Friday, January 17, 2014

Problems with Reformer's emotional-manipulation to create "faith"

In response to this:
Theologians throughout history (read Reformation onwards) have sought to use and shape specific emotions toward pious ends in order to support well-functioning societies. Perhaps the most notorious example is the use of hell to promote fear that would encourage good behaviour. Similarly, teaching salvation as a free gift has been used to arouse gratitude and so shape the personality for virtuous living; the resurrection of Christ has been used to create hope that sustains energy through hardship; and teaching on sin has been used to create guilt to promote self-restraint. That is, believing Christian doctrines to be true, in whatever sense of “true” is intended, usually has effects on the emotions of those who believe them, and such doctrines and emotions are inculcated in order to form people in certain ways for socially salutary purposes. These lectures will explore the interface between Christian doctrine and emotional formation.

Hell isn't working so well for pastors these days, I liked the movie Hellbound better, the next person who rattles off Hell to me, will have to prove it isn't just an early medieval construct, what on earth are they going to do to scare kids into church in the future?

Sin, I think the Gospel Coalition has just about killed the importance of sin to me, I mean, they try and call anything and everything sin to make people feel inferior, yet theirs is always excused.  Um no, pedophiles (all over CJ Mahaney's church) are not on the same cosmic plane of sinfulness as some kid who stole a cookie, sorry.  Yet they tried to have a "forgiveness" session between the child-rapist and the child, so they could forgive each other!?!?!?!?  What did the kid do?  The Bible doesn't teach that.  Sin isn't flat, Jesus said one who harmed kids would have been better off never born.  So, our sin is just a pathetic attempt to justify bad things that should never have happened.  So much for guilt.

Gratitude?  Look, if God let us live after Adam and Eve, then he would have needed a solution.  Since none of us were responsible for humanity's fall (according to the Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory), why should we feel so grateful?   I am still not convinced my punishment for someone else's sin was justified in the first place, and if that fall made me a sinner, then it isn't really my fault anyhow, now is it?

So, remove their guilt trips and fear mongering and there isn't much left to bother with in the Reformed movement.

The resurrection is still cool, but the rest?  Seriously? Yawn.  It just doesn't work for me.  Mind you, I have my own "great awakening" in a Vineyard type bible study.  There was no mass repentance, just a call to move towards Jesus and the Holy Spirit broke in and just took over.  It was great.  Now, I need to learn not to live in that past, to move forwards, because if I compare everything to that past time, nothing measures up.  I am just more and more hungry for God, the Holy Spirit and the Adventure.  No one who hasn't been there gets it.  I have been told the only way to have the Spirit break in is to  repent, but we didn't at that point, we just were filled.  So, I know that formula doesn't work.

I like the Christus Victor atonement theory, I haven't made up my mind on Hell/Annihilation/Universalism and I don't trust people who have.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Ancients, Genesis and Meaning

When I realized that Genesis was not only non-literal, that humans arose from a Primate ancestor as a population, not an individual couple, I suspected we were missing what Genesis 1 -11 was getting at.  Then, I learned/remembered the Ancient Near Eastern myths paralleled Genesis 2 - 11.  Now, I want to ponder some possible readings of Genesis, the ancients saw in it.

The first is in Genesis 1:26

Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

Western reading:

  1. A descriptive way of saying we are the top of the food chain, the brightest of all creatures, found in all continents sustaining year-round life.  We are God's main purpose.

Ancient reading:

  1. We are the image of God - idols in temples were the image of gods, not people, this is different! 
  2. Rule over the creatures!  Humans are slaves to the gods, we rule over nothing!  Radical God, this is.
  3. This is every creature!  What?  Why wouldn't God rule the creatures?  Why would he consider us worthy to rule any of them?!?  He made the world for us!!!  No, he made it for himself, didn't he???
Genesis 1:27

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

Western reading:
  1. We are the rulers, so we bear the image of God as a ruling, intelligent species.  May, or may not deal with the fact both sexes are the image of God.
Ancient reading:
  1. All humans are made by one god?  all humans, not males or females or people east or west of this or that river bear the image of one god?  Where is this god's consort?  Marduk has Ishtar, Baal has Ashera, Osiris has Neptalli (gods and goddesses have pairs - for fertility).
  2.  Humans sit in the idol's spot in the temple God created (Earth, Sky, Heavens all combine to show a temple).  The idol is an image, we sit in the idol's place, image bearer.  We are the image of God?
Genesis 1: 28

God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

Western reading:
  1. We should control the earth, take what we want (some say need).  
  2. Some say children are always a blessing, don't use birth control, small families are selfish.  Most just say Children are a blessing (any number).  A growing number aren't into kids (child free).

Ancient reading:
  1. This doesn't sound right!  Other gods view us as their slaves, now we are free.
  2. This God is an amazing provider, humans have found favour with Him.  Fertility is the surest sign of God's blessing.
  3. He is giving us the things reserved for gods?  We are blessed.  What will he ask in return?  Our first born? Our crops? Our spring lambs?  This is a vastly different God.
  4. Does this God have the power to really give us all this?  What about the other gods, will they get angry? 
  5. The God a Abraham, Issac and Jacob is a very great and generous God.
Genesis 1: 29 - 30

Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.  They will be yours for food.  And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all he creatures that move along the ground - everything that has the breath of life in it - I give every green plant for food."  And it was so.

Western reading:
  1. God is still telling his creation story - literal or not.

Ancient reading: 
  1. God is the overarching creator.  He made the earth with a purpose.  Humans need to honour this purpose, giving him a place - temple - to thank him for this provision and freeing us from having to worship/appease/thank so many other gods.
There is much more, I am sure.  I would love to see the Bible creation of humans written about from an Ancient Near Eastern scholar, what does this story tell us about Creator, Creation, Creature?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I have come across a great new book: Genesis Interpretation A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, by Walter Brueggemann.  It was written 1982, but is very relevant for today - especially with the new frontiers opening in genetics.  In Brueggemann's view, Genesis 1 - 11 are a complete thought, so focusing exclusively on Genesis 2 and 3 misses the whole idea.  I am plodding my way through this book, just finishing up the Genesis 2:4b - 3:24 chapter (the chapters are long), so I can't comment on the results yet.

Some insights after reading the beginning of the book:

  • the work (Gen. 1 - 11) is likely linked to the Royal Court - which sponsored scientific and philosophical investigations of life, perhaps commissioned during Solomon's reign.

  • the work (Gen. 1 - 11) is neither mythological - confining meaning to the world of the gods, nor scientific - giving creation its own intrinsic meaning.

  • Creator and creation have to do with each other decisively.   Neither can be understood apart from the other. 

  • Creator/ Creation/ Create/ Creature - not equal to "cosmos" or "nature" rather "Creator creates creation"
I will write more on this later.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On Eden, God's plan and authority in: Heaven and Earth, Part V

In Genesis 2 (the Adam and Eve story) not Genesis 1 (the seven days of creation) evil is already in the world, in God's good creation, darkness lurks.  Despite this, God still has perfect communion with the humans (all 2 of them) in the garden.  here two people not encumbered by sin, free from idolizing, objectifying, hating or being jealous of each other.  God is their authority but, they hardly notice this authority - they are fine without extensive rules.

So a quick synopsis of authority (hierarchy):

1) Eden: no need for human authority or hierarchy

2) Post Fall: Individual Worship; Gender Hierarchy - Genesis 3:16b - "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." Also, equal (preist-less) but individual (no special defining covenant*) worship of God - Man built altars or brought offerings to God and worshipped Him individually or as the head of the family (Gen. 4:3-4, 8:20, 13:18, Job 1:5 )

3)Mosaic Covenant: Community Worship; Spiritual Hierarchy - Priests are intercessors between covenant followers and God.  Priests were born into priestly families.

With Jesus' restoration:

4)New Covenant: Community Worship; Non-hierarchial - a royal priesthood, a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9 - hierarchies are gone, turned upside down (the last shall be first), no priestly human intercessor, no gender intercessor (Galatians 3: 28).

Are we supposed to have a hierarchical authority in the New Testament (someone who we have to go to, in order to "get to" God)?

First, God wants us to be a new "nation" or gathering of people who identify as believers.  He desired this when he called Abraham (Genesis 12:2) - that is why he called out a man who was already worshipping him.  Second, God wanted a more Eden-like relationship with us.  No more priests (Mosaic), holy places such as the inner temple (Mosaic), or sacrifices (Post Fall till Crucifixion).  Just us with Him (to work the world and bring in a human harvest).

So, what should New Covenant (Christian) authority look like? A gender hierarchy as the Post-Fall world followed with men as intercessors for their family (see Job)?  A priestly hierarchy as the Mosaic covenant followed with priests as born intercessors for their nation? or Edenic hierarchy with God as the authority and a kingdom that follows God, not based on any earthly measurement (gender, bloodline)?

Ah, but, some will argue, even in Eden Eve was made as a helper for Adam (Gen. 2: 23).  And, the conclusion follows, women are just helpers - dress it up how you want, they are perceived as "under" men's authority.  Even in Eden?  If so, how does the curse change anything then? ...and he will rule over you (Gen. 3: 16).  Sounds like a new situation between the genders, not the original idea of a helper.

A farmer without a wife will eventually be found wanting.  And a farmer without a husband will eventually be found wanting.  Parents will die, siblings will get old with you so both (all) of you won't be able to farm together after a time (Anne of Green Gables relates this exact outcome), nieces and nephews will be busy with their own parent's or in-law's farm, hirelings/slaves will flee, steal, subvert or neglect (death by a thousand careless mistakes).  Farmers need spouses to help them have children (a future retirement strategy).  In the garden this is an illustration of fertility between two genders, not an illustration of the authority structure between two genders.  And, yes, the genders need each other for procreation.  Equal (both needed), but different.

So in the Post Flood world (Genesis 9:1), people are given the command to procreate and fill up the world.  Is this a code Christians are under?  If we are free from the command to procreate, are we not also free of the gender roles as helpers to each other?  We can choose to marry and have kids (we will need each other's help to do this), but it is not commanded of us.

Some people argue there is no gender hierarchy except in marriage.

Really? so a single woman can have authority over a congregation, but a married women can't?

"Oh, no!" They retort, "the whole congregation needs to come under the "authority" of the head pastor (a man)?"

What?  Are we or is he responsible for our relationship with God?  If we are, then it matters not a whit who is teaching, leading, etc.  We need to judge their words for ourselves and gender doesn't matter.  If they are an intermediary for our relationship with God, then don't they also need to be a Levite (the Jewish tribe that were their priests) as well as men?

"Oh no, that's Old Testament covenant!"

Okay, so how are we a priesthood of believers if only some can be chosen to lead?

"Well, this was how God made us!"

He made a hierarchy in Eden?

"Yes, Eve was his helper."

"And Adam was over her?"

"Yes, she is the helper, not him."

So, why did the curse curse her with something that already was in place  "...and he will rule over you"?

"Look, I don't know!  This isn't something I can explain right now, there are many other parts of the Bible that say this, etc."

So somehow this ancient observation about the husband and wife's need for each other's help in procreation has now become a biblical blue-print for husband/wife hierarchal relations.  As if we were born with a spiritual role embedded in our DNA.

No human is a spiritual ruler/leader over another human in the Garden of Eden, and to literalists, our DNA doesn't have a hierarchy embedded in it, since it wasn't in the original plan.

* See Genesis 9 - the covenant God makes with Noah only deals with man's authority over the animals.  To humans he bids them to fill up the earth, it doesn't assign mediators or leaders to guide people spiritually at this point - only a sign from heaven to remind them of their covenant with Him (a rainbow).

Monday, January 2, 2012

On Eden, God's Plan and authority in: Heaven and Earth, Part 4

Things I have learned lately:

- there are many atonement theories (why Jesus died on the cross)
- the early church had a different atonement theory than the Reformers
- the Catholic church changed the focus of the atonement from a Christ Ransom (Christus Victor) to Satisfaction Theory (similar to Penal Substitution) around the 11th Century, about the same time they started writing the apostle Junia's name as Junias (thus changer her to a "he").
- the Eastern Orthodox church holds to a form of Christus Victor theory (Ransom Theory)

Things I am learning now:

- The Genesis accounts are fascinating, as soon as you let them be Myth
- I will need to seek God to hear what he is saying in Genesis
- without the Holy Spirit, the Bible is pointless - as no interpretation of it is clear - seeing as even the purpose of Christ's Death is not agreed upon - where the Spirit is, there is life.

God's plan...

Create a beautiful world for Humans to reflect/respond to Him(Them)

and authority...

Have the Angles guarding over the earth and Humans working on the Earth

in Heaven...

The King's realm

and Earth...

The King's garden? refuge? not sure.

Part 4

At some point between the creation of the Heavens and Earth and Adam's arrival something has gone wrong.  Once the world was made, and people put on it, God saw his creation as good.  However, once Adam and Eve are in The Garden with God, evil is lurking (not good).  Now, on earth there are Principalities of evil.  These aren't human principalities.  When Daniel is in exile in Persia, the Archangel Michael has to battle with the Prince of Persia to get to Daniel.  Not the King on earth, Daniel had access to him, but the Angel couldn't get to Daniel because a powerful non-human principality was blocking him (read the book of Daniel).  We know little of this principality, other than, it was somehow a prince of Persia (a non-human Prince).

A suggestion from Greg Boyd is, God intended for the Angels to have dominion over the earth, and do His will, but at some point the angels with earthly dominion rebel against God and are kicked out of Heaven.  It is debatable when using various verses (one verse says God bound them in chains till judgment day), but it is commonly understood that the Principalities are these fallen (excluded from Heaven) angels.  They are referred to in the Bible interchangeably as Demons.

So, by the time God is hanging out with Adam, the former angels are now evil, but still ruling the earth.  I am not clear how, but Genesis makes it clear non-human evil has now entered God's creation.

This evil tempts Eve into disobedience, she didn't bring evil into The Garden, by the second Genesis chapter and story, it is there.

My thoughts...

Since Adam and Eve are clearly an agricultural people, and, specifically, a Mesopotamian agricultural people, taking the creation story as a story about a specific couple who was put into an already-created world by God in order to save it (making Adam and Eve special humans, not first humans)
can eliminate the literal problem.  They were planted there by God, to make God known.  They were given a beautiful, easy place to live.  They could walk and talk freely with God.  When they sinned, however, they joined the rest of creation in being under the Daemons' power - they had a choice, yet chose to join evil.  The rest of us may not have had a choice, and our life line - God's plan for bringing Eden to earth was a rescue plan of some sort, Eden represents a beach-head of God's - just fell under the bondage we were already born into.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

On Eden, God's Plan and authority in: Heaven and Earth Part 3

I have been looking at Genesis 2 - 11, how some common assumptions about Genesis don't actually fit what is going on.  Now I am going to look at what may be going on.  This is new to me, but interesting.

First, we realize in Genesis 3 that evil (whether it is a serpent or the Devil working through a serpent isn't clear here) is alive and well in the Garden of Eden before Eve or Adam sin.  Tempting someone to do evil would be right up their on the sin-o-meter, so you can't argue it as an unclear or grey area - temping someone into disobeying God is a sin.

Did God put evil into the Garden just to check Eve's obedience?

Some say yes, but others say no.

If we take the tempter as part of God's plan to have us all fall, then rescue us through Jesus, it puts humans as the centre piece of the story, creation and everything God does.  When humans fall, the world goes bad, God needs to rescue us and we should feel really, really guilty for being born in sin (meaning we are already sinners before we sinned due to Adam passing on his fallen nature to all of us).  Everything on earth was great until we showed up.  Bad us.  The Story quickly becomes all about our sin.  It ignores that fact the world really is red in tooth and claw, evil lurks around, and death is part of our survival (if no bacteria died, we wouldn't have made it passed those first seven days).

Is it helpful to feel really disgusted with ourselves for being born as we were (sinners)?  Will that motivate us to avoid sin, or make us feel helpless towards sin?

If we take the presence of the tempter in the Garden as a state of how things were on earth before humans arrived, we see the fall as us being complicit with the present evil.  The world is already red in tooth and claw, darkness lurks and looks for company, and death is a burden we already have to bear.  We are born in bondage to sin and need to realize this - not just in the truth that there is sin, but in what that means for us.

Is it helpful to feel really disgusted with the devastation evil has wrought on God's creation?  Will realizing that our sin aids the forces of darkness to regain control over God's beautiful creation (including people) and our obedience to God reverses the dark kingdom's control?

That former view is the Fall summed up in Penal Substitutionary view of the atonement, the latter is the Fall summed up in Christ Ransom or Christus Victor view of the atonement.

Friday, December 23, 2011

On Eden, God's plan and authority in: Heaven and Earth

Usual reading of Genesis by an evangelical.

Gen. 1 - possibly literal (depending on denomination), possibly not in the time-frame given (not 6 literal days).
Gen. 2 - At some point there must have been a specially-made Adam and Eve (even if someone believes God could have made the world through evolution, Adam and Eve were the first humans).  Once Adam and Eve sin, the world "falls".  This can be interpreted a number of ways.  Often it goes like this (if you don't believe in a 6 literal day scenario); All of nature was in harmony, Adam, etc. was created (via evolution or special appointment), then  sinned.  At this point humans experienced death, disease, mutations, genetic defects, pain, war, evil - and all of creation was thrown into turmoil.  Many Christians believe we are steadily getting worse, sin is growing and eventually we will be so rotten, God will come and end the world (after the worst suffering the world has ever seen).

IF an evangelical believes in a 6 day creation reading of Gen. 1, then Adam's fall brings death - many believe no living creature died before this point.

None of this is in the Bible per se. There are consequences laid out for the three guilty parties (Adam, Eve and the serpent), but they don't die a physical death when they eat the fruit as the Bible said they would (Genesis 2:16-17), so it is often interpreted that humans (if not all creatures) became mortal once Adam sinned.

What this all ignores however is; IF no evil entered the world before Adam's fall, what on earth is the serpent doing in the garden?

Evangelical standard responder (ESR): "Easy, God put Satan there to tempt us (give us a real choice between good and evil)"

But why would Satan even be in God's holy creation?  God removes himself from human presence when we become sinners (God was with Adam and Eve until they sinned, then he judged them and removed them from the Garden of Eden).  If we lost Paradise because God couldn't tolerate being around our evil, why does he tolerate the worst source of evil mentioned in the Bible hanging out in his presence (the Garden)?  And if he can handle Satan's evil being in his presence, then he is capable of being around evil...something I had been told was impossible for God (more later).

The Bible doesn't say we are removed because God can't handle the presence of wickedness, the Bible says we are blocked from Eden because the Tree of Life resides there and he doesn't want us to live forever ( in, I will suggest, our now fallen state) see Genesis 3:21-24.

Still, Satan has access to the Garden God made for Adam and now, also, his helper?

Because Satan is on earth before Adam.  Not just existing before Adam but right here on earth before Adam.