Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Davidson, A Public Faith: A Book Review

I try and read at least one church history book a year.  Every time I do it always amazes me how different the perspective of a different historian can be.  Ivor Davidson is head of St Andrew's divinty school at the moment although he used to be at Otago in NZ.  Davidson's book is part of an 8 part Monarch History of the Church, so this book covers 312-600AD (actually we get well into the 600s by the end of the book) and so is a nice medium between one volume church histories and a more detailed study on one characer or controversy.  I picked this up in the bargain bin at my local Christian bookstore and have been glad I did.  On the strength of this one I'll be looking out for the others in the series. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quote of the day: Mariottini on the end of the world

[P]eople who are worried about the end of the world are people who are not prepared for the end of the world.

In the meantime please leave a comment about how you would prepare for the end of the world, I'll start you off with after the rapture pet care.   ;-)

Dr Norman's Atheist Christmas Sermon

Continuing my irregular series on great preachers who are not preachers see here atheist Dr Russell Norman, new co-leader of the NZ Green party, with a powerful and emotive economic exposition of the Christmas story (HT Hamish and Stu).  Notice how he seemlessly moves from story to meaning to application.

previous posts in this series have featured JK Rowling and Stephen Colbert

and while we are on the subject, if you don't yet know about Carey Baptist College's provocative new leadership blog, it has a guest post on the Green Party's recent electoral gains and what it might mean for the church.

let me know what you think :-)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

brick-a-brack 13/12/11

Keener again, this time talking about miracles (HT JB)

Marc Cortez wants someone to write his sermons for him and that's OK

Greg Peters questions the rise of "retreats" and what it says about how churches look after people

Aditya Chakrabortty denounces British Bancrocracy and pairs Rowan Williams with Bill Nighy

And it appears the cliche of Americans being overpaid, oversexed and over here is true, at least of one rather enthusiatic sperm donor (yet of coure the first thing the Herald does is point out his alleged Christianity).

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Quote of the Day: Davidson on Ordinary Christians in History

[T]he assumptions, arguments, and acheivements of the famous few must never be treated as the only history that matters.  In every age, it is through the faith and witness of the vast innumerable ranks of ordinary Christians that the gospel has been lived and encountered.
Ivor Davidson, A Public Faith, p8

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Santa Punched Arius

Well, yesterday (Dec 6) was St Nicholas day, and our Anglican and Catholic friends have been very excited this year to remember that St Nicholas, who eventually transmogrified into Santa Claus, is remembered not just for giving money to poor people but for punching the heretic Arius in the face during the first council of Nicea (325 AD).  I cannot agree that Christians should celebrate the day by punching a heretic themselves nor do I think "H-Slapping" (heretic slapping) should become the norm for theological debate.  But then after all I am a recalcitrant Baptist who scorns the veneration of saints as rank idolatry.

 " KER - POWWW! "

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The first hymn

The Cyber Hymnal records that the first hymn written in English for public worship was penned by Isaac Watts at the ripe old age of 14 . . .

In a lengthy dis­cuss­ion with his fa­ther, Watts ar­gued that sing­ing on­ly the Psalms in church made them miss much im­port­ant New Test­a­ment truth. Once his con­gre­ga­tion was con­vinced of what Isaac was say­ing, he be­gan turn­ing out a new hymn a week. But this one is the ve­ry first, mak­ing the words Pre­pare new hon­ors for His name, and songs be­fore un­known es­pe­cial­ly mean­ing­ful. This hymn al­so re­veals Watts’ amaz­ing breadth of bib­lical know­ledge (he was on­ly a teen­ag­er at the time); there are al­lu­sions to ma­ny Script­ure pass­ag­es.
And the following is what resulted

Behold the glories of the Lamb
Amidst His Father’s throne.
Prepare new honors for His name,
And songs before unknown.

Let elders worship at His feet,
The Church adore around,
With vials full of odors sweet,
And harps of sweeter sound.

Those are the prayers of the saints,
And these the hymns they raise;
Jesus is kind to our complaints,
He loves to hear our praise.

Eternal Father, who shall look
Into Thy secret will?
Who but the Son should take that Book
And open every seal?

He shall fulfill Thy great decrees,
The Son deserves it well;
Lo, in His hand the sovereign keys
Of Heav’n, and death, and hell!

Now to the Lamb that once was slain
Be endless blessings paid;
Salvation, glory, joy remain
Forever on Thy head.

Thou hast redeemed our souls with blood,
Hast set the prisoner free;
Hast made us kings and priests to God,
And we shall reign with Thee.

The worlds of nature and of grace
Are put beneath Thy power;
Then shorten these delaying days,
And bring the promised hour.

Obviously the main muse for the hymn comes from the book Apocalypse of John.  Watts went on to be a very serious non-conformist theologian and preacher as well as penning nearly 800 hymns.  Of course, my favourite Watts hymn is entitled "Blest is the man whose bowels move." I kid you not, and the second verse is even better than the first line!

Cake or Death

Hi lovely and much neglected blog readers.  It's been a bit crazy here in meatspace and so cyberspace has had to be a little neglected, as I plough through my blog reader from the last few months, I'll be sharing some highlights with you.  Alex Baker is a cartoonist who works out of the UK and features in the Baptist Times over there.  You can go to his website here.  I liked both these cartoons, for very different reasons,

this one rang true:

this one is puntastic:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Keener on Paul and Women

A helpful article from Craig Keener - something of a NT scholarly ninja - on the subject of Paul and Women in leadership.  Check it out.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Paddling Slogans

Just posting this for my own later reference, but don't let that stop you from commenting. ;-)

Jenson frequently gestures to the ambiguity or confusion of certain slogans, not simply to their “use” or “abuse”. This ambiguity is sometimes terminal (as seems to be the case for sola Scriptura). Slogans, we are told, are a necessary shorthand that emerges over time to signify a complex of propositions and practises. Despite the word’s stigma, slogans have a positive function. The problem with slogans is that they tend to develop a certain independence as they age, becoming untethered and paddling to foreign shores.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Subdugating Women With The Bible (again)

Someone has caused a stir by parroting the typical nonsense you hear from more hard line complementarians,

Claude Mariottini takes exception as does Darrell Pursiful.

In a similar vein but with a more positive aproach Rachel Held Evans lists ten biblical reasons for women to be in leadership.

All of which reminds me of an insightful and creative post (even if I do say so myself) from last year on this very topic.  If you missed it, now you have another chance.

Ladies First: Genesis 3 and Gender Roles

Let me know what you think! :-)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Does God Cause Spontaneous Combustion?

The first recorded case of spontaneous combustion in Ireland has provoked retired professor of pathology Mike Green into some theological speculation, saying he doubted spontaneous combustion could be explained by divine intervention on rather surprising grounds.
I think if the heavens were striking in cases of spontaneous combustion then there would be a lot more cases. I go for the practical, the mundane explanation.
Apparently God can't be doing it because it doesn't happen often enough. Only things that happen infrequently need mundane practical explanations.

Confused yet? :-)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Brick-a-Brack 230911

Take note oh teachers of theology! your sins will find you out! (thanks Alex)
Let me know what you think :-)

Words and Music: Kate Tempest

For those of your interested in the spoken word as performance, here is some really powerful Shakespe inspired poetry by Kate Tempest which was posted on Billy Braggs FB page.

"What we came after" by Kate Tempest from RSC Sound & Fury on Vimeo.

She is new to me but apparently fronts a really interesting band The Sound of Rum, if the idea of a north London girl rapping left wing politics over trip hop and Jazz beats doesn't inspire you, then you probably haven't heard it yet.

Let me know what you think :-)

Confessions of a Lapsed Charismatic

I reckon my charismatic credentials are pretty solid, i have hung out with all stripes of charismatics from crazy independent pentecostal revivalists to charismatic high church Anglicans, and I liked them all and learned form them all.  I am a firm believer in speaking in tongues, guidance and inspiration, and God's power to heal.  But when I came to NZ I subconsciously moved out of the charismatic stream i had been inhabiting and became much more middle of the road.   Now it is time to confess

  1. I love 1 Cor 12 but the work of the Holy Spirit is about so much more than giving gifts to particular Christians - what about Rom 8, John 14 &16, Gal 5, etc, etc?
  2. An emphasis on gifting is often at the expense of an emphasis on character, the gifts of the Spirit get prefered over the fruit.
  3. The pressure in charismatic circles for something to happen means that people are tempted to manipulate God or others in order to validate their ministry.
  4. Those who do not or cannot operate in the gifts are often made to feel like second class Christians
  5. An over emphasis on healing can make it hard for people to deal with the reality that often the thorn in our flesh is not taken away but God's grace is sufficient for us
  6. When experience and power become the key criteria, Christ and the right handling of scripture often get lost in the shuffle.
  7. Many non charismatic Christians and churches are filled with the Spirit
  8. I long to see the Spirit moving more and more in my own life and faith community - but I don't want to presuppose how it is going to happen or what it will look like.
  9. I'm not going to mention "falling" over or gold dust.
  10. When you get given a few to many meaningless "word of knowledge" you start to wonder if you can trust these people at all.
  11. I love going to church where people put their hands in the air
  12. Most of the charismatics i meet are the most sincere, loving and passionate Christians you could hope for.
Let me know what you think, what has your journey with charismatic Christianity been like? :-)

Perhaps related, Daniel Kirk has been wondering if god really speaks, and John Byron wonders if beinga Christian has anything to do with being bad at maths.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

brick-a-brack 140911

  • Ben Myers defends Rob Bell's Love Wins (and of course Karl Barth as well)
  • Daniel Kirk explains to his students how biblical studies will ruin their faith (in a good way)
  • Kevin DeYoung lists the values that guide the way his church worships (HT Marc)
let me know what you think! :-)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Brick-a-Brack 030911

This prophesy is true, although about 5 years late ;-) (HT Marc)

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that I think I know what the biggest theological debate of the next twenty years is going to be about. It doesn’t sound very exciting – and certainly not as likely to make headlines as hell, or penal substitution, or the roles of men and women, or the various other theological hot potatoes that the last decade has seen chucked around – but fundamentally, it is the issue that drives all the others. It is the question of the doctrine of Scripture: how we read, understand and apply the Bible.
Of course as I was told by my theology teachers in entry level hermeneutics - all Christian theological debate is really a debate about hermeneutics.  One reason why this blog spends so much time on it! (plus it is really interesting!)

These resources are very useful (HT Mark and James)

And this lady is brilliant! (HT Tony)

On airplanes, I dread the conversation with the person who finds out I am a minister and wants to use the flight time to explain to me that he is "spiritual but not religious." Such a person will always share this as if it is some kind of daring insight, unique to him, bold in its rebellion against the religious status quo. [. . .]  Being privately spiritual but not religious just doesn't interest me. There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.

But has she actually ever said that to anyone, and would she be willing to say it to certain people i know in exchange for money?

Let me know what you think. :-)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Politics and Theology in the New Testament

John Byron writes a characteristically wise and informed blog post urging scholars to maintain balance in their political interpretations of the NT.  He raises the issue of how,

It has become quite popular over the last few decades for New Testament scholars to bash ancient Rome and suggest that when first century Christian writers use terms like gospel, Lord, savior, kingdom, etc, that these authors are deliberately critiquing Rome and its emperors. Some modern scholars have pushed this interpretation so far that the New Testament looks less like a theological book and more like a political manifesto. 

But to what extent are politics and theology seperate things?  I know in the USA they have a constitutional separation between church and state, but we international observers notice how big (even exagerated) a role theology still plays in US politics.  But would Romans or Jews of the first century really have distinguished between politics and theology?  When your Emporer is also divine - or at least eligible for divinity after death, when he has a cult dedicated to him, when you pray and offer sacrifices to him, how is that political situation not also theological?  And when your Jewish God claims to be King, how is that theology not political?  And when you believe that a man executed by Roman political authority at the request of the Jewish religious authorities has been raised from the dead as vindication from God how is that belief not inescapably fraught with concrete political and theological implications?

Too often some of these interpretations of "Rome's gospel" are clearly motivated by frustration with American hegemony. And while I think American policy does need to be critiqued and criticized, I am not sure that authors like Paul and others were doing same thing with Rome as some modern scholars suggest. To hear some New Testament scholars talk there was nothing good about ancient Rome and that the world would have been better off without it. 
Yes it is fair to say that the writing of Bible scholars living in a representative democracy with a proud record of free speech will not engage in the same sort of political-theological critique as Paul and others might.  There was little point in Paul trying to influence public opinion or critique a foriegn policy which made no claim to be serving any ends other than its own.  It is also fair to say that Paul was more than happy to take advantage of Roman protection and legal processes whenever it suited him to do so (at least that is how Acts portrays things).  So scholars with an axe to grind about the moral failings of the American imperial enterprise need to take care that they are not simply reading into the texts what they would like to be there to bolster their own political rhetoric.  But if we are being balanced let's not pretend that anything theological is without concrete political implications - even if sometimes those are not immediately clear.  And likewise no political creed is without its theological implications - no matter how vigorously the lady doth protest "but I'm purely secular!".  The far greater danger is to suggest that the New Testament in somehow non-political and should never be allowed to stand in judgement of our human behaviour in the public sphere.  As that great self-consciously political theologian Moltmann writes,
During the Third Reich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer pointedly reminded the church that "only those who cry out for the Jews may sing Gregorian chants," and he gladly sang Gregorian chants. The memory of what happened at that time has made us increasingly aware that we also have no right to speak of God and with God if we do not do it in the midst of the conflicts of our political world.
Or if you prefer a more secular approach spend some time with Roland Boer and see how all readings (and by implication writings) of religious texts have their political implications.  You may not agree with me that the Bible is a socialist tract but your understanding of that most influential text - and as a scholar the understanding you relate to others - is not without its repercusions in the world of politics that you inhabit.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Van Hecke on Metaphor

This is a nice concise definition of the way metaphors work:
Metaphor is considered not so much as a way in which people speak but rather as a way in which people think.  We use metaphors in our language because, to a large extent, we think metaphorically.  The essence of metaphor, according to cognitive linguistics, is that we make use of our knowledge of one conceptual domain (the source) in order to gain new understanding of a second, non-related domaim (the target).
Pierre van Hecke, "Conceptual Blending" in Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible, pp 218-19 
cited in Dearman, Hosea, NICOT, p11

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Morning Quotes: Jesus, Israel and Election,

In terms of the open questions of the Old Testament and the apocalyptic promises, and the existential experience of Israel in exile and alienation, Jesus is revealed as the one who fulfills these promises. This of course can be described superficially as a proof from prophecy. But what is meant is that the person and history of Jesus have been manifested and understood as open to the future of God in a way which was characteristic of the distinctive existence of Israel among all the nations.  
Moltmann, The Crucified God, Fortress 1993, p99
Election needs to be seen as a doctrine of mission, not a calculus for the arithmetic of salvation. If we are to speak of being chosen, of being among God's elect, it is to say that, like Abraham, we are chosen for the sake of God's plan that the nations of the world come to enjoy the blessing of Abraham.
Chris Wright, The Mission of God's People, 2010, p72

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Death of Postmodernism

Thanks to Tony Jones for pointing to a very useful article on the death of postmodernism and what is to come after.

The death of postmodernism, 

For a while, as communism began to collapse, the supremacy of western capitalism seemed best challenged by deploying the ironic tactics of postmodernism. Over time, though, a new difficulty was created: because postmodernism attacks everything, a mood of confusion and uncertainty began to grow and flourish until, in recent years, it became ubiquitous. A lack of confidence in the tenets, skills and aesthetics of literature permeated the culture and few felt secure or able or skilled enough or politically permitted to distinguish or recognise the schlock from the not. And so, sure enough, in the absence of any aesthetic criteria, it became more and more useful to assess the value of works according to the profits they yielded [. . .]
In other words, increasingly, artistic success has become about nothing except money; and, increasingly, artists have come to judge their own success that way, too [. . .]  The paradox being this: that by removing all criteria, we are left with nothing but the market. The opposite of what postmodernism originally intended.

And, of course, there’s a parallel paradox in politics and philosophy. If we de-privilege all positions, we can assert no position, we cannot therefore participate in society or the collective and so, in effect, an aggressive postmodernism becomes, in the real world, indistinguishable from an odd species of inert conservatism.

And what will it be replaced with?  Rather optimistically, 

If we tune in carefully, we can detect this growing desire for authenticity all around us. We can see it in the specificity of the local food movement or the repeated use of the word “proper” on gastropub menus. We can hear it in the use of the word “legend” as applied to anyone who has actually achieved something in the real world. (The elevation of real life to myth!) We can recognise it in advertising campaigns such as for Jack Daniel’s, which ache to portray not rebellion but authenticity. We can identify it in the way brands are trying to hold on to, or take up, an interest in ethics, or in a particular ethos. A culture of care is advertised and celebrated and cherished. Values are important once more: the values that the artist puts into the making of an object as well as the values that the consumer takes out of the object. And all of these striven-for values are separate to the naked commercial value.

Go deeper still and we can see a growing reverence and appreciation for the man or woman who can make objects well. [. . .] It’s not just the story, after all, but how the story is told.

These three ideas, of specificity, of values and of authenticity, are at odds with postmodernism. We are entering a new age. Let’s call it the Age of Authenticism and see how we get on.

Three words I think it is good to hold dear, whether or not they are the new hallmarks of the incoming "Age of Authenticity": Authenticity, Values, Specificity.  Of course it is worth saying that modernism is still very much with us and postmodernsim will linger with equal vigour, people are very inconsistent and flip switches with the least provocation, it is not like "authenticity is a good thing" is really news to anyone!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Was Paul a Trinitarian?

Eddie Fearon and Daniel Kirk have been reflecting on the Theological Interpretation of Scripture Colloquium that I also attended this weekend past, although neither of them found my paper worthy of mention ;-) but like the Murphy's i'm not bitter.  Kirk shares the following exchange,
In a side conversation with one of the presenters (whose paper I very much appreciated and whose overall position on theological interpretation I find quite congenial), I made a brief case for why Christian hermeneutics should be Christological rather than Trinitarian.
He sees these working together. And I get that. But in trying to situate my point I asked, “Was Paul a Trinitarian?” He said, “Yes.” End of conversation.
That’s a small picture of where a biblical scholar can’t say what a theologian presumes, and why scholarship’s Bible will continue to be an enigma to the church. Beyond whether scholars are approaching their exegetical task as Christians, theologians (and church people) often want the Bible to say what it does not say, to support what it does not speak to.
I do wonder if the church’s theology will need to learn to hear what it takes for throat clearing as the song of the Spirit before the chasm will bridged between theology and the Bible
Which raises a number of very interesting points.

It is certainly true that Paul never made anything approaching the trinitarian declarations of the historic creeds, but as the paper I shared attempted to show, Paul was certainly capable of theologising within a theological framework that gave significance to the work of God, Jesus and the Spirit.  many biblical scholars have been happy to call this something like a "latent trinitarianism" but you do need to be careful that that doesn't get confused with talking about ousias and stuff.  The kind of counterfactual arguing that this might lead to would go something like "would Paul have signed the Chalcedon Creed if he had been presented with the same circumstances as that creed was addressing?"  Which of course could only degenerate into a useless giving of opinions.  My useless opinion is that he probably would have but only after they added a substantial "therefore" section detailing the believer's ethical response to the theological mysteries contained in the Creed.

Asking Paul whether or not he is a Trinitarian is a waste of time, but, as Kirk eloquently puts it, if we listen to what "the song of the Spirit" through Paul is actually saying we may learn many things that will enrich our own Trinitarian (or otherwise) theology no end.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Social Location of the Preacher and the Blame Game

Since coming to NZ I have heard a common refrain despairing at the poverty of preaching in NZ, how preachers willfully abuse the scriptures and fail to feed their hungry people on the word of God instead feeding them a toxic mix of homespun advice, pop psychology and gratutuitous proof texting. 

As a foreigner i would confidently guess that the percentage of good preachers to bad ones here is probably the same as anywhere else in the world, though i'm not sure i have sufficient experience to know for sure.  But for sure the percentage of those NZ academics ready and willing to decry the state of preaching is sky high.  The accusation is always that the preacher does not respect The Word, that they are too busy pushing their "leadership" agenda to properly minister the scriptures, or that they just don't spend enough time in preparation - all of which may be quite true.

But like all of God's creatures the preacher is a product of their environment, most particularly the church, the academy that trained them, and of course our consumer society. Those despicable preachers cannot shoulder the blame for all their failings.  I could go on to list ten reasons why the Church as a whole is to blame for the situation (i mean who employs these turkeys?), or even twenty why the academy is to blame (when you divide biblical studies, theology, church history and homiletics into different subjects don't be surprised if they don't interact in the student's brain) but passing the blame from preacher to congregation to academy manages to culture only serves to mimic the post-lapsarian shuffling of feet of Gen 3:11-13.  Instead we need to work out the ways in which we can cover our nakedness.  Making preachers feel guilty for not meeting the standards of their theology teachers is not one of them.

The truth is (and here comes some of my own pop pschology) the worse a preacher feels about their preaching, the less time they are likely to give to it.  The more they feel those in the academy they look up to have set an impossible standard the less they will work to reach it.  The more the church praises them for giving them junk food instead of real meat the less likely they are to take the time to cook a square meal. 

In today's consumeristic world, which has fully infiltrated the church preachers serving MacDonalds will draw the crowds, while those serving finely honed nourishing food will only attract the connoisseur.  And even those who are drawn to "real preaching" are in danger of making a marketing choice rather than a real act of devotion.  Spiritual pride can still be found in those listening regularly to "biblical preaching."

There is no fix, but for those of us who care about this, and i do, i can only suggest the following homespun wisdom:

1. If you are a biblical preacher teach your congregation what biblical preaching is and how to train their preachers in it and let them train you! (and make sure you are actively training others)
2. If you are an academic adopt a different preacher each year, be nice to them and encourage them in their preaching of scripture.
3. If you are a frustrated congregant pray for your pastor and talk to him or her gently but matter of factly about what is missing from the sermons.

Let me know what you think, and how you get on :-)

Paul’s Unconventional Sexual Ethic

This paper is what I presented at the recent Laidlaw-Carey/Otago sponsored colloquium on theological interpretation.  If you've already read my thesis, there is nothing new here, but if you haven't will give you a skeletal version of my last chapter.  Enjoy!

The Problem

In warning the Corinthians against πορνεα, sexual immorality, Paul does not appeal to OT law or the ruling of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:20, 29)[1]  instead he gives a stricter indictment against prostitution than anything found in the OT.[2] David Horrell argues that Paul’s argument here is based on the “presumption” that sex with a prostitute is illicit, while sex with a spouse, believing or not, is permitted.  He claims that, “while Paul uses arguments about holiness and bodily union with Christ to support and promote his sexual ethics, the substantive ethical convictions themselves are not derived from these arguments but are already assumed.”[3] 

In Horrell’s reading Paul is using the theological indicative only to support a previously assumed moral imperative.[4]   The ethical motivation is theological but the ethical content is merely conventional.    On the other hand for Karl Barth, in 1 Cor 6:18, “Paul is speaking of a sin of which only the Christian is really capable.”[5]  That is, not only is the ethic not conventional, but even the sin is not conventional!  Horrell and Barth cannot both be right.

My argument then is this

There were both Jewish and pagan objections to the use of prostitutes, but Paul’s argument does not resemble those nor show any concern in whatever ways prostitution might have been generally viewed as immoral.  Although 1 Cor 6:12 does read in many ways like a general argument from benefit and permission, using the language of similar pagan arguments,[6] Paul expands those principles in vs13-20 in a way that could only apply to the Christian.  He does not describe social, moral, or material consequences, norms, or ideals.  Instead the command to flee πορνεία is located solely in the Christian’s relationship to God through Christ in the Spirit. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

The so-called "Slogans" of 1 Corinthians: 6:12: 1 Cor 6:12

1 Cor 6:12, A Corinthian slogan or Paul’s own words?

(12) Πάντα μοι ἔξεστιν ἀλλʼ οὐ πάντα συμφέρει· πάντα μοι ἔξεστιν ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἐγὼ ἐξουσιασθήσομαι ὑπό τινος.

(12) Everything is permitted to me, but not everything is for the good. Everything is permitted to me, but I will not be ruled by anything. 

The consensus view is that the phrase "everything is permitted to me" is a citation of a Corinthian slogan.  Some translators go even further than merely putting the phrase in inverted commas and insert “you say” or words to that effect into the text.[1]  Brian Dodd traces this tradition back to Johannes Weiss and finds Weiss’ argument, based on what Paul didn’t write rather than on what he did, unconvincing, given the frequency with which Paul does signal his citations.[2]   Fitzmyer takes exception to Dodd’s thesis but does not tackle the issue of Paul’s failure to indicate a citation.  For Fitzmyer the statement cannot be Paul’s own words because it is “proverbial” and because of the following ἀλλʼ οὐ(κ) which “pits Paul’s reaction over against the saying.”[3]  Fee, writing too early to interact with Dodd, nonetheless follows a similar line of reasoning to Fitzmyer in arguing for a slogan.  For Fee, “[Paul] qualifies [the slogan] so sharply as to negate it.”[4]

Nevertheless, there is no reason why ἀλλʼ οὐκ should be considered to have this extreme negating effect.  The adversative particle ἀλλά functions to contrast two clauses,[5] but what is the effect of this particle when combined with the negative οὐκ?  Paul has twice used this same construction earlier in 1 Corinthians without any suggestion that ἀλλʼ οὐκ serves to negate the prior clause: 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Evangelicals Mourn Stott

John Stott has gone on to glory, well deserved.  He will be missed by an evangelicalism that is increasingly polarised, fractured and antagonistic as an irenic, gracious and trustworthy voice.

Other reflections include

Marc Cortez:  his emphasis on the centrality of Jesus Christ and his atoning life, death, and resurrection had the greatest impact on me.

Michael Gorman: I came to admire John Stott early on for his deep commitment to both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, an admiration that has become a constitutive part of my own spiritual and theological personality.

Tim Bulkely: Through scholarships, a library fund and the preaching initiatives John Stott will continue to impact wider and wider circles of humanity.

[Update] Paul Windsor shares his top ten Stott books with notes on how they have influenced him

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Abstract for TI Colloquium

I am presenting a paper at a colloquium on theological interpretation this month. I put myself in for this last year, knowing full well that I would regret it but having committed to do it have to do something.  This should hopefully be a reworking of the last chapter of my MTh thesis but I have been away from the material so long I'm worried even I'm not going to be convinced by my arguments!  I'm going to get started on the paper in the next few days, be keen to hear any initial reaction or questions to the abstract.  This will be my first proper presentation at an academic colloquium and there are some fairly heavy weight contributors so it will be inspiring and perhaps intimidating.  It will hopefully also result in a book so will be a first publication for me so I will try not to screw it up!

Paul’s Unconventional Sexual Ethics: A Theological Reading of 1 Cor 6:12-20


David Horrell argues that Paul’s argument in 1 Cor 6:12 – 7:16 is based on the “presumption” that sex with a prostitute is illicit, while sex with a spouse, believing or not, is permitted.  He claims that, “while Paul uses arguments about holiness and bodily union with Christ to support and promote his sexual ethics, the substantive ethical convictions themselves are not derived from these arguments but are already assumed.”  Likewise, Bernard Lategan, in a study on Paul’s ethics in Galatians, comes to a similar conclusion: that the content of Paul’s ethics is merely conventional but that “Paul develops a new understanding of what ethical responsibility entails – an understanding that flows directly from his theological assessment of the new existence in faith.”  Thus for Horrell and Lategan Paul’s motivation and responsibility for ethical behaviour may be transformed by his theology, but the actual ethics are both “universal” and “conventional.”  In opposition to this view, this paper will give initial consideration to what a conventional 1st century ethic of prostitution might be, with particular reference to Josephus and Dio Chrysostom.  Paul’s own ethic will then be explored revealing both a radical contrast to the conventional ethics of his contemporaries and a robustly theological ethic constructed from the perspectives of God, Christ, and the Spirit.  Finally it will be argued that, in this instance, a theological reading of the text has served as a valuable corrective to the readings produced by the social science methodology of Horrell and others.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The so-called "Slogans" of 1 Corinthians: Introduction

I will begin our discussion of slogans in 1 Corinthians by looking at 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 and revisiting some of my work from my MTh thesis.  Then I plan to address every every possible instance of Corinthian slogans in 1 Corinthians paying attention to the resulting exegetical and theological ramifications of the argument.  Let me know what you think, :-)

Jay Smith defines a Corinthian slogan as,

[A] motto (or similar expression that captures the spirit, purpose, or guiding principles) of a particular group or point of view at Corinth, or at least a motto that Paul was using to represent their position or attitudes.[1]

Smith rightly warns that there is a risk in not attributing slogans, that the interpreter might mistake the Corinthians’ words for Paul’s.[2]  What also needs to be acknowledged is the risk of mistaking Paul’s words for the Corinthians’.   Although there is a range of nuances to the way such slogans might be derived and operate the basic question is whether or not those phrases identified as slogans should be read as Paul’s words or the Corinthians’; that is, should we understand that Paul is distancing himself from the assertions made in the slogan or do we distort Paul’s meaning by using quotation marks to signal a slogan? 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Blog renewal

I realise Xenos has been a bit flat this year, in fact it lost its way a while ago when I made my bid to enter the Biblioblog top 50 relying on sheer volume of posts to drag me into the ranks.  It is now time for Xenos to shake off its chequered past, to lose its pretensions of grandeur and to embrace its humble blogness.  Gone are the manifesto and overtly pious tag line, the blog roll is much reduced, and I hope this trimming will result in a sleeker more efficent blogging experience for us all.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Preaching Under Fire

Some looney is discussing preaching and spiritual warfare over at Kiwimade Preaching.  Go over there and tell him what you think. ;-)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

God and Dog

This is really beautifully simple, fun and profound.  thanks to David McLeod-Jones in the NZ Baptist Magazine for pointing this out.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Greg Laurie Harvest Auckland 25th June 2011: A Review

OK, I have a feeling that getting into this is going to cop me similar flack to what I got from daring to critique Charles Stanley many moons ago.  And if it does that is OK but if you are going to flip out on me, at least do me a favour and read what I actually write!

The church I am part of took two buses to the Vector Arena on the weekend to attend Greg Laurie: Auckland Harvest.  I had initially been resistant to getting involved, but at an initial interest meeting they sold it to me on the basis of their own financial commitment (the harvest guys were putting in plenty of their own cash), the commitment to follow up (they clearly put a lot of effort into turning converts into disciples), and to church unity (they laid the whole thing about churches working togther on thick).  I also saw this as a good opportunity of the sort that we can't usually offer our people for evangelism, inviting people to a church event is one thing but free tickets to the Vector Arena is another.

The first item of the evening was a film trailer of Greg Laurie's life.  I began to get a sinking feeling.  This was one of the things I was afraid of, celebrity hype.  Sure enough this trailer left us in no doubt that Greg was a really great guy, great enough that they'd already made a film about him and he wasn't even dead yet.

Then the Katinas came on, the first of four bands.  They were great, their second song in particular was actually truly uplifting, they were joyful and funky.  After three songs they were off.  

Now I wasn't taking notes so I may get the order of things wrong, but one of the things we were told was that no particlar auckland church was going to get highlighted at this event so you can imagine my dissapointment when both Life Church and C3 Church were singled out by having their pastors on stage to pray and to get a shout out to their congregations.  Maybe these churches had done more for the event, they probably had but I felt this was a let down, there were many other churches who had put a lot of work in to this event proportional to their size and I felt this contradicted what we had been assured of earlier.

Then came Phil Joel, he is a Kiwi artist and did a great rendition of the national anthem, although didn't get the words on the screen and didn't do it in Maori, but it was a a good moment anyway. After Phil we had three songs from Martin Smith of Delerious fame, who cracked me up by summoning up a mosh pit in the space that was supposed to be for all the converts to come forward to later.  But he is a seasoned performer and lovely nutty charismatic.  He reminded me of my younger days going to Delirious concerts in Blighty.  Then we had Jeremy Camp who only arrived due to miraculous ciircumstances but didn't go into detail about what they were, only that he only just got here.  Jeremy Camp has big muscles, I say that because I found it very distracting every time he lifted his arms in praise his pendulous triceps would hang off his arms and it made me wonder how much time he spent weight lifting.  He has a great voice and I realised I knew most of his songs from the radio.  He finished with a song about taking up the cross and counting the cost - I thought that was interesting because that was the exact opposite of the message I was expecting to get from Greg.

Greg's talk came next.  He had been hyped up so much "great communicator", "really knows how to connect with kiwis" that I was expecting something super flash.  Really, he was nothing of the sort, very much in the tradition of Billy Graham his message was very simple and not at all flash.  In fact his jokes and anecdotes, with which he liberally peppered his talk were all deeply old and tried and true preachers jokes, like the one about the burglar and the parrot who says "Jesus is watching you."  His relating to kiwis was pretty simple too, he made one joke about the different words Americans and Kiwis have for things, one joke about sheep and one reference to earthquakes.  It is hardly probing deep into our national psyche, but it was enough becaue people did love it.  No one seemed to mind that he used the word "irregardless" or referred to "CS Lewis the author of the Narnia Movies" or still insists on calling evangelistic events "crusades" (all things that would destroy your credibility in my eyes if I were a seeker).

He was preaching on John 3 and Nicodemus' encouter with Jesus.  Point 1. Nicodemus was rich and religious, he should have been happy but he wasn't - people who are rich are not happy. 2. Nicodemas came to Jesus by night because he was afriad of what his friends might think - don't let peer pressure put you off following Jesus (this was where the sheep joke came, I'm sure you can work it out). 3. Jesus told Nicodemas he had to be born again - everyone wants to be transformed but only Jesus can give us the transformation we really want.  I actually found the talk quite hard to follow, although the illustrations and things were simple all the jokes and anecdotes made it hard to keep track of the point he was making and the scripture was all but lost.  then without passing go he went straight to the "roman road"  "here is how you get saved" type of thing and told everyone to do it now cos they might die and then the Katinas came back and played this really nice altar call song and like 15% of the arena crowd (10,000) came forward to commit or recommit themselves to Christ.

It was quite impressive, although they couldn't actually cope with the number that went forward and the same thing happened the next night which meant that a number of people who tried to go forward wre not counselled and had that moment of commitment spoiled by being turned away by a steward.  Not having a contingency for that level of resonse and not being flexible enough to at least be ready the next night for it to happen again was another dissapointment.

On balance though, it was a good night. the people who came with me were encouraged and many were moved.  As an evangelism tool it did seem to move a number of people who have been sitting on the fence to step up and commit to Christ.  However I don't feel the gospel was well explained or that anyone was allowed to obey the call of Jeremy Camp (and Jesus) to count the cost.  It has also been valuable for me to discover some of those in our church with a heart for evangelism.  In the future though I would rather put our efforts into something local and less celebrity driven.

Let me know what you think.

Monday, June 20, 2011

brick-a-brack 20/06/11

Ramachandra gets stuck into the IMF

We have been intimidated for far too long by the pseudo-scientific pronouncements of economists and the lies of politicians. Banking is not so complex that we cannot understand how we are being conned.  Where are the Christians in economics and finance who dare to think “outside the box” and write the kind of books that Susan George writes, explaining to “ordinary” folk how not to be hood-winked by the games the rich play?

Steve ponders whether he is a skeptic or a faith blogger

I know that both the Defenders and the Disillusioned/Deconverted would consider me and the growing numbers of people like me to be living in an untenable state of cognitive dissonance. They would say I am the unreasonable, illusioned defender, denying the fruits of the doubts and disbelief I have uncovered and at times trumpeted.

John Byron points to some useful resources for Bible background

Geoff New levels an indictment against multimedia preaching

Michael Patton struggles with depression as a preacher

Rachel Held Evans champions the church of the uncool


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sexy Church?

Ok I wouldn't normally click on any fb video with the word "sexy" in the title but this seemed like a genuinely interesting social experiment. It was eye-opening but not entirely surprising.

Documentary : Sexy Girls Have It Easy from Bright Hand Pictures on Vimeo.

Now I have not the remotest hope that anything I could do or say could change the fact that this is how our society works, and as a guy with two young daughters already obsessed with disney princesses I worry about how these social realities will affect and form my girls and their self understanding . . . whether they grow up to be "hot" or not. My question is how this social reality has affected the church? And I don't think it is just girls either, look around you at the people who are celebrated and encouraged at your fellowship, are many ugly, are many poorly dressed, or does God seem to only call the hip and good looking?

The truth is that those who do not fit the outside world's criteria of attractiveness will not be found to fit the church's implicit criteria of what will work and who God can use. I think of 1 Cor 1:28 and I think of Isaiah 53:1-3 and I have to wonder if good looking churches have any power to reach our broken world at all, or if they are merely hostage to the same lies.

What do you think?

Monday, May 23, 2011

JK Rowling on Failure and Imagination

Continuing my irregular series on good preachers who are not preachers . . .

This is well worth a listen not just for the message but also for the insight into the life of one of the few modern authors who is truly a household name.

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

Hat tip to Robyn and Sarah on FB!

Why Are Stupid Christians News?

Now I know the media has a general bias against Christians, fair enough, but there is something sinister about the desire to publicise every stupid Christian group they can find.  This month we had the idiots from California and not long before it was the idiots from Florida.  Now I have no desire to defend such stupidity but why should it be international news?  Do they say of every madman, murderer and fraudster in the news who isn't a Christian, "and of course this man never went to church" as if that has anything to do with his madness?  Why then does peoples' idiocy, which would otherwise not be newsworthy, suddenly becomes worthy of international attention because they are a "pastor" in the USA?


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bill Maher on Christian Violence

There is so much going on in this one that I don't know where to begin.  As atheist rants go this is a pretty good sermon.  BTW for those of you who read this blog with your kids, some foul language follows if you press play.  Let me know what you think. (HT to TB on FB)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Resonant Reading

. . . we must of course guard agains over-exegesis.  Under-exegesis, though, is also risky, sometimes even more so .  Historical exegesis is not simply a matter of laying out the lexicographical meanings of words and sentences.  It involves exploring the resonances those words and sentences would have had in their contexts.  Like anthropologists learning a language and culture simultaneously, we have to be prepared to hear more in a word or phrase than could be caught by a dictionary equivalent.  A small saying can function like a spyglass through which one can glimpse a large and turbulent world.  To object to this exercise, whether through pedantry or positivism, is like protesting that houses, fields and ships cannot be contained within the physical body of a telescope.
From NT Wright, JVG, xvii

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Blowing in the wind: A parable

Bob Dylan recently came to NZ and put on a show, many of his oldest fans turned up to hear what they hoped would be a trip down memory lane, like listening to their old vinyl but with the added thrill of the man himself sitting there.  Instead they were shocked by the terrible racket being produced and dissapointed not to recognise more than a tiny handful of songs.  In disgust many fans walked out. 

Others though had followed Dylan's career a bit more closely and knew that he wasn't still rehearsing karaoke versions of his 60's material, some of them were still dissapointed with the performance, but others thrilled to find themselves in the presence of musical genius.

People who expect musicians to remain solidly stuck in the past, don't buy their later records but then complain when they don't know any songs at the concert strike me as being hopeless.  They are not fans of the musician at all but instead only fans of a recording, perhaps one that is tied to their youth or a different era, they weren't paying homage to Dylan, they were paying homage to their own nostalgia.  Nothing wrong with that I suppose, but how churlish to complain that Dylan had moved on without them, that he had a life of his own and hadn't stayed stuck in their past.

Like the wind, he had moved on.  "So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."  (John 3:8) 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

brick-a-brack 05/10/11 Love Wins Special Edition

It is probably pretty obvious that I haven't had much time this year for reading or writing blogs, one day I'll tell you all about it.  But I really do appreciate you keeping me in your feedreaders, and promise (foolishly) that one day it will all be worth it . . . until then I give thanks for the creativity of others . . .
like Alex Baker . . .

. . . and Angus Wordsworth Duncan

. . . not to mention John Birch

And if you haven't yet read enough reviews of Love Wins you might like to check out my friend Rhett's review.  And BTW I have no opinion on the matter but I do wear glasses and try not to be too dogmatic about the ultimate fate of rabid Bible thumping fascists. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Quote of the Day: Peterson on Pastors

"Impatience is the besetting sin of pastors . . . sometimes you've got to read 300 pages before something happens"

From the following video interview of Eugene Peterson, well worth a watch for a number of reasons.

Thanks to Matt who shared this video with a different quote of the day.  Definately worth sharing.

Also a choice moment, when the interviewer asks how he could have turned down a chance to hang out with Bono in order to keep working on The Message Eugene replies, "Dean, it was Isaiah!"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

brick-a-brack 23/03/11

Management 1.0 was built to encourage reliability, predictability, discipline, alignment and control. These will always be important organizational virtues, but in most industries, getting better at these things won’t yield much of an upside.  That’s why our management systems need to be re-engineered around the goals of adaptability, innovation, engagement and accountability—which brings us back to the issue of leadership.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Ancient Greek Poetry?

John Hobbins of Ancient Hebrew Poetry takes a break from Hebrew to give us a schooling in translating the NT.
Is it hard to translate the gospel of John? Not really. Its diction in the original is clean and terse. The author relies on a bundle of bright oppositions expressed through cascades of words that repeat. A faithful translator does well to mirror such in translation. Why do so many modern translations take away from the text by adding to it? Why set aside repetends and parallelisms in the source text if they can be reproduced? It boggles the mind.
Interesting how the comments completely ingnore the issue of translation and get stuck into arguing about  universalism and evangelicalism, go figure.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Church is just a Funeral Society

Thanks to Pam for pointing out this excellent article from a Lutheran perspective on funeral societies, missional church, Bonhoeffer, and death. Some excerts below, you really need to read the whole thing though.

For centuries, Christian community, organized as a funeral society of a higher order, has played on the natural fear of mortality, even hyped that fear as a motive for Christian life “so that we can go to heaven when we die.” That was the “attraction.” But with humankind’s coming of age, the jig is up. Religion cannot prey on human weakness this way any longer. . .

If we are to continue in Christianity in this religionless new age, then, we are going to have reconceive our relationship to death and understand it once again as the Pauline power that overwhelms and corrupts the creation, which in turn waits in eager longing for the redemption of our bodies in the revelation of the glorious liberty of the children of God. . .

The handful of strident, fire-and-brimstone religionists who sense this breach from our religious past and loudly still try to terrorize people into heaven above only reinforces the vast majority in their secularism. Easy, indeed, when the alternative to dying naturally is to live life now by flattering a divine Egotist who eternally tortures those who don’t pay the bribe of living “religiously.” . . .
I just wish I had the time to respond to such a stimulating article, I'll be printing it out and chewing on it some more anyway. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Olsen Defines Fundamentalism

Words are slippery characters, but I think Olsen's definition of fundamentalism as he applies it to other Christians is very helpful:
Today fundamentalism seems to be defined two ways: 1) by a certain ethos or attitude with regard to doctrinal differences, and 2) by the doctrine and practice of “biblical separation” which really means “secondary separation.” First, fundamentalism appears whenever Christians elevate what have usually been considered secondary doctrinal matters to the status of litmus tests of authentic Christian faith; second, it appears whenever Christians refuse to have Christian fellowship with those who they believe are tainted by secularism or liberalism.

From this comment on this post.

Narrative Context and Character Formation

Thanks to David J on Facebook!  From here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Worship Wars in The Cafeteria of Life

Thanks to DP for pointing to this provocative "rant from a loser in the worship wars", well worth a read and uncannily appropriate given the Sacred Sandwich cartooon for today:

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why Evolution Is Bad For Humanity

Thanks to Phil on Facebook, dedicated to Jim West.
"Time is the only thing between cats and opposable thumbs . . . "

Monday, February 28, 2011

"the sermon hangs in mid-air like the pungent remains of a flatulent child"

That is possibly the most graphically descriptive line of any commentary on preaching I have ever read, well done Myk, may the same never be said of your preaching!  :-)

P.S. Perhpas you want to feed your kids a few less raisins?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake Liturgy

I have wanted to blog meaningfully about the earthquake, but found myself inadequate, preparing for this Sunday's service has been hard enough, but unlike a blog post I have no choice about doing that. Three posts about the earthquake that I believe are meaningful and am not ashamed to be leaning on in my own preparation for tomorrow:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake: Worse This Time

Half a year after the last one Christchurch has been hit again.  This time there has been considerable loss of life, although again it is noticable how living in a developed country improves your chances in such events. Love and prayers to all in Christchurch.  Those who want to donate should go to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army.  Go here to see before and after pics of the city's cathedral.

A group of new pastors I'm in touch with have been discussing what we will preach on this Sunday in light of the event.  My texts for this Sunday,
  • 1 Kings 19:9-18 (for the children's talk)
  • Luke 13:1-9 (for the grown up's talk)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Three Tips for Church Leaders

Thanks again to Sarah on FB :-)
If the previous post got you down, here is some hope.  

Tamaki, Cultwatch and the Herald

Once again Brian Tamaki, New Zealand's highest profile and possible richest church leader is in the news.  This time it is a Herald editorial, blasting Cultwatch for categorising Brian Tamaki as a cultist because he has denied the bodily resurrection of Christ.  The writer of the editorial appears to be under the impression that this then places Tamaki in the same camp as Lloyd Geering and other liberalising theologians in their rejection of orthodox Christian doctrine in the name of embracing the fruits of secular modernity.  Said editor displays a complete failure to grasp that this is not "Bishop" Tamaki bowing to the reason of the modern age but his out of control ego propelling him to reinvent Christianity in a way that serves his own ends more efficiently.  I would, however, agree with the nameless Herald editor that Cultwatch has been a bit slow on this one, it is not doctinal unorthodoxy that makes a cult but the systematic manipulation of the vulnerable.  True followers of Jesus are good news for the poor, they don't use the poor to bankroll their next pruchase of a Lexus.  If a pastor has a personalised number plate it should read "here to serve," Tamaki's betrays his true heart:

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Arminian Creed(?)

This tongue in cheek creed comes from an hilarious order of service from a (otherwise unimaginative) calvinist website, (HT Justin)
“I believe in God who once was Almighty, but sovereignly chose not to be sovereign; and in Jesus, my personal Lord and Saviour, Who loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life, Who came into my heart when I asked him to, and is now seated at the right ventricle of my belief in Him, Who walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way, and tells me I am His own, Who shall come again with secrecy to rapture us out of here, Whose Kingdom shall last one thousand years; And in the Holy Ghost, who did some weird stuff at Pentecost, but doesn’t do much more anymore except speak secretly to the hearts of individual believers. And I believe in this local, independent, and powerless church, insofar as it is in line with my personal interpretation of the Bible and does stuff! like; in one believer’s baptism for the public proof of my decision for Christ; and in giving my personal testimony for soul winning. And I look for the identity of the Antichrist, and know that the Last Days are now upon us. Ay-men.”
Meanwhile John Hobbins calls us to a more excellent way out of the Arminian/Calvinist debate.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two posts on Mark's Gospel

Steve Douglas discusses equal opportunity salvation,
Neither the rich nor the poor are demonized, because the author understood a focus on class or status to be missing Jesus’ point.

And James McGrath has a hunch (AKA an essay) as to how the gospel story ended in Mark's mind if not on paper.

Two posts on worship

 pic from Sacred Sandwich

I am very excited about Marc's new series on lessons from the Dark Ages for church worship.

And Roger Olsen poses an interesting question about a perplexing correlation between different churches' worship styles and their theology.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Time To Lose All That God Talk

John has been wondering about a recent CofE move to change the baptismal liturgy to something a little more accessible to those illiterate oiks who have never read the Bible, know no Bible stories, and have the theological eduation of a bean sprout.  But the problem is more widespread, if we are going to appeal to the lowest common denominator of each and every gathering we should remember that there may be someone there who doesn't believe in God at all, even in the most watered down wishy washy new age way imaginable.

Because of this all church liturgy, sermons and songs should avoid things that someone in the room might not know about and should instead revolve around sports results, discussing the weather, and gentle exhortations to drive a little closer to the speed limit, recycle anything that isn't too much trouble, and be nice to people unless you are having a bad day.  At all costs no sense of curiosity, wonder, challenge, or discovery should be risked otherwise someone might not feel as safe at church as they do in their own living room wearing nothing but their underpants and eating day old chips while watching reruns of Postman Pat.

God Changes The Past All The Time

Roger Olsen has an interesting post wondering why calvinists don't think it limits God if he cannot change the past.  But both Olsen and his calvinist sparring partners are wrong, God changes the past all the time, it is just no one ever notices because he changes our memories too! 

However, there are some tell tale signs that this goes on more than we realise.  For example, thousands of years ago when Moses wrote Genesis the world had only taken 6 days to make, but today if you examine the planet and its surrounding environs you can see it took around 40 Billion years to make.  Or if you read ancient documents you would see that the Sun used to rise up in the sky and go down at night, but today it is Earth which rolls around the Sun.  The only possible explanation is that what used to be really was then, but then it got changed retrospectively and now we are living with a new version of the past.  QED.

Of course the nice thing about having a changeable past is that when we argue about what really happened back then, we can both be right!  And as far as I remember I never lent you that $20.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Ruthless Monk Discovers Buffy

She does, and she likes it, read her theological review of watching 7 seasons of Buffy here.  She starts like this,
It's all Netflix's fault. Since both Criminal Minds and Burn Notice were on hiatus a few months ago,  I decided to give Buffy the Vampire Slayer a try. I ended up spending two months of my life obsessively watching the entire 7 seasons of what I now consider to be one of the most insightful and well-written shows ever made.  Anyone who can get past the creepy monsters, (and there were a few that even made me hide my eyes) and commit to reliving high school with the kids from Sunnydale, will be rewarded with an epic modern-day parable about good vs. evil, sacrifice, and redemption. It's also really, really funny.

Why I Love Old People

You never know what they might do.  All those years of experience and frustration can come out in the most interesting ways.  This video shows an English grandmother bashing the daylights out of a gang of six jewlery store robbers while everyone else hides out the way. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Cutting Edge of the Church

A year or so ago one of NZ's top surgeons came to speak at Carey Baptist College.  A staunch and thoughtful Christian, he was asked by the interviewer at one stage, "what is it that future church leaders in this room can do to support people like you in their work?"  He looked genuinely shocked by the question, "I have always felt that pastors were far more intereted in how I could support their ministry than in helping me in mine." 

I preached an experimental message yesterday evening on Eph 4:1-14.  It was a pretty simple message really, that Jesus has given apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers to the church to edify the church to do God's work in the world.  Or put another way, it is not the job of the church to support the ministry of the pastors, but the job of the pastors to support the ministry of the church.  It is not the minister, or the youth pastor, or whoever else happens to be on stage on a Sunday meeting that is the cutting edge of the church, it is everyone else, those who spend their days at work, in school, or making home in the neighbourhood. Beyond this basic attitudinal shift what can we do to reorient church away from the ministry of those upfront on Sunday towards the ministry of everyone's everyday lives?

Let me know what you think :-)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Jonathan Robinson on Educational Preaching

If you have been missing my posting, sorry about that moving house and starting a new pastoral role have rather limited my time for blogging (not to mention the phone company messing up our internet connection), but over at Kiwi-Made Preaching you can see (and comment on!) a provactive and thoughful post by your's truly. Normal service at Xenos may or may not resume shortly. ;-)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

brick-a-brack 12/01/11

  • Think you are being persecuted? (From Alex)

  • This is more than a little whimsical, which of course makes it true art.  HT Doug Chaplin

  • And finally, thanks to Calum for sharing this but not sharing that,