Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Matthew 18

Who is the Greatest?

Jesus' disciples ask him who is the best in the kingdom of heaven. He says the one who is as humble as a child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Encouraging humility, I like that. 

Temptations to Sin

Jesus says it is necessary for there to be temptations to sin. He says if your eye causes you to sin cut it out for "it is better to enter life  with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire."

This is interesting, it relates to a conversation I was just having in the comments of Matthew 4 about Satan. This passage does not say why there is a necessity for temptations for sin, but at least it acknowledges it. Also, there is some language that I found interesting (and highlighted). It contrasts being thrown to hell with "entering life". This seems to me to imply that the afterlife is the beginning. This could lead someone to think that this life does not matter, which seems like a bad thing to me. Is there a different explanation of this language?

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

I assume "little one" in this passage is referring to children

If a child is straying from God, you should spend time to bring him back. Just like a shepherd would leave 99 sheep on a mountain to go find a lost one.

If Your Brother Sins Against You

If your brother sins against you, first talk with him just the two of you. If that doesn't work, bring a few friends and detail the charges. If he still does not listen turn him in to the church. If he still does not listen treat him as a Gentile. "whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven"

I quoted that because I remember that phrase coming up before. At the time I thought it seemed to be in conflict the the idea of setting up treasures in heaven, but here it does not seem that way at all. This seems to be talking about setting up relationships here on earth and those being in heaven. It makes more sense to me here.

"If two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my father in heaven."

This sounds like it is saying if any two people pray for the same thing it will come true. Is there a different interpretation of this? Because it is clearly false, otherwise every team would win every sports game :)

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a brother who sinned against him, suggesting 7 times. Jesus replied 70 * 7 times.

I'm guessing it was said in this way because he was saying, forgive him as much as possible. It's not supposed to be counting up to a really high number, but rather to keep forgiving forever. I'm assuming he is not actually suggesting to forgive 490 times :)

Jesus then tells the story of a king who releases a servant of a very large debt. The servant then goes out and find another poor person who owes him some money and insists he pays up and gets him put in jail since he can't pay. After hearing about this, the king is pissed because the servant should have had mercy in the same way mercy was had on him. (Is this grammar right? It sounds odd but I don't know how to fix it)

Pay it forward, I like it.


  1. I like most of the chapter and the advice contained within, with the exception of a few small things. Don't stop forgiving. Awesome! I like to think the part about getting rid of body parts that cause you to sin is a way of saying “if something in your life is causing you problems, you probably should get rid of it.” Like a friend who is always getting you into trouble, you probably shouldn't hang out with them. My interpretation might be correct, or a bit of a stretch, but its a message I can live with and I think is really good advice. I also love the last story, which I believe you summed up really good with the “pay it forward.”
    In verse 10, there seem to be a lot of places in the Bible where God can be seen, and in others that he can not ever be seen.
    I also agree with you on the prayer thing.. Funny comparison with the sports analogy. LoL! I think people tend to remember the "hits" and forget the misses. I know this is always chalked up to "well, God didn't want to me to have it, or it wasn't in his plan."
    I see a lot of contradictions and problems with the idea of prayer. Of course I am making a few assumptions. If someone can clarify, that would be great. Especially if my assumptions are wrong. First God is omniscient. He knows everything that has happened, is happening and everything that will happen in the future. He is omnipotent. Basically, he can do anything. (except when it comes to iron chariots. See Jdg 1:19). He has a plan for us. He created everything for a purpose and everything is part of that plan. God gave us free will. The reason there is evil in the world. And lastly, he has the ability to answer prayers, whether he does or not is up to him.
    This brings me to three questions. 1) Can the actions of people change this plan? 2) Does God occasionally interfere with the outcomes of stuff? 3) And does praying alter God's plan?

    1)If the answer to number 1 is yes, then it really isn't much of a plan. If a person can change God's plan, than if there is some event in which God didn't really plan for. Then God wouldn't be all knowing since he didn't see it coming, or all powerful since he couldn't stop someone from changing his plan.
    If the answer to number 1 is no, then you get into predetermination. If what we do isn't going to have a change in the plan, then our actions don't really matter in the long run and free will isn't free will.

    2) Assuming yes to the second question, then God would sometimes interfere, and sometimes he wouldn't. Thus, God can sometimes interfere with free will and sometimes he doesn't. God, in this scenario would be allowing evil to exist. In my eyes, someone who has the power to stop awful things from happening but chooses not to, is acting immorally. Whether or not God is good because he is “good' by some other standard, or because what he chooses to be good is good, which would be arbitrary is called the Euthyrpho (spelling?) dilemma. I think I pointed to it earlier. If the answer is no, then God either can't answer the prayers, or won't answer the prayers, at least to someone asking God to perform something. Either there is no point in praying because God doesn't interfere with the actions of men, or he is unable too, which means he would not be all powerful.

  2. 3) If praying alters God's plan, than he doesn't really have much of a plan. This indicates that God is not omniscient, is not perfect and is not unchanging. If prayer can cause him to change his mind, this could indicate two things. He either was not aware that there was a problem that needed his attention or that he was not going to perform an action, but now he is. If the answer is no, then there is no point in praying because God was already planning on doing, or not doing, what we were going to ask for, regardless of whether we prayed or not. Plus, God knows what you are thinking, there really shouldn't be a reason to have to “tell him.”

    I think its impossible to answer all three of these without contracting one of the other questions. However, someone might come along and show me otherwise.

    Examples of prayer that's been tested can be seen at these two links. The first one was a study by the templeton foundation (faith based), which found that in a rather large study, there was no difference in outcomes vs outcomes for patients who were not prayed for. When you read about these studies, sometimes the patients that were prayed for (as a whole) do worse as a group than those without it. One theory is the “added pressure” on these people to get better might have a negative psychological and eventually physiological effect on them. Templeton foundation.

    I'd really like to get another perspective on this.

  3. I like what you said about the cutting off body parts stuff. Honestly, when I read that I didn't really know what to make of it. It didn't really make sense and I didn't give it much thought, just read past it, but your interpretation sounds good to me.

    Your comments on prayer are interesting, I have a few comments. In number 2 you conflate God intervening and God messing with free will. While it is possible for God to override someone's free will (hardening someone's heart), I would argue that it is also possible for him to interfere while leaving everyone's free will intact (like the parting of the red sea).

    Granted, some prayers include interfering with free will(of the top of my head, a prayer to stop a husband from beating his wife), so if we restrict ourselves to those types of prayers, my complaint goes away. But I thought it was worth mentioning.

    My other comment, in number 3 you said "If the answer is no, then there is no point in praying". This reminds me of free will vs. determinism when people say that if there is no free will there is no point in trying because everything is determined. Determinism isn't the same as fatalism. Even though it is determined to happen ahead of time, you still have to do it. Anyway, your comment about prayer feels the same to me, maybe it was part of God's plan all along and his plan includes you praying for it.

    Not sure if that last bit makes sense, it's still a jumble in my head a bit, free will/determinism always throws my brain for a loop a little and this feels similar.

    As I'm typing this, I'm wondering, is it possible for free will and God having a plan to coexist? It feels to me like you would have to argue free will and determinism are both true. Does that make sense?

  4. With philosophy, it can get messy, so I think we have to make sure we understand each other, especially with something so confusing. I once had a twenty minute conversation with a friend in which we both realized after a while that we were debating different subjects. Sometimes when I think about philosophy I feel like I am chasing my own tail. lol

    2) By definition of God that I was raised with, he is omniscient. So, he knows what is going to happen as well as what he is going to do anyway. If there is free will, it seems like it would be an illusion as God knows all of our choices already and has designed us to do so since he is all powerful. Surely, God knew long before the creation of the universe, when he tested Job that Job would come out on top and still trust God, right? Yet he put him through all of that anyway. When it comes to interfering with your “free will,” I want to take your example of the husband beating his wife. If God is all powerful and all knowing, wouldn't he have known the husband was going to try to beat his wife by design? And would he not have always known that he was going to stop the husband? I feel like this interferes with the idea of true “free will.” When God creates a person, doesn't he know what the person is going to do at any moment for the rest of their life? Please tell me if I didn't really answer your question.

    3) From my understanding, let me make sure I understand the difference between determinism and fatalism. If we don't define exactly what each of us mean, it will be difficult for us to hold a conversation. =P Fatalism means that you have free will, but in the end what will happen will happen. Sort of like the old mythological stories where someone's "fate is sealed" or "succumbs to their fate." Determinism is like that, except every action and detail is already decided. Right? I think that if God is all powerful and all knowing, since the beginning of time, he knows what you are going to do or not do, pray for or not pray for, etc. What I should have said instead of “it doesn't matter” is that its not really going to make a difference. If God has a plan, and is all knowing, he knows that you are going to pray for your son to heal him and whether or not he is going to do so, or grant the prayer before the beginning of time.

  5. I am recently read an article by Sam Harris in the New Statesman about free will. I obtained an electronic copy as well so if you like, I could copy paste it here. He argues that neurologist or neurobiologist can determine what you are going to decide before you make a conscious decision. Our choices are a result of a mix of our hard wiring and previous experience.

    I agree with you a hundred percent on the free will coexisting with a plan. The point I tried to make here was that if there is a definite plan and God knows everything that is going to happen and designed everything to work the way it does, is free will an illusion? Surely, while I feel like my straying from the church was a decision that came about from much thinking and reading, didn't God know that from the very get go?

    I feel like one could argue free will and god having some sort of long term plan if you take away the all knowing part. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking of an analogy of a mouse in a maze. You can't really know he's going to get to the end of the maze based on his own conscious decision from the get go, but you can nudge and guide him. Possibly putting cheese at the end that he can smell or pushing him with your hand when he takes a wrong turn. The mouse is free to do what it wants, but you have your guiding hand to move it where you want it. But this would remove the knowing what is going to happen part. On the other hand, if you knew exactly what it was going to do from the get go, it would probably be more analogous to a computer program. Would it really be “free will” for the mouse even though he feels like it is making the decisions itself? “I know that he will follow the right wall and take the third left.”

    I don't know if that's a good analogy or a terrible analogy. I guess I just assume that the mouse was created by the same person who made the maze.

    Sorry about chopping up my posts and I apologize that they are so long >_<

  6. I think you summarized things pretty well, and we are on the same page.

    The fatalism vs determinism thing, I think it is mostly a difference of attitude. Fatalism (as I understand it) is more of a "It doesn't matter what I do so I won't try".

    I like your analogy of the rat in the maze compared to a computer program. If you could see the code of the program you would know exactly how it would traverse the maze (first hug the right wall until you hit a dead end, then backtrack and...) Some simple set of rules that are very predictive. I would argue that the only difference between the computer program and the mouse is the mouse is much more complicated, has more input, and we can't see the code. But if you had all of the variables it would be predictable in the same way as the computer program.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...