Yet, all of the ethical and theological misgivings disappear when we stop taking this story on its own and begin reading it with the larger narrative of Mark’s Gospel in mind. In fact, we see very quickly that there is no ethical dilemma and that Jesus was in fact, not thieving. First of all, Jesus picked the donkey(s) up in Bethany (11.5) and brought them back the same night (11.11). Stealing? Not quite. Borrowing? Yes.
Usually, when we borrow something from someone, we have some type of relationship with them (whether formal or informal). It is clear from the Gospels that Jesus knew many people in the tiny town of Bethany (which, as Mk. 11.1 points out, runs into and borders Bethphage): Mary, Martha, Lazarus (Jn. 11.17), the woman who broke the alabaster jar and anointed Jesus and Simon the leper (Mk. 14.3-9, Lk. 7.36-50, Jn. 12.1-8). It is reasonable to conclude that since Jesus knew at least 5 people in Bethany (and by virtue of this, their extended families, as well as friends and neighbors), we need have no qualms about Jesus stealing. In such a small town, perhaps the population was around 1,000, knowing a few people intimately means knowing a lot of people informally.
It is my view that Jesus either borrowed the donkey(s) from the family of Lazarus or Simon. A narrative reading of Mk. seems to cause me to lean towards Simon, at whose home Jesus is anointed just a few chapters later. Alas, by panning out and seeing the bigger picture, we make logical sense of the smaller things taking place in various episodes like this one. Furthermore, the image of a kleptomanic Christ fades into oblivion.
It has been a while since I've done an entry for the "Images of Antiquity" series on Pisteuomen but this one's been sitting in draft mode for about 5 or 6 months, so, I thought I'd go ahead and publish it. I took the photos in the slideshow above while visiting ancient Philippi.
The first photo was taken very early in the morning. It was freezing outside but it was so beautiful. Legend has it that this is where Paul baptized Lydia, the dealer of purple clothes. In all actuality, she was probably not baptized at this exact spot but it isn't a huge deal as she was baptized somewhere within the vicinity. As you can see in the picture, there is a "cross-shaped" cut-out etched into the small creek. The steam rising off of the water made for a beautiful picture.
In the second picture you see the new Church that has been built in honor of St. Lydia. The sanctuary is magnificent as it has stained-glass windows of biblical characters, a painted dome ceiling of Jesus' baptism and a circular seating arrangement.
In the third photo you see ancient Philippi and some of her ruins. Off to the right of the picture, atop the hill, you can still see Philip's fortress. If you look to the bottom of the picture you can see a Latin inscription that speaks of Philip, ruler of the Province of Macedonia. At the very back of the picture, which you can not really see here, is the place where Paul is believed to have been jailed while in Philippi. In fact, to the left of the picture, near the erected columns is where Paul was dragged down the streets and beaten.
Photo four is of the theater in Philippi. It is well maintained and has been renovated to a good degree. By the time you travel through Turkey and get to Philippi in Greece, once you've seen a few theaters you feel like you've seen them all. In the last picture there is a pedestal that speaks of the Pythian Cult. Of course, in Acts 16, we have mentions of the "slave girl" who was saying that Jesus was "a" way of salvation. This hacked Paul off and he ranted against her, which led to some trouble (arrest). The "slave girl" was actually part of the Pythian Cult. Indeed, Acts 16.16 refers to her with the term "πυθωνα". In the pedestal, you can see the related term in the 5th line down (the 2nd word in that line). The Pythian Cult was prominenet all over Greece, especially in Delphi.
I know it's not all that comparable but being in the process of adoption, and having to be the one to give part of our family away, kind of helped me understand a little of what the parents of our son (whom we're adopting) must feel. As my wife said, "Giving up a child, a human for adoption is either the most selfish thing you can do or the most selfless." That seems quite true. And though we did not entrust a human to others today, we did entrust part of our family to them. It's hard saying goodbye, but it was just something we had to do.
Another thing this made me realize is that for some, their animals are the closest beings to them. When they lose a pet or must relinquish it, it must be so devastating to them. I have learned from this experience to take that more seriously and to be more pastoral. Sometimes we just don't have eyes to see, ears to hear or minds to understand until we go through it. Such is the way of life, I guess. We love you Gus and we'll miss you buddy!!!
I wonder if, on a number of levels, this is a good analogy (and play on words) for critiquing Oprah Winfrey and her new spiritual pal, Eckhart Tolle. Have the two (Winfrey and Tolle) become a sort of destructive duo? Are they lurking around the halls of Churches and Christian homes (via book and T.V.) and slowly getting people to their personal desires, desires to see Christianity and Buddhism brought together? I think so.
The fact is, Oprah's fans are hardcore loyalists. The fandom of (the) Oprah is massive. And this is becoming more true for Tolle every day. I want to challenge Christian men and women to boycott Oprah and more specifically, her illiterate, pseudo-theology and spirituality. Don't buy into the false prophetess and her teachings. Stand firm in your beliefs and instead of adopting what she says, join me in sifting and critiquing it. More on Tolle's book A New Earth in the next post (#4) of this series.
Since entering the adoption process I have personally been dwelling on how the Scriptures might speak in a pastoral sense to both sterile men and women today. In fact, I noted before that it appeared that Scripture never indicted the male on charges of sterility. However, as I was reading Mk. this week, I realized that I might stand corrected. I also realized that this passage can be one that helps us to see that even in the Bible, it is not "always" the women that have reproductive issues.
In Mk. 12.18-27, the Sadducees confront Jesus and challenge Him with a story about 7 brothers (either direct kin or Israelite brothers) who, when the oldest died, the next in line took his wife for himself. This happened 7 times. They took her so that they might procreate and maintain the family lineage. However, it didn't happen. The interesting thing about this story, though, is that towards the end, we find this statement: "And of the seven, none left children. Last of all, the woman died too" (Mk. 12.22).
As far as I know, to the best of my knowledge, within the Christian Scriptures, this is the only place where it is acknowledged that men can face reproductive problems. In fact, male and female are mentioned alike here. While there are a ton of theological and ethical questions and issues that this story raises, few, if any, have noted the fact that sterility / barrenness can be attributed to both men and women. For those adopting and especially for those women who feel so abandoned by the Bible during such crises, I think this passage might offer some hope and comfort.
What the Sadducees are really trying to say to Jesus in this seemingly enigmatic passage is: If God cannot or will not "raise up" a child for any of these 8 people, what makes you think that there will be a resurrection where He will "raise" dead people? You see, the Sadducees believed that the only way one lived on after this life, was through their seed planted in their children; they did not believe in an afterlife. Jesus, though, challenges them on this. That is why the Sadducees practiced Levirate marriage, that is, when a brother dies, the next brother takes his wife. Basically, Levirate marriage is a marriage based on "death" (e.g. a brother has to die before it can happen).
Jesus, though, makes clear that He sees things differently. For Jesus, neither this life or the one after it is propogated or based on death, it is based on creation. The first life is rooted in creation and the new life is rooted in new creation. The resurrection, teaches Jesus, is the consumation of that new creation; when it is made whole. Thus, Jesus teaches here that earthly procreation, while a good thing in and of itself, is not one's goal or reason for living. The goal is to be transformed in this life in preparation for the life to come at the resurrection of all believers.
What I see in this story, then, in addition to the fact that men and women alike could be viewed as sterile, is hope. I see hope in the fact that in this story, neither is blamed and neither is viewed as cursed. I also see hope in the realization that God is the God of the living. For those who have unsuccessfully reproduced, know that God loves you. Know also that there are many children who are "living" in this world that need loving, caring parents. You have a chance to use God's transforming touch and power to help transform the lives and situations that they find themselves in. So, at long last, maybe this is one passage in which persons dealing with sterility can find comfort. In fact, this may be one way in which, unlike the Pharisees, when your soul and womb seem barren, you can acknowledge and rest in the "power of God" (Mk. 12.24).
After spending some time with Wendy and Jacquie, I got together with a neighbor friend and spent a couple of hours shooting hoops. Of two games in H-O-R-S-E, we both won one. I took the next two games: Around The World and O-U-T (shortened version of "horse"). Good times. I'm looking forward to spring and summer and being able to be outside more.
3. Old Age
6. The Devil
Here's what he had to say about #7: "Under the seventh head, the injury comes of God’s ordinance. For God will sometimes punish certain lands and villages with wolves. So we read of Elisha, — that when Elisha wanted to go up a mountain out of Jericho, some naughty boys made a mock of him and said, “O bald head, step up! O glossy pate, step up!” What happened? He cursed them. Then came two bears out of the desert and tore about forty-two of the children. That was God’s ordinance. The like we read of a prophet who would set at naught the commands he had received of God, for he was persuaded to eat bread at the house of another. As he went home he rode upon his ass. Then came a lion which slew him and left the ass alone. That was God’s ordinance. Therefore must man turn to God when He brings wild beasts to do him a mischief: which same brutes may He not bring now or evermore. Amen."
How about that? What would we have done without German scholarship? Anyway, be on your watch, there's a full moon coming up soon.
Of course, this comes at the beginning of the more ethically-oriented section of the epistle. Paul is exhorting the Gentile Christians, here, to abstain from indulging in sinfulness and to be holy. What may not be as clear to the untrained eye is that Paul's statement here is cloaked in baptismal language. In antiquity, baptism was commonly done in the nude, especially for symbolic purposes. The person would take off their old clothes, go into the water and upon coming up out of the water, exit the other side of the pool and put on new clothes. Crossing to the other side of the pool and putting on new clothes represented making the cross or journey into a new life and taking on a new identity.
Interestingly, in international adoptions, the cross into a new life and taking on some type of new identity is symbolized by a very similar act. The institutionalized child, when leaving the orphanage, will take off the old clothes and put on new ones. This moment is a monumental one; it is truly life-chaning for the child, the orphanage, the adoptive fammily and the new community that the child will be part of. I don't think it is accidental that these parallels exist. Indeed, in Eph. 1.5--one of 5 places where it is found in the NT--Paul uses the word adoption (huiothesia). In that verse, Paul says that it was in God's mind all along, that His children, were to be adopted into His family--the Church. Physical adoption is rooted in the spiritual.
The realization that we are part of the community of God, is manifest in the communal act of baptism. This is the event whereby we shed the old self and become "new creations" in Christ Jesus. The truth is, for the child who is adopted and for all those touched by adoption, it is a powerful and life-changing event, just like baptism. I would submit that it is such, because at its core, it speaks of love and sacrifice and perhaps most importantly, community.
1. The Rapture
2. Forbiddance of Inter-ethnic/racial persons
3. Forbiddance of instruments during worship
4. Name it and claim it
5. CUFI (or anything Hagee)
7. The Swoon Theory
9. Mandatory %10 Tithe
10. Once Saved, Always Saved
What do I mean when I say they are arrogant? Well, actually, they are arrogant in the same way that pepole like the "Left Behind" guys and John Hagee are arrogant. With the "Left Behind" guys and Hagee, you have a group of people who take an ancient document, the Bible, and attempt to make it say all kinds of things about the 21st century west that it never intended to. They read Revelation like it was written for those living in America today, not those living in the 1st century Mediterranean. I think this is so arrogant and "me centered"; their mentality is "the Bible was written to me, for me and about me and my era".
Interestingly, Winfrey and Tolle have done the same exact thing. Here is a quote from the "New Earth" book, under a sub-titled section "A New Heaven and A New Earth": "The inspiration for the title of this book came from a Bible prophecy that seems more applicable now than at any other time in human history" (18). How arrogant is this?!!!! Yet, many illiterate and self-subsumed Christians today will read this and think "Yes, it is all about me, it is all about right now." What Winfrey and Tolle have done is to cater to the apocalyptic crowds but instead of being apocalyptic, instead of preaching about an end-time war (thankfully, they're not doing that!!!), they have turned the tables and talked about the apex of spirituality being reached.
Here is a quote from the same sub-section mentioned above: "It occurs in both the Old and the New Testament and speaks of the collapse of the existing world order and the arising of 'a new heaven and a new earth'. We need to understand here that heaven is not a location but refers to the inner realm of consciousness. This is the esoteric meaning of the word, and this is also its meaning in the teachings of Jesus. Earth, on the other hand, is the outer manifestation in form, which is always a reflection of the inner. Collective human consciousness and life on our planet are intrinsically connected. 'A new heaven' is the emergence of a transformed state of human consciousness, and 'a new earth' is its reflection in the physical realm" (18).
Anyone with biblical knowledge can see right through the psychologizing and spiritualizing that is taking place here. Jesus was not using a Jungian type of symbolization in his teaching. No, heaven didn't mean the inner conscience for Jesus and no, earth didn't mean the physical realm reflecting the inner. This is simply fabricated and untrue!!! This is way off. Sadly, many Christians are not wise enough to catch it. (By the way, this has been done a number of times throughout history by persons; Winfrey and Tolle are not the first to try it.)
Anyway, I just wanted to point out the sheer arrogance, which is built on pure biblical ignorance, that runs rampant throughout the "New Earth" book and its movement. When we read the Bible, we must realize that it was not prophesying about us today; it was talking about people in its own time. We must keep it in that context before ever extracting its implications and points of application for ourselves. Don't buy into all of the hokey pscyhologizing and stupid lies. Worst of all, perhaps, don't subscribe to the sheer arrogance these two put out. If you really want to follow in Jesus' footsteps, do what the apostle Paul said and do not think of yourself more highly than you ought but rather, in professing Christ, take on the nature and practices of a servant. Don't be swayed!
*Update: We finished!!!!!!
When we read the Scriptures, you might be surprised to find out that very little is said about a place referred to as heaven. Usually, heaven is mentioned not as a place in the sky somewhere but simply as the location of God's dwelling; it is a way to refer to God's presence. In fact, what the Bible has to say about the afterlife is not that we will all dwell in a far off world but that when Christ returns, this earth, like our bodies, will be transformed (hence, the NT language of the "new heaven" and "new earth"). And since all creation will be transformed, this includes trees and yes, even animals. So, the question is not "Will there be animals in heaven?" but rather, "Will there be animals in the afterlife?" To that, I believe we can answer yes.
The baby just ran out of milk
He's buyin gold every two weeks
The baby just ran out of Pampers
He's buyin clothes for his new girl
and the baby just ran out of medicine
You ask for money for the baby?
The daddy just ran out the door
Anyway, because so many people are reading their books and watching their meditative webcasts (it went from like 2-million the first week to over 11-million the second week) and because they have launched an all-out but very subtle attack on The Gospel, I want to do what I can to expose the movement. Thus, I am going to be working through the book (among other things) and offering critiques of it. More than anything, though, as I said, I want to expose the movement for what it is. So, in this first installation, all I want to do is show Christians how Winfrey and Tolle are slowly pulling the wool over Christians' eyes.
The way that they are fooling people is at once, subtle and devastating. For example, on Tolle's website, he readily but not in a hateful manner, leads people into doubt about the witness, authority and reliability of Jesus, the Early Christian movement and the New Testament. Here is a question that is posed to him: "Dear Eckhart, I have been wanting to ask you this for months: What are your thoughts on the New Testament? It appears that you believe certain parts were add-ons, or apart from the essence of the teaching. Are there any parts in particular? And why?" Tolle answers: "The New Testament contains deep spiritual truth as well as distortions. Those distortions are of two kinds. Some are due to a misunderstanding of Jesus’ teaching, others arose because people had an agenda (wanting to fit Jesus into their preconceived notions, wanting to make converts etc.). At some point, if there is another book, I may write about this in more detail. But you can find all this out for yourself. When you are present, you access your inner knowing and you will sense what is true and what was added on or distorted."
Assuredly, I will refer to this quote more in the future. For now, however, all I want to do is point out how Tolle 1) Attempts to cast doubt on Christ, the first Christians and the New Testament, and 2) Mixes Christian language with Buddhist language (e.g. "misunderstanding of Jesus' teaching", "you can find all this out for yourself", "When you are present", "inner knowing", etc.). Indeed, the entire New Earth Movement is, in large part, an attempt to be pluralistic (to mix ideas from various religions together), especially between Buddhism and Christianity.
Don't believe me? Here are a few quotes from the first few pages of the book A New Earth:
"Jesus tells us to contemplate the flowers and learn from then how to live. The Buddha is said to have given a “silent sermon” once during which he held up a flower and gazed at it"(6).
"The lotus flower is a central symbol of Buddhism and a white bird, the dove, signifies the Holy Spirit in Christianity. They have been preparing the ground for a more profound shift in planetary consciousness that is destined to take place in the human species. This is the spiritual
awakening that we are beginning to witness now" (8).
"The messengers–Buddha, Jesus, and others, not all of them known–were humanity’s early flowers. They were precursors, rare and precious beings" (8).
"According to the Buddha, the human mind in its normal state generates dukkha, which can be translated as suffering, unsatisfactoriness, or just plain misery. He sees it as a characteristic of the human condition. Wherever you go, whatever you do, says the Buddha, you will encounter dukkha, and it will manifest in every situation sooner or later. According to Christian teachings, the normal collective state of humanity is one of “original sin” (10).
"In the teachings of Jesus, it is salvation, and in Buddhism, it is the end of suffering. Liberation and awakening are other terms used to describe this transformation" (13).
As you can see from this handful of quotes, Tolle is trying ever-so sneakily to blend Buddhism and Christianity into one. Of course, this is logically and theologically impossible at the root of either religous group. Christians are Christians and not Buddhists because they believe and live differently than Buddhists and vice versa. As I continue to expose the many fallacies and untruths of the false prophetess Oprah and her new cult, I will have much more to say about this. In the meantime, don't be swayed.
One argument could be that since biblical antiquity functioned within predominantly patriarchal cultures, men must have been sterile but it was simply blamed on women. This may be too hypothetical of an argument, however. It could also be posited that within Hebrew/Jewish theology, the belief didn't even exist that men could be sterile, so, there was no way men could be blamed. This argument may have a lot of merit to it but it still doesn't offer a lot of comfort or hope to today's women.
One place we cannot really turn to is eunuchs. These men are mentioned in the Bible but being a eunuch is a chosen way of life; it isn't forced on someone by sterility. Furthermore, all of the women in the Bible who, at one point are barren, eventually give birth: Sarai/h (Gen. 16.2 and 17.15-21), Rebecca (Gen 25.21), Manoah's wife (Jdg. 13), Hannah (1 Sam. 1.6-20) and Elizabeth (Lk. 1.5-25), etc. These stories can often lead a woman deeper into depression today, especially when, after so many years, her miracle never comes.
To compound the problem even more, the Bible seems to suggest that while deliverance from barrenness is a miraculous work of God (e.g. Gen. 29.31-2 through 30.13) sterility is a curse. This seems to be the case when, in Gen. 20.17-8, all the women of the household are prevented from getting pregnant by God. It is abundantly clear in 1. Sam 1.6-7 when the writer says, "...the Lord closed Hannah's womb..." and there may also be a trace of this in Isa. 4.1 where the women asked for their "shame" or "disgrace" to be taken away. It may have been the view of many that, if a woman was unable to reproduce, she was not very valuable. In fact, the biblical view of homosexuality and bestiality is condemned, at least in part, because it was sterile, unreprodctive sex (e.g. Lev.. 20.13-6). Sterile sex was punishable by death.
As you can see, the ancient male never comes under judgment for sterility here (unless he is having sex with another male or an animal, and here, the same goes for a woman). The burden of barrenness always falls on the woman's shoulders. Sterility is a curse from God. There is really no comfort for today's barren woman; she doesn't have hundreds of years to wait for a miracle from God!
So, how, from theological standpoint, might we find a biblical model for offering sterile women hope? Just as well, since all issues of barrenness point to women, how might sterile men find solace in the Scriptures? Honestly, I'm not sure how to answer this yet. I want to be careful not to force my sensitivities onto the Bible but I do want to be able to turn to it and find hope, I want to glean from it theological truths and models that will be of comfort to those unable to give birth today. That said, it may very well be the case that the best place to look for such comfort is in the stories and passages that speak of adoption.
This will be an ongoing investigation and theological exploration for me. If you have any thoughts, please, share them.
Again, see Pt. 5 of this series for more info.
Spirit. They are in error. They do not understand what
they say. When did a woman ever conceive by a woman?
Mary at the same time is the immaculacy, which
was not defiled by violence.
She is a great temptation to Hebrews, both to
those who preach and to those who listen to their
Her immaculacy, which was not defiled by violence,
is pure. But the mighty of this world defiled
themselves (through their fantasies).
And the Lord (Jesus Christ) would not have said,
“My Father Who is in Heaven,” if He had not had another
father. He would have said simply: “My father”.
Many modern scholars have re-adopted this image of the Spirit as Feminine. What do you make of this trend today and what do you think of this passage in the Gospel of Philip?
2) This period where God is pursuing us or even the period where we have responded to God but are awaiting the completion of our salvation, is often a tough time. We are in that "in-between" state; we are in the "already/not yet" state that the Apostle Paul frequently spoke about. The same is often true of adoptive parents. They have filled out many papers, completed many interviews, made numerous trips, paid many funds and dreamt of seeing thier child but they must wait. This wait is tough. But the wait also builds the anticipation and in a way, it makes us groan until the time of fulfillment. Again, the same is true of God and His people.
There are a many ways to think theologically / biblically about adoption. The two ideas above, I think, are quite helpful. Any thoughts?
Here's my question: If I had purposefully stepped on a Bible when I was younger in my faith, when I thought it was a sin, would I really be committing a sin? It has long been said that sinning against one's conscience is equal to sinning against God. But I'm not so sure that this is true. Just because I thought something was a sin early on, doesn't mean that it really ever was a sin. I was just wrong in my thinking about that issue.
So, what do you think: Is sinning against conscience the same thing as sinning against God? I mean, what if God doesn't consider a sin, what you or I consider a sin? Then, how can it be sinning against God still? Just a thought, I'd love to hear your view(s).
(I think I will opt out of tagging anyone this round. However, if you want to participate in the meme, feel free. Do your own post and leave a link in the comments section here, or just leave your comments without writing a post.)