Is the Letter to the Hebrews adoptionist?

A friend recently asked me if Hebrews 1.1-4 is "adoptionist". Adoptionism is an early Christian heresy which states that Jesus was not fully God and fully human during his entire Earthly life. Rather God "adopted" Jesus as the Son of God at his Baptism, when the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus and filled him with Divinity. Jesus was then "un-adopted" on the Cross, when he died and gave that Divine Spirit back to the Father. This idea raises serious questions for Incarnational and Trinitarian theology. For instance, God does not become fully and truly human from the womb to the tomb in the Adoptionist scheme. 

Rather, God kind of "joy rides" Jesus of Nazareth for the "good" parts of his life, treating him like a Divine puppet, and then abandoning him at the time of greatest need on the cross. If this is the case, then not all of human life is redeemed and integrated into the life of God, just the "adult part" of life, until life gets hard as we near death. That is not full salvation for humans. And for God, it is not full empathy nor full solidarity with the human situation. For the Incarnation to be real and meaningful, it must include the entire human life, from the womb to the tomb and beyond. Thus, for these and many other reasons, the Church has rightfully rejected Adoptionism.


Praying Psalm 87 for Jerusalem

With the ongoing unrest in Jerusalem between Israelis and Palestinians, I have struggled to find a prayer to pray for them. Both sides are wrong. Both sides are right. Both sides have performed atrocities. Both sides deserve a safe and prosperous place to live. But how to pray through this on any given day is extremely difficult.

So, over the last few years I have found myself praying Psalm 87. It is a beautiful vision of Jerusalem (i.e. Zion in this Psalm), in which the City is the epicenter of God's blessing upon all peoples. Zion is elected by God as the chosen City, that it may draw all peoples into those blessings and bring them a genuine relationship with the Living God. God's election is never an election to privilege, but an election to use one's privilege to share God's blessings with all.


Ascension and Graduation

Jesus said "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." When he had said this, as the disciples were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. [Acts 1.8-10]

May 10 is the Feast of the Ascension. As a chaplain, this is an incredibly appropriate feast for the end of the school year, since this was Jesus’ graduation. He passed the final exam of the crucifixion with the perfect score of the resurrection. He graduates summa cum laude and immediately climbs the ladder to the highest position in the universe, sitting at the right hand of the Father to direct the work of his Body, the Community of Disciples, and empower them with his Spirit. 


Remembering James Cone

A Poem upon reading James Cone 

It’s always “too soon” to talk about oppression and liberation

The conservative assumption that things should be as they were

During the "good old days" that were so bad for so many

Combines with the liberal assumption that we should not rock the boat

And instead allow change to occur by a million tiny increments

Until we postpone any real change indefinitely into the future of God

So that real change always recedes from before our eyes

Like a cloud

Like a sunset

Like the infinitely deferred hope of the Second Coming

And perhaps not “like”

Perhaps it “is”

It is the infinitely deferred hope of the Second Coming

Infinitely deferred 

By our complicity with death and destruction

By our complicity with oppression and apathy

By our complicity with the Cross and the Lynching Tree. 


How to read the Whole Bible

This year I have student graduating who I have known since he was a precocious 6th grader. He is a young man who has always been skeptical, hovering somewhere between faith and ridicule, atheism and theism, during his entire time at our school. This young man of considerable intellect and intense curiosity recently asked me:

"I am really determined to read the entire bible cover to cover during my summer vacation. However, there seem to be so many choices of translation and I don't know which is better for my purposes. I want a Bible that is closest to the original translation but also full of helpful footnotes explaining things. Do you have any suggestions regarding a good bible? Also, feel free to recommend any companion books to go with it."

And so, this essay was born:


A Meditation on the Lives of the Greats

To truly change the world
One must have bedrock faith
That you are right
(whether as individual or collective)
And everyone else is wrong
That you have insight
And others live an illusion
That you have the cure
For a sick and dying world

This certainty 
Is an irresistible temptation 
(If wrong)
Or an unbearable burden
(If right)
Or in reality
Some inseparable admixture
Of both

So that is why so many of us
(Myself included)
Are content to merely critique the world 
Instead of changing it
So we can register our dissatisfaction
And cast our blame
Without paying the Price
Of change. 


On the Boundaries and Tasks of Ideology and Philosophy

I'm fleshing out some ideas for teaching philosophy next year, and at the beginning of the class I take students through an "Ideological Toolbox", meant to introduce them to the basic tasks and subjects within philosophy. So, below are some notes from me "thinking out loud".

Ideology refers to the symbolic maps we use, as individuals and as a society, to navigate reality and lead us to the realization of our ultimate values. Note that an ideology can come in many forms. Ideology can appeal to a transcendent source, and thus be a form of “Theology”. Or ideology can claim to stay proscribed within empirical reality and present itself as a form of science or psychology or sociology or political philosophy or economics or cultural critique. 


Why I think #deletefacebook is a scam

I think #deletefacebook is a scam. A lot of the motivation and funding and systematized "outrage" for the delete facebook movement in the wake of Facebook's data “breaches” apparently comes from other social media companies who are trying to gain market share, ad traffic, and profit from Facebook users SO THEY CAN DO THE EXACT SAME THINGS WITH YOUR DATA that Facebook is doing. And of course traditional media companies are piling on because news stories about outrage gain market share and ad revenue for them too.



God, Gender, and Washington Episcopalians

Recently the Episcopal Diocese of Washington passed a resolution about gendered language and God, and the internet, predictably, went crazy.

This issue touches on a number of issues Biblically, Theologically, Ethically, and Aesthetically. None of these issues are particularly complex in and of themselves, but taken together it creates an issue where people absolutely lose their minds. Before commenting, let's read what the resolution actually says: They urge the Episcopal Church to "utilize expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition and, when possible, to avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God." That's it. That's all of the language of the resolution. There is no attempt to prohibit male images, titles, and pronouns for God, but to balance them with images, titles, and pronouns drawn from Scripture and Tradition which reflect other aspects of God as well. 


The Lombardi Trophy and American Civil Religion

This Sunday I was fascinated by the presentation of the Lombardi Trophy at the Super Bowl, and how it becomes the final sacrament at one of the High Holy Days of American Civil Religion. As a scholar of religion, it was a particularly vivid example of how American Values can be concretized into a set of rituals and even in a central sacramental object. As a Christian pastor, it also kinda horrified me as an act of explicit idol worship. As many have pointed out, sports have become a functional form of religion in our culture, even if they may lack an explicit religious hierarchy or creed.


How to make a paracord Prayer Rope

The above video is a brief description of how to make a (nearly) indestructible Prayer Rope out of nylon paracord. A Prayer Rope is a version of Prayer Beads or a Rosary, and is used for repetitive, meditative prayers. Since I made mine, lots of people have asked me how to make it in person, over email, and by text. So, I decided to share how to make it with everyone. If it helps you on your spiritual journey, feel free to use it.


CHART: What Happens after death? Three Christian Views

The following is a chart I developed for teaching the three basic hypotheses that Christians have held for what happens in the "intermediate state" between Earthly life and final resurrection. Please note that the distinctly Christian Hope is NOT that we live in Heaven forever after we die. The distinctively Christian Hope is that in the End we are raised to share in embodied eternal life with Jesus Christ, whose resurrection is the Pattern for our final destiny. As the Apostle John says: "Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure." (1John 3.2-3)

This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.