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Blessed are the poorly adapted

This is a guest blog post from another one of my writing projects.  Enjoy!  A snippet:

Blessed are those poorly adapted to their environment.

Blessed are the scrawny, slow, and sick members of the herd.

Blessed are all of us losers in the game of life.

Because a New Game is emerging in the world, and it determines winners and losers a little differently. We at the bottom of the heap are in fact the salt of the earth—the seeds of the future, the pioneer species of New Creation.

I’m not bashing the Old Creation. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. Nature has been doing its job just fine; it’s just that the job is now changing. Humans have thrived for over 2 million years on this planet because of our drives for aggression, sex, and consumption. But now our world is changing, and those very same instincts are driving us to extinction.

<Keep reading>

St. Paul, Bible Butcher?

Originally published on the Trinity and Humanity blog

ImageI used to think Saint Paul was a really bad interpreter of the Old Testament.  Because whenever he uses Old Testament passages to make a point in his writings, he totally butchers it.  He does everything we’re taught NOT to do.

Let’s take Romans 15 as one example, where Paul is making an argument that Papa cares about Gentiles (non-Jews).  He supports this with some Old Testament passages:

For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name” (Romans 15.8-9, quoting Psalm 18.49).

Paul is implying here that these Old Testament texts support his idea that Papa is on everybody’s side, not just Jews.  The problem is, these texts really seem to be saying something different.  Notice what Paul leaves OUT of his quotes.  Psalm 18 is about God killing Gentiles, not saving them.  The psalmist is singing about “crushing” Gentiles (v.38), “beating them into dust,” “trampling them like mud” (v.42), and “destroying” them (v.40).  Basically, because the psalmists feels secure in God’s ability to kill Gentiles, he is able to praise God even in their midst (v.49).

What are we to make of this and the many other examples of Paul’s “bad exegesis” of the Old Testament?  I asked my Hermeneutics professor about this, and he replied: “Paul is an apostle, so he can get away with it.  You’re not, so you can’t.”

I’m no Saint Paul.  Granted.  But is it possible that Paul is using a hermeneutic better than the one I was taught in seminary?  I am beginning to think the answer might be Yes.

Quite simply, Paul knows Papa better than the Old Testament writers did.  The Old Testament seems to be of two minds about how God feels about non-Jews.  There seems to be a long tug-of-war between different visions of God—the tribal Proprietary God Who Will Crush Israel’s Enemies versus the Universal Papa Who Saves the Whole World.  Paul, as a disciple of Jesus, seems to think this tug-of-war has ended decisively in favor of the latter.  And he has no qualms about reinterpreting the old texts in that light, even to the point of flatly contradicting the intent of the original authors.

What does this mean for my understanding of what I’m doing when I study the Scriptures?  Is my goal to be faithful to the original biblical authors?  Or is my goal to be faithful to Papa?

~ John Stonecypher (a.k.a., ShackBibleGuy)


[By the way, much thanks to Derek Flood and his recent article that prompted me to start thinking in this direction]

Romans 15.17-29 – Illegals, share your $ with Natives

This thing Jesus is doing for Papa, this work I’m participating in–it is impressive! (18) It’s the only thing I want to talk about–what Jesus has done through me to win the allegiance of the Illegals:

  • By words and actions,
  • (19) By signs and wonders,
  • By the boundless strength of Sarayu,
  • successfully seeding the News about Jesus all the way from Judea to Greece and everywhere in between.

    (20) But I’m nowhere near done! I want to take the News to places where nobody’s heard of it yet, where no beginning has yet been made!

    (21) “The ones who haven’t been told–they will see him!
    The ones who never heard of him–they will understand!”

    (22) The only reason I haven’t come out to see you guys yet is that you already have heard. (23) But now I’ve run out of people who haven’t heard; this whole region is saturated with the News! So now I finally have a chance to come see you guys in person (24) when I take my trip to the fresh ears in Spain. I want to see you and have some good face-time with you. (25) Right now I’m on my way to Jerusalem to deliver a gift to our Jesus-friends there. (26) Our friends all over Greece were eager to share their financial resources with the poor in Jerusalem. (27) They were thrilled they got to do this! The Natives’ inheritance has been shared with Illegals, so it is fitting for Illegals to share their wealth with Natives.

    (28) Anyway, once I’ve delivered this gift, I will start my journey toward Spain. First stop: YOUR house! (29) I can’t wait! When I come, we will share together in the rich mutual self-giving of Papa, Jesus & Sarayu.

    Romans 15.6-16 – Citizens and Illegals together has been the goal all along!

    If you guys–Citizens and Illegals–can faithfully know reality together, your relationship will become a luminous earthing of the Triune togetherness.  And this is nothing new; this coming-together has been the goal all along:

    (9) “I will tell the Illegals how great you are!”

    (10) “Illegals and Citizens together–Party on, dudes!”

    (11) “Give thanks to Papa–Illegals and everybody!”

    (12) “A leader like David will come, a servant-leader for ALL people.  The Illegals will find him fully dependable.”

    (13) And because Jesus knows exactly how dependable Papa is, he overflows with joy and peace and hope.  I ask Sarayu to fill you with all of that–everything that is inside Jesus.

    (14) I myself feel his confidence in you guys, because I know you already have it in you.  You are already filled to the brim with Jesus love for and knowledge of all things.  Together in him you are fully capable of facing this conflict and working things out with each other. (15) This letter is just some straight talk to remind you of what you already know.  And the only reason I have the audacity to do that is because it is the job Papa gave me to do–(16) to join Jesus in serving Illegals, embodying among them the good news of what the Triune God has accomplished on our behalf.  All so that Illegals can join in our Sarayu-empowered sharing in Jesus’ life of giving himself in love to Papa.

    Ramadan Kareem!

    To our Muslim brothers and sisters, Ramadan Kareem! A generous Ramadan to you and yours.

    If I could change one thing about The Shack Bible, I would…

    Transfiguration Sunday – Power (Ps 2 & 99)

    In this week’s two Psalm texts, we see God being handled like dynamite that’s about to go KABLOOEY (Ps 2.9,11; 99.1). The lesson here is not that God is unstable like nitroglycerin; but rather that, in terms of raw power, there’s a BIG difference between God and humanity. In the face of the Infinite, the finite is infinitely relativized. This is why our Father finds it funny when human kings plot against Him (2.2-4). It’s like a Kleenex plotting against a nuclear bomb. You just can’t help but giggle a little.

    It is THIS power-of-all-powers that is ascribed to the one who ascends the holy mountain, the one to whom the Father says, “You are my son” (2.6-7). The supreme shock of Transfiguration Sunday is that this one is Jesus. Here on the holy hill, the enemies of God find that the “avenger of their wrongdoings” is also “a forgiving God to them” (99.8). The one whose “wrath is quickly kindled” (2.11) is the one who is so non-violent that he will not snuff out a smoldering candlewick. He does indeed shatter his enemies like pottery (2.9b), but he does it by becoming shattered himself. His “rod of iron” (2.9) is a wooden stake stained with his own blood. As we share in the mountain experience of Peter and James and John, we discover along with them that Power is not what we thought it was.

    (The Shack Bible Lectionary – Year A)

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