27 July 2007

Theological, Triune Elinor

Ellie and Owen went to vacation bible school at the Highland Church this week. (This is the church that thought that the up-tempo VBS music was inappropriate for the Sanctuary, so they have to have it in the school gymnasium, 1/4-mile away.)

Anyway, they learned this beautiful, beautiful song based on the Hebrew shalma (Deuteronomy 6:4):
"Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One."
As Ellie was singing it one night, I pointed out, "Now that is a really Jewish idea. Christians believe in the Trinity--Father, Son, and Holy Ghost who act as one. Jews and Muslims like to claim that Christians worship three gods. We don't read that text in the same way Jews do."

Ellie thought about that for a minute. Then she started singing: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is Three."

26 July 2007

New Web Site for Jenny's Clinic

The summer is almost over, and I'm trying to wrap up my many goals for the summer.

My sixth draft of my Egypt novel is in the books. It is now entitled Nile Borne: a Girl, a Sandal, and the Prince of Egypt. I've sent out five queries to agents already--and, I'm happy to say, I received my first "No thanks" this morning. Glad I got that out of the way.

I also set up a web site for Jenny's clinic. The address is HopeFamilyHealth.org, and you are welcome to check it out. I particularly recommend the picture on the "Meet Our Staff" page, because it has a beautiful woman in it.

21 July 2007

More Evil...Personified

I had some excellent responses to my last blog. I was going to follow up in the comments, but I think it merits a new blog. If you haven't read the earlier post, be sure to go there first.

I'm not going to try to ignore sections of the Bible. I'm growing as a Believer, and this blog was more of a reflection of my personal growth and understanding of temptation.

For example, when I read the story of Jesus in the desert, I'm drawn by the nature of the temptations, rather than the case for or against the Tempter. Here's a dynamic man with tremendous potential for good (and evil--let's face it), being tempted to satiate his appetite, his need for celebrity/notoriety, or outright power.

Now I'm not going to point at the Bible and say, "The temptations were real, but there wasn't actually a being who said that to Him." But I am tempted by those same things--and I haven't had Lucifer present them to me.

For example, I have seen a powerful extra-biblical rendering of the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane in which the Devil appeared to Christ. His final temptation was to simply offer him a way out of the garden, away from the soldiers. I found this rendering compelling, because it gave me a new sense of just how difficult this was (and I later wrote a manuscript that incorporated the arguments of Job into the context of Gethsemane because of this very, extra-biblical scene).

Was Jesus tempted in this way that night? Almost certainly. Was it delivered by an otherworldly being or through the more conventional avenue of thought or appetite? Does the answer really matter?

I'll close with three points:
  • I believe that Goodness became incarnate, lived on this earth, resisted temptation, sacrificed itself for my sins, and then was resurrected to show me the goal of a grace-filled life. Is it possible to believe in Goodness incarnate without also believing in Evil incarnate? In other words, does a believer have to believe in Satan in order to be saved?
  • An analogy to the Lucifer problem would be the Hitler problem. Adolf Hitler lived and died long before I existed. Even though he died, people are still fighting against him today. We're always warned that 'he's coming back if we aren't careful,' and 'weak' leaders are compared to Neville Chamberlain. At best, this means that the spirit of intolerance that he embodied still exists, and we must resist it (I can accept this). At worst, he is a label that people can conveniently use. For example, Americans were told that by fighting Saddam Hussein, we were preventing another Hitler. Neo-cons refer to their enemies as "Islamo-fascists," promising more war, more bloodshed, more torture, more oppression, all in the name of Adolf Hitler.
  • At a church that I attended until a year and a half ago, the consequences of a string of terrible decisions by the church leaders were described from the pulpit as "Satan attacking the church." By association, then, members who didn't agree with the leaders were tools of Satan. By association, then, leaders weren't responsible for bad decisions, but Satan was. This was abuse, taking Lucifer's name in vain, and it may be the root of the reason for my antipathy to the existence of Satan.

18 July 2007

Do I Believe in Satan?

I was listening to Andy Gullahorn, one of my favorite prog-Christian-folk singers the other day, and this lyric came on:
If I were the devil, I wouldn't wear red
I wouldn't breath fire cause it might give me away.
I started thinking about the Devil, and I was surprised by what came to mind.

I realized that I don't believe in Satan, and I don't think I have for some time. Is this wrong? Do you have to believe in the Devil to get into heaven--or hell?

Let me explain.

A few years ago I read a book review about the History of Satan. It talked about how different cultures had tried to personify Evil, and it mentioned that Satan hadn't even been introduced into the Bible until people like the Second Isaiah came back from exile in Persia. The more I thought about it, the more I figured the Embodiment of Evil must be some kind of a cop-out--you know, an intellectually lazy way to identify evil and run with it.

As I was listening to the song, I thought about the whole "war in heaven," scenario where Lucifer was cast down, but instead of being killed--"the wages of sin is death"--he was allowed to live indefinitely. Human beings were created, then, to pay the wages of the sins of Lucifer and his angels. And when they messed up, they really got it, even though Adam was a "son of God" and both he and Eve had eaten of the Tree of Life. Jesus, the Son of God, came to save humanity, but will not save Satan, whom he will destroy in the Judgment Day.

Am I missing something here?

This is a story within a story. The story of humanity's creation and redemption happens within the meta-story of Lucifer's Fall and his FALL/destruction. I understand my part--and God's--in the middle layer. Does the meta layer really concern me? I can't imagine any way to actually prove either that this took place or that my understanding of it can in any way affect the very real battle I wage with Evil every day.

At best, it is a simplistic way to explain where evil came from and where it's going to end up. At worst, it is a trick, a diversion to take my focus off the real battle. "Watch out for the guy with the pitchfork. Evil comes from the outside, not from within."

So if there is no Embodiment of Evil, what do I believe in, then? I think I'm more pre-Exile in my approach to Evil. The world is full of false gods and overwhelming temptations. I serve the only God who can deliver me from that. I'm not sure that temptation comes from an outside source as much as it originates within my own corrupt character--my insatiable appetite, how easily I am distracted from pursuing Good. God's Blood and Body within me extinguish this corruption, and bring the evil of my own heart to light. I don't know that they have any affect on Satan.

Does this make sense? This is the first time I've really written about this or expressed these thoughts, although I've had them for quite some time. Some people can grapple with Evil better when it is personified. I don't have a problem with that. I do wish to call evil by its right name. I have seen what it can do, and I look forward to its ultimate destruction.

14 July 2007

The Losingest Team in Professional Sports

This week, the Philadelphia Phillies baseball will become the first professional team in any sport, any country to achieve their 10,000th loss.

How is this possible? Here are some facts:
  • Since their founding as a professional team in 1883, they have experienced fewer than 50 winning seasons (a won-loss record about 50%). Do the math: In 124 years, they have had 75 LOSING seasons.
  • The team won its first World Series Championship in 1980, its 98th season. (By comparison, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, two dominant teams in the early 1900s have more celebrated streaks. The Red Sox's championship in 2004 came 86 years after their last. The Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908, a 99-year streak.)
  • The Phillies were the last team in baseball to integrate (add black players) in 1957, ten whole years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.
  • In 1960, their manager, Eddie Sawyer quit after ONE GAME, saying, "I'm 49, and I want to live to be 50."
  • In 1964, they blew a ten-game lead in the last two weeks of the season, losing the chance to go to the World Series.
  • In 1993, they lost the World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays on one of the most spectacular home runs in history: Joe Carter's 3-run blast in the bottom of the 9th of Game Six.
Of course, this makes it easier for me to stomach the last-place performance of my own Cincinnati Reds this year.

02 July 2007

There is Pain, and then there is PAIN

I am a huge baseball fan (and a pretty good fantasy manager, my team recently reeled off a four-game winning streak).

Nothing could dampen my love for the game. Nothing...except perhaps this.

The hilarious part is the way the umpire comes up behind the player and can't resist checking to make sure his own manhood is still intact!