Jeremiah – “I have put my words in your mouth”

The mouthpiece of Yahweh to his people

Jeremiah was called to be a messenger for God in his youth, and charged to go to whoever he was sent, boldly speaking as commanded (Je 1:7). From the outset, Jeremiah was informed that the fulfilment of his commission was to be outworked in a perilous and frightening context; although he is told not to give way to fear nor back away from firmly sharing the thoughts of Yahweh with his people (Je 1:8, 17-19). He is assured that his God is with him – “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth…” (Je 1:9) and in the subsequent record of Jeremiah’s words and actions we have the account of a man attempting to faithfully communicate the word of his God whilst enduring many trials of a painful and personal nature. Continue reading “Jeremiah – “I have put my words in your mouth””

The heart is deceitful above all things

At Marginalia Review of Books, Sarah E. Rollens, Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College argues that far from being the product of careful, rational thought, our beliefs are “affected by both our brain chemistry and our social context.” Furthermore, according to a study she cites, there appears to be a specific neurological correlate to people with rigid, inflexible patterns of thought who are resistant to changing beliefs when exposed to evidence that falsifies them.

For a Christian, this should immediately bring to mind Jeremiah 17:9:

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

This verse is a favourite proof-text of those who argue that human nature is irredeemably depraved. Given what research in neurophysiology is showing us, this verse should remind us that human thinking itself is anything but foolproof, and we need to inculcate a program of critical thinking and scepticism to ensure that our beliefs are based on evidence, not on emotion. Although speaking about science, the words of physicist Richard Feynman in his memorable 1974 Caltech Commencement address mutatis mutandis apply wonderfully to the Christian:

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you’ve not fooled yourself, it’s easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.

http://marginalia.lareviewofbooks.org/sticking-to-your-convictions/ 

The Fool Hath Said In His Heart

Mistaking the bricks and mortar for the bride of Christ

Atheism is rare and on the whole unpopular in the US, however this is changing. While Richard Dawkins and others have promoted atheism, a major factor is the behaviour of organised religion. Christianity contains less of Christ and more focus on itself, it’s structures and traditions rather than its mission. This feeds increasing disillusionment in and out of the church. As will be seen in Psalm 53 and Psalm 10, this is akin to a denial of the power and presence of God – atheism in practice if not name. Going through the motions, maintaining ethical habits is not true religion a form of rebellion and stubbornness – idolatry to use the biblical term. Believers need to know and live Jesus Christ and him crucified, nothing more, nothing less. Continue reading “The Fool Hath Said In His Heart”

An evidence-based faith

Apologetics is the domain of defending Christian faith and has a role in strengthening faith

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.” Heb 11:1 NET

The words of Hebrews 11:1 (especially as rendered in the King James Version) are sometimes taken to be a definition of faith, however this is not the intention of the text.  Continue reading “An evidence-based faith”

The Salt of the Earth

How Christ’s audience would have understood his teaching on the salt of the earth

Very early in the Sermon on the Mount, straight after the opening discourse on the blessings on mourners, peacemakers, and the merciful, Christ used two metaphors to describe what the disciples were to be: they were to be the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. We’re going to look at the first of these. Continue reading “The Salt of the Earth”

Evidence for a resurrection?

A summary of the rational, supporting evidence for the resurrection

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless” 1 Corinthians 15:17 NET The resurrection is the critical doctrine and historical basis of our faith. The case for the resurrection can draw on both biblical and external evidence. This article provides a brief summary of the evidence. Continue reading “Evidence for a resurrection?”

“They changed the Bible – RSV removes entire verses”

How Metzger’s “Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament” helps us identify insertions into the Biblical text

The shocking headline above recently featured on a meme alongside a list of verses that the RSV is said to have removed from the Bible. Other such memes exist for other translations like the NIV and with different lists, but the complaint is one that has abounded since well before the existence of the Internet. Continue reading ““They changed the Bible – RSV removes entire verses””

Ascribe to Yahweh

The ancient context of Psalm 29

Through our 21st century, western eyes, Psalm 29 seems to be about how God shows his strength in the natural world. He thunders, he breaks cedar trees, and he sits enthroned on a flood. The psalm also contains language that is not so familiar and gives us the uneasy feeling that we possibly don’t understand it as well we might. For example, God’s voice flashes fire (v7), he makes Lebanon skip like a calf (v6), and he shakes the wilderness of Kadesh (v8) – the significance of these phrases is not obvious. By the end of the psalm we’re not sure exactly what it’s about, but are pretty comfortable that it’s somehow a declaration that God’s power is shown in dramatic weather events like thunder, lightning, and floods. Continue reading “Ascribe to Yahweh”

The Lamp of the Body

How Christ’s audience would have understood his teaching on the eye being the light of the body

Compared to the verses that surround it, Matthew 6:22-23 is hard to understand:

Mt 6:22–23 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”1

It is not immediately apparent how the eye is the body’s lamp, or in what sense the eye was said to be healthy/unhealthy, or how a healthy eye results in the body being full of light, or how a body can be full of light at all. Continue reading “The Lamp of the Body”