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…


Matthew 11:28-30 ~ The Nature of a Yoke (1)

~ In this post I am just going to gather some background information on what a yoke is. I will likely need to refer to this information in future posts. I will start by setting down the koine:

28 Δεῦτε πρός με πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι, κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς. 29 ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς καὶ μάθετε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ, ὅτι πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ, καὶ εὑρήσετε ἀνάπαυσιν ταῖς ψυχαῖς ὑμῶν· 30 ὁ γὰρ ζυγός μου χρηστὸς καὶ τὸ φορτίον μου ἐλαφρόν ἐστιν. From:  Nestle, E., Nestle, E., Aland, B., Aland, K., Karavidopoulos, J., Martini, C. M., & Metzger, B. M. (1993). The Greek New Testament (27th ed., Mt 11:28–30). Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.

~ ζυγός (zygos) means yoke.

Here is said passage in the ESV: 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Another verse where zygos or yoke is used is Acts 15:10: “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?”

And yet still another verse with zygos is 2 Cor. 6:14: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

All that said, here is what a yoke look like? Here is one picture: Although you cannot see it too well, there are these two circular things called bows that wrap around the neck of the buffaloes. Let me see if I can find a picture that shows the bows. … Since I am unable at the moment to find a free picture of a yoke, I will put together a slapdash drawing of one. Here it is: A yoke basically looks something like this. YokeBOne last thing. There is also a term that I want to jot down. It is yokefellow. Here is its definition from Dictionary.com:


1. an associate or companion, especially at work; partner.
2. a spouse.

I’ll end this with another verse: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” ~ Galatians 5:1

Faith & Fear: Thoughts On The Side

~ Tentative thoughts…

1) Faith and fear are synonymous if the fear in question is Fear of the Lord.

2) Faith and fear are mutually exclusive if the fear in question is a fear of the world, the devil, man, the future, etc. I.e. all that is not God.

3) Fear of the Lord and all other fear are mutually exclusive such that if the Fear of the Lord is truly present in a person, it will exorcise out all other fears.

~ That is to say that the big Fear drives out all the little fears.  For example, you could be waiting at the mechanic-shop, fearful about whats wrong with your car and how much its going to cost to fix it, and you get a phone-call telling you that someone you love has cancer. Now all those car worries are gone as you ache over the sick person.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” ~ 1 John 4:18


Character is Evidence … Work on this later…

Somewhere I blogged that faith involves evidence for vs. evidence against.

So God may tell you go in direction Y, but everything in life says ~Y. Temptation says ~Y.

Sometimes the evidence is character.

So sometimes the devil will say such and such is of no use. You are hopeless. And there may be evidence presented to that effect. And… it would seem that you don’t have any evidence to the contrary.

However it maybe the case that if you are being biblical, that you have to believe otherwise – and the only thing that you have to go on is God’s character. In this case, character is evidence.

Faith, Knowledge & Belief Distinctions – Work through this later.

This analysis might seem to some to border on inanity. Don’t ask why – but I just need to understand this better.

For now this is just a tentative sketch …  I need to think it through more later.



Unbelief is a belief – belief in the wrong thing.

Can we oscillate between belief and unbelief? “Lord I believe. Help thou my unbelief!” is not so much speaking of holding simultaneous contradictory beliefs as it is talking about going back and forth between the two. Evidence.

Beliefs are regarded as involuntary.

~ The object of belief has to be sole and singular – Jesus Christ.

~ The objects of unbelief are multitudinous.

Is faith involuntary?

Appearance and reality

~ What belief and faith have in common are appearance. What faith and knowledge have in common are reality.

I have faith in evidence.  Evidence in turn strengthens my faith.

Joy in James


~ The following is a clip from Craig Blomberg & Mariam Kammell’s Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on James. For now I just want to note it here. 

“This verse starts off with the command to “consider it all joy,” an imperative that has been highly abused in interpretation. First, the word for “all” (πᾶσαν) does not mean “everything” in this context, but functions adjectivally here, implying “pure” or “entire.” In other words, it does not form part of the direct object (“ Consider everything”) but identifies the type of joy one should have. 12 “Joy” (χαράν), in turn, speaks of a state of being rather than an emotion. 13 Joy proves quite different from happiness, so that this verse does not support the idea that a Christian must smile all the time! Joy may be defined as a settled contentment in every situation or “an unnatural reaction of deep, steady and unadulterated thankful trust in God.” 14 …  The third key piece of this opening command is the verb “consider” (ἡγήσασθε). This is a verb of thought rather than emotion. James is not commanding how one should feel, but rather how one should think about one’s circumstances. 16 Thus one is to “consider” or “reckon” any given difficult circumstance as “pure joy.” 17

Blomberg, Craig L.; Kamell, Mariam J. (2009-10-06). James (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament series Book 16) (Kindle Locations 751-772). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

The references cited:

12 . Johnson (The Letter of James, 176 ) offers “consider it entirely as joy” as a translation of this line.
13 . Patrick J. Hartin (“ The Call to be Perfect through Suffering [James 1,2 – 4]: The Concept of Perfection in the Epistle of James and in the Sermon on the Mount,” Bib 77 [1996]: 477) notes that in James, “joy emerges as the proper response in situations where one’s faith is tested.”
14 . Derek Tidball, Wisdom from Heaven: The Message of the Letter of James for Today (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2003), 22.
16 . D. Edmond Hiebert (The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith [Chicago: Moody Press, 1979], 71) calls this a settled conviction because of the aorist tense of this command. While in many contexts, this may be to “abuse” the aorist, here it seems to work well.
17 . William R. Baker (“ James,” in William R. Baker and Paul Carrier, James-Jude [Cincinnati: Standard, 1990], 18) notes that “problems are to be viewed with joy not because we actually enjoy them, but because they are part of God’s plan for us.”

Blomberg, Craig L.; Kamell, Mariam J. (2009-10-06). James (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament series Book 16) (Kindle Locations 1178-1193). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.


Passing Comments on Faith, Causal Efficacy, & Unbelief’s objects.

(1) The causal efficacy of faith and prayer are the same. Yet since the sum of the whole is greater than its parts, they together are better.

~ So really faith and prayer are just instruments.

(2) “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'” ~ Mark 9:24

~ W.R.T. Jesus it seems that belief can only have ONE object, viz. Jesus Christ. However, unbelief has a 1,000 objects.

I find this whole passage in Mark 9, viz. that of the healing of the boy with an evil spirit, to be very difficult to understand.


The Transparency of Experience ~ Notes (2)

More notes – from a different book: Philosophy of Mind: The Key Thinkers, edited by Andrew Bailey.

“The argument from transparency is based on introspective observations about what we do and do not notice in experience. In a nutshell, the introspective observations are these:

1. When we pay attention to our experiences, we don’t notice qualitative properties attributed to our experiences themselves.

2. When we pay attention to our experiences, the qualitative properties that we notice are attributed to the objects of our experiences.


To borrow Harman’s (1990) famous example, when Eloise sees a tree, she notices the greenness of the leaves, the brownness of the trunk and the overall shape of the tree. All the qualities that she notices seem to her to be properties of external objects, not of her experience. Our experiences seem to be characterized by properties of the sorts that external objects have, not properties that sense data or other mental entities have. Moreover, introspection reveals exactly the same properties whether or not corresponding objects exist. All this suggests that the nature of experience is exhausted by represented properties of represented objects.

Though advocates of transparency focus on visual experiences, the transparency observation is supposed to hold for all experiences. When we introspect on our auditory experiences, for example, we notice properties of sounds, such as their loudness and pitch, but we don’t notiec any qualitative features of our auditory experience themselves.

The claim that experience is transparent has been challenged on various grounds. …”

The Transparency of Experience Argument (Notes)

bluThe following are some notes on an argument I am trying to understand, viz. The Transparency of Experience Argument. I am getting my notes from pg. 44 of The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness, edited by y Philip David Zelazo, Morris Moscovitch, Evan Thompson. This is in the section titled Representationalism.

“Suppose you have a conscious experience of the blue sky. Your attention is focused on the sky.  You then decide to turn your attention away from the sky and onto your experience of the sky.  Now your attention is no longer focused on the sky, but rather on the experience thereof. What are you aware of? It seems that you are still aware of the blueness of the sky.  Certainly you are not aware of some second blueness, which attaches to your experience rather than to the sky.  You are not aware of any intermediate blue quality interposed between yourself and the sky.

It appears, then, that when you pay attention to your experience, the only thing you become aware of is which features of the external sky your experience represents. In other words, the only introspectively accessible properties of conscious experience are its representational properties.”

The Green and the Grey – tentative thoughts

John Hancock Bldg
John Hancock Building – Chi-town


The green and the gray…

The garden and the city

The forest and the metropolis

I am not sure how to explain this.  I just saw this video which I absolutely loved but… but for one tiny nit: It has a bit too much grey-ness at times.

Takuya Suzuki 2014 Modeling Reel from suztak on Vimeo.

~ I think that there are two different (perhaps opposing?) impulses found in humans.

An impulse to greenery and an impulse to grey-ery. That is we have an impulse towards nature and an impulse towards the city. What I am trying to say is that we have a impulse for the silence and solace(?) of nature and an impulse for the hustle and bustle of of the metropolis.

metropolisfritzlang~ Its more than just an impulse. I would say it is really a longing. There is something to the healing solitude one can find in the woods. (Spend time in nature and you will find that the healing just seeps into your soul.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters” ~Psalm 23:2)  And yet there is something to the dive-into-life quality – “Ah… life!” –  found amidst the crowds and cabs of the concrete jungle.

What is interesting is that the first book of the Bible, Genesis begins with a place that is primarily a garden – the Garden of Eden.  It is primarily a garden and secondarily a city (or something that is hand-built).  Yes – there is a city like or a design like quality to the Garden of Eden.  An Indian would understand this because in India we have so many incredible gardens like the Brindhavan Gardens. In the US they don’t have such types of gardens. Here quite often a garden consists of just grass!


The Bible on the other hand ends with the book of Revelation. Here we are presented with a city, the New Jerusalem. This place is primarily a city, and secondarily something that is garden-like.

I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” ~ Revelation 21:2

~ Interesting that I have a nature wallpaper on my laptop. I live in a small city. I bet if I went out the country and took a look at the laptop of some woodsy farming guy, he would have on it a city wallpaper.

(Not 100% sure about this.  Still need to research this, especially New Jerusalem. Also wonder if Eden is obsolete as it is found in the infra-strictures of the Old Covenant (e.g. the tabernacle). Life is not so much about the echoes of Eden, but more rather about the stirrings of the New Jerusalem.)

Revival Ad Intra, Awakening Ad Extra – Thought Experiment

Whitfield preaching
Whitfield preaching

Dr. Timothy Beougher of Southern Seminary offers the following helpful distinctions with regards to the issue of a Theology of Revival:

B. Is there a distinction between revival and awakening?
RENEWAL: When God touches the heart of a single individual
REVIVAL: When God touches a community of faith*
AWAKENING: When the wider society is impacted

*Re-vival – to vive someone again. I think the above distinctions are very important. You can read about this all in the handout at said link. You can also hear a message from him there on said topic.

~ I have in mind something else. An odd thinking exercise.

(1) Suppose the only group of people who existed right now on our planet were people who were members of the Church. I am talking about genuine believers.  Yet these believers were somewhat weak in terms of their spiritually.  If a revival took place could we say that this was a work of the triune God ad intra?

(2) On the flip side suppose that things are as they are now in the world – Christians and non-Christians.  If a revival took place in the church and then spilled out into the greater society, then could we say that this was a work of the triune God ad intra that then progressed into a work ad extra?

Just a thinking exercise.

Value – Extrinsic & Intrinsic

Aishwarya Sporting Some Mughal Jewelry
Aishwarya Sporting Some Mughal Jewelry – a few extra diamonds and she would be complete – Aay?

~ I’m just taking some notes from Tom Morris’s book, Philosophy for Dummies, Chapter 22, What Is the Meaning of Life? – pages 283-284 –

“When I ask whether life has ultimate value, or whether my life has value, I can be probing towards two different things. The first is what philosophers call extrinsic value – value that is conferred on something by something or someone else. What we call sentimental value is a form of extrinsic value. An ordinary-looking item can have sentimental value, great extrinsic value of this sort, because of its involvement in my life, or in events that matter a great deal to me. I endow it with that value.”

“The most common form of extrinsic value may be that of instrumental value: Something is valuable instrumentally because it produces or leads to something else that is of value.  Aspirin is instrumentally valuable because it can lead to the cessation of a headache or to the avoidance of a heart attack. My car has instrumental value due to its ability to get me to places … Because of all these great experiences … it has begun to have sentimental value as well.”

~ So extrinsic value sounds like something subjective.  Anyway… moving on…

“A second form of value – intrinsic value – is the value that a thing or quality has in and of itself, regardless of whether it leads to anything else of value, and regardless of how it is viewed.  When you pursue something that is of intrinsic value, seek it not merely for any benefits it might bring you, but just because you think it that it is important in and of itself. The great moral traditions have held that human beings, as individuals, have intrinsic value.  … Happiness has intrinsic value. It is not, and need not be, pursued for the sake of anything else beyond it. Love has intrinsic value. And, theistic philosophers have said throughout the centuries, the ultimate intrinsic values are to be found in God.”

Walking on Water & Faith ~ Another go …

~ I have always found it very difficult to systematically understand all the stories in the Bible that are about faith. Here is one more to think about. I have struggled with this one before, but it makes more sense now.

Stained Glass by Christopher Whall

29 “Come,” He said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  ~ Matthew 14:29-30

(1) First thing to note is that Jesus said “Come”. This indicates that for Peter to walk on water would be for him to do something in line with the will of God.

(2) The second thing to note is that Jesus said “You of little faith” meaning that Peter did have some measure of faith, though not a full measure of faith. As such Peter experienced some measure of success, though not a full measure of success.

(3) That said … I have often thought that faith is an either/or thing. Either you have faith or you don’t such that if you have faith in something going down, then it will go down.* You cannot have faith that something will happen and then it not happen. (Indeed it will happen, however it will not happen of necessity.**)

The above passage seems to challenge this. It seems like Peter had faith and yet still he experienced a failure. How can this be?

The answer: Simple. Peter did not have faith for the whole walk. He had just enough for 2, 3 steps. Hence Jesus said to him, “You of little faith” meaning that Peter did have faith but only to sustain him for 2-3 steps, but not for 10-11 steps. He ran out of faith. He went totally broke on it and completely lacked it. However he still did take a 2-3 steps forward and that is commendable.

~ The thought here is this: If Jesus says “Come.” then this means that you can get to where you are bid to come full of faith. You may need to keep replenishing however – that is you may have to keep to your devotionals steady, keep praying, keep meeting with other believers, keep your eyes continually fixed on Jesus and so on. To exercise faith in a step-by-step fashion you need to continually keep replenishing. I am reminded of where Jesus said “According to your faith be it done to you” type of faith.  I think this is something along those lines.

All that said, this sort of thing is not the case every time. Other times, other trials, the very presence of faith is once and for all enough to experience a full measure of success. Thats why Jesus said that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed…

*Note: This has to do with some very basic considerations of modal logic. If any one reads just Chapter 1 of any Modal Logic book, and nothing else then they will know what I am talking about. There is a link to a free book on said topic on the right by Ed Zalta in the Online Books section.

**Note2: I am doing a 2nd round of study of Modality via Vern Poythress’ book on Logic and will need to reassess all this. He seems to be saying things that challenge my thoughts here. Is all good though! The book is free (click link)  and the cover design is wonderful!!! Fantastibulous!


Is the Holy Spirit a Person?

I once went through a phase where I was very agnostic with regards to the meaning of the word person.* I wondered what exactly we meant when we said that God is three persons in one divine nature? I got somewhere eventually. I got my ducks in a row by thinking about what it meant to say that the Holy Spirit was a person. Here I arrived at my answer by following a line of reasoning similar to this – taken from Wiki.

The Duck Test:

The duck test is a most erudite and scholarly form of inductive reasoning. This is its usual expression:

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

Amen and quack quack!

On another note … a quote from one of my favorite authors:
“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.” ~ Douglas Adams

*Note: I am not 100% on this as yet.

GodSpeak… Decision Making Stuff … Rough thoughts.

Random thoughts to throw out there.

1. Verificationism analogy.
– Unless X can be empirically verified by empirically by the 5 senses…
– Unless X can be verified by the Bible, don’t… So we see people who will not move or do a single thing unless you have a Scripture to tell them to move or do that thing.

Another Extreme:
– “How did it come about that Z?” “God did it. God told me ____”
– How did you become a Christian? Well God made me one.

God of the Gaps…

2. The preceptive/prescriptive will of God is all the guidance you need.
Response: Are we Moral Turing Machines then?

The Hermeneutics of Providence:
3. How do I know with 100% certainty that X is an answer to prayer?
~ Lets say I pray for Joe to be healed and even though the doctors said just this morning that he is dismally beyond hope and that tonight he will die. I pray and within 30 minutes he makes an incredible recovery. He comes out of a coma, fully recovers from brain damage at breakneck(!) speed and what not and then goes on to live a remarkable life. Coincidence? Its extra-biblical speak – No?
~ I can pull an even more remarkable “coincidence” that this… how do I know that its of God?
– the atheist/agnostics test.

Go wrong here and your Hermeneutics of Providence can become a Necromancy of Providence!

Check Triablogue on this.

4. Does God speak outside the Bible? Proving too much vs. Proving too little.

– Yes God does. This proves too much. Now anything can be deemed to be God speaking. “God told me you were the one. You better marry me otherwise you would be sinning!”
– No God does not. This proves too little. Now even the most remarkable prayer answers are deemed to be just coincidences. We also have the problem cited in (1) up above.

5. A 1,001 distinctions!
The sovereign/decretive/absolute/secretive/perfect/active/hidden/efficacious/ultimate will of God. You cannot step out of it.
The prescriptive/preceptive/revealed/passive/moral/declared will of God – you can step out of it.*

Also permissive = perfect will – a 3rd way of seeing God’s will? And perfect will = individual will?

And yet still one more… God’s preferential (desiderative) will.

And also… God’s “directive will”.

There are distinctions galore in the topic… whew!

“the decretive will of God is that will of God by which God sovereignly brings to pass whatsoever He wills.” ~R.C. Sproul
*Yes. There really are that many synonymous names or terms for the same concept!

6. Individual Will
~ The individual will of God. To what degree is the individual will a part of God’s decretive will?

~ Just how secretive is God’s sovereign will? To what degree? If God tells you something from His sovereign will and then its no longer a secret then is it still sovereign. Sure. No?

~ If God is truly sovereign, how can He not have an individual will?”

I think that an individual will can be wholly secretive or partially secretive. Either way it is be a part of God’s sovereign will.

7. Open & Closed Doors:
~ Suppose you find yourself facing an open door to do some amazing stuff?
– Could this open door in fact be a form of temptation from the Devil?
– Is an open door from God a command? If so then would you be sinning if you did not step through the door? (I.e. Does an open door from God have the same weight as a moral command from the Bible?”
– Is an open door from God rather an opportunity? Such that were you to say no, you would not be sinning.
– Or is it something in between?

~ Suppose you find yourself facing an closed door ?
– Did God shut the door? in which case you ought not to go in that direction or …
– Did the Devil shut it so that you need to keep trying?

~ Now that said, it needs to be mentioned that the Bible never uses the terms “closed door”. You will that the Bible uses the phrase “open doors” but the phrase “closed door” – no, never. Why?

“Every time you see this concept of an open door in the Scripture, it is always an open door for evangelism or ministry.”  ~ Kirk Youngblood


~ Grace is getting something for FREE that you do not deserve.

–  Well its a little more than that…

~ Grace is getting something GOOD for free that you do not deserve.

–  Well its a little more than that…

~ Grace is getting something good and EXPENSIVE for free that you do not deserve.

– Grace is not cheap. Can you get it at the Family Dollar or Dollar Tree stores? No. For one thing its free. For another its simply not cheap. You cannot get it at the Family Dollar or Dollar Tree stores.

~ So if someone walked up to me out of the blue and gave me a diamond then I would be getting something good and expensive for free. I also likely would not deserve it.


Christianity is a relationship and religion is a set of relational-helps to accompany.


You cannot buy anything from God, not even the dirt out on the road. You simply cannot buy anything from God because He owns everything. Pen and $ from wallet illustration. Candy and cash register illustration.


1. God owns everything.

2. You cannot buy anything from God.

3. You cannot sell anything to God.

4. You cannot buy grace or sell grace.

Grace … unsettled thoughts to settle later…

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:8).
“But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard” (Isaiah 52:12).

~ I’m processing these in terms of grace. Grace goes before you, goes behind you and is with you. It is in the scenes, behind the scenes, and before the scenes. It is sufficient, efficient, proficient… i.e. amazing.  The point simply is that we will always get the right amount of grace when we need it. Think of it in terms of past, present and future:

Past: Looking back on our lives, we know this to be true. How many times have we been nervous or fearful about something and it was not so bad? There was grace!
Present: And … and it is true this very moment. (Don’t see it? Its at work, behind the scenes.)
Future: And … and as for tomorrow do not worry about tomorrow since grace has already gone on ahead of you and is waiting there for you. When you get there, there will be a fresh supply of grace to fit your needs that day.

“… Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deut. 31:8).
“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me” (Psalm 139:4).

Wilkins On Temptation

wilkinsmatthewI’ve been reading The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew by Michael J. Wilkins.  One interesting note that I have picked up comes from Wilkins’ discussion on The Temptation of Jesus. With regards to Jesus’ second temptation,

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
~ Matthew 4:5-6

Wilkins says the following.

“Temptations are one of the enemy’s way of trying to get a person to go contrary to God’s will. Therefore, a temptation is not always trying to get a person to do something that is inherently sinful. It is not inherently wrong to turn stones into bread. But the Father’s will for the Son at this time is to fast, not to eat.

Therefore, turning stones into bread will lead Jesus astray. The question really is, What is the Father’s will for the Son?”
~ Pg. 158

~ Note – An added complication: What if the temptation does not seem to come from satan? What if it somehow even seems to have its source in the Scriptures? While I am still processing this, do note that satan used Scriptures up above.

Follow Me… Ἀκολούθει μοι – Matthew 9:9

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.” ~ Matthew 9:9

~ I have often had the impression that Jesus went walking around the beaches of Galilee asking practically random people that He saw to follow Him.  Eventually I learned that this was not so.  Jesus did not just walk up to strangers and ask them to follow Him. No, Jesus actually either knew them or they knew Him decently well enough.

The Calling Of Matthew by Houbraken
The Calling Of Matthew by Houbraken

I think that the above verse might give us the impression that Jesus walked up to Matthew randomly and asked him to follow Him if we do not take a look at the context. What the preceding context shows us is that at this point many things have transpired. Jesus has given the Sermon on the Mount to untold thousands. He has healed numerous people. He has stilled a storm. He has exorcised two demon possessed men and done many other things. The people had a decent idea that He was more than just another person on the street.

So when Jesus walked up to Matthew, Matthew in all likelihood knew a good bit about Jesus and vice versa.  So why did Jesus ask him to follow Him? Well, I think it was because Matthew was a FAT person.  Huh? Its as my old seminary professor used to say.  My prof said in so many words that FAT people are the best people to disciple. Why FAT people? Because FAT people are:


Available, and


So why did Jesus say to Matthew, “Follow me”?

He was basically a fat guy. The fact that Matthew did not say something like “Sure, but first let me…” suggests faithfulness and the fact that he threw a party later on that day suggests that he was available.  The fact that he wrote the longest of the Gospel accounts and one which has much by way of teaching, shows that he was teachable.

~ That said, there is something to be said that when you are going to be discipling someone, make sure that the person is a fat someone. Don’t just disciple anyone.

*Note: At seminary I came across this phrase “theological obesity”. It referred to people who had acquired a ton of theological knowledge but did not do anything with it.  The solution to theological obesity is of course doing some kind on ministry. Anyway, FAT people are not theologically obese.

The Reign of God / The Kingdom of God (2)

“Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” ~ Luke 17:20-21

~ In my previous post on this topic, I mentioned that Jesus did not come to set up any sort of militaristic earthly kingdom. I want to reinforce that point by looking at the verse above.

In the above verse, Jesus is addressing some Pharisees with whom He was at loggerheads with. Here He points out to them that His growing reign will not be one accompanied by the noisy clash of swords nor the explosion of bombs. Rather it will be something that will grow silently, invisibly and I would say, at times somewhat inconspicuously.

Now – As an aside I also want to mention that the sentence, “… the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” is translated in some Bibles as “ the kingdom of God is in within you.” That is not the best translation. It is better to translate it as “in the midst of you” or “among you”. There are a number of New Agers and Hindu gurus who use this verse as a proof-text to argue that Jesus taught divinity is within. This is incorrect.

Jesus was addressing some jealous and venial Pharisees who would eventually get Him killed. He was not telling this corrupt lot that divinity was within them. What Jesus meant by saying that “ the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” was that He, Himself was the Kingdom of God and that He was in their midst. He was standing among them. See the painting above.

The Reign of God / The Kingdom of God (1)

When a nation invades another nation, the people being invaded have 3 basic options. They can either

1) Flee,
2) Fight back or
3) Surrender.

In Matthew 4:17, we are told,  “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

A better way to understand the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” is to understand it as “Reign of God”.  That is how they understood it back then and that is what Jesus meant.  Jesus was not speaking of a militaristic, political earthly kingdom which would be fought out in wars akin to the painting above. No Jesus’ reign began with His own physical presence back when He walked the planet. It then moved to a conquering of the sinful human heart and then further moved outward into righteous actions and on to the sanctification of some institutions and the eradication of others.

To get this point think of some worldly conqueror from past history, like Napoleon or Alexander the Great.

~ Lets suppose that you lived in some village and that these guys were out on their rampage and some guy runs into your village screaming, “Alexander the Great is coming. Alexander is coming. The Reign of Alexander is near!” What would you do? You basically have the 3 options mentioned up above.

So in Matthew 4:17 verse, Jesus in effect was saying “Repent, for the Reign of God is near.” Basically the King has come back to reconquer His territory. The King had landed on our territory and was in effect an invading force. The people being invaded had 3 options:

1) Flee – I.e. run from God. Many today spend their entire lives doing just this.
2) Fight back – Some do this today. Consider the New Atheists.
3) Surrender – I.e. repent.

Understanding Matthew 11:12 – Some Notes

Matthew 11:12 – “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” (NIV 1984)


~ What follows now are some notes from Matthew (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) by Grant Osborne, my old prof. 

“The problem has to do with the words biazetai (“is subject to violence”) and biastai (“violent people”). These words are found in said verse side by side and can be understood either positively (“forceful advance”) or negatively (“suffering violence”).

Four Ways to Understand this Verse:

(A) Totally Positive: “the kingdom forcefully advances [through God], and forceful people [the disciples] seize it”

(B) Totally Negative: “the kingdom suffers violence [persecution], and violent people [the leaders] plunder it”

(C) Negative/Positive: “the kingdom suffers violence, but forceful people lay hold of it”

(D) Positive/Negative: “the kingdom is forcefully advancing, but violent people plunder it.”

~ Arnold/Osborne think that its best to see biazetai as passive rather than middle (“forcefully advancing”) and thus as a negative. They also think that biastai ought to be seen in its common negative use as “violent people”.

~ According to Arnold/Osborne, the verse is basically speaking of persecution that the church experiences at the hands of violent people. What was John the Baptist’s fate?

11:12 From [20] the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and forceful people lay hold of it. [21]

[20] tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
[21] tn Or “the kingdom of heaven is forcibly entered and violent people take hold of it.” For a somewhat different interpretation of this passage, see the note on the phrase “urged to enter in” in Luke 16:16.

12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence,[a] and the violent take it by force.

[a] Matthew 11:12 Or has been coming violently

“12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence,[a] and violent people have been raiding it.”

Notes on Knowledge and Difficulty

– Presentism


1. They say that it comes in 3 forms:
1a. Knowledge by Acquaintance
1b. Propositional Knowledge and
1c. Skills Knowledge
2. Some say that it really only comes in 2 forms and that 1c in fact can be subsumed into 1a. Works for me.
2a. Figure out who said this. David Lewis?
3. Met. John Zizioulas said something that seems to relate to the 2 forms of knowledge. Compare and analyse
4. Some people say that the Meaning of Life (MOL) is “to know God”
4a. What does that mean?????
4b. How does this square against 1a & 1b
4c. How does this square with accounts of MOL that bring in the notion of story as an explanatory … whatever


1. Coming at it from Heaven-side down:
1.1.  The categories of difficult and easy cannot be applied to God because He knows everything immediately.
1.1.1. For God 1 + 1 = 2 is as easy as proving Fermat’s Last Theorem.
1.1.2. For God baking an apple pie is as easy as creating the Universe.
1.2. Think about size
1.2.1. For God everything is the same “size”????
2. Coming at it from Earth-side up:
2.1. Perspicuity issues related to the Scriptures.
3. Divine Simplicity should enter here.

Prolepsis and prophesy  / independent politician vs. dems vs. repubs…  / accountants atonement’

Neo in the Matrix / Ironman / Euler’s bridges / EO intercessor saints / 1 Cor. 3:22 /

“Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things?” ~ Romans 8:32


The Evangel…

ThemeliosThe following is an excerpt from an editorial written up by my old prof, D.A. Carson. It discusses the question of whether the Gospel is only for those who are not Christians or is it also for Christians. Its for both!

“Which brings us to the text at the top of this note. Paul tells Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5). That word “evangelist” (εὐαγγελιστής) is found only three times in the NT—once to designate Philip (Acts 21:8), once in a list of ministries (Eph 4:11), and here. I suspect that most of us read 2 Tim 4:5, “Do the work of an evangelist,” along some such lines as the following. Paul tells Timothy, in effect, that even when he is rightly involved in preaching, teaching, instructing, correcting, even when he is known for keeping his head in all situations and learning to endure hardship, he must not forget to do the work of an evangelist.

. . .

Doubtless that is excellent counsel—but is this exactly what Paul is saying? Several factors must be raised.

(1) For some Christians, “the gospel” (equivalently, “the evangel”) is something you preach only to unconverted people. The gospel merely tips people into the kingdom; transformation and sanctification are sustained by discipleship. Once people become Christians, then the work of life transformation begins, often buttressed by various discipleship seminars: “Biblical Leadership,” “Learning to Pray,” “What to Do with Your Money,” “Christian Marriage,” and so forth—none of which falls under “gospel,” but only under post-gospel discipleship. In recent years, however, many preachers and theologians have convincingly argued that “gospel”/“evangel” is the larger category under which both evangelism and discipleship fall. In the NT, gospel is not everything—it is not law, for instance—but it is a very big thing, precisely because it is the unimaginably great news about what God is doing in and through King Jesus, especially in and through his cross and resurrection. A careful reading of Scripture shows how often Christian conduct is grounded in the gospel itself. For instance, the gospel is to be obeyed (e.g., 2 Thess 1:8); certain behavior conforms to the gospel, while other behavior does not (1 Tim 1:10–11). Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25)—transparently, this is a gospel appeal. In short, in the NT the gospel is preached both to unbelievers and to believers. It calls unbelievers to repentance and faith; it calls believers to ongoing faith and conformity to Jesus.

In other words, gospel ministry includes but is not restricted to what we commonly call evangelistic ministry (note the two words, gospel and evangelistic, making the discussion confusing). Gospel ministry is ministry that is faithful to the gospel, that announces the gospel and applies the gospel and encourages people to believe the gospel and thus live out the gospel. If this is so, then why should “Do the work of a gospeller” mean something more restricted, like “Do that part of gospel work that addresses unbelievers (i.e., that to which we sometimes restrict “gospel ministry,” calling it “evangelism”)?

(2) The context of 2 Tim 4:5 suggests that it is this large view of gospel ministry that is in view. After Paul’s passionate command to Timothy to preach the word, spelling out what it means (4:2), he warns that a time will come when people will not want to listen but will prefer teachers “who say what their itching ears want to hear” (4:3). “But you,” Paul tells Timothy, “keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (4:5). This does not sound like a list of discretely defined chunks of ministry, as if Paul were saying, “Study hard for your preaching, visit the elderly, catechize the young, provide good counsel, do the work of an evangelist”—add them all together, and you will be a well-rounded minister. Rather, the list Paul provides focuses not on discrete ministries but on global stances throughout Timothy’s ministry: “keep your head in all circumstances” is not a discrete thing to do, something to be added, for instance, to “endure hardship.” No, all of the entries on this list are comprehensive. In this context, then, “do the work of an evangelist” simply means “do gospel work”—and that summarizes all of the instructions in the preceding lines. That’s what ministers do. They “discharge all the duties of [their] ministry”: they do gospel work. Doubtless that includes what we mean by evangelism. In that sense, “do gospel work” includes doing the work of an evangelist. But in this context it is doubtful that Paul is narrowing the field.

(3) Of course, a word might become more restrictive in its pragmatic use in a particular context. When Philip is designated “the evangelist” (Acts 21:8), does this mean “evangelist” in the modern sense? Perhaps. Luke might be remembering Philip’s ministry to the Ethiopian eunuch, in which he was certainly preaching the gospel to an unbeliever. Interestingly enough, however, this passage designates him as “one of the Seven” (Acts 21:8; cf. ch. 6). The work of the Seven was not Bible teaching and evangelism, though transparently some of them, including Philip, did engage in such word-ministry. It is difficult to tell if Luke thinks of him as an evangelist in the modern sense—a specialist in outreach. He may simply have exercised gospel ministry.

The use of εὐαγγελιστής in Eph 4:11 is a bit different. There the location of the word in a series of expressions all related to word-ministries suggests that what is in view is the kind of gospel ministry that we associate with “evangelism.”

(4) Though the argument is not worth much, we should note that there is inscriptional evidence ofεὐαγγελιστής used in a pagan setting to refer to certain kinds of pagan priests, without any thought that such priests were trying to win converts.

In sum: Owing to the way in which two different English word-groups—gospel and evangel—are used to render one Greek word-group (εὐαγγέλιον and cognates), it is possible we have sometimes read into our English texts over-specifications that may not be there in the original. In its context in 2 Tim 4:5, a case can be made that εὐαγγελιστής is a prime example. “Do the work of an evangelist” may well be an exhortation to engage in evangel ministry, in gospel ministry, which includes what we today mean by evangelism but should not be restricted to it.