Last night I began reading the prophet Habakkuk. A short book containing only three chapters it is unique in many way among the prophets in that it is primarily a theodicy. That is, it is a prophecy about the impending fall of Judah and Jerusalem and also the ultimate fall of the Babylonians at the hands of the Persians but the main thrust of the book is about how confusing God’s ways can be, how distant He can seem in our trials, how unexpected and even alarming some of His solutions to our problems or answers to our prayers can be.

The prophecy focuses on how Habakkuk processes this in his relationship with his God and finally comes to peace, trusting in God’s governance and care for the world.

In tandem with reading Habakkuk I was also following along… Continue reading

 “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16, RSV)

“Without a doubt, great is the mystery of godliness: God was revealed in the flesh, vindicated in [the] spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, and received up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16, Eastern Orthodox Bible)

This verse comes up quite often in discussions with King James Only advocates as a reason we should not accept new translations based on older manuscripts as well as with skeptics and Muslim apologists. The former argue that “who was manifest” takes the Deity of Christ out of the passage while the latter argue that “God was manifest” adds the belief that Jesus… Continue reading

Started 2 Peter for my morning NT reading time. 2 Peter is one of the last books of the NT to be accepted universally by Christians and one of the most hotly debated in terms of authorship among Christians since ancient times.

It did not receive universal acceptance until the late fourth century at the councils of Carthage and Laodicea.

One of my favorite sections speaks of the ancient Christian and orthodox doctrine of theosis or divinization and follows this up with a list of virtues called in ancient rhetoric a sorites or gradation which is itself embedded in the exordium of the whole passage.

Here is the passage, one of my favorites in the New Testament:

His divine power has granted us all that we need to live in godliness, through the knowledge of him who called… Continue reading

Bible factoid: Reading the Gospel of Luke earlier and came across Jesus calling the Pharisees “unmarked graves” in 11:44, “”Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.” (NIV2011).

Which reminded me of when the Lord called them “whitewashed” or marked tombs in Matthew 23:37, “”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” (NIV2011)

It strikes me that the cut of the insult is even deeper in Luke than in Matthew given the cultural context.

The Torah had prescribed that contact with a dead body would render one ritually unclean for a day. The symbolism behind this was that Yahweh is Life and contact… Continue reading

king-nebuchadnezzarInteresting Bible Factoid. My evening readings are from the OT and I am currently in Ezekiel. This weekend I was in chapter 26, the prophecy about Tyre, and came across Nebuchadnezzar’s name as “Nebuchadrezzar”.

The KJV and a few other translations have Nebuchadrezzar which is more in line with the Hebrew but most translations just put Nebuchadnezzar so it matches the usual form of the name throughout the Bible.

That is unfortunate since the Hebrew intends a play on words here.

Apparently Nebuchadrezzar is the proper form of the name and means, “May Nabu protect the eldest son/ heir” (Nabu was the important Assyro-Babylonian god of wisdom and writing). So Nabopolassar (Nebbie’s dad- note he is named after Nabu as well) named his heir with a name intended to extend the dynasty.

When the Hebrew has Nebuchadnezzar, however, the meaning… Continue reading

For those Christians posting articles and videos about “what the Bible really says” about homosexuality and saying traditional Christians are misled by “poor translations”:

How is it that for three thousand years these interpretations were never taught by the Jews or the Greek Church fathers for whom the Biblical languages were their native tongues and for whom the Biblical cultures were their native cultures only to be discovered by progressive professors in the modern post-Enlightenment, post-Christian West during the sexual revolution of the 1960s?

Do you honestly believe that for three thousand years, no rabbi, no Jewish theological school, no saint, no Fathers, no Doctors of the Faith, no council, no creeds ever knew “what the Bible really says” on this topic until some liberal professors in the 60’s found what their a priori bias wanted to find in the… Continue reading

 I came across this objection to the type of God atheists think God is from their reading of the Bible recently: “I think trying to define Yahweh as good is like trying to define Aphrodite as Maximally Beautiful and then discovering that all the descriptions are of a woman who is universally unattractive.”

This reminded me of something Richard Dawkins is famous for writing in The God Delusion, ““The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

According to the new atheists, the God of the Bible is some kind of moral monster.

It is jarring for believers to hear such words about Someone they love. It… Continue reading

1-20-2014 7-32-54 PMAtheist: “How about this? If god is without limits why would he have to send his son to die In order to forgive sins, why is he bound by rules that would make that necessary? If he was without limits wouldn’t you expect that if he wanted to forgive sins he would just do it without having to have a blood sacrifice. The fact that god can only forgive sins if there is some sort of blood sacrifice indicates that it was in reality an idea of primitive man and not that of a supreme being”

Christian: Those questions are more problematic for the Western Christian view that has prevailed from the Middle Ages and especially after the Reformation but they don’t really come up in an Eastern or patristic context.

The question was asked so I will try to… Continue reading

Skeptic’s Objection: “Why would God allow two bears to kill 42 children simply for saying Elisha was bald? You mean if a bunch of kids make fun of my bald head, I get to take them to the zoo and throw them in the bear cage to be ripped apart? ”

I agree that this is an unusual story and at first blush it seems morally objectionable. However, I find most such stories from the Bible make more sense when read in their cultural, literary, and linguistic context.  Indeed, this is something we must do if we are serious about understanding something that was written thousands of years ago in a culture, time, and language as far removed from our own as the author(s) of Kings is. Of course, if our objective is actually to quote mine and mock something… Continue reading

11-25-2013 10-22-13 AM There is no doubt about it. The last several centuries have been an adjustment for Bible believers. Beginning with the realization that the unanimous view of geocentrism was wrong, the switch to a heliocentric model of the universe was difficult for many Christians. They saw the new science as a betrayal of the literal and clear teaching of Scripture by godless scientists. Reading the comments of men like Luther and Calvin in response to Copernicus is a lot like listening to Ken Ham and Kent Hovind rail against Darwin.

One of the new sciences which began during this period was geology. It was established by Christian scientists in the mid-seventeenth century and for two hundred years its expressed goal was to demonstrate that through both mathematical and scientific grounds the earth itself could give us evidence of a global Flood… Continue reading

goldilocksLately it seems that I have been running into the argument that the universe is just too darned big for God to have created it or for us to consider ourselves special in the grand scheme of things. Many atheists feel as if our relative size compared to the universe makes the idea that it was created with us in mind as being ludicrously anthropocentric.

I would argue that the discoveries of the last few centuries can be looked at through a variety of philosophical metrics. Certainly, size-wise we are more insignificant but in terms of life we are incredibly unique. Cosmologically we may be Carl Sagan’s “pale blue dot” and yet biologically we are truly a Garden of Eden, a wonderland of uniqueness. This is not to argue that there is no intelligent life elsewhere in the universe but… Continue reading

11-5-2013 8-18-46 AMI received quite the broadside from a Biblical fundamentalist this morning. He had asked whether I thought the Bible had copied from pagan myths regarding the Flood and Creation. Then he was obviously displeased with my answer that I did not believe the early chapters of Genesis were directly copied from Egyptian and Mesopotamian myths but they certainly shared certain common elements based on a common Ancient Near Eastern culture. His reply was scathing and typical:

“Do you really believe that the God of the bible lies to men, tells them fairytales as if they were fact, when they actually aren´t, borrows myths from pagans etc.? I can´t believe that you´re so open in that regard, Dave. Is Christ then a borrowing from pagan Gods and myths, too?? (There are some similarities, you know). Where does that leave us? I´m… Continue reading

10-28-2013 9-13-38 AMIn a recent exchange with an internet atheist of the “Science Disproves God” variety I was reminded once again how both sides in the theism/ atheism debate so often mix science and religion in confused ways to use one to disprove the other. Here is a part of that conversation:
Atheist: “”The Uncreated Being” is not the best explanation for the things you mention, in fact it’s the lazy conclusion that would make all the sciences a waste of time. Luckily most scientists do not operate in the paradigm of superstition and focus on reality; which theism seems to run counter to since it needs faith (and I mean the belief in ideas without any evidence) to operate.

As for the source of your knowledge, David, this is extremely important and far from immaterial. All of guys believe in a… Continue reading

9-28-2013 10-27-39 AM“If god commanded you to kill your children or loved ones, would you do it?” It is a pretty common question to be asked when talking to atheists online.
No, because I would assume I am a kook if I heard that or the Dark Side of the Force was tempting me.

However, if I had the one on one relationship Abraham is portrayed as having with God, trusted in His promise to bless the world through my son when he was grown, knew that God was the Author of Life and able to raise the dead, etc. I might feel differently. Abraham’s choice has to be contextualized; virtually none of us live within that context.

The ancient interpreters wrestled with this story just as we do. Interestingly, they saw this event as equally a test for Isaac to be… Continue reading

Elvis & Jesus 1Debating the Resurrection of Christ with an intelligent friend who equates the first-century eyewitness testimony of the Risen Jesus with Elvis sightings today. My response:

I am reminded of the tragedy which befell a travelling circus when its Human Cannonball was killed while practicing his act of being shot out of a cannon. When interviewed, the circus manager tearfully said, “We will never find a man of his caliber again.”

In order for sightings of Elvis to be of the same caliber as the Risen Jesus eyewitnesses you would need to produce:

1. A dozen of Elvis’ closest confidantes would have to experience seeing him in person (sometimes just a few of them together, sometimes all 12) and hearing the same words as the others did. They would then go on to make a life-threatening career out of spreading the word… Continue reading