Kwaku/Aaron 2020 Debate Review (Part 1)

On March 6, 2020 Kwaku El and I debated on the topic of “Is Jesus Enough?” at Utah Valley University. Our subtopics were:

  1. Is salvation by faith alone?
  2. Was there a Great Apostasy?
  3. Are families forever?

Part 1 will of this review be a high-level overview of the debate and a response to Kwaku’s latest video wherein he depicts me as Hitler.

Part 2 will dive more into the content of the debate, with a focus on the topics we had agreed to cover.

Continue reading “Kwaku/Aaron 2020 Debate Review (Part 1)”

A reminder to Christians

You are saved by faith alone apart from works.

Not by your performance or moral success or credibility or reputation or past or habits or disciplines or purity.

“We hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Romans 3:28)

God is delighted to receive your empty-handed, incomplete, immature, needy, desperate faith and give you 100% of Jesus, declaring you righteous, uniting you to him, forgiving you, adopting you, indwelling you, and securing you.

This is the gospel. And it is the foundation for addressing private, workplace, parenting, marital, or public failures. Start with preaching to yourself: God has forgiven you in Christ Jesus by faith alone apart from works, according to his word alone.

You have equal standing before God with every other believer. God has declared you perfectly righteous in Christ Jesus.

And you now can be live free from paralyzing guilt or wretched ambition. And go seek reconciliation with hard people and love your enemies. God loves you.

My beautiful letdown

It was a beautiful letdown
When I crashed and burned
When I found myself alone, unknown, and hurt

Beautiful Letdown, by Switchfoot

Switchfoot songs did a great job of capturing my existential crisis and coming to faith.

I had given up on truth and explored whatever made me feel good. My high school girlfriend had dumped me. I didn’t go to a reputable university. I was a lonely commuter to a community college. I found myself lazy, arrogant, and lusty.

But God drew me close. I met him in the New Testament. Romans blew me up. Grace came alive. I spent my early college days blasting Switchfoot with the windows down, glad that God had loosened my grip on the world.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:25-26

“Only the losers win. They’ve got nothing to prove.”
“We are a beautiful letdown, painfully uncool.”
“Washing his face to start his day, he’s lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely.”
“There’s got to be something more than what I’m living for.”

Harmonizing the resurrection accounts

  • Mary Magdalene separates from other women at some point. Either on the way to the tomb, or at the tomb (before the angels are encountered), or on the way to tell the disciples (before Jesus appears to the women).
  • Matthew 28:2-4 is a flashback. The earth quakes and angel descends earlier in the morning, frightening the guards. By the time the women arrive, an angel is inside the tomb. It is from within that he says, “See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6).
  • The women initially don’t tell anyone (Mark 16:8), but then decide to (Luke 24:10).
  • Parts of the story are simplified or consolidated. Simplification: one angel is noted (Matthew 28:5) instead of two otherwise specified (Luke 24:4). Consolidation: the women “told these things to the apostles” (Luke 24:10). This consolidates Mary Magdalene reporting to Peter and John, and the other women reporting to the rest of the disciples.
  • “The sun had risen” (Mark 16:2) could anciently mean essentially: at dawn.

See also: “A plausible harmony of the accounts and sequence of events” of the resurrection

Did Paul write some of the Prison Letters from Ephesus?

Was Paul imprisoned in Ephesus? Did he write Prison Epistles (captivity letters) like Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon from Ephesus? Perhaps even Philippians? Or were they written from Rome?

Arguments for Rome

  • “The elite ancients, and even some ordinary ancients, were far more mobile than we often give them credit for.” (Witherington)
  • Onesimus could have gone from Colossae to Rome for anonymity, or Onesimus may have been sent to Rome by Philemon.
  • Luke would not have overlooked an Ephesus imprisonment in Acts.
  • Colossians reflects later theological development.
  • Tychicus is in Ephesus; why write to the Ephesians if Paul can speak through him?
  • Paul would have been willing to change/delay plans of traveling to Spain in order to tend to pressing needs of existing churches.
  • “Eusebius says that Paul was brought to Rome and that with him was Aristarchus.” (Porter)
  • “Some of the persons named in Philemon (and Colossians) are associated with Rome in other New Testament writings: Mark (if it is the same Mark) is associated with Rome in 1 Peter 5:13; Luke is associated with Rome in 2 Timothy 4:11 (and in Acts 28:16 if Luke is the author of Acts); Demas is associated with Rome in 2 Timothy 4:10; Aristarchus is said to have been with Paul in both Ephesus (Acts 19:29) and Rome (Acts 27:2).” (Powell)

Arguments for Ephesus

  • The short distance between Colossae and Ephesus is more plausible: It is a shorter distance for Onesimus (runaway slave) to travel. This also makes better sense of Paul requesting a room from Philemon, and anticipating lodging soon.
  • Prison epistles have “air of nearness and intimacy.” Journeys in prison epistles “seem to be treated in a rather casual way.”
  • Paul mentions extreme adversarial conditions and previous imprisonments in 1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans; these could not have included the later imprisonments in Caesarea or Rome.
  • We should not assume Colossians is of later theological development. Colossians and the Corinthian correspondence have substantial parallels.
  • Ephesians is circular letter, written not just to Ephesus.
  • Aristarchus was dragged before crowd in Ephesus (Acts 19); Paul describes him as fellow prisoner in his letters.
  • “Of the ten companions of Paul named in these letters, four (Timothy, Aristarchus, Tychicus, Luke) seem quite certainly to have been in Ephesus with Paul, three (Epaphroditus, Epaphras, Onesimus) could have been there much easier than in Rome, The other three could have been there as easily as in Rome, while for no one of the ten is there any evidence (save inference from these letters) that he was in Rome, at least in Paul’s time.” (Bowen)

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Notes from Cal Newport on Deep Work

Deep work definition: “Professional activities performed in a distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

Deep work hypothesis: “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasing rare at the same time it is becoming valuable in or economy. As a consequence the few who cultivate this skill and then make it the core of their working life will thrive.”

Attention residue: “Every time you switch your attention from one target to another and then back again, there’s a cost. This switching creates an effect that psychologists call attention residue, which can reduce your cognitive capacity for a non-trivial amount of time before it clears.”

Persistent attention residue: “If you constantly make “quick checks” of various devices and inboxes, you essentially keep yourself in a state of persistent attention residue, which is a terrible idea if you’re someone who uses your brain to make a living.”

Four rules for cultivating deep work:

1) Work deeply. Don’t wait for lots of free time. Schedule deep work blocks and protect them.

2) Embrace boredom. Frequently expose yourself to boredom. Don’t “bathe yourself in novel stimuli at the slightest hint of boredom.”

3) Quit social media. Don’t measure social media value only by advantages. Disadvantages outweigh them.

4) Drain the shallows. Shallow work doesn’t require uninterrupted concentration. Aggressively minimize optional shallow work.