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Madness in the Bible

Here’s a paper I’ll be reading at the Southwest Regional Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Houston March 2-3.

Click the little box with an arrow and you’ll get a large enough image to read the print.




“A worldview that prohibits the coercion of others who do not share that worldview”

Man Reading Bible

If you fear that a claim that a sacred book has the truth over against another person’s sacred book, this is worth reading. From John Piper’s latest, A Peculiar Glory (p. 281-83):

The Bible is not the private charter of a faith community among other faith communities. It is a total claim on the whole world. God, the creator, owner, and governor of the world, has spoken. His words are valid and binding on all people everywhere. That is what it means to be God. And to our astonishment, his way of speaking with unique, infallible authority in the twenty-first century is through a book. One book. Not many. That is the breathtaking declaration of the Christian Scriptures.

For some of you, this claim presents an enormous obstacle. You may belong to another religion with its own sacred scriptures. You may have no religion. Or you may have your hands in many spiritual pots, attempting to find the most inspiring and helpful parts from all of them. In all these cases, the totality of the claim that the Christian Scriptures lay on you may feel out of the question.

You may feel that the only things such a total claim can breed are intolerance, and then hate, and then violence. You may point to religiously motivated terror in our day or to historical violence in the name of Christianity. An answer to that concern is worthy of an entire book. But short of that, I would briefly ask you to consider another angle.

Does reason and history show that totalitarian abuses of ethnic and religious minorities are avoided by the avoidance of religious absolutes? The great horrors of the twentieth century were not perpetrated by lovers of God—six million Jews murdered in Germany, and sixty million people killed or starved under the Soviet regime, and forty million destroyed under the Chinese Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong, and over a million purged in the Communist Killing Fields of Cambodia. These atrocities were pursued by those who considered biblical religion (and all other religions that give allegiance to God over the state) to be a threat. In other words, the solution to the historic problem of religious violence is not irreligion. We have tasted the horrors of those who exalt themselves above the absolutes of religion.

Is it not obvious (or at least, very likely) that where God is rejected as an authority over us, we tend to put ourselves in that authority? And if we are our own supreme authority, there is no way for us to be checked in what we justify. This is what happened with Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. There was no one above them—no God and therefore no law—that they would be accountable to.

Which leads to the seemingly paradoxical conclusion that we need a worldview that contains truth that has higher authority than ourselves and that prohibits the coercion of others who do not share that world-view. Let me say the paradox again: violence against ethnic and religious minorities is best prevented by holding to a faith in the absolute claims of the biblical God, because his truth not only limits our self-exaltation but also forbids coercion as a way of getting compliance with our faith.




King David Was Not the Hero of His Own Story

Centuries after King David, prophets still longed for and promised the coming a a David-like leader. Was it because they saw in David qualities that made him an ideal leader? Or was there something more to David’s reign that the prophets promised a return to?

Lifeway’s Biblical Illustrator magazine asked me to write an article about King David. You can find it here:

(Click the little box with an arrow and you’ll get a large enough image to read the print)




Poetic Parallelism in the Psalms

One of the stand-out features of the Old Testament psalms is what is known as parallelism. This is a literary technique where a second line reinforces or even advances the thought of the first line.

Lifeway’s Biblical Illustrator magazine asked me to write an article about poetic parallelism in the book of Psalms. You can find it here:

(Click the little box with an arrow and you’ll get a large enough image to read the print)




Not-So-Random Collection of Quotes

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I’ll let you determine whether the following collection of quotes have a common theme, but I’m hoping you’ll see it.

 

“Scholars studying the evolution of religious doctrines have learned that important ideas of major religions have been introduced in response to the political requirements of some historical situation — even though Jesus received a Roman punishment (crucifixion), it would not have been a bright idea, in a Rome-dominated world, to pinpoint the Romans as responsible, and the problem was resolved by finding a way to cast blame on the Jews (preparing the way for centuries of prejudice and hostility)”. Philip Kitcher, a professor of philosophy at Columbia University, in an interview with Gary Gutting.

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The Wizard to the Scarecrow: “Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven’t got: a diploma.”

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Luke 23:11-12, “Then Herod [Jewish] and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate [Roman]. That day Herod and Pilate became friends.”

Acts 2:23, “This man [Jesus] was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you [Jews], with the help of wicked men [Romans], put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”




About Tom

ANCHOR COURSE LOGO Tom Goodman is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, and he holds a doctorate from New Orleans Seminary. He has served as pastor in Louisiana, north Texas, and overseas in Grand Cayman before becoming the pastor of Hillcrest Church in Austin, Texas. Diane and Tom have been married since their days at Baylor University, and they have two sons, Michael and Stephen. Tom enjoys scuba diving, watching the latest Netflix DVD with Diane, and chasing mis-hit golf balls.
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