Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Once Upon a Time Cliffhanger: Happy Endings

I watched the winter cliffhanger to Once Upon a Time last Sunday night.  I’d like to share what stood out to me and see if I can bring all that together into a coherent thought.

1.  Regina was the evil queen of the Snow White story.  She has been trying to be good, though.  Her problem is that, in fairy tales, villains do not have happy endings, and so she fears that she will not have a happy ending.  That is confirmed, in her eyes, when she loses Robin Hood, with whom she is in love.  Robin Hood is married to Maid Marion, who has been comatose due to a spell by the Snow Queen.  (Regina and Robin Hood did not fall in love while Robin Hood was married, for Maid Marion had died, but Emma and Hook went back in time and brought back a woman from the past, and she turned out to be Maid Marion.)  Regina helps bring Maid Marion out of her coma, but Marion begins to fall back into her disease.  Regina concludes that Marion can only be free of her disease outside of Storybrooke, for Marion needs to get away from magic.  The thing is, no one who leaves Storybrooke can ever come back.  Regina recognizes that Robin Hood will have to leave Storybrooke with Maid Marion, for it would be wrong to leave Marion out there alone.  Regina does the right thing, but she is depressed because she cannot have her happy ending.

2.  Regina has a talk with Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin, who himself has struggled in choosing between good and evil.  Gold has decided to pursue a selfish path.  Gold tells Regina that he does not need any author of fairy tales to write him a happy ending, for he will simply take his happy ending.  Mr. Gold then tells Regina that, as hard as it may be for her to believe, he hopes that she will have her happy ending, too.  Things do not turn out well for Gold, though.  Gold’s wife, Belle, whom Gold sincerely loves, and who has long rooted for Gold to become good, learns that Gold has pursued evil and rejects Gold, making him leave Storybrooke (she has a dagger that can control Gold’s actions).  Gold does not get his happy ending, after all.  At the end of the show, he himself wants to find the Author!

3.  Amidst her sadness, Regina actually feels happy that Gold lost out on his happy ending?  Why?  My guess is that it shows her that, on some level, the universe is still a fairly just place.  She is disillusioned because she did the right thing and is suffering for it.  It may be a relief to her to see that, notwithstanding Gold’s attempts to claim his happy ending while being selfish and evil, his selfishness and evil led to his downfall.  Doing good will not always lead to things going well, but evil often contains the seeds of downfall.

4.  What particularly interests me is that, on some level, Gold was being good when he was talking to Regina.  He sincerely wished that she might have a happy ending, and he was offering her advice.  I would not say that he was altruistic or was invested in Regina having a happy ending—-I am sure that if he had to choose between his happiness and Regina’s, he would choose his own.  But he was a detached observer, one who felt that he learned some valuable life lessons and was imparting those lessons to Regina.  While Gold is being somewhat giving on his path of evil and selfishness, however, Regina in her commitment to goodness gloats a bit over Gold’s misfortune.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book Write-Up: Captive Trail, by Susan Page Davis

Susan Page Davis.  Captive Trail.  Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011.  See here for Moody’s page about the book.

Captive Trail is part of the Texas Trails series, also known as the Morgan Family Series.  This series focuses on the Morgan family in nineteenth century Texas.  In Darlene Franklin’s Lone Star Trail, the Morgan family makes reference to a member of the family who was missing.   Susan Page Davis in Captive Trail tells the story of this particular family member, Taabe Waipu (Billie Morgan), who had been captured by the Comanche.  Captive Trail is about how Taabe came to be reunited with her family, with the help of a mail carrier named Ned Bright, some nuns, and other friends.

The book was pretty slow at first, but I got really drawn into it when the mail carrier Ned brought a buffalo hunter who spoke Comanche, in hopes that this would help him to communicate with Taabe.  Taabe recognized the buffalo hunter and did not want to speak with him, so the nuns hid her and told the buffalo hunter that Taabe was not there.  Ned, later reflecting, concluded that there must be some reason that Taabe did not want to speak with the buffalo hunter, and that perhaps it was because she had an experience with him in the past.  Not only did I admire the respect that Ned and the nuns were showing to Taabe in this scene, but the scene also made me long more for Ned to find a translator whom Taabe could trust, so that the barriers of communication could be redressed.

Another scene that I found moving was when one of the sisters was speaking to Taabe and Taabe’s Mexican friend, Quinta.  Taabe was telling the sister that her father died in the war, and the sister concealed that this war was the one between Texas and Mexico, to avoid causing a rift between Taabe and Quinta.  Taabe admired the sister’s judgment, wisdom, and consideration, and so did I, as a reader.

I was happy that this book from an evangelical Protestant publishing house was depicting Catholic nuns as heroes.  I would have liked to have seen a bit more, however, about the differences between Protestant and Catholic beliefs.  This was touched on in one place in the book, where Ned was explaining to Taabe that the hymn “Amazing Grace” was a hymn sung by Protestants, and that Protestants and Catholics worship the same God but have different beliefs.  But I would have liked to have seen more about this.

I am a bit ambivalent about the book’s portrayal of the Comanche.  I would have liked to have seen a more sympathetic portrayal of the Comanche, one that sought to understand issues from their point-of-view, without denying that there were Comanche who did some bad things.  The book did portray the Comanche positively, on occasion, but not as often as I hoped.  At the same time, the picture of the Comanche that we get is largely from the perspective of Taabe, who did not want to live with them.  The book acknowledges, though, that there were many captives who preferred to stay with the Comanche.

I would like to thank Moody Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Write-Up: Discovering Delight, by Glenda Mathes

Glenda Mathes.  Discovering Delight: 31 Meditations on Loving God’s Law.  Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014.

In Discovering Delight, Glenda Mathes offers spiritual insights, using as her starting point verses from the Book of Psalms, particularly Psalm 119.  Occasionally, Mathes draws from Reformed Confessions.  As the book’s title indicates, it has thirty-one meditations.

The positive to this book is that, overall, it has good insights.  These insights include the importance of giving one’s problems to God rather than retaliating, how problems can be an opportunity to draw closer to God, and how one should use one’s talents for God’s glory rather than to make a name for oneself.  I found these insights to be edifying.  At times, Mathes raises a profound question, such as how impatience can be appropriate and inappropriate.  There are also times when she acknowledges her own flaws and how love for God’s word is not necessarily automatic but needs to be cultivated.

The book would have benefited, in my opinion, from more anecdotes, which would have allowed Mathes to show the reader what she was talking about, not just tell.  I appreciated her story about how the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” was a reaction against Arminianism, but I would have liked to have seen more anecdotes, perhaps even some personal ones.  That would have made the book more interesting and given it a greater personal dimension.  Moreover, since the title of the book says that it is about loving God’s law, it would have been nice had Mathes shown us what meditating on God’s law is like—-by picking laws from the Torah and showing how they illustrate God’s character, for example.

The book could have been better, but I still felt in reading the book that I was sitting at the feet of a wise teacher, one with a deep love for God.

I received this book from the publisher through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

"Whom Ye Know Not"

The sermon at church this morning was interesting.  We’re celebrating Advent, which is about anticipating the coming of Christ.  The pastor during the first part of his sermon was inquiring why John the Baptist was not at the nativity.  My thought was “Because John the Baptist was still a baby at that time,” and that is probably true, if one accepts what the Gospel of Luke says.  At the same time, I could somewhat understand my pastor’s question, for John the Baptist was preparing people for the ministry of Jesus.  In my opinion, John was trying to get people ready for the Messiah by encouraging them to repent.  By being in a spiritual state of mind that was oriented towards God and righteousness, people would be in a better position to recognize and to embrace Jesus’ ministry of compassion and healing as the work of God.  Those who did not repent would be focused on other things, or they would reject Jesus because Jesus conflicted with their power interests.

My pastor was making a big deal about John 1:26-27, which states: “John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose” (KJV).  I did not entirely understand how my pastor was applying this verse—-and I consider that a good thing, since that makes me think—-but I believe that his point was that we assume we know everything about Jesus and that we have a firm handle on who Jesus was.  We do not consider that Jesus can surprise us, or we fail to look at Jesus in fresh ways.  My pastor is neither disputing the importance of Christian orthodoxy nor suggesting that we should depart from that, I don’t think, but rather he is promoting a living relationship with Jesus, not simply assuming that we know all there is to know about Jesus and putting Jesus on the shelf, either trivializing him or forgetting about him.

What do I make of that?  Well, I have my own frozen image of Jesus, I cannot deny that!  There are all sorts of images of Jesus out there: Jesus the nice person who accepted everyone, Jesus the man who was not afraid to tell people off, Jesus full of grace, Jesus giving people a new law (or a new interpretation of the old law) more difficult than the law of Moses.  I tend to gravitate towards a compassionate Jesus, though there are doubts somewhere in my mind about whether that is the case.  I have just found beating myself up for failing to live up to certain spiritual standards to be a futile endeavor.  I have settled on compassionate Jesus!  I have resolved that no one will tell me otherwise!  They can have any Jesus they wish, but they are not taking away from me my compassionate Jesus!
But can that frozen image of mine close me off from learning new things, from gaining new insights?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

II Chronicles 11

I have three items for my blog post today about II Chronicles 11:

1.  v 15 states regarding King Jeroboam of Northern Israel (in the KJV):

“And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made.”

The Hebrew word that the KJV translates as “devils” is sa-ir, which often means a goat (see here).  That is why a number of English translations render the term as “goat demon” when it appears within the context of pagan worship.

Raymond Dillard in his Word Biblical Commentary on II Chronicles made some interesting points about II Chronicles 11:15.  Jeroboam made priests for the goat-demons and the golden calves he had made.  Dillard notes that there is no evidence in Syro-Palestine that Israelites worshiped deities who had the form of animals.  Moreover, in this region, gods are usually standing on the backs of calves, meaning that Israelites probably did not worship the calves themselves but the deity who was using the calves as a sort of throne.

Dillard is arguing that the worship of deities in the form of animals was not distinctly Israelite, and yet he does not seem to believe that Jeroboam encouraging this sort of worship was historically implausible.  There are icons in Egypt in which deities are depicted in animal form, and Jeroboam spent some time in Egypt when he was on the run from King Solomon.  Could Jeroboam have picked up such worship during his stay in Egypt?

2.  II Chronicles 11:18-23 states the following (in the KJV):

18 And Rehoboam took him Mahalath the daughter of Jerimoth the son of David to wife, and Abihail the daughter of Eliab the son of Jesse;
19 Which bare him children; Jeush, and Shamariah, and Zaham.
20 And after her he took Maachah the daughter of Absalom; which bare him Abijah, and Attai, and Ziza, and Shelomith.
21 And Rehoboam loved Maachah the daughter of Absalom above all his wives and his concubines: (for he took eighteen wives, and threescore concubines; and begat twenty and eight sons, and threescore daughters.)
22 And Rehoboam made Abijah the son of Maachah the chief, to be ruler among his brethren: for he thought to make him king.
23 And he dealt wisely, and dispersed of all his children throughout all the countries of Judah and Benjamin, unto every fenced city: and he gave them victual in abundance. And he desired many wives.

The Orthodox Jewish Artscroll commentary presents a variety of Jewish interpretations about this passage.  Why were King Rehoboam of Judah’s children intentionally dispersed throughout the tribes of Judah and Benjamin?

Malbim states that it was to prevent a civil war.  Rehoboam made his son Abijah a chief and was grooming him to become king, even though Abijah was not the oldest son.  Abijah was born to Rehoboam’s favorite wife, Maacah the daughter of David’s son Absalom, and Rehoboam took Maacah after he had taken Mahalath and Abihail and they had borne him sons.  Maacah was a late wife to the scene.  Rehoboam perhaps feared that his other sons would be jealous of the younger son Abijah and the special authority that Rehoboam was giving to him.  Malbim’s point may be that Rehoboam was distributing his other sons throughout Judah and Benjamin and was giving them favors because that would lessen the chance that they could conspire in Jerusalem against Abijah.

Another explanation was offered by Malbim and Ralbag, and this was that Abijah was the one sending his sons throughout Judah and Benjamin, in order to consolidate his own authority.

3.  I read an article by Israel Finkelstein, “Rehoboam’s fortified cities (II Chr 11, 5-12): a Hasmonean reality?”, which appeared in Zeitschrift fur die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 123, number 1, 2011, pages 92-107.  Finkelstein argues that Rehoboam’s fortified cities—-their location and even some cities’ names—-do not reflect Israel’s post-exilic period but rather the Hasmonean period, which was later.  I recall Finkelstein saying in that article that Judah was not really fortified during the post-exilic period, notwithstanding what Nehemiah says, but that the Book of Nehemiah reflects a Hasmonean context in that case.  Finkelstein bases this conclusion, at least in part, on archaeology.  Similarly, Finkelstein in another article, “The Historical Reality behind the Genealogical Lists in 1 Chronicles” (Journal of Biblical Literature 131/1, 2012, pages 65-63), contends that the genealogies in Chronicles are consistent with the boundaries in the Hasmonean period rather than the post-exilic one.

Finkelstein speculates that the Chronicler may have been presenting Rehoboam as building fortifications in order to highlight that fortifications alone could not save Judah: that they actually did not save Judah because Shishak of Egypt still invaded.  Rehoboam could not bypass piety towards God, which, for the Chronicler, was the true path to Israel’s security.

In my readings about Chronicles, I have encountered the view that the Chronicler does not care for Israel making alliances, for he believes that Israel should trust in God instead.  Does that mean that the Chronicler is critical of fortifications, as if they are human means for Israel to protect herself as opposed to relying on God for protection?  Well, II Chronicles 14:7 depicts the righteous King Asa building them, and his reason for doing so is that the LORD has given Israel rest.  The Chronicler does not explicitly criticize Asa for doing so.  And yet, later in the chapter, Asa wins against enormous odds by trusting God; later, in II Chronicles 16, Asa is criticized for trusting in an alliance and physicians rather than the LORD.  Maybe the Chronicler does not deem fortifications to be that good of a thing.  Or perhaps the Chronicler believes they are fine, as long as a king does not rely on them to the exclusion of relying on God.  Solomon did some practical things, and the Chronicler does not seem to criticize him for that; rather, he depicts that time as Israel’s golden age.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Book Write-Up: Love Unexpected, by Jody Hedlund

Jody Hedlund.  Love Unexpected.  Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2014.  See here for Bethany House’s page about the book.

In Love Unexpected, the year is 1859.  A young woman named Emma Chambers and her brother Ryan are on a steamboat that is attacked, robbed, and destroyed by pirates.  Not long after Emma, Ryan, and others from the boat come ashore, a traveling preacher, Holy Bill, recommends that Emma marry Patrick, the recently widowed keeper of the local lighthouse.  Patrick has a toddler named Josiah.  Emma has not exactly been successful at courtship and finding a man to marry, so she agrees to marry Patrick, who likes how Emma relates to Josiah.  Emma does not know how to cook, and she bumbles her tasks as a housewife and mother, but Patrick loves her, encourages her, and does small acts of kindness for her.  Emma thinks that her husband is a good God-fearing man, yet she hears rumors from her gossipy neighbor, Bertie Burnham, a relative of Patrick’s late wife Delia.  Does Patrick have an unsavory past?  Is he the type of man who would have an affair?  Was Delia’s death truly an accident?

I was expecting the book to be very suspenseful, but it did not meet my expectations in that regard.  I was wondering what exactly Patrick’s secrets were, and that was one factor that kept me reading, but I would not say that I was on the edge of my seat.  At the same time, I was a bit afraid when Emma shared Patrick’s secrets with Bertie, for I wondered what Bertie might do.

The book also was not particularly deep.

Overall, though, I enjoyed the story.  I appreciated its themes of second chances, of the vulnerability of those with an unsavory past as they try to start anew, of thoughtfulness to others, and of love for others, even when they do not follow what one considers the right path.  My favorite parts of the book were when cynical characters stepped forward and did the right thing.  In some cases, they were motivated by their own pain, which produced in them compassion for others.

I also liked the Author’s Note at the end, in which Jody Hedlund said which parts of the book were based on historical events, and which were not.

The publisher sent me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Write-Up: The Watchtower and the Word, by Stephen J. Bedard

Christian apologist Stephen J. Bedard recently sent me a PDF copy of one of his books, The Watchtower and the Word: A Guide to Conversations with Jehovah’s Witnesses (see here for Amazon’s page about the book).  He was hosting a giveaway on his blog, and I was fortunate to receive a copy.  He asked that I post a review of his book, so I will do so here.

In the Watchtower and the Word, Bedard explores the historical background and the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Although Bedard disagrees with a number of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrines, he acknowledges that Jehovah’s Witnesses and evangelical Christians share common ground, such as a commitment to the authority of Scripture.  Bedard also notes that evangelicalism is coming to overlap with Jehovah’s Witnesses in emphasizing the future resurrection and the coming new earth rather than the immortality of the soul (though Bedard later in the book actually uses this concept to argue against the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ belief that the 144,000 will go to heaven).  Bedard’s goal is respectful dialogue, not attacking Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Bedard talks about what he calls “Samaritan Beliefs,” which are identity markers that Jehovah’s Witnesses hold, but which do not pertain to salvation.  Bedard calls them “Samaritan Beliefs” because of a scene in John 4, in which Jesus is bringing up spiritually significant topics to the Samaritan woman at the well, and the woman changes the subject by asking where people should worship: Jerusalem, or the mountain where Samaritans worship?  Jesus is hitting a little too close for home, and so the Samaritan woman changes the subject!  Bedard offers his opinion on these Samaritan Beliefs—-which include Jehovah’s Witnesses’ belief in addressing God as Jehovah, their opposition to blood transfusions, their view that Jesus died on a stake rather than a cross, their refusal to keep holidays that they believe are pagan (i.e., Christmas, Easter), their view that one should pray to Jehovah and not Jesus, their refusal to participate in politics, and their organizational system that requires submission to a central church authority.  (On the last one, I was interested to learn that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ official publications do not name the authors of their articles, and Bedard says that the reason for this is that the authority is believed to belong to the Watchtower organization, not individuals.)  Bedard does not believe that evangelicals who talk with Jehovah’s Witnesses should get sidetracked by these Samaritan Beliefs, but should instead focus on important issues.  For Bedard, these important issues include the deity of Christ and the Trinity, which Jehovah’s Witnesses deny, and also the idea that the Kingdom of God was breaking into the world at Christ’s first advent, not starting in 1914, which is when the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the end-times began and Jesus returned (or came to be present).

Here are some of my thoughts about Bedard’s interaction with Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrines:

1. Bedard's best arguments, in my opinion, occurred when he was looking at Greek grammar and doing word studies.  The Jehovah's Witnesses translate John 1:1 to say that the Word who became Jesus Christ was "a" god rather than God, their rationale being that the Greek word for god there lacks a definite article.  Bedard, however, refers to a place in the New Testament where a noun lacks a definite article yet appears to be definite (Son of God in Matthew 27:54).  Bedard also explores the meaning of the Greek word monogenes, which is translated as "only begotten" in some versions and "only" in others, as well as the concepts of the firstborn and begettal.  Bedard looks at the New Testament and also II Esdras 6:58 and Sirach 36:17.  Bedard is arguing against any idea that the pre-existent Jesus' being begotten means that he was a created being, since Jehovah's Witnesses teach that God created the pre-existent Jesus.  Bedard demonstrates that begettal and the status of firstborn can often relate to God's choice of someone for a task or the preeminence of the person or group, not necessarily to the question of when (or if) someone came to exist.  Bedard acknowledges, however, that the Nicene Creed has a different understanding of the Son's being begotten----as the Son's eternal emanation from the Father.  Either way, Bedard notes, calling the pre-existent Jesus begotten or the firstborn does not imply that God created him and that he came to exist at a certain point in time, for these concepts are compatible with Jesus being eternal.

2.  Bedard quotes a number of scholars, including evangelical ones.  At times, this appeared to be an argument from authority, and I doubt that this by itself would persuade Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Perhaps, however, the views of scholars would influence them to take what Bedard calls another look at the evidence.

3.  In John 17:3, Jesus calls the Father the only true God, and I Corinthians 8:6 affirms that there is one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ.  Do these passages indicate that the Father is God whereas Jesus is not?  On John 17:3, Bedard appeals to scholar Raymond Brown and states that “it is clear that Jesus is not attempting to give a precise theological definition of the nature of God but rather to glorify his Father.”  On I Corinthians 8:6, Bedard quotes scholar Gordon Fee’s statement that “Paul’s concern is not with philosophical theology, but with its practical implications for the matter at hand”—-namely, the question of whether Corinthian Christians should eat meat offered to idols.  I have problems with these sorts of arguments, maybe because they appear to be circumventing what the text says by appealing to context, or they contradict my literal-mindedness (i.e., John 17:3 affirms that the Father is the one true God, so why not take that at face value?).  At the same time, Bedard does raise considerations that show that these texts may be more complex than a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses (and hyper-literalizing me) might think: that the New Testament applies things to Jesus that are said about God in the Old Testament, and that calling Jesus “Lord” is significant because “Lord” is a designation for God.

4.  Reading Bedard’s book made me curious about the Christology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Bedard states that Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was Michael the archangel, yet he also says that they do not take that to mean that Jesus himself was an angel, but rather had authority over the angels.  Bedard successfully argues on the basis of Hebrews 1 that Jesus was not an angel, but, if the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus was an angel, why make that argument?  Moreover, Bedard refers to Hebrews 1:3, which affirms that the Son “is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being” (NRSV).  But could a Jehovah’s Witness claim to accept that and still maintain that the Son was a created being?  Human beings are in God’s image, yet they were created by God.

5.  There was a question going through my mind as I was reading Bedard’s defenses of the deity of Christ and the Trinity: Can one believe that Jesus is somehow God, without believing that he was always God, within a Trinity?  Some say that Jesus was a man who became divine—-after all, Philippians 2 says that it was at his exaltation that God gave Jesus a name above every name.  Some point to examples in Jewish literature in which a person bears the name of God and receives some divine authority.  I would not expect for Bedard to deal with these thorny issues in this book head on, for he is writing about Jehovah’s Witnesses who do not believe that Jesus was God, and that is the question with which he interacts.  Plus, I would not be surprised if he has thought about such issues; he does refer to indications in the New Testament that the Son pre-existed and was even in the form of God (Philippians 2).  I was just wondering about other ways to account for Christ’s deity that are not Trinitarian, and if there may be diversity in how the New Testament approaches this topic.

6.  Bedard asks how Jehovah’s Witnesses can question the Trinity while accepting the canon of Scripture.  Both, after all, were promoted by Athanasius (who gave us the first canonical list of the books of the New Testament).  This reminded me of a Roman Catholic critique of Sola Scriptura: How can Protestants say that we should believe only in the Bible (and not the church or church tradition) as authoritative for faith and practice, when they themselves accept the canon of Scripture set forth by the church (on some level)?  I wonder if Jehovah’s Witnesses would respond to Bedard’s question as many Protestants would reply to Catholics: that the church recognized the books of the canon as authoritative but did not make them authoritative, for their authority comes from their divine inspiration.

7.  At one point, in discussing the Trinity, Bedard says that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three parts of God.  For Bedard, we should not see the Trinity as 1+1+1=1, but rather as infinity+infinity+infinity=infinity.  I wonder in what sense God is infinite, though.  God has to have boundaries, right?  Otherwise, would not everything and everyone be God?

8.  Bedard regards the deity of Christ and the Trinity as important issues—-even salvation issues.  He should have explained why he believes this to be the case, though.  Perhaps he should have referred to John 8:24, which states: “you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he” (NRSV).  Jesus may be saying there that people’s sins are not forgiven if they do not accept that Jesus is “I Am,” which could be a name for God (Exodus 3:14).  Rather than just saying that the church has regarded the deity of Christ as orthodox teaching, Bedard should have laid out a case for why that belief is important.

9.  I was intrigued, albeit not entirely satisfied, with Bedard’s discussion of Christian observance of holidays, which Jehovah’s Witnesses claim have pagan origin.  Bedard said that the Israelites used gold from Egyptian idols to construct the Tabernacle, and that God can use holidays to teach God’s people spiritual truth.  That is interesting, but Bedard should have addressed Deuteronomy 12:3-4, 30, where God seems to forbid the Israelites to worship God in the manner that the pagans worship their gods.

Those are just my questions and thoughts, and I am open to correction.  I enjoyed reading this book, and I especially appreciated Bedard’s respectful tone.

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