Thursday, April 30, 2020
A counter-cultural God
In one of the most profound passages he ever wrote, Paul points out that the Christian God revealed in the crucified Jesus could not be more different from this ([1 Cor] 1:18—2:16). By journeying down into the human condition and ultimately accepting a shameful death, Jesus revealed that God was a reaching God, an inclusive and gentle God, who valued everyone, including the most despised and marginalized. Those whom society looked down on, God was especially concerned about and eager to reach. (The older theological term for this virtue was “condescension,” but it has now been inverted into its opposite, being freighted with unhelpful connotations of superiority and haughtiness.) This is what a Christian leader should look like. It could hardly be more dramatically countercultural, and Paul lived this leadership style out in person.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 98
Indeed! Measure the current crop of megachurch pastors against those standards. How do they measure up? Right. I suspect Paul would have a few choice words for their lifestyle. Just an
Wednesday, April 29, 2020
Chemosh vs. YHWH
Remember those in prison
Tuesday, April 28, 2020
About some of those comparative models that people use…
What is church all about then?
Monday, April 27, 2020
The ineffectiveness of preaching
Friday, April 24, 2020
Thought for the day
Our investigations indicate there are no epidemiologists, virologists, or infectious disease doctors in the entire freaking world who think Trump is right about this stuff. The President is talking through his hat and wishing on a star.Yep.
Following the example
Thursday, April 23, 2020
Is this church?
the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)But someone might ask me, is this really what church is all about? Is church basically ethical? Is it focused on how we behave and relate to one another? Is this it?
If we turn to the earliest Christian community we know about from Paul, the Thessalonians, the short answer is “yes, it is.”—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 65–66
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
Read this article!
When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.And this:
Both parties were slow to grasp how much credibility they’d lost. The coming politics was populist. Its harbinger wasn’t Barack Obama but Sarah Palin, the absurdly unready vice-presidential candidate who scorned expertise and reveled in celebrity. She was Donald Trump’s John the Baptist.and finally,
The fight to overcome the pandemic must also be a fight to recover the health of our country, and build it anew, or the hardship and grief we’re now enduring will never be redeemed. Under our current leadership, nothing will change. If 9/11 and 2008 wore out trust in the old political establishment, 2020 should kill off the idea that anti-politics is our salvation. But putting an end to this regime, so necessary and deserved, is only the beginning.Tolle! Lege! And then put legs to it!
We’re faced with a choice that the crisis makes inescapably clear. We can stay hunkered down in self-isolation, fearing and shunning one another, letting our common bond wear away to nothing. Or we can use this pause in our normal lives to pay attention to the hospital workers holding up cellphones so their patients can say goodbye to loved ones; the planeload of medical workers flying from Atlanta to help in New York; the aerospace workers in Massachusetts demanding that their factory be converted to ventilator production; the Floridians standing in long lines because they couldn’t get through by phone to the skeletal unemployment office; the residents of Milwaukee braving endless waits, hail, and contagion to vote in an election forced on them by partisan justices. We can learn from these dreadful days that stupidity and injustice are lethal; that, in a democracy, being a citizen is essential work; that the alternative to solidarity is death. After we’ve come out of hiding and taken off our masks, we should not forget what it was like to be alone.
The freedom of faith
Alternatively, Christians are all independent entities that gather together consensually to affirm the basis of their gathering. They are like a bag of marbles. They get collected together into the bag for church on Sunday, and then get thrown out of the bag to cannon around for the rest of the week with all the other marbles in the world. (Perhaps they regather in a small bag on Wednesday nights for home group.) Here again the terms of the gathering are to the fore, and the nature of the interactions between the marbles is secondary.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 63
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
But, what if…
Second, God gave us brains, and it is okay to use them. Faith will always be belief in things we cannot know, but it does not require turning a blind eye to things that can be known. Nor does it require forcing the evidence to fit any particular viewpoint in order to “prove” a certain perspective. Studying the Bible can and should change what we believe about who God is. The more we learn, the more our faith grows and matures. Sometimes that growth is uncomfortable, and sometimes it takes us places we did not expect, but God does not abandon us along the journey.— Josey Bridges Snyder in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, p. 124
Who are we?
We need to let this insight sink down into our bones. We are our relationships.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 61
Monday, April 20, 2020
What's a believer to do?
I am still a person of faith grounded in my belief in one, true God. However, I no longer feel that beliefs about other deities in the ancient world are irrelevant to my faith. Beliefs about the God of Israel did not emerge in a void. The ancient world was full of ideas about the gods and how they interacted with the human and natural world, and the Israelites were clearly familiar with these other peoples and their deities.
Whether the earliest Israelites themselves worshipped one god or many—a question debated among scholars of the ancient world—we know that they lived in a world where the existence of multiple deities was assumed. Moreover, examination of these other gods and the beliefs and practices associated with them reveals many similarities with the beliefs and practices of the earliest Israelites.— Josey Bridges Snyder in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, p. 115
What taking the form of a servant looks like
Christ Iesus . . . being in the form Of God,—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey,57–58
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he emptied himself
by taking the form of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Phil. 2:6—8, NIV modiﬁed)
One can't help but make a comparison to many of today's megachurch pastors, with their expensive toys. But, as Jesus said, the last will be first and they have already received their reward. 'Nuff said.
Friday, April 17, 2020
Among the gods
He emptied himself
The church today is especially aware of this dilemma. The modern missionary movement was launched by Christians from Europe and the USA, areas that were the cradle of the industrial revolution, which in turn catapulted these regions to enormous accumulations of capital and to global dominance. Consequently, missionaries sent out from these regions to evangelize other parts of the world arrived with vast amounts of capital, in material, political, and cultural terms. The result was frequently a pernicious colonial dynamic. Converts were framed in terms of need and were victimized and infantilized. Missionaries were framed in terms of provision and identified with European mores—often described as quintessentially white values. Authentic relationships were distorted and difficult. What are we to do? Can Paul help us here?
In fact he can. Although he was not materially rich, Paul was rich in cultural capital. He was highly educated, well connected back in his homeland, and a leader. He was accustomed to organizing, pronouncing, and formulating and directing policy. So he was a wealthy person compared with the despised handworkers who occupied one of the lowest echelons in the ancient city and had no such training, connections, or confidence. But what did he do?
It is highly significant that Paul arrived in Thessalonica looking like the people he was hoping to befriend and to convert. He adopted the persona of a handworker and worked alongside the humble Thessalonians.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 57
Thursday, April 16, 2020
The god we have
Do you really want to be friends?
There is a simple way to test if this is what we are doing.
Will we initiate and stay in relationship with someone if they never become a Christian? If the answer is yes, then we are conducting our relationship in the right spirit. If the answer is no, then we are lapsing at some point into one or more of the power-plays just described.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 55
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Just a societal construct?
This line of thinking offers a robust answer to the question of YHWH's ancient look-alikes. Chemosh and YHWH resemble one another because they are both patron gods of the southern Levant, and therefore generated by many of the same societal needs and conditions. This approach has the advantage of simplicity. It faces the phenomena of similarity and renders a squarely historical account of it. It would seem, however, to create an insuperable drawback: it results in a YHWH who is as dead, absent, and otiose as all the other ancient deities long since consigned to the “graveyard of the gods.” Not only would this result fly in the face of the Bible’s bedrock confidence in YHWH’s livingness; it would belie the basic sensibility of Jews and Christians that their communities relate to a true divine counterpart.—Collin Cornell in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, p. 111 (emphasis original)
It is true that Christians do want to convert people to their own position, as Paul did. There will be judgment on non-Christian behavior as well. Change of a certain sort can be expected. But if we lead with this agenda and only this, we lapse into this somewhat unattractive missionary imperialism. We must, rather, place these concerns within the correct broader framework, and that begins with the reorientation of our intentions.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 54
Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Those pesky gods
He was open to what we have called strange friendships. He was inclusive. God had sent him to the pagans he had previously despised, but he had gotten to know them now for several years and found that many of them were really quite nice people. God loved them and had a wonderful plan for their lives.
Paul was also highly motivated. He was prepared to travel. This meant covering geographical distances. But it meant traveling across social distances as well. He was prepared to hang out in unexpected places, and he couldn’t do this—or couldn’t do it as easily and constantly—before the breakthrough in Antioch, when he was observing Jewish practices vigilantly. Jews cannot eat and drink with people all the time, and they have scheduling clashes, while various pagan social spaces are downright problematic. Jews don’t want to be too exposed to pagan idols, or to corpses, thereby incurring corpse impurity, or to eat food with blood in it. Paul’s new flexibility with respect to food, drink, and timetabling meant he could access new social spaces without these impediments. Unexpected places offered strange new friendships, and these friendships could be with anyone, whether someone of high status like Sergius Paulus, or of low status, like Lydia. No one was too important or too unimportant to talk to and to befriend.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 49
Monday, April 13, 2020
Do they even exist?
It's a matter of whom you know
Paul and Barnabas traveled from Antioch to Salamis on Cyprus, Barnabas’s homeland. This was a family network within a broader Jewish network. Sergius Paulus’s conversion is unusual because it was so dramatic and sudden—a direct work of the Holy Spirit. But once that conversion had been made, Paul traveled to Pisidian Antioch exploring his family network, a1though this time of an out—and—out pagan family. And Paul’s later letter to the Galatians suggests that more than just family members converted in Pisidian Antioch. Whole households turned to Jesus (see Gal. 6:10). Households in the ancient world, especially wealthy ones, contained more than immediate families. They were full of relatives, friends, retainers, and slaves. The household of a wealthy upper-class Roman also anchored a network of clients spreading out from their immediate area to other dependent households in their cities and to their country estates—their patronage network. Clearly Paul worked all these contacts in Pisidian Antioch and as they extended down the Via Sebaste. He could travel and be supported as far as letters of introduction from the Sergi Pauli had influence, although they could not guarantee his safety in other cities.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 48–49
Sunday, April 12, 2020
Around the 'net
First off, the thing everybody has been talking about for the last few weeks, the corona virus. Let's start with a bit of historical stuff as ANE Today takes a look, ranging from antiquity on.
Of course, there is the economic end, as Mike Frost asks "What is the Worth of Another Person's Life?" Some good insights there; do read it. And then there are the food shortages—or are they shortages? This NPR story looks at a different side of the problem: food rotting in the field because the normal market, restaurants, has dried up. Too much food in the wrong places. Food shelves desperately need it, but how to get it to them?
What about the social side of this? George Yancey takes a look and makes some suggestions. Read it, and be sure to keep what he says in context. He is not saying to ignore the health officials. He's saying we need input from all the interrelated disciplines to come to a good decision. And that isn't just when it comes the the corona virus, either!
The rise of anti-Asian feelings is also a concern. The Anxious Bench discusses some of them and what a Christian response should be. Read it and weep for those who are attacked. And for the attackers, who feel it is necessary to respond in hatred. May the love of Christ set them free!
And what to do to recover economically from this? The Hill has an op-ed worth reading. The guy has good creds, too: "Richard Vague is Pennsylvania’s acting Secretary of Banking and Securities. He previously was a managing partner of Gabriel Investments, based in Philadelphia, and co-founder and CEO of Energy Plus, Juniper Financial, and First USA Bank. He is the author of “A Brief History of Doom” (2019), which analyzed the world’s largest financial crises of the past 200 years. The opinions expressed here are his own." I've read bits and pieces of that book at the library; it's a fascinating read.
What about the other side of this? Pete Enns meditates on it via the book of Ecclesiastes. Good stuff! And Stephen McAlpine asks if the post-virus world will be all that new, as some people say it will. Hint: It won't. People will still be selfish. But he isn't going to let that stop the hugging that will happen. While Chris Gehrz warns us to "Beware the Return to Normalcy."
And why is it so hard to create an accurate model of how the virus spreads? FiveThirtyEight explains; well, they give you an overview of why. It's actually even more complicated, but they say their editors won't let them get too deep. Good thing; what they do explain is complicated enough!
What about the theological side of this thing? Apparently someone wrote a new Easter hymn, but Ponder Anew explains why it focuses on the wrong things. You should also read Pope Francis's March 27 address. Good stuff in there. And while you are at it, take a look at Philip Jenkins post "And Mercy Danced." Mercy always has the last word.
You've seen or read about those who are claiming Ps 91, right? Well, Assembly of God theologian Andrew Gabriel takes a look. Remember, he's a pentecostal, so he's no stranger to the miraculous. If he were a cessationist, you could just discount what he says, but he's experienced the power of God, which makes his insights more valuable.
Let's end this string of virus posts with two feel-good ones: Fort Wayne, IN is urging people to come outdoors every night at 7:00 to wave to their neighbors. And a five-year-old boy in the town down the road from us, Lake City, is making driftwood crosses.
OK, other stuff also has been happening! Righting America asks whether the progressive theologians' obsession with fundamentalism has skewed their theology. Spoiler: it has. But, I would say it has also skewed the theology of "big-tent" evangelicals, as well. We should be defining our positions with respect to the scriptures, but instead we end up defining them vis-a-vis some real or imagined opponent.
That thought segues nicely into John Hawthorne's post "On Evangocentrism." Take a look and then take a gander at the Bible. Which one defines your outlook more? I pray it wouldn't be your peer-group or chosen tribe, but instead be the King of kings. But I fear that, in my own life at least, it is far too often the former instead of the latter.
Let's shift gears here a bit, heading back into the ancient world of scripture. Mike Glenn talks about watching idols topple, while RJS talks about dates and numbers in their setting. And Scot McKnight discusses Ancient War Atrocities, Now Compared to the Bible's, and Our Reluctant War God. That whole series has been good. I need to buy the book!
Stick with me! We're almost done. Roger Olson, using strict Calvinist Charles Hodge's definition, explains why Calvinism is "impossible." Read the post; he is correct.
Let me end with a link to how Gore, the company that invented Gore-Tex, tests their products. Pretty amazing!
And here's a view out my study window this Easter morning! He is risen!
Friday, April 10, 2020
Whom do you know? It matters!
Thursday, April 09, 2020
Some good news
Ever since the novel coronavirus arrived on U.S. soil, disrupting lives and now, making access to food and other necessities more difficult for many, a number of little free library volunteer stewards -- both registered and unregistered with the Little Free Library organization – have switched from filling the mounted boxes in front of their homes with free books to filling them with household items: food, toilet paper, sanitizer, toiletries, and other necessities, all for the taking by passersby.
While many stewards are filling boxes with cans of food and packaged goods, some are taking a more personal approach: for instance, one woman in Ojai, Calif. is stocking her little free library box with fresh citrus fruit from her trees; another, in Anacortes, Wash. is placing hand-sewn face masks in hers.
Mass evangelism? A waste of time!
Wednesday, April 08, 2020
The evil eye
This is noteworthy because the governors of provinces run by the senate, which included Cyprus, were drawn from the uppermost echelons of Roman society. Sergius Paulus had to have previously been a “praetor,” an ofﬁce to which just ten high-ranking and extremely wealthy senators were elected every year. It was as if Paul had just converted a former member of the US president’s cabinet, now on diplomatic duty.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 42
Tuesday, April 07, 2020
YHWH as Israel’s and Judah’s husband (baʿal)
What do you hear?
As the death metal fades—perhaps we catch “Carry us off in your claws”—-Bach’s music begins to become audible. I turn down Zao’s music still further and turn up Bach a little more. The Air can now be heard easily all over the room and begins to dominate Zao, although the pulse of the death metal can just be heard in the background. Then I explain the metaphor to my doubting but intrigued students.
There is nowhere in the room that lacks thusic of both pieces. Every part of the space that we occupy together is touched by Zao and by Bach at any given moment. Both pieces of music were fully present, within and alongside one another, and yet completely distinct. Moreover, even when the volume of one piece was drowned out, we knew that the music was was still there. Both pieces were present, but we couldn't hear one because our senses were dominated by the other arrangement.
Just so, Paul’s suggestion that we live in two dimensions simultaneously makes sense when it is conceptualized sonically and musically. The music of the Flesh might dominate, but this does not in any way prevent the music of the Spirit from being fully present and accessible. Both arrangements occupy exactly the same space in all their fullness. Christians live with the music of the world and the music of heaven playing in the same location all the time. So if the presence of the music of heaven is doubted, the volume on the music of the world might be turned up too high. If it is turned down the Spirit’s music might emerge—a gentle, delicate music present there all along that we were just unable to hear. The problem was not the music itself then, but our inability to hear and our lack of attention. Hence the real question for our doubter might actually be—as it has always been——“Where do I go to hear God?”
In short, the resurrected mind of the Spirit can coexist quietly in, behind, and within the jarring music of the Flesh. So to affirm the presence of the resurrected mind is by no means to deny the ongoing presence of the Flesh, of sin, and of death. Paul’s basic claim that converts to Christ possess the resurrected mind of Christ remains plausible as long as we remember that reality is musical.Douglas A. Campbell, Paul: An Apostle’s Journey —Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 38–39
Monday, April 06, 2020
YHWH is Lord
The music of the spheres
But these difficulties can be resolved if we switch metaphors, Let’s think about this situation sonically, using music, with our ears, instead of optically, visually, and with our eyes. Reality is musical. This will enable us to think about things in ways that are both more accurate and not necessarily mutually exclusive.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 38
Friday, April 03, 2020
It's even more evil than you think!
There was a remarkable moment tonight in the press conference tonight at the White House, flagged by Josh Marshall at TPM (Talking Points Memo). Countries have been sending supplies of masks, gowns, and so forth that our medical professionals so desperately need. But at the same time, ProPublica has reported that states are paying up to 15 times what medical supplies usually cost to get this equipment. So what’s going on?What?! Translated into common English he just said that the Vulture Capitalists have every right to scalp the states for every penny they can—all the while people are dying in the streets.
At the press conference, Weijia Jiang of CBS News asked the official in charge of the shipments, Rear Admiral John P. Polowczyk, what was happening to them. He explained they are not going directly to the states or to FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency). Rather, they are going to the private sector, which has systems in place for distributing such materials. But the states are in a bidding war in the private sector to buy this equipment, which is driving prices up.
Shouldn’t the federal government step in to stop profiteering and make sure states get the supplies they need? “I’m not here to disrupt a [commercial] supply chain,” the admiral said.
The corona virus isn't changing people, it's just revealing who they really are.
Where is Amos? Where is Micah? Or Jeremiah?
Their modern successors are basking in the light of evil and not even knowing it. Speaking truth to power? Nah, too uncomfortable!
Enjoy it while you can, because the day will come when all the deeds of humanity will be revealed, and as scripture repeatedly says, that judge is no respecter of persons!
There's something about that name
Is amnesty biblical?
Wow. The special privileges of the Jewish nation quashed again. Not only was present history a struggle, but a horde of despised, unclean, bullying pagans were being admitted into the playground of the future. We can practically hear Paul’s offended compatriots crying “Jews for Heaven and Heaven for the Jews” as they flogged him in their synagogues, expelled him from their communities, and eventually planned to take him out for good.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 26–27
Thursday, April 02, 2020
Wednesday, April 01, 2020
What? No geneology?
More than a doctrine
Not sure I would have started the paragraph the way he did. Yes, they are persona, but people has a connotation of human/mortal that I would rather avoid in the definition of God. But here we run into the problem of the inadequacy of finite words to define the infiniteness that is God. Which basically is what he is saying, too.