Friday, February 15, 2013

John the Lydian on Life in the Womb

John Lydus aka John the Lydian was a 6th century writer. He wrote a treatise, De Mensibus (on the Months), which is primarily a history of the different pagan festivals of the year. It is somewhat significant with respect to claims regarding the syncretism of Byzantine Christianity with respect to pagan festivals. Included in this discussion was an interesting set of comments on the beliefs of that day regarding infants in the womb:
Those of the Romans who write natural history say that when seed is cast into the womb, on the third day it is transformed into blood and "paints" [Gk. διαζωγραφεῖν] the heart, which is said to be formed first and to die last. For if three is the beginning / ruling principle of numbers, and is an odd number, then consequently the beginning / ruling principle of birth [comes] from it. And on the ninth [day], it congeals and coagulates to form flesh and marrow; and on the 40th [day it is said] to be completed as a comprehensive form of configuration—to put it simply, a complete human being. Something similar to [these properties of] the days [holds true] in the case of the months. In the third month, [the fetus] held in the womb begins to move; and in the ninth month it is completely finished and hastens to come out.


After the pregnancy, they say that the newborn child is wrapped in swaddling clothes on the third [day], and that on the ninth [day] it becomes stronger and tolerates being touched; and on the 40th [day] it acquires the ability to laugh and it begins to recognize its mother.
(John Lydus, De Mensibus, February)

Thanks very much to Roger Pearse for placing this in the public domain.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Christian Doctrine of the Sabbath

The sabbath is a day of celebrating creation and redemption through rest from our ordinary work and worship of God.

Creation and Redemption can respectively be seen in the two versions of the fourth commandment:
Exodus 20:11
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

Deuteronomy 5:15
And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the Lord thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.
However, Christ Jesus did a new work of Creation and Redemption and completed that on the first day of the week, when he arose from grave. Accordingly, since that time, believers have fathered for worship on the first of the seven, rather than on the seventh of the seven.

We see this is in the positive example of the apostles:
John 20:19
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

Acts 20:7
And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

1 Corinthians 16:2
Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.
We also see this in the negative example of the apostles, namely that they did outreach to the Jews on the Jewish Sabbath:
Acts 13:14
But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and sat down.

Acts 13:42
And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath.

Acts 16:13
And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

Acts 17:2
And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,

Acts 18:4
And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.
In general, the sabbath day is a day of rest. However, the sabbath does not absolutely prohibit all work. For example works of necessity and mercy are lawful on the sabbath:
Matthew 12:1-14
At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were an hungred, and began to pluck the ears of corn and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, "Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day."
But he said unto them, "Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests? Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day."
And when he was departed thence, he went into their synagogue: and, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, "Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him."
And he said unto them, "What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days." Then saith he to the man, "Stretch forth thine hand." And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.
Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.

Mark 2:23-28
And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, "Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?"
And he said unto them, "Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him? How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?" And he said unto them, "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath."

Luke 6:1-11
And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, "Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?"
And Jesus answering them said, "Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him; how he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?" And he said unto them, that the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him. But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, "Rise up, and stand forth in the midst." And he arose and stood forth. Then said Jesus unto them, "I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?" And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, "Stretch forth thy hand." And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other. And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.

John 5:5-16
And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, "Wilt thou be made whole?"
The impotent man answered him, "Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me."
Jesus saith unto him, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk."
And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, "It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed."
He answered them, "He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk."
Then asked they him, "What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?"
And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee." The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

John 7:21-24
Jesus answered and said unto them, "I have done one work, and ye all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."

John 9:14-16
And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, "He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see."
Therefore said some of the Pharisees, "This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day."
Others said, "How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?"
And there was a division among them.
The kind of work that is not appropriate for a day of rest is illustrated in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the post-exilic administration:
Exodus 16:22-25
And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the Lord: to day ye shall not find it in the field.

Exodus 35:2-3
Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the Lord: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death. Ye shall kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.

Numbers 15:32-36
And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him. And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.

Nehemiah 10:31
And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.

Nehemiah 13:15-21
In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals. There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, "What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath."
And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day. So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice.
Then I testified against them, and said unto them, "Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you." From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath.

Jeremiah 17:20-25
And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the Lord, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates: thus saith the Lord; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction. And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the Lord, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein; then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever.
Nevertheless, these prohibitions should be understood contextually and as a restraint on work, not as fetters. Thus, for example, the Pharisees (and some modern Jews) overly rigidly interpreted the prohibition mentioned in Jeremiah, such as they considered the man carrying his bed to be sinning.

The sabbath rest we have is just a shadow and type of the rest that is to come.
Genesis 2:2-3
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

Hebrews 3:11
So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)

Hebrews 3:18
And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?

Hebrews 4:3-11
For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, "And God did rest the seventh day from all his works."[Genesis 2:3] And in this place again, "If they shall enter into my rest." [Psalm 95:11] Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, "To day," after so long a time; as it is said, "To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." [Psalm 95:7] For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Revelation 14:13
And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.
By contrast, those who do not follow God will not have this rest, but will instead have eternal torment:
Revelation 14:11
And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
So let us seek to enter into the ultimate Sabbath, the Lord's Day.

Revelation 1:10 "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,"


February/March of a Year of Biblical Womanhood (Guest Post)

The following is part four of a critical review of Rachel Held Evans's book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”, Thomas Nelson, 2012 (see this link for a little more background and an index to all sections of the review). Ms. Evans's book starts with October and ends with September, thus this review follows Ms. Evans's order.


Beauty is the topic of the month and here I think Rachel Evans makes some good points. She notes the odd, yet apparently not uncommon teaching of some evangelical pastors (among them Mark Driscoll) who seem to lay the blame for a husband's fornication exclusively on the wife’s “letting herself go” (getting fat, etc.). Dr. Laura Schlesinger has said the same thing, so it's not an exclusively Christian idea. Anecdotal evidence tells us that men stray from even the most amazing and beautiful wives in favor of less amazing and beautiful ones, e.g., Prince Charles’s wandering from Princess Diana for Camilla, a move which caused many men and women to scratch their heads in wonder. But Christians should know better than to blame the wife for the husband’s sin (or vice versa, for that matter). After all, James 1: 14-15 says,
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
Men, women, and children are indeed responsible for their own sins which spring from their own sinful desires.[FN1] This is the clear teaching of Scripture and a Berean Christian, one who searches the Word of God to be sure that the teaching heard from preachers matches the teaching of the Bible, knows that.

Next, Ms. Evans talks about the foolishness of the “abstinence pledge” that she and countless others in evangelical churches have signed. According to her statistics, only 12% keep that promise. First of all, the whole idea of an abstinence pledge sounds a little odd—why just promise to abstain from sexual sin, but not lying, theft, etc. as well? In fact, when a person is converted, he is to confess Christ as Savior and Lord, i.e., King and Ruler of his life. He is not his own person, for he has been bought with a price, the price of Christ’s blood. So perhaps the answer to the 12% success rate is that churches contain many members or attenders who are not truly born again and therefore have not been radically transformed, or at least are not in the process of being radically transformed by the Word of God. A good read on this topic would be Finally Alive by John Piper (2009)(link to pdf - other versions).

Another resource that provides good counsel in the area of sexual purity is a chapter in Kevin deYoung’s book, The Hole in Our Holiness, pp. 107-122 which talks about the Bible’s “radically different sexual ethic” than the world’s Here is godly advice. A book quoted by deYoung that sounds very promising is Sex, Dating and Relationships: A Fresh Approach by Gerald Hiestand and Jay S. Thomas (2012).

Again, I agree with Ms. Evans’ statement that physical beauty is more an Old Testament thing than a New Testament one, a fact that has been noted by several traditional and conservative commentators.[FN2]

The woman of the month who gets several pages of coverage is Ruth the Moabitess. Here Evans takes a feminist view on the book of Ruth. No mention is made of Ruth calling Boaz “lord” which she does in 2:13, perhaps a mere slip on the part of Rachel. She claims that although Naomi advised Ruth that Boaz would “tell you what to do” (Ruth 3:2-4), in reality Ruth told Boaz what to do: she asked him to spread his cloak over her. But Boaz goes on and does tell Ruth what to do: “Stay here for the night and it shall be in the morning if [the kinsman-redeemer) will perform the part of a kinsman…” She refers to Naomi’s plan as “brazen” and mentions that “to uncover the feet” means to “uncover the genitals.”[FN3] A less dramatic understanding of the text might be to “lift up the clothes that are on,” which need not imply immodesty. Thus ends February.


March is for Modesty! The “To Do” list includes: dressing modestly, wearing a head covering, wearing only skirts and dresses—no slacks or jeans; abstaining from wearing jewelry; and hanging out with the Amish.

Ms. Evans admits to being discouraged at several points during this year, in curling up in a fetal position, but her complaints are met with her husband’s reminder that she undertook all this as a result of a contract she willingly signed with the publisher, so she has only herself to blame. So after bit of icy coldness between the Dan and her, or a few episodes of The Twilight Zone, she continues.

This chapter owes a lot to Orthodox Jewish scholars and Evans’s Orthodox Jewish advisor/friend, Ahava. This is a mistake because Orthodox Judaism misses the point of much of the Old Testament. If they did not, they would be orthodox Christians. Again, there is a failure on the part of the author to distinguish between the Old and New economy and the differences between the ceremonial, the civil, and the moral law of God.

It was interesting to read of a 1944 “Marylike Modesty Crusade” an effort “to codify Pope Pius XI’s instructions regarding immodest dress,” an effort I had never heard of (perhaps not so surprising since I am a Protestant).[FN4] But much of the chapter is devoted to the Amish and their peculiarities.

I think that Evans could really not find too much fault with the call of the Bible to modesty, especially because that call is interpreted in a different light by different women. This is not surprising. As each believer studies the Word of God, he must arrive at a decision on how to live. Whatever is not of faith is sin. If a woman wears a covering on her head in church we believe she does so out of a desire to please God.[FN5] The same goes for women who wear dresses and not slacks, or who abstain from drinking alcohol or who do not believe in dancing. It may be that the Bible allows for more freedom than a particular person thinks, but still here in this world we see through a glass darkly. Not all our decisions will line up perfectly with the perfect Word of God, but God sees our motivation. Thankfully, the ground of our salvation is not our adherence to a certain set of rules, yet we have been saved in order to live holy lives (Ephesians 1:4), and may God enable us all to do so more and more.


[FN1] Editor's note: Indeed, a proper balance is necessary. Scripture teaches both that people have personal responsibility for sin and that people have responsibility for tempting others to sin (recall the harsh penalty for proselytizers for other gods in the law of Moses). Blaming everything on the tempter was the error of Adam and Eve and one that Christians should have the wisdom to avoid. Nevertheless, the tempter was also punished for tempting and Christians should avoid placing stumbling blocks before one another.

[FN2] Editor's note: The hermeneutic we should apply is one of continuity. Notice carefully that 1 Peter 3:3-5 states: "Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands ...." Thus, while outward beauty is mentioned in the Old Testament (and while it is a good thing), the principle focus should be on inward spiritual beauty. The most obvious reference Peter is making is to the situation where, "when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king's chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed" (Esther 2:15).

[FN3] Editor's note: While, of course, there may be some basis for suggesting that "uncover ... feet" is an idiomatic euphemism, it might seem kinder to give Ruth and Naomi the benefit of the doubt, and suggest that literal feet are what are intended.

[FN4] Editor's note: Interestingly, The 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 1262, stated, "...women, however, shall have a covered head and be modestly dressed, especially when they approach the table of the Lord." The 1983 Code of Canon Law (which abrogated the 1917 Code) did not repromulgate this provision. Cardinal Burke states:
The wearing of a chapel veil for women is not required when women assist at the Holy Mass according to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It is, however, the expectation that women who assist at the Mass according to the Extraordinary Form cover their heads, as was the practice at the time that the 1962 Missale Romanum was in force. It is not, however, a sin to participate in the Holy Mass according to the Extraordinary Form without a veil.

[FN5] Editor's note: And more particularly a desire to obey the rules set forth in 1 Corinthians 11.

(My apologies to the reader for so many editorial notes. Perhaps at a later date the editor should simply put forth his own article.)

(Recall, this is a guest post).


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Interesting Benedictine Juxtaposition

"Human beings are not the authors of their own vocation, but respond to a divine call. Human weakness should not lead us to fear God's call. It is necessary to be confident in His strength, which acts precisely in our weakness." (Benedict XVI, General Audience 10 February 2013)

"I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me." (Benedict XVI, Declaration 11 February 2013)

The point is not to beleaguer a tired old man, but simply to observe the interesting contrast of comments in the course of a day. There are also some troubling implications to Benedict's statements regarding incapacity. Then again, he hasn't pretended to infallibly define any dogmas, so perhaps it's not of any great to concern to the minimalists who feel obliged only to follow the pope on those points where he solemnly defines dogma.


Shocked by His Resignation!

The Christian blogosphere today is in shock over the departure of C.L. Bolt from the blogging team at Choosing Hats. It's a completely unprecedented move, and he will (in all seriousness) be missed. I hope he returns to blogging soon!


Caners on the John Ankerberg Show - Part 1

I'm not sure whether John Ankerberg plans to archive these videos on the web, as it appears that the plan is to offer these videos on DVD in exchange for a "gift" of $39 (link to page where video can be seen).  Thus, it makes sense to discuss these videos in series as they come out.

The first episode (February 10, 2013) has very limited biographical data about the Caners. Their pre-conversion biography is merely described by John Ankerberg in the following words (within the first minute of the segment): "my guests today are two former Sunni Muslims, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, where their father built mosques. When they made their decision to leave Islam and convert to Christianity, their father disowned them." Ankerberg also states that the Caners are "brilliant in knowing what the Quran says because they came out of that," which may be a little optimistic, although I'm sure the Caners know significantly more than typical American Christians know, regardless of how they came by that knowledge.

Regarding the very limited biographical claims, I'm not sure whether there is any evidence that their father "built mosques" aside from Ergun Caner's statements (see this earlier comment regarding Acar Caner). He apparently was some kind of an engineer.

Hadith Citation
I was pleased to see that the Hadith was cited more properly than we've seen many times in the past (see here).

Regarding the substance, I'm sure there are Muslims who are in a better position than I am to critique the Caners' comments regarding Sharia law and to confirm or deny the Caners' claims.  I hope that they will try to address those parts of the video, rather than focusing on Ergun Caner's past autobiographical claims, which .

I am unsure, for example, whether the divisions dar al-Islam and dar al-harb are properly divisions of people.  The primary sense of those divisions is, I think, one of territory - geographical regions.  Nevertheless, I welcome any comments pro or con the analysis of the substance of the Caners' comments.

Likewise, I think there are Muslims who would question the assertion that there are any Muslim countries that actually implement Sharia, although the Caners suggest that the number of such countries is around three dozen.

- TurretinFan

Monday, February 11, 2013

December/January of a Year of Biblical Womanhood (Guest Post)

The following is part three of a critical review of Rachel Held Evans's book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”, Thomas Nelson, 2012 (see this link for a little more background and an index to all sections of the review). Ms. Evans's book starts with October and ends with September, thus this review follows Ms. Evans's order.


Rachel hit the ground running in this, her third month of the “Year of Biblical Womanhood,” referring to the Bible as “a collection of ancient texts that routinely describe women as property,” specifically referring to the tenth commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant…” Yet Rachel herself refers to Dan Evans, to whom she is married, as “my husband, Dan” and I don’t know how different that is from the language of the commandment. [FN1]

Again, to make her case against the Bible as a book that you would not want to live by, she cringes at the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, which were abrogated in the New, as well as the civil law of the Old Testament, which is no longer binding except so far as general equity requires. She shows a bit of arrogance in asserting that people who claim the Bible never troubles them can never “actually (have) read it.”

Ms. Evans takes Doug Philips of Vision Forum to task for his version of Biblical patriarchy because although he wants women to work in the home and doesn’t recommend girls go to college, nevertheless he does not recommend stoning adulterers. “Selective literalism,” she says.

She continues to fail to note distinctions in Scripture, between the old and new economy, between that which was fulfilled in Christ and enduring truths. She applauds Jesus in John 8:3-11 for (supposedly) breaking God’s laws Himself in the case of the woman taken in adultery [FN2]. She refers to Jesus’ doing this as a thing she alternately rebukes or praises—that of “selective literalism.” When it suits her cause, she likes it, when it does not she hurls accusations.

Also, this month she calls Dan her “Master,” much to his chagrin, but does so in an “I Dream of Jeanie” sort of way, which makes the enterprise more laughable and thus more marketable. And if you thought 1 Peter 3:5 & 6 was true, you need to listen to Rachel as qualifies Sarah's obedience to her husband, by pointing out that Sarah encouraged Abraham to marry Hagar his slave.

Next she visits a “Christian” polygamous family and from this chapter you would think that this is no mere aberration but a regular feature of those who strive to live biblically. She tells us that polygamy was “common in biblical times” yet one very noted marriage and family scholar (and not a conservative one, either) will tell you that in Israelite culture, polygamy clearly was not common. (David R. Mace, Hebrew Marriage).

The month of December ends with a ceremony commemorating “the dark stories of biblical women” like Jephthah, Hagar, Tamar and so on, women who were “exploited, neglected, ravaged and crushed at the hand of patriarchy.” One would hope that she would glean from the sad stories of all people in Bible history that deliverance from sin was needed, and then thank God for deliverance and redemption found in Jesus Christ, but, no, the problem is not sin in general, but patriarchy in particular. Rid the world of that and we will be saved.

Finally, the “woman of the month” feature for December is, appropriately enough, Mary who gave birth to Jesus, the Savior. Mary’s song, The Magnificat, was “bold and subversive,” she says, despite the fact that much of it reflects the teaching of the Psalms (Ms. Evans appears blissfully unaware of the song's sourcing.) Ms. Evans seems to enjoy trying to shock her mostly Protestant readership by calling Mary “The Mother of God” and then clarifying what this means. Most of her jibes are only effective against a kind of shallow evangelicalism, which I suppose is a big enough target.


Now Rachel attempts to display “valor” for Proverbs 31:10 extols the “woman of valor.”[FN3] Although Rachel states that “most scholars seem to think that the best translation is “valorous woman” (instead of “an excellent wife”, “a worthy woman”, “a wife of noble character” and so on), she merely asserts this without any proof. Who are these majority of scholars? A “woman of valor” seems to be the translation most favored by Judaism, and in fact one of her advisers is an Orthodox Jewish woman, so this may be where Ms. Evans gleaned her information. There is no doubt that Bruce Waltke uses the term “woman of valor” but he is hardly “most scholars.” Yet that is a minor quibble.

Again, the author goes through another Amelia Bedelia routine, taking things literally by making a purple dress, a knitted red hat, and a pillow for her bed. She attempts to be an early riser who works hard until dark, avoids Facebook and Twitter so as not to “eat the bread of idleness” and strengthens her arms by—you guessed it, lifting weights. She decries the mini-empire of conferences, books and products which have sprung up about the Proverbs 31 woman, and we could join her in this if she did so for the clear consumerism of the whole thing, but her problem is that women out there are seeking to be like the Proverbs 31 woman, something that “most scholars” I imagine would endorse, even Bruce Waltke who says, “Wise daughters aspire to be like her, wise men seek to marry her, and all wise people aim to incarnate the wisdom she embodies, each in his own sphere of activity.”

She uses verse 30, “A woman who fears the LORD should be praised” as a prompt to “contemplative prayer” but it is unclear why, except that Jan Reiss, of Part Two of this trilogy did some contemplative praying. The climax of the month of valor actually took place halfway into February when she stood at the “Welcome to Dayton” sign with a small sign of her own making “DAN IS AWESOME,” thus praising Dan at the city gate, so to speak, and then she and Dan “laughed victoriously all the way home.”


FN1: Indeed, "her husband" is also found in the Authorized Version at Genesis 3:6 and 16:3, Numbers 5:13, 27, and 29, 30:7-8 and 10-14; Deuteronomy 21:13, and numerous other places. Whether or not the wife's possessive interest in her husband is perfectly symmetrical to his in her is a separate point, but see - for one example - "The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife." (1 Corinthians 7:4).

FN2: Ms. Evans does not appear to be aware that the text of the pericope of the Woman Taken in Adultery is not in the earliest manuscripts of John's gospel.

FN3: It is surely unsurprising that Ms. Evans doesn't consider the exegesis of Proverbs 31 as referring to an anthropomorphic representation of Wisdom, one of the major characters of Proverbs.


The above is a guest post.


Benedict XVI to Resign for "Health" Reasons

Benedict XVI is an octogenarian, so it is not in the least surprising if he has serious medical concerns. On the other hand, as many people are pointing out, a pope hasn't resigned the papacy since 1415, when Pope Gregory XII "resigned" to end the Western Schism (his resignation was basically forced by the Council of Constance - for a voluntary resignation, one would need to go back to Celestine V in 1294, or to the resignation of Benedict IX who was a "disgrace to the Chair of Peter"). Nevertheless, confirmed news reports indicate that Benedict XVI will be resigning shortly (link to a report).

Pope Benedict XVI's papacy has been involved in a number of different scandals, including the so-called "Vatileaks" scandal, in which various allegations of corruption were made and various aspects of the sex-abuse scandal, including allegations that Bendedict XVI had (prior to becoming pope) discouraged Irish bishops from reporting abuse to the police. The most recent major scandal in the U.S. was Archbishop Gomez's decision unilaterally to impose what amounts to discipline on Cardinal Mahoney, his hierarchical superior.

The health issue may be a real and even a primary motivation for Benedict XVI's remarkable resignation - but this breakdown in the hierarchy is a more obvious reason. One would expect that the princes of the church would be disciplined by the pope himself, not by their local archbishop. Nevertheless, it is hard to know how much of the iceberg lies beneath the surface.

Benedict XVI will not get to pick his successor. However, his suggestions may carry weight amongst the cardinals who participate in the papal enclave. There are currently 199 Cardinals, of which only 79 are eligible to vote (a cardinal cannot vote after he reaches a certain age). The oldest living cardinal is Paul Augustin Mayer, born May 23, 1911 (101 years old), and the youngest is Peter Erdö, born June 25, 1952 (60 years old).

If I had to guess who the new pope will be, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone is the top name, followed by Cardinal William Joseph Levada. If I had to guess who Benedict XVI would like to see as the next pope, Cardinal Walter Kasper seems like a possibility. And don't forget, Cardinals Law and Mahoney are both eligible to be elected by the other cardinals as the next pope. I don't think that's remotely likely to happen, but it's worth noting that they maintain their current ecclesiastical rank (see the full list here).

Others have other favorites:
So, who are the current favorites? Three names are most prominent: Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Milan; Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops; and Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa.

Cardinal Scola, 70, is highly esteemed by the pontiff, who moved him from the Patriarchate of Venice to Milan, one of the largest and most important sees in Europe. He is a brilliant, if at times recondite, theologian, a major supporter of the New Evangelization and a leader in Catholic-Islamic dialogue. His election could be hampered by internal divisions among the Italian cardinals.

Cardinal Ouellet, 68, is a Sulpician and served as archbishop of Quebec from 2002 to 2010 before taking over as head of the powerful Vatican office that oversees the appointment of the world’s bishops. Critics point to the lamentable state of the Church in Quebec during his tenure and wonder if he would be able to reinvigorate the faith in the West.

Cardinal Bagnasco, 69, is very well known among the Italian and European Cardinals and has a reputation for intellectual heft. He is also president of the influential Italian Bishops’ Conference.