Jesus the social and religious radical – 5 lessons from a dishonourable encounter

The facts about Jesus are clearly stated in the gospels, and they don’t change, but people have so many different understandings of him. The Catholic Jesus or Orthodox Jesus is not the same as the evangelical Protestant Jesus, or the Jesus of liberal Protestant theologians.

I think there is probably some truth in all portraits, including that Jesus was a prophet, and a social and religious radical. Nothing shows this more than his treatment of women and social outcasts.

As Simon the Pharisee discovered when he invited Jesus to a banquet and discussion …..

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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: Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes

This is quite simply one of the best and most enlightening books I have read about Jesus and the Gospels.

I have learnt so much that has helped me make better sense of the gospels and of my faith (although I am certainly not claiming to be like Maria in the Counting Crows song, Round Here, who says she is “close to understanding Jesus”!)

Let me tell you why I am so enthused.

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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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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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“The light given” – does it make sense?

My (internet) friend Nate has a blog, Finding Truth which I regularly read. We disagree profoundly because Nate is an atheist and former christian, while I still follow Jesus. So we cross swords occasionally, often disagreeing (amicably) with the approach the other takes to questions, evidence and arguments. He is gracious enough to welcome my critical comments, just as I welcome his here.

His latest post is The Light Given, and my disagreement is deep enough to make it difficult to express it in a comment on his blog, so I am commenting here, in the spirit of friendly disagreement and (perhaps) discussion.

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Does archaeology show the Bible is true? Seven facts

I’m sure you will have read, and heard it said, that archaeology confirms the accuracy of the Bible. But you may also have heard from sceptics that the Bible isn’t historically accurate. So which is true?

This is a complex matter with a wide variety of conclusions among the experts. I have tried to investigate as impartially as I can, and it seems that both views are true (sometimes) …. and false (sometimes).

Here are seven statements I think can be known to be true.

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