Joseph Conrad on Starvation


“No fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out, disgust simply does not exist where hunger is; and as to superstition, beliefs, and what you may call principles, they are less than chaff in a breeze. Don’t you know the devilry of lingering starvation, its exasperating torment, its black thoughts, its sombre and brooding ferocity? Well, I do. It takes a man all is inborn strength to fight hunger properly. It’s really easier to face bereavement, dishonour, and the perdition of one’s soul – than this kind of prolonged hunger.

-Joseph Conrad

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refuting acts 9 dispensationalism


This article is meant to discuss the Acts 9 dispensationalist position, and discuss ways in which it is falsifiable. The most likely Acts 9 dispensationalist position (the one most in agreeance with secular scholarship) is as follows:

1. Jesus taught a kingdom gospel: one in which an imminent Kingdom of God was to appear and those who were unrighteous would not be accepted. This included following Mosaic laws such as circumcision and Kosher food laws.
2. Even after Jesus’ death and 30 days of teaching after resurrection, Jesus’ disciples continued this teaching.
3. In Acts 9, God raises a new apostle, this one to the Gentiles. This was Paul and he taught the Gentiles (and the Jews) to forsake the law as a means to attain righteousness.
4. Paul’s message is that through Jesus’ blood, righteousness is obtained. Those under the Jesus’ blood are no longer under the law, both the symbolic and moral elements of the law. All things are lawful.
5. Paul taught that although all things are lawful (including moral sin), sin is still serious, has serious consequences, should be administratively punished, and one should live for God.
6. When this view comes into conflict with James and the 12, the dispute is resolved in Acts 15, but flares up again in Acts 21, in which Paul is accused of violating the terms of agreement.

This view is in conflict with mainstream, modern, Christian narratives of the early church. As such, many people argue against this view in passionate terms. A correct understanding of the view is needed to accurately refute it, and plenty of bad arguments have been leveled against it:

Bad arguments:
1. Jesus and the 12 disciples taught that one can lose salvation through sin.
-This is literally affirmed by the Acts 9 position. This point does not, in itself, refute the Acts 9 position.
2. If Paul were to teach salvation could not be lost, then he would be in disagreeance with Jesus and the 12.
-This is literally what the debate is about. The Acts 9 position is one which argues that this is true, that Paul was teaching something new that was not taught by Jesus or the 12. One cannot assume their position at the start of a debate. That is the Begging the Question fallacy. There is also plenty of New Testament texts which describe this tension.
3. If Paul is teaching something different than Jesus, James and the 12, then Paul is teaching a false gospel.
-This is not necessarily true. Another possibility is that there are two equally legitimate ways of reaching God simultaneously, which is the Acts 9 position.
4. If Paul were teaching something different than Jesus, this would be another gospel.
-This is a semantical move, which is crutched in the fallacy of assuming that terms have to be definitive and absolute (fallacy of Equivocation). Paul talks about a gospel he is countering (James’ gospel) as “not another gospel” (Gal 1:7). Paul’s use of the word “Gospel” both includes his own and James’ while noting the differences. This is not alien to normal modes of speaking.
5. Paul condemns sin in the sharpest of manners.
-This is not denied by the Acts 9 position. The Acts 9 position is that sin is serious, but not a make or break salvation issue. This argument is often used as a strawman, used to claim that Acts 9 proponents are teaching people to sin. This is not at all accurate.

Good arguments:
1. If Paul is shown saying that someone can lose their salvation through sin (as opposed to disbelief).
2. If Paul is shown to be preaching the law.
3. If Paul is shown to never including moral sins in statements where he claims he is not under the law.
4. If Paul’s use of the word “law” is shown to be limited to the Mosaic law and universal moral law is not included in this understanding.
5. Paul has multiple uses of the word law, and does not include moral law in his condemnation of the law.

There may be other good arguments, but the arguments need to speak to the basic Acts 9 position without just assuming the Acts 9 position is wrong. With this in mind, Acts 9 dispensationalism is not without strong roots.

Key points that point towards the Acts 9 position:
1. All the events of Acts 15, including the hearing over new issues that have not been resolved.
2. All the events of Acts 21, in which James forces Paul into action to prove he is not teaching the Jews to forsake the laws of Moses.
3. James’ use of Pauline points and phrases to attempt to make opposite points.
4. Peter’s statement that people misunderstand Paul to their own destruction.
5. Paul’s claims that his critics were accusing him of teaching people to sin.
6. Paul’s letter to the Galatians, recounting his experiences and interactions with the 12, and advocating his authority as independent of theirs.
7. Paul’s consistent disclaiming of the law, and linking the law with sin.
8. Paul’s countering of arguments that are listed in the “bad arguments” category. If people were using the same arguments against Paul in his time, this is a good indication that the Acts 9 position is accurate.
9. Paul being persecuted for different reasons than the 12, by different people, and more severely.

This article should serve as a basic for fruitful refutation of the Acts 9 position, if one wishes to attempt it.

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1 corinthians 10 as a parallel to 1 corinthians 6


In an article called freedom from the law under paul, I explain (from what it seems) is the most natural reading of the text. Paul introduces a concept in which “all things are lawful”, which I suspect the Corinthians began using as motto to enable their sinful lifestyles (perhaps a widespread phenomenon referenced in 2Pe 3:16). The Corinthians seem to have fully embraced Paul’s teachings. They seem also to be free from Judaizers until at least 2 Corinthians is written.

Paul writes as if he is on a mission to reclaim the phrase “all things are lawful”. This is used in two key places:

1Co 6:12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
1Co 10:23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

Both places sound like Paul is embracing the teaching that “All things are lawful”, but he adds modifiers. He doesn’t want the idea to stand on its own (perhaps due to the wickedness that Paul describes as tolerated in the Corinthian church). While the context of chapter 6 is about sinful things that are widely disavowed by works-salvation proponents today (thus driving those proponents to disclaim what seems like the most natural reading), chapter 10 is about food and food idolatry. Paul’s style of argument can be more neutrally observed here.

1Co 10:15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say.
1Co 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
1Co 10:17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
1Co 10:18 Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

In 1 Corinthians 10:15, Paul begins building an argument. He begins by illustrating through Israel that communion unites worshipers. Recall that in Chapter 8, Paul informs his listeners that eating food offered to idols is of no consequence (1Co 8:4). In that chapter, Paul then explains that the reason that Christians should refrain is if there is an observer who doesn’t understand this, and perhaps believes that Christians are worshiping false gods. This argument is picked up, starting in verse 16. Paul argues that communion unites. He then states that the same applies to pagan communion:

1Co 10:16 The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
1Co 10:17 For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.
1Co 10:18 Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

The argument holds that if Jewish communion unites under Yahweh, then pagan communion is meant to unite under the false gods. But Paul again makes clear his concern is not that real pagan worship is occurring, rather a fake worship is occurring:

1Co 10:19 What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything?
1Co 10:20 Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.
1Co 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.

Paul’s argument is not that Christians will be worshiping false gods if they partake with pagans. Instead he argues that they might be befriending demons, which is scary and dangerous. Paul says that his hearers cannot partake in both fellowship with demons and fellowship with Yahweh (Paul may believe that knowingly choosing another god rather than Yahweh was a clear disqualifier as a Christian). Paul makes clear his concern is not that Yahweh will be jealous, after all, the idol sacrifices are nothing:

1Co 10:22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?

In this context, Paul says that all things are lawful for him:

1Co 10:23 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

The pattern is the same as in Chapter 6. Paul states a rule, and then modifies it. One would think Paul would then give examples, related to the context, as to how this is true. Paul does do this, using the same topic he had just been writing about:

1Co 10:24 Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.
1Co 10:25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake;
1Co 10:27 If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake.
1Co 10:28 But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “THE EARTH IS THE LORD’S, AND ALL ITS FULLNESS.”
1Co 10:29 “Conscience,” I say, not your own, but that of the other. For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience?

Verse 24 points out that people should be looking out for each other (which becomes the primary thrust of Paul’s commands to refrain from certain foods). In context, Paul argues that it is not lawfulness that compels people to eat or not eat pagan food, but concern for people who do not understand the law. In this sense, yes, it is lawful to eat the food, but it is not expedient. It is lawful to eat the food, but it is not edifying.

Within Corinthians 10, we see how Paul’s mind works. When dealing with what he does not consider unlawful, but bad taste or harmful, Paul condemns the action. He then explains this does not negate the truth that “all things are lawful”. Then then modifies that general truth to explain why, even if something is lawful, that one should refrain from that action. Paul is arguing systematically, and in a focused manner.

Applying the same understanding of how Paul argues, one can see that “all things are lawful” as stated in 1 Corinthians 6, is all about “sexual immorality”. That is the subject being addressed. Paul believes that although “all things” are lawful, there are perfectly valid reasons to refrain from those activities, and the church should condemn such acts.

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freedom from the law under paul

no step on snek

Pauline theology champions freedom from the law. To Paul, the law brought death, but the spirit gave life (2Co 3:6). To Paul, those who are under the law are under a curse (Gal 3:10). To Paul, the law was a teacher, for which we no longer have need (Gal 3:24-25). To Paul, he was a special apostle, entrusted with this new message, never before revealed to man (Eph 3:5). When Paul is called to account in Acts 21, it is because he is offending Christians who are zealous for the law (Act 21:20). James makes Paul perform a ritual to prove to all he is not teaching Jews to forsake the law (something we have every indication to believe Paul was actually doing). What is Paul’s teaching? Why is it offensive? Why does James take issue with Paul?

Pauline theology, however it is framed, came in contrast to the previous messages of the law. Pauline theology, to most modern Christians who are familiar with the subject, is largely considered as freedom from just the symbolic/ritual laws of Moses. To these Christians, Paul taught not against laws on morality, but laws about priestly holiness (they may not use this term). But in several places throughout the Bible, Paul describes a somewhat more nuanced view, one of freedom from “all law”. In Pauline theology, Christ’s death absolves all sins and thus makes sin irrelevant for salvation. To Paul, one refrains from sin, not because it will send one to hell, but because of the natural consequences of sin.

In 1 Corinthians 6, this aspect of Pauline theology is hard to deny. Chapter 6 begins with Paul chastising the Corinthians for how they treat each other. He basically accuses them of being the same as sinners. He lists out an entire series of sins by which they may be guilty:

1Co 6:9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,
1Co 6:10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

Paul, in verses 9-10, informs his readers that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God, which reads almost as a threat that they might lose their salvation, or that they themselves might not inherent the kingdom, or that they themselves may be classified as these sinful categories. But this does not line up with Paul’s overall message, so he clarifies:

1Co 6:11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

Although Paul almost accuses his readers of being sinners, he then switches to claim that they “were” some of these things. There was a process by which they were cleaned: they were washed, sanctified and justified. At this point, the reader might be wondering how Paul’s argument is shaking out. He nearly accuses them of being sinners, but then explains their sanctification. What if they sin after they are sanctified and justified? Do they then need new justification? Doesn’t being justified clear them of wrongdoing? Can they still be sinners even after justification?

Paul anticipates the questions and explains:

1Co 6:12 All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

Paul is drawing a Venn diagram. All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful/expedient/useful. This means there is a class of action that is both lawful and not helpful. A critic of Paul might claim: “if what you are saying is true, then murder would be lawful.” Paul’s rebuttal is that, sure, it might be lawful, but that doesn’t give you go reason to do it. There are perfectly good reasons to avoid bad things other than their status under the law. In effect, Paul is saying that just because someone has the freedom to do something, doesn’t make it a good idea. Just because someone in America has the freedom to dress like a chicken and wander the sidewalks with an axe, doesn’t make it a good idea (and no one in their right mind would defend it).

All things are Lawful

Paul does not stop here, he illustrates his point:

1Co 6:13 Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
1Co 6:14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power.

Paul is giving two examples of what he means. He needs something that is both lawful but not helpful. He attacks dietary law. Sure, his converts COULD take up kosher law, but why? Our bodies will just be destroyed and remade. What does it gain them? Paul’s second example is very critical. Paul uses sexual immorality as an illustration. What this means is that Paul is saying sexual immorality (seeing prostitutes, in context) may be lawful, but we still should not do it. Paul lists some basic reasons, and then elaborates. Apparently some of his readers were frequenting prostitutes. Paul does not tell them they are not Christian, but explains to them the consequences of their actions:

1Co 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!
1Co 6:16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “THE TWO,” He says, “SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.”
1Co 6:17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
1Co 6:18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
1Co 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
1Co 6:20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Paul’s argument against sexual immorality is multi-faceted. First, our bodies should be dedicated to God. Second, our bodies are part of a corporate body of Christians. If Christians have sex with prostitutes (and because sex is the uniting of bodies) then Christians are making prostitutes part of the body of the Church (which may be a mixing of metaphors, but the point still holds). Finally, Paul argues that sexual sin is us harming our own bodies. There is a physical consequence of sexual sin (perhaps STDs, emotional pain, or just general ill consequences).

Notice per the second reason, Paul does not say that Christians who have sex with prostitutes are no longer Christians. If that was the case, his analogy would fall apart.

Paul truly did belief that “all things are lawful.” In context, he lists fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, and then he illustrates by exampling the sexually immoral. It is a bold and contextless claim to think that Paul suddenly starts talking about only ritual law in the middle of talking about a whole host of sin, before and after. Pauline theology can best be summed up by Paul himself: “All things are lawful… but all things are not helpful.”

When people arguing against “all things being lawful” by claiming that these teachers are teaching that people should sin, they miss the point. Paul’s critics literally made the same arguments against Paul, and Paul responds! Paul counters them by giving long lists of reasons that although something is lawful, it might not be expedient and people should not do them. “Losing your salvation” or “no longer being a Christian”, was not in his list of reasons. This should be very telling.

It is important for modern Christians to understand the workings of Paul’s theology and how it contrasted for the teaching of Jesus and the 12. This is particularly true, as Pauline theology took dominance in the Christian church after the destruction of Jerusalem. Attempting to explain Paul’s teaching as a continuation of Jesus’ gospel just is not a tenable position. Most modern Christians have given up Kosher food laws and observance of the Sabbath. Even circumcision is largely out of favor. Jesus and the 12 apostles never taught against these things, but affirmed them wherever they address the subject. Paul advocated against the law. It was Paul’s theology that revolutionized the ancient world.

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early hermetic mysticism

From a second or third century text of Hermes Trismegistus:

“If then you do not make yourself equal to God, you cannot apprehend God; for like is known by like.

Leap clear of all that is corporeal, and make yourself grown to a like expanse with that greatness which is beyond all measure; rise above all time and become eternal; then you will apprehend God. Think that for you too nothing is impossible; deem that you too are immortal, and that you are able to grasp all things in your thought, to know every craft and science; find your home in the haunts of every living creature; make yourself higher than all heights and lower than all depths; bring together in yourself all opposites of quality, heat and cold, dryness and fluidity; think that you are everywhere at once, on land, at sea, in heaven; think that you are not yet begotten, that you are in the womb, that you are young, that you are old, that you have died, that you are in the world beyond the grave; grasp in your thought all of this at once, all times and places, all substances and qualities and magnitudes together; then you can apprehend God.

But if you shut up your soul in your body, and abase yourself, and say “I know nothing, I can do nothing; I am afraid of earth and sea, I cannot mount to heaven; I know not what I was, nor what I shall be,” then what have you to do with God?” 

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Judas in Paul

From Bart Ehrman’s The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot:

and it is here that Paul may, in the opinion of some readers, make a reference to Judas Iscariot. Paul begins his recollection with the following (this is how the passage is sometimes translated):

For I received from the Lord that which I also handed over to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed, took bread, and after giving thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body given for you.” (1 Cor. 11:23–24)

The key phrase for us, of course, is the statement that this took place “on the night in which he was betrayed.” Surely this is a reference to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot, so even though the betrayer is not mentioned by name, it is clear that Paul knows all about the incident.

But in fact the matter is not so clear. The problem has to do with the Greek word that Paul uses when he says that Jesus was “betrayed” (Paul, and all the other authors of the New Testament, wrote in Greek). The word is common in the New Testament—Paul himself uses it over fifteen times in his letters, including one other time in the passage I just quoted. When Paul says that the information he is now relating is what he also “handed over” to the Corinthians, it is the same word he uses when he indicates that Jesus was “betrayed.” The Greek word is paradidomi—and it literally means “to give or hand someone or something over to someone else.”

Is Paul referring, then, to Judas Iscariot handing Jesus over to the ruling authorities for trial? Probably not, for in every other instance that Paul uses paradidomi with reference to Jesus, it refers to the act of God, who “handed Jesus over” to death for the sake of others.

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eternal security

1Sa 2:27 And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Did I indeed reveal myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt subject to the house of Pharaoh?
1Sa 2:28 Did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? I gave to the house of your father all my offerings by fire from the people of Israel.
1Sa 2:29 Why then do you scorn my sacrifices and my offerings that I commanded for my dwelling, and honor your sons above me by fattening yourselves on the choicest parts of every offering of my people Israel?’
1Sa 2:30 Therefore the LORD, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that your house and the house of your father should go in and out before me forever,’ but now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

man chooses

In 1 Samuel 2, there is an interesting scene in which God revokes His promise of an eternal house for Eli. This is fairly unambiguous by the wording of the text. God had “promised” but now that promise is “Far from” Him, and a new rule supersedes the previous.

Parallel concepts are found in God’s eternal kingdom, originally planned for Saul, but then given to King David. Through David’s life and through the lives of the following Kings, God warns that the eternal kingdom can be cut off if the recipients are evil.

When we reach the New Testament, we encounter claims of eternal life. Modern Christians claim that this means that individuals become robots. No longer can they sin, but they will forever be in heaven without a chance to rebel. Is this a warranted conclusion from the use of the word “eternal”? Did eternal take that meaning with Saul, David, or Eli? What discludes a conditional eternity rather than a deterministic eternity? Are there any eternal promises in the Bible of the type the deterministics can use as an example?

The most eternal promise found within the Bible is the unilateral promise to Abraham to make of Him a great nation. Malachi 3 claims of this promise that God will not change on it. Hebrews 6:18 claims that in this promise it is impossible for God to lie. The Jews were confident that this would mean they would never be cut off completely, but John the Baptist counters otherwise:

Mat 3:9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

Even if every son of Abraham rebelled, God has innovative options that are not reliant on mankind’s continued obedience. With this being the case, there is no reason to think that both mankind is granted eternal life and that the eternal life cannot be revoked if mankind chooses to rebel. John is under the impression that mankind still has the ability to reject God even if it threatens God’s promises.

There is no reason to think that there is no free will in heaven. The closest the Bible comes to this concept is the description of the new earth in Revelation:

Rev 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
Rev 21:4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

God is wiping away tears. No one is dying. No one is crying. Does this mean that there is no free will? Is this a hyperbole meant to illustrate the greatness of the Kingdom? Or is this a testament to God’s kingship and judgment? Is there any reason to default to a loss of free will?

Revelation also contains an idea of evil people still alive and functioning in the new Earth:

Rev 21:24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it.
Rev 21:25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).
Rev 21:26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.
Rev 21:27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

The nations that are saved enter the city, except for those who are unclean. Why are these passages worded as such if there can no longer be sin? Would this suggest that the natural understanding of “no more tears” in the same chapter is due to the wicked not being allowed entrance? We have every reason to believe in heaven, rebellion is possible.

Also from the book of Revelation:

Rev 12:4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.

Rev 12:7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,
Rev 12:8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.
Rev 12:9 So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

In this passage, there appears some sort of heavenly war. Inhabitants of heaven are disenfranchised and cast to Earth. This suggests that these actors all had the ability to rebel.

With all these facts in mind, the position that eternal life precludes a heavenly rebellion is just untenable. Eternal life, like God’s other eternal gifts, are more likely conditional on continued obedience.

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