sábado, janeiro 21, 2017

How are the ten commandments united?

The ten commandments are united in various ways: 
First, all ten commandments “hang” from the same main branch: God's character (Matthew 22:37-40). God is the center of all commandments, not the laws themselves. The commandments exist for His glory and delight and they are an expression of God himself (Jeremiah 9:24-26), a way to know him. Therefore, obeying all those commandments is to give testimony of him, to point to him and also to love him (John 14:21). The law, then, promotes knowledge of God and conformity to him, which leads to righteous deeds. All righteous deeds arise from love or hate of God.

Secondly, the content of each commandment overlaps that of others in such a way that all commandments interpret each other. The understanding of adultery as wrong and faithfulness as right helps us understand why idolatry is wrong, when we see it as a kind of unfaithfulness (Ezra 16, Hosea 1-3). When we understand that worshiping God only is right and act accordingly, we also understand we're not supposed to make images and worship them. Since all commandments are perspectives on the ethical life attached to the same base-principle – God's character - one can't break one commandment without breaking this base-principle and all that flows from it, that is, all the other commandments.

Thirdly, all commandments and their explicit applications form a coherent ethical system that covers all areas of life. Some of those applications are cited in detail in Scripture, addressing practical, real life situations of a given time and serving as models for our own contemporary applications (as used by the writers of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms). They're called case laws. Case laws in general and their particular subtypes (like penal laws) develop the Decalogue by expanding the range of application of a commandment. The fifth commandment, for example, teaches the overarching principle of honoring father and mother . The case law derived from it, thus, expands this principle by showing that we should also honor elders. The sixth commandment's expansion accounts for laws on self-defense, on accidental kill, on caring for other people's lives by building parapets, and so forth. The seventh commandment, when expanded, originates a whole sexual ethic. The eighth commandment is expanded by case laws on generosity, honest and hard work and providing for the poor, while the ninth is developed in such a way that it allows the legal system to function, due to the warnings against corruption. Other examples could be cited, but these will suffice.

  Finally, all ten commandments teach us to love our neighbor like God loved us (John 15:12). The whole Decalogue was summarized by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40: “love the Lord […] and […] love your neighbor as yourself”. Only by obeying all the commandments one can perfectly love the Lord and consequently love his neighbor. But no man has ever kept the whole law except Christ. Therefore, conforming to Christ is conforming to the Law, and obeying him is obeying God's law (John 14:21; Ephesians 5:1-2). Only imitators of Christ can show true sacrificial love (Romans 15:2-3), with a heart willing to forgive, serve and suffer selflessly in humility for the sake of their neighbor.

sábado, janeiro 14, 2017

Imitating Christ

Imitation of Christ motif for God's glory is the Goal of Christian Ethics. The actions of the triune God are the model for his people (Jeremiah 9:23-24; Exodus 19:4-5, 20:1-4).

By that logic, we can now follow God's explicit examples when it comes to parenting. God created life, and parents also create life. Given the toils of raising children, we are also called to imitate God in his loving patience and wise justice. God forgives and shows mercy, but also punishes and disciplines according to the offense, and so should parents (Exodus 21; Ephesians 3:14-15; Psalms 103:13-14). Parents should also imitate Jesus, who was a father to many. Never neglectful, never indulgent. All powerful, but never dominant. Jesus was a Godly leader, who taught his followers as he walked “along the way” (Deuteronomy 6).

Christ was also a great friend to his disciples (Luke 7:34). He was willing to lay down his life for his friends and to tell them what they needed to hear (John 15:13-15; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). He also revealed himself to them, both in power and in “weakness”. God also revealed himself for the ones he called friends, like Abraham and Moses (Genesis 18; Exodus 33, 34) and helped them in every step.

On the topic of true manhood, Jesus worked hard to make his wife (the Church) holy, and he succeeded. Jesus was “the good provider” in the sense that he provided eternal salvation and earthly help for his brothers and sisters. He did not shrink from finishing the arduous task of redemption (Matthew 20:25-28, John 19:30). He suffered pain, humiliation, shame and abandonment for others, and gave his precious life to save worthless men (Hebrews 12:3-4). He was, nonetheless, “a soft man” who didn't try to hide all his emotions, and even wept (John 11:35; Luke 19:41). He also knew well what his life goal was and walked a straight path towards it (John 4:34). All of those are also models for true womanhood. In addition to that, women can also look to Jesus' submission to the Father and imitate him when submitting to their husbands. Women's special gift of childbearing should also be used according to God's life-giving and life-preserving attitude.

In the topic of marriage, there are implicit examples to be taken from Jesus' life. Jesus was faithful to his wife, the Church, and to God. God is faithful to his Word. Spouses should be faithful to each other, and also loving and forgiving. God the Father and the Son are one, like husband and wife are one.

Other examples can be found in the topic of work. We work and rest because God and his son worked and rested. We also enjoy the fruit of our work, like God and Jesus did. Jesus performed faithful work. So should we.
The last examples have to do with creation care. We must value what God values. Therefore, we must value creation and take care of it, as good stewards who don't own, but use God's creation (plants, animals, water, land, etc) as he intended in Genesis, and as he commands in his Law. Jesus did that, as a material worker and as someone who ate and drank properly, and who never forgot that all that is on Earth belongs to his heavenly father.

sábado, janeiro 07, 2017

Analysis of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma

People are drawn to vegetarianism for various reasons. Pollan's book suggests at least five:

The first would be the fact that many people are against the infliction of suffering on animals led or encouraged by humans, specially in this time of history, given the enormous numbers of animals killed, treated or held in precarious conditions in factory farms or slaughter houses.

A second reason is that some people believe that, as Pollan puts it, “science is dismantling our claims to uniqueness as a species”. On that basis, the moral imperative held by them (that they should treat equals with dignity) is applied to animals, as well. This claim gets stronger when the name “speciesism” (regarded by some as a type of racism) joins the Darwinist theory previously mentioned, adding a sense of guilt to people who will shiver with the notion of being called “somewhat racist”. 

Access to literature such as Pollan's and to audiovisual media such as YouTube videos showing the slaughter of animals also contributes to the “making” of new vegetarians, for that brings the animals into view again (counteracting the market's intent to establish a distance between their animal products and the dead animals themselves). 

A fourth reason is the access to the information that humans no longer need to eat meat to survive. That could make the killing of animals “an unnecessary evil”.

The fifth reason is the lack of dissemination of the information that various animals are also killed in the processing of grains, vegetables and other kinds of vegetarian food growing. If most wannabe vegetarians knew that killing animals is probably unavoidable no matter what they chose to eat, they'd have to face the fact that eating grass-finished steaks might be the option that requires the least number of killed animals a year, as ruminants are the largest possible animals that can live on the least cultivated land.

Most self-labeled vegetarians eat some meat because eating meat is more convenient. Making a satisfying vegetarian dinner sometimes takes a lot more thought and work. They'd probably also say that, in a society where vegetarians still represent a relatively small minority, eating meat is more sociable. They find it uncomfortable to put other people in a situation in which they have to accommodate their unusual preferences, specially when it comes to cultural and family traditions. Some would also say that their meat eating is a deep biological desire rather than a mere gastronomic preference. 

Other reasons for eventual vegetarian meat-eating could be: the notion that domestication is a successful evolutionary development, both for humans and for animals (humans provided the animals with food and protection in exchange for which the animals provided humans their milk, eggs, and their flesh); the notion that some animals are not “sufficiently sentient to suffer” (like some mollusks); the idea that “what is wrong with eating animals is the practice, not the principle”; and, for people who consider eggs to be meat, the notion that eggs can be coaxed from animals without hurting or killing them.

Every human being bears the responsibility for the general treatment of animals that supply milk, eggs, and meat. The books of Genesis and Romans tell us that God commanded mankind to rule over God's creation (and he called creation “good”), making sure the manifestation of His glory and power is well taken care of; not mistreated, nor destroyed. Jesus' words about taking care of lost sheep, fallen oxen and donkeys (even on the Sabbath) and other passages also support this idea. We can all contribute to improve animal treatment in various ways, like fighting against cruel treatment for domestic, wild and farm animals (within the law) and helping improve laws that contribute to this fight; choosing our food wisely; and, most important of all, evangelism, through witch the church will grow and make known their worldview on how to properly treat animals.

quinta-feira, dezembro 29, 2016

Analysis of Andrew Solomon's Far From the Tree

Solomon would consider a “good life” one that brings the most happiness and the least suffering for the greatest number of people, thus, falling in the utilitarian category.
The author seems to think of acceptance, individualism and autonomy (or freedom from any self-determined-moral-standard) as virtues. He believes individuals should be free to connect with any type of community they want - as long as they do not interfere with or undermine each other's life choices; and be able to be whoever they want to be - not who their parents or the community in which they were born want them to be; also, he believes they should choose their own moral standards, regardless of any other moral standards, such as the Catholic Church's rejection of abortion and of homosexual lifestyle.
Solomon attempts to persuade his readers by, first, creating one category that includes both biblically reproachable characteristics (such as “gayness”) and biblically-non-reproachable characteristics (like dwarfism). He names that category horizontal identity. The fact that sinful characteristics were put side by side with non sinful ones might make readers more prone to forget about the biblical moral standards of differentiation and, instead, start thinking of both “gayness” and dwarfism, for example, only as “characteristics that are the same in their 'immutability', that one can't choose to change”. This suggests that readers should treat “gayness” and dwarfism as basically the same thing. Secondly, Solomon uses his own life's story and emotionally-loaded interviews he'd conducted to show readers how much suffering people who are “different” have to go through because of society's cruel treatment to people carrying unusual horizontal identities.
The author's use of character lies on his belief that a virtuous society is one whose members displayed acceptance and diversity (in terms of types of identities). In terms of duty, people are to hold neutrality as a standard for establishing relationships, meaning that one should not judge other people's life choices as right or wrong. When it comes to results, that society should work towards this goal: that no individual would ever be ashamed of their life choices. Finally, the author suggests that a society has acquired a correct vision about acceptance, diversity and neutrality (which, in his own words, “appears to lie halfway between shame and rejoicing”) when it no longer shows a need for identity-affirming-activism.

sábado, dezembro 24, 2016

Nosso Príncipe da Paz

Neste dia em que milhares de discípulos ao redor do mundo celebram o nascimento do Príncipe da Paz, nasce este blog, cujo propósito é refleir a mensagem do Deus Filho, como um serviço a ele e a você que visita esta página.

E em homenagem a Emanuel, que é Jesus - o Cristo, compartilho este pequeno poema que acabou de sair do forno:

Nosso Príncipe da Paz

Glórias damos, ó Altíssimo,
pois nos veio o Salvador.
Cantem povos, em uníssono:
“Grande é nosso Senhor!

O governo em teus ombros,
o domínio em tuas mãos,
aos teus pés prostrados, todos,
contemplam restauração

do teu Reino majestoso
que transforma corações
e traz paz, justiça e gozo
para todas as nações!”

Pai Eterno, Emanuel,
o Rei que promete e faz,
anseamos tua volta,
Nosso Príncipe da Paz.