"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

February Books

Wow, another month is nearly gone!  Here is the list of books I finished this month.

Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan  --  see previous posts

American Jesus by Stephen Prothero -- subtitled "How the Son of God Became a National Icon" -- see previous posts; one other interesting thought is the author's summary that America is both the most Christian nation as well as the most multi-religious one

"Like America's Jesus himself, who was born among Protestants but now lives among Christians and non-Christians alike, the United States has developed from a Protestant country into a nation, secular by law and religious by preference, that is somehow both the most Christian and the most religiously diverse on earth."  (pg. 302)

The Storyteller's Daughter by Saira Shah -- London-born, but of Afghan heritage, this book tells of the experiences of this journalist who wanted to discover the Afghanistan of her father's stories.  I enjoyed her tales of the people of Afghanistan, the fighters, the women and children, even the aid workers they met while traveling. One thing that saddened me was the fact that so many young people are growing up without any education plus their family farms are ruined.  All they know is war. It's their way of life and as one person put it "they will try to keep on fighting in any way they can." 

Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner -- see previous posts

Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us, and Why It Matters by James Zogby

Importance of listening -- pg. 1

Arab world shrouded in myths -- pg. 13

"When you really listen and learn, you have the responsibility to act."  - pg. 20

Wilson wanted the Arab opinion and got it, but Lord Balfour dismissed it - pg. 23

the role of language in Arab identity -- "a common language suggests a shared history and being connected by the values and culture that are expressed by that language."  - pg. 77

"It's the policy, stupid."  -- what Arabs hate about America - pg. 85

a Lebanese friend said it wasn't that they rejected America, but they felt rejected by Americans -- "not hatred of America, but feeling hated by America."  They wanted to be accepted and respected by America.  - pg. 90

The talk on pages 149-150 about America wrongly believing itself to be the agents of change that the Arab world wants and needs

Lesson from Fatah and Hamas -- "when you roil a region, turn it against you, and then advocate an election, the side that ends up winning may not be the one you favor."  pg. 150

understanding the histories of both Jews in Israel and Palestinians is important for both sides - pg. 160

"when it comes to diplomacy and much else, the public sector has a great deal to learn from the private one."  - pg. 204

Jesus & Muhammad: Parallel Tracks, Parallel Lives by F.E. Peters -- see previous post

The English Is Coming! How One Language Is Sweeping the World by Leslie Dunton-Downer -- Great book I found on the new book shelf at the local library. I had a lot of fun with this by posting trivia and asking questions on Facebook. The author covers the roots of English, how it formed from borrowing from a number of languages (1/3 of English vocabulary comes from Norman French, for instance) and how things such as the Black Death and John Wycliffe's translation of the Bible into English influenced it.  In the final chapter she demonstrated how, based on the precedent of English grammar becoming more simple over time (dropping inflections and gendered nouns), Global English could further develop by possibly dropping "the" and "a" articles such as in a number of languages or having a new word take the place of "his or hers" (Chinese use ta for that phrase).  Because more non-native English speakers will be in the world, English is likely to add new words - say from Chinese banking systems - in the coming years.

What have you been reading and enjoying lately? Book, magazine, internet article or cereal box?  :)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thoughts on the Quran (mostly)

I'm reading Jesus & Muhammad: Parallel Tracks, Parallel Lives by F.E. Peters. I found it on the new book shelf at the library the other day.  Peters delves more into the historical Jesus and historical Muhammad as well as the texts and extra-biblical or extra-quranic sources that speak of these men, their communities, their ministries, the stories surrounding their births, lives and deaths.  Nothing spectacular has stood out although I have found much of it good and interesting. I guess the part about Jesus that made me pause was early on when the author said "Jesus and his followers were avid students of the Bible. Isaiah and Daniel were among their favorite reading, but they were equally interested in what we - but not they - have called the apocrypha, the various works attributed to Ezra and Baruch, the Assumption of Moses, the Testament of Abraham. It was from them that both Jesus and his audience were drawing upon their understanding of the past, and the future, of the Covenant."  (pg. 5). This statement made me want to go find these Writings just to see what types of things the Jews of that day were reading!

The author talks much about Q and the Gospels, but what I found of greater interest - perhaps because it was new to me - were his thoughts on the Quran. I decided to copy some of it to see what you think and to hopefully find out what Muslims have to say about their own scriptures concerning these matters.

So what do you think of this?

The author writes:

In our bondage to written texts, we must constantly remind ourselves that, when it comes to the Quran, there can be no question of an "original."  The original of the Quran is the recitation or performance that Muhammad chose to have his followers memorize, and which is very unlikely to have been its first utterance. Thus, the "original" of our Quran is the finished sura that either Muhammad or someone else had edited and that had then become fixed by social memorization. In neither instance is there any concern to preserve what we might think of as the original revelation in the sense of the first (and only) words to issue from the Prophet's mouth on a given subject.  As we have seen, that notion, though theologically a cornerstone of belief - the Quran is God's unchanging Word - defies every convention of oral poetry and performance.  Our Quran, like the Iliad, is a fixed product standing at the end of a complex and fluid process. (pg.134)

After taking a closer look at the Quran:

We note a marked change in the suras after we have arranged them in something approximating their chronological order. The revelations delivered at Medina are quite different from the earlier Meccan ones.  The high emotion, richly affective images, the rhymes and powerful rhythms of the Meccan poetry have all yielded at Medina to something that is not only longer but far more didactic and prosaic.  The high poetic style of the Meccan suras disappears, along with their insistent rhymes and assonances. The oaths, the bold imagery, and the intense fervor of the early poems - we may even call them songs, as we have seen - have yielded to a flatter diction and a lower and more level emotional pitch.

The author realizes the suras were written to different audiences.  In Mecca Muhammad was writing to encourage people to leave idolatry and become Muslims, whereas in Medina new rules were needed for the growing ummah.  But the author suggests also that maybe Muhammad found a scribe in Medina as the suras there seem more like they were dictated.  "The Prophet could no longer recite in the earlier bardic style but now had to pronounce, and slowly and clearly enough for an unskilled scribe to catch and record it."  (pg. 135)

Earlier in the book the author had noted that "the Quran shows an ongoing awareness of audience reaction. There are ... on-the-spot explanations - introduced by "What will make you understand...?" - that are obviously cued by audience reaction (101:9-11), or in these instances, perhaps a lack of it. There are direct answers to both questions and criticisms (2:135, etc.). And there was, finally, the charge that the 'revelations' were somewhat too improvised, that Muhammad was in effect making it up as he went along, with one eye steadily fixed on the main chance (21:5, 52:33). No,he recited only what - and when - he had received from God (10:15-16). Not all of these responses had necessarily to occur in the original performance, however, since these performances were certainly, and in the case of the Quran, necessarily, repeated, and there was an opportunity for the poet, or the prophet, to make adjustments."  (pg. 76)

What do you think of what F.E. Peters wrote about the Quran? How do you explain the differing style of the earlier suras compared to the later ones? Do you think the idea of Muhammad editing the text by his supervising the memorization of the words has any truth to it? Do you agree that Muhammad made adjustments depending on audience reaction?  What do you think about Muhammad perhaps having a scribe in Medina thus the style of the Quran changed because the words could now be written down instead of merely memorized by the followers (which would require shorter, more rhyming suras)?  Any thoughts on anything else mentioned in this post or from your own understanding?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Listen and Learn

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. ~ James 1:19

Shhhhh!  Listen.

What do you hear going on around you?

If you are like me perhaps you hear a car zooming through the neighborhood or a dog barking in the distance.  Notice a motor coming to life and the clock on the wall ticking off moments of time.

There is always stuff to hear. Even when we are not purposefully trying to listen to anything and, in fact, want peace and quiet.

But how often are we hearing things of great importance, but not really listening? How often is someone trying to explain, sharing her heart or wanting to get a point across, but our minds are two steps ahead planning what we will say in reply or wondering when this person will hush so we can go on with our lives.  You know...to do something more important. Like watching a favorite show or running an errand or reading an assignment for class.

Has Jesus' words about "he who has ears, let him hear" ever puzzled you? Was Jesus talking to a crowd of earless people or was he perhaps instructing those who really wanted to learn to have attentive ears? To not only hear that words were being said, but the importance of those words.  For those to listen, to take note of and be influenced by those godly principles.

In Arab Voices, author James Zogby has one theme that stuck out the most to me:  listen to people. More specifically for this book, the Arab world.  Too often we barge into situations perhaps believing we are the better educated, better informed, dare I say, better developed and civilized people so we have the authority and right to dictate things, to show those people a thing or two about life in the 21st century. Ah, such arrogance really.

I remember when I first met Samer over three years ago. He often marveled that I cared enough to ask questions and get to know more about his views, his people, culture and religion. He expected me to not care because, well, because he was an Arab, a Muslim and surely the American in this friendship would dominate the conversation, yes?  Never underestimate the power of listening to another person as he shares his heart and his experiences and his point of view. It's such a wonderful way to learn from others, expand your understanding about the world and to show that other people matter to you.

Ever notice how Jesus was approached by people and instead of acting like a know-it-all, he listened to them?  What do you want me to do for you? What is your problem? Jesus knew he had the answer. He was the miracle worker. He was the Blessed One from God.  He knew. If anyone had the right to speak first and dictate, he did. And he did his share of teaching and instructing. But he also listened. He wanted to hear the heart of people so he could help them.

Do you want to help others?

Perhaps we should go through life listening more.

Luke 6 records these words from Jesus:
46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?"

Perhaps people don't do what Jesus said because they aren't listening. 

So what do you have on your heart?  I'm listening.  Please share.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Do you support the Islamic jihad...and sharia law?"

Last week in this post I told you that I may share some parts of conversations that I have on Facebook from time to time.  The latest discussion happened due to a link I posted related to the Egyptian revolution.  I think I told you or you know from personal experience or reading online that some Americans are less-than-thrilled. What if it's another Iran? What if the radical Muslims take control? Ack, have you heard of the Muslim Brotherhood? What about precious, darling Israel in the midst of all those hateful Arabs who want to wipe it off the map? What about oil? What about our interests in the region? Mubarak was our ally! How dare the people get rid of the guy we were supporting all these years! When we want to get rid of an Arab dictator, we'll do it on our own terms, at our own expense (i.e., Iraq).

Fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear.


I say we either drop the "we love democracy everywhere in the world" spiel or we back it up by encouraging people who are trying to dispose of autocrats who have histories of rigged elections and oppression against their own people! This playing both sides is hypocritical and - really - who are we fooling?  It just makes us look even more idiotic to the rest of the world!  (To which some Americans will say they don't care and that's fine, but some of us care when America equals Christian nation to a lot of people.  Do we want Christ to be dragged into it because we are poor examples of him?  All righty then.)

So anyway, I ended up chatting off and on for a few days with someone whom I will call E to protect his identity. 

Eventually the conversation got to this with E asking,

"Susanne, do you support the islamic jihad?"

My reply:

Nope, not a fan of the extremists' version of jihad which most Muslims do not agree with either. Jihad (which means struggle) for most Muslims is first an inner struggle to do what is right in order to please God (e.g. the five prayers, fasting, almsgiving, dressing modestly). Similar to our "good fight of faith." This is the greater jihad.

The lesser jihad is defensive wars or wars against oppressors. For example fighting against occupying Americans who invaded and killed is legitimate. (If someone invaded America, you'd feel this 'jihad' was legit too.)

The extremists' version of jihad is the one even most Muslims despise. The extremists wrongly think they can fight *anyone* who does not agree with their version of Islam which is vile, hateful and which I too will reject with everything in me.

Good question! Now you know how I feel about jihad. :) Any others?

So he asked:

"Do you support sharia law?"

My reply:

Nope. If you have a Muslim-only country and want sharia (which they believe is God's law kind of like the Children of Israel thought of the Mosaic Law), then fine. But it's not for me since, well, I don't believe it's from God or else I'd be a Muslim. And really a number of Muslims don't want all aspects of sharia enforced because whose interpretation of sharia do they use? The conservatives, the moderates or the progressives? It's kind of like applying God's laws to the US and how the variety of opinions within Christianity would make that a nightmare for many.

Feel free to share your own thoughts. Maybe you think I am simplistic and plain old wrong in my thoughts. So tell me.  Shape and/or change my views.  Tell me why I should believe differently.

E also asked something that lead me to share my thoughts on Israel. I'll do that in another post as it may take more explaining. Plus it was a longer reply.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ten Things About Me

Wafa' had this on her blog and I decided to do it.

1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing this? If you aren’t anonymous, do you wish you started out anonymously, so that you could be anonymous now?
I don't mind that my blog isn't anonymous. I don't have much to hide from the world!  :)

2. Describe an incident that shows your inner stubborn side?
No one was ever able to guilt me into having children.

3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?
Some days, a clown. Other days, a person who can't believe how little she really knows about things.

4. What is your favourite summer cold drink? 
Nothing quenches thirst better than water...and it's my favorite

5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?
read, blog, sit on the porch and just think and watch the birds soaring in the sky

6. Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life?
I'd like to travel more. I think.  I would like to accomplish living in another country for a while. It would be great to learn another language, but that seems far-fetched since I'm not actually trying to learn one. 

7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person, or always ditching?
I studied hard to make good grades and I always wanted to do my best. And I was friendly with almost everyone so I had friends in the popular group as well as the nerdy group and all the in between groups too.

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what would you see?
the time my great-grandmother was dying and several of her children and grandchildren went outside and gathered in a big circle crying and hugging, when my uncle told his mom to tell Ritchie (his son who was killed in a truck accident at age 24) something when she got to heaven; and my last day in Syria which was full of touching moments

9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog, or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people and events?
it depends on the topic; some things I've been open about sharing and other things I will not share because I always wear a mask ... or a bit of one

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why ?
I love to read and hate talking on the phone.  Maybe it's sad to admit that I'd rather read about someone else or a topic in history or politics or religion than talk to someone and further a relationship.

Anyone who wants to do this, consider yourself tagged!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Girl Meets God -- Resurrection and Confession (Forgiveness of Sin)

A bit more from Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner

There are other things from this book that took my attention - how she read the book of Ruth as an Orthodox Jew and now as a Christian and how the story of Obed plays into Matthew's telling of Jesus' genealogy in that gospel.  I reread that part to grasp it all. Really good. But I won't copy it all.  Anyone interested can get the book perhaps.

I like how she said she chose Episcopalianism because she liked the liturgy and Tradition and reading the Scriptures through the eyes of the Church. She said this was familiar to her because Jews read the Torah and Writings and Prophets the same way. Jews reading the Bible without the rabbis were "heretics of the first order." (pg.137)

I wanted to share how one girl in the five-and-six-year-old class she taught described communion. How that it was God that the priest poured into the cup. (pg.185)

But I will instead choose two things, resurrection and confession, and leave it at that.

"Judaism taught me daily to expect God to resurrect the dead.  True enough, over the centuries the rabbis have debated the details of Jewish afterlife, but it boils down to what you say every day in prayer. ... [In] the middle of Shemoneh Esrei ... is that God 'heals the sick' and 'releases the prisoner' and is 'faithful to raise the dead.'

Easter, it seems to me, is the most profoundly Jewish of all Christian holidays. For a Jew becoming a Christian, bodily resurrection is no surprise.  It is what we had been expecting all along."  (pg. 193)

And concerning confession.

"Father Peter will grant me absolution, but confession isn't just about absolution. It's not some kind of antinomian free-for-all, where, since we know Christ has already forgiven us, we can just keep sinning. The change, I think, that conversion gradually effects on your heart is this: you come, over some stretched-out time, to want to do the things that God wants you to do, because you want to be close to Him. So the point is not just to be forgiven, it is to be transformed.  The religious languages have better words for this than English -- teshuvah in Hebrew, and metanoia in Greek. A complete turning around.

I doubt I will achieve a complete turn around here on Earth. I will always need this ritual of confession, because I will always keep screwing up.  And God will somehow keep forgiving me, and pulling me closer to Him. He will, over time, make me sadder and sadder when I spit in His eye.  He will make me love Him better. And that might mean, maybe, that I will sin a little bit less."  (pg. 212-213)

I like her thoughts on confession and how she explained that one who is drawing closer to God won't want to sin or "spit in His eye."  Would you want to spit in your loving mother or father's eye? I get the impression from some that once we know Jesus, we can go on sinning and just say the magic words and he will take away the consequences of our sinful behaviors so good behavior is optional for Christians. Not so. If you really love Jesus, you won't take God's forgiveness lightly.  You will recognize those bad deeds hurt Jesus as much as your cheating on your husband would crush him.  And if you love your husband, you won't want to hurt him. You won't want to destroy him this way. So why would you love Jesus and then purposefully hurt him? 

Any thoughts or comments or impressions that you want to share?  Was it a surprise to you to learn Jews also expect God to be "faithful to raise the dead"?  What do you think of Lauren's impression that Easter is "the most profoundly Jewish of all Christian holidays"? Would you have guessed this?  What do you think of confession to a priest?  Why is this important or not important to you?  How is being sorry for your sin different from "a complete turning around" concerning them? Or are they the same?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Girl Meets God -- Converting to Judaism & The Appeal of Incarnation

Yesterday I mentioned a book - Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner - that I happened to come across while at a different library branch about ten days ago. I had barely started this book when I wrote about it yesterday, but since then I've read quite a bit more and have greatly enjoyed it!  Just like I thought, I love the aspect of seeing Christianity through a former Orthodox Jew's eyes.

Actually Lauren was raised in a household that didn't talk much about God yet her parents had decided before their children were born that they would be raised Jewish. Lauren's father was Reform Jew and her mother a "lapsed Southern Baptist" so technically - by Orthodox and Conservative Jewish standards - she was not a Jew.  Jewishness is passed through mothers, not fathers.  Lauren wanted to be a Jew in the "real" sense so she converted to the Orthodox Jewish faith when she was a teenager.  She described the learning period with a rabbi where she was taught much about the faith and its laws.  Later she was questioned by three rabbis prior to her being given the OK to convert.  None of this say a prayer and you are a Jew stuff .. it's quite involved!   Also she told about the mikvah which has two purposes.  It is the purifying bath women must take seven days after their periods have ended and for converting to Judaism.  You go in the evening and then

"An attendant will lead her to a bathroom, where she will undress and remove her wigs, all her jewelry, any Band-Aids she might have wrapped around a cut on her finger or her calf.  She will shower. She will peel off her nail polish, and she will floss, because the water from the mikvah must touch every part of her body; the smallest speck of spinach stuck in her teeth would interfere. Sometimes even scabs were questionable."  (pg. 50)

Men have to be circumcised.


Several times Lauren mentioned the Incarnation's role in drawing her to Christianity. I will copy two sections she writes about it because I am amazed how this aspect of Christianity appealed to her. I guess I've been influenced too much by reading Muslim blogs and books which abhor the idea of God making Himself into a man.

Lauren writes that

The very first thing I liked about Christianity, long before it ever occurred to me to go to church or say the creed or call myself a Christian, was the Incarnation, the idea that God lowered himself and became a man so that we could relate to him better.  In Christianity, God got to be both a distant and transcendent Father god, and a present and immanent Son god who walked among us. Christians, unlike Jews, spent their time talking to a God who knew from experience what it was like to get hungry, go swimming, to miss a best friend.

The Incarnation appealed to the literature buff in me. Embodiment was the novelistic culmination of anthropomorphism, of assigning God human characteristics. All through the Torah, God is pictured as having hands, a face. The rabbis say, Of course God doesn't really have hands, but the Torah uses the language of faces and hands and eyes so that we will have an easier time wrapping our minds around this infinite, handless God.  That is what you say if you are a rabbi. But if you are a good novelist, you actually give Him hands and eyes by the end of the book, and that is what the Bible does. It says, in Deuteronomy, that God brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; and then it gives Him an arm in the Gospel of Matthew. (pg. 51-52)

The Incarnation, that God took flesh, is the whole reason I am not an Orthodox Jew ... Here is the thing about God. He is so big and so perfect that we can't really understand Him. We can't possess Him, or apprehend Him.  Moses learned this when he climbed up Mount Sinai and saw that the radiance of God's face would burn him up should he gaze upon it directly.  But God so wants to be in relationship with us that He makes himself small, smaller than He really is, smaller and more humble than his infinite, perfect self, so that we might be able to get to Him, a little bit.

Being born a human was not the first time God made Himself small so that we could have access to Him. First He shrunk Himself when He revealed the Torah at Mount Sinai. He shrunk Himself into tiny Hebrew words, man's finite language, so that we might get to Him that way.  Then He shrunk Himself again, down to the size of a baby, down to manger finiteness.  (pg. 74)

There are other things from this book that I might share later, but this post is long enough for now!  What do you think of the mikvah ritual? The difficulty in converting to Judaism?  Her thoughts on Incarnation and God shrinking Himself previously when He revealed His will to Moses in Hebrew words? Any other thoughts?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Talk & The Arab Question

In the final pages of American Jesus author Stephen Prothero wrote,

"Like America's Jesus himself, who was born among Protestants but now lives among Christians and non-Christians alike, the United States has developed from a Protestant country into a nation, secular by law and religious by preference, that is somehow both the most Christian and the most religiously diverse on earth."  (pg. 302)

I think that's rather neat to consider though I wonder how many of those people including myself really follow Jesus' teachings.  Are we mostly "cultural Christians" or do we take Jesus' words seriously? Or should we? Is it enough to have Jesus as our "buddy" without hearing what he has to say and doing it?

I finished that book a few days ago and read one from a British-born lady with an Afghani heritage. It was a library book that I found the same day I got American Jesus. Now I am reading a book I got for Christmas, Arab Voices by James Zogby.  The subtitle is "what they are saying to us, and why it matters."

If I asked you what the Arab world is saying to us, how would you answer? 

And do you think it matters to us? Should it? Or should we care little since that world is not our world, and is, in fact, thousands of miles away?

I'm also reading Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner.  Subtitle says "on the path to a spiritual life,"  and I also found it at the library. Apparently she had a Reform Jewish father and a "lapsed Southern Baptist mother," but chose to become an Orthodox Jew.  Until she had a dream about Jesus and knew "as certain as I have ever been about anything, that the dream was from God and the dream was about Jesus, about how He was real and true and sure." (pg. 8) That lead her to eventually accepting Jesus.  Actually I'm not very far into this book so I'll have to keep reading about her spiritual journey.  So far it's interesting because she sees Christianity through Jewish eyes and even explains how Jews read the Bible and celebrate holidays.  I believe that I will enjoy "seeing" Christianity and Jesus through the lenses of one who grew up in the Jewish faith and also learning about Judaism in the process. I don't know any Jews that I can recall.  Not a lot of religious diversity in my area.

Are you reading anything interesting these days?  Feel free to share what has taken your interest lately. Also, I'd love to hear your thoughts about the Arab questions above if you care to make your voice heard in the comments.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Stepping out of my box and changing my mind

So the other day I mentioned posting things on Facebook that may come across surprising to some who knew me growing up.  With few exceptions, the ones who've actually engaged in conversation were never close friends. They are merely people who went to the same school and knew who I was, but not really that much about me.  In reality my beliefs were probably more in line with theirs back then. My thoughts on certain topics have changed mostly within the last couple of years as I've talked to people outside of my southern, Baptist, conservative box. The internet is a great place for meeting people, what can I say?  And I did a lot of reading on certain topics also.  I don't change my mind that easily! 

I've decided I want to share bits and pieces of some conversations (my answers to questions) basically so if I'm ever asked again, I can find the topic on my blog and copy and paste it. Ha, ha! No, not really. Actually it will be good for me to put it out here to review from time to time.  Who knows? With more information on these topics, I may very well change my mind in another direction.  While I definitely believe there are absolutes of which we should never waver, I also realize many topics are not cut and dry. They are not so black and white as many would have us believe.  I was asked on a thread -- where I seemed to be cheering on the Egyptian revolution too much for some -- my thoughts of Israel, Islamic jihad and sharia. Other threads have pondered the Muslim Brotherhood. How these four things deal with the Egyptian uprising is clear to me knowing how many here (not all of America perhaps, but here here...like here among the Glenn Beck watchers) think and where they are coming from.

I want to say that I do understand them. I do understand where they are coming from because for many years I probably could (and would) have asked some of the same questions and feared some of the same things. And maybe I am naive and silly for having changed my mind.  I guess time will tell. 

In the meantime, I'm happy for the Egyptians and I pray that they will be able to transition to government made up of leaders who will represent them well and value human rights and freedom for all, even the country's minority groups.  I watched an 11 minute video that aired on 60 Minutes. If you are able to view it, I'm sure you will enjoy seeing Wael Ghonim as he talks of the revolution in his country. I don't know a lot about him, but he seems like a very honorable man from the little I've seen and read about him.

Here's the link.

If you have any topics you want me to address, please let me know. For now I'll plan on discussing my thoughts on Israel, Islamic jihad and sharia since I was asked about them just last week.

By the way, Happy Valentine's Day! 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

American Jesus -- Becoming All Things to All People?

"The Conformist"

So I'm still reading American Jesus by Stephen Prothero and learning quite a lot concerning the United States' journey in becoming "a Jesus nation."  I've already discussed the Jefferson phase of the "Enlightened Sage" and mentioned the "Sweet Savior" era as well.  Jesus went through a feminizing process where his mercy, compassion and kindness were emphasized.  Still later some people masculinized (we'll pretend that's a word if it's not) him because they were tired of the pictures of him looking weak and effeminate.  He was their "Manly Redeemer"!   Still later Jesus became a "Superstar" with megachurches abounding, Christian music and selling Jesus paraphernalia (e.g., books, bookmarks, bumper stickers) becoming quite a widespread, lucrative business.  Oh and yes, the movies and plays and such things too!

The Manly Superstar

The book discusses reincarnations of Jesus. The Mormon church's "Elder Brother," the Jews' "Rabbi", the black church's "Black Moses" and finally the Hindus' "Oriental Christ."  The author noted while the Jews emphasized the Jesus part, the Hindus had no problem with the Christ part.  To the latter he was one of many divine people who came to earth to show us how to get in touch with our latent goodness of which we were ignorant.

Here is one excerpt from the "Oriental Christ" chapter:

In an effort to define what they called "the Christ-Ideal," Vivekananda, Paramananda, and Akhilananda all called down stereotypes of East and West, linking Jesus with the Orient rather than the Occident.  The three conjured those categories differently, but all portrayed the East as the land of the spirit par excellence, and the West as the land of political, economic, and technological achievement.  "The voice of Asia has been the voice of religion," wrote Vivekananda. "The voice of Europe is the voice of politics."  Paramananda wrote that "the Eastern heart yearns primarily for spirituality," while, in Akhilananda's words, Western civilization "emphasized the path of pleasure as the solution to the problems of men." ... "In the West, the preacher who talks the best is the greatest preacher," wrote Vivekananda. But in the East, the true holy man is the one who practices what he preaches."  (pg. 274-5)
"Jesus of the People"


What do you think of these Oriental and Occidental stereotypes by these three men?  Do you agree that the West emphasizes pleasure as the solution to men's problems?  Does the East yearn primarily for spirituality?   How important is a preacher's speaking ability to you? What makes a good preacher?  Do you agree that a true holy man practices what he preaches? Based on your knowledge of Jesus, did he do this for the most part?  If you had to coin a phrase to describe what Jesus means to you, what would you say?  Would you choose one from above or come up with one of your own? Explain your answer.

What are your thoughts on the photos? Do they attract you to Jesus or do you find them distasteful? Why? These were all used in the book and I found them and an article about the book on this page.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

In Which I Admit to Crying Over Tea ... and a Packet of Olive Oil

Are any of y'all keeping tabs with what is going on in Egypt?  I know many people in the world are very interested (at least in the Middle East), but I'm a realist and have lived in America long enough (so, OK, my whole life) to know people here are generally more interested in the latest celebrity news and their favorite TV shows than world events.  (Am I wrong?) Today I watched President Hosni Mubarak as he shattered his people's hopes by clinging to power despite their days of demonstrations against his corrupt and dictatorial ways.  I really felt sad for them especially when I saw pictures like these from the BBC Arabic site.  I've often been good at putting myself in others' places. Not fully. I don't know that anyone can fully understand another's predicament, but I do have a very tender spot for people who are struggling for a variety of reasons.  If I've read something you've written about a hardship in your life, chances are my heart has hurt for you. So seeing those pictures and recognizing the disappointment on faces especially after there was some news earlier in the day that Mubarak might be announcing his resignation...well, I just sympathize with those wanting to be free and wanting opportunities they've been denied most of their lives.

I've been posting articles on Facebook and probably driving everyone nuts (Thankfully there is a "hide all posts from Susanne" option on FB that I'm sure many have enjoyed!), but I find so many things interesting that I just want to share!  Some have led to "interesting talks" which have helped me further articulate what I believe and why.  It's challenging though when people you knew years ago suddenly wonder about you. I'm not used to that as I'm rather a conformist. A nice little southern, Baptist girl who didn't rock the boat much.  Oh, why am I changing now?!

Two years ago today was our last day in Damascus. I was thinking of that earlier because - although I know it's not wise to live in the past - there are some things I simply don't want to forget. That day was such a sad one for me, but it was also full of special events.  Damascus and more importantly the wonderful people there have remained in my heart ever since.  I felt in Syria as if I'd come to my second home.  I miss so much about it and hope one day to return, Inshallah (God willing) as they would say there.  I remember as we were traveling home on Wednesday, February 11, 2009.  I was incredibly tired, but unable to sleep well on the plane.  I was emotional from tiredness and the fact I just had to leave great friends who would remain over six thousand miles from me.  And when the Turkish steward guy on the airplane would come by offering chai, I would have tears running down my face because it reminded me of all the cups of sweet, hot tea I'd shared with friends and been offered even by workers in the hammam during men's hours!  And then when I opened the lunch they gave me, and saw a packet of lemon juice and olive oil....tears again.  My Syrian friends liked these things!  *waaah*

Today was a milestone birthday for my sister and my cousin.  They arrived on the same day in the same year and assured me that I would not be the only granddaughter in the Truax clan.  Before they were born I was one girl amongst six grandsons! Eh, the boys were fun though.  Really. I have great memories of traipsing through the woods and playing down by the river with my twin cousins and my brother when we'd visit South Carolina.  Also I'd play football with them.  The American kind.

Did I ever tell y'all I got the nickname "Bruiser" while playing high school basketball? Maybe I've always had a little aggressive streak in me.  :)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Accent & How I Say Things Meme

My friend Niki had this newfangled meme that deals with one of my favorite topics:  accents!  (Hear her if you want.  She's southern, too!)  Actually it's "accents and regional names for things."   Apparently "you read off some words and then answer questions about what you call things."   Seems easy enough. I decided to copy Niki and not show my face.  Instead you will see my faceless figurines as you hear my very-cute voice. 

So this is the meme in its written form:

If you want to follow along or do the Accent Vlog yourself, here are the words/questions:

Aunt, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, Toilet, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught.

What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house?
What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball?
What is the bubbly carbonated drink called?
What do you call gym shoes?
What do you say to address a group of people?
What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs?
What do you call your grandparents?
What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket?
What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?
What is the thing you change the TV channel with?

Did anything I say surprise you? Sure do hope you could understand me.  :)

Let me know if you do this meme so I can hear how you talk and what you call things!   Fun stuff, yes? 


American Jesus -- Enlightened Sage, Sweet Savior

So Monday I went to a different branch of our county library system and found three books that seemed interesting.  Well, I found plenty more that looked interesting, but only brought home three.  The one I've started is American Jesus by Stephen Prothero. The subtitle is "How the Son of God Became a National Icon."  I have questions for you at the end. Read them first if you'd like and then I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 


The first chapter presents the Jesus of Thomas Jefferson who cut and pasted his own version of the Gospels based on Jefferson's opinion of what Jesus likely said or did.  He took out anything that wasn't reasonable or logical and was left with a fraction of what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John presented.  "Jefferson hated what Christianity had become,not despite his love for Jesus, but because of it. And he was able to admire, respect, and perhaps even love 'the first of all Sages' only because he was able to separate the religion of Jesus from the religion of Christianity." (pg. 42)

The author claims Jefferson's views have expanded mostly among Unitarians, Reformed Jews and Liberal Protestants. "By the end of the nineteenth century many Americans, both Christian and otherwise, had begun to disentangle Jesus from rites and creeds, affirming that his exemplary life was more important than his atoning death. Today, U.S. suburbs are filled with 'Golden Rule Christians' who, like Jefferson, believe that the essence of true religion lies in right living rather than right thinking, and that service to others is the highest form of prayer."  (pg. 33)

The Jesus Seminar is also given as an example in this chapter.  Arguing that the "creedal Christ must die...so that the real Jesus can rise again," this "radical interpretation of the incarnation abolished the distinction between the sacred and the profane, freeing Jesus to be fully human and allowing Christians to celebrate life in the world as he did -- wholeheartedly and without reservation."


The author claims we were not always a Jesus nation.  The Puritans - strict Calvinists - "were a God-fearing rather than a Jesus-loving people, obsessed not with God's mercy but with His glory, not with the Son but with the Father." 

About a half century after the Revolution our "spiritual landscape" started to change into more of what we have today. "Disestablishment supplanted the European-style state church system with a market model that continues to characterize American religion.  This new spiritual marketplace produced unprecedented religious creativity and intense religious competition."  (pg. 46)

"Across these diverse religious communities, a new spirit of liberty took hold. After their successful revolt against England, Americans thought nothing of rebelling against traditional Christianity.  For obvious reasons, they rebuffed the Anglicanism of the crown, sending what came to be known as Episcopalianism on a long downward slide.  Peace churches such as the Quakers, Mennonites, and Moravians also suffered after the war. Americans did far more than reject the denominations of loyalists and pacifists,however. Inspired by republican rhetoric of liberty and equality, and by a popular revolt against deference and hierarchy, they rejected as well the authority of ministers, the veracity of creeds, and the importance of theology. The Bible remained authoritative, of course, but now Americans insisted on interpreting it for themselves.  In that effort, they were assisted by a new culture hero: the populist preacher, who combined evangelicalism and egalitarianism in daring new ways. ... These religious entrepreneurs thrilled their populist parishioners with declarations of religious independence from elitist ministers, established churches, and outmoded creeds.  Not surprisingly, this new combination of individual conscience led to a wide variety of interpretations, and First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom saw to it that those interpretations flourished."  (pg. 47)

The author then told how evangelicalism formed, spread and popularized Jesus in its hymns, preaching and later books.  Jesus even went through a feminizing aspect as recognition was given to the role women played in the spiritual upbringing of their children and how they influenced society in a variety of community groups. He told of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps' book which was the "first full-length feminist interpretation of Jesus."  She said men had been talking about the gospels for centuries as translators, preachers and commentators.  "Her goal was to supplement that record with a female voice, and according to that voice Jesus was a 'great democrat' who undertook a 'social revolution' on behalf of women.  Convinced 'that men and women stood before God upon the same moral plane, and that they ought so to stand before human society,' he always showed the utmost 'respect for womanhood.'  He was, Phelps concluded, 'the only man who ever understood' the plight of women."  (pg. 84)

"While Calvinists had maximized the distance between God and humanity and evangelicals had narrowed it, liberal Protestants all but obliterated it.  Drawing on the doctrine of the imago Dei, they argued that humans were created good, in the image of god, not sinful, in the image of a fallen Adam."  They considered the Bible a "good book" rather than "God's book" and focused on Jesus.  (pg.82)


Did anything stand out to you? Any "aha!" moments?  What do you think of the author's words about our religion being market-driven?  Did it surprise you to read that America wasn't always a Jesus nation? Do you agree or disagree?  Do you think the Liberal Protestants are good to "all but obliterate" the distance between us and God?  Do you see the progression of shedding established churches and creeds to being Scriptural based to later being solely Jesus based as a good thing? Why or why not? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson's approach to creating his own gospel?  What do you think of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps' thoughts on Jesus as one who respected womanhood?  Do you agree?  Do you think the Jesus Seminar has done a good thing by freeing Jesus from creeds so that he could be human and thus we can enjoy the world wholeheartedly?   Other thoughts or impressions?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Is God a Moral Monster? -- The Inefficient God, Exaggerated Language, Our Ideal God

Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan

I finished this book yesterday and wanted to do one last post with a few thoughts I noted from the book. I'd love to hear your feedback on any of this!

"The Scriptures reveal a sufficient God, not necessarily an efficient one."  (pg. 166)

I actually had to stop and think about this since our society values efficiency so much.  I had to consider the fact that inefficiency isn't always a bad trait.  Your thoughts?

Ever notice the Old Testament talk about utterly destroying all the people and animals including women and children and cringing at how God could command such a thing?  This author makes a case for this being exaggerated language frequently used in ancient history. He gives examples from other sources such as Egypt's Tuthmosis III, the Hittite king Mursilli II, Ramses II, Moab's king Mesha and a couple of others.  As the author states and maybe you've noticed in your own Bible reading, "groups of Canaanite peoples who apparently were 'totally destroyed' were still around when all was said and done (e.g. Judges 1)."  He writes: "The archaeological evidence nicely supports the biblical text; both of these point to minimal observable material destruction in Canaan as well as Israel's gradual infiltration, assimilation, and eventual dominance there." (pg. 185)

What do you think?

In a later chapter the author suggests:

"Maybe the ideal 'God' in the Westerner's mind is just too nice. We've lost sight of good and just while focusing on nice, tame, and manageable.  We've ignored sternness and severity (which makes us squirm), latching onto our own ideals of comfort and convenience. We've gotten rid of the God who presents a cosmic authority problem and substituted controllable gods of our own devising. We've focused on divine love at the expense of God's anger at what ultimately destroys us or undermines our fundamental well-being. ... Today's version of spirituality is tame and makes no demands on us.  A mere impersonal force behind it all doesn't call us on the carpet for our actions. ...  If we take God seriously, he will most certainly mess up our lives, make us uncomfortable, and even disorient us.  After all, we can easily get accustomed to our own self-serving agendas and idols.   The atheist has it almost right: humans regularly do make gods in their image.  Yet the biblical God isn't the kind we make up. He refuses to be manipulated by human schemes.  He makes us all -- including his true devotees -- uncomfortable, which in the end is what we truly need to overcome our self-centeredness."  (pg. 193)

Do you tend to agree? Disagree?  Share away!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Kindness on Purpose & Life in General

 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
      And on her tongue
is the law of kindness.

Proverbs 31:26

Our minds would rather mull over the negatives in relationships, nursing hurts and thinking harsh thoughts about another, and it will take a good deal of discipline to change that habit. But if we are to learn kindness, we must start with our minds.  We simply won't be kind to someone we've thought of in anger all day long!

And from our thoughts comes our speech, likely where we fail most often. If kindness is to be taught, it can't be done with unkind speech and Proverbs ties the teaching to our tongue. Acid-laced words may get quick results, but what will long-term results be?  Our words should convey a 'sincere desire for the happiness of another' but I'm afraid they are often saying, 'Get out of the way of MY happiness!'  Remember, I read your heart when I hear your words!

As we discipline ourselves to think and speak kindly, our actions should follow. I wonder what changes might take place in that difficult relationship if 'Kindness on Purpose' became your method. It could bring surprising changes!

~ Marti Barkman, February 2011 Beacon Beam

Thoughts? Have you ever returned kindness for meanness or wished you had?  Or has someone else done this towards you?


Still...reading Is God a Moral Monster?

Planning...to watch the Superbowl this evening with the family.  Favorite player tonight.  

Troy Polamalu

He has some great shampoo commercials! 

Watched...my second movie of the year the other night -- Steel Magnolias. I'd forgotten how sad it was and bawled during the hospital scene.  Such a funny movie at times too.  Life is about good times and bad, laughter and tears. Thank God for good friends. Do you have friends such as are portrayed in that movie?

Enjoying ... The perspective of this blog post on Penal Substitution vs. Christus Victor

Went ... to Michael's basketball game yesterday morning and then out to eat with my sister and Michael for her birthday. We ate at Red Robin. Will was refing a game so he missed out.  Andrew was visiting some friends at his parents' house.

So what's been up with you?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Three Things

Yesterday I was catching up on posts from Staring at the View and one of them was "What I Believe" where the blog owner answered this question often posed to him by others.  (If you are interested in this recently-turned Lutheran's reply, I recommend his post.)  In the comments I read an agnostic's summary of what he believed. Actually it was a quote by Marcus Aurelius that I decided to share on Facebook.    That lead to a rather interesting thread.  What do you think of this quote?  Does it go along with your theological position pretty well?  Or not?

"Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by.

If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them.

If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones."

Later in the day I was reading a short article on the story of the tax collector and Pharisee and the author used this partial quote from C.S. Lewis'  Mere Christianity.

"The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins.  All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing...the pleasures of power, of hatred. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute."

Here is the short parable in case you are interested. I even love the introductory statement!

 9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
   13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
   14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 

Lastly, one question from my latest book. The author provided this in the discussion section.

In what ways does the Old Testament appear misogynistic (woman hating)?  Does Israel's patriarchal society prove this point? Why or why not?

Thanks to everyone who has taken time to answer some or all of the questions thus far or involved in the discussion by adding your thoughts!  I have greatly enjoyed reading what you had to say!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is God a Moral Monster? -- Redemptive Movement of Scripture; Holiness Gap; God Involved in Everything

Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan

On a page leading towards a discussion of "The Redemptive Movement of Scripture," the author wrote these words. 

Note too that common ancient Near Eastern worship patterns and rituals -- sacrifices, priesthood, holy mountains/places, festivals, purification rites, circumcision -- are found in the law of Moses.  For example, we find in Hittite law a sheep being substituted for a man. In his providence, God appropriated certain symbols and rituals familiar to Israel and infused them with new meaning and significance in light of his saving, historical acts and his covenant relationship with Israel.  This "redemption" of ancient rituals and patterns and their incorporation into Israel's own story reflect common human longings to connect with "the sacred" or "the transcendent" or to find grace and forgiveness.  In God's historical redemption of Israel and later with the coming of Christ, the Lamb of God, these kinds of rituals and symbols were fulfilled in history and were put in proper perspective.

Instead of glossing over some of the inferior moral attitudes and practices we encounter in the Old Testament, we should freely acknowledge them.  We can point out that they fall short of the ideals of Genesis 1-2 and affirm with our critics that we don't have to advocate such practices for all societies.  We can also show that any of the objectionable practices we find in the Old Testament have a contrary witness in the Old Testament as well."  (pg. 62)

1. What do you think of the idea that God used common ancient Near Eastern worship patters and rituals and gave them new meaning and significance?

2.  Can you think of any objectionable practice having "a contrary witness in the Old Testament"?

3.  Do you agree that we should freely acknowledge "inferior moral attitudes and practices" encountered in the OT?  How do you handle them when talking to scoffers or even when trying to make sense of them to yourself?

Serious-minded Old Testament Jews were regularly reminded of the gap between God and themselves. To approach God was no light thing, and throughout an Israelite's daily life were many reminders of defilement, impurity, and barriers in worshiping God.  Attentive Israelites routinely experienced a "holiness gap" that existed between them and God.  ...  The law -- with all its purity requirements and sacrifices -- actually revealed human inadequacy and thus the need for humans to look beyond their own resources to God's gracious assistance.  (pg. 85-6)

The author reminds us that Paul called the law a "tutor" that leads us to Christ. 

4.  What do you think about this "holiness gap"?  Do you agree that the Law revealed inadequacies or do you believe keeping it all should be good enough for God and He should appreciate the effort?

5. Why do you think approaching God is "no light thing"?  Do you agree or disagree?

The author states that the underlying rationale for everything -- even the detailed food laws -- shows that God wanted His people to be different (holy) in every aspect of life.  "Living under God's reign should affect all of life... God isn't cordoned off to some private, religious realm."  (pg. 75)

Reminder:  Paul told the Corinthians, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."  (10:31)

6. What do you think of God wanting to be involved in all aspects of life?  Do you think most people live this way or do they put God on a shelf like an insurance policy and only take Him out and use Him if something bad happens?  Why would people not want God involved in their lives? Are there certain areas perhaps that they don't want His input? 

Any other thoughts or comments on these topics?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is God a Moral Monster? -- More Questions & Discussion

Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God by Paul Copan

Before discussing some of those rather odd and difficult Old Testament laws, the author mentions how important it is to understand ancient Near Eastern culture and not judge their standards in the same light as our own.  In fact he states, "[R]ather than looking at Scripture from a post-Enlightenment critique...we can observe that Scripture itself acknowledges the inferiority of certain Old Testament standards."  (pg. 61)  Earlier he claimed that upon observing these people we would see "a culture whose social structures were badly damaged by the fall."

In the discussion section he asks:

1.  Is it useful to think of Israel's laws as realistic, "incremental" steps toward the ideal? Is this a serious problem?  Why or why not?

He gave the example of bringing democracy to Saudi Arabia and how perhaps many of the residents would balk if we suddenly brought tons of changes to the culture and social structure.  He argues that ancient Near Eastern society was brutal and, in a sense, God met the covenant people (i.e.,Children of Israel) half way by raising standards, but not in a drastic, ideal society way.  The author says the perfect world was before the fall, but after the fall it was characterized by patriarchy, misogyny, cruelty, slavery, inequality...you get the picture.

2.  How does Matthew 19:8...give insight regarding the less-than-ideal legislation in the law of Moses?

It reads:  "Jesus replied, 'Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.'"

The OT record shows how Israel was told to do certain things in light of where God moved them.  For instance at one point they were used as tools of judgment and told to fight the native inhabitants and take the land of Canaan whereas when they were in exile for their disobedience, God told them to plant gardens, marry and prosper their masters so they,too,would prosper in this foreign place.  With that in mind, 3. Do you find the OT full of relativism or situational ethics? Is this a problem or just how life is? Should we live relativistically today or is there a set standard? 

The author also discusses how some New Atheists (and really there are many others; I know Muslims who would say the same thing) point out how awful some of the biblical characters are portrayed.  4. In light of this, how important is it to differentiate between is and ought as related to the OT?  Is meaning, yes, fallible human beings did this, but it does not mean we ought to live this way.  Honestly I feel anyone who reads the Old Testament would get the impression that just because something is recorded doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. The Bible simply shows human nature, warts and all.  It's not white-washed history such as I'd expect a proud Jewish nation to record if they were the ones writing their own history and speaking of their national heroes!  Perhaps God was behind what was recorded for posterity. We can learn from their mistakes and know not to repeat those awful deeds.


Bonus note from a previous chapter:   The author uses Moses and Abraham as examples of faith. Moses as a negative example of one who was given the Law yet failed to demonstrate the kind of faith Abraham displayed without the Law.  Moses is a "sobering reminder to legalistically minded Jews that having the law and keeping it scrupulously are inadequate for being right with God.  Rather, we're to approach him trustingly, depending on his grace and sufficiency rather than putting confidence in our own sufficiency."  (pg. 45)

Any thoughts on that?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Is God a Moral Monster? -- Questions for you

You may recall a few years back when Oprah Winfrey admitted she was turned off to Christianity when she heard a preacher affirm that God was a jealous God.  I even recall seeing some YouTube clip with her statement that jealousy is wrong so how can God get away with this?

I'm reading Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. In it Paul Copan replies to some of the criticism New Atheists have against the Tanakh's portrayal of God.

I wanted to ask you a few questions.

1.  What do you think of statements such as "I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God"?  Is there a good kind of jealousy and a bad kind?  Explain your answer.

2.  What do you think of the concept of divine vulnerability?  Do you believe God is vulnerable to what His creation does or does not do? Explain.

3.  Is anger always a bad thing? When is it appropriate?  When might it be virtuous?

On a lighter note, you may enjoy Michael's interview. Just where it says "mom," replace it with "aunt."  :)