Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - 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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Lessons from the Book of Joel

Lessons from the Book of Joel

by R.E. Slater
June 30, 2016


Over the past month or more I have been introducing myself and my readers to the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha through external abstracts and Phillip Long's commentaries. Throughout the entirety of Long's review of 1 Enoch has come the realization of how closely (but not without exaggeration) this book follows the apocalyptic literature within the Old Testament (sic, Genesis, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, perhaps Joel, etc). So if the supposition is true that the writer of 1 Enoch wrote after the establishment of the OT apocalyptic literature (sometime during, or after, the Maccabbean war in the Intertestamental period) than it may also be true that there is a remarkable similarity between 1 Enoch's summary writings (of creation, of mankind's (and the angel's) spiritual history, and of the end times to come) to the apocalyptic books later to be written and included by the church into the NT (parts of the Synoptics, Paul, Peter, Revelation, for example). As such, the storytelling author of 1 Enoch borrowed liberally from the OT literature even as the NT writers borrowed liberally both from the OT literature and outside sources such as the book of 1 Enoch.

But why?

Because not only was 1 Enoch a very popular book during the pre-NT era but its imagery was vivid enough to be encapsulated and moved forward by the perceptive NT writers who were part of a growing new movement known as the first century church. More simply, popular cultural ideas were synthesized and then utilized to explain the Jesus-event within a time of turbulent societal evolution. In essence, though 1 Enoch was not a canonized OT book it related the main presumptions of the Jewish people so very well in its mythologized and very creative storytelling as to provide fertile imagery for Jesus and His apostles to tell of God's salvation to man and the coming judgment upon all those who would refuse obedience and submission to the rule of God.

Now I have been spending not a little bit of time over the past several years in examining the kind of judgment God will execute upon a sinful world. Some of this has been mentioned before when dealing with the several topics of hell, salvation, or God's character. Nevertheless, the bible itself, along with much of the literature written by mankind since time immemorial has dealt with the consequences of living in sin, the retribution that comes with causing willful oppression upon others, or ignoring the wisdoms and moralities of common life observances by a society. As such, the burden of public opinion leans in the direction that if there is a judgment for sin it will always be executed - if not in this life than in the life to come. For myself, I would prefer this judgment to be as a result of living in sin and ignoring the commands of God to live a godly, righteous life. This, as opposed to accusing God of purposely casting sinners into a tortuous hell to pay restitution for an innumerable eternity. It seems more natural to place the burden upon the willfully sinful person than upon a holy, righteous God who warns us out of love that He is incapable to spare us from sin's experience/power/seal/death should we ignore His solution of salvation through His Son and the fellowship of His holy community found in His people.

Again, this is a personal opinion. I am not denying a judgment-to-come but what I am refusing to accept is placing the cause of this judgment solely upon God alone. Yes, in some sense God is seen as Judge and Ruler of this world and His creation. We have investigated what these subjects might mean under the topics of divine sovereignty: whether God's sovereignty is beneficial (vs. harming); partnering (vs. controlling); at all times loving and good (vs. a wrathful love and duplicious goodness); and so forth. These topics would fall under the headings of Arminianism vs. Calvinism which I'll mention in my next article in a short review of Roger Olson's book, Against Calvinism.

Now back to our conversation. What does this all mean? Why this long introduction to the book of Joel? Well, let's continue on....

The Book of Joel as Apocalyptic Literature of a Future Eschaton

How then do we interpret the Book of Joel? Does it predict a divine future full of wrath and judgement? Or does it depict a Jewish congregation's (if not the suffering world's) hope for divine retribution? If it is prophetic, than the work of God in this world has lost - all God's efforts have failed to redeem, to bring shalom into His creation, except by divine force. If prescriptive (sic, dogmatic/creedal), than Israel (or Judah, or its remaining exilic remnants) had given up in witnessing to their neighbors of their glorious God and are found waiting for the coming judgment of the "Day of the Lord" to consume mankind in a great flood of apocalyptic revenge. This position would likewise make of God's divine rule one that was ineffectual, incompetent, or both, so that again, God has lost His battle with evil and must end its reign by force rather than by the Cross. And if not by the Cross, then in essence, the Cross is made weak and loses too.

How then are these two approaches to the book of Joel any different in today's churches which wait for divine judgment while praying for its imminence? When Jesus and the Apostles used the book of Joel they likewise spoke of an end time apocalyptic as remarkable for its fearful warnings as for its pleas to repent. More significantly, in their pleas for repentance each servant of the Lord - whether Jesus or the apostles - became consumed with a missional fire which unleashed God's Holy Spirit power of redemption upon a sin-torn world. They were not found sitting around commiserating on the woes of the world and praying for God's imminent return. No. They were busy praying for God's mighty work of salvation to be declared amongst the habitations of mankind and that He would delay His return just long enough until every last sinner had escaped into the ark of atonement which Jesus had provided through His death and resurrection.

So then, let us ask again, "How are we to interpret the Book of Joel?" If whether prophetically or descriptively of God's people who are scattered across this wicked world as his surviving remnant then two things must stand out:

One, the church must repent of its wickedness and do what its founders did... take up a missional fire which preaches God's word and become active in humanitarian enterprise dispensing grace, hope and healing. And secondly, to not isolate itself from the world so that the church loses its saltiness. But rather, to become deeply involved in the world in ways that will redeem the world and bring to it God's peace and love, care and nurture. The question then is not whether God is coming again, whether He judges of not, or whether sin will have its day upon the rails of God's throne. Nay. The question is whether we as believers and followers of Christ have given up and are simply waiting for God's judgment to fall upon sinful mankind to prove us right and everyone else wrong.

But hadn't this attitude of exasperation and failure been demonstrated before?

If so, then by whom?

Remember the story of Jonah and the whale? Yup, you got it. Jonah was sent by God to the wicked Ninevehites (Assyria) with a message of fearful repentance. Though he was glad to announce God's coming destruction upon their heads he actually first ran away from God's call to duty by shipping in the opposite direction across the Mediterranean Sea. At the last, upon being belched up upon the shore Jonah resigned himself to God's call and attended to his duty which was fearfully received by the Ninevehites when beholding the bleached white oracle of God spitefully pronouncing judgment throughout the plush and luxurious city walls. The people, in response, repented immediately and fell for a time under God's sparing grace. But the story doesn't end there because the last half of Jonah's tale tells of his sulking petulance over having not witnessed God's ruinous judgment fall upon the detested Assyrians. So there he sat upon an unshaded hill for a long time as God ministered to his hard heart even to the point of providing an unwanted plant for shade so angry was Jonah with God's lack of judgment. And I'm afraid today's church is no less kind to this sinful world when despairing of God's rule and falling into a stupor of rage and anger when praying for God's coming wrath.

The point? Let not God's church do this wicked thing. But let His people relent of their posture of doom-and-gloom and disinvolvent in the world but seek to reconcile the world with God in every possible way. But not simply through gospel preaching but also through humanitarian ministries giving shape and meaning to the words of Jesus vouchsafing redemptive reconciliation. Why? Because as any good parent, coach, teacher, or director will tell you - you can preach to the troops all you want but until-and-unless you become personally involved with the lives of those you wish to affect words have very little power. Preach? Yes. But not to the exclusion of working. And if  wishing to preaching then first work. Let your good works preach a better sermon for you than mere words can. And what about our broken hearts yearning for God's rule and reign? Do you not suppose that in working with those we detest, or think of as sinful, or even as our enemy, we will discover how wrong we have been in our judgments? Relational ministries will do a world of good in re-righting the discriminating, or hateful, impulses of our own sinful hearts. The result? If Jesus Christ is in our ministries than the work of God through His Holy Spirit will bespeak release from sin's bondage for both parties; a greater freedom to live pleasingly for Christ; and the tasty fruits of hope, healing, and a new fellowship of community with those the church once considered condemnable. This is the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.

Thus the book of Joel is to be a motivator to Christian action regardless of its prophetic content or its dialectical meaning for a congregation stuck on the perpetual wheel of waiting for divine revenge. An action that cannot come unless God's people become active in this world by sharing God's love which offers hope and healing to all who seek Him. If we believe in the power of God, and in the Cross, and in the power of the Holy Spirit which accompanies God's stunning atonement than let us not weaken it by giving up. Or praying its early end. Or by isolating ourselves by discriminating dogmas and confessions. Or by resorting to heavy-handed force to "make" disbelievers submit. We must be a people who must love and accept and help all whom we might normally not love, accept, or help. Let us not do the work of the devil but learn to do the work of God. This is true revival meted upon judgment, repentance, and restoration.


R.E. Slater

NT Notes to the Book of Joel

The Book of Joel is referred or alluded to numerous times in the New Testament. A few notable (but not exhaustive) examples:

*The Apostle Peter quotes “the prophet Joel” directly in Acts 2:16-21.

*The Lord Jesus refers to Joel 2:10, “the sun and the moon [will] grow dark and the starts lose their brightness” before the Day of the Lord, when He describes the signs of the last days in Matthew 24:29.

*The Apostle Paul cites Joel 2:32, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved,” in Romans 10:13.

*The Apostle John alludes to Joel 2:10 when he describes events of the Tribulation in Revelation 8:12
The Apostle John alludes to the Book of Joel and language of the locust invasion in Revelation chapter 9.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Phillip J. Long - Discussion of 1 Enoch, Part 6

The Book of the Heavenly Luminaries – 1 Enoch 72-82

by Phillip J. Long
June 17, 2016

This section is a lengthy discourse on celestial bodies with the goal of calculating the length of a year correctly.

  • Chapter 72 – The Sun
  • Chapter 73 – The Moon
  • Chapter 74 – Systems of Rotation
  • Chapter 75 – The Stars and Their Positions
  • Chapter 76 – The Twelve Winds
  • Chapter 77 – Four Directions, Seven Mountains, Seven Rivers
  • Chapter 78 – Names for the Phases of the Sun and Moon
  • Chapter 79 – Conclusions on the Seasons
  • Chapter 80 – Parallels Between Sinners and Seasons

In Chapter 81 Enoch is told to read from the “tablets of heaven” and to report this reading to his son Methuselah. These books seem to contain all that will happen to all the flesh of the earth, although this “determinism” is based on astrological prediction. Enoch passes this knowledge onto his son in chapter 82. There is a clear statement in 82:4-6 that the true astronomical year ought to be 364 days. The computations which Enoch learned are true because they were communicated to him by the angel Uriel himself.

This section of 1 Enoch is quite esoteric and seems more or less unrelated to the study of the New Testament. John Collins observes the point of this section is to “prevent sin by calendrical error . . . right observance is determined by an understanding of the heavenly world” (Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 62). The major issue at the heart of this section of 1 Enoch is the length of the year. Everything in the unit serves as a proof for a 364-day calendar rather than a 360-day calendar.

While an arcane and difficult topic for the modern reader, the issue was of critical importance in the first century since it has ramifications for proper worship. The problem of the calendar is therefore important for the New Testament studies as well as Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship because of the dating of Passover. If one holds Passover according to the wrong calendar, does it count? Is it a sin to celebrate Passover on the wrong date? The Qumran community thought keeping the wrong date to be sinful and condemned the priestly aristocracy for using a 360-day calendar, while the Qumran community used a 364-day calendar. That 1 Enoch supports a 364-day calendar may account for the popularity of the book at Qumran.

I need to make another important observation about this calendar. There is nothing special about the calendar in 1 Enoch (or at Qumran for that matter)! It is simply a solar calendar. It is not “God’s Calendar” nor is it an apocalyptic roadmap for the future.

* * * * * * * * *

The Dream Visions – 1 Enoch 82-83

by Phillip J. Long
June 21, 2016

1 Enoch 83-90 is a new section since there is a break from the astronomical speculations of the previous section, although it is related to chapter 82 as a continuation of Enoch’s dialogue with Methuselah (83:1). These two chapters serve as an introduction to the Animal Apocalypse, a slightly veiled allegory of history up to the Maccabean period.

Enoch received these visions before he was married and still living with his grandfather, Mahalalel (Gen 5:12-17). After Enoch receives a vision the coming flood (83:2b-2), he relates his dream to his grandfather Mahalalel. This is Enoch’s first vision, and like Samuel and Eli (1 Sam 3), Enoch requires guidance from his grandfather to understand the vision.

Within the world of the story, the vision refers to the coming flood. But the description goes beyond Genesis 7 to convey “a picture of cosmic collapse and annihilation” (Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch, 349). As is typical in the Enoch literature, the imagery of the flood is conflated with the ultimate judgment of God.

1 Enoch 83:3-4 I saw in a vision the sky being hurled down and snatched and falling upon the earth. When it fell upon the earth, I saw the earth being swallowed up into the great abyss, the mountains being suspended upon mountains, the hills sinking down upon the hills, and tall trees being uprooted and thrown and sinking into the deep abyss. (OTP 1:61)

Mahalalel explains that sin is so great the earth must “sink into the abyss” (primordial chaos), but there is a possibility God would allow a remnant to remain on the earth. He therefore counsels Enoch to pray for the earth (83:6-9), which he does (83:10-11, 84:1-6). Enoch first praises God and acknowledges his greatness (83:2-4). These two verses resonate with many texts in the Hebrew Bible, although it is remarkably similar to Daniel 2:37-38 (describing Nebuchadnezzar) and 7:14 (describing the rule of the Son of Man), but also Isaiah 66:1-2 (heavens as God’s throne, the earth as his footstool).

1 Enoch 84:2 Blessed are you, O Great King, you are mighty in your greatness, O Lord of all the creation of heaven, King of kings and God of the whole world. Your authority and kingdom abide forever and ever; and your dominion throughout all the generations of generations; All the heavens are your throne forever, and the whole earth is your footstool forever and ever and ever.

Enoch’s request on behalf of the present generation. Even if the angels must come under judgment, Enoch prays that God would allow a remnant of humans survive the devastation. He asks God to raise up the righteous and true flesh “as a seed-bearing plant” (84:6). Within the world of the story, this obviously refers to the world after the flood and the family of Noah as a righteous family to repopulate the world: 1 Enoch 10:3; 65:12; 67:3 each describe Noah as a preserved seed.

But the image of a plant which survives the coming judgment resonates with description of the righteous remnant in Isaiah 6:13. At the time 1 Enoch 83-84 was written, the final judgment is still in the future. The prayer is that God will once again preserve the righteous remnant in that coming apocalyptic judgment.

* * * * * * * * *

The Animal Apocalypse, Part 1 – 1 Enoch 85-90

by Phillip J. Long
June 22, 2016

The Animal Apocalypse is one of the most remarkable sections of 1 Enoch. As Daniel Olson says, the Animal Apocalypse “an original theological interpretation of human history.” Olson argues in his recent dissertation this allegory was written early in the Maccabean period as propaganda to support Judas’s actions. Olson dates the section precisely: it was “probably written about 165 BCE and then updated in mid- 161, following the battle of Adasa in March (1 Macc 7:39-50; 2 Macc 15:15-17).” Nickelsburg places 1 Enoch 90:9b-10, 12-16 in italics as a possible interpolation made around 163-161 B.C. The allegory therefore presents a history up to a point in Maccabean Revolt, but the intervention of the Lord of the sheep did not occur in history, nor does the judgment described in 90:20-27 reflect a historical event in the Maccabean period. Similar to Daniel 11, the history is only accurate up to the point when the author begins to speculate about a future intervention by God to restore Israel.

The story begins and ends with Eden. Enoch sees a white bull and a heifer (Adam and Eve) to whom two bulls were born, one black and the other red. The black bull gored the red one, killing it (Cain and Abel). The heifer came after the black bull but the first white bull quiets her and she gives him another white bull (Seth), along with many other bulls and black cows. The third bull (Seth) is white, a reference to the purity of the line of Seth.

Beginning with chapter 86, the Apocalypse offers a history of the pre-flood world. The stars mingle with the cows in the following chapter, giving birth to elephants, camels and donkeys. The cattle become frightened and they begin to bite and gore one another, referring to the fallen angels (Genesis 6; 1 Enoch 6-11). In 1 Enoch 87 a snow-white person comes down from heaven and rescues Enoch out of the chaos and tells him to watch the elephants and other animals. Four heavenly beings seize the fallen stars in chapter 88 and place them in the Abyss, bound hand and foot.

In the earliest part of the vision the identifications are obvious and straightforward, but as the allegory becomes more detailed there is more difficulty determining what the original writer had in mind. The basis for much of the imagery of the animal apocalypse seems to be Ezekiel 34 (sheep and shepherds) as well as the frequent imagery in the Psalms of Israel as the sheep of God’s pasture (95:6-7, for example). 1 Enoch 89:2-9 refers to the Flood. One of the four angels teaches the white bovine how to build an ark and this bovine becomes a man and builds it. The rising waters destroy all the animals, the ark lands and a man and three cows exit the ark.

The rest of Genesis and slavery in Egypt is summarized by 89:10-27. Israel are represented by sheep who are surrounded by wolves and rescued by the Lord of the Sheep (Israel in Egypt and the Exodus). This dazzling Lord leads the sheep out of a swamp and into the desert. In the desert the Lord begins to open the eyes of the sheep (89:28-38). One of the sheep leads the nation becomes a man and is taken up into heaven, a clear reference to Moses (v. 36).

The sheep are then led across a stream (the Jordan) into “a good place,” a “pleasant and glorious land” (89:39). In 89:39-50, the sheep settle in the land. When the sheep become dim-sighted another sheep is appointed to lead them, and their eyes open again (the “Judges cycle”). The sheep are oppressed by a variety of animals (Gentiles). The kings of Israel are rams, Solomon himself is a “little ram” who built a house for the Lord of the Sheep (89:50).

After passing over the Davidic kingdom briefly, 89:51-67 offers significant detail for the divided Kingdom after Solomon. In verse 59 seventy shepherds are summoned and commanded to watch over the sheep. These shepherds are held responsible for what the sheep do, implying these are the seventy elders or priesthood of Israel (Exod 24:1, Ezek 8:11, 1 Enoch 34:1-31). R. H. Charles called the identity of the seventy “the most vexed question in Enoch” (Charles,Commentary, 2:255). He suggested the seventy were angels since they received their orders from God; humans would have been represented as animals in this context. Charles overlooks the fact some of the characters in the story were humans (Noah, for example, was a bovine who became human when given the commission to build the ark) and he seems to ignore the fact these seventy are judged for their mismanagement of the sheep, as were the elders of Israel.

The exile is briefly narrated in 89:68-72. The sheep are delivered to oppressors and many are killed. A writer records in a book how many have perished. This book was read aloud to the Lord of the Sheep and then sealed. Verse 72 is probably the return from exile and the rebuilding of the city and temple under Ezra and Nehemiah. In 89:73-77 the city and temple are rebuilt, but the sheep are weak and poor-sighted (the post-exilic community in Judah).

The first section of the Animal Apocalypse closely follows the story of the Hebrew Bible from Eden through the exile, although it is remarkable how little is said about David and Solomon. Taken as a propaganda piece for Judas and the future Hasmoneans, the first part of the Animal Apocalypse is more interested in presenting Judas as a legitimate successor to other leaders who were empowered by the Lord of Sheep to lead the people out of slavery and into the glorious land (Moses, Joshua).

* * * * * * * * *

The Animal Apocalypse, Part 2 – 1 Enoch 85-90
by Phillip J. Long
June 23, 2016

The next period of history (1 Enoch 90:1-5) from 426/416 to 265/255 B.C. (Nickelsburg, 395). Thirty-seven shepherds pasture the sheep, then twenty-three shepherds pasture the sheep, fifty-eight seasons total (rather than seventy, as expected). The number could be thirty-five (OTP 1:69 note b, following Charles). If so, then the numbers break down to 12+23+23 = 58. This section seems to track the history between the return from exile and the Maccabean period, although it is very difficult to know what to make of the “fifty-eight seasons” other than a general description of the various Ptolemy and Seleucid kings which fought over Palestine.

Like Daniel 11, the apocalypse grows more detailed in the Maccabean period (90:6-12). A “great horn” grows on one of the lambs and rallies the sheep against the oppressors, likely Judas Maccabees. In 90:13-19 the sheep (Israel) battles the beasts (Gentiles in general, Seleucid in particular). The Lord of the Sheep intervenes in wrath; he strikes the ground with his rod and a great sword is given to the sheep to kill the beasts of the earth. This could refer to the victory of the Maccabean Revolt. If so, it is highly exaggerated. If the Lord of the Sheep is God or a messianic figure, then he did not directly intervene in the revolution against Antiochus IV Epiphanies. Verse 19 is the key: “a great sword was given to the sheep.” This divine passive indicates a human agent was given permission by God to successfully make way against the Gentiles (cf. Rev 6:4).

In 90:20-27 the apocalypse now shifts the future as a great throne is set up in the pleasant land (Israel). We are told only that “he sat upon it,” with the implication that the Lord of the Sheep who struck the earth with his rod is the subject. The Lord begins the judgment of the sheep and their shepherds (Ezekiel 34:1-10, the Lord will judge the shepherd of Israel.) In verse 20 the books are opened and seven shepherds are punished for killing more sheep that they were ordered to (verse 22). Perhaps this refers to the various nations who have oppressed Israel: Assyrian, Babylon, Persia, Ptolemys, Seleucids, etc. In Nahum, for example, Assyria is not judged for their role in the destruction of Samaria since this was ordained by the Lord, but rather for going far beyond the decreed destruction by killing and torturing more victims than necessary. The same theme may be found in Obadiah, concerning Edomite atrocities in 586 B.C. These are cast into the fiery abyss (verse 24), the seventy shepherds are found guilty as well and cast into the abyss to the right of the house (verse 26, presumably Gehenna, to the east of the Temple.)

The Lord of the Sheep renovates the old house (the Temple, or the city of Jerusalem) into a new, greater house (90:28-36). The old Temple is torn apart and replaced with a more beautiful building and ornaments, recalling Ezekiel 40-48. As Nickelsburg points out, traditions about a New Jerusalem are widespread in Second Temple Judaism, including Revelation 21:1-4.

1 Enoch is certainly part of these traditions. The vision cannot refer to the early second temple, which was not at all a beautiful building. This is a prophecy of a restored Solomonic temple or perhaps a reference to the Herodian renovations. It would seem odd, however, for the Herodian temple to be praised so highly. The sheep are white and their wool is “thick and pure” (90:32) and their eyes are opened to see good things. For the first time there is “none among them who do not see” (90:35). All of the sheep which survived and all of the other animals worship the sheep. This may refer to a mass gentile conversion after Israel is established in the land (Charles, 2:258, cf. Isa 14:2; 66:12, 19-21).

Finally, in 90:37-38 a new snow-white bull is born with huge horns. All the sheep and animals of the world fear this new bull. He began to transform all the animals into snow white cows, not stopping until they are all transformed. Although the vision did not focus on David, Nickelsburg “the presence of such a messianic figure here should not be surprising” (1 Enoch, 406). In fact, this ideal shepherd may be drawn from Ezekiel 34. There a new, good shepherd appears in the future, replacing the bad shepherds who had failed to care for God’s sheep.
One problem is that the messianic figure in this section is not a sheep (live David and Solomon), but rather a bull. This figure is a new Adam or Seth, the last characters in the apocalypse to be described as bulls. A “new Adam” soteriology ought to sound familiar to Christian readers. As Nickelsburg says, “The closest analogy is in the two-Adams theology of the apostle Paul (Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch, 407). Even if the reference is to Seth, then this bull is a “son of Adam,” or “son of man.” What is remarkable is that all the animals are transformed into snow-white cattle. This is an unexpected universalism: in the eschatological age, the nations will “convert” and worship the God of Israel.

Enoch awakes from his vision and rejoices in the Lord (90:39-42) and weeps greatly because of the vision which he has seen.

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Introduction to the Epistle of Enoch – 1 Enoch 91-92

by Phillip J. Long
June 27, 2016

This last section of 1 Enoch contains wisdom-like literature which condemns various sinners. The section also contains a “testament” in which Enoch urges his grandchildren to live a moral lifestyle. Included as chapter 93 is an apocalyptic section commonly known as the Apocalypse of Weeks. Both chapter 91 and 92 have superscription in some manuscripts indicating the beginning of the fifth book, therefore chapter 91 may be a conclusion to the dream visions of the previous section. Nickelsburg calls chapter 91 a “narrative bridge” concluding the Dream Visions.

Like Jacob in Genesis 49, Enoch gathers his children to listen to his word (91:1-4, 19) and describes to them the increase of violence in the world which will result in great plagues and finally in judgment (91:5-11). In this judgment all sinners and blasphemers will be cut off. Chapter 91:12-17 seem misplaced since they describe the eighth and ninth weeks; the Apocalypse of Weeks in chapter 93 cuts off after the seventh week. Charles re-arranges the text so that the Apocalypse of Weeks is in order, OTP leaves the text out of order without comment. This is confirmed by Aramaic fragments from Qumran discovered since Charles published (Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, Second Edition, 62).

Chapter 92 also forms an introduction to this final section (verse one). Enoch tells his readers they ought not to be troubled by difficult times, the Holy and Great One has declared “specific days for all things (92:2). The Righteous One will wake from his sleep, and walk in righteousness forever. God himself will give the Righteous One eternal uprightness and authority to judge. The righteous will “walk in eternal light,” while the “sin and darkness will perish forever” will never be seen again.

This short chapter seems to speak of a messianic age, assuming the phrase “Righteous One” ought to be taken as the same as in the book of Similitudes (Righteous One, Elect One, “that son of man,” etc.)
. There will come an individual who will establish God’s rule on earth and judge fairly between the righteous and the sinner.

Monday, June 20, 2016

What Is Christianity's Relation to Metaphysics?

As intro, and with several years of hindsight, the authors here below are struggling with the place and logic of Christianity. Though sympathetic to their observations let's make several observations which may help...

1. When reading the bible over its several millenia of construction each oral legend, story, or narrative comes from within a receiver's point of view which necessarily includes personal and cultural beliefs. 

1b. God reveals His revelation inside man's perceptions. When we read the bible we should be cognizant of the metaphysical understanding of each era, nation, region, locality, tribe, family, and individual.

2. There is no one overarching metaphysic nor consistency of metaphysic in the bible. It is a hodgepodge of many worldviews. To claim there is a Christian metaphysic somewhere in it's pages is to look for something not there.

3. Metaphysicists, like phosophers in their various deciplines, have sought through the ages to explain reality. This same exploration also lays in the bible. It is what makes the bible valid. It speaks from its eras.

3b. For argument's sake, let's say there is a simple Christian metaphysic that speaks of God, His creation, its fall, Christ's redemption, and the resurrection hope of creation. This seems consistent throughout every bible page. We'll call this a Salvific metaphysic.

4. As Christian and non-Christian metaphysicists explore "reality" those metaphysics holding portions of a salvific reality seem the more helpful. However, outside of the Christian metaphysic or semantic vernaculars there exists other helpful (perhaps biblical) themes and subjects earlier Christians have overlooked. And certainly from past, older civilizations as human societies have grown more complex than their earlier forerunners.

5. Currently Whitehead's Process Philosophy has become the more helpful. It includes the salvific and theistic elements in Process Theology and has embedded within it such subjects as peoplecare and earthcare found in process-based Integral Philosophy. There are many writers, novelists, poets, artists, and musicians speaking to these areas in theocratic "language".

6. Lastly, creating a wooden epistemology of the bible to match up with standardized dogmas and doctrines will be unhelpful. The ancients used what they had in the past but cannot be as informed as more advanced or current cultures historically more experienced by beauty and cruelty. Even ten years out of date (including bible schooling, such as it is) is a lot of information missed. 

6b. It would be improper to stilt the bible to past historical perspective except to understand its ancient beliefs. Use its pages and the knowledge of academics to advance its salvific messages far and wide. To limit the gospel of Christ and God's love in the past would be like hiding your light under a bushel basket. Hidden and unuseful. "Learn to unlearn to relearn."


R.E. Slater
August 27, 2020

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Metaphysics is a traditional branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:
  • Ultimately, what is there?
  • What is it like?
A person who studies metaphysics is called a metaphysician. Among other things, the metaphysician attempts to clarify the fundamental notions by which people understand the world, e.g., existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility.

A central branch of metaphysics is ontology, the investigation into the basic categories of being and how they relate to each other.

Some include epistemology as another central focus of metaphysics, but others question this.

Another central branch of metaphysics is metaphysical cosmology, an area of philosophy that seeks to understand the origin of the universe and determine whether there is an ultimate meaning behind its existence. Metaphysical cosmology differs from physical cosmology, the study of the physical origins and evolution of the Universe.

Prior to the modern history of science, scientific questions were addressed as a part of metaphysics known as natural philosophy. Originally, the term "science" (Latin scientia) simply meant "knowledge". The scientific method, however, transformed natural philosophy into an empirical activity deriving from experiment unlike the rest of philosophy. By the end of the 18th century, it had begun to be called "science" to distinguish it from philosophy. Thereafter, metaphysics denoted philosophical enquiry of a non-empirical character into the nature of existence. Some philosophers of science, such as the neo-positivists, say that natural science rejects the study of metaphysics, while other philosophers of science strongly disagree.

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An example of a metaphysical "philosophy"

What does metaphysics mean in relation to Christianity?

by Bruce Charlton
July 10, 2013

Metaphysics is a very interesting subject - doubly so when it interacts with religion.

Interesting - and misunderstood. 

Metaphysics describes the ultimate structure of reality - it is about the pre-suppositions or assumptions which underlie more detailed considerations such as specific philosophy (e.g. the philosophy of morals, beauty or specific religions) and science. 

For a Christian, the most fundamental domain ought to be Christianity, which originates in revelation and revelation is in itself a complex product of tradition, scripture, authority, reason etc.

After this comes theology - but theology presupposes a particular metaphysics; for example monism or pluralism, serial time or eternal out-of-timeness, and some kind of point at which questions have to stop and the answer 'it just is' becomes accepted. 

[For example,] the underlying difference between Mainstream Christianity and Mormonism relates to metaphysics - Joseph Smith's Restored gospel is based on a different set of metaphysical assumptions - e.g. pluralism, dynamism, serial time, and the stoppage of questions at the terminus of the existence of the stuff of the universe and laws of nature. 

The big question is whether a different metaphysics means that Mormonism is not Christian. And the answer is: obviously not, because metaphysics is a matter of assumptions, and the Christian revelation did not refer to metaphysics. (Or, at least, the metaphysics of Christian revelation is ambiguous - and can be interpreted in contrasting ways.) 

But even though metaphysics is an assumption and not a discovery nor amenable to empirical investigation - it does make a difference. 

Indeed, it can (for some people, at some times and/ or places) make a profound difference.

Thus a Christianity based on Platonic, or Aristotelian, or Pluralistic metaphysics will have very different emphases, gaps, biases, strengths and weaknesses.

And these metaphysical systems are incommensurable,meaning that one cannot be mapped onto the other, because each works by a different language - a different lexicon and grammar of belief. 

But, they are all potentially Christian - why would they not be? 

Christianity is prior to metaphysics.

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by Christopher Benson
July 27, 2010

My friends and fellow bloggers are talking about metaphysics. So, I will jump in. Matt Milliner announces, “Attempts to overcome metaphysics [have] been shown to be themselves irrepressibly metaphysical.” Matt Anderson insists:

Either a natural order exists, or we impose it. Either the meaning is tied to the structure of things, or we make it up. And if the order exists, our options are conformity or rebellion. There is no middle ground here, despite the ambiguities and uncertainties that we experience in our confrontation with it. But if we reject metaphysics, our only resource for ethics is our will, and God’s.

His point reminds me of a former professor of philosophy, who asked his students: Is reality discovered or constructed? For nearly an hour, the classroom engaged in a spirited discussion, students falling into one camp or another. Once the thoughts were fielded, the professor asked a final question: What if reality is both discovered through creation, incarnation, resurrection, and revelation while also constructed through human understanding?

To reflect on this further, here is an excerpt from William Hasker’s Metaphysics: Constructing a World View (Contours of a Christian Philosophy):

Is there a Christian metaphysic? According to [Alfred North] Whitehead, “Christianity has always been a religion seeking a metaphysic.” What he meant by this is that Christianity came into the world as a religion of salvation rather than a metaphysical system; since then Christian thinkers have adopted a number of different systems but have failed to establish one of them as definitive.

If Whitehead is right about this, then in at least two senses there is not and cannot be such a thing as a Christian metaphysic. In the first place, there is no one metaphysical system which is definitively Christian, but rather a number of systems, all of them more or less inconsistent with each other and all of them more or less adequate to the content of Christian faith. But the fact that Christianity is a religion of salvation also suggests that in a sense no philosophical system can be fully Christian, because no philosophical system can express the unique content of Christianity.

Philosophy is a discipline based on human reflection and human intellectual resources. But the message of salvation is not a discovery of human reflection. It comes to us by revelation, and Christians have consistently acknowledged that its central truths – the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, his atoning death for our sins, his resurrection from the dead, salvation by grace through faith – cannot be known by unassisted human thought. No metaphysical system can incorporate these truths without becoming something other than philosophy, and in this sense no metaphysical system can be fully and distinctly Christian.

But if Christianity is not a metaphysical system, it nevertheless implies metaphysical claims. And since very early times Christian thinkers have struggled to formulate these claims in philosophical terminology and to demonstrate their rational acceptability using philosophical methods. If by a Christian metaphysic we mean the result of such reflection, in which a Christian thinker seeks to develop a metaphysical system which is compatible with Christian faith and which is an adequate vehicle for the expression of Christian convictions, then not only is there a Christian metaphysic, but there are quire a few of them . . . .

First, a Christian metaphysic must speak of God. God is the ultimate and supreme reality; he takes first place in our answer to the metaphysical question, “What is there?” And an adequate account of God’s nature – at least, as adequate as possible – must be a high priority for Christian philosophy.... [Secondly,] a Christian metaphysic must also speak of creation . . . . And finally, a Christian metaphysic must speak of man as the image of God.

This then is metaphysics: a set of questions which press us to the very limits of human understanding, answers to those questions which are passionately held and yet deeply controversial, and in support of those answers seemingly endless arguments and counterarguments, rebuttals and counter-rebuttals. The task of seeking understanding is indeed endless. May we all continue in it, as we seek to love God with all our minds.

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Is Christianity a “Religion Searching for a Metaphysic?”

by Roger Olson
June 7, 2016

Philosopher Alfred North Whitehead famously declared that while Buddhism is a metaphysic searching for a religion, Christianity is a religion searching for a metaphysic.

In a forthcoming book from Zondervan (precise title yet to be decided) I argue that he was wrong; Christianity does have a metaphysic and it is not borrowed from an extra-Christian source. It is basically the same metaphysic as the Hebrews and it is implicit in the Bible, the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. Unfortunately, agreeing with Whitehead (before his time), many Christian thinkers have borrowed non-Hebrew, non-Christian metaphysics from elsewhere and imposed them on both Judaism (e.g., Philo) and Christianity (e.g., Augustine). Perhaps the worst example of such is modern Process Theology (e.g., John Cobb) which borrows a metaphysic from Whitehead and imposes it on Christianity.

I do not deny that extra-biblical, extra-Christian metaphysical ideas can be helpful speculatively in answering questions the Bible does not answer; what I argue is that this must be done ad hoc and not against biblical philosophy. An example is the church fathers’ borrowing from Greek philosophy (“despoiling the Egyptians”) to say that evil is the absence of the good (Gregory of Nyssa and Augustine). The Bible does not say that, but there is a “fit” between what it does say (and imply) and that specific Greek philosophical idea.

I do not argue that the Bible is a metaphysical or philosophical book; I affirm that the Bible is a narrative, a “theodrama,” containing many literary genres, including some that seem more philosophical than others. Overall, however, the Bible is a story that presupposes a metaphysic—not a complete one that answers every conceivable subject of metaphysics but one that, once discerned, answers the basic questions metaphysics has always been concerned with (e.g., “the one and the man”).

Christians generally used to know this even though: 1) They did not always acknowledge it as such, and, 2) They disagreed much about its details, and 3) They often replaced parts of biblical metaphysics with metaphysics drawn from other sources distorting Christian thought into a form almost unrecognizable (e.g., so-called “negative” or “apophatic” theology [Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite] and Process Theology).

I agree with 20th century Swiss theologian Emil Brunner who argued in his Dogmatics (as well as in his much earlier Philosophy of Religion) that there is a philosophia Christiana rooted in biblical revelation and that two tasks of a Christian scholar is to discern it and to integrate it with other knowledge.

Unfortunately, even many Protestant Christians, including evangelicals, have fallen under the sway of a Kantian reduction of religion, including Christianity, to ethics, as if ethics could be supported without a metaphysical vision. Some years ago I read a book (long lost) by a Baptist theologian arguing, in a popular fashion for use in churches, that Christianity is not a “worldview” but a “lifestyle.” As is often the case, he was wrong about what he denied while being right about what he affirmed. But that sentiment is extremely common in modern and postmodern Christianity—including among evangelical Protestants.

Much of my life as an evangelical Christian scholar, teaching now for thirty-five years in three Christian universities, writing articles and books, editing a Christian scholarly journal (Christian Scholar’s Review), has been devoted to attempting to explain to other Christians, especially in the academy (scholars, students, teachers), what “integration of faith and learning” means. In my opinion, it is rarely rightly understood. I have heard others attempt to explain it (e.g., in “new faculty orientations” and in faculty workshops) and have usually felt frustrated because the way “integration of faith and learning” was explained was bound to raise wholly unnecessary objections if not outright hostility.

The “faith” part of “integration of faith and learning” (which is one of the main purposes of Christian higher education) is, in my opinion, the implicit biblical metaphysical vision of reality. It is often referred to as “the Christian worldview.” Of course, a problem that immediately arises is that “worldview” now has several meanings and so claiming there is a Christian worldview arouses consternation—especially among social scientists (e.g., anthropologists) who tend to refer to “worldview” as inseparable from culture. Even Christian social scientists prefer to refer to Christian worldviews (plural) rather than the Christian worldview (singular).

What I argue, with Brunner and others (e.g., Claude Tresmontant and Edmond Cherbonnier) is that there is one biblical-Christian metaphysical vision of reality tha ttakes many different forms and expressions when enculturated. However, to avoid sheer cultural relativism, I also argue that in whatever culture the biblical-Christian worldview appears there are limits to that culture’s alterations of it. It is not endlessly flexible. A major task of every Christian thinker in every culture where Christianity appears is to integrate the implicit biblical-Christian metaphysic, embedded within the biblical theodrama, with that culture’s form of life without distorting either one—to the extent that is possible. It is always a risky project and there can be no pre-set limits or conditions to it except the Bible itself.

However, another reason I believe “integration of faith and learning” in Christian higher education has fallen on hard times is a lack of clear explication of the biblical metaphysical vision, Brunner’s philosophia Christiania, including alternative metaphysical visions, worldviews, philosophies of life with which it is incompatible. Administrators of Christian colleges and universities need to understand it themselves and make clear to their faculties, especially new hires, that studying it and then working to integrate it—take it into account—in their research and teaching is expected. This is especially true in those disciplines where there is likely to be some conflict between alternative, non-biblical, non-Christian worldviews and belief systems and the biblical-Christian one. According to Brunner, and I believe he is right, these are primarily (but not only) the “human sciences.”

The biblical-Christian metaphysic, philosophia Christiana, can be enriched and informed by secular research because all truth is God’s truth, but Christian scholars teaching in Christian schools need to be careful not to corrupt their teaching with beliefs that conflict with the biblical-Christian worldview. This happens all too often when administrators and department heads are not watchful and when even well-meaning, sincere Christian faculty members indulge in syncretism of popular (or even not popular) theories about realities with biblical-Christian truths.

This is the purpose of my forthcoming (2017) Zondervan book: To explain that there is a metaphysic implied in the biblical narrative, to explicate what it is and is not, and to encourage Christian students and scholars to go deeper than just confessional doctrine into understanding this Christian philosophy “hidden” within the Bible itself. This is especially important in the increasingly pluralistic society of America in which no one, anywhere, can take even the most basic of biblical ideas for granted.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Confronting Christians with a God of Love or a God of Violence

Do Christians Serve a Janus-Faced God?

What does "loving our neighbor"mean in terms of a loving and responsible God? Perhaps this can be better defined by "what is it not?" In truth, it is the world which is seeing more clearly now than the church has been. What!? Has the Gospel changed? You bet. And for the better because parts of the church is trying to focus on universal solidarity rather than on particular exceptionalism.

And what about the bible? Is the OT wrong when interpreting God as violent, full of wrath, and judgmental? Or is it right when the Psalmist declares "God is good?"

So who gets to interpret this God of the OT? Perhaps we should let Jesus do this for whom our Christian creeds proclaim "Was-and-Is the Living God come to live amongst us."

But what about the NT's apocalypticisms's declaring the Living God will come back in wrath to condemn the quick and the dead? Is this the correct reading of the bible as continuation of the OT's declarations? Or, was Jesus the perfect picture of God who died for us at our cruel hands upon his holy personage?

Perhaps, its not God who comes to judge us but our own sin which will tear this old world apart should we not heed God's call to commit to loving one another even to the point of sacrificing our lives for each other for love's sake. Certainly this is not the kind of victorious Gospel we wish to read here. Especially in an America so use to writing its own mimetic scripts of worthiness in comparison to the "other" nations of the world!

But what if the script of our actions has been wrong? And what if our script of a vengeful, war-like God, has been wrong? And what if our responsibility is to be in solidarity with this sin-torn world rather than as its enemy? Well, as Jesus might say, these are a lot of "what-ifs" to answer should we be wrong about His gospel of love, mercy, peace, and forgiveness; a gospel which is without a sword, or a military, but one filled with sacrificial servants serving humanity for God's sake if not for our own as a society in solidarity with one another.

If so, then the popular gospel of "who's in and who's out" we hold in our heads doesn't match up with the gospel written in Jesus' blood demanding us to throw away its worthless rags for a better one. One that will tear apart the old wineskins of hatred and repression for an expanding and fermenting wineskin of solidarity and love. The Christian gospel must be a gospel with no tolerance for an unloving, violent God. Why? For such a God is a kind of God whom we must act out as His hands and feet. As a friend has said:
"You cannot separate the belief in the violent God (who is planning on sending all the gays to be tortured forever in Hell) from the acts of violence committed in his name. Reading the Bible in a way that ends up with a god who you have to keep reminding people was “vengeful and full of wrath” has real-world consequences." - Michael Hardin
And if this be the case than it is us who must change in our reading of the bible towards a bible wider than we thought, more inclusive of those than we, as its Pharisees, would wish to behold. A bible that washes feet with crushed hearts, opens blinded eyes with incredulity, and beholds Jesus coming in the clouds to save us - not to rip mankind apart.


R.E. Slater
June 15, 2016

*ps - the following article gets my full approval.

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Before We Forget About Orlando,
Here Are 4 Ways Christians Need To Change

June 14, 2016

Outrage is like catnip to some people…myself included. We find an issue to be mad about, we make a couple of Tweets, and we post some articles on Facebook… And that’s about it. But the kind of anger we experience is meant to spur us into ACTION. Instead, we get the relief of being angry about things, and even experiencing some corporate outrage in the echo chambers of social media… Then we feel a little bit better, and move onto the next issue–But nothing really CHANGES. It’s a counterfeit. And then–a few months later–when the same exact sort of injustice happens again, we’re left wondering, “Why hasn’t anyone DONE something about this!?!” Well, before we all more on to the next issue, I’d like to suggest a few things that actually need to change… Particularly within my tribe: Christianity.

1. Change The Way You Read The Bible

Stop reading the Bible the way that ISIS reads the Qur’an. The people who commit horrible acts like what happened in Orlando are the sort of people who are CERTAIN that their way of understanding scripture is the one right way. If you are the kind of person who tries to quote a verse in Leviticus to “prove” that God hates homosexuality, you are part of the problem. And if you are the sort of person who thinks one verse that has Jesus telling his disciples to “buy a sword” negates the overwhelming call for nonviolence on Jesus’ followers, again, you are part of the problem. The shooter’s father said (in a video comment), “The issue of homosexuality and its punishment–all that they do–God himself will give punishment to homosexuality. It is not for people to decide.” This way of seeing things isn’t about Christianity or about Islam.. It’s about fundamentalism. It’s about a dangerous certainty that informs the way people read scripture, and interprets what is read as having God be for *them* and against everyone else.

If you feel threatened when you see a flag like this,
you are probably reading the Bible the wrong way…

I don’t care what religion you call yourself–You cannot separate the belief in the violent God (who is planning on sending all the gays to be tortured forever in Hell) from the acts of violence committed in his name. Reading the Bible in a way that ends up with a god who you have to keep reminding people was “vengeful and full of wrath” has real-world consequences. And right now we are seeing the fruits of those beliefs in a hate-filled God… We are seeing the fruits of the garbage that is “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” This. Needs. To change. There are other ways to read and understand the Bible (THIS IS THE BEST EXPLANATION OF THAT I HAVE EVER READ).

2. Change The Way You Pray

Telling people you are “praying for them,” while believing that the god you are praying to hates them enough to send them to Hell is one of the most F’ed Up things that I can imagine. Most of those same people probably believe that I’m going to Hell also. And I totally get why you’d think I’m going to Hell… We believe in completely different Gods! You believe in the god who hates his enemies, and I believe in the God who LOVES his enemies. Either way, if our prayers are to have any significance at all, our prayers need to become loving actions. Otherwise, what are they worth? In the Bible, James writes about this…

“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?Suppose you see a brother or a sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”–but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”

There was a neat story about Chick-Fil-A workers going into work on a Sunday (when Chick-Fil-A is usually closed) and making sandwiches to give to the people who were waiting in-line to give blood. And as awesome as this is, if it’s done out of some desire to save people from hellfire, it is “dead and meaningless.” We’re not trying to feed people as a means to an end… Hoping to get them to say some meaningless, magical prayer that will save them FROM a monstrous God who is sending everyone but a very select few to be tortured forever. We feed people because they are hungry. We feed people because they are people. We love people because they are worthy of being loved. And we remind them that they have infinite worth, and that there is a Force in the universe that loves them wildly… Regardless of where they are from. Regardless of what name they have for God. Regardless of what they have or what they look like… And yes–Regardless of who they love.

If you don’t feel comfortable sitting next to people in church, you probably don’t have any business
telling them they are in your #ThoughtsAndPrayers. This photo was taken by the amazing Tabitha
Hawk… A member of our Church.

All over the place, we saw people summoning “Thoughts and Prayers” for the victims in Orlando, and for their families… But many of the people making those pleas were the very same folks who have been actively working to pass laws that make it legal for people to discriminate against the sorts of people who might go to a club like Pulse on a Saturday night. And those same folks call for a”moment of silence” in honor of the ones who died? I agree with Rep. Jim Hines, who said that these, “smug, self-empowering moments of silence in the House… do absolutely nothing for anybody.” If there is any sort of abomination involved here, it is the process of going through the motions of “honoring” a group of people you believe are worthless–Or at least worth less. Keep your moments of silence. Silence is what the LGBT community has been getting for a very long time from many of our elected leaders… I doubt they need any more. Which leads me to my next change…

3. Change The Way You Vote

Somewhere around 90% of Americans favor stricter gun control laws. Do you have any idea how hard it is right now to get 90% of Americans to agree on ANYTHING?!? It is next to impossible. There is absolutely no rational reason for people to be able to buy military weapons that are designed to kill many people in a very short amount of time. And even though the republican allegiance to the NRA is easier to see, this is far from an issue that is split down party lines… There are plenty of democrats who are bought and sold by the NRA as well. These are people who profit off of our fear, and they need to be voted out. This is a public health crisis. As Nicholas Kristof wrote (and was proven true), “More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history.” Yet we have a legislature that is so owned by the NRA that it doesn’t allow our government to keep statistics on gun deaths anymore, or even STUDY gun violence. President Obama explains this better than I could ever hope to in this video:

Why restrict 'good' gun owners, resident asks
President Obama at town hall meeting

[Held at a town hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana, on June 1, 2016,
Hosted by PBS NewsHour co-anchor Gwen Ifill.]

This video is so very important for all of us to watch. This situation is not hopeless.There are things we can do to make our world safer. And save lives. If you want to call yourself “Pro-Life,” then BE pro life. We have an election right around the corner. Please–If you care about this, vote in a way that reflects that concern. Twenty of the lives that were lost in Newtown were kids. These 49 young lives taken in Orlando were people’s children.If all of the people who claimed to be Christians voted in a way that reflected actually being “Pro-life” for more than just Life Before Birth, we could actually DO SOMETHING to make these sorts of tragedies less likely. And I realize people will say things like “People who want to murder can do it with a knife or a hammer” or “Cars kill people–should we ban those too?” or some other BS… But here’s the thing: Cars have uses other than killing people. And if this jack hole in Orlando had walked into that night club with a knife or a hammer, there would be a whole lot fewer calls that had to be made to parents, explaining that the child they love has been killed by a madman–A maniac who we have guaranteed the right to freely purchase a weapon of mass destruction. I get it–Murderers are still going to murder… But we don’t have to make it so easy for them.

4. Change Where You Go To Church

If you go to a church that doesn’t welcome queer folks every bit as fully as you would welcome straight people, you can keep your #ThoughtsAndPrayers. The Church was never meant to be a place of exclusion. The way Christians have treated the LGBT community will soon be looked back on in the same shameful way we look back on the way the Church justified discrimination and hatred and exclusion of People of Color and women. If you feel your heart breaking and changing and evolving on the issue of inclusion within Christianity, you don’t have to stay in a place that preaches exclusion. There are other options… Churches like the one my family and I attend. Last year a whole bunch of people from our church went to Nashville’s Pride event, and we walked in the rain along side our LGBT brothers and sisters, as people calling themselves “Christians” shouted hateful garbage through their megaphones. It was lovely… the day was filled with the kindest folks you’ll ever meet. I took my kids. They loved it. Here’s a picture from last year’s Pride:

That’s me over on the right, along with a couple of my kiddos. We can’t wait to go back this
month… And no act of violence by some deranged fundamentalist could keep us from
returning to stand with our friends.

My life is so much richer for having people in it who are different than me. And belonging to a faith community that reflects that reality has been so life-giving. I feel so sorry for those people who go to a church where they feel like they may be the only person in the building who cried their eyes out watching “Rent.” There is no reason why anyone should feel trapped in a church that is focused on exclusion. If the people you are surrounded with respond to tragedies like the Orlando massacre with demonization of Muslims, blaming of immigrants, calls for even more weapons of war, and silence on the hypocrisy of prayers to a God who supposedly looks on these victim’s orientation as being one that is worthy of death, THERE ARE OTHER PLACES FOR YOU TO GO TO CHURCH. Vote with your feet. Christianity has never been about exclusion. If your church community is more about who it keeps out than who it welcomes in, you are in the wrong kind of church. If Christianity is to be worth anything at all, then we must be allies and advocates and friends to the vulnerable people around us. We must be examples of rational minds and radical love… And not the other way around.