Israelite Alzheimers

I was in the middle of a haircut the other day and we got to talking about Alzheimers and dementia when my pastor/boss mentioned that he had watched a documentary about Alzheimers where they said that it was the brain hardening. The Alzheimers Association website says that there are “Two abnormal structures called plaques and tangles [that] are [the] prime suspects in damaging and killing nerve cells” in the brain. They say that “Plaques are deposits of a protein fragment called beta-amyloid (BAY-tuh AM-uh-loyd) that build up in the spaces between nerve cells” and “Tangles are twisted fibers of another protein called tau (rhymes with “wow”) that build up inside cells.”

But as my pastor shared this with me it got my mind going. A couple of weeks ago my dear friend Chris Tilling ably demonstrated that the New Testament doesn’t make the distinction between head and heart that many people think it does. In fact, when Scripture speaks of the heart it usually, if not always, has the thought life in view. Hebrews 3:8 immediately came to mind, which says, “do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.” I suggested that perhaps something like Alzheimers was going on with the Israelites as they wandered those 40 years in the desert.

Think about it, God has to constantly remind them of who he was and what he had done. He constantly told them that he was the LORD their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They clearly couldn’t remember his commandments, which is why he had to keep reminding them about his laws and statutes. If in fact this hardening of the heart was a hardening of the mind, which many believe to be seated in the brain, then is it so far fetched to think that there really could have been plaques and tangles at play? It’s definitely something to ponder and I’ll post something else on this with regard to some of the statements made about hardened hearts in the NT.

B”H

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Gregory the Theologian on the Divine Monarchy

29.2. The three most ancient opinions concerning God are Anarchia, Polyarchia, and Monarchia. The first two are the playthings of the children of Hellas, and may they continue to be so. For Anarchy is a thing without order; and the Rule of Many is factious, and thus anarchical, and thus disorderly. For both these theological positions tend to the same thing, namely disorder; and thus to dissolution, for disorder is the first step to dissolution. But Monarchy is that axiom which we hold in honor. It is, however, a Monarchy that is not limited to one person, for it is possible for unity, if at variance with itself, to come into a condition of plurality; but we hold it to be made out of an equality of nature and a union of mind, and an identity of motion, and a consilience of its elements to unity (a thing which is impossible for created natures) so that though it is numerically distinct there is no severance of essence involved. Therefore Unity having from all eternity arrived by motion at Duality, found its rest in Trinity. This is what we mean by Father and Son and Holy Spirit. The Father is the Begetter and the Emitter; though without passion, of course, and without reference to time, and not in a corporeal manner. The Son is the Begotten, and the Holy Spirit the Emission; (I say this since I do not know how else this can be expressed in terms that wholly exclude material conceptions). But we shall not venture to speak of “An overspill of goodness,” as one of the Greek Philosophers dared to say, as if God were like a wine-bowl filled to overflowing, saying this in plain words in his oration on the First and Second Causes. Let us never look on this matter of divine generation as being involuntary, like some natural overflow, hard to be retained, for it is by no means fitting to our conception of the Godhead. Therefore let us confine ourselves within our proper limits, and speak of the “Unbegotten” and the “Begotten” and that which “Proceeds from the Father,” as in one place God the Word himself expressed it.

Oration 29 as reproduced in The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, 699.

B”H

On the Monarchy of the Father (with a bit about divine aseity thrown in for good measure)

I’ve been studying Trinitarian theology for a long time. One thing that always seemed self-evident was the doctrine of the monarchy of the Father. The Fathers of the church spoke of God the Father as principle (arche), source (pege), and cause (aitia). The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed refers to the Son as God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, and the Holy Spirit as proceeding from the Father (I reject the filioque for a number of reasons). It seems a given that the monarchy is a well established doctrine. 

I can remember early in my studies reading many an author who subscribed to Theodore De Régnon’s paradigm, which basically asserts that the Eastern tradition used the three divine Persons as its starting point for Trinitarian theology while the Western tradition began with the one divine essence, but the reality is a bit more complex than that. Nonetheless, even if we grant these starting points it still seems as though the doctrine of the Father’s monarchy is uncontroversial.

So here is how I understand the doctrine in its simplest form. The divine essence (ousia) is found in the Father’s person (hypostasis). The Father is Father from all eternity and begets the Son by an eternal generation so that all that the Father has (to include the divine essence) the Son has also. Likewise, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father by an eternal procession so that all that the Father has (to include the divine essence) the Spirit has also.

This means that from all eternity the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have shared the divine essence equally since the Father has never been without the Son and the Spirit. There is both an asymmetrical personal relationship and an essential equality in such an understanding of the Trinity. This essential equality allows us to speak of any divine Person as God because whatever the divine essence is exactly, they all have it.

This is one of the things I found problematic with a recent presentation by Dr. Beau Branson on the subject. He argues that the one God just is the Father and that the one God is simply one Person of the Trinity. I think this is mistaken for the reason stated above. I’ll grant that God as a title is generally reserved for the Father in the New Testament. I have no problem with referring to the Father as God and the Son and Spirit as Son and Spirit. But titles aren’t the issue. The issue is whether or not the Son and Spirit can be said to be God.

The answer is yes. It’s quite appropriate to refer to the Son and the Holy Spirit as God because the same divine essence that is found in the Father’s person is shared with the Son and the Spirit from all eternity. Each divine Person has never been without it. Each divine Person is as much God as the Father is God. Branson says that they’re of the “same species.” He says that the title God can be predicated of Son and Spirit but is only proper to the Father. Branson appears to believe in three divine beings, which as far as I can tell, is tritheism, but claims that there is only one God, the Father. His view is idiosyncratic. And trust me, I’ve tried to be as charitable as possible when listening to his presentation.

He also lays a lot at the feet of divine aseity, which he ascribes to the Father alone on the basis of the Son’s generation and the Spirit’s procession. If the Son is eternally begotten and the Spirit eternally proceeds then each is from the Father, which in turn means that each is not “from self” (a se). But the Father, Branson supposes, is a se since he is neither begotten nor proceeds. The problem with this as I see it is that divine aseity makes no sense as a personal property since the Persons of the Trinity have existed from all eternity. There is no Father without Son or Spirit.

Aseity has to be something proper to the divine essence, which I’d agree is grounded in the Father’s person, but has been shared with Son and Spirit from all eternity. This might not sound like a big difference, but it is. Divine aseity is rightly ascribed to any divine Person on the basis of their eternal existence. No Person of the Trinity has come into being therefore each Person of the Trinity is a se. But this does no violence to a doctrine of the Father’s monarchy. Nor does it necessitate some kind of “egalitarian” view of the Trinity. There is still plenty of room for order (taxis) within the Trinity.

That’s my spiel…

B”H

On Punctuality (or, More Barber Stuff)

My barbershop uses an app to book appointments. The app allows our customers to rate the barbers and the barbershop overall. Recently I’ve seen a few reviews that have deducted a star for punctuality. Allow me a brief moment to speak on this subject and correct any misconceptions that people may have about how certain types of barbershops operate.

To start, at my barbershop we work by appointment while also accepting walk-in traffic. It is our sincere desire to be able to accommodate everyone who would like to get their hair cut. So in the midst of servicing our appointments we also have to squeeze in the occasional walk-in. This can, at times, cause us to run over and into the time that someone else has scheduled for a haircut. We don’t like to run late but it can and does happen. I can assure you that it’s not a case of not respecting someone else’s time or thinking that ours is more valuable than theirs, which seems to be how some people feel.

Secondly, I’d like to remind people that we’re dealing with people; real life human beings. We’re not machines and neither are they. So there’s no guarantee that every haircut will take the same amount of time for any number of reasons. For example, say that we have blocked out 30 minutes for a haircut but our client runs 5 minutes late. If it does indeed take us 30 minutes to do that cut then we are now going to run 5 minutes late and that will cut into the next appointment. If this happens a few times throughout the course of the day it can have a snowball effect that causes us to run much further behind than we’d like to.

But let’s suppose that our clients are on time, there’s still no guarantee that the haircut that is blocked out for 30 minutes will get done in 30 minutes. If it’s a new client we have to take the time to learn their head and hair. If it’s a returning client who wants to change up their style we have to take the time to make it look how they want. The lighting can be bad at any given moment. We can run into technical difficulty with our equipment. The phones at the shop may be ringing off the hook and we have to take time out to answer them (we don’t have a receptionist at my shop). The point is that there are any number of things that can cause a barber to run behind.

My boss holds to a philosophy that says an appointment guarantees a haircut, not necessarily a haircut at the time of the appointment. I understand that idea, and in truth it’s one that doctors and dentists have been operating on since the dawn of time, but it’s not necessarily my personal philosophy. I like to be on time, I really do, and to the best of my ability I try to be. I recognize that clients choose particular times for a reason and I try my very best to honor those times. We all do.

So I’d urge anyone leaving reviews online for their barbershops or salons of choice to take these things into consideration when talking about punctuality. Also take past experiences into account. I had one client deduct a star for the lone time I ran 10 minutes late. Never mind every other time when I was on time. I didn’t get rated for that, but rather for something that was out of my control. It’s not the end of the world but it is somewhat annoying.

B”H

The Reckless Love of God?

Every now and again a song will come out that takes the Christian world by storm. The latest mega-hit is “Reckless Love.” It’s a good tune. The Bethel version sounds great. I just spent over 40 minutes watching Anthony Brown and a young adult choir doing a more gospel type version of the song and I’m not gonna lie, I felt the Spirit of God as they were singing it.

But I’m a lyrics guy. I’m also theologically minded. So when I hear something in a song that doesn’t quite sit right I tend to focus in on it; sometimes to my detriment. I’m sure everyone knows where I’m going with this. I’m not the first to point it out or discuss it. In fact, John Piper addressed it on his Ask Pastor John podcast a while back. It’s the word “reckless” in the song. Why is it there and how does it function?

I’ve heard various explanations, one being that God will do whatever it takes to get to his people. Okay, that sounds good, and I agree, but does that equate to recklessness? Let’s take the definition that comes up with a simple Google search:

reckless3

Now I want us to think about this for a second… Have you thought about it? Does the God we know, love, and worship fit the description of the adjective “reckless”? Does God act without thinking? Let’s look to a piece of Paul’s glorious run-on sentence in Ephesians:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph 1:3–10)

Look at the language Paul uses to describe God’s actions here. He says that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. Choosing requires intentionality. Doing it before the foundation of the world requires premeditation. Let’s continue… He says that we’ve been predestined to adoption as sons. Again, predestination requires premeditation and adoption requires intentionality. No one was ever adopted on accident or without thought. And he did this according to the purpose of his will. Folks, there was purpose in this! And it was according to his will! Paul speaks of wisdom and insight and a plan to unite all things in him in the fullness of time! This is the polar opposite of recklessness.

The crucifixion was not an act that was carried out with no thought to the consequences of the action. Likewise with the resurrection. God knew exactly what he was doing. He still does. His love is many things, but reckless is not one of them. There is a way that God can do whatever it takes to get to his people without it being reckless. For God to cast light on a shadow or climb a mountain or tear down a lie, as the song says, he does not need to do so recklessly. He’s God! Leaving the 99 sheep to rescue the 1 is not a reckless act. It’s very thoughtful. It’s very intentional.

We could go through Scripture from Old Testament to New and point out example after example of God’s divine plan in action. How he had things set up that seemed one way to us but in the grand scheme of things were really another way altogether (think about Joseph being sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, and unjustly imprisoned only to be called upon by Pharaoh to interpret a dream and rise to a level of prominence that would allow him to save his family from a sure death that would have resulted from famine). The point is that of all of God’s attributes, recklessness is not one of them.

Now let me say this: I like the song. In fact, after hearing the version I heard this morning I’d go so far as to say that I like it a lot. I just don’t like that one adjective. I’d prefer to say “endless” or “precious” or “relentless” love of God. I think that they’re all theologically correct. Endless and precious wouldn’t change the cadence of the chorus at all and relentless would change it minimally. I think for the point that the song is making relentless makes more sense than reckless. God will stop at nothing to get the one sheep that goes astray. He’s relentless in his love for us; never letting up. But that jives with God’s thoughtful, intentional, well planned out initiative for saving his people.

B”H

Not So Random Thought

I was just looking through one of my hard drives and found a folder of ebooks. iBooks allows you to upload the epub files so I added all that I had. One of the books was a MacArthur Study Bible. I went to 1 Corinthians 12-14 and perused some of the notes and it always amazes me how he seems to lose his exegetical marbles when anything remotely charismatic comes up. His comments are unconvincing to say the least. I just can’t wrap my head around how he can be such a faithful and consistent interpreter of the Scriptures elsewhere and then have this huge blindspot here. What happened to Johnny Mac to make him oppose the things of the Spirit so much? I guess only him and God know…

B”H

It Ain’t the Haircut

I don’t regularly talk about my job on the blog. I guess I don’t regularly talk about anything anymore, but I often have clients ask me what’s the hardest type of haircut to do. The answer is that it isn’t as simple as there just being a hard type of cut. There’s a lot that factors into the degree of difficulty for literally any type of haircut. We have to deal with varying head shapes; varying textures of hair; irregular growth patterns; scars; skin conditions; and a host of other things that you wouldn’t normally think of.

For example, I can do the same haircut on the same client two weeks in a row and have it be more difficult the second time around because he came in with bed head or hair product already in his hair. Or I can have two friends come in and both request the same style of haircut but one has Asian hair, which tends to be thick and pin straight (generally accompanied by a very pale scalp underneath) and the other have very fine thin blonde hair. The style is the same but the way I have to go about achieving the end result is different. And for the record, in such an instance there is no way possible that both cuts could look the same.

But aside from physical factors such as head shape, hair type, or the premature application of hair products, there’s a decidedly psychological aspect to the task that can complicate things. Sometimes we have to deal with people who border on obsessive compulsiveness with their high level of pickiness. They’ll notice the most microscopic detail and insist that it be fixed only to go on and notice something else that isn’t to their satisfaction. Sometimes someone will sit down and be incredibly vague in describing what they want (e.g., they’ll say, “just give me a regular cut,” not knowing that “regular” is relative). Certain people are simply jerks and you’d rather not deal with them in general. Others make things awkward by doing things like staring directly into your eyes while you’re trimming their facial hair.

The bottom line is that it ain’t the type of haircut in and of itself that’s difficult; it’s all the things that go into doing it that is.

B”H