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Showing posts from June, 2009

Why Dr Charles Stanley is not a biblical preacher

Unusually for me I was watching the tele early on Sunday morning and I caught an episode of Dr Charles Stanley preaching on his television program. Now I know this guy has come under some criticism for his personal life, and that is not unimportant, but it is also not something i can comment on, not knowing the facts. His preaching is however something I can comment on, at least the one sermon I did watch.

He started off by reading 2 Timothy 1:3-7. Which is a passage from the Bible, so far so good. He then spent the next 30 minutes or so talking about his mum and what a great example of a Christian mother she was. Now nothing he said or suggested was wrong, but none of it actually came from scripture, least of all the scripture he read from at the beginning. It was a lovely talk on how Stanley's mother raised him as a Christian despite considerable difficulties and it contained many useful nuggets of advice on raising Christian kids. All very nice, it might have made a nice…

Sources for theological reflection

Over the next month I am going to be writing course material for the reflective field education course that I run at Carey college. At the moment I am musing and reading on the subject of how theological reflection takes place and what sources we can or should draw on to do so. Here is my list (in no particular order):
BiblicalTheological(Church) historicalPrayer/worshipExperienceCo-incidence (e.g. certain circumstances co-inciding with a desire)Pragmatism (linked but not necessarily congruent to co-incidence)Conversation/CommunityHeroes/mentorsObservation of signsHave I missed any?

For different Christians I think different sources take a more authoritative role in the process of reflection and discernment, and soe are often totally excluded. 1-3 have been the substance of a classic theological education. But I think it is probably fair to say that 4 should probably be paramount regardless of your biases towards the rest. Biblical reflection would then be an indispensible second, but t…

Did this make your news?

From Barnabas Fund:

A Forgotten Disaster: Christians affected as Cyclone Aila hits Bangladesh
An under-reported yet devastating cyclone has hit Bangladesh and parts of eastern India, leaving at least 200 people dead and over half a million people homeless.

Bangladeshi Christians leave the remains of their house to search for food and shelter
Winds of up to 65 mph and massive tidal waves battered low-lying coastal areas, devastating villages and communities. River and flood-control embankments were destroyed, putting hundreds of coastal areas under up to eight feet of water; mud houses collapsed, while crops and fisheries were ruined by the inundation of salt water. It is estimated that 3 million Bangladeshis and 2 million Indians – at least half of them children – have been affected by the storm, which hit the area on 25 May 2009.

Hell for the superstitious Greek

For Plutarch superstition is "fears of punishment after death in the nether world and beliefs in 'judges and torturers and yawning gulfs and deep recesses teeming with unnumbered woes.'"

[Source: Dale Martin, the Corinthian Body, 156]

Which suggests that that was probably what the uneducated masses of the Greco-Roman world believed in. Which in turn makes you wonder how that migt have influenced early Christian thought... hmmm.

monkeys and sex

"Reflecting quite common ideas, Soranus [a 1st/2nd C. physician ] tells young women that they must be careful what they look at during sex: women who gazed on monkeys during intercourse have borne children who resembled monkeys. Women should also be sober during coitus, since drunkenness may produce 'strange phantasies' in the mind, which may then imprint themselves on the body of the resulting fetus."

[Source Dale Martin, The Corinthian Body, 26]

Believe the Bible or Science?

One of the more frustrating conversations to have is when you try and suggest that the scientific theory of evolution does not really contradict the creation accounts of Genesis. It doesn't matter if you are talking to a young earth creationist fundy or a frothing at the mouth anti-theist, they both think that you are trying to wriggle out of the 'plain meaning' of scripture. The argument really runs either:
people have always read creation accounts as literal scientific historical accounts and you are just trying to change that because of the proof for evolutionif you are not going to take the creation accounts literally then you cannot take the gospels literally eitherBoth are simply based on false assumptions about the nature of the texts concerned and the history of their interpretation. The most obvious reason for thinking that even the original prescientific authors and readers of the creation accounts did not take them in the same way that we do a scientific histo…

Why the Jews survived as a people when no one else did

Further to the last post, I was watching a lecture by Yale Professor Christine Hayes, and she makes the point that the reason the Jews have such an extraordinary long history when so many larger and more advanced civilisations dissapeared off the map, is their robust monotheism. Which meant that when the ultimate national disaster happened (being wholesale exile and enslavement) rather than accepting that their god had been defeated by the enemy's god they interpreted the event as an act of their soveriegn God. This interpretive act effectively stopped them from being assimilated by the conquering culture and allowed them to maintain a unique identity. Now this is an entirely secular argument, not one that needs God to be real for it to work. (Although if God is real then obviously God might have a hand in the survival of God's chosen people as well.) But I think this same point applies to the contemporary Christian's ability to maintain a Christian identity even through t…