Monday, June 26, 2006

The Beauty of Childlike Faith

The Boy made a profession of faith tonight.

He came into the kitchen asking about something; I can't even remember what it was, exactly. Something about God raising the dead, I think. I explained that some people will be saved by God -- raised to be in heaven with Him forever, if they believe in Jesus and turn away from their sins. "I want to be saved!" Music to a Christian mama's ears. Then I told him that people who reject God will be in a place of punishment forever. He broke into tears. "I don't want to be punished!" I practically melted right then and there.

I took him by the hand to my room (with the Flea close behind him, as usual), shut the door, and went over all the basics to make sure he understood. He had a hard time understanding exactly how the Holy Spirit can come into his heart. "Does He come in through my mouth? My nose?" LOL. Other than that, he understood the fact that we all die because of sin, that he deserves to be punished forever because of his sin, that Christ took he punishment on the cross, and that he needs to believe in Christ and turn away from his sins.

We prayed, and he immediately told Flea that she needed to turn away from her sins and pray to God, too. "Mommy, you need to do it, too. And Daddy, and..."

The whole thing was rather unexpected, and I'm just so thankful that I was given the opportunity to be there at such an important moment. Praise God that He made the gospel so simple, even a 4yo can understand it and respond to it. No need for deep, complex questions about wine or stumbling blocks -- there'll be plenty of time for that later.

Graduation Day

My twin nephews graduated from public high school last week. I'm not sure whether their LAUSD-issue diplomas are worth the paper they're printed on, but the alternative for them is much worse. This year's theme seemed to be, "Air Horns Totally Rock." Oy.

Their 5th grade commencement ceremony included speeches from kids who talked about the importance of recycling, and -- my favorite -- how one boy planned to make a difference in society by *not* joining a gang. Well, there's something to be said for not wanting to be a statistic... I wonder whether that boy graduated from high school last week. I hope so.

I tutored these boys when they were in 6th grade. I had just one small silly at the time, and it was my first foray into homeschooling. I had the WTM, but not the WTM boards. If I'd had the boards, I would have picked completely different curriculum for their needs. They could barely read, and they flunked the third grade standardized test from Texas that I gave them for diagnostic purposes.

One twin was basically cooperative, but the other knew how far behind he was and was really depressed and hard to teach. It was a long, hard 10 months. In April of that school year we ended up getting them into Resource classes for some LDs. Ironically, they would have received more services, if I hadn't tutored them.

Over the weekend, we had their graduation dinner with the extended family. Their mom thanked me for working with them so long ago and told me that they wouldn't have graduated without my help in placing them in special ed. That felt really good.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Wine in the Bible -- What Does God's Word Really Say? (Pt. 2)

So I asked dh if he knew off the top of his head how the word "wine" is translated in the Bible. He asked, "Oh, is this about that guy who says drinking's a sin?" I filled him in on our SDA friend's argument, and he said, "You don't need to do all that homework. Just tell your friends that guy's research is whacked. He's doing eisogesis. He's made up his mind about alcohol, and he's taking all the text and making it say what he wants it to say." "I know he's being eisogetical," I countered, "but the people I'm discussing this with want some real information. They're reasonable and are willing to be convinced either way, as long as it's biblical."

That, and I forgot to ask any of the pastors/seminary dudes today at church. So in the meantime I'm digging up different stuff online and posting it here with links. (Is that "postilinking" or "linkiposting" -- there's gotta be a blogosphere term for that by now.)

First up, from the Grace to You archives: an excerpt from a series called, "Be Not Drunk with Wine."

2. The religious issue

The thrust of Paul's teaching on the filling of the Holy Spirit is religious: he is contrasting paganism with Christianity. Pagans believed that to commune with the gods, you needed to get drunk to reach the highest level of communion. This is part of what are called the "mystery religions," offshoots of the Greek and Roman mythological religious systems. It is not unlike what occurs today. From men like Timothy Leary to Eastern mystics and the occult, people are saying that if you get high on drugs and alcohol, you will reach a greater level of consciousness. Many claim that it is new truth, but is actually derived from ancient pagan religions. During the apostle Paul's ministry, the Ephesian culture was inundated with many pagan religions.

Around Dionysus became centered a religion of ascendancy, where human beings attempted to reach a level of divine consciousness. It was filled with ecstasy, wild music, dancing, and sexual perversion--all induced by drunkenness. With a great conclave of voices the people would call out to Dionysus, "Come thou Savior." Dionysus became known as the god of wine.

So when Paul said "be not drunk with wine," he was not dealing merely with a social problem, but a theological one as well. He was dealing directly with Satan's counterfeit religion. Satan captures minds and bodies through the medium of drunkenness.

b) The Roman counterfeit

The Roman name for Dionysus is Bacchus. He is frequently pictured with nymphs and satyrs. The famous bacchanalian feasts were nothing more than drunken orgies. Among the massive ruins of the ancient Near Eastern city of Baalbek is a temple to Bacchus, the god of wine. It is covered with grapes and vines because that was the thrust of their worship.

Paul was saying to the Ephesian church, "Your background was communing with the gods in a state of drunkenness, but if you want to communicate with the true God, you need to be filled with His Spirit. If you want to be raised to the highest level of consciousness, simply enter the presence of God through the filling of the Holy Spirit."
The Corinthian Christians had problems with meat being offered to idols. They also had problems with the gifts of the Spirit, because the pagan religions had corrupted their meaning. That is why it is impossible to properly interpret 1 Corinthians l2-l4 without understanding the pagan world of New Testament times. Christianity was being counterfeited in the Corinthian church because they were carrying their former pagan practices into the church. They even corrupted one of the most sacred ordinances God has given the church-- Communion.

The Corinthians were so used to communing with the gods through drunkenness that they came to the Lord's Table drunk. Paul told them they couldn't drink the communion cup, which is the cup of the Lord, and the cup of drunkenness, which is the cup of demons (1 Cor. 10:21). Their Communion services were characterized by gluttony and drunkenness (1 Cor. 11:19-22). They were conducting their worship the way they used to do it in paganism.

Paul was contrasting the Satanic counterfeit of worship with true worship. He didn't want anything to come in the way of what the Spirit wanted to do in the lives of the Ephesians.

C. The Context

I believe Paul is dealing with drunkenness as a religious issue because of the context of Ephesians 5:18-21. He contrasts the pagan liturgy of singing, dancing, and wild parties with true Christian liturgy, which involves speaking with "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God" (vv. 19-21).

When Paul said, "Be not drunk with wine, in which is excess, but be filled with the Spirit," he was making a simple contrast. The Greek word for "excess" is asotia, which refers to uncontrolled dissipation or debauchery. Being controlled by alcohol is opposite to being controlled by the Spirit of God.
Aha! Found it! Part Two's got the info I was looking for. After this excerpt are a whole host of historical citations about the wine used in Bible times. MacArthur actually cites some of the same sources as Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi. Make sure you read the whole thing:
Question #1: Is drinking wine today the same as in Bible times?

Christians who drink point out that wine was commended in the Bible and assume it is therefore acceptable today. If drinking in biblical times is to be used as the basis for drinking today, the wine today should be the same as the wine used then. This deserves careful analysis.

A. The Biblical Words for Wine

1. Oinos/Yayin

The most common word in the New Testament for wine is the Greek word oinos. It is a general word that simply refers to the fermented juice of the grape. The Old Testament equivalent to the Greek word oinos is yayin, the root of which means to "bubble up" or "boil up." The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia (vol. 12, p. 533) states that yayin, at least in the rabbinic period, was diluted with water.

2. Gleukos/Tirosh

The Greek word gleukos--from which we get the English word glucose, means "new wine." It is used in Acts 2:13 to refer to the apostles on the day of Pentecost. It says they were "full of new wine." Although it was comparatively fresh and not yet fully aged, it was potentially intoxicating. The mockers in in Acts 2:13 were accusing the apostles of being drunk.

The Old Testament word for new wine is tirosh. Hosea 4:11 says "wine [yayin] and new wine [tirosh] take away the heart." Drunkenness is the result of drinking this new wine.

3. Sikera/Shakar

The Old Testament word for strong drink is shakar, a term that eventually became restricted to intoxicants other than wine. According to the 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia, it refers to unmixed wine. The New Testament equivalent is the Greek word sikera.

B. The Historical Data Regarding Wine

1. Unfermented wine

Because of refrigeration problems in ancient times, wine was often boiled until the liquid evaporated, leaving behind a thick, unintoxicating paste that stored well. It was somewhat similar to modern grape jelly. The people would spread it on bread like a jam, and some still do today in the Middle East.
Here's the bottom line:
Pondering the Principles

1.The wine spoken of in Bible times is the not the same as the wine of today. Wine today is not mixed with water and can be very intoxicating. The wine people mostly drank during Bible times was mixed with generous amounts of water and was largely unintoxicating.
I find all this historical stuff fascinating.

Based on just this amount of information, I think it's safe to say that Bacchiocchi and MacArthur are BOTH of the "two wines" theory. The difference between the two is in the application. Bacchiocchi would say that total abstention is required of the modern Christian, while MacArthur would say that avoiding drunkenness is what is required, and total abstention is a matter of conscience. Since we don't water down our wine in modern times, avoiding drunkenness is much more difficult than in "the olden days."

If y'all need any more info, let me know and I'll keep digging.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Wine in the Bible -- What Does God's Word Really Say? (Pt. 1)

At the request of our dear Peek a Boo at the WTM boards, I took a look at the writings of a Seventh-Day Adventist writer who argues that the Bible teaches total abstinence from alcohol. Now I’m no Pyromaniac or John MacArthur, but I’ve got a MacArthur Study Bible handy and the house to myself at 2 a.m. If my writing seems muddled, it means I probably dozed off at the keyboard and my hands went all floppy. I’m shootin’ for brevity here (not my strong suit, as you’ll see).

“This book addresses from a Biblical perspective the most prevailing, costly and destructive habit of our society, the drinking of alcoholic beverages.”
I’m not sure this is correct. That dubious honor most likely goes to p*rn. Fodder for another post, maybe.

“claims at least 100,000 American lives per year…” “The figures are provided by the 1986 report of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, as quoted in "Coming to Grips with Alcoholism," U.S. News & World Report (November 30, 1987):56.”
I’d love to know how the NIAAA came up with that figure. Is that number only deaths from cirrhosis of the liver? Drunk driving? Shootings by drunken boyfriends? Was it anything like the hundreds of thousands of supposedly-smoking-related deaths every year that we heard about a few years ago? This study the author has cited is really old. I wonder when the book was published. If it’s only a few years old, the guy really should have come up with some more recent research.

“A 1987 Gallup Poll indicates…” OK, this book must be really old. No sense wasting my time pulling his ancient data apart.

“The moderationist position rests on the belief that Scripture condemns the immoderate use of alcohol but approves its moderate use. This belief is in turn based on the assumption that the Bible knows only of fermented wine ("one wine theory") which it considers as a divine blessing to be enjoyed with moderation. According to this theory, any condemnation of wine in the Bible refers not to the kind of wine, but to the amount consumed.”
This seems like a mostly fair treatment of the “moderationist” position, although I’ve never heard of the “one wine theory” before, and the only places online I could find that had any reference to it by name were the author’s website and another total abstinence website. However, I contend that "the belief that Scripture condemns the immoderate use of alcohol but approves its moderate use" is not based on the “one wine theory” but is based instead on what Scripture actually says. (Specific examples to come later; we’ve got a long slog ahead of us.)

“By maintaining that the Bible sanctions the moderate use of alcoholic beverages, moderationists have led people to believe that drinking alcohol is not a moral but a medical issue. It is not a transgression of a God-given principle, but a habit which can harm one’s health, if abused. The elimination of any sinful connotation from the use of alcohol has had an enormous influence on the drinking habits of millions of Christians. It has provided Christians with an alleged Biblical and moral justification for drinking alcohol, thus depriving them of a Biblical and moral conviction for abstaining from intoxicating beverages.”
Now this is where I’d like to see some citations. This is just assertions of fact without any proof. It’s not even logical. If the Bible says that moderate alcohol consumption isn’t wrong but drunkenness is wrong (and I believe that’s what it says), how does that become a medical issue? It’s got moral distinction written all over it. “A is not wrong, but B is wrong.” The sinful connotation applies to drunkenness – the abuse of alcohol. It’s the world, not the church, which has medicalized sin and spiritual struggles – alcoholism, “mental illness”, eating disorders, homosexuality, etc.

Now am I going to deny that the church has never adopted the world’s way of thinking? Fuhgeddaboutit. But let’s lay blame at the feet of the proper owners, mm’k? The funny thing is, (and here’s where I throw in useless anecdotal evidence) I’ve known a lot of Christians in my 15 years as a believer. Almost all of them had a biblical view of alcohol, and almost none of them drank it at all.

The thrust of the author’s argument involves the proper translation of the word(s) for wine. For that, I’ll need my dh’s help, since he’s the resident Greek expert, and our copy of BibleWorks isn’t running properly right now. I can’t even begin to deal with this writer’s assertions about wine, because he says that all the good mentions of the fruit of the vine are of grape juice, and all the bad mentions are of fermented wine. So until I have my dh or one of our pastors weigh in on the proper translation in those verses, I’ll have to put that part of the discussion on hold for now.

The Wedding at Cana
Regarding the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-12), I’ll refer to the MSB’s notes and to the Victor Journey Through the Bible (VJTB). It's important to look at the context of the whole passage to get a sense for the meaning of individual verses and words.

In John 2:3, the wedding party runs out of wine. MSB says that “Such a wedding celebration in Palestine could last for a week.” (VJTB says sometimes the wedding party ran 14 days. Can you imagine a two-week wedding reception?)

Back to MSB: “Financial responsibility lay with the groom (vv. 9,10). To run out of wine for the guests would have been an embarrassment to the groom and may have even opened him to a potential lawsuit from the relatives of the bride.” Guess our sue-happy culture isn’t all that unusual after all, is it? LOL. “Feed all 50 of us for a whole week, or we’re calling a lawyer.” “Uh, OK… ‘Dad.’ Can I call you Dad?”

So Jesus tells the servants to take the pots meant for ceremonial purification, and fill them with water. Then he turns the water into wine (John 2:6-9) Ya think John put that little detail in for fun? No! He’s telling us something important about the Lord and the vessels he chose to use for the miracle. Jesus didn’t say, “Oh, we can’t use those pots. We need them for ceremonial hand cleansing. Find some others.” Outward cleansing was less important than meeting someone’s actual need. Chew on *that* for a while. This wine/grape juice thing isn’t so interesting anymore, is it? Oh well, back to the wine issue…

MSB says: “The wine served was subject to fermentation. In the ancient world, however, to quench thirst without inducing drunkenness, wine was diluted with water to between one-third and one-tenth of its strength. Due to the climate and circumstances, even “new wine” fermented quickly and had an inebriating effect if not mixed (Acts 2:13). Because of a lack of water purification process, wine mixed with water was also safer to drink than water alone. While the Bible condemns drunkenness, it does not necessarily condemn the consumption of wine (Ps. 104:15; Prov. 20:1; see notes on Eph. 5:18 [emphasis author’s]).

So even if it was watered down, it was still fermented. That’s what helped make the water safe to drink.

Now let’s look at the master of the feast’s reaction to the grape juice/wine/tasty stuff (John 2:9b-12): “(T)he master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, ‘Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!’” Try to put yourself in the average first-century Jewish bridegroom’s shoes. If you’re throwing a big weeklong party, don’t you want the Chateau-briand and Dom Perrignon put out when everyone’s first arriving and looking at the spread, deciding whether you’re a mensch or a cheapskate? Then, after everyone’s gotten three days of grape flavor stuck to their tongues (and maybe even gotten a little buzzed), you sneak out the boxed Franzia and Two Buck Chuck. I mean, come on, half the crowd’s gone home by now anyway. With all due respect to our SDA anti-alcohol crusader friend, does the context of this passage lend itself to “morally good” wine rather than to “high quality, good tasting” wine? I think not.

The “good wine” remark from the master of the feast has more to do with providing us with an example of Christ’s miracles. When Christ performed a healing, the person healed was never kinda sorta halfway healed. The person was completely restored. When He fed the 5,000 and the 4,000, He fed them enough that several big baskets were needed to pick up the leftovers. When He raised the dead, it wasn’t putting the corpse into a coma. It was complete restoration. When He cast out demons, the victim was left “in his right mind.”

And that’s just how God performed His wonders in the OT. Remember Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel? After the prophets of Baal failed to awaken their god, Elijah had his offering to Yahweh drenched with water, and “the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.” (1 Kings 18:38) Nothing halfway about that.

Paul’s Counsel to Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23)
I’m going to wrap up for now with some thoughts on this verse, also cited by the author. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul advises him, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.” MSB says, “’Water’ in the ancient world was often polluted and carried many diseases. Therefore Paul urged Timothy not to risk illness, not even for the sake of a commitment to abstinence from wine. Apparently Timothy avoided wine, so as not to place himself in harm’s way (see note on 3:3 [emphasis author’s]). Among the qualifications for an elder are that he should “not [be] given to wine” (I Tim. 3:3). MSB says, “More than a mere prohibition against drunkenness (see note on 5:18 [emphasis author’s]). An elder must not have a reputation as a drinker; his judgment must never be clouded by alcohol (cf. Prov. 31:4,5; 1 Cor. 6:12), his lifestyle must be radically different from the world and lead others to holiness, not sin (Rom. 14:21).

More MSB: “Paul wanted Timothy to use wine which, because of fermentation, acted as a disinfectant to protect his health problems due to the harmful effects of impure water. With this advice, however, Paul was not advocating that Timothy lower the high standard of behavior for leaders (cf. Num. 6:1-4; Prov. 31:4,5).”

The Law of Love (Romans 14:14-23)
OK, I just have to add one more. In Romans 14:14-23 (NASB), Paul talks about the need to remove “stumbling blocks” from the paths of weaker brethren in Christ:

14I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
15For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.
16Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil;
17for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking [emphasis mine], but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
18For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.
19So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
20Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.
21It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles.

22The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.
23But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.

Now that the sun is up, I think I'll nap. Busy day ahead of us today. When I've got more to post or link on this topic, I'll... post or link or something.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Another Dose of Gooseness

Today the Goose made paper hats for herself and the Boy. Then she took construction paper and made a number book for the Flea (1-30). The Flea was thrilled to receive it, and the Goose has already begun making "lesson plans," e.g., "I think I'll do four pages a day with her. Today we did numbers 1-4," she said as she used a tape flag to mark the page with number 5, "and we should be done when she's 3-1/2." Flea turns 3 next week.

The Goose even had the foresight to avoid writing on the inside covers of the book, so it would look more like a real one.

I could just eat her up, she's so sweet. It almost makes up for her whiny excuse-making from the first half of the day. :-P

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Today's Dose of Gooseness

A little background: We're using La Clase Divertida for Spanish right now. It's DVD-based, and the instructor teaches the kids the alphabet by using a chant: "A, araña, b, bandera..." and the kids do hand motions to match each of the sample words.

Goose: "Mom, what does 'araña' mean?"

SOM: "Spider."

Goose: "Oh. I thought it meant 'evildoer' because of the way they put their hands. (Holds her hand with the fingers spread out and facing down, like spider legs.)

SOM: (laughing) Evildoer. You mean like the villains on TV? (I imagine any garden-variety villain on Scooby Doo.)

Goose: (laughing) Yeah!

Carnival of Homeschooling is up

This week's carnival is hosted by

Monday, June 19, 2006

What We Learned at Church This Week

We made it to Sunday School (yay!) and got there before they started (gasp! Can it be?). Kempiz was teaching, and the older adults' class joined us, since the Graumans were out of town. I felt like I've been away for ages, but it was only two Sundays.

The passage was Ephesians 4:4-16. At the end of class, Kempiz said that he's never been in a church that refers to itself as "the body" as much as CBC does. "Usually it's 'the congregation,'" he said. Now that's not a bad word, of course. But he said he appreciated the emphasis on biblical unity that comes from the terminology that we've come to use out of habit.

"Life is pretty good without a stomach"

You'd probably feel the same way, if you knew you had a 7 in 10 chance of getting stomach cancer.

Six of these people had their surgeries done at the same hospital. And it looks like they actually had 100% chance of contracting cancer:
While the stomachs of all six Stanford patients looked normal before surgery, a study of the tissue revealed early tumor growths, said Dr. Jeff Norton, the surgeon.


"We're all going to die of something," (Bill Bradfield) said, "but I know I won't die of stomach cancer."

One C.O.D. down, eight million to go... Seriously, though, in their shoes I probably would have done the same thing. And it wouldn't be the fault of an overly literal biblical hermeneutic, either.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Well, I've Gone and Done It

Whereas, I already spend waaaayyy too much time bouncing around the blogosphere; and
Whereas, I am constantly on the lookout for creative ways to avoid doing productive work;
Whereas, I've wanted to do this for ages and ages; and
Whereas, I'm one of the last remaining internet-connected people on Earth without a blog; and
Whereas, 2:30 a.m. is a great time to start a blog;
Be it resolved, that in the wee hours of this 17th day of June, 2006, I've gone and set up a Blogger account.

I should probably inform my husband at some point.