Greek dualism and Hebrew covenant

I am sure as you read through the title and came to the word “covenant” your eye lids drooped and that irresistible urge to sleep set in. Your only hope of staying awake momentarily are the whip-lash inducing head bobs. Of course each head bob is quickly followed by a self-conscious checklist: Did I drool? How long was I out for? Did I drool enough for it to be noticeable? With that said, wipe the drool from your mouth and stretch. Why? Surprisingly covenant is not only interesting but it gives great insight into the character of God, Scriptures, and God’s interaction with man.

Before reading What The Bible Says About Covenant, by Mont W. Smith, I had no idea the influence that Greek thought and philosophy plays on religious presuppositions and direct theology. Due to the fact that the parties in the Bible are Hebrew, it is critical that we understand their perspectives, culture, and traditions. Hebrew and Greek thought is about as comparable as Garfield is to a wild mountain lion on the prowl. I would only want to meet one in a movie theater or anywhere else for that matter. As you can tell from my witty analogy, Greek and Hebrew cultures aren’t close. Each has a way of explaining creation, but that is where the comparisons stop. For the Greeks there are two paths. The first is called the ‘analogy of the gods’ which is  mythology, gods battling for power, trying to outwit each other, living wild debaucheries lives.  From the creation story of man it is obvious that the Greeks had a “low view” of man. They believed based on the Delphi myth that man was essentially evil. The body was made out of the ashes of Titan who battled Zeus for power and lost. He was sent to Earth and was struck by lighting. Add a little dust, some salt and pepper, and BAM! you got man. The second Greek path was very philosophical. Plato and his student Aristotle held that the only good was the mind or “nous” which was the Greek word also used for god. God to Plato was an “eternal life force.” From this philosophical belief it naturally follows a sense of dualism: mind is good, body is bad. The mind is like a bird imprisoned in a cage. Aristotle went even further and said that man was nothing more than a “machana” or machine. If man did evil than it was only his body doing was bodies do: evil. All responsiblity for ones action is taken away.

The Hebrews take a 180 degrees turn on their perspective. For the Hebrews, man was created by one God. Unlike the Greeks, the Hebrew philosophy was that man was created good. A critical part of God’s plan was creating man with a choice. Asking a robot to follow directions is pretty easy and yet there is no fellowship, no love, no relationship. Therefore, it was essential that God created man with the ability both the mental capacity and understanding to make decisions for themselves. Was it a risk? Sure, creating millions of people who might one day despise you is a risky move. You might have better odds at a craps table in Vegas.

Another area of conflict between Hebrew and Greek is their take on power. Power is something that Western culture highly values. We got this from the Greeks. The Greek gods were both good and evil. They could not follow some arbitrary ethical code or societal norms because such capitulation would make their gods inferior and less powerful than the code. To the Greek there was nothing worse than a powerless god. What is the point of having a fast car if the speed limit is always 25?

The Hebrews had a much different take. Power was something we all have been given, and yet restraint in power was more highly regarded. Most unrighteousness and out of control behavior stem from unrestrained power. Righteous, wholesome, moral acts require the restraint of some power. Moses felt that man was given the ability to be almost god-like in our freedom and free-will. He felt that we were not made evil, but that we were forced to use our power in the right way.

In forming a covenant with man God was limiting his power. He was showing his creation he could be trusted by consistently being true to His word.  God was willing to let man choose Him, He would show them His greatness through miracles, signs, dreams, prophecy, but he would not force them to follow Him.

Communion Meditation

A girl at work tonight told me about her first time going to church. Her new boyfriend invited her and she begrudgingly went along with him. Overall, she said the experience was fine, she stayed awake during the majority of it; however, she was a bit perplexed by the “crackers and juice.” I explained to her what communion is all about and I realized how we can just go through the motions.

Communion is such a critical part of the service, but at times, we can lose focus on its importance. Communion is really speaks to an overall Christian worldview as it starts with us coming before the Lord admitting our sins, humbling ourselves through confession. It is because of sin that God’s original plan was broken, instead of living in perfect fellowship, we live in a fallen world.

Instead of  forsaking the guilty, God decided to offer each of us a path at redemption. The path he choose was to send his Son Jesus Christ as an atoning sacrifice, to pay the ransom for our lives. Due to this immense price being paid on our behalf we commemorate Jesus ‘s life, death, and resurrection.

We also can reflect on the New Covenant that his death and burial confirmed. The law of the Old Testament could not save the lost, only condemn the guilty. In its place we have J.C.!

As we take the elements, the “crackers and juice” as my coworker called it, let us reflect on areas of our lives that where we need redemption. Let us all strive towards restoration, closer to God’s original purpose and original plan.

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

Is it unfair to punish success instead of failure? To punish innovation to reward stagnation, honor idleness at the expense of the diligent, and to burden the hard-working to carry along those barely working at all? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is time to stop corroborating against and accepting the villanization of big business.

At the heart of capitalism is the recognition of individual liberties.In Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal,  Rand states that, “the social recognition of man’s rational nature-of the connection between his survival and his use of reason-is the concept of individual rights (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal).”

Capitalism at its core appears to be a valuation system. A paradigm that gives societal objective values to everything from an idea to a piece of  fruit to a brand new car. Capitalism’s objective value, value that is external,  unlike intrinsic valuation or subjective, allows freedom to the individual. Intrinsic value is oftentimes placed on a pedestal; however, intrinsic value allows for worth to be completely relative without external justification. Objectives, goals, and missions which are deemed intrinsically valuable are pursued at the expense of citizens.

Statism makes the individuals nothing more than a commodity, and “the good of some men takes precedence over the good of others, with those others consigned to the status of sacrificial animals”(13). Animals value only is in what physical effort they can exert, beyond reason and intellectual ability.  

Capitalism leads to the greatest prosperity, growth, innovation, creativity, and eventually peace. Rand makes the strong claim that “Laissez-faire capitalism is the only social system based on the recognition of individual rights and, therefore, the only system that bans force from social relationships. By the nature of  its basic principles and interests, it is the only system fundamentally opposed to war”(33). Other systems try to gain prosperity by using individual’s resources to prop up or subsidize ideas at the expense of everyone. Only capitalism leads to prosperity by allowing individuals freedom to better themselves and through that process better all of society.