Monday, March 31, 2008

The Shack

Generally The Shack is a worthwhile read. The love of God, the complexity of God and God's ability to turn seemingly bad situations into good ones comes through clearly. Any book that can make me cry impresses me and The Shack made me cry more than once. Not tears of sadness but tears of joy in a loving, compassionate and intensely personal God.

But one must not confuse The Shack with the Bible. The Shack reveals the complexity of God and the impossibility of humans understanding these complexities. Yet Shack love includes no punishment initiated by God. The Bible however is clear about God punishing His enemies (or who is He who come with red stained robes from Bozrah in the future, is that blood or just another pretty coat? and remember that angel who slew some 185,000 before breakfast in the past). God is unfathomably patient and forgiving to be sure but The Shack has a mushy universal feel to it. As much as we may like to have all saved (excluding Hitler of course) there is no such theme in the Bible. Some make it and some don't and one must submit the Bible to considerable torture (does it say that in the original Greek?) to make it say something else.

To simplify this complex and unsearchable God, The Shack gives us Jesus: God in human form. This is a Biblically consistent concept. And to show the forgiveness of God we see Jesus even forgiving those who crucified Him. But he also warned those who would mislead "these little ones" it would be better for them to have a mill stone around their neck and cast into the sea. Jesus warned: fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. God can evidently be a scary guy when opposed.

To be fair though, many only see God as a big mean killjoy in the sky. We benefit from trying to understand all or as much of God as humanly possible and not omit that which we don't like or makes us uncomfortable. The Shack is a good look at God in ways we may not always see Him. If The Shack is our only source of information on God, then our view of God would be incomplete. But do we really need to be so protective that we ban books and forbid exposure to ideas? The Catholics already went down that dead end road. A heart seeking after God (the Bible God) will find Him. God is sufficiently capable to assure this and He said as much. If you are looking for another God (not in the Bible) you will find that one too.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Paul Pots

Very touching. Humility with surprising excellence will do that. No wonder God is so fond of it.

Proud To Be An American

Is it un-Christian to not be proud of America? Is it un-American to not be proud of America?

BigHugeThing is a flag waving patriot so hearing slurs against our country grates to be sure. But let's face it, we all have complaints about some facet of our government, its actions or lack of action. A false picture has been painted of our country's founding and early days. Stately founding fathers, arm in arm and singing Kumbia and establishing the greatest country on earth, always fair minded, never arguing, one common and noble goal. The historical truth is far different. Politics in the early days was rough, dirty and malicious. I venture it was far worse than today, now probably moderated by our prolific media in all its forms.

Who can pretend to know just what mistakes our country has made over the years. Half the country thinks we give too much foreign aid and the other half think we give too little. How do we compare to other countries really. I read articles stating the USA compares poorly to other nations in giving and articles stating the USA is the most generous country on earth. I guess figures don't lie but lairs figure. Many think we should not have tried helping our South Vietnamese friends and many feel we were right to do so. Some think we should have socialized medicine, others view national health care as the final step to communism. Should we be in Iraq now? So who is right? I am of course and you are "right" in our own eyes and we will have the country we deserve perhaps (by majority vote of course).

So is some contrary opinion (whatever your particular flavor of complaining) unpatriotic? I'm not sure. Is it un-Christian? About that I am more certain. Christians do not have dual citizenship. Our passport resides with the Kingdom of God. We are simply tourists no matter our physical location. We are told to respect government (regardless of flavor) but to hold to Godly principles even unto death. Our citizenship is in heaven. Daniel was a great example, Joseph another,Paul and let's not forget Jesus. Maybe if we are asking the un-Christian question, we are already on the wrong track.

Much is being said now about change. One thing does not change, the Kingdom of Heaven. Christians should be accustomed to negotiating change, uncomfortable situations and circumstances because they are always in a foreign country. If we fear change maybe we have been assimilated into some foreign culture and are in danger of giving up our citizenship in the Kingdom of God (if that is possible?).

I despise any inconvenience or discomfort and fear change as much as anyone. But I see Scriptural patterns validating the value and inevitability of difficulty in a Christian's life and development. Where is our country going? All I know is there will be plenty of opportunity for trusting God and practicing our Kingdom living. There always is.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Does Jesus Need A Little Help?

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Redemptive Suffering: "Col 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church...

Paul states something here which passes almost unnoticed by many sola scriptura Christians - that there is a sense in which Christ's afflictions are lacking. While Christ's Passion superabundantly completed the salvation of all mankind, yet mankind must formally co-operate with the grace poured out on the Cross. Paul indicates this can be accomplished not through the sinner's prayer, but through suffering."

BigHugeThing appreciates the Catholic understanding (maybe position is a better word) on suffering. They tend to find a spiritual value in suffering that Protestants do not. But someone always takes things too far (many go much further than the position mentioned, which is close to what I see as the edge) and the "what is lacking in Christ's afflictions" can be taken out of context and distorted to our detriment. Christians should know the persistent theme of Christ's perfect and completed work through Christ's perfect life, suffering, death and resurrection. This grounding should not allow Christians to be led off into improving on Christ's work by anything the individual can do. So if any of us are trying to aid in our redemption (or anyone else's) by our suffering we should think again.

On the other hand we are told to work out our own salvation through fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12:. Here is a good exposé on this concept. I would call it working out your own salvation on a micro level after accepting Christ's perfect work on the macro level. Likewise we can view our suffering, when joined with and committed to Christ, as beneficial to us and our "redemption" on more of a micro level. We have been redeemed in the macro sense through Jesus' work. Our redemption on a micro level could use a little tweaking (or am I the only one?). It may help if we have some further context for the Col 1:24 passage. This may not even be what Paul was talking about in this passage.

This excerpt from provides some insight:
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What, however, is the plain meaning of Paul's cryptic phrase that his suffering fill[s] up . . . what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions? In what sense does the suffering of Christ "lack" anything? And in what sense does Paul's suffering "fill up" what Christ's suffering lacks, if anything? I have argued that here Paul's emphasis is not on God's salvation, as before, but on Christ's church. To the point, Paul is surely not saying that the Lord Christ lacks anything as the messianic agent of God's salvation; nor does he mean that the redemptive results of his death need to be supplemented by Paul. His previous confession of Christ's lordship (1:15-20) and his subsequent assertion of God's forgiveness (2:13-14) testify to Paul's confidence in the sufficiency of Christ's work. Lohse is quite right, then, to object to any interpretation that renders this phrase as a reference to the community's "mystical union" with a suffering Christ, whereby the community is absorbed into and derives spiritual benefit from Christ's passion (1971:69). In fact, Paul rarely speaks in his writings of Christ's suffering (as distinguished from his death) and almost never of Christ's suffering in terms of God's salvation (as the writer of 1 Peter, for instance, does in 1 Pet 2:20-22). The images of a suffering Christ in Paul's writings are usually employed to illustrate and interpret his own suffering as a missionary. Here suffering is exemplary of servanthood, but not expiatory of sin. In this way Christ's suffering is logically parallel to his own; like Christ, Paul is God's "suffering servant"; and like Christ's, his suffering indicates obedience to God's commission.

Most scholars understand Paul's reference to Christ's afflictions as a catchphrase from Jewish apocalypticism. In this tradition, Jews understood Israel's suffering as a sign of the last days and a condition for the coming of the Messiah (see O'Brien 1982:76-80). Some even assigned a fixed amount of suffering which, when satisfied, would result in the apocalypse of God's salvation. Israel's suffering, then, was the "birthpangs" of the promised new covenant (compare Jer 31:31) about to become a reality. According to O'Brien, some early Christians, especially within the Jewish church, believed that Jesus' suffering had initiated the "last days" of ever-increasing trials and tribulations (see Mt 24:4-29), when the "true" Israel (the community of Christ's disciples) would suffer for his name (Mt 5:11-12) in order to fulfill this quota fixed by God. With this condition met, Messiah would return in triumph to usher heaven into earth (Mt 24:30-31). If Paul had this apocalyptic formula in mind, then his reference to sharing in Jesus' suffering would indicate that the "last days" of salvation's history have already commenced. In this light Paul's suffering "fills up" what is lacking from what God has assigned the church to suffer.

Paul's phrase, however, is to be taken metaphorically rather than literally. Speaking of completing requisite suffering is yet another way of calling attention to the importance of completing the Gentile mission. In Paul's conception of the Gentile mission, his evangelistic work brings into Israel's number the "fullness of the Gentiles" (Rom 11:1-24) that will trigger the Lord's return to earth and ethnic Israel's return to God (Rom 11:25-26). Even in this passage Paul repeats the root of to fill to stress that the aim of his personal sacrifice--I fill up [antanapleroo] in my flesh--is to complete his mission: to present to you the word of God in its fullness [plerosai].

Understanding the value of suffering is a BigHugeThing without taking it into territory not intended. I honestly think a trick of the devil (not to give too much credit) is employed once a truth is illuminated, we are pushed beyond the truth into extremes and therefore pushed away from understanding the fullness of the truth itself. The power lies in understanding and walking in the actual truth. Pushing any truth into unintended extremes, though zealous in feeling, only weakens that very truth.

I would remind us again of our human propensity to improve on the truth:

Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Genesis 3: 1Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

This is the first example of we humans improving on God's stated truth ... "neither shall ye touch it." We apparently need little help from the devil.

Universe Today » Dark Matter and Dark Energy… the Same Thing?

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Dark Matter and Dark Energy… the Same Thing?

I've said it many times, but it bears repeating: regular matter only accounts for 4% of the Universe. The other 96% - dark matter and dark energy - is a total mystery.

BigHugeThing finds amusing the blind trust people place in "science." I often read comments from those who know a little "science" then disparage Christian's "illiterate" positions. Does it strike you as significant that 96% of what makes up the physical universe is unknown ... scientifically? Science knows dark matter/energy exists (that's impressive) but science does not know what dark matter/energy is (that's typical). What is this dark mysterious matter and energy? By golly, they don't have a clue. And physical cosmological processes were thought to be quite simple and well known (sans quantum).

Even worse is biological processes which are vastly more complicated and less understood than physical cosmological because of the increased possibilities and combinations. (Maybe quantum elevates physical into more complex, who knows) Yet Christians are criticized for questioning the Theory of Evolution or at least considering it a theory (and in some ways not a very good one). And science doesn't yet know what comprises 96% of our physical Universe?

Key word possibilities: arrogance, stupidity, spiritual darkness