Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thesis Results

Not much time today but thought you might be interested to know my MTh thesis has returned to me, having been anonymously marked by two NT scholars (but there aren't that many in NZ to choose from - so feel free to guess who) and they both liked it, giving it 9.0 or an A+.  Just a few typo and grammar errors to sort and I should be publishing it online shortly.  In the interests of bragging I thought I would share with you some of the comments.  I promise I will return to my usual humble self soon.

And the second marker was also very kind, 

How do you like them apples?  Well it isn't really bragging, it is more promoting the forthcoming (online) publication.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Are Gangs the Symptom or the Cause?

Lots of interesting articles in the latest Rethinking Crime and Punishment (RECAP) newsletter.  Not least:
At the recent Police Leadership conference, Police Minister, Hon. Judith Collins stated that
she didn't adhere to the “widely held belief that it is society's fault that gangs exist.” In her
view, “gangs are not the result of people who believe they do not have a stake in their
communities and their country. Gangs create the people who believe they do not have a
stake in society.” She stated that she had a policy of not engaging with gangs and would
not knowingly even meet with anyone she knew to be a gang member.

At the same conference, Kim Workman offered his own perspective. Drawing on his
experience as a Police Officer in Masterton, he said that within crime families, and within
whanau living on the edge of poverty, were people who wanted a better life for themselves
and their whanau. These people were prepared to support proactive policing if it was done
within a framework of engagement, of mutual trust and respect. He compared Los Angeles
'iron fist' approach to gangs with New York's strategy of community investment and notes
that the New York approach is having much greater success.

(read the rest of his speech here)
Collins seems to have mistaken a "scientifically established fact" for a "widely held belief" but bless her cotton socks, why should she know anything about the social and cultural forces that affect the nation?
Let me know what you think, :-)

A Schooling in Narrative Preaching

Tedious sermonisers take note! :-)

It also helps if you look good with a big white bow in your hair, unfortunately it is not a look I can pull off.

Olsen on the "Two Evangelicalisms"

Wow, Roger Olsen is really saying what he thinks, he is even arguing an amicable split would be better than trying to continue together under the same label. I'm particularly interested that he traces this division to Whitefield and Wesley,

This is a reason why I increasingly view evangelicalism as two movements rather than one. We are like ships passing in the night even though we both call ourselves evangelicals and stand in that movement’s historical trajectory. Wesley and Whitefield have been pitted against each other. Indeed. Thank God they could both serve as catalysts for the Great Awakening, but their profoundly different views of God largely kept them apart. Wesley’s hermeneutic was captivated by God’s love revealed above all else in Jesus Christ. Whitefield’s hermeneutic was captivated by God’s glory revealed above all else in God’s sovereign election of individuals to heaven or hell.

Is this descrition valid, or does it obscure more through over simplification?  It strikes me as making sense, but then my knowledge of Whitfeld is limited and of Wesley only slightly less so.   Is this just another example of using complex historical situations as blunt instruments to pigeon hole opponents? But, interestingly, I think the target of Olsen's critique would probably be quite happy with his typology.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fee on Women and the Spirit

A number of fine folk have pointed to this article, the first I saw was Nick so I'll HT him, here's the section of the article dealing with Fee's stance on women in minstry:

“It’s a given,” he says. “The real question is, Which comes first, gender or gifting? What [opponents of women in ministry] are trying to tell me is that gender comes above gifting. How can that be? The Spirit gives the gifting. If a woman stands and prophesies by the Spirit, and men are present, does the Spirit not speak to them? Come on! How dumb can you get?”

His advocacy, Fee says, is on behalf of the Holy Spirit rather than women. “The Spirit is gifting women,” he says, “but many evangelicals are not prepared to adjust because of the ‘box’ they’re in.

“I’ve been blacklisted over this issue,” he adds. “People have said, ‘We can’t have Fee speak because he’s pro-women.’ I am pro-Holy Spirit! I just can’t get over that some people think gender comes before gifting.”

Let me know what you think :-)

All Our Problems Solved!

Once again Cake or Death has shown us the way!

Early Adopters?

Marc couldn't embed this vid so I thought I'd demonstrate my superior research skills,  ;-), plus it is pretty fun.

See more funny videos and funny pictures at CollegeHumor.

And I guess that would make me the early adopter?

James McGrath, The McGyver of Biblical Scholarship!

Yes, he is!

Spot the difference:

I'm not sure I can.  I guess the main difference is that McGyver would be no help at all when it came to translating Mandean manuscripts. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Question About Benny Hinn

Seriously, how come no one ever pushes him back?  I'm not exactly macho, but if he tried it on me, it wouldn't be the pomme who ended up wriggling on the floor like a reject from Britney Spears' dance troup.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wright on Colbert

I don't know how I missed this the first time round, but on a clue from John Byron (thanks John!), I sought and I found.  To be honest, it is not as much fun as I thought it would be, but still worth watching Tom in a less typical situation.  The time Bart Ehrman appeared on the Colbert report was much funnier though.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bishop N.T. Wright
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

Thursday, November 25, 2010

29 miners dead at Pike River

My prayers and thoughts with all those connected to the miners and community affected by the news.
Xenos will observe a day's silence in memory. Pic from TVNZ's coverage.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Apostle Paul on the Web

Well in momentarily losing the fight against the procrastination monster I suddenly realised Paul didn't stop causing trouble after his contributions to the NT, more recently he's been causing trouble for Christianity Today, (also available in Romanian) and contradicting Joel Osteen!  Who does he think he is?  :-D

Josephus on the Ressurection: Why Should We Want It?

A preacher I heard the other day alluded to the fact that non-Christian historians also recorded the resurrection of Jesus.  As far as I am aware the only non-Christian historian of that era to make any possible reference to the resurrection is Josephus in Antiquities, 3:63-64.  Whiston translates the passage,

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ.  And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross , those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named for him, are not extinct at this day.

Now, generally those Christians who want to defend the authenticity of this paragraph, over and against the assertion that this is a Christian insertion or at least shows signs of Christian editing, do so because such independent testimony would be important corroboration of the Christian accounts (leaving aside for the time being the manifold serious issues with Josephus as a historian).  But if this really were Josephus' unedited words then the fact that a 1st c. Jew could calmly relate the fact of the resurrection and Jesus' status as messiah and yet not be himself a follower of the way actually does more to undermine Christian apologetics than help, because it would show that 1st c. Jews, even educated ones, really were credulous about such things.

It is surely more important to argue, from an apologetics perspective, that 1st c. Jews were not easily impressed by such claims and so the fact that so many of them were convinced, even to the point of martyrdom, suggests that something really did happen.  If Josephus believed the account but felt it to be less than earth shattering ( it certainly had little or no impact on his understanding of the divine will in contemporary world events) then it actually weakens rather than enforces the testimony of the Christians.

As I've warned before, apologetics is a messy business with often unintended and unfortunate consequences, most of those practising it would be better off spending their time doing what Jesus commanded instead of arguing the point.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Education Must Change Or Die!

Well usually that is the catch cry for the Spong's of this world about Christianity, but i thought i would borrow it to catch your attention for this excellent presentation.  Another one of the RSA's brilliant and thought provoking animate videos.  Let me know what you think.  In particular, what effect might these ideas have on theological education for ministry, if we took them seriously?  And from my recent experience at Carey as student and faculty, i think we need to more and more.

Getting On My Blogroll

I've just spent a very worthwhile 30 mins updating my blogroll, removing some deadwood and adding a huge number that I've started reading since last time. Check it out!

  1. If you are not on my blog roll leave a comment and I will happily link to you.  In fact I make it a policy to link to anyone who comments on my blog.  
  2. Not only so, but I will also link to anyone who links to me as a matter of politeness. So if you do link to me make sure you let me know.
  3. If I have linked to you, you might want to consider returning the favour. :-)
PS.  I wish I had more on my blog roll that are non-western or non-white or non-male (i.e. not so much like me!) if you know of any answering to that description, do let me know!

Disclaimer: I read most but not all of the blogs on my blogroll, there are only so many hours in the day.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vampires, Alpha and Contextual Evangelism

This little video is doing the rounds in the UK at the moment,

It is very funny, but I must admit had me cringing a few times as well.  Mainly because it shows clearly how the Alpha course looks for a particular stratum of British society.  So why then is the Aplpha course so succesful if it is so easily lampooned?  Well the simple answer is that it doesn't look like that for everyone.  Many people have come to faith in Jesus through the Alpha course or something similar, just as many people will find the whole concept cringeworthy and unspeakably tragic.  Our Western society is now so stratified and fragmented that what will work well for one group of people will be a downright turn off for another group.

Those of us with an interest in sharing the gospel need to take note.  Mass evangelism assumes that everyone we meet has the same concerns and recognises the same cultural markers.  Mass evangelism no longer has a place in our western multicultural world, in our fragmented and disconnected society.  Instead we need to treat everyone as we find them and learn their lingo fast.  We do still need Alpha courses, but we also need other ways of reaching people, otherwise our churches will just fill with the type of person that likes Alpha and cannot conceive of another way of sharing the gospel.  Alpha may work wonders for vampires, but what about the werewolves, goblins and pixies?

Let me know what you think,  :-)

When blogging fails

Extraordinary!  Tom Wright actually takes the time to reply to a blogpost about his views on justification and gets completely ignored by those discussing him. And then he even comes back again, but only manages to inspire some guy to tell him to take up blogging. D'oh! I can't help but feel we missed an opportunity to convert another scholar to the ranks of bibliobloggers, and what a trophy convert he would be.  :-D

The sad story of Andrew Mears

New Zealand has managed to raise a generation of young people who do not understand that their actions have consequences and live in a strange self centred universe where they cannot conceive their actions might affect another person.  When finally something goes catastrophically wrong, they are shocked.

Andrew Mears is understandably distraught to have killled a human being. But he was night hunting in blatant defiance of the terms of his hunting permit.  He is devastated at the the fact he has killed someone.  But here is the thing, he is lucky to only have a manslaughter charge against him.  He is a murderer.  He was trying to kill something, he just had no idea what that thing was.  If he was luckier it would have been a deer, he wasn't.  Neither was Rosemary Ives.  He intended to kill something, he just wasn't aware that that thing was Rosemary Ives.

There is little doubt that Mears only reflects the tip of the iceberg of males in NZ who drive, hunt and drink with no concern for the safety of those around them.  They never intend for anyone to get hurt and when it does happen, they act like they are the victims of a terrible mistake.  But not intending that no one gets hurt is not enough, as Mears has so graphically demonstrated.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ramachandra Asks About Gospel Priorities

And as usual he is angry about Western Christianity's myopic vision and not afraid to say why,
Whenever I ask such preachers, “Don’t you want everybody in the world to have the benefits you enjoy?”, the answer I receive is either “That’s the social gospel” or “That’s not our priority, as non-Christians can do that”. If the Gospel is not social, then what is it? And, if non-Christians can make sacrifices to ensure that people like us have a decent life, why are we reluctant to do the same for them? What we are facing here is hypocrisy and double standards, the very things that stirred the indignation of Jesus!

A Short History of Biblioblogging

Jim Davila has kindly made available his SBL paper, give it a read.  Some highlights
But my experience remains that the legacy media by and large is determined to ignore the implications of the new mass individual media and the increased scrutiny and accountability it generates. Journalists who are not experts in anything continue to pontificate and editorialize with a sanctimony that is increasingly intolerable to their audience, with the result that that audience is steadily shrinking.

Let me next say a little about what biblioblogging has done and continues to do for the field. First, it has made possible the rapid dissemination of information on new discoveries and other matters of interest – as well as dissemination of accessible specialist commentary on such matters – to a vastly enlarged audience.

Second, blogging helps to put a personal face on biblical scholarship by allowing scholars to speak with an informal public voice different from the voice of academic publication. Even the most academic of academic blogs is a much more personal expression of the author's thoughts than any academic peer-review publication.
As you can't comment on his blog feel free to do so here!

Friday, November 19, 2010

brick-a-brack 19/11/10


2011 Colloquium on Theological Interpretation

Colloquium on Theological Interpretation
Laidlaw College, Auckland, New Zealand, 
19-20 August 2011
Announcement and Call for Papers 

Sponsored by Laidlaw-Carey Graduate School, Auckland, New Zealand and the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. Featuring Joel Green and Murray Rae as keynote speakers and respondents, two scholars who have been prominent in the development of theological interpretation as a discipline.

This colloquium will explore the theory and practice of the theological interpretation of Scripture. The contributions by our two key note speakers/respondents will be supplemented by papers from scholars in NewZealand, Australia and the Pacific and from further afield.  Potential papers might cover, but are not limited to, the following types of areas:
  • Theological interpretation of particular texts.
  • Issues relating to the practice of theological interpretation.
  • Questions of method and theological interpretation.
  • The history and landscape of theological interpretation as a discipline.
  • Cross cultural reflections on theological interpretation.
  • Contemporary social, cultural and political reflections from a perspective of theological interpretation of Scripture.
  • Theological interpretation, church and mission.
For further info or to submit an abstract contact Rev Dr Tim Meadowcroft

This will be a lot of fun, looking forward to it!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Crystal Catherdral

For those of you still mourning the news that the Crystal Cathedral is going under in these tough economic times, spare a thought also for the flow on effect to other businesses

Quote of the day: John Hobbins on Bible Translation

Welcome back John, nice to see you blogging again,

Most widely used Bible translations are products of committees that adjudicate by bowing to consensus. They are products of a herd mentality.

Tee hee, he is cheeky.  Read the rest here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ANZABS Papers Dec 6-7

Here is the lineup for this years ANZABS conf. in Auckland hosted by the Good Shepherd College.  I've enboldended the ones I'd be especially keen to hear.  I'm pretty sure I'm gonna go, I might just take the time to read the abstracts and make sure.
  • Paul Trebilco, “The Distribution of Self-Designations in Acts”
  • Carlos Olivares, “A Narrative and Textual Critical Analysis of Matt 27:16-17: Jesus Barabbas or Barabbas?”
  • Keith Stuart, “1 Kings 4:19 - 8:22 Text as Artefact - an Archivist's Perspective”
  • Jacqui Lloyd, “The Contribution of the Women in Luke 8.3”       
  • Chris Marshall, “Why Didn't They Stop? The Priest, the Levite and the Bystander Effect”
  • Don Moffat, “The Identity of the Exiles in Ezekiel and Ezra”
  • Vince David, “The Matthean Great Commission”
  • Debra Anstis, “Judas Iscariot as Necessary: A Typological Approach to Yom Kippur”
  • Bob Robinson, “Christ the Exegete: a Theological Reading of Luke 4:16-30 in a Contemporary Context of Religious Plurality”
  • Sean du Toit, “Conversion in 1 Thessalonians”
  • Yael Klangwisan, “The Enigma of Life and Death in the Song of Songs”
  • Geoff Aimers, “Redeeming the Joban Satan”
  • Robert Myles, “The Flight to Egypt and Jesus’ Dislocation”
  • Mark Keown, “Paul and Rome”
  • Tim Harris, “Paul's Former Self as a Dialogue Partner in his Letter to the Romans.
  • Sarah Hart, “Recent Research on the Tent of Meeting" 
  • James Harding, “Theological Hermeneutics/Engendering False Prophecy: A response to Walter Moberly's reading of false prophecy in Jeremiah”

To register email Yael

Two Important Cetaceous Videos

Thanks to Justin for pointing this out on FB,

And I've been waiting for a while for a good excuse to share this one,

Enjoy :-)

Monday, November 15, 2010

briack-a-brack 15/11/10 Bumper Edition

So much on the blogosphere in the last few days, this is almost another carnival. Sorry if i have missed a hat tip or three, but you know i've linked to your blog before and will do so again so let me off for a rush job in marking season please!

Biblical Studies

Mike Bird shares a couple of papers responding to NT Wright
Another couple of papers on Paul and Scripture
Mark Goodacre has a trio of papers on Mark's gospel
Daniel Kirk shares an insanely interesting post on ancient readers
Jim makes a hash of 1 Cor 7, I'd love to show why he's wrong, but not today
John Byron decides God doesn't hate divorce in Mal 2:16 after all
There is a new tool for the study of Paul's letters, it does look luscious!
Hurtado gives his list of important recent developments in NT/Chritsian origins and it is a doozy!
Duane thinks some more about snake omens and their possible relation to Gen 3


Byron Smith offers some help for all those struggling with converging global crises
Scott McKnight reflects on the difficulty we have getting the gospel clear
William Birch considers God's feminine side
Jason shares some radical Dorothy Day quotes
Bruce Hamil preaches on Luke 20:27-38
Ben Myers wants us to stop smiling
Richard Beck on complicity, which has long been an ethical topic i've wanted to research


Rich Walker contemplates the future of global english
Some wisdom from Eberhard Jungel on answering stupid questions
The mighty John Hobbins on which Bible translation to use

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Stuff Article on Rimutaka's Faith Based Unit

Thanks to Hamish for pointing this out, it starts like this,
It's a topsy-turvy world where a killer is held up as a role model of morality, Mongrel Mob and Black Power gangsters sit tattoo to tattoo and talk about their feelings and the weapon of choice for settling scores is the gospel according to St Matthew, chapter 18, verses 15 to 17.
Everything about Rimutaka Prison's faith-based unit marks it out as different from the rest of the world behind the razor wire. The first thing you see is the wooden cross in the window of the unit's library. There are trees and picnic tables, songs and laughter. Within these walls, inmates are called brothers. 
Read the rest here

Axwell - Nothing But Love

Came across this on facebook, interesting vid and message to the song.  I checked out some of their other songs/videos and they all seemed to be about how many bikini clad women they could cram onto the set so not very interesting, but I thought this one was a) an interesting example of pop culture using a contemporised Jesus narrative and b) might be a usefull discussion starter for a Bible study/sermon on loving your enemies.  Plus it is a pretty sweet choon. :-)

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Well I just had one of those paradigm shifting experiences last night, a local trust, Tableside (who have a great website), had organised a seminar for men on coping with stress, led by Dr John McEwan (who needs to update his website badly).  The funny thing was, I thought I was going to it so I could share the information with other people who really needed it.  It came as a shock to realise, early on in the night as John explained the causes and physiological symptoms of stress, that I have spent the last few years being pretty highly stressed.  Aparently all change causes stress.  This was news to me, I have had a lot of change in my life in the last few years, and near constant change, but as it was almost all good, and almost everything was going my way, I couldn't understand why I was feeling so irritable and lethargic, not to mention all the minor health issues cropping up for no good reason (stress depresses your immune system, among other things).

It is hard to describe how good it feels to realise I've been stressed these last few years and to know now how to avoid it and manage it better in the future. One funny symptom of being stressed is that your body wants to expell the hormones it is producing under stress through tears and so you cry more easily, for the last few years I have been suprised to find myself tearring up at the most pathetic sentimental pap on telly or in magazines, despite feeling emotionally unmoved the tears would start flowing, sometimes quite liberally!   Now I can hopefully move to a new life where I am not always pretending "there's just something in my eye."  :-)

Oh yes, and the good news, being creative is stress reducing, so blogging is good for you after all!  :-D

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jenkins on Miracles and Prophecy in the Southern Churches

This is a big 2 page quote from Philip Jenkin's The Next Christendom, (148-9), but I though it was well worth sharing, especially as google books only has a snippet view available.  A challenge to those Western Christians who think the highly charismatic southern churches are necessarily syncretistic.  Enjoy!


Considering the central role of healing and exorcism in Southern churches, it is tempting to look for older pagan roots, and to ask just how the emerg¬ing congregations justify their ideas. Of course, Southern churches thrive because of their appeal to distinctively African or Latin American ideas— their ability to work within traditional culture—but these examples of accommodation do not amount to a betrayal of the faith, still less to syncretism. The rising churches can plausibly claim to be following abundantly documented precedents from the founding ages of Christianity. The Bible itself so readily supports a worldview based on spirits, healing, and exorcism. When Jesus was asked if he was the Messiah, he did not give an abstruse theological lecture but pointed at the tangible signs and wonders that were being done in his name. “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” When Paul took the Christian faith to Macedonia, the first known mission into Europe, he was responding to a vision received in a dream.

In understanding what can look like the oddities of Third World churches, it is helpful to recall one basic and astonishing fact, which is that they take the Bible very seriously indeed. To quote Richard Shaull, “In Pentecostalism, poor and broken people discover that what they read in the Gospels is happening now in their midst.” For Southern Christians, and not only for Pentecostals, the apostolic world as described in the New Testament is not just a historical account of the ancient Levant, but an ever-present reality open to any modern believer, and that includes the whole culture of signs and wonders. Passages that seem mildly embarrassing for a Western audience read completely differently, and relevantly, in the new churches of Africa or Latin America. As David Martin remarks of another region in which this type of faith has spread in recent years, “The Pentecostal emphasis in Korea is really to see ‘The Kingdom’ both future and present in the signs of the Kingdom, especially healing and the ‘baptism of the Spirit.”

Against this background, we need to think exactly what we mean when we say that a given person “believes in” the Bible and its stories. It is possible to believe in the stories recorded as if they are literally correct narratives of events that really occurred, but this is quite different from seeing them as applicable to present-day conditions. In Southern Pentecostal and independent churches, though, belief goes much farther, to the stage of participation in a present event. It has been said of Prophet William Wade Harris that after his conversion, “it was no longer a ques¬tion of what Moses did, or what Elijah did, or the words and works of Jesus as reported in the Bible. It became a question of involvement—as with the ancestors, the living dead—with Moses, with Elijah, with the archangel Gabriel, and supremely with Jesus.

For many new believers, stories of miracles and healing are so self-evidently crucial to the early Christian message that some suspicion must attach to any church that lacked these signs of power. As one Old Testament passage complains, “In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.” To quote a modern follower of the Shona prophet Johane Masowe, “When we were in these synagogues [the European churches] we used to read about the works of Jesus Christ . . . cripples were made to walk and the dead were brought to life . . .  evil spirits driven out . . . That was what was being done in Jerusalem. We Africans, however, who were being instructed by white people, never did anything like that . . .  We were taught to read the Bible, but we ourselves never did what the people of the Bible used to do.”
Parallels with ancient Christianity are just as clear when we consider prophetic leadership. In most Western cultures, the word “prophecy” is much debased from its original meaning. Today, a prophet is basically a fortune-teller, whose reputation stands or falls by the accuracy of his or her predictions. For the world of the first century, though, a prophet was someone who spoke the inspired word of God, which might or might not be relevant to current worldly concerns. Often, then and now, the prophetic inspiration was conveyed by means of material symbols. Isaiah Shembe received his divine call when he was burned by lightning, leaving a scar on his thigh.  The vitality of prophecy in the contemporary South means that the rising churches can read biblical accounts with far more understanding and sensitivity than Northern Christians can. In the book of Acts, prophecy was a sign of the true church. And if that was true two thousand years ago, why should it not be true of a man or woman today, Kimbangu or a Shembe? Prophetic powers are exactly what Jesus promised his disciples, without any caveat that these gifts might expire with the end of the first century.

Let me know what you think :-)

A couple of new books on OT and Christian faith

Grateful to Jim West for pointing out these books, both of which will be heading straight to my wishlist.  If you were interested in my series, Christian Preaching of the OT, you might be interested in these books too.

Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Roger Olsen's Anti-Militant-Calvinist Manifesto

. . . is well worth a read.  He starts like this,

For many years I had no particular bone to pick with Calvinism. I required my students to read Calvin (as I still do) and Calvinist theologians, and invited Calvinists into my classes to explain their theology (as I still do). Some of my relatives are Calvinists, as have been many of my friends. Then something new began to happen. One day in the early 1990s I read an article on line in which a leading Reformed theologian stated that a person cannot be both evangelical and Arminian. He equated Arminianism with Roman Catholic theology and called it semi-Pelagianism.
If this were an isolated incident that would be one thing. But relatively quickly this sentiment about Calvinism and Arminianism began to sweep through evangelicalism. And the Calvinism being promoted as synonymous with evangelical Christianity itself was and is a particular strain of Calvinism that highlights and underscores double predestination.

You can't comment on the webpage so feel free to do so here! :-)

Reformed Baptism Critique #2

The next section of Pratt's article is headed Separation of Baptism and Divine Grace.  In the previous sections Pratt had outlined a theology of baptism that was based on scripture and seemed to indicate credo-baptism as the scripural norm.  In this section there is a departure from references to scripture and instead we start to hear from Calvin and the Belgic, Heidelberg and Westminster confessions.  While I find Calvin's definition of the church extremely problematic ("two marks of the true church: the preaching of the Word of God, and the proper administration of the sacraments") the essential conclusion of this section is one which I cannot argue with:
In the Reformed view, baptism does not normally convey spiritual benefits apart from the preaching and reception of the gospel. Rather, it increases our understanding of the preached Word; it nourishes and sustains us in our faith; and it confirms the benefits that come through saving faith in the preached Word. Reformed theology’s emphasis on God’s sovereignty and freedom leaves room for the sacraments to work in unexpected ways, but Scripture establishes the norm that the sacraments work in conjunction with the preaching of the Word. (p4)
If baptism works "in conjunction with the preaching of the Word" then it would seem clear that baptising those who have not yet heard, understood and received that word is a grave mistake.  In Pratt's presentation of baptism as a sacrament I find little to disagree with, it is not magic, it cannot truly operate apart from faith. 

However a definition of church such as Calvin's leaves us dangerously open to a church where the clergy are more essential than Christ.  Under this scheme without a heirachy approved minister to preach the word and properly administer the sacraments no true church is possible.  And so the church as purveyor of spiritual goods and services and the privileged spiritual position of the clergy is maintained, and the reformation remains only half baked.

Monday, November 8, 2010

How To Write A Half Decent Essay

In the marking mode at the moment and it is sad when so many students just set themselves up for a fall by annoying the marker before the essay even begins.  Remember your essay marker is human and a few simple tips to make their life easier will also make your essay easier to grade.
  1. Give your work a title so I know what it is about before I begin reading
  2. Use subtitles to break up the text and indicate to the reader your flow of thought 
  3. Structure your essay around the marking criteria, give appropriate space to each section based on how many marks are available for that
  4. Make sure that for each marking criterion you have included something in the essay to satisfy that criterion 
  5. Make it clear what you are doing or arguing for in each section but don't waste text writing "now we are going to do such and such"
  6. Don't use metaphors and colloquialisms that could mean anything, the marker probably wont get your jist cos they aren't down with the kids like you
  7. Write in a boring font, in 12pt (not to big and not too small) and 1.5 line spacing
  8. Make sure you understand the question, if you don't see the point of something you have been asked to do it is probably because you haven't understood it properly
  9. Make sure you know what the regulations are for referencing and stick to them religiously
  10. Do not make statements that you have no reference for or haven't argued for
  11. Don't waste time digressing onto facts and thoughts that are possibly interesting but irrelevant to the essay 
  12. Treat the word count with respect, seriously, it is someone's life you are wasting when you write an extra 1200 words that you didn't need to, they can never get those minutes back
  13. Don't wait till the day before the essay is due to ask for help, it doesn't impress

"Make life pleasant for the one who examines you and their face will surely shine brighter upon thee" (Hezekiah 6:15)

Debaptise Yourself!

All this talk of baptising, re-baptising, and the rest, reminded me of an old news clip from last year.  For once I am in sympathy with the whinging atheist!  :-)

HT Steve Taylor, also Steve's jocund riff on the subject is worth a second reading too.

Reformed Baptism Critique #1

OK, before I start this I should say that I was baptized as an infant and I'm very grateful for the faith legacy of my family and my parent's commitment to raise me as a Christian.  I also have the utmost respect for the godliness and sincerity of many of my paedo-baptising brothers and sisters, that doesn't change the fact, however, that on this subject I think they are totally wrong and that my own baptism as a baby was no baptism at all and so when I was later baptised as an adult, that was my first and only baptism and not a "rebaptism" at all. 

I came across this article via TC Robinson who did so via Will LeeThe article is written by Richard L. Pratt, Jr. professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida, and so I don't think I can be accused of attacking a straw man.  If someone reading this thinks his presentation is not representative they should let me know. This should not be taken as an attack on any person but as a genuine attempt to engage the ideas in a robust fashion.

In its own way, the Reformed understanding of baptism is highly sacramental. That is, Reformed theology views baptism as a mysterious encounter with God that takes place through a rite involving physical elements and special ceremony. Through this encounter, God graciously distributes blessings to those who participate by faith and also judgment to those who participate without faith. (p1)

In this I have little to say except that I am perhaps a less typical Baptist in that I don't object to sacramentalist language being applied to baptism (nor to the Lord's Supper).  However, for any talk of sacrementalism not to degenerate into mystical superstition or magic, "particpation by faith" has to be a key concept.  Any idea that just having a rite done to you regardless of your own disposition towards God can be efficacious is superstition pure and simple.

For example, Paul spoke of baptism as “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5). He also wrote that, through baptism, believers are united to Christ and die to sin (Rom. 6:3-7). Peter, in turn, when asked what was required for salvation, replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). Elsewhere, Peter boldly declared, “Baptism … now saves you also – not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21). These and many other New Testament passages at least seem to indicate that baptism is much more than a symbol. In the language of the Bible, spiritual realities such as rebirth, renewal, forgiveness, salvation, and union with Christ are intimately associated with the rite of baptism. (p2)

Although Pratt wrongly conflates the "wasing of rebirth" with the "renewal by the Holy Spirit" which are two separate things, every one of the scriptures he cites clearly links baptism with repentance, there is no suggestion of the "baptise now, repent later" aproach to baptism found in mainline churches.  Instead baptism and repentance go hand in hand.  As Pratt points out, "spiritual realities" are "intimately associated with the rite of baptism."  Infant baptism surely severs the rite from the reality when it is given to an infant incapable of repentance.  The most important verse in this regard is perhaps Romans 6:3-7, rather than some sort of spiritual reality or philosphical metaphor Paul understands "dying to sin" to be a very real concrete ethical process of ceasing to perform the works of the flesh (see Rom 6:11-14, Col 3:5-11) how can a baby die to sin?  They cannot, they are cute, but they are not yet moral agents.

Pratt is yet to make his case for infant baptism, but I must confess at this stage to be at a loss to see how he can build a case for such on the foundations he has laid so far.  Stay tuned.

Let me know what you think,  :-)

How To Leave An Answerphone Message

When you leave a message on someone's phone, be sure to:
  1. Speak slowly and clearly
  2. Say your name slowly and clearly
  3. Explain what you are ringing about
  4. Give your phone number slowly and clearly, perhaps even twice if you find it difficult to slow down.
I'm sure it is not so difficult.

Friday, November 5, 2010

brick-a-brack 05/11/10

have a good weekend, i'm off to the beach!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Jenkins on Liberalism's Broken Promise

I've just finished reading Philip Jenkin's The Next Christendom, (rev + exp ed.) this book is incredibly important exposing as it does in graphic detail the way the world is becoming rapidly more religious and arguing for the effect this is going to have on future international relations.  This is the book, that in its first edition, all but predicted 9/11 (the proofs of the 1st ed. were finalised on the 10th, the day before).  Whatever you think you know about religion you will find something in here to upset your preconceived ideas.  Every chapter you think you know where Jenkins is going to go and then the next one surprises you just as much.  Neither is he one sided, he has no qualms pointing out the good and the bad in everyone!  It is an unputdownable book, seriously I haven't read even a novel this hard to put down for a long time.  Here is is pointing out the irony of Liberal Protestantism.
Every so often, some American or European writer urges the church to adjust itself to present day realities, to become relevant by abandoning outmoded supernatural doctrines and moral assumptions.  Some years ago, the Episcopal Bishop John Spong of Newark advocated just such a skeptical and secularist New Reformation ih his book Why Christianity Must Change or Die.   In his 2002 book, A New Christianity for a New World, Spong again attempts to explain Why Traditional Faith is Dying and How a New Faith Is Being Born . . . Viewed from Cambridge or Amsterdam, such pleas for accommodation may make excellent sense, but in the context of global Christianity this kind of liberalism looks distinctly dated.  While some American churches have declined, it is the most liberal and accommodating that have suffered the sharpest contractions.  In the Episcopal Church, the worst casualty has been Bishop Spong's own diocese of Newark, which has lost almost half its membership since 1972, a rate three times worse than the normal diocese in that denomination.  Conversely it would not be easy to convince a congregation in Seoul or Nairobi that Christianity or "traditional faith " is dying, when their main concern is a worship facility big enough for the ten or twenty thousand members they have gained over the last few years.  (p10-11)
Not that numbers are everything but the idea that churches just need to loosen up a bit more and everyone will come flooding back is pure make-believe.  If church survival is your goal, whether it should be or not is a different topic, then the best thing you can do is stay traditional - at least in terms of doctrine.  Jenkins compares the situation to 18th c. Europe and America when "secular Enlightenment ideas made enormous progress" and most observers had "concluded that Christianity had reached its last days" but "then as now, the triumph of secular liberalism proved to be anything but inevitable"  as at the beginning of the 19th c. saw a massive revival of orthodoxy and tradition among both Protestants and Catholics (p11).

Let me know what you think :-)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

brick-a-brack 03/11/10

  • the ridiculous prudish literal mindedness of Christians around the world has once again been proven by the reaction to Skosana's sermon "Jesus had HIV."  Also interesting to note the African Christologies coming through in some of the discussion, Jesus the heavenly power is very important in that context, but a frail human Jesus is a source of suspicion.
  • Loren Rosson gives a characteristicly interesting review of Dale Allison's Constructing Jesus
  • Tim Bulkely fires a shot across the bow of the whinging Avalos and Lemenche
  • Paul Windsor reflects on the recent sea changes in NZ theological training
  • Marc wonders if we should read less in seminary
  • Daniel Kirk on Mark 13 and the fall of Jerusalem HT

Christian Preaching of the OT #10

[This is the tenth and final post of a serialisation and slight revision of an old essay of mine, in the hope of getting some interaction from others and also making it more accessible. (Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.)]


At the start of this series I anticipated that evangelical approaches to OT preaching would reflect a tension between the desire to see Christ in the OT (as Christians have done since the beginning) and the desire to conform to the Principlizing Bridge Paradigm as our only defence against liberal theology and post-modernism.  What I actually found was that the four authors surveyed had already resolved this tension in favour of one or the other.  Goldsworthy and Mathewson represent the extremes of their respective positions.  Greidanus and Kaiser adopt somewhat more mediating positions but still clearly remain in their respective camps.  Greidanus admits the possibility legitimacy of a Christian preaching OT sermons without reference to Jesus, but rightly questions why you should want to?  Indeed if you have the option of preaching on the un-searchable riches of Christ or any other topic, there seems no good reason for choosing another theme.  Kaiser allows that typology, a form of retrospective analogical interpretation reliant on a progressive salvation history, is occasionally legitimate but seemingly only in regard to ceremonial or symbolic events.[1]  With the notable exception of Goldsworthy, none of the authors provide adequate sermonic examples to thoroughly demonstrate their method.  Additionally both Kaiser and Mathewson refer to Greidanus’ work but don’t really engage satisfactorily with his thesis.  The weakness mentioned in this series of Kaiser and Mathewson’s treatments makes it difficult to adequately compare their methodologies with the more rigorously argued Salvation-History approach found in Goldsworthy and Greidanus.

What conclusions can thus be drawn?  Without engaging in a wider body of literature it is not possible to make decicive statements but I would argue that these books represent the tension present in contemporary  evangelical preaching of the OT between Christocentrism and the Bridge Paradigm.  That each author has resolved the tension one way or the other suggests that the demands of the two are not reconcilable, one must be subjugated to the other.  In my view those who have chosen to make the Christocentric aproach paramount have produced the most useful and appropriate method for Christian preaching of the Old Testament.  

[1] Kaiser, Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament, 38

Moving to Pastures New

Well, you may have noticed how my rate of posting has gone up since I submitted my thesis, but such halcyon days of working part time and having extra time to blog cannot last forever.  At the end of this year I will be finishing my role at Carey Baptist College and then starting as a Baptist pastor in an Auckland church in January.  I can't say how this will affect my blogging at this stage.  One of my hopes is that I will continue to research Biblical studies and try to publish a paper every year to keep myself sharp and maybe even to say something useful, I think this blog might be a good way to keep myself motivated in that.  I've really enjoyed my stint in "academia" but my heart has always been in the local church and I feel really blessed to be going back to pastoral ministry again.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Carnival Goes South

November Biblical Studies Carnival being hosted by Deano down in Otago, get submitting but make sure your posts are dressed for the colder weather.

Laussanne III: Final Reflections

If you haven't seen this already go here for a round up of some really interesting reflections from a diverse group of blggers on their experiences of Cape Town 2010.

Xenos' Ascent of the BBT50 Continues

This month #15. ;-)

I notice my rate of ascent is slowing, allthough i am now literally clipping the heals of the magisterial Marc Cortez, but I notice that if I drop another 100,000 off my Alexa ranking like I did this month, I'll be in the top 10 before Christmas! 
What fun!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Theological Robot Chat Up Crash and Burn

This thing is seriously fun and a truly dangerous pit for dropping valuable time, but i can see this being useful for all sorts of things, like programing a lecture or sermon that you can't be there to give, or creating your own video illustration of real life situations or recreating conversations you had but couldn't record for legal reasons!  Here's my creation, took about 25 mins (my lady wife was ignoring me to play computer settlers).

[update #1.  if it still isn't working here, try it here]
[update #2.  should be working now, and it was 25 mins including learning to use the thing!]

Pray for Christians in Iraq

Their persecutions continue to worsen under the new instability, 40 worshippers were taken hostage this sunday by gunmen, go here for more info.

March to restore sanity has cool signs

Yes! Lots of them, HT

Who'd know Monty Python would  one day inspire American activism?

Yes please to this demand,

advice for us all from a fine beard,

a warning for you Americans,

nice to see people standing up for the wafflers,

I hope they make this an annual event!

Oktoberfest Biblical Studies Blog Carnival Extravaganza!

Haere mai, tena koutou katoa.  Welcome one and all to New Zealand for the October 2010 Biblical Studies Carnival.  Don't worry, sausages have a strong presence this month as rather presciently suggested by the carnival's rather larger and better lubricated Deutsche namesake.  Thanks go to Jim West for reviving the dormant carnival and coordinating hosts. Thanks to all those bloggers who plugged the carnival on their own blogs, and if you didn't - shame on you.  Thanks also to everyone who nominated posts, if you nominated it, it is here somewhere.  Special thanks to those very few who nominated other people's posts.  If I lovingly sought out your post and chose it for the carnival without asking anything in return, then you are very welcome.  If you haven't been mentioned and you think you should be, then you should have nominated yourself and you only have yourself to blame - go and sulk elsewhere.  If you find a link that doesn't work let me know in the comments.  For any sins of omission or comission or typographee I unreservedly apologise.  Otherwise, enjoy!


John Byron considers the flood and human wickedness.

Konrad Schmid opposes Genesis to Moses as stories of Israel's origin. 

The very humble Targuman takes a literary/theological approach to Genesis in contradistinction to the prevailing winds of biblioblogdom.

Darrell Pursiful reflects on Abraham's era.

Matt Flanagan looks at the killing of innocents and the story of Abraham and Isaac

Chris Heard defend Ishmaels reputation against charges of sexual impropriety, sometimes a laugh is just a laugh

John Anderson's dissertation is going to be published: Jacob and the Divine Trickster: A Theology of Deception and YHWH’s Fidelity to the Ancestral Promise in the Jacob Cycle sounds like fun!

Duane's been busy pursuing his abnormal interests trying to see if he can identify differences in the semantic ranges of the verbal use of the root ktb in various cognate Northwest Semitic languages, as you do.  He has also been translating Akkadian fragments from Egypt not to mention the Akkadian snake omens.

Israel Finkelstein on the united monarchy

Claude Marionetti has a penetrating 3 parter on Solomon and social oppression, 1, 2, 3.

Bob MacDonald finally completed his thorough review of the Oxford Psalms Conference.  


John Byron finds some useful videos on the period.

Loren Rosson takes us on a quick spin of fig trees in the literature from OT through Maccabees to the gospels.


SBL and Logos have produced a Greek New Testament edition.

Darrell Pursiful asked When Did the New Testament Become the "New Testament"? and also channelled Dr Seuss whilst translating Matthew 13:44-50.

Richard Fellows has graciously produced a summary of his fascinating Titus = Timothy hypothesis for those of you too lazy to read the whole thing.

John Byron reflects on teaching and translating Romans

James McGrath observes the interesting convergence of the traditional and the account of Jesus' burial in Mark's gospel.

James was also got inspired to offer a critique by Mark Goodacre's post on the orthodox redaction of Mark  

Matthew Montonini interviews Ramsey Michaels about his new commentary on John and Tim Gombis on Ephesians.

Jim West gives us some enticing previews of Maurice Casey's new book on the historical Jesus. (#3 was my fave)

Ken Schenck has been sharing freely (like someone who believes in prevenient grace!) from his forthcoming Paul book, his thoughts on the day of the Lord and how to be saved are worth a look.

Larry Hurtado posts some thoughts on the diversity and inclusivity of the New Testament.

Phil Harland has a podcast on his religions of the Mediterranian blog about Jesus as a student

Early Church

Mark Goodacre has been thinking about the talking cross in the Gospel of Peter which reminded Steve Douglas of a talking cross tradition from another time and place.

Larry Hurtado argues for the importance of the second century NT manuscripts

Ken Schenk reads Ignatius on the Sabbath

Scott McKnight starts a series looking afresh at Constantine.

A lapsed mythicist wonder what's next and incurs the ire of enraged mythicist commentors! (No wonder McGrath loves to bait and taunt them! If you are trying to boost your traffic, it could be a good subject to get into)

Steve Demler, having recovered from last month's carnival provides us with an imagined essay evaluating Athanasius' "On the Incarnation" against the assumed normativity of Nyssa's "On Not Three God's" and also a brief essay comparing and contrasting Athanasius' "On the Incarnation" with/against Origen's"Peri Archon."


Daryll Pursiful unveils his research on the "Schofield paradox"

Cynthia Nielsen hosts a couple of stonking guest posts on slavery and violence.
Bacho Borjadze on Brevard Childs, Isaiah and exegesis

Brian LePort makes an empassioned plea for Lukan theology

The new intercultural theology blog points you to some fabulous resources

Periman raises some questions about reading other people's mail

Peter Enns tackles the challenge of being religiously critical, or was it critically religious, in his Bible reading.

James McGrath shares a massive roundup of posts on creation and inerrancy.

Marc Cortez does a quick round up and commentary on recent discussion of Christian gender roles.

Daniel J Kirk expounds his narrative Christology

Richard Walker compares the temptations of Adam and Christ

Bob McKlusky wonders if 1 John teaches that Christians cannot sin

Scholarship and Biblioblogging

Peter Lemenche argues that we need Biblical studies to undermine orthodox Christianity but Hector Avalos disagrees, we need to undermine Biblical studies to expose orthodox Christianity, or something.  I can't help but feel the poor tortured souls just need to spend more time in prayer and Bible study, and home baking.

Tim Bulkely calls for a revolution in the rules of the academic game and he is not alone.

And never in the history of the world have more posts been written by so few people on the offensiveness of the word sausage in academic discourse.  Personally I am very grateful for Roland's fine work in upholding academic freedom.  I feel like I just witnessed the Battle of Britain.

And biblioblogdom finally makes it into world (pulp) literature!


Two Biblical scholars of note left this mortal coil this month

Edward Netzer

Jan Alberto Soggin


Madeline Flanagan would like to teach atheists Legal Interpretation 101 but how would they feel about it?

If you fancy another carnival why not check out Four Stone Hearth, an anthropolgy/archaeology carnival?

Deane Galbraith examines the mathematics of resurrection.

Tom Verenna doesn't like surveys


There you go, thanks for stopping by.
If I missed something vital drop the link in the comments.
Don't be a stranger now, add me to your feed reader.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think :-) 
Pax vobiscum

Halloween for Christians?

A Short Cautionary Tale of Academia

All those contemplating a PhD in theology should take the time to read Ben Myer's latest literary work,
After the appearance of Hoffmann’s work, Susan Crimmins had briefly considered suicide, which in many universities is still accepted in lieu of a dissertation.
On the other hand, the vast wellspring which is Biblical Studies flows without ceasing! ;-D