What is the Bible?


aConsider the following when considering the Bible…

Form: How does the bible as individual texts and as a collective corpus appear to us, and how did it appear to the ancients?

Matter: What is the physicality of the Bible? Why a written book and not a collection of oral stories or inscriptions on clay?

Function: As a physical object it was meant to serve a purpose, but that purpose is both physical and spiritual. What is it?

Material: The Bible as a physical object is related to its matter. But the stories represent a material composition. How were these made and to what end?

Cause: The Bible was created and like anything created it serves a function. That function can only be fully understood when we begin to understand what the ultimate purpose of the Bible is? Why do we have it and why does it matter? Is it merely to instruct or is it to save?

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When we see what isn’t there…


what-are-clouds-made-of_bca378f490a8095cParedolia is the curious phenomenon of seeing familiar things that are not really there. Its what happens when we see a particular shape in the clouds or mistake a stranger for an old friend.But how often to we see this same phenomenon in our churches. We see it most in liberal churches who see their own social gospel and demand for tolerance in passages that either don’t exist or that say nothing of the kind. But this is not a liberal sin, it is also the sin of the pharisee who reads traditions and enculturations into scriptures in order to create puffed up rules and requirements. We see it in conservative churches who play a numbers game, mistaking large attendance for souls fairly won and in the prosperity gospel that tells us God just wants us to be happy and wealthy, and then often conflate the two.

 

SO the next time you enter a church, read your bible or devotional or attempt to engage in apologetic ask yourself am I seeing what isn’t there?

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God is not good!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGod is not wholly good. Shocking sentiment I know but I believe it to be true. Good is largely a human-centric term defined as much by its being in opposition to what is evil as it is to its innate nature, which is often subjective.

Since god could not be described as evil then we cannot say that God is good either. Rather we should understand God as the Old Testament fathers  understood God, that is to say as wholly righteous, wholly perfect and wholly self-sustaining.

God’s righteousness is key to human understanding because it is the one element to HIS personality that humans can begin to approach and apply to their own lives. No human can be self-sustaining or perfect, indeed we can never even come close to these traits, but we can be righteous and in being righteous we can approach the righteousness of God. This is what was meant when God described King David as a man after his own heart (the book of Samuel). God was certainly not wholly good. In fact he was  murderer and adulterer, two broken commandments. Not to mention a liar, another commandment broken. But when in the presence of God David was always righteous. This is why he so fully repented when confronted with his sins before God. David could deceive himself and in deceiving himself, others but before God David was always righteous. What David, and we forget is that God is ever-present. When speaking of His omniscience, we forget that he is also omnipresent. This is more than a theological concept. When we speak of Gods omnipresence we are saying that God is always present to us, always front and center, ever-attentive to his creation of which we are a part. Now as God is omni-present and omniscient God is also fully present and attentive to every facet of his creation and all times. Every stone or cloud, every man and woman and animal has Gods full and undivided attention every moment of every day. Whats more Before you were born, God was attentive to you as an individual (See Job).

Now when we speak of Righteousness we are speaking of two separate but connected things.

First: To be righteous is to morally right, to be perfectly in line with what is right in the universe in absolute terms.

Second: Toe be righteous is to be justifiable. In biblical terms to be justified is to be made straight in accord with what is righteous. It also means to be warranted in your actions. This is the same meaning we apply when we seek justice against a crime.  In publishing justified means to shift the body of a text to the right in perfect alignment. This is an apt metaphor for what it means to be justified in a biblical sense.

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Knowing God is finding the natural, in the supernatural.


The great conundrum for the modern secularist is that god is supernatural. As the supernatural contains all those things deemed to be fictions, such as ghosts and goblins and magic hats then of course they conclude the supernatural itself must be as fictitious as the various myths and fairy-tales that belong to it. It is no great leap to conclude that god, being supernatural is likewise a fiction. And guess what. They are correct. If god is supernatural  then god must be as fictitious as a magic sword or a ghost train or  dragon breathing fire.

If god is supernatural, that is.

But lets look closely. God may do things that appear supernatural to us, in fact just as supernatural as a smartphone would appear to the mind of  dark age peasant. If the sun is said to stop then we can know that either the story is a myth or the story is a supernatural act that goes against the fundamental laws of nature. Would not the very earth shudder and break apart if the suns gravitational effect were to ceases for a whole day? Would not oceans be displaced or the moon, hurdled from its near earth orbit? Yet clearly none of the happened. Since we can therefore conclude the supernatural did not happen, then we can easily determine the story is a myth, and from there easily deduce so many other biblical stories are myths.

But if we accept a truth stated in the bible, that God is the lord of all. That he created the universe and governs it then we can easily reject the supernatural from the story for a very simple reason. What happens when controlled by God is as natural because god is the foundational law of the universe. In God there are no contradictions, no acts of the supernatural of any kind, in fact the work of god, even at their most strange and mysterious are far more natural than any of the machines made by man or ideas conceived by the mind of man. Therefore we are left with only two possibilities, either the stories of the bible, those strange and wondrous tales are either invented myths, designed to be acts of deception or recorded as facts by an ignorant and gullible people, of they are in fact acts of nature.

For the apologist there is great danger in navigating a minefield while under fire from all sides. It is not and never should be the task to defend against all assaults, instead we must find a way to navigate that minefield, avoid the triggers and deal with the substance of the arguments of the disbeliever.

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A brief meditation post


If you died today, and in fantasy film fashion were faced with the possibility of returning to earth if you can make your case to a heavenly appointed judge, what would you say? Has any part of your life to that point been worthy of a second chance?

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The World and College


Elizabeth Devos, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Department of Education testified before an often hostile group of elected representatives where she made an interesting point but not quite in the way she believed she was making it. When asked about a campus culture of sexual assault she pointed out that the wisdom telling us that if you work hard and study hard then you can go to college and the world will be opened has become a danger for women.

Without arguing over the drastic increase in sexual activity in college among men and women, or the frequency of which false claims of assault are reported I believe she has a point. College has become the place where the “world” is indeed opened and not in a positive way. We see young men and women entering an environment where free speech is measured and dictated with approved phrases and a never ending chain of new pronouns by which we must politely refer to other people, places and things. Fraternities and Sororities engage in violent hazing, college athletes are seduced into vices beyond their years and faculty lean so far towards one political spectrum that the only word for their methods of education must be propaganda.

Indeed college has become the place where the secular world is mot fully realized and alarmingly seductive. Young men and women enter an environment absent parental authority, fraternities and sororities engage in violent and humiliating hazing rituals, binge drinking and sexual activity are at endemic level, athlete’s engage in vices beyond their years, swelled with pride in youthful strength and the promise of wealth and fame, faculty have evolved into such left-leaning bias that the only suitable word for their teaching method must be propaganda and students engage in binge drinking and sexual activity at rates that are endemic. The only moral foundation these children find is whatever they take with them, and this is often lacking due to parental inattentiveness or quickly diminished under the crushing weight of peer and professorial  ridicule. The world that students find is not friendly to honesty, morality, social responsibility or a relationship with God.

Faithful parents must understand that sending your child to college is not merely a way to ensure a good job or increased knowledge, is a dangerous path that must be walked carefully. It is a path through paganism, through vice and the reduction of the soul into a thing of mockery and scorn. The world that is opened to our children is the same world that has always been open, sexual immorality, deviance, intellectual dishonesty, Silence bought with apathy, greed and pride.  College is a journey, but it is often a journey through dark places at a time when children are most impressionable and most uncertain of where they belong. That darkness will claim them if they are left to their own devices.

Consider this… Parents today insist that children remain children until 25 (after college) for insurances purposes. Society argues that college students should be absolved of student debt, based on the sad but not incorrect assumption that college age children are incapable of making sound financial decisions. Everywhere we turn we see the age of maturation extended further and further with commensurate responsibility stretched to the breaking point.  Yet when it comes to morality and matters of conscience the going rule is that youth is more equipped to make those judgements.

How sad that Americas first Universities were built to provide churchmen, that prayer and the Bible were enshrined in foundational education and yet today, that has been forsaken in the name of new forms of tolerance that allow for everything accept morality, responsibility and personal accountability.  It has not happened in a vacuum. As college chapels grew silent, safe zones emerged to take their places and faithful men and women stood by, sending their children off just as Jephthah, through a fools vow and ignorance of the state of the world sent his own daughter through the fires. Will you, the parent see college as something it is not and sacrifice your children or will you see it as a dangerous, but perhaps necessary place, allowing your children to go, filled with wisdom, courage and a moral foundation that is unshakable?

If you think college is just a place, then you are already on the wrong side and your children are unequipped to face the very real dangers.

 

 

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7 stages of estrangement from God.


In a recent “Q” seminar hosted by Dr. Mark Yarhous, Philosopher and Clinical Psychologist and Theologian speaking of the issues of Transgenderism utilizes three lenses through which people, especially Christians see and define those suffering from gender Dysphoria, Identity, Disability and Diversity. I found the arguments compelling and attempted to match these three lenses of understanding to the larger issues of estrangement from Gods plan for us. Of course this goes well beyond Dr. Yarhous’ original thesis but I felt, intuitively that there was a connection that could be explored.

In doing so, I came to the conclusion that the three lenses made perfect sense but were also too limiting to address the full challenge of understanding and then defining the  different ways we become separated from God. As I delved deeper I came to identify an additional four lenses. I also discovered something curious. The seven lenses were more than ways we see, they were also logical stages that can be traced from the garden to the modern era, and through various movements of human history, political, social and religious. I don’t claim these seven stages to be ironclad rules, or fixed points nor do I suggest there is a specific biblical foundation for these stages. Instead my thesis is that the seven stages are identifiable only looking backward and once identified can be used as a yardstick looking forward. Let me be clear up-front. I do not claim these stages are final, or set in stone. The seven emerged after careful consideration and I have no doubts that some people may find alternate ways to define a given stage. Also, in careful analysis I identified other stages that initially seemed to expand the list but I felt that, after prayer and scrutiny they were mere sub-groups under one of the seven stages. Perhaps I was drawn to the number seven because of its symbolic power. Of this I confess possible guilt and ask the reader only to be open and forgiving.

So dear reader, here I present the seven stages of estrangement from God. As a word of caution I want to remind the reader that as Christians, indeed as human beings we are all suffering through these stages because we are all to some degree estranged from our Lord and Savior. Therefore this list is not meant to be a hammer by which to drive others into submission but instead a mirror through with we may see reflected where we are, culturally and personally in relation to where God would like for us to be.  As in all things, use it wisely… Use it prudently… Use it with humility and always use it in service to the Kingdom.

Integrity – The level to which we are integrated into Gods purpose for us, through Jesus Christ emotionally, intellectually, physically and psychically.

In the garden man’s integrity was complete through his direct connection to God. Man was gods beloved created being, tasked with the care of the garden and the naming of and thus care of animals. Once Adam Fell, the integrity of humans was compromised. The fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil created man’s first division. Good and Evil, or to put it more accurately, the knowledge of Gods plan for us and the knowledge of a world unleashed form our creator, surrendered to absolute autonomy. Because we are created beings, autonomy is not the state of being we are meant to be in and so we are divided first within ourselves, then within our families and communities, then against our fellow human beings.

Disability – Our state of living in a world that is broken through Adams fall, and our inheritance of that failure of obedience.

Man, is made aware of his nakedness. This means more than simply a sudden awareness of being naked, it means that for the first time we felt our nakedness, from hot and cold to the sting of thorns on our flesh to the weariness of our bodies through exertion. Man’s mortality was manifest first in this stage. Our fall disabled us just as the limb severed from the body disables the whole body. But this disablement, though painful and fatal is also part of the corrective for just as a phantom limb is still felt so too is the phantom presence of God felt by all generations of men. This is what was only recently called the voice of our conscience and that today is largely ignored as irrelevant to the psychological state of a human being. Through this we have become conscience disabled.

Disorder – The state in which we begin to justify our disablement at a self-centric level.

The state we come to when we identify by our differences and not by our common or shared realties, specifically the reality of our creation by and dependence on a creator God. Through modern arrogance we have ceased to see our fundamental disability, instead choosing to call it a specialness, making even our brokenness a thing to be celebrated. We relish in being different and in taking our own way. Radical autonomy becomes a pathological urge to utterly self-reliant, self-dependent and self- centered. When we speak of the right to choose through abortion or the right to be gay, or the right to pick your gender as being a right to choose, we are in fact speaking through the disorder of our broken nature.

Dysphoria – Allowing natural disorders to become pathological. Sickness becomes disease.

When we enter the dysphoria phase of our estrangement from God we begin to see the breakdown of our conscience. What we know to be right conflicts with what we want to be right, and being self-centered beings we ultimately choose what feels good to us, if we are left to our own devices.

In the days of the Christ, the Pharisees faced dysphoria and chose ultimately what felt good, what was comfortable and what didn’t require making sacrifices rather than accept the truth as it was then revealed to them through Jesus Christ, God on earth. Truth became an obstacle to comfort because disorder had been justified by so many and for so long that it became pathological.

Diversity – The one who is disordered seeks to create diversity, reducing normalcy by refusing to accept any single norm by which to live.

Moving from Dysphoria in a steady evolution we arrive at diversity. The conscience is still present, and still at work but at this stage we have determined that conscience is itself the enemy of our desires. What makes us feel good becomes the central focus of nearly all our efforts. But because we are thinking animals, we recognize that what makes us feel good is not the same as what makes another feel good so we invent diversity to explain the differences. Suddenly all morality is completely relative, there is no right or wrong, only subjective degrees to which the individual interacts within a society. Humanity created enclaves into which those of similar self- interests seek asylum. By this stage the choices that we invented the stage of disorder shift and become innate traits and protected classes of human kind.

Diaspora – The removal by degrees of groups that are different from a culture that defines itself as morally neutral and radically -autonomous.

In our brokenness, we strive to find unity and absent the integrity of a truly divinely centered life, a life lived in the shadow of the garden we find unity only in what makes us feel good. Because this is motivated by self-interest it doesn’t take long for other enclaves within our society to be viewed as the enemy and a threat to the self-interest of your group. Once this happens individual enclaves are dispersed further and further apart, either by force, coercion or through a desire to set themselves further apart, to be purer in thought and action. This happened among Gnostics in the Early Church, it happened to the ancient Israelites, to the Jews from the middle ages to the modern era and to Christians in communist states, and today to an ever-increasing number of groups that do not fit into the mold of radical autonomy. Why this happens is not clear but I believe it is to do with the need for morally autonomous groups being unable to face the reminder of the previous levels of estrangement. It is far easier to maintain self-interest if you have no reminders that there may be other ways to live.

Eventually wee stretch ourselves further from the source of our creation and the font of our happiness, creating more and more sub-cultures to fit a growing list of types of people, each one needing to maintain the illusion of its integrity by eliminating reminders of the presence of the other. For ancient Gnostics it was the need to retreat into the desert, to be free of conventional Christianity, for ancient Jews it was the emergence of the different sects in power up to the 2nd century BC and the fall of Jerusalem. For Christians at various times it was the radical movements within the reformation and counter-reformation and the denominational schism that still occur up into the 21st century over issues such as abortion and gay rights. For sexually liberal sub-groups this has been the steady evolution from the lifestyle choice of only a few years ago to the innate traits or genders as we term them today. For the issue of abortion this has evolved quickly from a woman’s right to choose not to be a mother, to the termination of an unborn baby as a matter of a woman’s general health.

But most important for this stage of estrangement is that each of these sub-groups find themselves estranged from all other communities. So called gay affirming churches in almost every case become churches that focus exclusively on social issues that relate to the gay community, with all other biblical teaching either removed or reconciled to a lower status. Equal rights groups ted to focus on the rights of single groups, often at the expense of others as happens with groups like the NAACP, which fights to deliver greater rights to black communities even as the rights of other groups are diminished. It becomes easy to ignore pleases of religious discrimination when your sole focus is on minority discrimination.

When all else fails, if we don’t fit we simply create a new sub-culture and invent a growing list of acronyms by which to ourselves. As is seen in the evolution from gay rights to the rights of LGBTTQQIAAP people or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual. And the list continues to grow.

Entropy – The state in which we have allowed ourselves to become so defined by our brokenness that we are unable to see what is wholesome and good and normal.

By this stage of estrangement even the complete emersion within our own sub-groups is insufficient to alleviate our latent feelings of estrangement but we have move so far from our foundation that we no longer have sight of or understand what we have lost. Because radical self-interest is hungry it must be fed and it is fed through hatred and animosity. In the absence of other groups, we begin to hate the groups we belong to. They no longer do enough to protect us or serve our needs, they are not sufficiently committed to your being at the center. Groups like Black Lives matter, the Tea Party, grassroots socialist movements within the DNC, all represent splinter groups that exist to feed off the groups they broke away from. Their primary motivation is to feed the exclusivity of the sub-group. The emergence of these in large numbers also represent the near end of the larger cultures from whence they evolved, in effect they become harbingers of the greater cultural decay in its final stages.

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