Tenacious Dickens; Good on Paper; Adoption; Elephants; Church Tradition; Tithed; True Church

1.  Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, page 187:

The praise, the recognition that he received by getting one story in print, changed his whole career, for if it hadn’t been for that encouragement, he might have spent his entire life working in rat-infested factories.  You may have heard of that boy, too.  His name was Charles Dickens.

Carnegie’s point here is that encouragement can bring the best out of people.  But, in his previous paragraph, we see that Charles Dickens didn’t wait for encouragement before he acted.  Rather, Dickens sent out manuscript after manuscript, receiving numerous rejections in the process.  He had tenacity, and, in some sense, he believed in himself, for he kept sending out manuscripts.  But he was also modest and slightly unsure of himself, for he mailed his manuscripts at night, when no one would see him.  I do agree with Carnegie, however, that approval by an editor encouraged Dickens to keep on writing; otherwise, he may have become discouraged and stopped sending out manuscripts.  But I have to admire Dickens for sending them out even when he was receiving nothing but rejection.  That is walking by faith, and not by sight!

2.  Robert Heinlein, Sixth Column, pages 162-163:

Here was a church that did not ask a man to subscribe to its creeds; you could come and enjoy all the benefits and never be asked to give up your old-time religion—or even be asked if you had a religion.

Sometime during the 1990’s, I read Marvin Olasky’s Tragedy of American Compassion, which was a criticism of the American welfare system.  Olasky hearkened back to the days when churches helped the poor, giving them food and bringing them to Christ, which changed their lives for the better.  In this era, there were poor people who stopped being drunks and became responsible, working citizens of society.

I got a cozy feeling when I read Olasky’s stories.  But that was before Olasky influenced President George W. Bush to try such an approach in real life, through faith-based initiatives.  That was the way the Bush II years were for me: ideas I had supported for years were finally becoming national policy.  That includes faith based initiatives, tax cuts, and abstinence-only sex education.

I wouldn’t say that these ideas were a total failure.  Tax cuts stimulated the economy, and I’m sure there were some abstinence-only sex ed programs that worked.  But these ideas were not enough.  Bush’s tax cuts did not get us out of our economic crisis, and abstinence-only sex education did not stop the sudden upswing in teen pregnancies.  Real-life doesn’t always conform to ideological pamphlets, from the right or the left!

Regarding faith-based initiatives, there was concern during the Bush Administration that poor people were getting religion shoved down their throats.  Even some Christians contended that churches should help everyone, without pressuring them to accept a religious creed.  What looks good on paper (Olasky’s book) can end up becoming complicated when applied to real life!  I can think of other examples: the Iraq War, Medicare, the Great Society, etc.

3.  Erhard Gerstenberger, Psalms, Part I with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry, page 46:

The contention that adoption was unknown or detested in Israel is rather ill founded…

Gerstenberger says this in his discussion of royal Psalms, in which (according to Gerstenberger) God adopts the king of Israel as his son. 

I vaguely recall a sermon by Garner Ted Armstrong, in which he criticized the Worldwide Church of God for stigmatizing adoption.  He was discussing Romans 8:15, which affirms that Christians have received the spirit of adoption.  I wonder why the WCG stigmatized adoption (if it indeed did).  Apparently, there were biblical scholars who did so as well, claiming that adoption was detested in ancient Israel!

4.  R. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship, page 172:

There are various tales of elephants being attracted by the scent of flowers and making love to girls binding and selling wreaths…

The elephants were making love to women?  I can’t even imagine how that would take place! 

5.  R.P.C. Hanson, Allegory and Event, page 372:

Does this mean that we must after all return to the view that Origen was restrained and influenced in his interpretation of Scripture by a ‘tradition of the Church’ independent of Scripture?  The answer depends upon what is meant by ‘tradition of the Church’…It is exceedingly difficult to determine at any moment in church history what the ‘tradition of the Church’ is.  Justin Martyr, for instance, says as plainly as possible that a literal interpretation of the Millennial Kingdom, described in Rev. 20.4, is an integral part of orthodox Christianity.  Origen says that an allegorical interpretation of this prophecy is a piece of apostolic teaching.  Gaius (quoted by Eusebius) attributed a belief very like Justin’s to the heretic Cerinthus.

When I read Catholic writings that appeal to “church tradition”, they usually make a fairly decent case, quoting a range of church fathers who have similar ideas on (say) baptism.  But there was diversity among the church fathers as well.  Not all of the fathers agreed on what teaching went back to the apostles.  I wonder how Catholics would address this.  Would they say that we should especially embrace the ideas that the fathers agreed went back to the apostles? 

6. Richard Sarason, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Agriculture: A Study of Tractate Demai, page 36:

The Israelite who consumes second tithe in Jerusalem eats it just like the priest eating holy things in the Temple, viz., in a state of cleanness.  Just as we do not require the priest to designate second tithe (and certainly not to separate heave offerings of the tithe) from doubtfully tithed holy things, so we do not require the pilgrim to do the same with regard to doubtfully tithed produce purchased in Jerusalem which becomes second tithe.  In both cases, since the whole of the produce in question is holy, and since one of the tithes to be separated would in any case be eaten on the spot by him who separates, we do not require the separation of the other tithe.

I guess what Sarason is saying is that the doubtfully-tithed produce becomes second tithe, so it’s no longer doubtfully-tithed!

7.  Felix Taylor has a post, HOW TO DISPROVE THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY, in which he quotes Robert Bowman.  Bowman believes in the Trinity, but he tells anti-Trinitarians how they can put together a convincing case (which he probably doubts is even possible).  Bowman states the following:

It’s no good telling us that you believe X, Y, and Z instead of the Trinity, if this “alternative” is your own private confe[ss]ion of beliefs. I say this because the true doctrine of God will be held by a community of believers in Jesus Christ, the EKKLHSIA (“church”).  Theologies do not exist in a vacuum, or in isolation. You are either part of a church that teaches the theology you espouse, or you are picking and choosing what you will believe from others and not committing yourself to a _way of life_ that puts a set of teachings into practice. Jesus Christ said that he would be with his people until the end of the age as they engaged in the work of making disciples, baptizing and teaching them (Matt. 28:19-20). So, what people today are Christ’s people?

I was about to make an “Oh Brother” post about this quote, but I don’t think that I can blow it off that easily.  The New Testament talks about a “church”.  Even its talk about the last days refers to believers in Jesus, which may imply a Christian community.  I think this is why there are many Christians who believe in a “true church”: the New Testament talks about a church, so they assume that God must have a recognized body that is doing his work.

In my background with Armstrongism, there was discussion about the existence of a true church.  The Worldwide Church of God said it was an organization—the WCG, whereas others said it was an organism, not an official group.  There was nuance in this discussion, for the WCG also saw God’s church in other bodies: the Waldensians of the past, the Church of God (Seventh-Day), etc.  They believed God was officially working through an organization, but they had a sense that there were people outside of that body who obeyed God’s commandments and were God’s people.

In evangelicalism, there is a distinction between the church body and the universal church.  A church body is a church congregation, whereas the universal church encompasses all believers in Christ, both those who belong to a local church, and those who do not. 

I’m not sure if we have to assume that God has an organization on earth, which fully conforms to God’s truth.  Maybe God is working through a variety of Christians, who don’t agree about everything.   

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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