Saturday, 15 April 2017

The Nails Aren’t the Point




If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably sat through at least one sermon where the preacher goes into graphic detail about the crucifixion of Jesus. He[1] may have gone into detail about how they would slowly nail nine inch nails into Jesus’ wrists and feet (and not his hands because the weight of the victim would have just resulted in the nail tearing through the palms). You may have heard that the victim of crucifixion was then lifted up and forced to hang from the cross. The position they hung from meant that they slumped forward, resulting in severe difficulty in breathing. In order to take a normal breath the victim would have to push themselves up with their legs. But this was an incredibly painful act and the victim would soon slump back down again into their original position. Eventually the victim would be too exhausted to push themselves up and they would suffocate to death. If the guards were feeling particularly merciful they might break the victim’s legs to hasten the suffocation process. And of course this was all often done after the victim was severely whipped with a multi-thonged whip, each thong ending with a sharp shard that would dig into the victim’s skin and rip their flesh out.

The whole point of going into this graphic detail is to show you how much Jesus loved you. That he would go through such graphic torture on your behalf because of his deep love for humanity.

But to make the physical pain of crucifixion centre-stage is to miss the point of what Christ went through.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Wait, Adam Had Two Wives!?



Lilith

I recently had a bright young lady I know message me with a rather odd question. Why does the Talmud say that Adam had a wife before Eve? And if it’s true then why wasn’t it mentioned in the Genesis creation accounts?[1]
 
Well it’s certainly true that certain Jewish texts refer to Adam having a wife before Eve. The most famous one is The Alphabet of ben Sirach (although contrary to the original question it is not part of the Talmud).[2] The story of Adam’s first wife sets out to fix a discrepancy in Scripture: why does Genesis 1 state that man and woman were created simultaneously but Genesis 2 states that the man was created before the woman?[3] The answer is that God created two wives – one in chapter one (Lilith) and the other (Eve) in chapter two. 

And, believe it or not, Adam’s “first” wife is mentioned in the Bible. Isaiah 34:12-14 states: 


They shall name it No Kingdom There,
    and all its princes shall be nothing.
 Thorns shall grow over its strongholds,
    nettles and thistles in its fortresses.
It shall be the haunt of jackals,
    an abode for ostriches.
 Wildcats shall meet with hyenas,
    goat-demons shall call to each other;
there too Lilith shall repose,
    and find a place to rest.[4]            

Wait why is she still alive during the time of Isaiah and why is her description so unflattering? She must be the ex from hell! 

Well yeah, she is.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Must I Like My Enemies?




“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? – Matthew 5: 43-48


Love your enemies is easily one of the most annoying commandments of Jesus. Partly because hating your enemies is a fantastic way to feel smugly superior to them and partly because it’s so darn hard to do. And I suck at it. I mean I wouldn’t wish death upon my enemies and I was pretty disgusted at the crowds of people celebrating Osama Bin Laden’s death.[1] And, as a follower of consistent life ethics, I’m staunchly anti-death penalty. But part of me struggles with the whole loving part, especially when there’s a good joke to be made at their expense.

And it’s because loving people we see as a threat is incredibly hard and counterintuitive to our minds.

In fact, the Lutheran minister Nadia Bolz-Weber makes an astute observation in her book Pastrix:

“Where exactly is the verse that says you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemies? Because I hadn’t remembered reading that in the Old Testament, which is where Jesus usually gets his best material.

Paul was right. It’s not in the Bible. But when I hung up, I realised why “love your neighbour and hate your enemy” sounds so familiar… I’m pretty sure it’s in my heart. It’s like, in my DNA.”[2]

Simply put, hating those who are different from us and who we perceive to threaten us is part of our survival instincts. And Jesus’ command is that we are to go against these instincts if we are to follow his new way.

But for now let’s assume that we all agree with Jesus[3] and look at what I think is a more interesting question: Do I have to like my enemy?

Or put it another way: what the limits of loving your enemy?

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Reading the Bible is a Lot like Dating






Because I’m bad and it and most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing.

But now that we have the obvious joke out of the way, I’m currently reading Peter Enns’ book The Sin of Certainty and I came across this passage:

""Speak for yourself. I'm not creating God in my own image. I'm just following the Bible."
No one just "follows" the Bible. We interpret it as people with a past and present, and in community with others, within certain traditions, none of which is absolute. Many factors influence how we "follow" the Bible. None of us rises above our place in the human drama and grasps God with pure clarity, without our own baggage coming along for the ride. We all bring our broken and limited selves into how we think of God."[1]

And I think that Enns is onto something. Often I have heard Christians say “I’m just reading the Bible for what it says” when pressed on an issue or even as an exhortation towards someone who takes a less literal reading of Scripture. But are they really reading the Bible for it says?

I don’t think so.

But first we have to look at a misunderstanding of an idea called “the clarity of Scripture”. Popular within evangelical circles, the clarity of Scripture is the belief that the meaning of the Bible can be grasped by all people, both the educated and the uneducated. However, this idea is sometimes taken beyond its limits to mean that the meaning of scripture is always clear at the surface level. For example, one can read a passage and know its true meaning instantly, often “due to the Holy Spirit”. And while I wouldn’t say this never happens, I don’t think it’s the norm.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Blogging Below the Line Day 4



 
"Homesickness" by Kristina Alexanderson Source: Photopin


Meals
Breakfast: N/A[1]
Lunch: Omelette (1 egg) and 30g of rice. One glass of budget cola (200ml).[2]
Dinner: Pizza dough with quarter of a can of spaghetti. One glass of budget cola (200ml).
Total Kj consumed: 2905j
Total burnt off through exercise: 532kj
Recommended minimum Kj intake: 4187kj
If every day was like today: I’d lose 9kg over 5 weeks. 

Observations
They say that the second and third days of Live Below the Line are the hardest. I disagree. Today is the hardest. I’m just so sick of tasteless food and all I can think about is chocolate, bacon, and chicken, and how this will all be over soon.

Also, I’ve started having nightmares about Live Below the Line. Well not full on nightmares but I keep dreaming that I’m halfway through a really nice meal and then I remember I’m actually supposed to be doing the challenge, and that I’ve cheated everyone who sponsored me.
On the bright side, I’m going out for breakfast on Saturday morning. Baaaacon…

Reflection
I recently came across the Parable of the Rapture by theologian/philosopher Peter Rollins. I think it provides a very interesting spin on the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats found in Matthew 25:31-46.


I really like this spin on the parable because it confronts the idea that the Gospel is all about shooting off to Heaven after you die to go and live in the clouds to escape the fate of earth. Although this is a very popular view in the Church today, I think more and more people are coming around to realise that this simply isn’t all that Biblical and that the Gospel is as much about life BEFORE death as it is about life AFTER death.[3]  

Blogging Below the Line Day 3



Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish, Source: Photopin



Meals
Breakfast: Porridge (100g)
Lunch: N/A (I didn’t have time for lunch today).
Dinner: Pizza dough with quarter of a can of spaghetti.. One glass of budget cola (250ml).
Total Kj consumed: 2416kj
Total burnt off through exercise: 1202kj
Recommended minimum Kj intake: 4187kj
If every day was like today: I’d lose 10kg over 5 weeks. 

Observations
I think my body is starting to adapt to not having much to eat. I have to say though that I was really tempted by the free jelly beans I was given at the video store. I have found though that is a lot harder to concentrate for long periods of time.

Reflection – I Shall Not Hate
Matthew 5:43-48 Love Your Enemies
 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

These words are no less challenging today than they were two thousand years ago when Jesus preached them. But back then the Jews were residing under Roman occupation and they hated the Romans. As far as they were concerned the land belonged to them and the Romans had to leave – and some (the Zealots) weren’t opposed to using violence to achieve this goal. But Jesus turns this around and tells them that they are actually to love the Romans. But I think that Jesus understood that violence and hatred just perpetuate more violence and hatred.

Now I have a hard enough time consistently loving those who annoy me, let alone those who are trying to kill me.[1] And that’s why when I read Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish’s simultaneously heart-breaking and inspiring autobiography I Shall Not Hate I found myself extremely challenged. The book takes you from his childhood growing up in the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, through his struggle to get an education in refugee schools, through to the climax of the book: his experience during the 2008-2009 Gaza War. Abuelaish recounts in horrific detail what it was like to live under siege trapped in his house, including the experience of his whole family sleeping in one room with the kids spread out across different walls so that if a shell hit their wall not all of them would be killed.[2] But nothing prepares you for the horrific description he gives of the fateful day on 12th December when his house was targeted by tanks (a warning that his description is pretty graphic):  

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Blogging Below the Line Day 2


Source: Photopin/Renaud Camus


Meals
Breakfast: Porridge (100g)
Lunch: Pizza dough with quarter of a can of spaghetti.
Dinner: Spiral pasta (50g) with frozen vegetables (50g). One glass of budget cola (250ml).
Total Kj consumed: 3286
Total burnt off through exercise: N/A (I stayed inside and watched Lord of the Rings)
Recommended minimum Kj intake: 4187kj
If every day was like today: I’d lose 8kg over 5 weeks.  

Observations
Today was a bit harder. I really started to feel the hunger about 2pm. I also started to really feel the effects of not eating as much as I usually would in regards to energy levels. I just felt completely flat today. Also I’m really starting to crave sushi. And yoghurt. The problem is that I gave all the packets of chips and chocolate biscuits to my sister to store at her place so they wouldn’t tempt me, but I didn’t thing to give her the pottles of yoghurt in my fridge as well.

Reflection – Won’t you be my neighbour?
Luke 10 25-37: The Good Samaritan
This episode starts when “an expert of the Law [of Moses]” (i.e. a religious expert) asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.  So Jesus turns the question back on him and asks him what is written in the Law. The expert replies correctly by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 – Love God with all your being and love your neighbour.