Faith: May 2003 Archives

Abraham the missionary

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In NRO today, David Klinghoffer (who is Jewish) argues that there shouldn't be objections to Christians communicating the Gospel as they bring supplies and help to the Iraqi people. After all, Abraham, revered by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, was a missionary for monotheism, and used hospitality to create opportunities for his message:

Abraham was pretty aggressive. In another cryptic verse in Genesis, he's said to have planted an "eshel" in Beersheba (21:33). If that is just a kind of tree, as many translators say, who cares that he planted one? According to the Talmud, this eshel refers to an inn Abraham established in the wilderness, a hospice where he taught wayfarers to acknowledge God. The patriarch would give them food, then ask them to say grace.

Sound familiar? As Christian missionaries understand, food creates fellowship. We eat with our friends. And it is friendship that, more than food itself, leads to conversions.

How could any religious believer, who thinks his faith has the answers to ultimate questions, not share those answers with others? The patriarch operated in a free market of ideas, where he was able to share his conception of the One God. Part of his legacy is missionary work. Another part is the liberty to make friends by offering food, and then to tell them about your God.

With a tip of the cap to Andrew Stuttaford of National Review Online for pointing this out, here is a fascinating review by Christopher Hitchens of a new book on the origins of the King James Version of the Bible by Adam Nicholson. The review includes a link to the book's first chapter.

Although I find translations like the NIV or the more word-for-word literal NASB better suited for study and comprehension, the King James Version is a cornerstone of the modern English language, and its turns of phrase inhabit our everyday speech. That's why I'm happy that the scripture memorization my son does at his school is done in the KJV. That is the only appropriate choice for a school with a classical emphasis.

UPDATE: The Washington Post has posted this review, by Jonathan Yardley.

There's more to the story of Abigail Litle. About a month after her murder by a terrorist, her father Phil, a friend of mine from college, collected his thoughts and remembrances of his daughter, of learning of her murder, mourning her death, and celebrating her victory over death through her faith in Christ. With Phil's approval and encouragement, I want to make her story known as widely as possible. The full text is below. (You can also download the original PDF from Phil. It's a large file, 961 KB, which included some color photos, but the text is identical to what you see here.)

Here's a quote from Phil's introductory letter, which is an apt summary of the article.

The measure of our love for Abigail can be found in the depth of our pain. How it hurts that we can no longer hold her, that our partnership in the dreams she dreamt is broken and that our dreams which included her being here on earth with us are over. But we are finding comfort and strength in the Lord through the prayers of the multitudes who are interceding for us -- many who we have never met. We are thankful that we can know that we will hold her once again as we share together in our Heavenly Father's Kingdom.

We have tried to record some of the events and our experiences beginning with the moments we first heard of the bus bombing in Haifa. Our desire is that the Lord would enourage your hearts and strengthen you as you pray for us in the weeks and months ahead.

The remark of Cain

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In case you missed it, an excerpt from the remarks of State Senator Bernest Cain:

"I got a quote the other day that I got from Adolf Hitler. Adolf Hitler. And I don't have the exact words, but here's basically what it says. He says, in our government we are going to put Christians in key positions of responsibility because there has been too much liberal access going on out there and we are going to straighten up and make sure that the Christian culture is back in control. Now folks, they took Jewish people and they took them out and they strung them apart, they killed them, they mass murdered some of those people, and all of the ideas that were behind that were, and they were doing this while they were having Christian music going on, while they were having hymns. They killed thousands of Jews while they were doing hymns. That is what happens when you let the right wing of the Taliban come in and try to dictate to the State how we should run our business."

You can read it all here in the context of the legislative debate, with a brief, apt rebuttal from State Senator Charles Ford.

Cain has used his position as chairman of the Senate Human Services Committee to block legislation aimed at protecting the dignity and sanctity of human life. For example, he blocked a ban on human cloning which passed the State House on a 96-0 vote and which was sponsored by fellow Oklahoma City Democrat Opio Toure. On this occasion as well, he took the opportunity to bash supporters of the bill.

"I'm not going to pass laws just so a bunch of right-wingers can go pump to their folks that they passed something," Cain said. "I'm not going to do that. We've got too much of that junk."

I see from Cain's bio (linked above) that he learned philosophy as an undergraduate at Oklahoma Baptist University. Hope they do a better job of filtering out the duds nowadays.

Separation of church and state notwithstanding, you can't separate your theology (or lack thereof) from your politics. What you believe about the existence and nature of God and the nature of mankind will shape your ideas about government and society. If we build public policy on a solid foundation of ideas that reflect the world as it really is, we will build a peaceful, happy and prosperous society. If we build policy on a complete misunderstanding of human nature, we will produce chaos and despair. That's why I like to ask candidates -- particularly judicial candidates who won't be drawn out on specific issues -- "Are people basically good, or basically evil?" If they get this question wrong, they'll make all sorts of bad decisions, and I'll end up in my house behind seven different kinds of locks, hoping the marauding hordes will leave me alone.

This is what got me thinking about this: In today's "Bleat", James Lileks tells us about a couple of Anthony Burgess's dystopian sci-fi novels (The Wanting Seed, A Clockwork Orange), and how they reflect Burgess's fascination with "the dynamic between the teachings of St. Augustine and the Pelagian heresy." Augustine said that it was not possible for man not to sin -- because of the fall, humans cannot acheive perfection, apart from God's grace. Pelagius said, yes, it was possible for man to be perfect, and Augustinians shouldn't be so lazy about attaining personal holiness. Of course, theology has implications for public policy: "...in this argument, Burgess saw the two poles of political philosophy at work in the West, and beyond. Augustinian philosophy, which saw man as flawed and sinful and basically hosed when it came to perfectibility in this mortal plain, was the conservative view. Pelagius was liberalism: our nature is not only perfectible, we can perfect ourselves here and now."

Which view you hold comes down to a matter of religious conviction but it leads you to very different conclusions about the role of government, how to educate, how to deal with crime. Some theological propositions aren't testable, but with regard to human nature, we have thousands of years of recorded history to draw from. We can see how real humans have responded to various methods of governing and quickly determine which set of presuppositions, which model, is closest to reality.

I am reminded of a Monty Python bit: The Amazing Mystico and Janet, an illusionist (and his assistant) who builds high-rise apartments by hypnosis -- they stay up as long as the tenants believe in them. In real life of course, apartment buildings stay up only if they are constructed in accordance with the immutable laws of physics, exploiting those laws to produce the desired result. In the same way, a society built in accordance with the immutable laws of human nature will stand firm, while no amount of sincere believing will sustain a society built upon an illusion.

Read the whole article. Lileks' Bleat is always worth reading, and the rest of his site is hilarious, thought-provoking, and amazing, too.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Faith category from May 2003.

Faith: June 2003 is the next archive.

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