Tuesday, December 30, 2008
The KJV had the interesting effect of making some very ordinary words into technical religious terms, since the words dropped out of ordinary use in the centuries since the KJV was translated. One of those words is "grace." Interestingly, the NASB, the NIV, and even (often) the NLT continue to use this word to translate the Greek word charis, even though the meaning of "grace" in English has changed over the centuries.
In modern English, "grace" primarily means something like beauty, charm, or refinement - a meaning that rarely fits what the NT authors meant by charis. Of course, Christians usually learn to fill in a technical religious meaning for the word grace, but charis in Greek did not have a uniquely religious meaning.
Charis has a variety of meanings depending on the context (like all words), but in the sorts of passages where it is translated "grace," it normally means something like "generosity" or "generous gift" (the same meaning it had in English when the KJV was translated). As I have been reading the NT recently, I have been translating charis with "generosity" or "generous gift" wherever such a translation works. Look at some of the passages:
Eph 2:8-9 For by [God's] generosity you have been saved... it is the gift of God.
Gal 1:3 Generosity and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Phil 1:7 It is only right for me to feel this way about you... since you all are partakers with me of [God's] generosity.
1 Cor 15:10 But by the generosity of God I am what I am [that is, an apostle]; and his generosity towards me was not wasted, but I labored more than all of them; yet not I, but God's generous gift which was with me.
There are some other passages where "generosity" seems to be a less fit translation, expecially in Romans. I haven't yet checked what the standard references (BDAG, NIDNTT, EDNT, TDNT, etc.) have to say on this, but it seems that charis is used in these passages to describe God's generous forgiveness. For example:
Rom 5:20 The Law came in so that transgression might increase; but where sin increased, [God's] generosity overflowed even more.
Rom 3:24 ... being justified freely by his generous gift through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.
Although this started for me as a thought experiment in translation, it has resulted in a great deal of thought about God's generosity. It is striking that Christ's life and death on our behalf is described as a generous gift to us. Paul's calling as an apostle, and our calling to serve in the church today, is a generous gift. Paul chose to start most of his letters with a prayer for God's generosity and peace. I do not think often enough of God as a generous God, a gift-giving God, a God who is characterized by his beneficence. Yet he is.
Charis to you and peace from our generous God in 2009.
The picture: An altar piece, ca. 1260, by an unknown German master. The middle panel is a gnadenstuhle or "Pillar of Grace," a common way of depicting the Trinity. The side panels depict Mary and John.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
"All Things Are Better in Koine"
A video by some Biola students. Music written and recorded by Derek North, video produced by Nick Casucci. The profs in the video are Scott Yoshikawa, one of my former Talbot classmates, and Mickey Klink.
Here are some of the lyrics that may be a little obscure to non-Greek students:
K to the O-I-N to the E [KOINE]
D.W. bringing the Bs [Daniel Wallace, author of Beyond the Basics of Biblical Greek, commonly abbreviated as BBBG]
I'm busting out like Daniel Wallace / Watch me parse my verbs cuz my Greek is flawless.
legomai ego [common joke in Greek classes - means "I say" or perhaps "I say to myself" in Greek]
ti legeis en koine [= "what do you say in Koine?"]
The video mentions two evangelical NT scholars, D.A. Carson (prof at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) and Daniel Wallace (prof at Dallas Theological Seminary). I wonder if either of them ever suspected that they would one day be the admired objects of a rap video? I think that's my new goal in life.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Notice these lines from Mary, Zechariah, the angel, Simeon and Anna:
- And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47)
- His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David… salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— (Luke 1:67-71)
- to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:74-75)
- And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins… (Luke 1:76-77)
- But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11)
- And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him... Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:25, 28-30)
- At that very moment [Anna] came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Salvation is a central theme in Luke's story of the birth of Jesus. Jesus is the "horn of salvation" and even salvation itself - and of course, Jesus' name means "salvation."
Zechariah talked about both salvation from enemies and from sin. In most of the NT, the emphasis is on deliverance from sin - in fact, sin is the enemy from which Jesus delivers us. The salvation that Jesus brings is also salvation to something - Zechariah rejoices that we are saved "to serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness." This is good to remember today - the message of salvation is not only deliverance from sin and its consequences but deliverance to a life of positive righteousness and usefulness to God.
Here, at the beginning of Luke, the emphasis is on salvation for Israel: "redeemed his people," "redemption of Jerusalem," "consolation of Israel." The angel's message is "good news for all the people" - but "people" (laos in Greek) refers to the nation of Israel, not the whole world. Luke doesn't leave out Gentiles (Jesus is "a light to the Gentiles," according to Simeon), but he downplays them at the beginning of his gospel. Luke raises the profile of Gentiles slowly in his story, culminating with his focus on Paul's mission to the Gentiles in the second half of Acts.
The picture: The Nativity, by Martin Schongauer, 1470s.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Friday, December 5, 2008
In some earlier posts, I wrote on the common belief that agape and phileo have different meanings, especially in John 21. To help people understand this better, I developed the following quiz. For each of the following verses, see if you can guess whether the Greek word for love is agape or phileo. I'll give the answers at the bottom.
- Mt 10:37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."
- Luke 20:46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets."
- Jn 5:20 “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing."
- Jn 11:3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
- Jn 12:25 “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal."
- Jn 16:27 "for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father."
- John 20:2 So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb..."
- 1 Cor 16:22 If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.
- Titus 3:15 All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith.
- Rev 3:19 "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent."
To get the answer key, use your mouse to highlight the apparently blank lines below.
All of of the sentences use phileo in Greek. None use agape. Sneaky, huh?
So what's the point? If agape means divine, unconditional, higher love, and phileo means only friendly affection (the usual explanation given), then anyone reading Bible verses with the English word "love" ought to be able to guess which Greek word it was translating. But as you can see, several of the above sentences describe a higher love, and some describe a defective love - but all use the same Greek word, phileo. I could have done the same thing with agape - give you multiple verses, some obviously about higher love, and others about defective love, but all translating agape. The two words, as you can see, have about the same range of meanings. For more on this, read my earlier posts on agape / phileo.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
O the depth of the riches
Both of the wisdom and knowledge of God
How unsearchable his judgments
How untraceble his ways
For "who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has become his advisor?" (Isaiah 40:13)
"Or who has given to him and will receive back from him" (Job 41:3)
For from him and through him and for him are all things;
To him be the glory forever, amen.
I didn't get a copy of Andrew's notes, so I may be missing something. But Andrew pointed out the chiastic layout, shown in color above. The outer layer (red) refer to God's wealth, then the next layer (orange) shows his wisdom, and the inner layer (green) shows his knowledge.
More to say here, but I am now running off to hear a set of lectures on aspects of the use of the OT in the NT.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Good Eye / Bad Eye
What I love most about being a professor at Pacific Rim Bible College is the opportunity to help young leaders learn how to better interpret and apply the Bible. Today in class, a student asked about a difficult passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “… if your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (Matthew 6:22-23). What did Jesus mean?
It turns out that having a “good eye” or a “bad eye” was a common manner of speaking when Jesus taught. The phrase “bad eye” is often translated as “stingy” or “greedy” in other places in the Bible (Deuteronomy 15:9, Proverbs 23:6, Proverbs 28:22, Matthew 20:15). And the word for “good” in this verse is translated as “generous” in some other passages in the Bible (1 Chronicles 29:17, Romans 12:8, James 1:5). So Jesus was using the ordinary language of his day to point out how much better generosity is than stinginess.
If you read this whole section of Jesus’ sermon (Matthew 6:19-34), you can tell that Jesus is giving several key principles about handling our money. First, he tells us that an act of generosity is like making a deposit in heaven (6:19-21). Then he tells us that having a “good eye” (being generous) lights up our whole lives, while having a “bad eye” (being stingy) makes our whole lives dark (6:22-23). Next, he warns us that we must choose God as our master, not money (6:24). Finally, Jesus teaches us how to avoid worry so that we will use our money generously to advance God’s purposes (6:25-34).
We ended our discussion not only with a good Bible lesson, but also with a challenge: am I being generous with the resources God has given me? Do I have a “good eye” or a “bad eye?”
I'm looking forward to your comments and suggestions on the wording of the final paragraph.
Monday, October 20, 2008
The picture: The Trinity, 1414, from the workshop of the Master of the Gerona Martyrology. It follows the pattern of a gnadenstuhle, or "pillar of grace," which includes a cross, the Son sitting in the Father's lap, and the Spirit as a dove (usually resting on the cross or descending towards it).
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Monday, September 22, 2008
The epic Lord of the Rings begins with the preparations for Bilbo and Frodo's birthday: "When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton." Frodo was also turning thirty-three, the coming of age for Hobbits. Fans of LOTR will remember that Frodo's involvement in the Tale of the Ring begin with Bilbo's astonishing disappearance at the end of his birthday speech, one of my favorite scenes in LOTR. "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like half of you half as well as you deserve" - just one of many memorable lines from the slightly tipsy Bilbo.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Suppose for a moment that the American Revolution was an unjust war. [Since]... Americans fought it anyway and won it, what does that say about the legitimacy of America’s sovereignty in the eyes of God?In addition to the stipulations of just war (which are not exclusively Christian), we should also reflect on this question in light of the biblical prohibition against taking up arms against legitimate government.
Almost all nations have skeletons in their closets. If the practice of unjust wars invalidates a nation's sovereignty, then all nations have lost their sovereignty, except maybe Iceland. When Paul wrote Romans 13:1-7, he was referring to the Roman Empire, much of which had been founded on wars of aggression. However, this did not invalidate Rome's authority, according to Paul - he argued that we should submit to existing authorities. And of course, America has had other wars that are of much greater concern. The Indian Wars, the Mexican-American War, and the Spanish-American War were far more unjust than the Revolutionary War. If we use the 1-100 "just war scale" I mentioned in the first post, then I give the Revolutionary War about 60 or 70, the Indian Wars about 10, and the Mexican and Spanish Wars about 20 or 30.
If you have the (mistaken, in my mind) belief that America was somehow founded by God as a chosen nation, then analyzing the Revolutionary War by just war or biblical criteria will certainly shake that belief.
We need to avoid what philosophers call the genetic fallacy - the false idea that origins determine everything. If, as some Christians claim, America was properly and justly founded as a Christian nation, that does not say anything - positive or negative - about the country's later actions. If, as I am suggesting, the founding war of America was less than fully just and biblically questionable, then that also says little about the later actions of the country. America has demonstrated that it is capable of both just and unjust wars, regardless of the status of its founding war.
Maybe I am biased as an American, but I think that America has been more just in many of its wars (in both causes and in practices) than many other nations. The Indian Wars seem to be the most notable exception (we haven't talked about Iraq yet - that will be the next and hopefully last just war post).
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Monday, July 7, 2008
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
I'm going to analyze a very narrow question so I can be more clear. I'm going to explain what just war theory says, and then try to place a few wars (including the Iraq War and the American Revolution) on some sort of "justice scale." On one end of the scale would be totally unjust wars of aggression, such as Saddam's invasion of Kuwait or Germany's invasion of Poland. On the other end of the scale would be wars as close to just as possible, such as (perhaps) England's defense of European allies in WWII. Then we can see where other wars might fit it.
Just war has two sets of criteria. The first set describes just causes for going to war (jus ad bellum) and the second set describe conduct in the war (jus in bello). What are just causes for going to war? Just war theorists usually break down jus ad bellum into multiple criteria, but I'll simplify a little.
1) War is justified in response to aggression - to reverse the aggression and to retaliate. While the individual may not be right to retaliate, a government probably has an obligation to retaliate. A government must retaliate against criminals in order to defend the innocent, and thus it must retaliate against aggressive actions from other countries. A government may also be obligated to respond with force when an ally or an innocent people group is targeted by an unjust war. Thus, the US-led defense of Kurds from Iraqi genocide in the 1990s was a just use of force.
2) War for economic gain is not justified - this consitutes a war of aggression. What makes this criteria complicated is that sometimes a nation may be justified in going to war (defense of an innocent nation), but the reality is that some economic benefit may result. Further, some government leaders may be motivated by just causes, while others may be motivated by economic causes.
3) Only legitimate authorities may begin a war. In other words, a group of independent US citizens cannot decide to attack Iran, even if other grounds for a just war have been satisfied.
4) The war's goals must be limited to responding to the wrong suffered. For example, reasonable goals during the first Gulf War were to expel the Iraqi army from Kuwait and destroy a significant part of its army so that Iraq could not attack again. Overthrowing the government of Iraq or invading Iraq would have gone beyond reversing the wrong and appropriate retaliation (at least, that was the reason why the elder George Bush chose not to invade Iraq in 1991). This concept is related to criminal justice. We give fines for speeding and increasing amounts of jailtime for more serious offenses. In war, the intended response should also be limited by some concept of justice.
5) Most important criterion: war is just only if it is the last resort. A nation must demonstrate that it has taken every reasonable action short of war. This is based on the idea that war is never good, and always goes worse than intended. War may be necessary and therefore just, but it should be avoided if there is any other reasonable solution.
6) Reasonable chance of success. If a nation has no hope of winning, then by going to war it is wasting lives.
Next post: Jus in bello - just practices in war.
By the way, some Christians are pacifists - they believe that war is never justified or never necessary. I will not cover that approach in these posts, but you can learn more about their approach at the Just Peacemaking website.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I will also be speaking at Kailua Baptist Church on Sunday, July 6, at 10:00 am. Same sermon! But probably a little better second time around.
I'll try to have the sermon podcasted as soon as the church I am visiting posts it (see podcasts at right).
Monday, June 23, 2008
Psalm 110 is a fascinating hymn written to honor the king of Israel and the King above him. It has special application to King David, but was likely sung on other occasions in honor of later kings of Israel. Since Jesus the Messiah is (among other things) King of Israel and descendant of David, Psalm 110 also can be applied to him (as we find in Matt 22:41-46, Acts 2:34-36, and Hebrews 1:13, and chs. 5-7).
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
With all my heart I have sought you; do not let me wander from your commandments.
In my heart I have treasured your word, that I may not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes.
With my lips I have told of all the ordinances of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I have rejoiced, as much as in all riches.
On your precepts I will meditate and regard your ways.
In your statutes I will delight; I shall not forget your word.
-Psalm 119:9-16 (NASB, modified)
I recently asked my undergraduate Bible interpretation class to write out a title or subject of this stanza of Psalm 119. Seventeen out of 18 students said something like, "How to live a pure lifestyle."
That would be a good title, if this stanza were written the way we teach high schoolers to write today. The first line of a paragraph is supposed to be the topic sentence, so many English readers reason that "How shall a young man keep his way pure?" is the topic of the rest of the stanza. (Actually, stanzas of a psalm are usually called strophes, and it makes you feel so much smarter if you call them that).
But of course, Psalm 119 is not a modern American high school essay, but an ancient Hebrew poem extolling the virtues of God's instruction (or Torah). The meaning of these eight lines is not governed by the first line, but by the poetic structure of the entire psalm.
The author of Psalm 119 took on an impressive poetic challenge. To express his delight with the Torah, he decided to write 22 strophes of eight lines each describing how good God's word is. (Let's see... eight times two, carry the six... that adds up to... A LOT.) Why 22? Because there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Every line in the first strophe begins with aleph, every line in the second strophe begins with beth, and so on up through tav. This kind of poem, as you may remember from an English class in your youth, is called an acrostic.
The strophe in vv. 9-16 is the "beth" section, so every line begins with a beth. In the version above, I rearranged the word order to more closely match the Hebrew and highlighted the first word in blue, so you can see the poetry. (The words "how" "with" "in" and "on" are different ways of translating the same Hebrew word, which is a b- prefix added to the next word. In line 4, the Hebrew for "blessed" is brk)
(Nerd note: the translator of the Psalms in the Septuagint (LXX, the Greek Old Testament) managed to partially translate the acrostic in this strophe. Every line begins with an epsilon in the Greek. In the vav strophe, every line begins with a kappa in the Greek. The rest of the Greek translation does not preserve the acrostic.)
What does all this mean? Psalm 119:9-16 is not about how to be pure. It is one of 22 strophes describing how good God's word is. In these lines, the psalmist says that he keeps, seeks, treasures, learns, talks about, rejoices in, meditates on, and delights in God's words. What are the consequences of this attitude towards God's word? Purity. An unstraying heart.
This is what we need - not a mere snacking on God's word, already digested by someone else for us, not merely the keeping of a discipline or the checking off of a box that tells us we are holy - but an absorption of Torah, God's instruction, that encompasses our thoughts, emotions, and actions.
The picture: David the Psalmist, in Geystliche Lieder (a hymn book) by Martin Luther and Valentin Babst, published 1567. Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Many Christians throughout history have believed that Jesus went to hell during the three days after his death, either experiencing full punishment for our sins, or preaching to the damned, or releasing OT faithful from imprisonment (the so-called "harrowing of hell"). However, the four gospels say nothing about where Jesus was during those three days.
Why do some people believe in Jesus' descent to Hell? First, some later versions of the Apostles' Creed include the phrase "He descended into Hell," but the earliest versions don't include that phrase. (The phrase first shows up in the seventh version of the creed, in the works of Rufinus of Rome in AD 390.)
Second, some interpret 1 Pet 3:18-20 to mean that Jesus was in Hell; but most NT scholars don't think that's what Peter meant. It's a very difficult passage to understand, but it has several possible interpretations. When Peter says "He preached to the spirits in prison," it may be referring to spirits who are now in prison, but were not when he preached to them. We also don't know if he is referring to human spirits or demonic spirits. Other passages describe the cross as a proclamation of victory against the evil powers (Eph 3:10, Col 2:15). Peter may even be referring to the Spirit of Christ being preached through Noah, as he earlier said in 1 Peter 1:10-11.
Third, some people think that Ephesians 4:8-10 refers to Jesus' descent to Hell. But the passage, read carefully, probably refers to Christ's descent to earth, not Hell (note how the NIV and NLT correctly translate this passage).
So what's the bottom line? The idea that Jesus descended into Hell does not have firm scriptural support, although some believe in it based on 1 Peter 3:18-20. We should normally avoid building significant doctrines based on a single difficult passage. Whichever way you believe on this issue, this is a relatively minor issue, not one that Christians should fight over. Christ's victory on the cross and at the empty tomb is far more important than what happened during the three days between them.
The picture: Descent of Christ to Limbo, Andrea da Firenze, 1365.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
It's a good question, and one that has puzzled many people. Mark doesn't tell us clearly why Jesus gave these commands, so we can't give a certain answer - but we can make some reasonable guesses.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus often asks people to keep secrets. (Gospels scholars call this the "Markan secrecy motif." Doesn't that make you feel better just knowing there's a term for it? Kind of like knowing the name of your rare disease). Jesus commands the demons not to talk about his identity (Mark 1:23-24, 2:34, 3:11-12); he tells the disciples not to testify that he is the Messiah (Mark 8:27-30); and he tells some healed people not to talk about their healing (Mark 1:44, 5:43, 7:36, 8:26). Some of these make sense - Jesus does not want the testimony of demons, and he wants the disciples to wait until the resurrection to proclaim him as Messiah. The identity of the Messiah should be understood in light of the cross.
But why does he tell some healed people to keep quiet? Here are some reasonable guesses.
1) Hype about Jesus' healing ability sometimes made his ministry impossible, as you see in Mark 2:2, 3:8-10, 8:1-4 and others. After the healed leper disobeyed Jesus and told everyone (Mk 1:44), Jesus was not even able to enter any town for a while (Mark 1:45). He wanted to be able to freely travel and minister, and the crowds made that difficult.
2) Jesus did not want to be known as just a wonder-worker, like other (supposed?) miracle-working Jews and Greeks of his time. He wanted his reputation as a healer to be tied to his teaching about the Kingdom of God and repentance. People who were only excited about the healings would spread word about his power, but not about the gospel. Jesus wanted the healings to always be accompanied by his teaching.
3) Jesus wanted to have formal testimony to his healing power, not just the rumors spread by crowds. That's why he told the leper in Mark 1:44, "Go, show yourself to the priest and offer a sacrifice for your purification." If the leper would have followed Jesus' command, the priests would have formally verified that a registered leper had been healed. Not many scholars seem to talk about this reason. However, it has the advantage of being the first time in Mark that Jesus asks a healed person to keep quiet about it. Maybe Mark wanted us to read all of the remaining healing secrecy commands in light of this first one.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
What does... Romans 13:1-7 mean? It seems to conflict with our beliefs in freedom and justice.This is not what I expected because it seems to be saying that rebelling against a dictator is wrong. It's like the American Revolution and like overthrowing Saddam Hussein were sinful. So how do we reconcile this with our beliefs in freedom and justice? - Thanks, L.L.First, it is important to know that wise and godly Christians today and throughout history have not always agreed on this issue, so we need to be humble and understanding of other people's opinions. For example, during the Revolutionary War, many Christians felt that that they should support the Revolution, but many believed that the Bible would not allow them to rebel against their king.
What did Paul mean when he wrote this passage almost 2000 years ago? At the end of Romans 12, Paul explained how Christians should respond to those who hate or persecute - by doing good and blessing. He naturally moved into the topic of how to respond to the government, which at that time was dictatorial and occasionally persecuted Christians. Paul said that the Christian's response to government injustice was not to take up arms against the government or stop paying taxes. Christians, Paul said, should obey the government as much as possible (compare to Romans 12:18). Of course, Christians should not obey the government if it tells us to disobey God (see Acts 4:18-20, for example).
What did Paul do when he was persecuted? He used the legal system to defend himself, but he never advocated violent overthrow of the government, even when he was persecuted. In fact, even after being unfairly imprisoned repeatedly, he only advised that Christians pray for rulers so that Christians could be free of persecution (1 Timothy 2:1-4). The church throughout history has generally followed this advice - when persecuted by their own government, Christians have rarely used force to resist.
This suggests (at the very least) that it should be a very rare event for Christians to ever rebel against their lawful government, although we should not obey the government if it tells us to do something clearly against God's will. We should try to use legal means to change the government as much as possible. On rare occasions, Christians have decided that they must use violence to overthrow an evil government when it is no longer a legitimate government. Since there is so little Scriptural support for such a practice, Christians should be very cautious before ever taking such an approach.
Your question about Iraq is slightly different. Paul told Christians not to rebel against their own government, but the war in Iraq is one government overthrowing another. The Bible does not give clear guidelines on when one government is justified in going to war against another. Many Christians throughout history have followed the "Just War" guidelines of the theologian Augustine. This answer is already too long, so I won't attempt to fully explain Just War (wikipedia has a good introductory article on it). The basic idea is that governments have an obligation to defend their people and to right wrongs; but governments must have just reasons for going to war and just ways of conducting war. Christians today disagree over whether the war in Iraq qualifies as a just war, and over whether there is such a thing as just war.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Update, thanks to Anonymous: Oops... May 18, not 14.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Note: The podcast is now available at the above website.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Here's some interesting things that I have learned about visitors to this blog since I started on March 3:
- 145 people have visited. Thanks for stopping by!
- People have visited from Spain (Hola, guys!), Singapore (Jia ba liao buay!), Canada (hello, eh?), Japan (Konichi wa!), Finland (Hyvää päivää!), Turkey (Iyi gunler!), England (hello!), and Rivendell (Mae govannen!).
- But most visitors are from the USA, and mainly from Hawaii, California, and Michigan, where I have family, friends, and students.
- Some people have visited from Kentucky. I didn't know you had the Internet there! :)
- My most popular post was Andrew and the Jelly Bean Crisis.
- Lots of people have come over via the link from my friend Rich's blog.
- One person found this site by googling "pronounce Eutychus." If you're still wondering, Americans usually pronounce it "you-ti-kuss." (interesting aside: my spell-checker already recognizes "googling")
- Two pastors were looking for sermon material on the story of Eutychus in Acts 20:7-12. I hope your sermons went well! Let me know.
- Someone googled for a "photo healing centurion's servant." I hate to disappoint you, but they didn't have any cameras then.
- Another person googled for "duccio raising of lazarus." A man / woman after my own heart!
- Someone else googled "eutychus stained glass." I don't know of one. Let me know if you find one, so I can add it to my graphics collection.
- Eleven people googled on topics related to the resurrection, and especially what Jesus taught on after the resurrection. I'll plan on writing more on that topic soon.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Matthew 13 has seven parables. Four of the them teach that the kingdom of God is hidden yet valuable; three explain why only some respond positively to the message of the kingdom; all of them invite us to seek the kingdom.
Why did Jesus teach this set of parables? Just before, the Pharisees make a formal decision about Jesus: "This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul, the ruler of demons" (Matthew 12:24). In the remainder of Matthew 12, Jesus denounces their claim and the hearts that would produce such twisted logic. In Matthew 13, Jesus' parables explain why the Pharisees and others rejected the kingdom (bad soil, weeds, trash fish) and why Jesus' kingdom didn't look like much yet (mustard seed, yeast, pearl, treasure).
There is comfort and challenge yet in these parables. Comfort, because the kingdom still looks small and weak today, and many reject it. We kingdom citizens and kingdom soldiers know our weakness (when we are honest) and we mourn at the failures around us and in us. Challenge, because the parables call us to recognize the value of the kingdom and seek it with all our hearts.
The picture: Parable of the Sower, from Das Plenarium oder Ewangely Buoch, 1516. Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, Emory University.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
There was a story in the news this week about the presidential candidates attending a prayer group. In it, they mention this verse: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26)Looks like there are at least three questions to tackle here: 1) What did Jesus mean in Luke 14:26? 2) What is the difference between blind (dangerous) devotion and faith? 3) What do we do when loyalties to God and family conflict?
This kind of commitment was compared to the blind devotion given to Hitler. Blind devotion and faith aren't the same thing, are they? What did Jesus mean by this verse? And (real life question...) what happens when loving God & loving our families seem to come in conflict? Who is supposed to "understand" why they can't have my full devotion or attention? Thanks so much for the blog, Gary!
Now is where you come in. Post your thoughts on any or all of the questions.