The Binding of Isaac as Cautionary Tale

In the end, it all comes down to the agency of a child.

R.L. Stollar

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

Genesis 22:6-10

The Binding of Isaac is one of the most troubling passages…

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Centering Children: The Hermeneutics of Child Liberation Theology

R.L. Stollar

Like all liberation theologies, child liberation theology places the subjects of liberation—children—at the center of the hermeneutical process. Child liberation theologians must read biblical narratives with an eye towards children: (1) towards childrens’ roles in any given narrative, (2) towards their marginalization from narratives, (3) towards what childless narratives contribute to the general theme of children, and (4) what implications any given narrative has for our praxis here and now with regards to child liberation.  I will look at each of these four categories individually.

I also include the idea of child protection in each of these categories, as I believe child protection is both a fundamental aspect of, as well as a key mechanism for achieving, child liberation. As suggested by Brazilian liberation theologian Hugo Assmann, the social context of marginalized individuals should be a point of departure for exegesis. “The text is our situation,” Assmann writes in Theology for a Nomad Church. This idea…

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Mary Magdalene and Judas Iscariot Never Existed: The Author of the Gospel of Mark Created Them (Guest Blog by New Testament Scholar Dennis MacDonald)

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Are Sins Primarily Sins against God?

Wow, this one is so good that I’m reblogging! I agree that “sin” is what we do to each other.

Jesus Without Baggage

Some believers think all sins are primarily sins against God. Stephen Witmer makes that very statement:

All sin is primarily sin against God.

Where sin is understood as merely a moral concept rather than mainly a religious one, where it is seen primarily as a person-to-person problem rather than as primarily ‘theocentric,’ motivation for fighting sin is decreased and confusion about the character of God is increased.

I cannot agree with the assumption that sin is primarily sin against God. Nor can I agree that understanding sin as a person-to-person problem decreases motivation for fighting sin or increases confusion about the character of God.

Offenses against others are offenses against the Father in one sense: the Father does not wish us to experience this pain and alienation; he does not want people to be hurt. But he cares equally for the offended and the offender. So, absent our offenses against…

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Thoughts on an all-just, all-merciful Christian god

This is a wonderful presentation of justice v. mercy by Galactic Explorer.

Signs you are a Sheltered Evangelical

I am considering the claim that god is both all-merciful and just.  I have many times heard it argued that god is all-merciful to forgive transgressions of his law, but that he is also just and thus must punish unbelievers in hell.  I propose that these two designations for god are contradictory and this view of god is untenable.  I am using the definitions that justice is bringing the correct and deserved consequences for actions (both good and evil) and mercy is offering respite or forgiveness from the negative consequences of a transgression.

Now consider the modern Christian theology of hell as a punishment for sins and Jesus as a sacrifice to forgive them.  In this tradition, god is willing to forgive people and spare them from the supposedly deserved punishment of eternal torment, but people can refuse this forgiveness and be condemned.  Thus, some people will be forgiven and…

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If You Care About Abuse, You Should Care About Who Ted Cruz Wants on the Supreme Court

For anyone who cares about child and survivor advocacy, the possibility of such an appointment should be terrifying.

Source: If You Care About Abuse, You Should Care About Who Ted Cruz Wants on the Supreme Court

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Scaffolding: Family/Church Framework

The six of us, my parents and us four children, put down our roots pretty quickly. We were actively involved in our church, which included Sunday school & other church services. In the summer, we had Vacation Bible School and Good News Evangelism outdoor activities.  Our church was very motivated to get the children indoctrinated.

The church leaders instituted a Summer Camp program.  Children got points for attending Sunday school classes, for remembering to bring their Bibles, and LOTS of points for memorizing Bible verses.  We got rewards for knowing the books of the Protestant Bible, in correct order.  When we accumulated enough points, the church treated us to a week at a Christian camp. If someone almost made it, the church paid half.

Memorizing whole passages of the Bible, such as the 23rd Psalm, lent us prestige among our peers.  We had Sword Drills, in which we could compete against each other in locating Bible verses quickly, honing our skills so that we could follow along in the Bible when the pastor preached, when we were old enough to attend regular “adult” services.

Music played a huge role in cementing doctrine.  We had choruses with simple lyrics which reinforced our principles.  Even the adults enjoyed singing these choruses with us in the evening services. Our hymnals were filled with songs written by Fannie Crosby & other well-known hymn authors.  One Sunday evening a month, we would have what we called “hymn sings”, during which a congregant would shout out the name of a favorite hymn, and everyone would sing that one.  We’d sing our hearts out for the hour long service.  Local churches would host special hymn sings for the youth groups, and we met other peers who believed the way we did.

All of us four children dived into these services and activities with gusto.  We had memorized great swaths of the Bible, knew the words to tons of Christian hymns and choruses, and were surrounded by carefully screened friends. We were the typical church family.  This was my life from my birth (I was in the church nursery) all through my childhood, from the mid-fifties into the sixties.  But changes were ahead.

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Scaffold: My Family

My parents met when my mother, a nursing student, was caring for my dad’s mom in a hospital.  He told his mom that “that girl is the one I’m going to marry”.  They started dating, and in 1949, when they were both 21, my mom dropped out of nursing school and they were married.

They went on to have four children, all of us named with the letter “S”.  Sandy, Susan, Sheila (me), and Stacey.  And so we were a family. We ended up settling down in a rented house in the town of Pleasantville, NJ.  My dad bought our first home in 1959,in Northfield, NJ, when Stacey was a newborn and I was four.  That would be our home for nearly 20 years.

My first memory of religious indoctrination is my Sunday school class at a Baptist church in Pleasantville.  My mom’s parents lived in Pleasantville, which was close to our new house, so we drove to Pleasantville on Sundays for church.  After church, we often visited with my grandparents.

[My dad’s parents lived in Pennsylvania, and we didn’t see them often.  Usually there was an annual summer family barbecue at my dad’s parents’ home in PA, with all of his siblings & their kids, and that is how I came to know my aunts, uncles, and cousins.]

When I was in second grade, my dad announced that we were leaving the Baptist church and joining a fairly new church, a non-denominational church, in Linwood; this church was really close, just up the road from Northfield.  The church is Linwood Community Church, and it still exists to this day.

I was upset.  I loved my current Sunday school teacher and my friends, and could not understand how my dad could just up and move like that.  I remember clearly that my parents had recently quit smoking because they believed it “hurt their testimony”. My dad was upset that the church we were in allowed smokers to be leaders in the church.  I came to know later that my dad was very active in our Baptist church, had raised a stink about the whole smoking issue, was shot down, and felt he had no choice but to find a new church.

So, in the second grade I learned that Christians shouldn’t smoke.  I didn’t know why, but my dad said so, and that was it.  Frankly, I was disappointed when they quit.  My parents used to let us take turns blowing out the match when either one of them lit up.  Funny to think about that now.

Linwood Community Church was non-denominational, but its theology was close to Baptist theology.  It was also hard-core Fundamentalist.  If you’ve read all this without being bored, I thank you.  The next post will be about church and family life after we began attending LCC.

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I will be visiting the building of my life’s scaffolding, as well as its demise, in 2016.  I hope everyone is enjoying the first day of this new year.

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My Father’s Legacy

2015 was a bad year for me.  I’m happy to see it go.  However, it seems as if my father’s legacy will likely extend into 2016, so all bets are off for next year.

My father died on April 16 of this year.  It seemed to be the culmination of three years of fights over his care, and his own suffering.  I had no idea at the time my father died that his legacy was anything other than a Christian man who attempted to raise his children in his faith, provide for his family, and reach out to his community with the love of Jesus.  Grief prevented me from objectively seeing how my father’s actions adversely affected the family.

My dad was away from home a lot.  Church twice on Sunday, prayer meetings Wednesday, visiting nursing homes, a rescue mission, partnering with a charitable arm of his employer, and serving as a deacon in the church; all of these activities kept him busy.

I had an online spat with my brother back on Veteran’s Day. it was a misunderstanding on both of our parts, but he told me he was done with me, and sure enough, he cut me out of his life.  I have no way to reach out to attempt reconciliation  He blocked me on every social media platform we share, and also has blocked my cell. phone.  His pastor has done likewise, so my assumption is that the pastor advised my brother to do this to me.  I was quite devastated.  I’ve always been close to my brother. We’ve had disagreements before, even heated ones, but we always found a way to make peace.  Not this time.  All through Advent and this past Christmas week, I was sure that all of the teachings about the purpose of Christ entering the world, would soften his heart.  Not so.  On Christmas Day, my brother was the only one who didn’t return my Christmas greeting. I asked my siblings to tell him for me that I wished him a Merry Christmas, but I believe no one did.  As I pondered all of this, I realized:

This is my father’s legacy.  He spent so much time away from his family, trying to “save” sinners, to reconcile them to God through Jesus, that he never gave us the tools of conflict resolution and reconciliation among his children.  So, I’m entering 2016 watching the scaffolding of my life fall to pieces.  I’ll address that in upcoming posts.

I hope everyone else has a decent New Year’s celebration.  Make sure the people you love know that you love them.  Reconcile with as many people that you can.  That is the purpose of life–to live as peacefully and civilly with others as you are able.

Good-bye 2015.  Good riddance.

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