God is Not Bound…

This was originally posted July 2, 2015. Yeah, I know it’s been a long time. But, I want to share some things that are in line with this post. Especially, after the horror that was the 2016 presidential election cycle. (I include ALL participants. Not just 45.) Hopefully, will be back soon.

This is my first post since I decided to change the focus of this blog. After much prayer and counsel from my Spiritual Director and my counselor, I feel that, at least for awhile, this is the direction that I must go.

I’ve reflected on my personal experiences and those of others. I’ve read a lot that has been written by people who have been hurt by abusive ‘teachers.’ Heavy chains have been wrought out of the iron of dogma. This has been done primarily by White men who drape these chains upon the shoulders of the meek; the hurting; the marginalized.

So, this is a beginning. My desire is to reveal what I believe are errant interpretations of the Christian Scriptures. Also, I desire to shine a light on the fallacies of historic precedent that so many leaders try to use to validate these interpretations.

I know that this may appear to be a lot to consider. And, it is. But, it is important that we take this journey together at this time. Many good and sincere people are trapped in abusive institutions. Many others are leaving the faith journey altogether. There has been a marked rise in the number of folks who simply can’t believe any longer. I have been one of those who has questioned that God even exists. But, I can’t go there. Something…that ‘still, small voice’… keeps me from walking away. I BELIEVE that there is more to the Universe…to our existence…than simply cosmic dust. I have only my experience to hang on to. My experience with the transcendental ‘Other’ compels me to continue on this path.

Perhaps, you also, are in a similar place in your life. If so, ‘Come!’ Let’s walk together for awhile. You, me…and God.

The masthead of my blog quotes from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). I have thought about this verse for many, many years. What does Paul mean? What did the folks in the Galatian church hear? How does this apply to me/us some 2,100 years later?

For starters, most Fundagelical leaders dismiss this whole concept by saying that the meaning of this verse is that we are all ‘free’ to not sin. WTF?!?! I’m free to not do something? But, what AM I FREE to do? What am I free to think and believe? Who am I free to be?

I have never really felt comfortable with that definition by negation. For one to be free implies that there is something to be freed from. Some kind of bondage or prison that is not good. So, they would say, “Well, you’re free from sin.” As I’ve grown and matured in my faith, I honestly don’t know what that means. No one can provide a definitive answer to what ‘sin’ actually is. (This is the subject for a future post.) Some say it’s simply ‘missing the mark.’ However, the most common term for ‘sin’ in the Greek New Testament is hamartia. This has to do with being evil, wrong doing and guilt. And, many of the people who hold to this holiness outlook are more than willing to pile on the guilt.

There are many kinds of slavery. Slavery to addictions, praise, food, etc. In this passage from Galatians, Paul was writing about slavery to the Jewish works of the Law. These were primarily the ‘identifiers’ of who was a Jew and who was not. Basically, it set the gates for who was in and who was out. Things like circumcision, dietary laws and Sabbath-keeping were what Paul had in mind. Today, many Christians bind themselves to laws that effectively perform the same function. They have developed ‘laws’ that must be adhered to in order to be members in good standing in their ‘tribe.’ What is one’s stance on abortion? LGBT people? Has one followed whatever ‘formula’ is currently in vogue for tribal initiation, (did I say some kind of “sinners’” prayer correctly)? Do I hold to the ‘correct’ doctrine, (whatever that means),?

What these do not do is free people. They heap on the unsuspecting a burden that they cannot bear. Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:4 are true of these people, “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.

This may sound like the rant of an angry person. Well, actually, it is. I am angered by the presumption of these people to say they speak for God. Every time one of them states, “God said this or that” the hair on the back of my neck stands up. When I hear hate speech being spewed from pulpits I cringe. I recently saw a video of a man claiming to ‘know’ God’s will screaming at a second grade girl who had the audacity to hold a rainbow flag. Somehow, I can’t picture Jesus, the One who welcomed the little children and blessed them, doing this.

I think that my favorite passage in all of the Bible is Luke 4:18-19. The story recounts Jesus’ coming out at a synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth.

He stood to read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He found the text he desired and read,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives. And recovery of sight to the blind. To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

I could go on and on. And, I will. Eventually. I intend to broach issues that Evangelicals prefer to ignore. Or, worse, disparage. I am going to poke and poke to evoke a response in folks who think differently. This is a place for civil discussion.

So, let us begin. What do you think about slavery? If there is some bondage, how do we move toward freedom? Does God require that we wear some heavy yoke?

Use the comments. Please note that I moderate the comments. Refrain from inflammatory language.

God Is Not Bound to Our Ways

This is my first post since I decided to change the focus of this blog. After much prayer and counsel from my Spiritual Director and my counselor, I feel that, at least for awhile, this is the direction that I must go.

I’ve reflected on my personal experiences and those of others. I’ve read a lot that has been written by people who have been hurt by abusive ‘teachers.’ Heavy chains have been wrought out of the iron of dogma. This has been done primarily by White men who drape these chains upon the shoulders of the meek; the hurting; the marginalized.

So, this is a beginning. My desire is to reveal what I believe are errant interpretations of the Christian Scriptures. Also, I desire to shine a light on the fallacies of historic precedent that so many leaders try to use to validate these interpretations.

I know that this may appear to be a lot to consider. And, it is. But, it is important that we take this journey together at this time. Many good and sincere people are trapped in abusive institutions. Many others are leaving the faith journey altogether. There has been a marked rise in the number of folks who simply can’t believe any longer. I have been one of those who has questioned that God even exists. But, I can’t go there. Something…that ‘still, small voice’… keeps me from walking away. I BELIEVE that there is more to the Universe…to our existence…than simply cosmic dust. I have only my experience to hang on to. My experience with the transcendental ‘Other’ compels me to continue on this path.

Perhaps, you also, are in a similar place in your life. If so, ‘Come!’ Let’s walk together for awhile. You, me…and God.

The masthead of my blog quotes from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). I have thought about this verse for many, many years. What does Paul mean? What did the folks in the Galatian church hear? How does this apply to me/us some 2,100 years later?

For starters, most Fundagelical leaders dismiss this whole concept by saying that the meaning of this verse is that we are all ‘free’ to not sin. WTF?!?! I’m free to not do something? But, what AM I FREE to do? What am I free to think and believe? Who am I free to be?

I have never really felt comfortable with that definition by negation. For one to be free implies that there is something to be freed from. Some kind of bondage or prison that is not good. So, they would say, “Well, you’re free from sin.” As I’ve grown and matured in my faith, I honestly don’t know what that means. No one can provide a definitive answer to what ‘sin’ actually is. (This is the subject for a future post.) Some say it’s simply ‘missing the mark.’ However, the most common term for ‘sin’ in the Greek New Testament is hamartia. This has to do with being evil, wrong doing and guilt. And, many of the people who hold to this holiness outlook are more than willing to pile on the guilt.

There are many kinds of slavery. Slavery to addictions, praise, food, etc. In this passage from Galatians, Paul was writing about slavery to the Jewish works of the Law. These were primarily the ‘identifiers’ of who was a Jew and who was not. Basically, it set the gates for who was in and who was out. Things like circumcision, dietary laws and Sabbath-keeping were what Paul had in mind. Today, many Christians bind themselves to laws that effectively perform the same function. They have developed ‘laws’ that must be adhered to in order to be members in good standing in their ‘tribe.’ What is one’s stance on abortion? LGBT people? Has one followed whatever ‘formula’ is currently in vogue for tribal initiation, (did I say some kind of “sinners’” prayer correctly)? Do I hold to the ‘correct’ doctrine, (whatever that means),?

What these do not do is free people. They heap on the unsuspecting a burden that they cannot bear. Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:4 are true of these people, “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.

This may sound like the rant of an angry person. Well, actually, it is. I am angered by the presumption of these people to say they speak for God. Every time one of them states, “God said this or that” the hair on the back of my neck stands up. When I hear hate speech being spewed from pulpits I cringe. I recently saw a video of a man claiming to ‘know’ God’s will screaming at a second grade girl who had the audacity to hold a rainbow flag. Somehow, I can’t picture Jesus, the One who welcomed the little children and blessed them, doing this.

I think that my favorite passage in all of the Bible is Luke 4:18-19. The story recounts Jesus’ coming out at a synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth.

He stood to read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He found the text he desired and read,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me. Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives. And recovery of sight to the blind. To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

I could go on and on. And, I will. Eventually. I intend to broach issues that Evangelicals prefer to ignore. Or, worse, disparage. I am going to poke and poke to evoke a response in folks who think differently. This is a place for civil discussion.

So, let us begin. What do you think about slavery? If there is some bondage, how do we move toward freedom? Does God require that we wear some heavy yoke?

Use the comments. Please note that I moderate the comments. Refrain from inflammatory language.

A Response to my Friend

BibleA couple of weeks ago I shared a blogpost written by Benjamin Corey . It was basically a critique of the way in which many people in our Western, particularly American, culture read and interpret the Christian Bible. A very good friend of mine commented about that posting:

“It seems that you have shared a number of articles about what Christians are not doing right. They take scripture here or there to justify something or to maybe judge. The article you shared once again is telling people to understand what is being said in scriptures based upon the times and how they were written. So, I am asking the question, how do you use scripture to reveal the truth of Jesus and his saving grace?”

As I reflected on this, I realized that this is not just one question, but two. First, he is leveling an accusation that I am antagonistic toward Christians. The question seems to be, ‘Why are you attacking those with whom you have identified for so many years?’ The second question is, ‘How do you present the gospel to others?’

I responded to him that I thought that these were valid questions that would require further reflection. What I’ve written here is that response.

Question One: ‘Why are you attacking those with whom you have identified for so many years?’

Actually, my friend, I’m not. As I’ve grown older I have found that I’m not nearly as sure of the things that I thought, felt and believed earlier in life. Back then it was easy to be absolutely sure of myself. I knew that God had created the universe. I was convinced that anyone who did not accept and believe the Christian Bible as we in the West accepted and believed it were wrong and in danger of eternal punishment. The foundation of my world view was set firmly in a patriarchy. And, I had no doubt as to my eternal destiny as a child of God.

Then, the doubts started to seep in. I learned that others who were not a part of my ‘tribe’ were not the evil, depraved creatures that I had been led to believe. Many of them were hard working, family-loving people simply trying to get by in life. Many others were devout believers in God, but not in the same way that I was. Still others diligently searched for God in other cultures and settings. I saw women who were gifted to lead and teach. These people were able to stand before God and others in confidence. Were the things that I had held up as ‘gospel truth’ able to stand in light of these observations? Honestly, I wasn’t sure. One thing I did know, however, was that things I continued to hear week after week from the pulpit were quickly becoming incongruent with my life’s experiences.

So, I became a seeker. I needed to find out if my thoughts were, in fact, opposed to the ‘orthodox’ position that those around me embraced. Or, was there hope in this cloud of doubt.

I entered Ashland Theological Seminary in the fall of 2006. (That’s a whole story in itself. I’ll save that for another time.) I didn’t know what I would experience there. I only knew that it was the place I needed to go. The next five years took me on a journey that changed my life and my way of thinking and believing. I learned that it’s ok for followers of Jesus to think! Imagine my surprise. I had been trained, or better, indoctrinated to believe that everything that came out of the mouths of church leaders was to be accepted. After all, these men were God’s anointed shepherds. To question them was to question God. I also learned that there is really no one…let me say again, No One, who can know totally and with certainty what God thinks, cf. Isaiah 55:8-9,

8    For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. 9    For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.

One cannot read the text ‘simply’ and understand the mind of the writer, let alone the mind of God. Especially, when one is reading a translation of a translation. These texts were written millennia ago in cultures and languages that no longer exist. I learned that we cannot take these texts out of their social and cultural context and place them directly into our culture in the 21st century. What this led to was an understanding that the playing field of orthodoxy is a very large one. As long as one is able to keep the ball from going completely across the boundary line, that person must be considered orthodox.

With this being said, my intention in sharing the kind of material I do is to present other views of orthodoxy. Rather than attacking the church, I offer a different opinion. I’ve shared many times on Facebook that I like to stir things up. I want to stretch people’s understanding. Is what the predominantly white, male-dominated evangelical church’s view of God and scripture the only viable one? Obviously, I don’t think it is. Simply put, I want to give people an opportunity to think.

Question two: ‘How do you present the gospel to others?’

The simple answer to this question is, I don’t. At least, not in the way it has been pursued by most evangelicals. I don’t knock on doors. Nor, do I ‘cold sell’ to people. I’m not going to assault strangers and begin to ‘witness’ to them.

What I am going to do is be prepared to give a reason for the hope that I have,         (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15). That reason, or explanation, is based on personal experience. Lofty, theological vagaries don’t help. What good is it to speculate and theorize with people who have no interest in the text to begin with? However, no one can take away nor refute what I have experienced. Like the beggar who Jesus healed, when questioned by the authorities, responded that all he knew was that before he was blind, now he could see. It is our life with God that speaks. A statement attributed to St. Francis sums this up. “Always remember to preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

What does this say, then, about my approach to using scripture to “reveal the truth of Jesus and his saving grace?” I’m not sure that’s the right question. This question diminishes the scripture and makes it a users’ manual of sorts.

How to get someone ‘saved.
Step one: The Roman Road.
Step two: The Four Spiritual Laws

A more accurate question would be, what is the purpose of the Scriptures? Is it history? Science? Myth and fairy stories? Or, is it what it claims to be…the inspired Word that is living and active in the world? I think that the text provides us with a glimpse into the heart of God. It allows us to see how people have related to God and one another over the centuries. And, it gives us hope that we can share in these experiences as we grow to know this Person. That is what I share.

Ok…So What?

The fact is, I don’t know everything. (Surprised, right?) In most things I’m most likely mistaken. As I’ve written before, I follow the theology of Snoopy. This allows me to be myself as God has made me. I am extremely confident in my ability to be wrong.

I can be friends with people for who they are as God has made them. It doesn’t matter what their politics are or their station in life. I am not concerned about their sexual orientation or their view of science and the cosmos. I love and accept them as they are. After all, didn’t Jesus himself say that to love God and our neighbor summed up the entire Law?

Yeah, I disagree with people. Sometimes with vigor. But, that doesn’t diminish them. That elevates them to dialog partners. Like I wrote above, I am a seeker. By definition that makes me someone who is not afraid to go places that are unfamiliar, and perhaps, uncomfortable. It opens me up to opinions that are different than those that I hold. For me, this has been freeing. I don’t have to fear other opinions and concerns. I’m pretty sure that God’s not afraid, either. My friend, this life is a journey, not a destination. To hold lightly to what we think and believe, yet to hold tenaciously to God makes the journey a good one.

The Wise Men…Who Were They?

wisemenOne of the stories that has become part of our holiday season is the story of the Magi. It’s been romanticized to the point that the story we tell today bears little resemblance to the story written by Matthew. It now has three kings from the East bearing gifts to the infant Christ. They have even been given names! Tradition in the West has graced them the monikers Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. They are depicted as riding their camels across the desert ‘following yonder star.’ In some places, even the crèche has them standing around with the shepherds and animals. It’s a nice story. It’s a warm and emotional story. But, it’s not the story that Matthew tells.

Matthew’s story is one of international interest. It also has touches of courtly intrigue and deception. It starts with the statement, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea…” The writer doesn’t give us a time frame for this. It’s just sometime ‘after.’ Later in the chapter we learn that Jesus may have been as old as two years. But, that’s a story for another day.

The Magi were most likely astrologers from the region we now know as Iraq. These people had a relationship with the heavens that has been lost to us today. At some point they recognized some new celestial event. They called it a ‘star.’ Through their training and practices they discerned that this ‘star’ hailed the birth of a new king of the Jewish people. Perhaps they were sensitive to this because there was still a fairly vibrant Jewish community left from the Babylonian captivity half a millennium earlier. In any case, they thought that a new king of the Jews would be in the Jewish capital of Jerusalem, so they loaded up their caravan and headed west. It’s highly unlikely that there were only three Magi in the caravan. And, they would have been traveling with an armed escort as well as servants and supplies.

They arrived in Jerusalem and began asking where the king was. Well, of course they were directed to Herod the Great. They told their tale to Herod, who was not happy about this. Matthew tells us that “when King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” I can understand why Herod was disturbed. He was ruthless in his pursuit of power and prestige. He spent millions building cities and edifices for the glory of his name and legacy. He was probably the greatest builder of his day. He was also a man who would not hesitate to have someone’s throat cut if he thought they were a threat to his position. Caesar Augustus is reported to have said that it would be better to be one of Herod’s pigs than one of his sons. This was the person to whom the Magi reported. The rest of Jerusalem would be upset and worried if Herod was upset and worried. No one knew what he might do, but they all knew what he was capable of. And, there was the problem of Rome. As a vassal state, Palestine could come under Rome’s scrutiny if a new ‘king’ suddenly appeared on the scene. As we see from the end of the gospel, claiming to be the ‘king of the Jews’ did not have a great retirement policy.

Anyway, Herod had his people figure out that the new king would be born in Bethlehem. He sent the Magi out to find him and report back his location. At this point Matthew states that the “star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” Apparently, after the star originally appeared, they must have lost sight of it. They knew it was about the Jews, so they traveled there. But, now, having left Herod’s presence, the star reappeared and they could not contain their exuberance. When they found the house where Mary, Joseph and Jesus were staying, they “bowed down and worshiped him.” They presented the child with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Royal gifts for a royal child. As they slept that night, the story reports that they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod. They decided to return to the East by a different route and left.

Now, I could stop here. That’s pretty much the story in a nutshell. But, I think that there are some things to be learned about God and God’s love for humanity as a whole. I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that God chose to announce Jesus’ birth to those who were marginalized in society. Those who had no voice or who were considered unclean or ‘outsiders.’ First, the choice of Mary and Joseph to be parents. They were not upper class folks. Joseph was a craftsman and Mary was a child herself. Second, the shepherds. These people could not even testify in court because their word was considered to be as worthless as their vocation. Third, the gentile Magi. Not only were they outsiders, they worshiped the heavenly host and other gods. They were idolaters! Yet, God chose these people to welcome the Word of God into our world. The Magi used their own, dare I say, God given talents to discern what God was doing in the world. Pagan astrology and knowledge led them to worship Jesus. After they came and bowed before Jesus and worshiped him, they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod. What I found interesting was that we are not told how they happened to receive this dream. In the two instances where Joseph received divine instructions through dreams, we are clearly told that “the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.” There’s no such caveat in the Magi’s dream. Could it simply be that the writer did not want to reveal such a close association between the God of the Jews and these gentiles? Perhaps. Or, could it be that there was another way that dreams are communicated to people other than God? I’m not speaking of something dark or demonic. But, perhaps something natural, that because of their training and practices, the Magi they were sensitive to? God works in many mysterious ways.

How should this inform how Christ-followers should respond to others? We see that God seems to prefer communicating with the poor, the marginalized and the ‘other.’ The wealthy, powerful and privileged are left on the outside wondering what’s going on. The ‘other’ includes those who do not think nor believe like ‘we’ do. And, apparently, that’s OK with God! Perhaps we should take a lesson from God and learn that God is accepting of all people wherever they live and whatever they happen to think and believe. They do not need to become like ‘us’ for God to love and accept them. If God can ask the Magi to join in God’s plan for the world and send them on their way in peace, why can’t we?

On Keeping the Gates Closed

I was going to write more about relationships today. But, something else has been knocking on the inside of head trying to get out. So, I’m going to get back to the messiness of living with other, ugh, people some other time.

Every morning I take time to read something from the story of Jesus. I find this story intriguing. Not so much for what the writers state that Jesus said, but for their depictions of what he did. This is not to take away from reading the red, as some say. Whether Jesus actually spoke the words attributed to him or not is not as important as the fact that the early church ascribed those words to him. They are completely consonant with their view of Jesus’ actions.

This morning I read from Matthew’s take on Jesus. The part of the story that I read was the account of Jesus as he stood before a roomful of men who were desperately trying to find a reason to execute him. The particular text states, “Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled” (Mat. 26:57). I stopped to imagine that scene. Jesus’ hands were bound as he stood in the midst of a group of very angry men. These men were the leaders of the Jewish culture. They were the educated ones, the intelligentsia, and the gatekeepers. These were the men who decided what was orthodox and what was heresy. What I found striking in this scene was who was not present. There were none of the people that Jesus spent his time with. Where were his friends? Where were the people who were healed or fed? Could someone please bring in the character witnesses?!

Jesus self-stated mission, or purpose, was stated in Luke’s version of the story. He wrote that Jesus’ raison d’être was to give good news to the poor, proclaim release for those who were bound, let the blind see, free those who were oppressed and to proclaim that the time of God’s favor had arrived. If one reads the stories, paying close attention to the things Jesus did, it becomes clear that he fulfilled that mission. Jesus hung out with the outcasts and marginalized. He enjoyed having dinner and partying with lepers and women. He played with children and put up with 12 slow learners. And, ultimately, the gatekeepers couldn’t tolerate this kind of subversive behavior.

Jesus didn’t play by the rules that the leaders made. Please note that. “The rules that the leaders made.” That made him a threat to their world. A threat so serious that they had to conspire to kill him. Now, what’s key to this is that these leaders thought that their rules were God’s rules. They read their holy book as a users’ manual or rule book that had to be adhered to or God would get really ticked and maybe kick them out of their homes and take away their religious liberty. What they did was considered the only appropriate response to Jesus’ brand of unorthodoxy.

I have observed a similar mindset in many of the so-called ‘gatekeepers’ today. Men like Al Mohler, John Piper and Owen Strachan have set themselves up as experts in the law. They, like those who stood around Jesus that night, perceive Jesus as a threat. Of course, they would never say that. But, they really do. They read their holy book as a users’ manual or rule book that must be followed to the letter or God may get really ticked and punish everyone.

I’m sorry, (well, not really), but they are mistaken. If we are to take Jesus’ birth, life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension seriously we must take Jesus’ mission seriously, also. That mission was directed to the people that the gatekeepers’ rules excluded. Jesus reinterpreted their sacred story to include everyone, especially it seems, the outcasts and marginalized. We should be willing to do the same.

Hate what God Hates…Whatever that is


Last week I visited a local church. It’s one that I’ve visited a few times over the past few years. I find meaning in the liturgy there. It’s not like the evangelical free church that I was a part of for many years. This church understands the importance of symbol and celebration in a way that actually embodies, at least how I understand it, the work of God in worship. However, the senior pastor made a statement during a prayer that puzzled me. He prayed that we would love what God loves, and hate what God hates. Now, to most evangelicals, this sounds like a good prayer. It is asking God to show us how and where to direct our affection and our disdain. It seems to be asking for wisdom and discernment. Good things, right? But, there is more to this, I think. First, what does God love and hate? The prayer left this wide open to every speculation and opinion. Although, in his sermon he alluded to some moral concerns, primarily directed to young people, there was no direction for any of us to take in order to discern these things. So, I decided to take a quick trip through the Scripture to see if I could find anything that could help me to love the things God loves, and to hate what God hates.
First, I want to say that this is in no way a comprehensive study. Most Christians would not understand it if it was. This is a quick view that any interested person could do in a short amount of time. It is, in its brevity, accessible to anyone.
In the New Testament I found very few references to God hating anyone or anything. There is a reference to Mal. 1:2 in Romans 9. It reads that God has loved Jacob, but has hated Esau. In the Romans context, Paul was trying to explain God’s sovereignty in the form of election. God will have mercy on who God chooses. It’s not up to human actions. In the Malachi reference, it appears that God was explaining that through divine choice, God considered Esau as an enemy. Again, no reason other than God’s choice. PLEASE NOTE that this is an example of God’s own divine choice. It is not something that we could ever possibly act out on our own. We cannot hate Esau because we do not have a reason to. God alone gets to make that call. Besides, for the pastor’s prayer above to have any meaning for us today, we would need to know who the heck Esau is. We cannot hate Esau.
In Hebrews 1:9 we find that Jesus apparently hated lawlessness, but loved righteousness. Again, no definitions here. What did the writer mean by lawlessness? Kittel, in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, wrote that in this particular instance, lawlessness could be synonymous with sinfulness. So, the writer was basically making the statement that Jesus hated sin. But, the sin, or lawlessness here appears to be that which Jesus hated in his own life! Not in anyone else’s. Because of this, God set him above his companions. Ok, so we can learn to hate sin IN OUR OWN LIVES. This text does not give us privilege to hate it in anyone else’s life.
There is a statement in Revelation that is a tad confusing. Apparently, God hated the deeds of someone referred to as Nicolaitans. No one really knows for sure who these folks were, nor what deeds are being referred to. Can’t hate what we don’t know about.
So far, there isn’t much that I can find that would help us to hate what God hates. Mostly because, it doesn’t appear that God hates too much.
The Hebrew testament has some interesting things to say about what God hates. Without giving specific references, I found that God hates dishonest gain. Hmm… If we were to bring that statement forward a couple thousand years, perhaps God would not be happy with Western economic systems that reward those who get ‘gain’ using any means, including dishonest ones. Of course, when these people or institutions are found out, there is a great public outcry for a day or two. Then, back to business as usual. Maybe we could find an object of hatred there. But, as Jesus told those who brought the adulteress to him, let whoever is without sin toss the first rock.
The Scripture is clear in many places that God hates idolatry…all idolatry. What can we learn from that? Most people would define idol worship as anything that a person places importance on at the exclusion of other things, especially God. That could be money, house, job, spouse/kids, lover, prestige, RV, or cable TV. Here again, though, it is idolatry that we have in our life that is important here. It’s not up to us to point out the idolatry that we may sense in others. We are pretty much incapable of having accurate discernment.
In Proverbs chapter 6 the writer gave a list of things that God hates. Now, with this kind of list, the main point is usually the last item in the list. In this one that item is one who spreads strife among brothers. In fact, all of the items are interpersonal things. Lying, shedding innocent blood, etc. God apparently doesn’t like it when people treat other people badly. Ok, I can understand that. So, how does that play out as we relate to the LGBT community? What’s that look like as we objectify and marginalize women? Immigrants? The poor? Just something to think about.
There are other texts that I could reference, but, I’ll finish with this one. Amos 5:21-24,
21 “I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.
22   “Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the  peace offerings of your fatlings.
                   23  “Take away from Me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.
                   24  “But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Perhaps, now I’m just speculating here, God isn’t all that happy when people use that authority of the pulpit to speak for God. At least, when making general statements that are loaded with emotion. Maybe our church leaders would do well to make sure that the words that come out of their mouths are accurate and precise. From what I’ve found out, these are the ones who may experience God’s displeasure.

I saw this cartoon over at Dr. John Byron’s blog. For me, it sums up the position of biblicists. Folks who come to the scripture with presuppositions that specify how God must act, speak, exist in order to shore up a poorly designed position of biblical inerrancy. More on that to come.

Peter Enns and Adam

There is an interesting thread beginning over at http://thebiblicalworld.blogspot.com/.
Dr. John Byron has blogged about Peter Enns’ book, The Evolution of Adam: What theBible Does and Doesn’t say about Human Origins (Brazos Press, 2012).
The book has the potential to free many from the shackles of biblical idolatry, (bibliolatry). So many of us put the scripture in bondage to something that it was never intended to be. It is not a history, although it contains some. It is not intended to be science. Regarding some of the factors that Enns proposes we approach Adam today, Dr. Byron wrote, “(1) literalism is not an option, (2) that the Bible and science speak different languages and ask different questions, (3) that inspiration should embrace God’s use of cultural idioms, and (4) that a rapprochement between evolution and Christianity requires a synthesis, not just adding evolution to theology.”
I am waiting anxiously for Amazon to get my copy of Enns’ book into my hands. It sounds like a refreshing take on an old discussion.

The Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth

The ongoing discussions about biblical inerrancy continues to fascinate me. I’ve read the Chicago definition. I find it wanting. Mostly, because it tries to define God in an extremely narrow manner. It also, I feel errantly, raises the biblical text to the place of godhood. It is, as they say, bibliolatry. What really got me thinking about this was the nastiness that many display when this question comes up.
While struggling with this, and other issues related to the biblical literalist position, a professor of Old Testament asked an interesting question. While considering both Ruth and Esther as stories that most likely were not accounts of actual events, he asked if it was possible for truth to be expressed in fiction. Hmm….Heck Yeah! I began to think about the story of Scripture as narrative…a love story from Yahweh to creation. The inconsistencies in the text disappeared as did the battle between science and theology. In this world all can live together in the discussion. Inspiration has never been an issue with me. The text is inspired. It is, however, free to express God’s love, mercy, compassion, etc. without the hindrance of having to line up with, or do away with observable truth. Yea, God!
Anyway, I bring this up to share a link to another blog where this topic is being chewed on once again.
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2012/03/15/absolute-perfection-oh-my-rjs/
Enjoy!

Lead us not…

Temptation. That word has sent shivers up and down the spines of countless faithful for centuries. The prayer that Jesus taught his disciples in some translations has the line,  “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” peirasmós, translated temptation, (because of the negative sense derived from the context w/evil), also has the idea of test or trial. James wrote that the person who perseveres through trial is blessed. Thomas à Kempis wrote about this in The Imitation of Christ. No one, according to him, is immune to temptations and trials. They are, “troublesome and severe, are often useful to a man, for in them he is humbled, purified, and instructed.” In another place, he refers to Paul’s statements that temptations are common to humanity. In these God will leave a way to get through them. The task, for à Kempis, is to not run from trials, but to let God help us through them. “Fire tempers iron and temptation steels the just.”
This way of thinking seems to run counter to what we in the West would think. We want quick fixes. We don’t want to experience any discomfort, especially internally. When temptation comes, it starts in the mind. We are “tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (Jas. 1:14). The battle ground is laid within our thoughts and desires. Sin, then is born and matures into death. This is what scares people. What if I fail? Why can’t I simply get past these tests? We want to ‘pass’ them and graduate. There is no graduation in this life. Reliance on God the Holy Spirit is how we persevere. It is the crucible in which our minds are renewed and we are transformed; metamorphosed into the likeness of Christ. Rather than running from these trials, it seems that it is more important to embrace Yahweh and walk through the fire.