Friday, July 31, 2020

What and where is Jesus now?

Jesus reigns right now. Second, Jesus’s reign corresponds to the present epoch of world history that we find ourselves in now. The first six stages of the gospel refer to events in the past with respect to Jesus’s life story—for example, he has already taken on human flesh, died for our sins, and been raised from the dead. But if Jesus has been raised from the dead, then where is he now? And what is he doing? It shouldn’t surprise us if the answer proves to be fundamental to all aspects of Christian life today. Jesus is currently the enthroned king, Lord of heaven and earth, and he is actively ruling until, as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians, “he has put all his enemies under his feet” (15:25). He is also serving in heaven as the great high priest who has offered his own blood as a redemption for our sins, so he is busy interceding on our behalf (Heb. 8:1—2; 9:11-12). Satan may be called “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), but his power is limited because it has been decisively broken through the cross and resurrection; the new age of Jesus’s kingly rule is currently overwhelming the old age (Col. 1:13-14).—Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, 67 (emphasis original)

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The whole gospel

Jesus’s reign is a nonnegotiable portion of the good news. First, when the gospel is presented today by a preacher or teacher, most of the time this “Jesus reigns” portion of the gospel is either entirely absent or mentioned as an aside. The cross and resurrection get central billing, but ]esus’s kingship is tucked away offstage. We need to recover ]esus’s kingship as a central, nonnegotiable constituent of the gospel. Jesus’s reign as Lord of heaven and earth fundamentally determines the meaning of “faith” (pistis) as “allegiance” in relation to salvation. Jesus as king is the primary object toward which our saving “faith”—that is, our saving allegiance—is directed. 67 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
It has been refreshing the last few years to see books appearing that emphasize the ascension and enthronement as an essential part of the gospel. You can't lose the cross, but equally, you can't lose the resurrection and ascension and enthronement. Without any of these you end up with a truncated gospel.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

But what about the ascension?

Scripture attests that Jesus appeared to a great variety of witnesses in diverse geographical locales over the course of some forty days, These appearances are a core constituent of the good news. Last of all Jesus appeared to Paul, as he so memorably puts it, “as if unto a miscarried fetus” (1 Cor. 15:8). Paul means that he saw Jesus when he was in a state of utter spiritual death. And as the last in the chain of witnesses, his viewing was fundamentally different than the rest of the apostles, all of whom had seen Jesus prior to his ascension. It is this ascension, however, together with the events surrounding it, that is the most critical yet most neglected component of the gospel today.—Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, 66

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Just a part, not the whole!

That Jesus died for our sins and, as a portion of that “our,” that he also died for my sins is truly part of the gospel—emphatically so!—but it is imperative to realize that it is only a small but vital portion of the gospel as properly understood, not the whole gospel. It is also critical to recognize that “faith” is not primarily aimed at trusting in the forgiveness-of—sins process. For Paul does not primarily call us to “faith” (“belief” or “trust”) in some sort of atonement system in order to be saved (although mental affirmation that Jesus died for our sins is necessary), but rather to “faith” (“allegiance”) unto Jesus as Lord. Abstracting this for—our-sins portion of the gospel from the full gospel and the larger narrative frameworks that control its meaning is risky, especially if over time this “Jesus died for our sins” portion is placed in a new, slightly different me—centered controlling narrative—as has happened in much of our contemporary Christian culture. For the wider narrative frameworks determine what “sins,” “my need for salvation,” and indeed what has traditionally been termed “faith” as it relates to the gospel might entail in the first place.—Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, 39

Monday, July 27, 2020


[I]n both Romans 1:3 and Philippians 2:9 the normal verb for birth, gennaō, is passed over in favor of ginomai, a term that can mean ordinary birth but much more often stresses change in status or existence. In Romans 1:3 Paul speaks of the Son who, as it pertains to the flesh, “came into existence by means of the seed of David.” Similarly in Philippians 2:9 the Christ Jesus is the preexistent one who nonetheless “came into existence in the likeness of humans.” In other words, in both passages Paul (and whatever sources he used) neglected the ordinary word for birth and selected instead ginomai, the best word to describe the coming into fleshly human existence of a preexistent divine being through birth (cf. also Gal. 4:4).—Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, 37

Friday, July 24, 2020

Sola fide, or what is faith?

In short, if you mentally agree that Jesus died for your sins, then nothing else is required for your salvation— you are on your way to heaven. The problem here is a deficient definition of faith (and for that matter of salvation). Advocates of free—grace salvation have correctly recognized the primacy of God’s grace and the necessity of holding certain doctrines as “true” or “real,” but by effectively reducing faith to intellectual assent, they have introduced a dangerous error.

Nobody, even in the free—grace movement, wants to claim that the demons in Mark’s Gospel—who know Jesus’s divine origins and who utter, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24) and “You are the Son of God” (3:11)—are in actuality saved because of their true knowledge of Jesus. Free—gracers are quick to disavow such a conclusion. All would agree with the Letter of James, which affirms that such “facts” are not enough: “You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe and shudder” (James 2:19). Nonetheless, problematically, at least some in the free—grace movement want to make salvation depend on nothing but a slight variation of the Son-of-God fact, an affirmation that Jesus died for my sins.—Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, 25

Thursday, July 23, 2020

A leap in the dark? Not so much!

Yet—and now for the way in which this leap—in—the-dark idea is a dangerous half—truth—it must be remembered that neither Noah nor Abraham launched out into the void, but rather each responded to God’s command. They acted in response to the call of a promise—fulfi11ing God with whom they had experience. Abraham was asked to sacrifice Isaac by the God who had miraculously provided Isaac—a God who had proven to be trustworthy to Abraham through a lengthy life journey together. One might even dare to say that in so acting Noah and Abraham above all showed allegiance to God as the sovereign and powerful Lord who speaks all human affairs into existence, but more on this later.

The key point is that true pistis is not an irrational launching into the void but a reasonable, action-oriented response grounded in the conviction that God’s invisible underlying realities are more certain than any apparent realities. Stepping out in faith is not intrinsically good in and of itself, as if God is inherently more pleased with daring motorcycle riders than with automobile passengers who cautiously triple—check their seatbelt buckles; it is only good when it is an obedient response to God’s exercised sovereignty. We are not to leap out in the dark at a whim, or simply to prove to ourselves, God, or others that we “have faith.” But the promise—keeping God might indeed call us to act on invisible realities of his heavenly kingdom.—Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, 19–20

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Remember when?

I'm sixty-four years old. I remember a lot of things that have changed—many for the better, and some for the worse. We could probably argue about some of them as to whether they are better or worse. And there are some changes that are a mixed bag. Actually, most changes are that way. You gain something, but lose something else. That's the nature of change and life.

But there is one change that baffles me, and has for years. Back in the 1980s, the Republican party bought the (mostly white, middle-class) Evangelical vote with a promise of a constitutional amendment against abortion. Remember that? At the time they proposed it, they didn't have enough clout in either of the houses of congress to make it happen. But, then all of a sudden they did.

Do you remember any of them introducing a constitutional amendment? Me either. But they kept promising it. Until they stopped. Then they just started promising judges who were anti-abortion. But the evangelicals decided that was enough.

Here's the thing, though. Historically, abortion rates have gone up, not down, under Republican administrations. Why? Because outside of the white, middle-class world where abortions are matters of a convenient way to keep status, another mouth to feed means real economic hardship. The Republicans have traditionally reduced spending on social programs, hence to aid for those who need it. Ergo, increased abortions.

A side note, but not unrelated: Since the 1980s, the party that has been the most war-happy and bomb 'em into submission, has been the Republican party (it was the opposite during Vietnam in the 1960s). How is that "pro-life"?

Don't recite to me the litany of evils about the Democrats. There are plenty! Government is a human institution with plenty of institutional sin to go around for all!

All I'm asking is that if you label yourself as an evangelical Christian, you need to take a closer look at why you vote the way you do—by taking into consideration the entire New Testament. Especially the Beatitudes and one of my favorites: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27 NIV

Dismantling the social safety net doesn't seem to be in line with that, does it? Think about that the next time you endorse a candidate only because they claim to be "pro-life." It might turn out that they are simply "put a judge in there who claims to be pro-life" and has all kinds of other baggage that is morally questionable, at best.

What do we mean by faith-based?

Faith or belief was being put forward as the opposite of reasoned judgment in consideration of the evidence. Indeed such evidence was deemed immaterial in advance! Faith was reckoned not just an alternative but a superior way of knowing what is true and what is false. Judgment could be rendered on the basis of inward feelings alone. For these women, and they are not alone in our culture, faith is defined as something one simply must privately and personally affirm regardless of whatever contrary public evidence exists. In short, for many today faith is defined as the opposite of evidence-based truth. This is neither a biblical nor a Christian understanding of faith.—Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, 17

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Rome might not be burning, but then again…

If you haven't already read Roger Olson's post yesterday, you should. And then you should consider very carefully what exactly you wish this country to become. If you want it to become a right-wing dictatorship, then obviously do nothing. The current occupant of that house in Washington, DC, is intent on convincing the white class that their way of life is in immanent danger. And that only he, as the fearless leader, can rescue you.

If that's your opinion and you call yourself a christian, then you had better pay closer attention to the scriptures that you claim to hold as authoritative, because 90 percent (at least) of what he does is antiscriptural. He spews hate, fear, and lies continually. Is that what you want? Is that the kind of toxic environment you want to live in?

For the record: I don't. And I don't believe most people do. Of course, neither does he, or he wouldn't be working so hard to suppress the votes of those who disagree with him. And don't go telling me that the other guy is just as bad. It's not about that. It's about what you want this country to become (or remain, as it seems to be heading very quickly toward authoritarianism). Be a Republican or a Democrat or an Independent. Fine. But don't buy into their platform without checking it out. Fight for changes to it.

But, as christians, your number one job is to radiate LOVE, not hate. Not fear. Not violence. Love! And pray! Pray for the soul of the nation. Pray for a godly attitude in your own heart, too. If you are against what is happening, but react in hatred, you are as much a problem as "that other guy."

Just an
</idle musing>

P.S. I am going to become increasingly vocal about these things as time goes on. I want to be able to stand before God and say I spoke up on behalf of the underprivileged, the widow, the orphan, the immigrant. What about you? Matthew's parable about the sheep and the goats is pretty clear! Where do you stand?

Not what you think

Meanwhile, in an earlier passage from Luke’s Gospel, a certain lawyer asks Jesus how to gain eternal life. When queried further by Jesus, the lawyer is able to state that the two greatest commands are required: to love God and to love one’s neighbor as one’s self. In reply Jesus does not say, “Forget the commandments! Have faith in me alone and you will live!” but rather, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:28). Then Jesus proceeds to define what it means to be a loving neighbor by telling the parable of the good Samaritan, all of which reinforces the basic point—that it is necessary to perform concrete acts of service to those who are in need in order to gain eternal life

Of course, those anxious to harmonize Jesus’s teachings with their understanding of Paul’s gospel of salvation by grace through faith tend to see any suggestion of the necessity of works as a threat to God’s free gift of salvation and an insult to the sufficiency of Jesus’s sacrifice. So the specific teachings in the Synoptic Gospels pertaining to eternal life are filtered, often ingeniously, through the lens of Paul in order to explain how they do in fact teach salvation by faith alone—that is, if one reads with enough care. The discerning reader should judiciously evaluate such maneuvering. How many beams of good works must we toss aside as we strain to find the sawdust speck of “faith alone” before we start to wonder precisely how this salvation house has been constructed? If we have to read the “good works” requirement out of so many of Jesus’s teachings about eternal life, might it be the case that the assumed Pauline interpretative lens of “by grace alone through faith alone” and “not by works” is causing the distortion? Or could it be that we have foisted our own questionable contemporary understandings of faith, works, the gospel, and salvation onto both Paul and the Gospels?

For reasons that will become clear in due course, I submit that the gospel is not primarily about the necessity of the human response of “faith” in Jesus’s saving work, but rather as about how Jesus came to be enthroned as Lord of heaven and earth. Allegiance alone is required for salvation.—Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, 12–13

A Psalm for today

Praise the Lord!
    Let my whole being praise the Lord!
I will praise the Lord with all my life;
    I will sing praises to my God as long as I live.
Don’t trust leaders;
    don’t trust any human beings—
    there’s no saving help with them!
Their breath leaves them,
    then they go back to the ground.
    On that very same day, their plans die too.
The person whose help is the God of Jacob—
    the person whose hope rests on the Lord their God—
    is truly happy!
God: the maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them,
God: who is faithful forever,
    who gives justice to people who are oppressed,
    who gives bread to people who are starving!
The Lord: who frees prisoners.
    The Lord: who makes the blind see.
    The Lord: who straightens up those who are bent low.
    The Lord: who loves the righteous.
    The Lord: who protects immigrants,
        who helps orphans and widows,
        but who makes the way of the wicked twist and turn!
10 The Lord will rule forever!
    Zion, your God will rule from one generation to the next!
Praise the Lord!

Monday, July 20, 2020

Here's the scoop

This book attempts to explain in a forthright fashion the central biblical teachings about salvation, faith, works, and the gospel—although the reader will discover that this straightforward rehearsal does not always align tidily With popular presentations and understandings of these topics. My argument, reduced to its simplest terms, is as follows:
1. The true climax of the gospel—Jesus’s enthronement—has generally been deemphasized or omitted from the gospel.
2. Consequently, pistis has been misaimed and inappropriately nuanced with respect to the gospel. It is regarded as “trust” in Jesus’s righteousness alone or “faith” that Jesus’s death covers my sins rather than “allegiance” to Jesus as king.
3. Final salvation is not about attainment of heaven but about embodied participation in the new creation. When the true goal of salvation is recognized, terms such as “faith,” “works,” “righteousness,” and “the gospel” can be more accurately reframed.
4. Once it is agreed that salvation is by allegiance alone, matters that have traditionally divided Catholics and Protestants—the essence of the gospel, faith alone versus works, declared righteousness versus infused righteousness—are reconfigured in ways that may prove helpful for reconciliation.
—Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, 9

Friday, July 17, 2020

What does the word mean, anyway?

Although the Greek word pistis, the word that most often stands behind our English translations of “faith” or “belief” in the New Testament, can and does frequently involve regarding something as true or real, akin to how we might say “I have faith that God exists” or “my beliefs are different from yours,” the word pistis (and related terms) has a much broader range of meaning. This range includes ideas that aren’t usually associated in our contemporary culture with belief or faith, such as reliability, confidence, assurance, fidelity, faithfulness, commitment, and pledged loyalty. The question is, then, when a person today says, “I am saved by my faith in Jesus,” what portion of the range of meaning of “faith” is understood to effect salvation? Are certain portions of the legitimate meaning of “faith” being unwittingly shaded out? In what capacity is Jesus being regarded as the object of “faith”? And what mental images surround the process of salvation?—Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, 3 (emphasis original)

Thursday, July 16, 2020

About those "assured results"

I find that students are bored by textbooks that offer the “assured” results of the collective guild—indeed, not just bored but frequently misled as the “assured” results are neither uncontested nor incapable of additional nuance. I find that students, and all other readers for that matter, learn most deeply and eagerly when they are compelled to wrestle with arguments involving new ideas. In short, my hope is that all readers, whether novice or expert, will find that this book has something to offer.—Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, 7

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

New Book!

The needed surgery involves not just an excision of “faith” language but also a transplant. With regard to eternal salvation, rather than speaking of belief, trust, or faith in Jesus, we should speak instead of fidelity to Jesus as cosmic Lord or allegiance to Jesus the king. This, of course, is not to say that the best way to translate every occurrence of pistis (and related terms) is always or even usually “allegiance.” Rather it is to say that allegiance is the best macro-term available to us that can describe what God requires from us for eternal salvation. It is the best term because it avoids unhelpful English-language associations that have become attached to “faith” and “belief,” as well as limitations in the “trust” idea, and at the same time it captures what is most vital for salvation—mental assent, sworn fidelity, and embodied loyalty. But we do not need to avoid the words “faith” and “belief” entirely. For example, they do carry the proper meaning in English for pistis with regard to confidence in Jesus’s healing power and control over nature; moreover, these terms are suitable when pistis is directed primarily toward facts that we are called mentally to affirm. Our Christian discourse need not shift in these contexts but only with regard to eternal salvation.—Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone, 5

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Same base material, but where did they go with it?

We have noted that even though the biblical account is developed along the same conversational lines as the Mesopotamian accounts, the interpretation of the account in Genesis is dramatically different from what we find in Mesopotamian tradition. It is clear they are in dialogue in the same cultural river, but Genesis takes a radical departure from the interpretation that emerges from the literature of Mesopotamia.—Lost World of the Flood, 179

<idle musing>
That's the final excerpt from this book. We'll start a new one tomorrow, from the New Testament this time.
</idle musing>

Monday, July 13, 2020

the guy is deranged

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, Trump turns around and assaults the only guy in the administration that the public trusts: Dr. Fauci! What is wrong with this guy? His sense of reality is warped; you can't make up your own facts and pretend they are real ones. Thousands are getting sick every day because the president refused to acknowledge the reality of a pandemic. Now he has the gall to attack the person who has been telling the truth.

Read this, and think about it for a few minutes. Bottom line: do you want a leader whose only line is "trust me"? If so, then at least choose one who has a moral compass! Hint: Donald Trump isn't that guy! How many lies has he told? And for you Christians who support him, who does scripture say is the father of lies? Hint: it's not God!

How does the garden grow?

I haven't posted much about my garden this year, but it is doing wonderfully well! We could use some rain; one of my rain barrels is empty, and the other one is only about 1/3 full. Beyond that, the weather has been wonderful for growing.

We had a great harvest of snap peas in June. They are done now, and I've replanted that area with a fourth planting of green beans, more green onions, and a second planting of carrots. My first and second plantings of green beans are both producing now; we're eating fresh beans and freezing them for the winter. I experimented with not blanching them before freezing last winter. The results were great; I suspect their storage life was shortened, but we use them all up before spring, so there were no ill effects. Sure does save time!

The strawberries are done, too. I ordered ever-bearing strawberries last year, but they sent me June-bearing instead, which was a disappointment, but the flavor makes up for it. I only have an eight foot bed, so we didn't get enough to freeze. Next year, I'll plant ever-bearing because it will be time for new ones anyway. A bed of strawberries is usually only productive for about three years before requiring replanting.

We are gorging ourselves on raspberries! Last year I planted some ever-bearing raspberries that a friend gave us. We got a few berries in the fall, just before frost. But this year, they are producing like crazy. They also are trying to take over the surrounding beds, so it's a continual pulling of stray plants in those beds. Raspberries spread via root, so I might have to move the berries to a corner bed. Right now they are in a central bed, so they can infect three other beds.

My squash are doing wonderfully well. The winter squash are climbing all over their trellis and are loaded with squash. I'm experimenting this year with a new variety in addition to the favorites (delicata and carnival). We'll see how it goes. The patty pan summer squash are producing more than I can eat, and the zephyr has given me two so far. I might end up pulling one of the patty pan plants if this keeps up; nobody in the neighborhood likes summer squash. For that matter, only the one neighbor likes vegetables at all! No wonder the US is so unhealthy.

I picked my first cucumber yesterday. Nothing beats a cucumber fresh from the vine! I'm trialing five different kinds this summer, trying to see what does best here. So far it looks like all of them are winners. If all the blossoms and small cukes bear, I'll have far too many! I don't make sweet pickles anymore because the sugar content is far to high; same for pickle relish. So that just leaves eating them fresh and making dill pickles. My dill is doing fine, so that won't be a problem, but there is a limit to how many quarts of dill pickles a person can eat!

I can't forget to mention the kale and chard! I've frozen quite a bit of it. I've never had chard and kale do as well as they are this year. I think it must be because of the organic slow release fertilizer and fresh compost I'm using. I'll write more about the fertilizer later; I'm running short on time right now.

How's your garden doing? Here are a few pictures for you. The first one is from the mid-April snowstorm we had—again! Third year in a row for a mid-April blizzard, although this one wasn't as bad as the first two.

Why in the world include that stuff?

Consequently, if we were to pose the question, Why does the compiler of Genesis include Genesis 1-11? the answer would not be that he wanted us to know about these events. Rather, he is using these well—known events of the past to help the reader understand how the covenant with Abraham fits into the flow of God’s plans and purposes for the cosmos, for his creatures, for his people, and for history. The backstory of Genesis 1-11 explains how and why God came to identify a particular people he chose to be in covenant relationship with.—Lost World of the Flood, 179

<idle musing>
Not the questions we normally ask of the first eleven chapters of Genesis, are they? And that's why we get it so wrong so often. We're asking questions the text wasn't written to answer. It's not a science textbook. The Bible is concerned with who and why, not so much the how. We mistakenly think that if we understand the how of something, we understand it. Wrong! We don't understand something until we know the why and who, something that science isn't equipped to answer without straying from science qua science. Those questions are the realm of philosophy and theology.
</idle musing>

Friday, July 10, 2020

Just reject the science; it's easier that way!

It is disheartening, therefore, to see how some Christians, including Christian leaders, treat science as some sort of enemy of the faith. Such an attitude results in all kinds of damage. First, it damages the reputation of the Bible and the church since it requires people not only to question some of the conclusions scientists reach but also, when the evidence is overwhelming—for instance, in the case of the flood—to try to undermine the very foundation of science. This move is particularly perplexing since the foundation of science is compatible with, if not inspired, by the biblical worldview.

Thus, rather than shrinking from the charge that science has caused us to go back to the biblical account of the flood to see if we are reading it correctly, we fully embrace it since it has led us to read the account in conformity with the author’s intention.—Lost World of the Flood, 175–76

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Reap the whirlwind, or how to screw up public health

From the Atlantic, which has some really good coverage of the pandemic (which we should start calling "The Trump Virus" because of his mishandling of it):
The U.S. frittered away that chance [to control the virus]. Through social distancing, the American public bought the country valuable time at substantial personal cost. The Trump administration should have used that time to roll out a coordinated plan to ramp up America’s ability to test and trace infected people. It didn’t. Instead, to the immense frustration of public-health advisers, leaders rushed to reopen while most states were still woefully unprepared.

When Arizona Governor Doug Ducey began reviving businesses in early May, the intensive-care unit of Popescu’s hospital was still full of COVID-19 patients. “Within our public-health bubble, we were getting nervous, but then you walked outside and it was like Pleasantville,” she said. “People thought we had conquered it, and now it feels like we’re drowning.”

What can I say? Pride comes before a fall. The US is too proud to be sensible, and now we're reaping the whirlwind. It's only going to get worse because people won't sacrifice a little for others.

What, then, of science?

Religion informing science, we would argue, goes back to the foundations of science. Science operates on biblical foundations that understand there are consistencies in the cosmos. God created an ordered cosmos that can be studied by observation, and he gave his human creatures intelligence so they can come to certain conclusions based on their observations. Thus, we may not be surprised when the historian of science Ted Davis reports, “Nevertheless, even if the Scientific Revolution was not an inherently Christian phenomenon, it was carried out almost entirely by Christians.”

Second, religion must challenge science when it oversteps its bounds and proclaims itself the sole arbiter of truth, particularly when scientists start proclaiming in the name of science that religion is false. Here is where science becomes idolatry, and unfortunately, while the great majority of scientists know better, there are a handful of well—known exceptions. Perhaps the best—known today include Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking, both eminent scientists, who demonstrate their ignorance when they speak about religion, embarrassing even many nonreligious scientists and intellectuals.—Lost World of the Flood, 175

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

What? Me wrong?! No way!

The lesson we should derive from these examples, particularly the Galileo incident, is that the church should not respond with a knee-jerk negative reaction to scientific discoveries that appear to question our interpretation of the Bible. If they are accurate descriptions of reality, they are not going to conflict with the Bible. Rather, our reaction should be to go back to Scripture and see if we understood the text correctly or whether there might be a better reading in the sense that it takes us back to the intention of the author.

We should take Augustine’s admonition, worth quoting at length, to heart:

Usually even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative posotions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics, and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions and to the great loss for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scriptures are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books.—Lost World of the Flood, 173–74

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

It's pretty basic, really

Though the Hebrew and Greek (and a smattering of Aramaic) have to be translated, when it comes to the important main message of the Bible (“those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation”), these things “are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other” that not even a bad translator could mess it up.—Lost World of the Flood, 169

Monday, July 06, 2020

Necessary, but not sufficient

[T]he doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture does not deny that we can be greatly helped in our desire to know the original meaning of biblical texts with these extrabiblical recourses, and that is our point in this book. We are helped in our attempt to understand the author’s intended meaning in the flood story by both ancient Near Eastern accounts of the flood and also scientific conclusions related to the possibility of a worldwide deluge.—Lost World of the Flood, 171

Friday, July 03, 2020

The nurturing one

A God beyond human gender can still be imagined in terms of gendered humans, without any rejection of tradition, as long as those images or metaphors are not reified. As such, the nursing God is as valid as any other biblical image, and it has the potential for great good. As Davina Haskell observed, it “construct[s] an emotionally positive relationship of nurture and reliance between God and human beings” and “establishes an intimate, familial bond between divinity and humanity, redefining the relationship between the two in terms of tenderness, rather than dominion.” As the Bible testifies, this is part of God’s identity.

Efforts to discourage and stamp out goddess worship are at best useless, and at worst harmful. Christians who attempt this are already conformed to the patriarchy of this world, and they can be transformed, as Paul said, only by the renewing of their own minds. The battle that has long been waged outward against the culture must be turned inward if it is to succeed—turned toward the long self-inquiry and self-analysis required to root out the ways in which the church continues to push people away from the God of the Bible, who offers his nurturing breast to all. The resources of the tradition are rich in this area. Using feminine language and imagery for God in worship is a starting point that can create fruitful discomfort and invite worshipers to ask hard questions about God and gender that lead to good conversations.—Christopher B. Hays in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, 218

But I thought my interpretations were inerrant!

What Christians often forget, however, is that while the Bible is true in all that it intends to teach, our interpretations are not always correct. We need to be open to the possibility that we have wrongly understood a particular passage, perhaps not completely but in some important way.—Lost World of the Flood, 169

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Beyond gender

As long as the dominant Christian church is patriarchal and misogynistic, women in particular (though also some men) will look at it and know innately that is not the true church, and that it cannot meet the needs with which their Creator created them. Only a church that recognizes and worships a God who is beyond human male and female identity is the true and fulfilling church. But we cannot avoid gendered imagery, so we must instead embrace it in all its forms, feminine as well as masculine.—Christopher B. Hays in Divine Doppelgängers: YHWH’s Ancient Look-Alikes, 218

Was it the Black Sea?

As intriguing as it is, however, we are not saying this particular flood generated the story of the flood. We do not believe We can reconstruct the historical event from the biblical account. However, we are confident, due to the genre (theological history) of Genesis 6-9 and in our affirmation that the Bible is true in all that it affirms, that there was a historical event. Our conclusion is that the Black Sea flood is the type of devastating flood that could have ultimately inspired the biblical account, even if it is not itself the biblical event.—Lost World of the Flood, 149 (emphasis original)