Sunday, April 6, 2008

Entertaining Angels

Today's theme comes from Hebrews 13:1-3
"Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured."

It's a reminder of the story of Abraham told in Genesis where he shows hospitality to some strangers, who in the end turn out to be angels. The story contrasts with the response that is received in the city of Sodom whose inhabitants have forgotten their responsibility to care for the needy.

Putting aside for the moment the distraction of angelic existence, let us note the compelling incarnational calling in this passage. It's the 'golden rule' (Treat others as you would expect to be treated yourself) given in the form of some very specific examples: 'as though you were in prison...as though you yourselves were being tortured'. It's not surprising that these examples reflect the underside of society - Christians need to be in solidarity with those who are suffering.

Remember that all of us are made in the image of God and that when we respond compassionately to people in need, we are both responding to this image and simultaneously making God's presence on Earth a little clearer.

10 comments:

David said...

Why do people believe lies like "we are made in the image of God"?

We are the result of evolutionary processes over many millions of years. Ultimately,we evolved from inanimate matter. Evidence supports this. There is no evidence to ssuggest the primitive ramblings of superstitious people recorded in Genesis has any truth value in describing the history of humanity.

To suggest that we can "reflect the image of God" is both highly blasphemous and arrogant. Who are we to presume to reflect in any way the nature of God through our behaviour? I do not claim to represent God in any way, who are you to so arrogantly suggest you play a role in making god's presence clearer?

JDK said...

David, I guess we have some different ideas about the nature of God. I'm curious as to why you seem to spend so much time reading and responding to blogs that you disagree with so passionately? Perhaps you should start your own as a vehicle to vent what seems to be a fair degree of anger and hostility at the Christian church? Regards, JDK

David said...

You have made statements in a style of language normally used with factual propositions.

You are stating your beliefs, and you are aware that there is no supporting evidence for people "being made in God's image". There is no evidence for creation at all.

I am not denying the obviously good works done by yourself and and your corp; your personal integrity is not the issue. Nor is my apparent (to you) "hostility towards the church".

That is totally different to implying you have a role in revealing God's character.

Can you see the arrogance here? Asserting beliefs without evidence and playing the role of God?

JDK said...

David,

Let me clarify: the statements that I am making are essentially theological in nature, not anthropological or scientific, and have nothing to do with a literal understanding of the Genesis creation accounts. They are faith statements rather than facts, though they may naturally assume a similar syntax and style, I don't claim them to be anything else.

Ultimately, all of our words fail when we attempt to describe that which is sacred - and perhaps all such attempts risk being called blasphemous - however, I believe that this is a task worth pursuing. When I say that I believe that human beings are made in God's image, I am affirming a deep connection between humanity and the divine for which I have no 'proof' other than my own subjective experience. I will acknowledge at the same time, the danger of human beings making God in our own image - a fault which perhaps I might be accused of at times.

Theology is a tricky task - and one which we are possibly bound to fail at as often we succeed. As I have admitted previously, I am still learning but my hope, with all humility, is that my own contributions will resonate with at least some others.

BTW, my impression of your 'hostility' towards the church is based in the language which you use (words like 'superstitious', 'arrogant', 'pious', 'sycophants' have a certain negative connotation to them). Whilst I am prepared to dialogue about my own comments, I won't publish comments that are directly critical of others who have no part in this blog.

Regards, JDK

David said...

And so when you die your reward will be essentially theological in nature. Your abstract soul will experience (metaphorically speaking, of course) impossible-to-express joy in that metaphysical state known as heaven.

This state will not involve any of your personality, memories, feelings, desires, sense of self, or consciousness, because all of that will have ceased on the death of your brain.

I hope you enjoy your abstract reward, even though you won't be there. Theologically speaking.

JDK said...

David,

I'll put aside the sarcasm for a moment and just say that I'm more concerned about what happens while I'm alive than after I die.

Theology doesn't have to be abstract - for me, there's no point if it doesn't relate to our human experience. The difficulty is that few human experiences are universal and generalising doesn't always produce the best results. My experience is subjective - perhaps I'm deluded about the whole God thing - but all I can say is that it works for me.

Regards, JDK

David said...

I understand that this life is very important. After all, many people think that is all we have.

However, when one begins to believe in eternal rewards based on actions or intellectual decisions (or in whatever other way you wish to describe the process of "conversion") in this life, the perspective begins to change. You start to realise that eternity is a long time, so why not do whatever it takes to make it a good eternity rather than a bad one - separated from God, suffering in Hell, or some other undesirable state.

It's difficult to achieve, I know, the self sacrifice, the death of the intellect, and other behavioural restrictions, but someone who is conditioned (maybe even brainwashed) sufficiently can see the advantage - after all, eternity is a long time, especially the last part.

This point of view is covered in your thesis, and I may be caricatured it somewhat, but it is essentially the essence of conservative evangelistic christianity as I have seen it taught. Those sincere Christians, led by the Holy Spirit, would not have got it wrong, would they? The Holy Spirit doesn't create spread contradictory messages?

JDK said...

David,

I thought you may have guessed by now that I'm probably not a very good representative of conservative evangelical Christianity. You are looking in the wrong place if that's what you're after.

Regards, JDK

David said...

What is it that is eternal, that has concerned the traditional evangelicals so much?

From what we can observe, measure and logically deduce, everything is finite and transitory in nature. There appears to be no permanent state or eternal essence anywhere, so ruling out a soul or personality that survives death.

Your recognition of the wholistic nature of a person (and salvation), pushes this problem more towards ir-resolution.

So one essential question is, how can you deduce the existence of a "spiritual world". It doesn't make sense unless you accept the nonsense of dualism.

And how is the Bible anywhere near a satisfactory source of answers? I know scientific theory and research is not the answer, but you would have to concede it does a better job of describing and modelling reality than ancient texts. Sciences offers a richer seam of tools and perspectives than anything ever offered before.

Sorry, but I just can't understand spirituality. I concede that I don't "get it".

JDK said...

David,

I think we are approaching something of a consensus. Personally, I also find the dualistic approach of separate physical and spiritual worlds to be largely unhelpful. I also agree that science doesn't give us what we need to understand spirituality (though writers like Paul Davies have yielded some fascinating insights). The Bible records over a thousand years of human attempts to grasp the meaning of the divine and though I find much of it to be uplifting and inspiring, I must also confess that interpretation of the Bible is fraught with difficulties. I'm not sure that I have a great understanding of spirituality myself, though I will continue to strive to improve that aspect of my life.

I'll see if I can draw this out further in Monday's blog.

Regards,

JDK