The “Power greater than yourself as you understand it” of the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program—like "what is your god?"—could be almost anything. My Dad, an AA, talked with Dan who could not agree that there was any power greater than himself. Dad noticed empty bottles from a recent bout of drinking, and asked Dan if those empty bottles were a power greater than he. Reluctantly, Dan answered they were, and began a long recovery. What is the greater power that we devote ourselves to—money, nice car—or like Dan we may be reluctant to recognize a power greater.
Carl Jung, pioneering and insightful psychotherapist, had carved over a door in his home the Latin saying he found in Erasmus: “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.”
A readable book, Bart D. Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus (a New York Times bestseller), tells the faith pilgrimage of its author from believing the Bible was literally and inerrantly written to the gradual recognition that we have no original copies of any Bible books. All we have is copies of copies, and all the early copies were made by amateurs — members of congregations. Imagine the pastor saying to his group, “Our copy of Paul’s letter to the Romans is really tattered and hard to read. Who of you will make a new, fresh copy?” And at most a quarter of them could read and write. Some copies were made by people who could only copy letter by letter, since they could not read words! Ehrman gives examples.
He then leads us through the ways that scholars have worked to determine the most accurate copies of the original, including a list of Bible passages that may not have been in the originals. This is detective work of the highest order that is often called higher criticism. I don’t like that label, but through my career as a pastor and Bible translator I am familiar with the process, and it really is detective work, and this book is an excellent introduction to it. I heartily recommend it!
The "rapture" is a hope of conservative and literalist Christians, but the word does not occur in the New Testament. It is alluded to in a few passages that assume Christ will return to earth to gather up faithful people, who will rise to meet Christ. It assumes a physical return of Christ, which is difficult to reconcile to the Jesus we meet in the gospels. In a humorous note, it is the subject of the bumper sticker, "In case of rapture this car will be unmanned" and its response, "In case of rapture I want the car."
For much more detail and discussion click here.
The Bible book of
Daniel 12:5–12 shows normal apocalyptic imagery that climaxes with a date
for God to break in:
Then I, Daniel, looked, and two others appeared, one standing on this bank of the stream and one on the other. One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was upstream, "How long shall it be until the end of these wonders?" The man clothed in linen, who was upstream, raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven. And I heard him swear by the one who lives forever that it would be for a time, two times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end, all these things would be accomplished. I heard but could not understand; so I said, "My lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?" He said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be purified, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked shall continue to act wickedly. None of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand. From the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that desolates is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred ninety days.…
That clearly says that 1,290 days after "the abomination that desolates is set up" then God will act. But the following verse 12 shows that nothing happened after 1,290 days, so a new date for God to act was set for 1,335 days:
…Happy are those who persevere and attain the thousand three hundred thirty-five days.
Again, it did not happen. Meanwhile, the Maccabean revolt in guerilla warfare was defeating and driving the desolater's army out of the country!
When I pastored a church in San Angelo, I learned from an old, crippled man we all called Uncle Joe about the railroads and unions. He had been a railroad engineer for over four decades and been in many crashes of steam locomotives and felt lucky to have survived. He said often engineer and fireman fell asleep from the long hours of duty, sometimes awaking in time to avoid a crash. Uncle Joe was a union official who often had to be responsible for getting information to locomotive crews, as the unions fought for eight hour shifts with eight hour breaks between. What can be dry history became very lively as I listened many times as Uncle Joe liked to tell of his many experiences. He was intensely proud of the part he had played to bring better working conditions and safety to his railroad, and he always noted that his railroad's profit continued high.
In another church I talked many times with a member of the Teamster Union that was then involved in criminal investigation, as he shared the values his union had brought for his family, while he was sad at his union's misdeeds.
A terra cotta figurine of a couple in bed from Babylonia several thousand years ago is one of many terra cotta images of couples.