Wednesday, January 31, 2018

#metoo isn't enough

Over at Mission Alliance, they have a good article on why #metoo doesn't go far enough. Read the whole thing, but the takeaway is in the final paragraph:
he Church has often been accused of holding a sexual ethic that ultimately represses or diminishes our sexuality. The truth is that our ethic is the only ethic capable of saving our sexuality from certain self-destruction. It’s high time that we remember that, and do all we can to hold before the world the hope given to us in the Incarnation—the very redemption of our bodies.
<idle musing>
Amen and amen!
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Far too common

A church in which only grace is being preached not only reminds us of the temple cult in Amos’s day (cf. Amos 5:21–23) but is a place where sins are easily covered. It is a place where people do not repent of their wrongdoing and certainly do not wish to be freed from their sins (why should they, if God forgives them anyway?). “Cheap grace is justification of the sins and not the sinner.”[fn. My translation of “Billige Gnade heisst Rechtfertigung der Sünde und nicht des Sünders.” By Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Nachfolge: DBW 3] Ignorance, sloth, or a self- serving theology are clear symptoms of a theology of cheap grace.—Standing in the Breach, page 502

Friday, January 26, 2018

Sleeping with the enemy

Like Amos, Jesus also showed a tremendous solidarity with the poor and exploited, and showed an acute awareness of social injustice and religious hypocrisy (cf. Matthew 23; Luke 4:18–21, 10:25–37). Moreover, Jesus’ conflict with the temple authorities reflects in many ways Amos’s conflict with the priesthood at Bethel (cf. Luke 19:45–47). Throughout history, the “established church” has been in danger of protecting its own worldly interests at the exclusion of the prophetic voice. In every age, the priesthood and (false) prophets are susceptible to teaching a “gospel” that the king and the people want to hear (cf. 1 Kgs 22:6–29, Jer 7:4–7, Matthew 23).—Standing in the Breach, page 502

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Now more than ever, as the "Court Evangelicals" drag the name of Christ into the mud : (
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Thursday, January 25, 2018

When is too much too much?

In solitude, perhaps like in Abraham’s case, Yhwh not only reveals His intentions but also invites prophetic participation in leading Amos into the realization that Israel has sinned themselves beyond the reach of prophetic intercession. From Amos’s two intercessions, we know that the prophet was fully committed to Israel, even if they could not bear him (cf. Amos 7:10). The overruling theological message of these visions is that when God’s word is consistently rejected, there comes eventually a time when the divine punishment can no longer be postponed. Like Abraham, Amos too is being taught by God about the meaning of divine mercy and justice (Gen 18:16–33). In contrast to Abraham, Amos is called to become a messenger of judgment and doom. This process, as we have seen, is also central to the intercessory ministry of Jeremiah. There too, the sinfulness of the people reached a level at which Yhwh had to prohibit his prophet from praying for his people (cf. Jer 7:16, 11:14, 14:11, 15:1).—Standing in the Breach, page 498

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

God changes his mind

Usually when God changes His mind, it is a gracious response, either to an intercessory prayer or because people turn back (šûb) to Him in repentance (cf. Jer 18:8–10). Thus, we conclude with Jeremias that the change of Yhwh’s mind is intrinsically connected with (1) the divine punitive intentions (2) the prophetic intercession, and (3) the postponement or the annulment of the divine judgment. In other words, divine mutability, according to the first two visions [in Amos], presupposes God’s intention to punish Israel, a prophetic plea for mercy, and God’s willingness to show grace and mercy.—Standing in the Breach, page 495

Monday, January 15, 2018

The waiting game

The God of the Bible is slow to anger and allows His prophet to affect a postponement of the intended punishment. It is important to note though that Yhwh does not explicitly forgive Israel’s guilt for which Amos has seemingly prayed. In other words, Israel is granted a period of grace. Yhwh cannot bring Himself to execute the well-deserved punishment yet.—Standing in the Breach, page 493

The silence is deafening

I've been a bit busy the last month or so. We bought a house in December and moved—to Red Wing. I also have started working for Penn State Press after they bought Eisenbrauns and the learning curve has taken a good bit of my time. In addition, I took on two editing projects that are taking a huge chunk out of the remainder of my time.

Given all that, there isn't a lot of time for reading and writing! Please bear with me for a bit. Things should calm down after January (famous last words!).

Friday, January 05, 2018

Amos or Joel? Which do you choose? And why it matters

In both the book of Joel and Amos, prophet and priest meet each other in the face of Yhwh’s imminent judgment. Interestingly, when we juxtapose the two accounts, the encounters between prophet and priest look very different. In the book of Joel, we get a sense of collaboration. Joel not only summons the priests to lead the national repentance ritual at the temple but also calls the priests to intercede for the people. It looks as though the priests followed the prophetic instructions and placed themselves between the altar of burnt offering and the porch to bring their prayers before God on behalf of the people (cf. Joel 1:13–14, 2:15–17). In the book of Amos, the prophet also meets a priest at the national sanctuary. In stark contrast to the book of Joel, there is a conflict between the prophet and the priest. Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, seeks to ban Amos from preaching a day of divine reckoning (cf. Amos 7:12–17). Interestingly, in the book of Joel the repentance ceremony and the priestly intercession mark the shift from judgment to divine mercy and restoration (Joel 2:17–18), whereas in the book of Amos the shift from divine mercy to divine judgment is marked by the priest’s prohibition on prophesy. We shall see that, by silencing the prophet, the priest also brought an end to Amos’s intercessory prayer and Yhwh’s patience. Thus, one could say that God’s patience ends where the state, represented by the priest, tries to decide when and where God may speak through the prophet.—Standing in the Breach, page 487

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Serving the people? Or serving the Lord?

Amos directs his judgment messages often against a self-indulgent individualism of the upper class of his time. Thereby, Amos and other prophets basically do what Moses did. That is, they seek to enable Israel in their time and context to live faithfully as Yhwh’s covenant people. There are points of contact not only in a common “community ethics” but also with regard to their intercessory ministries.

Let me start by drawing attention to the conflict between Amos and Amaziah. In this confrontation one can discern an ongoing biblical tension between the prophet and the institutionalized cult, a tension that is already foreshadowed in Moses and Aaron and their handling of the golden calf incident. Aaron, Barth observes, is not a charismatic figure like Moses, but the archetype of the institutionalized priesthood. Although Aaron is, as the “administrator” of the tent of meeting indispensable, he seems not to have an independent relationship to God, as do Moses and Amos (Exod 7:1–2, Amos 7:15). Aaron and Amaziah are men of the “established church.” They listen to the people’s voice. Moses and Amos, in contrast, are prophets. It is to them that God speaks directly, and thus they can intercede authoritatively with God on behalf of the sinful people and pass on the Lord’s word to Israel (Num 12:6–8, Amos 3:7). This contrast and tension comes also to expression in Jeremiah’s temple sermon ( Jeremiah 7) and reaches a dramatic climax in Jesus’ conflict with the temple establishment (cf. Matt 26:57–68).—Standing in the Breach, page 483

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Hard-hitting Amos

Amos’s messages are possibly among the darkest of all the prophets. Message after message underlines Israel’s sinfulness and Yhwh’s judgment. But what exactly is the matter? After all, the Israelites of Amos’s time are showing a great religious zeal. They go on pilgrimages to their sanctuaries in Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba. There, they bring freewill and thanksgiving offerings and tithes, and they participate in vibrant festivals (Amos 4:4–5, 5:21–24). The prosperity and peace that Israel enjoyed at that time was probably taken as evidence of divine favor and validated, in a sense, their life styles as the chosen people of God. Amos, however, exposes their hollow behavior by pointing to their self-serving ignorance and attacks primarily three major areas of sin: social injustice, corruption (Amos 2:6–8), and idolatry (Amos 5:26).—Standing in the Breach, page 480

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Sound familiar? What would Amos think of our culture? I suspect what he said to Israel would sound tame in comparison...
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