Why This Blog?

    This blog is designed to be a place where the mind can freely stretch. If you are accustomed to confining your mind to close quarters, then you will find this blog an uncomfortable place. It is entitled 'Methinks' because these are my musings. I am not setting forth new doctrines. Rather, I am allowing myself to ponder whether old truths have been forgotten or misunderstood, and whether we have developed our own liturgy the same way a horse cart wears a path in a quaint rural road.  
   Here, in this blog you are free to express. The only requirement is that contributions represent a true exchange of ideas, not biases, or emotional responses.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Where 'incrementalism' will get you


All good Christians are republicans. Oh, we don't say this in sermons (mostly because we could lose our tax exempt status), but the idea is clear when we use our own ‘talking points’; the secret code about religion or pro-life, or what have you. Understand, I am not against voting or political involvement, but this year is beginning to illustrate something that I have said for several election cycles. I have been told time and again how we need to vote for the better of the two - to ‘hold my nose and pick’, After all we must make incremental gains. I have debated this point with a number of Christians and I will make my point again.
   Understand that at no time ever in history has a significant positive change come through an incremental evolution. Follow the history of any nation or empire, and there is de-evolution. When it gets to an unnacceptable low, someone wakes up and starts a revolution.
   What do we have now? Well it’s hard to say, because the final choice is not set in stone, but it appears to be Barack Obama vs. John McCain.  In the next few weeks, when this becomes obvious, we will be faced with a muddled mess. Neither candidate has a strong stance on the unborn, and it is the Democrat who has shown the greater respect for the institution of marriage.
   Incrementalism in politics works like this: a politician sees that ‘conservatives’ will vote for the more conservative of the two. He doesn’t have to achieve the ideal, only be better than the other guy. This man's stance becomes the new standard. In the next cycle the candidate will fall just a little short, but still better than the last guy.
   In November, Millions of Christians will go the booths and hold their nose, while convincing themselves that it is their 'civic duty' to choose the lesser of 'two evils', somehow ignoring the fact that the lesser of two evils is still evil.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Did Satan know?

   We have noted several things which can serve as explanations for the similarity of ‘savior myths’ to the genuine story of Christ. We have mentioned coincedence, which cannot explain everything. Those Christians who would solely rely on this explanation are hypocritical in their theology. Think about it, don’t we often point to probability as proof of creation or the Messianic prophecy? If we are to be consistent in our methods, we must admit that something greater than pure chance is at work.
   We have also pointed out that there is the possibility that a number of cultures were influenced by the Jewish culture. Again, we must also be honest that this explanation only goes so far, not being able to affect those cultures who had developed their myths prior to interaction with the Jewish nation, or in parts of the world to far from Israel. How then do we explain these things?
   It takes a brave person to consider something that runs against an accepted theological statement, but I will offer an explanation. I do not know how many I times I have heard, and even repeated myself, that ‘Satan did not know that Jesus was supposed to die.’ This is a doctrine not born of the bible, as far as I can tell. I have found no scripture mentioning that Satan was ignorant of the plan of God. It is a thought that is derived from human logic, and fanciful ideas. We like to see the bad person defeated by their own doing, so Satan comes up with the plan to kill Jesus, not knowing it is the death that defeats himself. The problem with the common thought is that for this view we must project our weakness onto Satan. That is, we must pretend that Satan has the same inability to decipher prophetic statements and imagery as we, not to mention ignoring obvious statements that Jesus made.
1) It explains the numerous prior attempts on Jesus life. If Satan knew the plan of a crucifixion, he could defeat the plan through a ‘preemptive strike’
2) It possibly explains the temptation in the wilderness to give all the nations to Jesus (Matthew 4). If Satan was referring to the people, rather than the physical kingdoms, it might have been a temptation to Jesus to worship Satan in return for Satan surrendering his hold over the gentile world, and more specifically, a temptation to convince Jesus not to draw all men to Himself through the process of crucifixion.

   Satan is described as the one who ‘deceives all of the nations’ (Rev 12:9). at some point he was cast out of heaven. The exact moment is the subject of much debate, but immaterial for our purposes. Consider the statement of the crucifixion plan:

      “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world…” I Pe 1:18-20

Satan and his demons quite possibly knew the plan. If they did, it would explain how some of these details found their way into numerous myths - so that people would have an innoculation to the truth when it finally appeared in true form, and so that critics of Christianity would be able to use this argument to shake the faith of believers

Of course, this leaves other questions such as ‘Satan entering Judas’, but we will save that discussion for another day.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

reverse borrowing: Part II

    We often refer to the 400 silent years before Christ, and have used that phrase so often that it has become a doctrine in good standing. Perhaps we should examine the history of prophecy. Messianinc prophecy began very vague and infrequent in the patriarchal age (Gen 3:15), With Abraham and Moses, prophecy was mostly through symbolism and typology. Under the period of Kings it was often through poetic means, which is still very difficult to understand. On the other hand, once we arrive at the major prophets, statements start to be more concrete. The trend then, is that the closer to Christ, the clearer the picture becomes. This seems to culminate with Daniel whose ’70 weeks prophecy’ gives a discernable date for the death of Christ. After this, the post exile prophets seem to address events mostly concerning the Jewish nation and punishments of other nations. Then, the Hebrew scriptures end with a final prophecy in Malachi. With no more scriptures, we conclude that there was no more prophecy.
All the same, when the ‘magi’ arrive they quote a number of details that do not appear in our scriptures. That there should be one who was ‘born the king of the jews’, and that his birth would be attended by ‘a star in the east’. Notice that in their conversation with Herod, they did not mention angels giving them direct knowledge, but they mentioned a sign, as though it were a well accepted sign that people had been looking for. True, I am assuming that, and cannot be sure of it, but it is a possibility.
What’s the point? Perhaps, it is not the 400 silent years, but rather the 400 undocumented years. Perhaps, prophecy continued in Persia rather than Jerusalem.

   What does all of this mean? The Jews were taken into Babylon in 606 B.C. Several of them rose to prominence (Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego, and Daniel). Of these, Daniel is known to have had preferential treatment from the kings of Babylon from beginning to end, and this continued onder the administration of the Medes (Darius) and Persians (Cyrus). We know Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar worshipped or revered the God of Israel to some degree. We also theorize that there is a significant possibility that prophecy continued in Persia after many of the Jews returned from Babylon. We also know from history that each of the four kingdoms mentioned in Daniel borrowed what they conquered. When Persia defeated Babylon they incorporated much of Babylon in their own culture. Likewise the Greeks were influenced by the Persian’s after Alexander the great defeated them. Then rome swallowed Greece and adopted it’s entire culture. This created one heterogenuous culture. and what was included in this culture? It would be nearly impossible for Judaism to have enjoyed the popularity for the period it did, at the highest levels that it did without leaving it’s mark. It is inconceivable that details of the stories of the Jews, as well as pieces of prophecy did not wind their way into babylonian and persian folklore, and therefore Greek and Roman as well. The result is that after the year 606 B.C. it is impossible for us to determine exactly what religion influenced which, and it is just as likely that the ‘Christian’ story of the crucified savior actually preceded (many) pagan stories of a savior, through the prophecies of the old testament. We must note that this story fails to acount for those legends which appear prior to 606 B.C. or in lands that reached beyond the inluence of the four empires mentioned. There is one more explanation that may suffice…

Friday, February 1, 2008

Reverse Borrowing: Part I

   What is reverse borrowing? Well, first understand two problems with humans. First, we humans tend to oversimplify things. Second, we think chronologically. Together, these two things can be dangerous. The application is that it is simple for the skeptic to look at things before Christianity and say, they came first, therefore anything in Christianity was borrowed from the earlier acount. It’s nice, neat and logical, so it satisfies both of the criteria we stated. But the truth may lie in a deeper examination, What I will ask you to consider is the exact opposite; that the ‘Christian’ view actually came first (at least in some circumstances). To do this, I am going to ask you to follow me on a ‘rabbit trail’ and I promise it will make sense at the end.

The Magi
Have you ever wondered how a bunch of pagans (The Magi) from the east figured out the truth?

‘…there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?’
Mat 2:1,2

   Different people assume different things. We think east, and we believe it is Persia, we read that they ‘saw his star’ and maybe we wonder if they were using astrology, or perhaps we just simply assume that God told them in a dream, as he did at other times on the trip and ask no more questions. The first thing I would assume is that God did not use the practice of astrology, which was a crime punishable by death in the Old Testament. I would assume that God revealed this to them in some fashion, but I would not assume that the magi were pagans. All Jews did not live in Jerusalem. All we have to do is look at the second chapter of Acts to notice that there were Jews in other places, among them; ‘Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites’(Ac 2:9) all of which were part of ancient Medo-Persia. It is possible that these magi were Jews. consider:

‘It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.’ -Daniel 6:1-3

   Darius was the king of the Medes, and Daniel was the most popular. He did not return from the captivity, and stayed under Cyrus of Persia Dan (6:28). It appears that Cyrus worshipped YHWH (2Chr 36:23, Ez 1:7), although probably not exclusively.