Thursday, March 5, 2015

God talked to me...


God talked to me
and said

I would like to give you a present.
Name it, anything in the world

Wealth
Material goods
Power

Name it and it is yours!


I thought about it
and said

But Lord,
I have my friends

Anything more would be

superfluous.


And when God talked about me
later
to others

God said that I was much
smarter
than I look.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

More On Biblical "Authority..."



Here is a fair and balanced take on the same topic as last post from our friend, Neil, who also does not allow commentary from "false teachers" like me on his blog. Neil says...

They don’t say the word bad, but that is obviously what they mean.  As John Wesley notes below, that is one of the three options, and the “Christian” Left has clearly dismissed the other two.
This book had to be written by one of three people: good men, bad men or God. It couldn’t have been written by good men because they said it was inspired by the revelation of God. Good men don’t lie and deceive. It couldn’t have been written by bad men because bad men would not write something that would condemn themselves. It leaves only one conclusion. It was given by divine inspiration of God. John Wesley
The Bible claims to speak for God in whole or in part several thousand times.  So either the authors were correct or they were a bunch of blasphemous pathological liars. The text does not leave any middle ground.

====

Neil is, of course, simply factually mistaken. As are many who have apparently been blinded by too strong an allegiance to tradition (mostly modern tradition, at that).

Point by point:

Neil mocks the "Christian" Left (being sure to demonize and slander them/us with his scare quotes, indicating his rather arrogant stance that he is in a position to decide who is and isn't Christian) by saying that we claim the Bible was written by men.

Of course, when we claim that the Bible was written by men, our source for that is... the Bible. As a point of fact, the books of the Bible all are directly or indirectly attributed to human authors. The Book of Luke begins...

“With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

Who wrote Luke, according to the Bible? It is attributed to the Human, Luke.

Who wrote Psalm 23? According to the text, "a psalm of David..."

Who wrote 1 Corinthians? According to the text, "Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes..."

Now, is it possible, even likely, that some of the texts which attribute some of the epistles or other books to Paul or some other author are misattributed? That some other human author penned it? Sure, that's possible. But the point is, according to the text in the Bible, these books were written by humans.

So, setting aside the arrogance of a quasi-literalist mocking people for taking the Bible literally, it's just a silly and irrational jab to mock people for daring to say that the Bible's various books were written by humans when that's just what the Bible says.

Neil goes on to say, "The Bible claims to speak for God in whole or in part several thousand times."

This, too, is simply, factually wrong. "The Bible" does not make ONE SINGLE CLAIM about "the Bible." Not one. Now, no doubt, what Neil (and this is not to single out Neil, many in his camp do this) are trying to suggest is that various places within the various books of the Bible, claims are made such as "Thus saith the Lord..." or "God spake..."

But those claims, set in the context of a story, are not factually equivalent to "This is a claim that the Bible is making about itself..." They just aren't.

For one thing, as any of our conservative friends will agree with, before one interprets a text, one has to determine the literary genre and devices being used. IS this a text that is intended to make a fact claim? IS it written in a style that must be taken literally? Is it using figurative language? These are questions that must be answered first.

In order to answer those questions, we humans have to use our human reasoning to think these things through. The Bible comes with no "key" to insist upon interpretation points, it is up to our own human reasoning to sort that out and, for good and for bad, our human reasoning is not perfect.

The point remains: Neil is wrongly belittling "liberal" "non-literalists" for taking the Bible more literally than he is when it comes to the authors and making non-literal and extra-biblical demands on how we "must" interpret Scripture if we want to be "good" (read "conservative) Christians.

Unfortunately for Neil, et al, a literal reading of the Bible does not support his claims, nor does simple reason or reality.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

All Opinion is Opinion


I don't think that it is a radical idea to say that "All opinion IS opinion..." That isn't saying that all opinions are equally valid. It's not saying that some opinions can't be mistaken. It's just noting a reality, a tautology: All opinion is, as it turns out, Opinion. As a matter of fact.

It doesn't seem that complicated to me, but I think that in some worldviews, the notion that all opinions are opinions appears to be threatening. I reference Stan Smith's latest blog post...

There is, I believe, a current, ongoing assault on the Bible in our world today...

What most people don't see is that this isn't an attempt to uphold the sanctity of the Bible. It is simply an end of anything usable in Scripture. If plain readings of explicit texts and historic orthodoxy are unreliable, then what do we have? If you want to call it "the Word of God", it doesn't help if your "Word of God" is unknowable and uncertain. If all understanding of Scripture must be viewed as opinion, there is no authority in Scripture.

It sounds intelligent and holy. "Don't conflate your opinion into God's Word." But when it is used to say, "All understanding of Scripture is opinion"--and, make no mistake, when you boil it down that is the intent--then it is nothing less than an assault on the integrity and authority of Scripture. Just like the skeptics or the liberals. Perhaps worse because it almost sounds like a call for a greater respect for the Bible. Which it isn't. Deflating God's Word to mere opinion is not a defense of the Bible.

=======

I want to be clear that I'm not picking on Stan... this line of thinking is oft-repeated in our more fundamentalist camps and I just don't think it bears up to rational scrutiny. I'm not saying "God's Word" (ie, what God actually thinks, wants, wishes, desires) is unreliable. But we're not speaking of what God's literal Word - from God's lips to our ears. We are speaking of our personal, human understanding of various passages and holy texts.

When I look at the Genesis Creation stories and say, "I think this passage is told in a mythic style..." or "I think this passage represents a literal scientific explanation of how the world began about 6,000 years ago..." we are quite literally offering our opinions, our interpretations of that text. Or for ANY text, when we offer our understanding of what the text means to us, what it meant at the time of its first appearance, what it should mean to others, etc, we are offering our opinions about that.

This is especially true on more ancient texts and on less provable interpretations. There is no evidence that the original author certainly intended passage A to be understood to be a certain way in an ancient text like this. There just isn't. Some people of good faith may think that passage A means one thing and was told in one particular literary genre, while another may think it means something else and was told in a different literary genre. And for both people, it is simply factually an opinion.

What else can our opinions possibly be but OUR opinions? Can anyone answer that?

And how is the simple pointing out of the fact that our opinions are our opinions an "assault" on Scripture? How is that rational?

I just don't understand it and I think if I were ever to sit down, face to face with one of these type of believers, perhaps we could make some headway in coming to an understanding.

If I had to guess as to why some kick back so hard at calling our opinions "opinions," it would be summed up as Stan put it when he said, "If all understanding of Scripture must be viewed as opinion, there is no authority in Scripture."

Yes, if we admit that our opinions on unprovable matters are, as a matter of fact, our opinions, we do lose some bit of power, of "authority," but it is a loss of our personal power or authority, not the power of God's Actual Word. Yes, it would be nice to say, "I am the one who perfectly understands God's Will on this topic and what God believes is X. You're welcome!" but we don't have any biblical assurance that we can speak perfectly for God. We have just the opposite, in the Bible and in just observable reality. We are not perfect human beings, we don't understand things perfectly. We "see as through a glass, darkly..." and that's okay.

There is nothing to fear in giving up the delusion that we can understand things perfectly. There is no "assault" in the simple recognition of our opinion as opinion. There is humility in that, there is grace in that and there is good solid reason in that, naught else.

Monday, February 9, 2015

I was a boy, once


I was a boy, once
wild, and in the woods
and roots that were planted
deeply in my chest
have kept me
wild
and in the woods

Friday, January 30, 2015

Hope is a Blackbird


Hope is a blackbird
singing stars down from the sky
Crow says, Oh, I know
But it's all right, it's all right

Crow says, yes I know
but child, it's gonna be all right.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy 2015!


May our new year be blessed with music
and great joy
and a certain strength of will
and a hard-earned peace...
one for which we're willing to work
and in which we're willing to invest.

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Prayer of Off-Guarded Joy


I saw you today, God.

As an elderly lady walked through my
Urban neighborhood
She tripped and fell
Spilling the contents of her purse.

From nowhere, a thug appeared -
Hoodie hiding his face
Prison tattoos scarring his knuckles
Pants sagging nearly to his knees

He quickly reached down and grabbed her purse and...

...and gently assisted her to her feet, returning her purse and
Tenderly wiping the dust from her clothes and
Tending to her as if she were his own grandmother
As if she were the Daughter of God
As if he were the Son of God.

Thank you God, for
Sudden moments of off-guard joy and
Gentle rebukes from
Unknown and intimidating saints.

Amen.

Friday, December 12, 2014

In This Bleak, Beautiful Mid-Winter


Some of my photos featuring the wintry, the dying, the passing away... set to music by my friend, Kate and performed by her band, Down to Earth (and friends).

Unlike many, I love this time of the year. Wintry walks beneath bare trees and across brown fields are some of my favorites. I find great beauty and comfort in the passing of seasons.

Seasons blessings...

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ring Them Bells

Music and artwork to begin the Advent season...


The artwork is a collage, made from reclaimed "Black Friday" ads. Our theme for Advent is the Alternative Narrative, and taking the themes of Buy, Get, Acquire from the commercial ads and subverting those messages to create a message of a new hope, a new season, a new Way... seemed appropriate to us.

"Ring Them Bells," by Bob Dylan, performed by some friends at Jeff St Baptist...

Happy Advent Season.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lazarus and the Rich Man


There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, "Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire."

But Abraham replied, "Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us."

He answered, "Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment."

Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them."

"No, father Abraham," he said, "but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent."

He said to him, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."

~Jesus

Some thoughts:

It is interesting that for many of our homeless and marginalized brothers and sisters, they are forced into a life of wandering anonymity whilst the rich are celebrated and honored, but Jesus here names and welcomes the poor man and leaves the wealthy one anonymous.

The rich man is not condemned as evil or a non-believer, it just notes that he is rich and literally outside his gate, the poor were literally suffering and dying.

The rich man appeals for Lazarus' help, after apparently ignoring Lazarus all those years.

There is no help forthcoming, because there is a "chasm" that had been set in place... one can't help wonder: Who set the chasm in place? Could it be that this is the rich man's own chasm that he had separated himself?

The rich man was worried about his presumably also-wealthy family, that they might suffer the same fate as he did.

Whatever your thoughts about the Bible, this is a great story - powerful, moving, tragic and compelling.