Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Theology Student Book to Confuse Your Teen

In a new book published by Pacific Press a theology student and author Seth J. Pierce writes about the 28 Fundamental SDA beliefs for teens. It is entitled What We Believe. My daughter’s Youth class is going over sections of it in their class. Next week they are covering chapter 24 Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary. I take it since this is a denominationally produced book that not only does it represent what the author thinks but what the denomination is teaching their Theology students. As such this article is not only to help my daughter communicate her concerns in the Youth class but it will aid the rest of us in examining the theology that appears to be making up our new generation of Ministers.

The chapter starts out explaining how terrible it is to kill an animal. Something that we in modern times, where we just go to the store and buy our food is quite different from the past several thousand years when people butchered and prepared their own food. To the modern Theo student’s mind killing an animal is about the same level as cleaning out the barn of manure. That is something icky because he never has to do it. So he runs over an animal in his car and is traumatized and suggests that such a trauma is involved with people offering sacrifices in the Old Testament. As those sacrifices were eaten by the people and the priests and it was probably a very special time and meal it is unlikely that they were overly concerned with the death of the animals involved. Thank of the names of those offerings, Fellowship, thanksgiving, peace, yet what strikes the popular mind is the sin offering though they all were made of the same thing that is usually an animal died and it fed the Priest and the people who offered the offering.

The author then after quoting Lev. 1:3-4 says: “So why would you need to kill something, and what’s with the laying-on-of-hands business? It’s all about transferring.” Page 147

He then writes on page 148:

“We are stuck with the worst customer of all—sin. According to the Bible, it will kill us unless we find a way to transfer it out of our lives and give it to something or someone else. This was the big idea behind the sacrificial/sanctuary system. When you laid your hands on your sheep, bull, or bird sacrifice, it symbolized your sins being transferred to them. Then things got ugly.”

So apparently our next generation of Ministers are really big on gratuitous assertions. Why would not the laying on of hands upon the sacrifice indicate that it was your sacrifice, that you were personally making the offering? Apparently because it is all about transferring because well the Bible says so…even if he can’t find any verses in the Bible that says it is all about transferring sin just take his word for it. Pay no attention to Jewish history and their own understanding of what the sacrifices meant. But we are not Andrew’s University Theology students so we can examine what the Jewish beliefs were. As the Jewish Encyclopedia states:

As originally the sacrifice was a meal offered to the Deity at which He was to meet His own family (see Sacrifice, Critical View), only such as were in the proper state of holiness might take part in this "communion service" (see Passover). On the other hand, the Deity Himself would not accept the gift if the taboo was not respected. Contact with persons or things in an "unclean" state violated the taboo. Sin originally connoted a condition which rendered approach to the Deity impossible, and conversely made it impossible for the Deity to approach, to attend the family communion meal. To correct this the sacrifice was offered, i.e., brought near to ("ḳorban," "hiḳrib") the Deity, more especially the blood, which preeminently belonged to God, and that by the priest only. In this connection it must be remembered that slaughtering was primitively a sacrificial rite. Meat was not to be eaten unless the Deity had received His share, viz., the blood. This insistence is the motive of the otherwise strange prohibition to slaughter anywhere save at the door of the tent of meeting (Lev. xvii. 3). The presumption was that all belonged to the Deity. Later literature expresses this idea as a spiritual verity (Ps. 1. 10-12; I Chron. xxix. 14).

Judaism 101 offers this statement:

Were sacrifices a symbol of the savior to come?

Not according to Judaism. Jews don't believe that people need supernatural salvation from sin (sincere repentance and good deeds are sufficient to obtain forgiveness; see above), and don't believe that sacrifice has anything to do with a savior or messiah.

Quite the contrary, some would say that the original institution of sacrifice had more to do with the Judaism's past than with its future. Rambam suggested that the entire sacrificial cult in Judaism was ordained as an accommodation of man's primitive desires.

Sacrifice is an ancient and universal human expression of religion. Sacrifice existed among the Hebrews long before the giving of the Torah. Cain and Abel offered sacrifices; Noah and his sons offered sacrifices, and so forth. When the laws of sacrifice were given to the Children of Israel in the Torah, the pre-existence of a system of sacrificial offering was understood, and sacrificial terminology was used without any explanation. The Torah, rather than creating the institution of sacrifice, carefully circumscribes and limits the practice, permitting it only in certain places, at certain times, in certain manners, by certain people, and for certain purposes. Rambam suggests that these limitations are designed to wean a primitive people away from the debased rites of their idolatrous neighbors.

The Jewish view consists of three main things involved with sacrifices (qorbanot) They are (also from the Judaism 101 site):

There are three basic concepts underlying qorbanot: giving, substitution and coming closer.

The first the aspect of giving. A qorban requires the renunciation of something that belongs to the person making the offering. Thus, sacrifices are made from domestic animals, not wild animals (because wild animals do not belong to anyone). Likewise, offerings of food are ordinarily in the form of flour or meal, which requires substantial work to prepare.

Another important concept is the element of substitution. The idea is that the thing being offered is a substitute for the person making the offering, and the things that are done to the offering are things that should have been done to the person offering. The offering is in some sense "punished" in place of the offerer. It is interesting to note that whenever the subject of qorbanot is addressed in the Torah, the name of G-d used is the four-letter name indicating G-d's mercy.

The third important concept is the idea coming closer. The essence of sacrifice is to bring a person closer to G-d.

No doubt the writer of the book What We Believe would like the one on substitution because that is the basis of the popular Penal/Substitutionary atonement theory. Though there would be no reason to transfer sins in such a view and in fact it is based upon a rather primitive view of God who demands punishment upon sinners rather than being able to forgive the sinner. But those three are the most likely reasons for sacrifices by all of the ancient religions. The substitution idea particularly, was seen as a way to appease the anger of the god by offering the god the life of some animal so that the god would not punish the person or the god would bless the person.

This Fun Fact is offered on page 149 in a special little box:

“As a precaution, the high priest had bells around the bottom of his tunic and a rope was tied to his ankle. If the priest was not clean and he had a less-than-happy encounter with the most holy God, his bells would stop jingling alerting those outside that something was wrong. Then they could drag the body out by the rope tied around the ankle.”

Makes you feel warm all over doesn’t it. It is however a myth. A nice little site called Christian Answers offers us this information:

Dr. W.E. Nunnally, a professor of Hebrew and early Judaism, has reported:

“The rope on the high priest legend is just that: a legend. It has obscure beginnings in the Middle Ages and keeps getting repeated. It cannot be found anywhere in the Bible, the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, the Pseudepigrapha, the Talmud, Mishna, or any other Jewish source. It just is not there.” [2]

The Biblical Studies Foundation (loosely associated with Dallas Theological Seminary), similarly reports that their research has put the “the rope around the ankle-or-waist-or-maybe-the-leg” legend “to rest.”

It is a short article but worth your time to visit, here it is just an aside, I point it out so that the reader of his book will not accept what the author claims to be fact.

Now let us continue with the chapter with a little more understanding then our future minister wanted to impart. Continuing on page 149 is an account of the scapegoat ceremony. See the article Could the Scapegoat be Christ for a more in depth look at the meaning of this ceremony. Concluding this section Pierce writes:

“Finally, the high priest would lay his hands on the head of the still-living Azazel goat, symbolizing the transference of all the sins of the people of Israel.”

Here finally Pierce is correct. This is also the only place in the sacrificial system where the idea of sin as transference occurs. It is clearly used to indicate the removal of sin from the community; it is symbolic for forgiveness where sins are remembered no more. I wanted to point this out before we go back to a statement Pierce makes on the preceding page because it is important to remember where this one occurrence of transference occurs. On page 148 Pierce writes:

The Priests had two very important jobs. First they would “bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is the entrance of the tent of meeting [sanctuary]” (Leviticus 1:5). Once again the concept of transferring comes up. First your sin would be transferred to the animal, and then the sin of the animal would be transferred to the sanctuary. Now this begs the question, where did the sin that was transferred to the sanctuary run off to? This brings up the second job which was mainly for the high priest.

To Pierce and the person who gave the sermon today at my church sin is transferred by blood. However sin is not ever referred to as being something that carries sin in the Bible. Blood is a symbol of life not sin. It is the life that is brought into the presence of God in the temple not transferred sin. It is a big difference and an even bigger difference when we move to the idea of Christ. On page 150 the author moves to Christ:

“In Jesus Christ, God offered a better system and a better sacrifice. Jesus was to shed His divine blood—once—and it would be so power­ful that it could cover any human being, in any time, in any condition, if they would only accept it. Jesus was willing to have us transfer our sins to Him and be sacrificed so we could be free. And if that wasn't enough, He—not another sinful human being—was to become our High Priest…

Now we have a serious problem what is sin that it can be transferred from place to place, all persons to one person or from one time to another time? How is the sin which we have not even committed or thought about today placed upon Christ nearly 2000 years ago? No doubt that would be the ultimate in mysticism but an answer from someone would be nice. Since those who believe in this transfer have so far refused to answer that question let us deal with it in a real world way. Sin is the attitude of selfishness and rebellion against God. It does not exist except in thinking individual’s minds and as the result of their actions. It is not something that mystically has to be taken away from us it is an attitude adjustment that we the instigators of sin must realize. It is the adjustment that comes when we become reconciled with God and place our trust in the promise of life and forgiveness that God offers us. As Hebrews 9:14 says “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (NIV)

The blood of Christ is symbolic of His life and death and life again the life that demonstrated love that even forgave those who killed and tortured Him, the life that He demonstrated by raising Himself from the dead. When we see what our God is like it cleanses our consciences from the rebellion and selfishness that predominated our life before, those acts which only lead to death. This should be elementary knowledge to Christians but unfortunately it is not because we have embraced traditions and convoluted explanations that make the simple complex and the plain confused.

Pierce continues on page 150:

“After Jesus rose from the dead, He ascended to heaven, where He was made our heavenly High Priest. There He applies His sacrifice/ blood that was shed on our behalf to the heavenly sanctuary to atone for our sins. This makes us ask one more question: If the high priest in the Old Testament had a two-phase ministry, where is Christ's second phase? Thankfully, we have some insight via the book of Daniel.”

What does he mean He applies His blood to atone for our sins? Who knows it certainly sounds holy though. The blood clearly has to be a reference to his death here on earth but what does it have to do with a heavenly sanctuary, He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven He is alive and certainly not still bleeding. As occurred above the traditional Penal theorist has convoluted even the Intercession of Christ. On the next page Pierce seems to try to explain himself:

“Look around you—are you still on planet Earth? It's a shame, isn't it? And Will Miller was even more disappointed when Jesus didn't come. After restudying a bit and looking at some passages in Hebrews, some of Miller's followers, with the help of some scholars, determined that Christ entered His second phase of ministry in the heavenly sanctuary in 1844. This is His final phase, His judgment phase, before He returns to take His people home. It's a phase we call the investigative judgment.”

"Investigative judgment" simply means this: Jesus is in His last phase of ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, and He is looking over the heavenly record books to see who is and who isn't on His side. It makes sense. When Jesus comes back, the Bible says, "the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive ... will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord" (I Thessalonians 4:16, 17). And then "since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flam­ing fire, [he will inflict] vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2 Thessalo­nians 1:6-8).”

Well you knew it had to be coming, the Investigative Judgment is what this whole chapter was trying to get to. Somehow it is connected to Jesus as high priest applying His blood only now it appears to be through judging who are His and who are not. Best not to mention that God has known who are His and not from before the foundation of the world. (1 Peter 1:20, Rev 13:8, 17:8)

The Omnipotent, all knowing God has been doing this Investigative judgment since 1844 which according to Pierce’s book was determined: “After restudying a bit and looking at some passages in Hebrews, some of Miller’s followers, with the help of some scholars, determined that Christ entered His second phase of the ministry in the heavenly sanctuary in 1844.” Apparently one of those scholars must have been Hiram Edson who had a vision walking through a cornfield but for the life of me I can’t think of any Bible scholars from that period of time. Interestingly the Lesson quarterly for Hebrews did say that when they asked SDA scholars they could not say that the book of Hebrews teaches a two apartment ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. The Friday August 29,2004 Lesson study guide Sanctuary Themes The book of Hebrews says:

2. After much study by some of our best scholars, a report was given on Hebrews. Two questions were asked. Does Hebrews teach Christ's two-phased priestly ministry? Does Hebrews deny Christ's two-phased priestly ministry? The committee answered No to both questions.

This seems long enough already so I won’t get into where Pierce writes:

Judged—graded—according to what we’ve done. Page 153

Friday, January 25, 2008

Adventists, Martin Luther and Quotations

There is an interesting phenomenon one can see on the internet among Adventist websites. As most of us know the Adventist church feels a special affinity for the Ten commandments because as the Seventh-day Adventist name indicates we hold to the Seventh day Sabbath as a continuing part of the law. In order to bolster this idea many Adventists have taken to using an article written by Steve Wohlberg entitled Protestants Testify about the Ten Commandments. The article begins with a “quote” from Martin Luther and follows with some other famous Protestant quotes. I am only going to deal with the first quote because I think it demonstrates all that is needed in regard to this type of Adventist use of sources. While you will find this quote used on many Adventist sites I am using Steve Wohlberg’s website. The quote is as follows:

I wonder exceedingly how it came to be imputed to me that I should reject the law of Ten Commandments....Can anyone think that sin exists where there is no law?...Whosoever abrogates the law must of necessity, abrogate sin also. Martin Luther, Luther's Works (trans., Weimer ed.), Vol. 50, pp. 470-471; originally printed in his Spiritual Antichrist, pp.71, 72.

The implication for Adventist use is that the Law specifically the ten commandments are to be continually kept by Christians and even the Protestants agree with that idea. For those who know anything about Martin Luther they know that Luther had a lot to say about the law and this simplistic quote seems contrived. In fact when you look at the ellipses you immediately should become suspicious. One website which offers Ten Martin Luther Myths presents Luther’s view of the law very succinctly:

7. Luther Was an Antinomian and Hated the Law of God
Recently a friend wrote me and said charges about Luther being an antinomian were circulating in his church. Luther's theology indeed has a place for the law of God and its use in the life of a Christian. The law for Luther was dual purposed: it first drives one to see their sin and need for a savior; secondly it functions in the life of a Christian to lead one to a correct understanding of the good one ought to do. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Luther knows how important Moses and the law was in his theology. In Luther's Small Catechism the Ten Commandments were placed first because he wanted people to understand that God is wrathful against sin. The negative prohibitions in the Ten Commandments clearly showed our need for a savior. Also in his Small Catechism, Luther suggests a daily regiment of prayer and includes a verbal reading of the Ten Commandments.

The quote that Steve Wohlberg used is in fact in the context of this Antinomian charge and actually represents a very small fraction of the paragraph that Luther wrote. After we look at the full statement of Luther we will see what he had to say about the law with reference to the Sabbath as that is the reason these various websites have posted Wohlberg’s list of “quotes”. I keep putting the word quotes in parenthesis because I am not convinced what Wohlberg does in the list with Luther’s words is really a quote. Fortunately for us there is an website which has given us the article Luther wrote. A Treatise against Antinomians written in an Epistolary way, by D. Martin Luther, translated out of the high Dutch original; containing the mind of Luther against Antinomians and a recantation of John Agricola Eislebius their first father.

As the first footnote indicates this is the same material that Wohlberg is referencing.

1. This edition of Luther's treatise "Against the Antinomians," is excerpted from Samuel Rutherford's "Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist," (1648), part II, chapter XI, pages 69-80, where it is translated from the High Dutch in its entirety. The reader may wish to compare the text to a more recent translation available in Luther's Works (American Edition), volume 47, pages 107-119, the text of which he will find to be in agreement with that which is provided here.

The paragraph in question reads as follows, I have highlighted in red those portions that Wohlberg excerpted as the quote above:

And truly, I wonder exceedingly, how it came to be imputed to me, that I should reject the Law or ten Commandments, there being extant so many of my own expositions (and those of several sorts) upon the Commandments, which also are daily expounded, and used in our Churches, to say nothing of the Confession and Apology, and other books of ours. Add hereunto the custom we have to sing the Commandments in two different tunes;3 besides the painting, printing, carving, and rehearsing them by children, both morning, noon, and evening; So that I know no other way than what we have used, but that we do not (alas!) as we ought, really express and delineate them in our lives and conversations. And I myself as old as I am, use to [have it for my custom to] recite them daily, as a child, Word for Word; so that if any should have mistaken, what I had written, he might (seeing and feeling as it were, how vehemently I use to urge these Catechetical exercises) in reason have been persuaded to call upon me, and demand these or the like questions. What? Good Doctor Luther, dost thou press so eagerly the ten Commandments, and yet teachest withal, that they must be rejected? Thus they ought to have dealt with me; and not secretly undermine me behind my back, and then to wait for my death, that so they might afterwards make of me what themselves pleased. Well, I forgive them, if they leave these courses. Verily, I have taught and still teach, that sinners must be moved to Repentance by the preaching & pondering of the sufferings of Christ, that they may see how great the wrath of God is against sin: and that it cannot be otherwise expiated but by the death of the son of God: Which is not mine, but Bernard's doctrine. But why doe I mention Bernard? It is the doctrine of the whole Christian world, and which all the Prophets and Apostles have delivered. But how doth it hence follow,4 that therefore the law must be taken away? I find no such inference in my Logick; and I would gladly see or hear that Logician, that would demonstrate the truth of this conclusion. When Isaias saith, chapter 53, I have smitten him for the sins of my people; I pray tell me; here Christ's sufferings are preached, that he was smitten for our sins: Is the Law hereby rejected? what is the meaning of these words: For the sins of my people? Is not this the sense of them: Because my people have sinned against my law, and not kept the same? Or can it be imaginable, that there should be any sin, where there is no law? Whosoever abrogates the law, must of necessity abrogate sin also.5 If he must suffer sin to be, he must much more suffer the being of the law. For the Apostle saith: Rom. 5: Where no law is, there is no sin. If there be no sin, then Christ is nothing. For why died he, if there were no law nor sin, for which he ought to die? Hence you may see, that the Devil intends, by this Ghostly Gambold to take away, not so much the law, as Christ, the fulfiller of the law.

That is a Word count of 557 words in this paragraph of which Wohlberg’s quote of 39 words, which makes it about 7% of Luther’s actual statement.

Now let us look at more a more specific statement of Luther.

This calls for a wise and faithful father who can moderate the Law in such a way that it stays within its limits. For if I were to teach men the Law in such a way that they suppose themselves to be justified by it before God, I would be going beyond the limit of the Law, confusing these two righteousnesses, the active and the passive, and would be a bad dialectician who does not properly distinguish. But when I go beyond the old man, I also go beyond the Law. For the flesh or the old man, the Law and works, are all joined together. In the same way the spirit or the new man is joined to the promise and to grace. Therefore when I see that a man is sufficiently contrite, oppressed by the Law, terrified by sin, and thirsting for comfort, then it is time for me to take the Law and active righteousness from his sight and to set forth before him, through the Gospel, the passive righteousness which excludes Moses and the Law and shows the promise of Christ, who came for the afflicted and for sinners. Here a man is raised up again and gains hope. Nor is he any longer under the Law; he is under grace, as the apostle says (Rom. 6:14): “You are not under law but under grace.” How not under law? According to the new man, to whom the Law does not apply. For the Law had its limits until Christ, as Paul says below (Gal. 3:24): “The Law, until Christ.” When He came, Moses and the Law stopped. So did circumcision, sacrifices, and the Sabbath. So did all the prophets. (Lectures on Galatians, Works Vol. 26 page 6-7 Edited Pelikan, translated Caemneyer, Concordia Pub. House St. Louis 1960)

Speaking of images in his Deuteronomy Commentary Luther writes:

Therefore let us avoid these men of blood and not allow them to draw us into Judaism. Paul says to us (1 Cor. 8:4): “We know that an idol is nothing in the world,” and all those external things are free, even if they are images assigned to some divine worship. Let us remove such external things through the Word or do away with them with the common consent of the government and of those under whose power they are. Those things, however, which we have only for as sign and memorial, let us have freely, so that we ourselves do not finally also succumb to the spirit of bloodshed and sedition might somehow be tolerable if they only destroyed images and did not also bind conscience by calling this a necessary work, put us under the wrath of the Law, and robbed us of freedom. But since one must now affirm the liberty given by God, let us tell them that Moses in no wise pertains to us in all his laws, but only to the Jews, except where he agrees with the natural law, which, as Paul teaches, is written in the hearts of the Gentiles (Rom. 2:15). Whatever is not written there we should include among the ceremonies that were necessary for the people of Moses but free for us, as also the Sabbath is, as Paul (Col. 2:16) and the last chapter of Isaiah (66:23) bear witness. ( Lectures on Deuteronomy, Works Vol. 9 pages 81-82 Edited Pelikan, translated Caemneyer, Concordia Pub. House St. Louis 1960)

I have many differences with Martin Luther, the above does not endorse his positions it is only to correct the inaccurate material that is being spread by certain Adventists.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I am Emergent

What is the Emergent Church movement?

It is a loosely drawn organization of churches that are attempting to reach the postmodern culture in the Western World. You can listen to some Dallas Theological Seminary material on the subject of The Emerging Church Movement in a series of discussion by Mark L. Bailey, Mark H. Heinemann, Glenn R. Kreider and Andrew B. Seidel, The discussion is labeled as: “This is an introductory exploration into a movement hopeful of meeting the complexities of ministering to an emergent culture.”

The first main point in discussion one is that there is diversity in the emerging church movement. So we know that we are beginning with something that is not going to be easily labeled. One Website which deals with the subject is called Emergent Village:

Members of Emergent Village hold in common four values and several practices that flow from them. In the language of a religious order, we call these four values our “order and rule”:

I will pick a few of their sentences to explain their position without the surrounding commentary.

1. Commitment to God in the Way of Jesus:

We are committed to doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God. In the words of Jesus, we seek to live by the Great Commandment: loving God and loving our neighbors

We are committed to a “generous orthodoxy” in faith and practice – affirming the historic Christian faith and the biblical injunction to love one another even when we disagree. We embrace many historic spiritual practices, including prayer, meditation, contemplation, study, solitude, silence, service, and fellowship, believing that healthy theology cannot be separated from healthy spirituality.

2. Commitment to the Church in all its Forms:

We are committed to honor and serve the church in all its forms – Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal, Anabaptist. We practice “deep ecclesiology” – rather than favoring some forms of the church and critiquing or rejecting others, we see that every form of the church has both weaknesses and strengths, both liabilities and potential.

We believe the rampant injustice and sin in our world requires the sincere, collaborative, and whole-hearted response of all Christians in all denominations, from the most historic and hierarchical, through the mid-range of local and congregational churches, to the most spontaneous and informal expressions. We affirm both the value of strengthening, renewing, and transitioning existing churches and organizations, and the need for planting, resourcing, and coaching new ones of many kinds.

We own the many failures of the church as our failures, which humbles us and calls us to repentance, and we also celebrate the many heroes and virtues of the church, which inspires us and gives us hope.

3. Commitment to God’s World:

We practice our faith missionally – that is, we do not isolate ourselves from this world, but rather, we follow Christ into the world.

We seek to fulfill the mission of God in our generations, and then to pass the baton faithfully to the next generations as well.

We believe the church exists for the benefit and blessing of the world at large; we seek therefore not to be blessed to the exclusion of everyone else, but rather for the benefit of everyone else.

We see the earth and all it contains as God’s beloved creation, and so we join God in seeking its good, its healing, and its blessing.

4. Commitment to One Another

In order to strengthen our shared faith and resolve, and in order to encourage and learn from one another in our diversity through respectful, sacred conversation, we value time and interaction with other friends who share this rule and its practices.

We identify ourselves as members of this growing, global, generative, and non-exclusive friendship.
We welcome others into this friendship as well.
We bring whatever resources we can to enrich this shared faith and resolve.


We live out the four values of our rule through four lines of action:

  • We explore and develop ideas, theology, practices, and connections … through conversations, conferences, think-tanks, gatherings, retreats, publications, learning cohorts, online resources, and other means.
  • We resource individuals, leaders, and organizations – funding their imagination, stimulating their thinking, providing examples, events, literature and other resources to assist them in their lives and mission.
  • We communicate our calling, vision, learning, and activities to the growing Emergent Village community, and to other interested people around the world.
  • We provide ways for people to belong, identify with, and participate in this community, conversation, and mission at varying levels. We encourage the development of generative friendships, collaborations, and partnerships.

The Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the Emerging church movement as well as information on the critics of the movement. Their article begins:

The emerging church (also known as the emerging church movement) is a controversial 21st-century Protestant Christian movement whose participants seek to engage postmodern people, especially the unchurched and post-churched. To accomplish this, "emerging Christians" (also known as "emergents") deconstruct and reconstruct Christian beliefs, standards, and methods in ways which will accommodate postmodern culture. This accommodation is found largely in this movement's embrace of postmodernism's postfoundational epistemology, and pluralistic approach to religion and spirituality. Proponents of this movement call it a "conversation" to emphasize its developing and decentralized nature as well as its emphasis on interfaith dialog rather than verbal evangelism. The predominantly young participants in this movement prefer narrative presentations drawn from their own experiences and biblical narratives over propositional, biblicist exposition. Emergents echo the postmodern rejection of absolutes and metanarratives. They emphasize the subjective over the objective since postmodern epistemology is ultimately destructive of certainty in objective propositions such as those historically found in Christian creeds, confessions, and statements of faith.

No doubt to some people this all sounds like psychobabble. In certain ways it probably is. Yet there is one clear thought through all this. That is that the Christian church has to change, it has to reach the people in our culture with the message of love of God and love for mankind. We are not just strangers passing through this world on our way to some sweet by and by. This is our home the earth God has given us and those people are a part of the same family as we are. We may be looked at as foreigners and strangers to the ways of a world separated from God but our message is still one of reconciliation and that happens in more ways than simply getting people into our churches. We don't have perfection to offer people here and now but that does not mean we don't have worthwhile things to offer, here and now.

As I was listening to my music on shuffle play it so happened that I was just listening to the following song when I got back to this article. As it seems to apply here it is:

Kees Kraayenoord : God Of The Moon And Stars

God of the moon and stars
God of the gay- and singles bars
God of the fragile hearts we are, I come to you
God of our history, god of the future that will be
What will you make of me, I come to you

God of the meek and mild,
God of the reckless and the wild
God of the unreconciled, I come to you
God of our life and death
God of our secrets unconfessed
God of our every breath, I come to you

God of the rich and poor
God of the princess and the whore
God of the ever open door, I come to you
God of the unborn child
God of the pure and undefiled
God of the pimp and paedophile, I come to you

God of the war and peace
God of the junkie and the priest
God of the greatest and the least, I come to you
God of the refugee
God of the prisoner and the free
God of our doubt and certainty, I come to you

God of our joy and grieve
God of the lawyer and the thief
God of our faith and unbelief, I come to you
God of the wounds we bear
God of the deepest dreams we share
God of our unspoken prayer, I come to you

God of a world that's lost
God of the lonely cross
God who has come to us, I come to you

Provided by

Friday, January 18, 2008

I Am Legend Book Vs. Movie, Changes

I just read the blog article I Am Legend, Advent, and Light at Epicenter Conversations Blog (spoiler alerts for both my post and the Epicenter Blog post). It is interesting to see his take on the movie and how it relates to God. It is possibly as interesting to think about how the movie compares to the book (I Am Legend by Richard Matheson) and what it says about our American culture. As most of our movies work upon the idea of good versus evil, with a good deal of self sacrifice thrown in and usually a happy ending. In this case the happy ending is Robert Neville's self sacrifice and gift of his blood which the others take to the Vermont outpost of other survivors. Who it would seem may also be immune but that it another subject. The end is the happy Hollywood salvation of mankind even though our hero died. In the voice over at the end the woman who saved Robert from his suicidal rage against the sub-humans gives us the epilogue where Robert is remembered as legend who gave his life for humanity “we are his legacy this is his legend”.

There are in fact few things in common between the book and the movie. In the book the plague is caused by the effects of a war which destroyed large areas and subjected the country around Los Angeles with weekly dust storms. The movie is set in New York and the plague is caused by scientists who were working on a cure for cancer and they thought they found it. It is kind of a fear of science mentality there, similar to those afraid of bioengineered crops. We know little about the infected sub-humans in the movie. They are violent and can’t go in the sunlight and they are pretty unconvincing computer animations. However in the book we learn that the disease does cause them to be vampires, it is a bacteria which also reanimates the dead.

But of all the differences it is the ending that is most different. In the end through some deception he finds that there are people who have learned to live with the disease because the disease has mutated. They form a new society, a by no means peaceful society but none the less a new society. Right before he dies in view of this new society he says “I am Legend”, apparently because he is the last of the pre-plague humanity, but a memory of what humanity was once like, now relegated to the realm of myth and legend.

It is not the satisfying OK we will all survive and go on like we are now that the movie portrays but a look at a changed humanity. Not because humanity wanted to change but because it was forced to change and maybe not for the better.

It is after all just a story and like any stories one can draw comparisons between what one believes about God whether God is mentioned or not. But Christianity is more than just about God it is about people. And people don’t like to change and they don’t change if they can help it, the movies play to that idea. Our churches play to that idea as well. We teach the same things we have for years even when we often have no good reason to teach them let alone believe them. But we have the comfort of having them and that is often enough for people who don’t want to change.

But Christianity is about change!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

God is Love, The Law

Submitted for your consideration; there is little written about the conditions which produced our world in the state it is in. The following is my theory as to the role played in this story by God’s Law. It is based largely on my understanding of the entire Bible beginning to end.

Sometime ago undoubtedly before the creation of Earth, there existed a Law. A law I will refer to as the Law of God. This law in its basic nature was extremely simply yet profound. The Law is "God is Love". Like the law of gravity this law can’t be broken. It is a fact, it is just the way things are, it exists because that is what the character of God is. Nothing anyone can do can change this law, however someone could distort, or misrepresent the law. To use and old English word, the law can be transgressed. Say I am a cleverly deceptive person and I try to tell you that gravity is not a result of the mass of an object, but the result of a giant gopher who is trapped in the center of the earth and by his animal magnetism he draws all objects toward him. Lets say I got a lot of people to believe my explanation of gravity. In fact in doing all this I have not changed the law of gravity, it still exists as it always did. However I have gone beyond the bounds of the law (transgression). I have violated it by my bizarre reinterpretation of the law of gravity.

Now lets move from earth to heaven in the beginning (whenever that was). There is a law in heaven, not a set of written precepts, but one based on the nature of the author of the universe. That law is "God is Love". Like the law of gravity on earth, this law can’t be broken, it exists and it is true. But this Law of God can be reinterpreted in such a way that it is violated. Say there was a cleverly deceptive person, lets say Satan. Now if Satan were to say that God is not really loving, that He is hiding important information from us, information that could make us just like God. And that basically God is not a truthful person, Satan’s reinterpretation of the Law of God would violate the true Law of God. The law that "God is love" still exists and is still true, but Satan’s transgressed against the law, his redefining what God is, has confused other persons.

At this point it is important to note that God has no law that says you must love Him. He wants us to love Him but love can never be forced, in fact to force love would be against God’s Law, i.e. "God is Love". It is His kindness which leads us to repentance, and repentance leads us back to loving God. Do what I say or else, is one of the deceptions. Because of Satan’s distortions of God, Satan is removed from Heaven and God proceeds with His plan to answer Satan’s inaccurate and slanderous view of God. Because God is love and love answers questions though not necessarily in the way we may want, love is not defined by what we want as that is selfishness.

The Law "God is love" is the foundation upon which all other laws dealing with humans is based. It is to what all other laws point. The laws given in the Old Testament are intended as our school master to point us to the one supreme law of God. This is why on the Sermon on the Mount Jesus points out that even our thoughts quite apart from actions can be counted as sin. Or as Paul tells us even good things done, if done apart from faith in God are sins. We violate the law when we misrepresent, or ignore "God is love". If someone says God loves good little children but He cannot love naughty little children. That is as much a violation of the law of God as to say that we are gods. The law of God stands not on written instructions on how to live and what not to do, but upon the very nature of God Himself.

Many in our church today will say that the 10 commandments are a transcript of God’s character. I pity anyone who reads the 10 commandments as God’s character. What a distorted view they must have of God. He would be seen as someone demanding human worship, punishing those who reject Him and showing mercy to only those who obey Him. Not a particularly loving God, rather one who loves you only after you first love and obey Him. This is not to disparage the 10 commandments, there is nothing wrong with them, they are good. However they must be viewed in the context derived from the entire Bible, that is that "God is love". They are instructions on how to live toward God and man. They point to the one law, "God is love". They do not provide anyone with salvation, rather they instruct the reader as to how to live in harmony with the supreme law of God. They are as Paul says, our school master teaching us of our need to return to God.

In the Genesis story Abraham acting out of a close relationship with God, and guided by the Law of God, followed God’s instructions to offer up Isaac. Realizing that God’s actions are out of love, Abraham trusted that whatever was going to happen would be for his own families good. And true to the law of God the ending was good just as he expected. When a person comes to this point in their lives, that is, they know that "God is love" they are meeting all the requirements of Gods law. No other laws are needed in their lives.. Because this one law is the summation of all others. Their faith is counted as righteousness. This is why Paul could say:

Col 2:14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. (NIV)
Because the Law of God’s love was so completely revealed to us through Christ’s life death and resurrection, the written code is no longer the best method of bring us back to repentance. Gods kindness is shown so perfectly through Jesus Christ that He is now the central point of the gospel message. If there remains any reason to teach the law, let it be the law of Love.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

One of the comments on my recent Sabbath School Article "Christ in the Crucible" at Spectrum Magazine online was especially interesting. While the comment was not so much on my article as on a different subject, as comments do tend to drift, I thought I would post it here also. You can click the link above to see the comment in its context of the conversation. But I think it stands pretty well on its own. Here is what Beth had to say:

Carrol I'll try to answer how I've dealt with it so far but all I can say is it is the best I can come up with. I'm not holding it up as the "right" way by a long shot.

I tell my children that Jesus is the best example of God that we have. His life shows us the nature and character of God and where stories conflict with that image, we must go with Jesus. I believe that the OT writers did the best they could with the information they had without the life of Jesus to guide them. Their understanding of God was, in essence, that if they pleased God (in this case by obeying the laws) then God would make sure good things happened to them. If they didn't, then God would make sure bad things happened. It was certainly not an unusual view of human/God(s) relationship as I think we can see this in other cultures as well. That's also not to say that there weren't improvements over your basic pagan view at the time. But it was a world view that says everything that happens to us is a direct result of how happy God is with us.

There is also a very strong thread of tribalism reflected in the stories. Who is "in" and who is "out" is very important. Those who are "in" or like us are the good guys and those who are different or believe differently are so threatening and so bad that they can be exterminated.

Jesus turned both of these themes on their heads. He spoke of the rain falling on the just and unjust and how it was not someone sinning that caused physical misfortune. Both Jesus and Paul showed us a vision of God as welcoming to all and desiring a relationship with all. We are called to stop being so tribal and believe that God loved the Philistine every bit as much as the Jew. And that viewing an entire race of people as evil is a sure way to end up doing bad things.

I look at the stories with my children with that in mind. We examine them as teaching stories and not necessarily as events that actually took place as described (though that's not to say that some didn't, just that history is not the point). We pray for understanding and I caution them that everyone "sees through the glass darkly." That God really is so far beyond us that our efforts will always fall short but that is no excuse to not keep trying. And best of all, that God understands our flailing and loves us beyond all reason anyway.

Now Anonymous @11 I'll try to answer why I have the hubris to question some of these stories.

1) Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts and minds. Not worship God or fear God (though those have their place) but to LOVE God. In order for a relationship to have love there must be certain behaviors on each side. Deut. 28 says that if the Jews did not obey the law then God would do all sorts of awful things to them culminating in the threat to send an army that would lay siege. They would eat their children (and not share which is a truly surreal example of the importance of hospitality in that culture.) Not only would God do this, but verse 63 says He would delight in doing it. So I am asked to love a God who tells me that if I don't obey all His commandments and decrees (verse 15), He will engineer conditions so terrible that I will eat my children and He will enjoy it? That's a monster. I could worship a God like that, fear a God like that, and even acknowledge that God's ways are not my ways but I cannot love a God like that. It distorts beyond all meaning the word love. I don't say that arrogantly, just honestly. Which brings me to my next point.

2) We are asked to make a decision whether we wish to spend eternity with God or not. In SDA theology God's character is put on trial and we (and other worlds) are asked to make a judgement. Either way, we must decide for good or evil. Are we on God's side or not? What does that mean? So yes, we do have to judge as ridiculous as it may seem for us to be questioning our Creator.

3) Finally we are asked to make practical ethical decisions in daily living. What is good and bad? If I define good as anything God does in the Bible, it is not really helpful for me in making those choices. An extreme example. My husband comes to me and says God has told him he must kill our son. I have to make a decision. Do I let him acknowledging that God has acted this way in the past (even once) and who am I to question? How do I decide whether it really is God asking him that? I can answer that it would be pretty easy for me because that is absolutely inconsistent with love. Hubris yes but you can believe I would label it as evil and let God deal with me later if I was wrong. If I'm going to be wrong I'd rather be wrong choosing what I think is loving.

So far, Anonymous @11, our pattern of interaction seems to be I try and explain something and you critique it. I'd really like to hear how you would solve some of the problems I've raised. I can guess how you might answer but guesses are unfair to you and to the conversation. What would you tell a tearful child who asks you if God thought the animals were wicked and, if not, why did God kill them? I ask because I really want to hear other ideas. I promise I'll keep my mouth shut and listen.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Robbie Seay Band on American Idol Promo

Recently I saw some American Idol commercials which had a familiar song in the Background. Interestingly it is a Christian song and Artist. The Robbie Seay Band song “Rise” is the catchy song in the background. Click the above link to hear the song from their Myspace page. I had intended to write a review of their latest CD entitled “Give Yourself Away” so I will take the time now to write a short review.

I would give this CD a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Most of the material is more modern worship oriented. The opening Song “Rise” is where the title for the CD comes from:

“If you choose to love / To know that the call / Is to give all you are / To give love away, away / Rise, rise, people of love rise / People of love rise, give yourself away.”

Robbie Seay’s voice is expressive and the lyrics are thoughtful and joyful at the same time. It is not filled with trite religiosity which is refreshing in a modern worship CD. Take the time to go to their myspace account and listen to 4 songs there. I think most of you will enjoy this CD as well.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Black and White logic and Mike Huckabee

Recently Governor Mike Huckabee said the following:

"As the only presidential candidate with a theology degree, along with
Several years of political experience, I know that theology is black and white. Politics is not.

What struck my attention about this a couple weeks ago is how absurd the notion is that theology is black and white. We live in a world with over 30,000 denominations and independent churches (click here to see more about how these numbers are obtained and how denominations can be defined) and most all of them disagree on theological issues within the realm of Christianity. He has a BA in Biblical Studies and took one year at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Yet to many Christians theology is seen only in black and white. That is what they were raised to believe is correct everything else is false. It is curious how people can hold to such assumptions if they observed the reality of the world around them. Sometimes Christians tend to ignore logic in favor of simplistic and incorrect statements. Recently I was thinking of something that should be fairly obviously a logical fallacy yet it is found in many fundamental belief statements within Christianity.

As the Editor’s note at the beginning of the article about Inerrancy and Infallibility of the Bible on the Believe Website says:

If the actual subject at hand was the modern English-language Bible, they might be right. But scholars never really claim that ANY modern Bible is absolutely inerrant. They claim that the Original Manuscripts were! If it is accepted that God Inspired the writing of the Books of the Bible, then to claim otherwise would imply that either He made or permitted mistakes in the Bible or that He is nowhere near as all-knowing as we believe He is. So, the claim of Inerrancy in the Bible is only made regarding the Original Manuscripts. As far as anyone knows, all of those Original Manuscripts have long since disintegrated, and only Scribe-made copies of any of them still exist, so the claim of Inerrancy regarding the Original Manuscripts is probably beyond any possible proof.

The entire claim is a gratuitous assertion which begins with the assumption that inspiration caused people to write in such a way that they could not produce errors. Not in what they thought about the world or people in the world or what they thought God was telling them. It assumes information about God which we have no way of knowing if it is a true or not. In fact the editor’s note presents a false dilemma but not even recognizing the other possibilities; such as God inspires people at the point where they are at and does not force them to understand what God means or says or to move past where their culture or science have informed them. It also assumes that everything written in the Bible was direct inspiration of God, probably a hold over from the old verbal inspiration days.

The inerrancy principle above also does not take into account that we have no original Manuscripts. If God had really wanted or needed inerrant manuscripts why would He not bother to protect them for posterity? It is a doctrine which is based upon assumptions and has no possibility to be shown to be true or false and has little meaning since the documents no longer even exist. Yet you will find it as a black and white statement in many Christian churches.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Ideas that challenge

By popular demand (one person said I should put this on my blog) here is my presentation given at the mens ministry breakfast:

What can I say that will challenge you in your lives as Christian men.

Do we really want to be challenged?

I have found that people look at things from the perspective of what they already believe.

Example: When we hear a sermon that we agree with we think that it is a good positive devotional sermon. But if the message is one we have never heard before or something new we may tend to think of it as being negative or controversial.

It is a matter of perspective. There are two important things we have to remember.

1. We carry in us ideas that we don’t know we have and

2. We don’t know what we don’t know. Because if we don’t know it we can’t recognize our ignorance. We may know categories of things we don’t know such as I don’t know Inorganic Chemistry and pretty much nothing past rudimentary math.

An Interesting Quote Franz Werfel says: Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas.

Of course the answer is not to restrict ideas it is to counter ideas with better ideas. You family of course is not the enemy but they will challenge your ideas. So why not challenge your ideas first so that you won’t be defensive when your ideas are challenged?

And they will be challenged and they should be challenged.

As Alfred Whitney said:

Books won't stay banned. They won't burn. Ideas won't go to jail. In the long run of history, the censor and the inquisitor have always lost. The only sure weapon against bad ideas is better ideas. The source of better ideas is wisdom…

Take time to seek wisdom because it is the best thing we can offer our families and our fellow man.

I think God expects our pursuit of Him to be involved with challenging our previous conceptions. Isn’t that what repentance is all about, and we really never stop learning in life and in our pursuit of God.

After the presentation there was a little discussion and one of the more traditional men said; To the law and the testimony. It always interests me how some see what they want to see in the words of others. Though I did not tell him merely quoting the Bible is not what I mean by better ideas. The Bible is a tool to create better ideas but to merely quote it as if the quote is the truth for all time then we would still be stoning people to death, because that is what some of the commands of the Bible were. Obey God or He will smite you. That is according to the law and the testimony as classically that text is applied. Though the text is not meant to be used the way most fundamentalists use it. It is a statement meant to refer one to God for answers rather then relying on mediums and necromancers. I think God is capable of giving us the better ideas.

(Isa 8:19-20 NIV) When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?
To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.