Each church needs a eugenics program. Properly defined, eugenics is, “the science of improving a human population by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics. Developed largely by Francis Galton as a method of improving the human race, it fell into disfavor only after the perversion of its doctrines by the Nazis.” If you like Star Trek, think, “The Wrath of Khan.” Spiritually defined, this describes a certain group of people in the Bible, who I have to admit, I never really understood their description until now.
In Acts 17:11, the Bereans are describes as “noble-minded.” This comes from the Greek “eugenes” which literally means noble. Translations which aim for accuracy over literalness translate this as “open-minded” which is the point of Luke. Philip’s translation has “generous-minded” which is based upon nobles having the characteristic of generosity. So why did Luke choose “eugenes” and how does this apply to the Bereans?
Luke chooses this word as an example of that society and cause and effect. Literally it refers to someone who is of high or noble birth and therefore the effect is one who has the mindset of nobility. Remember to whom this society it was written to, which was not a republican democracy. It was ruled by nobles. They, in theory, ruled for the benefit of the society including making judgments about right and wrong. Think of in Jewish times royalty and elders sitting at the gates (Proverbs 31:8-9,23). In that sense, Freiberg defines it as “as a commendable attitude, open-minded, without prejudice.” In this sense, “Eugenes is used not only for noble birth but also for noble sentiments, character, morals” (preceptaustin.org/acts_17_commentary#nm).
In this sense of “eugenes,” each church needs to seek for those who are looking for the truthMonday’; and to cultivate being generous of mind about others and the scriptures. As to studying, this means being open-minded and able to make proper judgments based upon God’s evidence. This is how the Bereans were noble-minded. In this sense, the church needs a eugenics program.
“What about the thief on the cross? He had no outward manifestation of his faith.” This statement was made to me when doing evangelism at our Coffeehouse Evangelism by someone who believed baptism was not necessary. So we revisited the thief on the cross.
That believer said, “Don’t you even fear God, since we are undergoing the same punishment?” (Luke 23:40). Who is undergoing the same punishment according to the thief? “God”.Who is he suffering with on the cross? Jesus. This thief confesses Jesus to be divine. Then the confessor says, “We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did. But this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41). Now this man confesses his sin showing repentance. He also confesses Jesus to be a man showing his belief in the incarnation, however elementary.
While obviously he was not baptized while hanging on the cross, and that can be further investigated, the argument that there was not outward manifestation of his faith is shown to be wrong by looking at the evidence. Faith is not just in the head. Faith is lived, even if as with thief, with his last breaths.
Jewish tradition states the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 took place on the same calendar day as God came down on Sinai to deliver the Law to Israel. Historically then in order: 1) the Israelites “plundered” the Egyptians; 2) The Israelites crossed the Red Sea; 3) The Israelites received the Law.
When we come to Pentecost the order is reversed: 3) The Jews heard the Gospel message; 2) Those who received the message were baptized (Paul compares baptism to crossing – 1 Cor.10:1ff); 1) The Christians share all their belongings together. The Day of Pentecost is the New Exodus.
Psalms 25:3 (CSB) No one who waits for You will be disgraced; those who act treacherously without cause will be disgraced – If we see two groups of people, we see correctly. However, if we only see that the first group will not be disgraced…then we are missing an important reality that many ignore. Some ignore it based upon false religion or theology. The two realities for the first group are: 1) Those who trust God will not be disgraced; 2) Those who trust God must wait until that time they will not be disgraced. It is the last part that is necessary for us to see also, or else we will not endure. The pleasant end is not the only reality. Waiting is often filled with much disgrace from those who act treacherously without cause. Unfortunately local congregations are filled with such people too, as is obviously the world (which the treacherous “church people” are also part of). They will get their “reward.” But in the mean time we have to suffer while we wait. But so did our Lord. So don’t give up while waiting. The reward is grace!
Reading different versions spurs different thoughts due to the different wording. For example, Psalm 10:4:
- CSB – In all his scheming, the wicked person arrogantly thinks, “There’s no accountability, since there’s no God.”
- NASB – The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek [Him.] All his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
- ESV – In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
- NET The wicked man is so arrogant he always thinks, “God won’t hold me accountable; he doesn’t care.”
- NIV – In his pride the wicked man does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
These five are quite different, although there are similarities. Sometimes Hebrew is difficult to translate. Regardless of the translation, all versions teach truth taught elsewhere. One take on a literal word-for-word translation reads,
- The wicked, according to the height of his nose, he does not seek, there is no God, all his thoughts.”
According to the NET Notes:
The phrase “height of his nose” probably refers to an arrogant or snooty attitude; it likely pictures one with his nose turned upward toward the sky in pride. One could take the “wicked” as the subject of the negated verb “seek,” in which case the point is that the wicked do not “seek” God. The translation assumes that this statement, along with “there is no God,” is what the wicked man thinks to himself. In this case God is the subject of the verb “seek,” and the point is that God will not hold the wicked man accountable for his actions. Verse 13 strongly favors this interpretation. The statement “there is no God” is not a philosophical assertion that God does not exist, but rather a confident affirmation that he is unconcerned about how men live morally and ethically (see v. 11).
Thinking God does not care or does not exist rationalizes or soothes the conscience for those wanting to be in charge of their moralities. Some atheists willingly admit this is a major reason for their atheism:
Aldus Huxley: “The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics; he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do….For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation … from a certain system of morality” (Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means).
We Christians must watch ourselves that we too don’t form conclusions based upon what we want morally or doctrinally. God is the deciding factor, and we must keep reminding ourselves of that; or else we are no better than those who don’t believe because they want to be god.
The Hebrew writer quotes God commanding Moses to build according to the pattern (Hebrews 8:5). This pattern for Moses copied Heaven in some way to be imitated in the Tabernacle. Admittedly, to me that is incredible, bordering on incredulous for the tangible to take on the intangible. God who is greater than I, knew He was speaking the possible – even if not completely fathomable by us. God had His idea of Heaven on Earth.
One way to better understand “Pattern Theology”, in my opinon, is better understanding Torah. Like the Hebrew writer we too need to go back to the ancient writings.
The Hebrew word, better translated as torah, is usually translated “law”. Now that would not be a problem if we didn’t understand law from our modern perspective and instead understood it Jewishly. The first 5 books of the OT are often referred to as the “Law Of Moses” by Christians. Jews also use the term Torah. Now how did the Torah teach? It is mainly a narrative with “laws” rather than “laws” with a story.
The same is true within the NT. God teaches through stories and stories are examples. Now this doesn’t actually leave us with trying to decide which examples are binding – I don’t think any are. But it does leave us asking what are we supposed to learn from this story? It is easier than we think if we are willing to see God’s truths within patterns without trying to trivialize for the purpose of argument.
For example, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper during Passover; not to set a pattern of meals but because He was and is the Passover. Acts 20 can’t be teaching upper room theology because God removed location as part of worship. I don’t teach we observe the Communion every Sunday because Troas did; I teach we observe the LS every Sunday because of why Troas did. That reason is even implied within that story recording another parallel story – the resurrection.
We can more easily find the pattern if we are willing to look at intent and not only details. Details matter only when intentional.
If we see the cross as where we should be instead of where others should be, it is impossible to hate them. This is why true Christianity overcomes racial and national differences. If you find yourself not letting go of barriers, you probably dropped your cross to make sure others get on theirs.
Inferences and the Heart
Interpreting through inferences is a sticky subject, and some when addressing “necessary inferences” ask “Necessary to who?” This is especially true when when interpreting to find God’s authorization for our activities. Logically speaking an inference can’t be necessary unless it is necessarily implied.
When teaching on authority I often use the narrative of Jesus being accused of breaking the law when His disciples ate grain on the Sabbath (Matthew 12, Mark 2, Luke 6). This account contains inferences used both by Jesus and the Pharisees. The point is, some are proper and others are not.
As for inferences, consider every parable requires using this form of argument which is basically “logical conclusions.” If this is correct, we see Jesus saying the power to interpret inferences lay not in the intellect but rather in the heart – “having eyes to see, ears to hear” and yet Jesus keeps pointing to the heart.
In fact, I don’t think Jesus ever pointed out someone’s intellect as the source of the problem. The heart is a combination of mind, will, and emotion. Are we willing to hear?
As an application, I am not saying disfellowship any and all over differences due to intellect or heart. Jesus was patient, especially with the apostles who had heart problems. I am saying we all need to be aware of how our hearts deceive us. After all, the heart is what Jesus said was the source of the problem. I doubt any of us though apply that to ourselves as diligently as we should.
The main problem we have with everyone is they are not us. They don’t think, feel, act or react like us. They don’t always comes to the same conclusions as us, whether about people, issues, the Bible, and “most importantly” – they don’t come to the same conclusions about ourselves that we do. This includes family, friends, and Christians (who are supposed to be friends and family). As soon as we realize the main problem we have with everyone is they are not us, we learn two valuable lessons: 1) Their main problem with us is we are not them; 2) The main problem with everyone then is the same – people unrealistically and unbiblically think everyone should be exactly like them. Can you see how this is ultimately a matter of sinful pride? Learning not to think more highly of ouselves than we should could be everyone’s main problem (Romans 12:3-18).