Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Seminary Papers #1: Applying Social Science Criticism

Over the past few months I have written A LOT. I know most people won't care, but I thought I would share one paper from each class I had last semester so that you can see what I have been up to and what I have been "learning". This paper is one of my best ever. I say this because I actually managed to get above a perfect score on it.

The cultural of first century Palestine was dramatically different than today’s Western cultural. While this is an over-simplification, there were three major traits that defined this culture: the patron-client relationship, the value of kin, and most importantly the concept of honor and shame. The way that these traits worked in the first century society were often intertwined. Biblical scholars can gain a deeper understanding of the text by utilizing the social science criticism. By using Mark 5:21-43, it will be shown how the socio-cultural context can illuminate scripture

Nearly everything in the first century culture revolved around the idea of honor and shame. Honor is how much self worth one viewed that they possessed. Another key aspect of honor is that there was a limited amount of it to go around. This limited good meant that people were always aware of what they had and took, because it meant others would not have it. This concept of limited good applied to all resources and commodities. The example of how this works can be seen in the woman with the issue of blood, as she touched Jesus in hopes that some of his would transfer to her. Honor also came in two forms: ascribed and acquired. Ascribed honor is honor that one inherited from their family, whereas acquired honor is honor that which society deems upon a person (Esler 27). In Mark 5:21-43, Jarius the synagogue ruler is a person of considerable honor both ascribed and acquired. The title synagogue ruler is a highly honorable one, so the reader can assume that Jarius comes from a family that has a great deal of ascribed honor. In addition to that, verse 35 claims that some men came from the house of Jarius. This signifies that Jarius had clients which would have prescribed acquired honor upon him.

The workings of the patron-client relationship can be seen throughout Mark 5:21-43. A patron was often a person of higher honor, who supported clients. The patron received more honor by having people identify themselves as their client, and the client received honor by being associated with their patron. Jesus could have been perceived as person with a great deal of honor, as his twelve disciples could easily be interpreted as clients to him. When one wanted to gain honor from another, there was a series of challenges and responses. In this situation, an individual challenges the social space of another. The challenge is then received, then there is a counter challenge and finally there is the public reaction which determines how honor has been reshuffled. It is important to note that the challenge-response can only happen among equals (Esler 28). The interactions between Jesus and Jarius can be seen as a challenge-response. Jarius challenges Jesus when he throws himself before Jesus asking for his help. In doing so, Jarius gives up some of his honor to Jesus, in exchange for a service. Jesus does this service for Jarius, and in doing so restores honor to Jarius, both in what was given up and in the restoration of his daughter, who can bring honor to his family. This illustrates the importance of kin in this society. A daughter was an asset to be protected, because they carried a great deal of honor that could easily be lost. If a daughter was successfully married to another family, then the daughter brought a great deal of honor to the family. Some also argue that the incident with the woman with the issue of blood is also a challenge response, but I do not think this is the case. The woman does not formally challenge Jesus, but instead acts in a way that is shameful by touching a stranger. The woman was so desperate for a healing, and her faith was so strong that she was willing to sacrifice her honor to be freed from her suffering.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Why I am not a Calvinist

One of my classes this semester is Church History 1492-Present. So far I am enjoying the class, and it has reminded me how much I like history. Obviously, the class begins and spends several weeks on the Reformation. Due to this, my reading for this week was John Calvin. While only an excerpt, what I read from Calvin's Institutes was the time I have actually ever had Calvin's work first hand, and I am even more convinced that I utterly and fully disagree with Calvinism. Not only do I disagree with all five pedals of TULIP, but I get really fired up in disagree with them. I have spent all week thinking over and over why I think the Calvinist positions are wrong. Using the TULIP acronym, I'll go through each point with my thoughts. The summaries I am using of the Calvin position come from Wikipedia. To any regular readers (heh. like I still have regular readers) who happen to be Calvinistic in their outlook, I apologize if I offend you because that is not my intent:

T: Total Depravity
This point means that every person is corrupt and sinful throughout in all of his or her faculties, including the mind and will. Thus, no person is able to do what is truly good in God's eyes, but rather, everyone does evil all the time. As a result of this corruption, man is enslaved to sin, rebellious and hostile toward God, blind to truth, and unable to save himself or even prepare himself for salvation.

I suppose fundamentally I agree with this point. I believe that people are totally depraved. However, the way that comes to be is where the disagreement is. Calvin states that debravity is transferred to the infant through the seed (read sperm) of the father-thus all people are born depraved and stained with sin. I strongly disagree with that notion. In Genesis, it is stated that man and woman are created in the image of God. Not only that, but after creating humanity God declares it good. Even though humanity fell, that does not mean that humanity is still not created in the image of, baring the indelible mark of God on our character. Calvin does rightly describe sin like a disease that infests and corrupt all of a person, and I agree with that. Once a person makes the conscious choice to sin then like a virus sin does spread causing a depravity so great, that only God through the grace offered by Jesus Christ can redeem the person.

U: Unconditional Election
God's choice from eternity past, of whom he will bring to himself, is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in the persons he chooses but rather is unconditionally grounded in his own sovereign decision. This does not mean that final salvation itself is unconditional; rather, it means that the condition upon which salvation hinges (faith) is graciously given to those whom God has unconditionally chosen to receive it.
A Sunday school teacher once taught this idea, that God has already decided the divine fate of everyone, and not just fate but actions as well. At that time God and I were not on the best terms to begin with, but that notion really pushed me over the edge. I still have to ask, if this is true what is the bloody point? Honestly I do not believe it is possible true, furthermore I think it is completely unbiblical. In the Old Testament, in multiple times people argue with God, not only that they convince God to change God's mind. God is open to people making decisions. Furthermore, if God is a loving God, as I believe God is and the Bible portrays, then what is loving about creating individuals for the sole reason of damning them? Not only is that capricious but it goes against just about every standard of justice in existence. Looking over the past few sentences I realize I have started to ramble, but in the end I believe that God gifted people with free will. There has to be an element of choice involved in choosing God or else there is not really a point to exist at all.

L: Limited atonement
The doctrine of the limited atonement is the teaching that Jesus's atonement was definite and certain in its design and accomplishment. It teaches that the atonement was intended to render complete satisfaction for those and only those whom the Father had chosen before the foundation of the world. Calvinists do not believe that the atonement is limited in its value or power (if the Father had willed it, all the people of all generations could be saved), but rather they believe that the atonement is limited in that it is designed for some and not all

I call Shenanigans on this crap. John 3:16 states for God so love the WORLD . . ." The great commission states to make disciples in all of the nations. The redeeming sacrifice and atonement of sin made possible by that sacrifice is for all who choose to accept it.

I: Irresistible Grace
this doctrine does not hold that every influence of God's Holy Spirit cannot be resisted but that the Holy Spirit is able to overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible and effective. Thus, when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual cannot successfully resist him.

I view God's grace as irresistible, and in my limited personal experience when someone truly begins to get an understanding of how great, awesome, and powerful God's grace truly is then they also find it irresistible. However, I disagree with the term with how Calvin uses it. This obviously goes back once again to free will. For Calvin's version of irresistible grace, God completely and totally runs roughshod over a person's will. Can it truly be called love or even grace for that matter if it is forced upon someone? I don't think so.

P: Perseverance of the Saints
the fifth point teaches that those whom God has called into communion with himself will continue in faith until the end. Those who apparently fall away either never had true faith to begin with or will return

Once again I disagree, and the nature of disagreement is over the issue of free will. If God has given people the free will to choose God, then that means people have the free will to not choose God as well. Therefore, even though I can not fathom it, someone could choose to give up the grace of God that they had previously accepted. So for lack of a better phrase, I suppose I do believe that it is possible for someone to "lose salvation". This is not an arbitrary loss caused by sinning one to many times or not meeting a good deed quota, but would result in a fully aware decision to give it up.

Obviously if you have made it this far then it is fairly clear that I fall strongly into the Arminian theological camp. I suppose I could have just stated that with a few fancy links at the beginning and saved all those words, but then I might be at risk at going another month without bloggin.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Lets Start over

Here is how it happens. I go a week without posting because I am busy. I think about something I want to post the next week, but I am not able to get around to it. So I have this one idea in my head, but I get another one. I am sure what I want to write about, so I go a third week without posting anything, this problem keeps compounding until almost six weeks go by! So let's all just pretend I have been a good little blogger, and there is an entire month's worth of imaginary posts.

Anyway, as I have stated before I do not care a whole lot of watching TV. It is not that I have anything against TV shows per se, but I dislike the idea of scheduling my life around watching them (and since it is now DS Season, I have to do that in part). However, I am becoming a very big fan of watching TV shows on DVD, because I can get the experience of the show when I want. Abigail and I recently did this by buying the first season of 24 on DVD, since it was on sale at Target for less than a $1 an episode. Due to someone's OCD tendencies, we ended up watching the whole thing in about 10 days. It was a good story (if not a bit far fetched and a little holey), and I loved the fact that I was allowed to watch it when I wanted. With more and more TV shows becoming very episodic with a strong continuity, I think that DVD is going to be the way I will want to go. Since we don't pay for cable, I have no problem with occasionally buying a TV series. Also, we recently switched our online video rental. We were using GameznFlix, but switched to blockbuster because the monthly coupon is now good for a game and because Blockbuster stocks TV shows as well. After we watch more seasons of 24, I am really going to pull for that we tackle Battlestar Galactica next.