Love them all let God sort them out

This will be short, not overly sweet and blunt. While so many of us are busy debating who will go to hell and who will not, a decision that is far above our pay grade incidentally, we all to often ignore the fact that across the world and in our own nation, there are so many who think they are already living there. In Ferguson, our religious leaders are all to often (not always and not mine thankfully) taking sides instead of healing wounds. In Iraq the calls for prayer are followed by calls for further violence. The uproar over bringing sick Americans home for treatment of a deadly disease. We ignore Sudan, Mexican drug cartel killings, rampant gang violence in Chicago and so much more…I have this really revolutionary idea…let’s forget trying to figure out who is on their way to hell (judgement is real and God  will see to it, not us) and start actually helping those already living there.

When we are a part of the problem (or how Scott just became very unpopular again)

This link is to a statement from Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño who is a Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop, is Board President of the General Commission on Religion and Race of The United Methodist Church. It is a shining example of how we, no matter how unintentionally, are sometimes a part of the problem as a church. The statement can be found here: http://www.calpacumc.org/bishop-carcano/commentary-on-the-death-of-michael-brown/ Now on to how it contributes to the problem instead of helping to solve it which I believe is the intent. “If Trayvon could be murdered then what about them?” Part of the problem is that our system of justice, no matter how flawed it may be, said that he was not murdered. By saying that he was, you are not only going against the system of justice that we have and should respect and work within, even to change it if necessary, and directly setting yourself in opposition to it. This does not promote order, it promotes the chaos that we are trying to prevent. As a note here, I think that there are some serious issues with stand your ground laws in certain states that should be addressed. This does not negate the fact that, legally, a murder did not occur. The other thing that has been done with this question, is it makes George Zimmerman the murderer. Again, it was determined that legally he was not. The morality of what he did is open for debate, but the legality of it has been settled. Instead of fostering forgiveness, love and healing, the question agitates and calls an innocent man (legally if nothing else) a murderer. If we wish to debate the ethics of Mr. Zimmerman’s actions, that is fine as well, perhaps morally he is a murderer perhaps not, but remember, Moses committed murder as well. We should be slow to judge and quick to forgive.

the response of local and state officials has been a military response with police officers in riot gear and armored vehicles, police sharpshooters in position on top of those armored vehicles in the face of demonstrators, the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and smoke canisters, and the arrest of many;” I am very concerned with how the police responded to the situation that is ongoing. I want to point out though that the statement does not mention this was in response to looting, violence and the fear of more to come. The local officials cancelled (probably unconstitutionally) scheduled protests before all of this yes, but that does not in anyway justify what followed by those in this community.  I do not like the militarization of our police at all and think it incredibly dangerous to freedom in general. I hope and pray that our elected officials do something to curb this.  All of that being said, they are the authority figures that we have. We have the power to vote them, and anyone like them, out of power if we choose. The behavior of the police in many cases has been appalling. The behavior of those who were looting just as. The rioting and looting is not a result of the unfortunate death, it is a result of poor choices on the part of those doing it. While we need to always remain loving and be willing to forgive whatever happens, we must never allow excuse and promote proper responsibility for all involved. That means we don’t do things like pretend rioting and looting is a legitimate form of protest.

“the composition of the local police department in Ferguson, which is primarily white, does not reflect the majority African American population of Ferguson; and the conflict between demonstrators and the police is escalating.” This statement is true, but very misleading and completely unhelpful. If our goal is a colorblind world, than we can not only have people policed by those of their own ethnic background. If it is proven that hiring practices of the police force are discriminatory, then I want that stopped and corrected immediately. There is not currently any evidence of this. In about 2/3 of American cities, the police do not live in the neighborhoods that they serve. Yes, I believe this to be a problem, not because of the racial make up of a police force, but rather because it is difficult to understand how best to serve a community where you do not reside. (http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/most-police-dont-live-in-the-cities-they-serve/ some interesting numbers about major cities and where the police live) If we are working toward a world where people are judged on their character, then we need to stop treating issues such as the racial make up of a police force as a divisive issue. By even mentioning this, the subtle insinuation is that if it had been a minority officer, this would not have happened. None of us actually know what happened and the legal process is playing itself out. We need to be promoting trust in the justice system instead of mistrust because the color of our skin is different. (Yes, I realize that I am going to get a lot of disagreement for this.)

Phrases like this: “A white police department in a predominantly black community is a clear sign of racial disparity that should be questioned” fuel the fire, they do not put it out. There is absolutely zero evidence that the officer involved in the shooting had any racial motivation to do so. Perhaps that evidence will come to light, and if so, then it needs to be dealt with accordingly, but, especially as Christians, aren’t we supposed to be promoting that we are all one? In Christ there is no Greek or Jew, unless it is on the police force? If the goal is that we all be one people, then we need to quit finding reasons to separate us. This is not a tragedy of the African American community and people need to quit saying so. It is a tragedy of all of humanity that a life was lost to violence. That is the message we need to send. I am not so blind as to think there is no racism. I am however doing my very best to see with heaven’s eyes so that i don’t notice if a young African American man was shot, or if he was Latino, or Caucasian, or even purple. I know that a young man lost his life and that is tragic. That needs to be the message. 

The message we send as Christians needs to stop being about minority men and boys being killed and jailed, (Yes, there is a disproportionate problem with the legal system, but in truth I believe it has more to do with economics than race, and believe that if we want to reduce crime we need to begin by reducing poverty as that is where I believe the correlation to be, not with race.) and needs to start being about young men and boys alone being killed. Should there be a conversation about racism? Sure, can’t hurt anything, but as Christians, we should not be able to tell who is a minority. We are all loved equally by a Creator and Father. We are all one under Him. Everything that we say and do should be in that framework. The conversation is not about how to treat those different than us, it is about how we treat each other…after all if we are looking through heaven’s eyes, we all look the same anyway.

 

Some thoughts on Ferguson

Let me begin by saying what this is not…this is not me taking a side in the issue nor is it me trying to give an opinion of blame toward anyone involved. This is not me trying to comment on race in America and whether or not it is a true issue or not. This is not really anything except my pain over the situation played out in type. Nothing more, nothing less.

What has happened is all together tragic. A young man lost his life and any loss of life is tragic. Another man took that life, and that is also tragic. Living with that is a terrible burden. Whether those two things were justifiable or not, the tragedy of both is what is left behind. In the ensuing rush to lay blame, two people also have had their reputations damage in ways that are terribly unfair to them, and to us who follow the story trying in vain to make an attempt at understanding what transpired. It seems that we have a need to find someone to blame. It is the fault of an officer of the law who took things to far, or perhaps he was a racist monster who saw an opportunity to act (incidentally, there is not evidence that this is the case), perhaps he was afraid for his safety as he had been assaulted before this occurred as is now being reported. We simply do not know as the details and evidence have been handled poorly in their release to the media, and then to us. Perhaps the young man was a criminal who needed apprehending, perhaps he was a young man walking in the street who became afraid of authority for whatever reason, perhaps he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Again we simply do not know. What we do know is the aftermath…

People protested and police responded poorly, riots began and looting soon followed with more poor response by authorities. Those in charge of the situation seem to change daily, government officials make conflicting, insensitive and often nonsensical statements about what has and is to happen. Community leaders try to calm things while the community, and in some cases those from outside the community, continue to incite violence and disruption. So called leaders and authorities on race relations, fuel flames instead of trying to put them out. In some cases they attempt to raise money for their causes. Those who support police and their authority cite reports and claim that even more drastic measures are needed, that our police need to be better armed and equipped for these occurrences. Some call for taking away the military hardware from police as it makes them, however unintentionally, more aggressive. the drama continues and the tragedy plays itself out further.

We have lost hope it seems. We are quick to believe the worst and can not bring ourselves to believe the best. We think the officer a racist, or the young man a criminal. We see things falling apart, but never strive to put them together. We forget that the only hope is in Christ and Christ alone, and instead look to so called leaders for it. We seek soundbites of society but do not look toward the security of scripture. Those same scriptures say if you seek Me you will find Me…surely the opposite is also true…if we seek that what is not of God then we will surely find it as well. That is what is happening here. That is what is happening to all of us it seems.

I know this is a bit rambling and somewhat disconnected, but as I said, this is my pain played out. I want to end here with a quote from a displaced Christian currently in Baghdad Iraq. His name is unknown but he was quoted in a local news paper. This man has lost everything. His family, his home, his livelihood, and most of his village. This is what he had to say: “”Even if there is a bomb attack today, tomorrow we will go back to work,
because we are convinced that Jesus cares for us. He will restore His Kingdom one day, this is my hope.” MY prayer, and I hope the prayer of those reading as well, will be that we all learn to hold to this hope. This hope will see us through. This hope will give strength and endurance for the day. This hope will bring peace to a weary soul. I am not an authority in anything, but I do believe that the letter written to Titus has wisdom and instruction for us in these times that are so unsettled: “Tit 2:11 After all, God’s saving kindness has appeared for the benefit of all people.
Tit 2:12 It trains us to avoid ungodly lives filled with worldly desires so that we can live self-controlled, moral, and godly lives in this present world.
Tit 2:13 At the same time we can expect what we hope for-the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Tit 2:14 He gave himself for us to set us free from every sin and to cleanse us so that we can be his special people who are enthusiastic about doing good things.
Tit 2:15 Tell these things to the believers. Encourage and correct them, using your full authority. Don’t let anyone ignore you. ”
With whatever authority I have, I encourage you to hope and correct the lack of hope. I encourage you to hope for the appearance of our shared savior. I encourage you to remember that we have been set free from sin. I use what little authority I have, and I will not let you ignore me so long as you continue to read anyway. Hope…The Blessed Hope…this is what we are to hold onto and never let go of. Thus endeth my rant.

Facts and History for me, please

Andrei Rublev's Trinity, representing the Fath...

Andrei Rublev’s Trinity, representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a similar manner. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was raised an anti-Trinitarian oneness guy. This view is based on ignorance of Christian Tradition, Scripture, and certain key concepts, such as monotheism. It is based on ignorance of Christianity and arrogance that we know better than 2000 years of Christian tradition.

As one who is an orthodox Christian, I am now a Trinitarian, believing the Trinity is well in line with Scripture and is a natural development of Christian doctrine.

But, outside the oneness pentecostals are those who view Christian Tradition with disdain while claiming to be Christian. (accept my nuance here ). The first thing they like to get rid of is the Trinity. Usually, a good 90% of the time, it is because they lack the knowledge necessary to understand the Trinity and its place in Christology and soteriology.

For instance, Mark Sandlin. In a recent post about his cool new anti-Christian Tradition Christianity he writes,

Jesus was a Jew. (Please tell me no one is surprised to hear that.)

As a Jew, Jew was a strong monotheist.

Except… Jewish monotheism isn’t exactly a thing for all Jews and for all Jews at the time of Jesus.

He then writes,

Jesus was a monotheist.

Can’t prove it. Indeed, we don’t know much about Jesus and his personal beliefs. If we put him next to other apocalyptic Jews, he may have believed in the two-powers of heaven, which is not monotheism. What we know about Jesus comes from the Scriptures held together by the Christian, i.e., Trinitarian Church. We know nothing of Jesus except by the Church that is Trinitarian. It is this same Church that took John (I and the Father are one), Paul (2 Co 13.14) and Proverbs 8/Wisdom of Solomon/Baruch to develop a confession holding the unity of God with the triunity of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

English: Malayalam-language version of Christi...

English: Malayalam-language version of Christian Trinitarian “Shield of the Trinity” diagram, created on the lines of Shield-Trinity-Scutum-Fidei-English.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As Nathan McDonald notes, polytheism and monotheism are Enlightenment developments. In other words, a Western European concept. See Larry Hurtado as well. Indeed, one should really read Hurtado’s article. Jesus, I hate to tell the Southern minister, was not a post-Enlightenment Western European male.

By the way, the development of the Trinity was led by Africans such as Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian along with other non-European thinkers.

He goes further and says,

Even the Bible predominantly practices monotheism.

Biblically, God is always addressed with a singular pronoun, not plural.

Except, that is not true either. Not only does Scripture refer to other gods, but God actually speaks to the “we” in creating humanity. Elohim is plural. Indeed, much of the OT, if not the NT, is poly- and heno-theistic (2 Kings 3:27; Ps. 95:3; Ps. 97:7; Ps. 135:5; Ps. 89:6–7). The NT includes theomachy events which means… non-monotheistic.

Mark S. then becomes a biblicalist:

Not only that, but biblically there is no mention of the Trinity.

I find that argument little more than circular reasoning. For that matter, “bible” isn’t mentioned either, neither is the canon laid down. Nuclear missiles, electricity, and pews are out the window as well.

And for some unknown reason, he confuses confession (the Trinity is a confession, i.e., mystery) with fact when he writes,

Admittedly, the Trinity is an interesting theory and it certainly quailed some of the early Church’s division on the nature of God, but it is just that – a theory.

The Trinity is not a theory, hypothesis or otherwise. Neither is it a fact. It is a confession of our faith (Epistle to the Hebrews. Seriously, the entire book). It helps us explain Christology, Soteriology, Pneumatology, and even anthropology.

And then, it all becomes clear…

The lack of biblical witness leaves me to believe that either there simply was no understanding of a Trinitarian God at the time books of the Bible were written, or that the concept was so unimportant to their faith that it mostly wasn’t mentioned.

Mark has no idea what Church History is or how Christianity developed. He abandons something he doesn’t even have and insists he is doing something progressive, emergent, liberal — right. Indeed, what he is doing is what fundamentalists do. Make it up as they go along.

By the way, I’m a henotheist.

Thoranity – we get hammered so you don’t have to.

Things we saved our children from

Official seal of Dyersburg, Tennessee

Official seal of Dyersburg, Tennessee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As you can imagine, when you rip away the “holler doors” and expose fundamentalism, especially the more pentecostally kind, people get upset.

One of the statements I made was in response to the event called “receiving the Holy Ghost.” I said it involved people beating it into you. This is not the same thing as “laying hands” on someone and having them “slain in the spirit” (perhaps common in charismatic churches) but actually shaking, touching, and other physical contact between the crowd (mass hysteria?) and the individual “under the power.”

If you aren’t familiar, or if you are and you don’t understand the systematic operation at play here, let me break it down to you. The person is standing in the middle of the crowd. Music is blaring. It is not merely theological music, but “praise” choruses sung over and over again. For some, people separate along sex lines. Women for women and so on. Sometimes, men are allowed to help their wives and vice versa but this is discouraged since you have to comingle in very intimate ways with the opposite sex.

You have the crowd, the loud music, the chanting, and the examples of others doing it right next to you. You will raise your hands and pray until you begin to cry. People will be yelling at you, suggesting you say this or that, or yelling the “Holy Ghost” into you (I guess). They will scream encouragement at you and so forth. Someone will hold up your arms (because you ain’t giving up that easily). The crowd is now thick around you. You are not moving except by the power of others.

The music gets louder. If you start to murmur, someone may start to tap your lips/chin to “loosen them up.” By now, many in the crowd are “speaking in tongues.” Some may whisper into your ear about hell and “where you be tonight if you died.” You feel the immediate necessity to be saved — because this, the “infilling/indwelling” is the moment of salvation. If you are lucky, you only have to do this once or twice a Sunday for a few months until a revival comes around and you have a larger crowd.

This is the church (if you’ve read the book…) in Dyersburg, TN. The person in the center is the pastor’s son (not sure if he is still the pastor or not). He was up at the altar for years “seeking.” I guess one night he got lucky. But, you will notice through the crowd the movement by others geared to “helping” him.

Please don’t think I am in anyway making fun of the children and others who have experienced this. I believe with every fiber of my being that these experiences are real because with mass hysteria, you can pretty much do anything and people will feel it and internalize it. However, I digress.

These videos are not the fullest extent of what I have seen but it does help introduce you to the world. Oddly enough, one of the leaders of the old organization (not sure it exists and I sure as heck ain’t calling him a bishop) declared that no one should physically rough house anyone “seeking the Holy Ghost.” The older folks got mad. His stance on that changed slightly. Regardless, the process of “getting the Holy Ghost” in this type of Church is a physical (and psychological) one. Indeed, it is the moment of salvation.

Keep in mind — my experience applies to the types of churches I attended and indeed, to many oneness pentecostal ones as well. Perhaps your oneness pentecostal church does not do this, or rather, perhaps you do not recognize it and cannot externalize what you believe actually occurred. However, it happens and happens with greater frequency than you would care to admit.

I really have no need to continue this conversation beyond a rudimentary exploration of why I will continue to serve God without enthusiasm.

a new book series: “The History of Reception of Biblical Texts”

From the Jim West,

Peter Lang Verlag is launching a new series titled The History of Reception of Biblical Texts. Scholars working in the field of reception history are encouraged to send along their manuscripts to the series Editor, Jim West.

The Series is brand new and aims to

… include a broad range of topics within the category of biblical reception history. Utilizing cutting edge biblical scholarship, these books discover, explain, and examine how the Bible has functioned in a variety of contexts throughout history. These monographs cover a wide range of topics including religions, visual arts, literature, film, music, context and community.

The description is quite broad because it is our belief that the history of reception of Biblical texts is expansive and virtually all encompassing.

We would love to hear from you if you have any questions and if you have a proposal.  Just drop the series editor an email at drjewest@gmail.com.

is the “canon” closed?

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea.

Icon depicting the First Council of Nicaea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve seen this discussion taking place in the blogosphere (and wider social media venue) so I’ve had some time to think about it.

What would happen if the canon wasn’t closed?

That is usually the question. Some would add MLK’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail while others may wish to add something closer to the Apostles, such as GThomas or 1st Clement.

For me, I’m not sure our canon is closed, only our understanding of what the canon is. If the canon is limited to a set of books within what we call “the bible” then it is closed because of the theological necessity at one point or the other to ensure our Church is founded only upon the words of the Apostles (or, you know, their pseudonymous followers — I’m looking you, “Timothy”)

In my opinion, the “canon” includes Scripture, the Creeds, and the writings of the Church that do not contradict the previous two.1 This means even the writings of various Christians such as John Wesley. So, my canon is not necessary closed as it is open to progressive revelation based on two firm foundations.

This isn’t exactly the UCC version of “God is still speaking…” but something along the lines of John 16.13 where we are still being guided from something, along a path, to some place.

What are your thoughts?

Btw, if I were to issue a New New Testament, I would include Thomas, Barnabas, 1st and 2nd Clement, Ignatius’s letters (short form), and Diognetus. I would also include the creed from the Council of Sardica and tell the East to bite me. 

  1. “contradict” is understood as a highly nuanced term.

my interview in the local paper…

You can find it here:

Former fundamentalist preacher Joel Watts, now an active member of Christ Church United Methodist, holds a book of essays he co-edited on the process of leaving fundamentalism. The book includes a chapter on his isolating, fear-based affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ. He left the church after 32 years and now speaks out on the dangers of repressive and rigid fundamentalist teachings

via The Charleston Gazette | Innerviews: Spiritual saga traces break from fundamentalist church.

To those discovering this site for the first time…thanks for stopping by.

Satan: Accuser or Executioner?

I had the privilege today of interviewing Dr. Ryan Stokes of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He told me about his research on satan (both a noun and a verb in biblical Hebrew). Stokes has concluded that the Satan in the Hebrew Bible is not an accuser but actually is Yahweh’s executioner. The article on this topic is in the June 2014 issue of Journal of Biblical Literature. My interview with him is here on MAP.

 

@dageshforte

Review of @fortresspress’s “The Vine and the Son of Man: Eschatological Interpretation of Psalm 80 in Early Judaism”

In the last few decades, academia has produced few, but great intertextual scholars. I suspect that soon we will add a name such as Andrew Streett to that list. His work, The Vine and the Son of Man traces the interpretation and reinterpretation of Psalm 80 in Early Judaism, ending with the Gospel of John. But, it does more than that. Indeed, Streett offers an interdisciplinary approach — Second Temple Judaism, rhetoric, canonical theism, and intertextuality — to understanding not just how the Fourth Evangelist used Psalm 80, but so too the inherited methodology allowing him, or requiring him, to employ the strategy. This volume is a richly rewarding experience whereby the reader is able to digest the complete context of Psalm 80.

And a very detailed introduction, Streett begins the work in earnest with an examination of Psalm 80 in its historical context. He presents his speculation that it was originally a response to the end of the Northern Kingdom, offered to call to God’s remembrance the covenant. Already, we can see why this particular psalm could become important to early apologists defending the messiahship of Jesus. It includes vine imagery, the request for a strong leader, and the restoration of the nation. Thus, the original context supplied the needed theology to develop John’s Son of Man imagery.

Following this, Streett examines the psalm within it’s setting of the psalter. This first use of the psalm allowed the receptive audience (the 6th century BCE) to see it pertaining to them. Further, by placing it within Book III of the psalter, Psalm 80′s already rich royal connection is magnified, assuming an eschatological presence that produces the connection to the Temple and Jerusalem. This is interesting in of itself because it allows the reader to see how portions of Scripture are shaped by their literary placement.

I a (not-as) convincing chapter on Daniel 7, the author argues that the natural imagery of Daniel’s Son of Man vision is supplemented by Psalm 80. He bases this on the beasts, primarily. I remain unconvinced, wishing he had devoted more time to intertextual clues — or included this chapter either in, or after, the following chapter in which he examines our psalm within Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (chapter 4). In this portion, Streett investigates such works as pseudo-Philo and the Dead Sea Scrolls to understand how Psalm 80 figured into their works. It is during this time, and with the help of the developing eschatological hope, Psalm 80 is reworked to represent better what early Christians would have recognized as the “real” meaning. Had Street placed his chapter on Daniel within this framework, it would be more convincing.

Streett’s chapters on Mark are completely convincing — not simply because he delves deep into the concept of allusion and what this means when reading texts into, or out of, of another. In chapter 5, he stands out from the crowd(s) — the crowds arguing neither for Daniel 7 or Isaiah 53 as the genesis for the suffering Messiah — holding Psalm 80 as the theological instigator for seeing Jesus’s passion as necessary and “biblical.” Chapter 6 deals well with Mark 12.1-12 and its allusive connections to Psalm 80. Streett continues to build upon the idea of intertextuality, connecting Mark to his theological heritage — Second Temple Judaism. By doing so, he gives a literary depth to Mark rarely seen by a surface reading.

In his seventh chapter, Streett tackles Psalm 80 in John 15.1–8. He does not simply offer the psalm as the only intertext, but examines it next to the passages commonly associated with pericope such as Isaiah 5.1–7 and Sirach 24.17–21. He maintains that while other passages may contribute to John’s choice of words here, it is Psalm 80 supplying the spine of the passage.

How did we read the New Testament without the aid of Psalm 80 before? Sure, we did pretty well for ourselves, having rested easily enough on Psalm 110 — but, it seems we were lacking something. And if we ever believed christology suddenly sprang forth ex nihilo, we missed something there as well. Often times, we are told scholars live to find something new. Here, Streett brings back something old and gives us more things to consider in reading the New Testament. He helps us to understand just how Jewish, and continuous, New Testament theology really is. It is a rewarding experience for those seeking to understand the zygote of the New Testament as well as how previous texts were used, reused, and transformed by later writers.