Students Remember Mrs. Goetz

Diane Goetz, taken 6/25/2014, two days before the hemorrhage.

Diane Goetz, taken 6/25/2014, two days before the hemorrhage.

Venissa Ledesma Remembers Mrs. Goetz

Yesterday morning I woke up to devastating news. Someone who has been a big part of my life for the past three years had a brain hemorrhage and was pronounced brain dead and was later taken off life support.

Mrs. Goetz was never actually my teacher but she had a bigger impact on my life than any of my real teachers. She was my FNL adviser and Link Crew adviser. She was always there whenever I needed her…Words cannot describe how much she means to me. She genuinely cared about her students and was the sweetest lady I have ever met. I will forever cherish the memories that keep replaying in my head…

Like my freshman year when she drove me and three other high school students up to Camp Marston for YDI and would randomly start laughing for no apparent reason — and no explanation either. I didn’t really know her then but it’s one of my fondest moments with her. Or this past May at the Excellence in Prevention award ceremony when I got to sit down and have dinner with her and talk about plans for next year and about all the things she had done in her life. She was so full of life and happiness and so selfless in everything she did for me and others. Her classroom was always open for anyone who needed a place to go and she had this way of making people feel comfortable enough to talk to her whenever.

I remember when she gave me her phone number and told me to call her if I ever needed anything, she didn’t know it but I was having a rough day that day and she made it so much better with that simple act. It’s selfish to cry but I am completely heartbroken. Mrs. Goetz taught me so much about myself and believed in me and my ability to lead FNL and Link Crew even when I didn’t even believe in myself.

This has been very difficult to write and I wasn’t going to write anything because the grief was too much, but I didn’t think it was fair to Mrs. Goetz because not everyone had the honor and privilege of knowing her, but I don’t believe this conveys how truly amazing Mrs. Goetz is. I’m going to miss her so much. She has been with me every year of high school and senior year is going to be tough, but I hope to make her proud. You will always have a special place in my heart Mrs Goetz, may you rest in peace.

Venissa Ledesma
July 1

Alicia Guerra Remembers Mrs. Goetz

I just found out that my high school government & economics teacher Diane Goetz passed away from a cerebral hemorrhage. Mrs. Goetz and I both shared a genuine interest in politics; we even started a Political Science Club together so that students could discuss current events on campus. I admire her strong political convictions and civic knowledge (even though I’m not a Republican anymore :P). Economics was a hard subject for me, but she helped me get through it. There’s no way I would have passed my AP/IB exams without her. If I get accepted into a PhD program and become a college professor someday, I hope to be half as good a teacher as she was. I’m extremely upset that she’s gone. My condolences to her family.

Alicia Guerra
July 1

Gabe Otero Remembers Mrs. Goetz

Truth be told I had been avoiding writing a post like this for quite some time. I didn’t want to believe that Mrs. Goetz had passed. But with the fact that I’ll be out of town during Mrs. Goetz’s memorial service, I figured I should find another way to share the wonderful memories I’ve had with her.

I saw Mrs. Goetz just about every day since sophomore year in high school. She was the new Key Club advisor and I worked very closely with her as a treasurer with things like membership dues, depositing money, and working with the club. Mrs. Goetz was always there to help me with things that needed to get done, and she was incredibly supportive. If on the off chance we both didn’t quite know how to do something, we would work during lunch or after school figuring out how to do it ourselves.

In my junior and senior years of high school I became the president of the club and, even if I wasn’t going in her class for key club related things, I was in there just because I felt comfortable and welcomed in the environment that she created. I think it was because she was always there for us. Her classroom was a home to a lot of us that ate there, studied there, or went to meetings there. If she knew we were struggling in economics, she would go out of her way to help us study on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. She would also be willing to sit with us during board of director meetings on Friday afternoons when most would be itching to get home. She was dedicated to her students and passionate about their success and activities.

These were also the years in which I really got to know Mrs. Goetz. I would enter and exit her class always met by laughter, a laughter so genuine and smile-inducing that it was special. Mrs. Goetz believed in me. I remember when someone joked about my position in Key Club. I didn’t think much of it, but Mrs. Goetz pulled me aside the next day and told me how great a leader I was and that she was proud of me. It was a kind of reassurance I’d never gotten before and it meant a lot to me. I think she believed in all of her students like that, knowing that they’d get good scores on IB and AP tests.

Before we left for summer, the club had a banquet celebrating our year. We all felt that we needed to show Mrs. Goetz how much she meant to us, and so we presented her the “Advisor of the Century” award. I hope that’s still around somewhere for all to see. Lastly I’ll share this picture of the club and Kiwanis get together. Mrs. Goetz was always smiling like this. Me and I’m sure all of the Bonita Vista key clubbers will miss you greatly and thank you for all that you’ve done for us. Rest in peace.

Gabe Otero
Saturday, July 5, 2015

 Alicia Guerra Remembers more about Mrs. Goetz

Ever since Diane Goetz passed away a few days ago, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about her. It’s been 6 years since I was her student in AP US Government & Economics, but I remember her like it was yesterday.

Mrs. Goetz was one of the few teachers at BVHS that was genuinely passionate about the subjects she taught. She invested hours upon hours watching the news, reading the newspaper, and studying academic journals. She possessed an extensive amount of knowledge about politics and economics; she could’ve given the anchors on C-SPAN or the Nightly Business Report a run for their money. She was a voracious reader and learner, qualities which she inadvertently passed on to me.

Although she was notorious on campus for being a “staunch Republican”, liberal students still loved her. She did not fit into the liberal stereotype of conservatives — she was very compassionate and embraced diversity. Mrs. Goetz and I came from very different backgrounds; she was a white conservative Christian and I was a Mexican libertarian atheist. But that never mattered. I always felt safe, comfortable, and accepted around her, which was important for me because I didn’t have a great support system at home. I was one of the most economically disadvantaged students in her class, but since she treated us all equally, I never felt that way at all.

Economics wasn’t really my strong suit. I found it to be painfully difficult and boring, and on top of that, I had an attention disorder that I wasn’t being medicated for. I struggled with her class; I was not one of her top students by any stretch of the imagination. But Mrs. Goetz never gave up on me. She would stay after school tutoring me for several hours at a time so that I could keep up with the class. She’d often have to explain concepts to me more than once. But she never made me feel stupid about it.

She always chose to focus on my strengths instead of my weaknesses. She knew that I loved science and information technology, so she had me do research projects and make powerpoints for her government class.

By the end of the school year, I earned A’s in her classes and passed all of my AP/IB exams. If I would’ve had a different economics teacher, I probably would’ve failed the class, flunked out of high school, and be working at McDonald’s. But today, I’m close to finishing two STEM degrees at UCSD, and I can only imagine how proud of me she would’ve been.

Throughout my entire academic career, Mrs. Goetz is one of the most memorable teachers I’ve ever had and I’m very sad that she’s gone. May you rest in peace, Mrs. Goetz.

Alicia Guerra
July 4, 2014

Former Student Remembers Mrs. Goetz

Hi Ron,

My best friend in high school just passed along the blog post you wrote about your wife. My condolences.  I took her senior Econ Class at Bonita Vista High School around 2000.  That year was especially rough for me.  I was having suicidal thoughts, and my always straight A grades were plummeting.  Thankfully, due to the intervention of some of my teachers, I was referred to the school counselor, which ended up into getting into therapy, because I really had no one else to talk to.  While the road after high school was equally dark, I have since righted the ship and have a lot going on for me. I’ve held the same job for 8 years, I’m able to practice my art of writing, and I’m six years sober and incredibly active and of service in my recovery fellowship.

Econ was especially rough for me. The concepts behind it all was so confusing, but I really had a lot of fun in your wife’s classes with my friends.  When things were really rough for me and my grades were suffering, your wife was nice enough to tutor me a few times after class to help me out and get me back on track. Overall, the kindness and care that I experienced from a few of my high school teachers has saved my life, and has also laid out a blue print of being of service to the people in my life today, as they led by example.  I only wish I could have gotten the chance to go back to San Diego and thank your wife person for all of her help during that really difficult time for me and let her know I really did turn out okay. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and the family during this time.

(Name Withheld by Request)

Olivia Gonzalez Remembers Mrs. Goetz

Hi Mr. Goetz,

I am a former student of Mrs Goetz’s (graduated 2009) and wanted to send my sincerest condolences. I know myself and my 2009 classmates were heartbroken to hear she had passed and we all had fond memories with her. Do know that her students are very sorry and we send you and your family out best.

On my first day of Econ with Mrs. Goetz, she showed us a picture of a bunch of black spots on the overhead projector and said “how many of you see a cow here?” The picture had the outline of a cow taken out so that it was only black spots. I did not see the cow, but when she mentioned it, I looked a little harder and saw the outline that would’ve been there. But it took her telling me it was there for me to understand. “Some of you will naturally see the cow in economics, and others won’t, those of you in the second category should take a different approach and I will show you.” Since I was an Econ student who didn’t naturally see the cow metaphorically, Mrs. Goetz showed me. She was patient, effective, and kind to her students and made sure that nobody left the room with only seeing black spots on the projector.

We all looked forward to her class and were grateful to have the caliber of teacher that we did. Every day she came in and smiled at us, even if we misbehaved and didn’t deserve it. She look underdogs under her wing and helped the strong students grow. She was even-handed, caring, brilliant, and maternal. You could tell she loved economics and that she loved her students and wanted to inspire us. And she did. That is something we really thank her for. The role she played in the International Baccalaureate program was one of great value.

The classroom she occupied with such presence, grace, and strength will always feel a bit emptier without her there. As an alum, I will be sad when I visit Bonita to not be able to pop my head in and disrupt her 5th period with a spritely hello from a Bonita alum. But I will think of her and be grateful to have had such a wonderful teacher.

Olivia Gonzalez
7/10/14

Posted in Deeper Life, Humility, Servanthood, Testimony | 2 Comments

Obituary: Diane F. Goetz

Diane Falkner Goetz
1955–2014

Diane Goetz, taken 6/25/2014, two days before the hemorrhage.

Diane Goetz

Diane F. Goetz suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on Friday, June 27th, and was pronounced brain dead on Sunday the 29th in the Sharp Grossmont Hospital ICU.  Diane was a  Gift of Life Donor, with her liver going to a young man in the L.A. area, and her kidneys to two people in their 50′s and 60′s local to San Diego.

Birth and Early Childhood

Diane was born Diane Lynn Falkner in Orlando, Florida on June 23, 1955, and spent her early childhood in the beach town of Indialantic, Florida. She loved walking barefoot on the beach picking up sand dollars. She stored her treasure, as children do, in a cigar box.

Diane and her brother Joe used to collect soda bottles to redeem for a nickel a piece.  Once they picked up a bottle they found in a field. The bottle contained a brood of deadly coral snakes and their mother.  Joe said he quickly tossed the bottle away and shouted, “They’re coral snakes! They’re coral snakes!”

Diane was a bit of a tom boy, and loved little critters.  Tree frogs were ubiquitous in Florida. She described how they would crawl on the screen doors of their house at night. She occasionally crammed frogs into her pockets  to smuggle them into the house. Her mother, of course, found their remains while doing the laundry.

She described the town of Indialantic as being cut down the middle by railroad tracks. On one side was the white part of town, the other side was black.

Diane’s memories of elementary school were a total blank.  As a child she had a recurring nightmare about elementary school, where she would be locked in the school at night, chased down the hallways by shapes. The shapes were all the childhood colors of the primary grades: red, yellow, blue, green. She hated elementary school.

High School Years

Her feelings about school changed with the academic challenges of junior high and high school.  After attending Campus Crusade’s Explo ’72, she was inspired to share her faith. High school in Scottsdale was an eventful time for Diane.

Diane organized a well-attended “Meet Around the Flagpole” morning prayer meeting before school, with upwards of fifty students in attendance. When the principal told her the prayer meeting had to be moved to a less conspicuous location on campus, she went toe to toe with him. She walked into his office and told him it was their legal right to gather there before school.  The principal stood down.

She was especially empowered by Jesus Movement events like Explo ’72.  When she returned to San Diego after the event, she began carrying “Four Spiritual Laws” booklets wherever she went. She read through the booklet with students on campus and strangers at the beach, leading many people to place their faith in Christ.

College and Marriage

Diane attended Simpson College from 1972 to 1976, graduating with a B.A. in psychology and her teacher credential.  She and I met there, fell in love, and were engaged. Following her mother’s wise advice, Diane made sure that her education provided her with a means of supporting herself, and earned her teacher credential within her B.A.  Years later we also attended graduate school together.  She earned her M.A. in English from San Diego State University in 1992.

We were married on Saturday, August 28, 1976 at Pacific Beach Bible Church, with her dad, Rev. Joseph E. Falkner, performing the ceremony. We waited several years to begin having children. Our daughter Lissette was born February 1, 1979, Melanie was born April 30, 1981, and Jonathan was born March 22, 1985.

A Natural Teacher

Diane was a natural teacher. Her mother says that when she began teaching Sunday school, her opening questions appeared at first to be unrelated to the subject, but were inevitably excellent openings for the discussion.

Later, when she taught in junior and senior high, she often told me that when she entered her room she could instantly “take the temperature of the class.”  She knew the mood of the students immediately, a sensitivity I sincerely admired.

Diane taught at San Francisco Christian High School for four years (1976 to 1980). After moving to San Diego, she taught underprivileged students English and history at Southwest Junior High School near the U.S./Mexico border in San Ysidro. It seemed as though every year one of her students died from gang violence or adolescent stunts like dashing across the freeway. She grieved the loss of each of her kids.

Later she taught economics at Bonita Vista High School, having never taken a course in econ. Economics came under the social science umbrella. She was learning the topic just two or three weeks before she had to teach it. It was quite stressful. About half way through her first semester she said, “Ron, I don’t know if I want to teach economics for the rest of my career.” For many years her students have had the highest AP pass rate in the school district.

Survivors

Diane is survived by her three children, Lissette Ryan, Melanie Potter, and Jonathan Goetz, her three grandchildren, Thomas Potter, Jack Ryan, and Rosie Ryan, her parents, Rev. Joseph and Myrtle Falkner, her brother Joseph E. Falkner, Jr., and me, her husband.

Memorial Service

Date: Saturday, July 19, 2014

Time: 1:00 p.m.
Place: First United Methodist Church of El Cajon
772 So. Johnson Avenue
El Cajon, CA 92020

Light refreshments will be served after the service.
Time for sharing your memories will be available during both the memorial service and the refreshment time.

Diane was a woman of laughter and joy. Please come and share her joy and love with us.

Posted in Obituary | 33 Comments

Seeing in a Mirror the Glory of the Lord

Perfect Union: Father Son Spirit Bride

Perfect Union: Father Son Spirit Bride

The next passage I want us to consider is 2 Corinthians 3:18.  For all its profound depth, it is expressed quite simply, and boils down to one simple question.  When you look into a mirror, what do you see? You see yourself. Simple. But the Apostle Paul takes that simple fact one step further.

Seeing in a Mirror the Glory of God

Seeing in a Mirror the Glory of God

The New American Standard Bible, considered by many to be the most literal translation available, renders the verse like this.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB)

The New Revised Standard Version renders verse 18 very similarly.

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Thus, when we look into the spiritual mirror and see ourselves, we are seeing God’s glory. We are the glory of God.  This is a reality that must be contemplated, thought about, but words are inadequate to express its meaning.  I can talk around it a bit, as many students of the Bible have for centuries, but what it means for you can only be discerned by you.

People often say they don’t “feel” the presence of God in their lives. They wonder whether or not God exists. Often they use the word “doubt” in describing these feelings and questions.

Ultimately, the thesis of this book is that, according to Scripture, you are the presence of God on the planet. God is not some being distant from us, across an unbridgeable chasm.  We don’t pray to a God who lives up in heaven somewhere, up in the sky.  Even the idea that God dwells in us is only partially complete.

According to 2 Corinthians 3:8, as we behold, or “see” the glory of God reflected back at us in this spiritual mirror, we are being transformed to increasing degrees of glory.  You could say that the more you contemplate the spiritual reality of being the glory of God, the more that reality becomes a reality in your life and consciousness.

The veil referred to above is the veil that prevents us from perceiving spiritual reality, and refers to the story of Moses coming down from Mt. Sinai. His face shined with such a bright glow that the Hebrews were unable to look at his face.  Moses reportedly continued to wear the veil to prevent the Jews from perceiving the fact that the glow had faded.

While this background information is important in understanding that the veil hides the fact of the presence of God, we must not get bogged down in it. We need to abide in the spiritual truth that when we contemplate or behold as in a mirror the glory of God, it is we ourselves who are that glory, that radiance of God.

Posted in Apotheosis, Bride of Christ, Deeper Life, Father Son Spirit Bride, Meditation, Mysticism, Perfect Union, Perfect Unity, Sanctification | Leave a comment

Spoiler Alert: “Blood Doctrine” — An Unpromising First Novel

Blood Doctrine Just Doesn’t Deliver as a Novel

I really regret having to pan a writer’s first novel. I know how much hard work and hope goe into a first novel. While Christian Piatt’s Blood Doctrine has relatively plausible fictional premises, as a novel it just doesn’t deliver.

If you begin with The Da Vinci Code, add some Jurassic Park and strong dose of Jesus and the Essenes, you have the main elements of Blood Doctrine.  Yes, Jesus genes exist in our time frame, preserved in a 2,000 year old blood sample which blood is basically cloned. There is no bloodline, at least not yet.  That comes, perhaps, in a sequel hinted at in the last line.

I look for a few things in novel.  First, I like it when there is at least one character that I care about, one character who is likable. There is no character in Blood Doctrine who is likable.  No character in the story is developed enough to care about.

The opening scene was reminiscent of the birth scene in the movie Willow. While a screaming mother separated from her newborn conveys a lot of shock value, it is virtually the only thing that actually happens until the last 40 pages of the book. By page 50 I was angry that I had committed myself to writing this book review at all, and by page 100 I was furious.

There are two episodes of violence referred to in the first 140 pages, but they occur “off-stage”, out of range, to people we have never seen and with whom we have no emotional attachment. These killings are unreal, and do not generate the sense of danger and foreboding they were designed for.  Dramatically speaking, these two murders are simply cerebral ideas.  The killings do not move the action forward, at least not emotionally.

Allow me to list what I see as dramatic problems with Blood Doctrine.

  • There is not a single character I like or care about, not a single character with whom I identify. The best developed character is the “plucky reporter”, but there is no spark of individuality as she stands now.  She is just a one-dimensional stock character, imbued with a determination to follow in the footsteps of her father as a fearless reporter.
  • There is virtually no characterization in the novel, and absolutely no character development. Perhaps we are to wait for that in the sequel, but I don’t see a hint of an ability to develop characters.
  • The fact that Jacob grew up in an orphanage, being separated from his biological mother at birth, seems designed to create some sympathy for the character.  But this element is so truncated that if fails to create any emotional connection with the blood clone.
  • Blood Doctrine hijacks a universe of assumptions and tropes (genetic technology, church schemes, powerful bishops, secret societies, plucky reporters, etc.), but fails to live up to that literary heritage.

Rumor has it that the book is aimed at young adults.  If it is, then the book seriously underestimates the reading interest and endurance of the YA audience. The young people with whom I am familiar are reading “adult length” novels: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (377 pages), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (309 pages), Divergent (487 pages). Obviously length is no measure of quality, but the sparse 186 pages of Blood Doctrine fail to deliver as a novel on any level.  It’s just too short–it leaves out too many elements of a satisfying read. At the same time, it’s too long–like driving across the plains of Canada at night: nothing happens and you can’t see anything.

One of the central problems is that the main motivation for writing the book is ideological and theological.  I have no problem with the ideological and theological premises of the book.  And there is no  disputing the fact that every novel reflects its cultural and ideological context.  The problem here is that embedding those ideological and theological premises in a novel is absolutely no guarantee that that the story will work in its incarnation in the fiction genre.

Despite the bare similarities between Blood Doctrine and The Da Vinci Code, as a novel Piatt’s book has more affinity for the urban fantasy genre. Urban fantasy generally has an urban setting, a brash female heroine, and (especially more recently) a gritty feel (read: several “fucks” per page). There are two other ways in which Blood Doctrine resemble urban fantasy.

One similarity is that in urban fantasy, the heroes discover their secret powers gradually as their stories develop. This is certainly true of Jacob, Jesus’ present-day blood clone, as he discovers his (one suspects) mutation-based ability to heal.

The second similarity between this book and urban fantasy is the racism and sexism that often mar urban fantasy.  But in the case of Blood Doctrine, the specific species of racism is anti-semitism.  Piatt’s portrayal of first-century scribes and Pharisees is the most shrill I have ever encountered.  He seems to begin with John’s gospel and then ratchets it up a couple of notches.

While Blood Doctrine has the look and feel of the more gritty urban fantasy, it is structured much like a mystery, which in large part accounts for the sense that nothing really happens in the book. Numerous “clues” build up in the beginning of the book, but they are not enough to build up a real sense of suspense.

Another technique Piatt uses is a triple narrative, concerning first-century followers of Jesus, the blood-clone Jacob, and the reporter tracking down her dangerous story. Unfortunately, these story lines do not build any compelling suspense either.

Blood Doctrine attempts to answer the question, “What would Jesus be like if he were born today?”  Piatt postulates that he would have genetic healing powers, possibly rooted in a mutation.

The difference between Jesus and Jacob, however, is that Jesus was nurtured in pious environment, and all of his experiences directed him toward the enhancement of his intrinsic healing abilities and toward an eventual Messianic identity, which is enhanced by the many years he spent among the Essenes learning their esoteric lore. In terms of environment, everything in Jesus’ “silent years”, especially his years spent with the Essenes, resembles Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

Jacob, on the other hand, lives his life in a decidedly impious environment, where “fuck” is the adjective of choice, and where the blood clone actually does “fuck”, with the logical result. Piatt’s generous use of “fuck” from everyone in this timeline seems to me either the reduction of “realism” to profanity, or an insult to the intelligence of his “young adult” readers.

In addition to the gift of healing, the single symbol of the Jesus clone’s “eccentricity” is his preference for jazz and playing the sax.

What I don’t know is whether I am dissatisfied with Christian Piatt as the author, or with Frank Schaeffer as the editor. Schaeffer reportedly cut Piatt’s manuscript in half. But in either case, the only reason I would ever be interested in re-reading Blood Doctrine would be to see whether my intense disappointment with the novel, as a novel, is deserved.

A novel should move on at least two levels, one is intellectual, the other is emotional. On a feeling level, there are many kinds of feelings that can be aroused.  Likewise, there are many different intellectual levels or premises available.  I did not find the intellectual premises in Blood Doctrine offensive.

While I don’t embrace Piatt’s Essene Jesus, neither do I reject it.  What was lacking, almost totally, was a requisite level of emotion.  There was one scene of shock value emotion in the first chapter, and a tepid level of emotional involvement in the last fort or so pages.  The book doesn’t fail as a piece of ideology, it fails as a piece of fiction.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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PDF of Debate Over the Law Free from Sermon Index

Debate over Paul’s Abolition of the Law

A few years ago I engaged in a prolonged debate with some of the folks over at Sermon Index. One of the topics included Paul’s cancellation of the Torah.

Free PDF of Debate Available at Sermon Index

The folks at SI have been kind enough to offer a complete record of the Torah skirmish without charge. If you’d like to download the free 36-page PDF, click here.

For a list of my posts discussing Paul’s cancellation of the Torah, click here

Galatians 5  12

Posted in Homosexuality and the Bible, Leviticus | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Fullness of God in Christ is God’s People Themselves

Perfect Union: Father Son Spirit Bride

As we read in 2 Corinthians 12:4, Paul believed he had heard something in heaven that he was forbidden to repeat.  Yet Paul was unable to keep this surpassing revelation a total secret.  The unutterable truth he heard comes out most strongly in Ephesians and Colossians, which are sometimes called the Christological Epistles.  Despite some closely related ideas in the immediate context, I am going to focus on a single key word in this post.  In Greek the word is πληρωμα, which is pronounced pleroma in English, and is translated “fullness.” 

What follows is a simple, bullet-point outline of the key statements regarding God’s fullness — God’s pleroma.

  • All of God’s Fullness Dwelled in Jesus Christ.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him. (Colossians 1:19, NIV)

  • Paul’s Goal for Us: to be Likewise Filled with all the Fullness of God.

. . . and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:19, NIV)

  • The Goal of our Discipleship is to Attain, as a Group, to the Whole Measure of the Fullness of Christ.

. . . attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:13, NIV)

  •  The Church Itself is the Fullness of Him who Fills Everything in Every Way.

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:23, NIV)

 We have the kind of reciprocal circularity that we saw in John 17.  All of God’s fullness dwelled in Jesus the Messiah, we are to be filled with all the fullness of God as well, our goal is to attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, yet we are the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

I mentioned that for the moment we would be skipping over some important things, which are mainly the relationship between our complete One-ness and the central role of suffering and love in its realization. For now, the main thing to grasp, perhaps in the way of Paul’s spirit of wisdom, is that God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus, and that the People of God are that fullness.

So far this has been, and may remain, a rather cerebral journey, a matter of ideas and words.  I have been presenting the testimony of scripture regarding some neglected truths. You will need Paul’s “spirit of wisdom and revelation” to continue the journey into what this means for you personally.

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To Read More in this Series, click on The Bride of Christ is God.

Posted in Apotheosis, Bride of Christ, Completely One, Deeper Life, Devotional, Liberal Devotion, Perfect Union, Perfect Unity | Leave a comment

“Things that No One is Permitted to Tell.”

Perfect Union -- Father Son Spirit BrideThings Forbidden to Repeat

Paul describes an experience of being caught up into Paradise and hearing things that he was convinced that human beings were not permitted to repeat aloud. This experience baffled him as to whether it was a vision or whether it took place literally.  II Corinthians 12:4 is central to this current study. Throughout this post I am assuming that the vision concerned Paul himself, and not some third person, which the logic of personal boasting suggests is the proper understanding.

    • Paul “was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.” (NIV)
    • “I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell.” (NLT)
    • “He heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.” (ESV)
    • Paul “was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.” (NASB)

Pharisees: “Equal with God? Blasphemy!”

Aside from the tetragrammaton (the Hebrew name for God–YHWH), there is one consistent thing which is unspeakable, and another item which is closely related. The first two passages, which are from John, illustrate what it is not permitted to say, under the pain of death. The second verse, from Luke, is related.

    • So the Jewish leaders tried all the harder to find a way to kill him. For he not only broke the Sabbath, he called God his Father, thereby making himself equal with God. (John 5:18, NLT)
    • “The Father and I are one.” Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?” They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.” Jesus replied, “It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ (John 10:28-34, NLT)
    • But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” (Luke 10:30, NLT)

In John, saying anything that suggests a human being’s equality with God is a capital crime, one which apparently does not require any judicial procedure aside from stones in the vicinity. (Remember, the Talmud–with limitations on the death penalty suitable for a stateless religion–was only even conceived of after 70 C.E.) In Luke, to encroach on what is considered a prerogative of God alone does not merit immediate stoning, but is nevertheless blasphemy. It seems highly likely that what Paul heard in his experience of Paradise was the expression of what he repeatedly “hints at” in places like Ephesians 1 and 5. This is experience of Paradise is akin to Christ’s initial revelation of himself to Paul on the road to Damascus in terms of being supernatural, revelatory, as well as the content

Why Write about It, Then?

Paul’s insistence that what he heard in Paradise is not to be spoken by any human being raises an obvious question. “If it is not permitted to repeat the content of the revelation, then why are you even writing about it?”  Something Christ is recorded as saying helped me with this problem.  Jesus said, “What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.” (Matthew 10:27, NRSV) People have observed conversations in the Bible, where later Biblical writers will comment on and respond to things earlier people had written. Some people discuss this under the heading of “progressive revelation,” which is a relatively safe approach for some. There are, for example, competing understandings of the office of the king, as well as differing appraisals of the role of the military in the life of Israel.  Another conversation is evident in passages which promise blessings on the righteous and books like Ecclesiastes, which teaches that life is “random.” The four gospels were written decades after Paul’s letters. I have noted that a dialogue is occasionally visible there, and also that the gospels occasionally reflect Pauline influence, and sometimes qualify Paul.  This is why Paul, a former Pharisee who retained much of the Pharisaic mindset we see described in John’s gospel, was convinced of the wrongness of repeating what he heard in Paradise and chose instead to leave broad hints to the content, but later scripture writers, especially John, convey that content in plain and simple language, especially in John 17.

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Jesus’ Complete Identification with the People

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 “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

Jesus’ complete One-ness with the People is seen in Saul’s very first encounter with him. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Paul’s entire ministry reflects the revelation of the perfect union of Jesus and the Church. Everything Paul writes about the total reconciliation of all peoples and everything on earth, in the heavens, and under the earth directly follows from his first revelation of Christ on the Damascus road.

Paul was temporarily blind after Christ was revealed to him. Paul was processing this revelation the entire time he was blind. Here he is going from city to city arresting Messianic Jews, and the Voice from heaven asks him why he is persecuting him.

If our popular understand of the relationship of Christ and the church was accurate, then the Voice from heaven would have said something different.

    • Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting my people?
    • Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting my followers?
    • Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting my church?
    • Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting the saints?
    • Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting my body?

Each of these alternatives suggests a wall of division between us and Christ. But the Voice didn’t say this.

The Voice expressed a total identification with the People. The People are not something apart and distinct from the Voice.  Imagine someone was attacking your body. You might say a number of things to your attacker.

    • Why did you kick me in my chin?
    • Why did you kick me in my abdomen?
    • Why did you kick me in the face?
    • Why did you kick me in my side?

But if we compare this to what the Voice said to Saul, we would say, “Why did you kick me?”

When Saul arrested a family of believers, he was arresting Jesus. When Saul stood by as Stephen was executed by stoning, Saul was officiating the execution of Jesus.

    • Today, when churchmen falsely accuse gays and lesbians, they are falsely accusing Jesus.
    • When synods and conferences defrock clergy for conducting same-sex weddings, they are persecuting Jesus.
    • When Christians drive people away from their churches, they are driving Jesus away.
    • When parents disown their gay and lesbian children, they are disowning Jesus.

The story of Saul’s revelation is repeated, verbatim three times, in Acts 9:4, 22:7, and 26:14. The question is word-for-word identical to the others.  As far as I can tell, the various translations have identical renderings. This suggests that the Greek is simple, straightforward, and clear. Of course, we still need the spirit of wisdom and revelation.

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The Universal Scope of Reconciliation

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As many of you know, tradition teaches us that Christ died to reconcile the world to himself.  There are a number of passages that discuss reconciliation, and what they say about it may or may not be what you might expect.

Only the man Christ Jesus can reconcile God and humanity (I Timothy 2:5).  Okay, that much is familiar.

While were still enemies, God reconciled us to himself through his Son. (Romans 5:10)  You’ve probably heard that, too.  It means that God’s “enemies” are being reconciled to God while they are still “hostile” to God, or the traditional idea of God.

In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them (II Corinthians 5:10).  Everyone in the world (or perhaps even the world “system”) was reconciled to God through Christ, and he does not no longer takes any notice of their sins.  They are forgiven and forgotten.  This is prior to any repentance, any acknowledgment of God.

The rejection of God by his people is the reconciliation of the world (Romans 11:15).  Again, the world is now reconciled to God.

Our reconciliation to God is all his doing, and he gave us the ministry of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:18).

So, from God’s perspective, all of the following are true.

    • God and humanity have been reconciled.
    • God and the world have been reconciled.
    • God and his enemies are reconciled.
    • God ended the hostility between Jews and gentiles.
    • God made peace between everything on earth and in heaven.
    • God does not hold our sins against us.

All Things in Heaven and on Earth are Reconciled through Christ

Through Christ God reconciled all things, making peace, whether things on earth or things in heaven by making peace through his blood (Colossians 1:20). It is clear from these and other citations that the Apostle Paul believe in the reconciliation.

It seems that there is some tension between Paul’s teaching and other teachings.  It is not my intent to write a treatise on this topic.  Such tensions will not be resolved with analysis. Take for example the perennial tensions between free will and predestination, the myriad versions of eschatology, or the meanings of “on this rock I will build my church.”  What is necessary is that people settle for themselves what they believe, and not make it a divisive issue within their communities.

This post (and a number of others) is intended for people who are already inclined to believe in the unconditional love of God, and would like to know that their belief is supportable from the scripture.  The need to support beliefs from the Bible, while not completely necessary, is nevertheless one element of maintaining a clear conscience.  If people maintain beliefs which they believe are contrary to scripture, then they risk violating their consciences and shipwrecking their faith (1 Timothy 1:19).

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The Spirit and the Bride

Perfect Union -- Father Son Spirit Bride

 

Important Pairs

Some people say that the Triune God has always been characterized by plurality.  In the creation story we read, “And God said, “Let us create man in our own image.” One important pair is in Ephesians 5 where it says that Christ and his Bride are “one flesh.” In John 17 we read about the perfect One-ness of Jesus and his Father. And at the end of the book of Revelation there is an important pair.

Revelation 22:17

An invitation is extended to all in the epilogue of Revelation. The invitation is extend by another pair, a pair that is significant to the teaching we have been exploring.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” Let everyone who listens answer, “Come.” Then let all who are thirsty come: all who want it may have the water of life, and have it free. (Revelation 22:17, Jerusalem Bible)

The translators of the Jerusalem Bible recognize the deity of the Church, which is why they have capitalized “Bride” here.

There is a similar invitation in Matthew 11:28:  “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (NLT)

And in John’s gospel Jesus is recorded as saying, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:32)

But in Revelation 22:17 the invitation is extended by the Spirit and the Bride.

By itself, this single verse would not establish much. But in the context of the testimony of Paul, John, and Peter, it sounds like a good confirmation of the exalted place of the Church.

Posted in Apotheosis, Bride of Christ, Completely One, Deeper Life, Father Son Spirit Bride, Perfect Union, Perfect Unity | 5 Comments