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Preach purity without losing the Gospel

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Imagine a pastor comes along who does not understand the Gospel, but still gets invited to speak anyways. What would happen? How would you confront the person? What, exactly, about the Gospel do you think they have wrong, and are you sure that you are right about that?

This was the situation in Galatia when Paul wrote their church a letter. Word had gotten back to Paul that the church was divided between the Jewish and non-Jewish Christians. A new group of pastors had come into town teaching that non-Jews had to be circumcised to enter Christianity. (Circumcision was a ritual practice marking a boy as Jewish; in other words, non-Jews had to become Jewish first before they could become Christians). As this division grew, the Jewish Christian believers stopped eating with and then associating with the non-Jewish Christians.

Grasping his flowing white beard and preparing his long quill pen, Paul looks at the situation and concludes, clearly, you don’t understand the Gospel. 

What about the Gospel did they not understand? I’ll tell you what they didn’t get wrong. They didn’t mistake who was at the center of it. That would be Jesus. They didn’t mistake what happened next. That would be the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. They didn’t mistake who can be included in it. That would be everyone.

The mistake was how deep the Gospel goes. And to explain this, I will have to go into some depth.

How does Life in Christ work?

The wrong way to understand life in Christ is “God made the rules, and now we have to follow them.” Of course, these rules are the bedrock of most religions. Islam has lots of them. Way back to Hammurabi. Judaism definitely did. The idea is that God has set them down, and now we are morally obligated to follow them.

But the weird thing about these commandments is that just being given them doesn’t make you any better at following them. Actually, because there is a dark energy inside us called “The Power of Sin,” we tend to do worse once we are given the commandment. Ironic, but true. When you give The Power of Sin a law, it schemes to break the law (or keep the law only when convenient). Shouldn’t knowing the rules make us more moral? Only if we start out at neutral. But we start out with The Power of Sin inside. The human condition cannot be solved by education; only transformation.

God, by the way, is pissed. Livid. Full of wrath because he is full of justice and must punish anyone who breaks the moral law. He must destroy them — or worse, leave them alive yet suffering forever. This is the natural consequence of upsetting Justice: It comes back to bite you. God will not be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

Nobody could actually meet his moral standards. God knew how far short we fall, and so he sent himself as Jesus to do meet the standards. Jesus lived perfectly, never breaking the Law. In his whole time on earth, facing all the temptation Satan could lob at him, he never sinned. Not once. (This sinlessness is what just happens when The Power of Sin is not alive in you).

Now — and this is what I’m building towards — Jesus’s death has satisfied the wrath of God. A man reaps what he sows, yes, but in this case, Jesus reaped what we sowed. God will not be mocked, yes, but God punished someone else for our mockery. God has to destroy sinners, yes, but Jesus chose to be destroyed on our behalf. He was destroyed in a way that was somehow more excruciating than eternal conscious torment in Hell.

As a result, God’s wrath being satisfied, only God’s love remains. This is true for everyone who participates in Jesus by faith. If you have nothing to do with Jesus, the wrath remains. But if you have faith in Jesus to have satisfied the wrath of God for you, you “participate” in Jesus. This is the great irony, the great switcheroo of Christianity. Jesus was perfect and we were sinful, yet Jesus received God’s wrath and we receive God’s love. Now that God’s wrath has been satisfied for us, we can have a relationship with God.

The result of this newfound participation in Jesus by faith is that The Power of Sin is gradually being put to death. A new power is now gradually growing within us, The Power of the Spirit. If you are living in this new power, your default life will be marked with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And since there are no anti-love laws in the Bible, no anti-joy laws, no anti-peace laws, by living in The Power of the Spirit you will not break any laws. So you will just, by default, follow the Law.

But the key is the order. You have to become right in God’s sight, and now you follow the law. The order is not: following the law to become right in God’s sight. Such was the error of the new pastors in Galatia, who thought that to become a full Christian, you had to follow the Laws. Not only was the circumcision law not a true moral law — it was just a cultural identifier — it was a commandment, and so it could not be the basis for salvation.

I feel like I have to reexplain all this every time I talk about anything in Christianity because so many people don’t get it. Or they get it, but they don’t live like they get it. The Apostle Paul confronted Peter because Peter “was not acting in line with the truth of the Gospel” (2:14). People so often understand the truth of the Gospel but they then go back to the Law – Obedience method. If you would live according to the truth, you would go to the New Life – Fruit method.

What does the New Life – Fruit method look like? What does it look like to “live in step with the Spirit” (5:25)? Instead of describing this in general terms, let’s look at specific example.

An Example from Purity

Suppose a pastor comes along who does not understand the Gospel, but still gets invited to speak anyways. (This is the scenario I was imagining at the beginning). And that pastor preaches a whole message about Purity, which boiled down to: God has commanded you to be sexually pure, and by extension, God has commanded you to wear modest clothing and not wear makeup. Also, you should feel guilt and shame if you do not do this.

This message gets wrong exactly everything about the Gospel. The Gospel does not work like this. Law (modest clothing) and Obedience (so you can avoid feeling bad about yourself) — full stop — is as antithetical to the Gospel as requiring non-Jews to be circumcised to become Christians. Paul would throw a fit at someone teaching like this. Even if they know the Gospel deep down, clearly their knowledge has nothing to do with their message.

We are looking for a true and better message on sexual purity, one informed at its core by Jesus’s righteousness, given as a free gift instead of an earned reward. What does that purity message sound like? I will hazard something like this.

We are not, on our own, able to keep the commands of sexual purity. Even if you’ve never “done anything,” Jesus raised the ante by saying that even looking at someone with lust is just as sinful as “doing something” about it. Surely, from puberty onward, there is nobody who escapes this law. For this the wrath of God is coming; God has commanded you otherwise, and he will not be mocked.

So God sent Jesus to live a life of perfect sexual purity. He was single the whole time and never sinned in this way. He was tempted, for sure, but since he was never beholden to The Power of Sin, he brushed past the temptation. Then, Jesus took the punishment for our sin (in this case, sexual sin) by dying in our place.

We must now give up the futile game of working to earn our own satisfaction of God’s wrath. To continue playing that game is to reject what God as Jesus has sacrificed for us. God looks at those who have faith and sees not their sexual sin but the sexual righteousness of Jesus.

The Power of Sin to control us to break sexual commandments is now being gradually put to death in us, while The Power of the Spirit to live a life of patience, faithfulness, and self-control is gradually growing.

The clear result is that guilt and shame have no place. Guilt and shame are what happen when we are commanded to do something and fail. (Which is true in this case; God has commanded it, and we’ve failed). But if we participate in Jesus by faith, God only sees Jesus’s success, not our failure. So instead of guilt and shame, we move on. We repent. We seek new ways to solve the problem. Isolate the temptation. See the joy it pretends to give us, and then recognize the true joy available in the life God has designed for us. Continue to abide with God even when we recoil against God at our own sin, because by continuing to participate in Jesus The Power of Sin gets put to death just a little bit more. Get practical and find ways to eliminate that particular sin. Look for guidance given by the Bible, which was written by people who have gone through all this before (including God). See the community of Christians around you as people going through the same things, and see that God has put you all together for that reason. And on. And on.

Don’t just wallow in guilt and shame because you cannot, on your own, follow God’s commandments about sexual purity. Keep participating in your relationship with Jesus and watch the sin die from the inside out. Also, get a filter for your devices. Delete snapchat, and probably twitter too. Unfollow the meme pages you know have become problematic. Learn to bounce your eyes when someone is wearing revealing clothes (without shaming them). Break up with the boyfriend or girlfriend who is leading you away from God’s calling for you to be single in this stage of your life. Better yet, next time around, just don’t date someone who isn’t a Christian. Not because you should be ashamed, but because it is the most practical, realistic thing to do to live out the New Creation you are in Christ. Get open enough to talk to other Christians about your struggles with sexual purity, and join with them as you all seek to submit this domain of your life to Jesus’s authority. And on. And on.

This is the difference between working hard to satisfy the wrath of God, and trusting Jesus that he has already done so. The new pastors in Galatia did not understand this — nor does our hypothetical Purity Slam pastor — but Paul did. This is the message of Galatians as clearly as I can summarize it. No matter what topic you are considering, from sexual purity to greed, from anger to gossip. This message is also the only mindset that should seep into our self-worth, into our encouragement for other Christians, and into our messages from the stage. Or, in addition to pointing everyone away from Jesus, you may have someone like Paul screaming from the audience, Anathema! Anathema!

 

A quick story from this week at Camp

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A few hours ago we sent home our second batch of campers for the summer. The first group had been elementary school (mine were entering 6th grade); this last group was middle school (mine were entering 8th grade). The intervening two years between my cabins make an unbelievable difference in comprehension and spiritual “readiness,” not to mention basic things like keeping the cabin clean and willingly eating vegetables.

Anyways. I had a camper this week, “John,” we’ll call him, who I could tell was listening intently to the chapel messages and asked some important questions during our cabin discussion times. He seemed to be yearning for God, and at the same time hesitant to come near to God. Similar to way we react to cliffs. A cliff draws us near — an irresistible pull towards the edge; but the edge repulses us, so that we move slowly and consider deeply everything that could go wrong. John was like this about God, which is almost always a sign that something is going to happen. When you strip a person of their apathy, this same two-sided response to the Gospel starts to move around in their heart.

Last night we had an open-mic time with the whole camp, in which campers could share ways they have seen God working in them throughout the week. John, again, was listening in the whole time, fully there. When the time ended, we had some worship music and then walked back to the cabins.

This was the point when John let loose the simple statement, “Ross, I want to accept God into my life right now.” As a camp counselor, and just as a Christian in general, this is a great sentence to get my attention 100% zeroed in on you. I ask him what he means by that. I have seen too many people walk away from the faith who never actually entered it because they were led into some type of flippy-dippy false conversion “sinner’s prayer” without understanding at all what salvation means. So I want to take a statement like John’s as a conversation starter and see what they mean by “accepting God into my life.”

We talk. I won’t summarize everything in the conversation, but briefly put: it became clear after a while that to John, “accepting God into my heart” was a statement of trust in God. The example he gave is Job, who did nothing wrong but still suffered a lot. From some of the personal things happening in John’s life at the time, I could see how he would identify with Job. But this is problematic in an obvious way. Job was a good person whose struggles in life were caused by outside problem. We are sinners whose primary struggle is our sin, which is an “inside” problem. And these two struggles in life require very different kinds of trust in God. The former can be had by anyone — that God will work out good from the midst of bad situations. Jews could have this trust in God with no issue, since, after all, Job is in their scriptures. The later can be had only by a Christian — that God will forgive sins and indwell a person via the Holy Spirit. And John had only wanted to trust God in the first of these ways.

We had a long conversation. We were standing by the beach, looking over it at dark while talking about this. Then we moved up to the village center living room and kept talking. Over the course of the conversation, I asked John about the weight of his sin. About the free gift of God in forgiveness of sins. He had been listening close during our cabin discussions (I had been leading us in some basic conversations about Justification in Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians that week). He got it. And he started talking about the guilt he feels about this sin and that sin, this other sin and that other sin. It was a powerful thing to hear. How numb am I to the significance of my sin — and by extension, to the greatness of my savior — compared to this 8th grader?

He prayed and asked God to forgive him of his sins and give him New Life. Some of the wording he used, I could tell, he had parroted from me. Other things were original and genuine. I don’t think I have ever heard someone pray like John did. I am not sure what about it made it unique. He meant it, that much is for sure. Then, I prayed for him. I prayed that God would sustain this simple trust in John into a real, life-long, fruit-bearing trust.

Then we broke and went back to the cabin, where the rest of my guys were standing in a circle doing Fortnite emote dances.

Rome, Vatican City

The final leg of the trip was in Rome.

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St. Paul’s Within the Walls church, an Anglican church near our hotel.

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Castel Sant’Angelo. This was Hadrian’s Tomb, and then over the years various additions have been made, each in their own architectural style. A very strange shaped building.

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The EU flag flying over the Tiber river.

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Trajan’s Column, depicting his victory over the Dacians.

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More ruins from Trajan’s forum.

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Monument to Victorio Manuelle II, the king who unified Italy in 1871.

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Interior dome of the Pantheon.

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Pantheon Oculus + Clouds = the Moon?

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Facade of the Pantheon.

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Onward, to St. Peter’s.

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All Cathedrals face east, but not all have a 16-point compass rose around a 50 foot obelisk just to make sure you know it.

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The School of Athens.

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No photos allowed in the Sistine Chapel…

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… but you can’t stop a man with a blog.

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Nave of St. Peter’s Basillica.

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Altar at St. Peter’s

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Holy Spirit as a dove bursting into the Vatican.

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Trevi Fountain.

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Some ruins from the Roman Forum.

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The Colosseum.

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The Arch of Titus.

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The Arch of Titus was a victory monument to Titus’s sac of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in AD 70. Here are Roman soldiers carting away a Menorah.

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More ruinous columns from the Forum.

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Some invisible people…

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View from inside the Colosseum.

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Another view, the remaining top half.

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Pope Benedict XIV in the 1700’s added a cross to the ruinous site of the Colosseum, which then made it a holy place. So then the destruction ended, and it became a historical site rather than another stone quarry.

Florence, Cinque Terre

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The Duomo.

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The Palazzo Vecchio, from which the Medici family ruled.

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Probably a Medici if I had to guess.

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Martyrdom site of Savonarola, in the square of the Palazzo.

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Sunset over Florence.

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It was common in the middle ages and early modern period for people to build entire buildings on bridges. These houses or shops are just… on the bridge.

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View from the Dome of the Duomo.

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Another sunset.

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A forest we found on accident.

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The Arno.

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The Duomo at night.

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Greetings from the Italian Riviera! This is from Riomaggiore.

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More Riomaggiore. All the buildings looked like this.

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The view north, with rain.

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The view south (from Manarola).

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More mist, fog.

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A few relaxing hours on the beach at Monterosso al Mare.

Salzburg

Welcome to Salzburg, Austria, the home of…

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Yes, that’s right, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He lived here until the Prince Arc-Bishop didn’t like him anymore and drove him out of town.

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Lock-bridge number 5 of the trip.

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The Cathedral of the Prince-Archbishop (the entire square in which this was taken is his palace) has a statue that, if you stand juuuuuust right, looks like the angels on the Cathedral are crowning the statue of Mary.

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Interior of the Cathedral.

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A very high-up castle. Probably not best to walk the whole way up it…

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Part of the Mirabell Gardens.

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Is this the ugliest statue in Europe? Talks Atlas Obscura for directing me to it.

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View over the Salzach.

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View of the city from on high.

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Sunset over Salzburg.

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Continued. From the Castle to which no reasonable person should ever hike.

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Our hotel gave us Marmelade.

Berlin, Wittenberg

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Some buildings overlooking the Spree.

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Facade of the Bundestag.

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Dome of the Bundestag, with up and down spiral walkways.

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The Brandenburg Gate.

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There used to be a wall here…

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The Holocaust memorial in Berlin. These giant, impersonal slabs symbolize the way that the Nazi regime dehumanized their victims.

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Another angle of the memorial.

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Another piece of the Wall.

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Both sides of Berlin.

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The French (Hugonaut) church built to support the expelled French nationals after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

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Luther’s Bible, at the German National History museum.

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Perimeter wall at Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

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“Arbeit Macht Fret” translates to “Work Makes Free.” The camp would work its prisoners to death.

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Another bleak view of Sachsenhausen. This was the main area, where barracks held the political dissidents and later Jews / homosexuals / Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.

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The Ishtar Gate. This was the first of two gates leading to Darius’s temple (or Nebuchadnezzar? I do not rememeber which, but either way, exilic Israel emperor).

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Interior of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.

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95 Theses door, in Latin like the original. The wood door is obviously long-gone.

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City Hall in Wittenberg with statues of Luther and Melanchthon.

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City Church, where Luther himself would have actually preached.

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The Table, of Table Talk fame.

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Most clever pun of the trip was this restaurant…

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…which also takes second place as well.

Paris, Versailles

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The Eiffel Tower, viewed from the Trocadero park.

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The sun was setting as we made our way up the Tower.

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This is one of many attempts to capture the beauty of the sunset from the Tower.

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Some buildings on the Seine.

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Notre Dame.

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The inner nave of Notre Dame is one solid piece of stone, if I remember correctly. Over all the Cathedral was underwhelming, as are most Romanesque / High Medieval buildings.

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Sacré-Cœur, a church on the top of a very large hill. It was built in the 1870’s as national penance for the Franco-Prussian war. (As in, Prussia forced them to built it, in humiliation).

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Man coming out of a wall, bronze statue (?) (metal work?) on the way back from Sacré-Cœur.

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The home and studio of Van Gogh while he lived with his brother, Theo, from 1886-1888. Slightly before he hit the sweet spot of his career, which was 1888 to his death two years later.

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Interior of the upper floor of Sainte-Chapelle.

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We went to the Louvre, which means you already know what the next picture will be…

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The Mona Lisa! Much smaller than I had imagined it.

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We went to the Musée de l’Orangerie which is a modern art museum in Paris, near the Louvre. They had a massive display of Monet waterlilies, which are inphotographical because of their width. Here’s part of one…

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Eiffel Tower viewed from the Arc de Triomphe.

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The Arc de Triomphe.

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Van Gogh’s famous, non-ear-cut-off, self portrait at the Musée d’Orsay. This was the best art museum went visited on the trip, in my opinion.

 

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The absolutely enormous palace of Versailles.

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The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

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From the Gardens.

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Also in the gardens.

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One last garden photo…

London, Cambridge

The Europe trip is incredible! We are on a long train ride from Wittenberg to Salzburg at the moment, so I finally have time to upload some photos. Here are some of the better ones from London.

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The Tower of London.

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I believe that this was Westminster Abbey. We’ve been to dozens of churches, so I’m not exactly sure.

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Big Ben is under construction and barely recognizable.

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A park in King’s College, Cambridge.

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On the Cam River in Cambridge. The town was named after its bridge… over the river Cam.

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Trinity College Chapel in Cambridge. Wasn’t allowed to take pictures inside, but this was the coolest place we went in England.

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Saw a (not great) performance of As You Like It at the Globe theatre. Not that I’m a huge fan of this play to begin with. Anyways, the Theatre itself was great.

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This art installation at St. Paul’s is in memory of those lost during WWI. It’s a white cross, with destroyed city buildings coming off of it.

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London Bridge! Which is apparently called the Tower Bridge. Tell that to the poor people in Arizona.

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Platform 9 3/4 has a photo-op station at King’s Cross station.

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Natural History Museum, a strange baroque-eclectic building.

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A photo with my old pal Charles.

Fulfillment in Christ

From Vaughan Roberts, God’s Big Picture: Tracing the storyline of the Bible. Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002. 114-115.

The New Testament never leads us to expect that there will be any fulfillment of Old Testament promises other than their fulfillment in Christ. We are not encouraged, for example, to look for their fulfillment in the State of Israel and to expect a new temple to be built there. That is to expect a renewal of the model that has now been dismantled. The permanent reality is found in Christ. Graeme Goldsworthy has put it like this:

‘For the New Testament the interpretation of the Old Testament is not “literal” but “Christological”. That is to say that the coming of Christ transforms all the kingdom terms of the Old Testament into gospel reality.’ [1].

Another writer draws an analogy with a father a century ago, who promises his young on that he will give him a horse on his twenty-first birthday. Cars are subsequently invented, and so, when the birthday finally comes, the boy is given a car instead of a horse. The promise has still been fulfilled, but not literally. The father could not have promised his son a car because neither could have understood the concept.

In a similar way, God made his promise to Israel in ways they could understand. He used categories they were familiar with, such as the nation, the temple and material prosperity in the land. But the fulfillment breaks the boundaries of those categories. To expect a literal fulfillment is to miss the point:

To look for direct fulfillments of, say, Ezekiel in the twentieth-century Middle East, is to bypass and short-circuit the reality and the finality of what we already have in Christ as the fulfillment of those great assurances. It is like taking delivery of the motor car but still expecting to receive a horse. [2].

All the promises of the kingdom of God are fulfilled in Christ; he is God’s people, God’s place, and God’s rule.

 

[1] Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom (Exeter: Patermoster, 1981), p. 91.

[2] Chris Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament (London: Marshall Pickering, 1992), p. 77.

Biopolitics and Race

The difference between European countries and the US on race is that the former do not have it.

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At least, not in the same way that we do. Where European countries — say, Romania, as was the case in a conversation I had today over the book scanner at the library with a Romanian — have nationality, this does not mean the same thing as nationalism in the US. What we call Nationalism in the US is not really nationalism.

In Romania there is a strong identity, (“being Romanian”), that is understood biologically. My friend Jon. He has a Romanian face. Romanian blood. Romanian DNA. In this way, his very nature, his biological life itself, is bound up with a group of other people into the nation of Romania.

Importantly, the nation of Romania and the State of Romania are not the same thing. Within the boundaries of Romania there is another group of people called the Roma — he used the term Gypsy, although someone told me once that that is a really loaded word. The Roma are another group. A person in that group could be said to have a Roma face, Roma blood, Roma DNA. Yet they live within the State of Romania, not the State of Roma, which does not exist.

These two separate concepts — (1) the nation and (2) the state — refer to (1) a group of people who are associated together by common biology, and (2) the governing structure that occupies a certain territory within really, really specific boundaries. Like, wars happen if those boundaries get crossed. The boundaries are really important. The land too.

But something strange has happened in the course of history. I’m not sure when it happened, or if it was destined to happen. But at some point these two separate concepts blended together and became the same thing. This is called the nation-state. Clever name. The nation-state is when a state gives up the territorial definition and instead tries to define itself by the biological life of its people. Instead of saying, “Romania is this land mass,” the governing authorities began to say, “We, the ethnic Romanians, are Romania.”

The connections to Thor: Ragnarok are too obvious to pass up. Loki takes the set of antlers from the death god (whatever his name was) and resurrects him. Death-god comes back to life, fights a massive 1v1 against Hela, destroying the entire city of Asgard. Then, repeatedly, at least five times — a truly nauseating number of times to hear the same sentence in a film — the lead protagonists all declare that “Asgard is not a place; it’s a people.” Of course, they have to say that, because the place has been destroyed. But in their minds, if all the citizens of Asgard got onto a ship and landed somewhere else to plant a new city, that would be Asgard. The nation-state defines itself not in terms of its territory, but its people.

The same is true of all the European countries. The bloodiest century in recorded history was the 20th century for exactly this reason. States were able to mobilize their young men to war because those young men believed that they are their State, biologically.

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What is the problem with all this? Why is this not the best system? Better put, why does this always spiral out of control into a ghastly, totalitarian death-machine? Because biological identity is not flexible, but who lives under the jurisdiction of a government is very flexible. A Roma person cannot change their face, their blood, their DNA. But their location can change. And they are the minority in the place they live now.

Key today is immigration and refugees. Refugees cannot decide their biology. That isn’t flexible. But the place where they live is, clearly, something that can change. Especially when their country descends into war-torn Failed State chaos. They can run away. But the problem with running away is that the State in whose jurisdiction they will later arrive has defined itself in terms of the nation, the biological life of its people. And so the refugee cannot truly assimilate. They cannot actually “become” a part of that new State, because they cannot possibly become a part of the Nation that resides there.

You can change states. But you can’t change nations. Sounds pretty 50-50. Except that there are no states anymore. Only nation-states. So, it’s really 0-100, and everyone living outside their home nation-state loses.

Enter the United States of America, land of the free and home of the brave. A nation of immigrants. While European states can define themselves in terms of the nation, and so can group themselves by face, blood, and DNA collectives… The US doesn’t seem to have much going for itself in terms of nationhood. Is there a “nation” to the US? Is there anything physiologically or biologically that can be called “American?” What would that look like? I can sort of tell you if someone is German, but can a German tell if someone is an American?

This is because, again, the US is a nation of immigrants. The British came over, also the French, also the Dutch, latter Germans and Italians, and even later Polish, Ashkenazi Jewish, Russian, Slavic, and so on. And over time everyone mostly integrated with each other and now I have no idea what my ethnic heritage is. I’m probably German, maybe some Irish? Am I British? I usually tell people that I am Swiss, but I made that up. Who knows? 23andMe has probably already collected data from some relative of mine and is now creating a probabilistic map of my entire Genome. Wonder if they could just tell me without my paying the $129 fee…

And yet, this has not really forged much of a common American identity. It has almost totally excluded the African-American population from the integration process. Plus all Native Americans. And it has led to us using terms like “White” and “Black” instead of “British,” “German,” or “Italian,” “Gambian,” “Ghanan,” or “Cameroonian.” We have a general sensation that the US is “mostly white,” but what is whiteness? Is it just having light skin? Because many, many people in Europe have light skin but would recoil at being tagged together with similarly-skin-colored Europeans of other national backgrounds. Meanwhile, white Americans are the descendants of those same groups, and have no issue with it.

To put the problem shortly. There is a deep contradiction in the way that the American State defines itself. It has abandoned the land-based understanding of statehood. So, you would think that the other option is to have the understanding of statehood be some biological national identity. But, alas, there really is no way to understand American identity biologically.

Not that our country hasn’t tried!

eugenics photo burden

This is the same problem facing all Nation-States. The US just tries really, really hard not to resolve the tension. Want an example of a country that has tried to resolve the tension? Let’s go with the most obvious one. Germany in WWII. Definitely a nation-state. Defined itself explicitly in terms of the nation, the biological life of its people. The term they used for this was Volk, which just translates to “People.” But it could not be avoided that Volk cannot be everyone, or it would be a meaningless term. To define who is the nation is also to define who is not the nation.

So, they had to define Volk, and this definition did not include the Jews. They did not share in the same face, blood, and DNA as the Germans. So, they were not included in the Nation-State. Which is really, really bad if the German government has labeled you The Problem. As someone who is not a member of the nation-state, you have no citizenship within its jurisdiction. And since you have no citizenship, i.e. you have no part to play in the national scene, you do not “exist” in the same way that a German does. You are not “alive” in the same way that a German is. In the eyes of the Nation-State.

(All of this comes from Agamben, by the way, not me. Here is a primer video).

So, the United States is not returning to the land definition of the State. But it also doesn’t have much of anything to go on as far as defining who, biologically, is in the nation. So that decision remains capricious and arbitrary. Don’t get me wrong — that decision is made every day when the Black body is deemed outside the nation, and thus expendable. This racism is palpable. There is an Us-vs-Them mentality in the minds of many of my also-white friends. While my friends would never say something as forward as “Black people do not deserve life,” there is certainly an underlying mentality that sees the Black body as different and therefore incompatible with (white) American life. That same mentality, transposed from my normie friends to a police officer with a gun and 0.4 seconds to respond, leads to death.

why is color separating us

The United States absolutely has the power to make arbitrary and capricious decisions about whose life is on the inside and whose life is on the outside of the American body. And while European governments may have the semblance of national-biological identity to them, they are just as arbitrary and capricious. Every country in Europe besides Portugal has a separate national identity somewhere within its jurisdiction. Should the gun be drawn and Camps be built again, these national-others would be the first to experience the destructive force of the now-militarized police. Nobody really has any basis to decide who, biologically, is “in” and who is “out.” That is legal fiction used by atrocious rulers to keep their power. And anyways, when one of these countries invades another country and sets up shop, everyone in the occupied country faces this fate.

Something like “race” was necessary to develop because it mirrors the European concept of “nation.” In the biopolitical nation-state, whoever holds power must decide who is in the nation. Without some construct like a common identity based on the people who had always lived on that land (Hence Nazi “blood and soil“), a new identity had to be formed, somehow. For most Americans this is probably as simple as “my ancestors have always lived here.” But African Americans, and certainly Native Americans, have been here just as long if not longer than your white ancestors. Than my white ancestors. Yet, they are excluded from being considered part of the nation-state. They are seen as a thorn in the nation’s side. And so the biopolitical machine will seek to remove them.