Archive for the ‘Jesus’ category

God is the Fulfillment of the Desires He Built into Us

April 10, 2019


“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” Psalms 51:1-2 ESV

I have written about how we can’t throw out the Old Testament and accept the New Testament in its place, as modern sensibilities might suggest. (See, for instance, Jesus and the “Old Testament God”) The Old Testament is the seed for the New Testament. Everything revealed in the New Testament was first revealed in the Old Testament. The Old Testament finds its fulfillment in the New Testament.

Moderns tend to want to view “the Old Testament God” as something different from the God revealed in the New Testament by Jesus, but Jesus affirmed the Old Testament.  Jesus says that the Old Testament anticipated and pointed toward him. (“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Luke 24:27)

The Bible verse of the day quoted above was prayed by David in Psalm 51. David expressed the desire of all of us when he asked God to have mercy on him, to “blot out” his transgressions, to wash away his iniquity and to cleanse him from his sins. We all have a conscience and a desire and need for the cleansing of our consciences.

We do have the capacity to ignore our consciences and to deny that desire for forgiveness. If we do that too often and too long, our consciences become callous and dull; the desire for forgiveness diminishes; and we no longer have the sensitivity God built into us that drive us toward Him. Psychology tells us that we all have that conscience, but we do have choice in how we respond to it.

C S Lewis talks about how our desires and our needs have a correlative reality in something that fulfills those desires and needs. He observes that we hunger, and there is food to meet that hunger; we thirst, and there is water to quench that thirst; we have sexual desires, and there is conjugal love we have with another person that fulfills that desire… at least temporarily.

That those desires are only temporally met and satisfied, says Lewis, suggests that there is something else, something more. We also have a deeper and more fundamental longing within us to know God and to be known by God, to be forgiven by God and for eternal life and relationship. CS Lewis says that the reality we know, the satisfaction of temporary longings and desires, is some evidence of a more fundamental and satisfying reality that will fulfill our enduring and deepest longings.

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The Roots of Modern Ethics in the Ancient Near East

April 10, 2019

Jerusalem: The Temple Mount from the time of the Second Temple

When I was in college, the first class I took was World Religions. Though I graduated with an English Literature major, I also had enough credits to be a Religion major. I didn’t need the dual major. I only took the religion classes because they interested me.

I also became a believing Christian during my college years. It was a transition that took place between that World Religion class and the summer between Sophomore and Junior years. It’s a long story that I might tell in detail some time, but the point for now is that I did a lot of reading and thinking about these things in those years. It doesn’t make me a theologian, but I have more than a passing interest.

Early on I learned that the creation story and flood story in Genesis, among other things, have counterparts in other religions, including other religions in the same area of the world – the Ancient Near East. Phoenicians, Assyrians, Persians, and other people groups had similar myths that have been uncovered.

Zoroastrianism, in particular, was said to share many attributes similar to the ancient Hebraic view of the world, including the idea a singular creator  God, a dualistic cosmology of good and evil, the ultimate destruction of evil, judgment after death, etc. The conjecture when I was in college was that Zoroastrianism may have predated Hebraic thought and influenced it.

It occurred to me at the time, not having any reason to doubt that speculation, that Abraham may have been particularly open to his encounter with God if, indeed, he had lived in an area of the world and in a time in which there was this kind of influence. It made some sense. He was the right guy in the right place with the right influences for God to reach.

Wikipedia acknowledges that Zoroastrianism has “possible roots dating back to the second millennium BC”, though “recorded history” of Zoroastrianism only dates back to the 5th Century BC. (Wikipedia). Obviously, dating the roots of Zoroastrianism back to the second millennium BC is only conjecture if records of Zoroastrianism only date to the 5th Century BC.

If we date the accounts of Abraham and his descendants according the biblical chronology and references, that history goes far back into the second millennium BC, but a loose consensus of modern archaeologists and theologians reject that dating in favor of first millennium BC dating. (See Wikipedia, for example) Modern scholars don’t take the Bible at face value. In fact, they affirmatively dismiss it for its face value.

This isn’t the end of the scholarly views of course. Not by a long shot. Some notable evidence and analysis exists that the modern consensus is wrong about the timeline for the life of Moses, the Exodus and other things. (See for instance Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy) The Patterns of Evidence conjecture is that historians and archaeologists who assume a particular timeline for certain events are not apt to see the evidence for those events if they occurred in a different timeline.

The Patterns of Evidence thesis is that evidence for the events described in biblical narrative is there if we look adopt the right timeline and look for them in the right time periods. Specifically, the biblical accounts of Moses, the Exodus and entry into the land of Canaan are apparent in the archaeological record and historical data on the biblical timeline (second millennium BC), not in the first millennium where modern scholars are focusing.

Certain archaeological finds, like the Ebla Tablets, also raise questions about the modern scholarly consensus. The importance of “looking” in the right places according to the right timelines is explored in Timing the Walls of Jericho.

Back to Abraham, though, he was reportedly from the area of Ur (southeast Iraq), which is quite a distance from the area of Canaan (later Judea) where he ended up – about 1600 miles in fact. In Ur, he may have come in contact with Zoroastrians and other influences. That intrigued me in college, and it still does today.

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Sunday Worship is Evidence for the Resurrection

March 31, 2019


Many of the things we do have become so traditional and commonplace that we don’t think about when they started and why. One of those things is the practice of Christians gathering on Sundays for “worship” or “church”. After all, Christians have been gathering on Sundays for almost 2000 years!

But why? It isn’t that difficult to figure out from a thematic, theological position, but what is the history? And why is that important?

We are approaching another Easter so the topic of the resurrection is top of mind this time of year. Of course, the resurrection of Jesus is the answer to the questions I have posed.

Christians gather on Sundays because Sunday was the day of the resurrection according to the Gospel accounts (all four of them). While we take the Sunday gatherings for granted (unless you are a Seventh Day Adventist), the change from Saturday gatherings to Sunday gatherings has historical significance that supports the resurrection as an historical fact.

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Is Jesus God? Part 1

February 5, 2019


Over 800 churches in the Chicago area are working through a series of big questions together all at the same time. (See exploreGod) The big question two weeks ago, for instance, was: Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering? I have addressed the problem of pain before. Not that I have addressed the issue once and for all. I certainly haven’t. Gaining knowledge and understanding is an ongoing process. In that vein, I tackle the question for this week: Is Jesus God?

Not that I (nor anyone) can prove Jesus is God. I don’t suggest that I can, and it isn’t my goal to offer that proof here. Rather, I intend to go through the exercise of following the claims that Jesus and others made about who Jesus was. After all, why would it even be a question whether Jesus is God if neither Jesus nor any of his close associates made that claim?

Before launching into a review of what Jesus and others said about his deity, we should note what he didn’t say. To be perfectly frank, Jesus didn’t not say, “I am God in the flesh” in those exact words or other words directly and expressly making such a claim.

At the same time, Jesus never said, “I am not God”. He never says, “Don’t worship me.”

Jesus is known for the questions he asked. Perhaps, the most significant question he asked is this: “Who do you say that I am?” This series of blog posts is an introduction to that question by looking, first, at the claims Jesus made about himself and then looking at what others said about him.

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Is Jesus God? Part 2

February 5, 2019


Over 800 churches in the Chicago area are taking on seven big questions in a series of discussions over the course of seven weeks. (See exploreGod) The big question this week – Is Jesus God? – is the subject of this piece. I introduced the question in a preliminary blog post (Is Jesus God? Part 1). I will get into the specifics of what Jesus said about himself in this piece followed by what others in his time said about him. (Is Jesus God? Part 3)

There are people who say that Jesus didn’t, in fact, claim to be God. One friend of mine, asked recently, “Jesus was a Jew, right? Didn’t he preach Judaism?” He was suggesting that people took what Jesus said out of context and ran with it, creating a new religion that Jesus didn’t even intend.

I believe my friend is partially right – that Jesus was a Jew, and he came first to the Jews, but that wasn’t his end goal. (See John 1:11-12; John 10:16; see also Got Questions) If we understand the sweep of the Bible, Old Testament through the New Testament, we see that the Jews and Judaism were the platform and the stage on which God could engage with His creation and demonstrate to the world who He is, but the climactic event in that drama was the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for the salvation of all the world.

Of course, Christians believe Jesus was God in the flesh, but, I am getting ahead of myself. The only goal of this piece is to explore the what Jesus claimed about himself, and what other people in his time claimed about him?

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Is Jesus God? Part 3

February 5, 2019


Jesus said to his followers, in no uncertain terms, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” (Luke 4:8, quoting Moses Deut. 6:13) Why, then, do Christians have this notion that Jesus was God?

That is the question being addressed in this blog series. The question was introduced in the first piece: Is Jesus God? Part 1. The question is being posed as part of a series of questions, that is being discussed among over 800 churches presently in the Chicago area. (See exploreGod) In the second blog post, Is Jesus God? Part 2, I covered the things Jesus said about himself.

In this third installment on that question, I will review what others said about Jesus in his time, both those who followed him and those who opposed him. The statement Jesus made about worshiping and serving only God is important to consider in light of the claims Jesus made about himself as well as the way other people reacted to Jesus.

Surely Jesus would not deign to suggest that he was God after making such a statement, right? How could his followers be confused about his deity? (If, indeed, there was any confusion.) What did others say about him? And how did they relate to him?

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God’s Love is Not Platonic

February 4, 2019


John the Apostle, a Hebrew from a remote province in the Roman Empire, lived a long life. The other apostles died premature deaths, but John, a typical Hebrew, lived long enough to be elevated out of his provincial Jewish world by the God who created it. His writing, as much as any of the New Testament authors, has a strong philosophical theme, but that philosophical theme is no abstract intellectual construct.

John the one-time fisherman became familiar with the greater Greco-Roman world by which the Palestinian province of his birth was governed and influenced. That familiarity is reflected in the Gospel that bears his name.

His gospel begins philosophically: “In the beginning was the Word”, the Logos.  (John 1:1)  The word, logos, carried poignant philosophical meaning in the Greco-Roman world. John’s use of that word to open his account of the life and message of Jesus shows that John, the provincial Hebrew, familiarized himself with that world and its thought.

This is in keeping with the instruction from Jesus to his followers to go into all the world explaining the message Jesus gave them. To go into the world, we have to become familiar with it and conversant with the thought that predominates in the world to which we go.

Though John’s Gospel begins philosophically, focusing on the loaded word, logos, he didn’t have the abstract notions of philosophy in mind. John’s use of that word pointed outside the Greco-Roman world and transcended it.

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Ted Parker, Jr.

Photographer of People, Music and Life - Husband-father-son-brother, son of the King. Soli Deo Gloria

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