Six things we might learn if we understood the mission of Jesus

A couple of weeks back I reviewed Kenneth Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, a book I have found revelatory about Jesus. I have gained many helpful insights from it.

Today, some new understandings about one of my favourite gospel accounts – Jesus in the synagogue at the start of his ministry, when he made clear what he was on about.

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Book review: Disarming Scripture

Disarming Scripture by Derek Flood

The Old Testament world was a violent place.

For a christian, the most troubling violence is surely that said to be commanded by God, whether it be Abraham being commanded to sacrifice his son and heir Isaac, Joshua commanded to exterminate Canaanites who are unfortunate enough to be living in the “Promised Land”, the command through Elisha that Jehu should kill all the family of the line of Ahab (Joram, Jezebel and all their relatives), or many other incidents.

Christians must face the challenge: if God commanded these killings, how can we say he is loving?

This book addresses the question of violence attributed to God in the Bible, and how that can be consistent with the non-violent teachings of Jesus. And it comes with recommendations from no lesser luminaries than Walter Brueggemann, Brian McLaren, Peter Enns, Jim Wallis and Brian Zahnd.

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Moving beyond the Reformation: grace, faith and works

One of Martin Luther’s most important arguments with the Catholic Church was his belief that salvation is “the free gift of God’s grace through the believer’s faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin” (Wikipedia). This belief has formed the basis of Protestantism for 5 centuries, and his protest possibly assisted the Catholic Church to refine some of its teachings also.

But the Bible doesn’t seem to be as clear on this as is claimed.

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500 years later – a new reformation

This post is a revised version of my 2014 post The new Reformation.

Martin Luther with iPhone

Martin Luther is examined for heresy.

500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door, and, it is often said, began the Protestant Reformation.

40 years ago I came to the conclusion that the church in the western world was, in the next few decades, going to go through changes as significant as the Reformation. I felt we had moved away from the truth in several important areas – inward looking and hierarchical churches with structures that hinder rather than help the mission of Jesus, dead orthodoxy in many christians’ lives (including me), and failing to heed Jesus’ teachings on non-violence, acceptance and the perils of wealth – and God surely wouldn’t allow this to continue unchecked.

I think we are now in the middle of this new reformation, and here are some of the signs I see.

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Self-giving love and the New Testament

As a young christian I was told that the love God has for us, and the love he wants us to have for others, is a self-giving love, for which the New Testament writers used the Greek word agape. This understanding was reinforced by reading the CS Lewis book, The Four Loves, which spoke about the following Greek words:

  • eros – romantic or sexual love (this word isn’t found in the New Testament);
  • storge – natural affection, as in a family (not used in the New Testament in this form, but used 3 times in compound words);
  • philia – friendship (this word and its derivatives is used many times in the New Testament);
  • agape and agapao – self giving love (by far the most common word for “love” in the New Testament).

Preachers, authors and bloggers still have the same understanding today, and sometimes build take-home lessons on the difference between philia and agape.

But it seems that the meaning of agape may not be as distinct as we have been told, and the two words may not have had very different meanings back then.

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Christians and homosexuality – is there a peaceful way forward?

Difficult issues series

This has been perhaps the most difficult post I have written.

I’ve avoided writing about this issue because it is so divisive, and because I wasn’t sure I had anything worthwhile to say.

But while I don’t pretend to have a solution to the argument between the traditionalists and the progressives, I can’t help feeling that there should be some things christians of goodwill from both sides can agree on, and which might ease the tensions a little.

There is also the issue of how the secular world sees christians – surveys show that the perceived anti-gay emphasis of christians is a major barrier to non-believers ever seriously considering the claims of christianity.

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It was kind of amusing and revealing at the same time

The church I attend is part of a denomination which, based on the teachings of Paul, doesn’t allow women to be the senior minister in a congregation or to preach to a mixed gender audience.

A few weeks back a young woman, bare-headed and wearing casual clothes, led the prayers in the Saturday evening service we attend. Immediately afterwards, the Bible was read, and the passage from 1 Corinthians 11 included this statement:

“every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head”

Then a few weeks later, a young women read the Bible passage for that day, from 1 Corinthians 14, which included this:

” Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak”

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Knowing the Way – scripture, experience, learning, tradition and the Holy Spirit

In the discussion on my previous post, Nate has questioned my approach to authority and christian belief. I do not believe the Bible is inerrant, and I said that most christians accept other sources of knowledge also: “reason and evidence, church teaching and tradition, and the Holy Spirit”.

And so he asked: “Why does the New Testament speak so much about false teachers, if it’s perfectly fine to get your beliefs from private revelation?” and “How can there be such a thing as “truth” when each person’s version is just as good as someone else’s?”, and then saw problems “if I took my own random thoughts and feelings as revelation from the supreme creator of the universe”.

These are fair questions, and I think another blog post is better than a long comment to answer them. It also gives me the opportunity to set out how I believe we know truths about God. I hope other readers are interested too, and will also comment.

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