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
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Friday, November 8, 2013

N.T. Wright, "Paul and the Faithfulness of God" (Vol 4) - Jesus, the Incarnate God Come

Jesus as Israel’s Story of God Freshly Revealed
My argument so far is that the Jewish-style monotheism of ‘divine identity’ which Paul so emphatically reaffirmed had also emphatically been redrawn around Jesus. In particular, I have argued that in several key passages we can detect the overtones of that Exodus-based narrative which formed the basis for the hope that YHWH, having long since abandoned Jerusalem to its fate, would one day return to save his people and to establish his glorious presence in the temple. As we have seen, there is excellent evidence that this was what Paul intended to convey, in one way and another, in one kind of argument or another. For him, Jesus was to be identified within the second-temple Jewish belief in who the one God was –and would be. This is the full expression of the eschatological dimension of monotheism, carrying within itself also the creational and cultic dimensions. In him, that is to say, Israel’s God had indeed returned, and to him therefore could be transferred all that had been said about ‘wisdom’ as the mode of his presence, the ‘wisdom’ through which the worlds were made. He was therefore to be discovered in biblical texts which spoke of the kyrios, translating the adonai which devout Jews said in preference for the sacred name YHWH; and, as such, was to be worshipped, and invoked in prayer. The relationship his followers enjoyed with him was to be understood, and could be spoken of, in the way that devout Israelites from ancient times had spoken of their relationship with YHWH himself. So far, so good.
But is this enough to enable us to understand why not only Paul, but apparently all his Christian predecessors and contemporaries, came to this belief? I think not. We have demonstrated that Paul (and presumably his predecessors and contemporaries) thought of Jesus in categories belonging to Israel’s God, and particularly within the narrative which spoke of long-awaited return of this God to Zion. We have not quite explained why they would think this way. This brings us to the second major hypothesis of the present chapter (689-690).
Because some get caught in a web of wondering if this way of seeing Paul might be supersessionism, I want to cite 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 to show that for Paul the classic Jewish creed — the shema — gets captured by Paul but in so doing he enters Jesus into the very heart of divine identity. Jesus is the Lord of the shema.
1 Cor 8:4    So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 
6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.


Continue to Index -
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Rethinking Biblical Stories: "Is Jonah (and the Whale) Satire or History?"

Pieter Lastman, Jonah and the Whale (Google Art Project)
 
Satire or History? (RJS)
Many feel that the default position should be history except in the presence of direct and incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. The same argument is made for the opening chapters of Genesis and for Job – although I have not heard it made for the Song of Songs.
 
(2) The book provides details. The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai.” It uses the names of real places (Joppa, Nineveh, Tarshish).
 
If it is story, some ask, why did the author use real places or potentially identifiable people? Jonah of Amittai is mentioned very briefly in 2 Kings 14 although he plays no significant role:
In the fifteenth year of Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah, Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel became king in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit. He was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Dead Sea, in accordance with the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher.
The same argument was raised concerning the book Job, which specifies a location “In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job.” And Job is mentioned in formulaic fashion in Ezekial 14. Some will claim that this rootedness in a historical time and location determines the book as history and precludes other options. The plain sense is preferred.
 
(3) The only reason to doubt Jonah as history is a desire to sidestep the miraculous element. The creator God is certainly capable of the miraculous.
 
A justifiable reaction against the attempt of many to remove the supernatural from the Bible. Our faith is rooted in the existence of the supernatural and in the reality of the resurrection, of Jesus first and of all in the age to come. But the argument for an all powerful God does  not make this particular book history rather than satire.
 
(4) Jesus refers to Jonah in his teaching. For some this is the trump that settles the matter.
 
        Matthew 12:38-41
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 
He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.
Matthew 16:1, 4 makes a similar, shorter, allusion – a wicked generation will be given only the sign of Jonah.
 
Luke 11
As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.
The context is the same in each reference. The sign of Jonah is found in the fact that he was in the fish for three days and three nights, and yet was returned to the land of the living, so the Son of Man would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
 
But it isn’t this simple. The answer to the question of genre is not as easy as these arguments suggest. None of them provide a conclusive argument against the book of Jonah as satire, with a message for the reader even some 2500 years later.
 
John Walton in the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary has some interesting observations placing the book of Jonah in its ancient Near Eastern context. (It is not entirely clear whether Walton views Jonah as history, and if so how much history he sees in the book. The omments here should not be taken as assigning any particular view to Walton himself. Nonetheless his insight into the ancient Near Eastern context is enlightening.) According to Walton:
In current trends within critical scholarship, Jonah is commonly labeled as parody or satire. The former typically lampoons a piece of literature, while the latter targets people (specific or stereotyped categories) or events as Jonah does. Satire can be either an enactment or a written composition in which vice, folly, or incompetence is held up for ridicule. The closer to reality a satire can be, the more effective it is. By definition it targets real people and tries to use the mannerisms and words that they use. Satire exaggerates reality, but is based on reality. 
Satire and parody are both known in the ancient world and in the Bible. … In similar ways, most would agree that the book of Jonah wants us to laugh at the prophet’s incongruity and senselessness even as we are appalled by his behavior and attitude. (p. 104)
In many respects this addresses the first two objections listed above. A good satire will be intentionally realistic – and the closer to reality, the more effective. If the book is a satire we should not find a clear indication of this for that would negate the satire (contra argument one) and we should expect to find realistic details placing the story in time and place (contra argument two).
 
Concerning the fish Walton notes that ancient literature refers to fantastic creatures sent from the gods. The epic of Gilgamesh for example refers to the “Bull of Heaven” sent by Anu.
The Bull of Heaven is particularly interesting in that it is sent in response to the hubris of the hero with the intention of teaching him a lesson. Jonah likewise acted against deity (by fleeing) and was subsequently confronted by a cosmic creature ordained by deity. In Gilgamesh the Bull of Heaven is not symbolic or allegorical. It is considered real, but as a supernatural creature would not be classed alongside any standard list of zoological specimens. A similar understanding may be possible for the fish in Jonah. (p. 105)
If the book is satire it will use the forms of the time – and this would include the cosmic creature ordained by deity. This is an accepted form of the day and age. Contra argument three, the reason to see the fish as a cosmic creature comes not from a desire to remove the miraculous but from the appreciation of the forms common in ancient Near Eastern literature.
 
Walton also comments on the length of time, three days and three nights.
A person is considered truly dead after three days in the grave or in the netherworld. In the Descent of Inanna the goddess goes down into the nether world and tells her servant that is she has not returned in three days, she should lament for he and make petitions to the gods for her return. With this idea in mind, Jonah’s three days and nights in the belly of the fish in the realm of death indicates that Jonah is at the threshold of death. (p. 109)
The idea of Jonah on the threshold of death also comes in his prayer in chapter 2. The sign of Jonah refers to this return from death after three days in the fish. Certainly there is no other way in which Jesus is justly compared with the foolish, selfish, and superficial prophet Jonah. Something greater than Jonah is here is quite the understatement.
 
I will also note that as Christians we celebrate the crucifixion on Good Friday (the preparation day before the Sabbath) and the resurrection on Sunday morning (very early in the morning on the first day of the week) so we don’t exactly attach great literal significance to the three nights in the heart of the earth. Why then, we insist that the story of Jonah must be history for the allusion to be valid I am not sure.  John notes a special Sabbath and thus would likely have three nights, but the church through the centuries has not chosen this chronology, but rather the Friday to Sunday observance.
 
Chapter four of the book really nails the genre as satire (or parody) in my opinion.
3:10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. 
4:1-3 But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Walton notes that this description of God is practically creedal in the Old Testament … gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Yet Jonah takes it as a negative. God doesn’t do what any “good” God should [do, by wiping] out the Ninevites [and] destroying their city. Really, God’s compassion is reason to wish for death? As satire the focus is on the attitude of Jonah, and perhaps by extension all those who prefer to delight in God’s wrath and judgment (on others of course) rather than his mercy and compassion.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

N.T. Wright, "Paul and the Faithfulness of God" (Vol 4) - Jesus' Story is God's Promised Fulfillment to Israel

What did it mean to call Jesus “God”? NT Wright
If Paul must have been aware that he was reaffirming the classic Jewish monotheism of his day, he must equally have been aware of the fact that he had redrawn this monotheism quite dramatically around Jesus himself. This bold claim will be made good in what follows (644).
NT Wright develops his Christology in this discussion with many proposals, including Moule, Dunn, Hurtado, but especially Richard Bauckham. Bauckham’s proposal is simple and striking:
that the highest possible Christology – the inclusion of Jesus in the unique divine identity – was central to the faith of the early church even before any of the New Testament writings were written, since it occurs in all of them. 
Nor did this require any backing away from ancient Jewish monotheism: 
. . . this high Christology was entirely possible within the understanding of Jewish monotheism we have outlined. Novel as it was, it did not require any repudiation of the monotheistic faith which the first Christians axiomatically shared with all Jews. That Jewish monotheism and high Christology were in some way in tension [with one another] is one of the prevalent illusions in this field that we must allow the texts to dispel. 
Jewish Monotheism, [Bauckham] here clarifies, has three aspects: creational, eschatological and cultic. God is the sole creator; he will at the last establish his universal kingdom; and he, and he alone, is to be worshipped. This launches Bauckham into a detailed, and necessarily technical, account of Paul’s language about Jesus, from which he concludes that Paul, like the rest of early Christianity, unhesitatingly ascribed to Jesus precisely this triple divine identity. He is the agent of creation; he is the one through whom all things are reconciled; he is to be worshipped. 
With all of this I am in agreement. But there is one thing missing, and it is the burden of my song in this chapter to propose it and explain it. And it seems to me that when we do so all kinds of other evidence comes back into the picture to make an even larger, more comprehensive and satisfying whole (652-653).
Wright continues on the same page, after observing that the method is backwards — namely wondering if Judaism had other figures about whom they said divine-type things, thereby making it Jewish to do what Christians did:
But to raise the question in this way is, I believe, to start at the wrong end. If the phenomenon to be explained is the fact that from extremely early on the followers of Jesus used language for him (and engaged in practices, such as worship, in which he was invoked) which might previously have been thought appropriate only for Israel’s God, why should we not begin, not with ‘exalted figures’ who might as it were be assimilated into the One God, but with the One God himself? Did Judaism have any beliefs, stories, ideas about God himself upon which they might have drawn to say what they now wanted to say about Jesus?
Which story? Here is Wright’s proposal:
Central to second-temple monotheism was the belief we sketched in chapter 2: that Israel’s God, having abandoned Jerusalem and the Temple at the time of the Babylonian exile, would one day return. He would return in person. He would return in glory. He would return to judge and save. He would return to bring about the new Exodus, overthrowing the enemies that had enslaved his people. He would return to establish his glorious, tabernacling presence in their midst. He would return to rule over the whole world. He would come back to be king (653).
Here we go because the way to ask the deity question is to ask if the story about God was the story about Jesus — and I would agree with NTW on this and would also say it is the way forward in so many discussions of christology. What is the story about God? What is the story about Jesus?
Notice, though, even at this stage, what follows. Whereas in the modern period people have come to the New Testament with the question of Jesus’ ‘divinity’ as one of the uppermost worries in their mind, and have struggled to think of how a human being could come to be thought of as ‘divine’, but for Jesus’ first followers the question will have posed itself the other way round. 
It was not a matter of them pondering this or that human, angelic, perhaps quasi-divine figure, and then transferring such categories to Jesus in such a way as to move him up (so to speak) to the level of the One God. It was a matter of them pondering the promises of the One God whose identity, as Bauckham has rightly stressed, was made clear in the scriptures, and wondering what it would look like when he returned to Zion, when he came back to judge the world and rescue his people, when he did again what he had done at the Exodus. 
Not for nothing had Jesus chosen Passover as the moment for his decisive action, and his decisive Passion. It was then a matter of Jesus’ followers coming to believe that in him, and supremely in his death and resurrection – the resurrection, of course, revealing that the death was itself to be radically re-evaluatedIsrael’s God had done what he had long promised. He had returned to be king. He had ‘visited’ his people and ‘redeemed’ them. He had returned to dwell in the midst of his people. Jesus had done what God had said he and he alone would do. 
Early christology did not begin, I suggest, as a strange new belief based on memories of earlier Jewish language for mediator-figures, or even on the strong sense of Jesus’ personal presence during worship and prayer, important though that was as well. The former was not, I think, relevant, and the latter was, I suggest, important but essentially secondary. The most important thing was that in his life, death and resurrection Jesus had accomplished the new Exodus, had done in person what Israel’s God had said he would do in person. He had inaugurated God’s kingdom on earth as in heaven. Scholars have spent too long looking for pre-Christian Jewish ideas about human figures, angels or other intermediaries. What matters is the pre-Christian Jewish ideas about Israel’s God. Jesus’ first followers found themselves not only (as it were) permitted to use God-language for Jesus, but compelled to use Jesus-language for the One God (654-655).
So now to this:
All these themes, then, lead into one another, spill over into one another, presuppose one another, interact with one another: Exodus, redemption, tabernacle, presence, return, wisdom, kingship (655).


Continue to Index -
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

List of Open Universities: Some Fun, A Little Humor, & Tongue-in-Cheek Introductions


From Ancient Greece to quantum mechanics,
or what a Chinese room and a cat have to do with infinity.

From the fine folks at the Open University comes 60-Second Adventures in Thought,
a fascinating and delightfully animated series exploring six famous thought experiments.

omes from Ancient Greece and explores motion as an illusion:




The Grandfather Paradox grapples with time travel:




Chinese Room comes from the work of John Searle,
originally published in 1980, and deals with artificial intelligence:




mathematician David Hilbert, tackles the gargantuan issue of infinity:




The Twin Paradox, first explained by Paul Langevin in 1911,
examines special relativity:




Schrödinger’s Cat, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger
in 1935, is a quantum mechanics mind-bender:




For more such fascination and cognitive calisthenics, you won’t go wrong with

More...

Religion as social control - 60 Second Adventures in Religion (1/4)




Religion as ritual - 60 Second Adventures in Religion (2/4)




Religion as a mother - 60 Second Adventures in Religion (3/4)




Religion as a virus - 60 Second Adventures in Religion (4/4)






The Open University (OU) is a distance learning and research[5] university founded by Royal Charter in the United Kingdom. The university is funded by a combination of student fees, contract income, and allocations for teaching and research by the higher education funding bodies throughout the UK. It is notable for having an open entry policy, i.e. students' previous academic achievements are not taken into account for entry to most undergraduate courses. The majority of the OU's undergraduate students are based in the United Kingdom and principally study off-campus, but many of its courses (both undergraduate and postgraduate) can be studied off-campus anywhere in the world.[6] There are a number of full-time postgraduate research students based on the 48 hectare university campus[7][8] where they use the OU facilities for research, as well as more than 1000 members of academic and research staff and over 2500 administrative, operational and support staff.[9]

The OU was established in 1969 and the first students enrolled in January 1971.[10] The University administration is based at Walton Hall, Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, but has regional centres in each of its thirteen regions around the United Kingdom. It also has offices and regional examination centres in most other European countries. The University awards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, as well as non-degree qualifications such as diplomas and certificates, or continuing education units.

With more than 250,000 students enrolled, including around 32,000 aged under 25[11] and more than 50,000 overseas students,[12] it is the largest academic institution in the United Kingdom (and one of the largest in Europe) by student number, and qualifies as one of the world's largest universities. Since it was founded, more than 1.5 million students have studied its courses.[12] It was rated top university in England and Wales for student satisfaction in the 2005,[13] 2006[14] and 2012 [15] United Kingdom government national student satisfaction survey, and second in the 2007 survey.[16] Out of 132 universities and colleges, the OU was ranked 43rd (second quartile) in the Times Higher Education Table of Excellence in 2008, between the University of Reading and University of the Arts London; it was rated highly in Design, Art History, English, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Computer Science, Development Studies, Social Policy and Social Work, and Sociology.[17] It was ranked overall as a nationally top forty, and globally top five hundred university by the Academic Ranking of World Universities in 2011, as well as being ranked 247 for citations of its academics.[18]

The Open University is also one of only three United Kingdom higher education institutions to gain accreditation in the United States of America by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education,[19] an institutional accrediting agency, recognized by the United States Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.[20]


* * * * * * * * *

Khan Academy - http://www.khanacademy.org/ (scroll down to see K-College courses)

From Wikipedia -

In 2009, the Khan Academy received the Microsoft Tech Award for education.

In 2010 at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Bill Gates endorsed the learning resource, calling it "unbelievable" and saying "I've been using [Khan Academy] with my kids".

In 2010, Google's Project 10100 provided $2 million to support the creation of more courses, to allow for translation of the Khan Academy's content, and to allow for the hiring of additional staff.

* * * * * * * * *


Khan Academy is a non-profit[3] educational website created in 2006 by educator Salman Khan, a graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School. The stated mission is to provide "a free world-class education for anyone anywhere".

The website features 700 micro lectures[1] via video tutorials stored on YouTube teaching mathematics, history, healthcare, medicine, finance, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, economics, cosmology, organic chemistry, American civics, art history, macroeconomics, microeconomics, and computer science.[4] Khan Academy has delivered over 300 million lessons.[5][6]


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Complete List of BBC Topics - http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/



Never underestimate the power of a new haircut.

Watch This Incredible Timelapse Of What Happens When You Give A Homeless Veteran A Makeover
http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/watch-this-incredible-timelapse-of-what-happens-when-you-giv

Ryan Broderick BuzzFeed Staff
posted on November 7, 2013 at 11:15am EST

 
 
Homeless Vet Gets Awesome Makeover
 
 
 

1. Meet Jim. He agreed to let the nice people at Dégagé Ministries, Design 1 Salon & Spa, and Rob Bliss Creative give him a makeover.

2. After leaving the service, Jim has struggled with alcohol and homelessness. They wanted to show Jim that a respectable guy was still underneath all that scruff.



3. So they decided to give him a booster shot of confidence.





5. And after a proper shave…



 

7. And a stylish haircut…





9. And a sharp-looking suit…



10. Jim realized things weren’t so grim after all.



11. According to Dégagé Ministries, after the video was shot, Jim decided for the first time to enter Alcoholics Anonymous and now has his own housing.





 

Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill Sing, "How Great Thou Art"


Carrie Underwood with Vince Gill How Great thou Art

2016

Includes Intro

File this one under "gives me chills," Carrie Underwood's voice is absolutely
gorgeous singing "How Great Thou Art" in this emotion-filled duet with Vince Gill.

I have goose bumps all over just simply amazing.

Brings tears to my eyes every time I watch!!!!

Amazing I just love that Song!!!
And yes it brings tears to my eyes.

Amazing Grace it so describes how I truly feel about my God and savior!!