The Issue: What do Genesis 1-2 Say About God and Humans?

From the Jesus Creed blog. An excellent summary. See what you think.

Tremper opens with a claim of inerrancy — that the Bible is wholly true — but the issue is Screen-Shot-2013-08-25-at-8.58.45-PMwhat kind of truth is the “wholly true” teaching us. Here’s where’s headed: Gen 1-2 tell us about God and that God created but not how God created. There’s a huge difference.

Read it all

Jordan Monge (CT): Why Intelligent People Are Less Likely to be Religious

A good analysis of research methodology. Can we say self-fulfilling prophecy, kids? Sure we can.

There are the standard caveats. Correlation does not equal causation. Just because intelligent people are less likely to be religious doesn’t mean that their brilliance causes them to reject religion. One look at Christians’ intellectual contributions throughout history —made by thinkers such as Donne, Newton, Aquinas, and many others—does away with this misconception.

Plus, in spite of presenting a sweeping meta-analysis, the study’s authors relied on a limited range of research, as they admit in the paper. They primarily address Protestants, in the U.S. (This highlights a common problem in psychological research, which is heavily weighted toward a particular population that is rather WEIRD—Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic—when compared to the rest of the world.)

The most significant issue comes with the very question these researchers chose to explore. The way they framed their study suggests an implicit bias in the way scholars think about religion. “Secular researchers are likely to discover what they already suspect which is a co-relation between their values and high levels of intelligence,” noted atheist sociologist Frank Furerdi. He questioned the value of such a project, where “social science research turns into advocacy research.”

Read it all.

Fr. Ron Feister: It is Good to be Dedicated

Sermon delivered on the first annual Dedication Festival to celebrate the founding of St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Columbus, OH on Sunday, Trinity 13C, August 25, 2013.

If you would like to hear the audio version of this sermon, click here.

Lectionary texts: 1 Chronicles 29.6-19; Psalm 122.1-9; Ephesians 2.19-22; John 2.13-22.

In today’s Gospel, we see what seem to be an unusual action on the part of Jesus. The gentle Lamb of God becomes the lion who is determined to protect what is rightfully his or more precisely what is His Father’s. We really should not be surprised, in last weeks Gospel, Jesus warned that he has not come to bring peace, but a fire, a fire that would bring even division.

For the Jewish people, the temple was not merely a meeting place or even a symbol of God’s presence, it was for them the very place on earth where God dwelt. It was the place where they could encounter God, worship God, invoke God’s blessing.  But by Jesus’ time, there were those who choose to, using another translation, turned the Temple into a den of thieves.  This was a especially true of the money changers who would routinely rip-off the pilgrims coming to offer sacrifice at the temple.  In driving the money changers and merchants out Jesus was responding in just anger to a total corruption of what the Temple was about. He was declaring by his actions that God’ relationship with his people was to be special, pure, and holy.

When questioned about His authority to do this, Jesus give an answer that would only be fully understood when after three days in the tomb, He is raised by the Father from the dead. We  know now what they could never have imagined, that this itinerant Jewish teacher was the very Son of God, fully divine and one with the Father and the Holy Spirit and that through the working of the Holy Spirit the intimate experience of God would no longer be limited to the Temple but would be found wherever men and women would offer true worship.

While today we as Christians no longer worship at the Temple, we still gather in places and buildings, some perhaps as magnificent as Solomon’s Temple and others like us today in simple rented gathering spaces which we decorate and arrange so that we more easily raise our hearts and spirits in worship and praise. So this being the case. we might learn something from the Jewish people as they built, dedicated  and worshiped at the Temple.

In our first reading from Chronicles we see David rejoicing at the generosity of the people in bringing many valuable gifts to be used in the construction of the Temple. He rejoices that the leaders have set an excellent example of generous giving. David himself had already given generously. But even as he rejoices in this outpouring of goods, he acknowledges that all this is possible only because God has first given these gifts to his people.  David is the preparer and not the builder. His son Solomon would be the one to undertake the  actual building a task that those who questioned Jesus’ authority claimed took 46 years to complete.

Nonetheless David could now feel an assurance that the Temple would be built a permanent place for God to dwell. David knew well that his people and the Ark of the Covenant which had been God’s resting place had been a nomadic people with no place of their own and even as David see his dream of the temple coming close, he recounts how he and the people of Israel are “aliens and transients” before God… as were their ancestors, a people whose days are like a shadow and for whom their is no hope.

After the Temple has been substantially completed, it was dedicated. There are various definitions for the word dedication.  In the case of the Temple, there are two definitions that seem appropriate one is a a ceremony to mark the official completion or opening of something such as a building and the other is an act or rite expressing commitment to a divine being or a sacred use.

To some extent the this Dedication Festival is an annual celebration of a completion – the coming into existence of a church body known as St. Augustine’s. A place was chosen for worship, leadership team formed, and liturgical services and ministries begun. Everything that was needed to be a local church body had been completed. Truly the members of St. Augustine’s have committed themselves to God and this parish to sacred use.

But I believe a another definition of dedication is even more appropriate. That definitions is the setting aside for a particular purpose. In this  parish, that is expressed most eloquently in its mission statement Changed by God to make a  Difference for God.  For the members of this parish, it is not merely enough to have sacred spaces and ceremonies, it is not enough to worship God in community or privately, it is not enough to have great Christian fellowship – and all these are present and true – but the members of this parish having experienced God’s Blessing want to and have given generously of themselves.

They have allowed God to change them and to keep changing them so that they can be the Body of Christ in the world around them. Changed by Christ  they reach out to share the Good News and making Christ present to others by visiting the homeless and those in nursing homes, by collecting food stuffs for those in need both human and animal, by holding up brothers and sisters in prayer, not only those within this parish, but wherever and for whoever their is a need.   It is a parish that is not afraid to pray for God’s healing and is willing to make present the healing touch of Christ by supporting, comforting, sharing those with needs.

It is right and good and a holy thing that we do as we celebrate that original dedication with a re-dedication. A recommitment to be transformed by God. This will require that we continue to be generous with our time and resources and it will required us to remember that all that we have comes from our God. We must realize that some of what we do today we will not see come to completion. Like David we need to act in faith and trust that if we prepare and plan well, that God will see the completion. As the Temple took some 46 years to build, we must realize that the building of this parish will take years, but unlike the Temple it will never be completed.

As in the Gospel reading, we see how abuses crept into the Temple, some innocent enough, the providing of doves and lambs, etc. for offerings but more evil ones as well like the dishonest money changers. Jesus was forced to drive them out of the Temple to safeguard it’s purity. We need to examine both our church life and our individual lives to make sure that we have not allowed our practices to interferr with our pure worship of God. Hopefully these comparisons with the Temple and the church have been helpful, but I believe it is important that we recognize a major difference.

The Temple was a single place where God was seen to dwell. In a sense, God could be restricted to that place , that period of worship, without any real involvement in daily life. The people continued to see themselves as strangers and aliens in this world, to a great extent as even as strangers and aliens in their relationship with God.

We are different. The Temple was build on an earthly cornerstone, but We are a people who have Jesus Christ as our cornerstone. The Temple had a foundation built on human soil, but our foundation is built upon the faith of the apostles and prophets. They were a people who could not get over the feeling that thy were strangers and aliens, but through our relationship with Jesus Christ we are no longer strangers, no longer aliens, but citizen  with the saints and yes, even members of the household of God.

We no longer are bound to a particular place or time in which to encounter God, worship God, or invoke God’s Blessing. God now dwells with and in us. Our bodies individually and especially when we gather together as Church have become the new and more perfect Temple. We can now make the presence of our God felt wherever we go. We have been truly Changed by God to Make a Difference For God. Amen.

Scot McKnight: Sciences and the Tower of Babel

Spot on, dude.

Science does what science can do. I love that. It can discover and it can find and it can see and it can observe and it can induce. It can tell me why a tomato, a juicy red one through and through can generate potent, pleasing reactions on my tongue and make a (turkey) bacon, chard and tomato sandwich pleasurable. It can take us to the moon and back, and it can see things and discern things on the moon that will perhaps change life here on Planet Earth.

But science goes Babel on us when it tells us that because pleasure is in the frontal cortex it is nothing but chemical reaction; science goes Babel on us when it denies the glorious mysteries of beauty, of the eye of faith, and the splendor of perceptions.

Read it all.

Scot McKnight: Atonement Debates

What happened on Calvary? For any Christian this gets to the heart of things so debates like these are useful. See what you think.

When I was a seminary student the atonement battle, as we were taught it, was between CH Dodd, who turned propitiation (the wrath of God pacified) into expiation (the sin of humans removed), and LL Morris, whose dissertation was published and republished and republished as The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross. Morris was a strong defender of propitiation and the atonement as an act in which God offered a substitutionary sacrifice that absorbed the punishment due to humans. Leon Morris’ work was then recaptured in John Stott’s The Cross of Christ. This atonement theory is at the core of how many evangelicals understand the gospel itself. I have myself weighed in on this debate with some elbowing for expanding our view of the atonement so that one metaphor does not dominate the whole show.

Read it all.

Scot McKnight: A Guide for Miracles

If God is all-powerful and Creator, is there even such a thing as a “miracle” in God’s economy? A useful reflection from Dr. McKnight. What do you think?

[A]part from the charismatic types, who do claim more miracles than many of us are comfortable with, most of us don’t do or see miracles. Back again, we claim to follow Jesus and Jesus did miracles and we want to be disciples and the original disciples did miracles. So…

Read it all.

Karen Swallow Prior: Called to Love the Whore

A thoughtful piece. See what you think.

I’ve talked to a lot of young (and not so young) Christians about their disappointment in the church. Many have been Called to Love the Whorehurt by the church. Many more hurt for others who have borne the brunt of the church’s injustices and failures.

Some of those I’ve talked to have been subject to criticism or suspicion because they have loved art, or music, or words, or peace, or people that the church has rejected or merely overlooked.

They have felt compassion for the outsiders spurned by the church.

Read it all.

CT: Should Pastors Rebuke Parishioners from the Pulpit?

See how the “experts” weigh in. What do you think?

An Oklahoma pastor spent five minutes of Sunday worship calling out parishioners by name for their flaws—including sleeping.

“You’re one of the sorriest church members I have—you’re not worth 15 cents,” said Jim Standridge, pastor of Skiatook’s Immanuel Baptist Church, to one attendee.

A recording of the incident has been watched almost 600,000 times on YouTube. (The full sermon is on Vimeo.)

Should pastors rebuke parishioners from the pulpit? Christian leaders’ responses are posted below, on a scale starting with “yes” and ending with “no.”

Fox News: American POW’s Prized Gold Ring Comes Home After He Gave it Away for Food During World War II

What a terrific story! Good for them all.

Cold and hungry, the North Carolinian made a difficult decision. He slipped the gold aviator’s ring — a gift from his POWs Ring Returnsparents — off his finger and passed it through a fence to an Italian POW, who handed back a couple of chocolate bars.

He would never again see the ring. But it did not disappear.

Last week, about a dozen family members and friends gathered in the living room of David C. Cox Jr.’s Raleigh home and watched as he slit open a small yellow parcel from Germany. The 67-year-old son dug through the crinkly packing material and carefully removed a little plastic box.

“And here it is,” he said with a long sigh as he pulled out the ring. “Oh, my goodness. … I never thought it would ever happen. I thought it was gone. We all thought it was gone.

“He thought it was gone,” he said of his late father.

Read the whole heartwarming story.