This is the first entry in what I hope will be a slow developing series of posts on apologetics–the reasons for belief and worship of Hashem. This was written as what I had planned would be the first chapter of a fifty chapter Counting the Omer devotional for between Pesach and Shavuot (Passover and Pentecost). “Man proposes, God disposes” as the saying goes. Theruach ha’kodeshhas directed my energies to blogging lately. Since this has been a busy, challenging week personally, I decided to allocate it for this week’s blog entry. Followup chapters may include something like “Why There Is in Fact a God,” “Why God is the God of Israel,” “Why Yeshua Is the Messiah of Israel”, etc. We will see. If you’re eager to hear followup, let me know and I’ll make it a priority.
We can discuss proof for “Why there is a God?” but such discussion would be of little interest to a mind that answers “No” to the question of “Should there be a God?”
People, such as they are, are not wholly governed by rationality. Our rationality is not our “mind”, but an aspect of the mind. Our thought and actions are not governed purely by the most logical means to attain the most rational end, but by dark, primal forces that desire that which does not necessarily tend to life or our best interests—be it an element of “original sin” rooted in a biblical cosmology or vestigial primate thought patterns rooted in evolutionary origins. On this point the religiousand the seculartend to agree. So if there are certain unconscious drives, certain biases in our psychological makeup—be they caused by genetics, physical environment, cultural influence, past trauma, or some ubiquitous mysterious demonic force—make no mistake: these biases will distort our ability to answer the question of whether or not there is a God. In other words, at the risk of anthropomorphizing, these biases will commandeer our rationality to serve their own ends. Continue reading →
If you read the Bible long enough, you begin to see patterns. Certain themes keep repeating themselves. Sometimes an archetype or instance found in the Tanach will repeat itself much later in the life of Yeshua or his apostles, or one small chapter or selection will say much about the meta-narrative of the whole Bible–which is to say the meta-narrative of the whole universe. There is a kind of fractal aspect to Scripture. Seemingly divergent and disconnected parts resemble each other, and a part resembles the whole. Scripture is fractal. Nature is fractal. This indicates that the same God who inspired the Bible also created nature. Continue reading →
A strange thing happened this year, just like it tends to happen around this time every year. I will leave my house for work or errands, or wake up after sleeping in or napping over the weekend, and find–totally unexpectedly–an imitation pine tree, decorated with lights and ornaments in my living room. Immediately, I’m confused and troubled, yet somewhat bemused by the situation. Part of me thinks it looks . . . festive (I think the word is?) but the other parts of my brain associated with biblical living and Messianic Jewish identity start firing the neurological equivalent of a “Runtime Error ‘76’ Path Not Found” message. I’ve heard in certain church and Messianic circles I’ve run in over the years that such fixtures are associated with ancient Druid and Gothic pagan rites. Are Druid and Gothic cults going around town breaking into houses and setting up pagan fetishes in living rooms? I begin to wonder, but quickly dismiss as unlikely. Then comes another disturbing thought. “Was my wife involved in this somehow?” I repress the thought, deciding that this line of questioning may lead to uncovering unpleasant secrets about her whereabouts and activities. Instead I decide not to get weirded out about the whole situation and take a wait-and-see strategy. This proves wise. After a week or so, I get use to it. It becomes a good source of nighttime ambient lighting in my house and helps me keep from stepping on my daughter’s toys (of which there seems to be more of all of the sudden). A few weeks more pass, sometime around the NFL playoffs and right before MLK day, and the thing disappears as mysteriously as it came. Again, I’m tempted to ask my wife what happened but then think better of it.
Another strange thing also happened this whatever-Messianic-Jews-are-suppose-to-call-Christmas season. I heard news of two out of the ordinary Christmas sermons. Of course, I consider nothing strange or wrong about Christian churches holding Advent services or proclaiming Christ to the masses during a holiday when people are talking about him the most. What was strange about these two sermons is this: one was by a Rabbi in a Reform Synagogue talking about Yeshua, and another was by a Baptist megachurch preacher talking about Torah mitzvot. What they had to say was both encouraging and infuriating, the best of messages and the worst of messages you can give about Yeshua and the mitzvot to Israel. Below, you’ll see which one was which, though I suspect the discerning reader may already have guessed. Continue reading →
An intellectual in the 18th century Enlightenment era once wrote “Against stupidity, the very gods themselves contend in vain.” It is tempting for us living in this not-necessarily-enlightened age to embrace such a pessimism toward our God, to think that Hashem is on his throne worrying because he is unable to get through the stiffnecked people of our generation. But in parashah Va’eira, we see him most definitely not contending in vain with foolishness, in particular the foolishness of Pharoah. The exact opposite is going on. Continue reading →
Luke begins his besora with the announcement of the birth of Yochanan Ha’Matbil, i.e. John the Baptist. The modern reader may be surprised that Luke announces Yochanan’s birth with somewhat equal import to the announcement of Yeshua’s birth. At this stage of scripture, without knowing the rest of the story, we could get the impression that Yochanan would become just as important in the future pages of Luke’s gospel as Yeshua would. And its not just here that Yochanan and his activities gain respect on par with Yeshua. In Mark 11, Yeshua leaves his interlocutors tongue-tied by bringing up Yochanan because “they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet,” a strange scenario where the priests, scribes and elders had more esteem for Yochanan than the Messiah he foretold. About twenty years later, diaspora Jew Apollos was familiar only with Yochananand had not yet heard of Yeshua. Outside of the Bible, Judean prisoner-of-war and Roman historian Josephuswouldcome to write as much about Yochanan than Yeshua in his historical works.
Far from being an inconsequential figure, Yochanon Ha’Matbil made a big splash (pardon the pun) in the Jewish religious scene during the time of Yeshua. Continue reading →
Fathers can be enigmatic people. Does any child ever really know his or her father? To a young child, even the most engaged and loving fathers can sometimes have a mystique of aloofness about them–a towering figure with a vague past and strange comings and goings from the grown-up world, whose thoughts and motives can sometimes be a mystery. There are those precious moments, though, when the father will break this veil of aloofness, bend himself down to his child’s size and be like a brother or friend, enjoying toys together, drawing together, playing videogames together, or joking together. It is a happy occasion when a father can relate with his child as another child would, but that is not what defines fatherhood. Continue reading →
I make no apologies about being an end-timer. Focus on “the second coming” is somewhat going out of style in both evangelical and Messianic circles, but it doesn’t mean we’re any further away from the eschaton. Even the secular world senses that, for better or worse, we’re rushing headlong, with exponentially-increasing speed, towards a transformative event that will redefine human life as we know it. It also senses that certain geo-political arrangements which brought a relatively peaceful generation to the world are rapidly unraveling. If the secular world is comfortable talking about an the end of the age, why shouldn’t we be? Maintaining eschatological expectation aids in the purification of a believer, and a blessing is pronounced on everyone who reads and takes heed to the prophecies in the book of Revelation. Further, Yeshua tells us unequivocally that he is coming quickly and commands us to be watchful. We have good reasons for studying eschatology, watching for signs of Yeshua’s coming and keeping one foot in the future.
That being said, the Messianic Jew understandably has a love-hate relationship with eschatology, Continue reading →