1. William P. Young, The Shack, page 203:
“Is that why we like law so much—to give us some control?” asked Mack.
“It is much worse than that,” resumed Sarayu. “It grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge…”
I’ve been trying to express this concept into words for a long time. Throughout my life, I have believed that some people are right, and some people are wrong, and I have judged them accordingly. If a person doesn’t adhere to A, B, and C, I judge that person, and sometimes I assume that I shouldn’t be around him. This can be wise, for, if I were to hang around people who (say) did drugs, there would be a temptation for me to do drugs in order to fit in (not that I have ever used drugs). But I’ve often found that I judge people for not believing a certain way. At Harvard Divinity School, I had a checklist of things that a person should believe: inerrancy of Scripture, deity of Christ, Jesus being the only way to God, homosexuality and abortion being immoral, etc., and I would judge people and groups according to how they adhered to those standards. I assumed that those who believed in these things had the inside track to God.
Nowadays, I wonder: maybe I should spend more time loving people, and less time judging them. But it’s easier for me to judge. I have a hard time socializing with people and expressing genuine concern, but I’m a little more adept at boldly proclaiming my opinion on right and wrong.
And I still judge people, only now, I tend to judge right-wing Christians. I’ll continue to do my “Oh Brother” posts, but I wonder if there’s a way for me to love right-wing Christians—without allowing the really dogmatic ones to walk all over me.
Here’s another point: Some books stick in my head, for better and for worse. One of these books (in the “worse” category) is John MacArthur’s Vanishing Conscience. For years—maybe over a decade—I have felt bad about saying “Nobody’s perfect” because of the following passage in Macarthur’s book:
Nobody’s perfect. That truth, which ought to make us tremble before a God who is holy, holy, holy, is usually invoked instead to excuse sinful behavior, to make us feel better. How often do we hear people brush aside their own wrongdoing with the casual words, “Well, after all, nobody’s perfect”? People claim they’re not perfect to boost their self-esteem, but it is another evidence of a vanishing conscience. There is accuracy in the claim, but it should be a timid confession, not a flippant means of justifying sin.
I realize now that “Nobody’s perfect” is not only an acceptable thing for me to say, but it is necessary. If I simply reminded myself that nobody’s perfect, then maybe I’d be easier on myself and others.
2. Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land, page 291:
As for faces, Jubal had the most beautiful face Mike had ever seen…
Today, while doing my reading, I did a Highway to Heaven James Troesch marathon. James Troesch played a quadraplegic lawyer named Scotty. In Season 1, he’s introduced as a quadraplegic lawyer in a hospital who’s trying to pass the bar, and who’s encouraging “new wheels” to “live in the moment” and to be grateful for what they can do, rather than focusing on what they can’t do. Also in this season, Scotty meets and marries Diane, Mark Gordon’s cousin.
In Season 2, Scotty’s trying to get clients for his law practice, but he is failing because people don’t want to be represented by a handicapped attorney. His self-esteem is low, and his marriage is on the rocks. But he gets his first case, which is the type that appears un-winnable. Julian, a man with a birthmark splashed across his face, has for many years been known as “the monster” in his small town. When a pretty blind woman is injured and in a coma after she accidentally stumbles while looking for him, Julian is accused of a capital crime. But Scotty conducts an excellent defense, wins the case, and gains a reputation as a good lawyer. The clients start flocking to him!
In Season 3, Scotty and Diane want to have a baby, but Diane is unable to have children. They want to adopt a mentally-handicapped boy named Todd. But Todd already has parents: they put him in an institution years before because people they respected advised them to do so, and they never see Todd. Scotty and Diane go to court to adopt Todd, and Todd’s parents eventually allow them to do so.
But, back to the Heinlein quote: it reminds me of the episode in which Scotty was defending “the monster.” When Scotty first meets Julian, Julian is staring at him, and Scotty assumes Julian is doing so because he’s judging Scotty for being handicapped. But that is not the case. Rather, Julian is admiring Scotty’s perfect face and skin, which differs from his own marked face.
3. Alberdina Houtmann, Mishnah and Tosefta, page 85:
Just as it is proved to be a bad omen for a patient when Ben Dosa’s prayer was not fluent, so it is a bad omen for a congregation when its agent errs.
When I pray, I don’t worry about being eloquent or fluent, for I assume that God knows what I’m saying, even if my words don’t come out right. Doesn’t Romans 8 have a verse about that? We don’t pray as we ought, and so the Holy Spirit intercendes for us with incomprehensible words. But Judaism had prayers that were formal and recited. It still does, for that matter. But I’ve heard from some Jews that praying from the heart is also acceptable within Judaism. Can one make mistakes in those kinds of prayers, or be less than eloquent?
4. R.E. Clemens, “The Prophet as an Author: The Case of the Isaiah Memoir”, in Writings and Speech in Israelites and Ancient Near Eastern Prophecy, page 99:
Taken as a separate unit the memoir shows how written prophecy could fulfill a function beyond what was possible for oral prophesying. It is best described as a testimony text, since it is not autobiography except in a secondary and accidental manner. Its purpose as a witness to future generations of Israelites and Jews that God is both faithful and just is evident. It ensured that the future generations who were destined to suffer the disasters that Isaiah had foretold would understand why they were doing so and on whom the responsibility for this rested.
I pretty much agree with this explanation as to why prophecies were written. Of course, there could be other reasons as well. Jeremiah wrote his prophecy down so that someone else could read it to the king, since Jeremiah would be harmed if he did so himself.
5. Walter Dietrich and Thomas Naumann, “The David-Saul Narrative”, in Reconsidering Israel and Judah, pages 287-288:
Among solid young men, then, (temporary) homosexual relationships were not considered reprehensible; they were only despised when they were combined with effeminacy, even “unmanliness,” in the view of a patriarchally organized world.
This reminds me of the book, The Pink Swastiga. Actually, Izgad had a back-and-forth discussion/debate with that author of that book. To read it, visit www.izgad.blogspot.com and search under “Scott Lively”.
But, back to the quote. On my Christian dating site a while back, a pastor was posting passages from The Pink Swastiga, a book that argues that there were high-ranking Nazis who were homosexual. I responded that the Nazis persecuted homosexuals and put them in concentration camps, and the pastor replied that the Nazis didn’t care for effeminate homosexuals: rather, the Nazi liked the macho brand.
Anyway, this quote reminded me of that interaction!
6. My reading of book reviews today revolved around the issue of biblical parallelism: there’s a line in poetry, and then there’s a line after that, which is parallel to the first line. Sometimes the second line repeats the idea of the first line in different words. Sometimes it repeats the idea of the first line, while adding something new. Sometimes, there is contrast between the two lines. Sometimes, the two lines overlap primarily in the area of grammar, or the words that are used. And, sometimes, we should look at the larger unit rather than just the two lines. And idea may get repeated several lines down, not necessarily in the second line.
7. I just learned that Moishe Rosen passed away recently. Roisen was the founder of Jews for Jesus.
I don’t really have an agenda of converting Jews to Christianity—as if the Christian interpretation of the Hebrew Bible is the only viable one in existence. But there was a time when Jews for Jesus had a special place in my heart, which is probably why I got on their mailing list a few times, and have gotten their literature for over a decade. I grew up in the Armstrong movement, which kept the seventh-day Sabbath and biblical holy days, as well as some version of kosher. That looked strange to people in my small town, and so, looking for some box to put us in, they considered us Jews. My mom embraced that designation, since her side of the family had Jewish ancestry. Yet, we also believed in Jesus. And people in my small town liked to put people in boxes, so they were unclear about what we were.
That’s why I was happy when Jews for Jesus came to a prominent church in my small town and did a concert. Here were people who were like me: Jews who believed in Jesus! They were ethnically Jewish, and they probably performed some Jewish customs. Yet, they believed in Jesus, calling him “Yeshua”. And people in my small town were being exposed to this, making me look slightly less like an oddball!
Since that time, I’ve learned that the issue of Jews who believe in Jesus is rather complex. I briefly attended a Messianic synagogue at one time, and the rabbi there didn’t care for Jews for Jesus. I think his problem was that Jews for Jesus pointed Jewish-Christians to churches rather than Messianic synagogues, or failed to provide a viable way for Jews to honor Yeshua while retaining their own Jewish customs. He may be right on this. I’m sure he knows more about this issue than I do! But my reading of Jews for Jesus literature leads me to believe that the organization at least pays lip-service to Jewish customs.
There was a time when I was enamored by Messianic Judaism. I had some desire to connect with my Jewish heritage, while remaining a Christian in good-standing. Nowadays, I don’t care as much. Some of that relates to my not fitting into a Messianic congregation, and not being able to adopt the Messianic agenda as my own. And it also has to do with my needs: I’m more interested in spirituality nowadays rather than religion and ritual. I seek and find inspiration in a variety of sources.
But I feel a need to take my hat off to Moishe Rosen. From what I’ve heard about his personality, he’s not the type of guy I’d want to work for! But he started a movement that touched me, during a piece of my life.