Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Read the Bible

One good thing that did come out of the service for younger people was seeding my desire to do a major read of the Bible.

I pulled out a NRSV I bought over 20 years ago to read the entire Pauline corpus (that means all the letters attributed to Paul the Apostle).

I'm more than 2/3 through in a few days, so might end up reading the generals as well (Hebrews to Jude).

The aim is to get this reading done by the end of January.

So there we are, at last, a New Year's resolution.

Reading the Bible quickly is great to do. One gets the overall picture and themes very clearly, not something that I find easily emerges from bit-wise reading small groups of verses. So, my suggestion: read it fast and read it slow. I read the Psalms slowly: one a day, so I cover the lot twice a year. A nice start to the day, too.

My serious reading pattern is the NT twice a year, and over a two year period the OT in divisions of History, Little Prophets, Wisdom, Big Prophets.

I'm not all that keen on the NRSV, and prefer my favourite, the NASB, but the NRSV does have right at the back some editorial goodies going for it, that I'd not seen until this evening!

A very useful index of subjects of the Old and New Testaments, not too detailed to be quite useful.

The index doesn't give Langton-Estienne references, so I might add these and maybe post them (I'll ask the publisher's permission, of course).

A biblical chronology, with some external events. This pretends that we don't know the dates of creation, Babel and Noah's flood, which of course, on the Bible's own data, we do. I'll add them for my own purposes.

A summary of Paul's life and work, fabulously detailed with full Langton-Estienne references.

A list of prayers recorded in both testaments, in alphabetical order.

Table of Jewish feasts.

The Jewish calendar.

The link on references above is to Bible.Org; they have a sister site, Lumina, for study which looks pretty good.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Pascal's wager

Introducing decision theory in a popular book on stats that I'm currently reading (Matthews, R. Chancing it.), this table illustrating Pascal's Wager was shown:

Pascal was working on a 50/50 chance of God existing. Matthews asserted that for something about which we know nothing, this was a bit rich.

But the whole thing is a 'bit rich'!

Firstly, despite his piety, Pascal has got it wrong.

He sums up (in Matthews' rendition, above) the content of 'belief in God'...and it must be the 'philosopher's god, not the real God...as time and effort in rituals. No mention of grace, relationship, fulfilment, ontological context, and so on. He misunderstands, at least, Biblical theism as though belief in God is some sort of ticket, rather than the fellowship and love that we know.

The misunderstanding is compounded in the 'God exists and Choose not to believe' quadrant. The context missing here is not a vengeful God, but God continuing the unbeliever in the unbeliever's chosen state: alienation from God.

This evening

Only a few people of my age and older (and some younger) go to the evening service; it tends to be for young people: post high school, some post uni.

I both liked it and didn't.

Liked for: the casual friendliness, the obvious commitment and capability of those serving as compere, cantor and teacher, they were all very good, the disarming simplicity of the service, the outstanding musicianship of cantor and musicians.

Didn't like for: AV system failure (why is this hard to failproof?), prayer time, chat sessions, lack of rehearsal with musicians 'musos' having to be reminded to start playing, casual 'hi' and 'see ya'. Some formality would work, lending an air of respect of the congregation to the gathering. It doesn't need to be much, but an intentional start and an intentional ending: used to be 'call to prayer' and 'benediction'. Together they remind one that this is not a nightclub, even if in casual language. Purposeful start and finish also give polish to the proceedings (not like a performance, although it is, incidentally, but like the congregation is worth a good experience).

Prayer time almost felt like the compere was embarrassed, although I knew she was not. We had a few moments to pray for another in the congregation. Good idea, in some ways, but generally private prayer one can do at home. Prayer is a vexed problem at our church. We don't quite know what to do with it in a service, and few work well; although some have been spectacular.

The 'hi to neighbours' segments I found awkward; mainly as there was no one near me (another worrying indicator). But that aside, awkward anyway.

Discussing the sermon in small groups is also a good idea, but execution needs work. There was plenty in the sermon for a huge conversation, but too much for a small chat.

The cantor had a fine voice, and stage presence, but I found her 'ecstatic frown' off-putting. The songs were also musically demanding and not real good for congregational use, IMO.

All said and done, I know the target group loves the service. I still hark back to past joys of Anglican Evensong and Evening Prayer. They do it for me, and probably always will.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Big Story

For new Christians, or anyone, really, a one day program giving an overview of the Bible. Three more programs could be church history, theology and apologetics.

Friday, January 13, 2017


Thinking over some recent posts that relate to this idea (starting with this one), my experience of the mentor business popped up from my dark recesses. It was the early 1980s when I was active in youth ministry (small Bible study groups, Sunday School teaching, youth camps, etc) that I do believe I was a mentor to a young Christian fellow, just a few years younger than I was.

We didn't use that term, of course, the minister just asked if I'd work through some studies with Zeke. I did, for a few weeks; quite a few weeks, actually. I picked him up from his place and we went to my place for study, chat and prayer. It was a real friendship, we talked about work, girls, plans, hopes. I was impressed by his sagacity.

I moved into the city, he didn't and we drifted apart. But, it was a great (and now that I've remembered it) and memorable experience.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Story of Reality

Having read the very brief review of this book on Tim Challies blog early this morning (thanks Mr Street Sweeper machine), I thought it would be good to check a few other reviews.

Here's a couple:

Cross Examined, mentions a podcast by the author.

The publisher's review.

My only initial concern is that the reviews seem to lean towards Christianity as 'worldview'. No! The Bible tells us what really is! No 'view' about it. If one doesn't start with the Bible, then of course one does end up with a world view from the supermarket of human inventions; but this is not the same thing, because this 'view' will be likely more informed by the fallen nature than the love of God and so be dislocated from what is basic to what is.


Life is a deficit.

We probably know that, given the sin and failure that besets us. But no need to grind it in. Recently we've used deficit thinking in our small group work.

Courses to fix things that are wrong. In this theme we will start a course on 'resolving conflict' next term. OK, conflict is real and resolving it well can produce growth, friendship and courage. All that's good; and I'd like that Christians are good at this important social skill.

Recent courses in the wider sphere that I've noticed are 'stress management for Christian men' and 'anger management' also presumably for Christian men.

My wife returned from a shopping expedition with a book titled 'Encouragement'.

Now THAT would be a great thing to develop! The ability to encourage people, to build them up and to both start and leave on a positive note and to be inwardly strong enough to do it!

Some in our church could do with some skills in this area instead of dealing with any challenges that a person faces by telling them that 'God is in control'. Arid fatalism in the face of real distress!

Not biblical, of course, and betrayal of a poor doctrine of creation, but, heck, its the easy way out and limits one's emotional involvement and commitment to another.