A Prayer of Thanksgiving

“For food in a world where many walk in hunger,

For faith in a world where many walk in fear,

For friends in a world where many walk alone,

We give You thanks, O Lord.”

– Source: spoken by Robert Duvall’s character as grace before a meal in the movie Seven Days in Utopia

 

Was Jesus Wrong When He Said the Mustard Seed Was the Smallest of All Seeds?

The accusation is sometimes made that Jesus erred when He said that the mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds.  People who make this accusation do so by hauling Jesus’s words out of context and acting like He was dictating a section on seed sizes for a science book – which the accusers then demonstrate to be wrong in the view of science.

When Jesus spoke of the mustard seed, I take it He was speaking of what was commonly considered among His contemporaries as the smallest garden seed (since the parables were of plants and growth) at that time and in that region. To portray that as a false belief that creation technically had no smaller seeds is to do violence to His meaning and context…and to really be quite silly.

When my little league baseball coach told us we could swing a bat no less than 28 inches in length, he was correct in the context of our rules at that time and in that place. To portray it as if he had a false belief that there could not exist any bat of less than 28 inches is to do violence to his meaning and context…and to really be quite silly.

More:

The following blog post by Marvin Cotten* gets at the underlying Greek behind Jesus’ teaching and further helps to put His words back in context:  A Grain of Truth – Theologica.

(*Source information:  Marvin Cotten writes the blog Asphaleia  and co-writes the blog To Be Continued…, also called continuationism.com.  Marv is associated with Michael Patton the blog Parchment and Pen; see also Theologica which is the site that has the post referenced above.)

And Yet More:

For the true importance of the seed concept, see Jesus Is the Long-Promised Seed.

Randal Rauser on Christians and Trinitarians

Randal Rauser recently posted Must a Christian believe in the Trinity?  This post was an outgrowth of recent previous posts he had written.  Most of the ensuing discussion was about the correct definition of “Christian” and whether or not it entailed being a “Trinitarian.”  After much discussion by others, I made the following comment (with minor editing here):

Looking at the words themselves, one would think Christian meant “of Christ” and Trinitarian meant “of the Trinity.” But maybe that’s too simple (or should I have said simpliciter?)

To put it another way, if to be a Christian you must be a Trinitarian, perhaps to be a Trinitarian you similarly must be something in addition to a Trinitarian. That is, if truly being “of Christ” means you must be “of the Trinity” then to be truly “of the Trinity” you must be “of yet something else.” (This sort of logic is worthy of Lewis Carroll.)

I’m surprised that all those who insist that a Christian must be a Trinitarian do not simply call themselves Trinitarians instead of Christians as this would make their point so much more clearly. Or perhaps, in a compromise, call themselves the composite name of Trinitarian-Christians (“TC” could also stand for “true Christian” which would be extra nifty) so as not to let others confuse them with the unwashed claimants to the name of Christ.

All kidding aside, and before anyone sets out to argue with me about these definitions, let me warn you: I will not defend them. I won’t engage in that argument because I don’t care about the definition of a Christian. I don’t care about it because I don’t believe our Lord cares about the labels we assign ourselves (arguments about what constituted a true Pharisee weren’t of interest to Him either). What He does care about is the degree to which each of us does His word. Remember that He said:

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” – Luke 6:46

To see this comment as originally made in context, go to the post at Randal’s blog.

To learn more about Christ versus the Trinity, see:

There Is No Trinity; There Is Christ

Posts to Date on the Trinity Versus Christ

Practical Cosmology Versus Scientific Cosmology

In our age we have a practical cosmology (the same one employed by the ancient Hebrews) and a scientific one as well (that they didn’t have). According to our practical cosmology we look “up” at the sky, time the sun”rise” and sun”set,” and “dive” into the ocean. Simultaneously, we know, scientifically speaking, that we are located on the side of a ball so that the sky and ocean are each beside us but in different directions – we have to move laterally to get to either, though hardly anyone ever talks this way. And the sun – whoa, that’s moving and we’re moving around it, and everything’s moving – still everyone knows that you always put a hat on your head and never on your feet to protect yourself from the sun.

This distinction between the practical and scientific is also seen when I pound my fist on the table. Science tells me there is actually more space in the table than there is matter. Yet, I still don’t pound my fist too hard on the table lest I hurt myself.

When the ancient Hebrews employed practical cosmology, they didn’t consider it “scientific” because “science” as we know it (experimental method, etc.) wasn’t commonplace for them. Therefore, it’s a form of chronological snobbery, as C.S. Lewis might put it, to suggest that Hebrews considered the three-tier view of the universe that we ourselves (Non-Christian and Christian alike) employ today a “scientific” view of the universe.

Scientific cosmology hasn’t displaced practical cosmology. It just sits alongside it (or maybe above it or below it or whatever).

Addendum:

Here is more on the ancient Hebrews’ three-tiered, two-dimensional view of creation.  The “two-dimensional” part, by the way, is very important.

Creation Is Two-Dimensional and Three-Tiered

[The Bible] presents a view of creation as existing in two dimensions:  visible and invisible.  We could also say “seen and unseen” or “flesh and spirit.”  This two-dimensional creation exists in three tiers:  heaven, earth, and sea (Sheol).

Each tier has its own inhabitants, both in the physical realm as well as the spiritual one.  Even children are familiar with the creatures which belong to each realm:  Birds for the air, fish for the sea, and so on.  In the spiritual dimension, heaven was designed for God and angels, earth for living humanity, and Sheol below for deceased humanity.  It’s a simple concept, but God must know that’s the way we prefer things.

In any given Bible verse, it’s not always clear which dimension is being referenced.  Obviously, when it tells us to pray “Our Father who art in heaven” it is not encouraging us to picture Him hanging on to a star.  On the other hand, when the Scriptures told the Israelites not to make idols of any likeness of anything in the heavens, it was speaking of the physical heavens.  For how could the Israelites make a likeness of something they couldn’t see?  There are other times, however, where both dimensions of creation may be in view.

To read this excerpt in context see Chapter Four of Everyone Is Going to Heaven.

Young Ben Breedlove Testifies of God and Angels

Ben Breedlove (1993-2011) made this two-part video two weeks before he died.  It caught Internet fire (6.3M views to date) and was picked up by various media outlets.  I’ve been told, however, that many of those outlets withheld Ben’s reference to God and angels.  (Why do so many media outlets recoil at references to God?)

This is a poignant clip, and the Wikipedia link above will give you the back story on Ben’s short but interesting life.  He was a vivacious kid making all sorts of videos over the last few years, mainly for his peers, which featured his engaging personality.  This particular video was a departure in style, owing, of course, to the nature of the subject he was addressing.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmlTHfVaU9o&feature=related]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4LSEXsvRAI&feature=player_embedded]

Neither Trinitarianism nor Modalism Is Taught by Scripture

I am amazed that either Modalists or Trinitarians would say that their respective doctrine is taught by the Scriptures. Any honest reading of the Bible would have to acknowledge that if either doctrine is true it is because the Scriptures imply it, not teach it explicitly. To state the obvious, neither the term “trinity” nor “modalism” is found in the Bible. And the formulations of each doctrine are constructed by pulling together a variety of verses into an extrabiblical conceptual framework.  None of it, in and of itself, proves either doctrine wrong.  But it should make us slow to draw conclusions.

As for myself, I’d be prepared to believe either doctrine if I could find the basis for inferring it from Scripture because I believe it is perfectly valid to establish doctrine based on inference from Scripture. God expects us to use our minds, and He did not put every truth in propositional form in the Bible. However, I cannot find a sufficient basis for inferring either doctrine from Scripture.

What then do I believe? That Christ is God. And I believe that we know Christ is God not by explicit scriptural statement but in the same way Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ – that is, not by flesh and blood revealing it, but by heaven revealing it. Thus, whether we are Oneness Pentecostals, Trinitarians, or neither…we are blessed, as Peter was, when we recognize by the Holy Spirit that Christ is God.

(I made this comment originally on Brian LePort’s recent post at Near Emmaus:  Is T.D. Jakes a Trinitarian? and extended it slightly here.)

For more on the biblical doctrine of Christ, see:

There Is No Trinity; There Is Christ

Posts to Date on the Trinity Versus Christ

Randal Rauser on Who Is a Christian

Randal Rauser recently posted Will the real Christian please stand up?  There have been many comments on his post.  I commented, mainly to point out the futility and counterproductivity of the exercise.  The comment string also led to a discussion of the Trinity and Modalism – both false conceptions of God.

For more on the correct conception of God, see:

There Is No Trinity; There Is Christ

Posts to Date on the Trinity Versus Christ