Thursday, January 18, 2018

Jesus choosing people over the Law

I tweeted/made a Facebook post a couple days ago: "Jesus consistently chose people over the Law." Most agreed and at the moment there are 71 either likes or loves of the post on Facebook with 4 shares.

1. Of course there was some push-back, perhaps from three directions. First, there are those who ideologically over-emphasize continuity between the testaments. To me there is some inability to read the biblical texts in context here. For example, someone is so used to Hebrews that they think Leviticus would have had no problem with it. As one colleague once told me: "I think if the author of Leviticus were to read Hebrews, he would say, 'Of course.'" I think this is highly unlikely and reflects some inability to hear Leviticus on its own historical terms. Leviticus itself gives us no reason to think that its system of atonement was inadequate or insufficient in any way as a system. For a thousand years Jews thought the Levitical system was in fact the system God installed for all time.

So a certain degree of contextual unreflectivity is involved when we cannot see how startling a Gospel of John or Ephesians or Hebrews would have been to many Jews when they were hot off the press. This group wishes to say, "The New Testament is simply showing us what was in reality the actual meaning of the Old Testament from the start."

2. A second group are those who are sympathetic with what we might call the "Jewish roots" movement, for lack of a better word. This is a somewhat sectarian Christian movement (one that could become a cult over time), frequently involving Messianic Jews. If the first group says, "The Old Testament meant what the New Testament says," the second group says, "The New Testament means what the Old Testament says." So the discontinuities between the testaments are not fully appreciated again, but in deference to the Old Testament.

The tendency here is to miss the fact that Paul and other New Testament Christians like John did in fact disregard parts of the Jewish Law. Romans 14 and Colossians 2 imply that Gentiles need not keep the Jewish Sabbath (even though it is one of the 10 commandments). Jesus and Paul clearly did not think the food laws were binding on Gentile Christians. Paul in effect did not expect Gentile believers to keep any part of the Jewish Law that was "Jew-specific" or a "boundary" law.

By the way, I heard about another sectarian movement last week in Indiana (another cult waiting to happen). It reminds me of Marcion. It dismisses those parts of the New Testament that it thinks were not written for Gentiles. It is, in effect, a "Paul only" movement. It ignores the Gospels, for example. A contention point is the fact that Colossians 4 seems to indicate that Luke was a Gentile. Basically, it's a rubbish movement.

3. A third group that pushed back perhaps discerned the reason I posted in the first place. A legalistic strand within Christian America, including my own holiness background, has more in common with the mindset of the biblical Pharisees than with Jesus or Paul. I believe Jesus would approve DACA without a moment's hesitation. I believe this is the true Christian position. If Jesus sat loosely to the Jewish Law, imagine how loosely he would sit to the immigration laws of some random country.

I do believe that the rule of law is important in general in that it preserves in structural form the fundamental principle of "loving your neighbor as yourself." However, not all civil laws are created equal. We should obey the laws of our land in general in keeping with Romans 13. But this is not an absolute (cf. Acts 4). And there are various options with regard to the consequences of law-breaking.

4. In any case, I was asked for examples of Jesus putting people over the Law. Here is an annotated list.

Mark was written for Gentiles (sorry, "Paul-only" idiots in Logansport). So we might not be too surprised if it is not worried about Jesus appearing to be a scrupulous Law-keeper.

a. In Mark 2, Jesus does not respond to the Pharisees, "My disciples aren't breaking the Law by plucking grain on the Sabbath." His response is in effect, "Didn't David break the Law when his fighting men were hungry?" (2:26). In other words, he wasn't concerned about showing that he was a Law-keeper and accepted the assumption of law-breaking.

b. Of course he ignored the traditions of the elders several times. Eating with sinners (Mark 2 again) and thus making himself unclean, healing on the Sabbath (Mark 3), and letting his disciples eat without washing their hands (Mark 7). We easily dismiss these as "that's just the tradition of the elders," but it would not have felt so easy to dismiss at the time. This would have been experienced as Jesus sitting very loosely to the Jewish Law.

c. Mark interprets Jesus to declare all foods clean in Mark 7:19. Let's just say that this would have been a surprise to Leviticus. Very shocking at the time! Even many Christians experienced this as a flagrant disregard for the Scriptures. See Galatians 2.

Unlike Mark, Matthew probably was written primarily with Jewish Christians in view. Matthew doesn't mention that Jesus declared all foods clean when telling about the incident in Mark 7 (cf. Matt. 15). So Matthew does seem concerned to show continuity between Jesus and the Law. However, when it comes to individual instruction in the Law, there is discontinuity:

d. Jesus' fulfilled understanding of the Law in Matthew 5 modified and is in tension with parts of the Law. The Law allows divorce for any reason. Jesus prohibits it, possibly because it is a form of legalized adultery and thus is abusive toward wives.

e. The Law says to keep vows (third commandment). Jesus says not to make vows.

f. The Law says to show no pity but "an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth." Jesus countermands this rule for individuals.

The Gospel of John is a highly symbolic presentation of Jesus, a Message version, if you would. Its author seems to see in Jesus a deeper reality that supercedes practice of the Jewish Law. It also seems to be for a primarily Gentile audience.

g. In John 10:34, Jesus calls the Law, "your Law," suggesting that the Jewish Law is not "his" Law in some way. This is probably a paraphrase of sorts, but it shows the degree to which John separates Jesus from Judaism.

h. The symbolism of Jesus turning water for purification into wine in John 2 may symbolize that Jesus' blood replaces the Levitical purification system. We might say fulfills. Leviticus probably wouldn't see it that way.

i. Jesus suggests to the woman at the well in John 4 that it is not necessary to worship God in Jerusalem. We might say gets at the true reality. Deuteronomy probably wouldn't see it that way.

j. John 8 probably wasn't in the initial manuscript of John, but in the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus works against enacting the punishment in the Law for a person caught in adultery.

5. My personal sense is that Jesus was not a scrupulous Law-observer. I'm not suggesting that he was a flagrant Jewish-Law breaker. I'm saying that the trajectory we pick up in the Gospels is of someone who was repeatedly criticized for not being careful in his attention to the Law. Such a trajectory would help explain both Paul's initial resistance to the Jesus movement and the character his Christianity took once he became a Jesus-follower.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2.1b Rule of Faith cont.

Thus far in a future book.

Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Basic Approaches
1.3 History of Biblical Theology
1.4 This Book's Approach

Chapter 2: Theology of God
2.1a The Rule of Faith

4. This is the view of God that Christians have developed in dialog with Scripture, various Christian traditions, their experiences, and their reason. Although various Christians and Christian traditions quibble over the fine points here and there, the vast majority of Christians believe that God is holy, self-sufficient, triune, loving and just, sovereign, eternal, immutable in his nature, creator, spiritual, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

We might say that these features of God are a kind of "rule of faith." Most Christians would say that these attributes of God are biblical and are derived from Scripture. In reality, the process of their development has been more of a dialog between Christians and Scripture. Philosophical reasoning was a clear feature of early Christian reflection on God in the first few centuries of Christendom. Further, when we encounter passages in the Bible that seem in tension with an attribute like "omniscience," most Christians deploy intellectual coping strategies to try to explain the passages in some other way.

For example, Genesis 6:6 says that God regretted that he had made humanity. Upon reflection, we realize that this statement conflicts with the notion that God is omniscient and knows everything. If God knew humanity was going to sin, then he cannot truly regret making us. He knew we were going to sin when he made us.

Nor will it work to deploy the fact that humans sometimes know something with their heads and then feel differently when they know it experientially. This dynamic is a function of human finitude. If God knows all things, then he knows what it is like to experience his universe too. Indeed, if God truly created the world out of nothing, then he created the very possible shape of human experience.

So we are faced with only a few options. Perhaps Genesis 6 was originally anthropomorphic, knowingly picturing God in human terms. Or perhaps we think of this passage as anthropomorphic while concluding that the author of Genesis would not yet have realized it. Of course some Christians take the passage literally and no longer believe in God's omniscience.

Our sense is that 1) the author of this passage in Genesis probably did originally understand this statement in 6:6 literally, meaning that this author did not yet have a full understanding of God's omniscience. Yet also, 2) as Christians we take the statement metaphorically, because as Christians we have come to believe that God does in fact know all things, including the future. We take Genesis 6:6 as a step along God's journey with Israel toward an understanding of full omniscience within later Jewish and Christian belief.

5. The absolute, monotheistic sense of God has developed as Christian thinkers throughout the centuries have reflected on the basic truths mentioned above. Most experts would suggest that some details were not yet fully in place at the time of the New Testament. The Trinity would perhaps be the most obvious example of a belief that may not yet have been fully conceptualized in the first century.

The sense of creation out of nothing is another example of a doctrine that may not have been fully crystallized until the end of the second century. If so, then the Christian sense of God as creator could not yet have been fully mature within the time frame of the Bible itself. As Christians, we read the Bible with this understanding of God as creator, but experts of the original meanings may not think that this understanding was fully present in the minds of the original authors.

As modern science expands and refines our general sense of the creation, our sense of God as creator expands and develops too. For example, what are the implications of modern physics for our sense of God? As relativity has shaped our sense of time, we are bound to look at the question of God and time a little differently.

It is not so much that such thoughts contradict Scripture as that they push us to aspects of God that would have been incomprehensible in ancient times. The principle that Scripture was, first, God revealing Godself to the original authors and audiences of the Bible to speak to their context implies that the understanding of God in the Bible has a great deal to do with ancient worldviews. God met them where they were just as God meets us where we are.

6. The pages that follow will make clearer exactly what we are saying here in concrete form. We have begun with the end in view. We have set out in this section the general aspects of a Christian view of God. This section is titled the "rule of faith" because these are the views that generally reflect the consensus of Christians everywhere throughout the centuries.

So we can listen to Old Testament theologies of God in context as well as New Testament theologies of God. We need not feel pressured to twist these texts to make them say exactly what the consensus came to be. We can be honest in our historical and biblical scholarship. We can see these individual texts as points along God's journey with his people on earth, meeting them where they were within their understandings of the world.

But we do not stop there, with how God revealed Godself to ancient Israel or to individual New Testament authors. We take a "canonical" perspective on how God was shaping these texts toward a goal, namely, the understanding of God we have presented in this section. We believe we know where God was leading his people, and we can read the biblical texts in this canonical light.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

3. Concentrated Hebrews (2:1-18)

So far in this series:

I. Sermon Introduction (1:1-2:18)
     A. Exordium (1:1-4)
     B. Celebration of the Enthroned Son (1:5-14)
C. Background of Salvation (2:1-18)
     1. exhortation interruption 1 (2:1-4)
  • 2:1-4 is an interruption of the flow of teaching (the exposition) with a warning to the audience (exhortation). Hebrews regularly alternates between teaching and preaching. This helps keep the attention of the audience.
  • 2:2-3. The argument is a "lesser to greater" argument (also known as a qal wahomer argument in Hebrew or an a minore ad minore argument in Latin, also an a fortiori argument). The sense is that if you were punished for disobeying the old covenant, you will really be punished for ignoring the new one. 
  • This goes against the Protestant sensibilities of many. This is not "in the new covenant we get away with things we didn't get away with in the old." Rather, the sense is that we should be much more careful in the new than the old, because the stakes are higher. The punishment for disobeying the new covenant--for the people of God--is even greater than the punishment was for Israel in the old covenant.
  • 2:2. The idea that angels mediated the Law to Moses is mentioned three times in the New Testament (here, Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19).
  • 2:3. This verse does not sound like Paul. Paul typically argued that he received his revelation directly from the Lord and that he was a first tier apostle. This verse seems to put the author in a second tier.
  • 2:4. We remember that miracles, signs, and wonders were a regular feature of the early church.
     2. the story of salvation
  • 2:5-18 gives us the logic of salvation, the background to the subsequent argument, a general sense of why atonement was necessary.
  • 2:5-9 seems to have the following train of thought: 1) God created humanity to have glory and honor in the creation but 2) humanity does not have this status--all things are not under its feet. The reason for this fact may be found in Romans 3:23--"All have sinned and are lacking the glory of God." 3) Therefore Jesus became human to fulfill this destiny. 4) Having suffered death for everyone, he can finally lead humanity to glory.
  • The logic of these verses seems to match the inner logic of Paul, perhaps suggesting that the author of Hebrews had some connection to the Pauline circle. The mention of Timothy in 13:23 may support this sense. 
  • 2:5. Some take these verses purely Christologically--solely in reference to Jesus. However, the inner logic, not to mention the original meaning of Psalm 8, suggests that humanity in general is first in view. This fact implies that humans will rule in the coming age alongside Jesus and that they will be superior to angels like Christ.
  • 2:9. Jesus tasted death potentially for everyone. This seems to connect with the fact that Jesus has defeated the Devil, the one with the power of death (2:14).
  • 2:10-13. These verses indicate the solidarity of Jesus with humanity, another indication that humanity has been in view with the quoting of Psalm 8.
  • 2:10. The perfection of Jesus in Hebrews has to do with him being made complete in relation to his ability to function as a priest and sacrifice. He is "locked and loaded" to bring atonement through his suffering.
  • God is the one for whom and through whom all things exist.
  • 2:11. Jesus sanctifies. He sanctifies, which has a sense here of purifying and cleansing, through his blood.
  • 2:12. This verse quotes Psalm 22, which was a highly generative psalm for the earliest Christians, likely having been quoted by Jesus from the cross. We are not surprised then that the author of Hebrews heard verse 22 on the lips of Jesus.
  • 2:13. A key take-away here is that Jesus had faith in God just as we are to put faith in him.
  • 2:14. This is Hebrews' incarnation verse. Jesus took on blood and flesh. 
  • This is the Christus Victor angle on atonement. Jesus defeated the Devil with his death.
  • There may be a "last Adam" logic in the background here like Romans 5. Death entered the world through Adam. Jesus frees us from death.
  • 2:16 is a curious verse that makes us think back to Hebrews 1. Were some in the audience suggesting that Jesus had come as an angel? Are there hints of early Gnosticism here or the precedents of Gnosticism? Were some of the audience worshiping angels as in one interpretation of Colossians 2:18 (not mine, actually)? At the very least, Hebrews associates angels with the administration of the old covenant. I am open to the possibility that the church was experiencing some rumblings of an angel Christology.
  • "Seed of Abraham" probably includes Gentiles here. Otherwise Hebrews would seem to exclude Gentiles from salvation. This suggests a time after Paul when this question was no longer much in play--at least not for the author and audience. Earlier, Paul has to argue that Gentiles are part of the seed of Abraham (Rom. 4:16). Hebrews assumes it. So once again, we have a connection to Paul but seemingly an extension of Paul, post-Pauline situation. I think it is a minor data point toward a Gentile audience--that Gentiles can be included and assumed to be in the seed of Abraham without comment or argument.
  • 2:17-18. These may very well be the key verses of Hebrews. It is also the first mention of Jesus as high priest in the sermon. 
  • These verses imply that Jesus was fully human. He identifies with human suffering and temptation. We therefore have a priest who sympathizes with us.

Monday, January 15, 2018

1. Concentrated Hebrews (1:1-4)

A couple months back I blogged my study notes on Romans. Who knows? I may self-publish them as a study Bible someday. These notes relate to the content I teach in relation to the book.

This semester I'm teaching Hebrews and General Epistles. So here is the beginning of concentrated notes on Hebrews.
1. Hebrews 1:1-4
  • Hebrews does not begin like a letter. It does not tell us its author or audience. In fact, Hebrews has numerous uncertainties: 1) unknown author, 2) uncertain destination, 3) uncertain ethnicity of recipients, 4) unknown point of origin, 4) uncertain date, 5) debated reasons for writing.
  • A majority of Hebrews experts are comfortable with a sense that this document is a "sent sermon," that is, a sermon that was sent to its destination as a letter. 
  • These verses are the introduction to the sermon, sometimes called the "exordium" or the "proemium" of Hebrews.
  • They are one sentence in Greek, one of the most beautiful Greek sentences in the New Testament. The style is generally called a "periodic" style for its balance and beauty.
  • 1:1-2. The first few words use the same letter in Greek five times (p sound), a literary feature known as "assonance."
  • The first two verses divide up all of history into two ages. "Formerly" and "these last days." Formerly, God spoke to the fathers through the prophets. In these last days, God has spoken to us through a Son. In the former age, God spoke in many and various ways. In these last days, God spoke in one way--through his Son.
  • "The last days" is a category of the prophets, especially Jeremiah. We are meant to connect this phrase to the age of the new covenant as in Jeremiah 31, which is quoted in Hebrews 8.
  • The term, "Son" is a royal term in addition to being a familial term. The primary sense of Jesus' sonship in Hebrews 1 is that of king, "Son of God," as well as heir. 
  • Jesus stands at the beginning and end of history. He is the heir of all things at the end of history, but he is also the one "through whom God made the worlds." Given that Hebrews more typically speaks of God as creator (2:10; 3:4; 11:3). This suggests that 1:2 is speaking somewhat metaphorically of Jesus as creator, probably likening him to God's wisdom (see verse 3).
  • 1:3. Some might suggest this material as hymnic or brought in from somewhere else because of the formulaic "who" followed by poetic statements about Jesus. However, it is also possible that the author himself composed it.
  • It seems certain that the author was male because of the masculine singular participle in 11:32.
  • Jesus is the "reflection of glory" and "stamp of substance." The second item is passive (stamp) suggesting the first is "reflection" rather than "radiance." The first statement is likely an allusion to Wisdom 7:26, where it also arguably has a sense of reflection. The fact that Wisdom 7:26 is talking about God's wisdom supports the sense that 1:2 has God's wisdom as the agent of creation in view.
  • "bringing all things by the word of his power" may be an allusion to the logos, also an agent of creation in Jewish logos speculation. "Bringing" may have a sense of new creation.
  • "he sat on the right hand of Majesty" - an allusion to Psalm 110:1 and Jesus' "session" at God's right hand when he had finished his atoning work, "having made a purification for sins."
  • 1:4. "having become greater than the angels." Jesus became lower than the angels for a little while (2:9) when he "partook of blood and flesh" (2:14). Now that he has accomplished atonement, he has been exalted above them.
  • He as much greater than the angels as his inherited name. This inherited title would seem to be "Son," as we will see in the next verse (1:5). It is the title of a king.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

2.1 Biblical Theology of God: The Rule of Faith

Every time I teach biblical theology I think, "I should write my own book." So I might put some fragments here as I have opportunity. I have no book contract and have too many things to do to write extensively, but I want to put some depth probes here.
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Basic Approaches
1.3 History of Biblical Theology
1.4 This Book's Approach

Chapter 2: Theology of God
2.1 Basic Beliefs
1. The Christian understanding of God is relatively uncontroversial in its most fundamental aspects. For example, the idea that "God is one" is fundamental not only to Christianity but to Judaism and even Islam. We will see later in the chapter that the understanding of what monotheism means developed some within the pages of Scripture and in the first couple centuries of the church. [textbox] Modern cosmology may help us refine our understanding even further. Nevertheless, the central doctrine goes back to Deuteronomy 6:4.

God's attributes or characteristics are often divided into two categories. These are his "communicable" attributes (characteristics that humans share to some degree) and his "incommunicable" attributes (characteristics that are unique to God alone). However, we might also divide his attributes into his transcendent and economic attributes. Transcendent means apart from or beyond the creation. "Economic" in this means God in relation to the creation, the way God administrates the universe. [1]

2. We might mention seven attributes as characteristic of God in his being apart from the creation: 1) holiness, 2) self-sufficiency, 3) triunity, 4) love, 5) freedom, 6) eternity, 7) immutability.


3. Similarly, we might mention six attributes of God that reflect the way God relates to the creation: 1) creator, 2) spirituality, 3) omnipresence, 4) omnipotence, 5) omniscience, 6) justice.


[textbox] Monotheism is the belief that there is only one God who stands alone and distinct from everything else that exists.

[1] As a side note, we might argue that all of our knowledge of God is in relation to his creation. That everything we know about God we know by analogy to the creation.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Friday Science: Susskind's Quantum Mechanics

1. About two years ago, I bought Leonard Susskind's Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum. I'll confess that I have found it an incredibly frustrating book. As I've read and reread the first few chapters, I have the repeated feeling that all this book needs is a few more paragraphs in each chapter--and maybe some rearrangement of the order of topics--and it would be incredibly helpful. It seems that he has followed a logical order but not a good pedagogical order.

It's like you're in one part of the forest and he's telling you about a set of trees in another part of the forest. And he's not even talking about trees in his part of the forest that are next to each other, but there's one tree he's seen that relates somehow to another important tree he's seen. But he's none too clear even about how those two trees are connected to each other... in some unspecified part of the forest you're not in.

What you need is directions to get from your part of the forest to the part he's in. Then you need to know how to get from one of the trees he's mentioning to another. This height of unnecessary confusion makes me angry, because it's completely avoidable. I'm convinced I could do much better and probably will.

For the record, I don't think it's intentional. I think Susskind really wants to be clear. He just knows the forest too well to tell someone in words how to get around in it, at least someone who's never taken a course in linear algebra. I've wondered if the jokes at the beginning of the chapters are revealing. They seem to demonstrate an inability to grasp what is funny.

But I want to force myself through the book. Richard Feymann once told his sister to read and reread the math and science she didn't understand. I'm convinced this is the way to go with many difficult subjects and authors. So here I go again with Susskind.

2. Chapter one should not be the first chapter. At least a great deal of what is in here should not be first. Most people need to know why they need to know something for the something to stick and make sense. So I have come to realize that there is some linear algebra in this first chapter. It uses notation that Paul Dirac introduced to quantum mechanics I think in the 1940s.

Wrong place to begin. He's thinking. We learn bras and kets, then we use them in later chapters. But bras and kets make little sense when you have no idea what they're for. I know complex numbers, but for someone who doesn't, it would be better to introduce them when we need to know them. Show us the problem they help solve and introduce them there.

3. So what is helpful to take away from chapter one at the beginning? Here is some stuff from the beginning of the chapter:
  • The idea of state is fundamental to quantum physics. For the moment, let's talk about the most fundamental state as being either on or off, +1 or -1. Let's call this "two-state system" a one bit system, a quantum bit or "qubit."
  • We could call this "either on or off" the quantum spin. It's not a literal spin.
  • Experiments are never gentle. You measure one thing, you mess up everything else. You've lost information from the other place because you've chosen to measure this place. (think Heisenburg's Uncertainty Principle)
  • What is predictable on the quantum level is not the individual outcome of some measurement, but the statistical average. Individual outcomes are not predictable, but the averages are.
  • The quantum mechanical notation for the statistical average is Dirac's bracket notation: 〈Q〉 .
4. Now he gets into some linear algebra.
  • The "space of states," the possible values or states of something is a "vector space" in quantum physics. (linear algebra) Another name for such a "space" is a Hilbert space. There could be an infinite number of elements. This is all very abstract. For the moment, I'm just picturing a box you put stuff in, and different boxes will only take a certain number of things.
  • The elements of a vector space are called kets or ket-vectors. The notation Dirac used for these is ∣A〉
  • The elements of a ket are often a column of complex numbers. We are being set up for matrix multiplication. 
  • The "row" matrix that is pit against the "column" matrix of the ket is the bra. The bra looks like this: 〈B∣ . 
  • bra-ket. First in the row multiplied by the first in the column and so forth. The inner product of two of these vectors is the result of this sort of operation.
  • A vector is normalized if its product with itself is 1.
  • A vector is orthogonal if its product with itself is 0.
  • The dimension of a vector space is the maximum number of orthogonal vectors in that space. These vectors are orthonormal bases in relation to each other.
  • Finally, there is something called the Kronecker delta. As far as I can see, he never tells us what this is. I know the name from somewhere else. The Kronecker delta is symbolized as δij . This function is 0 if i and j have different values and 1 if i and j have the same value.
Why do we need to know these things? He doesn't tell us. Very frustrating.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Friday Science: First Semester Physics in 20 Equations

I like physics. My son's taking high school physics and faces the AP exam at the end of the year. It occurred to me this morning that first semester high school physics really boils down to understanding the following 20 equations/concepts:

1. Know the basic units (lengths, time, mass) and their decimal forms (kilo-, centi-, milli-).

2. Know how to cancel out labels using multiplication, division, etc.

3. Know soh-cah-toa for vectors
(sin a = opposite/hypotenuse; cos a = adjacent/hypotenuse; tan = opposite/adjacent)
The Big Five Motion Equations
4. d = vt

5. v2 = v1 + at 

6. d = v1t + 1/2 at2

7. d = (v1 + v2)/2 * t

8. v22 = v12 + 2ad

(Substitute g for a and you have free fall equations.)
Newton's Laws
9. First Law - a body in motion wants to stay in motion (so horizontal motion is constant if there is no friction).

10. Second Law - F = ma

11. Third Law - For every action there's an equal and opposite reaction: m1a1 = m2a2

12. Conservation of momentum, where p = mv (momentum = mass x velocity)

13. Impulse: F x t = mΔv (= change in momentum)

Friction Forces
14. The formula for the force to get something moving is Fstatic = mustatic * normal force. F = μn (The normal force is simply the reverse of weight, mg).

15. The formula for the frictional force of something moving is Fkinetic = mukinetic * normal force.
F = μn

Energy Equations
16. Kinetic Energy: K = 1/2 mv2

17. Potential Energy: U = mgh

18. There is a conservation of energy. If there is no friction, potential energy converts completely to kinetic and vice versa. If some is lost as friction or heat, the total is still the same.

19. Work done equals the difference between the start and end values of kinetic energy (work energy equation: W = K2 - K1

20. W = Fd (work = force x distance)

Monday, January 01, 2018

New Year's Resolutions 2018

Another year, resolution time.

Looking Back
1. Books I read and reviewed this year.
2. Things I wrote
3. And other things
  • I became Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry officially in July. Some thoughts. I think it's a job for either 1) people who are ambitious, 2) people who are servants, or often 3) people who like administration. I'm not feeling particularly much like 1 or 3 these days.
  • I preached two or three times this year, spoke at the Festival of Preaching. Got sick and so didn't get to deliver this one. Here's the audio of my chapel sermon.
Looking Forward
1. After 13 years of blogging, I almost stopped blogging in September. It would be hard to express how discouraging I have found this past year on multiple levels. I love sharing ideas. I blog because I love sharing ideas. It is no coincidence that I am a preacher/teacher. God often calls us to what we love or we find that we love what God calls us to.

But this year has knocked the wind out of my sails. And of course I've been extremely busy.

So I don't plan on resuming daily posts. Maybe one or two a week. I'll probably do explanatory notes on Hebrews and the General Epistles as I teach that class. My Monday reading group is doing a book called The Evangelicals. Might post some summaries of it. Who knows?

2. I still have the inductive Bible study book to finish. Must get it finished this year. I might do more installments of the Gabriel series. Plenty of books I'd love to write but who cares. Book writing is for the famous, the scholar, and the big-mouthed.

3. Here are my science and math goals.

4. How about a goal of 6 miles a week of running, at least until it warms up? Then 15 miles a week.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Year End Analytics

I hit a brick wall in September. I hardly posted this fall after 13 years of steady blogging. The desire to transmit is a desire to share with fellow truth-seekers and perchance to convince. But to me this has been a discouraging year for truth and hope in the world, the church, and elsewhere.

I may still self-publish my funniest and most annoying thoughts from 2017.


1. Unsurprisingly, my most trafficked posts were the same old ones:
  • Socrates' to know the good quote (2012)
  • Wesleyans and baptism (2011)
  • socially-constructed identity (2010)
  • sermon in shoes song (2012)
  • beware of thayer's (2014)
  • why William Jennings Bryan was opposed to evolution (2008)
  • famous empiricists (2008)
  • free wesleyan commentary online (2013)
2. Most popular from this year:
3. Most popular tweets of the year:
  • With 4759 impressions, a chart I tweeted on the dates when Confederate monuments were erected won the year.
  • In the first part of the year, a tweet suggesting that democracy requires an educated electorate received 2726 impressions.
4. Most popular YouTube videos:
  • Sounds of ancient Greek letters (11,186 views)
  • Connecting words in Hebrew (10,578 views, 71,851 minutes of watching)
  • Exegetical research (2,059)
  • Greek Participles (2286)
  • Greek Verb (4282)
  • Overall of Greek (1874)
  • Philosophy of history (2306)
  • Several Hebrew videos in the 2000s

Friday, December 29, 2017

Friday Science: The precise definition of a limit

Next week my revised physics/calculus/chemistry monthly plan kicks in. The end of the year goal is to plug a leak in my calculus videos--this one and one more.

The Precise Definition of a Limit

Gabriel's Diary: The Incarnation (first novella)

I don't know when I first started trying to write a novel. There was the superhero novel in college and seminary. There was the faith struggle novel after seminary. There was my version of The Matrix before The Matrix. I've started over 60 novels by now, but never finished one.

Till now.

Here's my first novella. 70 pages. Started it December 17. Finished it yesterday (Dec 28). Twelve days. It could be the first in several entries from Gabriel's Diary.

Here are a couple paragraphs to give you its strange flavor:

1. "I, Gabriel, am a five-dimensional being. Most angels are only four dimensional. They of course inhabit the three dimensions that humans can apprehend. Then there is a fourth dimension that is the essence of angelic being. The Jews used to call it the second heaven, the second sky. You would say it is not in your universe, yet it gives your universe a sense of time...

"In this universe God also has a time, but it is neither the time of the angels nor that of other creatures. All of human time is as a moment in the throne room, in the third sky. The throne room is the eternal now of the universe. God hides most of the future from the archangels when they are in the divine Presence. But Trinity sees all times at once. This is how God can both see the future and yet not cause it. God knows it because Trinity has seen it."

2. "We do not believe that a king is coming at all," said the high priest Simon, who was a Boethusian, a sect closely related to the Sadducees. "It is God’s will for you to reign, Herod, and for the temple to be the center of Israel.

"A king may come again one day to restore the kingdom to Israel," a Pharisee known as Hillel said to Herod, "but God will do it in his own time. If these men have heard from God, they will find what they are looking for, whether we help them or not. If they are not from God, then their search will yield nothing."

Paperback Version                          Kindle Version

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Schenck Family History

I did quite a bit of research here several years ago on my family tree. Tried a novel approach for a while as well. Feels like I should seal up that work somehow.

Let me try an outline to see if I can get going.

1. Ken Schenck

Twentieth Century
2. Lee and Helen Schenck
3. Dorsey and Esther Schenck
4. Harry and Verna Shepherd

Nineteenth Century
5. William and Jane Schenck
6. Samuel and Margaret Dorsey
7. David and Eva Miller
8. Samuel and Elizabeth Wise
9. Eli and Lucinda Shepherd
10. George and Sarah Rich
11. James and Mary Walls
12. Champion and Cassandra Shelburn

Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
13. Jamestown - Thomas and Elizabeth Shelburne (1607)
14. New Amsterdam - Roelof and Neeltje Schenck (1650)
15. Pennsylvania - Solomon and Jane Shepherd (1730)
15. Maryland - Edward and Anne Darcy (1638)
16. Maryland - Johann and Susanna Mueller (1727)
17. Maryland - Franz and Maria Weiss (1750)
18. North Carolina - Jacob and Ann Rich (1700s)

Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday Science: Looking Back, Looking Forward

This one's going to be a little weird.

Another semester done. Did quite a bit of calculus, physics, and chemistry this fall helping Sophie and Tom with homework. Got some problems right, others wrong. However, Duolingo and work have crowded out my personal goals with math and science textbooks.

1. About 2010ish, my version of mid-life crisis was to finish some of the math and science I started in college before my call to ministry. Eventually I settled on three university texts to work through:
My initial hope was to get through these texts before I turned 50. That was a six or so year goal I didn't finish. Not even close.

2. In early 2010, I started uploading videos I had made to YouTube. Initially, YouTube wouldn't allow you to upload a video longer than 10 minutes. But in 2012 the limits were gone and I started uploading videos I'd made several years earlier, including this Greek one (that Greeks hate) with over 61,000 views and this algebra one with over 43,000 views.

My first math video was on implicit differentiation (chap 3, that's how far I'd gotten in Stewart by then doing a page a day) and my first physics one was on Work (chap. 6). Those early ones were pretty rough because I was just getting my head back into math and science. I'd have to go back and do the chapters I'd already read.

Today I recorded a calculus video on the Squeeze Theorem. I'm about two videos then from catching up with the second chapter the gap in my calculus videos. Still have a little to finish in the fourth chapter.

3. Well, still have about 60 chapters left. Here's a suggested schedule for next year, a chapter a month:
  • January, chap 11 of chemistry (intermolecular forces)
  • February, chap 13 of chemistry (solutions)
  • March, chap 14 of chemistry (kinetics)
  • April, chap 15 of chemistry (equilibrium)
  • May, chap 20 of chemistry (electrochemistry)
  • June, chap 17 of physics (Temperature)
  • July, chap 6 of calculus (applications of integration)
  • August, chap 18 of physics (Thermal properties of matter)
  • September, chap 5 of chemistry (thermochemistry)
  • October, chap 19 of physics (1st Law of Thermodynamics)
  • November, chap 7 of calculus (inverse functions)
  • December, chap 20 of physics (2nd Law of Thermodynamics)
4. By the way, here's a fictional picture I drew of the universe for fun.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Explanatory Notes on Romans

Here are all my notes on Romans.
I. Introduction
1. Romans 1:1-15

II.1 Who is Justified?
II.1.1 Humanity's Problem
2. Romans 1:16-17
3. Romans 1:18-32
4. Romans 2:1-3:20

II.1.2 God's Solution
5. Romans 3:21-31
6. Romans 4:1-5:11

II.2 What about Sin?
7. Romans 5:12-6:23
8. Romans 7:1-8:39

II.3 What about Israel?
9. Romans 9-11

III. Transformed Minds
10. Romans 12-13
11. Romans 14:1-15:13

IV. Conclusion
12. Romans 15:14-16:27

8. Concentrated Romans (7:1-8:39)

The last in the series.

Romans 7:1-8:39
A. The function of the Jewish Law (7:1-25)
  • 7:1-25. Romans 6 has addressed the question of sin. If we are not deemed right with God initially on the basis of our own righteousness, "Should we continue in sin that grace may abound?" Paul gives a resounding "no" to this question. 
  • Romans 7 then pursues the related question, "If we are not judged by the Jewish Law, what then was the purpose of the Law in the first place?"
  • 7:1-6. The reasoning of Paul in relation to the Law is difficult for us. It is not the way we think. Paul is not merely saying that I am no longer judged by the Law's standards. He is suggesting that Sin had power over a Jew somehow through the Law. The Jewish Law was a catalyst of Sin's power for a Jew or a Gentile for that matter.
  • He seems to be thinking about the core of the Jewish Law again here, as in Romans 2. This is the core that a Gentile or a Jew could keep in theory, which we find out in 13:8-10 is loving your neighbor as yourself.
  • 7:1-3. A wife is married to her husband as long as he is alive. If he dies, she can remarry. If Paul had been married and she left him when he believed on Christ, there could be a personal flashback here. In Palestine, it may not have been possible for a wife to divorce her husband, only to leave him. If so, that would make this illustration more effective than a husband being bound to a wife, at least to "those who know the Law" (7:1).
  • 7:4-6. So believers have died to the Law. Now we can marry Christ. We have died with Christ, as Paul said in 6:3-5 (cf. Gal. 2:20). We can rise with Christ to a new life that is not under the Law. Paul means that we can rise to bear fruit of righteousness in our life.
  • 7:5-6. Here we get another version of the "used to"/"but now." We saw this claim in 6:17-18, 6:19, and 6:20, 22. Paul's meaning there seems clear. You used to be slaves to the power of Sin, but now you are not. Now you are slaves to righteousness.
  • So here, when we were in the flesh, the passions of Sin, working through the Law, used to bear fruit associated with death. This is past tense for the believer. The power of Sin used the Law to make us sin even more.
  • But now, we have been "cancelled" from the Law, "discharged." Now believers serve God in the newness of the Spirit, which empowers us to live under a different power.
  • 7:7-12. In the next few verses, Paul clarifies that it is not the Law's fault. That is to say, the Law itself is not the problem. It served its purpose.
  • 7:7. For example, the Law tells a person what sin is. The Law says, "Do not covet." Jews thus know that coveting is wrong. This is the first function of the Law in Paul's argument.
  • E. P. Sanders in Paul pointed out that Paul intentionally picked the most internal of the commandments, the one that it is hardest to keep perfectly. Any other of the commandments could be kept perfectly, at least from an external point of view.
  • 7:8. In some way, human flesh is putty in the hands of Sin through the Law. The power of Sin takes advantage of Jews and Gentiles through the Law. Perhaps it is a little like a child told not to do something. He or she wants to do it even more. So the Law, when I am in the flesh, aggravates my sinfulness. This is a second effect of the Law in Paul's argument.
  • 7:9. Paul now seems to dramatize the life of a believer in relation to the Law in terms of the story of humanity and God's people. Some think he has Adam in mind here, but it is not at all clear.
  • So there was a time when humanity did not have the Law (cf. 5:13-14). In a way, there is a time in a believer's pilgrimage when he or she does not have the Law because they are not yet old enough to know it.
  • Then the Law was revealed to Moses. So in an individual Jew's life, there is a time when he or she learns the Law. The power of Sin comes alive and they die, as Adam did in the day that he sinned (cf. 5:12). However, Adam did not have the power of Sin over him when the commandment came, making it unlikely that Paul is thinking too much of Adam here.
  • 7:12. The bottom line is that the Law itself is holy, righteous, and good. A human, Jew or Gentile, by contrast, is a slave to Sin when he or she is in the flesh. The power of Sin, working by way of the Law, produces sin in a person.
  • 7:13-25. We now come to perhaps the most misunderstood verses in the whole Bible. Paul is still walking through the pilgrimage of an individual, especially a Jew but also a Gentile, in relation to Sin and the Law. He has covered the period of a person's life when they did not know the Law. Then he has spoken of the point where a person learns the Law and the power of Sin is accentuated.
  • In these verses he expands upon this phase of a person's pilgrimage before they become a believer and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be freed from Sin (chap. 8). The last sentence of the chapter sums up this phase: "With my mind I serve the law of God but with my flesh the Law of Sin" (7:25b). This is only a phase of the pilgrimage, before the Spirit.
  • 7:13. Here we see the two functions of the Jewish Law. The Law tells me what sin is and it aggravates my sinfulness.
  • 7:14. The default state of a human is to be "fleshly, sold under Sin." The Law again in itself is spiritual.
  • 7:14-20. Here is the plight of the person who now knows the Law. This person has come to recognize that the Law is good, but without the Spirit he or she will find only failure. The good they now want to do, they will not be able to do.
  • Again, these are probably the most misunderstood verses in the Bible. Paul's words here so resonate with Christian experience that all of Romans 6, the beginning of chapter 7, and chapter 8 are thrown out the window and these words are taken to be the never-ending plight of the believer. But if Paul is talking of his present experience, then he is painting himself as a non-Christian in the terms of Romans 6 and 8, as well as the beginning of Romans 7.
  • In fact, Philippians 3 and the rest of Paul's letters do not give us the impression that Paul thought of himself as a moral failure even before he came to Christ. That is to say, it does not seem likely that Paul even felt this way before he believed on Christ. See Krister Stendahl, "Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West."
  • So Paul is dramatizing in these verses the plight of the person who recognizes the goodness of the Law as a standard but, being in the flesh and under the Law, he or she is not able to attain to that standard. The present tense is very flexible and does not in any way in itself imply this is Paul's current experience. Again, that would negate the entire immediate context.
  • 7:17-20. In stark contrast to Augustine, the "I" of the person in these verses actually wants to keep the Law. The problem is the flesh of the person. Augustine made the problem a matter of a corrupted will. This may be true theologically even if it is not what Paul was saying here.
  • "Sinful nature" is a bad translation given the baggage of this phrase. The word Paul consistently uses here is flesh. Flesh is my skin under the power of Sin. My mortal body is not sinful in itself. It is just weak. Under the power of Sin, there is no hope for me to resist sin with my body, even if my mind wants to. There is thus a certain dualism to Paul's language here.
  • 7:20. Sin is dwelling in me. That is, it has power over my body, my flesh.
  • 7:21-25a. Here we reach the climax of the conundrum for the person at this stage of their pilgrimage. They know the Law. They know its standard is good. But they cannot keep it because of the power of Sin over their flesh.
  • They delight in God's Law in their inner person, but there is another rule, another law in their physical members. It is warring against the law of God they understand with their mind.
  • 7:24. "Who will free me from this body of death?" Paul dramatically exclaims. Who will enable me to fulfill the righteous expectation of the Law? Who will free me from the power of Sin over my flesh that only leads to death?
  • 7:25a. "Thanks be to God! Through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Here is how we will be set free from the power of Sin and become slaves of righteousness, as in Romans 6. In fact, Paul made this same exclamation in 6:17. He has slowed down the sentiment of 6:16-18. You used to be slaves to sin, but thanks be to God, you are now slaves to righteousness.
B. Life in the Spirit (8:1-30)
  • 8:1-4. Now we cross the threshold. We believe. We are justified. We have peace with God (5:1). We receive the Holy Spirit. In 8:9 we will learn that a person is not in Christ if he or she does not have the Holy Spirit. In Romans 8, we have finally become Christians.
  • 8:1-2. There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus because the rule of the Spirit has set you free from the rule of Sin and death.
  • 8:3. The Law had no power to actually enable a person to keep it. So God did it through his Son. Jesus condemned sin in the flesh. 
  • Jesus came "in the likeness of the flesh of Sin." There is a hint here that Jesus himself did not have the power of Sin over his flesh.
  • 8:4. "That the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." This is not merely legal because it has to do with "walking," which is a matter of life and ethics. Paul is saying that the Spirit actually enables a person to keep the core of the Law, which again 13:8-10 suggests is loving one's neighbor. This is the Law that we do not nullify because of faith (3:31).
  • 8:5-8. Paul reviews the two ways of being he has been discussing for the last two chapters: the slave to Sin and the slave to righteousness.
  • 8:5-7. Those who are "according to the flesh" think in a fleshly way. Those who are "according to the Spirit" think in a spiritual way. The first leads to death. The second leads to life and peace. The mind of the flesh is an enemy of God. This person cannot submit to the Law of God.
  • 8:8. The bottom line and a classic holiness preaching text: "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Paul has moved beyond flesh as body or flesh as weak to flesh as "the body under the power of Sin," probably also including those who do not even serve God with their minds.
  • In Romans, Paul sets up a two state metaphor. You are either a slave to God or a slave to Sin. You are either fleshly or you are spiritual. 1 Corinthians complexifies this situation, for the Corinthians are initially sanctified (1 Cor. 1:2) and thus must have the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). But they are still fleshly and carnal (1 Cor. 3:1). In real life, therefore, we find people who are justified but not fully sanctified. They are in the flesh. They are at least at times like the person of Romans 7:14-24, suggesting that they need to "go on to perfection" or maturity (Heb. 6:1).
  • 8:9-11. But believers are not in the flesh or at least should not be. Sin should not be reigning in their mortal bodies (6:12).
  • 8:9. In this verse we have an important truth that has often been lost in the holiness movement's emphasis on entire sanctification. The Spirit is the indicator par excellence that a person is in Christ. The correct understanding of the Spirit-fillings of Acts is as an initial experience that indicates a person is "in." You can repent, be baptized, have faith, but until you have received the Holy Spirit, in Paul's words, "this person is not Christ's." This is the consistent teaching of Paul, Acts, and Hebrews (cf. 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14; Acts 2:35; Heb. 6:4).
  • 8:10-11. Paul walks through the logic of the Spirit. We die with Christ. We are in Christ. But Christ is also in us when the Spirit is in us. The body is dead. The body of Sin is dead. We die to the Law. But our spirits are alive. Paul then reaches the final conclusion. God, who raised Jesus from the dead, will also give life to our mortal bodies through the indwelling Spirit.
  • That is to say, we are now able to live out the Law in our bodies. We now "walk in newness of life" (6:4).
  • 8:12-13. We reach the life conclusion. Believers do not live according to the flesh. Those who live according to the flesh will die. Galatians 5:19-20 indicate that those who live according to the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says the same. Those who live by the Spirit will live and have put to death the practices of the body.
  • 8:14-17. Those who have the Spirit are children of God, and they are led by the Spirit of God. This is not a Spirit that makes us fear judgment.
  • 8:16. There is a witness of the Spirit, a key theological idea of John Wesley. "The Spirit himself witnesses together with our spirit that we are children of God."
  • 8:15. Adoption is a key soteriological concept (along with the chorus of theological words associated with salvation: atonement, redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation, justification, adoption, regeneration, sanctification, glorification).
  • Adoption in the ancient world was perhaps, for lack of a better word, more "ontological" than it is today in our world where we are conscious of DNA and genetics. An adopted child in the ancient world was at times more important, perhaps a more substantial child than a biological one, because an adopted child was a child by choice. So Julius Caesar had biological children, but none of them were as significant as his adopted son Octavian, who would become Caesar Augustus.
  • The mention of the Aramaic word Abba substantiates the claim that Jesus used this word in reference to God the Father. It presumably was the practice of the Jerusalem church also to refer to God as Abba.
  • 8:17. Believers are thus heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, especially if we suffer with him, a common theme in Paul's writings (cf. Phil. 3:10).
  • 8:18-30. Paul now takes an eschatological perspective on the situation. He began this sub-section with consideration of how Adam brought Sin and death into the world (5:12-21). Now he ends with a consideration of how the creation eagerly awaits its redemption.
  • 8:18-25. Paul and the Romans were undergoing suffering in their bodies. Here he surely refers to external pressures on the church. 
  • 8:20. Paul pictures the creation subject to decay and corruption, perhaps in the same way that Adam brought sin and death into the world. This includes our mortal bodies, which as we have seen are subject to the power of Sin if we do not have the Spirit. 
  • 8:19. The creation is thus waiting with us for the transformation of our current bodies to be like Christ's glorious body (cf. 1 Cor. 15:49-50; Phil. 3:21). This is the revelation of the children of God. This is the "glory about to be revealed" (Rom. 8:18). This is part of glorification. The creation awaits its liberation (8:21).
  • 8:22-25. Paul has spoken of our current adoption because of the Spirit (8:15). Now he speaks of the second phase of adoption in the future tense. "The redemption of our bodies" (8:23), the transformation of our bodies to be like Christ's resurrected body, will take place at the second coming when we either are alive and transformed or are dead and raised incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:52).
  • 8:24. "In hope we have been saved." That is, we trust that we will be saved from God's coming wrath. In hope, we have already been saved. The Spirit is the firstfruits of our coming inheritance (8:23; cf. 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5).
  • 8:26-27. In the meantime, the Spirit intercedes for us. We do not know exactly what we should pray. Should we pray for deliverance? Should we pray for endurance in suffering? The Holy Spirit knows.
  • 8:26. Some have suggested that "unspeakable groanings" refers to Paul speaking in tongues (cf. 1 Cor. 14:18). It seems impossible to know.
  • 8:28-30. Everything though is headed for redemption. We know that all things will end up at a good destination for those who love God. 
  • 8:28. Although certainly God is in control and does nothing that conflicts with his love, 8:28 probably isn't about individual circumstance but about the final goal of the story, which is in salvation. We still die of cancer. War still kills thousands of believers. You might still be murdered. That is in the point here. The point is that history works out for good and that the collective destiny of the people of God is salvation.
  • The election language of these verses is corporate. It is about the collective body of believers rather than the individual believer. 
  • 8:29. God has predestined the plan of salvation. Those in Christ will be transformed. Their bodies will be redeemed from the bondage of decay. They will be conformed to the resurrection image of the Son (cf. 1 Cor. 15:49). Paul is not thinking here of sanctification in this life but about the resurrected/transformed bodies that will take place at the second coming/resurrection.
  • The church is predestined to be saved. Those in the church he planned to justify. Those in the church will be glorified at the point of Christ's return.
C. The love of God! (8:31-39)
  • This paragraph climaxes this section (6:1-39) and indeed chapters 1-8 as a whole. No matter who might oppose the church. No matter what suffering the church might undergo, God is on the side of the Roman believers.
  • God loved us so much he did not spare his Son. Certainly he will not let anyone else get in the way of the salvation of those with faith, especially the Gentiles.
  • 8:31. God is for us--he is for the Gentiles and Jews who believe. 
  • 8:33-34. He is the judge. He is the one who justifies. Who cares if some other believers or some non-believing Jews say they are not "in." The church are the elect, the ones God has chosen.
  • 8:34. Jesus' blood intercedes against our condemnation. The Spirit thus is intercessor for our needs and desires. Christ is more our intercessor for atonement (cf. Heb. 7:25).
  • 8:35-39. Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ or the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Death cannot. Various evil spiritual powers cannot. The future cannot. Nothing in the creation can.
  • We do have to read these thoughts within the scope Paul intended. Paul is assuming throughout that we want the love of Christ, that we have faith in God. Nothing outside us can separate us from Christ. But if we walk away from faith, we have walked away from God. God does not force us to stay. 
I. Introduction
1. Romans 1:1-15

II.1 Who is Justified?
II.1.1 Humanity's Problem
2. Romans 1:16-17
3. Romans 1:18-32
4. Romans 2:1-3:20

II.1.2 God's Solution
5. Romans 3:21-31
6. Romans 4:1-5:11

II.2 What about Sin?
7. Romans 5:12-6:23

Sunday, December 10, 2017

6. Concentrated Romans (4:1-5:11)

Almost done.
I. Introduction
1. Romans 1:1-15

II.1 Who is Justified?
II.1.1 Humanity's Problem
2. Romans 1:16-17
3. Romans 1:18-32
4. Romans 2:1-3:20

II.1.2 God's Solution
5. Romans 3:21-31

Romans 4:1-5:11
A. Abraham as an example (4:1-25)
  • Paul has expressed the basics of justification in the previous verses. "A person is justified by faith apart from works of Law" (3:28). The basis for this right standing is the atonement made possible through the offering of Christ (3:25).
  • 4:1-3. Paul now substantiates that claim with the example of Abraham. What does Genesis say? Was Abraham declared right with God by works he did, like circumcision? Or was Abraham justified by faith? 
  • Abraham was justified by faith: "Abraham had faith in God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (Gen. 15:6).
  • The word righteousness (dikaiosyne) and the word justify (dikaioo) are obviously the same root in Greek. To justify is thus to "righteous-ify." The verses that follow here in Romans 4 make it clear that this means to "declare in right standing" with God.
  • The same is true of the word for "faith" (pistis) and "believe" (pisteuo). In some circumstances, "to believe" might be translated "to have faith." 
  • Abraham had no basis for boasting, because it was a matter of God's action. The theme of boasting, one we might be prone to miss, appears throughout this first section of Romans. A self-righteous Jew wrongfully boasts in Romans 2. 3:27 made clear there was no room for boasting. Here he repeats it and 5:11 will make it clear that we can boast only in God. 
  • 4:4-8. These verses more than any other make clear what Paul means by justification. Justification is not something you earn because you are good enough. Justification is a gift--a right standing with God is a gift.
  • 4:5. Faith is "credited" as righteousness. It is not actual righteousness. Debates over whether faith then becomes a work go far beyond Paul or his world. Grace in the ancient world--unearned and disproportionate giving--could be solicited (see John Barclay, Paul and the Gift). Faith is simply the act of soliciting God's grace, in this respect. Attempts to keep faith from being an act on the part of the solicitor are simply overt or covert special pleading (e.g., N. T. Wright). Similarly, ancient grace typically came with informal expectations.
  • 4:6-8. Paul turns to Psalm 32:1-2 to support his case. "David" speaks of sins being forgiven and not being counted against someone. Herein comes the youth slogan: "When I'm justified, it's just-as-if-I'd never sinned." True, although a more precise definition of "to justify" is "to declare in right standing." In our case, forgiveness is necessary for justification. On the other hand, Jesus could be "justified," declared in good standing with God, because he really was (cf. 1 Tim. 3:16). To justify can thus be "to acquit," "to pronounce innocent," "to declare 'not guilty.'" The person justified can be so either legitimately (cf. 1 Cor. 4:4) or by declaration (an imputation of sorts).
  • 4:9-12. This is a brilliant argument in response to Paul's opponents who apparently argued the necessity of being a child of Abraham to be in God's people. Paul notes that Genesis 15:6 appears in Genesis before Abraham is circumcised. 
  • 4:11-12. Abraham is thus the father of all those who are uncircumcised and believe (Gentiles) and he is the father of all those who are circumcised and believe (Jews). Abraham thus reinforces rather than contradicts the idea that Gentiles can be justified by faith.
  • Abraham also raises again a question from Romans 1. Are there individuals who have not heard of Jesus who can have faith in God up to the knowledge they have and be justified. Abraham was such a person.
  • 4:13-17. So Abraham did not inherit the promise on the basis of the Law because the Law did not yet exist. The Law simply brings wrath (4:15). The Law only brings the reckoning of transgressions against it (4:15). The Law ignores faith as a criterion (4:14). The Law has nothing to do with promise (4:14; see Gen. 17:5).
  • 4:16. The principle of fulfilling God's promise to Abraham through faith makes God the Father of all who are justified, both Jew and Gentile.
  • 4:17 is the second of three places in the chapter about faith that show Paul thought of it as primarily directed toward God the Father. The first of course are those earlier about Abraham having faith in God. To be sure, Paul can also speak of faith directed toward Christ (e.g., 9:33). But there is no other unambiguous statement about faith in Christ in Romans. 
  • By contrast, 4:17 speaks of God the Father as the one in whom Abraham had faith. 
  • God as Creator is also invoked here. He is the one who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that did not exist. Paul probably is not thinking ex nihilo creation yet, as this is an idea that seems to have arisen in Jewish and Christian circles in the late second century.
  • 4:19 reminds us of Hebrews 11:11-12.
  • 4:24 confirms that Paul primarily sees faith directed toward "him who raised Jesus from the dead," that is, God the Father.
  • 4:25 is a unique statement about salvation that connects Jesus resurrection with our justification. Because Jesus lives, we can rise "not guilty" before God. Jesus was handed over and died for our sins. We are crucified with Christ. We die with Christ. In Christ the Law enacts its verdict on us. But with Christ we rise. We rise innocent. We rise "not guilty." We rise declared in good standing with the Judge. And we rise to new life.
B. The bottom line (5:1-11)
  • We can debate whether these verses end the first sub-unit of Romans or begin the second. The mention of God's wrath in 5:9 reminds us of 1:18, potentially forming a kind of inclusio with the beginning of the sub-unit. At the same time, the mention of glory in 5:1 anticipates 8:18. You might argue that these are swing verses that both conclude one section and introduce the next. Nevertheless, I think they have more in common with the first sub-unit than the second.
  • So 1:18-4:25 have been addressing the question, "Who is justified?" Paul's answer is, those who have faith in God. 5:1 begins from here. "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God." We are reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).
  • God's grace has made this possible, and so we hope for the glory of God (5:2). "All have sinned and are lacking the glory of God" (3:23). But we have hope of it. God created us for it (Ps. 8:5).
  • 5:9-10. In the meantime, Paul and the Romans would face suffering. But suffering would bring endurance, and endurance character. Character would bring hope. And hope is not be in vain because we have a guarantee of our future inheritance--the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22). The Holy Spirit is God's very love poured out inside us.
  • 5:6-8. Very important verses on the love of God. God loved us when we were his enemies. He loved us so much that Christ died for us. 5:8 is the third stop on the Roman Road, which gives a rationale for choosing Christ (all have sinned--3:23; the wages of sin is death--6:23; now God shows his love by Christ's death for us--5:8).
  • 5:9-11. Justification on the basis of Christ's blood ensures salvation--that we will escape the wrath of God. We were reconciled to God through the death of his Son. Now we will be saved through his life.
  • That is something we can boast about. We can boast in him.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Philo and Christianity

I have a chapter in my book, A Brief Guide to Philo, showing parallels between Philo and the New Testament. I continue to believe that my book is the best intro for the complete beginner, and it has been translated into Russian and Korean. With regard to early Christianity, David Runia has a much more detailed book called, Philo and Early Christian Literature.

The sections of the chapter in my book are:
        • Philo the "Christian"
        • Philo and Early Hellenistic Christianity
        • Philo and Paul's Writings (The Corinthians, The Colossians)
        • Philo and Hebrews (The Cumulative Effect of Parallels, Angels in Hebrews and Philo, The logos in Hebrews and Philo, The Tabernacle in Hebrews and Philo, Other Parallels)
        • Philo and the Gospel of John 
        • Philo and New Testament Hymns
        • Beyond the New Testament
There is another life where I wrote a book called Philo and Early Christology. That's a world were I didn't teach as many overloads as I did my first fifteen years of teaching. :-)

4. Concentrated Romans (2:1-3:20)

Study notes on Romans continue.

I. Introduction
1. Romans 1:1-15

II.1 Who is Justified?
II.1.1 Humanity's Problem
2. Romans 1:16-17
3. Romans 1:18-32
C. Jews have sinned too (2:1-29)
  • Paul now turns the tables on any self-righteous person who might be a little too happy about the fate of sinful Gentiles. He thus targets the hypocrite, which could be a Jew who boasts in having the Law.
  • 2:1-16. Paul looks to the Day of Judgment. "God will repay each person for what they have done" (2:6; Ps. 62:12).
  • 2:2. When God judges the person of Romans 1, his judgment is righteous, because he is righteous and not a hypocrite.
  • 2:4. God in his mercy lets us repent for our sins. How would we then condemn others for wrongs of which we ourselves are guilty? Read slightly differently than Paul probably meant it, you might read this verse to say that it is God's empowerment inside us that causes us to repent or his prevenient grace that empowers us to repent. Again, this is probably not precisely what Paul was saying.
  • 2:5 makes it clear that God's wrath is not merely him letting us experience the consequences of our sins. There is a Day of Wrath coming as well. 
  • There is a Day of Judgment coming. Some will receive glory and honor and peace on that day (2:10). Others will experience trouble and distress, wrath and anger (2:8-9). 
  • God will not show favoritism on that day. Whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, the judgment will be the same.
  • 2:13. It is not those who hear the Law (e.g., Jews) who are righteous in God's sight (i.e., justified). It is those who actually do the Law.
  • 2:14-15. Paul now introduces a radical possibility. What if there would be a Gentile who, although not growing up knowing the Law (they do not "by nature" have the Law), nevertheless keep the Law?
  • N. T. Wright suggests that Paul has in mind a Gentile believer and this would seem to be the best interpretation. The other possibility is that Paul is setting out a scenario that could never be the case. If there were such a Gentile, that person who kept the Law would be more righteous than a Jew who did not.
  • The Law in question here must be some subset of the whole Jewish Law. In particular, it must not include the "Jew-specific" parts of the Law like circumcision. It would make no sense to speak of a Gentile keeping circumcision without having the Law.
  • The love command in the Law, discussed in Romans 13:8-10, is likely the essence of the Law Paul has in mind. In 8:4, Paul speaks of a person fulfilling the "righteous requirement" of the Law because of the Holy Spirit. These images all likely fit together.
  • So Paul speaks of a Gentile believer who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, keeps the righteous requirement of the Jewish Law (love) even though he or she does not have the Law "by nature."
  • There is some debate about what the phrase, "by nature," goes with. Is Paul talking about a Gentile keeping the Law "by nature"? More likely Paul is talking about the fact that a Gentile does not have the Law "by nature." That is to say, Gentiles do not normally know the Jewish Law. It is not something they grow up with normally.
  • Such Gentile believers have the Law written on their hearts, possibly an allusion to the new covenant passage of Jeremiah 31 (cf. Heb. 8).
  • 2:16. In Paul's understanding of the good news, God will use Jesus on the Day of Judgment to judge everyone's secret thoughts.
  • 2:17-29. Paul now addresses a self-righteous Jew directly. It does not matter if you are even a teacher of the Law if you do not do it. You might know and preach about stealing or adultery, but if you do the same things, you are no better than someone who does not know not to do these things.
  • Such hypocrisy in the end is a bad witness. It causes non-Jews among the Gentiles to malign the God of Israel (2:24).
  • 2:26-29. So true circumcision is circumcision of the heart, not the flesh. A Gentile who loves his or her neighbor may as well be circumcised physically, and a Jew who does not might just as well be uncircumcised. 
  • John Wesley had a well-known sermon on the circumcision of the heart. 
D. All have sinned (3:1-20)
  • We now come to the bottom line. The implication of Romans 1 was that Gentiles have sinned. But we learned in Romans 2 that Jews sin too. We are building to the conclusion of 3:23--"All have sinned," that is, both Gentile and Jew. Both "races" stand under the condemnation of sin and thus all humanity has a problem. "The wages of sin is death" (6:23).
  • As Krister Stendahl pointed out in a famous article called, "Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West," Paul's argument here is about Jews and Gentiles. Paul also believes that all individuals have sinned, but his point is focused on two groups. All--that is both Gentile and Jew--have sinned.
  • 3:1-8. Paul anticipates a question he will explore in greater detail in chapters 9-11. What's the point of being a Jew if it does not help you be right with God? Paul's answer seems to be the honor of the things God has entrusted to the Jews (9:1-5) but perhaps also the fact that Jews have a greater default knowledge of God--they have the Scriptures (3:2).
  • But the faithlessness of many Jews does not negate God's faithfulness (3:3).
  • 3:7-8. Some have accused Paul of teaching that the more we sin, the more glory God gets for his graciousness. They have accused him of encouraging sin because of claiming that works of Law cannot make a person right with God. Paul vigorously rejects this accusation and will strongly push back on it in Romans 6-8.
  • 3:9-10. Rather, the Law makes us aware that we are sinners already (3:20). No one will be declared right with God on the basis of the Law. The Law silences every human being's pretense to self-righteousness. 
  • 3:9. Jew and Gentile alike are under the power of Sin. In this respect, there is no advantage to being a Jew.
  • 3:10-18. In these verses Paul strings together a number of passages from the Old Testament whose words relate to human sinfulness. These passages include Psalm 14:1-3 or Ecclesiastes 7:20; Psalm 5:9; Psalm 140:3; Psalm 10:7; Isaiah 59:7-8; and Psalm 36:1.
  • In Old Testament context, these passages were not referring to all humanity but specifically to the wicked, even to fools who do not believe in God. Nevertheless, Paul paints a picture of the human default that is all too familiar.
  • This passage is the basis for the doctrine of total depravity, the idea that humanity is thoroughly corrupted and unable to choose God in its own power. The teaching that humans can choose God in their own power is called Pelagianism.
  • However, Paul never says here that there is absolutely no good in a human being. Indeed, since we remain in the image of God, it would seem wrong to read Paul to teach an absolute depravity. He is rather speaking of a thorough depravity. Perhaps we might say that there is no area of human existence that is not marred by sin.