If we omit the ethical challenge of the kingdom, our newly found this-worldliness will simply conﬁrm our selﬁsh consumerist/materialistic, upwardly mobile, late—modern lifestyle; that is, our afﬁrmation of the world (our holistic vision of salvation) will be construed to beneﬁt us (whoever we are), while we ignore the needs of the wider world, especially the concrete needs of people who are different from our favored in—group. The tragedy is that many upwardly mobile North American Christians today often hoard and guard their religious identity and economic privilege, with little concern for the poor or for immigrants, or those of other nations, cultures, or religions. This problem is, of course, not limited to North Americans or even specifically to Christians. But, given the primary audience of this book, and the extraordinary religious and economic privilege of those living in North America, we need to take this challenge seriously.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 273
Thursday, December 31, 2020
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Monday, December 28, 2020
Historically, however, many Christians have had the opposite problem. We have not expected enough. And what we have expected, we have often delayed until “heaven” and the return of Christ. We have not really believed that God cares about this world of real people in their actual historical situations, which often are characterized by oppression and suffering. Our understanding of salvation has been characterized by an unbiblical otherworldliness. So our expectations of the future have often not reflected the full-orbed good news that Jesus proclaimed at Nazareth.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 271
Thursday, December 24, 2020
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
The message of the kingdom that Jesus brings is good news most fundamentally because we, no less than his original hearers, desperately need the healing and redemption that he came to bring, a redemption that touches all we do. For we are, in multiple ways, caught up in the brokenness of the world, complicit in sin not just at the individual level but also as part and parcel of the fallen social order, which is out of whack with God’s purposes, living in a creation that is groaning for redemption. And we yearn for healing. The good news is that the coming of God’s kingdom impacts the entirety of our lives—our bodies, our work, our families, all our social relationships, even our relationship to the earth itself. The good news of the kingdom is nothing less than the healing (literally, the establishing) of the world (tikkûn 'ôlām), in which we are all invited to participate.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 261–62
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
Monday, December 21, 2020
Friday, December 18, 2020
Thursday, December 17, 2020
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
In a title/subtitle and bibliographies, the word "Its" and all forms of the verb "to be" are capitalized!
That is all. Thanks! It would save copyeditors a ton of time.
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
After going through the Covid-19 verbal questions and sitting in the appropriately spaced waiting room, the nurse called my name and escorted me back to the preliminary screening area where they check your weight, height, pulse, temperature, and who knows what else those things monitor now. Anyway, the pulse monitor said my pulse was 55, which is high for me, but I suffer from "white coat syndrome," which is a fancy term for the fact that I get elevated blood pressure, faster pulse, and all the rest of the stuff related to stress, when I visit a doctor. But that pulse caused the nurse to look at me and ask in somewhat alarmed voice, "Do you normally have a low pulse?" I assured her that my resting pulse was actually lower than that (about 45–50). She shook her head, readjusted the finger monitor, and then, because it didn't change, she manually checked my pulse. In an unbelieving tone, she said, "Hnh. It's correct."
OK, I thought it was humorous. Your mileage may vary. But I guess it just shows that clinics aren't used to getting healthy people—or maybe there just aren't enough of us left anymore? After all, they say that 2/3 of the people in the US are overweight and 1/2 of those are obese. There's no way that someone carrying around all that extra weight will have a pulse rate below 60!
Monday, December 14, 2020
Friday, December 11, 2020
Wednesday, December 09, 2020
Monday, December 07, 2020
Wednesday, December 02, 2020
Salvation is here conceived as reconciliation or making peace between those who are at enmity, presumably by removing the source of that enmity, namely, sin. Indeed, [Col 1] verse 20 contains the idea of atonement through the blood of Christ; this is how reconciliation is achieved. But in contrast to much Christian preaching, which emphasizes that the blood of Christ was shed for “me” (and we are told to put our name there), Colossians 1 does not myopically limit the efficacy of Christ’s atonement to the individual or even to humanity. Without denying that the atonement suffices for individual people, the text applies the reconciliation effected by Christ’s shed blood as comprehensively as possible, to “all things, whether on earth or in heaven.”<idle musing>
This wording brings us back to verse 16 (just four verses earlier), which afﬁrms that in Christ “all things in heaven and on earth were created.” When Verse 17 goes on to say that “in him all things hold together,” we are warranted in thinking that the reconciliation spoken of in verse 20 continues and brings to completion Christ’s unifying work as creator, which has been disrupted by sin. The point is that redemption is as wide as creation; it is literally cosmic in scope.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 158–59
That's pretty big, isn't it? And you are worried about anything? Then your god (lower case "g") is too small!
Tuesday, December 01, 2020
Monday, November 30, 2020
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Friday, November 20, 2020
Thursday, November 19, 2020
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Monday, November 16, 2020
Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Would that someone would tell many modern-day "evangelicals" this! I really like the Anabaptist saying, "No transformation, no salvation." Now, before you accuse me of works righteousness and all that, let me say that all of the transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit, empowering and giving the desire to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Thursday, November 05, 2020
Wednesday, November 04, 2020
1 Give thanks to the Lord because he is good,<idle musing>
because his faithful love lasts forever.
2 Let Israel say it:
“God’s faithful love lasts forever!”
3 Let the house of Aaron say it:
“God’s faithful love lasts forever!”
4 Let those who honor the Lord say it:
“God’s faithful love lasts forever!”
5 In tight circumstances, I cried out to the Lord.
The Lord answered me with wide-open spaces.
6 The Lord is for me[a]—I won’t be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?
7 The Lord is for me—as my helper.
I look in victory on those who hate me.
8 It’s far better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust any human.
9 It’s far better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust any human leader.
Especially verses 8–9: don't put your trust in anyone but the Lord.
Whoever "wins" this thing is subservient to—and must someday answer to—the Lord. Our calling as Christians is to be peacemakers, spreaders of shalom in the fullest sense of the meaning of that word: not just peace, but wholeness, healing, flourishing.
Tuesday, November 03, 2020
In other words, if most Americans pulled together to do the right thing and wore a mask in public [95 percent, from the previous paragraph], this simple, selfless act would save more than 130,000 lives in the next few months alone. If mask-wearers increased to just 85 percent, the model predicts it would save about 96,000 lives across the country.<idle musing>
What’s important here aren’t the precise numbers. It’s the realization that, under any scenario, this pandemic is far from over, and, together, we have it within our power to shape what happens next. If more people make the decision to wear masks in public today, it could help to delay—or possibly even prevent—the need for future shutdowns. As such, the widespread use of face coverings has the potential to protect lives while also minimizing further damage to the economy and American livelihoods. It’s a point that NIH’s Anthony Fauci and colleagues presented quite well in a recent commentary in JAMA.
In my words: If you love your neighbor, you will keep social distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands. What is so difficult about that? It's time to grow up and realize the world isn't about you and what your so-called rights. Especially as a Christian, you are called to love your neighbor.
If you can't even put on a mask, that doesn't speak well of your commitment to Jesus. Just an
Monday, November 02, 2020
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
For the music leader. Do not destroy. A psalm of Asaph. A song.
I needed that today. The psalm starts out and ends with praise to YHWH, what is called an inclusio. The inclusio surrounds judgment on the evil and those who wield power unjustly. We live in the midst of that, we are called to live in the inclusio, praising God. It's a choice—sometimes not an easy one—but a choice nonetheless. We make that decision every moment of every day.
That's where I'm choosing to stand today. And I trust God for the power of the Holy Spirit to live it in me, because I can't do it on my own.
What about you? What will you choose?
Sunday, October 25, 2020
Friday, October 23, 2020
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Monday, October 12, 2020
Sunday, October 11, 2020
What sort of purpose the author had in view during the composition of these 176 verses, I do not know. In any case, this “psalm” is the most meaningless product that one ever used to blacken paper; one could more easily wear down a heretic with it than with all seven penitential psalms.Original German:
Was der Autor bei der Abfassung dieser 176 Verse für einen Zweck im Auge gehabt hat, weiss ich nicht. Jedenfalls ist dieser ‘Psalm’ das inhaltsloseste Produkt, das jemals Papier Schwarz gemacht hat; mit ihm könnte man einen Ketzer eher mürbe Machen als mit sämtlichen sieben Bußpsalmen.—Bernhard Duhm, Die Psalmen, 2nd ed., KHC 14 (Tübingen: Mohr, 1922), 427–28Cited in ch. 3 of Bernd Schipper, The Hermeneutics of Torah: Proverbs 2, Deuteronomy, and the Composition of Proverbs 1–9 (Atlanta: SBL Press, forthcoming). Needless to say, very few people would adhere to that view today!
Friday, October 09, 2020
Wednesday, October 07, 2020
Monday, October 05, 2020
Friday, October 02, 2020
Thursday, October 01, 2020
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
The Genesis creation account provides a normative basis to critique interhuman injustice or the misuse of power over others, whether in individual cases or in systemic social formations. Specifically, since both male and female are made in God’s image with a joint mandate to rule (Gen. 1:27-28), this calls into question the inequities of power between men and women that have arisen in patriarchal social systems and various forms of sexism throughout history. And since the imago Dei is prior to any ethnic, racial, or national divisions (see Gen. 10), this provides an alternative to ethnocentrism, racism, or any form of national superiority; beneath the legitimate diversity of cultures that have developed in the world, people constitute one human family.—J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 52
Monday, September 28, 2020
What I’m ultimately railing against is compulsion. The compulsion to groom yourself a certain way to meet (usually very white and bourgeois) standards of “respectability.” Why do I feel “better” when I’ve blowdried my hair? What is better about allocating fifteen minutes of my precious day to standing on front of a mirror with a round brush? What I really crave is the same sort of relief I did back as a teen: I’ve met the status quo, and can breathe comfortably, at least for a bit, within it.<idle musing>
But hair, and makeup, has to be redone. Clothes need to be repurchased. The body has to be regimened to maintain its “appropriate” size. Hair needs cutting, blow dryers need replacing, skin care needs refreshing. The work of meeting the status quo is never finished, and depending on your race and class and body and age, the amount of work to do is not just exhausting, but impossible. (emphasis original)
I remember reading a few years ago that most women wear makeup for the sake of how they appear other women. A survey done in Britain actually found that most men prefer women without makeup. I know I do. The natural vitality of a person shows so much better without being hidden by a foundation that is designed to make everything "perfect." Consider joining the women who are experiencing the freedom from vanity!
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
It’s time, and past time, for the adults in the room to step forward, and for those who should be adults to act like it. We cannot keep escalating our toxic discourse, including our toxic social media postings that are just kindling for the fire. Whether our future is authoritarian, or one of Balkanization, or civil war in our cities (which we have already tasted in some places), each signals the death of “the land that we love.” Each signals the triumph of the argument over the game.Are you an adult? Act like it and think before you hit posst! Better yet, post something that reflects the concern for the person(s) involved that reflects the idea that they are created in the image of God, as are you. Get out of the judgment seat and into the compassion seat. Let the Holy Spirit guide you, not vengeance and hate. 'Nuff said.
Some of today's "religious leaders" would do well to heed his advice! It seems that far too many of them are more concerned with amassing things and influence than they are in "aiding a creature." I suspect that is why Jesus said that the last shall be first and the first shall be last—and stressed that the leader should be the servant of all. As usual, we turn Jesus on his head and do the opposite and call it piety! Lord, have mercy!
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
In Man Is Not Alone he wrote: “Evaluating faith in terms of reason is like trying to understand love as a syllogism and beauty as an algebraic equation.” Instead, he argued that piety is a phenomenon that must be described on its own terms, as an attitude, a way of thinking in which the pious person feels God to be always close and present: “Awareness of God is as close to him as the throbbing of his own heart, often deep and calm, but at times overwhelming, intoxicating, setting the soul aﬁre.” Piety gives rise to reverence, which sees the “dignity of every human being” and “the spiritual value which even inanimate things inalienably possess.”—Susannah Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, xxi
Monday, September 21, 2020
Saturday, September 19, 2020
“It is a commonly accepted idea that law was introduced in human societies as a shield against revenge and retaliation, both expressions of disorder. It is assumed that order depends on rigorous respect for the law issued by political authorities or local communities. This is true up to a certain point, inasmuch as a legal rule usually meets the implicit requirement of justice, in other words when it does not contradict the notions of fairness, honesty, and rectitude.
“But the assumption that the rule of law is necessarily and always just is far from self-evident. Examples of unjust laws are numerous nowadays, and lead to popular revolts when the brink of acceptance is reached. Law then reveals itself unable to maintain order. What brings peace and stability is basically justice. A rule of law is just a tool, a technical instrument framing the relationship between individuals or institutions. The purpose of the rule is to follow justice, namely the ethical and moral values that are supposed to underlie it. If not, law becomes nothing but a hollow sham or even worse, a means of oppression.”
 This opinion is summarized in the following statement by Francis Bacon (1625): “Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.”
 One of the best modern examples is probably the law and order movement that developed by the middle of the 1960s in America, both as a social ideal and a political slogan. See Flamm (2005) [Law and Order: Street Crime, Civil Unrest, and the Crisis of Liberalism in the 1960s. Columbia Studies in Contemporary American History. New York: Columbia University Press.]
Who knew when she wrote those words in 2013 how timely they would be in describing our world today! We can still learn much from the ancient world!
Thursday, September 17, 2020
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Bonhoeffer had a word for that: Cheap grace. Which isn't really grace at all; it is presumption. And it cheapens the cross and makes a mockery of Christianity.
Monday, September 14, 2020
Friday, September 11, 2020
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Army ants will sometimes walk in circles until they die. The workers navigate by smelling the pheromone trails of workers in front of them, while laying down pheromones for others to follow. If these trails accidentally loop back on themselves, the ants are trapped. They become a thick, swirling vortex of bodies that resembles a hurricane as viewed from space. They march endlessly until they’re felled by exhaustion or dehydration. The ants can sense no picture bigger than what’s immediately ahead. They have no coordinating force to guide them to safety. They are imprisoned by a wall of their own instincts. This phenomenon is called the death spiral. I can think of no better metaphor for the United States of America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.<idle musing>
The U.S. enters the ninth month of the pandemic with more than 6.3 million confirmed cases and more than 189,000 confirmed deaths. The toll has been enormous because the country presented the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus with a smorgasbord of vulnerabilities to exploit. But the toll continues to be enormous—every day, the case count rises by around 40,000 and the death toll by around 800—because the country has consistently thought about the pandemic in the same unproductive ways.
Many Americans trusted intuition to help guide them through this disaster. They grabbed onto whatever solution was most prominent in the moment, and bounced from one (often false) hope to the next. They saw the actions that individual people were taking, and blamed and shamed their neighbors. They lapsed into magical thinking, and believed that the world would return to normal within months. Following these impulses was simpler than navigating a web of solutions, staring down broken systems, and accepting that the pandemic would rage for at least a year.
Do read the rest and ponder it. The US is a broken system (calling it a system, even a broken one, is a compliment!) that is in dire need of overhaul. And that overhaul needs to start in every heart; we need to address the fact that our radical individualism is destroying us, and I mean each one of us. We are not independent entities who can create our own meaning. There is a reality out there that is larger than each person and it can destroy us if we don't work together. Sure you might "sacrifice" a little bit, but it isn't really a sacrifice because in the end all will benefit.
I could go on, but you already know everything I would say—most of you could probably say it better than I anyway. Just crying into the wind in an
Wednesday, September 09, 2020
Tuesday, September 08, 2020
Friday, September 04, 2020
Just another step down the ladder to totalitarianism. He's got his Brown Shirts already in the form of the "proud boys." And he's tried to make the DHS people his personal thugs. The cities are burning (not as much as he would have us think they are) because of his policies and he wants us to think it is because of his opponents?
Sorry. I don't follow the logic there.
Thursday, September 03, 2020
The good news, on the other hand, is that when we participate in worship of the one true God, the result is that we become increasingly sensate and insightful——we see, hear, smell, and touch the God~crafted reality of the created order, and we correctly recognize that it points to truths about God’s very self. And in so doing we are set free to be fully human once again; that is, we are increasingly conformed to the image of the Son, the truly human one, the one who fully images God.—Matthew Bates in Salvation by Allegiance Alone, 155
Wednesday, September 02, 2020
Tuesday, September 01, 2020
Monday, August 31, 2020
From the above, we can conclude that what it meant to be in the image/idol of a god in the ancient Near East was not about having a singularly unique capacity, such as reason or a soul that might separate humans from the animals; rather the image served as a holistic manifestation of the divine presence to those who might encounter the deity in and through the image. Yet the deity remained transcendent beyond the image. Not just in the ancient Near Eastern world of the Old Testament but also during the time of Jesus, many pagans living in the Mediterranean region believed that their idols were a nexus of the mundane and the divine, a complex portal where heaven and earth kissed. As Nijay Gupta has recently concluded on the basis of his study of Greco-Roman cult statues, from the pagan vantage point idols (1) were not merely human creations but also divine; (2) were living; (3) were able to see, hear, and speak; (4) could sometimes move; and (5) were capable of “saving” their worshipers from illness, danger, or trouble [Gupta, "They Are Not Gods!," 712–718]. To meet the image was to encounter the god or goddess who was imbued and manifested in the image and who acted through it.—Matthew Bates in Salvation by Allegiance Alone, 150