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Evil...Why?

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 The balance of life: good/evil, light/dark, male/female, creation/destruction

The balance of life: good/evil, light/dark, male/female, creation/destruction

So begins all questioning of the origins of evil in relationship to God. Evil exists in human existance. Why does God permit it? Why won't God stop it? Can God even stop it? Does God want to stop it? These questions have plagued humanity for millennia. The reason is that for many, the origins of evil are steeped in mystery, during a time before time...the stuff myths are made of. One solution to this problem explains good and evil as being universally equal powers, humanity needing both for our survival and existance, and then promoting that concept on to the larger universal structure. This like the dualism of light and dark, male and female, were used to demonstrate this to be "true". This concept is demonstrated in the Yin and Yang symbol. 

Another way of addressing this issue is to place all the responsibility for evil on God. The idea is the God is omnipotently sovereign, meaning that all that is is by his power. Thus, it is impossible for anything to happen outside of his control. Since God is all-knowing, nothing can happen that he has not seen. If his omniscience has seen it and knows it, and since all things are made by him, are things are the way he wants them, as he has seen them, as he designed them to be. A classic idea of this is 5-point Calvinism (T.U.L.I.P.):

1) Total Depravity of Humanity, meaning we are beyond the ability to choose God.

2) Unconditional Election, meaning that salvation is a decision made for you, without your input.

3) Limited Atonement, meaning that the atonement of Jesus is limited to those God has elected, and only those.

4) Irresistible Grace, meaning that the grace of God in Jesus Christ cannot be rejected by those he has omnipotently chosen to save.

5) Perseverance of the Saints, meaning the election and salvation of the saved cannot be lost by anything, they cannot unchoose salvation. 

T.U.L.I.P...it sounds good, as it allows for God to be in absolutely personal, hands-on control of all things and all people, thus evil is equally God's fault as good. Unconditional election says that there are no conditions for salvation. However, it is not the uncondionality on the part of humanity, but it is unconditionality on the part God. It is saying that God is arbitrary in his selection of those for election, that he has no criterion, except what he decides. Thus, if some have been chosen to be saved, others have not been chosen to be saved. They have, as a result of not being chosen for salvation, have been chosen for damnation. This is called double predestination: some are predestined to be saved, other to be lost. Limited Atonement means that the grace of salvation through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus is limited to those whom God has chosen to save. Irresistible Grace means that God cannot be resisted or rebelled against. When God calls, one is compelled into His love. Perseverance of the saints has nothing whatsoever to do with the saints perseverance, but with God's perseverance in saving. He will not allow them to be lost, meaning they cannot but be saved...they have no choice. God wills it. This entire theology is dependent upon the doctrine of Total Depravity. This doctrine means that after sin, humanity lost the capacity to choose right from wrong, and has never had a choice since. 

However the notion of the sovereignty of God for those who believe this takes one to some challenging places. If God, before the foundation of the world, designed the universe to be what it is, according to his Divine power and will (which Calvinist's believe), then sin is part of the planned will and desire of God, and is a manifestation of God's own power. Thus sin an evil originate with God. That means that obedience to the will of God is dependent upon what role one plays in God's sandbox: did he create you for good or evil. In any case, since God created, then it matters not what you were created for; so long as you fulfill your purpose, you are obedient. Thus, the standards of Good vs. Evil are really moot points, since to God they don't matter. He made one for evil, and when that one is evil, that one is obeying the purpose for which one was created. When one is good one is fulfilling the purpose for which one was created. According to T.U.L.I.P., and where this logic takes you, God gets glory, is made to look glorious, directly through good and evil.  Evil is a manifestation of God's will and desire, as equally as good it. Thus if Jesus is coming to die for sin, the only being in the universe who actually sinned would have beThe Godhead itself for creating such a bipolar universe. Thus, payment for sin being death, Jesus would be coming down here to pay for whose sins? No one, since sin in reality would not be a bad thing. This makes God a sadist in liking to inflict pain (humanity), and a masochist in enjoying receiving pain (Christ). God in this scenario is akin to any of the pagan deities of the ancient world who pick favorites for no reason, destroy or create for personal entertainment, at the expense of all beneath them. 

This explanation of "why" of evil is a direct attack agains the nature of God: either 1) God is a weak good god, and out there is an evil power equal to him, they are eternally at war, and this war in balance allows humanity to exist, or 2) God is a brute who creates all things for his entertainment, some of which he purposefully created to do evil, others to suffer the evil done, and all this for his glory.

 

God Is Love

 1Jn 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

This is the quintessential revelatory description of God. Notice the two descriptors here: love is of (from) God, and God is love. 

 A symbols for Trinity  

A symbols for Trinity  

In order for God to be love, we use consider what love is, or how love functions. Love needs an subject to originate in, and an object or subject to bestow upon. For God to be love, God must have love, give love, and receive love. For God, by himself as an individual, to be love God then must be relational. For God to be love, God must be relational within God’s self. Thus, God must be a muplicity of oneness; God must be plural. In order for love to be love, there must be giving and receiving. However this is not coercive giving and receiving, but rather freely giving and freely receiving. Thus there is freedom within the Godhead: freedom to give or withhold, freedom to receive or reject. Within this freedom, the love given must be other-centered. It is a love that has the best interests of the recipient, not of the giver. Thus it is a selfless love, in the sense that it is not selfish. It is not a self-oriented love, but a love that accepts that the value of what is being given is the value of the giver, and that what and who is being given is the best thing for the recipient. Additionally, there is selflessness in the reception. The recipient realizes that receiving the gift of love is to receive the giver, and so to recieve or accept is to love in return. All of this is within God, within the Godhead. It is God's relationship within God, with God, to God. 

 A Symboly for Trinity

A Symboly for Trinity

It is from this existence and identity that God decided to create. This God of love, when choosing to create, would not make some automatons who have not the freedom to love. This kind of God would want love to be the pervading principle of universal identity and existence, as an extension of Their own identity and existence. Therefore, every sentient creature created in the universe would be given freedom: to give love or not to give love, to accept love or not to accept love. 

Here is the rub: love is a gamble. Love is risky. Love acknowledges that chaos may ensue, that rebellion is possible, and rejection is plausible, that reciprocation is not guaranteed. Even in a perfect envirionment, with perfection surrounding, and access to the divine itself, the creature still must be able to choose to love.  If the beloved is incapable of choose love, then whatever the beloved gives is not love...it is obedience to a programming. 

Adam and Eve, in such perfection, chose to love themselves over God. Their ability to choose this was based on God wanting to be loved in return by creation, not simply obeyed like a machine. When humanity chose to love itself over God, they chose against all the love, the life, they had been given. 

 Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Genesis 2:16-17). "Dying you will die (you shall surely die)" is what they chose, and the reverse of creation is what they should have become. However, immediately at the entrance of their rebellious decision comes God walking, looking for them. 

 Gen 3:8 "And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?"

God refuses to let humanity head down this path alone. He comes searching, and offering a solution: "...it will bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." 

This solution, this promise and plan to save humanity, is what gives the Spirit of God the permission to move as freely as he did during Old Testament times. At the entrance of sin, humanity was encapsulated within the grace of God to keep us alive as a race, and the Spirit of God was give freedom to move on the credit card that Jesus was coming to pay the wages owed to God's justice.

The evil we experience is experienced within the grace bubble. The evil itself is not the grace. Life is grace, evil is consequence of living in a world where sin and evil are an actually thing to experience. It is grace that allows evil to exist. Should God remove is grace, all life would perish. One preacher said that we should thank God for allowing our breath to remain in our bodies while we are sinning, for "...If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath; All flesh shall perish together, and man shall turn again unto dust (Job 34:14-15).

All of humanity, at the inception of sin, was so totally depraved we should have gone the way of un-created. The presence of humanity demonstrates that God has not left us entirely to our own depravity totally. Those nations who have totally depraved themselves are now extinct. Those of us who remain, as depraved as we are, are still able to make a choice. The Spirit of God still works on the hearts of even the most depraved and sordid of people. The love of God is still calling to us, trying to lure us with cords of love, grace, mercy, and blessing into choosing God, and thus choosing life. 

 

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Evil...What?

There is a problem that we have done here. it is called Theodicy. Theodicy is the study of evil and why it exists. Conversations on this can range from issues of free will (you have a choice), to double predeterminism (the saved have been chosen by God for glory, while the lost have been chosen by God for destruction, and there is nothing anyone can do to change this), to karma (you are experiencing in this life the evil you have done in the last life).

The problem to me is that no one has determined what evil is. Everyone wants to find the someone to blame for it, but no one has said what it is. Since I'm a Christian, I have to consider my own sacred scriptures for the answer. As a Christian, it is impossible to talk about evil, without discussing sin. The two may as well be synonymous. The Bible defines sin this way:

 1Jn 3:4 Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

So sin (the what), sinning (how), and the sinner (who) are all based in transgression of God's law. Psalms even tells us the where:

Psa 51:5 "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me", that is to say that even the environment in which I was conceived (womb and socio-geographical location) and born through (womb) and into (socio-geographical) is sin-infected.

Our who, what, where, and how are all designated in the Bible as sin. Sin is transgression of the law, and evil is the state of being one lives in and becomes after sinning. The two are practically synonymous. If sin is so big, and evil so existential, if we would understand evil, we must look to the source of sin for the human family. 

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Everyone knows the story of Eve, the Snake, and the Fruit. I will not retell the entire thing here. I wan to focus on one verse in that narrative, which I think will reveal something of sin and evil, if we take our time with it. Compare with me the command of God verses the lie of the serpent.

 Gen 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. 

 Gen 3:4-5 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

God has stated that if we eat of the tree, we would dying die (a translational equivalence). This phrase "you will dying die", is God telling us that if we disobey him, just as there was a process in our creation, that proces will work in reverse, our compentents will separate from each other, "...the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Ecco 12:7). The Serpent states something different. He says, "you will not dying die. For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be as God knowing good and evil." What is evil? 

Question: where did all of creation, according to the Bible, have its origins? God. Where did all of creation draw it's life from? God. Who designated the creation and life as good? God. How can God do this? Because life and goodness originate from within God himself. 

 Psa 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him

 Mar 10:18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? thereis none good but one, that is, God.

 Life and goodness come from God

Life and goodness come from God

If God is good and God is life, then to know God is to know goodness and life. So then, if I disobey God, if I rebel, I choosing against goodness and against life. Since living, existence, is dependent upon life, and life is dependent upon God, then to chose against God it to chose death over existance. Thus God can say, "if you eat of this tree, you will dying die (paraphrase)". That is to say, "If you disobey me, you will decreate and cease to exists". There was nothing wrong in with the tree. Genesis 2:9 states that every tree God made was fit for food and lovely to see, and this is precisely what Eve saw when she looked at the tree in Genesis 3:6. The issue was one of knowledge through experience, not evil in the tree. God had said don't eat it, told humanity the consequences, and told them nothing more. God had designed us to know life, goodness, and Himself. Outside of him there was nothing to know, and no way to know it. 

Yin and Yang

 A representation of the lie, which humanity has believed for millennia. 

A representation of the lie, which humanity has believed for millennia. 

"You will not dying die. Rather, you will be like God, knowing good and evil." This is the serpent's promise. Look at it carefully. He is promising them a death, just not a finality in death. In death he offers them life. He says you will be like God, knowing good and evil. Well, if God is life and good, then the serpent promised us we would know God, and not-God. That is to say, we would know life from God, and evil. However, this knowing of evil in concert with his "you will not dying die" gives us his ultimate promise. Self-existance. God has used a process of building up humanity: breath of life plus dust of ground equals living soul. The serpent acknowledges that they will experience a dying, a separation of the components God had placed together, and of life derived from God, but they will continue on. He is promising them 1) that the breath of Life can leave the dust of the ground and they can still exists, or 2) that they need neither dust of ground (God-made), not breath of life (God-breathed),  to be a living soul. He has offered them soulishness part from body from God and breath from God. To know God is to live according to God's life, design, and rules. To know evil it is to allegedly live life derived solely from the self, one's own design, and one's own rules. The serpent promised them self-existance. However, instead of a holistic life given as God design (breath + body = living soul) the serpent offers a fractured, partial, and dualist existance (breath - body = ?). He promise was empty. 

Recap: God is life and goodness. God said that disobedience would result in the un-creation, humanity, back into non-existance. The serpent promised an existance after the un-creation process, an self-generating, a life principle, welling up from within humanity causing us to exist autonomously, but not holistically.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they should have immediately begun the dying process, resulting in their final non-existance. They should not have had time to live and make more mistakes. Just as God created from nothing, formed them from dust, and breathe into them (it didn't take a long time), so the same process should have immediately begun in reverse, and that quickly.  

What happened? Why do we exists? If they should have been dead literally within one day maximum. They answer can be seen in god's response to humanity's sin: God came searching. when we sinned, we pulled back from God, turned our backs to him, wanting to exist unto and of ourselves. God loved us too much to let us die without a fight. He came searching. He came calling. He came walking.  

 The Bubble of Grace, giving humanity a second chance. 

The Bubble of Grace, giving humanity a second chance. 

 

 Gen 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day...

He came with promises for our good. It is this first promise that ensures our existance. It is the promise God made to the snake. It was the promise of the Seed to come and kill "the serpent". This promise of death to the serpent brought a 2nd chance to humanity. Immediately humanity was encapusalted in a spiritual existential bubble called grace, which allows us to exist while still sinning. We have been given time to choose again. The Old Testament reveals the presence of the Spirit of God, moving in the hearts of people, and Romans 1 reveals that God was known through oberservation and interaction with nature. Both were granted on "credit", that those who woud choose to follow the Spirit would not have to pay sins wages, becasue Jesus was coming to pay it. Our entire existance is now, until Jesus returns, "in sin...in iniquity", with the possibility OT choosing God. We are able to live lives of sin, as sinners, based on the grace of God in not allowing the human race to immediately go into extinction at the fall, "...not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentence"

 Representative of the Universe as Chaos (L) verses the Universe as Creation (R)...if the serpents promise were true.

Representative of the Universe as Chaos (L) verses the Universe as Creation (R)...if the serpents promise were true.

If there was an existance, in which sin could exist, it could not create anything. Consider this: all things creative come from God, as he is the original source of creative imagination and authenticity with power. Sin is a response to the creator, a rebellion against his will and person. Thus, sin is in all actuality a non-thing. It exists as a choice of the will in opposing God, which, outside of grace, would result in immediate death due to stepping out of Life who is God. If sin was an actual thing, it would have to be the opposite of everything which is God: destructive not creative or productive, unstable not stable, transient/temporal not permanent, incorporeal/immaterial/non-substantive not substantive, chaotic not orderly, ugly not beautiful,  greedy not selfless, ignorant not intelligent nor omniscient, impotent not potent nor omnipotent, no where not anywhere nor omnipresent...evil not good. If the Biblical mean or ground zero prior to creation is the dark, watery formless void then God creating would an explosive creative expansion of all that is good,beautiful, and holy moving upward from this "ground zero". If we could actually live a life apart from God, as opposed to and opposite of everything God is, it would be a expanse downward from ground zero into the negative (-).

 If sin/evil were an actual thing outside of our grace bubble, the hand on the right is what we offer the universe.

If sin/evil were an actual thing outside of our grace bubble, the hand on the right is what we offer the universe.

Our existance on this planet proves the truth of this. No matter what good we create, we create it from the original intention of God for humanity. Even with our fallen frames and minds, the mark of the creator appears on all that is intended good. However, our fallen nature reveals sins mark and rule: cruel, rude, violent, selfish, ignorant, anarchic, vain, destructive. If sin, and humanity, were allowed to go unchecked in the universe, with human capacity allowed to reach the furthest reaches of the known universe, humanity's influence and presence would corrupt and destroy everything, since that is what sin, through sinners, can only accomplish. Everything would be immediately thrown back into the void from when it was liberated, as man retured to dust. So much for the what of sin.

  "For dust you are, and to dust you shall return." 

"For dust you are, and to dust you shall return." 

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God, the Gospel and Social Responsibility, Intention Part 1: the America Constitution, the Founders, and the Assumption of Christianity

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God, the Gospel and Social Responsibility, Intention Part 1: the America Constitution, the Founders, and the Assumption of Christianity

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“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript

These words are the opening and the closing of the Declaration Independence, July 4, 1776. If one is unscrupulous, one could assume that this document is a declaration of Christian intent on the party of the founding fathers. This notion of Christian nationalism as rooted itself deep into American psychology, so that nonpatriotism is considered unchristian. Consider this however, this is not a declaration of intent on Christian theocracy, but a lineation of grievances, declaration of liberation, and a declaration of confederation. The founders had not yet come to an accepted understanding of how they would govern themselves as a single entity. They simply new that they that they were in league together against Britain. 

Why envoke the name of the divine, if the intent is not to govern as a theocracy? Were they trying to build a christian nation?

”If we are talking about 13 colonies belonging to the British Empire, whose king presided over an imperial church, then yes, British citizens residing in those colonies lived under Christian rule. Those colonies were founded as outposts of a Christian nation. With American independence, however, the British monarchy lost control over its American subjects. Champions of American liberty then celebrated their religious as well as political independence....If, by the question, one is asking whether the Founding Fathers relied on Protestant Christian principles in drafting the essential documents and in organizing the new governments, then the answer is a resounding "no." The writings of the period (1765-1790), including speeches, debates, letters, pamphlets, and even sermons, reflect the overwhelming influence of Enlightenment, Whig, and classical republican theories.” (http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/02/living/america-christian-nation/index.html)

It would appear that invoking the idea of the divine as a justification and fortification for one’s fights for freedom was acceptible. However, the formulation of one’s governmental principles is absent any reference to the divine at all. 

 

Chronologically: Articles of Confederation, the Consitution and the Bill of Rights

 The Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was the first constitution of the United States (Fritz, Christian G. (2008). American Sovereigns: The People and America's Constitutional Tradition Before the Civil War. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 131. ISBN978-0-521-88188-) It was drafted by the Second Continental Congress from mid-1776 through late-1777, and ratification by all 13 states was completed by early 1781. Under the Articles of Confederation, the central government's power was quite limited. The Confederation Congress could make decisions, but lacked enforcement powers. Implementation of most decisions, including modifications to the Articles, required unanimous approval of all thirteen state legislatures. (Jensen, Merrill (1950). The New Nation: A History of the United States During the Confederation, 1781–1789. Boston: Northeastern University Press. pp. 177–233. ISBN978-0-930350-14-7.) 

While the Articles of COnfederation contain the phrase “in the year of our Lord” twice, and state that “the Great Governor of the World” had “inclined” the heart of the population to rectify the Articles of Confederation, such hat-tipping to religious themes in so minimal an amount can hardly justify being used to prove their intent to create this country a Christian nation. There is no theocratic language in the Articles of Confederation. (https://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=false&doc=3&page=transcript)

 The Constitution

The Constitution

The drafting of the Constitution began in 1787. Its final draft was put to the continental congresss for ratification in 1788“The Continental Congress...passed a resolution on September 13, 1788, to put the new Constitution into operation with eleven states. (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/resolu01.asp) North Carolina and Rhode Island ratified by May 1790.” (Wikipedia)

Within the Consitution, there is only one reference to religion, and it is this: “...no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” (http://constitutionus.com/)

This was their only intent. There is no theocratic language anywhere in the constitution. 

 The Original Bill of Rights is only 10 Rights

The Original Bill of Rights is only 10 Rights

The very first Amendment in the Bill of Rights was not ratified until 1891, and that was after 4 heats years of debate. (Wikipedia)

Within the original bil of rights, here is the religious mention:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” (http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/)

So let us be very clear: when it comes to documented governmental intent, not a article of confederation, article of the constitution, or amendment in the bill of rights is proposing any for of Chistian theocratic nationalism.

Whats even more interesting in on the issue of intent, is that the Bill of Rights an any form is not actually part of any Article in the actual Consitutional document. The intent of the of the counstitutional founders no only did not include Christianity, it did not include rights. 

 

Reflection 

I’m as hospital chaplain, and during my chaplain training i had to write verbatim interactions with and interventions for patients after i had interacted with them. What was quite telling is that I never remembered any single experience verbatim is it actually happened. My mind remembered and highlighted things significant to me, through the lense of my knowledge and life experience. The verbatim was about me. What is written in the verbatim is what is important to me, and thus my intent. It was subjective, never objective. 

  “A text without a context is a pretext for prooftext.”  D.A. Carson

“A text without a context is a pretext for prooftext.” D.A. Carson

The same can be said for Bible study, interpretation, and preaching. Multiple people can look at the same passage oof scripture and walk away with multiple meanings and applications, and yet without historical contextual facts none of them could be close ot the original intent. The original intent is shrouded in the time, location, activities, cultural nuances, language and personality of the author an those he is writing to. This why exegesis is so important. One cannot proof-text a biblical author’s intent. One must wrestle with what can be known about the original author and his context to discover original intent, and then decide if the original author’s intent can be brought forward principly into this day and time.

 

The Amendments

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 “Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore appeared on a conspiracy-driven radio show twice in 2011, where he told the hosts in an interview that getting rid of constitutional amendments after the Tenth Amendment would 'eliminate many problems' in the way the US government is structured...In Moore's June appearance, one of the hosts says he would like to see an amendment that would void all the amendments after the Tenth. "That would eliminate many problems," Moore replied. "You know people don't understand how some of these amendments have completely tried to wreck the form of government that our forefathers intended." (http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/10/politics/kfile-roy-moore-aroostook-watchmen/index.html)

 

What is this intent of the founding fathers, which Roy Moore claims can be found the the first ten amendments. The articles of the Consitution are the original founders’ original intent. If the founders had intended anything else, it would have been an article. That the amendments have been needed is evidence that, no matter how altruistic the founders and framers may have considered themselves and tried to be, they were encumbered by human frailty, privilege, and bias. Some may think the amendments to be original intent. Here is the definition of Amendment as per Merriam-Webster: 

 James Madison, formulation of the bill of rights

James Madison, formulation of the bill of rights

 

  1.  a. the process of altering or amending a law or document (such as a constitution) by parliamentary or constitutional procedure (rights that were granted by amendment of the Constitution); b. an alteration proposed or effected by this process (a constitutional amendment)
  2. a. the act of amending something (correction)
  3. a material (such as compost or sand) that aids plant growth indirectly by improving the condition of the soil (soil amendments)

 

“The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. Proposed following the oftentimes bitter 1787–88 battle over ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and crafted to address the objections raised by Anti-Federalists, the Bill of Rights amendments add to the Constitution specific guarantees of personal freedoms and rights, clear limitations on the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and explicit declarations that all powers not specifically delegated to Congress by the Constitution are reserved for the states or the people .” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Bill_of_Rights)

 

Let us be clear...if a thing must be amended, then its original intent and fucntion is faulty, and the amendment alters this intent and function. So what had to be amended into the constitution?:

  1. freedom of religion, press, speech, assembly, and grievance petition 
  2. freedom a well regulated militia, the right to keep and bear arms
  3. freedom from forced military housing
  4. freedom from unlawful search and seizure, without warrant and probable cause
  5. Freedom from double jeopardy and self-incrimination, for due process, grand jury, criminal indictment screening, and eminent domain compensation
  6. freedom for right to speedy trial, trial by impartial jury, to be informed of charges, to confront the witness, to compel witness to appear in court, to counsel
  7. the right of jury trial in federal cases, judges cannot overrule fact finds of juries in federal civil cases
  8. freedom from excessive bail, fines, and cruel and unusual punishment
  9. the right to add to the fundamental rights listed above, as these rights reveal themselves
  10. powers not given to congress or the state are reserved for the people
 The Federalist-AntiFederalist Debate

The Federalist-AntiFederalist Debate

None of the above amendments are in the original intent of the constitution; they are not the original intent of the framers and founder of the constitution. They had to be formulated and added by James Madison, after 4 years of heated debate between federalist and Anti-federalist factions within Congress. While Mr. Madison is to be applauded for his intentions, and even for his wisdom in understanding that there are rights out there which he is unaware of and has not enumerated, that these rights did not make his original Bill of Rights is quite telling as to his subconscious intent, bias, and supposition. What did Mr. Madison leave out of his intent when enumerating the Bill of Rights, from Amendment 11 to Amendment 27?:

  1. Powers of federal courts restricted 
  2. Election of President and Vice President  
  3. Slavery outlawed  
  4. The rights of citizenship applied too all regardless of race
  5. Voting rights for all regardless of race
  6. Federal income tax spell out
  7. The election of senators by popular vote
  8. Liquor outlawed
  9. Voting rights regardless of gender
  10. Terms of president and congress, replacing the president 
  11. Control of liquor returned to states
  12. President limited to two terms
  13. presidential electors from District of Columbia  
  14. Voting rights protected from taxes
  15. Replacing the president and Vice President 
  16. Voting rights for all citizens 18 or older
  17. Changing in salaries of senators and representatives  

So let us be clear: James Madison’s bill of rights care nothing for the rights enumerated in above listed amendments.  They were not part of his conscious or subconscious intent of inclusion. One could argue that what is excluded is subconsciously intended to be excluded, be it in constitutional or bill of rights intent, or even in a chaplain verbatim oof one’s exegesis. 

This means that national founders and framers of the constitution, as well as James Madison and those he represented with his Bill of Rights, be they christian or nonChristian, intended on the 3/5 clause and the fugitive slave clause being normative in the constitution: 

 

 The indentured servants are on top; the slaves are on the bottom. 

The indentured servants are on top; the slaves are on the bottom. 

 “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers (population), which shall be determined by adding the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years (indentured servants), and excluding Indians no taxed, 3/5 of all other persons (slaves).” Article 1, Section 2 (https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript)

 “No Person held to service or Labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such services or Labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or Labour may be due” Article 4, Section 2 (Ibid.)

 

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While the constitution does not mention women proper, or specifically limit its rights to men, but rather used a seemingly gender neutral word “persons”, this does not mean that the founders were egalitarian in their views or that they intended upon gender equality. In fact,, as constitutional law was interpreted through the lens of bristish culture and law, “the principle of coveture prevailed at the time the Constitution was written and adopted: a married woman was simply not a person under the law; her legal existence was bound up with that of her husband's.” (https://www.thoughtco.com/constitution-sex-discrimination-3529459) Thus, the founders and framers of the constitution and the bill of rights were disinterested in women’s equality at all, intent on patriarchy and paternalism. If this were not so, women’s equality would be an article, not an amendment. 

 

Do we judge these men evil? Immoral? They are men of their time, education, and culture.

What we do, however is recognize the broken assertion and identity of actual Christianity upon this nation. This nations founders reveal by their intent a lack of ability to create a nation based on a an actual Christian ethic. All they could do was duplicate and “improve” upon the fallen political governmental paradigm that had fought so hard in the revolutionary war to be free from themselves. Injustice was justifiable, so long as it wasnt happening to them. This is not a Christian ethos; this is not how Christ treated women and minorities in the kingdom he proclaimed and claimed to be setting up.

To be Continued in God, the Gospel and Social Responsibility: Christ’s Kingdom, Women, and Others...

Comment

God, the Gospel, and Social Responsibility: Reconsidering Violent Defense

Comment

God, the Gospel, and Social Responsibility: Reconsidering Violent Defense

Luk 22:35-38 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords (machaira). And he said unto them, It is enough.

 

 9 people died in Charleston, SC.: 1 manager of Charles county liberal system, 1 pastor/ school administrator and admissions coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University, 1 senior pastor/ state senator, 1 pastor, 1 pastor/ speech therapist/track coach, 1 bible study teacher, 1 Bible study member/ choir director, 1 church sexton ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charleston_church_shooting )

9 people died in Charleston, SC.: 1 manager of Charles county liberal system, 1 pastor/ school administrator and admissions coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University, 1 senior pastor/ state senator, 1 pastor, 1 pastor/ speech therapist/track coach, 1 bible study teacher, 1 Bible study member/ choir director, 1 church sexton (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charleston_church_shooting)

Charleston, South Carolina. The evening of June 17, 2015 Dylann Roof walked into Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killing 9 people including the senior pastor and state senator Clementa Pinckney. This year, 2017 saw a similar shooting in Sutherland, Texas. 26 people were killed, and 20 others injured. 

 

Considering Jesus and Pacifism  

I have always been an Adventist. I was born into the church. My brother and I were not allowed to fight, even if we were being bullied. We would get bullied on the bus, at church, at school, but if we fought back we were spanked. As far back as I can remember, I was taught that I needed to “turn the other cheek”, in obedience to and in imitation of Jesus’ instructions and in accordance with the Seventh-day Adventist church’s position of non-combatency and “pacifism”:

 Twenty-six people were killed and 20 others were injured. The dead comprise ten women, seven men, seven girls, one boy, and an unborn child. Twenty-three died inside the church, two outside, and one in a hospital. The oldest victim was 77 years old. One victim was the 14-year-old daughter of church pastor Frank Pomeroy, who was elsewhere the day of the attack. Visiting pastor Bryan Holcombe died with eight family members, including an unborn grandchild. ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutherland_Springs_church_shooting#Victims )

Twenty-six people were killed and 20 others were injured. The dead comprise ten women, seven men, seven girls, one boy, and an unborn child. Twenty-three died inside the church, two outside, and one in a hospital. The oldest victim was 77 years old. One victim was the 14-year-old daughter of church pastor Frank Pomeroy, who was elsewhere the day of the attack. Visiting pastor Bryan Holcombe died with eight family members, including an unborn grandchild. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutherland_Springs_church_shooting#Victims)

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Mat 5:38-42 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

 

This admonition is followed with this logic:

Mat 5:43-48 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

 

The entire sermon on the mount is a respeaking of the Old Covenant spoken on Mount Sinia (Exodus 19-24). God comes to the people of Israel asking them to keep the covenant he had made with Abraham, in which Abraham promised nothing, and God promised everything on pain of death (absolute grace). The Hebrew people, on the other hand, took it upon themselves to promise God at Sinia that they will be obedient. The nation is therefore sprinkled with blood, symbolizing that they must keep their part of the covenant on pain of death (see God and Social Responsiblity in the Old Testament: Ethics an Justice).

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Jesus at Mount Sinai respeaks the covenant to the people, adding deeperin meaning and application to it. He ends chapter 5 telling the people to be perfect. The problem is that they as a people had been trying to be perfect and failing since Sinai. He did not promise them the Holy Spirit, and since he had not died for sins yet, there was no empowerment promised to them to accomplish the requirement. The entire conversation was about bringing a fallen people to realize the futility of their effort, and their need of Him as their substitute and sanctifier. Hence he commands them to be perfect, even as God is perfect. It is an impossible command.

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Walter Wink, in his book “The Powers that Be” has a section called “Jesus’ Third Way”. He articulates the actual intention of Jesus’ turn the other cheek statements. In Jewish 1st century culture the left hand was not to be used in gesture or in contact. Thus, the striking on the right cheek would not have come from a direct left-handed punch, but rather a backhand from the right. To backhand someone is to humiliate and degrade them, not to injure them. Jesus is informing the second class citizen to demand first hand treatment after being backhanded by turning the other (left) cheek to a full right-handed punch, and not to accept degradation and humiliation. Turning the other cheek is an act of human defiance and resilience. If your are going to hit me, hit me like the full human I am, with a punch, not a back hand. The idea of “give them your cloak also” is that they have taken everything from you in court, and so you also give them your under garments, and shame them as you walk down the street naked. Jesus continues with this shaming the oppressor notion by speaking of going the second mile. Again, this places the initiative back in the hands of the oppressed. The oppressor can compell you to walk 1 mile; you volunteer to walk 2 miles. This takes the feeling of superiority out of the hands of the one compelling me to walk. I am instead now issueing a challenge to him: he cannot keep up with me, and I am carrying the baggage. All of these scenarios are birthed in a culture where honor is valued, and shame can ruin your public face. But what if you live in a culture and among a people who have no honor, and do not feel shame?

 

Considering Adventism, Pefectionism, and Pacifism

This notion of perfectionism, “be ye therefore perfect”, has been found in Adventism as well. That we have had legalistic tendencies and practices, and have tended to balk against and reject the notion of righteousness by grace through faith can be seen in the writings of Ellen G. White, the Adventist prophet:

 

 “You will meet with those who will say, “You are too much excited over this matter. You are too much in earnest. You should not be reaching for the righteousness of Christ, and making so much of that. You should preach the law.” As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law, and there will be sap and nourishment in the preaching that will be as food to the famishing flock of God. We must not trust in our own merits at all, but in the merits of Jesus of Nazareth.” Review and Herald, March 11, 1890

 An actor playing Desmond Doss in Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” 

An actor playing Desmond Doss in Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” 

I submit that it is based on this notion of perfectionism that has motivated many in Adventism. If we are just nonviolent we feel will be perfect in that area. We love to celebrate Desmond Doss, the conscientious objector who went into World War 2 as a medic, refusing to carry a weapon, who saved many lives. I would challenge this type of pacifism, however, especially if it is voluntary. If Desmond had been drafted and he believed in pacifism, so be it. However, he volunteered. He was a good American. I do not disrespect his service or sacrifice. He joined the army, an organization whose mission it is to establish peace and destroy our nation’s enemies. The primary and dominant historical strategy of any military to accomplish its mission is the use of violence, or the threat of violence. But violence is the tool. The tactics of such a strategy can range between land, sea, and air tactics, espionage, nuclear options, etc. The military specializes in violence. 

In the civilian world Adventists again preach an alleged pacifism and nonviolence message to its church members. While this is well intended, is it honest? I say “No” . If a thief breaks into one’s home, or someone hurt’s one’s family (particularly this), one is not going to sit back and pray, awaiting divine intervention to arrive and angelically remove the intruder or stop the assailant. One would call the police, arguably after one has attempted to stop the theif or assailant from doing their worst. One will have to use force and violence to do so. If one is unsuccessful, or in the middle of being aassualted, one would thank God for the arrival of the police, who would violently take down the offender and give one liberty. 

My point: Adventists are duplicitous in their noncombatant pacifism. While they applaud the violence of God in scripture, in the history with the waldensians, the huegonots, the protestant win in the war between Spain and England, and the angelic hand which caused the north to violently beat the south in the one battle of the American Civil War (See Ellen G White’s “The Great Conbtrovesy”), while any Adventist would praise God for the cops who so willingly did violence to save said Adventist from harm, Adventist still present that non-violence and pacifism is what we stand for, as if it is the moral high ground. It is incongruent to serve in a violent government entity, and yet claim non-violent, noncombatant pacifism. It is incongruous to thank God for the evil of violence others are willing to do on our behalf (cops), to praise God for the violence of others in history at God’s command and with God’s divine suppport, and then claim an alleged higher ethic, morality, and spirituality by declaring one’s self a non-combatant and pacifist. One is not a pacifist. One does not beleive in non-violence. One simply doesnt want to get one’s hands dirty in the violence needed to exist in this world...one wants others to do it; one is a non-combatant. If adventists were really pacifist, as our religious maxim of non-combatancy proclaims, then we would weep at every single instance of violence, even if done on our behalf. We would never celebrate the military or the police for having to use violence, even in our nation of origin, or for the benefit of our cities and neighborhoods.

I think a story at this point would drive home the hypocrisy: a friend of mine went to Israel ona school trip. They joined other students and traveler, some of whom were Jewish. While in Israel, the Sabbath came, and some of the Jewish travelers asked, “Would some of you gentiles be willing to carry our luggage, so we don’t have to break the sabbath?”

Am I advocating for violence? No. I am advocating for honesty. Unless one has been abused, raped, robbed, or unless it has happened to one’s family, one is living in the world of sheltered privilege, where one’s safety and security, morals and ethics are dependent upon 1) the violence of others 2) the security of location 3) having not yet been seen as a target by criminals, due to the 2 previous points. 

  

Considering Vengeance and Pacifism

So what do we make of this passage? 

Rom 12:17-21 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Notice that this passage deals with revenge, not defense. In this passage God declares vengeance is his, not defense. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” As it is possible. As much as it is in your power, live peaceably. And what if it is not possible? Well, I guess one can move to a new neighborhood, city, etc., until one finds a place where one can live peaceably. One can move into the remote places of the earth where there is limited contact with others, and live peaceably. One can attempt to make one’s enemy one’s friend. There is a lot that this phrase “...as much as lieth within you...” can mean. Additionally, this sentence is preceded by a call to honesty. Peace and honesty go hand in hand. 

 Sneaking up behind someone to do them harm

Sneaking up behind someone to do them harm

“Avenge not yourselves”. This does not say, “Defend not yourselves”. Avenge implies the offending event or the act is over, and I should not go looking for the offender. The word avenge can mean justice. I am not to seek justice of myself, in a vengeance type of way. This is not implying one should not go to court. It is against the type of vigilantism that often pervades the mind and heart. The call here is for the Christian to care for one’s offender. Clearly if they offended they are in need. This caring is counter to the admonition against vengeance or revenge. The event is over, don‘t go looking for them to harm them, but to bless them. This passage does not speak of self defense, or defense of the defenseless, at all.

 

The beginning of Romans 13, verses 1-7, is an admonition to obey the law and submit to the law enforcers. The implication of these verses in their location immediately after the end of chapter 12 implies that 1) that revenge is against the law, and 2) that one’s offender has broken the law. In any case the call is for christians to transcend nominal model citizenship, and to reveal a kingdom heart of love in relatinship to all in one’s proximity. However, while Romans does speak about revenge, it says nothing about defense in the moment of offense. Romans also presume some level of morality and ethics upon the ruler it describes. However, this ruler (which would have been pagan Rome at the time) needs too be considered in light of God, Segregation, and Integration Part 1: Government and Politics. (the same consideration should be given to 1 Peter 2). Which brings us back to our opening passage:

 

 Jesus, Weaponry, and Defense

Luk 22:35-38 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords (machaira). And he said unto them, It is enough

 

Jesus opens this discussion asking the disciples about their needs of provision while he was with them. He never sent them to preach with a money bag (purse), Scrip (food pouch), or even proper clothing (shoes). He sound informs them that they will now need money bag, food punch, but he leaves off shoes. He then tells them to seel their garment and but a sword (machaira). 

His logic for this is that he is about to fulfill prophecy as the substitutionary sacrifice, and and then ascend and be absent from them. While he was with them, every single need of provision and protection was provided. When he leaves, they will need money to move about, they will need food to give them energy. The absence of shoes mentioned, as well as the admonition to sell the outer garment, indicates a lack of emphasis on material owned. Their money is for travel, room, and food. Their food is for their sustainence. They are not materialists, but missionaries. Their treasure is the gosepl, not wealth. But what of the machaira?  

 The figure on the right is a  machaira , designed for cutting, while the others are designed for stabbing. 

The figure on the right is a machaira, designed for cutting, while the others are designed for stabbing. 

“The word, machaira, means both “sword” and “knife.” In Genesis 27:40, Abraham raises a “knife” against his bound son. In Hebrew, that’s ma’achelet and in Greek translation, machaira. Though etymology is notoriously unreliable, the root shared between the Hebrew words ma’achelet(“knife”?) and ochel (“food”) suggests some connection between the knife and food. But even if there is a connection, a ma’achelet is surely not a butter knife. It’s a sharp blade that’s deadly enough to slaughter with. Furthermore, we also find machaira used to translate the Hebrew word cherev,“sword.” Returning to the New Testament (which offers better evidence about Greek, because the Greek in the Septuagint is often a poor translation), we find thatmachairais metaphorically the opposite of “peace,” in Matthew 10:34, for instance. And in John 18:10 — the passage about Jesus’s armed followers — one thing we know is that the weapon, amachaira,was carried in a sheath of some sort from which Simon Peter drew it.” (https://goddidntsaythat.com/tag/machaira/)

 A machaira...this is no butter knife.  

A machaira...this is no butter knife.  

Bible’s use of machaira when Jesus says “I came not to bring peace but a sword (machaira)” (Matthew 10:34), when coupled with Jesus’ instructing his disciples to buy machaira could lend one to think that Jesus is advocating aggressive violence. However, the dual meaning of machaira (knife/sword) does not lend to the thought of stockpiling weaponry for a great offensive or defenseive. When placed in the context of the question Jesus’ asks in Luke 22:35-38, the picture painted is of disciples moving throughout the ancient world on foot, carrying money, food, and a knife for the food which doubles as a sword for defense. Its primary function, and their primary orientation, was never violence, but preaching the gospel, healing the sick, raising the dead, etc.. They were not to be experts of war-craft, but ministers of the gospel. They were not seek revenge, or seek to build an army. However, with Jesus’ absence their provision and protection, according to the words of Jesus, is removed. He admonishes them to secure machaira for their travels. The disciples bring 2 machaira, and Jesus is satisfied. Notice that Jesus does not expect, in the versus above, for the disciples to carry the sword for Jesus’ defense. The sword is specifically spoken of by Jesus in relationship to the disciples being sent out. They are to have the sword, money pouch, and food bag as his missionaries (Apostles). He is about to fulfill prophecy concerning dying to pay the price for human sin, and will have no need of such. 

 Mat 26:51-56 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me. But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.

 Malcolm said “by any means necessary’; Martin practiced peaceful protest...  Both died by the sword

Malcolm said “by any means necessary’; Martin practiced peaceful protest...

Both died by the sword

Notice that, when used in defense of Jesus, when such use would have slowed or thwarted the fulfilling of his divine mission, Jesus tells Peter to put the sword away. However, Jesus does not rebuke Peter for having a sword. Jesus asserts that those who take the sword will perish with the sword. This, however, is not a statement of moral damnation, but of pragmatic consequence. More over, history reveals that even those who do not take the sword perish with or by the sword, so to make this a maxim for passivity when it was Jesus who instructed the purchase of swords by his disciples in the future when he is absent is unnecessarily.

Jesus continues his train of thought by saying that if he needed it, he could call to his father, who would send 12 legions of angels. A legion in Jesus’ day was made up of 5000 fighting men, making 12 legions 60,000 (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_legion). Given Biblical descriptions of angelic form (fiery seraphim and cherubim) and power, and given the overwhelming numberical superiority of such an army on Jesus’ current garden situation, if he wanted his freedom a divine flaming army was only call away. They would have utterly decimated the entire scene, and humanity would have been lost as the sacrificed would have been thwarted. In contrast to these angelic warriors,  Peter was a fisherman. His aim was poor: he only took Malchus’ ear. They only had two swords. Jesus didn't need a novice to rescue him. If he needed warrriors, the angelic army stood ready to aid him. 

Conclusion

So what are we to make of all this? 

The machaira was a knife doubling as a sword. It had daily use, and defensive use. When God appeared to Moses, and Moses complains that Israel will not believe God has sent him, God asked, “What is in thy hand”. Moses had a shepherd’s rod, and it was enough. Jesus tells the disciples to go and buy pouch, scrip, and sword. He knew they were unaccustomed having to provide for themselves, or protect themselves in his service while he was present. If we are to negate sword as a command of Jesus, then we should negate the money and food as well as a command of Jesus. They present two swords to him, and he said, “it is enough”.

 A Modern non-lethal type of  machaira   

A Modern non-lethal type of machaira  

 A modern, non-lethal type of   machaira  

A modern, non-lethal type of  machaira  

In todays crazy world of church and other public shootings, where it is the gun and not the sword that is society’s weapon of choice, is a Christian to sit and wait for divine legions to stop one from being robbed, assaulted, raped, etc? Is the Christian to do the same when one sees someone else being abused in like manner? No. Does the Bible give open-handed leeway for any and all forms of combat and weapon training for a believer? I do not think so. Is the Bible asking the believer to be untrained and unarmed, and simply to let evil men run amuck over one’s person, belongings, and loved one’s? Again, I think not. The Bible presents life without Jesus present as harrowing and dangerous. While we are to be on the roads of life bringing the gospel to all the world, we will need money to travel, food to eat, and a modern machaira. What that is for you is between you and the Lord, but having a machaira is a command of Jesus. Having nice clothes, cars, and homes is not. You need not go to far to aquire one. You need simply look at what is in your hand, and use it appropriately should circumstances arise. 

So, Christian, what is in your hand?

 

Comment

God, the Gospel, and Social Responsibility: Prophets and Apostles

Comment

God, the Gospel, and Social Responsibility: Prophets and Apostles

 Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

 1Co 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

 

The Prophets 

 The Prophet Noah

The Prophet Noah

The prophetic gift we find early in scripture. In Genesis 20, Abraham asks Sarah to not tell Abimelech that they are married, because Abraham is afriad for his life, that the Philistine do not know God, and will kill him and take Sarah. She agrees. Abimelech sees her and sends for her. The moment she enters into his house two things happen: his other wives could not conceive (Gen. 20:18), and he becomes impotent, as a divine prevention from being sexually intimate with Sarah (Gen. 20:6). God comes to him in a dream, and declares him a dead man for having another man's wife (Gen. 20:3). Abimilech declares his innocence (Gen. 20:5b), recounting to God that he was told by Abahram that Sarah was his sister (Gen. 20:5a), and asking God if He will punish an innocent nation (Gen 20:4). God tells him to return Sarah, and to ask Abraham to pray for him, since Abraham is a prophet. 

Let us consider somethings:  

  1. It is clear that the Philistines knew God, knew that adultery would make them guilty
  2. It is clear that Abimelech is innocent. 
  3. It is clear that God holds Abimelech responsible for a sin commited in innocence, and that the subsequent punishment for this sin is death. 
  4. It is clear that Abraham and Sarah Both assumed the Philistines did NOT know God, and lied to save their own skin. 
  5. It is clear that, in chapter 15, Abraham had a covenant with God which was a one-direction covenant: God made promises in blood, Abraham received them. Thus, since Abraham did not promise in blood, he is punishable for failure.  
  6. It is clear that God does no hold Abrhama punishable
  7. Despite Abraham’s clear breach of integrity and ethics, God refers to him as a prophet to the philistines.  

Why the inequality? This, to any normal reader, is a glaring injustice and favoritism. The reason is the difference in covenant. Abraham's, and by extension Sarah's covenant with God was based on grace, not human effort. Thus they are not held responsible. They are called to social ethics, but God is patient with them, since they never promised to be able to do anything for God. 

 The Prophet Elijah

The Prophet Elijah

Their descendants, when offered a chance to reratify the one-directional grace-based Abrahamic covenant with God (Exo. 19:3-6), choose instead a works-based covenant (Exo. 19:8; 24:3; 4-7; emphasis on "we will do"). This is legalism, and by being sprinkled by the blood in the covenantal signing, the nation of israel is esponsible on pain of death to perform riighteousnly. When they fail, they are punitively judged, and have prophets sent to them to point out their moral and ethical failures, calling them back to their word signed in blood to God. 

When considering the ancient world, the Bible is clear that God had a relationship with other nations: 

  1. The Amorites were on probation (Gen. 15:16, 18-21) 
  2. the Egyptians (Gen 12:17-20; 15:13-14) 
  3. the Philistines  (Gen. 20; 26:6-11)
  4. the cities of the plain, with Melchizedek as their priest (Gen. 14:17-24; Chapter 19)
  5. the nations around Israel are judged (Amos 1-2) 
  6. God declares he has performed multiple Exoduses (Amos 9:7)  
  7. Paul declare God has given all nations their appointed times, and the boundaries within which they are to exists (Acts 17:26)

The list could go on. In each case, God sent a prophet to the people to bring them back to righteousness, with punishments for failure following every single nation mentioned in scripture. Why these harsh punishments? Why is Abimelech held accountable unto death for a sin he didnt know he commited, the commital of which was instigated by the lie of another? It is because the Philistines, like all other nations, during their time with God opted for, or morphed into, a work-based covenantal relationship with God, where they well-intendingly promised to be righteous to God. As such, they are judged corporately as a nation. Thus, failure to perform rightsouenss, even when ignorant, was punishable by death of all (compare Gen. 20:4 and Joshua 7) , since "the wages of sin is death"

I submit therefore that a prophet’s function is to call a wayward legalistic and humanistic people back to their works-based covenant, back to the morals, ethics, and justice they assured God they were capable of doing and being. When failure or unwillingness to comply is presented, whether be the entire nation or by a single person (Gen. 20:4; Joshua 7), the prophet becomes a harbinger/messenger of divine judgment. It would seem that, for the common man, seeing the prophet was not a wonderful thing (1 Samuel 16:4). 

Point: Prophets, which we find predominantly in the Old Testament, minister to and among any people whose covenantal orientation toward God is one based on human performance of morals, ethics, and justice. The prophet’s function is the reiterate the covenants they made, calling them back to their word, or be either the mouthpiece or the hand of God in judgment. 

 

The Apostles

 A euro-interpretation of the 12 Apostles

A euro-interpretation of the 12 Apostles

While prophets dwindle, but do not disappear, in the New Testament  there is a message shift, and a new messenger is created. The Apostlic ministry begins. 

 

 The Apostles with Mary at the ascension of Jesus

The Apostles with Mary at the ascension of Jesus

Act 1:6-8 "When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghostis come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."

The beginning of the apostolic ministry is a correction in expectations. The apostles are starting from the wrong premise: the restoring of the earthly kingdom to their specific nation and ethnicity. They are starting prophetically. Their’s is a social justice request. However, Rome is unjust, oppressive, extortive, immoral, and cruel. Jesus corrects them. Jesus correct their expectation by telling them that it is not for them to know "the times and seasons". This phrase is first used in Daniel 2:21, where Daniel is praising God for revealing to him Nebuchadnezzar's statue dream and its interpretation. Daniel says of God...

 Dan 2:21 "...he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him."

Notice there pairing: 

  1. Changing times and seasons
  2. removing kings and setting up kings
  3. giving wisdom to the wise and understanding to them that know understanding
  4. revealing deep and secret things
  5. knowing what is in darkness and light dwells with him

 

Consider this: God knows the dark and mysterious reasons for why he changes times and removes kings, and he reveals this to the wise. God shines the light on other kings, appointing their season to rule, and give understanding as to the reason why to those who know understanding. 

Acts 17:26 says  "And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation"

God has appointed the time period for each kingdom, and their geographical location. If this location is expanded, God knows why.

Jesus in Acts 1 is telling the desciples that the time (Chronos) allotted to a kingdom/people, and the season (Kairos, the occasion, the spring/summer/fall/winter of a kingdom/nation/ethnos probation)  is in the God the Father's power alone. They are not to concern themselves with the setting up and overthrowing of kingdoms. 

What they were to be was witnesses for him, beginning in Jerusalem, and extended to the entire globe.  Witness is Martus, from where we get the word martyr. Jesus is clear that they will not experience justice. His believers are to be his martus, a record written in blood of the value of his kingdom to come, and of the evil of the wicked. This agrees with some previous statements jesus made:

 

 Isis Beheading

Isis Beheading

Mat 24:9-14,21,33 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come....For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be

 

Consider the notion of false prophets: is it simply if they speak against the gosepl? Or if they prophecy and it does not come true? If the prophet is specifically sent to those works-covenant peoples, to call them back to their promise to God, if the prophet is seen in the Old Testament as speaking to the rising and fall of nations (and if this is not the function of the apostle), then would not a false prophet be a prophet who speaks such a nationalistic, ethnocentric prosperity gospel contingent upon a modification of behavior? These may sound the same but they are not. The Gosepl is strictly fulfilled in the New Testament, under the new covenant. The prophet did not call people to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but pointed them to the gospel as a future experience which they could participate in by faith, through the sacrificial system. Since we live in the age of the apostle, under the new covenant, would not a false prophet be someone who preaches that God and gospel is on the side of an people group, or that nation, forgetting that all peoples and all nations are inherently evil, and in need of salvation? (The doctrine of discovery and the theory of manifest destiny seem apropos here). 

Joh 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. 

 

What is interesting about the apostolic ministry is its lack of singular ethno-national focus: it is not to specific ethnic groups or nations. It is to whomever will listen. Additionally, the apostle has nothing to say about social justice, or even corporate evil. The Apostle preaches the good news of Jesus'  incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and soon return, what all that means for the individual, offering the individual the Holy Spirit who will lead and guide one in morals and ethics: righteousness with God and righteousness with fellow man. 

The apostle has nothing to say about public policy, the apostolic church had nothing to say about social justice as it relates to laws and governmental politics. They were aware of social injustice, and so far as was in their power they lived to behave socially ethical, moral and responsible. 

The apostle preaches the kingdom of God being present, but still in the future. Within this dichotomy the apostle informs the believer to expect privation, suffering, persecution, injustice. The apostle’s job is not to reform the status quo, but to call out a people whose lives are to be made in stark contrast to the established order: who live a nobler ethos, more righteous morals, whose justice is merciful, who live by love, relate by forgiveness, and care by sacrificing. 

 

Considering Ellen G. White.

Ellen G. White in considered the authority for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She is considered the prophetic voice. Her writings are called the Spirit of Prophecy (a claim which I consider theological hyperbole). Did Ellen G. White consider herself a prophet? 

 "I have had no claims to make, only that I am instructed that I am the Lord's messenger; that He called me in my youth to be His messenger, to receive His word, and to give a clear and decided message in the name of the Lord Jesus...

"Why have I not claimed to be a prophet?--Because in these days many who boldly claim that they are prophets are a reproach to the cause of Christ; and because my work includes much more than the word 'prophet' signifies. . . .my work has covered so many lines that I cannot call myself other than a messenger, sent to bear a message from the Lord to His people, and to take up work in any line that He points out." Review and Herald, July 26, 1906, reprinted in Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 31-35

 "I did not claim to be a prophetess. ... I have never assumed that title. My work includes much more than this name signifies. I regard myself as a messenger, entrusted by the Lord with messages for His people" (Letter 55, 1905; quoted in Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 35, 36).

 

I would like to consider a few points based on her self-perspectives and the Bible: 

  1. EGW considered herself more than a church pastor, evidenced by the authority she exercised in rebuke and exhortation, as she also considered herself more than a prophet.
  2. The highest credential the SDA church has ever had is pastoral ordination credentials
  3. Ephesians and Corinthians are both clear that, if there is a hierarchy, apostle and prophet outrank pastor-teacher, even as pastor-teacher outranks tongues and interpretation of such.
  • Eph 4:11 And truly He gave some to be apostles, and some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers 
  • 1Co 12:28 And God set some in the church, firstly, apostles; secondly, prophets; thirdly, teachers, then works of power, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, kinds of languages.

Therefore, based on the her own words that her work includes much more than this name (prophet) signifies, and based on the lists of Ephesians and 1 Corinthians, if there is a hierarchy to the gifts, apostle outranks prophet...Ellen White is an apostle. 

The SDA church, acknowledging the gifts God had given Ellen White, had to credential her with something. However, they did not create a credential for her based on her gifting. They simply made her "one of the guys", giving her pastoral grdentials. In order for her to be credentialed like "one of the guys", her gifts needed to be at least 2 grades (more than a prophet) higher than her peers.

It is alleged by some that she didn't "accept" the formal pastoral ordination. I suspect she realized that the church and culture to which she belonged didn't have one equal to her anointing and calling. Ellen White was credentialed by God, and that credential was the Holy Ghost. Her anointing and ministry (preaching, teaching, counseling, writing, etc.) far surpassed that of her ministerial peers, and so they had to at least make her "one of the guys". Any credentialing done should have been according to gifting, yet the church simply credentialed her as an ordained minister, the same as her ministerial peers, while we currently "commission" women, a "lesser" credential than their male peers. So they recognized her gifts (more than a prophet), they simply didn't credential her accordingly (equal with a pastor), because if her gifts outrank the president’s and pastors (an ordained pastor), she becomes the ordaining authority in the church. If credentialing is to be hierarchied (ordination over commissioning), then it should be based on gifting (more than prophetic over pastoral). 

What’s more, we have used Ellen White prophetically (legalistically), instead of apostolic-ly. We have used her in relationship to rules, regulations, church policy, compliance, in engaging in our interest in Daniel and Revelation and other doctrinally distinctions, and for debate. However, a careful reading of her writings reveals that she prophetic and apostolic. Her support of rightouensss by faith in Jesus as a fundamental, as well as her most significant books being about Jesus, testify to this truth. That we tend to focus one of her writings, the Great Controversy, is demonstrative not of her myopathy to legalism, but ours. 

 

Summary: There is a fundamental difference between the ministry of prophets and apostles. The Old Testament is the age of the prophet. The Prophets function was to call a rebellious, self-righteous, Old Covenant oriented people (tribe, nation, etc.) back to the works based covenant they had made with God. This covenant was based on law and obligation placed upon humans to conform to the law, with blessings for conformity and curses for failure. The prophet was therefore considered many times a harbinger of bad news (1 Samuel 16:4; 1 Kings 22:7-8). The prophet is often sent to kings, who act as head and mouthpiece of a nation, to rebuke, chastise, etc. ( 1 Samuel 13:11-14; 1 Samuel 15; 1 Samuel 17:1; 18:17-18) The New Testament is the age of the apostle. The solely interested in the death and resurrection of Jesus, in the formation of the church as the human focal point of ethics and morals is degredated world. Apostles have nothing to say to to the political institutions, to legislation, etc. They do not seek to infiltrated, influence, or manipulate them at all. Apostles speak to the lost and the weak. 

There are prophets in the New Testament, even in the book of Revelation. Their function is always to speak truth to power. The prophet simply points people back to their failures under the works based covenant, tells them of God’s displeasure and judgment, and calls them to fulfill their obligation They do not have an empowering function. Prophets speak to the pagan. The prophet calls one to pefect legalism. Apostles seeks to save the pagan, by preaching the grace of Jesus. Empowerment is the preview of the apostle under the new covenant, with the advent of the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The apostle calls one out of legalism, not to perfected legalism. 

Comment

God and Social Responsiblity in the New Testament: Ethics and Justice

Comment

God and Social Responsiblity in the New Testament: Ethics and Justice

After 400 years of silence, God finally spoke again to Israel. 

 

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Hag 2:6-7 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the Desire of All Nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.

Joh 1:1-3,14 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made....And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."

Heb 1:1-2 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,

In the past, God had spoken to them about social justice. Why? Because they had decided they desired a work-based covenant with God (Exodus 19, 24). As such, social justice demands were placed upon them when they failed to be moral, ethical...righteous. Social justice demands were placed upon the kingdom and government of the nation of Israel for them to enforce morals and ethics, in accordance with the nations claims to works-based righteousness.

 Daniel’s 70-week/years prophecy, as part of a larger 2300 day/years prophecy

Daniel’s 70-week/years prophecy, as part of a larger 2300 day/years prophecy

The prophet Daniel had declared that this nation had 490 years (70 weeks of days =490 years) to fulfill their obligation to God, as his chosen people. Daniel prophesied that they were to bring about everlasting righteousness and anoint the Most Holy. Then he said that the Messiah would confirm the covenant with them for 1 week. They were still the chosen people of God by virture of the the Sinaitic covenant of works for righteousness, which they made with God in accordance with their ignorance and arrogance and not God’s intention (see Exodus 19-24; Hebrews 8; Also see “God Gospel and Social Responsibility in the Old Testament: Ethics and Justice”, “God, Segregation and Integration Parts 1 and 2 ), and more importantly by virtue of the Abrahamic covenant which secure them as the people through which the Messiah, his life and message would come to bless all the world. 

Jesus' inaugural sermon captured all their hopes and dreams :

 

Luke 4:18-19 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

If he had been in an Old Testament Theocratic government, he would have actually been delivering captives, but he didn't. His cousin, John the Baptist, is an apropos example of a prisoner not being delivered...he was beheaded. Freedom to the bruised...everyone Jesus met was not made free, even though they may have been bruised. He certainly did preach the gospel to the poor, but what was the gospel he preached, and what was the gospel they were expecting? What is the exceptable year of the Lord?

 

Jesus and Jubilee: Ethics and Justice

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The Acceptible Year of the Lord is the Jubilee year. In the Old Testament Theocratic Israel, every 50th year was a year of release, of freedom, and restoration. All debts were cancelled, land and property was returned to its origina owner. Israelite in debt-servitude (indentured servants) to other Israelites were given their freedom. However, sadly there is no biblical evidence that this practice ever took place in Israel.

When Jesus comes, he proclaims the Jubilee. His words would have been immediately recognizable by the hearers, who suffered under Roman oppression, who longed for release from 2nd class conquered citizenship, and for a return to the former Israelite ethno-theocratic Glory.

Unfortunately, Jesus' other words do not speak of their interpretation of His jubilee. They expected physical freedom. Here is what Jesus said: 

 

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Mat 5:38-42 "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust...Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."

Mar 12:17"And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him."

Notice Jesus' command to "be perfect", to "love your enemies". This is contrary to what they had been taught, to what they desired. They had bee taught,  "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth", and this was based on a legal view of a legalist Old Covenant. The Old covenant basically focuses on righteousness promissed and performed by humans, and the justice demanded when righteousness was not performed as promised. Now consider this: at no time during their history was the Hebrew nation ever a righteous nation in a relationship to the works-based covenantal-promise they made to God at Sinai. They had beeen given 490 years to fulfill this promise, to keep this covenant. They had tried,  and had consistently failed. Daniel stated "he will confirm the covenant with many for one week..."(Daniel 9:27) Jesus, in reinterpreting the law and commanding them to “...be ye therefore perfect...”, is in actuality confirming the covenant they made God by expecting it of them, and yet revealing that righteoueness is far beyond their own effort and reach. His sermon on the mount is a New Testament Sinai, and he is speaking the practical application of holiness, which they have never and of themselves can never fulfilled. He does not speak this in terms of power, but in terms of powerlessness, humility, and love, which the law of Sinai does not create..

He speaks this way to them, and not in a ethno-nationalistic way, because he is concerned with the covenant. They are under Roman rule due to national unrighteousness. The Sinai Covenant states that blessings come upon the righteous, and curses upon the wicked. That they are a conquered people is evidence of their and/or their ancestors wickedness, and thus are living under the divine punishment of a people in a works-based covenant with God. Jesus comes to not only confirm this covenant with them, but to introduce them to the New Covenant, to the non-nationalistic, multicultural, intercultural direction God prophecied to Abraham and always intended for humanity: “In you shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18;26:4)

Nowhere in Jesus ministry does a earthly ethnoi-theocratic aim, intent, or message reveal itself in word or methodology. Yes, he healed the sick, and when the people saw it they envisioned a Jewish army unstopped by injury. Yes, he raised the dead, and they envisioned a Jewish army unincumbered by death. He fed thousands, and they thought they could have a Jewish army fully fed. He calmed the sea, and they recognized even the nature itself would be on their side. He cast out demons, and they knew that there was nothing on earth to stop their return to former ethno-national glory. Yet, he fulfilled none of these ethno-national theocratic dreams. None of his sermons were politically revolutionary. He was not a Muslim radical, a Ku Klux Klan member, a pro-Israel Evangelical, not even a Black Panther. In fact, when brought before the politcal power of his time Jesus says this: 

 Jesus before Pilate

Jesus before Pilate

Joh 18:36-37 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

In affirming that his kingdom is not of this world, Jesus declares that his aims are not driven or hindered by earthly constraints or interests. When he fed thousands, healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, and calmed the storm, he was not aiming at social justice reform of the ruling government. He was addressing the social ethic of his people, of those within his immediate sphere if influence.

Everyone can practice social ethics. Not everyone in this fallen world will recieve social justice. Jesus himself did not recieve social justice. He actually tells his diciscples that, because of him, they will recieve social injustice:

 

Luk 21:12 But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought beforekings and rulers for my name's sake.

 

Joh 15:18-20 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

 

Joh 16:33These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Contrary to popular opinion, while Jesus was for social ethics and social activity in the lives of his community, not only does he not preach or work for social justice with the state, or from a legislative or political standpoint, but he actually promises that, when one is his follower, one can count on NOT receiving socia justice, and one should NOT EXPECT social justice from fallen governments.

Actually, when Jesus went head to head with anyone, it was never with the secular political and governmental powers of Rome. On the contrary, Jesus locked horns with his own Jewish people , particularly the Jewish elite, the Sanhedrin. When Jesus was angered by the social economic injustice perpetuate by those who dared to call the name of God (Luke 19:45; John 2:14-15), who dared to claim Abraham as their father (John 8:33), and who boasted in the law, Jesus flipped tables twice (luke 19:45; John 2:14-15), used a whip on them once (john 2:14-15), called them blind guides (Matthew 23:16, 24), children of the devil (John 8:44).

Jesus' application of Jubilee in the context of first century Judaea carried with it none of the earthly political, liberation messages the people were looking for. Jesus didn't give the people a message that would empower them to over-throw the Romans and set them up as the political military and economic superpower of the then known world (social justice). He gave them a message of how to actually live ethical, moral lives within a structure of subjugation. He gave them a message on how to be resilient without hatred. Even his declaration, "my kingdom is not of this world...if it were my servants would fight," reveals 2 things: 1) he has an actual, literal kingdom, and 2) it is not earthly.

Jesus prayed "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6). In other places he says things like, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). The immediacy of the kingdom of heaven would lead one to consider a physical and/or legislative political activity, and yet Jesus does not give his servants permission to fight using either tool. Jesus brings the good news of the reign of God, and this reign was to manifest itself in the lives, the living, of his followers. It was not to manifest in armies, military victorys, economic and infrastructure strategies, or political machinations. Everything about Jesus and his kingdom, God's kingdom, was about the heart. It was about dematerilaizing, destabilizing the status quo by converting the people to an alternative moral ethic...a spiritual one.

 

Acts, Ethics, and Justice

 Joh 20:22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, ReceiveyetheHoly Ghost

This is the disciples receiving the Holy Ghost before Pentecost, before the crucifixion. What were the results of this breathing the Holy Spirit into them into them before pouring the Holy Spirit upon them?

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  1. Gender Integration: In the Jewish system, the woman sat on one side of the worship, and the men sat on another. In the Temple, the women had their own court to pray and worship in, separate from the men. Even today among Orthodox Jews, an synagogue is considered establishable when there are 10 men present, not 10 persons.(http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10865-minyan). In contrast to this masculine hedgemony, Acts 1:14 says, "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren".
  1. Ethnic Inclusion begins: while he was not actually voted in, Jospeh Barsabas Justus was nominated to take Judas' place. He is a half jew: his last name is of latin origin, meaning his father was arguably a Greek or Roman. This ethnic inclusivity continues with the voting in of the 7 deacons (Stephen, Philip, Prochorus,, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicholas the Proselyte of Antioch), 5 of who are half jew, and 1 is an actual proselyte (convert to Judaism). It continues in the care of the greek widows of the fledgining church. 
  2. Sacrificial Giving: While the giving happened post-pentacost, it is not the result of an outpouring of spiritual power, but by an indwelling of spiritual presence. This indwelling is symbolized by Jesus breathing on his disciples (John 20:22), and it manifested in a mindset of sacrificial giving for those who had less within the community (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37; 6:1-7). These sacrificial attitudes and actions were so prevalent that "a great company of priests" joined the faith.  

The three major divisions at that time, gender, ethnicity, and economic classism, begin to be hammered away through the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost in the community. It should be of note that sexism, racism/ethnocentrism and nationalism, and materialism and greed are equally the problems plaguing the church right now...but I digress.

 Pater and John before the Sanhedrin

Pater and John before the Sanhedrin

Throughout the entire book of Act we see this social ethic taking place. What we do not see in the first 7 chapters of the book, in the majority of the book, is an appeal to social justice. On the contrary, we see the church resilient, growing, and strong in the face of opposition. The believers are mocked (Acts 2:13), arrested (4:3), threatened (4:17-21), arrested (5:17-20), beaten and threatened (5:40-42), and killed (7:54-8:1). At no time do we find them appealing or requesting social justice. They were the recipients of social injustice, and it was this injustice that actually spread the gospel away from Jerusalem, to Judaea, to Samaria, and beyond (Acts 1:8). They praised God for the injustice, as they saw it as a badge of honor to be able to suffer for Jesus (5:40-42). This model is followed throughout the entire book of Acts, with one exception. At the close of the book, Paul decides to appeal to Roman emperor for justice (Acts 25:10). This is the first instance of an appeal to social justice by a Christian. 

In brief explanation, God had revealed to Paul that while he was in captivity “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome”  (Acts 23:10). However, after being held without trial, and the wheels of grinding toward seemingly almost halting, Paul appeals to Caesar. God never told him how he was going to get to Rome, and thus Paul took the initiative to appeal to the societal justice power source of his day, out of human frustration, and I submit in an attempt to move forward the promise of God. 

Paul, Ethics, and Justice

Paul has some challenging statements in considering this notion of a christian’s relationship to the state. He declares that the king is ordained by God, and anyone who resists the king resist God (Romans 13:1-7). This should be viewed in the greater context of how the Bible presents pagan kings being used by God to maintain order, to punish the wicked,  and contain/restrain the greater evils of humanity (see God, Segregation, and Integration part 1: Government and Politics). 

Paul rebukes his people for failing to act ethically and thus needed to seek justice outside of the church for injuries within the church community (1 Corinthians 6:5-7). His rebuke continues, as he is aware of the unethical relationship between a male member and his step-mother, and the church's silence on this moral failure, which even the gentiles find unethical (5:1-2). The rest of the book of 1 Corinthians is an ethical and moral treatise for christian behavior, not for social activism. 

Actually most of Paul's writing is ethically and morally oriented toward the church. In Philippians he acknowledges that Christians should be more ethical and moral, so as to be seen as sons of God, shining as lights in a crooked and perverse nation (Phil. 2:15). This letter is to the church in the very town where Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in jail unjustly, and sang the jail open (Act 16:16-40). 

The Book of 1st Thessalonians is a book of encouragement to the saints who have experienced social injustice and persecution for the sake of Christ. There is no call for social justice by Paul, but rather an admonition and encouragement toward gospel social ethics and resilience in the face of persecution, with the promised hope of Jesus' return.  

2nd Thessalonians,  a book which promises more persecution, is a book priming the believers to trust in the final judgment of God and to remain firm in their ethics, morals and faith in the face of injustice.

 

Paul and Philemon 

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Philemon is arguably the most social-oriented book written by Paul when considering the interplay of social ethics versus social justice. Philemon is the owner of Onesimus (Philemon 15-16). Onesimus is a slave who ran away (Philemon 15). It is believed Onesimus stole from Philemon (Philemon 18). Somehow Onesimus finds himself with Paul in Rome in prison (Philemon 10), and is converted to Christianity (Philemon 10). Here is the challenge for us today: despite the fact that "who the Son sets free is free indeed" (John 8:36), or these other verses (I proof-text intentionally),

2Co 3:17 Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 

Gal 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage,

...Paul sends Onesimus back to bondage. Why? and more importantly, why did Onesimus return, if the gosepl, the inaugural Luke 4:18-19 declaration of Jesus himself, is designed to give earthly freedom? According to Roman law, Onesimus was not free. To declare him such based on Christianity would have made Christianity a seditious movement, worthy of violent extermination. Spartacus comes to mind, as do the Zealots of Judaea, who consider and attempt freeing people without the establishments consent, and outside the established order. If Onesismus is walking around free, and basing it on Christanity, the church would truely have been seen as a rival kingdom, aiming to take Caesar from the throne. Death would have been the solution. Additionally, as an assumed thief, he could have been jailed on sight, and Philemon could have had him killed. 

Paul sends Onesimus back, but he has certain expectations of Philemon. Paul asserts that Philemon owes him (Paul) his soul, arguably because Philemon was converted to Christianity through Paul. Then Paul says that Onesimus is his son, born by Paul during his imprisonment. Paul informs Philemon that he would have kept Onesimus with him, to minister to him as Philemon's proxy. Paul instructs Philemon to love Onesimus like a brother. These instructions to not overturn the structure of the status quo, but its application. Paul is appealing to Philemon's honor as a Christianity. The system may not be overturned, but hearts can be. The system may say "this (human) is your property”, but Paul says "here is your brother". One should not treat family like property. 

Philemon will be challenging for social justice warriors in America, who seek to use the New Testament  to justify overturning systems by legislation, vote, or violence. Neither Jesus, the apostles, nor Paul (excepting Acts 25:10) can be see as advocating any form of expectation in relationship to social justice from the state. What is expected is for the Christianity to behave with gospel social ethics, regardless of the system in place. 

 

Reflecting on Revelation 

 Jesus receives the scroll., the church gets more time

Jesus receives the scroll., the church gets more time

All of the writings of the New Testament carry the same gospel social ethic for the church, but no expectation is given the believer for social justice from the state. Even Revelation either encourages good ethics and morals, or rebukes for bad ethics and morals, with a call to resilience in the face of persecution.

The 7 churches are written to address the ethics and morals of the church, with chapter 4 being the juxtaposition of a holy God against them. Chapter 5 is God's solution to the churches' ethical and moral failures: he gives Jesus the scroll, and the church gets more time.

 Angels holding back the winds of strife, symbolized by a horse of the apocalypse, unbelievers get more time

Angels holding back the winds of strife, symbolized by a horse of the apocalypse, unbelievers get more time

Chapter 6 is dealing with the non-christian world, which starts out looking like Christ (but not being like him) and descend quite rapidly into looking like a demon. Chapter 7 is God's solution for failure on the part of the non-churched: he will hold backs the winds of strife, giving more time for pagans to be saved. This saved are the 144,000, the symbolic number of the actualy innumerable multitude.

 The sanctuary as seen through Jesus’ prayer in Mattthew 6. 

The sanctuary as seen through Jesus’ prayer in Mattthew 6. 

Chapter 8-9 demonstrate God's movement of pagan kingdoms to punish other wicked kingdoms, in line with God's movement in the Old Testament. Chapter 10-11:3 reveals God's answer to them as well: God will cause the church to prophesy again, using the sanctuary as the model of teaching pagans about the love of God, the sacrifice of Jesus, , the way made for a higher order of ethics in their life becasue of the Justice provided by Jesus at Calvary (the altar), and the justice that will be provided on Judgment Day (priest exiting temple on day fo Atonement). 

 The Revelation 12 war in heaven, post ascension, which Satan’s final eviction.

The Revelation 12 war in heaven, post ascension, which Satan’s final eviction.

Chapter 11:3f reveals one nation’s response to God's movements, and that is to absolutely reject him.

Chapter 12 is a quick sweep of history, from the incarnation of Christ, through the post-ascension war in heaven, through the migration of the church from the mediteranian and surrounding Europe-Middle Eastern-African continents which John is familiar with, to the Western Hemisphere. It is movement through geography and time. The last verse of the chapter describes the final people fo God, who while being worthless (remnant of her seed) are moved upon by his Spirit (Spirit of prophecy), and thus created into his image (keeping the commandment of God). Their ethics and morals (keeping the commandments) are the result of God's grace (Spirit of prophecy), because they themselves are morally bankrupt (remnant of her seed).

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Chapter 13 addresses 2 powers, a government which acts like a church (sea beast), and then a very young government which is draconianly unjust and abusive from its inception (lamb-like beast). This second political entity creates a global governmental third entity (a land look-alike of the sea beast), causes all to worship it and the previous government acting like a church (the sea beast), instituting the mark of the beast, subjecting all who worship the true God to poverty, persecution, and death. It should be noted that the lamb-like beast manages to bring about the unification all of humanity in rebellion against God and in abuse of fellow humans, the exact unification which brought about the flood and the Tower of Babel.

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Chapter 14 is God's final call to the world, which is his response to the whole world wondering after and worshipping a fallen government and religion. It is also the preparation of the 7 last plagues, which seem to originate in the earth itself: the harvest of grapes from the earth is the condensation of human evil trod in the wine press, by pressing out the iniquity of pagans into the streets, which rises up to the bridle of horses. Chapter 15 is the distribution of the pure, uninhibited condensation of the wickedness of humanity back upon humantity, 7 last plagues, into the hands of the angels responsible for its pour. Chapter 16 is the pouring out of the 7 last plagues upon humanity.

 Great White Throne Judgment Seat

Great White Throne Judgment Seat

Chapter 17 is the identity of the final government at the end of chapter 13 (it is not Rome, but the image to the beast, a Rome-look alike) and the apostate protestant church controlling it (protestant America).Chapter 18 is this global and ecumenical world order’s judgment for unrighteousness: social injustice, lack of ethic, and immorality. 

Chapter 19 deals with the second coming, chapter 20 the thousand year silence on earth and the final judgment and destruction of evil.

Chapter 21 and 22 present us with the New Heaven, the New Earth, and the New Jerusalem.

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At no time during this book are God's people called to work with the state to enact social justice. God's people are called to social ethics, morals, resilience, suffering, sacrifice, etc., but never to expect social justice. God holds pagan kingdoms accountable for failures at social justice and ethics, reviews his movements to chastise them with other kingdoms, and postpones the second coming to ensure they have a chance to understand him via the sanctuary model, so that they may recieve the seal of God. 

Summary:  Contrary to popular or wishful belief, there is no evidence of social justice movements directed at any injustice of a political or governmental power in the New Testament. On the contrary, Christians are called to live the gospel of social and moral ethics and responsiblity, and thus become better citizens without civil rights than the citizens with civil rights. Social responsibility is the Christian privilege and responsiblity becasue of Jesus Christ. We are called to be social ethical and responsible with all the means given to us, toward our friends and family, as well as our enemies, knowing the Jesus is justice and mercy for the righteous and the unrighteous. We are called to resilience, to an unbreakable faith, unbreakable conviction, inextinguishable love for all mankind. The challenge is this: western countries have often made the claim to Christianity, thus giving hope that they will behave Christianly, and when they fail to do so those who believed them prophetically protest the injustice. Isn't it interesting that the New Testament is inundated with Apostles, teachers, preachers, etc. but is quite limited on Prophets, while the Old Testament is full of the prophetic voice? Having said that, it is also interesting that the Revelation 10 speaks of prophesying again to the kingdoms who have failed. Thus, there. Is a prophetic role to play in the New Testament, New Covenant era. However, just because one prophecies again to different ethno-cultural-National groups, such a prophecy 1) does not expect justice from said works- based entities, and 2) one is to prophecy through the sanctuary model. This type of OT social justice prophesying paradigm is designed to point works-based rebel to the apostlic ministry, with its kingdom of God and Social responsiblity in the face of continued face of social, civil, and moral injustice. 

Comment

God and Social Responsibility in the Old Testament: Ethics and Justice

Comment

God and Social Responsibility in the Old Testament: Ethics and Justice

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Recently a new organization stood up among North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists (NADSDA), as a response to the revelatory footage on social media, of cops killing unarmed blacks: Adventist for Social Justice (ASJ). This organization is greatly needed, in that the NAD and the General Conference (GC) in general has been quite slow, if at all, to speak out against or move toward rectifying social injustice. The popular arguments say things like "this is not our mission", "we need to preach the 3 angels message", "we are not to get embroiled in politics", and the like. To those who suffer under the weight of systemic injustice in this nation, such answers no longer suffice. I ardently support Adventist for Social Justice. 

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However, what is needed from the ASJ is a clear theology of the gospel of social responsibility, articulate from a SDA perspective. Given that such theology is below spares among Adventist literature, it is understandable that SDA pastors and activitsts would reach for the theology of our non-SDA black christian counterparts, whose theology is firmly established is ideas like the beloved community, the divine ordination of the king and government by God's, and the like. Such theology uses Old Testament paradigms and passages to reveal that the God of the Bible is the God of justice, of the oppressed. This, while well-intended, is problematic. Such positions tend to assume that the kingdom of God can be realized in any government hear on earth, and can be ligislated by fallen humans. 

 

Social Ethics and Social Justice before Exodus

Post-fall, we know that the world was destroyed by the flood for rampant abuse of fellow-humans (See God, Segregation, and Integration: Politics and Government). We know that post-flood the people were separated and segregated due to rampant fellow humans abuse and all out rebellion against God (see Ibid.)  There is also evidence pre-exodus of ethical knowledge and expectations:

Genesis 4: Cain is unethical for murdering his brother

Genesis 9: Noah's drunkenness is described unethically, as is Ham's laughing at his father

Genesis 12, 20, 26, 39: Lying is considered unethical, as is sleeping with another's wife

Genesis 18, 19: It is unethical to be inhospitable, hostpiality is highly valued 

 Moses kills an Egyptian for beating a fellow Hebrew (radical social justice), and then must flee into exile. 

Moses kills an Egyptian for beating a fellow Hebrew (radical social justice), and then must flee into exile. 

Genesis 19:1-9: A same-sex lifestyle is considered unethical, especially the threat of rape toward Lot. 

Genesis 27, 29-30: Lying and manipulation are considered unethical

Genesis 34: Sexual activity before marriage is considered unethical (Dinah was not raped), as is murder

Genesis 37: Selling someone into slavery is presented as unethical

Genesis 38: Being a whore is presented as unethical, as is sleeping with one's daughter-in-law

Genesis 44: Stealing is presented as unethical

Exodus 1: Mudering children, enslaving ones neighbors or workers, is presented as unethical

Exodus 2: Murdering an oppressor is presented as unethical 

 

Social Ethics, Social Justice, and Covenant

Up to this point in the Bible, there has been no social justice claims made by God's patriarchs to the kingdoms within which they lived. No social justice movements. Moses murdering the guard could be seen as a social justice movement, which does not do anything for his people a that time. The Exodus event was a divine social justice movement. The people were instructed to follow and depend upon God, and Moses was sent ot Pharoah to tell him God said let the people go. It should be noted that the command to free the hebrews if always followed by the why of worship and service (Exodus 5:1, 3; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3.). they were freed from the bondage for the purpose of serving the only one worthy of worship. Divine social justice and liberation was not about freedom for freedom sake, but freedom for intimacy with God. Nothing of this social justice liberation movement concluded human protesting, warfare, lisglative debate or legislation passing. The entire movement originated with, was orchestrated by, and served the purpose of God alone.  

 

The Abrahamic Covenant

 The Abrahamic covenant was a unilateral covenant. 

The Abrahamic covenant was a unilateral covenant. 

When we speak of social responsiblity as social ethics and and social justice in the Old Testament, we must take into consideration covenant. Coventant is similar to a contract, but much more intimate. Covenantal promises in the Bible can be found in Genesis 3 and the promsie of the Seed to kill the serpent, and Genesis 9 (Noah-ic) with God's rainbow of promise to never destroy the world again by a flood. The next significant covenant can be found in Genesis 15. Here God is promises Ahraham that God will make him a great nation, as the stars of heaven. 

The covenant signing ceremony during this time required blood. God instruct Abraham to gather and kill the sacrificial offerings, splitting each animal (except dove and pigeon) , and placing them all on opposing Sigue's, so that their blood ran into a small ditch dug for the occasion (Genesis 15:9-10). This covenant was designe between a superior and an subordinate, with the subordinate usually being the one who walks through the blood, between the flesh, symbolizing that if he breaks the promise may his life be forfeit like the animals before him. However in this passage, God does something different: 

 

"And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him...And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram,..." Gen. 15:12, 17-18a

 When the time came to walk through the blood, thus obligating one to fulfill all promises made, God put Abrhama to sleep. Then God (smoking furnace) and God (burning torch) walking through the blood and animals. God staked Their very existance on Their ability to fulfill Their promise to Abraham. Abraham signed nothing. This covenant was one direction: God to humanity. HUmanity didnt promise god anything. Since humanity was not responsibility, humanity could not get the glory for success, nor punishment for failure or digression from the plan. God was responsible for all. This covenant was ratified with Isaac (Gen 26:1), and Jacob (Gen. 28;12-15; 31:3; 32:1). 

 

The Sinaic Covenant

At Sinai, however, things changes.  After the Exodus event, Israel is brought to Sinai, God wanting to establish his covenant with them. 

 

"Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." Exo. 19:4-6

Notice that God's opening statement is about what he has already done for them. They could free themselves, and they did not assist God in gaining their freedom. God continues by stating, that becaus of his past actions, he asks them to obey his voice. In order to obey a voice, one must know the voice. This presumes a relationship, and a very intimate one. Additionally, God asked them to keep His covenant. This presumes they already have His covenant. The only covenant they had up to this point, which directly affect them as a people, is the one directional, grracebased covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, where God alone holds Themself responsible for accomplishing the promises...humans promise nothing, can do not, are held responsible for nothing. If they agree to the terms of the original Abrahamic covenant the Bible says they will be a peculiar people to God, above all the people of the earth, for all the earth is his. This is a spiritually and historically loaded statement. God is in essence reveal that he as had a relatioship with all nations, and that this grace based covenant with israel was to be the defining differentiator between them and all other nations. In being such a grace-based people, this would qualify all for the holy priesthood: man, female, old, young...all peoples, in all the tribes, not just Levi. 

How do the people respond? Do they want a grace-based relationship, or do they feel they are capable of holiness? 

 

 Exo 19:8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken WE will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.

Exo 24:3 And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will WE do. 

 The Sinaitic covenant was signed on stone, as witness against the people, instead of placed in the heart.

The Sinaitic covenant was signed on stone, as witness against the people, instead of placed in the heart.

That is 2 strikes. What follows is the modified covenant signing ceremony. Moses writes down everything from Exodus 20-24 in the book of the covenant. Moses gets 70 elders, 5 from each tribe. Each tribe erects a pillar or standard for their tribe. Moses assigned young meant to offer sacrifices. He sprinkled 1/2 the blood on the later, and the other 1/2 he placed in bowls. He read the book of the covenant to them again, which included the 10 commandments of chapter 20...

 

"...and they said, All that the LORD hath said will WE do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words." (Exo. 24:7b-8)

Three times they promised "WE will do". The 3rd time they were sprinkled with the blood. Neither Abraham, Isaac, nor Jacob entered into a blood covenant with God, where they were responsible. What God wanted was for Israel to say, "Yes, we will keep the covenant as it was given to us by our forefathers (grace-based). Thank you". Instead they said, "WE will do". This means that all responsibility for holiness and justice they have taken upon themselves to perform. This is the Old Covenant Paul talks about in the New Testament, and this is why. This is the Old Covenant Jesus came to overturn. 

In making such a promise, the Jews turned the grace-covenant God was bring into works-based covenant they were promising to accomplish. Does the Bible agree with this assertion? Read for yourself:

 Eze 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and anew spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

 2Co 3:6-11 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glorywas to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.

 Gal 4:21-26 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

Heb 8:6-10 But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people

 

Here we see that Covenant at Sinai is liken to a heart of stone, a ministry of condemnation and death, being married to  slave and having her offspring, because it is a covenant established on faulty promises. Thus, because its promises were faulty, it needed to be superceded and removed by a covenant based on sure promises. Since God cannot lie, and his word is sure, we know he didnt promise anything faulty at Sinai. This means the fault lies with the promises of the people: "WE will do"

 

As it relates to ethics and morals, look as this commandment...is it a command or a promise:

 Exo 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 

Taken as it reads, it can be taken either way. If one is in a grace-based covenant with God, it is a promise; if a human work and respondsibility-based covenant, it is a command. If it is grace-based, social ethics are the result of a relationship with God, while social justice is God's domain. However, if it is human works-based, social ethics are commands of God, and social justice in the responsibility of humanity. 

 

The Fallout

Every single other people group had the same covenant with God, this is why every other ancient religion, no matter how similar to Judaism, is works-based designed to either appease of please the God. As such, social justice is required of them. I submit that all social justice expectations, and punishments for failure, are placed upon those peoples who claimed to be able to be holy and just. This assertion assumes 2 questions can be answered: 

Question 1: Is there evidence that God had relationships with other nations?

Yes there is evidence that God had relationship with other nations, outside of the Hebrews: 

 Amos 1-2 deal with God addressing different nations for their failure to fulfill requirements specific to them. Evidence that God had a relatioship with those outside of Hebrews.  

Amos 1-2 deal with God addressing different nations for their failure to fulfill requirements specific to them. Evidence that God had a relatioship with those outside of Hebrews.  

  1. Pharaoh chastised Abraham for his dishonesty concerning Sarai, sends them away, and then tells his men to stay away from her (Gen. 12:18-20)
  2. Melchizedek, King of Salem, is king-priest of the Most High God, and is known to Sodom, Gomorrah, and their sister cities. He is not a Hebrew decendent of Abraham. His preisthood precedesthe tribe of Levi by 400 years. (Gen. 14:18)
  3. The Lord tells Abimelech that he is wrong for taking Sarah because she is Abraham's wife, even though he didnt know and he hasn't slept with her. Abraham had assumed that the Philistines did not know God (Gen. 20:3-11)
  4. Abimelech is aware that taking Rebekah is Isaac's wife, and is angers because adultery would have made his people guilty. He invokes the death penalty on any Philistine who sleeps with Rebekah (Gen. 26:10-11)
  5. Balaam, a non-Hebrew, is aware of who God is, and that he must bless Israel, and not curse.  (Num. 22-24)
  6. Pharaoh Necho is aware that it is God who sends him to fight Babylon at Carchemesh. (2 Chron. 35:20-24)
  7. Philistia, Tyre, Edmonds, Moab Ammon, Judah, and Israel are all described as having certain knowledge of the will of God, specific to their people. (Amos 1-2) 

  

Question 2: Is there evidence of their punishment? 

Yes, there is evidence that other nations were punished by God in accordance with the their covenantal knowledge of God.  

 The divine judgment of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the Cities of the Plains

The divine judgment of Sodom, Gomorrah, and the Cities of the Plains

  1. The Lord plagued Pharaoh's house because of the injustice of taking another man's wife for himself (Gen. 12:17)
  2. The Lord reveals that he will destroy Sodom, Gomorrah, and their sister cities because their wickedness has reached heaven. They lived in the shadow of Melchizedek, King of Salem, priest of the Most High God. They knew better. (Gen. 18, 19)
  3. Abimelech's household is able to bear children again when Abraham the prophet prays for him, even though it was Abraham who lied and is guilty. God has closed up the wombs of the Philistines. This seeming injustice is based on the fact that Abraham had a grace-covenant, and Abimelech did not. (Gen. 20:6-7)
  4. King Josiah of Judah does not heed to word of the Lord through Pharaoh, dies from battle (2 Chron. 35:20-24)
  5. Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, Judah, Israel are all punished by the same God for breaking the specific covenants teach nation had with him (Amos 1-2)
  6. Ethiopians, Israelites, Syrians, and Philistines are all described as having experienced an exodus by God (Amos 9:7)

 

Just as God expected social justice from these fallen nations, who had a works-based relationship with and religion toward him, so also Israel felt the full force of social jsutice demands when social ethics were lacking. They also felt the full weight of punishment for failing to produce social ethics and justice. A few illustrations should suffice to illustrate this point: 

The Weight of Punishment

 The divine judgment of the rebellion of Korah against Moses. 

The divine judgment of the rebellion of Korah against Moses. 

  1. All of the death-punishments in relationship to breaking the law, after Exodus 24, are issues of social justice being met out upon the sin (being unethical) within the community. (I.e. Leviticus, the curses and blessings of Deuteronomy). 
  2. The Golden Calf incident resulted in only the death of 3000 men, and only Levite males become priests. Moses must appeal to the precedent grace-based Abrahamic covenant, Gen 15 to ensure the survival of his people (Exodus 32)
  3. Miriam is cursed with leprosy for ethnocentrism (Num. 12:1)
  4. The Korah rebellion dies...literally (Num. 16) 
  5. The children of Israel complain, and suffer with snakes (Num. 21)
  6. The sin of Israel at Baal-Peor results in 24,000 dead (Num 25). 
  7. Saul loses a perpetual kingdom (1 Sam. 13:13-14), is rejected from being king (1. Sam. 15:26,28-29), and loses his mind (1 Sam. 16:14). 
  8. David loses 5 children and 1 cousin due to his sin of adultery with Bathsheba (Bathsheba's baby, Amnon, Tamar reminds unmarried, Absolom, Adonijah (Absolom's younger brother), and Joan (cousin), see 2 Samuel 11-20; 1 Kings 1-2)

The Weight of Just, Ethical Responsibility

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  1. Deu 30:19 I call heaven and earth to record thisday against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: 
  2. Jos 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, chooseyouthisday whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. 
  3. 2Ch 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 
  4.  Psa 82:1-4 A Psalm of Asaph. God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. Defend the poor and fatherless: dojustice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.
  5.  Isa 56:1 Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and dojustice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.
  6. Isa 58:13-14 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. 
  7. Mic 6:8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to lovemercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? 

 

These text and many others reveal that under the Old Covenant, social justice reform was assigned to the people and their government. It was assigned to them, and expected of the government, because of the works-based covenant they signed at Sinai. We see none of these expectation or punishments placed upon any single patriarch prior to Exodus 19 and the Sinaitic covenant. Only then do we see innumerable calls to do justice, to be ethical and moral as a requirement of fallen humanity in relationship to God's people. The same can be seen with the others cultures of the time, and around the globe. 

It is also important to note that any government claiming to be able to be holy, should expect resistant, reformation, and possibly revolution as God guides and chastises it for its failure to keep its word.  

Israel during the Babylonian captivity, was given a time period to fulfill righteousness, based on the Old Covenant they had signed:  

Dan 9:24-27 Seventy weeks are determined (cut off, a no-later-than-point) upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

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Without going tinto touch depth, this prophecy's is not about 70 literal weeks at this point, but 490 years. God is telling his people that from the full command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem they have a total of 490 to fulfill their covenantal promise to him. They must finish transgression. They must make and end of sins. They must make reconciliation for iniquity. They must bring in everlasting righteousness. They must anoint the most Holy. Time period between events Malachi and Matthew is 400 years, and there was no prophet. 

 

1 Maccabees 4:45b-46: "So they tore down the altar, and stored the stones in a convenient place on the temple hill until there should come a prophet to tell what to do with them.” 

1 Maccabees 9:27: --speaking about the persecutions under Bacchides, who killed all of the Jewish leaders: "There has not been such great distress in Israel since the time prophets ceased to appear among the people.

1 Maccabees 14:41: "The Jewish people and their priests have therefore made the following decisions. Simon shall be their permanent leader and high priest until a true prophet arises."

God had spoken to them for over 400 years, he would give them 400 years of silence. They, based on their works-based covenant, were responsible for being ethical and just. God quietly would wait for them to fulfill their word. He had already said what he would say. There would be no more words to them, until the Word, Jesus Christ, arrived. When he arrived, he would confirm with them the covenant they had made from Sinai, bring a reconciliation, an end to sin, bring in everlasting righteousness, and he would be anointed. God gave them a probation, as he had other nation, and at the end of their probation, came Jesus, the hope for human covenantal failure.

 

 Summary: Social Justice in the Old Testament are for nations who have a works based relationship with God. Thus, we may see the patriarchs not acting ethically, and they recieve no punishment, while we see a "pagan" king threatened with divine judgment for a crime he didnt know he commited. Israel's Sinaitic Covenant is a prime example of all other ancient religions of that time. The "WE will do" statement declares that one is able to actually be moral, ethical, and just, and that one is willing to promise to be and do such on pain of death. While this is not what God came offering, it is what the Hebrew's decided. As such, the Old Testament is full of calls to social justice, reformation, admonishing the people and their government to keep its covenantal promise to God. 

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America, The Myth and Reality Part 2: Reality

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The Christianization of America has truly brought the spectacle of America's past into significance. It has caused states to revise their history books, to hide the atrocities, and to present American as a city on hill, the last beacon of freedom and democracy, the kingdom of God on earth:

"...an honest evaluation of the history of the United States must begin and end with the recognition that, compared to any other nation, America's past is a bright and shining light. America was, and is, the city on a hill, the foundation of hope, the beacon of Liberty."

 whose family members are these, gathers around this tree's strange fruit?

whose family members are these, gathers around this tree's strange fruit?

This glowing description of America can be found on the back of "A Patriot's History of the United States", by Schweikart and Allen. Interesting that this perspective of American exceptionalism is taken when comparing America to any other country. It is not taken when compared to the values and morals America claims for herself, nor of her relationship to her Declaration of Independence, nor of her relationship to her Constitution. The integrity with which the founders and More specifically their worshippers lay claim to can be seen falling apart when they interact with native Americans whose land, continent, they have invaded and taken over, and whose people have been killed in defense of said native land, of the treatise signed and broken, or the promises made and reneged upon, ad nausea, ad infinitum.

 This and there's pics like it will never be seen in any school history book. Why? 

This and there's pics like it will never be seen in any school history book. Why? 

Texas and other states have taken the issue of slavery in their history books, and had the publisher water it down. Jezebel.com, The Huffington Post, Washington Post, National Public Radio, Newsweek, and CBS have all documented this revisionist softening of the atrocities of racism in Texas and like minded states history education curriculum and text books. The human death toll, the atrocious nature of slavery, the treatment of black humans, and its effects on their descendants is minimized to include the trade of cotton and rum. The humanity of slaves and their suffering is in these new history books ranked alongside the activity of picking and selling cotton and the production of an alcoholic beverage. Slaves were and still are in the eyes of many people and their ancestors (cultural, literal, racial) nothing more than another commodity to be bought and sold, not humans whose stories need to be told and remembered to prevent further future evils. The cognitive dissonance needed to justify the founders as Christians is evident when people spout things like, "well the slaves were fed and cared for well", or "well there was slavery in Africa before...", or "there were black slave owner, too."

Why is there such a cognitive dissonance when it comes to the negatives of America's past? Why the abject denial of evil, or the dismissal of it as something minimal in comparison to the greatness of America? Simply put, it is because of racism’s rules, which most are unaware of.

Carl Linaeus in his book Systema Naturae states the following in 1767,

 Carl Linnaeus' book,  Systema Naturae, 1767

Carl Linnaeus' book, Systema Naturae, 1767

The Americanus: red, choleraic, righteous; black, straight, thick hair; stubborn, zealous, free; painting himself with red lines, and regulated by customs.

The Europeanus: white, sanguine, browny; with abundant, long hair; blue eyes; gentle, acute, inventive; covered with close vestments; and regulated by customs.

The Asiaticus: yellow, melancholic, stiff; black hair, dark eyes; severe, haughty, greedy; covered with loose clothing; and regulated by opinions.

The Afer or Africanus: black, phlegmatic, relaxed; black, frizzled hair; silky skin, flat nose, tumid lips; females without shame; mammary glands give milk abundantly; crafty, sly, careless; anoints himself with grease; and regulated by will.

The Monstrosus were mythologic humans which didn't appear in the first editions of Systema Naturae. The sub-species included the "four-footed, mute, hairy" Homo feralis (Feral man); the animal-reared Juvenis lupinus hessensis (Hessian wolf boy), the Juvenis hannoveranus (Hannoverian boy), the Puella campanica (Wild-girl of Champagne), and the agile, but faint-hearted Homo monstrosus (Monstrous man): the Patagonian giant, the Dwarf of the Alps, and the monorchid Khoikhoi (Hottentot). In Amoenitates academicae (1763), Linnaeus presented the mythologic Homo anthropomorpha (Anthropomorphic man), humanoid creatures, such as the troglodyte, the satyr, the hydra, and the phoenix, incorrectly identified as simian creatures. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_racism#Carl_Linnaeus) 

All in a group are supposed carry the same characteristics. No black is supposed to be intelligent, no white is supposed to be lazy. No black should be the head, and no white should be the tail. Anyone black who rises above the status quo of his race is a credit to his race, while any white to accomplishes the same thing is said to be the norm. Any white who fails to maintain status quo for his race is said to be an outlier, while any black to accomplishes the same is consider par for the race. When one now considers, if one is white, that these are the rules, unspoken, upon which this society exists, imagine the pressure now of being white: you must always succeed, you must always win, you must all way be right, you must always be righteous. What does it say about a white person if they fail to meet this standard? What does it say about their race if their race has failed to meet this standard? What does it say to the 21st century millennial, who doesn’t consider themselves a racist, to know that in this nation these are the founding social rules upon which all social interaction and economic success were built and operated? How does a white person feel to know that they may hate slavery, but their ability to do simple things like get a loan, own a house, etc., versus their black and brown counterparts are all affected by this bigotry? How would they feel when, realizing that one’s own family has benefited from slavery and racism, one was possibly taught racism, one now wants to be free of the family teaching? What does one do? Who does one turn to for community when one’s own family, nation, race is the problem?

The creation of slavery, the rape of a continent of its people, the institution of slavery in this nation, the removal of all original language, custom, culture, etc.,has left the black diaspora with no identity of their own except their skin. for the black diaspora, one's identity s always tied, in this western culture, to whites. One is black because they are white. If one seeks their approval and acceptance, one is defined by them. If one assimilates to their language and culture, one is identified by them. If one decides to appropriate them, modifies their language (Ebonics, etc.) and culture (jazz, fashion, etc) one is still defined by them. If one rebels, and proceeds to fight injustice, one is still defined by them. For America, the black and the white are like the twins Esau and Jacob, bound for life, every wrestling with each other. How does a black in america rise above the description and expectation, yea the traps set to force one into the descriptions for blacks above? How does one constantly tell one's self that one is better than what is socially expected, rules keep changing, the goal posts are consistently moved, etc? 

While these were the unposted pseudo-scientific social rules governing life and perspective in Europe and North American, the theological ideas were not so vague and hidden: 

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“Governnor Theophilus Eaton directly applied the ancient Israelite law codes in the book of Leviticus to his own situation. According to Leviticus 25:45-46, the covenanted Hebrews were under divine mandate: “You may…acquire [slaves] from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; and they may be your property. You may keep them as possessions for your children after you, for them to inherit as property. These you may treat and slaves.” Note that Eaton Corrupted the Leviticus code, altering “families that are with you” to include persons who have been snatched from another land.” (Griffin, Paul. Seeds of Racism in the Soul of America. 2000. Pg. 17-18) 

 The Reverend Cotton Mather

The Reverend Cotton Mather

“Governor Winthrop was promoting a similar view in Massachusetts…: “It pleased the Lord to open to us a trade with barbados and other islands in the West Indies”. (Ibid. pg. 18)

“The Reverend Cotton Mather…his writings call African slaves “the miserable children of Adam and Noah” who are “the blackest instances of blindness and baseless” and “the most brutish of creatures upon the earth.” Going even further, he argues that “it is God how has caused black people” to “fall into a dreadful condition [of slavery] because they were created the vassals of Satan”. (Ibid. pg. 18)

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“John Saffin, a Boston Puritan, and jurist…argues that blacks have neither a legal nor a divine “right to liberty and all outward comforts of life”, because this would “invert the order that God hath set in the world”. God “hath ordained different degrees and orders of men, some ot be high and honorable, some to be low and despicable…others fo be subjects, and tobe commanded…yea,and some to be born slaves, and so remain during their lives”. When Saffin speaks of “high and honorable” it is clear her is referring to the white race, whom he later says was predestined to be the “monarchs, kings, princes and governors, and masters and commanders”. When he speaks of slaves, he claims they were predestined to be the subjects of the the white race. Christians “must not dare to think” that God created human beings “equal and of like dignity” lest they nullify “all the sacred rules, precepts, and commands [that the] Almighty hath given the sons of men to observe and keep their places, orders, and degrees”. (Ibid. pg. 19)

These and others like them wrote and preached in the north. Their Calvinistic doctrine of Election and Predestination enabled them to theologically justify their own personal bias and bigotry. This is the theological backdrop for American slavery, Peonage, Black Codes, Jim Crow, Nixon's documented War of Drug (war on hippies and blacks), redline housing, highe interests rates for people of color, the school-to-prison Pipeline, the Republican Atwater's Southern Strategy, etc., and now "Make America Great Again"

Christianity in America was complicit to the sin of slavery. It is not that slavery is an issue politically, nationally, or governmentally. It is that Christians have historically chosen ethnocentrism, nationalism, capitalism, racism over Christ, and have not only given theological backing some of the planet’s worst evils, but have high-handedly participated in such, under the name of Christ. Sadly, Adventism has not escaped this corruption.

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America, the Myth and Reality Part 1: the Myth

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America, the Myth and Reality Part 1: the Myth

 American Mythology: A Christian Nation

 

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There is this movement now to "Make America Great" again. There is this belief that somewhere, back there in America's past is a time period when we were absolutely great, that great Castle of moral rectitude, where Puritan piety held sway of the conscience of all her inhabitants, when our motives were altruistic, and our actions always matching our words, were righteous. For the faithful believer in this mythology, this time would have been after the civil war sometime, after the end of slavery, because everyone knows slavery is wrong, right? Any mention of Native American genocide is dismissed, derided, downplayed, or denied by claiming the natives were attacking settlers. No one sees the settlers, the pilgrims, as invaders and takers, right? The historical mythology only tells the story from the perspective of the persecuted Europeans fleeing their land to find religious freedom. Not once in social studies classes is it seen as a European kingdom land-grab race. If these and other evils are mentioned, they are mentioned as something America got past as she "matured". And yet, despite this maturation, the popular national evangelical language is that this is and always has been a Christian nation. Rudyard Kipling's "White Man's Burden" looms large as an indistinguishable shadow, the odor of Calvin's doctrine of diving sovereignty in predestination and election can be smelled within the national doctrine of manifest destiny, only discussed now in academic and pseudo-academic (armchair academic) circles. The language that encapsulates these heresies today is the well-crafted mythology that this is and always has been a Christian nation in is its logos, ethos, and pathos.

That this has never been, was not intended to be, nor is it now a Christian nation has been documented by at least 4 different news sources: The Northwest religious Liberty Association, The Huffington Post, addictinginfo.org, and CNN.org. The Northwest religious Liberty Association quotes president John Tyler as saying:

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"The United States has adventured upon a great and noble experiment, which is believed to have been hazarded in the absence of all previous precedent—that of total separation of Church and State. No religious establishment by law exists among us. The conscience is left free from all restraint and each is permitted to worship his Maker after his own judgment. The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an established Hierarchy, nor is the fallible judgment of man set up as the sure and infallible creed of faith. The Mahommedan, if he will to come among us would have the privilege guaranteed to him by the Constitution to worship according to the Koran; and the East Indian might erect a shrine to Brahma if it so pleased him. Such is the spirit of toleration inculcated by our political institutions…. The Hebrew persecuted and down trodden in other regions takes up his abode among us with none to make him afraid…. and the Aegis of the government is over him to defend and protect him. Such is the great experiment which we have tried, and such are the happy fruits which have resulted from it; our system of free government would be imperfect without it.” (http://nrla.com/revisiting-the-intentions-of-the-constitutional-founders/)

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Shortly before his death, James Madison penned:

“The simple question to be decided, is whether a support of the best and purest religion, the Christian Religion itself, ought not, so far at least as pecuniary means are involved, to be provided for by the Government, rather than be left to the voluntary provisions of those who profess it.” Madison’s rhetorical question had a quick and decisive answer: “On this question, experience will be an admitted umpire…. In the papal system, Government & Religion are in a manner consolidated; & that is found to be the worst of Governments.” Madison argued that this was because history had proven that such a system had neither been favorable “to Religion or to government.” (Ibid)

 President George Washington

President George Washington

In an article on addictinginfo.org, "35 Founding Father Quotes Conservative Christians Will Hate", there is a list of, guess what...

“If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”

~Founding Father George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789

 President Thomas Jefferson

President Thomas Jefferson

“The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”

~1797 Treaty of Tripoli signed by Founding Father John Adams

"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”

~Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814,

“When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”

~Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, letter to Richard Price, October 9, 1780

 Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine

“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.”

~Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man, 1791

“God has appointed two kinds of government in the world, which are distinct in their nature, and ought never to be confounded together; one of which is called civil, the other ecclesiastical government.”

~Founding Father Isaac Backus, An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty, 1773

 Isaac Backus

Isaac Backus

(http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/07/04/35-founding-father-quotes-conservative-christians-will-hate/)

This nation was never intended to be a Christian nation. If it were, Christianity would be legislated into the constitution, and we would be a theocracy similar to Saudi Arabia and Iran. That we are not is evidence of the founders' intent.

 President Franklin D. Roosevelt

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

The New York Times article, "A Christian Nation? Since When?", writer Kevin Krause says the following:

"Back in the 1930s, business leaders found themselves on the defensive. Their public prestige had plummeted with the Great Crash; their private businesses were under attack by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal from above and labor from below. To regain the upper hand, corporate leaders fought back on all fronts. They waged a figurative war in statehouses and, occasionally, a literal one in the streets; their campaigns extended from courts of law to the court of public opinion. But nothing worked particularly well until they began an inspired public relations offensive that cast capitalism as the handmaiden of Christianity." (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/opinion/sunday/a-christian-nation-since-when.html?_r=0)

 The bread and soup lines of the Great Depression.  

The bread and soup lines of the Great Depression.  

The Great Depression hurt our grandparents' generation tremendously. There was no work...none. This type of poverty was unexpected in such a capitalistic driven society. The Stock Market crash had revealed the greed of capitalistic businessmen. Roosevelt's socialist New Deal was a threat to their monetary and resource hegemony, as well as their ability to lobby in politics. Their solution to this threat was is as follows:

 Pastor Billy Graham, one of the early 20th century prosperity preachers for capitalism. 

Pastor Billy Graham, one of the early 20th century prosperity preachers for capitalism. 

"...throughout the 1930s and ’40s, corporate leaders marketed a new ideology that combined elements of Christianity with an anti-federal libertarianism. Powerful business lobbies like the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers led the way, promoting this ideology’s appeal in conferences and P.R. campaigns...In a shrewd decision, these executives made clergymen their spokesmen. As Sun Oil’s J. Howard Pew noted, polls proved that ministers could mold public opinion more than any other profession. And so these businessmen worked to recruit clergy through private meetings and public appeals. Many answered the call, but three deserve special attention...(They are) Rev. James W. Fifield — known as “the 13th Apostle of Big Business” and “Saint Paul of the Prosperous” — emerged as an early evangelist for the cause...,the Rev. Abraham Vereide advanced the Christian libertarian cause with a national network of prayer groups...In 1942, Mr. Vereide’s influence spread to Washington. He persuaded the House and Senate to start weekly prayer meetings “in order that we might be a God-directed and God-controlled nation”..., (and) The most important clergyman for Christian libertarianism, though, was the Rev. Billy Graham. In his initial ministry, in the early 1950s, Mr. Graham supported corporate interests so zealously that a London paper called him “the Big Business evangelist.” (Ibid)

 

I will not bore you with more quotes. One can go to the New York Times and read the article. Why do I demonstrate my point this way? Because: there have always been Christians in this nation, but this nation as a political entity has not claimed to be Christian until big business needs to make money. Then, the Christian church's pulpit princes led millions of people in the baptism of the nation as Christian, and of Christianity as equal to nationhood. FYI, this method of businessmen using Christianity and the Bible to exploit people was used by Europeans to subdue the natives, to enslave Africans and their American born descendants, and to keep women from voting until the 1920s. The 1930s was big business enslaving all of American to capitalism in the name of Christ.

 

Here is the point: Integration, the mutual appreciation for the differentiation of believers culturally, ethnically (racially), nationally, gender-wise, generationally, and class-wise within the body of Christ is not only suggested and promised, it is mandated and commanded. Thus, when you baptize a nation as Christian, people have a right to expect the nation to function based on Christian morals and ethics, to integrate and empower heterogenous groups with equality and equity, to allow the differentiation to empower the whole, with all having the privilege of access, and being appreciated. This has been the expectation since the 1930's, and this nation has been reticent to do so, because inherent in any political entity is the realization of its incapability to do so. Give the NT mandate to true integration, and this country’s history of genocide, slavery, misogyny, and class warfare against the poor, it is evident that it is not, was not, nor had any intention or ability of being anything genuinely Christian...and it never can be.

 

 

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God, Segregation, and Integration Part 2: the Church

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God, Segregation, and Integration Part 2: the Church

 

Pax Romana versus Jesus Christ

 

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Pax Romana. The Peace of Rome. Caesar Augustus, Rome's prince of peace, had managed to bring peace to the Roman Empire, unifying the people in language, legislation, and currency. Multiple people's, ethnicities, cultures, nations, and languages were all unified underneath the rule of Roman. One would think this of all places would be the bastion symbol of a biblical model of integrated multicultural inter-culturalism...but no. Roman-born was higher than Roman-legalized citizenship. All others were conquered people, and they knew it. All got along because of the brute force and strategic military genius of the Roman military. The conquered paid Rome taxes, and their countries were "protected" by Rome. Rome had a history of bringing "freedom, order, civilization" to areas they otherwise considered barbaric. Rome was an empirical republic, not simply a kingdom ruled by a king. The politics of that day are quite similar to ours today. Senate seats were voted and simultaneously bought. It is not hyperbole to say that the United States is modeled after ancient Rome.

 

Religious "freedom" was possible if your religion had "ancientness", that is to say that one's religion had to be one of the national ancient religions, i.e. Jews had YHWH, Egypt had its pantheon of gods, Greece had their pantheon, etc. In order to ensure that all religious could be accepted, syncretism sought to demonstrate the similitude of all religions (Judaism had no equivalence). New religions would quickly demonstrate their connectedness to other more ancient religions, so as to acceptable by the state. This cultural appropriation was Rome's attempt at integration.

 

 Captain America is the normative, racial-ethnic, gender, moral and ethical hero standard-bearer around which the avengers assemble. They are the diversity, being on his team his inclusion. 

Captain America is the normative, racial-ethnic, gender, moral and ethical hero standard-bearer around which the avengers assemble. They are the diversity, being on his team his inclusion. 

Outside of cultural appropriation (Greco-Roman hellenization and syncretism), and outright assimilation (Judaism), the only other way for Rome to practice any form of integration was through diversity and inclusion. Diversity today means many different types, a multiplicity, and gives the concept of all things being equal. However, diversity originally meant "being contrary to what is right or agreeable" (etymonline.com) . Diversity means that there is a standard, a norm which is considered right and agreeable, and all other things fall short, divert from, or are contrary to this accepted or created standard. As such, the “diverse” can never be fully integrated in a sense of equality and mutuality, because the system from and in which they are divergent or deviant is not designed for them. That Rome accepted them at all is called inclusion. Thus, most diversity and inclusion programs in any organization, globally as well as in the United States, are born of the concept that there is a norm, and those who are normative are gracious enough to be inclusive of those whose existence, looks, culture, norms, and beliefs are divergent from the norm. There is no true integration in this, no mutual appreciation, nor power and resource sharing. Diversity and inclusion are about being a good host, and Rome was the host. Rome conquered everything, controlled everything, and owned everything. They let others participate in their (Rome's) empire, even to high levels, but Rome maintained tight controlled over power and resources for hundreds of years. Interculuralism is about learning how to be a good guest, learning to accept others and experience life on others terms, about not having the power. 

 

"But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son..." Galatians 4:4

At the height of humanity's failed attempted of an empire with a king, with representation, and with choice, Jesus comes.

At the height of humanity's best attempt at equality, Jesus comes.

At the height of the peace of the time, Jesus comes.

When there was one language, one currency, one set of laws, one empower, Jesus comes.

At the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa Jesus comes.

 Jesus heals blind man

Jesus heals blind man

He teaches, preaches, heals, exorcises, controls weather, feeds the hungry, raises the dead, brings birth to dead and unopened wombs (Elizabeth and Mary). He ministers and teaches to Romans, Gentiles, and Jews, rich and poor, male and female, old and young, free and bound. He calls thugs, white collar criminals, the IRS, loud mouths, terrorists, the faith-filled, and the doubter into his inner circle of disciples. He lived our life, and died our death, resurrects, and goes to heaven, without ever overturning this "best-case", "best-practice", Roman political scenario...humanity's best fallen caste system.

Then he sends back to Comforter, the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the midst of believers demands and causes that they begin to lose their sectarian ways. They baptized 3000 people on Day of Pentecost, all from various nations surrounding Israel (Acts 2:8-11).

Some may be tempted to say, "yes Jason, but there were all Jews from different nations". You are correct, and Chapter 6 informs us that there were Greek women believers who needed to be cared for. The Jews in Jerusalem were naturally ignoring them, and the Holy Spirit would not let such inequality stand in the church of God. They were to be equally valued and cared for within the church of God as their Jewish counterparts.

The baptism of Cornelius and his household (Acts 10) demonstrates the Holy Spirit's equality and equity emphasis when giving spiritual gifts.

The rebuke of Peter by Paul is evidence that multicultural/ethnic (racial) interaction within the church is normative, and that segregation based on these dividers is counter to the gospel (Gal. 2:11-14).

The Jerusalem council points out that, outside of issues of health, idolatry and morality, cultural differences and expressions within the church are to be left alone (Acts 15:23-29).

2 Corinthians 11:17-34 reveals that the heresy of classist preference had been brought into the church, the have's gorging themselves while the have-nots waited for the scraps at the Lord's supper. Paul reveals that not only is this heretical and against the gospel, but he states the following:

 

“For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.” 1Corinthians 11:30

What Paul does not say is whether this weakness, sickness, and death are 1) a divine judgment upon the rich for disrespecting their poorer brethren and for greed, 2) a natural consequence of gluttony, or 3) the poor church members dying of starvation as the consequence of the rich's gluttony and greed. Whichever one it is, all are the direct result of a church bringing worldly classism in as a practice, and absolutely contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Philemon Paul attacks classism again, this time from the master-slave (boss-worker) paradigm. Philemon is exhorted to received his slave Onesimus back, and this time to treat him like family, not like a servant. Paul does not seek to overturn society (social justice), just the hearts of believers, how they treat each other, and how they move within society (gospel social ethics).

 

Ephesians, Oneness, and Integration

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Paul in Ephesians tears down worldly hierarchies by using the analogy of a body. The human body is the perfect integrated system. The eye is not a hand is not the endocrine system is not the reproductive system is not the colon. Each system is individuate, and yet integral to fuction and the identity of a whole healthy human. If one were stranded on a island, with wild violent animals, and one had no hands, or feet, or eyes, or ears, or immune system, anything which is part of the whole human, one would surely die. Each system and part of the human body is need for optimal efficiency, health and survivability.

Paul first says that Christ is the head, and the church is his body. Thus, all Christians are integrated, differentiated, appreciated, and empowered in the one body of Christ. After making such high claims, he moves to the issue of ethnocentrism/race and classism, saying the wall between Jew and Gentile has been torn down (Chapter 2). In the religious mind of the Jews, they were superior to the Gentiles; in the civic mind of the Gentiles they were superior to the Jews. Both are based on ethnic-classism of sorts. However, in the church these hierarchies are null and void. Chapter 3 goes on to explain that the mystery of hidden from the ages is that the Gentiles are equal heirs of the promise alongside the Jews. Such a claim demands mutual appreciation and valuing within the body of Christ. Paul ends chapter 3 by saying the God "...is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all you can ask or think, according to the power that works in you." Such a grand prayerful declaration of God's power is directly related to the tearing down of "-isms" within the body, and so Paul writes that through such oneness God will gain "...glory in the church, through Christ Jesus (whose body the church is) throughout all ages, world without end..."

 

Paul then begins to explain what this "...exceeding, abundantly above all you can ask or think..." desire of God for the church is and how it will be accomplished: more walls of cultural hierarchy being torn down by using the tools of spiritual gifts. He opens chapter 4 by describing the Godhead, and telling the reader that they are one. He moves to the spiritual gifts, explaining that they come from the same source, the Spirit. These gifts are given as needed to all who have the Spirit,

 The human body is the only paradigm to true integration with scripture, and this paradigm is applied to the church. In the human body there is a mutual appreciation, powersharing, integrated interdependence, simultaneous individual and corporate identity of body systems, all working together toward the one singular identity of the human being. There is no human body system which could sustain life on its own. Life is generated and sustained by the integration of all, or there is no life. 

The human body is the only paradigm to true integration with scripture, and this paradigm is applied to the church. In the human body there is a mutual appreciation, powersharing, integrated interdependence, simultaneous individual and corporate identity of body systems, all working together toward the one singular identity of the human being. There is no human body system which could sustain life on its own. Life is generated and sustained by the integration of all, or there is no life. 

"For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:12-16)

Contextually it is clear that the Spiritual gifts are given to bind the body of believers together in unity and oneness, to tear down fallen segregation/separation mindsets and actions within the body, to integrate them, and bring them all to maturity together. This maturity, this unity of the faith, is described from 4:16 to the end of the book. We are together to become the perfect man, and our individual maturity is born out of our corporate or relational maturity. Chapter 4 and the first half of chapter 5 are describing how the church members ought to treat each other, ending any notion of classism or ethnocentrism from chapter 2.

In the second half of Ephesians 5 Paul uses the head and body analogy to redefine marriage relationships, husbands (head) and wives (body) being mutually equal and interdependent for the entire living organism to exist. He also uses this analogy to reeducate them on how parents are to relate to their children (Ch 6), other church members with other believers (Ch.4-5), as well as bosses and servants (Ch.6). In Ephesians the head-body analogy of integration and oneness can be fully seen in the armor of God description in chapter 6 and it is applicable to every single comparison within the book:

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1) Christ as the head wears the helmet, and the church as the body wears all other armor

2) The dominant culture-ethnicity as the head wears the helmet, and the minority culture-ethnicity as the body wears all other armor

3) The husband as the head wears the helmet, and the wife as the body wears all other armor

4) The parents as the head wear the helmet, and the children as the body wear all other armor

5) The upper class as the head wears the helmet, and the lower class as the body wears all other armor

6) The master as the head wears the helmet, and the slaves or workers as the body wear all other armor.

We, the church, stand as one entity, the true E Pluribus Unum, wearing the complete armor of God, or we do not stand at all.

 

Everything after chapter 3 is Paul informing the believer what the "...exceedingly, abundantly above all we ca ask or think..." actually is, and how it is done. We will either fight as one, interdependent, integrated, differentiated and appreciated, and mutually empowered, or there is no way we ever fight at all. We fight a unified, singular whole, or we have already lost to our enemy.

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Notice what is not done. Nothing in the New Testament seeks to legislatively overturn status quo or social norms. Nothing. The New Testament church is expected to be integrated based on God's love and the sacrifice of Jesus, not legislation. The New Testament Church had no expectation of justice from the state. It preached, it lived, it won souls, it shared resources, it suffered and died as a witness ( marturion, the root word of martyr) to the love of God and the wickedness of man. 

Mat 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. 

The final summation of Paul's integration argument within the body of believers can be found in these two versus:

 

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28

“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians  3:10-11

When one adds to the above lists the classism found in 1 Corinthians, one gets a very wholistic sense of the intention of God: Integration is not only promised and possible, in the church of Christ it is an expectation. It was such a mandate that: 

 

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"...the Christian movements most basic conviction about itself (was) that its members and followers belonged to a "chosen race...a holy nation, God's own people". However scattered and various the communities of believers, they were conscious of being a single people whose shared citizenship was not Rome but in the heavenly Jerusalem." (A History of the Christian Church, pg 43, Walker, Norris, Lotz, and Handy, 1985),

and...

"The Church, which many Christians called a "new race" because it drew its members from all races, was living proof of the universality of humankind" (The Story of Christianity Vol 1, pg 17, Gonzales, 1984).

Integration, unity (not uniformity), oneness is a Christian mandate. It is such a mandate that we find integration within the church, not assimilation or hierarchy, by the time we reach the Apocalypse:

 

Rev 5:9 "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation"

Rev 7:9 "After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands"

Rev 14:6 "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people"

 

The saved of the apocalypse are not some hierarchied classist, racist, ethnocentrist/tribalist, nationalist, sexist organization, nor are they all some amalgamation assimilated into one dominant culture, language, or ethnic group, way of expression, or even gender. Within and among themselves they are integrated: mutually appreciative of their unique differentiations within the body of Christ, all sharing the same spiritual empowerment and resources equally, all having the same direct access to the same God through the singular blood of Jesus.

The Bible has no expectation of the state or government being actually integrated, since the state and government is mostly made up of people who have not had a heart change. Integration is a privilege awaiting those who have accepted Jesus, who have been converted, and are willing to be a witness against evil.  

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God, Segregation, and Integration Part 1: Government and Politics

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God, Segregation, and Integration Part 1: Government and Politics

 

 

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Being born in America, especially as an African American after the 1960s, there is this inherent expectation of equality, fairness, and justice. We protest, we lobby, we work hard, we modify ourselves in the presence of white people, in the hope that we will be viewed as equals: not that we want to be viewed as white, but that our black existence be accepted for what it is, and valued equally to white existence. We hold the nation and its laws to the high standard printed on the coins of its money: God. It is not simply that we want equal rights. There is a subconscious emotionally need to be viewed as equally valuable. We seek integration. Why?

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The nation has claimed to be godly, to be Christian, and yet has enslaved people, committed genocide, participated in segregation and discrimination, criminalized the poor, supported and rewarded the elite in their greed. When the poor and minorities read the Bible, however, they see Jesus as a man specifically of the poor people, the down trodden, the underclass and the marginalized. When they see Jesus with his disciples, they see that they are from the white-collar criminal class (Matthew), the terrorist class (Simon the Zealot), the gangster class (James and John, the sons of thunder), the prostitution/promiscuous class (Mary Magdalene?), the mentally ill and demons possessed class (Mary Magdalene), the single unwed mother class (Mary, Jesus' mother).

When the poor and minorities view Jesus' work, they see mass feeding, mass healing, mass teaching. They hear Jesus pronounce blessings on the poor, not the rich; on the sad, not the celebrating; the meek, not the pompous; those who make peace, not those clamoring for war; the pure in heart, not the criminal and duplicitous; the merciful, not the vengeful; those hungry for righteousness, not for capitalistic materialism; the persecuted and the reviled, not the persecutor and oppressor. They even read that there is a reward in heaven for those receiving such treatment.

 

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The problem is this: with America's emphasis on being a Christian nation, and with the evangelical notion being we need to build the kingdom of God here and now, America becomes heaven in the minds of the masses. Thus, if one endures long enough, one should be rewarded here in America at some point with great reward for being what America has asked the poor and minorities to be: poor, sad, meek, merciful, hunger for holiness, pure in heart, peacemakers, joyful while being persecuted and reviled. If America is heaven on earth, then her citizens have every right to expect full integration, justice, equity, equality, and prosperity under the law. The presidency of Barak Obama was romantically viewed by many as the moment our nation had actually fulfilled it promise. The subsequent stonewalling, visible racial disrespect of him and his family, the vitriol we have had to watch him walk through with dignity, has revealed to us that America has not only reneged on its promise, but lacks the ability to keep it. The promise was a lie.  What is the lie we have all believed? That it is possible for a fallen, earthly political entity to attain a integrated multicultural, inter-culturalism that is mutual, equal, equitable, and just: genuine integration. The lie is that this is God's ideal goal for a sinful, earthly government.

 

When I say integration what do I mean? I mean the mutual appreciation, valuing, resourcing, power sharing of the interconnected, interdependent, and yet independent and differentiated people, cultures, customs, etc. without assimilation or appropriation.

Let's consider this definition in relationship to society and social science. Interconnected means to be connected in such a way that separation is damaging and detrimental to the whole. Interdependent means that all other people in the system rely on each other, their customs, language, and culture to ensure that the system works effectively, efficiently, equally, and equitably for all. By independent and differentiated I mean that each ethnic, linguistic, or cultural grouping is not asked to give up their identity, which differentiates them from the other groups. This means that the cultures, language, and customs of the people can stand alone by themselves. The goal of any society, however, is to have a society which is heading in the same direction, toward the same goals, each group equally represented, empowered, and valued for their indispensable part to the whole. Without each group, the whole fails.

 

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When I mediate on this idea, one paradigm I find symbolically helpful is the human body. In the human body you have many differentiated organs, systems, and functions. However, no human body is complete, effective, or efficient without them all. The body does not play favorites. Rest, nutrition, air and water are essential to every fiber and molecule of our being. The foot is not less valuable than the head. If there were no foot, the body is neither efficient nor effective in movement in relationship to its design or goals. If there were no bowels, the body could not effectively remove waste, resulting in septic poisoning. If there were no genitals, no offspring; no mouth, no eating; no digestion...you get the point. The human body works cohesively together as one to maintain health and homeostasis. And yet each system, each organ, is clearly differentiated from the others. The body is interconnected, interrelated, and interdependent, the components of which are independent and differentiated in identity and specific purpose, but are also integrated, depending on and need the other, all work together for the health and perfect functionality of the whole.

 

With this bodily analogy in mind, I would like to reflect with you on two positional points. My first position is this: in a sinful world, not only is a multicultural inter-culturalism (integration) not truly feasible, but segregation or assimilation are God's “ideals” for fallen people, fallen governments...except in the Christian church. My second position flows out of the first: that the church of Christ is the only entity in all of fallen humanity's history and the Bible where integration is not only possible, it is expected.

 

God, Humanity, and Segregation

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When God exiled humanity from the Garden of Eden, they left with this promise: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." (Gen. 3:15) There were to be two groups of people, who had a divine enmity placed between them: the children of the woman, one of whom would kill the serpent, and the children of the serpent. To this promise is added the promise to multiple children to the woman (the holy line): "Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children..." (Gen. 3:16) We see God extend his personal promise of fruitfulness to the women and her seed. He will multiply her conception. It will be filled with sorrow, but God is determined to keep his promise to the serpent, and thus has chosen a side: God is for the woman, and will ensure her seed is numerous in order to keep his promise to the serpent. We see this fulfilled in Chapters 4 and 5: the line of Cain births minimally until polygamy (Genesis 4:17-19), while the line of Seth births multiples children each generation (Genesis 5). The divergent theology and lifestyles caused a natural separation of the children of Cain and the children of Seth:

 

"For some time the two classes remained separate. The race of Cain, spreading from the place of their first settlement, dispersed over the plains and valleys where the children of Seth had dwelt; and the latter, in order to escape from their contaminating influence, withdrew to the mountains, and there made their home. So long as this separation continued, they maintained the worship of God in its purity." (Patriarchs and Prophets, 81.2)

This self-imposed separation, however, would be undone in chapter 6 when:

 

"...it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose...There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:1-5)

 

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Look narrowly at this verse: "...it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose..." That word "took", lâqach, can mean to seize, to buy, to marry, to win, to fetch, to carry away, to reserve, to send for, to reserve, to mingle to use. If Genesis 6 is correct, and the thoughts of the imaginations of men's heart is only evil continually, then any one of these definitions is available for application. So we have women sold into slavery and bought, we have women won as a trophy, we have women married legitimately, and we have women taken by force. So we have violence, slavery, polygamy, gambling...all of which is perpetuated by the sons of God, all of which devalues women. This was how they integrated with the Cainites. It was this integration despite opposing theological differences, which produce the great practical wickedness, where "...every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually". To integrate opposing theologies and worldviews there must be compromise, and theological justification by one or both parties for things they would have historically stood against. God destroyed that wicked race with the Flood.

 

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The next time we see humanity coming together in such a momentous way is at the Tower of Babel. God again commanded humanity to be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth (Genesis 9:1). The expectation was not only the multiplication of offspring, and the spreading out over the whole earth, but...

 

"…the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." (Gen 11:1-2, 4)

 

This building was designed to do to things 1) be taller that the tallest mountain, and thus be out of the reach another flood (Gen. 7:18-19) disbelieving the promise of God (Gen. 9:11), and 2) to keep them together as a united front, contrary to the command of God to spread out and multiply (Gen. 9:1,7).

Additionally, extra-Biblical sources reveal that those building the tower did not value the people building it. The book of Jasher states the builders sought to dominate other humans, and describes the people grieving for a brick when it fell off the tower, but not a person (Jasher 9:21,28). The same Jasher writes that the ancients would shoot arrows into the sky to war with God (Jasher 9:25-29). The Apocalypse of Baruch states that women were not even allowed to stop working in order to birth, but were rather expected to make the bricks and birth on site (Baruch 3:5-8) . The weak and sickly were not valued, only the tower mattered. Josephus reveals that not only did the people did not obey God in spreading out to populate the entire planet, but Nimrod was tyrannically steered the people toward contempt of God, determined to avenge himself on God for the destruction of their ancestors in the flood (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1 Chapter 4, para 2).

These references reveal that when fallen humanity integrates, in addition to it be contrary to God's command to be fruitful and multiple, and in addition to it being about faithlessness and rebellion, fallen integration is also about dominance and abuse of fellow human beings. This was how humanity integrated at Babel. So God confused their speech, they ceased building, they spread out over the entire earth, and the earth was divided among them.

When comparing these post-fall instances we see the following: rebellion against God and human abuse of fellow human. What we also have before the flood is God designating a time period for the pre-flood humanity continued existence: "My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years" (Genesis 6:3). We see God doing the same thing in Genesis 15:16: "But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." God had a place designated for his chosen people, but that placed was currently occupied by another group, the Amorite. Amorite time was not yet complete.

These 4 instances, the 120 pre-flood probation, the flood, the confusion of Babel and the spreading out over the land, and the designated time of the Amorite, demonstrate fully what Paul states in Act 17:26:

 

 Genesis 10 table of nations

Genesis 10 table of nations

"(God) hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation..."

God segregated humanity, since every time they come together they demonstrated rebellion against him and abuse against each other. The rest of the Bible (OT and NT) plays out this narrative: fallen societies either have a caste system with cultural appropriation, full-on cultural and ethnic assimilation, or genocide as seen as a direct judgment of God. There was never any true integration, and by integration I mean the mutual appreciation of others unlike myself, allowing them to and joining them in practicing their culture and customs equally alongside mine, as well as equal power sharing, valuing their cultural language and contributions as equally as I value my own

 A Russian version of societal hierarchy, which structure can be found globally. It is of note that this structure mirrors Maslow's hierarchy. 

A Russian version of societal hierarchy, which structure can be found globally. It is of note that this structure mirrors Maslow's hierarchy. 

Case #1- Hierarchied or Caste System Integration with Cultural Appropriation: In the NT Paul is arrested and about to be beaten by the Romans to disturbing the peace. He asked the jailer “is it lawful for you to beat a Romans citizen”, at which question the jailer gets his centurion. The centurion says he obtained his citizenship through money, but Paul asserts he was born a citizen. Here we see the hierarchy between citizens: the naturally born versus the legally declared, with the later being lower. We're this is other stories in the OT: Joseph becomes 2nd in command, but is still under Pharoah; Esther becomes queen, but her people are still to be conquered and persecuted; Daniel and the 3 Hebrew men are high ranking in Babylon, yet they are still captives. No matter how high they get, there is still some captor over them.

 Lakota boys circa. 1900, in Lakota tribal dress versus European garb

Lakota boys circa. 1900, in Lakota tribal dress versus European garb

Case #2- Cultural and Ethnic Assimilation: The Hebrew nation was willing to accept the foreigner in their midst. However, this foreigner didn't live contrary to the Hebrew belief system. Working on the Sabbath was prohibited, idolatry was prohibited, etc. One was expected to assimilate to Hebrew customs in Hebrew land. Rahab, the Gibeonites, Ruth, and Uriah come to mind. Each instance was demonstrative of complete assimilation to Hebrew way of life, to include marriage and the raising of children, within 1 generation. Instances of attempted integration by Hebrews are Solomon with his wives, and Jezebel with Ahab. They both ended in God's people rebelling against Him, as well has the abuse of humanity.

 Hitler: 10M Europeans/Leopold: 15M Africans

Hitler: 10M Europeans/Leopold: 15M Africans

Case #3- Genocide: The OT is full of instances of God telling his people to wipe out entire people groups (See Genesis 15, the time of the Amorite, the books of Joshua and Judges). The idea behind this is that, in relationship to God these people have exhausted their allotted time of probation, met the criterion of absolute wicked rebelliousness, and thus must be served God's judgment. In the flood, at Babel, and at Sodom and Gomorrah, in Egypt we find God has exacted judgment personally. However, with the invasion of Canaan we find God using sinful humanity to judge wicked humanity. Wicked humanity is wiped off the map, and their place is left to the faithful, or at least less wicked. We even see God moving other nations, giving them their freedom:

 

 

"Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the LORD. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?" (Amos 9:7).

Here God declares not only has He "exodused" Israel from Egypt, but also the Ethiopians, the Syrians, and the Philistines. God sent Pharaoh to war with Assyria at Carchemish (2Chr. 35:20-21) God declares Israel is his battle axe (Jeremiah 51:23), Assyria is the rod of his anger (Isaiah 10:5) Cyrus is his shepherd and anointed one (Isaiah. 44:28; 45:1). While a rod is used to chastise, a battle ax is used to destroy. Israel clearly was used by God in the destruction of the Canaanites as judgment from God, while Assyria and Cyrus were used as rods of chastisement with Israel, with Cyrus being also God's shepherd. Clearly Israel's time was not up.

As it relates to boundaries, the Bible gives us something in nature to consider:

 

Job 38:8-11  "Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?

Here we see that it is God who commanded the waters to stay in their locations, be they in the clouds, or in the depths. This staying of the water in its assigned location was symbolized by the rainbow in the cloud (Genesis 9:11-17). Thus, in describing the coming of the king of Assyria the bible says:

 

"Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah's son; Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks: And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel." Isa 8:6-8 

And again of Assyria and Egypt:

 

 Cambodian River overflowing its banks

Cambodian River overflowing its banks

"I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; and place shall not be found for them. And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves in the sea, and all the deeps of the river shall dry up: and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away." (Zec. 10:10-11)

The kingdoms of Assyria and Egypt are likened to rivers (Euphrates and Nile), with their invasion and armies being likened to those rivers' waters overflowing their boundaries. As mentioned above, at times differing nations were used by God to protect and guide other nations by being the shepherd and anointed one (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1), to punish other nations by being the rod (Isaiah 10:5), or bring about final judgment by being the battle axe (Jeremiah 5:23). This principle can be view in Deuteronomy 2:9-25, where the ancient races of giants are described as being genocided by other people groups, Bible saying that the land was given by God to the victors.

What we are seeing is this: while during the flood all of humanity was united in fellow-human abuse and rebellion against God, and such rebellion received judgment, after Babel and the diversifying of languages humanity could not unite, and thus each people group rebelled at different stages, locations, and times, resulting in divine judgments being handed out to individual groups and not humanity as a whole. This keeps God from wiping out humanity again before the incarnation of Jesus.

It is from this position that the following verses are valid and applicable:

 

"For he (the political ruler) is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." (See Romans 13:1-7)

And this...

 

“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme…” (see 1 Peter 2:13-17)

The New Testement Jew would have read these in the context of the Old Testament  precident. The idea behind these texts is similar to that of the OT "overflowing river", "rod", "battle axe", and "shepherd" statements: the kingdoms are used by God to punish ungodly peoples, or they are civilizations whose expansion is in direct rebellion to God, but their probationary "time of the Amorite" is not yet fulfilled. While God allows or uses these fallen evil nations to guide, protect, or punish other fallen evil nations, let us not think that the kings, kingdoms, and governments God chooses to use have any holiness to them. They simply are tools in the hands of a holy God when dealing with an evil world filled with evil people. That God would use an unholy kingdom to punish another more unholy kingdom can easily being found in the book of Habbakuk.

In any case, from a political standpoint we see no evidence of God organizing political and governmental integration as ideal for fallen humanity. We see God actually enjoining political segregation as ideal for fallen humans, with hierarchical cultural assimilation, diversity and inclusion, full on assimilation, or genocide as a judgment from God as the only options available. From God's perspective, it is either limited time and geography for rebellion and human abuse resulting is small scale judgment, or global rebellion and human abuse resulting in global judgment. 

When it is all said and done, the world will soon once again be of one heart and one language.

 "...and all the world wondered after the beast." Rev. 13:3b

 

They will globally begin to again globally abuse fellow humans.

 "...and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." Rev. 13:15b, 16-17

 

There will be global rebellion against God.

 "...(and) causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed...and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." Rev. 13:12b, 15b

 

This time, with the price for sin having been paid, the holy line of demarcation will be clearly defined, the righteous and the wicked will choose sides.

 "And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receivehismark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Rev. 14:9-12

 

There will be no need for further segregation. All will have sealed their fate in their decision. God will come and judge humanity, and since Christ's mercy has either already been accepted or rejected, justice will be met out in full force. 

 "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." Rev. 20:11-15

Summary: Every time humanity comes together as one, it shows itself to be in rebellion to God, and abusive to fellow humans. So God has separated the human family, designating each section of the family to an area/geographical location (Genesis 10&11; Acts 17:26), and given each section of the human family a probationary time period (Genesis 15:16; Acts 17:16). These boundaries are at times described as rivers in scripture, with kings and kingdoms invading other places to be seen as the rivers overflowing the banks (Isaiah 8:6-8; Zec. 10:10-11). Movement outside of established boundaries was instigated by God himself (Amos 9:7; 2 Chr. 35:20-21). One either got the rod of chastisement, which may have resulted in being conquered (thus a caste system or assimilation), or one received the battle axe (resulting in genocide). However, integration, as is presented in western democracy, is found nowhere in scripture as a God-ordained political-governmental plan, because with sinners it does not work. Segregation, however, can be. God, to curtail a unified and global human oppression of humanity, as well as to post-pone as long as possible a unified human rebellion against himself (and thus the righteous judgment due such rebellious wickedness), chose to keep us politically separate and segregated.

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Social Activism Part 2: A Case for Motive

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Social Activism Part 2: A Case for Motive

I grew up Seventh-day Adventist. I went to the black church, and attended the school at the Adventist white church on the other side of town. being a kid you never really are aware of things. You simply trust your adults, and live life as a kid.

I grew up Seventh-day Adventist. I can remember every sabbath someone would stand up and speak about out need to by Liberty magazine from the church, for ourselves and others. We needed to get the world to know that religious liberty was and is important. Once a quarter the church would have religious liberty Sabbath. The conference office had religious liberty representatives, etc. 

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My church's interest in religious liberty is dependent upon our eschatology. Revelation 13:11-18 is a description of a Lamb-like beast who speaks like the dragon of chapter 12. Adventist believe this Lamb-like beast is symbolic of the United States of America. We go on to say that this Lamb-like beast begins to speak draconianly (vs. 11) when it begins to enforce false worship (vs. 12). When an kingdom or government speaks, it does so through its laws, policies, and praxis. Thus we are ever desiring to ensure that religious freedoms are secured, as we do our part to combat this beast and bring the knowledge of God to others. The problem with this interpretation is that it sets the draconian speaking concurrent with the installation of false worship. This is textually untrue. The draconian speaking happens first (vs. 11), false worship happens second (vs. 12). Why do we interpret this passage in this way?

 Symbolic of those whose story is either ignored , dismissed, or rewritten in his-story.

Symbolic of those whose story is either ignored , dismissed, or rewritten in his-story.

This interpretation implies that speaking like a dragon is only in regards to "spiritual" things. Thus, the dragon should have nothing to say about the how we treat the image of God, care of the poor, economics, etc., since these are not "spiritual" things. He should only speak about "spiritual things", i.e. Sabbath, religious liberty, etc. This is a culturally convenient interpretation. It speaks to a privileged existance in America, one where the draconian laws and policies would either have little effect on you at minimum, would definitely benefit you at medium, or you would absolutely agree with, enforce and promulgate at maximum. If you ask a Native American, they will give story after story of their experiences with the draconian nature of this nation (lies, broken treaties, massacres, land stolen, etc.) . If you ask African Americans, they would give you story after story of their past and current experiences with the draconian nature of this nation (chattel Slavery, peonage, Jim Crow, Redlining, the Preschool-to-prison pipeline and the prison industrial complex, the War on Drugs, police brutality, etc.). If you ask women in general, and they can give example after example of their draconian experiences in this nation (lacking the right to own property, lacking right to vote until early 20th century, the corporate glass ceiling, the religious ordination class ceiling, etc.). If you ask the Japanese American citizens, they will point you to WWII, when they were rounded up and thrown in concentrations camps because of their cultural/ethnic/racial connection to Japan, one of America's WWII enemies. 

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Zdravko Plantak described our church during the 20th century as "The Silent Church", silent in issues of social justice in relationship to Gender, Class, and Race/Ethnicity. However, such ethnic contradiction within Adventism is not historically isolated to North American Adventists. Adventists in Germany and other European nations sided with Nazis. Adventists in South Africa participated in Apartheid. There was Adventist participation in the massacres in Rwanda. Adventists in North America participated in Segregation (Andrews University, Union College, Southern University, the creation of segregated conferences, etc.). On issues of ethnicity, Adventistism has in its history, and in the current North American Division structure is has vestiges of, a visible demonstration of siding with American draconian policy. Samuel London, in his book "Seventh-day Adventists and the Civil Rights Movement", chronicles this church's official reticence at engaging the civil rights movement.  Again, such positioning is due to the fact that unless the ethnic majority feel the sting, the laws are at minimum unfortunate, and at maximum beneficial, as was scene in Germany, Rwanda, S. Africa, and America. 

 Samuel London's book on ADVENTIST activity and inactivity during the Civil Rights movement. 

Samuel London's book on ADVENTIST activity and inactivity during the Civil Rights movement. 

In my post "Social Activism: a Case for Futility" I suggested that RESIGNATION, REFORMATION, AND REVOLUTION are all faulty ways of addressing injustice if they are aimed primarily at macro system change. I believe this is due to the fact that we have a closed system and are limited in knowledge, imagination, resource, methodology, and paradigms. Thus, we will always get what we have always gotten...oppression and injustice...we will just change who is doing it. No Christian should be content with this state of affairs. The Christian must be social active, must engage in the fight for justice. However, it is the Christian's "why" which will inform the Christian "what" and "how" in fighting social injustice. 

Most non-Adventist churches engaging in Social Activism engage from an eshcatological understanding that they must create the kingdom of God here, and then God will come and reign...kind of an "if you build it they will come" model. Therefore they protest, they legislate, for the purpose of creating the kingdom of God on earth.

 Joh 18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

 Luk 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

 God's Kingdom, coming from outside our systems and governments, to destroy them and establish the literal Kingdom of God.  

God's Kingdom, coming from outside our systems and governments, to destroy them and establish the literal Kingdom of God.  

Adventists hold that God must come and destroy all system and governments, for they are all evil, and set up His own kingdom and system, with Himself as King. The rock must strike the image on the feet, and then become a mountain for justice and equity to prevail (Daniel 2). Until then, we are ministering to the kingdom of God inside people, aiming at heart and character change. Have viewed or applied this holistically? Have we many times resigned ourselves to our theological ivory towers and communities, accepting the bigoted status quo as unchangeable and undeserving of theological reflection and praxis, having thus participated in the macro-system evil we should be denouncing? Is our position, that SDA's do not get involved in politics, allow us to be compliant with evil, and thus complicit in evil? Do we need global church reassessment of social activism, so we may become engaged in the work of God in preaching the gospel against evil around the globe. I believe so, and I call this engagement RESISTANCE. 

 

RESISTANCE/RESIST

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-the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument, armed or violent opposition, a secret organization resisting authority, especially in an occupied country, the ability not to be affected by something, especially adversely, withstand the action or effect of, succeed in ignoring the attraction of (something wrong or unwise), struggle against someone or something.

Resistance is not easy. It is not easy because it must be done is a manner that does not duplicate the evil one is resisting.  As such, righteous resistance must also be moral and ethical resistance. Jesus states it quite plainly on this when he pronounces his Beattitudes in Matthew 5. This chapter is full of things which go against the natural human sense and pursuit of justice. It places the acquisition of justice outside of our desire for immanent justice. In place of immanent justice, Jesus calls the children of God to demonstrate the character of God when facing evil. Immanence is replaced with patience and perseverance in the face of evil. They are to resist the methodology of evil for evil, and their resistance is to love those who do evil. True justice is postponed into the hands and to the timeline of God Himself.

 Deitrich Bonhoeffer was a type of Resistor, albeit he in the end participated in Revolutionary 2 assassination plats against Hilter.

Deitrich Bonhoeffer was a type of Resistor, albeit he in the end participated in Revolutionary 2 assassination plats against Hilter.

Mat 5:39, 44-45a "...I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also...I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven..."

The idea behind turn the other check is not that one is helpless. Walter Wink aptly explains in "Jesus' Third Way", that in the culture of Jesus' day, to smack someone on the right cheek meant you had backhanded them with your right hand. Being backhanded is a sign of disrespect, that you are less than. To turn the other cheek is in essence to say, "Is that all you got? Now hit me like a man!" It demands they address you as an equal, not as an inferior, while keeping you from staining yourself with the evil of violent retaliation. Them having to strike you again was shameful for them, since it publically revealed that they were not actually superior to you. The idea of giving them your coat when they take you cloak was to shame the creditor, who was so greedy that they would rather have you walk down the street naked than leave you some covering. The Apostle Paul agrees with this shaming methodology when he writes the following:

 Walter Wink is a Resistor. 

Walter Wink is a Resistor. 

 Martin Luther King, Jr. is a type of Resistor, as a proponent of non-violent Reform. He was however trying to Reform the system

Martin Luther King, Jr. is a type of Resistor, as a proponent of non-violent Reform. He was however trying to Reform the system

Rom 12:17a, 19-21 Recompense to no man evil for evil...Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

The culture in Jesus' day was an honor-shame culture, where honor was everything. You can still find this shaming technique practiced in places where honor and shame are still valued (Africa, the Middle East, etc.)  Martin Luther King, Jr. used shame to reach America's heart when through television America saw what she did not want to see: black children being beaten by cops, sprayed by fire hoses, and bitten by dogs. He shamed America with the 4 little black girls killed in an explosion at church by terrorists. He appealed to America's sense of honor in Selma, Al. The problem is that with the advance of western capitalism and western ideals, honor and shame have been replaced by innocence and guilt. Thus, it is harder to convince those innocent of overt crimes that they bear the shame of the impoverished or oppressed around them if they are not overtly guilty of those evils. It is hard for people to accept that compliance with evil (guilt) is complicity in evil (shame). We are moving toward, possibly even living in, a time where people are shameless, having no honor.

Resistance is designed by Jesus to reach the heart of the oppressor. Resistance assumes a God who will judge and vindicate. Resistance demands love for God and love for fellow man. In the pursuit of love, if one is shamed by that love for the evil he has committed, then shame is a catalyst toward holiness. Sin seeks to take shame and make it honor, without changing the activity for which one should be ashamed. Thus, sin is replacing holiness with evil...

 Isa 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Resistance is not Resignation. One is not passive in resistance, justifying one's evil and accepting others' evils. One is active in calling out injustice, to stand for the right, to work for equality. Resistance is not powerlessness. Power in this world is based on violence. The power of resistance is Love and Peace: Blessed are the Merciful...Blessed are the Peacemakers.

Resistance is not system Reform. Resistance knows that to reform something does not mean it is essential different. It has the same basic elements, so reforming it will gain you the same basic systemic problems. Resistance isn't even primarily system focused. Resistance knows that any system mankind invents will be a duplication of systemic failures of the past, even as Solomon has said "There is nothing ne wonder the sun". Resistance know that there is only one kingdom, one system, which is wholly just, and that is God's. Resistance knows that, until God comes to destroy this entire old system and set up His kingdom, it's work is not to topple governments. Resistance's work is in transformation. It seeks the transformation for peoples hearts, for changing people changes systems.

Resistance is not Revolution. Resistance is not interested in turning the wheel backward to where you just left, not forward to the exact same place with different oppressors in power. Resistance knows Revolution will only birth more of the same thing. Resistance is not seeking to repaying evil for evil. Resistance seeks to replace evil, to overcome evil with good. Resistance does not even seek power, since Resistance is already based in power...God's power.

Resistors realize that the system gives positional, powerful, social, political, and financial reward to those who play by its rules. Resistors, however, are ruled by Christ. Therefore they live among the system, as an indictment of said system, of those who are resigned (Resignation) to evil, of those who seek ways to repackage (Reformation) evil, of those who seek to violently redistribute evil (Revolution). Resistors know that they are living demonstrations of Jesus. For many they are the only crucifixion, resurrection, and/or acension people will see and believe in.  

 

 Symbolic of Resistors: of ever gender, nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

Symbolic of Resistors: of ever gender, nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

Resistors are not gender, class, ethnicity, social status, economic status, or nation specific. Resistors can be organized, but they cannot be organizations. Resistors are not focused on making macro (institutional, organizational) changes except as working toward those changes brings them into relationship with and reveals Jesus to those at the micro level (to individuals). Resistors minister on all stages, macro and micro, to make connections, relationships, and changes at micro level. Resistors have a universal long view, a global view, a human family view...a salvific view.

Resistors stand up against injustice. They work for higher wages, affordable healthcare, to positive policing practices and policies, better and affordable housing, fair judicial policies, not because they believe the system can be fixed, but so that the oppressed know God is still on their side. Resistors work for a drug free neighborhood as well as drug free neighbors, against domestic violence, and against sexual abuse and exploitation. Their work is an invitation for the rich and powerful to gain a conscience, a moral compass, and compassion. Their work is an invitation for the oppressed to become and remain ethically and morally better than their oppressors, to not be resigned to the circumstances and definitions oppressed upon them.

 Ghandi was a type of Resistor

Ghandi was a type of Resistor

Resistors stand against oppression, realizing that sexism, racism, classism, domestic violence, drug-pushing, human trafficking, etc., afflicts the oppressor as well as the oppressed. When God is made in the male image, the sexist male must now fulfill all that he is compared to. He must be protector, provider, comforter, sustainer, teacher, healer...God. When God was made in the image of white males, of whites period, or any other dominant ethnic or societal group, all of that group are now responsible for meeting up to this divine standard. They must be the best, they must win, they must not fail, they must succeed. They must pull themselves up, they must be the most just, the most democratic, the most industrious, the best speaking, the best thinking, etc.,...they must be God. The Resistor opposes all oppression, seeking to lift to downtrodden out of their vallies, as well as invite all the exalted to come off their mountains. Resistors offer the oppressed and oppressors their humanity back, and this humanity is found in a vibrant relationship with Jesus, who is demonstrably visible in the life of the Resistor.

 

Isa 40:2-5 "Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together..."

Is the glory of the Lord revealed after things are straightened, exalted, leveled, and plain? Or is it revealed in the actually doing those things? 

Resistors know they will be hated. The oppressed and oppressors of all communities, poor or rich, black and white, male and female, want to be able to justify their Resignation to the evils of the system imposed upon/inherited by them, or their Revolution against the system, where they repay evil with evil, redistributing wealth and power while reproducing the same evil. They want to justify the self-deluded belief that all is well, humanity is improving, and thus all is needed is a Reformation of the already established evil system. Resistors exist to as living reminders of our need for something, Someone, outside our sphere and our cycle, to come in a destroy all evil and establish righteousness. Resistors are the Divine's living document, God uneroding living-stone pillars of faith, whose presence in the world offers humanity one more chance to accept Jesus. 

 E.G. White was Resistor. She was a proponent of righteousness by faith alone in Jesus Christ, of reforming SDA schools, and of better SDA treatment of people of color during her time.

E.G. White was Resistor. She was a proponent of righteousness by faith alone in Jesus Christ, of reforming SDA schools, and of better SDA treatment of people of color during her time.

Resistors know they will suffer. Resistors know they will die. Resistors know they have no earthly support. They know they stand in protest, not choosing the lesser of 2-3 evils, but against all evil. Thus they protest the liberal left and the conservative right. They protest for peoples freedom to choose, while simultaneously protesting abortion as the choice. They protest the state defining relationships and inhibiting people's freedom to love whom they will, while protesting for people's right to speak against such from a theological position, while also protesting people's choice to relationship (consensual or abusive) which violate God's word and God's design. They protest the systemic abuse and oppression of minorities, at the same time protesting the violence and drug activity in minorities communities. They protest police shootings and gang violence. They protest physical, sexual, spiritual, and emotional abuse in marriage, as they equally protest the adultery following such. Their only earthly supports are other Resistors. They stand with arms outstretched, resisting the pull of evil which would tear humanity apart, their lives earth's final call from God. While the Angels hold back the winds of strife, Resistors are the final earthly damn against evil. Their love for God drives their love for humanity, to such that they are willing to stand and die to demonstrate this love. They would rather be dead than become complicit through compliance.

"Life is not worth living until you have found something worth dying for." Martin Luther king, Jr. 

 "There is nothing worth living for, unless it is worth dying for." Elizabeth Elliiot

"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it." Jesus Christ (Mar 8:35)

None of the people pictured above is a perfect reflection of a Resistor. They each had their flaws and their failings. It is to us, the next generation, to better demonstrate Divine Resistance. Is the Love of God, our love for God, and God's love though us for people worth standing and dying for?

 

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Social Activism Part 1: A Case for Futility

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Social Activism Part 1: A Case for Futility

I am a Christian. I am a man. I am a Black American. I am an Army Veteran. I am a Seventh-day Adventist. I am a Chaplain. When I write I am writing from these perspectives. I admit it. So when I speak about race issues in this nation, I do so with this background in mind. While through all these perspectives I can be scholarly, and while there is scholarly work ad infinitum written on the topic or race, reconciliation, and redemption (which 3 points I may write in a later post), only being a Chaplain has taught me to be reflective. 

Reflection on this topic was fueled for me as more and more evidences on police violence and cover-up, of exonerations and aquittals were handed out for obvious abuse of power and murder, have been revealed. It was instigated by some injustices that go without speaking, and yet are glaring for me, in my own church. Some question I sought to answer are as follows: if peaceful protesting has brought us to where we are now, and we still are dealing with similar issues, what do we think peaceful protest will do for us in the future? Why protest at all, accepting instead the current state of things as inevitable? Why not revolt, and overthrow the established and entranched injustice "...by any means necessary"? What is the appropriate SDA Christian's response to systemic injustices? Are we resigned to the will of God, as well as the dictates and definitions of evil, intent on reforming a fallen system, or is the system so corrupted that we should participate in the violent overthrow of the establishment? 

Today I am reflecting on 3 R's in social activism which seem to point toward futility. This is Part 1.

Option 1: RESIGNATION

 - an act of retiring or giving up a position,  or the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable.

This is to actually do nothing. It is to accept, to lay down, to "soldier on", to "suck it up", to "deal with it" According to Carl Linneaus (1707-1778), there are some general categorical assumptions he and other made about race...the rules of racism: 

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  • The Americanus: red, choleraic, righteous; black, straight, thick hair; stubborn, zealous, free; painting himself with red lines, and regulated by customs.
  • The Europeanus: white, sanguine, browny; with abundant, long hair; blue eyes; gentle, acute, inventive; covered with close vestments; and regulated by customs.
  • The Asiaticus: yellow, melancholic, stiff; black hair, dark eyes; severe, haughty, greedy; covered with loose clothing; and regulated by opinions.
  • The Afer or Africanus: black, phlegmatic, relaxed; black, frizzled hair; silky skin, flat nose, tumid lips; females without shame; mammary glands give milk abundantly; crafty, sly, careless; anoints himself with grease; and regulated by will.

Christopher Meiners (1747-1810) posited that only the white race was beautiful (superior, moral, human) considering other races ugly, inferior, immoral, and animal-like. Meiners stated "...the dark, ugly peoples were distinct from the white, beautiful peoples by their "sad" lack of virtue and their "terrible vices"". These two gentlemen and many other like them, along with their other "scientific" racial discoveries, were touted as the justification for intentional, systematic, colonially imperial abuse of people of color globally, and can be found easily on Wikipedia. 

 God writing out existance before it exists

God writing out existance before it exists

Add to this the faulty Calvinistic interpretation and application of Biblical predestination, election, etc. The idea behind this is that God, before everything (anything) was created, decided how everything would operate, to include humans. He decided who would be evil, and who would be good. Thus, if one was born to the immoral dark peoples, that was God's choice. Therefore, one's subjugation was God's choice, one's abuse was God's choice, and the immorality one manifested in those situations was God's choice. Resignation accepts all of this as God's divine decision and desire for our reality. Resignation accepts 2nd class citizenship, chattel slavery, the rape of a people and a continent, etc., as the divine design and desire. Thus, not only is my situation God's fault, but the evil, the immoral person I become is God's fault as well. Not only have I accepted being 3/5 human, I have accepted the negative descriptions invented about me by my captors as my identity, and I am holding God accountable for not only their abuse and my subjugation, but my gang affiliation, my drive-by shootings, my domestic violence, my single parent homes, my drug dealership...all that is God's desire for the world before he created it. Therefore, when I am resigned to the definitions and expectations of my captors, then logically all the evil done by others to me, me to others, and me to myself, is in actuality God-glorifying because we are all fulfilling God's divine desire, design and decision for creation.

 The Greek Fates cutting one's already woven, fixed, and delineated thread of life.  

The Greek Fates cutting one's already woven, fixed, and delineated thread of life.  

Resignation justifies all evils. Resignation has no personal or corporate responsibility. Resignation is Uncle Tom, Judas, and Benedict Arnold, all rolled into one. Even the word Resign literally is re-sign, to sign again. Resignation helps no one. It is convenient evil.

 

Option 2: REFORMATION

 -the action or process of reforming an institution or practice, to shape again. 

This sounds quite noble, and can be done peacefully or violently. The methodology (peaceful vs. violence) is secondary to the motivation. The motivation, or intent, of reformation is to correct the organization or system. Something is revealed as flawed, and in need of fixing.  

 The Civil War, which killed more Americans than all other American wars combined, was an attempt at System Reform.

The Civil War, which killed more Americans than all other American wars combined, was an attempt at System Reform.

Here is the problem with this in America. This system of racism is built on the ideologies of men like the ones mentioned above. It is built off of a theology which supported these pseudo-science views, and may have actually preceded them. These views allowed whites humans in America to be view black humans as 3/5 human, natives around the globe to be viewed as savages, with Aborigines in Austraila to be viewed as part of the natural "flora and fauna", nothing more than vegetation and animals, not be be counted among the census of humans.  

 The Civil Rights movement was an attempt at System Reform

The Civil Rights movement was an attempt at System Reform

The Civil War, fought mostly for economic purposes, was an attempt to reform the system based on economic necessity. The moral and ethical were secondary and tertiary concerns of the Civil War. Civil Rights movement as well, was an attempt to reform the system. Here is a fundamental problem: macro system change does nothing for the mind and heart. It was the mind and heart of a people which created the injustices we here discuss, and this change must happen at a mind and heart level. Reformation is interested in systems and institutions, in macro change. Herein lies another fundamental truth: this system of government was working perfect for its design when slavery was in place, when blacks were counted as only 3/5 human. That is because the system was designed for, built on, and by those criteria. It works best when all the things it is designed for are in place. The moment Civil War happened the system broke. The system tried to right itself through things such as peonage, Jim Crow segregation, the war on drugs, the preschool-to-prison pipeline, the cash for kids scandal, etc. This is the system, and the systems people, trying to reform the system, to get it working correctly again according to its original praxis. What macro events such as the Civil War and Civil Rights actually accomplished was breaking the system, allowing minorities in, but offering no viable alternative. They sought to include in a racist system what this system was not designed to hold: interracial, intercultural equality and equity. I submit that the only way to reform this system is to reinstitute the system the way it is designed, not the way we would like it, and to do that would be to sell out my own people, as well as Christ himself. 

Even the word reform means to re-form, to form again. Same substance, same material, arguably same purpose, just different shape.  

We have protested, marched, had sit-its, boycotted. We have sung and prayed. We have taught our people, carried guns for our people, had mini-revolts. We have had Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as Malcolm X, the NAACP as well as the Black Panthers. All of these were attempting to reforming a racist system, while in actuality were breaking the system, and have birthed all the fruit they will ever birth. To continue such tactics with the intent of macro system reform will only produce more of what we already have. If we consider the nation's response to Obama's election, the Congressional recalcitrance  from the day he entered office, as well as the vitriol spewing from the mouths of almost every 2016 Republican Presidential candidate, we can see that the fruit of our reformation/system-breaking work is being eroded before our eyes, the system actually trying to re-form itself back to its original design and purpose. System reformation as we intend it will not work. It will only get us more of what we have. On a theological note...this is why Paul never asks us to be reformed, but rather to be transformed....

Rom 12:1-2 beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God

 

Option 3: REVOLUTION

 The French Revolution, the overturning of kingship for republic governance. Many lives were lost. 

The French Revolution, the overturning of kingship for republic governance. Many lives were lost. 

-a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system, a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people's ideas about it, the movement of an object in a circular or elliptical course around another or about an axis or center.

When it comes to oppression, there is never a peaceful revolution. The elites, those who are in power, who run the system, and own the resources, aren't just gonna step away from power, and give up all their resources, both to be redistributed to the masses in an attempt to better society. In order to do such a dramatic and drastic redistribution one must take what the elites own. This taking can only be done with violence, a returning evil for evil. 

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The Civil War can be seen as a reformation or revolution, but it was primarily between whites. There has not been an en mass Revolution on this scale by blacks against this nation. Slavery's design was to so disconnect black from black that such revolution was not possible. Policing was instituted, using poorer whites to maintain status quo, to hunt down runaways, and to quell issurgencies. Blacks also were strategically kept from acquiring the means to acquire weaponry as well as weaponry itself, much less the national network through which to organize. 

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Additionally, consider the word revolve. It deals in circles, and the original Latin above meant to roll back. We even say that the earth revolves around the sun, meaning that in 365 days, the earth is right back to where it started. Even though seasons have changed, we are back at square one. The more things change, the more they stay the same, "there is nothing new under the sun." Here is the point: we live in a world with limited knowledge, resources, paradigms, and methodologies.  Our imaginations are limited to what is known. Even when we try to imagine new things, we must reference a known in order to mentally picture our imagination. So if we revolve the wheel of progress, resources, and power backward, we will end up where we started prior to our problem. This means that the same situations, the resource and power distribution leading to our problem are present. This is not helpful.

 1 years's revolution around the Sun. 

1 years's revolution around the Sun. 

If we revolve the wheel forward, we will come to the same location, since a wheel only has 360 degrees to it. No matter where we go on this wheel, we will find ourselves with limited options of knowledge, resources, paradigms, and methodologies. We will inevitably be back right here, either where we are right now, or where humanity was leading up to this point. In order to even get the wheel moving, we must violently repay evil for evil. Even the word Revolt above, has the same etymological origins as Revolution, to revolve. If blacks ran the system, since it is the only system we know, we would simply institute the same system with us on top, whites on the bottom. One need look not further than the history of Liberia prove this point. The oppressed become the oppressors. There is neither true justice, equality, equit, nor freedom in the process, nor is there hope. The wheel is a closed cycle. We are doomed to repeat it. 

If we are to uplift people, we have only one option: RESISTANCE! 

To Be Continued...

 

 

 

 

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I. Love. You.

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I. Love. You.

 

The three most overused words in human existance. Their meaning is lost in 3 applications of the words: the egocentric use of I, the multiplicity of uses for love, which water down the impact of the word, and the accusational or confrontational way we tend to address the "you", the others in our lives.

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Hermenuetics: Prooftext, Context, and Intertexulality

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Hermenuetics: Prooftext, Context, and Intertexulality

Hermenuetuics...the art and science of Biblical interpretation.  

There has been much hubbub recently in my very young church denomination of the issue of how to interpret scripture. The many of the founder of this denomination were not formally educated in theology. This is not inherehntly a bad thing. Many a great Bible truth has been revealed by the simple Bible student. How is this possible without formal training?

It is possible because of 2 things: a) the Bible students.  The prayerful commitment to copious time spent in the Word of God, and b) the Holy Spirit. Even without formal training, someone who is committed to prayerfully spending copious amounts of time reading the word of God can and often will come away with the general tone and direction of the author. they will see parallels, symbolism, type and antitype, as well as allegory appropriately without knowing what is happening to them. This is due to the presence of the Holy Spirit, whose job it is to "...teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (John 14:26) Thus, the Holy Spirit is able to take the untrained and give them tremendous insight, wisdom, knowledge and understanding, to the praise and glory of God.

 David and Goliath

David and Goliath

This is not, however, to be taken as a divine sanction to lack of education, scholarship, or simplistic methodology. It is a manifestation of God supporting those after his own heart, as he did David.  Technically speaking, Saul was the trained warrior, head and shoulders above al his people, and it is he who was the most logical, trained, and well-equiped man in all Israel to kill Goliath. It was not his skill, training, or size that God rejected. It was his heart. Saul's disobedience to God showed his heart was not toward God, so God would not use his skill, which was trained and equiped for war. God resisted the pride of Saul, instead gave His grace to the humble David and his rudimentary sling and stone. David's methodology was not primary to the war on the field, but secondary. The effectiveness of David against Goliath had more to do with God's grace than David ability, and yet David's ability showed that he was an expert with his tools. God prefers to use the commited, and empower their equipment, rather than use the fully equipped who are not committed.

Having said that, there is still the issue of proper hermenuetics. God's condescension to work with the  rudimentary is no divine sanction for unimprovement. Just because God keeps my car from breaking down does not mean I don't need a new and better car. So I wish to address a method called prooftext. Prooftext methodology uses texts as proof of a theological position. Here is the classic case in point:

Mat 27:5  And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.

Luk 10:37  ...Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Joh 13:27  ...Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.

We have just prooftexted our way in to a Jesus sanctioned theology of suicide. You may say, "this is ridiculous!" You would be correct, and while not coming to such hyperbolic conclusions, such a method is used all the time to defend a theology, instead of allowing the Bible to contextually inform our theolgy. Where does this methodology come from?

 

Biblical Reason for Prooftext

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The passage of scripture used to defend this methodology can be found in Isaiah 28. The chapter opens up with a condemnation against the "drunkards of Ephraim" who, having become a fading flow overcome with wine are to be trodden under foot (verses 1,3). Both priest and prophet have erred in judgment and vision through drunkenness, their tables are covered with filth and vomit (verses 7,8). God himself is to sit glorious, beautifuly, strong, and mighty in judgment, executing judgment with hail, storm, and flood against the earth and wicked Ephraim (verse 2,5). Here is where prooftext comes in:

Isa 28:9-13  "(9) Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. (10) For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: (11) For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. (12) To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. (13) But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken."

There is a need described in verse 9, and the results in verse 12. This is a parallelism. So the question "to whom shall he teach knowledge and understanding" is answered in verse the same verse, "the weaned". the result off the conversation is in verse 12. Here we see God teaching the people, "...this is the rest...", and the peoples response of not hearing, of ignoring. 

Verses 10, 11,and 13 are the text used to defend and support prooftext. Look at them carefully. Verse 10 and 11 state that the precept, upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little approach to teaching a stammerinng (foreign, buffoonery) lips and a unknown (to hinder, strange) tongue. This cannot be the methodology God is using to teach knowledge and understanding to his erring people. Why would God sue such a methodology?

 Imprisoned in a trap

Imprisoned in a trap

Verse 13 parallels verses 10-11. It begins with a "But", and but negates the thing preceding it. The thing preceding is the clear word of God offering Ephraim rest and refreshing in verse 12, which the people would not hear. Verse 13 says "but", parallels verse 10 verbatim, and the parallels verse 11 thematically. The stammering lips and foreign tongue of verse 11 are for the purpose of causing those who would not hear to "go, fall back, be broken, snared, and taken" in verse 13. Prooftext contextually- precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little- is not designed to convert, but to confuse. It is written as judgment from the Lord for a drunken and rebellious people (verses 1-8). Contextually, since the priests and prophets are drunk, and since the word of the Lord comes through them, then it this the broken lips and stammering tongue are God speaking through these fallen leaders, who are speaking while under the intoxicating influence of alcohol. To "go, and fall back, broken snared and taken"  is not so much the result of God personally confusing the people and leading them into this situation, but rather their rebelliousness leads them to such a situation. 

 Slaves of Another's Interpretation

Slaves of Another's Interpretation

There are 2 things I want us to notice additionally. The first is the movement of the prooftext- here a little there a little. It is very mobile. Methodologically it tends to bounce around the Bible to find its point. In the bouncing around, it does give enough substance from any one location it moves to, hence the word "little" is used. You get a little something here, and little something there, but nothing in its entirety. Such methodlogy does not empower people to do for themselves, but rather makes them dependent upon the leader, and reguritators of his rhetoric. This method does not teach people how to think, but what to think. The second is the emphasis of prooftext- precept upon precept (rule, commandment), line upon line (measuring cord). Notice that this methodolgy is dependent upon rules, and measuring based on rules...legalism. This makes the presenter of the rules the interpreater of the rules, as well as the applier and enforcer of the rulers. How does God speak to the people? "To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear." God comes offering rest and refreshment to those who have just been weaned. God's method is direct, restful and stable...not much movement. How do fallen leaders speak to people? They speak to them through rules, measure them by these rules, and bounce around in the Bible and their rules with instability. Through such methods, god's people know no rest spiritually, emotioally, etc.

 

God's Method- Context

 The Cornerstone

The Cornerstone

 Isa 28:16-17  "(16) Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. (17) Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place."

God's method is to stabilize his people. So he lays a precious corner stone, and foundation stone tried and true. God then lays his judgment and rightousness to make sure it lines up with the stone. The purpose of the stone is to securely anchor God's people in righteousness, and to ensure God's judgement is fair and impartial. All else not line up with and by the stone is seen as unstable, lies, to washed away in judgment. When we are line up with the stone we need not make haste (here a little, there a little), as that methology is used deceptively by drunken leaders to ensure their position and confuse the population. The question we must now ask is this: What is the stone?

The answer to this is found in Isaiah as well. 

Isa 8:13-15  "(13) Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. (14) And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (15) And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.

 God is My Rock

God is My Rock

The connections from Isaiah 28 to Isaiah 8 allows this to not be prooftext, but context: same author, same wording, same imagery. There is the imagery of the stone laid in Zion paralleled with stone of stumbling for Jerusalem. The stone's presence is Isaiah 18 is to protect God's people and bring them into alignment with judgment, while in Isaiah 8 the stones presence is the initiation of judgment against the wicked. The phrase "...go/stumble, fall (back), and be broken, and be snared and and be taken" is used in both texts. Thus, we see that for Isaiah, the stone of chapter 28 is the stone of chapter 8, who is the Lord himself. God is our cornerstone, our place of promise, of rest, and refreshment. We need not run to and fro when we are aligned with God. We need not fear judgment, when we are aligned with God. We have assurance of righteousness when we are aligned with God. 

However, to be more specific, Isaiah 28 says God lays in Zion a tried and true, precious, foundational corner stone. These are very specific criterion. Does the Bible get any more specifc, contextually, when identifying the cornerstone? 

 

Jesus: A Case for Contextual Intertextuality 

David is first to speak of the stone being rejected in a psalm praising God for being his salvation:

Psa 118:22-23  The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.

Jesus quotes David in these Matthew, Mark, and Luke passages, equating the stone of David to the son murdered in His vineyard parable. Jesus is eluding to himself as the the son rejected, and therefore the stone.

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Mat 21:42-44  Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

Mar 12:10-11  And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

 Luk 20:17-18  And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

Do you notice the second half of the Matthew and Luke passages? There are references to being broken and ground to powder. Jesus in these passages is eluding to Isaiah 28, where those who are wicked go, stumble, fall back, are broken, snared and taken. He is also referring to the the washing away of lies and the wicked in the flood, when he described them being ground to powder. 

Act 4:10-12  Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.  This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

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Peter is very clear on who he thinks the stone is. He declares that the crucified and risen Jesus is the stone rejected by the builders, and has become the head of the corner. This direct quote from David, which is elaborated on by Isaiah, is used by Peter to make his claim that salvation comes through none other than Jesus Christ. Interestingly, for David evil is coming from without (the nations), while for Isaiah evil is coming from within Zion (the drunken, lying priests and prophets). In both cases, God himself is the precious foundational stone, the salvation of those who trust by faith, and the judgment of those who are wicked gentiles, or drunken leadership Judas' teaching and measuring people based on rules, witth no foundational substance. 

 

Conclusion

I have tried to show prooftext in the light-of the verses used to support it. I have tried to show the significance of context in understanding scripture. I have tried to demonstrate the correct contextual use of parallel scriptures suppporting each other. Using multiple text is not evil. Much truth can come from the use and understanding of allegory, symbolism, type and antitype, and allusion. These must be declared to be what they are, and used appropriately.

Prooftext for prooftext sake, however, is biblically unfounded as a methodology for teaching God's people. It's stated purpose in Isaiah 28 is to decieve and ensare people by extensive, partial, movement through the text with no foundation, as well as measuring people by rules.  

God's contextual method is designed to get people focused on Jesus, the tried and true, precious, foundational cornerstone of our salvation. We are aligned with, measure by, and judge according to him. Our connection to him brings rest, and refreshment, and we need not haste, running to and from in uncertainty or confusion.

 

 

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Law of Thirds: Relationship

I've been married for almost 4 years. For the first 3 years, through the birth of my daughter, the death of my mother-in-law, being in a state hundreds of miles from the nearest family, etc., I always thought it was my job to make my wife happy. I would then get frustrated when she was not happy, because I somehow took that to mean that I was a failure at being a husband.

 Happily Ever After? 

Happily Ever After? 

"...and they lived Happily Ever After." That is how many fictional childrens books and movies end. The earth-shattering crisis is averted, and the couple walks into the sunset, to an emotionally, sexually, spiritually, and economically fulfilling and rewarding future, free from all danger and struggle. Who makes this stuff up? Are we really gonna take our relationship que's from fiction?

Anyone who is in a marriage, a relationship, knows that this is not true. Every relationship (parental, intimate, friendship, dating, marriage, work-related, etc.) will have bumps in it. There will be disagreements, arguments, impasses. Part of these impasses are born out of the expectation that the other person will make me happy. 

Happiness is an emotional response, and is dependent upon what happens. It is unwise to allow one's self to become the source of another's happiness.  

After 3 1/2 years of personal counseling, I now approach all relationships from the law of thirds. 

 

YOURSELF

As in the law of thirds-character, your genetics is what you bring to the table at birth. Well in relationships, you bring all of you to the table. Your genetics, experiences, preferences, expectations, abilities, weaknesses, etc. In any relationship, you are the variable you can most focus on. As in genetics, at birth I am born with issues good and bad which predispose me to things. In a relationship, my past predisposes my present to things, good and bad. So at least 1/3 of the relationship problems are all mine, because they are me. I am the problem 1/3 of the time. 

So what do I do to improve myself for my relationship. I exercise. My wife and daughter deserve to have a healthy father and husband, and one who is around for a long time, by God's grace.

I go to personal counseling once a month. It doesn't cost me alot, and it helps me process my feelings in any and all relationships I have, with a person who has no invested emotional interest my response. they can be completely objective, giving affirmation or critique as needed.

I have a professional advisor, whom I meet with monthly. This person assists me in planning my professional career, and navigating the corporate workplace, which for me is...challenging.  

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I have accountability partners. These are men with whom I am most vulnerable, telling them my strengths and weaknesses, who have given me encouragement (or the swift kick in the butt) when needed.  

I have accountability software on my computer. I do not give myself the option of heading to a site my wife would not approve of. This accountanility software, CovenantEyes, blocks all foolishness, and sends a report weekly to my accountability partners. 

I see doctor regularly. I ensure that I am healthy, and if there is something alarming, it is discovered early. So far...so good.

I am looking into further my education. Why? because I want to be in a position to have options in my field, to be able to care for my family in such a way that my wife and daughter need not stress. I desire to position our family economically that we have something to leave our grandchildren.  

I maintain my relationship with God. In our home this is important because of our belief system. My wife knows she can trust me when she knows I am close to God. Additionally, there are things, insights or leadings, one gets when one spiritual life is in line with one's beliefs. 

 

ENVIRONMENT

 A visual representation of the Four Horseman of Relational Apocalypse

A visual representation of the Four Horseman of Relational Apocalypse

In any relationship there is the environment in which the relationship, habits, desires, emotions, etc., are nurtured. Church relationships are nurtured at church, predominantly. Work relationships, at work. Whatever the environment one's relationship finds itself in, that environment makes up another 1/3 of the relationship. You are 1/3, the environment is 1/3. In any relationship environment, I can only be responsible for 1/2 of the nurture and the environment. Let me illustrate: if my wife cleans the house, she can only be responsible for 1/2 the house, because I live in the house as well. even if she cleans most of it, I must do my part or the house will either not be completely clean, or my wife will be burnt out. 

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In any relationship, in the environment and nurture of the relationship, one can only be responsible for 1/2 of the nurture and environment. If one tries to do more, one is complicit in codependency, or of being a parent more than an equal. This applies in all aspects. Let's take communication. If I am trying to communicate effectively with a friend, to tell him how I am feeling, to express to him my thoughts, and he immediately goes on the defensive, that is not my fault. If what I am saying is automatically interrpeted as problematic, that may be in the ears of the hearer more than coming from the mouth of me. If I am trying to communicate effectively, and am willing to rephrase for better effectiveness, and all I get is stonewalling, defensiveness, criticism, or contempt, then the relationship is doomed. I cannot change how people will respond to me, I can only change how I present myself. Am I a nurturing person? Am I more apt to speak than to listen? When I listen, do I listen to respond, or to understand with empathy? Am I affirming?

If I am presented with anyone of these horseman in my relationship, how do I respond? Whatis the  appropriate response?  

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1) Instead of giving Contempt, I am to describe my own feelings and needs. I am not to describe the other person.  Most of us do a great job of describing the other persons failures, but we struggle to describe our own needs and feelings. This is based on the need for power, which is based in being afraid and hurt. It is easier for me to attack you than to let you know how hurt I am at this moment. Describing my own feelings put my weapons away, and actually invites the other person closer to me than before.

2) Instead of being Defensive, I am to take responsibility for what I can take responsibility for. In some relationships, the manipulative person wants you and others to be responsible for their feelings, mindset, failures, apathy, etc. I do not accept that. I will own my own stuff; I will not own yours.

This is not permission to be rude. This is making room for actual honesty in a relationship. In any relationship, everyting must be discussable, open and honestly. There are some who desire that certain things be not discussable. This is their powerplay. They maintain a sense of power and control by keeping certain things from being discussed, or breaking down emotionally the guiltride the other into dropping the subject and apologizing for simple honesty. Honesty does not need to be apologized for, and any relationship which cannot speak honestly about the facts in a relatioship lacking intergrity. If my wife says to me "Jason, the way you survived in your childhood is affecting our marriage negatively", she may say it as softy and sweetly as she wants to, and it will still be true (this is not a conversation we have had, mind you). If i feel hurt, that is not her fault. She can empathize with me that the topic may be hurtful, but she should not own the fact that I am hurt. I must own my own hurt, and not turn to my wife and say things like, "My childhood is off the table! Why would you bring that up? You know how much that hurts me to speak of it! You hurt me!" I am using the blame game, the guilt game, to attempt to manipulate my wife into dropping a subject, because I am uncomfortable with considering her correct, with thinking myself flawed, with remembering a plausible painful childhood, or with having to take responsibility for my own actions in the present. My wife should own what she can own: she brought up a very factual conversation, and how it is affecting her, in a calm and compassionate way. She should not own what I must own: my feelings, emotions, responses, responsibility. 

3) Instead of Criticism, which can explode on someone as if they are the entire personification of evil, I am to speak of a specific situation and incident. In doing so, I choose to let past issues be past, and not rehashing things from years ago as reference and precedent to validate my criticism. Criticisms are broad and explosive. Complaints are more narrow, and more specific.  

4) Instead of Stonewalling, I am to take ownership of my own emotions, and sooth myself while remaining in the conversation. Stonewalling is another defensive power tactic. It places the other person at fault for my feelings and emotions, removes all responsibility from me for the relationship, and my own feelings and emotions, and challenges the other person to get past my walls. If they try, and I let them in, I am in power. If they try, and I keep them out, I am in power. If they try, and they succeed in breaking past my defenses, I can now play victim. Owning one's emotions, while remaining in the relationship and conversation, soothing one's self, actually takes power from others over my emotions, and does not allow them to push me away.

 THE OTHER PERSON

As in the Law of Thirds-Character, this issue deals with choice. Everyone has a choice on how they will be in a relationship. Will you be happy, sad, submissive, domineering, victim, manipulator...who will you be. In every relationship, the happiness is found within oneself. It is what you bring to the table. If you are not happy, don't expect the relationship to give you joy, meaning, purpose, etc. The relationship will be what each one of us brings to the table. If you find that the person you are in relationship with does not share the sames values and outlooks for life there are a few options:

1) Break off the relationship. It is better to part ways than to try to force change on someone who is unwilling, be that someone yourself or the other person.

2) Stick with the relationship, but have healthy boundaries, recognizing that the two of you are different in some areas, and it is OK. Allow the difference and enjoy the difference.  

 

In conclusion, I'll share with you my 3 laws of life: 

1) When someone tells/shows you who they are, believe them. This will allow you to be in relationship with eyes wide open, knowing exactly who you are in relationship with. You are choosing them. 

2) Never expect others to be what/who they have told or shown you they are unwilling or incapable of being. This will allow you to be in relationship without the misguided notion that you can change anyone.

3) Never expect others to do or be who God ordained you to do or be. This will allow you to live without the expectation of others. It also allows you to be in relationship with others appreciating their calling and way of being.

If these rules cannot be followed in your relationship, then it is probably time to walk away. 

 

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Law of Thirds: Character

Growing up in a Christian home, I would always hear how I was "born in sin, and shaped in iniquity" . However, outside of being a child of Adam and Eve, this statement was not explained to me. So, when I made mistakes, the emphasis was placed upon my decision, whether I chose right or wrong. I was never told of the struggles of my larger family, or my parents for that matter. 

As I got older, and began to study, I discovered that there were things in my family that I needed to know, which explained some of my struggles. There were also environmental factors which assisted in my decision making, good and bad. I call this the Law of Thirds: Genetics, Environment, Choice

GENETICS

One third of every decision you make is dependent upon your genetic make-up, what you are predisposed to. The obvious things affcted by this are things like alcholism and drug-addicts. A child is born to an alcoholic or crack-addicted parent, the child is predisposed alcoholism and drug addiction. This is also true of moral things. 

 

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Exo 20:5b; 34:7b   ...visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

 

Eze 18:2  What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge?

 

The Jewish mind took these as fate statements. These are not saying that my guilt is passed on to my child nor that she is fated to act on certain things, but my rebellion is passed on to my child, and she will struggle with the inherited tendency. Sin, lawlessness, is something that children naturally know. They are not born holy or pure. They know when they are doing something wrong, and they sneak to do it. This sinful tendency and desire my daugther got from me. 
 
We all know that behaviors and tendencies are passed on. A child who is separated from their parents from infancy will still act like their parents in some way. They will have likes and dislikes, and until they meet their birth parents these will either be over-looked or be a point of contention/curiosity. Once they are connected with their family, their people, much of their natural tendencies and choices will be seen in light of the greater family model. 
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 Adventist Home Pg 124, Para 1 Why Satan Seeks to Weaken Self-control.--Satan seeks to lower the standard of purity and to weaken the self-control of those who enter the marriage relation, because he knows that while the baser passions are in the ascendancy, the moral powers grow steadily weaker, and he need have no concern as to their spiritual growth. He knows, too, that in no way can he better stamp his own hateful image upon their offspring, and that he can thus mold their character even more readily than he can the character of the parents. {AH 124.1} 

Child Guidance Pg. 442  In very many cases the parents are the real sinners. They have abused their marriage privileges and by indulgence have strengthened their animal passions. And as these have strengthened, the moral and intellectual faculties have become weak. The spiritual has been overborne by the brutish. Children are born with the animal propensities largely developed, the parents' own stamp of character having been given to them.  

 We see from the Bible, as well as one Christian author, that there is something inherited, genetic, about moral failures. This has to be acknowledge by Christians at large, so that we may have some sense of compassion on people, and cease to be judgmental. People CAN be "born this way", and it is not God who made them that way...it is sin and their sinful ancestors. 

 

ENVIRONMENT

 Pro 22:6  Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

This is the classic verse speaking to the power of training and shaping the character and mind of children for adulthood.   Here are a few other verses:

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 Deu 6:6-9  And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. 

2Ti 1:5  When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.

In these verses we see that not only were the parents to have a certain belief and moral standard, but the children also, by virture of being properly taught and by virture of what they saw in the house. The will of God was to be a constant topic of conversation in the home, as well as visually represented in the parents and in the home. I wonder sometimes why people consider that church or school are adequate to teach their children appropriate moral or civil conduct, when what these children see from their parents, in their home on television, or hear via music, videos, or community outside, is contrary from the moral or civil codes expecting to be taught in school?

 Which side has better choice options...the left, or the right? 

Which side has better choice options...the left, or the right? 

We must be gracious with people. Look at who they are, whose family they belong to, and where they are from. It may be that at least 2 thirds of their existance is stacked against them. And who stacked this deck against them. Is it simply that their parents are wilfully rebellious or immoral? Does their family suffer from structuralized poverty driven by national capitalistic greed? Does their family suffer from structual and institutional racism? Does their single mother struggle with structuralized mysogyny and inequality? Whether you are rich or poor, you didnt ask to be here, you didn't ask for your parents, you didn't ask for the neighborhood you grew up in, you didn't ask to be poor or rich, male or female, American or non-American, Black or White, to be born to hippies or bigots? Life, with any combination of these above factors, was given to you, and you had no say in it: you were simply born that way. 

 

CHOICE

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The act of picking or deciding between 2 or more options...that is making a choice. The fact that there are 2 or more things to decide of pick between means that there are choices. While we cannot choose our genes, parents and ancestors, the environment we were raised in, etc., what we can choose it to abide by the rules of morality and civility as best we can, based on what we have learned, are willing to learn, are learning, and understanding. When we choose we are saying that we are more than the sum of our family genes, environmental nurturing, or educational system. 

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It is true that everyone cannot be everything. Everyone does not have access to the same options, resources, knowledge base, mental capacity. Heck, many times one's success at a thing is no much based on ability, resources, or knowledge base, but simply if one likes the thing or not. Additionally, the glass ceiling is real for women, the poor, and minorities. Not withstanding, it is within the grasp of each of us to learn all we are capable by either access, ability, and enjoyment, and make the best choices possible for us, in spite of our environment and genetics. Case in point: a Chicago urban prep school has 100% college acceptance rate, despite the fact the its students are young black men in a crime-ridden city. Or even the wise choices of Native American communities, who have chosen, through their Casinos, to harness the fiscal power of American gambling addiction to increase education, health care, and jobs among their people group.

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Now I can hear someone turning up their nose at the idea of gambling. I submit these facts for the wisdom of the Native American decision on this point: 1/4 of all Native American children live in poverty (versus 13% for rest of nation), Native American children graduate at a rate 17% lower than the national average, they have a higher substance abuse rate, they are 2x's as likely as other ethnic groups to die by age 24, they are 2.3% more likely to suffer trauma, 2x's more likely to suffer neglect and abuse, and their PTSD rates rival those of returning Afganistan veterans (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/the-hard-lives--and-high-suicide-rate--of-native-american-children/2014/03/09/6e0ad9b2-9f03-11e3-b8d8-94577ff66b28_story.html).

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Among native children, the suicide rate among ages 15-24 is double the national average (http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/USA-Update/2015/0413/Tribes-battle-high-teen-suicide-rates-on-native-American-reservations).

 

 Please forgive me if I consider their casino industry a win for their people and a positive choice. I could enumerate the outside stimuli which placed and keeps their ENTIRE ethnic and culteral group in situations which allowed for these realities, but I won't. 

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I will close with this thought: 

Deu 30:19  I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

Jos 24:15  And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose youthis day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

 

Choice is about doing. It is not about trying. Trying is an issue of effort, and gives the self permission to fail. Doing is an issue of will, and in our doing, if our doing has limitations, we have still done more than doing nothing, and have accomplished more than if we simpy "tried". It is important to remember that people can only choose the best options when the resources for, knowledge of,  or options themselves are presen. Outside of this, we are left to choose the greater of evils, or best option of all bad options available. this is why it is important to not judge. While it may be evident that a bad choice was made, only God knows the inherited tendencies, envrionmental nurtured traits (education, resources available), accessibility to optimal options available to tbe person whose shoes we have not worn. Regardless of genetic predispositions and environmental nurture, we still have the ability to choose to do civil and moral righteousness within our context and understanding. We still can choose to educate our kids, remain faithful to our spouse, work hard, spend wisely, listen more, speak less. We can still choose.

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3 Laws of Prayer- #3 Fruitfulness

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3 Laws of Prayer- #3 Fruitfulness

Joh 15:16  Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

We have reached the final lesson, the climax if you will, in our teaching on prayer "in Jesus name". Here is the brief recap:

1) In my blog, Prayer-In Jesus Name?, we learned that many of us pray "in jesus name" the same way witches and pagans use prayers and spells. We say our prayer, which is a request for something from God, and then we "cast the spell", which is the command to the heavenly universal powers ("in Jesus name") which we believe assures us our prayer will be answered affirmatively.

2) John 14 says that prayers in Jesus name can be assured when the answer will give glory to the the Father in the Son, and when they agree with the Hoy Spirit's teaching on Jesus. 

3) John 16 says that prayers in Jesus name are assured when we pray for our joy to be filled with/by the love God the Father has for us

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We discussed how, using the phrase "in my name" as the connector of the texts, the structure of the texts is chiastic, or pyramidal. Of the 3 texts in John 14 (verses 13, 14, and 26) the main point is verse 14, with verses 13 and 26 as support. Of the 3 texts in John 16 (verses 23, 24, and 26-27), we understood that verse 24 was the main point, with verses 23 and 26-27 as support. This means that of the 7 verses in John using the phrase "in my name (John 14: 13, 14, 26/ 15:16 / 16:23, 24, 26-27) the main point John is trying to make is John 15:16, with all other verses as a support, pointing toward 15:16.

This means that the certainty of answered prayer by Jesus and the Father, when we pray in Jesus name, for the purpose of being bathed in the love of God so that our joy may be full, based on Father getting glory in the Son, the Spirit teach us all things which Jesus has commanded, as it is revealed in scripture...all these are supporting positions, foundation and supplementary, to what 15:16 has to say.

So what does 15:16 say? Here is the text: 

Joh 15:16  Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

Jesus starts this section with an assertion: "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you..." This is not saying that people didnt have a choice. When Jesus says to each disciple, "follow me" they do not suddenly become zombies who lack the ability to think and decide. They each chose to follow Jesus. This choosing that Jesus is discussing is intimately connected to his identity. He makes this connection when He tells them that not only has He chosen them, but He also "...ordained you...". Appointed, ordered, set aside, etc.: these are some of the meanings. This verse is directly following verse 15 where Jesus says:

 

Joh 15:15  Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

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He calls them servents no more. When He called them to Himself, He did it with authority, so that when they followed him they realized their subordinate position. He asserted His right to choose and call them, they asserted their right and choice to follow Him. What is Jesus saying? He is saying this: they didn't ordain Him as Master, Messiah, Son of God. These He already was. All they could do was choose to follow Him. He, as Master, Messiah, Son of God, chose to call them, asserted his right to pick them out of all other Jews, and set them aside as His apostles. They didn't even set themselves aside as His apostles! This is not the people picking from among themselves a King, and then setting themselves up as His court. This is a King showing up and choosing his court! Jesus continues His humility by saying that not only does He not call them servents, but He calls them friends. They couldn't make Him do that! That is the prerogative of the King to make the commoner His friend!

Jesus says he chose them, and ordained them, and then there is this interesting twist. There is this 3-fold movement which is then summarized in the last phrase. 

"...that ye should go and

(that you should) bring forth fruit, and

that your fruit should remain:

that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."

 A pilgrim

A pilgrim

Jesus wants them, and us, to go. This "go" is movement based. He is not building anything except people. There is nothing in this "go" that says that we should stop moving at any point in time. This "go" is the proverbial vision Jesus for His people...we are pilgrims. We have not arrived. We are travelers toward a destination. We are emisarrie, ambassadors, sent out by our Lord and  Friend, to call others to Him, to be His call for others lost like us. 

We are to "...go and bring forth fruit ..." From where? It doesn't say. If this is a great commision then we are to go and bring forth the fruit of other believers. If this is a personal statement, then we are to bring forth fruit of righteousness in our own lives.

We are to "...go and bring forth fruit, and that (our) fruit should remain..." This remain means endure, stay, continue, with the idea of being in a given place, relationship, and place with expectancy). Does this mean that the souls we bring to Jesus will remain, that our righteous deeds and character will remain? I submit that it is both. Remain until when?

 

Joh 14:1-3  Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 

Jesus wants our fruit, our labors, our characters, and the souls we minister to remain, until He returns for us. 

How are we to go? Where are we to go? How are we to bear this fruit? How are we to win souls? How are we to have our characters changed? 

 "...that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you."

 The Hebrew High Priest, with prayer incense.

The Hebrew High Priest, with prayer incense.

We are to ask, "in my name". We have been chosen, and ordained...so that whatever we ask the Father in Jesus name, he may give it. We have been chosen and ordained so that the Father may give us our request. Sin made our prayers a stench to God, thus, he was not compelled to answer. However, when surrounded in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, as is revealed by the Holy Spirit in scripture, when prayed for the glory of God In Christ Jesus, when prayer simply because we long to be comsumed by God's 4-fold love for us, we are assured that God will affirmatively answer our prayers.

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The Root: pursuing our joy-fullness in God's 4-fold love for us, asking for things that will bring God glory in the Son, while seeking to be in submission to the Holy Spirit's teaching of Jesus as is found is scripture

The Fruit: the "going" for the purpose of fruitfulness in holiness of Character and the salvation of other souls, both of which are to endure forever.

When our roots are grounded, our fruits will produce abundance. We can know that we will have what we want, because we asked "in Jesus name".

 

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3 Laws of Prayer: #2- God's love, our Joy

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3 Laws of Prayer: #2- God's love, our Joy

In this second teaching on Prayer In Jesus Name, we will be looking at the phrase "...in my name..." in John 16. Here are the texts:

Joh 16:23  And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.

Joh 16:24  Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

Joh 16:26-27  At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God

We see the phrase "...in my name..." in each verse, which is the connecting link for these verses in this chapter. In Chapter 14 we read that Jesus will definitively and affirmatively answer are prayer requests, made in His name which:

1) bring glory to God through the Son

2) are in keeping with the Holy Spirit teaching us all the things of Jesus, as is revealed in scripture

3) are asked for the purpose of being and remaining fruitful

These are the foundation of Jesus' ironclad assurance to answer our requests in His name with a "yes". In this chapter, Jesus tell us that we have assurance that:

1) the Father Himself will answer

2) because the Father Himself loves us

3) so that our joy will be full. 

 

The Father Answers

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Joh 16:23  And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.

God, who made all things by speaking them into existence, did so as Elohiym in Genesis 1. This God could be seen as creating almost objectively, distantly. This God is the powerful, majestic plural entity. Period. In Genesis 2, when God created humanity, we see God desginated as the Lord God, YHWH Elohiym. YHWH is the covenant relationship name of God. Thus, the omnipotent objective God is intimately interested in a covenant relationship with humanity. This could be viewed as God's subjectivity, for He comes very close, forming us with His hands, breathing into our nose, handbuilding the garden, personally teaching us about boundaries, personally creating gender, marriage, and intimacy. In both chapters, the Godhead is represented by the word Elohiym, the majectic plural. 

 Artist rendition of Adam and Eve's view of God after they sinned.

Artist rendition of Adam and Eve's view of God after they sinned.

When sin entered however, the Bible says that humanity "...heard the Voice of the Lord God walking... " This is an illusion of John 1, where the Word was with God and is God. Whereas in Genesis 1-2 Elohiym is present throughout, with the entrance of sin only the Voice of the Lord God, the Word, comes to meet humanity. Before sin we knew God in His plurality, but now we can only know Him singularly.

 God as the wrathful, arbitrary judge

God as the wrathful, arbitrary judge

This is because sin is death. The Word, coming to meet us in Chapter 3, is entering into our death. For the sinner, whose orientation is rebellion, God now looks like a stern judge, an arbitrary diety, much like Zeus, Odin, and the numerous other supreme gods of the pagan. Love appears to be dependent upon the performance of something which is outside our nature and impossible. We are always hiding, always sewing fig leaves, always placing blame for our failures on the next person, never able to be perfect enough to please this God whose holiness is life, while our unholiness is death. We fail to grasp the reality that we should be dead, instead viewing God as the One who wants to actively kill us. We feel no love from God.

Joh 1:18  No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

Joh 5:37  And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heardhis voice  at any time, nor seen his shape.

Joh 6:46  Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.

Consider these verses. After the fall, no one saw God at anytime. This means that no one saw God the way humanity did originally...as a Divine Plural Oneness. Also, no one has seen the one we call "the Father" at any time. This means that the only aspect of God humanity has had any dealing with, in a tangible, sensory way, since the fall has been with 2nd person of the Godhead, the Voice/the Word. The Spirit stayed behind the scenes, and the Father remained silent and distant. 

 Man could not reach God. God reached down to man in the incarnation.

Man could not reach God. God reached down to man in the incarnation.

Enter the incarnation. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son..."  The incarnation is the Father in action. He actively sends The Word to/into humanity. The Word is the Father's action, so that "...he that hath seen me hath seen the Father..." (John 14:9)

The cry of humanity was for reconciliation, and God acted to reconcile "...whosoever believeth of Him..." so that none should "...perish, but have everlasting life." 

With the incarnation, we can now come "...boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." This throne of grace is the mercy seat, upon which the Father sits. Jesus is telling us that, because of Him, we have direct access to God the Father and the entire Godhead, and that God Himself will personally answer. He will not keep silent when we come to Him wrapped in Jesus. Heck, to ask "in My name" is to expect the God the Father to answer! 

 

The Father Himself Loves Us

Joh 16:26-27  At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God

Not only is God not the judgmental arbiter or vicious tyrant, but God actually loves us.  

1Jn 4:7-10  Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God Is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

 The Trinity in relationship with Themself

The Trinity in relationship with Themself

God IS love. Love demands relationship. If God is Love, and love demands relationship, the God must have already been in relationship before creating humanity. God's love didn't start with creation. If this is not so, then God became love when He created. This is not true. God's love moved Them to create. Therefore God must be a Plural Entity in order to be in a relationship of love prior to creation. The Godhead loved each other.

 God's love moved God to love.

God's love moved God to love.

Enter the incarnation. The Godhead loved the world so much that They gave up 1/3 of Themself to humanity for humanity. They incarnated 1/3 of Themself permanently into flesh, to save us. This means that Their relationship, physical as well as emotional, was altered somehow at the incarnation. We cannot fathom this, but the incarnation was such a sacrifice for the Godhead that if we were to prayerfully meditate on it, our hearts would break with gratitude for the truth found in John 3:16. God so loved us that They were willing to sacrifice a portion of Their relationship, and simultaneously invite and provide a way for us to experience what They have between Them from eternity. 

When we pray "in Jesus name" we are praying for the purpose of experiencing this Love of God, of accepting this love of God.  

 

Filling up our Joy

Joh 16:24  Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

In keeping with our Chiastic structure, of the 3 versus we started this study with, this is the center, the point. In this Scripture, Jesus is telling us that we should ask "in my name" that our joy may be full.  

Consider this: we are told to ask because God Himself with definitively answer, and will do so because the Father Himself loves us. This love is 4-fold: 

1) There is a love that God has for us specifically

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2) In order to access this love, God had to actively love by giving us Jesus. God's love in Christ gives us access to God's original love for humanity, and specific love for us individually.

3) The Father loves the Son, and since we are in the Son we receive the love the Father has for the Son. 

4) God is love, therefore because God became flesh, and is still God, we are invited into the Love of God, which they have for Themself.

Sin has brought a huge chasm between us and God. This chasm is literally death, non-existance. Imagine the horror, the terror, the guilt and shame felt by humanity when mankind sinned. Those feelings are right in Genesis 3:

Gen 3:8  And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife HID themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

Gen 3:10  And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I WAS AFRAID, because I was naked; and I HID myself.

God's grace met humanity in death, kept us alive in its bubble, offering us a chance to experience God's love again through Jesus Christ. Where we once knew nothing from distance, horror, condemnation, we may now know that not only does God love us now, but He has loved us always. These verses give us permission to pursue the satisfaction of our joy in the love of God. While happiness is a feeling, depending upon what happens, joy is a knowing. We know God loves us. We can and should have happiness in our lives based on what happened at the incarnation, Calvary, the resurection, the ascension, as well as based on what will happen...the soon return of Jesus. However, to have joy is to accept, in our deepest level, the ever-abiding, love of God. To have joy is to accept that we have value even though what happens may not make us happy, treasured, appreciated, etc. To pray in Jesus name is to accept and pursue our Joy to its fullest in the love of God with full confidence in His hearing and answering. 

 

 

 

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3 Laws of Prayer: #1-God's Glory, the Spirit's Teaching

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3 Laws of Prayer: #1-God's Glory, the Spirit's Teaching

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I work in a hospital, in the Emergency Department and on a Neurological Intensive Care Unit. I have had prayer with countless patients and their families in both locations. I have prayed during my military time for the life of a fellow service member.  I have prayed with my family about family members. In most cases, the answer to the prayer was no. God either silently allowed things to happen, or he actively stated his answer to our prayer with a negative result.

What do we do with the promises of Jesus, "If you ask anything in my name, I WILL do it"? 

The texts we want to look at are in the gospel of John. I decided to consider the New Testament phrase spoken by Jesus, "...in my name...". I believe that if we begin to understand what Jesus meant in context, we will be able to pray accordingly, and are assured of our answer. So, let's begin.

Joh 14:13  And whatsoever ye shall ask IN MY NAME, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Joh 14:14  If ye shall ask any thing IN MY NAME, I will do it.

Joh 14:26  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send IN MY NAME, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

 

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I would like to set the structure that I see here. While verses 13 and 14 are spaced some distance from verse 26, they are in the same chapter. Also, since I am focusing on the words, "in my name", I  believe the phrase connects the verses. Verse 14 the goal verse, or the main point. Verses 13 and 26 set the context for the assurance of verse 14. In theological studies we call this structuring a chiasm. 

Look at the texts. God the Father is mentioned as gaining glory from the Son, and God the Holy Ghost is mentioned as teaching us about the Son. Central between them is Jesus iron clad assurance that He will do whatever we as "in His name". 

What's in a name?  Biblically, names had meaning, and gave significance and/or description. Jacob means "heel grabber (supplanter)", while Israel means "he will rule as God". Moses means "drawing out of water". In the story of Ruth, Naomi and her husband leave their famine stricken land to save their sons, Mahlon (sickly), and Chilion (consumption). They died by verse 5 of chapter 1. 

Pillar 1 - God Glorified in the Son

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And whatsoever ye shall ask IN MY NAME, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Jesus' name in Hebrew is Jehoshua, God Saves, "...for he shall save his people from their sins." His name is also Emmanual, mean God with us. (Matthew 1:21-23) God being with us in Jesus is contingent upon God saving us in Jesus.

Sin is death, nonexistance. Living in this bubble called grace (see my Thanksgiving Blogost), we were all still doomed to 1) a life of perpetually enjoying sin, despising God and holiness, 2) returning to the formless void of nothing in Genesis Chapter 1, and 3) viewing God as some vindictive, demanding, arbitrarian authoritarian tyrant who created all things for His amusment, some for glory and some for destruction. 

In Christ, God is able to break through those and all other horrible views of Him, as well as give us a desire for hedonistic holiness (thank you John Piper).  

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This is done when God the Word became incarnate, being born and given to humanity. This was done when He walked among us, sharing our struggles. This was done when He multiplied the food twice, when He stopped the storm twice. This was done when He preached the sermon on the mount, on the shores of Galilee, in the temple and synagogues. This was done when he elevated Sabbath to a time to worship God by healing the social and physical wounds of the less fortunate. This was done when He healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out devils, gave sight to the blind, stopped bleeding. This was done when he hung out with people like Zaccheus, the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, Mary Magdalene, those thugs James and John, the terrorist Simon the Zealote (Cannanite), and the genocidal maniac, Paul the apostle.  

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I submit that the miracles Jesus did, the people He accepted into His circle, were in direct line with saving specific people either form their personal sins, someone else's sins, or would directly impact people believing in Him as Son of God and Savior. However, as Jesus did not deliver himself, nor was he delievered, from suffering into the good life, so also in this world of evil many times we are not delieverd from what is uncomfortable and inconvenient. This may be why it can be observed that everyone in Palestine didn't suddenly have the good life because of Jesus presence, and immediately following his ascension.  The good life is not what is promised, or demonstrated, or taught by Jesus.   

Mat 10:22  And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

Mat 24:9  Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. 

Luk 21:17  And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.

Joh 15:18  If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

Joh 15:20  Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

Joh 16:33  These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Joh 17:14  I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 

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We are assured by Jesus that connection with him will bring us hatred and persecution, suffering and death. When we stand in the hatred, suffering persecution, death, and still remain faithful to God, God is glorified in the eyes of others who need to see a relationship with God through Jesus and more glorious and satisfying than all the comforst and conveniences humans fight so hard to gain and maintain. Our hardships then become a living demonstration of the cross of Jesus for those watching our lives. Thus, praying against suffering, hatred, persecution, or death may actually praying against what Jesus taught, lived, and did, and may therefore be praying outside of his name. 

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Jesus understood this when He, in His humanity, prayed for the suffering cup of sin's penalty be removed from Him, He knew it was His purpose to die. His humanity cried out for some form of protection He knew in His heart could not come. So He allowed Himself the intergrity to ask of God what He wanted, acknolwedging that God's purspoe for His life was more important than His safety, comfort, or covenience. He prayed in according with His own name. 

By sending Jesus, and by Jesus dying on the cross for us, God's glory is revealed in the way that God actually is...Love. The ultimate glory of God is seen when one looks at the life, teachings and actions, death, resurrection and ascension, of Jesus. When we pray "in Jesus name" we are praying prayers in accordance with those things which point others to salvation, all our physical comforts, our life aside...like Jesus.

 

Pillar 2 - Holy Ghost Teaching of Christ

Joh 14:26  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send IN MY NAME, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

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 Praying in Jesus name is related to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life. Thus, for me to actually pray in Jesus name is for me to pray in agreement with the Holy Ghost teaching me "...all things, and (bringing) all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you."

In order for me to pray in agreement with what Jesus taught, I must know and have read what Jesus taught and lived. It will not simply be downloaded into my mind for me to pray. I must be a student of Jesus life and teachings/sayings. 

This is what is meant by "remembrance".  The Holy Spirit will teach me all things, however this is not things in the mystical vacuum of meditation and silence. This is teaching is direct relationship to study of the scriptures. 

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Joh 5:39  Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

2Ti 3:16  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

2Pe 1:20-21  Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy (scripture) came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Joh 15:26  But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

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What we see is that the Scriptures testify of Jesus, because they are Divinely inspired. They are inspired by the Holy Spirit, who testifies of Jesus. The Holy Spirit's testimony of Jesus, his teaching about Jesus, are solidly built in and upon the scripture. Thus to pray in Jesus name based on the Holy Spirit teaching us all things and bringing all things to remeberance is to pray for things revealed about Jesus in scripture. 

 

The Assurance 

Joh 14:14  If ye shall ask any thing IN MY NAME, I will do it.

A prayer which brings glory to God in Jesus Christ, in his life, teachings, and actions (past and present) is a prayer that is assured of being answered. 

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A prayer which is led by the Holy Spirit's teaching of Jesus, as grounded in scripture is a prayer that is assured of being answered.

Any prayer that does not line up with these criterion, as we focus on John 14, has no guarantee of being answered affirmatively by God at all. 

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