Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Rebellion Begins

           Things so far are going well. God creates a perfect environment within an already perfect environment-a special place, if you will-and places God’s beloved creation in it. They have total free reign with one stipulation: God alone gets to decide what is good and what is evil (which sort of implies evil may already exist, but we don’t like to talk about that). Now the stage is set for the final event-or first event, depending on your point of view (or both-I told you there were ambiguities) that sets our story in motion. By the way, at this point, if you believe in an all-knowing God, you have to wonder what God had in mind here. Paul certainly did. 

The story is structured in a way that implies the couple had a choice. Two specific trees are mentioned -the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This second tree is the one off limits. It is also the one Satan zeroes in on. He is subtly deceptive-“Do I understand that God told you not to eat from any tree in the garden?". He disputes, accuses-“You won't die. God knows that the moment you eat from that tree, you'll see what's really going on. You'll be just like God, knowing everything, ranging all the way from good to evil." (Genesis 3:1;5; italics mine). From our vantage point the choice is clear: life with God on God’s terms or life without God on our terms. It’s a choice we all face, all day, every day, in countless decisions we make. I bet you never looked at life that way. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The World According to Me Pt.1

The undying support one current president enjoys from the evangelical community is difficult to understand at best. This series of blogs are me response. My intention is not to tell anyone what to think but, rather, to show another way to see.

“The Books of Moses are made up mostly of stories and signposts. The stories show us God working with and speaking to men and women in a rich variety of circumstances. God is presented to us not in ideas and arguments but in events and actions that involve each of us personally. The signposts provide immediate and practical directions to guide us into behavior that is appropriate to our humanity and honoring to God-Eugene Peterson; The Message


              I do not believe the Bible is a book of facts. That is, it is not a history textbook, although it contains historical events. It is not a scientific textbook either. Science and mathematics, being the operating principles and systems God put in place at creation, are important and discoverable. But you won’t find them in the Bible. I’m not even sure the Bible is a book of absolutes. It contains many ambiguities and apparent contradictions. At the risk of sounding like a post-modernist let me say life also consists of many ambiguities and contradictions. So what is the Bible? It is a book of life, and truth.  

For example, consider this. In Genesis we read God created the earth and everything in it in seven days. Fact interprets this to mean a literal seven days and is responsible for all manor of old earth/young earth debates. Truth, however, says everything that exists, exists because God created it; how long God took to do it is irrelevant (we’ll come back to this in a bit). Do you see the difference? Or this: In John’s Gospel Jesus says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Flip that around and you have “The way I am (or ‘is me’); the truth I am (‘is me’); the life I am (‘or is me’); which allows for a subtle but significant difference in interpretation. Can you see it? Facts are neat, organizable. Truth, like life, is messy.

The Bible is also literature, and ancient literature at that, and communicates its truth in several ways; historical narrative, poetry, letters (or epistles), apocrypha-entire disciplines have grown up around the critical study of the Bible as literature. Those studies are important and provide valuable insight, but there are times when a more basic approach is beneficial. The Bible as a love story, for example. A love story replete with a jilted but faithful creator/husband (God), an unfaithful creation/spouse (us) and a shameless (also created) antagonist (Satan) intent on deconstructing and destroying everything God does. And so the stage is set. 

In the beginning God creates something from nothing, bringing order out of chaos. A Wind or Spirit or Breath (one word, three meanings- remember this.) brooding over the formless void. God creates and pronounces it all good. Everything thing that exists, exists because God willed it into existence. That means everything has Gods fingerprints on it, God’s DNA within it. Everything is a revelation of God. Paul puts it this way: 

“But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being.” 

(Romans 1:19,20)


Now comes the good part. When everything was ready, God spoke: "Let us make human beings in our image, make them

reflecting our nature…

 God created human beings;

he created them godlike,

Reflecting God's nature.

He created them male and female.

God blessed them:

"Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Take charge!

Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air,

for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth."

(Genesis 1:26-28). 

            Or, to tell the story another way, “At the time GOD made Earth and Heaven, before any grasses or shrubs had sprouted from the ground—GOD hadn't yet sent rain on Earth, nor was there anyone around to work the ground (the whole Earth was watered by underground springs) — GOD formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive—a living soul!” 

Genesis 2:5-7(I warned you there would be apparent contradictions).

We are made in God’s image so that we may reflect God’s nature-the Imago Dei-the image and likeness of God. That would be our vocation. So far so good, right?     

            Here are a couple parts to the story that sometimes get missed. First, God created human beings (us). That means we also have God’s DNA (remember image-and-likeness?). But it also means we belong to God. The Psalmist puts it this way: 

“Know that the LORD is God!

It is he that made us, and not we ourselves;

we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”

Psalm 100:3.

            Second, and this is important, we live because God blew into our nostrils the breath of lifeThere is only one life-one source of life-ever mentioned in the Bible. Every living thing somehow shares its life with God. God’s life connects us all. Remember Jesus’ “I am the life”? This is that (and is affirmed in John’s Gospel, 1:1-18). And so while everything is not God, we can say God is in every thing.

 So, to wrap things up thus far: first, because God is the sole creating agent everything that exists belongs to God. God has exclusive rights of ownership. Second, because God is the sole source of life, every living thing is somehow connected to God. I hope all this doesn’t frighten or offend you because it’s all really great news.