Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Recent Miscellaneous Reflects from My Facebook Page

Today I'm thinking aloud about a quote I ran across during seminary days. I liked it so well, I actually cross-stitched and framed it. Gender neutral concerns now prevail, so I'll reword it a little; but I find it an especially relevant insight for our day and time (and especially in this election year):
"Education is our moving from cocksure ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty."
Take that, all you who think you know it all!

There is a lot of "cocksure ignorance" at both ends of the spectrum on most controversial issues. Some are good at hiding ignorance, and some are good at exploiting it.

If education is moving from cocksure ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty, then faith is moving from thoughtful uncertainty to confident trust--sometimes in enormous strides and sometimes in a multitude of baby steps.

When I was growing up in Alabama, you didn't see many political signs in people's front yards, but you still could always tell those who were voting for the incumbent--the roads in front of their houses had recently been paved. And the owners of the paving companies and all their employees were especially loyal supporters of the candidate who sent those paving contracts their way. Back then a candidate "earned" votes by delivering perks to the constituents. 

Today, everything has been reversed. Now the corporate executives decide who can deliver the most perks to them and choose who ought to be elected. They pour millions of dollars into the candidate's election campaign (or into attack ads against their candidate's opponents). In this way they ensure that their best interests will be protected.

So where candidates used to "buy" votes, we now have the wealthy "buying" candidates. Somehow to me, neither of these seem to represent the best of a true democracy.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Is This Really "Life"?

"USA Today" has a section in its paper and in its online edition titled "Life." Today's online headlines in that section are:

   No beginner: Christopher Plummer could win his first Oscar
   Critic's Corner: "The Bachelor," "Band of Brothers"
   Whitney Houston laid to rest
   Denzel Washington's "Safe House" hits no. 1
   'Alcatraz' star Jorge Garcia won't be "Lost" prisoner
   All hail John Williams, a maestro of movies

Can someone tell me what these stories have to do with "Life"? Have we reached the point in our nation where most people live life in and through the fantasy world of the entertainment industry? Are we so engrossed with television, movies, online interactions, fantasy games, and such that these diversions have become the essence of life for us? Have “talk shows” replaced our interactions with family and friends? Have our conversations become dominated by what USA Today understands as “Life”?

Many of the headliner, blockbuster stocks of our day are media-driven with no tangible products involved. We are becoming consumers of artificial experiences, entertaining events, and distant communication. Life is being “lived” beyond our immediate circumstances and situations. Our “present moments” often are not present at all—they are experienced through a computer monitor, a laptop screen, or a life-sized television screen.

I have watched for a long time the phenomenon of televangelists who have become "church" for some people. These TV audience “church members” never enter a church building or interact with fellow believers in considering matters of faith and life. “Artificial intelligence” has morphed into “artificial life,” “artificial experiences,” and “artificial faith.”

And here I am, reflecting on these matters through the very media about which I am expressing concern! Has sharing ideas through the intangible media replaced civil discourse where people engage in life together, where we work together hand-in-hand, and where we have real face-to-face conversations of substance with other? I’m thinking aloud about “life” today and about what it means to “live” in a cyberspace world where virtual reality is replacing the handshake, the hug, the face-to-face conversation, and “real life.” 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

ABBA FATHER: Paul’s Argument in Galatians 3:15—4:7

Galatians 3:15—4:7 provides a carefully reasoned argument by Paul in defense of his proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles. Buttressing his arguments with passages from the Old Testament, Paul set forth a new understanding of how God has worked since the time of Abraham to bring all kinds of people into intimate relationship with God. That relationship flows through Christ Jesus and reaches its zenith when the Spirit compels us to embrace God as Abba Father.

1.       Paul’s argument begins with the premise that a covenant, a testament or a will (think here of a “last will and testament”) once established cannot be altered or set aside (3:15)
2.       God’s covenant was established with “Abraham and his seed” and was based on a promise that the covenant would be everlasting, beginning with Isaac and his “seed” (3:16a; cf. Gen. 17:19b).
3.       Since the Hebrew word “seed” is singular in Genesis 17:19b, Paul concluded that it refers to one person. That person is Christ (3:16b).
4.       This covenant with Abraham was made by God 430 years before the law was given to Moses (3:17a).
5.       The giving of the law to Moses did not set aside or do away with the earlier covenant and its promise (3:17b).
6.       The “inheritance” that belongs to Abraham’s seed is based on the covenantal promise and not on the law (3:18a).
7.       This inheritance is a gift of grace and is not in any way the result of human accomplishments like obeying the law (3:18b).
8.       The purpose of the law was to address human sinfulness until Abraham’s seed (Christ) had come and the covenantal promise could be fulfilled (3:19; cf. Romans 5:20).
9.       The law was given through a mediator (Moses, cf. Exod. 20:19) and was put into effect by angels (cf. Acts 7:53; Deut. 33:2); but the promise to Abraham did not involve a mediator (who must represent both parties in a covenant) and was made directly by God (3:19c-20).
10.    The whole world is a prisoner of sin, and this is evidence that the law cannot save (make one alive) or impart righteousness (3:21-22a).
11.    The law locked up God’s people as prisoners and “supervised” them until faith was revealed (3:23-25).
12.    By grace Abraham’s promise is given to those who have faith in Jesus Christ (3:22b, 23-25).
13.    All who believe in Jesus Christ and belong to him become Abraham’s seed and inherit Abraham’s promise, whether they are Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female (3:26-29).
14.    A child under the law, though a heir of the promise, is no different from a slave under the authority of the law (4:1-3).
15.    God sent the Son, born of a woman and born under the law, to redeem those under the law (4:4-5a).
16.    Christ’s redemption provides an opportunity for all to received the full rights of inheritance (4:5b).
17.    God sends the Spirit of the Son into the hearts of those who claim the inheritance so that they in the Spirit can call out, “Abba, Father” (4:6).
18.    This confession transforms slaves into sons and thus into heirs of the covenant’s promise (4:7).

The purpose of this detailed argument was to set believers free from the obligations of the law that the Judaizers were trying to impose on the Gentiles in Galatia. The redemption offered by grace through Christ countered the Pharisaic tendency to focus on earning merit through obedience to every jot and tittle of the law. Paul later stated that “Christ has set us free” (5:1). The focus on the law was a burdensome “yoke of slavery” (5:2). Paul, however, also cautioned against the “freedom to indulge the sinful nature” (5:13) and called for believers to live by the Spirit and not by the desires of their sinful natures (5:16). “The fruit of the Spirit” (5:22) would guide them to “do good to all people” (6:10).