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10/28/2009

I AM NOT A FEMINIST - I AM A CHRISTIAN

Every Bible scholar must face a moment where they ask themselves, 'is my bias showing?' To fail to do this risks them compromising their scholarship. Yet, history is replete with people who never asked themself the hard questions about what their own prejudices, biases, and stupid ideas were!

The patriarchal scholar reads and sees women as faint figures in the Biblical background. They are firmly placed in gendered spheres to serve, mend, pleasure, and support the life of men.

The so-called feminist scholar reads the same texts and see women being taught, commissioned, blessed, called, and valued. They tend to see the role of women may even be equal to that of the men.

When looked at in its totality the Bible supports women in strong leadership roles. From the prophets and queens of the Old Testment to the disciples and apostles of the New, women are there at work being used and guided to act by God.

Looking at the Old Testament we can see women who may have been warriors, we see women as prophets, national leaders ('Mother of Israel'), political leaders, and playing vital roles in the spiritual life of the people.

Looking at the New Testament, just in the Gospels, we can see women who where never 'put in their place', who were spoken to as equals and engaged in serious conversations, received the instruction of a disciple.

No, I am not a feminist (although some of their research has been valuable and groundbreaking) but I am a Christian. Christ, ministered and called all people, and so to be inclusive of both sexes is to be Christian.

10/22/2009

WHAT DO WE REALLY WANT?

A list of the qualities of a pastor includes diverse traits and reveal of conflicted view of the role. The pastor should love to visit, be involved with the lives of people, be a sparkplug, make hospital and house calls, listen with sympathy and understanding, be a dynamic speaker, teacher, leader, and vision caster, work with the community, reach out to the needy, preach the word courageously, go toe-to-toe with culture, be active, attentive, and available!

Years ago there was cartoon ( I have no source) but it revealed the perfect pastor. One side of the pastor filled the demands of one segment and the other suited the demands of another segment. From eye color to the way the pastor's hair was combed there were conflicting desires.

One of the problems is that the concept of the pastor and that of leader are often in conflict. We want one person to actually be doing the work of one or more people.

Notice too that many of the traits we want in a pastor are also ones we equate with the feminine! We want relationship, we want comfort, we want attention, visits, and passive activity in isolated areas. The pastor must visit, talk, eat, listen, and care about all the details of everybody's life (from large events to smallest detail). The leader is expected to set the pace, lead, vision, motivate, drive, and push the church forward. These in the same person? Really?

10/14/2009

"Diakonia"

I just finished a dynamic and deep book, "Diakonia: Re-intrepreting the Ancient Sources" by John N. Collins ( Oxford University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-19-539602-7). It is a book reflecting the authors long study of the original language, the use of the term 'diakonia' in both Biblical and non-Biblical sources. The result is challenging and filled with additional questions that I am sure researchers will rush to interact with over the coming years.

Why is this word of note? It is the word that is used to define our current understandings of the word "ministry" and it is the word that has been used to keep women forever in the outer courts of Christian ministry and leadership.

It is the word in Romans where Paul speaks of the Christian woman sent to him with letters and purpose, Phoebe.

It is a word that leaders, translators, and preachers have played a shell game with in order to keep women out of the ministry.

For you see, the word means "servant" in some uses and therefore a reader with a preconception that women can not serve God in leadership or ministry will translate the term to mean Phoebe came as a servant, a slave, a helper.

Elsewhere,where the exact word is used in reference to men it is translated as minister, preacher, and priest.

This shell game of meaning can be found throughout commentaries, writings, sermons, and other sources over the last 1900 years.

If the sweeping work of Collins is taken with the seriousness it deserves, the word also has deep implications for the very nature of the ministry and those who act in those roles in the church.

10/01/2009

ANTICHRIST NAMED?

Recently an email came across my desk and a friend asked for my opinion on the video linked in the mailing. A video that presented the concept that Christ had named the Anti-Christ. Leaving the decision to the viewer, the video presented a word study of a single verse in scripture. These words in the their original language, in theory, bear a resemblance to the name 'Barack Obama.'

So I reviewed the video and here are my conclusions:

"After reviewing the film, asking some scholars, and reviewing the text I would conclude the video is very interesting, challenging, and apparently logical. That is only half of the story however, since whenever one goes to the Biblical text, the first questions to be asked are not minute, arcane word meanings, but rather, 1) what is the context for this statement? and 2) how did the original speaker or audience understand this text?

That is where the video breaks down somewhat. The second point is context. The cited text (Luke 10:18), as a reference to the Antichrist, is an error.

The context of the statement (and context must always be considered in interpreting scripture) seems to refer only to the original fall of Satan (the Isaiah reference in the video) and there is nothing (no traditional prophetic clue words, etc.) that indicate this is a prophecy about the antichrist in any way.
Jesus appears to be citing something in the past - and not in the future.
Instead, Jesus chides them that instead of boasting over the power they welded as His emissaries (the demons quaked, Lord) they should instead be simply thankful of their salvation because it was HE WHO SAW the original fall of the troublemaker...in other words...'it's not you guys doing any of this but the might and the power of God."

Further, the statement that Aramaic was the earliest form of Hebrew is also in error. Most sources confirm that was a dialect related but which emerged in the northwest boundaries of the Semitic territories. It appears to have been a dialect of the Palestinian region and separate from the traditional Hebrew of scripture, especially early Hebrew. It was a common language of trade and the marketplace just as Koine Greek was the 'universal language; of Mediterranean commerce.

Children learned a more formal Hebrew for the sacred reading of the Torah in service, a more extreme version of how American children once learned a more formal language in Elizabethan English than the language they spoke daily. Moreover, the New Testament was written in Koine Greek - regardless of what language the speakers might have spoken. The common language for communication and commerce was Greek. Looking for word meanings in Hebrew (or related dialects) for insight into the Greek text is faulty logic.
Words change and shift in such evolution of language. Skakespeare's use of 'naughty' in the 1500's meant severely wicked.....now it means slightly impolite. Thus the importance of understanding how an original audience heard and understood the words."
I would also add that it is a worrying thing - this tendency to identify and label one as "The AntiChrist". A decade ago it was George Bush, before that Bill Clinton, and before that.... the list is endless. Why should we care? Should not our focus - as Christians - be on the task to be Christ like to those around us? To preach the gospel? To feed the hungry? To clothe the naked? To be the image of Christ to those around us?
One of the most thought provoking books of the last century was a small, mostly obscure work, that challenged people to really cause trouble by asking, "What would Jesus do?"
What indeed.

Biography

Biography
Noel Brooks: A Life Shining and Burning, 1914-2006

Waiting...Renewing...Moving

Waiting...Renewing...Moving

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