Ancient Giants?

The Bible presents us with the Nephilim and other giants, from whom Goliath was descended. When the tribes of Israel entered Canaan they had to confront giants.

Herotodus in his Persian Wars presents possible evidence for giants as well. In Book I.67-68 he tells of how the Spartans searched for the bones of Orestes, son of Agamemnon. A Spartan talks to an iron smith in the city of Tegea who tells him of a coffin he has found:

I came upon a coffin ten feet long. I had never believed that men were taller in the olden times than they are now, so I opened the coffin. The body inside was of the same length; I measured it, and filled up the hole again.

This indicates a widespread knowledge of giants in the “olden times” in lands outside of Israel.

Nidal Hasan and Secular America

I have written in the past about the coexistence of Islam and Secularism; (here and here for example). According to the Washington Post, Islamic murderer Nidal Hasan gave a presentation to the Army about which the Post says:

Under the “Conclusions” page, Hasan wrote that “Fighting to establish an Islamic State to please God, even by force, is condoned by the Islam,” and that “Muslim Soldiers should not serve in any capacity that renders them at risk to hurting/killing believers unjustly — will vary!”

Yes, will vary.

The Ft. Hood massacre exposes once again the fissures in our society. It is patently obvious that Hasan wanted to inflict death on Americans rather than being forced to go overseas and fight against fellow Muslims. But our corporate, government and educational elites have enforced diversity and tolerance from the top-down for decades now and cannot admit that this level of violence is happening. The reactions to the event are tired and predictable. Expect to see religion blamed in the abstract as a problem, or access to guns, or the wars themselves, not Islam.

A plain reading of the Qur’an reveals that Bin Laden and Hasan are living in closer harmony with the will of Allah revealed in the text than are those Muslims who do not resist the infidels. The response of most in the West is to talk about “Islamism” and “radical Islam” as opposed to the “peaceful” Islam that is the majority view. Clinton, Bush and now Obama engaged in this game. [An aside – where is the ACLU screaming for separation of mosque and state when the President of the USA takes it upon himself to decide which version of Islam is orthodox and which is fringe? In making these pronouncements the leaders of the “free world” are choosing between the different sects of Islam and are acting as official interpreters of which sects are orthodox and which aren’t.]

The official policy of state “neutrality” in religion is a thin veneer of lies that masks the official endorsement of Enlightenment secularism as the de facto philosophy of western nations. There can be peace so long as religion makes no ultimate claims upon the Almighty State and so long as people don’t take religion too seriously. Americans are just fine with religion as long as you don’t get overly serious about God. If you do, at that point you become a fundamentalist, Bible-thumper, nut, or some other pejorative term and you are marginalized.

Any Muslim who gets serious about his religion and reads the Qur’an may resort to violence. God sanctions it and indeed favors it. Christians who take their faith seriously would instead follow the example of Paul who was a model citizen to the point of refusing to flee his Roman captors on two occasions when he could have. BUT, Christians also have absolute truth claims and a body of law that informs how a nation, city or county should run. In this respect we are similar to Muslims or any other religion. Secularism will have none of this. All must be equally powerless and silent in the public sphere, keep your religion to yourself, your church building and your home.

The same folks who bring us Tolerance and Diversity also welcome mass immigration. I believe that their underlying assumption is that such immigration will destroy any chance of Christian hegemony and remake the nation in their weird image. If you think that’s a stretch, you should read this. But what they don’t seem to grasp is that a Muslim America would not have gay marriage and queer courses in college, it would demand submission. Perhaps a miscalculation on their part.

But the way in which they want to change this is to do to the Qur’an what German scholars did to the Bible – that is impose higher criticism on it and deconstruct it. What many people would like to see at the end of this is an Islam that is peaceful, works within the framework of the secularism that upholds America, and has a text that is not trustworthy and does not have to be obeyed.

Time will tell if this approach is successful or not. But Christians should be cautious about cheering these efforts on. The same high-handed approach that wants to neuter Islam also wants to (and has) emasculated Christendom, removing any threat to the State from a modern day Constantine. We have entire schools of thought and churches within Christianity that are FOR the separation of Church and State!

The answer to Muslims who want to kill at the behest of Allah is not more secularism, pornography, drugs and tolerance. The answer for them is to repent and believe on Jesus the Messiah. This is what we should work for and pray for. Hasan’s murders expose the illogical nature of our settled political order and one would hope that people would begin to think seriously about who we are and what we believe as a people. However, we have had plenty of warnings and thus far the elites and their tired ideology show no sign of cracking.

The Best of Jack Vance

I finished reading this book today. It contains the stories:

Sail 25

Ullward’s Retreat

The Last Castle

Abercrombie Station

The Moon Moth

Rumfuddle

It was nice to read something of Vance that didn’t have to do with the Dying Earth.  The stories mainly illustrate aspects of the human condition that are universal no matter what the setting. This includes greed, misanthropy, and following the crowd amongst other things. I particularly liked The Last Castle.

Vance always conveys a mood in his writing more than a concrete sense of place. The surreal and lonely earth of the future seems plausible, while also frightening and sad. The light he sheds on the future accurately reflects the world of our day that we think we know so well. In reality, the world is a vast and scary place at times, and no amount of technology will change that fact.

Damascus

An older commentary on Acts that I own points out the following interesting facets of Damascus in Christianity and Islam:

“In the history of religion,” writes Dr. G.A. Smith, “Damascus was the stage of two great crises. She was the scene of the conversion of the first Apostle of Christianity to the Gentiles; she was the first Christian city to be taken by Islam.”

If Damascus was not the oldest, it may at all events be called the most enduring city in the world. According to Josephus, Ant. 1.6, 4 it was founded by Uz, the grandson of Shem, whilst a Moslem tradition makes Eliezer its founder, and Abraham its king (see also Jos., Ant., i.7, 2), Here, too, was the traditional scene of the murder of Abel (Shakespeare, I King Henry VI., i,, 3).

The passage referred to in Shakespeare is:

OF WINCHESTER
Nay, stand thou back, I will not budge a foot:
This be Damascus, be thou cursed Cain,
To slay thy brother Abel, if thou wilt.

Eschatology and Sacred Space in LDS and Islam

Eschatology and Sacred Space in Islam and Mormonism

There are some clear similarities at the structural level between how the two faiths view these subjects; but there are very large differences when closer scrutiny is brought to bear on the doctrinal details. The descent of both faiths from a common basis in the Scriptures of Judaism and Christianity provides some common groundwork. When it comes to eschatology both faiths teach the descent of mankind into evil and darkness prior to the return of Jesus to the earth. Both teach a general resurrection of all people who have ever lived on the face of the earth. Both teach that god will judge every person based on what they have done. Both teach a blessed afterlife for believers and a fiery hell for evildoers.

The LDS view of last things encompasses the Biblical teaching on the subject with much of its own material expanding and adding to this teaching. The burning millennialism of the early LDS leaders may have waned but the church itself carries the name “Latter-day” which is a clear testimony to the prevailing belief amongst Mormons that we are near the end of our present age. The LDS standard works, their canon of scripture, have much to say about the time we live in and what is to be expected in the days preceding the return of Jesus Christ to the earth.

It should be recognized that the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the establishment of the LDS church are in themselves notable signs that God is again moving and that the present age is drawing to a close. The Mormon view of history since the first advent of Jesus is that the church quickly fell into great apostasy and stayed in darkness until the nineteenth century. This apostasy is the frequent subject of the prophecies of the Book of Mormon as exemplified by Nephi who writes:

Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines, and shall be puffed up in their hearts, and shall seek deep to hide their counsels from the Lord; and their works shall be in the dark. (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 28.9)

This apostasy through which all branches of the Christian church had fallen into error necessitated what Mormons call the Restoration wherein the Book of Mormon was unearthed and given to Joseph Smith to translate. Joseph Smith also reestablished the true church, along with its priesthood authority. It is worth noting that the LDS Scriptures mince no words telling of the downfall of the apostate church system in the last days. Joseph Smith quotes Jesus as telling the Mormons that “the great and abominable church, which is the whore of all the earth, shall be cast down by devouring fire,” (Doctrine and Covenants 29.21a).

The standard works include commentary on eschatological passages from the Bible and teachings about the last days unique to Mormon thought. The book of Doctrine and Covenants is LDS Scripture on a par with the Bible and the Book of Mormon and it traces the outline of what is to be expected in the last days. Section 45 has Jesus giving a teaching about the consummation of this age in which he teaches a sequence of “wars and rumors of wars” and other upheavals which seem to run parallel with the unearthing of the Book of Mormon. The coming forth of the Book is described in Biblical phraseology: “a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness, and it shall be the fullness of my gospel;” (Doctrine and Covenants, 45.28b). The Mormon Jesus goes on to teach that the generation which receives this fullness of the gospel and rejects it will be the one in which the Biblical “times of the Gentiles” shall be fulfilled (Doctrine and Covenants 45.30). In the Book of Moses from the Pearl of Great Price (another part of the standard works) the Lord speaking to Enoch describes the last days as “days of wickedness and vengeance,” (Moses 7.60). Cosmic disturbances are consistently described along with moral evil. When I asked an LDS member to tell me the outline of events leading up to the end of the world he said, “Prophetic events include wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and other natural disasters occurring with increasing regularity, men’s hearts will fail them, unrighteousness will abound, etc.” In tandem with this he mentioned that “…Christ will gather his elect His people (the gathering of Israel).”

Another key development prior to the end is the gathering of Israel to its ancient land including Jerusalem. In Mormon thought this also included the conversion of at least some Native Americans. To Mormons the Native Americans (or at least certain tribes) are the descendants of Jews who fled the kingdom of Judah prior to the exile into Babylon. Their history is narrated in the Book of Mormon and it is believed that they possessed the same gospel that the early church in Palestine did. This American church also descended into spiritual darkness. Their apostasy has left them ignorant of the fact that they are indeed of the seed of Abraham. A key teaching of the LDS standard works is that these descendants of Israel will also be gathered along with Jews from the entire world to their ancient home and will embrace the fullness of the gospel.

The final judgment is a frequent subject in the standard works as well. The wicked will be doomed when it comes, “But behold, the residue of the wicked have I kept in chains of darkness until the judgment of the great day, which shall come at the end of the earth;” (Doctrine and Covenants 38.5). The basic premillenial Christian expectation of the end is taught in the standard works. Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead, and then his people will “reign with me on earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 43.29). As for the wicked, they “shall go away into unquenchable fire,” (Doctrine and Covenants 43.33). The thought of this final judgment is said to strike “the wicked with awful dread and fear” (Jacob 6.13).

Election Day 10

It was a cool morning today as I voted down at the local fire station. Turnout was massively lower than last year. Last year people were coming out of the woodwork to vote for O or against him (in our district anyway). There were long lines and boisterous attitudes. Today there were two other voters.

The Democrats didn’t even bother to field a volunteer today handing out sample ballots! That surprised me, it was a first. The GOP was there with one guy, and he looked lonely. So all the enthusiasm is out of the season now that George Bush, the sacrificial victim has been driven out and we are back to the norm, which is dysfunction, debt and war with no one to blame. It isn’t yet the fault of the Chosen One, but it will be by 12. He’s looking more like LBJ and Carter by the minute.

I expect Deeds to lose in a blowout. Let’s hope this is a glimmer of good news for the unborn.

Ignorance is Bliss

This article from the New York Times reveals the depth of foolishness amongst our population. Otherwise intelligent voters in Iowa actually believed that a politician was running to change things and not for his own personal advancement. That anyone over the age of 18 believes this of any politician amazes me. Look at these quotes:

“I’m afraid I wasn’t realistic,” Ms. McAreavy, 76, a retired school nurse, said on a recent morning on the deck of her home here in east-central Iowa.

“I really thought there would be immediate change,” she said. “Sometimes the Republicans are just as bad as Democrats. But it’s politics as usual, and that’s what I voted against.”

“All my Republican friends — and independents — are sitting back saying, ‘Oh, what did we do?” Ms. McAreavy said. “I’m not to that point yet, but a lot of people are.”

People actually thought that this was some sort of “post partisan” moment and that President Obama wasn’t simply running on a pure leftist agenda with his own ego totally involved in the deal. This system is a game, a game where we hear the same garbage every four years from different people who want to achieve glory and have their name remembered when they die. Sometimes they also want to have sex with lots of women as well (JFK, Gary Hart, Clinton, Edwards, Vitter, Sanford). What amazes me is that people are dupes to this game every four years, even 76 year olds.

Catholic Idolatry

Mark Horne has a helpful post on why he is not a Roman Catholic. An excerpt:

  1. Idolatry is a huge sin and praying through icons (whether 3d or 2d) is idolatry.  I cannot possibly engage in such a practice, allow anyone in my guardianship to do so, or excuse such a thing, without falling into rank unbelief.
  2. Necromancy is almost as huge a sin and praying to the departed saints is necromancy.  See #1 above.  People raised thinking bigamy is Christian may be true Christians, but people who know better are living in sin and without hope of eternal life unless they repent of such behavior.
  3. The way some Roman Catholic constituencies provide ministry opportunities for defectors from Protestantism is, of course, tempting–but it can hardly count as anything more than thirty pieces of silver if #1 and #2 hold.  If one must be marginalized and impoverished in the Protestant world due to sectarian sins, well, God has called many Christians and their families to far worse martyrdoms.
  4. Claiming unity can be achieved by everyone else joining one’s own denomination is exactly the sect spirit that is so loathsome in many Protestant groups, and it gains no more attractiveness in Rome.

While Mark’s honesty will offend many who justify idolatry by appealing to John of Damascus, we have an opposite example in the Internet Monk’s interview with Bryan Cross, someone who has made that plunge into idolatry. I don’t know why these issues are never raised in these ecumenical interviews. Many Protestants still seem to assume that justification is the core issue between us and Rome, while in fact idolatry is and always has been one of the central concerns of the Reformation, if one that is often ignored today.

Against Evangelical Hipsters

In the Summer 2009 issue of The City there is a superb piece of writing that diagnoses a creature that I come across quite a bit online and sometimes in the flesh up in D.C. – the evangelical hipster.  John Mark Reynolds wrote the piece, where he diagnoses the persona of these individuals:

Secularists should stop worrying about a theocracy: Anderson finds young Evangelicals to be like young Mark Studdock in the C.S. Lewis novel That Hideous Strength—more spaniel than pit bull in their desire to charm rather than snub those that despise them. In fact, Anderson’s article essentially accuses young Evangelicals of being just like the characters Mark and Jane Studdock. Like Mark, young Evangelicals desire admission to the “inner ring” of the culture more than any other temptation. Like Jane, they are lightly educated, but take their thoughts very seriously. Unlike Mark and Jane, young American Evangelicals are given Blue Like Jazz rather than Taliesin through Logres.

Although I have often seen this, I’ve never quite put my finger on it like Mr. Reynolds does. The admission to the inner ring of the culture is THE temptation for me and many folks who have moved beyond Left Behind and Christian bookstores and think they have it all together. To me, the solution is to take a stand and appear to be a (gasp) fundamentalist on some issues. I realized some years ago that one thing which makes men like Tolkien great is that he had beliefs and he stood for them. We can easily quibble with his obscurantist stands on motor cars, roads and airplanes, but he had reasons for believing and he believed! He was not a perpetually vacillating ninny who never arrived at a position and did not stand up for the Creeds and culture which gave him birth.

I see the solution to this drift in the hermeneutic approach of James Jordan and Peter Leithart, the post-Reconstructionist conversation, the Creeds and Liturgy of the Anglican Church, and a saturation of Bible study. But many who see through Christian “positive hits” radio and local church anti-intellectualism yo-yo to the far opposite side, embracing Obama, horrible sexual ethics, a flawed Bible and no church authority. Reynolds continues:

Evangelical youth are being corrupted and Evangelical scholars and leaders are at least partly to blame. Why? The church and the Evangelical academy have, by and large and for various reasons, rejected Christendom and left Evangelical youth to create their own inadequate pseudo-culture on the fly.

Amen to this! We’ve had para-church pablum and bad doctrine on parade for 50-100 years now. The Reformed and Lutherans have held there own in terms of intellectualism, but most of the rest of the church is out to sea and doesn’t know how to think critically. Reynolds describes those who get tired of this shallowness only to embrace leftist shallowness of a different kind. Any jibe at Bush gets a laugh. Limbaugh is a buffoon. Republicans are idiots. I concur with most of this thought, but from an even way further right position, not a liberal, ill-thought out hatred of culture and mores. Still, Reynolds words strike home with me.

The attack on patriotism is a part of this assault on Christendom. “Christendom” in the mythology of the academy is about power and politics. Patriotism is a simple trick to get the rubes to turn over power to politicians. Evidently the solution to this problem is to either to abandon politics altogether or to “speak prophetically to power,” though generally only to Republican power. Of course, Christian intellectualists ignore the ties of prophets like Nathan or Isaiah to the royal house of David since this would spoil their pristine idea of the non-partisan Biblical prophet.

And Reynolds says patriotism can equate to the holy grail concept that I have espoused: community.

Of course, disdain for patriotism contradicts another value of intellectualists: the love of authentic community. Isn’t “a strong love for your folks” just another way of describing patriotism? The solution in many Christian colleges has been to allow everyone in the world to love and take pride in their people group except for Americans.

Another searing critique applies to those who utilize Orthodox and Catholic critiques of Protestants, but only as a tactical way of blasting their own communities, not at the cost of believing all that claptrap about sex taught by Rome or the East:

The group Anderson describes are more horrified by the strong, traditional Protestants than by Catholic or Orthodox beliefs, but this is no real sign of an ecumenical spirit. Too often the Evangelical young adult merely uses Catholic and Orthodox thinkers to tear down those parts of Evangelicalism they do not like while ignoring those parts that that challenge their assumptions. They are cafeteria ecumenicists. Roman Catholic teaching on birth control and sexuality are not quoted or applauded, though nothing is a greater challenge to the norms of Evangelical sub-culture. Evangelical intellectualists tend to ignore those writings by John Paul the Great or the brilliant Benedict XVI that attack post-modern or pop culture views of sexuality or scholarship. John Paul certainly spoke truth to power and helped liberate millions from murderous tyranny, but the tyranny was a leftist one and Evangelical parents admired him, so he is not the kind of Catholic they admire.

The whole article should really be read and digested. I see too much of this love of approval in myself and I am determined to root it out.

Paul’s Conversion

This is kind of a ‘duh’ thing to notice, but it still struck me when I read it. Alan Segal points out that:

Paul is not converted by Jesus’ teachings, but rather by an experience, a revelation of Christ, which radically reorients his life.

Certainly Paul must have been familiar with the teachings of Jesus due to his persecution of the early Church, but we see no evidence for him pondering those teachings or the life of Jesus. Rather, it takes a breakthrough by God to open the eyes of the Apostle.