Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

My Dad in Paris, 1945ish
I believe we should honor the memories of those who serve and sacrifice to defend their people. I am an American. My father served in World War 2. My great-grandfather served in the Civil War. I had a great, great, great, great, great grandfather who served in the Revolutionary War.

Yet there are always bad actors, and there are wars where your country is in the wrong. War is always the result of sin, and it seems inevitable that, on the level of the individual, wrongs will be done by individuals on all sides. Nevertheless, I accept the exigence to fight against aggressors and especially to fight in self-defense. And I accept that the common person is often pressed into service because of the sinfulness of the powerful.

I believe World War II was a just war, one brought on by the aggression of a thoroughly sinful man. The Iraq War seems less justified, even if well-intended. I also accept the dictum, "If you wish peace, prepare for war." It is the paradox of a fallen world. Yet war should always be entered reluctantly, as a course of last resort. As the Catholic Catechism says, "all other means of putting an end to it [the aggressor] must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective."

In the end, the Christian must avoid rubber stamping any war, as well as the deification of the soldier or the nation. I was glad to see that Mike Pence modified a tweet yesterday that initially said that "Other than the service of those who wear the uniform of the United States especially our cherished fallen, the ministries that you lead and the prayers that you pray are the greatest consequence in the life of the nation."

God is always first, not nation. When we cannot tell the difference, we have become idolaters. In fact, it is then that we do a disservice to our nation because it is then no longer "one nation under God."

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Wittgenstein 1: Laboratory for Self-Instruction

I've returned for the next month or so to Ray Monk's biography of Wittgenstein. Finished chapter 1 this morning. Man, what a depressing place Vienna must have been at the beginning of the twentieth century.
  • Two of Wittgenstein's brothers committed suicide.
  • Anguish over sexuality seems pretty widespread too. A racist, misogynist man named Weininger shot himself in the house where Beethoven died--he hated himself as a Jew and homosexual. Hitler called him the only good Jew who realized he must kill himself.
  • Weininger's views only became significant because of his death--a bunch of junk.
  • They all seemed to live under the shadow of earlier genius. They saw themselves as inferior, deteriorated.
  • Wittgenstein overlapped with Hitler at Linz for a year (1904-05). No indication of a connection. Wittgenstein was there from 1903-1906. There Hitler had Leopold Poetsch as a teacher, who taught pan-German, folk ideology, in contrast to the degenerated Hapsburg dynasty.
  • He pursued engineering type things to please his father. He pretended to be interested in things he wasn't interested in because of his father's desires. Very wealthy family, Jewish in background, though they converted to Christianity earlier.
  • Wittgenstein couldn't bring himself to believe in Christianity.
  • Schopenhauer influenced him. Weininger's view on men influenced him. Hertz and Boltzmann were Kantian, which influenced him.
  • Boltzmann committed suicide in Vienna in 1906, thinking himself inferior.
  • Wittgenstein went then from Linz to Berlin (he might otherwise have studied with Boltzmann). Continued technical training. In 1908, he went to Manchester to continue...

Patrons only: Tongues

I've done my weekly, "patrons only" post for the week on Patreon. This week I talk about tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 and Acts 2.

I've been posting Greek analysis verse by verse on YouTube for free each day, but on Saturdays, I have been doing a post just for patrons. Patrons only topics have included ex nihilo creation, ways Christians are currently contributing to America's truth crisis, and several scholarly discussions of passages in Acts 1.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Science: Hawking 6 (Black Holes)

Friday reviews of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time so far.
Chapter 1: Heliocentric
Chapter 2: Spacetime
Chapter 3: Expansion of the Universe
Chapter 4: Uncertainty Principle
Chapter 5: Elementary Particles and the Forces of Nature

Chapter 6: Black Holes
I hate it when I don't finish things. I'm about half way through Hawking's book but got sidetracked by the end of the semester.
  • "Black hole" is a term coined by John Wheeler in 1969.
  • The concept goes back even further. In 1783 John Mitchell suggested a sufficiently massive and compact star would not allow light to escape its gravitational pull.
  • The Marquis de Laplace suggested the same thing just a few years later.
  • In 1928 Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, on a boat to Cambridge to study with Sir Arthur Eddington, calculated how big a star could get after burning out.
  • The principle here is the balance between the Pauli exclusion principle and the fact that nothing can move faster than the speed of light. When a star gets sufficiently dense, the repulsion of the exclusion principle becomes less than the gravitational attraction and the cold star would collapse in on itself.
  • A cold star about 1.5 times the size of our sun would do so, a mass now known as the Chandrasekhar limit. (Lev Davidovich Landau came to similar conclusion about about the same time.)
  • Stars less than the limit become white dwarfs, with a radius of a few thousand miles.
  • Slightly more massive neutron stars can be supported by the exclusion repulsion between neutrons and protons. Radius of about 10 miles. 
  • A pulsar is a special kind of neutron star that emits regular pulses of radio waves. Pulsars were discovered in 1967 by Jocelyn Bell at Cambridge.
  • Above the Chandrasekhar limit, might such stars reduce to a singularity, a point. Chandresekhar faced strong opposition to the idea from people like Eddington and Einstein. 
  • Oppenheimer before WW2 did some work on this in relation to light. At a boundary known as the event horizon, light cannot escape the black hole.
  • "God abhors a naked singularity." In cosmic censorship, we can't see what goes on inside a black hole (Penrose).
  • Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking did a lot of work on black holes between 1965-1970, which are a little like space before the Big Bang. 
  • Some solutions to the general relativity equations suggest wormholes through black holes to the other side of the universe or perhaps even passage back in time. But a human probably wouldn't survive.
  • In 1967, Werner Israel, some non-rotating black holes end up spherical (a solution Karl Schwarzchild suggested in 1917). Penrose and Hawking showed that all non-rotating stars collapsing into a black hole end up spherical.
  • In 1963 Roy Kerr postulated Kerr black holes, rotating black holes that end up in various shapes.
  • "A black hole has no hair." Their final shape depends only on mass and rate of rotation, not on the shape the star had before collapse. As they collapse, they give off gravitational waves until they settle down.
  • Black holes are detected by the gravitational pull they have on other visible stars under certain conditions (e.g., the emission of massive amounts of energy from the nearby star). Cygnus X-1 is a system that seems to have such a black hole. There's probably one at the center of our galaxy as well.
  • Quasars are systems that emit enormous amounts of energy and may have massive black holes at their center.
  • There could be some primordial black holes out there, formed in the early universe, smaller than our sun.
  • Hawking discovered that black holes glow like a hot body. See next chapter.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Summer 2018 Goals

I have a certain personality type. I love setting goals. In fact, once I've set them, I am often so satisfied that I never do another thing on them. :-) Actually, I think I accomplish a lot. I just have so many goals that it doesn't feel that way.

So the spring semester is over. May term is over. I am an administrator, so there will be things to do. But the summer will be nothing like the year. I've been formulating goals. So let me write it down.

1. How to Read the Bible: Scripture as History and Sacrament (Monday)
I continued working on my IBS textbook over May term. Tedious work, though. Here's a schedule to aim for:
  • May - finish editing Observing the Details, The Meaning of Words, and Surveying the Big Picture 
  • June - finish Situations in History and Social and Historical Contexts
  • July - write Old Testament Genres and Issues, New Testament Genres and Issues
  • August - write Integrating Biblical Texts and Appropriating Biblical Texts
  • September - finish book
2. Gabriel's Diary: The Creation (Tuesday, Sunday)
  • May - chapters 1-2
  • June - chapters 3-7
3. Cave City (Wednesday, Saturday)
  • proposal submitted by end of May
  • a chapter a week to finish by end of December
  • Finish Hawking on Fridays, then finish Susskind 
  • June - Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius (daily)
  • July-August - Wright's Paul: A Biography (daily)
  • Coding (Thursdays)
Summer Science
  • normal plodding in reading and videos (daily)
  • physics with S (every other day)
  • Schroedinger's Equation (Friday's)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Patreon post: Ex nihilo creation

I had been planning to self-publish the next Gabriel novel on the creation, but wondered if it might actually work with a real publisher. I may do some patron's only videos as seeds for chapters. Did the first yesterday. My patreon site is here:

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Never-ending Longfellow

These words were penned by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas day, a month after his son was severely injured in the Civil War, 1863.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Casting Lots on Patreon

Did my "patrons only" post for the week, looking very briefly at the raw word for "enrolled" in Acts 1:26 in relation to casting lots. I also looked at Psalm 109:6 and the different interpretations the NRSV and the NIV have of the verse.

Here's my patreon site: Ken Schenck on Patreon

Friday, May 11, 2018

Explanatory Notes on Acts (chapter 1)

I have completed explanatory notes on RomansGalatians (see also here), Philippians1 Thessalonians, and Hebrews. I have been doing videos on Acts now for five weeks going verse by verse in Greek and doing overviews on Sundays. Links to those videos for Acts 1 are at the bottom. Now that I am done with Acts 1, here are some written explanatory notes.

Acts 1: Introduction
A. Preface
  • 1:1. Acts has the same recipient as Luke, Theophilus. He is called "most excellent Theophilus" in Luke, possibly suggesting that he is a Roman official or certainly someone of importance. 
  • We wonder if he is a patron who commissioned Luke to write this two volume series. Such works were of course meant for broader consumption and brought honor to the patron.
  • Luke told about the things Jesus began to do and teach, possibly suggesting that Acts will tell us things that Jesus continued to do and teach through the Holy Spirit.
  • 1:2-3. We now hear about forty days between Jesus' resurrection and ascension, a unique feature in Acts. We do not even get the impression of forty days in Luke 24. 
  • During these days he presented convincing proofs of his resurrection to his followers.
  • 1:4. They are told to stay in Jerusalem. The centrality of Jerusalem to the mission is a key feature of Acts.
  • 1:5. Within the world of Luke-Acts, the Holy Spirit has not yet come. (We might think of John 20:22 as John's version of Pentecost). The coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is thus the fulfillment of Jesus' promise in Luke 3:16. In the story world of Acts, therefore, we should not think of the disciples as yet filled with the Holy Spirit.
B. Getting Ready for Mission
  • 1:6-11. These verses present the ascension of Jesus to heaven, forty days after his resurrection.
  • 1:6. These verses make it clear that the disciples had been expecting a political messiah. They did not expect Jesus as messiah to die, nor did they expect the resurrection. But now that he was resurrected, they returned to their former understanding. Was Jesus now going to restore Israel as a free political entity?
  • 1:7. Jesus does not contradict their expectation, only their timing. Luke-Acts seems to view this current age as the "time of the Gentiles" (cf. Luke 21:24), much as Paul seems to view this current phase of history in Romans 9-11. It is not time for Jerusalem to be free in God's economy.
  • 1:8. This is arguably the key verse of Acts. On the one hand, it basically maps the rest of Acts. They witness in Jerusalem in Acts 1-7, in Judea and Samaria in Acts 8-12, and to the ends of the earth (=Rome) in Acts 13-28.
  • The key manifestation of the Holy Spirit in Acts is "power," especially power for witness. What they are witnessing to is the resurrection of Christ, and an apostle in Acts, more than anything else, is someone to whom the risen Christ has appeared bodily and who has accordingly been commissioned to go and testify to his risen lordship.
  • The power they receive manifests itself in boldness, in the performance of miracles, and tongues on several occasions at the moment of receiving the Holy Spirit.
  • 1:9. God meets us where we are so that we can understand. Our understanding is always partial and generally fallen. Accordingly, God's revelation is usually partial and accommodates our understandings. The truth of God is always bigger than our understanding, so revelation tends to the metaphorical and figurative, so it can point beyond itself. Most of us cannot make ourselves believe that the world is flat and that heaven is straight up through layers of sky, yet this was the worldview of the disciples. Jesus meets them within their understanding. He ascends and when he is out of their sight, presumably transfers to whatever dimension heaven is in.
  • 1:10-11. The two men, presumably angels, predict the second coming of Christ, which we still await.
  • 1:12-26. These verses deal primarily with the replacement of Judas in the ten days between Jesus' ascension and the Day of Pentecost.
  • 1:12-14. The disciples return to Jerusalem from Mt. Olives, the location of Jesus' ascension.
  • 1:12. A sabbath's journey was about a half mile. The Mount of Olives was directly east across the Kidron Valley from the Eastern Gate, with the temple immediately inside. 
  • 1:13. Here we have Luke's second listing of the disciples. It differs from Matthew and Mark's list in having Judas son of James instead of Thaddeus (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18).
  • 1:14. Two of the special emphases of Luke are indicated in this verse. First, Luke pays more attention to the role women played in the Jesus movement and the early church. Second, Luke emphasizes the role that prayer played in the life of Jesus and the early church.
  • 1:15-26. Here we have the replacement of Judas proper.
  • 1:15. The canonical New Testament texts remember Peter as the lead apostle. Here he takes the lead on the replacement of Judas.
  • Although it is tempting to see this upper room as the Cenacle you can visit today, that part of Jerusalem was thoroughly burnt when Rome burned the city in AD70. It is thus unlikely to be the precise structure, at least not in its current form.
  • Luke suggests that the kernel of the early church consisted of about 120 people in Jerusalem. A room big enough to hold this many people would need to be the home of a fairly wealthy person. This home could be that of John Mark's parents, Mary and perhaps Cleopas.
  • 1:16. Peter understands David to have written the psalms. This was the understanding of the time and God met the early church within this understanding. Internal evidence suggests that David did not write all of the psalms that have that heading, as we will see in 1:20. This is not the point of the revelation here, however, but rather the cultural understanding within which the revelation came.
  • More important is the fact that the Holy Spirit is the one through whom revelation comes. The Holy Spirit has revealed to Peter that God wants them to replace Judas.
  • 1:18-19. Luke's account of what happened to Judas and the blood money differs a little from Matthew's. Both agree that Judas received money from betraying Jesus. Both agree that the money was used to purchase a field called Akeldama. Both agree that Judas met a gruesome end. 
  • However, in Matthew 27:3-10, Judas tries to return the blood money and the chief priests buy the field. Then Judas hangs himself. In Acts 1, Judas buys the field, falls headlong, and his bowels gush forth. The impulse to harmonize is probably misguided. There was room for some artistic license in ancient history writing and we can actually miss the inspired point if we don't let narratives stand as they are. If varying accounts are easily coordinated, by all means do it. But when it requires going well beyond what the texts actually say, it is best to let each stand alone. 
  • 1:20. The Lord spoke to Peter, Luke, or someone in the early church through Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8. As is always the case, these psalms had an original meaning in their original context. The New Testament authors then hear the Holy Spirit give an extended or spiritual meaning to the words that goes beyond the original meaning.
  • In the case of Psalm 69, an original psalm of lament and imprecatory psalm was widely read by the early Christians in relation to Jesus. However, in Psalm 69:5, the psalmist speaks of the wrongs he did, making it clear that the original meaning was not about Jesus, since Jesus was without sin. Yet several verses from the psalm were applied to Jesus by the early Christians, such as the "zeal for your house" verse (69:9) and the vinegar of 69:21. Like the Holy Spirit does to many Christians today, he "quickened" these verses to the early Christians in relation to Christ, even though the original psalm was not about Christ. 
  • Further, the internal evidence of the psalm more likely suggests an original context in the late 500s BC rather than the time of David. The cities of Judah were not destroyed in the time of David (69:35), nor was the house of the Lord built yet (69:9). But we can easily see a Haggai or Zechariah having zeal for God's house and for the rebuilding of Judah around the year 516BC.
  • In one translation of Psalm 109:8 (NRSV), the person whose place is being called for replacement is not that of the wicked person. Rather, the wicked are calling for the place of the righteous to be replaced. None of these observations should bother us, although they are a much needed corrective to the standard evangelical insistence that the Holy Spirit only speaks through the original meaning of biblical texts. The Holy Spirit, it would seem, is far more a holiness or Pentecostal interpreter than a neo-evangelical one!
  • 1:21-22. The qualifications for a replacement for Judas are that the person must have been with Jesus from the time of John's baptism. The apostle Paul thus did not qualify. There was an innermost circle of apostles, the twelve, in which Paul did not fit. 
  • Of course we must also keep in mind the principle that "description is not prescription." That is to say, Acts may be describing what Peter thought--describing what happened--without prescribing this definition for an apostle. It would seem, however, that this is Luke's perspective, the "evaluative point of view" of the book of Acts at this point.
  • 1:23-26. They cast lots to decide on the replacement, and it falls on Matthias. Here is probably a point where we would all agree that description is not prescription. Casting lots may be how they decided such things but we probably should not use that method, unless Luke means simply to say that they voted.
  • 1:23. This is the only place where these two individuals are mentioned, a reminder that we know only the tiniest bit of the life of the early church.
  • 1:24. We note again the importance of prayer in Acts.
Patron Videos (now public)
Videos on English of Acts 1
Acts 1:1-5
Acts 1:6-11
Acts 1:12-17
Acts 1:18-20
Acts 1:21-26

Videos on Greek of Acts 1
Acts 1:1
Acts 1:2
Acts 1:3
Acts 1:4
Acts 1:5
Acts 1:6
Acts 1:7
Acts 1:8
Acts 1:9-10
Acts 1:11
Acts 1:12
Acts 1:13-14
Acts 1:15
Acts 1:16
Acts 1:17
Acts 1:18
Acts 1:19
Acts 1:20
Acts 1:21-22
Acts 1:23
Acts 1:24
Acts 1:25
Acts 1:26

Saturday, May 05, 2018

NT Use of the OT: Acts 1:20 Patreon

My weekly post for patrons only is up. This week I look at the way Acts 1:20 reads Psalm 69 and 109 "Pentecostally" or like the old holiness interpreters, spiritually.