Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Temple of God

A quick observation from the Gospel Doctrine lesson on the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89):

The manual makes the common (Mormon) mistake of equating 1 Cor. 3:16-17 and 1 Cor. 6:19-20 in order to discuss how our bodies are "temples of God": "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1 Cor. 3:16-17). This set of verses has absolutely nothing to do with our individual physical bodies. Nothing at all. The first clue is that "ye" in vs. 16 is plural in Greek. This is a reference to the Church as a whole. Paul has been condemning the divisions within the Church. Unity is his message. Paul attempts to unify the divided Corinthians with the message of Christ's atonement. They are God's field (vs. 5-9).[1] This draws on the metaphor of Israel as God's vineyard (e.g. Isaiah 5:1-7). The imagery of the Corinthians as "God's field" then shifts to "God's building" (vs. 9). Paul fulfills the role as a "master builder," laying the foundation of Jesus Christ. Those who build upon it with "gold, silver, and precious stones" (which were used to build the temple; see 1 Chronicles 22:14, 16; 29:2) will be rewarded. Those whose works do not withstand the fiery cleansing (which is similar to Malachi 4:1-2) will "suffer loss" (or "punishment"), but will be saved "yet so as by fire" (vs. 15).[2]

"...But I hope you comprehend, this body is a temple
and you don't got no recommend."
This brings us to vs. 15-16. Given the fact that the Corinthian Church has been compared to a field and a building, it makes no sense whatsoever to assume that Paul has suddenly shifted from a collective address to one about individuals (let alone the physical bodies of the individuals). Paul is describing the Corinthian Church as the place where God's Spirit dwells. They are the recipients of the Spirit and its gifts. They are to be a spiritual people. Paul in similar fashion compared the Ephesian Church to the "household of God" (Eph. 2:20), "an holy temple in the Lord" (vs. 21), "an habitation of God through the Spirit" (vs. 22). Even Peter declares the saints to be built up unto a "spiritual house" (1 Pet. 2:5).

This understanding, in my view, makes the connection to 1 Cor. 6:19-20 much deeper and more significant by bringing a communal context to our actions:

Previously, Paul had used the "temple" (naos) metaphor of the Corinthians as a body corporate (3:16-17); now he uses it of the Corinthian bodies individually. What is true of the Corinthians together is true of them individually also: their bodies are holy because they have become places where the Holy Spirit is present. But some of the Corinthians act as if this is not so, and in doing so they are polluting and destroying the whole. So, says Paul, [1 Cor. 6:19b-20]. This is the language of remind them to who they belong and therefore who they really are...And since God has bought them at the cost of his Son in death, they are under obligation to render God his due: [6:20b]. Here is the basis for a sexual morality (and therefore a social morality) which neither denigrates the body nor exalts the body as the only worthwhile thing but in which bodily relations are ordered toward their true end: the glory of the God who raised Christ bodily and will raise our bodies also "by his power."[3]

Reading the entire context does wonders. "Stick with the manual" does not.[4]

1. Slightly off topic: I think it is worth pointing out that Paul describes himself and Apollos as "one" (Greek hen) in vs. 8. The very same description is given by Christ in reference to Him and His Father (see John 10:30).

2. John T. Townsend compares this verse (along with 1 Corinthians 5:5) to Rosh ha-Shanah 16b-17a bar, which followed the Shammaite train of thought. The "in between" (i.e. those who are not "wholly good nor wholly bad") will "go down to Gehinnom, 'chirp' (cf. Isa. 29:4) and arise" (Townsend, "1 Corinthians 3:15 and the School of Shammai," Harvard Theological Review 61:3, July 1968: 501). The biblical support for this interpretation was Zechariah 13:9. Townsend says, "A Shammaitic interpretation of 1 Cor. 3:15 implies a belief on the part of Paul that at the end of the age there would be a final opportunity for some to be saved even from the fires of Gehinnom" (pg. 503). Drawing on this background, Townsend finds that 1 Cor. 15:29 has "usually been understood to refer to some form of vicarious baptismal rite intended to benefit somehow those who have died. Such a rite would be meaningless if a man's fate had been fully determined in his lifetime; and in view of this difficulty some commentators have asserted that, although the Apostle tolerated the rite, he did not approve of it. Such a suggestion, however, appears somewhat forced, and a better explanation is that Paul had no reason to condemn the rite because he believed that the final opportunity for salvation would not precede the end of the age" (pg. 503). This is enlightening, particularly with the doctrine recorded in D&C 76 regarding the terrestrial and telestial inhabitants.

3. Stephen C. Barton, "1 Corinthians," in Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, eds. James D.G. Dunn, John W. Rogerson (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2003), 1327. See also Ibid., 1318-1320; NET Commentary, pgs. 2230-2233. 

4. See Daniel Peterson's humorous stories about Church curriculum at Mormon Stories.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Speaking Texan

When I was in middle school, I had a group video project for history class. I was in charge of editing and when I was reviewing one of the recordings I had made, I realized that I had a very noticeable southern accent. I was mortified because I thought I sounded like the stereotypical Texan portrayed in movies. From then on, I was very careful with the way I spoke. When I went on my mission to Nevada, people often had trouble believing that I had been born and raised in Texas (and this was a mission whose missionaries were largely Texans, Canadians, and Washingtonians). While I attribute this somewhat to being raised in a college town in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex (one of those "Dallas snobs with their Mercedes"), I think my careful attention to my speech had an impact. This background is why the latest from Business Insider caught my attention. The article features 22 maps on regional linguistics. The following few struck a chord with me as a born-and-raised Texan:

Apparently, Texas and Washington D.C. are the only ones who pronounce it "boo-wee" instead of "boh-wee." As the article explains, "Bowie, MD" is pronounced "boo-wee." Also, Jim Bowie's (the knife's designer) last name is supposedly pronounced "boo-wee," though I've even heard it pronounced "boy." But if people want to pronounce it "boh-wee" as in David, I have no objections.

Moving on:

While I say "loyer," I hear "law-yer" quite a bit. Kind of like "nay-ked" and "nekkid" (it's "nay-ked," even if southern-born Justin Timberlake wants you "nekkid by the end of this song").

I have no shame in saying "y'all," though I use "you all" just as much. "You guys" is rare for me. But before one dismisses "y'all" as nothing more than redneck lingo, it might be worth taking into account that it is considered African-American vernacular by linguists (surely no one wants to get slapped with the racist label while making fun of southerners).

And finally:

When I make the suggestion to "go get a Coke" it could virtually mean anything, even if I literally would be getting a Coke (brand loyalty all the way). I've moved away from it some and tend to say, "Let's get a drink." Oddly enough, many Texans seem to prefer the Waco-born Dr. Pepper to Atlanta's Coca-Cola.

Monday, June 3, 2013

It's Getting Better

 I've got to admit it's getting better
It's getting better all the time

- The Beatles, "Getting Better," Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Capitol, 1967)

Over at Business Insider they have "31 Charts That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity." As a parody, Brad Plumer at The Washington Post gave some gloomy twists to the various charts. Here are a few examples with each headline provided in the captions:

BI: "We've stopped fighting each other."
WP: "Inter-state wars are on the rise since 2002." (pink line)

BI: "Democracy's in. Autocracy's out."
WP: "Dictatorships still exist."
BI: "Slavery is disappearing."
WP: "We haven't eradicated human slavery."
BI: "Illiteracy in America has been obliterated."
WP: "Pretty much everyone in the United States can now read Fifty Shades of Grey."
BI: "Global poverty is on the wane."
WP: "A fifth of the world lived in absolute poverty in 2000."

The world is far from going to hell in a handbasket. But we can easily view it as such if we choose. The choice is ours.

"What's in the Box?!"

Being a frontline supervisor in the freight industry, I was pleased to read the following in a recent article of The Economist:

The humble shipping container is a powerful antidote to economic pessimism and fears of slowing innovation. Although only a simple metal box, it has transformed global trade. In fact, new research suggests that the container has been more of a driver of globalisation than all trade agreements in the past 50 years taken together.

Researchers looked at 157 countries from 1962 to 1990 and "created a set of variables which “switch on” when a country or pair of trading partners starts using containers via ship or rail (landlocked economies, such as Austria, often joined the container age by moving containers via rail to ports in neighbouring countries, such as Hamburg in Germany). The researchers then estimated the effect of these variables on trade. The results are striking. In a set of 22 industrialised countries containerisation explains a 320% rise in bilateral trade over the first five years after adoption and 790% over 20 years. By comparison, a bilateral free-trade agreement raises trade by 45% over 20 years and [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)] membership adds 285%." Far more than cutting costs, containerization increased efficiency. Within five years, there was a massive increase in productivity (tonnes per hour) and average ship size, while insurance and theft costs dropped.

In summary,

Over time all this reshaped global trade. Ports became bigger and their number smaller. More types of goods could be traded economically. Speed and reliability of shipping enabled just-in-time production, which in turn allowed firms to grow leaner and more responsive to markets as even distant suppliers could now provide wares quickly and on schedule. International supply chains also grew more intricate and inclusive. This helped accelerate industrialisation in emerging economies such as China, according to Richard Baldwin, an economist at the Graduate Institute of Geneva. Trade links enabled developing economies simply to join existing supply chains rather than build an entire industry from the ground up. But for those connections, the Chinese miracle might have been much less miraculous.

All that from a box.

Networks and innovation (no matter how simple): the essential ingredients to a more prosperous world. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Wilson on Human Nature

The late political/social scientist James Q. Wilson made a name for himself studying crime (most famously his "broken windows theory"),[1] which eventually led him to study mankind's innate moral sense as well as the familial context in which this sense is nurtured. This wide range of research and reflection enabled him to pen the following paragraph, which is a beautiful summary of human nature:

James Q. Wilson
Evolution by selection, though of great importance to human life, is an incomplete explanation unless we first understand that what it produced were not robots that acted automatically on biological instincts but thinking, feeling people equipped by nature with a complex psychology that predisposed but did not compel them to act in certain ways...Part of the reason we help others at some sacrifice to ourselves is that they are our children; by helping them we perpetuate our genes. And another part is that we help people who are not our children in order to impress these people with our dependability and win from them some reciprocal help in the future. But these two explanations, inclusive fitness and reciprocal altruism, while quite powerful, do not clarify everything...To explain all of altruism, it is necessary to first understand that what evolution has given to us is not a fixed mechanism to achieve a specific goal, but an emotion that not only serves that goal but achieves related ones as well. Let us call that emotion a desire for affiliation or, in simple language, a desire to be part of a social group.[2]

With increased socialization being linked to our evolutionary development (i.e. "the social brain hypothesis"), it is little wonder that covenants, family, and Zion are integral components of our eternal progression.[3]

1. For more on this theory, see the City Journal articles by Heather MacDonald, Charles Sahm, and George Kelling.

2. James Q. Wilson, The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 35-36.

3. Unfortunately, I fear that Mormons overwhelmingly reject evolution. A 2009 Pew Forum survey found that only 22% of Mormons believed that "evolution is the best explanation for the origins of life on earth": the second lowest percentage among religious groups (the lowest being Jehovah's Witness at 8%). Granted, I may cut us some slack due to the fact that the question asked if evolution was the "best explanation for the origins of life on earth." Evolution is about the diversification of life after it has already begun. There are multiple theories as to how life began. For an excellent article on LDS theology and evolution, see Steven L. Peck, "Crawling Out of the Primordial Soup: A Step Toward the Emergence of an LDS Theology Compatible with Organic Evolution," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 43:1 (2010).