Tuesday, April 08, 2014
The afterlife -- Old Testament versus New
The hope for a life after death among the ancient Hebrews was very down to earth. There were many religions in the ancient Near East which were much more fancy -- religions that said we live on as spirit beings after the death of our bodies. The ancient Hebrews rejected that. Their hope was for a resurrection of themselves in their original bodies at the time of the coming of the Messiah -- when the earth would be returned to its original Edenic condition. They envisaged living in a new Eden.
Their scorn for belief in an immediate life after death is eloquently expressed in Ecclesiastes 9: 5-7, 10.
5 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.
6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest
That's pretty final. Only a miracle can offer something after that.
Isaiah 45: 18
For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited
Isaiah 65 17
For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
21 And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.
22 They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.
24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.
So, a pretty terrestrial hope for the future.
And, surprisingly, the New Testament recorded that hope too:
For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."
And have you ever thought what you are saying when you pray as Jesus taught:
Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done ON EARTH, as it is in Heaven
Again the hope is for a future Edenic Kingdom on earth, not some airy-fairy life in heaven.
St Paul, however, rather upsets the applecart by preaching a version of the old Eastern beliefs that he knew well from his pre-conversion life.
1 Corinthians 15: 6
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 15: 42-44
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
1 Corinthians 15: 50-53
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
But Paul was still not preaching an immediate spiritual life. As a good Jew, he looked forward to the day of judgment as the day on which resurrection takes place. Note in verse 6 he speaks of Christ's followers who have died as "asleep". They are not enjoying a new life in Heaven.
What Paul appears to have added is the idea that the Christians of his day were special. They only would undergo a spiritual transformation on the last day. And he expected that day imminently. Some early Christians would need to be resurrected and some would still be alive. So those alive would be transformed rather than resurrected.
But you still believe that you have got a soul inside you which is immortal and flits straight off into the spirit realm when your body dies? That's a pagan doctrine, I am afraid. I could quote text after text but in both the OT and the NT the soul is quite mortal:
27 Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
Psalms 146: 3, 4
3 Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
As John 3:16 says, eternal life has to be earned (by believing). It is not automatic. The alternative is death pure and simple.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
See you at the Resurrection?
Francis: No, I am Not a Communist
In the months since Pope Francis released his 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Guadium, critics of his pontificate have seized upon remarks he made regarding trickledown economics. In his view, he wrote, the successful implementation of such theories “have never been confirmed by the facts.” Of course, many conservatives scoffed at this assertion, some of whom accused him outright of being a socialist or a communist.
But what Pope Francis was getting at, I think, is how a “new idolatry of money” has taken root -- and ahold -- of many of us. This leads inevitably to what Pope Francis describes as a “throw away” culture. Individuals too often place material success, wealth, and money above the needs of human beings in a capitalist system. Such self-centeredness "deadens us," he argues; we become indifferent and callous to those who suffer. So while this is a rather sharp criticism of unfettered capitalism and capitalism in general, it is hardly a clarion call for Marxist revolution, either.
Earlier in the week Pope Francis gave a meeting with a number of communications students from Belgium. During the interview he specifically addressed charges that he was a communist. He said he wasn’t, of course, explaining instead where his passion for the poor comes from:
In a March 31 interview with communications students, Pope Francis responded to previous accusations of being a communist, explaining that his preference for the poor is in fact based in the Gospel.
“I heard two months ago that a person referred to my preference for speaking about the poor, saying: 'This Pope is a communist, no?' And no, this is the banner of the Gospel, not of communism, of the Gospel,” the Pope explained during the encounter.
Given to three Belgian youth who are studying communications sciences, the interview was broadcast on the evening of April 3 on the Belgium website deredactie.be., and was later picked up by Italian news agency ReppublicaTV.
During the interview, one student asked the Pope where his preference for the poor and most needy comes from, to which the pontiff responded: “Because this is the heart of the Gospel, and I am a believer, I believe in God, I believe in Christ, I believe in the Gospel, and the heart of the Gospel is the poor.”
“And because of this I believe that the poor are the center of the Gospel of Jesus. This is clear if we read it,” he affirmed.
One need not be a communist to care passionately for the poor. In the same way that one need not be a communist to criticize certain elements of an economic system that can at times lead to inequities and social exclusion.
GM corruption and Toyota
Here's another reason government should never own a business.
In February 2010, the Obama administration's transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, told America, without a shred of evidence, that Toyota automobiles were dangerous to drive. LaHood offered the remarks in front of the House subcommittee that was investigating reports of unintended-acceleration crashes. “My advice is, if anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it,” he said, sending the company's stock into a nose dive.
Even at the time, LaHood's comments were reckless at best. Assailing the competition reeks of political opportunism and cronyism. It also illustrates one of the unavoidable predicaments of the state's owning a corporation in a competitive marketplace. And when we put LaHood's comment into perspective today, it's actually a lot worse. The Obama administration not only had the power and ideological motive to damage the largely nonunionized competition but also was busy propping up a company that was causing preventable deaths.
No one is innocent, of course, but not everyone is bailed out. So Toyota, after recalling millions of cars and changing parts and floor mats even before LaHood's outburst – and after years of being hounded by the administration – recently agreed to pay a steep fine for its role in the acceleration flap. This, despite the fact that in 2012, Department of Transportation engineers determined that no mechanical failure was present that would cause applying the brakes to initiate acceleration. The DOT conducted tests that determined that the brakes could maintain a stationary car or bring one to a full stop even with the engine racing. It looked at 58 vehicles that were supposedly involved in unintended acceleration and found no evidence of brake failure or throttle malfunction.
Attorney General Eric Holder kept at it, though, and Toyota finally agreed to a $1.2 billion settlement (it has about $60 billion in reserves) to make it go away. Though it looks as if the company doesn't think the fight is worthwhile, for all I know, it's guilty. I'm certain, though, that General Motors is. It announced this week that it was recalling over a million vehicles that had sudden loss of electric power steering. This, after recalling nearly 3 million vehicles for ignition switch problems that the company had known about since 2001 and are now linked to 13 deaths.
GM has apologized. But does anyone believe that the Obama administration took as hard a look at GM as it did Toyota? As early as 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration knew that there may be problems with air bags but never launched a formal investigation. The NHTSA's acting chief, David Friedman, testified that GM never told the agency that faulty switches were at the root of the air bag problem. Fine. Before plowing billions of tax dollars into saving the United Automobile Workers, did the car czar or any other Obama officials take extra care to review DOT records to ensure that taxpayers would not be funding the preventable deaths of American citizens? Would DOT and Holder exhibit the same zealousness for safety with GM as they did when it came to Toyota? In the midst of the bailout debate and subsequent “turnaround,” news of a cover-up and major recall would have been a political disaster.
So it's difficult to understand why this isn't a huge scandal. If every obtuse utterance by an obscure Republican congressman gets the media juices flowing, surely the possibility of this kind of negligence is worth a look. Can anyone with access to the administration ask some of these questions? Because if you take credit for “saving” a company (actually, an “industry,” as no one would have ever driven again if Obama hadn't saved the day), you also get credit for “saving” the real-life unscrupulous version of the company. “I placed my bet on the American worker,” Obama told union workers in 2012. “And I'll make that bet any day of the week. And now, three years later, that bet is paying off.” Betting $80 billion of someone else's money to prop up sympathetic labor unions isn't exactly fraught with political risk. Unless it turns out that your administration is less concerned about the safety defects of the company you own than it is about the company you dislike. That would be corruption.
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Posted by JR at 12:58 AM