Archive for the ‘Origen’ Tag

Deplorables   1 comment

Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:  it not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”

–Matthew 15:10-11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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If Jesus were speaking today, he would include websites and social media in that statement.

I used to be a news junkie.  In the middle and late 1980s, I could recognize the names of most of the United States Senators.  In 2015 and 2016, however, I began to choose being sane over being thoroughly informed.  I also decided to tend to my spiritual life more; certain public figures were bad for it, increasing exponentially my use of profanities (in private, under my breath, of course).  I did not grow up using that kind of language routinely.

I have been monitoring the news during the last few days and becoming more horrified with each passing day.  The news stories from Charlottesville, Virginia, and now from Spain have not ceased to develop, but I have collected enough information to make a few informed and moral statements.

Racism is a sin, one that I learned by societal osmosis.  Fortunately, my parents raised me well, to reject racism.

Whenever the sin of racism raises its ugly head in my thoughts (which is to say, often), I reject it and take it to God in confessional mode.  I make no excuses for racism in myself or anyone else.  Related to that ethic, I reject all biases directed at people–on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, national origin, ethnicity, gender, et cetera.  Each of us bears the image of God, and therefore carries inherent dignity.  This is a morally consistent position, regardless of the mixed political labels attached to it.

Furthermore, I condemn almost all violence, for most of it is unnecessary and morally wrong.  I do understand defense of oneself and others, however.  Human nature is flawed and the world is imperfect, after all.  Certainly I condemn the violence of the racist thugs at Charlottesville last Saturday and the terrorists in Spain yesterday.  I do so without any hesitation and backtracking.  The political causes differ, but the problem of violent radicalization is the same.  The reality of the killing and injuring of innocent people is also consistent, as is the use of vehicles as deadly weapons.

Contrary to the unscripted words of the increasingly politically isolated inhabitant of the White House, he who has professed to care about getting facts straight then who, in the wake of the attacks in Spain, has tweeted a lie about General John J. Pershing killing Muslims with bullets dipped in the blood of pigs, there was no moral equivalence between Klansmen and neo-Nazis on one side and anti-racist protesters on the other.  One of the chants of the violent racists at Charlottesville was

The Jews will not replace us.

How could there, in Trump’s words, have been

very fine people

on both sides?  This week Trump seems to have prompted many prominent Republicans in Congress to do what I had thought impossible:  grow spines.  True, based on news reports, the Vice President, based on his public comments, seems to remain an invertebrate, but the list of prominent Republican vertebrates grows longer with each passing day.

I propose a simple test for one’s denunciations of neo-Nazis and Klansmen, the sort of people who chant

The Jews will not replace us.

The condemnation must be unequivocal and focused.  Klansmen and neo-Nazis must hear it and find in it no reason to agree with any of it or take comfort in it.  None of this describes Trump’s unscripted remarks, the ones that preceded his scripted remarks, the ones he retracted.

Trump could have averted this Charlottesville-related political firestorm easily.  All he had to do was make an unequivocal statement condemning Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists as well as their violence then be consistent.  But he did not do that.  He has also blamed others for the mess he made for himself.  Trump has also been more eager to condemn journalists (calling them enemies) and CEOs with social consciences (accusing them of grandstanding) than Klansmen and neo-Nazis.

Everything is wrong with this picture.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ERDMANN NEUMEISTER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PORCHER DUBOSE, EPISCOPAL THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2017/08/18/deplorables/

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Authority and Grace   1 comment

St. Paul by Theophanes the Cretan

Above:  Icon of St. Paul, by Theophanes the Cretan

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the preaching of John, that

rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 16:1-19 (Monday)

Numbers 16:20-35 (Tuesday)

Micah 4:8-13 (Wednesday)

Isaiah 11:1-9 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:7-17 (Monday)

Acts 28:23-31 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:31-35 (Wednesday)

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But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

A twig shall sprout from his stock.

The spirit of the LORD shall alight upon him:

A spirit of wisdom and insight,

A spirit of counsel and valor,

A spirit of devotion and reverence for the LORD.

He shall sense the truth by his reverence for the LORD:

He shall not judge by what his eyes behold,

Nor decide by what his ears perceive.

Thus he shall judge the poor with equity

And decide with justice for the lowly of the land.

He shall strike down a land with the rod of his mouth

And slay the wicked with the breath of his lips.

Justice shall be the girdle of his loins,

And faithfulness the girdle of his waist.

The wolf shall lay down with the lamb,

The leopard lie down with the kid;

The calf, the beast of prey, and the fatling together,

With a little boy to herd them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

Their young shall lie down together;

And the lion, like the ox, shall eat straw.

A babe shall play

Over a viper’s hole,

And an infant pass his hand

Over an adder’s den.

In all of My sacred mount

Nothing evil or vile shall be done;

For the land shall be filled with devotion to the LORD

As water covers the sea.

–Isaiah 11:1-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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In the Torah Moses was God’s choice to lead the Hebrews for many years.  To oppose Moses, therefore, was to sin, according to that extended narrative, as it has come down to us in its final form.  Disobedience to the principles of the Law of Moses, according to the theology of subsequent biblical books, led to the destruction of two Hebrews kingdoms.  Yet, texts indicated, restoration and good times would follow the Babylonian Exile.

The theology of obeying religious leaders, which occurs in Hebrews 13, meshes well with the composite pericope from Numbers 16.  The historical context of Christian calls to obey approved religious leaders, present in the Bible as well as in early Christian writings from subsequent centuries, occurred in the context of doctrinal formation.  Doctrines did not fall from Heaven or appear magically, fully formed.  No, human beings debated them and sometimes even fought (literally) over them.  Orthodoxy, as approved church leaders have defined it, has changed over time.  For example, Origen (185-254 C.E.) was orthodox by most of the standards of his time.  Yet he became a heretic ex post facto and postmortem because the First Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.) contradicted elements of his Trinitarian theology.

Throughout the Christian past orthodox leaders have disagreed with each other and with those they have labeled heretics (often accurately) in real time.  This raises a legitimate question:  Whom is one supposed to regard as authoritative.  This is an old problem.  The ultimate answer has ways been God, but even heretics have tended to agree with that answer.  Early Christianity was quite diverse–more so than historians of Christianity understood for centuries.  How was one supposed to avoid following a false teacher?  St. Paul the Apostle understood the answer as being to listen to him and his associates.  Apostolic succession was another way of establishing orthodox credentials.  There were always critics of orthodox leaders (who were no less imperfect than heretics), as there had been of Jesus and St. John the Baptist before them.

The question of who speaks for God remains a difficult one much of the time.  I think, for example, that I am generally on the right path theologically, but I know people who disagree with that opinion strongly.  My best answer to the difficult question is to evaluate people and their messages according to certain criteria, such as the following:

  1. Do they teach and practice love of others, focusing on the building up of community without sacrificing the individual to the collective?
  2. Do they teach and practice respecting the image of God in their fellow human beings, even while allowing for the reality of difficult moral quandaries relative to that issue?
  3. Do they focus on the lived example of Jesus, leading people to God via him, instead of focusing on any human personality, especially that of a living person?
  4. Do they teach and practice compassion, as opposed to legalism?

Salvation, which is for both the community and the individual, is a matter of God’s grace and human obedience.  That grace demands much of its recipients.  Go, take up your cross and follow Jesus, it says.  Share your blessings and take risks for the glory of God and the benefit of others, it requires.  Fortunately, it does not command that I have an answer for the question of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son or just from the Father.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Sheep and Shepherds   1 comment

Good Shepherd

Above:   Christ, the Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 50:1-7 (Monday)

Zechariah 9:14-10:2 (Tuesday)

2 Samuel 5:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 100 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:17-25 (Monday)

Acts 20:17-38 (Tuesday)

Luke 15:1-7 (Wednesday)

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Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness;

come before him with joyful song.

Know that the LORD is God,

he made us, we belong to him,

we are his people, the flock he shepherds.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him, bless his name;

good indeed is the LORD,

his faithfulness lasts through every generation.

–Psalm 100, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

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All of the assigned readings for these three days speak of sheep and shepherds:

  1. God is the shepherd in Psalm 100.
  2. God is the shepherd-divine warrior who will end the Babylonian Exile in Jeremiah 50:1-7 and Zechariah 9:14-10:2.
  3. David, a troublesome character, is the shepherd-king in 2 Samuel 5:1-12.
  4. Jesus is the Good Shepherd in Luke 15:1-7.
  5. St. Paul the Apostle is the shepherd warning of “fierce wolves” in Acts 20:17-38.
  6. Faithful church leaders are the shepherds worthy of obedience in Hebrews 13:17-25.

Now I proceed to unpack some themes:

  1. The core of church doctrine, as in the question of the nature of Christ, developed over centuries, during which debates, arguments, and street brawls, and knife fights occurred in the name of sorting out proper theology.  Much of what we Christians take for granted these days came about over five centuries, give or take a few years.  Even the latest book in the New Testament did not exist until the end of the first century of the Common Era, and consensus regarding canonical status required more time to form.  In that context obeying orthodox bishops made a great deal of sense, although the definition of orthodoxy shifted over time.  Origen, for example, was orthodox in his day yet heterodox ex post facto.
  2. The parable from Luke 15:1-7 assumes a team of shepherds, so one shepherd could leave to seek a lost sheep without fear of losing more animals.
  3. That parable tells us that all people matter to Jesus.  They should, therefore, matter to us also.
  4. One metaphor for kings in the Bible is shepherds.  Some shepherds are good, but others are bad, unfortunately.  Good kings do what is best for all the people, especially the vulnerable ones.
  5. God is the best shepherd, protecting the flock, seeking an unbroken and unforgotten covenant with it, and searching for the lost sheep.  The flock can be bigger, and we can, by grace, function well as junior shepherds, subordinate to God, the senior shepherd.

I notice the community theme inherent in the metaphor of the flock.  We depend upon God, the ultimate shepherd, and upon the other shepherds in the team.  We also depend upon and bear responsibilities toward each other, for we follow the lead of others–often the lead of fellow sheep.  Sometimes this is for better, but often it is for worse.  Sticking together and following the proper leader is essential for group survival and for individual survival.

May we, by grace, recognize the voice of God, our ultimate shepherd, and follow it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MILNER BALL, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LAW PROFESSOR, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-11-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Idolatry Among Us   1 comment

3c33676v

Above:  Astarte (1902), by John Singer Sargent

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003689373/)

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133676

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation

of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 5:2-9 (Protestant Versification)/Micah 5:1-8 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 72

Luke 13:31-35

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 13:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/second-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/devotion-for-the-thirty-fourth-and-thirty-fifth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/week-of-proper-25-thursday-year-1/

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Blessed are you, O Lord our God:

for you alone do marvellous things.

Blessed be your glorious name for ever:

let the whole earth be filled

with your glory.  Amen.  Amen.

–Psalm 72:19-20, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The reading from Luke 13 prompts me to think of the Classic Theory of the Atonement, a.k.a. the Conquest of Satan and Christus Victor.  This interpretation dates to early Christianity, for Origen, St. Irenaeus, and St. Justin Martyr argued for it.  I have read more recent iterations of it in the works of Gustav Aulen and N. T. Wright.  As St. Irenaeus (died 202 C.E.) wrote:

The Word of God was made flesh in order that He might destroy death and bring men to life, for we were tied and bound in sin, we were born in sin and live under the dominion of death.

–Quoted in Linwood Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition (New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1995), page 109

Perfidious men–men, not people generically (I like to use gendered language precisely)–plotted to kill Jesus.  They succeeded in that goal.  Yet our Lord and Savior did not remain dead for long.  So those perfidious men failed ultimately.

God wins ultimately, despite our best human attempts to thwart that result.  Such is the best definition of the sovereignty of God I can muster.

Micah 5:1-8/5:2-9 (depending on the versification in the translation one reads) sounds reassuring for the Hebrew nation in the late eighth century B.C.E.-early seventh century B.C.E., the timeframe for Isaiah 1-39.  Woe be unto any Assyrian invaders, it says.  If one continues to read, however, one discovers that the Assyrians are not the only ones who should quake in fear of divine retribution, which will fall also on the homefront as well:

In anger and fury I shall wreak vengeance

on the nations who disobey me.

–Micah 5:15, The Revised English Bible

The disobedience in Micah 5 took various forms, including idolatry.

Idols range from false deities to anything which anyone lets stand between him or her and God.  I live in Athens, Georgia, a football-mad town.  Often I note the tone of reverence regarding University of Georgia athletics in the local press.  And frequently have I heard sports fans liken sports to religion.  It is one for many of them.  And, ironically, the Bible functions as an idol for many honest seekers of God.  The Scriptures are supposed to be as icons, through which people see God, but their function varies according to the user thereof.

Religion is a basic human need.  Even many militant fundamentalist Atheists possess the same irritating zeal as do many fundamentalists of theistic varieties.  I stand in the middle, rejecting both excessive skepticism and misplaced certainty, overboard materialism and rationality with the haunting fear that having sex standing up will lead to (gasp!) dancing.  So I reject idols on either side of my position while know that I need to examine my own position for the presence of idols, as abstract as they might be.

Perhaps the greatest spiritual challenge is to identify and reject all idols, which do not seem as what they are to us because the most basic assumptions people carry do not look like assumptions to us.  Thus we justify ourselves to ourselves while we stand in serious error.  Sometimes our idols and false assumptions, combined with fears, lead us commit violence–frequently in the name of God or an imagined deity, perhaps understood as being loving.

We are really messed up.  Fortunately, there is abundant grace available to us.  But can we recognize that if idolatry blinds us spiritually?

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF HANNAH, MOTHER OF SAMUEL

THE FEAST OF DAVID CHARLES, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF NEW GUINEA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF ROSKILDE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/devotion-for-january-9-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Hebrews, Part I: Misunderstanding Events   1 comment

christ-pantocrator-02

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 8:1-32

Psalm 84 (Morning)

Psalms 42 and 32 (Evening)

Hebrews 1:1-14

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Some Related Posts:

Hebrews 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/proper-22-year-b/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-monday-of-passion-weekholy-week/

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

Exodus 7:26-8:28 in Jewish and Roman Catholic Bibles equals Exodus 8:1-32 in Protestant ones.  So the Exodus citation in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod daily lectionary refers to the Protestant versification.

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With this post I turn to that part of the LCMS daily lectionary (2006 version) which pairs the Book of Exodus and the Letter to the Hebrews.  The epistle belongs to the Pauline tradition without St. Paul being its author.  Origen, my favorite excommunicated theologian, wrote in the 200s,

As to who wrote the epistle, only God knows.

The epistle opens by explaining the superiority of Jesus:

He is the reflection of God’s glory and bears the impress of God’s own being, sustaining all things by his powerful command; and now that he has purged sins away, he has taken his seat at the right hand of the divine Majesty on high.

–1:3, The New Jerusalem Bible

Meanwhile, in the Book of Exodus, the plagues continue.  Frogs, lice or gnats (depending on the translation one consults), and flies overrun Egypt.  But the Pharaoh is stubborn.  He is the same uncaring character who, in 7:23-24, went home as common Egyptians, desperate for drinking water, dug wells.

How is one supposed to tie these two readings together?  Psalm 32:10 (The New Jerusalem Bible) reads

Countless troubles are in store for the wicked,

but one who trusts in Yahweh is enfolded in his faithful love.

Were the ordinary Egyptians wicked?  No, course not!  They were no more or less sinful than anyone else.  So I have difficulty reconciling the God concept in Exodus 8 with the one in Hebrews 1.  Is the God who inflicts plagues on innocent  civilians the same one whose impress Jesus bears?

I think that a series of natural disasters befell Egypt in rapid succession and that the Hebrews escaped in the process.  I think that authors of now-canonical texts interpreted these disasters as acts of God.  But I do not think that God victimized innocent civilians.  No, that is not the God whose glory I see in Jesus of Nazareth, who sacrificed himself out of love rather than betray it.  We have begun Holy Week.  May we not proceed through it with a concept of God who attacks innocent populations.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF CONFESSIONS, 1967

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/devotion-for-the-sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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