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Is Revelation’s God a God of peace?

May 14, 2016

Although I’ve studied the Bible a whole lot, I’ve been among those guilty of largely ignoring the book of Revelation. That’s at least partly because it is so enigmatic for most of us far from its original context and recipients. But although I question it being by the Apostle John, as tradition has tended to claim, I do believe there was wisdom in its inclusion in our New Testament. My old friend, Dr. Ted Grimsrud, here offers a beautiful and powerful insight right in line with my own understanding of the power of our non-coercive, loving God, evidenced in the vulnerable Lamb. This is well worth the time to read!

Peace Theology

A sermon preached at Community Mennonite Church Lancaster

May 8, 2016 by Ted Grimsrud

The book of Revelation is a mystery, right? Scary, intimidating, fantastic, wacky, off-putting. When Kathleen and I first moved to Harrisonburg 20 years ago, we attended Park View Mennonite Church. We learned there how back in the 1950s, the Mennonites in Harrisonburg had intense conflicts about the interpretation of Revelation. So, in good Mennonite fashion, they decided they needed to stop talking about it. So, those who grew up after that had no exposure to Revelation. However, maybe, also, Revelation is fascinating and even inspiring. I think it’s worth wrestling with, and it may even have special importance for we who live today in the center of the world’s one great superpower.

What are we looking for?

When we take up Revelation, though, just like any other religious text, so much depends on what we are looking…

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“Grand Scale Culture Wars” – Part 7 – Authority by Apostleship

May 10, 2016

“What in the world does ‘apostolic authority’ have to do with me today?”

The concept still impacts us all… nearly 2000 years since its inception. We last covered what “apostolic authority” was about – that conveyed by contact with Jesus.  It came to include Paul, although some of his letters make clear that in his lifetime he had to fight to be regarded, among his followers, as an authority on par with the original Apostles and leaders in Jerusalem, mainly “President” James, not the Apostle James.  (Paul had not known the earthly Jesus… not the only reason for his tenuous status.)  All this took place prior to the Jewish War of 66-70 C.E., ending in the death or scattering of the Jerusalem Jesus-followers when Jerusalem was burned and largely leveled. With this pivotal development, the structure of Judaism, along with Jewish-Christian and Gentile-Christian practice, was radically changed. 

Suffice it to summarize with this for now: The massive disruption of the Palestinian Jesus-as-Messiah sect, which seems to have still been Jewish Law-observant, opened the way for Luke and others to incorporate more of Paul’s theology and upgrade his status.  His teaching had set aside Jewish Law as required for either Jewish or Gentile Jesus-followers (Post-war, this increasingly involved “Christians” largely severed from Judaism). Paul’s letters, which we know were not all collected and preserved, were placed in higher regard and gathered best they could be.  This was a couple decades or more (probably over three decades) after their original, probably limited circulation.

It appears that it was mainly the work of Luke in Acts of the Apostles which conferred lasting apostolic authority on Paul, decades after his death.  The book of Acts, read comparatively with Paul’s letters, clearly shows an agenda of smoothing over, largely disguising, the serious conflict that existed between Paul and the Jerusalem authorities.  Luke’s accounts so blatantly go counter to Paul’s of the same events, at points, that some scholars seriously doubt Luke even possessed Paul’s letters (and was not the supposed traveling companion that some believe he was).  He had sources of fair detail about Paul, but not necessarily Paul’s own writings, or many of them. Paul wrote before the Jewish rebellion against Rome, Luke after.  Thus, Luke shows a strong desire to present Christian faith as superseding Judaism and harmless to Roman rule.  This was somewhat an issue but not so clear or urgent for Paul.

As to Luke perhaps not having Paul’s letters, we tend to forget that it was expensive and time-consuming to reproduce documents, one copy at a time.  The result: only those judged particularly important were much copied and able to survive long-term.  Some of Paul’s writings were permanently lost. (In 1 Thess. he references a letter later lost.) By the time of Luke’s writing perhaps not many of them were collected and widely enough copied to be available to him.

On the other hand, if Luke did possess at least some of what we have by Paul, he may have suspected what turned out to be true, even largely to this day: Hardly anyone would notice or care about discrepancies between his accounts and Paul’s, or discover his bending of the real history of the earliest Church.

Whether once created and then lost, we have no documents similar to Acts covering the period from Jesus’ death to the time of Paul’s final imprisonment and journey to Rome (early 60s)… and unfortunately, nothing similar for a couple more centuries. There were theological writings giving limited historical clues, and a few archeological finds pertinent, but no attempts at historical accounts of Christianity until the early fourth century from the “father of Church history”, Eusebius.

So the great PR accomplishment of Luke was creating the impression of a quickly and fully united Christian Church, with Paul essentially a late-adopted 13th Apostle. Misleading as it was, this was picked up and perpetuated by subsequent church leaders within the proto-orthodox and later orthodox (dominant) wing of a multi-faceted Christianity.  Incorporating Paul within a faith that was supposedly united in both theology and practice through the years of the Apostle’s lives (roughly up to the mid 60s C.E.) set the stage for making a loose category of authority by “apostleship” (meaning commissioning by Jesus).  And of course there is also a natural tendency to put greater value and trust in the initial generation of any new movement.  Thus the early and strong effort to connect the four eventually canonized gospels (and other books) with the original disciples of Jesus, even when there must have been little to suggest it.

This apostolic standard of authority was eventually, from mainly the later 2nd century to the later 4th century, used to help establish and validate a canon for the New Testament.  It would confer “Scripture” status on not only the writings of Paul, but ironically, on others which seem to differ significantly from Paul (particularly “James”, not surprising as contrasting with Paul, representing the likely perspective of the loyally-Jewish James).  The special authority of apostleship for composing Scripture has to have been invented well after the fact.  Still, it became a powerful tool to help separate writings that generally agreed on major theological points from those which didn’t (“heresies”).

The result of encoding apostolic authority was a New Testament considered inspired and historically reliable, at least eventually if not in the first or 2nd century before its writings were fully collected. As we will see in later articles, this development assisted the creation of black/white, in/out, heaven/hell dichotomies that soon came to characterize Christian orthodoxy.  This is critical in terms of our larger subject of often-conflicting worldviews and the cultural battles they spawn.  (Part 7 to be continued.)

Is this presentation of early Christian history and the development of our New Testament different than what you’ve encountered previously?

Do you see how battles for authority were going on, especially if you now read its books with this in mind (especially the 7 or so “genuine” letters of Paul and Acts)?

“Grand Scale Culture Wars” – Part 6 – Authority Validating Revelation

May 4, 2016

My observation is that we accept even ancient authority via a long chain of regress.  Without usually noting the steps, we see now what numerous people “authorized” us to see from way back.

You probably accept religious concepts largely on the basis of what some current “authority” believes (a pastor, certain authors or teachers, etc.).  You weigh and cull, but what you do hold onto is almost certainly based primarily on their presumed authority… either authority by position (Pastor, Professor, Bishop, etc.) or by your sense of their depth of knowledge and your trust in them.  Or some combination.

Now, how did they come to their beliefs? Basically the same way.  Even if quite scholarly and “independent”, they still leaned on the authority of others before them.  (We all do, so we need to choose carefully.) They distrusted some “authorities” but trusted others, based on a variety of factors.  These are often subjective and not much related to tests of truth, accuracy or objectivity, by the way.

There seems to be a serious misconception around: that a person, especially a scholar who studies biblical Greek and Hebrew, can interpret the Bible “fresh”.  They can work directly from the biblical texts to understand them… to pull out a set of consistent teachings supposedly deposited there. Well, theoretically they can.

But practically? Only to an extent barely above zero.  The texts are just too far removed, too extensive, and too diverse and often in conflict to do that.  The brilliant 20th Century theologian, Karl Barth, didn’t believe a “systematic theology” was possible though he believed God was revealed in the Bible and studied it deeper than even most other scholars.  Even with his mistrust of “systematics”, he wrote a massive multi-volume “Church Dogmatics” in a similar attempt to order things.

The summary point here: the human drive for “three C’s” – clarity, coherence and consistency is a good thing, though not when a presumption of their existence is superimposed back on a library (a compilation after-the-fact) of ancient writings, the Bible.

So the best we can do is what I’ve said: look to prior authorities, who also looked to authorities before them. Let me quickly outline the main stages in the regression backwards to and slightly before the time of Jesus. (Many of the specifics within and between these general stages we are largely unaware of, and my list is far from exhaustive. The number of years given is just for interest and a general sense… very approximate.)

 

Starting Point: You or me today

Working Back: Start with contemporary authors and teachers.

Move to teachers of a generation or two prior.

They relied on key theologians (1 or 2 key names suggested) of somewhat distinct general periods (per common labels) such as:

Postmodernity (roughly the last hundred years, paralleling the realization that science itself contains “uncertainty”) – Length: About 100 years – Tillich

Modernity (Enlightenment to Einstein, early 20th century) and entrance of “historical criticism” of the Bible and study of religion comparatively – 200 years – Schleiermacher (vs.) Warfield

Renaissance, Reformation and Counter Reformation – 200 years – Luther, Calvin – Catholic and Protestant concepts of authority in conflict but retaining a common foundation

Medieval period / Holy Roman Empire – 900 years – Aquinas

Roman Empire and Roman Catholic Church / Eastern Orthodox (prior to separation) – 300 years – Augustine

Pre-Constantine (313) and Pre-Nicene Council (325) or “Early Church Fathers” (New Testament collection and Bible moving toward a “canon”) – 200 years – Origen, Irenaeus

“Apostolic” Age – New Testament writing begun and finished soon after – 50 to 75 years – Paul, Luke (mid first century to 90s or early 2nd century)

       “Early Judaism” / Intertestamental Period – Overlaps with Apostolic Age but begins about 200 BCE (prior to “Rabbinic Judaism”, after “Ancient Judaism”) – 300 years

Why do I include this list? Because each period tends to carry a kind of authority of its own, often a revised/updated view of what authority itself is, in terms of knowledge or belief.  Is there is a general progression from authority by position or perceived supernatural powers (e.g., miracle working), to authority by broad knowledge, to the authority of the individual, seen as free and capable of an opinion “as valid as the next person’s”? I think that’s clear.  But even with today’s individualistic arrogance, we still look to some kind of previous authority, if mainly subconsciously perhaps.

To keep this a reasonable, readable length, let me jump over the many steps in coming to our personalized set of beliefs (or doubts) and focus on that key authority base for most Christians (and indirectly, for everyone):

Who “authorized” what was written in the New Testament as “Scripture”? Or as historically accurate for those who believe it is such? 

We have to consider the answer in two parts: 1) “apostolic authority”, and 2) those who set up and pushed apostolic authority.  These I view as the pivotal people, with the pivotal concepts.  In this post, l will briefly cover mainly the concept of apostolic authority.

In terms of authoritative “sacred” writings or “Scripture”, we must first know that there was no settled “Bible” at the time of Jesus or Paul or the other New Testament authors.  There was no “Old Testament” so labeled.  And even the Hebrew Scriptures, often then called “The Law [or Torah – first five books of the Bible] and the Prophets” (with “Wisdom Literature” included as well) was not fully set.  It did generally follow what we have in the current “Old Testament” and Apocryphal writings (long included and still so in Catholic and certain other Bibles).

As to what eventually became the “New Testament” (never made “Scripture” within Judaism, of course), virtually all theologians, of various persuasions, agree its writers did not conceive themselves as writing Scripture in the sense they considered the Hebrew Scriptures. Many of the books most familiar to us, beyond the “Gospels”, were mere letters to beloved groups, covering largely contemporary and local issues.  Paul or other authors intended them to carry authority, yes, but not as equal to the authority granted Hebrew Scripture (by then translated into vernacular Greek, as spoken throughout the regions involved).

It remained to other, mostly post-New Testament writers to place the “divine” authority of apostleship upon these writings done from approximately 50 C.E. (or A.D.) to around 100 or perhaps as late as 120 or so.  It’s important to note that none of the documents carry dates of composition, and even authorship claims are often in question and sometimes falsely attributed to Paul, Peter, etc.  So precise dating is nearly impossible except that some of Paul’s letters can be placed within just a few year’s range.  The Gospels and Acts are some of the most debated (and important) as to dating.

St. Luke, the traditionally named author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles, I consider the practical originator of the concept of authentication of teaching (or revelation) via “apostolic authority”, particularly as it would develop in early Christian history as part of establishing what is New Testament “Scripture” (our current “canon”).  Paul, a few decades earlier, used the concept in a similar way, but it was not as historically pivotal.  It’s not that Luke, in Acts, claims it for himself, certainly.  Not even that he speaks about it much directly.

But both he and Paul lay before their audiences the idea that connection directly with Jesus was critical for leadership authority. In Luke’s case, it was being with the living Jesus.  Now Paul almost certainly didn’t even meet Jesus alive and persecuted his followers for a while after his death. His claim of authority is based on “seeing” and being commissioned by Jesus via a profound visionary experience. (This was his famed “conversion”, though to a new sect within Judaism, not to “Christianity” which didn’t yet exist).

There are a number of thorny problems in the concept of “Twelve Apostles” (plus Paul).  It is far from clear that they were even designated as such by Jesus; and they do not include James, the clear leader of the Jerusalem “church” in most of its formative period. We’ll leave that discussion aside for now….  The traditional belief is that they carried special authority, founded a church, and ultimately conveyed, directly or through surrogates, accurate biographical and historical information about him.  I have not specialized enough in study of the formation of this concept to say this with certainty, but it sure appears that “apostolic authority” was developed and then leaned on historically through all the periods listed above for apologetic reasons: It gave a plausible way to place special significance and credibility on writings thought, early on (primarily 2nd century), to be authored by an Apostle or by someone close to an Apostle, representing his information and perspective.

In turn, it helped limit the number and theological diversity of writings that would ultimately be “church authorized” to become our New Testament.

Does this explanation of apostolic authority line up closely with what you have been taught or somehow picked up? Do you tend to find it credible, questionable, or what?

Guideline for Spiritual Basis of Opposing Trump Candidacy

April 30, 2016

Called to Resist Bigotry —
A Statement of Faithful Obedience

Rev. Jim Wallis is joined by a strong group of religious leaders in taking a public stand to oppose the candidacy of Donald Trump.  You can find the document, titled as above, and its (current) signers here.

I hope you will read it and use the social media links on the site to share it with your friends.  

It is nearly beyond me!… Though I study the psychology and sociology of religion and at least somewhat understand the current frustrations and pain of many, how can any type of religious/spiritual person, Christian or other, support Mr. Trump?  That is, if indeed they seek to honor the moral and spiritual foundations of their faith.

How an Event 40 Years after Jesus Redirected his Followers

April 14, 2016

The Fall of Jerusalem and the Christian Church is still a fascinating and important book! It was written over 60 years ago (1951; 2nd edition, reviewed here, 1957).   Some of its key points deserve mention.

I’ll do that here, as it’s tough to find the book, and not an easy read if you do.  It’s a scholarly work written largely for other scholars… footnotes and occasional phrases in the text in at least 4 languages besides English.

The author is accomplished British biblical scholar, SGF Brandon. Despite its detail and depth, the book never got much traction.  Brandon was one of a small percentage of scholars in that period (to some extent, still) who were concluding that the Jerusalem style of Jewish Christianity was significantly different than the Pauline style of a more “universal” (Jewish/Gentile) Christianity.  The latter was more the source of later Christian orthodoxy.  The Jewish elements would be largely set aside, other than the foundation in Hebrew Scripture (the “Old Testament”), with its concept of a coming Messiah.

In The Fall of Jerusalem… Brandon meticulously makes the case that the events of the Roman-Jewish war ending in the destruction of Jerusalem and The Temple in 70 C.E. (A.D.) radically changed the course of what would become the “Christian faith”. This seems self-evident if one knows much about very early Christianity and the history of first century Palestine.  But even few Christians do.  Surveys have shown few people know much at all about the “fall” of Jerusalem in Roman times or when it took place, either as a date or in relation to Christian development and scriptures.  This is serious miseducation.

It’s popular in recent years for Christians from a variety of strains of the faith to decry that the religion has become more “about Jesus” (particularly the Christ of Paul) than the religion “of Jesus” (his actual teachings as the Gospels present them).  If anyone is looking for the earliest roots and evidences of this, mostly as seen within the New Testament itself, this book is masterful.  In a nutshell, it makes the case that the fall of Jerusalem was a vital pivot point which effectively removed the authority and control of the Jerusalem leaders and encouraged the ascendence of Pauline views of Jesus (generally as “Christ” or Messiah in the sense of cosmic savior, not just Messiah of the Jewish nation, who would “restore the Kingdom to Israel” [Acts 1]).

Brandon regularly notes when he is being speculative, taking much of the wind out of the sails of that criticism of his work.  (I mention this because other reading may bring up his work or that of similarly minded scholars.).  Most of the time he’s pointing out important details in the NT texts that are important clues often passed over.  Here are a few interesting issues, both historically and for the formation of Christianity:

  • Whether the author (“Luke”) of the book of Acts, covering some of the same events Paul refers to, is sometimes in contradiction because he did not possess Paul’s letters (though writing well later).
  • The agenda of Luke in Acts, to present a smooth and unified development of the early Church, contributed to such discrepancies and gives an idealized version that leaves a number of puzzling issues strangely unexplained.  An example is how, when and why James supplanted Peter as Jerusalem leader.  Another, what really happened to Paul on his final visit to Jerusalem where he narrowly escaped death and left in custody of Roman soldiers, the last few years of his life barely being covered and his death not at all.  With this, what became of the large sum he’d collected over several years and was personally delivering to James and his co-leaders, concerned that this major investment of his time and the treasure of his followers might not be accepted. (Doctrinal and ethnic issues were wrapped up in this.)
  • Luke seems to purposely bypass all history of the spread and development of Christian faith in North Africa, particularly Alexandria, then the third largest city in the Roman Empire.  It had a very significant Jewish population in touch with Jerusalem and a bit later was a noted Christian center.  Passing reference to the city in Acts shows Luke knew some form of Jesus-following existed there.  Also that this belief system was distinctly different (inferior or in error?) than Paul’s… again, not fitting well in Luke’s agenda.  Brandon suggests, with extensive analysis, that Alexandrian faith came to be represented, perhaps quite closely, in the Gospel of Matthew.

Among a lot of details, The Fall of Jerusalem importantly points out the big picture point that what happened in 66-70 C.E. turned out to perhaps have changed the course of Christian history and its view of the person of Jesus and the spiritual dynamics involved in following him.  The loss of Jerusalem as the “seat” of authority and of the core Apostles/James (not one of the Twelve) group as far as any ongoing control of the movement was critical.  It may have been the key factor in this major development: observant Jewish following of Jesus was so weakened that it eventually gave way to rabbinic Judaism and largely-Gentile Christianity.  And the need and opportunity for the writing of the Gospels (well after Paul) was created.

Your thoughts?

 

 

“Grand Scale Culture Wars” – Part 5 – Knowledge via Revelation and Authority

April 5, 2016

Conflict gets our attention! It’s proven over and over. A current example is American media jumping on every thrust and parry of our presidential primary race.  They, spurred on by us, especially love featuring the purposely pugilistic Donald Trump.

An ancient example is all the “fights” in the Gospels of the New Testament: Jesus vs. demons; Jesus vs. Pharisees; disciples vs. outsiders and sometimes each other; Jesus vs. “the Temple”; Jesus vs. Pilate; Pilate vs. “the Jews”, etc., etc.

We “hate” our continual fights, but we can’t stop loving them either.  We spoke of St. Paul in the last segment, Part 4. He portrays the grandest of all conflicts: those in the heavenlies, in which God has taken on and defeated human-enslaving powers of darkness through the death and raising of Christ.

Paul was no stranger to more earthly conflict.  His inner conflict turned him from persecutor to promoter. (Luke says Jesus gave Paul a livestock analogy: he was “kicking against the goads” prior to reversal of belief.)  He barely survived Jewish mobs and municipal or regional authorities.  He had conflict with his own colleagues – sometimes Peter but especially James, then the top Jerusalem leader. (This was purportedly the brother of Jesus, though Paul never makes it clear he believed he was).  No question Paul’s inner and outer world was filled with intense conflicts.

As his revelations occurred and he developed his unique theology, it’s no stretch to imagine Paul projected the earlier phases of this out upon the heavenly panorama as conceived in his day.  (Not saying none of this originated with God….  It’s not easy to determine either way, particularly if we seek to mediate naturalism and supernaturalism.) As commonly imagined in his day, “heavenly places” were filled with an array of spiritual powers battling God for prizes on earth.  At stake: nothing less than the future of Israel and the world.  Our own souls could be saved in the process.

Also germane is that Paul’s likely “hometown”, Tarsus, was a crossroad mixing Jewish, Greek, Persian and Roman cultures.    He’d no doubt been exposed to everything from mystery religions to Greek philosophy to Persian dualism and concepts of Zoroaster. His predominant input, it appears, was a serious youthful education in Pharisaic Judaism.  Doing what limited psychoanalysis of Paul we can, it makes sense he’d try to reconcile the tensions of these often-conflicting views of the world… views which clearly had battled within him.  We get this from his adult self-descriptions as well as inferences from the little we know of his childhood and youth.

It’s quite possible that his evident knowledge of various perspectives and where he was apparently born reflects a “mixed-marriage”.  Perhaps a Jewish mother and Gentile father.  (Intermarriage seems to have been relatively rare, but clearly did happen… the Herodian family, for example, was mixed; additionally, Tarsus was far north of Palestine, relatively restricting the Jewish marriage pool.) Paul never refers to either of his parents.  Perhaps this is why.  It may have been shameful to part of him, tensions arising because of that other part. And it’s clear Paul was passionately emotional.)  

Regardless of possible mixed ethnicity for Paul himself, he clearly had picked up affinity for both the personal and the conceptual side of his comingled Jewish and Gentile/pagan home milieu.  So add to his internal personal conflicts that he had interpersonal or social conflicts to resolve, to the extent he could.

His high energy and ambition to make an impact drove him relentlessly… with the result that his revelations did bring resolution! Via his visionary experiences, Jews and Gentiles were both invited to join in the one “body of Christ”.  Only faith required… no “works of the law” (Torah)!  Gentiles could enter as easily as Jews.  Ethnic, cultural, class and even gender boundaries were broken down in unity.

The Jerusalem “Church” leaders were not on this “page”! (See Galatians 1 and 2, and 2 Corinthians 11, from Paul himself; then compare Acts for basic confirmation of this, but from a differing later perspective… one which minimizes the conflicts, per Luke’s agenda.)  The page these “founding fathers” were still reading was ambivalent about inclusion of Gentiles… open but not exactly welcoming.  Their own “risen Jesus” visions had not made clear how God would create Gentile legitimacy in participating in a “new covenant” – one still with Israel.  Hebrew Scriptures, to which both Paul and they consistently looked, did not say much about this either.  After all, most Messiah references and implications of a new covenant were actually quite vague, interpreted various ways in this “intertestamental” period.

Apparently Jesus hadn’t clarified the murky problem of Gentile inclusion or a mission to them. The Gospels themselves indicate ambiguity.  Acts, in a dubious description, seeks to show gradual clarification, though not by Jesus directly. Let’s remember that we have multiple indications that Paul and the Jerusalem Jesus-followers shared the belief that Jesus’ “appearance” in glory and triumph was very soon to come.  Coming to believe that Jesus was Messiah and soon to appear was Paul’s basic “conversion” (within Judaism, not to Christianity, which didn’t yet exist).  But with Paul’s background and overriding interests, his vision of Jesus’ role was different than those who’d experienced earlier “appearances” of Jesus.

These appearances were not specified by Paul, nor directly by any Jerusalem leaders, as Jesus presenting himself bodily.  There also were not claims (except by Luke, writing much later) of an “ascension” before which Jesus supposedly walked bodily around Jerusalem or Galilee.  (The problem of conflicting Gospel accounts on where he supposedly went, aside for now.)  So the common claim of orthodoxy that only the “resurrection” can explain the restored faith of the Apostles/disciples can be valid.  However, that need not also require (or substantiate) a bodily resuscitation of Jesus. Visionary experiences suffice quite adequately.  This may have included corporate (experienced together) ones, as Paul refers to (1 Cor. 15)… not an unheard-of occurrence, and not the same as hallucinations.

So we find, among the earliest Jesus-followers, a critical difference of approach involving religious/ethnic boundaries surrounding what Jesus was claimed to have accomplished and his ongoing promise.  In it are the roots of major conflict between the authority of James and Paul.  (Peter, as a co-leader and missionary we’ll tie in loosely with James.)  Paul, on the other hand, was not an official co-leader but at least partially endorsed at first and later tolerated… we often forget that it appears his direct contact with James was very minimal. His time was quite limited with Peter as well, from all we can tell.

This particular “apostolic” conflict was not an intentional or significant part of the narrative drama of what became the New Testament. Nor does this canon (collection of books) seek to feature “intramural” Christian and Jewish-Christian conflicts, though they show through frequently.  The key points in this post are these:

  1. That revelation is central for the most influential NT author, Paul. In it we see the psychological and spiritual power of his own resolution of inner conflict. (However, only partially explained, if he even understood it deeply himself.)
  2. How Paul’s vision of the resolution of a cosmic conflict that (purportedly) affects us all inspires the core of the “Gospel message”. This is the part of “The Gospel” that has come down most powerfully in much, if not most of the Christian Church. In the process, it has supported and carried along earlier forms of supernaturalism shared by Hebrew, Persian, Greco/Roman and pagan religions… and still-to-this-day, most forms of Christianity.  

We will later deal further with how revelation, particularly that of Paul, codifies “Truth” when combined with concepts of authority.  That is, authority as authorization of revelation as well as tradition. This is a big part of a supernatural worldview… pivotal in it.  Such a worldview can coexist, in the same person, alongside a mostly-naturalist one.  The points of conflict or tension are rarely thought through.  The result is a sloppy and pliable view of God, often with an emotional price to pay.  (There’s always an intellectual price.)  Usually, in this view, God is “sovereign”, imposing his will by interventions in the natural systems of the world, using miracles and divine judgment (on both persons and nations).

How closely does this kind of “supernaturalism” fit either what you’ve believed or how you’ve understood the teaching of churches you’ve attended?

Religion and Gender around the World

March 24, 2016

The Pew Research Center has just released interesting data about women and men in their devotion to religion.

The article here includes some global graphics.  Perhaps not surprising to most of us that women, in most parts of the world, are clearly more religious… though not in Muslim regions. But it is still close there and definitely not enough difference to re-balance the sizable edge for women in the rest of the world, especially in most of Europe, the Americas, and Australia.

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