Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lords 'n' Gods.

"'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One; and you shall love the Lord your God ...' This is known as the Shema, from the Hebrew word for 'Hear' with which it opens. As so often in Paul, the text he alludes to one minute is the text he will then develop the next minute ...
... "We know, he says, that no idol has any real existence (Galations 4: 8-11), and that there is no God but one. That is Jewish-style monotheism, ranged classically against pagan polytheism ... In contrast, he says, to the many 'gods' and 'lords' of the pagan world, for us, he says, 'there is but one God - the Father, from who are all things and we unto Him - and one Lord - Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and we through him." To feel the full force of this, we need to set it out side by side with the text Paul has in mind:

The Lord Our God One God - the Father ...
The Lord is One One Lord - Jesus Christ ...
(Deut. 6:4) (1 Corinthians 8:6)

--N. T. Wright, in "What Saint Paul Really said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?"

As is evident by the quote, Wright sees 1 Corinthians 8:6 as a way of demonstrating that Jesus is God, and the Trinity is valid. He pulls from the Shema, with the concept of the Lord our God is One.

The interesting thing about the Corinthians chapter itself is that Paul seems to set up a distinction. He starts out that saying a false god has no existence, and there is only one God. There may be so-called gods, in heaven or on Earth. In fact, there are several 'gods and 'lords,' yet for Christians, there is one God, and one Lord. He doesn't really use the phrase, "the Lord our God."

To pull from some other Bibles:

"Yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, through whom we live." New King James Version.

"Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist." English Standard Version.

"But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life." New Living Translation.

"There is only one God the Father, that everything comes from him, and that he wants us to live for him. Also, they say that there is only one Master -- Jesus the Messiah -- and that everything is for his sake, including us." The Message.

None of these verses combine the idea of God with Jesus. They specify that there is one God, one alone -- the Father. This is the God who created everything there is. The Creator Himself. There is also one Lord, Jesus Christ, who/which was the method as to how God created, and how God provides life. While the verses do make sure to show that there is only one of us, there is also a hierarchy set up here. God creates, and the tool is Jesus/the Logos. Jesus isn't made an independent creator, or even on equal standing here. Otherwise, why not just say, "the Lord our God is the Father and Jesus Christ, the one through whom all things came to be?" Or something along those lines. And this would make sense, if Jesus is seen as the incarnante Logos, and in Genesis, God created through speaking. Through words.

Or why not just leave it with there are many gods in the pagan world? Why say gods and lords? The use of the word 'lords' did not always indicate some sort of God. 'Lord' could also stand for Master or Superior in a human sense. Or of something more powerful than humans, but not as powerful as the Hebrew God.


Monday, January 28, 2008

What we deserve.

I've been involved in a few discussions the past few days, and a common theme was in all of them: we have rebelled, and deserve hell/eternal punishment. In my view, this is the same as saying we don't deserve love, since hell would be the absence of God, and thus love as well. In other contexts, it's that all of creation deserves death.

One of the reasons this view angers me is because I don't see where lines can get drawn between eternal deserts and temporal ones. For instance, if we deserve nothing but hell, then wouldn't that also mean that starving people don't deserve help? Or food? That the Holocaust victims not only deserved to die, but deserved to die in the manner that they did?

That abuse victims in fact deserved to be abused? That rape was deserved? Murder? Hurricane Katrina? I mean, if we deserve nothing but eternal torment, which is pretty much the absolute punishment, wouldn't we in turn deserve the temporal sufferings as well?

Yet, for the most part, I don't see Western civilization acting this way. If a woman is abused, we tell her she doesn't deserve that, and should leave. People are raising awareness in terms of AIDS, poverty, genocide -- and a prevailing idea behind all of that is that such suffering is not only not deserved, but actually deserves our mercy. Our compassion. Our help.

But people can turn around and say that those same people, if they reject Jesus, deserve to suffer eternally? I just don't see how the two can be compatible.

The anger truly stems from the horror I feel behind this idea. If someone feels that we all deserve hell, then how am I suppose to trust that person to respond to the suffering s/he sees on a daily basis? Why would I trust that person to be moved with compassion, to help my family? Or the world?

I'm sure the response to this entails that one feels compassion because one is saved, or one is nudged by God, or responds to such pleas because God rescued them. I don't say that dismissively, but it doesn't remove the intial problem that if you truly, truly think that every single person does not deserve an iota of love ... then why be outraged at evil? Why be so outraged at how unjust the situation is? If a rape victim is told that she brought the rape on herself, how can this be argued against when we deserve something much worse? How can you deserve hell and not deserve rape?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ye shall know the truth ...

.... and the truth shall make you free. John 8: 32.

I've been contemplating this passage for a while, given how cause-effect its said up. If one knows the truth, one is not free. So in reversing that, if someone is not free, then the person does not know the truth.

One of the concepts behind hell is that its filled with people who willingly went there, as God won't force them to go anywhere against their will. A fellow blogger once explained this mindset as that we all know what the truth is, it's just that a majority of us are willfully and willingly rejecting this truth.

Based on the quote above, is it possible to willfully reject the truth? Knowledge of truth equals freedom, and if someone is free, is there anything left in them to willfully reject the truth?

I think there are ways to superficially know the truth, and really know the truth. The superficial way is like teaching a child to say 2 + 2 =4. They know this is the truth because an adult said it was the truth. But they don't understand the concepts behind taking two things and two things, and making four. They have a superficial knowledge.

The other way is someone who fully understands the concepts behind the math. Now, someone can still willfully reject that, but I'm not sure we could say the person is making a rational choice. If it's not a rational choice, can we still say the person has knowledge of the truth?

Branted, we need context with the John quote. Chapter eight of John starts with the woman caught in adultery, and then gets into the comparison between the Pharisees and Jesus. We have Jesus announcing that he will be going his way, yet the Pharisees will try and follow and not be able to, as they are of this world, and he is not. Yet they also seem confused, as verse 27 says that they don't understand he was speaking of the Father. After Jesus saying that the truth brings freedom, the Pharisees again are shown as not understanding, and that they were never in bondage to any man. Jesus says that whoever commits a sin is the servent of sin, and if the son has made one free, then one is free.

In an interesting note, we have Jesus saying that he knows they are of Abraham's seed, and yet his word has no place in them, as he does what he's seen from his FAther, and they do what they've seen from their Father. They protest that Abraham is their Father, yet Jesus says that if they were Abraham's children, they'd do the works of Abraham. Yet he also just said they are of Abraham's seed.

They are now seeking to kill a man who has told them the truth -- so is Jesus in fact saying that they do know the truth? I'm not sure, because he seems to mean that in just describing what his words are. These are the very words that the Pharisees are not understanding, because they can't "hear" them (vs 43). He then goes and says that Pharisees are the children of the devil, and so follow their father. This very father who was a murderer from the beginning, and cannot speak truth, as "there is no truth in him." He can only speak of his lies, of which he is the father. And so when Jesus says the truth, the Pharisees don't believe him. So the Pharisees are shown as those who believe a lie as the truth, and because they see that as the truth, they in turn don't believe Jesus, as it doesn't match to "the truth." Can we then say that the Pharisees are shown as willfully rejecting what they know to be true?

So I'm not sure we can say that hell is full of people who have willfully rejected the truth, in the sense that they know, completely, it was the truth. Knowledge of truth equates to freedom. If we can really reject the truth, then do we comprehend it in the first place? In a rational fashion?

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I was tagged by Mystery of Iniquity. However, I'm going to have to cheat on this, as most questions are limited to one response. And I'm the only person that ever had to be told, by her eye doctor, to stop reading for a month. The doctor couldn't believe she had to say it, but I had to let the the eye muscles relax ...

I wasn't able to do it.

1 - One book that changed your life
Well-done history books. It really brings to life "those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it."

2 - One book that you've read more than once
Too many to count. Anything on my bookshelf, I've read at least three times.

3 - One book you’d want on a desert island
A "book" that was in computer format, connected to an Internet that worked, and would let me connect to the entire library known to the existence of mankind. In English. After all, if I can make the last page in a book go right to the first page in another book on the computer screen, then it can all be considered one book. :)

4 - Two books that made you laugh
The Eyre Affair: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde.
Most David Eddings books.

5 - One book that made you cry

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. And Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.

6 - One book that you wish you had written

I'd like to go with the Harry Potter books here, as JK Rowling has an incredible imagination. However, I don't think she's the best writer. She's a great storyteller, has a great grasp of character: but she uses way too many adverbs.

Or To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

7 - One book that you wish had never been written
Any book that picks up where "great works of literature" left off. I'm looking at *you,* all you Jane Austin sequels.

8 - Two books you’re currently reading
The Good Good Pig, by Sy Montgomery
Those Who Save Us, by Jenna Blum

9 - One book you've been meaning to read
Um ... no such thing as just "one." I have at least ten theology books I've been meaning to read, a few science ones, seven books checked out from the library that I must read in the next two weeks, so ... maybe I'll just go with "I mean to read anything I haven't yet read."

Anyone who wants to do this, consider yourself tagged.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Words. Words, words, words.

"Not everyone who calls me "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my heavenly Father. When that day comes, many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out devils in your name, and in your name perform many miracles?" Then I will tell them to their face, "I never knew you; out of my sight, you and your wicked ways!" Matthew 7: 21-23

I often see the above quote used in two ways, one more common than the other. The common way is often against those who point out the non-Christian behavior of vocally ardent believers, and simply because a person says the right belief structure, it doesn't mean that the person is saved. At some point in time, the person will have Jesus tell him or her that even though the person calls Jesus Lord, the person is not known by Jesus.

The less common way is against those who don't consider themselves Christian, and yet act a lot more "anointed-like" then those who do consider themselves Christian. Simply because a person acts nice or compassionate or merciful doesn't mean that Jesus knows that person, either.

On a whole, though, I find this a rather strange passage, given the list of criteria. You can prophecy, cast out devils, and perform miracles and yet still not enter the kingdom of Heaven. I'm not quite sure how "prophecy" is classified here. My understanding is that valid prophecies can only really come from God. Unless there's some sort of Bible verse that says evil people also deliver correct prophecies? That would just seem a little strange, because prophecies usually involve some sort of punishment occurring to sinful people, or a final strike against sin (such as the birth of Jesus), and why would an evil person, or evil entity, want to make a prophecy like that?

So if we go with the idea that prophecies can only come from God, wouldn't this be a way of identifying those truly following God?

The miracles idea is kind of iffy, just because both good and evil are granted certain abilities in the Bible. Granted, the idea behind everything is that even though evil has powers, good very much trumps evil in the end, and is more powerful. But if going with the idea that a miracle is a supernatural occurrence, then it can go either way in terms of what it proves.

The biggest one that's tripping me up is casting out devils in Jesus' name, especially when comparing that idea to Matthew 12: 22-28. I don't want to type it all out, but I do want to focus on the last part. Jesus has just cast out a devil, and the Pharisees say that Jesus is doing so by the power of Beelzebub. Jesus responds: "Every kingdom divided against itself goes to ruin; and no town, no household that is divided against itself cant stand. And if it is Satan who cats out Satan, Satan is divided against himself; how then can his kingdom stand? And if it is by Beelzebub that I cast out devils, by whom do your own people drive them out?"

I've always read the italicized part as Satan can't drive out devils, because then Satan is working against himself. The only way to truly drive out a devil is due to the power of God. And so if you are driving out a devil, you are doing so specifically according to the will of the Father. This would be one of the "markers" identifying who is truly following Jesus.

Yet the people in Matthew 7 use that as a marker, and Jesus says he never knew them. But how can that be possible, if the only way to drive out the devils is through the power of God? Then Jesus should know the people, because they are actively doing the will of God. Otherwise, why would God grant them the power to drive out the devils?

Right now, the only way I see around the Matthew 7 verse is that what the people did wasn't "valid." They didn't truly prophesy or drive out devils, they only thought they did. Except I think that's applying outside perspectives to the text, because based on the passage alone, the people sound sincere. Jesus doesn't say why he didn't know them (other than the implication that they didn't do the will of the Father. Except the will of the Father is what allows one to drive out devils in the first place, so ... yeah). He doesn't specify that they didn't really do what they claimed they did. I suppose the conclusion could be that the people were lying about what they did, since he called their ways wicked.

I also have difficulty reconciling the Matthew 7 verse to the following: "And these signs shall follow those that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils." Mark 16:17

Based on this, I'm supposed to specifically know those who believe by the fact that they drive out devils. And yet when that claim is used on Jesus, he says he doesn't know them, and their ways were wicked. Which again leads me to the fact that the people were lying