Daily Archives: 21 Feb 2017

The Bee Stings the Silly Angry Atheists

Anyone with a brain knows that ‘god’ doesn’t exist. Science proves it. Pure reason and logic prove it. Neil Degrasse Tyson even said so on the Cosmos reboot.

And that’s why I have devoted my life to one purpose and one purpose only: absolutely destroying him.

Though he isn’t real, he consumes my every waking moment. My every breath is given to this one great cause. I eat, work, play, and live for the noble aim, to end this imaginary god’s made-up existence.

Even when I go to sleep, I dream of standing over this imaginary god and raising a fist of triumph, secure in the knowledge that I have vanquished a god who does not exist.

Some atheists and agnostics are content to simply go about their lives, respecting others’ beliefs, even if they disagree with them. But not I. No, sir. I cannot stay silent while others believe in a god of man’s own invention.

God, if you’re out there somewhere (and I know you’re not), sleep with one eye open—I’m coming for you.

Pretty much sums it up.  If they really didn’t believe God existed they wouldn’t spend their lives trying to prove it.  Indeed, one has to be a bit insane to rail against someone one doesn’t believe exists.  Sort of like spewing venom at unicorns…

But, to be fair to the silly angry atheists, the ‘god’ they’ve constructed in their feeble minds does not exist.  But the God of Scripture, theology, and history does.  And him they hate.

Jerry Falwell Jr and Franklin Graham and Eric Metaxas and Their Ilk Enabled Milo

This essay is SPOT ON.

Milo’s ascent over the last year was, to a tragic extent, enabled by the willingness of some evangelical leaders to offer their endorsement for the very behavior on display today.

In 2016, there was a lot of discussion about evangelical support for Trump. I grew up in a southern evangelical home with my father, a reverend and seminary professor. And while support from voters like me was treated as a foregone conclusion by conservatives, I was among many people who questioned how leaders of the movement could look past revelations that Trump had been recorded making crass, if not actionable, comments about women while talking to Billy Bush several years earlier. This criticism didn’t come from a place of perfection; certainly we’ve all said and done things we regret.  …

After a dozen women came forward to claim that they had all personally interacted with the version of Trump heard in that recording, Trump offered no indication he was not the man they accused him of being. He issued some threats about lawsuits, pointed to the behavior of Bill Clinton, and hid behind the evangelical support he enjoyed as proof that the criticisms were moot. The message: He could grab a woman by her—wherever—in the middle of 5th Avenue and not lose their votes.

In spite of this, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress and others continued to provide the spiritual security that their religious followers needed to feel okay with their vote. They went on TV, tweeted support, wrote articles, met with the president, and came out emphasizing that Hillary Clinton was worse.

Some went so far as to interpret biblical passages to accommodate their newly flexible worldview, a stark contrast to the principled stand many of them (or the fathers on whose credibility they trade) took in the 1990s when a Democrat was the president.

And then the clincher:

Evangelical leaders of this stripe seemed to indicate that such petty and insignificant things as “moral depravity” were irrelevant now that the questions were raised by a Republican.

White evangelicals voted for Trump by a wide margin; eighty percent supported him, according to exit polls. But the election didn’t resolve the questions; a month into his presidency, Trump supporters are still defending the indefensible.

Yiannopoulos is simply an extension of the moral ambiguity that evangelical leadership has helped to solidify on the right. Instead of certitude or clarity, many of the national leaders who are responsible for helping to guide millions of Christians trying to navigate the muddy waters of life in American politics have opted for moral relativism. They gave Trump a pass. Will evangelicals now give Trump’s surrogates and spokespersons a pass as well?

‘Evangelicals’ are Christians in name only.  Were they real disciples of Christ, their morality wouldn’t be up for sale to the highest bidder.  Graham and Falwell and Metaxas?  They embody every cancer that infects the body of Christ.

Go and read the whole piece.

Signs of the Times (Photo Used Without Permission)


The Bee Stings Rob Bell’s Pseudo-Faith, Again

According to sources close to author and speaker Rob Bell, the ex-pastor has finally denied the last remaining doctrine of the Christian faith he had not already mounted an all-out assault against.

Bell had been scraping the bottom of the barrel of doctrines to disown for months, according to sources, before denying the final one at long last Tuesday morning while waxing his surfboard near the Huntington Beach pier.

“Welp, I guess that about covers ’em. I can’t believe I ran through all of them already. What am I supposed to do with all this free time now?” Bell reportedly said to his surfing buddy right after posting a Tweet denying the resurrection of Christ using his smartphone. “End of an era, that’s for sure.”

“I mean, I’ll have more time for surfing and chillin’ with Oprah, I suppose, so that’s a bonus,” Bell added as he finished strapping his surfboard’s leash onto his ankle.

At publishing time, Bell had confirmed his conversion to Islam, so he’d have a whole new set of beliefs to eventually deny.

Seriously.  Few in the history of Christianity have been so bereft of Christ whilst maintaining they were ‘Christians’.

A New Commentary on Numbers

9781138706576This book provides a new reading of the biblical book of Numbers in a commentary form. Mainstream readings have tended to see the book as a haphazard junkyard of material that connects Genesis-Leviticus with Deuteronomy (and Joshua) and that has been composed at a late stage in the history of ancient Israel. In contrast, this book reads Numbers as part of a wider work of Genesis-Joshua, a carefully crafted programmatic settler colonial document for a new society in Canaanite highlands in the late second millennium BCE that seeks to replace pre-existing indigenous societies. In the context of the tremendous influence that the biblical documents have had on the world in the last two to three thousand years, the book also offers pointers towards reading these texts today.

img_1024Pekka Pitkänen is Senior Lecturer in the School of Liberal and Performing Arts at the University of Gloucestershire, UK. He is the author of Central Sanctuary and Centralization of Worship in Ancient Israel (2003) and Joshua (2010), and recent articles by him include “Reading Genesis–Joshua as a unified document from an early date: A settler colonial perspective” (2015) and “The ecological-evolutionary theory, migration, settler colonialism, sociology of violence and the origins of ancient Israel” (2016). His current interest remains in the study of Genesis–Joshua,together with the study of migration andcolonialism in the ancient Near East, ritual studies and other sociological and anthropological approaches to the study of the ancient world.

And he’s quite a lovely person as well.

A History of Biblical Israel

knaufThis new book from Equinox is excellent.  Indeed, it is the finest history of Israel written in the last 5 decades.

There was probably only one past, but there are many different histories. As mental representations of narrow segments of the past, ‘histories’ reflect different cultural contexts and different historians, although ‘history’ is a scientific enterprise whenever it processes representative data using rational and controllable methods to work out hypotheses that can be falsified by empirical evidence.

A History of Biblical Israel combines experience gained through decades of teaching biblical exegesis and courses on the history of ancient Israel, and of on-going involvement in biblical archaeology. ‘Biblical Israel’ is understood as a narrative produced primarily in the province of Yehud to forge the collective memory of the elite that operated the temple of Jerusalem under the auspices of the Achaemenid imperial apparatus. The notion of ‘Biblical Israel’ provides the necessary hindsight to narrate the fate of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah as the pre-history of ‘Biblical Israel’, since the archives of these kingdoms were only mined in the Persian era to produce the grand biblical narrative. The volume covers the history of ‘Biblical Israel’ through its fragmentation in the Hellenistic and Roman periods until 136 CE, when four Roman legions crushed the revolt of Simeon Bar-Kosiba.

ISD has sent a copy which arrived at the end of last month and I’ve read through it and offer below my thoughts on the volume.

First, it is comprised of three major divisions: The Pre History of Biblical Israel; The formation of Biblical Israel in Yehud and Samaria in the Persian Period; and The disintegration of Biblical Israel.    There are, as well, the usual preface, introduction, appendix, indices, and numerous illustrations (53 of them plus 5 tables to be precise).  The full table of contents can be viewed at the link above.

The introduction delineates the time-span of the study, defines terms like Israel, and history, and history of Israel as well as notions and ideas.  Each chapter following begins with an italicized central thought which then is fully explicated in the associated chapter.  So, for example, chapter one’s heading reads thusly:

The relations of Egypt with Canaan in the Late Bronze Age establish the framework for development in the Iron Age (p. 29).

Chapter two commences:

The rise of proto-Israelite tribes in the Central Palestinian Range is placed in the context of Canaanite revival spurred by the exploitation of copper mines in the Arabah following the collapse of the first Mediterranean economic system (p. 42).

And such brief snippets occur throughout.  Which brings me, conveniently, to the greatest feature of the present work: unlike so many ‘Histories of Israel’ this volume is not merely a dry retelling of the events of the biblical text (as though that were actual historical reconstruction).  No, here readers will discover actual history.  The who, what, when, and where of the events experienced by ancient Israel are on full, cogent, coherent display.  In short, actual history is to be found here and not the pious repetition of the biblical narrative.  John Bright, and to a lesser extent every history of Israel written in the last 50 years has done nothing more than repeat the Bible and toss in a bit of Egyptian and Mesopotamian history.  That is not the case here.  Thankfully.

Rather, then, than focusing on the biblical narrative, our authors deliver a historical reconstruction which investigates the economical and societal reasons for the shifting sands of the ancient near eastern political world and the impact those economic and social events had on the people we know as Ancient Israel.

To be sure, the biblical text is not ignored.  How could it be?  Rather, it is integrated into the social-critical approach utilized by our authors.  So, for instance,

According to the biblical scenario, 720 BCE closed the unfortunate parenthesis opened by Jeroboam I.  The “fall” of Israel only marks the end of the kingdom, but from the point of view of the biblical writers, it allowed them to ignore further events to the north of Benjamin and to turn their full attention to Jerusalem and, to a lesser extent, on the Edomites and Arabs (p. 115).

Alongside the extraordinary content the authors also offer – from time to time – pithy phrases that stick to the brain.  One of my favorite is their lovely ‘Baal allergy’ in reference to Israel’s Prophets’ attitude towards Baalism.

The bibliography at the conclusion of the volume and the appendix which offers readers a comparative table of Israelite/Judean monarchs and their dates are both very helpful.

This book, as I said above, is truly the best history of Israel written in the last 5 decades.  Readers will benefit from it and it should find its place in every biblical scholar’s library and at every institution of higher education where biblical studies or religion are taught.

We Must Constantly Remind Ourselves: Women Played as Important a Role in the Reformation as Men

So, for starters, read this:

Wer die Diskussion und Beiträge zum Reformationsjubiläum 2017 verfolgt, könnte bei flüchtiger Betrachtung den Eindruck haben, die Reformation hätten allein Männer vor 500 Jahren geprägt. Allenfalls Katharina von Bora, die Ehefrau Martin Luthers, findet in der öffentlichen Betrachtung statt. „Es gab aber noch mehr mutige Frauen, die am Beginn der Neuzeit ihre Glaubensüberzeugungen selbstverantwortlich und öffentlich vertraten“, sagt die Stader Pastorin und Luther-Expertin Sonja Domröse.

Luthers Vorstellung vom „Priestertum aller Gläubigen“ brachte das Rollenverständnis des ausgehenden Mittelalters ins Wanken. „Bis dahin galt: Die Ehefrau wirkte in der Regel im Haus, trat nicht öffentlich auf und war weithin von Bildung ausgeschlossen – gleichsam ein Wesen zweiter Ordnung“, blickt Domröse zurück. „Das Ideal war die Frau, die sich als Nonne im Kloster zu bewähren hatte.“ Luther bezog jedoch alle Getauften, ob Mann oder Frau, in seine Vorstellung ein. „Egal, ob Mann oder Frau“, betont Domröse, die in dieser Überzeugung einen wichtigen Türöffner für die spätere Ordination von Frauen in das Pastorenamt sieht – ein Weg, den sie Jahrhunderte später selbst gegangen ist. 

Etc.  And then read this book.  And then this one.

Fewer People In America Are Attending Church Than Ever Before

While tens of millions of Americans attend church each weekend, the practice has declined in recent years. According to Barna Group’s 2014 tracking data, overall church attendance has dipped from 43% in 2004 to 36% today. But beyond a dip in attendance numbers, the nature of churchgoing is changing. Regular attenders used to be people who went to church three or more weekends each month—or even several times a week. Now people who show up once every four to six weeks consider themselves regular churchgoers. Many pastors and church leaders are accounting for sporadic attendance in their ministry planning.

Furthermore, the percentage of people who have not attended a church function at all in the past six months has surged in the last decade from one-third to nearly two-fifths of all Americans. The shift is even more drastic among younger Americans: more than half of Millennials and Gen Xers say they have not been to church in the last six months.

Read more here.

#ICYMI – Did You Know Karl Barth Smoked A Cigar in Church?

HIN-Cartoon-KirchenkniggeOur friends at Ref.ch have directed us to a really fantastic essay today about church conduct.  You must read it.  It begins-

Der Theologe Karl Barth soll sich einst in der Kirche eine Zigarre angesteckt haben, um zu zeigen, dass es für Reformierte keine sakralen Räume gibt. Da Sie vermutlich nicht Karl Barth heissen, haben wir bei Pfarrerinnen und Pfarrern nachgefragt, was passend oder unpassend erscheint.

Proper conduct from A-Z.  Read it.  Read it now.  I love it- and I love this one especially:

Die Predigt soll unter die Haut gehen. Dazu brauchen Sie nicht in Badehose oder Bikini erscheinen! Zeigen Sie nicht zu viel Haut. Begrüssen Sie Ihre Sitznachbarn. Ein nettes Lächeln öffnet den Himmel!

And, Joel Watts, YOU need to pay attention to THIS ONE!

Checken Sie während des Gottesdienstes nicht Ihre Mails und SMS! Heisst es nicht, ich bin der Herr, dein Gott, der dich herausführt aus der Knechtschaft des Handys?

There’s a time and place for everything- and that’s true for what one does in Church too.  And what one SHOULDN’T do there!