You've reached the shared blog of Michael Mckay and Todd Frederick. Two friends who have worked together in ministry and labored in similar educational endeavors. Please join us as we consider the interaction of Christianity with modern culture...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The problem with getting Moses' autograph

As an Evangelical Christian my belief in the inerrancy of Scripture is important. Often times Evangelicals will defend the viewpoint that the Bible is without error by stating that the original written revelation is inerrant, but that the copies which were made afterwords may have suffered in some way through copyist errors. It is important to realize that these "errors" are extremely marginal and do not impact significant doctrine. Often, we are talking about variations in spellings of proper nouns. These originals are called autographs. It is easy to conceive of an autograph of Romans for example. Paul and his amanuensis (secretary) sit down to write the letter. The letter is copied multiple times. Paul probably has a copy made for himself. The early church makes multiple copies to preserve it and so on and so on. It is easy in this case to understand what the autograph of the epistle to the Romans looks like.

But what about some of the OT books? Take for example the book of Deuteronomy. Scripture is replete with statements acknowledging Moses' authorship over the Law. Much of the book of Deuteronomy is from Moses' first person perspective. It seems natural to read the majority of the book as if Moses is indeed the author. That is until we get to the final chapter. In ch. 34 Moses' death is recorded. It is obvious that someone else has written this part of the book of Deuteronomy. Possibly it was Joshua, but we don't know. Whoever it was didn't leave a signature.

Here is my question: what is the original autograph of Deuteronomy? Is it Moses' work in chs. 1-33, or is it the finished edited version of chs. 1-34? My opinion is that chs. 1-34 is the version we want, but if this is correct, then we are looking for something different than the original which Moses penned. Imagine if we found chs. 1-33 and were completely persuaded that it was Moses' original autograph. Would we throw out ch. 34 as uninspired? Probably not.

My point in this post is not to rattle our faith, but to help us to think through the sometimes 'pat' answers which we give those who wrestle with inerrancy. In this case defining what we mean by "the original autograph of Deuteronomy" is difficult to conceptualize. Thankfully God is great enough and powerful enough that despite our inability to conceptualize what an autograph is, He can preserve His Word to us that we may believe in Him and enjoy His grace.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Something to put it in perspective...

A good friend sent me this and some of the photos are really appropriate.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Quality control

My daughter works in a factory making dental floss and related hygiene products. Someone noticed a flaw in the packaging that required the unpacking of an entire pallet of dental floss! What was the flaw? The plastic cover wasn’t correctly glued to the paper backing and thus rendering the entire pallet unfit for retail sale. Really? That’s all it took? 

I’m somewhat familiar with quality control. When I used to deliver truckloads of whatever, some products required additional care to ensure they were received claim-free by the end consumer. When John Deere, for example, orders steel parts those parts must be received in near-perfect condition. A high level of quality control allows the customer to purchase a product with confidence that you ‘get what you pay for.’
Where’s the quality control department for the Christian community? 

I mean, really, Harold Camping? Didn’t somebody whisper to him at some point that the Bible itself says that no man knows the time of the Second Coming (Mt. 24:36)? If you take a minute and think about it, you can probably identify a situation where you wish you didn’t actually hear what you thought you heard falling out of a Christian speaker’s mouth. 

Wouldn’t it be awesome if God performed edits of the things we say as we say them? Imagine listening to a sermon and then all of a sudden the pastor’s mouth is moving, but no words are coming out? Oh that? Yeah, he just said something monumentally stupid that got blocked by quality control. No biggie. Let’s move on thankful that the end product contains no defects. 

Maybe that would be nice, but in reality, I think God allows us to hear ‘stupid’ things because the essence of Christianity is not consumption, but participation. Your floss should come perfectly packaged, but the Christian faith requires engagement and careful thought about what we say and careful evaluation of  what we hear.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

In Protest...

Westboro Baptist Church is the true Christians best friend.

(This is called a shocking statement introduction, hang with me for a bit...)

If you’re not familiar, this church is known for protesting military funerals and such. They are anti-everything: war, homosexuality, Judaism and a host of other issues. While I might agree with some of their positions, I disagree most vehemently with their method of addressing these issues. 

These people demonstrate what James 2 pictures, people who have words, but lack works. 

“14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” NASB

The folks at Westboro appear similar to the folks James dealt with: they have lots of words about issues, but will their words actually help solve… anything? You see, Christianity is much more that saying something about morality, or about God for that matter. Christianity is about following a person: Jesus Christ. As Christians follow Him, they must be like him. How would Jesus deal with a person who was cold and hungry? He’d call for a pizza and give them his coat. 

I agree with the Westboro folks that homosexuality is wrong, but I’d rather hold the hand of someone dying from AIDS than hold one of their ridiculous signs. I agree with many other Christians that abortion is wrong, but I don’t think protest can take the place of compassion. And, by the way, compassion comes at a price. If everyone who held an anti-abortion sign adopted a child abandoned by drug addicted parents we really might rock the world. Would that make James nod his approval? I think it just might. Words aren’t enough. 

Christian, put your sign away and reach out to do good. Rock the world.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Going around your elbow to reach your backside

Did you ever pause to consider that the Bible actually tells us: ‘there is no God?’ No really, it does. Psalm 14:1 says: ‘The fool says in his heart, there is no God.’ Ah yes, I played a trick: using only part of the verse and ignoring what the verse attempts to teach us about the relationship between a fool and God. My dad, ever one for colorful metaphor, would call this 'going around your elbow to reach your backside.' You might have to think about that for a second, but the point is you're making a task much more difficult. My initial trick isn't too far from what some believers do when they read the Bible. Some well-intentioned Christians focus on a part of the text at the expense of the whole to prove a point. 

I often listen to earnest believers talk about the Bible, noting that they compare a small snippet of the text to their system of theology to demonstrate how their theology accords with Scripture. Isn’t that a bit backwards? Shouldn’t we compare our theology to the Bible and then change our theology accordingly? I would like to humbly submit that we often speak about the Bible from the perspective of systematic theology and don’t allow the Bible to correct our theology. 

The essence of my complaint looks something like this:
Believer 1: The Bible says __x__ and so God must be like __y___.
Believer 2: No, the Bible says __x1__ and so God must be like __z__.
Believer 1: You’re an idiot.  
Believer 2: At least I’m not a heretic. 

The ‘x’ represents a verse or sometimes part of a verse while ‘y’ represents the correlation in systematic theology. Maybe a Biblical example would also help flesh this out. 

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. (1Jo 5:1 ESV)

The phrase ‘born of God’ is used by some to prove that in the process of salvation, believers take no action for themselves. God produces faith in a person, who then believes. Others reject this opinion, saying that God’s grace allows anyone to believe the gospel message. I suppose for them, this particular passage is more a description of the person who has faith and less a prescription for the process of salvation. This contentious debate is between two systems of theology: Calvinism and Arminianism which has been ongoing since the 1500’s. 

The irony, in which I delight, is simply this: the teaching focus of the verse is that believers should love one another and it has become a point of tension between two systems of theology, arguably chock full of believers! While many times this debate occurs in a loving context, many other times it doesn’t.
Perhaps the church would be well served to spend more time in the whole of the Bible and less time using the parts to prove our theological points. For most systems of theology, God wins at the end of the game and I for one want to make sure I’m pulling my weight and not bickering on the sidelines. While you read the Bible, remember that the chapters and verses are only suggestions and not given by God. Be careful when you ‘prove’ a theological point to consider that the whole of the Bible helps us understand God and not just the snips that we happen to like. 

Hopefully you didn't try going around your elbow to reach your backside.