Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ethnocentrism Debunked

As upside down and backwards as it may seem, many conservative Evangelicals hold to a form of ethnocentrism. Perhaps i should say, we hold to two forms of ethnocentrism. Practically we hold to a Eurocentric cultural model... but theologically we hold to a Jewish ethnocentrism. That is, we believe the Jews to be a 'preferred' race.

i consider this to be upside down and backwards because it asserts itself against New Testament teachings to the contrary, which emphasize the equal inclusion of all humanity and disavows Jewish superiority. Paul makes these claims over-and-over again. He emphatically proclaims that not all of Abraham's descendants are Israel, but rather the true Israel is made up of those who demonstrate genuine faith, whether Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free.

i recently received a copy of"A Reader's Hebrew & Greek Bible". i'm loving it. It is the Bible in the original languages, but the less common words are defined at the bottom of each page. i can read through a chapter at a time in the original language without having to stop and flip through a giant lexicon each time i encounter an unfamiliar word.

i've really enjoyed reading the Hebrew text. There's just something incredibly ancient and sacred about the letter formation. Tonight, when i flipped to the Greek NT i was a bit disappointed not to experience the same sense of awe and sacredness. The language seems more common and familiar. Then it struck me...

i believe my theory and theology against a Jewish ethnocentrism is captured in the difference between these two texts. The ancient Hebrew text was written specifically to the Jews (hence the "Hebrew"). While the New Testament, which incorporates all people groups, embracing humanity as one, is written in Greek. The Greek was the common language of business and trade in the 1st century. It was much like English is today. People of many different countries had their own indigenous language, but would often be fairly fluent in Greek as a second language, since it was common for business and trade all over the known world.

i selfishly desired for the NT to be written, in what struck me as, a more sacred language (Hebrew). Yet the fact that the New Covenant is written in Greek is a theological statement in itself. It means that the New Covenant is intentionally seeking to embrace all of humanity, rather than preferring any one ethnic group over the other.

The New Covenant marks the end of ethnocentrism, and the fact that it is written in Greek underlines and exclaims this statement.

[Some believe Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, but there is little evidence for this. It should also be noted that for about 200 years prior to Christ the Jewish people primarily spoke Greek and the Hebrew Scriptures were most commonly read in the Greek translation of the Septuagint. Certainly much of the known world also spoke Greek as a primary language.]

Friday, October 21, 2011


Gaddafi was killed the other day. His convoy was struck by NATO forces. The Libyans attempted to sell the story that he had been fatally wounded during the attack. Video footage seems to tell a different story. He was alive and well when the opposition got hold of him. That's when we saw their form of due justice without trial.

Gaddafi's last words "Do you know right from wrong?" actually is a good question. Despite the irony of it coming out of Gaddafi's mouth, one has to wonder what kind of new form of
government begins with an execution without a trial.

Gaddafi's son, who was being held captive, also died in captivity, having been shot after capture.

Good job NATO, you've exchanged Satan for Lucifer and the whole world is applauding...again.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Christian vs. Muslim Denial of the Cross: A Comparison

From "Who is My Enemy" by Lee C. Camp

Thus, we come to this ironic observation, that while the Muslim may deny the historical fact of the crucified Jesus, we 'Christians have often denied the ethical relevance of the crucified Jesus. When the Crusader marked with the cross cleaves the skull of the infidel, when the conquistador bears the "Good News" to the New World as he slaughters and kidnaps the natives, and when the American Christian dangles a cross from the end of the machine gun with which he kills Muslims, he denies the crucified Jesus too. ...
So, the Qur'anic refutation of a crucified Jesus may prompt offense on the part of the Christian. But that same Christian may simultaneously deny the "narrative logic" of the crucified Jesus by making war. In such a case, the Muslim at least is more honest, the Christian more duplicitous, with regard to the cross. That is to say, when the crucified Jesus becomes yet one more "doctrine" merely to be believed, stripped of its narrative force, stripped of its ethical otherworldly idea or transaction, as opposed to a historical encounter with the power of rebellion; when the cross becomes an emblem, or the Scriptures that testify to this Jesus become the morale booster to go off and kill the enemy whom Jesus commanded us to love; then the Christian has denied the crucified Jesus every bit as much as the Muslim has, but less honorably so.


So perhaps, with regard to the crucified Messiah, we might best summarize this way:

The Muslim denies with his words,
because of what the Qur'an says;
the Christian denies with his deeds,
despite what the Bible says.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Parable: The King vs. The Lord of Lords

A king went out to conquer, amassing great wealth and power. There came to him a people who asserted that some other was king, whom they called "Lord of Lords." The king replied: you may freely worship this one you call "lord," you may freely build your buildings and write your books and seek your converts to this one you call" lord." But I shall rule the marketplace, and the army, and the public square. He shall be your personal "lord," while I am your public king. I shall make the laws, and you shall obey them. I shall tell you what enemies to kill, and you shall kill them. I shall give you a marketplace, and you shall seek to maximize your profits and keep all your profits, even at the expense of the poor, or the widow, or the stranger, and thence you shall pay taxes with which we shall wage war against all who threaten your freedom to worship your personal "lord."

And the people replied: we will gladly do as you say, O king. Indeed, we shall obey your laws. And we shall seek great profit and keep all for ourselves. And we will kill your enemies, for you, O king, have allowed us to pray to our personal lord in our houses of worship, in the privacy of our closets. Even more, O king, because you have allowed us to worship thus, we will denounce all those who do not exalt you, and we will proclaim that you have granted us the right to worship, and we shall profess that any who do not obey your laws or maximize profit or kill your enemies are no servants of the private Lord of Lords. We will hang your standard in our halls of worship, we will honor those who fight your wars, and we will celebrate those who heedlessly maximize profit. Oh, grant us such liberty as this, O king!

The king was pleased, and his new subjects served him well and were happy and satisfied.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Jesus Spectacles

I had the opportunity to hear Douglas Moo speak yesterday at GRTS' "Text and Culture" seminar. He is on the committee that produces and updates the NIV. He stressed that neither Zondervan nor Biblica has any control over how the committee interprets the Greek text and presents it in English version. He did lament the publishers control over certain features of presentation though, such as continuing the tradition of printing Jesus' words in Red (thanks to Zondervan for the complimentary NIV 2011).

During lunch i had the opportunity of sitting by Stanley Gundry, who is the executive vice pres. of Zondervan. He actually came to visit with John Frye, but sometimes the fly on the wall gets the opportunity to buzz around the head, and so that's the approach i took. i mentioned that i appreciated Zondervan sticking with the Red Letter Addition. He assured me it was not theological, but merely marketing demand. None-the-less, i presented a quick apologetic for my position, which went something like this...

On the road to Emmaus, a couple of disciples run into Jesus, only they don't know that it's him. They are lamenting that Jesus has been put to death. Then, incognito Jesus, explains the Scriptures (OT) to them and their eyes are opened and they recognize not only the Gospel predictions of the OT but also Jesus himself walking with them! The point is that they only understood the Scriptures properly through the teaching and perspective of Jesus.

Secondly, the book of Hebrews opens up by saying, "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being,..."

The implication being that clarity reaches it's zenith in Jesus' teachings and witness. The prophets were a shadow, but Jesus is the reality which casts the shadow. It is through the teachings and witness of Christ that we receive the clearest representation of God's nature and will.

Historically, the Protestant/Evangelical Church has viewed (interpreted) Scripture, including the Gospel, through the lenses of Paul. Metaphorically, it has been Paul's words printed in Red. i am suggesting that we ought to interpret the Bible through the perspective of Jesus' teachings instead. Some would agree that we ought not interpret the bible with a Pauline bias, but would argue that we ought not have a Christocentric bias either. Instead, they would suggest that we ought to view Scripture as a whole on equal terms. Therefore, Christ's words don't have precedence, but neither are they relegated under a Pauline perspective.

i respectively disagree. Like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, i believe we can only properly understand the message of Scripture by first hearing Jesus' interpretation of it. All Scripture is God-breathed, but just as the prophets were a shadow of the Christ, so also even Paul is also a type of reflection of Christ. Therefore, i suggest a Christocentric reading of Scripture.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Guest Post: Thomas Merton

Simone Weil says clearly that the acceptance of war as an unavoidable fatality is the root of the power politician's ruthless and obsessive commitment to violence.

The typology of the Trojan war, "known to every educated man," illustrates this. The only one, Greek or Trojan, who had any interest in Helen was Paris. No one, Greek or Trojan, was fighting for Helen, but for the "real issue" which Helen symbolized. Unfortunately, there was no real issue at all for her to symbolize. both armies, in this war, motivated by symbols without content, which in the case of the Homeric, heroes took the form of gods and myths.

Instead of going to war because the gods have been arguing among themselves, we go because of "secret plots" and sinister combinations, because of political slogans elevated to the dignity of metaphysical absolutes: "our political universe is peopled with myths and monsters--we know nothing there but absolutes." We shed blood for high sounding words spelled out in capital letters. We seek to impart content to them by destroying other men who believe in enemy-words, also in capital letters.

But how can men really be brought to kill each other for what is objectively void? The nothingness of national, class or racial myth must receive an apparent substance, not from intelligible content but from the will to destroy and be destroyed. (We may observer here that the substance of idolatry is the willingness to give reality to metaphysical nothingness by sacrificing to it...).

Thomas Merton "Faith and Violence"