Tag Archives: Israel

A Call to End Original Sin!

I finished reading Peter Enns, “The Evolution of Adam” and found it to be an engaging and persuasive argument for the end of a literal reading of Genesis 1-3.

In the book he gives two possible interpretations of the Adam story:

1) It was written as a response of the exile. It is the story of Israel and was a way of them understanding how they ended up in exile.

2) When read alongside Proverbs, the story is about the failure to fear God and attain wisdom. Rather then fear God, which is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10) they follow the advice of the snake and try to achieve wisdom without God. The Adam story is then a story for all of us as we make decisions each day. Do we follow God or someone else?

I was listening to an “Unbelievable?” podcast today where they were discussing “the fall” and “original sin”. As a consequence to not believing in a historical Adam, I then do not believe in the idea that we are all born depraved. I find the concept that we are all guilty because of what two people did to be incredibly unjust. Rather I believe that we are born with the potential to be good or depraved based on the decisions that we make.

I believe that the Adam story can be read in this way.

We are all born into a culture. A culture has been defined by some as “the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organization, that operate unconsciously and define in a basic ‘taken for granted’ fashion an organization’s view of its self and its environment.”

Rather than seeing the serpent as ‘the devil”, I believe we can interpret it to be the voice of our culture. We can choose to follow the voices of our culture or we can choose to listen to God. Now, there are times where the voice of the culture echoes the voice of God but that will not always be the case and it is the work of each christian to develop maturity and wisdom by differentiating between the two voices.

What do you think? Does this alternative reading hold true?

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David and Bathsheba reimagined.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to give a talk on the story of David and Bathsheba at a Scripture Union weekend for teenagers.

I’d heard people talk on this story many times. But does the story of a king’s fall into adultery resonate with teenagers. I decided to reinterpret the story. My entire talk would simply be the story, re-imagined. David and Bathsheba as two sixth year pupils. It went down really well. You could hear the silence in the room. Afterwards the group broke into discussion groups and many of the leaders afterwards came up to me and said how much the story had affected the young people and how it provoked such great discussion.

I don’t say these things to big myself up but simply to show that the story worked for these young people. Which is why I’ve decided to finally write down a simple draft of the story for others to use if they see fit. It’s just the bare bones of the story. feel free to add to, remove bits from it. do whatever works best for your group. It’s simply the blueprint. I have changed certain situations but I feel that these are still true to the original narrative.

I love stories. And I think one of the greatest things we can do for the biblical stories is to refresh them and to orally tell them in ways that resonate. I believe that this is one way to tell the story. Later this year, I’m going on a couple of storytelling workshops and I hope to begin translating some more of the biblical stories into good oral stories that reflect the culture of the young people I work with.

Let me know your thoughts on the story.

The Story of David and Beth

Let me introduce you to a guy called David. He’s a sixth year at the local secondary school. House Captain, prefect, good at sports, maths, english. You get the idea. The best thing about him is that he doesn’t boast about anything of it. He’s a good guy to know.

David’s two best mates are James and Beth. David and James have been friends since they started school. they’re inseparable. Beth started hanging out with them at secondary school when James started dating her in 2nd year.

When James was seven, his parents split up and so every second week, he goes to visit his dad down in Portsmouth. One Friday lunchtime, after James has already left to go see his dad, Beth and David sit round the back of the school lying out on the grass. It’s another heatwave. It’s been like this the last few days. Too hot to anything. So they just sit on the grass, talking.

David looks round at Beth. The sun makes the skin on her legs glow. She glances round at him and he looks away. David’s always fancied Beth. He’s been out with a few girls but none of them ever hold up the vision he has of her. The truth is he’d ask her out in a second if she wasn’t going out with his best mate. If only he’s met her before James started-

“you okay?” beth asks. his thoughts are broken by her question.
“yeah I’m fine.” david replies.
“what you going to do tonight?” she enquires.
“was thinking about going out for a few.”
“yourself?”
“depends whose out. why, you wanna come?”
“I shouldn’t. James said he’d phone later.”
“Oh gone. just for a couple.”

She should have said no. That would have been the end of it. But she didn’t. They agreed to meet at 7.30 at the bar in the centre of town. They sit and have a couple of drinks together. But that soon turns in a few and before they know it, they find themselves stumbling out of a club just after 2am.

They’re giggling and laughing. Beth falls back and lands up against a wall. She feels David’s breath on her neck. She’s too drunk to think any better. They have sex there against the wall, in the side street. Afterwards, they stumble home, ashamed of what they’ve done.

It’s weeks later. David and Beth have tried to act like nothing’s happened but things aren’t the same. there’s an awkwardness around them. A sense of guilt. David betrayed his best friend.

David’s in his room on facebook one night when Beth messages him. She says they need to talk. can she come around. What could it be? has james found out? He panics.

Later, there is a knock at the door. David goes down to answer it and Beth is standing there.

“Come on in”, David says. They go up to his room. He shuts the door.
“So?”
“I don’t know how to say this David. I’m pregnant.”
“How do you know? Is it James’?”
“No.”

Time stops.

“It’s mine? How can it be mine?” How can you be sure?”
“You’re the only one I’ve had sex with”.
“And you’re sure?”
“I took three tests.”

David panics. What’s he to do? His life will be ruined. He’ll lose his best mate. The teachers will be disgusted with him. he’ll lose the respect of everyone at the school.

“You need to get rid of it.”
“No, I’m not going to kill my baby”.
“Well I need time to think.”

Beth leaves. David thinks about it for hours. What is he going to do? Then he has an idea. An idea that will clear them both. If Beth tells everyone that james raped her when they were both drunk, they’re saved. Beth won’t be known as a slut and David’s reputation will be saved.

David goes round to see Beth and tells her the plan. She is appalled by it and refuses to go along with it. But David persists. What will her parents think? What will the school think? This is a way for both of them to be free from it. And James will get out in a couple of years. It won’t be so bad. So she finally agrees. there’s no other way.

The next night, when Beth’s parents are out, she invites James round and they both get horribly drunk. James passes out. He wakes up to screaming. Beth is on the floor, her shirt torn. He can’t quite make out what she’s saying at first. Rape. Is she saying rape? He doesn’t remember anything. He wouldn’t have done that would he?

The case goes to court. James pleads guilty. he doesn’t remember what happened but Beth is so sure. He can’t believe he would do a thing like that but Beth wouldn’t lie about it. James gets three years.

Beth has her baby and goes to college whilst her mum looks after her little girl. David goes to Cambridge, far away from everything that happened. Some nights he cannot sleep. the guilt bears down on him so hard sometimes that he cannot breathe. But he still has his reputation. It was worth it wasn’t it?

X-men: First Class ‘No Such Thing as Good and Evil’

X-men: first class opened in cinemas yesterday. Not content with being a great multi-layered summer blockbuster, X-men (as all the films have been to an extent) is a film bursting with issues and ready made discussions.

Over the next few weeks as I mull the film over, and probably go and see it again, I plan on writing some short thoughts on the film and how you could possibly explore it with your young people.

First up is the worldviews of the men who will become Professor X and Magneto.

What I found fascinating is that neither of these men were painted as good or bad. That is not what the fight is about. It is about love and anger. Charles (Prof X chooses to love humans, Erik (Magneto) chooses to hate them. Erik isn’t an evil man. We understand how he gets to decisions. Just as we understand Charles’.

Our own experiences determine what we will become.

Charles is brought up in a wealthy home and allowed to see the good side of humanity. He has everything he could ever want.

Erik and his family are Jewish. They are captured and sent to camps. Erik’s family are murdered at the hands of the Nazis. They are murdered by people who choose to label and catergorize people.

Charles’ powers are born out of study and love.

Eriks’ powers are born out of hate and anger.

We are all capable of great love and great hate. Charles had the potential to use his powers for ill just as Erik had the potential to use his powers for good. But their experiences determined the paths that they would choose.

I do not believe that people are born good or evil. I believe that the story of Adam and Eve, at the beginning of the Bible, describes how all of us, made in the image of God, have the potential to go either way.

What we listen to, who we surround ourselves with, which worldview we attach ourselves to determines what path we will choose.

I think that’s an important lesson for the young people we work with to grasp. Just last night we were studying 1 John 1 with our older teenage house group where John talks about the reality of walking in darkness and walking in light. I explained to them that my worldview affects my actions. I choose to believe that no one is born evil. We spoke about the kinds of people that they label. The ones who are mean and nasty and do not deserve our attention.

I stressed that those people are products of their environment.

The scottish BBC documentary, ‘the scheme’ has gained all sorts of notoriety because it documents the lives of a group of working class people in an area of Kilmarnock (5 minutes from where I live). It shows warts and all what life is like for some people. But what I learned from the show is that it is extremely hard to break out of the world that we are born into.

For Erik in X-men, because of how his powers were born, because of what he experienced, it was almost impossible for him change the course he was headed on. It paints the character in shades of grey, rather than black and white. And I think that is true of all of us.

What do your young people think? Are there such things as good and bad people?

Can people be changed?

As a Christian, I choose to believe that people’s paths can be changed. I choose to believe that people can be renewed. I believe that the labels that others put on us and that we put on others do not need to define us. They do not need to last forever.

The book of Lamentations talks poetically about the fall of Israel. It compares the city to an adulteress.

“Her filthiness clung to her skirts;
   she did not consider her future. ” (Lamentations 1:9)

This is brutal language. Israel is describes as a ‘whore’. She is labelled unclean. But then in chapter 2 God says this to her:

To what can I liken you,
   that I may comfort you,
   Virgin Daughter Zion? ” (lamentations 2:13)

A new word has been spoken over Israel. “Virgin”. No longer a whore. The labels are no longer.

Do some of our young people need to hear that? Whatever has been said about you, however you have been labelled. God has something new to say to you. We can be renewed.

Erik’s path has been set. He has chosen the path of anger. The wide path that leads to destruction. The destruction of his humanity.

But it could all have been so different.