Thursday, February 26, 2015

silence is your only claim to wisdom

I've been reading Job as part of a recently undertaken "read the Bible chronologically in a year" reading plan. My version of choice for this undertaking has been The Message. I've come upon some interesting ways The Message "turns a phrase" that makes me stop and think.

In Job 13:5, Job tells his miserable comforters:

- silence is your only claim to wisdom.

That reminds me of the oft repeated quote that has been attributed to numerous well known public figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Oscar Wilde, George Eliot, Silvan Engel

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

 Or how about....

When you are crazy you learn to keep quiet. ― Philip K. Dick, VALIS

Sunday, February 22, 2015

‘There are many more peace mongers than warmongers"

According to Rueters on February 21st

More than 1000 Muslims formed a human shield around Oslo's synagogue on Saturday, offering symbolic protection for the city's Jewish community and condemning an attack on a synagogue in neighboring Denmark last weekend.

And this act of solidarity was not a “CYA” kind of thing. The number of Jews is tiny compared to the number of Muslims in Norway.

Norway’s Jewish community is one of the continent’s smallest, numbering only 1000. The Muslim population numbers 150,000 to 200,000 and is growing.  

"There are many more peace mongers than warmongers," Abdullah said as organizers and Jewish community leaders stood side by side. "There's still hope for humanity, for peace and love, across religious differences and backgrounds.

I love stories like this. Perhaps these isolated incidents of peace on earth, goodwill to men could be the leaven that starts to affect the whole lump.

“Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Matthew 13:33).

Check out some of the coverage and photos of the gathering here and here and here and here…..

Friday, February 20, 2015

Musings on ISIS and Hell

I happened upon a short blog post written by Benjamin L. Corey on Patheos this morning.  Why ISIS Should Make Christians Rethink the Doctrine of Hell. It “puts a face with a name” concerning the fiery doctrine of hell...eternal conscious torment.

We’ve all seen the pictures. They’ve been plastered all over Facebook, in the news, on “start pages” like AOL (yes, AOL still exists) and Yahoo. The single, lone pilot, caged, in anguish, as the flames advance toward him. I don’t know if the whole video is available anywhere online but if it is, I could never watch it. I can’t even watch fake torture on shows like 24 and The Blacklist. And now there are sources saying ISIS is threatening to burn 17 Kurdish fighters….and even some claims about burning children alive. Hideous...horrible….soul sucking….heartbreaking evil.

As the article points out, ISIS is not the first to use fire as an instrument of death and torture. Christians were quite fond of using it against their enemies. Even just their theological enemies. Let’s not forget that atrocities were committed by followers of Jesus all down through Christian history. The Inquisition, the Witch Hunts, the Crusades.

For a long list of these atrocities…..“events that solely occurred on command of church authorities or were committed in the name of Christianity,” check out THIS ARTICLE. If you are skeptical, think of the list as a starting point for further research. I don’t want to see Christianity blackballed NOR whitewashed, it’s sins hidden.  As followers of Jesus, we are obligated to learn from the mistakes of our Christian predecessors. There are many variations of the oft repeated quote, “Learn from history or repeat it.” We are obligated to expose and denounce (and learn from) any and all atrocities committed in the name of Jesus.

I’ve written about topics like this beforeon this blog. Extremism is the problem and, all too often, the extremism is based on religious theology/ideology. Christians are not exempt and, in fact, are some of the worst offenders.

But I digress….

Back to the topic of ISIS, hell and our Heavenly Father.

Corey says this:

But here’s the irony of it all: while we find burning people alive morally repulsive when ISIS does it, most Christians seem to have no moral qualms about believing in a God they think will do precisely that.

And not only does he burn people alive, he uses his “special powers” to keep them conscious and burning (but not consumed) for all eternity. The traditional concept of a hell….eternal conscious torment... orchestrated by God… a heinous doctrine that besmirches the character and nature of the God Jesus spoke of and represented. “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”

For many of us, hell is the bitterest pill to swallow when embracing traditional Christianity. I didn’t….couldn’t….swallow the pill. I researched and prayed and studied until, like William Barclay, I was a “convinced universalist.” Sadly, there are some Christians who seem to revel in the concept of God burning his enemies  (enemies who, coincidentally, look just like their own personal enemies) in hell forEVER. Try to take their hell away and they are pissed. I’ve witnessed it.

One of my favorite stories in the Gospels

51 When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; 52 and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem.54 When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them 55 But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village. Luke 9:51-56

Jesus rebuked them...and even though some early manuscripts skip the “spirit you are  of” part, I think this passage highlights a question we should all answer. If we derive any kind of satisfaction from the doctrine of hell it is time to take a good long look at what is in our heart to see if it lines up with what Jesus had to say here.

A newer translation, The Voice, sums it up...

Jesus (turning toward them and shaking His head): You just don’t get it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Question That Never Goes Away.....

My mother has a problem with religion. She has a problem with God. She was raised in a very strict denomination, by very strict parents who worshiped a very strict God. You were never sure about your salvation because you could lose it just like that. Movies were out, any games that had dice, no jewelry, pants on women, purchases on Sunday etc. etc. etc.

Her biggest issue with God is the Problem of Evil...the Problem of Pain. Theodicy. We talk about it sometimes during our twice a week phone calls.

I tell her I don’t have the answer why bad things happen..that nobody really has the answer. It has been talked about and written about and argued about for thousands of years. Perhaps, it is a mystery that we may not understand until we are “on the other side.”

This doesn't satisfy her, of course. I understand that. It didn't satisfy me during the several year stint when I was too mad at God to talk to him very much. I was mad about all those starving children and the rampant, overwhelming, seemingly unstoppable evil in the world. Except that I was convinced he COULD stop it, if he wanted to. I read many articles that looked at the question from different perspectives.  I discussed it on message boards and yahoo groups. I talked it over with Keith (time and time again)

I found little dollops of salve here and there that took the sting out of the anger but I never really found an acceptable answer that explained why God allows this stuff to happen.

I read several books that helped a little.. “Why” by Adam Hamilton and Phillip Yancey’s twin volumes (written decades apart)  Where is God When It Hurts and The Question That Never Goes Away.

Following are two quotes I happened upon recently. One, I found just this morning on Ann Voskamp’s FaceBook wall. The other quote, that says practically the same thing, is from Rob Bell.

No matter how we don't understand the why of suffering, we know that the God who went to the Cross, He *knows* suffering & *He suffers with us.* *We never suffer alone.* The whole suffering world rings with the comfort of it, how Your nailed scarred hands cup our faces, hold our hurting hearts & You whisper: "I know... *I know.* Me too. *Me too*." Anne Voskamp

“Our tendency in the midst of suffering is to turn on God. To get angry and bitter and shake our fist at the sky and say, "God, you don't know what it's like! You don't understand! You have no idea what I'm going through. You don't have a clue how much this hurts." The cross is God's way of taking away all of our accusations, excuses, and arguments. The cross is God taking on flesh and blood and saying, "Me too.” ― Rob Bell

I still don’t understand it but I know he saves our tears in a bottle and the Bible promises in three separate places that he will wipe all our tears from our faces.

Behold, he makes all things new.