Archive for the ‘Jesus’ category

Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 5 – Racism

July 7, 2017

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This is the last in a series of five blog articles on the question: whether the Bible is sexist and racist? The subject is introduced in Part 1. We tackled sexism by looking at the overarching theme of the Bible on men and women in Part 2 and by looking at how Jesus treated women in Part 4. We tackled racism in Part 3 by looking at the overarching theme of the Bible on diversity. Finally, we view racism and diversity through the life of Jesus and His followers in this part 5.

Jesus doesn’t tackle the issue of racism or diversity directly, but He lived in a complicated time. He was Jewish, living in a tight knit Jewish community, which was governed and ruled by foreigners, the Romans. The Jews had a history of living alongside foreigners and were at various times throughout that history governed by them against their will.

Many of the foreigners were actually very closely related, like the Samaritans, who were of Jewish descent, and the Canaanites before them.

The Jews believed there were only two types of people: Jews and everyone else (Gentiles). They seemed to have forgotten that the very first words God spoke to Abraham, when He chose Abraham and his progeny, was that God chose them to be a blessing to all the nations. (Genesis 12:1-3) God didn’t choose them to bless only them, but to bless all nations through them.

Jesus was that blessing. Jesus is traced back to Abraham. He is from the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is the root of Jesse’s seed, father of David. Jesus is the Promised One. So, how Jesus viewed others is the key to understanding what the Bible says about racism and diversity.

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Is the Bible Sexist and Racist? Part 4 – Sexism

July 7, 2017

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We have been exploring the answer to the question: whether the Bible is sexist and racist. We opened the discussion in Part 1, tackled sexism in Part 2 by looking at the sweeping theme of the Bible dealing with men and woman, and we considered the sweeping theme of the Bible dealing with racism in Part 3. We did this by looking at the beginning and the end, Genesis and Revelation, among other things.

Genesis describes how God created the world and people in it and provides a window to peer into God’s motivations, intentions and purposes. We find that God created an idyllic habitation for men and women to live in harmony with Him and nature, but He allowed people to have free will.

Free will introduced the possibility that people would choose their own values over God’s values and go their own ways. We are told Adam and Eve, the first people (or representative people) did choose their own way, and that choice introduced sin into the world.

Sin means “to miss the mark”. The “mark” would include, among other things, God’s values. People have chosen their own values over God’s values, and the result is that we live in a world in which God’s values are distorted from what He intended. But what are God’s values?

We see that men and women were created as counterparts who, together, reflect the image of God. Neither one is valued higher than the other. We see that God intended them to be fruitful and multiply, to diversify, and not to hunker down in one place with one language in a homogeneous civilization. God wanted diversity. These are the overarching themes of the Bible.

The Old Testament is largely the story of how God chose one people through whom He intended to bless all the nations of the world, but His chosen people continually chose to go their own way. They largely did not reflect God’s values in the way they lived. The Church, today, often does not reflect God’s values as revealed in the Bible. Paul says, though every man may be a liar, still God is true. (Romans 3:4)  We can’t judge God’s values by what we see people doing – even church people.

In fact, only one person in history, we are told, truly reflected all that God is – Jesus. Jesus was “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and the “exact representation of His nature”. (Hebrews 1:3) Jesus said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)  In this segment, therefore, we will look at what Jesus said and did that can be applied to the subject of sexism.

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Would I Be Different Than They?

May 11, 2017


Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him…. John 12:37

Imagine being there when Jesus lived to hear Him speak, watch Him interact with people and maybe even perform a miracle – right in front of you! How could you not believe?!

It’s easy to think these things. But, what would it really be like? Though Jesus performed many signs in front of people, still they didn’t believe Him. People still believed what they were disposed to believe. People saw what they expected to see.

Would we be any different?

Some people heard Him speak and saw the miracles and believed. But more people heard Him speak, saw the miracles and did not believe. In the 1st Century, they accused Him of performing black magic. Today, we might accuse Him of performing ordinary magic, planting people in the audience and doing sleight of hand.

He would most certainly rock our notions of right and wrong, proper and improper, sense and insensitivity. He would challenge our sacred ideas about ourselves and our freedoms, our causes and our individual rights.

He would be too politically incorrect for the left. He would be too progressive for the right.

Who has believed our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:1-3)

God’s Purpose is Accomplished – Even When People Reject Him

May 9, 2017

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Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my father.”  (John 15:22-24)

These words convey a stark reality that is not pleasant to consider. We might assume that Jesus was speaking of the Jews when He spoke these words, but we would be wrong. Jesus was speaking of the “world”. Just before Jesus spoke the words quoted above, He said:

“If the world[1] hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

These are curious things coming from Jesus. The import of what Jesus says here is that the world is ordered in opposition to Jesus and God the Father. And even when people reject Jesus, God’s purpose is fulfilled.

In other places, we see Jesus saying very different things. For instance, Jesus said elsewhere, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) So, we might be confused when we see Jesus implying that he came to hold people accountable for their sins.

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The Choices God Gives Us

April 28, 2017

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“But to all[1] who did receive[2] Him, to those who believed[3] in His name, He gave the right[4] to become[5] children[6] of God— children born[7] not of blood, nor of the will[8] of the flesh[9], nor of the will of man, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)

Johns packs a lot into these short verses, tucked into the first chapter of his Gospel that is profoundly full of other significant meaning:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. All things were made through him….In him was life, and the life was the light of men…. The true light…. was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him… he gave the right to become children of God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”[10]

These are some of the most profound and remarkable verses in all of Scripture. God became flesh, and He lived among the people He chose as His own, but they didn’t even recognize who He was. But those who received – who believed Him – He gave the right to become children of God.

I see two choices here: the choice of receiving Christ and the choice God gives us after receiving Christ – the right to become children of God. My Reformed friends might be tempted to overlook the import of this power-packed passage.  I am little unnerved by it myself, truth be told. I don’t trust my own heart to make the right choices!

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Was the Jesus Story a Copycat from Pagan Myth?

April 23, 2017


The answer is pretty decisively, no! Much has been said of this popular Internet opinion by actual historians and biblical scholars of every stripe, Christian, agnostic and atheist. No modern scholars, meaning men and woman who have proven themselves in the world of academia, which usually means have been carefully vetted by peer review, hold to this view today.

This is true whether the scholar happens to be a theist or atheist, believer or nonbeliever. There simply isn’t any credible evidence for it. The only evidence lives in the active imaginations of people who want it to be true, like Bill Maher. In fact, he did a movie about it.

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God Lets Us Choose Him

April 22, 2017

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In back-to-back chapters in the Gospel of John (8, 9 and 10), Jesus has conversations with Jewish crowds who question who he is. Jesus never tells them in direct words, “I am God,” but the crowd clearly knows what he is talking about. This is similar to what we experience in life.

The world is made in such a way that it is governed by natural laws that have existed since the beginning of time. The cosmological constants were set from the beginning and are so finely tuned that they could not be changed this way or that way, even the slightest bit, without negating the possibility of life on Earth. Many scientists look at these laws and draw the conclusion that either they have always existed or they are simply all there is.

But where did the laws come from? Where did the universe come from? There is plenty of other evidence that God, the Creator, exists. The cosmological constants do not eliminate the possibility of a God. In fact, if those constants had a beginning, they must have had a beginner. But, there is room to question and to dismiss the idea.

Many of the Jewish people at the time of Jesus, especially the influential leaders, questioned who Jesus claimed to be.  Jesus did not get in their face about it. Just like God does not reveal himself in the created Universe in a way that we could not ignore him, Jesus was subtle, but clear.

I find this to be fascinating. It reveals a deep thread that has been coming into focus for me going way back in time.

God created us with free will. If he was in our face, we would have no free will. He would overwhelm and overcome us if we could not ignore Him.

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