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Showing posts from December, 2009

Emergence: A Primer

OK, as promised here is a little primer on emergence as its theological relevance. And I totally disavow any pretensions of authority on this subject, this is the noddy version from noddy himself.

Alongside the exciting discoveries being made about the smallest parts of the universe in quantum mechanics there has also been the development of complexity theory, which deals not with the parts but with the whole that those parts make. What has become more and more aparent is that a purely mechanistic description of many complex systems (both articificial and naturally occuring) observed is not adequate. Put another way, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. So the most common examples of this are the patterns that form on sand when driven by the wind or the patterns that form on computer generated displays of thousands of lights flashing at random. In a purely mechanistic universe these pattern should not occur (at least not a often as they do). The whole appears to have an…

Theology of Scripture in Ivanhoe

Sir Walter Scott, the inventor of historical fiction and writer of many a swashbuckling tale, has not, as far as I am aware, been subjected to a sustained theological examination. Given that his primary intentions in writing novels seems to have been to entertain and make money that is perhaps not surprising. I have read Ivanhoe a few times before and always enjoyed it (it is the only work of his I have read - will have to remedy that) but theological study does sensitise one to things that you might otherwise miss in the excitement of tale of chivalry and damsels in distress. One of those damsels, Rebecca the Jewish Healer, attempts to extricate herself from her predicament by appealing to the Christian faith of her amorous captor, the templar Brain Bois-Guilbert. The templar explains to her that any "lesser folly" than marriage can be "speedily absolved" by the Preceptory of his order and that the templar knights only follow the example of Solomon in their li…

An Apology for Apologetics!

Apologetics is a very powerful tool, but it's ultimately janitorial. Many people encounter obstacles to the faith. Think of the Christian, for example, who loses a relative and is assailed by the question, Why did God allow that? Even the believer can be haunted by difficulties that get in the way of building a relationship with God. Apologetics can come in and help to make important distinctions and clarify some of the difficulties. You are doing no more than clearing away debris that blocks the door to faith, and ultimately it is God's love that has to work its way into a heart. Conversion ultimately comes from that; apologetics only clears the driveway.From Dinesh D'Souza in a Christianity Today interview.

A Two Faced Approach to Idolatry?

I continue my slow but very enjoyable reading of Chris Wright's, The Mission of God (IVP, 2006). (Which also inspired this earlier post.) Wright's treatment of idolatry, the subjectof his second major section, is simply fantastic and he has both answered a number of questions and posed questions I hadn't properly thought of before. In pages 179-188 he finishes his chapter on idolatry with an examination of Paul's approaches. To summarise, in Acts Paul's evangelistic preaching treats idolatry markedly differently to how he does in Romans and 1 Corinthians. Wright suggests that Paul reserves his strongest langauge about idolatry for theological and pastoral discussions with Christians (Rom 1:18-32, 1 Cor 8-10) but moderates his tone considerably when talking to pagans (Acts 14:8-20; 17:16-34; 19:23-41).

Wright, also argues that this approach of Paul's is entirely consistent with the modus operandi of the OT prophets who would accuse the pagan nations of nume…

Yet another instance of 2 Chron 7:14 abuse!

I get so tired of hearing 2 Chron 7:14 quoted by western Christians in regard to their own nations. In its context it is quite clearly about ancient Israel and the unique relationship it would enjoy as the site of God's temple. Today the temple site has a mosque built on it and Garth George seems to think that it is actually about New Zealand. So in its literal sense it no longer applies. Quite what modern Christians are supposed to take from it is another matter, but it certainly isn't a promise of national social or religious renewal if enough people pray for it. Don't even get me started on his use of Isaiah 6:9-10, which is apparently a rebuke for a failure to take interest in Maori/Pakeha tensions!

Wright on Story, Worldviews and Theology

Telling stories was (according to the synoptic gospels) one of Jesus' most characteristic modes of teaching. And . . . it would clearly be quite wrong to see these stories as mere illustrations of truths that could in principle have been articulated in a purer more abstract form. They were ways of breaking open the worldview of Jesus' hearers, so that it could be remoulded into the worldview which he, Jesus, was commending. His stories, like all stories in principle, invited his hearers into a new world, making the implicit suggestion that the new worldview be tried on for size with a view to permanent purchase. . .

If it is true that all worldviews are at the deepest level shorthand formulae to express stories, this is particularly clear in the case of Judaism. Belief in one god, who called Israeli to be his people, is the very foundation of Judaism. The only proper way of talking about a god like this, who makes the world and then acts within it, is through narration. T…

Inerrancy: A Short Blogography and 2 Points

I started writing a further post on Beyond Inerrancy, but the next step is to expound a Christ centred hermeneutic, and that just seemed beyond me this weekend. See my essay on preaching the OT if you'd like to see the beginnings of my thinkings on the subject (BTW it's not my finest moment but it got the job done). So, in lieu, here are some of the blogs on the subject that I've enjoyed:

Chris Tilling has an extensive series of blogs on the subject, and he was the first guy to get me thinking about it. Well worth the time to read.

Then there is Kiwi Blogger Glenn's take and the equally Kiwi Thinking Matters response.

From a different angle Tim resists the urge to become an inerrantist for the cause of monogamy (by the way the conversation in the comments is where it gets really interesting). Tim's conversation partner in the last link, John Hobbins, lets loose here and cautions all who too easily cast aside their theological heritage here.

While Steve at Undeceptio…

New Kiwi Preaching Blog

The Kiwi Made Preaching event that happened earlier this year has now spawned a blog. Should be good, 25 diverse but experienced contributors will be posting here about faithfully and creatively communicating the Bible in contemporary NZ. There is also a useful and growing resources section.

http://kiwimadepreaching.wordpress.com/

(I've added it to my select blog list on the right.)

NT Wright at CTI

He starts talking about his new book around the four minute mark



Hmmm, i'm gonna have to hurry up and read the first three aren't I?



"Paul is always three steps ahead of me," I know the feeling. :-)
"What you are looking at when you are doing serious research is the things that people are going to take for granted in a generation or two." No pressure then . . . ;-)

Hell?

One day I'll get round to this one, but until then here is a post on the subject from Tim Keller, here is a response to it from the fundaMentalist Pyromaniacs, and here is a totally different approach to the subject. Personally I think most peole when they read or talk about Hell are working with a concept that has been defined more by medieval superstition (and popular culture) than biblical research, so you might be able to guess which of the above approaches I tend to lean towards (but maybe not, I like to keep you in suspense). But more to come later . . .

[Edit. Sorry, I wrongly assumed that the Pyro's were discussing the Tim Keller article on Hell I had read, but they weren't it was this one. Same guy but different article. Thanks Glenn!]

Beyond Inerrancy: Towards a Meaningful Theology of Scripture

So if Inerrancy is meaningless (see previous post) how can we express a "high view" of scripture without it? Well I would suggest that the two things wrong with inerrancy need to be two things right with any other proposal, namely that the Bible we have now must be shown to be the word of God and that word must be guarded against the claims of any "authoritative interpreters."

The place I would start is Isaiah 55. This text affirms a number of things forcefully and beautifully.

In vs1-3, God calls us to come to him and listen to him for our salvation, but in vs6-7 we are told to call on God and seek him. Thus the word of God is shown to be dialogical. It both represents God's word to us and calls us into conversation with God and searching for God through that word. Then in vs8-10 the nature of God word to us is expounded. It is both alien and beyond us (vs8-9) but also purposeful, dynamic, and effective (v10).

We could then heuristically apply this as fram…

2 Reasons Why Inerrancy is Meaningless

Over at Thinking Matters there is a discussion about the doctrine of Inerrancy, the teaching that the Bible is without error. This is given its fullest and most recent form in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

The first reason this statement is meaningless is that it carefully specifies which Bible it refers to, and it is not the NJV, or the NIV or even Nestle and Aland 4th Edition, but the "autographic text of Scripture." Which is just nonsense. While some of the books of the Bible, especially the NT epistles could be said to have had autographic texts, many are the product of sustained development and/or combined traditions. Were these traditions or earlier forms inerrant also? And at what point did the scriptures cease to be inerrant, i.e. the diverse traditions that we have now? More to the point, even if at some stage the "original manuscripts" did exist at some time in some pristine inerrant form, it does us no good whatsoever as they are no l…

December Barnabas Fund Headlines

RUSSIA - CHRISTIAN LEADER MURDERED IN HIS CHURCH
VIETNAM - CHRISTIAN DENOMINATION AWARDED OFFICIAL RECOGNITION
IRAQ - BOMBS EXPLODE IN CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
EGYPT - "MASSIVE CHAOS" AS VIOLENCE ERUPTS BETWEEN CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS
CHINA - CHRISTIANS PERSEVERE IN MEETING FOR WORSHIP DESPITE ALL OPPOSITION
SUDAN - CHRISTIAN GIRL LASHED FOR "INDECENT" SKIRT
INDONESIA - CHRISTIAN STUDENTS EVICTED FROM REFUGE
EGYPT - DAUGHTER OF CONVERT APPEALS TO PRESIDENT OBAMA
IRAN - GOOD NEWS STORY

As always more on the Barnabas fund website. And if you don't get their email newsletter then you should. You'd be amazed what goes on in the world and yet never makes the papers.

New Look!

In case you haven't noticed, I thought it was time for a new look for the blog, all those dark colours were a little too forbidding. I also wanted a wider panel for the blog itself, hopefully that doesn't make it too hard to read and saves you some effort with the scroll wheel on your mouse!

Let me know what you think :-)

Confession

Stephen Webb in "Theology as Confesssion," a chapter in To Teach, To Delight, And To Move, writes,
Christians typically confess their personal sins in private, with a priest or directly to God; and they typically confess their faith in public, with others, in the church . . . This double structure of confessional acts is broken apart in modern culture . . . Today, ironically, the public confession of faith has been privatized, while the (normally private) confession of sin has been increasingly publicized. Indeed, we live in a hyper-confessional culture, in which many people seem to want to divulge their private lives, but nobody has anything really interesting to say. [p110-11]
Which strikes me as being a spot-on observation. His critique continues,
Without forgiveness, confessing becomes another form of rationalizing. We turn our failures into a coherent whole by dramatizing them through a plausible plot . . . Confessions are public, but only in the sense of blurring the …