Saturday, April 24, 2010

Climate Change: Key Indicators

Climate Change: Key Indicators
This is a great sight. NASA Global Climate Change. There are charts of long term trends from 1880's to the present.
Like this one:
This is annual temperature changes since the beginning of the industrial revolution (i.e. 1880's). The sight is filled with incredible science. For example, NASA is able through a gravity detecting satellite to detect the mass of the entire antarctic continent to be able to trend changes in the total mass of ice. The antarctic continent is losing 24 cubic miles of ice per year.

The technology used to gather data and make observations is just incredible. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

iMonk Classic: Why the iMonk (and Me Too) are Not Young Earth Creationists

To Be or Not To Be, or Why I’m Not A Young Earth Creationist
This is a republished article. My views are similar as this statement from Michael Spencer:

The young earth creationists believe that Genesis 1 is “literally” a description of creation. I do not. It is this simple disagreement that is the cornerstone of my objection. I believe that Genesis 1 is a prescientific description of Creation intended to accent how Yahweh’s relationship with the world stands in stark contrast to the Gods of other cultures, most likely those of Babylon. Textual and linguistic evidence convinces me that this chapter was written to be used in a liturgical (worship) setting, with poetic rhythms and responses understood as part of the text. It tells who made the universe in a poetic and prescientific way. It is beautiful, inspired and true as God’s Word.
Does it match up with scientific evidence? Who cares? Here I differ with Hugh Ross and the CRI writers. I do not believe science, history or archaeology of any kind establishes the truthfulness of the scripture in any way. Scripture is true by virtue of God speaking it. If God spoke poetry, or parable, or fiction or a prescientific description of creation, it is true without any verification by any human measurement whatsoever.
I would love to speak on this issue someday but, as yet, I feel such discussions might cause a distraction. But...who knows maybe sooner as opposed to later, I will write out my understanding of the proper approach to Genesis 1.  

Friday, April 09, 2010

Romans 1:16 - The Faithfulness of God

In John 17:3, the Lord Jesus teaches us that life is knowing God. To have happiness in this life, true happiness, requires that we know God. The book of Romans is best understood to not be essentially about "how to get saved" or how we receive righteousness from God, but about God and His righteousness. God is a covenant keeping God. God is faithful. God is holy. When He makes a promise, He keeps it. God is a promise keeping God and Paul is explaining God's faithfulness in the book of Romans. Has God been faithful to the promises to Israel? Has God been faithful to the promise He made with Abraham to through Him bless the entire world? And so opens the book of Romans:
16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Paul is not ashamed of the preaching of the Gospel because in the Gospel is revealed the righteousness of God, God's faithfulness. It is in the Gospel that the promise to rescue Israel from exile and bondage is being revealed in sending the Messiah to rescue Israel (and the nations too) and to establish the city promised to Abraham. In the Gospel is being revealed the faithfulness of God.

On the contrary, this opening thematic statement is not saying, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel for in it is revealed a means for sinful humanity to receive a righteousness from God in order to be reconciled to Him". Of course this too is revealed in the Gospel but that is not what the over arching Glory of the book of Romans is about. Romans and the driving force and foundation of our faith is the knowledge of God. The gospel is about God and His faithfulness and this faithfulness to rescue a broken humanity and set the world right and establish the kingdom, this faithfulness of God is being revealed in the Gospel. God has fulfilled the promises to Israel to deliver her from her enemies. He has sent Messiah to rule all the world and those who believe who have faith in His faithfulness these are the people who live and persevere and live in shalom in this life.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

N. T. Wright on Ephesians - Ecclesiology and Justification

It stuns me as I reflect how many times I have read the book of Ephesians and have been unable to incorporate Paul's use of the word "church" in to the themes of this great book. But if you read the book of Ephesians and start with the assumption that Ephesians is about the church, it all comes into focus. 

Think about Paul's use of the word "mystery". I have always been dumbfounded by this theme. Paul says the mystery of the gospel has been revealed to him. As we read we are anticipating Paul to state the mystery clearly and we expect the mystery to be that the Messiah died for sins that we could be reconciled to God. Is not this the great mystery? But alas, Paul's great mystery, the reason he was called is not to proclaim that individuals are justified, but the great mystery is 

the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things;10so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.
The mystery is the wisdom of God in reconciling both Jews and Gentiles into one church. If you follow the logic of Ephesians the great truth is that justification produces one unified church. Christ has taken away the dividing wall that was the Law and its ordinances and made one body. 

When Paul speaks of marriage he says, "This is a great mystery, But I am not talking about you and your spouse. I am talking about the great mystery of Christ and the Church. Not Christ and the individual, not about marriage, this paragraph of scripture is about Christ and the church, the great mystery. This is ecclesiology!!!

So what is the point. The point is that the purpose of God, the great purpose, is to build a new temple, the church, in our day. This era is the church age and yet we have a low view of the church. God's glory is not just through "life transformation" but church transformation. 

I had a discussion with a young man the other day. He was talking about how people are planning on re-building the temple in Jerusalem and his take was that therefore the end is near. I said in response "but in the New Testament the new temple is the church. Haven't christians been rebuilding the temple for 2000 years. We are the third temple". Yeah, but the temple is going to be built in Jerusalem and then the end will come, he said. What part of "we are the temple don't you understand". My friends the radical wonderful beautiful new temple that is being built to the glory of God is us. Paul saw it and it was this vision that drove him in his journey's. 

That's Paul's perspective and without understanding this perspective we will not understand the radical implications and challenge of the New Covenant. There are many more references to the church in Ephesians but that will have to be for another post. 

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Brooks is Optimistic - Relax, We’ll Be Fine

Relax, We’ll Be Fine
A great factoid from this article is that the American demographic is actually trending younger due to our rapid population growth. This is an incredibly encouraging and positive sign for American productivity and entrepreneurial competitiveness. Praise God for Immigration!!! Immigration has made us great and will continue to make us even greater!!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The What and Why of N. T. Wright's Justification

I have been reading N. T. Wright's Justification for awhile now and I just completed the section on Galatians and Philippians. It is hard to understand the distinction Wright is making and why he feels so determined to make it. Even more amazing is why is Piper and crew so vehemently opposed to Wright's way of thinking. I think the point is the underlying worldview between the two positions. So, I will attempt to articulate Wrights point and show how this relates to his worldview "perspective".

Where Wright absolutely shines above all other exegetes is his ability to incorporate the entire book into one cohesive argument. Wright includes all the puzzle pieces in discussing the entire picture of the book of Galatians.
Galatians opens with Paul discussing his dispute with Peter. The book is actually about this practical pastoral problem. When the agitators from James (i.e. Jerusalem) came to Galatia, Peter ate in a kind of separate but equal "for-Jews-only" table. The book is about table unity and what constitutes a person's acceptance and identity as "on of God's people". Most interpreters simply skip over this context and instead answer a different question than the one Paul is answering. Isn't the book about how we as individuals stand before God at the judgment? Isn't righteousness the moral quality needed to be accepted into heaven? Here is the subtle difference. The question is actually better stated "What are the cultural markers that define the people of God?" Now here is the point. The reason we formulate the question in an ecclesiological fashion is because God's ultimate purpose is to build a racially diverse and radically beautiful community here on earth. Salvation is manifested in the context not of a future heaven only but in the context of a present church.

This understanding of the big picture of a very practical and present transformed community is the theological foundation to understand Wrights actual distinction. For this reason, Wright emphasizes the covenant with Abraham to make a great nation and inherit the earth and that every nation will be blessed. If this Paul's vision and emphasis, we must incorporate this emphasis in our reading of Paul. The reformers on the other hand were reading Paul to find the answer to a different question that was facing them in their historical context namely the question of purgatory and indulgences. But this question is not the Paul's question. The question then is how is God fulfilling the covenant of Abraham and making this one community out of both Jews and Gentiles and how does this answer in the Messiah answer Peter's hypocrisy in eating at a separate table and faking that he is a Torah follower.

In this context of community building, we must attach meaning to the term "justification". In this context, the first meaning of justification is being accounted as a full member of the community. The sole marker of being a member of the new eschatological community is "faith in the faithfulness of the Messiah". Through this faith in the work of the faithful Israelite, Jesus the Messiah, we are justified that is we accepted in Him as a member of the community. Therefore, to be declared righteous is to be declared a member of the community. Righteousness is a status and not an account of virtue that is great enough to earn heaven.
Here is a way to understand the distinction by looking at a few illustrations.

The Example of Islam, Pharisees, the Qumran Community, and Understanding First Century Judaism
While reading Wright, it dawned on me, "This is exactly the point of Islam!!" Wright makes the point and I am convinced he is correct that first century Judaism never saw perfect attention to the law as necessary to being acceptable before God. Instead the search was for what are the key markers in Torah to constituting being a faithful Israelite. The key is that posing these markers is then reckoned as righteousness. The question is what are the key markers of a member of the people of God. When we see that this is the theology of Paul and first century Jews, then we understand Paul. For the Pharisee the keys were obviously food regulations and sabbath regulations on top of the obvious circumcision and the calendar. For Muslims this is obvious too. The answer to the Muslim is the five pillars. These are the markers of the true people of God. For the Taliban, the signs are a rigorous punishing of the infidel who refuses the markers. This zeal is the marker. For the Christian the marker is faith in the Christ. This is the only marker and this marker is transcends the Law, Torah, and therefore is the great foundation for ethnic unity. This understanding of the quest for definitions of what constitutes community membership is key to understanding Paul and ALL of his books. This the question being answered in Romans, Philippians, and so clearly Ephesians.

The key then to Wright's exegesis is twofold. First, we must make sure we understand Paul and Paul's entire argument and not bring our own perspective to the text. Secondly, we must maintain the worldview of salvation as the membership in the beautiful community here on earth with an eye to this membership being affirmed in the future.

It is this understanding that informs our understanding of the terms "righteous" and "justification".

Here is another key to understanding Paul's emphasis. Christianity becomes more about the moral beauty of the community than our own personal piety. Most western Christians owner story is the story of maintenance of their personal standing with God through confession and repentance. Of course this is important BUT it is not the most important. God's bigger picture, bigger than your personal virtue, is the righteous functioning of the church community. It is the manifestation of the kingdom in the community that we are to emphasize. This perspective, if you will, transforms our priorities and our approach to the faith in a profound way. Sin is now understandably more about love and the one another commands than smoking and drinking and naughty words. The proper perspective on the centrality of community in this life and the purposes of God to build a community to His glory is more important than our journey to heaven. Here is the key to understanding the "what" and "why" of Paul and the New Testament and therefore putting Paul in proper "perspective".

It's Hard to be Humble - Krugman on Alan Greenspan's Revisionist History

Paul Krugman explains how Greenspan was against innovative financial products before he was for 'em.

Financial Reform 101 - Solving the Root Cause of the Financial Crisis

Krugman begins the discussion concerning Financial Reform. There are essentially two positions. Simply put, one solves the problem of the bailout and the other actually attempts to solve the root cause that led to the finical crisis itself.
To me what is so curious is that smart people still have such terrible problem solving skills. The root cause of the finical crisis was not that we bailed out the banks but that the financial system fell apart in the first place.
The two sides of the debate are on the one hand the "too big to fail" side of the debate and on the other hand, the "finical regulation" side. The two big to fail side considers that if these banks weren't so big then their failure wouldn't be so great and therefore we wouldn't have to bail them out. This approach is like saying, "if there were more small stores selling triple cheese burgers instead of one big triple cheese burger big box, then there wouldn't be an obesity problem" The problem is not triple cheese burgers its the size of the cheese burger stores. Obviously this does not provide a solution at all. In the finical crisis, the problem is clearly that the junk the banks were selling should have never been on the market in the first place.
The financial regulation side of the argument says that, "There should be a law against selling the finical equivalent of crack cocaine". Banks should not be allowed to sell highly risky loans and sell these loans to other middle men discussed in mortgage backed securities while holding only 3% reserves. These practices have bitten the world economy twice now. As George Bush would say, "trick me once sham on you, trick me twice well shame on you again , but trick me thrice and well we all are SOL".
Or something like that...