Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts on The Parable of the Prodigal Son

  • First, why do we call it the Parable of the Prodigal Son? The word "prodigal" is not found in the text itself (at least, not in the KJV, which is the version that would have set the usage in our culture). No one nowadays even knows what the word means ("wastefully extravagant"). If the average Joe knew what the word means, okay. But no one does. Maybe we should call it the Parable of the Wastefully Extravagant Son, or the Parable of the Squanderer.
  • The church song, "God is Calling the Prodigal", implies that the word "prodigal" means something other than "wastefully extravagant"; it implies a meaning closer to "lost hungry runaway". In doing so, the song contributes to misunderstanding.
  • Not only did the son waste the father's assets; he wasted the assets on prostitutes (Luke 15:30). I think this is indicative of both the disdain oriented toward prostitutes and their customers, and the acceptance of men visiting prostitutes if they have the money for it. I'm reminded of Judah in Genesis 38, who had no great problem with visiting a prostitute, although he wanted to keep it quiet, and then his judgmentalism (at first, until his own hypocrisy was pointed out to him) toward his daughter-in-law when he found out she had prostituted herself. I'm not entirely sure what my point is here, but I think it has something to do with humans being ... human.
  • The party included music and dancing. I was raised in a church culture that said "dancing is sin". I'm pretty sure that attitude had its origins in protecting young hormone-adled teens from too much body-to-body stimulation, which is good, but it turned into a "No, you can't participate in the square-dance exercise in your elementary school music class" ruling. I think Jesus, in relating this part of the story with apparent approval, indicates that there's a middle ground on the issue of "dancing". I think he presents that view a lot in his teaching, counteracting our tendency to make hard-and-fast, black-and-white rules which often go to one extreme or the other.
  • I've never quite understood the father's response to the older son. The younger son had indeed squandered the father's wealth, and yet, the father throws a party for him upon his return, and acts like he doesn't think a party needs to be thrown for the older son who has faithfully been a good son. But this time as I read it, something clicked a little for me. Pop is not saying that the younger son gets a start-over with a redistribution again of the wealth still left over; he's just saying, we're celebrating the younger son's renewal to life; the older son still has all the assets ("everything I have is yours"). The older son hasn't lost anything; he's not going to have to give up another half to the the younger son who has squandered all his wealth; it's just a celebration that the younger son is longer estranged from the family. In that light, the father's response makes more sense to me. The younger son still has to pay the price of losing his wealth, but he does now have a comfortable home, and is on good terms again with his dad (not because of what the younger son did - indeed, despite that - but because of the love the dad has for him).
  • The faithful child is jealous that the unfaithful child got to do what he wanted and is yet still accepted. I can't help but think of Paul's discussion in Romans 10:19 and c. Romans 11:11, wherein he talks about Israel, the "son who stayed home", being made jealous that the non-Israelites get to be saved too.
  • The younger son, after squandering his money, had to associate with pigs. For a Jew, that was a big no-no. This son was in the bottom rung of society at this point.
  • This story reminds me of the Benny Hester song,When God Ran.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Will Jesus Ever Set Foot on this Earth Again?

Will Jesus Ever Set Foot on this Earth Again?

As near as I can tell from the Scriptures, we're not told that he won't, and we're not told that he will.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 gives us some hints:
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.
We know from this that he comes into the atmospheric region of the Earth, but we're not told that he will actually step on the surface again. We know we'll join with him in the air, and so be with him forever, but does that mean we'll be with him forever in the earth's atmosphere (unlikely, since the atmosphere is destined for fire), or does it simply mean we'll be with him forever, wherever he goes?

I have no problem saying we have no solid evidence that he will step onto the earth's surface again; I do have a problem saying that we know he won't.

As I understand it, the cosmos, along with Adam and Eve, were designed to be eternal. God walked on the Earth at that time (Gen 3:8). Then Adam sinned, and both he and the creation itself were subjected to corruption. Now, the creation itself is eagerly waiting to be set free from that corruption, just as we await the same redemption of our physical bodies. Here's the relevant text for this, from Romans 8:
19 For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope 21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. 23 And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
Adam had an eternal physical body, but it was not subject to corruption.

Jesus' physical body was raised, and is now not subject to corruption (Acts 13:34), and he took it into heaven (Acts 1:9). He will return to Earth in a similar manner to that in which he left (Acts 1:11).

Our physical bodies, like the first-fruits body of Jesus, will be raised, and changed to be incorruptible (not replaced - changed). We will be like him.

Somehow or 'nuther in that, the current heavens and earth will be melted with fire (2 Peter 3:5-7, 10 12), in a similar manner to the destruction of the earth in the Flood (a destruction, but not an annihilation). Does this burning describe a consumption to nothing, or does it describe a metamorphosis, like a caterpillar melting into a jelly on its way to a butterfly?

As I understand it, the pre-Fall world, and the post-Return world, were, and will be, a "physi-spiritual" world, more physical than we tend to imagine, but without the corruption-capability we associate with the word "physical". It will be like the body of Jesus; his body was composed of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39), was able to eat (Luke 24:43), to be hugged (John 20:17; Matt 28:9), to walk (Luke 24:15), to cook (John 21:9), to holler (John 21:5, 8), to bear scars (John 20:24-27), but it was also able to pass through solid walls/doors (20:19, 26), change appearance (Mark 16:12; Luke 24:13ff) , teleport from one place to another (Luke 24:31), and float into the sky and into heaven with neither wings nor spacesuit (Acts 1:.9-10).

Will Jesus stand on a this earth again, after it's burned up and renewed, like he once walked in the garden? I don't know; the text only gives hints, without clarity. But I'm hesitant to claim I have the answer one way or the other.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I think I just penned a word: hypocritic

It describes those controlling people who are never happy with what you do, like the people in Luke 7 who criticize if you do or if you don't, if you dance or if you don't dance, if you eat or if you don't eat, because you're not meeting their own personal expectations.
HCSB Luke 7:31 “To what then should I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to each other:
We played the flute for you,
but you didn’t dance;
we sang a lament,
but you didn’t weep!
33 For John the Baptist did not come eating bread or drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon!’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Biblical Contradictions

I've talked about Biblical contradictions before, in writing about how context matters.

You're probably familiar with the story of the blind men and the elephant. Each blind man touches an elephant on a different part of its body (one touching a leg, another a tusk, another an ear, etc), and then describe what they felt, only to discover they were in complete disagreement about an elephant's description.

It's not the elephant that is at fault, but rather the reports given about the elephant.

I believe this applies to the Bible. The Bible often "contradicts" itself, but the fault is not in the book itself, but rather in our limited ability to perceive it.

For example, the Bible clearly states that a person will pay for his own sins, not that of his parents (Ezek 18:20), and yet, it also says that we bear the burden of our parents' sins (Jer 32:18; Lam 5:7).

It also implies that children are innocent of sin (Matt 18:3; 19:4), and yet also implies that we are born with sin (Gen 6:5; Ps 53:2-3; Rom 5:12ff).

It indicates that sin is something we do (1 John 3:4), and yet it indicates that sin is something that we have (Rom 7:17).

We humans don't like our holy books to have contradictions, so we expend lots of effort to explain away the contradictions. We usually do so by attacking the viewpoints opposing our own, finding an alternative explanation for that viewpoint.

There's nothing wrong with that; a certain amount of it is healthy, because Truth is worth searching for.

The problem is when we conclude that we have the Truth, and our opponents do not, because they don't have the same love for the truth that we ourselves have. What's worse, is when that attitude causes us to twist the scriptures to support our viewpoint. Worse even still, is when, after we've twisted the scriptures ourselves, we then accuse our opponents of twisting the scripture.

It might just be that our view of the elephant is limited by our blindness.

So what's my point?

My point is that maybe we don't have such a perfect understanding as we think we have. If the text has been argued about for centuries, by minds greater than our own, maybe we should be a little more humble in declaring we have the answer and they don't.

We often insist on unity in "the essentials". Maybe we should instead insist on unity in things that are clear. (And even then, is it really clear?) And on other things, don't judge, but let each servant stand before God on his own, for the Lord will make him stand (Rom 14:1-4).

Monday, December 03, 2012

Refusing the Obvious

My friend, Robert Blasingame, posts at his blog an interesting observation:

The chief priests, etc, who had Jesus arrested, tried, and executed, knew he had claimed that he would rise again, so much so that they posted guards at his tomb to prevent anyone from stealing the body so that they could claim he had arisen.

But then, when it actually happened, they had a first-hand account from those guards that angels, not humans, had opened the tomb, leading to the disappearance of Jesus' body. And still, despite the impeccable testimony, the chief priests refused to accept the obvious.

Talk about willful blindness.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Meeting Cassie

In the beginning we were just friends.

The main door to the hospital is a large revolving door. She was already inside the door, and the entrance gap was just about to close as I approached. I increased my pace to barely slip through the closing gap, and the door's sensor must've thought I was going to be hit, and the door suddenly stopped. The girl didn't, and she ran into the door on the opposite side which otherwise would have been out of her way by then. I apologized to her, and that was our first contact. I thought about her the rest of the evening, and until the morning. That was day one.

Back at the hospital, I saw her fighting with the vending machine. I asked her how her nose was, and made other small talk. I eventually wound up buying her a Sprite from the other, non-money-stealing vending machine. That led to an exchange of names; her name is Cassie. I definitely thought of her the rest of the evening, well into the morning. That was day two.

She gave me no indication of being interested in me, so I tried to curb my own interest in her. But when I saw her sitting in a Family Room, my heart expanded out to her. I wondered why she was in a Family Room instead of her mom's hospital room. Had something gone bad? I went in and sat with her. Turns out she was just using the room as a waiting room while her mom had relatively minor surgery. I sat with her for hours. We played Nickel Train with the room's domino set. I enjoyed her company, and I think she enjoyed mine. We played late, past evening, into the morning. That was day three.

Now, my question for you, Dear Reader: Do you get the sense, at all, that the days above are anything but 24-hour days?


Then why do you try to force the days of Genesis 1, structured very similarly to the days in my fictional story above, into being something other than 24-hour days? I think it's because you're trying to force the text to fit your notions of what it should be, rather than letting it be what it is.