Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Curse of Ham

Every now and then a blog post comes along that is an education all in itself.

Check out Esau McCaully on the Curse of Ham

From childhood, I had known about the curse of Ham. I knew that it meant I was supposed to be inferior. Thus, black slavery in the past and our present second-class status was a manifestation of the will of God . . .

For many at my seminary, a world in which black people struggle with questions of identity and worth and their place in the biblical narrative was as foreign to them as New England was to me. They did not realize how often Black Christians have to struggle and strive to prove to skeptical friends and family members that Christianity is a religion that has a place for black folk. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Beginning to read the Bible?

I was asked recently for some suggestions on how to get into reading the Bible from someone without a church background (or a personal faith that I know of). I quickly became aware that most internet resources are huge, not suitable for beginners and generally assume a rather conservative faith stance, not conducive to curious agnostic Bible readers. So I wrote a shortish email with a few points. Obviously I could have said more but I tried to keep it simple. My intention is to provoke curiosity rather than to achieve indoctrination. This was my response, let me know what you think.

Hi

The Bible can be confusing because it is not really a normal book. Some basic points help when you are trying to get into it.

1. It is not one book but 66 different books (by about 40 different authors)

2. These books have been arranged (roughly) to tell one big story, from the creation of the world (Genesis), to the saviour of the world, Jesus (gospels), to the end of the world as we know it and the ultimate salvation of the world (Revelation) with a whole bunch of stuff in between.

3. There is lots of double ups. 2 different stories of creation (Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3). 2 different accounts of Israel's kings (1 Samuel - 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles). 4 accounts of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

4. There are many different genres. E.g. poetry, history, biography, prophecy, songs, letters, myths, genealogy, law, etc. And often books seem to have more than one type of genre in them. 

5. Not many people succeed in reading the whole thing straight through (at least not on their first attempt) because after Genesis and the first part of Exodus, we start to get bogged down in lots of laws and this goes on for 4 books!

6. I would normally suggest to people to dip into a few different sections first before trying to read the whole thing through. And if you do read the whole thing through don't worry about skipping some of the more tedious bits, you can always go back and read them later. Some ideas to start with,

Mark: the shortest gospel of Jesus, probably only 30 mins to read.
Genesis: The introduction to the whole Bible, Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph.
Psalms: a collection of songs expressing a wide range of emotion, not all of it positive. Psalm 23 is the most famous. 51, 121, 113, are good ones too.
Jonah: More than just a guy who got swallowed by a whale.
Judges: R18 level violence
Ruth: The love story that gives hope to the story of Judges
Acts: This is the sequel to gospel of Luke and tells the story of the Early Church and introduces Paul who wrote many of the letter in the OT.
Esther: The girl who saves a nation.
Philippians: A letter from prison
Song of songs: Ancient erotic poetry (I kid you not)

7. As you read through you'll realise that lots of the books reference each other, it is a very interconnected set of books and even by dipping in and out you'll start to get a sense of the whole thing.

8. I've read it through several times, but it usually takes me more than a year. If you read three chapters a day you get through it in a year, I think. Good luck!

Feel free to throw any further questions my way. I am a Bible geek so always happy to do my best to answer.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Andrew Judd and Racism in New Zealand

This fascinating and terribly titled video exposes what most Maori and many migrants have long known: White New Zealand is endemically racist. Now before you turn away in disgust at my unfair judgement, let me explain. White New Zealand is not racist because the people are mean and nasty. When we hear the word racist we think of horrible angry people blaming others for their misfortune and frothing a bit at the mouth. New Zealanders of all colours are the most generous and kind people you could hope to meet, of course there are always exceptions, but as a whole they are really not bad people, so to be told they are racist it is hurtful. If they saw someone in need, no matter the race they would help. If a neighbour moved in, no matter the race they would welcome them. If two people fall in love, no matter the race, they can be together. If someone does a good job (especially in sport), no matter the race, they deserve to be celebrated. I truly believe it and have seen it. So how can we possibly be racist?

We are not racist because we are horrible people, we are racist out of ignorance. And this is why when someone like Andrew Judd gets a bit more knowledge, the scales fall from his eyes and he zealously seeks a better world!

We are racist because we are ignorant of our own history.
It is no accident that Judd's conversion came after reading a history book. If people really understood what Maori have been through they wouldn't complain about having Maori issues "shoved down my throat". Try having your own language banned for 100 years by a government you didn't get to vote for. Hows that for having something shoved down your throat? Being forced to learn about Maori issues (as if anyone is) is not force feeding, it is education about your own history. Yes it will make you uncomfortable but nothing worth comparing to how uncomfortable the Maori's have been made in their own country.

We are racist because we are ignorant of democracy.
Much of the dissension in the story revolves around Maori seats on councils. White folk get upset because (in their minds) it is special treatment for a person who otherwise wouldn't be elected. But the purpose of modern democracy is not mob rule, but representative rule, The reality is councils with all white boards are not representing the Tangata Whenua in their regions. A seat or two for Maori representation would not have given any real power (more's the pity) but it would at least have given a voice to a minority who deserve to be represented just as much as "Grey Power". (oh the irony of that title) [A side issue is all the councilors getting paid not to turn up to meetings, the citizenry should have been up in arms about that, but instead, as usual the powerful scapegoat the minorities]

We are racist because we are ignorant of social legacies.
The whole "why don't they just sort themselves out" reveals the suspicion lurking in so many people minds that Maori have higher rates of poverty, crime, addiction and abuse than the rest of the population because they are too stupid or immoral to pick themselves up. They are blind to the reality that most of us have not dragged ourselves from the gutter to our current lifestyles and neither can we claim everything we have is a result of our own hard work. The families we were born into have a huge amount to do with it. Why did I stay at school and go on to university? Was it because I am smarter and more moral than a brown person? Or is it because my parents went to university, supported me to go and set me an example I could follow? In the same way when a group of people have been systematically oppressed for over a century simply ceasing oppression is not sufficient. The damage has been done the legacy has been created. While individuals may well break the mold, as a group the social legacy needs redressing to rebalance the scales. Maori can't "just get over" history because it is still affecting them now.

We are racist because we are ignorant of theology.
Perhaps the most galling for me was the the "Christian" involvement in this. Now there are always going to be idiots carrying Bibles that don't know how to read them. But how is it that with all the churches in New Plymouth no pastor sought Andrew out to encourage him and give him a different view of what Christians might think? Yes we are all called to be one in Christ (Gal 3:38). But one what? Not one monocultural society where everyone is as white as the next guy. What makes us Christians one people is not conformity to each other (and definitely not to white NZ culture) but conformity to Christ. The Bible celebrates the unity of all tribes and tongues (Yes, Te Reo!) in worship of God (Rev 7:9) and any Christian worth their salt should be doing the same.

We are racist because we tolerate Paul Henry and Mike Hoskings.
The two high priests of Middle New Zealand Racism are terrible broadcasters, joyful wallowers in the most bestial ignorance, and by reputation (it's a small town) utterly unpleasant people. Why do we continue to adore them and applaud their hateful rhetoric? Because they reflect us so well and say things we like to hear. Because we are a racist country.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

When the Rock Star met the Bible Scholar

Fascinating little video here

I was struck, one, by Peterson's focus on the task in hand (not being distracted from his deadline by a world famous rock star's invitation. Surely an indication of how he has acheived so much in life, focus!

And two, by Bono's comment about the dishonesty of Christian art and worship music. Ouch!

Enjoy, let me know what you think,


Monday, April 11, 2016

The Secret Life of Bible Societies

Scot McKnight offers a fascinating precis of John Fea's book The Bible Cause. It is not for nothing that many countries ban the distribution of Bibles, it is a highly political act, but not just the distribution, a Bible society's decisions about what to include or exclude can have far reaching effects. Forget the Illuminati we should all be worrying about the agendas of the Bible societies.

Easter, that famous pagan festival, not.

We've probably all heard how the celebration of Easter is based on the pre Christian celebration of the goddess Oester, from who we got oestrogen, and that Christians just tacked on some cute stories about Jesus to fit in with it. Of course that is a rather revisionist approach to the Christian explanation which is that Easter is the Christian celebration of the passover, fulfilled as it was by Jesus in his death and resurrection. And it also rather neatly ignores the fact that Christianity did not start celebrating Easter in Europe (where it could conceivably have been borrowing the fertility rites of a fictive German goddess) but in the Middle East. But never mind. Anyway if you are interested, I thought this was a helpful article on the subject. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Going further with Hebrew

So last year I did the introduction and intermediate course in Hebrew with Laidlaw College. I had previously self taught myself enough Hebrew to engage with commentaries, do word studies, etc, but it was good to go systematically through a course with the aim to actually read something off the page. So like many Hebrew students I am left with the question, "what next". What I wanted was a list of easy-ish Hebrew texts I could work my way through, to help me practice what I had learned without becoming hopelessly discouraged by coming across passages I had no chance with. I found this list on a blog copied from a book. All I wanted was the list but if you want more assistance I suggest you buy the book.

I'm going to be working my way through the list which will hopefully result in me not forgetting all I learnt last year! I'll let you know how I get on. Are there any other lists like this that you are aware of? Dan Wallace provides this list of how to read through the New Testament in order of difficulty (easiest first).

Law

1. Genesis 1:1-5 – In the Beginning
2. Genesis 2:1-3 – The Seventh Day
3. Genesis 26:1-6 – God’s Promises to Isaac
4. Genesis 35:9-15 – God’s Promises to Jacob
5. Genesis 43:1-8 – Jacob Sends Benjamin to Egypt
6. Exodus 3:1-12 – The Burning Bush
7. Exodus 6:1-8 – I am the LORD
8. Exodus 34:1-6 – The LORD Proclaims His Name
9. Leviticus 19:1-4 – The Demand for Holiness
10. Numbers 6:22-26 – Aaron’s Blessing
11. Deuteronomy 6:1-15 – The Shema
12. Deuteronomy 11:18-23 – Teach These Words to Your Children
13. Deuteronomy 31:1-8 – Be Strong and Courageous

Prophets

14. Joshua 24:14-18 – Joshua’s Challenge to Serve the LORD
15. Judges 3:7-11 – The LORD Delivers Israel with Othniel
16. Judges 10:10-15 – Cry to the Gods Whom You Have Chosen
17. 1 Samuel 15:10-24 – To Obey is Better Than Sacrifice
18. 2 Samuel 7:1-9 – David’s Desire to Build the Temple
19. 1 Kings 8:22-26 – Solomon’s Prayer
20. 2 Kings 17:34-40 – You Shall Fear the LORD
21. Isaiah 43:1-6 – You Are Precious in My Eyes
22. Jeremiah 31:31-34 – A New Covenant
23. Ezekiel 37:1-6 – The Valley of Dry Bones
24. Joel 3:1-5 (2:28-32) – I Will Pour Out My Spirit

Writings

25. Psalm 23:1-6 – The LORD is My Shepherd
26. Psalm 100:1-5 – Hymn of Praise
27. Psalm 121:1-8 – The LORD Will Keep You
28. Ezra 7:6-10 – A Model for Generations to Come
29. 2 Chronicles 1:7-10 – Solomon Asks for Wisdom
30. 2 Chronicles 7:1-4 – The Glory of the LORD Fills the Temple

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tanya Riches: A new (to me) blog!

A little while back on facebook I came across this gem of an article about citing people (even if they are female and/or Australian). I think Tanya is too soft on cheating scumbags who want to pass off other people's work as their own, but never mind, and otherwise she is spot on.

But the blog also includes theological music reviews and commentary on aboriginal rights among other things. So check Tanya out. I've added her to my feed reader.

Jospeh's Bones (Genesis 5:24-25)

I've been thinking this week about the bones of Joseph. There is a strange little bit at the end of the book of Genesis where Joseph tells his family that when the time comes for Israel to return to the land of Canaan he wants his bones taken with them (Gen 50:24-25). I've read it many times and not given it much thought. But this week I was struck by the fact that this is really strange.

Think about it for a second. Joseph has seen four generations of his children born in Egypt (50:23). He was given the highest non-hereditary office in the land of Egypt (41:41-3). He married into a high status family in Egypt (41:45). He became the saviour of Egypt and surrounding lands during a terrible famine (41:56-57). So in Egypt he has family, wealth, success, prestige and honour, everything that the world could offer. What better resting place could there be for his bones? Why would he want his bones taken back to Canaan, the land of his childhood where he was a spoilt brat hated by his brothers?

But it is not nostalgia that motivates Joseph. He does not call Canaan "the land of my childhood", but "the land that God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." Jacob's motivation is not in the past but in the future. Even after all he had in the land of Egypt his heart was in the promises of God for the future. What a challenge to us! How attached are we to this world and what it gives us? Is our heart really in the future promised by God or are we happy for our "bones" to rest for ever in the blessings of this world? For as Jesus said, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt 6:21).

Monday, February 22, 2016

NZATS conf and call for papers



If you love a good acronym, then this is the conference for you!
NZATS Conference

Keynote speakers will be Murray Rae, Tim Meadowcroft and Rebecca Dudley.

Conference Announcement And Call For Papers


New Zealand Association of Theological Schools (NZATS) and it’s member institutions are coming together for a combined conference in 2016.


– Aotearoa-New Zealand Association of Biblical Studies (ANZABS)


– Aotearoa-New Zealand Association of Mission Studies (ANZAMS)


– Systematic Theology Association of Aotearoa-New Zealand (STAANZ) and


– Religious History Association of Aotearoa-New Zealand (RHAANZ)


– Network for Pastoral/Practical Theology in Aotearoa New Zealand (NPPTANZ)


Conference organiser on behalf of NZATS: Dr Myk Habets (myk.habets@carey.ac.nz)


All scholars and students involved in theological education or Christian ministry are invited to attend.


The 2016 NZATS Combined Conference will be hosted by Carey Baptist College, 473 Great South Road, Auckland, NZ

Just watch out for the NPPTANZ vs ANZAMS volley ball match, things could get bloody.




For more click here

Monday, February 15, 2016

Yes They Are The Same God

All the kerfuffle over that poor professor, it really is remarkable that intelligent people can find it so hard to understand.

Yes. Yahweh, Allah and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ are all intending to refer to the same object - the creator and soveriegn of the Universe, the one true God.

Nick Norelli (PBUH) makes the usual mistake of thinking that just because someone is wrong about an aspect of the object they are therefore referring to a different object altogether.

Here's the thing, saying we mean the same God is not the same as saying that we are all correct in our beliefs about that one God just as the Flat Earth Society live on the same Earth that we all do they are just wrong on the subject of its basic shape. And thank God for that else we'd all be unable to pray to or talk about the Most High on account of the smallest imperfections in our theology.

Put this another way, some people think I am a really cool guy, other think I'm a complete moron. Whether they are right or wrong (or the answer is a bit of both) they still refer to the same chap when they talk about me, even if they are fundamentally wrong about my character.

Don't they?


Where Does All Our Time Go?

Came across a fascinating (if slightly hyperbolic) article the other week. Well worth a read

If someone had designed a work regime perfectly suited to maintaining the power of finance capital, it’s hard to see how they could have done a better job. Real, productive workers are relentlessly squeezed and exploited. The remainder are divided between a terrorised stratum of the – universally reviled – unemployed and a larger stratum who are basically paid to do nothing, in positions designed to make them identify with the perspectives and sensibilities of the ruling class (managers, administrators, etc) – and particularly its financial avatars – but, at the same time, foster a simmering resentment against anyone whose work has clear and undeniable social value. Clearly, the system was never consciously designed. It emerged from almost a century of trial and error. But it is the only explanation for why, despite our technological capacities, we are not all working 3-4 hour days.

Let me know what you think :-)

The Honest Christian Worship Album


Though this was pretty funny, if also a little painfully accurate? (source)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Liberalism has Started to Eat Itself: Jacob Williams on Free Speech

So this is an interesting discussion affecting Oxford University at the moment.

Here's one side of the story


And here's another.

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Bauckham on "Deliberate Hindsight"

"If God crucified introduces radical novelty into the identity of God, wherein lies the consistency of identity? The first point to make is . . . that Jewish monotheism did not characterize the uniqueness of God in such a way as to make the early Christian inclusion of Jesus in the unique identity of God inconceivable . . . However, this - so to speak - negative consistency was clearly not sufficient for the early Christians . . . they developed their fresh understanding of the Christological identity of God through creative exegesis of the Hebrew Scriptures . . . Precisely at points where they appreciate most fully the new identity of God in Jesus, they are engaged in exegesis, the process of bringing the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures and the history of Jesus into mutually interpretive interplay. We misunderstand this process if we see it as an attempt, by reading Christology back into the texts, to pretend that actually nothing at all was unexpected . . . With deliberate hindsight they understand the identity of the God of Israel afresh in the light of his new identity as the God of Jesus Christ."

Richard Bauckham, "God Crucified," Jesus and the God of Israel, 2008: pp53-54