Rethinking Halloween: A Christian Viewpoint

It's not uncommon these days in North America to find some Christian somewhere who makes it their agenda to moderate and critique holidays. Currently, this can be illustrated by a simple perusing of Godtube.com, where a ridiculous debate is going on between those who call themselves believers. Some think it is okay to celebrate Halloween and others do not. Those who do not, as you might expect, label those who do as "un-Christian", "satanic", "worldly", "secular", etc. I can't help but laugh on the one hand and be heart-broken on the other. Clearly, too many people who act as though they are holier-than-thou, are over zealous and under informed. Their logic isn't even clear most of the time!

So, how does one who calls themselves a Christian counter people who act too pious? Well, the place to begin is to rethink Halloween. In fact, it might not even be "re" thinking as much as "thinking in the first place". For example, it is helpful to know that Halloween doesn't have its origins in a secular holiday, no, it can be traced back to Christian roots; it was a Christian holiday celebrated by the Celts (e.g. All Saints' / Souls' Day or Hallow's Eve)--even though the Celts were considered by many to be barbaric. Even more than that, and perhaps, more importantly, it goes back to the end-of-summer Celtic celebration called Samhain, an agricultural festival. This was the time when people would soak up the "light" and prepare for the "dark" winter months. It was a time to celebrate agricultural fruits and goods before the harsh winter came and killed everything. Hmm, so, it was more about life than death in some ways, right? Yes!

So, the over-zealous evangelists who argue that this is a satanic ritual, a celebration of death, etc., need to chill out a bit. I sense that many Christians have a problem with all of the ghoulish attire on the one hand and the supposed celebration of death on the other. Well, as for the ghoulish attire, we may recall that in earlier centuries, the Church actually used ghouls and whatnot to ward off evil spirits. Many modern church buildings still have gargoyles on them. As for the celebration of death, I think too many people have over-played this whole idea. I mean, those of us who have lost loved ones, there are certain times of year and certain things we do to commemorate their memory: We think of them, look at pictures, share stories, go to graveyards, etc. None of this is considered evil, satanic or un-Christian.

On a similar note, some suggest that by celebrating death we are nullifying the resurrection. This is simply not true. First of all, Christians commemorate Christ's death (and resurrection) in communion; Christ Himself bade us to do this. Second of all, to remember the deceased is clearly not the same thing as worshipping them or celebrating death itself. It is this point that I feel many are missing. In missing this point, one Christian accuses another and everything just becomes ridiculous or, no joke intended, even "evil" and "nasty" and "ghoulish".

In the 19th century, when Halloween migrated to North America from Europe, it was not a "devilish" holiday still. For example, the whole custom of "jack-o-lanterns", a pumpkin with a candle inside, was meant to resemble the soul of a lost one who might be waiting in pergatory. It was meant as a reminder to pray for that person or to simply, remember them. But it was also meant to be a symbol of celebration, of celebrating that person's life on earth. So, people would be merry and jolly and walk through the streets singing, sometimes even with bands. Often, this turned into a type of parade. Still, the custom existed that, if you have a jack-o-latnern on your porch, it was not just a memorabilia thing, it was a "message" too; a message to others that your loved one might need prayer or that you might need help appeasing God with gifts for that person's soul. So, people began leaving gifts, nickels, dimes, quarters, etc. next to the pumpkins.

As time progressed, people, usually youths, began stealing these monies (which kind of became an expectation after a while) and run to the stores to buy treats and candies. Now, it's not too big of a step from this "thieving" to marauding and causing trouble--eventually, that's exactly what began to happen! Today, that's what much of Halloween has come to stand for and symbolize: pranks, danger, stealing, causing trouble, marauding, etc. And if there is anything to be against as a Christian, when it comes to Halloween, these types of things are it!

In a world where holidays have become increasingly domesticated (e.g. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.), it seems as though Halloween is the one night, the one holiday, where youths can go out, act crazy and try to subvert the holiday norm(s)! This too, should give us pause! Not only should it give us pause for negative reasons but maybe positive ones too: Maybe we should stop watering down and domesticating all of our meaningful holidays!

So, in the end, there is no good reason for Christians to call each other names or to accuse persons of satanic or whatever. Just as well, there is no reason that Christian children should not be able to go out for candy, dress up and have fun. There is nothing evil about this. I would also say that our kids do not have to be "evangelistic" and dress up as Bible characters, etc. (though there is certainly nothing wrong with them being Bible characters). One last thought: Perhaps this holiday which is so often associated with darkness and evil, brings out the darkness and evil that reside in the hearts of many who call themselves believers. Yes, the name calling, the slandering, the hatred, etc. is all evil and it is all illogical. In my view, Halloween can be a profitable holiday, if for nothing else, to subvert those types of attitudes, a subversion done with merriment and tasty candy!

Bloggers At SBL: Shall We Set A Date?

A number of biblica / biblio bloggers have been wondering if there is going to be any type of lunch, dinner or get-together this year at SBL. Since Dr. J will be in absentia, he has abstained from making plans for the rest of us. And since nobody else has taken it upon themselves to make plans (as far as I know), I thought I would pose the question(s) here and get the ball rolling. So, shall we set a date to meet? I think we should.

Perhaps, sometime Saturday afternoon or evening would work. Of course, there's probably always going to be persons who cannot make or who cannot stay very long but something's better than nothing, right? So, if something has already been set, please let me know about it and disregard this post's content. If not, perhaps we can answer these questions and have a few people do some research:

1. When, if any at all, is there a nice break between or after sessions on Saturday that would give us ample time to meet?

2. Who would be willing to pick a restaurant in downtown Boston?

3. If you are interested in coming, would you comment here so that we can give the restaurant a head's up?

This is just a start, I know, but it's getting the ball rolling. If nothing else, maybe we could meet in the evening at someone's room and chat for a bit. Any thoughts, comments, etc.?


Biblica / Biblio / Bible Bloggers List

Over at NT WRONG, a list of over 100 active bloggers has been posted. But not only are names and sites listed, they are categorized and ranked as to their content and conversatism or liberality. It's a fascinating list and is certainly well done. The list will be maintained at the following address: Active Bible Bloggers.


"Lessening" A Sermon By T. Michael W. Halcomb

Here's a sermon I preached recently titled "Lessening". The main scripture referenced is Mk. 14.1-11. Give it a listen and be blessed.


Studies In Mark Webpage

For those of you who frequent Pisteuomen, you are well aware that I have had an ongoing study of Mark's Gospel since the commencement of this blog. For those of you who are newer to Pisteuomen or are visiting for the first time, well, now you know! At the summons of others, I have decided to take the fruits of my labors and place them on a page all of their own. So, if you look at the top of the site, just below the header, you will see the words "Studies In Mark". Click that and it will take you to the aforementioned page. From this point on, I will add each new study to the page so that the ongoing list will always be updated and maintained. Enjoy!

*Note: I have also updated the "Misc." page quite a bit. I have placed things in categories and tidied the page up a bit. If you notice sermon or audio links that say something about "Mozart" be warned that this is not an error of my doing and that I am currently working to fix those links.


Visiting Eerdmans & Baker Publishing Co.

Grand Rapids, MI, has been called the "Christian Publishing House of the World". It's probably true as Eerdmans, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel & other publishing houses have offices and warehouses there. Today I took a little trip north to check things out for myself. I was a bit let down when both Zondervan and Kregel informed me that they no longer had baragain / used book stores or locations. So, a friend and I ventured on to Eerdmans and then to Baker. I must say, I was also let down by Baker. There problem is that they have tons of books but they're all quite expensive for being used or damaged (or old). But alas, to save the day was Eerdmans!!! Their bookstore was great! I could have spent much more time and money in there than I did. But here's what I got for $25:

* Andrew D. Clarke: Serve the Community of the Church ($10.00)
* Francis Watson: Paul, Judaism and the Gentiles, Rev. Ed. ($9.60)
* Angelo Cardinal Scola: The Nuptial Mystery ($2.90)
* Gerd Ludemann: The Unholy in Holy Scripture ($1.00)


76 Studies in Mark's Gospel

Below are seventy-six studies from my "Studies in Mark" series. I hope you've enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them. (Feel free to engage past posts any time and I will readily respond.) Question: Do you think I should add a "Studies in Mark" page / tab to Pisteuomen that will always include an updated list?

*A Markan Precursor - Did Jesus own a home?

#1 - Did the Disciples Know Jesus Before He "Called" Them?

#16 - The Feeding and Teaching of the 5,000...Zealots

#17 - Jesus the Prophet?

#18 - Why the Zealots Wanted Jesus to be Their Leader

#19 - Jesus Walked On Water...And Almost Went Too Far

#20 -There Is No Messianic Secret

#21 - Jesus the Priest

#22 - How the Gallio Inscription Helps Us Date Mark's Gospel

#23 - Did Jesus Use Protection?

#24 - What Comes Out of You Is What Defiles You

#25 - The Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek & Latin Contour of Mark's Gospel

#26 - The Mes-Sigh-ah

#27 - Miracles or Mere Distractions?

#28 - Why and How God Hardens Hearts

#29 - The Quest for the Questioning Jesus

#30 - Did the Disciples Believe in Ghosts?

#31 - Faith Comes By Reading

#32 - Rebuking the Idea of Resurrection

#33 - Jesus Got It All Wrong

#34 - Abiathar Again

#35 - Down “Abi” Road Again

#36 - Did John Eat Pancakes or Torillias?

#37 - Chronology in Mk.

#38 - Mark Translations

#39 - Markan Use of “rb”

#40 - Timelines After the Transfiguration

#41 - Gay Love in Mark’s Gospel?

#42 - Mark & Maximalist Historians

#43 - Tyndale on Mark’s Gospel

#44 - Jesus Didn’t Predict His Death

#45 - The Emotional Jesus

#46 - A Colorful Greek Reading of Mk. 1.1-8

#47 - Why Did the Spirit Exorcise Jesus?

#48 - The Geography of Mark’s Gospel

#49 - Performing Mk. 1.21-8 in Greek

#50 - The Kleptomanic Christ

#51 - You Are Not Far From the Kingdom of God

#52 - Show Me the Money

#53 - Did Jesus Redefine Kinship

#54 - Speaking in the Spirit

#55 - Was Jesus Both Lord and Son of David?

#56 - Blessed Are The Barren

#57 - Mark’s Text, Audiences & Identity

#58 - Was Jesus’ Eschatalogical Clock Out-Of-Sync?

#59 - A 5-Man Conversation Pregnant With Meaning

#60 - Rethinking Jesus’ Suffering

#61 - Was Jesus an Animal Lover?

#62 - A Couple Of "Markan" Book Reviews: Mark's Story, Mark & Method

#63 - Is God's Word Frozen?

#64 - Rethinking "You Will Always Have The Poor Among You"

#65 - The End Of Envy--Jesus' Death:

#66 - Mark's Answer To The Ransom Question

#67 - Rethinking The Return Of Jesus

#68 - A Greek Analysis Of Mk. 1

#69 - A Concise Outline Of Mark's Gospel / Script

#70 - Through A Carpenter's Eyes

#71 - "Let The Reader Understand"

#72 - Das Evangelium nach Markus

#73 - Rethinking The Parable Of THe Mustard Seed

#74 - Rethinking The Gerasene Demoniac Story

#75 - Fishing For Answers In Galilee


Fishing For Answers In Galilee: Studies in Mark, Pt. 75

According to various New Testament Gospels, there are a number of things that we can surmise about Peter and Andrew that help us understand them in conjunction with their livelihoods. There are also a few things that, when their social contexts are taken into consideration, can shed light on their travels and movements as fishermen.

Let's begin by glancing at a few NT passages. (1) Mt. 4.18 tells us that Andrew and Peter were brothers. (2) Jn. 1.44 says that these two brothers were from the town of Bethsaida, which, in Hebrew means "House of (the) fisherman". (3) Mk. 1.29 seems to suggest that both Peter and Andrew moved to Capernaum. (4) Mk. 1.16 also purports that they were in a fishing business together.

Now, let's look at some other biblical and extra-biblical comments that may shed more light on Peter and Andrew's lives. (1) In both Antiquities 17.188–189, 18.106-108 and War 1.664, the ancient historian Josephus tells us that on the east side of Lake Galilee, Herod Philip II (or, Philip the Tetrach) ruled and on the west side of the lake, Herod Antipas ruled. (2) Mk. 2.13-7 tells us that in Capernaum, a border town between the regions of Philip and Antipas, tax collectors enforced their services. (3) In antiquity, taxes on boats, docks, fish, etc. were the norm. See: Pliny, Natural History 12.32, 12.63-65 and 31.95. This was also true of the Galilean lake regions. (4) We also know that Bethsaida was/is Northeast of Capernaum (see the map).

Putting all of this together, we can now understand why, as Mk. 1 tells us, both Peter and Andrew, fishermen and brethren, relocated from Bethsaida to Capernaum. Firstly, it is clear that to some degree, the brothers did relocate (Peter even brought his mother-in-law along). Secondly, every time they passed through Bethsaida and Capernaum, hitting up two different toll booths, they would be double-taxed.

Now, as I have argued before, not only did the disciples know Jesus before they "followed" Him (for an in-depth reflection on this, CLICK HERE) but they also didn't leave their families and business forever to follow Jesus (CLICK HERE and HERE for more on that). Just as well, I have written about Jesus and these fishers upsetting the Galilean marine economy (sorry, no link to that). In the present post, I want to briefly add more to this and suggest two things: 1) "Double-taxing" led to the brothers relocating, and 2) Screwing with the marine economy was not only bad news for Jesus but also a warning to those who followed this self-proclaimed "fisher of humans".

Strike one against the empire was the fact that they moved! No more double-taxes from these guys for the Roman government. Strike two against these guys was that they followed Jesus. A part-time break means even less taxes raised for Rome. Strike three comes for them when they follow Jesus who is supposedly setting up a new type of fishing business (e.g. fishing for humans). Furthermore, a threat is felt when this new businessman starts buddying up with Levi, a puppet of the Roman government. Perhaps they're scared that he'll begin working with Jesus or attempt to cheat them! The ball game finally ends with Jesus and those following Him having bounties on their heads. So, as we can see, wrapped up in the Gospel accounts (and lurking below the muddied waters of simplistic modern evangelical hermeneutics) there is much more going on than meets the eye! Jesus and His followers are being terribly subversive. Even more than that, some of Rome's followers are becoming subversive. Of course, the only way to end all of this is to kill. So, the economic and political leaders team up with the religious ones and begin plotting to do just that (Mk. 3.6)!

*Update: I have found an incredible essay by K.C. Hanson on the Galilean fishing economy, CLICK HERE to read it.


Rethinking The Gerasene Demoniac Story: Studies in Mark, Pt. 74

In Mk. 5.1-20 readers encounter the well-known story that features the "Gerasene Demoniac". Of course, this is Jesus' first encounter with strictly Gentile territory in Mark's narrative and this episode is sandwiched between Jesus' calming of the storm on the sea and the healing of a bleeding woman and Jarius's daughter. Typically, commentators focus here on the fact that, indeed, this is Jesus' first trek into Gentile territory. Some take that notion even further and suggest that the "legion" language is symbolic of Jesus going into Gentile areas and even overcoming the Roman Army / Legion.

I want to submit another idea. I want to suggest to you that in this story Jesus messed up. Yes, I believe He was the sinless, pure, Lamb of God but that doesn't mean that I think as a carpenter He never drove a nail in the wrong way or hit his thumb or as a child never tripped while running, etc. Surely, as a human, Jesus messed up sometimes, no, not He didn't sin but instead, He just didn't employ the best tactics or stategies; He had to learn just like all of us!!! This, in my opinion, is one of those cases. So often we focus on the shortcomings of the disciples in Mark's work but maybe that is all predisposed by Jesus' falling short of the mark.

Where I'm going with this is: Jesus' hope was to go into Gentile territory and reach the people there with His message. However, when He got there, something threw that all off. Jesus sent the demons into the local pigs and they rushed off a cliff and some drowned (I have more to say about the pigs, perhaps that'll come in the near future). A bit later, the pig herders find out about this and are infuriated (wouldn't you be?)! Their whole livestock is gone now; their whole well-being is down the tubes. How then, could Jesus be an effective minister/preacher at all? He couldn't!

Notice in the end of the story that two things happen: 1) The people ask Jesus to leave town, and 2) The demoniac asks to leave with Jesus but Jesus tells Him to stay and share the Good News. Here's my point: Taking these two things together, we see that while Jesus failed in such a way that He could no longer be an effective evangelist at that point, He realized that the man He healed, still could be. So, He tells the man to stay and share the Good News about Jesus, in effect, to try to change the people's opinions of Him. Later in Mark's story, when Jesus returns to that region, He is actually accepted and welcomed. Evidently, the man whom Jesus healed had done his job, a job that at that point in time, Jesus couldn't have succeeded at. Perhaps this is one storm that Jesus couldn't calm right away!!!


Should We Evangelize?

Currently, I am part of a small group that is exploring the topic / issue of evangelism. The curriculum we are using, which I disagree with at many points, attempts to redefine evangelism (what it is and how we do it) and even rescue it from some of the modern day crazy preachers. Actually, the driving theory behind the studies has to do with the idea of "servant evangelism". The concept is not to be a Ray Comfort, soap-box, type of evangelist or even a Benny Hinn type one, but rather a servant one. So, the way to evangelize is to simply share the love of God through acts of kindness to people, in other words, to serve them. The Church where I am currently serving, does a whole lot of this, which I like. It is a much less confrontational and a much less guilt-tripping way of sharing the Good News of God's love; it's quite different than traditional ways of "evangelizing" per se. Still, some might find these types of things frustrating or offensive. What do you think? Should we even eavngelize (keeping in mind that the Greek word "euangellion", our English equivalent "Gospel" simply means, to share "Good News")? Or, is there another way to make God's love known to people that you prefer?


"Salvation" & "Rest" In Hebrews

It's no secret that scholars have long debated the notion of "God's rest" in the biblical text known as Hebrews. Similarly, there has been much ink spilt on discussions concerning the concept of salvation in Hebrews (e.g. is it past, present or future oriented or is it all of those?). When taken together, these two concepts (salvation & rest) seem to make Hebrews all the more confusing. For example, in Hebrews 3, in the warning section (7-19), we encounter both concepts but we encounter them in a most peculiar way.

Instead of quoting those verses here, I will just summarize what seems to be a major point of them: These words are an exhortation to first-century believers not to harden their hearts against God as the Sinai / Kadesh-Barnea communities did. But here's the thing, some scholars such as H. Bateman have argued (unconvincingly in my view!) that the only reason that 1st century believers were offered salvation and rest is merely because their predecessors, the Israelites, failed. Put more simply: If the Israelites had not failed, there would have been no room for others in God's salvation plan or Sabbath feast! Personally, I don't agree with this conclusion but on one hand, it does sound like a point the author of Hebrews might be making.

For me, to suggest that resting with God and partaking of salvation depend on how much space God has, seems absurd! Cannot God create more space? Has God limited the number of those who can partake of His rest & salvation? This sounds terribly JW-ish to me! So, I would like to hear some of your thoughts on this matter, what say ye?


Transgenerational Curses: When Biblical Authors Rewrote Commands

I must admit, for the longest time I was a Bible reader who was wholly uncomfortable with the notion of there being "contradictions" in the Bible. Actually, I am still that way. In fact, I still do not believe there are "contradictions" per se, but I do, however, believe that there is "tension". As I have said on this site before, because of the way I "image" the Bible, that is, as a "conversation", the idea of tension doesn't bother me. It is now clear to me that persons like Josh McDowell have simply overstated their cases for "biblical unity". To act as if there is no tension in the Bible is to act naively!

I want to give one example of what I am talking about and hopefully, I can write some more on this soon. If we admit that the Bible, like a conversation between persons, is fluid and oriented towards discussion, we also can admit things like the fact that the author of Deuteronomy had different views than say, the prophet Jeremiah or even Ezekiel. Take for instance, Exodus 20.5 (part of the 10 Commandments) which says, "...for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, 'but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.'"

In that passage, it is clear that transgenerational sin seems like a given, a certain reality! However, it appears that when we read the words of Jeremiah, some tension arises. Jeremiah 31.30 says: "They shall no longer say, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge.' But every one shall die for his own sin; each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge." Similarly, Ezekiel says the same thing and elaborates in chapter 18, "As surely as I live declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel...The one who sins is the one who will die."

Clearly, there is tension between the passage in Dt. and those found in Jer. and Ezek. In fact, in the prophetic texts, the authors even go as far as having God snub what He supposedly said years before. Without a doubt, there is some kind of change, modification and innovation going on here! Why it was changed and why there was tension between the texts is something I want to deal with soon. But in the meantime, I raise a couple of questions for you: 1) How do you deal with this tension and how would you help others deal with it, especially new Christians, and 2) What does this tension suggest about the relationship between canon & exegesis as well as theories of inspiration & authority?


Check Out These Books!!!

I swung by the local library's bookstore today and picked up the following 4 books for the low, low price of $2.50:

* C. Zorach, English Grammar for Students of German
* S. Hauerwas, Suffering Presence
* P. Giglioli, Language and Social Context
* H. J. Muller, Freedom in the Ancient World (no image available)

$2.50!!! I spent some time going through each of these texts and saw great stuff in all of them. I'm looking forward to doing some extra reading while I'm waiting on my computer parts (I don't care for having to use the internet at the library!).


If I Go Missing...

In light of the last post, I just wanted you to know that if I go missing and stop posting all of a sudden, in all reality, it's probably not because I've been murdered but because the power pack for my laptop has stopped working and my computer won't be functional again until I get a new one. From past experience, usually, it takes about 3-4 days up to two weeks to get the pack. Anyway...if it seems like I disappeared, that's why. But hopefully, the problem will be resolved sooner than that!!

Death Threats At Pisteuomen

Some time ago (back on July 31st to be exact) someone landed on my site by searching for "Eric Sowell". That was immediately followed by another search which led to Pisteuomen as well, googled this time were the words: "worst ways to die in the wild". I warned Mr. Sowell that someone might be gunnin' for him and that it might be in his best interest to watch his back. Dying in the wild would totally suck!!! Well, perhaps I should speak for myself now. Today I had a person google "theology of Christian funerals" which landed them at my site and right after that, another google result that led to Pisteuomen was: "Michael Halcomb murdered". I don't know what this is all about but I'm beginning not to like it!!! Who's next?


Rethinking The Parable Of The Mustard Seed: Studies in Mark, Pt. 73

So, I ventured back into Mark’s Gospel a couple of days ago—something that, as of late, I've not been able to do as often as I'd like to. The story I began reading was what is commonly referred to as “The Parable of the Mustard Seed” (Mk. 4.30-34). After I read this story, I remembered one that came just a few verses before it because it shared a lot of the same imagery: “The Parable of the Seed & Soils” (or, as it is also referred to “The Parable of the Sower”…even though it’s not about the sower!!!). This story and Jesus' explanation of it can be found at Mk. 4.1-20.

Anyway, a few things had struck me when reading the mustard seed narrative: 1) The mustard seed story is only a few verses after the soils & seeds story, so much so that, Mark leads readers to believe that Jesus tells both stories in one sitting—on the boat, 2) Both stories use the images of birds, seeds and soils, 3) Both stories are parables, 4) Both stories have something to say about the Kingdom of God, humanity and satan.

And it is this fourth point that I had never really noticed before. The parable of the mustard seed has always been interpreted by commentators and preachers as a lesson about “big things coming in small packages” or “small things making great differences in the world” or “God being at work even when we can’t see Him working”. I did a YouTube search for “parable of the mustard seed” and found a number of videos making these points. But hold on, I think there’s a problem here.

The problem is that, if Jesus has any such meaning in mind, then Mark must have missed it. Or, if Jesus is supposed to be talking about any of these things, then, when He tells the two parables nearly back-to-back in Mk. 4, He was either confused Himself or He would have confused His hearers! Why?

Well, in Mk. 4.3-4, when Jesus talks about soil, seed and birds, He says in 4.14-16, that each of these things represent the following: The seed is the word, the soils represent the hearts of people and the bird represents satan. Simply put: Seed = word, soil = hearts and bird = satan. Now, here’s the thing: as I pointed out above, Jesus uses these same images just a few breaths later in the mustard seed parable. BUT…for some reason, scholars and preachers and others make those images about something else!!! Why? My theory is because people want the parable to have a positive moral for the conclusion. But alas, the parable isn’t about “much coming from little” or “big things in small packages”.

Instead, when we realize that the images represent the same thing as they did in the soils & seeds parable, we get a different interpretation. In the mustard seed story, Jesus says that the seeds (the word or the Good News) are planted in the soils (hearts of people) and that the seeds grow (the Good News expands) so much so that the birds (satan and his mignons, evil people) perch in their shade. The birds (satan & co.) are not to be taken as people getting rest & relaxation or blessings or whatever. It is not about any of that. It is not about the Gospel bringing blessings to people and especially not about big blessings out of seemingly insignificant things or people. But, what the mustard seed parable is about is God’s Kingdom outgrowing satan’s kingdom. It is about godly people overshadowing evil people. It is about the Kingdom of God towering over the kingdom of evil. Mustard plants don't grow tall, they grow horizontally; they cover hillsides like weeds or plants. If a bird was sitting beneath the branches it would be like a snake hiding in grass--you'd not be able to see it. Thus, this is an image of God's Kingdom blossoming so much and being so fruitful that satan's isn't even noticeable in the world!

Let’s uproot the traditional, happy-ending, moralistic reading of this parable and get to the real heart of what it’s about: God’s kingdom triumphing satan’s!!! And to that end, I even take back my own previous oversight!


Gettin' Old - Birthday #28

I don't feel older than I did yesterday, even though I turn 28 today. But the wife let me sleep in and I took advantage of it weighing in with 11 hours of shut-eye. Perhaps that's a sure sign that, indeed, I am gettin' old.


Our Adoption Is "Up And Rolling" Again

Today has been an incredibly busy day so far (it's 3:45 pm) and there's still a lot to do (e.g. Small Groups tonight, band practice, etc.). One of the things we did today was have our first of two meetings with the social worker who is updating our "home study". We had completed this in KY but since we moved to MI, much had to be updated. Thankfully, we've jumped this hurdle and can begin to move on. If all goes as planned, we should have our dossier to Ethiopia by mid-February. From there, it's only more of a waiting game as we wait for our child referral and then our travel to Ethiopia. I must say, however, that getting the ball rolling again has been tough and tedious and that it's certainly a kind of weight lifted off of our shoulders. We're excited about meeting our future son!!! Oh yeah, another weight has been lifted off of my shoulders as I got my flight for SBL booked and am pretty sure that I found a roomate! Good things are happening!


To All Boston SBL-goers

Due to some last minute circumstances and changes, my wife, who was going to be my roomate in Boston this year at SBL, is no longer able to travel with me. What this means is that I have room for another person or two to share a room with me. The room I have booked is connected directly to the conference center, so, it is ultra-close and very handy. Anyway, if you've yet to book a room or find a roomate and would be interested in the above offer, leave a comment here or email me. My email is: halc (dot) 40dp (at) mailcity (dot) com.


Rethinking Mt. 10.30: "And The Very Hairs Of Your Head Are Numbered"

Recently, I was reading a book from the "Christian Inspiration" category and stumbled upon a comment that reminded me why I quit reading those types of books a long time ago. The book made a statement, one that I've heard many, many Christians make before, it said this: "According to Mt. 10.30, the Lord knows you so intimately He has the very hairs of your head numbered. Not only can God pick you out of a crowd, He's been paying so much attention to you He knows exactly which hairs are still on your head and which ones migrated to your hairbrush this morning!"

Comments like this one frustrate me quite a bit. In my view, it is not only a skewed interpretation of the text, it is missing the point of the passage altogether. The "hairs on your head" comment is not making a point about God's "all-knowingness" or even God's "intimate knowningness". I've always wondered: "What kind of God is it that sits up in the heavens and has nothing better to do than be concerned with how many hairs are on people's bodies?" That's not a God I'm really fascinated with but rather, one that deeply troubles me! Isn't there much more for God to be concerned about than, to use the above author's words "exactly which hairs are still on your head and which ones migrated to your hairbrush this morning"? Interpreting it in the above ways, raises, I think, many troubling theological, ethical and philosophical questions and points. Sadly, every commentary I've consulted on this verse takes a similar view!!! So, I offer here, a new one.

As I understand it, this passage is referring to something much more meaningful than any of the aforementioned interpretations have led persons to believe. Indeed, it is time to rethink Mt. 10.30 and how it is interpreted because for too long, too many renderings have made God out to be nothing but a joke. For sure, conclusions like those above, which seem like they make God incredibly powerful do exactly the opposite: they render Him weak and genuinely unconcerned with humanity and all it is wrestling with.

So, in its ancient context, the point I percieve the verse to be making is laid out as follows. First of all, we can't read this statement literally or even over-literally as is usally done! Secondly, we must consider that this is a similie or even parabolic language if you will. Thirdly, we must acknowledge the rest of the verse. Here is the verse in its entirety: “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Notice that Jesus concludes the verse by talking about sparrows! This is very important for making sense of the preceding clause. Fourthly, in the ancient world, sparrows were the least expensive birds in antiquity (research it!).

Putting all of this together, here's what we have: In the first part of the verse, Jesus is making a point not about God's "all knowingness" but rather, God's "watchfulness" over the world! There is a sort of metaphoric undertone to His statement. In part two of the verse, Jesus is saying that it is not only the most important people that God cares about, but that it's the “least of these”, those who appear to be least (like the sparrow), that do not escape God’s notice!!! Indeed, He longs to meet their needs, to feed the hungry and oppressed (despite the fact that sometimes humans get in the way). This is a totally opposite understanding than the bored God mentioned before. And you get the better truth about God from this passage when you read it this way: God watches over and cares about the least!

So, next time you hear the song “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” remember that the point is, the “least” are just as important as anyone else in God’s eyes, in fact, they don’t go unnoticed to Him. Now, that's what I call true Christian Inspiration!!!

I Believe In Jesus' Bodily Resurrection

Call it nonsensical, call it conservative, call it evangelical, call it stupid or whatever...but I believe it! It was not group think, not a group vision, not multiple group dreams or visions, not an ecstatic experience that Paul or the first Christians spoke of when they talked about a resurrected Jesus (I mean, come on, when they talked about dreams and visions and whatnot, they were clear about them! In fact, when they considered such things to have happened, great spiritual events, they were sure to call them that. Even Paul himself is clear as to when he's speaking of visions and non-vision events pertaining to the risen Christ! This is such a lame argument that people try to use.).

Anyway... I agree with J. Moltmann, who, when speaking of the women that also believed in a bodily resurrected Christ after seeing the empty tomb, says: "Jesus’ empty tomb is not a proof of his resurrection, for it could, after all, have been empty for a different reason; but this return of the disciples and their proclamation in Jerusalem of Christ’s resurrection is proof of the empty tomb, for they could not have said a word about his resurrection if people had been able to point them to Jesus’ body, still in the tomb...To perceive the miracle of Christ’s resurrection does not mean taking note of a historical fact about something that happened 2000 years ago and saying, ‘Is that so?’ or ‘OK!’ It means being seized by the power of the resurrection and entering into a life with Christ. So it is not correct to call Christ’s resurrection just ‘a historical fact’, if that means viewing history as something past and gone. It is a historical event that has a confronting impact on the present, opening up the eschatological history of eternal life in the midst of this world of death and inviting every human being to this divine future."

-Jürgen Moltmann, "The Blessing of Hope: The Theology of Hope and the Full Gospel of Life" in the Journal of Pentecostal Theology 13.2 (2005), 152.


Has Blogging Created A First-Draft Culture?

These guys think so (*Note, there is some offensive language here), in fact, they think it's the root of all evil:



Pisteuomen Is Getting Revamped

So, if you've reached my blog and can read this post at all, you're fortunate. Among a couple of other odd things I encountered this morning (1. When I stopped to ask a guy for directions, he began his reply with "Okay, don't take me seriously on this..." and 2. The fellow next to me in the Post Office bought $5,400 worth of stamps...insane!!!), when I checked my blog, it was all screwed up. Many of the elements that make up its appearance and keep it functioning had stopped working (as you can tell!). So, I think this post will have to be it for today because I must redesign the site. Oh, one piece of good news: I got another review book in the mail today: Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews. Sounds interesting. Anyway, have a good one. -TMWH

*Note: The site has been updated, hope you like it!


Free Bible (& Other) Resources On Pisteuomen

Here's a list of of free, downloadable resources that I myself have created. While you can find them on the "My Free Bible Resources" and the "Misc" pages too. Enjoy!

My Greek Alphabeta Module

My Hebrew Alefbet Module

My Aramaic Alapbeth Module

My German Alphabet Module (Das Alphabet 1.0)

My Free Software Bundle

The Geography of Mark's Gospel
(.kmz file)

Bible Scholar: Test Your NT Knowledge

My Grammatical Glossary

My Article: "How To Write A Book Review"

My Short (knock-off) Book (8 pgs. w/pictures):
Loving the Biblical Scholar in Your Life: For Dummies

My English to Greek & Hebrew Type Tools

Football Officiating Signals Module 1.0

Youth Ministry / Youth Group Tool

Gospel of Mark Crossword Puzzle

*Note: The clue "synagogue officials" should not be plural but singular, as "synagogue official".


Free "Pisteuomen 'By Ear' Guitar Tuner"

Here's a "free" guitar tuner that I recently created. It is a flash file, has an incredibly user-friendly interface, takes less than a minute to download and best of all, it's free. Another great and unique feature of this tool, unlike other simple 6-string tuners, is that you can tune any string to any note you want!!! Get it by clicking the icon below:

*Note: This has been added to the "Misc" tab/page too.


The Best of German Poetry

How's this for some incredible poetry?

"Ich wollte, meine Leider
Das wären Erbsen klein:
Ich kocht' eine Erbsensuppe,
Die sollte köstlich sein."

-H. Heine


A Youth Ministry Tool...Created By Me

Check out this youth ministry tool I created; I think it's pretty cool (click the icon below to download it). It can be used as both an online website/webpage or it can be put on a disk, usb drive, etc. and given to the teens in your ministry so that they can distribute it to their friends. It's a tech savvy way to spread the word about your YM and get in-touch with teens in your area. If you're a youth minister and you'd like me to personalize one of these for your youth group/ministry, leave a comment or email me. I am willing to do this at a very low price. (If it didn't take time to do these things, I wouldn't charge a red cent.) Still, even though it takes some time, the turnaround would be incredibly fast! If you're interested, get ahold of me. Blessings. (*Note: This has also been added to the "Misc." page/tab.)

Youth Ministry / Youth Group Tool


"Big Sin" Meme

So, once again I've been hit up with a meme...this time from Owen. The idea of the meme is to answer the question: "If I am going to be taken out of the ministry because of one sin, what would it be?" This is actually both a tricky and scary question. It's tricky because in my view, it depends on the kind of ministry / local Church you're serving in. For example, in a former congregation that I've been a part of, the culture was rural, conservative and formal. Elsewhere, the context is more urban, open-minded and casual. It goes without saying that, I could do some things in the latter that I could not do in the former and vice versa. The question is scary because it takes putting yourself out there on the line. Anyway...to my answer:

If I am going to be taken out of the ministry because of one sin, it would actually be something I don't consider a sin: deviation from orthodox / traditional Christian views. A number of times, my vocation has been on the line because I have been a progressive thinker. I question all views and don't like easy answers. There have been quite a few times when, before I preached a sermon, I've told my wife: "I think there's a good chance I may be asked to resign after today's message."

Anyway, while that's not so much a "sin" in my eyes, it is one of the biggest hurdles I have faced as a minister. Once again, I tag: Nobody!


Pisteuomen & Numbers

At this point in time (as of 10.02.08), I have been blogging for about 15-6 months. Now, I know that there are others out there who have far surpassed me when it comes to visits/hits or whatever, but I think I'm doing pretty good. Honestly, the hits/visits thing isn't as important to me as a couple of other stats. But here's a quick numerical rundown of Pisteuomen in its first 15 months of existence:

* About to reach 35,000 hits
* About to reach 700th post
* Over 1,000 comments
* Over 1,000 downloads of the resources / programs I've created (estatic about this) - just surpassed 1,000 yesterday
* Nearly 50 downloads of widgets I've created
* Nearly 6,500 ExegeTV views / 517 (recorded) Channel Views
* Thousands of theologically / biblically related searches have led people here

For me, Pisteuomen is not all about or simply about numbers. What's important to me (and this is the reason I started and continue to maintain the site) is that thousands upon thousands of people are finding it informative, helpful and useful. In the last few weeks, I've had a number of people contact me for help or insight...I love when this happens. In more ways than one, Pisteuomen is carrying out The Great Commission as it takes the Gospel all over the earth. To all of my faithful readers, thank you, once again, for helping make this site a success! May Pisteuomen do even more in the days, weeks, months and years to come!!!


Apocalyptic Advertising...It's Bad For Business

Here's an advertisement I saw recently as I was driving. Interestingly enough, when I pulled into the parking lot, there wasn't a customer in sight! Nothing like an "End-Time Root Beer" eh?