Saturday, April 26, 2008
When I took Exegesis in seminary the teacher talked about this passage. Some factors we should remember that are different from our culture to the one in which Paul was speaking.
1. There were those who were eunuchs in the ancient cultures. As such, there was those who performed castration on themselves. There were those who were made eunuchs as babies. While this seems a remote and almost mythical practice to us, thinking of the harem guards of story books, it would not have been absurd in Paul’s day to have met a eunuch. I don’t believe I have ever met a eunuch, so that puts this category of thinking outside my normal system of thought.
2. Leviticus 21:20 forbids Aaron’s offspring to serve as a priest if he has injured testicles.
3. In Roman religions there were temples that had castrated priests.
There is a distinction between the Jewish practice of circumcision and the Roman religions that practiced castration of the priests. Paul’s statement is probably sarcastic but not in the way we would take it in our culture today.
Speaking to Aaron’s sons, Moses addresses the idea of being cut off from the presence of the Lord for uncleanness in Leviticus 22:3–
3Say to them, ‘If any one of all your offspring throughout your generations approaches the holy things that the people of Israel dedicate to the LORD, while he has an uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD.
The whole idea of cleanness or uncleanness is associated with the concept of circumcision. The question comes to mind, if these people who were advocating circumcision as a means of achieving cleanness and right standing before God, what if they had gone too far in their practice of circumcision and instead of in the act of circumcising themselves they actually injure themselves, then they are permanently in the unclean category (See Lev. 21:20). They then have to start to think about what really makes one clean or unclean, and of course they have to start thinking about faith alone. Which of course where Paul is going with this. I would take Paul’s statement of hyperbole, but with an actual point. What if someone does not a pristine body, what if he is not without blemish? Can he be saved? The answer is yes he can be saved, and it would be better to have some blemish that made him depend on grace rather than have the perfection of organs and depend on the flesh to save him.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
I am sort of an odd ball when it comes to human relationships. My wife is very forgiving of my oddities, and for that I am exceptionally thankful. However, not everyone is as forgiving as my blessed wife and children. So I have to really watch myself at work and church to not disenfranchise people with my matter of fact assessments and challenges to their way of thinking. Thinking through how to continue to communicate on a deeper level and not disenfranchise people has been something that I have been rethinking quite a bit. It kept me up a lot of Friday night. Two things set me off on this anxious, sleepless thought. The first was I was asked to help to reform some of the organizational aspects of a ministry. The thing that struck me what that I could get into a lot of conflict over this. I feel quite a bit of rejection from people in general, so further disenfranchising people sounds painful. I am trying to build bridges that I have torn down in the past and further distancing myself from people does not sound appetizing. The second thing that gave me a sleepless night was being forced to bring order to our small group the other night. It really was not a big deal, but I do not wish to be seen as the heavy handed one who calls people to order all the time. I don't think I am in a popularity contest, but I don't like to be lonely either. I was the rule enforcer at work and at church for a while. I seem to do well at this role in my family, perhaps my kids will tell me later that it was unbearable, but it did not work for me in other groupings than my family. This sort of surprises me since in the past, I thought my leadership in my biological family was preparing me for leadership in God's family. The only thing is our churches are organized as businesses, not families.
Thinking It Through
My way of solving this issue is I think I need to be extraordinarily intentional when it comes to enforcing rules. I need to not be overly focused on me being the person who solves all the problems and confronts all those who are off doing their own thing instead of thinking of others. Realize that there is a difference between being a member of the church universal and the American organizational form of the church which I see more and more as an institution that brings business models into the church. The organizational models I see in Scripture are those of Shepherd with sheep. The shepherds of the ancient Middle East did not use fences as the primary means organizing the sheep but constant, personal care. I think our business model in the church is to use organizational charts and dictate policy. I believe neither of these is shepherding. For myself, I need to focus on shepherding as the model, not CEO. I definitely I don't want to be the hatchet man for somebody else either. I think that job is beyond my limitation.
"A man's got to know his limitations." --Quote from Dirty Harry
Monday, April 07, 2008
1 Corinthians 10:3-10 is a highly problematic passage about head coverings for women during worship and the husband being the head of the wife. We Christians who regard the Bible as God's Word must deal with the passage by asking if the passage must be taken as a prescription for women and men in all cultures and all ages or is the passage dealing with a cultural situation that must be interpreted. Al-Muhajabah in interpreting 1 Corinthians 11:3-20 takes this as prescriptive which certainly many Christians have also. My interpretation would say this passage is not prescriptive in the same sense that the commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me." The first of the 10 Commandments is prescriptive for all time. According to the biblical commentator Anthony C. Thiselton (page 170) that in Roman society there was a custom that women wore their hair one of several ways to communicate whether they were single and available or married and respectable. The head covering would have communicated intent to be faithful to one's husband or not, as I understand it. So a young woman of marriageable age would not have worn this until she was married is how I read it. The idea of man being the head of the woman would mean within marriage where love for one another in a mutual respect reigns, not society in general as a harsh pecking order. The shaved head, again according to Thiselton, means communicates that the woman is of low reputation such as a slave. The woman at Corinth seem to have been experimenting with their new freedom in Christ but did not think through all the logical implications of that freedom and new found status. Clearly from Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 11:11 the relation between a husband and wife is one of mutual love, mutual respect and mutual interdependence. The application in the US would be a man or woman not wearing a wedding ring in order to say they are free in Christ but everyone around them interpreting it to mean that he or she is available for a sexual liaison. Clothes communicate many things. The head covering for the early church had a meaning that does not translate into modern western society. Even if a Christian woman wore a head covering like the Roman women did, it would not communicate the same thing. The head covering would be mistaken for communicating the woman was of a different religion than she is or it would be seen as an odd way of declaring that she was of an exclusive sect of Christianity. By the way, most of the sects that practice head coverings for women are exclusive sects.
I do welcome interfaith dialog. I'm not sure the parting shot at Christian women is in the spirit of interfaith dialog. But at the same time, I find when I am in dialog with those of another faith, my most common type of other religion with whom I am in dialog is the skeptic who believes there is no way to determine one religion over another, I think we often misunderstand each other. This is the hard part of interfaith dialog. When I say that the God of the Bible demands my exclusive loyalty and desires to be known as a Trinity, I am being narrow and perhaps a bigot to some. When the religious inclusive say they accept all religions including mine, I hear something different than what they may mean. I hear that God's command for exclusive, faithful worship is subsumed in modern attempts at peace. I hear the opposite of the command to worship God faithfully. I'm sure that is not what is meant, but I'm also sure how I see the issue. When I see the Jewish man worshiping God who is not the God of the Trinity, I think he is attempting to obey the Scripture. If he worships the Trinity without believing in the Trinity, he would be breaking the first commandment. In that sense, I respect him though I count his holding to the one God without a full understanding of nature of the one God.
Religious dialog is interesting, it helps to clarify issues and can help with peacemaking, even if we disagree on everything. Let us talk; skeptic, Jew, and Muslim. I'm listening.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
A young man who is a co-worker of my daughter. He recently graduated from the university with a degree in history. According to this young man, the history he learned is mostly a story of how western civilization has failed. His knowledge of history is largely how grievous errors were made, both morally and in techniques used to administer the disaster called the western civilization. While it is true, many errors have been made, this sort of debunking as a foundational way of dealing with history seems to have a less than humble and less than respectful attitude for those who can no longer defend their courses of actions, ideas and legacy. I would propose that we can learn from the legacy of others. Let's try it.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
I saw at Reasoned Audacity that Obama does not salute the flag. I think he may be referring to the fact that Obama did not place his hand over the heart at a playing of the National Anthem.
A CNN blogger, FIRSTREAD has this.
"Obama told the questioner the picture was actually taken during a playing of the national anthem and said, "During the Pledge of Allegiance you put your hand over your heart, during the National Anthem you sing."
"This is the classic dirty trick of the campaign," Obama said later Wednesday at an event in Cedar Rapids.""
- The composition consisting of the words and music known as The Star-Spangled Banner is designated the national anthem of the United States of America.
- Conduct during playing — During rendition of the national anthem—
- when the flag is displayed —
- all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart;
- men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and
- individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; and
- when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed.
- when the flag is displayed —