Tag Archives: Bible

While I Was In The Courtyard With The Witches of ‘Macbeth’

From Act I, Scene III:

First Witch: All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!

Second Witch: All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor!

Third Witch: All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter!

Yesterday, students were practicing that scene in the outdoor courtyard of the humanities building. I was grading papers and taking in the October air.

The scene’s prophecies tantalize Macbeth with the promise of future power. Of course, most of us know how the rest of the play unfolds. Macbeth accepts the prophecies as true, and then he can hardly avoid the temptation to make them quickly become reality. Macbeth ultimately dooms himself with his belief in the prophecies and with his actions to bring about the witches’ forecasts.

While I graded a paper, the undergrads acted out the scene and read the lines.

And I recalled my own reaction to a prophecy I heard when I was 15 years old.

Not from three witches, but from one frog-faced man, an itinerant prophet who received from God new prophecies in King James English. He told me in front of the entire church service, in the YWCA meeting room, I would some day be a leader of young people, like the Old Testament Joshua.

The grown-ups in this room took the frog-faced prophet seriously, even if we didn’t tend to read the King James Version of the Bible. The prophet was given a microphone, and he roved around the front of the meeting room, casually preaching, really just commenting on spiritual living, while he looked at the congregants. He would feel drawn to certain faces, and he would ask them to stand up, and he would tell them what God was saying to them, as God spoke to him in King James English. Then he would continue the casual preaching until he felt drawn to another face.

People in my church believed in the supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit. We were defined by that belief. If we worshiped God in the right way, if we believed enough, God would do miraculous things for us. We often sang a song from the Book of Isaiah: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” We knew human action would lead people astray, but proper faith and fullness of worship would bring God to our sides. God would heal us and bring us wealth and protect us from evil.

After the prophecy, after I had received a prophetic word, I had reassurance. No matter how poorly my life was going, God someday would make me a leader like Joshua. Even if I knew I was misbehaving, well, someday it would be part of the story of how God brought me to my heights.

God had a plan for my life. I had a future. I had a destiny. I saw new opportunities as starting points for rising to my calling as a great leader, but I rarely sought opportunities. I trusted the prophet’s words to be from God.

And so I doomed my future to waiting for God to act.

In the courtyard, I kept grading papers, and the students kept rehearsing, but I knew I had realized something about my life.

So, there’s no point in listening to sermons?


Stay in bed on Sunday mornings, folks. Just read the Bible and whatever you make of it is cool.

For self-identified U.S. Anglican priests not recognized by Canterbury, a fundamental question remains

New developments here in South Carolina don’t bother me because something more fundamental has not be addressed.

It’s a question about the ordination vows taken by those of you who are former Episcopalian priests.

Now that you’re more biblical than the rest of us, you might appreciate this:

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19:8-10

If you’re willing to break your ordination vows, why wouldn’t you break your marriage vows or break your confidentiality following confession?

Where’s the character in breaking your ordination vows?

Your ordination vows said, “…I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of The Episcopal Church.”

Assuming yourselves to be morally and spiritually superior, you don’t acknowledge the immorality of breaking vows.

If your wife left the faith, you would have “biblical” grounds to divorce her, right?

Because you had “biblical” grounds to depart from the Anglican Communion!

And to go into a corner not officially recognized by Canterbury.

Unless, of course, you’re talking about affiliating yourselves with African bishops who endorse jailing gays and lesbians on the absurd pretense that gays and lesbians are more likely to be pedophiles.

They couldn’t just reinforce laws against pedophiles?

Have you read about the conservative Bible-thumping heterosexual pedophiles in the U.S.? Quite a rash of revelations lately.

Should we endorse jailing conservative Bible-thumping heterosexuals as a preemptive move to protect children? Maybe try it in Africa first?

P.S. How can I, as a person lately more skeptical than believing, quote Scripture to you? Because I am quoting to you the presumed basis for your assumed moral and spiritual superiority. You tell me how biblical you are and then you dump your vows. You tell me how marriage is most important as a reflection of Christ and His Church, and then decide certain people are not part of Christ’s Church, and then break your vows to them. God is lucky to have you doing all His heavy lifting!

Calvinism leans on this fallacy

Thanks to Randy Ferebee for sharing Ben Irwin’s series on his departure from Calvinism.

In Part 9 of the series, Irwin says something that deals with part of the backdrop for my post about the John Piper-Charles Spurgeon perspective on predestination and predetermination.

That backdrop deals with how language is used, and whether language can be used, to discuss an inspired text with any sense of clarity.

On a related note, Irwin writes:

“In linguistics, there’s a fallacy known as illegitimate totality transfer. It’s when you take one possible meaning of a word and read it into every occurrence without regard for context. (For example, ‘green’ can be an idiom for money. But that doesn’t mean ‘green’ always means money.)

“We run a similar risk when we read the accounts of people like Abraham and Moses. We see they were chosen by God in some way, so we assume everyone who comes to know God was predestined in exactly the same way. But on what basis?” — from The day the tulip died, part 9, by Ben Irwin

“Illegitimate totality transfer” sounds a lot like a particularly philosophical use of “equivocation” and “equivocal” meanings.

As I noted in my post, John Piper seems to think along the following lines: if God predetermined certain things, like Jesus’s betrayer, then God must have predetermined everything.

He goes on to say some people have driven themselves mad by trying to figure out how God can predetermine (not merely predestine) everything, even the position of a dust speck in a sunbeam, thus nullifying all human choosing (while still holding humans responsible).

Maybe that’s because pondering madness begets madness.

Garrison Keillor’s apt, amusing analogy

I saw Garrison Keillor perform earlier tonight in Myrtle Beach. One of his stories — I can’t remember if it was from his own life or fictitious — was about growing up in a strict religious community. He said members of the community were supposed to just read the letters of Saint Paul and then, somehow, he guessed maybe through force of imagination, figure out what they were supposed to do and how they were supposed to be. Keillor said it was like going to see Swan Lake and expecting to become a ballerina.

As with literary criticism, so with Biblical interpretation

“Further, if the [literary] work is indeed a stable object, about which careful readers can make objective statements, then why hasn’t there been an emerging consensus in criticism? Instead, the history of criticism seems to be one of diversity and change, as successive critics provide innovatively different readings of the same work. Even in the sciences, the idea of an objective point of view has been increasingly questioned. Facts, as Thomas Kuhn has argued, emerge because of a certain system of belief, or paradigm….in the wake of Einstein’s theory of relativity, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, Gödel’s mathematics, and much else, it seems clear that the perceiver plays an active role in the making of any meaning and that literary works in particular have a subjective status.” — Steven Lynn, in a chapter on reader-response criticism, in his book Texts and Contexts 

Lynn’s quotation stands to reason, regardless of the genre in question.

This is not to drop myself, or to attempt to drop anyone else, into the false dilemma that says either we accept everything as relative or we hold to absolute truth. I’m merely agreeing with the premise that “the perceiver plays an active role in the making of any meaning.”

In ways that are more or less accurate to the situation in which a text was written, readers, especially readers of the Bible, apply their interpretations of Scriptural passages to their lives.

To make more sense of this, let’s flip the issue around and look at it from a different angle.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, a major research university has an original letter written by Saint Paul of New Testament fame. They have the very manuscript over which Paul’s hand once moved. All scholars and clergy, internationally, are permitted to view it (as much as travel funds allow). The scholars have the best possible understanding of the ancient cultural and social milieu in which the letter was written. They understand the language. They understand the themes, which they cross-reference with other letters written by Paul. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, all conditions are set for a perfectly accurate interpretation of the God-inspired letter. The social, cultural, literary, historical, and theological contexts are all understood to the point that a broad consensus — on the letter’s meaning and function within its audience — has been established.

What impact does this perfect interpretative situation have on a man in Marion County, South Carolina, who awakens to read his King James Version of the Bible and applies a passage to his life — while removed more than 2,000 years and a language from its presumed source?


“A Conflicts of Beliefs” — a bad document for Orthodox Anglicans and differences with The Episcopal Church

“Dear Lord, if only I had a simple faith in the Bible…”

Robert Heinlein with the counterpoints

Bible-based cult leader sentenced today

How and why community plays a role in interpreting the Bible

If you take the Bible literally…

How Purity Culture Kept Me Silent About My Sexual Abuse as a Child: Dinah’s Story

Colin Foote Burch:

Another Bible-based disaster.

Originally posted on Homeschoolers Anonymous:

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.04.46 AM

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Dinah” is a pseudonym.

Trigger warning: discussion of child sexual abuse.

I’m going to be honest—growing up in the Christian homeschooling world is hard.

People in the community that I grew up in were picture perfect families, with all their perfect children all in a perfect row, making perfect grades, milling their own wheat and making their own bread.  They were highly esteemed Christians who (of course) have a home church and serve their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. These people sound like they’d be lovely to be around, however, that was not the vibe I got at all. There is a heavy feeling that comes with being around those families—judgment:

You don’t mill your own wheat? Shame on you! Don’t you know store bought bread has chemicals? You don’t pastor your own church? Shame on you! Don’t you know…

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