Monday, 26 November 2012

Yeshua Explored - Steve Maltz

   Premier Radio has been show-casing Steve Maltz - Yeshua Explored material . I have previously posted this on the Premier Radio forum. Some of this material I like and agree with, and I haven't read or listened to it all, but these are my thoughts. Firstly, I agree we need to embrace our Hebrew Christian roots and read and appreciate the Old Testament in its correct context without losing our own ethnic identity. There is a subtle Christian zionist agenda in Steve's work, but that is not my main point here. My main question arises out of a desire to try and understand Jesus within the context of a form of second temple Judaism, that of the Scribes and Pharisees, that Jesus was himself strongly critical of. Steve for instance quotes from the Mishnah - 'the tradition of the elders' and the Talmud which really set aside the Torah - (which is why Jesus was so critical of it).
   First century Judaism did not have a united voice about what it was to be a good Jew, so we had the Saducess, the Pharisees, the Qumran community etc, and the follows of John the Baptist and Jesus. Steve also contrasts the Hebrew way of thinking with the Greek way of thinking of Aristotle and Plato. Again a lot of good here. But my question arises because Greek thinking was in Israel for several centuries prior to the Messiah. They ruled the land prior to the Romans. Compare if you will the political structure of Plato's city Polis in the Republic, with the behaviour of the Scribes and Pharisees. Plato held that a city state should be ruled by Philosopher Kings (the Scribes and Pharisees) with security by a well paid military (the Roman army) with the rest of the populace reduced to mere productive workers (the common Jewish man and woman who Jesus championed).
   Often as well, the Greek speaking Jews, who lived in Israel and elsewhere around the Mediterranean Sea, often lived lives that were truer to the heart of the Jewish way of life than the leaders in Israel who were elitist. We see this in Acts where seven Greek speaking Christian Jews (including Phillip and Stephen) were placed in charge of the food supply for the Christian community. In fact Paul often preached first to Greek speaking Jews on his missionary journeys, and these Greek Jews formed the foundation for the Christian Church that arose in Europe - we should offer a great deal of thanks to these Jews (and gentiles) who often suffered martyrdom for their faith. But the Greek influence in the Hebrew way of life predates Jesus, and we need to question how it impacted different communities of Jews because it is not straightforward. (Jews living in Alexandria also produced the Septuagint). I could go on about the influence that Philo had upon Augustine and other Church Fathers etc., but that is enough for now.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Female Bishops? Some Rambling Thoughts.

As I am not an Anglican, and I am a man, I am not sure I should be commenting on the question of women bishops. See But these are my rambling scribbling thoughts anyway - without taking sides ;o).
   Firstly, God can work through a woman as well as a man. Often women in Scripture showed greater faithfulness than men, even the judge Deborah was anointed to lead the people of Israel forward when there was no suitable male leader to do it.
   The Old Testament priests were men - sons of Levi - it is true, but Christ has become the great high priest, and Paul taught the priesthood of all believers. From this one may question the theological justification for having priests and bishops in the Church of England based upon the Old Testament Levitical model. Will the Anglican Church grasp this nettle and instead develop the wider body model of ministry that Paul argued for in Corinthians? I doubt it when there is so much prestige attached to Church positions and the division of clergy and laity along Old Testament lines. Both sides need to view ministry as a vocation towards God and share the gifts around as a community of priests, men and women, ministering to one another and the wider community. We need to be willing to minister faithfully without obvious recognition as well, as the example of Christ demonstrated.
   But are there still separate roles for men and women? Men still can’t enjoy the blessing of bearing children for instance. And does female emancipation lead to male emasculation? The complexity of this question turns around the complexity of both social and sexual needs of men and women. You will find many women actually prefer a male boss to a female boss because a male leader will show more sympathy towards them. A woman is more likely to choose a mate according to his social or employment status, where as a man is more likely to look for beauty and charm in a woman as well as her family capability. However, some women who are not content in domestic, blissful situations want to see their own careers progress.
   Furthermore, what is a bishop for? Is it an apostolic role of real meaning, one who is sent forth often into dangerous situations, or just a ceremonial role where people get to dress up in fancy frocks? If the former, does the New Testament recognise the existence of female apostles? I think you will find mention of Junia, arguably in the context of a female apostle (Romans 16:7). The evangelical church has also often sent its empowered women abroad where they can act in the role of apostle out of sight. Is that right? 
   A number of politicians not noted for their adherence to Christian faith, such as Ben Bradshaw, love to try and put the church in its place by suggesting parliament should legislate so that it is forced to accept modern, secular values. Of course liberal modernism hates long held tradition and principled argument, and the claimed dominance of the world is sure to rally the troops against the measure. Bowing the knee to modernist secular trends is not a good argument for change in the eyes of many Christians.
   It is ironic also how some liberals are quick to blame conservative evangelicals for this, when many such evangelicals I would guess are not that bothered. Giles Fraser writing in the Guardian Comment is Free - (but some opinions are freer than others) can’t help sneering at those he thinks responsible suggesting they are a minority who should be ignored. No desire to end the isolation and bullying of this minority group who he thinks deserve all they get. What Fraser can’t see is that some of the conservatives he describes love to expose the lack of backbone and double standards of some liberals who so easily turn into dictators when given the chance to suppress those who hold to objectivity in ethics. If change comes it must be for good theological reasons.
   A shame also that the present Archbishop of Canterbury should undermine the institution of which he is still leader by expressing his sadness in such a negative manner. He commented that the Church had ‘lost credibility’ As a man of faith one wonders why he speaks with so little faith about an organisation he has responsibility before God for. He is still the chief shepherd of his flock. If he has failed to convince on theological grounds then he should address that and start afresh.

Monday, 19 November 2012

The Sheep and the Goats - more Keith Green

Are we Asleep in the Light?

We need to open our eyes and be concerned for the suffering of all people, Jews and Palestinians.

Paul Wilkinson - Jesus in the Protestant Church?

Paul Wilkinson asserts that he does not see Jesus in the Protestant Churches today. he was speaking in the opening session of a consultation organised by the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel (ETRFI). This fraternity apparently was established to support Jewish Christian relations. A report can be found here and He accuses Christendom of being spiritually blind for 2,000 years in its understanding of Israel and offers no hope of change because its erroneous theology is so deeply ingrained.  He says he is 'completely pessimistic in terms of believing that I, we, are going to overturn 2,000 years of erroneous theology that has manifested itself in all kinds of diatribes and anti-Semitic factions.' He writes further that there is '...absolute hatred toward Israel that exists in the heart — in the heart — of the Protestant Church.' Really? It is hard to know where to begin with this type of rhetoric.

Wilkinson's statement reminds me of the holy-huddle mentality of the Plymouth Brethren, in which I was brought up, that sometimes held that they are the only true Christians left on earth - many chapels are now closed and the Darbyite theology, of which Wilkinson is an advocate, led to increasing fragmentation and exclusivity. Not a place where God's Holy Spirit can work in building loving communities of believers, communities that should include Jews, Gentiles and Palestinians.

BBC bias - or troubled consciences?

Telegraph bloggers are out in force having another pop at the BBC - this time for biased reported against poor Israel.  See Rev Dr Peter Mullen and Dan Hodges

Or perhaps the issue here is not one of bias, but one of troubled consciences. Yes, Hamas is a wicked organisation, although the word organisation here is perhaps unfair. A rabble might be more accurate bearing in mind the trouble they are causing their own people, and despite the number of rockets fired into Israel they have only managed to kill a handful of Jews. Their fire power is less lethal than a summer thunderstorm in the Middle East.

On the other hand the highly efficient Israeli military has managed to kill some 100 Palestinians in just a few days with much greater fire power - the last Gaza campaign killed over 1,300, including many women and children. It is not an even-handed conflict. Israel should show more restraint in response, and Christians should remember that Palestinians, as well as Jews, are human beings of value.

Did Hurricane Sandy keep US out of war on Iran ?

This is an off-the-wall thought, but is it possible that an 'Act of God' might have put Obama back into the White House and helped to avoid US involvement in any attack on Iran's nuclear establishments? Obama has been consistently less keen to get involved, alongside Israel, in a bombing campaign against Iran than Romney and the Republicans. The work of Sandy showed Obama in a more caring light than the Republican candidate and helped get him back into power. Obama does sympathy much better. Sandy was incidentally forecast well in advance and human casualties were minimised. Furthermore, because it became classified as an extra tropical storm before it hit land, the insurance industry may have more money to pay out.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Netanyahu and Hamas on the same side

Matt Hill, writing in the Telegraph, argues that both Likud and Hamas want war and not peace, thus they are on the same side - and against the majority of Jews and Palestinians who really want peace. Both sides are driving for conflict.

As Christians we should pray for peace and not let us be side tracked and take sides.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians pray together

Mike Moore writes an interesting peice about a group of Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians who meet to pray together Jews and Arabs pray together in Israel. This is encouraging given the war mongering taking place between Israel, Hamas in Gaza and Iran. All sides seem to be itching to start the next war, not worrying where, when or how it will end.

We should join in prayer for peace and justice across the divide without getting involved in nationalistic politics.