Monday, May 14, 2007

Monday Medley

Our Weekend:
We have a little amusement park here in Amarillo: "Wonderland!" We'd never been there before, but Aubrey's school band was going last Saturday. Michele and I wound up going as non-paying chaperones. In spite of our free admission and the chaperone title, we had basically no responsibilities. Woohoo!

By late afternoon, the three of us were on our way to Altus, Oklahoma. We spent the night with my folks and went to worship with them Sunday morning. My years in Connecticut didn't afford many opportunities for me to be with my mother on Mothers' Day. I was so glad I got to be with her yesterday.

The Demise of Dogma?
"The only church of Christ is the Catholic Church governed by the successor of Peter" --Pope Benedict, speaking last week to the bishops of Brazil, as quoted on last Saturday's broadcast of "NPR Religion."

The Bible and Tattoos
The same chapter of the Bible that says, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18) also says, "You shall not tattoo yourselves" (v. 28).

No believer that I know of has argued against the positive statement found in verse 18, especially since Jesus repeated it and said it was super important. On the other hand, any number of believers have violated the letter of the prohibition found in verse 28. Have they violated the will of God?

Old Testament specialists tells us that tattooing (or painting) the body in the ancient world was an explicitly pagan thing. It may have been done to ward off evil spirits, or to identify a person as belonging to a certain pagan group. Either way, the very appearance of a tattoo would have meant a rununciation of what the Bible affirms: that there is only one true God and those who are faithful to him will not be harmed but will, instead, be secure. These days, tattoos don't necessarily mean the same thing. So, while I'm not a fan of tattoos, neither do I believe that they are against the will of God.

The Authority of the Old Testament
The question of how Christians might apply the teaching of, say, Leviticus 19 was part of what we talked about in the last class session of the Old Testament course. I gave the students a copy of the question as it's worded in a classic book by John Bright:

" [People who affirm] that the Old Testament is in each of its texts inspired of God and affords in all its parts a revelation of his character, purpose and will . . . must still face the question: How are these ancient laws, institutions, and concepts, these ancient narratives, sayings and expressions . . . to be taken as authoritative over the faith and life of the believer, and how proclaimed as such?"

How can, how should, the Old Testament function as a word from God within the church? What principles of interpretation, for example, serve to open up that part of the Bible as a word on target for Christians?

The Church Sings!
"The Christian church sings. It is not a choral society. Its singing is not a concert. But from inner, material necessity it sings. Singing is the highest form of human expression....What we can and must say quite confidently is that the church which does not sing is not the church. And does not really sing but sighs and mumbles spasmodically, shamefacedly and with an ill grace, it can be at best only a troubled community which is not sure of its cause and of whose ministry and witness there can be no great expectation....The praise of God which finds its concrete culmination in the singing of the community is one of the indispensable forms of the ministry of the church." -- Karl Barth, in Church Dogmatics, Vol. IV, part 3, chapter 16, par. 72, #4.

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