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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 58

All Christianity concentrates on the man at the crossroads. The vast and shallow philosophies, the huge syntheses of humbug, all talk about ages and evolution and ultimate developments. The true philosophy is concerned with the instant. Will a man take this road or that?—that is the only thing to think about, if you enjoy thinking. The eons are easy enough to think about, any one can think about them. The instant is really awful: and it is because our religion has intensely felt the instant, that it has in literature dealt much with battle and in theology dealt much with hell. It is full of danger, like a boy’s book: it is at an immortal crisis. There is a great deal of real similarity between popular fiction and the religion of the western people. If you say that popular fiction is vulgar and tawdry, you only say what the dreary and well-informed say also about the images in the Catholic churches. Life (according to the faith) is very like a serial story in a magazine: life ends with the promise (or menace) “to be continued in our next.” Also, with a noble vulgarity, life imitates the serial and leaves off at the exciting moment. For death is distinctly an exciting moment.
But the point is that a story is exciting because it has in it so strong an element of will, of what theology calls free will. You cannot finish a sum how you like. But you can finish a story how you like. When somebody discovered the Differential Calculus there was only one Differential Calculus he could discover. But when Shakespeare killed Romeo he might have married him to Juliet’s old nurse if he had felt inclined. And Christendom has excelled in the narrative romance exactly because it has insisted on the theological free will. It is a large matter and too much to one side of the road to be discussed adequately here; but this is the real objection to that torrent of modern talk about treating crime as disease, about making a prison merely a hygienic environment like a hospital, of healing sin by slow scientific methods. The fallacy of the whole thing is that evil is a matter of active choice whereas disease is not. If you say that you are going to cure a profligate as you cure an asthmatic, my cheap and obvious answer is, “Produce the people who want to be asthmatics as many people want to be profligates.” A man may lie still and be cured of a malady. But he must not lie still if he wants to be cured of a sin; on the contrary, he must get up and jump about violently. The whole point indeed is perfectly expressed in the very word which we use for a man in hospital; “patient” is in the passive mood; “sinner” is in the active. If a man is to be saved from influenza, he may be a patient. But if he is to be saved from forging, he must be not a patient but an impatient. He must be personally impatient with forgery. All moral reform must start in the active not the passive will.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sunspots 558

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: An article in Relevant examines Christianity and debt, and asserts that going into debt is not always a sin. (It can be!)

Crosswalk asks us to think about foul language, especially as we may let it in through entertainment outlets.

An essay in First Things, entitled Nikabrik's Candidate, about Christians and politics. (You need to read Prince Caspian, if you haven't.)

Ken Schenck has posted on what the Bible says that relates to abortion.

Finance: (and Health) US News has published rankings of the Best Countries, for such categories as for raising children, retiring, investing.

Politics: "10 Myths about Guns and Gun Control" is an article that points out some myths on both sides of this controversy.

Benjamin L. Corey argues that being for the mass deportation of illegal immigrants is the opposite of being pro-life.

Sports: ESPN and other sources report that, for the first time, an NFL team has hired a female full-time assistant coach.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, January 25, 2016

What the New Testament says about paying taxes

Matthew 22:17 Tell us therefore, what do you think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? 19  Show me the tax money.”
They brought to him a denarius.
20 He asked them, “Whose is this image and inscription?”
21 They said to him, “Caesar’s.”
Then he said to them, “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

This episode is repeated, almost word for word, in Mark 12:13-17 and Luke 20:21-25

Jesus was not speaking of paying taxes to an elected government, but to a foreign occupying government.

Romans 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Do you desire to have no fear of the authority? Do that which is good, and you will have praise from the authority, 4 for he is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for he doesn’t bear the sword in vain; for he is a servant of God, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil. 5 Therefore you need to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For this reason you also pay taxes, for they are servants of God’s service, continually doing this very thing. 7 Therefore give everyone what you owe: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if customs, then customs; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. 

All quotations from the World English Bible, public domain. A more comprehensive post, on what the Bible says about politics, is here. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Excerpts from Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton, 57

Again, the same is true of that difficult matter of the danger of the soul, which has unsettled so many just minds. To hope for all souls is imperative; and it is quite tenable that their salvation is inevitable. It is tenable, but it is not specially favourable to activity or progress. Our fighting and creative society ought rather to insist on the danger of everybody, on the fact that every man is hanging by a thread or clinging to a precipice. To say that all will be well anyhow is a comprehensible remark: but it cannot be called the blast of a trumpet. Europe ought rather to emphasize possible perdition; and Europe always has emphasized it. Here its highest religion is at one with all its cheapest romances. To the Buddhist or the eastern fatalist existence is a science or a plan, which must end up in a certain way. But to a Christian existence is a story, which may end up in any way. In a thrilling novel (that purely Christian product) the hero is not eaten by cannibals; but it is essential to the existence of the thrill that he might be eaten by cannibals. The hero must (so to speak) be an eatable hero. So in Christian morals, in short, it is wicked to call a man “damned”: but it is strictly religious and philosophic to call him damnable.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Vengeance - some of what the Bible says about it


The Websters Unabridged Dictionary, 1913 public domain edition, defines vengeance in this way: Punishment inflicted in return for an injury or an offense; retribution; -- often, in a bad sense, passionate or unrestrained revenge.

The Bible says quite a bit about vengeance. In summary, believers are not to take vengeance into their own hands, but to leave this to God. The Bible promises that God will punish unforgiven sin. Christs example, and Stephens, show us how we should take injury or offense to ourselves. (We might legitimately react differently if a helpless person, rather than we, ourselves, is injured or offended.)

Some Bible passages on vengeance: (From the World English Bible, public domain)
Leviticus 19:18 “‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people; but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh.

Isaiah 53:7a He was oppressed, yet when he was afflicted he didn’t open his mouth. . . . 11b My righteous servant will justify many by the knowledge of himself; and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion with the great, and he will divide the plunder with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was counted with the transgressors; yet he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

There are many Biblical prophecies of God’s coming vengeance for evil. Amos begins by listing several nations, their transgressions, and promising vengeance., Jonah, Nahum is almost entirely a prophecy of the punishment of Nineveh. Obadiah promises God’s vengeance up Edom. there are many more prophecies, such as Ezekiel 25:15-17, where God says He will take vengeance on the Philistines. In Revelation 20:7-18, the final judgment of God is described.

Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, dont resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Quoting Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21)

Matthew 7:12 Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets. (The Golden Rule.)

Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. 36 “Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful.

Jesus on the cross, about those who crucified Him: Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

Acts 7:59 They stoned Stephen as he called out, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60a He kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them!”

Romans 12:19 Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.” (Quoting Deuteronomy 32:35 and Proverbs 25:21-2. Hebrews 10:30 also quotes Deuteronomy 32:35.)

Romans 13:3a For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the . 4 for he is a servant of God to you for good. 4b But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for he doesn’t bear the sword in vain; for he is a servant of God, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one returns evil for evil to anyone, but always follow after that which is good for one another and for all.

Two stories of God taking vengeance: Jezebel: See 1 Kings 21, which tells part of the evil that Jezebel did. Her husband, Ahab, repented, somewhat, anyway. Jezebel never did. 2 Kings 9 tells the story of the death of Jezebel, which was prophesied at God’s direction, and was really arranged by God – the dogs ate her in the parking lot in front of the palace, but Jehu didn’t plan that.

And one from the New Testament: King Herod (one of them) was struck down by an angel of God, as told in Acts 12:2-23.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sunspots 557

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

The Arts: Stephen Burnett has some advice for those who are working on a film version of The Silver Chair, the great book by C. S. Lewis.
Christianity: An article on the main reason that young people leave the church.

A Sojourners article urges us to "wage peace," and indicates how that should be done.

Ken Schenck considers, carefully, what the Bible says about suicide and end-of-life decisions. (It doesn't say much!)

Computing: (This is different from the item in last weeks Sunspots.) Gizmo's Freeware tells us how to get an instant, unique e-mail address.

Gizmo's also has an annotated list of the best free software for the Mac OS.

Wired reports on how to create an e-book, from something you've already written, or from a public domain work that isn't available in digital format.

Education: National Public Radio reports on research that indicates that "pretty girls make higher grades."

The BBC reports that beards may help fight infection. Really.

Humor: (or something) The BBC, and other news outlets, report that a church shaped like a glass slipper has been built in Taiwan. Really.

Listverse is a site that puts up bizarre lists frequently -- example: "10 Ridiculous Political Parties You Won't Believe Got Elected."

Politics: FiveThirtyEight points out that politicians, and the rest of us, are not mentioning the US national deficit, or our debt, as much as we used to, and considers why that is so. (The deficit has dropped in recent years, but a deficit of even $1 adds to the national debt, which has increased, of course.)

Science: Wired reports on the bearded vulture, or lammergeier, a bird that eats almost nothing but bones.

Wired also reports on a study that finds that you have a lot more insects in your home than you thought you did.

And Wired, and many other sources, report on the possible discovery of another planet.

FiveThirtyEight reports that, again, the past year is the hottest ever recorded.

Sports: ESPN and other sources report that, for the first time, an NFL team has hired a female full-time assistant coach.

Image source (public domain)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sunspots 556

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: Benjamin L. Corey on how to avoid attending a church that you don't disagree with, on important points.

Ken Schenck on killing someone in self-defense. (Or not.)

Computing: Putting jigsaw puzzles together may be good for your brain. Gizmo's Freeware mentions some sources, for Windows, iOS and Android.

Gizmo's Freeware reports on "Just Delete Me," an on-line service that makes untangling yourself from various on-line service more easily.

Gizmo's also reports on a web site that gives you a new temporary e-mail address, for those web pages that you want something from, but can't get it without an e-mail address, and don't want to use one that you really use.

Education: National Public Radio reports that the use of "they," and related words, as singular pronouns, has become more acceptable.

The Environment:
Wired reports on rooftop gardens.

Politics: The difference between being a Socialist and being a Democrat.

National Public Radio did a "reality check" on the President's State of the Union speech.

Sports: (and Women's Roles) Sports Illustrated, and other sources, report that Jessica Mendoza will become a full-time Major League Baseball broadcaster (not an on-the-field brief reporter) on "Sunday Night Baseball." She has already broadcast some games, as a replacement commentator.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 56

Unitarians (a sect never to be mentioned without a special respect for their distinguished intellectual dignity and high intellectual honour) are often reformers by the accident that throws so many small sects into such an attitude. But there is nothing in the least liberal or akin to reform in the substitution of pure monotheism for the Trinity. The complex God of the Athanasian Creed may be an enigma for the intellect; but He is far less likely to gather the mystery and cruelty of a Sultan than the lonely god of Omar or Mahomet. The god who is a mere awful unity is not only a king but an Eastern King. The heart of humanity, especially of European humanity, is certainly much more satisfied by the strange hints and symbols that gather round the Trinitarian idea, the image of a council at which mercy pleads as well as justice, the conception of a sort of liberty and variety existing even in the inmost chamber of the world. For Western religion has always felt keenly the idea “it is not well for man to be alone.” The social instinct asserted itself everywhere as when the Eastern idea of hermits was practically expelled by the Western idea of monks. So even asceticism became brotherly; and the Trappists were sociable even when they were silent. If this love of a living complexity be our test, it is certainly healthier to have the Trinitarian religion than the Unitarian. For to us Trinitarians (if I may say it with reverence)—to us God Himself is a society. It is indeed a fathomless mystery of theology, and even if I were theologian enough to deal with it directly, it would not be relevant to do so here. Suffice it to say here that this triple enigma is as comforting as wine and open as an English fireside; that this thing that bewilders the intellect utterly quiets the heart: but out of the desert, from the dry places and the dreadful suns, come the cruel children of the lonely God; the Unitarians who with scimitar in hand have laid waste the world. For it is not well for God to be alone.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Sunspots 555

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: (and health) A post on the BioLogos Forum considers the question of whether cancer is part of God's good creation.

Ken Schenck on what the Bible does, and doesn't say, about capital punishment.

Relevant has posted some pertinent quotes from Jim Elliot, a missionary who, at 28, was murdered by South American tribal people, 60 years ago. (That tribe later became mostly Christian, partly because Elliot's wife was a missionary to them.)

Education: (sort of) The History Blog reports that a skeleton unearthed in Scotland may be that of a 16th Century pirate.

National Public Radio reports that children learn better in school if they have more recess time than most schools give them.

Finance: National Public Radio discusses the lottery: The odds of winning, whether winning would make you happy, how much you'd get if you won, and a lot more interesting stuff.

Health: The New York Times reports on the financial reasons why hospital stay lengths are shrinking.

Philosophy: (and science) Physicists wonder about how real the "real" world really is, according to NPR. (I have taught college physics, and this conversation is about a century old, by the way.)

A post on Speculative Faith considers whether the droids of Star Wars are slaves or not.

Science: Time, and many other news organizations, report on the discovery of four new elements in the Periodic Table. Wired also reports, indicating that discovering even more elements will be even more difficult.

Wired has selected the volcanic (as in real volcanoes) event of the year 2015.

Wired also tells us about a wasp with an amazing ovipositor. (There are a couple of videos in this post.)

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 55

I want to love my neighbour not because he is I, but precisely because he is not I. I want to adore the world, not as one likes a looking-glass, because it is one’s self, but as one loves a woman, because she is entirely different. If souls are separate love is possible. If souls are united love is obviously impossible. A man may be said loosely to love himself, but he can hardly fall in love with himself, or, if he does, it must be a monotonous courtship. If the world is full of real selves, they can be really unselfish selves. 

Love desires personality; therefore loves desires division. It is the instinct of Christianity to be glad that God has broken the universe into little pieces, because they are living pieces. 

The oriental deity is like a giant who should have lost his leg or hand and be always seeking to find it; but the Christian power is like some giant who in a strange generosity should cut off his right hand, so that it might of its own accord shake hands with him. We come back to the same tireless note touching the nature of Christianity; all modern philosophies are chains which connect and fetter; Christianity is a sword which separates and sets free. No other philosophy makes God actually rejoice in the separation of the universe into living souls. But according to orthodox Christianity this separation between God and man is sacred, because this is eternal. That a man may love God it is necessary that there should be not only a God to be loved, but a man to love him. All those vague theosophical minds for whom the universe is an immense melting-pot are exactly the minds which shrink instinctively from that earthquake saying of our Gospels, which declare that the Son of God came not with peace but with a sundering sword. The saying rings entirely true even considered as what it obviously is; the statement that any man who preaches real love is bound to beget hate. It is as true of democratic fraternity as a divine love; sham love ends in compromise and common philosophy; but real love has always ended in bloodshed. Yet there is another and yet more awful truth behind the obvious meaning of this utterance of our Lord. According to Himself the Son was a sword separating brother and brother that they should for an eon hate each other. But the Father also was a sword, which in the black beginning separated brother and brother, so that they should love each other at last.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Sunspots 554

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: (And the Arts) A fine essay, in Christianity Today, about pop culture, especially Mad Men (which, I confess, I have never seen.)

Another essay in Christianity Today, on how and why it's so easy to ignore poverty in others.

Relevant tells us that the future looks good, and why it does.

Ken Schenck on the Christian's view of war.

Education: National Public Radio reports that some pediatricians are questioning our handling of Attention Deficit Disorder.

Health: (And Economics) The New York Times on why drug companies concentrate on treating cancer, rather than preventing it.

NPR on normal aging and forgetting, versus dementia.

NPR on the relationship between sleep disorders and Alzheimer's.

Politics: The New York Times on the probable effects of a flat tax (such as has been suggested by some Presidential candidates).

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

How to treat strangers, foreigners and aliens

(This brief study is in response to the prophet Jonah, who did not want to go to preach repentance to the people of Ninevah, because he was afraid that they would, indeed, repent, and not be destroyed. The ESV, and perhaps other versions, use the word, "aliens." The World English Bible, which is quoted below, doesn't use this word.)

Foreigners, strangers and aliens
The Old Testament warns about keeping separate from the gods of other nations. But that’s not the whole story. The Israelites were also warned to treat non-Israelites well, and there were prophecies that God would be the God of all peoples:

Genesis 22:18 All the nations of the earth will be blessed by your offspring, because you have obeyed my voice. (God to Abraham. 26:4 is similar)

Leviticus 19:33 If a stranger lives as a foreigner with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 The stranger who lives as a foreigner with you shall be to you as the native-born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you lived as foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am Yahweh your God.

Numbers 15:15 For the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who lives as a foreigner, a statute forever throughout your generations. As you are, so the foreigner shall be before Yahweh. 16 One law and one ordinance shall be for you and for the stranger who lives as a foreigner with you.

Jeremiah 22:3a Yahweh says: “Execute justice and righteousness, and deliver him who is robbed out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong. Do no violence to the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow. (See also Deuteronomy. 1:16)

Micah 4:2 Many nations will go and say,
“Come! Let’s go up to the mountain of Yahweh,
and to the house of the God of Jacob;
and he will teach us of his ways,
and we will walk in his paths.”
For the law will go out of Zion,
and Yahweh’s word from Jerusalem;

Zephaniah 3:9 For then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that they may all call on Yahweh’s name, to serve him shoulder to shoulder.

Zechariah 2:1a Many nations shall join themselves to Yahweh in that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell among you . . .

Malachi 1:11 For from the rising of the sun even to its going down, my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering: for my name is great among the nations,” says Yahweh of Armies.

Non-Israelite women were ancestors of important Israelites: Joseph’s wife, the daughter of an Egyptian pagan priest, (Genesis 41) was the mother of Ephraim and Manasseh, founders of two of the tribes; Rahab from Jericho was an ancestor of King David’s line; and so was Ruth, from Moab. There may have been more such.

Thanks for reading!

Added January 8, 2016: Two recent articles are pertinent: Relevant has posted "A Biblical Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis," which mentions a few Old Testament verses not given above, and Christianity Today published a "Christian Declaration on Caring for Refugees: An Evangelical Response," a policy document which was drafted by leaders from several denominations and agencies.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 54

That Buddhism approves of mercy or of self-restraint is not to say that it is specially like Christianity; it is only to say that it is not utterly unlike all human existence. Buddhists disapprove in theory of cruelty or excess because all sane human beings disapprove in theory of cruelty or excess. But to say that Buddhism and Christianity give the same philosophy of these things is simply false. All humanity does agree that we are in a net of sin. Most of humanity agrees that there is some way out. But as to what is the way out, I do not think that there are two institutions in the universe which contradict each other so flatly as Buddhism and Christianity.
Even when I thought, with most other well-informed, though unscholarly, people, that Buddhism and Christianity were alike, there was one thing about them that always perplexed me; I mean the startling difference in their type of religious art. I do not mean in its technical style of representation, but in the things that it was manifestly meant to represent. No two ideals could be more opposite than a Christian saint in a Gothic cathedral and a Buddhist saint in a Chinese temple. The opposition exists at every point; but perhaps the shortest statement of it is that the Buddhist saint always has his eyes shut, while the Christian saint always has them very wide open. The Buddhist saint has a sleek and harmonious body, but his eyes are heavy and sealed with sleep. The medieval saint’s body is wasted to its crazy bones, but his eyes are frightfully alive. There cannot be any real community of spirit between forces that produced symbols so different as that. Granted that both images are extravagances, are perversions of the pure creed, it must be a real divergence which could produce such opposite extravagances. The Buddhist is looking with a peculiar intentness inwards. The Christian is staring with a frantic intentness outwards.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.