- Created on Tuesday, 17 November 2009 11:53
There are two approaches to reading the Bible. The more familiar way is to emphasize the "High Road" - that is to point to the more encouraging stories. For example, the story of how God helped Abraham's servant to find a wife for Isaac, or the incredible story of the "stairway to heaven" that Jacob saw, or the faith of Joseph while in Egypt are all examples of this approach. We should emphasize these "High Road" stories but yet, we often gloss over the difficult and troubling passages which Dr. Alden Thompson calls the "Low Road" approach.
I think that there is great value in walking down the low road, although it is a bit like watching a violent movie in which we may be tempted to walk out in frustration after a certain point. The low road approach forces us to confront polygamy, the deceptive actions of Jacob, the rape of Dinah and the fact that Simeon and Levi slaughtered an entire village to get even. The low road approach confronts us with Reuben who had sexual relations with his father's concubine and then Judah who solicited a woman he thought was a prostitute, but then later discovered was his daughter-in-law, Tamar.
What possible value is there in the "Low Road"? Much in every way!
- Created on Monday, 09 November 2009 11:53
It is perhaps the most terrifying story in the Bible. God is described as raining fire and sulfur onto a city and then turning a woman into a pillar of salt. A certain understanding of this story leads to this interpretation of our world:
"Where was God? He was in the winds of Katrina. Just as He came against Sodom and Gomorrah, it was God who came against this American Sodom and Gomorrah, New Orleans." - evangelist
In this Bible study we explored several possible ways of understanding this story. It would seem important that we struggle with the meaning. Jesus told us to "remember Lot's wife." Peter said that "He made those cities an example to ungodly people of what is going to happen to them." (2 Peter 2:6). Is the cosmic conflict going to end in the same way that Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed? In the book of Jude, Sodom is described "as a warning of the eternal fire of God's judgment." (Jude 1:7,8) What does this mean?
What are we to learn from this terrible story?
- Created on Friday, 06 November 2009 11:53
The stories surrounding Abraham in these chapters are difficult - perhaps impossible - to understand unless we are able to identify with the culture of this time. In this Bible study we focused on 2 main stories. First, why did God ask Abraham to cut animals in half when they entered into a covenant? We easily pass over stories like this when in fact if we are able to understand what this meant to Abraham the meaning is quite spectacular!
Most of the Bible study focused on the story of God's command to sacrifice Isaac. Typically we make direct applications to the Cross in this story, but what did this mean to Abraham and the people of his time?
Appeasement is the mark of paganism all through the Bible. The "gods" are always angry and demand much flowing blood. Child sacrifice was the ultimate act of devotion to these "gods". Sadly, the concept of appeasement persists today, even in Christianity. For example, about the atonement, John Piper would say, God appeased his holy wrath against us. Was the Father appeased by the death of His Son? Does this belief not reflect remnants of pagan beliefs about the gods?
If we understand the context, the story of Abraham and Isaac should help to shatter this believe, rather than to reinforce it.
- Created on Wednesday, 28 October 2009 11:53
In preparation for the bible studies this year, Dorothee and I are reading the NET translation of the bible which has an interesting translation (and footnotes)for Genesis 6:3. This seems to open a very reasonable explanation for taking the position that God did not send the flood, but that rather the flood was the result of the ensuing chaos that occurs when God's spirit is withdrawn from the earth - once again leading to a toho wabohu ("formless and void") planet earth.
It's interesting to consider that Methuselah died the year of the flood (the name Methuselah means, "when he dies, it shall come") and that Lamech died 5 years before the flood. According the biblical account, God was literally down to the last person that had a trusting relationship with Him. The fact that no one got on the boat except for Noah's family would also support this position.
Is there a destructive natural consequence as God's Spirit - the sustaining Spirit of love and goodness (Hebrews 1:3) - is shut out from the earth? Does the planet function without the presence of its Maker? See what you think!
- Created on Tuesday, 20 October 2009 11:53
After Adam and Eve rebelled against God, He told them that he would create enmity (or hatred) between Satan's "descendents" and humanity. Does this merely reflect the ongoing animosity that we see between good and evil?
Perhaps this enmity refers to something much more significant - a divine intervention that was to protect the human race and to give them an opportunity to reject Satan and his kingdom.
- Created on Monday, 19 October 2009 11:53
The conversation between Eve and Satan at the tree is the best place in the Bible to answer the question, "What is sin?" This story describes how "sin" first infected our planet.
How we understand sin has important implications and is foundational for how we read the rest of the bible. Is sin a quantity that we could hold in our hands? Is sin something that can be transferred from one person to another? Does sin do its own punishing or does God need to impose a painful penalty for sin? Ultimately we would like to understand how the death of Jesus is involved in solving the sin problem.
- Created on Friday, 16 October 2009 11:53
The book of Genesis opens with a number of allusions to a cosmic conflict that was already in full force when Eden was created. The earth was "formless and void" ("tohu wabohu") which can be interpreted this way:
"The forces that oppose Yahweh and his acts of creation - the forces of disorder, injustice, affliction, and chaos, which are, in the Israelite worldview, one." - Levenson, Persistence of Evil
"Darkness was over the surface of the deep" and darkness would imply more than a mere physical darkness:
"The Hebrew word simply means 'darkness' but in the Bible it has come to symbolize what opposes God, such as judgment (Exodus 10:21), death (Psalm 88:13), oppression (Isaiah 9:1), the wicked (1 Samuel 2:9) and in general, sin" NET Bible footnotes
Adam was then commanded "subdue the earth" or to "bring it under your control" (Genesis 1:28) which literally means to enslave or conquer. Then God told him to "guard" the garden. Guard from what? Weeds?
Critical to our understanding of the world is to incorporate a cosmic conflict, a "war in heaven" (Revelation 12:7) and with a powerful enemy who shows up as a slippery serpent in the garden of Eden.
- Created on Thursday, 08 May 2008 11:53
How should we approach the evolution vs. creation debate? Did God create in 6 literal days or did God use the process of evolution? Why did God put a tree in the garden for Adam and Eve to avoid? But the ultimate question asked of this Bible study was this: what is the essence of sin? What did Eve do that was so bad? How do we associated the problem (which began with eating forbidden fruit) with the solution - the death of Jesus Christ?