Monday, January 22, 2018

2.4 God in the Old Testament

Trying to outline a future book project while teaching a course in biblical theology. Modifying the outline a little as I go.

Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Basic Approaches
1.3 History of Biblical Theology
1.4 This Book's Approach

Chapter 2: Theology of God
2.1a The Rule of Faith of God, part 1
2.1b The Rule of Faith of God, part 2
2.2 Progress of the Biblical Understanding of God
2.4 The Old Testament Witness 

2.4.1 The Oneness of God
So I think I will shuffle the order of presentation a little. Since in class I am almost done with an Old Testament theology of God, let me just present an outline for future filling in.
  • Shema needs to feature here, including the covenant relationship of Yahweh with Israel.
  • Deuteronomy 32 should be mentioned, especially the text critical issue at 32:8.
2.4.2 The Holiness of God
  • The key text here is Isaiah 6. Also interact with passages like Leviticus 11:44 and my sense of what the holiness of God is. Mention Mt. Sinai and Uzzah.
2.4.3 Anthropomorphism in the Old Testament
  • Did they take it as such, as most of us do?
  • Or did they take it literally, but we should take it metaphorically?
  • Or was it literal and we should become open theists and think God has a body?
2.4.4 The Power of God
  • An assumption of the divine in general
  • Yahweh Sabaoth (e.g., 1 Sam 1:3), God as warrior
  • Genesis 18:14; Psalm 24:8
  • God as king and judge
  • God as creator, Isaiah 55:11
2.4.5 The Knowledge and Presence of God
  • Psalm 139 is a locus classicus here. Isaiah 46:9-10
  • including the Spirit of God in the Old Testament
  • the angel of the LORD and other intermediaries
2.4.6 The Hesed of God
  • "The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (Exod. 34:6; Ps. 103:8, 145:8; Jon. 4:2).
  • Toward Israel (Deuteronomy 6), election
  • The progressive understanding of Satan
2.4.7 The Wrath of God
  • God and the conquest
  • God and other nations
  • God's wrath toward Israel
2.4.8 Other Pictures of God
  • God as father/mother, healer, gardener, shepherd...

Saturday, January 20, 2018

2.3.1 The Oneness of God

Thus far in a future book.

Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Basic Approaches
1.3 History of Biblical Theology
1.4 This Book's Approach

Chapter 2: Theology of God
2.1a The Rule of Faith of God, part 1
2.1b The Rule of Faith of God, part 2
2.2 Progress of the Biblical Understanding of God

2.3 The Old Testament Witness
2.3.1 The Oneness of God
1. The majority of experts on the Pentateuch believe that the books we now have represent a process of collection and editing of sources that probably did not reach something like their current form until the time after the exile. [1] There is not currently a consensus on exactly what these sources were or how they came together. Meanwhile, many continue to have concerns about Mosaic authorship, not least because the New Testament books seem to operate under this assumption. [2]

In a very real sense, these issues are not of primary concern in our search for a biblical theology. We are affirming by faith that the canonical Pentateuch as it stands is the form that the church has come to see as Scripture. We do not wish to be naive about potential sources or the history of this discussion, but we have already asserted several times that the direction of revealed understanding moves forward toward Christ rather than backward toward sources.

Then God used the Church of the first few centuries to unpack the significance of Christ, who is God's final Word for his creation. And God uses the Church in every age to see the gospel incarnated in every context. Our methodology is thus to dialog with the canonical text in light of the telos of the rule of faith, yet also with an eye to the way God walked with his people through layers of history, text, and tradition.

Whatever the theory, Genesis certainly reflects some of the oldest traditions of the Old Testament about God. We might also mention Judges and 1 Samuel as books that reveal the worship and understanding of God in some of the earliest stages of Israel's history. Chiefly in these earliest stages, we find evidence of polytheism among the people of Israel and we find evidence of henotheism or monolatry.

Henotheism is the belief that there is only one legitimate God, without denying that other gods might exist. We can thus speak of "monolatry" or the belief that you should only worship one God even though others exist. The first of the Ten Commandments (by most Protestant numberings) is worded in a henotheistic way: "You will have no other gods before me" (Exod. 20:3).

From a Christian standpoint, we would of course deny the name "god" to any being but the one true God. However, we can use our model of increasing precision to reconcile these layers of understanding in the following way. There are spiritual forces that are opposed to God. The apostle Paul calls them demons in 1 Corinthians 10:20. We can thus suggest that the other gods that some Israelites falsely worshiped were demonic forces...

[1] See the excursus at the end of this section for a brief history of this source discussion.

[2] I have personally concluded that the New Testament books and perhaps even Jesus himself worked within the assumptions of their day on this issue. That is to say, we should not be surprised to find the assumption that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch because that was the assumption of first century Judaism in general. However, this assumption would seem to be the framework within which God revealed incarnated truths rather than the actual point of the revelations. Indeed, most of the time in the New Testament it is the quotations of Moses that are attributed to Moses rather than the authorship of the Pentateuchal books themselves.

Meanwhile, there is no inductive evidence for Mosaic authorship. For one, the Pentateuch refers to Moses entirely in the third person--the narrator of the Pentateuch is not Moses but speaks about Moses. As long observed, this speaking about Moses includes speaking of his death. Genesis never even mentions Moses. By contrast, there is evidence of varying sources of some kind being put together to form the Pentateuch, even if we are unable to determine exactly what they were.

In short, there are no historical-evidentiary reasons to argue for Mosaic authorship, only traditional and theological ones. An inductive approach will not come to this conclusion. And in fact we can show that this is a tendency in general that has taken place in regard to books like Joshua, 1 Samuel, and Jonah. Tradition had a tendency to ascribe authorship to the main characters of books of Scripture even though those books were anonymous and consistently talked about those individuals in the third person.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Friday Science: Quantum States (chapter 2)

Second installment reviewing Susskind's, Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum. Here was the first.

1.  I've read this chapter of Susskind several times. I have some sense of it but continue to find the writing frustrating. I have the sense that it would not be hard to make this material more comprehensible to an invested lay person like me, but it seems written by and for Sheldon. At some point it will more fully click and I will be able to add the necessary paragraphs.

2. Section 2.1 So I understand what he's saying in this first section and can already add the necessary background. There is an almost century old debate in quantum physics about whether quantum uncertainty is due to there being hidden factors or "hidden variables" that would make the quantum world predictable. The majority don't think there are. They just think the quantum world has a fundamental uncertainty built into it.

3. Section 2.2 This section sheds a little light on the first chapter and the bras and kets of linear algebra. Still, it feels like Men in Black where Tommy Lee Jones is mid-conversation with Will Smith after flashing him with the memory thingee.

We still don't know what "spin" is but it is apparently the most fundamental quantum characteristic. For you chemistry buffs, I believe it relates to the final options in the 1s2, 2s2, 3p6 stuff. The two electrons in the s orbital, for example have two different spins. One is said to have a +1/2 spin and the other a - 1/2 spin. Why couldn't he have told us this? Give us something to hold on to, man.

"All possible spin states can be represented in a two-dimensional vector space" (38). That's how he puts it. My interpretation: the final quantum description has only two possible states.

4. So here is how they describe this sort of state, apparently:

∣A〉 = αu∣u〉 + αd∣d〉

First impression is of course that this is unnecessarily complicated but I'm sure it's helpful. And I like Dirac so I'll stomach it. But it sure would be nice if someone gave a straightforward explanation. As best I can tell, here's the explanation he never really gives.

a. ∣A〉 is a ket. It is a box in which we put one characteristic of the quantum situation. 

b. There are two possible states for that characteristic. Say it is spin. We might say that spin can be up or down. ∣u〉 is the place we check the "up" box. ∣d〉 is where we check the "down" box." 

These are "basis vectors." They are like the x, y, and z axes in normal geometry, but we can't picture the nature of basis vectors in the quantum world.

I believe up and down are "orthogonal." That is to say, it can't be both. If the state is up, it cannot be down. If it is down, it cannot be up. 

c. αu and αd is the value, the component that relates to the up and down. These apparently are complex numbers (that is, they have an imaginary component). I have a hunch they relate to the values of Schrodinger's equation, but making such connections would be far too helpful for Susskind to mention.

I am making the connection because he calls these values, "probability amplitudes," and mentions that their squares are probabilities. I know from elsewhere that this notion relates to Schrodinger's equation, which is about the possible states an electron can be in.

d. The total probability that the spin is either up or down has to equal 1. It is something. αu+ αdd has to equal 1, where the * version is the complex complement.

e. "The state of a system" ∣A〉 "is represented by a unit vector" αu "in a vector space of states" ∣u〉. "The squared magnitudes of the components of the state vector" (αuu), "along particular basis vectors, represent probabilities for various experimental outcomes" (40).

5. Susskind uses the analogy (I think) of x, y, and z axes. They aren't really spatial coordinates like this. It's an analogy I think to help us understand. What he is trying to picture are quantum categories that are orthogonal to each other just like the x, y, and z axes are orthogonal to each other.

So say the first "axis" we measure is the z axis and then we want to measure the x axis. When we measured the z axis, it had to be either up or down. If we multiply the probability of up times itself and the probability of down times itself and add these two together, it has to equal 1.

If we then move from the z to the x axis, there is half a chance that we will move from it being up to it being right and there is half a chance that it will move from being down to being right. So what value, when multiplied by itself, will yield a half probability of it being right after it being up or down?
∣r〉 = 1/√2∣u〉 + 1/√2∣d〉

Then multiplying this by the equivalent probability for left has to equal 0 because left and right are orthogonal to each other, suggesting the probably for left then has to be:

∣l〉 = 1/√2∣u〉 - 1/√2∣d〉

6. So now he moves on to the y axis. There is a half probability of moving from any of these components to any of the others. For example, there is a half probability that we would go from an "up" state to a "left" state or from a left state to an "in" state. So the probability for "in" times the probability for "left" has to equal 1/2 just like the probability from "up" to "right" needs to be 1/2. As before, the probability of it being both in and out is zero.
I don't quite see how the math works out, but he suggests this means that the probabilities of in and out then turn out to be.
∣i〉 = 1/√2∣u〉 + i/√2∣d〉

∣o〉 = 1/√2∣u〉 - i/√2∣d〉

The reason this seems peculiar to me is because it seems to me that 〈i∣o〉 turns out to be 1 rather than 0, and all the other probability multiplications still have an i in them. Obviously I don't understand something here yet.

7. Another thing I don't understand is what he is calling a phase factor (e). He says it has unit value and that the vectors can be multiplied by it without changing their values. I'm tucking it away until at some point we see why the heck he's telling us about it.

Once again, he describes a lot of trees but has given us no sense of why any of these things are important or that they relate to anything. Waiting to see the relevance...

2.2 The Progress of the Biblical Understanding of God

Thus far in a future book.

Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Basic Approaches
1.3 History of Biblical Theology
1.4 This Book's Approach

Chapter 2: Theology of God
2.1a The Rule of Faith of God, part 1
2.1b The Rule of Faith of God, part 2

2.2 Progress of the Biblical Understanding of God
1. Many sciences make a distinction between precision and accuracy. If something is inaccurate, it is wrong, but a measurement can be more or less precise. If I am trying to hit the side of a barn with a B-B gun, I probably have a fairly large target in mind.

But say that I have painted a series of concentric circles on the side of the barn, down to a bull's eye that is not very big at all. Precision is a matter of how close I get to the bull's eye. If I hit the outermost circle, I have still hit the target, but my aim is not very precise. My shot is accurate, but it is not precise.

In the same way, let me suggest that Abraham's understanding of God was accurate but not nearly as precise as Moses' understanding of God. Let me further suggest that Isaiah's understanding of God was more precise than Moses'. Then Paul's understanding of God was arguably more precise than Isaiah's. And if you would, the understanding of God in the Nicene Creed is more precise perhaps than even Paul's was.

On one level, these understandings do not contradict each other, but they become more and more precise as God clarified and refined the understanding. Joshua 24:2 tells us that Abraham's father and ancestors were polytheists--they worshiped many gods. Genesis and Exodus suggest that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worshiped the true God, but they did not yet know him as Yahweh. They knew him as El Shaddai or "God Almighty" (cf. Exod. 6:3).

When Abram met Melchizedek in Genesis 14:17, Melchizedek is said to be the priest of El Elyon (14:19), the priest of "God Most High." Although we immediately and rightly assume that this God is in fact Yahweh, the one true God, it is significant to recognize that El Elyon was the king of the gods in the Canaanite pantheon. That is to say, certainly the Canaanites understood this God to be one among many gods.

The point is that while we have more precise understandings because we stand at the end of the canon and the unfolding of revelation, these understandings were not exactly the same for the biblical authors or the individuals mentioned in the Bible. [1] When we hear about "God Most High," we know this is the only God, Yahweh, the one true God. For Abraham, he was the most appropriate object of worship. For Isaiah, he would have been the only appropriate object of worship. For Paul, he is the only God that truly exists, and other so-called gods are demons (cf. 1 Cor. 10:20).

2. Another possibility to consider is the very real possibility that our understanding of the universe has become greater over time. The natural implication is that our sense of the greatness of God has expanded as well. So Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Paul, Athanasius (church father at the Council of Nicaea in AD325) and us today--we all believe that God is the greatest Being that exists. But is it not the case that our sense of what the "greatest" might be has increased exponentially since Abraham?

So the "greatest" God for Abraham would surely have been the most powerful, but what would the most powerful Being have been for him? Isaiah 45 may understand the greatness of God on a level that was beyond anything that Abraham might have imagined. Isaiah 55:9 suggests that God is beyond the capacity of human understanding.

Then the New Testament and the early centuries of Christianity wrestled with the Trinity, which was surely beyond anything the Old Testament authors imagined. Similarly, when the doctrine of creation out of nothing crystallized in the late 100s AD, the understanding of God becomes even greater than is clear in Scripture. Now we understand more precisely God as the creator of all matter and not just the one who shaped the chaos that had always been.

I would personally argue that developments in physics in the last century have suggested a universe that is greater than anything a biblical author or an Aquinas or a Luther could have dreamed. Now space--emptiness itself--is something that God must have created. The scope of the universe, the theory of relativity, the strangeness of the quantum world--our conception of greatness has vastly increased. Accordingly, surely our sense of the greatness of the God who made it all out of nothing has become immensely greater.

3. The rest of this chapter aims to follow the progress of biblical understanding about God as it developed within the canon. We do not engage in this investigation as mere analysts of history. We have a theological presupposition. Our theological presupposition is that these developments were moving toward a goal, namely, the rule of faith about God that we set out at the beginning of this chapter. We thus have a theological end point in mind as we process the history of the biblical texts and the more and less precise theological perspectives along the way.

[1] Various scholars debate whether all the people mentioned in the Bible actually existed in history. Such debates are ultimately irrelevant for our point here. We are asserting by faith that God has been walking with humanity since our beginning and that God has been steadily revealing God-self to us over time. What the precise names and dates were of those with whom he walked are irrelevant to this general sense of this unfolding of revelation.

The Parable of the Managers and Administrators

A righteous king went away and left his land in the hands of certain managers and administrators. A first manager gave away lots of money and engaged in a costly war, and there was a great crisis of money in the land at the end of his time. A second manager and he stabilized the land by rescuing the greatest business holders.

But this left the land in even greater debt. So a group of administrators arose saying, "We must be very careful with our money, and bring our spending under control. This is the most important thing." At one point they even shut down the government, saying, "Even though we have said we will pay our vendors, we must not pay them to bring our spending under control."

Then the people of the land chose a very rich manager, and the religious leaders of the land strongly supported him, because they thought he would give them what they wanted. Like the first manager, he gave away lots of money, principally to his rich friends. Curiously, the administrators who had previously complained about the debt of the land were some of his greatest allies. Not only did they vote to increase the debt, but they voted to increase it tremendously.

At the same time, the third manager determined to kick everyone out of his land he could who was not of his kind. He despised the peoples in his land who did not look like him. When it came time to pay the vendors, another group of administrators said, "We must make a way for people to stay here whose parents brought them to this land as children. They have no other place. We will not vote to pay our vendors until they are taken care of."

To be continued...

Thursday, January 18, 2018

2. Concentrated Hebrews (Celebration of Son 1:5-14)

Doing notes on Hebrews as I teach a class this semester.

I. Sermon Introduction (1:1-2:18)
     A. Exordium (1:1-4)
    _____________________________
    B. Celebration of the Enthroned Son (1:5-14)
    • These verses are sometimes called a "catena" or "chain" of quotations from the Old Testament. 
    • They are structured by way of an inclusio, where words at the beginning and end of a section are similar, saying, "the stuff in the middle goes together." The inclusio are the words, "For to which of the angels did he say at some time" in 1:5 and 13. It's not exactly the same in Greek but strikingly similar.
    • 1:5 expands on 1:4, which speaks of Jesus being given a name greater than the angels. The most logical inference from the flow is that this name is "Son," which of course is more of a title than a name.
    • 1:5-6. The structure of these two verses is 1) quote, 2) and again, quote, 3) and again, quote.
    • 1:5a. This verse quotes Psalm 2, which was a royal psalm but, when read canonically in a fuller sense (sensus plenior), can be taken as a messianic psalm. The king became God's son at the point of his enthronement. So also here, Jesus assumes the throne as God's Son at the time of his exaltation. This timing is supported by the use of this psalm elsewhere (e.g., Acts 13:33) and by the context of 1:3-4.
    • As Christians we believe that Jesus was "eternally begotten of the Father." Jesus has always been God's Son for eternity past. We can believe this fact and yet still hear how Hebrews is talking about Jesus' enthronement as another piece of the Christological puzzle.
    • 1:5b. This is a quote from 2 Samuel 7:14. In its original context, this verse had Solomon in mind--another instance of a king of Israel being thought of as God's son. But in a fuller sense, these words certainly apply to God's greatest Son for all eternity.
    • 1:6. The structure of the quote suggests that the "again" has to do with the fact that this is the third quote and is not talking about when God brings Jesus again into the world at the second coming.
    • It is tempting to think of Jesus' birth as the meaning of 1:6. "Angels we have heard on high." However, the previous two verses have been about Jesus' exaltation, and if we look at 2:5, we can argue that Hebrews speaks of the "inhabited world" in relation to the heavenly, eschatological world. For this reason, we have concluded that 1:6 is thinking about when Jesus entered heaven after accomplishing atonement. The angels of heaven bow down when Jesus is enthroned in heaven as he sits at God's right hand.
    • If you look at Deuteronomy 32:43, you will be puzzled. It reads, "Rejoice you nations... for he will avenge the blood of his servants." Here is one of several indications that the author is a Greek-speaker rather than someone who read the Bible in Hebrew or Aramaic (a minor argument against Paul as author). The Septuagint here reads, "Rejoice, heavens, and let all the sons of God worship him." "Sons of God" is a way of referring to the angels. So the author seems to be following some Greek version of Deuteronomy here. Of course, the Dead Sea Scrolls read, "let all the gods worship him," so there could have been an earlier Hebrew version in play as well.
    • 1:7-12. In Greek, these verses are structured by way of a "men-de" construction. This is an "on the one hand-on the other" type of construction. Thus, 1:7 about the angels is meant to contrast with 1:8-12 about Jesus.
    • 1:7. In light of the contrasts that follow, the main point of this quote (Psalm 104:4) would seem to be that angels are transitory and relate to the creation. The author of Hebrews has flipped the sense of the verse, which originally was, "He makes the winds his messengers..."
    • 1:8-9. The main point of this quote from Psalm 45:6-7 is that, unlike the angels, who are servants whose role is transitory, Jesus is the divine king whose throne is forever.
    • The original psalm was a wedding psalm. The earthly king of Judah is called "God" in a metaphorical sense in Psalm 45, in keeping with the connection between kings and God we have seen in the other quotes. His bride comes out to meet him, along with her virgin companions, and there is hope for children.
    • Jesus is also anointed from among his companions, the brothers (and sisters) of Hebrews 2:11-13. Notice that the quote makes a distinction between Jesus as God and God the Father as Jesus' God: "God, your God."
    • 1:10-12. This quote contrasts with the transitory ministry of the angels and their connection with the earthly. Meanwhile, Jesus grounds the creation. Remember 1:2 has already said that Christ is the one "through whom God made the worlds." The angels meanwhile are associated with winds and flames. 
    • The creation will become old. God will one day wrap it up like a garment. But the years of Jesus as God's Son and as the Lord will never come to an end. His role is eternal. That of the angels is about to change.
    • 1:13. The catena ends with a quote from Psalm 110:1, a key verse behind Hebrews. It is the exaltation to God's right hand verse, one that may have been highly generative in the early church as God helped them understand the resurrection.
    • 1:14. We have here a clear sense of how Hebrews understands the role of angels in God's plan. They are ministering spirits to humans and the earth in the former age until salvation is fully here. After that, we humans will no longer need their ministry, and they can spend all their time worshiping God with us in the heavenly Jerusalem (12:22).

    Jesus choosing people over the Law

    I tweeted/made a Facebook post a couple days ago: "Jesus consistently chose people over the Law." Most agreed and at the moment there are 71 either likes or loves of the post on Facebook with 4 shares.

    1. Of course there was some push-back, perhaps from three directions. First, there are those who ideologically over-emphasize continuity between the testaments. To me there is some inability to read the biblical texts in context here. For example, someone is so used to Hebrews that they think Leviticus would have had no problem with it. As one colleague once told me: "I think if the author of Leviticus were to read Hebrews, he would say, 'Of course.'" I think this is highly unlikely and reflects some inability to hear Leviticus on its own historical terms. Leviticus itself gives us no reason to think that its system of atonement was inadequate or insufficient in any way as a system. For a thousand years Jews thought the Levitical system was in fact the system God installed for all time.

    So a certain degree of contextual unreflectivity is involved when we cannot see how startling a Gospel of John or Ephesians or Hebrews would have been to many Jews when they were hot off the press. This group wishes to say, "The New Testament is simply showing us what was in reality the actual meaning of the Old Testament from the start."

    2. A second group are those who are sympathetic with what we might call the "Jewish roots" movement, for lack of a better word. This is a somewhat sectarian Christian movement (one that could become a cult over time), frequently involving Messianic Jews. If the first group says, "The Old Testament meant what the New Testament says," the second group says, "The New Testament means what the Old Testament says." So the discontinuities between the testaments are not fully appreciated again, but in deference to the Old Testament.

    The tendency here is to miss the fact that Paul and other New Testament Christians like John did in fact disregard parts of the Jewish Law. Romans 14 and Colossians 2 imply that Gentiles need not keep the Jewish Sabbath (even though it is one of the 10 commandments). Jesus and Paul clearly did not think the food laws were binding on Gentile Christians. Paul in effect did not expect Gentile believers to keep any part of the Jewish Law that was "Jew-specific" or a "boundary" law.

    By the way, I heard about another sectarian movement last week in Indiana (another cult waiting to happen). It reminds me of Marcion. It dismisses those parts of the New Testament that it thinks were not written for Gentiles. It is, in effect, a "Paul only" movement. It ignores the Gospels, for example. A contention point is the fact that Colossians 4 seems to indicate that Luke was a Gentile. Basically, it's a rubbish movement.

    3. A third group that pushed back perhaps discerned the reason I posted in the first place. A legalistic strand within Christian America, including my own holiness background, has more in common with the mindset of the biblical Pharisees than with Jesus or Paul. I believe Jesus would approve DACA without a moment's hesitation. I believe this is the true Christian position. If Jesus sat loosely to the Jewish Law, imagine how loosely he would sit to the immigration laws of some random country.

    I do believe that the rule of law is important in general in that it preserves in structural form the fundamental principle of "loving your neighbor as yourself." However, not all civil laws are created equal. We should obey the laws of our land in general in keeping with Romans 13. But this is not an absolute (cf. Acts 4). And there are various options with regard to the consequences of law-breaking.

    4. In any case, I was asked for examples of Jesus putting people over the Law. Here is an annotated list.

    Mark
    Mark was written for Gentiles (sorry, "Paul-only" idiots in Logansport). So we might not be too surprised if it is not worried about Jesus appearing to be a scrupulous Law-keeper.

    a. In Mark 2, Jesus does not respond to the Pharisees, "My disciples aren't breaking the Law by plucking grain on the Sabbath." His response is in effect, "Didn't David break the Law when his fighting men were hungry?" (2:26). In other words, he wasn't concerned about showing that he was a Law-keeper and accepted the assumption of law-breaking.

    b. Of course he ignored the traditions of the elders several times. Eating with sinners (Mark 2 again) and thus making himself unclean, healing on the Sabbath (Mark 3), and letting his disciples eat without washing their hands (Mark 7). We easily dismiss these as "that's just the tradition of the elders," but it would not have felt so easy to dismiss at the time. This would have been experienced as Jesus sitting very loosely to the Jewish Law.

    c. Mark interprets Jesus to declare all foods clean in Mark 7:19. Let's just say that this would have been a surprise to Leviticus. Very shocking at the time! Even many Christians experienced this as a flagrant disregard for the Scriptures. See Galatians 2.

    Matthew
    Unlike Mark, Matthew probably was written primarily with Jewish Christians in view. Matthew doesn't mention that Jesus declared all foods clean when telling about the incident in Mark 7 (cf. Matt. 15). So Matthew does seem concerned to show continuity between Jesus and the Law. However, when it comes to individual instruction in the Law, there is discontinuity:

    d. Jesus' fulfilled understanding of the Law in Matthew 5 modified and is in tension with parts of the Law. The Law allows divorce for any reason. Jesus prohibits it, possibly because it is a form of legalized adultery and thus is abusive toward wives.

    e. The Law says to keep vows (third commandment). Jesus says not to make vows.

    f. The Law says to show no pity but "an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth." Jesus countermands this rule for individuals.

    Luke
    g. The Parable of the Good Samaritan, as I understand it, suggest that the Levite and the priest were inappropriate in letting their concerns for purity trump the need to help a person in need.

    John
    The Gospel of John is a highly symbolic presentation of Jesus, a Message version, if you would. Its author seems to see in Jesus a deeper reality that supercedes practice of the Jewish Law. It also seems to be for a primarily Gentile audience.

    h. In John 10:34, Jesus calls the Law, "your Law," suggesting that the Jewish Law is not "his" Law in some way. This is probably a paraphrase of sorts, but it shows the degree to which John separates Jesus from Judaism.

    i. The symbolism of Jesus turning water for purification into wine in John 2 may symbolize that Jesus' blood replaces the Levitical purification system. We might say fulfills. Leviticus probably wouldn't see it that way.

    j. Jesus suggests to the woman at the well in John 4 that it is not necessary to worship God in Jerusalem. We might say gets at the true reality. Deuteronomy probably wouldn't see it that way.

    k. John 8 probably wasn't in the initial manuscript of John, but in the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus works against enacting the punishment in the Law for a person caught in adultery.

    5. My personal sense is that Jesus was not a scrupulous Law-observer. I'm not suggesting that he was a flagrant Jewish-Law breaker. I'm saying that the trajectory we pick up in the Gospels is of someone who was repeatedly criticized for not being careful in his attention to the Law. Such a trajectory would help explain both Paul's initial resistance to the Jesus movement and the character his Christianity took once he became a Jesus-follower.

    Wednesday, January 17, 2018

    2.1b Rule of Faith cont.

    Thus far in a future book.

    Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
    1.1 Introduction
    1.2 Basic Approaches
    1.3 History of Biblical Theology
    1.4 This Book's Approach

    Chapter 2: Theology of God
    2.1a The Rule of Faith

    4. This is the view of God that Christians have developed in dialog with Scripture, various Christian traditions, their experiences, and their reason. Although various Christians and Christian traditions quibble over the fine points here and there, the vast majority of Christians believe that God is holy, self-sufficient, triune, loving and just, sovereign, eternal, immutable in his nature, creator, spiritual, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

    We might say that these features of God are a kind of "rule of faith." Most Christians would say that these attributes of God are biblical and are derived from Scripture. In reality, the process of their development has been more of a dialog between Christians and Scripture. Philosophical reasoning was a clear feature of early Christian reflection on God in the first few centuries of Christendom. Further, when we encounter passages in the Bible that seem in tension with an attribute like "omniscience," most Christians deploy intellectual coping strategies to try to explain the passages in some other way.

    For example, Genesis 6:6 says that God regretted that he had made humanity. Upon reflection, we realize that this statement conflicts with the notion that God is omniscient and knows everything. If God knew humanity was going to sin, then he cannot truly regret making us. He knew we were going to sin when he made us.

    Nor will it work to deploy the fact that humans sometimes know something with their heads and then feel differently when they know it experientially. This dynamic is a function of human finitude. If God knows all things, then he knows what it is like to experience his universe too. Indeed, if God truly created the world out of nothing, then he created the very possible shape of human experience.

    So we are faced with only a few options. Perhaps Genesis 6 was originally anthropomorphic, knowingly picturing God in human terms. Or perhaps we think of this passage as anthropomorphic while concluding that the author of Genesis would not yet have realized it. Of course some Christians take the passage literally and no longer believe in God's omniscience.

    Our sense is that 1) the author of this passage in Genesis probably did originally understand this statement in 6:6 literally, meaning that this author did not yet have a full understanding of God's omniscience. Yet also, 2) as Christians we take the statement metaphorically, because as Christians we have come to believe that God does in fact know all things, including the future. We take Genesis 6:6 as a step along God's journey with Israel toward an understanding of full omniscience within later Jewish and Christian belief.

    5. The absolute, monotheistic sense of God has developed as Christian thinkers throughout the centuries have reflected on the basic truths mentioned above. Most experts would suggest that some details were not yet fully in place at the time of the New Testament. The Trinity would perhaps be the most obvious example of a belief that may not yet have been fully conceptualized in the first century.

    The sense of creation out of nothing is another example of a doctrine that may not have been fully crystallized until the end of the second century. If so, then the Christian sense of God as creator could not yet have been fully mature within the time frame of the Bible itself. As Christians, we read the Bible with this understanding of God as creator, but experts of the original meanings may not think that this understanding was fully present in the minds of the original authors.

    As modern science expands and refines our general sense of the creation, our sense of God as creator expands and develops too. For example, what are the implications of modern physics for our sense of God? As relativity has shaped our sense of time, we are bound to look at the question of God and time a little differently.

    It is not so much that such thoughts contradict Scripture as that they push us to aspects of God that would have been incomprehensible in ancient times. The principle that Scripture was, first, God revealing Godself to the original authors and audiences of the Bible to speak to their context implies that the understanding of God in the Bible has a great deal to do with ancient worldviews. God met them where they were just as God meets us where we are.

    6. The pages that follow will make clearer exactly what we are saying here in concrete form. We have begun with the end in view. We have set out in this section the general aspects of a Christian view of God. This section is titled the "rule of faith" because these are the views that generally reflect the consensus of Christians everywhere throughout the centuries.

    So we can listen to Old Testament theologies of God in context as well as New Testament theologies of God. We need not feel pressured to twist these texts to make them say exactly what the consensus came to be. We can be honest in our historical and biblical scholarship. We can see these individual texts as points along God's journey with his people on earth, meeting them where they were within their understandings of the world.

    But we do not stop there, with how God revealed Godself to ancient Israel or to individual New Testament authors. We take a "canonical" perspective on how God was shaping these texts toward a goal, namely, the understanding of God we have presented in this section. We believe we know where God was leading his people, and we can read the biblical texts in this canonical light.

    Tuesday, January 16, 2018

    3. Concentrated Hebrews (2:1-18)

    So far in this series:

    I. Sermon Introduction (1:1-2:18)
         A. Exordium (1:1-4)
         B. Celebration of the Enthroned Son (1:5-14)
    _____________________________
    C. Background of Salvation (2:1-18)
         1. exhortation interruption 1 (2:1-4)
    • 2:1-4 is an interruption of the flow of teaching (the exposition) with a warning to the audience (exhortation). Hebrews regularly alternates between teaching and preaching. This helps keep the attention of the audience.
    • 2:2-3. The argument is a "lesser to greater" argument (also known as a qal wahomer argument in Hebrew or an a minore ad minore argument in Latin, also an a fortiori argument). The sense is that if you were punished for disobeying the old covenant, you will really be punished for ignoring the new one. 
    • This goes against the Protestant sensibilities of many. This is not "in the new covenant we get away with things we didn't get away with in the old." Rather, the sense is that we should be much more careful in the new than the old, because the stakes are higher. The punishment for disobeying the new covenant--for the people of God--is even greater than the punishment was for Israel in the old covenant.
    • 2:2. The idea that angels mediated the Law to Moses is mentioned three times in the New Testament (here, Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19).
    • 2:3. This verse does not sound like Paul. Paul typically argued that he received his revelation directly from the Lord and that he was a first tier apostle. This verse seems to put the author in a second tier.
    • 2:4. We remember that miracles, signs, and wonders were a regular feature of the early church.
         2. the story of salvation
    • 2:5-18 gives us the logic of salvation, the background to the subsequent argument, a general sense of why atonement was necessary.
    • 2:5-9 seems to have the following train of thought: 1) God created humanity to have glory and honor in the creation but 2) humanity does not have this status--all things are not under its feet. The reason for this fact may be found in Romans 3:23--"All have sinned and are lacking the glory of God." 3) Therefore Jesus became human to fulfill this destiny. 4) Having suffered death for everyone, he can finally lead humanity to glory.
    • The logic of these verses seems to match the inner logic of Paul, perhaps suggesting that the author of Hebrews had some connection to the Pauline circle. The mention of Timothy in 13:23 may support this sense. 
    • 2:5. Some take these verses purely Christologically--solely in reference to Jesus. However, the inner logic, not to mention the original meaning of Psalm 8, suggests that humanity in general is first in view. This fact implies that humans will rule in the coming age alongside Jesus and that they will be superior to angels like Christ.
    • 2:9. Jesus tasted death potentially for everyone. This seems to connect with the fact that Jesus has defeated the Devil, the one with the power of death (2:14).
    • 2:10-13. These verses indicate the solidarity of Jesus with humanity, another indication that humanity has been in view with the quoting of Psalm 8.
    • 2:10. The perfection of Jesus in Hebrews has to do with him being made complete in relation to his ability to function as a priest and sacrifice. He is "locked and loaded" to bring atonement through his suffering.
    • God is the one for whom and through whom all things exist.
    • 2:11. Jesus sanctifies. He sanctifies, which has a sense here of purifying and cleansing, through his blood.
    • 2:12. This verse quotes Psalm 22, which was a highly generative psalm for the earliest Christians, likely having been quoted by Jesus from the cross. We are not surprised then that the author of Hebrews heard verse 22 on the lips of Jesus.
    • 2:13. A key take-away here is that Jesus had faith in God just as we are to put faith in him.
    • 2:14. This is Hebrews' incarnation verse. Jesus took on blood and flesh. 
    • This is the Christus Victor angle on atonement. Jesus defeated the Devil with his death.
    • There may be a "last Adam" logic in the background here like Romans 5. Death entered the world through Adam. Jesus frees us from death.
    • 2:16 is a curious verse that makes us think back to Hebrews 1. Were some in the audience suggesting that Jesus had come as an angel? Are there hints of early Gnosticism here or the precedents of Gnosticism? Were some of the audience worshiping angels as in one interpretation of Colossians 2:18 (not mine, actually)? At the very least, Hebrews associates angels with the administration of the old covenant. I am open to the possibility that the church was experiencing some rumblings of an angel Christology.
    • "Seed of Abraham" probably includes Gentiles here. Otherwise Hebrews would seem to exclude Gentiles from salvation. This suggests a time after Paul when this question was no longer much in play--at least not for the author and audience. Earlier, Paul has to argue that Gentiles are part of the seed of Abraham (Rom. 4:16). Hebrews assumes it. So once again, we have a connection to Paul but seemingly an extension of Paul, post-Pauline situation. I think it is a minor data point toward a Gentile audience--that Gentiles can be included and assumed to be in the seed of Abraham without comment or argument.
    • 2:17-18. These may very well be the key verses of Hebrews. It is also the first mention of Jesus as high priest in the sermon. 
    • These verses imply that Jesus was fully human. He identifies with human suffering and temptation. We therefore have a priest who sympathizes with us.

    Monday, January 15, 2018

    1. Concentrated Hebrews (1:1-4)

    A couple months back I blogged my study notes on Romans. Who knows? I may self-publish them as a study Bible someday. These notes relate to the content I teach in relation to the book.

    This semester I'm teaching Hebrews and General Epistles. So here is the beginning of concentrated notes on Hebrews.
    ________________________
    1. Hebrews 1:1-4
    • Hebrews does not begin like a letter. It does not tell us its author or audience. In fact, Hebrews has numerous uncertainties: 1) unknown author, 2) uncertain destination, 3) uncertain ethnicity of recipients, 4) unknown point of origin, 4) uncertain date, 5) debated reasons for writing.
    • A majority of Hebrews experts are comfortable with a sense that this document is a "sent sermon," that is, a sermon that was sent to its destination as a letter. 
    • These verses are the introduction to the sermon, sometimes called the "exordium" or the "proemium" of Hebrews.
    • They are one sentence in Greek, one of the most beautiful Greek sentences in the New Testament. The style is generally called a "periodic" style for its balance and beauty.
    • 1:1-2. The first few words use the same letter in Greek five times (p sound), a literary feature known as "assonance."
    • The first two verses divide up all of history into two ages. "Formerly" and "these last days." Formerly, God spoke to the fathers through the prophets. In these last days, God has spoken to us through a Son. In the former age, God spoke in many and various ways. In these last days, God spoke in one way--through his Son.
    • "The last days" is a category of the prophets, especially Jeremiah. We are meant to connect this phrase to the age of the new covenant as in Jeremiah 31, which is quoted in Hebrews 8.
    • The term, "Son" is a royal term in addition to being a familial term. The primary sense of Jesus' sonship in Hebrews 1 is that of king, "Son of God," as well as heir. 
    • Jesus stands at the beginning and end of history. He is the heir of all things at the end of history, but he is also the one "through whom God made the worlds." Given that Hebrews more typically speaks of God as creator (2:10; 3:4; 11:3). This suggests that 1:2 is speaking somewhat metaphorically of Jesus as creator, probably likening him to God's wisdom (see verse 3).
    • 1:3. Some might suggest this material as hymnic or brought in from somewhere else because of the formulaic "who" followed by poetic statements about Jesus. However, it is also possible that the author himself composed it.
    • It seems certain that the author was male because of the masculine singular participle in 11:32.
    • Jesus is the "reflection of glory" and "stamp of substance." The second item is passive (stamp) suggesting the first is "reflection" rather than "radiance." The first statement is likely an allusion to Wisdom 7:26, where it also arguably has a sense of reflection. The fact that Wisdom 7:26 is talking about God's wisdom supports the sense that 1:2 has God's wisdom as the agent of creation in view.
    • "bringing all things by the word of his power" may be an allusion to the logos, also an agent of creation in Jewish logos speculation. "Bringing" may have a sense of new creation.
    • "he sat on the right hand of Majesty" - an allusion to Psalm 110:1 and Jesus' "session" at God's right hand when he had finished his atoning work, "having made a purification for sins."
    • 1:4. "having become greater than the angels." Jesus became lower than the angels for a little while (2:9) when he "partook of blood and flesh" (2:14). Now that he has accomplished atonement, he has been exalted above them.
    • He as much greater than the angels as his inherited name. This inherited title would seem to be "Son," as we will see in the next verse (1:5). It is the title of a king.

    Saturday, January 13, 2018

    2.1 Biblical Theology of God: The Rule of Faith

    Every time I teach biblical theology I think, "I should write my own book." So I might put some fragments here as I have opportunity. I have no book contract and have too many things to do to write extensively, but I want to put some depth probes here.
    __________________
    Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
    1.1 Introduction
    1.2 Basic Approaches
    1.3 History of Biblical Theology
    1.4 This Book's Approach

    Chapter 2: Theology of God
    2.1 Basic Beliefs
    1. The Christian understanding of God is relatively uncontroversial in its most fundamental aspects. For example, the idea that "God is one" is fundamental not only to Christianity but to Judaism and even Islam. We will see later in the chapter that the understanding of what monotheism means developed some within the pages of Scripture and in the first couple centuries of the church. [textbox] Modern cosmology may help us refine our understanding even further. Nevertheless, the central doctrine goes back to Deuteronomy 6:4.

    God's attributes or characteristics are often divided into two categories. These are his "communicable" attributes (characteristics that humans share to some degree) and his "incommunicable" attributes (characteristics that are unique to God alone). However, we might also divide his attributes into his transcendent and economic attributes. Transcendent means apart from or beyond the creation. "Economic" in this means God in relation to the creation, the way God administrates the universe. [1]

    2. We might mention seven attributes as characteristic of God in his being apart from the creation: 1) holiness, 2) self-sufficiency, 3) triunity, 4) love, 5) freedom, 6) eternity, 7) immutability.

    ...

    3. Similarly, we might mention six attributes of God that reflect the way God relates to the creation: 1) creator, 2) spirituality, 3) omnipresence, 4) omnipotence, 5) omniscience, 6) justice.

    ...

    [textbox] Monotheism is the belief that there is only one God who stands alone and distinct from everything else that exists.

    [1] As a side note, we might argue that all of our knowledge of God is in relation to his creation. That everything we know about God we know by analogy to the creation.

    Friday, January 12, 2018

    Friday Science: Susskind's Quantum Mechanics

    1. About two years ago, I bought Leonard Susskind's Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum. I'll confess that I have found it an incredibly frustrating book. As I've read and reread the first few chapters, I have the repeated feeling that all this book needs is a few more paragraphs in each chapter--and maybe some rearrangement of the order of topics--and it would be incredibly helpful. It seems that he has followed a logical order but not a good pedagogical order.

    It's like you're in one part of the forest and he's telling you about a set of trees in another part of the forest. And he's not even talking about trees in his part of the forest that are next to each other, but there's one tree he's seen that relates somehow to another important tree he's seen. But he's none too clear even about how those two trees are connected to each other... in some unspecified part of the forest you're not in.

    What you need is directions to get from your part of the forest to the part he's in. Then you need to know how to get from one of the trees he's mentioning to another. This height of unnecessary confusion makes me angry, because it's completely avoidable. I'm convinced I could do much better and probably will.

    For the record, I don't think it's intentional. I think Susskind really wants to be clear. He just knows the forest too well to tell someone in words how to get around in it, at least someone who's never taken a course in linear algebra. I've wondered if the jokes at the beginning of the chapters are revealing. They seem to demonstrate an inability to grasp what is funny.

    But I want to force myself through the book. Richard Feymann once told his sister to read and reread the math and science she didn't understand. I'm convinced this is the way to go with many difficult subjects and authors. So here I go again with Susskind.

    2. Chapter one should not be the first chapter. At least a great deal of what is in here should not be first. Most people need to know why they need to know something for the something to stick and make sense. So I have come to realize that there is some linear algebra in this first chapter. It uses notation that Paul Dirac introduced to quantum mechanics I think in the 1940s.

    Wrong place to begin. He's thinking. We learn bras and kets, then we use them in later chapters. But bras and kets make little sense when you have no idea what they're for. I know complex numbers, but for someone who doesn't, it would be better to introduce them when we need to know them. Show us the problem they help solve and introduce them there.

    3. So what is helpful to take away from chapter one at the beginning? Here is some stuff from the beginning of the chapter:
    • The idea of state is fundamental to quantum physics. For the moment, let's talk about the most fundamental state as being either on or off, +1 or -1. Let's call this "two-state system" a one bit system, a quantum bit or "qubit."
    • We could call this "either on or off" the quantum spin. It's not a literal spin.
    • Experiments are never gentle. You measure one thing, you mess up everything else. You've lost information from the other place because you've chosen to measure this place. (think Heisenburg's Uncertainty Principle)
    • What is predictable on the quantum level is not the individual outcome of some measurement, but the statistical average. Individual outcomes are not predictable, but the averages are.
    • The quantum mechanical notation for the statistical average is Dirac's bracket notation: 〈Q〉 .
    4. Now he gets into some linear algebra.
    • The "space of states," the possible values or states of something is a "vector space" in quantum physics. (linear algebra) Another name for such a "space" is a Hilbert space. There could be an infinite number of elements. This is all very abstract. For the moment, I'm just picturing a box you put stuff in, and different boxes will only take a certain number of things.
    • The elements of a vector space are called kets or ket-vectors. The notation Dirac used for these is ∣A〉
    • The elements of a ket are often a column of complex numbers. We are being set up for matrix multiplication. 
    • The "row" matrix that is pit against the "column" matrix of the ket is the bra. The bra looks like this: 〈B∣ . 
    • bra-ket. First in the row multiplied by the first in the column and so forth. The inner product of two of these vectors is the result of this sort of operation.
    • A vector is normalized if its product with itself is 1.
    • A vector is orthogonal if its product with itself is 0.
    • The dimension of a vector space is the maximum number of orthogonal vectors in that space. These vectors are orthonormal bases in relation to each other.
    • Finally, there is something called the Kronecker delta. As far as I can see, he never tells us what this is. I know the name from somewhere else. The Kronecker delta is symbolized as δij . This function is 0 if i and j have different values and 1 if i and j have the same value.
    Why do we need to know these things? He doesn't tell us. Very frustrating.

    Friday, January 05, 2018

    Friday Science: First Semester Physics in 20 Equations

    I like physics. My son's taking high school physics and faces the AP exam at the end of the year. It occurred to me this morning that first semester high school physics really boils down to understanding the following 20 equations/concepts:

    1. Know the basic units (lengths, time, mass) and their decimal forms (kilo-, centi-, milli-).

    2. Know how to cancel out labels using multiplication, division, etc.

    3. Know soh-cah-toa for vectors
    (sin a = opposite/hypotenuse; cos a = adjacent/hypotenuse; tan = opposite/adjacent)
    ___________________________
    The Big Five Motion Equations
    4. d = vt

    5. v2 = v1 + at 

    6. d = v1t + 1/2 at2

    7. d = (v1 + v2)/2 * t

    8. v22 = v12 + 2ad

    (Substitute g for a and you have free fall equations.)
    ___________________________
    Newton's Laws
    9. First Law - a body in motion wants to stay in motion (so horizontal motion is constant if there is no friction).

    10. Second Law - F = ma

    11. Third Law - For every action there's an equal and opposite reaction: m1a1 = m2a2

    12. Conservation of momentum, where p = mv (momentum = mass x velocity)

    13. Impulse: F x t = mΔv (= change in momentum)

    Friction Forces
    14. The formula for the force to get something moving is Fstatic = mustatic * normal force. F = μn (The normal force is simply the reverse of weight, mg).

    15. The formula for the frictional force of something moving is Fkinetic = mukinetic * normal force.
    F = μn

    Energy Equations
    16. Kinetic Energy: K = 1/2 mv2

    17. Potential Energy: U = mgh

    18. There is a conservation of energy. If there is no friction, potential energy converts completely to kinetic and vice versa. If some is lost as friction or heat, the total is still the same.

    19. Work done equals the difference between the start and end values of kinetic energy (work energy equation: W = K2 - K1

    20. W = Fd (work = force x distance)

    Monday, January 01, 2018

    New Year's Resolutions 2018

    Another year, resolution time.

    Looking Back
    1. Books I read and reviewed this year.
    2. Things I wrote
    3. And other things
    • I became Dean of the School of Theology and Ministry officially in July. Some thoughts. I think it's a job for either 1) people who are ambitious, 2) people who are servants, or often 3) people who like administration. I'm not feeling particularly much like 1 or 3 these days.
    • I preached two or three times this year, spoke at the Festival of Preaching. Got sick and so didn't get to deliver this one. Here's the audio of my chapel sermon.
    Looking Forward
    1. After 13 years of blogging, I almost stopped blogging in September. It would be hard to express how discouraging I have found this past year on multiple levels. I love sharing ideas. I blog because I love sharing ideas. It is no coincidence that I am a preacher/teacher. God often calls us to what we love or we find that we love what God calls us to.

    But this year has knocked the wind out of my sails. And of course I've been extremely busy.

    So I don't plan on resuming daily posts. Maybe one or two a week. I'll probably do explanatory notes on Hebrews and the General Epistles as I teach that class. My Monday reading group is doing a book called The Evangelicals. Might post some summaries of it. Who knows?

    2. I still have the inductive Bible study book to finish. Must get it finished this year. I might do more installments of the Gabriel series. Plenty of books I'd love to write but who cares. Book writing is for the famous, the scholar, and the big-mouthed.

    3. Here are my science and math goals.

    4. How about a goal of 6 miles a week of running, at least until it warms up? Then 15 miles a week.

    Happy New Year!

    Sunday, December 31, 2017

    2017 Year End Analytics

    I hit a brick wall in September. I hardly posted this fall after 13 years of steady blogging. The desire to transmit is a desire to share with fellow truth-seekers and perchance to convince. But to me this has been a discouraging year for truth and hope in the world, the church, and elsewhere.

    I may still self-publish my funniest and most annoying thoughts from 2017.

    Nevertheless:

    1. Unsurprisingly, my most trafficked posts were the same old ones:
    • Socrates' to know the good quote (2012)
    • Wesleyans and baptism (2011)
    • socially-constructed identity (2010)
    • sermon in shoes song (2012)
    • beware of thayer's (2014)
    • why William Jennings Bryan was opposed to evolution (2008)
    • famous empiricists (2008)
    • free wesleyan commentary online (2013)
    2. Most popular from this year:
    3. Most popular tweets of the year:
    • With 4759 impressions, a chart I tweeted on the dates when Confederate monuments were erected won the year.
    • In the first part of the year, a tweet suggesting that democracy requires an educated electorate received 2726 impressions.
    4. Most popular YouTube videos:
    • Sounds of ancient Greek letters (11,186 views)
    • Connecting words in Hebrew (10,578 views, 71,851 minutes of watching)
    • Exegetical research (2,059)
    • Greek Participles (2286)
    • Greek Verb (4282)
    • Overall of Greek (1874)
    • Philosophy of history (2306)
    • Several Hebrew videos in the 2000s

    Friday, December 29, 2017

    Friday Science: The precise definition of a limit

    Next week my revised physics/calculus/chemistry monthly plan kicks in. The end of the year goal is to plug a leak in my calculus videos--this one and one more.

    The Precise Definition of a Limit

    Gabriel's Diary: The Incarnation (first novella)

    I don't know when I first started trying to write a novel. There was the superhero novel in college and seminary. There was the faith struggle novel after seminary. There was my version of The Matrix before The Matrix. I've started over 60 novels by now, but never finished one.

    Till now.

    Here's my first novella. 70 pages. Started it December 17. Finished it yesterday (Dec 28). Twelve days. It could be the first in several entries from Gabriel's Diary.

    Here are a couple paragraphs to give you its strange flavor:

    1. "I, Gabriel, am a five-dimensional being. Most angels are only four dimensional. They of course inhabit the three dimensions that humans can apprehend. Then there is a fourth dimension that is the essence of angelic being. The Jews used to call it the second heaven, the second sky. You would say it is not in your universe, yet it gives your universe a sense of time...

    "In this universe God also has a time, but it is neither the time of the angels nor that of other creatures. All of human time is as a moment in the throne room, in the third sky. The throne room is the eternal now of the universe. God hides most of the future from the archangels when they are in the divine Presence. But Trinity sees all times at once. This is how God can both see the future and yet not cause it. God knows it because Trinity has seen it."

    2. "We do not believe that a king is coming at all," said the high priest Simon, who was a Boethusian, a sect closely related to the Sadducees. "It is God’s will for you to reign, Herod, and for the temple to be the center of Israel.

    "A king may come again one day to restore the kingdom to Israel," a Pharisee known as Hillel said to Herod, "but God will do it in his own time. If these men have heard from God, they will find what they are looking for, whether we help them or not. If they are not from God, then their search will yield nothing."
    _____________________________________________

    Paperback Version                          Kindle Version
                                

    Thursday, December 28, 2017

    Schenck Family History

    I did quite a bit of research here several years ago on my family tree. Tried a novel approach for a while as well. Feels like I should seal up that work somehow.

    Let me try an outline to see if I can get going.

    1. Ken Schenck

    Twentieth Century
    2. Lee and Helen Schenck
    3. Dorsey and Esther Schenck
    4. Harry and Verna Shepherd

    Nineteenth Century
    5. William and Jane Schenck
    6. Samuel and Margaret Dorsey
    7. David and Eva Miller
    8. Samuel and Elizabeth Wise
    9. Eli and Lucinda Shepherd
    10. George and Sarah Rich
    11. James and Mary Walls
    12. Champion and Cassandra Shelburn

    Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries
    13. Jamestown - Thomas and Elizabeth Shelburne (1607)
    14. New Amsterdam - Roelof and Neeltje Schenck (1650)
    15. Pennsylvania - Solomon and Jane Shepherd (1730)
    15. Maryland - Edward and Anne Darcy (1638)
    16. Maryland - Johann and Susanna Mueller (1727)
    17. Maryland - Franz and Maria Weiss (1750)
    18. North Carolina - Jacob and Ann Rich (1700s)

    Friday, December 22, 2017

    Friday Science: Looking Back, Looking Forward

    This one's going to be a little weird.

    Another semester done. Did quite a bit of calculus, physics, and chemistry this fall helping Sophie and Tom with homework. Got some problems right, others wrong. However, Duolingo and work have crowded out my personal goals with math and science textbooks.

    1. About 2010ish, my version of mid-life crisis was to finish some of the math and science I started in college before my call to ministry. Eventually I settled on three university texts to work through:
    My initial hope was to get through these texts before I turned 50. That was a six or so year goal I didn't finish. Not even close.

    2. In early 2010, I started uploading videos I had made to YouTube. Initially, YouTube wouldn't allow you to upload a video longer than 10 minutes. But in 2012 the limits were gone and I started uploading videos I'd made several years earlier, including this Greek one (that Greeks hate) with over 61,000 views and this algebra one with over 43,000 views.

    My first math video was on implicit differentiation (chap 3, that's how far I'd gotten in Stewart by then doing a page a day) and my first physics one was on Work (chap. 6). Those early ones were pretty rough because I was just getting my head back into math and science. I'd have to go back and do the chapters I'd already read.

    Today I recorded a calculus video on the Squeeze Theorem. I'm about two videos then from catching up with the second chapter the gap in my calculus videos. Still have a little to finish in the fourth chapter.

    3. Well, still have about 60 chapters left. Here's a suggested schedule for next year, a chapter a month:
    • January, chap 11 of chemistry (intermolecular forces)
    • February, chap 13 of chemistry (solutions)
    • March, chap 14 of chemistry (kinetics)
    • April, chap 15 of chemistry (equilibrium)
    • May, chap 20 of chemistry (electrochemistry)
    • June, chap 17 of physics (Temperature)
    • July, chap 6 of calculus (applications of integration)
    • August, chap 18 of physics (Thermal properties of matter)
    • September, chap 5 of chemistry (thermochemistry)
    • October, chap 19 of physics (1st Law of Thermodynamics)
    • November, chap 7 of calculus (inverse functions)
    • December, chap 20 of physics (2nd Law of Thermodynamics)
    4. By the way, here's a fictional picture I drew of the universe for fun.