Friday, May 24, 2019
Hello dear family and friends of Lowell and Dixie Noble. This is Janet Pickar, a good friend[daughter-figure]to them and caretaker to Lowell for the past fifteen months of his life.
Dixie and I thought it a good idea[suggested by a dear friend, thank you]to share Lowell's obituary with you avid readers of his blog and ask if you would like to share some words for Dixie to read, that would be great. I just know she would love to hear from you. :)
Lowell Lappin Noble passed away on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at home surrounded by his loving wife, Dixie, Paul & Janet Pickar and Karla Jensson. His wife, Dixie, a retired nurse, cared for him in a most professional and loving way. Lowell arranged for his body to be donated to Mayo for medical research.
He was born on August 28, 1926 on the Noble Centennial Farm west of Riceville, Iowa. He was the fourth of seven siblings. He was preceded in death by his parents, Merwin and Ruth Noble and by four brothers, Harlan, Weston, Russell and Dale. He is survived by his wife, Dorine[Dixie]; one brother, Joe; and one sister, Jo Ann Noble.
Lowell taught sociology and anthropology at Cascade College in Oregon from 1960-1969 and at
Spring Arbor University in Michigan, 1970-1994. He self-published three books,
Naked and Not Ashamed, Sociotiheology and From Oppression to Jubilee Justice.
At the time of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, Lowell experienced a second conversion--a conversion to a biblical social justice whose primary mission is to release the oppressed. For the next 50 years, he passionately studied and applied the extensive biblical teaching on oppression and justice. This included living for 35 years in black communities in Jackson, MI and Jackson, MS.
During the past five years, Lowell posted over 500 blogs on the biblical, historical and sociological dimension of oppression and justice here on his blog. His favorite Bible verse was Luke 4:18-19, which highlights four key concepts--the Spirit, the poor, the oppressed and Jubilee justice--key components of the kingdom of God.
For 30 years, Lowell has supported Christian Community Development in Haiti. He was DRIVEN to obtain justice for the poor and the oppressed. One way he put his beliefs into practice was to assist Christian Community Development[CCD] in a rural area of Haiti. Farmers and implement dealers in Iowa have greatly assisted with the farm program.
Other organizations and individuals have helped in establishing schools and churches.
Lowell's latest concern was the drilling of deep wells for six new communities. Right now, they are being 'hand dug', therefore, they have a higher chance of running dry.
Lowell served on the Rural Haiti Development Board. Therefore, he and Dixie have requested that, in lieu of flowers, memorials be given to RHD. Checks can be made out to Rural Haiti Development and can be sent to:
c/o Janet Pickar, treasurer
PO Box 247
Riceville IA 50466
100 percent tax-deductible receipts will be given for your generous donations to help our dear loved ones in Haiti.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, June 8, 2019 at 10:30am at the Riceville United Methodist Church.
We are sure when Lowell went with Jesus he was told,
"Well done, good and faithful servant."
Tuesday, April 23, 2019
“There is no More Haiti: Between Life and Death in Port-au-Prince” — by Greg Beckett--Book Review by Lowell Noble
Greg Beckett is an anthropologist who specializes in trying to understand in times of crisis and tragedy in a culture. The following discussion took place in
Port-au-Prince, Haiti in August of 2002 with his Haitian friend, Manuel. In the middle of a discussion about the forest, which they wanted to preserve as a botanic garden, Manuel, describing the situation in PAP, said, “Yes, it’s very bad.” Then he leaned even closer to the anthropologist, Greg, and whispered a few words that have haunted Greg forever since. Manuel said, “Haiti is dead. There is no more Haiti.”
The oppressive forces of history and current political and economic oppression have crushed the spirit of Haitians. They still struggle valiantly to survive, but the odds are against them. There is no functioning state, no functioning economic system even what Manuel and Greg called the forest or the botanic garden on the edge of the city. It seemed to be more fantasy than reality.
March 2010, three months after the earthquake, destroyed much of Port-au-Prince and killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians.
Some quotes from the book:
“The coup had released a wave of repressive violence in Haiti. If there was a civil war going on, it was being waged by the same repressive elements that had always waged war on Haitian citizens—the army, the state, the elite, and the international community.” [p. 153]
“In Bel Air again. In the camps, Timo, another community leader, took me on a walk through the camp and then through another set of destroyed homes. Below us, we watched a work crew breaking concrete with sledgehammers and shoveling the debris into trucks. At the end of the walk, Timo sat down on a pile of rubble and gestured to the surrounding debris.” [p. 227]
“I lost my house,” he said. “We all lost our houses. We lost everything. Family. Friends. But now, the real problem is aid. All of these foreigners—why are they here? They come and go. They wave food all around. We sniff at it but we don’t get it.” He rubbed his fingers together under his nose. He said, “They treat us like animals. Haitians are dogs now.” [p. 227-8]
“Haitians are dogs now. The phrase struck me, struck me as much as Manuel’s comment that Haiti was dead had. I didn’t know what to make of Timo’s comment, but I felt he might be right. He seemed to be saying that international aid had turned Haitians into powerless beings who were now dependent on others for their very survival. People were living in the streets, just like dogs, scrounging for their next meal, hoping to get by on their beneficence of others. In the years after the quake, others would tell me the same thing, over an over again. Some said they were being treated like animals, others said they were being treated worse than animals. Most drew on the figure of the street dog, a ubiquitous animal in the city, to name this feeling. To name their dehumanization.” [p. 288]
Well meaning Americans have come to Haiti to deliver desperately needed emergency medical care such as the amputation of limbs that had been smashed by the earthquake or the delivery of desperately needed food to keep Haitians alive. But since the aid was delivered impersonally, from stranger to stranger, who had no prior personal relationship many Haitians felt personally dehumanized by the whole aid process and delivery system. Insult was added to injury as the Haitians felt they were no better than dogs at the end of the well meaning delivery process.
Many of the Haitians that have come to Port-au-Prince over the last forty years had come from rural Haiti which these Haitians had concluded was worse off than urban Port-au-Prince.
There is a remarkable, but apparently unknown, story of community development going on in and around rural Fond-des-Blancs, Haiti. And its being led by
Haitian, Jean Thomas, who was trained how to do Christian Community Development [CCD] by the black Mississippian, John Perkins during a four year
internship which took place from 1977-1980. The Haitian, Jean Thomas, apparently learned the principles of CCD very well.
You can see the results of thirty-five years of CCD in rural Fond-des-Blancs. If you should visit there what you will see will blow your mind.
Under Jean’s superb leadership, and with full community participation, together, Haiti Christian Development Fund [HCDF] and the people have provided a plentiful supply of clean water, have reforested the area by planting at least 5 million trees. They created a pig nursery which enabled HCDF to repopulate pigs that were killed off by disease. For more about the social economic miracles that took place in Fond-des-blancs, including a pre school, primary school and secondary school read Jean Thomas’ book, At Home With the Poor. A book that needs to be updated because much has happened since 2003 when the book was originally published.
Since 2012, I have written over 500 blogs. Probably fifty or so are on Haiti.
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
To my knowledge as of April 2019, John Perkins has not yet preached a sermon or written an article describing in some detail how the Holy Spirit anointed his life and ministry that he implemented
I have repeatedly requested that he do so, and he has repeatedly said he was working on it. So I guess one can say that my chapter on the four ministries on the Holy Spirit on John Perkins’ life and ministry published in the Mobilizing for the Common Good is the closest thing to an authorized version.
In 2013 the University of Mississippi Press published Mobilizing for the Common Good: The lived theology of John M. Perkins in which my chapter on the Holy Spirit in John’s ministry can be found.
In this chapter I described four ministries of the Holy Spirit which I discovered in the scriptures and which I saw in John Perkins’ life and ministry. The first and most important ministry is Jesus
description of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Truth. This is found in John chapters 14, 15 and 16 in which he said it would be to the disciples advantage if Jesus himself goes away because Jesus has to return to heaven before the Spirit of Truth can come. The world, and too often the church, is full of false teaching. And so the Spirit-filled church needs to know the truth before it can preach and live the truth.
In Mississippi, where John returned to minister in 1960, the church was full of false teaching about oppression and false teaching, or no biblical teaching about oppression and justice. So John’s first
ministry was to expose the false teaching and declare and live the truth about justice and reconciliation.
For fifteen years—1994-2010—my wife and I lived at the Perkins Center in Jackson, Mississippi. For fifteen years we witnessed his ministry in action. It was as plain as the nose on my face that I
was seeing a Spirit-filled person in action. Possibly one of the most vivid examples of this took place when President Philip Eaton from Seattle Pacific University and some SPU students were listening
to a biblical teaching on the woman of Samaria. How Jesus in John 4 broke through the gender and cultural barriers to reveal himself to the Samaritan woman. It was such a powerful Spirit-anointed biblical teaching that soon after President Eaton asked to meet with John Perkins to ask this third grade drop-out how they could set up a Perkins Center at Seattle Pacific University. In a few short
years the Perkins Center was established and soon John Perkins will give his annual April lecture at the Perkins Center.
In this blog I recommend you order the book, Mobilizing for the Common Good and read the whole chapter on the Holy Spirit which I am only going to briefly summarize today. So the first ministry of
the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. The second ministry is the Spirit and the kingdom of God, and I base this on the following scriptures: Acts 1:1-8 and Luke 4:18-19 which operationalizes
Acts 1:1-8. The biblical kingdom of God is all about releasing the oppressed by doing Jubilee Justice. This is what I saw demonstrated in John Perkins’ life and ministry. John, as he often did, provided
his own label, and he called this Christian Community Development. So in one way or another, John’s seventeen books describe some aspect of Christian Community Development. If you want to
know what CCD is all about and you haven’t heard John Perkins in person, read all seventeen books. One of his seventeen books that I would most highly recommend to understand CCD is
A Quiet Revolution.
The third ministry of the Holy Spirit is found in Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit. What does the Holy Spirit produce in the life of the Spirit-filled person? Love is probably
the most important fruit of the Holy Spirit. Unless love is present to control the exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit the gifts are often misused for personal edification, or even personal profit, the
most obvious example being the Prosperity Gospel. All of this is fairly plain and obvious and easily understood as you read Galatians 5:22-23.
Last and least important, though still important, are the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts can be and have often been misused. John has noticed this and in no way shape or form does he want to misuse the gifts of the Holy Spirit in his ministry. So this may be one reason why he is too quiet about explaining how the Holy Spirit has anointed his life and ministry. We all could profit from John speaking clearly and authoritatively how a Spirit-filled person and a Spirit-filled church can and should be implementing Luke 4:18-19 in its ministry.
This is not just for John M. Perkins. Every church should be tapping into the person and the power and wisdom of the Spirit. Every church should be releasing the oppressed and doing justice.
Sadly in modern America this is not the case. So I urge each reader to get a copy of Mobilizing for the Common Good and read it in much more detail about how these four ministries of the Spirit have
made John into a modern day prophet.
For a more metic expression of this truth, see the following five verses based on Luke 4:18-19 to be sung to the tune of Amazing Grace:
Based on Luke 4:18-19
Words by Lowell Noble
To be sung to tune of Amazing Grace
The Spirit is on me to share
The jubilee of Christ
Lib’ration’s come in Him, I will
Let justice roll on down.
The Spirit is on me to preach
Good news to all the poor
He calls me to free the oppressed
And proclaim justice now
The Spirit is on me to heal
The crushed and broken down
I will let flow the freedom and
The justice of our Lord
The Spirit is on me to free
The captives bound in chains
By grace we are released at last
To live in harmony
I know the jubilee Jesus
The justice of his light
He reigns in me and in our world
He came to give us life
Friday, March 22, 2019
First a book review from the April 2019 Sojourners Magazine. The book is entitled, The Color of Compromise, written by Jamer Tisby.
“A HAUNTING, emotionally charged, fact-based narrative, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism covers 400 years of American civil rights history. It is a withering look at the role white Protestant churches played in reinforcing institutional support of slavery and racism. Its main thesis is that moderate Christians have had the clout to rebut racism but have an abysmal record of doing so. This story is woven from a survey of biographies, memoirs, classics of history, and serious journalistic research.”
“White moderates, Jamer Tisby demonstrates, time and again mouthed sympathetic clichés toward the black community but inevitably supported the status quo. Probably the most iconic example Tisby gives is that of Billy Graham, one of the most prominent Protestant figures of the 1950s and 1960s.”
“ . . . . estimated 40,000 Protestant ministers were members of the Klan.”
Second book review from April 2019 Sojourners Magazine. The book is entitled, A Riff of Love: Notes on Community and Belonging, by Greg Jarrell.
“BLACK AND BROWN folks have discussed at great length white supremacy and empire, but unless white folks have the conversation, those demons will never be fully cast out of our lives. White folks have become content with a lifestyle that hovers above black and brown folks and doesn’t dive into the white supremacy and empire that threatens them.”
“But, ultimately, the intended focus of Jarrell’s book is white folks like him, and rightfully so. A Riff of Love is nothing less than a spiritual autobiography of whiteness, a memoir about healing from white supremacy and empire and exchanging it for abundant community. Such a work of art is rare. I strongly recommend A Riff of Love to all who seek a better world and want to start building it in their neighborhoods—especially folks of European descent who must find liberation from whiteness to fully immerse themselves in the movement for social justice.”
Quotations from an article in the 2019 Sojourners Magazine entitled, How Racism Wins, by Jay Wamsted:
“The devil wants us to not worry about any of these things, structural or personal. ‘Racism is out there,’ he says, ‘but that’s not you.’ Instead, he lurks behind us—listen to him breathing—and tries to focus our attention on Dylann Roof and public events featuring white supremacists and neo-Nazis. These kinds of racists are worthy of attention, of course, but when we turn our eyes too far toward the extreme edge, we let racism win. Because so long as the structures of inequity prevail—inequities of education, health, employment, wealth etc.—and we believe that racism only operates on the crazy margins, in the screamers and the trolls, so long as we think we have nothing to do with the system of white supremacy that lurks in the minds of white people like a symbiotic virus, benefitting us even as it sickens, so long as we keep our heads low and soldier on: Racism wins.”
“We must not let Dylann Roof, Nazi tattoos, Confederate flags, or blackface yearbook photos convince us that this story has nothing to do with us. We must not believe the lie that a nation predicated on centuries of chattel slavery has healed itself magically in the space of two generations. We must not continue to tell ourselves that the devil of racism is nothing more than a cartoon, a halting vestige of what he once was, an impotent fool in red tights.”
“Look for the devil in the shadows, not on Twitter or television. Look inside your mind, under the structures of your mostly white spaces of safety. Look behind you and listen for his breathing. Otherwise, racism wins.”
Quotations from the book, Becoming a Just Church, by Adam Gustine.
“I’ve never waved a Confederate flag at a race rally or systemically defrauded the poor, but I have personally participated in—and benefitted from—a cultural way of life that does. And for most of my life, I had no idea.”
“My first steps into the world of justice came through my exposure to the global AIDS crisis. I was just out of college and Bono was trying to get Christians to pay attention to the way this disease was ravaging sub-Saharan Africa. I heard his 2006 prayer breakfast sermon; one of the best I’ve heard on justice. I still catch my breath when I read it.”
“God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor
play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected
her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in
the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of
wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with
“God is with us if we are with them. ‘I really don’t think that any single sentence has ever shattered my life more than this one.’”
“Once, when I first encountered the reality of injustice, I turned it into an issue of systematic theology. How could God allow . . . ? is a super white way of reacting to injustice. The notion that the church, and therefore I, might be complicit in the systems of an unjust world was unimaginable. Crazily, it was easier to lay the fault at the feet of God than to wonder if it might mean I’ve been out of alignment somehow.”
“Instead of better answers, we needed better questions. These questions drive us downward, deeper, yes, but also to the realization that we’ve been asking the wrong questions all along. At first, this came across like a clever way to talk about the same old topic of hermeneutics, but I’ve realized this is another major breaking point for folks like me. We need better questions, he asserted, because the quest for answers makes us arrogant. The search for the better question is fundamentally about repentance.”
I, Lowell Noble, would like to add the biblical understanding of oppression and justice that is missing in the two books listed above and the article as well. I have laid out a lesson plan for my readers to study:
1. Exodus 1 – The beginning of 400 years of oppression [this is the beginning of oppression in the Bible. It’s the beginning of 400 years of slavery.
· 555 references to oppression
· Thomas Hank’s definition: oppression crushes, humiliates, animalizes, impoverishes, enslaves and kills people who have been created in the image of God
· Oppression traumatizes individuals/families/communities/culture
· Oppression smashes the body and crushes the spirit
2. Exodus 6 – From Ch. 1-6 essentially cover 400 years of oppression, so Exodus 6 is approaching the end of oppression for the Hebrew slaves.
Exodus 6:9 is one verse that summarizes the damage done by 400 years of oppression:
“But when Moses delivered this message to the Israelites, they didn’t even hear him—they were that beaten down in spirit by the harsh slave conditions.” [The Message]
“Then God said to Moses, ‘Go and speak to Pharaoh, King of Egypt, so that he will release the Israelites from his land.’” [The Message]
“What can you do when the spirit is crushed?” [The Message]
· In modern language we would say the Israelites were suffering from PTSD. For a modern day application see
Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, by Joy DeGruy.
3. Another example of oppression in the Old Testament immediately followed by Nehemiah demanding that his people do Jubilee Justice. [Nehemiah 5]
4. Isaiah 10: 1-2 has another powerful statement about oppression in Isaiah’s time.
“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”
5. Isaiah 58:6 shows what followers of God must do to release the oppressed. While the words Jubilee Justice are not used, phrases like cancel debts are referring to the OT Jubilee
6. Luke 4:18-19 are from Isaiah 61; they echo Isaiah 58:6. My paraphrase of the meaning of 4:18-19 is this:
“The Spirit-filled church does Jubilee Justice in order to release the oppressed poor.
7. The following six Isaiah Messianic Passages repeat the message of Luke 4:18-19. These passages are Isaiah 9:7; 11:1-4; 16:5; 28:16-17; 42:1-4; 61:1-4. In the NRSV the word, poor is replaced by the word, oppressed. 61:1 is best translated not poor nor oppressed but as oppressed poor.
8. In the New Testament the word rich essentially replaces the word oppressor so in Luke 6:24 instead of woe to the oppressor, Jesus says, “Woe to the rich.” Luke 11:39 & 42 says, “Woe to the Pharisees”, because they were full of greed and they neglected justice and the love of God. And as Jesus describes the sacred temple he calls it a den of robbers. James 5:1-6 describes agricultural oppression in Palestine.
9. Combine Luke 4:18-19 with James 1:27: When you visit oppressed widows and orphans, take more than a plate of cookies with you. In your back pocket, be sure you have a plan to release those oppressed widows and orphans from their oppression. That plan can be built on James 2.
Also see my blog entitled, Rejusticize the New Testament Gospel and my blog, Rejusticizing the Sermon on the Mount.
Thursday, March 21, 2019
Restoring Justice to the NT Gospel
From Lowell Noble – originally written in 2012:
There are two basic reasons: 1) Nicholas Wolterstorff, noted Reformed philosopher/theologian, asserts English Bible translators and NT theologians have a deeply flawed understanding of justice and thus they have "dejusticized" the NT. See his two recent books, Justice and Justice in Love; 2) based on the book, The New Jim Crow, I have concluded that the American church, from the Puritans down to the present, has either tolerated or participated in the ethnocentrism and oppression behind first slavery, then segregation, and now the unjust mass incarceration of young black and Hispanic males. From these two basic facts, I conclude that the American church must rejusticize the NT gospel.
The following 12 part outline of a curriculum for a study group or Sunday School curriculum or sermon series or book is designed to bring justice or justice-righteousness front and center in the NT gospel. It is recommended that this curriculum be used in conjunction with the book The New Jim Crow. For those who like to be very thorough on the topic of mass incarceration, read also Race to Incarcerate, Punishment and Inequality, Search and Destroy, and Doing time on the outside. Some teachers might also want to tie this curriculum to the massive racial wealth gap; see The Hidden Cost of Being African American, and Black Wealth, White Wealth. For me, the racial wealth gap is as serious as is mass incarceration and the two are deeply intertwined. For the failure of the American church to address these issues, see Divided by Faith.
Lesson/Sermon One: What is the NT gospel?
Based on Acts 8:12 and 28:23 & 31, the gospel is two-pronged. Acts 28:31: Paul "was preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ." What is preaching Jesus Christ? Justification by faith based on the cross and resurrection. What is preaching the kingdom of God? The incarnation of justice in a community: Jubilee justice for the oppressed poor. Conclusion: A sharp focus on the kingdom of God is the key to rejusticizing, restoring justice to the NT gospel.
Lesson Two: Messianic Passages from Isaiah
The Messianic passages from Isaiah present the characteristics of the coming NT kingdom of God.
9:7 "Of the increase of his government and shalom, there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness." Ties shalom with justice-righteousness.
11:1-4 "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him---the Spirit of wisdom and understanding. . . with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor." Ties justice-righteousness to the poor.
16:5 "In love a throne will be established. . . one from the house of David who seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness." Ties love and justice-righteousness together.
28:16-17: "I lay a stone in Zion. . . a precious cornerstone. . . I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line."
42:1-4 "Here is my servant . . . my chosen one . . . I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations." The Spirit and justice are tied together.
61:1-4 This is my paraphrase. "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the oppressed poor, to proclaim freedom and release for the poor by practicing Jubilee justice. To bestow on the poor, a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. These transformed poor will be called oaks of righteousness (or trees of justice). These transformed poor will rebuild the ruined cities. . . . For I, the Lord, love justice."
There are five key concepts in these passages: the Spirit, the kingdom, love and justice for the oppressed poor. Note: Two translations of 61:1 (CEV and NRSV) replace "poor" with "oppressed" so I translate it as "oppressed poor."
Lesson Three: Luke 4: 18-19
There are four key concepts in this passage: the Spirit, the poor, the oppressed and Jubilee justice. There are four implied concepts: the rich, the oppressors, shalom and the kingdom of God. Wherever you have the poor in a society, you also have the rich. Luke spends many more verses warning about the danger of, the evil of, riches then he does on the poor. For Luke, the rich are the social problem; the poor have many problems and need assistance, but they are not THE social problem.
The rich oppress the poor. The operation of the temple which Jesus called a "den of robbers" was a religiously legitimated system of oppression. If Jubilee justice is done in a community, then there is a measure of shalom. Finally, if these two verses are operationalized---"the oppressed poor are released"---then the kingdom of God has come here on earth. Mt. and Mk. say "Repent, for the kingdom of God is near." Luke 4:18-19 is Luke's description of that kingdom.
Lesson Four: Romans 14:17
My paraphrase of this verse is: "The kingdom of God is justice (see NEB), shalom, and joy in the Holy Spirit." There are four interrelated concepts: the Spirit, justice or justice-righteousness, shalom and the kingdom of God. Though I can't prove this, I think this verse is Paul's summary of Isaiah's messianic passages. If the oppressed poor are released by doing justice, Jubilee justice, the resulting shalom produces authentic joy. The kingdom has come on earth.
Lesson Five: Oppression in the OT
According to Thomas Hanks, a Hebrew scholar, there are 555 references to oppression and its synonyms, in the OT. To my knowledge, the important biblical concept of oppression has been almost totally neglected by white American theologians. For example, IVP bible dictionary, third edition, has no entry on oppression. From Hank's book, God So Loved the Third World, we learns that oppression crushes, humiliates, animalizes, impoverishes, enslaves and kills people created in the image of God.
See Exodus one for a vivid description of oppression; use NIV. Also read Exodus 6:1-9 where we learn that the Hebrew slaves "did not listen [could not believe] to Moses [and God], because of their broken spirit and their cruel bondage [oppression]."
Lesson Six: Oppression in the NT
See Hank's analysis of flawed translations of "thilpsis." Should be translated oppression more often instead of the weaker words such as affliction or distress. See James 1:27: "visit the oppressed widows and orphans." See my essay on James for a fuller description of the importance of oppression in the book.
A second example of oppression can be found in the operation of the Temple. The religio-politico-economic elite ran the temple as a religiously legitimated system of oppression. A French scholar described the operation of the temple treasury as the rough equivalent of the Federal Reserve System, Wall Street, and the US Treasury combined; in other words, truly a "den of robbers."
Lesson Seven: Ethnocentrism
Though the word ethnocentrism never appears in the NT (ethnos meaning people, nation, culture, Gentile is widely used), the concept is all over the NT. Ethnocentrism refers to the supposed religio-cultural (not bio-racial) superiority of the Jews over the Samaritans and Gentiles and their supposed inferiority. Jesus exposed the ethnocentrism of the Nazareth Jews (Luke 4:25-30) early in his ministry and for this "heresy" he was almost killed on the spot. Had he been a mere human mortal, his life would have ended. Lesson: ethnocentrism often leads to murder or cultural genocide.
Luke 9:51-56 reveals the ethnocentrism of Peter and John. Had it not been restrained by Jesus' rebuke, their ethnocentrism would have resulted in the misuse of God's power to destroy an entire Samaritan village, men, women and children. Ethnocentrism is very dangerous.
Had the Nazareth Jews and Peter and John known Amos 9 (The Message), they would have known better: "Do you Israelites think you're any better than the far-off Cushites? Am I not involved with all nations? Didn't I bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor, the Arameans from Qir?"
Lesson Eight: Justice in the NT
For documentation on the poor English translations on justice, see Steven Voth, a professional bible translator, chapter 14, "Justice and/or Righteousness" in The Challenge of Bible Translation. Voth notes some stunning data; in the KJV, justice is found zero times in the NT. In the NIV, a modern translation, only 16 times. But in a typical French or Spanish or Latin Vulgate translation of the NT, justice occurs approximately 100 times. In English translations dikaiosune is usually translated righteousness, seldom as justice.
Nicholas Wolterstorff cites the flawed translations as the primary reason for the "dejusticizing" of the NT. Centuries of English-speaking peoples and scholars have been misled by these flawed translations. See the three chapters on the Bible and justice in Justice: Rights and wrongs.
In English translations of the whole bible such as the NKJV, RSV or NIV, a person will find justice 125 to 134 times. In Spanish, French or Latin translations, justice occurs around 400 times.
Next, some further documentation from C. D. Marshall, Beyond Retribution, chapter two, "The Arena of Saving Justice: the Justice of God in Paul and Jesus." As does Wolterstorff, Marshall laments the inability of the English language to communicate the meaning of and the close relationship of the 300 dik-stems in the Greek NT. Dikaiosune is usually translated as righteousness and the average reader thinks about individual righteousness, justification and transformation, but not social justice, social transformation or a Jubilee-type justice. The result according to Marshall: "Modern [English] readers seldom realize how often justice language features in the New Testament. . . . English-speaking readers sense little obvious connection between the 'right' language of the New Testament and the concept of justice."
In the OT "the central concern of biblical law was the creation of shalom [or shalom-justice], a state of soundness or 'all-rightness' within the community." So in biblical law, there is much "biblical legislation devoted to 'social justice' such as care for widows, orphans, aliens and the poor." This shalom-justice is supposed to characterize the NT kingdom of God as well. "In biblical usage 'justice' goes beyond the legal sphere to invoke the idea of comprehensive well-being, wholeness and peace." But "few [English-speaking] people today sense any positive relationship between the doctrine of justification by faith and issues of social justice."
It takes the Holy Spirit's power for the church to do justice, to create a kingdom of God community. In both the OT and NT justice is tied to a "power language or an action language. . . . The prophetic symbol of justice is a mighty, surging river (Amos 5:24). Or as Abraham Heschel states it, biblical justice is "power that will strike and change, heal and restore, like a mighty stream bringing life to the parched land. . . . Justice is more than an idea or a norm; justice is charged with the omnipotence of God. What ought to be, shall be!"
Jesus in Mt. 6:33 urges us to seek unceasingly his kingdom and his justice.
Lesson Nine: Justice in the NT continued
Wolterstorff claims that medieval theologians, including John Calvin, said the theme of Romans was the justice of God. This was, in large part, because they were using the Latin Vulgate which translated dikaiosune often as justice in Romans. Wolterstorff thinks they, not modern English scholars, were right. Our flawed understanding of Romans has contributed heavily to the dejusticizing of the NT. Also, according to Wolterstorff, theologians have failed to make a close tie between love and justice in the NT. Instead they have examined each concept either in isolation from each other or at times love and justice are put in conflict with each other.
For me, love is the motivation; justice is the action; or does justice that flows from love.
There are 300 dik-stems in the NT; though these dik words are translated in different ways---righteousness, justification, justice---the underlying meaning is justice. This is obscured in English translations. Some suggestions: justice-righteousness, saving justice, liberating justice or shalom-justice. Justice is a divine norm or standard that flows from the character of God. This divine norm or standard should become a social norm. The doing of justice in an oppressed society restores the divine norm.
Lesson Ten: Sermon on the Mount
See my blog entitled, Rejusticizing the Sermon on the Mount (revised), which uses justice to reinterpret the Sermon on the Mount. Most scholars see the sermon primarily about personal character. I disagree. I see it primarily about social justice, the kingdom of God, a Jubilee justice that releases the oppressed.
Lesson Eleven: Reconciliation
Using Eph. 2, I see both personal reconciliation with God and social reconciliation. 2:1-10 teaches personal reconciliation based on the cross. 2:11-22 teaches social reconciliation between Jew and Gentile based on the cross. Gender reconciliation and economic reconciliation are also taught in Gal. 3:28, Col. 3:11; James 2; Acts 4:32-35; II Cor. 8 & 9.
Lesson Twelve: The Four Ministries of the Holy Spirit
The four ministries of the Holy Spirit are: 1) the Spirit of truth/wisdom, 2) the Spirit and the kingdom, 3) the fruit of the Spirit, and 4) the gifts of the Spirit. There is a chapter on the four ministries of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of John Perkins in the forthcoming book from the University of Mississippi Press tentatively entitled Journey Toward Justice: The Lived Theology of John Perkins.
The Holy Spirit as truth/wisdom is found in John 14, 15 and 16. The Holy Spirit and the kingdom of God are closely tied together in Isaiah's messianic passages, Acts 1:1-8 and Romans 14:17. The fruit of the Spirit are needed to control the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit; see Gal. 5:22-23. The gifts of the Spirit are discussed in detail in I Cor. 12 and Rom. 12.
At the beginning of this essay, I suggested that this restoring justice in the NT curriculum be used in conjunction with the book The New Jim Crow. Michelle Alexander, in her Sojourners, March 2012 article entitled "When the Spirit Says Go," recommends this study guide from the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference: "The SDPC created a faith-based study guide for The New Jim Crow so church study groups can explore the connections between their spiritual beliefs, the crisis of mass incarceration, and the need to stand for justice."