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.