Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It All Begins In The Garden 2

I've been reading Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth" for the past few weeks. I'm only on Chapter 3, just ready to begin Chapter 4. It is slow going because on almost every page, I mark, asterick, underline, comment in the margins. It is amazing how this is hitting home. I have been reading the message boards at Oprah's site, watching the podcasts and pondering the questions on the personal workbook provided for members. Since I am a Christian, I substitute carnal/adamic man for "ego" and the christ within for the rather new agey terms he uses to describe the same thing. The Source, Being, Universe me...God. I do not accept everything he says in his book...but a lot of it is profound!!!

He thinks that when we ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil we became separated from God and our egoic mind was formed. We were no longer eating from the tree of life...and we were alienated from God (as Colossians 1:21 says) in our minds. Sounds like "the Fall" to me.....

Monday, April 28, 2008

Other Thoughts and Resources on the OT Atrocities

Gregory Boyd is doing a series on the OT on his blog, Random Reflections. His latest post, Craigie: The Problem of War in the Old Testament, Part I discusses the views of C that are outlined in his book , The Problem of War in the Old Testament dealing with the warrior God of the OT. It was out of stock at Amazon, although there were used copies available. I googled the title and came upon an article called Christians and Violence, written by Pierre Gilbert an Associate Professor of Old Testament Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary. His article is based upon Craigie's book. Early in the article he expresses the "thorny problem"

A Thorny Problem
The problem of war in the Old Testament represents one the most critical theological problems Christians. It seems to be in absolute contradiction with the spirit of peace and non-violence Jesus displayed in his ministry. The link between Yahweh and war in the Old Testament creates the image of a violent, vengeful and bloodthirsty divinity. In fact, this problem has been so serious that many have, throughout the centuries, not only repudiated the Old Testament but sometimes even the Christian faith. For example, Marcion, in the second century AD, was so revolted by the Old Testament portrayal of God, that he rejected the entire corpus as inspired Scripture.

And that is the problem isn't it? Keith and I talked about this in the car on the way home yesterday. We were at a yearly conference this week that is hosted by a traveling ministry Keith has supported for quite a few years. I told him my thoughts that the God of the OT is the antithesis of Jesus. We discussed it in more depth....but we did not see certain aspects of this discussion eye to eye (big surprise there) and it ended up in a sort of argument. Armed with the principles I've gleaned in the first three and a half chapters of Tolle's book, A New Earth, I did my best to separate my "real" self from my "egoic" self which needed to defend my truths at all costs and told him I couldn't discuss it with him anymore . I retreated to a neutral zone for a while by listening to some Christian music on my MP3 player. I plan to write some posts on A New Earth after I've read it.

And since I always have more thoughts than time, I must end this post but I will delve deeper into these resources and any assorted thoughts they might instigate.......soon........

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It All Begins in the Garden

I think a very good case could be made for mimesis gone bad as the reason for the fall. The serpent entices Eve....whispering seductively..."did God really say?" "He knows that the day you eat thereof your eyes will be opened and you shall be like God. God has something he isn't willing to share with you, something he is trying to keep for himself. Something you can't have!! "And then Adam "caught" his desire from her. And acquisitive mimesis was born.

I've heard people question why God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden to begin with. Perhaps it is symbolic of mimesis. (JUST musing here...this is all hot of the press ponderings) Mimesis is necessary for us to learn to do all the things we need to learn to grow from a baby to a full grown adult. It is by mimicking others (our parents, grandparents, siblings) that we learn to talk and eat and all the other eccentricities that form our cultures. If the tree of good and evil is symbolic for mimesis, God couldn't have "left it out of the Garden." I'm not sure how that fits with the Tree of Life...will have to ponder that a bit more.

So anyway, mimetic rivalry may very well have begun in the Garden and we all know "the rest of the story" (Thanks, Paul Harvey)

More to follow.....

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Girardian Look at the Old Testament

In my meanderings and web journeys and here and there and everywhere surfing, I came across an article written by John Hemer called Violence and the Bible. It is from a series of post Easter talks and it takes a look at the violence we see in the Bible from a Girardian perspective...especially the violence in the Old Testament.

He starts by pointing out:

There are in the OT roughly three hundred passages which talk of people doing violence to each other, either a report or a threat or a command, or a lament. There are roughly a thousand passages which talk of God’s violence or wrath; either a report of his slaying someone, or his threatening people with violence or descriptions of him as a man of war.

Violence is a huge part of the Old Testament. We cannot ignore it. We can not chose to focus on the "good" passages in the OT. Neither can we justify the violence by acknowledging that it was acceptable because so much of it was God ordained/ordered. The violence that was not God ordained/ordered was dealt with by violently punishing the perpetrator at "God's command"

He goes on to say that:

Violence is not peripheral to the Bible it is central, in many ways it is the issue, because of course it is the human problem. The central icon of our faith depicts an act of mob violence against an innocent victim. The Bible is in fact the story of the slow, painstaking and sometimes faltering escape from the idea of a God who is violent to a God who is love and has absolutely nothing to do with violence.

And so Girardians believe that one of the main reasons for the Bible is to hold the mirror up to our dirty little faces and make us look our dirty little secret right in the eye. We are mimetic creatures...who form our desires based on the desires of others. When obtaining these desires is thwarted (by others who are trying to obtain the same things we are) we become frustrated and bitter and our anger burns within us. It leads to violence, both private and collective....and takes many shapes and forms from relatively benign to apocalyptic. I often wonder if mimes is the "vanity" creation was subjected to not willingly? (interesting choice of wording) Is it what is meant by original sin? If the dawning of acquisitive mimesis was the fall?

Mr. Hemer explains it this way:

Almost all human conflict is the result of people modeling themselves, (albeit unconsciously) on others and then entering into rivalry with others. All human conflict is about wanting what someone else has and desires – money, land, prestige, a spouse, a friend, power etc. every human society is threatened by this desire which becomes rivalry which leads to conflict.

Girard thinks it was quite by accident that societies (and individuals) stumbled upon a way to ease the tension and avert the displaced anger that is the result of mimetic rivalry. We scapegoat. We find a victim to either oust or sacrifice. And it eases the frustration and releases the pressure as people who were formerly rivals and enemies join together against a common enemy. Peace reigns...but it is a temporary peace because mimesis is part of who we are...and the cycle begins again.

So, the point of this article that I mentioned many paragraphs ago is to look at some of the events in the OT from this Girardian see the violence there, not as God ordained but rather for what it is. Man's dirty little secret. Violence, blood lust, sacrifice, the me, me it's all about me attitude we have, looking out for number one....the antithesis of what Jesus meant when he said, "Follow me." And the antithesis of what his Father desires for us.

I think we make a huge mistake when we try to make God the instigator of all the OT violence and try to somehow justify it with types and shadows and his ways are higher than our ways kind of thinking.

More on this to follow....

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Strange Fire

The debate continues on TM. The thread has been moved around a another section of the forum. I also think some of the posts were lost during the transfer process to another server. I haven't posted much of late. There is a lot going on in several areas of my life that have taken up my time and attention, but I do check in daily to see what has been written.

In one of the posts, someone brought up the subject of the "strange fire" mentioned in Leviticus (and again, briefly, in Numbers) that killed Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, when they offered "strange fire" to God. Her point was that since God struck these guys dead, and if we could not come up with a satisfactory rebuttal to the issue, then how could we say that God did not order the atrocities in the OT? I didn't reply, but it did get my thinker going. And I have continued to think about it....

When I typed it into google to get some perspective for this post, it is not surprising that many doomsayer have used it to warn against "strange doctrine".....which pretty much amounts to doctrine which does not agree with THEIR doctrine. No big surprise there.

So what have I been musing about? Well, there are several possibilities that I see. One is, of course, that God really did get pissed at Nadab and Abihu for offering unauthorized fire and struck them dead with some kind of fire that "came out for the Lord" to teach them all a good lesson. This, however, does not seem at all consistent with the God we see portrayed in Jesus.

Web sites like God's Last Call Ministries and God Quest might blame satan, since they seem to lean toward the thought that satan was the instigator of the elaborate rules and regulations of the sacrificial system and other Old Testament oddities and laws. I think there is a lot of merit to their writings and if you have not visited their sites, you should.

Another idea is that, perhaps, these guys took in some kind of strange fire that backfired. Perhaps it was some kind of chemical process or fluke that killed them. Everyone is familiar with the dangers of mixing Clorox with ammonia...and that a toxic gas forms. Who knows what they put in their fire pans? There are other natural type gasses that are poisonous...sewer gas for one. It can be lethal. People have died from sewer gas. (I realize this is a bit farfetched here with the sewer I remind you all that I am just musing about it) How about natural gas? Fire in the fire pan and natural gas escaping somehow from the earth could do some damage. How about carbon monoxide? How is it formed? (MUSING here...remember that!!) However from later passages dealing with this story, it seems that their clothes were, for the most part, in tact. So then what about lightning?

When my mom was a kid, at a Bible study a bolt of lightning somehow came in the house (through an open door or window, I think) and "rolled across the floor". She said it was like a big ball of it happens. "Ah-ha!" those who hold to a literal interpretation of the acts and commands of God in the OT might exclaim at this point. If it was lightening then surely that was from God....and the "fire that came out from the Lord" was what he used to strike them dead. But not so fast there. Does that mean a golfer, out on a Sunday morning, opting out of church for the lure of 18 holes, who is struck by lightning was struck down by God? How about the little girl skipping across the open field when a thunderstorm hits? Or the hundreds of other people who are struck by lightning every year. We might have to stop then and attribute every lightning strike to the Lord's displeasure.

More musings...and perhaps more farfetched and perhaps not, were sparked by the writings I came across via google by a man named Alfred de Grazia. He is quite the prolific writer. There are dozens of writings on his websites among which are writings on quantavolution described briefly as follows....

an abrupt, large-scale change caused by, and affecting one or more spheres such as the astrophere, biosphere, lithosphere, atmosphere, and anthrosphere.

To make a long story shorter, he thinks that many of the things that happened in the OT (in particular some of the things associated with the Exodus, the tabernacle in the wilderness and the arc, and some of the times many of the children of Israel were wiped out. (Golden Calf incident etc) were from changes in the above listed "spheres"...and in electron/electric related things. He goes into great detail which I did not have the time to read...but it sure piqued my curiosity. He also thinks this has something to do with the Egyptian plagues. As a possible cause, he mentions a slow moving comet hovering near the earth for a long period of time. And any of these miraculous/terrifying things the Israelites witnessed that could not be easily explained with their limited reasonings, they attributed to their God (who in their eyes was a tribal type war god to begin with) There are several writings on Alfred de Grazia's web site related to this.

Also in this Q-series were The Lately Tortured Earth, which is a proposed revision of the conventional earth sciences; God's Fire: Moses and the Management of Exodus, which interprets the Exodus in the light of modern science and psychiatry, which offers a new theology and new considerations on the existence of gods; The Burning of Troy, a collection of special studies and memoranda and Chaos and Creation, which presents the general theory of quantavolution.

Just some things to think about when we ponder the fire that "came out from the Lord" Strange, indeed!

I want to write more about the OT. I've come across a few other articles and have some heretical thoughts of my own. But for right now, nap time beckons. Have a great Sunday!!!!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pneuma's view....

Like many things I present on this blog, I have not formed a definitive position. I don't believe for a moment that God ordered genocide....yet I am not sure if he ordered some kind of spiritual destruction which was misconstrued and carried out as literal destruction, or if "satan" had something to do with the OT atrocities (including both sacrifice and genocide....and harsh judgements) or if they thought they heard God...but didn't. Does Girard's theory apply to many of the things that happened in the OT? The sacrifice of one scapegoat after another....the safety valve to release the mounting pressure caused by mimetic rivalry? I don't know. Pneuma had some interesting views on these threads, ones that I will have to give some more thought. Here are some snippets from his posts:

I see God as giving these commands, but as God is spirit every thing He breathes must be taken by the spirit and understood by the spirit. And I think this is where Israel of old screwed up, because they took literally that which is only to be understood in spirit and went and literally did what God said to do. And as I have said we can see this same scenario played out time and again throughout history mostly by Gods own people, thinking to do God a service they literally killed millions of people.

.......all scripture is God breathed and must be understood in the spirit, that God is the same God recorded in both the old and new testament and the people of old screwed up just as badly then as they do today, misunderstanding Gods commands and went about doing things literally that were to be done spiritually, killing in the name of God thinking to do Him service.

It says that they went to war with the HOLY INSTRUMENTS.
What is our holy instrument of war?
Is it not the WORD of God, the SWORD of the Spirit.
When God destroys His enemies He does so by making them His friends.

And Pneuma is not the only one who sees things this way. It just so happens that Gregory Boyd is doing a series on the OT on his blog Random Reflections. In a recent post he talked about the views of Vernard Eller as explained in his book called War and Peace: From Genesis to Revelation

Boyd writes:

the fact that the New Testament clearly reveals that the warfare God wants us to fight is "not against flesh and blood" but against principalities and powers (Eph 6:12) lends support to Eller's view. Since we're supposed to read the Old Testament in light of the New Testament, it makes sense to suppose that God wanted the Israelites to engage in spiritual warfare rather than "flesh and blood" warfare. And this supports the conclusion that the Old Testament folks simply erred in allowing their "Nimrodian" mindset to adversely affect the way they heard Yahweh speak to them.

Pneuma, if I've misrepresented your views in any way.....please let me know.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Only For Those Who Turn To The Lord

The debate rages on at Tentmaker. It has moved to another thread called Positions on God-ordained Old Testament "slaughter" but it is still pretty much the same debate. Someone started a poll with the following four choices...

What is your position on the multitude of texts that speak of God directing or commanding brutal atrocities?

It was commanded as Spiritual "destruction" and was carried out as such (no literal killing)
- 0 (0%)

It was commanded as Spiritual "destruction" but was misperceived by the Israelites and carried out literally
- 1 (7.1%)

The "command" itself was a misperception, and thus the literal acts that followed were never commanded or ordained by God
- 3 (21.4%)

The commands were for literal human slaughter, genocide, infanticide, etc...
- 7 (50%)

1,2 or 3
- 3 (21.4%)

Total Voters: 14

So you can see that it is a tie....between those who think literal slaughter was commanded and those who don't. I came upon a verse in 2 Corinthians the other a post on another forum that was not related to the OT stuff at all...but rather about the veil on people's hearts.

2 Corinthians 3:12 This wonderful hope makes us feel like speaking freely. 13 We are not like Moses. His face was shining, but he covered it to keep the people of Israel from seeing the brightness fade away. 14 The people were stubborn, and something still keeps them from seeing the truth when the Law is read. Only Christ can take away the covering that keeps them from seeing. 15 When the Law of Moses is read, they have their minds covered over 16 with a covering that is removed only for those who turn to the Lord. 17 The Lord and the Spirit are one and the same, and the Lord's Spirit sets us free. CEV

I took note in this passage of scripture that it says the covering is removed only for those who turn to the Lord and that only Christ can take away the covering that keeps them from seeing the truth. It does not say that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament events removes the veil. It doesn't say that understanding the "types and shadows" that some point to as the reason for the atrocities takes away the veil.

A few years ago, on the Tentmaker forum, someone said the following and it has stuck with me every since then....

You can read it in the Greek. You can read it in the King James, the NIV or the Concordant Literal but unless you read it with the spirit, you'll never hear Abba speak.

The verses in Corinthians tell us that the Lord's spirit sets us free. Free from what? Free from a literal interpretation of the OT? Free from trying our darndest to somehow reconcile the god who supposedly ordered the atrocities in the OT with the God we see represented in Jesus? The Amplified says:

16 But whenever a person turns [in repentance] to the Lord, the veil is stripped off and taken away.

What is it that we need to repent of? That is the $100,000 question.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Just a few examples:

Following are a few examples of the verses that were posted in the two threads on Tentmaker.

"Then I heard the LORD say to the other men, "Follow him through the city and kill everyone whose forehead is not marked. Show no mercy; have no pity! Kill them all - old and young, girls and women and little children. But do not touch anyone with the mark. Begin your task right here at the Temple." So they began by killing the seventy leaders. "Defile the Temple!" the LORD commanded. "Fill its courtyards with the bodies of those you kill! Go!" So they went throughout the city and did as they were told." (Ezekiel 9:5-7 NLT)

This is what the Lord of hosts has to say: 'I will punish what Amalek did to Israel when he barred his way as he was coming up from Egypt. Go, now, attack Amalek, and deal with him and all that he has under the ban. Do not spare him, but kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and asses.' (1 Samuel 15:2-3 NAB)

If even then you remain hostile toward me and refuse to obey, I will inflict you with seven more disasters for your sins. I will release wild animals that will kill your children and destroy your cattle, so your numbers will dwindle and your roads will be deserted. (Leviticus 26:21-22 NLT)

See anything wrong with this picture? Is this the God we see in Jesus? As my friend Brian says, "And if you find that you're trying desperately to force yourself to subscribe to some doctrine or theological system that contradicts what your mind and heart says about the God you've come to know...then there's something badly wrong."

Yep...there's something badly wrong with attributing the above verses, and the many, many others in the OT that describe similar situations and events to the God in whom no darkness resides. These verses and the acts they describe are dark indeed.......

Thursday, April 3, 2008

How Could This Be God?

I have been AWOL since Easter. Several things have gotten in the way of posting on this blog. First of all, life in "real time." House, home, hearth....gainful employment, teenage children.... and all that those things entail. Also, I've gotten involved in some discussions on Tentmaker...that have taken up my time and my thoughts. There have been several really interesting threads but two in particular that have generated a lot of discussion. They started out at the request of Gary A...the owner of TM. He received a letter from someone listing 47 verses that described some of the more heinous things attributed to God in the OT. The letter said:

I have been reading about the belief that God will save everyone, but I still have a hard time believing in the God of the Bible at all. I read about the EVIL atrocities that were commanded by this God and I shudder. Really, how could any of this been of a infinitely loving God? Even if everyone is saved, I still have absolutely no idea how a God of love could order such profound inhumanities. If you can figure out some way of explaining this away, good luck to you.

Saying that God will eventually save everyone doesn't really make up for the fact that he commanded extreme evil at one time...

SeekerSA posted the verses in two separate threads called How Could This Be God? Part One and How Could This Be God? Part Two. Let the games begin...and begin they did. There are several very distinctive (and opposing points of view ) on that forum with very different explanations and ways of looking at the atrocities in the OT. And they came head to head on that thread. Actually, the thread has been locked for the past few days. The Administrator thought that things were getting too heated....or that there was a spirit behind some of the posts that he didn't like. It should be unlocked sometime today or tomorrow. You can read the thread...just not comment at this time. Part Two has been the most active thread of the two.

A new guy joined the forum...Captamajora....and I have been blessed and edified by his posts.

And so a new series is birthed here on my blog. I am going to take some of the finer points (that I agree with AND that I disagree with) and talk about them. It may be a long series...or I may get distracted by something else before I finish. (I think I still have a post or two to write in the Abraham/Isaac series). Let's see where we end up.