Thursday, April 29, 2010

Introduction to Proverbs

(this outline is part one in a series on Proverbs I am doing for a home Bible study. I am using many different sources, but I credit here, Dr. Duane Garret and his NAC commentary and class lecture notes from Dr. Mark Futato.)

An introduction to Proverbs
By Rev. John Sawtelle

I. The author (s) of Proverbs
A. Solomon – 1:1; 10:1-22; 25:1-29:27 (compiled @ 300 years after his death; Solomon’s name can be translated to the number 375 in Hebrew characters, and this is the number of proverbs in this section). This constitutes a literary use of numbers, not an esoteric use.
B. Agur – ch.30
C. King Lemuel – 31:1-9
D. Sayings of the wise – 22:17; 24:23
II. The nature of Proverbs
A. they are royal
1. royalty-wisdom connection – Prov. 25:2; 1Kings 3:5-12, 16-28; 4:29-34; 10:1-7 (Solomon’s wisdom came from prayer: a prayer born out of humility (3:7-8); a specific prayer for wisdom (3:9); a prayer that was divinely answered (3:12; 4:29ff; 10:1-7)
2. royalty, wisdom, and the image of God – Gen. 1:28; 2:20,23 – naming is a dimension of subduing or kingship; royalty and wisdom are yoked in man’s calling to be a philosopher-scientist
B. they are “natural” –
1. the covenantal order of creation as the basis for wisdom: according to Proverbs, the world has a certain order to it, and living in harmony with that order is essential to peace and fulfillment (8:26ff). The biblical doctrine of creation is crucial to biblical wisdom. Proverbs strives to explain that moral order is rooted in the pattern of God’s creation, it is not itself some sort of independent entity (Garrett, 53).
2. Proverbs 6:6-9 illustrates the character-conduct-consequence nexus which is rooted in the very structure and order of creation
C. they are covenantal
1. wisdom is the embodiment of the law in day to day living – Dt. 4:6-8
2. wisdom moves within the sphere of the covenant
a. frequency and usage of the covenant name, “Lord,” indicates covenantal context of Proverbs (the name Yahweh, God’s covenantal name, is used 84 times in Proverbs, indicating a strong link between covenant and wisdom)
b. Proverbs applies the law of the covenant to daily life attitudes and experiences
1) 5th commandment – Dt. 5:16; Pro. 19:26; 15:5
2) 6th commandment – Dt. 5:17; Pro. 1:10-19
3) 7th commandment – Dt. 5:18; Pro. 2:16-19
4) 8th commandment – Dt. 5:19; Pro. 30:7-9
5) 9th commandment – Dt. 5:20 Pro. 12:17-19
6) 10th commandment – Dt. 5:21; Pro. 15:27
• Proverbs explains and applies covenant law to daily life in the form of terse maxims
c. Proverbs uses a literary form which is suitable for covenant wisdom (antithetical parallelism). This form is unique to Biblical wisdom (wisdom in other cultures is in the form of pithy one-liners), in that the antithesis between the 1st and the 2nd line depicts the either-or-nature of decision making. In other words, biblical wisdom sets before us a fork in the road, making every moment of life full of religious and covenantal significance: worship and obey the Lord or worship and obey idols
d. Proverbs articulates the outworking of the sanctions of the covenant in the life of the individual
1) side note: Duane Garrett’s comments mark out the lines of an important debate: does Israelite wisdom include a concept of divine retribution, or is it simply an act-consequence philosophy? This question brings us back to the issue of the relationship between Deuteronomy and Proverbs:
(a) divine retribution: the consequences of moral actions are divine rewards or punishments administered directly by God in accordance with the fidelity of an action with respect to the law
(b) act-consequence: each action contains within itself a link to reward or punishment according to the moral order which is embedded within creation itself
2) the Mosaic covenant included sanctions for corporate obedience or transgression – Dt. 28
3) Proverbs applies blessing and curse sanctions to individuals based on their own conduct – Pro 12:21,24; 13:13,18,21; 14:23; 15:9,31-32; 28:19; 19:16-17
3. the crucial concept of the “fear of the Lord” –
a. Proverbs 1:7 provides the context and backdrop for the proper understanding and application of the proverbs
b. the quest for wisdom must be in submission to the Maker of heaven and earth; having a relationship with the Lord of the covenant is the starting point for an ethical life
c. according to Proverbs and the Bible in general, the fear of the Lord is the frame of mind which is essential to all right thought and action
III. The purposes of Proverbs
A. structure unfolds purposes
1. synopsis (1:2): 2a attaining wisdom and discipline, 2b understanding words of insight
2. resumption-expansion (vv.3-6): vv3-4 expand upon 2a: moral development, vv5-6 expand upon 2b: mental development
B. 2 audiences addressed
1. supplement the simple – 1:4
a. the simple – those who are susceptible to deception, the morally deficient, inexperienced, na├»ve
b. the seduction of the simple – 7:7ff
c. the instruction of the simple – 9:4-6
d. the content: the simple are instructed in subtlety, to be adepts, clever, cunning, crafty; the same word is used of the serpent in Gen. 3:1; God wants His children to be equipped to handle people who are crafty; Jesus said we are to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matt. 10:16)
2. instruct the wise – 1:5
a. hear – one must be willing to listen in order to gain wisdom
b. acquire wise counsel – literally “steering”
• Proverbs instructs both groups throughout, either directly or indirectly
IV. The literary devices of Proverbs
A. parallelism
1. synonymous parallelism – 16:18
2. antithetical parallelism – 17:22
3. synthetic parallelism – 10:18 (the 2nd line amplifies and expands upon the 1st line)
4. comparative parallelism – 25:12,25 (the 2nd line draws a comparison between some basic ethical or theological truth, or some illustration –usually from nature)
B. comparison – 16:18
C. juxtaposition – 25:14
D. numerical formula – 30:21,24,29
E. autobiographical point of view – 24:30-34

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dr. Waltke resigns over EVILUTION

If you have not read much about Dr. Waltke's resignation from Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), check out this article on Huffington Post, .

My intention in posting this is not to villainize Dr. Waltke because of his theistic evolutionary views,or to spark a debate over which interpretation of Genesis 1 is correct, or to get into the broader topic of how natural revelation ought ought to shape our interpretation of scripture. The real issue I have with this incident is contained in a specific quote found in this article. RTS' interim president, Michael Milton, apparently defines the nub of the concern which caused Dr. Waltke's dismissal/resignation: the situation caused the school "heartache," but Waltke ultimately disobeyed the institution's mandate on evolution: No Darwinian talk allowed. So in the very words of the school president, the issue is not that Dr. Waltke holds to a non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1, its that he moved from interpretation of special revelation to making judgments about natural revelation and advocated a nuanced view of theistic evolution to account for the origins of the universe.

Let's think through the issues here. RTS tolerates a variety of views on Genesis 1, including everything from Day Age to Framework Hypothesis to Accommodated Day theory, yet, all the while it permits this, it enforces a gag rule on the professors about their views concerning the age of the earth and the mechanism which generated the material world? To me, that is extremely suspect. Are we supposed to believe that all these professors who hold to non-literal views of Genesis 1 hold such positions without reference to or awareness of the massive, overwhelming, scientific consensus that the earth is billions of years old and is the product of naturalistic evolution? If you believe that, I have a bridge I would like to sell you. It is utterly dishonest to concede that because of the supposedly open and shut case for an old earth it is obvious Genesis 1 cannot be interpreted literally, yet on the earth hand, allow no discussion or provide no guidance for students to think through the proposed scientific models which are used to account for the origins of creation. At minimum, the students deserve better than that, since they are the ones who have to stand before presbyteries and classes for orthodoxy exams, and they are the ones who have to answer questions from people in their churches who will want some help in thinking through the problem of origins and the age of the earth and the mechanisms involved, if the Genesis 1 is not meant to be taken literally after all. This gag rule constitutes a major disservice to the students and is a policy that is riddled with inconsistency.

Another problem I have with this is, where does the seminary draw the line in terms of other discussions which bear upon the interface of science with scripture? Is the line arbitrarily drawn at the point of discussion about origins only, but discussion is permitted on any other topic? I noticed that RTS has a program in marriage and family therapy which certainly interacts with science. So is the policy that, when it comes to the "hard" sciences professors are gagged, but when it comes to the social sciences they are free to comment? Why permit discussions about the social sciences though? There are certainly a number of theories in the social sciences that are a serious threat to the authority of scripture, the institution of the family, and Christian ethics, if the church accepts the findings of the social sciences as valid.

It seems to me that something else is going on here. I have no proof or insider evidence, but I think this has a lot more to do with donors than it does with discussions about scientific models of origins. I think it is about fear that the spigot which controls the cash flow from the donors might just put a squeeze on the seminary budget if word gets out of classroom discussions about the evolutionary bogeyman, and that some professors are OK with that scientific model. You say, well that is fairly cynical, and at any rate why shouldn't they have a concern not to offend their donors since the seminary ostensibly exists to serve churches where these donors attend. I am not advocating a lack of concern about the donors, I guess I am failing to see how the donors are not offended about non-literal views, which are clearly motivated by "scientific evidence" for an old earth, but the donors are offended about any discussion over whether there is a scientific model of origins which is consistent with scriptural principles.

There appears to be a real disconnect here: either the church has not come to grips with the fact that it has given science the authority to control its interpretation of one of the most foundational principles of Biblical faith, or the seminary tail is wagging the proverbial dog of the church and is intellectually bullying the pew to accept a non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1 but is at the same time closing its eyes to the implications of such a position. At the end of the day, I hope the resignation of Dr. Waltke stimulates a very robust and honest discussion about this issue in the churches, seminary classrooms, and the pulpits, so that the church comes to a more self-conscious view of what it believes and why.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Message Framing Pt2: Risky Behavior

Message framing (MF) is a rhetorical strategy, used in a wide range of persuasive messages in order to gain the compliance of a particular target audience. A very common use of MF is found in public service anouncements (PSA's). The specific use of MF we will discuss here is its application so PSA's addressing risky behavior by young people. Assuming the basic components of MF outlined in pt1 of this series, we will look at two primary rhetorical strategies employed by those using MF: messages that use gain-framed appeals which emphasize the positive benefits of compliance and loss-framed appeals which emphasize negative aspects of failing to comply with the persuasive appeal.

Recent research applying MF to PSA's has disclosed some helpful insights about what kinds of frames are most useful at securing positive college drinkresponses by a target audience and under what circumstances. With respect to college drinking, Gerend and Cullen (2008) found that gain-framed messages emphasizing the positive effects of moderate drinking were more effective than loss-framed messages if the gain-framed message was combined with an emphasis on the short-term benefitsof moderation rather than the long-term negative consequences of excessive alcohol consumption. Another study, focusing on the application of MF to anti-drug campaigns, Choi and Buster (2008) conluded that loss-frame messages were more effective with adolescents who either used pot or had friends who used pot, while gain-framed prevention messages were more effective at gaining compliance with adolescents who neither used pot in the past and had friends who were non-users. They reasoned that the difference in the effectiveness of the message frames came down to the assesment of risk by the message receivers. Adolescents who used pot, viewed non-use as risky since it entailed possible negative consequences, therefore, a message which framed continued use of pot negatively, as potentianlly dangerous, was more persuasive to them, while non-users simply needed reinforcement of the benefits of non-use since maitaining their current practice was not perceived as risky and involved certain gains. In another study, Marman and van de Putte (2008) found that persuasive appeals interacted with other message characteristics, subjective concerns, and context factors to produce compliance with anti-smoking messages. They were able to conclude that in the specific case where an individuals intention to quit smoking was high and the level of nicotene was high, loss-framed messages were more effective at gaining compliance. In the case where intention to quit was low and nicotene dependence was low, they concluded that gain-framed messages were more effective.

The conclusion to be drawn from the sampling of these 3 studies suggests that MF interacts with other message characteristics and context factors to effect compliance. Framing messages effectively for PSA's will require the persuader to accurately assess the receivers subjective conceptions of risk in relationship to the message of the appeal, carefully consider the nature of the PSA, and the characteristics of the target audience.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reflections on UFC 112

Well, I experienced something new in watching the latest UFC event; I watched it at 10 am as it aired real time. It was kind of interesting to watch it while eating a breakfast burrito and a diet coke, instead of typical evening food and drink. Overall, even though there were two championship fights, I am glad that I watched it at the local pub rather than purchasing the PPV myself, since the fights just were not all that interesting.

As I have spent the last 24 hours thinking about it and talking with others about the fights, I have 3 observations:

First, Matt Hughes is not ever going to contend for the 170lb. title again. Look, I love Matt Hughes, I like the way he fights, I love his walk-out song, "Country Boy," I think he is a great guy and had a lot to do with bringing diversity to MMA by dominating so many fights based upon his wrestling skills. But yesterdays fight, even though it was a knockout victory, showed why he will never wear the belt again. From the very beginning of round 1 it was clear that he has lost at least a step and just doesn't have the speed to shoot in, lock up, and take opponents down. Without that ability, Hughes is just never going to take GSP or John Fitch for that matter. So, a tip of the hat to Hughes for a victory in a fight featuring two over the hill fighters. It was an interesting fight to watch, but painful in the end for what it revealed.

Second, BJ Penn got robbed. I don't mean to disrespect Frankie Edgar or the fight he put on, but he did not take the belt from BJ, which is what you are supposed to do as a challenger. Penn, landed the stronger, cleaner strikes, and he dominated the center of the Octagon the whole fight. Yes, he got taken down twice, but he got up as fast as he was taken down, and Edgar made nothing of it. I don't know why Penn did not press the fight more at certain points, but I did not really think he needed to in order to win. I was stunned by the decision, I thought at best it was 50-46, with Edgar taking the last round. This was a terrible decision, and it is one more example of why MMA needs a new scoring system to help judges make more objectively sound decisions.

Third, Anderson Sylva is so much better than anyone, that its not even fair to have fight anymore. Well, ok, he is better, but he should be required to take two, maybe three fights in the future. Since he has so thoroughly cleaned out the 185lb division, he needs to move up and fight the light-heavyweight champion, and then, once he gets that, he needs to move up and fight for the heavyweight belt. I think he can make a serious run at that belt and it would be an incredible feat to take all 3 belts and would solidify him as the greatest MMA fighter of all time. If he takes both of those belts, then the UFC needs to work out a deal for him to fight Fedor to determine who really is THE GREATEST FIGHTER in the world (Fedor, in my view is the only guy who has a real chance at beating Sylva). The other thing that was clear to me after watching him fight, and also from having seen GSP fight recently, is that GSP is a nice fighter, but would get utterly destroyed by Sylva, and the UFC should have NO INTEREST in matching up GSP with Sylva.

Well, that is how I see it, let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Message Framing part 1

Message framing has its origin in the work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who jointly developed Prospect Theory (PT, 1979), which attempts to explain how people manage risk and uncertainty. Two similar and interrelated concepts form the basis of (PT) which in turn forms the foundation of the rhetorical strategy of message framing. The first is the concept of loss aversion, which says that, in general, people strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring possible gains (some studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains). The second, but related concept, is the certainty effect, which says that people are generally risk averse with respect to choices involving probable gains and risk seeking with respect to choices involving sure losses. In other words, people tend to underweight outcomes that are merely probable in comparison with outcomes that are obtained with certainty. According to PT then, an individual’s perception of risk and its attending prospect of potential loss are crucial factors in decision making when confronted with a persuasive message. These insights from PT, have been developed into a rhetorical strategy called message framing, which is about constructing persuasive messages to shape a persons perception of the risk involved in complying with a persuasive message. A persuasive appeal shaped by message framing will frame the content of the appeal either in a positive frame (gain-frame), emphasizing the desirable consequences associated with compliance with the advocated viewpoint, or, a negative frame (loss-frame), emphasizing the undesirable consequences associated with noncompliance.