Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"An' I'm Proud to Be an American, Where ..."

Ah, ye free Americans! Ye lucky inhabitants of the Free-est Nation in History! And getting free-er all the time!

You know, if you were really free -- even approximately so -- maybe it wouldn't matter so much when one of your Nine Judicial Masters required replacement. The meaningless "confirmation hearings" probably wouldn't be a national obsession. But, you know ... they sure are, no?

The Word for Wednesday, June 30

Continuing in 2 Corinthians, chapter 3:
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. And such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how shall the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory on account of the glory that surpasses it. For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.

Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, and are not as Moses, who used to put a veil over his face that the sons of Israel might not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
This is similar to what Paul wrote to the church at Rome: that death and the awareness and imputation of sin come through the Law. Here, he calls the Law the "ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones" and also the "ministry of condemnation." The contrasting ministry is the ministry of the Spirit, who gives life, while the letters of the law kill. The Spirit's ministry is also called the "ministry of righteousness." To my plodding, mechanical way of thinking, that last term is a little surprising; I might have expected a more direct opposite to death and condemnation, such as "life" or "mercy." After a little more reflection, though, it does seem plain that to give life, or to refrain from condemning that which deserves condemnation, are high or profound expressions of righteousness ... righteousness with the volume cranked up high, so to speak.

Good stuff.

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Thursday, June 24, 2010


I was just over at my blogging buddy Jean's place, reading a post that pretty much hit my nail right on the head. I've been feeling sorry for myself since I found out yesterday that the day job's going to be sending me out of town enough this fall that I have to give up my physics-teaching duties at IPFW. Now, I can complain with the best of 'em (or maybe that should be "the worst"), but I think I'll skip it this time. I'll drink the cup that's come to me, and be grateful for it. A lot of people -- some that I know, and many that I don't -- have problems that I wouldn't want to trade them for. 'Nuf said.

The Word for Thursday, June 24

Second Corinthians, chapter 2:
But I determined this for my own sake, that I would not come to you in sorrow again. For if I cause you sorrow, who then makes me glad but the one whom I made sorrowful? And this is the very thing I wrote you, lest, when I came, I should have sorrow from those who ought to make me rejoice; having confidence in you all, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears; not that you should be made sorrowful, but that you might know the love which I have especially for you.

But if any has caused sorrow, he has caused sorrow not to me, but in some degree -- in order not to say too much -- to all of you. Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, lest somehow such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him. For to this end also I wrote that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. But whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.

Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord, I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia.

But thanks be to God, who also leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God.
This chapter seems to mostly concern a church discipline matter that Paul first addressed in his previous letter (1 Corinthians 5). In that chapter, Paul lays down that the church is responsible to rebuke immorality within itself, excluding the strayed believer from all fellowship if need be, although the church is also explicitly told not to concern itself with immorality among unbelievers. (Contrast that with the church today.) Then, in the chapter above, Paul teaches that love and forgiveness are to limit discipline, and that the church is to work to bring discipline to its ideal conclusion: reconciliation. I don't suppose it always happens, but it is always to be the goal.

The last paragraph: poetry, on which I have no comment worthy to be made. Who, indeed, is adequate for these things? Not me. Not this year, at least.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Smackin' Him Down

I'm short on time today, but I'll refer you, reader, to Justin Raimondo for an extended analysis of the McChrystal business; and then to IOZ for the one-sentence post I wish I'd written:
On the other hand, I am glad to live in a world where the ongoing slaughter of civilians is a resume-builder but badmouthing the boss is a firing offense.

Monday, June 21, 2010

This Week's Hope & Change

This, surely, requires almost no comment:
Washington (CNN) -- A firm affiliated with the former Blackwater security company has been awarded a contract to provide protection to U.S. consulates and diplomats in the Afghan cities of Herat and Mazar-e Sharif, a U.S. State Department official confirmed on Saturday.
Be sure to vote, now. Voting changes things.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Word for Wednesday, June 16

Continuing with 2 Corinthians, chapter 1, verses 12 - 23:
For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you. For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end; just as you also partially did understand us, that we are your reason to be proud as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus.

And in this confidence I intended at first to come to you, that you might twice receive a blessing; that is, to pass your way into Macedonia, and again from Macedonia to come to you, and by you to be helped on my journey to Judea. Therefore, I was not vacillating when I intended to do this, was I? Or that which I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh, that with me there should be yes, yes, and no, no at the same time? But as God is faithful, our word to you is not yes and no. For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us -- by me and Silvanus and Timothy -- was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.

But I call God as witness to my soul, that to spare you I came no more to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy; for in your faith you are standing firm.
Although I should know better than to presume to offer writing advice to an apostle, inspired by the Holy Spirit, it does seem to me that the second paragraph of this passage would have been easier to read had Paul used a few quote marks around some of those yeses and noes. Of course, in my ignorance I don't even know if quote marks were used by first-century writers of Greek. Maybe not. But surely they were known to the translators who produced the New American Standard, so perhaps my suggestion should go in their direction. Anyway, no matter. A careful reading clears up any confusion.

What I take from this passage today is an appreciation of the mutual responsibility of believers. Paul is conscious of himself as a blessing to the Corinthian church, and of them as a blessing to him. His reason for seeing himself this way is that he has behaved with integrity, both toward them and toward people in general. He is, he says, a worker with them for their joy. And because he can't rightly be accused of false dealing with anyone else, either, they need not be ashamed to be associated with him. Contrast this with some who are identified with Christianity in our day. It would be hard to say, "Yes, I'm a Christian. You know, a Christian ... that's right, like that fellow Ted Haggard that you've heard about." More to the point, it's much harder to be taken seriously in that context.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Daily Extremist Narrative

Gonna tell you all a story 'bout a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his fam'ly fed
And then one day he was shootin' at some food
When up through the ground come a-bubblin' crude ...
Or lithium, or diamonds, or gold, or whatever ...

I'm sure it will do no good to suggest that, perhaps, what's under the ground in Afghanistan is purely the concern of those who live there, and that any development deals or assistance they might or might not want from Western concerns, they can be relied upon to negotiate for, just like real grownup people. 'Cause, you know, that would just be a lot of kum-ba-ya singing on my part, no doubt. Still, you can always count on some realist to say something that's really funny, in a hideous sort of way:
Some experts cautioned the U.S. to avoid giving the impression that it has designs on the country's mineral wealth.

"That would play right into the extremist narrative that the West is out to subjugate Muslims and plunder their resources," said Paul Pillar, a veteran CIA official now at Georgetown University.
No, we Americans would never, ever, ever consider subjugating Muslims and plundering their resources. I'm guessing that Veteran CIA Official Paul Pillar has probably never seen any bumper stickers saying:


I've probably never seen one either. I'm probably just imagining things. You know how it is with us extremists and our narratives.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Flag Day

I was just reminded that it's Flag Day. And I know I haven't been here much lately -- a combination of otherwise-busy and burnt out -- but I didn't want to let this special day slip by unobserved. So:

God bless Iraq.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Word for Thursday, June 3

Second Corinthians, chapter 1,verses 1 through 11:
I, Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers in our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed upon us through the prayers of many.
In his sermon, "The Weight of Glory," C.S. Lewis remarked, "The cross comes before the crown, and tomorrow is Monday." In the passage above, we can see the close linking of sorrow and joy, suffering and relief, death and life, cross and crown. One might ask whether the suffering and sorrow are really necessary. The answer, I think, is "no." It is true that, in Adam, all have sinned; and yet, that wasn't true of Adam himself. For him, sin was optional. Once that option was taken, all else -- the ages of misery and death, and our redemption by Jesus -- followed by necessity. Other things are also necessary, though. If we humans are to be able to love God (and if "love" is to mean what we think it means), we must necessarily be free to not love Him. We must be free to sin. And then the nature of God makes it necessary for Him to redeem us, or at least those who are willing to be redeemed, at a vast price to Himself. The chains of necessity: how strong they are, to bind even the Creator of all! His chain is consistency to His own nature; He cannot simultaneously be Himself and not Himself.

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