I’ve been reading a lot of excellent posts these last few weeks. Here, I want to share some of them with you (if you haven’t read them already).
1. Messianic Jew Derek Leman talks about Rachel Held Evans’ controversial post, 15 Reasons I Left Church. Derek refers to an e-mail that he received, which said (and Derek changed some parts to respect the person’s anonymity):
“At the local university I am completing some classes in Judaism and loving them. Then I attend my local church and things that never bothered me before are suddenly a terrible disappointment. In a recent sermon, the pastor unfortunately used the typical theme of Jewish faithlessness in contrast to Christian faithfulness. His complete lack of skill in exegeting the scriptures, in realizing the authors themselves were Jewish, and that anti-Judaism is nowhere to be found in a skillful reading of the New Testament is alarming. In another recent Bible discussion, many of the members gave smug answers about the harmfulness of the Law and the superiority of ‘grace,’ as they understand it. I felt so out of place here. This is the first time I have come to feel like a stranger in my own church. I am afraid I don’t fit within Christianity anymore, but my faith in Jesus has not diminished at all. Why can’t churches see Messiah for who he is? How can a person whose eyes are opened to these things remain?”
This made me think some about my own church’s approach towards the Hebrew Bible and Judaism. (My church is PCUSA.) Like other churches that I have attended, my current church criticizes the Pharisees (see my post here), and it sometimes treats the Hebrew Bible as inferior to the New Testament. At the same time, both the Pastor and the Pastor Emeritus have said that God’s hand was in the creation of the modern state of Israel, albeit they didn’t say this in a fanatical Christian Zionist way. Moreover, I think that our Bible study through Margaret Feinberg’s Scouting the Divine was a positive step, for Feinberg demonstrated knowledge and appreciation for laws in the Hebrew Bible, such as the Sabbath, gleanings, and the land rest. Some people in the group were using that as a platform to promote blue laws, which (as someone who spent time in Seventh-Day Adventism) frightened me somewhat. But Feinberg’s book definitely encouraged us to see the Torah positively.
2. The Christian Heretic shared a journal entry that she wrote when she was a Christian in college. She said:
“My Chi Alpha friends loved me when I was ultra-spiritual and rebuked me when I wasn’t. So I sort of went into pseudo-spiritual. I did all the right things, said the right words, but my motivation was to make friends, not just to get to know God. He was the fringe benefit. Here at home, my friends at church seem so shallow and superficial. Whenever I get together in a social gathering, it’s all rowdy, fun and games, crazy, not too much hint of a serious side. In both situations, I feel I have compromised my relationships with God for the relationships of people. I keep searching for the perfect friend. One who has all the qualities listed earlier.
“People just aren’t like that, though. Every human being on this earth puts conditions on their love for one another. ‘I love you because you seem spiritual.’ ‘I love you because you’re wild and crazy and like a good time.’ ‘I love you because you are my daughter.’ No person can love all the various facets of an individual. A person loves, not another person, but certain sides of his personality that are compatible with their own. Only God can love the whole person.”
I identified with wanting a deeper relationship with God that was hard to find amidst the evangelical fun-and-games, and also desiring unconditional love, which is hard to get in this world.
3. Nick Norelli criticizes Bart Ehrman’s remark that “Apart from fundmanetalists and very conservative evangelicals, scholars are unified in thinking that the view that Jesus was God was a later development within Christian circles”. Nick appeals to Larry Hurtado, a scholar who argues on the basis of cultic devotion that Jesus was exalted early on in Christian history, meaning that a relatively high Christology is early rather than late.
5. Kate Elizabeth Conner talks about the two times that she adored Jerry Falwell when she was a student at Liberty University.