Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Camping at Mt. Longonot

To bring this closer to the present, term 2 was pretty difficult and not so enjoyable. I took 20 credit hours, remained secretary the first half of term (then ran for 2nd year rep, a much easier position), kept working in the IT, and started getting more involved at church. I did have some pretty good classes: Contemporary Theology, Greek 5, Systematic Theology 2, Hebrew 2, and African Traditional Religion. Contemporary was great. After a lengthy struggle, the term finally finished, and we had a two week break. Now last year I was the only student here under the age of 26. Søren and I would often try to get a third person to play games with us, and I don't believe we were ever successful last year. But this year is a different story, and there are now five of us who are 25 or younger, and we often do things together. Since Søren is leaving us soon, one of us had an idea: what if we had a camping trip to say goodbye? I'm still kind of surpirsed it worked out, but it did, and 8 of us went camping for 3 days at the base of Longonot, near Naivasha. Our group was composed of Søren and Charlotte (Denmark), Anson (India), BG and Dama (Kenya), and then Kelly, Aaron and myself (US). Aside from Søren, Charlotte, and me, they are all first year students. It was pretty awesome.

Anson, Kelly and I really tried to climb down into the crater, but didn't make it and had to turn back. It was really rough going, but Anson and I are committed to making it down there. It reminded me a lot of reading The Lost World (Doyle), a great book by the way.
We passed some baton of leadership or something like that.

Christmas at NEGST

One of my fears in staying over Christmas break was that I would be bored. After all, a month of no class, nothing going on, and most people having left to go home? But fortunately, boredom was not an issue for me this break. I actually had very little downtime. After I had been traveling for two weeks, I spent the last three weeks of break back on campus. I spent some time working in the IT, visiting the people who remained, on and off campus, and a lot of time hanging out. It was so fun. The best part was Christmas Day. I had envisioned for a long time having a Christmas get-together on campus for my international friends who didn’t have other places to go, and it really came together. Kelly, a first year student from America, and I spent days planning, inviting people, coordinating what people brought, shopping, baking, and setting up. We ended up with 25 people, from the US, Denmark, Kenya, India, DRC, and Zambia (and had food from Liberia and Ethiopia as well). It didn’t quite feel like “Christmas”, but I really enjoyed it—I think it may have been my best Christmas ever. Although I was disappointed I missed out on all the snow that Maryland was getting over their crazy winter, and I course I missed being at home with my family (this was my first Christmas away from home). We used the chapel to eat, and then had a time of singing and sharing our Christmas traditions, and then that night played games and hung out at my friends Søren and Charlotte’s place.

Then for New Year’s, there was a group of us that went out to a concert at Nairobi Chapel. It was called Totally Sold Out, and there were like 25,000 people there: it was crazy. Had to have been the biggest party in Kenya that night.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Update: Christmas Break 2009

So for those of you who might want to hear what has been going on, and not just my theological reflections on random topics, the time has come to say what I’ve been up the last several months. This December break I stayed in Africa, and after a church retreat with Nairobi Chapel, I went traveling around East Africa. I took the bus from Nairobi through Kampala all the way to Kigali, Rwanda (a 27 hour ride). I visited my friend Hillary, who had been in Kigali for a few months working with an NGO. We toured Kigali and saw the genocide museum and the hotel of movie fame. I was really impressed that the city is so clean and orderly (it felt more like being in Japan than in Africa). There is no trash on the streets, all the boda-boda (motorcycle taxis) drives wore helmets and carried one of their passengers, and its illegal to sell things by the side of the road. Then we went up to Gisenyi and stayed there for a few days, went swimming in Lake Kivu and I met up with another friend, Jean Bosco. He is from Rwanda and had graduated from NEGST. I preached at his church there and we stayed with his pastor, and then returned to Kigali.

If you've seen the movie Hotel Rwanda, this is the real hotel. I was really surprised to find it is right in the middle of the city, very exposed.
Rwanda is a really beautiful, green, hilly country.
This is at the genocide museum.
I'm not positive it was this one, but there was a volcano that erupted near this area a few weeks later.

From there I went to Uganda to visit my friend Dennis. We spent a week touring Kampala, went to the Martyr's Shrine, visited a museum, saw the source of the Nile, went swimming in Lake Victoria, and ate a lot of food. It was a good time.

In Kenya we call them matatus, but in Uganda they are called taxis.
By the source of the Nile.
The Ugandan Martyr's Shrine.
We went to a museum that had huts from various tribes.

1 Corinthians 7

Recently I have had several discussions about 1 Corinthians 7, so I felt I would share some of those insights. It is quite an interesting chapter. In the Order of Service of a wedding I just attended, it was described as recommending that we go into marriage discreetly, reverently, and in the fear of God. Now that sounds really good, and I happen to agree, and I think the Bible does support that, but unfortunately that is simply not what 1 Corinthians 7 says. At all.

This is what it actually says: “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion” (1 Cor 7:8-9, ESV). My summary: marriage should be based upon the foundation of mutual uncontrollable lust. Imagine that as the basis of a premarital counseling class (so now that we have established you are both incapable of self-control and are burning with passion, let us begin…). In the words of Eugene Peterson: “The difficulties of marriage are preferable by far to a sexually tortured life as a single” (1 Cor 7:9, The Message). Nothing mentioned about discretion or reverence or fearing God.

This passage is fraught with interpretive difficulties. Not only do we have a remarkably negative view of marriage, described as a “concession” against the ideal of singlehood (7:6), but we have the challenge of Paul distinguishing between a command from the Lord and his own personal opinion (“To the rest I say (I, not the Lord)” 7:12, ESV). Now how exactly does that square with the notion that “all” scripture is inspired of God (and what “scripture” is being referenced by 2 Tim 3:16)? It’s tricky.

I think the most difficult verse in this chapter is 36. This is how it reads in the ESV: “If anyone thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry—it is no sin” (ESV). Now this seems to be saying that if a couple is engaged, and they would like to be “together,” and they get married, they are not sinning. Ok, good, so the transition from engagement to marriage is not inherently sinful. I kind of took that for granted. But how is he “not behaving properly towards his betrothed”? In this translation, it seems to be related to strong passion, but I am not completely sure what that means. Now the NASU puts a totally different slant on this verse: “But if any man thinks that he is acting unbecomingly toward his virgin daughter, if she is past her youth, and if it must be so, let him do what he wishes, he does not sin; let her marry” (NASU). That is the exact same verse, in a different translation, and it says something completely different. Now someone is “acting unbecomingly towards his virgin daughter”, and apparently this means not allowing her to get married? No mention of passion in this translation. Notice that daughter is not in the Greek, and I have no idea where the translators got that idea.

But the NASU is not the only one that goes with daughter: “But if any man thinketh that he behaveth himself unseemingly toward his virgin (daughter), if she be past the flower of her age, and if need so requireth, let him do what he will; he sinneth not; let them marry” (ASV). On a literal read of this, it would seem that Paul is advocated that if man wants to marry his own virgin daughter, they should get married??? Um surely that can’t be. But if you are saying the father is allowing his daughter to get married, why would you say “they” should get married? Doesn’t make sense.

In Peterson’s translation “his virgin” is demoted to a “woman friend”: “If a man has a woman friend to whom he is loyal but never intended to marry, having decided to serve God as a ‘single,’ and then changes his mind, deciding he should marry her, he should go ahead and marry. It's no sin; it's not even a "step down" from celibacy, as some say” (The Message). That seems a very different idea also, and I am not sure why he interprets it that way.

For those that feel the Greek should answer all of these questions, here you go: Εἰ δέ τις ἀσχημονεῖν ἐπὶ τὴν παρθένον αὐτοῦ νομίζει, ἐὰν ᾖ ὑπέρακμος καὶ οὕτως ὀφείλει γίνεσθαι, ὃ θέλει ποιείτω, οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει, γαμείτωσαν (UBS4). τὴν παρθένον αὐτοῦ does mean “his virgin”, and γαμείτωσαν is 3 person plural, so any translation of let “her” or “him” marry is not correct, but rather a revision to avoid interpretive problems: it says “let them marry”. I don’t know where the ESV got the idea of strong passion (and why they dropped the idea of the virgin being past the prime of her age in some fashion), because it’s not there in the Greek.

Literally, it would something like this: “and if any one doth think [it] to be unseemly to his virgin, if she may be beyond the bloom of age, and it ought so to be, what he willeth let him do; he doth not sin — let him [except as noted above it should be 3rd person plural, them] marry” (Young’s Literal Translation). Doesn’t really help, does it? For those who swear by the King James, the behavior is described as “uncomely”: “But if any man think that he behaveth himself uncomely toward his virgin, if she pass the flower of her age, and need so require, let him do what he will, he sinneth not: let them marry” (KJV).

Well, at least there is no one who could be described as “my virgin”—no daughter, fiancé, or woman friend to whom I am loyal but have now decided to marry, so I don’t need to worry about applying this verse to my life…