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Tag Archives: New Testament

Good Stuff for Spring Break

beach-readsI know. I know. I have been M.I.A. for waaaay to long. I sadly have not had time for writing but I have had time for reading. Here are some I think are worth reading from the last few weeks to see you through the Spring Break holiday.

Enjoy my lovelies. I’ll see you on the other side.

Will Evangelicalism Last

For one thing “Truth” is not rational abstraction — a concept, doctrine, or idea you can write down — especially not one which you conveniently have right and everyone else conveniently has wrong. Truth-as-a-rational-abstraction constitutes a denial of the incarnation (and big chunks of the New Testament). Doctrines and theologies can point to the truth but they are not themselves the Truth. The Truth has been revealed to us in and through Jesus Christ. Truth is a person. Jesus is the Truth.

How Being a Pastor Changed My Thinking on Homosexuality

Several things clicked at once: These guys had burdens placed upon them by others(people like me) that had nothing to do with Jesus. Jesus said his interpretation of religious Law, his yoke, was easy and his burden light (11:38). His opponents, the religious leaders, accused him of abolishing the Law (5:17) and ignoring their pet scriptures about holiness and who was “in” and who was “out.” The fundamentalists of Jesus’ day were threatened by his message of an easy yoke, and they made his followers out to be “abolishers of the law.” In response, Jesus  commanded his followers to out-love, out-pray, and out-give his detractors (5:21-7:27).

Is Abolition Biblical?

I wanted to share these initial thoughts because I think it’s important to remind ourselves now and then that we’ve been wrong before, and that sometimes it’s not about the number of proof texts we can line up or about the most simplistic reading of the text, but rather some deep, intrinsic sense of right and wrong, some movement of the Spirit, that points us toward truth and to a better understanding of what Scripture really says. 

But That’s What the Bible Says

And this is the sad thing.  That we’d rather live with cognitive dissonance, believing that women are somehow equal but yet somehow lesser– or that they are to be restricted for no reason, but that God is still just– than to believe it’s possible we’re misreading our Bibles.

We’d rather restrict women and have the Bible be “clear” than admit that we just might be wrong.

How Sesame Street is Undermining Biblical Values

I know, you might think I’m overreacting, but the Bible is very clear on the role of bears in human relationships. They are meant to be voracious killing machines. I mean, the ONE COMMAND God gives specifically to bears is to “Arise and devour much flesh.” This attempt to anthropomorphize and humanize bears strikes at the heart of everything the gospel teaches about bears.

Feminism and Me: When I cannot cook but I am still a person

The first time I began to wonder if perhaps the evangelical narrative of gender roles I’d absorbed needed a little tweaking, I was 19 years old and finishing my first year of bible college, and I was in love with him. I sometimes like to think that he was in love with me too (a story for another day), but only to the extent that a heart as superficial as his could possibly be. One morning after a particularly intense cup of coffee the night before, I woke up to a novel in my inbox which basically boiled down to “I like you but you are unsuitable because you are initiatory in your relationships with men and also you cannot clean or cook.”

Jesus is my favorite feminist.

Not only in the message,
but in the messenger.

He chose her.

He commissioned her.

He gave her the privilege of delivering the very first Resurrection sermon.

To a room full of men.

CHASE AND THE ONION MAN

You and I, we have a lot of love to share. Maybe that man doesn’t have much. Maybe we offered him some today. People who behave badly still need love.

The Bible Isn’t The History You Think It Is

The situation not unlike a modern newspaper, which combines news with opinion, puzzles, comics, etc. The news can be accurate even if the comics are not. The same is true for the different parts of the Bible.

I stopped guarding my heart ten years ago.

All relationships invite our hearts to walk through disappointment and joy, the more intimate the relationship, the greater the capacity for both those things.

The Irony of Christian Celebrity

What if a desire to “make an impact” is just a form of grasping for immortality?

What if a quest for influence is actually another way of chasing fame?

What if efforts to “expand the Kingdom” are really monuments to our entrepreneurial skills?

What if, in the name of building platforms to proclaim the Gospel, we have elevated people into Christian celebrities?

What if we’ve added God to an already crowded house of idols—the idols of fame and success?

 

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Women Need Men to Achieve Equality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slaves of all races needed and still need free people to fight with them to defeat slavery.
Blacks needed whites to stand in solidarity in order to roll back Apartheid and the Jim Crow laws.
The GLBTQI community  needs members of the heterosexual community to come along side them to find acceptance.
Jews needed Gentiles to stop the madness of Auschwitz and defeat the Third Reich.
Women need men to achieve equality in the church, in the home, in government and in the workforce.

The minority always needs at least a few members of the majority to stand in their corner and advocate on their behalf for the status quo to be challenged and for things to change.

The persecuted, the excluded, the oppressed, the enslaved, the unclean, the deformed and the sinners needed someone to tear down the wall that separated. (That is all of us)

The women, the men, the Jews, the Gentiles, the slaves, the free needed someone to tear down the dividing wall that separated them from each other.

Jesus is the obliterator of all that separated and separates us still. He came to rip it in half and to tear it down.

Today an amazing blog from J. R. Daniel Kirk a Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary came to my attention. It is called A Time to Speak. It is specifically about the issue of women in the church however the truths in it can be applied to more than just this issue.

Dear men, it is not enough to be supportive in your hearts. If your church is excluding women from service, you need to be creating opportunities to overturn that practice.
You need to speak. You need to ask.
Dear pastor, it is not enough to huddle with your buddies over beer or in your internet discussion room and talk about what a bunch of sexist bastards your fellow pastors are in your denomination.
If you are not working to change what women can do, you are promoting and sustaining the sexism that you deride in private.
If you are not opening up space in your church for women to preach and teach, you are promoting and sustaining the sexism that denies the truth of your women’s identity in Christ.
Dear seminary professor, your job is to be a change agent. Your job is to transform the way that your students, and their churches, think about and act on issues of gender.
It’s not enough to “know” that women should be able to do anything. You need to show your students, from your scripture study or theology, that this is God’s intention for the church.

This applies to all of us. If there is something you believe in, if there is an area where you know you should be speaking on behalf of the oppressed or excluded and you keep silent you are in effect promoting and sustaining that which you know is wrong. If you fail to speak up when your friend calls something or someone “gay” or you don’t come to the defense of a female coworker when she is called a bitch for being a strong leader, if you stand by when girls and women are silenced and discounted in the name of Jesus you participate and condone the very thing you disagree with in your heart. I believe this is what the Scriptures are talking about when they say a double-minded person is unstable in all their ways. When we will not stand up for our convictions we waver in our faith and become double minded.

He wraps up the post with this call to action:

We must create the kind of church that will receive not just our sons but our daughters, not just our brothers but our sisters, in the fullness of who God is making them to be, in Christ, by the Spirit.

If you believe in women’s equality, your calling is to act it out. If you’re not, don’t convince yourself that you’re being “wise” in biding your time while your sisters suffer. Wisdom is a convenient cover for fear, but not all silence is golden.

I for one have decided not to remain silent anymore. This blog is my attempt to speak into the world a message of love and acceptance, freedom and hope. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and the gates have been flung wide

God and Homsexuality: Part 4 – “Eunuchs Who Have Been So From Birth”

* WARNING* Today’s post is rather lengthy but, in my defense…it needed to be. ;)

Another week has gone by and it is time to discuss another passage from the scriptures that relates to homosexuality. Today I want to cover Matthew 19:3-12 mainly because of the discussion about whether or not people are born homosexual as well as whether it is “natural” or against nature. it is vital to have this discussion as we move into the New Testament verses regarding same sex relations.

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

The context of this section is marriage and divorce, let’s start with that. Jesus is approached by the Pharisees about whether or not the divorce practices of the day were lawful. Jesus answers  by telling them what God said to Adam and Eve. The Pharisees are unsatisfied with this answer and say, “But what about Moses?”  Jesus tells them that the law of Moses in regard to divorce were given because of the hardness of people’s hearts not because God wanted people to get divorced. Jesus has in essence brought marriage back to before the law and said the ideal is for people to get married, become one and not to separate and return to the homes of their families. Once again, Jesus makes it about the law of love.

Now the disciples decide to get involved in the conversation, they say, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” What comes next has always seemed really odd to me. Jesus starts talking about eunuchs! What do eunuchs have to do with it? Is Jesus just changing the subject or what? No, he isn’t changing the subject he is just expanding it to include the sexual minorities of the day. This appears to be a list of the people who should not marry members of the opposite sex. So the disciples say to Jesus, “this is hard, maybe its better for men and women not to get married” and Jesus says, “No, this is hard but the reason not to marry isn’t because it is difficult but rather is because of: how one was born, something that was done to them, or their choice not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom.”  These three groups are listed as: #1. “eunuchs who have been so from birth”, #2. “eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men” and #3. “eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”.

Ok, now let’s address these three groups in reverse order.
#3. “eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” – This phrase is also translated as, “others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven”, “some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven”, and “others have decided to be celibate because of the kingdom of heaven”. It seems clear that these are people who have decided to abstain from sex with women for the sake of the Kingdom.

#2. “eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men” – This phrase referred to castrated males. This was a very common practice and was frequently done “early enough in his life for this change to have major hormonal consequences” and was “carried out on the soon-to-be eunuch without his consent in order that he might perform a specific social function.”

#1. “eunuchs who have been so from birth” –  AHA!!! Now we get to brass tacks! What exactly does this mean? Some say it means that Jesus is acknowledging that men can be born homosexual and some say that Jesus is merely referring to people who are born without testicles or who are impotent.

According to the Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon, the Hebrew word for eunuch is saris and its derivatives. Saris is believed to be an Assyrian loan word. A secondary meaning of saris, from the Hebrew, is to castrate but Jesus speaks with divine authority when He teaches that not all eunuchs are castrated, Matthew 19:12. According to Jesus, some eunuchs are born that way, in distinction from a man who has been physically castrated.

Prominent evangelical professor, Dr. Robert Gagnon who believes all homosexual practice is sinful, put it this way,

Probably “born eunuchs” in the ancient world did include people homosexually inclined, which incidentally puts to the lie the oft-repeated claim that the ancient world could not even conceive of persons that were congenitally influenced toward exclusive same-sex attractions…

John J. McNeil, is a Jesuit Priest and also earned his PhD in Philosophy from Louvain University in Belgium asserts,

The first category, those born as eunuchs, is the closest description we have in the bible of what we understand today as a person with a homosexual orientation.

In the book, Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality, Jack Rogers makes some very insightful points about this passage.

Many commentaries focus on the discussion about divorce and miss the larger point of the passage. But look carefully: Jesus is asked a question about heterosexual marriage and divorce and immediately broadens the conversation to acknowledge three different types of sexual minorities in that culture…That is stunning, especially given that “the eunuch was persona non grata both socially and religiously” in that culture.

It is clear that Jesus did not see humanity as universally heterosexual.  Jesus recognized and acknowledged many types of sexual difference–even in a society in which such difference would have been downplayed, hidden, or even punished.

…the text which immediately precedes Jesus’ discussion of eunuchs, Jesus stands up for women. As Boheche observes, “Jesus counsels mutuality between husband and wife, rather than affirming the traditional laws of divorce which favored the husband.” And in the text which immediately follows our text, Jesus blesses the little children, another group who would have been largely ignored at the time.

Rogers also ties this passage to the story of Philip and Ethopian eunuch. He makes several good points here as well. First that an “angel of the Lord” directed Phillip to go down the road that led him to the encounter. Then the Holy Spirit directed him again to, “Go over to the chariot and join it.” He goes on to point out that this eunuch was the first Gentile to be baptized, and he was not just a Gentile but was a foreigner of a different race and ethnicity who also belonged to a sexual minority who was not fully welcome in the worship community. His baptism signaled a seismic shift in who was allowed to be a part of God’s Kingdom (The True Magic Kingdom).

It is also significant that the Eunuch was reading from the book of Isaiah. Theodore Jennings Jr., professor of biblical and constructive theology at Chicago Theological Seminary, discusses this fact extensively. He makes the point, “The Isaiah being read by the eunuch is the same prophet who specifically includes eunuchs in the divine dispensation.” Let’s look at the passage from Isaiah that the eunuch was reading:

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” (Isa. 53:8)

Nancy Wilson of the Metropolitan Community Church says,

The term ‘cut off’ is a reference to the curse that was placed on anyone that was exiled, executed by capital punishment, or did not reproduce. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading a prophesy of a Messiah with whom he could identify!”

Isaiah is also significant because it reverses previous prohibitions against eunuchs in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. In Isaiah 56:4-5 it says:

For thus says the LORD:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,

I will give, in my house and within my walls,
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;

I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.

The Eunuch had been visiting the temple in Jerusalem to worship, he was reading his own copy of the book of Isaiah (which would have been very rare) so it is quite likely he was aware of this text.
He was a man of faith and God honored it. The Holy Spirit could have chosen anyone to be the first Gentile convert and the Holy Spirit chose an black, African, sexual minority and his story was a picture of faith and commitment that was met with radical grace and inclusiveness.

In these two passages along with the parable of the good Samaritan we see God over and over expand the story. First he includes a hated, alien, outcast, “half-breed” Samaritan who exemplifies what it means to love your neighbor. Then he takes a question about heterosexual marriage and divorce and expands the conversation to include sexual minorities. Finally, the Holy Spirit guides Phillip to baptize the Ethiopian eunuch! In all three cases the formerly marginalized are welcomed and honored just as they are. That is the good news. Jesus welcomes the outcast, the marginalized, all races, all peoples, women, children, the disabled, the poor, the widow and even sexual minorities. The trajectory of scripture moves toward redemption. Isaiah makes it clear that eunuchs are being included in the Kingdom and Jesus makes it clear that there are “born eunuchs”; People whose natural attraction is not toward the opposite sex. From these passages we can conclude that at the very least, that Jesus was aware of sexual minorities, he didn’t condemn them, and that we are to welcome them into our worship communities.

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