Saturday, January 29, 2022

Deconstruction 7.1 -- After the Debate

My discipline of writing a novel called Deconstruction continues, the story of several young people at a Christian college in the years 2016-2020. Here was the last post.


The next day at lunch, our group debriefed from the debate. Jessica hadn’t gone. Such things were far too boring for her. Matt thought that Dr. Todley was the obvious winner. April thought the same about Dr. Baine.

Brad wasn’t sure, nor was I. Dr. Todley’s best arguments had to do with abortion, it seemed to us. But Dr. Baine had made us realize something that had never even occurred to us—America’s past seemed a lot brighter to us because we were white than it probably did to someone of color.

All of us agreed that we would have liked to have heard responses to some of the points the other side made. Matt didn’t feel like Dr. Baine had been clear about when human life began. April wanted to know what Dr. Todley would say about abortion declining more under Democratic presidents. Brad was curious about what Dr. Todley thought Jesus was really like.

A scheme emerged. Matt would have coffee with Dr. Baine, and Brad would do the same with Dr. Todley. We as a group would collect our questions for each one and commission them to ask them. Then we would regroup afterward and share the results.

Friday, January 28, 2022

Book Review -- How Stella Saved the Farm

My next read on innovation is a fable called How Stella Saved the Farm: A Tale about Making Innovation Happen. This is just a great book and I look forward to reading Govindarajan's prose book. Of course everything works out in the end, so I enjoy that. The book isn't a tragedy. 

A middle or elementary school person could read this book. Yet its business principles are superb. Let me just summarize some of the elements:

  • The problem is that the human farms are big and use farm equipment, while the animal-led farm is small and more manual. How could they possibly compete?
  • Their normal is "faster, stronger, more efficient," but it just isn't enough. They need to do something new and different. They have a contest to make proposals.
  • The winning proposal is alpaca wool.
  • There are all sorts of inter-animal tensions throughout the book. They work through them all. That part might be a little unbelievable, given that these represent people with their varying personalities.
  • I note that gathering information from customers is part of their research ("ethnographic study").
  • The head horse has to change the new org chart repeatedly. She has to find the right people for the right positions. It involves some trial and error. There's resistance to change and complaints that they don't have the money or capacity to innovate.
  • She decides they need a dedicated team. Then they find some overlap. But it is likely building a new company from the ground up.
  • It costs way more than they planned. There were fails and complications. 
  • The rooster comes up with three laws for running business experiments:
  • 1) Learning first, profits second. "If you put learning first--learning through disciplined experimentation--you'll make better decisions and you'll actually get to profitability sooner."
  • You make a hypothesis. You predict what will happen. You measure results. You assess lessons learned. You start over.
  • 2) The second law is that "inside a big experiment, there are little experiments." I thought of the saying, "Fail often. Fail fast. Fail forward."
  • 3) The third law is that the innovation leader's job is to exercise a disciplined experiment. The evaluation of an innovator is whether she has a clear hypothesis, is identifying the most critical unknowns, is investing time and analyzing results, is communicating the plan to the team, is reacting quickly to new information, etc.
This may be the best business book I've ever read.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Explanatory Notes -- Hebrews 11:8-22

11:8 By faith Abraham, being called, obeyed to go into a place that he was about to receive as an inheritance and he went out, not knowing where he was going. 11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as a foreigner in tents, dwelling with Isaac and Jacob, his co-inheriters of the same promise. 10. For he was awaiting the city having foundations, whose architect and builder [is] God.

The theme of being strangers in the land is a major part of the next few verses on Abraham. He was in a land that was promised to him, but he was not in possession of that land. There is a sense of alienation from the people around him. He does not belong. He doesn't know where God is leading him. They live in tents rather than permanent houses. The city they are in is not their city.

These images were no doubt meant to speak to the audience of Hebrews. If they were in Rome, indeed, if some of them were Roman citizens, they were alienated from their own city. They lived there but did not belong there. It could also apply to Jerusalem, which was arguably the center of the early church and its fundamental Jewish identity. If Jerusalem were recently destroyed at the time of writing, we can imagine the sense of disequilibrium and alienation that would have resulted.

Whatever the precise scenario, the author reorients them around the heavenly city, the heavenly Jerusalem. This city was designed and constructed by God, not Romulus. [1] The heavenly city has real foundations. Earthly cities like Rome or Jerusalem had far inferior foundations. 

The sense of the land being his by promise but not yet obtained may suggest the theme of new creation. The land would belong to him after the resurrection, after the removal of the current created order and the recreation of all things. So the audience may live on the earth, but it would not be theirs until after the new creation.

[1] Note once again that God the Father is the creator of the cosmos in most of Hebrews rather than Christ. 

11:11 By faith also Sarah herself, sterile, received power for the foundation of seed, even beyond the time of age, since she considered faithful the one who had promised. 12. Therefore, even from one [man]--and these from one having been dead--as the stars of the sky in multitude and as the sand on the shore of the sea without number. 

There are some variations in the Greek manuscripts of 11:11, mainly centering around whether it is Abraham or Sarah's faith that is in question. In either case, the point is that the descendants of Sarah and Abraham did not exist. It was like they were dead. It would have been easy not to believe even though God had promised them descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand on the beach.

But God is a God who raises the dead! God raised Jesus from the dead and, if the audience should have to die for their faith, God will raise them from the dead. They fear they are going to face persecution again, as before. They are possibly afraid that the promises they have heard are not real, that Jesus perhaps is not the Messiah, perhaps even that the God of Israel is not a true God.

Hebrews reminds them of salvation history. Death is not the end of the story. God brought Sarah and Abraham multitudes of descendants when it was humanly impossible. And God did this because they had faith.

At points like this we might remember that Sarah did not seem to be full of faith in Genesis 18. We remember what we have said of Old Testament engagement throughout. The moment of inspiration for Hebrews is independent of the moment of inspiration for Genesis. The inspired point of Hebrews is what the Holy Spirit breathed through the author of Hebrews. It does not have to be the same meaning or point as the Old Testament text.

11:13 In faith these all died, not having received the promises but from afar having seen them and having greeted them and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles in the land. 14. For those who speak such things make it clear that they are seeking a country. 15. And if, on the one hand, they were remembering that [one] from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16. But now, they desire a better [one], that is, a heavenly [one]. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he prepared for them a city.

Now the author of Hebrews steps back and gives the general point. The audience may die before they receive the promises of Christ's return and the shaking of the created realm, before the judgment and the true Jerusalem. Or perhaps Christ will come immediately and deliver them. Whatever happens, they must continue on in faith like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Abraham died in faith. He had been given the promise of the land, but he died before his descendants were in full possession of it. He saw the promise from afar, but he did not fully receive them while he were in this world.

So he was an alien in the land of his own promise. He was a stranger. He was an exile. His true country was not the one from which he came. Otherwise, he might have returned. Rather, he was looking for a better country, a heavenly one. He was looking for the heavenly Jerusalem, the heavenly city that God had prepared for him.

These remarks would have been extremely poignant in the aftermath of Jerusalem's destruction. Worried about the truth of a religion whose central city had been destroyed. Worried about a God who would let his temple be obliterated. Given the way people thought about gods and their temples at the time, this must have shook many early Christians deeply. 

We are heirs of those who have long reformulated their faith around heaven and not around any earthly site. They were just in the process of figuring such things out.

11:17 By faith Abraham has offered up Isaac, being tested, and the one who has received the promises was offering the only-born, 18. to the one whom it was spoken, "In Isaac your seed will be called," 19. having reckoned that even from the dead God was able to raise, whence also he received him in a parable.

Death cannot stop God's promises. Just as Isaac's birth was a miracle of life from death, so Isaac's escape from sacrifice was such a rescue. And the audience can know for sure that God can both rescue them from dying if it should come to that, and God can raise them from the dead if they are martyred for their faith. Abraham had a promise. Even death cannot stop the life of God!

The tenses of this verse are fascinating. Abraham "has offered" Isaac. The perfect tense suggests that Isaac remains offered. The tense seems to speak to the permanent witness of Abraham's faith in Scripture. Scripture "stands written," as the often used perfect tense indicates. Regardless of what happened to Abraham in history, the testimony of Scripture stands forever.

Abraham's constant obedience in faith is thus the witness of this text. The imperfect tense is then used at the end of the verse, he "was offering." The continuous flavor of that tense may also suggest the constant, ongoing faith of Abraham while being tested.

The echo of God offering Jesus may also be present. The statement at Jesus' baptism, "This is my son whom I love" echoes the Genesis 22 story where God tells Abraham to offer his son whom he loves. So Abraham's faithfulness in offering Isaac is like God's faithfulness in offering his only-born son as well.

11:20 By faith also concerning things about to be, Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau. 21. By faith Jacob, dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and he bowed down on the head of his staff. 22. By faith Joseph, nearing the end, remembered concerning the exodus, and commanded concerning his bones.

The witness of Scripture is that Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph all showed the same faith in the unseen that Abraham did. Isaac saw a future of promise for Jacob and Esau and blessed them. Jacob and Joseph may have died in Egypt, but they believed in a future where their descendants would return to the land and possess it. Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh, who would also die before their descendants inherited. Joseph commanded that his bones be returned, believing in an exodus that was four hundred years in the future.

In each of these cases, the audience is instructed to persist in faith. Perhaps they will escape persecution. Perhaps they will not. But like the patriarchs, they must continue to run with patience the race set before them.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

A Book Observed -- Solving Problems with Design Thinking

I like to keep record of books I read or dawdle with here. I read/skimmed/audibled another book on design thinking: Solving Problems with Design Thinking. There's an overlap in author with the previous book I read. This book gives 10 case studies of design thinking innovation.

Incredibly boring book to me. I swear, these two books on Design Thinking could be subtitled--"how to make innovation as boring as possible so that managers can handle it." I almost get angry when books that could be written more interestingly instead are ventures in self-torture. My time's too precious to throw away. If I teach this MBA class again, I won't be requiring this book.

Perhaps another metric for me on the value of a book is how many tweetable insights and quotes it has. There were some in the book. Here are a few:

  • If you take only one thing from this book... it is the awesome power of ethnography, the deep insights produced by getting to know the situation and journeys of your customers as well as the people inside your organization that facilitate providing products and services.
  • Don't kill your strategies with completeness. Leave room for the people who must make them real to make them their own.
  • Nobody experiences anything by being told about it.
  • Thinking smaller--placing small bets and learning fast--is an undervalued innovation strategy.
  • One of the greatest challenges of the quest for innovation is impatience, "which makes us rush to solve instead of taking time to understand."
  • "The design thinking approach forces you to stay in the question and not define exactly what the problem is." Barry MacDevitt
  • "It is more often the recasting and recombination of myriad elements rather than one big 'new to the world' idea."
  • "Innovation is a team sport."
  • "Research demonstrates that too much information actually degrades the quality of our decisions."
  • Leaving space for stakeholders to be part of the discovery of new ideas.
I would say chapter 12, "Where Do We Go from Here?" is the chapter to read in the book. After the ten case studies, it suggests five key benefits to design thinking:
  • the way it helps reframe the questions--you get a better sense of what the real questions are (empathy is a key element here, feeling for your customer and employee)
  • collaborating to leverage difference--it brings the people who otherwise might pull against each other into the same room and thus overcomes potential barriers
  • curates the evidence to distill the essence of your situation
  • leaves space for insight, rather than just the creative ones having all the answers (allows emptiness to invite engagement)
  • accelerates speed through collaboration that cuts through inertia and bureaucracy

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Deconstruction 6.1 -- The Debate begins

I continue to write a novel called Deconstruction, set in a Christian college in the years 2016-2020. Here's the previous excerpt.


The chapel was packed to the brim the evening of the debate. Dr. Todley had a podium on the right and Dr. Baine was on the left. If anyone missed the symbolism, Dr. Todley pointed it out as an opening joke.

A senior named Todd was the moderator. He was president of the Young Republicans club. April found out there was no Young Democrats club on campus because the administration wasn’t sure it would be appropriate for us as a Christian college. And besides, they couldn’t find a faculty person willing to be its advisor.

Both professors gave an opening statement. Then Todd asked them three questions each, with a chance for each to respond. Then they gave closing remarks, followed by an open Q & A session.

Dr. Todley went first. His basic argument was that although candidate Trump was not a perfect candidate, he was 75% on the right path while Clinton was 100% on the wrong path. The Republican platform was godly while the Democratic one was not. A vote for anyone else but Trump was a vote for abortion. That issue alone meant a Christian had to vote for Trump. It even ruled out not voting or voting for a third party candidate. Meanwhile, Trump was surrounding himself with good people who would help him grow as a baby Christian. He would get better and better. A solid round of applause greeted the end of opening remarks.

Then Dr. Baine tried to argue that the situation wasn’t quite as black and white as Dr. Todley had made it out to be. He claimed that Democratic values aligned pretty closely with Jesus’ values. For example, he claimed Democrats do more to help the poor and the marginalized, while Republicans tend to give the rich massive tax breaks. He argued that abortion had decreased more under Democratic presidents than Republican ones because Democrats address the root causes that lead women to get abortions in the first place. He concluded that Trump had a hateful spirit and a lawless attitude that was dangerous for democracy. The response was significantly less enthusiastic.

Todd proceeded with his three questions. Given Clinton’s stance on partial birth abortion, how could a Christian vote for her? Given recent revelations about Trump and grabbing women, how could a Christian vote for him? Finally, which candidate was more likely to “make America great again”? ...

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Hebrews 1:5-14 Explanatory Notes

Hebrews 1:1-4 (video/podcast)
1:5 For to which of the angels at some time has he said, "You are my Son; I today have given you birth?"
    And again, "I myself will be to him as Father, and he himself will be to me as Son."
    6. And again, when he leads the firstborn into the ordered world he says, "And let all the angels of God worship him."

1. This will not be the only time that the author strings three Scripture quotations together in the pattern of
    1) quote
    2) and again quote
    3) and again quote.
We see it again in 2:12-13. This pattern suggests that these three quotes all go together.

The theme that links the three quotes is that of Sonship. Hebrews 1:4 ended by mentioning the name that Jesus has inherited, a name that is greater than the angels. While it is tempting to identify this name as "Yahweh" or "Lord," [1] the train of thought pushes us to see the name--or perhaps more precisely, the office--as that of Son. The office or title that Jesus inherits is that of "Son of God."

"Son of God" is a royal title. It is the title of a king. Psalm 2 itself was an enthronement psalm, likely read at the coronation of a king of Judah. The king was "begotten" on the day of his enthronement as the son of God (Ps. 2:7). The author of Hebrews seems to know this fact, and this understanding of the Messiah's birthing seems also attested in the Dead Sea Scrolls. [2]

Hebrews is not making a comment in relation to Jesus' eternal Sonship, although this statement in no way precludes it. That just simply is not what Hebrews is talking about. [3] Hebrews is making a statement about Jesus' exaltation and enthronement to God's right hand. In fact this entire chain of quotations (called a catena) is a celebration of Jesus' enthronement as cosmic king. This timing is clear from the previous two verses (1:3-4) which talk about the inheriting of the title Son after making a cleansing for sins and sitting at the hand of Majesty in the heights.

The second quote (2 Sam. 7:14) even more clearly refers to the human king Solomon. In conversation with David, God indicates that Solomon will be the son of God. This sense of the human king as God's "son," God's representative and family on earth, was common in the Ancient Near East, and the author of Hebrews seems to be aware of this understanding.

2. We better understand Hebrews 1:6 when we see it as the third quote in this series. In isolation, it is not entirely clear what entrance it has in mind. There are at least three possibilities.

Given our knowledge of the Gospel of Luke, it is natural for us to think of the angels singing in Luke 2 at Jesus' birth. Jesus comes into the world, and the angels worship him. It is thus quite possible that we are again introducing foreign elements into Hebrews from elsewhere. In many datings of Hebrews and Luke, it is not likely that the Gospel of Luke was yet written. The author of Hebrews may not even have known that story. 

If we take the word again with "he leads," you might take 1:6 in relation to the second coming. "When God leads his firstborn again into the world..." This is tempting because the verse in question from Deuteronomy 32:43 is in the context of God vindicating his people in judgment against those who hate him. 

In the end, the structure of the three quotes probably tips the scales in favor of the verse referring once again to the exaltation and enthronement of Jesus at God's right hand. We get a picture of the heavenly throne room where God is seated on the throne. Jesus is led into the highest heaven, the truly ordered world, and the servants of God, the angels, bow before their enthroned king.

This picture fits the imagery of Hebrews well. Hebrews has a pervasive dualism between the heaven where God dwells and the created realm of skies and earth. The heavenly Jerusalem is the true Jerusalem (e.g., 12:22). [4] We are destined to be with the angels in the true Mt. Zion in heaven along with other "spirits of the righteous having been perfected" (12:23). This is the coming, "ordered world," that the author is speaking about (2:5), not the earthly one.

3. The wording of the quotation in verse 6 is quite interesting. You will not find this exact wording in any English translation of Deuteronomy 32:43. Perhaps it existed as a variation in manuscripts the author of Hebrews had but that we no longer do. 

The typical Hebrew version we have says, "Praise his people, you nations." The oldest Greek translations we have say instead, "Let all the sons of God worship him." That is much closer to what Hebrews says. It is just the beginning of strong evidence that the author of Hebrews operated out of the Greek translation of the Old Testament and not the Hebrew.

We do find "Let all the angels of God worship him" in a later Christian version of this passage called the Odes. It is just not clear whether it is drawing from the tradition of Hebrews or represents another translation that was already in existence. The bottom line is that the author of Hebrews is either paraphrasing the Greek or quoting a version that no longer exists.

7. And, on the one hand, to the angels he says, "The one who makes his angels spirits and his ministers flames of fire,"

If the first three quotes go together (1:5-6), the second triad of quotes also go together (1:7-12). The structure this time is an "on the one hand" in verse 7 and an "on the other hand" in verse 8. Hebrews 1:8-12 then has two quotes, both of which contrast with what is said about the angels in 1:7.

Hebrews quotes Psalm 104:4, which in the Hebrew says, "making the winds his messengers and flaming fire his ministers." But the Hebrew word for "wind" can also be translated, "spirit." Hebrews flips the sense of the psalm, following the Greek translation. The psalm talks about making winds into messengers. Hebrews talks about making angels ("messengers") into spirits.

There are two main points of contact between what 1:7 says about angels and what 1:8-12 say about Jesus the Son of God. First, the angels are ministers or servants of God. By contrast, Jesus is the Son of God, the king. Second, winds and flames are transitory. They blow on or burn out. By contrast, Jesus' reign is forever and ever.

8. But on the other hand to the Son,

     Your throne, O God, [is] forever and ever 
          and the staff of straightness [is] the rod of your kingdom.
          9. You loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.
     For this reason, God, your God, anointed you,
          oil of rejoicing in the presence of your companions.

The first quote is from Psalm 45:6-7. When a New Testament author like the author of Hebrews quotes something, the meaning of that quote in Hebrews is a function of how Hebrews is using it. So the meaning of these verses in Hebrews may not draw upon every aspect of the quote. Presumably, there were key "points of contact" between the quote and the rhetorical goals of Hebrews. Similarly, the meaning of the quote in Hebrews does not have to equate exactly to its original meaning. [1]

In this case, there seems to be a significant amount of continuity between the two meanings. Psalm 45 is a royal psalm, a psalm for the wedding of a king. So Hebrews 1 focuses on Jesus as the Son of God, the king enthroned at his exaltation to God's right hand. Psalm 45:6 is really quite remarkable, for it calls a human king "God." That it refers to a human king is clear from the bridge and her virgin attendants who follow (45:13-14), as well as the mention of sons (45:16).

The psalm thus does not literally mean that the king is a god, of course. The king is godlike, even God's representative on the earth. The next verse (45:7) goes on to distinguish between the king as "God" and the king's God, who is the literal God. Calling the king "God" in the psalm is thus like calling the king "Son of God."

We see most clearly what the author of Hebrews had in mind when we compare this quote with Hebrews 1:7. The two key points of 1:7 are that the angels function as servants and that their role as ministers is temporary. Psalm 45:6-7 show that Jesus is king, not a servant, and his reign is forever, not temporary.

Jesus' throne is forever and ever. They function like winds and flames. Jesus was anointed as Christ, as king, as Son of God from among humanity. They serve humanity as ministers (cf. 1:14).

10. And "You from the beginning, Lord, founded the land,
                and the works of your hands are the skies.
     11. They themselves will perish, but you will remain.
     And all as a garment will become old,
          12. and as a wrap you will roll them.
          As a garment even they will be changed.
     But you [are] the same and your years will not be used up.

The second quote is from Psalm 102:25-27. Amazingly, the author of Hebrews draws on a passage about Yahweh as creator and applies it to Jesus. We remember that 1:2 already says of Jesus that he was the one "through whom God made the worlds." It is hard to know whether the author meant this imagery metaphorically or literally. After Hebrews 1, God the Father is consistently called the creator (2:10; 3:4; 11:3).

To know the author's primary point in using the quotation, we turn again to 1:7, which contrasts with both quotations. On the one hand, the angels are ministers. Jesus is not only the Son of God, but here is "Lord." The Hebrew behind the word Lord here is Yahweh. Although the author of Hebrews functioned out of the Greek translation of the Old Testament, it is quite possible he is equating Jesus with Yahweh.

Richard Bauckham at this point has made a strange suggestion, namely, that Jesus inherits the name Yahweh at his resurrection. According to Bauckham, Jesus was always Son of God, but he inherits the name Yahweh at this point. We would probably dismiss this suggestion out of hand if it didn't provide a plausible reading of Philippians 2:9-11. There, God gives Jesus the "name above all names" at his exaltation after death. Yahweh is very plausibly the highest name.

Whatever Hebrews precisely had in mind, it is clear that this is an office and identity far higher than that of the angels, who are "ministering spirits" (1:14).

Similarly, whereas the role of the angels is temporary and transitory, like the creation, Jesus' role will continue forever. They are like winds and flames. They are like the skies and the land that will eventually grow old and be wrapped up like a garment.

The quote is parallel to what the author will say in 12:26-27, where God "shakes" and "removes" the skies and the earth. This shaking is part of the soon-coming judgment of the world. So the current configuration of the created realm is about to be "rolled up," just as the role of the angels as ministering spirits to humanity is about to end (see Hebrews 2). 

Meanwhile, Jesus remains forever. His years will not come to an end. 

The imagery of the changing of a garment may imply that Hebrews looks for a new creation with new skies and a new earth. 12:26-27 are quite stark in their removal language, but it would be unprecedented for Hebrews to see a complete and final removal.

13. But to which of the angels has he said at some time, "Sit on my right [hand] until I should put your enemies as a footstool for your feet"?

This verse forms what is called an "inclusio" with 1:5. The framing of the quote is very similar, "to which of the angels has he said at some time." An inclusio serves like bookends, indicating that the material between the two bookends goes together. 

Psalm 110:1 is actually quoted here. It was alluded to in 1:4, but here the author brings it fully into the open. The centrality of this verse for Hebrews is so great, that George Buchanan once suggested Hebrews might be a sermon on the verse. It is a verse about the exalted Jesus. Yahweh tells his Messiah that he is enthroning him.

The entire catena or chain of quotes thus reiterates over and over that Jesus is king, that God has put him in a position much higher than that of the angels. 

14. Are they not all ministering spirits sent for ministry because of those about to inherit salvation? 

The celebration of Hebrews 1 ends with a clear statement of the role of angels in salvation history. They are "ministering spirits." They are not kings. They will not rule. They are servants. By contrast, Jesus is king. Jesus is Son of God. Jesus is Lord. Jesus will reign forever and ever.

In chapter 2, we will learn that humanity was intended to rule the creation, but they have not fulfilled this role because of sin. The angels serve as ministers to them as they await salvation. And Jesus became one of them to solve their problem. But now Jesus is greater than the angels again (1:4). Soon, their role as ministering spirits to humanity will end because humanity will rule with Christ as brothers and coheirs. 

[1] So Richard Bauckham

[2] 4QFlorilegium

[3] J. B. Lightfoot and others are thus introducing foreign elements to the text's arguments when they read these verses in the light of later Christological debates.

[4] See also 11:10, 16; 13:14.

Deconstruction 5.2 -- lead up to the debate

I continue to work on this novel as a discipline on the weekends.


The climax of the election frenzy on campus in the fall of 2016 happened the week after the “grab them by the p* video” surfaced. That came out on a Thursday, October 6. The history professor, Dr. Todley, was worried that the students might not vote for Trump after the video. For him, a Christian could only vote for the Republican. There was never any other choice in a presidential election.

He was from Indiana. He wasn’t quite as much a Yankee as someone from New York, but there were definitely times you could tell he was an outsider. The South was a little more complicated on the “you can’t vote for a Democrat” line. Most of our grandparents and before had been staunch Democrats. Now our parents were Republicans.

The big change came after the whole desegregation mess of the 60s and 70s. President LBJ may have been a Democrat, but our grandparents thought he was a traitor. In the Reagan years, some of those old-time Democrats started to change parties.

I’ve decided that people come up with all sorts of different reasons for why they vote the way they do. Most of them aren’t the real reason. Although he was a smart man, Dr. Todley would always find a reason to vote for a Republican. Even down-ballot, where abortion wasn’t at stake, he would find a reason to conclude the Republican superior.

Several of us took his US History class that spring. In a moment of weakness, he admitted that he had only ever voted for a Democrat once for county council. The candidate was one of his neighbors. But he went on to regret it.

I had an interesting conversation with my grandfather about Trump. In the same conversation, he both ripped on Reagan as an awful president and then gave his unbridled praise for Trump. Wow, I thought to myself. I’m looking at an archaeological dig here. I’m seeing the Democrat layer that was still in place in the 80s and the Republican layer of the 2000s. Each corresponded to a different wife.

So Dr. Todley was right to worry that some professors and students might vote for Clinton. They might be Republican of late, but there was a deeper history of voting Democrat in their families hiding in there too.

For an opponent, it was hard to find a professor on campus who would admit they planned to vote for Hillary. The biology professor, Dr. Baine, finally agreed because he felt there needed to be a counterbalance. He had already admitted to our table that he was voting for Clinton. So Matt was quick to call him a liar when he said he hadn’t decided who to vote for yet. The position he took in the debate was that a Christian couldn’t in good conscience vote for Trump. The only real Christian choice, he argued, was to vote for a third party candidate, Clinton, or not to vote at all.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Why Campus 6 -- Spreading the Good News

I had not put up a link here to my final post in the series, Why Campus? I thought I'd do that so that anyone would have easy access to all seven posts in the series. Here they are in one place:

Preface: The Future of Modality in Higher Education

Why Campus?

1. Expanded markets

2. Enriched curricula

3. Enhanced courses

4. Quantum leaps

5. Softer landings

6. Spreading the good news

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Book Review: Designing for Growth

Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers

I started this book in December. Just finished it this week. It is an introduction to design thinking. It was straightforward. It was simple to understand. I'll confess I found the book very boring. It may not have helped that I tried to cover a lot of it as an audiobook while driving to and from Chicago.

Design thinking is basically a way to operationalize creativity. The book's basic thesis is that managers often don't feel like they are particularly creative or innovative, even though they need to be. Similarly, designers are often far more creative than they are organized. This book is meant to create a Reese's Peanut Butter cup that mixes the peanut butter of the manager with the chocolate of the designer.

It is very useful. The four basic steps are:

1. What is? -- Where are you currently in your organization?

2. What if? -- This is a phase of focused brainstorming.

3. What wows? -- This phase involves actually prototyping and talking to potential customers for input.

4. What works? -- Going beyond prototyping, you do a learning launch with a small sample.'

That all makes sense. The ten steps that the four questions expand out into are:

1. Visualization -- necessary throughout

What is?

A four-step project management sequence is interspersed with these four questions. The first project management step is to have a "Design Brief" that clarifies what problem you are trying to solve and sets kicks off the designing process.

2. Journey mapping -- looking at things from the customer side

3. Value Chain mapping -- looking at things from the organizational side

4. Mind mapping -- Get a group together to find patterns in those mappings. This is a crucial step to determine where you currently are as an organization.

What if? 

The project management tool emerging from the first question is Design Criteria. Hopefully, you now have insight into where your organization is. What are the perceptions of your organization? What is the ideal end state of the process for your organization?

5. Brainstorming -- Giving clearly defined parameters, begin to generate ideas that address anecdotes and stories depicting the problems you are trying to solve. Keep iterating by asking probing questions that question your assumptions, explore the extremes, look back from the future, etc.

6. Concept Development -- Now choose the best ideas that emerged out of the brainstorming process. Combine them. Mix and match them. Look for that spark of creativity.

What wows?

You kick off pursuit of the third question with a "Napkin Pitch." What does the customer want? What assets does your organization have to give? How will the customer benefit? What is the competition?

7.  Assumption Testing -- Begin to plan out how you are going to test the assumptions with which you have emerged from concept development. Will your new concept pass basic business tests like 1) will customers buy it, 2) can you create and deliver it, 3) can you scale it, and 4) how easily can competitors copy you?

8. Rapid Prototyping -- Fake creating the new service or entity. Run it by a very small number of people for feedback. "Fail fast to succeed sooner."

What now?

You launch the final stage with "The Learning Guide." How are you going to test the direction in which you are heading? How much is it going to cost? What remaining assumptions do you need to test?

9. Customer Co-Creation -- Bring some potential customers in and get their input. 

10. Learning Launch -- Now build a more realistic version of your product or service and try it out on a small sample with a small team working on it. A couple months, maybe 100 people. Don't spend too much but spend enough to know whether you're really on to something.

Sermon Starters: God-Given Resolutions

Brookside Wesleyan Church, Wellsville, NY
January 2, 2022

Text: Micah 6:6-8


Intro: New Year's Resolutions

  • Did you make any? Have you already broken any? The person who resolved to get to start getting to work on time and overslept the first day.
  • 27% break their resolutions by the first week of January.
  • Most exercise resolutions are through by January 12.
  • 41% don't last more than a month
  • Over half have stopped by six months.
  • 80% of resolutions fail by end of year.
  • What if we let the Lord make our new year's resolutions? What would he set for us?

1. God wants us to do justice. (mishpat)

  • Harry Potter 5, getting expelled from Hogwarts... "Justice"
  • We don't always agree about what justice would be -- e.g., discussions about whether certain people should be acquitted or not?
  • What is justice like for God in the prophets?
  • In Micah 6:11 -- "wicked scales" -- people who cheat other people out of greed
  • In Micah 3:1 -- abuse of power by leaders, those who take bribes and thus favor the rich and powerful
  • Captain America -- "I don't want to kill anyone. I just don't like bullies."
  • Chickens in the yard -- We have too many roosters. Our head rooster takes care of the hens.
  • Zechariah 7:9-10 -- "Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy each to his brother do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart."
  • That's what biblical justice looks like.

2. God wants us to love mercy. (hesed)

  • Hesed is perhaps the richest of all Hebrew words. It is one of the most frequent descriptions of God's nature in the Old Testament. 
  • Jonah 4:2 -- "Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity."
  • The story of Jonah and Nineveh -- his actions and attitudes are the opposite of hesed. God wants to see Nineveh restored, even though he knows the path they are on.  

3. God wants us to walk humbly with him as our God.

  • Pride in the Bible is putting ourselves in the place of authority that belongs to God.
  • "The nail that sticks up is the first to get hit."
  • Putting ourselves in the driver's seat -- planning to build bigger barns.
  • Illustration -- "Easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission."
  • Did you consult God on that project of yours?
  • We are free to be servants of God.

  • God's resolutions have more teeth than yours and mine -- we can't just throw them away when we miss a day.
  • But that's not the way to think about them. God's resolutions are for our good. God's resolutions are about shaping us, not grading us.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Deconstruction Novel excerpt from chapter 5

For the previous post, see here. Each weekend I am writing on a novel about some students at a Christian college from 2016-2020 and the current phenomenon being called faith deconstruction.


... For Matt, the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage was one of the worst moments in American history. “Obama has brought so much judgment on America because of his sin,” he said once.

“But he isn’t even on the Supreme Court,” April responded in frustration.

“Doesn’t matter,” he continued. “He supported it. We’ve got to elect Republicans as president so we can stop these activist judges and reverse Roe v. Wade and Obergefell. There’s just no other choice. You can’t be a Christian and vote for a Democrat.”

April looked at him in disbelief. Her parents had always voted for the Democratic candidate for as long as she could remember. Her dad was a Methodist pastor.

Brad represented the fourth type of student. They agreed with April and Jessica that Trump was a deeply immoral man. But they believed Hillary was worse. More than anything, they were worried about her stance on abortion. That issue more than any other would keep them from ever voting for a Democrat in a presidential election.

As he put it, Brad would “hold his nose" and vote for Trump. There were some professors who seemed like that. Most of the ones in that category either didn’t vote at all or voted for the Libertarian or Green candidate. April believed that this group of Christians cost Clinton the election.

I didn’t know who to vote for. I listened intently to the lunch debates of my friends. They didn’t really even notice that I was there most of the time.

Once, out of the blue, Jessica blurted across the table, “Hey, David, who are you voting for?” I was startled that I would be put on the spot like that, but glad that she knew my name.

“I don’t know yet,” I quietly answered a few seconds later. But by then their argument had continued...

Friday, January 07, 2022

University Chemistry II for stable geniuses

I mentioned in my review of last year that I had taken Calculus II for Engineers this past fall with ASU online. I was scheduled to take physics and chem 2 this spring (psycho), but yesterday I hesitantly decided it just wasn't a good use of my resources right now. (I actually CLEPed out of Chem I last summer trying to get into the Chem 2 class. They wouldn't count my AP from high school or my chemistry from SWU in the 80s. I get it.)

Some may know that for over a decade I have slowly been putting physics, calculus, and chemistry videos on YouTube. I thought, why don't I go ahead and put up the equivalent of that Chemistry II course on YouTube this spring. But instead of the crazy 7.5 week courses that ASU does (mega-psycho), why not pretend it's a 16-week online class?

So here's a possible schedule for videos this spring. Without the pressure of a grade hanging over my head, we'll see what happens. But I'll try to pretend at least a little. Let's try to cover eight chapters in Brown, LeMay, Bursten, and Murphy's Chemistry: The Central Science.

As usual, we'll see. I have a day job.

Module 1: Chemical Kinetics (chapter 14)

Week 1: Videos on reaction rates, the rate law, and the change of concentration with time (14.1-4)

Week 2: Temperature and rate, reaction mechanisms, and catalysts (14.5-7) 

Module 2: Chemical Equilibria (chapter 15)

Week 1: equilibrium and the equilibrium constant, heterogeneous equilibria (15.1-4)

Week 2: calculations and applications of equilibrium constants, Le Chatelier's Principle (15.5-7)

Module 3: Acid-Base Equilibria (chapter 16)

Week 1: types of acids-bases, ionization of water, pH  (16.1-5)

Week 2: weak acids and bases, constants, chemical structure (16.6-11)

Module 4: Aqueous Equilibrium Continued (chapter 17)

Week 1: common ion effect, titrations, solubility equilibria (17.1-3)

Week 2: precipitation, qualitative analysis for metals (17.4-7)

Module 5: Chemical Thermodynamics (chapter 19)

Week 1: spontaneous processes, entropy (19.1-3)

Week 2: Gibbs Free Energy, Energy and Temperature/Equilibrium Constant (19.4-7)

Module 6: Electrochemistry (chapter 20)

Week 1: redox reactions, voltaic cells, EMF (20.1-4) 

Week 2: batteries, corrosion, electrolysis (20.5-9)

Module 7: Nuclear Chemistry (chapter 21)

Week 1: radioactivity, nuclear transmutations and decay (21.1-4)

Week 2: nuclear reactions and power (21.5-9)

Module 8: Coordination Compounds (chapter 24)

Week 1: complexes, ligands, nomenclature (24.1-3)

Week 2: isomerism, crystal-field theory (24.4-6)

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Sermon Starters -- God of the New Year

Brookside Wesleyan Church, Wellsville, NY

January 2, 2022

(Text: Genesis 1:1-2:3)

Intro: A different way to read Genesis 1

  • Brief summary of the chapter
  • A different picture of God than the Babylonians
  • John Walton -- the New Year's festival of Yahweh, the reinstallation of God as king of the universe

Genesis 1:1-2

1. Do you come to this year with any "tohu vavohu"?

  • Genesis 1 isn't like other creation stories. Chaos but a conflict between gods.
  • The world is a mess. Is your world a mess? What's not working in your life?
Genesis 1:3-5

2. God brings light out of darkness.

  • Illustration (e.g., dressing in the dark)
  • Walton -- the creation of time (days and nights)
  • Time is a path to walk out of any sorrow.
Genesis 1:6-10

3. God clears a space in the mess. He brings dry ground.

  • Hoarders
  • The seas were chaos to them, full of danger and fear.
Genesis 1:11-13

4. God provides food.

  • We know where the story is heading--to the creation of us. This story, after all, is for us. If God were writing it for the angels, it would look different. Let's not get too cocky. We are sparrows, after all.

Genesis 1:26-28

5. God gives us a charge in his world.

  • This is the "political image of God. We should steward the world as God wants us to.
  • All humans are valuable, because we are made in God's image.

Genesis 1:31-2:3

6. It's all good. God rests.

  • Everything's working. (we're good)
  • The world is built, God's temple. Everything is ordered. Chaos is beat. Now he can rest from creating and get down to ruling. (Walton)

  • Is God resting over your life?
  • Install him again this year.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Explanatory Notes -- Matthew 2

2:1 Now, after Jesus had been born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying...

We are privileged to have four Gospels, each of which provides us with unique perspectives on Jesus. For example, if all we had were Matthew's Gospel, we would not think that Joseph and Mary started in Nazareth and only went to Bethlehem because of a census. We would think that Joseph and Mary started in Bethelehem and only went to Nazareth because of the ruling of Archelaus after Herod the Great.

Herod "the Great" was a client king to the Romans who ruled from 37-4BC. Jesus' birth is usually dated to 6-4BC on the assumption that Jesus was born before Herod died. This may seem puzzling, since BC means "before Christ" and 1AD was meant to be the year of Jesus' birth. However, it would seem that the man who set this calendar in the early 500s AD (Dionysius Exiguus) was slightly off.

The Romans trusted the strength of Herod's leadership so much that he was allowed to hold the title "king" and was given rule over the entirety of Israel, north and south. He was very strategic to get into this position and protective of his position. He ended up putting his wife and two of his sons to death so that they could not undermine the security of his rule. The story of him putting the children of Bethlehem to death is thus entirely believable as the kind of thing he would do.

The Magi are "wise ones." They are from the east. Like the women in Jesus' family tree, they show that the good news of Jesus is not only for Jews. It is for the whole world. More than once in Matthew, Gentiles are better examples of faith in Jesus than his own people are. The east could be Persia or Babylon. There were rumors of star-watchers from those regions. 

2. "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews, for we have seen his star in the east and we have come to bow before him?"

Have you ever stepped on a landmine you did not know was there? The wise men ask where the true king of the Jews is to a man who killed his own sons and wife to keep his kingship. There is something deeply ironic and dangerous about such a question. Under normal circumstances, such a question might easily spell the death of the one inquiring.

The nature of the star has long been a matter of speculation. A conventional star moves in a fixed course and doesn't stand over a house. The planets are "wanderers" because they don't follow the same fixed course as the other stars, but they also don't come to rest over a house. A comet might point in a certain direction, but once again, they don't come to a halt.

We thus must look to a supernatural explanation. Stars were sometimes thought of as heavenly, spiritual beings, even angels. The star of the story may thus be an angel, showing the wise men the way. Some explanation along these lines seems most likely.

They want to bow before the king. We might translate the word as worship: "we have come to worship him." The two perhaps blur into each other. We do not know whether the wise men have a "high" or a "low" Christology. It is perfectly normal for a person to proskyneo before a human king. And it is of course necessary for us to proskyneo the Lord. 

2:3 When Herod the king had heard, he was terrified and all Jerusalem with him.  

We are used to thinking of there being three wise men, but this is only because three gifts are mentioned later in the story. If all of Jerusalem was terrified, we might imagine a rather significant company of visitors to the city. If it was only a tiny group, he might easily dismiss them. This is a significant enough group that they brought some fear with them.

So Herod turns to his experts--chief priests and scribes. This is after all what scholars are for, right? They are there to answer the questions to which other people don't have the answers. They are a resource for information when the time comes.

2:4. And having gathered together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired from them where the Christ is born. 5 And they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus has been written through the prophet, 6. 'And you, Bethlehem of Judah, by no means are you the least among the rulers of Judah, for from you will go out one ruling who will shepherd my people Israel.'"

Interestingly, they know the answer to Herod's question. It is, to some extent, coincidental. In context, Micah 5:2 is possibly more about the Davidic kingship than about a literal place of birth. In context, Micah probably meant "from old, from ancient times" as likely a reference to David as the beginning of the dynasty rather than a prediction of Jesus' pre-existence.

Nevertheless, they are right whether they understood the original meaning or not, and who is to say that God did not steer Micah's words so that they were ready to mean more than they had meant before. Once again, Matthew has found that an event in the life of Jesus "fills up" or fulfills words from the Old Testament.

2:7 Then Herod, secretly having called the Magi, determined precisely from them the time of the star's appearing, 8. and having sent them into Bethlehem, said, "Go, search accurately concerning the child, and whenever you should find [him], announce to me so that I also, having come, might bow before him.

Herod wants to know the time of the star's appearance so that he can find and kill his rival. The fact that he will later kill the male children under two suggests that Jesus is surely at least a year old at the time of their arrival. Far from the scene of our Christmas plays, with shepherds and wise men together in the manager, the wise men likely arrived much later. Jesus was surely already walking when they came.

Herod's pretense is obvious to us and would have been to Matthew's audience. He has no intention of bowing before another king in Israel. He only wishes to kill his potential rival.

2:9 And they, having heard the king, went and, behold, the star that they saw in the east went before them until, having come, it stood over where the child was. 10. And, having seen the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

Here is the strongest indication that this is not really a normal kind of astronomical phenomenon. Comets, planets, and distant stars don't stand over houses in Bethlehem. The wise men have found the king that they have been looking for, and they rejoice.

Others must surely have seen the star, but they didn't see it. The priests and scribes knew the Scriptures but made no move to come to Bethlehem. Herod knows that he should bow down before a king, but he fights a fight he cannot hope to win. The wise men see, know, and worship. 

2:11 And having come into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and having fallen, they bowed before him. And having opened their treasures, they brought to him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12. And, having been revealed in a dream not to return to Herod, they withdrew by a different path into their country.

The fact that three gifts are mentioned has led tradition to speak of three wise men, but Matthew never gives a number. If in fact Herod and all Jerusalem were troubled at their entrance, we can imagine a rather large and impressive company of individuals. They bow before the king of the Jews in the manner befitting of a king.

Once again we see that Matthew emphasizes dreams as a key manner of revelation. As the angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph in a dream to take Mary as his wife, a number of revelations come in dreams in Matthew 2. They do not go back to Herod to report the location of the child, as he had schemed. Instead, they return east by another way.

2:13 And when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph saying, "Having arisen, take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt and be there until I should tell you, for Herod is about to seek the child to destroy it." 14. And, having arisen, he took the child and his mother at night and withdrew to Egypt.

Another revelation comes by way of a dream, once again from an angel of the Lord. It could also be translated "the angel of the Lord," although there is no word "the" in front of angel. It is not clear why they would flee to Egypt except for the Scripture that Matthew will quote in 2:15. We are again not surprised that Herod would try to kill someone that he sees as a possible claimant to his throne. We are also not surprised that Joseph believes the revelation and obeys the angel. 

2:15 And he was there until the death of Herod so that it might be fulfilled what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt I called my son."

In the birth story, Matthew repeatedly emphasizes the fulfillment of Scripture, the filling up on the words of the Old Testament with meanings that fit with events in the life of Jesus. In this material of the first two chapters, which is unique to Matthew, we especially see this theme.

The Scripture quoted is Hosea 11:1. As have already seen, Matthew "fills up" the words with spiritual meanings that go beyond the original meanings of the verses in their first contexts. In this case, Hosea 11:1 was originally referring to the exodus. It is not a prediction of the future but a reflection the past. The exodus was already some five hundred years in the past when Hosea prophesied. Hosea 11:1 says, "When Israel was a child, I called my son out of Egypt."

It is of course possible that Matthew wants us to hear a parallel between the salvation of Israel that happened in the exodus and the fact that Jesus came to save his people from the consequences of their sins. But Hosea 11:1 was not about the Messiah originally--after all Hosea 11:2 tells of how this son worshiped false gods, something Jesus never did. Nor was Hosea 11:1 a prediction at all, let alone a prediction that the Messiah would spend some time in Egypt. 

The fulfillment is thus not a prediction-fulfillment but at most a symbolic parallel. This is nothing to fault Matthew for. This is fairly typical Jewish exegesis from the time. 

2:16 Then Herod, having seen that he was tricked by the Magi, was extremely furious and having sent, he killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all its surrounding areas two years old and below, according to the time that he had inquired from the Magi.

Here is the clearest indication that Jesus was likely older than a newborn when the Magi finally arrived. No doubt allowing a little margin, Herod kills the male children in Bethlehem under the age of two. The number of likely children has sometimes been exaggerated (e.g. over 10,000). If Bethlehem were a village of 300 or so, it might have been less than 10 children. It was probably not more than 20.

Such a relatively small number does not minimize the evilness of Herod's heart, for he was the sort of person that would have killed thousands if it suited his purposes. Although we have no record of this slaughter from any other ancient report, it is exactly the kind of act Herod would have done under such circumstances.

2:17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet, saying, 18. "A voice in Ramah was heard, crying and much wailing, Rachel crying for her children and she did not want to be comforted because they did not exist."

Matthew finds the meaning of yet another verse from the Old Testament "filled up" by an event in the early life of Jesus. The slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem reminds Matthew of a verse in Jeremiah 31:15. Clearly one of the Gospel of Matthew's special themes is that Jesus' life fills up the meaning of Old Testament Scripture.

At the same time, we are reminded once again that these are not prediction-fulfillments in any ordinary sense. They are "spiritual" fulfillments following the manner of Jewish interpretation. In this instance, the original meaning of the verse is about the restoration of Israel after its destruction by the Assyrians. It was about events in the eighth and sixth centuries BC, hundreds of years before Jesus.

Rachel was of course the mother of Joseph, from whom came Ephraim. Ephraim was a shorthand for the northern kingdom, Israel. The northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722BC. Metaphorically, Rachel has wept for her children because they were destroyed. Jeremiah 31 goes on to speak of how God was restoring his people. "Keep your voice from weeping... the sons will return to their country" (31:16-17).

The verse thus was no literal prediction of the slaughter of young boys in Bethlehem, which was not in the territory of Ephraim, Manasseh, or Benjamin. It was about the return of the Jews from Israel in the late 500s BC. This is not a problem if you understand Matthew is simply using standard Jewish exegesis. He is reading the Bible much as modern charismatics and my holiness forebears did. 

But you are setting yourself up for a crisis if you think this is some sort of proof of God knowing the future or the supernatural nature of the Bible. God does know the future and the Bible is inspired, but you have misunderstood how the New Testament reads the Old Testament if you try to use these fulfillment passages for some sort of apologetics purpose. That's simply not how the New Testament is reading these verses.

2:19 And when Herod had died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt saying, 20. "Having risen, take the child and his mother and go into the land of Israel, for the ones seeking the life of the child have died." 21. And he, having risen, took the child and its mother and went into the land of Israel.

The theme of revelation by dream continues with this indication to Joseph that it is now safe to return to Israel because Herod the Great has died. It is once again an unnamed angel of the Lord. It is possible that the angel of the Lord could be in mind, but the word the is not present. On the whole, I have "fallen off the log" with an angel of the Lord in view.

The normal dating for this event is 4BC. Through this story, Joseph is depicted as an obedient man who does what the Lord tells him to do. He is a paradigm for a godly man whose role in God's plan is something anyone could do. He is a "good and faithful servant" of God as any of us could be.

2:22 But having heard that Archelaus is ruling Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go away there and having been revealed in a dream, he withdrew into the regions of Galilee. 23. And, having gone, he dwelt in a city being called Nazareth that it might be fulfilled that which was spoken by the prophets, "He will be called a Nazarene." 

Archelaus was one of the sons of Herod the Great. While Herod was a client king who ruled over all of the area of former Israel, the Romans did not entrust any one of Herod's sons to this role or this extent of territory. His son Herod Antipas would govern Galilee and the east of the Jordan. This is the Herod that would later behead John the Baptist. Archelaus only governed Judea from 4BC to AD6. It is at the end of his tenure that Josephus records a census as well as some revolutionary activity. 

Matthew seems to have no knowledge of any prior living in Nazareth by Joseph and Mary. In his narrative, they only seem to go to Nazareth to escape Archelaus, not because they have any prior connection to it. Once again, Joseph receives the prompting of a dream to go to Galilee.

It is a puzzle to determine what prophets Matthew has in mind in relation to Jesus coming from Nazareth. The first piece of the puzzle is the fact that he sees the prophecy coming from prophets plural rather than a singular prophet. This hint suggests that he could be joining together more than one Old Testament Scripture. Again, this is not the way we tend to read the Bible. It is a "spiritual" exegesis rather than a contextual one. Matthew is reading these verses as the Spirit strikes him rather than for what the verses originally meant in context.

But what verses does he have in mind? The village of Nazareth is not mentioned anywhere in the Old Testament or in other Jewish intertestamental literature. For this reason alone, it is impossible for this to be an instance of literal prediction-fulfillment. Nazareth was an insignificant village probably of significantly less than 1000, possibly not in existence for more than a century or so. 

There are some places where there is a formal similarity to the statement. It is said of Samson, "He will be a Nazirite" (Judg. 13:5, 7). But of course Jesus was not a Nazirite: "The Son of Man came eating and drinking and behold they say he is a glutton and drunkard" (Matt. 11:19). And of course even if he were, it would have nothing to do with Nazareth the village.

The most likely verse Matthew has in mind is Isaiah 11:1--"A branch (nezer) will go out of its roots." This verse was likely speaking of an heir to the Davidic throne ("a shoot from the stem of Jesse") and thus is a very fitting verse to connect to Jesus. The word for branch, nezer, bears some resemblance to the word Nazareth. Various speculations of an intentional connection have been made (e.g., that the village was founded by individuals looking for the branch to come), but these are purely a matter of creativity driven by a need for there to be a connection that Matthew did not likely feel.

For Matthew, Jesus is raised in a town that bears a resemblance to the word for branch. Jesus is the branch of David, the Messiah. Jesus' childhood thus "fills up" a hidden meaning that Isaiah 11:1 can have. There is absolutely no problem for Matthew here whatsoever. It simply undermines some contemporary rhetoric about prediction-fulfillment and it undermines the insistence of some Christian culture that the Bible must only be read in its exegetical context. 

But the first Christians were ancient Jews, and God spoke to them in their categories, not ours. Reading the Bible in context is an intercultural experience. This is how God speaks. God takes on the "flesh" of those to whom he wishes to communicate. Otherwise, we would not understand. Then God moves us in the direction he wants us to go from there.

New Year's Goals (2022)

And now for New Year's resolutions. Last year's post was relatively short. Here goes for this year. Too much as usual.

  • Since I'm working from home, to treat each morning a little more like I were going to an office. Begin days with spiritual disciplines. Have more peace in my spirit.
  • Run. I'm going to set the goal of 750 miles for this year (about 15 miles a week) with at least one half-marathon somewhere in there. 
  • We'll see if I continue taking courses with ASU toward finishing my chemistry degree. Physics I: Mechanics would be up next. These are largely repeat-courses for me still at this point, but my brain is much older than it used to be. 
  • Let me put down the modest goal of reading one book a month outside what I need to read for other reasons. Surely one, solid book a month is not too much to ask? My January target is Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (roughly 15 pgs a day). 
  • I hope to be more diligent in self-publishing the Explanatory Notes I've already done orally on YouTube. (for a record, I'm currently at 8363 subscribers)
  • I have self-published some things for my youngest children. The current project is titled, "Key Verses of the Bible." 
  • Again, it would be nice to write a peer-reviewed book this year.
Podcasting, etc
  • I plan to continue my "Through the Bible in Ten Years" series on YouTube and Patreon
  • I may start a more informal weekly podcast called, "The Bible and More." Perhaps I'll drop it onto Patreon on Fridays around noon.
  • I may put some of the skills I've learned in coding and animation to work.
These are not all my goals, but I'm embarrassed to say how many things I have bouncing through my head.

Happy New Year!