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Showing posts from April, 2010

Islam, a big bully?

When you see clips like this (HT JMG), with the brilliant Colbert lampooning the absurd and irrational claims of Islamic clerics, it is hard to believe that Islam could at the same time be forcing western media to self censorship.

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But this is exactly what is happening as revealed in this excellent NYT article (HT JH).  In it Ross Douthat writes,
Our culture has few taboos that can’t be violated, and our establishment has largely given up on setting standards in the first place.
Except where Islam is concerned. There, the standards are established under threat of violence, and accepted out of a mix of self-preservation and self-loathing.
This is what decadence looks like: a frantic coarseness that “bravely” trashes its own values and traditions, and then knuckles under swiftly to totalitarianism and brute force. The whole article is chill…

McGrath, The Only True God: A Book Review

James F. McGrath, The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context

[With thanks to the author for a review copy]

McGrath’s book has an argument that for many would seem counterintuitive, that the early Christians did not diverge from Jewish monotheism, even despite their veneration of Jesus. For McGrath this is simply because the modern conceptions of monotheism are not how 1st Century Jews would have defined their monotheism.  The book’s thesis is that while Christians, post Nicaea, are used to thinking about monotheism in terms of ontology, 1st Century Jews defined their devotion to the one God in terms of worship.  While Christians did worship Christ in some respects, McGrath argues that only sacrificial worship to Christ would have made Christ equal to God in a way that would constitute a breach of 1st Century Jewish monotheism.

The book itself has the rare virtue of being blessedly short, a mere 104 pages of text (not including notes, bibliography and index).  …

E100 Podcast

If you haven't already found it Tim Bulkleys excellent 5 minute Bible podcast is doing a special series on the essential 100 Bible readings challenge that many NZ churches are working through at the moment as part of an initiative by the Scripture Union, Bible Society and Wycliffe Translators in NZ.

Well worth a listen and sharing with people.  Tim's podcats are short, pithy, and aimed at ordinary (read non academic) types and do a great job of dealing with interesting and thorny issues in a surprisingly pleasing manner.  Enjoy :-)

Carson on the dangers of Biblical Scholarship

A peculiar form of pride may be located in our sheer enjoyment of discovery as we work through texts, write essays or books, and prepare sermons and lectures. Those who work in other disciplines may enjoy their work and discoveries just as much as we enjoy ours. The difference, of course, is that microbiologists and  Shakespeare scholars are unlikely to think they are entitled to a high place in the spiritual sphere because they have unravelled an arcane point within their disciplines. They may be exhilarated by their discoveries, but they are unlikely to think that because of these discoveries they are spiritually superior. But that is the kind of temptation we face. We exult in mastery of certain texts, but because those texts are the texts of Scripture, we think our mastery confers on us a more profound knowledge of God. We do not always recognize that the mark of true growth in the study of Scripture is not so much that we become masters of the text as that we are mastered by the …

Are there really no imperfect people in heaven?

OK, quick rant here, in the last couple of months I have come across two different evangelistic messages (and it's not like I read a lot of them, being already converted and all!) which have as a central premise in their description of the human problem of sin the fact that we cannot get into Heaven because we are sinners and only perfect souls/people can get in.  There are huge problems with this for all sorts of reasons but the most glaring one is that such an idea contradicts the Bible even upon the most cursory and literalistic reading.

[The Ascension of Enoch, from here] Three people are recorded in scripture as bodily going to Heaven to be with God.  Enoch (Gen 5:24), Elijah (2 Kigs 2:11), and Jesus (Acts 1:11).  How many of them were perfect, or were perfected before they were "taken up"?  I count one, the other two were presumably as flawed as the rest of us.  This fundamental tenent of some evangelistic tracts is thus fundamentally wrong.  Not being able to "…

Metaphor in Paul

[This was written ages ago for my thesis, but hasn't made the cut, but didn't want to lose it, so now you get the benefit. :-)  Let me know what you think.]

Paul’s writings are crammed full of metaphorical language. The difficulty with interpreting any analogy is determining which aspects of the analogical image hold to the referent and which do not. This process of interpretation frequently takes place on the subconscious level in all levels of communication. Whether it is the advertising tag line, “Red Bull: it gives you wings,” or the Church congregation praying to “Father God,” interpretation is instant and subconscious. We know without being told that we will not be able to fly as result of the caffeine drink and that God is not our biological progenitor. By necessity metaphors involve the recipient in an act of interpretation that comes naturally but is fraught with potential danger.[1] From the point of view of classical theology ‘metaphors are conceptually unclean’[2]

What if God was one of us?

I am one of those people who always likes to read the prefaces and ackowledgements of a book just to get a bit of insight into the personality of the author.  Correspondingly, I also like the "about" pages on peoples blogs, although those are often dissapointing lists of abstract interests rather than any real self revelation as such.  Clayboy, AKA Doug Chaplin has a great "about" page, which reads pretty much as a short and pithy manifesto for theology.  (My own blog manifesto is here)  I've actually found Doug's worth returning to just for its own sake.  One phrase has been giving me thought recently:
as the Scriptures suggest, if you’re going to anthropomorphise the eternal reality who dwells in unapproachable light you might as well do it outrageously.Which nicely pins down the absurdity of the revelation of God in the Bible, of our attempts to talk about such a being, and most of all of the absurdity of the incarnation itself.   We have permission to t…

Masculinity and Leisure

Richard Beck, while reflecting on Mark Driscoll's appeal, makes the interesting thesis that education feminises men (HT Steve).  As many pastors tend to be well educated this means that male pastors have a tendency to be femininised, to the potential detriment of their ability to connect with blue collar "manly" males.  What is interesting is that Beck's criteria for the femininity of educated men are actually not to do with physical appearance or language (which you might consider primary in terms of interpersonal relationships) but are based on leisure.  Hence if a man chooses to take up knitting he is behaving in a feminine way, but if he prefers to hunt he is being more masculine.  So feminity here, while correlated to education, is actualy a function of leisure. 

This gave me some food for thought.  What is it about education that should cause men to change their leisure habits?  I am reasonably educated but I also love hunting, fishing, mountain biking, motorb…

Easter Blogging

Well I took a blogging holiday over Easter, not because I was being especially pious, far from it in fact.  I had a few ideas for posts but didn't want to take time away from family to do them.  However, no harm done to the world at large as there was plenty of quality Easter fare this year:

Good Friday sermons from Kim Fabricus, M&M while Doug Chaplin ponders "the cup" as does Glenn Peoples, but Richard Beck ponders the Passion from a Christus Victor angle.

James McGrath points out the importance of Saturday, which is something I wrote about (albeit from a totally different angle) in an old essay.

Easter Sunday Sermons from Kim Fabricus and Bruce Hamil meditates on materialism and the resurrection as does Jason Goroncy and Doug while others just wonder if we can prove it or not?  For Richard Beck Easter demands a decision from us but don't tell the bunnies.

Habets, The Anointed Son: Book Review Part 2

[Following on from Part 1.]

Habets' next two chapters deal with both the NT scholarship and Habets' own appropriation of NT Testament theology respectively.

4 Interpreting the Evidence: Christology in New Testament Scholarship

The fourth chapter begins with a brief summary of approaches to NT Christology, especially regarding how the different Christology of the NT corpus are to be reconciled (or not) to each other.  From the beginning Habets suggests that one of the reasons scholarship has struggled with this question, to the extent it has, is that it has presupposed a Christology from above and then tried to read that back into the NT accounts instead of seeing "how and why the earliest communities of faith came to a belief in the deity of Jesus Christ in the first place" (p89).  Habets claims that Spirit Christology can provide the "integrative framework" that can be used to hold together all the "NT Teaching on the identity of Jesus" (p102).

Th…