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Archive for the ‘Bible Questions’ Category

Maternal Traits of God

Sometimes when someone reads that God I referenced as “He” in the Bible, they think that implies a sex prioritization or and sex hierarchy in the mind of God.

Somehow God being “He” also makes Him more like a male human than like a female human (or a male human more like Him than a female human)…

But I think that is a misunderstanding, mistake or in some cases, abuse.

What does it mean that I am male? It means that I have an X chromosome and a Y chromosome. It also probably means that I have certain sex organs and plumbing. It probably means that I choose, as a preference or daily, between boxers and briefs.

So, obviously (I pray it is obvious) God being a “He” doesn’t mean the same things as those. Either there is something about His essence that links to something that all males (not just humans?)

That seems to be the case, but that is also quite a mystery, as revealed in Gen 1:27

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Something about being created in God’s own image is linked to us being create male and female, but what exactly is open to great speculation… but a clear implication is that man and woman are BOTH created in God’s image.

Woman are not a lesser version of God’s image, so God being a “He” must not be meant to imply that men are somehow closer to God’s image.

In fact, the main focus for this little article is to draw attention to the maternal traits of God.

I do not think that masculinity or femininity are biblically founded concepts. Male and female clearly are, but gender traits are entirely culturally based. (not man or woman – that is genetic, but “manly” or “lady-like” for example.) More on that in another article.

I have long said that though there are many biblical roles that can only be held by men (father, son, brother, husband, for example) and there are roles that can only be held by women (wife, mother, sister, daughter, etc.), but with very few directions for men or women outside of roles like this.

There are clearly passages that indicate paternal traits of God – and being referred to as “Father” and “He” are certainly examples that we are used to – but what about God’s maternal traits?

We are called to the roles in people’s lives as parents… for our children and other people’s children.

How would that be possible for women if God’s traits were only masculine?  Next we look at God’s maternal traits.

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I am sorry that this two part article got broken up.  You might go back and refresh yourself with the first part again.

This level of “oddity” is so “common” that it inspired Tom Clancy to say that “the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.”

Mark Twain is given credit for “…Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.”

Recent events of flooding in South-East Texas have led to dozens of “unbelievable” accounts of people being rescued.  Unlikely though they may be, people are alive because of them.

But would the historians of the future think them merely myths, legends, or miracles – an ignorant people trying to explain something they didn’t really understand?

At church we went through a sermon series for a few weeks of looking at some of the “extraordinary” lives in the Bible… the likes of Paul, Mary, Zacchaeus, David, and others… and at the same realizing that their lives are extraordinary… Just like ours.

I think many people imagine that the accounts of people’s lives in the Bible for example, or biographies of other great men and women, are radically different from their own… but exactly what makes their lives believable are the ways they seem “out of the ordinary.”

And yet, they happened.

Is it likely that a client told me that that God has woken her up in the night for her to pray for the baby we were pregnant with – having never met my wife – even though we weren’t pregnant?

Or rather, didn’t know that we were?

That seems like a miracle.

They meet astonishing people. They are caught up in events that define their times and history. Unlikely things happen all around them.   Sometimes when we look back on our own lives, these things seem unbelievable, but they happened.

Is it believable that some orphan, Esther, spends a night with Xerxes? That some kidnapped Hebrew kid, Daniel, meets Nebuchadnezzar and Darius? That David faces a Philistine warrior giant and kills him?

It doesn’t seem so, does it? And yet, everyday “normal” people interacted with Napoleon Bonaparte, Florence Nightingale, Abraham Lincoln, Shaka Zulu, etc.

Normal people become everyday soldiers and periodically everyday soldiers become extraordinary heroes.

But all extraordinary heroes are also normal everyday people, too.

The fact that biblical characters have strangely, unlikely, even miraculous unexplainable events is part of what makes them believable!

What seems to unite our lives are the “unbelievable” things that happen.   The vast majority of people, when I have asked them, say that they have experienced “miracles”.

So, Ehrman says that since historians can only accept as accurate what was “most likely” to have happened and by (his) definition, miracles are “the least likely things to happen,” and therefore cannot be accepted as historically accurate.

But in this is a serious problem. So, all of the radically unlikely things that have happened to me, and you could not be part of history? Historians of the future cannot accept those as historically accurate?

In that case, they will miss the truth, because we were present for these events… for these extraordinary, unlikely events.

But they happened. I assume things like them happened to the people of the past,

too. So, it is exactly the accounts of them experiencing miracles that make their life accounts believable – not less believable.

The unwillingness to accept what is unlikely to have happened makes it impossible to accept what does & did happen. This understanding of history makes history a science utterly incapable of accurately describing the unlikely events that are universal to human experience and apparently always have been!

To dismiss the miraculous is to miss out on an accurate understanding of the human experience… and maybe what makes it the human experience.

 

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“and Lead us not into temptation”

According to “The Independent” on Dec 8, 2017,

“Pope Francis has called for a change to the wording of the Lord’s Prayer, as the existing translation implies God ‘induces temptation’… The prayer, also known as Our Father, asks God to ‘lead us not into temptation’.”

“The 80-year-old also highlighted that the Catholic Church in France had already adapted the prayer, and uses the phrase ‘do not let us fall into temptation’ instead.”

I want to start by clarifying that I do not think there is anything malicious or necessarily heretical about the Pope’s call for change here. However, I do think there is clear error, so I will make the case.

“The reasoning is that ‘It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.’”

This is just a mis-use of the word “translation”.  (I hope that, assuming the Pope was speaking in Latin, that this English translation isn’t erroneous).  Rather than trying to change the translation, he should be engaging in the issues of interpretation (more on that later).

Translation is the process of one language to another. In this case, Greek to English (in the case of the Catholic Church, it is often Greek to Latin to English.

The Greek (with English letters) is:

Kai eisphero ego me eis peirasmos

Kai – a conjunction – “And”

eisphero – (bring, take (like a message, a sacrifice, ) (see Luke 5:18, I Tim 6:7))

ego – me

me – not

eis – spatially in reference to – (before, into, onto, next, resulting in, among, about, etc)

peirasmos – “to be put to the test/tribulation”

I know that just like English, just the meaning of each Greek word is not always the right answer for a thought or phrase, but in this case, apparently is pretty good. So, all that being said,

“And lead us not into temptation…” (Matt 5:13)

is a perfectly sound “translation” – in fact, it is an excellent translation! If anything was a potential change in the translation, you might could change it to “and lead us not into trials/tests”… but that isn’t what he wants to change.

The Pope is not troubled by the translation. He is troubled by an interpretation question. One does not change what the Bible says because one is troubled by a question of interpretation – one teaches through it!

What does it say?

It clearly says something close to “and lead us not into temptation.”  If the translation is sound, what is the Pope concerned about?  From his further thoughts it is clear that he is troubled by the interpretation.

“Interpretation” is what something means.

So, if the Pope is uncomfortable with the fact that it sounds like God Himself is tempting someone to sin (which is not in the character of God, as indicated in James 1:13

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”

So, is there any way to understand the words in the prayer other than God tempting people? Can someone lead someone into temptation without tempting them? Of course they can.

Consider that perhaps the exact experience that Jesus had in mind was His own recent experience (Matt 4, which starts with “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

Jesus had been led into a situation in which He was tempted. Did the Father tempt Him? No. Did Jesus want to experience the situation again or want His followers to ask to avoid those kind of situations? I think it is likely so.

One interpreter of this passage referenced the idea of a mother taking their children through the checkout line with all of the candy having already told them that they could not have candy. She is putting them in a situation in which they will be tempted. She is not tempted them, though.

Jesus is encouraging us to ask for the extra grace from God to allow them to avoid those type of tough tests – the tests of being led into situations of temptation.

This situation, in which Pope Francis is seeking to change a translation because he thinks the passage needs further interpretation, is just an error. Of course, like the rest of us, he is just a man and “to err is human” (that is also not in the Bible by the way, but a quote from Alexander Pope – no relation to Pope Francis).

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https://hunterbeless.com/new-blog/2017/7/ep28-on-understanding-sexuality

I got to be a part of a great podcast a few days ago.  This expresses some of the roots – going WAAAAAYYYY back (in time and in philosophy) for the issues of sexual identity that we face as a culture today.  Check it out!

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Guest Post by Mark Legg

This is a great addition to the series about Christ and ancient myths.  What about how the ancient account of Gilgamesh overlaps with the account of Noah?

Though there are many accounts of a flood that extended back many thousands of years ago, the epic of Gilgamesh is remarkably like the flood narrative of Genesis in many ways. The mention of the flood begins as early as line 7-8 in tablet I. In introducing Gilgamesh, it compares him to people before the flood, and that his in his wisdom he knows many secrets of the world before it. Later, Gilgamesh hears the whole story from Utanapishtim (the Noah character), who possesses eternal life (tablet XI, 10-212). How do the stories differ, and how do they compare? Though the main narrative is similar, many details and the theology behind the story differ.

Utanapishtim’s story infers that the gods attempt to destroy mankind because of overpopulation and that population was also wicked and full of wrongdoers (XI, 185-200). Similarly, we see God’s judgment in the Bible. Genesis 6.1 begins with this sentiment: “When man began to multiply on the face of the land . . .” The text then explains that mankind has grown immoral and wicked (6.5-11). These are cited as reasons for the destruction of mankind in both cases. Also, in both instances the antagonist builds a boat at the command of a god (or the God). Both take the lives of other animals or people (XI, 27 and 6.20). Both come to rest on a mountain (of whose true identity we are unsure of) (144 and 8.4), and both offered sacrifices after arriving safely (160-165 and 8.20). Furthermore, we read a strangely similar detail in the story. To check the safety of the surroundings, they send out birds essentially as scouts (148-160 and 8.6-12). Furthermore, both generally speak of the absolute destruction and the terrible power of the flood.

However, many details differ between the two ancient accounts. The construction and dimensions of the Ark (48-75 and 6.14-22), the length of the flood (it is much shorter in Gilgamesh) (114-150 and 8.1-12)), and many other specifics contrast. More importantly, we see several theological differences. Utanapishtim’s story includes, naturally, multiple gods. All except for two wish to destroy the entire human race. We see the common attribution of gods the ancient times, that they are essentially overgrown people. They cower in fear, their “lips are parched”, and they infight (115-126, 180-200). In the Bible, God sees Noah’s righteousness and decides to save him unilaterally, since He is the only true God. Finally, Utanapishtim receives eternal life on earth (205-211). Though we can assume Noah similarly received eternal life in heaven, the two do differ in that regard (Heb. 11.7).

Though the messages are similar, the difference in deities and details pose a very interesting comparison. The overall stories do overlap in many ways, however. It could easily be theorized that the Babylonian epic drew from the real life events that transpired in Genesis 6-9.

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Taking/tearing down Confederate Monuments

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The Apostle Paul, Romans 12:18 & 21

Hopefully the verse above makes it clear that I am writing this to Bible – believing Christians.  If you have no respect for the Bible, I don’t have any thought that this article will impact you.

If you do, you might should check out my thoughts on the correct understanding of the biblical theology of race before diving into these applications.

I am not sure what order these thoughts should come in, and they may end up not in any order at all, but just in the order they came to my mind. I try to organize my thoughts well, but this topic has thoughts bouncing around in my head like a pinball game. I may not be competent to organize them well. Please excuse when I interrupt myself, I am sure it will be frequent.

I am committed to writing this stuff even if no one ever reads it. The new way of talking about serious aspects of life and culture with a Meme must be Screwtape’s dream come true. I refuse to engage in discussions of true significance without placing enough value on it to actually engage with it.

In the US today (and by the time this is published, this may be such old news that it is barely worth reading – but more on the “culture of crisis” at the end of this article) there is a cultural crisis about removing memorials and monuments that honor the Confederate leaders from the American Civil War.

I want you to know where I am coming from and so you can evaluate my own prejudices as you read this:

I am a “child of the South” – meaning “product of”. Though born in Michigan, where my father was in school, my family has a long heritage of being “Southern.” Though initiating in Scotland, most lines of my family were solidly in South Carolina or Alabama, etc. 150 years ago… what is called the “Deep South”.

I joke that I didn’t know that “Damn Yankee” was two words until I was in my 20’s. This isn’t true, since I never once heard the phrase “damn Yankee” except in the context of this joke. (Man, there are a lot of Southern things like this, there is a lot of jaw, jaw, jaw but I think the majority of modern Southerners just go about daily life with little consideration to any of what I am writing about until someone else brings it up.)

In my lineage is one “Wade Hampton” who was a confederate cavalry general. I was raised on stories of his heroism, kindness and generosity to his men and unsubstantiated accounts of his slaves defending his property against federal troops at some point (I have no idea of any accuracy in this, but I know it happened sometimes, but is often pure myth).

In fact, I was told he was the only man to ever own more than 1000 slaves – the only man in America to do so, I also cannot verify if he was the largest slave owner. This was not told with pride, but enough shame to ALWAYS be followed with the above story of his slaves defense of the property. It was also ALWAYS followed with a reference to that idea that he was kind to his slaves (no idea if this was true) and that he was known to be a violent man to other white men if he felt his honor was challenged (that he killed some number of white men in duels including beating one to death with an axe handle – again, no idea if any of this is true.) I do know that he was a Civil War Confederate Cavalry General.

I imagine part of why I have never researched him before is because I didn’t want to find out that none of the good aspects of this are true, or that worse was…

So, I Google-stalked Wade and uncovered that he had, as a legislator, opposed the division of the Union. He was wounded multiple times with saber, shot and shrapnel. His fiery temper, at least toward other white men, seems accurate, since he apparently nearly got into a fight with a Union general when Hampton surrendered. Though he apparently gave “tacit” support to the KKK in his region, he was not know to have active involvement with them. It sounds like he did openly support and was supported by the “Red Shirts” – a murderous and violent group dedicating to suppressing the black vote in South Carolina. Nothing about his treatment of slaves or their role in Sherman burning his property. (my family hates Sherman, by the way). A lot about his valor in battle, brilliant battle-field work and leadership.

Not to make light, but all I think of with “Red Shirts” is the poor guy who always transported to the surface of a planet with Kirk and Spock and always bought the farm when they did.

Side note – I think one of the challenges for someone from the South in all of this is, when you read Civil War history, the general honor that these men held each other, their opponents, is evident. They saw each other (with some obvious exceptions) as honorable men. I think it is a little sad that we cannot do the same anymore. We have lost the ability to see our own foes, even enemies, as honorable. I will have to give more thought to this in time.

Where did we lose that? It was still there in WWI mostly, I think. WWII, is that where we lost it – I know it was still there, but perhaps less evident or at least much less common. Maybe the degree and frequency of war atrocities in WWII are what cost us the generalized sense of holding our opponents in respect. Maybe we just became too pragmatic. This will be a good coffee conversation with my historian friends.

It turns out that the “Red Shirts” thankfully no longer exist – except as a branch of the “League of the South” – yet another ridiculous hate group made up of a few thousand people (7,678 likes on FB – Justin Bieber has 78,823,347 likes; Elmo has 5,663,499) who are dedicated to “free and independent Southern republic – which apparently would be a pretty small place. I am not going into it here, but I am annoyed by how much attention these hate groups get at times like these.

If there were 100,000 members of hate groups (3-8,000 KKK at the highest estimates **) they would represent .03% of our population (6,000 is .002%). I know we have to stand up against immoral hatred whenever we can, but these guys really should be allowed to vanish into history with a whimper.

More about “The South” next

**http://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/florida/article167261082.html

** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan

** http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/07/us/klan-numbers/index.html

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Does the Bible deal with the tough issues?  It does.  Christianity is neither merely a religion nor outdated.

People despair.  People struggle with mental illness.  People get trapped in the belief that there are only two choices – a long tortuous death or a quick release… but the problem is that there are almost always more than two choices.

https://southspring.org/teaching/suicide/

This sermon is near to my heart as we open up the Bible to understand the awful tragedy of suicide.   I hope it encourages you and gives you strength to face life and to help others do the same.

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