Christian Patriotism and the War Machine

There's got to be a better way 
What is it good for?

. . .

War, I despise 'cause it means destruction of innocent lives
War, means tears to thousands of mothers how
When their sons go off to fight and lose their lives

. . .

War, it ain't nothing
But a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker
It's an enemy to all mankind
The point of war blows my mind
War has caused unrest
Within the younger generation
Induction then destruction
Who wants to die

War, what is it good for?
Absolutely nothing

Edwin Starr, War

Regardless of one’s eschatology or opinions of political policy, categorizing any political state as though it is the legitimate recipient of God’s favor before all others is a gross mistake with detrimental ethical repercussions.

The allegiance of members within the community of God to a "nation state," as though God were taking a particular side, is troubling. There are many who are convinced that God is with the United States, including its perpetual military endeavors. For some, this is rooted in the mistaken notion that this nation was founded upon and still is an inherently "Christian" nation, blessed by God. What about those who serve God in territories we have invaded and afflicted? If they cry to God against us, who is God obliged to answer? 

“For it is not right that a worshipper of God should be injured by another worshipper of God.” - Lactantius, A Treatise on the Anger of God (ANF 7.271). 

Far too often, theology has been poured into an ideological mold for the purpose of casting a nationalized image of God to fit worshiped, political agendas. 

"Believing that God accompanies one’s army is always comforting, and a people can perhaps be braver the more inclined they are to view God as able and willing to come out in their defense.” Patricia M. McDonald, God and Violence: Biblical Resources for Living in a Small World (Scottdale, PA.: Herald Press, 2004), 77.

When did Christianity become so inseparably intertwined with political agendas and identities? Why is it that a "conservative" Christian will question the faith of someone they deem as "liberal" or who identifies with another political party?

The history of humanity, including Christianity, is strewn with a trail of blood where imperialistic aspirations have been religiously justified as though they were God’s own desires. See David A. Leiter, Neglected Voices: Peace in the Old Testament (Scottsdale, PA.: Herald Press, 2007), 10.

“You kill one person, they lock you up and throw away the key. You kill three-hundred thousand and they give you a knighthood.” PBS Masterpiece, Endeavor, S1E1, 48:46 (In the context of what happened to Hiroshima).

What does Jesus have to do with Caesar?

Dr. John Goldingay on Israel and Palestine

This is a brilliant statement of crucial importance:

“Does God still protect Israel? Well, God still protects the Jewish people. In our time we have to make a distinction between the state of Israel, which is a state like any other and the Jewish people, most of whom live outside the state of Israel. And declaring that God is committed to the Jewish people does not mean that you reckon that God is committed to the state of Israel, particularly over against the Palestinians. But it’s hard, I think, for Christians to make those distinctions.” 

Dr. John Goldingay

Strong Finishes and Fresh Starts

It has been a great year. There is much on which to reflect, both good and otherwise. While the changing of one digit to another on the calendar is no major accomplishment in and of itself, it has and continues to be a cultural phenomenon that promotes reflection, identifies with fresh starts and new beginnings. I love that. 

As I did last new years eve, I've listed the most viewed posts of 2016. But first, I wanted to let you in on what has been happening. I have not posted much in the past few months, and I doubt that my frequency will increase in the near future. The blog is not going anywhere, but I am.

Having begun seminary, it has demanded my undivided attention. For those who may be inquisitive, my focus is on biblical studies, not in pastoral ministry of an official capacity as often equated with seminary attendance. Between school, taking care of my family, my obligations around my house and those people in my life (who I am grateful to call "friends,"), I have little time to devote to other cyber activities. 

This will not be permanent, and as projects present themselves as capable of being quickly turned into posts - which I think you will enjoy - I won't hesitate to share them. I appreciate your readership and interest in this blog, so stay tuned; "patience, patience my love," as Gollum said to himself.

Here then are the most popular posts of 2016:

I'll leave you with this benediction:

This year may truth be a stranger you meet on the road, welcome into your home and with whom you form strong bonds of affection. 

May you subsequently seek out her travel companions, wisdom, prudence and meekness until you have thoroughly exhausted yourself in doing so. 

May the love of God flow from your lips and fill your heart, spilling over into the lives of others. 

May your heart groan over the abominations and injustices done in the earth, while your hands rise to defeat the chaos and meet needs of our world in God’s Name. 

May your mouth be slow to speak, creating good not causing evil. 

May your ears be open, quick to listen and not for that which feeds their own desires. 

Let the words of your mouth and the deepest desires of your heart be pleasing to your God. 

May you follow rabbi Jesus so closely that the dust from his sandals clings to you as an ornament from your head to your feet, revealing your desire and passion to walk in his steps.

Wishing you and all your loved ones a wonderful year ahead.

- Shaun

Hans Küng on John's Christology and the Shema

In a little reading of Hans Küng's Judaism; Between Yesterday and Tomorrow, I came across these statements:

“In this Gospel [John] ... there cannot yet be any question of a ‘metahistorical drama of Christ’, the objection often put forward by the Jewish side. Precisely in this late, fourth Gospel, we still have statements like: ‘And this is eternal life, that they may know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ Or, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. Here there is a clear distinction between God and Jesus Christ.

No, this Gospel too does not contain any speculative metaphysical Christology – torn from its Jewish roots – but rather a christology of sending and revelation associated with the world of Jewish Christianity. However, its statement about pre-existence, understood in an unmythological way, takes on heightened significance: ‘John does not investigate the metaphysical nature and being of the pre-existent Christ; he is not concerned about the insight that before the incarnation there were two pre-existent divine persons who were bound together in the one divine nature. This way of conceiving of things is alien to John. So too is the conception of a 'begetting within the Godhead.' 'I and the Father are one.' This statement has nothing to do with any dogmatic-speculative statements about the relationship of the natures within the Godhead.' So what was John's positive concern? What stands in the foreground is the confession that the man Jesus of Nazareth is the Logos of God in person. And he is the Logos as a mortal man; but he is the Logos only for those who are prepared to believe, trusting God's word in his word, God's actions in his praxis, God's history in his career, and God's compassion in his cross’ …

If the Jewish tradition has always held unshakeably to a basic truth of Jewish faith, then it is the ‘Shema Israel’, Hear, O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone! … This confession of the unity and uniqueness of God meant the strict repudiation not only of any dualism but also of any trinitarianism.”

Hans Küng, Judaism; Between Yesterday and Tomorrow (Continuum, 1991), 382-3.

Resources for Educational Purposes

I have benefited greatly in the past from the generosity of various professors and institutions of higher education, who have made resources freely available to those who may otherwise never have the opportunity.

With the rise of the internet has come a tool of incredible power to share and learn, but with it comes the danger of widely disseminating falsehood as well. There are endless circular quotations and content that is taken as legitimate but is often not the case. Fake news, propaganda, falsified information and amateurs purporting to be experts can find unsuspecting audiences, unaware of what they are consuming. As individuals, it is our responsibility to be prudent with the information we take as "truth" and "fact." This is where reputation can play a large factor; find it in a book.

One particular tool that has been useful is iTunes University. It is like podcasts or video-casts provided by Colleges, Universities and Seminaries. There is an incredible amount of classes able to be taken on your own and at no expense. Many even contain the handouts and syllabi to provide the full experience. I have utilized this resource on many occasions including (but not limited to) classes from Yale, AMBS and Fuller Theological Seminary. The disadvantage is that it is limited to Apple users, but it has been worth it to me to have an Apple device for this reason alone.

Another option is "The Great Courses." Some of the most well-known teachers from respected institutions have lectures covering any range of topics and areas of study. These can be downloaded, or (my personal favorite) found in your local library system. If you have not been a regular patron of your local library, you are missing out on an incredible resource with dedicated people possessing an extraordinary knowledge for aiding you in your quest. As Matt Damon's character Will said in Good Will Hunting,

"You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library."
There are other options as well, such as reputable professors making their classes available on a site like YouTube. One in particular I will note is Craig Keener. He has magnanimously made various of his lecture series available to all, such as Romans and Matthew. Dr. John Walton has similar lectures: Job.

There are lectures given in a series, such as those the Lanier Theological Library in Houston has done at regular intervals. They host various scholars giving talks on a variety of topics. Their videos are archived on Vimeo

For someone who may be interested in learning a foreign language, I highly recommend Simon and Schustler's Pimsleur (and Little Pim for Children). Again, these are resources that will be readily available at most local libraries. 

Mueller's Hebrew

“I now studied much, about 12 hours a day, chiefly Hebrew … [and] committed portions of the Hebrew Old Testament to memory; and this I did with prayer, often falling on my knees … I looked up to the Lord even whilst turning over the leaves of my Hebrew dictionary.”

George Mueller, Autobiography of George Mueller (London: J. Nisbet and Co., 1906), 31.

Supercilious Scripture Snobs or Careful Custodians

Reading biblical text within its historical, social and literary contexts places it where it was always intended to be, thus bestowing upon it the highest possible honor. Some, who are unacquainted with this as proper treatment of text, choose rather to label it “scriptural elitism” and thereby uncharitably disregard the valiant efforts of multitudes of scholars from varieties of disciplines, stretching years into the past, whose life mission has been to better understand this priceless treasure.

John Walton summarized it well, 

"God is not superficial, and we should expect that knowledge of him and his Word would be mined rather than simply absorbed. This means that all of us will be dependent on others with particular skills to help us succeed in the enterprise of interpretation. This is not elitism; it is the interdependence of the people of God as they work together in community to serve one another with the gifts they have." Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One; Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (IVP Acedemic, 2009), 171.

I have posted this quotation in the past, but James McGrath was also spot on when he said,

"Does someone claim that they simply read the Bible and have no need for scholars, when they are reading the Bible in translation, or reading critical editions of the texts in the original languages, or using manuscripts copied by scribes, having learned Hebrew and Greek with the help of textbooks and lexicons? That person is a liar, plain and simple."

This is not to say that there haven't been or are not irresponsible conclusions or distortions (whether intentional or not is not for me to say). Brent Sandy perhaps has a balanced perspective,

"Evangelicals who support the concept of inerrancy have undoubtedly been guilty at times of claiming too much for the term and claiming that we know too much (e.g., about what historical accuracy demanded and about what authorship entailed). But critical scholarship is not innocent of similar unwarranted certainty and belief in 'assured results' as they apply the surgical knife to biblical books with such self-confidence." Walton and Sandy, The Lost World of Scripture; Ancient Literary Culture and Biblical Authority (IVP Academic, 2013), 276. 

Storied Salvation: Assurance

Salvation According to Paul: Assurance

“Paul would certainly see 'salvation' as secured through 'belief in the Lord Jesus', however much such belief would have to be spelled out in any particular case.”[1]

The book of Jude with its unique content and non-canonical citations contains a noteworthy warning to its readership:

“Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt, subsequently destroyed those who did not believe” Jud 1:5.

The idea that belief and obedience are mutually exclusive or autonomous is not found in the OT or apostolic tradition. God does indeed secure his people, but not without their consent or cooperation. Security and safety are found in continual obedience to God; it’s his word not ours. Once the later idea that grace and obedience are separate from each other is removed – one being accomplished by God’s fiat alone and the other optional by us – Jude’s warning is perfectly appropriate. “Those who did not believe” are not those who wandered into heresy,[2] but rather those who after participating in God’s renewing and restoration power refused to participate and act in the obedience required to be part of that kingdom. This is not a matter of maintaining proper theology, but rather a failure to put into action God’s commands. There are numerous examples of faith as obedience, where those who were once obedient but did not continue on that path were subsequently judged by God.
The psalmist wrote:

“The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, Because they take refuge in Him” Ps 37:39-40.

There is no question that Yahweh is the source, character, nature, substance, and reality of salvation. It depends on his faithfulness, consistency and reliability, not our wavering attempts. Does this then describe our eternal security; are we eternally secure? I believe that is the wrong question to ask. A better question is, “Who are the righteous,” which the passage describes? This passage (and others like it) is about the righteous, a topic about which the OT (especially the Psalms) has a lot to say. Jesus came teaching Israel what the actions of a righteous (kingdom citizen) look like. God himself is our guarantee, as Paul said, “by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” Eph 4:30.[3]

Within the idiomatic way biblical language works, salvation can be spoken of as an accomplished action, although in modern ways of reckoning it causes substantial confusion regarding that from which we are being “saved.”

The proof of spiritual transformation in the Gospels is the confirmation of the people and the spirit of God. There is a sense in which the principle, first taught in the OT, and taught also by Jesus with the witness of at least two, is appropriate. It’s not a matter of self-confirming statements, but rather community affirmation. Obedience is obvious.

“The sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death” 2 Cor 7:10.

The declaration by many dedicated men of God should ring in our ear; hineni, “here I am,” your servant waits for your instruction. Obedience is the best gauge in the present regarding one’s salvation being a reality in the future.

“The righteous dead still await the promised resurrection, 'God' has singled out Jesus, bestowing on him, uniquely, resurrected existence and making him thereby the exemplar of what believers can hope for and the assurance that their hope in 'God's' readiness and power to raise the dead is not in vain (esp. 1 Cor 15:20-58; Heb 2:5-18; 1 John 3:1-3). Resurrection, thus, is presented as the essential means by which ‘God’ will demonstrate faithfulness to believers, and their hoped-for salvation/vindication is directly patterned after what 'God' did in/for Jesus. . . . So, 'God' in the NT is emphatically known as the deity who raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him to glory, which justifies and even demands now that Jesus be proclaimed as 'Lord' (e.g., Phil 2:9-11). But God's resurrection of Jesus also serves to signal incomparably this God's great power and purpose, which are to eventuate in a personal/bodily glorification of believers that is patterned after that given to Jesus.”[4]

[1] J. D. G. Dunn, Beginning from Jerusalem, Christianity in the Making, vol. 2 (Erdmans, 2008), 674.
[2] 1 Tim 4:16.
[3] Eze 9:4; Eph 1:13-4; 4:30; 2 Cor 1:21-2; 5:5; 2 Tim 2:19; Rev 7:3; 9:4.
[4] L. W. Hurtado, God in New Testament Theology (Abingdon Press, 2010), 42.

Hold Fast to What is Good

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” – Benjamin Franklin.

Throughout the years and during changing times, this country has endured. While many debate what the significant force behind it may have been, we do know that it has stood as a legacy of ingenuity and a testament to the productivity that can come from a society structured such as ours.

The people of this land are experiencing change in cultural, social, religious and economical trends to one extent or another. Whether it is a business owner, a senior citizen, a college graduate or the single mother trying to maintain a family while coping with inflation, all are being touched by an emerging new world that has quickly become threatening. Many find that the world in which they were raised, included attributes such as values, morality, courtesy, patriotism and more. They have also found that in many instances, these attributes have all but disappeared. Still, in other ways, the more mature citizens in our culture find technological marvels which in their childhood would have seemed a part of science fiction. The shifts in our small "sands of time" have uncovered a world that is new, yet very old.

Despite all the changes we are experiencing in technology, the economy, big business and myriads more that could be enumerated, one thing remains unchanged; it is still people that matter most. Whether it is accepted or exercised on a practical level or not, the truth of the matter persists. In a time when so much emphasis is placed on the political polls, parties and elected politicians, the largest factor, and that which really makes the difference, is our relationship with the people who are in our day-to-day lives. The revolution that elevated this country to its supreme stature would have never been accomplished without the unity of its countrymen. The strength exhibited, was in the ability to act harmoniously with each, stand together and in so doing demonstrate the importance of human relationships during perilous times.

The results of the past year and a half have revealed some of the best in people, but unfortunately in some it has revealed the worst this country has had to offer. Attitudes of not only intolerance, but flagrant hatred has run rampant in varying groups against those who are not "like" them.   

It disheartens me to no end seeing those who even profess citizenship to a superior kingdom verbally assault one another regarding an inferior one over which they have no control anyhow. Must we defend a political figure whom we have never met to the detriment of real human interaction? We live at a time where media, in its ever widening forms, has garnered an enormous influence over public opinion and action. As such, it is of crucial consequence that the community of God step forward as a voice of reason, restoration and remediation rather than retaliation. 

Regardless of your specific religious or spiritual convictions, there are universal laws that have been written on the hearts of mankind. They are laws which dictate certain guidelines in the ethical treatment of others, in spite of feelings toward them or their beliefs, religion, political persuasions, race or ethnicity. Regardless of public practice and proclamations of hate, loving our neighbor and treating them the way we desire to be treated is not out of style. Touching lives by reaching out to the hurting, or intervening in someone's distressed universe by bringing a little heaven into their hell should not be considered unfashionable!

In our current day of a seemingly advanced society, we find that we are more individualistic than ever. Communication has been taken to unprecedented levels and is available in more diverse ways than ever before in the history of mankind. Unfortunately, as a result, we do not have better relationships as one would hope. Instead, social severance in multiple forms rather than traditional person-to-person exchange has being sprung on humanity. Will the repercussions of a disjointed citizenry in current economic trends take us along the same route as our predecessors in our ability to band together for the justice and salvation of our families or instead result in our undoing?

It must be understood that reform does not start in Washington with political saviors, it starts on Main Street, in our homes. What are we teaching our children? Are we instilling  fear into them and a fundamental intolerance for those who may not see the world the same way we/they do? Who are we allowing to radically shape their ideals? What will happen if more difficult times once again set-in in this nation? Will we continue to allow the stake of diversity to be driven into and among our people? Diversity is only a downfall if we let it be; it can equally be a strength. Helping and supporting each other is vital, a truth with which our forefathers, at the inception of this country were well acquainted.

In an email sent to the faculty and student body, President Jeff Carter of Bethany Theological Seminary had a few words of wisdom and encouragement regarding this current political season which I thought were worth noting:

"Every election is historic. For months we have debated and discussed the candidates' views and abilities as well as shared our hopes for our future. It is clear through this election that there are a variety of hopes and expectations from a seemingly diverse electorate. Although we might hope and/or wonder what the future may hold as we enter this transition of power, we do know of our call and God’s presence . . . Romans 12 . . . is a fitting reminder as to how we might continue together in seeking our common good.

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:9-11."   

We have seen devastation and disunity in many areas of this country as well as around the globe. Some of it is publicized, some goes all but unnoticed. No one knows for sure what lies ahead, but amidst the current adversity, and that which may once again present itself, would you rather have your neighbors and countrymen as enemies or allies, as friends or foes? There is much change occurring which will inevitably continue. We should then ask ourselves the question, where will our current course of attitude and influence lead us? How well do we know our neighbors (not necessarily those who live beside you)? How are our relationships?

There are many distractions in our culture that seek to steal our time, attention and devotion. For those who claim to be members of the household of the God of Israel, it is reaffirming and hopeful to remember that our citizenship is part of a different kingdom. Jesus is Lord, hence Caesar is not. While we may rarely endorse the actions of today's “Caesar,” God has not given his people the responsibility to dethrone him, revolt against him nor treat those who have given him their unwavering allegiance with disrespect or in inhumane ways. 

President Carter concluded his email with these words,  

"Everyone has a place at the table. May we be the unity we seek and may our witness speak of God’s grace, love, and compassion … for all and in all times."

There is hope. There is good everywhere if we choose to see it, and it’s worth persistently pursuing.

Beam Me Up Scotty

It is my contention that rational dialogue and meaningful conversation are the lifeblood of truth pursuing activities within the diverse community of God. So therefore, I offer you the opinions of N. T. Wright (FYI, that is said with humorous intent, but seriously, I believe he’s right on track and far from alone in the world of NT scholarship regarding the opinion expressed here).

In his book Surprised by Scripture, N. T. Wright made the following comments pertaining to the perspective generically known as the “rapture,” which represents the belief of many Christians today:

“It isn't a matter of simply deconstructing the massive 'left behind' theology that has been so powerful in North America in particular, though we must do that if we are to think biblically. We must focus on one element of particular. The word parousia, 'royal appearing,' was regularly used to describe Caesar's 'coming' or 'royal appearing' when visiting a city, or when returning home to Rome. And what happened at such a parousia was that the leading citizens would go out to meet him, the technical term for such a meeting being apantçsis, The word Paul uses here for 'meeting,' as in 'meeting The Lord in the air.' But when the citizens went out to meet Caesar, they didn't stay there in the countryside. They didn't have a picnic in the fields and then bid him farewell; they went out to escort their Lord royally into their city. In other words, Paul's picture must not be pressed into the nonbiblical image of the 'Second Coming' according to which Jesus is 'coming back to take us home' – swooping down, scooping up his people, and zooming back to heaven with them, away from the wicked earth forever. Revelation makes clear in several passages, with echoes in other New Testament books, the point is that Jesus will reign on the earth, and at his royal appearing the faithful will go to meet him, like the disciples on the road to Jerusalem only now in full-blooded triumph, and escort him back into the world that is rightfully his and that he comes to claim, to judge, to rule with healing and wise sovereignty.” N. T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues (HarperOne, 2014), 101-102.

Within the New Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures there are metaphors the writers used for communicating a picture. For example, in the NT – with regard to what is called “atonement theology” – Jesus is called a “Lamb” by John, a “High Priest” by the writer of Hebrews and referenced as the culmination of Israel and the Isaianic suffering servant in varying other places. Well, which is it? How can he be both the sacrifice (in some interpretations) and the priest who mediates it? Can both pictures be valid in different ways, without having to be harmonized? Did the writers have the literary freedom to choose their own illustrations, metaphors and have their own set of interpretations for the purpose of communicating to differing audiences and/or for different theological motifs? There are distinguishable reasons as to why they used the metaphors they did, and generally they are rooted in the Hebrew Scripture. 

Now back on topic. There are historical grids sometimes put in place for the sake of governing interpretations as to what the NT writers meant with respect to Jesus’ anticipated return. One such example is the somewhat elusive “Jewish wedding.” While the practice of betrothal, separation for a time, immanent appearance of the husband for his bride, then leading her from her father’s home to his may be evidenced somewhere, this does not mean it was by any means the predominant practice of all Jews everywhere for all time. Actually, it is attested to infrequently. 
(For more information, see Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life; The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Hendrickson; The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, v. I, Bride of Christ, Eerdmans; Evans and Porter, Dictionary of New Testament Background, Marriage, IVP; Metzger and Coogan, The Oxford Companion to the Bible, Marriage, Oxford; Werblowsky and Wigoder, The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion, Betrothal, Oxford; Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Marriage, Baker Book House). 

This particular custom has become a favorite of some due to its parallel in rapture interpretation: Jesus became betrothed to the Church, went away for a time and at some unknown point in the future, he will return to usher his people back to heaven (i.e. his home and now theirs for eternity, which will be consummated by the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” found in Revelation).There is no question that the NT portrays an image of betrothal and marriage between God and his people, albeit in the NT, it is through Jesus as the intermediary. This is covenant speech, possessing the same imagery found in the Hebrew Scriptures, specifically in the Torah and Prophets. This imagery was used to describe the relationship between God and the covenant people (e.g. Hosea and Ezekiel). 

Merely saying something or other is the “Jewish” way (such as a wedding) may sound impressive but doesn’t mean anything. What “Jews”, where and when? Customs and practices changed and evolved throughout their history as surely as it has in our own. Having a model of betrothal or marriage that may have been used at a particular place or time is not justification for allowing it to govern our hermeneutics in relation to what the gospel writers or Paul was trying to communicate. 

I don’t have a problem with the term “rapture,” referencing a general “catching away,” but rather have difficulties in the sub-modern divorcement of it from the “day of the Lord” and the “resurrection,” both of which are found in the NT. If there is a rapture to catch away believers “somewhere else” before the restoration of the Kingdom of God upon the earth, it means that: 

1. Jesus must return twice, once to snatch away God’s people to “heaven” (i.e. somewhere other than earth) and also at his restorative coming. 
2. The saints have to be evacuated to some “other” place. Where do the Scriptures speak of going to heaven in an ethereal, quasi-spiritual existence or being anywhere but on earth, where we were created to inhabit? The rapture theology teaches that we are swept off “somewhere else” while the earth goes up in smoke, which is something other than a renewed, restored and declared good earth. This is akin to Gnostic doctrine. The popularized rapture theory (as commonly believed) does not square with the scriptural definition of resurrection. 

In addition to the Jewish perspectives, there is also evidence of varying points of view within the writings of the Church Fathers, such as Justin Martyr’s contention in Dialogue with Trypho (LXXX) saying: 

“For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit the truth of the resurrection and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; who say that there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their soul when they die are taken to heaven: do not imagine that they are Christians.”

To be clear, I have no difficulty with those who express this opinion, but am only pointing out that it does not hold up to a sound and thorough exegesis of NT literature with the OT framework the prophets had been declaring for ages. Regardless of what the Ante-Nicene and proto-orthodox apologists believed does not validate or invalidate what the NT documents describe on those merits. If a half-way thorough search of their (the patristic fathers) writings were done, it would reveal a disunity of opinions and beliefs that most Christians would no doubt find disturbing, even outrageous. This is why when scholars refer to those people groups and sects, they do so in a plural sense, “Judaisms,” “Christianites,” etc. 

“‘When Christ shall come,’ we sing in a favorite hymn, ‘with shout of acclamation, and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.’ What we ought to sing is, ‘When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation, and heal this world, what joy shall fill my heart.’ In the New Testament the Second Coming is not the point at which Jesus snatches people up, away from the earth, to live forever with him somewhere else, but the point at which he returns to reign not only in heaven but upon the earth.” N. T. Wright, Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues (HarperOne, 2014), 102.

Don’t think that the story of the Bible is about abandonment and evacuation. Christianity has been falsely led to believe this. We are to be restorers, peace-makers, care-takers and stewards now, of this place with the hope of resurrection and ultimate renewal. Don’t be so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good. You were created to be good on earth, this is your home.

I did a podcast on this subject here.

I've also written on this topic before.


Today marks the 463rd anniversary of the martyrdom of Michael Servetus (October 27th, 1553). I continue to have a hard time comprehending how an individual can feel that they do the work of God when brutal execution is carried out upon individuals possessing "other opinions" regarding doctrinal confessions. In the case of Servetus and Calvin, it was the doctrine of the Trinity.
How are people comfortable with a god who will torture someone eternally for merely having wrong opinions or beliefs about his "nature" or relationship to his son? Those who claim to be people of the Scriptures must bend, twist, copy, paste, contort and distort that to which they pay verbal obeisance in order to come to that perverted conclusion.

Unfortunately, those who wield the metaphorical (and other times literal) sword and spear for the sake of persecuting those having heterodox opinions are convinced they do so with the authority of God and their reading of the Sacred Writings. They feel they stand with the Almighty in the destruction of the "ungodly," i.e. those who don't believe as they do.

Does God disdain all those we do? 

If so, what period of Christianity, and what particular vein? 

Was Christianity (used here anachronistically) in its early form (meaning Jesus and Apostles) a set of creeds and beliefs to which one must subscribe? ("Believing" in the "Lord Jesus Christ" was a recapitulation of Moses' salvation upon his people as well, howbeit with differences -  Ex 14:31).

If so, why is there no record of such? 

Why does the book of Acts depict something quite different as having set their world on fire?

Why is it that the concerns of so many labeled "Christian" today reflect little of Jesus' actual teaching and purpose? 

Why aren't more Christians asking these questions?

Update: I'll be back

I apologize for my absence in posting, I am having an incredibly busy month and have had little time to crank out the blog posts I have ready to write and publish. I will be back before too long.

Here are a couple resources you may want to check out.

Dale Tuggy from podcast interviewed J.R. Daniel Kirk on his recent published work "A Man Attested by God" (which I have still not finished). This is a fantastic two part interview (One, Two).

Kirk was also interviewed by Sir Anthony Buzzard, followed by audience questions (including one from yours truly). Link here.

Sean Finnegan from Restitutio podcast, recently interviewed Dale Tuggy regarding his personal journey of faith and seeking God. A wonderful conversation and listen. Link Here.

On Saturday, October 29, 2016 Sir Anthony Buzzard will host a conversation with Larry Hurtado. This will be an interesting conversation I'm sure. This will be done via a Zoom webinar: