who was caught up to the third heaven about fourteen years ago. This man apparently “…was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.”

Who is this man that Paul talking about? If you read the prior chapter to get some context and then keep reading forward, you will realize that Paul is really talking about himself. One indication of this is that Paul shifts his language from speaking in the 3rd person to the 1st person.

Now here is a question: How long ago did Paul have these remarkably great experiences and receive “surpassingly great revelations”?

Veil Nebula ~ Courtesy Pixabay

Ans. Fourteen years ago.

” …I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven…” ~ 2 Cor. 12:2

And another question: Why is Paul telling us this now?

Why has Paul kept silent for fourteen years? I mean should he not have written whole epistles and books on the subject matter. Why so much silence? Why just a bare paragraph’s worth of information – no details given – and all this fourteen years later! Why?

Ans. I can’t say I know 100% why, but we can gather at least this much. Part of it was this it was not God’s will that he speak of these things. Another part of it is that Paul did not regard these experiences as particularly important to the furthering of the Gospel. He simply did not think that these subjective, and if you will – mystical – experiences were anything worth talking much about or anything that would help his neighbor in some special way.

Other wise Paul would have been the last person to hold back. If one reads the New Testament and gets a feel for Paul’s personality and temperament, one will realize that Paul would have been the last person to hold back on anything that will help you get to know God better. So for me the question becomes – just how important are mystical experiences?

I opine that they are not of much value. They simply are not. At the end of the day, our most important need is salvation from our slavery to sin. This comes from the Cross.

Here is a sermon, Strength In Weakness by Kent Hughes that in part discusses said issue:

On Nullifying God’s Promises ~ Sort of…

~ Here is a thought:

Suppose it is early in the month and I make a promise to you and say,

“I promise you that I will give you a 100 bucks on the last day of the month.” 

Now since I have given such a promise, I am obligated to keep it – if I have any character and integrity that is.

Now suppose later on, during the middle of the month, I go to the amusement park for a holiday and to enjoy the rides ands such there I run into you again. Here you remind me of the promise I made.  Now, what would you think if I then say,

“Hey. Look. I know  I owe you a 100 bucks and I know I promised to pay you at the end of the month, but let me say this to you now:

I promise you that I will give you 50 bucks on the last day of the month.”

What would your reaction be?

Obviously you would not accept this. A 100 bucks was what the original promise was. This is 5o short! Of course you would not accept this.  You would regard me as in effect trying to break the promise. No?

On the flip side, suppose I say the following to you instead:

“I promise you that I will give you a 1,000 bucks on the last day of the month.”

Surely you would not object? And surely this does not speak ill of my character in anyway.  In fact it speaks the opposite. Perhaps I am very magnanimous.  Also if I do give the 1,000 at the end of the month, I cannot in anyway be charged with breaking my promise.

Yet also notice, this new $1,000 promise is what now holds. If I make this promise, then it over-rides the $100 promise. The greater promise in a sense nullifies the lesser promise. On the flip side, the $50 promise does not in any way nullify the $100 promise.

Abe Lincoln & Psychological Egoism

~ I want to jot a quick story about Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), the 16th President of the United States. The story comes from pages 504-505 of Joel Feinberg’s book, Reason and Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy, 15th Edition

Mr Lincoln once remarked to a fellow-passenger on an old time mud-coach that all men were prompted by selfishness in doing good. His fellow passenger was antagonizing this position when they were passing over a corduroy bridge that spanned a slough. As they crossed this bridge they espied an old razor-backed sow on the bank making a terrible noise because her pigs had got into the slough and were in danger of drowning. As the old coach began to climb the hill, Mr. Lincoln called out,

“Driver can’t you stop just a moment?”

Then Mr. Lincoln jumped out, ran back and lifted the little pigs out of the mud and water and placed them on the back. When he returned his companion remarked:

“Now Abe, where does selfishness come in on this little episode?”

“Why, bless your soul Ed, that was the very essence of selfishness. I should have had no peace of mind all day had I gone on and left that suffering old sow worrying over those pigs. I did it to get peace of mind, don’t you see?”

Two comments:
~ I believe that as a thesis Psychological Egoism might be irrefutable. However just because we do not know how to refute it, does not mean that it is false.
~ It does seem so very true though…

Two Quick and Offbeat Thoughts On the Perseverance (= Preservation) of the Saints…

(1) John 10:27-29 says “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and NO ONE will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” 

The Point: “No one” up above surely means NO ONE. I mean absolutely no one.  So … even YOU cannot snatch yourself out of God’s hands.

(2) The second one I got from the Puritan John Owen (1616-83). John Owen basically raised a question of the good King Hezekiah whose story is recorded the Bible. And as the story went, Hezekiah was about to die due to being very ill and so he prayed to God asking God to spare him and God gave him an additional 15 years of life.

~~> So the question becomes, given that God has given Hezekiah a 15 years extension on his life, is Hezekiah now free to do as he pleases?

Does he need to look after his health anymore? Can he eat and drink as he pleases now? Can he now become a drunkard, drinking excessively because it will do no ill to his liver? Can he stop doing all exercise?

From John Owen, The Saints Perseverance, in Works, 11:280, accessed at The Puritans on Perseverance of the Saints by Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones

 

Genesis ~ Quick Note in Passing…

“Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven.” ~ Genesis 47:28

~ I just want to jot an odd note from a commentary that I read. This note has to do with the deaths of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The commentary that I read was Genesis: A Commentary by Bruce K. Waltke with Cathi J. Fredricks.

From pg. 591 –

“Interestingly, the factorization of the lifespans of the patriarchs follows a distinct pattern: Abraham 175 = 5 x 5 x 7; Isaac 180 = 6 x 6 x 5; Jacob 147 = 7 x 7 x 3.  Sarna explains, ‘In this series, the squared number increases by one each time while the coefficient decreases by two. Furthermore, in each case the sum of the factors is 17.  Through their factorial patterns, the patriarchal chronologies constitute a rhetorical device expressing the profound biblical conviction that Israel’s formative age was not a concatenation of haphazard incidents but a series of events ordered according to God’s grand design.'”

~ Honestly, I don’t know how people observe or figure out such things. Go figure!

Here is another article, that discusses said issue:

The Mysterious Numbers of the Ages of the Patriarchs by Duane L. Christensen @ jbburnett.com

 

Submitted Strengths & Admitted Weaknesses

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

What is weakness? Can such a thing actually be good? Of what use is a weak person?

weakness_distinctions

I have been thinking about weakness a lot and let me start off by saying that broadly speaking, I think there are two kinds of weaknesses, amoral and immoral. They are in the little drawing I have placed above. Of these two, the amoral (or non-moral) weaknesses are what I think are in view in the verses up above.  This is the kind of weakness that God works through. It is the kind that God blesses – not the immoral weaknesses. 

Any my current take: I think a good way to understand strength and weakness in the Bible is to understand strength as submitted strength and weakness as admitted weakness.

Let me start by talking about submitted strength. What I mean by this is that God gives us various gifts and talents. We do this for God’s glory. We acknowledge God in all that we do with these. We still rely on him for the proper use of these gifts.  It is all to easy to misuse our gifts or to just run with them without thanking God. Its just simply all too easy to run on gift-power rather than on the power of the Holy Spirit, the end result being dryness or burn-out.  Samson is a classic case in the Bible of unsubmitted weakness. His life ends in a suicide. 

As for admitted weakness, what I mean is that we take our weaknesses to God in prayer and tell him about it. We cast all our anxieties upon him.  The amazing thing is that God will use us still. He will still work through our weaknesses and bring about some great things.

And… and… I suppose it goes without saying ~~~> It all boils down to prayer in a 1,000 different ways. 

Faith & Love ||| Note in Passing

James 2:19 states:

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”

~ In Koine the word used for believe is pisteuō (πιστεύω). It can also mean: to trust, to have faith in.

19 σὺ πιστεύεις ὅτι εἷς ἐστιν ὁ θεός, καλῶς ποιεῖς· καὶ τὰ δαιμόνια πιστεύουσιν καὶ φρίσσουσιν. [1]

~ Note however that in James 2:19, that the word pisteuō is not translated as trust. It does not say or associate trust with demons. What we can get out of this is that the demons believe in there being one God, but they do not trust that there is one God.  Something more is implied in saying that trust is involved. This means that the word trust does not mean exactly the same thing is believe.

~ Now lets go to one other verse, Romans 4:5 in English and in Koine:

“However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

5 τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ πιστεύοντι δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ λογίζεται ἡ πίστις αὐτοῦ εἰς δικαιοσύνην· [2]

~ Here pisteuō  is translated as trusts and faith.

So all I am trying to say is this. In Koine, though the word often used in a given verse is pisteuō, in English, it may be translated as faith, believe, trust, etc.  Perhaps this should not be surprising.  Why? Well, we do this in English as well with some words. For example, the word you can have a singular referent or a plural referent.  Or the word love, can refer to something romantic or to friendships or to a fathers love for his child. And so on… We simply understand from the context what is going on.  And …

It seems to me that the Greeks were like that with the word, pisteuō. They simply understood from the context what was going on.

[1] Nestle, E., Nestle, E., Aland, B., Aland, K., Karavidopoulos, J., Martini, C. M., & Metzger, B. M. (1993). The Greek New Testament (27th ed., Jas 2:19). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.

[2] Nestle, E., Nestle, E., Aland, B., Aland, K., Karavidopoulos, J., Martini, C. M., & Metzger, B. M. (1993). The Greek New Testament (27th ed., Ro 4:5). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.

pale

Are Smart People Less Happy? ~ John Piper Interview…

EH_QuoteThe following was one among many question that John Piper was asked on his podcast Ask Pastor John. I found the answer he gave to be very interesting so I decided to transcribe it. The answer that he gives is here (click) , and you can listen to the audio there.

*Note: In the transcription below, the emphasis (underlining, bold face, etc.) and mine. So also the art. 


Tony Reinke: Ernest Hemingway is reported to have once said that ‘Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know’.

Pastor John, what do you think of this? Is this true? Are the deepest thinkers the most unhappy people?

John Piper: First of all, I doubt that Ernest Hemingway ever knew an intelligent, red-blooded, unashamed, thoughtful, articulate, happy Christian. The circles he functioned in, and the jaundiced view that led him to blow his brains out when he was 61 years old,  with a shot gun, didn’t give him a very good exposure to the possibilities of a kind of happiness that thrives precisely amid the sorrows of knowledge. But, he does put his finger on a truth that is biblical. And it is Ecclesiastes 1:18:

“In much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”

Piper: Thats what he experienced. And thats true, so my answer is yes. Its true because the Bible says so. At the end of the book, it says:

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”Notice

Thats true. So the intellectual life. The life of the mind. The life of thinking and wrestling with problems and trying to solve them is a life of increased sorrow and weariness. Yes it is. Yes it is. But notice. It does not say that increased knowledge leads to decreased joy. Increased sorrow? Yes. Decreased joy? No. 

What if sorrow and joy increased together almost in proportion with increased knowledge? 

What if the reason all the intellectuals that Hemingway knew were unhappy, is that they were only increasing in one kind of knowledge and not the kind that brings joy? 

Biblically, the case for knowledge, the life of thinking and understanding is mixed. It increases sorrow and it increases joy.  If you would know God better and know the world better and know yourself better, there is a price to be paid in sorrow and vexation.  It will be costly. And there is also pleasure to be had, and it is the Bible says, worth it all!

So, let me give the reasons that I can think of why the Bible says that increased knowledge increases sorrow:

1. Because the more we know, the more we know we don’t know. Its like paddling your little boat of knowledge further and further out into the endless sea of knowledge which is infinite because God is infinite, away from the comfortable shores of security and ignorance.  

The ignorant people don’t know the extent of what they don’t know. Those who pursue knowing  get to the top of a ridge – switched the metaphor now from paddling to climbing – they get to the top of a ridge, that they’ve been climbing for 10 years and as they pull their chin up over their top, they see 10,000 mountains to climb.

The person at the bottom who hasn’t been climbing, he can’t even see over the ridge. He’s lost sight of the person climbing the ridge, so he is not bothered by those 10,000 mountains yet to be scaled out there, so thats number 1, number 2…

2. Knowledge increases sorrow because the more we know the more we know of suffering. This is a fallen world. The more you know of it, the more you weep. It is.  Its futility. Its brokenness. Its misery. The ignorant feel some of it, but those who increase in knowledge of the world outside and the scope of history – its a “conveyer belt of corpses” one historian said, and we weep because of the more we know of this fallen world.

3. Third reason that knowledge growing increases sorrow is because the more we know, the more we are accountable to live up to.  

“To whom much is given, much is required.”

Our responsibility increases.

“Let not many of you become teachers.”  There is a burden to carry when God has given you insight. Yes, Christ gives help with all of our burdens but Paul spoke of an anxiety for all the churches. He carried so much himself and he wanted them to know so much and it was a burden that they learned this and lived this. 

4. Fourth, knowledge increases sorrow because we are compelled to change our ideas of when we learned something. In jumping from that little boat I talked about – that little boat of knowledge that you are sailing on into the sea of what you don’t know. Sometimes you gotta leap out of the boat because it turns out to be wrong. “I’m sailing the wrong theological boat and there is just a little raft of truth out there and you got to leap for it and you get splinters in your hands and your ego and thats painful to have to change your thoughts.

Eccles1_18

I remember I wept my eyes out in the Fall of 1968 as my theology was crumbling and needing to be rebuilt. Its a very painful thing to be able to walk through transformation of what you think you know. 

5. And the last one I thought of was, knowledge increases sorrow because the more we know, the more dementia will take away.  A mind full of great truth from God’s Word and God’s World will feel the sting of senility more keenly than the mind that has less to lose. 

So yes  Hemingway, much wisdom increases vexation and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow, but the message of the Bible is that it is worth it. Its worth the sorrow. 

The summons of the Bible everywhere is “Get knowledge! Get understanding!” The Bible never says run away from it. It  warns you of the pain, but it never says turn and run. 

“My son if you receive my words and treasure and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.”

Thats hardly a warning but aggressive an invitation as you could possibly make to go for it. Go for it! Yes sorrow, but go for it! That was Proverbs 2. 

Proverbs 20 – There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.

Jesus – “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Hosea: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” 

Romans 10: “I bear them witness. They have a zeal for God but it is not according to knowledge.”

Colossians 2: “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

So in other words Mr. Hemingway, increased knowledge does increase vexation and sorrow, but that is only half the story and oh that you had known the other half!  In Jesus Christ, this vexing knowledge is a treasure chest of precious jewels.

JPiper

Reinke: “Yes and amen. Thank you Pastor John and in fact one of  the critical things to learn is how to build our intelligence in order to make us more childlike in our dependence on God, not less dependent on Him.

Karen Swallow Prior and the “Difficult” Call …

Dr. Karen Swallow Prior

~ Karen Swallow Prior is a Professor of English at Liberty University. She got her PhD in English Literature (I assume) from the State University of New York at Buffalo – my alma – Woohoo! Anyway…  Very recently she wrote a short article, Called to childlessness: The surprising ways of God for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. I find the article very convicting and I think she says a lot that needs to be said. She points out a lot of things that rarely if ever are pointed out. Its worth reading!

I will post the beginning of the article here and you can follow the link to read the rest.  You can also read her other writings for The Atlantic here.

God’s model for the family is beautiful and good, the very picture of the union of Christ and his church: the fruitful marriage of one man and one woman.

Yet, the church often doesn’t know what to do with those who—whether by circumstance, conscience, choice or simply through the brokenness of creation—fall outside the mold that shapes this ideal of family life.

There is an unspoken assumption that this failure to fit the pattern is just that—a failure. To be sure, sometimes we break the mold by our choices, even our sins. But ours is a God of great imagination and infinite surprises. He sometimes calls us out of the standard mold and into a new one.

The primary calling of God for all Christians is, of course, the call to salvation, followed by the call to obedience to his will as revealed in his Word. This mold is for every believer. But the way in which God further refines and shapes that mold in calling each believer individually to serve the kingdom—through our vocation—can sometimes upend our expectations and even our desires.

It would be nice if God’s call on our life always coincided neatly with our passions and talents, but that’s not always, perhaps not even often, how it works. While it’s certainly true that our passions and talents hint at our calling, God sometimes calls us to things we don’t want to do and don’t have a knack for.

Just ask Moses.

Just ask Martin and Katharina Luther.

Just ask the fast food worker pulling long hours in order to put a roof over the head of the child God called him to father.

Just ask my many, many single friends who don’t have any particular passion or skill for being alone (quite the opposite, in fact) but have yet to be called by God into the office of marriage.

Or just ask me.

I believe God has called me to childlessness.

 


~ Read the rest here.

 

 

Acrostics In the Hebrew Bible – A Quick Note

~ Apparently, there are very many acrostics in the Hebrew Bible.  Of this phenomena, a Wikipedia article on Acrostics states

“These acrostics occur in the first four of the five songs that make up the Book of Lamentations, in the praise of the good wife in Proverbs 31, 10-31, and in Psalms 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119 and 145 of the Hebrew Bible.[3] Notable among the acrostic Psalms are the long Psalm 119, which typically is printed in subsections named after the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, each of which is featured in that section; and Psalm 145, which is recited three times a day in the Jewish services.”

~ I am curious to see if this is so, so I am going to take a look at this for Lamentations 1:1-5 and post what I find here.  Here is is:

~ Wow! Very interesting!

Source: LOGOS software snip and in particular,

[1] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: with Westminster Hebrew Morphology. (1996). (electronic ed., La 1). Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society; Westminster Seminary.

Esther ~ Notes in passing… (Obscure stuff)

~ In the book of Esther, God is never mentioned. Not even once.  I had heard that if you read the Hebrew however, you can find the word “YHWH” (Yahweh) listed four times in a very unusual way, viz. in an acrostic format. So two of those times, it is written in forward fashion and two of those times it is written in  a backwards, reverse fashion.  I just decided to look this up to see if its so and yes, it is so.

~ Now this is not something to make a big deal out of, however it is kind of interesting. I am reminded that even when we think that God has abandoned us or has just plain disappeared, He is always still there, behind the scenes.

~ Also its interesting that the you have two reverse acrostics. Having forward acrostics makes sense (if any acrostics makes sense!), but why the reverse ones? Who knows? However one of the themes of Esther is reversal as the story ends with the tables being turned on the antagonists.

Anyway … here are some snips I took  from Logos for a couple of verses from Esther. | (I am not sure how to do paste it in properly, so sorry.)

1) Esther 1:20 ~ Reversed order

A comment:
~ In the above, the acrostic is basically in the phrase “… it is vast, all women will give …”

2) Esther 5:4 ~ Normal (forward) order

Two comments:

  • Note that the red letters below are in reverse of the red letters above.
  • The verse fragment is sort of around “ … let the King and Haman come …’

We will find this reversed and forward pattern again in

  • Esther 5:13 ~ Reversed order
  • Esther 7:7 ~ Forward order
  • Esther 7:5 ~ “I AM” in reverse

[1] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: with Westminster Hebrew Morphology. (1996). (electronic ed., Es 1:20). Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society; Westminster Seminary.

[2] Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: with Westminster Hebrew Morphology. (1996). (electronic ed., Es 5:4). Stuttgart; Glenside PA: German Bible Society; Westminster Seminary.

Good Reference: No Matter Which Way You Spell it? The Book of Esther by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., at ReformedAnswers.org

Sorites & Hell (2)

~ Previously I mentioned the thought that when we think in terms of small numbers of people going to Hell, we think that God is loving still. However when we say that millions and millions are going to Hell, then we step back and say something like “How could a God of love do that? A loving Go would not send so many people to Hell.”

~ This line of thinking seems to me to point to a problem of vagueness. I mean where do we set the cut off line as to how many people God can send to Hell and still be loving. If God sends N people to Hell, He is still loving, but if he sends N+1, He is not?

One possible response is that we are concerned with types of people going to Hell. Its not so much the numerics. Surely we cannot say that the likes of Stalin, Pol Pot Atilla the Hun or Mao Tse Zong are in Heaven now? Of the masses of humanity that have exist and exist there are some notable types of people who have surfaced and who have committed unspeakable evil and had unspeakably evil characters.

Surely these types of people are going to Hell and not just your every day Joe or Jane? The masses of millions are not like these types of people. So its about types. Justifiation by faith/works issues aside, the issue here is that it seems to me that Sorites-like paradox crops up once again. Another question arises, viz.,

How many sins must a man commit before he gets sent to Hell?  N sins? N+1 sins? What is the cut-off line?

Aside: I also want to note that in some theological circles there is a doctrine called the Particular Redemption.  According to this doctrine, Jesus died for His Bride, the Church only. He did not die for everyone. There are at least two versions of this doctrine. One, which I called the Accountants Model of the Atonement states that Jesus died for N number of sins. Another version states that the exact number or quantity of sins is not whats important. He died for any number of sins that His people committed. There is more going on.  I am not !00% clear on the latter version as yet.

Anyway, the point is that the Accountant’s Model I think will slip into Sorites-like thinking. Here we sin and suffering are treated as debits and credits which are then tabulated on a T-account, i.e. the Cross.  The question once again arises: Did Jesus die for N number of sins of N+1?

{HOLD: My thinking is getting fuzzy here. Need to rethink this one. So I will stop here. CB2L8R}

 

 

Sorites & Hell

~ In Philosophy, there is something called the problem of vagueness. It deals with things like Sorites, where if you have a heap of grain and you remove from it one by one, one grain of sand at a time. When you do this, a question arises – at what point does it stop being a heap?

Another example is that of a bald man. If a man has X numbers of hair on his head and we pull one out and then another and then another, then at what point can we stand back and look at the guy and say “Your’e bald!”

Now this may all seem like splitting hairs and you may wonder who on earth can be interested in such things. Well what can I say? Analytic philosophers of course. They can split hairs even on a bald man’s head!

That said, I heard something recently that reminded me of the problem of vagueness. Someone told me that they believe that God is a just God who will indeed send some people to Hell. However God would not send untold millions of millions of people to Hell, because that seems inconsistent with being a loving God.

A thought on this:

~ It seems to me that to say that some how its OK for a loving God to allow 5-6 ppl to go to Hell, but surely not millions, admits to the problem of vagueness. I mean if sending millions to Hell is unloving, then what # is loving? 100,000s? 1,000s? Will we reach a point where we can say, “Ok. 603,340 is loving, but 603,341 is unloving?” Is there a cut-off point?  Vagueness…

Weakness – Making Some Distinctions

~ I have always puzzled over the theme of weakness as found in the Bible. An entire book of the Bible, 2 Corinthians, has that as one of its main themes. Here is a classic verse on the matter:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9 

And … Here are some distinctions that I am processing:

(W1) Weakness Transformed:  This is of the form where you work hard at a weakness to improve on it until it is a strength. E.g. John Piper struggled to preach in his early days.

(W2) Weakness Receded: This is where you work on a strength instead of a weakness. So for example C.S. Lewis sucked at math and failed his math entrance exams. As a result he did not go into Engineering. The rest was history.

(W3) Weakness Obviated: Here God basically steps in and does what you cannot do. Your weakness is not removed, but what you needed to get done by way of the weakness gets done anyway by God. Think of Joni Eareckson Tada  and her incredible ministry, Joni & Friends.  (Tada became paralyzed from the neck down on account of an diving accident.)

(W4) Weakness Supplanted: Here God basically steps in and removes the weakness and puts in place the relevant strength. For example, the blind receiving sight by Jesus.

(W5) Sinful Weakness: Like when you just can help but tell white lies habitually or help but go out on the Net and look up porn. This is not the weakness in view when God is talking about God’s strength being made perfect in weakness. See 2 Cor. 12:9 up above.

~ In W1 and W4 your weakness is removed.
~ In W2 and W3 you weakness is not removed.

~ And … With regards to W1-W4, submit your weaknesses to God in prayer and you an have full assurance that He will come through for you.

~ With regards to W5, you have a little more work to do starting with repentance…

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  ~ 2 Cor. 12:10

Joni Eareckson Tada
Joni Eareckson Tada