And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.
//I’ve had a number of discussions on various forums about what I believe, and I seldom feel like I’m getting through, so maybe I could just take a minute and lay it out for you.
I am a Christian. Yes, I realize fully that my definition of Christian probably does not match yours. To me, it just means a follower of Christ.
This is more than word games to me. The title “Christian” derives from “Christ within.” I don’t think of this relationship in supernatural terms, but in spiritual terms; the spirit of Christ can reside in me just as the spirit of my own father can reside in me. I’m flattered when others see my human father in me, but I can think of no greater compliment than for another to see Christ in me.
This is because I admire and seek to emulate the humanitarian teachings of Jesus. Jesus held a vision for the future that he believed would change the world, and apparently others began to believe in his vision too, even hailing him as Christ. Christ means “Messiah,” the anointed savior of the world. In my opinion, Jesus was and is precisely the type of savior our world most needs. If our world needs saving, Jesus’ example of breaking down barriers with love and compassion is the saving solution. So, I have no problem calling Jesus “Christ,” for the world-saving message he taught.
But do I worship Jesus? No. As best I can tell, the last thing Jesus wanted was to be worshipped. I could hardly emulate him if he did, for I have absolutely no desire to be worshipped either.
Do I worship God, then? Not in ritualistic practice, because I don’t know for sure if there is a God! It’s a great question, and I find the study of religion, both ancient and contemporary, equally fascinating. But “God” really has nothing to do with me being a Christian. When I read scripture for inspiration, I’m quite content to think of God in generic terms like Love, Light, Life.
Jesus believed in a God. I’m quite aware of that. Jesus also believed God was 100% behind his humanitarian vision. He even wrapped his dream for the world in religious terms like the “kingdom of God” and the “reign of God,” describing the prophets’ promise of an age when God would once again dwell with people on earth. I, too, imagine that if there is a God, he approved of Jesus’ vision. But, really, God (as a supernatural being) is beside the point, as far as my being a Christian. I see no need to confuse my discipleship with my religious beliefs. While Jesus’ 2,000-year-old understanding of God and the universe is quite antiquated, his humanitarian teachings will never grow outdated, regardless of culture and era. It is Jesus’ vision for a new world that I share, not the religious customs and beliefs of his era.
There have been other great humanitarian teachers and leaders, but my own heritage is uniquely Christian. For me, Jesus is the one. He’s my chosen example, and I am a Christian.
But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.
//This is a verse that troubles a lot of people. Will your little boy be condemned to everlasting hellfire because of a few “goddamns?”
No. First, get it out of your head that “eternal sin” means hellfire. A more precise interpretation of the passage is that your cussin’ son is sinning against the new age of God’s rule; he is living as if Jesus had never come. But even this doesn’t fit the flavor of the verse.
If you’re wondering what it really means to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, this passage in Mark contains an example. Those watching Jesus heal others were saying that Jesus was using the power of Satan to cast out demons. Jesus warned them about blasphemy “because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.”
Picture the scene. Jesus is waving his arms, shouting at demons to chase them away, embarrassing his family and friends with his antics. The people mock him, laughing that he looks like he’s demon-possessed himself. Worse than those he’s curing! The prince of demons himself has hold of him! Ha!
So Jesus says don’t you know you’re laughing at the Holy Spirit? Don’t you realize that we’ve entered the age of abundant life, when the Spirit is to come back to earth? You are making fun of God’s new age! You are stuck in the past, in danger of never understanding, never entering into the life God has planned for you!”
by Lee Harmon
John’s Gospel, the sequel to my book about Revelation, is drawing higher praise than the first book. A few readers disliked the haphazardness of Revelation, so I made an effort with John to better integrate the scripture and commentary into the story. The result: Far more five-star reviews than any other rating, and not a single negative rating yet on any venue I’ve discovered.
So I’m pleased and feeling a little braggy! I’ll repost reviews in detail as I have opportunity, directing readers to review sites, but here are a few one-liners from recent reviews I’ve read:
“WOW!!! Are you ready to truly be opened up to the Gospel of John…if so this book by Lee Harmon will open it up in ways that will lead you to wanting more!!” –Faith, Hope & Love
“… a work of enlightening and inspiring prose that makes the Bible accessible to anyone. I recommend it highly.” –Vic’s Media Room
“An amazing mix of fiction, fact, question, speculation and research; a beautifully set-out volume with every side-track perfectly timed; and a fascinating novel that engages mind heart and soul, John’s Gospel is a book I could hardly put down, and one I highly recommend.” –Sheila Deeth
“Brilliantly written … Very interesting, educational and thought provoking.” –My Book Addiction and More
“Harmon invites readers to experience the Bible the way they were meant to—through the eyes of the men who wrote it—and interprets it in a way that spiritually inspires and reveals the universal humanitarian philosophies espoused by Jesus.” –My Devotional Thoughts
“In this wonderful new book by Lee Harmon, readers are able to look at the Gospel of John through different eyes.” –Books and Such
“Harmon writes with passion grounded in intelligence and a profound background on the subject which not only makes the book educational but entertaining. –Vicki Liston
“I liked this book well enough that I’m planning on checking out Revelation – The Way it Happened as well!” –Motherhood MomentGot an opinion? 0 comments
Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!
//These are the words of Job, written … well, we don’t know when. There are precious few clues in the book of Job about its authorship and dating. Scholars generally conclude the book of Job was written between the third and fifth centuries BCE, and continue to argue about where it came from and how the story became part of Hebrew literature.
One possible clue to the dating of Job is today’s verse. It sounds like it was inspired by the famous Behistun Inscription, authored by Darius the Great toward the end of the sixth century BCE, when it was carved in a limestone cliff face. It’s a giant autobiography of Darius, including a description of his military victories, written using lead and iron pins. The inscription measures 15 by 25 meters, and sits about 100 meters up the cliff.
Does Job dream of his own story being preserved in like manner? Graven in rock with lead and iron? Does this give evidence, at the very least, that the book of Job postdates this famous rock inscription?
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand …
//According to the Babylonian Chronicles, Nebuchadnezzar reigned from 605-562 BCE, and he began a siege of Jerusalem in 599 BCE (it eventually fell in 597 BCE). About King Jehoiakim, we read this in the Hebrew Chronicles:
Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon attacked him and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon. –2 Chronicles 36:5-6
Thus, Jehoiakim reigned from perhaps 608 to 597 BCE. His third year would be 606 BCE. Of course, at that time, Nebuchadnezzar was not yet king, and was several years away from besieging Jerusalem. So, the author of Daniel appears to be in error.
Here’s my question: If Daniel was the last of the Hebrew scriptures written, at about 165 BCE as most Bible scholars surmise, how could he have made so obvious an error? Jehoiakim reigned eleven years, not three. Did he not bother to check his research in the Chronicles?
Or was Daniel written much earlier, before the Chronicles, as some linguists insist?
by Beth Houston
The final two chapters of this book are inspiring. But since most readers will slog through the first 400 pages to reach those chapters, I’d better review the initial pages as well. So bear with me, here, until we get to the good stuff.
I opened Beth Houston’s new book to find a heated attack on Darwinism on the very first page. Surely, in this age of genetics and evolutionary biology, she’s not going to base her Deism on Creationism is she?
Nope. “Genesism,” says Houston, is just as far off the mark as evolution, and the Truth hides somewhere between what fundamentalists and Darwinists believe. Both, in Houston’s opinion, are too dependent upon their “religion.” She settles for her own brand of Intelligent Design, attacking both sides of the creation/evolution debate with equal gusto, forming an uneasy alliance along the way with a few fringe scientists on the Christian side of the ledger (Discovery Institute folks and other apologists). Ain’t no way Houston’s daddy was an ape and her granddaddy a worm.
Houston leans on arguments for the irreducible complexity of such body members as the eye and the bacterial flagellum, arguments which are no longer convincing to mainstream biological science. She battles Darwin’s assumption of smooth evolutionary transition between species, a theory that was disbanded years ago in favor of “jumpy” transition. She insists that “no transitional fossils exist” between species, even while she points out a couple of great examples transitioning from fish to tetrapod: the Panderichthys and the Tiktaalik.
Houston attacks Darwin on a personal level, seeking to discredit him, often reducing his teachings on natural selection to a form of “kill or be killed.” This idea, she claims, has been refuted biologically: God’s creation was designed to advance through cooperation. An interesting direction, I must admit.
I think Houston considers a large part of the creation process to be God fiddling with DNA during the Cambridge Explosion. No life, she explains, has evolved beyond the boundaries of it species since that time. No macro evolution. Presumably humans, too, have been around for 500 million years? I’m not real clear on exactly how and when God made mankind in Houston’s opinion.
Then, she mutters her oft-repeated mantra that what differentiates Deism from the rest is a reliance upon Truth. Truth is the most important thing. Sigh.
When the rant against evolution ends, Houston starts in on Jesus. “Scholars searching for proof of the historical Jesus have groped as futilely as Darwinians scouring fossil beds for missing links.” As a historical Jesus scholar who also has studied evolution, I couldn’t count the number of statements Houston makes that I deem direct falsehoods, so I struggled with much of the book.
Did I finally learn what a Deist believes in today’s world? Well, eventually, but for hundreds of pages I held a pretty negative view. A Deist apparently disbelieves in both evolution and the divine intervention necessary to bypass evolution. (Miracles, in that they violate natural law, contradict the God of nature.) A Deist touts the humanitarian teachings of Jesus, while shrugging off the possibility that Jesus was a real person. A Deist is a bit of a conspiracy theorist, ranting against evil on every side, from republicans to Richard Dawkins to whole wheat bread. And don’t get a Deist started on the topic of gender inequality!
Finally, I arrived at the last two chapters, which are both spiritual and practical. Houston’s philosophy, if only it could be divorced from fringe science, is attractive. Deism is about love, respect, and growth. It is about appreciating the beauty and creativity of God’s work. It reaches a crescendo in the final ten pages with that most wonderful of words: hope. It turns out Deism is a narrow version of my own Liberal Christianity.
There is one major selling point: as frustrated as I felt with the book’s meandering direction, its saving grace is that it’s just so darn fun to read. Houston is an engaging writer. It reads like a coffee-house conversation with an eloquent, opinionated aunt, whose caustic put-downs of everything you hold sacred are so creative that you can’t help sniggering. So, for me, the book earns a compromising three-star rating … one star for the first 400 pages, five stars for the last 75, and a plug for all the chuckles.
But Jael, Heber’s wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.
//In Judges chapter four, a female warrior named Deborah predicts that an enemy general named Sisera will die by the hand of a woman. Perhaps she imagines that she, herself, will slay Sisera; we don’t know.
Her prediction comes true. A few verses later a woman named Jael lures Sisera into a tent with her, covers him with a rug and gives him some milk. When he falls asleep, she quietly drives a tent peg through his temple.
The next chapter, Judges 5, is the famous victory song of Debra. When she arrives at the point where Sisera dies, she tells this story:
“Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, most blessed of tent-dwelling women. He asked for water, and she gave him milk; in a bowl fit for nobles she brought him curdled milk. Her hand reached for the tent peg, her right hand for the workman’s hammer. She struck Sisera, she crushed his head, she shattered and pierced his temple. At her feet he sank, he fell; there he lay. At her feet he sank, he fell; where he sank, there he fell–dead.” –Judges 5:26-27
While the peg is still colored with blood, the legend is already growing. In Deborah’s rendition, Jael taunts Sisera with curdled milk before striking his head with a hammer, and he falls down at her feet, dead. Perhaps that is the version Deborah was told?
Deborah then wraps up the victory hymn by mocking the mother of Sisera, who she imagines peering through a window waiting for her son to arrive back from battle. Yikes! Guys, there’s a lesson, here … don’t anger the women.
We have four winners in the book giveaway! If your name is listed, and we were unable to contact you, please drop Lee Harmon a note at email@example.com.
This was sort of a trial run to see if we wanted to host book giveaways from among the books we review. The results were both good and bad; while we tracked a tremendous amount of traffic to the giveaway page, the majority of visitors didn’t bother to enter the contest once they arrived there! So, we clearly have to make it simpler to enter, while still encouraging social media sharing to get the word out. The plan of awarding one book for every few entries means sharing the contest with others doesn’t hurt your chances to win. (In this trial run, we decided on one book for every twenty entries.)
Ideas for the next giveaway are welcome!Got an opinion? 0 comments
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
//Hmmm. So which one is in the image of God? The male or the female? Or is God both male and female?
God seems to relish the role of a mother as much as a father. In the male-dominated culture of the Bible world, the paternal picture clearly won out, but traces of Momma God still remain, as in this verse:
By the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb. –Genesis 49:25
This is a far greater topic than one meager Dubious Disciple post can address, but it’s certainly worth meditating on. Here are a few more verses:
For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. –Isaiah 42:14
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! –Isaiah 49:15
As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you. –Isaiah 66:13
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. –Matthew 23:37Got an opinion? 0 comments