Michael J. Miller, The Curious Elephant
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When someone asks me a question relating to one of the Elephant books or the chapters herein, I often have a time of it converging my thoughts and picking a single pathway to a direct answer. The reason is that after close to five decades of study, research and writing, I’ve grown to realize how entangled everything is in the Biblical record, from Genesis to Revelation. It truly is one story. It’s like connecting individual threads in order to make a chenshan. You can show someone a handful of thread, but it tells them nothing about the chenshan, what is it is, what it looks like, etc. You have to give them enough thread so they can envision the big picture that is the chenshan, or Chinese shirt. Otherwise, they have no context for the answer.
Thus, every thought leading to an answer spawns half a dozen more, which likewise propagate until there appears before my mind’s eye a vast network of threads, any of which will lead to the answer of the question I have been asked. By then, I likely will have digressed, to a lesser or greater extent, from directly answering the original question in the mind of the questioner. The beauty, therefore, of reading the chapters is that my enthusiastic digressions have been corralled, written down, revised and edited for your reading pleasure. Well, to a certain point at least.
While the chapters in this book started out to be pithy, even in writing the answers tended to swell mysteriously as if digital yeast had been sprinkled into my keyboard. Not including the time ruminating about your own digressions, each chapter can be read in twenty to thirty contiguous minutes or so, unless this is a book-light bedtime read. Then, all guarantees expire when your head touches the pillow.
Riding rogue ponies into the Apocalypse
At its most fundamental level, the story contained in the Biblical record is quite simple to understand as the flow chart at the back of the book shows. It is totally and completely related to the two covenants, the one made with Abraham and his Seed, Christ and the law covenant made with all the children of Israel and the relationship between them both through Christ. For a little insight read the Feature article, The Tale Of Two Covenants.
Not understanding our place in Biblical history, we’ve lost track of who we are and our relationship to both covenants. Perhaps this is why one Christian author made the point that Christians disagree as how to best go about following Christ in our everyday lives. What gets in the way of our understanding are the rogue ponies, the false traditions and fables that have ridden their way into Christianity over the past twenty centuries. This is why part of the subtitle of this book is Factoids From the First Century.
The Curious Elephant is devoted to getting us back in sync with Christ’s faithful and true teachings from the first century. Many common practices of Christianity today were not recognized or sanctioned by Christ and the apostles, as they did not exist in the first century. And in our ignorance, and our apathy for the love of the truth, we justify our wayward pious actions whether they be of commission or omission. Much of this stems from the fact that over the past two millennia theologians and pastors have gotten away from the truth of what Christ in fact said. Too long we’ve been riding the rogue ponies toward the sunset that is the Apocalypse. [See Rev. 19:11-16; 16:1-21].
Today, these traditions of men, the fables have more credibility than the truth. We need to let the Biblical record speak for itself. We need to get back to basics. After all, we can't be expected to master the calculus of prophecy when we've flunked the arithmetic of the covenants. And those fundamentals are all found in the Biblical record. The first section of this book, therefore, is comprised of chapters directly relating to the covenants.
The Old Testament [Jewish Bible], as canonized by Ezra after the Babylonian captivity, is comprised of 3 divisions, the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, with 22 books and occur in an order different than what is found in Christian Bibles. The original order is listed in Appendix One of The Hijacked Elephant. By 150 BCE, the Old Testament was considered complete and recognized as such by contemporary scholars and acknowledged by Christ. [See Luke 24:44].
The New Testament was written only by those who walked and talked and were directly taught by Christ in the first century, including the apostle Paul. [See Gal. 1:12]. No other books or writings merit inclusion to the canon of the New Testament organized by the last of the original apostles, John. Thus, the Biblical record is our complete source text.
Our goal, therefore, as Christians in studying and living our faith with a love of the truth is to dutifully separate the Biblical word of truth from the rogue ponies, which is essential in order for spiritual growth to occur. While our natural inclination is to avoid the growing pains associated with this process, we need to be rigorous in our pursuit of the truth. Under the outward guise of zeal for Christ and the truth, we are tempted to keep riding the rogue ponies, following the fables and other similar and comforting opinions to support our personal preferences without accurate Biblical substance to support them.
This duplicity has dire consequences. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." [Pro. 14:12]. While our traditional beliefs may feel natural because we’ve ridden them so long now, getting back in the saddle of the Word of God in faith is vital despite any unfamiliar feelings it may initially engender. Faith and works go hand in hand.
Mankind has the proclivity to project onto God our personal, human limitations. And it's because we don’t grasp or respect the perspicacity of God, that we tend to heap our human weaknesses and shortcomings on him. Rather than put forth the effort to elevate ourselves to the level and standard established by God, we indolently take the path of least resistence. We filter God through our diminutive selves thereby creating a god in our own image and likeness. Collectively, this tendency has given us a flat Earth, created in six 24 hour days 6000 years ago, which was then placed in the center of our solar system. At one time these beliefs were held sacred. Hindsight has shown us they were nothing more than rogue ponies.
In our study of the Biblical record, it is wise to be mindful of this tendency, and place it aside. It impedes spiritual growth. While we may not understand all that God says or does, some of which, initially may seem contrary to our human reasoning, by living in faith continually seeking light, the first principles of the word of God, understanding and wisdom emerge from our spiritual growth. The more light we gather, the more we grow. For Christians, that Light is the word of God. Each of our lives, then, is a matter of priorities. Spiritual growth versus the cares of this world.
As the apostle Paul notably pointed out, the flesh and the Spirit have opposite polarities. [See Gal. 5:17]. We can’t be both hot [on Sundays and holidays] and cold [the rest of the time] for the word of God. It appears, however, that many people have convinced themselves otherwise. The end result of these compromised efforts is being spiritually lukewarm, which is not a good place to be. [See Rev. 3:16].
Consequently, our modern day version of Christianity has lost its relevancy for many people due in part to our imprudently humanizing the authority and power of God. Yet, when we objectively examine in faith what is written in the Biblical record rather than riding rogue ponies [See Mark 7:6-9], we find a remarkable abundance of relevancy pertaining to our lives in the 21st century.
As always, do not take what you read here at face value either [1 Ths. 5:21]. Our love for Christianity must be a love for the truth not blinded by tradition. Holy curiosity and critical thinking are great tools. But they exist only when used.
You will find some overlap in the chapters. It is such because, when painting the big picture that is Christianity through its various facets, the Light gets refracted into many of those common threads that give us context for the whole.
Biblical quotes are taken from the King James Version [KJV] or the New King James Version [NKJV]. If otherwise, it is noted. The abbreviations for the Bible books, [Mat. for Matthew, Eze. for Ezekiel, etc.] are listed at the back of the book for easy reference. I highly recommend reading the referenced verses in the brackets as you come upon them as they add context and relevancy to the points being addressed.
Also the abbreviation for the Christian Era, CE, is used rather than A.D., Anno Domini, Latin for the year of our Lord, mainly because history scholars are not certain of the year Christ was born except it is not 1 A.D.
A grateful thank you to those individuals who have contributed their ideas and efforts in making this book a reality. And I thank all of you who’ve given me feedback on the Elephant books as several of the suggestions have been incorporated into this book. Also check out our website periodically for new articles, as well as the Newslink section for pertinent secular articles.
Michael J. Miller, 2011