Thursday, May 19, 2011

When the Priceless become the Priced: The Sad Loss of the Intrinsic Value of Daughters and a Pastoral Letter to my Daughters and Sisters in the Faith

So today I read a sad article by Al Mohler The Scandal of Gendercide--War on Baby Girls in which he discussed how girls are selected for murder/infanticide (in its various forms, including but not limited to abortion, exposure, slaughter, drowning, neglect, etc.) simply because they are girls. This is found significantly in China and India, which is to say the ratios and numbers of murders are large there, topping well over 100 million. Although it's technically not legal in those countries to choose to murder your child based on gender, it is still widely done. However, sex-selected abortions are also legal in Sweden (i.e., you can choose to kill your baby because of his/her gender). This is a heinous atrocity to say the least. Al Mohler's article is actually a commentary on an article in the Economist called Gendercide: The Worldwide War on Baby Girls that notes that this is an even more widespread trend. However, it ends by saying that the massive imbalance of sons to daughters is probably stabilizing and not continuing to skyrocket. This remains to be seen as a consistent trend however. However, even if the rates stay as they are there will be a massive amount of daughters being slaughtered by their parents. The economist of course is looking at this in more economic terms and is very utilitarian about the whole matter. The Economist's article is of wanting to say that people will eventually see that girls are equal in value to boys. However, what is probably missed when you read these kinds of articles is what is really being reflected both by the slaughter of daughters and by the Economist's report of such, namely where the value of daughters comes from. What is probably not clear is that neither those slaughtering their daughters nor those who are reporting it (obviously somewhat aghast) disagree about the value of daughters. You say, "Oh yes they do! The one group is murdering their daughters while the other group is aghast by such heinous crimes." True enough. But the thing is that both, at least on the surface (barring some innate morality code still not silenced by their rebellion against God) actually do agree that the value of a daughter is economic and utilitarian (= regarding usefulness/utility). The difference is simply how other presuppositions are interacting with that presupposition. Those murdering their daughters en masse believe that daughters have a utilitarian value and an economic value, but that that value is less than that of a boy. And to some degree, in their cultures this is true. Those who are opposed to such gendercide also agree that the value of a daughter is in her economic and utilitarian value, as evidenced by the arguments they used to play up the seriousness of the crime--what did they use but the inability for men to marry and be tamed for the sake of societal benefit (a utilitarian value and an economic value [albeit the economic not mentioned because they do not like the thought of putting a pricetag on a daughter, which is what they see the murders doing and despise, but eventually the economic production will be affected by a shortage of daughters]). The problem for those opposed comes from the fact that they also have a presupposition about the utilitarian and economic value of daughters and that is that they are equal to sons. See they want to see daughters as intrinsically equal to son, but they do not really have categories for intrinsic worth outside of economic and utilitarian values. Thus, the discrepancy between the murders and the aghast is not between extrinsic and intrinsic value, but between extrinsic value systems. The one system says that boys are worth more, the other says they are not, but rather the same in worth. However, as the comment towards the end of the Economist's article about the modernization of societies indicates, it is actually the equalization of utilitarian and economic value that makes the difference between the two societal structures. The aghast have embraced a view that daughters are equal to boys in all economic and utilitarian matters, which forbids the kind of bias towards sons that it sees in these other cultures. But ultimately neither of them have an truly absolute intrinsic value for sons or daughters, except the other presuppositions and cultures that are embraced.

All this to say, that both are horribly and heinously wrong. There is in fact intrinsic value for daughters, just as there is for sons. However, this does not come from a cultural more, but rather from ontological status, which is to say that it is actually intrinsic rather than an extrinsic view masquerading as intrinsic. Although to be perfectly honest there is an extrinsic element to the intrinsic value that I am about to mention, namely that it comes from God Himself and the nature that He created in human beings, in daughters. Thus, our intrinsic value does have a referent outside ourselves for value, but we still do have intrinsic value from the Extrinsic Source, Yahweh God. However, the value ascribed by the utilitarian and economic systems is extrinsic and the ascibed intrinsic values are sourced in cultures rather than in actual ontology (= fundamental being). They are disputing based on ontology, but really it is not a dispute about ontology, but about the economic and utilitarian value. The two sides are not completely talking on the same grid, for what the aghast fail to realize is that while the ultimate utilitarian value is the same, in those cultures on a personal level and for the reasons they do it, the economic and utilitarian value is in fact different, when it comes to small scale, the family scale. Now, to the aghast they see the societal problems this cultural difference causes on the large scale, but ignore the small scale, which further belies their utilitarian and economic motivations. Thus, the aghast feel vindicated in being aghast at the practice based on their utilitarian and economic ethics. Yet, while they are right to be aghast, and in fact that ultimate utilitarian value is equal as their cultural mores stipulate, they are not right to base the value of a daughter on her ultimate utilitarian and economic value. The economic and utilitarian value of a person is a subsidiary issue that actually points to a greater issue, namely the intrinsic value of daughters. The reason that daughters have an ultimately equal economic and utilitarian value is because they have an equal intrinsic or ontological value. That value is the Image of God, aka Imago Dei. The value of daughters comes from God, not what bring to society. They are valuable because they are valued by God. They are valuable because they are representatives of God. They are valuable because they are God's creations. They are valuable because God has given them value on an ontological level. It is because of who God has fundamentally made them that they have value. It is God Who gives them value, not their economic or utilitarian offerings. It is because they are made in God's very image and likeness that they have value. They are His vice-royalty on the earth. They are crowned with glory and honor by God. They are made just short of Who God is Himself. They are not God, but they are just like Him. The lie of the devil that we are not like God has been an old, old lie. That serpent used it in the garden on Adam and Eve, when that snake told them,  "You would be like gods." But indeed they were already like YAHWEH GOD! For they had been created and formed in His Very Image! That is what gives daughters value, not society, not friends, not relationships, not boyfriends, or girlfriends, or parents, or siblings, or fame, or acclaim, or grades, or love, or affection, or anything in this world. God alone gives you value, my dear daughters and sisters in the faith! (I cannot help the moment to be a little pastoral.) The value of daughters is that they are God's daughters, that they are created in His Image and Likeness, that they are cherished and loved by Him, that He says they are precious and valuable! THE PRICELESS VALUE OF DAUGHTERS COMES FROM THE PRICELESS GOD WHO CREATED THEM AND CAUSES THEM TO LIVE AND PROVIDES FOR THEM AND WHO LOVES THEM!!!

However, sadly the priceless nature of daughters has been lost. It has been lost by those who murder them and really those who oppose such murders (although obviously the opposed are closer to the truth). To everyone but Christians the Priceless have become the priced! οὐ μὴ γενοῖτο!!! (transl. "May it never ever happen!!!") This is heinous enough. Yet, because the priceless have become the priced, the priceless will now suffer all the more at hands of their pricers. Daughters have now become an commodity, of sorts, to the world! --HOW LONG O YAHWEH OF HOSTS WILL YOU WAIT TO TAKE VENGEANCE FOR THE BLOOD OF THE PRICELESS PRICED? HOW LONG WILL YOU WAIT TO REBUKE THE PRICING OF BOTH THE MURDERERS AND THE OPPOSERS?--Now that the priceless have become the priced, my suspicion is that it will only get worse for them. As they are now in such high demand in some place, prostitution, both forced and volitional, will sore. Governments will likely start at some point to offer some kind of compensation for having daughters. This will result in less murder perhaps, but it will only further the idea that girls are a commodity. Daughters will not be had because of the daughters intrinsic worth, but because of their economic and utilitarian worth--I can hear the angry shouts now, "We only had you because the government paid us!"  οὐ μὴ γενοῖτο!!! Alas, daughters would then only become more relegated to economic and utilitarian value. Who will tell daughters of their intrinsic worth from God? It will not be the world. In the world's hands, daughters will only suffer (unless it changes to a predominately matriarchal society, which is somewhat unlikely, although then sons will suffer, although even in that context they will still suffer). It then falls to us Christians to communicate the God-given intrinsic value of daughters to them.

Therefore, dear daughters and sisters in the Lord, and mothers for that matter (as if I could resist the urge to be pastoral), know that God has given you deep and real value that does not come from anyone or anything else besides Him. Know also that God loves you and as He does so do I. You are priceless, not priced, in God's sight, nor in mine. Let no one lay a price on you, NO ONE, for their is none! You are not worth cash, esteem, affection, love, grades, popularity, fame, looks, status, friends, romantic interests, good jobs, power, prestige, schools, colleges, husbands, or anything else in all creation, both visible and invisible, for all those things are beneath you in value. You get your value straight from God Himself! So do not be deceived by the devil when he attacks you for some failure to God, because God does not value you because you are Godly, but because you are made in His Image, because you are His. Or when that accuser assaults you with slanders about your failure in school or relationships or to parents or any such thing, because those do not give you value, God gives you value and you are priceless despite those things. Also, do not cheapen yourselves by selling yourselves out for emotions, the emotions of feeling loved, or respected by people, the emotions of success or fame in the world. Don't cheapen yourselves by crossing the bounds of purity either. God has given you value. How you feel and the emotions you experience from others is not what gives you value, rather it is who God has made you, that God has made you at all! God is Who gives you value. You get your value from him, not from other people not even your parents, friends, boyfriends, or husbands. You get it straight from God, so do not believe the lie that says you are valuable for what you can do or earn. You are not more valuable if you can make lots of money, help society, please your husband, or raise your kids. You are certainly not more valuable for playing tonsil hockey with your boyfriend. You are priceless because God has set your value as Himself. You were worth His One and Only Son's gruesome death and epic hell-bearing on the the cross. Never forget this dear daughters. Never forget this. Your value comes from God and not men, from God not friends, from God not demand, from God not utility, from God not economy, from God not society. You are truly and lastingly priceless, no matter what you do, no matter what people say, no matter what you achieve, no matter what you fail, no matter who loves you, no matter who hates you, no matter who prices you, no matter what you are priced, because indeed God loves you and has priced you as truly and lastingly PRICELESS. I agree with God, You are deeply and truly and lastingly priceless. You are loved and valued by God and me, because of who you are, not what you do.

Grace and Peace and Hope and Love, Priceless Daughters, from God your Father through Christ Jesus your Savior by the Holy Spirit your Indweller!
Pastor Anthony

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pastoral Musings on Hollowywood Sexuality and Morality

So Sunday night I read several movie reviews of movies that have recently come out. I was struck by one prevailing theme: sexual obsession. If one thing was the common denominator, beyond the fact that all are movies and all contained expletives (a sorry commentary on American vernacular creativity to say the least), they all fixated on sexuality and not in a good way either. Sadly the twisted warpings of sexuality that these movies either contain or glamorize are what we in our fallen humanity, our depraved debauchery we call existence, celebrate as "entertainment". Such is probably all too fitting a term, I wonder what kinds of thoughts and emotions and desires we entertain as we view those perverted spectacles, which makes me wonder what kind of perverted spectacles we ourselves have towards sexuality. I wonder what thoughts and emotions and desires that Jesus entertains as He watches us watch smut. I wonder how much smut a bride can imbibe before she becomes a smut slut. Sadly, how much indeed is said against us for using sin as entertainment. I am not talking about failings for the sake of the plot, but the on-screen idol-fests we call "sex-scenes". How long will we delight in evil and claim our love is for God and not for the world. We celebrate evil, and laugh with joy at some of its implications. We make light of sexuality, furthering the weight of our improbity. How long will we look with pleasure on that which God looks on with grief and rage? How long will we disconnect entertainment with what we entertain in our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies. That is to say, how long will be live in the denial that is "What I watch has no bearing on my heart, mind, and soul" as our wants, thoughts, and feelings contort themselves to see the world through the lens of Hollowywood sexuality and Hollowywood morality? Probably for about 90-120 min. depending on the movie...or at least that is what we would like to think. But just like downloading a virus-infested program that we like only takes a few minutes, but the effects last much longer and often appear long after the deadly deed, so our feasting on fleshliness may seem do nothing to affect our system, but time validates all too well. Just as we download a program or video with intentions of mindless and momentary pleasure that later slows and kills our system, so too we watch all kinds of "entertainment" with intentions of mindless and momentary pleasure that unbeknownst to us affects our spiritual "system" and slows our responsiveness to God and His Word and eventually leaves us no better than that computer sitting in your basement that doesn't work anymore from the constant internalization of viri. As Jesus says, "what comes out of a man was first inside him." So the real question is how care are we being with our "entertainment"? Do we even see what things our "entertainment" entertains in us? Is Hollowywood sexuality our "entertainment" or our "agrievement" (who loves coining terms....I do...that is to say, yes I know that is not a word, but it rhymes and you know what I mean)? Have we allowed Hollowywood morality to become the one we live by and glamorize, or is it the Holy One's morality we live by and glorify?

So this post is all over the place, but that is why I called it musings, aside from the fact that I find this kind of poetic writing amusing (have you caught the preponderance of wordplays yet?)

Much love to all who read this
Grace and Peace and Hope from God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son by the Holy Spirit His Spirit
Pastor Anthony

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Jesus on Prayer in Luke 11.1-13

1And it happened when He was in some spot praying, as He finished, someone among His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just like John also taught his disciples. 2And He said to them, “Whenever you pray, say,
            Your Name be treated as holy!
            Your Kingdom come!
            Our bread that we need daily to survive be giving to us daily!
            And forgive us our sins,
            Because we ourselves also continually forgive everything that’s owed to us!
            And don’t bring us into testing/temptation!
5And He said to them, “Imagine that one of you has a friend and travels to him in the middle of the night and says to him, ‘Friend, loan me three loaves of bread, 6because a friend of mine came by road to me and I don’t have what I will set before him.’ 7And to answer that guy would say from inside, ‘Stop bothering me! The door has already been locked and my kids are with me in the bed. I am not able to give to you after standing up.’ 8I say to you, Even if he won’t give to him after getting up because of being his friend, for sure because of his shamelessness after getting himself up he will give him as much as he needs.
9And I personally say to you, ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. 10For everyone who asks receives and the one who seeks finds and to the one who knocks it is/will be opened.
11And a son will ask what father among you for a fish, and instead of a fish will he hand over a snake to him? 12Or also he will ask for an egg—will he hand over a scorpion to him? 13So if you, even though you’re wicked, know to be giving good gifts to your kids, how much more the Father [probably drop “the One”] from Heaven will give the Holy Spirit to those who are asking Him. 

Main point 
Jesus Gives us a model prayer and then explains that God our Father really will answer our prayers, especially if we are asking for His Holy Spirit.
Pray prayers like the one Jesus models, trusting God to answer, because He is Our Father Who will surely answer, especially we should pray for the Holy Spirit, because that is the Gift our Father really wants to give to us.

Have you ever wondered what your prayers should look like? Have you ever wondered if there was some secret praying technique that would convince God to answer your prayers? Have you ever wondered whether God really answers prayers? Have you ever wondered what prayer our Heavenly Father really wants us to ask but also really wants to answer? Well today we will get answers to all those questions by looking at Jesus’ teaching on prayer in the book of Luke, chapter 11, vv.1-13.

1.      Outline:
a.       Model Prayer
b.      Chiastic Discourse on Prayer Effectiveness
                                                              i.      Illustration # 1: Some guy’s midnight request of his friend
                                                            ii.      Explication: pray, because God really does answer prayer
                                                          iii.      Illustration # 2: Some father’s response to his son’s request for food
2.      Rhetorical Flow
a.       Model Prayer
b.      If you can get a friend who doesn’t want to answer to answer, don’t you think God Who is our Father and Who wants to answer will answer
c.       Pray, pray, pray, because it works, works, works—i.e., God answers, answers, answers
d.      If you wicked fathers give good gifts to your kids who ask, don’t you think God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (i.e., His kids).
3.      Miscellaneous Notes
a.       V.5 is actual a question, but it is too complicated a question to render as a question in English
b.      It is almost impossible to tell whether in v.10 whether it should be a present or a future.
c.       Ask, seek, knock are present tense
d.      The first illustration is not about a technique we use in prayer or some concern on God’s part, but about the fact that the request really will get answered no matter what
e.       It is shamelessness, not persistence—this is not a positive idea usually, so probably refers to the asker, rather than the askee, unless it is taking on a new nuance of avoidance of shame

1.      We just need to ask God in prayer
2.      God is our Father
3.      God is the God Who answers
4.      We need to pray repeatedly, expecting repeated answers
5.      We don't need to worry about God answering our prayers in a cruel way
6.      We should trust God to give good gifts
7.      We should pray for the Holy Spirit, for that is Gift that God really wants to give to us 

Jesus on Prayer in Matthew 6.5-15

5”And whenever you (pl.) are praying, don’t be like the pretenders, because they love to be praying while standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, so that they would be clear to men. Truly, I say to you, they are fully getting paid their reward. 6But whenever you yourself are praying, go into your inner room and after you’ve locked your door to pray to your Father, the One in the hidden place, and your Father, the One Who sees in the hidden place will give back to you.
7But when you are praying, don’t use the same words over and over again, just like the Gentiles, because they think that by/because of their long-windedness they will be listened to. 8So don’t be like them, because your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him. 9Therefore, in this way be praying yourselves:
‘Our Father, the One in the Heavens
Your name be reverenced!
10Your Kingdom come,
Your Will happen,
Like in Heaven also on earth!
11Our bread that we need daily give to us today!
12And forgive us the things we owe like we also have forgiven those who owe us.
13And don’t carry us into temptation,
Rather deliver us from the evil one!
14Because if you forgive men their wrongdoings, your Father, the Heavenly One will also forgive you. 15But if you won’t forgive men, your Father won’t forgive you your wrongdoings either.

The main point: 
Jesus teaches how to pray: 1) not with public hypocrisy for attention, but with private humility for God’s reward; 2) not using lots of words and powerful phrases, but with an honest, simply, God-focused prayer; 3) not with unforgiveness, but with forgiveness, so you can be forgiven—the power of prayer does not come from the multiplicity of words, but with the multiplicity of honesty and forgiveness. Jesus is hammering home unhypocritcal prayer. Jesus weaves both honest simplicity and lack of hypocrisy together in vv.7-15.

1.      Outline:
a.       Don’t be public hypocrites (v.5)
b.      Do be private legitimates (v.6)
c.       Don’t be babbling pagans (vv.7-8)
d.      Do be praying Christians (vv.9-13)
e.       Do be forgiving forgivens (vv. 12, 14)
f.       Don’t be unforgiving unforgivens (v.15)
2.      Structural notes:
a.       There seems to be something of a chiastic structure to this passage; however, it is not a clean chiasm, but a more fluid and blurred on.
                                                              i.      vv.5-6 = anti-hypocrisy
                                                            ii.      vv.7-8 = anti-manipulation/prolixity/power-words
                                                          iii.      vv.9-13 = pro-honest simplicity and humility
                                                          iv.      v.12, 14-15 = anti-hypocrisy, pro-power
b.      The power of prayer does not come from its publicity or prolixity, but from its humility and consistency 

Monday, May 2, 2011

On Assassination...

It is perhaps a more complicated question than it may seem at first glance, especially if one is using utilitarian ethics (i.e. the ends justify the means). However, sending someone to hell as an execution of justice is by no means wrong, although it the prerogative of the state and not the individual. --Rom. 13

The Joy and Sobriety of Justice

So apparently about a week ago Usama Bin Laden met his end, along with his Maker. May the Lord have mercy on him, since this is most likely the beginning of a terribly unpleasant eternity for him. People cheer that justice is done, but for Usama the justice of God's wrath has only just begun with no end ever to come, unless he recanted his idolatry and turned to Jesus in faith, which is itself rather unlikely. Let us both celebrate the justice of God as much as we are sobered by its severity and humbled by the grace we ourselves have received in Christ and as we are sobered by the absolute eternal hell Jesus took for us in the moment of His Own death! JESUS ROCKS!!! ABBA ROCKS!!! THE HOLY SPIRIT ROCKS!!!