Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ancient Jews and dancing bears

There is an old saying that the remarkable thing about a dancing bear is not how well it dances, but that it dances at all.

So why, exactly, would the ancient Hebrews be the sole people of their day who understood things that scientists have only recently confirmed? The remarkable thing is not that they got so much right, but that they got anything right at all, because no one else of their day did.

Click here.

This, too.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Famous Methodist Terrorists

Saw this on FB and decided to confirm it on my own. Yep!

But this is not news, eh?

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mission focus

Here is the focus of the Conference for the coming year. Good areas, and I especially appreciate that it all fist on a single sheet of paper.

Deliberate witnessing planning

Below is a scanned PDF of the handout used at the evangelism training at Brentwood UMC on Jan. 18, 2014, sponsored by Bishop Bill McAllily. The presenter, as indicated, was Dr. Derrick Lewis-Noble. 
When I receive the Word format document of this handout, I will post it, too, or post a link to download it. You should be able to save the PDF below by using the "download" link in the bottom bar or by following the link below to the Scribd page. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Women speaking in church and Holy Communion

I have had occasion recently to engage in theological reflection on three questions:

On what basis do we Methodists ordain women or even allow women to read Scripture or lead prayers in worship?

Is Holy Communion required to be offered weekly?

Is unleavened bread required for Communion?
1. Women speaking in church.
Paul's wrote in 1 Timothy 2:11, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man... ."  
The key to understanding the passage is the word "to have authority over" (in Greek, authentein). 
This is the only verse in the whole New Testament where authentein is used. The word appears nowhere else in the whole Bible. Everywhere else in the New Testament refers to the authority of church leaders, a different word is used, exousia, which means "authority" in our usual sense of the word. See here.
So why did Paul use authentein in 1 Timothy when everywhere else he uses exousia? Since Paul was extremely well educated, we must conclude that he used this different word on purpose, knowing full well the difference of meaning and intending to communicate that different meaning.
And the meaning of authentein is, bluntly, sex. In the use of the day, authentein was a distinctive word used to describe the activities of temple prostitutes. 
In Corinth, on the hill of Acropolis, the Greeks had erected the great Temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.  There were, at any one time, up to one thousand prostitutes serving the temple.  Among the Greeks, it was considered a supreme act of worship to the goddess Aphrodite for a man to engage in sexual relations with these priestess-prostitutes. Evidently such practices were finding their way into the early church.  Clement of Alexandria even complained about certain groups among them who had turned the agape feast into a drunken sex orgy.  Interestingly enough, he refers to those engaging in those activities as authentai.
This should provide considerable illumination to the passage.  Rather than advocating a position of subservient inferiority for women in the church, the passage would more accurately be related, "I do not allow a woman to evangelize through prostitution and sexual seduction, as the pagans do; these women must be silent."
Much more detail here, although it is not a casual read:

This is a key excerpt, pointing out that if Paul was so resistant to women's active role in the church, then it is an odd position for him to take since elsewhere in his ministry, he,
... brought Priscilla as well as her husband Aquila to Ephesus to serve in a teaching capacity (Acts 18) and made significant use of women in his ministry.  He hails several [women] as fellow-laborers in the gospel (Rom. 16:1-15; Phil. 4:2f.) and asks the church to give submission to such as these (I Cor. 16:16).  He stated furthermore that in Christ there is neither male nor female and that before the Lord there is neither man without the woman nor woman without the man (Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 11:11f.).  How can this attitude be reconciled with the text in I Timothy? 
It is reconciled by understanding that Paul was forbidding recently-converted, pagan women from bringing pagan, sexual worship into the Church, but not from reading the Scriptures aloud as part of Christian worship. 
2. The Lord’s Supper - is weekly required?
The obvious question is, "Required by whom?" It can only be required by either the Lord or mortals. If required by the Lord, then yes, it is required. But is required simply by other church people, then it is not required except by tradition; certainly there is no divine commandment in that case. 
There is no command by Christ to take Communion every week. Jesus said, “Do this, as often as you drink it [the Communion cup], in remembrance of me,” but did not specify how often that had to be. It is reasonable to conclude that he left the frequency up to his followers. Nor is there anywhere in the rest of the New Testament where the apostles mandated a particular frequency for taking Communion. 
Of course, there is no biblical argument to be made against weekly Communion. Yet neither is there sound biblical certification mandating weekly Communion. Some advocates point to Acts 20:7-12 as proof that the early church took communion weekly, but the passage does not say that; it is an eisegetical reading (deciding what you want the passage to say before you read it). That the early church took the Lord’s Supper every Sunday is a reasonable but by no means certain reading of the text. 
In short, Jesus himself seems to have left the frequency of Communion up to his followers, and that should be good enough for us.
(Some Methodists do argue in favor of weekly Communion, though not on the basis of divine mandate. See here: http://um-insight.net/blogs/teddy-ray/why-weekly-eucharist%3F/)
3. Use of unleavened bread in Communion
In New Testament Greek there was a specific word for unleavened bread, azumos. But Matthew 26.26 states that, “As they were eating, Jesus took artos,” which is the word used for common household leavened bread. 
Jesus did not use unleavened bread at the Lord’s Supper. We know this for two reasons:
  1. The Bible says he did not, which I just explained, 
  2. The Lord’s Supper is not an imitation of Passover, in which the Jews eat unleavened bread. The Lord’s Supper is not the same as a seder, or Passover ritual meal. Even though Jesus and the disciples had celebrated the seder that night, it is clear from the narrative that Jesus, in the Last Supper, was not part of the seder meal nor intended to be. Jesus moved beyond the Covenant of Sinai, commemorated by the seder, in inaugurating the New Covenant foretold by Jeremiah; in fact, Jesus specifically said so in explaining the wine, the “cup of the New Covenant.”
The Baptist Bulletin addressed the question this way:
The Last Supper took place during the Jewish Feast of Unleavened Bread, so Jesus and the disciples may have eaten that easily accessible, plentiful unleavened bread that night. But whether or not this use would indicate a requirement for Communion in our day is in question. Nowhere in the New Testament are we specifically commanded to use unleavened bread. Also, the Feast of Unleavened Bread was a Jewish observance. Should we be bound to something in the Dispensation of the Church that might compare with other Jewish ceremonial customs and laws we do not observe? There seems to be no account of the early New Testament church where unleavened bread mattered.
Using unleavened bread for Communion is neither required nor forbidden. See also:

Oh, we Methodists do use real wine in Communion. Welch’s grape juice is, in fact, non-alcoholic wine.

Friday, January 10, 2014

I don't believe in a State Patrol like that!

A parable:

The highway patrol I believe in would never do anything like this!
I wish there were no speed limits on the interstate highways. The highest speed limit there is in Tennessee in 70 mph. Someone once told me that if the limit was raised to 80, people would drive 90.

"That's okay," I replied, "as long as they move over when I want to pass." I lived and drove for three years in Germany, where there are no speed limits on almost all the autobahn. I am quite comfortable driving 130 mph or more and am undisturbed at the idea of other drivers doing so, too. It's not a race, it's just transportation.

However, I have not been driving in excess of the speed limit because I know that the Tennessee Highway Patrol is lurking out there. I have been quite sure that eventually I would get radar tagged and arrested, maybe even as unpleasantly as the young man in the photo above. So I have been as law-abiding a driver as you can find.

But recently it has come to me that I have been a sap. I think now that I can drive as fast as I want on the interstate. Because, after all, I am a good driver. I am not hurting anyone. I am not making anyone else drive fast. So now if I want to drive 130, I will.

Wait, you protest. The THP is still out there and they are still going to slap cuff on you when they catch you!

I am unworried about that because, you see, I have decided that I just do not believe in a highway patrol like that. The highway patrol I believe in is kind, loving, merciful, gracious and just wants me to be happy. And if it makes me happy to drive 130, then the THP is quite okay with that and will bless it. The THP likes me the way I am. And if the way I am is at 130 mph, the THP, being compassionate and caring, likes me still.

I think we need to move beyond all that talk about the law and punishment. We need to focus on how we can find self fulfillment in doing what comes naturally to us. I feel that is best. And I know the THP does not object because (as I said) I am a good driver and I feel that is right.

Don't you think so, too?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

"The saddest sign there is"

From American Digest, the American Sign Language sign for "abortion." No further commentary needed.

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Be more antagonistic this year

Meaning in 3-D - The American Interest:
That little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying so cutely in the manger is the biggest trouble maker in world history, and the shocking claims that Christianity makes about who he is and what he means irritate and antagonize people all over the world.
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Jesus is served

John 6.5-14 When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people t...