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Showing posts from March, 2010

Callahan on Emancipation: Quote of the day

The notion of autonomy begs the question; freedom is not the necessary condition of a politics of the oppressed, but the desired effect.  The atomistic Kantian self presupposed in our common notions of politics is free to be political.  The oppressed are political to be free.From Allen Dwight Callahan, "Paul Ekklesia, and Amancipation in Corinth,"
in Horsely (ed), Paul and Politics, Trinity 2000 , pp216-224, p216

Sex in the City of Corinth: It gets complicated

Sheila Briggs is my hero of the day, as finally I find someone who discusses the elephant in the room of 1 Cor 6-7, or in fact any discussion of sex in relation to the world of the NT, that is the fact that if you were a slave in the ancient world you didn't have much choice over who you had sex with, so for many NT Christians contemporary evangelical ideals of sexual conduct were simply unattainable. She writes,
Sexual exploitation of slaves, if it occurred within the Christian community, would raise several problems for Paul. He linked his discussion of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 to his condemnation of visiting prostitutes in the previous chapter by bidding each man, who is unable to remain celibate, to have his own wife dia tās porneias (7:2). The direct addressee here is the free male Christian. Certainly, the urban and upwardly mobile male slave could have aspired to the same ideal of marriage. Paul was not just talking about the narrower legal definition of marriage, which w…

Some more observations on Genesis 1-3

I am hoping to do a proper study on Genesis later this year for all sorts of reasons (do I need a reason?) but had a few thoughts last night while reading and this is a good place to drop them down, till later. 

So two very different creation narratives put next to each other and of course it is often observed that things happen in the opposite order.  In the first one the order of creation is plants, animals, humans.  In the second it is man, plants, animals, woman.  By wodging (a technical term!) the two narratives together two things happen. 

A chiasm of sorts is created around the Sabbath which is bookended on either side by the creation of man.  Could this be significant?In the first story creation is completed by the creation of humanity, both male and female, but in the second creation is only completed by the creation of woman.  Both stories place the creation of a whole humanity (both genders) as the telos of creation.  What is the compound effect of these two narratives with …

Next Step, Peer Reviewed Blogs?

Just got excited when I saw, for the first time, the word "blogosphere" used in an academic article. See,

W. Rodman MacIlvaine III, "What is the Missional Church Movement?"  Bibliotheca Sacra 167, 2010, pp89-106. p90

Anyone know of any earlier references?

Virtue Can Cause Atheism Too

With all the recent excitement about a book to argue the thesis that sin can be a cause of atheism us believers need to not get too excited.  It is worth remembering that, while some manifestly have turned away from faith because of moral failure, others have turned away from faith because they were too moral to accept what they felt their faith demanded of them, whether in terms of action, attitude, or belief. 

Not only that but moral failure is often a catalyst for people to find faith as they come face to face with their own moral bankruptcy and seek redemption.  However, a church that is full of judgmentalism will succeed in creating atheists both through moral failure and moral virtue and will also prevent those seeking redemption from finding it there.  That is why the Lord told us to take the plank (judgmentalism) out of our own eye before we dare to address the dust in the eye of another.

Økland on the soul and the problem of its absence in Paul

In spite of many scholars noting that Paul does not operate with a conception of the soul as it was developed in later theology (or earlier in Greek philosophy), the soul ironically still continues to leave traces in readings of 1 Corinthians 15 and 2 Corinthians 12, because it is so difficult for us to unlearn the soul as explanatory key.  One such trace of the lost soul is the intense quest for continuity before and after death, because what can account for it if there is no soul?Jorunn Økland, "Genealogies of the Self" in Metamophoses, p105 (you can see it here) Økland goes on to suggest  If in the ancient world a human was seen less as a separate, independent entity, perhaps it was not necessary to postulate so much of a fixed individual continuity because the continuity was provided by the general or common category, in this case "Christ."  ibid, p106-7
To explain such concepts to us moderns Økland suggests that "the continuity of the body either through thi…

2 Cor 12:1-5: Is Paul Just Taking The Mickey?

Glenn expends considerable energy arguing that Paul's vision in 2 Cor 12 is not an "out-of-body" experience.  He makes some good points.  However, revisiting this chapter while reading a stimulating article by Jorunn Økland, (you can see it here) I had an idea that maybe Paul's tortured Greek and almost incoherent ramblings here may not infact be him giving in to boasting out of necesity but might in fact be him taking the mickey out of the super apostles by sarcastically imitating the way they describe their visions.  Now I haven't read much on 2 Cor so I don't know if anyone has suggested this before, but here is my suggested reading.

12:1  Paul appears to concede the need to boast in order to show that he is as good as the super apostles, despite his sustained, impassioned and coherent defence of his ministry in the previous two chapters.  He says that now "I will go on to visions and revelations in the Lord."  After his impresive list of sufferin…

Waihopai Three Aquitted!

It has been a long and hard journey for them but they have been found not guilty. :-) For the most detailed report go here, for the backlash from the "ordinary" new zealander go here and read the comments, for possible political repercussions go here.

My only comment for the moment is: Hallelujah!

[This is not an offical ploughshares press release, only my own personal take.  See their website for the official word.]

Who is my enemy?

My eldest daughter had her arm broken, accidentally, by a friend at kindergarten on monday.  As we were in the hospital waiting for her arm to be reset, she told me, "when my arm is better I will push Anna (not real name) over."  To a three year old reciprocal violence is a natural instinct.  Of course she wants to do back to Anna what she did to her.  Through an act of violence with unintended consequences Anna has become my daughter's enemy.
[pic from here] Jesus decisively redefined the concept of "neighbour" in his parable of the good Samaritan, effectively ruling out the dividing walls of society, culture, religion and race from the decision as to what members of the human race we should "love as ourselves."  Hence we are compelled to love our human enemy and not hate them.  But with this recent talk of vengance we seem to be left with a applicational vacuum.  If hate of humans is dissallowed then how can I read (for example) Psalm 137 without mis…

Why Waihopai

The trial  is continuing, great photos here, I've not been able to get any updates on what happened yesterday, the court was in recess discussing legal stuff. The trial is starting again today (tues 16th) at 10am, or ten minutes ago now. Adi Leason's defence lawyer, Michael Knowles opened the case for the defence last week with these words:
This is an exceptional trial.  There are times when law, morality and humanity come together to make would otherwise be unlawful.  Those times are when the preservation of human life is involved.  Human life is no less a human life because it resides in a foreign land, or dresses funny, or has a different skin colour.
It’s also an exceptional case because it is in the area of foreign intelligence.  Foreign intelligence is the one area of our society where democracy and free process is not allowed to go.  Where there is a Faustian pact between the government and the intelligence agencies.  Where the government says ‘we won’t ask any questions’…

NT Hermeneutics: A Matter of Faith

The fallacy that Jesus and Paul just proof-texted from the OT any old verses to back up what they really wanted to say is sadly hard to refute.  It's hard to refute because it is such a widely held belief as to be almost an orthodoxy.  It's hard to refute because our engagement with scripture, atomised as it is by chapter and verse numbers, is so different from those for whom texts existed in their undivided entirety.  It's hard to refute because for Jesus and Paul the OT texts were not an "old" testament but the very basis for their existence as Jews and for their respective missions as teachers.  They didn't cite individual verses as authorities to prove a point but to connect their own words with the words that had been spoken before.  To integrate their message with the message of the Torah and the Prophets and thus show how they continued, cohered to, and fulfilled them. Compare this with what we tend to do in church and seminary (and blog), and it looks…

Burma News Update from Burma Campaign UK

Aung San Suu Kyi Barred From Burma ElectionBurma’s dictatorship have finally published laws governing so-called elections later this year. The new laws ban Aung San Suu Kyi from taking part in the elections, as she has a conviction following the sham trial last year after an American man swam to her house. The Burma Campaign UK is calling on the United Nations Security Council to take action, as even countries sympathetic to the generals can no longer claim the elections will be free and fair. You can view our media release here.

But Vengeance IS Good News: A reply to David Ker

David Ker is thinking about skipping the bits of the Bible where vengeance is mentioned.  Given his African context where Christians sometimes seem a bit too keen to hand out divine retribution themselves this is totally understandable. Neither would such an action be without precedent, Ulfilas the 4th century bishop refused to translate parts of the OT into the language of the Goths for fear they might get the wrong end of the stick.

Perhaps more to the point is that anyone who preaches or teaches has to be selective in the texts they use (as there are only so many hours in a life) and so they will naturally use the texts which seem to them the most useful, enlightening, and life giving in their situations.  But I think Ker has a few things backwards, he writes,
Two weeks ago in The Bible is not the Gospel I made the controversial claim that the Gospel is more important than the Bible. We are called to preach the Gospel not preach the Bible. Which is true, but not not helpful.  It is …


The soul of a dead human is apparently worth NZ$1,415, unless the buyer got a discount for buying in bulk?

RCAP has a new feature,"Conversations with Matua," this month managing to mix assault, incest and the prophet Amos.Matua is a rather useful Maori word for parent, not least because it is gender non-specific. 

Barnabas Fund reacts to the change in Western Christian perceptions of Islam.

Christian Kiwis get kicked out of Morocco, but claim not to be missionaries.  Isn't caring for orphans part of Christian mission? I think what they mean was that they weren't actively proselytising.  But shaming Morocco by taking better care of its orphans than its Muslim society does is surely even more provocative.

John Hobbins continues an excellent series on slavery in the OT:
The abolition of slavery in Leviticus 25: some preliminariesThe abolition of slavery in Leviticus 25: more preliminariesThe abolition of slavery in Leviticus 25Slavery per se is a cruel practice (Leviticu…

Paul, Philo, Adam and the Imago Dei

Earlier I commented that it is a puzzle why Paul never seems to draw on Gen 1:1-2:4.  The answer may be found in Philo, a Hellenistic Jew and important contemporary of Paul.  In an excellent HTR article* Horsley makes the case that in Philo we can see a type of status disctinctions based around the wise/perfect/good people and those who are foolish/bad/evil, with a third category, the infant, in the middle being pulled in both directions. It is, he argues, these status distinctions that Paul is attempting to combat in 1 Corinthians.  Horsley makes a convincing case that this then informs our understanding of the pneumatikos-psychikos terminology in 1 Cor 2 and 15.  However what is really interesting is how Philo, and Horsley argues that this is not his innovation but representative of a Hellenistic Jewish stream, sees in Genesis 1 and 2 two different types of human being.  The heavenly who are stamped with the image of God (Gen 1) and the earthly who are made out of clay (Gen 2).**  F…

Disability and Determination: Book Notice

Some of you may have seen Mark Grantham on the TV last year, he has cerebral palsy, is consequently confined to a wheelchair and unable to do much for himself.  He has become (a little bit) famous in NZ as he has spent his Saturdays for 20 years selling choclate in Auckland in order to sponsor kids in the third world through World Vision. He is also a committed Christian despite the fact that he has had many unpleasant experiences with some churches treating him as a non-human and encouters with "healing ministries" that don't know how to cope with someone who doesn't get better.  His dad has written a biography of him.  You can get hold of it here.

[Update: Dale offers his own impressions and some further links here]

Waihopai Three finally go to trial

Adrian Leason has featured on this blog before and I though it worth sharing for those outside NZ that this week he and his two co-conspirators have gone to trial, covered in woefully little detail by TVNZ and NewsTalkZB, they've got to be feeling pretty lonely at the moment as they face imprisonment and removal from their families and communities for what was a act of solidarity.  But they are not without supporters.  One of the big problems they have faced, is that unlike when some Kiwis stood up to the USA when they wanted to bring their nuclear subs into our ports, they have failed to gain popular support because most Kiwis think they are dead wrong about those innocent looking satelite dishes.  But Adrian and his cronies are dead right and the government doesn't want us to know it, interesting how the media is leaving that vital fact out of its reports.

Also just found this interview with Peter Murnane, the catholic priest who was also involved. Worth a read.

[This is no…

The Treaty and the Gospel: Guest Post by Mark Grace

[Pic from here]

The Gospel and the Treaty of Waitangi.

New Zealand is in the midst of a healthy conversation over our identity. This has led many New Zealand Christians to ask ‘what is our identity as Christ followers in these Islands?’ I believe we can turn to two sources, one primary and one secondary, one ancient, one historical, but both incredibly important for our life and mission in NZ.

Paul describes the gospel in Romans 1:1-5. The Gospel is God’s word speaking through the scriptures about Jesus. Just as all roads in New Zealand ultimately lead us to State Highway One all parts of scripture point us ultimately to the person and work on the cross of the Lord Jesus.

Timothy Keller summaries the gospel as: through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.

It is this gospel that is arguably …

Politics and Theology in 1st Century Israel

Cartoon from here According to Josephus, the Sadducees believed in free will. Just as I am inclined to think that Josephus’ description of the Pharisaic blend of free will and fate is a depoliticized code for their balance between waiting for Israel’s god to act and being ready to act on his behalf if necessary, so I am inclined to think that the Sadducean belief in free will has little to do with abstract philosophy and a great deal to do with the politics of power: Israel’s god will help those who help themselves. This is a comfortable doctrine for those in power, who maintain themselves there by taking whatever measures seem necessary, just as its mirror image, belief that divine action can only be awaited, not hastened, is a consoling doctrine for those out of power, who see no hope of regaining it by their own efforts.
NT Wright NTPG p211
Which is funny because I would have thought it was the other way round, that conservatives (i.e. those who rather like the staus quo) would be m…

Is Adam Israel?

[pic from here] I know a number of people who read this blog are concerned how to understand the fall if theistic evolution is accepted.  Peter Enns offers here one suggestion for a way forward [HT Mike].  Very, very, interesting stuff.  Enns is planning to follow up by looking at Paul's understanding of Adam.  One idea I have for a project after I finish my MTh is to do a study of how Gen 1 and Gen 2-3 are treated in Second Temple Judaism as an attempt to understand why Paul uses Gen 2-3 so much but never goes near the theologically fertile ground of Gen 1 (unlike the gospel of John for instance).  Or am I wrong about that?  Any thoughts?

Barnabas Fund Headlines for March


get the full stories here

Faith in or of Jesus?

The subjective/objective genetive debate has kicked off again recently as Steve responds (here, then here) to Loren.  Independent of that conversation James Gregory reviews two articles from a rather tasty looking book on the subject.

The debate simply centres around an ambiguity in the Greek when Paul talks about the "faith (of) Christ" it is not clear (purely in terms of grammar) whether he means Christ is the object of that faith, i.e. that he is the one in whom we have faith, or that he is the subject of the faith, i.e. he is the one who has shown faith(fulness).  Loren thinks the objective reading is nonsense, and Steve disagrees.  James Gregory finds the objective reading presented better in the book he reviews, but I suspect that he might feel the subjective reading would be a stronger case if argued rightly.

Because grammatical indicators cannot solve the problem, it has to be solved by exegesis.  Which is fun but time consuming.  And that is my excuse for not having…

Destiny not so daft

Once again the amazing power of Destiny Church to grab NZ headlines was demonstrated yesterday.  While I understand the pastor and his congregation for walking out on the money grubbing, one wonders if he mightn't have been better to stay and protest from the inside.  Now another voice for reason has been lost to Destiny.  Notwithstanding, the detail in his Destiny contract as revealed in the article is pretty interesting.
In that contract, it said if they were to withdraw as a pastor they were forbidden to pastor at any other church for two years and their new church could not be less than 50km from a Destiny Church.The phenomena of big personality pastors ripping churches asunder and then setting up shop 50 metres down the road is sadly not a rare one.  I think all churches should have a contract like this, although the two year clause seems overly punitive.  However the idea of stopping schismatic pastors from setting up a new church in the same town is simply good common sense.…

Two Challenges

Just when I was getting worried that blogging was getting boring I come across two posts that threaten to destabilize the whole world.  How wonderful! 

James looks at the message of Christ from a sci-fi perspective.

And Bruce breaks up with his boyfriend and discovers a victim instead. [HT Ben]

Let me know what you think, better yet, let them know. :-)

Three Views on the Resurrection of the Body

[pic from here] I'm currently wrestling with 1 Cor 15:35-58.  In this famous passage Paul juxtaposes the bodies we have now with the bodies that we will have at the resurrection.  Because much popular Christianity tends to focus on the "pie in the sky when you die" many of us don't think much about the resurrection and the life that it will entail.  But Christian hope is not actually centred on "getting to heaven" but on the new heavens and new earth which we anticipate at Christ's coming.  However interpretation of the scriptures' most detailed passage on the subject is notoriously difficult and has over the centuries resulted in three schools of thought (citations from Dahl).

1. The "traditional" view is that "the resurrection body is this body restored and improved in a miraculous manner." (p7)  But given the knowledge we now have about the way we are composed of the atoms that have been part of millions of other human beings …