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Sex Is Natural, Sex Is Good: The Image of God as “Relational”

It’s a boy! I could be wrong, but I imagine that’s the first the the doctor said to my parents when I was born. And I’m sure my parents didn’t find this at all unusual – especially since I am, in fact, a boy. But if you think about it for a moment, why is this always the first thing we think about when a new baby is born? Surely, my sexual genitalia were not my most notable features. The doctor could have made equally objective observations about the size of my head or the tone of my skin. Why does gender get so much attention?

image of god, gender, sexuality, male and femaleAnd the same is true for non-doctors. Tell someone you’re pregnant, and just count the seconds until they ask if it’s going to be a boy or a girl. Look at the baby shower presents and notice how the anticipated gender shaped everyone’s purchases. Dress your new baby in green and watch all the frustrated people try to figure out which gender category to put it in. Before we have even opened our eyes to see the strange new world that lies beyond the safety of our mothers’ wombs, our sexuality has already started to shape who we are and how we relate to the people around us.

Sex matters.

As Robert Jewett said,

Sexuality permeates one’s individual being to its very depth; it conditions every facet of one’s life as a person….Our self-knowledge is indissolubly bound up not simply with our human being but with our sexual being.

So, as we continue our discussion of the image of God, it should come as no surprise that some have considered the possibility that sexuality lies at the heart of the image of God just as the image of God lies at the heart of what it means to be human. But they mean more than just the fact that we were born with certain biological features. For these thinkers, sexuality is really about being in relationship. “Male” and “female” are essentially relational terms–i.e. you can’t really have one without the other. So, by creating humans as gendered creatures, God established us as those who identity is always constituted in relationship to someone else. And it is through these relationships that we we reflect God’s being in the world. The imago is relational.

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Forced Choices: The Historicity of Adam and Eve

Our last Forced Choice was a landslide. Apparently there’s not a lot of debate around here that philosophy is good for theology (85%). I really thought more people would be hesitant with that one, but I’m glad to see I was wrong.

This week’s choice will jump right into the middle of the debate surrounding the historicity of Adam and Eve. This has gotten a lot of attention lately with prominent books from Peter Enns (The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins) and John Collins (Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who Were They and Why You Should Care), among others. If you’re interested, Brian LePort has been doing an series on both of these books (you can read the latest post here), and he also posted an excellent summary of views on the historicity of Adam and Eve.

But we’re not here to discuss the relative merits of the various positions. We’re just here to vote. So what do you think? Were Adam and Eve the historic individuals from whom all other humans descended?

But, since I think a simple yes/no vote is likely to mimic our earlier vote on evolution, I’d like to complicate things just a bit by offering some options about how long ago Adam and Eve were created (i.e. less/more than 10,000 years ago) and whether they were the ones from whom all other humans descended. The latter option covers the possibility that humans evolved like other creatures, and that at some point God selected two of them for special relationship with himself.

So, with that clarification in mind, use the poll in the sidebar to vote and let us know what you think.

 

John Wesley on How to Read Scripture

In the preface to his Explanatory Notes upon the Old Testament, John Wesley laid out his principles for how to read scripture in such a way that you come “to understand the things of God” and to love him wholly and truly. His principles are well worth reflecting on today.

If you desire to read the scripture in such a manner as may most effectually answer this end, would it not be advisable,

1. To set apart a little time, if you can, every morning and evening for that purpose?

2. At each time if you have leisure, to read a chapter out of the Old, and one out of the New Testament: if you cannot do this, to take a single chapter, or a part of one?

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Getting Over Our Inferiority Complex

The Christian Church today often has an inferiority complex. A few generations ago the pastor of a church was the most educated and respected leader in the community. There was a day when, because of this cultural situation, the Church exercised the predominant influence in the structure of Western community life. That day has long passed. We have often felt that the world has thrust the Church into a corner and passed us by. The Church does not count in the world at large. Continue Reading…

Exodus: An Exegetical Commentary (review)

This is a guest post by Jan Verbruggen, Professor of Old Testament Language and Literature at Western Seminary.

Victor P. Hamilton, Exodus. An Exegetical CommentaryGrand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011.

Victor Hamilton is well known for his 2-part commentary on Genesis in the New International Commentary of the Old Testament series, his Handbook on the Pentateuch, and his Handbook on the Historical Books. He taught for 35 years at Ashbury University, and now in his retirement has been appointed as “Scholar in residence” at the aforementioned school. He has taken advantage of his retirement to devote himself full-time to research and writing, and this commentary is the first fruit of that labor.

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Why I’m Making a Wildly Inaccurate “Translation” of the Gospels

Matt Mikalatos is starting a new series on “translating” the gospels for people who have them so many times that they need some help hearing them again for the first time.

It looks like it will be a fabulous series. So follow along and offer your thoughts/comments. 

Here’s how he starts off the series.

I grew up in church, and frankly, I love it. I know that’s not cool right now, and I don’t care. Don’t worry, it will come back into style.

One side effect of growing up in Christian culture can be a certain contemptuous familiarity with the Bible. I remember impatiently tapping my feet when we trotted out the Christmas story, begging for it to end so we could tear into the presents. I remember playing “Bible Trivial Pursuit” in sixth grade and thinking to myself, “I know everything there is to know about the Bible, except how to pronounce some of the names.” I knew all the answers because they had been provided for me, like an answer key at the back of the book (or, more likely, in the margins and footnotes). There weren’t questions I needed to wrestle with or even consider.

Over time, the weight of all those flannelgraphs and picture Bibles and trivia games and cinematic portrayals and the occasional agenda-driven Bible study flattened Jesus out. It washed the color from the stories. Knowing all the answers made the Gospels little more than thinly disguised theological textbooks, where I knew what would happen next and why and what that meant. Two-dimensional characters packed the Bible so tightly that I couldn’t avoid them: the bumbling disciples, the evil Pharisees, the serene Christ.

Read the rest here.

Reading the Bible for Understanding and Not Just Information (quote)

One enemy of good reading is confusion about which mode of attention is appropriate to a given book. I am certain that this very confusion makes it almost impossible for anyone to read—genuinely to read—the Bible. In both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, narrative and other more-or-less literary forms are dominant, which seems to call for a strategy of reading for understanding similar to what one might use in an encounter with, say, Homer; but these books’ status as sacred text suggests, to many modern readers anyway, that their purpose is to provide information about God and God’s relation to human beings. “Strip-mining” the Psalms, or the Song of Solomon, or even the more elevated discourses of the Gospel of John, “for relevant content” might not seem like a promising strategy, but many generations of pastors have pushed it pretty hard, as though the Bible were no more than an awkwardly coded advice manual.

Alan Jacobs, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction (Oxford University Press, 2011), p. 99.

My Bible Is Crowded

Every morning after tending to the dogs and getting my coffee, I sit down for some time alone with God and the Bible. I’ve done this more years than I can count. However, I’m finding the room increasingly crowded as the years go by.

That’s how Dan Bouchelle begins an excellent reflection on the many voices that shape how we read our Bibles. Some of those voices are helpful, others less so. But all of them form an inescapable part of who we are and how we read the text.

Part of the posts focuses on how distracting those voices can be and how it seems like they just distract us from the task of hearing the simple voice of God in Scripture. But Bouchelle strikes a more encouraging note at the end. Make sure you read the whole post, but here’s another quote from the conclusion:

My Bible is crowded and if I’ve learned anything through the years it is that I can never read the Bible alone. Even when I am alone, I read my Bible in community. My Bible was preserved by others, translated by others, printed by others, interpreted and taught to me by others, and incarnated in the lives of still others. The attempt to have an exclusive encounter with God’s words is more than naïve, it is downright arrogant. Can I still hear God in all these other voices? Yes I think I can.

Check it out and spend some time reflecting on how crowded your room is when you read the Bible, and why that’s a good thing.

Forced Choices (Who is Romans 7 talking about?)

Our last Forced Choice asked you to vote on your favorite part of the NT. And I guess we shouldn’t be terribly surprised that the gospels won by a fair margin (48%). Paul made a respectable showing (33%), but couldn’t close the gap. And the rest of the NT barely got a nod. Apparently we really like Jesus around here.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a new Forced Choice, and this one comes as a special request from someone who would be interested in knowing what we think. Who is Paul talking about in Romans 7? If you don’t recall off the top of your head, this is the chapter where Paul is lamenting the power of sin in a person’s life, making them do things they don’t want to. People have long debated Paul’s meaning in this chapter and I’m sure I could include more options than these. But, for the sake of simplicity, these are your choices.

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The Canonical Books Are the “Fountains of Salvation”

Athanasius is a Father of the Church and the Doctor of Orthodoxy, or right belief. For much of his career, it must have seemed like the whole world was against him as he was exiled at least 5 times for upholding orthodoxy. Praise God that he did not waver in his faith but stood strong and helped maintain orthodox belief in the Church. He is truly a champion of the faith, and we are ever grateful for this servant and saint of God, who is celebrated on January 18.

Perhaps you already know this, but Athanasius was actually the first person to list all 66 book of the Bible as the Christian canon of literature. Below is what he wrote on the topic some 1,700 years ago:

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