Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things."

Friday, January 17, 2003

An excerpt from this week's work. I am writing about the temporary spiritual gifts, and especially the gift of tongues. I have a scripturally formed bias against the legitimacy of today's tongue-talkers. I have never yet found someone who fit the Scriptural criteria for it, and I'm quite confident that I never shall. The legitimate gift passed more than 1900 years ago, and the recent pretenders started up again about 100 years ago. It is a classic case of justifying the phenomenon after the experience. You know: "I had this most wonderful experience, and it must somehow be from God, and I'm going to justify it somehow in Scripture." The tongue-talkers attempt to justify an ecstatic psychological experience, believing it could only be supernatural, and being supernatural, it could only be from God. That's a pretty shoddy development of thought, really. Stayed tuned for the full description beginning this weekend. It's an issue of protection that every pastor should address.

1 Corinthians 14 Exposition

I. The Primacy of Prophecy, vv.1-5:
A. The summary and secondary commands, v.1, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.”
B. The explanation of the secondary command, vv.2-4, “2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. 4 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.”
C. Paul’s personal desires for the Corinthians regarding spiritual gifts, v.5, “Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.
II. The tongues profit for others, vv.6-12:
A. The key question, v.6, “But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?”
B. The first illustration, v.7, “Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp?”
C. The second illustration, v.8, “For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?”
Three rules for my definition of good literature:

1) Right has to be portrayed as right; wrong as wrong.

2) The plot must be compelling;

3) The work must be well written.

In other words, every good work of literature must have good morals, good design, and good execution. That's pretty pedestrian, but I'm keeping things simple. It is a combination of virtue and skill which produces a piece of literature worth reading.

Now apply this to film, and you add several demands:

We might start with the first three above, as they apply to a script, plus:

4) Direction;

5) Cinemaphotography;

6) Acting...

7) and all the little skillful roles that add an extra hour (or more) to the academy awards.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Notice also a new link today: www.ntgreek.org

This appears to be a very excellent resource for learning New Testament Greek, and I would recommend it for anyone who is endeavoring to learn the language. It cannot wholly substitute for a disciplined classroom environment, but regardless it looks promising.
Some of you may have noticed the buttons on the right side of this page which allow you to rate the writing and material here. It is a very non-scientific and non-specific poll, but the advantage is to publicize this material. I'm not the best column or blog writer in the world, not by a long shot. I do like to believe that there is a reasonable quality of thought given, especially with reference to God-defined virtue, and that's why I've been plugging away for three months. I have not received very many votes on BlogHop.com for what I've done, and I'm certainly not soliciting any by writing about it. BlogHop is a listing of thousands of blogs, many of which are depressing, unvirtuous, and even downright rotten. Some are humorous and well-written. The ones that receive the best ratings drift to the top, and receive more attention as a result. After an overwhelmingly positive start, I have begun to receive a smattering of negative reactions. This actually encourages me, because it indicates one of at least two things: First, that one or more of my old English teachers have found my blog, and are continuing to harangue my hatchet job on the language. And two, that people who are predisposed to reject the conservative and biblical viewpoint presented here are nonetheless reading. The latter is one of the primary reasons for keeping up the work.

Courage and Faith.
This afternoon I'm investing a couple of hours in digging out all the genitive absolutes in Luke. Wait! No wait. I know how when most folks read phrases like "genitive absolute" they receive not so subtle messages from their brains like "emergency shutdown," or "boring!!! engage sleep mode." Don't do that. The genitive absolute is a grammatical construction found in the Greek dialects of the ancient world. It is a highly symbolic way to communicate real life discontinuity, and Luke has implemented in an ingenius fashion. I am attempting to demonstrate that Luke has an overall purpose for his genitive absolutes, and if it works out like I think, I'll have a very interesting article for a theological journal. It will be some time before I can do all the research and write something well enough to have even a remote chance of getting it published, so don't hold your breath. I will likely teach it first in the form of a special study for my face to face congregation. You all deserve the good stuff as a matter of privilege.

More importantly for this forum, the importance of original language is surpassing. There is color, texture, and form in the original languages of Scripture, so that there is a marvelous depiction of God. I am greatly privileged to study and teach it on a regular basis.

Monday, January 13, 2003

By the way: it's a good day when you get to tell the truth to Mormons.

There I was, out for a jog on the Highline Canal trail, when a pair of bicycle-riding-suit-wearing young men came along. Their identity is no secret. One pleasantly asked if I was interested in a copy of the Book of Mormon, and the conversation went cordially from there. They didn't get far with me, but their training in denial is remarkable. The young man who spoke with me was persistent, had ready the answers his church provided, and was a slick salesman. It's almost a shame that it's a sham. But not quite. Mormon legalism is just as deadly and evil as any other form that corrupts the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and is to be treated with the same disdain. That they strain for legitimacy with blatant fabrication makes it all the worse. I do get a certain pleasure out of telling cultists that it's not going to happen.
Skill is not virtue; talent is not virtue; personality is not virtue.

Consider Mary, Queen of England from 1553-1558. The daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Spain, she was strongly Catholic according to the religion of her mother. In Kenneth Latourette's A History of Christianity, the record goes like this: "...about three hundred went to the stake. About a third were clergymen and about a fifth women... ...the most famous of the victims were Bishops Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer, all of them burned at Oxford. The first two suffered together. Latimer is said to have encouraged his comrade at the stake with the words: 'Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, we shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England as, I trust, shall never be put out.'" Yet Mary had the most pleasant personality, and considered it a matter of business to burn heretics at the stake. She is appropriately known as "Bloody Mary." Personality is not virtue!

Skill and talent are not virtue. Wilt Chamberlain is acknowledged as the most dominant basketball player of his time. Yet he personally bragged of his conquests off the court, declaring that he had affairs with thousands of women. Not only a desperate expression of unhappiness, his behavior disqualifies him from any public acclamation of goodness.

Which brings us to John Crowley, Professor of Literature at Yale University. I admire John Crowley's prose. He is truly one of the masters of this century, and some of his writing so powerfully translates the reader as to defy description. The first pages of his masterpiece Little, Big are among my lifetime favorites. Smokey Barnable in love, travelling from New York City upstate to the mysterious estate of his true love... makes me wistful to think of the first time I read those pages. There are passages in his other books, Engine Summer, Aegypt, and others that climb the same heights. The man defines lyricism for me, and good prose is like watching great athletes: you know you'll never play shortstop or quarterback like the great ones do, but you watch to admire. The same in the performance of music or any other endeavor that includes the high blend of talent and skill. It seems right to say that such a luminous talent is wasted in a lack of virtue, but read on.

Little, Big is a tale of magical realism, an enchanted dance in the lives of a modern family of fey folk who intermingle with humanity. But there is no moral compass in the work. The first time I read the book I was sailing along enjoying myself when there came a frank portrayal of a homosexual love affair. Instant disqualifier. Aegypt is the first of a trilogy much in the same vein as Little, Big. It depicts immorality in a positive light, and promotes (of all things) Gnosticism. Ugh.

Now comes The Translator. You are welcome to call me a fool at any point, because of course you see that I have been a moth to Crowley's literary flame. I saw this book at the Highlands Ranch Library, and picked it up. No gnosticsim this time. That's good. No frank depiction of homosexual love. That's good too. Alas. Portrayal of pro-Cuba communists in a positive light. Strike one. Portrayal of Middle America Morality as oppressive as communist Soviet Union in the 1960s. Strike two (and honestly, in my literature as baseball metaphor, you only get one strike). Attempt to show late 1960s radicalism as superior to modern conservatism. Strike three. You were already out, anyway. Indication that romantic love is more important than morality. Strike four. Storyline that tells the "real story" behind the Cuban Missile Crisis, and how a Russian poet sacrificed his poems so that the world might not suffer the holocaust... Strike five. Drop the Bomb on this one, and get on with life. John Crowley has a tremendous amount of talent. His writing is endowed with undeniable charm. It contains little godly virtue.

Courage and Faith.