Rabbi Green on Halakhah

This week I have been talking with my Old Testament students about Israelite law in its ancient Near Eastern context, as well as the meaning of biblical law in Christian and Jewish tradition today. In this brief three minute video, Rabbi Arthur Green provides a lovely discussion of how he understands the law texts in relation to faith and practice. The word “halakhah” is the word used in the Jewish community to refer to Jewish law, but more literally means the path that a person walks.

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Dragons, Fossils, and the Bible

First Fossil HunterseRecently, I have been exploring the fascinating world of natural history. The earth and its origins are something I have always wanted to learn more about, but haven’t had the time. I just came across a fascinating article by biology professor, Jeff Duff, that talks about how legendary tales of Leviathan or dragons might have developed. The Young Earth Creationist museum in Kentucky built by Ken Ham treats fire-breathing dragons as real. He and other YEC also believe the earth was created in six literal days and is only 6,000 years old. That means they are forced to conclude human beings and dinosaurs lived at the same time. This flies in the face of science. Dinosaurs lived long before human beings. So, where did some of the legendary stories of creatures come from? What about the Bible’s mention of Leviathan or lion type creatures with wings?

As Adrienne Mayor points out in her book The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times, a likely explanation is that people in antiquity encountered bones and fossils of dinosaurs and imagined creative scenarios of what the creatures might have been like. Read the article discussing Mayor’s book on the very cool blog Naturalis Historia for the whole scoop.

Where Is God in a World of Suffering?

As some of you may know, in addition to teaching Bible, I also provide spiritual care as a spiritual director. One of the handouts I wrote addresses the struggle many of us have wondering where God is amid suffering. With all the turmoil these days, I hope this post will provide some helpful reflection.

If God loves us and has a purpose for our lives, why is there so much suffering? What does it mean that God doesn’t stop tragedy from happening? Is God truly good?

Trying to make sense of suffering is as old as Job. One common tendency is to suggest a person did something wrong to incur God’s disfavor or “discipline.” However, the author of Job rejects claims that bad things only happen because God is angry. Innocent people do, in fact, suffer. When asked why a man was born blind, Jesus denied the cause was sin (John 9:1-3). Instead he says God is actively working to bring good into painful situations. Similarly, the author of Acts describes God directly opposing the forces that cause suffering (10:38).

Anglican pastor and theologian, Rowan Williams, says when it comes to trusting God sometimes the first baby step is to look to people who “take responsibility for God”: Continue reading

Is the Nashville Statement Biblical?

Less than a week ago, on August 25th, 2017, several conservative evangelical leaders gathered to hammer out the Nashville Statement during the annual Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) Conference, which took place in Nashville, Tennessee this year. The Statement was a joint endeavor of the ERLC and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). Modeled after the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI), the manifesto expresses concern about homosexuality and “transgenderism,” stating: “Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.” In response, progressive Christians have offered various alternatives, including the Denver Statement and A Liturgists Statement.  I want to address the question of whether the Nashville Statement is biblical, as well as comment on progressive responses.  Continue reading

The Question of Celibacy for Gay and Lesbian People

UPDATE: I am happy to announce that the publisher WB Eerdmans has offered me a book contract! Since some material from my blog series on same-sex relationships will be incorporated into that book, understandably, I had to remove certain posts from the web, including this one on celibacy. However, the response to my blog series was very positive. Many people found that it explained the issues in a way they had not heard before, while also being very accessible to the everyday reader. The working Table of Contents for my upcoming book is below. Stay tuned for updates on when it hits the shelves. This is a book that will change the conversation on same-sex relationships.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Preface
  • The Church’s Response to the Gay Community: A Brief History
  • Same-Sex Relations in Ancient Jewish and Christian Thought
  • Key Arguments in Today’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships
  • What Is Ethical? Interpreting the Bible Like Jesus
  • The Question of Celibacy for Gay and Lesbian People
  • Is it Adam’s Fault? Why the Origins of Same-Sex Attraction Matters
  • Imagining a New Response to the Gay Community
  • Appendix A: Fifty Shekels for Rape? Making Sense of Old Testament Laws