Israel, Day 3: A Roman Siege, the Northern Kingdom, & Hanging Out in Syria


Paul-golanheights-israel-gamla

I am back from Israel-Palestine, but the effects of this trip are still lingering with me, both emotionally and spiritually (and physically). I still want to share this trip with all of you. My time in this land will be popping up in many thoughts, reflections (and pictures) from here on out on this blog, but first, I want to keep documenting the basic schedule and images of what we did during the trip.

One key thing to remember about this trip was that it was not a vacation or tourist time. It was part of an “Intercultural Immersion” seminary course. Throughout our weeks here, our guides and professors repeatedly brought us to these moments of dwelling with the “Living Stones” of Israel-Palestine, and not just being enamored with the Dead Stones of ruins and biblical history.

This means that, in the days to come, you will see me write about our times hearing speakers and learning lessons about the Israel-Palestine conflict, as well as time we spent at sites that have little to nothing to do with “Bible stuff”, but have a deep and visceral place in the minds and culture of contemporary Jewish and Arab peoples.

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Israel, Day 2: Christian Pilgrims, Jesus’ Home, and…I’m on a boat!


Both wifi and wakefulness are hard to come by on this trip. My body is still trying to get used to being 7 hours off. Anyway, my biggest lesson on this day was a small, but profound one: I’m having to repaint the mental images of the entire BIble in my mind.  Israel is in the Middle East, right? The Middle East is desert and barrenness, right?

Wrong. I can see why this was the Promised Land. It (so far) has been nothing but lush and beautiful. We’ve yet to see sand anywhere. If this were a movie, the overall color palette would not be a dry, arid yellow, but green, grey, and black. It lush and rocky. The beaches are gravel-grey, not yellow and sandy. It is beautiful. Hopefully my pictures can convey some of this. On this rainy day, we spent it around the area around Northern Galilee.

Starting tomorrow, we will be staying with Palestinian Christian families in their homes in Bethelehem, and we’ll likely not have much access to internet and modern conveniences. Don’t know when I’ll put another post up (I’m already a day behind in writing! We had a crazy day today!), but keep up in your prayers, and enjoy the pictures. Continue reading

God & Her Glory {3}: The Biblical & Historical Evidence


meinradcraighead-enclosedgarden

Having gone through this series on feminine language for God, I realize now I should have started with this post rather than ended with it. Following an almost Lutheran model of Law then Grace, I wanted to impress upon us the depth of the problem first, and then give us the “Good News” that the solution is both available and faithful. This may not have been the most helpful way to do it. My apologies.

Nevertheless, here I’ve tried to provide a comprehensive list of Biblical and historical references to the Feminine Divine. The Biblical texts are mostly in order that they appear in the Bible, the historical quotes are roughly chronological. Some pieces may seem stronger than others. I offer them with little or no commentary. Due to the length of this, significant quotes are in bold. If you have any questions, feel free to ask below and I can provide further sourcing, answers, etc. as needed. I hope this helpful. Continue reading

Are Christian denominations good or bad?


luther-95theses-humor-memeI’m currently in a Church History class going through the Reformation period of Christianity. During the Reformation, Martin Luther’s partner in crime (literally) was Philipp Melanchthon. After Luther’s death, Melanchthon carried the torch as a leader of the movement spreading throughout the Medieval world. In the years following the start of the Reformation, there were several different strains of non-Catholic Christianity that popped up.

To withstand the Catholic majorities at the time, these non-Catholic groups started talking about what it would look like to unify under one banner. Believe it or not, even though all these movements were really young and were reacting to the same problems they saw in Catholicism, these groups had really big differences between them that were hard to overcome.

In these conversations, an aging Melanchthon used an old Greek philosophical phrase to suggest a way forward: Adiaphora. Greek for “indifferent things”, he used it to describe how he felt that some beliefs and practices could be considered adiaphora (non-essentials), and could be compromised on for the same of unity. He argued with his fellow Lutherans that some beliefs were more essential to Christianity than others and didn’t require so much division. The others around him, of course, disagreed.

This got me thinking about the trajectory this set for us today. We now feel perfectly free to think a whole host of different things and still call others Christians. And yet still, much of Christianity’s most bitter judgmentalism and cries of heresy, unfaithfulness, sin, and arrogance are directed towards other who are also trying to follow the God of Jesus best they can. This has caused rifts, schisms, splits, and divisions into a huge number of Church denominations. Is this healthy for us? What does Christian “unity” look like? Do we all need to look the same?
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Paul: The Second Coming of Jonah?


Jonah-Preaching-in-Nineveh-1923sIt’s always odd when you see something in a text that seems incredibly out of place. I took a lot of Latin in high school and college. I remember the first time I was doing some translation and ran across the word Britannia. I looked up the word in the Latin dictionary to see that it was the Roman word for Great Britain.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of ancient Rome, I somehow don’t think of Great Britain having been a thing. Or maybe I thought they would have been familiar with the region, but that it would have had a different name or something. I don’t know. It was just a really unexpected thing to come across.

A similar experience happened when I was going through the book of Galatians for the first time. In the opening chapter, Paul is telling the story of his conversion, and he randomly says that after he became a Christian, he went down to “Arabia” for three years to, in a sense, figure out what this Gospel was that he would bring to the Gentiles. This is a very odd gap in the understanding of Paul’s life, and no scholar has any idea what he was doing in this time. But, more oddly, Arabia? Again, another regional name I wasn’t expecting to see casually thrown into a Mediterranean-based ancient biblical text.

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My problem with “quiet times” (some rest for the journey?)


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If you’ve spent any real time in the Church, you probably are well-aware that there are some practical things that “mature Christians” end up doing (or so we hear) to “pursue Christ” and intimacy with God on days other than Sunday. Usually, this is some set of practices, disciplines, and rituals that surround two key things: the Bible and Prayer.

In the Bible Belt, where I’m from, the common term to describe this is the “quiet time”. This can be a devotional that includes a snippet of Bible verses with some meditations and prayers. It could be reading a passage and then journaling about it. It can even be going through an established liturgy of prayer with rotations of Scripture found throughout (here’s my favorite).

Whatever form it takes, it’s usually a subjective engagement (prayer) with the “objective” revealing of God (the Bible). It is usually rooted in the Bible, and even the prayer or journaling is seen as a response to how God reveals Himself in the Scripture. “Quiet times” are, fundamentally speaking, time spent with God in the Bible.

I’m sure the experience is very different in other branches of the Christian family tree, but at least in Evangelicalism (my bread-and-butter), “quiet times” become the go-to litmus test for one’s own spiritual health. If people are going through difficult times, we nudge them towards the Bible more. If we are to feel spiritually vital, healthy and mature, we gain the impression, over time, that it must flow from regular, disciplined quiet times.

But as I have lived through my own pursuit of the elusive “consistent quiet time”, dealt with decades of feelings of spiritual inadequacy, and seemingly had every time of requesting prayer on my behalf be about trying to get the grace to have these quiet times, I have slowly realized there are problems with how we have conceived of the “quiet time”. Come walk with me a little bit.

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Church History: Where have the female leaders been? {pt1}


sandorfi-quo-vadis[This is a continuation of our on-going series on Women in the Church]

Update: Part 2 is now up.

First off, one of the main limitations of writing is the necessity of producing summary titles for what you write. This post should, more precisely, have the title “Where have all of the ordained, teaching, preaching, and leading female leaders in Church History been?” But I can only put so much in the title before it becomes absurd.

I say that because even complementarians (who don’t think women should be ordained) will freely acknowledge the valuable place women (in general) have had in the Church over the years. They simply think that, in spite of gifting or value, God has placed limits on who should lead his church in ordained, official ways. So…sorry for any confusion.

When it comes to the Bible and the contemporary benefits women in Church leadership could offer, I’m pretty comfortable, confident, and secure in my egalitarianism. I think it is a faithful, consistent, practical, and edifying view to hold, and I see evidence for it written and displayed all over the place.

And yet, I’m in the extreme minority, relative to Church History.
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Jesus’ Wife fragment judged a fake [casual fri]


hmm… so did you hear about that fragment found recently that talked about Jesus’ wife? (By the way, here’s a great segment Jon Stewart did on this.)

Daniel B. Wallace

“News flash: Harvard Theological Review has decided not to publish Karen King¹s paper on the Coptic papyrus fragment on the grounds that the fragment is probably a fake.” This from an email Dr. Craig Evans, the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia University and Divinity College, sent to me earlier today. He said that Helmut Koester (Harvard University), Bentley Layton (Yale University), Stephen Emmel (University of Münster), and Gesine Robinson (Claremont Graduate School)–all first-rate scholars in Coptic studies–have weighed in and have found the fragment wanting. No doubt Francis Watson’s comprehensive work showing the fragment’s dependence on the Gospel of Thomas was a contributing factor for this judgment, as well as the rather odd look of the Coptic that already raised several questions as to its authenticity.

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Welcome to Advent. 2011. {1}


Yesterday was Day 1 of the season of the Church Calendar known as Advent (latin for “coming) . From now until Christmas, we spend time intentionally mediating upon the truth this season brings: God has come among us, clothed in the vestiges of human flesh.

Yes, this time of year was arbitrarily chosen centuries ago to recast pagan lunar festivals in a new light. Yes, many of the traditions of Christmas (fir trees, gift-giving, wreaths, etc.) find their source in pagan socio-religious rites. Yes, Jesus was probably more likely born in April, not December. Yes, Christmas has been co-opted by commercialism and consumerism. Nevertheless, this time has been set aside for nearly two millennia so that Christians around the world could, with one mind and heart, dwell upon the depths of the glory given to us in the events that transpired all those years ago.
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