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Last Visit 2011-03-29 23:58:38 |Start Date 2007-01-26 16:14:24 |Comments 1,125 |Entries 367 |Images 31 |Videos 68 |

07/15/08 12:31 - 74ºF - ID#45026


Not bad for an amateur, if I do say so myself . . .

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Permalink: New_elmwoodjesus_org.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY

07/15/08 08:44 - 65ºF - ID#45023

It's here!

I am not nearly as savvy/smart/geeky as many of you (e:peeps), but I am geek enough to be excited about the latest version of wordpress (even I feel a little bit like I am cheating on (e:strip)).

Anyway, here's a video about things it can do now:

Theology posts will continue shortly.
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Permalink: It_s_here_.html
Words: 63
Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: religion

07/13/08 11:14 - 73ºF - ID#45012

The writing of the Bible

- That the story of Jesus was accurately told orally for a hundred years.
- That the hundreds of contradictory written fragments and letters from the time after that don't matter, because:
- The editing process to sort everything out was also guided by God, again, indirectly.
- That the Gospels were then transmitted down with no textual errors in copying or translation thereafter, thanks to God, indirectly.
- That the parts of the Bible and the Gospels that don't make sense don't contradict any of the above.

This post will attempt to deal with all of the above items, taken from (e:jim)'s list of "things one would have to take on faith" to be a Christian.

The story of Jesus was passed down orally for some time before the gospels were written down. However, it seems that at least Matthew Mark and Luke were written before the year 72--so there was maybe 30 years, tops. (For the relationship between Matthew, Mark and Luke, see: (WIKIPEDIA -

I base this on the fact that Luke was written as a two-volume work with the book of Acts--they make this clear in the first chapters of each book, and are consistent in language and themes. Anyway, one event that occurs in Luke is Jesus predicting the destruction of the Temple.

We know from history that this indeed did happen, in the year 72. The book of Acts, which follows the apostles and the early church follows Paul as he heads to Rome, which takes us further down the path of history, but not all the way to the destruction of the Temple.

Oddly enough, many scholars take this as evidence of Luke being written after the destruction of the Temple, due, in part to a bias against "supernatural knowledge" (i.e. "Jesus could not have predicted the future") This is bad logic, in my opinion, on two fronts. One: if Jesus was who he claimed he was, this prediction is certainly possilbe, and two: it wasn't THAT hard a prediction to make, given the political climate at the time. Divine revelation was not necessary to figure out that the Jews would rise up and the Romans would act destroy the Temple in retaliation.

It would have made sense for the author of Acts to include this prediction coming to pass, but he did not. Therefore, I conclude that Luke was likely written before 72. For more, see: (WIKIPEDIA -

(There you will see that my opinion is the minority opinion, but the latest possible date is around 150.

100 years is a long time for something to be passed on orally in todays culture, but things were different in oral cultures.

Anyway, after the oral period of transmission (and Paul's letters are generally dated earlier than the Gospels), the stories were, in fact, written down.

You would have to have a lot of faith to think that there was no error in the recording (by today's standard, at least) because one does not need outside "fragements and letters" to find contradiction (although the small amount of "other" material that talks about Jesus came much later, was discusssed, and dismissed as unreliable). All of the contradictions needed to dismiss a strict literalism is right there in the Bible!

Rather than "get the story straight," those that put together the Bible included all of the differences. There is not one story of Jesus, but four!

What we find is not a historical account, by todays standards, but a collection of a number of different witnesses, and perspectives. This does not make it easy to put together a strict, blow by blow biography, but we do have greater reliability where the different sources agree. The variation in the accounts actually demonstrates them to be more dependable--it shows that there was no collaboration, but different people telling the story the way they best could. Even if four of us had witnessed an event yesterday, it is unlikely that all of us would give the same account.

Do we have to believe that God was involved in the editing process? No more than we would for other historical documents. There are plenty of early manuscripts, as well as early translations and references in other works.

There is no assertion IN the Bible that God specifically guided the editing. No such assertion is needed for the translation, due to the preponderance of early material. While there is some variation, it is small, and in most good academic translations (I like the NRSV), it is noted in the footnotes .

The idea of "innerancy," strangely enough, is an idea that is foreign to the Bible. The Bible itself makes no such claim, and it is not necessary. If we take the texts of scripture (and the others that aren't included) and look at them just as any other historical documents, enough truth will emerge enough to understand who Jesus was, the basic facts of his life, and what he taught. There is also plenty of evidence for his resurrection, which is really the ultimate test, and will have to wait for another post.
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Permalink: The_writing_of_the_Bible.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: religion

07/08/08 11:12 - 79ºF - ID#44909

God cares?

"Cares for" and "cares about" are funny phrases when it comes to God.

Part of the problem is that the Western conception of God, which has been mostly influenced by Christianity, is a little bit conflicted.

Christianity has, on one hand, Hebrew roots. The God of the Hebrew Bible, although transcendent in many ways, is not in the least bit dispassionate. God wrestles with Jacob. God negotiates with Abraham. God gets angry. God has regrets.

However, as the church is formed from/by Jews shaped by this understanding of God, in a world where Greek philosophy carries the day. And Aristotle influenced the popular understanding of God by referring to God as the "unmoved mover." In Greek philosophy, God didn't care about humans. God didn't care.

So there's the problem: If God cares about our actions, which we know are often petty, that makes God seem petty. But if God doesn't care, then why should we?

Although I understand the influence of both strains in the formation of our theology, I tend to lean towards the Hebrew understanding. It makes God harder to figure out, but who said understanding God should be easy?

God exists in relationship--not just with humanity but (Christians believe) with God's self.

Relationship is funny. God interacts with us--without changing who God is. Is there a tension there? You bet. And we can't get it from outside of the relationship where we might be able to understand it objectively. So yes, some faith is involved.

Does God care what religion we are? God's love came, according to Christian understanding, while we were still opposed to God. So, no. We cannot change the way that God chooses to engage us in relationship because of our behavior/belief/whatever.

Does this mean that what we believe doesn't matter? It doesn't change God. It does, however, change us. If I believe I can fly, and it is not true, there will be some negative consequences. Our beliefs and behavior matter, but not because they affect God. Its because they affect us.

God cares for us in that he cares to engage us, and gives God's self to us. But this self-giving is God's eternal choice, not a reaction to anything we do.

I wrote this late at night, so I am reserving the right to edit/clarify.

I hope this shed some light on some more of my reactions to (e:jim)'s statement, but I should also add that I see this as background stuff. It is not reasonable to ask somebody to engage in the "big picture stuff," especially when Jesus' stories and actions were so rooted in the here and now.

But its fun to engage here, even if I might start in a different place.

PS: (e:carolinian), please correct me if you think I have misrepresented the Hebrew Bible and/or Judaism.
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Permalink: God_cares_.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: religion

07/07/08 09:33 - 80ºF - ID#44899

Exploring the nuance of the list

In Jim's list of things that have to be taken on faith, this was the first statement that I gave an *, meaning that I couldn't agree/disagree fully without explaining a little bit of nuance.
That God is the Christian God, not the Jewish, Islam, Baha'i, Mormonism, etc.

I believe that there is one God, and I believe that God is best understood and revealed through Christianity. I even believe that God was made incarnate in Jesus Christ.

However, I can only apprehend God. God cannot be comprehended. So while I believe that I have an understanding of God, my understanding will never be near complete (not in this life, at least--but we haven't gotten to "eternity" stuff yet).

Therefore, I believe that I worship the same God as the other faiths. To say otherwise would be to contradict myself, because I believe that there is only one God.

Other faiths comprehend God differently. Or they misunderstand God. Or they make God out to be who they want God to be (which is bad, yes, but Christians make that mistake, too).

So I would say that I best understand God through Christianity, but I admit that my knowledge is incomplete. Other faiths have different, incomplete knowledge as well. I can learn from them, and yet still maintain that Christianity has the truest picture of God.

I do not present my faith as a complete system of total understanding--just the best one (as far as I can tell).

Unless I know in completeness, which is impossible as things are, I have to approach other faiths with humility--open about what I believe to be true, but also admitting that there is truth that I do not comprehend.

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Permalink: Exploring_the_nuance_of_the_list.html
Words: 287
Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: religion

07/05/08 05:06 - 78ºF - ID#44871

Jim's list

My list, from Jim's list of things that must be taken on faith if one is to be a Christian.

In short, if that were what is necessary to be a Christian, I would not be one (I guess there are some people out there who believe that I am not).

Here's my code to what I think about the beliefs Jim outlines:

X = I do not believe this
  • = There is a nuance to this belief, so that depending on how it is defined/explained, I may have to change from X to no X or vice-versa. That is to say, that there is a little bit more nuance to the statement that needs to be explored.

+ = This belief really is central to the faith, as I see it. (maybe or maybe not necessary, depending on who you ask)

+ That God exists.
* That God is still involved in the universe he created.
+ That God cares about us.
X* That God cares what religion you are in.
X* That God is the Christian God, not the Jewish, Islam, Baha'i, Mormonism, etc.
X* That all other religions are in grave error. (despite those faiths having equally compelling claims and theology to lay claim to this honor)
X* That God interacted directly with humanity in the past, and chose the Jews as his people above all others.
- That God guided the oral history of the Jews.
-* That God wrote the Bible, indirectly.
-* That God edited the Bible into its present form, indirectly.
X That God prevents textual errors from being introduced during copying, indirectly.
XThat God would not allow the Bible to mislead us, but would allow other religious texts to mislead us.
X* That sins are against God, instead of against other humans.
X* That we have original sin that needs to be redeemed.
  • That virgin births can occur.
  • That Jesus was born to Mary as the Son of God.
+* That Jesus is in fact, God.
  • That Jesus could redeem sins through his death and resurrection.
X That Jesus' death is the only way to cause that to happen.
+* That Jesus rose from the dead.
X* That the story of Jesus was accurately told orally for a hundred years.
X That the hundreds of contradictory written fragments and letters from the time after that don't matter, because:
X The editing process to sort everything out was also guided by God, again, indirectly.
X That the Gospels were then transmitted down with no textual errors in copying or translation thereafter, thanks to God, indirectly.
X That the parts of the Bible and the Gospels that don't make sense don't contradict any of the above.
X That if you choose wrong, despite this inconsistent and inexplicable chain, you are damned to hell.
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Permalink: Jim_s_list.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: heroes

07/04/08 09:59 - 63ºF - ID#44855

My Hero: Roberto Clemente

So, you can read his biography on wikipedia: (WIKIPEDIA -, so I won't go into too many details about that.

Here's some of the ways that he has influenced me.

When I play, I tend to play all out.

I try to be as selfless and generous as he was.

I want to be personally involved in my efforts to make a difference in the world, as he was.

I want to break down barriers, the way that he did.Maybe I will write about Dietrich Bonhoeffer later.

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Permalink: My_Hero_Roberto_Clemente.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY

Category: heroes

07/03/08 11:15 - 80ºF - ID#44846

Blogging suggestion: heroes

After talking with (e:Tinypliny) about Roberto Clemente, I got to thinking about heroes, and I thought it might be fun to share some of the people I look up to, as well as invite others to do the same.

I'll get the ball rolling with a post about Clemente (a little later--I should be writing a sermon right now), but I am putting out the invitation:

Who is a hero of yours? Why? What do you wish to emulate about them? How has their life affected yours?

I categorized this post "heroes." It would be nice if every participant did the same.
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Permalink: Blogging_suggestion_heroes.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY

07/02/08 08:54 - 64ºF - ID#44840

Great night last night

Good to see (e:Tinypliny) and her friends, as well as (e:Jason) and of course (e:janelle) at the symphony at Bidwell parkway. Also saw some other friends who don't blog and thus don't get mentioned!

Music was good. Beer was good. Company was great.

I even shook down people for money on behalf of the association.

Afterwards, Jason and I stopped in at Essex street.

When I got home, I saw I missed a text from (e:Vincent). My apologies.
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Permalink: Great_night_last_night.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY

06/26/08 09:32 - 73ºF - ID#44794

Re: The supreme court decision

Maybe Chris Rock has the answer:

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Permalink: Re_The_supreme_court_decision.html
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Location: Buffalo, NY



New Site Wide Comments

paul said to tinypliny
I miss you too!...

tinypliny said to paul
Oh I see the sheep are there too. Is this the entirety of your flock? :D...

tinypliny said to paul
Haha, I remember when Basra used to love these. :)...

tinypliny said to paul
How many of these dolls have you hoarded? More importantly, where do they live and what happened to ...