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Showing posts from January, 2010

Lindbeck's Typology

I am currently reading George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine, in its 2009 25th anniversary edition.  It is a very important book and is one of the seminal works of the "Yale School" of theology.  I intend to review it properly after I have read it, but long before reading it I have encoutered and used Lindbeck's typology of theories of religion.  Like all typologies its usefulness comes from the ease with which you can use it to categorise the things you come across, but also, again like all typologies, you have to be careful to realise that it is not in itself neutral but comes with its own implicit assumptions and agenda.  For Lindbeck you can approach religion (or doctrine) in one of three ways (although you can also combine two or more of these ways to different extents):

1  The congnitive-propositional

This first approach assumes that religious language is concerned primarily with propositions of "fact". This tends to treat religion much like a philosoph…

Presecution: the full story!

One consistent statistic in my blog stats is the arrival of people wanting to know about PRESECUTION.  I am amazed that what started off as a typo has become such a popular search subject. ;-)  Presecution is a misspelling of persecution which is defined by wikipedia as "the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group by another group."  The main concern of this blog, in regard to persecution, is the persecution of Christians in countries where they are minorities.  But just for the record, I believe persecution of anyone or any group of people is morally unacceptable.  The charity I support in relation to this is the Barnabas fund, but there are also some other great charities whose websites are full of infomation about the persecution that goes on around the world, and how you can help to alleviate it. for example:, .com,, and .net all take you to different sites and there is also Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

So welcome to the blog and please…

Lists of objectionable beliefs

Yet another post inspired by Glenn Peoples blog after he has a little rant about being judged a liberal by other evangelicals because some of his views might be considered outside the "conservative" box.  In the post he presents a list of beliefs/claims.

The Bible is the word of God.We do not have immortal souls.Abortion is immoral.God raised Jesus from the dead.The liberal claims made about early Christianity by the likes of the Jesus seminar and Bart Ehrman are ridiculous.All people have a duty to obey God’s law.Inerrancy is a false view of Scripture.If God does not exist, then there are no moral facts.The state should not sanction same-sex marriage.There is no such thing as eternal torment in hell.The four Gospels are a reliable history of the life of Jesus of Nazareth.2, 7, and 10 are presumably the ones which alienate him from the mainstream of conservative evangelicalism, while the rest alienate him from mainstream liberal secularism.  It is an interesting list, I am su…

No, you don't just pick and choose

As I stated before this inerrancy discussion has plenty of legs left. Glenn responds to some criticism from Jeremy by asking why is a non-inerrantist more likley to allow personal preference to interfere in interpretation that someone who holds to inerrancy?  Glenn is quite right in pointing out that we all have to do the hard work of interpretation regardless of what our particular position is.  In fact I would go as far as to say that inerrantists have a harder time of it because of the need they feel to reconcile passages which (appear to) disagree in minor details.  For the non-inerrantist this is normally going to be a waste of time. 

But Jeremy seems to think that it is just a matter of opinion which "parts" of the of Bible are intended to teach truth and which parts are a result of the texts time and culture bound character.  Jeremy paints in his post a misleading charicature of those who do not hold to inerrancy.  No serious exegete that I know thinks you can just p…

Some more of other people's blogs

Marriage is under attack in the UK by those promoting adultery as entertainment, am I really a reactinoary old prude for thinking that should be stopped quickly?  Loren argues that Paul was converted rather than called which is interesting and I thiknk depends largely on how you understand conversion and religion.  Meanwhile the decade of the Atheists is over, but what will come next?  i would like a decade of really really good pie shops opening in my local neighbourhood.  Steve asks how true do we need the Bible to be?  But I wonder how much we can rely on history to make some of those decisions given how much of the data is still underground and how little survives in any form.  But in case it never occured to you, it didn't me, Goliath's helmet was an important historical clue.  And it should be noted that even the most happening lively active church can be lonely and we need to make the effort to spend time in each other's homes, but that would be hard if you go to &q…

Countryman - Dirt, Greed, and Sex: A Book Review

William Countryman, Dirt, Greed, and Sex, Fortress 2007.

This book is a brilliant and challenging survey of New Testament sexual ethics.  What is unique about it (at least in my experience) is that it approaches these issues, not through the grid of our own modern approach to such matters but seeks to reconstruct the grid which those in the world of the NT would have used.  This book is frequently cited in other literature and usually accompanied by the word "provocative."  I took this to mean that not everyone liked the conclusions but they weren't interested in arguing the point right now.  How ever I think it is a fair word to use of the book.  It has two levels to it.  On one level it is an excellent attempt at bring the reader into a different way of looking at sex and, as far as I can tell, from the point of view of 1st century Christians.  On the other hand this book is not written into a vacuum and while the book is hardly dedicated to the gay debate it is noneth…

What's the drama and who's the snake?

Thanks to James McGrath for lovely quote which inspires me to make two observations about Gen 2-3.

1. The suspense of Gen 2:18-20 relies on the reader not having read Gen 1:26-28.  The way the story is being told the audience are expected not to know what partner might be found for the man.  But Gen 1:26-28 has already given it away, man goes with woman and the two of them are supposed to "go forth and multiply."  Thus the suspense and resolution of Gen 2:18-25, which arrives at essentially the same answers by a different route makes no sense if treated as part of a continuous narrative with Gen 1.  The two creation accounts should not be harmonized but read as alternative accounts.  This is not because I feel the need to do this to satisfy some modernist need to justify my enjoyment of and adherence to these ancient myths, but because the text (which I believe is God's word) actually demands it. 

2. The serpent is introduced in 3:1 as being "more crafty than any ot…

Fiji, DVDs, and complicity

Reading this reminded me recently of how appalled I was when some members of my family went on holiday to Fiji.  It wasn't so much that I thought they shouldn't under any circumstances go but more that it didn't even occur to them that by going they might be helping to support a military dictatorship.  I try to imagine if New Zealand, another great tourist destination, suffered an armed coup and consequently the inhabitants lost their democratic rights, free press, civil freedoms, and were pushed into poverty, how I would feel if people from democratic countries carried on coming here (and paying their entry taxes) as if nothing had happened?  But really those members of my family were no different from all the other western tourists who only care about getting a cheap holiday: they just couldn't give a tinker's fart about the people in Fiji.

That said, I didn't say anything to them about it.  Just like I said nothing when other members of the family came back …

The Trade with Heaven in Ivanhoe

One strong theme running through the narrative of Walter Scott's Ivanhoe is that all the bad guys are shown to be constantly justifying their bad behaviour because of good works they had previously done.  On the other hand the two heroes, Ivanhoe and Rebecca, do good deeds without any thought for recompense and yet every good work leads to a favour being returned which serves to advance the story and ultimately results in Rebecca's salvation and vindication at the end of the story.  Towards the end of the story Wamba, the saxon jester, exposes the rationale and modus operandi of those who justify themselves in conversation with the black knight: 
They make up a balanced account with Heaven, as our old cellarer used to call his ciphering, as fair Isaac the Jew keeps with his debtors, and like him, give out very little, and take very large credit for doing so; reckoning, doubtless, on their own behalf the sevenfold usary which the blessed text hath promised to charitable loans .…

Grasshopper Theology: A Prelude

As a prelude to a series I am planning on Grasshopper Theology I wanted to share with you a definition from BDAG for the word πραύτης, which is translated "meekness" in Colossians 3:12 (NRSV):
the quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of one's self-importance
There, isn't that beautiful?  If only all dictionary entries could send a shudder through your soul.  :-)

Habets, The Anointed Son: Book Review Part 1

Part 1 of the book review covers the first three chapters of Habets' The Anointed Son.

The first thing that needs to be said is that at the beggining of each chapter Habet's has provided a mouth-watering selection of quotes.  The book is probably worth buying just for those selections alone, although maybe they would need to be set over some soft focus photos of inspiring scenery or babies or something (;-)!!). 

The second thing that needs to be said is that Habets probably wouldn't divide his book this way.  The first 4 chapters constitute the prolegomena and chapters 5-8 are the constructive stuff.  But I have only read the first three chapters and I will treat the survey of NT scholarship alongside Habets' own exegesis of the NT in the next part of the review.  Which makes sense to me if only because it is my own area of specialization.  The third part of the review will cover chapters 6-8 which is where all the fun constructive theology will take place.

1 Spirit Ch…

Is Church a Net or an Ark?

I remember being involved with a university mission week once, it was a pretty massive effort with rather minimal results.  Lots of big events and speakers and stunts to get people's attention.  One memory from that week is how a girl from my circle of friends was accidentally invited to a prayer meeting (for Christians only ;-)) by one of the guest evangelists who presumably mistook her for a Christian.  What a disater!  How are the Christians supposed to pray with an unbeliever in their midst?  But, surprise-surprise, she was so impacted by seeing Christians praying passionately to their God that faith found her there and then.

Often when we are exhorting Christians to be more missional and to think more about people outside of church we are reacting against an experience of church that has been insular, selfish and out of touch with the world around it.  However this can become a reflex that has its own tendency to a different extreme that is so focused on reaching the world it…

Around the blogosphere

after the Christmas and New Year lull the blogosphere is heating up like crazy.

There's much more on innerrancy even Enns joins in!
NT Wright in this video has annoyed John Hobbins.
Big-Ears makes an appearance without Noddy
Glenn Peoples wants to change the world (in NZ at least)
Alan Knox warns about glossing.
James McGrath rebutts the slippery slope and dances on a volcano instead.
Tim Bulkely preaches against certainty.
I get a guest slot to talk about preaching here.
And Antony Billington reflects on how theology of scripture affects interpretation of scripture.

Enjoy!   :-)

Bribery is OK by Me!

An intrepid OT teacher ponders the ethics of bribery here

I would tentatively suggest that the situation is less complicated.  By bribing a border guard you can claim no complicity in the corrupt system.  If you tried to bribe a immigration officer in Heathrow or Auckland Airport you would find that the system is not influenced at all by your bribe.  Equally your refusal to bribe a corrupt guard would do little to change the corrupt guard or system.  Rather than a consequence based ethic how about a virtue (character based) ethic.

What sort of person bribes a border guard?  If you are bribing him to allow you to smuggle narcotics or children for prostitution then your bribery is motivated by avarice and lack of concern for others.  Your bribery is bad because you are bad in motive. If you are bribing him because of your compassion for a refugee from a corrupt and despotic regime your bribery is good, because it is motivated by your compassion.  Bribe for the glory of God!  (Of cours…

If that's what you mean then ok!

A statement of innerrancy I could live with?
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is the record of God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. It reveals the principles by which God judges us; and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.

The 1963 Baptist Faith and Message on the Scriptures cited by Ranger in the comments of yet another brilliant post on inerrancy by John Hobbins

Theological Education and Government Money

Interesting article here on the extreme changes the theological education sector is going through in Oz. I would observe that many of the issues we face in NZ in theological education stem from needing to meet the requirements of secular education boards. Don't get me wrong, I am all for standards, and I think that offering it's own NZQA degree is the best thing possible for Carey to be doing right now for all sorts of reasons, but the dependence on government money does come at a price. That price needs to be reevaluated from time to time. The interesting thing is that the church seems to expect the bulk of the cost of training its leaders to be met by the government. In an increasingly secular world this seems decreasingly likely to be a sustainable option. I'm not so sure that it was ever a good idea.

Let me know what you think, :-)

Countryman on Adultery

Among us, sexual activity outside the marriage on the part of either partner is understood as adultery; in antiquity, only such activity on the part of the wife (or the betrothed woman) qualified. The husband could commit adultery only by having intercourse with the wife (or betrothed) of another man; if he had sexual relations with a slave, a prostitute, a concubine, or a divorced or widowed woman, this did not constitute adultery against his own marriage. Again our own explanations of what is wrong in adultery usually focuses on the betrayal of trust and of formal commitments between spouses, whereas the ancient understanding of adultery assumes rather that it is a violation of another man's property. What for us is a kind of betrayal was for them a species of theft.
Countryman, Dirt Greed and Sex, 2007, 154-5

This well written book continues to be quite uncomfortable reading, although I imagine it would be more so for members of Family First etal. This is the conclusion of a…

Headlines for a New Decade of Persecution


Courtesy of Barnabas Fund, full stories here. The Swiss minaret ban of late last year seemed to be only a spiteful and meaningless anti-islamic gesture, i'm not surprised to see it beggining to cause problems. I'm not saying we need to accept sharia law in western countries, far from it, but not letting them have their minarets is just petty and unhelpful.

NT Wright on Reality

Reality as we know it is the result of a creator god bringing into being a world that is other than himself, and yet which is full of his glory. It was always the intention of this god that creation should one day be flooded with his own life, in a way for which it was prepared from the beginning. As part of the means to this end, the creator brought into being a creature which, by bearing the creator's image, would bring his wise and loving care to bring upon the creation. By a tragic irony, the creature in question has rebelled against this intention. But the creator has solved this problem in principle in an entirely appropriate way, and as a result is now moving creation once more towards its originally intended goal. The implementation of this solution now involves the indwelling of this god within his human creatures and ultimately within the whole creation, transforming it into that for which it was made in the beginning.
[NT Wright, NTPG, 97-8]

One thing I like to do wi…

Turning Points

Well, I do not usually use this blog as a platform for introspection but the ticking over from the "noughties" to the "tennies" or alternatively to the rather hopeful sounding "one-ders" has made me feel like I should at least stop a little while to reflect on what has been and what will come next.

The year 2000 saw me begin my working life as I finished my music degree in Lancaster and took up a trainee pastoral role in a middle sized small town south Devon church. Two years of fulfilling and exciting ministry followed. Those years were, without a doubt, the time I have been most aware of God using me and at work in me. The church congregation were incredibly supportive of this very young and earnest young man and the pastor was especially generous in giving me opportunities and experience. I also got to learn to windsurf and started running long distance along the gorgeous Devon coast. After only two years, though, the call came to serve at a church …