Category Archives: Faith

Site Update: “About Me” Page and Others edited, moved

An earlier me during an archaeological survey.
An earlier me during an archaeological survey.

I’ve changed pages and updated With Christian Eyes in the past, but there’ve been more changes lately and I also wish to better connect with my followers.  I edited and updated my biographical information in  the About the Author page (formerly “About Me”), and moved a bit of what was in the “Let Me Write for You” page to there and deleted the rest.   I added two table of contents pages for ease of finding articles; there are two instead of one in order to keep the number of links on each page down.

In case you didn’t know, there is a second blog run by my husband here,  Lingering Trees, although I’m going to see about how to transfer it to him to make it separate (for his ease and distinct online presence).  He is trying to promote his and my son’s YouTube account so as to eventually make some money off of it.  This is not to get rich, by any means, but only to make extra money since he is ill so much.  Eventually, unless God chooses to heal him, he’s not going to be able to work a regular job.  It’s too bad Christians don’t support other Christians in this way as much as the worldly folk do–if you don’t know about people making a living off of YouTube, just know that some do extremely well.  We’re not expecting to live off of YouTube income (!), but are working at it with the hope of earning money to go toward living expenses and gifts.

I’ve appreciated the likes and follows so much!  Thanks for the time you’ve spent here.  As we prepare to end homeschooling and move across the country, we’ll still be here!  After that’s all done, we’ll see how God guides us, but I may be able to write more.  I should have more time and ability to focus–maybe I’ll even work on a book or two.  The Lord hold you and smile at you.

Contemplating.  Author photo.
Contemplating. Author photo.

 

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Thanks, WordPress, for reminding me of the Noahic Covenant

Imposed and inappropriate symbol at WordPress
Imposed and inappropriate symbol at WordPress

 

So I’m working at my WordPress site today (June 26), and when I view the stats page this colorful banner confronts me.  Huh.  Looks kind of tacky.  I don’t go around imposing my Christian symbolism on sites that are public and have users from all different backgrounds, beliefs, creeds, and whatnot, but hey, I guess WordPress can do what it wants.

Anyway, thanks for putting up a reminder of God’s covenant with humankind, given through Noah, after God destroyed the Earth and most that was in it by water.  God had judged the Earth’s inhabitants to be too far along in their selfish and evil desires.  But instead of destroying humankind altogether, He chose Noah and his family to start the human race all over again.  It’s a good thing they could all have kids.  While we’re all descendants of Adam and Eve, we’re also all descendants of Noah and his wife, too.

Continue reading Thanks, WordPress, for reminding me of the Noahic Covenant

The Disadvantaged and the Pharisees of Our Day

This piece was an experiment.  I wrote it for a Christian periodical that normally prints articles that are non-fiction, for individual and group contemplation.  The subject is pharisees of our day (a sub-subject related to humility), and I thought a more creative piece like this could cover more, or lead to more understanding, anyway, with the limited amount of words allowed; however, it was not accepted and so I decided to post it here.  Perhaps I’ll add references/recommended reading later, but suffice it to say now that everything in the piece is based on personal experience, information from nonprofits, published articles, and governmental reports.  (The low amount provided for Disability is based on the deduction they normally make for support from other household members or other sources; the starting base amount is around $700.)  ______________________________________

Angel contemplatingBecca fed dollar bills into the laundry’s money changer. While expertly flattening out creases and bent corners, she noticed the “In God We Trust” slogan. “Who is it referring to?” she mumbled. She believed in God—in Jesus—but the savior she knew . . . well, it didn’t seem like her country knew Him. “Clank, clank, clank!” She scooped up the quarters and headed to the washers.

“Trusting God. That means seeking to know Him and please Him, right?” she asked herself. As she loaded the clothes, she searched her mind for examples of the U.S. demonstrating that kind of faith and commitment. Nothing came to mind. “Well, helping the poor and elderly through Medicaid and Medicare was something,” Becca thought.

Continue reading The Disadvantaged and the Pharisees of Our Day

The Christmas Spirit: “What Men Live By” by Leo Tolstoy

The 1885 short story, What Men Live By by Leo Tolstoy (Russian, 1828-1910), in times past was much more well-known and even acted out as Christmas-time plays.  I have a wonderfully illustrated little hard cover copy from 1954, published by the Peter Pauper Press (PPP), but the entire text can be read online at The Literature Network (What Men Live By).  Below, I provide a synopsis of the story with some Christian and biblical commentary, although Tolstoy himself prefaced it himself with passages from 1 John (here are two of the six):

“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love
the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death.” 3:14

“Whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need,
and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God
abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither
with the tongue; but in deed and truth.” 3:17-18

Continue reading The Christmas Spirit: “What Men Live By” by Leo Tolstoy

“Gay Love” by K. Smart: Excerpts and Pulled Verses

There is no shortage of information available on the internet regarding what the Bible says about sin and salvation in general, and homosexual acts as sin in particular.  I came across an article by Kevin Smart (I think it’s actually by his wife, however!) at Light & Life Communications and thought it was good, so I want to share it.  Also, the article contains references to biblical verses regarding homosexuality, so I’ve written them out here for your reference.

For anyone who comes to this article and wants to rave about how I’m picking on a certain sin and somehow that negates the points made–please, don’t be absurd.  Sin is sin, no matter WHICH sin it is (if one can in all seriousness claim that the Bible doesn’t condemn homosexual practices, then in all seriousness, it doesn’t condemn anything).  The reason why Smart’s article exists, and others like it, is because so many people are trying to make homosexual acts NOT a sin when they clearly are in God’s view.  The worldly embrace of homosexuality has entered the church and thus it’s a big issue indeed.  Who would accept a church that embraces adultery the same way?  That would be funny, wouldn’t it, to see a bunch of leaders in churches who are proud practitioners of adultery?  Adulterous acts and homosexual acts are both sexual sin–they are outside of God’s provision of marriage between one man and one woman.

Continue reading “Gay Love” by K. Smart: Excerpts and Pulled Verses

New Testament Views of Women: Overview

Veiled and Silenced, amazonChrist is primarily known as the savior of the world – his sacrifice being for all who want to dwell with God (Jesus’ blood removes our sin so that we are able to be in the presence of the sinless God). But Jesus did something quite significant and often overlooked (as evidenced throughout the writings of the New Testament): He raised the status of women to the same level as men. Many would argue that men and women have a few different responsibilities in regard to the family and church, but in God’s sight the sexes have equal standing: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

There is a great deal that can be written on this topic–including the contradictory teachings of, and actions by, some church leaders and Christian men. But first, let’s look at some social mores that exhibit the status of women in Israel and the surrounding cultures at the time Jesus walked the earth, and some that are still with us today in various parts of the world.

Female babies are of low worth: In past and present non-Christian cultures, female worthlessness is widespread. Female babies were commonly the victims of infanticide. While that continues today, in places where ultrasound is available many more female fetuses are aborted than male fetuses (especially in China and India). Christians do not value females less than males and do not abort or kill female babies.

  • Polygyny and divorce: Polygyny was permitted though not very common in ancient Israel; it was relatively common elsewhere. In Greece, a man had one wife but he also had a legal mistress (so, essentially, a 2nd wife). Polygyny was not approved by God, though there are a number of instances of it recorded in the Bible. The NT clearly reiterates God’s will that one man be married to one woman; polygyny is not allowed in Christianity. A man could divorce his wife easily in ancient Israel, but the NT does not allow for this.
  • Complete control of wife and children by father or husband: In Rome, fathers had total control over family members, and a husband had absolute power over his wife; he could sell a daughter to her future husband. All these powers became illegal some years after Christianity became legal in Rome (374/313). Women also were granted the right to own property and have guardianship of their own children. In Greece, wives had segregated quarters and could not visit male guests of her husband’s in her own home. As in ancient Israel, women in Greece were not to speak in public. Women simply had a very low status in Greece and ancient Israel, and in Israel at the time of Christ, women’s legal witness was virtually non-existent. This obviously changed with Christ’s work.
  • Clitoridectomy: The removal of the female clitoris, and often other genital parts, is a common practice in many African countries (and is found in countries where Africans have immigrated to). This is condemned and outlawed in Christian-based countries.
  • Binding feet, China: In order to be more attractive to men, girls used to have their feet bound so that they remained “small.” The fact is, the foot only became very disfigured and it often became severely infected. Because of Christian missionary pressure in the 19th century, the Chinese government outlawed the practice of female foot binding in 1912.

There are other practices around the world (past and present), like burning or burying widows alive (in India), arranging marriages of female children (this still occurs in China, India, and parts of Africa), maintaining double standards for adultery, and the forced wearing of veils, that make obvious the widespread low status of women but which are condemned by Christianity. As Alvin Schmidt, author of How Christianity Changed the World, said in an interview, “Geroge Sarton, a historian of science, once said, ‘The birth of Christianity changed forever the face of the Western world.’ As far as I know, Sarton had no love for Christianity. He merely said what history revealed to him. Another historian, for instance, has said, ‘The birth of Jesus Christ was the turning point in the history of women.’”

Now let’s look more specifically at how women were viewed and treated by Israel when Christ lived, and what Christ did to elevate women. Today when we read the New Testament (NT) text alone, we simply cannot understand how radical so much of what Jesus did was; our culture reflects in so many ways the changes that Jesus began. The radical things Jesus did seem normal to us now, so we must look into the context of the times to fathom the changes that he wrought.

At the time of Christ¹ women existed for the pleasure of men. If a woman did not bear a male child or didn’t please her husband in some way, he could divorce her with ease. A woman could not divorce her husband. Women were not to speak in public with men (men should not even give a greeting to a woman in public), they were not to testify in court, they were not supposed to read the Torah (Law), nor were they to be taught. As a rabbinic teaching advised (Sotah 3.4), “Let the words of the Law be burned rather than committed to a woman . . . . If a man teaches his daughter the Law, it is as though he taught her lechery.” Also, women were set apart from men in synagogue worship, either by a partition or by being in separate rooms.

Each one of the above negative aspects of womanhood in ancient Israel was reformed by Jesus, as it was never God’s will that such treatment of women exist. First, regarding a man’s ease in divorcing his wife, Jesus told his disciples that it was not to be—that instead a man could divorce his wife for unfaithfulness only (Matthew 19:4-9). Second, what about women speaking to men in public? To the great shock of his disciples, Jesus not only spoke to women in public, but also to a Samaritan woman publicly (she was very shocked as well) (John 4:5-29)–both no-nos in ancient Israel. In speaking with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, Jesus also taught her. Jesus both spoke and taught to Martha in public (John 11:25-26). Jesus taught Mary, Martha’s sister, and commended Mary for wanting to learn from him (Luke 10:38-42). Another woman followed Jesus in order to be healed. She was not only healed by him, but he talked with her and blessed her publicly (Mark 5:25-34).

These are not the only interactions that Jesus had with women. There are very many recorded in the NT. Of very real significance, however, is Jesus’ appearing to women first after his resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18). This put women in a whole new realm of being chief witnesses. Remember, women could not testify or be a witness in court. The fact that Jesus appeared to women first, and told them to go and tell the male disciples of his resurrection, had to have really driven home the message of women’s spiritual equality to the disciples—once they accepted the truth of Jesus’ resurrection that the women were telling them. After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, the believers, both male and female, met and prayed together (Acts 1:14). As the fellowship of believers grew they met in houses for “church,” and many of these houses were owned by women. The possibility of the women as leaders in these early churches will be included in another of this series.

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Note 1. How Israelite men viewed and treated women changed and varied through time, and was no doubt influenced by the cultures that surrounded them. This essay is interested only with the status of women at the time of Christ.

The second and third articles in this series can be found here:

New Testament Views of Women: 1 Corinthians 14:34-36

New Testament Views of Women: Paul’s Co-workers

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Works Cited and Recommended Reading

Anonymous. “Women in Ancient Israel.” Bible History Online. n.d. http://www.bible-history.com/court-of-women/women.html (accessed June 2011).

Cabal, Ted, General Editor.  The Apologetics Study Bible.  Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.

Cowles, C.S. A Woman’s Place? Leadership in the Church. Kansas City : Beacon Hill Press, 1993.

Dunn, James, General Editor. Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.

Faulkes, Irene Bonney. “Question of Veils in India.” Dr. Irene Faulkes Articles. 2011. http://revirene.org/Question%20Of%20Veils.htm (accessed June 2011).

Garrett, Duane A, General Editor. NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Schmidt, Alvin John. How Christianity Changed the World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

—. Veiled and Silenced: How Culture Shaped Sexist Theology. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1989.

Zondervan. “Interview with Alvin J. Schmidt.” Zondervan. n.d. http://www.zondervan.com/media/interviews/product/pdf/0310264499_authintrvw.pdf (accessed June 2011).

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© Vicki Priest 2014, 2012  (This is an edited version of a series of articles first posted at Examiner.com, 2011, and transferred from withchristianeyes.com)

The passionate genius, Simone Weil

Français : Bourges - 7 place Gordaine - Plaque...
Français : Bourges – 7 place Gordaine – Plaque commémorative Simone Weil (1909-1943) professeur à Bourges en 1935-1936 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who is, or was, Simone Weil? If increasing attention in the way of books and a newer documentary mean anything, particularly considering her death was some 70+ years ago, then she’s obviously “somebody.” At least two meanings of the word “prodigy” apply to Simone: (1) she was known to be a genius from a very young age and is a recognized philosopher, and (2) by her short, painful, yet beautiful and selfless life. Being a Christian mystic and having been “adopted” by Catholics (Simone never became a member of any church), had perhaps contributed to a certain level of obscurity until more recent years.

All books that bear Simone’s name were published after her death (1943), with one of the most well-know being Waiting for God (WfG; 1951), a collection of spiritual letters and essays. Much has been made of her spiritual life – and rightly so – but for a biography that focuses on her philosophy, see Palle Yourgrau’s Simone Weil (Reaktion Books 2011). A 2010 documentary made the film festival rounds and is now on DVD: An Encounter with Simone Weil. The odd film focuses on life, death, suffering generally, and on these words of Simone’s specifically: “Attention is the rarest form of generosity.” (I wrote a fairly in-depth review of the documentary here: Secular Girl Activist meets Christian Girl Activist . . .)

Simone was born in France in 1909 to agnostic Jewish parents. At the age of six she could quote classic poetry, and despite interruptions in her education (and the onset of migraines), she received her baccalaureate at the age of 15. Simone had a deep desire to know “truth,” so she attended graduate school and became a teacher of philosophy.

Do not think that she lived comfortably from the “ivory tower.” As early as age five she refused to eat sugar because the French soldiers could not have it, and she maintained this practice of food-denial all of her life. She chose not to turn the heat on in her rented rooms since the unemployed could not afford it themselves, and gave much of her salary to the poor and to workers’ causes. She was very politically active, striving to secure better conditions for factory workers, and was involved with the defense of her country during World War II.

Simone seemed to apply her whole self towards realizing her convictions. Even though frail, she was always working, thinking, writing—incessantly doing. She even went so far as to travel to war-torn Spain, in 1936, to fight against the Fascists. She was a pacifist but felt so strongly about the cause that she volunteered for the most dangerous assignments. Because of a severe cooking-related accident, however, Simone did not stay there for very long. And her witness of an execution of a 15-year-old boy by the people she supported, among other things, caused her to not return.

Perhaps the personal experience of war caused a crack in Simone’s idealism that became an entryway for God. In 1937, Simone wrote of an encounter while at Assisi: “something stronger than I was compelled me for the first time in my life to go down on my knees” (WfG pp 67-68). Then in 1938, while having severe migraines during Holy Week services, Simone had the experience of separating herself from the pain to enjoy the beauty of the service and to receive understanding of the passion of Christ. That same year, while reciting a Christian poem about accepting Christ—which she claims she hadn’t understood as such—Christ indeed “came down and took possession of me” (WfG p 69).

Though she accepted Christ, Simone’s writings are controversial. Some do not believe Simone was really a Christian; she had consideration and respect for other religions, and some fairly unorthodox theological views. In her “religious” writings, she often wrote of wrestling with God over truth. Though she wrote about spiritual truths found in other religions, or even myths (CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien held similar views), in the final analysis only Christ is truth: “Christ likes us to prefer truth to him because, before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms” (WfG p 69).  A useful work in this regard is Simone Weil’s Apologetic Use of Literature (Marie Cabaud Meaney 2008).

Her friends in faith were Catholic, but she refused to enter the church because of its history and its exclusionary practices. Despite being an “outside Christian,” she wrote conventional ideas like: “It is not my business to think about myself. My business is to think about God. It is for God to think about me” (WfG pp 50-51), and “. . . I think that God himself has taken it [her soul] in hand from the start and still looks after it” (WfG p 73). Going deeper into her thought we find: “Only obedience is invulnerable for all time” (WfG p 63), and “. . . I always believed that the instant of death is the center and object of life” (WfG p 63). Significantly, and counter to some who attempt to claim that Simone was not a Christian, she told a friend a few months before she died: “I believe in God, in the Trinity, in the Incarnation, in the Redemption, in the teachings of the Gospel” (from Simone Weil, by Stephen Plant, p 33).

[If you’re interested in more of Simone’s words, I wrote a “found” poem with her words–it is the 2nd poem on that linked page.]

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© Vicki Priest 2014, 2012 (this was published at Examiner.com 2011, then at withchristianeyes.com)

Review: “Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate”

Reason, Faith, and Revolution by Eagleton, cover
Reason, Faith, and Revolution by Eagleton, cover

by Terry Eagleton (Yale University Press 2009)


“This straw-targeting of Christianity is now drearily commonplace among academics and intellectuals—that is to say, among those who would not allow a first-year student to get away with the vulgar caricatures in which they themselves indulge with such insouciance”
(p 52).

Terry Eagleton’s invective against anti-theist’s claims about religion, and Christianity in particular, is one of wit, humor, and sauce.  One hopes that those that are curious about the popular anti-God rhetoric, but who are basically outsiders—neither informed and faithful Christians or card-carrying anti-theists—will be the prime readers and beneficiaries of this “lecture series” book.  Not that there isn’t a good deal that those in the other groups can get out of it.  Indeed, as the Booklist review asserted, “serious Christians may be [Eagleton’s] most appreciative readers.”  But on the opposite side Eagleton himself opined that there was not a “hope in hell” that Ditchkins, that is Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, would read his work or be moved by it.

Eagleton, who is a professor both of English literature and culture theory, and who also writes philosophically (in fact, this book has been rated as important in philosophy), presents how the various arguments against religion that Dawkins and Hitchens vehemently espouse are very seriously misinformed and flawed.  “. . . the relations between these domains [poetry and other language types] and historical fact in Scripture are exceedingly complex, and that on this score as on many another, Hitchens is hair-raisingly ignorant of generations of modern biblical scholarship” (p 54).  He shows how Dawkins’ views, which reflect Victorian era progressivism, are simply unreasonable and unrealistic.

“We have it, then, from the mouth of Mr. Public Science himself that aside from a few local hiccups like ecological disaster, ethnic wars, and potential nuclear catastrophe, History is perpetually on the up.  Not even beaming, tambourine-banging Evangelicals are quite so pathologically bullish.  What is this but an example of blind faith?  What rational soul would sign up to such a secular myth?” (pp 87-88).

Regarding Ditchkins and science, Eagleton discusses how “Dawkins falsely considers that Christianity offers a rival view of the universe to science” (p 6), and that “His God-hating is by no means the view of a dispassionate scientist commendably cleansed of prejudice.  There is no such animal in any case” (pp 65-66).  “[Scientists] are peddlers of a noxious ideology known as objectivity, a notion which simply tarts up their ideological prejudices in acceptably disinterested guise” (p 132), and Dawkins, for example, “castigates the Inquisition . . . but not Hiroshima” (p 133).  While anyone is welcome to criticize superstition, the current culture has sunk into scientism, which refuses to take anything seriously that “cannot be poked and prodded in the laboratory” (p 72).  “Ditchkins does not exactly fall over himself to point out how many major scientific hypotheses confidently cobbled together by our ancestors have crumbled to dust, and how probable it is that the same fate will befall many of the most cherished scientific doctrines of the present” (p 125).

In chapter 1, Eagleton presents basic Christian beliefs not only to show that Ditchkins does not have an understanding of them, but to also promote them as quite respectable.  Of course, throughout his book Eagleton gives little quarter to “fundamentalists;” he praises Jesus and his radicalness, and those who actually follow His teachings to help the poor and seek justice.  He also contrasts this Christian mandate to love socially to the liberal humanist (of which Ditchkins is an example) legacy of love being kept private.  Yet another significant difference between Christianity (and for persons like Eagleton who hold a more socialist view) and the liberal humanism of Ditchkins is the matter of sin and redemption.  To Ditchkins, there is nothing to redeem.  Humanity is steadily progressing, even if catastrophes like World War II have happened.

“In my view,” Eagleton writes,  “[scriptural and orthodox Christianity] is a lot more realistic about humanity than the likes of Dawkins.  It takes the full measure of human depravity and perversity, in contrast to . . . the extraordinarily Pollyannaish view of human progress of [Dawkins’] The God Delusion” (p. 47).  Christianity believes that there are “flaws and contradictions built into the structure of the human species itself,” and so violence in history is not just due to historical influences; and Christianity is hopeful.  It is “outrageously more hopeful than liberal rationalism, with its apparently unhinged belief that not only is the salvation of the human species possible but that, contrary to all we read in the newspapers, it has in principle already taken place.  Not even the most rose-tinted Trotskyist believes that” (pp 48-49).

There are all kinds of fun passages like those already quoted in Eagleton’s book.  It can be very useful to Christians who want to be able to cite a seemingly non-Christian critique to the anti-theist crowd.  Conservatives be warned, however, that Eagleton presents and is supportive of Liberation Theology (he is a Marxist who aligns himself with “tragic humanism”), and is very critical of modern capitalism and western foreign policy.  He has good, though general, arguments for the atheism of capitalism and the disconnect between the West’s religious rhetoric and its actual practices (which, interestingly, he often places on liberal humanism).   Indeed, Christianity’s lack of following its leader has brought much criticism upon itself, “Christianity long ago shifted from the side of the poor and dispossessed to that of the rich and aggressive” (p 55).

Eagleton points out the good that historic Christianity has done, which Ditchkins refuses to acknowledge, while pointing out hypocrisies of some liberals.  Some examples:

“The values of the Enlightenment, many of them Judeo-Christian in origin, should be defended against the pretentious follies of post-modernism, and protected, by all legitimate force if necessary, from those high-minded zealots who seek to blow the heads off small children in the name of Allah.  Some on the political left, scandalously, have muted their criticism of such atrocities in their eagerness to point the finger of blame at their own rulers, and should be brought to book for this hypocrisy” (p 68).  

“Such is Richard Dawkins’s unruffled impartiality that in a book of almost four hundred pages, he can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has ever flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false . . . . and this by a self-appointed crusader against bigotry” (p 97). 

Speaking of empiricism and truth, I found chapter 3 more interesting the second time I read it.   It’s really a pleasant read and borders on the mystical in places.  Eagleton writes lucidly on how we understand truth and what is reasonable and rational.  A set of examples about what is reasonable and rational, relative to what is true, is (1) that of humans previously thinking that the sun circled the earth – since it certainly looked that way it was rational to think – and (2) what we know of certain nuclear particles in our present time.  These particles are said to go through two different spaces at one time.  This is not rational or reasonable, yet we think that it is true.  He continues with a discussion that promotes the concept of “love” being a precondition of understanding, concluding that “The rationalist tends to mistake the tenacity of faith (other people’s faith, anyway) for irrational stubbornness rather than for the sign of a certain interior depth, one which encompasses reason but also transcends it” (p 139).

“Yet the Apocalypse, if it ever happens, is far more likely to be the upshot of technology than the work of the Almighty. . . .  This, surely, should be a source of pride to cheerleaders for the human species like Ditchkins.  Who needs an angry God to burn up the planet when as mature, self-sufficient human beings we are perfectly capable of doing the job ourselves?” (p 134).

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© Vicki Priest 2012 (previously posted by author at Examiner.com, 2011, and at withchristianeyes.com)

Jesus in Job

English: An early engraving by Blake for the B...
English: An early engraving by Blake for the Book of Job (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our God is amazing: He revealed to Job much of His distant future plan of Jesus as our redeemer, mediator, and savior. There are basically three ways that you can see Jesus in Job. First, Job suffered even though he was righteous; he didn’t suffer as a result of sin. This concept leads the way for the understanding of the suffering nation of Israel and the suffering savior. Second, utterances Job made that directly relate to Jesus’ role in our lives, including our bodily resurrection. Third, though seemingly controversial, is the role of Elihu as mediator.

So, how long ago was it that God revealed these things in what is now the Book of Job? While it is not known exactly when the book itself was written down, there are a great many reasons to accept the patriarchal period as its setting (it is thought to be the oldest book of the bible): there was no priesthood yet, since Job had acted as priest for his family; wealth was measured by livestock; and, Job lived to be over 200 years old. Other little details, too, point to the period described in the first part of Genesis. So Job spoke spiritual truths relating to salvation and end-times glorification long before Jesus came to us, or the Holy Spirit instructed the apostles in such matters.

Now let’s explore each of the three ways that Jesus is foreshadowed through Job. In the beginning of Job we are shown this scene: angels presenting themselves to God, when one in particular—Satan—insults Him. Satan accuses God of, basically, bribing people to believe in Him. “Does Job fear God for nothing?” “You have put a hedge around him . . . . You have blessed the work of his hands . . . . But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face” (1:9 -11). Even though God told Satan that Job was “blameless and upright” and that “there was no one on earth like him” (1:8), God allows Satan to destroy virtually all that Job has. This is Job’s first test. It is a test of faith, and Job passes. After all of his children, and most of his servants livestock are killed, Job declares: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (1:21b). Job suffered for all those righteous who came after him so that they would not need to feel guilt over suffering. It is established here that suffering is not necessarily a sign of sin in a believer’s life. Our Lord Jesus was blameless and he suffered much for our sake. Also, future believers needed to be ready to accept a suffering Messiah.

Poor Job, however, is given a second test. Some would say that he didn’t completely pass this second test, yet after God came and spoke with Job, He said that Job was right and his three friends erred (42:7). At any rate, the second test was an attack by Satan on Job’s personal being. Satan claimed that if Job felt that he was going to die, he certainly curse God (2:3-8). After his illness begins three of his friends come to comfort him, but they also end up trying to convict him of sin. They felt that he must be harboring some secret sin, or else why would he be suffering so? Job gets more and more angry with his friends because he can find no sin within himself that he needs to confess, and he finds their logic wrong: righteous people do indeed suffer at times. In Job’s responses to his friends’ accusations he speaks prophetically.

In verse 9:33, Job stated: “If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both.” Job is referring to himself and God. Job’s friends aren’t helping at all (they are, in fact, making things worse), so Job wishes for someone to accompany him to God’s court—a mediator. But when we get to verses 16:19-21, we find that Job realizes that there is in fact a mediator! “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.” We now know that the name of our mediator—our friend in heaven—is Jesus.

A few chapters further, and Job gets downright glorious. He boldly said to his irksome friends: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (19:25-27) Doesn’t that sound familiar?

The third way that Jesus is hinted at in Job is through Elihu. Elihu is not one of Job’s friends that came to visit him, but someone who had been listening to the dialogues. In Elihu’s discourse, he makes the point that Job justified himself at the expense of God (32:2, 33:8-11, 35:1-3, 14-16), and another point that his friends could not answer Job’s predicament and anguish (32:3, 12). He seems like a young upstart, yet he takes on the role of a bridge between Job and God (34:31-33). Indeed in verses 32:18b-19 he states: ‘the spirit within me compels me; inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.” The only other place in the bible where new wine and wineskins are discussed is in Jesus’ dialogue concerning the old and new covenants (Mt 9:17, Mk 2:22, Lk 5:37-39). Jesus, our bridge and mediator, is so strongly associated with wine that I couldn’t help thinking of Him as soon as I read Elihu’s exclamation. Jesus made wine for the wedding in Cana (Jn 2:9-10); Jesus told us wine is symbolic of his shed blood which is for the forgiveness of sins (Mt 26:28, Mk 14:23-24, Lk 22:20, Jn 6:53-56); and, Melchizedek, who gave wine and bread to Abraham, is viewed as a type of Christ (Gn 14:18, Ps 110:4, Hb 7:11-25). Elihu also brings up “a ransom” being found to save a man (33:24).

In his dialogue and by the placement of it, Elihu foreshadows both God coming to speak with Job and wringing Job’s repentance out of him, and God’s judgment that Job’s friends did not speak what was right (42:7; in regard to suffering in general and in regard to why Job in particular suffered). Elihu was intermediate between Job and God, and it seems that he probably prepared Job somewhat for God’s confrontation with him. In the end, Elihu is different too. God’s view of Elihu is unknown. He says of the three friends: “I’m angry with you . . . because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” It seems that God’s spirit was indeed speaking through Elihu.

This brings to the end my writing about Jesus in Job, but I would like to present some additional comments on the difficult passage just presented. Why did God say that Job spoke of Him what was right when God Himself came down and sought a more humble Job? There are two things going on in Job when you think about it. One is Job’s tests and how he and his friends viewed God’s role in suffering. The other is Job’s relationship with God. Concerning the first subject, Job spoke what was right of God, and even prophesied. But concerning the second subject, Job’s spirit and relationship with God were taxed and Job ended up sinning. When God came to Job He never told him the reasons for Job’s suffering (subject one), but He did restore Job to a proper relationship with Him and saved Job from suffering more spiritually (subject two).

So, Elihu was a bridge between Job and God. Then Job, once restored, prayed for his friends so that God’s anger was turned away from them; Job thus became a mediator as well. Amazingly, you could say at least in a small way, that Job ended up being a suffering savior for his friends.

[In case you’ve seen this before, I had it posted at our withchristianeyes.com site]

Is it Rational to be a Christian? (2 of 2)

Anastasis, symbolic representation of the resu...
Anastasis, symbolic representation of the resurrection of Christ. Panel from a Roman lidless sarcophagus of the “Passion type”, ca. 350 CE. From the excavations of the Duchess of Chablais at Tor Marancia, 1817-1821. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Below is the second half of a relatively long (but actually concise) treatment of evidences or evidential steps for the view that the Christian faith is rational, and even desirable, to hold (the first half is here).   The introductory paragraph is repeated for clarity.  Thanks for reading, and may the God of all creation bless you.

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For the person who wants to know that there is reason to believe a holy book–that there is evidence to back it up–different areas of apologetics have those answers.  In fact, there is more evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible today than ever before, excepting when the events actually occurred.  This essay assumes that the person searching for a legitimate holy book already believes that there is a deity of some sort; it does not cover arguments for the existence of God.  What this essay does cover, in concise form, are the issues of reliability of the Old and New Testaments, fulfilled prophecies, miracles, and Christ’s resurrection.

Miracles

What is a biblical miracle, and what is its purpose and meaning? In the Judeo-Christian context, a miracle is a work of God outside of the patterns of normalcy. Miracles of healing and of being saved from death obviously show the intervention of a God who loves. Biblical miracles consistently show three things. One, they display God’s glory (they also have the effect of showing to God which persons react faithfully to His glory, and which do not). Two, they are proof that the person “performing” the miracle is from God (the source is God, not the person). And Three, they display God’s benevolence. Some examples of such miracles are found in Exodus 14:13-18, Daniel 3:16-30, Mark 2:1-12, and John 11:38-44.

Do miracles happen today? Yes, they do! Most people think they don’t because they aren’t reported in mainstream media. I knew a lady personally, one of the most stable and intelligent ladies I have ever met, who told me the story of her daughter being healed from a terminal illness. The Lord did an emotional healing of myself, and I felt His work in my whole body (I will not explain further here). Open Doors USA reported on its website, in 2002 (April 7), a cancer completely healed in China: “one young woman was healed from cancer. The doctor treating her had fainted from the shock of seeing the cancerous growth gone. We all laughed at that.” Pastor Andrae Crouch was healed of cancer (Nappa  1999). In September 2001, The Voice of the Martyrs wrote of a healing in its magazine/newsletter: a young Pakistani Muslim man was hit by a car while riding his bike, and his leg was broken. A woman came out of the crowd and prayed for him, in Jesus’ name. He felt energy move throughout his body and his leg was healed (later, she gave him a bible and was never seen again, and he became a follower of Christ).  I have read of many other miracles, too, occurring at the time of a person’s salvation and others that happen that save a person from death.  Some medical miracles can be read about at the World Christian Doctors Network.

What about miracles outside of the Judeo-Christian faith? There are some amazing and unexplained things that happen in the world that people might say are miracles, but which do not meet the criteria that show that they are from God. Some of these may not be explained yet, and others may be the activity of fallen angels. The magicians of Pharaoh’s court in Exodus 7 performed seeming miracles. A girl had a spirit that told the future in Acts 16 (16-24), but the spirit in her was not from God. The book of Revelation foretells of someone who will perform ungodly miracles (13:11-14). So, if “miracles” happen that do not seem like they are from God, that may in fact draw people away from God, we should not be surprised.

There are some Buddhist scriptures with interpretations that record possible miracles, but since the miraculous activities are self-aggrandizing and do not point to God (such as the changing of physical things to other physical things, flying, reading minds, passing through solid matter, etc.), they are not Godly miracles.   A modern day Hindu “miracle” happened in 1995, which was apparently reported from all over the world (Hinduism Today, November 1995 [as cited in Powell 2006]). A man in New Dehli dreamt that the Hindu god Lord Ganesha wanted milk. So the man went to the temple and told a priest, who then gave the statue of Ganesha some milk. The statue “consumed” the milk. People heard of it and started offering milk to Ganesha statues all over, and the statues “consumed” the milk. This went on for 24 hours in India, but longer elsewhere. The “miracle” seems useless and it lacks benevolence; indeed, God is not transcendent in Hinduism belief and so any such displays are supernormal, not supernatural. In the Quran, it is written that Muhammad did not perform any miracles.


The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

I wonder if other Christians feel the same as I, that for some odd reason Jesus’ resurrection does not need explaining? The reality of Christ’s resurrection is a very significant topic in apologetics, however, since it is such a hard to believe event for the unbeliever. A subissue is the disharmony of the differing gospel accounts as to what happened at the empty tomb. (This issue had led me to read Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women Who Followed Jesus [Carla Ricci 1994], and I highly recommend it!) Women were very involved in Jesus’ ministry, he taught them much as disciples, and women were the first witnesses of His resurrection. This happens to play an important role in showing the reality of the resurrection, explained below, along with other rationales for accepting the resurrection as fact.

If the resurrection did not happen, how can anyone explain the beginning of the church? That may seem like an overly simple question–after all, there are many religions today that begin and grow for what seem to be very shallow (and unreasonable) reasons. Well, today, people in the Western World, at least, do not become lion chow in a public arena, are beheaded, or are crucified, for having beliefs counter to those of the government or religious elite. In conditions like that, one would be much more careful about choosing one’s beliefs!

Today, Muslims die (kill themselves) for a belief they think is true. People will die for the truth (and, in fact, Christians do die perhaps every day in countries that are hostile to their faith). But if some critics are correct that the Apostles were promoting false beliefs, why would they die for a lie (almost all were killed for their faith)? Who would do that?  The Apostles and very many early believers died for their faith, knowing it to be true; it would be absurd to die for a cause that you knew to be false. Paul, as an apostle, is very hard to explain indeed, if the resurrection had not happened. Paul was not one of Jesus’ followers, but an ardent persecutor of Christians! He had a great education and was a Roman citizen—in short, he had a privileged life and his future was bright prior to his conversion. Because of his encounter with the living God and after convincing the other apostles that he was sincere, Paul served His Lord (and thus His church), and for this he was eventually beheaded by Nero.

So there was an empty tomb . . . that doesn’t prove Jesus was resurrected, or does it?  A lot of people must think the evidence pointing to Jesus’ resurrection is good, since they try and come up with all kinds of explanations countering the event. Some, like the alien theory, are down-right silly. But what of the evidence? It’s interesting that the Jews tried to cover up the resurrection right from the beginning, knowing that Jesus’ body was gone. This is more significant when one considers that the tomb had been guarded by Roman soldiers who would forfeit their lives for this kind of negligence, and, that the Jews never did find Jesus’ body (you can bet that they tried) (Matthew 27:62-65, 28:11-15).

Another bit of evidence comes to us in a less obvious way. Some critics try to claim that the story of the resurrection was made up and developed through some time by the gospel writers. Even though there is good argument against this in general, we know that in fact Paul wrote of the resurrection early on, within 20 years, at the most, after Jesus died (and prior to the gospels being written). This is in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, where Paul tells of the many witnesses to the resurrected Jesus, many of whom were still living at that time (readers and hearers of his letter could go and ask these people if what Paul said was true).

One of the evidences is of a type that people of today cannot appreciate unless they know the historical context of New Testament times. At that time, women were held in very low regard amongst the Jews. Sometimes it is hard to see or fathom this from the texts, since women do not seem to have trouble following and supporting Jesus. But women at that time did not testify in court as the men deemed them unworthy witnesses. Yet here, women are indeed the first witnesses to the resurrection. The men at first dismissed what the women had to say about the resurrected Jesus. One can imagine, in this social context, that the men had a very hard time writing the gospels with the women’s stories included. At that time, including their witness would be the opposite of what one would present in order to prove something, and something as important as Christ’s resurrection. The fact that the women’s accounts in each of the gospels varies is also telling—it shows that the writers did not collaborate to try and come up with a totally coherent and slick story that sounded official and convincing (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8 [and perhaps 9-11]; Luke 24:1-12).

Sir Lionel Luckhoo, who during his lifetime won 245 consecutive murder trial acquittals (for this he is in the Guinness Book of World Records), is not alone in his thinking and assessment of Jesus’ resurrection:

“I have spent more than 42 years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in active practice. I have been fortunate to secure a number of successes in jury trials and I say unequivocally the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt” (Anon 2012).

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© Vicki Priest 2012 (this is a modified and edited version of a series of articles published by the author at Examiner.com, 2011)

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Bibliography and Recommended Reading (for both article parts)

Anonymous. “Why should I believe in Christ’s Resurrection?” GotQuestions.org. http://www.gotquestions.org/why-believe-resurrection.html (accessed March 2012).

Arlandson, James. “Do Miracles Happen Today?” American Thinker. January 13, 2007. http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/01/do_miracles_happen_today.html (accessed March 2012).

Chong, Timothy. “Bible, Canonicity.” In The Popular Encycolopedia of Apologetics, by Ergun Caner Ed Hinson, 101-102. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011.

Dowley, Tim, Editor. Eerdman’s Handbook to The History of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977.

Garrett, Duane A, General Editor. NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Geisler, Norman, and Ed Hindson. “Bible, Alleged Errors.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, by Ergun Caner Ed Hindson, 97-100. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Gleghorn, Michael. “Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources.” bethinking.org. 2001. http://www.bethinking.org/bible-jesus/intermediate/ancient-evidence-for-jesus-from-non-christian.htm (accessed March 2012).

Hart, David Bentley. Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2009.

Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton, 2008.

Kennedy, D. James. “Christ: The Fulfillment of Prophecy.” In The Apologetics Study Bible, by Ted, General Editor Cabal, xxviii-xxix. Nashville: Holman, 2007.

MacDonald, William. “Prophecies of the Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus Christ.” In Believer’s Bible Commentary, by William MacDonald, xviii-xxiii. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995 (1989).

Nappa, Mike. True Stories of Answered Prayer. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 1999.

Powell, Doug. Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2006.

Ricci, Carla. Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women Who Followed Jesus . Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1994.

Sailhamer, John H. Biblical Prophecy. Grand Rapids: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1998.

Yates, Gary E. “Bible, Transmission of.” In The Popular Encycolopedia of Apologetics, by Ed, and Ergun Caner Hindson, 107-110. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.