Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Boyd Responds about the Lost Tomb of Jesus Reports

What Should We Make of The Lost Tomb of Christ?
by Greg Boyd

Just this morning I read in my newspaper that the Discovery Channel is going to air a documentary this coming Sunday entitled "The Lost Tomb of Christ," produced by James Cameron (of Titanic fame). I'm posting this "response" as a sort of "head's up," and I 'm going to stick my neck out and offer a critique before I've even seen it – based only on what I read in the paper and was able to find on internet over the last hour. This isn't the normal or best way of going about things, but I'm doing so because a) these sorts of sensationalist documentaries catch some people off guard and shake them up pretty badly if they're not prepared, and b) from the little I 've been able to learn about this documentary, and from what I know about first century Jewish cultural practices, the thesis of this documentary doesn't really deserve any more attention than what I'm here going to give it here.

The documentary will apparently argue that scholars have discovered the remains of Jesus and his family! It turns out that, not only did Jesus not rise from the dead, he was married to Mary Magdalene and had a son (named Judas).

Dan Brown's gotta be loving this!

Actually, there is no new discovery to report. This is rather nothing more than a highly sensationalized, guaranteed-to-make money, astoundingly uncritical, new interpretation of an old discovery. The discovery this documentary is based on actually happened in 1980, when a tomb was discovered in a suburb of southern Jerusalem. It contained 10 ossuaries (small caskets used to store decomposed remains). One ossuary contains the inscription "Jesus, son of Joseph" and another "Judah, son of Jesus." (There's apparently some dispute over whether the inscription really says "Jesus," but lets assume that it does). Other ossuaries contain references to Mary and Martha. On this basis, the documentary claims that buried in this tomb are the Jesus of the Gospels along with his wife, son, and other family members.

If this thesis is proved true, it could perhaps have some theological consequences. (Ya think?)

At the same time, I'm honestly not worried. Here's five brief objections that immediately come to mind.

1) "Jesus" and "Joseph" are two of the most common names for males in first century Jewish culture, as are "Mary" and "Martha" for women. The fact that we discovered a tomb with a Jesus, Joseph, Martha, and Mary associated together is about as surprising as finding a Jim Johnson, Mary Anderson, and Sue Olsen in a Minnesota graveyard. It is statistically insignificant. Hence the claim that these names refer to biblical characters is arbitrary.

2) If Jesus' family and friends buried him in this tomb, and knew he was the biological son of Joseph, they obviously would have known that the message they (and the other early followers of Jesus) were preaching was a lie. But this requires we accept that the earliest Christians were preaching - and laying down their lives for – a known fabrication. I can think of no historical hypothesis more implausible than this one. Consider also that among these early disciples was James, the brother of Jesus. What could possibly motivate a man to make up such stories about his own brother and then be willing to die for them (we know from Josephus, as well as the New Testament, that James was martyred in 62 AD).

3) The theory that this tomb contains the remains of Jesus and his family requires not only that we accept that the earliest Christians were liars; we also have to believe they were profoundly stupid. Why? Because they left their fabricated story (for which they were willing to die) open to refutation by inscripting this "truth" on these ossuaries: Jesus didn't rise from the dead and he had an earthly father. I see no evidence that the earliest disciples were close to being this unethical or idiotic.

4) The documentary will apparently appeal to DNA evidence. This really surprised me. What could DNA possibly tell us as it concerns the identity of the people buried in this tomb? It could at the most show that the people in the tomb are related to one another, but this would hardly be surprising since they're all buried in the same family tomb! DNA evidence certainly couldn't show that any of these folks have anything to do with the Jesus (or any other figure) of the Bible. We would need to have Jesus' DNA, independent of the tomb discovery, in order to compare it with the DNA of the folks in the tomb. But this, of course, we do not have. I honestly suspect the DNA stuff will be introduced just to give the documentary a more "scientific" feel (I've seen this ploy used on other documentaries on the Discovery Channel. It seems to legitimize the project, even if it's irrelevant to it).

5) It was customary for first century Jewish males to be buried in their hometown or in the town of their forefathers. Jesus' ancestral line comes through Bethlehem and he grew up in Nazareth. So why on earth would he and his family be buried in Jerusalem? Also, we learn from a fourth century historian (Eusebius) that many people would visit the shrine of James, Jesus brother – and it wasn't at Talpiot, where this family tomb was unearthed. Yet, if this was the burial site of Jesus' family, this is precisely where one would expect to find James buried.

I'm sure that after I watch this documentary I'll have much more to say. I seriously doubt I'll have anything to detract. This honestly strikes me as just one more example of the kind of shock-the -world and expose-the-"truth"-about-Christianity hype that comes along at least once a year. It almost always relies on people being utterly uninformed about history.

The documentary's one redeeming quality is that it might get people thinking and talking about Jesus. And this provides we who are followers of Jesus an opportunity to share the very compelling historical reason we have for believing Jesus did not remain in the tomb and that he is, in fact, the revelation of God and Savior of the world.

Criticism of Gore's Energy Usage Needs Fact Checking

Facts are apparently too pesky for those who are quick to criticize Former Vice President Al Gore, author of the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth". The Tennessee Center for Policy Research criticized Al Gore for his estate using 20-times the energy as the national average, and basically said that if he is going to promote energy-use responsibility...that he needs to do so as well.

That would be all fine and dandy if the details actually supported that claim. Yes indeed, Al Gore's energy use is 20-times the national average, costing him over $16,300 last year...but it is for an estate with over 20 rooms, additional offices for himself and his wife, a guest house, and special security measures. Additionally he is using what his energy provider calls the "Green Power Switch", which offers power from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. Also, he has chosen that source even though it costs him MORE per kilowatt hour than non-renewable energy.

In comparison...Vice President Dick Cheney's energy bill for the Vice President's residence was $186,000 (33-room home)...AND he was trying to get the Navy to pay for 2/3 of that bill. For those counting...that is over 11-times the cost of Al Gore's energy use...and over 228-times the national average. I'd wager that Mr. Cheney is not buying energy from renewable sources either.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tomb of Jesus

This is like The Da Vinci Code, part deux. A friend of mine pointed out this new discovery of Jesus' Tomb under an apartment building in Jerusalem. The director of the excavation, Simcha Jacobovici, has teamed up with film director James Cameron to do a documentary about the discovery and the barrage of scientific tests they have done. I've got my brother-in-law's TiVo set to record the documentary. Here is the announcement on Discovery's website:

Jesus Family Tomb Believed Found

Jacobovici is stressing that he is not a theologian and cannot comment on the 'religious' implications of the discovery. He says that he is just presenting the facts as seen by him. In some ways I'm glad that is what he is saying...since he is right in saying so. He is not a Biblical historian or a theologian, and this is demonstrated by relying on documents like the Gospel of Philip, which since it was written between 80 and 230 years AFTER the evangelist Philip actually was alive (or 140 to 290 after Jesus' crucifixion) is dubious to believe that the Gospel of Philip is anything more than a fictional story penned as if it were from an eye witness of Jesus. This kind of thing is what discredits Dan Brown's claims in "The Da Vinci Code."

It should also be noted that there are also 'tombs of Jesus' in France, Saudi Arabia, India, Japan, another site in Jerusalem, and other sites. All of them also claim to be the true sites of Jesus' burial...after he survived crucifixion and fled his sealed tomb.

This is just the latest hype relying on already discredited histories in attempts to call into question the claims of Christianity. It is nothing new, and there is no reason to avoid the questions.

Jesus Loves Porn Stars

ABC News Nightline: Jesus for Porn Stars

I love these guys, and of all the things they had to say in this interview that were right on, this is the most pointed:

"The American church is great at sitting in the pew. And they're great at judging the world by sitting in the pew. I'm going to sit in my pew, and I'm going to judge the world. If you really, truly want to make a difference as a Christian in this world, get your butt out of the pew, and get back squarely into the community, and do something for another human being. And if you don't do that, and you're praising the Lord and holding your hands up on Sunday...shame on you."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Every E-mail

Every e-mail you write, send, or read is being harvested by the government and read via their terrorist surveillance programs. Apparently their harvesting abilities are such that they can transfer and parse the equivalent of all the information of all the books in the Library of Congress every 15 minutes.

I'd like to remind you that in the summer of 2006, President Bush said the following:
"We're not mining, or trolling, through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans." (President George W. Bush, 5/11/2006)

This is clearly a bold face and blatant lie, though not that this is the first.

NOW: For Your Eyes Only?
(PBS, NOW, 2/16/2007)
[watch the video]
[read the transcript] [alternate site]

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Degrading Nature of Popular Theology

I'm consistently astounded by the ridiculousness of people's devotion, not to the Bible (oh, if that were only true for those that so often profess it), but to theology that is either created in their own mind, or one that is based on extrapolating dogmas from bits of Greek philosophy and Biblical verses strung together out of context (or sometimes just downplayed or exaggerated). Honestly it just makes me sad to see so many people eventually disenfranchised by a theology not only unable to reconcile real life events with their doctrines, but also unable to explain the very nature of their doctrines in ways that do not employ a string of logical fallacies.

Mostly I find myself in conflict with people who follow a John Piper version of neoreformism. Piper has amazing skills to mobilize people and deliver an emotion evoking message. But largely I think that he is a fear who exclaims that we should fall on our faces and repent because God would be justified if he dropped a building on us. One person I know exclaimed that we cannot understand God's love until we understand His wrath.

This issue presses into thoughts about the future, the validity of talking to God, but most of all...what the character and attributes of God actually are, as directly written about in the Scriptures or literally exemplified in Scripture, which should be our founding 'tradition' and revelation concerning God and His history with humanity.

OK, so why do I think that Reformed Theology is ridiculous? Because it has to pass off certain scriptures as merely anthropomorphisms concerning God and thus not literal descriptions of God's character or actions. So, they will play down verses like, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." But emphasize verses like, "There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God." These two verses are easily reconciled if you take them in context...but to the reformed theist, God is the only one who can make you seek Him (ie...God makes you seek God), and only God can make you pray things that are in His will (ie...God prays to Himself through you).

God is loving: As my friend stated, you can only understand God's love if you understand His wrath. That seems in stark contrast to the Bible that states that it is God's kindness that leads to repentance. Reform theists seem to advocate a God of wrath and retribution for our that causes tsunamis to kill thousands, one that pulls buildings over on people, and one that justifies the slaughter of people practicing things not Christianity. They seem to say that if we only understood his wrath against our sin and why he stands ready to topple buildings on people...that we would see the love behind His reconciling us to Himself via Christ. loving.

God is forgiving: Yes...but not for you. Reformed theist believe that you cannot seek God (as I stated earlier), because your nature is so corrupt that it is impossible. Therefore God Himself has to change your heart and make you come to Him. There can be none of your own choice in the matter, because then there is something about your salvation that you could boast about. So...God alone draws people to Himself...which means that only those who are saved were the only ones that God bothered to draw. After all, if God is doing all the work of salvation and God is all powerful, then why are not all people saved?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Excerpts of Questions about God and Time

It seems that inevitably in a message at church or a worship song comments are unconsciously made about the characteristics of God and the nature of history. It seems a bit curious for a pastor to make comments on the nature of time and then how God fits into that box (or doesn't fit in that box). It is my contention that the Bible doesn't talk about the nature of time itself, though it has numerous examples of God relating with humanity historically, so Christians should thus not make extrapolate claims about the nature of time from an assumption they make prior to reading Scripture. examine that a bit I've posted a few excerpts from responses to questions about God and time:

Doesn't God work outside of time?

The Bible clearly does present God as living and acting in time. The notion of God as timeless, "outside of time," originated in Greek philosophy but has often been accepted by Christian theology.

The problem is, this is a very difficult concept to really understand. Just saying, "God is not limited by things like time" is not good enough. One needs to give a lot of careful thought to grasping what divine timelessness really means. Unfortunately, people often pick up the idea very superficially, and in effect what it means for them is that "anything goes" when we are talking about God in relation to time. In effect, it is just a way to get out of having to think about the problems in the area.

--- William Hasker Ph. D.

First, let me say that it is quite common for people to think we are saying God is "limited" by time. This is quite a pejoritive way of putting it. It makes it sound as though we believe God is imprisoned in time and Chronos may consume him (as in the Greek myth). If God freely decides to get involved with us and play in our ballpark by the "rules of the game" which he established at creation, then it is not we who are limiting God, but God who is deciding to operate in this fashion.

There is no need to dismiss the biblical texts where God plans, repents, changes in his emotional state, anticipates or is surprised at our sinful response as mere anthropomorphisms. It is common to do so because a timeless deity simply can't do these things or experience such states of affairs. These biblical depictions are metaphors which reveal the kind of God who addresses us. In my view the Bible depicts God as experiencing duration rather than timelessness or simultaneity (all time at once). God is everlasting through time rather than timeless. God is faithful over time rather than being immutable because of timelessness. Neither a timelessness being nor one having simultaneity can genuinely respond, deliberate and do many of the things the Bible ascribes to God.

Does this mean that time is uncreated? "Time" in the sense of the measurement between objects was indeed created. Prior to there being a creation, time in this sense did not exist. "Time" in the sense of the duration of consciousness and relations between persons is uncreated since the trinity is everlasting. The triune godhead has eternally related in conscious love. Does God experience created time as we do? The Bible portrays God in this way but does note that as everlasting, God does not suffer decay and is not at risk of having his purposes thwarted by running out of time as we do.

--- John Sanders

But what if Einstein was right, and time is fluid?

First off, we must be exceedingly careful not to overstep our bounds when entering into an area of expertise which is not our own. This is clearly the case when theologians talk physics, with precious few exceptions. (Ian Barbour, John Polkinghorne, R. J. Russell and others who have degrees in both fields) Given this, some interesting conversation does take place but must be used tentatively.

Presently the field of physics is basically spit into those who operate under the assumptions which serve as the basis of Einstein's relativity theory on the one hand, and those who operate under the assumptions of quantum theory on the other. The goal sought by the field of physics as a whole is what is referred to as the Grand Unification Theory, a theory which, it is hoped, will bring the "truths" of these two subfields of physics together. Relativity theorists claim that their foundations are proven, as do quantum theorists, the problem is that these claims are mutually exclusive.

In terms of the relation of time to physics, we see differing ways of handling the issue in each "camp." Relativity theory spacializes time. Quantum theory temporalizes space. Either way, I think Open theists have something to say.

In terms of relativity, time is "relative" to the location and movement of the observer. Greg Boyd has made a tentative proposal in a conversation we had on the subject that God is the omniscient observer which relativizes those various perspectives. God is not subject to the limitations of moving at the speed of light because God is already everywhere there is to be. This seems to pose a possible solution to relativization of time by relativizing each particular observer in terms of their relation to the one absolute observer who keeps perfect time.

In terms of quantum, time is not spatialized but space is temporalized. Nobel Prize winner Ian Prigogine is currently in the process of reconceiving all physical laws in terms of what he refers to as the principle of irreversibility. This is to say that the course of reality (time) is ultimately irreversible and real, which is fundamentally denied in the relativity view. This view squares solidly with what open theists proclaim about God's relationship with time.

The best book that I have found which takes up this topic is called "Physics and the Ultimate Significance of Time" edited by David Ray Griffin. it includes articles and essays from some of the most important scholars that open theists could draw on for support. These are discussions of time in both physics and theology by physicists and theologians, some of whom are both. I wrote the third section of my Masters Thesis on this topic which is available at Luther Seminary in St. Paul MN. An easier read and a favorite of Boyd's is "The Arrow of Time" by Coveney and Highfield.

The good news is open theists have at least half of the physics field on their side (quantum theorists) with a possible plausible explanation (Boyd's "omniscient observer" insight) for the other half as well!

--- Tyler De Armond

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Open Theism and Revelation 13:8

How does the open view fit with Rev. 13:8?
by Greg Boyd

Revelation 13:8 refers to “everyone whose names have not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life.” How does that square with open theism?

Three possibilities exist in terms of reconciling this passage with open theism.
1) First, the “from the foundation of the world” clause can attach to either “everyone whose names have not been written” or “the lamb that was slain.” For example, the TNIV translates this passage “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. So it is with many translations of this passage.

2) The phrase “from the foundation” (apo kataboleis) can mean “from before” or “from the time of” (=since). So even if we attach the phrase to “everyone whose name has not been written…” the passage need only refer to those who didn’t enter into eternal life from the beginning of the world – that is, throughout history. As history progresses, God (metaphorically of course) puts into his “book of life” all people who enter into a life-giving relationship with him.

3) Several times in Scripture God warns people that he may blot their names out of the book of life (Exod. 32:33; Rev. 3:5, cf. Rev. 22:18). In this light, it seems we should not think that having one’s name in or out of “the book of life” is a permanent thing. On a side note, if names are written (or not?) in the book of life before the world began, and if one can’t add or detract from this book, one might legitimately wonder what these passages mean. Applied to the foreknowledge debate, if God foreknew from all eternity that certain names would be “blotted out” of his book, one has to wonder why God bothered to put them there in the first place? If God may indeed “take away [a]… person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city” (Rev. 22:19), and God knew this would happen, why did he give them a share in the first place? If names can be added and/or deleted from the book of life, it suggests that the eternal destiny of these people was not fixed in God’s mind (=in “the book”) from the start.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Good People

I have been in Springfield for just a short time now, but I'm really liking Springfield more and more as I'm here. Sure, the drivers are a bit crazy...but I like the people whom I've met both at work, at church, and outside of both of those. Training for work is going really well, and I believe that it is something that I will enjoy.

A couple nights ago I went to a men's small group meeting for the church, and just there were only three of us there. But that was cool to get to know those guys a little bit. We had some good discussion in rabbit-trails. :-) During the process they mentioned when the worship team's practice was, and I asked if it would be inappropriate for me to just show up and hang out.

So, last night I went to the worship practice and talked to the leader of the group, and he asked if I had my gear there. I didn't, but where I'm staying is so close to the church that I drove over and got my rig and guitar. It was a nice practice, and I really enjoyed and appreciated being included. So, I'm playing for the services this Sunday...which I'm really glad to be doing. It is nice to be involved.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super P0wn'd

It is Sunday, el dia de Super Bowl. I'm back in Springfield, MO today...and happy to be here in the nicer weather. When I drove into Springfield at 9:30pm last night...they still had a lot of snow on the streets from Wednesday's snow. People were also still driving crazy...and I nearly got in like 7 accidents from people pulling out with traffic coming and sliding all over, people who couldn't figure out how to stay in the tracks in their lane, people who couldn't look at where they are going and nearly pull into you, etc. One would think that after 3 days that people would get used to it.

I'm not really interested in the Super Bowl, so I'm just hanging out in the dining room...learning more material for my new job...and later eating the best homemade pizza in the world, made by my sister-in-law.

The message at the Springfield Vineyard was really awesome. Wanted to share this with you all.