Book Review: Deriving the Personality of God from His Actions in Scripture

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To join the discussion about Finding God in the Bible, or to order a copy, go here

I gave this review a title that more or less describes what I see as the function of the book, Finding God in the Bible, by Darren Wilson.

Mr Wilson has an interesting story of his own. He was, by his own description, a ho-hum Christian, doing an ez-pz light-weight Christian walk through life when God butted in and called him to go make movies.

He doesn’t go into detail (which I would love to read, btw) about this call, but it sounds as if God did one is his, “stand over there” deals with no explanation and expected Darren Wilson to step out in faith and do as he was told. God has never hit me with something like “go make movies” with vague directions to head off to foreign lands with a camera and see what happened. But I’ve definitely gotten more than one of those “stand over there” type instructions.

I don’t know about Mr Wilson, but I felt like an idiot the first time I did it. I mean, the version of “stand over there” I got made absolutely no sense. In fact, it placed me where I didn’t particularly want to be and where I was also (to my understanding) wasting my time. It felt at the time as if God was putting me on the bench to sit out the game. Then, out of nowhere, He pitched me the metaphorical ball, which I could never have caught if I hadn’t been standing “over there” as He’d told me.

It is true that faith grows with these experiences. It never gets easy, but you do learn that God has a plan and you can at least trust that He knows what He’s doing, even if you don’t. I am confident that there are times when God tells us to do things and we do not see the reason until we get to heaven.

Mr Wilson covers a bit of this in his book when he talks about Abraham. God told Abraham to get up, take his wife and leave a nice cushy life in the most forward-looking metropolis of his time and head out into the wilderness. This was the ultimate “stand over there.” Years later, God promised Abraham a lot of things about the great nation of people who would come from him, but Abraham never saw any of this come to pass in his lifetime. He died in that wilderness and was laid to rest in the cave near Mamre with nothing but his trust in God that all these promises would be realized in time.

The Bible says that despite the fact that he would never see them in this life, Abraham believed God when God promised him these things and God reckoned that to him as righteousness.

So maybe following a “stand over there” command gives each of us a small bit of righteousness. It would be nice to think so.

Darren Wilson did what Abraham did and what so many people do not do. He got up and headed out the door and did this utterly impractical thing that God had asked him to do. The interesting thing is that every time you do that, God counters with a bigger request the next time. Before you know it, you’re living your life built around Him.

That’s the lesson of Abraham and Darren Wilson.

It’s a lesson that reverberates throughout the interpretive re-telling of Bible stories that this book contains. One after the other, God interrupts the lives of people in the Scriptures with requests that they do what they’re really rather not do. And one after the other, they  do it. Some of them do it gracelessly and after a good bit of whining and argument, but in the final analysis, they almost all follow through.

The one big exception in the stories Mr Wilson chose for this book is King Saul. Saul’s failed reign finds its failure precisely in his lack of faith. Saul didn’t wait on the Lord. Unfortunately for us type triple As, waiting on the Lord is as much a lesson of faith as doing for the Lord.

God always seems to make you wait. And then when you’ve decided nothing’s going to happen, here comes that metaphorical ball that He’s tossed you. At that moment, you understand a bit of what you were standing around waiting for in the first place.

Waiting is a lesson in faith. Just like “stand over there” is. Sadly for him, Saul failed this test.

I didn’t agree with every single nuance of every single interpretation of scripture that Darren Wilson wrote in this book. But there’s no reason why my understanding is any better than his. The point for me is the fact that he engaged me to the point that I wanted to sit down and talk to him about it.

I liked this book, and I also found myself liking its author. I plan to look up the movies he’s made and watch them.

I think, after reading Finding God in the Bible that I can see why God gave that particular assignment to this particular man in the first place.

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Data Omniscience Hubris and the Bible

I remember reading a few years ago that archeologists had found a shard of pottery with mention of King David on it.

Evidently, this was the first material evidence of King David’s existence. According to the articles I read, lots of learned folk had, up until then, been preaching and teaching that King David never existed, was a myth, a legend, a made-up fictional character from a preliterate era.

I remember reading that, and thinking, Huh? Then shaking my head.

What these so-called learned folk had fallen into was the hubris of believing that what they knew was all there was to know. It happens all the time with learned folk, and much misery for us less learned folks ensues.

Here’s a small example: I have rheumatoid arthritis. It first reared its head when I was 16. I once had a doc tell me that I had the highest ra titer in my blood she’d ever seen. Despite that, it’s well controlled. I know how to handle it, and God has been generous with me about it. I never go a day without aches and pains, but I’m not debilitated and my joints aren’t deformed.

However, one thing I can count on is knowing when bad weather is in the offing. The day of the May 20 tornado, I woke up aching literally from head to toe. The foot I broke last fall, my leg, and every other joint I had including the little ones, ached from the moment I got out of bed with that oh-no-something’s-coming indescribable ache. My husband says he’ll trust my joints over the weather man, every time.

How this applies to the discussion at hand is simply that for years scientists and other learned folk insisted that this aching before a storm stuff was, in their scientific opinion, “all in your head.” They may have changed their pointy little minds about this by now. I haven’t kept up. But that is for sure what I read back in the day when I first noticed that my body was a powerfully accurate weather vane.

My point?

Just this: Learned folk think more of their data than they do reality. In fact, they believe that their data is reality, and that reality is a figment of everybody else’s imagination. To top it off (and this is where King David comes in) they believe that if they can’t prove something, then it doesn’t exist. This is kinda like me deciding that, if I can’t find my car keys, that I just imagined I ever had car keys and they don’t really exist.

I understand that scientists can’t and shouldn’t corroborate claims that they can’t prove. What I don’t understand is this mighty leap off the side of the hubris cliff to bold assertions that everything they can’t prove is either a myth, a confabulation, or some sort of delusion. They carry this, especially in questions of religious faith, to the point that, if you believe them, you’ve also got to believe that everybody on the planet is hallucinating about something.

I used the words “teaching and preaching” advisedly when I said that they had been preaching and teaching that King David never existed, because what they were claiming was not science. It was a matter of faith. The faith was their addlepated and totally unscientific belief that their data was omniscient.

What they should have been saying is We don’t have any proof that King David ever existed. That would have been a fact. But bold assertions that he, in fact, actually never existed, were just — dare I say it? — myth.

I am not writing this to make you doubt science or to encourage you to start believing that everything that cannot be proven must, by derivation, be true. Not at all. What I am saying is that you should look at the claims that learned folk make by asking yourself how solid the basis is for what they are saying. Sometimes people falsify data. But it is far more common for them to come up with bogus applications of the data they have. Data omniscience hubris is a common and widespread learned person error when dealing with anything that appends to matters of faith, in particular and specifically, Christianity.

What I am saying is that they are biased. And they allow their bias to interpret their data for them.

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The good thing — and it is a very good thing — is that when the data changed, they didn’t deny it. They didn’t toss that pottery shard into the sea and pretend they hadn’t seen it. This was not a Doctor Zaius from The Planet of the Apes moment.

They not only acknowledged the pottery shard, they also acknowledged its implications, which were that there probably was a historical King David.

Now, archeologists have uncovered what they think may have been a palace that belonged to King David. And they’re talking about it and filing it away in their data trove.

Davids palace

When they found something material that conflicted with their earlier interpretation of their data, they changed the interpretation. That says one simple thing: They aren’t liars.

So we have a scientific community, some members of which seem to be suffering from data omniscience hubris. But they are essentially honest folk who will change their too far-reaching conclusions when the data changes. They’re arrogant, but they’re not liars.

This is important for us to know when dealing with their conclusions. Unfortunately, it puts us in the position of often having to interpret their data for ourselves, since their interpretations are subject to their biases.

What they are leaving out of their considerations is that while the data may not be human, they are. And they are subject to all the vagaries and venalities of humankind, including, and especially, since they are intelligent, gifted people who get a lot of respect, hubris. Anybody can make a mistake. But data interpretation according to hubris will be mistaken as often as not.

As for me, I’d forgo this dubious gift of being able to predict the weather if it would get me out of the pain that goes with it. However, time has shown that, despite the claims of those suffering from data omniscience hubris, my husband is right: My arthritis is just about as accurate as the weather man.

 

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The Secret’s Out: Devout Catholic Husbands and Wives Have the Best Sex

If you want great sex, trying marrying for love and committing yourself this person for life. It also helps if you worship the God Who made you in a Catholic Church every week.

That’s the upshot of a spate of articles floating around the internet, including this one that mentions Patheos blogger Dr Gregory Popcak. It turns out that devout Catholic husbands and wives have the most satisfying sexual relationships of any group.

Why?

Based on what we see on HBO, it would appear that the most satisfying sex must occur between people who don’t give a flip about one another. According to the media great sex is found in quickie relationships where one of person may even be paying the other to participate. Greatest sex probably occurs between groups of people or people who’ve slept with everybody in the telephone book before arriving at their latest coupling. Tossing in drugs to “heighten” the experience is also depicted as a useful way to get great sex.

Of course, that’s not real life. The hook-up culture is as empty of emotional sustenance as a steady diet of styrofoam would be of nutrition. Eat enough styrofoam and you will die physically. Engage in enough meaningless sex and you will lose the ability to connect with the people you are “sexing,” and the sex itself will become more about sweat and release than satisfaction and happiness.

This little lesson in human nature applies to just about everything in life. Is it more satisfying to eat in a crowded diner with strangers, or to spend the evening with someone you enjoy and who engages you? Is a movie more fun sitting in a theater full of strangers or alongside someone who shares your life and viewpoint and laughs and cries right along with you?

“It is not good for man to be alone,” the Lord God said after He created Adam. Adam was surrounded by all of creation, including the many creatures who populated it. But he was alone. When God made woman, Adam knew that this person was not just another creature, but “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” He recognized her as his partner; another living soul made in the image and likeness of God.

Men and women are made for one another, in the best and most beautiful way. We are not insects who reproduce in a soulless exchange of genes. We are human beings who create life out of our mutual love and self-giving. Anything less always ends up dehumanizing us.

Sex is a great gift to humankind, a gift with a purpose. We create life with it, and we also bind ourselves man to woman for life by the tenderness and trust of life-long fidelity and sharing that is true marriage. True marriage between a man and a woman is the simplest and best way to have a satisfying and productive life. Satisfying sex is not the purpose of marrying for love, for life and within the Church. It is a free gift and a natural by-product of this free commitment of two lives to one another.

It doesn’t surprise me that devout Catholic wives and husbands who are living together in the sacrament of holy matrimony are also blessed with fulfilling sex lives. What does surprise me is that anyone ever doubted it.

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This is the Gospel: God. Our. Sins. Paying. Everyone. Life.

 

This is an extraordinary interpretation of Scripture in poetry by Dare to Share Ministries. Watch it and be blessed.

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Back to Babel: Did Europeans and Asians Once Speak a Common Language?

The idea of a universal human language goes back to the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis. 

Now a group of researchers have developed a theory that people living in Europe and Asia 15,000 years ago may have spoken a common language. Of course, other researchers disagree. Which, I guess, will set off years of debate.

An article describing the common language theory was published May 6 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It claims that the researchers in question have traced “echoes of language back 15,000 years to a time that corresponds to about the end of the last ice age.”

The idea of a common source to language is an interesting one for linguists to explore. Right now, their estimates of when this common language emerged are too indefinite to be meaningful.

I find the discussion intriguing. However, I’ve been around animals enough to believe that language in a rudimentary form is almost ubiquitous among the more intelligent mammals. I realize that’s a somewhat radical statement. But I am using a definition of language that is a bit broader than words and more focused on the ability to communicate.

Also, I live in a bilingual neighborhood. I’ve seen first hand that a pet who has lived in a Spanish-speaking household will stare at you blankly when you speak English. Then, if you switch to Spanish, they respond, and they do it appropriately. That’s completely unscientific, but it has convinced me personally that these pets understand more of our languages than we admit.

This article from LiveScience.com describes the research in a common language among early humans:

The ancestors of people from across Europe and Asia may have spoken a common language about 15,000 years ago, new research suggests.

Now, researchers have reconstructed words, such as “mother,” “to pull” and “man,” which would have been spoken by ancient hunter-gatherers, possibly in an area such as the Caucuses or the modern-day country of Georgia. The word list, detailed today (May 6) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help researchers retrace the history of ancient migrations and contacts between prehistoric cultures.

“We can trace echoes of language back 15,000 years to a time that corresponds to about the end of the last ice age,” said study co-author Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom.

Tower of Babel

The idea of a universal human language goes back at least to the Bible, in which humanity spoke a common tongue, but were punished with mutual unintelligibility after trying to build the Tower of Babel all the way to heaven. [Image Gallery: Ancient Middle-Eastern Texts]

But not all linguists believe in a single common origin of language, and trying to reconstruct that language seemed impossible. Most researchers thought they could only trace a language’s roots back 3,000 to 4,000 years. (Even so, researchers recently said they had traced the roots of a common mother tongue to many Eurasian languages back 8,000 to 9,500 years to Anatolia, a southwestern Asian peninsula that is now part of Turkey.) (Read the rest here.)

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Do God and His Church Hate Women?

“The reason why any free, independent woman would call herself a Christian is beyond me.”

This thought came from a blog that I read yesterday. It’s a small personal blog, but the sentiment it expresses is passed around among unbelievers like a toke at an dorm party from the 1960s. That makes it worth talking about.

Does God tell Christian women, as this author proclaims, to “shut the h— up?”

Are Christian women downtrodden, silenced people who are not allowed to speak up about the things that matter to us?

While I can’t speak for every Christian woman in every denomination in all the world, I am a rather public member of the largest Christian denomination on this Earth. You may have noticed that nobody’s silenced me. 

In fact, I can honestly say that nobody wearing a collar has ever tried to silence me. That is not to say that the collar-wearers in my life don’t get perturbed by me and disagree with me from time to time. But silence me? Nope. Nobody has tried. Not once. Never.

If they did, it wouldn’t do them a lot of good. You can convince me that I’m wrong. It’s not easy, but it has been done. But you can’t just yell at me and tell me to shut up and get me to change my opinion. It won’t/doesn’t/hasn’t ever worked.

I would like to remind the readers of this last paragraph that I have been a woman for decades now. Before that, I was a little girl, and before that, I was a baby girl. My female credentials are undisputed. 

I have definitely had people try to silence me in the course of all these years of living, but not once has anyone wearing a collar been the attempted silencer. In fact, a good number of the people trying to get me to shut up have been other women who were mad as a nest of proverbial hornets at me for defending the unborn.

From what I’ve read, sexism in atheist circles is rife. It is also of a particularly vicious type.

Those who try to attack Christianity for its supposed mistreatment of women always trot out a series of Bible verses written by St Paul that truly are used against women in some churches. Unbelievers attempt to use this as “proof” that God wants women to be silenced. They ignore Deborah, who judged the tribes of Israel and was basically their commander in chief during a successful military engagement. They don’t mention Our Lady who asked the Lord Himself to help out at the wedding at Cana and then ignored Him when he demurred and … He obeyed her.

I assume that those who bandy Scripture about to “prove” that God “hates women” are operating more from ignorance than anything else. They are unaware of Church teaching on the full dignity of women, unlearned about the many women saints, some of whom, such as St Catharine of Siena, were downright salty in their criticisms of the male hierarchy.

St Catharine was exercising the great moral courage of women when she did this, and by doing it, she was following the Lord. It’s no accident that the Church regards this outspoken woman as a Doctor of the Church. It’s a direct function of her refusal to be silent when speaking out was the moral and Christian thing to do.

Catholic women are not battered, silenced and ignored. We may not be priests, but we are movers and shakers in the world at large, as well as our homes, and yes, in the Church as well. I have never encountered resistance from any of the bishops I’ve dealt with when I asked them for support in the fight to end violence against and degradation of women. In fact, the strongest supporters of legislation to provide protections for women have been officials in the Catholic Church.

I am not claiming that everything is golden for women throughout all the Christian world. Sin is everywhere in this fallen world, including, sadly, the church. I have personally witnessed a congregation that allowed itself to be drug into a vote on whether or not a rape victim should be allowed to remain part of that congregation. This was not a Catholic parish. It was an independent and quite small Protestant congregation.

Sin against women does exist in churches and among Christians. But it is not of God, and it is not the policy or the universal practice of Christians. Sins against women are condemned, and rightfully so, by the Catholic Church. The teachings of Blessed John Paul II are a case in point.

No woman has to be afraid that converting to the Catholic Church will deprive her of the freedom to exercise her individual voice on behalf of women’s rights. I have found that rather than silencing me, the Church has supported me in my feminist work. I do not feel diminished as a human being because I am both a woman and a Christian. I feel empowered by it. 

I have prayed, studied and thought about this a lot. I believe with my whole heart that when I stand up to fight against the degradation or limitation of women, I am speaking from the heart of the Gospels and with the full support of Catholic teaching. I do not doubt that my angels stand beside me and the Holy Spirit is working through me when I do these things.

Far from coercing me to sit down and shut up, the Church has taught me the meaning of fearless advocacy for justice of all people, including and most especially women. 

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What it Means to be Catholic

What does it mean to be Catholic? This video gives some thoughtful answers to that question.

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Mary’s Day

Today is May Day.

Mary’s Day.

The month of May is the month of Our Mother. I’m going to write more about this as times goes forward.

This is a video of the Litany of Mary. It’s a responsive prayer in which one person calls out one of the many names by which Mary is known and others respond by saying “Pray for Us.”

I chose this version because it’s easy for someone who is unfamiliar with the prayer to follow. All you need to do is follow along and pray the responses that are in blue.

The Litany Blessed Virgin Mary is a study in the theology of Mary’s role in the salvation of humanity as well as a prayer. She truly is the Mother of God and all that this means.

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Pope Francis: Go Against the Tide and Change the World

It is called the Great Commission.

Jesus told His disciples:

“Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands that I have given you. And be sure of this, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

Pope Francis echoed a version of that when he told young people to “go against the tide and change the world.” That is the specific business of all Christians, everywhere. The reason I am writing this blog is to do my small part to equip and encourage Christians to do exactly that.

We are not meant to just save our own little selves. We are here in this life for a purpose, and a core part of that purpose — which is the vocation of every Christian — is to witness to the Gospels with our lives. That means, by definition, that we must go against the tide.

Jesus Christ was not and is not just another man. He was and is and always will be, to paraphrase St Thomas, “our Lord and our God.”

Christianity is not a philosophy. It is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The only way Christians can change the world is by going against the tide. Joshua told the Israelites, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” That challenge is repeated to each succeeding generation.

What is your answer?

From the Vatican YouTube Feed:

Published on Apr 28, 2013

“Build on high ideals, on the big things. We Christians are not chosen by the Lord for small little things, always go above and beyond, to the big things. Those were the Pope’s words to 70,000 young people from all over the world, gathered in St Peter’s Square on the occasion of the celebration of Mass with the Rite of Confirmation. The event, organized as part of the Year of Faith, saw Pope Francis, confer the Sacrament of Confirmation on 44 young people. To them and to all those present, the Pope asked him to go against the tide and change the world with daily gestures of love, despite the difficulties, armed with the courage that the Lord gives us. “There are no troubles, misunderstandings that we …

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Pope Francis: The Whole Journey of Life is a Journey of Preparation for Heaven

I have a friend who told me once that her goal in life was to go to heaven.

I found this a little startling at the time. I had always thought of going to heaven as more of a by-product than a goal. My view was something like “you follow Jesus and trust Him and going to heaven is a by-product of that.”

I had never considered that heaven might be a goal that you aimed for all on its own. However, this particular friend is such a good Christian and so deeply wise in ways that I am still learning that I never questioned that there was a truth I didn’t understand in what she had said.

Time has passed and she and I are both older. As usual, I am slowly coming around to the spiritual truth that she saw all along. Heaven isn’t something you can earn with your good works. It certainly isn’t a territory that you can seize by force. It is the destination of a life lived in Christ.

In a real sense, we are already citizens of heaven right now as we live out our time in this life. Following Jesus means walking the Way that leads straight through the Pearly Gates.

Pope Francis spoke of something similar to this in his morning homily yesterday. “The whole journey of life is a journey of preparation for heaven,” he said.

He was teaching about the Gospel passage which relates Jesus, telling the Disciples that He is going ahead of them to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. Jesus was talking about his return to heaven and the Disciples ultimate destination of heaven.

Pope Francis applied what Jesus said to the disciples to the lives of every Christian. “Prepare a place means preparing our ability to enjoy the chance, our chance to see, to feel, to understand the beauty of what lies ahead, of that homeland towards which we walk,” he said.

I think what my friend was trying to tell me is something very like what Pope Francis said yesterday. If we live our lives properly, they are a preparation, a kind of getting in shape, for the life to come. 

I’ve always thought that is the real purpose of purgatory. I don’t see it as punishment, but as cleaning up, refitting us so that we can be happy in heaven. There is no way most of us are ready for heaven when we leave this earth. We need a way station of some sort to get our heads right for heaven.

But there are those, like my friend, who are close to being good to go right now. They’ve lived their lives pointing heaven-ward by following Jesus from the inside of their beings out to their smallest actions.

I’m the last person to be an expert on this, considering the way I’ve lived my life and the way I keep on messing up even now. I’m far from thinking heaven-ward. But I am slowly beginning to start.

It may be just that I’m getting older. It may be that the world in which I live is becoming increasingly hostile to Christians. But heaven is becoming more real to me.

I am beginning to realize that heaven is home. 

From CNA:

.- “The whole journey of life is a journey of preparation” for heaven, Pope Francis said during his homily at Friday morning Mass.

The Pope reflected on the Gospel passage from St. John for today in which Jesus tells the disciples not to be afraid or troubled because he goes to prepare a place in the Father’s house for them.

“Prepare a place means preparing our ability to enjoy the chance, our chance, to see, to feel, to understand the beauty of what lies ahead, of that homeland towards which we walk,” he remarked.

Members of the Vatican Typography office attended the Eucharistic celebration on April 26, alongside the Vatican Labor Office and Vatican State Police inside St. Martha’s House chapel.

The Pope noted that Jesus talks “like a friend, even with the attitude of a pastor.”

“Let not your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me,” says Jesus, according to today’s Gospel.

“In my Father’s house there are many rooms, if it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” Christ asked the disciples.

The Pope called these “really beautiful words” and asked the congregation what they thought that “place” was like. (Read the rest here.) 

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