Faith in hospital

black and white skeleton wall art
Photo:Mick Haupt Street art on the streets of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Apparently curiosity killed the cat.  It nearly killed my faith. ·From 2009 to 2014 my faith was in a challenged place. I had questions I could neither answer not ignore. It was neither easy or fun. Two things kept me alive.  I was convinced 2,000 years ago there was an empty tomb outside of Jerusalem. The second fact was the existence of Israel .

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The Way or The Truth

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It’s easy to imagine we have arrived, that we have reached peak understanding.  Many in our community talk about “The Truth” as if we have arrived at a complete understanding.  But that is not what Jesus calls us to.  We see in the Bible shows discipleship means growing and sometimes obtaining new insights into God.  Practical experience, cold hard facts sometimes prompt these insights.  Other-times this growth just comes as part of the common path of life.  God as a parent means more when you have children, resurrection means more when you lose loved ones.  Life means more when you realise you have less of it than you used to.  As we get older our experience often softens youthful certainties and hard edges.  Life and the realities we encounter change and grow our understanding. 

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Naaman’s permission to worship idols 2 Kings 5:18

The case of Naaman the Syrian in 2 Kings 5:18 is a challenging verse because it challenges our theological assumptions. Either no attempt was made to save Naaman or God allows massive doctrinal flexibility.

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Monotheism and the Bible

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The god El – Metropolitan Museum of Art

Monotheism is a given for all Bible readers.  However when we come to the text we read in our expectations and can miss some points in the record.  Sometimes what the text actually says can be profoundly contrary to our expectations.  In some instances God has chosen to reveal Himself in ways crafted to suit the worldview of the first hearers but which jar in our ears.  More than just a point of interest, this reality speaks to the extent God is prepared to go to.  The message of redemption is of primary importance, the calling to know and serve Him alone.  In achieving this outcome, inspiration has accommodated ideas which almost all believers would recoil from.

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Culture and the Bible

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Code of Hammurabi on the Louvre Stele

At one level understanding the cultural context enriches our understanding of the Bible.  It doesn’t necessarily change the gospel message since that is clear enough.  But it can add to various passages. And a fair approach to the Bible must acknowledge that in the absence of cultural context complete confidence in our understanding is impossible.

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1 Cor 11 & 14 Women should pray and prophesy in congregation

1 Corinthians 11 and 14 are frequently used as passages to silence women.  However when the passages are examined more closely they point in entirely the opposite direction!  Paul expected women to pray in congregation.  He expected them to speak on God’s behalf as prophets.  The restrictions he placed on the Corinthian women (and men) was to respect cultural boundaries so as not to bring shame on The Way.

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1 Timothy 2:11-15 are women banned from teaching?

Most complementarians agree that 1 Timothy 2 is the critical passage underpinning their position restricting what women can do in church. It is one of the most contested passages in the Bible with limited agreement on what it means even among those with similar views on gender roles. I think there is a way through the confusion to a most likely meaning of the passage and it’s application today. The passage poses many questions:

is the ‘teaching’ of any kind at all, or only of a particular kind? If the latter, which? Is ecclesial authority-taking over men also forbidden, or only a particular type of authority, or is a woman in fact forbidden only a particular kind of authoritative ecclesial teaching? Is teaching (and authority-taking) over men in every sphere of life forbidden? Does the author intend the instruction to be normative?[1]

Holmes
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Men and women on church boards

The New Testament discussion of roles and qualifications is not well defined.  Roles in the NT include apostles, prophets, teachers, leaders, preachers, pastors, overseers/elders and deacons.  Some roles, like Timothy’s and Titus’ are uncertain (probably apostles?).  Within the NT timeframe structures evolved with decentralisation away from Jerusalem.  Many of the early NT roles (being specifically spirit chosen & empowered) are not present today – or perhaps relevant.  Some positions which in some respects have endured (overseers and deacons) have changed.  The NT structures included separation of teaching, leadership and administration – while allowing they could be combined.  The Christadelphian arranging structures similarly lack a teaching responsibility and emphasis collective responsibility rather than individual.

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Parable of the 10 Virgins

The parable of the 5 wise and five foolish virgins is a well enough known parable.  It is found in Matt 25:1-13.  The parable provides ample opportunity for reflection as it asks searching questions of readers.  Such questions can be blunted by overuse of analogy.  What was Jesus saying to his listeners?  What does Matthew want his readers to learn?  The parable concerns the coming of the kingdom of heaven.  But what are we to make of it’s many elements?  The sleep of all virgins, the oil, the lack of spare oil, late night merchants and final rejection of the 5 foolish virgins?  How much should we take from this parable?

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Junia the female Apostle – Romans 16:7

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Was there a female apostle?  Over time English translators have offered up differing opinions.  Romans 16:7 has Paul greeting Andronicus and Junia and calling them famous among the apostles.  Because of debate over the roles of women in the church Junia’s gender and role is debated.  However there should be no debate.  She was a woman and an Apostle.

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