Considered an Imposter, When I am True

It’s a good description of the Christian ministry here in 2 Corinthians 4. I like it:

“Since we have this ministry according to the mercy that was shown us, we do not give up... vs 1

“If, now, the good news we declare is in fact veiled, it is veiled among those who are perishing,  among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through... vs 3-4

“However, we have this treasure [the ministry] in earthen vessels [us], that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s and not that out of ourselves.” vs 7

And in chapter 6:

“In every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers...through glory and dishonor, through bad report and good report; as deceivers and yet truthful.”...vs 1,8 .....

“as deceivers and yet truthful.” NWT (1986)

“as deceivers, and yet true” - KJV

“genuine, yet regarded as imposters” - NIV

“regarded as deceivers and yet true” - NASB

“regarded as imposters, and yet true” - NET

“as ‘deceivers’ and yet true” - OJB

“We are regarded as deceivers and yet we are truthful” - NWT (revised 2013)

“We are treated as liars, and yet we speak the truth” - GNB

”considered an imposter, when I am true” - An American Translation (cover)

Here are two versions of reality. Which one is true and which one is false? Is there a God or isn’t there? Does he have a purpose for the earth or doesn’t he? Will we but stumble from one crisis to another through all time or won’t we. Is the real life of 1 Timothy 6:20 really the real life or is it the false one?

“as being unknown and yet being recognized...as disciplined and yet not delivered to death, as sorrowing but ever rejoicing, as poor but making many rich, as having nothing and yet possessing all things.” vs 8-10

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One of the Foremost Conclusions of Critical Thinking Ought Be That We are Not Very Good at It

Anyone suspecting that ‘cognitive dissonance’ is a far overrated evil need look no further than American pharmaceutical ads—with narrator saying you must have the stuff and voiceover saying that it may kill you. Those adsters seem to handle their ‘cognitive dissonance’ pretty well, don’t they?

It is a concept worthy of a pamphlet, maybe, but little more. We cannot entertain two non-dovetailing ideas simultaneously without our heads imploding? Intelligent people have always done it. Moreover, the insistence that people cannot do it without incurring massive cognitive dissonance is the perfect example of Romans 1:22: “Though asserting they were wise, they became foolish.” And “I will make the wisdom of the wise men perish, and the intelligence of the intellectuals I will reject.” (1 Corinthians 1:19)

The whole concept of “critical thinking” is skewed and pompous. Everything is to be looked at critically. Nothing is to be accepted as true until each and every component is proven, and one wobbly point negates the whole. People thinking this way far overestimate their ability to “prove” things and end up doing only what humans are most good at—tearing things down and replacing them with nothing.

There was once a time when it was thought intelligent to supply context and to seek to put things into perspective. Today if you do that you are told that you are “raising a straw man argument.” The best way to counter this is to invent a character—Bernard Strawman—who regards himself as the epitome of reason. Mr. Strawman appears in both Tom Irregardless and Me and No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash.

“Cognitive dissonance” a problem? Humility is the deciding factor. The one with humility tells himself that the facts are not all in yet, indeed they may never be, and he will be able to juggle non-dovetailing ideas proportionately until he sees how they resolve, which may or may not occur within his lifetime. That way he is not blindsided by the recurring headline: “Everything you thought you knew about such and such is wrong!” One mustn’t get too carried away with one’s own investigative ability.

One of the foremost conclusions of critical thinking ought to be that we are not very good at it.

 

 

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An Advocate for Singleness - Francis Bacon, #90 on the Influential Persons List

Was it only me who was surprised to see specific counsel about sex in the Bible?

Let the husband render to [his] wife her due; but let the wife also do likewise to [her] husband.  The wife does not exercise authority over her own body, but her husband does; likewise, also, the husband does not exercise authority over his own body, but his wife does.  Do not be depriving each other [of it], except by mutual consent for an appointed time, that you may devote time to prayer and may come together again, that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-regulation.” (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)

I just didn’t expect to see it there—maybe I should have—and it cemented my opinion that the Bible was a very practical book.

The apostle Paul, who was not married, recommended singleness as a way of life: “It is well for a man not to touch a woman;  yet, because of prevalence of fornication, let each man have his own wife and each woman have her own husband....However, I say this by way of concession, not in the way of a command.  But I wish all men were as I myself am. (1 Corinthians 7:1-7)

In the single state, one can more readily give “constant attendance upon the Lord without distraction,” he wrote at vs 35.

So from time to time, the Witness organization dutifully recommends singleness as a way of life. Few take them up on it—perhaps because those doing the recommending are almost always married themselves. Instead, they employ the “escape clause” at verse 36: “But if anyone thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virginity, if that is past the bloom of youth, and this is the way it should take place, let him do what he wants; he does not sin. Let them marry.” They even push the “bloom of youth” phrase to almost mean two minutes past the bloom of youth. Many of our people go in for marriage when quite young. Many of these later come to say that they entered marriage too young.

Is there anyone other than the apostle Paul who gives such advice? To my surprise, there is—and he is a big name by historical standards—Francis Bacon, a philosopher of the 16th century who advocated for scientific investigation, recognizing its potential to change the world. From Aristotle’s time, science had been mostly based on deduction. Bacon changed it to be based on induction. Rather than ‘downloading’ ‘settled science’ and deducing from it, he advanced the notion of ‘uploading’ observations and experiments, and using that to modify existing science, so that it should never become like calcified religious dogma. Michael Hart ranks him #90 on this list of the 100 most influential persons who have ever lived. (Paul is #6)

His preference of singleness (though, like most who ‘recommend’ singleness today, he was married) is for the same reason as Paul’s: one can do more in that state: He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief. Certainly the best works, and of greatest merit for the public, have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men; which both in affection and means have married and endowed the public.”

This is not necessarily true of the unmarried—that they make great contributions (“Some there are, who though they lead a single life, yet their thoughts do end with themselves, and account future times impertinences”)—but it could be more readily true of them, by reason of having fewer distractions.

Watch out the traps of marriage!—and I am not sure here whether he is lampooning those who run from it simply for the sake of self-centeredness, or if he advocating forsaking it for the contributions one can thereby more easily make to humankind: “But the most ordinary cause of a single life is liberty, especially in certain self-pleasing and humorous minds, which are so sensible of every restraint, as they will go near to think their girdles and garters to be bonds and shackles. Unmarried men are best friends, best masters, best servants; but not always best subjects; for they are light to run away; and almost all fuginves are of that condition.”

He even agrees with Paul’s specific application for remaining unmarried: “Single life doth well with churchmen; for charity will hardly water the ground were it must first fill a pool.” How well that ties in with Paul’s: “The unmarried man is anxious for the things of the Lord, how he may gain the Lord’s approval.  But the married man is anxious for the things of the world, how he may gain the approval of his wife, and he is divided” (Vs 32-34)

That is not to say that either Francis or Paul did not concede the tempering effect of marriage on personality: “Certainly wife and children are a kind of discipline of humanity; and single men, though they may be many times more charitable, because their means are less exhaust, yet, on the other side, they are more cruel and hard-hearted (good to make severe inquisitors), because their tenderness is not so oft called upon.”

Still, all things considered, Bacon refers to “one of the wise men, that made answer to the question, when an man should marry—A young man, not yet, and elder man not at all.

Who knew? C4DD0E19-880B-432F-AC49-BA17DECABA87

 

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If a Tree Falls in the Forest and There Is No One To Hear It, How Do You Know It Made a Sound? Because the Squirrels go Crazy

“Now we speak wisdom among those who are mature, but not the wisdom of this system of things nor that of the rulers of this system of things, who are to come to nothing.” (1 Corinthians 2;6)

If they speak the “absurdities of their experiences” it might be said that they stayed too shallow for too long so as to mistake the bloopers for the movie itself.

This one, too, is a beaut, from the same chapter: “But a physical man does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined spiritually.  However, the spiritual man examines all things, but he himself is not examined by any man.” (2:14)

One gets to understand the other, but it does not work in reverse.

It is plain how “puffed up” they were by how the apostle leaned into them about the “wisdom” they appeared to be in love with:

“Let no one be seducing himself: If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this system of things, let him become a fool, that he may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God; for it is written: “He catches the wise in their own cunning.”  (18-19)

True today as well, surely. If the “wisdom of this world” was worth the digital bits taken to print it, wouldn’t the world that it has collectively produced have more to show for itself?

The wise ones ponder appreciably Plato’s description of reality, that we see only the shadow because of the head restraints. But the lowly ones, workmen to the core, say: “Why don’t they just invent tin shears to cut through the restraints so they can turn around the see the real thing? It is not too much different from how Lee Chugg responded to the learned question: “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to observe it, how does one know that it really make a noise?”

“Because the squirrels go crazy!” he would shoot back.

“For behold his calling of you, brothers, that not many wise in a fleshly way were called, not many powerful, not many of noble birth; but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put the strong things to shame;  and God chose the ignoble things of the world and the things looked down upon, the things that are not, that he might bring to nothing the things that are, in order that no flesh might boast in the sight of God. But it is due to him that you are in union with Christ Jesus, who has become to us wisdom from God, also righteousness and sanctification and release by ransom; that it may be just as it is written: ‘He that boasts, let him boast in Jehovah.’” (1: 26-31)

The founders of the faith, the 12, were “unlettered and ordinary.” They always remained so. (Acts 4:13)

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The Apostle Meanders as Usual - or Does He?

The apostle writes, in chapter 8 of the first letter to the Corinthians, about not doing what one has every right to do so as not to stumble new or weak ones: 

“Now concerning foods offered to idols: we know we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up....we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no God but one...Nevertheless, there is not this knowledge in all persons; but some, being accustomed until now to the idol, eat food as something sacrificed to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.  (8:2-8)

“He is still at it in chapter 10! Talk about long-winded!

“Everything that is sold in a meat market keep eating, making no inquiry on account of YOUR conscience; but if anyone should say to you: “This is something offered in sacrifice,” do not eat on account of the one that disclosed it and on account of conscience.  Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other person. (10:25-33)

But the chapter in between—he meanders off into something totally different! It’s his modus operandi—meandering all over about everything. Or does it only seem like he is meandering? 

Excerpts from the chapter in between, 9: “What soldier ever serves at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who shepherds a flock and does not partake of some of the milk of the flock?” (vs 7)

Nobody. They never do it.

“Am I saying these things from a human viewpoint? Or does not the Law also say these things?  For it is written in the Law was a of Moses: “You must not muzzle a bull when it is threshing out the grain.” Is it bulls that God is concerned about?” (8-9)

Well, I guess so. I mean, that’s what it says.

“Or is it actually for our sakes that he says it? It was really written for our sakes, because the man who plows and the man who threshes ought to do so in the hope of receiving a share.” (10)

Oh yeah, that’s right.

“If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material support from you?  If other men have this rightful claim over you, do we not have it much more so?” (10-11)

It almost sounds like he is angling for a paycheck. Or is he?

“Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we are enduring all things so that we might not in any way hinder the good news about the Christ.” (12)

No, apparently not. He doesn’t in any way want to “hinder the good news about the Christ.”

“Do you not know that the men performing sacred duties eat the things of the temple, and that those regularly serving at the altar receive a share from the altar?  In this way, too, the Lord commanded for those proclaiming the good news to live by means of the good news.” (13-14)

Wait. Now it seems like he is going back to a paycheck.

“But I have not made use of a single one of these provisions. Indeed, I have not written these things so that this would be done for me, for it would be better to die than—no man will take away my grounds for boasting!” (15)

No. I guess not. What does he mean about boasting?

“Now if I am declaring the good news, it is no reason for me to boast, for necessity is laid upon me. Really, woe to me if I do not declare the good news!” (16)

Okay, it is not about the fact that he is preaching.

“If I do this willingly, I have a reward; but even if I do it against my will, I still have a stewardship entrusted to me.  What, then, is my reward? That when I declare the good news, I may offer the good news without cost, to avoid abusing my authority in the good news.” (17-18)

Is it that he does it without cost?

“For though I am free from all people, I have made myself the slave to all, so that I may gain as many people as possible.”

Looks that way. Slaves don’t pull down a paycheck, after all, and he has made himself one.

“To the Jews I became as a Jew in order to gain Jews; to those under law I became as under law, though I myself am not under law, in order to gain those under law.  To those without law I became as without law, although I am not without law toward God but under law toward Christ, in order to gain those without law.  To the weak I became weak, in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to people of all sorts, so that I might by all possible means save some.  But I do all things for the sake of the good news, in order to share it with others.” (20-23)

Okay. He does whatever he has to do to cater to those to whom he visits.

“Do you not know that the runners in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it.  Now everyone competing in a contest exercises self-control in all things. Of course, they do it to receive a crown that can perish, but we, one that does not perish.  Therefore, the way I am running is not aimlessly; the way I am aiming my blows is so as not to be striking the air...” (24-26)

“but I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.” (27)

It’s as though he says: “And you people are whining about food? Look at Barnabas and me.” So chapter 9 is not such a meandering after all. Rather, it is an example of how putting oneself out in a small way is nothing compared to putting oneself out in a large way, like he was doing.

It all comes together at the end: “even as I am pleasing all people in all things, not seeking my own advantage but that of the many, in order that they might get saved.” (10:33)

And—it is just me?—I cannot help but think of Hester Prynne, from The Scarlet Letter:

“It is remarkable, that persons who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietude to the external regulations of society. The thought suffices them, without investing itself in the flesh and blood of action.”

Isn’t it? You don’t whine and cry over small things, as though these are the things by which you are defined. You do these things without fuss so as to focus on the big things. They are not at all in the same class. Even an accumulation of the small things does not equate to one of the big things. They are on different planes.

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More Corinthians here

 

 

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The Inspiration of the ‘Serenity Prayer’?

“Were you called when a slave? Do not let it worry you; but if you can also become free, rather seize the opportunity.” (1 Corinthians 7:21) 

I like this. Improve your circumstances if you have opportunity, but if not, don’t worry about it; it is not the overriding issue, because: “anyone in [the] Lord that was called when a slave is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he that was called when a freeman is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; stop becoming slaves of men” 

as though THEIR arrangements were the meaningful ones. 

Seldom is there slavery today—it is illegal, but there are plenty of circumstances of economic slavery that are very hard on people. The verse is actually no more than the ‘Serenity prayer’ about changing what one can, accepting what one can’t, and being smart enough to know the difference. 

Perhaps it is even the inspiration for it.

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More Corinthians here

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‘Ruling as Kings Already Are You?’

“Some are puffed up as though I were in fact not coming to you. But I will come to you shortly, if Jehovah wills, and I shall get to know, not the speech of those who are puffed up, but [their] power.  For the kingdom of God [lies] not in speech, but in power.  What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and mildness of spirit?” 1 Corinthians 4:18-21

Let no one say that there is not authority in the Christian congregation. Paul was coming, and he was not going to be so easy hoing. He couldn’t just be blown off as a meddling outsider. He had some authority behind him. What other conclusion can one reach? This was an early stage of his wrestling with the “superfine apostles,” (2 Corinthians 11:5) comfortable local figures, “puffed up” over their Greek wisdom, probably, Corinth being a center of the culture. They wanted the apostle’s office but not his his work.

“You men already have your fill, do you? You are rich already, are you? You have begun ruling as kings without us, have you? And I wish indeed that you had begun ruling as kings, that we also might rule with you as kings.  For it seems to me that God has put us the apostles last on exhibition as men appointed to death, because we have become a theatrical spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.  We are fools because of Christ, but you are discreet in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are in good repute, but we are in dishonor.  Down to this very hour we continue to hunger and also to thirst and to be scantily clothed and to be knocked about and to be homeless  and to toil, working with our own hands. When being reviled, we bless; when being persecuted, we bear up;  when being defamed, we entreat; we have become as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things, until now.”  4:8-13

They were comfortable. They were established. They wanted to keep it that way. They were ruling as kings now. They didn’t want to wait for any “appointed time.” Next thing you know there will be no appointed time. They wanted nothing to do with the showtime Paul was advancing—the one of trudging “through the dust” (the root meaning of the Greek word translated “minister.”) They didn’t want dishonor, hunger, thirst, mistreatment. They certainly didn’t want anyone to regard them as “the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things.”

Next thing you know they would be arranging a paycheck for themselves. Since they were eloquent, maybe they could arrange for the “less wise” members to PAY for their preaching before the congregation and become pewsitters, and both of them thereby imagine that they are fulfilling an obligation to God. No, it is not hard to imagine oneself seeing the beginnings of a separate clergy class. 

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"We Are Wise and Learned Adults, Far Too Clever to Be Sold Adam and Eve. What's Next - Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?

I like the way Paul deliberately dialed back on the ‘wisdom.’ Most of his contemporaries would have had to because they didn’t have it. Not so Paul, who was highly educated, and could have gone toe to toe with these characters. He deliberately chose not to. 

And so I, when I came to you brothers, did not come with an extravagance of speech or of wisdom declaring the sacred secret of God to you. For I decided not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, and him impaled.  And I came to you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling; and my speech and what I preached were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of spirit and power,  that your faith might be, not in men’s wisdom, but in God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:2-5)

The upshot is that you treat a highly educated person pretty much like anyone else, with only minor adjustments. They just as much as anyone else, have no clue as to why there is suffering, why people die, what happens when they do, why governments suck & so forth. The explanation for them too will lie in discerning what "Jesus Christ, and him impaled" means in practical terms. People do not understand this. Even religious people, as they say to you "Christ died for our sins" are almost always unable to explain just how and why that works.

Show the high-brow people something about Adam & Eve from Genesis, for example, and there is no reason that you can not present it as a metaphor, its underlying message to be deciphered. Let me tell you, there are many people who will be intrigued, rise to the challenge, and even be flattered that you count them smart enough to figure it out. Whereas if you said from the get-go that it was all literal to people conditioned to reject the idea, you know what the reaction would be: “We are wise and learned adults, far too clever to be sold Adam and Eve. What’s next? Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck?”

Focus on the meaning of the account itself (Genesis 3:1-5) without regard to whether it is literal or not. Sometimes when people see how much sense something makes, they reappraise their initial assumptions. 

For a concise explanation of the subject itself, without regard for whether it is metaphor or not - in fact, taking for granted that it is not - I don't think you can do much better than the short clip presented on the JW website:

 

 

 

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