Friday, November 30, 2007

Rehash of the Previous Entry

As I was thinking of how it might be explained to someone ...

Typically we've thought of conception as the UPS truck driving up to Mrs. Egg's house, and the driver ringing the doorbell and delivering the package of DNA, and then from that point on the truck and driver are jettisoned from our thoughts.

Now it appears that might not quite be the case; it seems as if the driver himself may enter into the house for a little hanky-panky with Mrs. Egg, leaving behind a bit more than the package he was tasked to deliver.

(Now, my friends, explain to me why we guys always have to turn discussions of sex into sex-related discussions. Disgusting, we are. Or maybe it's just me ....)

Women's Eggs are Immortal?

In researching the meaning of the name "Sisera", I came across this unrelated little gem:
Geneticists have found that the reproductive cells carried by women are actually immortal until they are "poisoned" by fertilization, possibly due to a mutation acquired from the forbidden fruit itself which affects both genders but is carried only by the male. Only by being the seed of woman apart from a man (virgin birth) could the Messiah be truly the Second Adam, bearing the complete image of God and thus able to become fully righteous after passing the same tests Adam failed.
In following the link, I found this:
It is now believed that within the cytoplasm [of the spermatozoan - Kent] and among the minute particles which are suspended in it [as opposed to the DNA-package it delivers which we've always considered the only thing passed during sex - Kent], there are certain carriers of hereditary material which have been termed plasmagenes. These cytoplasmic "genes" are distinct from the nuclear genes which hitherto have been assumed the sole carriers of heredity, and they appear to be (unlike the nuclear genes) susceptible to influences outside the cell.
. . .
Thus although the woman may have been the first to introduce the fatal poison into her body cells, she did not by that act poison her own seed, but the poison of death does enter through the male seed into the seed of the woman by the fusion of the two. By such a mechanism the poison in Adam's body may have reached his seed, and via the cytoplasm of the seed the poison is by fusion with the female seed passed on to the embryo.
. . .
The key doctrine here was that acquired characters were inherited.
. . .
Mortality was acquired by man, yet it was inherited. To quote Romans 5:12 again, "Death entered . . . and passed upon all men."
. . .
By the prodigious labours and elegant methods of research of a number of geneticists and microbiologists, the mechanism is now becoming clear. This research begins to show that there are certain conditions under which an acquired character can, after all, be inherited not via the nuclear genes but by something analogous to them in the surrounding cytoplasm termed plasmagenes.

I don't automatically buy into this guy's explanation, but to me, it has the "ring of Truth", not to mention that I had already fairly well adopted the idea that some thing (call it "sin" if you like) was passed from generation to generation via the male seed, which Jesus didn't get. I was speculating that it had something to do with the Y chromosome, but this idea makes a bit more sense to me.

I was just talking with a friend the other day about how some knowledge is passed on to the offspring of certain animals (such as the location of salmon spawning grounds or a new route south for birds, etc) and my suspicion that humans sometimes have a little bit of this going on which might explain some cases of deja vu or memories of so-called "previous lives".

I'd suggest not adopting these thoughts as "fact", but they're interesting enough I thought I'd pass them on.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Come As You Are; Leave Different

Just as Scripture assumes you come as you are, it also assumes you will not stay that way.
The author goes on:
If we are not changed from what we were as recently as yesterday, woe be unto us. The task of spiritual growth is never complete this side of Eternity, so we dare not stop growing. Argue if you wish whether Paul meant "study" or "be diligent" in 2 Timothy 2:15, but to accurately handle the Word of Truth surely requires spending time understanding the Scripture in its own context. That context was a Semitic people in a Middle Eastern country.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What Are You Doing?

A friend hooked me up with some audio Bible-related lessons from a Jewish standpoint. I'm continually finding new nuggets from the lessons.

Tonight I found it profound that the speaker said (paraphrased) ...
"Who am I?" is the wrong question.
The correct question is, "What am I doing?"
That struck me as amazingly true. I got to thinking about all the people seeking psychotherapy, etc, and trying to find out who they are. That doesn't matter. What matters is what they're doing.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Come As You Are

I should be at church this morning instead of at home, blogging, but I've been sick the past two days, and whereas I feel good enough to get out, I'm still sniffly and coughing and head-achy and easy-to-tire, and just don't feel like getting around to make myself presentable. If my brethren at church didn't mind me showing up unwashed and in sweat pants, I'd be there.

Reminds me of a slogan I saw on the side of some sort of church-group bus the other evening: "Come as you are; Leave different". That strikes me as a much more accepting place than the typical church of Christ that expects you to wear shoes and generally "fit in". I know the arguments put forth for "presenting your best", but I'm not sure I buy into those arguments (especially since "presenting your best" never seems to mean "wearing a tux"). I tend to believe the "Cowboy Church" and "Bum Street Meeting" ideas have merit -- Come as you are; Leave different.

Elders in the Church - One, or More?

In the church tradition in which I grew up, it was firm doctrine that each church is to have a multiplicity of elders, as explained in this typical comment from an un-cited source on Titus chapter 1: seems [Titus'] initial duty....was to appoint elders in every town. The word elders here is plural meaning each group of believers had a plurality of elders. To 'appoint' is to 'ordain.' The verb means, to 'set down' or to 'put in charge.' But next is the most important words. "As I directed you." The preacher is commanded directly from the apostle Paul to "appoint elders." So, there we have it.
Here are some of my thoughts concerning this doctrine.


Using this example more exactly, it seems that one preacher, who himself has been appointed by a "higher level of authority", is to appoint the elders in every town within a certain jurisdiction. That's an uncomfortable thought ....


"appoint elders in every town" could be likened to the phrase, "appoint cooks in every family". Would each family therefore need a plurality of cooks?

Granted, in English at least, if a single elder were intended, the phrase would be better uttered as "appoint an elder in every town".

But what if Paul's intended meaning was that each town have at least one elder? The rendering "appoint at least one elder in every town" is somewhat clunky; I suspect most speakers would short-hand this to "appoint elders in every town", which is the form we have in our text.

Note that I'm not saying Paul intends "at least one elder"; I'm merely saying that the text, in English at least, is not clear that he intended a multiplicity of elders, either in each town, or over each group within a town.

In other words, using this text alone, I'm not sure you can support the point that "each group of believers had a plurality of elders".


Does the New Testament actually teach that each group of believers have a plurality of elders? I'm not entirely confident that it does.

Sometimes when Paul writes to a church in a certain city, he implies that there are several churches within the city, such as when he says, "Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. ... Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord." (For an interesting (and perhaps enlightening) exercise, go to and search for "household" in the New Testament, and quickly read how the term "household" is used. It often "feels" like code-speak for "house-church", although I would not press that definition too greatly, especially without having done further research on it.)

If it's true that the early church tended to meet in houses, chances are fairly good that these house-churches would be fairly small, say 12-30 people. With such small churches, I'm not sure a plurality of elders would have been practical.

In a situation in which one city might have four or a dozen house-churches, each with one elder, it still makes perfect sense for Paul to call for the elders in the city of Ephesus to come meet him. Therefore Acts 20:17 also fails to be an iron-clad proof-text for a multiplicity of elders over each group of believers.

It also makes sense that Titus could appoint multiple elders within a city while each house-church within that city may only have one elder. Or perhaps the elders of a town pastored over the churches as a whole, with some house-churches not even having an attending elder (although this seems unlikely to me; it seems more likely that each house-church would have some sort of ruler).

Also, apparently the early church simply converted their synagogue meetings to church meetings. For example:
* Jesus implies that his followers would be worshiping in the synagogues until they were kicked out - John 16:2
* the new Gentile Christians in Antioch are given instructions to allow them to coexist with the practice of reading Moses on the Sabbath in synagogues - Acts 15:20-22
* the Jews who were angry at Christians beat Sosthenes the synagogue ruler, implying that this synagogue ruler was a Christian - Acts 18:16-17
* Saul went to the synagogues to find Christians he could arrest - Acts 22:19, Acts 26:11
* James speaks of both rich and poor people coming into the Christian synagogue assemblies (James 2:2, Young's Literal Translation, or the Greek text)

As I understand it, the synagogue had a single leader, such as Sosthenes above, or such as described in Luke 8:41, Luke 13:14, and Acts 18:8. So without clear instruction otherwise (which apparently was not recorded in the New Testament), former synagogue-attending Jews who had converted to Christianity would continue assembling as they had all their lives, in the synagogue, with a synagogue leader over them.

Again, please do not mis-hear me. I'm not arguing that the New Testament teaches there should be one elder over each church. I am saying that the evidence is less clear for a plurality of elders over each church than is often claimed. Extra-biblical sources, or further comparison with the Jewish concept of elders and/or synagogue/assembly leaders, might enlighten us on the matter, but it seems to me that any conclusion in favor of a plurality of elders over each group of believers, when made strictly using the New Testament as source material, can only be made by reading a meaning into the text rather than reading a meaning out of the text. Perhaps I'm wrong, and there is some clear-cut evidence that I've forgotten or missed. But I'm tending to think not.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Common Misperception

When people face a crisis or devastation of one sort or another, they're often reminded that Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him...".

The problem is they never finish that verse, which ends with, "who have been called according to his purpose."

I don't mean to deny that all things do work together for good to those who love God, but I do want to make it clear that this passage has traditionally been misquoted.

And as long as we're on the topic of misquoting, the passage does not say that "money is the root of all evil"; is says that "the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil" (1 Timothy 6:10, NASB).

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Found an Interesting Blogger

I've recently discovered blogger Ed Hurst, and so far have been fascinated by what he has to say. Here's an example:
Judas had a nickname -- Iscariot -- which has debatable connections, possibly implying he was a member of a political resistance group. It is hardly in dispute this man was all about politics. We would call him today, at a minimum, an activist. While much the same could be said of Simon the Zealot early on, he seems to have finally gotten the message of Jesus: "My Kingdom is not of this world." Judas never got it. To some degree, all twelve of His Disciples kept expecting Jesus to announce His candidacy. Judas alone was willing to force the issue, and Jesus' response was to go willingly to the Cross. He had rejected politics since at least the Temptation in the Wilderness.

Anyone in the church today attempting to use the methods of secular politics joins Judas in his error. The very idea of seeking to govern human events by the methods of fallen man is a rejection of God's ways. The weapons of our warfare are spiritual, for our battle is against spiritual forces (Ephesians 6). After piling on that allegorical spiritual armor, Paul's next act is to call for prayer. That's the battlefield. Sure, most of us would agree, for example, abortion is tantamount to murder. However, if you have to legislate such a thing in the face of massive social resistance, you have already lost. Pray, and teach the Word lovingly. If the Lord does not turn the hearts of the nation, your fund raising to pay some smart marketing firm to press that message is an insult to your Sovereign Lord.
You can read the rest of this article at the link provided above.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Qualifications of Elders

Below, I highlight an issue with the Biblical qualifications of elders, which never really resonated with me until I saw the lists from 1 Timothy and Titus side-by-side.

2. The Qualifications of Elders (as given in the KJV)

Immediately you see that the two lists are not identical. A case could be made that some of the last few that don't match up are just differences in wording, but not all of them. For example, Titus has no indication that the work must be desired by a prospective elder, and 1 Timothy does not indicate a need to be holy.

So, how do we explain these differences?

I see the following possibilities.

1. The two lists were, at the time they were given, identical, and have since become corrupted.

2. The two lists are identical even now, but we just don't see the match-ups, for whatever reason.

3. Each recipient of the list already had differing partial lists of requirements, and Paul wrote to each to fill in what each was missing.

4. The requirements were intended to be slightly different in different situations/locales.

5. God intended for each recipient to only get a partial list, to be finished out later by special revelation to each recipient.

6. God did not intend the early church to have a complete list of requirements, waiting instead for the later church to compile the complete list once the New Testament was completed and available in whole.

7. The lists were never intended to be a check-list, but rather as guidelines.

None of these solutions appear totally satisfactory to me, but I tend to find #7 the most intellectually satisfying of the bunch. Of course, that opens up a whole new can of worms.

Why does this matter? Because in my experience, we've treated these lists as check-lists, which has led to great debates and division over the meaning of various items, such as elders who become widowed, or how many children, etc. If the lists were never meant as check-lists, then our human insistence on making them checklists is responsible for a great deal of fighting and division.

Am I missing something?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Levitical Sex

In Leviticus 18 are a host of prohibitions against certain types of sex. The "feel" I get from these prohibitions is not the normal Christian ideal concept of sex with your spouse only; instead, it "feels" like men are expected to sleep with multiple partners, and that only this subset of specific partners are to be avoided.

For example, there's the injunction to not sleep with your daughter-in-law. Since you can't have a daughter-in-law without having a son, the implication is that you've already had sex with your son's mother. (Granted, you could be a widower, but that's not the "feel" I get from this passage.)

Another example is the prohibition against sleeping with a woman and her daughter. What? At the same time, as in a threesome? Or perhaps alternating date nights? Or first one, then the other after the first dies?

A quite clear example is the prohibition against sleeping with two women who are sisters (while they both live).

This passage disturbs somewhat my conception of being a "good Christian boy". But Jesus brings us back to the Creation in places such as Matthew 19:

He who created them in the beginning made them male and female....

When asked why Moses was more lenient, his response was harsh against manly desires:

Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of the hardness of your hearts. But it was not like that from the beginning. And I tell you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

When his disciples then challenged him, accusing him of being unrealistic, Jesus essentially replied, "Tough. Suck it up. Either live as an eunuch, or be faithful to your wife."

His disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of a man with his wife is like this, it's better not to marry!"

But He told them, "Not everyone can accept this saying, but only those it has been given to. For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs who were made by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way because of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.

And Paul adds his two cents' worth in 1 Corinthians 6:16:
Do you not know that anyone joined to a prostitute is one body with her? For it says, The two will become one flesh.
So whereas Moses may have expected the men in his culture to sleep around, Jesus expects better of us.

With my "spirit eyes" I can see that Jesus' way is the better way. But my "carnal eyes" are attracted to Moses' apparent viewpoint.

Stupid carnal nature.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Murder of an Animal?

From Leviticus 17:3ff:
Anyone from the house of Israel who slaughters an ox, sheep, or goat in the camp, or slaughters [it] outside the camp, instead of bringing it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to present [it] as an offering to YHWH LORD before His tabernacle—that person will be charged with murder. He has shed blood and must be cut off from his people.
I've never thought of killing an animal as "murder". But there it is.

Don't worry you hunters and slaughter-house workers. The context indicates that this slaughtering is not just any slaughtering, but that of animals intended for sacrificial worship, as indicated by the next verse, and especially verses 8-9, as here:
Say to them: Anyone from the house of Israel or from the foreigners who live among them who offers a burnt offering or a sacrifice but does not bring it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to sacrifice it to the YHWH, that person must be cut off from his people.
Still, "murder". Interesting.