Tuesday, April 17, 2018

10. Christian Ethics

10.1 Rule of Faith
  • Matthew 22:3-40 sums up the entire ethic of Scripture--Love God and love neighbor. 
  • The love command is an absolute. There are no exceptions.
  • The love of neighbor never contradicts love of God. That is to say, there are never exceptions made to the love of neighbor in order to love God. Love of neighbor is the primary way in which love of God manifests itself.
  • To "love neighbor as self" implies a healthy self-respect as someone made in the image of God.
  • Biblical ethics, like biblical theology, is a function of the Bible as a whole, not of individual verses. Individual verses are contextual, more likely to be ambiguous, and stand in a flow of revelation getting more and more precise. Biblical theology and ethics look to the overall voice of Scripture.
10.2 Love God
  • God is the ultimate telos of all things. "The chief end of man is to glorify God and serve him forever" (Westminster Confession). "For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever!" (Rom. 11:36).
  • 1 Cor.  10:31 - Do everything to the glory of God.
  • Col. 3:17 - Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.
  • Rom. 14:7-8 - Whether we live or die... we are the Lord's
  • We must have no other gods before him (1st commandment - Deut. 5:6-8, 11)
  • We must not make any idols, any substitutes for him, any competition with him, any inferior conception of him (such as mistaking the Bible which gives witness to him for him).
  • We show the love of God by loving one another (1 John 5:3; John 15:12).
  • Are there areas of loving God beyond love of neighbor? Perhaps - love of God's creation, for example.
  • Are there "cause God said so" commands, without any purpose other than to test our obedience? Structures of the family? Sexual expressions? It would seem more likely that any expectation of God along these lines is a manifestation in some way of his love for his people and his creation.
  • Justice does not contradict God's love. Justice is 1) redemptive and restorative, 2) protective of his people or the world, or 3) a final abandonment of that which is no longer redeemable.
  • Note that the New Testament does not retain the Sabbath command for Gentiles (Rom. 14:5; Col. 2:16). 
10.3 Love Neighbor
  • The love command is the pervasive ethic of the New Testament. It is the sum of the Law in the Gospels (Matt. 22:39-40; Mark 12:29-31; Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14; Jas. 2:8; 1 John 4:7-8).
  • Matt. 5 indicates how the love command is the filter for all the other laws of the Old Testament. The authority of Scripture flows through this command. Some commands become deeper as a result--hatred becomes murder, lust becomes adultery, divorce becomes adultery. Others become irrelevant--truth-telling doesn't need vows. Still others fall away--don't "eye for an eye."
  • Parable of Good Samaritan--we are to love those we most want to hate. Matt. 5:43-48 - love your enemy.
  • Love is not a feeling. It is not liking someone. Is long term, not just short term. Sometimes "must be tough." Should be corporate and structural as much as we can bring it about, not merely individual.
  • Do not kill... in fact do not hate (Matt. 5:21-22; 1 John 3:15-17)
  • What about war? capital punishment? self-defense? euthanasia? suicide? abortion?
  • Do not commit adultery... in fact don't fantasize (Matt. 5:27-30). Divorce is legal adultery (Matt. 5:31-32).
  • Sexual issues - pre-marital sex (undermines stability of family/society?), homosexual sex (undermines the stability of the family/society?), post-marital sex (undermines the stability of the family/society?) - Matt. 19:5-6
  • Do not steal... Exod. 22:1; Eph. 4:28 -- stealing undermines trust, threatens survival and thriving. This is however far from an endorsement of unregulated capitalism.
  • The value of work - Gen. 1:28; 2 Thess. 3:10-12
  • Everything belongs to the Lord - Ps. 50:12; Hag. 2:8; Mal. 3:8-10
  • When we have excess - 2 Cor. 8:9, 13-14; 9:6-7; against hording Luke 12:15-21; Acts 2:44-45; James 1, 2, 4, 5
  • Be a truth-teller - don't lie in court (9th commandment), Eph. 4:25; Matt. 5:33-37
Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation
Chapter 4: Sin and Atonement
Interlude: A Theology of Israel
Chapter 5: Jesus the Christ
Chapter 6: Salvation
Chapter 7: The Holy Spirit
Chapter 8: The Church
Chapter 9: Eschatology

Monday, April 16, 2018

Inspired, Revealed, Authoritative

We throw these words around about the Bible in the church. Do we understand them?

Inspiration is a many-splendored thing. God inspired the original creation of the books of the Bible for their first audiences. This was a mystical cooperation of the author's personality and understanding with the moving of the Holy Spirit. It was not mere dictation, for the styles of the different writers are unique and their thought balances out by way of differing emphases in tension with each other.

The Spirit continued to speak as New Testament authors read the Scriptures of what we call the Old Testament. They did not always read those words literally. They often heard the Spirit breathe through those words in new ways. There was new revelation from the Spirit. When 1 Timothy 3:16 says all Scripture is God-breathed, we should keep in mind that many of these breathings were spiritual readings of the Old Testament rather than the kind of contextual reading we teach in our Bible study classes today.

The Spirit continues to breathe today. Have you ever heard God say something to you while reading the Bible? It may not have had much of anything to do with what the passage originally meant, but you were sure it was God speaking to you. Now you can be wrong, but the Spirit can blow wherever or whenever or whatever he wants, always of course in keeping with God's character.

God reveals stuff. God revealed things to the original audiences of the Bible. In order for them to understand it, God revealed those truths in categories they could understand--their categories. You might say God "incarnates" revelation. The revelation takes on the flesh of the people to whom he is revealing himself.

If you have spent any time in a different culture, you know that our contemporary categories often are a little different from other places. In that sense, there are real dangers to the "what you see is what you get" approach to biblical revelation.

First, if you don't take the different context into account, you will inevitably apply stuff to today that was actually a matter of ancient paradigms. That makes God look stupid because you are saying God's point of view is that of someone from the ancient near east or the ancient Mediterranean world. Even within the pages of the Bible we find different paradigms on topics like the soul.

Secondly, you may find yourself doing evil. There are those who argued against doing away with slavery because Paul did not tell masters to free their slaves and 1 Peter told slaves to endure injustice from their masters. When God wanted to move the world further toward the kingdom, many Christians resisted. So today, many Christians resist God's movement on issues like women in ministry because they cannot discern the context of biblical statements.

The authority of Scripture is the authority of God. The Scriptures are the medium of that authority. Jesus and the New Testament repeatedly indicate what the content of that authority is--love God and love neighbor as yourself. All the commands of God fall under one of these two headings. There is nothing that stands outside them or in contradiction to them. They are absolutes.

Again, there are those that try to add or subtract from this authority in subtle ways. There are traditions that try to add commands from the Jewish Law that the New Testament clearly says are not binding for Gentile Christians (cf. Rom. 14). Then there are those that would subtly oppress others in Jesus' name by trying to apply various verses in ways that embody hatefulness towards others.

When Jesus gives fulfilled interpretations of the Old Testament in Matthew 5, there is clearly a filtering effect. Commands like those not to kill and not to commit adultery go deeper to intent. This filter ends up tightening God's expectations with regard to divorce. Startlingly, Jesus indicates that God made accommodations to human hardheartedness in the Old Testament Law.

But some commandments also fall away. "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" is not for individuals to practice. Keeping oaths becomes irrelevant in the face of being a truth-teller. In short, the authority of Scripture is an authority of the whole of Scripture. Individual commands and individual verses must be heard in the light of all of Scripture.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

9. Eschatology

9.1 The Rule of Faith
  • The dead are currently conscious, either in delight or turmoil, but they are still dead.
  • Christ will come again to ultimately establish God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
  • There will be a resurrection of all the dead and a final judgment.
  • The dead in Christ will rise, and those who are alive at the time will join them for the judgment.
  • There will be an eternal abandonment of the unjustified.
  • There will be a new creation, and Christ shall reign forever and ever in the kingdom of God.
9.2 Intermediate State of the Dead
  • The Old Testament has almost nothing to say about the fate of the dead. Some older parts seem to have a shadowy sense of the dead similar to that of the Greeks (cf. 2 Sam. 28). Sheol is simply the "place of the dead," without specification of any reward or punishment and does not necessarily picture a literal place.
  • Many parts of the OT specifically deny a personal, conscious afterlife (Job 3:16-19; 7:9-10; 14:12; Ps. 6:4-5; 30:9; 88:3; Eccl. 3:19; 9:4-5. 
  • The clearest reference to conscious afterlife is Daniel 12:2-3. Ezekiel 37 is metaphorical, as probably is Isaiah 26.
  • "We would prefer to be absent from the body and present with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8).
  • "I desire to depart and be with Christ" (Phil. 1:23).
  • "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43)
  • Parable of Rich Man and Lazarus -- Abraham's Bosom, place of torment (Luke 16)
  • "The souls under the altar called out, 'How long?'" (Rev. 6:9-10).
9.3 Great Tribulation
  • Mark 13; Matt. 24; Luke 21 are primarily about events preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70.
  • 2 Thessalonians 2 is deeply ambiguous, could be about end times, but seems to assume the temple is still standing. It is not obviously talking about a temple that is rebuilt.
  • Revelation 7:14 does not have the word "the there. "These are they who have come out of great tribulation," not the Great Tribulation.
  • The book of Revelation in general engages the Roman context of John (e.g., Rev. 18) and much of the imagery is fairly obviously about the first century Roman context (e.g., Rev. 17:9-11).
  • It is of course possible that much of this material does relate to the time just before Christ's return, but it is hard to speak definitively. We will know when it happens.
9.4 Parousia/Second Coming
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 - the "rapture" of 4:17 is probably to join Christ and the formerly dead in order to come back down and participate in the judgment (1 Cor. 6:2-3)
  • 1 Corinthians 15
  • Mark 13; Matt. 24; Luke 21
  • Hebrews 9:28
9.5 Resurrection of the Dead
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17
  • 1 Corinthians 15
  • Revelation 20:5, 12-13. Since this is the only place in Scripture where two resurrections are mentioned, I suspect this is symbolic rather than literal.
9.6 Judgment of the World
  • Matthew 25 - Sheep and Goats
  • Revelation 20 - Great White Throne
9.7 Hell
  • The OT has no conception of hell, only Daniel 12:2 alludes to "everlasting contempt" for some of the resurrected.
  • Paul never mentions hell. In fact, the only mention of any other dead is 2 Timothy 4:1.
  • Luke does mention torment for the Rich Man but is generally silent on the subject (12:5)
  • Mark does briefly mention Gehenna, named after the trash heap outside Jerusalem (9:43-47)
  • By far the most references to hell are in Matthew. (e.g., 13:40-42; 25:32-41)
9.8 New Creation/Kingdom of God
  • Luke 13:28-30
  • Revelation 21
Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation
Chapter 4: Sin and Atonement
Interlude: A Theology of Israel
Chapter 5: Jesus the Christ
Chapter 6: Salvation
Chapter 7: The Holy Spirit
Chapter 8: The Church

Sermon Starters: Paradigm Reset (Acts 3:12-19)

Title: Paradigm Reset
Text: Acts 3:12-19
Date: Third Sunday of Easter, April 15, 2018, Forest UMC

  • Have you ever undergone a complete 180 degrees in your understanding of something. Maybe you didn't believe in God and then you did. I hope none of you ever find out that your spouse is having an affair. We call these sorts of radical changes in thinking "paradigm shifts."
  • The phase comes from Thomas Kuhn, Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
  • When a new star just appeared in the sky (Tycho Brahe in 1572).
  • The change from the earth as the center to the sun being the center (now we would say there is no center)
  • Einstein on spacetime
  • Paul's Damascus Road experience
  • The resurrection was a major paradigm shift for the disciples--didn't expect him to die, didn't expect him to rise.
  • The changes of Pentecost--from cowards to radicals, from revolutionaries to evangelists, from disciples to apostles
  • In this passage, the people of Jerusalem had gone from crucifiers to realizing Jesus was the king.
  • Last week, Thomas came to faith. This week, faith changes our paradigms.
1. Faith changes our understanding of the past.
  • The people of Jerusalem
  • The story of the past changes. History is retold.
  • Soviet joke--The future is known. It's the past that keeps changing.
  • Your valuation of things changes--the apostle Paul
  • Now you begin to see God in your past. I don't believe that God decides everything.
  • But now you see where God may have protected you. Doors that opened and closed can take on purpose.
  • Things that seemed meaningless now begin to take on a purpose.
  • You begin to get a bigger picture of the past. Where the glass was empty, it now becomes full.
  • Joseph--you meant it for evil, God meant it for good.
2. Faith changes the possibilities of the future.
  • Look at the disciples, now bold, performing miracles, speaking in tongues
  • The impossible becomes possible ("I can do all things...")
  • Back to the Future, as people begin to disappear from the picture, X-Men: Days of our Future Past. Or some other illustration
  • You get a long view of the story.
  • The problem of suffering and evil is now placed in a much larger context because you trust that God is love. 
  • The worst possible outcome is no longer the worst possible outcome.
  • How God can change the outcome of a life! What would Billy Graham have done in his life if he had not served God? How many destined for a life of abuse became loving parents and beloved people in the community?
3. Faith changes our sense of the present.
  • People now matter to us.
  • We are confronted with a decision to make. Will we move forward with the truth and God or will we continue on our previous pathway?
  • The Lone Ranger when the Captain realizes he has been supporting a crook. Or some other illustration
  • Hebrews 3-4--Every day that is called "today," we have a choice to make. The metaphor of Israel moving toward Canaan.
  • Joshua 24 - Choose you this day whom you will serve.

Second Patreon Week Begins (Acts 1:6-11)

My patreon experiment now starts its second week. If you missed it, this week we:
Today starts week 2 with Acts 1:6-11 overview.

Acts 1:6-11

What you're missing:

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday Science: Hawking 5 (Particles)

Friday reviews of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time so far.
Chapter 1: Heliocentric
Chapter 2: Spacetime
Chapter 3: Expansion of the Universe
Chapter 4: Uncertainty Principle

Chapter 5: Elementary Particles and the Forces of Nature

Particle Discoveries
  • Aristotle--matter can be divided endlessly (300s BC)
  • Democritus--matter is made up of atoms (400s BC)
  • John Dalton--revived atomic theory (1800s)
  • Albert Einstein--Brownian motion confirms atoms (1905)
  • J. J. Thomson--demonstrated electrons (late 1800s)
  • Ernest Rutherford--atoms have a nucleus (1911)
  • James Chadwick--discovered the neutron (1932)
  • Murray Gell-Mann--Discovered protons and neutrons made up of quarks (1964)
  • Six flavors of quark: up, down, strange, charmed, bottom, and top.
  • P. A. M. Dirac--antiparticles and combined with special relativity (1928)
  • Four categories of force carrying particles:
  • The graviton is proposed as the basis for gravity, and gravitational waves have been discovered since Hawking wrote this book. Personally not sure that gravity is based on particles. Einstein didn't look at it that way.
  • The photon is the basis for the second force, the electromagnetic force. It is much stronger than the gravitational force but can be either attractive or repulsive and works over smaller distances.
  • The particles known as the W and Z mediate what is called the weak nuclear force, which is the basis of radiation. Abdus Salam and Steven Weinburg worked out a way to unify the electromagnetic and weak force into an electroweak force, moving toward grand unification.
  • The gluon is the basis for the final force, the strong nuclear force. I believe that the unification of this force with the electroweak force has also been achieved since Hawking wrote his book. Gravity is what is left to unify.
Other Nuclear Characteristics
  • Particles have spin. The options are 1/2, 0, 1, and 2. Particles of matter are particles of spin 1/2. Particles of 0, 1, and 2 give rise to the forces between matter particles.
  • Pauli's exclusion principle says that two particles cannot be in the same state at the same time.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

8.7 Communion (Biblical Theology)

8. The Theology of the Church (so far)
8.4-5 Apostolic, Eschatological Community
8.6 Baptism

8.7 Communion
8.7.1 Rule of Faith
  • Remembrance of Jesus death and Last Supper
  • Anticipation that we will eat with him again in the kingdom
  • A moment for self-examination, repentance, faith
  • A moment for individual transformation (means of grace, sacrament)
  • A moment of corporate unity, identity, fellowship
8.7.2 The Last Supper
  • A Passover meal, remembering the exodus and salvation from Egypt
  • Jesus anticipated his own death.
  • The tradition remembers the meal as the anticipation of a new covenant inaugurated with Jesus' blood.
  • A final meal anticipating the coming kingdom
8.7.3 New Testament Significance
  • 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 - earliest attestation of the Last Supper by Paul, within 25 years of the event. Very likely to refer to a historical event (as if you doubted)
  • It was a meal (cf. Jude 12 and the agape meal).
  • The problem of Corinth probably relates to the way meals functioned in the ancient world. Eating indicated approval/identification with the people you dined with (cf. Jesus and tax collectors). Cf. also 1 Cor. 5. Cf. also Pliny the Younger's famous letter.
  • So some were getting drunk and others going hungry. This is the problem at Corinth and what not discerning the body was about. It was about the equality of everyone in the body of Christ.
  • So examination here has to do with our relationships with others in the church.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. "Though we are many, we are one body, because we all partake of the one bread." Unity can be found in a common loaf. However, unity can also be symbolized if the congregation partakes of the tiny cup and wafer at the same time.
  • John 6:53-56 is a favorite transubstantiation passage, but that is probably an over-read. The vivid language probably is meant to counter Gnosticism rather than imply literality.
  • Likely a metaphor: "This is my body." "My fist is a hammer."
  • Hebrews 13:10 could be an allusion to communion, although I've never fallen off the log that way.
8.7.4 Points of Debate
  • The Reformation argued over 1) transubstantiation (Roman Catholic), 2) consubstantiation (Luther), 3) spiritual presence (Calvin), or 4) memorial (Zwingli).
  • Transubstantiation in its final form would seem to be linked to an Aristotelian/Thomistic metaphysic, which certainly is not a biblical paradigm applied to communion and quite foreign to a scientific worldview. Aristotle considered objects to be form (what appears) and substance (the underlying but imperceptible material). So Thomas held that the imperceptible substance of the bread and wine literally became the body and blood of Christ. This would not be observable.
  • The idea of the "adoration of the host," given that the bread and wine becomes Christ's body and blood, would seem rather difficult for Protestants to swallow.
  • Luther's consubstantiation would seem to be the translation of transubstantiation into Luther's nominalist paradigm. There is a real presence of the body and blood of Christ "with" the bread and wine, but the bread and wine remain present as well.
  • Zwingli would have none of this. For him it was simply a memorial of the Last Supper. He thus did not have a sacramental view of communion. For him it was not truly a means of grace. This disagreement with Luther resulted in the failure of the Marburg Colloquy of 1529 and any opportunity for the Protestant Reformation to have a single new church was ended.
  • Calvin's perspective would seem to be a kind of via media. Christ is spiritually present with the bread and wine. The bread and wine are a true means of grace, a sacrament of spiritual nourishing and sustenance.
Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation
Chapter 4: Sin and Atonement
Interlude: A Theology of Israel
Chapter 5: Jesus the Christ
Chapter 6: Salvation
Chapter 7: The Holy Spirit

8.6 Baptism (Biblical Theology)

8. The Theology of the Church (so far)
8.4-5 Apostolic, Eschatological Community

8.6 Baptism
8.6.6 Rule of Faith
  • Relates to the washing of sins, although different Christian traditions relate it differently
  • Relates to entrance into the people of God
  • If viewed as a sacrament, it is an "outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace."
8.6.7 Origins in Judaism
  • Jewish ceremonial washings were common at the time of the New Testament. There are numerous miqvaot remains scattered around Israel. These were repeatable washings, meant to make a person ceremonially clean. Qumran has one both as a means of entrance and exit into the community.
  •  John the Baptist gave a one-time baptism to indicate both individual and corporate repentance for Israel's sins. He baptized at the location of Joshua's entrance into the land.
  • Acts 19 indicates that such baptism was not yet Christian baptism. Those at Ephesus needed to be rebaptized in Jesus' name and thus to receive the Holy Spirit. Baptism in water was thus associated with receiving the Holy Spirit, which was the literal event of cleansing for sins and entrance into the people of God.
  • The earliest layers of the New Testament have baptism in Jesus' name. Matthew, writing perhaps in the 70s, has baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
8.6.8 New Testament Significance
  • Paul's earliest mentions of baptism in 1 Corinthians 1:14-17 are less than promotional. One wonders if Apollos was more invested in baptism than Paul (which would make sense given his background in the John the Baptist movement). At first Paul only mentions baptizing Crispus and Gaius, but then perhaps individuals from the household of Stephanus arrive and remind Paul that he baptized them as well.
  • By Romans, however, Paul is using baptism as a central feature of his theme of participation in Christ. Romans 6:3-4. This passage also may imply that Paul baptized by immersion. The resurrection symbolism suggests the end of sin and rising to new living.
  • 1 Peter 3:21 brings out the cleansing aspect of baptism. I view this as a metonymy. Baptism is so associated with the cleansing of sins that 1 Peter can say figuratively that "baptism saves you." More precisely, however, it is the Holy Spirit that cleanses sins. This cleansing is the inward grace of which baptism is the outward sign.
  • In Acts, receiving the Holy Spirit and water baptism are associated events, although they often do not take place at exactly the same moment. We are never told when or even if the apostles received Christian baptism. At Samaria, they are baptized but they do not receive the Spirit until Peter and John travel up to lay hands on them (the disassociation is seen as a problem). In the case of Cornelius and the Gentiles, they receive the Spirit before baptism.
  • Acts 2:38 is programmatic: repent, undergo water baptism, receive the Holy Spirit. In practice today, most individuals receive the Holy Spirit and thus are "in" and cleansed before they undergo water baptism.
8.6.9 Points of Debate
  • Whether to baptize (Salvation Army, Quakers). The vast majority of Christians today see this position as an extreme over-reaction to the ritualism of the Roman Catholic Church. Baptism is a normative practice for Christians, although God is merciful and no doubt will receive true believers into the kingdom whether they were baptized in water or not.
  • Not cleansed until baptism (UPC, Apostolic, Christian Church, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches). Although some may have a sense of God's mercy if one is on the way to baptism or other extenuating circumstances, these groups believe in some form of baptismal regeneration. Higher church groups see infant baptism as cleansing original sin. However, such rigidity does not seem to match the biblical text. (The thief on the cross is technically pre-Christian, so is not a good argument against this position, however)
  • Mode of baptism--immersion, sprinkling, pouring. The New Testament does not prescribe a mode of baptism; therefore, it is a non-essential on which there should be liberty within the Church. Description is not prescription and the New Testament does not even really describe how they baptized. The root fallacy is often invoked about the root of the word baptizo. Suffice it to say both Mark 7 and the Didache reveal that immersion was not always the meaning of the word. 
  • However, it is quite possible that immersion was the default. The Didache is very practical and often dated to around AD100.
  • Infant versus believer's baptism. Believer's baptism is arguably a contextualization of baptismal practice within the individualist cultures of the West, especially the hyper-individualistic United States. Both practices reflect valid concerns and both have rich significance.
  • We should not be surprised that most of the baptisms in Acts are adult baptisms. This is the beginning of baptism and those joining the movement were already adults when the gospel reached them. 
  • It is debated whether the household baptisms of Lydia and the Philippian jailer included children. It would have fit the culture of the time, which was collectivist, but we simply do not know for sure.
  • Since we believe children are "in" until they reach some sort of point of accountability, since it is not the baptism itself that saves you, there is a rich symbolism of inclusion within the family of God that is part of infant baptism. It places a stronger onus on the church to pray for and guide this young person who is part of the body of Christ. The young person then faces the pressure not to leave the body and it is easier to stay in than to choose to join.
  • Believer's baptism has the benefit of a conscious individual choice, which is a hallmark of Western identity. We do not arrange marriages. We date and make individual choices to marry. Nevertheless, the child is "outside" in limbo and the threshold of choice to join requires more impetus and thus some might not join.
  • How many times. Once baptized, there is no need for a repeat. Baptism is a sacrament of inclusion, and it is bad theology to see yourself going in and out and in and out of the body. Nevertheless, God is very practical. Spiritual benefit trumps ideological symbolism.
Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation
Chapter 4: Sin and Atonement
Interlude: A Theology of Israel
Chapter 5: Jesus the Christ
Chapter 6: Salvation
Chapter 7: The Holy Spirit

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

8.4 The Church as Apostolic Community

8. The Theology of the Church (so far)

8.4 An Apostolic Community
  • Ephesians 4:11-13
  • It is not clear the degree to which this passage was meant to be programmatic for the long haul of history or was encapsulating the church in its foundational existence.
  • Most of the roles would seem to be longstanding. For example, the New Testament never gives any indication that the prophetic role would ever stop. Prophets arose as the Holy Spirit revealed truth outside any organizational structure. 1 Corinthians 12-14 suggest that even a local assembly could be full of prophetic activity. To take 1 Corinthians 13:9 as the cessation of prophecy after the completion of the New Testament is ludicrously out of context and inserts elements into the text that are completely foreign to its context. Paul had no knowledge that he was writing Scripture. Prophets could be situated in a location.
  • The roles of evangelist, pastor, and teacher would seem to be perpetual. An evangelist is a proclaimer of the good news that Jesus is king and that the kingdom of God was coming. This would seem to be someone doing what apostles did but as someone who had not seen the risen Christ. The only specific person of this type we know is Philip the evangelist, who traveled around Judea and Samaria proclaiming the good news. Timothy is told to do the work of an evangelist (1 Tim. 4:5)
  • The role of pastor is not mentioned much in Scripture. Peter tells the elders of churches to shepherd and oversee their flocks and calls Jesus the great Shepherd of the sheep (1 Pet. 5:2, 4). 1 Peter thus seems to equate elder, pastor, and overseer ("bishop") as those who guide a local assembly or perhaps several local assemblies in a particular city. It seems more likely than not that there were more than one such elder in each house church and/or city.
  • The later books of the New Testament seem to picture the rise of itinerant teachers. These individuals may have moved around some and relied on the patronage of someone in a location for their support. John the elder tries to get Gaius to receive Demetrius in his church, possibly one such teacher. Apollos would perhaps be another example of such a teacher.
  • The one role on the list that was not clearly meant as a role beyond the early church is apostle, since an apostle was someone to whom the risen Lord had appeared (1 Cor. 9:1) with the commission to witness to his resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:8 suggests that Paul was the last apostle in the early church of this kind. However, the word apostle can be used in a lesser sense, of someone sent with a commission (cf. 2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2:25). 
  • Historically, the authority of the apostles is understood to be continued both 1) through the Scriptures, which continue their voice, and 2) through the institutional Church. However, a significant segment of the Church today is being energized at the thought that God might be raising a generation of apostles today, not as individuals to whom the risen Jesus has appeared but who have anointed authority (cf. 2 Cor. 12:12). This new apostle would seem to be some combination of the prophet and evangelist. 
  • The Ephesian list is not a complete list. For example, we know of deacons in the early church (e.g., Rom. 16:1). Elders/overseers would also seem to be the more common name for local church leaders rather than pastor. 2 Timothy 1:11 calls Paul a preacher (and teacher).
  • There is debate whether there should be a comma after "to equip the saints." The question is whether the leaders mentions 1) equip the saints, 2) do the work of the ministry, 3) build up the body of Christ (if there is a comma there). Or, do these leaders equip the saints so that the saints can do the work of the ministry and build up the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 certainly would support a distributed ministry within the church. However, this could simply be the contextualization of the Church in a more democratic world.
8.5 An Eschatological Community
  • The Church is the assembly of the end times and of eternity. We get a picture of this eternal community in Hebrews 12:22-24. Also confer Revelation 22.
  • There are passages that delegate authority in the meantime to the Church on earth in this time between the now and not yet. 
  • Matthew 16:16, 18-19 give the Church authority to bind and lose things on earth under the authority of Christ. This is an important authority in the never-ending work of contextualizing the good news and its implications. What should the Church do when the good news reaches into polygamous contexts? How does the Church live under a persecuted context? What do we do in a world where divorce is prevalent?
  • John 20:22-23 gave the apostles the authority to forgive and retain sins. This is an authority the Church has to discipline within the community. Paul certainly dispenses such discipline (cf. 1 Cor. 5). James 5 implies a community that mediates the forgiveness of sins.
  • Presumably the Church is led by the Holy Spirit in such actions. A minister might be faith for a Christian who is struggling to believe. A minister might proclaim forgiveness to someone who is having a hard time accepting forgiveness. Such things must be done in conjunction with the Spirit or they are only an empty fantasy.
Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation
Chapter 4: Sin and Atonement
Interlude: A Theology of Israel
Chapter 5: Jesus the Christ
Chapter 6: Salvation
Chapter 7: The Holy Spirit

Sunday, April 08, 2018

My New Blog on Patreon

My knew Patreon blog gives:
  • On Sundays, a free 10 minute discussion of a Bible paragraph, starting with Acts 1:1-5
  • For a 3 dollar a month subscription, a daily run down of the Greek for each verse
  • For a 5 dollar a month subscription, on Saturdays a more scholarly engagement with the paragraph.

Sermon Starters: Blessed Belief (John 20:19-29)

Title: Blessed Belief
Text: John 20:19-29
Date: Second Sunday of Easter, April 8, 2018, Forest UMC

  • The first week of the new age. Some questions about how to fit the gospels together. We know that somewhere in the next forty days, they went back to Galilee. Matthew, Luke, and John all tell about an appearance that first Sunday night in Jerusalem. Matthew, Mark, and John all indicate appearances back in Galilee, but in Luke it almost sounds like Jesus ascends immediately (cf. Acts!), and Luke-Acts never give any hint of appearances in Galilee.
  • None of this is any reason to worry or doubt. It does indicate that the Gospels are not simply video tapes. Luke knows about the appearances in Galilee. He intentionally chooses not to tell the story that way. Some of our doubts about the Bible come because we have the wrong expectations, not because there is any problem with these presentations. 
  • In fact, differing presentations speak to a reality that has rippled in different ways. The Gospel authors are not just copying and developing each other. These are multiple ripples. 
  • 1 Corinthians 15 + empty tomb = reasonable faith
  • John is the only one who tells about the appearance in our Scripture today one week later... Thomas was not there the night of the resurrection to see Jesus.
  • Thomas symbolizes all of us who would love to believe but have honest doubts.
  • Illustration
1. We need faith to live.
  • We need faith because we need hope.
  • Victor Frankl - "A man can live with any how, if he has a why."
  • Simone Weil, philosopher who died in England while France was under German occupation
  • Star Wars - Padme at the end of the third movie
  • Hebrews 11:1 - "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
  • What is faith?
  • There are distinct definitions: 1) simple belief, 2) faithfulness, 3) confidence or trust. The last definition is the one we are concerned with today.
  • Faith implies a lack of complete certainty, but it is not necessarily blind.
  • You can't keep doubt from flying overhead, but you don't have to feed it. (A "double-minded" person is not a person who has doubts go through their head. It's a person whose loyalties are truly divided between God and the world.)
2. God understands doubt
  • 1) Doubt can be healthy - Reagan - "Trust but verify."
  • 2) Faith is not confessing the creeds or quoting the Bible. The demons have belief without faith.
  • Alfred Lord Tennyson - "There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds."
  • The biblical "debate" between James and Paul - "You show me your faith without works, and I'll show you my faith by my works." Jas 2:18
  • 3) Some people do not question because they lack faith. They are afraid what they will find.
  • On the other hand, as long as you are not hypocritical about it, it is okay to protect oneself from questions because you are not sure you can handle it.
  • 4) Without really considering other possibilities, you do not yet really believe. You are just a slave to what someone else told you.
  • Doubt seeking faith. (which is a form of faith seeking understanding)
  • Pascal - God has not made things definitively clear because that would move our head and not our heart. God wants to see our hearts.
3. Faith is a miracle available to all.
  • Faith isn't something we can work up on our own. It is a gift from God. Prevenient grace
  • Arguments never make someone believe. Only the Holy Spirit makes it possible. Arguments can only alleviate obstacles to faith.
  • If you want faith...
  • Ask God for more. Ask others to pray for you to have more.
  • Surround yourself with people of faith. Some people have the gift of faith.
  • Immerse yourself expectantly in Scripture. What might God say to me?
  • Illustration
  • Matthew 28 and the great commission - "some doubted"
  • Easy to doubt on the individual level. If we could see the big picture...
  • "I believe. Help my unbelief." (Mark 9:24) - the object of our faith in the New Testament is primarily God the Father, sometimes in Jesus. Saving faith is not faith in the Bible, although trust in the Bible can lead to faith in God. 
  • "I am willing to believe. Help me to believe."

One Week After Easter

Today's excerpt from my recent novella.
... One week after his previous appearance, all eleven were in Capernaum at the house of Peter, including Thomas. It was Sunday night, one week after the resurrection. And he appeared to them again.

Thomas had doubted them before. He thought they must be hallucinating. “You just want him to be alive,” he said. “I’m going to need to touch the holes in his hands and side for me to believe.”

And Jesus knew his doubt. “Here I am Thomas. Touch my hands and side.”

But Thomas did not need to touch him. He fell to his knees. “My Lord. My God.” And Jesus was gone again.

The next morning they went everywhere telling anyone they found that he was risen. Philip went to Bethsaida. Nathaniel to Cana. Matthew and James the younger went to Chorazin...

Friday, April 06, 2018

Friday Science: Hawking 4 (Uncertainty Principle)

Chapter 4 is fairly short and titled, "The Uncertainty Principle." I continue to be pleasantly surprised that, while I have never pushed through this book these last 25 years, I have basically covered all this ground elsewhere. Here are some bullet points on the chapter.

The Uncertainty Principle
  • At the beginning of the 1800s, Laplace thought that science indicated a deterministic world. Hawking suggested this was resisted by people who believed God was involved in the world.
  • He must mean scientific determinism, since there are plenty of theists who believe in divine determinism. 
  • I have always found Hume and others to be the thickest of imbeciles on this point. Even if the universe were rigidly and mechanistically deterministic, that would not logically preclude God acting from the outside. This relates to my contention that both theist and atheist often do not understand the implications of ex nihilo creation, making a whole lot of analytic Christian philosophers look like idiots to me.
  • 1900, Max Planck suggests that energy exists in quanta rather than in a continuous spectrum of energy.
  • In 1926, Werner Heisenburg recognizes the uncertainty principle. The better you know the position of a particle, the less determined the momentum of a particle is and vice versa.
  • Hawking was a positivist idiot, leading to a lot of confusion over the years as to what exactly the Uncertainty Principle might mean. He presented it in a moronic way.
  • The way he presented it was as if it is because we cannot observe its position without messing up the momentum and vice versa. In other words, he went fallacy of ignorance on us. If we can't know it, it doesn't exist. Moron.
  • The interpretation of the uncertainty I prefer is that these things do not have a specific state in the first place. When you observe a position or a momentum, you cause it to take on a specific state. In this sense, it is not indefinite because we cannot know it. We cannot know it because it is indefinite.
The Double Slit Experiment
  • The second quantum paradigm shift he presents is the double-slit experiment. If you randomly shoot electrons at a grid with two slits, an interference pattern will emerge on a screen behind the grid, as if the electrons are a wave that goes through the two slits like water would and then adds and subtracts on the other side as the two emerging waves collide ("interference").
  • But if you remove one of the slits, the emergence won't be like one wave. It will be like shooting particles through a slit.
  • This is the idea that a particle is both a particle and a wave. de Broglie famously suggested that particles had pilot waves and thus that particles very literally were both particles and waves.
  • Feynman suggested that the particle goes through both slits at the same time. 
  • I don't have time to review, but to me the best explanation of this phenomenon is again, probabilistic. We cannot determine where any individual particle might go, but with one or two slits, the resultant average is what we observe with one or two slits. The probability is certain. The individual path is not.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

8. The Church 1

8. The Theology of the Church
8.1 The Rule of Faith
  • Born on the Day of Pentecost
  • Nicene Creed: "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic"
  • Protestant Reformation: "word rightly preached, sacraments rightly administered, community rightly ordered."
  • Visible and invisible
8.2 The Assembly
  • Possible origins in the synagogue and the yachad of the Dead Sea Scrolls
  • A local house gathering
  • In the Prison Epistles becomes universalized, the church universal
8.3 Images of the Church
     8.3.1 The Body of Christ
  • 1 Corinthians 12:27, 18-20 - one body (body of Christ) with one Spirit, many members many functions
  • Romans 12:4-8 - many gifts, one body (background of grace in patron-client relationships)
  • The shift in Colossians and Ephesians - Christ as the head, the church as the body (Col. 1:18; Eph. 5:23)
     8.3.2 The Temple of God
  • Galatians 2:9 - key apostles as pillars, an alternative temple community (cf. Essenes)
  • 1 Corinthians 3:16-20; 6:19 - local assembly is a temple
  • A building with foundations - 1 Cor. 3:11 (Jesus Christ the foundation)
  • The shift in Ephesians (2:19-22) to the foundation being apostles and (Christian) prophets, with Christ as the cornerstone
  • 1 Peter 2:5 - royal priesthood, spiritual house
     8.3.3 The Bride of Christ
  • Ephesians 5:23, 25-27
Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation
Chapter 4: Sin and Atonement
Interlude: A Theology of Israel
Chapter 5: Jesus the Christ
Chapter 6: Salvation
Chapter 7: The Holy Spirit

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

William Perry's Stages of Intellectual Development

Today Bud Bence presented William Perry's stages of intellectual development to the new faculty seminar on the residential campus of IWU. The operative question was to what extent did a person's beliefs need to be questioned in order to reach genuine intellectual maturity.

The stages were 1) unity, 2) duality, 3) multiplicity, 4) relativity, 5) skepticism, 6) personal responsibility, 7) intellectual integrity on the level of individual consistency, 8) intellectual integrity on the level of interpersonal consistency, 9) intellectual integrity on the level of global consistency.

Perry was of course completely and thoroughly secular, so we were asking what a Christian version of this developmental schema might look like. Here's my stab:

1. Unitary thinking
No awareness that other perspectives on an issue even exist. Other ideas are just plain weird. Children think this way.

2. Binary thinking
There are only two perspectives on an issue--the right one and the wrong one. Black and white thinking. Other perspectives are just plain wrong. Teenagers often think this way. Many adults never progress beyond this way of thinking, meaning that they are intellectually stunted and see truth as a collection of false alternatives. The term "biblical" is sometimes a front for "what I already believe" rather than a deep engagement with Scripture.

3. Spectrum thinking
On most issues, there is a spectrum of nuances and possible positions. What Perry calls multiplicity is an acknowledgement of these sorts of nuances. Hopefully college students begin to appreciate these sorts of nuances in their first couple years. Unexamined assumptions are brought out into the open.

4. Positional Problematization
This is my version of skepticism. This is where you genuinely see the weaknesses of your original positions and can see your positions from the standpoint of other positions. Faith is seeking understanding, but there is an awareness that many presuppositions are cultural rather than specifically Christian.

5. Epistemic Humility
Whatever positions emerge from the problematization--even if they are the same positions with which you began--you now hold them with an awareness of the strengths of other positions and the weaknesses of your own. There's a recognition that the interpretation and appropriation of the Bible is not without ambiguities itself.

6. Epistemic Integration
Whether there is complete consistency between your positions, you are aware of the relationships between your ideas, including paradoxes and potential incongruities. There is an ability to live with some unresolved issues and the quest for deeper understanding becomes a lifelong journey. You hold presuppositions by faith, but they are not unexamined.

7. Faith Integration
Your ideas are integrated with your Christian faith and your life practices. Ideally, the center of your Christian identity is a matter of your being, your heart, your character, your attitudes and intentions. A life of love of God and neighbor then manifests itself in your choices and behaviors. Your ideas sit on top of these, hopefully in consistency with these.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Monday--Back to Galilee

Today's excerpt from my novella.
Early the next morning, they all began the three day journey up the Jordan to Galilee. Lazarus went with them too.

The highest heaven does not have the same time as the earth or the universe. The very moment of creation was the same moment that the Logos was incarnated and glorified in the universe. And it was the same moment that Jesus was enthroned as Lord.

He is Lord. He is risen from the dead, and he is Lord. He was always Lord outside of time. He was always the Son of God from eternity past. Yet he was also exalted to God’s right hand after he rose from the dead. He was enthroned as Son of God after the resurrection. It is a paradox beyond human understanding.

From the moment of creation the LORD said to the Lord, “Sit at my right hand.” Now, exalted to God’s right hand, God said what he says in the eternal now at the beginning of time: “You are my Son. Today I have given you birth.” Christ was eternally begotten of the Father, and Christ was declared God’s Son at the moment he was exalted after the resurrection. The heir apparent took the throne that he was already sitting upon.

The disciples spread out in Galilee to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection. They were becoming his apostles, witnesses of the resurrection sent to proclaim his risen Lordship. His mother Mary proclaimed his Lordship to Jesus’ brothers. Later that year, Jesus would appear directly to his brother James...

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Sunday: I've just seen Jesus!

Today's excerpt from my novella.
For the moment, they were devastated for Jesus’ body to be missing. It was devastating to the already devastated. Many of them had already wept on the way to the tomb, and now they could not even anoint him. They had been so concerned even for his body to be buried. So many bodies of the crucified were simply tossed into the trash heap of Hinnom to burn or were torn apart by stray dogs. A sudden fear came on them that someone had simply thrown Jesus’ body away.

They quickly returned to Clopas’ house. Mary Magdalene in particular ran as fast as she could—quite an unusual sight to see a woman running through Jerusalem. They hoped someone might go to Joseph of Arimathea to see if he knew what had happened.

Peter and Lazarus were the first two disciples Mary encountered. Out of breath, she finally managed to get across that Jesus’ body was gone. “They’ve taken him,” she said. “His body is gone from the tomb.” Then after a few more gulps of air. “We don’t know where they’ve taken him.”

Simon Peter and John Lazarus bolted for the door, with Mary not far behind. They passed the other women, who were a little over half way back to the house. Lazarus got there first, with Peter not far behind. There were no more answers for them than there were for the women.

“Maybe Joseph knows something,” Peter said. “He has to still be in town. He wouldn’t travel to Arimathea on the Sabbath. We need to find out where he’s staying.”

But just before he started running again, Lazarus grabbed Peter’s arm. “What if he’s risen?” he said.

“What?” Peter said.

“He raised me from the dead. What if he raised himself?”

Just at that moment, Mary Magdalene arrived back again as well.

“We’re going to go find Joseph,” Peter said to Mary.

“Be encouraged, sister,” Lazarus also told her. “Nothing is impossible for God!” And they left again.

Mary Magdalene just sat in the garden weeping and praying. “Abba, where have they taken my Lord? Abba, have mercy on us!” At that moment Jesus appeared to her. She thought he might be the gardener. She wondered if perhaps God had answered her prayer to show where the body was.

“Why are you crying?” he said to her.

“Sir,” she said. “I am looking for the body of Jesus of Nazareth, who was set in that tomb over there right before the Sabbath. Do you know where they have taken him? Have you taken his body somewhere?”

She could not recognize him yet, although there was something oh so quieting and peaceful about him. There was something very familiar.

“Mary,” he simply said, and she knew.

Saturday, March 31, 2018


Today's excerpt from my novella.
Two tasks were planned during his time in death. The first was to go to the “place” where one group of fallen angels were bound, near where the spirits of the faithless wait. Some of the fallen angels are already bound for all eternity.

I will share more details later in my diaries, but there was a point early in the story of humanity when most of the inhabited world was destroyed by water. The days right before then were a time of great wickedness. Since the time of that flood, fallen angels remain unseen to the human eye. But it was not always the case.

Before the flood, one group of fallen angels dared to appear as men. The wickedness they brought was swallowing up humanity. It was not God’s time. Humanity was not far enough along for the Logos to come or for God’s people to emerge. God commanded Michael to intervene and those angels were bound forever in the fourth dimension.

Jesus’ first task in death was to proclaim a definitive victory over these imprisoned spirits. With his death, their defeat was final. The earth was redeemed. It just didn’t know it yet. Satan’s power was defeated. He just had not fully experienced it yet.

Jesus’ second task was to announce freedom to the faithful. They already knew peace. They already knew hope. Now Jesus confirmed to them that salvation was accomplished. They would rise again with glorified bodies. All the sacrifices they had made in life had pointed toward this moment in history. They were only foreshadowings of this time, anticipations of a reality that only Christ could actually bring about.

Friday, March 30, 2018

7. The Holy Spirit

7. The Theology of the Holy Spirit
7.1 Rule of Faith
  • A distinct person within the Trinity
  • Especially associated with God's omnipresence
  • Draws us toward salvation, convicts of sin
  • A seal of ownership, guarantee of inheritance, down payment of coming age
  • Unifier of body of Christ
  • Basis of Spiritual power and gifts
  • Instrument of spiritual cleansing and sanctification
  • Leader into truth
7.2 The Spirit in the Old Testament
  • Personhood is still ambiguous
  • Present in creation (Gen. 1:2)
  • Mediator of God's presence everywhere (Psalm 137)
  • Occasional empowerment of specific individuals for specific purposes (Samson, Gideon)
7.3 The Spirit of God and Christ
  • A person, referred to with a masculine pronoun in John 14:26
  • Romans 8:9-11 floats smoothly between Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ--same Spirit.
  • Distinct in Trinitarian expressions: 1 Cor. 12:3-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6; Matt. 28:18-20
  • God is Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17-18). To say God is a Spirit both 1) suggests that his essence is transcendent and yet 2) suggests that he is everywhere here immanent.
7.4 Functions of the Holy Spirit
7.4.1 Revealer
  • John 14:25-26 (he will teach you everything)
  • John 16:13 - Spirit of truth will guide you into all truth
  • Giver of prophecy (2 Pet. 1:20-21 and various)
  • Convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11)
7.4.2 Deposit and Guarantee
  • 2 Cor. 1:22--seal of ownership
  • Earnest--2 Cor. 1:22; Eph 1:14
  • Heb. 6:4-5
7.4.3 Ground of Unity
  • Eph. 4:4
  • Acts 15:8-10--unity between Gentile and Jew
  • 1 Cor. 12:4, 13 (spiritual gifts)
  • Phil. 2:1
7.4.4 Power and Purity
  • "You will receive power" (Acts 1:8)--healing, boldness, tongues
  • Spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12)
  • Sanctifier--2 Thess. 2:13
  • Empowerment for righteousness--Gal. 5:16; Rom. 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:18
7.4.5 Advocate
  • John 14:16 (cf. 1 John 2:1)
Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation
Chapter 4: Sin and Atonement
Interlude: A Theology of Israel
Chapter 5: Jesus the Christ
Chapter 6: Salvation

Friday Science: Hawking 3 (Expansion of Universe)

I started Friday reviews of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time.
Chapter 1
Chapter 2

Chapter 3: The Expanding Universe
1. I'm trying to figure out why I found this book so hard to read back in the nineties. My brain is a strange thing. Sometimes nothing will go in and then at other times a mess of complicated stuff goes right through. My breakthrough book was The Perfect Theory.

So chapter 1 talks about the earth at the center of the universe. We hear about Copernicus and Newton. He mentions relativity and quantum mechanics. Chapter 2 then gives Einstein's special and general theories of relativity. Chapter 3 is about the Big Bang.

2. This chapter makes it clear that Hawking sees how the Big Bang theory could play into belief in God but of course he rejects that. I'm always a little puzzled by Christians who have a really negative view of a big bang, because it seems to serve in strong support of the cosmological argument for the existence of God.

It must be the fact that most scientists think it took place a little less than 14 billion years ago. But that's not the same as evolution. John Piper, for example, is very open to an old earth even though he does not believe in evolution.

3. He talks a little about the process of discovering that we are inside a galaxy of stars and that there are millions of other galaxies of stars. Edwin Hubble in 1924 was the first to discover other galaxies. The two factors in the brightness of a star are its luminosity and its distance from us. Hubble's logic went like this:
  • If we know the luminosity of what we're observing, we can figure the distance from us.
  • We know the distance of some stars near us using geometry. Since we know the distance, we can determine the luminosity of various type of stars.
  • [We can type them by analysis of the light they emit, their spectra.]
  • Now, knowing the luminosity of these types, we can figure out the distances of distant ones.
4. Hubble discovered that the spectra of all the stars everywhere was shifted to the red end of the spectrum. That is to say, using the Doppler effect, they were moving away from us. In short, every point, everywhere in the universe, is moving away from every other part of the universe. The universe is expanding.

Indeed, the farther away a galaxy is, the faster it is moving away! The speed of expansion suggests whether 1) it will eventually slow down and pull back in on itself (cosmic crunch), 2) it will continue at a steady speed, or 3) it will expand faster and faster until there is a cosmic rip. The third seems to be the case. Alexander Friedmann in 1922, four years before Hubble, had predicted the expansion.

Einstein hated the idea of cosmic expansion, actually introduced a "cosmological constant" into his formulas to make it stop. :-) Ironically, he was right about the constant, but wrong about expansion.

5. In 1965, two men working for Bell Labs picked up a background radiation that was theoretically explained by a big bang. If the universe was infinitely old, it would have already dissipated. The universe must have been fantastically hot to begin with, but it has been cooling down ever since. If we extrapolate back, the universe would have begun as something like a "singularity," a single point.

"Dark matter" has also been proposed to explain why galaxies swirl as they do. The outer rims of the galaxies swirl at the same basic speed as other parts.

A lot of people didn't like the idea of an expanding universe. It played too easily into an argument for God. Fred Hoyle in England was a very charismatic propagator of a "steady state" theory, where matter is constantly being created. He's a study in how people believe as much because of the person selling stuff as on the basis of truth. He was wrong. Go away, charmer.

6. The chapter ends with Roger Penrose's discovery of the probability of black holes, and of course Hawking's work built off of him. Together they proposed that the universe had begun with such a singularity that then expanded in a big bang. Again, this idea faced a lot of resistance but, in the end, the math was the math.

The problem--still unsolved--is that general relativity and quantum mechanics don't fit together. This is no problem today because the cosmos is really big and the atom is really small. But before the big bang, the universe was immensely dense and immensely small. This is the biggest problem in modern physics.

Friday--Pilate's Decision

Today's excerpt from my novella.
“So are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate said.

“That is why I am here,” Jesus finally said.

“They say you have been stirring up trouble all over Galilee. They say you healed one of the beggars over near the Pool of Bethesda. Is that true?”

Jesus did not say anything.

“You know what I think?” Pilate continued. “I think they’re jealous. I hear the people love you. The people don’t love them. Everyone knows that the money changers get rich off the people who come here to sacrifice.”

Pilate paused. “But that’s just the way the world works. The big fish eat the little fish.”

There was the smallest flicker of the Spirit in Pilate. This was his moment. At some point in every human’s life, the Spirit gives an opportunity for everyone to move toward God. For a moment Pilate felt the smallest tug of the Holy Spirit.

“Let’s see if the people love you enough to save you.”

It was customary at Passover for Pilate to release someone from his jail back to the people. He had a genuine insurrectionist in his jail, a violent man named Barabbas. So at the second hour, eight o’clock in the morning, Pilate presented Jesus and Barabbas to a crowd that had gathered outside Herod’s palace, where Pilate stayed when he was in town. Pilate genuinely thought they would free Jesus.

“Who do you want me to release?” he shouted. “Barabbas, who beat up a Passover visitor here from Egypt this week? Or do you want Jesus, who turned over some tables in the Temple this week?”

Jesus’ mother and some of his followers were in the crowd. They were distraught on the deepest of levels. Others were in hiding.

They thought the crowds would cry out for Jesus, but the priests and elders had planted their servants in the crowd. Much to the disciples’ surprise, people all over the crowd started shouting, “Crucify him!”

Then there were those in town who were bitter because they had hoped Jesus might lead an insurrection. They hoped he would overthrow the Romans. To them he was an embarrassment, a disgrace. They were angry at him because they felt betrayed. He made them feel once again like losers before the Romans.

“Crucify him! Crucify him!” the crowd shouted. Mary and Peter and Lazarus and Mary Magdalene and James and John and the others looked around in horror. What was happening? How could this be happening? Jesus was the Messiah!

Pilate was also surprised. The light of the Spirit flickered just one more time, more brightly than ever before. And then the light in Pilate went out for good. He had made his choice. He would reject the Holy Spirit.

“Then crucify him we will.”

6.3 After Incorporation

Chapter 6: Salvation
6.1 Predestination and Election'
6.2 The Conditions of Salvation

6.3 After Incorporation
6.3.1 Faith and Repentance
  • We walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).
  • Hebrews 11--the faith chapter gives examples of faith among God's people (e.g., 11:6).
  • Confession of sins (2:1--1:9 is more about pre-Christian sins)
  • 2 Corinthians 7:10
  • Progressive glorification! 2 Corinthians 3:18
6.3.2 Christian Maturity (a.k.a. entire sanctification)
  • Hebrews 6:1--"Let us go into perfection"
  • Philippians 3:15--"As many of us as are mature"
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23--"May God sanctify you entirely"
  • Matthew 5:48--"Be complete as your heavenly Father is complete."
  • 1 Peter 1:15-16--"Be holy as I am holy"
6.3.3 Falling Away
  • The Apostle Paul: 1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 3:10-12--Paul did not consider his own resurrection, glorification guaranteed.
  • Romans 8:31-39 is talking about external forces, not a believer separating him or herself.
  • Romans 11:19-21 speaks of branches that are grafted in being grafted back out.
  • Hebrews and Apostasy: 3:14; 6:4-6; 10:26-27; 12:16-17
  • John is more deterministic in its language. Speaks of individuals that leave having never truly been in (e.g., 1 John 2:19). However, "no one can take them out of my hand" is again about external forces rather than internal ones (John 10:28).
6.3.4 Final Justification
  • 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 final justification by works
  • Romans 2:5-10--final judgment according to works
  • James 2--justification by faith and works
6.4 Proclamation of the Gospel (consider moving to Christology)
6.4.1 What is the Gospel?
  • The pre-gospel in the Synoptics--good news of the kingdom of God, the approaching reign of God, in earth as in heaven
  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-8--good news of the death, resurrection, and lordship of Jesus, and all that it entails.
  • Romans 1:3-4--Jesus is king!
  • The good news is that Jesus is Lord, and all that it entails.
6.4.2 The Great Commission
  • Matthew 28:19-20--Go make disciples, baptizing, teaching
  • 1 Corinthians 1:21--God has chosen to save the world using proclamation
  • Preaching is the norm for evangelization--Romans 10:14-17
  • Acts 1:8--the apostolic witness to the resurrection
6.4.3 Anonymous Christians?
  • Beyond Israel--Abraham as a model (Gen. 15; Rom. 4; cf. Job, Nineveh)
  • Romans 1:20--natural revelation and general knowledge of God
  • Acts 17:27--nature as basis for seeking God
  • John 1:9--the lighting of everyone
  • A possible theology of prevenient grace
Previous "chapters"
Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation
Chapter 4: Sin and Atonement
Interlude: A Theology of Israel
Chapter 5: Jesus the Christ

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Thursday Last Supper

Today's excerpt from my novella.
On Thursday they prepared for the Passover meal. They had arranged to eat it at Cleopas’ house. The air was somber. Jesus knew this was the night. Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, and Martha were there. Cleopas, his wife Mary, and John Mark were there too. Jesus own mother, Salome, and a woman named Joanna were there. The upper room was large enough to fit over a hundred people.

The tone was somber, especially when you consider how excited they all had been on Sunday. The kingdom of God did not erupt after he rode into Jerusalem. It did not erupt after he “cleansed” the Temple of the money changers. Each day, the tone got more serious. The venom of the religious leaders was palpable on Tuesday. On Wednesday Jesus had spoken of the desecration, maybe even the destruction of the Temple.

Now it was Passover, and there was a seriousness to Jesus they had never seen. He had never been this way. It terrified them. “This is my body, which is going to be broken for you,” he said at one point during the meal while passing around the bread. As an angel, it was amazing to see how such an important statement did not take its full weight. For some, it went in one ear and out the other.

When the meal was over, Jesus’ heart continued to be troubled. “One of you is going to betray me,” he finally said, looking especially at Judas, who was on his left side. Lazarus was on his right, and Peter next to him.

“Ask him who it is,” Peter said to Lazarus.

“I will dip in the cup with him,” Jesus told John Lazarus, and then he dipped in the cup he shared with Judas.

When Judas saw Jesus hand him the cup, his face hardened, and he immediately left the room. He was determined to follow through on his course. He would show Jesus. He was not betraying him. He was saving him.

Then Jesus took the cup. “This is my blood, which is going to be shed for you.” And he passed the cup around.

It was a strange thing to say, macabre, almost grotesque. A Jew would never drink blood. It was expressly forbidden to ingest blood.

Yet Jesus had told them several times that he was going to die. It was Passover. The Israelites had put blood on the doorposts of their houses during the exodus to protect them from the angel of destruction. Now Jesus was going to give life through his blood. He would become the Lamb, and there was power in the blood of the Lamb to redeem all humanity.

After supper and passing the cup, Jesus and the eleven made their way around the walls of Jerusalem to the Garden of Gethsemane. They were exhausted and deeply discouraged, tempted to doubt. Jesus urged them to pray, but most fell asleep trying.

Jesus especially urged Peter, James, and John to stay awake with him to pray, but they also could hardly stay awake. So Jesus prayed alone.

“Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.”

Three times he prayed this to God the Father. Between each time he tried to wake up Peter, James, and John to pray with him, to no effect.

It was a real struggle for Jesus. His human will was tempted to run. His human will was tempted to escape. His divine will would never have gone through with it, but his human will did not falter. He did not want to go through with it, but he chose to submit to Trinity’s will.

The third time he came to them he felt sympathy. They were willing in their spirits, but they just did not have the will power to stay awake.

It did not matter anymore. Judas had arrived with armed people sent from the priests and elders. He had arranged to greet Jesus with a kiss on the cheek, which he did.

“So you are betraying me with a kiss, brother?” Jesus said to Judas.

Peter sprang awake, as did the other disciples. Confused but ready to fight, he lunged with his dagger at one of the high priest’s servants and actually cut off his ear. It was a man named Malchus. He would later believe. Jesus touched the ear, and the bleeding stopped.

“Put your swords away,” Jesus said to his disciples. “This is the plan of God.”

Then to the mob he said, “You didn’t want to arrest me in the Temple? Am I a violent man, a revolutionary? Nevertheless, it is your hour.”

When the disciples saw that Jesus was going willingly with them, they were stunned. They were ready to fight for Jesus and his kingdom. They were not prepared for him to go willingly. Even Judas was shocked, hoping that God would send ten thousand angels to destroy his enemies.

So the disciples scattered. Some went to Bethany, others to Cleopas’ house.

When he heard Jesus had been arrested, John Mark jumped out of bed, quickly grabbed a linen cloth to cover his naked body, and ran out of the house. Lazarus quickly got dressed and wasn’t far behind.