Friday, September 27, 2019

Where are they now?

This piece by John Fea in the Washington Post is definitely worth reading. Here's a snippet of the last three paragraphs:
Like the Old Testament prophet Nathan who confronted King David for committing adultery with Bathsheba, Campolo and MacDonald entered the president’s “court” as pastors — Christian leaders charged with the task of calling out sin and facilitating spiritual healing.

It's hard to imagine something similar happening should Congress impeach Trump. The evangelical leaders he surrounds himself with are flatterers who are not likely to confront the president’s sin. They need Trump to continue to deliver on their agenda. I imagine most of them will affirm Trump’s belief that he has “done nothing wrong” and perhaps offer a lesson about the demonic forces seeking to undermine his presidency.

But even if the court evangelicals speak truth to power by confronting Trump for his failures of character, their words would probably fall on deaf ears. Unlike Clinton, who acknowledged his life was a mess and cried out for spiritual help, Trump, for all the lip service he pays to God, has denied any need of forgiveness in his life.

That says it all. And that's one of the main reasons I haven't called myself evangelical since the early 2000s.

Remember, judgment begins in the house of God. I don't often agree with Al Mohler (I think this is the second time), but he was right when he warned that judgment was coming on the evangelical movement because of hypocrisy (he was specifically addressing the case of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, but he also knew it ranged further than that.)

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Listen to the voice of the words of YHWH...

In the Hebrew text Samuel says: “and now listen to the voice of the words of YHWH” (1 Sam 15:1).8 This seems to be a peculiar way of constructing the phrase, since the command “listen to the words of YHWH” would seem sufficient. The inclusion of “voice,” however, may be important in terms of evoking resonances later in the chapter, when Samuel hears the voice of sheep among the Israelites (15:14), when he accuses Saul of disobeying YHWH’s voice (15:22–23), and when Saul confesses that he yielded to the people’s voice (15:24). Furthermore, the catchwords “voice” (קוֺל [qôl]) and “listen/obey” (שׁמע [šm']) connect the instruction to destroy the Amalekites with the emphasis, prevalent in ch. 12, placed upon listening to God’s voice as a prerequisite for a successful monarchy under God (esp. 1 Sam 12:14–15). Israel and its leader should live in obedience to YHWH and his voice—a fundamental feature of Israel’s life, exemplified most concisely in the book of Deuteronomy (e.g. Deut 13:5; 15:4–5; 26:17),11 and seemingly finding its way also into the construal of Israel’s kingship in 1 Sam 15.—The Unfavored, pages 152–53

Whom do you trust?

OK, aside from God. You thought this was going to be a devotional post, didn't you? Well, since all truth is God's truth, in a way it is. But, I'm thinking more specifically about medical research reporting. In case you haven't noticed, a lot of it seems contradictory. One week you should eat lots of this or that, the next week eating too much of this or that will kill you! Whom do you trust?

There's a website called that is not funded by the big Pharma companies or by big medicine; instead it is funded through donations. Check it out! And lest you think the media intentionally mislead you (as some high-raking political figures would have you think), read this post from today. Seems the problem begins a lot closer to the source—the researchers themselves and the sources of their funding. But ultimately, it's also what gets published. This final paragraph of the cited article sums it up:

I think the biggest problem with the way the media reports on medicine, though, is the choice of which stories are covered. In 2003, for instance, SARS and bioterrorism killed less than a dozen people, yet generated over a hundred thousand media reports, which is far more than those covering the actual greatest threats to our lives and health. In fact, ironically, “the more commonplace the cause of death, the less likely it is to be covered by the mass media.” Our leading killer is heart disease, yet it can be prevented, treated, and even reversed with diet and lifestyle changes—now that’s what should be front page news.

Monday, September 16, 2019

You will make a fool of yourself

The study of any language—Greek, Latin, Hebrew, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Taino—opens the mind, gives you a window onto another culture, and reminds you that there is a larger world out there and different ways of saying things, hearing things, seeing things. It always distresses me to hear someone say, “I’m no good at foreign languages,” or demand “English for me, dear.” In learning a foreign language, you have to humble yourself, admit your ignorance, be willing to look stupid. We learn a language by making mistakes. Or anyway I do.—Mary Norris, Greek to Me Adventures of the Comma Queen, 68

<idle musing>
I always told my students that I was going to make mistakes, just as they would. In some ways is was a game to see if they could catch my mistakes. More than once, they did. Learning in general, and languages especially, means you are going to make mistakes. Admit them, learn from them, and move on.
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The battle belongs to the LORD

The section 1 Sam 14:6–15 thus reveals Jonathan’s rationale for his courageous action and its outcome. He relies on YHWH, for whom the smallness and ill-equipped nature of Israel’s army presents no problem. Accompanied by his faithful armor-bearer, Jonathan devises a sign that assures him of God’s favor and as a result he attacks the Philistines. While Jonathan’s attack was a blow to the Philistine camp, the panic created by God is what provided the key difference in the ensuing battle.—The Unfavored, page 138

Monday, September 09, 2019

Nothing new under the sun

Indeed, rural abandonment has often been a serious and significant consequence of urban agglomeration throughout human history.… This decline in rural lifeways may have critically affected agricultural production, diminishing returns, placing further stress on an inflexible multitiered settlement system, which then ultimately collapsed under its own overmilitarized weight and a deteriorating natural environment.—Melissa Kennedy, "Horizons of Cultural Connectivity: North-South Interactions During the Early Bronze Age IV," in New Horizons in the Study of the Early Bronze III and Early Bronze IV of the Levant, edited by Suzanne Richard (Eisenbrauns, forthcoming).

<idle musing>
Nope. It's not describing Rome, although it could be. And it's not describing the Hittite Empire, although it could be. And, it's not a prophecy about the United States, although it could be. It's describing the decline of urban life in the southern Levant in the Early Bronze Age—wich predates all of those by at least a thousand years.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. And those of us who do, are doomed to watch others repeat it while we watch on, trying vainly to warn others of their folly. No wonder Qohelet (the preacher in Ecclesiastes) said all is vanity. : (
</idle musing>

Thursday, September 05, 2019

A Good Beginning

Saul is a suitable candidate for Israel’s throne not only from a human point of view, but he is also chosen by God. Samuel, having been instructed by YHWH, anoints Saul and sends him on a peculiar journey full of unusual signs—an excursion which also places the newly anointed leader under Samuel’s tutelage. These signs gradually locate Saul within the sphere of divine activity and in the end seem to transform him into a different kind of man (1 Sam 10:6, 9). The Spirit’s empowerment he experiences among a circle of prophets in 10:10–13 seems to be a foretaste of his Spirit-prompted action in ch. 11, where he rescues the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead from their Ammonite oppressors (11:6).—The Unfavored, page 120

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Is this the one?

Saul’s name (שָאוּל [šāʾûl) means “asked for,” which may immediately raise the reader’s expectation that Saul could be the person for whom the elders had asked in 1 Sam 8:10, in terms of their plea for a king. The verb also occurs seven times in chs. 1 and 2, during the episode in which the barren Hannah asks for a child—then receives, and later gives up again, Samuel (1:17 [×2], 20, 27, 28 [×2]; 2:20).—The Unfavored, page 120 n. 5