Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Cor. 2 -- the limits of rhetoric

"A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns," wrote American novelist Mario Puzo.

As the recent shakedowns of the American public reveal, "banksters" who are considered "too big to fail" are immunized from the consequences of their own cupidity, their own stupidity, by their partners in government who enrich that tiny handful of plutocrats by impoverishing every American taxpayer. The printing presses are smoking, and for the first time in living memory, the American dollar is dropping towards, or below, parity with the Canadian "loony."[1] As the currency is inflated / debased / debauched, the losers are the thrifty, the people who, through systematic self-denial, accrued savings.

Somehow, the "symbol-handlers" dance rings around the "thing-handlers," time after time. People with verbal skills are both respected, and resented. Winston Churchill's silver-tongued oratory might rally a desperate nation to win a desperate struggle -- but after the war, the weary electorate turns him out of office.[2]

We normally think in words,[3] understand the world around us by the stories we tell ourselves, and are influenced by those who can use words effectively. Knowing how easily we can be misled, we are suspicious of the rhetoricians among us. Congressmen are held in lower repute than used-car salesmen, for example.

In the ancient world, skill in rhetoric was the key to political advancement. People who could teach the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) made good money. However, when Paul spoke to the Corinthians, he deliberately refused to exploit them with fancy language:
1Co 2:1 Kardeşler, Tanrı'yla ilgili bildiriyi duyurmak için size geldiğimde, söz ustalığıyla ya da üstün bilgelikle gelmedim.
1Co 2:2 Aranızdayken, İsa Mesih'ten ve O'nun çarmıha gerilişinden başka hiçbir şey bilmemeye kararlıydım.
1Co 2:3 Size zayıflık ve korku içinde geldim, tir tir titriyordum!
1Co 2:4 Sözüm ve bildirim, insan bilgeliğinin ikna edici sözlerine değil, Ruh'un kanıtlayıcı gücüne dayanıyordu.
1Co 2:5 Öyle ki, imanınız insan bilgeliğine değil, Tanrı gücüne dayansın.

Let's have some fun with a simple Turkish word that can be expanded in a number of delightful ways:
  • bilmek -- to know. to be aware. to understand. to learn. to recognize. to assume. to appreciate. ken. savvy
  • bilge -- wise. learned. erudite. omniscient. polymath. profound. sophisticated. wise person. scholar. luminary. owl. sage. sophisticate.
  • bildiri -- announcement. assertion. bulletin. communique. declaration. handout. manifesto. notice. notification. paper. report. communiqué.
  • bildirim -- my announcement. assertion. bulletin. communique. declaration. handout, etc.
  • bilgelik -- wisdom. erudition. savoir vivre. sagacity.
  • bilgelikle -- characterized by bilgelkik.
A famous line from one of Shakespeare's plays goes, "The lady protesteth overmuch, methinks." When people try too hard to convince us, we "smell a rat." Paul gave his audience the facts -- the King had arrived. He informed his audience about what they needed to do -- pledge allegiance to the King, and enter the royal service. He demonstrated the benefits of the Kingdom, by working a miraculous healing or three. Maybe an exorcism. Then, he left it up to the audience to make up their own minds.

People tend to "own" decisions they reach on their own initiative, and to disown "decisions" they felt pressured into making -- by slick rhetoric, by abusive social pressure, etc.


[1] A $1 coin, minted in base metal, with a loon -- an aquatic bird -- on the obverse side.

[2] Kemal Atatürk not only led his people to victory against overwhelming odds, but stayed in office long enough afterwards to preserve the fruits of that victory.

[3] An exception that tests this rule is the autistic folks who can say, as Temple Grandin's book title does, I Think In Pictures. She processes the universe of spoken language by imagining it to be a movie.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

I Kor. 1 -- the circular firing squad

When my son was a lad, I once had to warn him concerning the younger of two brothers he counted among his friends. The younger boy was a catalyst for trouble. He could direct conversations and interactions in such a way as to embarrass his big brother, and cause the older boy to look bad in the eyes of the adults in the room. He could make intensifying actions and reactions go up the scale, while apparently remaining unaffected himself. Big brother would suddenly find himself humiliated, and not know that had come to pass.

Agatha Christie's final Hercule Perot mystery, Curtains, had such a catalyst as a key element. This party could find and push anyone's hot buttons, and took pleasure in provoking a series of murders.

There is a malevolent spirit on the move, Satan (İblis), the enemy of humanity. Much of his evil work is done by catalyzing fitna or discord among people. A house divided against itself is in danger. Consider the situation in the church at Corinth:
1Co 1:10 Kardeşler, Rabbimiz İsa Mesih'in adıyla yalvarıyorum: Hepiniz uyum içinde olun, aranızda bölünmeler olmadan aynı düşünce ve görüşte birleşin.
1Co 1:11 Kardeşlerim, Kloi'nin ev halkından aranızda çekişmeler olduğunu öğrendim.
1Co 1:12 Şunu demek istiyorum: Her biriniz, "Ben Pavlus yanlısıyım", "Ben Apollos yanlısıyım", "Ben Kefas yanlısıyım" ya da "Ben Mesih yanlısıyım" diyormuş.
1Co 1:13 Mesih bölündü mü? Sizin için çarmıha gerilen Pavlus muydu? Pavlus'un adıyla mı vaftiz* edildiniz?
Apparently, the young community of believers was turning into a "circular firing squad." Instead of community, the group was experiencing factions. Some, probably the more Jewish members, claimed to be on the Kefas (Peter) team. Others followed Apollos, an eloquent, learned, and philosophical believer who still wore the name of a Greek pagan deity. Some claimed to be on Paul's side, and to enjoy the best of both worlds, Jewish and Greek. Finally, others claimed smugly to be above such petty strife, and to belong only to Christ.

How much can we achieve for good if we are united in heart and purpose? We have been given skills and resources that can turn the world into a garden spot, or a desert. The trap of Satan is to provoke dissension, and to thus neutralize the servants of the living God, as they turn their tools against one another rather than to the tasks at hand.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Romans 16 -- it pays to stay connected

Paul mentions 37 or so names in this chapter. Seven are people on his side of the conversation, including the scribe, Tertius, who puts in his $0.02 worth, not knowing that folks would be reading that insertion thousands of years later. One, Phoebe, is the lady deacon who will carry the letter to Rome. Then, there are 28 people who he already knows who live in Rome, a city he's never visited.

It pays to network. Paul had friends in place wherever he wanted to go, and people to stay with. For example, the gentleman who is providing accommodations for him at the moment:
Rom 16:23 Bana ve bütün inanlılar topluluğuna konukseverlik eden Gayus size selam eder. Kent haznedarı Erastus'un ve Kuartus kardeşin size selamları var.
The key word here, konukseverlik, is obviously a compound word, since it jams together front and back vowels in one congenial alliance, to make a point. Konuk = guest, visitor, sojourner. Sever = fondness, affection. Konuksever, accoring to the excellent, and sometimes quaint, dictionary at hazar.com means hospitable, open-doored. A man described as konukseverlik is obviously one whose life is characterized by hospitality. A genial character who loves people, has an open heart, and an open home.

There are people in Rome who have also, in other days and places, enjoyed having Paul as a guest:
Rom 16:13 Rab'bin seçkin kulu olan Rufus'a ve bana da annelik etmiş olan annesine selam edin.
Alexander and Rufus were the sons of Simon of Cyrene, the dark-complexioned farmer who was conscripted to carry the cross of Jesus, when the Romans worried that the condemned might expire ahead of schedule. I like the way Turkish expresses the relationship to the unnamed mother of Rufus: bana da annelik etmiş olan annesine selam edin. To me / also / like a mother / it is said that she was[1] / being / to his mother / peace / be upon.

One last point. Paul enjoyed hospitality, and believed that the faithful of all flavors should be kind to one another. His list of friends includes those with Jewish names, Roman names, Greek names, and barbarian (indigenous people) names. His advice to those he wishes all good things to includes this practical step:
Rom 16:17 Kardeşler, size yalvarırım, aldığınız öğretiye karşı gelerek ayrılıklara ve sapmalara neden olanlara dikkat edin, onlardan sakının.
Notice -- and avoid -- the troublemakers. Every gathering has them. Healthy groups help them find the door.


[1] Turkish has a "narrative / dubatative" tense used for telling stories, or reporting things one has not witnessed first-hand. When you translate a verb containing the tense marker miş or its kin, use some qualifying words like "they say" or "it is said that" or "I heard that..."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Romans 15 -- A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man

As any fan of The Simpsons recognizes, this is the town motto of Springfield, and embiggens is a perfectly cromulent adjective. And it seems to be one of the motivations Paul recommends to his quarrelsome Roman friends:
Rom 15:1 İmanı güçlü olan bizler, kendimizi hoşnut etmeye değil, güçsüzlerin zayıflıklarını yüklenmeye borçluyuz.
Rom 15:2 Her birimiz komşusunu ruhça geliştirmek için komşusunun iyiliğini gözeterek onu hoşnut etsin.
Rom 15:3 Çünkü Mesih bile kendini hoşnut etmeye çalışmadı. Yazılmış olduğu gibi: "Sana edilen hakaretlere ben uğradım."
Let's look at a few key words:
  • güçlü -- filled with / characterized by strength. Visit the Turkish version of a computer repair manual, and you'll encounter the phrase güç kaynak -- power supply. Güç seems to be equivalent to the Greek word δυνατοὶ, which is used here as a plural substantive adjective .
  • güçsüzlerin -- those who are weak. güç - power. süz - lacking. ler - plural. in - are.
  • komşu -- neighbor.
  • hoşnut etmek -- to please.
There's an old Latin cliche, noblesse oblige. Nobility obligates. Truly great, truly noble, people do not, like Mel Brooks' Men in Tights "wander through the forest looking for fights."

Gentile saints, be kind to your Jewish fellow guests at God's feast. After all, they spread the table, bringing the Word and Messiah of God into the world. Jewish saints, wake up to the fact that you are not God's ultimate project, but a means to His ends.

And it would do us all good to be kind to each other, rather than looking for arguments to win.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Romans 14 -- table manners towards other guests

"Never serve booze at a wedding. Although most of the guests might enjoy it, there will always be one who will get drunk, make a fool of himself, and ruin the party for everyone else."

This bit of advice came to mind as I meditated on today's chapter. Let's look at the first few verses:
Rom 14:1 İmanı zayıf olanı aranıza kabul edin, ama tartışmalı konulara girmeyin.
Rom 14:2 Biri her şeyi yiyebileceğine inanır; imanı zayıf olansa yalnız sebze yer.
Rom 14:3 Her şeyi yiyen, yemeyeni hor görmesin. Her şeyi yemeyen, yiyeni yargılamasın. Çünkü Tanrı onu kabul etmiştir.
Rom 14:4 Sen kimsin ki, başkasının kulunu yargılıyorsun? Kulu haklı çıkaran da haksız çıkaran da efendisidir. Kul haklı çıkacaktır. Çünkü Rab'bin onu haklı çıkarmaya gücü vardır.
Let's look at a few key words:
  • kabul edin -- 2nd person imperative form of verb kabul etmek -- to welcome, to receive.
  • haklı çıkarmak -- another compound verb, like the only Malay word in common English, which is always combined with the English verb "to run."[2] This Turkish compound word, which pops up in the hazar.com dictionary when you enter , means: excuse. justify. vindicate.
  • haksız çıkarmak -- Obviously, the opposite of haklı çıkarmak. Turks take their çay either şekerli or şekersiz -- with or without sugar.
  • hak -- condign. right. justice. claim. benefit. authority. dibs. due. franchise. jus. title. warrant. warranty. The Turkish phrase Hak dini (true, etc. religion) is a synonym for Islam.
The Scotch-Irish inhabitants of the American Appalachian region are famous for their violent, armed, disputes. A century ago, the Hatfield and McCoy clans became synonymous with the ignorant, savage hill billies who deserved to be swindled out of the mineral wealth they lived atop, but lacked the means -- or the will -- to exploit. Last I heard, 85% of West Virginia is owned or controlled by people who do not live in West Virginia. Sophisticated guests in that part of the world are aware of the vast chasm that exists between West Virginia[3], a state that is a byword for backwardness, and western Virginia, an urbane, civilized, region.

Some historians suggest that the internecine disputes among the mountain people were used as propaganda fodder by outside interests intent on strip mining that state.

Be that as it may, the media image of the feuding mountaineers has a basis in fact. Carl Whorley, a Baptist preacher in Roanoke Virginia, comes from that stock. Two families had been fighting for too many generations. To make piece, the elders of the clan chose a Romeo from one, a Juliet from the other, and ordered them to marry each other. Carl was the son of this peaceful, peace-making union.

The Roman church that Paul wrote to, as we saw in the last few chapters, was characterized by an uneasy state of truce between the two major components: those who had been born Jews, and those who had been born as pagans. It was all too easy for the Jewish-heritage believers to sneer at the indiscriminate way that the former pagans chowed down on whatever fair or foul stuff that was set before them. The pagan-legacy Roman Christians, on the other hand, were astonished at how incapable their kin were of seeing the point, and getting with the program. Jesus had set them free to live, and these clowns still insisted on pouring their lives into pointless pageantry, rituals, and religious games.

Paul warns them -- be kind to each other. Be on your best behavior -- because there is an unseen Host presiding over your lives together. And, ultimately,

Hiçbirimiz kendimiz için yaşamayız, hiçbirimiz de kendimiz için ölmeyiz.

Not a one of us / to ourselves / because / may live, / not a one of us / even / to ourselves / because / may die.

We are temporary guests at an eternal table. It becomes us, since we have been invited to such an incredible party, to get along with each other, and not embarrass our Host.


[1] Mnemonic for English speakers: "Kabul is not a welcoming city."

[2] The Malay word, which has two correct spellings, is amok or amuck. To "run amok" is to go violently insane.

[3] What is the state flower of West Virginia? The satellite dish.
What is the usual color of cars in West Virginia? Primer.
How can you tell that you are in the Amish part of West Virginia? You see dead horses on cinder blocks in front of the mobile homes.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Romans 13 -- protective coloration

You need to be careful what you put in writing. For example, if you have wronged someone, and wish to apologize, to try to make things right, do so in person, if at all possible. A written confession can expose you and all you have to legal jeopardy. This reticence and caution applies even more to wired media. A new-hire attending a corporate orientation updated his Facebook account with a contemptuous remark about wasting his time in a boring meeting. He was looking for a new job before that meeting was over.

If you enjoy energetic conversations in public online forums, do not participate under your own name. Choose a screen name, an alias, such as RJR Fan.

And, if you think The Man might be reading your correspondence, a little bribe might be in order. Say something nice about the people in charge. A Pentecostal preacher addressed an audience in Haiti on faith healing. "God can also heal through the hands of dedicated physicians, such as the honorable Doctor Duvalier," he said, speaking of the crazed dictator who then ruled the island. The sermon was being monitored -- and the preacher suddenly found himself with fresh opportunities, new resources, and a wider audience.

Since Paul was writing a newsletter, a missive that would be copied and passed around among many people, it would probably come to the attention of a Roman magistrate at some point, and be examined for subversive content. That, I believe, is one reason for this chapter: a bribe to Nero's team.
Rom 13:1 Herkes, baştaki yönetime bağlı olsun. Çünkü Tanrı'dan olmayan yönetim yoktur. Var olanlar Tanrı tarafından kurulmuştur.
Rom 13:2 Bu nedenle, yönetime karşı direnen, Tanrı buyruğuna karşı gelmiş olur. Karşı gelenler yargılanır.
Rom 13:3 İyilik edenler değil, kötülük edenler yöneticilerden korkmalıdır. Yönetimden korkmamak ister misin, öyleyse iyi olanı yap, yönetimin övgüsünü kazanırsın.
Rom 13:4 Çünkü yönetim, senin iyiliğin için Tanrı'ya hizmet etmektedir. Ama kötü olanı yaparsan, kork! Yönetim, kılıcı boş yere taşımıyor; kötülük yapanın üzerine Tanrı'nın gazabını salan öç alıcı olarak Tanrı'ya hizmet ediyor.
Rom 13:5 Bunun için, yalnız Tanrı'nın gazabı nedeniyle değil, vicdan nedeniyle de yönetime bağlı olmak gerekir.
Rom 13:6 Vergi ödemenizin nedeni de budur. Çünkü yöneticiler Tanrı'nın bu amaç için gayretle çalışan hizmetkârlarıdır.
Let's look at verse 4. The key word is yönetim, which being interpreted means "administration. management. direction. government. oversight. regimen. rule. running. stewardship. superintendency. trusteeship." Ama kötü olanı yaparsan, kork! If / evil / things / if you do, / be afraid!

Christians had additional reasons for loudly shouting, "HEY! We are good, docile, loyal, tax-paying folks who wish the politicians well!" In Acts 18:2, we read about a couple Paul attached himself to who were refugees from Rome:
Act 18:2 Orada Pontus doğumlu, Akvila adında bir Yahudi ile karısı Priskilla'yı buldu. Bunlar, Klavdius'un bütün Yahudiler'in Roma'yı terk etmesi yolundaki buyruğu üzerine, kısa süre önce İtalya'dan gelmişlerdi. Akvila ile Priskilla'nın yanına giden Pavlus, aynı meslekten olduğundan onlarla kalıp çalıştı. Çünkü meslekleri çadırcılıktı.
All of the Jews had been ordered out of Rome, at an earlier point in time. A contemporary pagan historian explains that this was because of "riots concerning the god Chrestus." Time after time, in Paul's ministry, Jewish agitators stirred up mob violence against the gospel. Apparently, it was the message itself which provoked them -- Paul had not had time to get to Rome yet, and already Christians were blamed for making waves.

A generation later, in 112, noted writer Pliny the younger cracked down on this "bad superstition" in his capacity as governor of the Anatolian province of Bithynia. In an effort to be fair, he released any prisoners who formally denied being Christians.
They called upon the gods, and supplicated to your image, which I caused to be brought to me for that purpose, with frankincense and wine; they also cursed Christ; none of which things, it is said, can any of those that are ready Christians be compelled to do.
But what were these curious creatures up to? According to those who claimed to have been Christians --
However, they assured me that the main of their fault, or of their mistake was this:-That they were wont, on a stated day, to meet together before it was light, and to sing a hymn to Christ, as to a god, alternately; and to oblige themselves by a sacrament [or oath], not to do anything that was ill: but that they would commit no theft, or pilfering, or adultery; that they would not break their promises, or deny what was deposited with them, when it was required back again; after which it was their custom to depart, and to meet again at a common but innocent meal, which they had left off upon that edict which I published at your command, and wherein I had forbidden any such conventicles. These examinations made me think it necessary to inquire by torments what the truth was; which I did of two servant maids, who were called Deaconesses: but still I discovered no more than that they were addicted to a bad and to an extravagant superstition.
Bottom line? God may place us under bad leaders, as a chastisement for our sins against Him. However, even leaders have a standard to meet. See verse 3:
İyilik edenler değil, kötülük edenler yöneticilerden korkmalıdır.
Good things / whose who do / not, / evil things / those who do / from the rulers[1] / it is necessary to fear. A ruler who punishes good people (like us obedient, tax-paying, Christians!) while ignoring evildoers, is not living up to his job description.


[1] Korkmak -- to fear -- is one of those minority of Turkish verbs that expects its direct object to be indicated by the -dan/-den/-tan/-ten suffix. Be sure to pronounce the second k when you notice aloud that a Turkish friend fears dogs -- köpekten korkiniz. If you say "köpekten koriniz," you've just told your new friends that they smell like dogs!

Romans 12 -- table manners toward host

Many of my friends just celebrated the Korban Bayram, the Feast of the Sacrifice, in memory of the day when Abraham passed God's ultimate test of his faith. God provided a substitute for the human sacrifice Abraham was prepared to offer. Millions of Muslims around the world sacrifice a clean animal on Korban Bayram -- a sheep for a family, or a cow can be shared out among four families. The meat is eaten with glad piety on that day, and shared with the poor, with students away from home, and with friends. (yes, we have some in our freezer.)

The meat is good. The Divine Mercy celebrated is even more wonderful.

When invited to a state dinner, you conduct yourself in a manner different from when you raid the buffet at a Golden Corral. At Mr. Wok, the focus is on the food. Delicious, varied, and unlimited servings. If I were sitting at dinner with a head of state, however, I would be paying at least as much attention to the head table as I do to my own. (I may have to recycle this observation when I get to I Cor. 11!)

The first part of the first verse in this chapter sets the tone for all that follows:
Rom 12:1 Öyleyse kardeşlerim, Tanrı'nın merhameti adına size yalvarırım: Bedenlerinizi diri, kutsal, Tanrı'yı hoşnut eden birer kurban olarak sunun. Ruhsal tapınmanız budur.
Therefore / brothers / God's / mercies / in the name of / to you / I implore:

Because of all that God has done for us, a certain deportment on our behalf is appropriate.

Your bodies / living / holy / to God / acceptable / is / as a / sacrifice / is / present. [1] Spiritual / your worship / this is.

Imagine a child begging his mother for money, so he can buy her a present. Everything we have to offer our God consists of what He first gave us. Happy people are grateful people, humble people, people who delight in noting where their blessings come from. As the rest of this chapter will show, such people are also a lot of fun to hang around with.


[1] Interesting -- in this sentence, we see the two Turkish equivalents of the English "to be" -- etmek and olmak. Maybe when I study a while longer, I'll know when to use each!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Romans 11 -- root stocks

"Dwarfing rootstocks" are big items in the apple growing business. Dwarf trees give you the same fruit, but on shorter trunks. You get a better ratio of fruit to wood, the harvesting is easier, and the productivity per acre is dramatically better. Dwarf trees are also easier to prune, spray, and otherwise care for. Two big names in the dwarfing rootstock business are Mulling IX and Mulling Merton.

When you buy a dwarf fruit tree, you are actually buying several trees spliced (grafted) together. The root comes from a tree that is naturally petite, but which may not bear a desired variety of fruit.

Grafting is an ancient horticultural practice. In fact, Paul refers to it in this chapter:
Rom 11:16 Hamurun ilk parçası kutsalsa, tümü kutsaldır; kök kutsalsa, dallar da kutsaldır.
Rom 11:17, 18 Ama zeytin ağacının bazı dalları kesildiyse ve sen yabanıl bir zeytin filiziyken onların yerine aşılanıp ağacın semiz köküne ortak oldunsa, o dallara karşı övünme. Eğer övünüyorsan, unutma ki, sen kökü taşımıyorsun, kök seni taşıyor.
Rom 11:19 O zaman, "Ben aşılanayım diye dallar kesildi" diyeceksin.
Rom 11:20 Doğru, onlar imansızlık yüzünden kesildiler. Sense imanla yerinde duruyorsun. Böbürlenme, kork!
Rom 11:21 Çünkü Tanrı asıl dalları esirgemediyse, seni de esirgemeyecektir.
Let's look at a few words here:
  • zeytin -- olive. A zetinli biscuit -- one baked with an olive inside -- is delicious.
  • dal -- branch
  • kök -- root
  • taşımak -- to bear, support, carry
  • kesilmek -- to cut off
  • Doğru, onlar imansızlık yüzünden kesildiler. -- True, / they / unbelief / by reason of / were cut off.
  • Sense imanla yerinde duruyorsun. -- You, however / by faith / in your place / you stand.
  • Böbürlenme, kork! -- Do not boast, / be afraid!
Sadly, most of the first-century Jews were cut off. Very few "got with the program" when Jesus walked among them, and the majority aimed their children, for the next 50 generations, towards hell. An elaborate and rich culture grew up around one "prime directive" -- denying the significance of Jesus. That's a kind of feeble prop to lean on, but you have to give them credit for getting a lot of mileage out of one obsession!

Yet, we who walk with God today do so because the Jews gave us the Bible, the Savior, and the invitation to partake of God's covenantal blessings. They served up this glorious meal, then decided not to dine with us. After laying out a table groaning with abundance, most of the Jews walked out of the party, went out into the cold, and sat in the dark chewing on chalk.

If you know a Jew, invite him back in to the party. After all, it started with them.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Romans 10 -- geregtigheid (doğruluk)

Any time you study a new language, you encounter new sounds. English in particular is rich in phonemes -- more than 40, last time I checked. But that is a small subset out of the myriad of tones and intonations we can produce using throat, lips, and tongue. Try to say geregtigheid -- and the English-speaker has to exert substantial effort to pronounce each g. That Afrikaans throat-clearing phoneme is apparently similar to the gh we still include in the written English, in words like light, dough, through, enough -- but have not actually pronounced for several centuries.

Geregtigheid is also a major concern in this chapter. We are hard-wired to seek it, and people who take God seriously also take geregtigheid seriously. Or should I say δικαιοσύνην. giustizia. iustitiam. doğruluk. Americans who count Turkish Muslims among their friends encounter people who know their lives are lived under divine scrutiny. People who want to live lives that please their Maker. People who, as Jesus said, "hunger and thirst for righteousness."

The sad part is, these wonderful and delightful people, like the Jews Paul wrote about, often confused the means with the end, the effect with the cause:
Rom 10:2 Onlara ilişkin tanıklık ederim ki, Tanrı için gayretlidirler; ama bu bilinçli bir gayret değildir.
Rom 10:3 Tanrı'nın öngördüğü doğruluğu anlamadıkları ve kendi doğruluklarını yerleştirmeye çalıştıkları için Tanrı'nın öngördüğü doğruluğa boyun eğmediler.
Rom 10:4 Oysa her iman edenin aklanması için Mesih, Kutsal Yasa'nın sonudur.
Let's unpack vs. 4:
  • Oysa -- thus to
  • her -- every
  • iman edenin -- one who is believing
  • aklanması için -- is accounted (on the basis of that faith)
  • Mesih -- Christ
  • Kutsal Yasa'nın -- of the Holy Law
  • sonudur -- the goal is.
As a hero of the faith in America, J. Gresham Machen, wrote early in the last century,
Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity—liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; liberalism appeals to man's will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Romans 9 -- gender issues

We attend a Methodist church on Easter Sunday morning, since my wife grew up in this community of faith. This church is placidly dying. Every year, the median age of the members increases, and young blood is not coming in to replace the bald pates and blue hairs[1] who are on their way to the church yard.[2]

They demonstrate what happens when a "people of the book" refuse to take their own book seriously. For several generations, the official ideology of the United Methodist Church has denigrated the Bible, embraced some alternate Ultimate Authority, and attempted to re-read and re-write the Bible in terms of those "truths" they consider to be truer than this book.[3] Thomas B. Altice, a professor at the Methodist Emory University, for example, got his 15 minutes of fame by reinterpreting Christianity in terms of Martin Heidegger's existentialism. The typical liberal theologian, you see, is a pathetic pantywaist, unable to generate new insights, but only to recycle the garbage that unbelieving philosophers proposed a generation earlier, and are already discarding. Theological liberalism refuses to admit the possibility that Christianity might actually have its own identity. Rather, these precious little pundits pronounce, Christianity is really something else in drag.[4]

Feminism seduces the would-be, with-it, experts of our day. Somehow, the glorious differences between male and female, that reflect something of eternal reality, are a horrible discrimination that must be eliminated. No organization is allowed to have a Chairman any more, only an emasculated Chair. Consider how this pathological hatred of manhood plays out in Psalm 100. As traditionally translated:
1Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
2Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
3Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
The latest Methodist hymnal would have the church members recite this psalm as follows:
3Know that the Sovereign One is God: it is God that has made us, and not we ourselves; we are God's people, and the sheep of God's pasture.
4Enter into God's gates with thanksgiving, and into God's courts with praise: be thankful unto God, and bless God's name.
5For the Sovereign One is good; God's mercy is everlasting; and God's truth endureth to all generations.
Those blasphemous and accursed innovators who lay foul and reckless hands upon God's Word find it offensive to apply masculine pronouns (he, his, him) to God. I once heard one such lunatic sweetly lisping the invented word godself to avoid besmirching his lips with the word himself, when speaking of his Maker.

I like the position C S Lewis took. The Creator is so intensely the Initiator and Source of all that the entire universe is feminine by contrast. Which brings us to some thoughts from today's reading in İncil:
Rom 9:14 Öyleyse ne diyelim? Tanrı adaletsizlik mi ediyor? Kesinlikle hayır!
Rom 9:15 Çünkü Musa'ya şöyle diyor: "Merhamet ettiğime merhamet edeceğim, Acıdığıma acıyacağım."
Rom 9:16 Demek ki bu, insanın isteğine ya da çabasına değil, Tanrı'nın merhametine bağlıdır.
Rom 9:17 Tanrı Kutsal Yazı'da firavuna şöyle diyor: "Gücümü senin aracılığınla göstermek Ve adımı bütün dünyada duyurmak için Seni yükselttim."
Rom 9:18 Demek ki Tanrı dilediğine merhamet eder, dilediğinin yüreğini nasırlaştırır.
Rom 9:19 Şimdi bana, "Öyleyse Tanrı insanı neden hâlâ suçlu buluyor? O'nun isteğine kim karşı durabilir?" diyeceksin.
Rom 9:20 Ama, ey insan, sen kimsin ki Tanrı'ya karşılık veriyorsun? "Kendisine biçim verilen, biçim verene, 'Beni niçin böyle yaptın' der mi?"
Rom 9:21 Ya da çömlekçinin aynı kil yığınından bir kabı onurlu iş için, ötekini bayağı iş için yapmaya hakkı yok mu?
Rom 9:22 Eğer Tanrı gazabını göstermek ve gücünü tanıtmak isterken, gazabına hedef olup mahvolmaya hazırlananlara büyük sabırla katlandıysa, ne diyelim?
Rom 9:23 Yüceltmek üzere önceden hazırlayıp merhamet ettiklerine yüceliğinin zenginliğini göstermek için bunu yaptıysa, ne diyelim?
Rom 9:24 Yalnız Yahudiler arasından değil, öteki uluslar arasından da çağırdığı bu insanlar biziz.
Let's look at a few words from verse 20, Ama, ey insan, sen kimsin ki Tanrı'ya karşılık veriyorsun?:
  • Ama, -- But
  • ey insan -- O man [5]
  • sen -- you
  • kimsin ki -- who might you be that
  • Tanrı'ya -- to God
  • karşılık -- back-talk, sass, disagreement
  • veriyorsun? -- should make?
And, let's look at a concept from vs. 21 (bir kabı onurlu), the vessel of honor / dishonor. Traditional kilns are temperamental tools. It takes a lot of painstaking care to ensure even heat distribution inside a wood- or coal-fired kiln. If you are firing a delicate, elaborate, piece of ceramic work, small fluctuations in temperature can cause the item to break. To protect the costly "vessel of honor," the potter would throw[6] a "vessel of dishonor" -- a larger, cruder, hastily-made pot -- and place it over the kabı onurlu. The two would go through the fire together, and the outer vessel would absorb thermal shocks. When the kiln was opened, the vessel of dishonor was a use-once throw-away item, for nasty or noxious substances.

God, for reasons of His own, makes some people His own -- but even the others serve His purposes.


[1] Older ladies often apply a treatment to their hair which gives the gray tint a faint shade of blue. The term "Blue Hairs" refers to aged women who are aware of their appearance.

[2] When you bike through rural areas in the USA, you will often see churches with graveyards adjoining them. The older tombstones will often bear names shared by streets and other landmarks in the area. The family name of the gloomy Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, means church yard / graveyard.

[3] If these people would have the decency to become Muslims, they would at least still believe in God, rather than hide their atheism in order to live on the funds provided by God-fearing Christians!

[4] Homosexual men who wish they were female are "in drag" when they dress up like women.

[5] The English word O is a "vocative" word, an exclamation designed to draw the attention of the party invoked. The English word Oh is a general-purpose exclamation of mild surprise or dismay.

[6] Potters don't make pots on the potter's wheel, they throw them.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Romans 8 -- a man wrapped up in himself ... [1]

The Baptist church was packed. The deceased, a cousin of my wife's, had been a member for many years. On the morning of the day he was supposed to appear in court, on charges of molesting children on church excursions, "Jim" called 911 to report a gunshot in his back yard.

What can a pastor say to a congregation, and to a family, on such an occasion? As Rev. Mooneyham stepped into the pulpit, the discerning eye could see that he was a good man, a kind man, a wise man, with something to say that was worth listening to. The preacher opened his Bible to Romans 8, and began a message of eternal life given to unworthy people -- like the deceased. Like you. Like me. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus... "

This kind of extravagant hope is one reason why many Christians number Romans 8 among their favorite chapters in the Bible.

As we saw in the last chapter, nobody, not even the best of us, can repose his hopes of eternal life in anything less than God. Yet, despair of ourselves does not equate to despair. I'd like to focus on one Turkish word that seems to provide a fresh perspective on the miracle of redemption.
Rom 8:1 Böylece Mesih İsa'ya ait olanlara artık hiçbir mahkûmiyet yoktur.
Rom 8:2 Çünkü yaşam veren Ruh'un yasası, Mesih İsa sayesinde beni günahın ve ölümün yasasından özgür kıldı.
Rom 8:3 İnsan benliğinden ötürü güçsüz olan Kutsal Yasa'nın yapamadığını Tanrı yaptı. Öz Oğlu'nu günahlı insan benzerliğinde günah sunusu olarak gönderip günahı insan benliğinde yargıladı.
Rom 8:4 Öyle ki, Yasa'nın gereği, benliğe göre değil, Ruh'a göre yaşayan bizlerde yerine gelsin.
Rom 8:5 Benliğe uyanlar benlikle ilgili, Ruh'a uyanlarsa Ruh'la ilgili işleri düşünürler.
Rom 8:6 Benliğe dayanan düşünce ölüm, Ruh'a dayanan düşünceyse yaşam ve esenliktir.
Rom 8:7 Çünkü benliğe dayanan düşünce Tanrı'ya düşmandır; Tanrı'nın Yasası'na boyun eğmez, eğemez de...
Rom 8:8 Benliğin denetiminde olanlar Tanrı'yı hoşnut edemezler.
Rom 8:9 Ne var ki, Tanrı'nın Ruhu içinizde yaşıyorsa, benliğin değil, Ruh'un denetimindesiniz. Ama içinde Mesih'in Ruhu olmayan kişi Mesih'in değildir.
There is one Greek word with noun and adjective forms σάρκα / σαρκὸς , that is translated by several different English words in the King James Version of the Bible: flesh, carnal. This does not mean the literal meat of our bodies, but is a metaphor for that which can be apprehended by the senses. The Turkish word used is benlik / benliğe/ benlikle / benliğinden. Let's look more closely at these various flavors.
  • ben -- I. ego. First person singular pronoun.
  • benlik -- That which pertains to ben. ego. conceit. self-respect. egotism. personality.
  • benliğe -- Direct object form of benlik.
  • benlikle -- Adverb form of benlik, describing the egotistic, conceited way in which something is done.
  • benliğinden -- Time-aware form of benlik, describing the time of the egotistic, conceited condition.
It is because we are not our own gods that we have hope. The Eternal One made known to us in and through İsa gives us a hope rooted in God's unlimited resources. Having an anchor in the eternal order gives us stability in time.

And salvation, the delight in God's purposes worked out through our lives, is a gift.


[1] makes a very small package.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Romans 7 -- helpful hopelessness

Pious Jews would never dream of naming a son Paul. They blame this cosmopolitan man, native of Anatolia, educated in Jerusalem, of inventing an imagined synthesis between Greek culture and Jewish tradition that became Christianity.

Well, Paul did write more than half of the books in the İncil. He did hob-nob with people who had known Jesus personally, and he attracted a retinue of writers and scholars, such as John Mark and Luke, whose careful research led to those biographies of Jesus we call the Gospels. Paul definitely led a life of high adventure, high achievement, and inspired powerful emotions. He had close friends on three continents, and inspired his enemies to paroxysms of insane rage.

But how did this mover and shaker, this thinker and doer, view himself? In this chapter, we get a glimpse at his inner life:
Rom 7:7 Öyleyse ne diyelim? Kutsal Yasa günah mı oldu? Kesinlikle hayır! Ama Yasa olmasaydı, günahın ne olduğunu bilemezdim. Yasa, "Göz dikmeyeceksin" demeseydi, başkasının malına göz dikmenin ne olduğunu bilemezdim.
Rom 7:8 Ne var ki günah, bu buyruğun verdiği fırsatla içimde her türlü açgözlülüğü üretti. Çünkü Kutsal Yasa olmadıkça günah ölüdür.
Rom 7:9, 10 Bir zamanlar, Yasa'nın bilincinde değilken diriydim. Ama buyruğun bilincine vardığımda günah dirildi, bense öldüm. Buyruk da bana yaşam getireceğine, ölüm getirdi.
Rom 7:11 Çünkü günah buyruğun verdiği fırsatla beni aldattı, buyruk aracılığıyla beni öldürdü.
Rom 7:12 İşte böyle, Yasa gerçekten kutsaldır. Buyruk da kutsal, doğru ve iyidir.
Rom 7:13 Öyleyse, iyi olan bana ölüm mü getirdi? Kesinlikle hayır! Ama günah, günah olarak tanınsın diye, iyi olanın aracılığıyla bana ölüm getiriyordu. Öyle ki, buyruk aracılığıyla günahın ne denli günahlı olduğu anlaşılsın.
Rom 7:14 Yasa'nın ruhsal olduğunu biliriz. Bense benliğin denetimindeyim, köle gibi günaha satılmışım.
Let's look at verses 12:
  • İşte böyle, -- therefore,
  • Yasa -- the Law
  • gerçekten -- really. truly. indeed. actually. in deed. sure enough. in the flesh. honestly. literally. positively. quite. simply. sincerely. verily.
  • kutsaldır. -- is holy.
  • Buyruk da -- The Commandment also
  • kutsal, -- holy,
  • doğru -- straight, correct, right
  • ve iyidir. -- and good it is.
God's law is straight. The more seriously I take it, the more aware I am of my own crookedness.

And this is good news? Sure is. You see, we were not designed to run under our own power. God's revelation can show us the good way to live -- but the power to live well[1] can only come from God Himself. If we engage in putperest (idolatry, paganism), trusting upon something other than God for our core source of identity and energy, life gets very frustrating very quickly. We can't grab a chunk of something wonderful, something God Himself gave us, and use it as a substitute for Him. Not even the Divine Law can replace the Divine Creator!


[1] In English, good is an adjective, applying to nouns, words that describe a person, place or thing. Well is an adverb, applying to verbs, to action words. In Turkish, the modifier iyi can be used both ways.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Romans 6 -- thoughts on sewage

People who commit suicide tend to have a strange way of viewing time. They drive through life with their eyes glued to the rear-view mirror. Time after time, their thoughts loop back to depressing moments, bad decisions, horrible experiences, or, perhaps, opportunities missed. The ideal possible spouse, job, or scholarship that got away. [1]

Ever have a nightmare where you are snorkeling in transparent sewage?

Time is designed to move in one direction. In God's eternal plan, the future precedes the past and flows through the present to become the past. When time seems to "back up" on you, it's distressing. And smelly. However, how do we come to terms with the past, in such a way that its power over us is broken?

Well, here the Christian message offers a unique, one-of-a-kind opportunity. We can pretend that those bad things we experienced and did were experienced, and one by, someone else. Someone who's dead, now, so that we can live.

Paul rejoices in the continuous stream of God's goodness that flows into our lives. Some of His blessings are cleverly disguised as trials, but since He is good, these events are all for our good. However, all of us face the temptation to go back into the past, and ruminate[2] over stuff beyond our power to change. Here, the "it's dead, forget it" part of the gospel message comes into play:
Rom 6:1 Öyleyse ne diyelim? Lütuf çoğalsın diye günah işlemeye devam mı edelim?
Rom 6:2 Kesinlikle hayır! Günah karşısında ölmüş olan bizler artık nasıl günah içinde yaşarız?
Rom 6:3 Mesih İsa'ya vaftiz edildiğimizde, hepimizin O'nun ölümüne vaftiz edildiğimizi bilmez misiniz?
Rom 6:4 Baba'nın yüceliği sayesinde Mesih nasıl ölümden dirildiyse, biz de yeni bir yaşam sürmek üzere vaftiz yoluyla O'nunla birlikte ölüme gömüldük.
Rom 6:5 Eğer O'nunkine benzer bir ölümde O'nunla birleştiysek, O'nunkine benzer bir dirilişte de O'nunla birleşeceğiz.
Rom 6:6 Artık günaha kölelik etmeyelim diye, günahlı varlığımızın ortadan kaldırılması için eski yaradılışımızın Mesih'le birlikte çarmıha gerildiğini biliriz.
Rom 6:7 Çünkü ölmüş kişi günahtan özgür kılınmıştır.
Rom 6:8 Mesih'le birlikte ölmüşsek, O'nunla birlikte yaşayacağımıza da inanıyoruz.
Rom 6:9 Çünkü Mesih'in ölümden dirilmiş olduğunu ve bir daha ölmeyeceğini, ölümün artık O'nun üzerinde egemenlik sürmeyeceğini biliyoruz.
Rom 6:10 O'nun ölümü günaha karşılık ilk ve son ölüm olmuştur. Sürmekte olduğu yaşamı ise Tanrı için sürmektedir.
Rom 6:11 Siz de böylece kendinizi günah karşısında ölü, Mesih İsa'da Tanrı karşısında diri sayın.
Let's look at one sentence here:[3]
Mesih İsa'ya vaftiz edildiğimizde, hepimizin O'nun ölümüne vaftiz edildiğimizi bilmez misiniz?
  • Mesih İsa'ya -- of Jesus Christ
  • vaftiz edildiğimizde -- we who have been baptized into
  • hepimizin -- all of us
  • Onun ölümüne -- His death
  • vaftiz edildiğimizi -- we have been baptized
  • bilmez misiniz? -- do you not know?
Now that our past is truly, indeed, and irrevocably past (of course, despite our obsessive thinking, that's always been true!)[4] we can biz de yeni bir yaşam sürmek -- a new life conduct.

In one of his plays, Eugene K. O'Neill wrote, "In Ireland, there is not present or future; only the past, endlessly repeating itself." God has better things in mind for His people.


[1] This was the idea driving the movie The Big Chill. The only guy who tried to live out the values of that era was destroyed thereby.

[2] This verb refers to the digestive cycle of halel cattle -- sheep, goats, deer, cows. Since these beasts subsist on high-cellulose grasses, they have multiple stomachs. After preliminary processing in the first stomach, the ruminant vomits up the food, re-chews it, and swallows. After a sufficient number of cycles, the food goes on to the next stomach. You'll notice a characteristic, rather pleasant, odor in stables housing ruminating cattle.

[3] I assume that American readers have Bibles close at hand, and Turkish friends need a little more explanation.

[4] The American novel and movie The Great Gatsby is a tragedy concerning a protagonist who attempted to re-invent the past.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rom. 5 -- access

A parable comes to mind. I showed up late for an organized bike ride one July 4th. Unloaded my bike, and discovered that I had a flat tire. Purchased and installed a new inner tube, and took off, on my own, 45 minutes after the rest of the happy cyclists. An hour after that, I pulled into the first rest stop -- and all the snacks were gone. "Well," says I to myself, says I, "today is a good day for being a Calvinist!" An understanding of God's sovereignty comforts those who believe in God, and assures them that every trial has its purpose. The universe may not be structured for our comfort, but it is filled with meaning.

This perspective has real-world, and even political, implications.

Although America is reputed to be a Christian nation, filled with Christian people, in reality a different faith covertly hijacked our national existence a century ago. This other religion, which "captured the robes," the judiciary, academia, and churches, is called by some "liberalism," by others "modernism," and more recently "secular humanism." J. Gresham Machen was an early alarmist about this tendency. The church he belonged to had been infiltrated by perjured cynics who did not believe their own ordination vows, but did believe that they could use the religious words and institutions of Christianity as a vehicle for advancing their own agendas.

ANYHOW, Machen had this to say about the contrasts between the faith he forthrightly embraced, and the religion of those who were corrupting his church:
Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity—liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; liberalism appeals to man's will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God.
Liberalism is characterized by a grim moralizing, a determination to remake the world for the convenience of the remakers, no matter how much of Europe's young manhood dies in the barb wired trenches, no matter how many millions of Iraqi children starve to death. Liberalism is a messianic hope, that permits the liberals to pretend to the role of messiahs.

The cure begins with awareness: "The emperor has no clothes!" Our would-be saviors are blindly dismantling all that is sweet, noble, wholesome, and good in life. Everything they try to fix, they break. Are they really that stupid? Or just the pawns, the "useful idiots," of malign secret powers? Gotta be careful, here. It's too easy to camp out in this negative mode for decades on end! Some folks study "conspiracy theories" in an attempt to fix the blame for their failures on something other than themselves.

You can't fight something with nothing. Ultimately, the only way to fight a corrupt faith is with a better faith. Let's look at the way Paul expresses this perspective:
Rom 5:1 Böylece imanla aklandığımıza göre, Rabbimiz İsa Mesih sayesinde Tanrı'yla barışmış oluyoruz.
Rom 5:2 İçinde bulunduğumuz bu lütfa Mesih aracılığıyla, imanla kavuştuk ve Tanrı'nın yüceliğine erişmek umuduyla övünüyoruz.
Rom 5:3,4 Yalnız bununla değil, sıkıntılarla da övünüyoruz. Çünkü biliyoruz ki, sıkıntı dayanma gücünü, dayanma gücü Tanrı'nın beğenisini, Tanrı'nın beğenisi de umudu yaratır.
Rom 5:5 Umut düş kırıklığına uğratmaz. Çünkü bize verilen Kutsal Ruh aracılığıyla Tanrı'nın sevgisi yüreklerimize dökülmüştür.
Even our trials make our lives better, by making us better -- as we trust in the One who calibrates each test, each decision point, of our lives.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Romans 4 -- the personal universe

I'm reading a rather strange novel now, The Dream of Perpetual Motion. Like the classic anime movie Laputa: The Flying Island, this book fits into the "steam punk" genre. Put yourself in the mindset of a Roaring Twenties lad, when amazing new devices created everyday miracles. Suppose progress really had progressed as anticipated -- what kind of new mechanical marvels could have emerged to environ us?

There are people who view the universe as a vast, impersonal mechanism. A favorite sage of mine, G. K. Chesterton, had this to say about them in his masterpiece Orthodoxy:
Take first the more obvious case of materialism. As an explanation of the world, materialism has a sort of insane simplicity. It has just the quality of the madman's argument; we have at once the sense of it covering everything and the sense of it leaving everything out. Contemplate some able and sincere materialist, as, for instance, Mr. McCabe, and you will have exactly this unique sensation. He understands everything, and everything does not seem worth understanding. His cosmos may be complete in every rivet and cog-wheel, but still his cosmos is smaller than our world. Somehow his scheme, like the lucid scheme
of the madman, seems unconscious of the alien energies and the large indifference of the earth; it is not thinking of the real things of the earth, of fighting peoples or proud mothers, or first love or fear upon the sea. The earth is so very large, and the cosmos is so very small. The cosmos is about the smallest hole that a man can hide his head in.
So what is the appeal of the mechanistic universe? Predictability. Push this button, pull that lever, get the expected result. This is also the attraction of the magical world view -- the notion that everything is within the reach of our will. Perform the correct ritual, say the right words in the right order, and invisible forces will trot up and meekly do your bidding. As some would assert, we should exercise, rather than exorcise, the demons around us. But what says the man of faith? Let's look at a few sentences from Chapter 4 of Paul's letter to the Romans:
Rom 4:13 Çünkü İbrahim'e ve soyuna dünyanın mirasçısı olma vaadi Kutsal Yasa yoluyla değil, imandan gelen aklanma yoluyla verildi.
Rom 4:14 Eğer Yasa'ya bağlı olanlar mirasçı olursa, iman boş ve vaat geçersizdir.
Rom 4:15 Yasa, Tanrı'nın gazabına yol açar. Ama yasanın olmadığı yerde yasaya karşı gelmek de söz konusu değildir.
Rom 4:16 Bu nedenle vaat, Tanrı'nın lütfuna dayanmak ve İbrahim'in bütün soyu için güvence altına alınmak üzere imana bağlı kılınmıştır.
If we can, by our rituals, compel God to make things happen, then we are His masters -- a pleasing idea, but dangerous to one's sanity! In a mechanistic universe, we might be in control -- but there is no room for delight. For surprises. For things beyond our wildest imaginations to happen.

It's time to go back to bed, and rest up for the delights and surprises a loving God has planned for me tomorrow.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Romans 3 -- escape clause / Santa Claus

"The man who pleads his own case at law has a knave for a lawyer, and a fool for a client." So goes the old proverb. It's a strange thing about us humans -- we can reorganize the world with in our own imaginations so easily -- but making ourselves do the things that need to be done can be a major project.

"Know the right and do the right, and you'll be all right." Sounds good in theory. "Looks good on paper," to quote another proverb. In practice, however, the gap between "knowing" and "doing" can be a real problem.
To be above, with saints we love,
now THAT will be the glory,
But here below, with saints we know,
now THAT'S another story!
I'm a technical writer, with a great deal of faith in written directions. I write them for a living, and do it well. It's fun to tell people what to do, to write in the 2nd person imperative. This optimism lasts until I start ordering myself around -- and soon bump into the limits of the doable. This is an issue Paul will discuss over and over again in this letter to the Christians in Rome. And, over and over again, he will celebrate the escape clause, the solution to this quandary:
Rom 3:20 Bu nedenle Yasa'nın gereklerini yapmakla hiç kimse Tanrı katında aklanmayacaktır. Çünkü Yasa sayesinde günahın bilincine varılır.
Rom 3:21 Ama şimdi Yasa'dan bağımsız olarak Tanrı'nın insanı nasıl aklayacağı açıklandı. Yasa ve peygamberler buna tanıklık ediyor.
Rom 3:22 Tanrı insanları İsa Mesih'e olan imanlarıyla aklar. Bunu, iman eden herkes için yapar. Hiç ayrım yoktur.
Rom 3:23 Çünkü herkes günah işledi ve Tanrı'nın yüceliğinden yoksun kaldı.
Rom 3:24 İnsanlar İsa Mesih'te olan kurtuluşla, Tanrı'nın lütfuyla, karşılıksız olarak aklanırlar.
Rom 3:25,26 Tanrı Mesih'i, kanıyla günahları bağışlatan ve imanla benimsenen kurban olarak sundu. Böylece adaletini gösterdi. Çünkü sabredip daha önce işlenmiş günahları cezasız bıraktı. Bunu, adil kalmak ve İsa'ya iman edeni aklamak için şimdiki zamanda kendi adaletini göstermek amacıyla yaptı.
Let's look at a few key phrases:

Çünkü Yasa sayesinde günahın bilincine varılır.
Because / the Law / by means of / of sin / the knowledge / there is. God's law gives us a beautiful picture of righteous living, for ourselves, our families, our civic lives together. But is that enough? A Steve Martin joke comes to mind, his easy recipe for becoming a millionaire: "First, get a million dollars."

Çünkü herkes günah işledi ve Tanrı'nın yüceliğinden yoksun kaldı. Because / everyone / sin / does / and / of God / his glory / nothing / attains. So what's new? People in Christian circles wrestle with guilt, with the sense of shame because of the ways we offend God and do harm to one another. In Islam, the issue is cleanliness. Before prayer, you need to wash yourself carefully. One can be rendered unclean by certain foods, or by violating any of many prohibitions.

Read on, though, to savor the escape clause, the "Santa Clause." That which we cannot do for ourselves, God is willing to do for us, and has already done for us, through the life and work of Jesus the Messiah, His "graphic user interface" with the created order. A sacrificed Prophet achieves something that no quantity of animal sacrifices could manage. We have a gift, we can receive it by faith ...

and then, we can "follow the directions." Not to earn God's favor, but because God has favored us.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Romans 2 -- those who should know better

An issue that bedevils American Christians is -- the "unchurched." These are the people who have no formal relationship with a religious tradition, who do not attend worship services, who do not "belong." We tend to take statistics seriously in this country, and a number of surveys have studied the question of who the unchurched are, and how they got to be that way.

A disturbingly high percentage of those alienated people used to be ours.

The most common reason given for walking away from Omelas[1] is a discrepancy between the actions of professing Christians, and what their faith claims lead us to expect. Quite often, a person of authority once abused the trust of the dropout. Pedophiles among the Catholic clergy, for example, have done great harm to the reputation of that communion.[2]

This is not a new problem. The Christian community in Rome included people from Jewish and pagan families. The Jews took pride in their "chosen" status before God, but did not always live up to their superior claims:
Rom 2:17 Ya sen? Kendine Yahudi diyor, Kutsal Yasa'ya dayanıp Tanrı'yla övünüyorsun.
Rom 2:18 Tanrı'nın isteğini biliyorsun. En üstün değerleri ayırt etmeyi Yasa'dan öğrenmişsin.
Rom 2:19, 20 Kutsal Yasa'da bilginin ve gerçeğin özüne kavuşmuş olarak körlerin kılavuzu, karanlıkta kalanların ışığı, akılsızların eğiticisi, çocukların öğretmeni olduğuna inanmışsın.
Rom 2:21 Öyleyse başkasına öğretirken, kendine de öğretmez misin? Çalmamayı öğütlerken, çalar mısın?
Rom 2:22 "Zina etmeyin" derken, zina eder misin? Putlardan tiksinirken, tapınakları yağmalar mısın?
Rom 2:23 Kutsal Yasa'yla övünürken, Yasa'ya karşı gelerek Tanrı'yı aşağılar mısın?
Rom 2:24 Nitekim şöyle yazılmıştır: "Sizin yüzünüzden uluslar arasında Tanrı'nın adına küfrediliyor."
Let's look at the first and last sentences in this extract:

Ya sen? Kendine Yahudi diyor, Kutsal Yasa'ya dayanıp, Tanrı'yla övünüyorsun.
And you? Yourself a Jew you call, Holy Law you rely upon, in God you boast.

Nitekim şöyle yazılmıştır: "Sizin yüzünüzden uluslar arasında Tanrı'nın adına küfrediliyor."
Nonetheless thus it is written: "You because of the nations surrounding God's name revile."

That's an interesting construction, BTW. Sizin = your and yüzünüzden = from your face. yüz (face) + ünüz (2nd person plural possessive) + den (the "from" ending. In this case, indicates the source of the topic of discussion)

It's the behavior of those who should know better that disgraces the truth they claim to revere. May God grant us the grace to claim less for ourselves, and to live more consistently with what we do know.

[1] Those Who Walk Away from Omelas is a disturbing, unforgettable short story by fantasy novelist Ursula K. LeGuin, a native of Salem, Oregon (spell Salem O. backwards ...). The theme is an idyllic, Utopian, community -- and those who reject it, and why.

[2] The first Australian to be formally recognized by the Catholic church as a "saint" was, as Al Jazeera reports, Mary MacKillop, a 19th-century nun, whose religious order exposed a paedophile priest. The "old boys club" protected its own, and this courageous woman of faith was excommunicated for a while. When the local bishop was on his deathbed, and ready to face the Judge of all, he reversed that decree.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Romans 1 -- an urban strategy

Cities are place where people go to get away from the obligations of faith and family. It's easier to find anonymity and scope for debauchery in the teeming masses of an urban center. Wealth also tends to flow towards the cities, as do poor people wanting a chunk of that wealth. The people with the wealth keep the poor people at arm's length by tossing them bribes -- panem et cicusem -- bread and circuses. As the last part of this first chapter vividly describes, urban populations experience in compressed and accelerated form the spiral of decadence. You start by ignoring your Creator, and the duties of gratitude towards Him. Once God is hustled off the stage, you fill the vacuum with miscellaneous idols. Having thus blinded oneself to ultimate realities, the degenerate person loses the character and faithfulness you need to maintain human intimate relationships -- with parents, with spouse.[1] The final step is homosexuality -- the words of Lola, a song by The Kinks, come to mind:
Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
It's a mixed up muddled up shook up world except for Lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo Lola
You start by ignoring the differences between sacred and profane, between holy and perverted. You end up denying the glorious differences between male and female.

But what did Paul see? A center of influence. A place to take the Gospel, if you wanted to move a province. Time after time, he and his companions headed for provincial capitals. Now, he has his sights set[2] on the capital of the known world, Rome.
Rom 1:14 Grekler'e ve Grek olmayanlara, bilgelere ve bilgisizlere karşı sorumluluğum var.
Rom 1:15 Bu nedenle Roma'da bulunan sizlere de Müjde'yi elimden geldiğince bildirmek için sabırsızlanıyorum.
Paul has news too good to keep to himself, glad tidings to share with every division of humanity, a blessing that transcends these divisions -- between civilized and barbarian (Grekler'e ve Grek olmayanlara), between learned and unschooled (bilgelere ve bilgisizlere).


[1] Sometimes, the process works the other way. As one of Charles Darwin's early defenders frankly admitted, the advocates of the evolutionary worldview had reasons for resenting a meaningful universe. A world with room for God would limit their sexual freedom.

[2] The word sights in this context refers to gun sights, used for aiming at a target. Many American idioms, such as "Lock, stock, and barrel," refer to firearms.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Acts 28 -- friendly barbarians and a man of peace

It's easy to define out own kind of people as "the civilized," and others as "the savages." The national languages of modern Europe were developed in the course of forging national identities out of myriad smaller components. A dominant tribe, such as the Tuscans of Italy, would enforce their language as the default standard Italian. As France consolidated, for example, L'Académie française took custody of the language, and worked to suppress les patois, the regional dialects.

In the world of Luke and Paul, civilized people spoke Greek, Latin, or both. Those who were not fluent in one or both of these official languages were, by definition, barbarians (in Greek, οἱ βάρβαροι). This chapter begins with a commendation of kindly barbarians, islanders who came out to help these soaked refugees from the wrecked ship:
Act 28:2 Yerliler bize olağanüstü bir yakınlık gösterdiler.
The local people (yerliler = yer, place + li, characterized by, + ler, plural) to us (bize = biz, us + e, direct object) extraordinary (olağanüstü = olağan, usual. regular. ordinary. normal. common. everyday. commonplace. mediocre. mundane. run-off-the-mill + üstü, above and beyond the ... ) kindness (yakınlık = yakın, closeness, + lık, characterizing) they showed (gösterdiler).

When Jesus gave his disciples directions on carrying the Good News of the Great King to new places, he instructed them to seek out a prominent local citizen, a "man of peace." Work a miracle or two, such as healing the sick. And then, talk about the God who makes all of this possible. Paul soon found himself as a guest of the island's "man of peace," Publius, a landowner and perhaps the governor of the island.
Act 28:7 Bulunduğumuz yerin yakınında adanın baş yetkilisi olan Publius adlı birinin toprakları vardı. Bu adam bizi evine kabul ederek üç gün dostça ağırladı.
Act 28:8 O sırada Publius'un babası kanlı ishale yakalanmış ateşler içinde yatıyordu. Hastanın yanına giren Pavlus dua etti, ellerini üzerine koyup onu iyileştirdi.
Act 28:9 Bu olay üzerine adadaki öbür hastalar da gelip iyileştirildiler.
Act 28:10 Bizi bir sürü armağanla onurlandırdılar; denize açılacağımız zaman gereksindiğimiz malzemeleri gemiye yüklediler.
Paul healed his sick father, then preached, then healed some more sick local people. By the time the three month enforced stay was over, the gospel had taken deep root in Melita, present-day Malta.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Acts 27 -- a man on a mission

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was one of the more colorful figures of the American War Between the States. A pious Presbyterian, he taught a Sunday School for local slaves before the war, affectionately calling them his "colored militia."[0] He was a beloved teacher at Virginia Military Academy, and a demanding leader of his "foot cavalry." Mary Johnston's novel The Long Roll[1] accurately depicts the miseries of the new recruits as they learned to cover incredible distances by forced marches. Jackson defeated armies of aggressors that outnumbered his by several multiples in his beloved Shenandoah Valley by finding, and defeating, one weak spot after another.

General Jackson was a Calvinist, who asserted that this conviction made him a good soldier. Until God's assignment for his life was complete, Jackson said, he was as safe on the battlefield as he was in his own bed.[2]

We see something of this same confident security in today's reading from Acts 27. Paul is on his way to Rome by sea. A violent and prolonged typhoon[3] buffeted the ship, and after nearly two weeks of fighting the elements, people gave themselves up for lost. At this point, Paul has another of his periodic visions, and shares it with his shipmates:
Act 27:22 Şimdi size öğüdüm şu: Cesur olun! Gemi mahvolacak, ama aranızda hiçbir can kaybı olmayacak.
Act 27:23, 24 Çünkü kendisine ait olduğum, kendisine kulluk ettiğim Tanrı'nın bir meleği bu gece yanıma gelip dedi ki, 'Korkma Pavlus, Sezar'ın önüne çıkman gerekiyor. Dahası Tanrı, seninle birlikte yolculuk edenlerin hepsini sana bağışlamıştır.'
Act 27:25 Bunun için efendiler, cesur olun! Tanrı'ya inanıyorum ki, her şey tıpkı bana bildirildiği gibi olacak.
Cesur olun! (Courageous be!) Tanrı'nın bir meleği (Of God an angel) bu gece yanıma (this night by my side)
gelip dedi ki, (came and said) 'Korkma Pavlus, Sezar'ın önüne çıkman gerekiyor. (fear not Paul, Caesar in front of to go it is necessary.) Dahası Tanrı, seninle birlikte yolculuk edenlerin hepsini sana bağışlamıştır.' (What's more, God, those with you together travelers who are all to you will be spared.)

Paul had a task to achieve, a divine assignment to carry out. The protection God gave him on this errand spilled over to shelter those who were traveling with him.

A word of encouragement to an unemployed scholar, seeking to find a job, finish a dissertation, and prosper in an uncertain economy!


[0] After the war, a Second Presbyterian Church, comprised of people of color, took up a collection for a costly stained glass window. The theme? Stonewall Jackson kneeling in prayer.

[1] Mary was the niece of the General Johnston who negotiated the surrender of more than 90,000 southern patriots at Bennett Springs, in Durham North Carolina, several weeks after General Robert E. Lee's more famous surrender at Appomattox. Mary grew up steeped in the tales of valor, hardship, and chaos from that era. It is profoundly disturbing to read realistic battle scenes, set in familiar bucolic landscapes. Since "the winners write the history books," discriminating readers are well advised to read Mary Johnston's account for "the rest of the story."

[2] In fact, he did not die in battle, but was shot by his own sentries when returning from a scouting expedition. "Let us cross over the river, and rest beneath the trees," he said as he died several days later.

[3] Yep, typhoon. That's literally the word used here: τυφωνικὸς .

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Acts 26 -- a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down ...

Robert A. Heinlein was an influential writer of a half-century ago. He turned his back upon the God of his Baptist family at the age of 13, upon discovering Charles Darwin's alternate reality. The character and discipline of the faith he was raised in continued to influence his thinking and writing until the late 1960s, when the restrained perversion and narcissism were finally unleashed.[1] When he wanted to lecture his readers on the libertarian politics of his current wife,[2] he wrote The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. One of the central characters is full of wise aphorisms. When Heinlein wished to expound at length, he put this character in a classroom, giving a lecture.

Someone has argued that the twin books of Luke's Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles comprise a single legal brief, prepared for Paul's trial at Rome. Much of Acts consists of narrative, anecdotes strung together in a carefully chronological order. From time to time, however, Luke inserts a major sermon. This chapter is almost completely taken up with one of those addresses. The stage is set -- visiting dignitaries want to hear this famed and eloquent prisoner. He stands up and delivers his presentation, complete with a challenge to the hearers then, and the readers now:
Act 26:22 Ama bugüne dek Tanrı yardımcım oldu. Bu sayede burada duruyor, büyük küçük herkese tanıklık ediyorum. Benim söylediklerim, peygamberlerin ve Musa'nın önceden haber verdiği olaylardan başka bir şey değildir.
Act 26:23 Onlar, Mesih'in acı çekeceğini ve ölümden dirilenlerin ilki olarak gerek kendi halkına, gerek öteki uluslara ışığın doğuşunu ilan edeceğini bildirmişlerdi."
Act 26:24 Pavlus bu şekilde savunmasını sürdürürken Festus yüksek sesle, "Pavlus, çıldırmışsın sen! Çok okumak seni delirtiyor!" dedi.
Act 26:25 Pavlus, "Sayın Festus" dedi, "Ben çıldırmış değilim. Gerçek ve akla uygun sözler söylüyorum.
Act 26:26 Kral bu konularda bilgili olduğu için kendisiyle çekinmeden konuşuyorum. Bu olaylardan hiçbirinin onun dikkatinden kaçmadığı kanısındayım. Çünkü bunlar ücra bir köşede yapılmış işler değildir.
Act 26:27 Kral Agrippa, sen peygamberlerin sözlerine inanıyor musun? İnandığını biliyorum."
Act 26:28 Agrippa Pavlus'a şöyle dedi: "Bu kadar kısa bir sürede beni ikna edip Mesihçi mi yapacaksın?"
Act 26:29 "İster kısa ister uzun sürede olsun" dedi Pavlus, "Tanrı'dan dilerim ki yalnız sen değil, bugün beni dinleyen herkes, bu zincirler dışında benim gibi olsun!"
Festus, the Roman governor exclaims, "Paul, you're crazy! Too much knowledge has driven you mad!" Paul replies, "Sayın Festus, Ben çıldırmış değilim. Gerçek ve akla uygun sözler söylüyorum. "O noble Festus, I mad am not. True and / conceivable. palatable. reasonable. sensible. (akla uygun) / words I speak."

Paul then turns his attention to the visiting minor king: Kral Agrippa, sen peygamberlerin sözlerine inanıyor musun? King Agrippa, you / of the prophets / the words / believe / do you not?

These events did not, as Paul explained, happen "in a corner." Or, as the Greek has it, ἐν γωνίᾳ: in a corner.[3] The resurrection of Jesus was something everyone in Israel knew about. Most of them tried hard not to think about it. They were a lot like Agrippa. A lot like us.[4]


[1] If that sentence were an equation, or perhaps SQL statement, it would have at least three parenthetical expressions: (character + discipline ) ... (thinking + writing ) ... (perversion + narcissism ). In English, we find it easy and natural to use coordinating conjunctions. Lots of and statements. Other languages, such as Greek, prefer to array phrases in elegant hierarchical structures, using subordinating conjunctions.

[2] It was Isaac Asimov who said that Heinlein's politics depended on who he was married to at the moment.

[3] A triangle has three gonia. A dia-gonal line runs through opposite gonia.

[4] If there was a single button in the universe that fallen man could press to shut out the knowledge of God, that is is the one button he would press continuously. So wrote Cornelius Van Til, a grimly realistic American thinker.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Acts 25 -- without a clue

OK, if you have to explain a joke, it probably isn't very funny -- but at the risk of puzzling my myriad fans, I'm going to start today's essay with a comic SQL[1] dialogue.

SELECT * FROM users WHERE clue > 0;

0 rows returned

How many users have a clue about what's going on? Zero.

Felix kept Paul incarcerated for two years hoping for a bribe. He was a political prisoner, whose captivity served the career goals of a corrupt local politician. When Festus came into office, he tried to please both Jewish prejudice and Roman legalism. As a Roman jurist, he recognized that there was no legal reason for holding Paul captive. So why not give him a Roman show trial -- but have it in Jerusalem, where the restless natives could show and demonstrate to their hearts' content outside the courtroom? Festus, however, did not understand the insane hatred of these restive natives. A Paul sent to Jerusalem would be a Paul sent to his death -- and Paul's reaction was a polite, but firm, "No way Jose!" As a Roman citizen, he appeals to Caesar. And Festus is at a loss. He asks another bureaucrat for advice, someone who is more familiar with Jewish culture. After all, how can I send someone to Caesar's court without an accusation against him?
Act 25:27 Bir tutukluyu İmparator'a gönderirken, kendisine yöneltilen suçlamaları belirtmemek bence anlamsız."
Let's just look at one word (anlamsız), and its variations:
  • anlam -- meaning. sense. point. explanation. acceptation. construction. content. denotation. effect. hang. import. inference. purport. purview. significance. significancy. signification. sound. strain. tenor.
  • anlama -- understanding. knowledge. comprehension. apprehension. appreciation. drift. fathom. grasp. grip. insight. intelligence. prehension. realization. sense. uptake.
  • anlamak -- understand. comprehend. figure out. get a grip. get a grip on. be knowledgeable about. see. get. feel. absorb. accept. appreciate. apprehend. ascertain. catch. catch on. click. compass. conceive. cotton on to. dawn on. deduce. dig. discern. discover.
  • anlamsız -- devoid of all of the above. Without a clue.

[1] SQL = Structured Query Language, a simplified way of talking to a database.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Acts 24 -- a little word play

I use several translations of the İncil. For my first four trips through, I used a loose-leaf version painstakingly downloaded from the web and reformatted, one chapter at a time. I had a special place to sit while I read it, with a footstool, so I could lean back in my chair with the three-ring binder on my lap. A bookshelf with several dictionaries was at my elbow. My library now includes several professionally-printed "real book" versions, which are convenient for taking out on to the front porch and reading while my wife works on a crossword puzzle.

The version I rely upon most heavily, however, is provided free by the marvelous web site http://e-sword.net. One mouse click, and I can read a selected chapter on screen in Turkish, Italian, French, English, or Greek. And, I can copy passages from this electronic version, and paste them in this blog. Such as the following extract:
Act 24:1 Bundan beş gün sonra Başkâhin Hananya, bazı ileri gelenler ve Tertullus adlı bir hatip Sezariye'ye gelip Pavlus'la ilgili şikâyetlerini valiye ilettiler.
Act 24:2, 3 Pavlus çağrılınca Tertullus suçlamalarına başladı. "Ey erdemli Feliks!" dedi. "Senin sayende uzun süredir esenlik içinde yaşamaktayız. Aldığın önlemlerle de bu ulusun yararına olumlu gelişmeler kaydedilmiştir. Yaptıklarını, her zaman ve her yerde büyük bir şükranla anıyoruz.
Act 24:4 Seni fazla yormak istemiyorum; söyleyeceğimiz birkaç sözü hoşgörüyle dinlemeni rica ediyorum.
As Matthew Henry pointed out (yes, e-sword also lets you download and use the complete Bible commentaries from this great scholar), the chief priest Hananya sat as Paul's judge in the previous chapter, and ordered him to be beaten in a court of law. Now, this same "judge" shows up as prosecutor. The trial was rigged, and the verdict given, before Paul even opened his mouth. Paul escaped with his life only by provoking a riot among those who had convened to hear his case.

Today's reading, at least in the on-the-porch translation, provided several opportunities to look at two charming Turkish suffixes:
  • -ca, -ce, -ça, -çe (this is one suffix, in its four possible flavors.)
  • -cı, -ci, -çı, -çi, -cu, -cü, -çu, -çü (this is the other suffix)
As I just learned last week, Turkish has a suffix you tack on to the end of a nationality in order to denote the language spoken by members of that nationality. If you are a Türk, you speak Türkçe. If you are İngiliz, you speak İngilizce. Alman, Almanca. Rus, Rusça.

Or, in today's reading, to speak briefly, you speak kısaca. I was disappointed to see that my e-sword version did not employ that exquisite little word, but had the orator speaking of his desire not to fazla yormak (make excessive) his presentation.

The second suffix given above is the "agent ending." Tack it into the end of a noun, and you have the practitioner associated with the noun. A guy who catches fish (balık) is, obviously, a balıkçı. Or, in the passage above, the hatip ( orator. public speaker. a good speaker. preacher. elocutionist. public orator.) could also be, in the other translation, a man of words: sözcü.

Learning a foreign language is like going on a treasure hunt. You never know when you'll encounter a fresh and fascinating way of packaging a thought.

Acts 23 -- mob psychology

Jesus said, "The time will come when those who kill you will think they are doing God a service." This chapter includes a cameo appearance from the Lord Jesus Christ, and an example of insane fanaticism:
Act 23:11 O gece Rab Pavlus'a görünüp, "Cesur ol" dedi, "Yeruşalim'de benimle ilgili nasıl tanıklık ettinse, Roma'da da öyle tanıklık etmen gerekir."
Act 23:12 Ertesi sabah Yahudiler aralarında gizli bir anlaşma yaptılar. "Pavlus'u öldürmeden bir şey yiyip içersek, bize lanet olsun!" diye ant içtiler.
Act 23:13 Bu anlaşmaya katılanların sayısı kırkı aşıyordu.
Act 23:14 Bunlar başkâhinlerle ileri gelenlerin yanına gidip şöyle dediler: "Biz, 'Pavlus'u öldürmeden ağzımıza bir şey koyarsak, bize lanet olsun!' diye ant içtik.
A few key words:
  • O gece -- That night
  • "Cesur ol" -- Brave, courageous / be (imperative)
  • bir şey -- any thing
  • yiyip içersek -- eat or drink if we
  • bize lanet olsun! -- upon us / a curse / be!
  • ant -- covenant
There's an old cliche: to estimate the intelligence of a mob, divide the average I.Q. by the number of members. Can you see a solitary person talking himself into this extreme commitment? Evidently, something about Paul's message threatened them on a very deep level. Imagine investing your whole life in building, adorning, and defending the scaffolding around a magnificent building. Then along comes this guy who says, "OK, this construction project is over. The scaffolding can come down." The Jewish culture, which Paul simply refused to view as normative, as essential, defined the lives of these maddened plotters. Even as the Jesus who called Paul on the road to Damascus, and encouraged him by night here, defined his life.

Quite often, when people around the world resist the Good News that a great King reigns, what they are resisting is the American culture that defines the lives even of Christian people in this country: a culture characterized by hedonism, easy tolerance of immorality, and a glib superficiality before ultimate mysteries. Even "family-values" Christians are mostly silent on the issue of divorce, for example.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Acts 22 -- and talking dogs

A Jewish guy from the United States became a devotee of Japanese martial arts. He moved to Japan, and learned to speak their language with native fluency. He had no problems communicating with people on the phone, but had to repeat himself when meeting people in person. "It's like listening to a talking dog," he explained. "You are too surprised by the fact that the dog can talk to understand at first what it is saying!"

Here's an old joke that my Turkish friends appreciate:
  • If someone who speaks three or more languages is poly-lingual, and
  • If someone who speaks two languages is bilingual,
  • What do you call someone who speaks one language?
  • American
At the top of the steps leading into the Roman garrison fortress, Paul, a Greek-speaking native of Anatolia, begins to speak to the mob that had just been trying to tear him to pieces. And, they listen:
Act 22:1 "Kardeşler ve babalar, size şimdi yapacağım savunmayı dinleyin" dedi.
Act 22:2 Pavlus'un kendilerine İbrani dilinde seslendiğini duyduklarında daha derin bir sessizlik oldu.
A "more deep a silence they made." (daha derin bir sessizlik oldu) In the last chapter, the Roman officer in charge of the garrison had been surprised when Paul addressed him in Greek, the administrative language of that part of the world.

Your language is a very deeply embedded part of your identity. When you make an effort to learn another language, you open the doors to friendship, since you are showing respect for something very near and dear to the other party. Here are some resources you may find helpful:
  • This newsletter from a friend describes his experience with a crash-course in self-taught Italian. You can do it -- very quickly -- if you simply make it the most important project in your life for an intensely focused season.
  • This web site, livemocha.com, is a free global community of people who are eager to learn, and eager to help each other learn, additional languages.