Thursday, July 2, 2015

History does repeat itself...

Traditionalists confess their fidelity (while dragging their feet, kicking and screaming inside) against speculative innovations while professing themselves to be those uniquely faithful to the ancient traditions.

This current situation reminds me of those Jewish Christians (usually associated with James) who demanded the Gentiles become Jews (submit to circumcision) if they ever hoped to join the faithful Jewish community of Jesus followers. There's no way like the old established way. There's no way, but the old way. The Torah is eternal in the heavens. It must be followed or at least the oral tradition that grew up around it.

Except a minority of dreamers decided otherwise. They saw that change was necessary even when seen as contrary to the tradition and Torah that the new faith might advance among new groups. 

The situation was competitive with the nascent faith or so the synagogue hoped, but they really didn't have a chance. The new house churches in Antioch openly received these strange polytheistic Gentiles without spilling their blood in the old covenantal ritual. The synagogue and the Jewish Christians were appalled at these abominations. Such acceptance meant mixing of established kinds. God must judge such faithlessness. We must crush it out before we are judged ourselves.

However the opposite happened as the decades marched on. The surviving Ebionites became extinct, and only the product of loving innovation flourished with faith communities of Gentiles all over the Roman Empire.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

This time I was glad to be wrong

The developments of the week of June 21st have not been particularly disturbing to me for both personal reasons and my own lengthy as well as continuing process of research and rethinking about biblical evidence. I should explain.

We can start with a question not commonly asked.

When does sexual activity between two persons constitute sin?

There is one answer to this question that I immediately must reject since it chooses to ignore some basic facts of biology.The purpose of sex sin definition as I characterize the Roman Catholic view appears to advance the idea that any sexual activity that aims for orgasmic pleasure and not procreative reproduction is sin. To hold that sex is divinely designed for reproduction ONLY simply means refusing to understand that humans are not like animals that go into heat (even though once used as a biblical metaphor for rampant idolatry). It is clear therefore that humans can and do enjoy sexual activities well outside the limited times of ovulation.

I hold a Protestant understanding (or should I say a more biblically oriented view like one finds in Song of Songs). Within the marital covenant any and all sexual activity is encouraged that is agreeable to both so involved. Simply stated marriage makes sex morally acceptable.
Thus to my simple way of thinking... traditionlly the discussion centers around addressing the question of marital status. If the two persons so involved are not married, sexual activity is sin, though in our society it seems this judgment seems to be especially applied to women. 

Framed from this status at least three categories of relations may be identified: premarital, extramarital (while married some adulterous activity), and post marital (after the death or divorce of one's spouse). 

Homosexual sexual activities over the centuries past therefore by definition must be considered sin since any such relations taking whatever form of the three just mentioned happen outside the marriage arrangement. 

By this simple reasoning I suggested years ago that if some marriage ceremony might be applied to nonheterosexual couples, their marital status would change and thus also the moral evaluation of said couples. For when the marital criteria is fulfilled it would logically follow that such sexual relations after, become morally acceptable having been "blessed" through a marriage ceremony.
After asserting this theological outcome, I then said that I truly never expected to see any such development in my own lifetime. It probably will be decades away if it ever happens.

Saturday, the day after the SCOTUS ruling, I remembered this discussion with my students from years ago. So yes, I am very pleased that I lived long enough to see that my negative assessment of future possibilities was wrong.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

My Own Faith Journey

I found my “own” faith when I went away to Anderson College, not yet a reasoned and evidenced belief system, for that came later, years later. At college I finally had the freedom to decide for myself what my personal philosophy or faith could be.  Because of this I don’t recognize the legitimacy of the conversions of children and teenagers since these spiritual experiences occur while still under parental control. Deciding to follow Christ as an adult is like signing a contract as an adult. Society recognizes that children do not have the mental capacity to freely give genuine consent with all the responsibilities pertained thereto. They have a “received” faith, not a personally “owned” or constructed belief system. At the time when I first took my adult steps into following Christ I became a voracious reader of the Bible. I read it for hours. I read it before my textbooks. I read it as a priority above relating to other persons on campus. During those first two or three years I consumed its pages and as a result I knew its contents at least as printed, and where to find what it said on most topics.

During this time when I consumed the biblical text I processed it at a very nonacademic level, but with one difference. When I was able I checked its information for accuracy. Numbers were verifiable and since math was one of my strengths I confirmed what the text read. While reading through the Bible I came across a problem in Numbers 3. This chapter narrates the numbering of the sons of Levi, for the families of Gershon, Kohath, and Merari to be specific. The census section (3:14-39) gives the tallies for the various families, Gershon 7500, Kohath 8600, and for Merari 6200 with a total of 22,000 “by their families, every male from a month old and upward” (3:39) The total listed however was incorrect. The actual numerical total is 22,300. Given that the precision level was at the hundreds place this constituted a serious problem. Could Numbers be this bad when calculating numbers? Check this out for yourself! At the time I noted it, but I had no idea how to process this discovery since it clearly conflicted with the uninformed faith I then had. All I understood at the time was that I had found a real error in the Bible that could not have any errors.

The time of biblical consuming noted above was before the radical transformation evoked by my cafeteria encounter with Dr. James Massey and Prof. Marie Strong. On that occasion while I was eating a meal by myself, one sat at my right and one at my left.  These two instructors then retold the story of the talents. All the time I was thinking I know this parable, I can tell it to you too. They then confronted me with an application that I had never considered. One of them asked, “Jim, on judgment day what are you going to answering God when he asks why you buried your brain in the ground?” I was struck with the awesomeness of the question and a need for immediacy of a solution. At the time I was a committed member of the group that I now label: “the being stupid for Jesus crowd.” Wrestling with this serious question enabled me to reevaluate my approach and I decided to become a thinking follower of Christ. After I became a critical reader of the biblical text I began to learn the biblical languages, to use grammar and linguistic reference works, to process commentaries in a skeptical way, and to build a new rational faith.

The Numbers 3 example given above represents a prime example why any reader of the biblical text who want to understand its contents as presented while rejecting personal reconstructions must use capable scholarly biblical commentaries. For not all references printed are truly capable or accurate. Years later after much critical study I located a capable commentary that reasonably solved my problem. If you are using a commentary that ignores this problem or others like it, find another one.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


The concern for absolutes in ethics asserts that ethical teachings or understandings exist that are in fact valid for all times, for all people, for everywhere. Absolutes are universals. When someone claims that a particular activity was right in ancient times, i.e., herem the practice of holy war where the inhabitants of whole cities are slaughtered, but wrong now, they are in fact denying and abandoning the concept that absolute values are found in Scripture. One could just as easily argue the opposite as many in fact do, that what was prohibited in ancient times is acceptable now.

Back in 2001 after the tragedy of the towers I introduced discussions to reveal how difficult it should be to assess such horror among those who take the Book of Joshua quite literally. I started by citing the evidence of the ancient custom of herem, translated "utterly destroy" (NRSV). The Israelites wanted to follow the practices of other nations (1 Sam. 8:5). They did not wish to be unique and they were not unique. This was also true for the herem for it was also practiced by the neighbors that surrounded them as ancient texts prove:

And Chemosh said to me, "Go, take Nebo from Israel!" So I went by night and fought against it from the break of dawn until noon, taking it and slaying all, seven thousand men, boys, women, girls, and maid-servants, for I had devoted them to destruction for the (god) Ashtar-Chemosh. Moabite Stone (14-17) ANET3 (1969):320

The practice of herem is idealized in the Torah but especially in the legislation of Deuteronomy (Num. 21:2-3; Deut. 7:2, 12:2, 20:16-20, but save the fruit trees) and up to the time of David may have been a customary element of battle. It forms the very heart of the contents of the Book of Joshua where the practice of "holy extermination" is a central religious idea of the conquest stories (Joshua 2:10; 6:21; 8:26; 10:28,35,37,39,40; 11:11,12,20,21). It is the code by which Samuel is told to have functioned and judged Saul (1 Sam. 15: 1-33). Such a view would be blatant triumphalism and parochialism for one to condemn what Moab practiced in honor of Chemosh (since a false god cannot express his will since he cannot speak) while blessing what Israel practiced in honor of YHWH (because one asserts that that the God who can speak) and Father of Jesus Christ (the source of the teachings contained in the Sermon on the Mount) commanded the wholesale annihilation of Israel’s enemies.

How can they who give their blessing to the slaughter of Joshua then judge the actions of those who seized the jets and crashed them into the towers in honor of Allah? I emphatically reject in these cases that deity (Chemosh, Yahweh, or Allah) is the source of oracles commanding such pillage. Humanity is the source of such hatred. And since this is the case I can easily believe that humans will commit great atrocities in the name and on behalf of any deity they confess to follow. History is full of such examples, including unfortunately many committed by Christians.

So how can we understand such commands for annihilation? We should start with the Torah commands to abandon the worship of any god but Yahweh. Obedience to monotheism (actually henotheism) demands that Israelites avoid any social interaction that would lead to involvement with other gods. The teaching that Israelites are to have no dealings with Canaanites especially marriage thus represents a practical way to follow monotheism. Avoiding these prohibited social involvements if exaggerated to the extreme ends with a radical solution, the practice of herem. Simply stated if you empty out a land of false god worshipping foreigners, then any threat to following idolatrous customs would be totally removed.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

LYNCHNG by any other name

Up to now I have refrained from discussing Stand Your Ground as a defense for murder in Florida. This law passed by the GOP dominated legislature and governor with the assistance of the NRA and right wing leaning corporate money through ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is a travesty to common legal reasoning as well as a license for racist murder. As I understand SYG if a person fears a threat from another, this fear becomes a legal justification for using deadly force against a perceived threat. With SYG there is no expectation to withdraw (run for your life), but rather draw and shoot. The reason this “defense” is questionable from the start is that the doctrine ignores (deliberately?) social reality. How often have I heard about and heard directly whites express their fear of the other. Just the presence of persons of another race or ethnicity stimulates anxiety about personal danger. On its face this appears absurd since history reports that African Americans have been the victim of violence at the hands of white law enforcement and ordinary citizens for decades. I suspect that the source for this dread is fear of the unknown and incipient racism. Since many white Floridians fear those of another race, they walk around every day in fear of threats real or unreal thereby meeting the standard of the defense. What party would write a law to justify deadly force in a nation or state ignoring a majority that displays such social backwardness. Stand Your Ground, Governor Scott, must be repealed!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Writing a book does not qualify an author for college instruction!

NOT QUALIFIED TO TEACH Coming out of the theological closet, no. 3

College and universities and their programs that merit the tuition paid are accredited generally in two basic ways, either by fields of study through national organizations or by one of the seven regional associations. We cannot categorize all accrediting bodies as being equal since some of the national organizations have such low standards that accreditation by these would be  meaningless for determining the value of programs offered.

 What is the role of the accrediting agency?
The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. Accrediting agencies, which are private educational associations of regional or national scope, develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess whether or not those criteria are met. Institutions and/or programs that request an agency's evaluation and that meet an agency's criteria are then "accredited" by that agency. (

A quick reference page to investigate accreditation is

A page that lists organizations that accredit programs is

A page to investigate and confirm the accreditation status of an institution is

After agreeing to the terms of use, in the page that opens you can enter your search criteria.

If you research the status of Ken Ham’s Sponsor Schools at his “creation colleges” web site you will be surprised to discover how so few have regional accreditation and that most cannot even produce results at the CHEA site.

Those accredited by Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.

Pensacola Christian College
Bob Jones University

Not searchable at the CHEA site
Crown College of the Bible
Dayspring Bible College & Seminary
Verity Institute
Northland International University
Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Graduate School while Liberty University is regional
The Master’s Seminary
Jackson Hole Bible College

A few have Regional accreditation, Warner University among them.

Ohio Christian University also Association for Biblical Higher Education
Appalachian Bible College also Association for Biblical Higher Education

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is the regional body that accredits Warner University. The educational programs at WU must bear up under the scrutiny of SACS-COC and its peer institutions to remain in good standing.

I have introduced this brief review of accreditation to raise a crucial question. To be certified to teach a course at any SACS-COC school a specific faculty member must be qualified, that is credentialed with genuine transcripts that confirm studies at the Masters Level (18 hours of graduate study in field) to meet the minimum standards for undergraduate instruction. So here is my concern. Neither Ken Ham nor Greg Hall possesses the required credentials to teach the content that they so eagerly discuss in Already Compromised. Since Ken Ham has no graduate studies in Biology how is he competent to address college biology instruction? Ham could not even be assigned freshmen BIO. Greg Hall earned Educational degrees only (M.Ed., Ed. D.). According to the COC he is NOT qualified to teach Bible or Theology. Once when riding back from the Orlando airport our SACS consultant raised this point exactly. She said something like, why is Greg Hall teaching TST 4095? His credentials do not support this. (I now suspect this is the real reason behind changing the prefix from TST to WU.) Then credentials become irrelevant. The changes called for by these authors of Already Compromised and being forced on WU faculty go far beyond COC competence to teach a course. They go to the foundation of higher education itself, not limited to but including: censoring class content, cancelling and deleting expected courses, and dismissing credentialed instructors. How could this ever be judged legitimate?

Friday, July 26, 2013

If what you claim is foolish silence is your best option

I have not been a fan of Augustine. His influence over theology is much greater than it should be. But even this old saint long ago offered some pertinent wisdom that our current strident anti-science creationists may need to hear.

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.... Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by these who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. (pp. 42-43)

St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, translated and annotated by John Hammond Taylor, S.J., 2 vols. In Ancient Christian Writers 41-42 (New York: Newman Press, 1982). The page references above refer to pages in volume 1.