“The Paranoid Style in American Politics” has its 50th Anniversary

[One of my few blog entries on politics, and how it relates to psychology, sociology, and modern apocalyptic eschatology]

Because of his ability to describe and predict American political behavior, Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” should be required reading for the citizen. And except for Sacred Scriptures and the US Constitution, I never say any text should be mandatory. “Paranoid Style” was a short, dynamite article in the November 1964 issue of Harper’s, and is still available on their website archive. [1] We will look at some of its insights for today, and in particular, its implications for the evangelical church.

His immediate interest was the conservative movement that backed Barry Goldwater for president in the 1964 election. As a confirmed liberal, of the old style more to the left than Democrats of today, Hofstadter argued that he was not that was simply being anti-conservative, but rather: “I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing.”

I offer the following script that forms the skeleton of the “paranoid style”:

Nothing is what it seems to be: there are evil forces at work, carrying out their treacherous actions and shielding themselves from the attention of the general public;

I and a small group of whistle-blowers are even now revealing this hidden reality;

the proofs are extraordinarily complex and interwoven, but the central truth is simple and can be explained in a few sentences;

we who are “in the know” are continually hampered or even checkmated due to powerful enemies and widespread public apathy and gullibility.

“Nothing is what it seems to be – there are evil forces at work, carrying out their treacherous actions and shielding themselves from the attention of the general public”

conspiracy-theory-top-secretExamples from recent decades would have to include Senator Joe McCarthy, who argued that the loss of Eastern Europe and China to the Reds could not reasonably have happened by accident, or by normal political (more…)

Published in: on December 19, 2014 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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FREE BOOK FOR CHRISTMAS!

As a Christmas gift this year, I have bundled together some of my blog posts that have to deal with “How to Life the Christian Life: throw out the old rules and play by the New Covenant.” Over a hundred of you have downloaded it already – enjoy!

Simply click here: How to live the Christian Life_Shogren

I ask only that you consider signing up for my blog on the right-hand column. Either way, the gift is without obligation, and I will not use your email or name in any way.

Gary Shogren, Christmas 2014

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Life in the New Covenant, according to Romans

[The following thoughts are taken from my new commentary on Romans in the Comentario Bíblico Contemporáneo, to be published in 2015 by Ediciones Kairós]

A “paradigm shift” is not simply coming up with new answers to the same old problems; rather, it involves reworking one’s assumptions and attempting to reframe the questions. For example, the apostle Paul grew up under one paradigm, that the people of God was constituted by the covenant God made with Abraham and the Law given to Moses. That meant that the Israelite was automatically one of God’s own, unless he or she came to reject God’s Law; and that non-Israelites could be saved if only they converted to Judaism. They believed that the Holy Spirit would come upon Israel, but only in the future kingdom, when God would establish a New Covenant with his people.

Throughout his letter to the Romans, Paul offers sweeping paradigm shifts: one of them appears in Rom 5:5 – “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” This means that one cannot begin to understand the gospel without taking the New Covenant and the gift of the Spirit as the basis for the Christian life. He had hinted at this new element somewhat abstractly in Rom 2:14-15, that Gentiles could do what the Torah requires – that is, the life of love that is the goal of the Torah (Rom 13:10).

The new element is the gift of the Spirit in the New Covenant, predicted in the prophets and now brought to fruition in this age. Jesus said that by shedding his blood he was initiating that covenant (1 Cor 11:24-25), and Paul self-identifies as a minister of that same covenant (2 Cor 3:6). It is the basis for transformation of believers in this age (1 Thess 4:9-10).

new covenant image

All this to say that in place of the old paradigm, which divided the world into Israelites and non-Israelites, the gospel places everyone in “those in Christ, who by definition have the Spirit” and those who are not: “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Rom 8:9). We are not “saved by faith, sanctified by works”; far from it! Rather, those with the Spirit find themselves enabled to walk in holiness, beginning with the power to love truly.

All of this shifting of paradigms might escape the attention of today’s Christian reader of Romans, who is accustomed to see references to the Spirit and his transforming power in the Bible and in life. But for people in the first century, the ancient prophecies about the New Covenant in the Spirit were end-time events, not for life in the here and now. Yes, Paul can still say that this same New Covenant will bring about the eschatological transformation of “all Israel” at the end of the age: “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (Rom 11:27).

But at the same time, all Christians are in the now time experiencing this covenant as predicted in the prophets: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer 31:33, quoted in Heb 8:8). Ezekiel 36:22-28 contains a reference to the gift of God’s Spirit and also the sprinkling of purifying water; these are the two elements that underlie Jesus’ teaching that “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Jesus also taught that “the hour is coming, and is now here (!), when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (or better, “in the Spirit and in truth” or “truly, that is, through the Spirit”; see John 4:23-24). Thus, another important prediction (Joel 2:28-32) is now fulfilled on Pentecost, and the falls upon all believers in Jesus (Acts 2:16-21).

What is lacking from the prophetic passages above is any thought that Gentile believers would experience the New Covenant, the forgiveness of their sins, the gift of the Spirit, the Spirit of prophecy, the guidance of God in righteousness. That provided an opening for some opponents of Paul, the Judaizers, to argue that non-Jewish believers could not simply declare their trust in Jesus and be saved; rather, they had to in effect convert to Judaism, taking the rite of circumcision and pledging themselves to obey the 613 rules of the Law.

This is why it is important for Paul to demonstrate that the gift of the Spirit stands prior to anything else in the Christian walk (see Gal 3:1-6). Galatians 5 and Romans 8 show that the Christian life is a life in the Spirit, and that if anyone tries to blend the Spirit and the Torah for power to live the holy life, the whole affair will fall to pieces: a Torah or ethics directed Christian, no matter what the brand of legalism, is inevitably a spiritual failure. If God himself promised that “you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you” (Ezek 36:25) – the very evils the Gentiles inevitably fall into (Rom 1:23, 24) – then it becomes ridiculous to argue that they would be better if only they would follow the hundreds of statutes of Torah in order to keep them on the narrow path.

But no – step by step it became clear to the apostles that non-Israelites could be saved through faith, manifested when they received the Spirit of holiness – “And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8-9). This leaves us with the power of God, and also the serious yet joyful responsibility to carry out his wishes: “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Rom 8:12-14).

“Life in the New Covenant, according to Romans,” by Gary S. Shogren, PhD, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

 

How do God’s servants handle unforeseen questions?

I was as fresh in ministry as could be, still a bit amazed that grown-ups had actually voted me to be their full-time pastor. And it was my first Sunday, my first sermon, with us still fuzzy from memorizing all the names of all the members even as we unpacked our boxes: “Who is the man with the mustache? His job? His wife’s name? How many kids?”

As a pastor I was rolling right off the factory floor: I had just mailed my doctoral thesis back to Scotland and was waiting for the oral exam. So I was primed and filled with data about Pauline eschatology. I’m ready, folks, ask me anything!

The first question I fielded was not about Greek, theology, church history, anything that I had ever read about.

It was: “So Gary, tell me….Ford or Chevy?”

Pardon?

“Ford or Chevy?”

For you non-Americans, Ford trucks versus Chevrolet is one of our long-lived debates. It runs deeper than politics. Google it if you don’t believe me.

I was opinion-free on the Ford/Chevy debate; I had no dog in that fight. And I didn’t want to spend my first Sunday afternoon of my ministry, alienating someone because I chose the wrong darn pickup.

However the thought occurred to me (Is that you, Spirit of God?) that I plickneeded to respond differently than I normally would. Not deceitfully, but along a different tack. So: I had once owned a Ford, a 1971 Maverick. A real dog, too; many of the miles I put on it were driving to the mechanic and back. But definitely a Ford.

The Spirit works quickly. Within a second or two after hearing the question, I snorted and said, “FORD!! Of course!” (In New England, one pronounces Ford and course deeply in the throat, and I said them with the proper intonation).

“Good answer,” my new friend nodded sagely. “Good answer.”

You see, the only really wrong answer I could have given was indifference: I don’t care. I don’t know. They’re both okay. Does it really matter? Why are we bothering about this while all the starving children, etc.? I don’t even remember if he thought Ford was better than Chevy. But he did think it mattered, and he was pleased that I understood that.

Jesus didn’t tell people their questions were frivolous. He answered them, but he then turned the discussion around to deeper things. John 4 is a fine example, with the Samaritan woman’s implied question: “So, Jesus – Samaritan Temple or Jerusalem?” “Jerusalem, of course,” said Jesus, because it was true to a point, and because it really mattered to her. But his interest in the question was limited. It was already too late in history to be debating such matters – the Father was really interested in people worshiping him in the Spirit and in truth, that is, each believer is a temple (John 4:21-24).

When people ask us questions, they might be looking for information, or an opinion. Or they might just be wanting to hear that they matter, both to us and to God. And we who follow the way of love will understand that and act accordingly.

Rules for commenting on this blog

We have a few simple rules of courtesy (CLICK HERE) for posting on Open Our Eyes, Lord. We welcome all who wish to share according to these rules. Gary Shogren

Published in: on October 28, 2014 at 10:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Those Veiled Women of Corinth

[Note: I spent a number of years writing a commentary on 1 Corinthians for a Latin American audience (you can get it free in English HERE). 20 pages contain the full exegesis of the passage; in this blog I will mainly spell out my conclusions].

Part of Bible study is not just understanding what the author was teaching, but what problem the Scripture was intended to solve, and also to apply his teaching in a context today. In this case, we live in a culture that is far removed from first-century Corinth:

 …every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. (1 Cor 11:4-6)

My interpretation of this section is:

Paul taught all his churches that in a worship service both men and women are free to pray aloud and to speak prophetically to the congregation. Men should pray and prophesy with their heads bared; women, who arrive already wearing a veil – like a scarf or small shawl on their head, as dictated the local culture – should continue to wear it throughout the meeting. This rule was given for several reasons: it reflected the created order as described in Genesis; because it was “natural”; because to do otherwise would bring cultural shame. But later on, some Corinthian women wanted to shed the veil. Paul perceives that, while the veil in itself is not a fundamental issue of the faith, the motivations for rejecting the veil were questionable: to declare independence from men/husbands; to reject the relevance of cultural mores for a Christian; to act as if gender differences did not exist. For these reasons he reaffirms that women and men must maintain the status quo that he has established for Christian meetings.

Those women who wish to pray without a veil need to realize that they are obligated to glorify God in part by honoring “the men,” that is their brothers in Christ. Neither man nor woman in Christ is an individual unit; each must come to Christ through serving the other. Thus Paul also reminds the men: if you are tempted to lord it over women, remember that you came from a woman (11:8) and that you too have to answer to a head, that is Christ, and to make very sure that you are reflecting glory to another, not to yourself.

A "respectable" Roman woman with veil

A “respectable” Roman woman with veil

Clothing in some societies conveys strong signals about social position, self-consciousness, and gender. For example, not many generations ago, when a girl reached a certain age and started wearing her hear bound “up,” she was signaling that she was available for marriage. For boys, the purchase of their first pair of long pants was an anxiously-awaited step toward manhood. In Roman society, a respectable married woman or widow went out in public with her hair worn up and covered with a veil or shawl (more…)

The Eclectic Text of the New Testament – a conspiracy against the Word?

God’s beloved Word – you bet I study it daily. Yes, as a Bible teacher, since my ministry is teaching the New Testament in Spanish and English, and also from the Greek. But more fundamentally I read the Bible simply as a Christian, because it is through the reading, meditation, and obedience of God’s Word that we grow as believers. [1]

Therefore it concerns me when I read about a supposed conspiracy, made up of people who secretly despise God’s Word and are paving the way for antichrist, out to destroy the Bible and leave us in the dark. These charges are leveled against the Nestle-Aland edition of the Greek New Testament, the very “critical” edition I and my students read and interpret. [2]

That’s why I am impelled to read up on the so-called Alexandrian Conspiracy to ruin the Bible. If it is a real and present danger, I want to know. If it is a false alarm, then I must communicate that to you, the readers.

"Don't destroy God's Word! Or change it!"

“Don’t destroy God’s Word! Or change it!”

My conclusion:

If the critical edition of the New Testament be treason against God’s Holy Word, then it’s the most poorly executed conspiracy in the history of Bible study.

Let’s see why. One extreme theory has it (more…)

Published in: on October 9, 2014 at 2:37 pm  Comments (10)  
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Just look at the news – isn’t it the end times?

Let’s see what the Lord said:

“And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.”  Matt 24:14

“The end” = Christ’s return.

I’ve heard plenty of people say that the whole world has already been reached by the media, but that’s nowhere near the case, despite phenomenal success in the last 100 years.

Today about 3 billion out of 7.2 billion people have not heard the gospel and in effect could not even if they wanted too. That’s 42% of people living today.

There are signs like wars, earthquakes, famines, etc., but this one sign can in no way be checked off. Of course, we cannot “jump start” Christ’s return by being more evangelistic. Still – let’s pray and then dedicate ourselves to checking it off.

unreached people groups

From – http://joshuaproject.net/global_statistics

 Other post concerning the Four Blood Moons doctrine

“No, but wait…MY pastor doesn’t tell us how to vote!”

“My pastor doesn’t tell us how to vote! What he does is give out a score card that describes what the issues are [remember that phrase!] and then shows what each candidate stands for. But then he tells us to make up our own minds!”

Anyway, that’s the word on the street.

The mid-term election is coming up on November 4; let’s look at two preachers in Anytown, USA, and put this method to the test:

Pastor Smith is guiding his congregation with a list of political issues that he has compiled. He puts in the left column: high taxes, the Second Amendment, American military superiority, gay marriage, the minimum wage, capital punishment, Common Core curriculum, and other issues. In the 2nd and 3d column he has put a sentence or two on where the candidates stand on each issue.

So, says Pastor Smith: “Who stands for God’s truth, Candidate Anderson or Candidate Benchley? I’m not telling you how to vote, I’m just giving you the facts!”

Across town, Pastor Jones designs questions about the environment, the Innocence Project, high military spending, labor rights, the Fourth Amendment, concluding: “I wouldn’t tell you how to vote, but who is closer to the Bible: Candidate Anderson or Candidate Benchley?”

I have an agenda, you have, he she or it has, we have, they have

I [Gary] have an agenda, you have, he, she, or it has, we have, they have an agenda

Both can claim “I’m not using the pulpit to tell anyone how to vote!” Both might be faithful to the letter of political neutrality, but both would be violating its spirit. And two congregations will go away believing that they know who is God’s candidate for the office – only they will be backing different candidates!

Even when Pastors Jones and Smith don’t give you a political ANSWER SHEET, he or she is arranging a VOTER GUIDE or SCORECARD so that they lead to a specific end and communicate a particular agenda.

In fact, Pastors Jones and Smith might both put, oh, let’s say school lunch programs, voter registration laws, Iraq, the minimum wage on their charts (more…)

Two of my essays included in a new collection!

They have just published a pair if my essays in Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture. It’s now available on Amazon. You might recognize the title as a response to John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship.

download

The contributors of these 35 essays are not the sort of televangelists I usually object to, but top Pentecostal scholars who are taking a stand against abuses such as faux apostles, the Prosperity Gospel, and Onenness Pentecostalism. They are exactly the guys who (more…)

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