Friday, September 17, 2021

Establishedness and Loving God

Epistemic status: contains innovations on past ideas of mine which I may not have thoroughly thought through before posting this, so there's an element of provisionalness to this. (And new, even more provisional ideas.) Also, tries to say something about parts of the Bible, when ideally I should have read the whole Bible with an eye to the themes in here.

I suspect that there are details which are poorly explained or contradictory somewhere in this. If you are confused about something, let me know in the comments so I can address the problem.

This is the long version of this post. It's about as long as a book. The short version is here.

I am not entirely proud of this (as a writer), but perhaps that is fitting, as you will see. Realistically, I think it's the best version of this that I can produce at this time.


1 Part 1: Initial Thoughts
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Why Firm, Consistent Governments Can Be Good
1.2.1 They can have good consequences
1.2.2 Governments may look like gangs, but they don't have to
1.3 A Person Might Not Want to be Told What to Do
1.3.1 Maybe all of this pales in comparison with whether we love God
1.4 Summary / Keeping Score
1.5 Kingship and Individual Liberty May Not Have to Conflict
1.6 King as Legislator Yields Libertarian Kingdom
1.6.1 My Church of Christ background probably connects to my views
1.7 What is the Real Issue?
1.7.1 Is it "How should government look on earth?"
1.7.2 Is it "How should we relate to the ideas of kingship and law?"
1.7.3 Which is better for developing trust, hands-off, or hands-on government?
1.7.4 The danger of wealth
1.7.5 The value of poverty
1.8 Closing Section
1.8.1 More considerations of wealth and establishedness
1.8.2 Conclusion of Part 1

2 Part 2: Judges, Saul, David, Solomon
2.1 My New Wine Background
2.2 Synopsis
2.3 Episodes
2.3.1 Note on translations
2.3.2 Gideon (Judges 6 - 8)
2.3.3 God Says He Will Abandon Israel and Then Doesn't (Judges 10)
2.3.4 The Judges System Isn't Working (Judges 17 - 21)
2.3.5 The People Choose to Have a Human King (1 Samuel 8)
2.3.6 God's "Regret" (1 Samuel 15)
2.3.7 Uzzah Tries to Save the Ark (2 Samuel 6)
2.3.8 David's Census (2 Samuel 24)
2.3.9 Solomon's Impressiveness (Temple, Wealth, Wisdom) (1 Kings 5 - 10)
2.3.10 Solomon Falls Away (1 Kings 11)
2.4 Overall

3 Part 3: Subsequent Thoughts
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Notes
3.2.1 Philosophy The truth and orthodoxy Establishedness is trust-producing Ambiguity and mixedness, definitions How to be a Christian given mixedness "Unlackingness": Perfection or Reality Mixedness does not prevent altruism Some things ought to be permanently The mixedness of bringing to justice God's trustworthiness despite his disestablishedness or less-established approach to relating to us Trust vs. physical survival Disestablishedness is established Being is personal and therefore partially disestablished Trust
3.2.2 Psychological, Social, Spiritual Belonging to a group may inhibit intimacy with God If we don't value poverty sufficiently, we lose the ability to benefit from it Seeing by fighting Mixedness of upbringing Relying on others to shield ourselves from reality Fans seek establishedness Danger of bad establishedness Kinglessness, spouselessness Good and bad establishedness Rejecting establishedness as protest Political fights Kings obey laws Becoming yourself is a natural but dangerous move Valuing the firmness of true establishedness Law and king prevent petty kingships Disestablishedness in growing up Relying on other than God David, more fortunate God is king means... ? Going from disestablished to established is spiritually fortunate
3.2.3 Political Political disestablishedness must be worked for Is this Christian anarchism? International establishments Politics emphasizing relationship with God Collective identity of Jews in Captivity as trustworthy for political establishedness The Northern Triangle may be worse than Judges-era Israel
3.2.4 Personal Personal scale kings Fighting Evil
3.2.5 Mourning
3.2.6 Monasticism Worry when temptations cease Monasticism as institutionalized disestablishedness Celibacy as establishedness in the desert Asceticism could be a disestablishedness that causes you to love and trust God Monastic disestablishedness of watchfulness
3.2.7 Current Events A truly Christian nation would be less established Not voting because I'm okay with disestablishedness Climate change will disestablish but there's likely a time after that That a disestablished world can be valuable makes anti-abortion sentiment sensible Fraternity of disestablishedness Recall Day
3.2.8 The Cross Refounding with the cross Establishedness and the cross
3.2.9 Church Dangers of establishment Christianity The spiritual danger of there being a scholarly consensus on the Bible Can New Testament and Old Testament vibes coexist? Progressive and Conservative Christians are both humanists, in a way; there's such a thing as theism Church as a safe place for danger The church could be like Solomon and be a bad establishedness
3.2.10 Conclusions Eternal lack and fullness as good disestablishedness
3.3 Conclusion

4 Appendix: notes from Bible reading

Part 1: Initial Thoughts


I had a Twitter conversation with Susannah Black (@suzania). It got to the point where I felt like I wanted to reply with a blog post instead of trying to work with Twitter's format, so I wrote this.

(Apologies to my interlocutor (Susannah Black) for how long this took me to write. This first part I finished in a day or two and should be seen as more or less what I would have said in conversation on the day of our Twitter exchange, while the following parts reflect later thinking. I considered rewriting this first part to make it more presentable, but decided not to, other than what was necessary for clarity. Also, this post grew to be long -- at least it will not be as long to read as it was to write.)

Here is the context: Black quote re-tweeted someone's take about libertarians (governor of Florida is apparently being a libertarian by being more or less laissez-faire about COVID). That take referenced a Washington Post article which was paywalled for me, so I didn't read it. I replied to Black mainly based on the object-level of her tweet, but I can see that she may have read into me some sort of support for the governor of Florida (or similar people or ideas), given that I was in some sense pushing back against something that she said in response to people like the governor of Florida. I don't support the governor of Florida, nor have much of a sense of opposing him. (I have been vaccinated, and I don't mind being masked or even being under lockdown (mostly) so those preferences and actions may show that I trust the values that oppose the governor. But I don't feel like I oppose him, or even whatever it is that he represents, of which he is only the visible instantiation of the day.)

Here are the tweets (or on Twitter):

And here are two branches of the thread:

(I could have made those images look better, but it may not be important, as the reader may see below.)

I will try to reply to Black's question

Q: does "kingship" seem like a bad thing to you? Does "firm, consistent government" have the flavor of "bossy tyranny" when you hear it?
Also I will consider what value there might in less "firm, consistent" government and in libertarian or liberal values. Then I will consider what the nature of kingship could be or ought to be: king as direct leader vs. king as legislator and facilitator? Hopefully this all will address most of the issues raised in the tweets.

Why Firm, Consistent Governments Can Be Good

They can have good consequences

I don't think that "firm, consistent government" has the flavor of "bossy tyranny" to me. I don't mind authority, personally. In many ways, the relatively firm, consistent government of the United States makes many things possible for me. In a sufficiently chaotic world, I might not be alive today, to be able to write things. I've been reading [had read and intend to re-read] A History of Violence by Óscar Martínez to learn about the Northern Triangle (which comprises the countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras). Gangs like MS-13 are very powerful there. There are something like 10,000 MS-13 members in the US, which, if you read the book, you realize is more than enough to do a lot of damage, but the ones who live here generally don't make the national news, probably because our government is "firm and consistent" (has the resources to enforce its laws fairly well). A failed state allows horrors.

I don't think libertarians want Northern Triangle-like situations, and they don't think libertarianism would inevitably lead to them. Libertarians can be minarchists (or something like that) who prefer a strong state when it comes to enforcing protections of liberty. But they are perhaps not the most libertarian of libertarians -- anarcho-capitalists are, perhaps. [These are the libertarians who might be assumed to be most against "firm, consistent" government.]

You could push back against an anarcho-capitalist and say "why wouldn't anarcho-capitalism turn into the Northern Triangle?" MS-13, Barrio 18, Los Zetas, and other gangs seem to be independent firms doing what they want -- some even take over some government services. The difference between a gang and a government is somewhat fuzzy. Do you need one big, authoritative gang that is able to squash the other gangs, so that there isn't so much gang warfare? That may be what liberals have in mind. (Set up the messed-up thing that limits the even more messed-up things.) And libertarians, with that dark view of the reality of government as it actually gets established, want less of it. They seem to think that darkness comes from government itself, since governments can be dark.

Governments may look like gangs, but they don't have to

Black is affiliated with the "post-liberals" / "Christian humanists". From a bit of a distance, it looks to me like their approach is to say "there is a good version of things and we can have it on earth". So there is a really good government. And we can have a really good government on earth (maybe). (A really good army? A really good police force? We're not talking about a really ideal world, if there still needs to be an army or a police force.) Certainly if you remember that there can be a really humane world, and you believe that it is realizable, you may be able to have it, which is less true or not true at all if you are certain that there can't be.

Maybe if we did not have the dark, cynical, desperate, fragile, poverty-stricken worldview of the liberals, if we just said "no, things can be good, we can be good people", then, if we truly understood that and implemented the changes in behavior and institutions that are downstream of that, we could have good governments.

So it may be that it is as though the Christian humanists (Black?) could be saying "government is good -- or it can be good -- that is, kings are good -- good kings are good, at least -- that is, Jesus, the king, is good". So that would be the rejoinder to a libertarian, who thinks that kingship / government are inherently dangerous and evil.

A Person Might Not Want to be Told What to Do

However, as (perhaps) Black points to, another dimension of pursuing libertarianism is out of a love of not having anyone else tell you what to do. Is there any validity to this impulse and are there any dangers to it?

[This will connect to the validity of self-determination:] Maybe there's a validity to the faculty that people have of caring about things. It's not absolute, but we could say that it is prima facie valid. If you care about something, you should care about it, unless there's a good reason not to.

I read a book a number of years ago which has stuck with me, by Sheena Iyengar, called The Art of Choosing. I'm not good at remembering exactly what books say versus what I think of occasioned by them, but either way, I was left with the thought "what I really care about are the things that I want to be able to choose myself" ["what I want to choose myself are or relate to the things that I really care about" is a clearer way to express what I meant]. There's a correlation between caring, finding valuable, and wanting to make sure things turn out according to your caring.

In much of my life I don't have strong preferences, but at the time I read the book I realized that the freedom to think about whatever subjects I needed to think about was really important to me, to the extent that I couldn't get married and have a family, because I couldn't risk being committed to a high-paying job (to support them) that would monopolize my thinking. Iyengar was raised as a Sikh and raises the prospect of arranged marriage in the book. I discovered, while thinking about the book (working through an exercise in it) that I didn't mind the thought of arranged marriage in itself. (If somehow it didn't threaten my "freedom" of thought!) [It looks like I make demands on reality: freedom of thought.]

I put "freedom" in quotes because I am not really free. My thinking is as constrained as anything. I don't choose the things that speak to me. They speak to me. It's because my thinking is constrained by something that is not legible to society that I need freedom from society. I understand that it's fair for society to ask me to not make trouble, in exchange, so generally I do abide by basically liberal ideas of "my rights end at the point that I want to constrain other people's liberty". So given all that, I am happy that I live in a relatively liberal setting (the people around me generally give me space, and I am free to be an individual and not get caught up in a group's undertow.)

I don't think that is quite the same as the potential strawpeople who say "I don't want the government to take my guns and make me use a vaccine". But I can relate to people like that. I want to be left alone to be myself. It's an understandable human desire, and it's prima facie valid. If you've never had the misfortune to have someone close to you try to tear down who you are, it's like having someone reach into your brain and put their fingers in it, breaking the interlocking parts of it, re-engineering you when you express who you really are. Even if someone is wrong, tearing down that wrongness at all costs tears them down as a person, just like even if someone is living in the wrong house, setting it on fire to smoke them out could kill them. We should have defenses against other people trying to change us.

(In a previous post, I brought up the idea of "ego-respect" vs. "survival-respect". "I deserve respect" in the "ego-respect" sense can be the sort of thing gang members say to justify killing people over (some meaning of) honor. But in the "survival-respect" sense, it can be what abused people can say to justify getting away from their abuser. It can be a little bit unclear sometimes if a given case of respect being called for is ego-respect or survival-respect, and being too good at clamping down on ego-respect can threaten survival-respect (maybe being too supportive of survival-respect can feed ego-respect?). Similarly, there could be an analogous phenomenon of ego-freedom vs. survival-freedom.)

God creates us (and makes us) to be who we are -- so to an extent, that is not something that is anyone else's business.

However, it is true that people are not born loving God with all of their beings. Obviously we do have to change. And perhaps the libertarians or anti-vaxxers, in distrusting change as it comes from leftists or liberals, are really distrusting change of themselves in general and therefore are at risk of shutting out God's voice.

Maybe all of this pales in comparison with whether we love God

A lot of what I've said above seems a bit orthogonal to what really matters (for instance, it's not clear to me that my preference for thinking my own thoughts -- if it is not a constraint that I don't choose -- is necessarily better than being caught up in a group's thinking, nor, at the same time, that being a member of a group is better than being an individual). But this issue of potentially not trusting change itself [change in itself] seems to directly connect. People really could be setting themselves up for not connecting to God, through politics. Whatever they prefer over total commitment to God is an idol, and whatever prevents them from connecting to God, whether they understand that that [that preventing] is what is going on or not, may further idolatry or prevent full love of God. (The thing to watch for is, when we go to tear down other people's idols and set their temples on fire, that we aren't trying to shoo them into our temples to worship our idols.)

A lot of what we talk about is orthogonal to whether we love and trust God, or only somewhat "at-angles" to it.

Summary / Keeping Score

I have trouble staying on topic sometimes, so I will try to take a moment to keep score. Let's say that the topic of "does 'kingship' seem like a bad thing to you?" is the point of this post so far.

I said that I can see value in firm, consistent government in terms of its ability to suppress violent gangs, who seem to be the default rulers when there is no government. (Maybe this only seems to be true and isn't always true?) This is in line with what libertarians want, since all (except the most radical) accept some kind of state -- perhaps a firm, consistent one.

I claimed that liberals and libertarians tend to have a dark view on life (particularly on power and the concentration of power), while the post-liberals / Christian humanists tend to have a not-as-dark view on life, power, concentration of power. By having higher expectations, post-liberals / Christian humanists could actually bring about a better government, proving their expectations valid and showing that kingship (even as a case of the concentration of power) can be a good thing.

Then in the next section I considered whether libertarianism (or liberal values in general) might be valid, and how they might be dangerous. I said they might be valid as expressions for protecting the integrity of individuals (the prima facie validity of caring about what you care about and being yourself). Also, God has rights over people which trump the social order. However, a danger of liberal / libertarian values (or of protecting who you are from the interference of others) is to be unwilling or unable to change at all (to not value change in general) and thus to be unable to listen to the voice of God.

I realized at that point that much (or all?) of the discussion preceding the recognition of that danger didn't necessarily matter. People prefer this, or that. But the really fundamental issue is whether people connect to God.

That is a good point to remember, and I should return to it later. But for now, I'll resume my discussion of the value of kingship (in light of alternatives to it like libertarianism).

Kingship and Individual Liberty May Not Have to Conflict

Maybe kingship and individual liberty (or even libertarianism?) are not in conflict, or are not as much as one might initially suppose?

I have defended some of what liberalism ostensibly defends [individual freedom], and that's how I can appreciate liberalism. But a king doesn't have to constrain people in any kind of absolute or granular way -- and historically, even earthly ones hardly could have, given their resources. Maybe they could have within their own courts? But that is them acting on an interpersonal level. (Ironically, for me, I may not care so much about the government, as I do about the social order [like the king acting as just another member of the royal social circle, the scene of humans relating human to human, rather than as wielder of vast state power], and yet my experiences with the social order might inform my (mild) appreciation for the possibility of libertarianism. (Or my lack of outrage against it.))

That's a practical reason [limited resources] why kings do not constrain liberty even if they want to. What if kings just decided that they weren't going to constrain their subjects' liberty? Is it that simple? I'm reminded of a vivid image from the effective altruists. One AI safety researcher (Buck Shlegeris):

[Context: illustrations of the principle "problems solve themselves".]

Another one is: "Most people have cars. It would be a tremendous disaster if everyone bought cars which had guns in the steering wheels such that if you turn on the accelerator, they shoot you in the face. That could kill billions of people." And I'm like, yep. But people are not going to buy those cars because they don't want to get shot in the face. (source)

Aren't humans reasonable? Don't we want a nice world? Don't we not want to shoot ourselves in the face? Or even make things that could shoot other people in the face? Won't we want to design systems of government that work, or raise up people to be in positions of government who don't do a bad job? So why can't kings just not abuse their positions of power? Obviously they do sometimes. But they don't always, not maximally. And arguably kings (or whoever is in government), start their lives wishing to do the most good, but when in office have to deal with "realities" (like violent gangs which are hard to imagine controlling without violence, or the Molochian dynamics of having to maintain a strong (capitalist) economy, in order to support a strong military, to keep other countries from invading). If we zoom out and squint, humanity as a whole is good, full of well-intentioned people. And this is even true of people in government -- as long as they don't forget who they really are.

Those are some ideas about how earthly governments (even kings) could just not in practice use their authority to be abusive. [Reasons why] if we are consequentialists [if we are considering consequences], we don't have to worry about the spiritual reality of authority leading to abusive outcomes. I am unsure whether post-liberals want to restore monarchy on earth (I don't know enough to say either way), but it is not their most obvious emphasis. I would guess that they are more into being culturally non-liberal more so than legally or politically non-liberal (granted that "political" might be hard to separate from "cultural" sometimes). [So I don't know how likely a literal inauguration of monarchy is, given their ambitions. Still, I can allow that in practice, kings do not have to be abusive.] However, the important topic to consider is "is kingship [as a value] bad, and how does it fare against alternative values?" and the specific occasion for all of this is "What about Judges? What about Jesus' kingship? What about kingship seen through a spiritual lens?" [What aspects of kingship are good or bad, not just from a secular or humanist perspective (the "abusive" above) but from a radically theistic perspective?]

King as Legislator Yields Libertarian Kingdom

I don't think it's impossible to imagine a world which is, from a human's eye view of how the world works, libertarian, but in which in fact Jesus is king. The thing that allows for authority in the absence of external coercion or direction is an internalized law (and whatever is epiconceptual / episcriptural / "epilegal" to that law). That's more or less what I had in mind when I first replied to Black ("maybe libertarianism is the best and we are not worthy of it"). The king writes the law and we keep it -- no need for police forces or any kind of coercion. I think libertarianism (in an idealistic form) may long for a world where people are free to do what they want. And I think that's a good thing, just so long as they are keeping the law.

So I could reveal myself now to be defending a position of "laws are better than direct involvement -- the king is more legislator and facilitator of adoption of legislation than he is direct leader". I am unsure that I want to defend that position so baldly, that I should define myself as taking that side. But for now I'll say it's my view -- certainly I lean toward it.

My Church of Christ background probably connects to my views

This emphasis of mine on law and hands-off kingship has a lot to do with my upbringing. I was raised in a Church of Christ (a somewhat unusually free-thinking and moderate one). The Churches of Christ are very American in some ways (for instance, they have no denominational structure), but also very un-American (they like obedience and law). They are hyper-Protestant (Sola Scriptura to the point of rejecting theology) and also anti-Protestant (they are fairly okay with saying "salvation is by faith and works" and believe that undergoing a physical act (baptism) is a necessary part of salvation). One of the classic Church of Christ doctrines is that the Holy Spirit's actions on Christians are solely through them reading the Bible that he wrote, like if you had a pen pal whose sole actions on your mind were through writing letters or emails.

Most of the really "pungent" Church of Christ doctrines were not taught or emphasized in the church I grew up in, but when I discover them later, I think "yes, I like this emphasis". Perhaps I am genetically Church of Christ (plausible since both my parents and three of my grandparents are/were members). However, I am not sure I would want to be dogmatically in favor of all the points given in the previous paragraph. Notably, I don't think the Holy Spirit's actions are only carried out through us reading the book he left behind. However, I think that's a good dimension to consider, that the Word of God -- not just in some mystical, spiritually empowered, supernaturally gracious sense, but just the (relatively) plain sentences that we can understand like we can understand a pen pal's email, is the action of God on us, is God's presence and power. This view leans toward "God is your friend" rather than "God is great and powerful" (which I think follows from the polar opposite view of the Holy Spirit, which would be like a hyper-Pentecostalism (that is, the view that the Spirit is only tongues of fire, rushing winds, prophecies, and whatever else the Pentecostals restored and which the cessationists deny. I would guess that there aren't any real hyper-Pentecostals, that Pentecostals all acknowledge the quieter voice of the Spirit.)).

What is the Real Issue?

"God as friend" connects (in my mind) to the idea that God is kin, and that we know him by kinship. So internalizing his values is more valuable than being ruled over by him. I doubt Black would object to that idea, so maybe if there remains a difference between me and her, it could be in something like "how should government look on earth?" or "how should we relate to the idea of kingship?" or "how should we relate to the idea of law?"

Is it "How should government look on earth?"

At the time of writing this, I don't know that I have a strong preference for any given government on earth. (Maybe against abusive ones, but not for any particular non-abusive one -- some idea of what I mean about abuse being given earlier in this post. [For instance, abuse as violating the integrity of an individual.]) I suppose the ideal earthly government would be one in which all the adults were holy people with God's interests first in their minds and actions, and the only challenge remaining being the education of young people to become such adults, and maintaining physical sustainability. A non-coercive government would exist to coordinate large-scale resources. It wouldn't have to be coercive because everyone would of one mind. The only coercive government would be that of children being ruled by their parents or teachers, and only to the extent necessary. That sounds fairly libertarian to me, although maybe it sounds like some other label if you take it vaguely enough. However, the ideal earthly government may never be possible, and in the meantime I don't have a strong preference -- for instance, the US government is pretty good in many ways, but it may not be the best.

My vague vision of ideal earthly government does not sound like one that falls out of the bounds of Christian humanism (as I understand it), and I guess that it is not a sticking point between me and Black. Again, I don't have a strong preference and would be willing to live under different governments, likely whatever else could fall within the bounds of Christian humanism.

Is it "How should we relate to the ideas of kingship and law?"

This leaves the questions of "how should we relate to the ideas of kingship? and law?" I don't really know Black, but I'll give some different perspectives on kingship and law that occur to me, some of which may (or may not) happen to apply to her. These are probably strawmen to some extent. (These are guesses and are likely not the full picture.)

One reason why kingship could be emphasized is to keep humans down. Humans need to know that they must think small and keep perspective that they are not God, they are not king. Because there is a God, they are not God and because there is a king, they are not king. Keeping humans down is a good thing (maybe) because humility is the chief virtue. Humble people are the most beautiful people and we can trust them interpersonally. The real danger in the spiritual life is pride.

Keeping humans down is a very attractive view -- humans seem to like it a lot. I don't think it's really Jesus' main emphasis. I would warn Christians away from it to the extent that it keeps people from using their talents to the full, and places humility even above the love of God among the virtues. If we are maximally humble (at least for an obvious meaning of "humble"), how can we claim to know the truth? So humility could alienate people from God.

But a more steelman version could be "Jesus as king tells us not to keep ourselves down, and because he's king, we obey." I guess you could say that laws also keep humans down / humble them. [Kings and laws can both support and undermine "keep humans down".] So that's not the real sticking point between me and Black. But maybe if laws are emphasized, it could become the case that humans don't need the king-relationship as much, that while God is king, that's not really something that God regards. It's like if your dad was really good at something, and you knew you'll never be that good at it no matter how long you lived, and he knew it too, and he would never put you in the position to do his job, but he didn't really care about his own competence and it barely came up because he could talk to you so freely, given all the things you have in common because you grew up to be like him [law teaches kinship (sonship / daughtership)]. In your relationship with God, his kingship is less relevant to both him and you than your mutual kinship. (Perhaps a good illustration of the phenomenon of unlike people being kin comes from Ursula K. LeGuin.)

Another reason why kingship could be emphasized is because humans need a power-figure in their lives, and God (as king) represents one. Pentecostalism is very popular in the developing world, and from the little I have seen of it online, it seems like there can be a desperation for the power of God, because people in the developing world are often desperate. I wouldn't want to get in the way of what allows a desperate person to function. So there's a prima facie value to the psychological support given to people who (in a sense) need a power-figure -- maybe really need it at that time of their lives.

(Later: maybe "people in the developing world are often desperate" is less true than "sometimes desperate"? Also, do I expect that this post will never find its way to someone who (apparently or really) needs to consider God to be a maximally powerful being in order to hold their life together? If I think it could, how would I contextualize all of this to make it somehow not too destabilizing? More details may perhaps be found below, but I could say, briefly, that as long as you are true to God, no matter how bad things are in this life, you will someday participate in his rest, and God is always present in your life. No matter how bad things are, you can always love God. There are other bad outcomes besides what may happen to you -- other people may not remain true to God -- but they are not under your control, are not your responsibility. They belong to God. Your responsibility is to obey God. If someone else is lost, you may mourn, but you will be okay, overall. Your mourning will not overwhelm you, and you will affirm it out of love, rather than be subject to it as a slave to automatic emotional reactivity.)

Which is better for developing trust, hands-off, or hands-on government?

One of my tweets claimed that trust in God was aided by a more hands-off approach. I think the lived lives of people (in developing countries or in ours) is that, if both our theism biases and atheism biases aren't dominating how we see the way things plainly look, sometimes it looks like God is hands-on, and sometimes hands-off -- sometimes his intervention in the world in which we are forced to care ("lived life") is present, sometimes absent (absent to the point that we doubt that he exists sometimes).

Which produces more trust in God, when God is hands-on, or hands-off? Trust is complicated. It is inhibited by betrayal (the fruit of a hands-off world). But it is also inhibited by satiation and perfect safety. If things worked out okay, we wouldn't trust as deeply. We wouldn't trust as deeply, we wouldn't be as alive to trust. Trust is connection as well as acceptance. We have to care in order to trust the most. So we have to engage with reality. All that to say that some mixture of hands-on and hands-off is needed and that "king" versus "judge" are at different points on the same scale. "Judge" (or, God as king as in the days of Judges) says "more hands-off", while "king" (or, Saul/David/Solomon(/Jesus?) as king) says "more hands-on". (Or for "hands-on" we can also add "more firm and consistent" and for "hands-off" "less firm and consistent / less established".)

The danger of wealth

Unlike developing-world Pentecostals (as I understand them), the spiritual reality that has been my problem has not been poverty or powerlessness. Rather, fakeness is what has driven me, which I think connects to the ideas of satiation and perfect safety inhibiting caring and therefore trust and life. I suspect that in some ways, I'm living in the future, in the hyper-developed world. So to me, becoming real has been a kind of life challenge, and to internalize a law (plus its epiconcept or "epilaw") allows me to become real. The danger for a developing-country Christian is to be weighed down by poverty (and perhaps from that despair and turn away from God) or to turn to sin out of desperation and then maybe come to love it (a real danger for narcotraffickers), but for me it is to [be] turned into a spiritually dead person by wealth. I don't think about fakeness anymore (although I think I would if I tried abandoning my values), but instead I am concerned that I won't be true to my values, that I will sink into a state where life is nice and I don't deeply care about God. A God who was too hands-on would prevent me from being hungry for him, would allow me to become numb through ease and pleasure. So I desire poverty in general, and this can connect to the poverty of not having a king (or of having a Judges-era God as king rather than one more like Saul, David, or Solomon), of having a worldview in which the ideal government is not firm and consistent, so that instead I rely on God.

Could a king decree "you are real!" and it would be so? The related questions of "Could God decree 'you are sinless' and cause you to be seen that way by him?" or "Could God zap you and make you in fact sinless?" could be (or maybe have been) big controversies in Christianity. I think most Christians think that God can zap you and make you sinless, or at least that seems fitting with the Christian culture I've seen. Otherwise how could anyone go to heaven? And I agree with the existing Holiness movement (as I understand it) that we receive holiness from God, that it is God who makes us not have our sinful habits. But, that's only part of the story, because we have to repent of our own sins ourselves. We have to acquire the values of God, and that's something he can't do for us, or else it would be he who valued them. Our sinful habits may keep us out of heaven and be something God can deal with unilaterally, but our misaligned values are something only we can do anything about, so that it is we who [come to] love God. So a king who wanted kinship (someone as real as him) would do better with laws than with direct intervention.

The value of poverty

Though I said earlier that the ideal earthly government is one which is sustainable and focused on education, that situation sounds fairly stable, calm, and thus psychologically wealthy, a temptation to no longer deeply care. So I think for such a government to seem trustworthy to me, though in itself it may be stable, calm, and functional, the culture around it would have to emphasize the insufficiency of wealth, to mourn the loss of poverty, to feel the lack of lack. Even feel the lack of chaos, terror, and horror, saying "When we were afraid, we turned to you with all of our beings, but we are no longer afraid. How unfortunate we have become." (Or which may be the case for many of us "When we were afraid, we had the opportunity to turn to you with all of our beings, but we did not take it, and now we are no longer afraid. How unfortunate we have become.") Poverty is hunger, and hunger cares.

I think a natural rebuttal to poverty being needed to value God is to bring up gratitude. When we are wealthy, we redeem it with gratitude, by being thankful to God for how good our lives are. Maybe with gratitude we can turn to God with all of our beings. I don't think it's as natural to as deeply turn to God out of a sense of gratitude than out of fear (what I think of when I think of "deeply" touches on a different part of a person than gratitude does). I think of the closeness that a child might feel with his or her parent after being comforted after a serious upset. But maybe for other people it's different, or could be different in an ideal society where we are trained to interpret things properly. However, even in heaven there's something missing, something lost, if we want to get a lot out of the verse that says "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13). In heaven we can no longer have the greatest love, a casualty of everyone remaining having been completely saved. So, along with the lost who will never be alive again, God could mourn the loss of part of himself, part of love itself.

(Also, true gratitude may necessarily be a form of poverty as deep as that of turning to God in fear, and many (or all?) of us may need the lived experience of poverty in order to develop it.)

So if kingship is an attempt to have an established government that prevents psychological poverty, or if a love of kingship is an attempt to make that true in the space of one's own valuing life, then it might be better to value less-established governments, "judge-like" (like the way things are when God is king, rather than the way things are when humans are king).

Closing Section

In the above, I tried to say that God would prefer to relate to us as friend and father, and that by means of law (hands-off kingship / king as legislator rather than direct leader) we learn how to become like God, fully mature and thus capable of deeper relationship with him. From that, I would say that I have an ambivalent relationship with the idea of "kingship". I don't deny that there is such a thing as kingship, or authority, and while I have a personal taste for law, I don't think that either that or kingship are really very interesting in the end, though they may persist eternally. Such spiritual realities are means to the end of a familial and friendly relationship with God, a simple intimacy.

What I could try to do, and, as noted below, may try to do in the future, is read through Judges and the books that talk about the kings of Israel, and perhaps other parts of the Bible, to see if there are any clues as to why God would prefer the somewhat anarchic Judges days over, say, the settled and established days of Solomon. My guess for now is that the reasons given above, or some of them, may have something to do with why God preferred to be that kind of king (a more hands-off one) than to use more established governments like those of Saul, David, and Solomon. God may share with libertarians some of their values, and prefer a kingship that offers liberty and insecurity, which can be the foundations for love and trust of God. When we choose too little freedom and too much security (or if we have an atheistic liberty and insecurity as the foundation of government), we reject God as king over us.

More considerations of wealth and establishedness

There is a difference between libertarian and Judges-like government. Liberty at the expense of security might plausibly be libertarian values for some meaning of "security", (i.e. favoring the insecurity of not knowing if you have a job [will be able to find a job] rather than of wondering whether your contract will be enforced), but most libertarians (I would guess) value wealth, and think that wealth (in the form of liberty, or economic wealth) should follow from ideal government, whereas I think God (as love) would be ambivalent about wealth, and wealth would not be the main point of his government.

Isn't wealth basically that which God created in the beginning and called good, and even very good? Arguably so, but there's a mixedness to that goodness. In the very fact that it is so good, it becomes a temptation to be valued more than God. Perhaps God creates wealth so that we have something difficult to renounce (or become genuinely and fully willing to renounce) in favor of him, so that our love is even more tested to the point of reality, than if it was only tempted by being confronted by suffering or poverty.

Now, to circle back to the beginning where I mentioned the situation in the Northern Triangle... does God prefer that over the state of affairs in the United States, if he preferred Judges-era Israel over Solomon-era Israel? One could argue that God is not as much king in the Northern Triangle as he was in the time of Judges, and that would give an easy way to decide. If the United States is not under God's kingship (except in the sense that all reality is) and neither is the Northern Triangle, then we might as well minimize horror, since horrors are evil, and in that way do what God wants. But I could say in reply that rates of Christianity are high in the Northern Triangle (greater than 80% in all three countries as of the 2010s). Maybe the people there are gaining spiritually, despite living under the terror and futility-making of the gangs.

It's interesting that Jesus says, in Luke 6:

24 "But woe to you who are rich! For you have received your consolation. 25 Woe to you, you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe, when men speak well of you, for their fathers did the same thing to the false prophets.
Maybe poverty is a blessing that God will share with all of us fairly. This perspective does make it hard to evaluate altruism. Is it right to alleviate the poverty of chaos and evil in the Northern Triangle (if we could figure out how)? It doesn't sound like the worst thing you could do. But is it a really necessary thing? The people there (other than those who perpetrate the evil according to their own wills) are storing up all the blessings of the beatitudes, which are the counterpart to the "woes" in Luke 6. What is it that is really up-for-grabs, a site for gain or loss, such that if we increase things on some axis, things actually get better for people in God's eyes, and if we decrease along that axis, things actually get worse?

I would think that holiness, closeness to God, and the like are that axis that should be maximized, and that the case for suppressing gangs in the Northern Triangle would be to keep the gang members away from the intense temptations of gangs, and allow them to find the anti-temptations of their culture's Christians (when those Christians are at their best), or whatever other source of anti-temptation they might encounter, which the gravity of gang life draws them away from. It could well be possible to suppress gangs without people turning to God, but in principle, it might help.

What could be done for the United States? One way to look at the United States is that we are stuck with an established social order, a firm and consistent government, because it simply is unnatural for people to choose otherwise. In a way, we should hope that is not true, lest we fall into some kind of situation where we feel morally / socially compelled to trade away all freedom and trust in God for safety and pleasantness, because our preference for the United States' establishedness over the Northern Triangle's lack of establishedness comes from our ingrained social value of safety and pleasantness. It may not be the case that we value the United States' government for that reason, and thinking optimistically, maybe we can say "no" to the psychological fuels of consumerism (hedonism and preference satisfaction) even if it currently is our reason for such valuing. So maybe (theoretically) we have a choice (one which we may even have practically in the future) as to which world to live in -- we could choose a less-established world, one more like the Northern Triangle and less like the United States.

Should we take that opportunity? I find it difficult to say yes -- perhaps I am too much a product of my biology and culture. If I can't say yes, I can offer something like what was mentioned above, where we realize in a deep way the insufficiency of our developed earthly lives. We might spend the time that we currently do on entertainment to contemplate how lacking our safe, comfortable world is, how it is not ideally tuned toward producing holiness and love of God, the only fruits of this life that matter in the end. Try as we might to replace stress and risk with anti-temptations, there is a dimension of love that we will seldom if ever experience if we never pursue and undergo the cross. We will have made discipleship of Jesus obsolete (to some extent this is already the case).

It might be possible to say yes [to the choice of a less-established government] if we were all (or generally all) Christians (given that young people are in some sense not born Christian) and we thought of our civilization pursuing the cross by disestablishing, in order to rely on God more. We might think of it as civilizational trust. We wouldn't rely on the machinery of government to enforce laws, but on how we instill those laws in each other, most essentially on the extent to which they are written in us through our own consent. This would be a case of the cross (risking death for the sake of others) if a Judges-like government led to greater trust in God and thus lower rates of people failing to really love God.

Conclusion of Part 1

I have reached the end of what I had to say, more or less off the top of my head, and now I am curious to see what the Bible actually says. So, as I thought I might in previous paragraphs, I will read Judges and the following books up to the end of Solomon's reign to get some clues as to why God preferred the judges-era pattern of government over the kings-era one. (I could expand my reading to include the period of time the Israelites were in the wilderness, since it's analogous to Judges, and to read about the kings after Solomon, but that would be a lot of reading, and I'm already delaying the release of this post by a bit by doing as much as I plan to. (Similarly I could try to compare and contrast the less-established eras of church history (first three centuries, persecuted churches, poor churches, churches in chaotic situations) with the more-established (post-Constantine, national, protected, wealthy churches), but that would be even more reading.) I hope I'm getting a reasonable sample of the difference between less- and more-established governments with the readings I intend to do, at least for now.)

Part 2: Judges, Saul, David, Solomon

Having read the Bible, and reflected, here are my thoughts on God and establishedness.

Three caveats: 1) When I read, I just read the ESV without doing any deeper study. There is some chance that I'm not getting what a scholar would. Whether this is actually a problem, I'm not sure. I would guess that the ESV is usually not misleading (that's the point of a translation). But I would guess that there are at least a few things I'm missing or getting wrong. 2) I only read Judges, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, and the part of 1 Kings about Solomon. But Exodus through Joshua has similarities with Judges, and the kings after Solomon are often like Solomon in that they are established. Also 1 and 2 Chronicles overlap with the readings about Saul, David, and Solomon. I considered reading all these, but thought that it was better to not put too much time into this post, at the risk of missing some nuance. (And as I went I realized that the entire Bible is relevant to questions of establishedness and disestablishedness.) I hope that the additional readings would not (or will not) overturn too much of what I have seen, but only add details to the same overall picture. 3) I am biased in favor of my own preferences and intuitions. I don't feel like I am (I tried to be fair-minded in the verses I highlighted and conclusions I drew), but I know that I am.

(Therefore this post is not a maximally-established thing in itself, and calls for some kind of improvement or criticism.)

My method in reading the selected passages was to look for and elaborate on references to the concepts of establishedness, disestablishedness, establishment, establishing, and disestablishing, both psychological and political, as well as to references to God's intervention. A rough definition of establishedness is "the state of having been made so, put together, organized, given a place" (and also some connection to whatever else the common meaning of "established" is). A rough definition of "establishment" is "a thing that continually establishes something". I assume that psychological establishedness is the bedrock reality, and political establishedness emerges from that (and then turns around and affects individual psychological establishedness). (If all the soldiers are afraid, the army is less established -- it is weaker, less organized, less a body of people.) I found that there were situations in my reading that were "mixed". ("Mixed" things, in themselves, call for feelings of ambivalence, just as ambiguous things call for a sense of uncertainty or undefined thought.)

I was interested in the following questions: what is the difference between the Judges-era of God's kingship and the human kings-era of God's kingship from a spiritual perspective? Why might God have preferred the Judges-era? Did God intervene more, or less, in one era or another? I thought that the main spiritual difference between the Judges era and the Kings era was establishedness. The really important field (with respect to establishedness) is establishedness on an individual level, but political establishedness affects this. With a king, a political body is more established than under a succession of judges. So that is why I focused on the theme of establishedness.

I think the idea of establishedness might be a good, general one. I found myself taking it different places in the text. I am not sure it is the best concept, and will only endorse it (for now) within the context of this post. (My uncertainty about it being something like: Why does this exact concept need to exist? Is there a better mapping of relevant phenomena to a name?)

My New Wine Background

One piece of my intellectual background that's worth mentioning here is the story of my acquaintance with and adoption of the New Wine System. When I was in college, and just out of it, I spent a number of years (maybe five?) puzzling (at times) over soteriological verses from the New Testament. "Salvation is by grace through faith apart from works, so that no man can boast" says Ephesians. "People are justified by works and not by faith alone" says James. "The work of God is to believe the one he sent" says John. "God wants everyone to be saved" says 1 Timothy. I thought of the different theological positions I understood (somewhat) at the time: Church of Christ, Catholic, Reformed, Arminian Baptist. The Reformed did pretty good with Ephesians (God is the one who saves, 100%), but really bad with 1 Timothy in combination with Ephesians (unless they were universalists, but I didn't think universalism was biblical). The Arminian Baptists had figured out a way to reconcile Ephesians and 1 Timothy (those who choose to have faith are saved, apart from works), except that them saying that people needed to have faith meant that those people were doing the "work" of faith (John), and obviously they could boast about it. (They could just choose not to, but they could also just choose not to boast about other works, so if the "not boasting" thing is the point of the Ephesians verse, it must be really hard to just not boast.) The Catholics and Churches of Christ did pretty good with James, but not so good with Ephesians.

I thought that everyone had difficulties interpreting scripture, and I came up with my own weird way to reconcile things (when we obey, we do God's will, so we are nothing but God acting in the world, but when we disobey, then it is we who act -- a view I found out later was similar to Lutheran monergism).

At some point, I faced the possibility of people (a particular person) who seemed basically good going to hell, just because they (he) weren't (wasn't) a Christian. My mind remembered the universalist-leaning verse "every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord", and I looked it up, and saw that it came originally from Isaiah. I searched on a popular Internet search engine, for the verse in Isaiah, and discovered the site for the New Wine System. It looked similar to how it does now (I found it in fall of 2012), offering resolution of scriptural difficulties. It talked about a different kind of soteriology, referencing the verse in Isaiah. I was interested, and thought that it might have (what I would now call) high expected value. So I ordered the comprehensive exposition of it (New Wine for the End Times) and read it.

I was first impressed by how it handled the issues that I had coming in to reading it. My opinion at the time was that it dealt with the verses mentioned above, and others, in a more natural way than the stretchings that I suspected or had heard people making to get around the apparently plain meaning of each verse. It gave a place for otherwise obscure passages in its own context. Also, it offered a scriptural reason to think that God wouldn't (in keeping with his 1 Timothy desire that all people be saved) create people who through no fault of their own were never adequately preached the gospel, and who therefore would have to go to hell.

But ultimately it was the part that I had least desire for going in that had the greatest effect on me. The New Wine System is about the Millennium. The Millennium exists to bring people to holiness, full spiritual maturity (so that they no longer have any sinful habits, and (I would now emphasize), they fully put God first in their hearts -- and possibly full spiritual maturity encompasses other dimensions as well). It inherently provides a scriptural explanation of where, for instance, people who died in pre-contact traditional cultures could hear about Jesus. If the Millennium solves that problem, it does so by "preaching" holiness -- the Millennium exists both to include people and to bring them to completed spiritual maturity. In most Christian cultures, holiness is not necessary for salvation, but in the New Wine System it is.

This can be a powerful idea for anyone (I have some ideas for why it might ought to be, here), but it was particularly powerful for me. I had already had some interest in the idea of designing better ideologies for altruistic purposes, and this seemed to me to be an excellent way to motivate people to be more altruistic. The idea was so powerful and obviously useful, and also so Biblical (from what I could see at the time), that I ran with it for years. I developed a natural theological support for it (which, is somewhat helpfully sketched out on this blog), to the point that now I think imagining a God who is not in many ways compatible with the New Wine System doesn't make as much sense, from a philosophical standpoint, than imagining one who is.

Now it's been about 9 years since I initially read about the New Wine System, and I have some uncertainty whether it is actually biblical. I think the developer of the New Wine System may really have shown it to be so, but I am a more critical reader now, and I'm more aware of the possibility of Bible scholarship overturning an apparently "plain reading" of Scripture. I think the developer did engage with more than just the most plain (or naive) layer of Scripture study, but I wonder if Bible scholarship could still overwhelm his theory. I am considering re-reading New Wine for the End Times, but am not sure I understand enough about Bible scholarship to make an effective reading of it for the purpose of being critical.

(However, scholarship may be overrated. We haven't had cutting-edge Bible scholarship, which has the latest, most authoritative take on the original context and how the Bible fits into it, until (by definition of "cutting-edge"), this exact historical moment. So was all thinking about God fatally flawed and useless over the centuries between the original reception of the Bible and right now? If scholarship can overturn soteriologically-relevant doctrines, that seems to be a big problem for the past (or for us now, given that scholarship could, at least in theory, overturn them again). We could be misleading ourselves or other people about how to properly relate to God. God obviously was on some level okay with people seeking him without having the best conceivable scholarship, and, in fact, this doesn't seem to be much of a biting of the bullet on a New Wine view of soteriology. If it is true, it's okay, or more okay, if we don't know how salvation works.)

(Also, I am not sure that we should view the Bible as something revealed to the first century (or to Ancient Judaism), in no way progressive. A priori, I don't see why I should be sure it should be seen as an ancient truth to be handed down, high fidelity, to the present, or whether it's supposed to be reinterpreted by people in the present or future. I might be somewhat of a progressive Christian, by entertaining this thought. I think the difference between me and the usual progressive Christianity that I see is that I bend the Bible (to the extent that I might, if the New Wine System turns out to not be the most conservative reading after all) toward a rationalist "theism" ("theism" as an ethical orientation toward God's well-being and interests, by contrast with "humanism" as an ethical orientation toward human well-being and interests), through my natural theology, while they bend the Bible (to the extent they do) toward a more secular humanism.)

So, given that as my background, I have I think an unusual take on what matters. Maximizing holiness (a concept which could be a container for all sorts of ways of being set apart to God: growing into spiritual maturity, overcoming sins, loving and trusting God, setting aside idols of whatever form, being fully disposed to obey God, pursuing and/or undergoing the cross, and I would guess other congruent concepts and phenomena) is ultimately necessary for salvation, and we should live like it. The New Wine eschatology (the Millennium) allows this to be entirely realistic. What is really dangerous is that which gets in the way of completing the journey. Being satisfied, permanently, at 99% of the way, is death. Or, whatever gets you to permanently stop growing, at any level of maturity. Likewise, if anything causes you to be an enemy of God, that is dangerous, and to become a permanent enemy of God is death. (In the end, it's enmity that kills. Those who refuse to grow all the way will eventually be forced to confront that fact, and either choose to listen to God after all, or choose to be permanent enemies). One would hope that the 1000 years of the Millennium could undo damage done during the ~40-80 years on earth, but likely enough not, in some cases, and that risk is worth trying to address. People can acquire enmities with God or cherishings of idols that are hard to undo.

(Salvation could be defined as "how it is we end up in heaven and not in hell". The New Wine view (which I think is supported by natural theology) is that hell is temporary, ending in annihilation. Over the long run, certainly over eternity, God in his holiness can't endure any unholiness at all, so any holding onto sin (putting anything ahead of God in our hearts), must cease, and if we make it so that we hold onto it and never let go, then God must destroy us at some point.)

I've been a reader of Slate Star Codex (now reborn as Astral Codex Ten) since fall of 2016. A speaker at a philosophy club presented short-termist effective altruism to me in 2013, an influential event on me. In 2020 and part of 2021, I read the Effective Altruism Forum a lot. I've been thinking about rationalist/EA ideas since 2013, more so since 2016. I spent time developing views that related the New Wine system and my natural theology to their concerns: the future, ethics, civilization, and perhaps others. I am concerned (as I've somewhat expressed here) that if humans get what they want (satisfy ethical humanism (or humanism + "zooism", as is not-too-uncommon in secular spaces nowadays), they may damage the prospects of people to adequately put God first. (In reality, putting God first is what ethical humanism calls for, if it takes God into consideration -- ethical theism satisfies ethical humanism). Human civilization seeks establishedness, almost by definition. But establishedness, especially highly optimized establishedness (both political and psychological) could be dangerous -- strangely enough, more dangerous in the end than the deaths caused by the genocides of the 20th century (which didn't by themselves keep their victims out of heaven). And, in principle, as unnecessary as those deaths, and as apparently up to human initiative to prevent.

This causes me to have "priors" (a viewpoint going in to my investigation) which cause me to be concerned with the danger of bad establishedness, and to be more favorable to the prospect of good disestablishedness. Establishedness is attractive and a natural end state for human psychology, and if people settle on an end state which is not sufficiently connected to God, that's dangerous. Disestablishedness is often inherently unstable and unattractive, not what we gravitate toward. But it is our (only?) hope (either through human initiative, or through purely divine intervention) to break us out of bad establishednesses.


A brief synopsis of the portion of the Bible covered:

In Judges, Israel goes through cycles. They turn away from God, go into a kind of "mini-Captivity" (a political disestablishment), ruled over by neighboring kings, cry out to God, he raises up a temporary ruler for them (a judge), the land has rest for a while, then the people turn away and the cycle repeats. This has its upsides and its downsides. It's apparently the form of government that God originally wanted. But it does allow for some terrible things to happen (as noted at the end of the book).

In 1 Samuel, the people get tired of this way of doing things and want a permanent ruler (a king) set up over them, just like all the other nations. God is unhappy about this but goes along with what they say. He gives them a first king who isn't really the best king. (Who was kind of obviously not the kind of person to make a good king.) Perhaps God expected this king to do a bad job and motivate the people to turn back from the monarchy? In any case, the king proves himself so bad that even God "regrets" (controversial statement, explored below) having made him king. God gets a better king anointed, and then takes the future of the kingdom away from the first king. But not the kingdom itself, immediately. A long process whereby the king-to-be becomes more established ensues, and the first king is threatened by this and is ultimately disestablished.

In 2 Samuel, the second king rules, consolidates power (establishes the kingdom), but then sins in a major way. God disestablishes him as punishment. The second king struggles with an attempted coup and then re-establishes himself, grows old, and dies.

In 1 Kings, the second king has to establish his chosen son as king (before dying), and then that son, the third king, enjoys the fruits of his (third king's) supervirtue of wisdom (a gift God was pleased to give him), as well as the fact that the land is now at peace (unlike in the second king's day). This third king gets really rich and drafts forced labor to build a temple to God, which God didn't really ask for but goes along with. This king also builds a multi-building palace, using forced labor. He impresses a lot of people (his own people, a foreign queen). He has 700 wives and 300 concubines, some of whom are foreign, some probably political brides to ensure peace. Some of them turn him away from being true to God, get him to worship foreign gods. God is angry at him for doing that and disestablishes him somewhat. He raises up someone to cause a civil war and take 10/12ths of the nation away from the third king's successor. (That takes us to the end of chapter 11, which is as far as I chose to go.)

I can also add a prelude and postlude to the above synopsis (things I remember from past readings of the rest of the Bible):


First, God existed. Then he created the heavens, earth, and first people. (Established reality.) The people of Israel began long ago as a family consisting of one man (Israel), his two wives and two concubines, and his 12 sons and some number of daughters. God chose them (established them). The family had to go to Egypt because of a famine (disestablishment), where they made a good first impression. But they never assimilated, and as the generations went by and they became populous, the Egyptians felt threatened by them and enslaved them (politically disestablished). They made them work to build things. After many generations of this, an Israelite who had an aristocratic (Egyptian) background, but who had been away being a shepherd, was called to come back and free the people (disestablish Egypt, establish Israel) and lead them out of Egypt. So he did, and the people wandered in the desert (in a disestablished state) for forty years, preparing (spiritually and militarily) (being established by disestablishedness of wandering) to enter the land that Israel and his family had left from to come to Egypt. They enter the land and drive out, kill, and sort of enslave the residents (disestablish them), and this is where Judges begins.


After the third king's reign (in 1 Kings), there was a civil war, resulting in two kingdoms descended from Israel (a disestablishing phenomenon for Israel). The line of the second king and his sons kept a smaller part, while a new dynasty took the larger part. The line of the second king and his sons was sometimes good from God's perspective, while the new dynasty and its successors never was. The good kings turned to God and turned the people to God (establishing of spiritual relationship), while the bad kings turned to foreign gods (establishing of spiritual relationship) and turned the people away from God (disestablishing of spiritual relationship). Both kingdoms were eventually conquered by neighboring empires (the "Captivity") (political disestablishing). The people of Israel remained in various captivities for many centuries. In our day, there has been a revived political state called Israel (political establishment) in which some of the descendants of Israel live, which occupies land once held (and still held) by non-Israelites (disestablishing them). Many of the descendants of Israel are lost, maybe they died out or were assimilated into non-Israelite populations. So in a sense the captivity has never ended.

God sent his son (also God) to become a human, born to a descendant of the second king. He had a rightful claim to the earthly throne of Israel, but was not recognized by them and wasn't even really going for that. Instead he was shamefully executed by a foreign empire, at the desire of the leaders of Israel. (He disestablished himself to become a human, and disestablished himself to die shamefully.) This was to accomplish at least one of a number of possible spiritual agendas. He rose from the dead a few days later (re-established), spent some time with his friends, and then disappeared, going back to...? Possibly, suffering everything "the least" beings suffer (being disestablished), and sending his Spirit (also God) to do work in the people who consider themselves his followers (being established). These followers created a sort of parallel-Israel and built a big civilization (establishedness), which split, split again in multiple pieces, had civil wars (disestablishedness), persecuted (establishedness) itself and others, was tamed or captivated by a secular (foreign? native?) power (a deceptive disestablishedness), colonized and evangelized the world (establishedness), and overall pursued the God-king's agenda, with mixed success, to the present day.


Note on translations

On this blog I use the World English Bible by default, so that is what I use for excerpts, but when I did the reading I read the English Standard Version.

Gideon (Judges 6 - 8)

Judges 6:

7 When the children of Israel cried to Yahweh because of Midian, 8 Yahweh sent a prophet to the children of Israel; and he said to them, "Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, 'I brought you up from Egypt, and brought you out of the house of bondage. 9 I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out from before you, and gave you their land. 10 I said to you, "I am Yahweh your God. You shall not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell." But you have not listened to my voice.'"

11 Yahweh's angel came and sat under the oak which was in Ophrah, that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. His son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. 12 Yahweh's angel appeared to him, and said to him, "Yahweh is with you, you mighty man of valor!"

13 Gideon said to him, "Oh, my lord, if Yahweh is with us, why then has all this happened to us? Where are all his wondrous works which our fathers told us of, saying, 'Didn't Yahweh bring us up from Egypt?' But now Yahweh has cast us off, and delivered us into the hand of Midian."

14 Yahweh looked at him, and said, "Go in this your might, and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Haven't I sent you?"

Apparently in the days of Judges, when God alone was king, God could appear pretty hands-off. Effectively, appearing hands-off is to be hands-off on some level (you allow people to think you aren't involved). (So, perhaps, if you see through the eyes of faith or philosophy that God is always active in your life, you enable him on some level to be more hands-on?)

Judges 7:

1 Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people who were with him, rose up early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. Midian's camp was on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. 2 Yahweh said to Gideon, "The people who are with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel brag against me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.' 3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, 'Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.'" So twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained.

4 Yahweh said to Gideon, "There are still too many people. Bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. It shall be, that those whom I tell you, 'This shall go with you,' shall go with you; and whoever I tell you, 'This shall not go with you,' shall not go." 5 So he brought down the people to the water; and Yahweh said to Gideon, "Everyone who laps of the water with his tongue, like a dog laps, you shall set him by himself; likewise everyone who bows down on his knees to drink." 6 The number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people bowed down on their knees to drink water. 7 Yahweh said to Gideon, "I will save you by the three hundred men who lapped, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people go, each to his own place."

When we are disestablished, then we know that God was being hands-on through us.

Judges 8:

1 The men of Ephraim said to him, "Why have you treated us this way, that you didn't call us when you went to fight with Midian?" They rebuked him sharply. 2 He said to them, "What have I now done in comparison with you? Isn't the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer? 3 God has delivered into your hand the princes of Midian, Oreb and Zeeb! What was I able to do in comparison with you?" Then their anger was abated toward him when he had said that.

(Gideon is a descendant of Abiezer.)

Quoting from my notes:

8:1 Ephraim is mad that they weren't called to fight. (The established norm of war?) If they had [fought], that might have diluted God's story. The "logical", "right", "best practices" way of doing things is a powerful norm but is not necessarily in favor of trusting in, loving God -- It takes social courage to resist establishment / establishedness.

Judges 8:

21 Then Zebah and Zalmunna said, "You rise and fall on us; for as the man is, so is his strength." Gideon arose, and killed Zebah and Zalmunna, and took the crescents that were on their camels' necks.

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, "Rule over us, both you, your son, and your son's son also; for you have saved us out of the hand of Midian."

23 Gideon said to them, "I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you. Yahweh shall rule over you."

Gideon refuses to be king. The people seem to have had an instinct to make a king. The disestablishedness of their gratitude? Or perhaps the disestablishedness of their fear, looking at a way to not be afraid (a new establishedness), rooted in Gideon and his house? We want to make humans into our saviors, when we see them save. In Gideon's case, that he saved them was because of God, really, but the people apparently couldn't see that.

God Says He Will Abandon Israel and Then Doesn't (Judges 10)

Judges 10:

6 The children of Israel again did that which was evil in Yahweh's sight, and served the Baals, the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines. They abandoned Yahweh, and didn't serve him. 7 Yahweh's anger burned against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the children of Ammon. 8 They troubled and oppressed the children of Israel that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the children of Israel that were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. 9 The children of Ammon passed over the Jordan to fight also against Judah, and against Benjamin, and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was very distressed. 10 The children of Israel cried to Yahweh, saying, "We have sinned against you, even because we have forsaken our God, and have served the Baals."

11 Yahweh said to the children of Israel, "Didn't I save you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? 12 The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, oppressed you; and you cried to me, and I saved you out of their hand. 13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods. Therefore I will save you no more. 14 Go and cry to the gods which you have chosen. Let them save you in the time of your distress!"

15 The children of Israel said to Yahweh, "We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems good to you; only deliver us, please, today." 16 They put away the foreign gods from among them and served Yahweh; and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.

(God goes on to raise up a judge to save them.)

In the days of the Judges, God could get really frustrated with his people (perhaps he does now and we don't hear about it?). It sounds like he gave up on them -- that's what he said. The people repented anyway, and he grieved for them, and seemingly changed his mind. (The ESV uses the interesting "impatient for the misery of Israel".)

I use the term "seemingly" to signal that there is controversy about whether God should be seen as ever changing his mind, or be emotionally vulnerable to his creation. I think to defend a maximally strong, unchanging God, you would have to have theological assumptions drawn from outside this text (or it has been misleadingly translated by both the WEB and ESV.) The text most plainly shows God and Israel having emotions about each other, having something like a fight, and then making up. They are personally intertwined with each other, on an emotional level. They are both brought down (disestablishedness) to the level of where they are compelled by their own natures, because of the relationship. God is compelled to reject them by his own nature and also to restore them after they repent. The people are brought down to the level of facing death and rejection, and to the human needs of seeking survival and acceptance. At that level they repent. This all is a kind of intimacy, a political intimacy because it involves a group of people being close to God, being moved together to seek him.

For all that we could feel like the Israelites were wayward or spiritually backward, I am impressed by how they were able to feel, and feel together. How likely is it that all of America's Christians could repent at the same time, in the same spirit? Have we really repented of anything as a religion in a long time? Or do we just assume that sin is something private and quiet? Or do we downplay sin to the point that while it is certainly something we talk about (it's a mark of being a human, and saying that you are a sinner can be part of how you belong to a Christian community), it's not something we deeply believe in? (Or when we do call out sin in Christianity, it's always "those other Christians", and not "me personally"?)

(Are America's or the West's Christians one people in the first place, able to even consider collectively repenting? What about within denominations? Could the pope effectively call the Catholic Church to repent? Or are even they not one body?)

In their distress, they turned to God. Presumably, they had clear evidence that God was in the picture (he spoke to them). In our day, though we are Christians, do we feel like God is really in the picture? Do we think to turn to him, or are we practical atheists?

The Israelites were more communal, public, and emotional than we are, and so were able to experience something with God (and each other) that we do not, a particular dimension of loving God with their hearts.

I think that disestablishedness is what causes deep emotions, more so than establishedness. There is a kind of inner poverty which deepens emotions. When a whole nation is disestablished, its many members become more deeply emotional. This is a cost to an experiential diet which is too put-together, and that put-togetherness is what I would expect from a maximally firm and consistent government, by default. A maximally established government, by default, does not allow for disestablishedness in the people it establishes.

(It may also be the case that disestablishedness is what gives individuals the desire to be one people with each other. When a nation is wealthy it is held together by institutions or mechanisms, rather than by people being one people.)

I can't remember anything happening quite like this (Judges 10) in the Kings era (after Saul becomes king in 1 Samuel 10). I may have missed it, though. (On a future reading I should test the idea that just occurred to me, to see if "the people" exist in the Kings era as much as they do in the Judges era. I think they do in the Wilderness era under Moses. They aren't always the best characters, but they exist as part of the spiritual story. Whereas in the days of Saul, David, and Solomon, maybe not? Those kings get a lot of narrative, and they have relationships with God. Could it be as though the king relates to God instead of the people relating to God?)

(Side note: every year, the young women of Israel lamented for four days over Jephthah's daughter (Judges 11:40). Do we do anything analogous, as Western Christians?)

The Judges System Isn't Working (Judges 17 - 21)

Judges 17:

1 There was a man of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Micah. 2 He said to his mother, "The eleven hundred pieces of silver that were taken from you, about which you uttered a curse, and also spoke it in my ears -- behold, the silver is with me. I took it."

His mother said, “May Yahweh bless my son!”

3 He restored the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother, then his mother said, "I most certainly dedicate the silver to Yahweh from my hand for my son, to make a carved image and a molten image. Now therefore I will restore it to you."

4 When he restored the money to his mother, his mother took two hundred pieces of silver, and gave them to a silversmith, who made a carved image and a molten image out of it. It was in the house of Micah.

5 The man Micah had a house of gods, and he made an ephod, and teraphim, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest. 6 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.

From my notes:

17:1-6 Dedicating silver to the LORD by making idols out of it.

(Would a king have had a firmer, more consistent state religion which successfully preached and enforced orthodoxy? In principle, that sounds more likely than in a disestablished political system.)

Judges 19:

22 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain wicked fellows, surrounded the house, beating at the door; and they spoke to the master of the house, the old man, saying, "Bring out the man who came into your house, that we can have sex with him!"

23 The man, the master of the house, went out to them, and said to them, "No, my brothers, please don't act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, don't do this folly. 24 Behold, here is my virgin daughter and his concubine. I will bring them out now. Humble them, and do with them what seems good to you; but to this man don't do any such folly."

25 But the men wouldn't listen to him; so the man grabbed his concubine, and brought her out to them; and they had sex with her, and abused her all night until the morning. When the day began to dawn, they let her go. 26 Then the woman came in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man's house where her lord was, until it was light. 27 Her lord rose up in the morning and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way; and behold, the woman his concubine had fallen down at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold.

28 He said to her, "Get up, and let's get going!" but no one answered. Then he took her up on the donkey; and the man rose up, and went to his place.

29 When he had come into his house, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, and divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the borders of Israel. 30 It was so, that all who saw it said, "Such a deed has not been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt to this day! Consider it, take counsel, and speak."

Chapter 19 contains shocking, brutal evil, which leads to a civil war in 20 and 21, against Benjamin, the tribe in which the rape occurred. The people grieve over what they've done to Benjamin and try to get wives for them so their line doesn't die out. First they kill all the men in a town that didn't join them in going to war, and take their wives for Benjamin, and then they engage in human trafficking at a feast to Yahweh:

Judges 21

16 Then the elders of the congregation said, "How shall we provide wives for those who remain, since the women are destroyed out of Benjamin?" 17 They said, "There must be an inheritance for those who are escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe not be blotted out from Israel. 18 However, we may not give them wives of our daughters, for the children of Israel had sworn, saying, 'Cursed is he who gives a wife to Benjamin.'" 19 They said, "Behold, there is a feast of Yahweh from year to year in Shiloh, which is on the north of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goes up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah." 20 They commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, "Go and lie in wait in the vineyards, 21 and see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards, and each man catch his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. 22 It shall be, when their fathers or their brothers come to complain to us, that we will say to them, 'Grant them graciously to us, because we didn't take for each man his wife in battle, neither did you give them to them; otherwise you would now be guilty.'"

23 The children of Benjamin did so, and took wives for themselves according to their number, of those who danced, whom they carried off. They went and returned to their inheritance, built the cities, and lived in them. 24 The children of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they each went out from there to his own inheritance. 25 In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.

And that's the end of the book.

Clearly, the judges system has problems.

The People Choose to Have a Human King (1 Samuel 8)

1 Samuel 8:

1 When Samuel was old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah. They were judges in Beersheba. 3 His sons didn't walk in his ways, but turned away after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together and came to Samuel to Ramah. 5 They said to him, "Behold, you are old, and your sons don't walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations." 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us."

Samuel prayed to Yahweh. 7 Yahweh said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me as the king over them. 8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, in that they have forsaken me and served other gods, so they also do to you. 9 Now therefore, listen to their voice. However, you shall protest solemnly to them, and shall show them the way of the king who will reign over them."

10 Samuel told all Yahweh's words to the people who asked him for a king. 11 He said, "This will be the way of the king who shall reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them as his servants, for his chariots and to be his horsemen; and they will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint them to him for captains of thousands and captains of fifties; and he will assign some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest; and to make his instruments of war and the instruments of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, to be cooks, and to be bakers. 14 He will take your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, even your best, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take one tenth of your seed and of your vineyards, and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16 He will take your male servants, your female servants, your best young men, and your donkeys, and assign them to his own work. 17 He will take one tenth of your flocks; and you will be his servants. 18 You will cry out in that day because of your king whom you will have chosen for yourselves; and Yahweh will not answer you in that day."

19 But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No, but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles."

21 Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of Yahweh. 22 Yahweh said to Samuel, "Listen to their voice, and make them a king."

Samuel said to the men of Israel, "Everyone go to your own city."

From my notes:

8:10-16 Samuel's warning against kings is that they take away people's freedom. Established governments become their own entity (vs. 15 - the officers get the money) which take people out of their normal lives.

This sort of sounds like a libertarian's case against government.

God may have been the following: concerned about that but more concerned with the people's desire to be like the nations (vs. 20, vs. 5).

When the people protested, they were being somewhat reasonable. They didn't want corrupt judges anymore. Maybe kings would be better? When I write that, I think, "no, why would kings necessarily be less corrupt than judges?" So maybe the people just wanted a king and were using the corrupt judges as a pretext. Nevertheless, God's chosen path was imperfect even by his own standards, in that sin was a part of it.

Human civilization is us chasing some ideal of earthly perfection, or even (pragmatically) just iterating "being better" over and over, and in the process rejecting God, or not.

God's "Regret" (1 Samuel 15)

1 Samuel:

1 Samuel said to Saul, "Yahweh sent me to anoint you to be king over his people, over Israel. Now therefore listen to the voice of Yahweh's words. 2 Yahweh of Armies says, 'I remember what Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way when he came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and strike Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and don't spare them; but kill both man and woman, infant and nursing baby, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'"

4 Saul summoned the people, and counted them in Telaim, two hundred thousand footmen and ten thousand men of Judah. 5 Saul came to the city of Amalek, and set an ambush in the valley. 6 Saul said to the Kenites, "Go, depart, go down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them; for you showed kindness to all the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt." So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.

7 Saul struck the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, which is before Egypt. 8 He took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, of the cattle, of the fat calves, of the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to utterly destroy them; but everything that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly.

10 Then Yahweh's word came to Samuel, saying, 11 "It grieves me that I have set up Saul to be king, for he has turned back from following me, and has not performed my commandments." Samuel was angry; and he cried to Yahweh all night.

12 Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning; and Samuel was told, saying, "Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself, turned, passed on, and went down to Gilgal."

13 Samuel came to Saul; and Saul said to him, "You are blessed by Yahweh! I have performed the commandment of Yahweh."

14 Samuel said, "Then what does this bleating of the sheep in my ears and the lowing of the cattle which I hear mean?"

15 Saul said, "They have brought them from the Amalekites; for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the cattle, to sacrifice to Yahweh your God. We have utterly destroyed the rest."

16 Then Samuel said to Saul, "Stay, and I will tell you what Yahweh said to me last night."

He said to him, "Say on."

17 Samuel said, "Though you were little in your own sight, weren't you made the head of the tribes of Israel? Yahweh anointed you king over Israel; 18 and Yahweh sent you on a journey, and said, 'Go, and utterly destroy the sinners the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.' 19 Why then didn't you obey Yahweh's voice, but took the plunder, and did that which was evil in Yahweh's sight?"

20 Saul said to Samuel, "But I have obeyed Yahweh's voice, and have gone the way which Yahweh sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took of the plunder, sheep and cattle, the best of the devoted things, to sacrifice to Yahweh your God in Gilgal."

22 Samuel said, "Has Yahweh as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying Yahweh's voice? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim. Because you have rejected Yahweh's word, he has also rejected you from being king."

24 Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of Yahweh and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25 Now therefore, please pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship Yahweh."

26 Samuel said to Saul, "I will not return with you; for you have rejected Yahweh's word, and Yahweh has rejected you from being king over Israel." 27 As Samuel turned around to go away, Saul grabbed the skirt of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, "Yahweh has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours who is better than you. 29 Also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent; for he is not a man, that he should repent."

30 Then he said, "I have sinned; yet please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and come back with me, that I may worship Yahweh your God."

31 So Samuel went back with Saul; and Saul worshiped Yahweh. 32 Then Samuel said, "Bring Agag the king of the Amalekites here to me!"

Agag came to him cheerfully. Agag said, "Surely the bitterness of death is past."

33 Samuel said, "As your sword has made women childless, so your mother will be childless among women!" Then Samuel cut Agag in pieces before Yahweh in Gilgal.

34 Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul. 35 Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death, but Samuel mourned for Saul. Yahweh grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.

One time, about five years ago, I had a conversation with a young evangelical in a cafe about 1 Samuel 15. The ESV says that God "regretted" making Saul king. Samuel insists that God's not the kind of God to "regret" (that's the word used in vs. 29 instead of the WEB's "repent"). But God "regrets" nonetheless, the chapter later repeats (vs. 35). My interlocutor didn't like what he heard and came back maybe a week or two later having read some source on the Internet saying that God "relented", he didn't "regret". The stakes are, if God regrets, he changes his mind, and thus was wrong at some point. God would then not know everything -- at least, not the future. He might have been justified in thinking that Saul was an acceptable choice as king back when he was anointed, but, as in vs. 11, because of what Saul did, what Saul chose to become by his own free will, this was no longer the case. God would have taken a risk on Saul, one which could turn out not as God desired. If that's so, there are probably an innumerable quantity of decisions like those of Saul (a number of them for each of us) that God can't foresee.

For my part, I didn't like hearing from him that "regret" meant "relent" anymore than he liked hearing the possibility that God could regret.

Why would the ESV use "regret"? Did they want to confuse people, knowing all the while that God can't really regret? Or were they saying what was most intellectually valid, trusting people to come to the right conclusion? Or is it really that there is some uncertainty in knowing what the Bible really says, and "regret" is possible, but "relent" is also possible? Or is it that "regret" is the best way to translate it and we only make theological assumptions that God must be above regret, which are not really supported by the Bible?

To this day, I'm not really sure. I guess I take the "there is some uncertainty in knowing what the Bible really says" option. I don't have a problem with thinking that God has regrets and doesn't know the future completely. But I am not completely sure that that is what the text says.

Why does it even matter? Why do we prefer to think of God one way or another? Neither my interlocutor nor I really knew all of what the Bible said. (So we could each bring up something that the other hadn't heard.) I think our preferences might have been along the "reality" / "perfection" split alluded to later. He wanted a God (and thus an image of the way things should be, perhaps, thus an image of how he was to live and how his church should be run, and so on) based in... something different than I did. He might have approved of winning and being right more than I would have. At the time, I was attracted to the thought that God regretted because it made sense with the view of God I was developing at the time. I saw God as someone who was continually being crucified -- our ordinary existences, often enough, are part of God's ongoing crucifixion. Such a God might well regret -- a God who is inherently vulnerable might as well be vulnerable to regret. I may have also had the Problem of Evil in mind. A God who had limitations of any sort would be more the kind to permit evil. Nowadays, I would rather believe that there is a God with a really good heart who exists, rather than one who is emotionally disconnected from the reality of those who suffer but who can guarantee victory; while I can suppose that my interlocutor might have rather believed that victory was assured, and didn't see a problem with God being emotionally disconnected.

Maybe this is one of those "metaphors for life". We can have victory if we are emotionally disconnected. "Victory" could also mean "physical survival". We suspect that if we really saw things the way they were, emotionally, we would lose some sort of competition, or die. We don't want to die -- we shouldn't die, right? I wonder how much of our thoughts about God are metaphors, where our real concerns are in our subconscious approaches to all kinds of non-God realities, like death, our lifestyles, and the values of our social groups. Maybe we have so much trouble with talking prosaically about those topics that they can only come out poetically, and get into our thoughts about God, or wholly create them.

Who are you more likely to rebel against, a God who is emotionally invincible (and has foreknowledge and omnipotence), or one who regrets (and thus lacks foreknowledge, and perhaps omnipotence)? Personally, I feel a greater loyalty toward the one who regrets. The one who regrets is real, but the one who is emotionally invincible, I would only feel like I should obey more if I do so out of fear -- not out of love. I don't have as much respect for a God who is emotionally invincible, although I may consider it imprudent to fight him. He's playing it safe.

Of course it could be the case that an emotionally involved God could happen to also have foreknowledge, and didn't really "regret" making Saul king, but simply "grieved" it, as in the WEB. He felt grief over what he did, although he knew all along what would happen and that it was the right thing to do.

As I type this out, I feel like while I still can't be completely sure that there is not some less-intuitive but valid way to read 1 Samuel 15, which supports something like "relent" instead of "grieved" or "regretted", I lean somewhat toward "regret" or "grieved" both because two literal translations (WEB and ESV), one widely respected by evangelicals (ESV), give "grieve" or "regret" as their main readings, and because Samuel insisted that God did not "repent" or "regret", when clearly God did by turning back from supporting Saul. Samuel's misstatement (wishful lie?) is poignant. He wants a reliable God as much as anyone would. But God turns back from the things that he says he'll do, and he grieves about some of the things that he's done.

In terms of this post, the conclusion I would draw is that: We can be uncertain about what the Bible says (it is effectively less-established to us than if we were certain); God may not have foreknowledge (less-established), or does things that he knows will hurt him and other people; God says he'll do one thing and then reveals that he will do another, based on how things have gone (God either lets us believe things that are not true about what his intentions are, or changes his plans) -- so, we will not get what we expected from him, thus the idea of his promises is less-established. All of these things can contribute to a reduction in our overall psychological establishedness.

I don't think that if God lacks perfect foreknowledge (the only limitation at stake here) that he is not competent enough to be trustworthy. Nor do I think the above gives people reason to disobey God. I believe God's authority comes from his willingness to undergo what we undergo. (I say "I believe" not as a politically rousing phrase, but rather to signal that this comes from my own perception of noetic reality, instead of from something I would try to prove based on commonly-shared principles.) What he recommends (if we know what that is) is the best course of action for us to take, because he knows better than anyone. Even if he lacks foreknowledge, he knows the present perfectly, and thus can predict better than any human, and also knows what he will do. What he couldn't predict, under the view that he lacks foreknowledge, is what people decide given their freedom, and thus how some things will play out between now and the end. But between you and God, if you are the way he wants you to be, things will turn out well, in the end.

Uzzah Tries to Save the Ark (2 Samuel 6)

2 Samuel 6

1 David again gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah, to bring up from there God's ark, which is called by the Name, even the name of Yahweh of Armies who sits above the cherubim. 3 They set God's ark on a new cart, and brought it out of Abinadab's house that was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. 4 They brought it out of Abinadab's house which was in the hill, with God's ark; and Ahio went before the ark. 5 David and all the house of Israel played before Yahweh with all kinds of instruments made of cypress wood, with harps, with stringed instruments, with tambourines, with castanets, and with cymbals.

6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached for God's ark and took hold of it, for the cattle stumbled. 7 Yahweh's anger burned against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by God's ark.

From my notes:

6:6-7 Uzzah tries to save the ark (protect God?) but disobeys God in the process. God is angry and kills Uzzah.

Does this mean God cannot be benefited at all? Or that which makes up his well-being can't be benefited by human initiative? Our well-being is part of his well-being. But God himself can't be killed by anything outside himself. He will be okay in the end, no matter how bad things get for him now. We have to respect him in who he is (part of making him holy) -- which is a kind of establishment over us. (That God is a certain way and the nature of God is the nature of establishedness.) We can rest in his establishedness and therefore respect him.

God lets us violate his holiness whenever we sin, but he made the ark a teaching point to teach his people to respect him (Is this ego-respect God wants, or survival-respect? I think the latter, or an analog to the latter given that survival is not literally a concern for God)

To respect something is to leave it as it is, whatever state of establishedness or disestablishedness it is. Being is an established thing, so all things that are are established in some way. To disrespect is to disestablish. To disrespect is good (or has a good outcome) when it opposes bad establishedness. (Or maybe disrespect is always bad, bad for the disrespecter? In that case maybe there's a respect for the highest someone can be and that they be the highest which can motivate disestablishing moves.

As long as bad establishedness exists, there is occasion for (some kind of) disestablishedness.

David's Census (2 Samuel 24)

2 Samuel 24

1 Again Yahweh's anger burned against Israel, and he moved David against them, saying, "Go, count Israel and Judah." 2 The king said to Joab the captain of the army, who was with him, "Now go back and forth through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba, and count the people, that I may know the sum of the people."

3 Joab said to the king, "Now may Yahweh your God add to the people, however many they may be, one hundred times; and may the eyes of my lord the king see it. But why does my lord the king delight in this thing?"

4 Notwithstanding, the king's word prevailed against Joab and against the captains of the army. Joab and the captains of the army went out from the presence of the king to count the people of Israel. 5 They passed over the Jordan and encamped in Aroer, on the right side of the city that is in the middle of the valley of Gad, and to Jazer; 6 then they came to Gilead and to the land of Tahtim Hodshi; and they came to Dan Jaan and around to Sidon, 7 and came to the stronghold of Tyre, and to all the cities of the Hivites and of the Canaanites; and they went out to the south of Judah, at Beersheba. 8 So when they had gone back and forth through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days. 9 Joab gave up the sum of the counting of the people to the king; and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.

10 David's heart struck him after he had counted the people. David said to Yahweh, "I have sinned greatly in that which I have done. But now, Yahweh, put away, I beg you, the iniquity of your servant; for I have done very foolishly."

11 When David rose up in the morning, Yahweh's word came to the prophet Gad, David's seer, saying, 12 "Go and speak to David, 'Yahweh says, "I offer you three things. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you."'"

13 So Gad came to David, and told him, saying, "Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days' pestilence in your land? Now answer, and consider what answer I shall return to him who sent me."

14 David said to Gad, "I am in distress. Let us fall now into Yahweh's hand, for his mercies are great. Let me not fall into man's hand."

15 So Yahweh sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning even to the appointed time; and seventy thousand men died of the people from Dan even to Beersheba. 16 When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, Yahweh relented of the disaster, and said to the angel who destroyed the people, "It is enough. Now withdraw your hand." Yahweh's angel was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

17 David spoke to Yahweh when he saw the angel who struck the people, and said, "Behold, I have sinned, and I have done perversely; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me, and against my father's house."

18 Gad came that day to David and said to him, "Go up, build an altar to Yahweh on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite."

19 David went up according to the saying of Gad, as Yahweh commanded. 20 Araunah looked out, and saw the king and his servants coming on toward him. Then Araunah went out and bowed himself before the king with his face to the ground. 21 Araunah said, "Why has my lord the king come to his servant?"

David said, "To buy your threshing floor, to build an altar to Yahweh, that the plague may be stopped from afflicting the people."

22 Araunah said to David, "Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him. Behold, the cattle for the burnt offering, and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood. 23 All this, O king, does Araunah give to the king." Araunah said to the king, "May Yahweh your God accept you."

24 The king said to Araunah, "No, but I will most certainly buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to Yahweh my God which cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 25 David built an altar to Yahweh there, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So Yahweh was entreated for the land, and the plague was removed from Israel.

From my notes:

Ch. 24 This is a weird passage, esp. vs. 1. Vs. 1 is hard to make sense of since it sort of looks like God is the author of sin. 1 Chronicles 21:1, a parallel text, says that Satan incites David. Maybe Satan used God to incite David, sort of like in Job? But then, in 2 Samuel 24:1, it says that God was angry, and incited. Could Satan make God angry at Israel? Point out some sin (as Accuser) that God would otherwise overlook? This seems to give Satan a lot of power over God. Is God less-established than in say, a classical-theism-leaning reading of the Bible? (Which might be the reading which is most in favor of establishedness and sees God as most established). (Could God be the author of sin? If that's so, how can we trust him? Less so than if he couldn't be, so he would be less-established.) Or is it the case that 2 Samuel 24:1 is wrong, and should be superseded by 1 Chronicles 21:1, which makes more sense theologically? In that case, the Bible itself is not perfectly established.

And yet we trust God, and/or the Bible, anyway, even though they may have some weakness or contradiction of what we might naively consider perfect establishedness.

(I suspect that there is at least one classical-theism-leaning / max-establishedness interpretation of 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1 which preserves or attempts to preserve a view that God and the Bible are perfectly established. It may be that I would grant them ~1 credence if I read them (or find it the case that if I added up all their credences it would come to ~1, crowding out the disestablishedness here), but if they were merely plausible, they wouldn't take away all my uncertainty about the establishedness of the Bible, which is itself a disestablishedness.)

I don't think that disestablishedness kills Biblical Christianity, because it's a special case of the Problem of Evil, and no matter how messed-up the world is, we still trust God anyway (if we are Christians), even if we can't explain how God could be both good and perfectly in-control given the worst of the evils we see. If (like me) we simply relax the expectation that God be perfectly in-control, then how can we trust reality? Well, for myself, I don't think about it, but I find that I mostly just do. The Bible only has to be significantly ("quantitatively") or specially ("qualitatively") trustworthy to be worth following.

(I don't think God lacks power, but I do think that he is unable to will evil, but that is needed for temptation, and temptation is needed for us to come to fully value him and his values. So someone else has to will the evil of temptation, and that "someone else" has bargaining power over God and can make the world be worse than what God would otherwise have it be. God's holiness is more fundamental to who he is than his power, and thus he can't be in perfect control.)

We do trust disestablishedness, and, at least given this discussion (about 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1), in some sense disestablishedness is trustworthy, since the best path, even if imperfect, is the one we ought to trust.

2 Samuel 24:2-3 David orders a census -- this is something he's not supposed to do. Why would he order a census? Presumably to know his strength. To know how established you are establishes you. God would consider this bad if it meant David wasn't trusting him.

2 Samuel 24:10 David's conscience disestablishes him and he asks God to take away his sin (a kind of re-establishing).

2 Samuel 24:11-13 God offers David a way to pay for his sin.

2 Samuel 24:14 David trusts God's untrustworthiness more than man's untrustworthiness (Untrustworthy in the sense that, generally, a pestilence is something you should avoid, and which bad people are the kind of people to do to you.)

2 Samuel 24:25 David completes his repentance (presumably), and God responds.

Solomon's Impressiveness (Temple, Wealth, Wisdom) (1 Kings 5 - 10)

1 Kings 5

1 Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon, for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the place of his father, and Hiram had always loved David. 2 Solomon sent to Hiram, saying, 3 "You know that David my father could not build a house for the name of Yahweh his God because of the wars which were around him on every side, until Yahweh put his enemies under the soles of his feet. 4 But now Yahweh my God has given me rest on every side. There is no enemy and no evil occurrence. 5 Behold, I intend to build a house for the name of Yahweh my God, as Yahweh spoke to David my father, saying, 'Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place shall build the house for my name.'

From my notes:

5:3 When the land is at rest (established), you can build a temple to God.

Optimistically, good temple-building can serve as an anti-temptation to ameliorate the spiritual dangers of establishedness.

Secular "temple-building" might be exemplified by the proliferation of art and games in our time, or especially as presented by transhumanists with regard to the far future (in X-Risk) or also what could be called "advanced experience", also in X-Risk but also in "Letter From Utopia".

1 Kings 5

13 King Solomon raised a levy out of all Israel; and the levy was thirty thousand men. 14 He sent them to Lebanon, ten thousand a month by courses: for a month they were in Lebanon, and two months at home; and Adoniram was over the men subject to forced labor. 15 Solomon had seventy thousand who bore burdens, and eighty thousand who were stone cutters in the mountains, 16 besides Solomon's chief officers who were over the work: three thousand three hundred who ruled over the people who labored in the work. 17 The king commanded, and they cut out large stones, costly stones, to lay the foundation of the house with worked stone. 18 Solomon's builders and Hiram's builders and the Gebalites cut them, and prepared the timber and the stones to build the house.

From my notes:

5:13 Solomon drafts forced labor out of Israel. (A good thing, to build the house of God? But God didn't even want a house, originally. Which would God rather have, for his people to be free, or for them to have more-established symbol of his establishment over them? Or should the temple be seen as a way to honor God? Which would he prefer, to be honored, or for his people to be free? Perhaps God values being honored for the spiritual benefit being given those honoring?

An overall question: to what extent is Solomon a return to Egypt?

I'm not sure what to think of the temple -- it is somewhat ambiguous and mixed to me.

1 Kings 6

11 Yahweh's word came to Solomon, saying, 12 "Concerning this house which you are building, if you will walk in my statutes, and execute my ordinances, and keep all my commandments to walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. 13 I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel."

From my notes:

6:11-13 As Solomon builds the temple, God states that "concerning the temple" (Solomon's physical establishing), Solomon should also build a legal / loyal / obedient temple (a spiritual / psychological / fiducial establishing).

1 Kings 7

1 Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house. 2 For he built the House of the Forest of Lebanon. Its length was one hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits, on four rows of cedar pillars, with cedar beams on the pillars. 3 It was covered with cedar above over the forty-five beams that were on the pillars, fifteen in a row. 4 There were beams in three rows, and window was facing window in three ranks. 5 All the doors and posts were made square with beams; and window was facing window in three ranks. 6 He made the hall of pillars. Its length was fifty cubits and its width thirty cubits, with a porch before them, and pillars and a threshold before them. 7 He made the porch of the throne where he was to judge, even the porch of judgment; and it was covered with cedar from floor to floor. 8 His house where he was to dwell, the other court within the porch, was of the same construction. He made also a house for Pharaoh's daughter (whom Solomon had taken as wife), like this porch. 9 All these were of costly stones, even of stone cut according to measure, sawed with saws, inside and outside, even from the foundation to the coping, and so on the outside to the great court. 10 The foundation was of costly stones, even great stones, stones of ten cubits and stones of eight cubits. 11 Above were costly stones, even cut stone, according to measure, and cedar wood. 12 The great court around had three courses of cut stone with a course of cedar beams, like the inner court of Yahweh's house and the porch of the house.

From my notes:

7:1-12 Solomon builds a palace for himself, maybe using forced labor, certainly using a lot of resources. Perhaps this can be partially justified by his need to imporess the people in order to be their establishment?

(The tricky thing about unjust financial decisions is that they are often partially justified.)

1 Kings 8

1 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel with all the heads of the tribes, the princes of the fathers' households of the children of Israel, to King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of Yahweh's covenant out of David's city, which is Zion. 2 All the men of Israel assembled themselves to King Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month. 3 All the elders of Israel came, and the priests picked up the ark. 4 They brought up Yahweh's ark, the Tent of Meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the Tent. The priests and the Levites brought these up. 5 King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who were assembled to him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing sheep and cattle that could not be counted or numbered for multitude. 6 The priests brought in the ark of Yahweh's covenant to its place, into the inner sanctuary of the house, to the most holy place, even under the cherubim's wings. 7 For the cherubim spread their wings out over the place of the ark, and the cherubim covered the ark and its poles above. 8 The poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the holy place before the inner sanctuary, but they were not seen outside. They are there to this day. 9 There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets which Moses put there at Horeb, when Yahweh made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 10 It came to pass, when the priests had come out of the holy place, that the cloud filled Yahweh's house, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for Yahweh's glory filled Yahweh's house.

From my notes:

8:1-11 Whatever God thought of the temple, he gave signs of blessing.

1 Kings 8

22 Solomon stood before Yahweh's altar in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven; 23 and he said, "Yahweh, the God of Israel, there is no God like you, in heaven above, or on earth beneath; who keeps covenant and loving kindness with your servants who walk before you with all their heart; 24 who has kept with your servant David my father that which you promised him. Yes, you spoke with your mouth, and have fulfilled it with your hand, as it is today. 25 Now therefore, may Yahweh, the God of Israel, keep with your servant David my father that which you have promised him, saying, 'There shall not fail from you a man in my sight to sit on the throne of Israel, if only your children take heed to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.'

26 "Now therefore, God of Israel, please let your word be verified, which you spoke to your servant David my father. 27 But will God in very deed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens can't contain you; how much less this house that I have built! 28 Yet have respect for the prayer of your servant and for his supplication, Yahweh my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which your servant prays before you today; 29 that your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which you have said, 'My name shall be there;' to listen to the prayer which your servant prays toward this place. 30 Listen to the supplication of your servant, and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Yes, hear in heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, forgive.

31 "If a man sins against his neighbor, and an oath is laid on him to cause him to swear, and he comes and swears before your altar in this house, 32 then hear in heaven, and act, and judge your servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way on his own head, and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.

33 "When your people Israel are struck down before the enemy because they have sinned against you, if they turn again to you and confess your name, and pray and make supplication to you in this house, 34 then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of your people Israel, and bring them again to the land which you gave to their fathers.

35 "When the sky is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and confess your name, and turn from their sin when you afflict them, 36 then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of your servants, and of your people Israel, when you teach them the good way in which they should walk; and send rain on your land which you have given to your people for an inheritance.

37 "If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence, if there is blight, mildew, locust or caterpillar; if their enemy besieges them in the land of their cities, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, 38 whatever prayer and supplication is made by any man, or by all your people Israel, who shall each know the plague of his own heart, and spread out his hands toward this house, 39 then hear in heaven, your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to every man according to all his ways, whose heart you know (for you, even you only, know the hearts of all the children of men); 40 that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land which you gave to our fathers.

41 "Moreover, concerning the foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, when he comes out of a far country for your name's sake 42 (for they shall hear of your great name and of your mighty hand and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, 43 hear in heaven, your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you for; that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, to fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by your name.

44 "If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to Yahweh toward the city which you have chosen, and toward the house which I have built for your name, 45 then hear in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause. 46 If they sin against you (for there is no man who doesn't sin), and you are angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; 47 yet if they repent in the land where they are carried captive, and turn again, and make supplication to you in the land of those who carried them captive, saying, 'We have sinned and have done perversely; we have dealt wickedly,' 48 if they return to you with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who carried them captive, and pray to you toward their land which you gave to their fathers, the city which you have chosen and the house which I have built for your name, 49 then hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven, your dwelling place, and maintain their cause; 50 and forgive your people who have sinned against you, and all their transgressions in which they have transgressed against you; and give them compassion before those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them 51 (for they are your people and your inheritance, which you brought out of Egypt, from the middle of the iron furnace); 52 that your eyes may be open to the supplication of your servant and to the supplication of your people Israel, to listen to them whenever they cry to you. 53 For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be your inheritance, as you spoke by Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, Lord Yahweh."

From my notes:

8:22-53 Religious activities that were previously unrelated to any temple are now related to the temple.

People wanted a place to worship (were going to "high places" (3:3)), so here was a way to give them a place of awe in a city.

Was "wild" religion (a military commander using Urim and Thummim in the field? Or simply inquiring of God? Or a farmer inquiring of God?) devalued by there now being a temple, an "official" place to be religious?

In Jesus' day, the Samaritans may have felt that their non-temple worship was devalued by the existence of the temple.

1 Kings 8

57 May Yahweh our God be with us as he was with our fathers. Let him not leave us or forsake us, 58 that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances, which he commanded our fathers. 59 Let these my words, with which I have made supplication before Yahweh, be near to Yahweh our God day and night, that he may maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people Israel, as every day requires; 60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that Yahweh himself is God. There is no one else.

61 "Let your heart therefore be perfect with Yahweh our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as it is today."

From my notes

8:58 Solomon prays for anti-temptation.

8:61 Solomon wants people's hearts to be fully true to God.

1 Kings 9

1 When Solomon had finished the building of Yahweh's house, the king's house, and all Solomon's desire which he was pleased to do, 2 Yahweh appeared to Solomon the second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. 3 Yahweh said to him, "I have heard your prayer and your supplication that you have made before me. I have made this house holy, which you have built, to put my name there forever; and my eyes and my heart shall be there perpetually. 4 As for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and will keep my statutes and my ordinances, 5 then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised to David your father, saying, 'There shall not fail from you a man on the throne of Israel.' 6 But if you turn away from following me, you or your children, and not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and I will cast this house, which I have made holy for my name, out of my sight; and Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 8 Though this house is so high, yet everyone who passes by it will be astonished and hiss; and they will say, 'Why has Yahweh done this to this land and to this house?' 9 and they will answer, 'Because they abandoned Yahweh their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and embraced other gods, and worshiped them, and served them. Therefore Yahweh has brought all this evil on them.'"

From my notes:

9:1-9 Being established by God is conditional on being true to him in a sustained way.

1 Kings 9

15 This is the reason of the forced labor which King Solomon conscripted: to build Yahweh's house, his own house, Millo, Jerusalem's wall, Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer.

From my notes:

9:15 Solomon did use forced labor to build his house.

1 Kings 10

1 When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning Yahweh's name, she came to test him with hard questions. 2 She came to Jerusalem with a very great caravan, with camels that bore spices, very much gold, and precious stones; and when she had come to Solomon, she talked with him about all that was in her heart. 3 Solomon answered all her questions. There wasn't anything hidden from the king which he didn't tell her. 4 When the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, 5 the food of his table, the sitting of his servants, the attendance of his officials, their clothing, his cup bearers, and his ascent by which he went up to Yahweh's house, there was no more spirit in her. 6 She said to the king, "It was a true report that I heard in my own land of your acts and of your wisdom. 7 However, I didn't believe the words until I came and my eyes had seen it. Behold, not even half was told me! Your wisdom and prosperity exceed the fame which I heard. 8 Happy are your men, happy are these your servants who stand continually before you, who hear your wisdom. 9 Blessed is Yahweh your God, who delighted in you, to set you on the throne of Israel. Because Yahweh loved Israel forever, therefore he made you king, to do justice and righteousness." 10 She gave the king one hundred twenty talents of gold, and a very great quantity of spices, and precious stones. Never again was there such an abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

From my notes:

10:1 The queen of Sheba connects Solomon to the name (reputation?) of the LORD.

10:9 The queen of Sheba blesses the LORD, having been blown away (because of being blown away?) by how wise and wealthy he made Solomon.

Humans are impressed by that kind of thing, and therefore it is a mechanism to cause them to find God trustworthy. Wealth is attractive, to whatever culture goes with it, whether that culture is ultimately trustworthy or not. (Westernness (as in the SSC post How The West Was Won) establishing itself globally).

Are there other ways to draw people to God, particularly when they start out, far from any peculiarly Biblical values?

Solomon Falls Away (1 Kings 11)

1 Kings 11

1 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites, 2 of the nations concerning which Yahweh said to the children of Israel, "You shall not go among them, neither shall they come among you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods." Solomon joined to these in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines. His wives turned his heart away. 4 When Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not perfect with Yahweh his God, as the heart of David his father was. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did that which was evil in Yahweh's sight, and didn't go fully after Yahweh, as David his father did. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the mountain that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the children of Ammon. 8 So he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. 9 Yahweh was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from Yahweh, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he didn't keep that which Yahweh commanded. 11 Therefore Yahweh said to Solomon, "Because this is done by you, and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. 12 Nevertheless, I will not do it in your days, for David your father's sake; but I will tear it out of your son's hand. 13 However, I will not tear away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to your son, for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen."

14 Yahweh raised up an adversary to Solomon: Hadad the Edomite. He was one of the king's offspring in Edom. 15 For when David was in Edom, and Joab the captain of the army had gone up to bury the slain, and had struck every male in Edom 16 (for Joab and all Israel remained there six months, until he had cut off every male in Edom), 17 Hadad fled, he and certain Edomites of his father's servants with him, to go into Egypt, when Hadad was still a little child. 18 They arose out of Midian and came to Paran; and they took men with them out of Paran, and they came to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave him a house, and appointed him food, and gave him land. 19 Hadad found great favor in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him as wife the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tahpenes the queen. 20 The sister of Tahpenes bore him Genubath his son, whom Tahpenes weaned in Pharaoh's house; and Genubath was in Pharaoh's house among the sons of Pharaoh. 21 When Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers, and that Joab the captain of the army was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, "Let me depart, that I may go to my own country."

22 Then Pharaoh said to him, "But what have you lacked with me, that behold, you seek to go to your own country?"

He answered, "Nothing, however only let me depart."

23 God raised up an adversary to him, Rezon the son of Eliada, who had fled from his lord, Hadadezer king of Zobah. 24 He gathered men to himself, and became captain over a troop, when David killed them of Zobah. They went to Damascus and lived there, and reigned in Damascus. 25 He was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, in addition to the mischief of Hadad. He abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria.

26 Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah, a servant of Solomon, whose mother's name was Zeruah, a widow, also lifted up his hand against the king. 27 This was the reason why he lifted up his hand against the king: Solomon built Millo, and repaired the breach of his father David's city. 28 The man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valor; and Solomon saw the young man that he was industrious, and he put him in charge of all the labor of the house of Joseph. 29 At that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the way. Now Ahijah had clad himself with a new garment; and the two of them were alone in the field. 30 Ahijah took the new garment that was on him, and tore it in twelve pieces. 31 He said to Jeroboam, "Take ten pieces; for Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, 'Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and will give ten tribes to you 32 (but he shall have one tribe, for my servant David's sake and for Jerusalem's sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), 33 because they have forsaken me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon. They have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in my eyes, and to keep my statutes and my ordinances, as David his father did.

34 "'However, I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant's sake whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statutes, 35 but I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand and will give it to you, even ten tribes. 36 I will give one tribe to his son, that David my servant may have a lamp always before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen for myself to put my name there. 37 I will take you, and you shall reign according to all that your soul desires, and shall be king over Israel. 38 It shall be, if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do that which is right in my eyes, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, that I will be with you, and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you. 39 I will afflict the offspring of David for this, but not forever.'"

40 Therefore Solomon sought to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam arose and fled into Egypt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.

41 Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, aren't they written in the book of the acts of Solomon? 42 The time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. 43 Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in his father David's city; and Rehoboam his son reigned in his place.

From my notes:

1 Kings 11:1-8 What most directly turns Solomon away from God is his many foreign wives. Solomon somehow has time to have 700 wives and 300 concubines. He isn't the enemy of neighboring countries, but instead intermarries -- a peaceful, integrating thing to do. This creates a bad establishedness.

11:9-11 God is angry at Solomon for being spiritually unfaithful to him.

God blessed Solomon richly, but still he turned away. The riches were not enough to secure his loyalty and actually (may have) hindered it (certainly the state of rest that the land could be connected with his many foreign wives).

11:14-41 So the cycle continues, to some extent, with a promised civil war.


God's values are not the same as ours, and he preferred the way things were under the Judges to the way they were under Solomon. People were unfaithful to him in both scenarios, but in the days of Judges they could be disestablished more regularly, led to call out to God more regularly.

We don't get to have perfect establishedness, not even from God. (Perhaps in heaven we do.) God and the Bible are of at least somewhat questionable trustworthiness. This does not mean that we should not trust them.

People (my cafe interlocutor and Samuel alike) want to see God as the kind of God who doesn't change his mind.


One question I found fairly simple to answer: whether God notably intervened more or less in the Judges era or in the Kings era. I think it's inconclusive. The Kings-era writings were more detailed, so they would catch more interventions. Judges was a more "30,000 ft in the air" perspective. It's clear that God intervenes in both eras.

Was God "hands-on", or "hands-off"? It depends on your perspective. You could argue (I would agree) that all of existence is connected to the consciousness of God. God is conscious of everything that actually exists in a moment, and it's by his conscious will (at least in a kind of "efficient cause" sense) that all things occur. But that's true of all kinds of earthly scenarios. People can get into very "godforsaken" situations in which in fact God is fully present in some metaphysical sense, but not in a "psychological" sense, from the perspective of what the "godforsaken" one can honestly see. Perhaps a theocracy (or a religiously-informed "firm and consistent" government?) is an attempt to get further from that possibility, while a libertarian government would allow people to get closer to that psychological state of "godforsakenness". Generally speaking, God does not seem to enforce a strictly godforsaken nor strictly "godimbued" (what I'll say is the opposite of "godforsaken") experiential diet for us, but we generally float somewhere between the two. Maybe the "slider" was more on psychological godforsakenness in the Judges days, and more on psychological godimbuedness in the Kings days? I know that in the Judges days, it was possible for someone who was arguably an ordinary person at the time (Gideon when God first appeared to him) to be notably psychologically godforsaken, and that this was something the writer(s) of Judges thought worth pointing out, whereas in the Kings days, at the height of Israel's political establishedness, during the dedication of Solomon's temple, God appeared in a cloud in a vivid and obvious miracle in front of everyone.

I think overall in the Judges era God let people suffer more and trust more, while in the Kings era he established them more and blessed them more. Up until Solomon's reign, violence was more part of the story.

Spiritually, the high water mark of the era I read about was definitely David, who existed in the establishing-but-not-established phase of civilizational development. How many other people in his kingdom were influenced by his passion for God, I don't know. But if we see that kings can corrupt their nations, we might have at least a weak sense that good ones can "anti-corrupt" them. (Maybe there's more evidence that I'm already forgetting. I don't have a very retentive memory.)

Is the human kingship of Israel worth it just to get one good character into the Jewish cultural memory? Probably not, but it is a mitigating factor. (The spiritual consequences of all the kings that followed David probably outweighed the good of his memory.) David could have been an exemplary judge, who prophesied that one day, when the land was really ready, there would be a king.

Part 3: Subsequent Thoughts


Here are some thoughts that I had about establishedness. I meant to write this up in a more organized way, but I am losing energy to work on this project, so I will mostly just leave these notes.



The truth and orthodoxy

The truth, and legitimacy, can be related to as "definitions", and as what they cash out to. We have a duty to the truth, whatever it is, and to legitimacy, whatever it is. We relate to them as unspecified things. But they also exist in a defined way. (They "cash out" to something specific.) Legitimacy cashes out to God, and in a sense, so does the truth. (God is the experiential / noetic path that is maximally non-misleading to follow.) Truth and legitimacy are to be loved and are good in themselves.

If "orthodoxy" is a synonym for "the truth" (whether God or his teachings, which are an extension of him), then of course it is good. But if it ends up being "the set of established beliefs", then it no longer is in touch with the truth (the truth makes us be open to what is not yet known to us). The set of established beliefs is not the full truth. To relate to the truth, we must have our eyes open. We must relate to it, as full-fledged persons. But "the set of established beliefs" says "focus on the things which do not require you to see for yourself, to think and care for yourself". If we emphasize orthodoxy enough, we shut out the part of ourselves that can genuinely assent to orthodox beliefs. We are no longer alive to truth, whatever it may turn out to be. It could so happen to be that someday we will have an exhaustive knowledge of reality insofar as it really matters for us to know. But even then, there is a difference between relating to that as truth, as something which easily could not be what it turns out to be but which is what it turns out to be, and relating to that body of truth as something taken as a matter of course. When we cease to see, because we are so sure we know what things look like, we do not really believe what we think we do. We don't fully trust those beliefs, because we take them as a matter of course.

Having the right beliefs in one sense gives us the right to take beliefs as a matter of course, but that is a dangerous temptation, because it can cause us to cease to really believe in them on more than a shallow level. We can perform our duties to the established truth which we no longer see for ourselves, but having deferred to others, we no longer see and no longer believe it (as a whole and in its separate propositions) for ourselves. So if we think faith saves us, orthodoxy is dangerous, much more dangerous than heresy. With heresy, you know something is wrong. You can see the controversy between orthodoxy and heresy, and see how heresy is flawed. If you are a heretic, you are persecuted and alive (if your heresy hasn't founded an orthodoxy of its own). But in an unbroken state of orthodoxy, people can fail to fully trust in the propositions they think they trust in. They can trust in Jesus, have the right propositions about Jesus, but lose interest in him on any more than a fairly superficial level. What is left is to retreat from really seeing the world, really seeing Jesus, and instead retreating to a kind of modest hedonism. What is left to be seen when everything fades into the background is your psychological well-being. Perhaps we can still love people somewhat in this state, but not as much as if aliveness to the truth enables us to really see the people around us. We see them as they are when God, the truth, shows how they can be seen with gusto.

If only the experts can handle the truth of the Bible, then only the experts will see the Bible as truth, and everyone else must defer to them, and then do not have the opportunity to see the Bible as truth, to really see it, for themselves. Which is better, to have all the right doctrines, to be able to justify them, but not be able to deeply believe them or follow them, or to have some wrong doctrines, or risk that by not really being able to justify them, but be able deeply believe them and follow them? Uncertainty cuts against this deep belief, but so does complacent certitude. We learn (or our brains shut down as though we learn) to no longer trust our judgment, and this gives us certitude, and frees us from uncertainty. True belief, where we are both alive as knowers, open to truth-as-definition, and also to what the truth cashed out to, is something which is not a default position. Uncertainty and certitude are both powerful, natural states, but true belief has to sit in the middle, and is perhaps weaker.

The mindset of acquiring perfectly-justifiable propositions (or justifiable up to the best any humans can manage) is often (always?) at least somewhat aslant the mindset of actually believing those propositions, actually trusting them and living them out. If the purpose of the pursuit of knowledge is to acquire true beliefs, then justification and belief are somewhat in tension.

Establishedness is trust-producing

People trust in establishedness, even if on certain levels disestablishedness is more trustworthy, and establishedness can be untrustworthy.

Establishedness is more trust-producing than disestablishedness

Ambiguity and mixedness, definitions

Ambiguity and mixedness. "Mixedness": a thing is mixed if it in some sense should or could in itself produce ambivalent feelings in someone contemplating it. Ambiguity is when a thing should or could in itself produce a lack of knowledge or an uncertainty. A mixed thing can be understood, but it is complex to evaluate. There is an element of contradiction in mixedness, which can produce (perhaps should produce) feelings of horror, sadness (or something akin to sadness), or bewilderment ("bewilderment" being perhaps not identical to one of ambiguity's possible fruit, confusion -- maybe "bewilderment" is emotional, while confusion is mental?).

How to be a Christian given mixedness

Given ambiguity and mixedness, how should we prefer, act, and trust, as Christians? I want to explore this question at length, but don't have my conclusions now, and I want to finish this post sooner rather than later rather than wait for them so as to be able to report them here, where in a sense they are called for. I will say that my initial sense is that it is not obvious that we have to 1) be hedonists (only sure of our own feelings and thus only ultimately value them), 2) be naive humanists (because the fact that God might exist, if there's enough credence for it, even if it is some way away from certainty, is a powerful consideration in how we should act and trust), or 3) abandon all of the law of the Bible (or whatever could be thought of as law) in favor of reason (because the possibility that the Bible might be the word of God such that it should shape our preferences, actions, and trustings, if high enough, could be a powerful consideration in how we proceed, as with belief in God). I don't think it impossible for people to come by reasonably firm preferences, courses of action, and trustings even given ambiguity and mixedness. However, the tonality of those preferences, courses of action, and trustings, will be different given ambiguous and mixed inputs, and most likely some or many of the specific preferences, courses of action, and trustings recommended by a worldview that tends toward acknowledging ambiguity and mixedness may differ from one which tends away from acknowledging them.

"Unlackingness": Perfection or Reality

Reading in Descartes (Meditations), I see the idea of a lackingness in reality which calls out for perfection. Perfection is the ultimate establishedness. The calling out could be a desire we feel in ourselves for reality to be other than it is, to be in some sense "mature and complete". (Perhaps I am somewhat in line with Levinas' "metaphysical desire" here, or perhaps I am not.)

I have found myself and reality to be lacking in something, but I didn't, and wouldn't, use the word "imperfect" to describe the lacking things, nor "perfect" to describe the good things. I think that you could say that "perfect" can be defined in different ways, and could have different flavors, but I would use a different word, "reality", for that which all beings aspire to, or ought to. I don't want to define "perfect" as "real, really so" given the connotations of "perfect". But maybe my "real" is a substitute for "perfect", and if not the same thing, has features in common with it.

There is a big difference between a person described as real, and one described as perfect. I have tried to define this difference over the years. I think many people will know what I'm talking about already, but spelling out exactly what this "reality" is has somewhat eluded me. I will attempt to give the definition I know of now.

Being real has something to do with bearing the burdens of reality. A real person speaks honestly about what is bad in reality, without trying to paint things as all being good. They are honest with other people about negative things, rather than fakely polite. A real person accepts the blame for things they have done, and takes on responsibilities. A real person might go to die on a cross, but a perfect person might come up with (perfectly correct) reasons why they didn't have to. (Maybe dying on a cross is a state of need, incompleteness, abjection, which are not in keeping with true unlackingness, on Perfection's account.)

So, which is more established, reality, or perfection? Is perfection real? Is reality perfect? This is a somewhat ambiguous way of putting things. To me, "reality" is a flavor or an image, which ironically does not have to exist (a world where everyone is "fake" is conceivable). (This "reality" has something to do with "people who are in touch with the world as it actually is, in its ambiguity and mixedness". The "real" personality trait is one which is truth- and thus reality-oriented. Those are some of the elements that make up that flavor or image.)

Yet, I think that "reality" must exist, from a different angle, because "reality" (whether exactly defined as above, or in some better way) is what is the foundation of legitimacy. I believe (I say this not to be rousing or speech-giving, but rather to signal that I noetically perceive this, but may not at this time be able to prove it to one who doesn't see it) that things can be only if they ought to be -- what does not at all ought to be does not exist. "Ought", or legitimacy, is the basis of reality. But this ought is inherently one of burden-bearing, of going to the cross, and of a father's love. Only a person who was fully willing to bear our burdens and love us would deserve to declare absolute ought. So the foundation of reality has at least a note of connecting with the dark elements that can't be erased from the past, of putting oneself at risk, and of grief over those who are lost. There is no perfect win state for love (although hate can easily imagine a perfect win state for itself). If full being is maximal establishedness, then there is ambivalence mixed into maximal establishedness, and this is, in a sense, disestablishedness.

Which is more trustworthy, establishedness or disestablishedness? Naively, we might want to say that establishedness just is trustworthiness. But if being itself is Christ-like in its founding principle, when it is as it should be, then there is some disestablishedness in trustworthiness, and it seems from God's preference for the pre-human-kings model of government in Judges that there is something valuable in us valuing disestablishedness, in some ways. Disestablishedness brings us to ask, seek, and learn from God, and occasions intimacy with God. Which is more valuable, to be well-off, or to be close to God? Establishedness gives us (or just is) well-being, but disestablishedness gives us closeness to God. At least, that's our usual experience on earth.

How should we approach government on earth? Should it be something that produces maximal wealth, or maximal closeness to God? Both establishedness and disestablishedness are mixed things, and certainly disestablishedness does not always produce closeness with God. It's hard to come up with a formula, favoring one or the other. I think the editor of Judges may have had that view, of the mixedness of both the judge and human king models of government. From a deeply theistic point of view, it may be hard to say what to do. What really favors God's interests?

I feel as though there is a way for Christians to really favor God's interests. Pursuits like evangelism and apologetics (at their best), I think do move the world in God's direction. I suspect that with care, one could figure out how the adjacent pursuits (art, culture, politics, government, economic system, etc.) tend to favor or disfavor people coming to love God. Perhaps one could come up with a list of secular values which are preparatory for loving God. (Maybe some of the traditional virtues work. I would suggest fiducialism as a less-traditional orientation, to balance out hedonism.) Then, in art, politics, and even government, these could be worked into what is given to secular people as their culture, without directly establishing Christianity as the religion of a secular nation. For whatever reason, it appears that Jesus did not want his kingdom to be established with force, and governments seem to have to use force, as far as we've seen. This disestablishedness is in keeping with the disestablishedness of the Father, who (perhaps) aches to have to send his rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. Some element of valuing disestablishedness, and the disestablishedness of God's people, and even of God, should be part of whatever pursuing we do of God's interests, including that of shaping culture.

Mixedness does not prevent altruism

Talk of mixedness may make it seem like there's no point to altruism of any sort. But I think there is something which is an unambiguous good (people entering God's rest) and something which is an unambiguous bad (people not entering God's rest). The proper aim of theistic altruism (including Christian altruism) is for people to enter God's rest. Obtaining other goods beside salvation may be instrumental in bringing about salvation, but in themselves they are mixed. And we have only partial knowledge of whether we have succeeded in contributing to someone else's salvation. It isn't as simple as seeing them make a profession of faith. (That's a good sign but not the end of the story.) So it's hard for us to really be able to say "this is the 100% right thing to do" or "we have 100% succeeded in our aims by doing this thing". The belief that we have won (or even that God has unambiguously won) through any given thing that we may do or already have done is not something we can hold with certainty, but only with probability. That said, there are courses of action which are better than others, and, though we may not be able to be sure we've 100% found them, we should seek to find them.

Some things ought to be permanently

Everything that exists ought to be, but some things ought to be permanently (are legitimate), while others only ought to be temporarily (are illegitimate). Both establishedness and disestablishedness exist and therefore both ought to be. (They each are established on the level of "oughting to be".) Some establishedness ought not to be permanently, similarly with some disestablishedness. Trust requires a disestablishedness which ought to be permanently, so that we can trust God forever.

The mixedness of bringing to justice

Justice could be defined as "the state of things being established". Maybe established in certain ways, or in certain dimensions.

There is something legitimate about bringing the world to legitimacy. However, the process itself can be mixed. We are told to leave vengeance to God. We imagine that vengeance, for God, feels like it does for us. There is something sweetly establishing about the vengeance that brings justice (or, vengeance which we believe brings justice). But would God take pleasure in the death of the wicked? The wicked deserve to die, but he does not have to take satisfaction in that the way we might want to (we who have experienced the wicked person firsthand, the fresh bitterness of them).

Although bringing the world to justice makes it most legitimate, and legitimateness is the best, there is still loss along the way, and even justice and legitimateness call for some degree of ambivalence.

God's trustworthiness despite his disestablishedness or less-established approach to relating to us

Establishedness (or establishment) on the deepest level permits disestablishedness on all the others.

God's disestablishedness (Problem of Evil, any way that God is tragically hands-off) can't dominate the fact of his ultimate trustworthiness. Why? If his (relative) untrustworthiness follows from his (ultimate) trustworthiness (such as in MSLN theodicy), then no matter how bad evil is, no matter how much it rules the world, and no matter how tragic the loss it inflicts; overall, generally speaking, God wins in the end -- but, with mourning and perhaps with something like a limp.


Even though all(*) will be well in the end, there is brokenness in the here-and-now, and the here-and-now is no less real than the far future of God's rest ("Jesus wept").

Trust vs. physical survival

Physical survival requires establishedness, but trust requires disestablishedness.

Disestablishedness is established

There is an establishedness to disestablishedness (it exists).

Being is personal and therefore partially disestablished

Being is both established and disestablished, because persons are both established and disestablished. Everything reduces to personal being (impersonal beings only exist insofar as they are perceived by personal beings -- Berkeley's "esse is percipi" or in my jargon, they are "parts of persons' experience bodies).


Trust as having a question, as saying "yes".

Psychological, Social, Spiritual

Belonging to a group may inhibit intimacy with God

(Sidebar: Belonging to a group gives a sense of stability, but tempts you to no longer seek God. Does a group experience intimacy with God? When you belong to a group, the group usually influences you more than you influence the group.)

If we don't value poverty sufficiently, we lose the ability to benefit from it

Crying out to God requires that we be in poverty and no longer want to be in poverty. Crying out to God is what bonds us to God deeply. What is most valuable about poverty is the aspect of poverty where we don't value it, where we have to undergo something we genuinely don't want to undergo. We may, or may not, connect that true poverty with God. If we don't, then the poverty has not had its real value, and may have little value at all (if the only good (or the main good) that exists is wealth and love, and there is no love, then the only field of value is wealth, and poverty is an unambiguous bad).

Seeing by fighting

Do we find God by surrendering, or by fighting? Surrender adheres to establishedness, while fighting questions establishedness and therefore actually sees things. If we take the route of fighting, will we turn away from God (as though, for instance, by pursuing reason and morality to their limits, we will be drawn away from God)? Is surrender really a virtue? If we are supposed to love God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths, I would think that means that we should seek to fight (to be active, alive, engaged, seeing for ourselves, seeing that God is good for ourselves) in order to devote all of our hearts and minds to God.

Mixedness of upbringing

Establishedness has a future, and a past. Past establishment is in heritage, upbringing, ethnic identity, similarly.

How mixed upbringing is (both fortunate and unfortunate). It gives you a place in life, a sense of who you are and where you are going, a concept of right and wrong, and a way to form ties of kinship with other people. But because people's upbringings differ, there is often an automatic enmity people have with those who have other upbringings. If your upbringing doesn't happen to have really been in line with the truth, it can tempt you to not believe the truth.

Relying on others to shield ourselves from reality

I wonder to what extent, consciously or not, we rely on being part of a people group, having a leader, being part of a community or a church, being in a romantic relationship or having certain kinds of friendships, in order to allow ourselves to put to sleep a part of ourselves, the part that is fully conscious of psychological disestablishment, and which makes decisions with a full facing of reality.

Fans seek establishedness

A work of art can be a psychological establishment, to take it in or just to know that it exists. Similarly, an artist. To be a fan is to lean on someone to speak for you through their art.

Danger of bad establishedness

I fear that to settle on a bad (but probably apparently good) establishedness is one of the most likely ways to forfeit heaven. Disestablishedness doesn't let you love the way things are too much. If you love the way things are enough, why love God? Why be interested in God? Why be interested in what God is actually saying?

Kinglessness, spouselessness

Perhaps not having a human king is like not having a spouse. You (a body of people) relate to God alone. Perhaps with the issue of kinglessness there is something analogous to Paul's idea that those who have wives seek to please them, but those who do not primarily seek to please God.

Good and bad establishedness

There is a kind of discontent (disestablishedness) which is a sickness of spirit, which leads to despair and a godless fiducial life, while there is a spiritual hunger (disestablishedness) which is full of life, which leads to love and trust of God.

Rejecting establishedness as protest

Some people, perhaps, reject the obvious advantages of establishedness because those who are established don't understand the less-obvious value of disestablishedness. I think real goodness and badness are largely orthogonal to that divide. An established person does need to trust disestablishedness -- but not necessarily the disestablishedness that a given valuer of disestablishedness prefers.

Political fights

Political fights: not even God gets his way, so why should you insist that you do?

Kings obey laws

David (for instance, when he refuses to kill Saul) obeys some kind of law. The king can't rely on a king to decide for him, so he must listen to the law himself. The king inquires of God for the people, is more naked before disestablishedness. So perhaps we should be kings/queens ourselves, and be like David?

Becoming yourself is a natural but dangerous move

Becoming yourself -- going from disorganized, undifferentiated, unselfconfident, chaotic, undefined, unopinionated, or other species of disestablishedness, to their opposites, species of establishedness. Perhaps maturity (the thing for which we have "metaphysical desire"?) is a seemingly-inevitable outcome of life, a gravity well we can't escape. How frightful to fall down the wrong well, or to get stuck in a bad maturity. We are at risk when we fail to seek the best, and fail to let the best judge the set of established values that tell us if we are okay, or not (in need of reaching out for what we realize we don't have, or not).

Valuing the firmness of true establishedness

We value the firmness of true establishedness (establishedness as definition) instead of what true establishedness is (what satisfies the definition), which is love. Pure love, apart from wealth, is the cross, and mourning (and maybe something else?)

Law and king prevent petty kingships

When there is no law (or education), an established culture, then individuals rule over each other. If there is one king, he can prevent many kings, by his authority. (But I think better for everyone to share the same law and education (that is, a really good one), so that no one needs to be ruled over by another person's force of personality.)

Disestablishedness in growing up

I've been acquainted with people who were raised Christian, but then sometime in their childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood, something bad happened (or there was a pattern of bad things happening), and as a result, they turned against Christianity. Some kind of disestablishedness was involved in their stories of becoming ex-Christians. I don't know if they "had to" reject Christianity as a result of what happened to them, or whether it would be maximally fair to Christianity to blame what traumatized them on Christianity itself, but I do know that they were all generally untrusting people, perhaps as a result of what happened, and that inability or disinclination to trust is something that would naturally follow from disestablishedness, likely enough in a way that people might not trust God, and find Jesus (the name of, and whatever connects to the name) to be aversive, untrustworthy, etc.

Childhood can be a sheltered time. Then we "throw children to the wolves" during their teens, twenties, and beyond. Then, after having confronted the "wolves", children (now more adult), try to (or get to) have a time of relative rest, learning, and healing. The Millennium has its type in that phase of life.

I think that despite the value of disestablishedness, there can be better and worse disestablishedness, and given a certain pattern of disestablishedness in a person's life, better and worse ways to enable young people to learn the important lessons that disestablishedness is good at teaching. (One example: do our children know that crying out to God is a thing to do in hard times?)

Not all cultures seem to throw their children to the wolves as much as ours does. I've suspected that the teens and twenties are a long, drawn-out initiation rite. You learn the nature of reality (that no one will hold your hand, that people won't support you, that you can't accomplish great things). You are given freedom, but then no human authority limits you, rather wild chance limits you. This is good in a liberal society where we're not allowed to say out loud what right or wrong really are since there is no socially shared moral realism (maybe to the extent that we no longer say to ourselves in our own minds what right or wrong really are). You don't decide that the status quo is good, you simply lose the spirit or fight that would have caused you to oppose it, and thus the social order is preserved.

In other cultures, we would have a kind of communicable order (if we were Aborigines, the Law of the Dreamtime, for instance), and the community would intentionally initiate young people, and provide a harrowing initiation rite. But now the harrowing initiation rite is just life itself, and there is no human intentionality behind it, no intellectual order to hold to consciously.

If we had the nerve to initiate our young people like some traditional cultures do, we might not need disestablishedness as much. And even if we lean on disestablishedness to teach young people, we may be able to do so more effectively and with less gratuitous suffering (and alienation from God, a response like Gideon's when God first came to him) if we are conscious of all this and find some suitable way to be active and intentional in the lives of young people as they develop.

Relying on other than God

Which is worse, to rely on yourself rather than on God, or to rely, not on yourself, but on a collective, rather than on God? (This may be a trick question.)

David, more fortunate

David had a harder life than Solomon, but was more fortunate spiritually.

God is king means... ?

"God is king" can be spoken to say "God is worthy to be king" or to say "God is in perfect control".

Going from disestablished to established is spiritually fortunate

Disestablishedness is bad (Gideon not seeing God), and people don't like it. Too much establishedness is bad. (The worst of Solomon.) But coming to be established (David), is good?

If we cry out to God and he answers, we need to have disestablishedness to begin with and then we end up with more establishedness. This sounds like an analogue to economic growth (political-spiritual growth?). So when the "cry out and be answered" mechanism / practice / pattern is working, it converts disestablishedness into establishedness. This involves trusting God as part of the process, and maybe a lasting loyalty to or closeness with God is a lasting result.


Political disestablishedness must be worked for

Anarchist anarchy (the anarchy that anarchists desire and which can sound like a good thing) may take work to maintain. Hierarchy is a natural tendency in groups of humans above a certain size, so it may be only with vigilance that hierarchy can be suppressed.

Similarly the trend toward establishedness is a natural part of human psychology, and if there is any danger inherent in establishedness, such that we need to bring about some disestablishedness, or genuinely value disestablishedness, it (establishedness) probably has to be resisted consciously and deliberately.

Is this Christian anarchism?

I don't identify with labels (even if they may in some sense accurately describe me), and I am hesitant to label myself, but it does seem like I should ask myself if by writing this post, I am asserting that I am a Christian anarchist.

Perhaps if that term is taken broadly enough, it could contain the ambivalence about establishment in this post (rather than being unambivalently against power). Anarchism could be an attempt to bring about a utopia, and I have a utopian side, but I think that utopias are inherently mixed. Anarchism could be a rousing call to war against establishments, and I would like to not make rousing calls or tear down people's houses. Anarchism might love establishedness more than God in its own way. Perhaps (it might love) the establishedness of being in the right theologically (assuming that the Sermon on the Mount trumps the parts of the Bible that allow for us (perhaps in our weakness and hardness of heart) to institute state violence).

International establishments

Is the Northern Triangle being punished for its own sins by being disestablished? Maybe in some sense, their actions are causing their situation. (Some individuals in the area causing it more than others.) But they are sort of like client states of the United States. The consequences of American sins rippling out to the nations within the sphere of the US's influence. (American demand for cocaine, American leaders dumping gang members in El Salvador at a bad time in El Salvador's history.)

The world is becoming one established thing. The larger the electrical grid, the bigger the failures (according to this paper). Establishedness brings disparate elements into one, letting them sicken each other, and suppresses failure so that they end up worse. (Israel and Judah were not in captivity for a long time, under the kings, while it was a cyclical occurrence under the judges -- until they were each taken into captivities that have lasted to this day (not all the Israelites have come out of the nations)).

Granted, a minarchist or localist dissent to globalism can still be established in a way that affects how people relate to God. Maybe a healthy localism is the greater threat to loving God, unless it guards against forgetting God, because it really can speak to human needs convincingly. (It's higher on the Hierarchy of Betrayal than what currently rules the world.)

The spiritual danger of kings can also be found in localism, globalist liberalism, or libertarianism. Whatever house you like to sleep in can tempt you by its comfort to never sleep outside (so you don't sleep under the stars).

Politics emphasizing relationship with God

It's premature for me to have a worked-out opinion on what I would say the relationship of Christianity and politics ought to be, but I would say that whatever approach Christians take should emphasize people's relationships with God, instead of people's conformity with Christianity-derived laws or even ethical preferences. Ethical attitudes, even ones derived from Christianity, can't replace a person's relationship with God, and a person in a saving relationship with God can be wrong about their ethical attitudes with less of a cost to them than a Christian-themed person who does not love God.

Collective identity of Jews in Captivity as trustworthy for political establishedness

Political establishedness is based in some kind of collective identity. I find that naturally I tend to lack identities (that is my "is"). But if I think about what kind of collective identity I should choose (out of a kind of "ought-believing", perhaps), I find that it ought to be the Jews in the Captivity, especially those who wrote down the Old Testament, looking back at their history, what went wrong; regretful, dispossessed, in the desert. Power tempered with sorrow, no sense of pure winning. Few people (if any) can win anymore (can legitimately consider getting what they want to be a pure victory for the good) given the history that goes into where we are today. Everything is sullied, though we try to forget that and be pragmatic, concerned less for the truth in itself than for how we can get our interests served, how we can get the most winning out of whatever we have. But the Jews in Captivity (at least, some of them) knew that they couldn't win anymore. If you can't win, all you have left is the truth.

I think a collective identity like that of (some of? most of?) the Jews in Captivity can found trustworthy power, more so than most others. It doesn't come naturally to us (even if we were in captivity, it might not). But it would come more naturally to us if we shared that identity with each other.


It might sound like there is no unsulliedness, but that is not true. Holiness is possible, and God has always been holy. It's just that his holiness does not prevent him from his life story getting mixed up with sordid events, or even from him using resources that were partly "paid for with dirty money". What is unsullied about God is his love.

The Northern Triangle may be worse than Judges-era Israel

In Part 1 I said:

One could argue that God is not as much king in the Northern Triangle as he was in the time of Judges, and that would give an easy way to decide.

I think the Northern Triangle may be significantly worse (more horrific) than in Israel in the days of the Judges. (Maybe this indicates that God is less king there psychologically, if not metaphysically or by rights.) The worst thing that is recorded in Judges scandalizes the whole nation and is unprecedentedly bad (Judges 19:30), but in the Northern Triangle, it sounds like incidents of that level of brutality and depravity are not necessarily literally common, but common enough to be "a thing that happens", and do not seem to provoke national outrage on the scale of Judges-era Israel. One could argue that disestablishedness at the level of the Northern Triangle produces enough gratuitous evil (not even beneficial instrumentally in turning people to God or in any other way) that it's worth reforming to make it more established. The captivities that the Israelites experienced in the days of Judges might not have been as bad as the situation in the Northern Triangle. On the other hand, it may be that as bad as the Northern Triangle can be, it's still spiritually productive, and if we were successful in fixing it from a worldly point of view, we wouldn't stop at leaving it at a Judges-level of disestablishedness, but would establish it like the US, which could be spiritually worse. I suppose this is an empirical question, if we knew how to measure these things.

Ideally, there would be some way to keep the best of both the Northern Triangle (or Judges-era Israel) and the United States. A wise person once told me "awareness comes through pain", but in theory there might be a high level of genuine awareness that can be attained with more, or less, pain. Maybe some confusion or deception comes through pain as well as awareness.


Personal scale kings

Maybe, in a sense, God wanted the people in the days of Judges to be their own kings, to be established in themselves at a local or even individual level, something that a king would take away from them. A libertarian's desire for personal establishedness might have some parallel with this.

I think of my experiences with people who have played the role of "king" in my own life, someone from whom I sought establishment over me, and they tended to be some of the worst relationships that I have known. A "king" like Solomon, a "king" like David, and a "king" like Saul. I have had to learn to not seek "kings" and instead be established in myself, and therefore take the risk of disestablishedness, and the experience of disestablishedness, more on my own. Perhaps this is something God wanted for the people in the days of Judges, that at more levels of society, people would be established for themselves, would only depend on God.

To be your own king is oddly enough to be more disestablished than to rely on a king to be establishment for you. It is also to become more established in yourself. If that establishedness is rooted in your relationship with God, then we get a "Judges-like" personal establishedness. But if that establishedness is disconnected from God, we get a "libertarian-like" personal establishedness (taking libertarians as strawmen who just want to do their own thing). A Christian libertarian has two paths open to him or her.

Fighting Evil

Thinking back on past books, I remember one entitled How Can We Love?. That book was an intense book, which was a reaction, in part, to someone who was too worn down. If you are ambivalent enough, do you stop seeing evil, and thus fighting evil? In How Can We Love?, I called out one sin in particular, economic sin, not using your own resources in a way that connected with the poverty of whoever is poor. The book recommended forgiveness, but the energy of it was insistent and I wonder how many readers could grasp that it favored forgiveness, underneath the impatience and simplicity of it. I suppose the book may be saying "Go do work" -- ideally that is what it would communicate. In that sense it may be compatible with a view that things are mixed -- maybe it's clear enough that the best course of action is to go do work, even if things are mixed.

I also wonder how much that book really favors loving God. It contains some explicitly theistic material. But I suspect that a reader who wasn't careful would forget that God exists, and think that humans were supposed to be moral, were supposed to rise up and fight evil, that we should all take on the role of God. The book was written with a strong, authoritative voice, which could lead someone who was looking for a human to be their god to find that in me, or in the person they might think I was given the book I wrote back then. I wonder to what extent morality is something that we are into so that we can be God, so that we can work righteousness. (There is both a positive version of that "being God" (being like God, kin to God) and a negative version (trying to be a god, but a stranger to God).)

I do think fighting evil is important, but the real evil is subtle. In my own experiences with evil, I see how much it is based in deception. The mindset that boldly goes out to do work may not be the one to understand what the truth is.

Some people are like prophets, and some like kings. Prophets say the truth without any sense of responsibility. They don't have to live up to their messages. The truth has to be said by someone, even an unworthy person. It has to be said with full bluntness, and cause whatever casualties it causes. But kings have maximal human responsibility. They are the caretakers of groups of people. The subtlety is that the king (ideally) listens to prophets, and implements what they say. But the king does so with responsibility and an eye to all the costs, and thus sees the mixedness of what he does. The prophet has the freedom to see things as black and white, but the king either sees shades of grey (ambiguity) or black inextricably intertwined with white (mixedness).

Jesus was both prophet and king, although on earth he kept his kingship more or less contained. Perhaps a rare few people can balance being both prophet and king. Usually the prophet must be powerless, and the king must listen to the prophet, for things to work properly. But in a democracy, who is really powerless? There's more of a continuity between a prophet and a king. You could start out as a prophet and then without realizing it start to have a (micro-)king's power, and the need for a king's responsibility to all those in his kingdom.

Davids think they are surrounded by Goliaths, but they are Goliaths themselves, to somebody or the other. A classic way for evil to enter a situation is to think you have all the freedoms of smallness, when in fact you have become large yourself.

What is real evil? Christians involved in politics should think about how spiritual warfare works. Our battle is with unseen beings, not with people.

I think my old book (How Can We Love?), written by a younger person than I am now, is a valuable thing for an old and worn-down person to read, if they don't lose the wisdom of sorrow. Part of good establishedness is to have both energy and moral clarity (youth?) along with the discernment and compassion (age?). It may be hard to balance both young and old energies in oneself at the same time, but if that is impossible, at least drifting back and forth between them can be good. (Side question: when Jesus was on earth, during the time of his ministry, was he young, or old?)


Even if God does not mourn the death of a purely evil person when they have hardened themselves, the hardening itself and the decisions leading up to it are a tragic thing. Truly moral monsters chose to be that way, and were originally children.


The mourning in heaven does not dominate all other feelings. To be truthful, one must acknowledge both the good and the bad.


Worry when temptations cease

(Sidebar: Establishedness. One of the Desert Fathers said something like "You should worry when the temptations cease." The danger of the Promised Land. God wants you to be there, but it's still spiritually dangerous.)

Monasticism as institutionalized disestablishedness

Lack of resolution as disestablishedness. The way of the desert: you want something but you can't have it. Resolution: have it or stop wanting it. God can work in your life through the lack of resolution.

Monasticism as institutionalized disestablishedness. A loose institution? (A movement?) Or a built-up institution? (A monastic order?) If built-up enough, there is less disestablishedness, more establishedness. The establishedness of a set of rules for monks. Monastic orders as kings?

Celibacy as establishedness in the desert

Celibacy is a kind of establishedness in the desert (the desert is what is established in the celibate person). The human mind tends to want to find rest in people rather than in God alone. Biologically, people tend to have an urge to find a mate. With a mate, a person can found a family (and nations come from families). Therefore celibacy is often a lifestyle of disestablishedness. It has its own establishedness (it is a lifestyle), but it causes its adherents to sometimes be alien to their own nature. (That's been my experience as a celibate person, more or less.)

The ability to choose disestablishedness, whether through celibacy or some other strategy, is a useful thing if you want to make sure that you remain close to God through something like the Judges pattern (through the cycle of disestablishment leading to inquiry of God and calling out to God for help, or other seeking of God, followed by his answer, a basic pattern of spiritual intimacy). An interesting challenge for a Christian political thinker could be to think of ways that the body politic could choose disestablishedness, such that the body had higher rates of spiritual intimacy. In the days of Judges, it seems as though God imposed disestablishedness on the Israelites by selling them into "mini-Captivities", but perhaps there are other, less brutal ways for a nation to be close to God, available to willing peoples. (Maybe it would also make sense to think of corporate churches (i.e., "100 people with a pastor and a building"), or other associations of Christians, as "Christian micro-nations" and apply Christian political thinking to them, including the idea of deliberately seeking certain kinds of disestablishedness.)

Asceticism could be a disestablishedness that causes you to love and trust God

Asceticism (a form of choosing disestablishedness) may be somewhat valuable as a means to be free of the slavery of having to give yourself what you crave, or as a means to a simple life more free from economic slavery, and perhaps for other reasons, but it is most valuable if it actually causes you to love and trust God more.

Monastic disestablishedness of watchfulness

One response to the reign of establishedness is the monastic response. (Especially the least-established monasticisms.) The early Christian monks lived the way of the desert. In the spiritual desert, there is little food or water, and wild and evil spirits roam around, looking for a desert mind to tempt. This provides a disestablishedness which gives the desert-dweller increased opportunities to cry out to God.

I've emphasized crying out to God, since it is in Judges, but there may be other patterns by which people draw close to God due to disestablishedness. Disestablishedness causes people to have to be watchful, to avoid spiritual danger. Avoiding spiritual danger is a motion of choosing God's values, and is a way for the will, intellect, and intuition (and possibly the emotions and body) to love God.

Current Events

A truly Christian nation would be less established

(Sidebar: Is there a way to de-escalate without risking your opponent taking over you? If the US hadn't responded after 9/11, what would have happened? By not intervening in the Middle East / Afghanistan, would they have undermined support for those who wanted to attack America, by giving them less legitimate cause for grievance?

Our nation is taken to be a representative of Christianity by some Muslims, but it can't actually act in a radically Christian way (like showing mercy to the people behind 9/11 or "resisting not evil"), because America is not legally a Christian country, can't call on supernatural / gracious principles openly (or probably can't, seems like it can't), and instead behaves secularly. And, perhaps, this is what we should expect from Jesus' "my kingdom is not of this world".

Can Christians undo the perception that America's behavior as a nation-state in some way represents Christianity? Could the US pursue (and undergo) the cross for reasons which are not explicitly religious (are secular in some sense) and thereby somewhat make the government more Christian on an unofficial level (perhaps (in its unofficialness) more real for being fiducial / practical)?)

Not voting because I'm okay with disestablishedness

I received my mail-in ballot for the California gubernatorial recall election during the writing of this post (August 2021). I decided a year or two ago to not vote anymore. I might make exceptions for nonpartisan offices or sufficiently small-scale elections. But generally, I want to be a Southern Californian who did not vote for whomever Southern Californians are assumed to vote for, and a Christian who did not vote for whomever Christians are assumed to vote for. I hope to be apolitical, and so I want to build a track record of not being on the side of people that people hate, and who hate them. My hope is that I can be a helpful citizen in the area of depolarization.

But if I don't vote in this recall election, it might make a small difference in the outcome. For voting to work, we have to approach it as though our voice matters. And the stakes in this election are non-zero. Some kind of harm could come if the wrong candidate is elected.

This bothered me for a bit. I remembered Judges, however, and thought "well, maybe having the wrong person in office is just what people need". Maybe it's better for people spiritually to have their land misgoverned. And that may be enough to satisfy me, so that I continue to not vote. But part of me thinks "We're not going to turn to God as a people if things go wrong. We're just going to have misgovernment without any spiritual benefit." I'm not sure how true that sentiment is. (Did politically conservative Christians not at all turn to God for help under Obama? Did politically liberal Christians not at all turn to God for help under Trump? Do decaying times not turn numerous individuals toward God, whether Christian or non-Christian? Is it possible that there is a level of dysfunction which is merely irritating and enraging but does not connect with deeper life (like Sartre's quote from No Exit about pain that gnaws and fumbles and caresses but never hurts enough), that this is where we are right now, but if we break out of that to really hurt, then we will turn to God?) But I think it is probably partly true.

Climate change will disestablish but there's likely a time after that

During the writing of this post, I happened to listen to a podcast on climate change (Michael Klare on Future of Life Institute's podcast). This reminded me of the issue. The podcast talked about how states will fail (are already stressed and failing), due to climate stresses. This will have a spillover effect on the rest of the world. The global trend will be toward more disestablishedness in the coming decades. My sense of living in the hyper-developed future will make less sense in the more immediate future, and the threat of a loveless or godless establishment (but an eminently humanistic one) will be pushed out beyond my lifetime. (Unless AI can really "save the day"...) Perhaps for whichever Christian thinkers who are not consumed with the immediate struggles of the future there could be an important job of developing a version of establishedness which acknowledges the inherent dangers of establishedness, genuinely values the good that only comes through the disestablishedness which that establishedness necessarily lacks, and does not fail to exemplify the good which tends to only come or more naturally come through disestablishedness but which can be incorporated into establishedness.

When the end of disestablishedness becomes plausible, hopefully Christian thinkers (and even more hopefully, Christian culture at large) will be ready for the challenge, possessing ideas (thought, and embodied) developed in our time. (As hinted above, according to some, AI may accelerate the process of ending disestablishedness, and if human agency and culture mean anything after AI takes over, and if the takeover occurs sooner rather than later then the challenge may come as early as this century, rather than later.)

That a disestablished world can be valuable makes anti-abortion sentiment sensible

During the writing of this, Texas' abortion law was in the news, so I've thought more about the issue.

One argument for legalizing abortion is this: Christians tend to want to believe that infants who die do not go to hell. It would seem odd for God to create a child, allow him or her to die before he or she was old enough to make decisions, and then send him or her to hell (for all eternity?). If it really is the case that infants who die "go straight to heaven", then isn't abortion the best form of ensuring salvation?

Intentionally causing abortions, believing that infants are real people, would be murder, and so that's not an option for Christian consequentialists. But the question then arises: why does God not just kill us all and send us to heaven where we can be saved? Or simply create us in heaven where we are saved? Is God on the side of people not going to heaven?

I believe (following the New Wine System), that when people die, they sleep in the grave. Eventually Jesus will return and inaugurate the Millennium, and those in the grave will be resurrected, to complete their journey toward holiness. Those who have not heard the gospel (pre-Columbian American Indians, pre-contact Aborigines, ancient Chinese, many modern people, etc.) will hear it. When the Millennium is over, those who fully side with God will go to heaven, who have completed their journey, and those who do not, who have not, will go to an annihilationist hell. The Millennium is primarily a time of education in holiness. Whether people fully love God or not is the one big question of reality, a question which God can't answer just by making people be the way he wants them to be (sending them straight to heaven without letting them risk hell). To have the opportunity to love because you want to means that the love comes from you and no one else, your consciousness and thus your choice is the origin of it, and thus the risk of choosing to reject God.

Given this belief, I think what is most critical is to help people end up in heaven, to cause them to make the most progress toward love of God, and away from hatred of God, and the least progress toward terminal love of idols. So now, what are the purposes of life on earth, and of the Millennium? The Millennium is a time where Jesus is king and spiritually mature people rule -- an actually good theocracy. (Earthly theocracies may try to make Jesus king, officially say they do, but fail to, and may set supposedly but not really spiritually mature people over others, but these will not be the case in the Millennium.) One would think that it would be the ideal environment for people to come to love God. But if so, then shouldn't we wonder if abortions are the best thing, so that babies end up in the Millennium without being messed up by earth life?

Life on earth is perhaps better for people spiritually, on average, than the Millennium. This makes sense if we see the value of disestablishedness. Disestablishedness can be a good teacher, teaching us to trust God more deeply. All the awful things about life on earth can be spiritually beneficial, and if we added up all the benefit, we might see that living this life is overall better for humans than not to, at least for the duration of a normal human lifespan. The quantity of spiritual maturing per person per year, on average, might be higher, and to the extent that turning to God can prevent loving idols or hating God (presumably the sooner the better, if this turning to God is sound and not fake), a faster pace of spiritual maturing might have better outcomes in the end, in terms of people saved as opposed to lost.

But the spiritual benefits of this life are unevenly distributed. This life is inherently chaotic, random, or even systemically unfair. Some people respond poorly to suffering, in that it doesn't turn them toward God. Some people, because of the way things are set up, live lives of ease, never getting the opportunity to cry out to God. Some people never hear the gospel (although they do still have relationships with God, perhaps without realizing it, and may get most or all of the spiritual benefits of this life apart from those that come from explicitly trusting in the name of Jesus). All these unfairnesses are addressed by the Millennium, which can make up for the blatant gaps in the effectiveness of this life as a spiritual regime.

This life (at its best) is a good but rough childhood, while the Millennium is a time of relative rest, learning, and healing. There are lessons better learned in a rough time of life than in a supportive one (personal responsibility and trust, especially trust of God).

It may be possible some day to bring about a government on earth that approaches the "millenniality" of the Millennium. There would be no advantage to children growing up in the Millennium instead of under that government -- at most, they could be equally beneficial. And so, there will never be a clear spiritual reason to abort babies (under New Wine assumptions, as given here). But this requires us to value the disestablishedness of this life, and consider it a spiritual asset, so that we don't automatically think that simply sending children to heaven (or the Millennium) is better.


So one might think that the best government on earth is the most disestablished one we can stand. However, one of the natural consequences of people behaving the way God wants them to (part of spiritual maturity, something that over time follows from genuinely loving God), is for people to behave in establishing ways. So there's a kind of double-bind: in order to become saved, disestablishedness is best, but in order to have been saved, establishedness is best, or a natural corollary. We can deliberately be disestablishing in ways that are not sinful (I imagine this is part of the Millennium, of millenniality), but overall we will still be more established than the least-established possible state of affairs in life on earth, which might on average be more effective in developing the sides of spiritual maturity that this life is uniquely good at developing.

Fraternity of disestablishedness

As I was getting closer to finishing work on this post, I read a little bit of the book on climate change that came in the mail, which I intend to focus on when this post is done (the book is All Hell Breaking Loose, by Michael Klare). I am reading the book as research for my book on the cross, but found the following part relevant to this post:

Klare p. 12 "A world of multiple failed states, vast 'ungoverned spaces,' and recurring mass migrations would pose mammoth challenges for the United States, no matter how hard we try to avert our eyes from the chaos."

When we are disestablished, we face the problems other people face. (A "fraternity of disestablishedness".) We find it more natural to pursue the cross (risk ourselves for the benefit of others) if we are disestablished in such a way to feel like we are part of the disestablished world.

Recall Day

Editing of this post has continued until 14 September, the day of the California gubernatorial recall election. The results are not in and I feel a kind of uncertainty. Celibate people are not necessarily asexual, and those who choose to be apolitical may still have political desires. I didn't vote, but will the election turn out the way my instincts seem to think I wanted it to? It may be hard to tell any sexual desire from lust, from its phenomenology, although there may be legitimate sexual desires. Similarly, a political desire may feel the same whether it is (spiritually) legitimate or not. An illegitimate political desire is something like sexual lust.

The thirst for (political and personal) establishedness can be a kind of lust. Perhaps the desire for establishedness is a necessary thing, just as sexual desire seems to be needed to keep humanity going. But it is like the bearing of the Ring in Lord of the Rings, both necessary and dangerous.


Now they have announced the results of the election. I feel free of the question, whether it turned out the way I wanted to or not, and in fact, my yearning uncertainty dissipated before I heard them. Spirits come in and out of my experience body, something I have to learn to take into account.

The Cross

Refounding with the cross

Jesus left his establishedness, came to be disestablished on earth, and then was disestablished to the point of death on the cross. It was his willingness to be disestablished which made him able to refound reality on a better footing, a better establishedness.

Establishedness and the cross

What is the relationship between the concept of establishedness from this post, and the concept of the cross (from the book I'm writing)?

This is a question that I find important, and once I explain my concept of the cross, you may find it important as well. I'm not sure exactly what I will end up thinking the cross is, but a working definition is: "self-risking, of death and of undergoing experiences that from a human perspective seem as bad as or worse than death, which may be forced on a person by life, and which therefore requires a difficult 'leaving of security'; a self-risking which is pursued for the sake of altruism (secular or theistic); both the deliberate or semi-deliberate pursuit of that kind of self-risking altruism and the undergoing of the consequences of pursuing that risk".

Extreme disestablishedness leads to death (if your body is completely disestablished, you die, and to the extent that humans don't need bodies, if your personality is completely disestablished, you don't exist anymore). What does extreme establishedness lead to? Establishedness without any disestablishedness does not trust, and thus is impersonal. It is a spiritual death. So both of these extremes are dangers. Pursuing the cross is perhaps a way to guard against overvaluing establishedness. Undergoing the cross brings disestablishedness. Pursuing the cross (if you are a theist) is an act of trust in God (and if you are not can still be an act of trust). Undergoing the cross gives a person (perhaps numerous) opportunities to trust God.

Altruism (generally) seeks to establish. True altruism would seek to establish true well-being (whatever that turns out to be). There is good and bad establishment, good and bad well-being. The cross is a way to be altruistic. It goes through a path of disestablishedness, in order to establish true well-being. The cross (as Jesus experienced it, at least), is a path to shame, to losing. Undergoing the cross often involves confrontation with the spiritual reality of being put to shame, and losing. The cross is part of being a disciple of Jesus. To be a Christian, we must seek to undergo shame and losing. But the way to do this is through the cross. If being like Jesus is an essential part of legitimacy (which I think it may be), then we need to have his values. If we value undergoing shame and losing, then we value a kind of disestablishedness. We no longer see victory in the ordinary human way. Our personalities ought to be forever marked by pursuing and undergoing the cross. We should become like Jesus.

Jesus (in the end) might be imaged as a weird, frightening power, or as a lamb with its throat cut (the same person because the power comes from the authority of having been the kind of person to willingly undergo the cross). Or he could be imaged as a friend, visiting friends, with wounds in his side and hands. We have to be willing to pay and we should be marked, like Jesus. The cross is a basic feature of any legitimacy (we must always be willing to risk our own death and the experiences that are worse than death for what is the best, whatever the best may turn out to be, in order to value it as the best, as first with us -- the best, by definition, deserves it). To trust is to say "this is worth undergoing", to value with "skin in the game." So now our concept of legitimacy (of establishedness on the deepest level), involves us trusting and thus in a sense valuing defeat and disestablishedness (on a shallower level).


Objection: in Hebrews 12:2, Jesus "despises the shame" of the cross. So how could he value it? The valuing we do with trusting is different than the valuing we do when we have opinions about things. (We trust "with our bodies" and have opinions / despise "with our eyes".) (Or in some other way, Jesus disvalued it on one level while valuing it on another.) That's the brief "philosophical" answer. Would Jesus really have been prone to shame? Overall he seems like someone who was past that area of life. On the other hand, I wouldn't expect the Jesus of most of the Gospels to have struggled so much in Gethsemane. Maybe Jesus did feel shame on the cross, even though he "despised it" (thought little of it?) sufficient to launch himself toward Gethsemane. The really critical moment in Jesus' life is Gethsemane -- if you want to call him Victor, that's where he won, but the way that he won was through abjection, and it would be fitting if the completion of the victory, his death, would go through the way of abjection, both that of his cry of godforsakenness (as a real cry of psychological godforsakenness) and of shame (out of a real sense of defeat, of being shown to be a failure, of being held up physically naked in front of everyone).


Dangers of establishment Christianity

(Sidebar: Establishment Christianity: the more established Christianity is, the easier it is to be a Christian, and the less likely it is for people's discipleship to resemble that which Jesus described (less likely to be hated for it, to have broken relationships because of it, to in any sense be on the path to execution (carry your cross) because of it). The less Christians understand what it was like to be Jesus, and the cheaper and easier it is to bear the name of Christian.)

The spiritual danger of there being a scholarly consensus on the Bible

The establishedness of the scholarly consensus on the Bible. If they are wrong, who can contradict them? We go down with them, like Israel going down with their kings. It might be that most or even all of their positions are correct, but if their establishedness keeps us from loving God with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, if they produce a sense of "the experts have these things figured out, I don't have to engage, myself -- in fact, I'm not qualified, so I should stop trying to understand" or if people start taking Christianity for granted because it's been so right for so long (no longer understand what it's like to be Jeremiah or Elijah, nor mourn the fact that we no longer understand that, having valorized establishedness so much with our wealth of Bible knowledge), then perhaps for all that we know, we have undermined the thing that really matters.

Can New Testament and Old Testament vibes coexist?

As I've been focusing on writing this post, I have somewhat neglected the project which I had been working on before, which is a book about the cross, pursuing it and undergoing it. Once you have gone through the cross, everything is made new, a typically "New Testament" idea. Perhaps it is more Christian to be "crucial" and to be made new, than it is to mourn the past and see the mixedness of things. Perhaps the latter is a more "Jewish" or "Old Testament" view. The energy (the vibe, motion, quality of the psychological power) of cross-based thinking is on the surface incompatible with that of looking back on mixedness, and remembering loss.

I find it possible to make space in myself for both the Old Testament and the New. The New Testament does not erase the Old Testament, but adds to it. It provides an additional context but does not take back the old words, or somehow make it so that God did not feel the way he did or be the way he was in Old Testament times. (Similarly the Old Testament is contextualized by the New.) Likewise Scripture does not take away from reason, but adds to it. Reason is seeing from our own points of view, and thus is linked to empathy. We can empathize with God as he sees the mixedness and loss from human history.

One writer who may have been attempting to reconcile the two (Old and New) is Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings is a story of the cross which has a bittersweet ending. When I read the trilogy first, I was in elementary school. I don't remember why I liked it, other than the writing style, but I did like it. I know I didn't pick up on some of the themes of bittersweetness and loss which Tolkien intended (and I would doubt that most of the readers in the various waves of Tolkien fandom did).

Maybe the relatively triumphant resurrection and ascension ending in the original cross story are more joyous and clear than the ending of LOTR. But perhaps Tolkien was being more true to reality by adding to the history of the Biblical period the history of the Church afterward. (The triumph we might read into the cross is provisional and in a sense premature.) Maybe we should look at the ascension as not really being the end of Jesus' cross, but his transition to a new cross, the ongoing cross. It seems that whatever we do to each other, we do to him. The Church's history, as viewed by us as we are still in it and are trying to win through it, might be different than what we would see if we were in captivity like the Jews, no longer able to try to fix anything, just remembering what went wrong. In heaven, on the important metric of "can we help bring any more people to salvation?", there is no more winning, only having won what was already won, and having lost what has been lost.

I could make a simplistic history of the Church that resembles that of Israel: start out disestablished, obtain establishment, become corrupt, disaffect itself, split, civil war, lose its establishment, go into (secular) captivity (which we forget is even captivity -- a psychological captivity of blindness), suffer the spiritual consequences. There is a lot of mixedness in the history of the Church. Sometimes we see it (or simply the downside, unambivalently) when we consider humanistic concerns, like Church support of slavery. But there is more to see if we look through deeply theistic lenses. We can try to blame and fix (two sides of the same coin), but someday we may have to just see reality as it is and has been, and not how it should be according to our desires. We will see its irrevocable losses. This is one of the lenses which God, as a truthful being, must see through, I think.

Progressive and Conservative Christians are both humanists, in a way; there's such a thing as theism

There can be a sense that "having the answer isn't the answer". Answer-having in itself, apart from whatever the answer is, is not firmly trustworthy. This may explain why some people choose progressive or postmodern-leaning Christianity over more orthodox Christianity. I agree that orthodox Christianity in itself (the repository of correct doctrines and practices), if taken apart from the specific doctrines and practices themselves (which may really be good), is a deficient and untrustworthy thing. But I think that refusing to have an answer is itself having the answer to some kind of question, and is equally deficient and untrustworthy. Both sides can rightly object to each other, because they are both lacking.

I think just realizing that we are all lacking in all we do, that everything we pursue is lacking, that all of our answers (even anti-answer answers) are deficient, partially describes a third option, other than orthodox and progressive. I think orthodox doctrines are usually right (or, I think what people think of as orthodox doctrines usually really are, although I should give the caveat that I haven't thoroughly explored this question for myself). But no matter how right we are to hold them, we, and our Christianity, are deficient. Similarly, to not sin is worth doing, and if our practices as Christians successfully turn us away from sin, that's good. But our Christianity is still deficient.

In the midst of all this deficiency, one would hope that at least God could be not-deficient. It's true that God isn't deficient, but our images of God probably are, and if we properly understand God we understand non-deficiency in a different way. God is not "All-Powerful" even if ultimately he could choose to end the universe at any moment (as I believe he has the power to do). Power doesn't make God non-deficient. What makes God God is his reality -- his disposition to undergo everything. I think both progressives and conservatives have in the back of their heads that God exists to keep us children, to take care of things for us. We don't want to undergo everything, so God does it for us, but because we don't trust that undergoing by being willing to go through it ourselves, and better, to go through it, we have no personal understanding of what God does. And so we think that God exists to serve us, either in a blatantly humanistic way, as with the progressives, or as with the conservatives (to the extent that they too are not blatantly humanistic), to enforce establishedness and rule over us, which is also humanistic to the extent that it satisfies our desire for order and answers. It serves that purpose of ours. It's one kind of humanism or the other, and the two humanists fight it out because it's personal -- it's what they want. We don't realize that true theism is possible -- God can be harmed and can exist for himself, not just as the means to our own benefit. If reality is by definition what is most established (it is what it is, after all, and no one can argue with it), then what is more real than God? But the tonality of God is entirely different than that of the establishedness we tend to prefer. God is the kind of being to get beaten up by the side of the road.

I think that what is deficient in us is a lack of love. I hesitate to use the word "love" because it's loaded. Whatever version of love people are already into is pretty psychologically compelling, so if we're wrong, it's hard for us to change, and it's likely to subtly mislead us. But perhaps "love" can be defined (looking to what we can do about the way things are) as "the cross" and (looking to the way things are and have been, in themselves) as something like "mournful history". These are the ways in which we truly value what is and what was.

Church as a safe place for danger

What's important is that individuals have the good disestablishedness (good in itself, or instrumentally good) they need to become close to God. A society can be established, overall. But it still has to permit some disestablishedness.

A church can be a safe place in a chaotic environment (I imagine that is how it can be in the Northern Triangle, or how it was in the early Middle Ages in the former Western Roman Empire). But if there is ever a shortage of disestablishedness in the world, perhaps the church can be a less-established place than the world, a refuge from safety, convenience, and so on. Practically speaking, this might mean that church leaders concern themselves less with protecting their congregants, less with promoting order and decorum, less with providing (even spiritual) wealth, letting people fend for themselves spiritually and hurt each other. However, to continue to "feed Jesus' sheep", as Peter was commanded, they would still provide some kind of strengthening or anti-temptation.

The church could be like Solomon and be a bad establishedness

Is it possible for the church to be "Solomonic"? To establish God's house but love wealth, and friendship with society which is against God or orthogonal to God, and from that turn against God? It seems likely. Solomon's 666 talents of gold (1 Kings 10:14) may have something to do with the number 666 in Revelation. Through Solomon, we see that the church can be like Babylon.

Some churches are more established than others (more at risk). All Christians in wealthy nations are at risk of being filled up with wealth and having no room for God, or little room.

Solomon was wealthy in wisdom, and the church is at risk of becoming wealthy in wisdom. Even possessing beliefs that are 100% true, or the best truths, or the set of best available truths, can be dangerous (they can mislead despite being correct in themselves).


(When I made this section, I thought there would end up being more than one conclusion-like passage in my notes, but there was only one.)

Eternal lack and fullness as good disestablishedness

It's possible to trust in a completely established way (to be receptive to enhancement that you don't need because you're completely established, to be receptive to blessing). ["Receptivity to enhancement" is Joseph Godfrey's definition of trust from Trust of People, Words, and God.] But there is a kind of trust which requires the trusting person to be disestablished, and this is the deeper trust. Is trust of God a self-destroying tendency? So that as we trust God more and more, we become more and more established (our problems get solved), and so we become less capable of trusting deeply?

[I now think that receptivity itself inherently is or requires a disestablishedness, so I don't endorse the first sentence of the last paragraph. But there's still a difference between a minimally receptive, maximally established trusting being and one who is more receptive and less established.]

It is conceivable that as we trust God, we become established in some ways, but in others become more and more disestablished, so that we trust more and more deeply. We are established because we are continually being established by the legitimacy of God, but the establishedness runs out of us rapidly enough that we need to be continually filled.

This sounds sort of like bhakti, like a Hindu approach to spirituality. (Or perhaps a Muslim one.) Is it sufficiently Christian? Could it be compatible with Christianity? Jesus promises a woman at a well that he can give her living water (John 4):

1 Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself didn't baptize, but his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed into Galilee. 4 He needed to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being tired from his journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." 8 For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.

9 The Samaritan woman therefore said to him, "How is it that you, being a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

10 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water."

11 The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. So where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his children and his livestock?"

13 Jesus answered her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

15 The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I don't get thirsty, neither come all the way here to draw."

16 Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here."

17 The woman answered, "I have no husband."

Jesus said to her, "You said well, 'I have no husband,' 18 for you have had five husbands; and he whom you now have is not your husband. This you have said truly."

She thirsted (she desired people enough to have five husbands), but didn't need to thirst anymore. Yet, if she had a well of water springing up in her, where would all that water go? One possibility is that she would always be broken (or, put less negatively, be porous) and thus she would permanently need the water, and her porosity would be a permanent disestablishedness. Another possibility is that she would be completely whole and established, and the water would overflow out of her, so that God would no longer be a deep need for her, but rather a blessing, something extra.

If the latter, then there is something lost, that Hindu- or Muslim-tinged dimension of human feeling, of love (and, in Biblical terms, the Psalmists loved God in a similar way that can only be experienced firsthand from a place of disestablishedness). If the former, then there is disestablishedness in God's rest, somewhere in it.

It is true that there is a kind of thirst that is evil and leads to sin (a lot of thirst is that way). But there is a thirst that is good and leads to love of God. Either somehow what Jesus says here is not incompatible with that, or this is something good that is lost in heaven.

There are other passages that talk of living water. Jeremiah 2:13:

13 "For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the spring of living waters, and cut out cisterns for themselves: broken cisterns that can't hold water.
In this chapter God is angry that Israel seeks establishedness from spiritual sources that aren't reliable. Also, Jeremiah 17:
7 "Blessed is the man who trusts in Yahweh, and whose confidence is in Yahweh. 8 For he will be as a tree planted by the waters, who spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes, but its leaf will be green, and will not be concerned in the year of drought. It won't cease from yielding fruit.
followed by
13 Yahweh, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be disappointed. Those who depart from me will be written in the earth, because they have forsaken Yahweh, the spring of living waters.
And in Zechariah 14:

8 It will happen in that day that living waters will go out from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea, and half of them toward the western sea. It will be so in summer and in winter.

9 Yahweh will be King over all the earth. In that day Yahweh will be one, and his name one.

10 All the land will be made like the Arabah, from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem; and she will be lifted up and will dwell in her place, from Benjamin's gate to the place of the first gate, to the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananel to the king's wine presses. 11 Men will dwell therein, and there will be no more curse; but Jerusalem will dwell safely.

There is a kind of establishedness which is good, which prevents the disestablishedness that is bad. The human taste for establishedness leads us to seek "water" from various sources. We can learn to trust in (thirst for) good water, or bad, and thus learn to love good, instead of bad.

I can see how a reader of these verses might think that the good is solely formed of establishedness, that God only wants us to be established, only using disestablishedness to teach us to seek good establishment. To do this kind of post most properly, I should read the entire Bible, and that's something that appeals to me, but which I don't have time for right now. So there are verses I'm not considering. But one important one to remember is this (Matthew 22):

36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?"

37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and great commandment.

Suppose you were trying to obey this. Maybe you were an Indian Christian, and sought to make an album of worship music. The music you made (perhaps sounding something like this) owes some debt to Hindu and Muslim culture, the cultural climate of India. You yourself feel devotion in a way which is somewhat "bhakti-like". So you produce lyrics which have a yearning in them, and a kind of mysterious darkness to them, the darkness of love for Jesus. Your heart, as it is, loves God in this way. There is nothing (obviously) sinful about this love, but at the same time, there is something disestablished about it.

Another scenario. You are a Christian raised in, and regularly attending, an orthodox Western church. Your life is flat and solid, and you have no deep understanding of the scriptures. You can't understand what the psalmists are talking about. You have never been forgiven much, and you do not love much. You have never undergone the cross, nor have you walked in the wilderness. You know the doctrines of the Bible with great accuracy, but you don't understand what they mean on an emotional level. Are you loving God with all of your heart? Maybe that is the case, and your heart really is that narrow. But it could be the case that you are not. Perhaps even if it is narrow, you ought to expand your heart. The difference between expanding a narrow heart (by, for instance, sewing on a new chamber) and simply causing a heart to expand to its true size (by stretching it out) may not matter much. Loving God with all of your strength may mean that you must expand your heart deliberately.

With all that in mind, perhaps with great discipline (and little emotion), you set out to learn to love with your heart and your guts, putting your life on the line. Having done this, you learn new dimensions of love for God and would never want to go back to your "perfect" establishedness (your initial flatness and solidity of life). Now that you have expanded your heart, you can't go back without loving God with less than your full heart. Disestablishedness is part of your love. You were brought out of the captivity, the broken cistern, of dead establishedness, and are now drinking water like a tree, up through your roots and out through your leaves. Establishedness on one dimension can be a broken cistern on another, while disestablishedness on one dimension can be a flow of water through yourself on another, and thus, establishedness. Establishedness for a living being (or an ecosystem) is different than establishedness for a mathematical fact or a stone monument.

It is possible that some of the ways of loving we have known are somehow not what God wants, and he only wants pure establishedness in the end, without any disestablishedness. If I were only thinking about God on the basis of reason (through answering the question "what do I think God / love is like?" or through a more disciplined natural theology), I would see no reason to think that disestablishedness can't be a part of Legitimacy, that the greatest forms of trust (and therefore of love) require disestablishedness of some sort, and that whatever loving-disestablishedness which comes only with enduring unbearable suffering (suffering which must someday cease, because God finds it unbearable as well) is a regrettable loss, a (necessary) amputation of love.

But I can see that the Bible, if read from an ordinary human lens, may seem to imply otherwise. I think that the best meeting place between my reason-based theology and the Bible is Jeremiah's image of the tree planted by the stream. I could see in that image an opening for a tree that might be deeply and powerfully thirsty, and which would drink from the stream with a great drawing of water, but the water would be continually transpiring from the leaves of the tree (and in fact, with trees, it is the transpiring which draws the water). As a tree's thirst connects it with the stream, so our thirst connects us with God. If we only drink from God, we will not be thirsty for the bad alternatives (lies, "five husbands", "kings").

The way this is written may seem like I could be saying that people ought to have a particularly large number of leaves and live in a particularly hot climate so that they can drink much and transpire much. I think sheer quantity of trusting is neither good nor bad. Real love is better than merely big love. So it may be just as well to have fewer leaves and live in a cooler climate. But for some people, real love may require big love, and the passion of that love may require thirst and the feelings we might associate with some Muslim, Hindu, and Ancient Jewish cultures, and not so much with modernized Greco-Roman and New Testament cultures (nor perhaps some Buddhist cultures).

I'm hitting the limits of what I can (more or less) responsibly write right now about trust, given how much I've thought about it, but I think something like the depth of trusting matters more than the quantity. Perhaps it is like certain quantities of trusting at certain times open up parts of our persons, and those persons (we) are more trusting because of it, even if the "throughput" of water has gone down. I think that mourning (both involuntary, sometimes, and more-voluntary) and the cross (both involuntary, sometimes, and more-voluntary) open up levels of trusting that enable us to empathize and be kin with God, in the realness of his love. God himself, even in heaven, his rest, will be disestablished to the extent that some of his children are not there. In order to trust God's disestablishedness (to personally find it valuable, to voluntarily be conscious of it) we must participate in it.

Is it possible to love someone if you take them for granted? Can you listen to someone if you have no sense of hanging on what they are about to say? I think the answer to both questions is "no". Both require a kind of disestablishedness on the part of the lover. But perhaps there's kind of a LeGuinian ordinariness to the not-taking-for-granted and the hanging-on-the-answer of people who love and listen, which is not a thirst, but which is still a disestablishedness.

So either because love, when brought to its fullness, requires a trust which itself requires a certain disestablishedness, or because to be kin with God means that we share in his disestablishedness and loss, maximal establishedness in some way contains a kind of disestablishedness. There are disestablishednesses which deserve to exist forever, and thus which are legitimate and part of Legitimacy.


[Here is a (hopefully complete) list of "living water" references. Most of them do not affect what I've said above, but here are two that might: Revelation 7:15-17 says that God will "wipe away every tear from their eyes." This does not necessarily rule out a quieter mourning, or a joy that is tempered such that it is consistent with the fact that some people did not make it into heaven. It also says that "they will hunger / thirst no more". That may refer to natural hungers (for food or people), and not to a hunger for God. Being "sheltered with his presence" (vs. 15) may be a relationship of dependency, and to be truly dependent is at least objectively if not necessarily subjectively to be disestablished. John 7:37-39 says that the living water Jesus talks about is the Spirit. Does the Spirit take away our hunger for God? Hunger is a disestablishedness.]


[I mentioned that the Psalms show a love of God that is found in disestablishedness, but a sampling of them makes me suspect that when they do, they do as part of the brokenness of life (Psalm 42's "as the deer pants for water" is followed by what sounds like a psalmist going through something dark). Therefore it's something that may have to pass away in heaven. This would be a loss. But I think another way to anchor a belief in a good thirst in the Bible, which may be applicable to heaven, is to consider the conjunction of Song of Solomon and Revelation. Song of Solomon says that the flashes of love are the flame of the LORD (8:6). So some element of eroticism connects to God. I believe (from natural theology) that God experiences what we do, in some sense interpreting it as we do (like how a word means basically the same thing to two people, although they hear different connotations in it). Eroticism means something similar to God as it does to us. This isn't to say that God sexually desires (maybe you have to have a body of your own, one which in a sense rules over you like ours rule over us to be sexual), but eroticism is broader than that. I think it includes a kind of perpetual thirst.

Revelation strikes me as being similar to Song of Solomon. Both have the mixture of beautiful dream and nightmare, and both are about becoming something new, and about the psychological upheaval and overwhelmingness of that process. Revelation talks about the Bride, and Song of Solomon talks about a bride. I agree with people that Song of Solomon is about regular sexuality, but if the church is called a Bride in Revelation, it seems natural to connect eroticism to the church's relationship with Christ. Calling the church (a group of people) a woman, shows that there is some distance between "Bride" and church, that "Bride" is somewhat of a metaphor. But we don't know how much it is a metaphor, and so, I think, we may assume similarity unless we have a reason to doubt it. A group of people (as in Judges 10) could have a kind of intimacy (a political intimacy) with God (in that case the intimacy of children with father), and so, I would guess, a political intimacy could involve some kind of eroticism, or something like eroticism. I don't know if this is a watertight proof that a "good thirst that never goes away" is projected to be part of heaven by the Bible, but it might be, and if it's not, then something is lost.]


Perhaps that should have been the conclusion of this post, or something with a similar feeling. But the post that actually exists still has some ground to cover.


I found as I read this post through for the first time, mostly finished, that I liked my own writing better than the parts where I engaged with the Bible. Perhaps that is because I quoted the Bible at length, in order to give context, but somehow it is more enjoyable to read the Bible all by itself and not quoted in a blog post. That is what I found.

Another reason might be that the Bible is a pit of disputes, whereas my writing has every right to be what it is (my writing). I wonder if I love philosophy about God more than I do adhering to the Bible.

That is, if I take up the banner of "sola scriptura", then I have to go where the Bible leads me, into disputes where my opposing interlocutors (implacable animated beings empowered by my imagination) have all the weight of tradition and the cognitively heavy data of scholarship. How can I, by myself, dare to say that the Bible says something untraditional? I feel that's what I'm doing.

But if I do not take up the banner of "sola scriptura", then my reason can inform which reasonably-valid interpretation of the Bible I favor. And then my unhappiness dissipates. It is not hard to see ambiguity, mixedness, brokenness, the cross, and mourning woven into the Bible, as I've seen in the readings I did for this post.

I hope that my vision overall can be pieced together from the things I wrote above. I have talked about different dimensions of establishedness and disestablishedness, and how they relate to the Bible and to secular and church life.


Strong government has the downside of giving people too much establishedness, including bad establishedness, but the upside of preventing horrors. Weaker government has the downside of permitting horrors, but the upside of breaking bad establishedness.

If you want to help people connect with God, naively instituting either weaker or stronger government may not work. (People may not turn to God in distress, for instance.) Political interventions by themselves can be largely orthogonal to spiritual change. But in theory, since everything interrelates, any political establishment or change in establishment, or any disestablishment, should have some kind of spiritual effect. And if you know what you're doing, you may be able to make better educated guesses about the spiritual effects of political interventions. You may also make better educated guesses about what kinds of spiritual interventions to make (for instance, ways to prepare people so that when disestablishedness comes, they are likely to turn to God.)

Our attitudes about "unlackingness" (what being "desires") and our view of God are related. Humanism (seemingly both secular and Christian) is into wealth and nice living (establishedness), but God is into love. God is not a projection of "the wealthiest, most established being". Wealth can be part of love, but in order to be subordinate to love, we must remember the poor and awful side of love (disestablished), the cross and mourning. Disestablishedness can transform stale wealth and nice living (the default of humanism) through trust (trust requires or is disestablishedness). Trust is psychological life. Promoting the love of love (the cross, mourning, of God in all his complex history) and the maximization of trust, and in addition any effective anti-temptations we can devise, seem to me to be good starting educated guesses as a program for changing how people relate to reality, so that whatever happens in the political world will translate into spiritual gain.

I remember one of my professors, Carlos Puente, telling me that if you take random data (he might have been dealing with rainfall) and project it through some function, the output, no matter what the input, is a bell curve (his book The Fig Tree and the Bell may be talking about this in the Lessons from Fractal Wires chapter). Similarly, if we have the right function, the meaninglessness of life, the random, deterministic impersonal inputs (including political chaos) that are easy to relate to as such, can affect the meaningful spiritual life. (They can become material for relating to God.) Both God's and even Satan's messages, if heeded, can generally turn out to further God's interests given the right "transforming function".

So I would say that, spiritually speaking, whether the government is established or not doesn't matter as much as how well people are prepared to convert whatever political reality they find themselves in into a seeking of God. Both establishedness and disestablishedness are mixed, and under the right circumstances, disestablishedness can be more to our benefit than establishedness (so it seemed in the days of Judges). If we need to hear a message but don't want to listen to it, what better way than to be in pain (blunt as that instrument is)? But better that we want to hear the right messages, so that pain is not necessary. To desire to hear is to be disestablished, in a trusting way.

Ideally, humans would need no government because humans would not sin. Or, the government would exist but in no way be coercive, but simply be an advisory body that researched recommended ways to live. Libertarians and anarchists may dream of such a day. The way to get there (not that it's likely we can on earth at a large scale) is through internalizing the Law of God, along with all the best epilaw or episcripture. By internalizing God's Law, we become more fully kin to God, and this enables a simpler and fuller intimacy with him, as between a father and a congruent adult child.

There are dimensions of love which can only be expressed when things go wrong. Perhaps there are levels of understanding of God that can only be accessed if we suffer. While God's rest is the inevitable and necessary conclusion of existence, and is the most legitimate possible state of affairs, even it has something missing, the expression and development of this most profound side of love. True well-being is not just the enjoyment of wealth (of even the right kind), but being the kind of person who loves most and most truly. Disestablishedness enables us to connect to this, in ways that establishedness usually does not.

Therefore, it is not clear to me that establishedness is better than disestablishedness (nor that disestablishedness is always better than establishedness). A case can be made for why "judges" are better than "kings" (and for why "US government" is better than "Northern Triangle government"). There is establishedness which really is bad, and disestablishedness that is bad, and establishedness that is good, and disestablishedness that is good, and examples of both that are ambiguous, ambivalent, or inscrutable. There may be times where we more or less know to change a bad situation into a good, on a political level. But what matters most is what people make of their situation spiritually, and that which helps them make more of whatever they have, on that level.

Culture evolves slowly and the future is coming on fast. Hedonism and preference satisfaction (seeking psychological wealth) are ingrained in our culture. I am concerned that by default, they will become the tonality of psychological establishedness in the future. Establishedness and wealth have a natural affinity, while disestablishedness and wealthless love have a natural affinity. It seems wise to me to intentionally emphasize the elements of love which are likely to be lost if humans get what they want. This good disestablishedness is something which we should cultivate in ourselves, and value for ourselves. In this way, we may have a chance to keep the future from becoming spiritually stunted.

To an extent, failure to grow spiritually, as soon as possible, is spiritually dangerous. Perhaps there are levels of deep (and therefore dark) turning to God which are not required of everyone, but perhaps it is better to experience some kind of darkness (enabled by a political or social system which is not maximally established) now and reap the spiritual benefits for many years to come, avoiding the spiritual risks of never learning to trust.

Appendix: notes from Bible reading


1:1-2 The people of Israel inquire of God what to do and God gives a specific command.

1:19 God was with Judah.

1:21 The Benjamites didn't do what they were told (and God allowed it)

1:27 similarly w/ Manasseh (following verses: similarly with other tribes)

2:1-5 God says to Israel that they have sinned and foretells/ordains that they will suffer the consequences.

2:11-15 Israel does evil and God punishes them.

2:16-23 (vss. 11-23 a summary of the rest of Judges?) God raises up judges, is with the judges, things go well until the judges die and then the people turn away from God.

(11-23 could be the "Judges Pattern" -- JP)

3:7-11 JP

3:10 the Spirit of God was upon Othniel

3:8 Israel serves a foreign king

3:12-30 JP

3:14 Israel serves a foreign king

3:15 Israel cried out to God, and God gave them a deliverer.

4:2 -- sold to a foreign king

4:6 -- God gives a specific command, which is held up by a human's fear (or some other form of resistance to action)

4:14 -- Deborah says "Does not the LORD go out before you?"

4:15 -- The LORD routes Sisera by the edge of the sword.

4:23 -- "God subdued Jabin"

ch. 5 Deborah/Barak's song (may reflect their views and not 100% God's)

5:2 "That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the LORD"

5:4-5 The LORD goes out and the earth trembles... did this literally happen? Or is it poetry referring to the literal actions of Israel? (In other words, God was acting through the army)

5:9 -- another "bless the LORD" maybe more like "praise God!" as an interjection than "God is responsible"?

6:15 Gideon asks "if God is with us, why are these horrible things happening to us?" God's response is "Go save Israel", (as though saying "Well, now I am intervening"?)

6:31 "If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down" -- words that Israel would not want to hold to too tightly when their own temples were destroyed.

6:34 The Spirit of the LORD clothes Gideon.


7:2 God intervenes by using Israel, prefers to do so by having them be undermanned so that they understand it was by his power and planning that they won.

Judges: when God doesn't intervene, he doesn't. When he intervenes, he does.

8:1 Ephraim is mad that they weren't called to fight. (The established norm of war?) If they had, that might have diluted God's story. The "logical", "right", "best practices" way of doing things is a powerful norm but is not necessarily in favor of trusting in, loving God -- It takes social courage to resist establishment / establishedness.

8:23 Gideon refuses kingship

8:33-35 After Gideon's death, the people whore themselves after the Baals and forget Gideon's family.

9 Abimelech overturns his father's intention not to start a dynasty and kills most of his brothers to establish himself.

9:23 God sends an evil spirit between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem, so that they fought each other.

Did they realize that they were being moved by God? Presumably not, or else they would have trusted the spirit less ("Oh, that's not my idea, maybe I shouldn't act on it.")

9:6 Abimelech is made king

9:22 he reigns 3 years

10:1-2 Tola judges 23 years -- he is not a king. He "judges" and does not "rule" (Abimelech "ruled") (Is this word choice significant?) "there arose" him rather than people explicitly making him king (Abimelech, 9:6)

10:10 Israel realizes (as a people) that they have sinned against God by forsaking him for the Baals.

10:11-16 God is mad at Israel and says he won't save them any more. Israel says "do whatever you want. Only please deliver us this day." They put away the foreign Gods and serve the LORD and he becomes "impatient over the misery of Israel." This is a kind of political intimacy, the way God relates to the entire people (and they relate to him, in one intertwined moment) in an emotional way.

11:11 "Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD at Mizpah."

11:27 "The LORD, the Judge, decide this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon". God is both judge and king. How do these roles differ?

11:40 daughters of Israel lament Jephthah's daughter for four days a year. (Do we have analogous emotional responses?)

Judges 12:1-7 Civil war happens on God-as-king's / a judge's watch.

Judges 13:9 - God answers Manoah's prayer

Samson and Gideon were chosen by God (as were Saul and David).

13:19 (Not clear if it says "The LORD, who works wonders", or "the LORD, and working wonders")

14:4 God is the one who gets Samson to be romantically interested in Philistine women.

14:6 The Spirit of the LORD gives Samson strength.

14:19 The Spirit of the LORD empowers him to kill people to technically fulfill the terms of the riddle.

15:18-19 God answers Samson's prayer for water.

ch. 16 God answers Samson's prayer for vengeance.

17:1-6 Dedicating silver to the LORD by making idols out of it.

(Would a king have had a firmer, more consistent state religion which successfully preached and enforced orthodoxy? In principle, that sounds more likely than in a disestablished political system.)

18:1 There was no king and Dan hadn't gotten an inheritance. (arguably a king would have figured that out)

Ch 19 Gibeah is as bad as Sodom so things have gotten pretty bad without a king. Shocking, brutal evil (such as is fairly common in the Northern Triangle, according to Martínez).

20:18 God gives Israel direction in how to punish Benjamin.

20:23 Israel weeps (for having to fight their brothers?) and God says to keep fighting them.

20:26-28 Same pattern

21:15 "The LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel" The people had compassion but it took the form of human trafficking.

End of Judges: no one wins and the consequences of sin are brutal and unfair. The people have a point when they want a king. God needs to adjust -- or the people do.

Spiritual significance: because things got so bad on the ground, Israel is tempted to not trust God.

1 Sam. 1:19 God "remembers" Hannah (opens her womb)

1:5 God had closed Hannah's womb.

2:10 "The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed."

Was Hannah prophesying Jesus? Or Saul or David? Was she in the Spirit? (In vs. 1 she "derides" her enemies). Is she expressing a hope of people in her day that there would be a king?

If she was prophesying a king (like Saul), is it significant that she did so after the end of Judges, but before when the people ask for a king in 1 Samuel? As though God was already considering having a king? If she was prophesying Jesus, was the timing of the prophecy meant to convey that at that point God was revealing to whoever was really listening that there would be another king someday?

1 Sam. 2:25 "They wouldn't listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the LORD to put them to death."

1 Sam. 2:27-36 God may be saying (vs. 35) that there will be a king to come, "forever" sounds like "before Jesus", so God as king. But maybe he mentions this because around this time he's considering giving Israel an earthly king (a David, earthly type of Christ)? (God intervenes by sending a man of God to Eli.)

Ch. 3 God speaks to Samuel and foretells more action to come.

2:12-17 Under the "Judges" system (direct kingship of God), there were corrupt priests.

4:7-9 The Israelites try to frighten the Philistines with God (the ark) but the Philistines take God (the threat) so seriously that it gives them the courage to defeat the Israelites.

(Lack of establishment -- enduring breakdown times -- can develop courage as well, leading to better future establishment.)

4:21-22 The ark was part of Israel's establishedness.

5:6 God punishes Ashdod for having the ark.

5:10-11 Ekron responds to the reality of God when they are afflicted. "There was a deathly panic throughout the whole city" -- a kind of disestablishedness / political breakdown?

6:13-15 The Israelites rejoice to see the ark coming and offer sacrifices when it arrives. (Disestablished state of not having the ark makes them more appreciative? God returning makes appreciative?) God-with-us returning makes appreciative? God is often "psychological establishment" to us.)

6:19 God killed people for looking on the ark (perhaps to teach his people to respect him)

7:2-3 Israel repents after "losing" God.

8:1-3 Samuel makes his sons judges, but they are corrupt.

8:10-16 Samuel's warning against kings is that they take away people's freedom. Established governments become their own entity (vs. 15 - the officers get the money) which take people out of their normal lives.

This sort of sounds like a libertarian's case against government.

God may have been the following: concerned about that but more concerned with then people's desire to be like the nations (vs. 20, vs. 5).

Ch. 8 - part of following God involves people in charge sinning against you. If you don't want people sinning against you so bad that you want to change God's planned form of government, then you are rejecting him. God's path is imperfect even by his own standards (sin is a part of it).

9:16-17 God saw Saul as someone who was going to save his people from the Philistines and "restrain" them.

End of judge era, beginning of king era:

10:1 - Saul made king

Ch. 10 - The Spirit of God rushes upon Saul

Saul is established by God.

10:22 Saul hides from being king.

10:24 Samuel points out that Saul is exceptional -- he is both tall and handsome (9:2) and seemingly unready to serve (perhaps the only person to hide in the baggage), prone to fear and distrust of God.

The people are pleased with Saul.

12:14 Perhaps the king and the people are bound together (certainly this seems to be the case subsequently) More so than the people and their judges?

1 Samuel 13:6-8 A time of disestablishedness (the people terrified of Philistines)

13:9-12 In a time of disestablishedness, the king is tempted to sin against God, through his fear. Saul claimed he was seeking the favor of God by sacrificing. But a better way would have been to trust and obey.

13:13 It seems that perhaps Saul was being tested and in theory could have passed, with the consequence of establishing Saul's kingdom forever. The disestablishedness enabled the test, which presumably enables passing the test and the positive consequences from passing (Saul establishing himself as, showing and making himself, trustworthy, he being a useful servant of God, worth establishing forever). Without having disestablishedness, can we have the rest? Maybe, maybe not? False establishment has to be stress-tested by disestablishedness to produce true establishment?

14:11-12 Philistines in their establishedness don't take Jonathan and his armor bearer seriously? Their cockiness is the sign that God is with the two Israelites in their plan to attack them (vs. 10).

Ch. 14 God intervenes (vs. 15, vs. 23)

14:24 Saul lays the burden of physical hunger (disestablishedness) on the people.

14:29-30 Jonathan rebels, because the (discipline?) of the vow of hunger was misapplied.

14:31-32 The disestablishedness of the Israelites tempts them to sin.

14:45 Saul's illegitimacy as a ruler meant he deserved to be less established?

14:47-48 Saul, having "taken the kingship" (having been established as a ruler), was a competent and valiant deliverer of Israel.

1 Samuel ch. 15 Talk of God's "regret" (in ESV) in vss. 11, 29, and 35. If God really does regret, he isn't always right. A less-established God? (Than classical theist God, yes). Should we be more, or less, rebellious against a God who is caught in tragedy like we are?

Reading "regret" as a normal English "regret" here (as the ESV, a modern, more-literal, more-scholarly translation allows us to) is disturbing to some conservative readers, who might prefer a God who is closer to a perfected classical theist God. Why does our image of God seem to need to be of one who "does not lie or regret"? (Who definitely does what he says he'll do / what he sets out to do.) We like establishedness, of an established and establishing God? We don't like the note of ambivalence (bittersweetness, loss, tragedy even within victory or the best?) which is implied by the most established being having any disestablishedness in him, or of there being some kind of imperfection (in Descartes' sense (in Meditation 3) of a calling for what one lacks) in establishedness itself, or in perfection itself / himself.

(Maybe it is our definition of perfection which is flawed, and we should conform it to the reality of God, rather than conforming our idea of God to our idea of perfection.)

15:1,10 God speaks

15:24-28 Though Saul remains in office (one kind of establishedness), his legitimacy is removed, and his establishedness is rendered temporary, no longer connected to the future. (A less-established establishedness for not having a future.) Legitimacy is akin to or part of establishedness.

15:9 Saul and the people disobeyed God.

1 Samuel 16:1-3 God gives Samuel a task and tells him how to proceed safely. God provides a plan (establishedness) to deal with Samuel's fear and lack of plan (disestablishedness)

16:6-7 Samuel looks to obvious signs of kingliness (establishment-bringingness?) but God's preference for the person who will be king (to some extent in God's place) is for the heart of the one to be anointed to be a certain way.

16:13-14 God gives his Spirit to David, removes it from Saul, and sends a harmful spriit to Saul.

16:14-23 God sets up (probably) a way for David to be around Saul.

1 Samuel 17 vs. 37 David had a history of being threatened by wild animals and being delivered from them by God, which gives him the confidence to oppose the giant who "defies the army of the living God" (vs. 36)

17:38 Saul wants to armor David, but David isn't used to that (he is suited to disestablishedness rather than to establishedness?)

17:51 When the Philistine's champion died, they fled. (A leader establishes his/her group of people, embodies their establishment.)

Ch. 18 David rises up, is more established in his career, yet faces psychological disestablishedness from Saul. (Mixed experience.)

19:18-24 God sends his spirit on people go go to get David.

1 Samuel chs. 1 - 20 Saul is established but lost his future, tries to hold onto establishment, won't let go of it easily, tries to kill the one with future; David is disestablished, gaining in establishment, has the future. (Israel seems to be working toward its establishment by fighting the Philistines.)

22:1-2 David becomes leader (establishment?) of those "in distress, in debt, bitter in soul" (the disestablished?) David seems to be a natural leader by this point. When God is with you, there is a natural tendency to bring establishedness? (When a nation is led well and it loses its "national sins" (e.g., there is rule of law), then economic prosperity and psychological establishedness follow.)

22:5 A prophet tells David to leave his stronghold, and he goes.

22:23 David offers safekeeping to Abiathar.

Perhaps David is taking on the role of God -- because God is with him, his establishment is effectively God's establishment for Abiathar.

Can government on earth be one of truly Godly rulers, those who don't "misestablish" their people? Can a really God-conveying leadership or government be in exisence at scale? If we had such a government and it were perfectly established, how would it make up for the advantages of the disestablishedness it precludes?

23:1-4 God is inquired of (David feels a question (disestablishedness?)?) and God answers. Perhaps David is the conduit of his followers disestablishedness. And/or, he asks God on their behalf, perhaps such that they don't ask.

God calls David's people to go from one frightening (disestablishing?) scenario to one which looks even worse to them.

23:10-12 Once again, David asks, and God answers.

23:14 It appears that if Saul was going to capture David, God would have to have given David into Saul's hand.

23:15 David hides from Saul in the wilderness. The wilderness (disestablishedness on one level) provides refuge from Saul (establishment that opposes David). Evil establishment legitimates some kind of outside to it.

23:16 Jonathan "strengthens David's hand in God". Perhaps he helped David establish himself in God?

23:22-23 Saul seeks sure information (he is disestablished and seeks establishedness?)

1 Samuel 24:6 David recognized Saul's establishment as God's chosen one.

1 Samuel 24:20

"the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand" The nation will be established in David's exercise of his will?

25:10 Nabal seems to imply a certain amount of disestablishedness in Israel

25:21 David feels entitled to just treatment (psychological establishedness). Unlike with Saul in ch. 24, David wants to act on his perceived rights and make reality be in accordance with his claim on it. This is analogous to Nabal's rhetoric in vs. 11, in that there Nabal was speaking from a place of establishedness.

25:23-31 Abigail saves David from his (established?) wrath by speaking in a calming way, presenting herself humbly (disestablished?), offering food as though making up for a wrong (acknowledge the rightness of David's claim (intellectual establishedness of the proposition "David and his men deserve food).

25:38 God kills Nabal

26:9-10 The anointed one is not to be killed

26:19 Being (in a sense) politically disestablished (no longer having a place in the people of God) can cause you to be cut off from God?

This makes sense instrumentally, but maybe David thought he needed a place in Israel (in the people? in the land?) in order to serve God.

26:20 (Is the presence of God confined to a certain physical place, which David is not in at the time of the conversation?)

In any case, it's plausible that disestablishment (political, personal) can cause people to turn away from God.

26:23 David says that God rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness.

If this is literally true, it's so in a general sense, since the righteous are not rewarded literally every time. Even if they are rewarded in an afterlife, their experience on earth will be a mixture of the establishedness of just reward and the disestablishedness of lack of just reward or of positive injustice.

28:5 Saul is afraid (psychological disestablishedness)

28:6 He inquires of the LORD, but God does not answer at all.

28:7 So he seeks establishment from a medium, going against God's commands.

28:19 Israel must be defeated so that Saul can be? The people and the king must go together?

29:6 David is regretfully informed that, despite his good conduct, he can't be included in the established activity of his adopted(?) people, going up in battle against God's people (his own). Belonging can be a bad thing / establishment can turn a small, disestablished friend of God into an enemy of God.

(Perhaps God would have been understanding in this case, but it is still unfortunate when God's people fight against each other.)

30:6 David "strengthened himself in the LORD his God" David was able to strengthen himself in the LORD because the LORD was his God? David held him to be God? And God found David trustworthy because of that? Contrast with Saul in 28:5-7

30:7-8 David inquires of God answers.

30:16 The Amalekites are in some sense psychologically established, because they celebrate their wealth, but are politically disestablished due to their heedless celebration.

30:25 David establishes a rule / statute. An established person can establish a law, and a law is a kind of political wealth, an impersonal ruler or establishment.

Ch. 31 confirmation that Saul's downfall led to Israel being disestablished (fled, leaving cities to Philistines)

2 Samuel 1:1-16 David orders the execution of the Amalekite who killed "the LORD's anointed".

1:20 The disestablishing of one body of people yields establishing to another.

2:1 David inquires and God answers.


Where does the norm of honoring and protecting the LORD's anointed come from? Quick re-read of 1 Samuel 10 does not show an estblishment of "don't dishonor / harm the LORD's anointed" Maybe it's somewhere else? It may not have been handed down by God, but rather be David's idea -- a wise precedent and norm for a future king to establish. If the establishment (the person who establishes and (in some sense) embodies the body politic) is respected and protected, it strengthens and protects the body politic.

(On the other hand, Solomon is the one who would do things because they were wise, more so than David, who would do things because they were right. Deontological ethics (my perception) is a bit hard to reason about, because it relies so much on "X, Y, Z just are right", a lot more bedrocks. But if David had a principle behind "honor the LORD's chosen one" what would it be? Maybe that God chose Saul and preferred for him to be king (despite that God may have / apparently regretted doing that, and Saul got the future of his kingship taken away from him). I think it makes most sense (to me) to say David's honor of Saul was for the office, and from that for Saul, rather than for Saul in who he actually was. Not sure where to go with this thought from here.)


3:14-16 David gets what was "his". He remembered fighting for Michal. (The memory of an unpaid debt or wrong, that claim on reality, is psychologically establishing, is something that can be leaned on). David, having established himself by getting what was "his", deprives someone else of what was "his". For David to be more established was for Paltiel to be less established.

3:18 Establishedness also comes from the words that God said.

3:39 What is the tonality of Israel's establishedness? David, as establishment, is merciful, while Joab and Abishai, as parts of Israel's establishedness, are severe. David leaves the repayment of the evildoers (Joab and Abishai) to God. For David, the establishment is insufficient, incomplete. But God fills in the insufficiency (so he seems to expect).

4:10 David once again kills people who killed his enemy.


Perhaps from David's conduct we see the mixedness of victory?


5:8 Some kind of saying (a precedent?) is established through the establishedness of David.

5:9 David establishes Jerusalem as his (in our day, because of that, it is a disputed city)

5:10 God affirms mixed people. (You could take that as "what wonderful grace to a mixed person like me" and as "there is something genuinely messed up -- not just formally considered sinful -- with the Godly establishment on earth" (as though God has chosen the best people (on whatever metric he considers best) and these are it?). But the messed-up-ness of someone like David shouldn't produce disrespect or simplistic anger, because those are even more messed-up than him.

5:12 David was established and exalted for the sake of Israel.

5:19 David inquires of God and he answers.

5:20 And gives them to be defeated by David.

5:23-25 Same as in 19-20.

6:2 God is (symbolically?) enthroned in the ark. (A symbol of how he is ultimately the establishment of Israel.)

6:6-7 Uzzah tries to save the ark (protect God?) but disobeys God in the process. God is angry and kills Uzzah.

Does this mean God cannot be benefited at all? Or that which makes up his well-being can't be benefited by human initiative? Our well-being is part of his well-being. But God himself can't be killed by anything outside himself. He will be okay in the end, no matter how bad things get for him now. We have to respect him in who he is (part of making him holy) -- which is a kind of establishment over us. (That God is a certain way and the nature of God is the nature of establishedness.) We can rest in his establishedness and therefore respect him.

God lets us violate his holiness whenever we sin, but he made the ark a teaching point to teach his people to respect him (Is this ego-respect God wants, or survival-respect? I think the latter, or an analog to the latter given that survival is not literally a concern for God)

To respect something is to leave it as it is, whatever state of establishedness or disestablishedness it is. Being is an established thing, so all things that are are established in some way. To disrespect is to disestablish. To disrespect is good (or has a good outcome) when it opposes bad establishedness. (Or maybe disrespect is always bad, bad for the disrespecter? In that case maybe there's a respect for the highest someone can be and that they be the highest which can motivate disestablishing moves.

As long as bad establishedness exists, there is occasion for (some kind of) disestablishedness.

(Probably more to be said (that ought to be said? that will be said?) about this incident.)

2 Samuel 6:16, 20-23 Michal despises David, and then says (what she really thinks? or some kind of useful thing to say to undermine David?) that she objects to him dishonoring himself before the female servants (risking disestablishment?)

David doesn't buy what Michal is trying to say about looking bad to the female servants. David is okay with looking uncool, heedless, or perhaps in other ways vulnerable to disrespect, for the sake of love for God, and done out of trust in God. God chose (established) David, the trusting, wholehearted one, over Saul, the untrusting, "doublehearted"/doubleminded one.

7:6 God never asked for an (established?) house, only (disestablished?) tents. But (vs. 13) he will allow David's son to build a house.

Humans like to build established temples to their gods, but God doesn't care (or maybe prefers for there to not be such a symbol of establishedness attached to him). God may prefer us to have less of a sense of security and sufficiency, and more of radical trust / dependence, and longing for him.

(If I had more time I would look into the psalms of David to see how establishedness/disestablishedness plays out there. I think that radical trust, dependence, and longing for God might be found there. Psalms often seem to need disestablishedness to write and to understand firsthand.)

7:10 God promises to end the cycle of violent people taking over Israel, as in the days of the judges. Why? Why did he permit the "mini-Captivities" of the judges days in the first place? Maybe he thought they would work to teach people to love and trust him (this seems to have been an effect). But now he wasn't going to use that strategy, and instead give them (relative) peace and security. Was this because it was what his people insisted on (by calling for a king in 1 Samuel), and once people insist on something, God has to work with it in order to be trusted? (If we define "God" (or even "worthy leader") as "that person which is (most) trustworthy", and if God wants us to trust him, we won't see him as being trustworthy if he is too far outside our "Overton window", so it is more beneficial to him, and us, in pursuing his interests, to "play along with us", if we really have insisted that our relationship with him be based in a definition of trustworthiness we insist on. A child is not ready for the cross (or cross-like discipline, as in Judges).

Was it instead the case that God realized that the people were right, and the horrible days of the Judges era weren't actually conducive to people loving and trusting God? It's true that suffering does not necessarily cause us to turn to God. If we hate suffering so much that we refuse to find any redeeming value in it, we will refuse to turn to God from it, and then it will have no practical value to God, and he will have no reason to keep it around. Can there be a replacement for suffering in the process of making people holy? Maybe? Statistically, which is more holiness-producing, a world of people who "fear God" (in the biblical sense) and suffer, or one in which they don't fear God and don't suffer? I would guess the former. Rates of hardening would be lower in the former. Rates of deep trust, love, and loyalty to God would be greater in the former, and lower in the latter. (Maybe disestablishedness is more the root of the good of suffering, and non-suffering disestablishedness can substitute for suffering?)

7:12-16 Messianic / Christian-sounding language (reading this through Christian eyes). God is promising a permanent establishment. The Messiah comes through the line of David (one who loves and trusts God wholeheartedly and not doublemindedly?) and not Saul (a half-faithful Israelite) or a pagan ruler (Nebuchadnezzar? Augustus?)

To what extent is God ultimately committed to establishedness of some sort? God's rest is established (completely stable social order), and that is the necessary end of existence. That which is legitimate will last forever, but by definition, what is illegitimate must someday be rejected by Legitimacy.

Disestablishedness becomes an inherently bad thing when legitimacy and establishedness are identical. The question becomes, what is the true nature of legitimacy and thus legitimate establishedness? Jesus, who goes to the cross, gives us an idea. But here in 2 Samuel 7, maybe we would look at permanent establishment like David might have, with the awe of permanent establishedness and not the horror and brokenness worked into it on some level, when we get specific about what it really is (something requiring the cross).

7:18-29 David does not feel worthy of having been permanently established and thinks God is big, a doer of "great and awesome" things (vs. 23) (And I'd agree that they are great and awesome things, but I don't think "greatness" and "awesomeness" are better than love. God is other than "greatness" and "awesomeness", and they serve him.)

8:1-14 David establishes Israel by defeating neighbors and God gives him victory.

David dedicated silver and gold from "all the nations he subdued" (vs. 11) to God. (Silver and gold he coerced from them?) Is it right to dedicate silver and gold taken from ungodly people? Is this honoring to God? Establishedness justifies behaviors (in the eyes of the established one; maybe, or maybe not, in reality) which are wrong if we don't assume that the established one is legitimately established.

Ch. 9 Out of David's establishedness, he establishes Mephibosheth.

10:11-32 "Be of good courage, and may the LORD do what seems good to him." An establishedness out of one's own strength ("be of good courage?") and based in trust ("may the LORD do what seems good to him")?

11:11 Uriah refuses establishedness if God and the people of Israel are not established (the establishedness of comfort, rest, and satisfaction of hungers).

11:16 Because David is established, and Joab established under him, Joab obeys, and Uriah obeys.

If you're established enough, you get your way even if it's bad. Some level of establishedness is needed for moral agency / moral self-expression.

12:7 David's establishment (his future) is modified such that now a note of disestablishment (bloodshed and adultery, vss. 10-12) will enter the royal family. Vs. 10's "the sword shall never depart from your house" happens to describe Jesus' life and sort of describes Church history.

The sin of a king curses those under him.

12:9, 14 David scorned / despised God and his word. David hated and disrespected God, whom he otherwise honored and loved, and God was willing to partially disestablish him, with likely (later on proved actual) consequences for the kingdom.

12:20 David, brought low (in some sense disestablished), turns to God, like Israel in Judges 10:15.

12:31 Establishedness leads to the servitude of the people adjacent to the establishedness.

13:28 Absalom establishes his servants so that they murder his brother.

13:3-5, 32-33 Jonadab establishes a plan (which carries Amnon through when he wouldn't or couldn't otherwise), and is, overall, a crafty disestablisher (maybe angling to break down David's house for his own political ends?) Jonadab was an agent of God (presumably), a good disestablisher, but Jonadab was in himself a bad disestablisher, and generally, bad disestablishers are to be opposed, just like bad establishers and establishments.

2 Samuel 14:4-11 David, as establishment, establishes a law (a precedent)

14:12-13 David is bound by his own precedent. This only makes sense insofar as his precedent recognized a higher law.

Is God bound by his own law? (On some level yes? So he had to go to the cross?)

15:2-6 Because of some kind of opening (disestablishedness) in David's government, Absalom is able to establish himself politically, which takes away from David's establishment. Having the hearts of people establishes politically. (So where your heart goes, that you establish?) Whatever you consider your rightful authority tends to elicit your love (by way of your loyalty)?)

16:16-19 In disestablished times, it can seem like all kinds of things can be true.

17:14 God intervenes.

17:15 Hushai thinks fast, has a plan made up quickly. Competence (establishedness) enables righting wrong (establishing)

Trust vs. competence, one proceeds from disestablishedness, and often is disestablished, the other proceeds from establishedness.

19:1-8 Mourning can't completely outweigh the fact that someone you lost due to their evil was evil. The people who are saved from the death of an evil person are also valuable. (And, that evil is less, or all gone, is also valuable.) Because David's story has not ended, he can't mourn forever (he can't bear witness to the truth of what he lost, the person who was lost), but has to "sit in the gate".

19:22-23 David's establishedness enables him to not kill / to pardon.

21:1 David seeks God and God tells him the famine he sent is over the bloodguilt of Saul.

21:14 After David has seven sons of Saul hanged to atone for the bloodguilt, God "responds to the plea for the land".

22:2-4 David finds establishedness in God.

22:7 David calls on God from a disestablished place.

22:28 David sees God as one who establishes the disestablished, and disestablishes the established.

22:42 David makes it sound like the enemies of him cried to the LORD.

If true, then God has to not listen to the cries of one disestablished party in order to heed the cries of another.

23:3-4 Legitimate, efficacious establishment, under "the fear of God" (disestablished in itself before God, but established in its respect of and obedience to God), blesses the land.

23:10,12 God brings victory through mighty men.

Ch. 24 This is a weird passage, esp. vs. 1. Vs. 1 is hard to make sense of since it sort of looks like God is the author of sin. 1 Chronicles 21:1, a parallel text, says that Satan incites David. Maybe Satan used God to incite David, sort of like in Job? But then, in 2 Samuel 24:1, it says that God was angry, and incited. Could Satan make God angry at Israel? Point out some sin (as Accuser) that God would otherwise overlook? This seems to give Satan a lot of power over God. Is God less-established than in say, a classical-theism-leaning reading of the Bible? (Which might be the reading which is most in favor of establishedness and sees God as most established). (Could God be the author of sin? If that's so, how can we trust him? Less so than if he couldn't be, so he would be less-established.) Or is it the case that 2 Samuel 24:1 is wrong, and should be superseded by 1 Chronicles 21:1, which makes more sense theologically? In that case, the Bible itself is not perfectly established.

And yet we trust God, and/or the Bible, anyway, even though they may have some weakness or contradiction of what we might naively consider perfect establishedness.

(I suspect that there is at least one classical-theism-leaning / max-establishedness interpretation of 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1 which preserves or attempts to preserve a view that God and the Bible are perfectly established. It may be that I would grant them ~1 credence if I read them (or find it the case that if I added up all their credences it would come to ~1, crowding out the disestablishedness here), but if they were merely plausible, they wouldn't take away all my uncertainty about the establishedness of the Bible, which is itself a disestablishedness.)

I don't think that disestablishedness kills Biblical Christianity, because it's a special case of the Problem of Evil, and no matter how messed-up the world is, we still trust God anyway (if we are Christians), even if we can't explain how God could be both good and perfectly in-control given the worst of the evils we see. If (like me) we simply relax the expectation that God be perfectly in-control, then how can we trust reality? Well, for myself, I don't think about it, but I find that I mostly just do. The Bible only has to be significantly ("quantitatively") or specially ("qualitatively") trustworthy to be worth following.

We do trust disestablishedness, and, at least given this discussion (about 2 Samuel 24:1 and 1 Chronicles 21:1), in some sense disestablishedness is trustworthy, since the best path, even if imperfect, is the one we ought to trust.

2 Samuel 24:2-3 David orders a census -- this is something he's not supposed to do. Why would he order a census? Presumably to know his strength. To know how established you are establishes you. God would consider this bad if it meant David wasn't trusting him.

2 Samuel 24:10 David's conscience disestablishes him and he asks God to take away his sin (a kind of re-establishing).

2 Samuel 24:11-13 God offers David a way to pay for his sin.

2 Samuel 24:14 David trusts God's untrustworthiness more than man's untrustworthiness (Untrustworthy in the sense that, generally, a pestilence is something you should avoid, and which bad people are the kind of people to do to you.)

2 Samuel 24:25 David completes his repentance (presumably), and God responds.

1 Kings ch. 1

Someone has to be king, and David isn't filling the role (the nation calls for its own establishment), so Adonijah takes the initiative. Then David has to establish Solomon. The disestablishedness of Adonijah's attempt at succession (ungrounded in the will of David), called for the establishing of Solomon.

1 Kings 2:3-4 According to David, Solomon is to keep God's law, which will bring prosperity (establishedness) and future for the line of David (establishedness).

2:5-9 David establishes enmities and friendships of his into Solomon.

2:13-25 Solomon (has to) defend his establishment, and has his half-brother killed.

2:43 The name of the LORD (token of establishment) is used as part of Solomon's establishing conditions on Shimei, which technically gave him the option to live, but which made it harder for him. The established one (king) can set up the conditions within which his subject's free will can operate.

2:46 "So the kingdom was established in the hand of Solomon."

1 Kings 3:1 Solomon marries a daughter of Pharaoh. (Presumably to establish Israel?)

3:7-9 Solomon is lacking (disestablished), realizes it, and asks for a power / virtue, in order to be established, for the sake of the establishment of Israel. (In order to establish Israel, their establishment must be established.)

3:10-12 This pleases God and he gives Solomon wisdom and discernment.

3:28 Israel is in awe of Solomon's wisdom.

Awe involves psychological disestablishedness (psychological establishedness may accompany it?). When individual people are in awe (disestablished), it establishes the awe-inspiring one (or tends to, if the awe-inspiring one is a person). The king (establishment) becomes stronger, which strengthens (establishes) the nation as a whole.

Collectives might "like" (select for) cultural currents that disestablish individuals in favor of the collective's establishedness.


Which is worse, to rely on yourself rather than on God, or to rely, not on yourself, but on a collective, rather than on God? (This may be a trick question.)


4:1-19 Solomon sets up officials.

4:19 "and there was one governor who was over the land" Presumably, an effective central authority, uniting all the different sub-powers, which inherently have their own initiative and could break out to try to take over the rest? Subordinating powers to the whole -- liberal? monarchical?, either way, established, the mark of a strong, effective, uniting government.

4:20 Prosperity and hedonic value followed Solomon's establishing.

4:21 Solomon's establishedness enables him to rule over neighboring kingdoms and get tribute.

4:25 Israel lives in safety under Solomon.

5:3 When the land is at rest (established), you can build a temple to God.

Optimistically, good temple-building can serve as an anti-temptation to ameliorate the spiritual dangers of establishedness.

Secular "temple-building" might be exemplified by the proliferation of art and games in our time, or especially as presented by transhumanists with regard to the far future (in X-Risk) or also what could be called "advanced experience", also in X-Risk but also in "Letter From Utopia".

5:13 Solomon drafts forced labor out of Israel. (A good thing, to build the house of God? But God didn't even want a house, originally. Which would God rather have, for his people to be free, or for them to have more-established symbol of his establishment over them? Or should the temple be seen as a way to honor God? Which would he prefer, to be honored, or for his people to be free? Perhaps God values being honored for the spiritual benefit being given those honoring?

An overall question: to what extent is Solomon a return to Egypt?

I'm not sure what to think of the temple -- it is somewhat ambiguous and mixed to me.

6:11-13 As Solomon builds the temple, God states that "concerning the temple" (Solomon's physical establishing), Solomon should also build a legal / loyal / obedient temple (a spiritual / psychological / fiducial establishing).

7:1-12 Solomon builds a palace for himself, maybe using forced labor, certainly using a lot of resources. Perhaps this can be partially justified by his need to imporess the people in order to be their establishment?

(The tricky thing about unjust financial decisions is that they are often partially justified.)

8:1-11 Whatever God thought of the temple, he gave signs of blessing.

8:22-53 Religious activities that were previously unrelated to any temple are now related to the temple.

People wanted a place to worship (were going to "high places" (3:3)), so here was a way to give them a place of awe in a city.

Was "wild" religion (a military commander using Urim and Thummim in the field? Or simply inquiring of God? Or a farmer inquiring of God?) devalued by there now being a temple, an "official" place to be religious?

8:58 Solomon prays for anti-temptation.

8:61 Solomon wants people's hearts to be fully true to God.

9:1-9 Being established by God is conditional on being true to him in a sustained way.

9:15 Solomon did use forced labor to build his house.

10:1 The queen of Sheba connects Solomon to the name (reputation?) of the LORD.

10:9 The queen of Sheba blesses the LORD, having been blown away (because of being blown away?) by how wise and wealthy he made Solomon.

Humans are impressed by that kind of thing, and therefore it is a mechanism to cause them to find God trustworthy. Wealth is attractive, to whatever culture goes with it, whether that culture is ultimately trustworthy or not. (Westernness (as in the SSC post How The West Was Won) establishing itself globally).

Are there other ways to draw people to God, particularly when they start out, far from any peculiarly Biblical values?

10:14 Possible source of the 666 in Revelation 13:18? "666" only appears in connection with Solomon and Adonikam. Adonikam had 666 sons / descendants (in Ezra 2:13) and 667 (in Nehemiah 7:18). Little is said about Adonikam (just a name in lists of names). So Solomon is the only OT figure who could be used in an interesting way by the author of Revelation. But it still might be a coincidence. "666" could come from a different source (numerology of someone's name?). But there's some likelihood that there is a connection (not safe to completely rule it out).

The passage in Revelation does not make perfect sense if you think that 666 only applies to Solomon, but it is interesting to see that the second beast (Revelation 13:11) has "two horns like a lamb" -- perhaps it is a false Christ, or a personification of the church to the extent that it really furthers the values of the first beast (who is blatantly against God (vs. 6))

It does make some sense to wonder if the church could be an enemy (or false friend) of God in the way that Solomon ended up being. Revelation is a book concerned with corruption of the church.

1 Kings 11:1-8 What most directly turns Solomon away from God is his many foreign wives. Solomon somehow has time to have 700 wives and 300 concubines. He isn't the enemy of neighboring countries, but instead intermarries -- a peaceful, integrating thing to do. This creates a bad establishedness.

11:9-11 God is angry at Solomon for being spiritually unfaithful to him.

God blessed Solomon richly, but still he turned away. The riches were not enough to secure his loyalty and actually (may have) hindered it (certainly the state of rest that the land could be connected with his many foreign wives).

11:14-41 So the cycle continues, to some extent, with a promised civil war.

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