Religion


Lately this has turned into a bit of a sports related blog. I hope that doesn’t turn anyone off.  It’s a bit heavy on my mind, though.  It’s nice to have a sport be the deep issue.

After a nine straight game win streak, the Braves are in a bit of a slump tonight with Kawakami giving up four runs (so far) in the first two innings of this late game against the Dodgers.  L.A. is becoming a quickly hated town for me.  Maybe it’s a little east coast/west coast rivalry, but I really don’t like anything Los Angeles right now.

A little bit of a subject change – – let me recommend a book called Crazy Love.  I don’t know if it’s the book itself or the timing of the book, but there’s a lot of timely information in it.

In the wake of a massive movement to make the Christian’s life a cakewalk of grace as a crutch, it’s nice to see a man like Chan center the off-kilter back to a place where love is proven instead of assumed.  I’m not talking about the falsehood of works-based religion that requires a confession booth for forgiveness.  And I’m certainly not talking about living as if anything we do requires God to save us.  I’m talking about calling love like it is.

The over-arching illustration of Jesus’ relationship to the church (and therefore the Christian) is in bride/groom terminology.  So the only thing I know how to relate is through the relationship I have with my wife.  No one would say that my actions toward Karen are the reasons she loves me.  In fact, it would be widely assumed that my actions toward Karen prove my love for her (a love that already exists).  She doesn’t love me because of my actions; instead she further confirms my love for her by my actions.  She knows I’m sincere in the very thing she knows is true because my actions coincide with my declaration.

Why should it be any different with God?

Read Crazy Love to find out a little more of what I’m talking about. 

Caveat: if you were raised in church (no matter which version of Christianity it may be), ignore the first three chapters.  They’ll turn you off.

I’m not sure what my next book will be.  I’ve tried to go back and forth (one for one) between fiction and non-fiction.  I have a lot of Grisham to catch up on.  With the momentum I have in the non-secular works, I don’t know if I should ride that or not.  This is the very reason readers should keep a queue.  I’ll keep you updated.

Lastly, if you get the chance, you should give a restaurant called Old Chicago a chance.  The food is INSANE and the beer is just as celebrated.  You’ll find out a little more about what they call the World Beer Tour when you go, so I won’t bore you with the details.  I wussed my way through a few light beers at the beginning, but I’ve finally started to see the beauty of the storied brewing processes by braching out a bit. 

It’s near impossible to carry any valid conversation about light beer.  They really do all taste about the same.  It’s the adventure into the full-bodied that initiates the connoisseur.  The Sweaty Betty, of the Boulder Brewing Company, is a bit smoky and barrel-flavored for me, but I followed it with a Dos Perros from Yazoo out of Nashville, and that was well worth the money.  Of course, all of this only applies to domestics.  The closest to good (in comparison to non-American beer) that I’ve come across is Nut Brown Ale from the Bluegrass Brewing Company out of Louisville, KY.  It holds a minimal lead over the Lawnmower of the Dogfish Head Ale House that I had in the D.C. area.

As far as lights go, I just recently made the move from Michelob Ultra to Miller Lite.  The small .4 carb increase is well-worth the taste improvement.  In terms of full-throttles, I still haven’t found a challenger for a good Guiness Stout or really any Belgian brew (e.g. Fat Tire).

We only go to Old Chicago every now and then (twice a month, maybe), so it’ll be difficult to make this a constant discussion.  Any beer I drink away from there is going to be light (without apology) because I don’t want to weight 200 lbs.  As I encounter new goods, I’ll let you know.

Well, this post has been quite the hodge podge of topics.  I’ll try to categorize it as best I can.

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Since the class was a lot like drinking from a fire-hose, I’ve agreed to post my class notes as an entry in this blog.  Disfrutelo.

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Apocrypha – “Hidden Things”

Pseudepigrapha – “False Writings”

Intro.

  1. Nothing scary about them
  2. Linguistic relationship to Apocalypse
  3. Difference between Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal

 Hebrew Bible / NT Canon

  1. Hebrew Bible didn’t contain apocryphal books
  2. Not since Athanasius has there been an official NT canon different than the 27 we have today
  1. Publishing History of the Apocrypha
    1. Martin Luther was the first major edition to section off the Apoc (1534)
    2. King James 1611 contained the Apoc
    3. Not until the late 18th and early 19th c. was the Apoc excluded

Which texts contain Apocryphal books?

  1. Septuagint (contains Anagignoskomena [things that are read] which are: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Jesus Sirach, Baruch, Epistle of Jeremy (in the Vulgate this is chapter 6 of Baruch), additions to Daniel (The Prayer of Azarias, Sosanna and Bel and the Dragon), additions to Esther, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, 3 Maccabees, 1 Esdras, Psalm 151, 4 Maccabees in the appendix)
  2. Codex Vaticanus (Esdrases, Judith, Tobit, Maccabees, Prayer of Manasseh, Wisdom, Baruch)
  3. Codex Sinaiticus (Shepherd of Hermas, Barnabas, Sirach, plus Cod. Vat.’s)
  4. Codes Alexandrinus (3 & 4 Maccabees, Epistle of Marcellinus, 1 & 2 Clement)

 

Which Canons include Apocryphal books?

  1. Refer to Lost Scriptures by Bart Ehrman

NT References to Apocrypha

Matt. 6.7 – Sirach 7.14; Matt. 23.37 – 2 Esdras 1:30; Lk. 6.31 – Tobit 4.15; Rom. 9.21 – Wisdom 15.7; Rom. 11.34 – Wisdom 9:13; 2 Cor. 9.7 – Sirach 35.9; Heb. 1.3 – Wisdom 7:26

 

References to Books either lost or non-canonical in the Bible

The Book of Jasher : Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18

The Book of the Wars of the Lord: Numbers 21:14

Several works of Solomon: 3,000 proverbs; 1,005 songs; and a manual on botany: 1 Kings 4:32

“The Book of Shemaiah the prophet, and of Iddo the Seer” : 2 Chr 12:14-15

The Covenant Code: Exodus 24:7

The Manner of the Kingdom: 1 Samuel 10:25

The Acts of Solomon: 1 Kings 11:41

The Annals of King David: 1Chronicles 27:24

The Book of Samuel the Seer: 1Chronicles 29:29

The Book of Nathan the Prophet: 1Chronicles 29:29

The Book of Gad the Seer: 1Chronicles 29:29

The History of Nathan the Prophet: 2Chronicles 9:29

The Prophecy of Ahijah: 2Chronicles 9:29

The Visions of Iddo the Seer: 2Chronicles 9:29

The Book of Shemaiah the Prophet: 2Chronicles 12:15

Iddo Genealogies: 2Chronicles 12:15

The Story of the Prophet Iddo: 2Chronicles 13:22

The Book of Jehu: 2Chronicles 20:34

The Acts of Uziah: 2Chronicles 26:22

The Vision of Isaiah: 2Chronicles 32:32

The Acts of the Kings of Israel: 2Chronicles 33:18

The Sayings of the Seers: 2Chronicles 33:19

The Laments for Josiah: 2Chronicles 35:25

The Chronicles of King Ahasuerus: Esther 2:23 and Esther 6:1

The Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia: Esther 10:2

References to Books either lost or non-canonical in the NT

The Book of Enoch is quoted in Jude (14–15) . Enoch is also quoted at 1 Peter 3:19-20, Jude 6, and 2 Peter 2:4.

The Book of Jubilees: Romans 2:29, 9:24, 4:13

The Assumption of Moses: Jude 9.

The Life of Adam and Eve: 2 Corinthians 11:14

Strangely enough, there are plenty more.  I’ve inserted some of this and a little more in an entry on Wikipedia called “Biblical Apocrypha.”  While Wikipedia is about the worst form of scholarship out there, I wanted this to reach more eyes than what my blog can.  And yes, I do believe that the article on Wikipedia is a misnomer; it should be call “Extra-Canonical Works in the Biblical Canon.”

I’m putting together my Revelation lectures for next week.  A few years ago I would have been a little nervous about doing something like this because the book is a bit intimidating.  Now I’m not so worried about it.

If you think about it you’ll probably be hard pressed to come up with a contemporary book like this one.  I don’t think anyone would allow the imagery into rational thought.  Dragons, candlesticks, seals (not the animals), lakes of fire (try to reconcile that one), and multi-headed beasts, it’s all a bit Tolkien for me. 

Here’s the key, if you can understand Tolkien, then you’re in the right frame of mind for Revelation.  One thing stands for another, and none of it is to be taken literally.  The problem in the application is one that has haunted literati for ages: you can never know authorial intent.  Never.  Even if an author writes a book that outlines how each symbol and character are to be interpretted, it doesn’t matter — you can never know.

That’s the rub with literature/art in general.  Once an artist allows his/her work to enter the world the interpretation is up to and is owned by the audience (regardless of who gets the royalty/residual).  The money is there (hopefully) to salve that very wound.

Take, for example, a poem.

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

What does it mean?  Is it something to you and something else to me?  Is it what Frost wanted?  Is it literal?  Figurative?

The answers to every single one of them are “yes” and “no” simultaneously.  Strangely enough, this is pretty advanced literary stuff, and you’ll know you’re not quite ready for it if you’re still arguing that the poem means what Frost meant it to mean.  I know, I know, I’m sorry – that’s just the way it is.  Even if we knew exactly what Frost intended, it makes no difference because intepretation is always open.  It means one thing for you and another for me and another for Frost, and so on. 

When you approach Revelation in this, the correct way, it becomes an entirely new quandary.  What do you do with a book, veiled in allegory, thick with symbolism, cryptic at best, and whose very name means something along the lines of “decoded” (not exactly, but a variant), when there is a large section of the population who is looking to the book for some type of direction and life application?  The literary inevitability is that no two people come away with the same answers.  Sure, some will say they believe it’s all meant to be read this way or that way, but that only happens because several people have aligned to one person’s interpretation.  It was one of the most debated inclusions in the canon, and barely won over the Apocalypse of Peter (which is equally useless and useful, again, simultaneously), mainly because interpretation is the fingerprint or snowflake of literature. 

All I can do is take the good ole Historical-Critical approach to this one.  Who, what, where, when, why, how, and the most critical, can it be proven?  99% of the time that last one will be no.

Oh, well.  We’ll get through it.  You give it a read, then evaluate whether or not the title should be Revelation or Frustration.  You’ll see what I mean.

T.J. Leyden is a former member of the skinhead movement, and is the subject of national publicity today because of his book, Skinhead Confessions. I haven’t read the book, but I’ve seen interviews, and I get the gist. He is a rarity in that he saw the error of his life-path and realized he could still change.

Sounds like the biblical character, Paul, huh?!

I hope more people can realize change is not only possible, but ready and available. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who have no idea that they’re aligned with groups who with similarly categorized hate-speech. They won’t change because they don’t know they need to.

Unfortunately, the drastic groups–such as the skinheads, KKK, Hutaree, et al–do no not hold a monopoly on hate-speech and dangerous group think. Solipsism is rampant in religion (e.g. those who believe they are the only ones or only way), politics (Tea Parties), and nationalism (our country is and needs to be the greatest). Since these associations are so widespread, it seems like things are as they are because it’s easy to think in these manners, but it’s not. It’s learned.

Check out a playground. Watch the kids interact. If you catch them early enough, kids aren’t interested in who believes what or who looks like one thing or another. They are an open community. Granted, their desires are selfish in that they are highly motivated by pleasure, but that motivation exists in them in its basest form. Children learn bullying, segregation, hatred, racism, etc., from external sources.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that belief is selfish or that those who are convicted of their beliefs are somehow akin to hate groups. I am saying that it’s a slippery slope once you begin to force upon others–whether through unfair recruiting or derogatory speech–a belief or method of thinking. The all too common result is the extreme application of those beliefs, where it’s not enough to merely believe something, and we see dissatisfaction at the fact that others do not “see it my way.” When this dissatisfaction gives rise to exclusivity and the spread of speech that decries, belittles, ostracizes, and derides, it has gone too far and is no different than Leyden’s former associates. The good news is that, like Leyden discovered, there is still time to change.

Freedom of speech should have been called a freedom of thought.

When I was younger, we lived next to a family who had a dog that barked rather viciously at us as we walked in our yard or to our cars. I remember hating that it was so unnerved by our presence, and I couldn’t help but wish that if the dog could only get to know us it would in fact make our coming home a high point in the day!

I didn’t think we could do anything about the dog. Everyone can have a dog, right? That it barks comes with the territory. But my dad said something about the canine that made a lot of sense to me even then: “I don’t care that they have one, but my family and I shouldn’t have to be nervous going about our business.”

That made more sense than the right to own a dog.

Like the right to own a dog, everyone has a right to their opinion. Our “dogs,” however shouldn’t belittle people or cause anxiety as they go about their business.

In short, in America you can proudly attend the political rally or church of your choice. But when your methods start looking like that dog in our neighbor’s yard, you may be crossing the line into semi-oppression or at the least the appearance of such.

Does your preacher teach acceptance, peace, and altruism, or is there an increasing air of exclusivism and intolerance? Are your political affiliates looking for reasonable solutions or spending time demeaning the other side and anything with that side’s name on it?

Filter everything.

T.J. Leyden saw the light in some of the most extreme of circumstances. I hope others can find similar change in spite of less conspicuous, but equally dangerous, motives.

I won’t gush over DC for this post today.  If I let it go on too long, it’ll just be boring and everyone will think God help us if I ever go on a big trip!

After a long weekend with very little sleep, I woke up with a sore throat two days in a row.  I have this ridiculous trait that does that to me if I don’t get enough sleep.  So after Karen went to work (which is earlier than most of you are even awake) I went back to bed.  Sore throat’s gone for now.

Another beautiful day today in middle Tennessee.  I don’t think I ever want to leave here.  I went ahead and kicked on the air at my office.  When it starts hovering close to 80 degrees I figure it’s going to be uncomfortable for anyone who walks in the place.

The newscaster gave one of those teasers that baits you into watching out of fear that the warm weather may go on a short vacation soon.  I guess we are due a blackberry winter.  The grass is starting to grow as if it were mid-May so some colder weather will be nice to slow that mess down.

We leave for Florence, Alabama, Friday morning.  I’m still gathering information for the lecture I’m giving at the University of North Alabama.  It’s going to be on the historical-critical approach to 1 Corinthians.  So far I’ve spent a lot of time with Bart Ehrman’s Lost Scriptures and Jesus, Interrupted.  They’re must reads if you plan on becoming/remaining a Christian.

Besides content, the main things on which we’ll focus are the 3rd letter to the Corinthians, and the fact that Paul probably didn’t write any of the three books (letters).  Hopefully, the students will leave with a better understanding of a proper approach to the bible as a whole which will, in turn, help them study individual books without trying to connect one book to another as if it were a part of some larger story.

If anyone has any ideas for last minute research, bring it on!

Congratulations to all the Duke fans!  I lost interest when Tennessee lost to Michigan State.

Also, a huge shout out to my brother, Shane, who finishes his 28th year of life today and begins his 29th!  He and his wife have had a big year so far with the announcement of the soon-to-be-a-taxpayer, young ‘un named John Michael Mustain; due date: July 20th!

The following is another excerpt from the ongoing discussion in my e-mail group.  I’m just telling you so you’ll understand some of the personal asides.

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As for whether or not emotion/belief can enter the equation in a historical-critical approach, that is the question of the ages.  That type of analysis is unfortunately in my DNA at this point.  If someone doesn’t know what it is, I suggest they leave it alone. 

The bible is built to exclude proof, and there is a big difference between proof and evidence.  It’s unfortunate, especially in terms of evangelism, when someone leans on evidence and calls it proof that God exists or that the bible is valid.  Hebrews 11.1 gives what I believe is the most accurate summary of the utility of scripture.  Faith is the evidence and substance.  The words “evidence” and “substance” are unduly placed above the word “faith,” so much so that the point is missed.  The point is that logic, science, and on and on, can only take you so far and eventually you’ll have to depend on faith—an intangible, unprovable anomaly against which there is no logic.  Evidence leads you to a conclusion, but doesn’t prove it. The bible is set up so that if you ever prove God exists, you disprove God’s existence (if the bible is 100% true), and rightly so.  It’s well set up because without “belief” there can be no loyalty, and without faith there can be no belief.  If it could be proven, I think it would be easier for people to turn away from God. 

So here’s the leap I have a hard time with: once all the data has been collected, analyzed, marinated, and lain on the table, can I say I buy it?  That is such a personal decision because it’s vulnerable, uneducated, illogical, unreasonable, and unlike any decision we have ever made or will make.  According to scripture (Psalms, Song of Songs, et al), God knows all of those adjectives.  It’s admitted that that type of wisdom is inhuman.

 So here’s the poison in historical-critical analysis, the “evidence” doesn’t point to most of the things we’ve learned in Sunday school.  Nothing really points to any of the names called writers of the books.  The earliest copies of any NT book dates to about the 6th century.  Messing with copies was so rampant that the writer of Revelation even warned against changing “jots” and “tittles.”  Many of the OT instances of disaster have natural parallels.  The mistakes are near tragic levels even in manuscripts considered early.  The list continues . . . 

When all those things enter the picture, they really mess with my ability to make a leap I once made without hesitation.  It’s just not as easy anymore.  That’s what’s so personal about it.  Everyone has point to where they can walk on facts and then everyone – without fail – everyone has to make a leap over what is for some a ditch, for some a creek, and for others a chasm.  What was at one time, for me, a ditch now looks more like a chasm. 

Here’s what I can believe (and yes, Daniel, you’ve nailed it, belief and analysis are separate discussions):

  1. God is real: Logic is on God’s side—easily.  I’ve seen the stats for the lottery and March bracketology.  As unbelievable as they are they pale in comparison to the stats on a random occurrence that happens to bring about the universe as a result.
  2. Scripture is not invalid: whether Matthew wrote Matthew, seas were parted, the Earth was created in six days, or not makes no difference.  In it there is so much to learn.
  3. For Christianity to be a guide, the bible, tradition, and logic must work in concert: where one fails another steps in.  

From there I don’t know where to go.  Will I be back to the ditch-jump or will I be comfortable trying to jump the chasm or will I ever jump?  Again, this isn’t about a belief in God.  It’s about the bible’s place in my life. 

I’m still able to find comfort in this, if God is what we think God is, the bible doesn’t have to be accurate, mistake-free, or even true.  This is the biggest question of my life, so far: if someone could prove to me that the bible is completely inaccurate, would I still believe in God? 

I still say yes.

I guess I feel compeled to codify something a bit.  Very unlike me, I know.  When it comes to someone who is genuinely interested in the free exchange of ideas, I love conversation.  Unfortunately, I typically don’t have to care whether or not someone understands me because I rarely find myself in dialogue with somone who likes the questions more than the answers.  Most of the time when someone asks me to explain something it’s because I’m a target.  You’ve experienced that, too, I’m sure.  I used to engage in that kind of thing; heck, I used to feed on it!  Now I prefer to back out of situations where the person would rather debate.  Debate has its place, but not in the intelligent world where people are sincerely seeking and on the same side.  If your ideas stand, they don’t need tactics or volume or body language.  All you need is a mind — and the ability to communicate maturely what’s in it.  On a forum such as this one, however, I can’t be sure who is reading and I don’t want anyone to anchor their atheism in my words — that anchor won’t hold.  I believe that there is a God — one God.

The following is from an e-mail study group to which I am proud to be a party.  In it, and with them, I felt like I had to restate my issue.  To give you a little background, I proposed that the God of the OT could be different from the God in the NT.  The response was that of Jewish defense so I had to reiterate my point.  Often I fail in communication so it was by no means their fault.  Here is what follows, and, as always, please feel free to respond:

My primary concern is that I haven’t moved to a place that allows me to form theology. Sounds strange, doesn’t it?!

I used to have one. It was faulty and embarrassing. Actually, several have come and gone with the most recent one to vacate my premises leaving around 2006-07. I might have one now and not really know it, but I’m not sure how possible that even is.

Yes, the Jewish culture has a long, lustrous timeline filled with everything from abundance to captivity to war to tragedy to opulence [yes, I know I already said abundance, making opulence redundant, but the send button was quicker than my brain when I originally wrote the e-mail]. I don’t want to gush over them, though, because I don’t want to sound like the semi-racist who brags that “some of my best friends are black”–oh, yeah, well name ’em.

I do need to qualify my question from last week. I’m not saying anything bad about Jews by contemplating a two-god bible. I’m simply saying that the worldview of a captive Jew as he is being deported from Jerusalem in 597 BCE could easily inflate God’s powers and characteristics. If everything in the OT is literal and 100% true, then we may be dealing with a different God or an immature perception (both of which pose problems for those who look to the Bible as a sole source of information about God). I find I am more comfortable, in terms of logic, if the OT is more of a window through which we may take a look into the psychological needs that having a God met for them.

That being said, the real exhumed issue for me now is that of whether or not I can/should have/espouse a theology again. It’s a big deal because I don’t yet know on what I can base one.

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So what do you think?  And while I understand that religion can be a deeply personal topic for many people, I’d like to read responses that take a sound, historical-critical approach.  Not to say that all responses aren’t welcome; it’s just that I’m looking for some pretty specific things.

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