I Am Now a Master…of Arts

I passed my French Language Exam and so have fulfilled all of the requirements for my Master of Arts in Historical Theology degree from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. Huzzah!

As such, I am making the move to my new blog over at patristicsandphilosophy.wordpress.com where I can focus more on my primary interests: Patristics and Ancient/Hellenistic philosophy. It will be less personal thoughts and more the product of actual research (who would have thought?!). Less posts, hopefully more substance.

Genesis, Justice, and Biblical Authority

Genesis, and by extension the Pentateuch, views justice as right order. This is seen by two dominant features that not only occur in Genesis but in the Pentateuch as a whole.

First, besides creating everything, the second most important feature of the creation narrative in Genesis 1 is that of separation/division. Night is separated from day, waters above (note: this does not mean atmospheric moisture) from the waters below, and dry land from water. Then, God further divides each section: light is divided into sun, moon, stars and air, land, and water animals are distinguished from each other and from other animals in their own “section” by kind. “Kind” isn’t a genetic description but a God-imposed distinction. So, there you have it, God not only created everything but put everything in its place.

Secondly, a key theme through Genesis and the Pentateuch is the breaching of God’s divinely established order, judgment, punishment, and restoration. A perfect example is the story of Noah. It is introduced by the story of the “sons of God” mating with the “daughters of man.” It’s not clear what these categories refer to (does sons of God = angels or offspring of Kings?), but whatever it may be, there is a clear breach in the divinely established order. God judges them, enacts the punishment (i.e., flood), and then restores things to their proper order (Noah and his family). Another good example that I wont go into in detail is Korah’s rebellion. God established an order for the Levites, Korah rebelled against this order (“why can’t I speak with God like Moses?”), God judges, punishes, and reestablishes his order. Leviticus can be better understood in this way as explications of the divine order. Homosexuality, bestiality, and incestuous relationships violate God’s order established at creation. God also establishes a hierarchy in the tabernacle worship and separates the people from the elders (or priests) and the high priest (modeled upon the Sinai event [for more on this, cf. Mary Douglas, Leviticus as Literature] with Moses on top of the mountain, the elders on the second level, and the people on the bottom.)

Based upon these two points, I conclude that Genesis, and the Pentateuch as a whole, views justice as right order and not in terms of natural rights.

But what, you may ask, does this have to do with Biblical Authority? Simply put, in the Pentateuch there is a divinely established taxonomy of creation that we blatantly do not follow. We do not distinguish animals based upon split hooves, chewing cud, or teemingness. Yet, the Bible does. If we’re going to be “biblical,” then shouldn’t we classify animals according to God’s divinely established order and not upon the frail and fallible human reason and philosophy (i.e., Aristotle)? It seems inconsistent to take the seven days seriously but no other cosmological assertions which are found throughout Scripture.

-EDIT-

I just realized how this illuminates the statement in Job about God saying to the sea, “this far and no further” (Job 38:11). Honestly, in light of my modern cosmology, I always thought this verse was a bit ridiculous (almost as ridiculous as the Israelites pining for cucumbers––who would pine for cucumbers?! [okay, I like cucumbers, but as a child, this sounded strange]). But it makes sense if one sees this statement and others like it in the light of right order.

An additional question to add to the original post would be, “How does this idea of right order help explain Proverbs?” Could the individual proverbs (taken, of course in their final form and order as we have them now) be understood as meditations on discerning and applying right order with wisdom as the tool for such activities? Foolishness would then be the ignorance of, rebellion against, and refusal to submit to God’s order. The good life, the one that rewards, is the one lived in accordance to God’s established order. That is why it brings wealth and prosperity. Not because wealth and prosperity are to be sought for their own sake, but because the result of living according to God’s order is human flourishing.

What Natural Law Is Not

It appears that there is a great misconception about what natural law is, so let me try to clear this up. Natural law does not mean that whatever happens in “nature” is morally good. Such assertions equivocate on the term “nature.” Natural law has more to do with final causes. What is the purpose or proper function or said thing acts as the determiner of the proper use. Calling natural law anything less than this oversimplification is deceptive and a gross misrepresentation.

Health for Your Mind

It is, I would contend, nearly impossible to be ignorant of the implications of one’s diet. Everyone knows what food is unhealthy and what food is not and it could be said that the modern sin is not sexual licentiousness as it was for yonder days, but simply being fat. The so-called “green” revolution is a similar, though externalized, project aimed at the health of the environment. While I’m not against either of these agenda’s, I am surprised that little is being done for the health of the mind. That’s only for crazy people. I can spend all day engorging myself with delicacies of the nonsense and drivel that is constantly imposing itself upon me through various media (internet, television, radio, advertisements, etc…), and be considered relatively sane and normal. But if I pig out on greasy and unhealthy food, I get the scarlet “G” stitched upon me. Parents who are strict as to what television, movies, and music their children consume are oppressive. Just say the word, “homeschooler” and visions of no make-up, no movies, and no fun readily appear.

There is something inconsistent about all of this.

When will the revolution for the health of the mind begin? When will I be able to say that I have no need for internet nor television in my house and not enjoy the harassment of my compatriots? Or, even better, that I don’t have a facebook account! GASP! SHOCK! “But––but––but,” they stutter, “how do you, like, you know, survive?!” An eloquent question. What could I possibly do when I’m not reading a hundred different blogs, twittering, facebooking, ordering my coffee, watching my twenty favorite television show, and hanging out with all my friends whilst we commit an unrelenting genocide of the English language. It’s not like I have a job or other responsibilities such as trying to be a good husband, citizen, friend (for the few that I have), and, most importantly, Christian.

You’re right! How much time and effort could it take to maintain a clean home, clean finances, and clean (i.e., faithful) marriage? (warning: watch out for falling sarcasm!). Not to mention all of the extra work I have to do if I do want to get into a good Ph.D. program (study for the GRE and become a proficient reader in French, Latin, Greek, and someday German).

So, I’ve been pondering a list for organize my life by priorities for my overall health, mind and body:

  1. Healthy Spirit (i.e., prayer)
  2. Healthy Marriage
  3. Healthy Mind (i.e., selective consumption and mental exercises through learning)
  4. Healthy Friendships
  5. Healthy Body (i.e., physical exercise)

Such strict categories are seldom attainable and they all are interconnected in some way, but they are something at which I wish to aim.

Politics and Equivocation: Or, Why Nothing Gets Done in Congress

I recevied an official petition (my very first, huzzah!) in the mail to reverse Roe v. Wade. On it is listed several premises which are supposed to support their conclusion. If it is supposed to be an argument, that would seem like a good place to start. However, the fourth premise is followed by a fifth premise (surprise!) that equivocates on an idea rather than a specific term. That probably means it’s not equivocation but something else (a term for which I cannot think of at the moment). Anyways. here are the fourth and fifth premises.

Whereas: In Roe, the Supreme Court admitted: “If…personhood [for the unborn] is established, the appelant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [Fourteenth] Amdendment…” (Roe v. Wade [410 US 113 at 156-7]); and

Whereas: Science is clear that human life begins at conception when a new human being is formed;

Note to politicians: there is a difference between life and personhood! Either you don’t know how to make distinctions or your purposefully being deceptive. I hope it is the former (though, then you probably shouldn’t be in office).

The Early Stages

Fortunately, I think I’m still in the early (i.e., naïve) stages – somewhere between studying whatever I want and realizing that no one cares so I probably should listen to my advisor.