Over the Rhine

Over the Rhine (OTR) is a wonderful Ohio-based Americana/folk music band, consisting of a husband-and-wife team: Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist.

Their first three albums, Till We Have Faces, Patience, and Eve are forgettable, but in 1996 they released Good Dog Bad Dog: The Home Recordings. This album has a few gems, like All I Need Is Everything:

Other tracks on that album like Etcetera Whatever and Everyman’s Daughter showcase OTR’s fantastic lyrics and Karin’s voice.

In ’96 they also released a Christmas album, The Darkest Night of the Year, and a few songs like Thank You My Angel and Mary’s Waltz shine.

Films For Radio came out in 2001, and like Good Dog Bad Dog: The Home Recordings, it contains a few really good tracks, like this one: The World Can Wait.

Goodbye (This Is Not Goodbye) and Moth are also quite good.

In 2003, OTR released a double album entitled Ohio. Disc 1 contains the most gems including B.P.D., What I’ll Remember Most, Show Me, Ohio, Suitcase, and Anything At All; however, my favorite song, Long Lost Brother, is on Disc 2. The lyrics on this track, as on so many OTR songs, are superb:

I loved you like a long lost brother
On a bad day maybe I thought, why bother
I’ve seldom seen so much anger in a face

I wanna do better
I wanna try harder
I wanna believe down to the letter
Jesus and Mary
Can you carry us
across this ocean
Into the arms of forgiveness?

Disc 2 also contains a beautiful, sad track called She.

Drunkard’s Prayer, OTR’s 2005 album is just as good as Ohio. The title track is amazing as are I Want You To Be My Love, Born, Bluer, Spark, Lookin’ Forward, and Little Did I Know. Here’s the title track:

Unfortunately, starting in 2006 with the Christmas album Snow Angels, Karin adopted a new slurring style and started pronouncing most of her s’s as “sh” (think Jodie Foster); this is hard to take in anything but small doses. Nevertheless, that album contained a few good Christmas songs: All I Ever Get for Christmas Is Blue and Darlin’ (Christmas is Coming).

The Trumpet Child in 2007 gives us the great lyrics we expect from OTR but most of the tunes are subpar and probably the only track worth mentioning on that album is a fun song called Let’s Spend the Day in Bed.

Over the Rhine’s album The Long Surrender was released in 2011 on the band’s own label; however, it was produced by Joe Henry, and contains a duet with Lucinda Williams. Thankfully, Karin’s ‘schlurring’ has mostly disappeared and we now get a more bluesy, jazzy sound with more vocal fry (similar to Lucinda Williams’ style). The Laugh of Recognition, Oh Yeah By the Way, and All My Favorite People are pretty good.

The double album Meet Me at the Edge of the World was released in 2013. This album was also produced by Joe Henry, and Aimee Mann appears as a special guest vocalist on one of the tracks. Sadly, most of the songs on this album are forgettable, although Sacred Ground is pretty good.

In 2014, OTR released another Christmas album, Blood Oranges In The Snow, which is probably not worth buying, although it does contain a cover of Merle Haggard’s If We Make It Through December.

OTR’s latest is last year’s Love & Revelation. This album’s slow, quiet pace makes it great for winding down before bed, and Karin’s style is more natural here, and as a result more beautiful. There really aren’t a couple standout tracks here like you’d find on most albums. Instead, there are eleven beautiful, slow, sad songs that flow into one another creating a beautiful melancholy. Here’s Let You Down:

OTR also does a great live version of Neil Young’s Helpless on their album The Cutting Room Floor and a terrific version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

How rapture theology gets everything wrong…

The earliest Christians all believed Jesus was returning to earth to reign in the kingdom of God (restored Israel) since this was prophesied in the Old Testament. The “son of David” would reign until the last of Yahweh’s enemies were destroyed (1 Cor 15:25-28).
Related Post:
Kingdom of God—Where?

We Don’t Need Prophets

I’m seeing more and more Christian leaders calling for the Church to embrace her prophetic role. They say that unless the Church does this, she will continue her slide into irrelevancy.

The following statement has become common:
“There are no prophets today like the prophets in the Bible; God is not giving new extrabiblical revelations to people today. Nevertheless, _________________________ (Christians, priests, pastors, the Church) have an ongoing prophetic role.”

I find this way of thinking absurd, troubling, and counterproductive.

I believe the intent is good—to argue that the Church should attempt to guide society by pointing to the truth of scripture as the world becomes more secular—but since the Church is so fragmented with hundreds of denominations, the “truth of scripture” that everyone agrees on is relatively small. So in actual practice, you have hundreds of Christian denominations speaking different “truths” prophetically, and this, my friend, is a sure way for the Church to speed up her slide into irrelevancy.

I think it would be better for those within the Church to stop speaking of prophetic roles, and instead focus on building communities of Christians characterized by love and good works.
Related Post:
What do Christians believe?

New Testament Toleration

Tolerating behavior or speech that we disagree with does not mean that we approve of that behavior or speech. I think it’s interesting that the apostle Paul was not tolerant of behavior and speech he considered sinful (at odds with God’s commands) when it came from those who professed to be Christians. On the other hand, he was tolerant of behavior and speech he considered sinful (at odds with God’s commands) when it came from those who were not part of the Church.

I also think it’s important to mention that Paul said believers should not pass judgment on others over disputable matters. Again, this doesn’t mean we agree with others’ views on various disputable matters; it just means we don’t look down on others when their views on these matters differ from ours.

I think Paul’s approach was, and still is, the most reasonable approach.
Related Post:
Judge not! Right?

Will God Turn Women into Men?

Could it be God’s plan to populate the new earth with only men?

This question likely seems sexist, insensitive, and bizarre, but biblical data suggests to me that it’s possible women will not be women in the new world.

Let me explain:

In the Bible females are viewed as inferior to men. There are verses suggesting God created them to serve men (see verses below), make babies, and manage their households (1 Timothy 2:15, 5:14). But in the new world, men will be elevated to a position higher than the angels, so they will be served by angels (1 Corinthians 6; Hebrews 1:14) and immortality will eliminate the need for babies.

Why do I say the Bible shows women to be inferior?

  • Eve was created to be a helper for Adam (Genesis 2:18)
  • Eve was created after Adam and it was Eve who was deceived, not Adam (1 Corinthians 11:8; 1 Timothy 2:13-14)
  • Although both Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God punished women – pain in childbirth and subjection to a husband (Genesis 3:16)
  • The wife is listed along with a house and an ox as a man’s property in the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:17)
  • If a master gave a woman to a male slave and the two produced children, the male slave could not take the woman or his children with him when he obtained freedom; they belong to the master (Exodus 21:4)
  • If a woman gave birth to a son, she was considered unclean for 7 days, but if she gave birth to a daughter, she was unclean for two weeks (Leviticus 12:2-5)
  • Man is the head of the woman because women were created for men, not vice versa (Ephesians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 9)
  • Wives are to be subject to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:23)
  • A man is God’s image and glory, but a woman is man’s glory (1 Corinthians 11:7)

Why do I say women might not be women in the new world?

  • In the new world there will be no marriage (Mark 12:25; Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:35)
  • The righteous who obtain eternal life will be like angels (Mark 12:25; Matthew 22:30; Luke 20:36)
    *Every reference to angels in Scripture is in the masculine gender, and when they could be seen, they had male forms
  • The righteous who obtain eternal life will be called “sons of God”—no mention of daughters of God (Luke 20:36; Romans 8:19)

Given this biblical evidence, I think it’s not unreasonable to speculate that perhaps ancient Jews believed all of the righteous would put on immortal, imperishable male bodies at the return of Christ.

Why Was Jesus’ Death Necessary?

Almost 5 years ago, I wrote a post entitled, “Why was Jesus Crucified?” It answered that specific question, but it didn’t answer the question, Why was his death necessary? So, I’ll try to answer that question now.

Jesus died so God would forgive sins. His death was the payment. But why? God had already given his people a sacrificial system whereby their sins could be forgiven through the death of certain animals.

I think it boils down to kingdom and covenant.

In the Old Testament we read prophecies of an everlasting kingdom (Isa 9:7, 60:11-12; Jer 31:40; Dan 2:44) and of a new covenant that would be better than the Mosaic Covenant (Jer 31:31-34). Under the Mosaic Covenant, the blood of goats and calves was sufficient, but a new and better kingdom with a new and better covenant would require a new and better forgiveness that could only be obtained by a new and better sacrifice.

Of course the new kingdom and new covenant would not be for everyone; they would only be for the righteous (those who recognized Jesus Christ as Lord and obeyed his teachings) since the unrighteous would be destroyed when Christ returned to reign in his kingdom.
1. Throughout most of the New Testament, “saved” means not being destroyed when Christ returns to earth to reign.
2. Although the new kingdom and new covenant was a promise made to Jews for Jews, Paul tells Gentiles that salvation and the blessings of the new kingdom would extend to them if they recognized Jesus Christ as Lord and pursued righteousness.

Studying Early Christianity

To best understand early Christianity, readers should give priority to the earliest writings, those produced in the AD 50s and 60s, since they were closest to the ministry of Jesus and prior to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Many readers assume Matthew is the earliest book since it’s at the beginning of the New Testament, but the books in the Bible are not ordered according to composition dates. To date ancient texts, historians consider many factors, but these factors roughly involve content, style, and the material upon which the earliest known copy is written.

When dating ancient biographies, such as the Gospels, two important factors historians look for regarding content are embellishment and invention. The more embellishment and invention they find, the later and less accurate they deem a source to be.

This is one of the reasons New Testament scholars say the Gospel of Mark (AD 67-70) is considered more historically accurate than the other Gospels. Although the gospels of Matthew and Luke are longer, we can see that they used Mark as one of their primary sources and then embellished and invented to suit the authors’ purposes. Since most historians believe Matthew and Luke were written after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70, they see a two-fold purpose in these writings: The authors wanted to tell the story of Jesus and encourage suffering Christians.

The Gospel of John (~AD 95) is considered the least historically accurate of the Gospels, since it shares little in common with the earliest Gospel, Mark. Many of the concepts, stories, and teachings of Jesus are unique to John and considered to be later inventions.

To best understand early Christianity, the following New Testament books should be given priority because of their early dates:

The Gospel of Mark (AD 67-70) – I’d read this first since it is a biography of Jesus and is likely the memories of Jesus’ chief disciple Peter, as recorded by Mark.

Paul’s uncontested letters …

  • First Epistle to the Thessalonians (AD 50-52)
  • Epistle to the Galatians (AD 48-57)
  • First Epistle to the Corinthians (AD 53-57)
  • Second Epistle to the Corinthians (AD 53-57)
  • Epistle to the Philippians (AD 52-62)
  • Epistle to Philemon (AD 60-62)
  • Epistle to the Romans (AD 55-58)

Hebrews and James – written in the AD 60s

Related Posts:
How The New Testament Canon Came To Be
Why is the Gospel of John so Different?
New Testament Chronology