1. Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, page 118:
By the way, I am not revealing anything new in this chapter. Nineteen centuries ago, Jesus said: “Agree with thine adversary quickly.” In other words, don’t argue with your customer or your husband or your adversary. Don’t tell him he is wrong, don’t get him stirred up, but use a little diplomacy.
Carnegie usually treats the Bible as a part of the wisdom of the ages, which encompasses Socrates, Confucius, Zoroastrians, and others. But are Carnegie’s principles consistent with the Bible? Carnegie teaches that we’re to be diplomatic and let others talk about themselves. I’ve heard preachers take swipes at Carnegie’s approach. One preacher was talking about Elijah, who could be pretty bold in his criticisms of King Ahab. This preacher remarked, “Elijah obviously didn’t read How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
Indeed, a prominent element of the biblical tradition is that false prophets tell people what they want to hear, whereas true prophets speak the truth, often in the form of a rebuke. In Luke 6:26, Jesus says, “Woe to you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets” (KJV). II Timothy 3:12 states that all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. I’ve heard preachers say that, if we’re truly living godly lives, we won”t be all that popular, for people would resent us for our righteousness. And so there’s a trend in Christianity that says that the godly will not win friends and influence people.
Yet, we see other trends as well. The Book of Proverbs is about how we can win friends, avoid conflict, and impress kings. Wisdom literature was the How to Win Friends and Influence People of ancient times. And Luke 2:52 affirms that Jesus grew in favor with God and man.
Dale Carnegie’s book is about giving and putting others before ourselves, which, paradoxically, can actually be a means to our own elevation. When we practice biblical principles, that can attract people to us. Yet, the Bible also suggests that it can repel people as well.
2. Robert Heinlein, Sixth Column, pages 106-107:
The Sixth Column, a group of Americans that is resisting Pan-Asian conquerors of the United States, is operating under the guise of a religious group. According to this religion that the Sixth Column contrives, God has a thousand mysterious attributes and relates to each class and people-group in a different way. There is Lord Mota, who acts through Dis, the Destroyer, as Tamar, the Lady of Mercy, intercedes for worshippers. This religion also does humanitarian work, which appeals to the Pan-Asians, who have a number of poor and sick people in their midst.
Alec is an American who is reluctant to go along with this religion, for he doesn’t want to do anything in the name of a false God. Ardmore responds to him as follows:
“But is it a false God? Do you think God cares very much what name you call Him as long as the work you perform is acceptable to Him? Now mind you…I don’t say that this so-called temple we have erected here is necessarily a House of the Lord, but isn’t the worship of God a matter of how you feel in your heart rather than the verbal forms and the ceremonials used?”
Ardmore’s point appears to be that the Sixth Column is helping the poor and the sick, while also fighting for the freedom of the United States. Wouldn’t Alec be honoring God by doing these things, even if it’s in the name of a made-up religion?
Ardmore then lays things on the line for Alec. If Alec doesn’t want to participate in a false religion, then Ardmore will understand, for Ardmore doesn’t want anyone to violate his or her conscience. But, if that is what Alec decides, then Alec can’t participate in any activity of the Sixth Column, including cooking. Alec is either in or he’s out.
This reminds me of excuses I have heard for (say) working on the Sabbath: “God wants me to provide for myself, right? We’re allowed to do good on the Sabbath day. Well, what’s wrong with helping myself, or my family?” I can envision Christians in the Roman empire saying the same sort of thing, as they were told to offer incense to a pagan deity.
I don’t judge people for using Ardmore-like excuses. There’s a degree of logic in what Ardmore is saying: In his attempt to honor God, was Alec keeping himself from fighting for principles that were consistent with God’s character? Sometimes, we may need to compromise our beliefs for a greater good. At other times, we should stand for our beliefs, come what may. When to do which, I don’t know. I guess that’s between the individual and God.
3. Erhard Gerstenberger, Psalms, Part I with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry, page 8:
The most important feature of Israel’s adaptation to Canaan was her adopting the cycle of regular, seasonal festivals with its system of sanctuaries, sacrifices, and rituals that was customary in that sedentary society. Israelite herdsmen did bring along their own traditions, but merged them freely with Canaanite rites. One seminomadic group, for instance, contributed to this composite its tradition of the sojourn in Egypt and the marvelous deliverance from the “house of bondage,” with its Passover and blood rites…All this heritage was placed into the system of Canaanite agricultural feasts.
I was one time discussing Christmas with some Christian students, and I said that I could understand the perspective of Christians who oppose the observance of the holiday. Deuteronomy 12:30, after all, forbids the Israelites to worship God using the customs of the Canaanites. A Christian student then replied, “Well, James, as a good biblical scholar, you know that’s exactly what Pesach is!”
I’ve heard people say things like this. I once listened to a conversation, in which a teacher referred to a book that discussed the use of blood in foreign cultures to ward off destructive spirits, which resembles the Exodus story. And I remember Conservative Jew Harold Kushner making the same sort of claim in his book about Judaism, To Life! But Baruch Bokser states in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (volume 6, page 760):
For some scholars extra-biblical rites, in particular those of ANE holidays, are the clue to the Passover’s prehistory. Rost (1943, see Childs Exodus OTL, 189) suggests that Passover was originally connected to a semi-nomadic festival taking place during migration and designed to protect the nomads and their flock throughout the annual spring migration from the desert to arable land. Many have adopted this approach because it nicely fits the situation of Passover, even providing an analogue to the apotropaic use of blood to protect the Israelites from the destroyer (see e.g., AncIsr, 488–90). Obviously, however, as Haran (1978: 320–21) remarks, any details about the nomadic background can only be speculative.
How much evidence do we actually have that the Israelites borrowed Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread (or concepts therein) from the Canaanites?
I’m not so hung-up of the “pagan roots” of things, for the religions of the Bible resemble aspects of pagan cultures—in the existence of sacrifices, a priesthood, festivals, etc. But I wonder what basis there is for certain scholarly claims.
4. R. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship, page 143:
…Apollonius’ work conformed to Aristotle’s demands, but ran counter to fundamental doctrines of Callimachus; he did not attempt the same scrupulous precision and discipline of language and metre, and he could never have attained the Callimachean subtlety and graciousness combined with nervous virility.
Callimachus sounds like quite a poet! Orderly, disciplined, subtle, gracious, yet nervously virile (whatever that means!).
5. R.P.C. Hanson, Allegory and Event, page 307:
[According to Origen, the] Jewish priests who served the Temple knew such allegorizations of the law as these.
Hanson cites Contra Celsum v.44, which states (see BOOK V):
But as Celsus would compare the venerable customs of the Jews with the laws of certain nations, let us proceed to look at them. He is of opinion, accordingly, that there is no difference between the doctrine regarding
heaven and that regarding
God; and he says that
the Persians, like the Jews, offer sacrifices to Jupiter upon the tops of the mountains,— not observing that, as the Jews were acquainted with one God, so they had only one holy house of prayer, and one altar of whole burnt-offerings, and one censer for incense, and one high priest of God. The Jews, then, had nothing in common with the Persians, who ascend the summits of their mountains, which are many in number, and offer up sacrifices which have nothing in common with those which are regulated by the Mosaic code,— in conformity to which the Jewish priests
served unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, explaining enigmatically the object of the law regarding the sacrifices, and the things of which these sacrifices were the symbols. The Persians therefore may call the
whole circle of heaven Jupiter; but we maintain that
the heaven is neither Jupiter nor God, as we indeed know that certain beings of a class inferior to God have ascended above the heavens and all visible nature: and in this sense we understand the words,
Praise God, you heaven of heavens, and you waters that be above the heavens: let them praise the name of the Lord.
This is similar to my discussion about Christmas in (3): Celsus says that Judaism and Christianity are untrue because their customs resemble those of foreign nations, whereas Origen highlights the differences to stress that Judaism and Christianity are superior to paganism. Unlike Hanson, I don’t see a statement that the priests were aware of the allegorical meaning of their rituals, however. Rather, to me, Origen is saying that these rituals had deeper significance, not that the priests were aware of what that significance was, or even knew that it existed.
6. Richard Sarason, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Agriculture: A Study of Tractate Demai, page 4:
In every third year the tithe is not brought up to Jerusalem or eaten by the offerer, but stored up as a charity fund for the local poor, viz., the Levites, resident aliens, orphans, and widows.
That reminds me of Jimmy Swaggart’s comments on Deuteronomy 15:11, in the Expositor’s Study Bible:
Israel’s welfare program was the third year of tithing the produce of the entirety of the land, to be given to the poor and needy, along with the Levites. Not failing this and, as well, lending to those who were truly in need, one can readily see that the welfare program was generous.
A conservative like Jimmy Swaggart is suggesting that ancient Israelite society under God’s law had a generous welfare program? But I thought God was a Republican!
That said, Swaggart does use the term “those who were truly in need”, meaning that he probably distinguishes between the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. Ancient Israelite society aimed to help those who couldn’t help themselves. At the same time, we should remember that every Israelite under God’s law was to have an allotment of land! On PBS’s Bill Moyers’ Journal, a lady was critiquing the slogan that a “rising tide lifts all boats”, pointing out that not everyone has a boat that can be lifted! Under God’s law, all Israelites had a boat—a plot of land—through which they could support themselves and their families. Those who didn’t have a boat were covered by the welfare system.
7. Last night, I watched the CBS Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story, starring Winona Ryder. Lois Wilson was the wife of Bill Wilson, who founded Alcoholics Anonymous. She started Al-Anon, a support group for the families of alcoholics.
The movie really helped me that night! I can easily fall into thoughts of resentment and fear, and there were times during the movie when I could identify with Bill Wilson in his pre-sobriety stage, when he hid flasks of alcohol in his office at work. That’s how he coped! But, when I saw Bill’s former drinking buddy, Ebby, looking clean and all-together, tactfully informing Bill about the Oxford Group that eventually led to AA, I felt a peace of mind. I was reminded of the AA principle of remaining sober, through thick and thin, good times and bad.
The author of this movie was obviously familiar with the program, including the twelve steps and the concept of staying sober by talking with another alcoholic. But, in the meetings on this movie, there was free-flowing discussion. That’s not how AA meetings are, however, for, in all of the meetings that I attended, only one person at a time talks, and you cannot interrupt her. I wonder if this concept was introduced into AA some years into its existence.
I read on wikipedia that Winona Ryder had a problem with pills at some point. I wonder if she found help, and if her role in this movie was her way of promoting a life of sobriety for addicts. Whether this is the case or not, I applaud her for being in this movie!
Tonight will be my Desperate Housewives and Brothers and Sisters night, for I no longer had a DVR to tape them while I was watching the CBS movie. I’ll be watching these shows on the Internet. I also ordered a movie from Netflix, a 1989 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie entitled My Name Is Bill W., which is about Bill Wilson.