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Showing posts from November, 2009

Slaying Sacred Cows

A few sacred cows are in the firing line at the moment :-)

Greg Boyd is working on a new book reconciling "the violent God of the O.T. with the crucified God of the new." He helpfully lists his six principles which he will expound in the book. He has some really interesting ideas there. Boyd is also one of the more vocal Open Theism proponents, he provides an article arguing that the "two driving motivations that led early Christians to assume God knows the future exhaustively as a realm of definite facts (rather than partly as a domain of possibilities) derive from pre-Christian pagan philosophy." I'm looking forward to reading it sometime.

On the other hand Steve of Undeception appears to be going to town on Gen 1-11 posting on Gen 1 and on the Fall. I hadn't been to his blog in ages but he seems to be going off on one regarding inerrancy, etc. Can't help but feel he is ploughing some tired old ground, but good on him for trying.

And this one is ol…

The Danger of Apologetics

The most neglected theme of this blog is the one of diaspora. But it is one I am keen not to lose grip on because it is a metaphor that has many insights to offer and is an important antidote to many vices that are the hangover from "Christendom." In recent past the church in NZ has probably been most noticeable in the public arena regarding the evolution/creation debate, same sex marriage, and to a lesser extent the anti smacking bill. All of these issues stem not from essential Christian doctrines but from Christians trying to answer challenges the wider society has given.
The Jews of the Hellenistic Diaspora thus found themselves interpreting their particularity in terms of a thought-world that bore no original relationship to it. The particularity of Israel was sometimes a burden to them in relationships with Gentiles, but it was also essential to their own sense of national and religious identity. Without it, they could not survive as a people. yet they could not s…

Contradictions in the Resurrection Narratives?

Well after ETB's insane gibbering 5 comment flame of my earlier post I thought maybe it was not so obvious to some people why the differing Resurrection accounts in the Gospels do nothing to suggest that the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth couldn't have happened, and so I should do a post on the subject. It is important to point out that this is not an argument why any one must believe it did happen, only that the differing accounts are evidence in favour rather than against it. Another blogger, Michael Bird, writes in How Did Christianity Begin?,
According to Paul, again in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, the risen Jesus was seen by individuals and groups . . . This early tradition interlocks with the multiple accounts in the Gospels that narrate persons seeing, hearing and touching the resurrected Jesus. There are clear divergences in the details provided by the Evangelists that do not appear to add up; indeed, we can speak of an excited bewilderment as to exactly where, when and …

Ellipsis and Theosis

One of the features of NT Greek which provide difficulty for the modern day interpreter (or me at least) is its ability to sometimes produce sentences devoid of verbs. The great classic of this in Paul's writings is 1 Corinthians 8:6.
yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (NIV)

yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (NRSV)

I have taken the liberty of putting every word which the Greek text does not include in bold italic. When there is no verb the interpreter has to decide what is intended. Is it simply an equative construction that is establishing a general relationship between the subject and object, or is there a verb implied by the context, or is it an ellipsis (missing verb) that indicates a well…

Funeral Thoughts

I was at a family funeral yesterday and it was tough going. A very dearly cherished person had perished tragically and before time. I was amazed by how many people turned out for the funeral, I'm guessing 500. I was more surprised though how completely absent of either hope of gratitude the service was. Although held in a church, God didn't really get a look in. There was no prayer or hymns, no way for the congregation to participate, except to listen to those who spoke, all of whom shared loss, disbelief, anger, grief and unhappiness. This is of course now fairly standard in a society that has cast off religious roots, and although claims to still be "spiritual" has no resources for coping with the event of untimely death except sad vague songs sung by professionals and PowerPoint presentations.

I know I could not expect much hope at a non-christian funeral. Although the clergy person on duty was quite frankly a total waste of space, I have never heard anyone …

Two Sermons on Sin

Well, often you hear people complaining that preachers never preach on sin, they just keep it light and fluffy and entertaining. Well, without consciously setting out to do so, I have preached the last two Sunday mornings on sin. The first was on 2:Kings 5 @ Waiheke Baptist and today's was on Acts 5:1-11 @ my home church, Mount Wellington Community Church.

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2 Kings 5, I did this one following the flow of the three sections of narrative calling attention to the "small things" on which the story turns:

Vs 1-7. The contrast between the mighty military commander Naaman afflicted with a nasty skin condition and the nameless Israelite slave girl who takes pity on him. And the contrast between the King (Jehoram?) of Israel's poverty of faith and that of the slave girl.

Vs 8-19. We then have Naaman learning about the god of Israel. A God who is no respecter of persons. Who cannot be bought. And yet who gives his grace and healing in return for the simplest of obedience…

Typology

Here is a useful essay on Typology as a method for interpreting scripture. Funny thing is, I currently preach mainly at an Open Brethren Church and the three years I had been there I had never heard anyone use Typology, despite the fact the Brethren are famous for (overdoing) it. So one sermon where I had used Typology to interpret the scripture (it was the story of Sampson I think) I thought it best to give a little introduction and explanation of method, and they all looked at me like I was teaching them to suck eggs! One of the reasons for Typology's neglect by many Biblical interpreters is because "typology assumes that history is the arena of God’s saving activity" which is of course an assumption of faith. Actually I think Typology is one of the key ways in which the coherence of scripture as whole can be asserted. Despite the differing theological emphases and historical/cultural contexts of the various books the actions of God they describe all bear characte…

The Missing Elements of Human Rights: A Theological Opportunity?

I've posted a fair bit about human rights and human responsibility, but generally only to be critical. I have yet to try to construct anything useful. Roman Catholic Theologian Anthony Kelly makes the same critique but with reference to some interesting and little know data:

While it is true that the terrible toll of the victims of totalitarian regimes have pricked the conscience of the international community, that conscience has not been uniformly reformed. The moral revolution that was hoped for has been frustrated in innumerable instances. One example is the prevalence of a spurious language of victimhood. Claiming “victim status” has now become a familiar manipulative technique in politics. A contributing factor in this distortion is the missing element in the UNDHR itself. As it framers admitted, there was no accompanying declaration of responsibilities—on the part of persons, groups or institutions—to assume the duty of implementing the basic rights in question. Anot…

Most Self -deprecating Prologue Ever?

These sermons are published at the request of some who heard them, but against the judgement of the Author. Should they, however, be found useful by but one reader, in the work of self examination and penitence, he will be content to bear the blame which he is conscious of deserving, for committing to the press discourses which have little but the importance of the subject to recommend them.

Page vii of The Sinfulness of Little Sins, by John Jackson which I haven't read yet, and he may well be right, but such a prologue surely invites you to find out if the modesty is false or much needed?

Book Notice: Myk Habets, The Anointed Son

Congrats to MykHabets on the release of his book, The Anointed Son: A Trinitarian Spirit Christology. I've just ordered my copy, a review to follow.

Endorsed by no less than Gary Badcock, Amos Yong, and Ralph Del Colle! (All heavyweights in the the area of Pneumatology/Holy Spirit) Del Colle writes:

After the initial emergence of Spirit Christology some three decades ago, various models from different perspectives have been proposed. In this comprehensive work by MykHabets we now possess a definitive account of this new approach to the mystery of Christ and the Spirit that will stand as a classic in its own right. Habets advances the conversation with his own constructive proposal that garners biblical, historical, and systematic arguments in demonstration of the rich harvest that was once only a promise.


His other book to come out this year is too pricey for me! But has also received a warm reception. Don't forget me, Myk, when you are rich and famous! :-)

Some Pagan Wisdom

Pseudo-Crates, Epistle 15

Shun not only the worst of evils, injustic and self-indulgence, but also their causes, pleasures. For you will concentrate on these alone, both present and future, and on nothing else. And pursue not only the best of goods, self control and perseverance, but also their causes, toils, and do not shun them on account of their harshness. For would you not exchange inferior things for something great? As you would receeive gold in exchange for copper, so you would receive virtue in exchange for toils.

From this book.

I especially like the last sentence. As a teacher I have found this one of the hardest things to help students appreciate. The rewards of hard work! But then it took me thirty years to work it out, so why should they be any quicker? Of course, the satisfaction of hard work and the development of self control and perseverance are not without their own dangers: pride, self reliance, and addiction to work. It's a good quote for a pagan but I p…

I love U

That was the custom number plate on a car that was dawdling in the middle lane of the motorway this morning. As I approached I was feeling mildly irritated by the dawdling but couldn't help but smile when I read the plate. I know I wasn't the object of that sentence but at the same time just reading those words cheered me up. As I passed the car I saw it was being driven by a middle aged lady, who obviously aware that having such a number plate meant many inquiring looks from other motorists, kept her eyes trained dead ahead. In that brief moment I thought of how how the person who gave her that number plate must have loved her. Then, after returning my eyes to the road ahead, I thought about how much she must love him (?) to actually drive around with that plate on her car. The number plate was both an embarrassingly public declaration of love, but also a very public acceptance of that love.

It gave me a warm glow at the time.

Love needs to be public. Somehow a love that we ke…

Atheist lessons

This cartoon is very funny. (Hat tip to James McGrath)

It is penned by an atheist and is obviously designed to poke fun at and expose the hypocrisy of Christians. While I obviously don't agree with much of the content and aims of the site, exposing hypocrisy is, I think, a valuable contribution.

But I also think the cartoon is a wonderful introduction, both to the importance of the study of Biblical hermeneutics, i.e. how we interpret the scriptures, and secondly a rather pointed reminder that discipleship is far more about radical living than just assenting to radical beliefs.

Let me know what you think :-)

P.S. And if anyone wonders why I don't do Christmas trees... now you know!

Brian Tamaki and Gary Hamel

Brian Tamaki made headlines in NZ recently with his extraordinary accomplishment to get 700 men to swear an oath of loyalty and obedience to him and his lady wife. Now most pastors would be happy merely with 700 people actually turning up to hear them preach every couple of weeks but Brian needs more commitment than that. Now the thing that is interesting is the way that Brian Tamaki already has a very committed congregation that tithe huge amounts of money and have allowed him to establish one of the largest churches and Christian social service providers in Auckland. Admittedly there is a high drop out rate, but there is with all large churches. In terms of church growth and finances he is the most successful pastor in the country. Why should he need MORE? It sadly speaks of an insecurity with the informal relationship that exists between most church leaders and their congregations. He no longer wants to work to bring people with him, he wants to be able to assume their compl…

Contradictions in the Bible

I find it very amusing when people think they have somehow achieved something when they find contradictions in the narratives of the Bible. E.g. that somehow the fact that the gospel writers cannot agree on the number of angels present at the resurrection tomb somehow proves it couldn't have happened. Almost as (tragically) amusing as the literalistic Christians who try and create "harmonized" versions to "reconcile" the different narratives. Well, I am sure God appreciates your efforts to correct his mistakes! But that is not what I am posting about here.

The real contradictions in the Bible are the source of its most beautiful theology. When you contradict something your speak (dict) against (contra) it. In Deuteronomy 10:14-19 we have two wonderful examples of Biblical contradictions that result in meaningful practical theology.

14. To the Lord you God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.

So here we have a clear st…

Headlines from Barnabas Fund

IRAN - UPDATE ON IMPRISONED CHRISTIAN WOMEN
INDIA - ANTI-CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE TOWARDS PASTORS WAGED ACROSS INDIA
EGYPT - MOB SURROUNDS CHURCH WITH CONGREGATION TRAPPED INSIDE
CHINA - TEENAGER EXPELLED FROM SCHOOL FOR HIS FAITH
SENEGAL AND UK - CHURCHES ACCUSED OF NOISE POLLUTION
USA - HILLARY CLINTON TAKES A STAND ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
EGYPT - RELATIVES ARRESTED TO FORCE CHRISTIAN TO TURN HIMSELF IN TO POLICE

As always more info at the BF website. The final story is particularly emotive. The man wanted by the police had helped to rescue a Christian girl who had been abducted and forced to marry a Muslim. As always this newsletter reminds me how so much of the church around the world face great sacrifices for their faith and risk danger to them selves and to their families.

The first word of the Bible

Thanks to Tim for this link to a fascinating Jewish commentary on the first word of the Bible.

In short the Hebrew word often translated "in the beggining" (B'reishit)has a number of unusual gramattical features. The commentary argues that probably the most accurate translation is not "in the beggining God created" but actually reading it as the first of a long series of subordinate clauses, e.g. "When God began to create heaven and earth—the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water—God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light." (JPS trans). Thus grammatically, "God said..." is in fact the first proper sentence of the Bible.

However, the gramatical peculiarities have also opened up the possibility for some Rabbinic interpreters to find quite different meanings for that first word. Suggesting instead of "in the beggining" we could actually re…