Saturday, May 31, 2014

Quote from "Slavery, Sabbath, War, and Women" by Willard M. Swartley

Quote from Willard M. Swartley’s book Slavery, Sabbath, War & Women: Case Issues in Biblical Interpretation. (1983, Scottdale, Herald Press)

“…As one grasps the central ethical imperative of the total Bible and then looks at these case issues [slavery, Sabbath, war, and women] and others from this vantage point, differences in interpretation may be resolved and consensus may emerge. Jesus’ own example in transcending scribal arguments over which law is greatest instructs us here. By appealing to the ethical heart of the entire law (Deut. 6.4 and Lev. 19:18), Jesus taught that all moral obligation is based upon love for God and love for the neighbor. As interpreters, we need to let these eyes of Jesus discover for us our own hermeneutical path. By giving priority to this moral imperative of love, we may be able to achieve consensus on the four issues of this study. For a place to begin, we might test our agreement with the following statements and direction of thought.
        The biblical imperative of love forbids oppressing anyone, especially the slave. It leads one to regard the slave no longer as a slave, but as a beloved brother or sister. Christianity ends slavery by abolishing positions and roles in which some people “lord it over others.” Love also calls us to use the Sabbath and all days of the week as a time to practice justice and to celebrate our salvation from bondage. Love celebrates the freedom of the Sabbath with joy. It tunes all of life into the Sabbath key.   Similarly, agape love calls God’s people away from destroying the enemy to loving the enemy, praying for the persecutor, and overcoming evil with good. War is over, for through love every person is a potential sister and brother in Christ.
        So also, love—even in a patriarchal society—calls the male in his cultural power to love as Jesus loved, to forgo his cultural prerogative of power, and to recognize that women are equally God’s image. Instead of prescribing rigid roles, love affirms unity, partnership, and interdependence, with each person seeking to image God in the divine fullness of Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Only as men and women fully affirm each other do they live as God’s image. (pp. 203-204)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Quote from "The Christian Experience of Forgiveness" by H.R. Mackintosh

I am sharing a quote from the book The Christian Experience of Forgiveness by Hugh Ross Mackintosh. This book was first published in 1927, but the edition I am reading from was published in paperback in 1961 by Fontana Books, Glasgow.  Since I've never run into the writings of H.R. Mackintosh before, here is a bit of his biography.

This from the front-piece of this book:

"Hugh Ross Mackintosh, born in 1870, was in his day one of the best loved and widely influential of Scottish theologians. His distinguished university career in Edinburgh was followed by specialised studies in philosophy as Marburg. He had great sympathy with movement in German theology and made it one of his chief objects to familiarise Britain with them...In 1904 he was appointed professor of systematic theology at new College, Edinburgh as was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1932."

From Chapter III: Sin and Guilt

“When, however, we survey the world of humanity, when we look into our own breast, what is it that we fine? Anything else than such a normal and continuous development of life, unfolding to the fullness of perfected powers. We find, instead, the universal phenomenon of man’s nature divided against itself, at variance with neighbour and with God. If our true destiny is to obey, it is a destiny we are obviously unable to accomplish. It is not simply that we freely reject the Higher Will; we discover that to accept it gladly is beyond us. All who reach moral personality learn, on the faintest self-scrutiny, that their moral being is somehow wrong and crooked; that along side of the commanding sense of obligation there are fermenting within them a set of half-blind and half-perverted instincts, evil tendencies which solicit their choice, lead their will astray, and often master it shamefully. In short, we cannot begin the life of moral struggle and consent to face ourselves without feeling within us the dreary pain of the bad conscience—without becoming aware, that is, that our will is evil. It is not wholly evil, as we shall see, but evil taints it in every element. Thus the fatal distinction between what we are and what we ought to be comes home to us. We are forced to look with open eyes on the one hand at our moral obligations, on the other at our moral incapacity. Both experiences are our own—the sense of what we are, thrust on us by a corrupt nature. It is an internal schism, a rupture in the unity of the self; and in consequence the self becomes so far a scene of anarchy and impotence. And in the last resort we are divided in ourselves because we are sundered from Him in whose will is our peace. To be alienated from God, for whose service and obedience we were made, is the invariable antecedent of that unseen tie, if unrepaired by forgiveness, will bring every candid man to the avowal that he is dragging with him through life a weight of unmanageable and perverse evil, which in some sense he must own as his and cannot disown.
This wrong state or attitude of the will is called “sin” by all who acknowledge its reality…” (pp 52-53)

Friday, May 2, 2014

What is Temptation?

Have you ever stopped to think about what temptation actually is?  

We all know what sin is: the full-blown act of rebellion against God by disobeying his commandments.

But how do we get there?

It starts with an idea. A thought muddling around in our heads that is contrary to the Christian virtues of Faith, Hope, Temperance, Prudence and Charity. (more on those later.)

But what is temptation?

James writes that “…each of you is tempted when you are dragged away by your own evil desires and enticed.” (James 1: 14)

But what desires? 

Sometimes those desires are childish and simple: for luxury beyond our means, to have everything that our un-tamed heart desires, for that third helping of a chocolate dessert, the designer clothes or jewelry, bigger house,  or ____? (fill in the blank)

Sometimes the temptation is more subtle; things we allow to get in-between our worship of God, or the study of His word. Things we let take first place in our lives rather than God: our job, our hobbies, our spouse, our kids (or grand-kids), the well-wishing and praise of co-workers and friends.  
All these things, if they sneak into a role more important that God; those become temptations.

But even more insidious are the temptation where we begin to believe we know better than God how to handle a situation.

After all, haven’t we grown to the place that we know ourselves and our needs. Why do we need to seek God’s plan? We just know what is the right thing to do; what the right job is for us, the right person to be our partner (single or married!), the right course of action for a complicated decision. We will act, and God will bless our action by giving us success.

We run the scenarios in our mind; just like a play where we are the star and the director. We practice the dialog in our mind, we visualize every step: yes, we know exactly what will happen, and are sure God will make this happen just as we planed and envisioned.


Remember: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In everything you do, submit to and acknowledge HIM and HE will make your path straight.” Prov. 3:5-6 (paraphrase)

Lord, will you give me your grace and strength, that I can trust that you do know what is best for me...

even when I’m tempted to believe otherwise.