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Showing posts with the label #Background

Covenant: How God makes our relationship official.

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Despite what you may have heard, it’s not just an extra-special contract.Covenant /'kəv.ən.ənt/ n. Committed, intentional relationship. The parties who enter such relationships spell out the duties of one to the other, made with firm, binding promises.2.v. To enter such a relationship.[Covenantal /kəv.ən'ənt.əl/ adj.]Our culture, including popular Christian culture, seldom understands the significant difference between “covenant” and “contract.” Usually because of marriage.Seriously. Y’see, back when there was no such thing as separation of church and state, the government formally recognized various religious covenants: Baptisms, christenings, marriages, religious vows, and so forth. After the United States decided it was in our best interest (particularly the church’s best interest) for government to remain neutral, our governments nevertheless still kept marriage on the books. Because it comes in handy to know who is married to whom—for the purposes of inheritance, next of …

The Judean senate.

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The folks who ran Judea… and condemned Jesus to death.Something Americans need to be reminded of, from time to time: Ancient Israel was never a democracy.Originally it was a patriarchy, run by the male heads of the Hebrew families: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.Then the Egyptians took over and enslaved ’em.Then the LORD rescued ’em from Egypt. So it became a theocracy, where God and his commands ruled Israel… with Moses and the judges serving as the LORD’s deputies.Then monarchy here on out: The rule of kings. The people wanted kings; the LORD gave ’em kings. In theory the kings were to function the same as the judges, with the LORDreally in charge. In practice they did whatever the heck they wanted.Then foreign kings: The Babylonian emperors, Persian emperors, Greek emperors, Egyptian kings, Seleucid kings. Each of ’em put governors, like Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, over the Galilee, Samaria, and Judea.Back to local kings: The Maccabees overthrew the Seleucids and put the head pries…

The cycle: The good old days, and the dark times.

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Why history repeats itself.Cycle. /'saɪ.kəl/ n. Series of events, regularly repeated in the same order.2. [biblical] The repeating history of apostasy, oppression, revival, and salvation.[Cyclical /'sɪ.klə.kəl/ adj.]History repeats itself.Most people figure it’s for the reason philosopher George Santayana famously stated: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” More accurately it’s that people didn’t learn from the past. They remember it just fine. But they think this time, they’ll get it right. The disasters of the past? People were naïve back then. We’re more intelligent, more evolved now. They failed, but we’ll succeed.Then we don’t. ’Cause history repeats itself.The usual form of this repetition is an up-and-down cycle. Historians call it all sorts of different things. An economic boom, followed by a period of downturn. An era of good feelings, followed by serious partisanship. A gilded age, followed by a panic. Good times, bad times, you know we’v…

Patriarchy: When fathers ruled the earth.

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The system of government we find in Genesis—which some try inflicting on their own families.Patriarchy. /'peɪ.tri.ɑrk.i/ n. System of government where the father, or eldest male, is ruler.2. System wherein women are largely excluded from positions of authority.[Patriarchal /'peɪ.tri.ɑr.kəl/ adj.]When people talk about patriarchy nowadays, they tend to mean the second definition above: Women can’t seem to find their way into any official or significant positions of leadership. They can have unofficial power, like a First Lady; they can have insignificant power, like being in charge of cleaning the break room. (Gee, what an honor.) But never any serious authority; the “old boys’ network” keeps shutting them out.Because the “old boys” don’t wanna work with women. Especially don’t wanna work for women. Doesn’t matter the reasons; they’re all different forms of sexism. It’s a way-too-common problem in the present day. But actually sexism isn’t what this article is about. (Not prima…

“Silent years”: Did God once turn off his miracles?

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What proof do Christians have of an absentee God? Only the lack of books between testaments. Which is hardly enough.It’s usually round Christmas that preachers start talking about “the silent years,” or “the 400 silent years,” and how the annunciations of John the Baptist and Christ Jesus mark the end of them.As it’s taught, for roughly four centuries between the writing of Malachi, “the closing of the Old Testament canon,” and Gabriel’s appearance to John’s dad, God was silent. He had no prophets—’cause if he did, the prophet would’ve written a book, but no prophets wrote a book, ergo no prophets. And he did no miracles—’cause if he had, someone would’ve written a book about it, but nobody wrote one, so nothing happened. If those 400 years weren’t silent, we’d have more books of the bible.(Um… what about the books of prophets, and of divine doings, among the apocrypha, which were written during that 400-year period? Oh, insist these preachers, they’re mythology. They don’t count.)Oka…

The Pharisees: Those in the first century who followed God.

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Nowadays it’s just another synonym for “hypocrite.” Just like, all too often, “Christian.”Pharisee /'fɛr.ə.si/ n. Adherent of a first-century denomination of the Hebrew religion, which emphasized the widespread teaching of the Law.2. A hypocrite. [Thanks to Jesus’s regular condemnation of hypocrites among the Pharisees.][Pharisaic /fɛr.ə'seɪ.ɪk/ adj., Pharisaism /fɛr.ə'seɪ.ɪz.əm/ n.]People nowadays don’t really know much about the Pharisees—other than that they opposed Jesus an awful lot, and that he called ’em hypocrites right back. Mt 23.13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29 So there’s a lot of false information floating around about ’em. Stuff like this:“But they were hypocrites.” Yeah, some of ’em were. Otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have had to denounce that tendency in them. But be fair: A lot of us Christians are hypocrites. A lot of us humans are hypocrites. Hypocrisy is universal. Singling out the Pharisees just means we’re gonna ignore our own tendencies towards fake behavior.“They w…