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Thursday, March 31, 2022

Class Discussion Post: Analyze the Christian Ethics of a current Wall Street Journal Article, 03/30/2022

Facebook Meme: Attribution Unknown?


  • My WSJ Article, “Does the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Say That?”, is from the Opinion section, written by The Editorial Board.[1] 
  • A quote from the text begins my thoughts: “In fact, the First Amendment… to keep the state out of the business of imposing beliefs on its citizens…to protect the church from the state, not to protect the state from the church.”[2]


The ethics of a multicultural society. The article breaks down a law in Florida that attempts to legislate what teachers can speak about in the classroom and what parents have access to. While the law is nuanced, and I can see various angles from both sides, I want to address an underlying faulty assumption driving at laws like this, that is common in my former church traditions. 

US Constitution Error: The American Right and Left both get the 1st Amendment wrong, as Rae does in his quote above.[3] The founders’ primary concern was that government not be in control of legislating people’s beliefs, morals, or orthopraxy. By implication, per the founding father’s, the use of government force to impose one’s religiously held beliefs onto another is a failure to use government well. See also the history of the Baptists, related to these rules.[4]

Hermeneutics error: the American church believes (in error) that she is the “New Israel”, thus views American politics through that lens attempting to force the nation’s inhabitants to come under Yahweh’s sovereignty through political force, as though this were ancient Israel, and Washington DC was Jerusalem. Neither the Church or the USA is “Israel”. Israel is Israel and remains Israel.

The USA, Babylon, and Political Advocacy: A more accurate biblical lens would be to see modern church members as Daniel and friends living in Babylon. As exiles in Babylon, we are given opportunities to speak truth to power, and opportunities to suffer persecution. In all cases, we are exiles in a foreign land.

While we can and should speak correction to both Right and Left powers-that-be, it should be in advocacy for basic human dignity, not to legislate morality or belief onto people who are not already submitted to Yahweh. We should be serving our communities, not trying to boss them around in the name of the Bible or God.

To quote NT Wright: “The whole point of the Kingdom of God is Jesus has come to bear witness to the true truth, which is nonviolent. When God wants to take charge of the world, He doesn't send in the tanks. He sends in the poor and the meek.”[5]


Supplemental / Constitutional Breakdown:

1. The US Constitution: The defacto understanding of most church folk is reflected in the quote from the text above. It’s simply not true, or, doesn’t paint the accurate nuance.

a.       The founding fathers of the USA were coming out of a state-run church/monarchy, in which the King was the ruler of government and church (still is today in the UK, though less so).

b.       Government Run Church legislated the society. In other words, if a person broke a religious law, the civil authorities could arrest them.

c.       Baptists broke away from early colonies because of this practice, stating that the government had no right to enforce its ideas of morality and spirituality on its people. This lead, in part, to the founding of Rhode Island.

d.       These types of developments led to the wording of the 1st-Amendmant. The point was to remove the opportunity for the government to legislate morality based on any one group’s particular brand of biblical understanding.

2.    21st Century Repubstianity/Christublicanism – An entire segment of the church in the USA has become so embedded with the Republican Party and “Conservatism” that they can no longer see any difference between the two. I was among these people for years, and I am firmly not one of them now.

a.       If one takes a step back from Washington DC Politics long enough, and walks away from the Hyper-Conservative Echo Chambers and News Silos, one can begin to see a more nuanced view of American Politics.

b.       I used to say that “You cannot be a Christian and a Democrat, you have to pick one”

c.       I now say, “That, but you can’t be a Republican either”.

d.       The truth is, both the Hyper-Liberal and Hyper-Conservative movements are equal and opposite errors and both enemies of the Cross.

e.       Both movements advocate for positions that early Yeshua Followers would have identified with if they time-traveling to the 21st Century. Both movements advocate for positions that early Yeshua Followers could never have supported.

f.        Prophetic Voice: As long as The Church takes sides, we lose our prophetic voice. The longer I step away, the more clearly I see (as scales coming off my eyes) just how bereft of the Holy Spirit the “Conservative” movement in the USA actually is. We must remain in the messy middle, speaking truth to power, in love, by prophetic unction, to both sides.

g.       Community: Meanwhile, we must lay down our pitchforks, stop storming Washington DC to get our ideas of morality forced on non-Yeshua-Followers, and get to the business of quietly serving our communities. While exceptions exist, the church is invisible on the streets of America. Where we are visible, the visibility is not good. When we start being known for our love for one another, for our fellow humans just because they’re humans who Yeshua loves (not because they agree with us), we will again take up our place as the light on the hill.

h.       The world doesn’t need The Church yelling at them telling them to behave like Kingdom People before they even become Kingdom People. The world needs a hospital wing inviting the hurting and broken to be loved, cared for, and nursed to health, and then invited to become Kingdom People.

i.        Change: Let the Holy Spirit and Discipleship (which means people already IN the Kingdom) be the places we talk about how to be Kingdom Citizens. Let’s not try to force Babylon to act like Jerusalem, when Jerusalem can’t even act like Jerusalem before Yeshua returns to take up his place as King.

[1] The Editorial Board, “Opinion | Does the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill Say That?,” Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2022, sec. Opinion,

[2] Scott B. Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics, 3rd ed (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009), 19.

[3] “Does the First Amendment Separate Church and State? | History News Network,” accessed March 30, 2022,

[4] Charles Allyn Russell, “A History of the Regular Baptists in Rhode Island, 1825-1931” (Dissertation, Boston University Graduate School, 1959),

[5] Darrell Wolfe, “No Hiding.Faith/Resources,” No Hiding, accessed March 30, 2022,

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

NEWS: Divine Name ( יהוה / YHWH) and curses at Mount Ebal

While not something to get too excited about until after scholars have reviewed the evidence and published their findings in peer reviewed materials, this is an interesting claim by the ABR. 

Theoretically, they've found a proto-alphebetic script of the Divine Name ( יהוה /  YHWH) and curses at Mount Ebal, which is significant because it comes from Joshua 8:30. 

If the item is legitimate AND if the dating is sound, this could push back secular/skeptic scholar's dating of the Exodus Event by about 200 years.

For those who don't know, the dating of the Exodus Event is debated in biblical scholarship. 

There are three camps on the Exodus debate:

1. Minority View: It never happened, Israel became a people later and needed a meta narrative to legitimize their presence, so they made this up under the kings as king propaganda, a common practice in the ancient world.

2. Majority view: It happened in the 1,200s BC. Based on various textual, archeological, and other evidence. Timeframes given by biblical authors are exaggerated for emphasis, a common practice in the ancient world.

3. Minority view: It happened in the 1,400s BC, primarily driven by 1 Kings 6:1 claiming 480 years between the Exodus and Solomon. 

Dr. Michael Heiser breaks down the textual evidence for these dates in: Naked Bible 273: Exodus 12 Part 2b

****Clip from the ABR article:

Dr. Scott Stripling, director of excavations for the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) at ancient Shiloh, presented Thursday recent revelations about what he said might be the most significant discovery in biblical archaeology in recent years. 

The discovery comes in the form of a lead amulet measuring two centimeters square found by wet-sifting material taken from a site on Mount Ebal excavated by Prof. Adam Zertal more than 30 years ago. A square altar dated to the 13th century BC had been built on top of an older circular altar Zertal believed was built by Joshua upon entering the land of Israel, as described in the Bible:

“At that time Joshua built an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, on Mount Ebal” (Josh. 8:30).

Read More:

Saturday, March 19, 2022













McDermott argues a convincing case against Supersessionist Theology and for an understanding that Israel (both the people and the land) are just as important in 2022 as they are in 1st-Century Palestine. He begins his text with an evaluation of Christian History, beginning with Church Fathers (such as Justin Martyr) progressing through Luther/Calvin up to the work of Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834) (McDermott 2017, Chapter 1: Getting the Big Story Wrong).

The author then debunks the idea that “The Church is the New Israel”, followed by a review of where Christian History got some things right. He then comes to the thrust of his theological argument by reviewing the biblical texts. McDermott shows that Israel may be removed from the land for Covenant violation; however, they retain Title to the land during exile and will be brought back (McDermott 2017, 51).

The “New Testament” also shows a trend toward Israel’s primacy in the New Covenant. The idea that Christianity replaced Judaism is common in The Church. It is often taught together with an idea that “Jews had the law, but we have grace”. Yet, “Rabbis and other Jewish scholars protested for centuries that neither of these propositions was true… we have done anything to merit it. It is by what you call grace” (McDermott 2017, 56).

After establishing that Israel Matters, he spends several chapters of analysis on the political and theological implications, including how The Church handles the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While he demonstrates that many of the claims against Israel are false, he also demonstrates that some are true. Israel is a secular government with imperfect leaders. He concludes “…we need to feel free to lift up our voices to criticize when it is clear that egregious injustice is taking place (McDermott 2017, 91). He wraps up his discussion by showing clever and subtle ways to include these new understandings in the way we discuss the biblical narratives and the translation choices we make with our congregations.


McDermott produced a well-organized and wide treatment of the topic. The inclusion of church history (positive and negative) regarding both Supersessionism and Zionism provided a historical precedent for the state of theology within The Church today and its relationship with Israel. The biblical re-interpretation was thorough and he anticipated possible rebuttals. He concluded by drawing out practical applications (theologically, politically, and in our orthopraxis) which give the reader something to do with the information.

Because the text provides a high-level overview of the topic, it serves as a good primer for the average lay-Christian and an introduction to the world of Biblical Scholarship around this issue. However, as a high-level overview, it did not give me the deep-dive exegesis into the ancient contexts or languages I would have preferred. It did whet my appetite to look into these other scholars he cited.

I already agreed with McDermott’s thesis before reading the book. However, I was not familiar with the details of Church History around the topic, especially that of the Church Fathers. As I was already interested in getting into the Patristics (primarily because I expect to disagree with them on a host of issues, especially Augustine), this encouraged me to make that a point of study in the near future. It also gave me warning that we can find good and bad in all messy humans, and not be too hard on those who came before.

I found Mark’s reading of Messiah instead of Christ to be refreshing (McDermott 2017, 105). I have been using Rabbi Yeshua instead of “Jesus” when I speak to people for similar reasons. I was not aware of the possibility that Greek (Ioudaioi) can be translated as Judeans instead of Jews. I would like to follow this rabbit trail as well, to see how this changes the tone of other passages. On balance, this will go in my recommend list. 

Class Discussion Posts: The Law, Torah, and Grace... Luther was clueless, but he meant well.

Based on a recent conversation, I wanted to re-post an answer I gave because I think it sums up much of the deconstruction I've had around "Judaism" and "The Law".

My classmate said, "We are called to obedience not out of "have to" but out of love for God and his teaching." 

To which I replied: Yes! And so was everyone in the biblical narrative, from Abraham to David to Jesus to Paul.

  • "Rabbis and other Jewish scholars protested for centuries that neither of these propositions was true. “How can you say we believe in salvation by works?” they asked. “We say a little Jewish boy at eight days old is brought into the covenant by circumcision. What could he have done to deserve that? And why did God choose Israel? Perhaps the merits of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had something to do with it, but how do we millions of Jews join the covenant that God made with them? The same way as that little boy, before we have done anything to merit it. It is by what you call grace." -- Gerald R. McDermott, Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press: A Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2017), 56. (Affiliate Link)

Maybe this can help reframe it:

  • If you define "law" (a bad English mistranslation of the word Torah) as "the stuff I have to do", then you are using Luther's lenses, not the biblical author's lenses.
    • Luther was reacting to medieval Catholicism. In his day and age, cold, dead, religious have-to practices permeated the atmosphere. So when Luther reacted, he was reacting not to the ancient Israelite covenant but to medieval Catholicism.
  • Torah was given to Israel AFTER they were already chosen, rescued, and adopted without earning a dime of it. They existed then (and exist today) purely by the Grace and Love of Yahweh.
  • Torah is about loving God back, not about keeping a set of "rules".
  • The Torah (Teachings/Instructions) is primarily composed of five books (Genesis to Deuteronomy). It can also be short-hand for the entire Tanakh (Torah, Prophets, and Writings).
    • Primarily, Torah is a Theological Historical Narrative, mixed with Hebrew Poetry, and Ancient Near East (ANE) Cosmologies and Origin Stories which serve as Polemics (stories used as arguments against) to other ANE culture origin stories... and yes, it has a few "laws" in it too.
    • Within the Torah proper, mostly in Leviticus but also sprinkled throughout the other books, there are 611 law codes (the number spells Torah in Hebrew numerals). These laws are most likely not every law that existed in ancient Israel or every law that Moses and successors wrote down. These laws are the ones preserved for us by those who finalized the cannon, which the Holy Spirit led them to include for our meditation and wisdom.
      • Example: "When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof". In the Ancient Near East (ANE), a parapet was a small wall around the roof. People used their roof as a living room, guests came there for dinner and hanging-out time. This short roof-wall kept people from accidentally falling off. It was a way to preserve life. 
      • When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof. Deuteronomy 22:8  
      • Today: We don't use our roof for a living space (usually). However, we do add staircase handrails to our two-story homes and buildings. This is much the same wisdom Torah is asking us to consider when we live our lives.
        • Though it sounds awesome, and one house local does have this I should get a picture. Go to street view on GoogleMaps for this address: 811 N Government Way Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 
    • While Torah lists Blessings and Curses, they are simply the state of affairs. The world is in Chaos. Yahweh is the anti-Chaos agent. If you want Order (blessing, fruitfulness) you will do things the way Yahweh has asked you to. If you step outside of his ways, Chaos reigns.
    • Throughout Ancient Israel's existence, Yahweh was overly gracious, patient, kind, offered a myriad of chances, and only as a last and final resort, brought in a series of exiles to purge their adultery.
  • Contexts Matter: The ancient Israelite was just that, an ancient Semitic group of individuals living within a particular context. Yahweh communicated with them within that context. When you look at other Ancient Near East (ANE) law codes (like the Code of Hammurabi), what you find is remarkably similar rules and laws. However, what you also find is Yahweh upping the anti by moving, progressing Israel forward within their own Ancient Near East context as compared to their neighbors. Many of the laws and rules for Ancient Israel are irrelevant today, even to modern Orthodox Jews. However, each contains some wisdom within their ANE culture that can be extrapolated and applied today. Like the parapets mentioned above.
  • During the return from exile, Ezra and Nehemiah found themselves in a mixed bag of returning exiles. Many of them had intermarried, some of them had lost the Hebrew language. Nehemiah at one point tears a man's hair out for this and commands them to divorce their newly found spouses/kids.
    • Note: Nowhere in the text does the Bible indicate that Yahweh endorses or approves of Nehemiah's command, it simply records that it happened.
  • These two returning exiles establish a group of scribes hoping to get the people of God to follow Yahweh's rule in hopes of preventing another exile and usher in the Day of Yahweh (Day of the Lord), in which Messiah will come.
  • These scribes eventually, through 300+years become the "Scribes and Pharisees" who minister within Israel, hoping to purify Israel and looking forward to Messiah.
  • During these years, they "built a hedge around Torah", and the practice of Second Temple Judaism became more legalistic in its Orthopraxy (practices). They figured, "we can't violate it if we don't even get close to it". So whatever they imagined the "rule" was, they tried to make new rules to keep people distant from the Torah rule. This is the legalism Yeshua and Paul were reacting to; not to Torah itself but the way Torah was practiced in the Second Temple Period by specific sects of Judaism.
  • Contrary to popular Christian understanding, many Pharisees came to believe in Yeshua as Messiah, the one they looked for. Some did not. The Temple Leadership (primarily Sadducees, but also containing some Pharisees) ultimately executed Yeshua, but that was not a unanimous decision.
  • Yeshua (and later Paul (Greek name)/Saul (Hebrew name)) debated the Pharisees, not as outsiders but insiders. Yeshua was closest in style to the Pharisees. They each wanted to live Torah well, and Yeshua was attempting to get them to see that in trying to live Torah, they actually violated it.
    • You say... but I say...
    • Yeshua's Mishnah was one of the heart, rather than actions.
  • So, while the Second Writings (aka New Testament) have examples of attitudes that are anti-legalisticness... These are reactions to the attitudes and practices that developed during the post-biblical Second Temple Period; not, to the Torah itself.

I hope that at least gives you something to chew on.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

























This paper is a book review of “The Making of a Leader” by Dr. J Robert Clinton.[1] The paper begins by summarizing the content of the book and then my personal take-aways.

Chapter 1: A Letter to Dan, the Intern - Clinton begins his book by sharing an anecdotal story of a letter he wrote to a young intern he knew, named Dan. Dan was struggling with feelings of inadequacy because he wasn’t moving fast enough into the areas of ministry he felt called to. Clinton’s answer to Dan was to summarize the ministry growth phases he has seen people go through over one’s lifetime. He hoped that by seeing the long-game or big-picture, Dan would be able to relax into this season and enjoy it for what it was (knowing that each season matters) rather than trying to rush the process. The remainder of the book breaks these ministry phases down into more detail.  

Chapter 2: The Basis for Lessons: The Big Picture – Clinton takes a chapter to provide the high-level overview of the ministry phases he identified while studying the lives of others. In short, they are Phase I – Sovereign Foundations, Phase II Inner-Life Growth, Phase III Ministry Maturing, Phase IV Life Maturing, and Phase V Convergence. At each of these stages, God has his direct hand in the process, often in ways that one cannot see or recognize during that phase (especially early on).

Chapter 3: Foundational Lessons: Inner-Life Growth Processes – In these early days, Clinton observes, the person will have their character developed. These are the days they may not even be doing ministry but may be working some other job or having other life experiences. Clinton asserts that they will be given a “Word Check”, which tests the person’s ability to understand/receive a word from God and allow God to work it out in their life.[2] He concludes that character is developed when someone receives a word, obeys, and has integrity throughout the process.

Chapter 4: Second Lessons: Ministry Maturing Processes —Part I and Chapter 5: Second Lessons: Ministry Maturing Processes —Part II – Clinton places the maturing process into two chapters. While he subdivides the maturing process into multiple line-items (Ministry Task, Ministry Challenge, Ministry Skills, Insights, Challenges, etc.), all these items can be summarized by saying the individual will have life-experiences that allow them the opportunity to grow internal character, horizontal relationships with others, and vertical relationship with God. He then takes an additional chapter, Chapter 6: Ongoing Lessons: Guidance and Other Multi-Phase Processes, to discuss how one may enter phases in life where they are faced with new decisions. These may lead them to need guidance, mentors, confirmations, and/or face the fact they need to make a change.

Chapter 7: The Deepening Lessons: Life Maturing Processes – Clinton says that these processes are not linear but congruent. One can be at different phases in different areas of their ministry or life experiences. They can be cyclical, being-doing-being-doing, as one grows into the ministry.[3] He also discusses how Isolation, Conflict, and Crises can lead to maturing in the individual.

Chapter 8: Integrating the Lessons of Life: Toward a Ministry Philosophy – After having been through a few rounds of life experiences, one develops what Clinton calls a “Ministry Philosophy”. This may be more aptly put a set of ministry philosophies, as he gives multiple examples of his ministry philosophies through pithy one-liners. Examples of these are “ministry has to be personal”, “expression deepens impression”, and “truth discovered by the learner sticks longer”.[4] He provides some advice for developing a set of ministry philosophies, and their underlying principles.

Chapter 9: Accepting the Lessons of Life: The Leadership Challenge – Clinton concludes by asserting the need for leaders who continue to press into growing as leaders throughout their life, provides a few warnings, and keys to finishing well.


            I begin with my major critique, which is based largely on my own biases. I chaff at all systems. I find that real-life is far more organic than systems allow. I found the idea of systematizing and categorizing the leadership process into flow charts and stages to be somewhat arbitrary and forced. While I can appreciate that there are some observable patterns, I resist the idea that they fall into phases as cleanly as Clinton has presented. He himself admits this but uses the phases as a general guideline. Had the content been presented in a “here are some random observations I’ve made about people who are leaders, in no particular order”, I might have been more receptive. This in and of itself may be a take-away, something to be aware of in my own personality matrix.

            That being said, I did find he made some good observations. The big take-away for me really came in chapters one and two as a reminder of a life-truth I learned the hard way. There is no “there”, slow down and enjoy the ride. As a Widower, I came to a sudden realization that all the things I had been striving for did not matter anymore. I am in Bible College for my own edification. If it ever becomes anything is quite beside the point. Like Dan, I had been in a race to get to this ideal point where I wanted to be. My ideal ministry or lifegoal seemed always just out of reach. I now see that there is no “there”. Even if one accomplishes the goals, they set out to achieve, there will be new goals just around that corner. Taking the time to appreciate the season I am in is more important than achieving anything “significant”. I repeat my favorite quote from the text: “Leadership is a lifetime of lessons. It is not a set of do-it-yourself correspondence courses that can be worked through in a few months or years.”[5] I also appreciated the collection of pithy sayings. In NCIS’s Agent Gibbs fashion, I have collected my own sayings, which I keep published on my personal blog under “Sayings to live by”.[6]  For me, the general lessons all apply but I do not believe they fall as cleanly into phase as Clinton would like to present.

[1] J. Robert Clinton, The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development, Rev. ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2012).

[2] Clinton, 57.

[3] Clinton, 136.

[4] Clinton, 156.

[5] Clinton, 33–34.

[6] Darrell Wolfe, “Sayings To Live By,” Blog,, accessed February 5, 2022,