Monday, August 24, 2020

Biblical Authority and Caution in Saying More than Scripture

With regard to Biblical authority and interpretation, I have taught learners for years to be very careful not to state more than what the Bible states when preaching or teaching from a Biblical text.

I have usually given persons some version of this statement, with it's play on words about authors, authorship and authority:  

"Never state authoritatively what the authors of Scripture do not write from their authorship!"

I recently had a pastor suggest that two unnamed "angels" in Acts 1:10 are the (so-called) archangels Gabriel and Michael. 

I pointed out to this pastor that in this passage of Scripture the two men are not referenced nor described as "angels" as he stated. They are not named, either.  These men are not even described as descending from heaven, nor appearing mysteriously, only "suddenly."   The fact that these men, too, were only "standing beside" the other apostles, and  them" some other verbs  of "hovering" or "floating" nearby also requires examination and study.   The fact that they were "dressed in white" is noteworthy, though this is not the "dazzling" white of Jesus' clothing in Luke 9 so it may not be the same power/impact.

I cautioned this pastor, as I have cautioned many with innumerable issues of interpretation:  "It may be that these two men *were* angels, and that they *were* Michael and Gabriel. And yet, you should not state this as an authoritative fact as the Bible never states this."  

And, I told him, "If you explore this as a possible preaching point, you should be certain your audience knows that you are going beyond what the authors of Scripture stated as you explore preaching points or teaching issues."

Pastors certainly can and should explore beyond what Scripture says to explore the textures and contours of a Biblical passage.  Jewish Interpretation and Midrash, Rabbinic teaching, and Christian Exposition has done this for centuries.  And yet, each person proclaiming, preaching or teaching *from* Scripture should insure their audience(s) know when they have moved beyond what the Biblical text explicitly states and declares. 

"Never state authoritatively what the authors of Scripture do not write from their authorship!"

Another variant of the same idea:

"Do not speak authoritatively for or from Scripture, where the authors themselves do not write authoritatively." 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Trauma, Tornadoes and SARS-CoV-2

In my early 20s, I distinctly remember a conversation with another Graduate student about one aspect of his childhood.  While we lived in California, he narrated growing up in Oklahoma for a portion of his childhood, and as one of the few facts he cited, he shared the fear he had of the Tornado Sirens that would blast their warning.

Having grown up in Oregon, with no fears of any inevitable cataclysm, I remember thinking how sad it was to grow up afraid.

Ironically, as I would end up teaching in Oklahoma for over 20 years, each of our children would grow up with this same fear - the T.V. New Anchors are famous in Oklahoma - sadly, like local celebrities "We'll keep you informed" - as they tell people to "Take Shelter Now" as tornadoes approach.  It is genuinely scary for children.  I am certain it instills trauma in some.  And, for those who experience a tornado that ruptures homes, it disrupts everything and kills.

For my part, I never told my kids when Tornados were active - - except when they could see the obvious disruption in stark weather out the window.  I prepared the house and readied our items for Tornado precautions (basement, etc), - I stayed alert to the news and tracking, though I did my best to insure our children did not experience every storm event as a trauma/tornado event.  And, most threats of tornados did not produce a tornado, and even when tornados were "on the ground," they only impacted small areas/acreages of impact.  [Of course, where a tornados hits, even a few acres - it causes massive, immediate chaos.]

While I understand that people "need" to live in Oklahoma, and natural tragedies can come in many forms any place on every continent, I wish Trauma could be mitigated or avoided.

The current situation of SARS-CoV-2 seems, to me, to be a wide-scale, across every county and every State in America "tornado" of sorts.  I fear that *across* America the poor posture of "dealing with" SARS-CoV-2 and how it has been presented to children, now being forced back to school, only to be going home soon and/or to be facing rolling quarantines, is causing trauma to millions of children.  Granted, some things must be done to mitigate the spread of SARS-CoV-2.  [ I have been for the successful New Zealand, sensible, calm, scientific, full-lock-down, engaged approach of the populace, myself!]  

I am certain not enough people are considering the long-term, life-long trauma for social factors and relationships and human development that is *right now* impacting children - and will shape them for their entire life's journey.

It makes me sad that adults, leaders, humans with maturity - have chosen to not be more wise, caring, sensible, and compassionate to all children and all living beings. 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Overdose, accidents and gun violence.

"More than 140,000 Americans have already died from the coronavirus, meaning that in the span of six and a half months, SARS-CoV-2 has killed more people than the number of Americans who die each year from opioid overdose (46,000), traffic accidents (36,500), and gun violence (40,000) combined." 
"The COVID-19 pandemic isn't subsiding in the U.S., with more than 70,000 new cases per day as of July 15."

While all living things will die in some way, from some cause, at some time - it is unfortunate that we plummet the worlds resources and refuse to hold in check our privileges, while more persons die earlier than is necessary - if only we cared more and acted differently.

Toward eupan ~

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Caring for what we know and don't know - by Wendell Berry

Late Summer Fields (2018)

• • •

To care for what we know requires
care for what we don’t, the world’s lives dark in the soil,
dark in the dark.

Forbearance is the first care we give
to what we do not know. We live
by lives we don’t intend, lives
that exceed our thoughts and needs, outlast
our designs, staying by passing through,
surviving again and again the risky passages
from ice to warmth, dark to light.

Rightness of scale is our second care:
the willingness to think and work
within the limits of our competence
to do no permanent wrong to anything
of permanent worth to the earth’s life,
known or unknown, now or ever, never
destroying by knowledge, unknowingly,
what we do not know, so that the world
in its mystery, the known unknown world,
will live and thrive while we live.

And our competence to do no
permanent wrong to the land
is limited by the land’s competence
to suffer our ignorance, our errors,
and — provided the scale
is right — to recover, to be made whole.

• Wendell Berry

A Small Porch: Sabbath Poems 2014 and 2015

Thursday, July 02, 2020

I gave up on Facebook

I gave up on Facebook two years ago.

Even though I used the platform intentionally to be positive and a peacemaker - I realized the platform became a breeding ground for dissension, strife, and attacks.

It seems to me what I experienced on Facebook is becoming more "mainstream" in everyday interactions.

It feels to me that people are more bitter, more condescending, more aggressive and more willing to be caught up in petty dissent and/or outright flagrant arguments - in the grocery store or at the gasoline pump.

It makes me sad.

We can be better.

We can be peaceable.

We really do need each other.

The future of human flourishing - and the flourishing of all living things - depends on our communal care.