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quote of the day: Dickson on Scripture Abuse

The problem is: God's word does not quite put it that way, and attempts to argue otherwise usually involve stretching biblical passages beyond their plain meaning. I used to do it myself in both sermons and (I am embarrassed to say) in my first book. The motivation was honourable - I wanted more Christians to be more involved in the work of the gospel - but as with so many other issues, a worthy goal does not give me permission to handle the scripture poorly. We are involved in God's mission, and so we must allow his word to shape our part in it. The slogan "Every Christian an evangelist" has a noble purpose, but it is not a biblical way of speaking.
John Dickson, The Best Kept Secret of Christian Mission, p24

The Disconnected Church

Congratulations to Dr. Mike Crudge on the successful completion of his PhD in communications on the disconnect between the perception of the church in society and the perception of the church in the church!

Go here to read the abstract  (Mike's blog)
Go here to read the thesis

The research is from New Zealand but I'm sure would be applicable to other western countries as well.

Fighting for . . . ?

There is a sad tendency for Christianity to become associated with belligerence and intolerance and to be know for fighting over issues which seem only loosely connected to the gospel. Perhaps this is inevitable when we insist on a morality which goes against the flow of mainstream society. But what if we could be known for fighting for other things too, like

an end to slavery
the dignity and worth of every human life
or an end to unjust and artificial systems of debt and credit

those three are just by way of example, but my fear is that it is easier to fight about things than for things. That we can easily spend a great deal of time and energy fighting about the correct view of marriage or something else, all the while the world goes to hell in a handbasket because God's servants have stopped doing their job in order to quarrel.

It is not that I don't think that these arguments are not important - they certainly are, but my observation has been that we find we have plenty of e…

Hermeneutics and Same Sex Marriage

There are (I think) three basic hermeneutic approaches for those who want to align a pro-same sex marriage view with scripture. And, let's be fair, they may have even arrived at these views from scripture through applying these hermeneutics.

The first is the no comment hermeneutic. It says "the Bible does not address modern homosexuality, i.e. a consensual loving monogamous relationship between equal adult parties." This is true and should be recognised as a reason for caution by both sides of the debate in how scripture is applied to contemporary categories. OTOH the implication cannot be, but often is, that therefore the Bible doesn't speak to this issue through its general teaching on sexual ethics. This is because (Christian) biblical ethics, properly understood, is not a list of doos-and-don'ts and then when those doos-and-don'ts fail to cover a situation we have to make it up. Biblical ethics give us an ideal, a goal, they are teleological more than deo…

quote of the day: Marshall on criticism

Honesty compels me to admit that there are times when exactly the wrong person at exactly the wrong time with exactly the wrong motives has nevertheless said exactly the right thing.
Tom Marshall, Understanding Leadership, 1991, p97
An important principle, not to discount what can be valuable criticism just because it's source is suspect, even a broken clock is right twice a day, provided it has stopped and is analogue not digital. (cartoon from here)

Same Sex Marriage and Baptist Ecclesiology

My friend and fellow worker in the Lord's vineyards of western central Auckland, Rhett, has a couple of good posts first before last weeks national assembly of the Baptist Union of New Zealand and then one reflecting afterwards. I like and respect Rhett, I'm grateful for his provocative posts as they help me formulate my own thoughts for coming discussions with my own church and the union.

Like Rhett, I do consider the biblical teaching on marriage being between a man and a woman and the wrongness of homosexual behaviour to be clear.

However, his posts alert us to some issues not around sexual ethics but how we fellowship with other believers who do not hold to the same sexual ethics we do. In Rhett's first post he compares the issue of same sex marriage to that of infant baptism. He suggests if a church changed their stance on infant baptism the honest thing to do would be to stop pretending they were baptists. I would agree with that. However, I do not see it as being an…

brick a brack 071013

Hi long suffering and much neglected blog fans, a little brick a brack to warm your cockles . . .

Candida Moss has been stirring up trouble, taking on O'Reilly (HT Robert Myle's nu blog) to argue that Jesus was an anachronistic socialist. (particularly entertaining is O'Reilly the writer of history books not knowing what anachronistic is! ;-))



but also writing revisionist rubbish about Christian martyrdom of which Clayton Croy writes a stinging review.

While conservative Christian rhetoric is sometimes guilty of excesses, this book swings
hard in the opposite direction, revising history and denying much of the evidence for
early Christian persecution. Modern ideology drives Moss’s thesis more than ancient
testimony, and the result is a distortion of history more severe than the caricature she
wants to expose. Ouch!

I really enjoyed this article on the evolution of humans as "hot day meat chasers"
But what most sets us apart as runners is that we’re really co…

Augustine in the NZ bush

This film was based around a poem St Augustine wrote about being so consumed by the world that we loose sight of everything Godly around us. Directors - Aaron Long + Gustavo Acero Cinematographer - Gustavo Acero Actor and VO - Aaron Long Audio Engineer - Luke Schroder Score - La Liberte - Where the Wind Carries Script - St Augustine - Ever Ancient, Ever New

Summer Tanning Advice

Well this is the wrong time of the year for us antipodeans but due to the hole in the ozone we need this advice year round.


It was doing the rounds on facebook, no idea who the creator is, happy to be informed so I can attribute.

Freedom from wages, freedom to build something beautiful

When I saw this fascinating video


it made me think of this Biblical instruction
Luke 10:1-9 (NIV)10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. 5 “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.
8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

A challenging juxtaposition - d…

Brunner on praying as sinners

In his sermon on Luke 18:9-14, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Brunner writes

Does this imply that we are continually to come before God with this prayer on our lips: "God , be merciful to me a sinner"? Yes , this is implied. Even more. Only in this humility do we actually stand before God in prayer. You see to stand before God is a great mystery. It is not enough to say the words of prayer. We stand before God at the very moment when the thought strikes us: I am a sinner; God have mercy on me! And as soon as this thought, this insight, vanishes from our hearts, do we vanish from the presence of God, even though we may go on praying for hours. Emil Brunner, Sowing and Reaping, Epworth 1964, p23
To which I'd add that the Lord's prayer commits us to our position as sinners before God every time we pray "forgive us our sins."

Tozer on Books

I thought this Tozer quote was worth sharing, a challenge for us bookish types. :-)
Beware the common habit of putting confidence in books, as such. It takes a determined effort of mind to break the free from the error of of making books and teachers the ends in themselves. The worst thing a book can do for a Christian is to leave him with the impression that he has received from it anything really good; the best it can do is to point the way to the good he is seeking. The function of a good book is to stand like a signpost directing the reader to the Truth and the Life. That book serves best after it is forgotten, after the traveler has arrived safely at his desired haven. The work of a good book is to incite the reader to moral action, to turn his eyes towards God and to urge him forward. Beyond that it cannot go. AW Tozer, The Divine Conquest, p14-15 Too harsh, or right on the money?

Habets on Theosis and CS Lewis

Enjoy! and let me know what you think . . .


What if?

I've been thinking about evangelism a lot since becoming a pastor again. My biggest struggle is the way we present "the gospel" to people. We have such an individualistic approach, and most evangelistic resources reinforce this. Central to almost all evangelism tools I have seen is a focus on the individual's sinfulness - most especially seen through a ludicrously comprehensive and airtight application of the 10 commandments (will I really go to hell for not keeping the Sabbath holy?). Firstly that hardly sets us up to understand a God of grace, but secondly it makes sin a problem of petty nit picking. What if instead of starting with all the little things that you have done wrong (that mean a 100% pure God will throw you into hell even though he loves you really) we started with that fact that our world desperately needs a saviour. What if instead of starting with the little things I have done we start with human trafficking, globalised greed and injustice, violence…

Pastors: Making it up as you go along

Last year I read through Eugene Peterson's book The Pastor in about two days. It was a really good read and I read it too fast. But as I went I took notes of places I would revisit. Which I intend to do over a series of blog posts this year. It is a very worthwhile book, especially for pastors, but probably for others as well. The only complaint is that Peterson is an extraordinarily talented individual and I think some of the more outrageous things he did very successfully are probably beyond the reach of many of us mere mortals. Sometimes you think, that is fine for your Eugene, but I am not Eugene Peterson and my congregation/body/family/brain would not let me get away with that!

The first quote that really struck me was this


The vocation of pastor has been replaced by the strategies of religious entrepreneurs with business plans. Any kind of continuity with pastors in times past is virtually non-existent. We are a generation that feels as if it is having to start out from scr…

Concluding that Paul is Sarcastic

Mystic or Sarcastic? Visions and Revelations in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Part 7

Having made the switch, and admitted that if he boasted in visions he would do so truthfully (implying that the SA were not being truthful) he then describes the thorn in his flesh necessitated by the visions he has not shared and a subsequent revelation of Christ’s power and grace. It is this revelation of Christ's power made perfect in Paul's own bodily weakness that resonates well with the somatic emphasis of the earlier letter to the Corinthians. It is in Paul's body that Christ is glorified and experienced, even and especially in bodily weakness, and it is in suffering for the gospel that Paul's apostolic credentials are asserted. This final spiritual insight contrasts dramatically with the meaningless and vague vision of vs1-4, here is a message of grace that Paul can share, and has in fact been providing inspiration to Christians for the last 2000 year or so.

Summary of suggested readin…

2 Cor 12:5-7: The Switch

Mystic or Sarcastic? Visions and Revelations in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Part 6

The sticking point for many scholars with the idea that 12:1-4 is not Paul's own vision, including the ones I have run this idea past, has been vs5-7 where Paul is clearly talking about himself. However, as we've already noted, attributing the previous vision to Paul is not without its problems because Paul once again distances himself from the vision account, which he had already done so by his unusual (unique in extant literature) use of the third person.






vs 5a "on behalf of such a man I will boast" i.e. I will ‘boast’ about a man like that [and I just have]
 v5b "but on my own behalf I will not boast except of my own weaknesses" - once again denying that he would boast about himself in such a way, is this deception, sarcasm or the truth? Instead he asserts that he will  only boast about his own weaknesses.
Then in vs6 he admits he could boast about himself because he has h…

Google Reader Dies and the Little Fishes Cry

I know I am late to the party on the one. I am not the most faithful blogger these days as three kids and a more than full-time job mean i just can't take the time I used to to follow and write blogs. But that is OK because Google Reader reads all the blogs for me So imagine my surprise when for the first time in ages i log into reader only to find out it is being taken away from me. Now it is hardly the end of the world, there are other blog reading sites and life will go on, but it is a shock and as I do a quick trawl to see what other people are saying about it two things stick out

1. I use a lot of google stuff, but if they can retire something anytime they want whether or not I am still using it, do I still want to. Google drive, mail and blogger are all an essential part of my internet life but can I rely on them to not get unplugged sometime regardless of the convenience to myself. After all, I do not pay for these things, Google provides all the coding and storage space fo…

Theology Essay Title Generator

This little beauty is doing the rounds on facebook at the moment, unattributed but possible by someone called Rich Wyld? Either way, sure to save some students a lot of time and brain racking!

Theology in the Context of World Christianity: A Book Review

Theology in the Context of World Christianity:  how the global church is influencing the way we think about and discuss theology Timothy C. Tennent Zondervan 2007
Best quote so far:
Why do theological students in the west continue to spend countless hours learning about the writings of a few well-known, now deceased, German theologians whose global devotees are actually quite small, yet completely ignore over one billion living, breathing Muslims who represent one of the most formidable challenges to the Christian gospel today? This is an excellent book. I say that only being 3 chapters in, but each chapter is so interesting I intend to give them a blog post each. Mainly because I need space to disagree. It is rare to find a book that though I frequently disagree with the conclusions because the method and question posing is so good and the subject so interesting I enjoy it all the same. It is written as a text book, but does not take liberties with the captive audience that textbo…

Should Christians be Vegetarians?

Many of you may never have considered this topic but for others it is a source of sleep deprivation. Here is a quick sketch of the issues.



1. Meat eating starts in the Biblical story in Genesis 9:3 as part of the Noahic Covenant. So while all descendants of Noah (that probably includes you) have been given birds, land animals and fish to eat by God we are also aware that in our prelapsarian state and even some time after humanity was vegetarian.

2. Moving from a theology from above to one from below we would never suggest that lions or eagles or sharks are wrong to eat their prey and we surely as creatures just fit into that food chain as well as apex predators (which would make mosquitoes super-apex predators!)



3. Fundamental to the new covenant is the removal of restrictions on foods that previously served as boundaries of ethno-religious communities and the replacement with the sanctifying action of thankgiving or "saying grace" (1 Tim 4:4). So we must be very hesitant t…

Would Paul Mock?

Mystic or Sarcastic? Visions and Revelations in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Part 5

So is it really possible that Paul, as I have argued, is mocking an opponent rather than recounting his own vision? Even scholars who consider this to be Paul's own vision recognise there is some humour at work here. e.g. “By his faintly humorous tone he is ridiculing his opponents’ attempts to achieve acceptance in Corinth by claims to paranormal experience” (Barnett, NICNT, p562).

But would such mockery be understood by Paul's audience? “For every poet who sought to entertain audiences with sober and earnest perspectives on the world, it seems that there was always another just as happy to ridicule or ironize traditional pieties, or to test the limits of decorum, all in the service of drawing laughter from an audience. Such poets acheived their comic gaols through a variety of methods . . . but one of the most pervasive an enduring practices . . . was to compose poetry that mocked, abused, or othe…

Paul's Vision?

Mystic or Sarcastic? Visions and Revelations in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Part 4
We arrive now at Paul's recounting of the vision, which is accomplished in a few short verses, 2 Cor 12:2-4. "Due to it's brevity the text is a rather unusual representative of the "heavenly travel" genre." (Okland, p96) It fits the rhetorical form of Aretalogy, a tribute to great man or deity, a form which could also lend itself equally well to ironic mockery.

3rd Person

Paul starts the account of the vision by moving into the third person and introducing a "man in Christ" whom he knew fourteen years ago, or who had a vision fourteen years ago. The scholarly consensus is that Paul switches to the third person in order to talk about himself. There is no consensus as to why he did this. Perhaps it was out of humility or a desire to distance himself from the grandeur of the vision. Bultmann suggests that "Paul's responsible "I" did not participate [in th…

Is that really necessary?

Mystic or Sarcastic? Visions and Revelations in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Part 3
Paul introduces his vision narrative by writing
It is necessary to boast; nothing is to be gained by it,
but I will go on to visions and revelations in the Lord.
- 2 Cor 12:1 This introduction is peculiar. Paul who has in the past exhorted the Corinthians to do only what is beneficial (e.g. 1 Cor 6:12) is here doing something which he has prejudged as non-beneficial. Martin dubs this an "opening irony" (Word, p391) and that we should not take it literally as it is “most likely a polemical statement against his opponents, who have boasted to aid their own cause.” (p395). The problems with this verse do not end here. The expression "visions and revelations in the Lord" is also curious, Barnett suggests that "this expression is offhand, and perhaps dismissive in intent.” (NICNT, p558). Others have remarked that it sounds like a stock phrase or slogan of the false apostles. It certainly…

Boasting and Roasting

Mystic or Sarcastic? Visions and Revelations in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Part 2
The visions and revelations passage is part of a larger section of ch. 10-13 where Paul is defending his ministry against "Super Apostles" who, Paul wants us to understand, are boasting of their status as Jews and as receivers of mystical revelations and are using their elevated status to undermine Paul’s authority and the stability of the church. Despite the discussion of Hebrew status and visions the overarching and inescapable theme of the section is suffering and service as an Apostle of Christ.

In approaching 12:1-10 we should note Paul makes a number of commitments that delineate his own intention in this section.
10:12-18, not boast beyond proper limits . . . let him who boasts boast in the Lord.
11:12-15, cut the ground from under those . . . false apostles . . . their end will be what their actions deserve
11:16-17, Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do then receive me just as you wo…