Thursday, April 18, 2024

Looking For Shortcuts

Because of factors like advances in technology, the increase of political freedoms, and the effects of capitalism on the world, people have more access to more information (through television, smartphones, and so on). The large majority of people don't want to make the changes needed to sort through that information responsibly (such as decreasing their time spent on less significant things and increasing their time spent on more significant things). They look for shortcuts. They become more dependent on emotions, intuitions, and such to sort through issues. They look more than they should for political leaders, social commentators, pastors, or other people to sort through the information for them, to fight their battles for them, and so forth. And it isn't just a problem with people looking for shortcuts too much. There's also a problem with poor judgments being made about which shortcuts to take. They're taking too many shortcuts, and they aren't even choosing the best ones.

It's been popular to criticize the political left in the United States for being overly emotional (style over substance, feelings over facts). Something that's occurred over time, especially in the most recent decades, is that the right (the political right, the religious right, etc.) has become more emotional.

You see it in Evangelical circles, even if it takes on a somewhat different form than it does elsewhere. I occasionally see hosts of Evangelical YouTube channels, for example, commenting in one way or another about what needs done now to get and keep a bigger audience. It's not good, and you can tell that a lot of the YouTube hosts don't like it. (Though that doesn't seem to keep many of them from doing it.) If a famous pastor gets involved in a controversy, people show a lot more interest in that than they show in a post or video about God, theology, the afterlife, or some other such topic. A tweet about a scandal pastor So-And-So is involved in will get hundreds of likes and comments, whereas something significant that's tweeted about God, apologetics, or church history will get much less of a response. A joke or family photograph will get more of a positive response than even the best theological or apologetic work. It happens in contexts as trivial as thumbnails. The first two parts of a three-part video series will have a much higher view count than the third part. The first two included an image of a famous person in the thumbnail, whereas the third didn't. What and who's popular in Evangelical circles seem to be determined by things like emotions and insignificant personality traits far more than they should be.

We should ask ourselves how we're being impacted by these things. Are we taking too many shortcuts, and are our judgments about our shortcuts as good as we like to think they are?

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Thunder In John's Writings As An Indicator Of Authorship

Mark 3:17 tells us that Jesus referred to the sons of Zebedee as Sons of Thunder. To my knowledge, thunder is referred to several times in the New Testament, and the only references outside Mark 3:17 are found in the writings attributed to John the son of Zebedee (John 12:29, Revelation 4:5, 6:1, 8:5, 10:3-4, 11:19, 14:2, 16:18, 19:6). And many of those references could easily have been avoided. John is describing multiple details about something, and the thunder aspect could easily have been left out. He's describing what something sounded like, and he could easily have compared it to something other than thunder. Or he could have just not included the passage to begin with. Even where a reference to thunder seems too difficult to avoid once a particular passage is being included, we still have to ask how easily the passage could have not been included. There's the issue, for example, of why God chose to reveal himself in the context of thunder so much in the book of Revelation. That seems more coherent if the recipient of the revelation was the son of Zebedee. For reasons like these, I don't think the prominence of thunder in John's writings can be dismissed merely by an appeal to necessity, as if anybody writing in such a context would have needed to refer to thunder. If these documents were authored by the son of Zebedee rather than some other John or were intended to be perceived as authored by the son of Zebedee without his having written them, then that helps explain the prominence of thunder in the documents. It's a further line of evidence against views like Richard Bauckham's, in which some other John was the author or purported author.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Honoring The Dead

We're often too shallow in our concept of friendship and too forgetful of the dead. Jerome on loving and honoring deceased believers:

"to me, the same religious duty applies to friends who are both present and absent, both men and women, who are now sleeping in Christ, that is, the love of souls, not of bodies." (in Thomas Scheck, trans., St. Jerome: Commentary On Isaiah [Mahwah, New Jersey: The Newman Press, 2015], p. 820, section 18:1 in the commentary)