Monthly Archives: May 2010

From Adam to Solomon

Soon after Solomon became king he asked God for wisdom.  Here is how the request is recorded in 1 Kings 3:

You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day.  And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?

The request seems to presuppose that the ability to discern between good and evil denotes the wisdom with a ruler needs if he is to rule well.  Solomon was a child but it was time for him to leave childish things behind.  He needed wisdom.

But there was a time when it was appropriate for prominent members of the human race to be children.  Adam and Eve were new to the world when God told them both together that, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Genesis 1.29).  But then we know that one of the two who heard God’s declaration must have turned to the other and said, “God didn’t really mean that–at least not yet.”

Before Eve was created God told Adam, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2.16, 17).  So a rather hefty exception was left out of the declaration and gift which Eve heard with her own ears from God.

So did Adam contradict God?

I don’t think so.  I think the prohibition on the tree had to be temporary.  And the fact that the tree is called “of the knowledge of good and evil,” provides evidence that this must be the case.  Adam and Eve were each still “a little child,” but God had destined them to become kings and queens.  As they matured and grew they would eventually be ready.  At that point they would be granted access to the tree.  Years later Solomon was granted it in a different fashion.

The two basic temptations in front of any human and any culture are impatience and escapism. People grasp at things they are not yet ready for, but they also try not to move into new life and try to stay perpetually childish.

God loves babies but he also intends for them to grow up into kings.  Children have to learn to submit to their parents before they can rule.

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5.11-14).

Another government “success” is revealed to be a bubble

The Baltimore Sun reports that education officials have uncovered rampant cheating at George Washington Elementary School. According to the Sun, school administrators may have cheated their way to better test scores, helping them win the prestigious Blue Ribbon Award, reserved for the top schools in the nation.

Officials discovered that wrong answers on the tests were erased and the right ones filled in.

At the center of the scandal is 60-year-old Susan Burgess. WJZ spoke to the principal in 2007 when the school received the designation.

“The misconception is that the city schools are not meeting the needs of the children and are failing and that’s not true at all,” said Burgess.

At the time Burgess was hailed as an educational hero, turning one of the poorest schools in the city into one of the most successful.

Read the rest Rampant Cheating Found At City Elementary School –

Whiting out the Black Rubric (edited)

“Whereas it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved: It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine there bodily received, or unto any Corporal Presence of Christ’s natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ’s natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.”

via Black Rubric – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

So kneeling ” is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue.” Interesting. What would Ezra say about how one might avoid “profanation and disorder in the holy Communion”?

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our LORD. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them (Nehemiah 8.9-12).

It seems to me that N. T. Wright’s refutation of Purgatory also speaks well to the implicit disbelief in the Gospel (only an implication, not something anyone is really guilty of meaning) involved in this sort of posture at the table:

When the prodigal son put the ring on his finger and the shoes on his feet, was he being arrogant when he allowed his father’s lavish generosity to take its course? Would it not have been far more arrogant, far more clinging to one’s own inverted dignity as a “very humble” penitent, to insist that he should be allowed to wear sackcloth and ashes for a week or two until he’d had time to adjust to the father’s house? No: the complaint about the prodigal’s arrogance, I fear, comes not from the father, but from the older brother. We should beware lest that syndrome destroy our delight in the gospel of the free grace of God. We mustn’t let the upside-down arrogance of those who are too proud to receive free grace prevent us from hearing and receiving the best news in the world.

And, if Jesus has invited us as honored guest to eat and drink with him, how can we justify refusing to sit in the name of humility? “It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?” (Romans 8.33b, 34a) And it is God who exalts. Who is to humiliate?  If God treats us as friends, who are we to act as penitents? If God says for us to sit with him, who are we to kneel?  He or she whom God has exalted let no one humble.

Augustine wrote that God has humbled himself and still man is proud. But human perversity is even worse so that God has now elevated man and man still wants to find a way to earn it.  What else explains a value system that think God wants his accepted guests to grovel at meals with him?

I’m not sure I agree with Walter Marshall that “the Law” should be blamed, but psychologically he is exactly right:

By nature, you are completely addicted to this legal method of salvation. Even after you become a Christian by believing the gospel, your heart is still addicted to salvation by works. In your heart you still want to make the duties of the law come before the comforts of the gospel…You find it hard to believe that you should get any blessing before you work for it…This is the mindset you tend to fall into: You sincerely do want to obey the law of God. Therefore, to make sure you obey the law of God you make all of God’s blessings depend upon how well you keep his law…Some preachers even tell you that you had better not enjoy the blessings of the gospel! They tell you to diligently obey the law first, and that only by doing this will you will be safe and happy before God. Just keep in mind, however, that if you go this route, you will never enjoy your salvation for as long as you live in this world (The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, 1692).

Whether or not this method should be described as “legal,” Marshall is completely right that no one wants free pardon. Not until one has been humble enough. Not until one has groveled enough. Not until one has shown how thankful one is for blessings by showing that one is too good to actually enjoy them. Preachers who boast (there is no other word for it though they would never acknowledge what they are doing) in their faithfulness to the Gospel of free grace will not hesitate to promote this perverse values system from the pulpit. It is all cover for the worse sort of pride that refuses to actually receive the benefit.  Don’t be fooled by “grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers.” The benefit is to be sit with Jesus. Kneeling is a refusal of that benefit.

God restored us in Christ to 1) have fellowship with him, 2) serve him, 3) be of great joy. None of those things happen by insisting on staying on one’s knees.

One other point:

What difference does it make that “no adoration is intended“? Did Paul accept that reasoning from the Corinthians who thought they could participate in pagan worship feasts without being guilty of idolatry because they didn’t believe in the pagan gods? Just because one can commit idolatry in one’s heart does not mean one can eliminate idolatry in one’s hands or knees by what one thinks in one’s heart.  Philanderers might think otherwise, but they are wrong: unfaithfulness is in the act, not the feeling or idea.

I don’t think kneeling for communion is direct enough to count as idolatry.  It is not the same as bowing to the bread or wine.  But either way intention is hardly relevant.

Finally, I apologize for the rant nature of his post.  Christians do disagree about serious issues without ceasing to be Christians on either side of the issue.  Nor do I think kneeling is the worse liturgical sin.  As one who has served grape juice as communion, God knows I have no possible personal moral high ground to stand on.  I am not better than anyone but I am all too happy to be exalted by the grace of God, despite my sins and faults, with everyone who names the name of Christ.

RELATED: 5 things you are not allowed to do on a holy day of worship

Do we need the state to outlaw discrimination against marines? What would Rand Paul say?

Web postings claim a Stockton sandwich shop refused to serve Marines at lunch on Monday, and the talk has led to a boycott of the eatery.

Calls for the boycott were posted on Facebook pages for the Department of Defense and other sites across the Web.

Posters claim that that Marine recruiters in Stockton were refused service at this Charley’s Grilled Subs in Weberstown Mall.

Franchise store owner Jian Ortman said she’s scared. Phone calls have been coming in nonstop from across the country, some with threats.

via Marines Refused Service At Eatery? Claims Fly Online – Sacramento News Story – KCRA Sacramento.

This is directly related to the Rand Paul panic. Do we require a new law to protect servicemen from discrimination? Or can we let society handle it? (Assuming the story is true and the incident happened.)

Human depravity and political philosophy

Humans are sinful.  This means they often hurt and exploit one another.

How does a Christian deal with the problems that arise in society as a result of human depravity?

One common response is to recommend civil government.

I think it is right to recommend civil government on the basis of Romans 13 and other passages.

But this involves faith, not some deduction about human depravity.

Because depravity affects the civil magistrate as much as anyone else.

The civil magistrate is not an angel but a man.

Giving a person lethal power to use on other people is not self-evidently a solution to human depravity in society.

But one might see that human depravity would give rise to gangsterism, and that the best strategy for Christians would be to recruit/disciple/convert the most powerful gangster.

Also, Augustine never mentioned that an emperor could probably guarantee safe passage to ships that paid him protection, whereas a sea infested with smaller pirates would simply be unsafe.

But this works better the smaller the ruling class.

The only way the civil magistrate can really improve society is if the ones holding office are of better character than those they rule.

What if “the civil magistrate” is several bureaucracies of thousands of people?

How does one ameliorate the problem of human depravity by giving lethal power to a giant corporation with revolving officers?

The Rand Paul hoopla, or Why I Can’t Stand Christian State-Moralists (since someone asked)

Why in God’s name is it legal for KKK and other racist groups to get licenses to use public property to propagate their filth?

Oh, I forgot.  Every man, woman, and child has a sacred right to express their views even if it involves blocking traffic.

OK, fine. I think it’s debatable but, for the sake of argument, lets agree with the ACLU and Liberals and Conservatives everywhere that idiot racists (redundant) have a right to express themselves on public property.

If I agree that they have that right am I a racist?  Am I a promoter of White Supremacism?

If I think the Drug War is a horrible policy and that the entire “controlled substance” network of bullets and prisons needs to be entirely dismantled does that prove I want to give cocaine to children?

If I want the US Military out of Afghanistan and Iraq (and Korea, Germany, and every other country) does that mean I am Islamic?

But if I think we should (at least at the Federal level) stop watching over shopkeepers to make sure they don’t discriminate among their customers, that makes me a racist?

Advocating the contrived right of using public property to express views is liberal and permissible but advocate that people who own property can share it with whomever they want without getting crushed by federal police power and I’m worse than a liberal?

What would happen if tomorrow the Federal laws all disappeared and some moron tried to destroy their customer base by eliminating minorities from it?  He wouldn’t just lose the minorities.  He would lose most everyone else.  And the same right of discrimination that he decided to use would be used against him by all his neighbors.  He would be crushed.

Without one politician having anything to do with it.

Society can and does regulate morality without needing to threaten to kill people for not conforming.

I am not saying that this was the situation in 1964.  I am totally thankful that God used tyrannical social engineering to get us out of a horrible cultural situation. People who act like rotten children get treated like rotten children–they get a spanking. That’s the lesson of exile in Babylon.

But we’re facing other kinds of horror now.  And much of it in my opinion is due to the powers that politicians have claimed for themselves. So if someone wants to say that all property owners, of every race, ethnicity, and creed, have the right to do what they want with their own, I think attacking him is uncalled for.

By the way, the reason why businesses were able to practice discrimination in some states and stay in business was because the state passed laws requiring them to do so.  No owner of a bus would tell his customers where to sit, racist or not.  Money talks louder than prejudice. It takes politics to drown it out.

For some historical food for though, consider this wikipedia article.  My favorite part:

Black taxi drivers charged ten cents per ride, a fare equal to the cost to ride the bus, in support of the boycott. When word of this reached city officials on December 8, 1955, the order went out to fine any cab driver who charged a rider less than 45 cents.

Cities still have that municipal fascist lock on taxis.  That was never changed. Poor people with cars should be able to start their own taxi business but local overlords will not let them.

A report early in my Stephen King fandom kick

Until a couple of years ago I had read a total of two Stephen King novels, both in high school: The Stand and The Eyes of the Dragon.  He came into town when I was working at Davis Kidd in Nashville, Tennessee–back when it was an independent bookstore and King was doing his motorcycle tour of independent bookstores.  So at one time I owned a hardback of Insomnia and a matching T-shirt (but I didn’t go to his presentation). This would have been around 1993. I notice that now King is doing video interviews with Barnes and Noble and what was once the nation’s largest bookstore in Saint Louis, The Library Limited, stands empty last I checked.  So the borg won.

But I digress, and I still love Barnes & Noble.

Anyway, I picked up the hardback of On Writing on a remainder table somewhere and really enjoyed it–and appreciated him both as a writer and a human being.

So I checked out Cell from the library, which I would have enjoyed a great deal more if I had ever read Richard Mathison, but enjoyed anyway.  Then I read Salem’s Lot which was much better than Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  I moved on from there to The Dead Zone and then finally Carrie (“Finally” here means that he wrote about writing that book in his On Writing and I had been wanting to read it for some time to get a complete picture).  Recently I picked up Needful Things and It from the library.  But time and emotional drain simply didn’t give me the kick I needed to start making headway in those thick books.  So I have returned them for another day.  Right now I am about half-way through Firestarter.

Cell and Salem’s Lot have some similarities, but they both strike me as rather original productions.  Others are also original, but they more obviously come from Planet Stephen King, where raving lunatic religious women and powerful but uncontrolled girls roam the landscape, and God works in undeniable but senseless ways.

There seems to be, in other words, a few themes or characters that keep finding ways into many of King’s books.

If I recall correctly, The Dead Zone came after The Stand. Both are concerned with the problem of evil.  Specifically, how can God send anyone to meaningfully battle against evil if, in fact, he is omnipotent?  Why give Johnny Smith, for example, a brain injury that lets him see the future and not give the bad guy he must confront a brain injury that makes him no longer a danger? (I don’t know if King believes in a personal God, but he does seem to think there are mysterious forces at work beyond Newtonian cause-and-effect.)

Reading Firestarter I am obviously meeting Carrie again.  This time, however, she doesn’t have psychotic parents.  She has good parents who love her and are trying their best to help her.  And she still has problems!  (Of course, the psychotic fictional Intelligence agency does a lot of damage in the place of Carrie’s mother.)

There are passages about a psycho teen boy and his care in Carrie that I know are the seeds for the later book Christine.

Carrie’s mother is an insane religious fanatic.  At first, this seemed entirely arbitrary–a stupid stereotype motivated by need.  (The idea of Protestant religious believers that think sex is at best a necessary evil is a recurring myth that one has to try to believe in many of King’s books).  But as the story progresses one sees that King does work on developing a compelling history that explains her mentality.  In The Dead Zone there is another insane religious mother (who believes that Jesus rides in UFOs) but she turns out differently because she has people who love her and it helps her move in a better path.

So, rather than being boring, the similar characters in different circumstances are actually kind of thought-provoking.

King’s protagonists are not (often?) sexually moral.  And I often get almost a nihilistic vibe that bothers me.  There are also places in Salem’s Lot that make it clear that King is every bit as gifted as a writer as Ray Bradbury.  I’m tempted to say that he does for small-town Maine in the seventies what Bradbury did for Middle America small-town life in the 1930s or so.