Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eve the Complement

From OneInJesus:
Obviously, God’s calling Eve ‘ezer does not mean that Eve is subordinate to Adam or that women are subordinate to men.
Perhaps our difficulty in interpreting ‘ezer can be better seen by noticing how we use “helper” in English. We speak of “mother’s little helper,” a “plumber’s helper,” being a “good helper.” In current English, “helper” carries the connotation of a subordinate — even a child.
Thus, if I were drowning, I’d call out, “Help!” But I wouldn’t refer to the person who rescued me as my “helper.” My rescuer truly helped me, but calling him “helper” would be too condescending — even belittling.

But these thoughts are utterly foreign to the Hebrew ‘ezer. There is no condescension in the Hebrew word at all, so that “helper” (or “help meet,” as in the King James Version) is truly a clumsy translation. In other verses, ‘ezer is used in the sense of “rescuer” or “liberator.” The word is also used in the sense of “one who fights alongside against a common foe.” “Comrade” or “ally” would come close to the sense in many contexts. Thus, the psalmist sings that God is Israel’s help, not a mere helper — but an ally so powerful that Israel must prevail.

When the United States’ armed forces came to the rescue of Kuwait, we were there to help, but we were not helpers — the U.S. military was an ally, a comrade, and an overwhelming superior to any military capability that Kuwait could have mustered. This is the sense ‘ezer used with respect to God and His relationship to His people.
“Complement” is therefore a proper if not excellent translation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Doing What Seems Right in Your Own Eyes

Many raised in the church have developed an automatic, Pavlovian response to variants of the phrase:
Every man did what seemed right in his own eyes.
Our automatic response is to associate this concept with evil. And this view is not necessarily inaccurate, but then again, it's not entirely accurate either.

The phrase, or something like it, is found in several places within the Bible, and it means different things in different contexts.

For example, in Deuteronomy 12:8 (HCSB), we read:
You are not to do as we are doing here today; everyone [is doing] whatever seems right in his own eyes.
The context here is that Moses is giving instructions to the Israelites as to how they are to worship YHWH. Currently, everyone is doing their own thing, but he makes it clear that as of that point in time, there are certain prescribed rituals and ways of doing things when Israel worships God.

Proverbs 12:15 (HCSB) says:
A fool's way is right in his own eyes,
but whoever listens to counsel is wise.
Here, the Pavlovian response is justified. The meaning is clear that it is foolish to trust one's own understandings and wants when making choices.

This same warning is echoed in Proverbs 16:2 (HCSB), which says:
All a man's ways seem right in his own eyes,
but YHWH weighs the motives.
Although the warning is echoed here, there's also another message you can see if you read between the lines: People act according to their inner beliefs. In other words, "I wouldn't act this way if I didn't believe it's right for me to do so". (Granted, people often act in opposition to what they believe to be right, but at their very core, they believe what they're doing is "right for them".)

Perhaps the most recognized variant of this phrase comes from Judges 17:6 (ESV):
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
But this is also the passage that is probably most taken out of context.

This passage is not saying that the people then were living wild and having orgies and stealing from their neighbors and killing strangers for fun, and should not be so applied.

Instead, this passage is giving us the ideal form of human government: control of one's self according to a Godly mindset.

Now, I don't know that the people were fulfilling this ideal; I suspect, humans being the selfish creatures we are, that those people were not living according to a completely-given-over-to-God mindset. But that's the ideal.

Notice that the contrast in this passage is not between ungodly and Godly living: it's between a monarchical governmental system vs an individual-oriented system.

Imagine that in a perfect world everyone was Godly, and lived by the Golden Rule of treating others as you would want to be treated. In such a world, there would be no need for a sheriff, or a Congress, or a standing army, or a President, or a King, or any other of the trappings of "government". The ultimate, and only real, purpose of government is to make sure one person does not mistreat others. From the establishment of property boundaries, to the control of traffic lights, to the oversight of the radio spectrum, the proper role of government is simply to make sure that I don't fudge land from you by moving property markers, to make sure that I don't kill your family by running a red light, to make sure that I don't broadcast my radio station and silence yours with a jamming signal.

This sort of self-rule is easier in a smaller population, but if everyone were to adopt a God-mindset, it would work in any size population.

This is the ideal Kingdom of God. When all the citizens of the Kingdom fully submit to God, then we'll have no more need of man-made governments: we will need no king in Israel, for we will all do what is right in our own God-focused eyes.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Gravity: It Ain't What It Used to Be

Isaac Newton's theory of gravity, believed for centuries to be unassailable, has already had to undergo a couple of major modifications. Now, due to observations in the past decade, it looks like there's a paradigm shift taking place among cosmologists concerning gravity.

As the article at Crev.Info puts it in a quote from the primary source:
“Maybe Newton was indeed wrong”, declares Professor Dr. Pavel Kroupa of Bonn University’s Argelander-Institut für Astronomie (AIfA). “Although his theory does, in fact, describe the everyday effects of gravity on Earth, things we can see and measure, it is conceivable that we have completely failed to comprehend the actual physics underlying the force of gravity”....
Or one must assume that some basic fundamental principles of physics have hitherto been incorrectly understood. “The only solution would be to reject Newton’s classical theory of gravitation”, says Pavel Kroupa.
This would wreak havoc on current cosmological models and concepts such as dark matter, dark energy, and the Big Bang theory.

What's amazing is that the High Priests of Science have been telling us for years that they have all the answers, and that some "facts of science" are beyond question. Kind of puts a big question mark on other "scientific claims", such as the claim that “evolution is a fact, like gravity,” doesn't it?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Inherited Sin

On the Church_Of_Christ Yahoo!Group, George K. Howsepian wrote:
George: Was Adam born totally corrupt? Was Jesus?
It might be pointed out that Adam was not born. Nor was he created with corruption within him. That corruption, as I understand things, came as a result of his disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit.

Concerning Jesus, it's well to remember that he only inherited the human cell and his mother's half of his genetic material; the father's half (presumably) came directly from God.

My own personal thoughts is that the term "sin" is used in two ways in the Bible (but only directly "defined" in one of those ways, as "lawlessness - 1 John 3:4):

1) Breaking the law: an action or inaction causing guilt. This is the definition we've all grown up with. It's a "missing of the mark" in that we haven't met the specified requirements.

2) A flaw: an imperfection. We typically do not consider this as "sin", yet, it too is a "missing of the mark", a sub-par manifestation of the designed Ideal. Paul uses the term this way in Romans 7, when he talks about sin dwelling in him, in the very members of his body.

The first type of sin is not inheritable. Each person shall bear his own guilt, and shall not inherit the guilt of his ancestors.

The second type of sin is inheritable, and we've all inherited this sin from Adam. Thus, even babies who are innocent of the first type of sin, sometimes die, because they are subject to the second type of sin.

Jesus, however, did not inherit whatever part of the cellular machinery the rest of us humans inherit from our human fathers. My guess is that this has significance in relation to the inheritance of the second type of sin. My guess is that Jesus did not inherit the second type of sin, and I know he did not commit the first type of sin. Jesus was sinless.

The rest of us humans, however, are not sinless. We are sinless in the first sense at birth, but not in the second sense.

Thus, to claim that we are "totally depraved" is to go beyond the evidence, I believe. We are not totally depraved; yet we are flawed, and that flaw eventually leads to depravity for those of us who reach the "age of accountability".

I would hesitate even to define this second sense of sin as "sin", except that it seems to me to best fit the context of Romans 7 and Romans 3:23.

Skins for Adam and Eve

On the Church_Of_Christ Yahoo! Group, billysh226 wrote:
In the first place Adam wasn't born,he was created.Adam became corrupt when he died spiritually by his disobedience. That's why God made the first blood sacrafice and clothed them with animal skins{Gen.3:21} [errors in original].
Whereas I certainly do not dispute this claim that God killed [an] animal[s] and clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins, for that seems to me to make the best sense of the passage, it's good to realize that's not what the text says.

The text does not mention the killing of animals at all. Nor does it say that the skins came from animals.

If I had to offer any other hypothesis than the one billysh226 makes above, and which most of us have believed all our lives, I would suggest that perhaps before the Fall, Adam and Eve were dressed in light, much like Jesus and Elijah and Moses were dressed in light on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Being so clothed, they were not ashamed.

However, when they sinned, their light went out, and they were ashamed of what they had become. In this hypothesis, they were not ashamed because they now associated nudity with sin; they were ashamed because they no longer fully bore the image of God, Who is Light.

It would be kind of like you as a teenager being told by Mom and Dad to not get a tattoo, and then getting drunk one night and coming home covered in tattoos. You could not hide the evidence that you had broken your parents' trust. (Not a great analogy, I know, but it's the first thought that comes to mind.)

Adam and Eve could not hide the evidence that they had broken God's one rule, and now things had changed drastically, just as He had warned them they would. If it was merely a matter of becoming aware of their nudity, they might have tried to bluff their way through by pretending all was the same as before, which would have been possible if their external appearance had not changed.

But they couldn't bluff their way if their external appearance had changed. But perhaps they could cover themselves with leaves and such, and hide the fact that underneath the leaves their lights had dimmed.

God then prepared human skin to wrap around our bodies, to fulfill the job that the light formerly did.

There are flaws with this hypothesis, and so I really don't fully subscribe to it. But I do find the idea interesting. Perhaps the glow of an expectant mother is a very dim remnant of that original light. Perhaps the encouragement to be light-bearers, etc, are based on cultural reminders of once being dressed in light. Perhaps the angels of light are more reminiscent of what we looked like originally, and what we'll be like in the resurrection. Perhaps Moses' face glowed after meeting with God as a result of his cellular matrix being slightly recharged with the natural state of our bodies.

But regardless of whether this idea has merit, or some other idea might have merit, the main point I started off with, and with which I want to finish, is that the actual text says nothing about the death of an animal, or of the skins provided to Adam and Eve being from animals. That's a meaning that we've inserted into the text rather than taking out of the text.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Crashing Into God

I saw the movie "Crash" tonight. I have to say, I was more impressed than I expected. As I watched the film, two thoughts came to the forefront of my consciousness:

1) Love your neighbor. The movie dealt with relationships (and yet, it wasn't really a chic-flick; imagine that!), and whether taking a gun in hand to avenge a wrong, or reacting in anger at a scared, hurting person who rages at you unjustly, or simply being in your own little shell oblivious of real people around you, the answer to the sickness of these types of relationships was the foundational proclamation by Yahshua, who said that the two most important life-rules for living are to love YHWH with all your being, and to love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. If we all made this second rule of loving others (i.e. "the Golden Rule" - "Do unto others as you would have them do to you") the starting base of our lives, and constantly strove to live our lives by this rule, our lives and our world would be healthier than they are.

2) Do the right thing. The movie also had some subplots in which certain right/wrong decisions had to be made: "Do I frame the innocent guy to 'pay' for the guilt of my family member, or do I do the right thing?" The answer should always be, "Do the right thing, even if it costs you dearly."

A third thought came to mind later: You may not be who you think you are. In the movie, one person who was the bad guy turned out to be the good guy, and one who was the good guy turned out to be the bad guy. (Actually, this happened with several characters.) And the solution to this problem is to refer to Thought #2 above - "Do the right thing, even if it costs you dearly."

A friend pointed out a fourth thought, which I deem important: Don't judge people without knowing them. You've heard it since Grade School in the phrase, "Don't judge a book by its cover".

The evening was capped by a message from God as I did my nightly Bible reading. In Luke 12, Yahshua condemned hypocrisy. In the same breath he pointed out that, "[t]here is nothing covered that won't be uncovered, nothing hidden that won't be made known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in an ear in private rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops' (Luke 12:2-3). In other words, if you're sneaking around with your best friend's husband, or you're hiding your stash of porn mags, or you're secretly drinking or doing drugs, or you're slyly stealing from the cash register, you may think you're doing these things in the dark, but you're not. One day, in a grand courtroom, the bailiff will stand before all your friends and family and spouse and kids and enemies and announce to the world that you did X, Y, and Z in private. You may think you're hiding it, but you're not. I think it would be best if we learned to live our lives in such a way that we won't be ashamed of our private lives when we're in the Defendant's Seat. Don't be a hypocrite: be in private the person you pretend to be in public.

Luke 12 also has some other good nuggets:

* God knows every detail about you, even the number of hairs on your head. You may think He's not paying attention, that He's ignoring you (after all, He hasn't answered your prayer, has He?), but He's not. He knows everything about you (including those things you do in private, which are being recorded for announcing to the public later) (Luke 12:7).

* Store up treasure for God, not for yourself. Don't spend your resources on yourself. (Luke 12:16-21)

* Don't focus on supporting your lifestyle: instead, "Seek His Kingdom .... Sell your possessions and give to the poor" (Luke 12:31,33).

* The sinner who knows better will be punished more severely than the sinner who is merely ignorant (Luke 12:47-48).

This evening has been educational, and encourages me to take these lessons to heart.