Text Tuesday – The Eichenwald Files 5

This will be the last in the Eichenwald Files. All the pieces I have linked to or excerpted say similar things (consistency anyone?) and are all by credible scholars – in the world of scholars. I have posted this series each week to leave a resource trail for Christians and the ‘curious and open-minded other’ to be exposed to careful, thoughtful, rigourous and defendable material. Rarely are ordinary Christians (like me) aware of such voices or exposed to them. That is one of the purposes of the Humble Donkey.

For the last File (5) I am directing you to Dr. Dan Wallace and his response to Kurt Eichenwald’s Newsweek piece.

Phil

For source click image.

You can find the full Wallace response here as well as other interesting materials by clicking here.

But here is an interesting excerpt from the section entitled:

Error 4: Simplistic Biblical Interpretation When it Suits His Purpose

Second, Eichenwald employs other simplistic interpretations to deny the NT’s affirmation of Christ’s deity. His statement that ‘form of God’ in Philippians 2.6 “could simply mean Jesus was in the image of God” betrays his ignorance about biblical interpretation. The kenosis, the hymn about the self-emptying of Christ (Phil 2.6–11) has received more scholarly interaction than perhaps any other paragraph in Paul’s writings. To claim that Jesus’ being in the form of God may mean nothing more than that he was human is entirely against the context. The hymn begins (vv. 6–7) as follows:

“who [Christ], although he was in the form of God,

he did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped,

but he emptied himself,

by taking on the form of a slave,

by looking like other men,

and by sharing in human nature.”

Christ’s humanity is mentioned only after he is said to have emptied himself. Thus, ‘form of God’ must mean something more than humanity. Further, the parallel lines—‘he was in the form of God’ and ‘taking on the form of a slave’—are mutually interpreting. Jesus was truly a slave of God; this is how he regarded himself (cf. Mark 10.45; Matt 20.27; 26.39). If ‘form of slave’ means ‘slave’ then ‘form of God’ may well mean ‘God.’ The rest of the hymn confirms this interpretation. Philippians 2.10–11 alludes to Isaiah 45.23, where God says, “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (NRSV). Paul quotes this very text in Romans 14.11 in reference to YHWH—a book Paul wrote six or seven years prior to his letter to the Philippians. Yet in Phil 2.10–11 he says,

“at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father” (NRSV).

Now the confession is about Jesus and it is a confession that he is ‘Lord.’ Either Paul is coming perilously close to blasphemy, something that a well-trained rabbi could hardly do, or he is claiming that Jesus is indeed true deity. And to underscore the point, he notes that all those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth will make this confession—language that is reminiscent of the second of the Ten Commandments, as found in Exodus 20.4: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (NRSV). The Decalogue—known as well as any Old Testament text to an orthodox Jew—is unmistakably echoed in the kenosis. To use this in reference to Jesus is only appropriate if Jesus is true deity, truly the Lord, YHWH himself.

Friday Fundamentals – ISIS

Muslim-Brotherhood-Caliphate-Coming-GBTV-620x405

If you wonder how ISIS can appear so serious about Islam?

If you wonder why ISIS kills so easily?

If you wonder why ISIS is killing more Muslims than Christians?

If you wonder why Muslims all over the western world condemn ISIS?

Read this article by Graeme Wood. I encourage you not to rail against it but to consider it. I don’t agree with all his conclusions but I have encountered similar Muslim ideology on the streets of London and actually meet Anjem Choudary in an east London coffee house. Met, said hello, shook hands and that was it. It’s a longer story but not as sinister as it sounds.

Over the years, a number, quite a number in fact, of Muslims doing street faith sharing, Dawah, calling people to Islam, in answer to questions about the killing or subjugation of non believers, always cited the lack of the rule of a Caliph, the existence of a Caliphate as the reason, Muslims generally lived at peace in the West. It was a matter of timing and they and I never expected that that would change in our lifetimes. Legitimate or not, this ISIS Caliphate is making waves. Let’s hope it won’t be a Tsunami. Before you say I am over reacting, I must say that I never thought we would see some of the things happening in European cities as have happened in the last year. I hope and pray for a de-escalation of this wave of one of the forms of Islam. But the time for being naive is coming to an end. ISIS is certainly a form of Islam, thankfully not the majority form. But it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog that counts. That’s and unfortunate metaphor, considering Muhammad, the muslim’s role model, relationship to dogs.

I will post an excerpt and encourage you to read the whole thing. Remember reassurance and denial will only work if there is nothing to worry about.

Here is an excerpt ……

According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.” He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. “And these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else.”

All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

For the whole thing click here.

Text Tuesday – The Eichenwald Files 3

Two continuations today 1) another careful handling and critique of the now notorious Newsweek article “The Bible So Misunderstood It’s a Sin” by Kurt Eichenwald and 2) the New Zealand connection continued from yesterday.

The resource I am pointing to today was posted at The Gospel Coalition which I highly recommend and written as a guest post by Dr. Darrell L. Bock, a serious New Testament scholar whom I had the priviledge of hearing for 3 hours and chatting with in New Zealand at the Matamata Bible Church in 2012.

Think

Here’s an excerpt from the post at The Gospel Coalition – specifically Justin Taylor’s blog – click at the end of this excerpt to get to the whole post and do consider its reasonableness, it’s content and it’s implications.

So let’s go through this piece one issue at a time. Let’s start with what is said about the actual text we have. For this I could just cite the response of my colleague, Dan Wallace, who has spent his life investigating and photographing the very manuscript evidence this article raises as so untrustworthy. Dan correctly opens up saying the issue is not the fact that Eichenwald asks hard questions. The Bible makes such important claims, so such questions should be asked. It is the way he answers them that is the problem. Dan also shows how the nature of the issues Eichenwald makes about our manuscripts does not lead to Eichenwald’s conclusions. I leave the Textual Criticism side of the argument to Dan’s piece.

Eichenwald’s way in is to cite Bart Ehrman, whom he calls a ground-breaking New Testament scholar. Now Bart himself has said that what he writes is a reflection of current discussion that has been around a long time. He and I have debated over the radiom where he made this statement to me as something I was well aware of, something I also affirmed at the time. The views presented (including the appeal to the telephone game as Erhman’s illustration for how poorly copies were passed on) are but one take on these issues that are argued pro and con in the public scholarly square. This hardly makes him a ground-breaking source. Ehrman is a spokesperson, a very competent one, for one take on all of this. But the article even uses his material extremely selectively. Here is another quotation Ehrman makes on this topic: “Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.” What this means is that people on all sides recognize that what we have in the Bible, in terms of the core things it teaches, is a reflection of what made up these books originally. The caricature by Eichenwald that what we have in our hands has no resemblance to what was originally produced is misleading in the extreme, even considering the source the journalist uses to make his point.

Click here to go to the full blog post and feast, think and grow.

Friday Fundamentals – Dogma and Fear

Recently we have seen, both the threat of violence and the denunciation of that violence from the same source. Islamic believers. Different Islamic believers, I hasten to add but the common denominator is most definitely Islam.

The threat and/or manifestation of such violence and the correspondent denunciation of violence does two things for Islam. It expands the place of Islam at the table of civil discourse. This place is maintained because of the denouncement of violence and the general ‘religion of peace‘ vibe but this place is actually strengthened because of the threat or actualisation of violence.

I am not suggesting that the actors who violate and the actors who denounce the violation are in cahoots. I am just noting the obvious – Islam is in no way harmed and is in fact only helped by it having a minority – only numbering in the hundreds of millions as opposed to billions,  thus making it a minority  – who will threaten violence and a smaller number who will bring to fruition the rotten threat.

I have to say that what I am proposing only applies to western, liberal, secularising democracies. A government dominated by Hindu nationalists for example will tend to see the world of Islam differently and time will tell, though our confirmed liberals may never be able to tell for dogmatic reasons, how accurate the Hindu view is or isn’t.

So why does this strengthening of the place at the table occur? There are a couple of reasons. In the western, liberal, secularising democracies, the denunciation from some of the Islamic community is what those at the table want and need to hear. Need to hear – if they are to remain in any way confident about a possibly peaceful future. But also they are glad to hear and entertain it because to consider a lack of denunciation and it’s implications would be too nightmarish. Nightmarish – both in terms of future possible events but more immediately because it would challenge the very foundation of their non-negotiable assumptions about the world.

The liberal worldview posits the view that ‘others‘, like muslims, real muslims don’t and so the dogma goes, can’t actually pose any threat to anyone in anyway. The counterpart to this underestimation is the overestimation of who can be an actual threat – an enemy of the state. There is an enemy within – those still holding too firmly to the Judeo-Christian perspective. The Christians, real Christians, are alas not ‘other’ enough. Christianity is the mother, father, and forbear to the western, liberal, and now through mutation, secularising democracy. And like so many children in this age of individualism, the child has grown to hate it’s parent, it’s past, it’s heritage. Now the sole enemy is the dark shadow of the West’s previous self. At the table, the liberals look soley at their forebears with suspicion. Generally speaking, everyone else gets a free pass. There are no enemies without, only enemies within. The shameful, historical, hegemonic, did I say shameful, colonizers are the Christians. Muslims, gays and the new kids on the block, the transgenders are their victims. All new arrivals are innocent. Not by proof but by dogma.

denial

For source – click image

The dogma of seeking to accept and value ‘the other’ without prejudice and critique is both an ideal of brilliance and strength but fast becoming the fatal flaw of the Western liberal society. Consequently, at the table of civil discourse, Islam, no matter what happens, good or bad, near or far, gets a free pass, gets to drape itself in the flag of victimhood and those at the table gather round it, puts their arm gingerly around its shoulder and gives a look of unqualified, supportive comfort.
I have no objection to some support and comfort and there is certainly much good that comes from the world of Islam; but it’s the unqualified, uncritical, liberally dogmatic approach to Islam that is objectionable, to my mind. Objectionable, unwise and almost certainly unsafe.
But let’s get back to the table. The assertion is made that the place of peaceful Muslims at the table of civil society is actually strengthened by there being Muslims that threaten, kill or just express support for threateners and killers. Dogma aside, what else is at play that strengthens Islam’s place at the table? Fear. Clear and simple.
Non-Muslims at the table are actually, counter-intuitively, frightened of Muslims in general, and especially of the killing kind. This is primarily because they can’t quite fully bring themselves to trust Islam; the religion which lies behind both types of Muslims frequently on the minds of western people – the good Muslims and the bad ones. The good ones thankfully outnumber the bad ones. By the way, all this good and bad descriptors are not necessarily Islamic descriptors but common sense desciptors. But these descriptors are fluid in regard to at least the persons being referred to. Sadly, there are now too many examples of those men and now women, from stable, well resourced, peaceful Muslim families and communities who have turned into the other kind of Muslim. The killing kind. Yes, thankfully a minority. But regrettably growing in numbers and now increasingly even challenging the peaceful Muslims to the point of death, to engage in war against the infidels – the un, non and dis-believers. The non-muslim is not even a muslim and then there’s the wrong kind of muslim – off with all their heads! Just like in the good old days.
Fear of any community or group can have the same effect as living, working or schooling with a bully. You give them a wide berth when you can and more room when you have to. They end up with getting their requirements met more easily and more often than others. Why is this? Because people are afraid of the consequences of not playing ball. Not playing ball, paying appropriate respect, not giving up what you thought was your reasonable entitlement, has consequences. Negative consequences.
Threats from one member of a family eases the way for other family members. Whether this is desired or not. Threats and violence even when denounced, still have a direct effect at the everyday table of generally peaceful people. There is a subconsious effect on all and a conscious effect on some at the table.
fear table

For source – click image

Even at the table of light entertainment and sarcastic, cynical comedy, comedians don’t mock Muhammad or Islam. This is never out of respect and always out of fear. The brave ones, as one might call them on a very generous day, even admit this. Jimmy Carr – equally foul-mouthed and foul-minded, a man who wastes his God-given talents of wit and charisma – says on stage that his will to live prevents him making any kind of jokes which offend the person of Muhammad and then shows a cartoon of Jesus being …. I can’t actually finish this sentence. It’s so offensive. Jesus is my saviour and the Son of God. Jimmy Carr’s Saviour and the Son of God.
But Jimmy doesn’t respect or fear me as a Christian. He’s right not to fear me. Actually he doesn’t respect Muslims either but he does fear them. Not just the killing kind. But the book burning kind. Jimmy sells books and DVDs by the truckload. He really doesn’t want to spend his summer holidays with Salman Rushdie.
So dogma and fear combine to give peaceful Muslims a place of disproportionate strength and influence at the table of civil discourse; whether they want it or not, whether they dispise or regret this mechanism or not. Many, I’m sure regret this mechanism. It may be unislamic according to their brand of Islam but it is beyond their control. It just happens. It cannot not happen. The liberal uncritical dogmaticians with one eye closed permanently to the bad and the other eye optimistically open to the good lean in to ensure for Islam a place at the table (that’s good) and then automatically, unknowingly, expand that space and increase the deference for Islam (that’s bad). Dogma may be foundational but it is fear that is formative.
fear

For source – click image

Waxing Lyrical on a Wednesday

Today I’m going to start a potentially short season of Waxing Lyrical on a Wednesday – a poem each Wrdnesday for as long as I can make it happen. I am not a poet but I enjoy expression through poetry. I increasingly like it as art form. To read and to write.

I have written other poems and posted them here on Humble Donkey – check the Categories on the right hand side and click Poetry to read more of them if you wish.

Also for those interested in the question who should be welcomed to the communion table at church, then check out my thoughts here The Table. Who’s it for?

SONY DSCCommunion

coming near to the coming near – communion

coming in to the incoming – communion

broken in by the inbreaking – communion

partaker in the partaking – communion

flesh remembering flesh – communion

eating and drinking remembering the eater and drinker – communion

grace received from the grace giver – communion

holy wooden table points to holy wooden cross – communion

presence with – communion

union – communion

Original poem by humbledonkey. Please feel free to publish this poem electronically, citing this humbledonkey post as the source. Thank you.

The easy Irish blasphemy

This peculiar Irish blasphemy is a wonder to behold. But never in a good way. A sure sign of a religion and a people floating adrift from their moorings. Uncontrolled, uncontested and unwanted.
irish scene cross

For source – click image

In the scripture, it says it is the name above every name, technically meaning the title Lord Jesus.

Phillipians 2:9 – 11 (NIV)

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

In Ireland outside of religious ceremony and devotional acts, the Holy name of Jesus ranks down there with every expletive known to man, rank, and filed alongside them; lyrically flowing from the melifluous tongue of the Irish man and woman. Class, employment, upbringing is no barrier to such streams of ironic injury to the divine honour. The name Jesus, Jesus Christ, is used every minute of every day across Ireland and the diaspora throughout the world. Its used instead of Wow! What? Agghh! and Noooo! The great and the good, the young and the old, the religious and the non-religious all misuse it. By misuse I mean they treat it like they don’t realise what they are doing who he is, how we should honour and relate and love him. Therefore it becomes this device of exclamation – almost like a four letter word functions for many also instead of  Wow! What? Agghh! and Noooo! Protestantism in Ireland perhaps is  the thin dam holding out against this gaelic pastime. This verbal blasphemy may not be entirely sanctioned, or even desired but it is rarely spoken against, cautioned about or educated on. And the uneducated adherent goes after every opportunity to blaspheme – like a ‘divil’.

Why? one wonders. I can’t say I really know except that in a land of apparent religious history, there is but the superstitious form of adherence to the Christian religion with precious little life flowing from its fountainhead. God. Imagine a great family, where the head of the family both deserves and demands deference. And yet no one values the name and by implication the nature of the name bearer. Such is the tattered relationship the Irish now have with their supposed family head. It is in many ways unbelievable. The supposed stewards of the name in Ireland – the roman catholic clergy – are sleeping their way through a fuzzy ritualistic co-dependency. They dare not challenge too hard or even at all – lest The Faith lose another ‘practitioner’.

The day of challenging or instructing is long gone. Regarding the name and the climate that prevented or challenged its misuse, that day left town on a limping mule at least 30 years ago. Instruction happens only for the young. The concrete is certainly set by late adolescence if not before. After that, next to nothing. External compliance and use of the Faith for milestones is all that is required and again the weight and gravitas of the stones are lessening.

I still haven’t answered why the Irish engage so blindly in this dark art because I don’t have an answer. The great theologian of Ireland, Terry Wogan, long departed from the lush green sod, once spoke about the appearance of trash talking the holy name. He proposed that this apparent blasphemy of the name of Jesus was widely misunderstood by outsiders, when in fact no such disrespect or devaluation was at work. I cannot remember his treatise entirely but I remember not thinking it much for carrying water then, and I suspect I wouldn’t change my mind if I heard it repeated.

Back then, I was an insider and practitioner of the sacrilegious art of trash-talking the name of Jesus and now I am an outsider by conversion, immersion and expulsion. The name and its namesake has taken its place, higher than any; wife, beloved, or friend in my life. I would not recklessly demean their titles and names and it is no different in regard to the Divine Word made flesh – Jesus. My wife is esteemed to me above all persons and her name above all human names. How much more is the name of and being of the Son of God.

However, the misuse, the casual exclamative as expletive use of the name of Jesus is a rite of passage for the Irish generally. It’s part of being a grown up. Like learning to swear and bit by bit introaducing strong/bad language into your public repertoire. Jesus – as a curse word. The one who flung stars into space, and whose hands were pierced for others – all of them sinners, many of them Irish, is disproportionately disrespected daily by my beloved countrymen. A beautiful people, everyone a poet of some sort, a jester, a Samaritan of the good kind, are beset with the compulsive reflex of spitting on the name of their only hope – the True Saviour, the True King, the One who bears the name above every name – The Lord Jesus Christ.
The Irish are a lovely people. May the tender Lord come and speak life to them and may they look upon his face and weep with joy for his kindness, his beauty, his patience and his love and may they repent and believe. Amen.