Friday, January 29, 2010

Purpose of Church

What do you look for in a church? As my wife and I have explored options since we moved, I had an interesting conversation with a pastor, in which he noted that we have the desire to connect, and he asked for clarification if this was to connect with God, other people, or what.

I hadn't thought of it in terms like this, but I realized I do not feel like I really need church to connect with God, per se. I feel like I connect with God very well on my own and with my wife. I do not need a church to do that. This particularly true with contemplative techniques. For me, they feel more effective in solitude or with a small group than with a large group.

In contrast, church seems, for me, to be an opportunity to connect with other believers and experience God incarnationally. Now, this is therefore a way of connecting with God, but it is a slight difference from directly connecting with God.

The relationships among the Church body are important. They give us life and help us remember our priorities.

Church organizations are not necessarily needed to connect with God, I don't believe. That is not to say church and Church (the former being the organization and the latter being all believers) is not important. To the contrary: It is quite important, but not necessarily for the reasons we often are told about church.

This is definitely a distinctly Protestant view, of course. What do you think?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Following God & Hearing God's Voice

I heard a message this weekend on John 10:1-21. This is the famous passage about Jesus saying "my sheep hear my voice." I've heard this passage be preached on many times, and honestly, I've never been particularly satisfied with any interpretations.

Namely, most messages on this seem to be quite an oversimplification. Most people do not address the complexity of following God and hearing his voice. This is an incredibly nuanced aspect of our relationship with the Lord. Frankly, it's something that probably cannot be adequately addressed in a single sermon. Full books are written on the topic and still seem like an oversimplification.

Have you encountered this also? Have you heard a good message on the topic that addresses the complexity and richness of following and listening to God?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Perfect Parenting

This is a very interesting article on parenting and how there is no such thing as a "perfect parent." Particularly in Christianity, we do often place a lot of weight on parents, assuming if you're good enough of a parent, you'll have good kids, so if your kids have problems, then you suck as a parent.

As a therapist on a child inpatient psychiatric unit, I see many parents who place this judgment on themselves (and many of them are not Christians). They also ask what they can do differently.

While many parents could do significantly different things and definitely contribute to kids' issues (in fact, many kids don't have a problem--their families do), there is a significant number of situations where there is no clear answer. No one has necessarily done anything wrong. The child just has serious problems.

It seems these are some of the most difficult situations, both for the family and for me, as the therapist. If it's someone's fault, at least there's a solution and therefore hope. If no one is at fault, hope becomes much more difficult to find. And hope is critically important to life.

I'm not a determinist overall, but some things are determined. The thing is we cannot always determine what is predetermined by genetics, God, or our situation (or all three). What I can say is that even when we do everything right, everything does not always work out perfectly. And that can be more distressing than if we have made a mistake.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Love in Leviticus

Those who have read the Old Testament know that Leviticus is not the most interesting of all books. It is full of rules and regulations about how to be holy for God. This book is often used from the holiness tradition to tell people what they do wrong and how to live righteously. Honestly, I rarely hear this book used in a positive way, but rather in a legalistic way.

On Sunday night, I was reading through the weekly readings in my Mosaic Bible, which included Leviticus 19:18. I was surprised to see "love your neighbor as yourself" there. For one reason or another, I never remember hearing that this was ever in the Old Testament; it's always quoted in reference to Jesus.

I think it's significant that love is explicitly prescribed in the Old Testament, particularly in a book that is focused on rules. This should remind us that we need to view all rules in the context of love.

Also, since we're on the topic of Leviticus, I think it is often misused to support legalistic holiness. From my studies of it, it seems more appropriate to view the various rules (which are often strict and numerous) as a way of setting the Israelites apart from the rest of the world. The rules themselves are not necessarily holy, but rather the process in what they mean. If we are to live a holy life, that does not necessarily mean living out Leviticus literally, but rather in process: What sets us, as Christians, apart from society, particularly emphasizing love?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Church Nepotism

This is a very well-written article on the problems of church nepotism. My wife and I have both seen it from a problematic perspective, and it can really devastate a church.

I can see the desire to hire family and friends, as they are most likely to share a dream and values and are definitely trustworthy. As the article states, this can be good in building a community. But after a while, I think it alienates other people and prevents others from coming and using their skills to build the community.

Have you experienced church nepotism? Have you seen it be beneficial, harmful, or both?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Church Mistakes

This is an incredibly good article, entitle Seven Mistakes Every Church Should Avoid. I could repeat what is in the article and say more, but the author does it quite nicely and succinctly.

I particularly appreciate #2: Misrepresenting the tithe, #4: Over-emphasizing the role of the pastor, and #7: Conversion-focus instead of disciple-making.

I agree whole-heartedly with all of those. What are your reactions?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Some Good Articles

I've been a bit behind on blogging recently because work has been uber-busy and because I'm trying to spend extra time studying for my licensing exams. At some point, I want to make some excellent comments about the films The Book of Eli and The Secret of Kells. Both have very nice spiritual elements. This is a good review of Eli, exploring some of these elements. And I first became interested in the film after this article (plus, Denzel is my favorite actor, and I'll basically see whatever he's in). I would say I enjoyed Kells more, but Eli was definitely powerful (although clearly more bloody). But I recommend both if you have the chance for either.

So you all don't start getting withdrawls from my posts (because I know people hang so much on every one of my posts and words :) ), here's some interesting articles that I recommend:
How the Early Church Read the Bible (I like the comments about a self-focused Gospel--it actually seems to tap into some of the themes of Eli)
Spiritual Lives All Their Own (about kids' spiritualities)
Would a Religious Conversion Change Your Brain? (emphasizes that it isn't nature v. nurture--they work together)
Missional Community Formation (emphasizing that false boundaries of faith traditions are not terribly helpful)
The Battle Lines Over Justice (again emphasizing the stupidity of some of these boundaries)
Believing in God and Evolution (Gasp!)

And then there's the humorous, not safe for work photo that might offend some, but that I find hilarious.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Just Don't Read Just Do Something

This review of Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung was made possible through a complimentary copy of the audiobook through christianaudio's reviewer program.

I was looking forward to this book, expecting a bit of an incarnational perspective on finding God's will. That was there, but not in the way I expected. It presented nothing useful and was possibly the worst religion book I've read (or listened to). In fact, I think it can be quite spiritually, relationally, and psychologically damaging.

It seems appropriate to start the review with the title. Compared with other books I've reviewed recently, this title is very appropriate and accurate. In fact, it tells you exactly what the book is about. DeYoung's answer to God's will is don't worry about it; just do something. Anything. As long as it is not morally reprehensible.

This is where I started having problems. DeYoung discusses valid problems in today's society, namely indecision. But his solution is too extreme of just doing something. I do not believe that is the answer, nor is it God's desire for us to just act. I could probably go line-by-line with counterpoints to DeYoung's assertions, but that would make another book, and it's hard to do with an audiobook.

Here's a couple of his main points, though. One is that we do not really need to seek counsel in most any situation. That's what God gave us a brain for. Okay, that's true that we should use our minds, but that's also what the Holy Spirit is for. DeYoung's way of dealing with God's will does not require any real relationship with God; it just requires a knowledge of Scripture. He states that the Spirit speaks to us through Scripture. Fair enough. But he also speaks to us in other ways. True, they're subjective at times, as DeYoung says, but that does not mean they're unhelpful. Frankly, biblical interpretations are subjective, too.

He argues decisions need to be made in alignment with God's goals for our lives. I couldn't find the quote again in the audiobook, but the first two goals are moral purity and theological fidelity. Compassion was in the list, but it almost seemed an afterthought. While moral purity and theological fidelity are nice, Jesus did say the greatest commandment is to love God and love others. I think love is the primary purpose.

DeYoung argues that we do not have to worry about what we do because whatever we do will be what God's will is. Sorry. Completely disagree there. There's many examples everyone could come up with of ways that we act that are not in alignment with God's will.

He also asserts that we should never worry because that is a sign of little or no faith. True, God does not want us to worry, but we do. That's normal and not necessarily a sign of spiritual frailty. I could go on on this topic for hours from my psychology profession...

Then there's the real juicy stuff. It seems one of the primary reasons he wrote this book is because people are waiting to get married. He stated that in most cases, people should be married and own a house by 30. He sees a lot of problems as due to delayed marriage. That may contribute to some social problems, but there may be other, better solutions than just getting married earlier.

He almost argues that everything will be solved by marriage and mentions many "problems" due to and causing delayed marriage. Frankly, many of them seem like no big deal and not problematic. While he states there is nothing wrong with singleness, I just simply do not believe him. He pushes people to get married, saying things like, "Getting married is good for your sanctification."

He tells men that if you like a girl (and she likes you), you're both Christian, and no one has major problems, get married. This is one of the worst pieces of advice I've ever heard. This is the kind of thing that causes needless divorce or horrific marriages.

He goes on to say that women start a career, "which is not necessarily wrong, when they would rather be married and having children." He says, "Men, if you want to be married, find a godly gal, treat her right, talk to her parents, pop the question, tie the knot, and start making babies." I couldn't even believe I heard him say these things.

Not that these aren't important, but marriage and kids don't have to happen immediately. And they definitely do not solve all problems. There's also a lot more to life than that. DeYoung does not think so, arguing that fulfillment is selfish and not in God's plan. He needs to read the psychological literature on it, though, starting with Maslow's hierarchy of needs. In a situation, like many of my generation's grandparents grew up in, the focus was on a lower level of needs (like food and shelter), which were not guaranteed. Now for most Americans, those are not a struggle, so we can address higher level needs, including self-esteem and self-actualization. They are critically important.

My wife listened to this section, and she was shocked, also saying this book is awful, damaging, and offensive to women. She adds, "this is exactly the kind of crippling fear that so many single women feel today... that there's something wrong with them because they're not married yet.. this just adds to that feeling of inadequacy! The author is basically saying that we as women are all just waiting around for a man to come along so our lives can finally start. That's sickening." I completely agree.

DeYoung relies too much on his grandfather's perspectives as fact. We need to look to our elders for wisdom, but not all of them did things perfectly nor do they understand everything perfectly. My grandpa would disagree with his. So does that mean I can write a book arrogantly asserting that I know all Truth about God's will based on my grandpa?

The narrator, Adam Verner, was fine. He had good tone and intonation and made the book relatively interesting. Frankly, he was the best part of the book.

Better books dealing with God's will are John Eldredge's Walking with God (DeYoung criticized an unnamed book, but I think it was this one) and Francis Chan's Forgotten God. If you want a contrary opinion to those books or want to explore perspectives on God's will, this could be useful. Otherwise, don't waste your time on this book. I think it's unhelpful at best, spiritually and psychologically damaging at neutral, and possibly borderline heretical at worst.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Semi-Memorable Forgotten God

I recently finished listening to the audiobook version of Francis Chan's Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit. It was not as part of one of the reviewer programs, although I did get it free through a christianaudio coupon code.

This is sometimes billed as the sequel to Crazy Love, which I really liked. The interview with Chan preceding the book itself was very nice, and Chan said he actually was more excited about this book than Crazy Love. When I started it, I liked it a lot more, too. He starts by saying we need to challenge our beliefs constantly to make sure we are as accurate as we can be. I probably liked it because that's the foundation of this blog! :)

In the interview, Chan also acknowledges he is not a great reader, but prefers to read this book himself because he cares so much about it. Like I've said in previous reviews, I'm so happy he did because his passion really comes through. And something happened between Crazy Love and Forgotten God because he is a MUCH better reader. He was very engaging and did not sound like he was just reading.

His basic premise is that Christians often forget about the Holy Spirit, a person of God just as important as the Father and the Son. I particularly like how he asserts that we need to start calling the Spirit "he" instead of "it," which we usually do, relegating the Spirit to some odd, nonpersonal thing. Through these kinds of words, Chan does a nice job of presenting the Spirit in a new way. Like he even says in the interview, this book really does not say anything new, but says it in ways that quite powerful and engaging.

Partway through the book, I started becoming a bit bored. Forgotten God is much more cognitive than Crazy Love, which was much more passionate and heart-focused. This is not always a bad thing by any means. I tend to live in my head more, which may be why I prefer tomes that focus on the heart more because that's more of my need.

The other difficulty I had with the book is Chan presents thing in a bit of an idealistic situation. He talks about ways of living with the Spirit that are nice, but are not always practical. As one friend said, we do not always live in a state of "spiritual heroics." We are not always intoxicated by overwhelming, crazy love for God. Just as in other relationships, feelings are transient, and that is okay. However, with some of the way Chan talks, one could feel guilty for not always being on a spiritual high.

Overall, though, I recommend this book. It is an excellent treatise on the Holy Spirit and definitely made me more aware of him.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Housekeeping & Marriage

The first book I get to review for the Tyndale Blog Network is Kathy Peel's The Busy Copule's Guide to Sharing the Work & the Joy. Tyndale House Publishers provided me a complimentary copy of the book to review.

In getting to do my first review, I had the choice of two items, this book or a DVD set on Christmas and helping the homeless. Both sounded interesting, and the latter is more directly related to my blog. However, when I saw the advertising line, "Are you married to your housekeeping opposite?" I knew this was the book I should get.

You see, my wife and I often comment how we are essentially housekeeping opposites: I like things a lot cleaner than she does. And it leads to a lot of fights. So I thought this would be a good opportunity to both do a review and better our relationship.

Content-wise, the book is solid. I may actually reference it in the future for therapy clients. I like how Peel emphasizes that we spend a lot of time on many compatibility issues in relationships, but ignore housekeeping, and yet that breaks up a lot of marriages. I would agree with that. It is often the little things that nag us and bring a couple farther apart. And it's the little things that bring people closer. So it is an important issue to address, and Peel does a nice job normalizing the struggles and looking for practical solutions. In many Christian traditions, we often say that if you find the right spouse and try hard enough, the relationship will just work. As one of my friends and I have discussed, it's rarely that simple, and this book does a nice job of addressing that.

Martial problems due to housekeeping differences or other things are not due to spiritual or relationship deficiencies.

I also like how Peel is not prescriptive in how tasks should be assigned. She actually asserts that chores should not be determined by tradition, but rather by time and talent. I think this is really important and emphasizes a more egalitarian perspective. The problem is when a certain chore does not really fall into anyone's time or talent (I don't think the toilet is high on anyone's list). But Peel is practical and even has a website with downloadable worksheets that can help a family determine what needs must be met and their priorities.

She also recommends couples sit down and address what their respective norms were growing up and trying to compromise to create a new norm. There's even a worksheet for that. This is a psychologically sound practice that is frequently used in other areas of a relationship, but I do not remember hearing this be applied to housekeeping very often. So major kudos to Peel.

The use of technology through the website and even recommending iPhone apps that are applicable is excellent. Peel does a great job of being practical and making a lot of suggestions so that the reader that find what is most helpful.

Now to the negatives. The book is labelled "A Couple's Guide." The problem is the content is really not aimed at the couple, but rather the wife in a heterosexual relationship with kids. I did not realize this when I chose this book to review. Peel even says this book is meant to be a companion to The Busy Mom's Guide to a Happy, Organized Home. And then there's a subtitle on the book, stating "with advice for men from Bill Peel."

That just made me groan when I opened up the package with book and saw that. I thought, "Great, another book emphasizing and oriented toward gender traditionalism in which the woman is neat and the man is a slob." These kinds of comments alienate men who are the neat ones or even couples who do not yet have children. At the same time, the content is solid. The "advice" from Bill Peel is really not gender-specific. If they could have taken out the specific references to make it oriented to mothers, the book would probably have much larger marketability.

Perhaps the mother crowd is the biggest audience, but if I saw the book in the bookstore with the men advice line, I probably would not purchase it. Yet the book would help. I have not gotten to practice the suggestions yet (I want my wife to read it, too, although she doesn't know it yet :) ), but I think they are solid, useful ideas.

If you are married to your housekeeping opposite, this book is very useful. If you're in a gender traditional marriage and have kids, it'll be great. Otherwise, you'll have to overlook a few words (really not a big deal) and just have faith there are other couples like you out there.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Franciscan Benediction

A friend emailed me this benediction as a New Year's prayer. I really like it. So much could be said, but I think I'll leave it. What are your reactions?

May God bless you with easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to their their pain into JOY.
And may God bless you with enough believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you DO what others claim cannot be done.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Social Justice Tithing

Yesterday, I posted a review of Francis Chan's Crazy Love. One of the ways this book has practically impacted and challenged some of my beliefs is the topic of tithing. Readers of my blog know that I have not easily accepted the standard message of tithing.

Chan does not really address tithing directly. He does discuss living modestly and simply in order to be able to give money to others. Should we be living in massive homes while someone else is literally starving? What about a reasonable home and giving several people meals?

I've struggled with giving money to organizations (including churches). That doesn't really feel like giving it to God. It's more about giving it to people. This is a controversial statement and not unilaterally true, but I think it's unfair to say that if we don't give money to a church, then we're not giving our money to God.

However, giving money to organizations that engage in social justice actually is a way of acting out of love to me. So I'm currently redefining tithing in my mind away from giving a predetermined amount to a human-driven organization to giving money for social justice. That seems quite worthwhile.

Do you think that qualifies as "tithe" or is something else?

Another piece of the tithe question is what kind of organizations would qualify as something to tithe to. Does it have to be explicitly Christian? My initial reaction is I don't think so. Does it always have to be for human support, or what about for animals or the environment, beings that truly have no voice and are definitely a part of God's creation? I also initially don't think it has to be for only human support. We need to care for all of God's creation. That's a nice way of giving our money back to God (or acknowledging that we never owned it in the first place).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Crazy Good Crazy Love

I recently finished listening to the audiobook version of Francis Chan's Crazy Love. It was not as part of one of the reviewer programs, although I did get it free through christianaudio's monthly free audiobook title (something I highly recommend everyone take advantage of if you don't already).

This is an absolutely wonderful book that I highly recommend (although I don't want to say too much and make people's expectations too high--that causes problems, too :) ).

One of the best parts of this audiobook is that Chan read it himself--a problem I noted in Piper's A Sweet and Bitter Providence. I've started listening to his next book, Forgotten God, and that starts with an interview with him, where he admits he is not a great reader. I have to agree--it sounds like he's reading most of the time. However, I would not want it any other way because you can hear his passion, and that's more important than other benefits of a professional narrator.

To the content of the book: This is one book that has made me remember to worship God. Those words sound so flat as I write them because they are overused and misused. But Chan does a phenomenal job of making this a bit of a devotional. Really, I think this book is best described as a devotional. You can get a sense of this from the videos on the Crazy Love website, which Chan integrates into the book creatively. As he says in the interview preceding the other book, one person introduced him at a speaking engagement by saying what he talks about is so simple. It's reminding us of the basic, fundamental things about life and God.

The premise of the book is that God is in love with us and wants us to love him. As I'm writing this, again, I'm finding my review sounds so lame and does not express the true beauty of Chan's words and God's creation.

Chan's argues that we need to respond to God with "crazy love," meaning actions that may seem "crazy" to the world because we are relying on God for everything. Not that we should be actively looking to be crazy, but that we should be willing to be radical. Honestly, some of Chan's examples of crazy love seem truly crazy (i.e. a missionary physician getting all of his teeth pulled so that he would never have to leave the mission front due to teeth problems again--I'm not sure God would actually ask us to do that). However, he also says that these are not prescriptions for what everyone has to do--we all have to listen to what God has called each of us individually to do. I appreciate and agree with that.

One of the points that I particularly appreciated from his book is that it helped me remember to act out my priorities. Many of us can say God and family is first, but what does that actually look like? It can have quite a few definitions, all of which can be good and valid. However, one of the things Chan reminds his readers is that all they do will basically be forgotten in 50 years. There's some exceptions, but at least for me, that helps my anxiety about feeling like I have to do something big, as I have discussed in an earlier post. Chan also states we should not be asking why God has allowed hunger and suffering in the world. Instead, God should be asking US why WE allow hunger and suffering in the world.

The way he approached this made me think of it in a new way that motivates me to act more and live out of love. It's hard to describe, maybe in part because I'm still processing. One of the ways I'm processing it will be in another post tomorrow.

Overall, this book does a great job of challenging our fundamental beliefs of how we act in response to God. Again, he does not necessarily say anything new that most of us haven't heard before, but for me, he says it in a way that feels quite new. Most of my posts focus on existential, cognitive beliefs related to faith, not necessarily how we live out our faith or believe we should live out our faith. This book tackles that in the best way I've ever seen.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Avatar of Our Lives

My wife and I saw Avatar this weekend in IMAX 3D (a cool format, although it made me sick being in the 3rd row, and I don't get sick in movies...).

This movie has gotten a lot of excellent press and recommendation from friends. Maybe I was expecting too much (although trying not to) and maybe I started off by being in a bad mood from having to sit so close, but I did not love the movie. The effects were phenomenal, and the story backed them up. But the story at the same time did not wow me. It was rather predictable, and I felt angry through most of it because of the injustices. My wife wants to get it on Blu-Ray, but right now, I'm not sure I even want to see it again because of the anger I felt during the movie.

Maybe the movie did it's job, though. It made me think about injustices in this world. In many ways, Avatar was a sort of avatar of modern life. Media at its best does that. It's one of the things I like about Star Trek: having us engage in moral and ethical dilemmas, but making the context foreign so we're able to see the issues better and not be so resistant to challenging our beliefs.

For those who haven't seen it, you may not want to read more (although none of this will be that much of a spoiler, I don't think). Also, there is another great blog post on Avatar as a metaphor for evangelism, so others are thinking of it in metaphorical terms.

Anyway, back to being ego-centric about my reactions. :) The first strong negative emotion I had was anger. The humans were being driven by money and greed (anger point #1) and then doing very inappropriate things to others while they had absolutely NO right to do this (anger point #2).

One of the strengths of this film versus others is that it let the audience get to know and understand both sides of the conflict. It starts with humans (who the audience has an obvious automatic affiliation). Then it helps us build a bond with the Navi.

So when things get heated, I cared about both sides. It made me sick seeing both sides get killed. And I actually thought it was unfair that most of the soldiers had to die while the leaders (the true corrupt ones) walked away (well, there was one exception). I didn't really hold most of the humans responsible for their actions since they were unaware of the full picture. But those who were exposed to the Navi and the injustice that went on were responsible. And they acted.

How often does that occur for us, though? We often do things without full knowledge of the situation. And we often act incorrectly. That doesn't mean we were not wrong, but should we always be condemned? I'm not sure. Yet we do often condemn others.

The movie also made me sick because it so beautifully and graphically and emotionally showed the tragedy of displacing the Other for our benefit. It made me realize the power of the horror that humanity has committed to so many populations over the millenia.

Again, I think this is a strength of media at its best: Helping us experience the world differently when we are unwilling or cannot see it directly. Basically, media can be an avatar for our lives. And that can be good. So good that I think it can be quite holy. (Not saying this movie was holy, but you get the idea. :) )

Monday, January 4, 2010

Annoying Biblical Mis-assumptions, Part 2

So in following up from Friday's post, here is my other annoying mis-assumption. As I think about the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids (Matthew 25:1-30), I can only think of hearing it interpreted as, "You better be ready for the Second Coming, or you'll go to Hell." Pretty scary. So if I fall asleep or have a bad day, and Christ returns, then I'm screwed.

I can see this interpretation. If the passage stands on its own. I read it a little over a week ago during the Advent season in my Mosaic Bible. The theme of the week was Preparation. Such a theme makes sense in the week leading up to Christmas. And this passage does address being prepared for Christ.

However, what does "being prepared for Christ" actually mean? I usually have heard it in terms of having right belief (see my post from last Thursday regarding that mis-assumption, too). However, taking the parable in context, particularly paying attention to the following parable, may lead to a different interpretation. The following parable is that of the Three Servants (AKA the Parable of the Talents).

Both parables begin with Jesus stating, "the Kingdom of Heaven will be like" or "the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by." Sure, that can mean post-death, but there's a lot of evidence that the Kingdom of Heaven is also present on earth right now. Think of the Lord's Prayer: "Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven."

I think a more appropriate interpretation of these two parables is actually more works-based than faith-based: Christ is calling us to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth now, not to simply wait for him to return and to change it. We won't do a perfect job, but we need to do what we can. That's where the beauty of faith, life, and the Kingdom is.

What say you?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Annoying Biblical Mis-assumptions, Part 1

Over the past week I have come across two classic assumptions of biblical texts that I am questioning. I have not studied the texts in an in-depth academic way, so I cannot be sure, but these are my thoughts.

Luke (the writer of the Gospel of Luke) was a physician. It is often argued that we need to pay extra attention to his work because he was clearly detail-oriented and well-educated in a formal education because he was a physician.

The problem? Physicians are not always detail-oriented (I work with several). Further, from my understanding, physicians often did not have formal education until the last 100-200 years. This arose as people realized that physicians needed to have scientific bases for their work in contrast to an apprenticeship model that had a wide variety of length and quality. The establishment of Johns Hopkins medical school in 1893 provide the basis for the model we have today.

I don't know how medical education worked in Christ's time, but assuming it was the same as today's is a major problem. I would guess it was more similar to the process of a becoming a blacksmith. Or a carpenter...

The other assumption I ran across was the interpretation of the ten bridesmaids story. But I'll save that for Monday...


Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).