Elbib’s Story

Elbib’s Story

Hi, my name is Elbib. Let me tell you a brief story about the fragility of the universe, any universe, and all of them really. I’m going to assume you know a little history from the last 3,000 years or so. Here you go:

A beautiful talking piece of Marble with an unmistakable voice is the only pillar holding up the ideals of people. This Marble pillar is sculpted with magnificence as the image of a man named Jesus. Long stand the Marble and may human ideals hear that voice. 

Thanks for reading my story. I hope you feel as inspired as I do. 

-Elbib
  

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the same God?

What a loaded and unnecessary question this one has become. But it is one our generation must tackle again, as many before us have.

Bluntly put the answer to this question is like so many “yes but [then insert your tradition’s qualifiers here].”

Now hold on before you call me a heretic hear me out. Give me at least 400 words for goodness sake. I’m assuming you’re Christian (since all my posts are from a Christian evangelical standpoint) so please take this point to mind, if not heart. Do you worship the same God as me? That is, I worship God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Are we on the same page about my view of God given that info? If so, how is that heretical? (From an evangelical orthodox Christian perspective.) And you know what a Muslim would say about my fleshed out view of God? I’m wrong for believing so. 

But the question is a simple one that comes down to a word that in another language is spelled “Allah,” and in an another one “אלוהים” sometimes meant the same thing as our English word “God.” So what’s the real problem? I hope it’s not your fears of others?

Think about it, we’re floating on a spec of dust and if you really look out from that spec of dust you can see about 10 BILLION light years. 10 BILLION YEARS OF OBSERVABLE SPACE! Are you so small minded that you can’t give your Muslim neighbor a little charity? A little space to share a freaking word?! Maybe, just maybe, the same word can be said in a different language???!

Anyways, do we believe the same details about the implications of that word? No. But I think current Islamic phobia is making Christians think they have to believe things Christians have never believed before (in a mainstream sense), like Christians and Muslims don’t worship the same God. Christians and Muslims, for Milenia have been arguing about details but have been big enough to give each other credit that at least we’re on the same planet for the same pursuit. Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? It is the details beyond the “yes but” that question requires that need to be talked about because a “no” shuts out Christ from having a say.

I leave you with two quotes. One is from memory so forgive me if I butcher it and the other is a famous one.


For the intellectual, “their neighbor is anyone who is in need of the truth.” -Sertillanges


“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” -William Shakespeare

In Between Abraham’s Obedience and God’s Promises: living in a world where the Judgment is over

angel-stays-abrahams-hand

I have been reflecting on Abraham’s obedience in his attempted sacrifice of his son. The event raises an interesting question for me, what is obedience for? Maybe we should learn from Abraham, and others like Moses, Mary, or some other paragon of obedience to God and conscience? I think the answer probably entails a Yes and a No.

Yes, in that their roles (obedient people of the past like Abraham) are invaluable to the world we live in today. Their obedience is what our state of affairs is built on. But no, in the sense that I think Christ is still ultimate and reminds us best what all these great people of obedience set up for us: the lesson of obedience in the gospel.

To summarize and explain this answer with the “gospel” is hard to put into succinct words so I will borrow from Mark’s gospel because I think he said it well and poetically: “then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” It is finished, the accomplishments of God and faithful people of the past are to give us the freedom to live in a world where whatever our state is, obedience is NOT weighed on the balance between God’s role or some human effort. The scales are gone and their great examples (our past) can either assist our state towards an obedience for obedience’s sake or it can be ignored and the richness, wisdom, and paradigms of the ages can be lost. With great freedom comes great risk but someone had to take the risks beforehand to create such a state, Abraham’s obedience and God’s promises were some key points. We are their benefactors. Live well and live with them. Believe.

What about the Law? Christians 2,000 years later…

There’s a fun couple of lines that goes, “have you ever read the Bible? Did you understand it?” I think Moltmann made this little two question dialogue famous but don’t quote me on that. Well anyway, tonight I sit here reading Leviticus and Matthew and can’t help but feel like I don’t think people actually understand them. ??? These books side by side make me feel like a lot of “Christians” claim they’re “Bible believing” but ignore large portions of the Bible. Leviticus and Matthew are great examples of this blatant disregard. Leviticus represents the Torah, the law by which Christ taught from in Matthew. You can’t understand one book without the other.

Read Matthew, Jesus was obsessed with the law: “be perfect as your father is.” That’s a quotation from the covenant pacts in the Torah, a la Exodus 19 and Leviticus 20. My struggle is, what do we Christians do with the law? Should we just ignore it as most do? 

I don’t have an easy answer. Maybe I don’t have one period? (And I’m open to yours. Leave them in the comments below.) On one hand the law is about parsing the world into holy, clean, and unclean. And on the other hand, a pro-law book like Matthew is about being faithful to that law AND to Jesus. But Matthew doesn’t see why we should abandon parsing the world up into holy, clean, and unclean. He’s more concerned that we don’t add to the specifics of the law and create additional burdens against the more authoritative spirit of the original law. In a sense Matthew is the Karaite version of Christianity.

Matthew’s Jesus arguably abolishes some of the law in light of this type of Karaite Christianity but not all of it, and remember in a sense he ramps it up (Matthew 5:17-20). Matthew’s Jesus is paradoxical, in the sense that Jesus doesn’t want his followers abandoning the law but actually continuing in it; but, at the same time Jesus, as the Messiah, wants his followers to obey him, even at the sake of abandoning some of the law (for example, Matthew on the sacrificial system is ok with it but implies Jesus’ cross is superior). I don’t know if Matthew has a way of solving this paradox and it’s hard to tell since he does it in a narrative form, that’s pro-law, it’s hard to point out all the specifics he had in mind. 

So have you read Leviticus? Did you understand it? I think honest Christians should say, listen, most Christians are Gentiles and not Jews so it’s not that the law is bad but it’s just not why we’re in the fold of Christ. In other words, there is a way of life that’s faithful to Christ but not bound by the law and we’re ok with the consequences. 

I think if Gentile Christians are honest and say that they basically believe in complex versions of universalism (depending on your denomination) it would make it easier to say that books like Leviticus and Matthew are more like parts of a set but they don’t make the whole. I think Jewish Christians have the option to join us or try to continue the law mitigated by Jesus’ superiority. But how to oder that into their lives sounds harder than the questions that sparked this post. The law is thousands of years old. Much has changed since then.  

In a nutshell, I think Christians side with the literal words of Paul when he wrote, “for Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” But, books like Matthew show us that Christianity is or at least can be a big tent religion that can take on more than a lawless version of itself. Honesty is key.

Keep your focus, awareness, and love for Christ and the law will be the least of your worries. Be blessed.

“abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” -The Apostles and the Elders

The Image of God through trinitarian Eyes

In an earlier post I struggled to come to grips with what the “Image of God” might be. In that post I wanted to error on calling it an ontological category rather than a functional category. But, upon further reflection I realized it’s both by necessity. It’s not unlike a wave that can collapse into and function as a particle (to use a physics analogy).

As a Christology: the image of God is to be organized as if he were us. (See Ephesians 4)

As a Pneumatology: the image of God is an active and transformative relationship of association with the Spirit that effects our reputation as if Jesus were us. (See 2 Corinthians 3)

As a Paterology: the organization and association of God means we have a status obligated to represent him in such a way that we “speak for God.” (See Romans 8)

“In the Biblical sense the Image of God is the embodiment of his organization, reputation, and representation.”

Simply put, the image of God in its smallest unit is a species: people. But God is where reality stops and proceeds so the smallest unit of what is doesn’t mean that’s all there is to it. Like God, the reality of his image is also a range of his will in this species, which can also mean as this species is. Where God gets what he wants done through his people’s organization, association, and status is the image of God in the Biblical sense. After Christ this Biblical sense has been redefined into a trinitarian sense.

In Summary

As a concrete thing the image of God is people, whether they like it or not. But, as these people are, their effective range (being as if God were them) means they ground and sustain the value of that image into the world and universe. Protect and provide for a monkey, help a dolphin flourish, feed the poor, or make good government decisions, these examples can have the fingerprint of the image of God too. As Jesus said, “freely you have received, freely give.”

The image of God is shared but there are limits.

As I reflected on my inclination to call the image of God an ontological thing I was reminded of the progress technology has made and where it is headed. In the near future people will try to call robots equals because of how robots are programmed to act but hopefully you see the image of God can not be just how one acts. If robots were to be included into the image of God, it would be as people act towards them. To use the physics/wave analogy again: human conception (the smallest unit of people) has the unique power to collapse the wave of God’s signature (that’s in the fabric of the universe’s structure) so as to ride that wave into functions that are uniquely embodied by human conception and beyond. Now, if we could figure out how to conceive of robots as we are, then they would have the image of God in the same way too, but I find that unlikely. Sorry for the science fiction twist. Hope you enjoyed my nerdisms on the subject.

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Rememeber the stars

  
I spend much time learning complex arguments, innovative methods and models, theories galore, but then there’s those simple moments that bring everything back down to size. I heard my daughter talking about Jesus to a friend today and it made me smile, how simple and honest her view was. No doubt she’ll grow up and have more nuanced and mature views (as she should!), but for now that innocence is Not wasted on the young. 

If even God had to take a day to say it was all good we should too. Look up and remember the stars. Awe at God’s good creation again. 

If you recall my last post I found a fun Karl Barth quote that he found: “we are worthy.” Not because of anything we have done but because despite ourselves God stands over it all at times and awes at his work too. #perspective

Be blessed.

The politics of Jesus and its nature

“Render undo Cesar what is Cesar’s and to God what is God’s” means we don’t get to abandon our commitments to our rulers but it acknowledges that we are committed to something more. If our commitments are in conflict the question is, why would I settle my commitments to a lesser power at the expense of the greater?

We can give our taxes to the government for a social safety net, that is a good. But our participation with the church to give to the poor directly, with our own words, our own money… Well, who is the power we are committed to? Our actions show who we think is greater, so Lord help me choose wisely!

This is the political drama of our day. Who will we serve when they conflict? God or Government? There’s still a measure of convenience in the sense that, in most cases, we can fulfill our commitments to both, and where that is the case we should strengthen our commitments (as in the case of doing philanthropic work through and by the Church). But, we also live in a day of disruption where old orders and powers fail dramatically and unexpectedly and this means our commitments are as important as they have ever been if not more. Who will you turn to when disruption happens? Who will we commit to when disruption happens and our commitments conflict?

Abortion, guns, the poor, marriage, violence, your friends. There is politics in all of these parts of our lives. The politics of Jesus, however, is disruptive to the disruptions of life. No one is safe from his rule and judgment. He accepts no less than first commitments. Be disturbed and challenged. May the Spirit give you strength in the day of adversity. Jesus help me!

Democrats are not the answer. Republicans wont save you. But Jesus demands to be a part of the answer and your salvation. 

Remember the question not asked of Jesus: “what is God’s?”

May you live in peace. Be blessed.

Technology and the Space to Communicate Truth without Fighting

Click here for a great (and quick) video on Technology
Today’s post is like I’m speaking in the mirror to myself. Hopefully you can relate and be convicted as much as I am.

I am toying with the idea that we have lost the ability to love in a deep way as Christians. Specifically, we have lost the ability to speak the truth to those we love, and to do it without fighting. Some set up is needed. 

I assume part of what it means to be Christian is to be free enough by the Spirit to practice disciplines. In community this is in things like going out of the way to care for your spouse as she likes to be loved, or working with outreach ministries to give assistance to the poor. Individually, it’s your classic spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study. The practice of disciplines requires learning, forming, and doing things that keep us on task to never stop learning to be like Jesus. 

Now fast forward to today. In a world saturated by technology we are connected to each other with a series of things in between us. And when I mean technology I mean anything that is dependent on us controlling things and those things are packed with values. So for example, a condom or a birth control pill are both a form of technology. No, technology is not just computers. Technology is the dominate mode of modern life for better or worse. When I talk about technology I like to give the analogy of a fish and water. The fish doesn’t know it’s in water but it does know when it’s outside of it. Our social world is much like that fish, just our water is technology. 

The reason I bring up technology is because I’m convinced that it’s created a barrier for us to speak truth to those we love without fighting. It’s not the only problem in modern life, there are other powers in the way, but it’s such an obvious one that it needs to be pointed out. It manifests its obstruction in so many ways. I bet we express our views on social media but when in the same room as a family member with opposing views, my guess is those subjects don’t even come up. How about the most obvious truth, does it ever come up?: Without Christ people are out of step with reality; God has made Christ known so we can know and be in harmony. But this harmony requires a different space than the technological world, because it requires us being oriented with the world directly and nothing in between us and our values we use to manage and harmonize with reality. 

Here’s another very simple example, keeping our children clean is not about using diapers but about getting dirty, using our hands, and sometimes even washing our kid’s little butts directly so they can be clean because we love them. To do this right means using our hands and our words and repeating that discipline so many times it is part of their basic understanding about us and them and themselves and ourselves. Did I mention true Christian disciplines are acts of love done in the space of Christ (traditionally in his name)? 

Technology can be a helpful tool to accomplish these types of goals but in a world saturated by it, and becoming more saturated daily, it gets in the way. How many of you show disgust when you have to use your hands and clean your children’s butts? You’ve probably become accustomed to a level of controllable separation from things you dislike and the withdrawal affect of not having a technological level of separation to mediate your dislike manifests itself in disgust. 

The Lord loves a cheerful giver!

To learn to love in today’s world means learning to build connections where a space of freedom can be reconciled. Technology doesn’t, in general, provide that space because the world needs words, it needs hands, values, it needs us directly involved. Once again there is a new condition of the common human experience that needs to be redeemed for Christ. 

We Christians need to get to a place in our relationships where we can directly speak the truth to each other without fighting. This is a spiritual discipline and an act of true love. Sanctify your love, fight for it, redeem it. Get technology out of the way if that will help, but do it. 
Blessings!

No one is “good” but God? Really Jesus?

So today’s little lesson is brought to you by Jesus himself. Read Mark 10:17-22 and then 2:8. Ask yourself does 2:8 change your mind about 10:18.

I once thought that in Mark 10:17-22 Jesus was implying his own assumptions about what he thought of himself and God, but now I’m pretty sure he’s not implying anything about what he believes and everything about the person he’s asking.

Mark 2:8

Jesus wants to subvert our foundations and place himself in them. Answering questions about God is secondary.

Theologians and Rookie Mistakes

So, I think it’s safe to say that often theology is behind on its philosophical assumptions, historically speaking, or, in other words, behind on intellectual developments. That is, sometimes we humans learn something about the world that makes theological explanations inaccurate or obsolete. A great example of this is in the history of Christian atonement theory. Analogies have plagued the field, and as society has developed, the theories and analogies to describe atonement have changed, sometimes for the worse. I think one of the problems is bad council. Theologians tend to stay in an intellectual bubble.

We’re in one of those eras right now as it comes to our concept of God. The enlightenment and modernism ravaged traditional views of God. And responses to those paradigm shifts have been plethora but, in general, they’ve been bad. Let’s take the most famous bad example: Karl Barth’s concept of God. 

For Barth, God is his object, subject and predicate. What that means in application is the doings of God (events plural) are equal modes of his life in his overall life (event). Not only are they modes, but, because they are free determinations of himself, they are who he is. Here’s a quote I took off the web to illustrate in his own words:

God is who He is in His works. He is the same even in Himself, even before and after and over His works, and without them. They are bound to Him, but He is not bound to them. They are nothing without Him. But He is who He is without them. He is not, therefore, who He is only in His works. (CD II.1, 260; Molnar, 308; also cited by Alan Torrance, The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, ed. John Webster, 90, n.28)

Or here’s another quote:

God is, “Revealer, Revelation, and Revealedness.” CDI/1

Simply put, Barth thinks what God does is what God is, and what God is is what God is, AND God is himself whether he does or doesn’t do anything because God is God. I know, Barth is confusing. Let’s put that into an analogy…

(“God is God.”) If God punches something, then the object punching is God; the action (or verb), “punching,” is God too; and the punch (or the noun) as a thing that happened is God too. Do you see the problem yet?

The problem is first I had to do some word trickery to explain God in the analogy above. I started the first clause with using “God punches.” But, in the second clause I slipped in my categories and used “punching” and inferred “God is punching.” Then from this slip and bad use of language I took the predicate, “God is punching,” and made it a literal ontological statement rather than a simple adjectival description of an event. I slipped from “God is punching,” in the action sense (describing what he does) and used its literal sense to mean something nonsensical that God is literally a “punching.” Explaining God as such confuses language categories. BUT BARTH DOES THIS AND THINKS GOD CAN BE EXPLAINED AS SUCH.

The Rookie Mistake 

We can talk about what we know epistemically and what we know ontologically. And as categories, epistemic and ontological, can additionally have two senses, the objective and subjective. So there’s two categories (ontological and epistemological), with two senses (objective and subjective), and a whole lot of ways of confusing those categories and senses. 

The Analogy

A “punching” is an epistemic objective thing in that we know when someone is punching. But it should be obvious that there’s not a thing in the world that is in and of itself a “punching,” that’s a category mistake if we do so. In reality there’s just the persons fist. Whether a fist’s action can be cut out of reality as an object, let’s say into a 4 dimensional thing, is debatable, and is more likely to be a description; but, either way it is not clear that it’s possible or real in the ontologically objective sense. 

The ontological objective sense would be generally nouns, like a hand. The fact that a hand is beautiful is an epistemological subjective thing. And me using “fact” there is a confusing use. The fact that a hand is part of the human body is both an epistemically objective thing and an ontologically objective one (if the person has a hand of course). But there are a million ways to confuse those categories and senses and to do so is to misunderstand how language works. 

Barthians (and Barth) want to hide their category mistakes and language use confusions when it comes to the concept of God that says God is his events. They usually do this by saying that only God gets to reveal and decide who he is, and that he’s done so as he has is not for us to define, but solely of himself by grace. In laymen’s terms, we can’t criticize Barth’s conception of God because it’s either a mystery that just is, or only God gets to define himself because only he is sovereign enough to do so. Notice that last clause written. The conversation was about Barth’s concept but when pressed with criticism the only other response ever given besides mystery is outright dismissal and the circular logic that God is like such therefore Barth’s concept can’t be criticized. 

“This is how God loves. This is how He seeks and creates fellowship between Himself and us. By this distinctive mark we recognize the divinity of His love. For it is in this way, graciously, that God not only acts outwardly towards His creature, but is in Himself from eternity to eternity (Barth 357, 401).” (Quote taken from here: http://hrcak.srce.hr/file/93352.)

The point is our general concepts of God develop, as knowledge grows; but these general concepts can be wrong by making these kind of mistakes (like Karl Barth and his followers do). It is important more than ever that theologians consult specialists, like analytic theologians, so these mistakes don’t happen because the world will laugh us off more and more as a direct result from those who need not be the cause of such things: theologians! Well, theologians that make these rookie mistakes. 

(Don’t get me wrong! Barth is still an important figure. And his theology is a leap forward on the level of Calvin.)

May prayer and wise council be at your back and fill your sails!
God bless.

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