According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wikipedia - Deconstruction and Religion

Deconstruction and Religion

This article discusses those who apply deconstruction, a method developed by French philosopher Jacques Derrida, to religion.

Those who take a deconstructive approach to religion identify closely with the work of Derrida, especially his work later in life. Theologian John D. Caputo describes Derrida's work in the 1970s as a Nietzschean 'free play of signifiers' while he describes Derrida's work in the 1990s as a "religion without religion."[1] However, Martin Hagglund argues against claims that deconstruction is a religious discourse seeking transcendence, and shows that the mortal and the transient is the source of value.[2]

Law, Undeconstructibility, Justice

A vital feature of Derrida's work later in life is the notion of "undeconstructibility". In Derrida's thought, deconstruction exists in the interval between constructions and undeconstructibility. The primary exemplar of this relationship is the relationship between the law, deconstruction, and justiceDerrida summarizes the relationship by saying that justice is the undeconstructible condition that makes deconstruction possible.[3] However, the justice referred to by Derrida is indeterminate and not a transcendent ideal.

Justice by Luca Giordano
The law is made up of necessary human constructions while justice is the undeconstructible call to make laws. The law belongs to the realm of the present, possible, and calculable, while justice belongs to the realm of the absent, impossible, and incalculable. Deconstruction bridges the gap between the law and justice as the experience of applying the law in a just manner. Justice demands that a singular occurrence be responded to with a new, uniquely tailored application of the law. Thus, a deconstructive reading of the law is a leap from calculability towards incalculability.

In deconstruction, justice takes on the structure of a promise that absence and impossibility can be made present and possible. Insofar as deconstruction is motivated by such a promise, it escapes the traditional presence/absence binary because a promise is neither present nor absent. Therefore, a deconstructive reading will never definitively achieve justice. Justice is always deferred.

Further reading

Derrida works out his idea of justice in Specters of Marx and in his essay "Force of Law" in Acts of Religion; he works out his idea of hospitality in Of Hospitality; Similarly for democracy seeRogues: Two Essays on Reason; friendship see The Politics of Friendship; the other see The Gift of Death; the future see Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money.

God and deconstruction

Deconstruction-and-religion understands religion in terms of what is shared among the Abrahamic faiths. In Derrida's work, there is a suggestive notion of a quasi-religion locatable in the cluster of concepts surrounding the affirmation of that which is experienced as undeconstructible. Derrida's acts of affirmation go by names such as the "unconditional without sovereignty," the "weak force" of the undeconstructible, and the "possibility of the impossible." Derrida sometimes suggested that such acts of affirmation can be used to describe "God."

Différance and negative theology

Derrida saw the God of negative theology as a crude precursor to deconstruction's central concept of différance. However, the God of negative theology is qualitatively different than the idea of différance because the God of negative theology functions as an ultimate, higher reality where différance does not.

Derrida in the middle-phase of his career re-visits negative theology in his Comment ne pas parler - Dénégations (1987; How to Avoid Speaking - Denials (1989)). Robert Magliola explains at length[4] the several ways—most of them adapted from Talmudic tactics—that Dénégations uses to disrupt or "confound" possible structural solidarity with negative theology (Derrida was a Sephardi Jew very appreciative of his ancestry). Via many examples from Derrida's text, Magliola demonstrates how these Derridean tactics work. A partial list of these tactics:

(1) ambiguous narrative modes, voices, and citations, so the voice of any utterance may conceal another that it may or may not be quoting;
(2) subversive footnotes that destabilize rather than reinforce the text's body;
(3) double binds, so assertions in parts of the essay are designed to contradict other parts;
(4) aberrant reinscription, so double binds proliferate in the text, implying a symploké (GK-"crossing") that precedes the binds themselves: thus Derrida's often-cited différance originaire is itself a double bind;
(5) Trace-words such as sceau, filtre, prétend, etc., that neither mean nor do not mean what they meant in his earlier oeuvres.

Différance is not God
See also: Différance

Central to deconstruction is the idea of différance. Différance is an anarchic nonconcept that makes a conception of language-as-a-play-of-signifiers possible. This French neologism means both "differing" and "deferring," describing in its name its own operation in setting deconstructive language in motion.

Prior to différance, all Western conceptual schemes relied on one form or another of a "transcendental signifier". A transcendental signifier is any metaphysical, hierarchical principle that presumes to determine which constructions of signifiers are "natural" or "proper." Examples of transcendental signifiers include Truth, God, Allah, Reason, Being, and various political ideologies. Différance is an alternative to and escape from the logic of the transcendental signifier.

Because employing the idea of différance precludes the possibility of positing a transcendental signifier, no historical conception of God can survive a deconstructive framework; even the God of negative theology falls short of différance. John D. Caputo has indicated that différance is not God[5] and that the God of negative theology is a transcendental ulteriority while différance is a quasi-transcendental anteriority.[6] However, negative theology and différance are kindred spirits insofar as they both desire what is absent, impossible, and incalculable.

Further reading

In the essay "Sauf le Nom," Derrida centered his investigation of the notion of God around negative theology and the poetry of Angelus Silesius.[7]

Reading strategy

"Abraham Sacrificing Isaac" by Laurent de LaHire, 1650
Proponents of deconstruction-and-religion believe that dominant contemporary explications of theology are inherently ideological, totalizing, and militant. In response, deconstruction-and-religion expresses itself through acts of interpretation. In taking on the process of interpretation, deconstruction-and-religion follows two tropes: active reinterpretation of the theological tradition and passive reinterpretation.

Active reinterpretation

Deconstruction-and-religion operates actively when it theorizes in a new way. Deconstruction-and-religion begins from a deconstructive framework that is both post-structuralist and post-phenomenological. The framework provides a means of identifying and exposing illegitimate doctrines or interpretations from within monotheistic traditions. Through the use of careful historical analysis, linguistic critique, and logical scrutiny, deconstruction-and-religion resolves interpretive tensions from within theological discourses while at the same time creating space for unforeseen developments in theological expression.

Passive reinterpretation

Deconstruction-and-religion operates passively when it takes a historical, descriptive approach to analyzing the corpora of various traditions of theology. In its passive mode, deconstruction-and-religion examines theological traditions to take note of documented instances of reified or unnatural theological concepts expanding only to later be dismissed or significantly transformed. An example of an unnatural concept rising and falling is the medieval Christian understanding of indulgences. The historical deterioration or mutation of theological concepts is referred to as "self-deconstruction" by Jean-Luc Nancy. The idea of self-deconstruction echoes Friedrich Nietzsche's idea that the highest Western values devalue themselves.

John D. Caputo on weak theology

John D. Caputo has a distinctive approach to deconstruction-and-religion that he calls "weak theology". According to Caputo, the distinctive reinterpretive act of weak theology has resulted in the notion of the "weakness of God". The paradigm of God as an overwhelming physical or metaphysical force is regarded as mistaken. The old God-of-power is displaced with the idea of God as an unconditional claim without force. As a claim without force, the God of weak theology does not physically or metaphysically intervene in nature.

Essentially, the idea of God in Caputo's thought is an alternate name for particular manifestations of undeconstructibility. The idea of God as an undeconstructible follows a line of ethical thinking that moves from Martin Buber to Emmanuel Levinas to Jacques Derrida. Caputo works the idea out in the following way:

"On the classical account of strong theology, Jesus was just holding back his divine power in order to let his human nature suffer. He freely chose to check his power because the Father had a plan to redeem the world with his blood. ... That is not the weakness of God that I am here defending. God, the event harbored by the name of God, is present at the crucifixion, as the power of the powerlessness of Jesus, in and as the protest against the injustice that rises up from the cross, in and as the words of forgiveness, not a deferred power that will be visited upon one’s enemies at a later time. God is in attendance as the weak force of the call that cries out from Calvary and calls across the epochs, that cries out from every corpse created by every cruel and unjust power. The logos of the cross is a call to renounce violence, not to conceal and defer it and then, in a stunning act that takes the enemy by surprise, to lay them low with real power, which shows the enemy who really has the power. That is just what Nietzsche was criticizing under the name of ressentiment."
— John D. Caputo, The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event[8]

Jean-Luc Nancy on self-deconstructed Christianity

Following Derrida's criticisms of the metaphysics of presence and logocentrism, Jean-Luc Nancy understands Christianity to be act-based and focused on an undeconstructible understanding of hope. Nancy thinks of Christianity as the "religion that provided the exit from religion," and posits that it consists in the announcement of the second coming of Christ, known as parousia. For Nancy, because Christ is central to the formation of value and meaning in Christianity; because parousia is an announcement of a Christ to come; and because the promised return of Christ involves the return of a person who lived in the past, then Christianity as a framework of thought supports the notion that 'traces' of the non-present (i.e. past and future) are constitutive of the present. As a result, the Christian concept of parousia poses ontological questions about the conditions of possibility of concepts like identity, subjectivity, consciousness, and experience, among many others. In Nancy's thought, the concept of parousia reveals that we humans are no longer mortals who are saved by faith in an immortal being. Rather, the concept reveals that we are beings who are capable of accepting or rejecting non-self-presence. The acceptance of non-self-presence is what Nancy understands to be the heart of Christian 'faith.'

"[F]aith, in any case, is not about compliance without proof or the leap above proof. It is the act of the faithful person, an act which, as such, is the attestation of an intimate consciousness of the fact that it exposes itself and allows itself to be exposed to the absence of attestation, to the absence of parousia. ... Christian faith is distinguished precisely and absolutely from all belief."
— Jean-Luc Nancy, Dis-Enclosure: The Deconstruction of Christianity[9]

Bernard Stiegler on the prosthesis of faith

The French philosopher Bernard Stiegler, following the archaeologist André Leroi-Gourhan, understands the human distinction to consist in a third kind of memory: in addition to the genetic memory recorded in the DNA molecule, and individual nervous system memory, human beings are the creatures capable of using organized, inorganic matter, that is, tools, technology, writing, and everything that records a human gesture (as Stiegler puts it: "humans die but their histories remain").[10] Stiegler calls this tertiary memory, and it is the beginning of the human possibility for the individual to adopt a past they did not themselves live (when, for example, an immigrant to the United States adopts George Washington as part of his or her past). In his article, "Derrida and technology: fidelity at the limits of deconstruction and the prosthesis of faith," Stiegler uses this concept of tertiary memory to conduct a reading of the Derridian corpus. In so doing he reaches the following conclusion:

"An intelligence of faith—which is impossible, which we can do nothing but promise, which we have to promise in its very default—must/fails to account each time for the conditions in which faith yields to the trust that we have or do not have in tertiary memory. No politics of memory or of the archive, of hospitality or of home, no future is, perhaps, promised outside this "must/failure" of life that the dead haunts in life's technicity. The tertiary trace refers to the arche-trace, older than any empiricial or meta-empirical trace; it refers always to the absolute past. But the absolute past only constitutes itself "as such" through this referral. It is why a logic of the supplement, without ever simply being such a history, must also be a history of the supplement in its epochs, epochs that are each time singular and must each time form the object of a technical history constantly renewed. Faith and tele-technology are for this reason mutually insoluble and mutually inseparable—transductively (re)constituted by each other. It is why, finally, fidelity is always at the limits of deconstruction qua undeconstructible justice. Such would be faith: at the limits of deconstruction. Such would be faith at the limits of deconstruction."
— Bernard Stiegler, "Derrida and technology: fidelity at the limits of deconstruction and the prosthesis of faith"[11]



  1. (2002) Raschke, Carl, "Loosening Philosophy’s Tongue: A Conversation with Jack Caputo"
  2. (2008)Hagglund, Martin, Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life, Harvard University Press, 2008.
  3. (2001) Derrida, Jacques, Acts of Religion, p. 243.
  4. Magliola, Robert, On Deconstructing Life-Worlds: Buddhism, Christianity, Culture (Scholars P. of AAR, 1997; Oxford U.P., 2000), pp. 157-165, especially pp. 160-164.
  5. (1997) Caputo, John D., The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida, p. 2.

  6. (1997) Caputo, John D., The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida, p. 3.
  7. (1995) Derrida, Jacques, "Sauf le nom." In Thomas Dutoit (ed.), On the Name.
  8. (2006) Caputo, John D., The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event, p. 44.
  9. (2007) Nancy, Jean-Luc, Dis-Enclosure: The Deconstruction of Christianity, p. 221.
  10. Stiegler, Bernard, Our Ailing Educational Institutions; cf., Stiegler,Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).
  11. Stiegler, Bernard, "Derrida and technology: fidelity at the limits of deconstruction and the prosthesis of faith," in Tom Cohen (ed.), Jacques Derrida and the Humanities: A Critical Reader (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 263.


Primary references

Secondary references

  • (1982) Deconstructing Theology, by Mark C. Taylor
  • (1987) Erring: A Postmodern A/theology, by Mark C. Taylor
  • (1993) Theology of Discontent: The Ideological Foundations of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, by Hamid Dabashi
  • (1995) Desiring Theology, by Charles Winquist
  • (1997) Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida, ed./auth. by John D. Caputo
  • (1999) About Religion: Economies of Faith in Virtual Culture, by Mark C. Taylor
  • (1999) Epiphanies of Darkness: Deconstruction in Theology, by Charles Winquist
  • (1999) Ethics-Politics-Subjectivity: Essays on Derrida, Levinas, and Contemporary French Thought, by Simon Critchley
  • (1999) Truth and Narrative: The Untimely Thoughts of Ayn al-Qudat al-Hamadhani, Hamid Dabashi
  • (2000) "In the Absence of the Face," by Hamid Dabashi. In Social Research, Volume 67, Number 1. Spring 2000. pp. 127–185.
  • (2001) "Derrida and Technology: Fidelity at the Limits of Deconstruction and the Prosthesis of Faith," by Bernard Stiegler. In Tom Cohen (ed.), Jacques Derrida and the Humanities
  • (2001) On Religion, by John D. Caputo
  • (2004) Portrait of Jacques Derrida as a Young Jewish Saint, by Hélène Cixous
  • (2004) Sufism and Deconstruction, by Ian Almond
  • (2006) Philosophy and Theology, by John D. Caputo
  • (2006) The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event, by John D. Caputo
  • (2007) After God by Mark C. Taylor
  • (2007) After the Death of God, with John D. Caputo, Gianni Vattimo, & ed. by Jeffrey W. Robbins
  • (2008) Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life, by Martin Hägglund
  • (2010) Sekstant by Mario Kopić

External links

Online reading

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Post-Structuralism in the Life of Prophetic Christianity

Sturcturalism - PostStructuralism-Structuration

As you know, I love anything preceded by the word "post" in it. Like, post-structural, post-foundational, post-fundamentalist, post-evangelical, post-religion, post-faith, post-ideology. Why?

1 - Because "post" conveys movement away from something. Usually something that is broken, not working, unrealistic, disconnecting with reality, oppressive, etc.

2 - It also is filled with the idea of disenchantment, personal or societal chaos, unhappiness, brokenness, darkness, unknowing, confusion, etc.

3 - Lastly, it is always used in relation to something immediately preceding itself: an era, a movement, a troubled period in one's life, a lostness, people, etc. But it revolves and reflects and bounces off relationships to things and ideas.

To admit to this kind of personal or societal movement must always be accompanied by abandonment to one's past fidelities, opinions, commitments, beliefs, old world values, habits, or way of life. This can be dangerous for many when foundations in life are removed. Especially epistemologic foundations.

But it also requires hope above all things. Plenty of courage. And sometimes a deaf ear to what people are saying around you. Why? Because usually they don't understand, or don't want to understand, or feel threatened, or, too often, serve as obstacles to growth and change.

And many times there must be a deep willingness to push past barriers, fears, and uncertainties to discover a new paradigm, new epistemologic, even ontologic, structures and foundations, and ever more questions without answers and uncertainties without resolve. to say the least, this can be difficult if not impossible.

For someone to say then that they wish to explore or live in a post-everything world is to measure the rapidity of change from one lone heartbeat to the incredible, the impossible, the unheard of, the nevermore, or the other side of the Looking Glass filled with obsurantism. It goes by many names. Many of them we know through the bible. Bible concepts like reclamation, reformation, recreation, renewal, revelation, resurrection, or just plain rebirth.

To think of these grand concepts in terms of the old vs the new, the past and the present, what is and what can be (eschatological hope) is also very biblical, very ancient, very present in the distraught human breast seeking transformation if not reformation. The Apostle Paul called it new birth. Jesus called it being born again. The Apostle John also reflected upon birth coupling it with the love of God present in the troubled soul seeking fundamental change. The church has come to call it revival, repentance, salvation.

But usually we think of all these wonderful terms as something that is experienced by the "other guy". By someone other than ourselves because, well, when or if this experience occurred within our lives it was many, many years ago and not something we think of in our present context. But what if rebirth and renewal, repentance and transformation were a continual experience rather than a one time, "Come to Jesus" moment? Then what? Well, for the theologian as for the philosopher this might be known as an "overthrow" to all the old world structures we have learned but must now unlearn. Which can be difficult. In fact, very difficult if not impossible.

The word "post" then conveys this sense of forward movement away from one's past formations. Perhaps a fine-tuning, if you will, but more likely, a complete overall of body and soul. When people in our acquaintance go through this experience it disturbs us. Mostly because we don't understand it or know what to do when its affects conflicts with our own "structural" understanding of life. A structural understanding which we don't want disturbed in any way, sense, or word. Then we become the toxic person in the equation of post-structural reform. The one who obfuscates against the penitent seeking deep reform making true transformation even more difficult than it already is. Learning to live in a "post-everything world" can do that. It threatens people as much as liberates them. The same can be said of a society in the throes of anarchy. Whether a true rebirth can be discovered in the chaos or whether all is lost to fundamental idealism unrelenting in its prevention of societal transformation to occur.

A second question. Can this period of life be identified as a prophetic period in one's life? Certainly it seems to bear all the characteristics of prophetic grief and lament over the way things are. As well as all the joy and hope for the way things could be. It also can be a burden of inspiration and illumination heaven sent by the Spirit of God in pressing into this weary world with prophetic insight radiating with laser light understanding for how things must change or be overthrown.

And so, yes, a post-structural reformation or rebirth can be prophetic, even spiritual, and certainly necessary. But as stated earlier, it can also be resisted, obstructed, rejected, ignored, and refused. As example, Jesus discovered His mission to be one of constructing a post-Old Testament, even post-Jewish, view of old world versus new world. In this task He fulfilled the role of a prophet - even as do God's more perceptive servants tasked by His Spirit today. He suffered, was rejected, ignored, and was finally refused. For those luminaries presently within our society the sin of ignoring or refusing is every bit as possible as the honor of accepting and blessing those living prophets around us laboring in our midst.

But like all willing workers no one can say the time or the hour for the completion of God-ordained toil and labor. The prophet senses its burden. Sees its necessity, struggles with its acceptance, and finally succumbs to its call. Struggles too with its implications. Resists the Spirit. Then re-submits to the Spirit to proceed by labor of blood, sweat, and tears into fields of mockery, scorn, abuse, and rejection. And perhaps finally to find death's oppressive cloak drawn upon everything before surrendering to the inevitable as his or her's deepest burdens are witnessed in its greatest harms and destructions upon a people with stopped ears, dead eyes, and deader spirits. Its death can be as much existential as it is physical. And it is a hard death for the prophet to witness against the horrors of his illumined imagination. An imagination unwanted, undreamed, unsought. But an imagination which finally enters into a societies deepest darks unless repentance and change are allowed in.

And so today's living prophets, like Jesus of old, are most typically underappreciated, overlooked, even damned individuals, who would offer us celestial airs in exchange for the burdens we bear. This then is what it means to live prophetically in a post-everything world as bounded by the Spirit of God.


R. E. Slater
October 1, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Refusing a Contemporary form of Paleo-Christianity, Part 2

The Shackles of Our Dreams

I can no longer follow a Paleo-Christianity anymore. A Christianity that has closed its bible and views God's living revelation as a static, dead thing. A rancorous Christian faith that has stopped up the Spirit of God's work in the world because they are seeking any-and-all forms of divine judgment and retribution upon mankind. Or has become a Christian faith that is closed-minded dogmaticly, even folklorish, because it doesn't know how to accommodate societal evolution and technology without feeling itself to be sinfully marginalized. It is a kind of Christian faith more dead, destructive, and full of despair than it is one of liveliness, relevancy, or willingness to bear the gospel into today's postmodern world without needing to subscribe to its old timey rants and predilections.

When writing and developing Relevancy22 over the years this was the fundamental question that kept facing me. And each time as I met this hurdle I simply wanted to ignore it. But over time this could not be done. As mentioned last week in the illustration of the U.S. Constitution as a living - and not dead, or static - societal document, continually shaping and being shaped by an evolving society model discovering with each succeeding era or generation the Constitution's import. So too the Bible is a living document that must evolve with our understanding, technologies, academic discoveries, and societal movement. If not, the bible becomes a dead and static document without relevance or import into our lives. Mostly, it becomes a legal thing where judgment is preached because today's paleo-Christians feel we aren't keeping to its 1950s or 1890s or 1760s or 1540s standards of creed and conduct. And in their despair they see much of society no longer listening to their kind of God, Jesus, bible, or theology. Knowing this they then want Jesus to return because, well, everything has "gone to hell" in their estimation and its time to fly away.

What a silly idea. Since when do paleo-Christians get to decide for the rest of us "who's in-and-who's-out?" Or, "who-and-what God and His Word is?" Or, "how we should live, believe, and think?" I, for one, think (if I use their own words and mindset) that this is "a subtle trick of the devil." Certainly its a lack of imagination about who God is and what He is doing in this, His lively creation, by-and-through His Spirit, and through those "Red Lettered Christians" dedicated to imagining a Christian faith uniquely applicable to their time and era. Which, folks, in this case, is a postmodern era. Not a Modern era. Nor Enlightened era. Nor Medieval. But Postmodern. And guess what? It's been around since the 1930s (sic, the Great Depression and the world's succeeding horrors of war inducing the death of the modern era in the 1940s to this present time). But, postmodernity is going away. Yep. Away. Say what?

Postmodernism is transitioning to another form. To something else. And it would behoove God's church to figure out how they wish to live relevantly in these succeeding temporal eras so they may leave the maximum level of gracious, loving witness to a world searching for answers. Yes, answers. With-or-without the church's input. So that if the paleo-church willingly excludes itself from any involvement, participation, or input, their witness will be moot. But not one of a pseudo-science as it is drawn to now. No. But a real science using today's academic standards. As example, insisting on a creationism while denying evolution, or building a $100 million Noah's Ark center and Bible Town near Cinncinati, isn't exactly what I call being faithful to God's revelation. Mostly its a refusal to update its old theology and doctrines because of "fear, uncertainty, and doubt" when they do (FUD - to use Microsoft's "modus operandi" in the formidable years of its operation).

So let's today abandon this "repent and let God return us to the day's of our glorious past" type of thinking. I'm all for repentance but let it start with the fact that we have been curmudgeoned Christian believers holding back the liveliness and import of God's evolving Person, Being, Spirit, and Revelation. Or that we have missed the import of His gracious mercy and love in our lives and the lives of people hearing only the out-datedness of today's modernized (aka, secularized) faiths using all the tools of music, TV/media/publishing, and outreach but breathing an old fashioned gospel that no longer is helpful. A gospel that hinders - or misses altogether - God's work across humanity. I think the church can do better than this. And it must if it is to have a voice again. One that is relevant, humble, and serving.

R.E. Slater
September 22, 2016

What the Christian faith should be - "An Open Faith"

* * * * * * * * *

What the bible is NOT - "A Closed Canon"
(see article below)

Is the Biblical Canon Closed?
Paul Derengowski, ThM

Before answering the question, it is best to define just what it meant by the term “closed.” For there are those critics of biblical inerrancy who seem to think that God is still revealing himself through the written page, and that such is a necessity. Otherwise they further conclude that God is no longer actively communicating to humanity, and the Bible is nothing more than a static 1 document that is either limited or irrelevant to meets the needs of contemporary humanity. Therefore, what is meant by the term “closed” is merely that the Bible is complete. There are no more inspired documents that are to be included in the biblical canon, and there will not be in future. Such a declaration makes some religious and “spiritual” 2 zealots cringe, usually more out of hostility than anything, since such a pronouncement also immediately passes judgment upon the specious offerings of their favorite prophet or guru who have claimed to be an authoritative mouthpiece for God. Nevertheless, those hostilities put aside, there are a few very good reasons for believing that God no longer makes prophetic revelations of the canonical variety, and why what is currently seen in the biblical text known as the Bible is final. Those reasons are the coming of Jesus, the sending of the Spirit, the finalization of doctrine, the cessation of the apostolic office, and the tradition of the Christian Church.

The Coming of Jesus, as a reason to show that the biblical canon is closed, is explicitly seen in the comment to the Hebrews that, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Heb. 1:1-2). Here the writer is telling the reader not only how God communicated to mankind in the past, but how that communication came to a head in the person of Jesus himself. In fact, Greek grammarian A. T. Robertson points out that the contrast between the Old Testament prophets and Jesus is “sharp,” and that the revelation in Jesus is a “final and full revelation.” 3 Why? Because of the qualitative difference 4 between the person of Jesus and the prophets themselves, and their partial revelations that they gave in contrast to the complete revelation and fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan for mankind as expressed in the “Word made flesh, and dwelt among us” who was “full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14). Since we know through the providential activity of God who recorded the events of the coming of Jesus, and how he completed the salvific requirements of God for the benefit of humanity, there is no longer any additional written revelation needed, nor necessary, to add to what Jesus has communicated.

The sending of the Spirit is clearly a revealed prophecy of Jesus found in John’s Gospel, and is another indication that subsequent written revelation has been suspended. Just prior to Jesus’ crucifixion he promised that upon his departure, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (Jn. 14:25). Jesus continued later by saying, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatsoever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you” (Jn. 16:13-14). Finally, we read in one of John’s epistles, “And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (1 Jn. 2:27). The point of all of these statements is that when the Holy Spirit came and set up residence in all those whom God chose to believe, the Spirit then set forth to carry out the ministry of teaching and informing the elect those things that Jesus said and did. As Morris points out, “He is not originating something radically new, but leading people in accordance with the teaching already given from the Father and the Son.” 5 That teaching is seen in the inspired writings given by the Father and the Son, which, once again, is a primary key in understanding the nature of divine revelation in written form. If it was not deemed “God-breathed,” then it was not from God.

The finalization of doctrine alludes to the fact that with the coming of Jesus Christ, that which is necessary for the building of “sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6; Tit. 1:9; 2:1) is complete. That does not mean that an exhaustive and infinite understanding of the basic doctrines which comprise the Christian faith will be arrived at by anyone. What it means is that which God has provided through the divinely inspired revelation provided in the biblical text concerning the Bible, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Humanity, Sin, Salvation, the Church, Angels, and Last Things is complete and adequate in matters of faith and practice. Furthermore, it means that whatever subsequent “prophecies,” teachings and revelations that fail to echo biblical revelation on any particular doctrine, or in fact contradicts it, and causes division and strife among believing Christians is not from God, and is to be rejected. In fact, the apostle Paul warned about such activity when he wrote, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” (Rom. 16:17). John Stott comments that, “He [Paul] takes it for granted, even thus early in the church’s history, that there is a doctrinal and ethical norm which the Romans must follow, not contradict; it is preserved for us in the New Testament.” 6

The cessation of the apostolic office clearly indicates that the biblical canon is closed, simply because the apostles, and those whom they influenced, were the divinely appointed messengers selected to receive and write inspired Scripture. And with the passing of the last apostle from the earthly scene, written revelation has come to an end. Of course, there were those shortly after the days of the apostles who attempted to impose their writings on the church, usually pseudonymously, and there are those today who would like everyone to believe that they are genuine apostles, or that they are following those who have been called after the order of apostolic succession. Yet, such posturing is without credibility. For as Robinson explains, “In most of the approximately eighty cases in which the word ‘apostle’ occurs in the NT, it refers to the Twelve or to Paul. Their unique place is based upon the resurrected Jesus’ having appeared to them and having commissioned them to proclaim the gospel as the eschatological action of God in Christ.” 7 No one since that last genuine apostle left the earth in death has seen the risen Jesus, nor has anyone fulfilled the ministry of an apostle in the same manner as those who were apostles, in respect to writing inspired Scripture, or the performing of signs and wonders to validate their office. Typically, what has been seen by those claiming to be apostles, and are not, are egotistical boasts that either draw attention to themselves, and not the biblical Jesus, or to those with even bigger egos than they, who propagate doctrines and teachings that are clearly antithetical to those held by biblically orthodox Christians. Therefore, with the cessation of the apostolic office, we have another clear indication that the biblical canon is closed.

Finally, there is the tradition of the Christian Church. Now, by this it is simply meant that the standards and doctrines of the Church have been established and have been intact since the day that Jesus initially ordained it. 8 Of course, not every doctrine was fully developed in the beginning, but has grown with understanding as the Spirit moved human minds with divine illumination from the Scriptures to understand the infinite mind of God. It is because of this tradition, that if anyone outside the Church came along and claimed to have found some document that should be considered to be included in the biblical corpus, unless the teachings found within that document were consistent with what has already been taught for millennia, and supported and validated Scripture that has already been received as inspired, then the document was be rejected as spurious. Presently there have been some documents that seem to keep recycling themselves for canonical consideration, like the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Judas. Yet because of their either strange teachings or fragmentary commentary, which leaves one to wonder just why anyone would consider them to be inspired in the first place, 9 they are consistently rejected as unequal to the biblical texts.

Therefore, the biblical canon is closed. Some have postulated that “Hypothetically the canon could be open,” 10 but given the preceding, that kind of speculation is extremely gracious, if not fleeting. Besides, given the general overall ignorance of the Bible by so many, if God did manage to pass along additional written revelation for humans to use as a guide to life, both spiritual and physical, then just what would God be hoping to accomplish? Obviously, since many humans are not willing to read what has already been written, then why would they necessarily be interested in anything else God had to say? Some might answer that contemporary revelation is fresh, exciting, and relevant to modern man, which implies that the living Word of God, given by the living God, is stale, boring, and irrelevant, further meaning that in order for God to communicate to man, He must communicate to him on his terms, and under his conditions, otherwise God’s effort at revealing Himself is at best impotent. Plainly, such notions are more of an indication of man dictating to God what God should be like, rather than humbly acknowledging what man is like, as God has already indicated, long ago, in the Scriptures, that such arrogant men ignore as stale, boring, and irrelevant. No, the biblical canon is closed because of Jesus’ coming, the sending of the Spirit, the finalization of doctrine, the cessation of the apostolic office, and the tradition of the Christian Church, and only a hardened skeptic of the Bible would disagree otherwise.


1 Old Testament scholar, Edward J. Young makes a poignant rebuttal regarding the charge of the biblical text being “static,” when he retorts, “Is it, however, static? As this word is used, it is used in a derogatory sense. Is the connotation of the word, however, always derogatory? If by ‘static’ we merely mean that the truth of the Bible does not change, then, of course, the Bible is a static revelation. There are times, however, when one may indeed be thankful that some things are static.” Thy Word Is Truth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), 222. I could not agree more. Can you just imagine that if the truth about God was not “static,” or, how about the person of Jesus? Not only would the Christian have no reason to believe anything the Bible had to say about anything, he could never know from one moment to the next whether or not what he was doing was God-honoring or the most heinous sin committed against God. Obviously, the whole “static” argument presented by those who either disdain the Bible, or find it personally dissatisfying and inadequate, is irrational from the outset.

2 I use “spiritual” in the sense of those hypocrites and double-minded persons who on the one hand want to develop and promote their own brand of “spirituality,” while on the other hand are devoid of the truth, because of their rejection of what God has not only revealed about Himself, but about the Book He has chosen to record that revelation. Much of this kind of hypocrisy is seen not only among avowed pagans and nature worshipers, but also among many so-called “Christians” involved in Postmodernism. They’re all “spiritual” alright; just in wrong way.

3 A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1960), 5:334-35.

4 In commenting on Hebrews 1:2 Daniel Wallace argues that, “Although this should probably be translated “a Son” (there is no decent way to express this compactly in English), the force is clearly qualitative (though, of course, on the continuum it would be closer to the indefinite than the definite category). The point is that God, in his final revelation, has spoken to us in one who has the characteristics of a son. His credentials are vastly different from the credentials of the prophets (or from the angels, as the following context indicates).” Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 245.

5 Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 621.

6 John Stott, Romans (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1994), 400.

7 W. C. Robinson, “Apostle,” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 1:193.

8 Absent from this definition are those things with allude to praxis and methodology, which some choose to confuse with doctrine in an attempt to show how divided the Christian body is. There is a difference, though, between the basic doctrines, and the diverse methods of Christian practice, as is seen in the various Christian denominations. Since this is a discussion about Bibliology, rather than Ecclesiology, further comments about faith and practice will be reserved.

9 One of my favorite statements stemming from the Gospel of Thomas is this one from Saying 113: “Simon Peter said to them, ‘Let Mary leave us, because women are not worthy of life.’ Jesus said, ‘Behold, I shall guide her so as to make her male, that she too may become a living spirit like you men. For every woman who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of heaven.” The Secret Teachings of Jesus: Four Gnostic Gospels, trans. by Marvin W. Meyer (New York: Random House, 1984), 38.

10 Norm Geisler and William Nix make this statement, alluding to the possible theory that some first century book might be found, and then conclude, “But that is unlikely for two reasons: First, it is historically unlikely that such a new book intended for the faith and practice of all believers, but unknown to them for two thousand years, will suddenly come to light. Second, it isprovidentially improbable that God would have inspired but left unpreserved for two millennia what is necessary for the instruction of all generations.” Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible(Chicago: Moody, 1986), 218.

Refusing a Contemporary form of Paleo-Christianity, Part 1

The Shackles of Our Dreams

Words Fail. They truly do.

I have been listening to "The Gathering" today hoping my beloved gathering of brethren from the ranks of conservative evangelicals would speak better of God and His movement in this world then they are presently doing.

But they are not, and will not.

What I, and many others, see as God's blessing and mighty movement of the Spirit into sin and chaos they would reverse all God's works to declare them as sin and judge to be unholy.

Against the whirlwind of this entrenched mindset and these doggerel declarations many of God's "Red Letter Children" have labored long years to tell the story of the Living God in His Word through the eyes of Jesus amongst the peoples of the world.

Verily it can be said, "When untruth is believed as truth there can be no turning back unless all is abandoned." And for these conservative evangelics God loses if they loose faith and must admit to His mighty spiritual work which they now declare as unholy, unrighteous, and unfit.

Into this recriminating mindset awful words such as accomodation, marginalization, biblical chaos, postmodernism, biblical errancy, and etc, and etc, are used. Words they have no understanding of except that it tells them they must change. But change for this religious crowd is anathema to the truths they tell themselves.

And so I am amazed how much God has accomplished in our midst before a segment of the church refusing to see, hear, or tell of His glory. Or bow before His Almighty Love. Who worship a different God and a different Jesus than the very one many of us read in the bible.

And so my friends, I will go again with the mantra that God's love is the thing which humbles us to repentance. That Jesus is the hope that drives us to will and to work. Beyond that, it is up to God's children to search out who they will follow.

Humanly, it seems an impossible task with little consequence. But with God all things are possible. And if 8 days are being taken to consecrate all things back to God than a ninth day should be added. And a tenth. And an eleventh and twelveth until the murkiness lifts and the face of God is truly seen against the emptiness of the false shepherd's misleading words.

R.E. Slater
September 21, 2016

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Link to Contemporary Paleo-Christianity -

The Gathering's Statement for Consecration and Repentance -…/8-Days-of-Consecration-TheGat…

The Storm Clouds of Apostasy Are Gathering 2016 -

Monday, September 12, 2016

Phillip J. Long - Discussion of 2 Baruch

2 Baruch and the Fall of Jerusalem

by Phillip J. Long
August 30, 2016

2 (Syriac Apocalypse of) Baruch appears to have been written in the late first century, probably around A.D. 100. Like 4 Ezra, the book is a response to the recent fall of Jerusalem. Using the persona of Jeremiah’s scribe Baruch, the author of this book is answering a theological question, "Why has God allowed the Temple to be destroyed a second time? Has God cancelled his promises to his people? Is there any future for Israel?" Since it was written about the same time as the New Testament’s Revelation, it is one of the more significant Second Temple period apocalypses.

4 Ezra and 2 Baruch share many similarities, although the direction of the influence is hard to determine. Klijn is inclined to see 2 Baruch as dependent on 4 Ezra; he therefore dates the book to the first part of the second century (OTP 1:616-52). Collins argues for a date a bit earlier based on the fall of Jerusalem in the twenty-fifth year of king Jeconiah in the first verse of 2 Baruch. This is not historically accurate, so it is possible the author is referring to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, twenty-five years in the past (Apocalyptic Imagination, 212-3). The book was written in Palestine and most likely in Hebrew originally. The book is closely related to the rabbinic literature and seems to be exhorting diaspora Jews from the perspective of Palestinian Jews (OTP 1:617).

2 Baruch 1-4 forms an introduction to the book. The author takes on the guise of Baruch son of Neriah, the companion of Jeremiah. He is told by the Lord that all of the things which happened to the northern ten tribes will happen to the south as well. Jerusalem will fall and the people will be punished. Baruch agrees this punishment cannot be resisted, but asks the Lord what will happen after the city is destroyed. Are the promises of God ever to be fulfilled? The Lord’s answer is that a New Jerusalem has been built, but it is in Paradise.

In chapter 5-9 Baruch prepares for the Babylonian invasion. He tells the people what the Lord has told him and they sit in the valley of Kidron and fast until evening. The city is surrounded the next day (ch. 6). Baruch sees four angels at the corners of the city with burning torches. He sees the temple and the Holy of Holies, including the ephod, precious stone and other temple items. These buildings are swallowed up by the earth, then the angels put their torches to the city and destroyed its foundations. Babylon enters the city and plunders it and kill many people.

The word of the Lord comes to Baruch and he is command to tell Jeremiah to go to support the captives in Babylon. Baruch delivers a lengthy lament for the city in chapter 9, striking many themes found in later apocalyptic (“better never to have been born,” verse 6, for example.) He condemns Babylon although it is not as brutal as it might be. He asks how the Lord has borne the destruction of the city (chapter 11-12).

As Baruch weeps for fallen Jerusalem, the Lord will answer his questions through a series of visions.

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A Vision on Zion – 2 Baruch 13-21

by Phillip J. Long
August 31, 2016

While standing on Mt. Zion, Baruch hears a voice from heaven. The Lord answers an objection Baruch raised in his lament (chapter 13). This is a dialogue between God and Baruch which deals with the problem of the destruction of temple (13-20). What good is it to follow God if he allows the Temple to be destroyed and the people judged so harshly? People may ask, “why has God brought this sort of destruction down on his people?” When these people wonder if such a retribution will come upon them, Baruch is to tell them that they will also drink the wine of God’s wrath down to the dregs. After hearing this, Baruch asks the Lord what benefit is there in being righteous if everyone will be punished by the Lord (chapter 14).

The Lord’s reply (chapter 15) is that it is true all will be judged, but the righteous will have a crown of great glory waiting for them as a reward for their great struggle. Baruch wonders if the few evil years of this life are enough to inherit an unmeasurable reward (chapter 16). The Lord’s reply (chapter 18) is that the Lord does not take account of years. Adam lived 930 years but it was no profit for him if he transgressed God’s commands. Moses lived 120 years, but it would profit him nothing if he had not been the “lamp which lighted a generation.” But Baruch objections that while Moses was a lamp, few followed his light (chapter 18).

In chapter 19), The Lord points out Moses who gave them the covenant and they were judged by that standard. How happy a person is while young does not really matter if at the end of his life he transgresses and is judged. The Lord’s point seems to be that there is still time for repentance near the “end of days” for the nation. Baruch is told to go and fast for seven days and the Lord will continue his revelation to Baruch (chapter 20).

Chapter 21 contains a prayer of Baruch in response to the dialogue of chapters 13-20. In verse 4-11 he calls out to the Lord as the creator God, the God who is sovereign and in control of his creation. He decrees things so minutely he knows how many raindrops will fall on a given head (cf. Mt. 10:30, the hairs on one’s head are numbered.) Verses 12-18 develop this theme of God’s knowledge acknowledge that God has preserved the life of those who have sinned so that they may be proved righteous. Men are changeable even if God is not and God takes the time to change men. In verses 19-25 Baruch asks how long it will be that the world will continue to be polluted by sin.

Finally, He asks for God to act to reveal his glory in the world and restore creation. The restoration in mind is Israel, but this restoration will mean salvation for all creation. This resonates with Revelation, at least in the sense that the final restoration is the return of the glory of God and a “new heavens and new earth.”

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The Anointed One Will Appear – 2 Baruch 22-34

by Phillip J. Long
September 1, 2016

After Baruch prays this, he sees heaven open and his strength returns and a second dialogue begins (chapter 22). This time the Lord questions Baruch – does someone start something they cannot finish? The obvious negative answer is supplied by Baruch and the Lord continues to ask Baruch why he is so disturbed (chapter 23). When Adam sinned death was decreed, but the days are coming when the books will be opened and the righteous will be proven to be righteous (chapter 24).

Baruch has acknowledged God’s control and ultimate foreknowledge, but he also admits man does not know the things God does. He asks to know what will happen so that he can instruct the people (24:3-4). God promises to preserve Baruch until the sign the Most High gives to the whole world at the end of days (chapter 25, cf. the “sign of the Son of Man” in Mt. 24:30). In those days great terror and tribulations will seize the earth and people will say that the Most High God has forgotten the earth; people will lose hope. Baruch asks how long the distress will last (chapter 26), and the Lord responds it will be divided into twelve parts (chapter 27), which are listed, but then the duration of the time is “weeks of seven weeks” (chapter 28). Kiljn says this is an unclear indication, although Baruch himself does not complain (OTP 1:620, note a). The time is obviously based on Daniel 12 and the other references to a time, times and a half a time as well as the “seventy weeks” prophecy (Dan. 9). Perhaps the translation from Hebrew into Syriac has obscured the reference. Perhaps the “twelve times” are to be taken as kingdoms or rulers (as in 4 Ezra, The Eagle Vision, 11:1-12:51).

When that time is accomplished, the Anointed One will appear and the whole world will be fruitful and prosperous (chapter 29). This is a very significant chapter since it clearly refers to the Messiah who will put an end to a period of suffering and introduce a period of peace and prosperity. This will be a time when the clouds “distill the dew of health” and the “treasury of manna will come down from on high.” The Anointed One appears in his glory (Mt 25:31f) and all those who “sleep in hope of him will rise” (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-17, 1 Cor. 15:51f) and the treasury of the souls will open up and huge multitudes of souls will appear (chapter 30).

This is a clear reference to the resurrection at the time of the Messiah, but it is not a resurrection to an eternal life in heaven, but rather a resurrection to a very real earthly life in a peaceful world ruled by the Anointed one. What is significant is description of those who are; they are those who “put their hope in him.” The people who are raised appear to be the Jews from the Old Testament period who were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah.

Baruch reports his vision to the people (chapters 31-34) and encourages them to “sow into their minds the fruit of the law (32:1). The building of Zion will be shaken, destroyed and left desolate, but will be rebuilt again. The Mighty one will renew is creation (32:6). The people think Baruch is going away from them, but he reassures them he will remain and do what Jeremiah command him.

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The Consolation of Zion – 2 Baruch 35-44

by Phillip J. Long
September 2, 2016

Baruch goes to the ruins of the Holy of Holies and sits there weeping because “that of which we were proud has become dust” (chapter 35). He falls asleep and has a vision (chapter 36-37). In this vision he sees a forest surrounded by a high mountains and rugged rocks. A fountain appears in the forest and uproots the forest and even made the top of the mountain low. All which remained was a single cedar which was finally cast down. A vine arrives when the fountain is peaceful and tranquil, and finds the cedar.

The vine speaks to the tree and tells the fallen tree the forest was destroyed because of its sin. All the cedar ever did was wickedness, never goodness. The cedar is burned to ash while the vine grows and becomes a valley full of unfading flowers. He prays for enlightenment so that he can understand the vision (chapter 38) and the Lord answers him (chapters 39-40). Israel is a vine frequently, see Isaiah 5, for example. This imagery is used in the rabbinic literature, see Sipre Deut. §312 (on Deut 32:9) and W. G. Braude and I. Kapstein, Tanna debe Eliyyahu: The Lore of the School of Elijah (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1981) 369. For both these references, see Craig A. Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20 (Dallas, Word, 2001), 220.

Zion is the forest and it will be destroyed and rebuilt after some time. It will then be destroyed again, four times in all. The last kingdom will be the harshest and will exalt itself above the cedars of Lebanon. After the last kingdom the Anointed One will come (the vine, in the vision). This is roughly parallel to the four kingdoms scheme of Daniel 2 and 7, although the writer here does not detail who the kingdoms are who will overtake Zion. The last ruler of the final kingdom will be captured and brought to Mount Zion where the Anointed One will convict him of his wicked deeds and kill him. The dominion of the Anointed One will “last forever until this world of corruption has ended” (40:3).

Baruch asks the Lord about the timing of the events of his vision (chapter 41). He is concerned because many in the nation have “cast away the law.” What will happen to those Jews who are not prepared for this judgment? The Lord’s response (chapter 42-43) concerns those who have “withdrawn” and “mingled with the nations.” The writer seems to have in mind both natural Jews and converts to Judaism who “mingle.” They will be considered as the mountains in the vision, who were “brought low,” and “corruption will take away those who belong to it.” Baruch reports this vision to the people (chapter 44-47).

He tells them the judgment on Jerusalem was just and fair and that the people ought to dedicate themselves to the Law (44:6-7). The ones who will inherit the peaceful time in the future are those who are prepared for it (44:13-14), they have “not withdrawn from mercy and they have preserved the truth of the Law. For the coming world will be given to these, but the habitation of the others will be in the fire” (44:15).

This vision and interpretation is remarkably important for New Testament studies since it clearly shows an expectation of a Messiah who will free Zion from the oppressive last kingdom and establish a peaceful kingdom on earth for a period of time. If this expectation persisted after the fall of Jerusalem when Baruch was written, it most likely was common a generation before when Jesus was active in Galilee. For at least some Jews in the twenties and thirties Rome was oppressive and they did look forward to an Anointed One who will deliver them. Many of the themes present in Baruch could go back at least to the turn of the era.

Since context of this vision the fall of Jerusalem on A.D. 70, the final enemy must be Rome. Jews living in the post-70 world would have longed for God to act justly and punish Rome for destroying the Temple. Baruch makes it clear that the punishment received was just and fair (the cedar in the vision), but also that a restoration of the Temple (and Jerusalem) is God’s plan.

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Zeal for the Lord and the Anointed One – 2 Baruch and the Law

by Phillip J. Long
September 3, 2016

In order to be prepared for this coming Anointed One and the judgment he brings, people ought to not despise God’s law and “mingle” with the nations. Here we have a reflection of the problem between Jews who sought to keep the Law, probably the Palestinian Jew, and those who made some modifications to the Law so that they could live outside the Land (the Diaspora). Those Jews who lived outside Israel had several “boundary markers” (food laws, circumcision, Sabbath and synagogue worship), but in many other ways they lived and worked alongside Gentiles. It is possible some of these activities were considered to be compromises by those who lived in the Land, compromises which ran the risk of judgment when Messiah comes. The primary example of this sort of belief is Rabbi Saul prior to the Damascus Road experience.

Paul does not merely claim to be a Pharisee – he modifies this claim with the words “according to zeal, a persecutor of the church.” Paul was “zealous” to keep the law to the point that he was willing to persecute those that did not conform to the Law. For a Pharisee to say he was a zealous keeper of the Law, the Jewish listener in the first century may have thought of Judas Maccabees, the forefather of the Pharisees himself, and his zealous defense of things Jewish in the Revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes. In 1 Maccabees 2:24-29, for example, when Mattahias sees the other Jews breaking the Law “he burned with zeal and his heart was stirred . . . he burned with zeal for the law.”

This zealousness took the form of an armed rebellion against the Seleucids and any who supported Hellinization in Israel. Zeal in the first century was, in the words of N. T. Wright, “something that you did with a knife” (What Saint Paul Really Said, 27). Along with Judas Maccabees, Phineas (Num 25:1-18) and Elijah (1 Kings 19) are examples of Old Testament characters that burned with a zealous commitment to the Lord that expressed itself in a willingness to challenge the evil head-on, killing those that practiced idolatry themselves if need be. If the Jews were to be ready when the Anointed One comes, then the Law needs to be kept now. Zeal might very well express itself in a violent reaction against those on the fringes who were “mingling.”

This zeal for the law reflected in Baruch may play into the background of the book of Galatians and the controversy of Gentiles keeping the Law. As Paul began to move the church into fully Gentile regions (Galatia, in Acts 13, the “first” missionary journey), he taught that Gentiles did not have to keep the Law. We read in Acts 15 and Gal. 1-2 that some believers from the Pharisees disagreed with Paul and went to some of the churches Paul had founded, allegedly under the authority of James, and taught that Gentiles had to be circumcised. The issue is whether Gentiles who believe Jesus is the Messiah are converting to Judaism – if so, they must be circumcised and, as Paul fully recognizes, keep the whole Law. Why would Pharisees care what was happening in synagogues in Galatia?

It may have been the belief that those who “mingle with the nations” will be judged when the Messiah comes, as found in Baruch 42-43. After A.D. 70 this belief could have become even more dramatic since it appears God has in fact judged the Jews for unbelief. Separation from the growing Christian movement would have been critical.

In summary, Baruch represents a Judaism which believes God will send a Messiah at some time to overcome the Romans (the oppressive last kingdom) and establish a time of peace and prosperity in the Land. This Anointed One will judge on Mount Zion and punish all those who have persecuted, but also those who have not kept the Law and “mingled with the nations.”

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The Messianic Age – 2 Baruch 48-51

by Phillip J. Long
September 3, 2016

Following the common structure of the book, Baruch waits seven days then prays again to the Lord (48:1-24). He acknowledges that God establishes times and commands things that will take place. God is eternal, but humans live short lives; therefore Baruch asks for protection for the people and preservation for the nation (the elect). They will keep the Law of God and they will not mingle with the nations as long as the Law supports the (23-24). The Lord responds to this prayer and answers some of these concerns (44:25-50). Nothing will be destroyed, the Lord says, unless it has acted wickedly.

Baruch himself is to be “taken up” and preserved out of the time which is coming (44:30-31). The last days are described as peaceful, people will not realize judgment is coming. This is similar to Jesus in the Olivet Discourse describing “those days” as the days of Noah, simply a peaceful normal time, the judgment comes suddenly (Matt 24:37, Luke 17:26). Another similar aspect to the teaching of Jesus here is that while the judgment as unexpected, it was not without warnings (Matt 24:6, 11, 24, for example). The people who are judged are simply unaware spiritually and cannot discern the “signs of the times.”

Baruch asks the Lord about the splendor of the coming days (chapter 49). The Lord’s response (chapters 50-51) is a description of the messianic age. The earth will give back the dead (50:2-4) who will live again and recognize each other (50:4). What is more, the righteous dead will be “greater than the angels.”

2 Baruch 51:12-14 "And the excellence of the righteous will then be greater than that of the angels. For the first will receive the last, those whom they expected; and the last, those of whom they had heard that they had gone away. For they have been saved from this world of affliction and have put down the burden of anguishes."

Those who despised the Law will be judged and go away to be tormented. Miracles will appear for the saved and the “extent of paradise will spread out before them.” This eschatological reversal is typical of Jesus’ parables; wheat is gathered up and stored in the barn but the weeds are gathered and thrown on the fire.

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A Vision of Many Waters – 2 Baruch 52-73

by Phillip J. Long
September 6, 2016

Baruch asks a further question about those who face woe and suffering in that time (chapter 52). He falls asleep and has a vision of a cloud coming up from a great sea (chapter 53). The cloud flashes lightning and great water begins to pour out of it. The water alternates between black and bright, finally pouring out a great amount of black water. The lightning grows in intensity and finally occupies the whole world. When he awakes, he asks the Mighty One for an explanation of this dream (chapter 54).

Baruch knows the dream concerns those who are in sin and about to be judged. Verses 19-20 are curious because they teach that Adam is responsible for his own sin and each of us, when we sin, become our own Adam. This is a semi-Pelagian if not Pelagian view of the imputation of sin and quite different than the view of Paul in Romans 5 and 1 Cor. 15:24, in Adam we all sin.

The dream is interpreted by the Lord as encompassing all of the history of Israel in the alternating waters (Chapters 55-74). The great cloud was the length of the days of his world.

  • The first black waters – Adam and the first sin (56:5-16).
  • The second bright waters – Abraham and his generation, but also the hope of the “world which will be renewed” (57).
  • The third black waters – the sins the nation committed in Egypt (58).
  • The fourth bright waters – the coming of Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Joshua, and Caleb (59). Moses is said to have been shown all sorts of the “mysteries” of God such as the weight of the winds, the number of the raindrops, the height of the air and the greatness of Paradise along with the worlds to come. This makes Moses into a prototype of the apocalyptic prophet.
  • The fifth black waters – the works of the Amorites, which polluted even Israel in those days (60).
  • The sixth bright waters – David and Solomon and the building of Zion (61).
  • The seventh black waters – The perversion of ideas in the rule of Jereboam (62).
  • The eighth bright waters – The righteousness and integrity of Hezekiah (63).
  • The ninth black waters – The sins of Manasseh (64-65).
  • The tenth bright waters – The purity of the generation of Josiah (66). On account of Josiah “precious glories have been created and prepared.”
  • The eleventh black waters – The disaster of the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (67).
  • The twelfth bright waters – The world which is to come when Zion is rebuilt again and the nations will honor Zion, after the fall of many nations (68).

After the twelve waters, Baruch saw some “last black waters” which were blacker than all the others he had seen. These waters are a description of the days which are coming when the “world has ripened and the harvest of seed of the evil ones and the good ones has come . . .” (Chapters 69-72). It is a time when the poor will outnumber the rich, when the wise are silent that the fools speak, the impious will be exalted over the brave. There will be war; those who save themselves from war will die in an earthquake; those who save themselves from the earthquake will die in the fire; those who save themselves from the fire will die in the famine (70:8-9).

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Eternal Peace – 2 Baruch 73-76

by Phillip J. Long
September 6, 2016

After the dark days, Baruch saw a last “bright waters” which indicate there will be “eternal peace on the throne of the kingdom” (Chapters 73-76). This is the messianic age when health will descend like dew and joy will encompass the earth. Wild animals will serve men and “asps and dragons” will subject themselves to a child. Those who work the fields will never tire because the produce will shoot out speedily.

Baruch responds to the vision and interpretation in prayer and worship (chapter 75) and he is instructed to wait forty days and he will depart from the earth (chapter 76). He assembles the people and explains to the (briefly) his vision and encourages them to hold to the law, since the reason Zion fell is the people forgot the law (chapter 77). The people understand this and request Baruch write a letter to the “brothers in Babylon” that they too may know this revelation from God. There is a little hint here of a difference between Jews in Jerusalem and Jews in the Diaspora. The Jerusalem Jews are concerned their brothers living far away keep the law and see their responsibility in ensuring the Jews in Babylon keep the Law correctly. Is this a hint at the problems between Palestine and Diaspora Jews in the pre-70 era discussed earlier?

Baruch writes a letter to the nine and a half tribes which are living in Babylon (chapters 78-87) explaining to them the Lord justly chastised the nation because they were unrighteous. He reports what happened when Nebuchadnezzar invaded the city (79) and his vision of the angels around the city who allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take Zion itself (80). He gives them some word of consolation as well, that the Mighty One is a God of Grace and has shown him the “mysteries of the times and the coming periods” (81).

He describes the coming time of justice for God’s people when everything will be put right and the nation will be avenged (82-83). God is fair in all of his judgments, for “if he judges us not according to the multitude of his grace, woe to all us who are born” (84:11). The youth of the world has passed away and the coming of the “times” is nearly here: the pitcher is full, the ship is near the harbor, etc. (85). When those days come he will purge the world of sin and destroy those who are polluted by sin (85:15).

[End of Baruch]