Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Church Write-Up: Belonging, Biblical Criticism

Here are some items for my Church Write-Up on last Sunday.  I attended the Missouri Synod Lutheran church, one of its Sunday school classes, and the “Word of Faith” church.

A.  The pastor at the Missouri Synod church told a story about when he was a junior college student, and he believed that he was being asked to help coach the high school speech and debate team.  He concluded that he did not particularly want to relive high school, so he told the teacher that he was not interested.  The teacher replied that she is glad that he let her know, but she was not going to ask him to be coach in the first place.  He felt rejected, as if he were unwanted and did not belong.  The pastor speculated that perhaps this was what Adam and Eve felt after they ate the forbidden fruit and were naked: alone and rejected.  But God has sought to restore the relationship through Christ and lavishes love and forgiveness on us: it is not just a layer of icing on the cake, but dumping the whole batch of icing onto the cake.  Rejecting God’s love and choosing to be alone (apart from God) is mortal sin.

At the Sunday school, a similar point was made.  A lady who teaches school was saying that she tries to remind her students and peers that it is not all about one person, that there is a bigger picture.  The teacher of the class then inquired if people who try to make everything about themselves are not getting the affirmation that they need.

At the “Word of Faith” church, the pastor was talking about Ephesians and the Christian’s identity in Christ.  God says Christ is Savior and healer, and that means we are saved and healed.  The Christian church is based on this, as no one person is deemed to be superior to another.  Christians encourage each other about their identity in Christ.  And two Christians with little in common in terms of background actually have more in common than they do with those who share the same background: their identity is rooted in Christ.  It is nice when things can work out that way.

B.  There were comments that were made about the history and origins of biblical books.  The “Word of Faith” pastor was saying that Luke-Acts was written to assist Paul’s lawyer in Paul’s defense before Rome.  Its point was that Christianity was not a suspicious new cult but was a religion with a history, rooted in Judaism.  This is actually a common viewpoint.  N.T. Wright mentioned it in his biography of Paul.  A host on a TBN program referred to that view.

The teacher of the Sunday school class said that the story of Job was around for centuries as a wisdom tale, before it became canonized.  It became canonized during the Babylonian exile, when the Jews experienced suffering and sought to account for it.  There may be something to that, on some level.  The Anchor Bible Dictionary article dates the Book of Job to the sixth century B.C.E. on the basis of linguistic evidence, while acknowledging that the story may have existed before that.  Ezekiel 14:14, 20, presumably written in the sixth century B.C.E., mentions the character of Job, perhaps indicating that he had become renowned.

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