Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tattoos on the Temple of God

So the question of my wife getting tattooed has came up recently in our house which has lead us to some interesting questions.

Lev. 19:28 “‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD. (NIV)
Pretty straightforward, no? The trouble is, and one I have wrote about before, is context.  It is so easy for us to take verses of the Bible to beat people over the head with because they are doing something that for some reason doesn't fit with what we feel is proper.  The quote from Leviticus, in context, has more to do with protecting early Hebrews from pagan worship than it does from the temptation of getting a tattoo.  The risk, then, is a matter of legalism.  It is very easy for us to get caught up in Law because it is, well, easy.  We don't have to think or to take chances.  There is a right and a wrong, good and evil, Law and Lawlessness.  But for anyone who has any life experience at all, we know that things aren't that easy, even if we wish they were.  Looking forward to Christ, his teaching was hard to bear, but simple and elegant.  Legalism does more harm than good ans he stripped away tradition and codification and left us with some really simple commands.

Luke 10 (NIV)
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
For some reason this isn't good enough for us, though.  I think our masochistic nature doesn't want it to be this easy.  Trust me, it isn't.  Trying to make the right decisions and walk in the steps of Christ without an absolute, black-and-white law is hard.  You have to try and approach every situation with God in mind.  What does His love mean in this situation?  How should I apply myself to be the light that shines in the darkness.  Attacking people for art on their skin isn't going to bring them to God.  It will alienate them, and as I have asked before, who does that serve?

Now what does this all say about Tattoos?  It says that each person much take each situation and analyze it. You have to ask yourself questions.  Speak to your elders about it.  Get as much information as you can before you decide and if you do go through with it then get something that will do God's creation justice.  I don't follow the line of thinking that a tattoo will mar God's temple if it is done right.  No one in their right mind would consider Michelangelo's work on the Sistine Chapel as a defilement to a house of God, so why does the thought of beautiful art on the body defile it for God?  Again I think it is an artifact of Puritanism that just doesn't serve anyone today and ultimately can push the very people who need to be saved farther away from God.

If you would like to read a little further into the subject, why not start over at Religious Tattoos.  It is a Catholic site, but I think he does nicely quoting from Scripture and showing there is more to the argument than a simple yes or no.  He doesn't claim any authority, other than as a guy "who loves Christ and Tattoos", but then, neither do I.  When in doubt, error on the side of Grace!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Despair Not, Live and be with God.

To my brother's and sister's of Christ: Joe reminded me tonight that the world changes, things move on and in no way is our ability to impact it diminished. Though we don't have to accept the influence of culture, we also can't impact it in a positive way but clinging to a past that is gone. Tomorrow hold your heads high and live the life that Jesus wanted you to. Be a positive and glowing influence without hate or judgement and give grace to those who need it. With the votes today people will still be broken and in pain tomorrow. I know I am no saint but I am still wrong to condemn, though it is so tempting to do so. By hardening ourselves and hiding in the past we will only turn people away from God, and who does that serve? "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matt 5:16)

Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark.

He waxes desperate with imagination.
Let's follow; 'tis not fit thus to obey him.
Have after. To what issue will this come?
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Heaven will direct it.
Nay, let's follow him.

This exchange between Horatio and Marcellus comes from one of the most well known pieces of literature of all time, Shakespeare's Hamlet. 

My last post regarded a single word and it's origin which is of extreme import to Christians and how it's meaning can shift from the original intent.  When pen met paper for the writing of the various books of the Bible I don't think that communion was really ever intended to be Communion.  Perhaps the connotation is subtle, but I think it exists, none the less. 

Today I want to explore a phrase to illustrate that absolute translation has very real risks.  In the above quote, line four reads Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  Now, I think it safe to be said that few of our modern contemporaries wouldn't understand that this is taken to mean a situation of problems of corruption and dictionary.com supports that hypothesis.  However, lets lay our knowledge of English idioms aside and look at this phrase.  Denmark, there is a problem in that country.  Something is foul and if you look at the next line heaven will direct it, then you even get a powerful force behind it.  Now lets assume that a people hundreds or thousands of years from now recovered a fragment of text including just those two lines.  (Yes I know this isn't likely because of how books are printed today, but bear with me.) Wouldn't it stand to reason a populace trying to find themselves could interpret that as a sign that Denmark is directed to be evil from an edict of God?  How easy would it be to rationalize this statement anyway you wanted to in order to hate someone?

The trouble with translating literature is trying to balance the what the text says and what the text means.  Our Bible isn't immune to that either, even though many would try to have you believe that it is.  When you try to get into absolute translation looking to pick out some "truth" that supports whatever you are trying to peddle for faith then you lose the fact that you are reading the Voice of God.  A huge part of reading the Bible is the effort to surrender to listen.  God will direct understanding when we are ready.  Don't force it, enjoy it.  Make it your time to commune with God and enjoy His presence.  If you had to ask me, the Bible isn't a book to be read, it is a book to be conversed with.  Now quit reading my random drivel and start talking with your Bible.  See what happens, I bet you will be surprised.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

What's a Word to Do? (Communion)

Keep in mind I am no language expert but I have been poking around with the etymology of the word "communion."  One the biggest issues with translation is that thoughts can't necessarily be easily converted to one language from another.  I think that people who advocate word-for-word translations get lost in trying to find the "Truth" and generally miss the underlying significance of what they are reading.  Of course, conversely, when you translate something thought for thought you tend to get the bias of the translator.  It really makes translating the Bible a slippery slope.

The best scholarly scenario for us would be to learn all of the ancient languages, intimately, that the Bible is written in and try to read from the earliest texts we can.  I don't know about you, but the chances of me accomplishing that feat is nearly nil and even if I did I am learning dead languages through a lens of modern research and I could never hope to fully understand the original idioms that make a language what it is.  Instead I enjoy picking apart certain words from time to time and trying to understand their full context.

  1. an act or instance of sharing
  2. (capitalized) : a Christian sacrament in which consecrated bread and wine are consumed as memorials of Christ's death or as symbols for the realization of a spiritual union between Christ and communicant or as the body and blood of Christ
  3. the act of receiving Communion
  4. (capitalized) the part of a Communion service in which the sacrament is received intimate fellowship or rapport : communication
  5. a body of Christians having a common faith and discipline *the Anglican communion*
Four out of the five of the definitions on Merriam-Webster regard Christ in some form.  That is, to an extent, my point in all of this.  That isn't the origin of the word.  The origin, also from Merriam-Webster is this:

Middle English, from Latin communion-, communio mutual participation, from communisFirst Known Use: 14th century
We can also find this from the Online Etymology Dictionary which lists the venerable Oxford Dictionary as a primary source:
late 14c., from O.Fr. comunion "community, communion" (12c.), from L. communionem (nom. communio) "fellowship, mutual participation, a sharing," used in L.L. ecclesiastical language for "participation in the sacrament," from communis (see common). Used by Augustine, in belief that the word was derived from com- "with, together" + unus "oneness, union."
Mutual "participation", "sharing", "common?"  Are these the words you tend to think of when you hear the word communion?  How about Koinonia, a Greek word?
1: fellowship, association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse      A: the share which one has in anything, participation      B: intercourse, fellowship, intimacy         1: the right hand as a sign and pledge of fellowship (in fulfilling the apostolic    office)      C: a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship
Now given that the Greek New Testament has something like 20 instances of this word which roots to basically the same thing, it gives you the impression that our Communion should be something larger and smaller, all at the same time.  It isn't just an act, but an invitation to to be in the presence of God but it also more worldly than that.  Communion should be our time to fellowship with our brothers and sisters of Christ.  It is our time to invite the Lord into our presence so that he can be with us while we are with each other.  Give this some thought, take it to your small groups and encourage others to try and expand their joy with being together.  God Bless!