Daily Archives: 17 Apr 2018

The Lies ‘Focus on the Family’ Tells, for Money

Focus On The Family told the IRS that its 600 employees are ministers and its cafeteria is a “place of worship.” The IRS’ resisted, but then agreed to call it a church, with all the tax advantages. Incredible document trail found by @bluemir @peoplefor – Laurie Goodstein

Unbelievable.  These charlatans will tell any lie for cash.  They think a business is a church and a church is a business.

Rest in Peace, Mrs Bush

Jeb Bush Campaigns With Mother Barbara Bush One Day Before SC PrimaryBarbara Bush, the best of the family (in my view) has died.  May she rest in peace.

Was Stormy Daniels’ Thug Tom Brady?

Come on, man, look at him.  That’s Tom Brady!

A New Way for Steven Furtick to Inflate his Fake Baptism Totals

A recent youth “Spring Kick-Off” pool party at pastor Rod’s house was revealed to be a covert attempt to inflate the church’s baptism numbers, a source close to Growth Church revealed Tuesday.

The event was pitched as a fun time for the youth to get to know each other, swim in the youth pastor’s pool, and develop crushes on one another in a complex web of opaque relationship statues comparable to those in an HBO drama series. But new evidence suggests it was something more sinister: an opportunity for the church to pad its baptism statistics, counting every youth who dunked himself in the pool as a baptism for the church’s annual report.

Partway through the event, a deacon was spotted in a nearby bush, marking down each youngster who cannonballed into the pool as a baptized church member. Witnesses claim he even counted people who jumped in more than once as separate baptisms.

“In response to current reports, we can confirm that anyone who was fully immersed in the pastor’s pool Saturday night was in fact counted as a legitimate conversion, profession of faith, and baptism,” the church’s vision casting pastor said in a statement. “Anyone who takes issue with that should have read the fine print in the release form the parents had to sign before the event took place. It clearly stated that we reserve the right to count literally anything as a baptism.”

“Our final tally for the night was 343 baptisms—not a bad night for the kingdom of God,” he added.

At publishing time, further investigation had revealed the church counted as a baptism anyone who got wet participating in the water balloon fight, battling in the Super Soaker war, or washing their hands before the hot dogs and burgers were served.

Watch, Furtick will do it.

A Few Observations on the #Exvangelical Movement

Having had fairly extensive discussions with members of this movement over a period of months, both on twitter, facebook, and privately via email I have observed the following:

  • The movement is right to distrust ‘Evangelicalism’.  Evangelicalism, as a term, has been emptied of all meaning and by rights everyone who adheres to an understanding of Christianity that isn’t tied to the far right of the Republican Party should identify with subsets of Christianity which do not call themselves ‘Evangelicals’.
  • The movement is made up of a number of people who identify as Gay or Lesbian persons.  Feeling ‘unwelcome’ in traditional Christianity, they distance themselves from it by adopting the hashtag.
  • The movement is also made up of persons who have been, in various ways physical and emotional as well as spiritual, hurt by a person or persons in a local church.
  • In responding to the Church some of these persons adopt an attitude of open hostility.  They despise the Church because of ‘what it did’ or because ‘it makes them feel excluded’. Some adopt an outlook of sadness in that they mourn for the disconnect they feel and wish things were otherwise.  And some simply walk away from the Church without looking back.

The interesting thing about the movement, to me, is the response offered by some to anyone who defends the Church.  The response tends to be hostile, and in some instances, downright rage-filled.  Anger at the Church becomes, for some, all consuming.  Now it isn’t a person or persons who hurt them or excluded them or whatever, it is, writ large, Christianity itself.  Their anger is displaced.  Instead of being furious with their particular abuser/mistreater they now behave and speak as though every Christian who has ever lived has done them wrong.

And the most interesting thing of all is that the attitudes of some display a more than fascinating attribute: i.e., that if things had been done their way, in their time, as they wished, then they wouldn’t have anything with which to fault the Church at all.  As one person wrote (and I have to congratulate her for her blunt honesty), ‘If my church had accepted that I was a Lesbian and if they had accepted my wife, I wouldn’t have ever left’.

In sum, what I heard from this young lady and from numerous others was that the Church should see things and do things the way the #Exvangelical wished.  Had they, all would be well.  The problem with this of course is that it betrays a certain self-centeredness and self-absorption that could find better expression in finding a congregation which held similar views rather than in anger at those whose views you do not share.

Which brings me to my central take-away from recent discussions: anger is widespread.  Whether justly or unjustly; whether at individual Christians or at all of Christianity;  anger is the chief characteristic of the #Exvangelical movement.  Anger that mistreatment occurred (when it did occur anger against it is perfectly justified).  Anger that personal preferences weren’t adopted.  Anger that others don’t see the situation in the same way.  Anger.  #Exvangelicals are mad as hell.  And I’m not sure that’s either healthy or sustainable.

Anger will only get those in the movement so far.  And then they will either have to abandon their anger or it will consume them.  They will burn up with and in their anger at _________________ (fill in the blank) or they will move beyond it to positively engage in the change they so loudly demand.

#Exvangelicalism will either remain a movement of the angry, and accomplish absolutely nothing (because in fairness it has to be said that, as a movement, it’s presently accomplishing nothing at all except loudly bemoaning what’s in the past) or it will grow beyond anger and become the counterpoint to the sorry state of Evangelicalism- a movement itself so besmirched by political entanglements that it can no longer serve the Kingdom of God.  To put it crudely, #Exvangelicals can either keep bit****g or they can make a real difference through constructive pursuits.

#Exvangelicals can make a difference.  The question, if they’d face it, is whether or not their members are willing to stop being mad.  Only they can answer that, and they may not even want to.  After all, some people love the drama of anger.

Spiderman window washer sentenced to 105 years for child porn

The world we live in

A Nashville man was sentenced Monday to 105 years in prison for producing and distributing child pornography involving an infant and a toddler, according to U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee.

“The sentence imposed by the Court should insure that this defendant will never have another opportunity to inflict his perverted sexual desires upon another innocent child,” said Cochran.

36-year-old Jarratt A. Turner befriended families and then offered to babysit these children, according to reports.

Pictures and video produced by Turner in his basement apartment included a toddler girl on 10 different occasions and infant boy on six different occasions, said Cochran.


Christians Have But One Savior

No Christian could hold such a view.

It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man.  It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in princes. (Ps. 118:8-9)


Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the LORD his God (Ps. 146:3-5)

So, no, Christians don’t think Trump, or for that matter Hillary or Bernie or Pence or anyone else can save the world.  That’s just idolatry and Christians refrain from that.

Go to This if You’re in Zürich

Here’s Why Falwell is Such a Staunch Trump Supporter: $$$$$$$

This is an amazing essay and it shows the absolute corruption of Jerry Falwell Jr.

Falwell was an early supporter of the reality-TV-star candidate, staying loyal through the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape and giving Trump a crucial imprimatur with white evangelical voters, who widely supported him at the polls. “The evangelicals were so great to me,” Trump said in an interview last year. The first commencement speech he gave as president, last spring, was at Liberty. And in August, Falwell stood by Trump following his much-criticized remarks on the violent rally by white supremacists in Charlottesville, declaring on “Fox & Friends” that “President Donald Trump does not have a racist bone in his body.”

Such steadfast allyship has prompted ridicule even from some fellow evangelical Republicans. But it makes more sense in light of an overlooked aspect of Liberty: its extraordinary success as a moneymaking venture. Like Trump, Falwell recognized the money to be made in selling success — in this case, through the booming and lightly regulated realm of online higher education. Falwell’s university has achieved the scale and stature it has because he identified a market opportunity and exploited it.

And, as the essay shows, he did so with taxpayer money.

The real driver of growth at Liberty, it turns out, is not the students who attend classes in Lynchburg but the far greater number of students who are paying for credentials and classes that are delivered remotely, as many as 95,000 in a given year. By 2015, Liberty had quietly become the second-largest provider of online education in the United States, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, its student population surpassed only by that of University of Phoenix, as it tapped into the same hunger for self-advancement that Trump had with his own pricey Trump University seminars. Yet there was a crucial distinction: Trump’s university was a for-profit venture. (This month, a judge finalized a $25 million settlement for fraud claims against the defunct operation.) Liberty, in contrast, is classified as a nonprofit, which means it faces less regulatory scrutiny even as it enjoys greater access to various federal handouts.

Read the whole.  Falwell, like Trump, is a scam artist profiting from the hopes and dreams of others.  The Day of Judgment is not going to be a delight for either of these two.

A Classic From the Vault: Helmut Koester on Hector Avalos

This nifty piece ran a few years back and since it has been a slow news day I thought I would do what others have done and post a ‘classic’. And this one is.  That’s for sure.

BAR Most Loved and Most Reviled

koesterPerhaps I should not be surprised that a scholar who has advocated a Biblical nihilism and has recommended that Biblical studies should be “tasked with eliminating completely the influence of the Bible in the modern world” would launch an attack on the discipline of Biblical archaeology and on a magazine that is Biblical archaeology’s most important outlet.

In the May/June “First Person” column by Professor Hector Avalos, as well as his book from which this column is taken, Professor Avalos criticizes not only the policies of *BAR* and its editor, he also questions the legitimate existence of the entire complex of Jewish and Christian religion in the United States, its Biblical base and its relationship to the academic discipline of Biblical studies, to wit, the Society of Biblical Literature—a formidable task indeed! What would be required for such an endeavor, however, is knowledge of the realities of American religious life and Biblical scholarship in general, as well as of the details of controversial issues in present debates. Unfortunately, Professor Avalos reveals a deep ignorance in both respects.

The reality is that both Judaism and Christianity depend upon the Bible. The Bible is their book of law and morality, their source of inspiration and worship, of consolation in sorrow and of festive celebration. The suggestion that the modern world does not need this book at the same time recommends the complete elimination of these Bible-based religions. This is not only preposterous, but it reveals a complete lack of understanding of what Professor Avalos calls “the modern world.” His “modern world” is a fiction in his mind that has no relationship to reality.

As for *BAR *, Professor Avalos off-handedly characterizes it as a journal that “has served Biblical education well in some cases and badly in others” creates the impression that about half of its content belongs to the latter category. He then proceeds to draw a caricature of some of its articles as if this were the kind of thing to which *BAR* was mostly committed. This is far from the truth.

Most of its articles are well-reasoned and well-documented presentations of good scholarship. To be sure, some are controversial—scholars disagree on interpretations of archaeological as well as literary materials—but that is the normal business of scholarship. Does Professor Avalos, claiming to be a scholar, not know that?

In fact the more controversial articles and opinions have served a very important purpose. The albeit-illegal publication of unpublished material from the Dead Sea Scrolls broke a deadlock that many had unsuccessfully tried to do for many years.

It was during the year of my presidency of the Society of Biblical Literature that the society accepted a free-access policy, which had successfully been applied in the process of the publication of the Nag Hammadi Codices (first: publication of a facsimile; second: publication of a preliminary translation; third: critical editions of all documents). But we were never been able to convince scholars involved in the publication of the scrolls to follow the same procedure. Thanks to *BAR*’s bold move to publish some unpublished texts, the deadlock was finally broken. Professor Avalos recognizes this; but is this part of *BAR*’s scandalous behavior?

Then there is the accusation that *BAR* is biased because it calls Professor Frank Cross a friend of Israel and the late Professor John Strugnell an anti-Semite, both Harvard colleagues of mine. This is not bias; it is a statement of a fact. I have known for decades that John Strugnell believed in Christian supersessionism.

Moreover, *BAR *’s seemingly offensive comments about Elisha Qimron are justified in many ways.  That Hershel Shanks has been found guilty by an Israeli court of violating Qimron’s copyright in the translation does not make him a criminal but rather a saint—if there is something like that in Judaism! Qimron has never revealed that the translation of the controversial Dead Sea Scroll known as MMT  was primarily the work of John Strugnell, who never got due recognition for his work.

Professor Avalos also cites as  *BAR *’s “competitive nature” Hershel Shanks’s criticism of the National Geographic’s publication of the Gospel of Judas.  On the contrary, he should have congratulated *BAR* for this critique! The publication of this document by the National Geographic was a scandal. The scholar entrusted with the translation, Marvin Meyer, violated the free-access statement of the scholarly society [the Society of Biblical Literature], of which he is a member. To his detriment, numerous major mistakes in his translation have now been discovered.

This could have been avoided if Marvin Meyer or whoever would be entrusted with its publication had allowed fellow scholars in the field of Coptic studies to discuss this Coptic text before the appearance of the first English translation. What Hershel Shanks wrote, calling attention to the scandal of National Geographic’s publication of this text, was exactly right and has been confirmed by subsequent scholarly investigations.

I shall refrain from setting the record straight on other examples of Professor Avalos’s caricature of *BAR *. More important is a consideration of the fundamental and important role that *BAR * has been playing in the concert of Bible and archaeology. There was once another popular journal, /Biblical Archaeologist/, founded by my former Harvard colleague and prominent archaeologist G. Ernest Wright. In its first years, *BAR * competed with this journal. The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), under whose auspices it was published, however, decided to change the name of this publication to /Near Eastern Archaeologist/, since it seemed to the leaders of this society that the name “Biblical” was odious (Professor Avalos evidently agrees with that judgment!). This was done by ASOR after the vast majority of the subscribers rejected such a change of the title. The result was that subscribers interested in the Bible (including me) discontinued their subscription. This makes *BAR * and Hershel Shanks’s Biblical Archaeology Society the only player in the field. Courageously this magazine alone holds up the torch of a scholarly outlet in this important area, although the very name “Biblical” combined with the world of a scholarly discipline—including archaeology—seems to be deplorable for Professor Avalos as well as the leaders of ASOR, who have largely abandoned their responsibility of a publication with an appeal to the general public in this field of study.

It is exactly here that Professor Avalos’s lack of understanding of the realities of Biblical scholarship is most evident. He apparently is unable to see this reality: The relationship of American religious life, Bible and scholarship is a vital and undeniable factor in our society—especially in the United States—however controversial.

Helmut Koester
Former SBL President
Professor Emeritus
Harvard Divinity School
Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Israeli Army and Palestinian Children

The more you know…

Perchance to Dream

Perchance to Dream: Dream Divination in the Bible and the Ancient Near East
Edited by Esther J. Hamori and Jonathan Stökl, ANEM 21, 2018
download paperback hardcover

You can download it for free.

Ireland and the Reception of the Bible

There’s an interview on the contents of a new volume over on the T&T Clark blog.  It will be of interest to many of you.

Free Access to Essays in ‘Dead Sea Discoveries’

Via Brill-

A second batch of 5 articles from Dead Sea Discoveries has become available for free, to celebrate the journal’s 25th anniversary with you, our readers. Enjoy!  http://www2.brill.com/Dead_Sea_Discoveries

Be Sure to Give The Theological Verlag of Zurich’s New Webpage a Look

It’s really quite nice.

It’s Time For Christianity to Say ‘This is Who We Are: Take it Or Leave it’

The chief weakness of Christianity is and always has been its sometime willingness to acquiesce to the demands of society in order to find acceptance, ‘tolerance’, or whatever.  From time immemorial, as soon as the Church has agreed to the world’s terms, it was weakened.   As Adolf von Harnack noted, the Church’s mission was to go into the world but instead the world came into the Church (in the era of Constantine the Foul), and that was when disaster struck.

In our own time churches are caving in to the cravings of culture and ‘giving the people what they want’ instead of what they need- the Gospel.  Nothing could be less appropriate, or less Christian.

Accordingly, it really is time for Christianity to say to the World: this is who we are, this is what we believe, this is how we behave, and if you don’t like it or want no part of it, good riddance.

Enough of the pandering and the whining and the capitulating; enough of the lying!  The Church needs to be the Church and remember that as the Bride of Christ the very gates of Hell cannot prevail against it.  Why, then, should a whiny Millennial?  Or a sniveling ‘seeker’?

Church, just be the Church, and to Hades with those who demand you surrender.  The world needs the Gospel.  The Gospel doesn’t need the world.  Pastors need to be Pastors, not capitulaters.