ƒ Christianity for Thinking People: October 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

Destruction and Renewal

After spending four weeks studying two chapters, this week we study four chapters;
Genesis 6 thru 9.

Jack Miles, in his Pulitzer-winning book, God: A Biography, observes (or infers) a lot about God's character in the Flood account. He notes that the story that precedes the Flood account is that of Cain slaying Abel, where in Gen 4:10,11, God says that his brother's blood cries out from the ground, and that Cain is now under a curse. He also notes that following the Flood account, in Gen 9:6, God states that he will hold Noah and his descendants accountable for the destruction of human life and for the shedding of human blood. Thus, God's wholesale destruction of human life is bookended by His prohibition of human bloodshed.

Miles concludes that, "a human being engaged in either destruction or creation becomes his rival". p.45. "Destruction is forbidden because God is a destroyer as well as a creator".

Miles also observes that following the flood, "the Lord has to be seduced out of a recurrence of his rage by the scent of Noah's offering."

In short, this scholar of our times (a former Jesuit scholar, with a PhD in Near-Eastern Languages from Harvard University) doesn't think that God comes out of these chapters looking too good. What do you think? If you were determining God's biography (and portions of Revelation suggest that we will be), what thesis would you present? Would you really be interested in being part of His administration for eternity? (Rev 22:5).

These are important questions that are worthy of more than cursory thought.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Early Earth

I thought we would try something new -- following the study guide. So, we will discuss Genesis 2. I believe that we could study and discuss this chapter once a quarter and still get something new out of it each time.

I'd like to focus on what this chapter tells us about the life God intended for us. Compare your current life in the so-called "real world" with this brief picture of life as God conceived of it for us. What are the similarities? What are the differences?

A common sermon illustration is that bank tellers are taught to recognize counterfeit money by focusing on authentic money, not evaluating the counterfeit. Perhaps the key to walking with God is to focus on God's created paradise rather than analyzing the counterfeit life we call the "real world"?

So, with that in mind, lets revisit Genesis 2 this week.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

In the Beginning

This study focuses on what the Bible says about the origin of humanity and the stellar neighborhood in which humans find themselves. I do hope you enjoy the study.

In this discussion, I would like us to continue through the Books of Genesis, identifying for each chapter of Genesis:
(a) portions of Genesis that form the basis for understanding some other portion of scripture, particularly that of the New Testament.
(b) messages that form the foundation of Christian thought and life.

So, in preparation for our discussion, please continue to read through Genesis and identify "foundations" in Genesis, of the two types noted above.

I believe that this is what we have thus far:

Genesis 1
* Matthew 1, Genealogy, Genesis is foundation of New Testament
* John 1, Jesus, Creator becomes part of His creation
* Psalms in general. Psalm 8 and 136 in particular
* Heb 11:3
* Man is not preexistent
* God is preexistent
* Evil did not always exist
* 1:28 Foundation for Human dominion of the Earth
* 1:29 Foundation for Vegetarian diet

Genesis 2
* Matt 19:3-8
* 2:4 Foundation for work as a perfect blessing (not a consequence of sin)
* 2:24,25 Foundation for marriage as part of God's created perfection

Genesis 3
* Rev 12:9
* 2 Cor 11:3
* Phil 2:5 onwards
* 3:1 Satan is active in the World (c/f Job 1:7, 2:1)
* 3:8 God wants to interact with us
* 3:9 God seeks us
* 3:23 God appears to use force sometimes

Genesis 4
* Heb 11:4
* 4:8 It is a short distance from perfection to murder
* 4:9 God seeks us
* 4:12 "restless wanderer" Curse or consequence?
* 4:15 God protects those who rebel against him
* 4:19 From monogamy to polygamy
* 4:24 Foundation of human retribution (c/f Matt 18:21,22)
* 4:26 Foundation of dichotomy; (a) God-reliance v. (b) Self-reliance

Monday, October 2, 2006

Beginnings and Belongings

This is the first of a new and exciting series of Bible studies,
Genesis: Creation and Redemption.

The studies are based on material written by Arthur Ferch, a Theology professor at the Adventist Seminary "down under", Avondale College. After this overview, the lessons proceed through Genesis, from creation, perfection, rebellion, violence, new beginnings, and a covenant with an individual and, eventually, with a people chosen of God.

I recently gave a Bible to a past colleague of mine who has an interest in reading the great books of human civilization. He read through Genesis, and then came back to me in total disbelief that a book full of unbelievable stories and the most torrid of human interactions can possibly be the foundation of Jewish and Christian belief. "I must be missing something", he said. And we then talked about what Genesis really says to us, once we look beyond the murder, rape, incest, sodomy, deception, child sacrifice, and the all-round dysfunctional families that populate the book's chapters. This same discussion -- what Genesis really says to us -- will be our conversation for the rest of this year.

While we have studied portions of Genesis several times recently (particularly Gen 1-3), I do hope that we can come to the book of Genesis with a fresh perspective, and ask ourselves why this book is so central to Christianity and Judaism?

Let's begin by seeking to read through the 50 chapters of Genesis. It does not take very long. And, have a look through the first study, 'Foundations', this week. The complete lesson series can be obtained from http://ssnet.org/qrtrly/adult-lessons.html

As a way of getting us thinking about the importance of Genesis to Christian thought, I have included an excerpt below. You might also find the more complete article interesting.

Let's commit ourselves to excellence in our prayerful, reflective study this quarter, and be blessed as a consequence, both individually and as a group.