Picking and Choosing Your Bible Verses (or, Why To Abandon the Lectionary)

I led the sermon discussion last night at Solomon’s Porch.  The text was Galatians 3, one of the oddest chapters in the Pauline corpus.  Therein, Paul argues for grace over law based on this verse from Genesis:

And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.

The word for “offspring” is actually “seed,” at least in the Septuagint.  Paul argues that since this word is in the singular (σπέρμασιν – spermasin) instead of the plural (σπέρματι – spermati), it must mean Christ! (It reminds me of the old saw: The Sunday school teacher asks, “What is gray and furry and climbs trees?”  The little boy raises his hand and says, “It sounds like a squirrel, but I’m going to say Jesus!”)

What Paul writes is,

The promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. It doesn’t say, “and to the descendants,” as if referring to many rather than just one. It says, “and to your descendant,” who is Christ.

It seems that Paul is straying from the traditional interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant.  And that’s what we wrestled with for about 40 minutes last night, with no great conclusion.

So it was no great surprise to me that the first 22 verses of Galatians 3 isn’t included in the lectionary, from which many mainline churches choose their Sunday texts each week.  The fun part of the chapter (“there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female…”) is in the regular three-year lectionary cycle — specifically, Proper 7, Year C — but you’re can spend your whole life at a Lutheran, Episcopal, or UCC church without ever hearing your preacher struggle to understand Paul’s arguments in Galatians 3: 1-21.

[Read more...]

Applying Sentiment Analysis to the Bible

Via: OpenBible.info

HT: Bob Carlton

The Funny Thing about Michele Bachmann and Jonathan

Bachmann as Jonathan with the armor bearer from 1st Samuel. (MinnPost photo illustration by Corey Anderson)

As reported by Eric Black at MinnPost, Michele Bachmann recently used a speech to make an extended analogy between herself and the biblical character, Jonathan.  Black writes,

Please, let me hasten to reiterate. I am not saying that Bachmann suffers from a literal delusion that she is the biblical Jonathan. Only that she is inspired by Jonathan and believes that, if the American people will play the role of Jonathan’s very trusting armor bearer, and will make her president, and will put their unquestioning faith in her, she can lead them to great victories over their problems of today, just as Jonathan led the Israelites over the Philistines in the second millennium BCE.

[Read more...]

NOT an Onion Headline: Evangelicals Admit Adam and Eve May Not Have Existed

This just in from NPR:

And Venema is part of a growing cadre of Christian scholars who say they want their faith to come into the 21st century. Another one is John Schneider, who taught theology at Calvin College in Michigan until recently. He says it’s time to face facts: There was no historical Adam and Eve, no serpent, no apple, no fall that toppled man from a state of innocence.

“Evolution makes it pretty clear that in nature, and in the moral experience of human beings, there never was any such paradise to be lost,” Schneider says. “So Christians, I think, have a challenge, have a job on their hands to reformulate some of their tradition about human beginnings.”

I Am an Incarnational Christian: The Theology

Although, I confess, I liked the term “kerygmatic Christian” at first, I’ve come to see why “incarnational Christian” is the term that best suits us — those of us who would like to portray to the world something about the type of Christianity that we’re pursuing.  What I will write below has already been articulated by earlier commenters on numerous posts.

To use old categories, incarnational has both “vertical” and “horizontal” aspects to it.

First, the vertical (although, of course, I don’t think that God is “up” and we are “down”).

Incarnational emphasizes what many of us believe is the most significant act of God in the history of creation: that God incarnated Godself in the person, Jesus of Nazareth.  To hear Paul sing it in Philippians 2, even the crucifixion is a subset of the true miracle, incarnation:

[Read more...]

Will the Last Evangelical Please Turn Out the Lights? (Con’t)

In my ongoing series, pointing out the impending evangepocalypse, I bring you this news from Christianity Today:

Gender Debate: SBC Pastors Denounce NIV
Southern Baptist delegates passed a resolution criticizing the 2011 update and asked LifeWay stores not to sell the Bible translation.
Bob Smietana | posted 7/26/2011 10:02AM

Southern Baptists have asked their denomination-owned retail chain to stop selling a best-selling Bible translation, saying it contains errors when it comes to language about gender.

Church delegates—known as messengers—passed a resolution at their June annual meeting in Phoenix criticizing the 2011 update to the New International Version (NIV) as an “inaccurate translation of God’s inspired Scripture.” They asked LifeWay Christian Resources not to sell the NIV 2011, which avoids using male terms in passages where context suggests that both genders are intended, except where the pronoun in question has messianic allusions. [READ THE REST]

[Read more...]

Jesus Was Not a “Biblical Christian”

Today on Twitter, Chris Blackstone went out on a limb and said that persons who practice polyamory are not Christians.  When I pressed him about what he meant, he said that they may be “self-identified Xians, but def not Biblical Xians.”

Well, that got me thinking.  Of course, the phrase “biblical Christian” does not occur in the Bible.  Indeed, the word “biblical” does not occur therein.

Then I searched the database at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, which is the largest treasury of Christian documents that I know.  I searched the phrase “biblical Christian,” and guess when the first use of that phrase took place:

Augustine?

No!

Aquinas?

No!

Luther?

No!

[Read more...]

Biblical Marriage

Bruce Bawer at The Dish recounts the multifarious forms of “marriage” cataloged in the Bible:

[Read more...]

Are You an Acts 2 Church?

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: some erstwhile young church planter says to me, “I’m really looking to plant an Acts 2 church.”  Usually, they’re moving to Seattle-the-most-unchurched-city-in-America-actually-closer-to-Europe-than-to-anywhere-in-the-U.S.  My retort is always the same: “Yeah, that lasted about five verses; then God started killing the liars.”

Well, that wonderful little passage at the end of Acts 2 comes up in the lectionary this week.  Russell Rathbun, curator of The Hardest Question, a lectionary blog, has a great post on this passage, in which he questions our assumptions about the Utopian Church:

[Read more...]

The Gospel According to Nadia

The good people of Denver put their spiritual lives at risk by asking Nadia Bolz-Weber to preach before the myriad (look it up)-large throng at Red Rocks on Easter Sunday.  I thought that maybe Nadia would borrow an idea from Watermark Church in Dallas and build a massive version of the Bridge Illustration so that she could walk across the Cross:

Bridge Illustration(I shit you not.  You can watch the video here.  You may wonder, as I did, if the illustration breaks down a bit when three stagehands show up to lower the Cross over the chasm.)

I personally would have loved to see Nadia walk over the chasm.  But, alas, she decided instead to preach the gospel.  Here’s her nutshell description of what Jesus was all about:

[Read more...]