Friday, December 5, 2008

Dialogue

If two people disagree over an issue, as I see it, they both can't be right. They both most certainly can be wrong, but not simultaneously right. I know arguments can be made that both parties can be partially right and I would agree, but when it comes to issues of truth, only one can be right.

Suppose two historians got into an argument over the sinking of the titanic. One historian states that the Titanic sunk after colliding with a massive iceberg, the other states that the titanic actually was sucked into a arctic whirlpool. Only one can be right. Either the titanic hit an iceberg, or was sucked into a whirlpool. Yes, someone could come along and say that both happened--the Titanic hit an iceberg and then was sucked into a whirlpool. But now we have three competing truth claims (assuming that the first and second historians assert ONLY one incident caused the tragedy).

It seems to me that our culture, while gradually rejecting the logic of absolute truths, is moving towards a misinterpreted explanation of the term 'tolerance.' One can no longer assert that they are right as interlocutors involved in a dialogue with opposite opinions are wrong without being deemed intolerant, haughty, puffed-up, narrow minded, or any other ridiculous and ignorant assumptions.

The truth is, ANYONE who holds an opinion against others, thinks they are right and the other is wrong. This person may or may not be a prideful or arrogant person, but asserting that they believe there opinions are the correct opinion cannot be a matrix for judging their intent and/or character.

If I were to state, "God is real," and you conversely state, "God is not real," and then, after hours of good natured debate, we both decide our opinion has not changed, it would be erroneous for me to say, "Ha, you refuse to listen...you refuse to change your mind. You are so sure that you are right. Your pride has gotten the best of you," I would be wrong, and ignorant, for the person with whom I had been in conversation with could say the very same thing about me. One can, and must, for the sake of peaceful and progressive discussion, approach any subject and say, "I believe you are wrong and I am right." This is not an admission of run-away-pride, rather it is an impressive display of honesty. Perhaps accusations of arrogance are permissible if, in the example of the Titanic historians, the firs historian stated, "I believe the Titanic hit an iceberg, and that is that...I refuse to listen to any of your arguments."

More and more indivuals and instituions are resorting to ad hominen attacks. Instead of attacking the argument and its logical backbone, they are attacking the character and/or intelligence of the person putting forth his/her opinion. I have no patience for this. If fact, I see it as ignorant. I am not assuming that someone who resorts to such an attack has a low IQ, they are just too uninformed to participate in the particular discussion and thus have to attack the character of the one presenting the argument for purposes of distraction. Thus, it can be reasoned that ad hominen attacks are an admission of wounded pride.

All that to say, I'll try to be honest around here. If I disagree with you, whether in your comments or postings on your own blog, I am doing so because I think I am right and you are wrong (conversely you think you are right and I am wrong), but I do and have listened carefully to your opinion, otherwise, how could I disagree?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Here I Am

It's been a minute!

Things have changed a lot around here for the better. I attribute much of this to the prayers of a lot of folks who read this blog.

I am employed at a wealth management office now, here in Toledo, OH. It's quite different from all that I had scholastically prepared myself for. I hold a MA in Theology and now work in finance. It's all good though. I love my new job. I do a good deal of administrative work, research work (up my alley--research on historical Christian understanding of wealth, work and the state, and am working towards a securities license.

My wife, who since we've been married has been a vocational mother, now works at a local woman's homeless shelter. She's doing an awesome job...she pretty much bleeds empathy. It's a bit difficult doing this while confined to one vehicle, but it's working so far.

I'd like to get back into writing on this beast, but I do so hesitantly; that is, the balance between objectivity and tactful subjectivity is difficult to achieve in a non-anonymous blog. I feel awkward at times when I write, knowing that folks with polarized opinions on whatever subject is at hand are reading and possibly being offended. Nonetheless, I'll try to hit this thing at least once a week.

Anyway, thanks all for the encouragement over the past couple of months (your recent comment was uplifting, Peter!)

Peace!
Nate

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Leave of Absense

I just wanted to inform those who read this blog I will be taking a mandatory sabbatical from posting. You see, I have been unemployed now for nearly 4 months. I don't receive unemployment compensation, and haven't been able to find a job. So to keep from loosing my home, I am selling my computer. And lots and lots of other non-essentials.

Those who pray, please do. If anyone in the Toledo area is hiring, please give me a call. 419.205.5337.

Please stay subscribed! At some point, I will be back.

Peace and Love in Christ,

Nate

Friday, September 26, 2008

How To Look 5 Years Younger In 5 Minutes







































































































I think I miss my beard already...

John 10, A Qumranic Connection|Carl's Blogged Bible Study

One small tidbit today...

Over the past few chapters, John has carefully woven the text to clearly demonstrate that John is not JUST a messiah. An anticipated Jewish Messiah in the minds of the Jews in Palestine and those displaced by the diaspora would have been coming to overthrow the oppressive imperialism of Rome. According to John, Jesus was no political figure (Jesus shunned politics!); rather, he was God-become-flesh, sent by himself (so to speak...the father) to redeem mankind from their iniquity.

John, unique from the other synoptic writers(Mathew, Mark, Luke), masterfully accomplishes this task. What is so different about John? What does he do that the others do not? I would say, John's approach is clearly philosophical; if anything it is clearly intellectual.

Without going into a history of the author (the resources are plentiful, just go to any university and search their online library of works) I presume we stop thinking of the gospel of John as inspired scripture (which it is), and think about it as work of literature (which it is), penned by a unique author with a bias, with subjectivity, with background, with a leaning towards certain philosophical ideals.

All too often the Christian assumes that writers of scripture were consumed in a trance and the Holy Spirit guided their pen grasped hand and wrote the words. Not the case. Just look at Paul's work...the Greek is easily recognizable as Pauline in characteristic. Thus said, while scripture IS the inspired word of God, it was written by many different humans, all of whom expressed their personality in the text.

So look at John 10:40-42. This little tidbit is not found in the other synoptics. To me, this screams, "Look at me...John wrote me!"

What is so interesting, is that Jesus stayed for a while with his baptizer, who according to more than a few scholars and historians, may have been a Qumranic member--an Essene (you know, the guys who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls). Whether or not John the Baptist was an Essene makes little difference to me, all I know is that he fits the description of one in his dress, his methodology, and his ideals.

The Essenes were extremely mystical, and extremely philosophical. I suggest picking up a copy of the dead sea scrolls. The Essenes were looking for a Messiah. In fact, splinter groups thought he had come and gone.

Here is my point...could Jesus, and more notably, JOHN the gospel writer, spent time with this group, or at least remnants of the gropu known as the Essenes. This string of verses highly suggests it as a possibility. But cherry picking verses to support a supposition is never a good idea, so consider the overall language of John. Ideas key to John (truth/error, light/dark, living water, predestination, eschatological struggle, the two spirits) are all found in the chapters of the Dead Sea Scrolls, sometimes word for word.

Te whole point of this post is not to point out the similarites between John and Qumran, nor is it it to suggest that the gospel writer plagiarized from a group of dessert mystics. The point is that the gospel writer WAS ifluenced by these people. Maybe he never camped out in the cliffs with them, but he was clearly familiar with their philosophy and used it to communicate the word of God--the life, teachings, and meaning of Christ. God allowed him to use his own personal flavor of communication, and I am sure that many who read his gospel in those early days who were familiar with qumranic ideaology understood the message a lot easier!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Coming Out

Taking a cue from Wes, I must say my perspectives and worldviews have changed drastically the past few years both politically and theologically. I attribute this to inductive thinking and setting aside presuppositions in approaching history/theology.

I have become acutely aware of the dangers of a government that overstretches it's reach; that is, a government that imposes itself in the form of regulations and programs in places a government is not designed for.

The BEST blog post I have read recently that echoes my concerns but in an extremely concise and well-educated manner can be found at Strange Culture. Please, go read it or else this post will make far less sense.

Anyway, I can no longer consider myself Democrat or Republican, for both parties increasingly abuse the authority and over extend the reach of government, and both candidates in this election represent what their parties have become quite well. I guess I don't know where that leaves me...Libertarian, I suppose. I intend on writing more later and developing the ideas in Strange Cultures post a little more.

Blogged Bible Study, John 9

I apologize in advance for the rabbit trail that this post consists of, but that's where my mind went. I want to point out that I approached this text as agenda-less as possible, and as a certain controversial issue is brought up in this post, again, I approach it objectively. In fact, I am undecided on this issue. This isn't a theological stance, it's an observation.

John 9 centers on the miracle performed at the outset, the healing of the blind man. The disciples ask Jesus whose sin, his or his parents', caused his blindness. Jesus naturally replies neither. In fact says this man was created that the work of God might be manifest him in. Vaguely deterministic, but it can be taken as Jesus says, "Crap happens."

But that's not where I am going with this. Jesus, while talking, mixes his spit with the mud to make clay which was applied to the man's eyes. After washing the man's eyes are opened. That was some sweet mud. Here is the formula: DIRT + GOD = Miracle. Where have we seen this before? It sounds strangely familiar, like when Adam was fashioned out of clay and then animated with the breath of God. Again, not only is John demonstrating that Jesus is the God, but that Jesus is connected with the creative process. (cf. Jn. 1:2-3, "in the beginning with God, all things were made through him.")

So here is where I rabbit trailed...

Jesus, the Creator, as evidenced in John 9 and the Creation of Adam (Gen. 2:7) utilizes process in creation. Sure, he could have thought it and Adam would have appeared. He could have thought it and the blind man would have been made well. In my often wrong and humble opinion, Genesis is far more analogous than literal. Is it possible that the creation could have been the work of a process. Obviously, I am alluding to the whole debate in Christian circles that considers evolution a possible creative process of God.

I am undecided on this whole debate, all I am saying is God purposefully makes the miraculous more complex than necessary at times.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Carl's Blogged Bible Study, John 8

Man, to be honest I didn't feel like writing a post today. In fact my last post was last Friday. Thus said, nothing deep today, just a VERY short post of two observations.

John 8:9...Why did the older ones leave first?

  • Maybe with age comes wisdom...wisdom says, "this is an argument we can't win."
  • Everyone always assumes you can't teach on old dog a new trick...I hear this crap all the time when it comes to the church itself. Relevance, new movement, blah blah blah. Anyway, contrary to popular belief, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, while heavily dogmatic, were not a bunch of guys hung up on making religion intolerable for the masses. It is hard to picture, but the truth is most of them hated Jesus so much because they were so passionate about pursuing God in heaven, they were not looking for him on earth. Maybe, after a lifetime of pious devotion, the older generation were closer to God...heard his voice clearer. They learned their lesson sooner?
  • Who knows...I don't have any resources available right now so it's guess.
My second observation is just to point out the irony. In the beginning of the chapter, Jesus saves a woman from being stoned. His cleverly divine words did the trick. At the end of the chapter, Jesus' cleverly divine words lead to his almost being stoned.

Usually John states that, while the leaders wanted to kill him, they were unable because it wasn't Jesus' time. This time however, John states Jesus had to hide. Despite the fact that it wasn't his time, the leaders ignored their ever deadening consciences and tried to take matters in their own hands. Obviously this process led to the cricifixion. It reminds me of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart in Exodus.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Why Do You or Don't You Believe Jesus Was the Messiah? | Carl's Blogged Bible Study--John 7

"My Friend Ivan..."

The name Ivan is of Slavic/Russian origin. It is a transliteration of the Hebrew name, John. In seminary, John became my favorite book of the Bible as I muddled through the unique and precarious balance of divinity and humanity in the fourth gospel (Check out Thompson's, The Humanity of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel). I've discussed this here and there in recent posts, but in review of this chapter, in short fashion, I want to point out the humanity of the humans in John.

The seventh chapter of John comprises a debate...is Jesus the Christ. Keep in mind the Jews had just experienced a short breath of freedom from Greek kings before the Romans subjugated the known world (practically). Without going into a detailed history lesson, the Jews (particularly in Palestine--remember the diaspora) were anxiously anticipating the arrival of a messiah who would free them from Roman rule.

***Let me insert here a suggestion: Michael White's, From Jesus to Christianity. This book unravels the history from the Maccabean Revolt up through Christ. It is my opinion that anyone who calls themselves a Christian should be familiar with the socio-political condition in which Jesus Christ was birthed***

But Jesus was not the only messiah figure floating around at the time. There was Simon (4BC)--a slave of Herod who rebelled, and Athronges (4BC), Judas of Galilee, a Zealot (6AD) just to name a few. Many Jews believe that Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994) was the messiah, despite the fact he himself thought of himself as the one who would prepare the way for the true messiah.

Anyway, read through John 7. Listen to what the multitudes are saying. They all had a strong premonition that a messiah may have been walking among them, but which one was the right one? Davidic lineage, birthplace, and signs and wonders were brought up. Many believed, but most did not. I love reading this chapter. I take pity on the confused people in this chapter. They were trying so hard to decipher the truth!

And I have to ask myself...were I Jew living in Palestine who sat in the temple listening to the teachings of Jesus, weighing the evidence, listinening to the advice of my spiritual leaders and my peers...would I have believed that Jesus was the Messiah?

It is MUCH easier to believe that Jesus is the messiah here in America in 2008 AD than it was to in Judea in 28AD. It is much easier to believe in a figure from the past than the man standing in front of you, especially when others are making the same claims as him.

I do believe that Jesus was the Messiah...but why? I could spout off the historical evidence, the traditions of the Church, liturgy, etc. I could reference the scriptures of the Old Testament. I could regurgitate lectures from my professors. When it comes down to it I cannot absolutely tell anyone why I believe in Christ, I just do. Perhaps it is experiential, but I VERY rarely feel goosebumps; that is, the supernatural doesnot overtake my emotions that often. Like I said I just do, it is just a deep subconscious feeling. I guess it's faith.

If you were in the temple that day, would you have believed? Why do you believe today? Why don't you believe today?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Russia Threatens Poland With a Nuclear Strike

I am shocked and disturbed when I consider what Americans focus their energies on in regards to what may be considered "news worthy." Sure, it is natural to be self centered. It is important to follow the pedantic and baseless speeches made by our presidential nominees. It is important to watch their ridiculous pep rallies conventions. It is important to keep tabs on Miley Cyrus gas prices.

If anyone has followed this blog for a while, they will know I have been wary at times of things going on over in Easter Europe. The fact that Iran and Russia (two nations led by outspokenly anti-American megalomaniacs) are becoming increasingly "buddy-buddy." You could have cut the tension between Bush and Putin at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics with a knife!

So I could not have been more alarmed when I read about the US's latest endeavor: Setting up a defensive missile base on Polish territory. The conservative Polish (one of two nations being stinkers about the European Union), easily obliged the wishes of the US. Upon hearing the news of this new base close to their soil, General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the Russian armed forces' deputy chief of staff stated:

“Poland, by deploying [the system] is exposing itself to a strike - 100 per cent,” he was quoted as saying, before explaining that Russian military doctrine sanctioned the use of nuclear weapons “against the allies of countries having nuclear weapons if they in some way help them.”

Yeah...who threatens another country action anymore!?!? And we all thought the cold war was over...

A New Blog

The post have not been a flowin' here on My Friend Ivan. It pains me to see my feed stats in decline, but such is life. A weird mix of apathy, a VERY dysfunctional computer, and a new project have kept me away from this site...but now that things are settling down a bit, I'll hopefully be posting more often.

If anyone is interest in my new blog (co hosted with an old college budy), check it out. It's a blog dedicated to fine beer (always in moderation...morality aside, the stuff's expensive). The new blog is Thank Heaven for Beer.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

John 6, Carl's Blogged Bible Study--TRANSUBSTANTIATION

I daresay there exists a universal maxim that renders humans nearly incapable of believing apart from their history; that is, for example, the child born and raised into a baptist believing family will most likely follow baptist doctrine the rest of their life. The child of staunch atheists will most likely end up following the atheist line of thought. The Muslim child will most likely worship Allah. It is my experience that in so many cases, the recipients of whatever tradition USUALLY accept their beliefs unconditionally and unquestioningly.

Ask the average Christian why they believe in the trinity and they will respond, "I just do," or, "it's just the truth," without providing any scriptural or historical evidence. As any Christian, regardless of denomination/tradition, what their rule of faith is and they will respond, "the Bible," ask them how the bible came into compilation and you will most likely get a deer in the headlights look. Most of us, myself included, often take our beliefs for granted. We assume them to be true without investigating another interpretation or model.

Which brings me to John chapter 6.

This post will be a little different from the rest. I hope not to talk about what inspiration this chapter afforded me; rather, bring to light a different viewpoint than most of my readers share, and hopefully spark some discussion. Keep in mind, as there are now over 30,000 different christian denominations in the US, there is a great deal of divergence over biblical interpretations.

In this chapter of John, Jesus is challenged by the Jewish leaders. They explain that there forefathers were miraculously provided manna as a sign, and ask Jesus what miracle he could perform to top it so that they might believe. In his most explicit confession of divinity, Jesus says that Moses did not provide the heavenly bread, the Father did, and in like manner His father has sent heavenly bread in their day...himself, Jesus of Nazareth.

They were already offended at this, and Jesus could have stopped there, but instead he said they must eat this bread...his body (51). They scoff and say, "how can this man give us his flesh to eat?" Jesus could have said, "I am talking figuratively you idiots." Instead he says they must drink his blood as well. Such ingestion, he says, leads to eternal life (54).

As there are a plethora of interpretations of this event, let us focus on the Catholic interpretation. The Catholic interpretation accepts Jesus' words as literal. Coupled with Matthew 26:26,28, John 6 is viewed as a foreshadowing of the last supper, and consequentially, the Eucharist and the explicit belief in Transubstantiation.

Like the Pharisees in the text, to most of us, this seems outlandish, cannibalistic, and a flagrant misinterpretation of the gospel. But ask the average protestant why transubstantiation ISN'T biblical truth and you won't get a reply...at least a well researched reply.

What did the early church think about John 6 and the idea of transubstantiation? Ignatius of Antioch, writing around 110ce to the Smyrnaeans said:

"those who do not hold heterodox opinions...they do abstain from the Eucharist and prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His goodness, raised up again."

Forty years later Justin Martyr wrote:
"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to take of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and has been washed in the washing for remission of sins and for regeneration and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, is both the flesh and the blood of the incarnate Jesus Christ."

So, the earliest followers of Christ believed that in communion the bread and wine mystically/miraculously become the literal flesh and blood of Christ. I'm sure this flies in the face of our long held beliefs. It does mine.

I'm not saying I hold to this interpretation, but is it really that weird? After all, we believe that we can pray to an unseen God and he can mystically/miraculously alter the properties of a cancer into that of a healthy cell. We believe that Jesus altered the chemical composition of pots of water into wine. We believe many mystical thing...why not this one?

So I would love feedback. Why or why not do you believe in transubstantiation?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

John 5, Carl's Blogged Bible Study

This week's post may be lame...I apologize in advance.

For the past few weeks the same Jehovah's Witness has been stopping by my house in attempts to convert me. I had not really engaged with her for lack of time. Last week, however, as we were holding a garage sale she stopped by. Since I was just standing around anyway, we got into a debate. After about twenty minutes, she called on backup. Since I don't accept the JW definition of authority and inspiration, our only common ground was scripture.

The topic of debate was the idea of trinity. (If anyone didn't know, JWs reject the trinity...they do not believe that Jesus is God, rather a created superior being) To accept this doctrinal behemoth, trinity, the Christian must depend heavily on church tradition/history, which JWs illogically reject. The woman, Jennifer, actually brought up John 5, particularly verses 19 and following.

If you read 19ff, trinity is difficult to prove...but then again, does scripture try to prove it at all?

The Father sent his Son (5:36)...Can god send himself?

The Father give the son authority (5:27)...Gan God give authority to himself?

How about verse 26...basically it states that the Father has life in and of himself, unlike humans, our life, according to scripture and church tradition, is contingent upon God. It is nice to know that, according to 5:26, Jesus functions the same way; that is, he has life in and of himself. But this life, was granted to him by the Father.

The way I see it, the idea of trinity is dependent upon church tradition, after all the idea surfaced around 100ce, long after the New Testament had been penned. That's not to say there are not elements of it in scripture.

The early church defined Jesus as, "fully God, and fully Man." What a mystery...a paradox...much like the idea of an uncreated being (God).

So how do I interpret the John 5:19? I consider Paul (Phil.2:5-7):

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.
In a nutshell, Jesus was God but became a man, thus he emptied himself of certain divine characteristics. Everything Jesus was given by the Father were qualities Jesus once possessed but emptied from himself.

I retain belief in the trinity...besides, John 5:22 says that the Father Judges no one...that is Jesus' role. There certainly was plenty of Judging going on in the Old Testament. If is wasn't God the Father who was it? And if God gave Jesus that ability while he was on earth, it just supports the idea of Jesus' "self emptying" in Phillippians.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

John 4...Carl's Blogged Bible Study Samaritans

I rarely blog at 6am, but my wife and I woke up early to watch the Persoid Meteor Shower...which was fantastic. Watching the streaks of molten rock actually reminded me of the early use of John by the gnostics. Anyway, here are a few quick thoughts on the gospel.

This 4th chapter introduces the first believer in Jesus Christ other than Jesus' mother, cousin, and disciples. Whenever I come across a 'first' in scripture (or any other literary work for that matter) I take special note. As I mentioned before, John, being a Jew, thought more linearly and less chronologically therefore this 'first' conversion really should clue us in on the nature of Christ, since the whole gospel is Christological work.

There is not a whole lot of written history by those called 'Samaritans,' but we do know that Samaritans considered themselves Jews (heirs of God's promises) but every other Jew considered them half breed non-Jews. The Samaritans spoken of in John were certainly a mixed people group. Whenever an ancient power conquered another nation in ancient times they always took some of the conquered back home (i.e. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abendigo) while leaving some of their own colonists behind. This safeguarded against revolt. After the Northern kingdom of Israel (including Samaria) fell to Assyria, colonists (from Babylon and Mesopotamia) were left behind. The remnant of Jews intermarried with colonists--against Mosaic law--resulting in a mixed race unnaccepted by mainstream Judaism.

In fact, when the temple in Jerusalem was being rebuilt (around the time of Nehemiah) the Samaritans offered assistance, but their offer was rejected. The Samaritans then built their own temple on Mt. Gerazim and developed a very conservative form of Judaism. They only accepted the first five books of the old testament (the Samaritan Penteteuch), were rigid monotheists, had their own set of prophets and Rabbis, and were anticipating a messiah.

The animosity was so intense between Jews/Samaritans in 128 B.C. John Hyrcanus (Hasmonean Jew--Maccabean) destroyed the Samaritan Temple on Mt. Gerazim. In 9 A.D. the temple at Jerusalem was desecrated by the Samaritans at the passover. In John 8:48 the Pharisees insult Jesus by saying he, "is a Samaritan and has a demon."

All that to say, in John 4, Jesus shouldn't be speaking with a Samaritan, and most certainly a woman. What's interesting to note is that the woman at the well, while being somewhat promiscuous, knows her stuff...she even questions Jesus on whether Jerusalem or Mt. Gerazim is the correct place to worship. She doesn't act very surprised when Jesus starts talking about "living water," which certainly sounds weird to me; but read what this Samaritan philospoher wrote:

"3 There is a Well of living water dug by a Prophet whose like has not arisen since Adam and the water which is in it is from the mouth of God. Let us eat from the fruit that is in this garden and let us drink from the waters that are in this well. There is no need for us to see it in a place we cannot get to. "It is not in heaven" and it is not in crossing the sea (Deut 30:12-13). "In the mouth and in the heart" it is done (Deut 30:14). And woe to us! For we do not do it; it is far from us. We do not learn it though we came down from heaven! It was given to us and we believed in it. It was with them; it was within the Light. And the glory was around, for it was the word of God. His hand wrote and the Prophet received it with signs from on high. And YHWH came down and dwelt with him. --- Marqah, Memar 6.3"
Jesus was speaking her language not his. After this woman believed, she spread the word and many others believed (Jn. 4:39). In verse 42, after Jesus stayed with the Samaritans for a couple of days, many believed in him and they told the woman that they no longer believe because of her word, but becasue of Jesus'. I imagine that must have been disheartening for her. Listen to what John Calvin had to say about this incident:
"...and the Samaritans appear to boast that they have now a stronger foundation than a woman's tongue, which is, for the most part, light and trivial. "
After I take all this in, I am amazed at Jesus sensitivity in dealing with this woman. I am impressed that he contextualized his message and catered it to her undestanding. I am amazed that John's first example of response to Jesus' message was the lowliest of the low: an adulterer...a margianalized religious reject...a woman.

*the image is a pic of Jacob's Well

Monday, August 11, 2008

Humanitarian Aid in Africa--Countrproductive

As long as I have been alive ghastly images of emaciated and under-nourished African children with bloated bellies have illustrated story after story after story of the nightly news. The same images have accompanied infomercials for groups such as Compassion International since such groups were founded.

Why don't the images get a little less gruesome? With all the millions of dollars and truckloads of food being pumped into Africa, why don't we see any relief as we glance at the statistics of famine stricken Africa? These questions have always bugged me and inclined me to distrust philanthropic agencies working in "Cradle of Mankind" (Ethiopia) as I assume that much of the money donated may go towards administrative expenses.

TIME magazine recently published an article expressing my very concerns. They agree it is perplexing that a land that is believed to have been so enriched to birth mankind could foster such famine, especially when it's fields (this year) are bright green and ripe for cultivation. Consider Time's statistics-This year the U.S. will give:

  • $800 million to Ethiopia
  • $460 million for food, $350 million for HIV/AIDS treatment
  • $7 million for agricultural development
As mentioned in the TIME article, the age old proverb comes to mind: “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.” The implication, of course, is that we, the heroes from the west, have actually worsened the situation in Africa in dumbing down the recipients of our goodwill. The TIME article states:
Why bother with development when shortfalls are met by aid? Ethiopian farmers can't compete with free food, so they stop trying. Over time, there's a loss of key skills, and a country that can't. All too often, its rulers use resources elsewhere--Ethiopia has one of Africa's largest armies.

Why do we get aid so wrong? Because it feels so right. 'The American people," says U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto, 'are simply not going to sit tight while they see children dying.' Nor should they: a starving man needs to be saved first before he can be taught to fish--or farm.
The starving man is being saved, but he is hardly being taught sustainable living. I agree with TIME, which credits American benevolence but sites a flaw. I say, don't stop giving...give smarter! I can't help but see the problem mirrored in America's dysfunctional welfare system; but that's another post for another day.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A Political Moment with a Pharisee

"Love work; hate domination; and seek not undue intimacy with the government."

So said Shemayah, from the Talmudic book, Avot-Ethics of the Father. This ancient Pharisee might as well have been my political counselor. Maybe a Ron Paul supporter?

I wonder what Jesus Christ thought of these words?

Monday, August 4, 2008

John 3...Carl's Blogged Bible Study

John 3:3 is full of phrases and ideas that hold a special place in the heart of the Christian. The oft quoted 3:16 solidifies the purpose of Christ in the Christological puzzle. The 3rd chapter of John is the final transition from John the Baptizer to the Jesus the Messiah as the camel clad prophet concedes authority (again) to Jesus.

Before I touch on what struck me in this chapter, I must point out that again, at the outset of his ministry, Jesus is shown interacting philosophically with Jews. First, Nicodemus, the Pharisee, and then a "Jew" in the second half of the chapter. Without going down a rabbit trail, notice the conversation with Nicodemus...hardly Jesus or Nicodemus seem hostile in speech. In fact, they get along very well. I say that because it will be a nice segue for an upcoming post here on my friend Ivan that just may argue that Jesus and his followers were practically Pharisees, contrary to popular Christian renderings of the New Testament.

So here's what I found very interesting in this chapter; and I do hope this sparks some conversation: John's use of pneuma (or nooma, if you are down with Rob Bell) which means Spirit.

The concept of the "Spirit" as the third person is largely ignored by the folks in the pews. Think about it. It is common to hear someone address Jesus, or God the Father in prayer, but how often does someone say, "Dear Holy Spirit, thank you for this food we are about to eat?" Of course the Spirit is sooooooooo misunderstood, possibly because it was an evolving concept from Genesis to John.

All I want to clear up now is the use of Spirit in John 3:34: "For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure."

Certainly a tricky verse. Who is giving the Spirit? The One (Jesus) whom God sent or God himself? This has been the subject of many debates. Since the "he" of the second part of the verse is wrapped up in the tense of the verb for "give," we can't know from the verse alone. Elsewhere in John the gifts given to the Son by the father (17 instances) utilize the Perfect or Aorist tense. the abnormal use of the present tense for "give," coupled with the fact that Jesus is the subject of the first clause indicates the the Spirit proceeds from the Son like Jesus proceeds from the Father. The Father sent the Son, the Son gives the Spirit.

The spiritual circle in which I run (ran?) primarily associate speaking tongues with the Holy Spirit. This verse is oft quoted to suggest that Jesus here is foreshadowing the coming of glossalalia with this verse. However, this is interpretation allows presupposition to cloud exegesis. The whole Christological scope of this chapter is to set in stone the salvific and historic role of Christ.

Clearly 3:4 states that one cannot see the Kingdom of God unless they are "born again," or "born of te Spirit?" Certainly speaking tongues cannot be a prerequisite to salvation. The fact that just a few verses later 3:36 belief in Jesus is necessary for Salvation, the preceding passage cannot be alluding tongues.

I see the primary role of the Spirit, as a member of the Godhead, as a divine indwelleing following a decision to belief. What is your take on the Holy Spirit?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Death Penalty--Iran, China, and the US

A recent Times article sees Iran's institution and use of the death penalty as a serious gaffe in their justice system. I can see why...29 hangings in one day despite a 2002 moratorium against the punishment. The charges: Rape, murder, and drug trafficking.

If 29 is a small number consider that last year Iran put 317 criminals to death coming in second to China's 470. The US only executed 42 in 2007. Keep in mind populations, and per capita Iran is leading the way in legal slayings:

  1. Iran: 317 executions, 70,495,782 citizens--1/222,384 are executed.
  2. China: 470 executions, 1,325,208,000 citizens--1/2,819,591 are executed.
  3. US: 42 executions, 304,721,000 citizens--1/7,255,261 are executed.
So you are 324 times more likely to die at the hand of the state in Iran than in the US, not that you are involved in such criminalizing behavior. But the homicide rate in Iran 2.93 (per 100,000) as opposed to 5.7 in the US. So, the US homicide rate is almost double Iran's despite the extremely more harsh penalty (remember, 324 times more harsh).

I don't know where I am going with this...it's just interesting.

John 2...Carl's Blogged Bible Study, Credibility, Inclusivity

Like I said in my last post, any chapter in John really takes time and space to digest, which I don't have time for this week, but hopefully will in the days to come. It's kind of like attempting to play a full game of Risk in 20 minutes....doable (maybe) but sloppy.

The first recorded miracle, while occurring in isolation (of the synoptic gospels it is only mentioned in John), cannot be interpreted in isolation. Backtrack to the John 1 for a second...Jesus had just called his disciples. Only Jesus knew the crazy ride they were in for, yet they hardly knew him (in fact in 1:48 Nathaniel, after being called, asked Jesus how he knew him).

As I mentioned last time, John is all about verifying that Jesus is truly the Messiah; John's concern is Jesus' credibility (cf. Jn 20:31). While eventually Jesus would perform signs and wonders for men, women, Jews, Gentiles, Roman soldiers, etc. it was necessary to start with his core group; his disciples; his best friends; the guys who would die in his name (except John, the author of this gospel...ironic, huh). So before Jesus demonstrated his power to anyone else (except his mother...she obviously knew what Jesus was capable of--legends exist in which Jesus performs miracles as a child) Jesus performs a miracle for his disciples only. Coincidence or strategic? I'd say strategic. Gaining trust and loyalty of his inner (fickle) circle was part of the plan.

Jesus' "cleansing of the temple" is radical in John. Unlike Mark (who places the event closer to Jesus' death) John places it as the launch of Jesus public ministry. This freaks out a lot of believers as they perceive it as an error, but keep in mind that Jews of the first century did not think with a linear western mindset. Theirs was a topical mindset--importance trumps chronology.

Anyway, most folks perceive this story as a stern warning for misusing the temple; that is, Jesus was really ticked off at the money changing going on (Roman currency wasn't allowed...it had to be exchanged at a high rate for temple currency in order to pay the temple tax or buy sacrificial animals). I am sure Jesus was angered by this, after all he quotes Jer. 7:11 in referring to the temple as a den of Lions.

But while Jesus loved his Father's house, he loved people more. In this passage Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7, "My house will be called a house of prayer for ALL nations." These thiefs, under priestly permission, had set up shop in one area of the temple..The COURT OF THE GENTILES. In doing so they left little to no room for worship of those not under the Abrahamic covenant. This house Jesus had walked in on wasn't a house of prayer for ALL nations, just for the Jews. I think this ticked Jesus off more than the bake sale in the atrium. We know from all the synoptics, especially Luke, that Jesus went out of his way for the marginalized, the Samaritans, the Gentiles.

So sure, according the prophecy in Ps. 69:9, zeal for this all inclusive house consumed him. Then as Jesus fulfills the prophets, he himself prophesies his own death, which will be remembered as a sign by his disciples at the right time.

***I hate proofreading...but I hate errors too...if you see any, let me know.

Friday, July 25, 2008

John 1:1...Carl's Blogged Bible Study, Baptism

Carl put together this Blogged Bible study on the book of John.

John has always been my favorite gospel--in fact my Thesis paper for my MA focused on an obscure word found only in this gospel. John is so strange, yet so familiar to the Chrisitian. If Paul is the theologian of the New Testament, then John is the philosopher (Irenaeus and church tradition attribute authorship to John, the beloved disciple...he is often confused with the baptizer or John of Patmos). John's gospel, ever popular with the gnostics, is so different from the other synoptics, but so compatible...in fact, it may be considered the key for interpreting the rest.

So far Carl, Joe, Darla, Michelle, and Deborah all have posted on the first chapter of this metaphysical look at Christianity with different styles and perspectives. I enjoyed them all...I'd say Joe thinks much the way I do.

Usually I love to tear apart a text and try to get into the mind of the author. The problem I face is trying to do this with a chapter that is 51 verses long. I could and should write a 50 pg. paper on this! So instead, I'll just focus on a tiny portion.

The first chapter can be broken down as follows:
I. Prologue (1:1-18)
II. Beginning of Jesus' ministry (1;19-51)
A. Testimony of John the Baptist (1:19-34)
B. Call of the first disciples (1:35-51)

The prologue, should be thought of as the thesis statement for the gospel, and all interpretation of such should revolve around it: The eternal Godhead of the Word who was involved in the creative process was made flesh to give life and light to those who are born of His Spirit; contrast with his adversary, Belial, Satan, made manifest as the counter work of His fellow Jews who reject his teachings and Messiahship. John logically attributes credibility to "Jesus."

And after the prologue, how does he do this? How does John first physically introduce the Son of God to his readers? He does so through the rite of Baptism!

I doubt I have to expound to anyone reading this post that John, while writing in Greek, was a Jew and wrote with typical Hebraic style. He was well versed in the law. He drew upon this knowledge to legitimize Jesus as being the spoken of by the prophets, and John the Baptist was crucial in fulfilling this prophecy (i.e. 1:23).

You know all this. But what hit me, is that the act of Baptism was so necessary! According to John, Jesus did not begin his ministry (which was to take away the sins of the world--1:29, and to baptize WITH the Holy Spirit--1:34). John the Baptist testified to the author that at the baptism of Jesus the Holy Spirit descended and stayed with Jesus, unlike all the prophets before him who only experienced momentary rendezvous (1:32).

I say all this as I rethink baptism. It seems to me we trivialize this rite, dare I say, sacrament, in the church today. We think of it as cliche public statement of our belief to those in our congregations. I have heard pastor after pastor tell his congregation that baptism ceremonies will be taking place at some set aside date in the future and any congregant who feels led to participate may. How contrary to John's portrayal of the event!

Leave John with me for a moment and go to:
Mark 16:16:- "The one who believes and is baptized will be saved." (hardly sounds optional)
Acts 8:34-39- The Eunuch was immediately baptized.
Acts 9:18- Immediately after the scales fell off Paul's eyes, as he saw Jesus for who he was, he was baptized.

Every example of salvation in the early church was immediately accompanied by baptism as per Jesus' example here in the first chapter of John.

I don't know exactly where to go with this except to say I hope we all take this story far more serious than we currently do!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Theological Journeys

When I was a kid, maybe 8 years old, I was watching a movie at my grandma's apartment. I recall a character from the movie--an elderly man, not a regular gambler by any means--at a casino playing roulette. He started with a small sum and within a half an hour his luck had grown his cache to a sum of tens of thousands of dollars. A crowd had gathered in the meanwhile, cheering him on. He took his winnings, around $70K and bet it all on one number and lost to the dismay of the crowd and me, the juvenile viewer. To the crowd, fearfully waiting for a reaction, the old man calmly states, "Things Change."

Man that hit me. How earth shattering of a revelation to learn that nothing is static! It is scary to change, to move, to correct a misunderstanding, etc.

I thought of this movie after reconnecting and talking to a good friend, Leighton, from college recently whom I had not spoke with in over six years. For those of you who don't know, I went to an Assemblies of God (pentecostal) bible college, and then to seminary. My studies focused on theology and biblical languages. Leighton, the rest of my friends, and myself all entered the school not questioning a tidbit of AG doctrine. But things change, and so has Leighton, in a good way.

It is interesting to see where our theological journeys have led us. My friend Josh in CA is now Baptist. My friend Mike in Indianapolis is now Methodist. Leighton, in Chicago, while not claiming denominational allegiance, is very Reformed in his theology. All these guys have traveled a good deal in their theological journeys. I equally respect those who remain convinced of their beliefs, so long as they are objectively informed.

Change for the sake of change when it comes to any metaphysical musing is silly. But I admire the journeys of those that occur as a result of conviction, love, and learning. N.T. Wright, a intellectual hero of mine, is no different from my friends.

Have you traveled far from your first suppositions on God? Where did you start and where are you at today?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Family Men

Being a husband and father is by far the most rewarding experience afforded to man while on this earth, in my opinion. The Church, recognizing the beauty and importance of marriage a liturgical rite--a sacrament; that is, in effect, a method for imparting grace on the individual.

Similarly the act of child bearing and rearing is a lofty miracle. For theists, like myself, we see ourselves privilege to work alongside God in the act of creation.

I do not necessarily consider myself qualified for either role: husband or father. It is my opinion that nobody in and of themselves actually possesses or attains to worthy credentials. God and community supplement where the individual is lacking.

This joyous responsibility is also veraciously daunting and often strips one of self confidence, particularly in the role of protector. Protecting my family is one of the most fulfilling tasks. As I was perusing through the pictures on our digital camera today I came across the picture below. I was engulfed in emotion as I recalled what took place in the photo. Our youngest daughter, Gabs, held an unlit Morning Glory Sparkler in her hand. As soon as the sparks started shooting out, she realized the harmful potential grasped in her ruddy little fingers, burst into tears, and threw the sparkler on the grass. Only when she was tucked in my arms would did she stop crying and try to participate.

But every up has its down. The possibility for failure and the latent repercussions are extremely daunting and scary. I am always second guessing myself, asking, "am I doing an adequate job at protecting my family?"

As many readers may or may not know, in just five days I will be jobless. With no future employment solidified, and this being the only source of income for my family, it is easy to feel as if I am negligent in the role of protector. It is in moments like these that it is so necessary to stumble across the picture above!

Now, I know we will get through this difficult time. I just hope that in months to come I will look back and realize that it was easier than it felt at the time, and that my family felt as little discomfort as possible.

Monday, July 7, 2008

I Heart Craigslist

Not a day goes by that I don't scan the pages of Craigslist (particularly the 'free' section) hoping to spot a deal. A few days ago I saw a posting that simply stated "Toboggan 8 ft Lund with Pad." After I hastily replied, the owner said I could pick it up on Monday.

So today I drove by the house. There it was, a beautiful 8ft toboggan in mint condition, sitting on the owner's porch waiting for me.

The toboggan, is actually a Lund toboggan, and is out of production. It s hand crafted with all original parts, down to the last screw. A brand new 8ft toboggan with pad goes for around $300. This toboggan, is worth far more, seeing as it is a rare find. Initially, I wanted the free toboggan to turn it and make a few bucks, but now, after seeing it learning of it's history, I will be unable to part with it.














The Toboggan















I'm already enjoying it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"You've Been Left Behind" and I'm at a Loss for Words

Well not really...I'm rarely at a loss for words, but I came pretty close.

A nifty little website, www.youvebeenleftbehind.com, is now making it possible to communicate from the grave. In a nutshell, the site was set for Christians to communicate to their loved ones who didn't make the final cut after they have been caught up in the rapture. This home page of the site states:

You've Been Left Behind gives you one last opportunity to reach your lost family and friends For Christ. Imagine being in the presence of the Lord and hearing all of heaven rejoice over the salvation of your loved ones. It is our prayer that this site makes it happen.
A subscriber to the site can edit and save up to 256MB of documents for up to 62 different email addresses. If the subscriber is at a loss for composing a loving message that says, "Sorry I was raptured into heaven and you are stuck in the middle of a tribulation, but I'd really love to see you here someday," the site even offers free document templates. Messages are programmed to be sent out 6 days after the rapture.

You might be wondering, "How will a computer know that the rapture has happened?" To answer your question, the site states:
We have set up a system to send documents by the email, to the addresses you provide, 6 days after the "Rapture" of the Church. This occurs when 3 of our 5 team members scattered around the U.S fail to log in over a 3 day period. Another 3 days are given to fail safe any false triggering of the system.
For forty bucks, this super tract is a steal! But, as you might have supposed, I have a few problems with youvebeenleftbehind.com.
  • My views on the rapture relegates this site to a waste of $40
  • In deciding who is a recipient of a left behind email the sender is certifiably adjudicating that the recipient is not living a life worthy of rapture salvation (and we all know that is just intolerable in this post modern society!)
  • The send must place faith in the spiritual standing of youvebeenleftbehind.com team trigger members
  • If, having been left behind, I received a post rapture email I would be a bit ticked with the sender for not caring enough about me to send the email before the rapture and great tribulation, because, if they spent the time subscribing they most certainly saw this coming
What do you think? Anyone rushing off to get a subscription? Good idea? Bad idea?


*Image taken from www.reverendfun.com

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Uh, Oh...Here We Go Again (Dobson, Evangelicals, and Party Alliances)

I grimaced a bit as the headline popped up in my news feed: "Evangelist Accuses Obama of 'distorting' Bible." Across the blogosphere liberal secularists and theists alike were instantly all over Dr. James Dobson, head of focus on the family, citing this as another example of Right Wing Christianity.

Ironically, minutes before reading the article I had listened to radio broadcast in which Dobson expressed dismay for the Republican party, in that after Evangelicals threw their support behind the party, the party turned their backs on evangelical values. Dobson himself seemed to admit that Evangelicals had jumped in bed with Right Wing Conservatism.

In no way do my words here serve as a rebuke to Dobson. In fact, Focus on the Family passed an in depth IRS investigation after being accused of endorsing Republican candidates not too long ago. All I am saying is humans, politicians, and parties are quite fallible, as Dobson learned, and should not be thought of as the sole means to accomplishing an end, whether that end be spiritual, social, ethical, etc. Voting on issues, many of which may be intrinsically connected with the a moral principle, is quite acceptable. But voting strictly based on party is silly since parties are far from static and change over time (sometimes extremely small increments of time; i.e. the Bush administration).

While I would love to digress at this point and discuss, as I see it, blunders made by both Dobson and Obama, I would be straying from the purpose of this post, which is to serve as warning.

Young evangelicals, a group I personally find myself identifying with less and less (both the 'young' and the 'evangelical') are much more flexible when it comes to party lines, say statisticians such as the Barna Group. I don't need charts and figures to tell me this. Many friends who I sat next to at seminary have quickly covered up the Bush stickers on their bumpers with Obama.

Many, unfortunately, have done so based off reactionary emotions. Jaded by Evangelicals and Evangelicalism, they resond like a pendulum, rejecting anything remotely attached with their failing system besides Christ and the Bible, Republicanism being one of these things. Others are "social misfits," as Claiborne terms them. They are more socially liberal, yet maintain conservative evangelical morals and principals, the latter of which actually supports their social liberalism. They actually cannot identify with either party but may vote democratic based on social issues supported by a candidates platform.

No matter what the case, I fear that many of these individuals may make the same mistake Dobson and many of his peers made: hopping bed with a party in an attempt to leverage religious weight to affect or "own" the party. The ends to this means is the ownership of the religious institution by the party, as admitted by Dobson in the radio spot I listened to. It only causes division, both in the church and state, and warrants Christians being thought of as ignorant.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gay Marriage and the Church

Yesterday at 5:01 PM on the Western Coast of the U.S. lovers of the same sex became more than just lovers as they exchanged matrimonial vows under the loving (or politically acute?) eyes of San Fransisco mayor, Gavin Newsome. The first couple to participate comprised lesbian couple Del Martin, 87, and Phyllis Lyon, 84. More homosexual exchanged vows today, most rushing to legalize their relationships before an inevitable upheaval by the Supreme Court.

Yes, this is quite the historical event, but the issue that divides so many is far from new, especially when it comes to the "church." As I mentioned in a recent post, the issue of whether homosexuality was compatible with Christianity or not was a recent point of contention in the United Methodist General Conference.

While all eyes tinted red, white, and blue were turned towards California and her rebellion against federal governance an equal historical event occurred on another continent.

The Church of England united two members of her clergy in marriage. Reverend Peter Cowell and Reverend Dr David Lord exchanged vows under the loving eyes of Reverend Martin Dudley in open defiance of the more conservative Bishop of London. The couple had been united in a civil union, which is allowed by the Church of England, so long as the members of the union remain celibate. (Remain celibate? Come on, that's like giving my five year old a bed made of chocolate and asking him not to take a bite once the door is closed at night. Unrealistic. Impossible?)

I would suggest there are four opinions when it comes to the issue of gay marriage:
1. Yes! (you closed minded fool!)
2. No! (you moral degenerate!)
3. Let them do what they want! (so long as it doesn't affect me!)
4. Sure, but not for clergy.

As an individual more inclined to absolutes, options 3 and 4 are a little blurry. I am interested in what my readership thinks.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Alan Rabinowitz on the Colbert Report

Jon Stewart lost my attention a long time ago. While his humor never left me in stitches, it did capture my attention for a while when I would come home late after a long night of waiting tables back in college. But then the jokes became to predictable, as did his opinion, and I pretty much wrote of political comedy.

Recently, however, I have become quite a fan of the genre via Stephen Colbert and his witty report. His less-slapstick-avant-garde style coupled with his interesting choice of guests is enough to keep me coming back. Last week (June 10) Colbert hosted Zoologist Alan Rabinowitz, who recently published Life in the Valley of Death: The Fight to Save Tigers in a Land of Guns, Gold, and Greed. The book (which I have not yet read) apparently chronicles Rabinowitz's efforts in the Hukaung Valley of Myanmar, as he works to save tigers from extinction.

Under normal circumstances, you would have to pay me to read a book like this; however, I am considering paying to see the pages of this work. Don't get me wrong...I care for the earth and all of God's creatures, I don't litter, I would rather have a hybrid than a Hummer--I believe eco-conscientiousness is a divine mandate; but anyone who reads this blog knows I have never been seen lobbying the front steps of the Whitehouse for bigger cages at the zoo.

Rabinowitz's humility won me over. His motivation for spending his life defending a predatory creature is far from some trendy impulse or response to social guilt--it is sincere, it is natural. I lieu of the fact that Rabinowitz is afflicted with a speech disorder, appearing on what could be a high stress talk show is quite courageous and speaks volumes for his commitment.

Enjoy the clip below!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ten Ideas that are Changing the World

A recent Time cover article sports 10 ideas that are changing the world. I was pleasantly surprised at the singularity of each item, having expected to see the usual suspects; think green, socialism, the global market, etc. I was most intrigued with idea #1o: "Re-Judaizing Jesus." How did this ides blip across Time's radar?

The article, objectively well written and intelligent, states:
Ben Witherington is a Methodist New Testament scholar, and Rob Bell a rising Michigan megapastor. Yet each regards sources like the Mishnah and Rabbi Akiva as vital to understanding history's best-known Jew: Jesus.
This is seismic. For centuries, the discipline of Christian "Hebraics" consisted primarily of Christians cherry-picking Jewish texts to support the traditionally assumed contradiction between the Jews — whose alleged dry legalism contributed to their fumbling their ancient tribal covenant with God — and Jesus, who personally embodied God's new covenant of love. But today seminaries across the Christian spectrum teach, as Vanderbilt University New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine says, that "if you get the [Jewish] context wrong, you will certainly get Jesus wrong."
Personally, I do not view this as opinion, or even idea; rather as unassailable historical fact--a blatantly obvious fact. The story depicted in Luke 2:49 does not place Jesus as having been left behind in a cathedral or seeker sensitive mega church, but in his Father's house (1 Chrn 17:5ff), the temple. The apostle would not have considered themselves Christians (although they did accept the label--Acts 11:26), they considered themselves Jews who had seen and embraced the Messiah.

Americanizing Jesus just doesn't work. Modernizing him is futile. Recently I was asked, in reference to the up and coming election, "how do you think Jesus would have voted?" Sighhhhhh. Besides the fact that Jesus, devoid of citizenship would not have voted, this is like me attempting to decipher whether Abraham Lincoln would have been a better president had he been given the opportunity to sleep on a waterbed rather than a corncob mattress; it is irrelevant and indiscernible.

Anyhow, the entire story is worth reading and can be found here.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Me, Angelina Jolie, and Darwin Fish

The Ivan household has been busy beyond belief as they are in the midst of a consuming and stressful transition. Prayers would be coveted! In times like these I become apathetic when it comes to this blog. To top things off, in the midst of such unpredictable times, we are taking the first steps at starting our own business, and I am working on launching a new blog, which may serve as the platform for a natural and harmonious segue into this endeavor.

Nonetheless, I would hate to have post a blog with no interesting content, so I leave you with these two gems:

The first is comes from the fantastic land of Hollywood, or Hollyweird, as my Hebrew teacher often called it. Angelina Jolie's approach to religion is quite chic; pragmatic, baseless, and comfortable. Read more here.

The second also hails from California, but is quite the antithesis of Jolie's outlook on matters concerning spirituality. Darwin Fish's approach to religion is subjectively abstruse and in my opinion, a reaction to some sort of criticism that he received at some point in his life. Apparently, Fish believes that all of mankind, besides himself, is doomed to hell. Read more here. (Thanks for introducing me to Mr. Fish, James).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Aimee Allen for Ron Paul

No matter how hard you try, you can't get the emotionally gripping yet ideologically shallow, "Yes We Can" pro-Obama song produced by Will.I.Am out of your head. Maybe this will help.

This gem, which I came across via Apoloblogology, was put together by Aimee Allen in support of presidential hopeful and extreme under dog, Ron Paul. For all my readers in Springfield, MO, Paul will be speaking Friday the 30th in Branson. If I still lived there, I'd be there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Another Blog Post on Evolution and Robots


To be honest I am quite fatigued from the endless bantering within the Christian community regarding the "E" word. The hardcore and exacting conservatives maintaining their literal interpretation of the Genesis count have wore me out, and the more liberal and enlightened faction with their esoteric and at times haughty disdain for anything traditional have equally worn me out with their esoteric apology for evolution's compatibility with scripture. I am just sick of hearing it all, sick of reading post after post on blog after blog, and sick of yet another embarrassing and public contribution to divisive notoriety of the Church.

Everyone has an opinion, including myself. Some lean one way yet have not made up their minds, including myself. Some attempt to remain aloof, including myself.

I am less hesitant to maintain a stolid outlook when robots, in all their finite wisdom, conclude and convince the idea that God himself is yet another creative byproduct of evolution. According to the article linked to above, religion can be explained two ways that are as polarized of opinions as the Creationism and Evolution in the Christian community (pardon the convenience; I am not suggesting all scientists are not Christians). One camp believes that religion is a remaining by-product of an area of the brain that developed for purposes other than religion. The purpose no longer exists, but the byproduct remains. Others view that religion itself was the adaptation itself and was necessary for the benefit of our forefathers.

James Dow, a evolutionary anthropologist, wrote a computer program, which is free for download, to compute whether God could possibly fit as an evolutionary process in and of itself. Dow plugged the idea of proselytizing into the program with the assumption that it is a genetic trait. Under normal circumstances, a desire to communicate the unreal would lead to the doom of a race, but when Dow plugged in an assumption that non-believers would be attracted to the pathological communicants of the imaginary.

I am left wondering whether Dow would view me, a believer, as evolutionary enhancement, or a dysfunctional anomaly? As a believer I cannot accept this theory regardless of where I fall on the spectrum that has Evolution and Creationism as either end. If, according my world view, God and the grace He offers is necessary for the eternal salvation of His creation, men who had not yet evolved to an understanding of His existence were unjustly doomed to perdition.

It's an interesting theory despite the fact that a man was dependent upon his computerized creation to arrive at it. What do you think?

*This post's information was obtained from Religion Is A Product of Evolution, Software Suggests from www.newscientist.com

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The United Methodist Genreal Conference and the Next Christendom

In his 2004 work, The Next Christendom, Philip Jenkins compellingly argued that while God may not be dead, as Nietzsche said, he is moving on. Number crunching statistics that are far more obvious than they are mathematical, Jenkins noted the decline and liberalization of Christianity in northern more occidental nations, notably the U.K. and less notably the U.S., and the growth of a more orthodox/conservative brand of Christianity in the South.

Agree with Jenkins or not, based off the recent General Conference of the United Methodist, Edgar Cayce might as well have penned The Next Christendom.

The United methodists are rapidly becoming less American, if they ever were. Slightly under 8 million members of the UM reside in the US, while 3.5 million and growing live overseas. In fact, 1 million members call the Democratic Republic of Congo home, all faithful Sunday attenders, nearly matching Sunday attendance of American adherents.

At this year's UM General Conference, 30% of the delegates were from outside of the US, many from Africa, up 10% from just four years ago. While in forty years, the UM has lost over 3 milion members in the US, membership is growing exponentially in the Southern Hemisphere. And how do they vote?

Just a couple of weeks ago the United Methodist General Conference voted against the practice of homosexuality as a practice incompatible with the teachings of Christianity 517 to 416, a narrow margin in light of tradition. Without the outspokenly conservative presence of 192 African delegates the United Methodist may have made the headlines just a few days ago.

So, according to Jenkins, within 40 years, the roles may be reversed, and with The UM General Conference as a case study he may be right. Perhaps when I am 68 an African United Methodist Missionary for Christ may be imposing his world view upon my apostate neighborhood, much to the disdain of southern anthropologists.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Political Moment with Lil Wayne and John Hagee

From the June 2008 issue of Blender Magazine, an interview with Lil Wayne:

BLENDER: Who do you want to take the White House?

LIL WAYNE: Barack, I guess, but I can't made a real opinion. I ain't watching no debates. I just want my people to understand that Hillary and Barack are not running for president--they running to be able to run for president. There's a Republican party, too--we ain't about to win fool! A woman or a black man versus and old white dude? F**k no! They gonna be like, This black **s n***a trying to come in my Oval Office? F*****k no. The world about to end in 2012 anyway. 'Cause the Mayans made calendars, and they stop at 2012. I got encyclopedias on the bus. The world is gonna end as we know it. you can see it already. A planet doesn't exist: There's no more Pluto. Planes flying into buildings--and not just the Twin Towers, but dudes who play baseball are flying planes into buildings. Mosquitoes bite you and you die. And a black man and a woman are running for president!


Wow. Awesome. Articulate.

Zionist/Dispensational mega-church pastor John Hagee has been in the news recently too as he has been forced to apologize for anti Catholic remarks. In a recent rebuttal to public criticism, Hagee states:

“In my zeal to oppose anti-Semitism and bigotry in all its ugly forms, I have often emphasized the darkest chapters in the history of Catholics and Protestant relations with the Jews,” Hagee wrote. “In the process, I may have contributed to the mistaken impression that the anti-Jewish violence of the Crusades and the Inquisition defines the Catholic Church. It most certainly does not.” -The Kansas City Star

Nice save. As McCain's primary endorsement from the Religious Right, is it possible that Hagee realizes his weighty words could turn Catholic voters away from pro-war McCain? Or is he sincere?

Or, is Hagee's endorsement more of an eschatological tactic and less of a patriotic commitment? Says Hagee:

"If we can get 50 million evangelicals in America to join hands with five million of the Jewish people in the United States of America, it will be a marriage made in heaven." -VOA

A match made in heaven indeed, when Hagee's outlook on things apocalyptic requires Israel's possession of the entire biblical land of Palestine in order for the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ to take place, as he feels is according scriptural prophecy. McCain's involvement in the Middle East and helpful hand to Israel just might speed things along in Hagee's mind.

Two men, both comical at times, both with strong convictions that the end is near, both with strong political affiliations (however polarized they might be), both utter words that influence many, and both in one blog post, perhaps for the very first time).





Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Car Wreck Ghost

More often than not, the consonant consumer faces an unfortunate dilemma as they approach the vast expanse of oratory media. The polarization between music that titillates the ear but is lyrically shallow and melodies that ought not to have ever existed yet satisfies the mind is farther than the east is from the west. However, my eighteen year old brother in law has bridged the chasm.

It would be well worth any curious connoisseur's time to swing by his MySpace site and check out his creation, Car Wreck Ghost. There are two versions, both are fantastic. I am partial to the acoustic, but only slightly. It has it all...harmonies, hooks, and intelligence.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Housing Bill...House Endorsed, Ivan Execrated

There are actually two bills floating around the bureaucratic epicenter of the United States. One of the measures is a $300 billion doozy aimed at the extrication of the housing slump (rescue those facing foreclosure), the other is a $15 billion beautification measure; property owners can apply for grants/loans to fix up unsightly properties. While both bills found favor in the House, a Bush veto looms.

I know the market is less than favorable right now--I myself have an under priced house on the market that has generated little interest as there are fewer shoppers than a few years ago. The liberal lending bonanza is over. No more sub prime, zero down, instant credit, variable rate frivolity.

But these bills are bogus.

What is the role of government? Is it to offer handouts to those who could not manage the first handout? If someone is unable to manage their resources to the point of forfeiting their home, how will they mange a few billion shekels they did not work for in the first place?

I am not completely unsympathetic. I bought my first home zero down. But I bought a house within my means. I did not take a loan that I could no longer afford if I suddenly had to start paying twice as much for groceries and gasoline. I bought a house that was a bargain...an ugly bargain...but I still own it.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"The Maker," by Daniel Lanois

The pantheistic/animistic statement, "everything is sacred" bugs a lot of people, namely monotheists, but in a sense, I kind of get it...in the sense that John Calvin stated, "all truth is God's truth."

People may not know, but I am a huge music buff. I don't tout it much so as to not come off as pseduo-hipster. While historically some songs were definitely considered more spiritual and others more fun, in my opinion the delineation between secular and sacred tunes is a more modern fundamentalist invention. Thus you won't find me boycotting either. I can chill out to Jonathan Foreman or Sigur Ros.

However, in the same sense that I get a shudder of excitement from observing a display of cultivated morality in an obscure and primitive culture, like the Mek Tribe, a morality that wholly mirrors a tenet of Christianity, the feeling is same when I see the same thing occur in the lyrical content of a "secular" artist who bridges the polarized chasm between Christian and non-Christian music.

One such artist is Daniel Lanois; legendary producer, songwriter, musician. While many of Lanois' compositions reverberate with biblical imagery and phraseology, none is more apparently spiritual than his masterpiece, "The Maker." Take some time to watch this video from 1989 that not only transcends ages with its timeless sound, but inspires and soothes--and this from outside of "sacred."

Adderall--A Glimpse Into My Personality

Those who know me well know that I am quite disorganized, and that my short attention span impels me to relinquish incomplete projects I am embroiled in for new, fresh projects.

When I was in college, while I did hold down a full time job, the expense of tuition forced me to search for money in odd places. So I surrendered my body to medical science, voluntarily allowing physicians to test new forms of medicine in my system. I got so lucky as to be chosen for a study of a new generic form of Adderall for side effects. Besides a little cotton mouth and an overall fuzzy euphoric sensation, I remember cruising through a nearly 500 page compilation of the works of the Apostolic Fathers (not an "easy" read) in about five hours, which led me to believe I may be slight ADD, and that Adderall is cool.

All that to say; I will be coming back to these posts for follow-up soon:

The Confines of Government and Christian Civic Responsibility
Thoughts on Baptism

Sunday, April 27, 2008

My Wife, the Nurse

I hate being sick...I feel so useless and ugly, and I cannot do the things I normally enjoy and cherish...especially on the weekend. This weekend I have been plagued by the flu. Aches, fever, fluid in lungs, etc. But God gave me a beautiful wife who possesses double the commiseration I lack, and has waited on me, more or less, hand and foot, making this experience far less uncomfortable than it could have been.

While I think it is more natural for a woman to be endowed with the gift of empathy, I believe Sandra is far more endowed than the rest. Thank you San!

(Stop by her blog if you have a chance)

Human Animal Hybrids--The Human Fertalisation and Embryology Bill


The Human Fertalisation and Embryology Bill has caused more than a stir in the UK, and I understand why. The US has not been exempt from stem cell issues. In fact, George W. Bush vetoed the House/Senate passed embryonic stem cell bill. Bush was in favor of stem cell research so long as the research did not utilize fertilized human eggs.

But the Human Fertalisation and Embryology Bill that has bounced around Parliament (and I believe was approved last September) has the controversial edge, hands down. Under the bill, Scientists are authorized to create human/animal hybrids. Simply put, the process involves taking an animal egg, removing nearly all the genetic material, and replacing it with DNA from a human cell. The new embryo, referred to as admixed, is reportedly 99% human. The embryo is grown in the lab for a few days and then harvested for stem cells.

Apparently it is more advantageous to use these hybrid cells due to the shortage of human eggs, and the results are better. The harvested stem cells are used in research to cure various diseases.

As was stated, the embryos are harvested for stem cells and then destroyed. But one cannot help but wonder what monstrosity might be birthed should the embryo be allowed to develop to term, and as curious a race as the human race is, it would not surprise me if a morbidly curious scientist were to allow such development.

Below is Cardinal O'Briens response. How do you respond?