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Showing posts from May, 2009

If God is good, what is God good for?

I recently heard a Christian defend God from the 'problem of evil' by suggesting that God has voluntarily self limited Godself in God's knowledge of the future (and possibly power) and so when bad things happen to good people it is just because God has chosen to be weak. This is not helpful. Believing that God didn't stop the bad thing because God either didn't see it coming or couldn't help even if God did, may stop you blaming God for the bad thing, but it also suggests that if God is so blind and feeble he is no God at all, but just a fellow sufferer who might occasionally provide some comfort but really isn't good for much else. There really is no way around the Bible's affirmation that God is both in control and fully aware of what is going on in the world (whether or not God has the future mapped out in minutia - but that is another discussion) so the fact that bad things happen (and yes I am talking about really bad things) must be understood in…

Religion, relationship, or something else?

One of the classic evangelical catch phrases is, "It's not a religion, it's a relationship." The point of which being to differentiate Christianity from a set of rules and instructions to get you favour with God and assert that Christianity is about knowing God personally. This is often an eye opening phrase for those who have a legalistic conception of Christianity. It is however quite misleading.

Firstly, Christianity most certainly is a religion, in that it is framework for making sense of life, or a world view. All world views are religious, even atheistic world views, and even the most undecided of agnostics will have a religious framework for making sense of their life. It is just human nature. But I guess strictly, while it contains a world-view Christianity claims to be something more than just a way of understanding life, the universe and everything.

Secondly, the word relationship is particularly unhelpful. In general we only use this term regarding p…

Samson as a sign pointing to Christ

As part of our continuing series on Judges this week was Samson. I did an internet search on sermons about Samson (something I wouldn't normally do when preparing a sermon, and I hasten to add I did this at the end not the beggining) and I noticed that everyone seemed to be using Samson as an illustration of bad behaviour - e.g. don't be like Sampson. Now while this sort of moralising is OK (well, not really - but I cant get onto that now!), it sort of short circuits the point of having the Bible. Because pragmatic moral lessons are available to us whenever we read the newspaper. I argued that Sampson is more significant than this. He is the 12th of 12 judges, his story is the climax of the work of the judges before the descent into anarchy of chapter 17 onwards. He also gets four chapters devoted to him, more than any other judge. Finally his birth and death are described in more detail than any other judge. Leading me to suspect that he has some special significance.…

Racism, Crime, and the Church

One of the things I was surprised about on coming to NZ was the implicit racism among so many Kiwis who had a view of themselves as enlightened and progressive. The prevailing national attitude is that the most appropriate and effective response to crime is to increase punishments and the length of detention. The fact is that in NZ certain ethnic groups commit crime out of all proportion to the population statistics. By pinning all the blame for criminality on the individual and seeking redress for crime through punishment you are implicitly stating that all responsibility for crime rests on the individual's essential nature. As certain ethnic groups contain a higher proportion of these criminal individuals it can only follow that these ethnic groups are inherently more criminal than others. The only way out of this racist cul-de-sac is for society to accept its own responsibility for the crime as well. Middle class Kiwi's hate this suggestion. They refuse to acknowledg…

How to resuscitate the guy who killed you...

House of Heroes "In the Valley of the Dying Sun" from Endeavor Media Group on Vimeo.I really like this song. As a song writer myself I always struggle with songs that are too direct. This one manages to be programatic without being too blatant. It also seems to be an antiwar song but I'm not sure, it might just be about death in general. They are getting a lot of airplay at the moment on Christian radio, which is good. If there has to be such a thing as 'Christian rock' it might as well be as interesting as this.
let me know what you think :-)

Arrogance and Reformation in the Postmodern Age

Well this is a reply to Phil Baiden's post "Humility and the Modern Age" which appears to be at least partly inspired by a comment I made on a different post, and which reading back I have no idea why I wrote that there, it seems like I was having a dig, and so I am very glad that Phil has had a dig back. Now this is what blogging is all about, airing your views and giving everyone the chance to push back so that you can learn what you say sounds like to other ears. So in replying to Phil I am not trying to score points, or even win an argument, but to better understand and to be better understood.

Phil says of me: "He’s a nice guy. He’s very tall and he grows a fine beard. He’s very up-to-date with all the latest theological goings-on." Of which only the second point is really 100% true, but I would give a 50% rating to the 1st and third propositions, altough I would hasten to add I am working on bringing the 1st up closer to the 70% mark, whereas I am quite …

Happy Birthday Tim

Some blogs are read by anyone and everyone, but Tim Bulkley's blog is read by those in the know ;-). It is his birthday and he is asking you to wish him a happy birthday, just go here and follow the instructions. All he wants for his birthday is 2000 people to protest Suu Kyi's imprisonment. This has surely got to be better for you than eating cake with candles on?

Is theology just for academics?

Well you already know the answer, but this is a good quote anyhoo:

"Theology is the practice of all Christian people growing in their knowledge of God amidst their various life activities and church practices. The academic discipline of theology is not entirely separate from, or more important than, ordinary Christian growth in biblical discernment. Rather, professional theologians ought to pursue the same practices as lay Christians but with different intensities of inquiry, amounts of time, and levels of expertise."

[Daniel J. Treier, Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Recovering a Christian Practice, pp188–89]

The two lenses of the Christian life

When Paul sums up the way Christian 'ought to live and to please God' (1 Thes 4:1) he uses only two primary concepts:

"and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with his saints."
- 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Love and holiness are so often played off against each other. You get 'love Christians' who know that all you have to do is love and accept and help people and that is Christianity in a nutshell. And you get 'holiness Christians' who are terrified they might accidentally associate with the wrong type of person, or with someone who holds the wrong doctrine, or even watch a movie that is not quite pure. Living in each extreme is pretty easy. Doing things a much harder way are those poor souls trying to be 'balanced Christians' who recogn…

Fighting over Paul's legacy

NT Wright is currently involved in something of a scrap with those defenders of protestant orthodoxy. It is always interesting watching people fight over an issue by publishing books, usually a year or more after the one which they are taking issue with. This video is the promo for Wright's latest book, mainly in response to John Piper's critique as well as his other critics. But these are by no means the only people involved in the debate. Personally I think this is a highly inefficent way of doing things. They should hold a big conference and get together and thrash the whole issue out over a week or so over some quality tea and scones. Failing that you can always follow other people's conversations about it, for instance this, or this, or this, or even this. Which reminds me that I need to finish my conversation with this blog community's own defender of protestant orthodoxy Phil Baiden soon. So I'll try and fit that in this week. But back to the video, …

Saturday Morning Thesis brain Storm

My thesis is coming along slowly but I have begun to realise that my current question is more like a PhD than a Masters, and I dont have the time or money to be considering one of those at the moment! So I am unforunately looking at narrowing the question. The problem with this is that much of my thesis was going to be looking at the development of the metaphor across the corpus (collection of Paul's letters) and if I only do one book tings would have to change. So this morning I have had a brain storm to see if I did just do 1 Corinthians if I would have enough to talk about...

"Christ's body and its parts: An Ecclesiological Metaphor in 1 Corinthians"

Metaphor theses and questions
That the use of mele (member) must be taken account of as well as soma (body) in appreciating this metpahor (contra Yorke)That how the metaphor is used in varied locations and constructions in 1 Corinthians has ramifications for discussions of development across the corpusThat the Metaphor i…

NT Wright on the Jesus and Paul problem

"The question of the relationship between Jesus and Paul has normally been posed in the wrong terms... One normal way of stating it goes like this: Jesus preached about God but Paul preached about Jesus. Or, if you like, Jesus announced the kingdom of God, Paul announced the Messiahship of Jesus. This plays out in other ways: Jesus called people to a simple gospel of repentance, belief and the practice of the sermon on the mount; Paul developed a complex theology of justification by faith, something Jesus never mentioned, with all kinds of hard and gritty bits quite alien to the original message... These various ways of polarising Jesus and Paul, and other variations, simply miss the point. They assume that Jesus and Paul were both trying, essentially to do the same kind of thing, namely, to preach and teach a set of theological, religious, and or ethical truths, and that one can therefore line up the various elements of what we know of their sayings and play them off agains…

Thursday is for Bible reading!

Today Greg Boyd continues his righteous critique of the Patriot's Bible. Which makes you realise even reputable publishers cannot be trusted to read the Bible correctly... you have to learn to do it yourself. Which is where John Piper comes in with his love affair with arcing. Not that it is a technique that I have come across before but it sounds fairly sensible and I will investigate sometime, when I have the time. Exegesis is hard word and some graphic symbols could well come in handy for speeding up analysis of thought flow. From my musical studies I certainly know symbols can help immmensly with musical analysis. But sometimes it just takes a sitcom to bring home a truth, after all many a true word is spoken in jest... you just need to know how to spot it :-)

Making music in the Kingdom Come

[Had to write a "personal chatty thought provoking piece" for the weekly college news letter. Here is my attempt. BTW it is New Zealand Music Month this month, and my college is marking that by having Music Week this coming week. You can get points for spotting the Bible references :-)]

When Jesus the Christ returns as Lord and King to redeem and renew creation all human wisdom and invention will also be taken up and integrated into the life of eternity. Scientists, inventors, engineers, artists, gardeners, farmers, and all the rest will somehow find their vocations transformed and incorporated into the Kingdom come, where God is all and in all. But not all human work is capable of being translated into the new age: arms manufacturers, military, police, and politicians, among others, will be rendered unnecessary by the coming of the King. This is why all preachers and theologians need a hobby. The time will come when people do not need to be taught about God, because t…

It's enough to make you puke (again)

Need another reason to thank God you weren't born an American or a Dog?

(Sorry all my wondeful American friends, but really as a tribe you have so much to answer for... like nearly as much as the British!! ;-), you are a young nation, I'm sure you will grow out of it.)

But really this does raise once again the whole issue of study Bibles, green Bibles, and Dude-Pimp-My-Bible! Bibles...

Personally the only thing I want in my Bible is really great crossreferences which make up for the fact that I havent yet memorised the entire scriptures in Hebrew and Greek because I'm so lazy.

Sermon Judges 2:6-3:6 (Intro to Judges as a series)

[Preached this on Sunday, but it should have been last Sunday, but I was hurling chunks into a bucket instead, so it got rescheduled! This is both an overview of the whole book as well as an exposition of the passage, which I think is OK to do not least because the passage itself functions as an overview.]

Judges 2:6-3:6

Orientating ourselves.
Judges looks back to MOSES – they have a covenant, an exodus, a Passover, a seminal nation forming event... but that seems a long time ago now (2:12, 17, 20, 3:4)
Judges looks forward to DAVID, a golden age when a king will rule in righteousness and bring unity and security: an end to conflict inside and outside. (Judges 17:6, 18:1, 19:1, 21:25 – no king, this is why things are so screwed up)

But Judges actually lives in the middle where it just seems like chaos.
• God’s people are unfaithful... repeatedly
• God’s people are surrounded by enemies who attack them
• God’s people are divided and often attack each other
• God’s people are…