Just for fun

5 06 2008

Sometimes I think that those three words were left out of the Genesis account by a well meaning, but overly zealous scribe. “Let us create man in our image… just for fun,” seems to me to represent the character of God and the tone of scripture much better.
Of course I am only joking, that’s about as close as I can bring myself to being heretical.

Nick has asked for Tim and I to answer a question each, for no other reason than the fun of it.
How would Tim build a sacred tribe that includes me? is Tim’s question. I’m afraid that I have a problem with the concept of a tribe which I will explain further into this post, so that may make Tim’s task a little more difficult; sorry.
Mine is: How could I release Tim to minister to the flock in my care?

I really believe in Church in both it’s global and local sense. I believe that the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 and the 5 fold ministry gifts in Ephesians 4 are for one purpose – Unity. I believe that the ambition of God is unity among men, and He calls His ambition “Church”. He is building His church and I cannot see that He is doing one other thing in earth today.
I also believe that Jesus started the very first church and that He gave us the blueprint in exactly sufficient detail (and without too much detail so that there would be lots of room for a variety of expression in this ultimate unity).
I also believe that He showed us how to hand over a church to another leader so that church would always be multi-generational, despite men’s failures and mortality.

Now the pictures we have given ourselves of church today find themselves in two man-made opposites (there are always 2 man made opposites in heretical error – Baal & Astarte, Fate & Luck, Bulls & Bears… the list is long).
The man-made errors are:
1. Top-down leadership – autocratic, dangerous, evangelical, charismatic.
2. And Bottom-up leadership – democratic, frigid, denominational, traditional.
Neither of these two pictures are what I believe Jesus had in mind. Both of them center around man made systems and man made structures – they are ‘hewn’ out of the mangled machine of failed humanity.

The picture Jesus paints is very different, it is of a front-back leadership:
– Where there are no levels of leadership, where equality is a practical reality (in fact the leader is called to lay his life down for the sheep. This is the key difference between Christianity and Hinduism – no time to get into that now)
– Where momentum is essential and change is ongoing. New wine = new wineskin (without momentum the church reverts to top-down or bottom-up structure)
– Where the whole structure is relationally (not religiously) driven.

That is the way, I believe to ‘bring people through’ into leadership in the church. It is what Jesus did with Peter, and it is what Peter did with James. It’s what the Church stopped doing the moment it became political and hence ‘respectable’.
It calls into action the essential ministries of the Apostle and the Prophet, not only the Evangelist.

It’s opposite, Back-front leadership, is very clearly wrong, bordering on demonically inspired. This is essentially obvious to the western mind, but it is anti-cultural in a traditionally animist context. We can see these two opposites very clearly in Jesus’ own metaphor of the Good Shepherd:
Traditionally middle-eastern shepherds lead sheep very differently from African shepherds. African shepherds have a stick or a bunch of stones, they shout, whistle and goad from the back of the heard to get them moving. Having concern or love or relationship with the sheep is initially optional and quickly becomes unnecessary. (I believe that this mindset is at the heart of tribalism and is the same reason why it is so hard to find a political leader of character in Africa. Of course the extreme Stoic is no better, but that is not what this post is about)
The middle-eastern shepherd, on the other hand, makes it his business to get to know each sheep, he learns to love them and the sheep learn to know, recognise, love and trust the shepherd; that’s why he can lead from the front because there is a willingness to follow him.
It is at once clear that this method is much more natural than any of the man made structural methods. Although it requires a lot more effort and sacrifice from those leading, it is truly progressive, not merely developmental.

Church leaders may not get it right all the time, but I believe that we are to, as much as possible, lead this way.
What does it mean practically? Let me give a few examples. A full list would require a book:
– We don’t have a church membership, and we don’t give out certificates. Yet the edges of the church are well defined (a shepherd must know which are his sheep and which are not).
– Potential leaders are both accountable to and friends with existing leaders before they can play a role in leadership. I have young men ask me to mentor them, my usual answer is, “sure, what 2 areas in your life would be the most difficult for you to hear me speak into?
– Leaders, in Jesus’ church, do not give instruction to people in their personal lives, they give advice. I often say to people that they will get perspective from me, but not permission. But having said that someone who keeps rejecting your advice clearly does not see you as their leader. Also this does not mean that the pastor should not lead the affairs of the church, in that realm he must be giving instruction, not advice.

So we build, as Paul said, on the foundation that is already laid (he was not referring to himself, Paul was only a “master builder”, he never considered himself as the architect – Paul was referring to Jesus). Whatever we build outside of Jesus’ plan may be pragmatic, cultural even wise; but it is not Church!

I have dealt essentially in concepts in this post using a few illustrations and examples. Perhaps, instead of trying to be exhaustive (another word for verbose) it would be better to handle one instance at a time – my way of asking for a response – I may have some answers to specific problems, I’ve been in a front-back lead church for 25 years this December, and I have seen it work.
There are many ways that the traditional church, with the best intentions, has hurt those in it. (every church hurts some people – I’m sure it hurt Peter to hear “get behind me Satan.”) But none more so than its potential leaders.

I am busy with a critical look at second-in-commands in the OT, I believe that the most dangerous position in Jesus’ church is just behind the leader. There are three people I’m comparing:
1. David under Saul
2. Jonathan under Saul
3. Jaob under David
The sad conclusion is that the one who failed the most miserably (and who was lead most astray) was the one under the best leader!

The delusion god

18 04 2008

This post is a bit of a rant, and not really in the spirit of debate. But I feel that I am justified in this case because I actually bought the book and I was expecting a whole lot more.

Anyway, I have decided to give up on Dawkins’ book “The God Delusion” on page 122. If anyone can convince me that there is anything actually worth reading in the rest of the book I might give it a go. It really is the kind of book that once you’ve put it down, you find it very hard to pick up again.

It is hard to believe that someone with a professorship can produce something so utterly mindless, (perhaps it was just really rushed). It is badly researched, but it’s the lack of just plain thinking that really gets to me.

His initial observations on agnosticism are a little obvious, but fine, as are his collection of quotes leading to an opinion of religion and the religious mind. Both topics are handled in an unoriginal way, but I have nothing further to say about his understanding of either of them. But, as I said, it is the lack of plain thinking that really irks me. I’ll give you some examples:

In the footnote on page 122 (where I have decided to give my reading time to something a little more worthwhile; Job for instance, which is at least real speculation) “… the mistranslation of Isaiah’s Hebrew for young woman (almah) into the Greek for virgin (parthenos). An easy mistake to make (think of the English words ‘maid’ and ‘maiden’ to see how it might have happened), this one translator’s slip was to be wildly inflated and give rise to the whole preposterous legend of Jesus’ mother being a virgin!

Now, besides the bad exegesis, if the dear Professor had bothered to actually look up, read and (heaven forbid) THINK about the verse which causes him such offense this is what he would have found:

Isaiah 7:14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin (almah) will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Now I would love to know how it is that Isaiah would have expected that his readers could suppose a pregnant young girl who has lost her virginity to be a sign from God? Currently there are 6.5 billion people on the planet, how many million of them would be pregnant young women? There are babies born every second so I would guess a few million at least. Even in Mary’s day, which one of them would Isaiah’s readers have expected to be ‘The Sign from God’, where would they expect the sign to show itself? Mere pregnancy, though miraculous, does not qualify as an individual signal from God. Perhaps Dawkins is suggesting that reason only evolved in humans after Isaiah’s writings.

Obviously Isaiah means that she is to be a virgin, because a pregnant virgin would be a very obvious sign from God… hello?

Then, in terms of his exegesis, if he had done just the briefest of Hebrew studies he would discover that there is actually no instance where ‘almah’ is used in the Old Testament where it does not mean ‘virgin’, but in each case it also means ‘young woman of marriageable age’ ; ie. not a spinster who is a virgin, and also not a man who is a virgin; ‘Alma’ always means a young virgin girl and so we may make sense of Isaiah’s prophecy (what I’m saying does not prove it to be true in Mary; it just makes sense of it). I think it’s an insult to the brilliance of ancient Hebrew literature to suggest that Isaiah and his readers were that dense.

Dawkins’ thinking is a little like this: Imagine the writers of a major spy movie working on the part where the hero is going to break in to some government agency and steal a secret code. In the story his team need to wait for a sign from him after he has the code. So as they are planning the story the writers of the movie have him say this, “OK, as soon as I have the plans I will make sure that nothing out of the ordinary happens… OK? Any questions?” Obviously no one would write such a thing, a sign must be out of the ordinary… It’s just plain thinking Professor.

Another example is this: Dawkins suggests that there is a 4th option to the “liar, lunatic or Lord” options of who Jesus is. The apologetics goes something like this: Jesus must have been one of three things, a liar, a lunatic or Lord, as he claimed to be. Dawkins’ suggestion that a 4th option is this; that Jesus could have simply been mistaken.

I’m not sure how he came to that startlingly stupid suggestion, but he makes as if it is so simple that no Christian has ever thought of it before, presumably blinded by the ignorance of their religiosity. I think that very few people (let alone psychologists) would call a man who claims to be God, but is not, merely ‘mistaken’. People are put in the crazy house if they claim to be Napoleon; let alone God.

If Jesus was mistaken, would than not make him a lunatic?

Dawkins does seem to agree with Sam Harris in his opinion that all people of faith are actually lunatics, it’s just that there are too many of them to lock away (a situation they seem eager to change). It seems bizarre to me to suggest that all his disciples be committed to lunacy but to let the instigator of the faith off the hook, calling him merely ‘mistaken’.

I don’t know about you but I find that kind of thing disappointing in a book. If someone just said it off the top of their head that is one thing, but presumably someone actually edited this thing?

I would hate to think, but am lead to conclude, that this is the way Professor Dawkins does his research. Perhaps he commands such academic awe that he has advanced to some untouchable league and has been encouraged by his peers to believe that he can walk into a sphere he clearly knows nothing about and in one quick step, with no need for research of any kind, point out the obvious errors that no Christian in 2000 years could possibly have the wits to see (being the ignorant ‘faith’ people that they are); despite publications of the caliber of Augustine’s City of God being available to him since 1400 years ago. It is to me a picture of the state of science-academia that Dawkins gets to publish on a subject he has neither knowledge nor credibility and has clearly done less than enough research, and then wins an award for it! I am bitterly disappointed that I wasted my time and money on this book on the recommendation of it’s award.

Dawkins then has a brief glance at the gospels of Matthew and Luke and keeps repeating that they have these glaring and obvious contradictions. Yet he mentions not one of them. He tries, I think, to get Matthew, Luke and John to be contradictory with regard to Jesus’ birth place. The attempts are pitiful, and show that if he (and his editor) have actually read the gospels, they have certainly made absolutely no attempt to actually think about them. The whole thing is glaringly preconceived.

Only one issue of supposed contradiction is worth an answer; that is Robin Fox’s (equally un-researched) suggestion that Luke’s record of Quirineus’ census was a weak, but understandable, attempt to put Jesus in Bethlehem for his birth.

Apart from historical records, which I will get to last with the help of Dr Ernest Martin, just think for a moment: Luke was obviously not writing for the purpose of manipulating 20th century mass ignorance (as both Dawkins and Fox seem to think). The people Luke was writing to had no need of historical research; they were actually there. What possible reason could Luke have had to to either make up a fictitious Augustus-issued census or to get the dates so horribly wrong by putting the Quirineus census too early? More importantly, how did Luke’s record make it through its eye witness critics, copied as many times as it was, if it was as badly put together as they presume?

He says that Robin Fox “sympathises with Luke’s plight and his desire to fulfill prophecy of Micah.” But what he fails to recognize is that Luke was making no attempt to fulfill any Hebrew prophecy, it’s doubtful if he even knew of the prophecy and he certainly was not writing to convince any Hebrews. A plain read of his gospel makes that a very obvious observation.

Luke’s readers were either Greek or Roman (probably both), and certainly very well acquainted with their own recent history. Actually I go with the theory that Luke and Acts were written as a 2 volume pre-trial brief in Paul’s defense against Nero, no margin for eye witness error in that kind of document.

Dawkin’s suggestion here would be like Jacob Zuma’s legal defence trying to claim that there was never actually any European / South African arms deal… and then getting away with it! In 2000 years time that would be feasible because people would have forgotten about current South African politics, but how would Zuma’s case survive the ridicule and the courts of today so that it would be around in 2000 years? It is a silly suggestion.

But, besides the obvious, i.e.: what can be deduced by merely reading and thinking (preferably at, or almost at, the same time), here is the research:

Quirinius had more than one census. Luke says it so plainly, in verse 2 of the second chapter, that he seems to expect his reader to know of more than census under Quirinius and wants to be sure they know which one he’s speaking of: “(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)” (emphasis added). His first census was under the orders of Augustus, it was empire wide and racial. Hence the men returning to their family towns. Joseph went to Bethlehem because that was where his family records were kept, it was not an ancient ancestor issue, as Dawkins again presumes.

Perhaps Professor Dawkins does not realize that at that time there was no such thing as a centralized database and bar-coded ID documents. Apart from that if Dawkins and Fox had just bothered to read the text they would see that Acts 5:37 describes the second census under Quirineus that Dawkins mistakes for the first Augustus-issued census; I think he could do a bit better than that. It’s not even like it’s in a different volume, Acts and Luke are both in the Bible.

Perhaps Dawkins doesn’t know that Luke was a Greek doctor, not at all familiar or interested in Jewish Messianic prophecy and almost certainly not able to speak or read Hebrew. But then what is the Professor doing writing such an opinionated book?

It is John and Matthew who wrote about Jewish prophecies being fulfilled, not Luke. As I said Luke was most likely writing a brief in defense of Paul in Rome. He was certainly not trying to fulfill Messianic prophecy. Though he was being thorough. The prophecy lines up with Luke’s record simply because the prophecy was true.

Dr Martin summarizes the literary and archaeological evidence for this:

A sixth reason for placing the nativity of Jesus in 3 or 2 B.C. is the coincidence of this date with the New Testament account that Jesus was born at the time when a Roman census was being conducted: “There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the Roman world should be registered” (Luke 2:1). Historians have not been able to find any empire-wide census or registration in the years 7-5 B.C., but there is a reference to such a registration of all the Roman people not long before 5 February 2 B.C. written by Caesar Augustus himself: “While I was administering my thirteenth consulship [2 B.C.] the senate and the equestrian order and the entire Roman people gave me the title Father of my Country” (Res Gestae 35). This award was given to Augustus on 5 February 2 B.C., therefore the registration of citizen approval must have taken place in 3 B.C. Orosius, in the fifth century, also said that Roman records of his time revealed that a census was indeed held when Augustus was made “the first of men”–an apt description of his award “Father of the Country”–at a time when all the great nations gave an oath of obedience to Augustus (6:22, 7:2). Orosius dated the census to 3 B.C. And besides that, Josephus substantiates that an oath of obedience to Augustus was required in Judea not long before the death of Herod (Antiquities I7:4I-45). This agrees nicely in a chronological sense with what Luke records. But more than that, an inscription found in Paphlagonia (eastern Turkey), also dated to 3 B.C., mentions an “oath sworn by all the people in the land at the altars of Augustus in the temples of Augustus in the various districts.” And dovetailing precisely with this inscription, the early (fifth century) Armenian historian, Moses of Khoren, said the census that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem was conducted by Roman agents in Armenia where they set up “the image of Augustus Caesar in every temple.”. The similarity of this language is strikingly akin to the wording on the Paphlagonian inscription describing the oath taken in 3 B.C. These indications can allow us to reasonably conclude that the oath (of Josephus, the Paphlagonian inscription, and Orosius) and the census (mentioned by Luke, Orosius, and Moses of Khoren) were one and the same. All of these things happened in 3 B.C.

The bit of The God Delusion that I have read leaves me with the distinct impression that its author has approached the subject of God with some massively obnoxious preconceptions; preconceptions that he obviously enjoys the company of. Because if he just used a little of the thinking capacity he clearly has, he would be obliged to send them on their way.


18 04 2008

I saw an insurance billboard recently with these words;
With foresight, who needs hindsight?

It got me thinking… who indeed?
Well here’s my conclusion:

There are always 3 or 4 generations involved on the playing field at any given time with a few spectators on each end of the spectrum.
If the second generation, the ruling generation (most of the decision-makers of life are from this generation that’s why I call them the ruling generation) is making a successful go at it, then it is my view that the generation before them (the first generation) had exceptionally clear hindsight. The second generation has clear foresight but only at the expense of the first generation’s hindsight. The third generation is a little blind in both directions and will tend to blunder, creating a foresight blockage but giving the fourth very clear hindsight, the fifth then begin the cycle again by converting the fourth’s hindsight into foresight.

There are many examples of this phenomenon, perhaps the best is the generations after the world wars and the consequential economic depressions. The war/depression generation had a huge amount of hindsight. They set up a productive generation with a great deal of foresight in the 50’s. Who in turn created a generation with very little of either in the 60’s and 70’s. They then created a new generation of hindsight cold-war people who gave rise to the current generation with enormous foresight.
It’s like sociological seasons.
I think we all need hindsight, foresight is not possible without it. But we also need foresight. In a sense we need to make our mistakes, because hindsight is not possible without it.

The Greeks I think had it right in their language 3000 years ago. What a marvel Ancient Greek is. Language has certainly not evolved since then, if anything the reverse is true.
They had a number of words for Time. But the three key words were: Hora, Chronos and Keiros.
Hora is a fatalistic word, it has hindsight written all over it. When my grandfather (who is now 93 and not only still driving but servicing his own car too) moved from his house I asked him what he wanted to do will all his old rusty bits of steel and broken tools. “You can’t throw those away,” he said, “you never know when you might need them.” He is a classic hindsight generation man, and I love him!
Hora describes time as a master to whom we are all subject.
Chronos is the opposite, Chronos describes time as the servant of man and opportunity as available to the quick and the hungry. Compounding interest is a product of the Chronos mind. Chronos people are classically foresighted, but with a lack of hindsight they tend to create problems that their foresight, by it’s mere existence, is blind to.

Keiros is to me a word to live by. It is providential, granted (as I said – a word to live by). Opportunities are coming and will keep coming. Keiros says that we should use both foresight and hindsight to recognise which opportunity to take and which to leave. Hora is over cautious reluctant to take any opportunity, always focused on what might go wrong. Chronos rushes in where angels fear to tread, grasping at every opportunity as if opportunity itself was the key to life. A Keiros man is both prudent and full of Joy, he’s at peace and he has mastered fear… not just his fears, but fear itself.

Keiros is a word that teaches me what The Eagles seem to know already… “Learn to be still.

Zeal & The Zeitgeist – Part 3

24 01 2008

So Daniel was sitting pretty as second in command of the Babylonian Empire, through his own courage and God’s help (those two always seem to go hand in hand). Nebuchadnezzar’s critics, the three power hungry magicians, were silenced and Nebuchadnezzar was back in the driving seat of the Empire with someone he could trust as his right hand man.

In the story one can see quite clearly the power struggle as the magicians determined only to speak in Aramaic and Nebuchadnezza’s determination not to give into them. He flung his weight about ordering people to be killed and then withdrawing his orders, completely unaccountable, like any and every king before him. But that was about to change…

Daniel spent some time having his integrity tested with his boss (his three friends were tested in a very similar way). They were honest enough to keep his relational integrity with their God, not just ‘seen to be’ integrous, but really integrous.
Nebuchadnezzar had another dream and called on his favourite interpreter, Daniel, to interpret the dream. Unlike Daniel’s predecessors he trusted Daniel enough to tell him the dream and ask for a meaning. Most people in Daniel’s position would have buttered the king up with a ‘nice’ meaning, but Daniel told the King the truth, the dream meant that Nebuchadnezzar would go stark raving mad; for a period of time he would lose his reason because of his arrogance.
It never ceases to amaze me that when I stop demanding justice and simply submit to unreasonable, though legitimate, authority, how that authority gets judged. You see we are all under an authority of some kind and anarchy is never really an option.
So it happened, at the top of his game Nebuchadnezzar lost it, bipolar would be a kind diagnosis for what he suffered. But then he was restored, a changed man.

I don’t think Nebuchadnezzar had any idea what far reaching influence he was inviting into his empire by bringing in Daniel and his three friends. It did not only change him, it changed his whole kingdom.
The seed bed of democracy had been laid. Nebuchadnezzar had the linear time revelation of Abraham formed in him and he passed it down to the coming generations (Daniel 4:3 & 15). It changed forever the way Mesopotamian people thought and ushered in the processes that we know today as scientific, industrial, innovative, organisational, etc, etc …


17 01 2008

Wild Mauri tongues
spit greetings like a curse
Germanic, hardened steely voices
clipped speech, rough and terse

Soft songs in Swahili
melt in my mind
Chopped up Oriental speech
like wires that unwind

Thick syrup English
thin coating every land
Aramaic flowing river words
like oil under sand

How arrogant, how proud,
that one tongue should define us.
I thank God for Babel’s fate
in Wisdom undermine us.

Why The Bible is not a Religious Book.

17 01 2008

Literary Criticism is a wonderful tool and it tells us a lot about ancient writings. It seems pretty clear, by literary criticism, that the books in the Bible are authentically ancient (and they are not the only authentically ancient writings). Now before you shout at me please hear what I say… it is authentically ancient.
Literary Criticism is limited, it tells us very little about how authentic biblical claims are. Claims are a different story.

Of course we can never be sure, that any writing, ancient or modern, is not a fake (claiming to be old, or of a certain author, etc, but really not). And the Bible is open to those criticisms. Dan Brown’s book and the inevitable movie spawned a whole lot of those kind of conspiracy theories. But the process of literary criticism gives the 66 books in the Bible, as an authentically ancient collection, a lot of credence. There is much more evidence for the bible than for many other much younger writings.
The sceptic, though, should consider every theory, be it mindless or a conspiracy, nothing is too ridiculous or unprecedented to be the truth.
But I am assuming that the reader, like Dan Brown (in his official website), regards these kinds of conspiracies as “works of fiction”. And that we accept that the Gnostic Gospels have no place in the Bible; which is, amongst other things, an attempt to put together a collection of genuinely ancient writings.
To put it simply I’m assuming that we all accept that the Bible is indeed an ancient book and it’s various authors sincere at least, if you don’t think this then what I say further will only make you frustrated, and you will not convince me of your conspiracy theory that the bible was written by power hungry monks in the dark ages (or whatever your theory happens to be). You are welcome, though, to read further but I am not entering into any of those conspiracy ‘debates’ about the bible.

Given my assumption then, what are we do with it? Many readers cannot accept the Bible’s claims of divine authorship & miracles. Some don’t accept that the books in the Bible make such claims.
Do we look at it for it’s literature content, like a Canterbury Tales but much older and covering a greater time span (there are, after all, many literary masterpieces in the collection)? Do we look at it for it’s religious content to find hope and meaning for our lives? Do we just ignore it as a myth?

Well I’d like to suggest that the Bible is many things, but it is not a religious book. It certainly draws no religious conclusions. Piety, or dutiful reverence, is not even close to a theme in any of the 66 books. Some might ask what then about the 10 commandments and the Levitical laws? Even in the law books, Leviticus, Numbers and about half of Exodus, the Law is ethical, not liturgical or ritualistic. One can see it quite clearly looking at the 10 commandments and the summary of all the Law in the Bible is still “Love your neighbour as yourself.” That is hardly ritual.
Liturgy and ritual do play a part in the Old Testament but they are not replaced by any New Testament liturgy or ritual (not even more modern liturgy and ritual). The God of the Bible seems much more interested in our ethics, how we treat each other, than in homage and outward religiosity, how we are ‘seen to be’ treating God. The New Testament definition of Religion is the same as the modern definition of Equality.

So the Bible is not religious, but there is a single major theme that plays through both testaments; and the more you read them the stronger the theme stands out. The theme of the Bible is Love, Sacrificial Love.
It is not erotic love, though eros comes into it, more than is decent!
It is not camaraderie though ‘philadelphia’ also comes into it.
It is also not generic love, though peace does also come into it.
It is not essentially a book about creed although it is cultural and people are it’s major focus.
It is not a book about outward duties but it draws devotional conclusions.
It is not essentially a philosophy though it allows for much speculation and prudence and demands all the thinking, reason and logic one has to apply to it, but no more and no less.
The great Biblical theme is best defined by the old word “Charity” which according to Oxford means “kindness and tolerance in judging others”.
The Biblical claim is that this Sacrificial Love, this “Charity”, is the single most powerful force in the Universe. If so the Universe is, above all else, relational. It may also be mathematical, physical and chemical but it is primarily relational. It is a very singular, bold and succinct statement that the Bible makes.

Here are a few key things about the Bible which we must take note of:

1. There is this theme running right through which is not hard to find; it requires no special IQ or reading abilities. And it runs through the whole Bible despite time spans of generations, dynasties and cultures, and almost as many authors as writings, and writings in a wide variety of writing styles.

2. It has the quality of being natural, authored by people, open to literary criticism; and at the same time it has a surprising, almost magical quality.
It can be described as mythological but one gets the distinct impression that this is the one myth that has actually happened to be true.

3. It is made up of about 6 types of writings:
– Stories in novel the form.
– Law documents.
– Poetry.
– Philosophy or Wisdom.
– Letters.
– Prophecies.

4. Anyone who can read has access to what the Bible offers. No linguist, priest or teacher is required to get to its essential truths.
The Bible is not primarily an academic book, though it can be studied.

Many people regard the bible as ‘contradictory’. They say that it contains contradictions that are fatal to it’s claims. If the Bible is indeed a ‘Word from God’. One would think that it would not say opposing things.
I would agree that there are ancient writings that are contradictory, but the Bible is not one of them.
A contradictory statement is one of a position opposite to one already made. Slight differences and emphases are not contradictions. So if, in view of the writers of Matthew and Mark, they were leaving Jerico (Mat 20:29 & Mrk 10:46), but in the view of the writer of Luke they were arriving in the city (Luk 18:35), it is certainly a difference, but nothing close to a contradiction. Literary Criticism says rightly that the work is, on one level, very human and challengeable. They were either leaving or arriving in Jerico, both cannot be true, but it is an unessential qualification. It makes no difference to the writing. When one looks closely enough there are parts of ancient Biblical writings that are not original and there are a few minor issues, but not even the supporting doctrines are contradicted in the whole Bible. Which is quite unique! It causes me to want to look further.
I have spent a great deal of time looking for any real contradiction in the Bible and I have yet to find one, and I am yet to be shown one.

Apparently Christians are much like pickles.

17 01 2008

I recently heard the point that Jesus’ statement in Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved” is contradictory to the Christian conviction that there is no ritualistic requirement for a Christian to be called by that name. The only requirement is belief.The New Testament theme of salvation is allied to one thing, and one thing only: Belief. One must believe in order to be saved. Baptism is not a requirement for salvation, it is a mere consequence.I’d like to show why Jesus words here are nothing close to a contradiction with that theme. any more than Rom 10:10’s requirement of confession is a contradiction.The Greek word Jesus used here is ‘baptizo’ not ‘bapto’. We can see the difference between the two in an ancient Greek pickle recipe (quite abiblical) by the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C.In the recipe Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be ‘dipped’ (bapto) into boiling water and then ‘baptised’ (baptizo) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of the vegetables in a solution. The first though is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change.”Baptizo” in the New Testament usually refers to our ongoing relationship (union and identification) with Christ, not to our water baptism, as one would think by it’s definition. Indeed if Jesus was referring here to water baptism it would be a requirement that the baptised be held under water indefinitely! Which would also bring about a change (many would say a more welcome one). Clearly Jesus is not saying that. What is He saying?In Mark 16:16 Jesus is saying that one who believes and continues to believe shall be saved. Mere intellectual assent, he says, is not enough. There must be a union with him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle!It is humbling, though quite true, to be compared in my Faith to a wrinkled vegetable plucked ripe and raw then immersed and soaked until a very different thing emerges. Hence the “new creation” and my theory of evolution.