Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Ad Fontes

I recently purchased Brian E. Daley’s God Visible: Patristic Christology Reconsidered and while awaiting the physical copy have begun reading the early parts of the book in Kindle. Early on Daley mentions how he “critically edited, as [his] doctoral thesis ,the works of the sixth-century apologist for the Christology of Chalcedon, Leontius of Byzantium.” I have Daley’s critical edition of the Complete Works of Leontius of Byzantium in the Oxford Early Christian Texts series, which contains a Greek text, critical apparatus, translation on facing page, and an in-depth introduction not to mention some helpful back matter.

What strikes me is that this immensely helpful volume began as a doctoral thesis. It makes me wonder why there aren’t more doctoral theses being produced in this vein. I’m well aware that Daley’s work wasn’t the first and won’t be the last, but how many more people need to do a doctorate on the most minute matters of Pauline theology when there remains so many untranslated texts from antiquity? We need more critical editions and translations of primary source material. Period. And while we’re at it, we need all of the ones we have available in Accordance, Logos, and whatever other Bible software is available.

Ad fontes people, ad fontes.

B”H

Basically Good

Repeatedly in the Scriptures we read that man is not good. Jesus said “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18 // Luke 18:19). Likewise, Paul, quoting Psalm 14:1–3 // 53:1–3, says that “no one does good.” Many more statements to the same effect could be added to these and yet somehow we find ourselves surprised or shocked when we hear the news of somebody doing something wicked.

We say things like, “I can’t believe it,” or “that’s crazy.” We ask, “what’s wrong with people?” or “how could they do that?” It seems to me that for some reason or another a good amount of people (and I’m talking about Christians here) believe that man is basically good and it surprises us when they do things that aren’t basically good.

Rather, we shouldn’t be shocked when people do wicked things. That’s what people outside of Christ do. And we shouldn’t ask what’s wrong with them. We already know. They’re dead in sin and acting according to their sinful inclinations. What should surprise us is the impulse to think of people as basically good in the first place. Why do we think this way when both Scripture and experience show us otherwise?

Something to ponder…

B”H

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

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

On Enduring Beliefs

God saved me nearly 16 years ago and in nearly 16 years of salvation my beliefs haven’t shifted a whole lot. Over the course of time I’ve been able to chip away some of the rough edges of certain things and a periphery doctrine or two may have changed but the core is the same. I’d attribute this to my formative years as a believer, which were spent reading the Scriptures for countless hours.

I didn’t come into the faith with all of my beliefs worked out. I came in knowing that I was guilty of sinning against God, that God provided the pardon for my guilt in Christ, and that I didn’t want to serve the devil any more. So as I read, and prayed, and fasted I came to believe what I understood the text to be saying. It didn’t happen over night. These beliefs weren’t the result of me parroting what my pastor said or jumping on the latest televangelist bandwagon. They were hard-earned beliefs.

Eventually I’d branch out and start to look at websites and books and I got interested in scholarship both ancient and modern. Some of that served to correct misunderstandings. Some of it caused a bit of confusion. Some of it was easily rejected because it was contrary to what was clear from Scripture. But that foundation laid for me in the Bible was always there.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians and spoke to them about moving onto maturity so that they’d no longer be tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine. I’m all for the spirit of semper reformanda but some folks take it a little too far and reform their beliefs and practices with the discovery of every new thinker. At a certain point we have to know what we believe and why we believe it. So when I hear people talk about how much their beliefs have changed over time I inevitably wonder how much time went into formulating those beliefs in the first place.

B”H