Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Spiritual Gifts- Healing

We come to the gifts of healing in our study of the charisms of the Spirit. Once again, we remind ourselves that the context of these verses is the church gathered. Beginning in 11.2 the Apostle has been talking about propriety in worship as the church gathers. it is in this context, that he has mentioned the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Paul sees these as equipment that the individual believers have distributed upon them by the Spirit so that they may minister one to another. In the same way that the other gifts are not the sole property of the one on whom they have been distributed, neither is the healing gift the express possession of one individual.

Interestingly enough, when we look at the verbiage we recognize the plural in both the word "gifts" and "healings". What is the significance of this? Some have  recognized that the gifts of healings refer to various healings of various diseases. The thought being that there is a variety of proficiencies in healing various diseases. But T. Holdcroft implores us to look deeper than that saying"... the Bible by no means restricts its presentation of God's provision for human healing to a limited scattering of gifted healers..." Truly, the gifts of healing may "shine forth" through many as the church gathers. God has given us direction in James 5.14,15 for the sick to call the elders of the church for prayer and anointing with oil. But any can used in healing, if they are open to the Holy Spirit's manifesting himself in such a way through them.

That these gifts are often attached to evangelists is of no surprise. Mark 16.17,18 reminds us that these signs shall accompany the proclamation of the Word. For we often see the celebration of healing and forgiveness in the same breath (Ps 103). We see these gifts in the lives of those apostles in the book of Acts. But these gifts of healing and other miraculous signs are not limited to those who are apostles as some have said. Philip, for instance (Acts 8.6) did many miracles in Samaria and Barnabus (Acts 14.3) had the word of grace confirmed by signs and wonders. Here in 1 Corinthians Paul is reminding them of the significance of the diversity of the Spirit's manifestations among them when they gather. We ought to be pricked to measure our gatherings against those of the Corinthian church, and to seek the gifts of healings and make room for them among us, realizing that we are given these gifts to compliment and equip the body of believers.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A wrong view of Marriage

I am responding to an article written by James Peron.
One of the more prevalent arguments waged against marriage equality is historically equivalent to creationism. Creationists ignore science and argue, based entirely on their reading of Bible mythology, that the world is 7,000 years old and that species don't evolve. For them, reality has to fit their theology, not the other way around.
Here, of course, James is demonstrating his ignorance of creationism. Not all of those who believe in that the earth has God as it's author believe that the earth is 7000 years old (actually none of them believe that! since Moses was likely writing in the 12th century BC!) and certainly many who actually look at the sciences of cosmology seen likely evidence in things like the cosmological constant and various other scientific evidences that point to the possibility of a creator. For the Christian truth (be it scientific or theological) is absolute and will always be consistent within itself.
One of our projects at the Moorfield Storey Institutehas been the fight for marriage equality. To do that, I've had to do something that opponents of equality fail to do: research. I've read a dozen or so decent histories of marriage, countless papers on the situation regarding the laws, and contemporary looks at what really does happen when marriage equality is realized.
OMG he can read! Seriously, is he honestly saying that people of faith are ignorant of the history of marriage?
In that study I realized that marriage and the origins of life are similar. There are two basic views. One assumes that marriage was created pretty much as it supposedly existed in 1950s America. There was a husband, who was a wage-earner, with a stay-at-home wife and 2.1 children. For good measure, there was a dog, a cat, and grandparents who provided babysitting when Mom and Dad had to attend a business dinner.
Of course, actual marriage in the 1950s wasn't even like that, but then marriage has never been like that. Faith-based history is different. Focus on the Family claims that "God created marriage as a loyal partnership between one man and one woman." The Protestant Reformed Churches of America, a Calvinist outfit, claims that "God created the family in paradise as the first institution He made." They are also quick to tell you that "woman is not man's equal (except in terms of their salvation)."
Here James pseudojournalism is clearly mistaken. Jesus  and Paul was an advocate of equality between the sexes. many of his followers were women, they advocated the empowerment of women into spiritual leadership, and assured their followers that "in Christ there is neither male nor female". Evangelicals today clearly recognize that there is equality, but we also recognize a distinction between the sexes. This is something that the liberal left has difficulty recognizing (except between the sheets).
The creationist view of marriage is that a divine being magically made marriage appear one day by creating a man and a woman and having them make a family (which always raises the question as to the sexual partners of the children of that first couple, especially as the Biblical account has Eve giving birth only to sons).
And the view of Peron and his ilk is that men and women magically appeared from some prebiotic soup mixture (that also magically appeared) and through millions of years of accidental mutations a man and a woman popped out of the soup and mysteriously knew what their penis and vagina were for! And thus the species was able to propogate!(though the thousands of ooppsies and tragically misformed left not a single fossil as evidence of their existence)
However, not even the Old Testament verifies what the creationists argue. It showed marriages to be anything but the Focus on the Family version of a loving couple and their loving children. The men of the Old Testament, including patriarchs of the Bible, often had multiple wives. Abraham supposedly had relationships with Sarah and Hagar. If the Book of 1st Kings is to be believed, Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines -- which really does sound like male bravado more than anything else.
OT is describing the fall from God's ideal as it records these things. In it's recording of these things it is not endorsing the actions. Jesus came to restore the ideal of marriage as a man and a wife for life in Matthew 5.32; 19.9 etc. If one can read the texts for themselves they can  see that Jesus is restoring a standard that is higher that the one being lived out. Surely even James Peron can read that... if he dares!
When you look at the real-world history of marriage, you don't see any evidence for this creationist view. What you see is that marriage evolved and has kept evolving. At different times, in different places, marriage filled different functions. The functions marriage filled determined the nature of the marriage at the time. Form follows function.
When land was the major means of production, marriage was intimately tied to the acquisition of land. Under Old Testament law, a man was obligated to marry his brother's widow, as it helped keep land in the family. Where land was a prime consideration, marriages were often arranged, and marrying close kin was common.
Clearly - James must have misread this. The purpose of the levirite law was to propogate the lineage of the deceased brother. In fact, Israel was not a land owning society. The Israelites were nomadic peoples at the time of that law being written. Sorry James!
In Imperial Rome, families that ruled the city were very concerned with the politics of marriage. Alliances were formed or dissolved through marriages and divorces. Meanwhile, the husband wasn't expected to necessarily love his wife, or desire her. No one was horrified if he stepped out on her with a mistress, or even a male lover, provided that rules meant to preserve the social hierarchy were followed -- at least in public.
While this is true, there were many that were horrified (even in Rome) at the dissolution of the family and wrote to warn that the fall of the family unit and marriage in particular would end in the collapse of the Roman empire.
Marriage, at other times, was primarily about household production. The natives of North America had male functions and female functions. Various tribes allowed same-sex relationships, provided that one of the partners took on the role assigned to females. In addition, they often ascribed mystical powers to this individual as a "two-spirit" being, encompassing the spirits of both genders.
The further one gets away from the divine understanding of marriage as a God inspired institution the more utilitarian and empty it becomes. Respect for others and honoring within the family unit and marriage itself is the cornerstone of the family.
For most of human history, marriage was not about love at all. The idea of marriage being about loving couples is very much a modern idea. Of course, once love and mutual nurturing became a prime function of marriage, it opened the door to same-sex marriages, as well.
Rome's ruling families saw marriage as politics, not love. Marriage was to insure that a political elite held power. Romance was found outside marriage. Sexual satisfaction could be found there, as well, with partners of either sex, with little disapproval. A homosexual Roman gentleman could still have his romantic interest, because that was not the function of marriage.
What was on display was rampant hedonism not a display of marital commitment as it should be. Even those who acted out homosexually were smart enough to know that 2 people of the same sex cannot create children. Therefore, the marriage was entered into to create a family.
The moment someone tells me "marriage has always been" something or another, I know they are ignorant of the actual history of marriage. It has never "always" been anything. It has taken different forms, with different social rules attached. Those forms and rules changed as the function of marriage changed.
Not true- Marriage has always been about the propogation of a legitimate family. Hence the creation of terms like "bastard child" and "illegitimate child".
In our world, the function of marriage is not about land, politics, or even procreation. It is about love and mutual support between the spouses. Given the modern function of marriage, it is hardly surprising that gay couples want to be included. They have the same needs and wants as other couples, and marriage provides them the same benefits and serve the same functions as it does for straight couples.
Marriage is not a stagnant institution. It is a vital, evolutionary institution constantly changing forms as the functions it fills adapt to new circumstances.
In fact, the idea that loving homosexuals should marry is undone my Mr. Peron's argument. Marriage isn't about love but about legitimizing family. Since homosexuals are incapable of having children themselves there isn't any need for them to be married. Well, except the real one behind the homosexual agenda... that is the social legitimizing of homosexual relationships. The reason the gay agenda has so soundly embraced this marriage idea is that they want to be legitimized in society. They want to be seen as the biological equivalent of the heterosexual couple- but alas, they cannot be what they are not. I do not endorse violence or hatred of homosexuals, nor do I endorse prejudice or somehow keeping homosexuals from their civil rights. But marriage is not a civil right of the homosexual as it is biologically driven- hardwired into the species.
My suggestion is that James Peron... do a little more research!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Gifts of the Spirit 3

Once again we revisit the "manifestations" of the Spirit- this time regarding the gift of faith. The term used by the Apostle Paul for manifestation is phanerosis means to "bring to light" or "shine forth". We are confronted by Paul's understanding of the "manifestation gifts". These spring forth and reveal the character and nature of God. These are Spirit-imparted and reveal themselves in the corporate gathering of believers (usually). When we speak of the NT 's use of the term faith we see that it is a fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5 where it should likely be translated faithfulness. We know also that Paul understands saving faith to be a gift from God (Eph 2.8-10). But what he has in mind here is a sort of turbo charged trust in God. There are those times when we are out of our depth in God and need to walk through deeper waters than our experience in Jesus has prepared us for. God gifts us with a faith beyond ourselves. Recall the stories of men and women of faith who stood in the face of adversity and believed. You can imagine the need for this in a congregation of saints who will soon come under persecution for their allegiance to Christ. This may manifest itself in the purchase of property, in the trusting for healing or raising the dead.

Some confuse this with extraordinary faith of individuals who habitually trust God for great things.But this is inspirational. In brings in the God-perspective on a specific incident. The gift of faith lifts one from the natural realm and shows a divine perspective. Of course, nothing is impossible with God. Yet, it seemed that Jesus' own miraculous ministry was weakened by the lack of faith in his home town (Mark 6.5-6). Lest the body of Christ be limited in performing the will of God, the Almighty has provided this great and glorious gift. It springs forth and reveals the path of faith from within the believers. We this faith manifest itself in the peace that allowed Paul and Silas to sing hymns at midnight after being beaten and imprisoned.

Certainly, God wants us to be open and seeking this gift. May he fill our hearts with supernaturally derived faith as well as the growing trust in the faithfulness of our Savior.