Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rally and March Against Domestic Violence

The State of Alaska designated today for Choose Respect rally and march. Noon was the set time for the communities throughout the state to hold events bringing awareness regarding domestic violence and abuse and to promote services that are available to victims.

In Petersburg quite a group formed outside of Trading Union. The morning had consisted of showers with occasional heavy downpours, but that did not seem to discourage people from gathering. With the city police cruiser leading and the police chief and the state trooper in Petersburg right behind holding a banner, the rest of those gathered together walked down Main Street toward City Hall and into the council chambers. Quite a number of High School students took time away from their lunch period to participate.

Inside the chambers, four individuals spoke briefly on domestic violence: a representative from the governor’s office, Mayor Al Dwyer, Police Chief Jim Agner, and a representative from Working Against Violence for Everyone (W.A.V.E.).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another sunny day

Once again the day’s forecasts and reality are polar opposites. All the forecast call for showers and rain, but so far this morning it is rather sunny.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Some Definitions from Romans

Our church group is working through the epistle to the Romans. We are making effort to set aside definitions and concepts that have been handed down to us and see what Paul really meant when he employs words that form part of the Christian vocabulary. As one commentary points out, we must not let nearly 2,000 years of Christian history and tradition obscure what Paul has written.

This is a post that will be updated during our time in Romans.

Here are the terms and some working definitions associated with them.

(All texts from the New English Translation unless otherwise indicated.)


The dictionary definition of gospel as it is commonly used today is that it is mainly about the teachings, i.e., doctrine. However, Paul defines gospel as follows:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel  from faith to faith,  just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.” Romans 1:16-17

For Paul then, gospel is primarily about the power of God to save people because God is righteous. Gospel is not simply a body of knowledge and teachings, but rather gospel is the acts undertaken by God in relation to humans.

Righteousness (and Unrighteousness)

The dictionary definition of righteous (righteousness is the state of being righteous) gives the impression that righteousness has primarily to do with virtue and moral quality. Paul does not directly give a definition for righteousness in the first chapter, he does define its opposite, unrighteousness:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. Romans 1:18-21

Unrighteousness is not acknowledging or not honoring God. Therefore righteousness must be acknowledging and honoring God, giving thanks to him. Righteousness is not virtue, but a positive relationship with God.


The dictionary definition of wrath most commonly assumed is the vengeance and punishment aspect associated with intense anger. Paul defines wrath in chapter 1 as follows:

Therefore God gave them over… Romans 1:24

For this reason God gave them over… Romans 1:26

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over… Romans 1:28

For Paul in Romans, wrath is God giving people up to the natural and logical consequences of unrighteousness (as defined above). All of the immorality and depravity, the evil attitudes that are catalogued in the last part of chapter 1 is not unrighteousness itself but its results. Just as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 is singular, for Paul the fruit of unrighteousness is singular (c.f., Romans 2:1 where Paul writes that anyone who judges is guilty of all the evils mentioned just prior).


The dictionary definition of judgment is mostly accurate in terms of usage in Romans. What appears to have happened is that Christianity has overloaded and expanded the definition of judgment beyond its proper use. In Christianity judgment has the added connotations of condemnation and punishment, where properly used it simply means a decision. Paul defines judgment as follows:

… On the day when God will judge  the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus. Romans 2:16

For Paul, judgment is simply God confirming the decision that each person has made because God knows a person through and through. God does not need to condemn or punish because each person’s sentence is a natural consequence of their decision in relation to God. Psalm 139 could be read as a judgment psalm in which the psalmist is requesting God to examine his (the psalmist’s) life and to point out anything that might be wrong in their relationship.


Sin is where the dictionary definition truly falls away from what Paul intends in Romans. Like righteousness, sin is defined in moral and behavioral terms. As was already discussed, morality or immorality is the result of how one relates to God.

Then what about the “definition” of sin often heard in Christian circles? What about the following text?

“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4 (KJV)

It is an unfortunate translation choice. What it really says (and is found in all modern translations) is “sin is lawlessness,” i.e., sin is living without knowledge of the law and/or living as if there is no law. Paul writes in Romans 4:15,

For the law brings wrath, because where there is no law there is no transgression either.

However, Paul has already shown (in chapters 1-3) that sin and unrighteousness exist apart from the law (c.f., Romans 2:12); therefore, sin cannot be the transgression of the law. Again, transgression of the law is a fruit of unrighteousness.

The first use of sin in Romans is found in Romans 3:9.

What then? Are we better off? Certainly not, for we have already charged that Jews and Greeks alike are all under sin…

Paul’s definition of sin is not that of immorality, or deeds, or behaviors but in regards to power. Sin is the power that enslaves people so that they have no choice but to bear the fruit of unrighteousness. Sin is the power that is exerted over people who choose to not acknowledge God, not honor him, and not give thanks to him.

It was mentioned earlier in this post that the gospel is the power of God to save.

With that we able to determine the central thesis of Paul in Romans: There are two powers present in this world – the power of the gospel and the power of sin. Each person is under one or the other; no one can remain independent. Everyone enters the world under the power of sin. The power of sin is so pervasive that it confuses the thinking of everyone so that wrong seems right and vice versa. If human thinking is that confused, how can God break through with his power to overcome sin if people don’t even recognize it as good news? That is where grace and law come in. Grace is present so that everyone has some recognition of God in the power present in the universe, in the created order; the beauty that still remains in the world; in the love that is still found among people. Law provides another aid to help people see that their thinking is confused – law identifies fruit of unrighteousness and also identifies responsibilities of the righteous. But the law must not be confused with the gospel –

For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20

The opposite of sin is not virtue, but faith. Then the definition of sin must be faithlessness:

But the man who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not do so from faith, and whatever is not from faith is sin. Romans 14:23

Spring Day

Today was definitely a spring day. The temperature soared to 54 degrees – summer like compared to the freezing temperatures not just too long ago. I was able to go out onto the beach in just short sleeves. I saw an iceberg floating by with gulls perched atop. Now that I once again have a computer that can work with photos, I can post albums again.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sermon: Treasure in Heaven

It has been quite a while, hasn’t it? I was asked in to fill in at the Presbyterian Church today. I also gave a slightly shorter version of this at the Lighthouse Church youth group this past Thursday evening.

Scripture passage is Mark 10:17-31.

MP3 Audio (15.8MB)

Here in Petersburg it looks like winter might be losing its grip. We’ve had a few sunny and warm days, although nights still fall below the freezing point because there is no cloud cover.