Showing posts from 2016

interim book report: The Jesus Driven Life by Michael Hardin

I have been taking The Jesus Driven Life slowly over the past month because Michael Hardin has many important things to say and I can only hold a few of them at a time in my cluttered mind. My 22 part ongoing series, Not everything Biblical is Christian, tries to do in part what Hardin is able to do more substantially. I started the series because I shared the issue Hardin raises,
The ‘standard’ Protestant view of the inerrancy or infallibility of Scripture is unacceptable. It is not simply a question of ‘historical errors’ (was Jesus crucified before or after the Passover meal) but the deeper theological ones (why is God as reflected in Jesus so substantively different than God is portrayed in many Old Testament texts) that have caused me to rethink the nature of the Bible. loc. 4375 Kindle Like Hardin, I was raised dispensational fundamentalist with an adoration of the Bible instead of the person who is the living, embodied, incarnate word of God. My blog series has tried to expose …

two Biblical martyrs but only one a saint

The day after Christmas is a day to remember the first Christian martyr, Stephen.

Acts 7:59 – 8:8 (NRSV) While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. And Saul approved of their killing him.

As Stephen dies, he prays like Christ for his oppressors forgiveness. But Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, perhaps intentionally, contrasts Stephen's response to his enemies with another prophet from Israel's history, Zechariah son of the priest Jehoiada.

2 Chronicles 24:17-22 (NRSV) Now after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and did obeisance to the king; then the king listened to them. They abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and served the sacred poles and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them ba…

eyes to see but cannot see

It has really not been until this election that I understood Jesus' use of parables and his justification for them. The parables weed out those with confirmation bias. Let me explain. Jesus, and the prophets he quotes, likes to say about their critics they have eyes to see but cannot see and ears to hear but cannot hear. This clicked with me when I read the same idea expressed by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter in a science fiction novel, "The Long Cosmos." They write this in the context of a extraterrestrial message "Come Join Us."
Some believed it must be what it most obviously looked like, some kind of SETI message from the sky...Others believed it couldn't be that precisely because that was the most obvious explanation." (p. 8) In the same way, a significant minority of the American voting public refused to apply Occam's razor of reasoning, the simplest explanation is the best one, and chose conspiratorial explanations over and over again. B…

Is God Love or not?

One of my conservative Christian friends on facebook shared this comic by Christian comic artist Adam4d. I used to take this line of reason, but now I disagree with it because the "bottom line" for Adam's theology is not what I find in Jesus.

For Adam's comic, the basic gospel message is about us. I think instead the basic good news from Jesus is God is a loving entity that seeks everyone who is lost to restore them to full relationship, like a widow and lost coin, a shepherd and a lost sheep, or a father and lost son. As Jesus' brother James writes, "Mercy triumphs over judgment." As his beloved disciple John writes, "God is love." I join many great theologians in the church's history who start from this ground floor instead of an anthropolgical statement.

 Catholic monk and scholar Meister Eckhart (1200's) writes "How long will grown men and women in this world keep drawing in their coloring books an image of God that makes them …

How to get Russia interested in your blog

I've written about Trump with his name in the blog title twice. Suddenly, I have more interest in my blog posts from Russia than I ever have. Here is a picture of my stats, courtesy of Google's Blogger platform, over the past week.
I am a very little guppy in the big pond of blogs and social media and I have never had Russia more than the lightest green on the stats map.

Why do Russians care about my blog? The CIA says they are so invested in Trump's victory that they leaked the DNC's emails but have kept the hacked RNC's, presumably for leverage. They filled comment fields with Trump trolls, making false assertions (blatantly lying) and overwhelming social media conversation with dis-information. Senator John McCain has called this digital meddling a form of war.

I turned off comments on my blog ages ago because of spam and trolls. Russia has become America's troll in chief to support Trump.

It's creepy that I am a repeat destination for Russia's webcr…

I still love Donald Trump

As a straight white man in the modern United States, I live a privileged life. I do not worry about sexual harassment. I do not worry about being killed for a traffic violation. I do not fear being killed for my sexual orientation. I live in a society that makes good assumptions about me because I am a white man. Yet, I want to empathize with my brothers and sisters of color. I want to empathize with my sisters. I want to empathize my LGBTQ neighbors. I listen to their stories. I read their tweets. I read their blogs. The voices of the minorities are the voices in many of the Psalms, most written while the Jewish people were in exile. The Psalms are the blues hymnbook of the Bible. But I have been blind, as a majority male to the power of these songs of lament. I do not feel the weight of oppression.

But because of Donald Trump, I begin to really know the soul of the Psalmists as I read through the lectionary. The Advent readings are chosen for the anticipation of a deliverer. Until o…

If you ignore your Nazi history, you may repeat it.

People don't like it when I compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. They think I am claiming he plans on committing genocide. I do not think that. However, his strident white nationalist supporters do compare him to Hitler, so I am agreement with them on at least one topic. Trump is a master at propaganda and uses disinformation techniques, something useful to any demagogue in the making. He also routinely scapegoats entire groups of people as the source of the problems his supporters endure. He also encourages the majority to feel like a persecuted minority. White christian men like being told that consideration of others and laws that facilitate economic equity for women and minorities are just "political correctness" or "anti-white racism" or "feminazism." Allowing for the full constitutional rights of gay and transgendered citizens is "social depravity engineering" which will turn white children into flaming queers. Diminishing white male…

The God who compromises

Last year I wrote a number of posts about the plain fact that not everything Biblical is Christian. (You can use the 21st entry to find all the previous ones). One of the aspects of this rejection of biblicism is Jesus' overruling of Mosaic laws in favor of merciful, compassionate and even graceful responses; instead of Mosaic "eye for an eye" view of justice, a way of non-violent turning of the cheek, instead of execution of adulteresses caught in the act, a refocus on self-judgment, instead of his intended mission, an enlarged one. It's this latter example of compromise with compassion I've been thinking about today.

Matthew the tax collector, a despised profession among his fellow Jewish citizens living in occupied Palestine, who followed the merciful Jesus tells a curious anecdote.

Matthew 15:21-28 The Voice
Jesus left that place and withdrew to Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman—a non-Jew—came to Him.  Canaanite Woman (wailing): Lord, Son of David, have mercy o…

compassionate christianity

I do not find the liberal-conservative antonyms of Christianity useful. Usually the labels are applied to how one approaches the Bible not how they live out the teaching of Jesus existentially. Liberals are just as likely to be hard hearted as conservatives are to be full of mercy of grace. Fundamentalists can make space for gay people while retaining their fidelity to those seven biblical passages that seem to condemn it. I encountered this recently in an article by the current head pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Cali. Pastor Brian Broderson believes a Christian is free to attend a sinner's wedding but not a backslidden believer's wedding. I call that progress.

It seems strange to someone outside of the more conservative branches of the faith that this is even a topic worth debating. But when I was deep into this branch, I worried a great deal about this choice if presented to me. As I think back, my head said no but my heart said yes. If I were to go to such a weddi…

book report - The Divine Dance by Rohr and Morrell 2016

This book is not one you want to blast through in a few weeks like I did. I really like Franciscan friar Richard Rohr and have been receiving his daily emails for about a year now. I have only read one of his books before this one, Simplicity: The art of living. Simplicity captures a series of lectures by Rohr from the 1990's. His new book, The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation, has a similar origin. As described in one of the afterwords co-author Mike Morrell took material from two of Rohr's conferences, The Divine Dance and The Shape of God, wrote down, arranged, condensed, expanded, and subdivided them into this amazing book.

The chapters are short, usually two or three pages, which lends itself to more of a devotional read. In fact, I'm planning to re-read this as a spiritual supplement this next Lenten season. The Christian theology of the triune God distinguishes it from the other Abrahamic faiths, Islam and Judaism, and has been and continues to be …

I love Donald Trump...

...because Jesus loves Donald Trump.

However, I do not think he is presidential material.

I believe a president should desire the uplift of everyone in society and not by scapegoating some. He has scapegoated Mexican immigrants, Muslims, and African-Americans. I believe a president would make a good neighbor, not someone who brags about sexual assaults, seduction of married women, engagement in multiple affairs, lewd comments about his own daughter, and repetition of white supremacist conspiracy theories. I believe a president should have a track record of public service. He has none. I believe a president should have experience in negotiating the labyrinth of political bureaucracy with its intentional and constitutional checks and balances, not only decisions by fiat. The executive branch is not superior to the legislative or judicial branches. I believe a president needs a thick skin who will hearken to a rebuke without responding by attacking the messengers. on the contrary, Trump h…

Why are people so angry at IV-USA?

Time magazine broke a story by Elizabeth Dias yesterday with quite the headline, Top Evangelical College Group to Dismiss Employees Who Support Gay Marriage. Ed Stetzer wrote an article in reply for Christianity Today with the headline, Evangelical Campus Ministry (InterVarsityUSA) Decides Employees Should Hold Evangelical Beliefs on Marriage (Updated with InterVarsity Statement). Ed does not engage at all with the personal story of an IVCF campus staffer with a transgender child who was let go by IVCF for not agreeing to their statement. Even Jesus could agree with the gentile woman who had a sick child that the dogs can at least eat the crumbs from the table. The lack of compassion for the church's sexual minorities is what sets people off.

IVCF has made strides to not be a white fundamentalist sect as it engages college culture that encourages multiculturalism and minority empowerment. Women and non-white staffers are placed in positions of leadership. IVCF has reinterpreted pa…

love and pastoral affairs

The New Testament epistle of 1st Timothy has a frequently neglected expectation of church leaders,
1 Timothy 3: 1-7 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. I said "frequently neglected" but it may only be to my limited perspective. What should the church do if a le…

But we preach Christ crucified

Paul, the former anti-Christian oppressor, had an vision of Jesus Christ that completely changed him. He became a pro-Christ evangelist. He wrote half of the Christian scripture. He applied his deep studies in the Jewish scriptures before his conversion to the surprise ending of those scriptures after his conversion.

In his first letter to the church in Corinth he tells them, 1 Cor. 1
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than hum…

You are a royal priesthood

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

In the Jewish scriptures the Levite tribe, which Moses belonged to, were designated a landless priesthood by blood to serve the rest of the Israelite tribes. In the same way, the church serves the same purpose today as the priesthood for the world.

One expectation on this priesthood is to praise God with our stories, what was done for us by Him, from darkness to light, from disunity to unity, from condemnation to mercy. It's more than talk though it's a walk: a walk in love, a walk in unity, a walk of mercy.

This has some important obligations for the Christian church. Peter continues,
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain f…

Gays and the New Jerusalem

Disgustingly, some Christian pastors publicly celebrated the massacre at the Orlando gay nightclub in their sermons, on Youtube, and on their blogs. I will not provide links. Other conservative evangelical pastors were actually shaken enough to reconsider their approach to the Bible and the LGBTQ community.

The disgusting pastors love this verse. (Image from here.) So their understanding of god is good with  the slaughter of gay people and their friends who were not gay, because their god is totally offended with these versions of his creation. Even though their holy book says their god made humanity in his image, they think verses like these contradict other verses that say their god's creation of humanity was "very good." There is another verse in Leviticus that says God considers men having gay sex an abomination. Hence the follow up death penalty. The previous verse only said these guys needed to be kicked out of their community but two chapters later god doubles down…

Healthcare needs more than Jesus

In the last month, a Canadian family who let their son die of diabetes because they believed Jesus was enough to cure him were condemned in court for murder. Children's death by believers in the christian tradition of faith healing happen every year in the United States and Canada. It is obvious to those outside of their sects that they have read the Bible too literally.Yes, in the gospels Jesus does heal many people of illnesses. In the Acts of the Apostles, his disciples heal some people as well. There are indeed promises that some afflictions just need more prayer and that anything good asked of God will be granted. But experience has proven to be a regulator on how literally some promises should be taken. (Evidence photo found here.) Jesus is not always enough to keep people alive. Sometimes insulin is needed as well.

Most devout christians do not follow Paul's advice to Timothy when they have an upset stomach and drink a little wine to treat it. We understand Paul's a…