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.

Diversity and Snoopy’s Theology

Those who know me understand that I like to stir things up from time to time. I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind. I’ve never been afraid to embellish things with a wee bit o’ hyperbole. I don’t do this to be a smart ass. I do it to push people to think about what they are saying and doing. Yeah, sometimes it bites me in the back side. Most of the time, however, I’m not sure that anyone’s actually listening. Or, maybe they just don’t have the time to think about it.

Yesterday was one of those times that I purposely poked. A Facebook friend had posted something about being a liberal. Now, I’ve made it pretty clear that I lean to the progressive/liberal side of the theological spectrum. So, when I saw this I thought that it was worth reposting on my timeline to see what kind of responses it would garner. A couple people ‘liked’ it. That was expected. One person, however, took exception to it…with gusto. I enjoyed reading his response. It was well thought and courteous. Yes, there was strong language and passion. I would expect nothing less from him.

While I disagree with some of what he wrote, I must honor his position. It’s where God has met him. snoopyTheologyThis thing that we call orthodoxy is a fairly wide playing field. There is a lot of room for diverse ideas and beliefs. This may have been the single most important lesson I learned in seminary. ‘Doing’ theology is not simply reading someone’s book on Systematic Theology and spewing it at people. It is conscious reflection on what we understand from the Scripture, the Church and its traditions, the creeds and how they intersect with the reality of our culture. It’s wrestling with the tough questions and issues while resisting the tendency to offer simple answers that help no one. My friend has done this. So have I. We have come to different conclusions. That’s ok. God, whom we follow, is a big God. I’m fairly sure that God is not worried about our differences. We each have different gifts and purposes in life that the Holy Spirit distributes as the Holy Spirit sees fit. For me, or anyone else, to say that someone else has missed the mark is simply wrong. Yes, we can encourage one another to greater understanding. Yes, we can use hyperbole to poke and prod one another to continue to think and reflect. And, yes, we can piss each other off. But, through it all, we’ve got to remember that we can have only a small piece of God’s truth. And, chances are, we’re wrong a lot more than we realize.

Symbols and Metaphor…Paths to the True Destination

For those of you who have followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that one of my favorite bloggers of all time if Jennifer D. Crumpton. Today I read her most recent post. In it she looks at a new book by Reza Aslan, entitled Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. He considers what the writers and original readers of the gospels would have understood about the truth of their stories. His is not a new take on this topic by any stretch. It is focused on people who say they have faith, they’re just not religious. Of special interest in Jennifer’s post is a video of an interview she did with Aslan. Both the blog and the video are a bit lengthy. So, if I had to choose, I’d watch the video. Pay special attention to the historic and literary context that Aslan identifies for the writing of the Gospel texts. A link to this particular post is here.

What do you think of the position taken regarding Scripture? Is it possible that fiction can bear truth?

 

Thanks a lot,Plato!

A few days ago I was reflecting on something that happened many years ago. At that time I worked as a sound tech for a Christian band. The band was pretty good and we played fairly regularly in our region of the country. There was always plenty of energy and I made sure that no one had any trouble hearing it. (Oh, yeah…play loud!) Before every show I had to take time to make the sound fit the house. I would use a pink noise generator and ‘pink’ the room to set the system equalization. Then, because pink noise generators are stupid and can’t hear, I would play various songs from CDs I carried in order to get the EQ just right. I chose music that had a wide dynamic range so that I could make the necessary adjustments across the frequency spectrum. I did not choose the songs for their content. My ears didn’t care about content, they cared about frequencies. One time before a show, one of the guys told me that I should use “Christian” music for that. After all, we were supposed to be a “Christian” band and someone might be offended by Chick Corea. This posed a dilemma for me. Would I do my job with the tools I was familiar with…that would give me known results? Or, should I follow the suggestion of my friend?

This is a small example of something that has been troubling me for years. What is the so-called secular/spiritual dualism that we seem to accept without question? Where did it originate? Is God behind it?

These questions cannot be completely answered in a blog post. But, perhaps I can throw some wood on the fire in order to cast some light on our considerations.

As I understand things, the Semitic worldview that spawned the Jewish and Christian scriptures, and into which Jesus was born, was not a dualistic worldview. For them, creation was a single whole. God had created it for the enjoyment of all of God’s creatures and it was good. God was One unity. There were no other true Gods, and God was not divided. The most important part of a Jewish prayer service is called the Shema. It begins, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” To suggest that God could be divided would have been blasphemy to them. Humanity, likewise, was considered a unified whole. In the beginning of their story, God formed a human from the “dust of the ground” and breathed life into it, causing it to become a “living soul.” No division…a singular living being. So, how did we wind up with so much division, and factions, today?

I think that the root of this can be traced to the ancient Greeks, particularly Plato. Plato was perhaps the greatest thinker of his age. Living from 429–347 B.C.E., his influence has transcended the centuries. One of his chief tenets was that what we see and understand here, in the visible universe, is not true reality. When we see a tree, it is a somewhat defective representation of a ‘real’ tree that exists in some perfect realm. This idea is especially important when we consider more abstract concepts like ‘goodness’ and ‘beauty.’ Things that we consider good and beautiful derive these characteristics from the truly Good and Beautiful. What’s important to see here is that the so-called ‘ultimate’ object that we cannot see is perfect and superior to the derivative and defective ‘penultimate’ object that is visible and understandable to us. Ok, enough philosophy 101…my head hurts.

The early Christian church grew out of Judaism, to be sure. But, its development was deeply embedded in the Greco-Roman worldview of that time. Its roots grew deeply into the rich soil of the northern Mediterranean region where Greek culture and philosophy fertilized the tender shoot. It was inevitable that Platonic thought would influence the Church’s development.

“Ok, Helbert…so what? What does all of that have to do with playing Chick Corea?” I’m glad that you asked! Platonism, or more accurately, neo-Platonism is the life-blood that courses through the whole of Western thought and culture. We have learned to quantify and qualify our entire universe. We have the ability to mentally compartmentalize every facet of our lives. All thanks to our friend Plato. What interests us here is that Plato provided a qualitative aspect to our existence that, I don’t believe, actually exists. His premise seems to rest on the fact that the ‘ultimate’ is good; the penultimate is defective. For us, that translates into that which is spiritual/godly is good; that which is earthly/fleshly is bad. We can then make judgments between the spiritual and secular that are, at best, distorted.

In the beginning God formed a unified whole. Yes, there were many parts. But, there are many parts to any single system, be it a human being or a butterfly. For those who want to keep the spiritual and the secular separate, just remember that there is only One Who is good. That One is Yahweh. Everything else is created. And, Yahweh declared that it is all good.

Mine is only one opinion. What do you think?

 

 

Love Casts out Fear

The Problem

On July 8, 1741, Jonathan Edwards delivered a sermon to people gathered at a church in Enfield, Ct. It was entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In it, Edwards used vivid imagery to depict the hell that he believed awaited every human being on the planet who did not choose to change their life and follow Jesus Christ. It is said that the people of that church were crying out, “How may we be saved?” as they clung to the pillars of the church fearing that the ground was about to open up and swallow them into a fiery, eternal punishment. That sermon has been used as a model for evangelical ‘revival’ type sermons ever since. The hope being that people would be ‘scared saved.’

A Consideration

A couple of days ago I read the account of Jesus’ transfiguration, or metamorphosis, in the Gospel according to Matthew. Three of his followers, Peter, James and John were with him. As Jesus’ appearance changed, the three guys were amazed and basically said, “Wow! This is so cool!” Then, a cloud covered them and they heard a voice saying, “This is My Son. I love him and am very pleased with him. You listen to him!” At this, they fell on their faces because they were terrified. I’m thinking they probably needed to change their Depends. The story ends with Jesus touching them and saying, “Get up and don’t be afraid.” It seems an encounter with the Divine is a rather frightening event. Throughout the Scriptures there are examples of times when humans came face to face with God’s Presence They fell down before God, quaking in their sandals. And, they invariably heard the words “Don’t be afraid.”

A Question

Why is it that so many people today are afraid of God? Why do so many leaders in the Christian Church continue to invoke fear in those who are entrusted to their care, (À la Edwards)?

The Problem Revisited

GodatComputerI was talking with someone recently who told me how she had experienced panic attacks because of the manner in which God was presented to her. I could tell that her fear was real…and, it was debilitating. These people she listened to continually portrayed God as filled with righteous wrath and ready to push the ‘smite’ button on the celestial Macintosh. (Yeah, I’m pretty sure God uses a Mac. Why else would God have commissioned Steve Jobs to upgrade Moses’ tablets?) They talk about the “fear of the Lord” in terms that cause stevenMosesanxiety. They want people to be afraid. They seem to feel that by invoking fear, an incredibly potent emotion, people will be motivated to change and be “saved.” I’m pretty sure that they honestly think that they are doing people a favor by scaring them. But, seriously, who wants to follow a Cosmic Terrorist? God’s voice continues to say, “Don’t be afraid.”

 

Fear Redefined

I’m sorry, but that is not what God wants people to experience. Brian McClaren wrote in his book, Naked Spirituality, that the fear of the Lord “doesn’t mean the kind of spiritual terrorism to which many people are subjected in fire-and-brimstone sermons and God-as-Terminator theology.” Fear of God has to do with reverence. In the prayer that Jesus taught his followers are the words, “Our Father in heaven, may Your name be revered.” There is a tension between God as Transcendent Creator and Abba who holds us close enough to hear the Divine heartbeat. This tension can drive us to our knees, awestruck by God’s presence. It can fill us with unspeakable joy. People filled with reverence like this aren’t paralyzed with fear. They are empowered to welcome the reign of God into the world through love and justice. They’re not concerned that God will stomp on them. They realize that God loves them. And, as a result, they love God. John the Elder wrote, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love,” (emphasis mine). It is God’s desire that the seed of love that is planted in our hearts grow and mature. As love grows, we learn that we are God’s beloved. Our identity is no longer ‘sinner,’ but we are, like Jesus, ‘transformed’ into ‘Saint.’ In loving reverence we hear God’s loving voice say, “Get up! Don’t be afraid.”

 

 

Privileged, and Mostly Oblivious to It

I am a white male. That’s what I’ve always been. That’s what I always will be. I can’t help it. It’s how God made me. If everything was equal, there would be no problem with that. But, things are not equal. I am privileged in this culture. And, God did not make me that. The systems that have been built over centuries have ensured that I would have a privileged position in society. These systems are so deeply embedded in our culture that most of us who are privileged don’t even realize that we are. It’s just ‘the way it is.’
Recently, Tony Jones, a highly educated, white guy made a presentation that rubbed some people the wrong way. One of the people in attendance,Christena Cleveland, called Tony out for being exercising his privilege. Jones responded with obviously hurt feelings. Now, at first, I didn’t see all that much that was offensive in Jones’ remarks. Shoot! I’ve probably said similar things myself! As I reflected on it, though, I became more and more uncomfortable. Then, a few days later Jones, I think in an attempt to show how egalitarian he is, posted a request for women and feminists to join in his blog. Again, an understandable response from a privileged person who sincerely believes that he is above reproach in these matters.
This morning I visited the blog of Caryn Riswold. She pretty much dissed Jones’ offer. And, she challenged readers to go and read what people who are NOT privileged have to say. One of those links led me to Cleveland’s blog. I spent the next 30 minutes reading a 5 part series that she had posted. What great stuff! You see, we who enjoy privilege are blind to it. We simply can’t understand why ‘others’ don’t like us. We don’t get it when marginalized and oppressed people don’t ‘get’ us. In fact, many of us don’t realize that there are any oppressed people out there. After all, we live in a land of equal opportunity. But, as the old cliche goes, “some of us are more equal than others.”
I am adding a link to Cleveland’s series. I would encourage anyone who happens to stop by here to take the time to read it. It is of utmost importance if we are trying to be the Body of Christ to understand where the other members of that body live and breathe and have their being. It is important, no necessary, that we embrace kenosis, emptying, as Jesus did if we are to live as God’s people. 
 

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.

Imago Dei

Read an interesting blog this A.M. It reveals much of the current direction that Christ followers are taking theology. I find the position refreshing. If for no other reason than it provides fodder for reflection. For those of you who know me, that’s one of my favorite past times! Anyway, here is the link. Please take a minute to read it. Then take more than a minute to reflect.
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/emergentvillage/2013/01/the-image-of-holiness/#comment-13066

Away for a bit

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve been here. There’s simply been too much on my plate to spend time with this blog. My dad was back in hospital again. It really sux getting old. He’s a tough old codger, though. And, I started at a new position at work last week. New stuff to learn and not a lot of time to learn it. Ah, yes! I love it when they move the cheese.
Anyway, I’ve spent the better share of the last month ruminating on how the Euro-American worldview is simply NOT the best way to live a full and abundant life. I’ve read a couple books from a Zen point of view. One of them by a Jesuit priest who uses Zen practices to deepen his spiritual life with Yahweh. Interesting stuff that I will comment on later. I’ve also been studying material written from a First Inhabitant point of view. I have been encouraged to look at this by Randy Woodley. He is an American Cherokee with a Ph.D from Asbury Seminary. Having been following his online works and blogs, as well as working through his newest tome, Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision, has given me much to meditate on. This, too, I’ll comment on later. All of this to say, I am in the process of trying to reconcile the Euro-American culture with the Very Good Creation that Yahweh has provided for all living things to dwell in. It’s difficult. Actually, it’s impossible. We who are of European descent have much to bring to the discussion, but we are not the answer or telos of that discussion.