Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Commentary on John 3:36

Commentary on John 3:36
Thomas Allen

    Illustrating the theological bias of translators is John 3:36. The King James version translates John 3:36 as follows:
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
In the American Standard Version, it is translated:
He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.
    Most translations follow the American Standard Version and translate ho apeithōn as “disobey” or words to that effect. A minority translates it as “disbelieve” or words to that effect. These translations include:
    – the New Jerusalem Bible (refuses to believe),
    – the Anointed Standard Translation (without persuasion),
    – the St. Joseph New Catholic Edition (unbelieving),
    – the Phillips New Testament in Modern English (refuses to believe),
    – the Bible in Basic English (has not faith),
    – the New King James Version (does not believe),
    – Williams translation of the New Testament (refuses to trust),
    – the New Testament revision of the Challane-Rheims Version (is unbelieving),
    – 21st Century King James Version (believeth not),
    – BRG Bible (believeth not),
    – Common English Bible (doesn’t believe),
    – Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (believeth not),
    – Holman Christian Standard Bible (refuses to believe),
    – Modern English Version (does not believe),
    – New International Reader's Version (does not believe),
    – New Life Version (does not put his trust),
    – New Matthew Bible (does not believe),
    – New Testament for Everyone (doesn’t believe),
    – Worldwide English (New Testament) (does not believe),
    – Wycliffe Bible (is unbelieveful to),
    – Young's Literal Translation (is not believing), and
    – God’s New Covenant (refuses to put his faith)
    Both the American Standard Version and the World English Bible have a footnote stating that “disobeys” can be translated “disbelieves.”
    Robert Wilkin states that the literal translation of ho apeithōn is “he who does not obey.” He writes, “Failure to believe in Jesus was disobeying the Father who sent him.” Thus, “he who does not believe” paraphrases the intent of the word. Supporting Wilkin is a footnote in the Revised Standard Bible, which defines “disobedience” as “unbelief.” According to Wilkin, “To gain eternal life one must obey God’s command to believe in His Son.”
    In his note on John 3:36, John Wesley remarks that disobeying Jesus is a consequence of not believing in him. Apparently, a person proves his faith via his works.
    Floyd Filson states that John 3:36 is as basics as John 3:16. That is, anyone who believes in the Son as sent of God to give life to those dead in sin receives eternal life. Then, he adds that he who refuses to believe the gospel message will not believe and obey Christ and, consequently, will not have eternal life. Thus, according to Filson salivation is by faith and proven by works, i.e., faith plus works.
    “Disobey” gives a different impression than “disbelieve.” “Disbelieve” suggests that everlasting life in the Kingdom of God, which is established when Jesus returns, depends on faith and faith alone. “Disobey” suggests that everlasting life depends on faith plus works; that is, everlasting life depends not only on faith, but it also depends on works. Such works include:
    – baptism, although there is much disagreement about the proper form of baptism (immersion, pouring, or sprinkling) and the salvific effect of infant baptism;
    – absolute obedience to the teachings of Christ, i.e., doing everything that Jesus says to do; thus, how much work is enough for salvation and how many transgressions are enough to cause a loss of salvation;
    – never sinning once one is saved (which may explain why Constantine waited until he was on his deathbed before he was baptized into the Catholic Church), especially committing a sin named in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10;
    – austerity, mortification, self-whipping, not bathing, and other similar practices that were considered virtuous and pious in times past;
    – failure adequately to recruit, i.e., proselytize;
    – perseverance to death;
    – failure to keep faith in Jesus and the Kingdom of God until death;
    – membership in the correct church, sect, or denomination (as several sects claim that one cannot be saved unless he is a member of that sect, one must be a member of all of them to guarantee salvation);
    – etc.
    As for faith, what does one have to believe in, on, or about the Son to have everlasting life? Is it believing that Jesus is;
– the giver and guarantor of eternal life (if true, does this mean that the soul is not innately immortal; if the soul is innately immoral, then believing in Jesus does not give eternal life as one already has that; however, if the soul is not immortal and the unsaved are tormented in hell forever, then in whom or what does one believe to be condemned to hell):
– God incarnated (if true, almost no one, except perhaps some gnostics, were saved before the fourth century AD);
– God according to the Trinity Doctrine, i.e., Jesus is eternal God, is equal to God the Father, and is very God and very man (if true, almost no one, was saved before the middle of the fourth century AD because almost no Christians believed Trinity Doctrine of three coequal, coeternal Gods or Persons being one God or Person, which was not formulated until 381);
– a man, human, who was uniquely begotten by God the Father in the womb of the Virgin Mary and only his Father is God (if true, only a few “Christians” have been saved since 400 AD);
– the Messiah, Christ, and the only begotten Son of God;
– sent by God the Father and that only the Father is God;
– sent by God to take away man’s sins and to give life to those dead in sin with his sacrificial death and resurrection;
– going to return to earth and establish his kingdom and that he meant what he said and did when he was here;
– etc.?
    Obviously, those who believe in salvation by faith and faith alone prefer translating ho apeithōn  as “disbelieve.” On the other hand, those who believe that salvation depends not only on faith but also on some kind or level of works prefer it translated as “disobey.”
    If for no other reason than parallelism, “disbelieve” is a better translation than “disobey.” In the second part of the sentence, “disbelieve” parallels with “believe” in the first part. “Disobey” does not.

Filson, Floyd V. The Gospel According to John. Editor Balmer H. Kelly. The Layman’s Bible Commentary. Volume 19. Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press, 1970.

Wesley, John. Explanatory Notes upon the New Testament. Reprint, London, England: The Epworth Press, 1948.

Wilkin, Robert N. “John.” The Grace New Testament Commentary. Editor Robert N. Wilkin. Vol.  1. Denton, Texas: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010.

Copyright © 2018 by Thomas Coley Allen.

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Saturday, January 19, 2019

A Letter: The War Has Not Finished

A Letter: The War Has Not Finished
Thomas Allen

[Editor’s note: The following is a letter written in 1989 responding to an article by Mr. Murray about an article that he wrote for Civil War Times Illustrated.]

        Mr. Murray’s article “The War We Never Finished” is interesting. However, I do disagree with some of his statements and his advocacy of genocide. There are also many omissions and errors in his article.
        He asserts that “the fundamental reason behind secession and the establishment of the Confederacy was the desire to keep the South a white man’s country through the perpetuation of Negro slavery.” If true, slavery was much better protected within the Union than without in spite of the Republican platform.
        With the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, and, more important, the Dread Scott decision in 1857, Southerners had won their right to settle in the territories with their slaves. Outside the Union, Southerners would not have this right. The importation of slaves into the United States was illegal. If, as often claimed, slavery needed to expand into the territories to survive, then secession would have destroyed slavery without a war.
        If the Southern States remained in the Union, the United States government would have apprehended runaway slaves and returned them to their owners. The most efficient and effective fugitive slave laws in the history of the United States were enforced on the eve of secession. If the Southern States were an independent country, slaveholders would lack this guarantee. That the United States would enter into a treaty with the Confederacy to return runaway slaves was doubtful.
        Ulrich Phillips describes the fire-eaters, the advocates of Southern independence, as guided by “the conviction, false or true, that an overpowering North was going to use federal authority sooner or later to impose Northern will for the promotion of Northern advantage and the indulgence of Northern impulse, mulcting the South financially and destroying the Southern industrial and social order quite regardless of local consequences.” Hence, the avant-garde of secession were guided as much, if not more, by economic and political reasons as social reasons. This assertion is from a person who averred that the force keeping slavery alive in the South was a desire to protect white civilization and culture.
        The main threat of the Republican Party to slavery was its opposition to slavery in the territories, which was contrary to the Supreme Court's ruling. Anyway, Southerners gave up this right when they seceded. That platform (the platform of the Republican Party) acknowledged the right of each State to control its own domestic institutions.
        The Republican Party’s position had little to do with an abhorrence of slavery and nothing to do with egalitarianism. It had everything to do with the North’s version of white supremacy. Northerners, as well as many Southerners, who moved to the territories, were opposed to slavery in the territories because slavery meant blacks, and they did not want blacks around.
        I have some disagreement with Mr. Murray’s assertion that slavery was the South’s solution to the race problem and the protection of white civilization. He fails even to mention the North’s solution. The North’s solution was to segregate and ostracize blacks to the very lowest rung of society. Although blacks were ostensibly free, they were not much better off than the slaves of the South. Many were materially worse off. Mr. Sidney Fisher, a Philadelphia lawyer and Maryland planter, described the plight of the black man in the North as follows:
But though the negro in the North is not a slave, he is made an outcast and a pariah. . . . He may not lay a finger on one of those three wonderful boxes, the ballot box, the jury box and the cartridge box, . . . by which freemen defend their rights. . . . The spirit of caste drives the negro out of the churches, theatres, hotels, rail-cars, steamboats, or assigns to him, in them, a place apart. It drives him into the cellars, dens and alleys of towns, into hovels in the country; and it does all this without laws. . . .
        The solution to the race problem and the preservation of white civilization often endorsed by many Northerners and by even more Southerners before the advent of the abolitionist was repatriation. Lincoln also supported this solution. If the Confederate’s principal motivation “was the desire to keep the South a white man’s country,” then repatriation would have certainly achieved that goal much more permanently and effectively than slavery.
        General Lee probably summed up the primary reason for secession when he stated, “All the South ever desired was that the Union would continue to be administered as it was originally constituted, in purity and truth.”
        President Davis offered to the Confederate Congress this explanation:
By degrees, as the Northern States gained preponderance in the National Congress, self-interest taught their people to yield ready assent to any plausible advocacy of their right as majority to govern the minority. Without control, they learn to listen with impatience to the suggestion of any constitutional impediment to the exercise of their will, and so utterly have the principles of the Constitution been corrupted in the Northern mind that, in the inaugral address delivered by President Lincoln in March last, he asserts a maxim which he plainly deems to be undeniable, that the theory of the Constitution requires, in all cases, that the majority shall govern. And in another memorable instance the same Chief Magistrate did not hesitate to liken the relations between States and the United States to those which exist between the county and the State in which it is situated, and by which it was created. This is the lamentable and fundamental error in which rests the policy that has culminated in his declaration of war against these Confederate States.
        Thus, Confederates feared that Lincoln and the Republican Party were going to subvert the republican government of the United States into a democratic government and destroy the United States as a federation by corrupting them into a consolidated empire. These fears were not ill-founded because both of these evils came to pass when the South was conquered.
        While quoting an abolitionist’s vow to enforce the emancipation proclamation, Mr. Murray fails to comment on its illegality and hypocrisy. The President had no legal authority to issue such a proclamation. He proclaimed freedom to slaves in areas under the control of the Confederates while offering no freedom to slaves in the areas under the control of the Union.
        Mr. Murray also fails to inform the reader that these holy abolitionists were the founders of modern-day terrorism. Their paragon of sainthood, John Brown, is the father of modern-day terrorism.
        As for the Unionists, they exceeded all in duplicity and hypocrisy if they were fighting to preserve the Union. As soon as they fired the first shot — or historically more correct, made the firing of the first shot necessary — they destroyed the Union. As an editorial in The Daily Picayune so aptly put it:
The favorite form of expression in which these resolves are clothed is that, it is the first and highest duty “to maintain the Union.” But a Union upheld by a war, which is made necessary by the revolting of many large and powerful States from an unfriendly and oppressive Government[,] is condemned at once by the act. When armies and fleets are employed to keep a confederation of States together, it is a mockery to send them forth as messengers of union. It is for the subjugation of the minority section to the will of the majority, and every element which makes it a circle of consenting States in a harmonious Union disappears under the crushing process. To talk of war, therefore, as the means of perpetuating a Union is a mockery. It might perpetuate a Government, but that Government will cease to be a federative one, and will contain within itself essential traits of a military despotism — the retention, by superior force, of an unwilling people in political bondage, to a Government which they had unanimously risen to throw off. The Government so established, if such a monstrous thing could ever be established, would have no principles remaining in common with those which make the theory of the constitution of the present Government, a departure from which has brought on the present convulsion. A war to “maintain the Union” is simply, therefore, a war to extinguish the Union, and to maintain a Government such as was never contemplated by any of the States which compose it, and which would not be tolerated by any State now, if there were a question of creating or restoring a Government.
        H. L. Mencken, who may be accused of being an iconoclast, but who can hardly be accused of being a fire-eating unreconstructed rebel, put it more succinctly when commenting on the battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address:
Think of the argument in it [the Gettysburg Address]. Put it into the cold words of everyday. The doctrine is simply this: that the Union soldiers who died at Gettysburg sacrificed their lives to the cause of self-determination —'that government of the people, by the people, for the people,' should not perish from the earth. It is difficult to image anything more untrue. The Union soldiers in that battle fought against self-determination; it was the Confederates who fought for the right of their people to govern themselves. What was the practical effect of the battle of Gettysburg? What else than the destruction of the old sovereignty of the States, i.e., of the people of the States: The Confederates went into battle free; they came out with their freedom subject to the supervision and veto of the rest of the country — and for nearly twenty years that veto was so effective that they enjoyed scarcely more liberty, in the political sense, than so many convicts in the penitentiary.
        Mr. Mencken answers Mr. Murray’s question about what rights were Southerners denied. They were denied the right of political self-determination. They were denied the ultimate States’ right — the right to secede peacefully. The right of political self-determination and the right to secede were the primary rights and reasons for which the Upper South fought. The States of the Upper South did not secede until President Lincoln made the suppression and denial of these rights perfectly clear by calling for troops with which to invade the States of the Lower South.
        The peoples of the States of the Upper South agreed with Alexander Stephens’ statement:
Under our system of government, as I view it, there is no rightful power in the General Government to coerce a State, in case any one of them should throw herself upon her reserved rights, and resume the full exercise of her Sovereign Powers. Force may perpetuate a Union. That depends upon the contingencies of war. But such a Union would not be the Union of the Constitution. It would be nothing short of a Consolidated Despotism.
        In 1863, a French writer appropriately and descriptively wrote, “Russia and the United States proclaim the liberty of the serf and the emancipation of the slave, but in return both seek to reduce the slavery all who defend liberty and independence.”
        As a result of the War, the Constitution was nullified — or at least its underlying principles were if not its words although the Fourteenth Amendment went a long way toward nullifying its words. The Union was changed from a federation of States to a consolidated empire of provinces.
        The actions of the Unionists just prove Abbot C. Martin’s observation: “A Nazi is simply a Yankee carried to the logical conclusion.”
        Mr. Murray fails to point out that the Black Codes were modeled after New England labor codes. If blacks comprised as large a percentage of the population in the North as they did in the South, undoubtedly most Northern States would have had black codes. Except perhaps for Indiana and Illinois, which made it illegal for Negroes to enter them.
        Mr. Murray notes that the Confederates discovered that “slavery was not necessary to safeguard white supremacy.” He then proceeds to describe discrimination in the South.
        He fails to say, although he hints at it, that the Confederates learned to treat blacks as they were treated in the North — institutionalization of segregation. The difference between the North and the South is that in the North blacks were such a small minority that there was little need to legalize segregation whereas in the South because of the large numbers of blacks, it was — hence the “Jim Crow” laws.
        Perhaps the South’s imitation of the North is why it took the North eighty years to become greedy enough and hypocritical enough to condemn the South for doing exactly what the North was doing. Besides, with mass migration of blacks northward, something had to be done to protect white supremacy in the North by keeping the Negro in his place, i.e., keeping him in the South. So along came minimum wage laws and other labor laws restricting the employment of labor to price the black man out of the Northern labor market. Along came a host of “civil rights” laws, which were intended to be enforced primarily in the South and for the most part have been. Appease the black man in the South, and he will stay there, away for the white Yankee.
        These civil rights laws were written to apply only where there was segregation by statute, hence the South, and not where there was segregation by custom, hence the North. However, the South was not allowed to imitate the North this time. The South was not allowed to replace statute with custom. If the South continued to discriminate against blacks, there would be little incentive for them to remain in their place. Thus, blacks were to be forced on white Southerners as equals while segregated, except for a token here and there, from white Northerners. The only problem the North has had with this strategy is the occasional renegade judge who forgets or ignores the purpose of these laws.
        This time the egalitarians found their allies in the Northern white supremacists and greedy Southern politicians and businessmen.
        Mr. Murray seems to accept and endorse the position of the egalitarians without any critical analysis. The solution offered by the egalitarians during the War and the First Reconstruction is the same solution that they offer now during the Second Reconstruction. Their solution, the solution the Mr. Murray seems to endorse, is genocide through integration. Genocide is hardly a viable solution.
        I am aware of no place or time when two or more races were allowed, or in our case forced, to integrate that the races involved did not proceed to breed themselves out of existence. I hardly believe that breeding the black man out of existence, which is nothing less than genocide, is a solution to any “white supremacy” problem, real or perceived. Is the destruction of the black man through the genocide of integration in the name of equal rights as the egalitarians want to do any better than his destruction through the genocide of mass execution in the name of white supremacy as the egalitarians claim that the Klan wants to do? In the long run, the future that the black man faces under the egalitarians is worse than any offered by any white supremacist. The egalitarians offer him extinction through genocidal integration. At least under the white supremacist he survives, for without the black man the white supremacist would become extinct for want of anyone to be superior to.
        The only really viable solution is the one offered by Lincoln, which is geographical separation. It is the only solution that destroys racial supremacy without genocide.
        That great North Carolinian, Chub Seawell, summarized the whole egalitarian movement of the Second Reconstruction when he said, “The Ku Klux Klan comes marching down the street with a big banner saying ‘white power,’ and the media has a sort of running fit and yells ‘racism.’ Then the NAACP comes marching down the street with a big banner saying ‘black power,’ and the media calls it ‘human rights.’”
        Those who condemn the Confederate flag as being a symbol of slavery, racism, white supremacy, etc. should with more vigor and vehement condemn the Unites States flag. The United States flag flew over slavery, segregation, and white supremacy in the North before the Confederate flag did, while the Confederate flag did, and after the Confederate flag cease to in the South.
        Blacks have shown no hesitation, concern, or sensitivity about imposing, nay forcing, their company on people who do not want to associate with them. They should not be surprised at the lack of sensitivity about their feelings towards the Confederate flag. Some of those who love that flag see black hostility towards it as just another attempt to impose the black man’s will on them to deprive them of one of their few remaining liberties in the black man’s attempt to establish black supremacy. If blacks find the Confederate flag offensive, then they should avoid associating with those who display and revere the flag. But, I guess, after spending a lifetime trying to outlaw freedom of association by forcing their company on others, such an obvious solution cannot be accepted. The Confederate flag must bow to their prejudices.
        We unreconstructed Southerners keep the War alive for a number of reasons. Among the most important are as Alexander Stephens wrote, “Time changes and men often change with them, but principles never!” and as T. S. Eliot wrote, “We fought for lost causes because we knew that our defeat and dismay may be the preface to our successor's victory . . . we fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation that it will triumph.”

Copyright © 1989, 2016 by Thomas Coley Allen.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Mencken on Lame Ducks

Mencken on Lame Ducks
Thomas Allen

    In 1926, H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) wrote Notes on Democracy in which he expressed his views on democracy and related issues. He was a journalist, satirist, and critic and a libertarian and one of the leaders of the Old Right. In his book, he describes the lame ducks, pages 148-154. Below is an overview of his discussion on the lame ducks; my comments are in brackets.
    Mencken considers one of the “unpleasant by-products of democracy . . . [to be the] professional politicians who, in the eternal struggle for office and its rewards, have suffered crushing defeats, and are full of rage and bitterness.”
    Under democracy, all politics resolve “into a series of dynastic questions: the objective is always the job, not the principle.” Usually, the defeated candidate “takes his failure very badly, for it leaves him stripped bare. In most cases his fellow professionals take pity on him and put him into some more or less gaudy appointive office, to preserve his livelihood and save his face.” [Hillary Clinton illustrates excellently the abjection of the defeated candidate. Unfortunately for her, but fortunately for the country, no one has pitied her enough to appoint her to some office. However, no appointive position will alleviate her pain.]
    However, for some defeat is so painful that an appointed position will not assuage the pain. “This majestic victim not infrequently seeks surcease by a sort of running amok. That is to say, he turns what remains of his influence with the mob into a weapon against the nation as a whole, and becomes a chronic maker of trouble.” He discusses six examples: Clay, Calhoun, Burr, Blaine, Theodore Roosevelt, and Bryan. [Hillary Clinton is a recent example.]
    Mencken remarks that countries under “despotism escape such lamentable exhibitions of human frailty” of the unsuccessful aspirants for office under democracy. “Unsuccessful aspirants for the crown are either butchered out of hand or exiled to Paris, where tertiary lues quickly disposes of them.” Continuing, he writes, “The Crown Prince, of course, has his secret thoughts, and no doubt they are sometimes homicidal, but he is forced by etiquette to keep them to himself, and so the people are not annoyed and injured by them. He cannot go about praying publicly that the King, his father, come down with endocarditis, nor can he denounce the old gentleman as an idiot and advocate his confinement in a maison de santi.” [Nevertheless, dictators of communist countries have ordered the extermination of millions of their countrymen.] Although everyone “knows what his hopes and yearnings are, but no one has to listen to them.” However, “[u]nder democracy, they are bellowed from every stump.”

Copyright © 2017 by Thomas Coley Allen.

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