Monday, September 03, 2012

"I Just Believe What The Bible Teaches"

From Zondervan:
  • How Jewish Is Christianity?: 2 Views on the Messianic Movement
  • Two Views on Women in Ministry
  • Remarriage after Divorce in Today's Church: 3 Views
  • Three Views on Creation and Evolution
  • Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism
  • Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond
  • Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament
  • Three Views on the Rapture: Pre; Mid; or Post-Tribulation
  • Three Views on the Rapture: Pretribulation, Prewrath, or Posttribulation
  • Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: Four Views
  • Show Them No Mercy: 4 Views on God and Canaanite Genocide
  • Understanding Four Views on Baptism
  • Understanding Four Views on the Lord's Supper
  • Who Runs the Church?: Four Views on Church Government
  • Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church: Inclusive Congregational, Preparatory, Missional, Strategic
  • Four Views on Christian Spirituality
  • Four Views on Divine Providence
  • Four Views on Eternal Security
  • Four Views on Hell
  • Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology
  • Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World
  • Four Views on the Apostle Paul
  • Four Views on the Book of Revelation
  • Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism
  • Evaluating the Church Growth Movement: 5 Views
  • Five Views on Apologetics
  • Five Views on Law and Gospel
  • Five Views on Sanctification
  • Exploring the Worship Spectrum: Six Views

From InterVarsity Press:
  • Two Views of Hell
  • Baptism: Three Views
  • What About Those Who Have Never Heard? Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized
  • Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views
  • Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views
  • God & Morality: Four Views
  • God & Time: Four Views
  • Science & Christianity: Four Views
  • The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views
  • The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views
  • Women in Ministry: Four Views
  • Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views
  • Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification
  • Church, State and Public Justice: Five Views
  • Justification: Five Views
  • Psychology & Christianity: Five Views
  • The Historical Jesus: Five Views
  • The Lord's Supper: Five Views

From B&H Academic:
  • Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views
  • Perspectives on Our Struggle with Sin: Three Views
  • Perspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation: Four Views
  • Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views
  • Perspectives on Election: Four Views
  • Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Four Views
  • Perspectives on the Sabbath: Four Views
  • Perspectives on Tithing: Four Views
  • Perspectives on Your Child's Education: Four Views
  • Perspectives on Christian Worship: Five Views
  • Perspectives on Church Government: Five Views
  • Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: Five Views

Added 12/20/12:

From Baker Academic:
  • Understanding Spiritual Warfare: Four Views

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What Is Wrong With Homosexuality?

So, what exactly is wrong with homosexuality or homosexual acts? Or more specifically, since this is a Biblical/Christian theology blog: Does the Bible or the church teach against homosexuality or homosexual activity? If so:
  • Why does it do so?
  • Is it right for it to do so? and
  • Do or should such teachings apply to us today, and if so, how?
Before you answer these questions, please first consider and answer these additional questions (Note: I am using "homosexual" and "gay" to refer to either males or females):

I. Is simply being homosexual or having same-sex attractions wrong? If yes, please explain why.

II. If not, then is it the sexual behavior between two persons of the same sex that is wrong? If so, why is that:
  1. Is it because the only proper sexual activities between two persons are those that directly or indirectly include both one and only one penis and one and only one vagina? If so, what about sexual activities between two persons when one or both of them has had sex-reassignment surgery? 
  2. Is it the inability or failure to consummate the actions with coitus (i.e., penis-vagina intercourse) that makes same-sex sexual activities wrong, since except for coitus two women or two men can together do just about everything sexually that a man and a woman can do? If so, what does that mean for deliberate non-coital sexual activity by heterosexual couples, or for heterosexual couples who do not or cannot (due to disability, etc.) consummate all their sexual activities with coitus?
  3. Is it because the potential to produce children is what makes marriage and instances of sexual activity okay? If so:
    1. What does that mean for heterosexual couples who use natural or artificial methods to prevent unplanned or unwanted conceptions?
    2. What does that mean for sexual activities between heterosexual couples who cannot or who cannot any longer have children? Consider the following scenarios:
      • A couple discovers before they're married that they won't be able to have children. Should they be able to get married, and if so, should they be able to engage in sexual activities after marriage for the pleasure of it and the oneness and companionship and intimacy and love it engenders and enhances between them so they become more giving and fulfilled human beings, even though they know that no children can result from such activities?
      • A couple discovers after they're married that they physically can't have children, and despite many prayers and clinic visits, neither God nor doctors heal their infertility. Can they continue to engage in sexual relations for the pleasure of it and the oneness and companionship and intimacy and love it engenders and enhances between them so they become more giving and fulfilled human beings, even though they know that no children can result from such activities?
    If potential childbearing is not the reason for marriage and instances of sexual activity, can two gay persons who have not been changed from their homosexuality (whether they cared to change or tried to change or prayed to be changed, etc.) become a couple and engage in sexual relations for the pleasure of it and the oneness and companionship and intimacy and love it engenders and enhances between them so they become more giving and fulfilled human beings?
  4. Is it because of a reason I haven't listed? If so, what is that reason?
I am not a philosopher or logician or rhetorician, so I do not pretend to have presented all the necessary and relevant questions for addressing the topic. However, the ones I have posed are those that I would want a person who is promulgating or defending a position to answer.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Thoughts On Communion

Τη αυτη ημερα θεασαμενος τινα εργαζομενον τω σαββατω ειπεν αυτω· ανθρωπε, ει μεν οιδας τι ποιεις, μακαριος ει· ει δε μη οιδας, επικαταρατος και παραβατης ει του νομου.

On the same day, seeing one working on the sabbath, [Jesus] said to him: "Man, if you know what you are doing, you are blessed: but if you don't know, you are cursed and a transgressor of the law." - Codex Bezae at Luke 6:4

See lines 16-20 (beginning in the middle of line 16) in the manuscript page:

Image 391 of 856 - Page 205v

Some background

First read these two older posts I wrote about communion:

"Single-Serving Jesus"

Last Supper, Eucharist, And The Didache

From reading them you can see that there are probably no definitive answers for the many questions one might have about communion. Rather, there are several traditions on which one may base one's view and practice, and in this post I'm going to give you my thoughts and address some of the questions and options.

Leavened or unleavened bread?

A friend who is an expert in Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek told me during lunch near Jerusalem where he lives that the New Testament use of ἄρτος (bread, loaf) for the communion loaf without the adjective for "unleavened" (ἄζυμος) doesn't prove anything, because (if I recall his comment correctly) a Hebrew or Aramaic speaker would have used the same word when taking and blessing either leavened or unleavened bread.

If one considers the Last Supper to have been a Passover meal and bases one's view and practice of communion on that, then one would likely want to use unleavened bread.

If, however, one sees the chronology in the Gospel of John as indicating that the Last Supper occurred before the Passover, then one might want to use leavened bread.

If one's view and practice of communion are based on things other than the Last Supper - e.g., Jesus' table meals or His feeding of the multitudes - then one is probably free to use whatever kind of bread one wishes.

Real wine or grape juice? 

I favor using wine in keeping with the Biblical tradition, but based on this informative article from the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible it appears that wine diluted 2:1 or 3:1 with water is probably most in keeping with what was used at the Last Supper and by the early church, though mixing today's wines with more water than a 1:1 ratio will greatly weaken the taste. Such mixed wine would still be strong enough to cause intoxication if too much was drunk (see Paul's comment at 1 Corinthians 11:21), yet weak enough for all to drink (preferably shared from a single cup) without negative effects. While some churches allow white wine, I think the blood symbolism is lost if anything other than red or purple-colored wine or grape juice is used.

A single loaf & cup or individual pieces/wafers/crackers & cups?

Paul's comment at 1 Corinthians 10:17, as well as Jesus' taking of a single loaf (ἄρτος) at the Last Supper, are reasons I favor using a single loaf - to be broken as it's distributed, either by each person or by the host after saying the blessing - so as to preserve and present the symbolism of the participating members being one body. Though The Didache preserves a tradition of broken bread pieces (which could have come from a single loaf), the word (κλάσμα - "fragment, piece, crumb") is singular in both its occurrences, rather than plural, which has led scholars to speculate that the original text read ἄρτος, as it's hard to see how a single fragment could be "scattered over the mountains" (unless the word meant "broken loaf").

I would favor all drinking from a single cup (or dipping the pieces of bread into a common cup to prevent sharing colds and other illnesses), as that seems to be the tradition in the Last Supper accounts and 1 Corinthians 10:1-11:34 and The Didache, and also because of this comment from Thomas O'Loughlin:
One of the distinguishing features of the meals of Jesus was that he took a cup and, having blessed the Father, shared it with his disciples. This is a ritual without parallel in the ancient world: it is one thing to offer a thanksgiving over a cup—and by extension over all the cups of the participants of the meal—but quite another to pass a single cup from one to another. Yet here we find this practice: to share a cup is to assert an intimate unity and a common purpose. The disciples have to be prepared to drink from the cup of Jesus (Mark 10:38–39) and thereby they share in his destiny. At the meal in the Didache one of the rituals is that the single cup of the Lord is shared by all those at the meal. One cup is unity, and it cuts across every human boundary and division—it is not accidental that Christians have always tried to find ways around sharing the cup in their celebrations! - (O’Loughlin, T. (2010). The Didache: A Window on the Earliest Christians (95). London; Grand Rapids, MI: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; Baker Academic.)

Separate ritual or meal component? 

Communion may have originally been celebrated as part of a shared meal. If one wishes to continue that practice, one could open with blessing and breaking the bread and close with sharing the cup, or partake of both together, either at the beginning or at the end of the meal. However, it seems to me from 1 Corinthians 10:1-11:34 and The Didache that early on the bread and cup ritual had acquired or was beginning to acquire its own separate setting and significance.

Closed, semi-closed or open?

One's practice will be related to what one views communion as being.
  • If one views communion as being similar to a covenant meal like the Passover, then one will likely restrict it to those who are in covenant with Jesus, however one so defines being a member of the household of faith. The tradition in The Didache has restricted communion in view. Also, Luke's account of the Last Supper seems to have Jesus making His covenant only with and for those who are at table with Him. (But as noted in my other post, the original wording of Luke's account is difficult to determine.)
  • Even if regarded as a covenant meal in which communion is restricted to those who have embraced Jesus and His New Covenant, thereby usually excluding non-believers and children who have not yet professed faith in Jesus and/or been baptized, Paul's comments in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 seem to me to allow for the participation of the unbelieving spouses and underage children of believers, should they wish to partake, and I believe Jewish custom was to include children in the covenant feasts and holy days (Jewish males, of course, became part of the covenant people from their 8th day when they were circumcised):
    12 I (not the Lord) say to the rest of you: If a brother has a wife who is an unbeliever and she is willing to live with him, he must not abandon (Or divorce) her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is an unbeliever and he is willing to live with her, she must not abandon (Or divorce) him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified because of her husband (Other mss. read (her/the) brother). Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. (ISV)
  • Some may wish to restrict communion because of the warning in 1 Corinthians 11:29:
    29 because whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That’s why so many of you are weak and sick and a considerable number are dying (Lit. are falling asleep). (ISV)
    However, commentators are divided (for valid exegetical reasons) on whether Paul is referring to their not recognizing that the bread and wine are really Christ's body and blood or at least some "special" kind of food and drink, or their not recognizing and treating all those assembled as fellow members of the one body of Christ, which was the basis of his harsh words to them in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 (as well other parts of 1 Corinthians).
  • If one views communion as being an extension of Jesus' fellowship meals with followers, sinners, harlots, tax collectors, and any who wished to learn about or enter the Kingdom, or of His feeding of the multitudes, then it could be open to all who are present and wish to partake. Also, Matthew's and Mark's accounts of the Last Supper seem to differ from Luke's account in having Jesus making His covenant "for many."

Other Questions

Bread & wine/grape juice or not?

Must communion always be done with bread (whether leavened or unleavened) and wine or grape juice? What about crackers or pretzels or chips or tea or soda? What about people who live in countries where rice or another grain, or some kind of tuber or fruit, rather than wheat and grapes, is their "staple" food and source of fermented or juice beverage?

Who may officiate?

Must communion be officiated over by an ordained or appointed person - e.g., a priest, a pastor, an elder, a deacon, etc? Or may any person in the assembly bless and offer the bread and wine? How about women? Or children?

Real Presence, Presence, Symbol... Or What?

Do the bread and wine change into Jesus' Real Body and Blood? Is Jesus specially present at communion in a real but non-transubstantiation way? Are the bread and wine simply symbols of Christ's body and blood?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

To Add, Or Not To Add--That Is The Question

It began with me asking on Facebook:
So, where was Mary Magdalene standing during Jesus' crucifixion?
because I had been reading this (Scripture quotes from International Standard Version):
Matthew 27:55 Now many women were also there, watching from a distance. They had accompanied Jesus from Galilee and had ministered to him. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

Mark 15:40 Now there were women watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of young James and Joseph, and Salome. 41 They used to accompany him and care for him while he was in Galilee. Many other women who had come up to Jerusalem with him were there, too.

Luke 23:48 When all the crowds who had come together for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they beat their chests and left. 49 But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, were standing at a distance watching these things.

John 19:25 Meanwhile, standing near Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he kept loving standing there, he told his mother, “Dear lady, here is your son.” 27 Then he told the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
Because of the many differences between the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and the Gospel of John, some have supposed or concluded that John deliberately "changed" things (e.g., the day and time of the crucifixion) for theological reasons. If so, then what might have been his theological (or other) purpose in putting the women and Mary Magdalene at the cross, as opposed to the Synoptics having them view Jesus' crucifixion from a distance?

In response someone said: "People are actually movable objects. They can stand in different locations as time progresses."

Well, yes, people can move, and that may be what happened.

But is that how we are to read and understand the Gospels?

Are we to conflate the Gospel accounts so as to know "the rest of the story" in each instance where a Gospel might be "missing" something that one of the other Gospels "provides"? Thus here, for instance, are we to say that John's Gospel "adds the detail for us" that at some point Mary Magdalene and maybe a couple of the other women moved to stand by the cross while Jesus was dying on it?

Or should each Gospel be read and taken on its own?

How would Matthew and Mark and Luke and John have wanted us to read and understand their Gospels?

As a possibly poor analogy: Should one use the words and actions of two versions or remakes of a movie to "fill in the details of" (or possibly even "correct") a later or earlier version? In some instances, especially if the films are all based on the same novel or historical event and the director deliberately chose to omit or vary some things, it might be right to do so. But what if the director wanted us to view and understand his version of the story for what it is in its own right without our "adding to" it?

Back to the Gospels.

I’m sure I’m not the first one to see the following:
  • Family, Followers, and Friends: These Gospels show Jesus abandoned by all of His family, followers, and friends, and surrounded only by strangers and mockers and enemies - Luke says that all His acquaintances, including the women, stood and watched the crucifixion from a distance. 
  • Creation: Creation, too, seems to abandon Him, or perhaps mourn His dying, as darkness covers the whole land for three hours. (Matthew also mentions an earthquake at His death, but that may mean something else.)
  • God:
    • At the end of that period of darkness, both Matthew and Mark seemingly have God abandon Him, too,* and Jesus doesn't call God "Father."
    • Luke, though, while mentioning the darkness, has Jesus talking and praying to His "Father" (Luke 23:34,46) and nowhere has Him appearing to be abandoned by God or has Him saying, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" 
  • Family, Followers, and Friends: John not only has Jesus not totally abandoned by His family, followers, and friends, but has some of those who were closest to Him standing by Him at the cross, and His nearly last words are with them, not with those crucified with Him (or perhaps not even with God - i.e., to whom does He say: "It is finished"?).
  • Creation: There is no mention of any darkness.
  • God: There is no suggestion that God may have forsaken Him.*
So... how did the Gospel writers and how does God want us to read and understand the Gospels, and how did or do they want us to relate or not relate them to each other?

Another person said that they have problems watching biblical movies because the directors take too much artistic license by "filling things in" for us. They considered their doing so to be presumptuous, as it can change what God wants us to know or what He doesn't want us to know, leading to erroneous concepts of God.

To which I responded: Are we or preachers then doing the right thing when we use the Synoptics to "fill in" for John, or vice-versa?

* I am aware of the likelihood that Jesus' quoting from Psalm 22 ("My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?") may not in fact refer to his being abandoned by God. Quoting the beginning of a Scripture was often a reference to the entire passage, and Psalm 22 ends on a note of triumph, not abandonment:

Psalm 22
To the Director: To the tune of “Doe of the Dawn”.
A Davidic Psalm.
God Delivers His Suffering Servant

    1 My God! My God!
      Why have you abandoned me?
    Why are you so far from delivering me—
      from my groaning words?
    2 My God, I cry out to you throughout the day,
      but you do not answer;
    and throughout the night,
      but I have no rest.
    3 You are holy,
      enthroned on the praises of Israel.
    4 Our ancestors trusted in you;
      they trusted and you delivered them.
    5 They cried out to you and escaped;
      they trusted in you and were not put to shame.
    6 But as for me,
      I am only a worm and not a man,
      scorned by mankind and despised by people.
    7 Everyone who sees me mocks me;
      they gape at me with open mouths
      and shake their heads at me.
    8 They say, “Commit yourself to the LORD;
      perhaps the LORD will deliver him,
    perhaps he will cause him to escape,
      since he delights in him.”
    9 Yet, you are the one who took me from the womb,
      and kept me safe on my mother’s breasts.
    10 I was dependent on you from birth;
      from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
    11 Do not be so distant from me,
      for trouble is at hand;
      indeed, there is no deliverer.
    12 Many bulls have surrounded me;
      the vicious bulls of Bashan have encircled me.
    13 Their mouths are opened wide toward me,
      like roaring and attacking lions.
    14 I am poured out like water;
      all my bones are out of joint.
      My heart is like wax, melting within me.
    15 My strength is dried up like broken pottery;
      my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth,
      and you have brought me down to the dust of death.
    16 For dogs have surrounded me;
      a gang of those who practice of evil has encircled me.
      They gouged my hands and my feet.
    17 I can count all my bones.
      They look at me;
      they stare at me.
    18 They divide my clothing among themselves;
      they cast lots for my clothing!
    19 But as for you, LORD, do not be far away from me;
      My Strength, come quickly to help me.
    20 Deliver me from the sword;
      my precious life from the power of the dog.
    21 Deliver me from the mouth of the lion,
      from the horns of the wild oxen.
    You have answered me.
    22 I will declare your name to my brothers;
      in the midst of the congregation I will praise you, saying,
    23 “All who fear the LORD, praise him!
      All the seed of Jacob, glorify him!
      All the seed of Israel, fear him!
    24 For he does not despise nor detest the afflicted person;
      he does not hide his face from him,
      but he hears him when he cries out to him.”
    25 My praise in the great congregation is because of you;
      I will pay my vows before those who fear you.
    26 The afflicted will eat and be satisfied;
      those who seek the LORD will praise him,
      “May you live forever!”
    27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD;
      all the families of the nations will bow in submission to the LORD.
    28 Indeed, the kingdom belongs to the LORD;
      he rules over the nations.
    29 All the prosperous people will eat and bow down in submission.
      All those who are about to go down to the grave
      will bow down in submission,
      along with the one who can no longer keep himself alive.
    30 Our descendants will serve him,
      and that generation will be told about the Lord.
    31 They will come and declare his righteousness
      to a people yet to be born;
      indeed, he has accomplished it!

International Standard Version. (2011). (Ps 22). Yorba Linda, CA: ISV Foundation.

E.g., see The Father Did Not “Turn His Back”