OBEDIENCE Legalism offers us a
set of laws to gain a place in heaven (see PHARISEES).
But other kinds of obedience are not legalistic. Abraham's servant did
not live by rules to obey, but he was given great responsibility to find
a wife for Isaaac (Genesis 24:1-5). Soldiers do not fight by obeying
regulations, but they are proud to serve dangerously under a great leader.
In North American football there is a mutual obedience of a receiver and
his quarterback, and both obey the coach. In each of these cases obedience
is functioning as part of an organic relationship. Similarly Paul gives
us some principles for congregational life. "Respect those who labor among
you, be at peace among yourselves, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted,
help the weak, be patient with all of them, do good to one another and
to all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.
Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:12-19). These are not
arbitrary laws to make us feel guilty if we break them. They are the essentials
of Christian fellowship. And our obedience is serving in an organic relationship
with others in the Messiah's Kingdom.
OCCAM see WILLIAM
OCCULT In most pioneering missionary
situations God encourages and confirms the preaching in miraculous ways.
"God added his testimony by signs and wonders and various miracles, and
by gifts of the Holy Spirit" (Hebrew 2:4). Usually the local shamans,
witchdoctors, soothsayers, necromancers, mediums, witches, and exorcists
try to oppose and duplicate these signs by their magic arts (as in Exodus
7:11, 22, 8:7, 18). But as a church grows there is always a residue
of occult practices and magic rituals in the homes of Christian disciples.
Discarding these is not required as a condition of baptism, but inevitably
the Holy Spirit will in due course make clear that he refuses to share
a human heart with any rival occult practice (contact with the dead, Ouiji
boards, Spiritism, Witchcraft, Horoscope Astrology, Tarot cards, Fortune
telling by palm and teacup reading, etc.). You cannot receive guidance
from the Holy Spirit and from other sources at the same time. Which is
why occult practices were already condemned in the Old Testament (Leviticus
19:31, 20:6, 27, Deuteronomy 18:10-11). As the church in Ephesus grew,
the Holy Spirit moved the disciples to have a public burning of their magic
books (Acts 19:18-19).
OIL Its benefits in food are being
rediscovered, but olive oil had other very important uses. Olive oil burns
brightly to illuminate a wedding, but a bride needs friends who will each
bring a lamp, keep it trimmed, and have a sufficient supply of oil on hand
for the night's festivities (Matthew 25:1-12). In the days before
modern antibiotics olive oil was used to massage the patient, and this
still works very well for sick children in India. Jesus' disciples "cast
out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick (Mark 6:13).
James used the Greek verb to anoint (aleipho) in the aorist tense
so we could translate "Having first anointed the sick person with olive
oil (used the usual medication), the elders of the church should pray for
his or her healing" (James 5:14). Olive oil was also used to anoint
priests (Exodus 29:7, Psalm 133:2) and prophets (1 Kings 19:16).
Kings were anointed with olive oil (1 Samuel 10:1, 16:13), which
is why the Son of God was called Messiah (mashiakh meaning anointed)
for his function as King of kings and Lord of lords. These and other functions
of olive oil were all used metaphorically to picture different aspects
of the work of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14).
OIL, Mineral When Abraham
prayed for his firstborn son, ISHMAEL
God gave him an astonishing promise about the ARABS.
The family covenant would be with the Jewish line descended from Isaac
and Jacob. But "as for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and
make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be father of twelve
princes, and I will make him a great nation" (Genesis 17:20, see
the promise to Hagar,
16:10, 21:18). What the Arabs did not know
was the vast reserves of oil that God had buried for them under the sands
of the desert. In 1933 the Standard Oil Company of California obtained
a concession to drill for oil, and within twenty years the Arab world was
receiving more income than anyone could have imagined. Soon millions were
spent on a railway, highways, electric power, a national airline, and much
else. On August 2, 1990 Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait. He could easily
have gone on to take over Saudi Arabia and controlled most of the oil needed
by the whole world (see BAGHDAD).
But the Saudis paid the Americans to drive the Iraqis back. The fact that
their huge bases remained on sacred Arab soil angered the WAHHABIS
and led to Osama bin Laden's forming of the AL
QUAIDA under the protection of the TALIBAN
OLD AGE Many of us are not afraid
of dying (see RESURRECTION) , but it is the prospect of growing
old and losing control that can terrify us (see ALZHEIMER).
Three thousand years ago King David prayed "Do not cast me off in the time
of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent (Psalm 71:9).
But then he remembered he still had work to do. "Even to old age and gray
hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the
generations" (Psalm 71:17). He assumed that in God's house he did
not need to become a dried up old stick. "They are planted in the house
of the Lord, they flourish in the courts of our God. In old age they still
produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap" (Psalm 92:13-14).
As he is no longer able to do some things, the Psalmist's FAITH
is very important. We are never too old to be thankful. Instead of getting
crabby and complaining, thankful people are a joy to their family and others
around them. Their life becomes a masterpiece. The art is to look around
and give thanks for everything we see and hear. Even when bad things are
experienced, we can thank God that one day we will see what they mean.
Then we can engage in prayer, which is perhaps the greatest work we can
OLD AGE, Long life The
Book of Proverbs suggests that our life is extended by WISDOM.
"Long life is in her right hand" (3:16). She promises that "by me
your days will be multiplied, and years added to your life" (9:11).
It is not only that wisdom keeps us from danger and an unhealthy
life style, but it is "the fear of the LORD that prolongs life" (10:27,
see HEALING). Obviously some wise
and righteous people die young, as did Jesus and some of his apostles.
Human SIN also has ravages by war,
murder, drunk drivers, and the effects of poisons, pollution, and medical
mistakes. Less easy to explain are drowning accidents, earthquakes, tornadoes,
and plagues like the Black Death (1347-50). But if we bracket the events
which are inexplicable by our logic, it seems true that on the average
God blesses us to live on fruitfully into OLD AGE.
But we also remember that death at any age is never a disaster, only a
doorway into HEAVEN.
OLD AGE Writing The age of 82 is
a very creative year. That was when Goethe finished writing Faust (1832),Leo
Tolstoy wrote I Cannot be Silent (1910), Winston Churchill was writing
History of the English Speaking People (1956-58), and Aleksandr
Russia and History's Turning Point (1963). But 82
is not a cut off point for writers. Michelangelo was still writing poems
in addition to producing sculptures the year he died aged 89 (1475). Bernard
Shaw wrote the play Farfetched Fables (1949) when he was 93. Of
course golfers can keep going even longer. At the age of 96 George C. Selbach
scored a 110 yard hole in one at Indian River, Michigan (1983). But
that does not compare with "Moses who was one hundred and twenty years
old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor not abated" (Deuteronomy
34:7). And just before he died he wrote up the account of the wilderness
wanderings and composed a song and a blessing for his people (Deuteronomy
31:9-13-33:29). But others have lived longer than that. Thomas Parr
died November 1, 1635 in Shropshire at the age of 152, and was buried in
Westminster Abbey. Zaro Agha worked as a porter, and died in an Istanbul
hospital on June 29, 1934 at the age of 164. Mohammed Khalil Abdul
Hawa celebrated his 136th. birthday in Jerusalem (1957). Mahmud Eivazov
celebrated his 150th. birthday in Azerbaijan (1958). It seems
that the art is hard physical work, which may explain why writers don't
live that long. But Mollie and I would settle for finishing this
Thoughts Encyclopedia. When is
an encyclopedia finished?
OLD TESTAMENT The first eleven
chapters of the Bible introduce us to the emergence of nations. Then we
are given the origins of the Arab people descended from Ishmael and the
Jewish people from Abraham's grandson Jacob (Israel). The remainder of
the Old Testament records the history and culture of the Jewish people
before the Messiah took birth among them. There is no glossing over the
faults of great leaders like Abraham, Moses, David, and the Jewish line
of kings. Jesus made clear that some of their interpretations of the moral
law needed correcting, especially as regards murder and the treatment of
enemies (Matthew 5:21-26, 38-45). He also introduced a radically
new mutuality between men and women, which had huge implications for marriage
and divorce (Matthew 5:27-32, 1 Corinthians 7:1-16). Jesus made
clear that their kosher food laws (Leviticus 11:1-47), which
were useful for the Exodus wanderings, are not part of God's intention
for the nations (Mark 7:18-19, Acts 10:13-15, 11:6-10). Nor was
the practice of animal sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-14). That means that
the Jewish Old Testament laws and practices are not to be taken as normative
for us. But having read their story, we use it to interpret our own nations'
history and culture in the light of Jesus' sixfold "But I say to you" (Matthew
5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44).
OLIGARCHY When a small class of
privileged people rule over others there is an oligarchy (Greek oligos
meaning few and archy meaning authority, government). Athenian democracy
was limited to those who were citizens of that city, which excluded women,
foreigners, and the majority who were their slaves. After the EXILE
the Jewish people developed a SANHEDRIN
or parliament. This was a council of priests, elders, and scribes meaning
scholars or rabbis. Although the common people heard Jesus "with delight"
(Mark 12:37), the oligarchy decided it was expedient to have him
crucified (John 11:47-50). As opposed to being ruled by the King
of England, Americans defined democracy as the rule of the people by the
people for the people. But at first the vote was restricted to property
owners, and it took time before women and black people gained the freedom
to vote. The Russian revolution (1919) began with a communist party oligarchy,
but under Stalin it became an AUTOCRACY.
A governing class can pretend to be a
but keep power in its own hands for its own agenda by restricting the freedom
of the media.
OMAN According to the Table of
Nations (Genesis 10:25-31) the areas now called Oman and Yemen in
Eastern Arabia were settled by the descendants of Yoktan (younger son of
Eber). There were Arab trading outposts in Oman in the first century AD,
and it was conquered (c. 635 AD) for Islam in the reign of the second Caliph
Omar (634-44) by his brilliant but ruthless general Khalid . The Portuguese
controlled Muscat (1507-1650) till their navy was driven out by the Ya'aribah
rulers of Oman. The Turkish empire was then able to control the country
(1659-1741). Modern Oman is a monarchy that was established under Imam
Ahmad Bin Said (1741-1775). It became a great maritime empire under Sayid
Said bin Sultan (1791-1856). He became the ruler (Sayyid) in 1806
and reigned for 50 years. By 1827 his navy was strong enough to control
many East African and Indian ocean ports, including Mombasa (1837), and
he took control of Zanzibar (1840). His sailors traded with China. In 1845
he agreed to end the slave trade. Since 1891 the Oman monarchy has had
close treaty ties with Britain. As thousands of foreign workers have come
to work in the country the King has allowed Christians to have church buildings
wherever needed, but no conversions of Omani citizens are permitted.
ONCE FOR ALL see JESUS,
ONSIDE The other day I heard
in a sermon that Joshua was the only person in the Bible who was brash
enough to ask an angel "whose side are you on?" (Joshua 5:13). Joshua
had been taken in by the Gibeonites, and he wasn't going to be conned again.
We too have people trying to persuade us to do this or that every day on
the radio, TV, newspapers, and by personal contact. I get them coming in
from the Internet right on to my computer screen. So Joshua's question
was a good one. "Whose side are you on?" If we are not sure, Jesus gave
us a very good test. "You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:20).
Which means that before being taken in we should check the person's track
record. And over the centuries nobody ever complained that the Son of God
conned them, or ruined their life.
OPEN MARRIAGE Nena and George O'Neill
suggested that partners in a marriage could permit caring relationships
with others without the need to feel jealous (Open Marriage, 1972).
But such marriages inevitably break down into something else. One possibility
is to keep the relationship on the side secret, but this can only be maintained
by lies. In that case open marriage is inevitably ADULTERY
(an adulteration). A second alternative is to share the proposed
sexual encounter with one's partner and continue to maintain total honesty
as to how the new relationship is experienced. But inevitably the question
will arise "If you love me that much, why don't we live together at my
place? Or do you really love your partner more?" A common solution is keeping
a lover or mistress on the side. But this only appears to work if the marriage
is accepted as primary and permanent. Many women handle such a situation
by refusing to think about it. "Go and do what you like with that other
person, but I don't want to know, and please don't embarrass me or upset
our children." (For other forms of marriage arrangement see POLYGAMY,
OPUS DEI Josemaria Escriva de Belagur
(1902-1975) founded the Opus Dei (Work of God) in 1928 as an order
of highly dedicated Roman Catholics who would continue to work in their
own professions One third of them lived as celibates segregated by sex
in small disciplined communities, and they turned in their pay checks to
the organization. They tended to recruit well-connected people who could
influence every level of government to protect and promote the interests
of the Roman Catholic denomination. The movement opposed the changes of
Vatican II, they retained the Latin liturgy, were right wing in their political
support, and they were opposed to women having any leadership role in the
church. By the year 2002 they numbered about 85,000 world-wide. The hasty
canonization of the founder (October 2002) suggests that Pope John Paul
II not only viewed the Opus Dei as his most reliable political instrument
but he approved many of their emphases. All Christians are saints in the
New Testament, but canonizing Mother Teresa might have made sense to me.
ORANGE ORDER When William of Orange
became King of England (reigned 1689-1702) James II (who had reigned 1685-88
) tried to regain his throne. He was defeated in Ireland at the battle
of the Boyne (July 1, 1690). The Orange Order was founded in 1795 to celebrate
that victory over Roman Catholic influence. The main activity of Orangemen
in Northern Ireland is attempting to march through Roman Catholic communities
dressed in bowler hats and orange sashes to remind them of the victory.
Naturally this is not appreciated. There are still parades of men dressed
in the same outfit on July the First in parts of Nigeria. In Canada July
1 has been taken over as Canada Day. So in rural Ontario I discovered that
a small group of the L.O.L. (Loyal Orange Lodge) and the L.O.B.A. (Ladies
Orange Benevolent Association) used to march and attend a different church
building each Sunday during July to keep the memory alive. Intermarriage
between Protestants and Roman Catholics used to be bitterly opposed. Since
the change to English instead of Latin as a result of Pope
John XXIII and Vatican II, most people find very little difference
between our services - except in Northern Ireland where the Battle of the
Boyne lives on.
ORDINATION When a LEADER
is to be commissioned it is important for him or her to be given
public recognition. Moses was told "Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in
whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand upon him" and "he took Joshua and
had him stand before Eleazar the priestand the whole congregation; he laid
his hands upon him and commissioned him" (Numbers 27:18, 22-23).
When ELDERS (bishops) were chosen
for the first Greek speaking Christian congregation in Jerusalem "they
had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands
on them" (Acts 6:6). Similarly when Barnabas and Paul were sent
out on the first missionary journey "after fasting and praying the prophets
and teachers laid their hands on them and sent them off" (Acts 13:3).
And after planting churches in Galatia they "appointed elders for
them in each church, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them
to the Lord in whom they had come to believe" (Acts 14:23).
ORIGEN (c.185-c.254) His father
Leonidas was martyred (202). Origen studied under Clement of Alexandria
(c.150-c.215) and then followed him as head of the Catechetical School.
He lived as an extreme ascetic, and was reputed to have castrated himself
(based on Matthew 19:12, though in his commentary he denied the literal
interpretation of that text). . He traveled to study other religions and
then moved to the church in CAESAREA(231)
where he established a theological school. He was a great biblical scholar
and he produced the
(finished c.245) which set out six versions
of the Old Testament in parallel columns. But his interpretations were
often allegorical. He also wrote a systematic theology named De Principiis
(Greek peri archon). But this and most of his writings were destroyed
or mutilated a hundred years later when his views were condemned as heretical
(see ORIGENISM). Origen was imprisoned
in the persecution under Decius (250) and was tortured for his faith till
ORIGENISM It is hard to know what
believed, and like any great thinker he developed his ideas over a long
period. He was certainly a committed Trinitarian Christian who never renounced
his faith under torture. In the century after his death he was accused
of various heresies. Methodius of Olympus (died c.311) opposed Origen's
view that Jesus was given a resurrection body when his physical body was
put in the grave (which is the model used on this site, see RESURRECTION).
He also viewed the ATONEMENT as
continuous rather than limited to one moment in time. Origen was certainly
wrong in some of his allegorical interpretations. And he was probably wrong
in having taught at one time the pre-existence of souls. Origen was posthumously
condemned without any opportunity for his views to be properly defended
at the Council of Alexandria (400 AD) and again at the Council of Constantinople
(553). Origen's opponents made sure his writings were ignored, misquoted,
and destroyed, so that we are unable to evaluate the wealth and depth of
one of our greatest creative theologians (as recognized by Athanasius,
Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus).
ORIGINAL SIN In the Garden of Eden
(see ADAM and EVE). The "tree
of the knowledge of good and evil" was forbidden because "In the day that
you eat of it you shall die" (Genesis 2:17). Obviously Adam and
Eve did not die physically, so we know that the forbidden fruit is symbolic
of the sin that causes spiritual death. As Paul says, " You were dead through
the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course
of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit
that is now at work among those who were disobedient" (Ephesians 2:1-2).
Paul also explains that "just as sin came into the world through one man,
and death came through sin, so death spread to all because all have sinned"
(Romans 5:12). But this refers to our natural humanity as opposed
to our faith situation: "As all die in Adam, so all will be made alive
in Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:22). Our original righteousness in
the image of God was given to us by the Holy Spirit. So original sin could
be viewed as the choice of self-righteousness as opposed to being made
right by the Spirit.
ORPHANS Orphans were helpless,
and needed protection from injustice (Exodus 22:22, Deuteronomy 24:17,
27:19, Job 22:9, 24:3, Psalm 94:6, Isaiah 1:17, 23, 10:2, Jeremiah 7:6,
Ezekiel 22:7, Zechariah 7:10). Part of the tithe and remains of the
harvest was reserved for them (Deuteronomy 14:28-29, 26:12-13).
And, where they were not properly cared for, God himself intervened on
their behalf. "The LORD your God is mighty and awesome, who is not partial
and takes no bribes, who executes justice for the orphan (Deuteronomy
10:17-18). We wonder how many orphans manage to survive the terrible
ravages of war and famine. One reason may be that "The LORD upholds the
orphan" (Psalm 68:5, 146:9). In the New Testament the care of orphans
was an essential task of the church in each city. "Religion that is pure
and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows
in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James
1:27, referring to the danger of sexual abuse). As a result orphanages
have been pioneered by Christians in many countries (see for example George
ORWELL, George (1903-50) Instead
of going to University after being at Eton (1917-21), George Orwell served
in the British Indian Imperial Police as a police officer in Burma (1922-27).
For the next seven years he experienced and wrote about being Down and
Out in Paris and London (1934). He engaged in various activities, including
fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War (1936) where he
was wounded. In and around the ideological struggles in Barcelona he found
himself personally attacked by those committed to both ANARCHISM
MARXISM. It was there he saw
the implications of STALIN and
his ruthless dictatorial system. And this clarified his mind to write ANIMAL
FARM (1945) which finally brought him fame as a writer. It is a
very powerful extended parable about some pigs who took over a farm, and
treated the other animals abominably. It had a great influence throughout
the cold war in exposing the horror of Soviet COMMUNISM.
A second very influential book was 1984
(published in 1949). It
gives a horrifying picture of a country taken over by a totalitarian system.
These two books show that imagery and parables are more effective in the
face of overwhelming power than prose writing. In the life of our churches
we might compare the perennial effectiveness of the PARABLES
of Jesus. They are also easy to translate into any language, and they work
powerfully in every country of the world.
OTTOMAN Empire The Turkish tribes
of eastern TURKEY were united under
Osman I (1259-1326), and their empire expanded steadily by wars, alliances,
and wise purchase of territories. There was a setback when the MONGOLS
under Timur defeated the Ottoman army at Ankara (1402), but having looted
and taken tribute the Mongol hordes soon left. An army from Europe that
tried to attack Turkey was defeated (1444), and Europeans shuddered (1453)
when the Ottomans took Constantinople (now Istanbul). When Selim I (1512-20)
took Cairo and defeated the Egyptian Mamlukes (1517) he took over the Muslim
as a Turkish preserve . The Ottoman Turks twice failed to capture Vienna
(1529, 1683), but they ruled for four hundred years from Algeria across
the Middle East to the Persian Gulf.. Aided by Lawrence of Arabia, General
Allenby (1861-1936) entered Jerusalem (1917) and drove the Ottoman Turks
from PALESTINE(1918). After
the end of the 1914-18 war KEMAL
ATATURK (1922) ended the dream of an Ottoman Empire, and he abolished
the Turkish Caliphate (1924).
OXFORD MOVEMENT One of the early
members of the Oxford Movement (1833-45) was John Henry NEWMAN
(1801-90) who wrote 24 of the Tracts for the Times (1933-41. (Nine
of these were written by John Keble, 1792-1866). These tracts set out their
vision for the renewal of the Church of England as a via media between
the Roman Catholics and the various Protestant denominations. Other leaders
of the movement included E.B.Pusey, R.H.Froude, R.W.Church, R.I.Wilberforce,
C.Marriot, I.Williams. They wanted a strict adherence to the AnglicanBOOK
OF COMMON PRAYER. Their scholars looked to the Early Fathers of
the Church, and Keble, Newman, and Pusey began editing the Library of
the Fathers (1838). There was a high view of the real presence in the
Communion Service as in Keble's
Eucharistic Adoration (1857). Devotion
to God was helped by the use of priestly vestments, processions, ceremonial,
the use of incense, bells, etc, and they encouraged Anglican monasteries.
But they also had a strong social conscience and worked devotedly in the
slums. They were committed to the
SUCCESSION, but when John Henry Newman and others of their leaders
submitted to the Bishop of Rome (1845) the movement fell into disarray.
Much of their vision continued among the Anglo-Catholic (often called high
church) members of the Church of England and other Anglicans.
OXYGEN Without oxygen animal and
plant life cannot survive. We need it for every breath we breathe. In the
Bible the taking in of oxygen is a metaphor for INSPIRATION.
And inspiration is the welcoming of God to give us wisdom, guidance, the
ability to pray, and many other essentials of spiritual life. In that sense
Paul pictures the Holy Spirit as the life of the church as a body in each
city. "In the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -Jews or Greeks,
slaves or free - and we were all made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Corinthians
12:13). In a human body any organ that is deprived of oxygen become
gangrenous. And in a city those parts of the church which try to do without
the Holy Spirit become dead, and gangrene sets in. Again and again there
has been a welcoming of spiritual oxygen into the life of the church (a
recent example was the CHARISMATIC
movement) , and the result is the REVIVAL
of what was dying.