Friday, April 18, 2008

On the Psalms

I wrote this in The Observer newsletter in Nov. 2006, and I thought it might be good to reprint it here:

I always enjoy reading the Psalms. One can easily relate to the wide range of emotions they express. I also find them nourishing when I am at a point of indecision in my Bible reading about what to study next.

Three books have been especially helpful to me in gaining insights into the Psalms:

Psalms: Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer—here, you can learn about praying the Psalms, especially praying them alongside Jesus. Bonhoeffer also gives valuable insights into prayer in itself. “Wherever the Psalter is abandoned, an incomparable treasure vanishes from the Christian church. With its recovery will come unsuspected power.”

Understanding the Psalms by Tremper Longman III—gives excellent insights into the different types of Psalms, helping us to read them with greater depth. Longman also gives valuable tools for understanding the Hebrew Old Testament; his explanation of Hebrew parallelism (not the typical A = B understanding, but the more accurate A and what’s more B explanation) is worth the price of the book (this shows, for example, that Isaiah 53:5’s promise that “by His stripes we are healed” is not just a spiritual healing, as non-Charismatic scholars try to claim, but encompasses divine physical healing as well).

The New Psalter (or The New Psalter of Pius XII) by Charles Callan—you will more than likely have to hunt around in used bookstores or on the Internet for this one. It’s an old Catholic work written in 1949 (in English AND Latin!) that contains a solid translation of the Psalms. Callen’s introduction to each Psalm contains good, concise historical background—and his reflections after each Psalm are richly insightful, especially with the Psalms’ practical applications to our daily Christian walk.

For example, Psalm 11 deals with David’s being urged by his faint-hearted friends to “Flee as a bird to the mountain!” (v. 1; see also vv. 2-3) in the face of King Saul’s open threats. David nonetheless refused to leave his post in the court; “putting his faith in Jehovah’s protection, he resolutely decided to face the danger,” Callan says.

“In the face of duty it is cowardly and base to listen to the whisperings of fear, or sloth, or present ease,” Callan notes later. “Far better to fall at our post, and before the eyes of men apparently to fail, than to escape for the moment and then endure the tortures of a wounded conscience.”

Let me know if you find any of these books helpful in your reading of the Psalms, or if you recommend any other books about them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thoughts on polygamy

What to make of the polygamist sect in Texas, whose children are now in the custody of the state?

First off, regarding polygamy, Jesus makes clear what God’s will is for marriage, quoting from Gen. 2:24: “’For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they two shall become one flesh …So that they are no more two, but one flesh.’ What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Matthew 19:5-6, ASV).” Jesus, who was addressing the practice of easy divorce among the legalistic Pharisees, gives the reason why God seemed to allow polygamy in the Old Testament times: because of the hardness of the people’s hearts (v. 6). And Paul’s instructions in 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:5-5, that bishops be the husband of one wife, most likely were given in the context of polygamy practiced at that time among the Gentiles.

Now, take a good look at this sect (really a cult, with a controlling jailed “prophet” as its leader) and, if Jesus tarries in returning, take a good look several decades from now. They could be considered pioneers in our downward spiraling culture. Mark Steyn, in his book America Alone, talks about another religious tradition where polygamy is accepted: Islam. Should this religion gain the ascendancy in America, (which it has all but done in Europe), Steyn pictures Hollywood dropping its propagandizing for homosexuality like a hot potato, and instead extolling the charms of polygamous relationships. “But that can’t happen here!” you cry out. Hmmm, were have we heard THAT before? Polygamy is already getting a positive play in the HBO show Big Love, so it’s not beyond imagination.

One final thought: the angst shown by our mainstream media over the sect is morbidly amusing. The same media that blares the message for people to make their own morals (or not have any), and has been a major force in making premarital sex and easy divorce all but the norm, is now aghast at a polygamous sect in its mist. “I’m shocked, shocked!” Captain Renault cries in the Humphrey Bogart classic Casablanca, at the gambling in Rick Blaine’s bar in which he had previously indulged (someone even hands the captain his winnings after he announces the bar is being closed down!). That’s the image that keeps coming to mind, when I hear the media harping on the “shocking” polygamy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Obama pastor: practice what you preach!

This is just too unbelievable, from Investor's Business Daily (3/31/08):

"What could be worse than an Afro-Marxist preacher exhorting thousands of blacks to hate whites and swear off their middle-class materialism? One who does the exact opposite.

"Barack Obama had hoped the retirement of his fire-breathing pastor would put the controversy to rest. But the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is retiring in luxury — with all the trappings of the white "middleclassness" he warns his flock to avoid.

"Wright is forsaking South Side Chicago and the black ghetto for a gated golf club community in Tinley Park, an affluent suburb ...

"Nothing wrong with that; it's the American dream. Except that Wright has condemned that dream (along with America) in sermons he's delivered to the 8,000 mostly black congregants of Trinity United Church of Christ. He says it's all part of a white conspiracy to get blacks hooked on middle-class materialism and separate them from the inner-city and their African roots.

"He also preaches the gospel of 'Black Liberation Theology,' a false Christian doctrine promulgated by Marxist-leaning black writers of the 1960s that espouses "economic parity" and other collectivist claptrap.

"The concept of practicing what you preach is apparently lost on Wright.

"After decades of lecturing blacks to remain loyal to the black ghetto and eschew the white suburbs, he's now building a 10,340-square-foot mansion in the white suburbs. Among its amenities: an elevator, a rubberized exercise room and room for a future theater and indoor swimming pool..."

Read the rest of this incredible aricle here: