Author Archives: Jim

Mike Pence: Actual Christian, or Opportunistic User of Christianity?

After listening to this report on NPR, I think it’s the latter.  Pence early on decided to play the part of Christian simply and cynically in order to acquire political power and position.

You should listen to it as well.

Pence’s willingness to turn a blind eye to every evil deed Trump commits isn’t based on any ‘forgiveness’ or ‘understanding of human weakness’.  It is pure political calculation.

Church Member Types

  • Active- There when the doors are open.
  • Sunday Morning – only. Never will they appear at other times.
  • Monthly- – Just that- once a month and that randomly.
  • Whenevers- Sporadically interested. Usually a couple of times a year or for funerals or weddings.
  • Poinsettia and Lily- Christmas and Easter.
  • Once a Yearers – Self explanatory.
  • Baptized and Gone- These are the VBS conversions or the Revival conversions. Once baptized, they disappear forever.

Interestingly each sort have kids who invariably become the same sort as their parents. This is a universal, unchanging, eternal truth.

And those are the various sorts of church folk. The vast majority are the Whenevers.

The only ones you can count on to be disciples are the Active. The rest are seed that’s fallen on poor ground.

A Simple Observation About Dr Fiona Hill

She is smarter than anyone in Congress.  And she is the best witness that these hearings have had.  She has destroyed every Republican talking point.

Toxic People and their Unencumbered Advance in Academia

Ten rules for succeeding in academia through upward toxicity. Universities preach meritocracy but, in reality, bend over backwards to protect toxic personalities, says Irina Dumitrescu

Boy this is true.  Many of the most toxic people I know have very public academic positions.

Think the way to forge a brilliant career in academe is to produce good research, teach skilfully and mentor generously? That arduous approach works for some – but there is an easier way.

Universities sing the song of meritocracy but dance to a different tune. In reality, they will do everything to reward and protect their most destructive, abusive and uncooperative faculty. The more thoroughly such scholars poison departments, programmes and individual lives, the more universities double down to please them.

Universities are even willing to ruin their own reputations and alienate their alumni to protect bullies and abusers. They might think that reputation management demands that such behaviour be swept under the carpet, but they ought to know that the scandals will break eventually, and that the cover-up will make them look worse. Some universities even hire people in the full knowledge of abuse allegations against them, thereby becoming invested in keeping secret their decision to put their students in harm’s way.

Truth all the way through. Just look at the example of academic persons who frequently appear on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel and edit magazines.  They spend their waking hours hatching schemes and sending petitions and demonizing and marginalizing, as best they can, anyone with whom they disagree, and yet their institutions guard them.

Bribery, Fraud, and Breach of Trust

Those charges don’t refer to Trump, this time, but to his bosom buddy Bibi.  Birds of a feather… as they say.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit announced Thursday.

Netanyahu, who has denied any wrongdoing and said he is the victim of a politically orchestrated “witch hunt,” faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of bribery and a maximum 3-year term for fraud and breach of trust, according to legal experts.

Enjoy prison.  Maybe Trump can be your roomie.

Fun Facts From Church History: The Catholic Prelate Who Defended Zwingli in Writing

A remarkable instance of the readiness of at least one Roman Catholic prelate to protect Zwingli against printed attacks is given in a letter from Basel, dated November 21, 1519, from which it appears that a certain monk had preached against Zwingli, as he had a perfect right to do, and had gone to Basel to have his polemical sermons printed. But Zwingli, through another friend, asked his friend, Cardinal Schinner, who was in Basel, to have an embargo put upon the volume, and the Cardinal so managed things that the monk could not secure a printer in Basel! Another friend of Zwingli’s (Capito), living in Strassburg, undertook to exclude the same monk from the presses of that city. But this was a dangerous game for the friends of progress to play.*

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*Samuel Macauley Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531), Heroes of the Reformation (New York; London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Knickerbocker Press, 1901), 129.

The Clearest and Most Sensible Philosophical Arguments for the Existence of God Ever

Dear Friends who are NOT Attending SBL in San Diego

Don’t fret.  No one interesting is there this year.  All the interesting people will be in Boston next year.  Plus, I hear that the book hall will only have books by terrible writers and all the coffee shops are bad and the food places all have giant rats.  And, the hotels all are infested with bed bugs.  That’s the rumor anyway.

Furthermore, all the papers will be by heretics and pentebabbleists.

So take heart.  Don’t feel left out and sad…  Don’t get a case of #FOMO.  Instead, recognize that only the damned are in San Diego and the redeemed will be in Boston.

Amen.  And Amen.

Democracy, Plato, Trump, and Brexit

First Brexit, then Trump. 2016 was not a good year for modern Western democracies. In 2018, the consequences of these votes seem worse than many pessimists anticipated. So what might Plato, a notoriously harsh critic of democracy, have said about all of this?

It’s from last year and still worth a read.  Enjoy.

Tertullian on Judgment

tertullianThe true God bestows His blessings alike on wicked men and on His own elect; upon which account He has appointed an eternal judgment, when both thankful and unthankful will have to stand before His bar. — Tertullian

Tertullian on Freedom of Religion

tertullianIt is a fundamental human right, a privilege of nature, that every man should worship according to his own convictions: one man’s religion neither harms nor helps another man. It is assuredly no part of religion to compel religion—to which free-will and not force should lead us—the sacrificial victims even being required of a willing mind. You will render no real service to your gods by compelling us to sacrifice. For they can have no desire of offerings from the unwilling, unless they are animated by a spirit of contention, which is a thing altogether undivine. – Tertullian

Quote of the Year

I am under no obligation to conform to a brand of Republicanism whose central tenet appears to be blind obedience to a charismatic leader. I will side with the constitution. Let all reasonable Republicans unite. Let’s take our party back from these charlatans. – Senator McCollister

The Theological University of Apeldoorn is Offering a New Degree Program in Theology

You can read all the details here.

De Theologische Universiteit Apeldoorn heeft een nieuwe stap gezet in de ontwikkeling van een nieuwe masteropleiding theologie. De Minister van Onderwijs heeft een positief besluit genomen op de aanvraag daartoe. De tweejarige deeltijdmaster wordt nu verder ontwikkeld en voorgelegd aan de Nederlands-Vlaamse Accreditatie Organisatie. Het is de bedoeling dat de nieuwe masteropleiding in september 2020 van start gaat.

De nieuwe master is opgezet met het oog op herbronning van de gereformeerde theologie voor hedendaagse vraagstukken. Tekst, traditie en toepassing zijn de sleutelwoorden. De Bijbelse teksten worden met het oog op de 21e eeuwse context gelezen. De theologische traditie wordt belicht met het oog op de relevantie vandaag. In pedagogische en theologische praktijken wordt naar christelijke wijsheid gezocht.

Etc.

A New Essay in ‘ANE Today’

A Great King and a Wanax? The Politics of Mycenaean Greece, By Jorrit Kelder

ANE Today is the only ‘Biblical Archaeology’ magazine you will EVER need to ‘Review’.  The rest are colorless and paltry by comparison, as well as lacking the intellectual vigor ANE Today embodies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The World’s Worst Priest

Right here.

When loved ones gathered for the funeral of Maison Hullibarger, they were supposed to hear uplifting messages and fond memories of the teen.

Instead, a priest told hundreds of mourners that suicide is wrong and repeatedly referenced the 18-year-old taking his own life.

Now, Maison’s mother is suing Father Don LaCuesta, the Archdiocese of Detroit, and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Michigan.

Awful and incompetent.

The Purity-Industrial Complex

As pornography has exploded beyond just websites to apps and social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr and others, tech companies closely affiliated with church groups are capitalising on the fears of devout Christians that “porn is the greatest threat to Christian purity and even the moral standard of the nation,” said Samuel Perry, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma and author of Addicted to Lust.

A recent report by the Washington-based National Centre on Sexual Exploitation cited a study of university students that found that 93 per cent of boys and 62 per cent of girls were exposed to online pornography during their adolescence.

Read the rest. It’s quite interesting.

The Best Advice for Pastors

“One who trusts others too quickly* is lightminded, and one who sins does wrong to himself. One who rejoices in wickedness will be condemned, and for one who hates gossip evil is lessened.

Never repeat a conversation, and you will lose nothing at all. With friend or foe do not report it, and unless it would be a sin for you, do not disclose it; for some one has heard you and watched you, and when the time comes he will hate you.

Have you heard a word? Let it die with you. Be brave! It will not make you burst!”  (Sir. 19:4-10)

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*At all, really

Essays on the Book of Isaiah

Essays on the Book of Isaiah, by Joseph Blenkinsopp

This volume of essays by Joseph Blenkinsopp on different aspects of the book of Isaiah is the product of three decades of close study of the most seminal and challenging texts of the Hebrew Bible. Some of the essays deal with major themes in Isaiah, for example, universalism, theology and politics, and the Suffering Servant of the Lord God. Five of them are published here for the first time.

I can’t think of a single living person who knows more about Isaiah than Joe Blenkinsopp.  And no one has done more to further our understanding of that book.  Here collected, then, are 20 essays by an excellent scholar, 15 of which have appeared over a number of years across a variety of platforms.  5 additional essays that have never appeared before are also included.

The table of contents is available here, along with the first essay (which has never been published before), and the biblical index.

The essays appearing here for the first time are as follows:

  • The Formation of the Hebrew Bible Canon: Isaiah as a Test Case
  • Isaiah and the Neo-Babylonian Background
  • The Sectarian Element in Early Judaism: The Isaian Contribution
  • Zion as Reality and Symbol in Psalms and Isaiah
  • The Suffering Servant, the book of Daniel, and Martyrdom

The remainder, as listed in the table of contents have, as suggested above, all appeared above in a variety of sources including journals and collections of essays.

Everyone who works in Isaiah studies knows the name of Joe Blenkinsopp and everyone who attends CBA or SOTS or SBL has seen him at one or more of those meetings.  Sleight of stature but powerful of intellect, hat wearing and mustachioed, he is a grave presence; an icon; a fixture.  His unflagging energy is inspiring and his intellectual vigor astonishing.

For those new on the scene of biblical studies, Joe was

Born in Durham, England. Taught at International Theological College, Romsey, U.K., Chicago Theological Seminary, Vanderbilt University and University of Notre Dame from 1970; Guest-Professor at Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, 1998.  Member of several learned societies including Society of Biblical Literature, Society for the Study of the Old Testament (U.K., President 1999-2000), Catholic Biblical Association (President 1988-1989), European Association of Biblical Studies.  ATS Research grant 1978, Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford 1982-1983 with NEH grant, Mellon Retiree Research Grant 2005-2006.  Excavated at Tel Dan, Israel 1977 and at Capernaum, Israel  with Notre Dame University support 1980-1987. Rector of Ecumenical Institute, Tantur, Israel, 1978.  

And more, frankly.  Were all his publications, lectures, conference papers, and assorted other academic achievements listed the ‘world could not contain all the books’ that it would take.

I mention all that not merely to appear fawning (though Joe has long been a hero of mine); but to place him on the stage where he belongs:  dead center.  And so does his little book of essays just published by Mohr.

When he writes, for example, in his explanation of the identity of the tsaddiq of Isaiah 57:2, that

… not everything in these chapters can be derived from one source or only reduced to one formula only, but this prophetic legacy, announced at the end of Deutero-Isaiah (54:17), is clearly a prominent theme and provides an important element of continuity in the post-disaster Isaian corpus…

we are brought to the cusp of Blenkinsopp’s genius:  a careful, measured, thoughtful, and provocative eye for the details and ability to express his insights with clarity and brevity.  That ability is on display throughout these essays.  Students of Isaiah will be greatly assisted in their own studies if they will take the time and make the effort to read through what Professor Blenkinsopp has written.

You Need a Commentary That Helps Make Sense of the Bible

the-person-the-pew-commentary-seriesThe ‘Person in the Pew’ commentary series is the only series of Commentaries in modern history written by a single person on the entire Bible and aimed at layfolk .  Everyone needs a commentary on the Bible that they can understand and that answers their questions about the meaning of the text.  So I wrote one.

If you or someone you know wants to get a copy of the entire 42 volume collection in PDF format, you can do so from yours truly for the exceptionally reasonable price of  $75 by clicking my PayPal Link.  Leave your email in your paypal payment note so I can send it to you right away.

Should you only wish one volume, email me and we can arrange it.

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[I] wanted to thank you for your commentary set I recently acquired. My daughter Chloe (age 11) and I are using the one on Mark as we read through and discuss the gospel every second evening. It helps shed light on the text without being academically burdensome for us to work through. .. [Y]our comments are pitched wonderfully for anyone wanting to begin serious engagement with the text. It also complements the more ‘scholarly’ works. – Blessings, David Booth

America’s Congress Explained

Because of the transgression of a land, many are its princes (Prov. 28:2)