Sunday, July 10, 2016

Is God a pacifist?

Dr. Paul Manuel—2016
Some people think the God of the Old Testament was different from the God of the New Testament, that the former was vengeful whereas the latter is merciful, that the God of Jews was characterized by wrath but the God of Christians is characterized by love. Some Christians think that the Father of Jesus (even Jesus himself) is actually a pacifist and that Christians should be pacifists as well. Even if one bifurcates the Old Testament and the New Testament, their respective pictures of God's character are not different. The Bible as a whole, Old Testament and New Testament together, presents a unified description of God. He has always condemned wickedness and commended righteousness. His disposition toward mankind has never changed. His essential character is immutable:
He who is the Glory of Israel does not...change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind. (1 Sam 15:29)
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)
It is to our eternal advantage that God and His dealings with man do not change so that we, like Israel, "are not destroyed" (Mal 3:6).1

The supposition that He has changed, that He has perhaps mellowed with age, fails to recognize that the Bible as a whole presents a consistent picture of God, that the character He displays in the Old Testament is no different from the character He displays in the New Testament. God responds to man appropriately whatever his situation. While the reader will find a constant view of God throughout the Bible, he must always be cognizant of context, recognizing that God's revelation may pertain to a specific setting and not be universal, applicable to all circumstances.2

The Bible does not say much about self-defense,3 but there are a few passages that suggest some general principles. While it is preferable "as far as it depends on you, [to] live at peace with everyone" (Rom 12:18), that is not always possible, and you may need to act in response to an attack.
  • Principle: The child of God must preserve his own life.
Case #1: A possible thief versus a vulnerable homeowner
If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, he is guilty of bloodshed (Exod 22:2-3a).
When an intruder's intention is unknown or unknowable (i.e., whether to rob or to assault), in this case because of darkness, deadly force is warranted. In daylight an intruder's motive is ostensibly clear.4 Presumably a homeowner may still resist a thief and protect his property5 but may not kill him, because the threat is not to the homeowner personally.6

Friday, July 8, 2016


Dr. Paul Manuel—2011

To have a better appreciation for what God has revealed in His word, it is helpful to understand how that revelation came about, not only the process of revelation but also the mechanics of recording it (writing, grammar, discourse).

1. Writing (Semiotics)
  • Paleography
  • Archaeologists have unearthed many inscriptions that date to biblical times, and they testify to a fairly high degree of literacy in Israel.1 These inscriptions also help explain how our present system of writing developed. To see where they fit in the evolution of writing, we must survey five stages in the development of writing systems.
 1. Stage #1—Pictographic symbols (one symbol = one thing; before 5,000 BCE)
  • During prehistoric times, people used a picture to represent a particular object (e.g., an ox head = "my ox").
2. Stage #2—Logographic symbols (one symbol = one word; c. 3100 BCE)
a. Later, a picture came to represent the name of that thing, a single word (e.g., an ox head = "an(y) ox").
b. This system was extremely cumbersome because if the basic vocabulary of a language contained 1000 words, writing in that language required as many symbols (most English dictionaries define 50,000+ words). Sumerian and Egyptian (two non-Semitic languages) both used logographs (pictorial symbols). For example, the simple sketch of an ox (or just its head) stood for the word "ox" (e.g., Summarian GUD).
c. As these languages developed, their symbols became more stylized, evolving into the cuneiform (wedge-shaped) and hieroglyphics (Greek for "sacred inscriptions") respectively (Carter 1984:11-12; Naveh 1982:12).
 3. Stage #3- Ideographic symbols (one symbol = one concrete or abstract concept; c. 2900 BCE)
  • Eventually, logographs also came to mean abstract ideas associated with the things they represented (e.g., ox head = strength).2

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Poetic justice

Dr. Paul Manuel—2016

Of the various literary tropes biblical writers use, poetic justice (a kind of irony) highlights a particular reversal of fortune. In poetic justice, recompense, be it retribution or reward, is 'opposite' as well as greater than what one expects and is most evident (most 'poetic') when the opposite form of the original condition, the retribution or the reward, is comparable in kind (versus degree) to the original.

Most examples of poetic justice in the Bible are negative, with people receiving retribution after committing sin.
  • Esau demonstrated disdain for his birthright by selling it to Jacob, which encouraged Jacob to steal, and Esau to lose, his blessing as well, leaving Esau with nothing.
Gen 25:33b lEsaul swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
Gen 27:36b [Jacob] has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he's taken my blessing!"
  • Egyptian magicians duplicated Aaron's miracle of turning his staff into a snake but with dire results.
Exod 7:10b Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11 Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: 12 Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs.
  • Aaron's sons died by fire "before the Lord" after burning incense "before the Lord," contrary to His command. (This may be the most explicitly parallel case of poetic justice in scripture.)
Lev 10:1 Aaron's sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. 2 So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.
Cf. Num 3:4a Nadab and Abihu...fell dead before the LORD when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai.
Num 26:61 Nadab and Abihu died when they made an offering before the LORD with unauthorized fire.
  • The Philistine champion, a large, experienced soldier, was defeated by a small, untested shepherd.
1 Sam 17:4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall.... 33 Saul replied, "You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth." ...42 He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy...and he despised him.... 50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.
  • David suffered for his murder of Uriah and his sinful affair with Bathsheba by losing his other wives as well as the son of the adulterous union.
2 Sam 12:10 The sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own....' 11 b Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel." ... 14 But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Christian Science

Dr. Paul Manuel—1995

I. History
A. Founder—Mary Baker Eddy (Martin 1977:111-120)
 1 Early years
a. Mary Baker Eddy was born on July 16, 1821 in Bow, New Hampshire (Robertson 1966:31) to Mark and Abigal Baker, the youngest of five children (three brothers and two sisters; Judah 1967:259; Smith 1941:17).
b. She grew up in a strict Congregationalist home, and her childhood was marked by frequent illness.
2. Three marriages
a. She married George W. Glover in December 1843, but he died seven months later of yellow fever, leaving Mary pregnant.
b. She next married Daniel M. Patterson, a dentist, in June 1853, but later divorced him on the grounds of abandonment.
c. She then married Asa G. Eddy, who died of a coronary thrombosis. Mary challenged the autopsy report, insisting the cause to be "arsenic poisoning mentally administered."
3. Major influences
a. Phineas P. Quimby, an osteopathic mesmerist, supposedly cured Mary of an acute spinal ailment in 1862. She later plagiarized his work to write Science and Health.
b. Francis Lieber, a German American publisher, wrote The Metaphysical Religion of Hegel, which Mrs. Eddy also plagiarized in Science and Health.
4. Christian Science
a. On February 1, 1866, Mrs. Eddy was mortally injured in a sidewalk fall but rose "completely cured" on the third day after reading Matt 9:2, having "discovered" Christian Science.
Matt 9:2 ...they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven.
b. She later claimed that the attending physician, Dr. Alvin M. Cushing, had pronounced her "incurable," although he denied this in a sworn thousand-word statement.
5. Its dissemination
a. Science and Health
  • Mrs. Eddy published the first edition in 1875.
b. The Mother Church, Boston (CM: 17-18)
  • The church organized on April 12, 1879 (incorporated on August 23, 1879; Robertson 1966:32) with Mary Baker Eddy as pastor (ordained in 1881).
c. The Massachusetts Metaphysical College, Boston
  • The college operated from 1881-1889.
6. Her death
Mrs. Eddy died in Boston on December 3, 1910 (Smith 1941:131).

Monday, July 4, 2016

Sermon: A fence of abstinence (Jer 35:1-19)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2016

Children depend on their parents for many things, from basic necessities (e.g., food, clothing, shelter) to basic guidance in understanding the world.
A father and son went fishing one day. After a couple hours out in the boat, the boy suddenly became curious about the world around him. He asked his father, "How does this boat float?" The father thought for a moment, then replied, "I don't rightly know, son." The boy returned to his contemplation, then turned back to his father, "How do fish breath underwater?" Once again the father replied, "Don't rightly know, son." A little later the boy asked his father, "Why is the sky blue?" Again, the father replied. "Don't rightly know, son." Worried he was going to annoy his father, he says, "Dad, do you mind my asking you all of these questions?" "Of course not, son. If you don't ask'll never learn anything!"
Children depend on their parents for many things. Even adult children can benefit from their parents' guidance, as the children of Recab do in erecting A Fence of Abstinence.

The prophet Jeremiah ministered at the end of Judah's existence as a nation. He started his service in the royal court at a high point in the country's history, during the reign of King Josiah, Judah's greatest reformer. Jeremiah remained in the royal court through the next four monarchs, all of whom did "evil in the eyes of the Lord" (2 Kgs 23:32, 37; 24:9, 19), until Babylonian forces invaded for the last time, destroying the temple and the capital city. During the reign of the second of Judah's last four kings, the prophet encourages the people's faithfulness to their heavenly father with an example of one family's faithfulness to its earthly father. Jeremiah begins by examining...

I. A Family Tradition (Jer 35:1-11)
A. The prophet tests the Recabites' loyalty to their father (Jer 35:1-5).
Jer 35:1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD during the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah: 2 "Go to the Recabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the LORD and give them wine to drink." 3 So I went to get Jaazaniah son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, and his brothers and all his sons—the whole family of the Recabites.1 4 I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the room of the sons of Hanan son of Igdaliah the man of God.2 It was next to the room of the officials, which was over that of Maaseiah son of Shallum the doorkeeper. 5 Then I set bowls full of wine and some cups before the men of the Recabite family and said to them, "Drink some wine."
The Lord's instructions to Jeremiah were quite simple: Invite the Racabite family to dinner and serve them wine. However unusual it may have been to receive a dinner invitation from the prophet, there was nothing unusual about the menu. God left the food choice to Jeremiah—presumably, he would serve nothing unclean. The only item God specified was the beverage, a common one at middle eastern meals.3

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A wedding charge:

Dr. Paul Manuel—2004

(Where "The Groom" and "The Bride" appear below insert the name of the person.)

The apostle Paul writing to the church at Ephesus gives instructions to married couples. His admonition is not always easy to follow, but those who do will find success in a union that is lasting and strong.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church...of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy.... In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.... For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.... Each of you...must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Eph 5:22-26a, 28, 31, 33)
As I read this passage, I wondered why Paul instructed the husband to love his wife but not the wife to love her husband. The wife's primary responsibility here is to submit. This emboldens some men, especially those who take literally the saying that "a man's home is his castle," and who think their word should be law. This also rankles some women, especially those who have a sense of independence and who resent anyone telling them what to do, much less a man.

The cultural context may play a part in shaping Paul's remarks. In a time and place when arranged marriages were common, and when an older man may have sought permission from the parents of a much younger woman, he may have been more enamored of her than she was of him. Perhaps that is the situation at Ephesus, and that is why the apostle gives different instructions to the husband than he does to the wife. For whatever reason, though, these admonitions are still relevant.

Paul likens the union of a man and woman in marriage to the union of Christ and the church. He says there are two qualities that should characterize both unions, qualities that should be evident on the physical plane even as they are evident on the spiritual plane. They are submission and sacrifice.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Sermon: Thanksgiving (Psalm 100)

Dr. Paul Manuel—2016

Mothers have high aspirations for what their children will become when they grow up, perhaps none more than Jewish mothers.
The first Jewish President of the United States phones his mother in Queens and invites her to come down for Thanksgiving. She says, "I'd love to, but it's too much trouble. I mean, I have to get a cab to the airport, and I really hate waiting on Queens Blvd...." He replies, "Mom! I'm the President! You won't have any need for a cab. I'll send a limo for you!"
His mother says, "I know, but then I'll have to get my ticket at the airport and try to get a seat on the plane, and I hate to sit in the middle.... It's just too much trouble." He replies, "Mom! I'm the President of the United States! I'll send Air Force One for you. It's my private jet!"
Then she says, "Oh, well, but then when we land, I'll have to carry all my luggage through the airport and try to get a cab.... It's really too much trouble." He replies, "Mom!! I'm the President! I'll send a helicopter for you! You won't have to lift a finger."
She says, "Yes, that's nice.. .but, you know, I still need a hotel room, the rooms are so expensive, and I really don't like the rooms..." A little irritated, he replies, "Mom! I'm the President! You'll stay at the White House." At last she agrees, "Well...all right...I guess I'll come."
The next day, she's on the phone with her friend Sandra. "So, Gilda, tell me...what's new?" "I'm visiting my son for Thanksgiving!" Gilda replies. "The doctor?" asks Sandra. "No," Gilda replies, "the other one."
All mothers have high aspirations for what their children will become when they grow up. Teachers also have high aspirations for their students.

Once, when teaching a class of teenagers, I wanted them to memorize some scripture. I assured them that they would have plenty of time to work on it and that we would help the process by reviewing their passage each week. Not wanting to make the task too difficult, I selected two short psalms, only one of which they had to learn—either Psalm 100, which has five verses, or Psalm 121, which has eight verses. How do you think they made their decision? Did they consider the beauty of the imagery or the relevance of the psalm's message? ...No. They picked the shorter of the two, thinking that would be easier to memorize, because—from a student's perspective—easier is always better. If brevity were my primary reason for selecting a particular psalm, I would have suggested Psalm 117, which has only two verses. I was hoping to foster a more spiritual experience.

Whatever their reason for choosing Psalm 100, I hope the exercise of memorizing it helped the students to think about what it says, because this poem, short as it is, addresses The Way of Worship in general and mentions thanksgiving in particular.

Unlike many of the other psalms, this one does not name the author. We do not know if David, Asaph, Korah, or another poet composed it. The superscription does, however, identify its purpose. Psalm 100 is "A psalm of thanksgiving."1 It may have served as a call to worship in the temple, reminding the congregation that communal devotion to God must display four characteristics. The first characteristic is that...

I. Worship should be joyful (Psalm 100:1-2).

Shout joyfully to the LORD all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing.

No matter what the stresses of the previous week, no matter what difficulties the worshiper may have encountered, he should leave them all behind when coming before God. How is that possible, especially when some or all of those stresses will still be there when normal life resumes? Can a person be joyful under such circumstances? ...Yes, he can, with the right perspective.