Monday, June 30, 2014

That's too (Christo)logical

Thus Bonhoeffer states his case for obedience to Jesus on grounds different from those at the basis of a system of moral principles. He grounds obedience on the basis of Jesus Christ alone.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 154


So, Abraham took his cue from God and said, “Well, now, let’s talk a little about Sodom.” As he does this, he is playing the role that a prophet, or a man or woman of God, or the elect people are supposed to play. That is a role of intercession, because election is not for privilege. Election, being chosen by God, is so a world can know the truth of the Gospel.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 145

<idle musing>
Indeed. But, as usual, we pervert it and make it all about us...
</idle musing>

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The real enemy

[T]he test of whether you are a believer is not in what you do with the third through the tenth commandments; but it is what you let the God of the first two commandments do with the good, the goods, in your life. The greatest enemies to God in our lives are the gifts and the goods He has given us. There is where the competition is.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 136

<idle musing>
Indeed! Too much prosperity and you forget God. You don't need him—you've got the future covered. Right? Wrong! He holds the future. And all our goods and goodies won't secure it. But we forget that when we have too much, don't we?
</idle musing>

Friday, June 27, 2014

Yes or no?

Jesus’s command forces the hearer to decision, to a stark “yes” or “no” response to his call. But if we refuse to be led through this break with given worldly ties, then we have already refused our allegiance. We have failed both to believe and obey. Christ’s call has not formed us as it could have, and thus we fail to see reality as it is in truth.—Bonhoeffer as quoted in Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 149

Walk on

The most astounding about all of this is that Abraham is an example of justification by faith. What is justification? Justification by faith is a legal concept for most of us, is it not? How can you make someone understand “justification by faith” if you do not have a law code, if you do not have a court, and if you do not have a judge? Yet Abraham is the supreme example of being justified by faith. He believed God and it was accounted unto him for righteousness. Clearly that is not according to some legal system of accounting. So what is the righteousness that God is seeking and which accrued to Abraham? The essence of it is a personal relationship with the living God. Notice Genesis 17:1. God says that if Abraham is to be all he is meant to be as a human being (“perfect” in the language of the King James Version), he has only to “walk” before God. That is not surprising when we remember that in Genesis the most characteristic way of describing what we mean by the term salvation is to say that a person “walked with God.”— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 123

Thursday, June 26, 2014

It's not the act

Christ’s call to do something specific, then, should not mean that the only thing required is behavior modification. Rather, true obedience has commitment to the person of Jesus Christ as its ground and goal. Obedience without commitment to Jesus Christ is not obedience at all but self-chosen moral idealism. Without Jesus Christ, then, “obedience” is disobedience no matter what concrete behavioral form it may take.—Bonhoeffer as quoted in Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 147

It's grounded in YHWH

If you look at the book of Leviticus, chapter 18, to see how sexual behavior is addressed in Israelite society, you will find at both the beginning and the end of the chapter the simple expression, “I am the Lord [Yahweh] your God.” What is the point of this? It is providing one simple explanation for the commandments regarding sexual behavior: because I am Yahweh. Why don’t you do this or that? One simple answer is given: “I am Yahweh.” The basis for moral differentiation and for ethical discrimination lies ultimately and solely in the very nature of the God of Israel.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 113

<idle musing>
You don't hear that in the current debates, do you? It's almost as if nobody—on either side—really wants to approach it from the nature of who God is. And if it is grounded in who God is, then what are the ramifications? I don't know for sure, but I suspect it might send all of us back to God on our knees...

I've been reading the book of Romans lately in multiple different translations. It's been a fun exercise in seeing things through varied lenses, but all of them agree on something: the culmination of the catalog of sins in Romans 1 isn't homosexuality—sure it's on the road there, but the final destination is a list of what most would call "common sins"—gossip, pride, breaking promises, lack of kindness, disobeying parents—the list goes on. The sad thing is that some of the ones yelling the loudest against homosexuality are doing so in the most unkind and unloving way.

Make no mistake about it, homosexuality is sin! But so are the other things listed! They all need to be repented off. And by repent, I mean turned away from. In other words, Stop it!. All by the grace of God through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. There is no other way. But, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is possible—and God commands it!.

Flame away! But here I stand, I can do no other!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

True freedom

But from all that can be gathered about Bonhoeffer’s soteriology, it is clear that the self that needs to be broken—and broken into—is the guilty self, the self fallen way from God and others, hopelessly entangled in its own falsely construed world. Only because this bondage is so pernicious—it is, after all, a bondage where one is enslaved by oneself—does Bonhoeffer feel it necessary to emphasize the intrusive and disrupting influence of God’s call in Christ in words that are often quite forceful. Thus it should never be forgotten that the purpose of defeat of the selfish self is its liberation, its salvation, and its being made free for God and for others in community rather htan its destruction or corruption.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 142

<idle musing>
And if ever there was a message that is unpalatable to the world, death to self is. It doesn't matter that death to self is actually liberation. It just won't sell. It won't fill the pews. It won't meet the budget. It isn't popular. Never was. And never will be. But that doesn't mean it isn't true! And it also doesn't mean it shouldn't be preached...
</idle musing>


If God was alone before the act of Creation, then the concept of sovereignty is not the ultimate concept of God, the ultimate word to be said about Him. In the beginning when there was nothing but Yahweh alone, there was nothing for Him to be sovereign over! So, there must be something about Him that is greater than His sovereignty. His sovereignty is an expression of who He is in relation to everything that he created.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 100

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The eclipse of the sun god

Last weekend was the summer solstice, the time of year when the sun is declared king and the temperatures are soaring. Well, supposedly that's the way it works. Except it doesn't always work that way—especially in Grand Marais!

There is always a festival celebrating the summer solstice. Part of that is a pageant put on by the local players; this year it featured a celebration of the north woods—complete with kids on stilts looking like trees and a TALL sun god on very tall stilts and a larger than life Bacchus with green face. Over all it was a cute and well done performance.

Except that the temperature was about 40°F for the performance and the whole weekend was foggy. The sun didn't shine at all. The temperature didn't get above about 60° and most of the time is was in the low 50s° to mid-40s°. The fog would roll in and the temperatures would crash. The fog would subside a bit, and the temperature would recover a bit. So much for the power of the sun god!

I found it highly ironic and not a little amusing. Maybe if there had been more or better sacrifices? Or maybe the sun god's priests didn't perform the liturgy correctly. Or...maybe the sun god isn't sovereign over the weather! Maybe only the Christian God is sovereign. Something to think about, isn't it?

So that's the problem!

Because God is active in Jesus Christ, Christ’s call is both an act of grace and an act of salvation without failing to be a call to obedience at the same time…At the center of Bonhoeffer’s soteriology is his insistence that the unredeemed human subject is trapped inside itself…Only as the sinful human subject is encountered by God’s own self can the human person be liberated from his or her own self-imposed entrapment, isolation, and the resulting alienation from others. Neither human action nor human reflection is capable of delivering humanity from its self-enclosed isolationism. Only by being actively confronted by the living God can the human self be freed from its distorted selfhood to be free for God and for others in community. Self-reflection is not the solution to the problem; it only compounds the problem.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, pages 140-141

<idle musing>
Indeed! And in our self-worshiping society, with it's constant attention to self, we are compounding the problem every moment...and the solution seems ridiculous. Death to self? Are you crazy? Deny your self? Yougottabekiddingme!
</idle musing>

Revelation (not the book)

He [God] is the Creator who makes all things, but He transcends His own creation. He is not involved in the flux and flow of the universe. There is an infinite qualitative distinction between Him and what He has created, an infinite ontological distinction between them. He is one order of being and the creation is another. There is a discontinuity between them.

That is the reason revelation is so crucial; there is a gulf between us and Him that we cannot cross. If we are ever to know Him, He must come down to us. That chasm is uncrossable apart from revelation. He must reveal Himself, and that is what we are getting in the Scripture.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 95

Monday, June 23, 2014

Morality and legalism

The model of Christ as a moral teacher cannot do justice to the disciple’s dependence upon God’s gracious and active call in Jesus because it has employed an objectified and objectifying model of God and of Christ. This model has reduced Christ to an object of reflection and his teachings to lifeless moral values, principles, or absolutes. This model, in not doing justice to Christ as the divine subject incarnate, reduces obedience to legalism and Christian freedom to self-grounded moral striving.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 140

About that primordial surd

Now, where does that magical power come from? It does not come from the realm of the gods, because the gods draw on it as well. It comes from that primordial realm behind the gods.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, pages 82-83

<idle musing>
To get the full understanding of what he's driving at, you need to remember the previous excerpt. Basically, the gods are subject to a power greater than themselves and must manipulate that power via magic—just as humans try to do. So gods are just bigger versions of humanity, subject to circumstances outside themselves but with a bit more power and a longer (unending) life...that's what makes the biblical God so different and unique—he condemns magic because he doesn't need to control anything—he already does! And you can't control him via magic because he is creator of all...

Personally I find that refreshing and freeing : )
</idle musing>

Friday, June 20, 2014

Intellectual assent

“An idea about Christ, a doctrinal system, a general religious recognition of grace or forgiveness of sins does not require discipleship.”—Bonhoeffer as quoted in Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 139

<idle musing>
And that's how we got into this mess...
</idle musing>

What's that I see behind you?

In the Babylonian story of cosmic origins, the one who reigned had the tablets of destiny around his neck, and they had magical power. Did you notice any reference to magic in the book of Psalms? Did you notice any appeal to witchcraft or sorcery? Yet there is no god in any of the pantheons in the Ancient Near East who was not very skilled in magic, sorcery, witchcraft, and the occult. Why is that? If you are a god, why do you need a magical amulet and the skill to use it?...It is because there is a power behind the gods to which we must turn if we are to gain power. Notice that in magic there is no appeal to a personal god. The realm for magic, sorcery, witchcraft, and the occult is what [Yehezkiel] Kaufmann call the “metadivine,” the real beyond the gods. So he says, behind everything in the pagan understanding of reality there are two worlds, not one. There is the divine world and behind the divine world, there is the metadivine one. And the gods are as dependent on that metadivine world, the world of raw, faceless power, as we humans are. This idea is at the heart of every mythology; if you read Greek mythology, you will find it; if you read Norse mythology, you will find it, and on and on. In every one of them you will find that the nature, the activity, and the fate of every god is determined by a force outside of themselves.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, pages 77-78

<idle musing>
And nothing has changed since then. Even among Christians, you see this. Use a particular verse to bind God to act in a certain way. Pray a certain prayer in a certain way. Do a liturgical act. Get up at a certain time. Read a certain number of Bible verses/chapters a day. The list goes on.

Why? Because we want to be in control! If there is a power behind God that we can get a handle on, we can control our destiny. We don't really believe that God is love, do we? If we did, we wouldn't see a need for all of that stuff...we would be able to "cast our cares upon him" and "take no thought for the morrow" and "in everything give thanks" and...well, you get the idea.
</idle musing>

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Who is really important here?

Every Friday morning, several of us get together at 6:00 for an informal time of sharing and praying. The group varies in size from two to a dozen and has been meeting for over 10 years now. We gather at the local coffee shop, Java Moose, for about two hours.

Last Friday, the book Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence came up. In case you aren't aware of the book, it was written in the 1600s in a monastery in Paris. Brother Lawrence was the dishwasher for the monastery for many years; he was illiterate, so the book is a record of conversations between him and the person who wrote the book. It's delightful little book that you can easily read in a sitting—or spend a lifetime pondering its insights.

Steve, one of the guys there, commented that 400 years later, we don't know anything about the monastery's personnel except the dishwasher, the lowliest of the lows on the totem pole. The support staff, as it were, of the mission.

Interesting isn't it? I'm sure the people in charge at the time were convinced they were doing great things for God that were of lasting importance. But all we have is a book by a dishwasher! And it's had a major impact on many (millions, maybe) lives.

Think about that when you think of missions organizations. Maybe the support staff, who are usually considered overhead, are the ones who will be remembered 400 years from now..."But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." (Matthew 19:30; Mark 10:31, NIV)

It isn't legalism

One of Bonhoeffer’s most important insights in Discipleship is his definition of the nature and effects of Christ’s authority. His understanding of Christ’s authority will allow him to depict God’s subjectivity in the Christ narrative. It will allow him to appropriate Jesus’s commandments and obedience to them as theologically suitable. But Bonhoeffer’s particular model of Jesus’s authority will also enable him to bring together grace and obedience without succumbing to either legalism or antinomianism. Thus his model of Christ’s authority is the positive insight that his deconstruction of “cheap grace” anticipates.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, pages 136-127

<idle musing>
I've heard people accuse Bonhoeffer of being a legalist after reading The Cost of Discipleship. I agree with the authors of this book; Bonhoeffer navigates the tricky waters between legalism and antinomianism very skillfully. Would that more people were able to...
</idle musing>

How atheistic are they really?

The reality is that any good atheist today is about sixty-five percent Christian. And if you listen to him, you will find that most of his arguments for his position had their origins in biblical revelation.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 72

<idle musing>
I heard Kinlaw argue in class once or twice that atheism couldn't exist in its current form without a Christian foundation. Interesting thought, isn't it?
</idle musing>

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Say that again...

Because this Word is always God’s own, it is transcendent; but because it is God’s Word, it makes itself known. Because God makes God’s self known in God’s Word, human beings can hear that Word and know God through that Word. The Word is revelation of God inasmuch as it is God’s Word; and inasmuch as God’s Word is God’s, it is revelation of God to humanity.— Bonhoeffer as quoted in Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 133

Who's in charge here, anyway?

To return to our psalm [16], we remember that the writer is saying there are two groups of people. There are those who are the holy ones, and there are those who seek what they want, and that is the difference between the two groups. Those in the one group let Yahweh be Lord and let Him decide what is good for them, while those in the other group have their own ideas, seeking and wanting what they want. At the most basic level that is the difference between the holy and the unholy.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, pages 66-67

<idle musing>
Can't get any more basic than that, can you? I think that's a good summary. Do I want God to run my life? Or do I want to run my life?

If the latter, then any hope of success must come from me. I'm responsible for everything. And I can manipulate things to get my own way—actually, I have to manipulate things to get my way. And it might work for a while. Some people are very good at it—for a while, but eventually they will get caught or run into someone more powerful or better at it than they are.

No wonder people are stressed out! Personally, I opt for the first choice; I'll let God run my life. By doing that, I can relax and enjoy all of life's often bizarre circumstances because I know who is directing my paths...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

God's initiative

Barth surmounts the Kantian impasses between God’s transcendence and the object-boundedness of the human mind by insisting upon God’s revelation through God’s Word. Barth does not take issue with the epistemological gulf that Kant sees between the transcendent God and the limited cognition of the human mind. But while Barth agrees with Kant that the human mind cannot itself bridge this gulf, he does not believe God is constrained by the same limitations. God does what human capacity cannot do by bridging the gulf between divinity and humanity from the divine side rather than from the human side.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 132

<idle musing>
And you thought the book was about Bonhoeffer! : )
</idle musing>

Location, location, location?

All holiness comes from Him [Yahweh]. So, if it is a holy place, it is because He is there. When God said to Moses, “The place you are standing on is holy ground,” it was not because it was a religious site; it was not because it was a high place; it was not because other people had worshiped there before. It was holy because Yahweh was there. He alone is the source of holiness. And if there is anything holy, it gets its identification from its relationship to Him.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 66

<idle musing>
Kinda stands the old "location, location, location" saying on it's head, doesn't it?! : )
</idle musing>

Monday, June 16, 2014


In order to make sense of Bonhoeffer’s ethical development, including the emergence of his pacifism, it is vital to see the relationship between the Barcelona lecture on Christian ethics and Discipleship in terms of a transition from one theological whole to another. The endorsement of violence in the first thought structure is merely a part of the overall ethical and theological foundations that legitimate such an endorsement. So also, the peace ethic in Discipleship makes sense only within the framework of its own foundation theological commitments.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 127

<idle musing>
In other words, it wasn't just a minor adjustment that could easily be gone back on. It was a radical paradigm shift. In order to argue that Bonhoeffer later repented of his pacifism, we need to find a similar radical shift. The authors will argue we don't find that shift.

While I agree with them, I don't buy their argument that Bonhoeffer wasn't really actively involved in the resistance and the plot to kill Hitler. More on that later, when I write the review of the book as a whole.
</idle musing>

Why that word?

Neither Homer nor Virgil [sic] used it [hagios]. But it does occur a few times in scattered places, so it was available for the translators of the Septuagint to use if they chose to. So, why did they choose to? I believe, and I am not alone in believing it, that they chose hagios because it had the fewest negative connotations that came with the pagan concept of the holy. In order to convey what they knew to be true of Yahweh, they very carefully chose a word that was almost unknown.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 65

<idle musing>
I know that idea has fallen out of favor of late, but I still think it makes good sense...
</idle musing>

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Not only does Bonhoeffer become a pacifist—not only does his mind change regarding practical applications in morals, in other words—but his work in Discipleship also demonstrates a fundamental reworking of the very foundations of Christian ethics.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 124

<idle musing>
In other words, after Bonhoeffer's time in the U.S. where he was exposed to biblical pacifism, he didn't just modify his views on the state, he had the equivalent of a conversion experience. It transformed the way he looked at everything. It would be the equivalent of an open-carry person suddenly becoming the proponent of massive gun control. Of Saul, the persecutor of Christians becoming Saul, the evangelist.

You read Bonhoeffer's early sermons on national themes, and he endorses the two kingdoms theory. He's all for the defense of national honor. He might not have agreed with Hitler's methods, but he endorsed the underlying reasons for it. But not after his sojourn in the U.S. and his exposure to the Sermon on the Mount in a new way by his French companion...would that more people would encounter the Sermon on the Mount in an unfiltered way!
</idle musing>

Listen and learn

As you know, a person’s language reveals a great deal about that person. If you le me listen to you long enough, I can tell what is in your heart. So, the psalmist says, the very nouns I use, or don’t use, will tell you what my commitments are. My language will reflect the fact that I have set Yahweh always before my face. He is the one whom I seek, and He is the one whom I want to serve.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 62

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Are we confused about what peace is?

“How does peace come about? Through a system of political treaties? Through the investment of international capital in different countries? Through the big banks, through money? Or through universal peaceful rearmament in order to guarantee peace? Through none of these, for the single reason that in all of them peace is confused with safety. There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture. It can never be made safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees it to mistrust, and this mistrust in turns brings forth war. To look for guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means to give oneself altogether to the law of God, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won where the way leads to the cross.”—Bonhoeffer as quoted in Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 57

Oh no, a nevil!

Evil is simply good in the wrong place or at the wrong time. It is not an eternal entity independent of the good gods as it is in most of the religions of the Ancient Near East. Even the snake of Genesis 3, which many interpreters equate with Satan, the Accuser, in Job is nothing more than a creature of God. Yahweh created everything that exists, so if you find something or someone acting contrary to God’s will, it is not because there is an independent evil force over against the creator God and in eternal conflict with Him. In the Old Testament, if something exists, no matter whether it is good or evil, God made it. But the reality is that evil is something that was originally good.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 60

<idle musing>
The post title is taken from The Magician's Nephew in the Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan has just created their world and an evil creature has already been set loose in it. But, the creatures a just created and don't know what evil is. They assume it is a creature, so they interpret it as "a nevil." OK, I guess it doesn't really fly, but I thought it was appropriate...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


“Peace on earth is not a problem, but a commandment given at Christ’s coming. There are two ways of reacting to this command from God: the unconditional, blind obedience of action, or the hypocritical question of the Serpent: ‘Yea, hath God said...?’ This question is the mortal enemy of obedience, and therefore the mortal enemy of real peace.”—Bonhoeffer as quoted in Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 56

<idle musing>
Unless, of course, you don't really want to obey...violence is addictive. It seems to work—or is it that we want it to work, so we remember it as working? After all, that way we are doing something—unlike prayer, which feels like we aren't really doing usual, our perspective is backwards.
</idle musing>

Nothing really changes

He [Edwin Lewis, Methodist theologian from the mid-20th century] stood up and said, “Now, I can divide you right down the middle on one question. Your answer to that question will tell me whether you have a gospel to preach or not, and that question is this: Was Jesus the son of Mary who became the Son of God? Or was He the eternal Son of God who became the son of Mary? And if you go with the first, you have no gospel because there is nothing saving that is in us. Salvation is in God and in God alone. So if Jesus emerged out of us, He can do nothing more for us than we can do for ourselves. But if He came to us out of the nature of the eternal Deity, then He can do for us what only God can do.”— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 54

<idle musing>
Did he just read Ehrman's new book? Oh wait, he said that in the 1950s...nothing really changes, does it?
</idle musing>

Monday, June 09, 2014

Giving offense

“Christianity has adjusted itself much too easily to the worship of power. It should give much more offence, more shock to the world, than it is doing. Christianity should…take a much more definite stand for the weak than to consider the potential right of the strong.”—Bonhoeffer as quoted in Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 54 (ellipsis original)

About that CV

But then comes [1 Kings] 17:1: “Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab [the king], ‘As the Lord [Yahweh], the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain for the next few years except at my word.’” There is not a word of explanation about Elijah’s background, or who he is. I love it. We are given an example of the dreadful condition in which the country stood, but nothing aobut the prophet. He just showed up and said, “I have a word from Yahweh.” Why? Because it does not matter about Elijah; just as it does not matter about you and me. That is a magnificent model for a preacher. The important thing is the word of God, which he or she carries. And if he or she does not have such a word, nothing else counts.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, pages 46-47

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Ain't it the truth

One’s own folly leads to ruin,
yet the heart rages against the LORD. Prov. 19:3 TNIV

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Thought for a rainy Saturday

My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:20-27 NIV)

Friday, June 06, 2014

Another D-Day thought...

Read this book by Brian Zahnd:
A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace

Especially today, when one of war's most memorable days is celebrated...would that we worshiped at the feet of the Prince of Peace instead of the statue of Mars...

D-Day thought

“The church forsakes obedience whenever it sanctions war. The church of Christ stands against war in favor of peace among the peoples, between nations, classes and races.

“However, the church also knows that there is no peace unless justice and truth are preserved. A peace that violates justice and truth is no peace, and the church of Christ must protest against such peace. There can be a peace that is worse than struggle. Yet it must be a struggle out of love for another, a battle that comes from the Spirit not from the flesh.”—Bonhoeffer as quoted in Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 34

<idle musing>
Appropriate for D-Day, don't you think?
</idle musing>


He’s [God/Yahweh] the one who is. He is the One who was before you took advantage of somebody. He’s the One who was there while you were doing it, and He is the One who will be there when you finish doing it. And there is no way to escape Him. Where does the psalmist’s concern for the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner, the blind, the broken, the foreigner, the orphan, the widow come from? All of that arose because he met Yahweh. I believe the proof that someone has met the living God is that he or she gets turned inside out and personal concerns shift from inward to outward. Do you know how badly we have corrupted that? What does “to be born again” mean to the typical American evangelical? Doesn’t it mean how to get my soul saved? Get me safe for heaven? I think that is an absolute perversion of biblical truth.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 37

<idle musing>
I just started reading A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace yesterday. He says the same thing—even more bluntly. By the way, if you are looking for a quick, but extremely challenging, read, then look no further. It's a great book—unless you are afraid of having your views challenged...especially if you have no problem waving a flag or saying the Pledge of Allegiance!
</idle musing>

Thursday, June 05, 2014

How do you read the Bible?

“We prefer our own thoughts to those of the Bible. We no longer read the Bible seriously. We read it not longer against ourselves but only for ourselves.”—Bonhoeffer as quoted in Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 33

<idle musing>
Too many of us read "our" Bible. That is, we read what we want to see, which isn't necessarily what is there...
</idle musing>

More than a conception

So, biblically, the knowledge of God is different from having a conception of God by which one defines His nature. It is not a theory about Him. It is not ontological refection upon His being, but it is existential, and if it is a true knowing of Him it will affect you and it will affect Him. It is life in a true relationship with God. So the Old Testament does not try to bring us to a theology that defines the being of God.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, pages 20-21

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The end of theology

Many years ago—back before many of you were old enough to know right from wrong (Isaiah)—I was a seminary student. One of the courses I was privileged to take was a course in Old Testament Theology from Dennis Kinlaw. He had just stepped down from being president of Asbury College and taught for two semesters at Asbury Seminary. I took every class he taught, plus two independent study courses (Syriac and Aramaic—yes, in that order!). To say that he profoundly affected my theological development would be an understatement. He never was much of a writer; most of his books are edited versions of transcriptions of his seminars and sermons. The book I will be excerpting from next is no exception. I took the class in the summer of 1983; the book is a transcription of his lectures from the only other time (that I know of) that he taught the class after that, in 1993.

Here's the first of many excerpts. I hope they make you think and worship:

Furthermore, true theology ought to end in prayer. If theology is the study of God, the knowledge of God, and if God is God, then the end of the study ought to be worship. If it is not, if it has been only a study about a subject and our thoughts on that subject, that is idolatry; I have made God a thing. It does not matter how accurate my thought is; if it does not bring me to Him as a living Person, I have only found a substitute for Him, a knowledge of something other than God. When one comes to know the true God, the only response is, in the language of the Old Testament, fearful worship. I do not mean fearful in the sense of craven terror, but rather a deep-seated awe that you have come into the presence of the Holy one of Israel, the Creator and Lord of all.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, pages 15-16

This is good

I subscribe (via RSS) to a few blogs that do weekly link lists—think of it as a weekly biblical studies carnival. Among them is the Wednesday Link List, done a Canadian blogger. Today he links to a good post on the consequences of misunderstanding holiness, calling out a well-known Christian leader in the process. Here's a snippet, but do yourself the favor of reading the whole thing (it's really quite short):
Whatever you’re trying to do for the sake of Christ, the most important lesson from the Gospels and epistles is the centrality of the Holy Spirit. You won’t last long by simply trying harder.

Living in fear of an angry God will grow old.

When fear of God gives way to loving God as a father, holiness becomes a natural response.


Before the cross, God had an intense, undying love for us.

In the epistle to the Romans, Paul had God’s mercy rather than his wrath in mind. He also called his readers to be renewed in their minds rather than trying harder:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV via BibleGateway)

<idle musing>
He's singing my song...oh, and while you're reading stuff, check out this post with the scary title of "The intimacy of toothbrushes (and sex)." Here's the final line from the post:
And it makes me wonder if, after an evening of flirting and good chemistry, if handsome guy was to sidle over to delightful girl and whisper, “so, you wanna go home and share my toothbrush?”, whether the response might not be a little different.
Something to think about...just an
</idle musing>

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

It's just possible

I ramble a good bit on this blog about transformation and the Christian life. Sometimes I feel like a voice in the wilderness...but today there's a good post on Jesus Creed that you should read. Here's a snippet to whet your appetite (yes, whet, not wet! look it up.)
Evangelical brands of Christianity in the west have too often espoused only a “change when I die” eschatology/soteriology. This doesn’t mean they are “bad” Christians. It simply means they have not yet developed the imagination, nor received any substantive teaching, regarding how to begin living the kinds of lives that people like Abraham, Moses, David, Ezekiel, Daniel, Mary, John the Baptist, or Paul, lived in and through the power of God while on earth. This is a result of modern evangelicalism having never developed a stomach (much less a budget) for discipleship as the PRIMARY objective of the church. Instead, most Christians today fully expect to become their perfect/perfected selves only after leaving earth and entering the eternal (eschatological) character reformation project in heaven. This is a widely held belief that unconsciously demotivated us from pursuing any sustained commitment to the intentional efforts involved in character transformation. Just like the rapture theology caused many conservative evangelicals to forsake responsible stewardship of the earth, so too a “change when I die” dogma stalls any move toward holiness.
<idle musing>
Amen! You can't hope to attain to something you don't believe is possible! If you think you're a sinner, you will act like a sinner! If you know you're a saint, you will begin to act like a saint...
</idle musing>

Its a scandal

Between Mark 15.13 and 16.6 he uses the verb σταυροῦν, which was so offensive to ancient ears, eight times, and three times he talks of the σταυρός of the Messiah. Only those who understand how extremely offensive this word will have been to both Jewish and Gentile ears will be able to grasp what that means.— The Atonement, 43

<idle musing>
No wonder Paul calls it the scandal of the cross...We need to recapture that.
</idle musing>

Monday, June 02, 2014

Old book

In my continuing quest to learn more, I've been going back and picking up older books that are referred to frequently in newer stuff. For some reason, there are huge gaps in my reading! What a surprise—not. With so much stuff being published, it's impossible to keep up. Anyway, one of the books that I've been meaning to read for decades now, is Martin Hengel's The Atonement. But, seeing the current debates, it's pretty obvious lots of people have overlooked's a nice little snippet to add spice to your day:
That the man Jesus died meant little, for many men were crucified in Jewish Palestine at that time; incomparably more astonishing was the confession that this man Jesus, executed as a criminal, was raised by God. To say that the Messiah had died was a complete reversal of this. It was taken for granted that God would grant victory to the Messiah; the message of his death on the cross, however, was a scandal.— The Atonement, 40

Final thoughts on legalism

Legalism doesn’t need God. Legalism is the search for innocence—not forgiveness. It’s a systematic process of defending self, explaining self, and justifying self. Legalists are obsessed with self—not God.


Turns my opinion into your burden. There is only room for one opinion in this boat. And guess who is wrong!
Turns my opinion into your boundary. Your opposing opinion makes me question not only your right to have fellowship with me, but also your salvation.
Turns my opinion into your obligation. Christians must toe the company line. Your job isn’t to think, it’s to march.
If you want to be in the group, stay in step and don’t ask questions.— He Still Moves Stones, 120

<idle musing>
Wow. I've never heard it put so bluntly before! But he's right. And we call that "the gospel"?! What a negation of the term. We need to be set free, to know the truth that sets us free, i.e., the gospel!
</idle musing>