The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream

In Regina Munch’s review of “Chris Lehmann’s The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream”, she remarks that

“Rich or poor, conservative or liberal, religious or secular, Americans are in thrall of the promise of personal fulfillment that this amalgam of therapeutic self-help, financial counseling, and spiritual enlightenment offers. But when enlightenment is instrumentalized for individual advancement, ties between individuals suffer. Surrounded by the language of personal well-being, we are denied the vocabulary of community and solidarity.”

There is much about which to criticise the prosperity gospel, but arguably its obsession with individual advancement is its biggest betrayal of Christianity, as it runs against the concept of Christianity as a collective faith.

As Paul eloquently put it in Romans 12:5,

“so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another.”

Capitalism as Religion: How Money Became God

The Exodus – a cross-disciplinary perspective

Egyptologist James Hoffmeier remarked that in response to the question “do you think the early Israelites lived in Egypt and that there was some sort of exodus?” posed in a survey sent to a group of randomly selected Egyptologists, of twenty-five, nineteen answered ‘yes.’1

Hoffmeier’s anecdote appears in the the proceedings in the 2013 conference “Exodus: Out of Egypt – Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Archaeology, Text, and Memory” held at the University of California San Diego. Featuring leading experts in Egyptology, archaeology, Biblical Studies, and other related disciplines, the conference provided a cutting-edge look at the evidence for a historical basis to the Exodus tradition in the Bible.

As well as the book, the videos2 and the conference website are available for those who want to take a serious look at the seminal event in the history of Israel.

Hapax Legomena and the value of expertise for Bible Study

When words appear only once their meaning often remains unclear

“Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.” – Gen 6:14 (AV)

What was gopher wood? That was one of my first questions asked after reading the flood narrative in the AV, and I remember being quite annoyed when I found out that no one really knew. Continue reading “Hapax Legomena and the value of expertise for Bible Study”

Studying the Ancient Israelites: A Guide to Sources and Methods by Victor Matthews (Part 2)

Introducing the interdisciplinary approach required to understand the world of the Ancient Israelites

Literary Approaches

Regrettably, literary approaches, which include both critical study of the Bible and the use of ancient Near Eastern literature for comparative study are viewed with suspicion. This is unfortunate as such approaches can provide considerable insight into problems that are commonly advanced as reasons to doubt the integrity of the biblical narrative. Continue reading “Studying the Ancient Israelites: A Guide to Sources and Methods by Victor Matthews (Part 2)”

Studying the Ancient Israelites: A Guide to Sources and Methods by Victor Matthews (Part 1)

Introducing the interdisciplinary approach required to understand the world of the Ancient Israelites

Apart from grammar and semantics, one of the main hermeneutic tools any serious Bible student needs to understand is the historical and cultural context of the Bible. This, needless to say is not a minor subject given that the historical context of the OT alone spans at least one thousand years and covers many civilisations. Continue reading “Studying the Ancient Israelites: A Guide to Sources and Methods by Victor Matthews (Part 1)”

A pagan version of Psalm 20

An example of a text that moved around the Ancient Near East

While the Internet has made sharing of information trivial, we should not forget that the ancient Near East was in its own way no less cosmopolitan. Information may not have been shared instantaneously across thousands of kilometres, but texts from one culture certainly made their way across considerable distances. One fascinating examples is a pagan version of Psalm 20 dating to the second century BCE and of Egyptian provenance. Continue reading “A pagan version of Psalm 20”

On loving theology more than people

Missing the point by making doctrinal purity an end in itself

Currently, one of the hot topics in the Evangelical world is Hank Hanegraaff’s conversion to Orthodox Christianity. Hanegraaff, who has been running the apologetics organisation Christian Research Institute since 1989 is best known as the “Bible Answer Man” for the podcast series of the same name joined the Orthodox church on Palm Sunday.

His decision has created considerable controversy among Evangelicals, with some evangelicals declaring that he had left Christianity. Continue reading “On loving theology more than people”

Let justice roll down like waters

It’s easy for people who consider themselves chosen to forget the basic principles of justice and and mercy

When we think of prophets, it is common to see them primarily in terms of those who make predictions. This is however only part of the story. A common way in which to remember the purpose of prophecy is to see them as forth-tellers, rather than foretellers. A prophet certainly would predict doom, or future restoration, but this was usually in the context of berating the nation for failing to adhere to the terms of the covenant with God. When we look at it this way, one prophet certainly comes to mind, and that is Amos. Continue reading “Let justice roll down like waters”

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. 

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”