Sunday, June 26, 2011

I Am Adam

There has been a discussion about the historicity of the Adam and Eve story in Genesis 2-3.  While I think that there is a case to be made for its occurrence in real life, I don't think we should fail to see that Adam's story is our story as well.  Every part of the story is a part of our lives, our experience:

Adam and the woman are all of humanity, including each individual.

Humanity is granted authority/responsibility over the created earth. But he is told not to make ethical decisions on his own (the tree of knowledge of good and evil), but to rely on his relationship with God.

Satan (the serpent, the power that judges humanity) convinces humanity to take authority on their own, because if they were to make their own ethical decisions, apart from God, then they would be all-powerful.

Humanity makes the decision to separate their idea of good and evil from God's. God abides by their decision and determines to separate himself from humanity. Humanity is now devoid of God's wisdom and must depend on their own wisdom.

However, humanity is also devoid of life. Because humanity is like a toddler with the power of a king, God doesn't allow humanity the opportunity for eternal life (the tree of life)-- humanity would just be too dangerous. Instead, God puts humanity under the power of Death who limits humanity through suffering and hardship and who shortens humanity's lifespan.

That's how I see it. Again, I don't have a problem with a historical read of the story, but we need to recognize ourselves in this story as well.

First posted on the Aletheia Forum:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rapture Bashing

N.T. Wright gives us this short essay about the "American obsession" about the rapture.  He raises some interesting points from a British Anglican point of view:
Farewell to the Rapture

What do I think about it?  Glad you asked!

I like N.T. Wright a lot and I think he has a lot of good things to say. But I think his eschatology is wrong. I think he has to take every single eschatalogical passage and declare them all "metaphorical". Does it make sense for Jesus to explain his metaphorical parables in Matt. 13 with more metaphor? I don't think so.

The fact is, the eschatology of Jesus doesn't make any sense to the supernaturally-critical, which the British Anglican church certainly is. So rather than let Jesus say what he says, they want to add another layer of metaphor so they can figure he says something else. It is clear that Jesus (and Daniel and Paul) are all referring to the same event-- the God-appointed coming of the Messiah to rule the earth. Not to heaven, to earth.

However, as usual, N.T. Wright gets all the cultural connections exactly correct. This description of Paul's does refer to a triumphant hero, returning to his home city. But Paul refers to more than that. He refers to the common theme of God's people ending their dispersion throughout the world and coming to the Messiah who would lead them eternally. Check out Isaiah 27:12-13 in which the gathering of God's people are associated with a trumpet sounding, which is only one of many passages in the Hebrew Bible that mentions a future gathering of all of God's people to return to the land.

I think that the focus of many rapturists is misplaced. They want to talk about a deliverance from suffering and judgment and a time of regret of all the peoples of the earth, years before Jesus' coming. I think this is unnecessary in Scripture and so just another way to make biblical eschatology more complicated than it needs to be.

There is a middle road-- that a gathering happens, it happens miraculously, as Paul said, but that it is a part of Jesus' already miraculous return to earth.

Originally posted on the Aletheia Discussion Forums. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Is Religion?

Religion has gotten a bad rap.  Many people define it as “man working toward God” or understand religion as empty rituals.  The fact is, religion is any organized focus on God or mysticism.  There is very little difference between religion and spirituality and relationship with God, and all three can work together.

Miriam Webster defines “religion” in this way: (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance;  (3)a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; (4) a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith .  The first definition really means any kind of respectful action toward God.  The second is a specific kind of respect toward God. The third could be a doctrine or a regular practice toward God of any kind.  The final definition is completely personal,  as one might say, “MY religion is chocolate”. 

So religion, first of all, has to do with practice toward God.  That’s not a bad thing, right?  If we are devoted to God in any way, we want to do something about it, right?  Secondly, religion has to do with some kind of commitment or devotion.  This means that our commitment to God isn’t taken lightly, but it effects our lives.  That’s a good thing as well.  At least for most people.  Finally, it could be a regular practice with others or it could be completely personal.  The term “religion” isn’t exclusive.

So why is religion put down so much?  Because people are reacting to the negative aspects of ritual and of corporate worship.  Sure there’s some bad stuff in there, but is completely personal worship without it’s own problems?  Don’t all kinds of people use their “religion” whether personal or corporate, to promote bias and prejudice?  The problem is not using the term religion, but in refusing to see others’ spirituality as equal as one’s own. 

In every kind of religion there is bias.  Protestants slam Catholics, Pentecostals feel that others aren’t “Spirit-led”, orthodox bewail heterodoxy, personal spiritualists look down on those who go to church every week and on and on.  We need to realize that we are all religionists and we all see our spirituality in different ways.
And our spirituality NEEDS to be different.  God is open to being served in any of thousands of ways.  And we need to find the way that works for us.  But because someone doesn’t have the cultural features we have doesn’t make them better or worse.  We have no right to judge them because they serve God differently.  Nor do they have a right to judge us.  Instead, let’s all embrace the God who embraces us all if we have a devoted heart toward Him.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Position on Violence

I believe that we are to treat others, even those who do us harm, as the image of God and worthy to consider them as an object of compassion. This is not to put our enemies above our family, but to treat them all with consideration and hope of reconciliation.

Secondly, to do violence against anyone puts us in the place of doing evil. "Redemptive violence", as done by human beings, is a myth. To do harm to another is just that-- doing harm. We should not put ourselves in the place of doing evil to others, even should harm befall us. Better to be hurt than to do harm.

I wouldn't attack others even if my children are attacked (unless I am completely in the flesh). This doesn't mean that we wouldn't protect our children, but we would use other means than harming another.

I do not support war for any reason. In every single case, the evils that war cause are worse than the evils that war is trying to prevent. Because followers of Jesus are called upon to "love their enemies" any follower of Jesus who participates in or supports war is in direct opposition to the will of his or her Master. I have nothing against non-Christians who participate in war in obedience to their nation, or against Christians who have repented of their participation in war.