There’s No Good Reason that God Preferred Abel to Cain [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

David tweeted a question into the series asking a question about one of the most troubling passages of the Bible, and many of you answered him:

It’s a great question, and one that I must say is all the more poignant because of the blood shed yesterday. For someone who is drawn to René Girard’s scapegoat theory of the atonement, as I am, then Cain’s murder of Abel is telling: the human cycle of mimetic desire and bloodshed is primitive in its genesis, and it afflicts us still.

But that wasn’t your question, David. Your question has to do with God’s preference of one brother and his offering over the other’s; you asked about the rejection that led to the murder. So yesterday morning, before we’d heard about the Sandy Hook school shooting, I went over to my rabbi’s house for a cup of coffee and a chat. I asked Rabbi Joseph Edelheit your question, and I recorded his answer. I didn’t give him any warning, or even a hint as to what it was about. I simply told him that I had a question for him and turned on the recorder. Here’s what he said: [Read more...]

Redeeming Circumcision

I’ve been wondering lately how weird it is that Yahweh commanded Abraham and his male descendants to mutilate their genitals. Richard Beck writes about the transition of circumcision of the penis to the ears:

What I find of interest here is how circumcision is a deliberate act of setting something apart, an act of consecration. Which is interesting given the anatomical relationship between ears and heart. A relationship that I think the prophets were getting at.

The ears function as gate-keepers. If the ears are “closed” then nothing gets to the heart. Thus the shift to the ears, as I see it, is a temporal shift of focus. That is, there is something in the immediate and initial reaction to the Word of God that is picked out by pointing to the ears. A reference to the ears is pointing out something about your reaction right here and right now. Like when you are talking to someone and you say, “You are not listening to me.” To be sure, this refusal to listen is a matter of the heart, but the reference to the ears changes the emphasis. This is a a shift from “their hearts are far from me”–which points to a chronic condition of waning affections, a falling out of love–to the more acute and immediate assessment of “I’m talking to you but you’re not listening to me.” Resistance in the moment is being pointed out. Someone is talking and you’re sticking your fingers in your ears.

via Experimental Theology: Circumcised Ears.

Is Rob a Christian? [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

Rob gave us a great Question that Haunts Christianity that has generated hundreds of comments:

Hey Tony. I will try to make this short… I was raised in the church, became a youth leader in my early 20s, then a worship pastor/elder, then a staff deacon at a large church. Almost three years ago, my family and I walked away, with no plans on returning to “the church.” I don’t intellectually assent to any of the things that orthodox Christians are supposed to (i.e. the Trinity, the physical resurrection of Jesus, etc.). I don’t read my Bible very often. I never pray. But, I cannot escape the cultural influence that Christianity has had upon me, and it’s very difficult for me to think outside of that framework. I also try to embody the trajectory of Jesus’ life (the way of love) in my life every day. And, I think that his way is – universally – the best way to live. Do I still have “the right” to call myself a Christian?

Rob, I appreciate your participation in the comments of the original post, and even that you let me off the hook on your own blog. Your question is the most personal one that I’ve tackled thus far, and here’s why:

[Read more...]

Krista Dalton Wonders Who Should Read the Bible

Krista Dalton

Theologian and Jewish Studies expert Krista Dalton wonders whether everyone should be given equal access to the Bible:

All one has to do is visit the popular “Bible Students Say…”  Twitter account to see countless more examples where it often appears the student just didn’t really understand how to read the English text, let alone derive the cultural and/or literary meaning.

Now perhaps I’m overly critical because of my years pursuing an Education degree, working in high school history classes where students could barely read the textbook, let alone write me a brief paragraph of reflection.  But college illiteracy is stunning educators everywhere, and I think it is time for religious and religion educators to address the situation.

We must seriously ask, “How do we approach biblical and/or other religious textual education in an ever growing world where practical illiteracy is on the rise?” Can I truly expect students to appreciate a text’s literary elements, cultural context, and narrative purpose? What are we to do when students with poor reading skills read the text and derive obviously incorrect interpretations? Or for pastors, when it is a person in your own church community? As I encountered on more than one occasion in my graduate assistant office, some students will protest, “it is just my way of reading the Bible!”

via Should Everyone Really Read the Bible? « Krista Dalton @KristaNDalton.