A response to Michael Patton on Five Reasons I Reject the Doctrine of Transubstantiation. A good post, but I politely disagree with him. I respond to four of his points here — his fifth is outside of my field of experience, and so I won’t overreach.

1. Yes, Christ often spoke in metaphor and riddle. Using the text-critical principle that the most unusual is the most likely authentic, then, we can surmise that the early Christians would not go against that grain and interpret him literally unless there were strong reasons for doing so. Jesus’ statements about resurrection are also mystical statements, but we both agree that those are rather literal.

 

2. Although God is not time-bound, and theologically speaking the Crucifixion is timeless (at least in my view), let’s do a thought experiment here. Why is Jesus’ blood efficacious for the remission of sins? Is it because the blood is shed/poured out, or because it is pure and given? Likewise: is the body efficacious because it was broken, or because it was offered?

 

It seems clear that the blood is already efficacious for the purpose of instituting a New Covenant, regardless of whether it is yet efficacious for forgiving sins. Matthew 26:26-:28 says “And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.

 

Verse 28 already associates the blood with the New Covenant, even if the remission-of-sins part is not yet actualized. Yet even if it’s not actualized in the Last Supper, as you say, this does not mean that every occurrence since then is likewise of Jesus’ pre-Crucifixion body and blood.

 

We have a strong trend in Christian thought of defying time-bound constraints; as I said on the Theology Unplugged Catholicism 7: We “tap into” Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection every time someone is baptized. This happens regardless of the fact that Jesus died only once, not once plus once per Christian baptism. Tu Quoque, amice.

 

Note also that Jesus “gave thanks” (εὐχαριστήσας) – when Jesus did that with bread and fish, it multiplied. Jesus can make things happen to food when He gives thanks. Biblical fact.

 

3. No, the cup isn’t the New Covenant, the wine/blood is. This is a figure of speech called metonymy, or more specifically, synecdoche.

 

Metonymy: referring to X by something closely associated with X. Example: “sword” in prophetic speech as a reference to “war” or “destruction”. This example is simultaneously a metaphor, but the two don’ always overlap. “life is a box of chocolates” would be a metaphor that isn’t metonymic.

 

Synecdoche: using X to refer to only part of X, or part of X to refer to all of X. Example: “this is my body”. Well, technically, his entire body isn’t in there, so that’s only part of His body.

 

But why one and not the other?” Because the cup-as-contents synecdoche is already well-known in Scripture and can be taken as a given. For instance, Isaiah 51:17: “Arise, arise, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath; thou hast drunk even to the bottom of the cup of dead sleep, and thou hast drunk even to the dregs.” Clearly, the fear is not that the cup itself will be used as a smashing bludgeon. No; it is the contents, the wine, that is scary. God’s 1,000,000,000-proof wine will give one hell of a hangover.

 

Likewise, Revelation 14:10 spells out that the cup of wrath (material genitive of contents) contains the wine of wrath (epexegetical genitive): “He also shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mingled with pure wine in the cup of his wrath, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the sight of the holy angels, and in the sight of the Lamb.”

 

From a pedantic standpoint, no, “this is my body/blood” isn’t “literal”. It is synecdotic or metonymic, not “literal” in the strict sense. But if we’re asking specifically “is this a metaphor or not?” then one could loosely reply “no, it’s literal”. Semantics is fun, ain’t it?

 

4. John leaves out lots of things. Demons. Exorcisms. Most healings. Nearly all of Jesus’ ethical commands. There’s no “love your enemies” or even “love your neighbor as yourself” here. No. It’s just circle the wagons and “love one another”. That command, and the command to “believe” are pretty much the only general commands of Jesus that are explicitly mentioned in the Gospel of John. John is not meant to stand on its own, but presupposes knowledge of the other Gospels (or of oral teaching about Jesus). In short: it is not freshman-level material. Jesus said “if you love me, keep my commands.” Which begs the question: what are His commands? It doesn’t anywhere near fully answer that. Also missing from G-John: “Gospel”. The word is not there. Whatsoever.

 

Besides, John is a very different animal from the other three. Whereas Matthew, Mark, and Luke are biographies (βίος), John is a drama (διδασκαλία). For this reason, it works differently. John also repeatedly has narratives in which the speakers are speaking to truths far greater than the immediate context, and, often, far greater than the interlocutors realize. The woman at the well, for instance, did not understand the depth of *her* need for water and the depths Jesus could give far surpassed the depth of the well of Sychar. Likewise, Caiaphas was likely unaware his politically expedient words were prophetically valid in ch 11.

 


So, I haven’t really used this blog in forever. I’ve been thinking of starting it up again. While running through my dummy email and clearing out the inbox, lo! A request for one of the worship songs I mentioned on another blog. In other news, it’s awesome that Daniel Streett is blogging again; I found his blog and read from beginning to end only to find that he had stopped blogging before I had started reading him, haha!

Here you go, Paul!

Ἐπῳδή α´ Verse 1
ἀλλάσσω τὴν λύπην μου I’m trading my sorrow
ἀλλάσσω τὴν αἰσχύνην I’m trading my shame
παρατίθημι εἰς χαρὰν Κυρίου I’m laying [them] down for the joy of the Lord

ὰλλάσσω τὴν ἀσθενείαν I’m trading my sickness
ἀλλάσσω τὸν πόνον μου I’m trading my pain
παρατίθημι εἰς χαρὰν Κυρίου I’m laying [them] down for the joy of the Lord

Χορός Chorus
λέγομεν ναί, Κύριε, ναί, ναί Κύριε We say yes, Lord, yes, yes, Lord
ναί, Κύριε, ναί, ναί Κύριε yes, Lord, yes, yes, Lord
ναί, Κύριε, ναί, ναί Κύριε, Ἀμήν. yes, Lord, yes, yes, Lord, Amen.

Ἐπῳδή β´ Verse 2
ἐν παντὶ θλιβόμενοι, We’re pressed on all sides,
ἀλλ’ οὐ στενοχωρούμενοι yet not crushed,
οὐ μὴ ἀπολλύμενοι certainly not destroyed
μακάριοι ἀντὶ ἀρὰς Blessed beyond cursing
ἐν ἐπαγγελίᾳ αὐτοῦ in His promise
ἡ χαρὰ αὐτοῦ ἰσχυρώσει ἡμᾶς His joy will strengthen us
μενῇ δὴ ὁ πόνος νύκτι Though the pain last for the night,
ἡ δὲ χαρὰ ἔρχεται πρώϊ His joy comes early in the morning

Credit for the original English lyrics (not my back-translation shown here) go to Darrell Evans, as far as I can tell. I translated this on my own, and it’s mostly grammatical as well as metrical for musical purposes.

Some songs I have done are reworked versions from Louis Sorenson. I’ll go ahead and point out his materials.

ἡμεῖς πιστεὐομεν, διὸ δεῖ ἡμᾶς καὶ ᾄδειν. (


I haven’t written any notes in a while. Really, I’ve just been too busy working on things to find something to say that really needed to be said to so many people. But I’ve learned recently of a rather disturbing piece of legislation that needs to be addressed, I think.Have you heard of the National Defense Authorization Act? It’s the bill that’s set the budget for the Department of War (now, Dept of Defense) for about 50 years now. Every year it’s renewed with different proposals for the budget and perhaps with different provisions in other areas. One provision this year is just downright disturbing.

This provision gives the President the authority to detain US citizens in military prison indefinitely and without trial. This is blatantly unconstitutional and not right. The senate had a chance to get rid of this specific provision, but they failed to do so. Both Texas senators and both Oklahoma senators (looking at you, Coburn!) voted to keep this horrendous provision within the Act. The previous link provides a list also of every senator who voted for or against removing that particular provision.

Only seven out of one hundred chose to oppose the bill’s final form, after the provision was kept. Here is a link to the entire bill. Or, if you just want to read the provision in question, it’s Section 1034, paragraphs 3 and 4.

SEC. 1034. AFFIRMATION OF ARMED CONFLICT WITH AL-QAEDA, THE TALIBAN, AND ASSOCIATED FORCES.

Congress affirms that–

(1) the United States is engaged in an armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces and that those entities continue to pose a threat to the United States and its citizens, both domestically and abroad;

(2) the President has the authority to use all necessary and appropriate force during the current armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note);

(3) the current armed conflict includes nations, organization, and persons who–

(A) are part of, or are substantially supporting, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or

(B) have engaged in hostilities or have directly supported hostilities in aid of a nation, organization, or person described in subparagraph (A); and

(4) the President’s authority pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) includes the authority to detain belligerents, including persons described in paragraph (3), until the termination of hostilities.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing is that this reflects a “compromise”. Yet according to govtrack.us, this wording has remained unchanged. It wasn’t in the original introduction into the House on Apr 14th, but the Final (House) form on May 17th had it exactly like this. This “agreement” is apparently opposed by the Obama administration, and thankfully I believe he is serious on his veto threat. [Update: the compromise refers to the amending of other provisions in the bill, though this part was apparently not compromised. Our First, Fourth, and Fifth amendment rights, however...]

The scary thing is that this bill does not specifically state that U.S. citizens are exempt for this unconstitutional treatment. There was another time in history — at least one — when the US chose not to defend the freedom of speech of political dissidents. The Sedition Act of 1918 made it criminal to hinder recruiting efforts or criticize the government/military during war time. Try reading a NY Times article from Christmas Eve, 1921: “HARDING FREES DEBS AND 23 OTHERS HELD FOR WAR VIOLATIONS. Page two mentions Thomas Carey, a pacifist, put in prison for refusing to submit to the draft. Several Socialists (members of the I.W.W., the Industrial Workers of the World) are likewise there. Although some are listed as advocating armed resistance, others were simply vocal critics exercising their First Amendment rights. According to the article, these 24 prisoners may have been released, but they never had US citizenship reinstated. Another from 1917 details a man being arrested for suggesting to two young men not to register for the draft. Another documents a restriction on printing any political commentary in other languages — German, in particular — without providing an English translation. Untranslated political commentary is forbidden to even be carried or mailed. Another documents the arrest of then-somewhat-famous writer Cleveland Moffett for making a street corner speech that criticized Wilson. Another, well… I’ll just quote the mayor of New York:

This country is at war with Germany. Public denunciation of the action of the United States Government in co-operating with other Governments in fighting a common enemy is calculated to give aid and comfort to that enemy.

This mindset was here less than 100 years ago, folks. Criticizing the government publicly was at one point illegal, subject to fines and imprisonment. I shudder to think that this mindset may return. Honestly, I fear that it already has. Remember those 9/11 patriotic songs? Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (Toby Keith). Love it or Leave (Lynyrd Skynyrd). My tired mind cannot think of others at the moment.

What can we do? Write the White House? Call our congressmen? These things may help. I support prayer as well. America is definitely in disarray beyond just the economy. May God watch over those who trust in Him. May He be present, and grant us a spirit of solidarity to replace fear. I pray that He would have mercy. Lord, come quickly!


In a blog post about whether ὑποτασσω (hypotasso) in Ephesians 5:21 means “submit”, “respect”, or something else, a commenter by the name of Sue made the point that she rejects women’s submission the same way she rejects slavery, given that both slavery and marriage are within Ephesians 5. I responded that I don’t think those two parallel well. The Bible both regulates and perpetuates marriage and the model of marriage, yet the Bible only regulates slavery without perpetuating it. I wrote:

But these do not parallel. … There is nothing in the Bible that demands slavery or seeks to perpetuate it, though the Bible does regulate it. The Bible does, however, seek to both perpetuate and regulate marriage.

To which Kurk replies:

Gary, with your first statement here (your “nothing” one), aren’t you overgeneralizing to the extent that your making an assumption that cannot really be proved? Many preachers up to and during the Civil War in the USA would have strongly disagreed with you. Are you better able than they were to parse out what you see as the problem in Paul’s text (i.e., the regulation of slavery which only seems like a perpetuation of slavery) while retaining what you see as its solution (i.e., the perpetuation and regulation of marriage)?

In this post I seek to answer his question of why I believe the pro-slavery argument is not as credible, and can’t be paralleled, regardless of any similarities between the two conservative arguments. I also briefly respond to the other issues he raises.

In all three scenarios (marriage, parenting, employment), much has certainly changed between biblical times and now. Yet gender is a constant part of one’s inherent physical identity, while social standing and age are dynamic.

I believe we are all in a better position to evaluate the backgrounds of Scripture from a historical and archaeological standpoint (e.g. at what age people married, whether slaves were literate, whether having sex with a slave was permissible) specifically because we have the shoulders of more giants to stand on. This does not grant absolute certainty that we are right and they are wrong, however. We all have confirmation bias, and perhaps the worst thing any of us can do to fall pray to the Zeitgeist is to think we are beyond it.

While I accept my own fallibility, I do not think that complementarian arguments can properly be paralleled to pro-slavery arguments. Whatever other arguments there might be for slavery (the Bible doesn’t forbid it) or for comparing compism to slavery advocacy (Jesus was a slave -> church is bride of Christ), the strongest case for perpetuating either marriage or slavery is to be found in either A. a clear declaration by God, or B. an etiological explanation within the primordial history narrative. Marriage, particularly as something done by a man’s initiative, is enshrined as an instance of A within B (“for this reason…”).

The crucial slavery text within Genesis 1-11 is 9:18-29, in which Noah curses Canaan and says he will serve Shem. This is taken to mean that the Africans will serve the S(h)emitic European race. Yet this is when God stops speaking and the narrative morally degrades at a rapid pace. The first thing Noah did when God turned around was fall into debauchery, and he (drunkenly?) cursed his grandson for something his son did. Everything within the primordial history is to be taken as having epic repercussions, but that does not mean that God endorses a drunken man’s anger as normative. The extent to which God enforces Genesis 9-10 is debatable.

It seems more clear that God backs the texts of Genesis 2-3, or at least the blessings and punishments therein, given that God actually appears as a character and himself delivers said blessings and curses.

If we do a compare and contrast of Genesis’ overall tone towards slavery and overall tone towards women, we find something interesting. There are episodes where a slave comes through an entire episode as a good character (Abraham’s servant, ch 24), and there’s even an episode of role reversal where a mere slave becomes Pharaoh’s right-hand man.

But with women, there’s only two positive role models:
1. Sarah, who called Abraham her lord in the middle of scorning disbelief in God’s promises. Recording this as her redeeming quality is at best a backhanded compliment to her.
2. Unmarried Rebekah in Genesis 24. Rebekah simply goes downhill after that, not back-and-forth like her male counterpart.

Women deceive. They engage in sexual exploitation. They usurp authority. And, granted, male figures do all these things in Genesis, too, but male figures have more redeeming qualities to balance them out. There is no instance in Genesis of a woman taking initiative in place of her husband where something fully good results. Yes, Jacob gets the Blessing as God intended, but it required deceiving and grieving a dying old man who did nothing to deserve it. That was a woman’s idea, lest we forget.

Slaves do engage in actions of their own initiative, sometimes with mixed results as for Hagar (who thought to abandon her child), and sometimes with good results, as with Joseph. In Joseph we find a primary example of emancipation from slavery; Eliezar of Damascus, at least in theory, stood to gain control of all of Abraham’s estate, had he not fathered an heir (15:2).
Yet there is no Amazonesque example of throwing off patriarchy as a sign of divine redemption from brutal oppression, unless Gen 3:16 is taken in an unusual direction.

And so, if the primary text to visit is Genesis 1-11, and if the rest of the book’s stance of women and slaves should inform our understanding of how Genesis 1-11 views the status thereof, then we are left with a more clear impression of slaves gaining emancipation than women doing so. To use this text to back up slavery is to assume that God endorses the anger of a drunken man’s curse, which is debatable. Meanwhile, to use this text to support complementarianism is to assume that God supports his own words in Genesis 3, if nothing else. Slavery does not seem to be a permanent institution, nor necessarily life-long, whereas marriage is assumed to be lifelong and a natural social construct.


I’ve all but given up blogging this year, it would seem. I got a job in December, you see. I was hired to be a sacker at a local grocery store that opened on January 11th. Ever since then, I’ve had little energy for blogging. Sort of anticlimactic to move to WordPress and then stop posting, huh? Sorry about that.

I have been promoted to overnight stocker. Tonight at 10 is my first shift. Honestly, it’s going to be challenging given that I already worked a five-day work week as a sacker. But, I’ll be given a consistent schedule, 50 cents more pay per hour, 8-hour shifts will be always the case rather than only “often”, and just more hours overall. 32 beats an average of 25, certainly.

I won’t be able to continue doing a Sunday School class if I continue working Saturday nights, I suspect. I will try and ask for at least every other Saturday night off.

In other news, my grandmother has decided to pitch in to help me buy a car. I just heard the news, and I’m overjoyed. I have saved over $2,000 from my minimum-wage job towards a car, plus my parents had a $2,300 rainy day fund set aside for me. But since my grandmother is going to pitch in for the rest as my inheritance from her, I am thrilled.

Also, there’s been some news about the Philippines. Although I never could acquire the funds to go in person, I have sent a few of my good spoons as prototypes for Filipino craftsmen to work on. I just found out the results today: http://arapallivelihood.shutterfly.com/woodenspoons

So, now Give a Goat has a parallel program called Wood for Food. What the people of the island of Cebu need, what these craftsmen need, is trade, not aid. A hand up, not a handout.

Salvador Cariaga, the founder of Give a Goat, would like to give me a share of the credit for this. But honestly, the idea was mostly his and so was its implementation. I gave prototypes, enthusiasm, and plenty of prayers.

Today is without a doubt one of the best days of my life. Hah. Let’s see what I think after my 10pm to 6 am shift, though!


In case you haven’t heard, some 12,000 individual claims by women of pay/promotion discrimination against Walmart have been lumped together into one class-action lawsuit. These women were suing on behalf of all female employees of Walmart within the past decade, a total of 1.4 million employees. The SC ruled unanimously that the circumstances of 1.4 million employees in different positions under different supervisors cannot seriously be lumped together. In a partial dissent, four “liberal” judges seem to believe it was wrong to dismiss the 1.5 million women as a class without letting them make a case for being considered a class. See Reuters and Associated Press reports for some background, or go straight to the SCOTUS blog.

This is one of those moments when I can’t help but think our system of thought is polarized and broken. I have an inherent dislike for Walmart, and just because I work for a competitor, but in all honesty it is fair to rule in favor of Walmart here. Our courts are supposed to set very high bars for determining guilt — innocent until proven guilty. If there is not a clearly measurable way to determine specific claims of discrimination, then by all rights the case should be thrown right out.

Walmart may indeed be guilty of gender discrimination. Heck, Walmart may indeed be guilty of many, many things in order to maintain their low prices, from bad employment conditions to throwing their weight around to get their stock from other countries at ridiculously low prices, thus shortchanging the poor overseas who work to make those 5-dollar t-shirts possible. Yes, Walmart may indeed be guilty. But the SC cannot rule based on anything other than clearly demonstrable evidence.

What effect will this decision have on class-action lawsuits in general?
It seems they will need to be rather specific with a clear common thread and a similar grievance given. If there are 1.5 million women employed by Walmart in the last decade, and only 12,000 or so file claims, one must wonder how statistically significant that is. A good statistical sample size is about 5% of the population you wish to analyze. However, that would be a hefty number of claims. 12,000 claims, honestly, is not statistically significant enough to determine with enough confidence what the issue is. Even though it’s theoretically possible that they’re all bogus claims, that’s not at all what I’m arguing. But 12,000 is a meager .8% of 1.5 million. That is nowhere near enough to get even a representative sample. We’d need to analyze at least 75,000 cases for that to work. The sheer immensity of this sort of lawsuit makes it an outrageous struggle.

From now on, class-action lawsuits will have to be done in more specific chunks. One may not simply refer to [demographic] vs. [huge corporation]. This does not make it impossible to bring down large corporations. Enough smaller-scale class-action lawsuits simultaneously in session would still be effective in delivering justice. If indeed all 12,000 of these cases are clearly as the plaintiffs suggest, they can still get justice. If they all win, it will definitely be enough of a PR blow for Walmart that the company would have to seriously revamp things.

So, while future class-action lawsuits may require a smaller scale, this SC decision does not make it impossible to get justice for legitimate class grievances.

Honestly, I’m not sure if this decision makes litigation easier or harder for the SC, for employees as plaintiffs, or for companies as defendants. It will complicate matters and require more lawsuits. The clear winners in this decision are the lawyers.

How this kerfuffle manifests our ridiculous polarization
Looking at the blogosphere is a fair way to determine how people can look at the same situation and see two completely different things. Really, you don’t even have to do that. The 5-4 split in the court shows that regardless of how knowledgeable our SC justices may be, the ideological majority still sometimes wins. Influence in law boils down to politics. While there may be exceptions, I think this case is rather the rule. Sadly, our law system is at the mercy of whichever political party manages to install the most of “their” Supreme Court justices.

Our legal-political system is organized chaos at best. But it’s better than anarchy, at least. Better for ideologies to fight with words in a drawn-out court battle than with swords and clubs.


Allegedly, abortion is only 3% of what they do. Or so they’ve said. They’re doing a sleight of hand here. A breakdown of the numbers from their own site is more illuminating.

You will find the claim on page 3 of the linked report in the now-famous (skip to 1:30) pie chart.

On page 2, they report 7,021 “Prenatal clients” [not receiving abortions] and 332,278 abortions. “Prenatal clients”, presumably, means “pregnant women receiving services other than an abortion.” Whereas abortions refer to “pregnant women upon which we performed an abortion”.

Pregnant women visits, total: 339,299 (They do not provide this statistic; I had to derive it myself.)
Pregnant women visits, abortion: 332,278
Pregnant women visits, non-abortion: 7,021
Total services performed: 11,383,900

So, the question remains: in the case where a pregnant woman comes in for services, what are the chances that they will perform an abortion? Well, that’s easy:

You see, they don’t count the 332,278 visits as also being “prenatal clients” because then you’d put the numbers together and discover how often they perform abortions on pregnant women. I did the math, and it comes to: 332,278/(332,278+7,021)=0.9793073365969248 in my calculator, or, 97.93% in short. To find out what percentage of their services are abortion, all you have to do is divide 332,278 into 11,383,900. You get 2.9%.

So, you might be wondering how they could manipulate the data to make it seem that abortion is just a minor detail performed on the side. Answer: statistics can be manipulated easily by choosing what data to show and what to not show. It is deceptive, but sadly common, for people to arrange the data without actually fudging the numbers. This is what they did.

While it may be true (as far as I know) that only 3% of their total services were abortion procedures, that isn’t as much of statement as they make it out to be. If you are a scared 15-year-old girl and you go in with your 22-year-old boyfriend for an abortion, you may be offered a free HIV test, breast exam, pap smear, and a pack of condoms for the road. On paper it is made to look like abortion was only 20% of your reason for visiting rather than 100%. And hey — if they provided you with the pregnancy test two months ago that helped you find out in the first place, then that pads the numbers even better. Only 16% of your involvement with Planned Parenthood, as far as the numbers show, was for abortion in this hypothetical situation. Yet in reality, it was your main motive for going.

Note that their by the numbers page claims that only 12% of their clients receive abortion services. Once again, this is an obfuscation without directly lying (as far as I know); they do not say what percentage of their pregnant clients receive abortion services. This failure to specify is not an uncommon tactic among those who use statistics for their own agenda.

I will ask the question again: in the case where a pregnant woman comes in for services, what are the chances that they will perform an abortion? Planned Parenthood seeks to answer this question by saying “3% of our services are abortions”, or “12% of our clients receive abortion services”. This is a sleight of hand, as I’ve already said, because they provide the right answer to a question other than the one pro-lifers/sympathizers are asking. The answer, by their own numbers, is 97.93%.

They made less than 1,000 adoption referrals in 2009, by the way. But then again, parents seeking to adopt would actually be planning parenthood. If Planned Parenthood were about family planning, they should focus on adoption and not abortion. Then their name would be ingenious rather than disingenuous.




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