Did Solomon Lose His Wisdom?

(This post is inspired by a conversation I had with my wife, Jen, this morning in the car. Thank, babe.)

Solomon.

We all know his story.

God asked him what he most wanted, and he (wisely) choose wisdom with which to rule the people. God declared he hit the jackpot with that answer and give him not JUST wisdom, but riches, power, peace. Just about everything a king could ever want. Solomon did it all, experienced everything the ancient world had to offer. And at the end of his life he said it was all “vanity” (worthless) compared to knowing God, compared to having a relationship with Him.

According to the scriptures, Solomon made some bad mistakes that resulted in the Kingdom being taken from his son’s hands, broken, and the people eventually going into captivity. This was said to be a punishment for falling away and worshiping other gods besides Jehovah. And eventually, when they learned their lesson, many, MANY years later, they were allowed to come back to the land and restore it. This is the story of a LARGE portion of the OT. Most of the history books, some of the poetry and several of the prophetic books are concerning this time period.

So, quick recap. Solomon becomes king. Asks God for wisdom. Gets it “all”. Experiences it “all”. Part of the all is “other gods”. Solomon declares all the all worthless. The kingdom is taken from his son and broken. Israel goes into captivity. They “learn their lesson” and eventually return to restore “God’s ways”. That’s the basic narrative.

When reading ANY book, especially a book filled with history, it’s important to remember who is writing the narrative. No matter who it is, they are BOUND to be biased. There’s an old saying that, “The winners write the history books.” and it’s pretty true. When you are the writer, you will likely spin the story however you want to make your nation/tribe “the hero” (sometimes even when you lose). You can see this even in our OWN history books, and we tend to favor scientific objectivity over everything else. Not so in the ancient world.

Now most scholars agree that much of the historical writings of Israel were written during their time of exile. Sure, they had bits and pieces and records here and there, but a large portion up until that time was oral tradition passed down to each generation. One reason was because, well, writing was just starting to take off during Solomon’s time. In Moses’ time, they still wrote things on stone blocks (Ten Commandments) if they wanted them to last for awhile. They simply didn’t have a way to record huge amounts of text on “paper” (especially since it hadn’t been invented yet). So, Moses didn’t “write the Bible” (sorry, Keith Green). Israel’s early history was passed via oral traditions. I know to US it seem incredible that SO much information as is included in Leviticus, Numbers, etc. could be memorized and reproduced orally, but that was the “way it was done” back then. Besides doing the necessary things for survival, they didn’t have very much else TO do except learn to recite their traditions.

However, by the time they get to the exile, they want, they NEED, to not lose their tribal identity (something the Babylonians very much tried to take from them – hence the new names, customs, etc.), and so they began to write down their traditions in EARNEST as a way to safeguard it for future generations  So a great work of gathering, cataloging and writing down their history to that point (along with other writings – prophecies, poetry, songs, etc.) was begun and probably took a great many years. It may have even been done by different groups working independently. Hence the reason we have Kings AND Chronicles. Both these tell about the same time period, but have both the same and different things going on in them. They tell the story from different perspectives. Still, it’s amazing how strikingly similar they are. A testament to those who came before them.

So, let’s go back to the PURPOSE again for these writings. It was to establish a NATIONAL IDENTITY for the people of Israel. To help them remember “who they are” and their unique relationship with God. It was this history that they took back with them in order to reestablish Jerusalem, the wall, the temple and everything around that. This was their “guidebook” for who they were as a people.

So, their “agenda” was not 100% historical accuracy, but to establish identity and solidarity with the one true God. That doesn’t mean they LIED on purpose to make themselves look good. They didn’t THINK along those lines. They weren’t “historians” as we would understand that term. They didn’t think scientifically and empirically. They thought TRIBALISTICALLY and ONTOLOGICALLY (‘big picture’ truths). They NEEDED to be different, set apart, special and uniquely “in touch” with God.

It’s important to recognize this when you read the Bible so you understand what’s going on in the head of the writers. They’re not trying to tell you “the truth”, but who they ARE in their writings. They are imparting their identity to their children and children’s children. They are saying “Look, this is what you come from. Live accordingly.” All ancient cultures do this in their writings, stories, traditions. It’s the story of the PEOPLE, not the FACTS, that is MOST important.

OK, Ken, are you EVER going to get to the POINT of this post?

Why, yes, I believe I am. ALL of the proceeding we now need to keep in mind as we read the story and writings concerning Solomon.

So, Solomon is approached BY GOD. (That’s important to them, God speaks to THEM.) and asked what he most wants. He answers to rule the PEOPLE wisely. Again, see right from the beginning how it’s about the PEOPLE, the TRIBE. God grants him this desire and also blesses him with all the rest, the wealth, the status, the women, etc., etc. and a wonderful time of peace for Israel.  This was their “glory years”, when they were the envy of much of the world. Princes and princesses, kings and queens visited, leaving tribute and Solomon welcomed them all. He was the great gatherer, of both people (probably marrying into MANY royal lines)  and ideas. He promoted the sharing of ideas and peace in the world. Even God said he would be a man of peace. He opened the country to foreigners and allowed them to not just stay but to worship their OWN gods if they so chose. How scandalous. How WRONG.

Oh, but WAIT!

Isn’t Solomon supposed to be WISE, by God’s granting? If it was SO unwise for him to be this “open” with his people and his country, why would he have made this decision? Did God take BACK his wisdom? If so, why didn’t He take back all the REST of the gifts. Why allow Solomon to be “foolish” and allow such “inclusion” to become the practice in the land?

Remember, the “goal” of the writings of this time was to solidify the connection between the one true God and the people. To keep them “free” and “pure” of any other outside influences (“other gods”). The only way to do this is to make Solomon’s ideas to be “idolatry”, to be “wrong”. and ultimately to be the reason why God “punished” Israel with captivity.

Oh, but you say, “Solomon said all the stuff he did was worthless, which would include the other gods/religions/etc., right?”

Yes, BUT we need to see the CONTEXT of his proclamation. He said they were all vain in COMPARISON to knowing God. That doesn’t mean they have NO value. It means knowing God, understanding God, having a relationship with God is the MOST important which makes the rest pale by comparison. So, Solomon ALWAYS had his priorities right. He knew God was the MOST important thing. So, was Solomon still wise? I think so. So was he wise when he promoted inclusivity and peace throughout the world, especially within his own borders? I have to say, “yes”. So was this why Israel was “punished” with captivity? I’m thinking probably not. To THEM, yes, of course, it probably SEEMED that way. I’m sure their were many who SAID God was going to punish them for their “liberal ways” (just as we hear a lot about now). And we humans have always tried to see the reasons behind everything that happens to us, generally laying the “blame” at God’s feet as the ultimate bringer of both good and bad. So, if “God” did it, He had to have a reason, and those naysayers must have been right after all. We do the same things today.

But, let’s recall, Solomon ran his country PEACEFULLY with the world, bringing peoples together in harmony. But he was ALSO highly respected (not FEARED, but respected) by the rest of the world for his great wisdom. But after he died, that respect did not transfer to his son. They were a people who no longer knew war, who desired that everyone just get along and share. But after the kingdom split they became directionless and weak, militarily speaking. As an empire “ripe” from many years of peace, it was only a matter of time before somebody came in and picked the fruit and they were easily taken over and away by the Babylonian and later, the Assyrian empires

At that point, the cry for inclusivity (led by Solomon) turned to one of EXCLUSIVITY. God is for US. We are for God. We are united as a people due to our exclusive covenant with God. The rest of the world is “evil”. Peace became a dead dream of the past and Israel’s driving passion became to be a military power again someday, like it was under the “good ole days” of David. And so it continued till the days of Christ.

However, it’s interesting to note how, in all their time of exile, they continued to bring the light of God to other empires (even those like Darius, who already knew there MUST be a one, true God, but just didn’t understand Him). God used their captivity to do the SAME thing that Solomon did during HIS reign, to SHARE their knowledge of God with the world and to learn to live and work with “foreigners” (even while they cried for exclusivity in their writings).

Now, what will you take away from this. I think you will probably take away whatever you already come to this article with.

If you see God as exclusive, only “saving” those who believe the right way about Him, and that being INCLUSIVE is dangerous, makes God angry and invites His punishment, then you will see this story from the “traditional” viewpoint. The viewpoint it was arguably written from, in order to sell  a particular tribalistic way of thinking.

However, if you see God as inclusive, arms open, wanting the people of the world to unite, taking the best from every culture, every religion (but not abandoning God – just as Solomon never did) and using it all for the betterment of mankind, to wisely alleviate suffering and bring peace to the world, then you might see this story differently than you ever have before.

Did Solomon lose his wisdom? No, I don’t think so. But have WE (humanity) lost his wisdom, and, I think, the same wisdom that Christ shared? I very much think so.

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“Another Gospel”?

As I have found my theological positions changing over the past eighteen months or so, I have been accused at times of preaching “another gospel”. Of course this is in reference to two verses in the NT:

Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! (NIV)

2 Corinthians 11:4 For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. (NIV)

That last part was NOT a compliment, but a rebuke. They SHOULDN’T have been putting up with it.

Now of course these verses beg the question what IS the original gospel (good news) that they taught, and what is the “other gospel” that was coming in and deceiving some of the churches?

The more I’ve studied this issue the more I’ve come to believe that we have LOST the original gospel and the one the church has been preaching for about the past 1500 years IS the “other gospel” and really needs to be abandoned.

When Christianity became the “state religion” around 500AD things began to go downhill doctrinaly. As the church sought more control over the government, doctrines designed to control men out of fear arose and coercion into faith became the norm. After all, the more followers, the more cash, the more influence and the more power the church exerted over empires. History is FULL of the accounts of how the church and the government were wedded together most dreadfully, and the result was the preaching of this “other gospel”. Protestantism attempted to reverse this, but it didn’t do enough and eventually became just about the same as Catholicism, as it still was primarily concerned with power as the two views battled it out across the states of Europe. This is the “Christianity” that we have inherited from our forefathers. It’s all we know. It’s what we have been taught the Bible teaches. But it’s NOT the original gospel. If you want to know the original gospel, you have to go to the EASTERN churches, who did not have the same problems with empirical corruption that the West did. They STILL preach pretty much the exact same doctrines they did 1500 years ago. So, it would be WISE for us to see what they have to say and consider seriously going BACK to the original gospel.

This post was inspired by a Facebook post that I was tagged in that included a video. The video had the following message attached:

“Please oh please listen to this beautiful gospel presentation and respond to Christ. Please don’t be angry. It’s only because I care about you all so much and I hope and pray to see you all in heaven one day but I’m going to tag some people in the comments. Maybe you used to believe this with your head but you never truly repented and surrendered to Christ. Yet. Maybe you thought you knew the way to heaven and what the gospel is but after hearing this you will realize you were so wrong. Get right with God today. As you all know NONE of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Love you all.”

Obviously the person who tagged me is concerned with the destination of my soul and wants me to “return” to what they believe is the gospel. Please watch the video and then continue on to my comments concerning this gospel as compared to the gospel I now embrace as taught by the Eastern fathers..

While I appreciate the heartfelt, loving (for the most part) and sincere presentation given here, I simply no longer believe this is “The Gospel”.

Firstly, it paints a picture of a god who condones violence. Not just condones, but DEMANDS it against His own son in order to forgive people. This is not much different than the blood sacrifices that other pagan gods supposedly demanded of their followers. But the one true God declares, “I don’t desire sacrifices”.

Additionally this “gospel” says that god can’t stand to be around us unless we do the right things to get our “Jesus suit” of “righteousness” so that he doesn’t see our filthiness that we can NEVER really be rid of (at least not in this life).

But God does not love us because of anything we do or believe. He loves us because He is love.

God doesn’t accept us because Jesus died, but because He has ALWAYS accepted all men from the very beginning. Yes, even in The Garden of Eden God came and FOUND Adam after he “sinned” and stayed with him, and did all He could to make man comfortable around Him. He has continued to do that throughout history, trying to make man feel OK with God and with himself. The cross only PROVED that no matter what man does (including killing God HIMSELF), he is always and ALREADY forgiven. The first thing that God said when Jesus was born was “peace on the earth”, and the FIRST thing that the resurrected Jesus said was “Peace be with you.”. God is NOT at enmity (against) us. That is a lie that we have believed. A lie bolstered by religion.

God does not hold a record of wrongs against us, because that’s not love. Love forgives EVERY time. We don’t like to hear that because it demands of US that WE should forgive EVERY time, and we don’t WANT to forgive, we want our idea of JUSTICE, which is PAYBACK, even if that payback is done by God against our “enemies”. We want a violent God who will put the beatdown (Hell) on those who hurt us. But Jesus said to LOVE and do GOOD to those who hurt you, and that’s what God CONTINUES to do. It is that UNCONDITIONAL love and acceptance that is the “good news” (Gospel), not a legal exchange or payback of some sin-debt that God holds over our heads.

When we finally “get” the degree of love God has for us, no matter how despicable we might think we are or are told we are by religion, it changes our WHOLE LIFE. It changes how we see ourselves, God, and humanity. It makes LOVE the primary motivation of our life, and that brings us into harmony with God, ourselves and humanity in a way that fear-based economies of exchange simply can’t. We finally realize we have NOTHING to fear from God EVER, and that THIS is how God feels about EVERYONE else, too. This realization changes how WE feel about them, too. Not overnight, no, but as the love of God works into us and through us, transforming how we think, changing our minds.

THIS! THIS is the “Gospel”! This is the Good News! This is freedom from religion. From fear. From rule-following or fear-inspired checklists of specific beliefs necessary in order to “please God”. This is freedom to be yourself and be the person that you always knew you wanted to be, the “Christ-self” that is hidden inside each of us. We become part of the Kingdom of God, that has always already been here around and inside us, but that we now become AWARE of. And with that we become part of a movement that is driving forward the ideals of peacemaking, equality, reconciliation and compassion for all mankind and all life, the ideals that Jesus taught while He was here.

So, don’t fall for religion’s lies that have corrupted the original gospel message. Embrace the good news of God’s unconditional love for you and for EVERYONE.

I may be accused of twisting or ignoring scripture in presenting this view of God, but I’m really not. Scripture has been twisted and misrepresented for many hundreds of years in order to perpetuate the violent, wrathful, hateful view of God. I urge everyone to watch the video below that gives a visual explanation of these two very different views of God and the gospel, the “penal view” (Western) and the “healing view” (Eastern).

If you would like to discuss further, comment, PM or find me on Facebook. God bless.

Because I said so!!

Authority. Our entire world systems are based on it. Traditionally, the ultimate authority is that of God, which He then “delegates” to “lesser” powers: Jesus, the Spirit, the Bible, Christian leaders, government leaders, parents, etc. We teach that all authority is “granted” by God. Scripture in several places clearly posits this particular view of the world. Basically, we obey because of those in authority over us. To put it rather simplistically, we obey those in authority BECAUSE they are in authority, and will punish us in some manner if we don’t. The phrase, “Because I said so!” is not too far from the way we have defined reality in regards to authority. However, I have come to believe this way of relating to the world is not of God.

Jesus is said to be the EXACT representation of God, and he ESCHEWED any claim on authority, and became the ultimate SERVANT, both in life, and ultimately, in His death. Yes, He was GIVEN authority by the Father and of course, we GIVE Him Lordship in our lives. But it was not His desire to “rule” over us. In fact, He resisted that earthly idea at every turn. I believe He was showing us the TRUE heart of the Father.

God does not wish to relate to us as an authority-OVER us with a “rulebook” of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and doctrinal beliefs. Yes, He wants what’s best for us (He is FOR us) and sinful behaviors result in things that are NOT good for us or for mankind. So His desire is for us to abstain from sin by learning to love for our OWN sakes, not for HIS, for His “pleasure” or out of a need for us to “obey” HIM. Rather than authority, He chooses to relate to us as a servant-UNDER us, lifting us up from whatever moral plane we may currently be at to ever higher ideals of love for each other. It is His mercy, forgiveness and love that COMPELS us to put our trust in Him, which in practice equates to making Him Lord (authority) in our lives. But it’s something we GIVE based on our love of His “servanthood” towards us, not something we SUBMIT to because God has the largest stick (Hell) to punish us with someday.

When we become aware of this principal, we realize all the authority structures of MAN no longer really applies to us. Does that mean we can now sin all the time? No. We have NO desire to sin, because love reigns in our hearts. Sure, we still mess up. We are human, and know not what we do. But God does not count this against us. Our HEART is still ruled by love, not by our desire to “get away with things” like a child sneaking around behind their parent’s back. It’s a more “grown up” way of relating to God that doesn’t require Him to be a disciplinary figure anymore, but a friend and confidant that knows us inside and out and still accepts and loves us, warts, failures, struggles and all.

But let’s get back to authority. I believe all authority structures (governmental and religious) are made by MAN who then CLAIMS the authority of God as their reason for having the “right” to rule in our lives. The same with the Bible (scripture). Man proclaims it’s authority and says it’s from God.

But let’s look at what Jesus said was our authority. He told us that we would have no need of MAN to teach us. He said that we should do the bear minimum to keep the government off our backs (‘render to Caesar…’ — basically, not to tick them off on purpose). He told us the purpose of scripture was to point to HIM, not to be a rulebook reigning over us, like the Jews were using it. Paul reiterated this idea. And then He told us the Spirit (His “proxy” on earth) would be our teacher and lead us into all truth. When we become aware of the Spirit working in our lives, we surrender to His desire to serve us (teaching us is a service) and MAKE Him our authority. But the Spirit never DEMANDS to be heard or obeyed. The Spirit is the ONLY thing that Jesus intimated would be an authority in our lives. Not men, not scripture, not even HIMSELF really (and therefore, as revealed, not God, either.).

I know it seems like a backwards way of looking at the world, but I think this is a FUNDAMENTAL piece of theology that the church has LOST or never fully understood that changes our ENTIRE view of LIFE and relating to God and others. We no longer acknowledge any man’s authority over us (though we still may choose to obey in the interests of peace-keeping), or exercise authority over others, but only claim servanthood to mankind, just as Jesus showed us by example. Therefore, we have no place to tell people how to behave (while still striving to prevent harm and promote love) or even really what to believe (unless they ask to know). We are living epistles that when asked should be able give a reason for the hope within us (that hope is the attractive quality that the world just doesn’t have). We are the SERVANTS of the world, just as God is OUR servant, dying at our hands so that we could understand His true character and disposition towards us.

This Facebook post by Jacob Wright describes how this “upside down” authority structure is described in the apocryphal book of Revelation. This is the way that Jesus wins back the world — through servanthood, not authority.

A Hunger for Violence

So, the family went and saw the final Hunger Games movie yesterday evening, Mockingjay, Part II. As a conclusion to the series, it was satisfying if a bit predictable. After all, we all know the bad guys have to die and the “good girl” lives “happily ever after”. The one “decision point” in the movie was only mildly suspenseful, as they gave a HUGE amount of clues as to what was going to happen. As the remainder of this post is about what occurs at the end of the film, I’m going to give the standard *SPOILER* space in case you’d rather not know. For those who have seen it, or don’t care one way or the other, press on…

*SPOILERS*

 

*SPOILERS*

 

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*SPOILERS*

So, I found it interesting that the decision was really a choice between two violent acts. Violence is often considered inevitable, especially in movies of this type. Is she going to kill Snow or is she going to kill Coin? Basically, who is she going to take revenge on? The guy who essentially ruined her life, or the lady who (inadvertently) killed her sister and is likely to be as big a tyrant as Snow was. Of COURSE it’s pretty obvious she’s going to do the “right” thing (especially since Snow is going to die soon of a terminal malady anyway). But is it really “right” or is just Hollywood “right”. Do we REALLY have situations where violence is the ONLY answer, or are there ways to think outside the “violence box”, and come up with some solutions that don’t involve killing people? While this is “just a movie”, it greatly mirrors our struggles with terrorists, rampant gunmen, etc. Do we just kill them because “that’s all they understand”, or can there be alternate solutions?

I ran these thoughts past Jen and she gave me some good insights into how Katniss was feeling at the time she made her decision (She’s read the books). Katniss was simply “done” at this point. She was TIRED of the fight, tired of being the “face of the resistance” and always trying to figure out what the “right” thing to do was with everyone pulling her in different directions and trying to make her their puppet on a string. So, yes, she COULD have thought of alternate solutions (rather than just killing one of them), but she gave up. It was too HARD to continue STRIVING for peace.

This brings up a good point. Violence is really only ever a SHORTCUT solution to doing real WORK in people’s lives. It’s easier to kill or “put away” criminals rather than working WITH them (and their victims) to rehabilitate, build and restore relationships. It’s easier to BOMB the terrorists than to try and sit down with them and VALIDATE their claims of how we (our country’s foreign policy) have damaged their lives, and make an attempt to put things RIGHT.

Katniss took the easy way out. Easier to just take out Coin rather than trying to “fight” her over the long term with words and ideas (an area Katniss was never really good at, and was always coached through). Non-violent peacemaking is HARD WORK. Many people think pacifists want to take “the easy way out” by just letting their enemies “win”. But no, that’s not true. We don’t want to take the SHORTCUT, but to do the work to forge peace that doesn’t depend on the destruction of life. That’s NOT easy, it’s HARDER. Violence comes easy to ALL of us, even to noble “heroes” like Katniss Everdeen, who showed over and over she HATED all the killing. But in the end, she just had had enough. She became a bit more like her enemy than she would probably care to admit. Thankfully, circumstances took her out of the political ring altogether (she had played the part they wanted her to play), and so she was able to have that “happily ever after”, at least as far as movies go. But I wonder if she often thought, “Did I really HAVE to kill her?”

We should ask that question BEFORE we agree with policies that kill first and ask questions later. Do we REALLY need to respond this way, or are their OTHER solutions (harder, longer, costlier moneywise, yes) to the violent solution? Will we support the hard work for peace or give in to our hunger for violence?