Like Reedeemed at Facebook

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Post #100: Something Special

It's my 100th postiversary!

I would like to post something special.
I would like to give everyone something to chew on.
I would like to say an unforgettable prayer, sing a beautiful song.
I would like to make you laugh, cry, ponder deeply, or otherwise be transformed.
I would like to present some earth-shattering truth in a way you've never heard it before.
I would like to offer you a piece of phenomenal advice, the kind you'll take with you forever.

But I'm not. There is but one thing I post, give, say and sing, present, offer. And here it is.

Jesus is coming back, and I can't wait.

Now that I think about it, that's pretty special after all.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cannibal Christians: Zombies and Communion

I just finished a grad course on early church history, and I rather enjoyed it. I also took a similar course in my undergrad, but the two differed significantly. The grad course focused mostly on events and people, whereas the undergrad class was like walking through an evolution of Christian doctrine in the first few centuries A.D. One of my favorite studies has consistently been the first- and second-century church: its malleability, influence, diversity, and process intrigue me so. The separation of Christianity from Judaism and the various local persecutions are interesting as well. But one of the most memorable aspects to me about the infant church is the misconceptions others had about her, of which I will highlight three.

First, Christians were thought to be into incest and orgies. Creepy, right? That one caught me off guard a little when I first heard it. Why crazy sex parties? The idea is that when Christians gathered together, they shared in ἀγάπη (agapē), which is usually translated as "love," but may also designate what was called a "love feast." This love feast is what we might call Communion, the Lord's Supper, or the Eucharist (or thanksgiving). Originally, it was actually a feast, an entire meal, where people came and were filled, not just spiritually, but physically as well. The sharing of the Christian love was thought to be incestuous, because men were calling their wives "sisters," and other such issues arose.

Second, Christians were thought to be atheists. This misconception confused me even more than the last one. How could Christians, many of which were also Jews, be called atheistic? In Roman culture, every public, community activity was a worship to the gods, usually the Caesar. The emperor was often deified, a lot like the Pharaohs, or King Xerxes in 300. For those who refuse to attend the theatre, the coliseum, or other such public spectacles, this was a slap in the face of the emperor. And if they do not worship the gods as the other people do, then they must be believers of nothing.

Third, Christians were thought to be cannibals. Cannibalism actually makes the most sense to me. When the Christians gathered for their love feast, what did they eat? The body and blood of some man called Christ (one person called him Chrestus, which is not too far from the Greek Christos) were consumed by these people, and they even ate children—so the rumors went.

Last week I wrote on the theological connection(s) between the zombies of The Walking Dead and Christians. It was . . . not positive. We seem to be inherently destructive, selfish, and unsatisfiable. But let's consider, just for a moment, how walkers fit into the picture, the portait of ourselves, when we come to the Table of Jesus. We come, many of us, week after week to take part in this part of church. And for many of us, it's nothing particularly special; it's just a piece of the package. We slog through the doors, do what we do every week: sing the songs, pray the prayers, shake the right hands, hug the right people (if you're into that, that is). We listen to the sermon, take the bread and wine, finish our business, and get outta there. Like zombies and walkers, we simply do what we feel we have to do. We may even do it simply because we feel there is just no way not to do it.

On the other hand, however, there may be a different kind of resurrected creature in the crowds. This creature, like its fellows, is driven by hunger, it thirsts for blood. It cannot help being drawn in to that which feeds it. It seeks flesh and blood, but not that of its fellows, or even the body and blood of men. It comes to the Table and finds itself filled by the body and blood found on the table. Its hunger and thirst are so great that it cannot be repelled. It does not come out of obligation, but necessity. As it hungers for the body and thirsts for the blood, so too does it hunger and thirst for righteousness. It finds sustenance in nothing else, but it needs for nothing else. It is satisfied by what it finds at the Table, but it ever longs for more. What it finds is good, and it does not run out. It is given life by that body and blood, and the blood never runs dry, and the body is abundant.

In some way or another, we're all zombies. The question is this: What do you seek to fill you? Do you feed on obligation, or necessity? Are you still hungry and thirsty?

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Walking Resurrected: The Intersection of Zombies and Theology

I recently discovered on Netflix the show The Walking Dead. So far, only two seasons are available, and the third is ongoing. The characters find themselves in a world overrun by walkers, infected humans whose brain stems reactivate postmortem with the most basic of animal instincts. Fueled only by a desire to feed, the walkers pursue sounds, light, and any chance of meat, preferably live meat. They do not restrict themselves to eating humans, and only on one occasion has there been an incident when they partially consumed one of their own. Most of the usual means of death do not affect walkers; only by directly attacking the brain may one be completely stopped. They do not bleed out; they cannot suffer organ failure, nor do they appear to feel pain. They only feed and seek ways to fulfill this end.

As a general literalist and realist (though not without a certain flair for the absurd), I find myself questioning things in TV shows and movies, wondering how things can exist the way they do within the portrayed reality. Sometimes it’s just bad writing. I’ve also been watching the first generation of Power Rangers, and have found plenty of examples there. For instance, a young boy goes missing, and obviously Rita Repulsa is behind it. There is apparently no possibility that a human kidnapped the boy (though this may come to my mind because I do so enjoy Law and Order: SVU), or that something else may be the case. Sometimes the little things in a show or movie reveal tiny absurdities, like when Peter Parker (an incredibly talented and intelligent character) uses Bing in The Amazing Spider-Man. It is generally accepted that no self-proclaimed computer nerd would use Bing.

Within The Walking Dead, a different set of questions arises. While the science behind the scenario remains mysterious (a visit to a disease control center reveals that no one knows whether the infection is bacterial, viral, parasitic, etc.), some curiosities caught my attention. If a walker may be shot multiple times in the torso and still live, what keeps it “alive”? If they do not need to breathe (they can be hanged and still keep going), how can they continue making the grotesque, guttural sounds for which they are known? And if their organs do not matter, why then do they continue to need to feed themselves? While this is not the place for in-depth speculation on a fictional story (for there are certainly those who find it necessary to produce theories about non-existent scenarios), I cannot help but wonder anyway.

Near the end of Season 2 (no spoilers, I promise!), a character who believes in God has apparently lost all hope. Another character says, “You’re a man of God. Have some faith!” The first replies, “I can’t profess to understand God’s plan, but Christ promised the resurrection of the dead. I just thought he had something a little different in mind.” It was at this point I continued pondering what zombies, flesh-eating undead can teach us.

Earlier in the fall this year I attended a youth group weekend retreat. The theme was “How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse,” and with it the concept that Satan, as a thief, has come only to steal, kill, and destroy. Contrasted heavily with this was the Jesus who claims to bring life, an abundant life to be lived to its fullest extent. We came up with a list of zombie characteristics, most of which I don’t remember. However, I do remember that a great number of those items listed resembled our usual portrayal of Satan.

Even if a walker’s organs don’t function the way they are intended to (or at all, for that matter), it is their most basic instinct to feed. One instinct that does not carry over, though, is self-preservation: they do not feed to survive, but are so driven by their hunger that they give no thought to their well-being. This is not to say they are selfless; indeed, they are selfish in the extreme. They do not sacrifice themselves for the sake of the herd, but each one only follows his or her own stomach. They seek only destruction. Nothing truly satisfies, as nothing ever does.

Making the comparison to a Satan figure is almost too easy. He’s a lion, seeking to devour, etc. etc. But it’s almost as easy, and infinitely more disturbing, to compare walkers to ourselves. How often do we fail to make sacrifices so that we may save ourselves? How thoroughly do we seek to feed ourselves at the expense of others? And how frequent do these realities reveal themselves, particularly in the context of what we believe to be religion?

There are times when the similarities between walkers and those who “walk by faith” are quite scary. I have witnessed time and again Christians whose greatest enemies are other Christians. It is not without reason that it is said, “The army of God is the only one who frequently kills its own.” How is injustice to be battled against when left in the hands of man, even when some of them are Christian?

Here’s the good news, perhaps even the Good News: we are not alone. We do not stand with a Mediator to the Almighty; we are not without weapons, for we are armed with prayer, compassion, and the very Spirit of God; and ultimately it is not our work we seek to perform. Left to ourselves, we are chaotic, destructive. But the resurrection of the dead is at hand, even those dead who are still moving and breathing. May the Lord return soon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Diminishing Returns

Once more I found myself having thoughts while listening to music and doing the dishes. I'm starting to think there's a connection. If the show The Big Bang Theory is anything to go by (and it is, personally, as so many people have told me I remind them of Sheldon), then sometimes doing mundane tasks frees up the brain to work during repetitive, meaningless action. This time the song at hand was "Better Than Drugs," by Skillet. This song, despite its genre and my tradition's general aversion to rock music, has made it into my Worship playlist on iTunes. Take a few minutes and listen to it on the link above.

As this song is playing, I begin to think on what I know about drug use. The first (and only) thing that comes up is the Law of Diminishing Returns (hence LDR; click through for Wikipedia article). This concept essentially states that the addition of an element to a system will produce an effect, but the more it is used, the greater the quantities of that element must be present to produce the same effect. However, there is eventually a point when the effect becomes negative, that is, it takes away from the desired result instead of helping. This term came up the other night on Grey's Anatomy when a patient with severe blood loss had been given copious amounts of blood for the surgery, but it was doing less and less good as the surgeons labored onward.

Concerning addictions, LDR is the reason why a person requires more and more of the substance in order to receive the high he or she got the first time the substance was absorbed. This is true of the commonly known drugs like marijuana and meth, as well as of alcohol.[1] The same holds for porn, and this one hits home with me, as I have the experience to substantiate the claim.[2] This is why the types of substance can change over time, moving toward more intense drugs, harder liquors, and more hardcore porn. It's because the same stuff isn't doing what it used to.

Given the reference to the Song of Songs in the chorus of "Better Than Drugs" ("your love is like wine"), among other hints in their music, I am inclined to interpret Skillet's work as being Christian. Therefore, I hear the person to whom the song is being sung as God. But the idea that God is better than drugs got me thinking. I couldn't help but wonder whether there is an addictive aspect to religion, or whether LDR applies to religious experience. LDR appears to be true most everywhere else, so why not here?

My religious experience has constantly reinforced the idea that only God will ever be enough for me. I have heard things like, "There's a God-shaped hole in your heart, and only he can fill it." And it appears there are roughly three outcomes of believing this and seeking God: (1) one does not find God,  and so moves onto another substance; (2) one finds God and becomes satisfied with a fixed amount, and is not changed by it; (3) one finds God, LDR kicks in, and one is never satisfied with the current state of things, and continues to seek more, go deeper, take in greater quantities of the God substance. I'm sure there are more possibilities than this, but it's a start.

The first outcome is common enough, where God is never found and so the seeker chooses to look for something else. The second is greatest among religious folk who have become satisfied and, therefore, stagnant. This outcome might be more dangerous than the first. The third, however, is the most intriguing to me. There are those who continually seek God and are never satisfied with "knowing God well enough." These are the people who deal with God relationally, that treat their relationship with God like they would a new lover. When I was getting to know the girl I eventually married, I couldn't get to know her well enough! There wasn't a point when I would think, "Well, I've spent enough time with her this week. That gives me a couple days off!"

This is where a possible branch-off occurs, with several possibilities presented. What would LDR dictate? That even if I remain unsatisfied with pursuing my wife or God and take things higher and higher, eventually the element in question will produce negative returns. At what point does a relationship with a person or God result in negative returns? Can we know God too much? My instinct says no.

There is an inherent problem with applying LDR to a relationship with God. LDR assumes that the substance or element being used or interacted with to produce a result is the only element that changes. The example in the Wikipedia article, for those who haven't read it, was that of workers in a factory. You can add more workers so that more work gets done, but eventually, there will be too many of them, which will ultimately reduce productivity. This does not account for changes in the factory. More machines can be built; greater space can allow those workers to move about; more work may become available. This problem, therefore, is assuming that everything around the additional element remains static.

When other pieces of the system do remain static, the additional component will eventually damage the system. If I attempt to consume God without any change to myself aside from some kind of high, then I will be damaged eventually. If I pursue my wife now without any kind of self-sacrifice, without any personal change for the benefit of the system, the system will crumble. This is the beauty of relationships: they can change.

For those who seek God and find themselves wanting more, that's okay, because God wants more, too. God is not static in his pursuit of his beloved ones, and we shouldn't be static either.

[1] The thing about alcohol is that it can be consumed without pursuit of a high. There are those who regularly drink yet are not addicted, because they are not attempting to reach a certain feeling through the drink. There are people who legitimately simply enjoy a cold one at dinner.

[2] It is, I can concede, theoretically possible that one can view porn passively or without seeking a particular sensation, but I know of no such situations where that is the case. If you come across research where this is true, leave me a link in the comments. I'm always eager to learn more about this topic.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Reading the Creation Narratives after the Exodus

Every once in a while, I have an epiphany. Well, maybe not an epiphany, but an occasional moment of clarity. Like our meme friend, Sudden Clarity Clarence.

Aaaanyway, as I stood in the kitchen doing dishes while my wife was out at a football game with her mom, two things come to mind. First, my wife and I don't exactly fall in line with traditional gender roles, as is evidenced by the previous sentence. Second, and more importantly, I have a realization about a possibility concerning the purpose of the Genesis creation narratives. If this is unoriginal, I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest; it's nigh impossible to have an original idea about the Bible.

But before my epiphany I feel the need to lay out a few of my assumptions. First of all, I'm not a Young Earth Creationist. Christians have been wrong about science before (flat vs. round earth; geocentric vs. heliocentric solar system; etc.), and we have moved on from past mistakes. We haven't quite got around this one yet, but odds are it's only a matter of time. Second, I read Gen 1-2 with the lens of comparison to other ancient near-eastern creation myths and try to understand it in terms of Israel's understanding of itself. In the context of being monotheistic and coming out of a centuries-long enslavement in Egypt, it sort of makes sense that the author(s) of Genesis would produce a story similar to those around them, but with the twist that their God is the one true God (Deut 6.4, for starters). Third, the literary artistry of the creation narratives is beautiful, especially with the parallelism between the first and second halves of the six days in ch. 1. (1-light::4-sources of light; 2-water and air are separated::5-creatures who inhabit water and air are created; 3-land is formed:: 6-land-dwelling creatures are made.) Fourth, we're not the first people in history to wonder whether Gen 1-2 are historical and conclude that they're not. Consider Philo of Alexandria and Origen. Finally, I believe that the Bible is written with purpose, not to teach us history (in the strict sense of "this is what happened"), but to teach us about God. The basic question to ask when reading a biblical text is, "What does this say about God?" And I think this is a pretty good way to read Gen 1-2, since they're in the Bible (FYI). These are where I'm currently at with Gen 1-2. Now you know.

When I do the dishes, I like to rock out. I'm okay with silence, but silence makes a drudgerous (made-up word of the day) task drudgerouser. I find dishes more tolerable if I got my jams goin'. As the music is going, a certain song comes along: "More" by Matthew West. (If you've never heard it, go here.) Sung from God's point of view, West claims God loves people and the person to whom he sings more than anything else he created. It's a magnificent thought, and one I like to be reminded of. As this song is playing, a thought comes to mind.

What if the creation narratives have included in them the purpose of exalting man above the rest of the created order? In these stories, God does not pursue a relationship with birds, trees, the ocean, or light. He pursues mankind. Fortunately, this idea does not change whether a reader holds the traditional view that Moses wrote the Pentateuch or the Documentary Hypothesis. The fact remains that the materials were written and/or gathered after the events they record, and not during them. This being said, let's read Gen 1-2 in light of Israel's captivity in Egypt. (For the sake of convenience, I'll just say "Moses" instead of "the author/editors".) It has been said that the 10 Plagues on Egypt were God's judgment upon the various gods of that people. Blotting out the sun's light is a judgment on Ra, and so on. After several centuries of slavery, the Israelites would likely have been accustomed to hearing worship of the sun, the Nile, and any of the deities listed in that fun song from The Prince of Egypt. The point is, they're used to ordinary things being revered. In addition to the strict monotheism of Israelite theology, the exaltation of man in the creation narratives further reinforces that the image of God is not found in the stars or among insects, but in man. If the image of God is found in Adam and Eve, why would anyone worship a river or a cat?

What if the exaltation of man in the creation narratives also serves the purpose of exalting God? God is already awesome by the end of 1.1, having made the heavens and the earth. But how much more awesome is he to the person who hears this message: "God made everything, and that was pretty good. But it wasn't until he made you that he said, 'Well, that's hard to top! I'd better stop there!' And he called it a day." (Pun totally intended.) Man was the greatest of God's made things. Not the sun, for it can be darkened; not the river, for it can be transformed; not the sky, for it can bring destruction upon all you hold dear. But man, made in God's image, worships only that which is above him, and nothing else, for all else is beneath him. "I love you more," says he, "so why chase after what is inferior? Seek first me, and you shall be blessed. Seek first me, and you will have sought what is highest. Seek first me, and you shall have fulfilled your purpose as my image."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

My Personal Savior?

Last night I had the privilege to attend an event called Fields of Faith with the youth group I help on Wednesday nights. The music was great, beautiful thoughts were shared, and God was certainly present. But a few things popped up that made me tilt my head and raise my eyebrow. The one that sticks out most in my mind was the frequent repetition of the phrase "your personal savior." Invite Jesus into your life, and he will become "your personal savior." At a surface level, and to the ears of the dominantly teenage crowd, it sounds pretty good. There is a sense that in such a phrase Jesus is interested in me. This is a powerful thought, considering how many teenagers have no one who is interested in them. With the rise of social abandonment, the rushing from one activity to another, and the general busyness that clouds their lives, it's great to hear about a personal savior.

At the same time, however, this language has embedded in it certain cultural values that are counter-intuitive to the reign of God (βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ). When a stateside teen hears of Jesus as propelling the same values as her nation, is she really hearing Jesus? The individualistic habits of the States are obvious enough (as I have pointed out here and here) to those who recognize them for what they are. But a further danger of individualistic Christianity is that it robs the message of Christ of one of its most important elements: community.

When one's relationship with God is treated the same way as a doctor-patient relationship, problems crop up. If my walk with God is private, then I needn't share it with anyone else. If my secrets are his secrets, I have no need of you. But this isn't how God's reign works. It is not built upon individuals, though they are important, but upon communities. God did not call Abraham to be alone, but he called him to create a family, a people, a nation, a community. The synagogue is not a place to come and pray by yourself; it is specifically for the act of gathering together (which is what "synagogue" means in the first place)! The same is true of the church. Its power is not expressed at its greatest in persons, but in people.

If Jesus can be understood to have worked alone somehow, there would be no problem. But he didn't. He chose people to come after him, worked with them for two years (give or take), built them into a community, and left with them a Helper who would further form that community into the image of Christ so that it could better become his bride.

Is Jesus a personal savior? Absolutely. But we ought not forget that he is also a communal savior. Without the community, we are lone pieces of driftwood riding the sea of religion and attempted righteousness. Within the community, those pieces come together to make a raft with plenty of room, that place of safety that is still quite dangerous, but invites tired swimmers in and offers them rest from the waters they attempt to surmount on their own.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Church as Proof

In church for the fall we're studying the Gospel of John. One week I was even asked to teach, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This past Sunday, the normal teacher was there, and we were tasked with going through John 3 and 4. How we were supposed to go through such dense material in 45 minutes (or so) is beyond me, but we made a valiant attempt.

At one point, following discussion of the Samaritan woman and Nicodemus, the following question was asked: "How do you know Jesus was the Messiah?" Now, we're a rather small group. Our class is called the "Young Professionals" group, which basically means post-college and childless people. About half the class comprises nurses, and another third is teachers, so we're not terribly diverse. Nonetheless, we bring a certain range of experience to the table. So, the question being asked, several answers came up (none of which I can remember right now).

But I was stumped for a moment. It's the kind of thing that an academic training in biblical studies does not prepare you for. My mind thinks in terms of why people then believed Jesus was the Messiah, how they interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures (probably from the Septuagint, mind you), why the resurrection was evidence for them, etc. I generally don't think about why Jesus is still believed to be the Messiah. Ergo, I didn't have an immediate answer.

But my answer was right under my nose. I answered, "The church. The church is why I believe Jesus was and is the Messiah." It seems a strange thing at first, even to me. Well, especially to me. I was for a long time rather anti-church. I had a very low view of the church, especially as an institution. It was a long process for me to appreciate the church as something worth being a part of, as valuable to Christianity.

I believe the existence of the church shows Jesus' messiahship. Historically, without the church, there is no evidence. It is within the church that the writings of what became the New Testament came into being. It is within the church that Jesus is confessed as the crucified, resurrected Lord. It is within the church that the story of Jesus is passed on. And it is within the church that Christianity must exist. It has been said that there is no salvation outside the church (Henri de Lubac, I think), and I think there is something to that statement. Likewise, without the church, there is no Messiah to believe in. Without the church, no one knows who he is. Without the church, there exists no community to make the claim that Jesus was Messiah, to confess his name, to live his life, to be baptized into his death and resurrection.

I believe Jesus is the Messiah because of the church. Why do you?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Resurrection and the Wrath of God

I just finished writing an essay on suffering and Jewish lament. The materials I found proved very enlightening on the topic, and I even learned some Jewish theology, both ancient and modern, along the way. When a tragedy comes to the question, “Why does God do this?” there is a Jewish response, or rather, several responses. One answer is that God is not omnipotent. If he were, but did not prevent suffering, then he is unjust, and Jewish Scripture claims God’s justice frequently.

For the fall semester I’m taking a course on early church history, and one of the required textbooks is Bart Ehrman’s Peter, Paul, & Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend (2006). It’s a great read so far, and a new take on an old thought has been introduced to me concerning Jesus’ crucifixion and Jewish law. Deut 21.23 lays a curse from God upon those who hang on a tree, and such was the form of Jesus’ death. Here’s where Ehrman picks up:

But how could Jesus be God’s Righteous One if he was in fact crucified? For doesn’t Scripture indicate that the one who hangs on a tree is cursed by God (Deut. 21.23)? Paul began very quickly to think that yes, Jesus was cursed. But he must not have been cursed for his own unrighteous acts, since he was God’s Righteous One. He must have been cursed for the unrighteous acts of others. That is to say, Jesus did only what was right, and suffered for the sake of others who had violated God’s will and stood under his wrath. Jesus took the wrath of God (his “curse”) upon himself for others. His suffering and death, in other words, were vicarious: he died for the sake of others, so that they themselves would not have to pay the price for their own sins. Christ’s death ransomed others from the just payment of death. (Ehrman, 114)

I struggle somewhat with the notion of God’s wrath. In fact, this idea came up (or rather, was avoided) the other night at church. There is a rather beautiful and marvelously well-written (in my humble opinion) song called “In Christ Alone.” I’ve had some trouble figuring out who wrote it, but here are the full lyrics. The second verse says the following: “Till on that cross as Jesus died/The wrath of God was satisfied/For every sin on Him was laid/Here in the death of Christ I live.” The worship minister at the church I attend change the second listed line to “The love of God crossed the divide,” due to what he calls “bad theology.” I’m not totally sure what this means, as I have yet to discuss it with him, though I truly want to. However, it doesn’t sound like bad theology to me. And here is why.

If Jesus’ death was unjust, and God has a history of hating injustice (particularly against widows and orphans), then why would God not be wrathful, especially against those who commit the injustices in question? So let’s assume God was angry about this, despite the notion that such events were in line with God’s plan. How would God act toward the unjust? Sometimes, it would be a plague, or a disease, or just a straight up tomahawk chop to the head resulting in an immediate death. Here, the punishment was carried out, but against a willing substitute: Jesus.

This puts us in a bit of a bind. If a man took advantage of a widow, and God wants to strike him down, he will do so. But if the widow, in her righteousness, pleads with God to punish her for his actions, will he comply? And does this put God in an awkward place when he is asked to punish an innocent person? Jesus knows he is innocent, yet understands he must do whatever is necessary to fulfill God’s justice, God’s wrath.

I suppose this is the concept of substitutionary atonement, that Jesus simply took the place of someone else’s failures, their sins. So when we sing, “The wrath of God was satisfied,” is it necessarily bad theology to claim that the curse upon one who hangs on a tree is Jesus’ willingness to accept God’s wrath? Is it bad theology to say think that God did not necessarily want to take up Jesus’ offer?
For some, myself included, substitutionary atonement is not the preferred theory. I don’t like the idea that God’s bus couldn’t be stopped, so Jesus pushed mankind out of the way and got pummeled. For if God ran over Jesus, why bother resuscitating him afterward?

Here is where my thought finally kicks in. It’s because the resurrection is God’s answer to suffering. In the eschaton when all persons are resurrected, given glorified bodies, and take their dwelling on the new heaven and new earth, suffering will finally have been answered. For every time that a woman loses her husband, or a father holds his dying child, or a single mom becomes homeless, the resurrection stands at the edge of this age and proclaims, “You shall suffer no more. Come, drink of me, and I will give you rest.”

Suffering exists; this much cannot be denied. But even if our response is that God is not responsible for it all, his answer is calling to us, waiting for us. I trust that when we suffer, God suffers as well. The lost husband, the dying child, and the homeless mother grieve the heart of God, who promises a new body that cannot die in a home that he has rebuilt for us when all things are made new. “See," God says, "I am doing a new thing.” And what a glorious new thing it is.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Blessed Are" or "Blessed Be"?

A thought has been floating in my head for a few days. In the Beatitudes, the common translation is "Blessed are . . . " Whichever group about which Jesus speaks, he uses the phrase "μακάριοι οἱ . . . " to make a statement of blessing. The Greek does not use a verb of being here, which means the interpreter/translator needs to make a decision. The sentence itself says "Blessed the poor in spirit, because of them is the reign of the heavens." There is no "are" there. Thus, my thought.

My professor of spiritual formation holds the idea that the Beatitudes are not aspirational values, but something more. They're not phrases that say, "You should be poor in spirit, because if you are, then yours will be the reign of heaven." They are statements that, according to this professor, bless people in real, current situations. They reflect this more: "Blessed are those whose spirits are already impoverished, broken, shattered, for they have something more to anticipate in the reign of God." The Beatitudes speak to existing realities rather than a state of being which one ought to seek.

With this in mind, I became curious as to whether the implied verb of being is indicative or an imperative/subjunctive. I have started searching for similar examples, especially those using the phrase "blessed be" and "blessed is/are" in English. Of the six examples I have thus far examined in the LXX (Gen 9.26; 14.19-20; 22.18; 24.27; 27.29; Ex 18.10), they all use εὐλογητός or a derivative thereof. There are quite a few more I have to sift through (no fewer than 20), but the first few all have that word group in common. Also, these six examples are found only using the search terms "Blessed be," without using "is/are."

Realistically, what difference does it make if the Beatitudes are translated "Blessed be the poor in spirit" as opposed to "Blessed are . . . "? If it is the latter, then the blessing has already been bestowed: God's favor has already fallen on the oppressed, which makes sense. The Bible frequently speaks to God's compassion on the disenfranchised. However, many of the finite verbs used are in the future tense. Whether this is near future or distant future cannot be said definitively (unless you know something I don't; I'm eager to hear), but it's still interesting. If "Blessed are" is understood in light of the future tense verbs used, then it might not be appropriate.

"Blessed be," on the other hand, has the ring of Jesus seeking God's blessing on behalf of these people for whom he already has a soft spot. It is not uncommon for a speaker to remind God of his promises and say, in effect, "And remember, God, I'm holding you to this. Seriously. I am." If Jesus is understood to be saying, "Blessed be the mourners, because they will be comforted," then the comfort sounds rather absolute, even if the blessing is not. We tell God, "Bless this meal," not with the sound of an optative verb of request, but with a statement in the imperative. We fully expect God will bless the meal, assuming we think about it beyond something we say at mealtimes. We expect, but cannot be completely certain. If I pray over my fast food chicken, God had better bless it, because there's no other way that stuff could be considered good for me! If it is "Blessed be," then the person in the real situation of pain has something to legitimately look forward to. This may be conveyed through the future verbs in the sentences, as well, but "Blessed be" appears to work in the fashion of an emphatic article or particle: it's not necessary, but it presses the point.

There is research to be done on this on my part. I plan to look up statements of blessing in other Greek texts (at least those which are readily available to me) and see how they compare. Μακάριος isn't too common so far, but εὐλογητός looks like it might be everywhere (see also Eph 1.3). I think there's potential here for one of those small interpretive decisions that does matter, even if only a little. In the meantime, enjoy this video on pre-blessed food.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Journaling and Interpretive Imagination

This summer I'm in a class for Christian Spiritual Formation. We've covered a good bit of material, including Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Henri Nouwen, and Pierre Wolff, and I have to say, I've enjoyed it. One of the assignments (which has now been rendered optional, though I intend to do it) was to explore and practice a spiritual discipline with which I have never experimented or familiarized myself. I chose journaling. I've only been doing it for two days, and I'm not totally sure what to expect. Our professor e-mailed us this morning to tell us that this assignment was no longer a requirement, and for several reasons. The reason which stuck out in my mind most was that practicing a spiritual discipline and writing on it in a matter of a few months or weeks is highly artificial. By the time this paper will have been due, I'll only have journaled a couple of weeks, tops.

Even so, I think there is some value to beginning this discipline. It should not be a short term pursuit for the sake of a grade, and since that's no longer an issue, I feel it will be a good step toward a long-lived practice. In A. A. Calhoun's Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, she is kind enough to give brief summaries of what different practices entail, scriptures to consider when performing them, and potential effects of their usage. I've considered journaling before, but not as a spiritual discipline. It was an overwhelming notion for me to attempt to write out all the events of my life as they were happening. However, Calhoun's handbook details that parts of the practice include the writing of poetry, scrapbooking, recording prayers, and attempting to view your life in terms of what God is doing.

The final bit there is most intriguing to me. This journaling has the potential for attempting to find how God is working in one's life. This is not just a passive kind of, "Oh, God totally saved me from getting hit by that car, and then he gave me a cool dream about riding unicorns!" It's the opportunity for interpretive imagination.

One of the beautiful things about reading the Gospels is their use of interpretive imagination. Where Historical Jesus studies find differences in whether Jesus actually did this or that, I tend to look at the instances when the author creatively uses Old Testament texts to present a narrative about Jesus. There are many parallels between Jesus and Moses in Matthew, usage of Isaiah in Mark, retellings of stories about Elijah and Elisha in Luke, etc. The Gospel writers are excellent crafters of story, especially considering the stories' roots in Hebrew literature.

This is, I think, one of the great opportunities of journaling: I have the chance to, in writing, explore the presence of God in the comings and goings of daily life, to interpret the normal in light of the extraordinary. So let's find some extraordinary.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Research Dilemma

I don't often post about personal problems, but I've got one. I'm writing a research paper on Hebrew lament for a class on World Religions, but I'm having some problems. First of all, I have this enormous temptation to write it like an exegetical paper. However, it's not meant to be an exegesis of a biblical text. I settled on a Jewish topic, not because Judaism and Christianity are close cousins, but because I don't know a whole lot about it. The easy excuse for me here is that, by learning more about Judaism and Hebrew history/literature, I am furthering my work in biblical studies, Old Testament-style.

Here's another issue: I'm finding it difficult to prevent myself from writing for a Christian audience. I was sooo close to having a section on what Jewish lament means for modern Western Christians. But the thought occurred to me that this is not what the paper is about. If I were taking an advanced Old Testament class and chose lamentation as a genre, that would be something else. But this is for World Religions. I'm attempting to elucidate an aspect of another religion with which I am unfamiliar. But how do I do this without attempting to relate it to Christians or a Christian view of biblical studies?

I realized I have not written a research paper without a Christian purpose in about 5 years. I've written a few decent papers: Romans 12.14-21, divorce, porn and families, the Messianic Secret, Mark 5.1-20, an analysis of the growth patterns of the church I attended... every one of them had a Christian basis. Now I'm writing about Jewish literature with no Christian end-game, and I'm stumped.

*Sigh* I've got a couple weeks to figure this out, but I had better hurry. If you guys have any ideas, leave them in the comments. Here's hoping we find a solution.

Grace and peace,

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rules Getting in the Way

Was not the Sabbath made for man, rather than man for the Sabbath? Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Did David not eat the bread of the Presence while on the run from Saul? Did Job not question and accuse God, yet God called him alone righteous among his friends? Didn't Jesus break the rules to follow the two greatest commands of God?

These questions run through my head as I consider the possibilities for the future of our world. As I find myself more and more invested in the presence and thoughts of same-sex relationships, these are the questions which plague me. I remember the first time I heard someone speak of a Christian argument in favor of same-sex marriage, and I thought it was ludicrous. A year later I married my wife, and that concept didn't really seem to matter much. Almost a month after my marriage began I got a job, and several of my coworkers were gay. This past December, I wrote a post on the topic. And seven months after that post, I find myself taken aback by Chick-fil-A's new campaign against homosexual relationships, saying that they are taking a stand for traditional marriage, for the kind of marriage created by God. So a few more thoughts come to mind now.

First of all, did God create marriage? For those who hold a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11, the obvious answer is yes. But I'm not one of those people. Even if those eleven chapters are ignored in terms of historical validity, it seems a common thought that marriage is a big deal in the Bible. But what do we mean when we say "traditional marriage"? The assumption is one man and one woman, but how is that the tradition? Abraham's wife was his half-sister, and also took his wife's servant to give him a son; Jacob had two wives and two maidservants mother his children; Samson couldn't stay with one woman long enough for it to have mattered much to him; David had multiple wives and concubines, but counted his love for Jonathan as greater than any of those (though this is not explicitly a romantic type of love as far as I am aware); Solomon, the wisest man ever according to God, had multiple wives as well (and any man with a single wife knows that's crazy!); Hosea's wife was a prostitute who kept leaving him for other men; Jesus is not described as having had attraction for one gender or the other, and as far as we know, was always single.

The only people for whom the current vision of "traditional marriage" seems to have mattered were elders/presbyters and deacons/ministers/servants of the Christian congregations (1 Timothy 3, esp. vv. 1-13). Even then it does not seem that every single criterion in the list of elder and deacon qualifications could possibly be fulfilled simultaneously, so should we think that all of them apply every single time? Maybe, maybe not.

A thought to be considered, which I first read from James McGrath's post and I suggest reading, is whether it is good for people of different sexualities to be alone. The people who are fighting hardest for marriage are not heterosexual couples. When Christian divorce rates are likely as high as the secular, are we really fighting for traditional marriage? Are we fighting for anything?

And so I ask: when it comes to certain topics like same-sex marriage, could it be that we are enforcing rules over and above the basic command to love each other? I once read that anti-LBGT Christians whose children come out of the closet have a choice: to hate their children or to alter their theology. Once I had friends who were Christian and gay, I had a choice to make, and I chose the latter. I also once heard that the love of God is the most powerful thing in the universe. If this is our driving force, will we break rules like Jesus did?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Spiritual Discipline

This is a modified version of a discussion forum in the online class I'm currently taking, Christian Spiritual Formation. I like to think I've learned a little in the last couple months, but here are some of the thoughts I've come to recently.
The initial question was this: "What relationship exists among human effort, human responsibility, divine sovereignty and grace?" And here was my response, as well as some afterthoughts in response to statements made by my peers.
As far as I can tell, I might be the youngest person in this class. As such, I may also be the least disciplined, having had the least amount of time to develop discipline. But as I reach the conclusion of the first year of my marriage, I find more and more reason to be disciplined: disciplined to do the dishes; to fold the laundry; to find a new job; to do my homework; to kiss my wife goodnight every night.

But how much does my discipline have to do with my spirituality? My initial reaction is to say, “Well, a lot!” But the more I think about it, the more it seems to me that my focus is “me.” Do I have a responsibility to be disciplined? Perhaps. Does God have an obligation to reign in the life of the believer, to pour rain on the just and the unjust? I suspect only the obligation God places upon himself.

When I consider the possible relationship “among human effort, human responsibility, divine sovereignty and grace,” I immediately go to read Titus. Growing up, the only thing I remember ever hearing from Titus was the leadership quality list in ch. 1 for the election of elders (on the rare occasion that my native congregation elected them). What I had never heard, however, was what followed soon afterward. It was not until my junior year of my undergraduate study when I heard in particular Titus 2.11-14:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our greatGod and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

A few points in this text were highlighted: God’s grace trains us, teaches us to say, “no.” We are not left to learn to do so on our own. Redemption and purification are not immediate, but a process. I don’t remember anything from my time before college when I was told that my relationship with God was not entirely up to me. I was given a highly self-centered, self-governed, individualistic vision of spirituality, and this minuscule passage blew that away. But as I sat in a lecture in the middle of an on-campus youth ministry conference, I was told something different: “You don’t have to do this alone. You needn’t carry this all upon yourself. It’s okay to be fragile and weak, for what else are you apart from God? But God will make you strong, and he’s working on it. God is working on you, and he’s not done yet.”

Human effort and responsibility have their place, but only if that place is found in the folds of “the grace of God [that] appeared, bringing salvation for all people.” The “self-controlled, upright, and godly lives” only happen when grace is our teacher, and we sit at the feet of the Lord. This thing called spiritual discipline is as much God’s responsibility as it is ours, which may be one of the most comforting things I have ever heard.
(Responsive thoughts)
It seems to be a recurring theme throughout biblical literature that God is the main player. For suffering, Job, Paul, even Jesus look to God. If the Bible is not, as I grew up thinking, a how-to-get-saved manual, but a story about God, then why not apply the same concept to spiritual discipline? It is far too easy to make this about myself, much like marriage. Just because I'm good at Greek and somehow scraped an A in Hebrew doesn't mean I'm disciplined, but that I did something I enjoyed (for the most part, anyway). I can recognize that marriage takes discipline just as a five-year-old can tell that a comic book takes skill to draw. He knows it's cool and awesome looking, but can also discern that it is something he cannot do (at least, not yet anyway). You can try to become as good as that artist, but imagine it's more about the artist than yourself. It's not even about the comic book, and that's something I think we miss a lot too! I don't think I can overemphasize how important God is to the process of spiritual discipline; without the artist whom we ought to emulate, what's the point in learning to draw?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Redemptive Ambiguity: Mark 6.11

Yesterday morning at church, the daily reading was from Mark 6.7-17, the sending out of the Twelve and the beginning of Herod's path to beheading John the Baptist. Since I had a Greek New Testament with me (which I kind of always have with me), I thought I'd check it out. And I found something interesting. Here's the phrase I'm working on from v. 11: "ἐκπορευόμενοι ἐκεῖθεν ἐκτινάξατε τὸν χοῦν τὸν ὑποκάτω τῶν ποδῶν ὑμῶν εἰς μαρτύριον αὐτοῖς."

The usual way of translating the last few words is, "in witness against them." Now here's the thing. That last word there, αὐτοῖς (autois), is a form of the word "he, she, it" (as a pronoun) or "self" (as an adjective). The particular form it takes is called a dative, which is usually an indirect object.

An indirect object kind of receives the action from a verb, but also kind of doesn't. If someone says, "I threw him the ball," what was thrown? One would hope the ball was being thrown, and the person was just catching it, right? Technically, this sentence is a bit ambiguous; it's not perfectly clear what is being thrown. But if we rearrange the sentence a bit and add a preposition, it clears right up: "I threw the ball to him." Now we know we're not throwing him, but the ball. The αὐτοῖς from above would be "to them, for them, with them," etc. It's an indirect object.

So here's my question: why is this often translated as "against them"? Given the context, this witness deals with hospitality, which is a big deal to Jews. In Genesis 18, Abraham is spending time with God, but apparently blows him off to take care of complete strangers. It has been said that the primary sin of Sodom was inhospitality, which was also the final straw. It was mostly inhospitable to treat strangers in such a way, rather than sexual sin (see also Judges 19, which seems like a retelling of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah). So when Jesus sends out the Twelve, they are to rely on the hospitality of others.

There is no reason αὐτοῖς cannot be "against them," given the context of Jewish hospitality traditions and the grammatical category of a dative of disadvantage (Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 142-144). If someone asks something of you, you give it to them. This likely extends to visitors making use of your home. Thus it makes sense that the testimony, the witness presented with reference to its receiver (its indirect object, as it were) be a negative witness, a "witness against them." If they are in a cultural norm of hospitality, and they withhold that, that puts them in the seat of the defendant, the prosecuted, the hot seat that no one wants.

But what if the naked dative, this standalone indirect object word, is intentionally ambiguous? If it were absolutely to be translated "against them," there are words which could indicate that. Sometimes εἰς, which does in fact precede the αὐτοῖς, can mean "against." However, it seems to be paired with μαρτύριον (marturion; witness, testimony). So can the same preposition be applied to two different words in a sentence and take on two different meanings? Probably not. It seems most likely that αὐτοῖς is in fact a naked dative.

Let's then assume this dative does stand by itself. Could an alternate translation be "to them"? What if the Twelve are not just testifying "against them," against the inhospitable people, but are also witnessing "to them"? Is there even the slightest chance that this could be an offering of redemption?
In Matthew 5.38-39, turning the other cheek is introduced to the reader. This is a beautiful act of redemption which doesn't really seem like one to Westerners. To "turn the other cheek" in our culture means simply to ignore given abuse. But let's view it like first-century Jews for a moment. If you slap someone, you do it with the back of your hand. This is seriously offensive to the person being backhanded. If that person turns his other cheek, however, then the hand that just did the slapping cannot reach the cheek he slapped. The palm of the hand can reach that side of the face, but the back can't. If you place the palm of your hand on their face, you are forgiving them and yourself. If you turn your cheek, you give the slapper the opportunity to regain some of his humanity, to act as God would have him act, with "mercy, not sacrifice," with forgiveness in the face of wrath, with a new beginning despite destruction and chaos.

So what if this witness, this testimony, is an act of redemption? What if the ambiguity of the dative is intentional, so that it can be "against" and "to/for" at the same time? Can this judgment against them be also a testimony to them, an opportunity for them to regain some of their humanity? I think it can.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Intimacy and Reverence

I do not pray very much. At least, I do not pray by myself often. I find prayer a difficult practice. I struggle with speaking to or with God in solitude. When I am surrounded by people, be it at a mealtime, a worship gathering, a funeral, or a wedding, prayer comes easily enough. It is in community that prayer is most available to my heart. This is interesting to me, especially in light of Western Christianity’s rampant individualism. The tendency is to treat one’s relationship with God with the same manner as the doctor-patient relationship: it is confidential, not to be discussed. I, on the other hand, find it less taxing to have a public relationship with God. It is in the moments of seclusion when I find conversing with God to be most difficult.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Food Terms Describing People

Today at a restaurant, I saw a man who appeared to be sunburnt. So I leaned over to my wife and said, “That guy sure looks crispy!” Her reaction was that crispy shouldn’t be used to describe people, which got me thinking: what other kinds of terms used primarily for food can and have been used to describe humans? Here’s what I’ve come up with.
  1. Crispy
  2. Burnt
  3. Frozen
  4. Raw
  5. (Half-)Baked
  6. Cheesy
  7. Corny
  8. Well-done
  9. Smooth
  10. Canned
  11. Tasty
  12. Bacon
  13. Fine
  14. Hot
  15. Saucy
  16. Steamy
  17. Toasted
  18. Peeling
  19. Fruity
  20. Cold
  21. Battered
  22. Fried
  23. Juiced
  24. Bacon
  25. Exotic
  26. Boneless
  27. Lean
  28. Fatty
  29. Creamy
  30. Got one in the oven
  31. Ginger
  32. Tender
  33. Organic
  34. Nutty
  35. Flaky
  36. Bacon

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring Creek Ministries

For those in the 432 area code of Texas, here is a link to Spring Creek Ministries, the ministry of a man whom I hold dear to my heart: my father. He recently set out to work as a "minister at large," and if you're interested in helping him out (and in the west Texas area), check out his site, and do whatever the Spirit prompts you to do.

Grace and peace,

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Questions They Don't Ask at Bible Bowl

Having just seen a photo on Facebook from a friend of mine from Bible Bowl (a biblical trivia competition, at its most basic definition), a thought occurred to me: What kinds of questions do we never ask at these types of events? Since the questions at such competitions are all multiple choice and no essays (all the competitors are aged 7-13, give or take a couple years), they have limited answers. However, were other types of questions available, what would they be? A few have popped into my head, and so I figured I would share them.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Separation, Reunion, Easter, and Eschatology

A little over a month ago my wife and I got some interesting news: she got the job. The position for choir director at her old middle school opened up mid-semester, and the school needed a "permanent substitute." (Permanent sub because the original teacher was still under contract, but could no longer maintain the position.) Given her degree in music-education, she applied for the spot. Lo and behold, the job was given to her. Not only was she offered the job, but she also took it. What this meant for us was that we would be living apart for a while. We have not been living together for about a month now. I think, however, I have learned some things I would not have discovered otherwise. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Disturbance in the Force

This semester I'm taking a class on Church Growth, dealing in part with the history of the Church Growth Movement, its principles, theology, and other such aspects. Fortunately, there has been some excellent literature for this class. Since book reviews are part of the grade, the reading has more or less been mandatory, but is for the most part no less interesting. Currently I'm reading through The Arbinger Institute's Leadership and Self-Deception (2000) and have completed such works as The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni, and Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, by G.L. Hawkins and C. Parkinson.

They are all great books, but partway through Leadership and Self-Deception I find myself asking the questions being asked by the person weaving the narrative. And as I began articulating the thoughts with which the book is concerned, a different kind of question came to me: "Why do I find this literature to be more motivating, more captivating than the Gospel? Why is this book more provoking, compelling, interesting?"

As this question gnawed at my thoughts, I was disturbed by the fact that I had pondered these questions. Well, not so much the presence of the questions themselves, but the fact that in the questions there is a certain amount of truth. While I love reading the New Testament in Greek and translating it, I rarely find myself compelled by the Gospel as I am reading these books to do something about myself. Why is this? Why can I so easily be entrapped by a 168 page book, yet remain more or less untouched by the life of a sacrificial lamb? I have to admit: I'm scared.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Repost: Christus Victor in the Lord's Prayer

Here is a repost from Richard Beck's Experimental Theology blog. Interesting on several levels, not least of all because he explores Greek genitives. Concerned primarily with the translation of the final phrase in Matt 6.13, Dr. Beck peruses the possibilities. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Run-On Sentences

So there was this time when I decided I wanted to translate something from the Bible so I picked Ephesians because I thought that since Ephesians was something I had never read straight through in English it would be a good idea to do in the Greek and then I realized that Paul or whoever wrote Ephesians (because I don't think Paul did it, but that's something I ought to study a little more) tends to use run-on sentences which is kind of annoying due to the fact that at the beginning of a sentence there is a participle and you can go three or four verses along and still not find its controlling verb and that frustrates me.

If Paul or pseudo-Paul can do it, why can't I? Answer: because it annoyed me to even try to write one, let alone translate such a mess!

I got to Eph 2, which starts with καὶ ὑμᾶς ὄντας... When I see a participle, my training has taught me that it almost always is relative to a finite verb. So I started looking. 2.1 begins with a participle whose controlling verb does not appear to occur until v. 6. Relative clauses, participles, genitives, and seemingly random asides abound in these few short verses. If this is how English teachers feel when they grade badly written essays, then I applaud you for your patience.

As for how the translating is going in Eph, you might have noticed that I'm much farther in translating than in blogging about such. There is a simple reason and a complicated reason for doing this. First, I just haven't got around to posting my translating notes. Second, I'm kind of waiting to see whether the translating of later parts of the text will inform or exegete earlier areas. I might get the early stuff out of the way, writing down how participles and genitives are translated, which means the potential for self-interpretation would have to wait. We'll just have to see where this goes.

Grace and peace,

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Sabbath: Rest as a Discipline

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." Ex 20.8

I always grew up hearing about how evil the Pharisees were. They were the bad guys. You know, because they wanted to kill Jesus, and who in their right mind would want to kill Jesus? One of the things they did most of was imposing sub-rules on pre-existing religious statements, particularly the Sabbath.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Exodus From Egypt: Lecture with Dr. James K. Hoffmeier

Tonight Lubbock Christian University will play host to Dr. James K. Hoffmeier, an apparently renowned Egyptologist. The lecture is entitled "The Exodus from Egypt in Light of Recent Archaeological and Geological Work in North Sinai," and I must admit I am quite excited about it. I may or may not post my notes from the lecture, depending on the availability of a video recording via LCU's tech team (quite separate from our IT department, mind you.

Whatever happens, I'll be sure to let you all know how it went. I can't wait for this thing to start! I showed up about 45 minutes early to get a good seat, since nearly 1,000 people are to show up in an auditorium whose seating capacity is 1,150. I'm grateful for the opportunity whatever happens.

Grace and peace,

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ephesians 1.7-10

Ephesians 1.7-10 Translation and Footnotes

Notes for the Translating Posts

So here's the thing: since some of the footnotes are somewhat extensive and deeper than a mere classification for genitives, participles, and infinitives, I have opted to keep each post rather short in terms of the number of verses translated. While I have no intention of turning this into an in-depth commentary on whichever book I am translating, I most certainly plan on writing out my rationales for differing translational choices as well as anything that intrigues me, either about the grammar and syntax of the phrase/sentence/paragraph/book at hand or the potential implications for those interpretive choices. If you notice something you would have done differently, let me know. I'm always open to hear other options for a translation.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Repost: "Confessions of a Christian Addict"

A dear friend and family member of mine very recently blogged about her own struggle, one with which I am very familiar: porn. I've posted before on the topic, and if you've read it, you'll know it's no secret that porn is a pitfall of mine as well. So instead of me blabbing on and on as usual, here is a repost from her blog, Simplicities of a Writer. Let her testimony speak for itself.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Fun Experiment

The other day my wife and I made an agreement: she'll teach me music theory (something she's very good at) and I'll teach her Greek (something I'm good at). Tonight was the first night, and we decided I would go first. And so it began.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ephesians 1.1-6

As always, comments are welcome, especially in this series if you disagree with a categorical choice of mine. I relish the challenge, and iron sharpens iron, right?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Translating Ephesians: Introduction

So I've decided I'm going to translate Ephesians. Since I plan on doing some of my translating here at Reedeemed, I'll be posting as often as I finish translating for any given day. Might be once a week, maybe more, but who knows?

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Image of God: Some Thoughts

The other night at church I was struck with a few thoughts during the worship time, and so I wrote them down. I can't be sure what drove me to consider it, but here is what I scribbled in my notebook:

Monday, January 23, 2012

EECC 1.6: Liturgy—Preaching (Preaching and Theology)

If you've kept up with the EECC posts of late, you'll notice that I've more or less skipped to the end of the preaching section, which is the intersection of preaching and theology. I have my reasons for doing so, the primary one being that I'm impatient and want to get more done. So let's move on, shall we?