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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Just Do Something!

My blog-buddy, David, over at Contrarian Views put up a post called Fertiizer. His summary is this:

"If I want a healthier and greener lawn, I can pray for a greener lawn, or I can pray for a greener lawn and apply fertilizer and water to my lawn, or I can just apply fertilizer and water to my lawn. Two of my possible solutions work every time. Which of my solutions is not guaranteed to work?

His subject is aid to Africa, but one may read it and think that action is our default position, not prayer in lieu of action. I would hold that it is neither - it is "approved by prayer" action. Otherwise, you wait.

During a conversation with a friend, she pointed out to me something I heretofore thought silly - don't give your money to a cause if you haven't been "told" to. I thought the premise odd. After all, isn't giving my money to a known, good source a surefire "righteous" thing to do? She said no. I sat on the thought for a while.

At the time, I was headed to a transition from Army officer to assistant pastor...or so I thought. We at Team Hammer were sure of the church, neighborhood, and jobs I was going to do. We had bought the house, cementing that portion. Then, the job I thought I as sure to get fell through.

We had no back-up plan. We knew the church was what we were looking for and felt Holy-Spirit led to send our son to school there and talk to the pastor. The job that popped up was so unexpected, it had to be a "God thing". When it fell through, we weren't sure what to do.

We attempted to go to another church in the area, and the preaching was watered down - stereotypical large church (though many are not that way, many are). I knew I didn't want to try a different church every week, hoping to find one that both was serving the Lord and had a position open. My web-submitted resume to the association yielded nothing. However, my unemployment continued (um,not unemployment benefits, just being unemployed). What to do?

I thought I should obviously "Just Do Something". My family needed income, and God has provided employment opportunities everywhere. So I picked up some applications. I even filled some least partially. However, each time I was as certain as I have been in a long time that I was being pressed in a direction that I didn't already feel inclined to go. The direction?

"Do nothing."

Really, it was "wait", but it sure felt like "do nothing". So I stayed at home, parented, did yard work and home improvement, and watched the bank account dwindle. Mrs. Hammer and I decided that we were right about the church we had felt led to, and even though we weren't happy with their decision to not hire me: "You're the best in the world! How could they not hire you?!" - the ever objective Mrs. Hammer said. So, we went to another service, confirmed that they preached the Word, led people to Christ, emphasized missions and discipleship, and encouraged everyone to participate in a ministry. We filled out our guest form, and checked most of the boxes.

I went in to talk to one of the staff memebers who was the head of the discipleship and outreach areas about volunteer positions. After 90 minutes of discussing the needs of the church, my skill set, and my calling, I was offered the opportunity to apply for a paid position under him that was coming available. I wanted to, but we had some misgivings. We prayed about it over a weekend, and said OK. Three weeks later I was hired.

My two jobs combined will gross under $1500 a month. Our costs look to be over $2000 a month. Now we will walk by faith, truly. I doubt we would have been ready if our faith had grown while we waited, nor might we have received the blessing of the position and experiences we'l get through it.

The lesson is that "Just Do Something" that makes sense or seems like a solution is not always the way. I used to say, "In absence of further orders, attack!" I now say, "In absence of further orders...wait." It's a lot less inspiring, and requires faith. It's a faith that few have - and until recently, I didn't have it.

My friend was right. There are times when we do not fertilize and water, but indeed pray and wait. The one is walking by sight, the other by faith. However, the lawn does not demand spiritual guidance. Life does.

Box-Hauling 101

Manual labor is all it’s cracked up to be. It is hard work, fairly low paying, mostly mindless, a good calorie burner, and provides opportunities for a sense of accomplishment when sub-tasks are completed (like getting to the end of the semi I am unloading). It’s also exhausting, particularly when done during the wee hours.

I asked for an early morning shift because I wanted to be home for the dinner-bath-bed time of the evening, when parenting help is most useful. What I didn’t realize was that I was sacrificing my alone time with Mrs. Hammer. My shift, advertised as 4-8 AM, is actually more like 2:30-8 AM. That’s good because I work more and earn more, but means I have to get up at 1:30 AM, which requires an attempted bedtime of 7:30 PM. Basically, my ten-year-old has a later bedtime than I do. Throw in that my second job takes me through 3:30, and I have four hours of time with the fam Monday through Friday. But you know what? I’m not complaining. I asked for the job and shift that I got, and I am thankful that I have been blessed with the opportunity to work. Not everyone gets that opportunity.

I already can tell you that unions suck. Why? “I’ve been fired three times and never stopped working”, “I’ve done everything I can to get fired”, and “I used to work hard, but why bother? They pay me the same.” The union promotes mediocrity, as promotion within the union ranks is based solely upon how long you have been sucking oxygen there. I’m asking my supervisor on Monday to put me with other guys who will work hard, like I wish to do. Working with slackers is more tiring than working alone.

As you can see, the 2:30 to 8 shift has reduced blog time. Who knows when I’ll be able to post.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Biblical Inerrancy: New Testament Reliability II

The Internal Evidence Test

Aristotle stated that when considering a text, "the benefit of the doubt is to be given to the document itself, not arrogated by the critic to himself". We typically forget this dictum when considering Scripture (primarily due to our pride) when we say nonsensical things such as, "Well, I think that it really means" or, "I don't think that applies". Essentially, instead of assuming we are right and the document is wrong, we actually have to use facts and logic in the analysis of a document. Therefore, we must listen to the claims of the document and not assume fraud or error unless the author disqualifies himself by contradictions or known factual inaccuracies.

That is the test of internal evidence - is the document free of known contradictions, and does it contain factual inaccuracies? If the answer to both questions is "No", then we must give the document the benefit of the doubt as to its truthfulness in areas that we are not able to verify independently. Clearly, if the Bible is truly the infallible, inerrant word of God, then it must be free of contradictions and errors.

The challenges when approaching this topic is that the ignorant assume that there are contradictions in the Bible, the aware have seen claims of contradictions in the Bible, and the faithful are unaware of the explanations for these apparent discrepancies.

Here are 15 principles for understanding apparent discrepancies in the Bible, as outlined by Josh McDowell in "Evidence That Demands a Verdict":

1) The Unexplained is not necessarily unexplainable. Just because you don't understand how the Red Sea can be parted with dry ground left (and neither do I) doesn't mean it didn't happen.

2) Fallible interpretations do not mean fallible revelation. This is one of the ones that irk me. Just because some fools claiming to be Christians used Bible verses to justify slavery, opposing women's suffrage, the Inquisition, or persecuting John Wycliffe does not make those verses wrong, not any more than moron SCOTUS judges twisting the Constitution to justify limiting crop growth, taking your property for a developer or preventing an invocation at a school board meeting invalidate the Constitution.

3) Understand the context of the message. If you've visited team Hammer before, you've likely seen this come up - and that it means Biblical context, not cultural context. "Give to those who ask you" does not mean give a child a handgun if he asks, and "Resist not evil" is part of a context against seeking revenge.

4) Interpret difficult passages in light of clearer ones. The Bible is not a collection of random ideas, and should be considered on the holistic level it is meant to be. This leads to number five -

5) Don't base teaching on obscure passages. This is the case in the Mormon "church", where they choose a single passage and interpret it alone, and subsequently give it higher regard than key Christian doctrines (such as baptizing the dead, sacred underwear, and three levels of heaven).

6) The Bible is a human book with human characteristics. God used the human personalities to receive and communicate eternal truths, and knew the way they would be presented. To take expressions of speech (such as "hate your father and mother") and consider them literal and pit them against other Scriptures is, well, silly.

7) Just because a report is incomplete does not mean it is false. A frustrating criticism I hear is when some fool mentions that an account is not in all four gospels, then says that the Gospels must not then be true. No part of the Bible is intended to present an exhaustive account of any event. It is intended to communicate the message we are to receive.

8) The New Testament Citations of the Old Testament need not always be exact. They were written in different languages, so some words and phrases won't translate the same anyway.

9) The Bible does not necessarily approve of all it records. The Bible no more approves of Solomon's 300 wives than it does the lies of Satan. A sin recorded is not a sin approved of.

10) The Bible uses non-technical, everyday language. Just because it says that the sun rises instead of "the earth rotated about its axis until the light of the sun shone forth" doesn't make it invalid - it makes it readable.

11) The Bible may use exact numbers as well as round numbers. Round numbers are often used in ancient as well as modern literature. This should be a no-brainer.

12) Note when the Bible uses different literary devices. usual the text will dictate is a term should be taken literally or figuratively.

13) An error in a copy does not equate to an error in the original. There are plenty of copies of scriptures with slight errors in them. Those who put the Bible together were easily able to discern them, as they were different from the others. We can be confident that our Bible is true to the originals (see the last post).

14) General statements do not necessarily mean universal promises. An example is proverbs - they are general statements on life and living, and are meant to guide us to the right ways. Pointing to a Biblical event in which someone does right but is then wronged does not invalidate a generalized proverb!

15) Later revelations supersede previous revelation. UK John has claimed that God "changes his mind" when later revelation is presented that changes the landscape. Consider this: I let my toddler eat with his fingers now. When I push him to use his utensils only, have I contradicted myself? Have I changed my mind on what the plan was r even how to execute it? Of course not. I have progressively revealed to him the rules he is able to understand at the right time. God has done the same thing.

Considering these simple guidelines, which people would generally apply to any text that is NOT the Bible, we fail to find a single contradiction or error in the NT. A person who takes the Bible seriously, rather than trying to explain it away, may agree with Mark Twain when he said that it was not the parts of the Bible that he did not understand that bothered him, but those that he did!

Another test for internal evidence is if the writer use primary sources. The NT does, as evidenced in Luke 1:1-3, 2 Peter 1:16, 1 John 1:3, Acts 2:22, John 19:35, Luke 3:1, and Acts 26:24-26. One of the strongest cases for the veracity of the NT is that even hostile witnesses confirm its reliability.

The last section on NT reliability will address an issue that I am sure many are curious about - external evidence, or how the NT compares to archaeology and external historical accounts of the events contained within it.

3 AM

I have been wondering for the past week when I would find time to blog. The answer seems to have arrived.

My "blissful" time of unemployment is coming to an end (although my time of no health insurance continues for a while) and I am restructuring my operating hours. God has seen fit to bless me with two part-time jobs. One is at the church that Mrs. Hammer and I were led to over a year ago and recently joined, and the other is a manual labor job...which starts at 3:30 AM. Oof.

An unexpected benefit of the 3 AM shift is that I am instantly provided with quiet time on the weekends, as no one else in the house is considering getting up at that hour. I have plenty of time to pray, study the Bible, and even blog during my weekend early morning hours. I am fitting my daily prayer and reading in before I head out the door to work on work days, but it is time limited - like most people! The weekend time is a nice addition. After all, the 5-9pm block of time is anything but relaxing, or even available, in a house with 3 kids.

My job at the church will provide a conection at greater than 28.8k, so I'll probably blog at lunch once or twice a week there, too. After all, who needs food?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Terrorism & The Courts – The Fight is the Same

Some events of great significance have occurred in the past week-plus, that I have not addressed. While to many the resignation of Sandra Day O’Connor and the terrorist bombings in London are not remotely related, I insist that they are.

They are related in that the response to one event affects the response to the other.

Whoever replaces O’Connor will impact how we pursue the Global War on Terror. Don’t believe me? Allow me to extrapolate.

The President of the US has the unquestioned authority to detain enemy combatants in time of war. Enemy combatants are not required to be “convicted” of being an enemy combatant to prove they should be detained until the end of hostilities. This derives from Article II of the Constitution, where the POTUS is designated as the Commander-in-Chief. This power serves the important wartime purpose of preventing captured enemy combatants from returning to the battlefield to conduct further attacks upon US forces. Additionally, nothing in the laws of war has ever required any country to charge enemy combatants, provide them access to counsel, or allow them to challenge their detention in court.

Enemy combatants do not end up in Club Gitmo ® by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They are sent there after being captured in a military action and being thoroughly interrogated before the decision to inter them.

However, in 2002 the court determined that US citizens who were enemy combatants could challenge their detention in US courts. While to me this merely reinforces the old tradition of summary execution for captured spies & traitors, it has a far different effect upon the US’s methods – but only because, of course, the Court did not stop there.

You see, I don’t think it entirely unreasonable that a citizen can challenge his detention. That is what Hamdi v Rumsfeld resulted in. In the oh-so-familiar method of “creeping liberalism” that the court has engaged in over the past 50 years, we took a step further with the next related case, Rasul v. Bush. In this case, the Court determined, that, oh, wait a minute, despite some of the things we said in Hamdi, foreigners have the right to challenge their detentions, too. Now any bloomin’ enemy combatant can spend your tax money fighting his detention, which no country has ever allowed.

Bah, I just noticed that Andrew McCarthy wrote a post on the same thing at NRO. He’s way smarter than me, so here is the link.

Shoot. Just when I had an original thought…

Friday, July 08, 2005

New Testament Reliability I

There are three primary tests for the historical reliability of all documents – that is, whether they are true to the originals or not. The tests are the bibliographical test, the internal evidence test, and the external evidence test.

The Bibliographical Test

Simply stated, the bibliographical test is and examination of the textual transmission of the documents. Since we do not have the original documents, we examine historical documents and consider both the number of manuscripts (hereafter, MSS) and the time interval between the originals and currently existing (extant) copies.

Considering the number of manuscripts, there is no work of antiquity that has been as frequently copied and widely distributed. In Greek hand copies produced between the second and fifteenth centuries, there are more than 5,686 full and partial copies of the Greek NT. Adding in the over 10,000 copies of the Latin Vulgate and over 9,000 MSS from other early languages (Ethiopic, Slavic, Armenian, Syriac Pashetta, Bohairic, Arabic, Old Latin, Anglo Saxon, Gothic, Sogdian, Old Syriac, Persian, and Frankish), there are over 25,000 NT MSS! No other document of antiquity even comes close. The second is Homer’s Iliad, with 643 manuscripts that still survive – and the earliest complete text dates from the thirteenth century. With such a vast amount of material available, we are able to be reconstruct the originals with virtually complete accuracy.

Clearly, with the volume of early MSS available, we have a document with far greater MSS support than any other, and to doubt the authentic of the NT based upon the number of MSS would be truly illogical. No one questions the validity of other works of antiquity because we do not have the originals – any attempt to do so for the NT is driven not from reason, but from ideology. However, another valid question is the time between the MSS in existence and the actual original writings themselves.

The earliest MSS is of the Gospel of John, dated 130 AD. The earliest collection of any number of books of the NT is from between 150 and 200 AD. The earliest MSS with the majority of the NT is an MSS dated 2250 AD, with a complete NT available from 325 AD. Thus, we have a complete NT from within 225 years or so of the originals, with earlier supporting fragments to verify the authenticity of the NT.

Upon first glance, we may think that 225 years is a long time – but allow me to do a comparison: (I couldn't make this format look like Word does)

Text - Authored -Earliest Complete Text -Difference -Copies

The Iliad (Homer)- 800 BC- 400 BC- 400 yrs- 643
History (Herodotus)- 480-425 BC- 900 AD- 1350 yrs- 8
History (Thucydides)- 460-400 BC- 900 AD- 1300 yrs- 8
Plato- 400 BC- 900 AD- 1300 yrs- 7
Demosthenes- 300 BC- 1100 AD- 1400 yrs- 200
Gallic Wars (Caesar)- 100-44 BC- 900 AD- 1000 yrs- 10
History of Rome (Livy)- 59 BC–17 AD- 1000 AD (400 AD partial)- 1000 yrs- 19 (1 copy of partial)
Annals (Tacitus)- 100 AD- 1100 AD- 1000 yrs- 20
Natural History- 61-113 AD- 850 AD- 750 yrs- 7
(Pliny Secundus)
Greek NT- 50-100 AD- 325 AD (150 AD partial)- 225 yrs 5,366

Additionally, ancient literature was seldom translated into other languages – but we have Syriac and Latin translations of the NT from 150 AD. There are also translations of the NT in Coptic, Armenian, Gothic, Georgian, Ethiopic and Nubian from the third through sixth centuries.

Finally, the early church fathers’ quotations are so numerous, that, if the NT were lost in its entirety, it could be reconstructed from their quotations. There are over 32,000 quotations in the writings of the church fathers who died before the Council of Nicea met in 325 AD. The most significant are Origen, Ingatius, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria and Cyprian. Dean Burgon left behind an index of New Testament citations by the church fathers of antiquity with 86, 489 quotations.

Truly, there is no document in existence with greater evidence for its reliability from the bibliographical test than the New Testament.

Next: The internal evidence and external evidence tests, with basic principles for understanding apparent discrepancies in the Bible.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Future of Team Hammer

As I’ve mentioned before, we have gone through some serious life changes recently. While my current schedule is not what it will be in 45 days, it is actually freer.

The results of this will be a much reduced ability to blog and comment. As such, we at Team Hammer have decided upon some measures to keep the blog alive, keep contact with the blogfriends we’ve made, and judiciously use our time.

I have two measures that are a direct function of the switch to dial-up and the resultant extensive load times. First, I’m abandoning my commenting on the lefty blogs I’ve frequented recently. While they will remain on my blogroll, I can’t keep up with the flow of argument, which actually reflects poorly upon the positions I put forth. I’d rather they not have an argument at all than half of one! Besides, there are others more capable of the efforts!

Second, I’m abandoning my reviews of the big blogs I really enjoy. This one hurts the most, because I learned a lot and enjoyed the commenting there as well as using the info to post here. The Jawa Report and Ace of Spades HQ are the two I read the most often, and will miss a lot.

I have two other measures intended to reduce my online workload. First, I’ll be commenting less on others’ blogs. You’ve noticed this already, I’ll wager. I have found, especially recently, that the time between when I access other blogs (days) and the loner load times means I am commenting on something that was addressed on an earlier post or comment that I haven’t read, and look pretty silly. Most of my commenting will be focused on responding to others here.

Speaking of here, the last change is that I’ll only be online three days a week. I plan on the same number of posts per week, with probably a theology post early in the week, a politics one later in the week, and a slice of life/sports/random stuff on the weekend. That will enable me to post regularly and have time to answer comments.

These things may not matter to most passers-by, but in case there was a reader who was interested, I thought I’d let him or her know what was up.


Team Hammer