Category Archives: Bible

Thoughtful Thursday: An Almighty, Good God Allows an Evil World?

Human Brutality, one of the World's worst evils.

Here is a response to a difficult subject: Evil and human suffering. Your comments are valuable here. Thanks for reading.

The following are comments from a former classmate Marty Schoffstall as placed within the comment section on blog site of Theology Professor Ken Miller.

From Marty:

Dr. Dorsey [professor of Old Testament Studies] says that the story of the prophets (a rather large portion of the canon) looks like this:

(1) God Is Allowing Wickedness…
For a season…. and the wicked to succeed in their opposition to Him to temporarily triumph over Him (and over those loyal to Him). He may allow them to spurn Him, mock Him, humiliate him, or persecute those who remain loyal to Him.

(2) God is redirecting their evil….
to accomplish his own good purposes. The deeds of the wicked play into God’s hands and are used by God to further his own semi-secret agenda. [During this time when evil appears to prevail], God’s children are encouraged to: (a) Trust God, (b) Wait patiently for the time when God will intervene and right all wrongs, (c) Remain loyal and obedient to him.

(3) Finally, God dramatically intervenes…
to defeat his enemies. God is vindicated the wicked are punished; and those loyal to God are rewarded.

Now as my old friend friend Dr. Cunningham from UVA who was a very competent Roman Catholic Theologian on the side used to say:

“…mercy and justice are always in tension. We want mercy for ourselves, and justice for the other…”

Eventually we grow a little wiser and want some mercy for the other as well; however, we can never give up the concept of justice completely. Some decisions are so revolting (like genocide) that they must rigorously opposed, some people are so broken (like serial killers, serial kidnappers, etc) that we invest enormous time and money in the criminal justice system to stop them, they are horribly corrosive to society, they must be stopped.

How do you respond?

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Does your Breakfast (and your deity) make you AMAZING?

Continental breakfast

Image via Wikipedia

Un-amazing Breakfast from Creative Commons

 

 

Quaker Oatmeal has a new tag. I have to say, I love it. It just excites me. It probably won’t prompt me buy their oatmeal… I’d eighty-six porridge for eggs or coffee cake any day.

Nevertheless, I felt a sense of well-being just watching the Quaker Oats commercial. A rugged construction man, sits back, high upon a skyscraper girder.  From a thermos, he peacefully enjoys his heavily textured cooked oats . The voiceover asks, Does your breakfast make you amazing? (The build up to that was the scripted: “Rome wasn’t built in a day; and it wasn’t built on a coffee and a danish.”) Well, I think Rome was built on mead, or sambuca, but whatever.

In keeping with pop Evangelicalism, I’ll do the obvious. I’ll do the proverbial. I’ll take this inspiring tag line, and do a Christian parallel. (Isn’t it some sort of moral duty to take catch phrases, or witty wording, pilfer it, and spiritualised the thing ad nuaseam, in the name of edification, of course? I think the Biblical backing for this comes from II Leviticus 2:1, “Thou shalt copy they neighbors clever word-smithage. I am the LORD.”
Is it an epidemic religious and cultural kleptomania? Um. Yep.
And, right now, me fingerz feelz sticky, too.

So, here we go: “Does your God make you Amazing?”

Of course, this is a wildly self-centered question. I don’t even want Christians to “go there.” This is a preemptive, cut-Christian copy cats off at the pass, post. It’s meant to subvert a horrible Christian propensity, or worse, an ill-advised “evangelizing tactic”

I’m making an executive decision. I’m going to hijack the hijacking of, at least, this tagline.
Are you surprised?
BOOM. Amazing!

A basic truth: We like to be inspired to be amazing. Oh. Yes. We. Do.
We either think we’re pretty amazing already, or wish we were.

So, what about that?

AND–What breakfast, or attribute of God (or both) propels you towards “AMAZING”?

Soul, mind, and heart: Not understanding the Biblical text

Which one sounds wrong?

A. Do you have the guts?
B. Put your heart into it.
C. Make up your heart.

What is the heart?
The answer might surprise you.

In modern times, the “heart” has been called, “the feeling mind”. That sounds pretty good to me. What do you think?

A recent visitor responded to my post Is Chocolate Filling my God-shaped Hole? with the comment below (edited down). I think it would help to respond through a post, also. Now we can open up the whole thing to dialogue a bit more. Thanks for your contribution on this topic.

Visitor Response to Post–Submitted: on 2010/12/03 at 3:10 pm
The way I look at it, viewing the heart and mind as separate is extrabiblical; thus, in fact, “that thing that ‘falls in love’ or gets sentimental” *is* the mind. So the modern “follow your heart” does not connote the *opposite* of the biblical “heart,” but rather only *part* of it. Bottom line, I can’t trust my mind or my heart, or even my own spirit completely… only God is 100% trustworthy. As for filling our “voids” with things “besides” God, I try to remember that God gets the credit for all good things anyway…

My response:
I should have also pointed out [within that post] that the Hebrew equivalent of the emotions or passions (what many now consider the “heart”) were also referred to differently than the mind (i.e. set a different category, if you will–the bowels or “guts”).
The “guts” implied connection with those qualities of emotion, and so forth.

To sum up: In the Bible, (most especially in the Old Testament)…

1. What is translated as “heart” (in the KJV and others) is closer to what we now term as “the mind”. More specifically, the individual’s command center, or the place where decisions are made– which includes the will.

2. What we may think of as “the heart” that is, passions, desires, emotions, in the Hebrew language is connected with “the guts” or “bowels” of a person. For instance, “In his guts he loved her”. Yes, it sounds awkward, at best.

Even more controversy:
THE SOUL

There is a big dissimilarity in the Hebrew vs. English renditions of the word often translated in English as “soul”. In Hebrew, it refers to the whole being. The whole person (So, no. It does not mean a ghosty thing that floats to the clouds like in Warner Brother cartoons). We can understand it in our context more this way when we say, “30 souls were lost [died] in the shipwreck.”

Hey, everyone, please, weigh in.
This post is open to opinions, thoughts, comments, or if you’re of the particular stripe…exegesis.
(Yes. That’s the BIG word of the day.)

Exegesis (EGGs -eh- Jesus) is this definition hereIt’s not a variant, or French spelling of “Eggs and Cheeses” which we may be tempted to think at first blush, right? 

"Eggs and Cheeses" (Not Exegesis)

(click photo to find its source)

Tomorrow’s post–
“Does your Breakfast (and your deity) make you AWESOME?”

My song today, is Mary’s song

The Visitation in the Book of Hours of the Duc...

Image via Wikipedia

This is the season of ADVENT.
Today, I want to focus on Mary’s Song (also called the Magnificat) from Luke 1:46-55.

When I first read this, as a kid, I thought, “Wow, Mary’s getting all charismatic…” I wondered if she would be dancing, or waving her hands, or twirling a flag. Would Elizabeth be worrying about getting poked in the eye?

But today, I rejoice, because I see so much better that God provides. I notice that in this Spirit-filled moment of joy, Mary gets what God is all about. She realizes what God is like, and what he does for people. She comprehends that God remembers (mind you, this does not mean God recalls, like finding a lost memory, but this specific term “remember” connotes that God “keeps in the front of his mind”).

God helps the ignoble Mary’s of the world, and will pick them to play the big parts. [Probably the least likely to be important was an impoverished, young, teenaged girl, from a small hill billy mountain village in the Middle East, right?]

The Magnificat speaks to me personally today, because I feel blessed; and perhaps it will be meaningful for you today. 

I hope you share your thoughts with us today.
Thanks.

46“My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. 50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

It seems God has a weak spot for the underdogs of the world.

Is chocolate filling my God-shaped hole?

Biscoff Gourmet

WARNING: Like any good chocolate–which contains 60% cocoa–this post contains 60% tongue-in-cheek humor, and has been produced from a place they may be associated with nutz nuts.

So, about Chocolate…
Recently, I’ve asked myself the questions, “Can I see God past my love of chocolate?” and “Am I stuffing chocolate into the so-called “God-shaped void” of my heart?”

It’s. not. so. simple.

First, we have to answer the questions: What is “the heart”? And does this heart “place” have a vacuum (missing spot, hole, etc)?

Okay. No. Let’s talk about the phrasing first.
This “God-shaped hole” phrase could be more viable, in the first place, if God were like a product, and would act predictably as such. If God were a pill, or a tool, or a consumable, then selling him as “the thing that fills us” would work a whole lot better. God could be like sliced bread, or an Apple product.

Don’t get me wrong, God actually is sold this way by folks each day. He’s promised as the only thing to be the perfect fit, the best boyfriend ever, or the one who (like a class president with a Mexican heritage), will “make your wildest dreams come true.”

But how about the brass tacks?
Like Snickers, does God satisfy?

Snickers Purchased Feb. 2005 in Atlanta, GA, USA

Image via Wikipedia

Well, to be honest, I’d have to say “yes”, “no”, and “sometimes”.
Optimally, yes, God does. God has the potential to, but I haven’t seen anyone able to really take him up on all his selling features, and be “satisfied” too consistently–especially during God’s silent times, or terribly rough periods of life. Personally, losing my dad made me feel particularly not satisfied by God. For a long time. This most likely has to do with spiritual immaturity, but I’ve lived long enough to see it as a typical human response.

Though God’s perfect, the reality of the situation brings to bear the bigger question, and probably more important question: What relationship DOES satisfy us? Or, is satisfaction even the point? I’m going to buck the popular belief and say, “No. It is not the point. The situation probably cannon come to resolution this way.”
How do you see it? Maybe I can be better enlightened.

Now, back to the first point: “What is the heart?” The common, and I will add contemporary, understanding of the heart has to do primarily with our emotions, affections, feelings, or loyalties. Do you agree? But, if we consider this meaning was not AT ALL a Biblical understanding of the word “heart,” a whole bunch of things can do a 180º, like K.I.T. in Knight Rider.

Heart, in Hebrew terms, was synonymous with the word “mind”, or the decision center of a person. “Heart” was considered fully tied to the choice of will. So, our phrase, “follow your heart” is a modern day example of the opposite connotation of one’s “heart” in the Bible. With the Greek language, the same understanding remains for the Hebrew understanding: The “heart” is we think of as “the mind”. All those verses, like “The heart is deceitful above all things, who can trust it…” Well, that is speaking about the mind, not that thing that “falls in love” or gets sentimental. WE are deceitful partial by nature and partially by a choice of will. That the blunt accuracy version of the topic.

With this in mind (unfortunate pun #1. Ugh sorry), is there even a “hole” to fill? Do any heart-type voids have more to do with desire, or something of a more fleeting variety? Weigh in on this, if you will. (Pardon unfortunate pun #2.)

In conclusion, can I come to the answer for “‘what chocolate is filling for me”?
No. Unless you allow “empty calories” or “once loose fitting jeans” for answers.

One more question:

Milk or Dark chocolate?

Evangelicals and Lack of Tradition

This year, the Christian calendar begins November 28th. It is the Season of Advent.

Advent House

Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and many mainline churches observe the Christian calendar. The topic for each Sunday is predictable. Scripture from the lectionary guides the themes, liturgy, sermon, art, and music of that particular time. Traditional? Yes. Useful? I do believe it is.

It provides congruence. Most Evangelical pastors are accustomed to, more or less, speaking about what’s been on their mind recently. This is carefully referred to as “what God has laid on their heart.” (And you’d be a fool to question the movement of the Spirit, right? Maybe a fool, or maybe a blasphemer…if you spoke your thoughts.)

In general, it’s not a terrible thing to follow the leading of the Spirit. (If that is truly what is happening. But, that’s another post entirely!) But does this unformatted contemporary formula help cinch together the Story of God, the Christian Story, and bring a cohesive message of the Gospel, in history and depth, in a palpably connected way? Or, is the shoot from the Holy hip often more of a “bang here and a bit there,” approach?


I’d like to hear your take on it?

I tend to think a healthy mix of several Christian traditions could be very spiritually useful in contemporary times. We are already malnourished on a sound bite way of life as is it.

Chaplain Mike, a one-time Southern Baptist preacher, who blogs at imonk does the whole topic much more justice than I can. I strongly encourage you to link to his specific post with the link at the bottom, if you’d like.

Witness this poignant quote found there:
(It really hit home with regards to my Christian church experiences.)

“Part of the problem is that evangelicals really don’t have traditions,” said Carter. “Instead, we have these fads that are built on the strengths and talents of individual leaders. … But a real tradition can be handed on to anyone, from generation to generation. It’s hard to hand these evangelical fads down like that, so it seems like we’re always starting over. It’s hard to build something that really lasts.”– Joe Carter as quoted by Terry Mattingly

My main resource for this post and a really helpful article is here at imonk. It is most helpful for Evangelicals, and I challenge you to consider a deeper appreciation for the Christian calendar year, starting this Sunday, November 28th.

Thank you for reading.

12 Fruit of the Spirit that never made the cut

Tom Cruise drawn in Photoshop

Image by Roberto Rizzato ►pix jockey◄ Facebook resident via Flickr (aka "Mr. Intensity")

WARNING: This post is for humor purposes. If you take it seriously, and get offended, it’s your own fault. Go away today if you don’t like funny things once in a while.

Fruit of the Spirit that didn’t make the cut:

High Metabolism: (or Calorie Burn-Ableness) This is one of those qualities of which people can be envious. Yet, the ability to eat a whole pizza, or a half a dozen Krispy Kremes, and not pay for it according to the bathroom scale does not cut it as a Fruit of the Spirit.

Wrapping. (Giftedness) Because such things given by God are called “gifts” of the Spirit, some have connected this to the qualities associated with wrapping presents, for holidays, birthdays, and such. Cute paper, ribbon, and creative and crafty items to give items away are a way to show off talents, but let’s not get carried away. I’m glad I could clear this up.

Drinking your Coffee black. (Beverage purity) If you think the potent and bitter taste of coffee without creamer has something to do your spiritual gifting, I need to break it to you. The answer is “No”. And it doesn’t mean you love coffee more than other people either. (another related tip: Keep a toothbrush handy.)

Fanciness. Sure, good style is laudable. Though fruit-like, it doesn’t make the cut, and it’s not a gift of the Spirit to be fancy, per se. It can also be incredibly distracting.

Holding your breath. (Lung capacity blessed/breath-worthy) Long sought as a way to intimidate cream puff parents, and impress pool-goers, holding one’s breath for quite a while is a skill mastered with practice and techniques. I’m surprised you would even bring this one up.

Balance. One’s ability to walk with agility on a 2 x 4 does not appear to directly connected to the Holy Ghost. On this one, though, I could be persuaded with the proper argument “for”. Have at it.

Bluffing. (or in fruit language, bluff-tastic-ness) I think this term -bluffing) is used in games, meaning innocent falsehood to get ahead in a harmless game. (And, yes; In the gun-toting old wild west, this wasn’t always the case.. Obviously.) Good bluffers are admired in poker, and loathed in politics and golf. Either way, I’ve decided that, though it’s a close call, it’s not quite fruit-worthy for my purposes here. HOWEVER, perhaps you can weigh in on this story about when Jesus (perhaps) pretended to walk past the boat on the stormy lake of Galilee, shortly before Peter asked to walk on water to meet him. Was it bluffing? TEll me what you think.  (You can read John’s text here John 6:16-22)

Staring. (or stare-Able) Do you win a lot of staring contests and think God has something to do with it? Well, then you’re fooling yourself. The ability to stare well, just means you aren’t too bothered as your eyes get dry. This sensation drives many other people crazy, as a creepy itchy feeling makes it unbearable to not flip out and blink like mad. Plenty of people connect patience with this, but that’s total bologna.

Intensity. Closely related to the above (Staring) in terms of endurance, this quality is perfectly exemplified in Tom Cruise‘s acting performances, much to my chagrin. It’s a poor substitute for Christian maturity, and would no doubt  displease the powerful Xenu, at least in the long run. Plus, it’s so, gimmicky sometimes, ya know? MAYBE YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH-YA KNOW?

Jumping rope like an accomplished boxer. (Jumpishness) Yes, this one looks a bit superhuman sometimes, but it’s only the branch of a deeper issue. Basically, these people don’t care how sweaty they get, and also enjoy a repetitive sound. If you can do it, good for you, but I can’t work my way into respecting you for it, in a spiritual sense. Plus, the exegesis here is spotty at best. I repeat: At. Best.

Pen Tricks. (dexterity) Like Fanciness, this near-Fruit can be positive and appealing, but once you’ve spent hours learning them, to show off in Sunday School class, as you pretend to be thinking about the topic at hand, don’t think it makes you a better Christian. It could just mean you’re obnoxious and have way too much time on your hands. Your über tricky hands.

Swimming. (buoyancy) Walking on water, yes, of course. Obviously that’s totally backed up by Scripture as a spiritual gift, with some Fruit of buoyancy needed (Okay, yes. I’m still researching the buoyancy Fruit or near-Fruit). But, listen to me. Swimming is something even a dolphin can do. Nothing supernatural there…once you throw off the terrifying thought of drowning.

Fruity stuff from Paul Cheng. (The bananas look like horns because...?)

 

 

Please Note: Some of items here (nearly Fruit) that didn’t make the cut, are helpful to us in a general sense. Some may even coincide with certain biblical spiritual fruit. In themselves, however, they have here been identified as not really what Paul (the writer of Galatians, not the fruity artist above) was talking about.

Galatians 5:22-26But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

This is a formula I made up (after rigorous hours of study). When used it will take you far…like a camel in heat:

{GIFTS – FRUIT = corruption }

Bear in mind, this refers to the things of God, not Gift Baskets.

SO, my sweet readers,

What other things could make this list of Spiritual Fruit that couldn’t or didn’t make the cut? Share your suggestions. One lucky winner will get a humorous fruit of the Spirit t-shirt.