Monday, August 23, 2010

The Bible on why Christians are last to understand

Curt has posed a number of great points deserving an answer. I'll address one of his comments here.

He remarked concerning my Hiroshima-Nagasaki post, and the apostasy and worldliness of Christians that condone this deed, that even an atheist can say these things. Indeed, the theological issues are that obvious, so that only professing Christians seem unable to understand them. And back in the day only "Christian" Europe thought it was appropriate to persecute the Jews for not believing in Jesus. Did Jesus ever do that? The Muslims, the Chinese, the Indians - pretty much everyone else had more sense than "Christian" Europe.

The Bible makes it clear that the professing people of God can easily be a synagogue of Satan (Revelation 2:9), that the church ("among you") can easily be where Satan's throne is (Revelation 2:13), and that Jesus may well be outside the church and knocking on the door, close to puking (Revelation 3:14-20). That last, Laodicea, is especially pertinent, since the problem there is that God reproves and chastens those he loves, and so they need to be zealous to receive that correction in order that they might repent - and that's exactly what they want none of.

American Christians are zealous for a lot of things, but not for the reproof and chastening of God, often delivered through such disfavored instruments as Muslims, homosexuals, the ACLU, Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the Afghan resistance (Deuteronomy 32:20-21), who have in common only that they have things to tell us that should prompt repentance - and who are hated for exactly that reason, whatever other pretexts are devised.

When people are not zealous for the things that bring about their own repentance, they generally become zealous for things that enable them not to. And as in the case of Saul the son of Kish, or Paul before he met Jesus, or David's general Joab, such zeal generally means killing other people for God's sake.

Hence the unusual eagerness of American Christians to drop bombs on people, to invade them, to imprison and torture them - and all the polls show that "Christians" are more eager than the rest of the American population to do all these things - is revealed in the Bible to be the manifestation of their Laodicean spirit, their hatred of the spirit of repentance. Which is to say, their hatred of the Holy Spirit, which explains why in our abundance of religious zeal, holiness is almost unheard of.


Anonymous Jason said...

Hi Peter,

This post comes very close to something approaching thoughtful, but when really considered, is overwhelmed by generalities. This is not meant sarcastically, but is hard to avoid mentioning, particularly in your comments about how “Muslims” (in general), “homosexuals” (in general), the “ACLU” (in general) and the “Afghan resistance” (in general) are offering reproof for “Christians” (in general) that is being ignored out of a preference for killing people.

Even when you get down to specific names, one is left wondering exactly what chastising the Christian community should accept from Ahmadinejad and Chavez? I could speculate, but am genuinely curious what you intended to be the take-away for the Christian by simply creating a list of names and organizations with an implication that they are closer to the truth of God than the median Christian. In other words, what exactly should I feel compelled to repent of at the mere mention of Ahmadinejad’s name, or a vague reference to homosexuals?

My desire for specifics also brought my attention to your strange classification of “American Christians”, presumably as opposed to Hungarian Christians, Cambodian Christians, or Mongolian Christians, as though the Spirit of God regards contemporary political boundaries, or that latitude and longitude coordinates somehow play a role in ranking the faithful. One is a Christian (born of the Spirit and obedient to the Word) or not, and if you are trying to make the point that America is a post-Christian nation of biblical “yes-men”, then just say that rather than sarcastically applying the term to those who aren’t concerned with it in the first place.

8/24/2010 6:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Generalities are sometimes good.
Especially in an opening salvo, before you fire for effect.
Generalities can be used as a kind of a recconisance by fire. That means you lob a few shells or ideas in a general direction and see what kind of response that you get.
I just want to point out before I start ironing that it is boring to talk with people that you agree to much with because you have nothing new to say to each other and it is fruitless to talk with someone whos viewpoint is 180 degress different because there is no point from which to start a discussion.
I think that Peter would make a very good ambassador to people who actively support the US wars of aggression or support them through their indiffernce, yet want to think of themselves as serious Christians.
Would my paying Peter to conduct an Ambassidorial Mission now be considered a conspiratorial act in the US?

8/26/2010 4:37 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

Jason raises two points that are easily cleared up by viewing them in light of the Bible.

In our Bibles, we see many instances of God's people being chastened through instruments that had nothing doctrinal to say. The men of Ai taught Israel about complacency ("Don't make everyone go up there"), and covetousness, just by defeating them. The Moabites, Midianites, Philistines, and countless others likewise gave instruction through the things that happened. Reading the Bible, it's hard to miss.

Of course it's true that Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales know the proverb that "he who robs the poor and he who gives to the rich will both alike come to poverty," which the American nation has never understood, consistently admiring and worshiping the rich and thinking they deserve favors, while always being indulgent about the robbery of the poor. And are not American Christians for the most part wholly conformed to this worldly spirit?

When there is trouble, and blame is to be assigned, immigrants crossing the border are ruining our economy, while the war contractors gobbling up hundreds of billions for nothing, or agribusiness which takes billions in corporate welfare to drive wretched peasants off their farms so that they have to come here to survive - who has a problem with that? James might as well have not written a word about any of this.

Secondly, Jason wonders how it makes sense to speak specifically of American Christians, or of Hungarian Christians, speculating that I must mean something else than what I'm saying. Have you never read Revelation 2 and 3? Doesn't Jesus address each church individually, with their own sets of strengths and problems?

Notice that in fact those churches have the problems of the world around them. The Laodiceans were walking in the example of the city of Laodicea, which had proudly refused help to rebuild from an earthquake; and the church in Sardis was acting like the city of Sardis, which had twice been taken by stealth when they thought themselves impregnable. Should we not learn to have the mind of Jesus on this matter, becoming his imitators in this as in all else?

8/26/2010 7:16 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

You’re undoubtedly correct about the many times God used distasteful groups of people to chastise His children, most notably when He refers to the Nebuchadnezzar “my servant” in their campaign against His treacherous children of Israel. My interest in clarification was not whether biblical precedents exist or for what reasons they occurred, but rather what aspects of the groups you listed off should be prompting American Christians to repent (and for what?) in sackcloth and ashes. I understand if you don’t have the time or interest to illustrate on a group-by-group basis what qualities you refer to. One will assume you are not referring to the practice of sodomy, the zeal to neuter our country of any public display of Christianity, or the stoning of women, floggings, and totalitarian oppression that characterize the respective groups you refer to. But since these are the defining qualities of these groups, it isn’t unreasonable to expect that you would expand on how Christians are supposed to respond to them, especially when your expectation is that our response be primarily one of repentance. And I’m still not entirely certain what among these groups is spurring on my zeal for killing other people … all none of them.

Regarding Chavez, I could guess that God does not honor the leveraging of what would otherwise be biblical wisdom to gain the approval of a people only as a launch pad to consolidating control over them. Winning the hearts of the (mostly poor) people is not always done out of Christian virtue but for other ends as well. You assume the former on unknown and tenuous grounds. Chavez is engaged in something known as soft power in the national security world where otherwise noble acts such as benefiting the poor locally and abroad offsets the repugnant goals of dictatorship and funding all manner of armed atrocities in the developing world as Venezuela requires no accounting for his generous financial donations to unsavory non-state actors and autocratic regimes. Spraying the manure with Febreeze doesn’t fool many people, least of all God, I would imagine. Back to my question, I am supposed to repent of what as Chavez co-ops the biblical wisdom you project onto him?

You have a point about the letters to the various churches. I guess I was approaching this more from Paul’s admonitions to the Galatians and Colossians (two geographically distinct churches with distinct conditions) that in Christ there is neither Jewish Christians or Greek Christians, slave Christians or free Christians, barbarian Christians or Scythian Christians, American Christians or Kenyan Christians, nor does it even make sense to distinguish among male and female Christians, for we are all one in Christ.

8/26/2010 10:12 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

Jason, I have no interest in speculating on who you might want to kill and why, as you invite me to do. That's presumptuous and unprofitable. My business is to respond to what you say.

I have written two detailed treatments of these issues from a theological and historical viewpoint - "Facing Antichrist Today" and "The Deaf and Dumb Church.". For my detailed treatment of these issues, go there.

8/26/2010 10:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Jason,
The things that you have said about Hugo Chavez are exactly the things that many Europeans say about the US leadership whether it be Bush or Oh bomb em.
I do not understand how the Europeons could be so arrogant to think that they understand the situation in Venezuela better than Americans, not counting those people who live near Bostsin or San Fransisco who of course do not count as real Americans.
But of course those charges could be easily reversed too. I think that it is very hard to know really what is going on at ones place of work or in ones neighborhood let alone what is going on in a distant country.
I live in Germany and there to say that there are many many things going one here that I know nothing about would be an enormous understatement. I travel now and again to the US and have family there but how can anyone really no what is going on in a country with 1000 or more people.

8/27/2010 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

Congrats on the book-length publications you authored and refer me to, but suffice it to say I’m not keen on taking the time to read 50,000 words from a man who can’t be bothered to clarify 500. You appear to have justified your reference to Chavez with the insinuation that he has a Christ-inspired heart for the poor that should bring wealth-worshipping "American Christians" to their knees in repentance for not emulating. So many assumptions here are made, it's difficult to know where to start.

First, that America is a Christian nation in anything but name, and that therefore the faults of the many can likewise be pinned as guilt on the chests of the believing few is both unbiblical (when only a remnant will be saved, why do you speak of the masses?) and presumptuous. It is ironic how you shun presumption in word, but then employ it in your obsessively American rebukes.

Second, your eagerness to credit Chavez with Christian compassion when his observable motivations are an exceedingly worldly desire for power and leverage carries ramifications for your credibility. You are essentially mis-attributing and then over-exaggerating virtue to him in some inexplicable desire to shame "American Christians."

Third, with regard to the rich, I often hear sentiments of jealousy and contempt being expressed, but don't recall the last time any number of Christians worth mentioning were tripped up in the "worship" you suppose to be taking place in grand quantities (for why else would you mention it). You exaggerate at both ends; the nobility of Chavez and the dereliction of America's Christians.

And this is why you generalize. It offers you the opportunity to side-step valid criticism with the “that’s not what I said” defense (because the way you write, you could be saying anything) and it hides the details that when examined independently could never sustain your point or lead somewhere there on their own.

Finally, you may want to re-think your fracturing the body of Christ into vectors based on your reasoning that Jesus distinguished between each of the seven churches in Revelation. These seven churches are the seven lamp stands among which Christ walks in heaven, of fixed significance, and are obviously not subject to your arbitrary applications. In other words, your desire to create an artificial entity known as “American Christians” and critique them separately is not Jesus’ queue to erect another lamp stand.

8/27/2010 6:33 PM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

I haven't insinuated anything about Chavez's heart. All I've said is that he understands better than most professing Christians of my acquaintance that those who give to the rich and those who rob the poor will both come to poverty. It's written in the Bible, but it's no great spiritual insight. Even very alien-to-God rulers have sometimes recognized and profited by it, as Proverbs 8 leads us to expect.

One may understand and apply the principle that "a bribe in the bosom pacifies strong wrath" without that implying anything positive about character or intentions. It's something that campaign contributors know well and live by.

It is good to see that you recognize that the United States is not a Christian nation. I am very far from claiming that it is, but only that Christians identify with it and even worship it. Worship is when you regard something as that in which you live and move and have your being.

With most professing Christians I run into, and the polls also reflect this, the United States is the good guy in the world, and they think that if the American empire were to crumble, the kingdom of God would suffer a serious reverse. So profession of conservative Roman Catholic or evangelical faith correlates directly in polling and voting to approval of aggressive war, torture, and other such deeds that are understood to be evil when done by others. Not the spirit of God but a spirit of idolatry - spiritual harlotry - motivates such hypocrisy.

8/28/2010 12:35 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

What wrong has Hugo Chavez done to compare with the Guatemalan regime installed by the CIA in 1954, which murdered hundreds of thousands of people over the following 30 years? Did they find fault with that as they do with Chavez - do you? - and has he done anything comparable?

Has Chavez done anything like the American-orchestrated genocide by sanctions in Iraq in the 1990s, admitted by Madeleine Albright on 60 Minutes in May 1996 to have killed over 500,000 little kids, and judged by her to be "worth it?" Where is your indignation about that?

What's really wrong with Chavez except that he is not with the American program, since Christians have always been fine with such as Anastazio Somoza, Chiang Kaishek, Syngman Rhee, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Augusto Pinochet and the other Southern Cone dictators, the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia that came to power by murdering over 500,000 people with American help, and so many more. Have you ever been as critical of the Indonesian government for annihilating one third of the population of East Timor in the 1970s, or of the American government that supported that genocide, as you are of Hugo Chavez, or has he committed so many more murders than that?

It's not that I write unclearly, since I simply haven't said much of what you read into my words, and it's not my problem if I fail to be clear enough in the things that I do not say or imply.

Concerning the seven churches, there is no evidence that these are in heaven as you state. Jesus walks among them, certainly, but that's on earth, where they are when John is conveying the words of Jesus to them. When two or three are together in his name and he is there in our midst, that too is when we are on the earth, so you need not remind me that he is now in heaven seated at the right hand of God. That he is in heaven and nonetheless walks among us on earth are perfectly compatible truths to a biblical person.

The one church of Jesus consisted then of churches in various locations that were overcoming or compromising with various powers, principalities, and spirits of wickedness in high places, depending on their conditions of time and place when John wrote his vision. And that's how it remains today, which is why it is written for our instruction.

Actually, in fixating on the number seven, you're making the same booboo Peter made when he asked if he should forgive his brother seven times, referring to the proverb that says that a righteous man falls down seven times in a day and gets up again. He should have considered another proverb that says that the wicked man has seven abominations in his heart, from which it does not follow that an eighth does not exist. Indeed, your view of the seven churches is reminiscent of the Jehovah's Witeness view that the 144,000 are exactly that many and no more, not noticing that the text goes on to show that they are innumerable.

Finally, the way you've ever spoken of repentance in all your posts, it sounds like something painful, like going to the dentist. But repentance is the essence of the Christian life, the only way we ever receive God's life. Repentance is a treasure to be desired, an opportunity to be thankful for, something we should be looking for excuses to do - and you're not showing any evidence that that is how you feel about it.

As one sees from examples in the gospels, so long as you're wanting evidence that you need no repentance, you won't be able to read with understanding, because the Bible is written for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness - and so it won't work right unless you want those things for yourself.

And when we want to refute the need for our own repentance, we can only do so by making God a liar, so that of course we will do the same to other people too. To bear false witness for ourselves, we must necessarily bear false witness against God and other people.

8/28/2010 12:37 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

Jason posted the following, which arrived in my inbox but which blogger never propagated to the blog. In the interest of a lel playing field, here it is:

Mr. Attwood, I’m not interested in your moral contest between America and whomever else you seek to compare us unfavorably with. Doing so simply reveals that politics steer your application of God’s word and sends those who engage in such comparisons home unjustified (Luke 18:11).

Your comments regarding Chavez are clearly that his treatment of the poor is inspired by a biblical proverb rather than his worldly interests of consolidating power and leverage. That is false and that was my point. Denying that you implied something about Chavez’ heart doesn’t change this and is little more than semantics to avoid acknowledging your deference to him as someone whose actions should inspire repentance among America’s Christians. You acknowledge this by changing the subject to the Scripturally and argumentatively irrelevant “America is worse” defense that has nothing to do with what actually motivates Chavez’s aid programs and continues the theme of transferring the collective guilt of an entire nation onto a minority of believers who are virtually alienated from this country’s decision-making process both in terms of representation and positions of power.

Lastly, you suggest I avoid the issue of repentance like a tortured visit to the dentist’s chair. My comments never insinuated that there are not valid issues over which Christians of all vectors need to repent of, but mostly that your generalized condemnations for not doing so are specious. And if I have “ever spoken of repentance in all my posts” as if that were enough to judge me averse to it, it is because that was the topic and the whole point of your post. Do you not see the hypocrisy of obsessing over how many things American Christians need to repent of and how many distasteful groups God uses to bring them to that realization and then suggest I hold a negative view of it because I also refer to it in my comments? Very curious indeed, especially when in the very response that you accuse me of detesting repentance based solely on the fact I use the word a lot, you emphasize the importance of … repentance, followed by a wholly unnecessary affirmation of how it is a good thing. It’s hoola-hoop logic.

8/28/2010 5:31 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...

Here's the missing paragraph for the unabridged version:

In any event, I see that this discussion is largely going to be one of “that’s not what I said,” “that’s not what I meant,” and unusual contortions of the plain language of the Bible to keep from being wrong about anything (ex. I made a booboo by understanding there to be seven lampstands because Jesus corrects Peter’s misunderstanding of the extent of forgiveness expected of us by trying to define a limit.) This may be acceptable to readers like Curt who acknowledge they enjoy vague generalities (hi Curt) but is problematic for anyone who expect your words to say, rather than suggest, something, or that the details when finally revealed might add up to the suggestion.

8/28/2010 6:09 PM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

I'll take this last post from the top.

Your use of "us" in connection with the United States of America identifies the problem, and this theological error in my view is why you're unable to understand what I say.

I'm really not interested in the American empire's moral contest with the rest of the world, or with anyone. In claiming that American Christians are a small and unheeded minority here, you appear yourself reluctant to appear as the empire's advocate, and that is wise. And yet, you identify with it so as to speak of "us" - as so many shout "Support our troops" of men who if you took away the f-word could not speak, and who surround every place they go with bars and whorehouses.

Hebrews 11:13-16 could not be more clear: God is not ashamed to be called our God when we confess that we have no continuing city here, that we're aliens traveling through a foreign land, and that we ought to seek its welfare as I would do in Brazil or Lebanon if I lived there, but not presuming that it's my country.

My concern with the American empire and its abominable deeds is that Christians should repent of their apostasy in identifying with it - not a superficial seduction by this world's pleasures, but a foundational identification going back 400 years. In truth, American Christianity is a cultic system like Mormonism or any other such that is Christian plus the book of Mormon, or Christianity plus the doctrines of Ellen White. Where the Bible conflicts with American mythology, the Bible has to be fitted around the myth somehow, just as the Bible can't ever be construed by Mormons to contradict the book of Mormon.

From the outside, how can this be distinguished from the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in China, or the Russian Orthodox Church under Stalin, or the "German Christians" under Hitler - except that these all had the excuse that it could easily cost life and liberty to stand in Christ. What's our excuse today? Why do we need external persecution, when the Spirit of Christ is persecuted from within ourselves?

Just as the prophets did Nineveh and Babylon a favor by standing aloof and not participating in their deeds, the best thing CHristians can do for the United States is to speak to it the truth of the prophets, having ceased to spread our legs to it. America is cursed by the idolatry of its Christians, which is good news for us, since we can repent and thereby bring blessing, while of course being persecuted for it as Jesus was.

Concerning Chavez, can you read what I write? He is undoubtedly guided by biblical wisdom, showing the law written in his heart (Romans 2). That doesn't mean other things are not written there. It's just God's rebuke that this man that you all revile behaves better than you do.

8/28/2010 6:43 PM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

My basis for finding you hostile to the idea of repentance is not your frequent use of the word but your obvious resentment at the prescription. Go back over your writing and see if there is any thankfulness there for the opportunity to reconsider your thinking and come to new wisdom.

The guilt of American Christians is not for deeds over which they have no control. It's because of their hearty endorsement of these abominations. It is not that innocent people are kidnapped and tortured in the American gulag all over the world and you can't do anything about it, as it was for the average Soviet citizen back when. It's that you're foremost in insisting upon these things. If Christians insisted upon torturers like Bush and Cheney being tried and put in prison for their crimes, would it not happen? No, Obama continues their policies because he fears your wrath if he doesn't. Just because you can't get wimpy prayers recited in schools and 10 words that you don't obey posted in courthouses doesn't mean you don't get unconditional support for Israeli colonialism and invasion and bombing all over the world.

Finally, so long as you argue with your own presumptions instead of what I say, you'll find it frustrating, because I'm just not going to confess the things you ascribe to me if I haven't said them and don't believe them.

I did not say there were not 7 churches just as the Revelation says. The plain meaning of the Bible is, however, what the Bible says it is. Jesus didn't pluck the doctrine of unlimited forgiveness out of nothing. Peter's misunderstanding of the proverb is clearly where he got the notion of forgiving up to 7 times, and his mistake was yours. That's how the Christian church looked then, and although those are all gone today, that's still how it is. That's how Jesus dealt with us in our different places, so that's how he does now, because he is the same yesterday, to day, and forever.

You'll be more persuasive and be less frustrated if you stop speculating about my motives and deal with what I've said. "Conclusory" is what judges call such accusations when finding such arguments without merit and bouncing them.

Try following Jesus in the gospels, who even when he knew their malice never brought it up until he had disposed of their arguments. Go read! It will help you as it helps me.

8/28/2010 6:45 PM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

Bogger failed to add trhis, which Jason posted this Aug 30 at 4:49 PM:

You express concern that Christians repent of their identification with America, but you identify with it by your citizenship, by funding it with taxes, by enjoying its first-world economic condition and political system, and by being content enough with what it is and does that you remain within its borders. Your concerns ring hollow when your (lack of) actions, rather than your blogger account, smack of barcalounging hypocrisy; vigorous in judging what you conform to. You can justify your stay here all you want with Hebrews 11, but one wonders why you remain in the foreign land of America when there are so many others to choose from. Who financed the various American interventions in Latin America and elsewhere you so proudly condemn, and who is currently paying for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars? You and I, Mr. Attwood, as a consequence of remaining in America. And if America is your foremost example of treachery in the world (since it’s all you talk about), you have a responsibility to avoid participating in it for the duration of your temporary stay. Alas, here you are, and here you remain. Why should the American Christians you poke at with sticks of repentance take your words more seriously than you do?

Then you scrutinize my sentences and find fault because I use the word “us” when speaking of America in what amounts to little more substance than Bill Clinton’s “it depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is” dodgery. We’re both Americans, and “us” is applicable in both of our cases with the main difference being that I would have long ago relocated to your prized Iceland rather than being opposed to, but nonetheless comfortably participating in, this country. A prostitute is not excused from her profession because she hates the world and who she is in it. Perhaps you should place a more literal emphasis on the “Go” in “Go and sin no more.”

By arguing that the wrath of a small remnant of believers in this country are influential enough to compel Obama to continue his bombing raids, you must also address your newly created contradiction as to why this same group of Christians with all their political sway can’t stop the 1.2 million annual abortions happening within our own borders. At a certain point one should realize that the group of people you are referring to who enjoy carpet bombing and millions of dead babies locally and abroad might not be God’s remnant; that you’re addressing the wrong crowd.

The pompous me vs. the sinners theme of your blog which you illustrate directly toward me in your latest comments reminds me of when God had to assure Elijah that there were still 7,000 in Israel who had not bowed a knee before Baal. The difference being Elijah believed Him. Or am I making another boo-boo by fixating on the number 7,000 when I could incorrectly and arbitrarily expand that number high enough to justify transferring the sin of a secular political bureaucracy to the minority of believers? Attwood among the Christoids indeed.

8/31/2010 1:03 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

Another from Jason that Blogger would not post, Aug 30 at 7:48:

Each new post of yours begins afresh and disjointed from your previous comments. For example, you posed to me an irrelevant challenge of what wrong has Chavez done compared to the CIA, has Chavez done anything like Iraq, has he committed more murders, etc, etc, etc, and then with a straight face (as it were) proceed to claim that you’re “really not interested in American empire’s moral contest …” Well of course you are, Mr. Attwood, otherwise you wouldn’t have devoted half of a response to establishing the contest’s parameters and selecting its players.

Or how about how at first you determined my aversion to repentance based on the way I had “ever spoken of it,” and now with pedals in full reverse, it’s no longer the frequency of the word, but my resentment at its prescription. This circular determination (I am hostile toward repentance because I resent it which explains my hostility) is silly tautology. It never seems to dawn on you that the resentment of the prescription will always follow a false diagnosis, in your case an intentional selection of groups based not on how edifying their message to believers is, but on how much you feel Americans (not necessarily Christians) dislike them. From there it’s just a matter of wrapping the Bible like playdough around your political grievances and expecting uncritical acceptance (another unbiblical concept) from the general shapes you make. Disagreeing with your thoughts on Hugo Chavez is not the same as supporting a lot of dead Latin Americans.

The answer to your questions regarding Chavez is that of course he has not even begun to approach American sponsored and orchestrated immorality, but this is a consequence only of his limited worldly means, not his worldly ends. Likewise, Chavez has also not even begun to approach the good America has done in the world, again, as a consequence of his limited means. Has Chavez provided financial aid to the poor? America has provided more. Has Chavez supplied aid stuffs to the developing world? America has supplied more. You admit with your trademark ambiguity that Chavez may have “other things” written on his heart … if I can offer a guess as I must, you mean worldly, wicked things as well. And with this acknowledgment you have described the same dynamic at work in America which would hold true with most worldly powers in proportion to their means. That is why I have pointed out how this line of reasoning is pointless.

8/31/2010 1:05 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

Jason brought up a couple of points worth addressing.

You claim that I endorse the American empire's deeds by being here and paying taxes, and that if I were for real I would move elsewhere.

Paul kept and used his Roman citizenship, although not on his own lusts. Moreover he taught to pay taxes and otherwise render obedience to authorities, but by no means to be conformed to their thinking or serve their gods. In like manner, Jesus gave taxes that he didn't owe to avoid offense, without thereby endorsing whatever those collecting them did with them. Your accusation here is the same effort to make Jesus a collaborator if he said to pay taxes and a rebel if he didn't. You're not being innovative anyway.

I don't understand how the 7000 that God spoke to Elijah of relates to my argument. If American Christians did not largely support the imperial project and all its abominations, they would not be responsible. But in their votes, their sermons, the polling data, and their current leadership of the intensifying movement against Muslims, they show their hearty endorsement of these abominations.

Nor does it follow that failure to block abortion shows that Christians have no influence. It only shows that the prevalent apostasy has rendered us useless to accomplish good.

How can people who oppose abortion of Americans still in the belly be taken seriously in heaven or earth when they heartily favor it elsewhere so long as it accomplished with Hellfire missiles, even when they come out of the belly, and even approving Israeli white phosphorous in Gaza?

Also you don't know how comfortable I am here, or why I am here and not elsewhere. You would reduce the risk of making a fool of yourself by sticking to issues and avoiding ad hominem attacks. Do you see Jesus or the prophets doing that much?

Finally, I am not hostile to the United States of America as such, but to the evil ideology it lives by, and more precisely, the apostasy of Christians conformed to it. Yes, to oppose the iniquity of the nation seems like an attack to you, but it is written that Satan weakens the nations - and how so, if not by the ideologies they live by, and in which they think they have their life?

Even many unbelievers can see that American messianism is likely to ruin this nation, as Nazism ruined Germany and militarism ruined Japan. Those who opposed that madness are not seen as enemies in those places today, since their madness has passed, so those of us who oppose the like in the United States are not for that reason enemies either. But as you'll remember, that's how Ahab saw Elijah, and how Jehoiakim saw Jeremiah, and both loved the false prophets who told them how right they were.

8/31/2010 1:32 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

A couple of misunderstandings I guess I should address in Jason's last post.

Since I never found fault with how many times you had spoken of repentance, but only with the resentful way you addressed it each time, I don't feel like I'm back-pedaling to correct your false impression of what I never said.

I never addressed Hugo Chavez's heart - only his behavior, and the biblical wisdom he has evinced in contrast with others that hate him even though his behavior is better then theirs. He may have never cracked a Bible. Paul wrote of those that show the law written in their hearts even if they've never been taught it (Romans 2).

I'm not being ambiguous to acknowledge that "who knows what lurks in the heart of Hugo Chavez." It's not ambiguity but agnosticism. The less we have to take a position on what's in someone's heart, the less likely to fall into folly through such presumption.

It's not obvious to me that America has provided more aid to the poor than Hugo Chavez, especially if we consider that the poor woman's two copper coins were more than the gold and silver that the rich were putting in. How are you comparing America and Chavez in this respect? Are you employing that biblical arithmetic? This is not a rhetorical question. I want to know how you're thinking here. Perhaps you could address what it means that Chavez gave poor people in New England heating oil because their fellow Americans were not providing it.

When the richest nation in the world has one sixth of its population on food stamps, always has another hundred billion to kill people but has no budget to put people to work doing real stuff that needs done in their own country, can always find a trillion for the banksters but not 50 billion to keep state governments providing essential services - that nation doesn't seem too good at showing mercy to the poor.

Look, I'm not talking about being nice or virtuous here. This stuff, as Talleyrand once said, is worse than a crime; it's a blunder.

If Isaiah's guts can be turned over for Moab, I can suffer some anguish seeing the USA go into such a death spiral, from bad to worse, without identifying with it - even though I realize that nothing else is likely to save the world from its depredations and smash this idol in the hearts of Christians. After all, Americans are most of the people that I know and love.

And I certainly need not be pleased to see Christians in thrall to its vile ideologies and conformed to its most evil deeds - and worse than that, actually even more eager for them than the unbelievers, just as the scribes and Pharisees were worse than the whores and tax gatherers back in the day.

8/31/2010 2:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see an apparent pattern going on here.
When Peter uses the word Christian he is refering to the multitude of people in America who say that they are Christians. When Jason uses the word Christian he is refering to a very small number of people who actally have understood the Bible correctly, or perhaps an even smaller number who have understood the Bible correctly and have lead their lives in accordance with this understanding well enough to please God and obtain his permission for their souls to enter heaven when the day of judgement comes.
Now either Peter or Jason may both disagree with this observation. My only response to that would be what do other people have to say about this observation if there is anyone else following the discussion.
I do not know where I have heard it before but I have heard it said that other people can often know things about us better than we can know ourselves. That could just be propoganda though to encourage people to seek counseling from other people who will then charge you to offer you stupid generalities about how to fix your marriage or your drug addiction or your inabiltiy to hold a job or whatever.
That is my 3 cents, fee of charge.

8/31/2010 3:31 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

Curt, that's pretty accurate. It's a messy issue because the Bible is all over the place on it. God knows those that are his, and again, let those that name the name of the Lord depart from iniquity, as Paul put it.

So we don't really know those that are his, because we see people up to this moment - that's if we're seeing clearly - but the truth is what they're going to be, and that's always at least somewhat hidden from us. It's too early to distinguish the weeds and the wheat.

So then how do you talk about Christians? A Christian is a disciple of Jesus (Acts 11:26). That certainly eliminates those who are not enrolled in the school of Jesus and attending. But Paul wouldn't have found himself in dangers among false brethren if that was always easy to tell.

You can't say Christians are fine, because people that do such and such aren't really Christians. Unfortunately, real Christians fall into some dreadful crimes sometimes - David comes to mind.

On the whole, for our usual purposes, people who confess Christ, even if they're taking his name in vain, are still taking it, and teaching the world their doctrine of Christ. So if someone makes the claim to be a Christian, it seems to work better to hold him accountable to his profession than to assert with no certain knowledge that it is false.

9/01/2010 2:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you ask, How do you then talk about Christians? Is that a rhetorical question or are you asking for my opinion?
I am also not sure that I understand your very last sentence of that post.

9/01/2010 10:38 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

"Paul wouldn't have found himself in dangers among false brethren if that was always easy to tell"

"Unfortunately, real Christians fall into some dreadful crimes sometimes"

Both of these are completely valid points. In both these cases, the wolves in sheep's clothing and the struggling Christian (aren't we all?) were certainly not a majority in Rome. Therefore, it wouldn't have made much sense for Paul to have denounced the Corinthians or any other believers for Rome's brutal, expansionist foreign policy.

If you would be so kind to see that this post and my last comments to Curt get through ... for some reason they don't seem to make it on their own.

9/01/2010 12:21 PM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

No, not a rhetorical question. Like everyone else I know, I lack wisdom on it. In general, the wisdom of judges and hearing officers seems good: don't reach a question if you don't have to. The less guessing we do about people, the less injustice and stupidity results - an instance of what the Proverbs call prudence. And then the less full of our own opinions we are, the more likely to hear what God may have to say when we do need to know - a growth in internal silence.

Christians are not responsible for the crimes of the nations they live in, or indeed the sins of others in general, just because they happen. Responsibility comes of participating in them, and as Romans 1 concludes, giving them hearty approval.

In 1914, British, French, and German Christians became responsible for the worldly delight in war around them (Psalm 120) by enthusiastically participating. Since all were wholly conformed to the nationalism of the nations among whom they lived, they showed the world that they were led entirely by worldly ideology, and not by the Holy Spirit, who obviously was not the spirit leading them to kill one another in the trenches. And so Europeans concluded that Christianity was just crap, the magpie in Orwell's Animal Farm.

It's the same now. The Christians spread their legs for American nationalism the same way, and the consequences have already been the same, in that considerable seqments of American society are totally estranged from anything Christians might have to say, not to mention that the teaching of Jesus, most clearly seen in the Sermon on the Mount, is almost wholly absent in Christian churches, and so the world is given nothing of Jesus to interact with, much less believe.

And when the train wrecks here as it did in 1918-1919, as it surely must in the end, the words of Hosea will become evident, "Although you play the harlot, you will not increase."

I've gone through my inbox and found nothing that didn't get here. It sounds like you'll need to resend anything that's missing, and I will see to it that it gets here, if Blogger doesn't.

9/02/2010 1:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was watching this movie yesterday called The Constant Gardener.
It was about the wife of a British Diplomat in Kenya who finds out that a big Pharmaceutical Company is doing clinical trials in Kenya and faking the results. Her attempts to bring this corruption to light gets her killed. Her Husband takes up where she left off and he gets killed too. The movie does have a fake happy ending by having an incriminating letter read from from the Church pulpit during a memorial ceremony. Supposedly that results in a scandal.
After the movie one of the people that watched it with me said, "Humans are not fair, honest, or good. They never have been and they never will be. No one should attempt to change that."
I think that it would take a fool or a suicidal maniac to disregard that advice.

9/02/2010 5:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Continuing Skirmishes along the West Wall.

OK I wanted to walk the dog and my wife told me that I should sit down and watch another episode of Rome with her. I said that after 6 episodes I have had enough and did not want to watch anymore. She asked my why. I said that I am tired of all the back stabbing and treachery just to gain a higher position so that the back stabber could gain a higher position so that they could gain more wealth or gain more wealth so that they could gain a higher position. She said that is reality why do I want to hide from reality. I said because I do not want my nose rubbed in it. She said something that I do not remember any more and I said, "No I would like to watch programs that emphasize what Robert Kennedy said, Do not look at the way things are and ask why. Look at the way they could be and ask why not."
She then said, "Yes, Just what exactly to Robert Kennedy actually accomplish in his life." I just stood there in silence for a moment and then all I could come up with was, "Well he did not die of cancer."

9/04/2010 4:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now I get to cheat. I get to write here what I wished that I had said to my wife when our conversation came to an end and she does not get the opportunity to respond.
That is to me all this effort to achieve more power so that one can accumulate more wealth is not worthy of a life time of effort. At best it can just be something to be a temporary diversion from the real work of political struggle for the common good.
Now when I was a young man a friend told me that the only way to have a political impact is to have lots of money to throw at a problem or goal. The thing is that people who follow that route get so wrapped up in the struggle to accumulate money that they totally lose sight of what the purpose of earning the money was for.
It does not take the bible to understand this. It does not take the bible to understand that in a Free Market economy those most likely to be able to accumulate large amounts of money are most likely those that already have large amounts of money. The only people who have large enough amounts of money to wage politcal warfare are those who are already saturated with vacation homes, swimming pools, Porsches, and vacations on the French Riviera or in Bad Marienberg.
Now it is possible that the only reason that I think that political struggle is a more worthy way to spend ones time is because I have not been any good at accumulating the trophies of wealth.
If my wife were here she would say that I have also not been able to accomplish even one teeny tiny thing in the world of politics either. Furthermore the world of politics has a much higher risk and pays absolutely no benefits.
I would think but I would not say, Revenge is a sweet benefit. I would not say it because not only do most religious schools of thought teach not to persue revenge even most secular schools of philosophy council against becoming vengeful. Furthermore when the weak seek revenge on those that have misused their power the powerful if they even notice the attempts of the weak to achieve revenge squash them like insects. Logically one can not ever come close to justifying a life of resistance to the powerful.

Oh well there are those who think a life of resistance will in the end be justified when they are pronounced worthy, and justified by the ULTIMATE power. They certainly have a indestructible rock on which to build their self destructive behavior.
That is a story for another book however. I myself will just illogically continue to refuse to accept the logic of this space time dimension until it is the way I like it or until I die. God be damned.

9/04/2010 4:37 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

I've seen that movie too. I'm persuaded that human beings are incorrigible by us - we too are humans - so that we might learn that it's a God-size job, and to rely on him in such work. This way when we can accomplish something along that line, we're freed from boasting in ourselves.

You're reminding me what a big deal it is to be sent to turn men from darkness to light, as Jesus was (Isaiah 49), and his disciples too. But if we think it has anything to do with virtue inherent in ourselves in any way, we need a reminder of just how impossible such work is for human beings. Such transformation is truly from God.

The Christian life is really never difficult. It's impossible. Whenever we get that straight and look up, it's easy, as Jesus said.

9/04/2010 4:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter that is very interesting although I have a someone different perception of the whole thing.
Once upon a time I was pulling guard duty. I was required to to get 10 rounds of ammunition for a pistol.
Well I counted out 5 rounds when I got interrupted, again it was by someone asking me a question. Well I answered the question and then continued loading 10 rounds of ammunition in to my magazine as two other people watched.
Well it turned out that 5 rounds were short. We started looking for them. I swore that I had loaded 10 rounds and two people had watched me. They verified that they had watch me load 10 rounds.
Well later I got a call from the the boss telling me to check me magazine to see how many rounds I had. There was chaos as everyone was searching for 5 rounds of ammunition. I refused to check my magazine because I was sure that I had 10 rounds.
Well when the shift change came and I unloaded my magazine of course 15 rounds came out. Damn if I had any intelligence I would have noticed that my weapon was a bit heavy.
It is a miracle that I was not severely punished. It can only be attributed to the idea that this event not only made me look bad it made quite a number of people look bad. I had clearly acted very stubbornly.
Am I a stubborn person?

9/04/2010 7:07 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

It would be rash for any man to deny that he's stubborn. But while naming a thing what it is really helps, labeling a thing is often a substitute for real understanding and stops progress. I have more to learn about hits paradox, but there it is.

Relationship with God really happens i nlearning from him what is really happening in these malfunctions. I've seen consistently that when I act way more stupid than the usual, there's always something valuable to learn there. Why was it so important not to look in your magazine? It can be really profitable to ask God about that. Sometimes the real deal is something you could not have imagined.

9/04/2010 8:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thinking more about your post from 4:50 am.
It covers several points that have divided Theologians and Philosophers from the beginning of such discussions. It reminded me of discussions that I used to have with a college room mate who was preparing to enter the seminary.
What I really agree with is the idea of impossibility.
If a person applies a standard of Christianity of love thy neighbor as thy self then I would agree that Christianity is impossible.
If make Christianity even simpler and say it means just be nice to people not mean to them, unless they deserve it, then I would say that being a Christian is possible.
My way of rephrasing Christs directive in to something that I think is possible is Treat others as you would treat your cousin. Most people have lots of cousins. Some they get along great with some not so great. Some they hardly no or maybe even do not know at all. In any case I think that most people would not let their cousin starve if there was something that they could do about it. They might kill their cousin but only if they thought that they had a good reason and they would certainly give them the benefit of the doubt and go an extra step to avoid conflict with their cousins.
Human life though is not only about personal conduct. Their is also a political aspect. Decisions have to be made about how we live together on a grand scale. What sorts of collective policies we will follow.
Over the past several years I have come to the conclusion that mankind can not survive for very long without help. Yet even though we can recognize that we need help we have to also recognize that our position is absurd. Christians would say look up. Buddhists would say look with in. Secular Philosophers would say look around. When this happens we do not get any collective answers. When Ghandi looks he sees one thing. When Hitler looks he sees another.
When Russel Means looks he sees still something else.
So we have to accept that not only is our position as humans impossible it is also absurd.
My reaction to being placed in such a position is to say that the only thing that mankind can do under the circumstances is to......
......make ART. One art that I like to practice is to issue Confucian like edicts. Here are a couple that I have come up with.
1. Life is an art not a science.
2. All wars are civil wars.
Do you like them or do they push your buttons the wrong way?

9/05/2010 2:09 AM  
Blogger Peter Attwood said...

"All wars are civil wars"
As James wrote, wars and fightings arise among us because of our lusts at war in our members. One need look no further to see that this is a thoroughly biblical statement. I hope to work out its implications further.
"Life is an art not a science"
Hard to argue with this one either. Very little truth in life is arrived at through double-blind studies or reproducible experiments.

Turning to your earlier thoughts, Jesus did mean what he said, and he advised against diluting it. It's good to look at the context.

Jesus had been down at the base of the mountain healing the sick, ejecting evil spirits, and generally exercising the power of the kingdom of God. And then he went up the hill, and his disciples followed him up there. This tells us what for - what is the secret of the authority that Jesus could exercise? Where did Jesus get such authority? That's the whole point of his teaching here, to answer that question.

So Jesus is describing what it looks like to be under the authority of God, since that's how you have the authority from God that Jesus had. What Jesus found amazing was that only the Roman centurion in Matthew 8 got this point.

What Jesus taught there makes all kinds of sense, but only if Dad is really around. Not living as Jesus taught here really doesn't make sense, and so a sort of meta-message here is that the only way the universe makes sense is if God is around and gives authority to those under his authority - and living under his authority, a bit more at a time, is how we start finding that out.

9/05/2010 10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Message received. I have nothing more to say for now.

9/06/2010 1:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was going through some old letters yesterday or perhaps the day before when I came across an edict that I think is relevant here.
I can not really say for sure if this is an edict that I came up with myself or if it was given to me.
It is really extremely simple but I think it explains a lot about schisms. So here it is............
Words have different meanings to different people.

9/09/2010 3:37 PM  

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