Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Up and down the kingship staircase

The second stage of Saul’s rejection is reached [in 1 Sam 15]. Chapter 13 saw the loss of dynastic status, but Saul remained as king. Although ch. 14 showed some successes, it was still critical of his leadership, especially compared with Jonathan. Just as Saul moved towards the throne through three key stages (anointing, acclamation, battle victory), his removal takes three stages (loss of dynasty, announcement of loss of rule, and death).—David Firth, Samuel, cited in ;The Unfavored, page 200

Monday, October 28, 2019

what about divine repentance?

The irrevocability of Saul’s rejection is the main subject of Moberly’s study [“Does God Change?,” pages 107–43 in Old Testament Theology: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013)], which puts forward two main ideas regarding 1 Sam 15:29 and its sibling text, Num 23:19. First, Moberly notes how these two statements define God’s non-repentance vis-à-vis human repentance. In a fashion akin to apophatic theology they demonstrate what YHWH is not: he does not lie or speak falsely, and in changing his mind he is not like a human being. This observation—supported by the occurrence of differing terms for divine (נחם) and human repentance (שׁוב)—sets an important parameter for future investigation as it explains that God repents on a different level from that of human beings: “It is not mutuality and responsiveness in relationship, but insincerity and faithlessness that are specified for denial.” Second, both texts concern election: Num 23:19 occurs in the midst of Balaam’s forced attempt to curse Israel (Num 22–24), while 1 Sam 15 is concerned with the divine choice of David, hinted in v. 28.—The Unfavored, page 176

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Round the 'net

We were traveling this last week, hence the lack of posts, but I still found time to read a bit. Here are some links I found of interest:

Roger Olson asks if it is ever wrong to forgive:

Now I know that someone will say “That’s easy for you to say because you’re white.” Well, I heard an African-American theologian and ethicist say it yesterday. And I have very close loved ones who are black. And I am personally outraged at the epidemic of unjustified shootings of black people in America. I am outraged at juries who have declined to convict some of the police officers who shot unarmed black men and women and at least one child that I know of (and saw it on television).

But as a theologian and as an ethicist, I have to affirm forgiveness even if I am not sure I could do it.

For the record, I'm with him.

Scot McKnight excerpted from Michael Gorman's new book, Participating in Christ (I'm going to have to pick that one up!):

Gorman’s thesis then is that the resurrection life of the Christian is cruciformity because cruciformity is suffused with resurrection. The cross is the pattern of life while the resurrection is the power of that life. The church, then, is faithful to the resurrection when it is cruciform.

In an attempt to salvage what's left of any decent connotations to the word "evangelical," the National Association of Evangelicals appointed a new leader—and it isn't a white male. Granted, it is a male, but it's a start. You can read about it more on the Anxious Bench:

Last week Kim, 51, was named president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), a venerable organization founded in 1942. Kim, a Korean American who grew up in Appalachia, is the first person of color to lead the NAE.
Personally, I think it's too little, too late, but you never know...

Wondering about 1 Cor 14:34? Take a look at this post. Here's the summary paragraph:

7. This explanation accounts for all the available evidential data, both external and internal. It does not conflict with any credible evidence. It resolves every historical and interpretive problem associated with these verses, including all the relevant features of the evidence from the manuscripts. No other explanation fulfils these criteria.
I know, if you aren't willing to be convinced, nothing will persuade you.

Speaking of that, Ken Schenck has some thoughts on the arch of history, ending with this zinger:

What is the right thing? I think it is clear that the last three years have been a major step back in the move toward justice. Has America become more loving toward its neighbors and the world in these last three years? The self-deception of the evangelical church has been astounding.

The attitude and comments of John MacArthur on Beth Moore this past week are representative of the heart of the evangelical church in general in America. It thinks it is standing up for God when in fact God's Spirit has left the room. I wish I could say, "Let them wither on the vine." God's truth is marching on. I hope that's true.

I can only hope along with him, but his comments on MacArthur are on the money. I used to be on his mailing list, why and how I have no idea, and he was always railing against something and saying he needed more cash in order to keep up the fight for the kingdom. I feel sorry for Peter, John, Paul, etc., because they didn't have a huge mailing list to solicit for cash. Wonder how they managed?

Claude Mariottini also weighed in on women in ministry from an Old Testament point of view, concluding with this:

Thus, the calling of women in the Old Testament to be prophets was not a fluke. It was part of God’s plan to save humanity. With the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the idea of gender, age, and social status is eliminated; now both men and women can prophesy.

This is what Paul meant when he wrote: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Joel’s prophecy and the outpouring of the Spirit reveal that God is no respecter of persons. God calls men and women to the prophetic ministry.

Beth Moore, don’t go home. God needs you in the public square proclaiming the message of hope and salvation in the name of Christ.

Amen and amen! Still on that subject, the Anxious Bench has an open letter to MacArthur, looking at the history of translation, specifically citing an early 20th century scholar named Kate Bushnell:
What was foundational to Bushnell’s entire project was her understanding of power. After a careful study of the Scriptures, she concluded that the bulk of evidence establishing men as authorities in the household, and in the church, could be traced not to the Greek Testament, but rather to English translations. Moreover, it became clear to her that no Christian man would ever seek such exaltation. Jesus himself emptied himself, became human, suffered, and died. Why, then, would men who claimed to follow Jesus seek to assert power over others? Such men who sought power over others did so in exact proportion to the sinfulness of their own hearts, she surmised.
Chew on that for a while, considering the cruciform shape of the Christian life.

Not to beat a dead horse, but Missio Alliance takes a look at the phrase "Go home":

They used to be innocent words, previously spoken billions of times by tired men and women at the end of a workday, or cheered at a baseball game as a baserunner rounded third, or offered as a salutation by college students as a holiday approached. But in an instant, these two words were magnified by the context in which they were uttered and injected with the snide meaning behind them.
Perhaps the best response was by Beth Moore herself, from the Twitter:
Here’s the beautiful thing about it & I mean this with absolute respect. You don’t have to let me serve you. That gets to be your choice. Whether or not I serve Jesus is not up to you. Whether I serve you certainly is. One way or the other, I esteem you as my sibling in Christ.
OK, enough of that. Let's talk about something edifying, such as what does "freedom" mean? The word gets thrown around, but nobody bothers to define it. More importantly, what is "freedom in Christ"? Andrew Gabriel, a Canadian theologian, attempts to define it:
as a result of this freedom, the Bible emphasizes that Christians:
* are children of God
* have no condemnation
* become slaves of Christ
* become slaves to righteousness, leading to holiness as enabled by the Spirit
* receive other benefits from living according to the Spirit, such as life and peace
* will be resurrected to eternal life.
Now you know.

And here's a long read, with a hat tip to Jim Eisenbraun for the link, on an Evryman retreat (yes, the spelling is correct):

And yet in the waning afternoon light of the retreat center, arm in arm with my Evryman brothers, I am skeptical of dwelling exclusively in the bog of my own sadness. After all, when we shed tears for the veteran Matt, we’re ignoring the extent to which his grief has been caused by his armed service, that his inability to connect with his wife stems from the foreign-policy decisions that we civilians have tacitly endorsed. Or when I lock arms with a smart-home entrepreneur, I’m invited to ignore the fact that the automation of Silicon Valley might eventually put some two million truck drivers out of work, an impending structural shift that no doubt runs the risk of increasing toxic masculinity. It is an insidious habit of our time to assume that personal deprivations don’t have social or political dimensions, that the cure-all can be found in the detour of a retreat or the ablutions of self-care. But what I feel most acutely in this moment, and during the long drive home across the byways of the Midwest, is loneliness. We had talked of an enduring brotherhood, and yet as soon as I leave the retreat center, I realize these men are strangers to me. I try to imagine them making similar journeys home, drawing divergent routes across the country, waiting out layovers in airport lounges, standing under the sickly lights of convenience stores—each man returning to his private grief.
Sad. The only hope is in Jesus and his transforming power. Now, when I say that, I'm thinking of more than just saying a prayer. I'm talking about a life transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and moving in you to make changes in the same manner as in the Wesleyan revival in the 1700s.

OK. Enough for now. That should give you a good bit to read : )

In related news, my garden is pretty much done for the year. Just brussells sprouts, kohlrabi, chard, beets, kale, and carrots left. Today I'll dig the beets and carrots, and pull the kohlrabi. Giant kohlrabi, by the way. They are probably 8–10 inches in diameter, and really sweet.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Around the 'net

A few interesting links from the last several days. First, what's the job of a CEO?
The job of an executive is: to define and enforce culture and values for their whole organization, and to ratify good decisions.

That's all.

Not to decide. Not to break ties. Not to set strategy. Not to be the expert on every, or any topic. Just to sit in the room while the right people make good decisions in alignment with their values. And if they do, to endorse it. And if they don't, to send them back to try again.

Read the rest. It sounds idealistic, given the size of too many egos. But, if it were in place, the corporate world probably would run better (to say nothing of the government, but we won't go there).

This one, on keeping the office door open is really moving. Teachers and professors never realize how big of an impact they can have on their students.

He was the first student to ever visit my office.

I wasn’t expecting him to visit. In fact, I wasn’t expecting anybody to visit. I wasn’t holding official office hours that day. My office was nearly impossible to find, set apart from the main corridor and hidden in the back corner of the building. And I was a new professor, only a few weeks into my teaching career. The students barely knew me, and I barely knew them—or anything, for that matter. I didn’t even know how to use the campus library yet.

But my door was open—it always is—and perhaps that’s the reason why Paul* arrived unannounced at my office that afternoon. My door was open, and I was present.

Paul greeted me hello, and he parked himself in the chair beside my desk. I offered him tea, and we began to chat about the warm weather and upcoming class assignments. The conversation seemed relatively normal until suddenly, mid-sentence, he fell silent and slumped over.

This blog, which I only discovered a few months ago, has become one of my favorites. With a name like Bob on Books, what's not to like! Anyway, here's one from last week:
You know you are a book hoarder if:
You cannot leave a bookstore without a book, or ten, even if you have stacks at home to read.
You would have live at least fifty years longer than most mortals live (and retain your sight) to read all your books.
You almost feel a part of yourself is being amputated when you get rid of a book even if you know you will not read, or read again the book in question.
You have books everywhere, not just on your shelves–in stacks on the floor, on tables, on furniture, in every room, perhaps in closets.
Read the rest to find out what to do. And, yes, I freely admit to being close to a book hoarder. Thanks largely to Debbie (my wife of 41 years), I'm learning to give books away more freely. I'm trying to keep my library around 1000 books. And most of those are reference works that I need for my work. OK, a large percentage of them are. Well, I like to tell myself they are, anyway. : )

The always worth reading Roger Olson posted on the wriggly world of Christian ethics. Looks like he might be working on a book. Can't wait to read it! And while you are over there, take a gander at his post on Christian worship as a concert and his take on CCM's history. I was there, too, and have to largely agree with him.

And, on a different note, what's the future of the monograph?

Hope you found something worth thinking about. I know I did.

14 years!

Today marks the fourteenth anniversary of this blog. Granted, this last year or so I've been less than regular at posting, but even so, I've posted over 5400 times. I realize that some, such as Jim West, post that much in about a day, but I'd like to think mine have a bit more substance to them. . .

The blogosphere has changed a great deal over that time. Social media has taken a huge toll on the number of bloggers. I haven't kept my blogroll up to date, largely because it's too depressing to delete the dead ones that contributed so much. My current RSS feed has about 120 or so feeds, but many of those are dead, also. And a large percentage of the ones that aren't dead aren't biblioblogs.

Now I'm starting to sound like an old man! Well, maybe I am. I'm 63, nigh unto 64. I plan on working full-time until I'm 70. After that, I'll probably (eyes permitting) continue to copyedit on a part-time basis until either my mind or my eyes fail. Will this blog survive that long with me? We'll see. Hopefully, you will find something worth reading in this little corner of the internet.

Who chooses?

The main difference between sacrifice and ḥerem seems to consist in the question of who designates what should be given to the deity. In the example of חרם [ḥrm] it is usually God who decides what falls under this category (Num 21:2–3 is an exception). In situations of זבח [zbḥ] it is the worshipper who selects, within certain parameters, what he deems suitable as a sacrifice to YHWH.—The Unfavored, page 169 n. 87

Thursday, October 17, 2019

What's going in with Agag?

Saul brings up the capturing of Agag, but offers no explanation for this curious omission from the ban. The reader is thus left guessing as to what the reasons are for this sparing of the Amalekite king. On the one hand, Saul is not at all ashamed or sorrowful because of this act, prompting one to wonder whether Agag also was intended to be sacrificed before YHWH at Gilgal. On the other hand, if anybody was most responsible for the behavior of Amalek, it was presumably their king, and thus one would expect him to be the prime candidate for the implementation of the ban. It is curious that in the previous chapter Saul was ready to kill his own son, yet here he is not willing to kill the Amalekite king, the head of the “sinners, the Amalekites.”—The Unfavored, page 165

Around the links

A quick glance at what I've found interesting in the last few days:

First, what is the proper use of Thucydides? Is the "Thucydides trap" a real thing? A Classics professor says no.

While parallels between now and then abound, lessons are less plentiful. In the end, Thucydides’ history does not instruct us on how to exploit or avoid certain situations, instead instilling the simple truth that given our nature, there will always be situations that we cannot avoid and, if we try to exploit, will have unintended consequences.

Why bother studying the past, then, if it cannot help us navigating the present? One might as well ask why bother reading Aeschylus or Sophocles if they have no useful advice on how to live our lives. Thucydides’ claim that he wrote his history not to win “the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time” is based on his tragic conception of life. Far from our being able to master events or even our own desires, events and desires will sooner or later master us. While this is not a rousing call for action, it is a call for modesty and lucidity. Especially in our own age, these virtues might still have earned the applause of Thucydides.

Stephen McAlpine looks at forgiveness, well really, he looks at unforgiveness, in our culture:
Our culture has a problem with forgiveness. We live in a post-forgiveness world. And it’s going to get brutal and cold if the trend continues. And it is trending. That’s the precise word for it, because all of the tools are available to unforgiveness to ensure it does. . . .

It was only when the gospel of Jesus Christ gave forgiveness to an astounded world, still locked into revenge and grovelling, that something did change. Until this vicious cycle was swept away by the gospel of forgiveness, nothing could change And we’ve more or less taken it for granted. Until now.

Now? The old order is back. And meaner and hungrier in light of its long absence. Its primary tool is not the actual arena, but the virtual arena, where the boos, scorns and “thumbs downs” assail those who would challenge the laws of the post-Christian Sexular Age.

Michael Gorman writes a letter that Paul probably would write to Christians in the United States:
Let me cut to the chase, brothers and sisters. Is this what your in-Christ community looks like? Is this how you decide your priorities? Your budget? Your mission activity? If you truly believe that Christ crucified is the power of God, and if you want the power of God to be at work in and through your Christian community, you will seek to become a community shaped by my master story—which is really God’s master story.

You see, the crucified Jesus was a Christophany—revealing what the Messiah is like. But it is also a theophany—revealing what God is like. And it is also an ecclesiophany—revealing what the church is supposed to be like. And ultimately it is also an anthrophany—revealing what human beings are meant to be like.

Michael Frost, while rejoicing that the "Jesus is my boyfriend" songs are gone (Praise God!), the succeeding ones still need a bit more revolutionary attitude to them:
It seems we’ve gone from Jesus-is-my-boyfriend to Jesus-is-my-savior, but we’re missing Jesus-is-our-Lord.

Christian worship should express our collective hope in Christ of a rescued, renewed and restored world, a world in which injustice, racism, hatred and violence have ended, once and for all.

Back to my book Exiles, my suggested alternative to romantic worship songs was that we ought to sing revolutionary worship songs. We need lyrics that call us into a revolution of love and justice. In fact, there hasn’t been a single revolution in history that wasn’t sung into existence.

Social change has a soundtrack.

The revolutionaries of the French, American and Bolshevik uprisings all sang about the new nation they were forging, a song they were willing to die for.

The Civil Rights movement sang Christian spirituals.

The German democratic movement that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall began with singing and prayers for freedom in a church in Leipzig in 1980.

The anti-Marcos movement in the Philippines, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, the anti-Russian movement in Ukraine – they all wrote songs to inspire their followers.

Even today on the streets of Hong Kong, millions of protesters resisting the controls imposed by Communist China have found the Christian hymn, “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” as their anthem of freedom. The song has even been banned from Chinese streaming platforms.

And to underscore the point, today, across scores of cities in the US and around the world, secular Justice Choirs are being launched, where ordinary citizens can come together to sing for social justice.

And so on. . . He could have added that the Wesleyan revival was a singing revival, as were many of the other revivals in history. And who can forget the Salvation Army with its bands? Christians should be a singing people—not an entertained people where a "worship" band gets up in front and performs! Sing together; sing alone. Sing! Read the psalms; better yet, SING the psalms!

And, a long read, but well worth your time, on Amazon and it's quest for world dominion in The New Yorker.

Grace and peace until the next round. And we do need both of them in this topsy-turvy world!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

A couple of interesting things

OK, maybe a few, not a couple. Over at Jesus Creed, Mike Glen talks about prayer. Deep prayer. Prayer so deep that it is wordless. Spirit-led, Spirit-carried prayer. Read it.

Ron Sider has a word or so on immigration. Here's a taste, but read the whole thing and think about it.

We are a nation of immigrants. At our best, we have told the world, “Give me your tired, your poor, your struggling masses yearning to be free.”

But in the last two years plus, our president has labeled would-be immigrants as rapists and druglords. He has separated children from their parents. He has made it difficult for people to use their legal right to apply for refugee status.

The number of refugees allowed into the US by Pres. Obama in his last year in office was 110,000. But by last year, Pres. Trump had cut the number to 30,000. And for next year the number is a mere 18,000.

Does the Bible have any wisdom on this situation?

And an Aussie blogger has a series on bullying in the church. Here's the link to the first one and the second one. He's promised at least a third one. Here's a taste:
In other words the success of the organisation is dependent on the self-focus of that leader to get what THEY want for themselves. If they can get what they want for themselves, the happy byproduct is that the brand can live on, indeed outwardly thrive, in the afterglow. And we run the risk of transplanting that perspective on to church in these desperate times. Actually we don’t run that risk, that’s what we have done.

The fact is people know – leaders knew – that Mark Driscoll was bullying people constantly, but they did nothing about it. Why? Because the brand was kicking goals. And boy do we need a few evangelical brands that kick a few goals. And if that is so then then a few eggs can be broken in the process. . . .

What did it take to get the leaders to listen? Sadly, the same thing it takes for secular leaders to listen; the risk to the brand. Mars Hill not only started not to kick goals because of Driscoll, but the press coverage was making it kick own-goals. Once that happened, but only once that happened, was Driscoll in trouble.

Driscoll and Hybels were unimpeachable, until the brand started to suffer. Then everyone who had enabled them for so long, and suppressed the bleating of the sheep, suddenly found voice, chucked them out; before ironically, and with no level of insight, offering themselves as the solution to the problem that they had exacerbated in the first place.

The other thing I’ve noticed too is that, depending on our theological framework, we give more leeway to our own, than to others. So Driscoll was always the enfant terrible to the progressive crowd, what with his commitment to complementarianism and substitutionary atonement and all. So it was obvious wasn’t it? Well, not to many in the Young, Restless, Reformed crowd, who were all too often “Yeah, I don’t like his style, but…”

Yet many within that same crowd gave no leeway to Hybels ever, and when he fell, pointed to the business leadership structures that he had in place, and his unfortunate tendency to surround himself with women leaders in senior pastoral roles. There was equal shock by many egalitarians that the man who most championed these women, was abusing his power over them! When should either side be surprised? When they don’t take sin seriously enough, especially in relationships that involve power disparities. . . .

You’ll notice too, that the two “whales” I mentioned started and led their own churches that turned into mini-denominations. They were the supreme leader of the church and the brand. And that is a phenomenon of the can-do attitude of the 21st century, late capitalist West. You can be your own mini-Pope, yet, ironically, with far more direct power than the actual Pope, who has all sorts of historical caveats restraining him. And for good reason. The Pope is not sitting around thinking of a new vision statement for the Church every three to five years, and then hiring and firing those around him to make it happen.

Finally, Roger Olson talks about Paul's description of a church gathering in I Corinthians and the currently popular version of a "worship" service. I might add, it isn't just evangelical churches that are falling prey to this. I've been in mainline churches that have the same approach—singing the same popular songs (well, the leaders sing them; as he says, they aren't singable by real people) with at best a pop sermon with virtually no scripture being read. No wonder the church is anemic. It's eating the equivalent of junk food.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The importance of showing hospitality

He lays wait in the valley, close to the city of Amalek, and approaches the Kenites, urging them—by the sequence of three consecutive imperatives, “Go! Leave! Withdraw!”—to depart, so that they would not be destroyed together with the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:5–6). The reason given is again related to the Israelite journey out of Egypt, where the Kenites acted towards the Israelites with kindness (ḥesed Judg 1:16), which is implicitly contrasted with the disrespectful behavior of the Amalekites. Whereas the Amalekites will perish, the Kenites are spared for their kindness and Saul makes sure that they have a chance to escape, which they use. Saul thus brings out to the open what may be implicitly part of the biblical portrayal of ḥerem: one’s ḥesed has a potential to deliver a person or a group of people from the ban.—The Unfavored, page 160

<idle musing>
And I ask, where does that put the United States, as it slams the doors and builds walls and turns away the sojourner? That is clearly, not displaying ḥesed!

I ran across a good definition of gar, the Hebrew word for a resident alien, the other day. Basically, it's the undocumented aliens in our midst. According to scripture (you do still read that, right?), we are to be hospitable to them. The consequences aren't pretty if you don't. Read the prophets and universalize it based on books in the NT like Revelation.

Turn off Fox News, CNN, etc. and read scripture. It might bring a bit of balance into your life.
</idle musing>

Some Interesting stuff

A few things I've found interesting in the last couple of days:

From Catalyst, "There Are No 'Better' People":

Reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Trumpism is ignorant of the heart of Christianity, even as it waves the flag to garner votes. The left is allergic to Christianity, as one would be if one were convinced it is not only poison, but the source of all other poisons. René Breuel is right. The problem is not just that our gospel is discredited by its association with all these isms. The gospel is God’s repair to our ruin of the world. We must respond with seriousness to the charge that the gospel is simply ruining it further. We are in a similar position then to Paul, who is convinced God is remaking the world into the creation God wants through the church. Only think of his churches! Little, bedraggled, occasionally persecuted communities scattered across the Mediterranean with few resources. Think of their misbehavior! Not just petty church peccadilloes like gossip and lust (though those are bad enough), but a man sleeping with his father’s wife, believers in the one true God playing footsie with idols, theft and lying and violence—God has wiped out whole civilizations for less. Are these the people through whom God is renewing the cosmos?

Um, yes. There are no “better” people available. The only good one is Jesus Christ, the poor Jew raised from the dead who is God’s own Son, and King, and self, all over again. God’s determination to have the creation God wants will not be thwarted by our pension for using even Christian faith as a cudgel against our enemies. God takes that cudgel from our hands and remakes it into a cross, on which God dies for us. And for our worst enemies.

Read the whole; it's well-worth your time.

The Nation asks, "Has Capitalism Become Our Religion?" You know the answer, don't you?

o be honest, I’m not sure that economics even is a science, however “dismal,” as Thomas Carlyle once dubbed it. Indeed, I think that John Ruskin was closer to the mark in Unto This Last (1862) when he compared what was then called “political economy” to “alchemy, astrology, [and] witchcraft.” As a Christian, I reject the two assumptions found in conventional economics: scarcity (to the contrary, God has created a world of abundance) and rational, self-seeking, utility-maximizing humanism (a competitive conception of human nature that I believe traduces our creation in the image and likeness of God). I think that one of the most important intellectual missions of our time is the construction of an economics with very different assumptions about the nature of humanity and the world.
Wade Burleson reflects on pride in "Pride Stains Us All and Is Erased By a Painful Fall":
Humility by deferring to others is the mark of genuine Christianity.

We don't expect non-Christians to defer to others. Pride puts self first. Humility puts others first. People by nature are proud. God's grace breaks the proud and makes them humble. Those who desire membership at Emmanuel must show evidence of a willingness to put others first for humility is the key trait of Christianity.

Emmanuel has some well-dressed adulterers, addicts, and abusers who also attend our corporate worship services too. We welcome them all. Many of them cover their selfish actions and have never been humbled. But every now and then one of them lands on the front page of the local newspaper. The scandalized in Enid are welcome at Emmanuel. We let them know that we accept them where they are, but we also know God's grace will never leave them where they currently are. It's God's business to take them to that place where they haven't yet arrived.

God gives His grace to humble the proud. And he uses His people to convey that grace which humbles.

We have homosexual couples and lesbian couples who attend Emmanuel just like we have well-dressed adulterers and sexually immoral heterosexuals who attend Emmanuel. We can't change anybody.


It's not within our capabilities to make a person not proud of behaviors that the Bible calls wicked, selfish, or ungodly.

That's God's business.

We just love people where they are and pray for the grace that humbles. People may get angry that Christians who believe the Bible refuse to celebrate with pride those behaviors the Bible calls immoral.

Read the whole to see how radical humility mixed with love can be.

And Randall Rauser takes a fresh look at Looney Tunes:

Today, the Disney classic Song of the South is recognized as racist and has been rightly consigned to the cultural hinterland. Increasingly, Looney Tunes are facing a similar exile, first for the ubiquitous violence and gun violence, in particular. I would argue that the sexual violence and aggression of the Pepe cartoons has earned them a similar ignominious fate. While I used to roll my eyes at the critics of these old cartoons as the pc police, I now realize that the critics are right: Pepe Le Pew stinks.
I hadn't watched a cartoon in years, and sometime in the last year I sat down to watch one. I was appalled at the violence. I couldn't even enjoy the humor because of the violence and also the cruelty. And I used to love cartoons.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Is there forgiveness?

It seems not—at least not in our culture. A hidden sin from when you were an unruly teenage can jump up at any time and bite, thanks to social media. Where is forgiveness then? Now, that's assuming you have repented of that hidden sin. If not, then it is chasing you deservedly. But, is our society willing to forgive at all? Seems not. I don't usually agree with First Things, but they have a piece I can definitely get behind: Cancelling Debts in Cancel Culture. Here's the opening paragraph:
In a culture that has given itself over almost entirely to extreme moral accountability, mercy often appears dangerous and reckless.
And the closing paragraphs (although you should read everything in between, too.
Jesus knew that his followers would not be able to say “Our Father” with one another unless they also said “forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.” He was reflecting ancient Jewish wisdom when he taught them to pray this way: Moses taught Israel to cancel all debts in the Jubilee Year so that the community might be preserved. Creditors and debtors will never be brothers.

Barzun noted that Western culture sowed the seeds of its own decline, as the impulses and commitments that led to its rise would ultimately lead to its own demise. Certainly, bourgeois moral accountability threatens to turn society into a fearful place of unending animosity, where no man is a brother and everyone fears the retribution that will inevitably come to him. Food that might strengthen a sick man is often rejected because the illness makes it unpalatable to him. America has been shown healing nourishment in the mercy of Jean and Kemp, and our society will become stronger if it learns, marks, and inwardly digests it. I suspect that Jean and Kemp have won a sister, and I am certain that their example has inspired many Christians to strengthen bonds with others through the cancelling of debts, a grace and mercy that will never cease to be a scandal.

Monday, October 07, 2019

And some good news

I'm starting to link to the posts of others again. So, here's a post by Ted Gossard about lacking nothing:
In the topsy-turvy existence in which we live, we hardly ever see ourselves not in need of something. Or what the world tells us we need through advertising, or even what the state requires by law. On top of that, we have our own expectations for ourselves, our wishes, even dreams.

Then there’s this psalm telling us that with the Lord as our shepherd, we indeed lack nothing. . . <more>

Do yourself a favor today; read the rest.

Read this. And weep.

I don't care which side of the political mess you are in, you need to read this:

Sure, it's long, but read it without taking your presuppositions in (either side) and then make a decision.

Of course, I doubt that any will change their minds. Why do I think that? Because I started reading Ezekiel today, and I suspect that it pretty much describes the "court evangelicals" and the remaining 82% of white evangelicals who voted for the current ruler.

Read the first couple of chapters of Ezekiel, and maybe throw in a bit of Jeremiah, and then read this in Romans 2:24:

As it is written: The name of God is discredited by the Gentiles because of you. (quoting from Isa 52:5 LXX)
Revival? More like deep delusion. Remember, judgment begins in the house of God and the first step in revival is always repentance...

Those of you who are Dispensationalists, take a look at the current ruler and ask yourselves if maybe he doesn't fit the role you've given to far too many others. Then ask yourself why you are following him.

And while you're thinking, maybe take a look at a few of those scripture verses that talk about caring for others and dying to self. You don't need to become a "progressive" (whatever that's supposed to mean) to care for the downtrodden. On the contrary, the longest running revival that I'm aware of was the Wesleyan revival in the 18th century, which was all about caring for the physical as well as spiritual needs of the poor and downcast. It wasn't popular among the upper class—real Christianity rarely is, after all, who wants to die to self? Especially when that means giving up what you hold dear to you? Not without reason did Jesus say it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom!

Friday, October 04, 2019

Reading the text as is

I regard this discrepancy between what YHWH would do and what Israel should do a typical characteristic of the mutuality of their relationship. Even though these differences may be explained by pointing to different textual sources, I see theological value in trying to understand them as saying something complementary about the relationship between God and his people.—The Unfavored, page 158 n. 40

<idle musing>
I like that. The whole "canonical approach" can be an excuse to not look at the back-history of the text, but so also the historical-critical approach can miss the theological nuggets hiding in plain sight in the received text. One or the other? No, both and.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Read this!

Read the latest post by Roger Olson. You owe it to yourself and those you know. And if it doesn't scare you, as he says, you aren't paying attention.

Sound like anyone you know?

Furthermore, because Amalek assaulted the weakest of Israel, he is labeled in Deut 25:18 as one who “does not fear God.” According to Moberly, the phrase “fear of God” in the Old Testament signifies “moral restraint out of respect for God, a moral restraint specifically that refuses to take advantage of a weaker party when it would be possible to do so with apparent impunity.” This fundamental respect for life the Amalekites, at least according to Deut 25:17–19, did not embody. Moberly’s conclusion describes the logic of the ban well: “Its logic appears to be that the attack on defenseless people constitutes such a fundamental denial of God that those who do such things thereby deny their own humanity and so lay themselves open to a treatment not otherwise given to other human beings.” It was the malicious attack upon the most vulnerable of Israel that was behind Israel’s animosity towards Amalek and YHWH’s order of the ban in 1 Sam 15:32 They respected neither human conventions nor God, and therefore became liable to be subjected to this horrifying ordeal.—The Unfavored, page 156

<idle musing>
That sounds amazingly like the current policies of the United States, doesn't it?
</idle musing>

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Word-play in Numbers 14?

In Num 14:39–45 the Israelites, despite Moses’s warning, go to Canaan and are attacked by the Amalekites and the Canaanites, who pursue them in battle as far as Hormah (Num 14:45). The last word of the chapter is ָחְרָמה with the definite article attached to it. It likely stands for a place, but given our present discussion, it is worth noting that it comes from the verbal root חרם. Is it possible that Israel was pursued, among others by Amalek, almost to destruction?—The Unfavored, pages 155–56 n. 26