According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Did Jesus Break the Torah? Yes, In Fact, He Encouraged Others To Do So Too!



Introduction

Let's start with the basics... Jesus and Christianized laws made religious don't mix when humanity is lost in the equation. Grace and Mercy triumphs over inhumanitarian laws every time!

This Jesus-principal applies to how we conduct trade and business with one another; write and enact laws; teach and educate our children; worship, pray, and communicate with one another.

There is no substitute for love if love is the very thing being disregarded for profit, for money, for power, for prestige, or for any other idol in our lives.

R.E. Slater
May 7, 2017






Jesus and Torah
http://subversive1.blogspot.com/2016/05/jesus-and-torah.html?spref=tw

Does Jesus break the Torah? Does He encourage others to do so? Here, in this guest post, my friend Chuck McKnight makes some very insightful observations which I believe are on the right track.

Keith Giles

---

Jesus and Torah
Guest post by Chuck McKnight
May 6, 2017

I made this list a while ago of just a few examples where Jesus deliberately breaks Torah. Take it or leave it.


Oath Taking

According to Torah, the Israelites were commanded by Yahweh to swear in his name.

"You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name." - Deuteronomy 6:13

Jesus not only contradicted this command, he said that it came from the evil one, which certainly means that it did not come from Yahweh

But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." - Matthew 5:37

Showing Mercy over Retribution

According to Torah, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" was an absolute mandate. The Israelites were commanded to "show no mercy" in carrying it out:

"Show no pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." - Deuteronomy 19:21

But Jesus directly contradicted this mandate, commanding his followers not to follow Torah's instructions:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also." - Matthew 5:38–39


Showing Forgiveness to Adulterers

According to Torah, adultery was to be punished with death. No exceptions were given.

‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death." - Leviticus 20:10

But Jesus broke Torah in order to show mercy to the woman caught in adultery. [See John 8]


Offering Help Even on the Sabbath

According to Torah, no work was to be done on the Sabbath.

"But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do." - Deuteronomy 5:14

But Jesus flaunted his disregard for this particular command on many occasions. Let's look at one of the most direct violations:

When Jesus healed the man by the pool of Bethesda, he not only did so on the Sabbath, but he specifically instructed the man to break the Sabbath with him by carrying his mat.
"Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath" - John 5:8–9

This was nothing less than a deliberate contradiction of Jeremiah 17:21–22, which states that Yahweh specified not to carry any burden on the Sabbath. This command wasn't one of the traditions that had been built up as a hedge around the law; it came straight from Scripture.

"This is what the Lord says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors." - Jeremiah 17:21-22

If Jesus was merely concerned with healing the man, he would have simply done so, but he went out of his way to go against the law in the process, [by asking the man to take up his mat and carry it] and that action was what specifically raised the ire of the Jews:

"...and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” - John 5:10

How Jesus is Superior to Man's Laws

So, what are we to make of this? I [Keith] have a few thoughts:

First, Jesus himself was the first one to point out the differences between the Old and the New Covenant realities: "You've heard it said....[quoting Moses and the Old Covenant]...but I say to you...[speaking a new way of living under the New Covenant]."

Second, the New Testament writers document these two realities and wrestle sometimes with the ways that the New replaces and modifies the Old in the book of Acts, and in Galatians and Romans, for example.

Third, Jesus is the clearest picture we have of who the Father is, and what the Father is like. The prophets were men like us, but Jesus was, and is, the Word of God made flesh. He is God the Son. So whenever there are apparent contradictions, we take Jesus and apply what He says, not what those ancient prophets said through a veil that [can] only removed by Christ.

Finally, Christians are never instructed to keep the Torah or the Law. So it doesn't really matter if Jesus and the Torah are in conflict. We follow Jesus, not the Torah. Christianity is not Judaism with a cross on top. It's based on Jesus and who He is and what He commanded us to do. 

The Old Covenant is "obsolete". [Heb. 8:13]

It is "fading away and vanishing". [2 Cor. 3:7-11]

We should "get rid of it" [Gal.4:30]

Jesus is "the end of the Law" [Rom.10:4]

I'm very thankful to Chuck McKnight for taking the time to identify the specific ways in which Jesus opposed the Torah and corrected it for us.

We are no longer under the Old Covenant. We are gloriously alive in the New Covenant reality that the prophets longed to see.

God Himself, and Jesus, His Son, has made a home within us. We are now called His children. We are His beloved.

- kg

For Further Reading


Amazon Link


Early Biblical Interpretation (Library of Early Christianity) Paperback – January 1, 1986, by James L. Kugel (Author), Rowan A. Greer (Author)

This highly accessible book discusses how the early Jewish and Christian communities went about interpreting Scripture.

The Library of Early Christianity is a series of eight outstanding books exploring the Jewish and Greco-Roman contexts in which the New Testament developed.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The initial volumes of this new series bring refreshing critical perspectives to the question of early Christian identity. Grant argues that the religious activity of the New Testament must be placed within the matrix of the Greco-Roman experience. After exploring the functions, deeds, and doctrines of the pagan gods, he clearly points out the extent to which the development of Christologies and the doctrine of the Trinity are indebted to pagan expression and reflection. Distilling recent social/historical analyses, Stambaugh and Balch review the history of the period in which Christianity arose and spreadrelevant rural and urban environments and their common economic patterns and assumptions. Chapters on mission and Christian adaptation of urban social forms are major contributions. Kugel and Greer explore the major factors that shaped scriptural interpretation within early Judaism and Christianity. Kugel shows how, when the Jewish past turned into a present problematic than scriptural interpretation became a religious activity. Refining past tendencies and presaging future doctrinal debates, Greer demonstrates the notion of a Christian Bible on Irenaeus's synthesis. For university and seminary collections. Arthur J. Dewey, Xavier Univ., Cincinnati.

Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


About the Author

James A. Kugel is Director of the Institute for the History of the Jewish Bible at Bar Ilan University in Israel

Rowan A. Greer is Professor Emeritus of Anglican Studies at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. A highly recognized scholar with specializations in both the New Testament and the early church, he is the author of seven books and numerous articles.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Know Your Herods: A Guide to the Rulers of Palestine in the New Testament


Chronology of Syria and Palestine, 40 BCE - 70 CE




Know Your Herods: A Guide to the Rulers
of Palestine in the New Testament

by Paul Davidson 
May 4, 2017

This article is a bit of a departure from what I usually write. It’s less about biblical studies, and more of a brief history lesson. I’ve always found the various references to “king Herod” and other Judaean rulers in the Gospels and Acts to be somewhat confusing — and, truth be told, the scheming Herodian royal family makes for a fascinating historical study. So read on if you’re interested in the Herodian dynasty and their place in history and scripture. (And if that doesn’t interest you, maybe the section on historical deaths by worms will.) For the purposes of this article, I will limit myself to individuals mentioned directly in the Bible.

In the process of doing this research, I also made a Herodian family tree for my own use. I share it below with the caveat that it is somewhat incomplete, especially where source references are concerned.

The Family Tree of the Herodian Dynasty
The Herodian Family Tree (link to expand)

Historical Sources

By far our best and most depended-upon source for the Herodians is the Jewish historian Josephus — particularly his Antiquities and Jewish War. In addition to living in Palestine during the period in question and being a person of some importance, Josephus had access to the works of Nicolaus of Damascus — friend and court chronicler of Herod the Great — and was personally acquainted with king Agrippa II, Herod’s great-grandson. Thus, although his work is not without bias and error, he is generally well-informed.

Many of the Herodians are also mentioned in the works of Tacitus, Cassius Dio, Suetonius, Strabo, Philo, and other Greco-Roman writers.

Hérode by James Tissot, 1886-1894 (Brooklyn Museum)

King Herod (Herod the Great)

Judaea in the mid-second century BCE was ruled by the Hasmonean dynasty (the Maccabees), who revolted against their Seleucid overlords and established an alliance with Rome before proceeding to conquer and Judaize Samaria, Galilee, and other outlying regions — an arrangement Rome was fine with, since it kept the Seleucids in check. The alliance with Rome eventually lapsed, however, and in 63 BCE, the Roman general Pompey intervened in a Judaean civil war by conquering the country. Hyrcanus II was made ethnarch (a rank just below king) of a much-reduced Judaean state by Julius Caesar in 47 BCE. A shrewd Idumean named Antipater was given an administrative post and became the Roman procurator in Judaea (the emperor’s agent for all financial matters—a powerful position).

Antipater used his authority to make his sons Phasael and Herod the military governors of Judaea and Galilee, respectively. After Herod married into the Hasmonean family through Mariamne, the ethnarch’s granddaughter, he received the rank of tetrarch (which literally meant “ruler of a fourth”, but had become a generic princely title by then) over Galilee from Mark Antony, who wanted to curtail Hyrcanus’s authority. Following an invasion of Syria and Judaea by the Parthians, who were supported by Herod’s Hasmonean rival Antigonus (Hyrcanus’s nephew), Herod was declared king of Judaea by the Roman senate. His later loyalty to Octavian (Augustus Caesar) led to greater territorial gains and autonomy for Judaea.

Once Herod had consolidated his control, he embarked on numerous major construction projects. Fortresses were built throughout the country, and after re-founding the city of Samaria, he established the great port city of Caesarea — a Hellenistic polis based on the Roman template, including a temple to the imperial cult, with a harbour that was a triumph of engineering. And, perhaps most famously, he replaced the meager temple in Jerusalem with a lavish new complex based on the description of Solomon’s temple in the Jewish scriptures.

Perhaps surprisingly, King Herod is mentioned for certain only twice in the New Testament — in the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke. Matthew gives Herod an essential role in Jesus’ flight to Egypt that mirrors the Pharaoh of the Exodus story, while Luke simply opens his narrative by placing it “in the days of King Herod of Judea”. (Check out my articles on Matthew’s and Luke’s respective nativity stories for more details.)

King Herod had ten wives in total and a large number of children. His descendants frequently intermarried and formed one of the most powerful royal families in the Roman empire in the first century. His legacy was a mixed one. Jewish by religion but Idumean and Nabatean (Arab) by descent, he was never fully accepted by the Jews. Furthermore, he vigorously promoted the Hellenization of his kingdom. However, his construction of the temple was a major contribution to the Jewish religion and its prestige, and he was generally a capable, if tyrannical, ruler.

King Herod died in 4 BCE, and his kingdom passed to three of his sons.

Archelaus the Ethnarch

King Herod had changed his will numerous times and executed several of his sons, making the succession of his throne a precarious matter upon his death. One son, Archelaus, attempted to assume the throne for himself, but after various factions had presented their cases to Augustus, the emperor decided to divide up the kingdom. Archelaus would be given the largest portion — Judea and Samaria — but be denied the title of king. Instead, he had to settle for ethnarch. His brothers Antipas and Philip were made tetrarchs over other parts, a few cities were given to Herod’s sister Salome, and several cities of the Decapolis were transferred to Syria.

Archelaus’s rule did not last as long as his brothers’. He was deposed by Augustus in 6 CE after ten years of rule and banished to Gaul, whereupon Judea was annexed to the Roman province of Syria. As Judea was to be ruled and taxed directly by Rome for the first time, legate Quirinius of Syria conducted Judea’s first census in accordance with Roman administrative procedure.

Archelaus intersects with the New Testament twice — again, in the two nativity stories. In Matthew 2:22, Joseph is warned in a dream not to return to Judea because Herod’s son Archelaus is in power, so the family goes to Galilee instead. In Luke, though Archelaus is not named, it is the census of Quirinius following his exile that brings Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. This is difficult to reconcile with introduction that sets the story in the time of King Herod. Archelaus did use “Herod” as a dynastic name, but he was not a king. (For more on the historical issues concerning Luke’s story, see my article on Luke’s nativity.)

There is another allusion to Archelaus in the Gospels — this one rather curious. Luke’s version of the Parable of the Pounds (Lk 19:11-28) contains two verses describing a delegation seeking to prevent the nobleman from becoming their ruler, and the nobleman’s slaughter of those dissidents upon his return. This is generally understood as a reference to Archelaus, whose accession was opposed by a delegation of Jews in Rome, and who committed a ruthless slaughter upon his return. (See my article on this parable for more details.)

Arundel 83 (De Lisle Psalter) f. 125 – Christ before Pilate and Herod (c. 1310)

Antipas the Tetrarch

When Herod died, Antipas the half-brother of Archelaus was made tetrarch of Galilee and Perea — territories north of Samaria and east of the Jordan River, respectively. Thus, the majority of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels takes place within his jurisdiction.

Antipas appears in the Synoptic Gospels as the one responsible for the death of John the Baptist. The reader may be confused by the fact that he is called “Herod” throughout. Furthermore, Mark calls him king Herod in his telling of John’s execution, which Matthew corrects to “Herod the tetrarch”. (Antipas did use “Herod” as a dynastic name, and Josephus also calls him Herod the tetrarch on occasion.)

As the story in Mark 6 and Matthew 14 goes, Herod Antipas had John arrested for criticizing his marriage to Herodias (see below), who had previously been married to Antipas’s half-brother. Jewish law, unlike Roman law, did not allow a woman to divorce her husband¹, and the marriage to an ex-husband’s half-brother might have been understood to violate the Torah (Lev. 18:16 and 20:21). But according to Josephus (Ant. 18.116-119), Antipas imprisoned John because he feared his great eloquence as a preacher would rouse the people to sedition. Divorce does play a part in Josephus’s version, however, because in the same passage, he describes how Antipas intended to divorce his wife Phasaelis, a princess of Nabatea, in order to marry Herodias. Phasaelis discovered his intentions and fled to her father, King Aretas IV, who then attacked Antipas and destroyed his army. The Jewish people saw this defeat as a mark of God’s displeasure with Antipas for killing John the Baptist.

In other words, the story in Mark 6 seems to be a reshuffling of the elements in Josephus. Both stories concern Antipas’s affair with Herodias, a scandalous divorce, the execution of John, and a daughter conspiring against Antipas.

We will examine other aspects of this story further on.

Then, in Luke only, we find Antipas getting involved in Jesus’ trial, as at one point, Pilate sends Jesus to Antipas — who happens to be visiting Jerusalem — upon learning that Jesus is from his jurisdiction. In this passage (Luke 23:7-12), Antipas is simply called “Herod”.

Antipas is briefly mentioned by the name “Herod” in Acts 4:27, and again in 13:1 as “Herod the tetrarch”. This latter reference is curious, because it concerns one Manaen, a “syntrophos (friend) of Herod the tetrarch”, who is a prophet in Antioch. Josephus (Ant 15.373-9) mentions an Essene named Manaen who had prophesied to young Herod (the Great) that he would become king. Some scholars think the author of Acts has confused the two Herods here. The coincidence is strange, at any rate.

It is also possible that the “King Herod” who persecutes the church in Acts 12 is meant to be Antipas. See the section on Agrippa I below for a brief summary of the issue.

Philip the Tetrarch

Philip was the third son of Herod’s to inherit a portion of his kingdom. Philip was made tetrarch of Gaulanitis (today’s Golan Heights) and other regions that lay to the northeast of Palestine, in what is now Syria. His main connection with the Gospels is that he is mentioned by Mark and Matthew in the story of John the Baptist’s execution. According to Mark 6:17, and repeated by Matthew 14:3, Herodias had divorced Philip to marry Antipas. This is incorrect, however; according to Josephus, Herod had a son whose given name was also Herod, and this was the brother whom Herodias had divorced to marry Antipas. (Historians call him Herod II to avoid confusion with his father.) This Herod lived in Rome, and Antipas had met him and Herodias during a visit there. In the past, some apologists have proposed that Herod II was actually named “Herod Philip”², but this is generally rejected by scholars today. The passage has other problems, as we shall see presently.

The only other mention of Philip comes in Luke 3:1, where he is simply named to establish a timeframe for the start of John’s ministry.

Herodias

Herod the Great had two sons with his Hasmonean wife Mariamne. Both were executed before Herod’s death, but their children went on to lead lives of some importance. One son, Aristobulus IV, married his cousin (the daughter of Herod’s sister Salome) and had a daughter named Herodias. She is the one mentioned above who first married Herod II and then Antipas. In Mark 6 and Matthew 14, she is even more upset about John the Baptist’s accusations than Antipas is, and she conspires with her daughter to get John executed.

Salomé by Henri Regnault (1870)

Salome (daughter of Herodias)

According to Josephus, Herodias and Herod II had a daughter named Salome, and it is widely assumed that this is the daughter in Mark 6 who dances for Antipas during his birthday party and, at her mother’s prompting, demands the head of John the Baptist when Antipas offers to give her whatever she desires. However, the earliest manuscripts of Mark say the daughter’s name was Herodias, and Mark also describes Antipas as being her father (6:22), which has to be incorrect regardless of how one tries to interpret Mark. Matthew alters the story so that the girl is simply called “the daughter of Herodias” (14:6).

An additional twist to the confusion we have seen regarding Herodias, Philip, and Salome, is that Salome eventually went on to marry Philip. This might have been the source of Mark’s error (Flusser p. 19). (This datum also contradicts the Gospel narrative, since Salome obviously could not have married her own father.)

Most interpreters understand Salome’s dance to have been lascivious in nature, prompting Antipas’s rash promise. Many believe that Mark’s story has been influenced by the story of Esther, to whom the king similarly promises to give anything she asks (Esther 5:3ff). Mark uses the same word for girl, korasio, twice (6:22, 28) to describe Salome that the LXX uses for Esther and the other harem candidates, and Esther uses the banquet to bring about Haman’s execution much like Salome. (See Beavis, p. 104 for a discussion of these and other parallels.)

King Agrippa I (Agrippa the Great)

Marcus Julius Agrippa was the brother of Herodias, grandson of Herod and Salome. Agrippa was sent to be raised and educated in Rome after his father’s execution, and he became close friends with Caligula. When Caligula became emperor in 37, he gave Agrippa the territories of his recently deceased uncle Philip along with Abilene, conferring on Agrippa the title of king. Two years later, Antipas the tetrarch was exiled to Gaul, and his lands were added to Agrippa’s as well. When Caligula was murdered in 41, Agrippa supported Claudius in his accession as emperor and was rewarded with the addition of Judea and Samaria to his realm. Thus, Agrippa was the first king to reign in Palestine since his grandfather Herod, and Jerusalem once again became the Judaean capital. He was regarded as a kind and generous king by Josephus, and as a pious Jew by the Talmud.

Acts 12 describes a campaign of persecution against the church led by one “King Herod”, who is usually identified as Agrippa I, although Pervo (pp. 4, 101-105) notes that only Agrippa II (discussed below) is known to the author as “Agrippa”, and the murderous tyrant who goes by the name Herod in Acts 12 is based more on the Pharaoh of the Exodus, with the shared Passover motif and a direct allusion to Exodus 18:4 in Acts 12:11 — “The Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hands of Herod.” Schwartz (p. 120) notes that Agrippa is called “Herod” in no other source, and suggests the character must be viewed typologically in these stories. By calling the persecutor “King Herod”, no other motive for his tyranny is required (Haenchen, p. 381).

Agrippa is also a poor fit for this King Herod in terms of chronology. As Pervo (p. 142) notes, the first twelve chapters of Acts, from Jesus’ ascension to the persecution of King Herod, seem to occupy only a few months, but at least a decade would have to have passed to bring events into the time of Agrippa I. Furthermore, the prediction of a famine in Acts 11:28 suggests that the story takes place before the time of Claudius³; yet Agrippa was not king of Judea until after Claudius’s accession.⁴ Antipas, who reigned until 39, may be a better fit.

Regardless of this Herod’s identity, his death is certainly based on that of Agrippa. Acts 12:21-23 states that while Herod was delivering a public address in his royal robes, the people called him a god, whereupon he was immediately struck down by an angel and eaten by worms.

As Josephus (Ant. 19.343-361) tells it, Agrippa I was attending a festival in Caesarea, and the sunlight gleaming off his silver garment one morning prompted his flatterers to declare him a god. After failing to rebuke them, Agrippa saw an owl which he took to be an ill omen. He soon became sick with stomach pains and died after five days, while the multitude prayed to God for his recovery.

The biblical account comes across as a polemical, sensationalized retelling of Josephus’s story⁵, taking base pleasure in the grotesque nature of the villain’s death rather than lamenting a popular king’s passing as Josephus does. The “king Herod” of Acts appears to be based as much on the biblical Pharaoh and the tyrannical Herod the Great as the historical Agrippa.

Excursus on Agrippa’s death by worms

We have further reason for skepticism regarding the death of “King Herod” by worms as described in Acts 12. According to a widely-cited paper by Thomas Africa (see bibliography below), death by lice or worms/maggots, a condition known technically as phthiriasis, was a stock death ascribed to hated tyrants in ancient literature.

…anecdotes about famous people [dying of phthiriasis] are notoriously suspect. […] What is common to all accounts is a fatal corruption of tissue in the lower abdomen, swarming with worms or “lice” and emitting a terrible stench. An object of loathing, the victim of phthiriasis dies horribly and painfully. While Heaven bestows this affliction on the just and unjust alike, the disease is an appropriate punishment for cruel tyrants and enemies of God.

Herodotus describes evil queen Pheretima as dying after her body seethed with worms. Pausanius depicts the tyrant Cassander’s death in similar terms, eaten by worms while still alive. The body of the hated Sulla also rotted and turned to worms before death according to Pliny the Elder and Plutarch. This theme exists in Jewish and Christian literature as well; Isaiah 68:24 speaks of the wicked whose “worm shall not die”, and 2 Maccabees describes in lurid terms the anguished last days of reviled king Antiochus IV as his rotting body swarmed with worms (2 Macc. 9:5-9). According to Papias, Judas Iscariot died in agony, oozing pus and worms “from every party of his body”. And, most significantly for our text in Acts, King Herod (the Great) was stricken with worms before death according to Josephus (JW 1.656). Africa concludes: “the author of Acts borrowed a theme from the fictions about Antiochus IV and Herod the Great and had the persecutor die of phthiriasis” (p. 11).

Royal 14 E I (Le miroir historial, book 9) – Claudius and Herod Agrippa (c. 1478-80)

King Agrippa II

King Agrippa had a son by the same name, Marcus Julius Agrippa. The younger Agrippa was still a teenager in Rome when his father died, so emperor Claudius reincorporated Agrippa I’s lands as a Roman province governed by a procurator. Agrippa II was given the small Syrian principality of Chalcis a few years later when his uncle, Herod of Chalcis, died. Eventually, other territory from Philip’s tetrarchy was given to him as well, along with the title of king. Agrippa II was on the side of the Romans during the Jewish War and was later rewarded with the rank of Praetor.

King Agrippa II is the Agrippa who participates in Paul’s trial in Acts 23-26. When Agrippa and his sister Berenice arrive in Caesarea to welcome the new procurator Festus (appointed around the year 56), he is convinced by Festus to hear Paul’s case. Narratively, the scene provides an opportunity for Paul to preach to Agrippa about his conversion and ministry, while establishing clear parallels between the trial of Jesus in Luke (before the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod) and that of Paul (before the Sanhedrin, Felix and Festus, and Agrippa).

Agrippa II died around 100, the last Herodian king. His kingdom became part of the Roman empire after his death.

Paul before Agrippa, late 16th-century Flemish tapestry

Queen Julia Berenice

In Paul’s trial in Acts, King Agrippa II is accompanied by his sister Berenice to Caesarea. Berenice was, in fact, a well-known individual in Roman society, having been the mistress of Titus before he became emperor.

Berenice was married to her uncle Herod of Chalcis and held the title of queen in that tiny domain. When Herod died and Agrippa II received the throne, she stayed on to rule with her brother. Berenice was seen so often with her brother that rumors of an incestuous relationship spread. The writer Juvenal even described the relationship as a well-known fact. The author of Acts apparently knows of this, for he has Berenice accompany Agrippa to Caesarea during Paul’s trial. She plays little role in the story, however.

There are potential points of contact between Berenice and the Markan passage on John the Baptist’s death. Brian Incigneri has proposed that Mark included the story as a warning to Roman Christians about the dangerous influence of Berenice on soon-to-be-emperor Titus (pp. 182ff.) Furthermore, Morton Enslin has pointed out how similar the story is to that of the Cynic philosopher Heras, who was beheaded in 75 CE for publicly criticizing the affair between Berenice and Titus (Enslin p. 13; the story is chronicled by Dio Cassius, Hist. Rom. 46.15).

Drusilla

Agrippa II and Julia Berenice had another sister who moved in circles of power. Drusilla was briefly married to Azizus, the king of Emessa, but she left him to marry Felix, the Roman procurator of Judaea. She is mentioned briefly in Acts 24:24 as the wife of Felix but plays no role in the story. As an interesting aside, she and her son perished during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

Antonius Felix

Though not technically a Herodian, procurator Antonius Felix married into the family and thus earns the last spot in this list. A Greek freedman, Felix had originally been a slave either of emperor Claudius or Claudius’s mother. Soon after becoming procurator of Judaea, he married Drusilla the sister of Agrippa II. (By coincidence, his previous marriage had also been to one Drusilla, the daughter of Juba II, king of Mauretania, and granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra.) Felix’s marriage to a Jewess without converting or circumcision was probably responsible for his poor reputation among pious Jews (Smallwood, p. 270).

In Acts 23-24, Felix is the procurator who oversees Paul’s trial after Paul is arrested in Jerusalem and taken to Caesarea, though he never arrives at a verdict, and leaves Paul imprisoned for his successor to deal with.

During his tenure, Felix also suppressed an insurrection led by an “Egyptian prophet” who led 30,000 men out of the wilderness to the Mount of Olives with the intent of capturing Jerusalem. The story as told by Josephus (JW 2.259-263, Ant 20.169-171) bears some similarity to Jesus’ capture at the Mount of Olives. Acts 21:38 actually alludes to this event when the Roman tribute arresting Paul asks, “You are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand Sicarii out into the wilderness?”⁶

Map of the Eastern Mediterranean (from Smallwood, The Jews under Roman Rule)

Footnotes
  1. Though Mark himself seems to be unaware of this aspect of Jewish divorce law in his pericope on divorce.
  2. Whiston’s popular translation of Josephus even does this.
  3. No worldwide famine is recorded from Claudius’s reign, though there were several local ones. The author may have in mind a famine that struck Palestine particularly hard in 46 and 48, several years after the death of Agrippa, according to Josephus (Ant. 20.101).
  4. A further problem with the chronology of Acts is that the Passover during which Agrippa (i.e. “King Herod”) allegedly persecuted Christians would not have taken place until three weeks after the most likely date of Agrippa’s death in 44. See Haenchen, The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 62-63. 
  5. That Luke is dependant on Josephus is suggested by the inclusion of Agrippa’s robes, which is essential in Josephus but a superfluous detail in Luke. The setting in Luke and the reason for “the people” (as opposed to dignitaries in Josephus) to praise Agrippa are also unclear in comparison with Josephus. (Haenchen 388) 
  6. A rather strange question to ask Paul, since the tribune had arrested him for being attacked by an enraged mob. Additionally, the use of the Latin term Sicarii suggests reliance on Josephus, who may have coined the word. 

Bibliography
  • Thomas Africa, “Worms and the Death of Kings: A Cautionary Note on Disease and History”, Classical Antiquity, Vol. 1 No. 1 (Apr 1982).
  • Mary Ann Beavis, Mark (Paidaia Commentaries), 2011.
  • Brian J. Incigneri, The Gospel to the Romans, 2003.
  • Morton S. Enslin, “John and Jesus”, ZNW Vol. 66, No. 1–2, 1975.

Further Reading
  • Daniel R. Schwartz, Agrippa I: The Last King of Judaea, 1990.


Chronology of Syria and Palestine, 40 BCE – 70 CE

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Stanley Hawerwas - On Retirement, Citizenship, and the Church of the Future


Learning to Love the Enemy [Stanley Hauerwas]


Published on Jun 7, 2016. Jesus' teaching in Matthew 18 is central for Christians coming
to love the enemy. Particularly important is that we never forget that God is the enemy
we most fear. To be confronted and to confront those that we have wronged and have
wronged us one of the central practices for Christians to practice neighbor love.



Nothing to lose: YDS alum Stanley Hauerwas on retirement, citizenship, and the church of the future
http://divinity.yale.edu/news/nothing-lose-yds-alum-stanley-hauerwas-retirement-citizenship-and-church-future

by Ray Waddle
January 6, 2015

“The work of theology is never done. That is very good news. The work of theology can never be done alone. That is even better news.” - Stanley Hauerwas

Now that Stanley Hauerwas ’65 B.D., ’67 M.A., ’68 M.Phil., ’68 Ph.D. has reached emeritus status at Duke Divinity School, his idea of retirement is to work on three books, preach regularly, and take up a (part-time) post as chair of theological ethics with the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy at University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Stanley Hauerwas“I can’t figure out how to be retired,” says Hauerwas, who officially retired at Duke in 2013 after 29 years of teaching there. “If I’m retired, why do I have so many deadlines? The reason is, I can’t say no to people. I need to learn to say no!”

At age 74, Hauerwas is still writing and speaking, still thinking about the meaning of church in contemporary times—still doing the work of a theologian and public intellectual known for far-ranging ideas and a mischievous spirit. One of his forthcoming books, The Work of Theology (Eerdmans), explores matters such as “how to write a theological sentence” and “how to be theologically ironic.” Another is The Difference Christ Makes (Cascade Books), which includes lectures delivered on the occasion of Hauerwas’s 2013 retirement, and his response. The lecturers included YDS’s Gilbert L. Stark professor of Christian Ethics and academic dean, Jennifer Herdt.

The trouble with modern education

“Being a Christian has not, and does not, come naturally or easy for me,” he once wrote in an essay posted at ABC’s Religion and Ethics website. “I take that to be a good thing because I am sure that to be a Christian requires training that lasts a lifetime.”

His thoughts about the state of the faith today continue undeterred. In today’s intellectual and economic climate, it becomes clearer to him that churchgoing and Christian identity are getting harder for millions to sustain. The daily habits of postmodern experience make it more challenging to fit the Christian story into one’s life.

“The growth of churches in the 1950s and 60s looks now like a kind of mirage,” he says. “People thought we were doing OK. Because of the momentum of the civil rights movement, people thought church was providing a good witness here or there. Now people are increasingly aware that we’re in trouble. Charles Taylor had it right in The Secular Age: In earlier times it was virtually impossible for people in the West not to believe in God, but now many find it easy or unavoidable.”

One of the problems is the nature of modern education, he says. In The State of the University (Blackwell, 2007) and elsewhere, Hauerwas has argued that the sidelining of theology in a liberal arts education degrades the liberal arts’ contribution to public life. The pursuit of the knowledge of God should be part of the overall academic pursuit of knowledge. Theological inquiry should take its place as a vital tool in the aims of education—the formation of individuals who bring imagination, skepticism, perspective, humility, and critical thinking to the work of citizenship, democratic reform, and economic justice.

He says the marginalized place of theology in turn domesticates theological conversation, damaging the confidence of educated churchgoers, who now often lack a vigorous idea of why they believe or how their belief can speak to the times.

“It’s not clear to me these days, for instance, what it means to be a citizen,” he says. “It would be helpful to the discussion if Christians worried more about it. I think citizenship ought to be about the obligations we have to each other here in this historical, geographic setting.”

An alternative to our unfaithfulness

Hauerwas believes the church of the future will be a leaner, smaller, but more committed “colony,” and that will be no bad thing. The much-reported decline of Christian influence and power should give churches a new liberation from culture captivity, a freedom to speak the truth.

“Once you’ve got nothing to lose, hell, you’re free! You no longer have to keep your language hidden in your back pocket. I think God is giving us the next step, helping us discover that the secular way isn’t enough. It won’t sustain life.”

The church’s witness and practices remain central. The discipline of prayer, the love of the poor, and the gospel power of friendship with God and others are direct challenges to the spirit of the age, including rationalistic abstractions that lead to violence.

He offered this definition of church in a 2014 interview with “Thinking in Public”

“That through Jesus Christ, very God and very man, we gentiles have been made part of the promise to Israel, that we will be witnesses to God’s good care of God’s creation through the creation of a people who once were no people, that the world can see there is an alternative to our violence. There is an alternative to our deceptions. There is an alternative to our unfaithfulness to one another through the creation of something called church. That’s salvation.”

Theology moves in many directions

Retirement finds him reading a customary range of authors and subjects—novelists David Foster Wallace and Marilynn Robinson, theologian Herbert McCabe, a recent book by Timothy Chappell called Knowing What To Do: Imagination, Virtue, and Platonism in Ethics.

“My reading has always been gregarious and unplanned – I read what people tell me to read,” he says.

Amazon link
Asked about his YDS days, Hauerwas says he retains a lasting image of professor Robert L. Calhoun standing in class lecturing about the history of doctrine, shortly before Calhoun’s retirement. A much-beloved teacher of historical theology, Calhoun (1896-1983) taught at Yale from 1923 to 1965. Hauerwas has great enthusiasm for Scripture, Creed, Theology: Lectures on the History of Christian Doctrine in the First Centuries (Cascade, 2011), the book that gathers Calhoun’s lectures on the subject.

“George Lindbeck dedicated much energy to compiling his lectures and editing the book, and he wrote a terrific introduction. I think every YDS student should read it,” he says.

Even a brief chat with Stanley Hauerwas on the subject of theology moves in many directions – economics, citizenship, friendship, fiction, imperialism, and the elusive nature of God.

Amazon link
“I love the quote from theologian Robert Jensen: ‘God is whoever raised Jesus from the dead, having before raised Israel from Egypt.’ The critical word is ‘whoever.’ The identity of God is something we don’t know and can’t know. It’s exciting to me that we can’t know all the things God does or is capable of doing or even what God is. It’s idolatry to think we do know. A lot of people think they do know and a lot of the time the result is violence.”

The author of more than 40 books, Hauerwas addresses his restlessly diverse interests in an essay he wrote for YDS’s Reflections journal in 2013, the Fall issue. Titled, How to (Not) Retire Theologically, the essay won the Associated Church Press’s Award of Excellence for best theological article that year. It will appear in his new book The Work of Theology.
Book Description
A "how-to" book on theology from a world-renowned theologian.
In this book Stanley Hauerwas returns to the basics of "doing" theology. Revisiting some of his earliest philosophical and theological views to better understand and clarify what he has said before, Hauerwas explores how theological reflection can be understood as an exercise in practical reason.
Hauerwas includes chapters on a wide array of topics, including "How I Think I Learned to Think Theologically," "How the Holy Spirit Works," "How to Write a Theological Sentence," and "How to Be Theologically Funny." In a postscript he responds to Nicholas Healy's recent book Hauerwas: A (Very) Critical Introduction.
"What we believe as Christians," says Hauerwas, "is quite basic and even simple. But because it is so basic, we can lose any sense of the extraordinary nature of Christian beliefs and practices." In discussing the work of theology, Hauerwas seeks to recover that "sense of the oddness of what we believe as Christians."
In the essay he writes: “That I cannot stop doing theology given the way I have done it also accounts for the range of my work. I confess when I think about the diverse topics I have addressed it not only makes me tired but it elicits in me a sense of embarrassment. I am not smart enough to know what needs to be known in order to address questions that range from the nature of personal identity to the ethics of war. But I have a stake in both of those topics, and many more, if I am to do the work I take to be the work of theology.”

He concludes: “The work of theology is never done. That is very good news. The work of theology can never be done alone. That is even better news.”


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

David Congdon - No, The American Church is Not in Exile



No, The American Church is Not in Exile
https://sojo.net/articles/no-american-church-isn-t-exile

April 19, 2017

In the wake of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalizing same-sex marriage, conservative Christian leaders sounded a dire word: Christians are no longer at home in the United States.

Rod Dreher, a senior editor at The American Conservative, wrote an article for TIME following the decision with the headline, “Orthodox Christians Must Now Learn To Live as Exiles in Our Own Country.” In his long-anticipated book, The Benedict Option, Dreher tells Christians to “embrace exile.” He alludes to the oft-used Jeremiah 29:7 in his conclusion when he says that “though in exile, we work for the peace of the city.” In a response to Jacob Lupfer, who penned an essay saying Dreher suffers from a “delusional persecution complex,” Dreher claims that Christians are “called by God to be faithfully present here in Babylon ... like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.”

In a similar vein, Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, published a response to the Supreme Court decision in the Washington Post that concluded by calling Christians to “joyfully march to Zion” as “strangers and exiles in American culture.”

Moore is drawing here on the language of Hebrews 11, which describes believers as “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb 11:13, ESV). The idea of the follower of God as an exile has deep roots in the faith, originating in Israel’s history of exile in Assyria and Babylon.

But instead of “exiles on the earth,” Moore writes “exiles in American culture.” And Dreher speaks of being “exiles in our own country.” Everything hangs on this change.


Why Exile?

The idea of the church in exile is once again popular in American Christian circles. Missiologist Michael Frost wrote Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture in 2006. In 2008, before his own exile from the evangelical community, Rob Bell coauthored Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile. New Testament professor James Thompson wrote The Church in Exile: God’s Counterculture in a Non-Christian World in 2011. And in 2015, Lee Beach of McMaster Divinity College published The Church in Exile: Living in Hope After Christendom.

Why the attraction to exile? For many of those in the missional church movement, exile language offers an alternative to the “culture war” rhetoric of the religious right. Instead of a church at war with surrounding culture, a church in exile presents a vision of God’s people living peacefully within foreign territory.

Seeking the welfare of a foreign city (Jeremiah 29:7) is certainly an improvement over waging constant battle against it. But what does the idea of exile imply about the church? And is it consistent with Christian faith?

Exile means that one is barred from one’s native land. The people of Israel, for instance, were prevented from living in the land promised to them by God. Followers of Jesus, however, have no native land. The Great Commission at the end of Matthew finds Jesus telling his followers to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). In the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus tells them “you will be my witnesses ... to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).


If the message of Christian faith is for all peoples and nations, then how can the New Testament writers speak of believers as exiles? The answer is that, for Christianity, the whole earth is a foreign land.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus prays: “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world” (John 17:14). If the world is a foreign land, then the church is by definition in exile. But so the adage: If everything is exile, nothing is exile. Because the whole world is alien territory, no culture has a privileged position in relationship to God. Every culture is equally close and equally distant from the new creation. For those who follow Jesus, every person is a neighbor and every place is a home.

Talking about the church in exile is redundant, unless there is a change in the definition.


Exile and Christendom

Notice the book titles mentioned above. They describe the church in exile within “a post-Christian culture,” “a non-Christian world,” and a society “after Christendom.”

To be sure, many of these authors would view the experience of exile as a good thing. They do not necessarily think “Christendom” was a golden age to which we ought to return — and yet the decision to define the church as exilic allows Christendom to set the terms for the conversation.

Speaking of the church in exile within American culture suggests there is some ideal culture — according to Dreher, “the Judeo-Christian culture of the West” — in which the church would not be in exile. Once we make that move, we have abandoned the early church’s insight that the church is exiled from every culture.

We end up pining for the Christendom of earlier history, when in fact the only true Christian world exists beyond the end of history.

But the problem goes deeper. Thinking of the church as exiled from a particular culture further implies the church has its own. Dreher compares the evangelical church to the monastic communities of St. Benedict, while Moore views the church as a new Israel marching to Zion. This idea of church as a specific culture has implications for mission. Moore makes this explicit when he calls American culture “our mission field."

Imperialism or Separatism — or Something Else?

There are only two options at this point: Either the church spreads its culture to others or it assimilates its own into distinct community. The former is the way of imperialism, while the latter is the way of separatism.

Israel’s mission is of the separatist variety, as defined especially by the book of Deuteronomy, whose message can be summarized as a warning to Israel to remain distinct from the other nations. The prophetic tradition interprets the Babylonian exile as God’s judgment on Israel’s failure to remain separate from other cultures.

Yet the overall message of the New Testament, especially the book of Acts, is that the church is not a separate community with its own culture. The power of Christianity is found in what scholars of mission call its capacity for contextualization, which means that the message of Christ can be translated into different languages, cultures, and contexts.


According to Lamin Sanneh, the Gambian missiologist and professor at Yale Divinity School, the Gospel comes “without a revealed language or a founding original culture,” and therefore “all cultural forms ... are in principle worthy of bearing the truth of Christianity.”

Christians today who adopt an exilic identity have abandoned this dimension of Christianity. They are giving up on the contextualization principle. For them, contemporary American culture is enemy territory, and the only recourse is to retreat into a separate cultural community.


This does not mean, of course, that a church contextualized within the United States would uncritically affirm the culture. But it does mean we need to consider more thoughtfully what exactly constitutes the truth of Christianity and how this truth might relate to its given context.

Returning Home After Exile

The Barna Group’s “Faith That Lasts” project, conducted over five years between 2007 and 2011, revealed that nearly a quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds (23 percent) said that “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” was a statement that “completely” or “mostly” described their experience.

Christians have largely left behind the days when their faith was defined by prohibitions against drinking, dancing, and movies. But the exile mentality remains: Today, Christian culture may be more ideological than moral, the us-versus-them logic more pervasive and more subtle.

The church communicates an exilic message when it speaks about the need to evangelize “the West” as if this need is greater now than in the past, when it associates “the world” specifically with American culture, or when it waxes longingly about how much better things were “back then” or are “over there.”


The church needs to abandon talk of exile, and reclaim the possibility of being at home. Home is the cultural context within which the church already exists. Reclaiming home does not mean uncritically adopting whatever seems fashionable at the time. It means approaching cultural changes and developments with an attitude of openness and hospitality, with a readiness to embrace rather than exclude. Reclaiming home means obeying the biblical injunction to live wholly without fear or anxiety.

Many Christians have already put down their weapons to fight the culture. It is time now to put down the walls of defense that keep them separated from the culture. Perhaps a future generation will yet say that “Christians love everything outside of the church.”

---


David Congdon has a PhD in theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the author of three books, including most recently The God Who Saves: A Dogmatic Sketch.




Monday, May 1, 2017

Benjamin L. Corey - No, This Isn’t All Part Of God’s Plan




No, This Isn’t All Part Of God’s Plan (So Let’s Stop Blaming It On Him)

May 24, 2016

Lately I’ve been thinking about life. A lot.

I’ve also been thinking about the the line we tell people when they’re going through sad chapters in life: “Well, this is all part of God’s plan.”

But is it, really? Is all this part of God’s plan? Looking back at the times people have said this to me in the midst of suffering, I find myself shaking my head that we’d believe such a thing.

Not only does that line fail to bring me comfort, it also seems to impugn God’s character. The idea that a loving God would have a “plan” that involved wiping out thousands in earthquakes and tsunamis, giving people cancer, parents losing children, car accidents, trauma, abuse, and all manner of pain and suffering, is an insane idea.

Think about it: if this is all “according to God’s plan” and every life event is being directed and controlled by him, he’s really bad at making plans.

In some of my saddest seasons of loss, people have come along side of me and said, “Well, we’ll never really understand God’s plan.”

And every time I hear it, through my tears and suffocating sadness I just want to reply, “No shit, Sherlock.” How could a plan that involves so much heartache be understood?

Sure, I understand what we’re trying to do when we say it. We’re trying to make ourselves or others feel better, and trying to make sense of sadness and suffering. The best way we know how? Apparently it’s to believe that our suffering was all planned by God, and thus must have some deeper, mysterious beauty we haven’t discovered yet.

Sometimes we’ll say God planned the suffering for our benefit. Other times we’ll be tricked into believing that God planned the suffering to chastise us for not measuring up. Yet, no matter how we try to rationalize or explain it, we end up at the same spot: if this is all part of God’s plan, God is the author and cause of evil and suffering.

As well meaning or desperate for answers as we may be, trying to fit all of the tragedies and sadness of life into some supposed master plan that God has, creates far more problems than it solves.

I am convinced that any belief or worldview that makes God the agent of causation for our suffering, ought to be rejected. This includes the idea that God has a giant master plan where everything that happens in life is divinely willed and ordained as part of it. In a world of such brokenness, this simply cannot be true.

Instead of saying that God has a “plan,” I am growing more fond of saying that God has a certain desire, a certain will– a certain heart. And that this will, this desire, and this heart, is always love. It’s never anything but love. This means that whatever God wills, and whatever God desires to bring into reality, is always beautiful and never evil.

God does not will our heartache and suffering. He doesn’t will our losses, and the broken chapters we experience in this life.

Those things have nothing to do with God, and are so far outside of his will, his desire, and his heart, that it’s indescribable.

Instead of trying to rationalize our suffering as being from the hand of God– thus making God an agent to be petrified of instead of a creator to be loved, I think we should be quicker to acknowledge that, no, a lot of what we experience in life isn’t God’s plan at all.

And honestly, we really need to stop blaming him, because we pin some really horrible and tragic life events on him. I can’t imagine it makes him feel good when we actually believe that he caused that car accident, sent the tornado, or gave the cancer in order to fulfill his own really twisted “plan.”

Instead, when we acknowledge that really hard and sad life events did not come from the hand of God, and were not in any way planned by or ordained by God, I believe we’re invited to get to know a God who joins in our suffering instead of causing it.

Because you see, if it’s outside of God’s heart and desires, God grieves that loss and brokenness with us– because it’s his hopes and dreams for our lives that end up getting smashed as well.

I don’t know how to have a relationship with a God who comes along side me in sadness and suffering and says, “You’re going to have to trust my reasons for making your world explode.”

But I am learning (I’m trying Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard), how to have a relationship with a God who sits beside me and says, “Yeah, man… this whole thing totally sucks.“

Instead of this idea of God having a master plan that meticulously dictates and controls what happens in our lives (often referred to a blueprint theology), I believe that God has hopes, dreams, and desires for our stories. When those things come true, he rejoices and celebrates with us.

But when those hopes and dreams get smashed to bits, instead of saying “Oh, by the way– I actually did that,” I believe God sits in the dark and mourns those broken dreams with us.

And when the tears have subsided long enough to begin to hear his voice clearly, I’m convinced he’s also whispering, “And I know this can’t replace your loss, but when you’re ready I’d love to partner with you to try to make something good come out of all this.”