Monthly Archives: February 2012

Beatitudes, part 2: Blessed are Those Who Mourn

The theme of the Beatitudes is to show a felt need, then demonstrate how that need will see fulfillment in the kingdom of heaven.  The poor in spirit are blessed because they have no religion or spirituality to lean on, so (like the materially poor) they must lean more fully on Jesus to satisfy the righteous requirement of the law.  Therefore, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The second Beatitude promises comfort to those who mourn.

The Beatitudes identify several needs as virtues that ordinarily one wouldn’t think of as a virtue.  First the poor, now the mourners.  Next we’ll bless the meek and then the hungry!

So what’s up with prosperity preachers?  Are they not reading this section?  These guys say that you can have your best life right now.  Yet Jesus says to those of us in the present that you are blessed if you’re poor, in mourning, meek, and hungry — if you’re not having your best life now.

Suffering and trials will come.  If we lean on God in those trials and become closer to him, then we do well.  If we grow distant, if we let the trials create a rift between ourselves and our God, it is to our severe detriment.  God will deliver those who mourn:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor;  he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.  (Is 61:1-3)

And:

He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,  for the Lord has spoken.  (Is 25:8)

Jesus once said that he is the Great Physician, come to heal the sick.  The well don’t need a doctor, right?  Conversely, those who do not weep have no need of someone to wipe their tears away.

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Beatitudes, part 1: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

I haven’t been writing much as of late because my new job is taking up most of my time.  My family — my first ministry and primary responsibility, as I see it — takes up the rest of my time.

So I haven’t been keeping up with the promised spate of updates, i.e. Contradiction Tuesday and Scripture Saturday.

Yet, this past month has seen nearly 4,000 hits — the most hits in a month since beginning this ministry way back in 2006.  And I am doing nothing to promote this website — no content syndication, no cross-posting on other blogs, no link exchanges, no paid advertisement, no SEO.  I’m not even doing the simple blog promotion tool of updating on a regular basis.

It is time for new content.

So, I will post on the Beatitudes for the next eight days.

Let’s start at the top:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:3)

The Beatitudes promise a later fulfillment to those who have a felt need presently.  The worst pop theology promoted by the likes of Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer, and others promises that Christians can (to borrow Osteen’s phrase) live their best lives now.

No, no, no, no.  Are these guys even reading the same Bible as I am?

The Great Physician has come to heal us, and in order for us to seek his help, we must feel the need.  In the case of the first Beatitude, those of us who are poor in spirit right now are going to inherit the kingdom of heaven.

The deeply spiritual are often hypocritical.  Jesus described the Pharisees of his day as “whitewashed tombs,” shiny on the outside but filled with death on the inside.  Frequently, our Lord said people who followed all of the “proper rituals” were getting their rewards “right now.”

Meaning no reward in the future.

Jesus’ brother James wrote, “. . . has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” (Jms 2:5).  James acknowledges what Jesus taught: those who are poor are blessed with great faith.

And why not?  The rich often rely on their wealth to get them through.  Take the rich young ruler in Luke as an example.  By the same token, the spiritual among us rely on their rituals as their righteousness.

Those poor in spirit, however, must rely on Christ as their righteousness.  They have nothing else to fall back on.

It seems much easier to rely on God when you have nothing than when you have been blessed with everything.

Super Bowl, the Genetic Fallacy, and Brainwashing Children

If you’re a theist on Twitter, particularly if you debate a certain guy named BibleAlsoSays (BAS), you have undoubtedly seen a map like this:

BAS acts like this is unassailable proof that religion is a steaming and moldy pile of donkey crap baking on the otherwise unblemished Sidewalk of Reality in the Harsh Sun of Truth and Reason.

“Look,” he’ll say, “at how all of the religions group into geographic regions.  That means that parents pass religion to the children, who accept it uncritically, and never grow out of it.  If not for parental brainwashing, these children would grow up normal!”

If the intrepid apologist points out that this logically flawed, BAS asks you for an alternate explanation of the map.

Know what?  There is no alternate explanation.  The world religions group so nicely exactly for the reason that BAS claims.  Parents teach their faith to their children, who never question or jettison it in favor of something more palatable.

But that’s not why the premise is logically flawed. Read the rest of this entry

Contradiction Tuesday: Creation Narrative

Now is as good a time as any to get back to Contradiction Tuesday, so let’s get right to it.

In Genesis 1:25-26, beasts are formed and then God creates man.  However, in Genesis 2:18-19, man is created first and then God creates all of the animals to search for a mate for the man.

To resolve this conundrum, we have to understand the purpose of each chapter of Genesis.  In other words, we have to put each in its narrative context. Read the rest of this entry