Monday, November 24, 2008

Megan Swims 1,650-yard race this weekend

This was the first time she's swam this distance. 1,650 yards is almost a mile -- 4,950 feet.

She swam it in a "B" time; 24 minutes and some change.

After the race, Megan said she enjoyed the swim because it was so relaxing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Babylon" as Jerusalem in Rev 17 & 18

A major theme in the Gospels is, of course, the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 A.D. -- itself a vindication of Jesus' claim to be who he claims to be. I am increasingly comfortable with the notion that “Babylon the Great” (Rev 17.5ff) in John’s Revelation refers to Jerusalem, rather than to Rome. To be sure, Rome doesn't at all disappear -- it's the beast that Jerusalem rides in the passage. I.e., while related, the harlot and the beast do not refer to the same thing. See below, when the beast turns on the harlot.

A couple of tells:

[1] Rev 17.18. “The woman whom you saw is the great city . . .”

Rev 11.8, however, tells us that “the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt” is “where also their Lord was crucified.”

Jesus was of course crucified in Jerusalem. Further, it is no more problematic to call Jerusalem “Babylon” than it is to call it “Sodom” and “Egypt.” The terminology underscores Jerusalem’s complete apostasy.

[2] “And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth” (18.24). (Cf., “The woman” is “drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus” (17.6).)

Compare Rev 18.24 “all who have been slain on the earth” with Mt 23.35, “so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth.”

In context: “I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, . . .Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!” (Mt 23.34-35, 37).

[3] Rev 18.4 “I heard another voice from heaven, saying, "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues.”

Compare Lk 21.20-21: "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.”

[4] More generally, Rev 17.16 provides that the beast “hates the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.”
Rome turns on Jerusalem, and destroys the city. Jesus says to Jerusalem, “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate” (Mt 23.38). More generally, Jesus often prophesies of Jerusalem’s fall (Lk 21 & etc.).

There are other markers as well. But thinking more broadly – the OT prophets repeatedly compare Israel and Judah to harlots. Gentile nations and cities cannot be spiritual harlots because they weren't covenanted to God as Israel was.

Similarly, “And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird’” (Rev 18.2). This is not shocking for a Gentile city. It is shocking for Jerusalem. And it fulfills a prophecy that Jesus made in Mt 12.45:

“Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation."
Anyway, it seems to me to make more sense that “Babylon” refers to Jerusalem rather than to Rome.

The Revelation circles around Israel and Jerusalem. More broadly, I'd suggest it's centrally concerned with Jerusalem's destruction, which in turn serves to vindicate that Jesus was who he claimed to be (Lk 20.9-16, and etc.).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jack is 9-years Old Today

It seems like just yesterday Meg and grandma were carrying him off the plane, a tuft of hair sticking straight up into the air. He is smart, athletic, sweet, and stubborn. My life has been immeasureably enriched by having the privilege of parenting Jack. I thank God daily for placing him in my life. Happy birthday, Jack! I love you.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I'm not really a "make-lemonade-out-of-lemons" type of guy. But if I were a Democrat, the election results would not necessarily provide me long-run comfort.

The Democratic nominee won just 52% of the popular vote (the first Democrat to receive over 50% of the popular vote since 1976) with an incredibly charismatic candidate who massively outspent his GOP rival, in the face of an incredibly unpopular GOP president, an unpopular war (supported enthusiastically by his GOP rival), a financial meltdown weeks before the election, and with a stagnating economy.

Plus, Obama had a well-honed get-out-to-vote system while McCain was unable to replicate Bush's 2004 effort, the enthusiastic support of much the MSM (and U.S. elites more generally), and McCain ran a campaign about on par with Dole's campaign against Clinton (in which Dole was drubbed, receiving about 41% of the vote).

The thing is, with all of these strong advantages, Obama still only won 52% of the popular vote. If it takes all of these things for a Democratic candidate to turn Virginia and Ohio blue, then woe to the Democrats, because it most likely ain't going to happen again.

That being said, I think Republican arrogance -- especially in Congress -- has lead to the massive, repeated defeats there. And I fear that the fact that they can prove as incompetent as they've been and still attract levels of support that they do, will do little to dispel that arrogance. I think the GOP desperately needs a new generation of leadership. It's difficult to see who's on the horizon who can sustain a coalition of sufficient size easily to turn VA and Ohio back to the GOP column. I do think that McCain was the strongest Republican running this season. But that wasn't a high threshold.

Still, I think all of this stuff about the results of the presidential election hearkening to a new majority coalition is little more than wishful thinking. The numbers seem to me still to favor the Republicans in general.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Confessing Sin as Adamic Opposite

Adam and Eve fled from God because they sinned and feared God's judgment.

It seems to me that standing before God and "confessing" sin is exactly the opposite of "fleeing" from God because of sin.

So when we gather before the altar (or individually before the pastor) -- before God's very presence -- and confess our sins, we act exactly the opposite of our parents according to the flesh. It is a palpable sign that Jesus solved Adam's sin problem.

Because of what Christ did for us, instead of fear, "we draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb 4.16). We draw near because we trust that "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1.9).

Because we do not flee, but instead stand and confess our sin, the liturgy picks up precisely where the fall left us, manifesting with clarity that, because of what Jesus accomplished for us, we assemble as new creations in a new Eden inaugurated by the new Adam, Jesus Christ.

"Son of God" and the Second Person of the Godhead

Dogmatically, I am trinitarian. I have zero struggles with the doctrine that the one God is three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I also have no beef at all with Jesus Christ being fully God and fully man. I fully and unequivocally accept the fact.

But when Christians read the Bible, I think there's been a little bit of trouble caused by reading "the second person of the trinity" in wherever we see "Son of God" (and perhaps "Son of Man" as well).

For example, Luke seems to designate Adam as God's son (Lk 3.38). This would seem to set up a parallel with Jesus (Lk 3.21).

Indeed, I'd speculate that Luke inserts the genelogy between Jesus' baptism and the temptation precisely to draw out the implication that Jesus is another Adam. Consider: Jesus is baptized as God's son, the second Adam, and he then is approached and tempted by the serpent. But someone greater than Adam is here. Adam had all the privileges of Eden at his disposal -- and all food save for the one tree. Adam still sins. Jesus doesn't simply step into Adam's experience in Eden, he needs to overcome what Adam wrought. Jesus steps into the garden that Adam made -- a desert that grows thorns instead of fruit. And unlike Adam who sinned even though he had plenty to eat, Jesus does not sin even though he's been fasting for 40 days.

In any event, the point is that Adam is not the Second Person of the Trinity, even though he is termed God's son.

And, of course, Israel's king is the "Son of God" (2 Sam 7.14). While I have a very high Christology, I don't think it's right to read "second person of the trinity" in for "Son of God" throughout the messianic passages of the OT (e.g., Ps 2). The focus here, I think, is that the messiah will reestablish humanity's position before God, the position that Adam lost for his children. So Jesus being the "Son of God" in the Scriptures, I think tends to focus on his humanity, and that he resurrects a dead humanity and lifts us up to God's right hand, which is where we were created to be.

That being said, I should also note that I think that "Son of God" is also sometimes used in the NT to refer to Jesus' divinity. So I don't have any problem with the argument that there is an exegetical basis for identifying the Son of God who is Jesus with the second person of the trinity. It's just that I don't think it should be limited in application to the divinity.

Uh, Duh -- Mt 13.44-52

I read this argument in a conference paper posted on the web a few months ago, but I don't remember whose paper it was.

In any event, the argument concerned who Jesus was talking about in Mt 13.44-52 in saying:

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon find one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

"And, again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind . . . So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous . . ."

Now the question concerns the who Jesus speaks of when describing the man who finds the hidden treasure in the field and buys it, the merchant who finds the pearl of great value, and the fisherman.

I've been wont to take the field-buyer and the merchant as speaking of the believer, in a "count-the-cost" sort of admonition.

But the scholar argued that this didn't make sense. After all, start with the last of the kingdom parables, about the fisherman and the fish. In that case, it's clear that the fish are the believers (and unbelievers) and the fisherman is Jesus at the end of the age.

But the fish parable is just providing a different take on the same theme from the earlier two parables.

So the argument was that all of these parables concern Jesus -- i.e., the joy he has over the kingdom, and his willingness to suffer loss of all things in order to establish it.

So these parables, rather than being about "us," are about Jesus. And provide us illustrations of how it is that Jesus "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb 12.2).

The point being that Jesus takes joy in saving us. We are his treasure; we are his pearl of great price.