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Showing posts from 2017

Ethical Considerations on Israel’s Clearing of Canaan from its Inhabitants

Some people wonder what to do with Old Testament texts dealing with Israel's clearing of Canaan from its inhabitants.  Putting people to the sword hardly sounds moral.  It sounds like an evil military force like ISIS.  It also sounds like ethnic cleansing and genocide.  On the other hand, others think that this fits a narrative that the land belongs to the Jews.  One can see how people might reach such conclusions, but the Biblical evidence does not support them when considered in entirety.
In order to understand these texts from a Biblical and Christian perspective, one must first understand what the Old Testament understanding of the clearing of Canaan entailed.  Second, the Christian must further understand key differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Following are nine points to consider on this issue.
1. Cultural Context.
Ancient Near Eastern peoples practiced people displacement and annihilation.  For example: The last Sumerian kings built a wall from the Eu…



A goodly life, our village liv’d, With simple faith, Boats full with fish, Fields fecund and fertile, Far from all the furies of Rome.
And yet, it was not half enough. Oh, not at first, Our gentle life, Quiet, happy, and free, ‘Until he challeng’d, ‘Follow me!’
He offered us a deeper faith Than ‘ere we’d found; Faith through trials To fight the faithful fight, Life with faith liv’d against the grain.
We followed to the heights of faith: Life to the dead, Our sins forgiv’n,  By his word, demons fled, Furious winds and waves obeyed.
Yet ever on he nudged our faith: ‘Step from the boat,’ ‘Transfer this mount,’ ‘Carry your cross, follow me,’ And, ‘Confess my name before men.’
At last, he set a final test That, having failed, Matur’d our faith: He, an off’ring for sin, God’s glory fastened to a cross.
And when our faith falter’d and fell, He pray’d for us, And faith returned: Jesus, ris’n from his grave! Believe now Him who defeated death!
Then did this follower find faith Unfalteri…

The Parable of the Altered Man

The master announced to his disciples that they would take the train to London, where they would learn ‘lessons from the cathedral’.  The disciples prepared for the journey, a little curious what the master might have meant by ‘lessons from the cathedral’.  Why not, ‘in the cathedral’?  Was the lesson from the cathedral itself instead of from the words of a lecturer?  And which cathedral?  Yet they were excited at the prospect of spending some time in London.
Upon their arrival early the next day, the master had his disciples position themselves nearby one of the entrances to the cathedral.  After half an hour, a black limousine arrived.  Out stepped three men, wearing white gloves and colourful aprons, badges, and other items marking them as Freemasons.  They carried a wooden box that was marked on one side with the words, ‘Cathedral Contributions.’  Half an hour later, the three men returned, accompanied by a bishop.  The bishop shook their hands and offered a grateful smile.
The mast…

The Importance of Being Right: Comments on Eugene Peterson’s The Message

Oscar Wilde’s hilarious play, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ focuses our attention on a particular virtue.  But being earnest does not hold a candle to being right!  Being sincere counts for nothing if one is sincerely wrong.  This, in a word, captures the problem with Eugene Peterson’s The Message.  Personal perspectives on Scripture simply cannot replace careful Bible translation and interpretation any more than they should guide pastoral care based on the truth.
Eugene Peterson has been in the news this past week about a flip-flop on his views on homosexuality, and then a simple wave of his hand at the issue—a major embarrassment for anyone in either pastoral ministry or theological education, let alone both.[1]  Yet his error goes deeper—even to altering the Scriptures themselves.  His opinion on homosexuality is actually not important to the Church, though his ramblings will, no doubt, injure some people’s faith.  An individual scholar’s opinions, though, are simply not releva…

The Archbishop of York and the Parable of the Moth

The disciples were talking excitedly with one another about a story they had heard that morning.  The General Synod was meeting that week, and various disturbing stories were filtering from the meetings.  They had just heard that the Synod had voted to ‘prioritise the common good of all people.’  One disciple thought that this was good news, especially in light of examples in recent days where people had put making a profit above the lives of others.  
Another disciple, however, pointed out that words were like free dancers and had a way of expressing themselves in any variety of ways unless given more direction.  ‘What do you mean?’ asked the first disciple.  ‘Well, if I say that we should all champion justice, for example, then we will have to say what we mean by ‘justice’, won’t we?  Otherwise, we will all agree to something but not have any agreement about what we mean!’  
Another disciple joined in.  ‘Yes, I know exactly what you mean.  One person makes the word ‘love’ mean, ‘If…

The Parable of the Weathercock Compass

One day, the master and his disciples were walking through the vales of South Wales and came upon a group gathered around an artist in one of the small towns.  The artist was creating a portrait of someone famous out of coal.  On display were other portraits made from tomato catsup, chocolate, lipstick and so forth.  There was even a picture made from marmite on toast!  His incredible and creative talent was evident to all the bystanders.  As the disciples moved on, they heard someone mention that the artist was homosexual and that he supported a charity opposed to bullying, since he himself had at one time been bullied for his sexuality.
Later that day, the disciples began to discuss an American legal case that was in the news.  An artistic cake designer was being sued for not making a cake for a homosexual wedding.  The disciples discussed the similarities between the two men.  Like the artist that the disciples had seen that day, he was a ‘food artist.’  The customers for whom he …

Is Jesus the ‘Son of God’?

Biblical languages, like English, can use the words ‘son’ and ‘father’ both literally and metaphorically.  When New Testament authors use the title ‘Son of God’ of Jesus, they are not using the title literally (as though God sired a son).  After all, Scripture affirms that Jesus is eternal, has life in himself, is not created but the Creator, etc.—statements of faith that affirm the eternity of the Son with the Father.  As the Nicene Creed affirms, Jesus was ‘not made’.  So, if the title ‘Son of God’ is metaphorical, in what sense is this so?  There are several answers, and here I will mostly follow (and, on occasion, develop) points made by Chris Wright in Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament.[1] As will also be seen, Jesus' being 'Son of God' is also more than a metaphor as it indicates Jesus' sharing divine identity with the Father (and Spirit) and expresses an eternal relationship within the one God's identity.
First, since Israel is called God’s ‘son’ in t…