Saturday, July 28, 2007

Recent Stats on Divorce

Time Magazine reports:

The annual national divorce rate has dropped to 3.6 per 1,000 people, the lowest since 1970 and well off its peak of 5.7 in 1981. But marriage is down 30% since 1970, with the number of unmarried couples living together up 10-fold since 1960

*First nine months of 2006 at annual rate. SOURCES: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES; U.S. CENSUS BUREAU

DIAGRAM: The State of Divorce: You May Be Surprised


Thursday, July 19, 2007

God is not the Great Santa Clause in the Sky

The OT tells us that God hears prayers (Psalm 65:2). However, the NT book of 1 John (5:14-15) qualifies the type of prayers that God hears. Prayer that is divinely efficacious must be offered in accordance with God's will in faith (James 1:5-8). Saying a prayer is not like articulating a magical formula. Prayer works because God answers it, not simply because we utter the right words. Yes, the power of life and death are in the tongue. But God is the one who brings it about that the requests contained in prayers come to fruition: it is not magic (Philippians 4:6-7).

Another fallacious notion under which many minds labor is the mistaken idea that God is comparable to some great Santa Clause in the sky. Some persons might be inclined to think that God dispenses answers to petitionary invocations like the mythical Santa dispenses gifts on December 25. Aside from the fact that Santa does not exist, God is not some great Santa in the sky. Prayer is not about what we can get from God, although he does answer prayers that conform to his will. To the contrary, prayer is about (primarily) what we can do for God. It is about selflessness or about expressing our praise and loyalty to God. As Merold Westphal points out (in his book _God, Guilt, and Death_, page 141), prayer is not a crutch nor a "support system" for those who are weak or cowardly. Prayer "pulls us away from self-preoccupations" or "from an easy support system to a risky surrender."

While I do not mean to suggest that it is wrong or unbiblical to request that God do X or Y, I just want to stress that those making petitions to God must approach him with the right attitude in faith. Our prayers must be in harmony with the will of God and we must have the type of faith that can move mountains. As the writer James states, the prayer of the righteous man or woman avails much.

Monday, July 16, 2007

John 14:13-14 and Prayer

What did Jesus mean when he told his followers that "whatever" they asked in his name would be granted? Did he literally mean that Christians could pray for "anything" and the prayer would be answered? That would not seem to make sense in view of 1 John 5:14-15. Furthermore, here is what certain exegetes have to say about the passage in the Gospel of John:

"Joh 14:13 -
Whatsoever ye shall ask - This promise referred particularly to the apostles in their work of spreading the gospel; it is, however, true of all Christians, if what they ask is in faith, and according to the will of God, Jam_1:6; 1Jo_5:14" (Albert Barnes).

How, then, are we to understand "Whatsoever you shall ask, I will do it," if there are some things which the faithful ask, and which God, even purposely on their behalf, leaves undone? Or ought we to suppose that the words were addressed only to the apostles? Surely not. For what He has got the length of now saying is in the very line of what He had said before: "He that believes in me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do;" which was the subject of our previous discourse. And that no one might attribute such power to himself, but rather to make it manifest that even these greater works were done by Himself, He proceeded to say,"For I go to the Father; and whatsoever you shall ask in my name, I will do it." Was it the apostles only that believed on Him? When, therefore, He said, "He that believes in me," He spoke to those, among whom we also by His grace are included, who by no means receive everything that we ask. And if we turn our thoughts even to the most blessed apostles, we find that he who labored more than they all, yet not he, but the grace of God that was with him, besought the Lord thrice that the messenger of Satan might depart from him, and received not what he had asked. What shall we say, beloved? Are we to suppose that the promise here made, "Whatsoever you shall ask in my name, I will do it," was not fulfilled by Him even to the apostles? And to whom, then, will ever His promise be fulfilled, if therein He has deceived His own apostles?

The last quote is from Augustine's _Tractate_ 73.2.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Metaphors and the Son's Begettal

The last three years of my life have been occupied by a study of paterology (doctrine of God's fatherhood), Christology and metaphorology (theory of metaphor). One thing that has become fairly clear to me is that much confusion often arises when Trinitarians discuss the eternal generation of the Son doctrine because they seem to be construing this concept in a literal fashion. The difficulties that purportedly arise from a Christian believing that the Son was not eternally generated no longer exist when the language of Scripture is interpreted metaphorically. God is not a literal Father of the LOGOS or of those who have been renewed by means of his spirit. The fatherhood of God is metaphorical which means that God does not have the matter-of-fact properties that one commonly associates with a literal or biological father. God is not a male, the Father has not literally generated a Son continuously or eternally. Such metaphors help us to apprehend somewhat the reality that is God. See Hosea 12:11.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Metaphors Qua As-If Structures and Scripture

Metaphors deployed in Holy Writ and corporate worship express spiritual truths by means of reality depicting terminology.[1] Biblical nomenclature is evidently “reality depicting” in that it mediates ultimate states of affairs by means of literary similitudes (Hosea 12:11). Additionally, it appears that scriptural imagery delineates reality insofar as it postulates a veridical context of being between God and the world.[2] Tropes or conceptual domains such as King or Father assume personal agency; personal agency in turn furnishes a logical basis for affirming God’s legitimate rapport (= a relationship founded on mutual understanding and trust) with the rational created order.[3] It seems that God authentically interacts with rational creatures as “Father” (Matthew 6:9) “King” (1 Timothy 1:17) or “Friend” (James 2:23). Whether God’s relation to the created order is real or mixed (according to the language of Thomism),[4] each of the foregoing appellations for God appear to be metaphorical “as-if” (als ob) constructs[5] that mediately portray God’s affinity for and sovereignty over rational finite entities subsisting in both the material and spiritual realm of being, namely, angels and humans.

[1] Fretheim, The Suffering of God, 5-12.

[2] Sanders, God Who Risks, 16.

[3] Ibid. Caird discusses the role of low and high correspondence in metaphorical tropes (e.g. Aaron’s beard dripping with oil and family unity versus God being called a Father). See Psalm 133:1-3. Low correspondence restricts how far that one can press a metaphor. On the other hand, God as Father is the Source of life, cares for His people as does a parent, has affection for his people (Hosea 11:3-4), exercises authority and metes out discipline. This metaphor thus emphasizes familial unity (Ephesians 3:14) and the mutual love that obtains between God and Christians. See Biblical Imagery, 153-154. There is a very high correspondence between God and human fathers in Caird’s estimation.

[4] Piet Schoonenberg, The Christ: A Study of the God-Man Relationship in the Whole of Creation and in Jesus Christ (New York: The Seabury Press, 1971), 83-86, note 16.

[5] See Bernhard Debatin, Die Rationalit├Ąt der Metapher: eine sprachphilosophische und kommunikationstheoretische Untersuchung (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1995), 124-126.