Wednesday, March 31, 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 would have excluded the liaisons of slaves and many of the low-status and unpropertied free, but the wider practice of social monogamy in the Greco-Roman world. It is also the case that slave as well as free men frequented the brothels. Paul’s prohibition of visiting brothels would have affected poor men, slave or free, more than prosperous men, because the former would not have had the resources (nor often, in the case of the slave, the owner’s permission) for social monogamy. The wealthier men, however, would have had the sexual use of their slaves and therefore their sexual activity would have been less restricted by not visiting brothels. Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 7:4 that both wife and husband have control over each other’s body indicated that the free male did not have unrestricted use of his body and therefore implied that, since his own body in relationship to his wife has become a slave’s body, his own sexual use of slaves’ bodies has become illegitimate. This conclusion, however, Paul never makes explicit.
From Sheila Briggs, "Paul on Bondage and Freedom in Imperial Roman Society," 
in Horsley (ed) Paul and Politics, Trinity 2000, pp110-123, p115

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

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. 

  1. A chiasm of sorts is created around the Sabbath which is bookended on either side by the creation of man.  Could this be significant?
  2. 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 such high anthropologies?

The other point is that last time I made some observations on Genesis ETB suggested that the serpent might have been a winged beast rather than a legged one.  But that seems contrary to the text's designation of the serpent as a חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה (beast of the field, 3:1) as opposed to a כָּל־עֹוף הַשָּׁמַיִם (bird of the air, cf. 2:19).  So the old saw about the snake 'not having a leg to stand on', still stands, if you catch my drift. :-)

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?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dennett vs Clayton: A New Atheist Versus a Non-Fundy Theist! (Whatever Willl They Think of Next?)

Belated congrats to Philip Clayton on a successfull challenge to Daniel Dennett which resulted in this pretty interesting but reasonably civil debate/discussion. 

Which makes me wonder, whatever happened to the debate we have been awaiting between Glenn Peoples and John Loftus?

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.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

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 this life or from heaven and 'back' to earth is perhaps in the end a memory thing" and that Christ can be thought of "as a new technology enhancing Paul as an embodied subject and linking him up to a broader network in a very material way . . . it is not about creating a super-individual, it is about creating a connected one." (p106) The establishment of self identity across "discontinuous variations" then does not need to be a function of one stable element, i.e. a soul, which remains unchanged through the reality of change, but is instead a function of memory and network connectivity both of which are themselves subject to change.  The self is not then a stable object but always in the process of becoming.

Let me know what you think :-)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

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 sufferings in the previous chapter we might well expect a similar list of spiritual experiences described in detail to impress us.

12:2  Instead Paul writes "I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago. . ."  While this has often been attributed to Paul's modesty such sudden self effacement makes little sense in the context where he is in the act of defending his ministry and has just been extolling his virtues for the previous two chapters.  As Glenn points out the rather vague, "whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows" actually appears next in the Greek text, breaking up the sentence which ends with "was caught up into the third heaven."  Now the phrase "whether in or out" makes such a mess of the sentence that most translators rearrange the sentence to force it to make some sort of sense.  You have to do that if Paul is talking about himself, but if he is actually talking about the false teachers and then interupts his sentence to insert one of their standard catchphrases, then suddenly this makes sense as a caricature of a reported vision by a visionary false teacher.  In other words this is Pauline comedy as he "takes off" his opponents.  This would be a big leap if it was only used once, but appearing twice in short succession (12:3) it seems reasonable to argue that Paul is giving a clear signal of some sort to his readers.  There seems no other good reason for him to repeat such an unhelpful and vague sentence.

12:4  Contains another enigma that cannot be explained if Paul describing his own vision.  If Paul is really claiming to be the recipient of a unique vision that cannot be shared with others and is using that to argue for his own apostolic status he 1) sounds more like a proto-gnostic superapostle than the apostle Paul who never seemed to be shy about using words to explain anything (see Romans or 1 Cor 15 for example), and 2) plays right into the hands of the super apostles who would have had many more and more impressive visions than that which Paul describes.  (for an example of an impressive vision check out Revelation!) If however Paul is ridiculing the superapostles, the very fact that they cannot describe the content of their revelation shows how vaccuous and silly their revelations really are.  For Paul the Gospel is something that can be shared and proclaimed, not a mystical secret that only the visionaries get let in on. 

12:5 "On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses."  This sentence confirms to the reader that Paul has been "boasting" on the behalf of the super apostles, but what he has really done is shown how silly and incoherent and useless their visions and revelations really are. His boasting on their behalf is purely sarcastic. They don't really know what has happened (in the body or out) and they cannot explain their meaning or relevance (not to be told or repeated).

12:6 In 12:6 Paul switches back to the first person.  Speaking now  for himself he suggests that he could truthfully boast but that he does not.  So if 12:2-5 does describe his own vision he is now lying by suggesting that he didn't boast.  Under this reading of course Paul is no liar, but was caricaturing another person, or people, and their claims of revelatory visions.  Instead Paul admits that he could legitimately boast about revelations but chooses not to because he does not want to be judged by his revelations (which may well trump those of his opponents) but by the quality of his service among them (12:6).

12:7-10  Paul wants the Corinthians to learn to judge apostles based on the evidence of their words and deeds not their ability to recount extraordinary spiritual experiences.  Instead Paul boasts how, rather than an out of body "spiritual" experience, he has been blessed by God with an in-the-flesh physical experience that has kept him humbled and reliant on God's grace (12:7-9), not his own spiritual acheivements.  Paul's conclusion is that if he will be forced to boast, which he does through chapters 10-12 then it will be of the things that show how weak he is and how in need of God grace.  Even this boasting is almost too much for Paul's humility, as he expresses in 13:1 "I have been a fool, you forced me to it!"  They forced him to commend himself, but they could not force him to commend himself on the basis of his revelations or visions, only on his willingness to serve and to suffer for their sake and for the sake of Christ. That is the case, if we accept that in 12:2-5 Paul is presenting a sarcastic caricature and not an account of his own experience.

Let me know what you think :-)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

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.]

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

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 missing bits out?  How can baby bashing be words that I sing and pray without denying the command of Christ?  Frankly all that talk of "the psalms teach us to be honest to God about our feelings" doesn't cut it.  Feelings of anti-human anger and revenge are simply dissallowed for those indwelt by the Spirit of Christ.

Well, having a daughter with a broken arm has caused me to reflect on a friend of mine who has had two heavily disabled children, one of whom died after years of painful struggle.  I have heard him talk on more than one occasion about living with extreme suffering and disability.  One of the things he says the struggle has taught him is a hatred of sin.  For my friend sin is not merely the naughty things that we get up to when we think God isn't looking, but the reason that disability, suffering and death entered this world.  His experience of suffering has taught him to hate.  It is a hate I wish more Christians shared.  Sadly the church is better known for its sinful hatred of humans under the influence of sin than for its aggression in leading a life free from sin.

I don't want my daughter to hate Anna, or repay her.  I want her to hate the reason she got pushed in the first place.  The fact that they were fighting over a toy instead of sharing.  The fact that greed and not love was motivating them both at the time.  My daughter's enemy is not Anna.  Her arm was broken by sin.

If we need to hate something to particpate in the psalms, may I suggest one answer might be to hate sin, the sin that is at work in our lives and everyday causes us to hurt those we are commanded to love and frustrates us in our desire to draw near to God.  "Happy is the one who smashes the offspring of sin against the rocks, who destroys sin's work in their own life and frustates its propagation, who cuts sin off in its prime and annihilates it with the love of God in Christ."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

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’ – and the intelligence agencies say ‘good!  We won’t tell you any lies.
 From here. Worth a look at the rest too.

There is still so much complacency in the West about what is being done in our name and for our sake.  I'm praying not just that the Waihopai three will walk free but that this will get the attention it deserves and wake some more out of their complacency.  But Knowles understands the problem, if the people who suffer are different to us or too far away, we struggle to care or admit our responsibility.  For most of the jury I expect this is going to be a radically new concept for them, that a kiwi could (and should) take responsibility for the suffering of people in Iraq, but if they can grasp the message that the Waihopai three are proclaiming in word, and did proclaim in deed, then I cannot see how they could either convict them or fail to be convicted themselves.

Kyrie Eleison

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

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Waihopai Update

The trial nears its end, we may have a decision by the end of Monday.
A report on the trial can be found here, things seem hopefull.

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 quite strange indeed.

To return to Luke 4 and Isaiah 61.  If Jesus was just selectively choosing a passage of scripture that happened to fit what he wanted to say at that point and then missing out the bits that didn't fit with his message then he is both an idiot and a deceiver.  He is an idiot because his audience would have been familiar with the rest of the text around Is 61:1-2a, an especially cherished messianic text, as a result merely quoting the first bit (if that is all he did, which is by no means certain) would still have evoked in his readers all the consequent bits.  He is a deceiver because he is claiming to fulfill this text.  He is not saying "oh look, here is a nice poem that happens to fit the mood i'm in right now," he claims to be the texts fulfillment: the anointed one that Isaiah was talking about.  That is, he claims the meaning of the text is himself.  If only bits of Isaiah actually apply then he cannot be the meaning of the text, for bits of the text cannot be selected or rejected without the text ceasing to be the text.

This is what really bugs me.  For the Christian, if you do not think Jesus and Paul were being honest in their use of scripture, if you think they were misusing it or applying it dishonestly or incorrectly, then they must be wrong about the way that they were in continuity and fulfillment of it in their respective missions, which means you are wrong to follow them.  If the sceptics wish to suggest that Jesus and Paul were just exegetical incompetents and none of their followers noticed, let them.  But for the believer, doing the hard work of understanding exactly what they were doing when they cited scripture and understanding through their eyes what the OT means is essential.  Without it Jesus and Paul are fraudsters, it is simply a matter of faith.

Friday, March 12, 2010

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.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

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 a bit like saying a person is not their body, we are called to love peole not their bodies, so I am free to ignore certain bodily needs of others because they are only needs of the body not the person.  The Bible is not the Gospel, but the Bible contains the Gospel in such a way as to make it impossible to distill the Gospel from the Bible and do without the Bible.  Cut holes in the Bible and you are cutting holes in the Gospel, even though the Bible is not the Gospel.  Ker continues,
And the overwhelming witness of the New Testament is that Jesus and all preachers after him used the Old Testament very selectively as a launching point for a message about the Kingdom and its King.
This is one of those ideas that seems to have wide circulation and is used to justify all sorts of "violence" against the OT.  But it just isn't true. No Jesus and Paul and the other NT writers did not systematically make sure they quoted from every genre of scripture but everything they taught presupposed the OT, in its entirety.  The gospel of the NT can only make sense and be understood as its stands on the foundation of the OT.  Not only so but when Jesus and Paul and the others use the OT they do not just proof-text widly but have a profound intertextual hermeneutic.  That this is so is slowly being demonstrated by the new(ish) wave of scholarly interest in the NT use of the OT.

Ker uses as his own proof text the Nazareth manifesto of Luke 4:16-19.  The thing is in Luke it doesn't actually say what Jesus did or didn't read out, it only points us to the place in the scroll that he read from.  This is not evidence of Jesus selectively quoting scripture.  Notwithstanding, Ker suggests two reasons why Jesus missed out the vengeance bit of Isaiah 61:1-2.

First, pragmatically, Jesus was using this passage to kick off his ministry which was to be about God’s favor. Second, and related, is the fact that under the new covenant that God was making with all the peoples of the world, vengeance was set aside, or you could say transferred to Christ who bore all the vengeance of God’s wrath on the cross in our place.
We need to ask what God's favour means to a people living under the oppresive goverment of a foreign power.  It means that their enemies get dealt to.  God's favour is not a "nice" thing and his vengeance "nasty."  In Isaiah 61 the direct result of God's vengeance is the comforting of those who are mourning and grieving.  Why are they comforted because God's vengeance is good news to those who have been oppressed, ruined and devastated.  Vengeance does not mean revenge, it means justice.  More specifically it means God's justice. Revenge is what happens when we take it upon ourselves to deal with those who have oppressed us, to punish them.  It always goes wrong because we are not capable of true justice.  God is.

I would suggest, and humbly because I do not share David's context, that perhaps it is those very vengeance texts that need to be taught and preached so that those Christians who are wronged can rest from their own desire for revenge and trust in God's ultimate justice.  For those who are oppressed and victimised God's vengeance is good news, if you skip that bit they may feel an even greater need to take matters into their own hands.

Pax vobiscum.
Let me know what you think. :-)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


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:

I know it seems like I am stalking Hobbins, but he really does blog a lot of good stuff, and this stuff (above) is really very important.

And perhaps most interestingly, a Zimbabwean tribe, the Lemba, have been genetically proven to share a common ancestor with the priestly Jewish line of Cohen, the ancestor they share dates back to around the time of ... wait for it ... Moses and Aaron!  Assuming of course that they existed at all. [HT Chris]

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

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).**  For Philo bearing the Imago Dei was a feature of a spiritual elite, a group of special status, compared to the rest of humanity who were merely made of clay (Adam).  Perhaps this is one reason why Paul stays clear of Genesis 1, because in his context it was used not to argue for the inherent worth of all humanity but to argue for the priviledged status of a select few.  Instead he focuses on Adam as the ancestor of all humanity, who thus need redemption, and on Christ as the true image of God.  For Paul, then, one can only claim to bear the image of God as far as one can claim to bear the image of Christ.

* R.A. Horsley, “Pneumatikos vs Psychikos: Distinctions of Spiritual Status among the Corinthians,”  Harvard Theological Review, 69, 1976, p269-288.
** Philo, Legum Allegoriae, 1:31

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]

Monday, March 8, 2010

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

Food for Thought

Steve shares his a part of his faith journey from creationist to evolutionist

A new discovery for me, Richard Beck, discusses how meritocracy has deprived the white folk of coping mechanisms

John Hobbins suggests history and eschatology are just two sides of the same coin

And Bruce Hamil gets excited about an 11,500 year old temple

Friday, March 5, 2010

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 the largest single influence on the content, shape and reception of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Why have we not heard this?

In a 1991 Survey Dr Peter Lineham observed that New Zealand historians continue to ‘downplay the significance of religious belief’ which continues to be poorly integrated into the writing of NZ history.

In 2001 Dr Allan Davidson “wrote with the partial exception of James Belich’s Making Peoples, general histories of NZ have mostly written out, marginalised or trivilialised religion.”

We’ll explore 5 ways this gospel has influenced the Treaty.

1. The gospel contributes to the motivation for the treaty in New Zealand

In the late 1830s the Christian Missionary Society missionaries and Weslyn Missionary Society missionaries are genuinely concerned about the imminent threat of unrestrained immigration on Māori communities. They believe, a formal relationship via a Treaty with the British Crown is needed as a protection for Māori. It is also likely, they are also wanting to retain their own influence and position in the country and can see that that would be diminished if commercial colonization takes off.

2. The gospel contributes to the motivation for treaty in the UK

In the years leading up to the signing of the Treaty of Wiatangi most of the 25 staff of British Colonial Office are members of William Wilberforces, Clapham Sect.

This wide-ranging group of influential evangelical Christian friends include the Colonial Secretary himself, Lord Glenelg. The gospels vision of humanities equality and God’s justice inspire these parliamentarians and civil servants to passionately campaign against slavery and for the rights of indigenous people. This leads them to campaign for the protection and preservation of Maori society.

At the time they form only one voice amongst many competing ones on the issue of colonization. The overall effect of the debate in Brittan is the realization that the Government needs to enter into a formal treaty with Maori that would protect indigenous Maori rights over land, bush, river and seas in exchange for British protection and sovereignty. Lieut-Governor William Hobson is therefore dispatched from Sydney in January 1840 to achieve that end.

3. This gospel has shaped the content of the treaty

James Stephen is the permanent under secretary in the Colonial Office.
 He is possibly the most influential civil servant of his time. He is profoundly influenced by the gospel. His gospel convictions express themselves in a deep commitment to the abolition of slavery championed by his brother in law William Wilberforce and others. He later becomes concerned about the negative impacts of colonization on indigenous peoples.

Stephen, wanting to avoid a similar pattern in New Zealand drafts the instructions for Lord Normandy which are given to William Hobson when he is sent to New Zealand in 1840. Parts of the instruction are as follows:

All dealings with Maori must be conducted with sincerity, justice, and good faith.
They must not be permitted to enter into any Contracts in which they might be ignorant and unintentional authors of injuries to themselves.
You will not, purchase from them any Territory that would be essential, or highly conducive, to their own comfort, safety or subsistence.

The content of the treaty is shaped by these instructions. The instructions themselves are shaped by the biblical gospel.

4. The gospel shaped the nature of the treaty to Maori

Missionaries cultivated an image of the Queen as personally loving towards Maori. Henry Williams would affirm to Maori at Waitangi that the Treaty was an act of love towards them on the part of the Queen.

This thinking led many chiefs, who were by then, either Christian or associated with Christianity, to see the treaty in terms of a spiritual bond. A covenant.

For these chiefs the Treaty was a covenant between the Maori people and the Queen as head of the English Church and state. The Maori name for the Treaty is He Kawenata o Waitangi (‘The Covenant of Waitangi’)

Many Maori at the time perceived the treaty enabled Pakeha and Maori to be one people in both a spiritual and societal sense.

Affirming this was Hobson’s words to each Chief as they completed their signing of the Treaty at Waitangi were “He iwi tahi tatou”- now we are all one people. His words selected by Henry Williams were loosely based on Ephesians 2:13.

The northern tribe Ngapuhi, in particular, understood the treaty as a special kind of covenant with the Queen, a bond with all the spiritual connotations of the biblical covenants; there would be many tribes, including the British, but all would be equal under God.

Claudia Orange argues “For British officials it’s fair to say the perception of covenant, and the missionaries emphasising the humanitarian protection of the British were simply part of securing sovereignty…”

5. This gospel influences the reception of the treaty

On February 6th 43 Chiefs signed the treaty, in all over 500 would sign the treaty over the next 8 months.
The majority of Treaty negotiators where either missionaries or closely associated with them. Missionaries with considerable mana with Maori particularly Henry Williams took the treaty throughout the country to be signed.On many occasions it is the credibility of the missionary themselves and their endorsement which gives the treaty it’s credibility.

In the years before the signing of the Treaty 74,000 copies of Biblical books, New Testaments had been printed and distributed throughout New Zealand. Coupled with the focus on literary the gospel had spread rapidly.

Almost half the Maori population would be influenced by the gospel. Chiefs who had come to faith in Christ or who had been influenced by the gospel were far more likely to be well disposed to the treaty although where the gospel was not strong amongst Senior Chiefs it was a far more difficult process in obtaining signatures.

What are the implications for us today?

1. I want to reclaim the treaty as part of our Christian story

As gospel people the Treaty is part of our history, it’s part our legacy and it’s expression today is apart of our responsibility.

2. I want to understand the nature of the Crowns historical breaches, and the churches complicity in this.

The gospel calls us to be a reconciling people. As we’ve learnt from South Africa, truth comes before reconciliation. Wanting to know the truth compels me to understand the Crowns historical breaches and the church’s complicity in these.

3. I want us to discover how we can apply the Waitangi covenant to our life together as a church.

When we seek to explore what it means to uphold and express the values of the Waitangi Covenant as the people of God I believe it leads us towards a deeper experience of what it means to Christian and a richer experience of what it means to be kiwi. Why, because the Treaty affirms our place on the land together.

As Chief Judge Eddie Durie expressed it in his Waitangi Day address in 1989:
We [Maori] must not forget that the Treaty is not just a Bill of Rights for Maori. It is a Bill of Rights for Pakeha too. It is the Treaty that gives Pakeha the right to be here. Without the Treaty there would be no lawful authority for the Pakeha presence in this part of the South Pacific. The Pakeha here are not like the Indians of Fiji, or the French in New Caledonia. Our Prime Minister can stand proud in Pacific forums, and in international forums too, not in spite of the Treaty but because of it. We must remember that if we are the Tangata Whenua, the original people, then the Pakeha are the Tangata Tiriti, those who belong to the land by right of that Treaty.
I believe as we seek to embody the gospel and express the Waitangi covenant bi culturally and multi-culturally over the next 30 years our frail and faltering attempts will show the credibility and authenticity of the gospel to Maori and the rest of New Zealand. It is my prayer Maori would again respond to the gospel. In turn due to the growing prominence and preference given to Maori spirituality in New Zealand society Maori will have the opportunity to take the gospel back to the entire society.

The gospel has had a significant impact on all aspects of the Treaty. As a result, we the people of God in Aoteoroa New Zealand need to reclaim it as part of our story. We need to understand the historical injustices of the past and we need to find ways of expressing with grace and truth the values of the Treaty in our life together into the future.

Mark Grace is a member of the Te Arawa tribe and works for Tertiary Students Christian Fellowship leading their national work to graduates in the workplace, post graduate students and academics. Mark attends Fielding Bible Chapel and is happy to speak and lead seminars on this issue. He can be contacted at markg (at) A full footnoted version of the article is available here. 

[Let me know what you think, :-)]

Thursday, March 4, 2010

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 more inclined to assert that the way things are is a matter of unavoidable fate, whereas those who desire to challenge it, radicals, are more likely to emphasise the importance of taking action according to free will rather than the current social norms.  Of course both free will and fate are almost impossible to hold to in absolute terms for any one.  But I think Wright is totally right (no pun intended) that theology and politics tend to actually be the same thing just presented in more or less pious language depending upon the perceived audience.  Which is why you cannot take religion out of politics, and vice versa, all political discourse is inherently theology, and vice versa.

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

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

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 an opinion on the matter yet.  One interesting idea that comes through in the review is the possibility that Paul uses a "plenary genitive," i.e. at that he intends both meanings.  Probably the key passage to think this one through is Gal 2:15-21.  Read it through with each possibility in mind, keep an open mind, and see which you think makes the most sense in context.

15"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' 16know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by (the) faith in/of Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by (the) faith in/of Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.  17"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. 19For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

PS. Steve also has a great post on this subject in Heb 11:1.  I know it is your favourite verse, so check it out!

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.  If such a clause was in every ministerial contract the incidence of church splits would drop massively.

Of course in this situation it will be interesting to see if that contract will hold water.  I don't know anything about Andrew Stock but I expect a new church with him as pastor and within 50km of the old one to spring up in the not to distant future. "Bishop" Brian may have to demonstrate the Christian virtue of forgiveness if he does. As Kiwiblogger points out, "Never heard of God having restraint of trade clauses for his servants before."   I think the secular courts might be similarly perplexed if it goes that way.

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. :-)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

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 and the way the body itself contains very little if any "original" material, such a view seem problematic.  However we might find continuity in our bodies it is not through the material that they consist of as this is always changing.

2. The view that has in modern times displaced the traditional view can be called "hetero-somatism" (p8) or if jargon is not your thing different-body-ism.  This simply argues that we are given totally new bodies, but we continue.  We then exist somehow apart from our bodies, we have bodies but we are not bodies and so our essential personality can be transposed into a new vehicle/vessel without any change in who we essentially are.  However if this is Paul's view, then it is hard to see why he places so much emphasis on the body per se in 1 Corinthians.

3.  A third view is that the resurrection body, while not "materially identical" to the original will be "somatically identical." (p10)  For Dahl this is the difference between saying a gold ring is the same object three years later and saying that a human is the same person three years later. (p94)  For a ring to be the same it must contain the same atoms or it will be a new ring, but for a human even though the atoms have changed we still recognise continuity.  "This identity is not simply a matter of having the same 'personality' . . . nor simply a matter of his having the same thoughts, memories, associations, character, etc., but also of having the same 'body' (in the modern sense)." (p94)  [Update, after a rereading of Dahl I realised I had misunderstood him, so I have altered this bit accordingly.  Although he is too dependent on the now very dated JAT Robinson's The Body, I think he is largely on the right track.]

Monday, March 1, 2010

Congratulations. . .

. . . go to Matt and Madelaine Flanagan and Glenn Peoples for getting Kiwi blogging well up in the Biblioblog top 50!  I figure I only have to overtake about 2 million other websites before I can get into the rankings!  Not that I am registered yet.  I'll try and finish my degree before I start trying to notch up the blog.