Brangelina

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are getting divorced.  Though I don’t know them, I’m grieved at the news: divorce is always painful, and the thought of their 6 children having to grow up without a mom and a dad in the same house makes me sad.  This news of yet another failed celebrity marriage has got me thinking.

 

Our Deepest Problems Are Spiritual Problems

Our deepest problems are spiritual problems.  If this were not the case, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie would not be getting divorced.  If our deepest problems were merely material problems, then money would solve our problems.  If money could solve our problems, then rich people would never get divorced.

Our culture is obsessed with material reality.  We’ve bought into the self-evident lie that the only reality that matters is that which we can see, taste, touch, and measure.  But, this belief is self-evidently false, because material solutions don’t actually fix our deepest problems.  Spiritual reality matters.  Our deepest problems are spiritual problems, and so they can’t be solved with material solutions.  Spiritual reality is just as real as material reality, but because we can’t see, taste, touch, and measure spiritual reality, our culture pretends it’s not real.

Unfortunately, the effects of spiritual brokenness are quite real, and these effects are all around us:

  • War is a result of spiritual brokenness;
  • Divorce is a result of spiritual brokenness;
  • Racism is a result of spiritual brokenness, etc.

Yes, these problems have material results, but the roots of these problems are spiritual.

Again, if our deepest problems were merely material in nature, then we could buy solutions to our problems.  This is the false god of wealth.  If our deepest problems were merely material, we could solve our deepest problems through technological invention.  This is the false god of progress.

If our deepest problems were merely material, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie wouldn’t be getting divorced.

 

What about you?  What is the spiritual brokenness in your heart producing in your life?

Anxiety?

Adultery?

Anger?

These come from our hearts, and their effects can be seen in the material world.  But, they can’t be fixed with material solutions.

This is the human predicament: our problems all have spiritual roots, and we can’t fix ourselves.

But…

This is the gospel: the God who is Spirit entered into material reality and fixed our Problem himself.

 

Do you understand?

 

 

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The Hard Questions Have Already Been Asked

As I wrote on Wednesday, I believe strongly that Christians do not need to be afraid of hard, honest questions about the Faith.  One reason is because the hardest questions have already been asked, by Christian theologians themselves.  Often, in fact, the people asking those questions were the theologians of the ancient church, people like Origen and Augustine.  (Origen, to cite one example, took on the opening chapters of Genesis and wondered–15 centuries before Darwin–whether the biblical account was meant to be taken literally.)  There are many good, hard questions that you and I haven’t ever considered, but I guarantee you that someone else has considered them.  So the next time someone asks you a hard question about faith, don’t panic, but say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”  Then, hit the library and find out what the ancient church had to sat about the matter.

 

 

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A Faith Unafraid of the Hard Questions

I believe very strongly that the Christian faith has nothing to fear from hard questions.  If what we believe is True, then it can withstand even the most intense cross-examination.  In fact, I think we ought to welcome hard questions, because hard, honest questions are often used by God to bring people to faith.  This was certainly the belief of the great missionary and evangelist E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973), friend to Gandhi and missionary to India.  In his missionary work Jones often fearlessly debated with people who were hostile to Christianity, and in his most famous book he explains how he came to be unafraid of even the hardest questions about faith.  Facts, he realized, are faith’s friends.

 

In his best-selling book The Christ of the Indian Road (1925), Jones writes:

“I have found a good many nervous Christians since coming home who are afraid that this whole thing of Christianity might fall to pieces if someone should get too critical, or if science should get too scientific. Many of the saints are now painfully nervous. They remind me of a lady missionary with whom I walked home one night after a very tense meeting in a Hindu theater. She said, ‘Mr. Jones, I am physically exhausted from that meeting tonight.’ When I asked her the reason she said, ‘Well, I didn’t know what they were going to ask you next, and I didn’t know what you were going to answer, so I’ve been siting up there in the gallery holding on to the bench with all my might for two hours, and I’m physically exhausted!’ There are many like our sister who are metaphorically holding to their seats with all their might lest Christianity fall to pieces under criticism!

I have a great deal of sympathy with them, for I felt myself in the same position for a long time after I went to India. The whole atmosphere was acid with criticism. I could feel the acid eat into my very soul every time I picked up a non-Christian paper. Then there came the time when I inwardly let go. I became willing to turn Jesus over to the facts of the universe. I began to see that there was only one refuge in life and that was in reality, in the facts. If Jesus couldn’t stand the shock of the criticism of the facts discovered anywhere, if he wasn’t reality, the sooner I found out about it the better. My willingness to surrender Christ to the facts was almost as great an epoch in my life as my willingness to surrender to him…. I saw that [Jesus] was not a hothouse plant that would wither under the touch of criticism, but he was rooted in reality, was the very living expression of our moral and spiritual universe—he was reality itself….

The only way to kill Christianity is to take it out of life and protect it. The way to make it shine and show its genius is to put it down in life and let it speak directly to life itself. Jesus is his own witness….

I am therefore not afraid of the question hour, for I believe that Jesus underlies our moral and spiritual universe deeper than the force of gravity underlies our material universe.”

from The Christ of the Indian Road, by E. Stanley Jones

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Why Is the Bible So Difficult?

Why is the Bible so difficult to understand?  Anyone who has ever tried to read the Bible has probably wondered why God didn’t just make the whole thing a lot clearer.  The great Christian writer C.S. Lewis wondered the same thing, so you and I are in good company.  Here’s his answer.

 

In his fine little book Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis writes:

“We might have expected, we may think we should have preferred, an unrefracted light giving us ultimate truth in systematic form–something we could have tabulated and memorised and relied on like the multiplication table….

“[However] we may observe that the teaching of Our Lord Himself [i.e., Jesus], in which there is no imperfection, is not given us in that cut-and-dried, fool-proof, systematic fashion we might have expected or desired.  He wrote no book.  We have only reported sayings, most of them uttered in answer to questions, shaped in some degree by their context.  And when we have collected them all we cannot reduce them to a system.  He preaches but He does not lecture.  He uses paradox, proverb, exaggeration, parable, irony; even (I mean no irreverence) the “wisecrack.”  He utters maxims which, like popular proverbs, if rigorously taken, may seem to contradict one another.  His teaching cannot therefore be grasped by the intellect alone, cannot be “got up” as if it were a “subject.”  If we try to do that with it, we shall find Him the most elusive of teachers.  He hardly ever gave a straight answer to a straight question.  He will not be, in the way we want, “pinned down.”  The attempt is (again, I mean no irreverence) like trying to bottle a sunbeam.

Descending lower, we find a somewhat similar difficulty with St. Paul.  I cannot be the only reader [He’s definitely not alone in this, as I have asked this EXACT same question many times!  –AF]  who has wondered why God, having given him so many gifts, withheld from him (what would to us seem so necessary for the first Christian theologian) that of lucidity and orderly exposition….

“Since this is what God has done, this, we must conclude, was best.  It may be that what we should have liked would have been fatal to us if granted.  It may be indispensable that Our Lord’s teaching, by that elusiveness (to our systematizing intellect), should demand a response from the whole man, should make it so clear that there is no question of learning a subject but of steeping ourselves in a Personality, acquiring a new outlook and tempter, breathing a new atmosphere, suffering Him, in His own way, to rebuild in us the defaced image of Himself.”  [My emphasis.  –AF]

from Reflections on the Psalms, by C.S. Lewis, pp. 112-114

In other words, the Bible is not so much to be learned as to be experienced.  Perhaps the truth that the Scripture conveys can’t be truly learned in any other way.  Perhaps the difficulty is part of the point.

So, the next time you stumble across something in the Bible you don’t understand, don’t give up: God is trying to tell you something important.

 

 

 

 

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The Limits of Tolerance

Is there a limit to tolerance?  A friend of mine put that question to me this afternoon, in response to last week’s post on tolerance.  My answer: No.  Here’s why.

 

The Roots of Tolerance

Tolerance is simply the social recognition of a fundamental truth: all people are completely free to choose to believe and do whatever they want to believe and do.  There are no exceptions to this principle.  This truth is not dependent on whether laws and governments recognize it; this truth is simply true.

Yes, governments and societies try to constrain the behavior of the people under their power, but they cannot actually remove free choice from their people–all they can do is make it more or less likely that people freely choose this or that action.

As I argued last week, tolerance has its roots in the character of God: God created us as free creatures and allows us to exercise that freedom, for good or ill.

I don’t think there is a limit to tolerance because I don’t think there is a time when God takes away our freedom to choose.

But Actions Have Consequences

We are all free to believe and do whatever we choose, but we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.  Actions have consequences.  I’m free to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge, but I cannot avoid the consequences of my freely chosen actions.  Actions have consequences.

Doesn’t God’s Tolerance Have a Limit?

In the Bible, we read how God eventually allowed the Israelites to be conquered by their pagan neighbors as a consequence of their continued disobedience.  I don’t think this is an example of the limits of God’s tolerance, however.  Rather, I think God’s tolerance never wavered: he always allowed the Israelites to freely choose to accept or reject him.  But, although God’s forbearance (a synonym of tolerance) never ran out, the Israelites’ actions eventually caught up with them.  Their actions led to the Exile.  Certain actions lead to certain consequences, the way day inexorably follows night.

What About Human Law?

As humans, we seek to constrain certain behaviors precisely because we know that people are always free to choose.  When we lock up the serial murderer, we are not suddenly denying his freedom to choose, but acknowledging it: we know that if we do not lock him up, he may very likely continue to freely choose murder.  Actions have consequences and human societies impose various consequences on various behaviors, but those consequences do not change the fundamental fact on which the principle of tolerance rests, namely that people are always free to choose.

Our True Limit

God’s tolerance does not have a limit, but our lives are limited: we are limited by the choices of our actions, and we are limited by our mortality.  None of us can choose to be exempt from the consequences of his choices, and none of us can choose to be exempt from death.

Sooner or later, all our actions catch up to us.

P.S.  Why Does This Matter?

Tolerance recognizes that it’s never too late for anyone–all people can choose to turn towards God or away from God up until their last breath.  (And maybe beyond their last breath–who knows?)  Because I can’t take away someone’s free will–even by force–it means that the pressure is off: I can’t force anyone to believe what I believe.  I can’t make anyone believe anything, but I can persuade her through my words and actions to freely choose the Truth I’ve chosen.

Which is a sacred privilege, when you think about it.

 

 

 

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Is God Tolerant?

Tolerance is not just what we need to live peaceably together in an increasingly diverse society (though that’s true): tolerance is much more important than that.  In fact, I think it’s fair to say that life itself depends on tolerance, as does the fate of the entire world.

 

False Tolerance

Tolerance is not, despite how the word is often employed, a vague sense that all beliefs and all religions are basically the same.  This is a false idea, and this is a false definition of tolerance.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what tolerance actually implies.

True Tolerance

Tolerance is about recognizing that all beliefs and all religions are not basically the same.  In fact, tolerance recognizes that many beliefs and religions are inherently contradictory, and no amount of hand-holding and attendance at diversity seminars will make inherently contradictory beliefs the same.

Rather, tolerance is about making space for irreconcilable differences.  Tolerance is not about agreement, but about tolerating viewpoints with which you vehemently disagree.

Limits of Tolerance

It should be said that the one thing that we cannot tolerate is violence (which is not the same thing as speech, however ugly and hateful that speech might be), because violence makes tolerance itself impossible.  But, with the exception of violence, tolerance makes room for all other actions and choices and beliefs.

A Theology of Tolerance

One of the main expressions of tolerance in the American Constitution is in our First Amendment: our right to religious freedom.   (The First Amendment literally says that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”)  But religious freedom is not just a nice idea, codified into law.  Rather, religious freedom is a principle built on the bedrock of reality, because it’s a principle that is obviously true: all people are free to believe whatever they want to believe.  You cannot force anyone to believe anything.  God created us as completely free creatures, and we can use that freedom in whatever way we want.  We are even free to believe ugly things and free to act in ugly ways, free even to reject God himself.  And God permits this freedom.

God, you might say, is tolerant.

In fact, I think that the Lord is far more tolerant than I would be, were I in his place: I’d never have allowed that evil man to massacre all those people in that Orlando nightclub.

But then again, neither would I have so loved the world that I would have given my only son for the world, knowing that the world (which I created) would reject and kill him.  God’s tolerance, you might say, made the Crucifixion possible.

Which means God’s tolerance also made the Resurrection possible.

Which means that tolerance is part of God’s plan to save the world.

 

 

 

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Facebook, False God*

Facebook wants your worship.  I know that sounds extreme, but what if it’s true?  What if the thing Facebook most desires is to make you most desire it?  Isn’t that idolatry?

Worship=Attention

What has your attention is what has your worship.  What you think about in your free moments, the topics and places to which your thoughts tend to go, those are your gods.  By that definition, what many of us are worshipping is Facebook and the various other social media and infotainment sites.  Click, click, click.

And, in our naiveté, we have turned our eyes to a god-like entity that has its greedy eyes on our lives.

Cal Newport, Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown, makes the obvious (but rarely stated) point in his book Deep Work that we are fools if we think these Internet tools (that we find so addictive) were created to bless us without demanding something in return:

We no longer see Internet tools as products released by for-profit companies, funded by investors hoping to make a return, and run by twentysomethings who are often making things up as they go along.

from Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport

Facebook makes MONEY off your attention.  No wonder, then, that Mark Zuckerberg and his staff have worked so hard to make Facebook irresistible.  Click.  Click.  Click.

And, not only does Facebook make money off your attention, Facebook doesn’t care about you or what will happen to you, as long as it gets what it wants.

If you think about it, the world around us, including the world in our computers, is all about trying to tempt us to do things right now.  Take Facebook, for example.  Do they want you to be more productive twenty years from now?  Or do they want to take your time, attention, and money right now?  The same thing goes for YouTube, online newspapers, and so on.

from Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind

So, Facebook is something that: 1. Makes money from our attention.  2.  Doesn’t care about the consequences but allures and tempts with each click, click, click.

Is Facebook a false god?

*I am aware that some of you will see irony in the fact that you actually accessed this post through Facebook.  Rather than irony, I see it as an insurgency.  I am also aware that many of you will want to defend your (and my) use of Facebook.  Ask yourself, Why?

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Does Old Testament Law Apply to Christians?

Does Old Testament law apply to Christians?  A large portion of the first 5 books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) is dedicated to laws governing how Israel was to live, eat, and worship.  Should Christians follow those laws?

The Old Testament is Obsolete, Right?

I’ve heard and read something like the following argument countless times:

No sane person thinks that there is any problem wearing clothes made of different fabrics [Leviticus 19:19], nor would any sane person think capital punishment appropriate for a child who curses his parents [Leviticus 20:9].  Since we don’t abide by these or many other Old Testament laws any more, isn’t it clear that modern Christians shouldn’t abide by ANY Old Testament laws?

Unfortunately it’s not that simple.  Here’s the problem:

The Old Testament, while containing some laws that no longer apply to Christians, also contains the Ten Commandments and other components of the ethical foundation of the teachings of Jesus.  For example, Leviticus, the book everyone loves to ridicule, contains beautiful ethical teachings:

Did you know that “Love your neighbor as yourself” comes from Leviticus? (Leviticus 19:18.)

Rather than being obsolete, the Old Testament contains much that is more relevant than ever for the people of God.  But, it also contains elements that no longer apply.  Which is which?  How do we know which parts of the Old Testament law we should follow, and which are no longer binding on God’s people?

The Epic of Eden

Sandra Richter, Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, has an excellent book on the Old Testament called The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in learning more about the Old Testament.  In the epilogue to the book she includes some Frequently Asked Questions, one of which is What Role Does the Law of Moses Play in the Christian’s Life?  (pp. 225-229)  I found her answer so helpful that I publish it below, with permission from her publisher.  I’ve added my own remarks throughout.

What Role Does the Law of Moses Play in the Christian’s Life?

Most everyone recognizes that simply abolishing the entire Mosaic law contradicts the New Testament (what do you do with the Ten Commandments?).  Most equally recognize that imposing the law in its entirety on the Christian also contradicts the New Testament (what of God’s instructions to Peter in Acts 10 to embrace unclean foods as clean?).  So most have concluded that there must a middle-of-the-road position.  The most enduring approach to defining this middle-of-the-road position has been the attempt to somehow delineate the law according to “moral” versus “civil” (or “ethical” versus “ritual”) categories.  The claim is typically that the moral/ethical features of the law are still in force for the Christian, but the civil/ritual features are obsolete and can be put safely aside.  For example, some would claim that the Ten Commandments can be cataloged as “moral” and are therefore still binding, but the law requiring tassels on the four corners of a person’s garment is to be catalogued as “civil/ritual” and is not (Num 15:38-39).  The problem with this sort of delineation, however, is that in Israel’s world, there was no distinction between the civil/ritual and moral/ethical aspects of the law.  All of these laws were deemed as the imperatives of God’s divine will.  Moreover, to “honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12) was both a moral expectation and the civil requirement of a patriarchal society to provide for the elderly of one’s clan.  And proper worship in a theocracy was an expression of both a moral/ethical and civil/ritual expectation.  So what to do? [Emphasis mine.  One of the mistakes we make in reading the Bible is to put our own categories on top of it.  As Professor Richter points out, unlike us the ancient Israelites did not divide the world into the sacred and the secular, the religious and the legal: it was all one.  –AF]  In the end, most assume that the Mosaic law is generally annulled as regards the Christian but hold onto those aspects of the law that are either reiterated by Christ (a good idea) or those that generally just seem “right” (obviously not a satisfactory response to the question).  [We see this all the time: people decide what’s right beforehand and bring that decision to the Bible.  Here’s the problem, though–Where and how do we decide what’s right?  What are the sources we use to decide what’s right?  Aren’t we in danger of just blessing whatever feels good to us, or whatever the dominant culture tells us is right?  The reason for the Mosaic Law in the first place was to give Israel a way of knowing right and wrong that was distinct from the surrounding pagan Canaanite cultures.  –AF]  Although I cannot offer a complete solution to the conundrum, let me at least contribute to an answer.

First, it is important to realize that as covenantal administrations change, so do the stipulations of those covenants.  So, yes, the rules can and do change.  And they change according to the will of the suzerain.  [The suzerain is the king making the covenant, as she explains earlier in the book.  For the Israelites, their king was the Lord.  –AF]  Hence, the first question we want to ask is, how does Jesus (our suzerain and mediator) change the rules with the new covenant?  We find the answer to that question as we read through the Gospels.  Here Jesus regularly calls his audience back to the intent of the Mosaic law.  Was the sabbath created for man, or man for the sabbath (Mt 12:10)?  Is adultery the problem or unbridled lust (Mt 7:27)?  Is it more important that a person keep themselves ritually clean, or serve a neighbor in need (Lk 10:30-37)?  So one thing Jesus tells his audience is to look beyond a legalistic adherence to particulars and see the goal of the law.  This is clearly articulated in interactions like Matthew 22:36-40:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments depends the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Galatians 5:14 says the same: “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Thus, whereas the detailed message of the Mosaic law embodied the love of neighbor and God in concrete, time- and culture-bound expressions, Jesus finds a way to articulate the transcultural and all-embracing message of that same law to a new audience.  [Emphasis mine.  I think this is a perceptive analysis of the ethical teaching of Jesus.  –AF]  Moreover, he makes it clear that this message is still binding upon us new covenant adherents as well.

We also read that Jesus redefines the major institutions of Israel’s theocracy: the temple and the theocratic government.  The temple is first re-defined as Jesus’own body, and then as the individual believer and the church (Jn 2:19-21; Eph 2:19-22).  Jesus is identified as the final sacrifice (Heb 9:24-26) and as the church’s new high priest (Heb 2:17).  Thus, with the new covenant we learn that Israel’s temple cultus is obsolete.  [A “cultus” is a system of worship.  –AF]  And if this theocratic institution is obsolete, I believe it is safe to conclude that the complex processes dictated by the Mosaic law that directed the function of this institution (e.g. the design and décor of the building, the cleanness of priest and worshipper, sacrifice, mediation and the calendar of cultic celebration) are now obsolete as well.  This means that in the new covenant the specific Mosaic regulations regarding these issues are annulled: our buildings of worship are no longer required to bring sacrifice, the laws of “clean and unclean” are abrogated, the mediation of human priests is unnecessary, and the holidays of Israel’s cult have become “a mere shadow of what is to come” (Col 2:16-17).  [Emphasis mine.  Did you get that?  Because the Temple is obsolete for Christians (the entire book of Hebrews is essentially about this topic), then it follows that all the Old Testament laws pertaining to Temple worship are also obsolete.  –AF]

And what of Israel’s theocratic government?  Keep clearly in your mind that Israel was a nation that was directly ruled by God.  Yahweh was enthroned in the temple in Jerusalem, “between the cherubim,” and carried out his ordinances by means of his officers, the prophet, the priest and king.  Israel was a political entity with national territory.  Its citizenry were, exclusively, the people of God.  Foreign oppression, drought and famine were God’s communiqués that his people had somehow broken covenant; national prosperity was the sign that they had kept covenant.  Thus the nation of Israel could justly go to war in the name of Yahweh, slaying Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites to defend the national boundaries of God’s kingdom.  But Jesus makes it clear that his only throne will be in heaven (Mk 16:19; Heb 8:1; etc.).  And as we’ve seen, the new citizenry of his kingdom will come from every tongue, tribe and nation.  As opposed to the land of Canaan being the Promised Land, now all of the recreated earth is.  Thus, in the new covenant there is no longer any single nation that can lay claim to being “the people of God” nor any single piece of real estate that is promised to them. [Emphasis mine.  This is HUGE.  Whereas before Jesus you had to be a member of Israel to be part of the people of God, now the church–the new Israel–is open to people of all ages, nations, and races.  –AF]  There are new officers for this new kingdom too.  Even a cursory glance at Ephesians 4:11, 1 Corinthians 12:28 or 1 Timothy 3 lets us know that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, deacons and teachers have replaced the prophet, priest and king of the Mosaic covenant.  The only title that survives into the new covenant is that of “prophet,” but even this office is substantially transformed. Thus the very literal political realities of Israel’s theocracy are abrogated by the new covenant, and I believe we can safely say that the complex list of laws and regulations that governed the theocracy are abrogated as well.  [Update: This is why capital punishments for crimes such as blasphemy and sorcery, etc., no longer apply: those rules were part of the Old Covenant theocracy.  The offenses themselves are still sinful, but now that we live under the New Covenant of grace and no longer under the Israelite theocracy, the way the people of God deal with those offenses has changed.  –AF] 

Then, of course, there are those aspects of the Mosaic law that the writers of the New Testament specifically address as being changed or terminated.  A few examples would be the necessity of circumcision (1 Cor 7:19), the regulations of kashrut (Acts 10:15), the rabbinic restrictions regarding the sabbath (Mt 12:1-9) and even divorce (Mt 19:3-9).

In sum, I think we can identify at least three categories of Mosaic law which, in their specific expectations, no longer apply to the Christian: those involving the regulations of Israel’s government, those involving the regulation of Israel’s temple, and those laws that the New Testament specifically repeals or changes.  I would still argue that the values that shaped these regulations express the character of God and therefore must be attended to by the Christian, but the specifics of their application are no longer our responsibility.  Thus my contribution to the conundrum named above is that rather than attempting to delineate the law of Moses based on categories foreign to that law itself (“more/ethical” and “civil/ritual”), perhaps we should address the question through a lens that is more native to both Old and New Testaments—Jesus’ redefinition of certain major institutions of the Mosaic covenant.  And for all the Mosaic law, be it superseded or not, we need to recognize that we can (and must) still learn a great deal about the character of God through these laws, even if we can no longer directly apply them to ourselves in this new covenant.  [Emphasis mine.  Rather than being irrelevant to the church today, even those Old Testament laws that have been abrogated by the New Covenant have much to teach us about the Lord.  –AF]  So rather than thinking in terms of the Mosaic law as being obsolete except for what Jesus maintains (as has been the predominant view), perhaps we should begin to thing in terms of the law being in force except for what Jesus repeals.

Taken from The Epic of Eden by Sandra L. Richter. Copyright (c) 2008 by Sandra L. Richter. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426. www.ivpress.com.

 

 

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“3 Words To Transform Any Relationship” [VIDEO]

I was interviewed on the front steps of my church a few weeks ago by Jane McGarry of Good Morning Texas, and the interview aired this morning on WFAA Channel 8 (ABC) in Dallas.  We did the interview in one take, and the good folks at GMT aired it in its entirety.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to share a message I really believe in: 3 words that can transform ANY relationship.  [Click the link below to see the 3 minute video.]

http://www.wfaa.com/entertainment/television/programs/good-morning-texas/soulful-stoop-munger-place-churchs-rev-andrew-forrest/224681060

 

 

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A Framework for Understanding the Bible

I’ll be the first to admit that the Bible is a difficult book.  One of the reasons it’s difficult is that it’s not really even one book, but rather a collection of books.  (That’s what “bible” actually means: a collection of books.)  Over and over again people will say to me, “I’d like to read the Bible, but I just don’t understand it.”  I hope the following simple framework helps you get a little more clarity and understanding.

All of History in 3 Acts

The Bible tells the story of the great drama of History in 3 acts, with a prologue at the beginning and an epilogue at the end.

Prologue

Subject: Beginnings.  Adam to Abraham.  The Prologue tells us why the world is the way it is.  After a beautiful beginning (“And there was light….”)  the story quickly becomes a story of blood and betrayal: Cain kills Abel, and we’ve been killing our brothers ever since.

Scripture: Genesis 1-11

Act 1

Subject: Israel.  The Lord’s plan to save all of humanity begins with one man–Abraham–and it culminates in one of Abraham’s descendant’s: Jesus of Nazareth.  Act 1 is about God’s chosen people Israel, and Israel’s slavery, exodus, kingdom, exile, and return.

Scripture: Genesis 12-Malachi

Act 2

Subject: Jesus.  Act 2 is all about Jesus, from his birth to his death to his Resurrection.

Scripture: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

Act 3

Subject: The Church.  Act 3 is about how the church is God’s means to redeem the world.  It begins with a small group of disciples in Jerusalem on Pentecost Sunday and it’s still going, right up to and including the present.  We are living in Act 3.

Scripture: Acts-Revelation 20

Epilogue

Subject: Forever and Ever Amen.  The Epilogue is about History’s culmination, when Jesus returns and all the bad things come untrue and evil is finally ended.

Scripture: Revelation 21-22

Conclusion

I realize that the above doesn’t answer most of our good questions about the difficult parts of scripture, but it does give us a framework within which we can at least get our bearings when reading scripture.  Keep reading–it’s worth it.

 

 

 

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