Showing posts from November, 2011

Struggling with Scripture

In Sunday School we have been studying the Old Testament for the last several months, and at times it can be daunting.  
The stories aren't particularly difficult, but extracting meaning about God can feel like trying to squeeze water from a rock.  In a moment of honesty, a classmate asked the question we all think, but are afraid to ask in polite Christian company: "Why does the Bible have to be so hard?"  
My immediate reaction is to fall back onto Mark Twain's maxim: "“It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”  It's so much easier to fret over the identity of the third horn of the beast of the Apocalypse than work out "love your neighbor" in everyday life.  
Yet there's still a lot of text, and laws, and sacrifices, and rituals, and stories, and images that become hard to ignore.  After encountering the God of the Bible, it is hard to walk away contented, sensing tha…

The Pearl 2:2 -A Suffering Savior, A Suffering Faith

Hymn 2:2 of St. Ephrem's The Pearl
Shadowed forth in thy beauty is the beauty of the Son, Who clothed Himself with suffering when the nails passed through Him. The awl passed in thee since they handled thee roughly, As they did His hands; And because He suffered He reigned, As by the sufferings thy beauty increased. And if they showed no pity upon thee, Neither did they love thee: Still suffer as thou mightest, Thou has come to reign! Simon Peter showed pity on the Rock; Whoso hath smitten it, is himself thereby overcome; It is by reason of Its suffering That Its beauty hath adorned the height and the depth.

The Forge 11.23.2011

Baptists heading for Constantinople?

Here's a nice article by Clark Carlton on how salvation works

Science has learned the God helps resist temptation!

and now for the Geek Orthodox:

My eldest has this as his cell phone Christ is in our Midst

God Behaving Badly? (the resources)

I hope you enjoyed this series of post.  They were not designed to be airtight arguments against challenges to faith, but various ways to wrestle with our life in God.  

The title of the posts is taken from Evangelical Bible professor Dr. David Lamb's, God Behaving Badly, and here is an interview with Dr. Lamb

Here is part 1part 2part 3, part 4, and part 5.

Also here are several posts, videos, and podcasts that I found extremely helpful in sorting some of this out for myself:
Fr. Thomas Hopko addresses this question in 4 parts on his AFR podcast: 1.

The Pearl 2:1 - The Faith: A Reflection of the Only-Begotten

The Pearl 2:1 - The Faith: A Reflection of the Only-BegottenHymn 2:1 of St. Ephrem's The PearlWhereunto art thou like? Let thy stillness speak to one that hears; With silent mouth speak with us: For whoso hears the stammerings of thy silence,      to him thy type utters its silent cry concerning our Redeemer.
Thy mother is a virgin of the sea, though he took her not: She fell into his bosom, though he knew her not; She conceived thee near him, though he did not know her. Do thou, that art a type, reproach the Jewish women That have thee hung upon them.
Thou art the only progeny of all forms. Which art like to the Word on High, Whom singly the Most High begot. The engraven forms seem to be the type of created things above. This visible offspring of the invisible womb Is a type of great things.
Thy goodly conception was without seed, And without wedlock was thy pure generation, And without brethren was thy single birth. Our Lord had brethren and yet not brethren, Since He was an Only-Begotten. O solita…

God Behaving Badly? (part 5)

In response to questions about violence in the OT, here is a continuing series of several thoughts I have compiled.  The title of the posts is taken from Evangelical Bible professor Dr. David Lamb's, God Behaving Badly.  Here is part 1part 2, part 3, and part 4
8.  Christ died for the Amorite.  Not long after Joshua’s covenant with the Gibeonites, five Canaanite kings conspired to join forces and fight against Gibeon, perhaps to dissuade other tribes from covenanting with Israel or to test Israel’s solidarity with their new found allies.  

Gibeon, under attack and facing certain destruction, calls out to Joshua for salvation.  Joshua rallies his men to defend the defenseless and uphold covenant he made Gibeon.  Like the battles before, Joshua engages the enemy, and the God of Israel works wonders to extend the battle, defeating the armies of the five kings.  In the midst of battle, the kings fled into a cave for safety till the battle was over.  The warriors of Israel discovered t…

The Forge 11.16.2011

Please keep praying for the Christians of Egypt.  The Arab spring has felt more like a nuclear winter to the Christians in the region.

Blogger and Author, Melinda Johnson, continues her Orthodox Artist series.  This link is just one in a number of great posts.  Read and Subscribe.

Another great article on Orthodoxy and Scripture.

Greeks claims to have the tomb of Alexander the Great and the Ark of the Ethiopian friends might take issue with the discovery.

God Behaving Badly? (part 4)

In response to questions about violence in the OT, here is a continuing series of several thoughts I have compiled.  The title of the posts is taken from Evangelical Bible professor Dr. David Lamb's, God Behaving Badly.  Here is part 1part 2, and part 3.
7.  A conflict between the God of Israel and the pagan gods.  
During ancient times, every god was a local one.  The superiority of your god above those of your neighbor was your god's ability to defend you and help you conquer territory.  A god who could not defend his people or conquer their enemies was no god worth worshipping. 
We see this when we read the book of Exodus in the plagues of Egypt.  The plagues are often seen as a judgment upon Pharaoh, and they were, but they were ultimately a demonstration of God’s superiority over the Egyptian deities.  Each plague struck at the various realms of the Egyptian pantheon: the Nile, the sky, the earth, the cattle, etc.  Even the final plague against the first-born struck at Eg…

The Pearl 1:4 - Prayer & Prying from One Mouth

Hymn 1:4 of St. Ephrem's The Pearl"Searching is mingled with thanksgiving,
And whether of the two will prevail?
From the tongue
The incense of praise riseth
Along with the fume of disputation
And unto which shall we hearken?
Prayer and prying from one mouth,
And which shall we listen to?

"For three days was Jonah a neighbour in the sea:
The living things that were in the sea were affrighted,
Saying, 'Who shall flee from God?
Jonah fled,
And ye are obstinate at your scrutiny of Him!'"

God Behaving Badly? (part 3)

In response to questions about violence in the OT, I have posted several thoughts I have compiled.  The title of the posts is taken from Evangelical Bible professor Dr. David Lamb's, God Behaving Badly.  Here is part 1 and part 2.
4.  Hyperbole:  I am sure you have used hyperbole in your speech this week.  Your football team killed their opponent this past weekend.  Maybe it rained cats and dogs at your house. Or perhaps you almost died laughing at the antics of your six year old, at least you weren’t hopping mad.  

Some Bible scholars believe that may be what is going on with some of the extreme sounding language present to us in these OT books.  The phrases “destroy all that breathed” and "they utterly destroyed" have counterparts in other Ancient Near Eastern languages of the same period.  It was common to use this as a figure of speech indicating total victory and conquest of another group. 
To defend this position, you only have to look at the results of the Israelite…

The Forge 11.9.2011

Persecution of Christians in Muslim countries remains high, but news like this is encouraging: Moslem Armenians convert back to Christianity

Over at Glory to God for All Things, Fr. Stephen has posted a refreshing post on Orthodoxy and the Bible

Here's a nice challenge to parents about instilling their kids with knowledge of Scripture.  We can't expect 36-52 hours/year at Sunday School to be enough.

And more shameless plugs for my book.  It is now available at Barnes and Noble in the Nook format.  What is really nice, is that you can download a sample to your nook or PC.

Fear Leading to Faith

At 40, he was chosen to be a spy.  His sole job was to scout the enemy, determine their strengths, calculate their weaknesses, and report back his decision whether to begin a military strike.  His band of brothers consisted of 11 other men who had lived in the same world as he, suffered the same humiliation in slavery, and experienced the same miraculous deliverance into freedom.   
Upon crossing into enemy territory, he and another spy, later to become his greatest ally, fellow leader, and lifelong friend, saw nothing but the bounty they had been promised.  The residents were healthy and strong, the land fertile and rich, the cattle well-fed, and the harvest was beyond anything they had seen before, seeming like something from a starving child's dreamworld.  
He could taste the victory, and feel himself building a home where he could settle with his family, and watch his children grow, bearing grandchildren who would play in the green grass and fertile fields.  Yet as soon as the w…

Faith: A Dangerous Prospect - The Pearl 1:3

Hymn 1, Section 2 of St. Ephrem's The Pearl It answered me and said,
"The daughter of the sea am I, the illimitable sea!
And from that sea whence I came up it is
That there is a mighty treasury of mysteries in my bosom!

Search thou out the sea, but search not out the Lord of the sea!
"I have seen the divers who came down after me, when astonished,
So that from the midst of the sea they returned to the dry ground;
For a few moments they sustained it not.
Who would linger and be searching on into the depths of the Godhead?
"The waves of the Son are full of blessing,
And with mischiefs too.
Have ye not seen, then, the waves of the sea,
Which if a ship should struggle with them would break her to pieces,
And if she yield herself to them, and rebel not against them,
Then she is preserved?
In the sea all the Egyptians were choked, though they scrutinised it not,
And, without prying, the Hebrews too were overcome upon the dry land,
And how shall ye be kept alive?
And the men of Sodom were l…

God Behaving Badly? (part 2)

This is part two of a previous post that seeks to understand the nature of the violence of the OT and how we as Christians should understand these often troubling stories.  Two points were covered and in this post point three regarding the charge of genocide is addressed.  

3.  Genocide:  
Genocide is the charge pinned upon God and Israel by skeptics.  Genocide is the total destruction of a people group solely based on race, and certainly it feels as if this may be happening in the book of Joshua.  But do we really see people groups completely destroyed in acts of total warfare?  No, we don’t.  As seen in the previous point, justice and mercy were given upon the foreigner again and again throughout the Old Testament.  We find evidence of this at the first battle in the Promised Land.  
The important city of Jericho is scouted by spies before a battle plan is drawn.  In order to hide from the authorities the Hebrew spies duck into the house of Rahab the prostitute.  While there, Rahab sav…

The Forge 11.2.2011

Here's the second installment of the Forge"

Evangelical author Don Miller is becoming a favorite author of mine, and his blog always has thought provoking essays.  His insistence on salvation as a mystery and relationship, rather than a business transaction or legal declaration, begins to come closer to Orthodox approach: Mysterious Relationship

A Russian bishop details an approach to evangelism that is Orthodox and one we should all be practicing daily (blogger included).  Here is the text of the speech:  Orthodox Evangelism.  Orthodoxy is thriving in the former Soviet Union, and it seems I am daily reading of mass baptisms and revival-like movements throughout the region, like the following: 
"In 1991, the Russian Orthodox Church had 12,000 parishes, 117 monasteries and convents, two theologian academies, seven theologian seminaries, 16 theologian colleges and four schools. In 2011, we have 30,675 parishes, 29,324 priests, 3,850 deacons and 805 monasteries and convents. T…

Top Posts for October 2011

Here are the top 6 posts for October 2011.  Thank you to all readers and commenters.  

1.  Track 4 - Unexpected Victory Jul 11, 2011