Reading from Genesis 11:1-9 – Human civilization at Babel

Dr Fountain points out that the Lord recognized the amazing accomplishments being achieved by the people because of their:

  1. Unity – one people, one language and good understanding of each other.
  2. they had a common Vision and Goals. Stability, security, prestige and spiritual wisdom. (at least from their own worldview)
  3. they were demonstrating great organizational and management skills. Careful planning, the right people doing the right work, effective management, (though it may have been built on a system dependent on slave labor) good motivation and only using resources available to them in their context.

There is nothing wrong with these elements in a people group or in an organization with KoG purposes! So why was the Lord upset with what man was accomplishing?

  1. God had instructed man to fill the earth and this people were looking to just stay in one place.
  2. They were looking to achieve this all on their own with no dependence on God.
  3. God wanted them to get their wisdom from Him and not to rely on human wisdom.

So in some way He confused their efforts by confusing their languages and this destroyed their ability to effectively communicate?

The principle Dan points out is this: without God as our central focus and source of wisdom, we fall into conflicting and destructive groups. Pride takes over, disunity develops, and warfare between groups can develop.

The Kingdom of God is where God rules in everything. With God we can accomplish much but without Him we become confused, disorganized and even destructive!

Some questions:

  1. What were the good things being done by the people group in Genesis 11: 1-9? Do we include them in our own projects/calling?
  2. If we include these good elements in our work how do we guard against becoming prideful and losing sight of the real reason for our success?
  3. What does this teach us about the KoG?

 

I would encourage anyone reading this series to purchase the book it is based on.

Reading this week is Genesis 10. The origin of all people, tribes and nations. Dan makes 3 points initially:

  1. the chapter describes the origin only of nations known to Moses
  2. no written records were kept but passed down orally, which were quite accurate but not necessarily complete
  3. we do not know the exact identity of some of the names a places

Primary principles to be learned:

The unity of all people: We all belong to the same human family. (Acts 17:26)

Diversity among tribes and nations: it was always Gods plan. This chapter is about how that process got started.

Equality among all people: God is working among all people everywhere. Believing one group is superior to another is contrary to the Word of God.

Tribalism (in any form, for instance by aligning with a particular political party) has no place in the Kingdom of God: Believing any race, tribe or nation is superior to any other is a false belief.

We are all neighbors: we are all associated with one another. What the individual does can have significant impact on the direct as well as distant members of the human race. Conflict and hatred between neighbors is a sin against God and has no place in His kingdom.

Questions:

  • where do you see or experience for yourself, the effects of tribalism/racism? Why are these such powerful forces?
  • Why do these things have NO place in the Kingdom of God?
  • What is our/your role in confronting and overcoming the spirit of tribalism/racism?

I am beginning a new series that I will try and post to each Sunday evening. This is based on Dan Fountains book “The Kingdom of God: What is it?” This is a 52 chapter book meant to be used as a group study. I would encourage the purchase of this book to accompany these postings. I will not be posting each weeks readings in their entirety (wouldn’t be legal anyway) but simply what I think the high points might be and the most important questions Dr Fountain poses after each reading.

Week 8: Why Did Human Government (I think we could use the word “governance” as well) Without God Fail? Based on Genesis 4:1 through 9:17. This is of course the story of Cain and Abel, the descendants of Adam, the corruption of mankind and the flood.

Of the story of Cain and Abel Dan writes “The real issue in this story is not what they offered, meat or grain. Instead, it was the motivation in their hearts…Abel wanted to please God while Cain was motivated by pride…The disorder of Cain spread in every-widening circles to upset the relationship of man with himself and with God. (and I would say with God’s creation) Without the Word of God and without the desire to know him and trust him, the spirit of man was cut off from God and became controlled by pride and evil. Human government without God results finally in disorder and destruction. (sound familiar?)

Dan goes on to highlight Freud’s conclusion from his scientific studies that evil is so deeply seated in the unconscious mind that it cannot be eradicated and for this reason there will always be conflicts and war. He then quotes Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart (of man) is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”

The flood intervened to destroy this evil civilization but did God cause it or was it a consequence of warped human behavior? Dan believes the answer is both. He states “We cannot separate God from human history, and we should not ascribe the cause of all events to God alone.” But what was God trying to teach us during this time and through this event? “He had to teach us this lesson in order that we would one day realize we must live in a relationship of obedience to him.

Questions: Our spirit came from God. Why did it become so corrupt? What does this teach us about the power of evil in the human spirit? What can be done to overcome the power of evil in ourselves and in our nations. Should we accept evil passively, or should we do something about it?

Another quote from Larchet’s “The Theology of Illness”:

Nevertheless, for them (what the calls “holy people”) as for all mankind, perfect health of the body during this life can never be attained. In this world perfect health never exists in absolute form; health is always a matter of partial and temporary equilibrium. We can even say that health in this present age is simply a matter of a lesser illness, The very notion of ideal health is, in fact, beyond our comprehension, since it reflects no experience known to us in the life. In our present condition, “health” is always in some sense “illness” that has simply not appeared as such and/or is not significant enough to be identified as such. 

“And there is no question that people today have far fewer resources than their ancestors did to deal with the entire problem.” (of suffering from illness) So states Jean-Claude Larchet, a French Orthodox researcher who is described as a foremost Orthodox Patristics (early church fathers) scholar  in the intro to his book called The Theology of Illness. The author goes on to say “Without question, modern medicine has attained a remarkably high degree of scientific knowledge, technical ability and social organization….Yet we have to admit that this progress has its limits, and even its failures, due less to medicine itself than to various values – or ideologies – that in certain cases underlie its application and development.”

“The development of medicine in a purely naturalist perspective served to objectify illness, making of it a reality considered in itself and for itself. Illness came to be construed as uniquely physiological and somehow independent of the afflicted person, Rather than treat the (whole – my addition) person, many physicians today treat illnesses or organs. This fact – complicated by diagnostic methods that are increasingly quantitative and abstract, together with therapeutic methods that are more and more technical – has had as its primary consequence the effect of considerably depersonalizing medical practice…By regarding sickness and suffering as autonomous realities of a purely physiological character – and consequently as susceptible to treatment that is purely technical, applied to the body alone – modern medicine does practically nothing to help patients assume them. Rather, it encourages patients to consider that both their state and their fate lie entirely in the hands of the physicians, that the only solution to their trouble is purely medical, and that the only way the can endure their suffering is to look passively to medicine for any hope of relief and healing.”

He goes on to state that …”the fear that of all that can endanger, reduce or eliminate that enjoyment (of biological life); the refusal of all forms of suffering and the suppression of pain as the highest value of civilization and the consummation of social development;  the fear of biological death considered as the absolute end of human existence: all of this leads a great many of our contemporaries to expect that salvation comes from medicine and encourages them to make of the physician a new priest of modern times, a king who holds over them the power of life or death, and a prophet of their ultimate destiny.” (for a review of this intro check out THIS link)

Pretty strong words. But also pretty accurate. I’m looking forward to reading through this relatively short work but from the reviews it’s a short work with a lot of truth. This question continues to haunt my thinking. Why can’t the Church of the 21st century regain the initiative in caring for the whole person? Where are our local churches where this is happening effectively? Where pain and suffering find their proper place and the role of the physician and healthcare team are not seen as the main means by which people experience true health.

Another interesting conversation is one that the Roberta Winter Institute is promoting regarding why the Church is not strategizing about how to destroy the works of Satan which often show up as deadly viruses and bacteria that cause endless suffering among the worlds poorest.

I want to continue exploring Wilkinson’s “The Bible and Healing.” In the first in this series I wrote about “Health as Life.” He came that the sheep ‘may have life, (health) and have it more abundantly’. Life here derives from the Greek word zoe. Now we come to health as blessedness. This is built on the understanding that s/he who enjoys the blessedness that comes from having the characteristics highlighted in the Beatitudes (first called this by Ambrose of Milan in the 4th century) will enjoy health at its highest level.

Wilkinson states ” If it is true that we have in the Beatitudes a definition of health in terms of blessedness, then the qualities of a healthy person are very different from what we might expect…a complete reversal of our earthly values and standards, and today the person whose blessedness they portray would be regarded as down-trodden, persecuted, under-privileged and even psychologically abnormal. The meaning of the Beatitudes is that blessedness and health come from within and not from without. The important thing is not the human environment but the human heart. As someone has truly said, ‘The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart’.  Here the term ‘heart’ is not used in its physical sense but in the sense of the seat of the whole of human life, physical, intellectual and spiritual. When we speak of health as life and of health as blessedness we are really saying the same thing, for the blessedness of the Beatitudes is but another expression for eternal life. Both blessedness and eternal life belong to God and through Jesus Christ His Son they are offered to us that we might share in the blessedness and life of God which is the purpose for which we were created.”

I have grown to appreciate Seth Godin’s blog. Today’s reminded me of an old blog that used to be maintained by Alex Araujo called Sailing Friends. You can still review it HERE. What Seth wrote today was the following:

Add engines until airborne

That’s certainly one way to get through a thorny problem.

The most direct way to get a jet to fly is to add bigger engines. And the easiest way to gain attention is to run more ads, or yell more loudly.

Horsepower is an expensive but often effective solution.

The challenge is that power is expensive. And that power is inelegant. And that power often leaves behind a trail of destruction.

When in doubt, try wings.

Wings use finesse more than sheer force. Wings work with the surrounding environment, not against it. Wings are elegant, not brutal.

I think this applies to our missions efforts as well. In Sailing Friends the comparison is between getting to a destination via a loud and powerful powerboat (Western missions efforts often times)  vs a row boat. (where many workers in the majority world have to operate) The better way to go about doing missions together is if we all join together to operate a sailboat. Seth has suggested trying wings which, like sailboats, also depend on air to function. The air being the work of the Holy Spirit on which we must depend if we are to be successful for the kingdom. 

 

From Rev Dr John Wilkinson’s work “The Bible and Healing.” (Eerdmans, 1998)

Medicine has become a body of scientific knowledge combined with an accumulation of skills in the diagnosis and treatment of disease which exists as an independent discipline not necessarily related to any other. (the case could be made that this is true with regards to medical MISSIONS as well, my comment) While ‘healing’ has become a weasel word, often emptied of specific meaning and used in various contexts, some of which are less honorable than others. (pg 1)

If we are to understand the relation of the concept of healing to both medicine and theology, it is obvious that we must try to define more exactly what we mean by healing….we shall use the word healing in accordance with the observation that ‘as ordinarily used this word means the restoration to normality of deranged physical functions but in the wider meaning which a Christian view of man requires, healing is the enabling of a person (here I have taken the liberty to replace the author’s original word ‘man’ with person)  to function as a whole in accordance with God’s will for her/him’. This means that healing is neither medical charlatanism nor theological limboism, but included both the practice of orthodox medicine and the making of people whole in a theological sense.

Healing extends to all areas of human life and being. It cannot be confined to the body and the purely physical phenomena of the repair of wounds and the union of fractures. If human beings are indivisible entities, as we believe them to be, any disturbance of their health affects them as a whole and it it is to be effective, healing must also extend to the whole of their life and being. (the last 2 paragraphs from page 2)

I am frequently asked Now Mike what is it that you DO in your role at the Health for All Nations? It’s never a quick conversation unless it’s one of those elevator encounters that end in a matter of seconds or at most a minute. And the person asking doesn’t really have time to listen to the entire explanation. But if I do have the time I explain more about what we at Health for All Nations are called to DO and BE. We say we create spaces for missions innovators to collaborate in order to catalyze kingdom movements of health and wholeness among the nations. Most reactions are quite positive but on occasion I’ll have someone say I have not idea what that means. These are usually business minded people whose primary question is “What’s the output from you work.” Isn’t that the American way of thinking? What do you do to justify your existence and the existence of your organization? I’d like to give an example of an output from a dream we have had for some time. 

Our dream was to be allowed to develop a new Issue Network within the Lausanne Movement. We felt it would be of great benefit to have an Issue Network that dealt with health related mission. So using our model, this is how we proceeded: 

  1. Creating the space. Within our organizations network there were many who were connected to leaders in the Lausanne Movement. We began to exchange emails with these leaders asking if they thought this was a focus they thought was important enough to merit a new Issue Network within the Lausanne Movement? After all their mantra was “The whole Church taking the whole Gospel to the whole world.” Could it be the “whole” Gospel if there was little in their numerous statements about health and Christian healthcare services. After all Jesus did a fair amount of healing and restoring to wholeness during his short 3 year ministry. The leadership agreed and we set to work. 
  2. Establishing the Collaboration. One of our members developed a petition of sorts, explaining the reasoning behind a new Issue Network focused on health and we then began contacting influential Christian global health leaders around the world to sign the document. After gaining nearly 100 signatures the petition was submitted to the Lausanne Movement leadership for consideration and our idea was approved by the LM board! 
    • but this is hardly the end of the collaboration element of our efforts. The motto of the Lausanne Movement is now “Connecting influencers and ideas for global mission.” So the collaboration with go way beyond our initial efforts. As we gained signatures from around the world we were able to build an amazing list of leaders from all regions of the world. We will continue build these networks in order to move toward regional consultations on the theme of Health in Mission with an ultimate goal of conducting a Global Consultation in this theme. The collaboration will never end. 
  3. Catalyzing kingdom movements of health, healing and wholeness. In a sense one could understand this as church planting. We tend to think of church planting in other terms. We think a case could be made for using the term “Establishing communities of Shalom.” Just think of the difference between how we would measure progress on these two fronts. We would use very different criteria for success, that’s for sure. In any case, we believe that as we help create more collaboration between church planters, missiologists, pastors, and those called to Christian healthcare services we will be catalyzing great movements of health, healing and wholeness among the nations. The Shalom of God (some like the term human flourishing) will be made a reality in more and more places and among many more ethne than ever before. And we believe this will help facilitate the finishing of the task. 

I am ever amazed at the foresight of my late friend and mentor Dr Dan Fountain. His monograph “Health, the Bible and the Church” my be one of the most important works on the subject of health, healing and wholeness from the latter part of the 20th century. I use it in teaching a class on “Health and Development” so I know it well. The following is an excerpt from the first chapter. If it had been written yesterday it would still have the same relevance as it did back in 1989. Not much has changed at all. I think one of the greatest challenges is going to be how we in the Christian health/healthcare arena respond to the increasing call for HEALTH to be considered a human right. I believe Dan hit the nail on the head when he wrote the following: 

As persons individually or collectively we have considered health to be a right rather than a responsibility. We assume that someone is going to deliver health care to us, be it the medical profession, the government, or some agency.  We are content  to be passive recipients  of “health  care” rather  than active participants in the multitude of activities necessary to maintain and promote our own health.  From this community default has developed an understandable attitude of paternalism on the part of the medical profession-”We will do it for you.”

As members of the community,we deceive ourselves by assuming the implication that health is the responsibility only of doctors and hospitals. We fail to realize that health has to do with the way we live in our homes, how we do our work, how we play, and with our attitudes, feelings, and emotions.  Health is life, and no one can “deliver” it to us nor can anyone but ourselves improve it or destroy it. We ourselves must take the primary initiative for our own health, using many resources available to us from various health and sickness care programs.·       .

We have likewise fallen prey to the error that health isa matter only of the physical body,of bodily beauty,strength,and function. If a part of the body hurts,we rush to the appropriate specialist to get it fixed. We assume that to be cured of a physical ailment is to be healed, forgetting the true meaning of healing which is the restoration of wholeness.   We permit doctors  to treat a peptic ulcer or fix a hernia  but not to intrude on our attitudes or our life style. So we continue in our brokenness.

Only the best will satisfy us.Consequently we insist on luxury care and on the latest in high-cost reparative technology. We can scarcely afford it now ourselves, and we cannot possibly make this available to the poor. We do not know what to do about this dilemma so we blame it on the medical profession or the government, whereas in reality they are simply acceding to our demands. (HBC page 13) you may request access to this book online by emailing me at [email protected]