7.28.2013

Reading the Old Testament as Gentiles

"My proposal is that to read this story properly, as Gentiles, is to put ourselves in Rahab's place. Our origin lies not with the people who hear the command to kill, but with those who are to be killed. We belong with those who should be devoted to destruction because we offend against the holiness of God. And yet what has actually happened is that, like Rahab, we have received mercy through faith in the God of Israel"
The above quote is from Christianity Today's interesting article, "Gentiles in the Hands of a Genocidal God".  That we should read the Old Testament from the point of view of Rahab (ie. a gentile) is an interesting (and even helpful) interpretation, but I do not find it completely convincing (in all cases).  Yes, Christians (gentiles) were not led out of Egypt and the Old Testament is not written to us directly. But (and I think it's an important but) we have become the people of God through Christ. After all, what happened to Rahab after Jericho?  Wouldn't Rahab also be implicated after joining Israel?  Jericho was, you may recall, the very first city Israel came to after entering the land.  She may still be a Gentile, but in quite a different way since she has joined with Israel.

To me it seems that Cary's description of the Christian's place within Israel is to make them another tree (as if, after Jericho, Rahab went her seperate way) which the Jewish messiah saves, but Paul is fairly clear that God has actually grafted Christians onto the Jewish tree (Rahab did stay with Israel).  Cary mentions that Christians aren't part of Israel because they did not need to follow the whole law, but Paul (a Jew) also doesn't see the need to follow the whole law either, because of Christ.

Connected to this last point, Cary describes Israel as, "people of Israel, descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob".  However, John the Baptist (among others) would disagree with this assessment. Israel are the people who trust and obey God, first within the descendants of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, then elsewhere (e.g. Rahab, the rocks, believers in Christ).

Cary's idea is good, as far as it goes, but I think the application is not to "Gentile Christians", but both unbelieving Israel and Gentiles (everywhere) - Look at Rahab, God is merciful.

A short Bible story (about Jericho) to close seems prudent: Joshua arrives at Jericho and is awaiting instructions from God on how he should proceed.  During the night the angel of the Lord comes to Israel's camp and he is stopped and asked, "Whose side are you on? Ours or our enemies?"

The angel's answer is telling: "Neither"

Evernote introduces Skitch integration

Evernote has kind of done what a lot of Evernote users have wanted (sort of).  And it's really not all that exciting.  EN introduced Skitch integration and I had a chance to try it while it was in beta and not limited to premium users.

I am not a premium user, and this will not make me a premium user.  I don't know what EN is thinking, I (personally) do not want integration with other programs, I want EN to annotate my PDFs, because I want them to stay in EN - it is, after all, the note taker.

Compared to my Preview method, using Skitch & EN together is super slow!  This should be the quickest option, and it is definitely not!  As well, for one reason or another, Skitch seems to load the PDF from the EN server, whereas my Preview method loads it straight from the computer.  Lastly, the integration had a lot of bugs!  I attempted (and lost) 3 different annotation attempts before EN and Skitch finally worked together and saved my PDF properly!  By the end of it I had used a good chunk of my MB allowance and time!

If you're looking for ways to annotate PDFs and use Evernote at the same time their Skitch "solution" is a lame duck, and not worth the cost.  Try my Preview method first (for Mac, I don't know Windows well enough to suggest anything on that side of the tracks) - it may not have all the features, but it's fast, easy and it will not lose your annotations like Skitch did for me.

Below (the break) I've pasted my method from the larger, earlier post:

7.27.2013

Works of Love - You Shall Love Your *Neighbour*

Recently I've been blogging my notes of Søren Kierkegaard's "Works of Love" as I've been taking them because I've found this book to be a confronting and challenging read, which at the same time is quite apt for today, despite being written nearly 200 years ago.

You can find previous chapters here, here and here.

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Kierkegaard opens this chapter with the idea that if it were not for the duty of love there would be no concept of "neighbour".  Christ, has taken preferential love (which is not Christian) off the throne and replaced it with the unconditional and eternal love of "you shall" (which is Christian love).

Many Christians, however have gone back to putting erotic love and friendship unduly back on the throne, which, for Kierkegaard, simply will not do.  These loves are loves of passion, they live based on either/or  - either they exist (and nothing else) or they do not.  It would be confusing if Christianity were to teach that both, these passions and Christian love, could live in harmony, because they simply can not.

Kierkegaard goes on to argue that we should not be deceived into thinking that Christendom, in its old age, has matured.  In comparison to it, Those with in it are yet babies.  Christians have not been enlightened to true love, but deceived.  Kierkegaard returns to the poetic vision of love that many have mistaken for Christian love.  It is not bad to consider the poets and artists, but the listener or reader has neglected to think deeply (indeed, Christianly) about them, therefore they have been brought down into their way of thinking.  We need to scrutinize the poet and ourselves in order to help others become deeper and deeper Christians.  Christendom then is not a destination, but a signpost.  We have not arrived, and Kierkegaard wonders how we ever will if the road is only followed one day a week.

Christian love is then is love of neighbour - the love of all - while erotic love and friendship is preferential - it's the love of one.  It is impossible to love in both ways simultaneously.  The poetic love is never an obligation, and there in lies the problem.  This Christian obligation to love, is to love everyone.

"Christianity never suffers a man to go in vain, not even a single step, for when you open the door which you shut in order to pray to God, the first person you meet as you go out is your neighbour whom you shall love.  Wonderful!"

What's wrong with passionate love?  It's arbitrariness makes it merely self-love.  Kierkegaard refers to the friend or lover as the "other-I" as friends and lovers expect reciprocation, in choosing who to love, one only loves oneself.  Christianity has a higher demand, self-renouncing love.  "Love your neighbour as you love your beloved", but expect nothing in return.

The neighbour is your equal.  If you love him and think him higher, you are not loving a neighbour.  Same, if you think him lower, your are not loving as a neighbour.  If you think him well educated, dumb, rich, poor - you do not love as a neighbour.


"One's neighbour is one's equal …. Loving one's neighbour means equality."

7.26.2013

Works of Love - You Shall Love - part 2

In the second half of this chapter Kierkegaard focuses mostly on the meaning and implication of the word shall and how it affects love.  Shall is eternal, meaning that love becomes a duty which can not be changed into something else.

To start out with, Kierkegaard marvels at the seeming fact that in all of ancient history the poets and philosophers never command that "you shall love". When thinking for himself, he discovered that he would never have come up with such a 'philosophy' on living life either, despite it seeming to be the true way to love.

The poetic version of love is a spontaneous love that is something less than Christian love because it makes an oath to love itself rather than something higher than love.  Poets (and their readers) have a distaste for duty as it does not serve their emotional purposes, but Kierkegaard sees Christian love (and all true love, or love that is worthwhile) as a duty.  Because of this duty, this "shall", love is eternal and unchanging - anything less than this is not Christian love - and will not remain as love. Kierkegaard feels that this undutiful love changes and morphs and thus is a cause of anxiety.  Because spontaneous love changes it can morph into a number of other things: hate, jealousy, habit and despair.  Dutiful love is the cure to anxiety (and the things spon. love morphs into) because it does not and can not change, it is secure and always love.

This means that Christian love does not require testing.  Testing love, in fact, is not a sign of loves strength but a sure sign of it's weakness since the test is testing contingencies and is due to the already present anxiety about the changing nature of (spontaneous) love.  Since no one can reasonably test for all contingencies, love (taken this way) is bound to fail.  If love is a duty there are no contingencies to test for, one just loves, and therefore it never fails.

For example, when one (poetic lover) says to another, "I do not love you", the other (Christian lover) will not respond, "Then I will not love you either", but since love is a duty, in all humility he will say, "I will still love you, no matter if you love me or not".

The shall is eternal - there are no excuses.

You shall love your neighbour.

7.25.2013

Works of Love - You Shall Love - part 1

Christianity has presuppositions.  A major one - for Kierkegaard - is that people love themselves, since it is at the centre of Jesus' commandment to love one's neighbour. Here he provides some insights that are vague or missing in the previous chapter.  For Kierkegaard - "self-love" is the love between friends and lovers, and is essentially self-motivated.  It's easy to do, and people do it all the time - Jesus says the same thing.  Loving your neighbour (i.e. anyone who is not you) as yourself is not self-love.  He writes that Christians should be loving without distinction and favouritism, and therefore be free of self-love (which is based on favouritism).

Therefore "Self-love" must NOT be confused with "love your neighbour as yourself" - they are very different!

Despite what the "poets" may write it is neither good nor proper to love anyone more than oneself.  This is something reserved only for God.  Therefore, when we love someone as ourself we do not love them in a way that obeys all their wishes - unconditional obedience is left for God. The loving thing one does for others is what one would find to be the most loving for oneself. Anything more than this Kierkegaard deems as adoration - Kierkegaard doesn't use the word, but idolatry may be implied here as well.  Love, in Kierkegaard's sense, is quite intolerant (given the modern definition of the word) and based on the moral grounding of the individual who loves, rather than the individual receiving love.

He writes that the command to love your neighbour as yourself is a complete and binding statement, something that doesn't require examples and theory, it's easy to understand and we know (if we love ourselves) exactly what our duty to our neighbour is. The only way out is to narrowly define who our neighbour is, but Kierkegaard insists that the neighbour can be no one else but the "other" - i.e. not you.  People are neighbours whether they like it or not, the question is whether they fulfill their duty as neighbours.

Works of Love - Love's Hidden Life

In the first chapter of Works of Love, Kierkegaard argues that love is something that must be believed in since it can not be seen. Because it can not be seen, people are deceived by love in 2 ways: 1) They think that there is love in someone when there is not or, 2) they are self-deceived and do not believe in love at all.  Those who do not believe in love at all are by far the worst off since they have cheated themselves out of love, and deceived themselves for all eternity (since Christian love is eternal).

Kierkegaard distinguishes between two loves: (what he calls) Erotic love (self-love) and Christian Love (unconditional love).  Since love is invisible and must be believed rather than seen, one must discern love by its fruits.  
"By the fruits one recognizes the tree"
For Kierkegaard self-love is not necessarily bad, it is after all, still love.  But it is a lesser love to that of Christian love.  It blooms in season and then dies out again, and therefore it would be foolish to consider this love as comparable to Christian Love.  Christian love is an unconditional love, an eternal love, the Love that every person should strive to achieve.  But this love does not bloom, since everything that blooms must die. Christian love, however, "produces" an eternal fruit and therefore never blooms because it never dies.

Since love is hidden no one can get to the origin (in God) of love.  Kierkegaard makes an analogy to the sun:  Love, like the sun's rays, lights the path ahead of us so that we can see, but the foolish try to examine the origins of the rays, only to be blinded by the sun itself.

Kierkegaard later continues with a tree/fruit analogy: just as the tree is to be known by its fruits, the life of love is knowable by its fruits.   However, for Kierkegaard, no expression (words or deeds) can prove or disprove anyones love, expression is not a fruit. The same words and deeds could be said/done by two different people and prove opposite results; conversely, opposite words could be said by two different people, still expressing love.  Therefore, love must be known by its fruits.

He warns that we must be careful that we do not seek for the recognition of our fruits, but that we only seeks the fruits themselves.  The hypocrite teaches that love is so hidden that the fruit is also hidden, or that the fruit (even poisonous fruit) proves nothing - for Kierkegaard, the Gospel teaches otherwise.  However, he then throws a wrench into the works: You should not think that you will be able to recognize and rightly discern others fruit from the tree.  No tree is set up to be the one that judges all other trees.  There are only two judges able to properly discern the fruit one produces : One's self and God.

Kierkegaard continues on about the fear of God and the fear of self.  It is these two attributes that will prevent one from being deceived by hypocrites.  At the end of the chapter he comes around to the first point, "believe in love": only those who abide in love can recognize love.  

Like is known only by like.

Questions/Comments:

It's interesting that Kierkegaard promotes that there is fruit that comes from genuine love but in the next breath denies anybody (other than the self and God) the ability to judge by that fruit, which Kierkegaard clearly thinks is visible (unlike love).

This puts a lot of onus on the individual.

I'm a bit confused on how Christian Love - demonstrated by temporal beings - could possibly be eternal.

I'd also like to know if Kierkegaard thinks we even achieve Christian Love or is it only an (unreachable) goal that the Christian presses for?

7.07.2013

Beyond the Gifts in Ephesians 4 & 1 Corinthians 12

Warning: Like my previous Ephesians post this is an (almost) midnight rambling.

I've been reading Ephesians for quite some time now.  I reached Ephesians 4:11f and was initially surprised by the continual overarching achievement of Christ's death and resurrection in the letter.  Normally, Christ's death and resurrection is seen as salvific from sin and human frailty, in Ephesians however, Paul has a much broader scope for the effects of Christ's sacrifice and glorification, providing not only salvation but also gift, power and people.

Coming from a pentecostal background the gifts that God gives are usually associated with the Holy Spirit, here, the Spirit is surprisingly absent, in all the areas a good charismatic boy would expect them.  The chapter opens up with the Spirit:

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”

(Ephesians 4:1–6 NAS95)

Then he quickly moves on to "Christ's gift" (4:7), which is not the Spirit (of God).  The Spirit is not mentioned again until Ephesians 4:30, well after these "gifts" have been fully discussed.  It is Christ who provides these gifts by virtue of his death and resurrection.

This whole train of thought got me thinking, there is another well known passage which talk about "gifts" of a very similar nature,  1 Corinthians 12.  So what happens when the gifts get mentioned there?  Well, the Spirit is (again) briefly mentioned in the beginning and disappears while Paul is on the topic of the "gifts".

And, while reading I noticed something else.  Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 have more in common than just listing some of the same gifts.  The structure of the content both before and after mention of the gifts is the same:

Eph 4:3 - Spirit provides unity
1 Cor 12:12 - Spirit provides Unity

Eph 4:1-5 - Unity of the Church
1 Cor 12:12-26 - Unity of the Church

Eph 4:11 - The gifts Christ gave to the Church
1 Cor 12:28 - The gifts God appoints in the Church

Eph 4:15-16 - Love
1 Cor 13ff - Love

It may be that there are some gifts that the Spirit provides, and some gifts that Christ/God provides - I'm not sure if Paul is making deliberate distinctions.  What Paul does mean to say (and quite clearly) is that the Spirit brings unity to the Church!  When Paul says that we should not quench the Spirit (Eph 4) he may have the unity of the Church in mind - it is after all, the very next time that the Spirit is mentioned in Ephesians after 4:1-5.

Anyways, I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.