Posts Tagged ‘history



06
May
09

The Elusive Promised Land – Gen 15

The Reading:  Genesis 15.1-12,17-18

This kind of ceremony is an ancient Hittite method of forming a contract. The participants in the covenant walk through the animals’ blood as it runs in the ditch. The one who breaks the covenant will forfeit their own blood – their very life.

Likewise, the smoking fire-pot and flaming torch are also Hittite images of gods. God, who figuratively walks through the blood twice, is guaranteeing both sides of the contract. For many this brings to mind how Jesus, God incarnate, lived out the covenant with the offering even of his own mortal life.

What I find interesting, however, is the reason for the covenant in the first place. Abram expresses concern over two things. Continue reading ‘The Elusive Promised Land – Gen 15’

22
Apr
09

Calvin’s Spirituality – Not an Oxymoron

Within the first few pages of Elsie Anne McKee’s John Calvin – Writings on Pastoral Piety, I was stricken with disbelief. Incredibly, McKee used ‘piety’ and ‘spirituality’ interchangeably.[1]  “Now I know piety and it’s not spirituality,” I said in no uncertain terms as I looked it up in my dictionary and read “having or exhibiting religious reverence; earnestly compliant in the observance of religion; devout.”[2]  Hmmm. I then thumbed to spirituality and found “the quality or state of being spiritual; pious; heavenly-mindedness.”[3]  It appeared my negative understanding of piety as rigid, dogmatic and judgmental belief was based far too much on my early experiences with the somewhat puritanical Christian Reformed Church in Australia. Continue reading ‘Calvin’s Spirituality – Not an Oxymoron’

21
Apr
09

Integrity over Doctrine – A Brief Look at Erasmus

During the Renaissance, an age when tensions and aggressions were rising in the church, many were seeking to cling to their positions of power, prestige and wealth within the ecclesiastic structures. Reformation was brewing, both inside the Roman Catholic Church and outside, and a new age of appreciation for classicism and scholarship was developing. Critical alliances were being created and restructured between various feuding parties and the religious rift called the Protestant Reformation was materializing. Orthodox doctrine and traditional praxis were the most significant religious dimensions necessitating debates, with ecclesiology and sacraments being key elements in the discussions. At risk were the equally important treasures of eternal souls and temporal assets. Within this fray stood Erasmus, a great religious mind, exegetical thinker and biblical scholar, being courted by both sides of the battle but aligning himself fully with neither. Continue reading ‘Integrity over Doctrine – A Brief Look at Erasmus’

20
Apr
09

Imperialism, Colonialism and “Disciple-Making”

The adherents of Christian religions include upwards of 2 billion people – almost one-third of the world’s population, according to David Barrett, an Evangelical Christian who is the compiler of religious statistics for the Encyclopedia Britannica.[1] While Christianity began in the Middle East, it is generally considered a European/American religion. Those areas, however, do not encompass the majority of adherents. More Christians, in fact, are found in the “third world” – those areas that were formerly colonized by various European powers.  The story of the spread of the world’s most prolific religion during the second millennia of Christianity is at least interesting, if not informative of the current political and military efforts of the West, most notably the U.S., seemingly aimed at making converts of another sort – disciples of Western democracy and capitalism. Continue reading ‘Imperialism, Colonialism and “Disciple-Making”’

16
Apr
09

Witnessing to Our Own Culture

The reading: Luke 24:36-48.

The women returned from the tomb to tell the other disciples what they had seen and heard – Jesus was gone. They had been told by angels that Jesus had risen to fulfill what had been foretold in the law and the prophets. The women believed. But the rest of the disciples did not believe. Peter went to see for himself. We’re told that he saw the empty tomb and left questioning what had happened. Later it is recorded that Jesus appeared to him.

The disciples were still discussing this when the two disciples returned from Emmaus and related their interaction with the risen Christ. The man they met opened up the scripture – the resurrection foretold in the law and the prophets – he opened them up in their minds. They recognized the man as Jesus when he broke bread with them – they too saw, heard and ate with the risen Jesus. The disciples declared that, “Christ has risen indeed.” The fact of Jesus’ resurrection was incontrovertible – there were just too many people who had seen and heard – too much evidence.

Then in the midst of this discussion – immediately following the declaration that all believed in the resurrection of Christ – Jesus appears to them saying, “Peace be with you.” And, of course, all immediately recognized Jesus as the risen savior – they were all in wonder at this fulfillment of what had been foretold, they all saw for themselves what they knew to be true. Right?

Wrong! Continue reading ‘Witnessing to Our Own Culture’

11
Apr
09

Post-Christian or Pro-Christlike

“A remarkable culture-shift has taken place around us,” Mohler [R. Albert Mohler Jr.—president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary] wrote. “The most basic contours of American culture have been radically altered. The so-called Judeo-Christian consensus of the last millennium has given way to a post-modern, post-Christian, post-Western cultural crisis which threatens the very heart of our culture.” When Mohler and I spoke in the days after he wrote this, he had grown even gloomier. “Clearly, there is a new narrative, a post-Christian narrative, that is animating large portions of this society,” he said from his office on campus in Louisville, Ky. ” Quoted from Jon Meacham’s The End of Christian America.

My good friend, Daniel, posted a link on Soulforce.org to the above article in order to start a conversation about what “Post-Christian” might mean. Daniel, a former Assembly of God member now more comfortable with Buddha, has an attitude about Christianity that may best be descibed using Gandhi’s statement, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Continue reading ‘Post-Christian or Pro-Christlike’

30
Mar
09

Wrestling with Personal Theology

Over the last few years, one of my favorite preaching topics has been the abandonment of self-interest, selfish ambition and conceit that is extolled in Philippians chapter 2. The call to humility contained within that passage culminates with “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” (2:12) which, I remind the congregation I am addressing, is difficult to do with someone else’s theology tucked under your arm. To be free of your own conceit requires being free of theological tenets that establish authoritarian norms of belief. It is to acknowledge that certainty is the opposite of faith, not doubt. Continue reading ‘Wrestling with Personal Theology’

23
Mar
09

Government Averse to Curbing Big Business Arrogance

In his commentary, AIG bonuses follow an American tradition, Julian Zelizer cites long-standing tradition as the real culprit in the AIG bonus scandal. While both parties are trying to paint the other as complicit, Zelizer makes the cogent point that the Fed’s long-standing tradition of avoidance when it comes to the management and profit-making of big business has been the real enabler.

Zelizer wrote: “In many ways, the bonus scandal was utterly predictable and would likely have happened regardless of which party was in power. And if history is a guide, the populist outrage over the bonuses may not fundamentally change the federal government’s relationship to private business. Traditionally, American politicians in times of crisis have resisted aggressive interventions by government into business which would tamper with managerial prerogatives and profits.” Continue reading ‘Government Averse to Curbing Big Business Arrogance’

16
Mar
09

Many Tribes or One Nation?

The Concept of Nation in Relation to Israel in the Period of the Judges.

In discussing the concept of nation within Israel’s political, social and/or religious structure during the period of the Judges it becomes imperative, first of all, to remove the obstacle of modern concepts of nationhood from the equation, in favour of attempting to determine the nature of the unity expressed by the final author(s) of Judges. To this end, this paper will try to ascertain the characteristics of the “nation” being claimed in the finished work and then decide, using existing scholarship about supporting and/or contradictory evidence within Judges, whether the claim appears valid. Separating early or core stories from the redactions that followed will help in focussing on the most likely circumstances that existed, as well as the nature and extent of the rhetoric and propaganda used by the redactor(s) to recast the period in a different light.  

Modern concepts of nation, for westerners at least, serve to confuse the issue when considering the question of whether Judges-era Israel was tribally structured or nationally united in some manner. Nationhood, in the sense of countries having sovereign and fixed national borders and central governmental structures, is a relatively modern concept for Europeans, occurring in the West only over the last three to five centuries, and one that may yet be more idealistic than true. Continue reading ‘Many Tribes or One Nation?’

14
Mar
09

Christology – Borg vs Wright

If I can be allowed a brief introduction, I have a comment about the perceived theological location of each of the authors. During 2003/2004, while attending Westminster College, Cambridge, I heard three out of four lectures given by N.T. Wright about “New Perspectives on Paul”. More interesting than the lectures was the diatribe from the various seminaries regarding Wright. The Evangelical Anglicans, conservative as opposed to traditional (self-description), denounced him as “apostasy on two legs”, while the Anglican Catholic half of the Church of England considered him a defender, albeit somewhat radical, of traditional theology in the current age. The United Reformed Church (Westminster), a mixture of very traditional (reformed) to very conservative, generally considered him to be a liberal Catholic. (All that being said, the lecture hall was packed to the rafters.) Overall, the book we’re now reading was described in Cambridge seminaries as a conversation between liberal (Wright) and very liberal (Borg). The book’s cover, claiming representation from liberal and conservative camps, seems to be heavily dependent on one’s point of view. Very few conservatives in Wright’s home country view him as anything but liberal. Still, overall it appears that both authors fit somewhere in the less-than-extreme centrist majority of the imaginary liberal-conservative spectrum and, as such, posit stands most Christians should be able to get their heads around.

Continue reading ‘Christology – Borg vs Wright’

12
Mar
09

Book Review – Between Vengeance and Forgiveness

How do nations or societies respond after periods of mass violence, indescribable episodes of systematic torture, rape and slaughter of minority or marginalized populations, or even ethnic cleansing and genocide?  Historically, of course, the most common response of populations freed from such oppression has been retaliation in at least equal measure, if not more profoundly violent and obscene in character. Despite the world, in the twentieth century, experiencing atrocities of more magnitude and frequency than ever before, Martha Minow somewhat optimistically details several societal responses aimed at seeking collective healing and reconciliation. After discussing the poles of vengeance and forgiveness, Minow expounds on the strengths and limitations of legal remedies, truth commissions and efforts at reparation, before finishing with other possible efforts for reconciliation. Continue reading ‘Book Review – Between Vengeance and Forgiveness’

12
Mar
09

Running Someone Through the Wringer … several times

Paul Capetz is my one sorrow from the two years I spent at United Theological School in the Twin Cities, my alma mater. I never took a class from Paul, although I benefitted from his faith, wisdom and intellect in other ways. I have no doubt that Paul would have joined the ranks of Chris Smith, Jann Weaver, Eleazar Fernandez and Sharon Tan as exceptional teachers I have experienced first hand. Don’t get me wrong, NONE of the professors at United from whom I took classes were less than great, but these just stood out as truly inspiring. To my great disappointment, I will never know Paul firsthand as a teacher.

I could also never know, firsthand at least, the stress and agony that Paul must be feeling at the hands of an unwieldy ecclesiastical judicial process that is far better equipped at passing a “hot potato” than actually making informed, judicious decisions. Rather than fill some with awe at the intricate workings of judicial machine, which is how I have read some comments, it should fill all Presbyterians with shame. As always, the hand-wringing and juggling of important matters has a human face, and I can only imagine the agony that Paul must feel at times. Continue reading ‘Running Someone Through the Wringer … several times’

04
Mar
09

The Scandal of Jesus Christ – Three Perspectives

For much of the last two thousand years there have been scandals associated with, or hindrances to, belief in Jesus Christ as savior. What is so outrageous about the claim of salvation in Jesus that offends the moral or rational sensibilities of at least certain segments of society? In examining this question, three authors – Jan Milic Lochman, Elizabeth A. Johnson and Justo L. González – discussed the traditional orthodox views of salvation through faith in Christ in light of modern interests. The authors had particular agendas, openly declared in each of their works, around which they developed their arguments. These various arguments were in close agreement at some points and in discord at others but, when viewed collectively, created an interesting sampling of some of the opinions that make up modern Christian thought. Continue reading ‘The Scandal of Jesus Christ – Three Perspectives’

03
Mar
09

Doth Thou Protesteth Too Much?

There was an interesting study recently released that measures the appetite for pornography based on scales of religious and social conservatism. The results of this survey are not surprising when compared to other results released years ago.

In the old report, arousal was measured in men, who self-identified from very anti-LGBT to liberal, when they watched “gay porn.” Not surprisingly, those who had the most negative attitude about GLBT had more erectile arousal than those who had less. The results of the survey showed that homophobia is as or more likely to be caused by shame and suppression of innate homosexual tendencies as any other cause.

This recent survey, and the summary article in New Scientist, seems to show a similar pattern Continue reading ‘Doth Thou Protesteth Too Much?’

03
Mar
09

What Must Our Children Think

I’ll think about the following the next time I hear someone say something about the “younger generation.”

There are some interesting statistics – nay, absolutely awful ones – from a CNN article this morning. According to the Pew Center on the States, there were 7.3 million adults incarcerated in this country during 2007. A synopsis of the statistical findings should raise a lot of questions:

That is over 3 out of every 100 people in the country.

People of color were disproportionately more represented than whites – over 9 per 100 of black adults and more than 5 per 100 of Hispanic or Latino adults.

Maybe that doesn’t sound too bad to you, Continue reading ‘What Must Our Children Think’




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That's too bad - I'm so sorry. Oh, well, just try to make the best of it. What you'll find here is a variety of essays and ramblings to do with things theological, social, whimsical and, sometimes, all three. I don't write to get famous - trust me, I've been told how futile that would be - but to express myself. I love to communicate and browbeat - ummm, I mean dialogue - about the things I find intriguing. Since you're here, and the door's locked, why don't you stay a while. There's a page bar under the header with links to information about us - I mean me. Don't forget to tell me what you think - in a nice way, I mean.

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