Monday, December 28, 2015

Tyndale and Coverdale

I browsed to Think Theology this morning and came across a post on Tyndale. It reminded me of my post on Coverdale.

Irritatingly TT is built in such a way that there is no permalink to a post...so I can't link to it; but here's a screen shot.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Who is God?

I was with family on Christmas day, as is proper; my wife's aunt related an incident, when her great grandchildren were looking at the sky at sunset after a particularly violent storm. It looked like a painting, she said. The children asked "Who painted it?" She replied (she is not a practicing Christian, or even overtly 'religious', as far as I know) "God."

As she related this to me, she told me that one of them replied "Who is God?". She told me in not so many words that she couldn't answer, but marveled at the thoughtfulness of the child.

How is it that the Church has not been able to convey God's self-identity to the world at large, even in a country with a Christian heritage?

The answer, of course, is that he is the one who made everything, and gave it to us to enjoy and to look after; in which jobs we have failed miserably. But he still loves us.

Some of my Anglican evangelical friends would have diverted to "Two Ways To Live" a proclamatory approach that has nothing to do with Paul's and is about as dreadful as "Four Spiritual Laws" for disengaged insurance sales.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Aristotle on women

I picked up an old copy of In the Black today, and browsed past the interesting article on fleet sales in 2012 to Eva Tsahuridu's Practical Wisdom, which started with this gem on women:
I had to wonder if the resistance of some conservative Christians to women taking on full participation in the life of the church, as was the practice in NT times (I think of Paul's references to his female co-workers) derives from Aristotle's philosophy embedded as it was in RC theological roots.

If so, how interesting that a theological point relies upon the views of a pagan thinker who is detached both from the revelation of God and his indwelling spirit!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Same God?

Recently some US public Christians have claimed that Jehovah and Allah are the same person (God). Al Mohler has refuted this on his blog. A similar view at Reformation21.

There is more to say, however.

In brief; Mohler refers to the linear view of history. Islam has a view of history as arbitrary process; Christianity does not.

God is love in the Bible. In Islam God is despotic and calls for the death of the 'unbeliever' not his redemption.

[The acts against those who would oppose Israel in the promised land are not relevant, as the point is not unbelief per se, but untrammeled evil: consider the references to Moloch and Sodom].


Philosphically Islam's monotonic deity necessitates the world being framed in a rigid unity that is internally referent and intolerant of diversity; indeed, for which diversity is abhorrent. Thus Islam. The triune God within himself shows unity and fellowship in diversity; whence love.

The only way to certainty of salvation in Islam is martyrdom. In Christ it is faith!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christian discipleship

Our church doesn't have Bible Study groups. We have discipleship groups. At those groups we...study the Bible.

The plan is to do more. I wonder what. As one of the organisers, I put my thinking cap on, but something that comes instantly to mind is the need for Christians to think more.

A start for this I would love to see is a weekend retreat, once a year, encouraging every Christian, but particularly new Christians or younger Christians (that is early 20s) to attend; at least once.

The weekend would work through Schaeffer's trilogy: The God Who is There, Escape from Reason and He is There and He is Not Silent. No better starting point for thinking about Christian faith and our message to the world.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

New Testament

As Solomon points out, the trouble with books is that there is no end to them.

So it is with New Testament theologies, introductions and commentaries. I've collected a few over the years, many are good reads. Dipping into the past I'm reading Leon Morris's at the moment.

Next buy is probably going to be Eugene Boring's NT intro and his 'People's' commentary.

I'm pleased that Boring has posted some videos of lectures on the topic. Would that others would follow suit.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Not quite new earth

The sermon yesterday was on 2 Peter 3:10-18; the new heaven and new earth passage.

It could have been so good, but instead of that we got a lecture on pop-environmentalism that first set up the, to my experience, straw man of Christians who think that because the Lord will burn up the planet we can despoil with it. Well, I've never heard this, ever, in over 40 years of active Christian life, some in quite radical groups (Action for World Development being the most prominent; I think that its folded now, but was loosely connected to the Australian Bishops (RC) Conference).

A quick look around the Bible will indicate that despoiling, greed and exploitation, including of future generations, is in congruent with the creation mandate and the fruit of the Spirit. Note that most critics tendentiously read the creation mandate outside of the conception of a loving God who made the creation out of love. 'Subdue' does not mean pillage, it means manage fruitfully.

The sermon decended into sad farce with the promotion of empty human induced climate change strategies, including a march to call for 'climate action' held in Sydney.

Political maneuvers that are the underlying motive for 'climate action' along with other social activist topics either had not come to the teacher's attention or were ignored. The touting of 'science' where there is none also escaped attention, as did the effect on the poor, who bear the brunt of the economic costs of misdirected public policy.

There is plenty on the net that is critical of pop climate rhetoric, but the greatest indictments are models that cannot model the past, have missed the current pause in temperature changes and farcically propose that a single number trend (which is not clear) has any meaning in describing something as complex, deferentially variable and statistically inscrutable over time as climate!

A couple of links: the Pope, and not the Pope.

Aside from the facts, it is worth noting, when beating up on either the church or the West in general for its perceived transgressions against someone's view of 'right' is that the concepts being deployed are generated within and are consistent with a broadly Christian world-view and tradition, and are typically best exemplified in those places where there is a general Christian consensus.

Thus, once again, reform comes, over the long term, through the gospel.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Just one hour

On Reformation Theology there is a link to a sermon: If I had an hour with a new convert what would I say.

The sermon starts well; talking about the Bible (which version and why), the creeds (choose one) as a summary of Christian theology hammered out over the early centuries, and the teaching of various books: Romans and John's gospel.

I agree with it all, particularly that the speaker prefers the literal translations: NASB and ESV; me too. The dynamic equivalence approach leaves me unstimulated. It is too fuzzy.

I also like the reference to the creeds (Apostles is my favourite, but needs clarification about the 'descent into hell'). The church I was brought up in was isolated from the vast Christian tradition, being an individualistic non-conformist crowd; although the politics had some benefits that appeal to my volunteerist leanings (I was going to say anarchist, but people mis-understand that word) in that each congregation was self-organising; no bishops or bosses from elsewhere.

He spoke well, if too long, about spiritual experience and the theology of redemption.

Where it fell down was in not talking about:
  • prayer! and study of the Bible (use of references)
  • the church: what it is and what it is for
  • the thematic structure of the biblical arc between creation and new creation--this orients the reader to the vast literature in the Bible and simplifies initial reading.
  • the implicit view of reality in the Bible (philosophical theology without the big words)
  • what the detractors say, and what their implicit view of reality is (usually materialist, but sometimes impersonal monist or idealist: the parlous influence on theology and apologetics)
I know that makes for a busy hour, but pace, emphasis and multiplexing the message would all help (that is, one discourse covering many items together)

Working with new converts is a wonderful privilege. I hope to write more about this in the future.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Why study?

Browsing Ben Witherington's blog I saw a post (can't find it now, so apologies for no link), where a student of Witheringon asked  why he needed to study, and just couldn't get into the pulpit and let the Spirit speak through him.

Ben replied that the Spirit needed something to work with...this reminded me of people who think that intellectual or artistic inspiration just pops into one's mind when it comes from a richly furnished experience and deep knowledge of a field.

The questioner also misunderstood a bunch of things.

Firstly, a teacher in the church is not 'inspired by the Spirit' as were the prophets and apostles captured in the canon.

Secondly, Paul encourages us to study...

Thirdly, the 'creation mandate' teaches that we are to apply ourselves to the world in which we bear God's image: so we work, as God works. There are no easy roads to service.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

This will be great

As he started his sermon, the speaker foretold that this sermon would be very special for some people.

40 years ago I would have been alerted to look out for gems with such a prelude. Having sat through a number of such preludes that have failed to deliver, I was now braced for a repeat; I was vindicated. Others may have struck gold there, but I found the sermon tedious, repetitious and superficial. There were depths that could have been plumbed, but they were not.

More pondering, fewer self-reviews by sermon-givers.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

New Life

Came across an interesting looking Christian blog the other day, while I was looking for reviews of Leon Morris' Commentary on John.

It has quite a bit on the way traditional churches have removed women from ministry, frustrating the gifting of the HS in spades; but that's only part of it. The blog is very rich in Christian insight and commentary. Much to learn and interest there.

Stress

I've just completed a 6 week course on stress management hosted by C3 Carlingford.


I don't normally trip to the western suburbs of Sydney <gr>, but the course was in Pennant Hills (not very west, but still west of where I live) where the church has its offices and training centre, so I went.

The church big meetings are held in Carlingford High School auditorium: a nice model of church operations to my mind: big investment in sustaining facilities, low investment in low use premises.

The course was run by a facilitator and a clinical psychologist who were both part of the church (that is, they were part of the church body, neither a paid Christian) using cognitive behaviour therapy principles.

I found it of some value as a course, but what I really enjoyed was sitting with a demographically uniform bunch of blokes talking through how we handle our everyday pressures.

At one meeting I made the observation that these fellows, all of whom except self were part of C3, seemed to have a great community in their church: lots of mutual friendships and social contact at a deeper than typical Oz level. If my observation was right, that is how church should be...it was a little taste of heaven to be even on the edge of it: acceptance, no platitudes, genuine conversation and real love: not rhetorical maneuvers.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

6 finger exercise

I've moved on from the 'five finger exercise' post to use a more biblical number: 6; the days of creation.
  1. Creation (Genesis 1-2)
  2. Crisis-confusion (Genesis 3-11)
  3. Covenant (Genesis 12-Malachi 4)
  4. Christ (Matthew-John)
  5. Church (Acts-Jude) and
  6. Consummation (Revelation)
I like it that the church gets a mention in the original mnemonic, so I keep it, and thus the clumsiness of step 2 'crisis-confusion' to keep the six points. I could have made it 7; with 'consummation aligned with the day of rest (see below: maybe I do prefer it). I think evangelicals forget, sometimes, the importance of the Church in the creator's economy. Christ died for his church, the church is his bride: so, highly significant.

The significance rings with me from my own days in 'high' Anglican churchly circles, where the church was given profound significance. The importance of church, in contrast to the more individualistic evangelical traditions, has stayed with me.

However, here's the 7; maybe a more scriptural number even than 6!
  1. Creation (Genesis 1-2)
  2. Crisis (Genesis 3)
  3. Confusion (Genesis 4-11)
  4. Covenant (Genesis 12-Malachi 4)
  5. Christ (Matthew-John)
  6. Church (Acts-Jude) and
  7. Consummation (Revelation)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Just when is it mission?

A pal was given a handout outside Ashfield Presbyterian Church the other day. It was for a kid's feature film length cartoon that the church was screening for the public. Nothing to do with Christian faith or practice! He was told it was to 'make contact' with people.

What contact? Unless such an activity is an articulated part of a communications or 'contact' effort with an end result being church membership (real membership via regeneration), then it makes the church and its mission to be a triviality. Much like some churches that hit up people at street fairs by doing face-painting and making funny balloon shapes. Again, unless this is a vehicle for serious 'on-mission' connection, to engage people's minds, to discuss their world view and their private eschatology (where their true world view takes shape), then its laughable.

Maybe that's why the apostles never ran entertainments, face-painting stalls or jumble sales.

My church is running a 'flash mob' at a local market. That might or might not be great. How is it connected to mission. What is the linking methodology? Where is the connection with the gospel made. Where do we talk about fear of death? Where?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Arabs

An associate of mine has been working for some time with an Egyptian; a nice fellow who is always good company.

More recently, he has been talking to the Egyptian man about the Bible. Being a Muslim he has some familiarity with it, and is happy to talk about spiritual matters. He's particularly interested in Exodus.

Time to get him a Bible in Arabic.

My associate was in a part of the city that is popular with Muslims and so dropped into a church, hoping, and maybe even expecting to be able to pick up an Arabic Bible. Blank stares.  Same at two more churches.

Here we are, a mission field on their door step and they can't even keep one Arabic Bible on hand. I'll bet that no one in the church is learning Arabic or studying the history and culture of Islam. Yet a mission field awaits across the road.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

5 finger exercise

A nice mnemonic for understanding the flow of the Bible:

  1. Creation (Genesis 1-11)
  2. Covenant (Genesis 12-Malachi 4)
  3. Christ (Matthew-John)
  4. Church (Acts-Jude) and
  5. Consummation (Revelation)
From Ponderings on a Faith Journey, where I came across a review of People's Commentary on the NT by Boring et al.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Away

The home group that I am part of is planning a dinner together as our last meeting of the year. Each will bring something, and our families will come along as well.

But!

After we had arranged this, I was asked to travel out of Sydney to give a seminar for my work in Orange. It was an overnighter: a two-day seminar. I would be unable to attend the dinner.

On this news the host thought it would be odd to have a dinner when the 'leader' was absent (they like the unscriptual term 'leader' at my church).

My reply?

It is the Christian community which is indwelt by the spirit: "where one or two are gathered...". It does not depend for this on the presence or absence of any particular person. Therefore, as group convener, I am irrelevant.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Desire

The sermon of note on 2 Peter, that I mentioned, was on 'desire', in the main.

This presented an interesting branch, which I was sorry was not taken: having desire in Buddhism is the start of troubles, so 'don't desire'. That is entirely consistent with the impersonal world of Buddhism. If the start of belief, if what is basically true is impersonal, then 'desire' has no place.

But the real world is basically personal. God is love, and love entails extension beyond the self. This is a different world where desire, its pursuits and satisfaction are part of the very nature of things. The end of desire, of course, is its satisfaction in the new creation; but meanwhile, it is in prayer.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

That was something to think about...

Last Sunday we had a very thought provoking sermon, covering some very interesting ground in 2 Peter.

After the sermon, the MC remarked that 'there was much to think about'.

I don't know about you, but I find it unnecessary and unhelpful to have to listen to a 'back announcement' on the sermon, or on anything else, for that matter, in a church 'service'.

The MC might have thought it was 'much to think about', and while I did agree, I didn't need to be told by someone else. The sermon can stand on its own feet.

In similar vein, I wonder why the MC feels a need to announce absolutely everything that will happen, like we all suffer from autism. Not necessary, let's instead have a smooth and dignified service with people reading, particularly, in order, sans announcement. They can announce the passage being read, but generally the congregation will see that there will be a Bible reading as someone approaches the lectern.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

5 tips

In a recent e-mail update Frank Viola commented on these five things as lessons of life that a young Christian should know.

1. You’ll turn your head and you’ll be 40 years old. So live in the present and savor every moment. You cannot rewind the clock of your life.

I've no real 'I've not savoured every moment' regrets, but I would probably have done some things differently.

I wish I'd read fewer books, but sought more to learn from them; taken notes in my 'commonplace book' for example, and reflected more on them. Thus, fewer trashy Christian pop-books would have been good (then I wouldn't be reading Sartre now, but 30 years ago...when I was actually reading Heidegger! and, yes, I know those two are not Christian).

Maybe I should've taken my high school career advisor's advice and chosen a slightly different career (same broad industry, but different role); I'm pretty happy with the degrees I've done, except maybe the undergrad degree (which follows from above).

Work is important; I would have been less distracted from it and devote more to it in early years, when one is building one's professional profile. I left it a bit late.

I buried myself in church life, and became vulnerable, therefore point 3. below. If I'd put more into my profession, I would possibly have been more resilient and be in a much better place now (except nothing beats my children).

2. Life won’t get easier. So learn to accept trials, disappointments, suffering, and incalculable loss.

I think life does get easier: so far I can deal with loss and disappointments with a degree of resilience that sometimes surprises me...still, I don't want more. I think my responses are more grounded in faith, in a God who brings his kingdom and who will bring the new creation.

3. Christians will break your heart.

Bloke Christians have sometimes disappointed me, but it's girl Christians that have broken me...not just my heart, and steered my life, as per 5. below.

4. A great deal of what you are certain about now, you’ll question later in life.

This is probably true, my theology has become both firmer and more questioning (that is in a good way; for example, I can now happily read quite liberal theologies and see the spiritual thoughts they are grappling with, and admire their faith)

5. The commitments you made in your 20s will be severely tested in your early 30s

Actually, the commitments of my early 20s were severely tested in my later 20s! I purposely jettisoned the path of my 20s because it lead to a brick wall of heartbreak and loss (girl trouble); so I turned to a path to seek to be more self-protective, less open and more measured in my affections.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Y ou

Our songs for our church meetings are projected on to a screen at the front of the auditorium.

For some inexplicable reason, the pronoun 'you' is capitalised when it refers to God. Odd.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Up the front

Up the front of the auditorium that our church meets in (some people call the space 'the church') this greets the viewer:

From left to right:
  • the unadorned rear of an upright piano
  • the semi-unadorned rear of an electronic organ
  • a collection of music stands
  • empty chairs for when musicians are there
  • an un-used (sometimes) drum kit
  • an tall un-used stand, probably for a vase
  • empty microphone stands
Then across the stage:
  • music and microphone stands for the singers, when they are there
  • the lecturn
  • large projection screen behind (blank if not used)
and to the right:
  • a lone vase with flowers
  • an unfinished timber lid to the baptism tank.
But the visual dishevelment starts prior:

When one walks into the auditorium, one is faced with the large two-person audio-visual control desk. About one quarter of the congregation look into the very technical display.

Contrast this with the church auditorium below


Dignity and visual charm are not misplaced in our meeting spaces but are part of the building up of the community.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Scripture in schools

I wonder what we teach young Christians.

A relative of mine is attending a selective high school; they all work hard there. Some kids are working 2 years ahead of their age. But when it comes to the 'Scripture' program its mind in the bin time.

There's a place for the more affective sessions with an adult Christian talking about the praxis of faith for adolescents, but there is also room for real intellectual work. I wonder if there is a curriculum for that, so that when bright Christian children leave high school they have a reasonable understanding of the Bible, basic theology, church history and history of theology and apologetics...I wonder.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bad exegesis

My comments on Grudem's non-theology of creation led me to some Google probing of the question of origins.

I found some interesting posts on the theological approach to language that show, to my mind, an interesting 'retrojection' of a modern myth of convenience into an ancient text. An example.

The point of departure is the view of some (Seely, for example) that the 'firmament' in Genesis 1 was regarded by the ancients as a solid dome. Both Noel Weeks (in a WTJ article which is not linkable..BTW I heard Noel speak at a house party/conference at Oak Flats Anglican Church about 35 years ago; its pleasing to see he's still writing) and Gleeson Archer demolish this. What interests me, though is the exegesis of raqia according to a view that was held, without substantiation, of how ancient pagan cosmology must have been, and the 'accommodation' of God in his revelation of that pagan idea.

Its wrong from the get go; its wrong of God, the logic is wrong, and the conclusion thus shaky...and this is how paid theologians work? I'd be out of a job if I took that approach to my profession!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

OK

My final current challenge to add to my theological library is a set of books by Pannenberg.

His Systematic Theology
Jesus God and Man
Towards a Theology of Nature (that gives it away: the idea of 'nature' is not in any way Christian)
Basic Questions in Theology v. 1 and v. 2 (I read v. 1 at L'Abri)
Apostles Creed
Theology and the Kingdom of God
Theology and the Philosophy of Science
Faith and Reality.

Saving up...Amazon has some quite cheaply, but its the postage that kills me, exchange rate wise.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Surveying the Whole

Prior to purchasing Tom Schreiner's NT theology, (his web page) I read a couple of reviews.

Here's my review of the reviews:

1. Collin Hansen, in Christianity Today, relayed by Radical Discipleship.

In the U.S. they seem to like to pump up titles, and thus rendering them meaningless (that's why everyone is a 'leader', even in church circles). Hansen is entitled 'editor at large'. Now, in my understanding, an editor is one who has control over the content and style of a publication. The final authority for what gets printed. How does one have an 'editor at large'. Do they mean instead 'occasional contributor'?

Hansen then claims  that "...our Western culture distrusts metanarratives." Well, no? 'Our' Western culture does not 'distrust' metanarratives. Cultural critics, post modernists and deconstructivists claim to distrust metanarratives to plank up their own political position. Most people, however, seem to actually have a metanarrative, even if it is half-baked, semi-empty and uncritically embrassed.

2. Andy Naselli, on The Gospel Coalition.

A great relief to discover that Schreiner is perhaps (maybe, despite more recent contrary indicators) 'amellennialist' and NOT dispensationalist. Whew.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Grudem times out.

I think the basic opportunity that Grudem has missed is to use the concrete-ness of creation in Genesis 1-3 to rebut the idealism that underpins much contemporary theology. A concrete creation consists of events that have a real-world time-space continuity with the events that we experience. The creation events are delimited in existential terms that are consistent with the terms by which we delimit events and causality in our everyday lives.

One of the chief de-limiters, of course, is timing. The passage goes to great length to define the chronological parameters: parameters that govern our understanding of cause, effect, and event relationships in uniform space-time, providing for their use in interpreting history and thus our being, our perception of our existence and the shared context of our communal relations. These extend not only ‘laterally’ with each other today, but ‘historically’ with those before us and in prospect of those to come, and ‘vertically’; our community with God and its disruption in sin.

The importance of time is that creates the event relationship with God; puts us and God in the one existential domain. Dislocation of event relationships (such as in a mythopoeic view of the creation passage) leads to a loss of event salience in our sphere of existence historical dis-junction and existential distortion.

When something happens controls it some way what it means to me, my decision and belief process and my apprehension of the basic historic dependence in concrete terms.

If we disperse the timing and time of creation into symbolism, then the connection with the real world and its salience for us and our relationship to God evaporates. This reduces the existential event-density making room for, indeed inviting, a range of responses that are outside relationship with God: these range from materialism (and its evolutionary speculations), mysticism (and philosophical idealism) -- exemplified in the modern western ‘new age’ movement and the demonic: asserted in all man-made religions!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Serious stuff

Many years ago, after reading quite a number of Christian paperbacks and short books, I decided that my time would be better spent reading more enriching serious Christian literature. I read Calvin's Institutes. My effort was repaid, and while I didn't always follow where Calvin lead, there remained a depth that was encouraging, thought provoking and stimulating of growth.

I have recently opened up a not heavily serious book: Grudem's Systematic Theology, but it is a very solid and well constructed one.

The chapter on prayer was short for the topic, but one of the most useful pieces I've read on prayer. Plenty to ponder upon, and much to encourage. It changed me!

Some people disdain the project of systematic theology in lieu of biblical theology. Both are necessary; systematics develop from the data in the Bible a conspectus of a topic and bring a way of reading the Bible to build understanding of what is taught about a theme. Highly useful, in my view.

I'm looking forward to completing my reading of Grudem and moving on through a few more modern one-volume systematics, before tackling a few multi-volume endeavours. I'm particularly looking forward to Kelly, Jenson, Bavinck and Pannenberg (I just await a low cost set of Pannenberg...tres pricey even at Better World Books).

Sunday, September 13, 2015

He's off

Recently a member of our small group  ministry team left our church. The reason he confided in the senior minister was that women taught in our church services!

He apparently took a fundamentalist line on 1 Timothy 2:12. That is, he took the words at face value of their contemporary English meaning and without considered reference to the rest of the Bible, the practice of the apostles, the particular context that Paul was dealing with and the word he used.

The word translated 'authority' occurs only once in the New Testament, and should be handled with care.

The starting point for our understanding of relations between the sexes has to be the creation account in Genesis 1-2 and 3. This portrays us without ontological differentiation, and the discourse between Adam and Eve shows uniform initiating. The word used of Eve as 'helper' describes the action of one more capable on behalf of one in need. The need Adam had is a big need: an existential need; I would like to hazard the guess that it is a need for community like the community (unity) of the trinity.

The NT passages that are used to attribute 'role' differentiation between men and women are nonsensical if they are given an ontological reference rather than being understood as the circumstantial responses that they clearly are. There is also rather too much reading of older common social mores into the teaching of the Holy Spirit in the Bible in this topic.

Moreover the rule imposition that is evoked here is more Pharisaical than Christian. The rules seem to arbitrarily constrain an ontological and charismatic capability. That is women can actually teach: I've heard them. No one in the church actually has misapplied 'authority' over any other (that is, Paul was not implying male authority, but decrying some women taking a particular authoritarian spin in their teaching), each of us is to be submissive to the other, irrespective of sex.

This is easy to see in reality. Should my male friend who dipped out of high school, has an IQ of 100 and the emotional insight of a fence post 'lead' my female friend who has had a life as a 'prayer warrior', knows the Bible thoroughly and devotionally, has advanced degrees in theology and sacrificed for the gospel for decades, building up the church where ever she was?


Saturday, September 12, 2015

R.I.P!

Amusing plaque at the Adventist Hospital at Wahroonga.

 "Rest in peace" is a Roman Catholic blessing against the prospect of the dead soul being in purgatory! I didn't know that SDAs had a similar belief!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Strangers in your midst

There's a huge refugee problem in the world.

At church we are studying the problem in a sermon series and home group studies using Scott Higgins book "Boundless Plains to Share".

The book is an interesting exercise in anachronism and conflation of the personal, the historic and the present. It brings up the requirements of Israel to look after (its own) widows and poor, and its (occassional?) strangers with nation states looking after the people of other nation states where those states have failed.

It then does the same thing with the New Testament taking what we are to do personally and locally with the ones we are in contact with -- our neighbour -- with the action of nation states with respect to the failures of other nation states.

In a way this puts us on a war footing with the failed nation state!

We want our country to act honourably. I do not think we want it to act foolishly.

The refugee crisis exists because of the failure of nation states. They either descend into war, there is no rule of law (producing inequity, economic failure and oppression), or the culture is underpinned by beliefs that undo it (religious, social, philosophical). Of course, when people see places that do not have these problems they leave the bad and seek the good.

Our call is to do what we can, recognising that the government has a role to govern. It does not have a role to undo the nation.

For example, if Australia accepted 20,000 annually. Over a lifetime with  natural growth this would represent more than 10% of our population, less with assimilation; but assimilation across radically different cultures is slow if it occurs at all. The proportion would lead to enclaving: the problem Sweden faces, and threaten the safety and peace of the country.

The job of the government is to protect its people. The job of the church is to proclaim the gospel.

What then is the best to do? Current intake processes control the intake to a safe level for the long term good and stability of the country and prevent criminal transport of would be immigrants who  bypass safe but less attractive alternatives to Australia.

Other action: support through the UNHCR for people in refugee camps, action in the UN and economically to pressure failed states to not fail...and most importantly, send missionaries to the failed countries to proclaim the gospel.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Problem of Evil

I'm going for the gong for the shortest entry in the 'problem of evil' contest.
Reams have been written on this subject over centuries, if not millennia. I'm going to have a go in a paragraph or two.

The stimulus for this is a long interview I read with Frame of Systematic Theology fame the other day. He treated the issue in typical Calvinistic manner. Nasty. Incidentally, the reviews I read of Frame's ST didn't evoke in me a desire to read it.

Most work I've read on the PoE, including Hick's seem to have or imply a deficient theology of creation; and that, to my mind, is the problem. Some even to the extent of taking their definitions and parameters from outside the Bible.

I agree that 'evil' is not a thing; it is a quality in relationships; a detrimental one.

The nub of the problem is why did God create a world where evil was possible? Was he not powerful enough to create a world where evil was impossible, but free relationship was? This seems to suggest in part that God is some sort of almighty puppet master; but he is not. He is 'the lover of our souls' to quote a hymn and is in relationship with us who are in his image. The imageness needs to be articulated to the question.

Love entails openness to the possibility of rejection. In Adam humanity rejected God, and continues to seek to exclude God from life and relationships, but for Christ in us. To pose the problem as one who excludes God is more than absurd. Of course, to inquire as one who desires God, and rebels against the evil that besets us is to turn against rejection of God but also to misunderstand.

The question can be recast as: 'could God have made a world where rejection of him did not produce rejection of him'. Often detractors entertain this. They complain about a world marked by rejection of God, but they refuse to not reject him.

As man was given superintending custody of the creation his rejection of relationship with God brought all of creation with him. Man turned/turns from God. He drags the creation, the domain given over to him, with it. God in his mercy cushions our rejection to bring redemption.

The scriptures deal with the problem, finally, in Revelation.

Grudem

I'm reading Grudem's Systematic Theology and have just completed the chapter on creation. What a disappointment! Two other views: A supportive view and one not quite.

Apart from its light skate over the surface, which is the plan, I think, he got derailed on 'creation'.

Grudem allowed himself to become entwined in current debates about naturalistic/supernatural factors, the timing of creation and 'scientific' approaches to interpretation (without being sufficiently critical of the world view that is typically entailed in what are presented as 'scientific' statements).

As I wrote to Grudem, this type of discussion more belongs in an appendix to a systematic theology, not in the body. In the body we look for theology. He didn't provide much, in my estimation.

Here, theology means to me that we deal with the text, as Thielicke says in The Evangelical Faith: "[the] relation of biblical authors to specific points in history means that their statements have to be seen in their historical determination, their contemporary reference."  We then discuss what the text means theologically in the light of what other Christians have thought and do think that it says, dealing with their reasoning.

Coming to creation, then, what should we look for?

Here are some thoughts.

The relation of God to the cosmos (I'd use the word 'creation' but that might become lexically awkward); considerations such as the continuity of rationality and being between God's willing and its result in our experience. God's timing of the creation, whatever one may think of it, is important as it provides (or some may think, purports to provide) an historical location, and moreover an historical location that places it in uniform time-space that we inhabit and from within which we are in fellowship with God: into which God breaks. Its specificity guards against mythic takes on the account in Genesis.

The creation allows us to consider the parameters of the setting for fellowship between God and man. It sets up one 'book end' for the counterpart to come in the new creation, joined by the trajectory of redemption.

It also helps us to make ontological considerations, grounded in what is actually real, compared to the flights of fantasy that idealist philosophers take us on. It tells us that 'reality' is basically personal, not material, and that reality is conditioned at base by love, either positively in God's actions, or inversely, in ours, but for Christ.

The causal, and indeed, ontological connections between the account, which must be the point of reference for John 1:1-3 and Hebrews 11:3 and God as agent eliminates any possibility of either random inherency in the created world being able to bring about the created world, or there being some sort of principle in the creation which would do similarly and displace Christ's mediating agency.


The creation is thus 'really real' in its connection with God. Understanding of it cannot be fueled by idealist frolics such as theistic evolution. If it were (that is, if it were not framed in a concretely real structure) then it would tell us nothing about who we are or who God is...its 'story' crumbles to fantasy.

The final thing I want to mention, and Grudem does mention this, is that the creation being very good at its inception does not allow Christians to despise the material world, or, as it is made by God, worship it.

Apart from the preceeding paragraph, Grudem touches on none of this.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Evening church reflections 2

My first evensong at CCSL: at the urging of my ex and then recently maybe current girlfriend, I took up with my then now local church: Christ Church St Lawrence. Nearby as I was living in Surry Hills.

I was just finding my feet at householding, and on a cold winter night I was chatting to a fellow congregant at supper who was looking forward to going home to a nice hot casserole. I hadn't figured out the logistics of casseroles at that time, so I was going home to a much lesser offering. Felt poor about it, but what did encourage me is the friendship of quite a number at supper.

Simple Christian company warmed me instead.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Talking to children about death 3

But what would I say to a child about death?

First I'd agree that it is horrible. There're no two ways on that! Then I'd say that we all grieve for loved ones who die, and in a way, grieve for all who die; loved or not.

Because my children know that the world has turned from fellowship with God and rejected his life, death, which is separation, flows from this; they also know that God intensely loves us even though we (as in all people over all time) have corporately rejected him and so has provided for us to return to fellowship with him.

Those who want to be in company with God will be with him for ever, those who don't won't, and they probably wouldn't want to anyway.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Talking to children about death 2

I commented on the Lifehacker article by replying to someone who quoted Sagan's explanation to his daughter, who referred to her father's 'scientific' world view:

Less a 'scientific' worldview and more a materialist one. Sagan could not pretend that he was a-religious. His religion was that material was all there is and mind/person is a (mere) epiphenomenon of matter. Life therefore has no purpose or meaning, and is merely a particular arrangement of matter. Death and life are thus equally and our lives, lived dense with existential meaning are not differentiated in any real way from the void of death. Bleak.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Children: teaching about death

This article tells us how Yuppie materialists (or unthinking fashion followers) think and talk to their children about death.

I wanted to hunt up what Christians have to say about this topic. Of course, lots on the net, but this one post on mis-teaching the faith caught my attention.

Just goes to show how poor is the education of Christians in their faith, the Bible and theology. The trouble is, of course, that the average person is, well, average. And half the population is below this mark. A big cognitive challenge for church teachers.

Refugee action

We had a 'refugee action seminar to cap off the series of sermons and studies on asylum seekers. It landed with the thud of a dead cat.

The conclusion was that no Australian government would adopt policies that would increase the flow of irregular arrivals so pressure there would be pointless.

We knew that.

Instead, pressure for better processing, community settlement (I'd prefer better detention arrangements) and regional cooperation were recommended. What was missed out was pressure internationally to bring delinquent governments to heal. A hard one I know, particularly when the pressure might involve military action: not congenial to the irrelevant left of politics.

But the end result was recommendation to change people here to promote policy change in the longer term. I'd add missionary activity in the source countries to address their toxic cultures.

We do that...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

History, science and religion

I will post this comment on a blog that deals with science in ancient Rome:

Attributing the decline of science (or rather the failure to start) in Rome to Christianity is a game started by Gibbon, but he had an axe to grind: he didn't like Christianity. Hardly objective.

The reason that science was lame in Rome and even lamer in Islam is not due strictly to society not being ready, but to society being incapable of being ready because of its religious framework. If your basic beliefs make science impossible, it stalls.

Christianity's basic beliefs made modern science possible because it conceptualizes a creation that is separate from the creator, a reasonable creator making a reasonable creation and our minds being communicably congruent with the mind of the creator, and thus his creation being in principle understandable. This was aided by what's called the 'creation mandate'  that is in Genesis man being told to take care of the creation as his own.

Lists and numbers

With my recent posts on 'top'n'' lists of books (top 10, top100, etc). It occurs to me that we could Christianize list lengths.

The pinnacle of anything would be to be in the top 3: the number of the trinity;
Of course, the top 7 (the perfect number) would be to aspire to.
If we need to cast our thoughts more widely, it would be the top 12: the number of the inner circle of disciples, the tribes of Israel.
A more general list could be 40: the number of days of Yeshua's fast.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Snow

We went to the mountains the other day. My chln, not having seen snow, were keen to see it. At prayer the evening before we went, they prayed that they would see snow.

I held my doubt to myself given the weather forecast for not quite cold enough, a little to wet and no mention of snow in the area.

Next day. At our hotel: dark clouds wafted over and chln, looking out the window saw...snow! Bags of it, teeming in (if that's the word for snow), being blown in great squalls across our view, vision dropped to a few hundred metres. So, down to the forecourt to dance in the snow. It didn't hang around but the flakes plastered our coats.

So...God said "yes" to my little ones, and in bags! Pressed down...overflowing. How wonderful.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Evening church -- recollections 1

My post on evening church experience brought some history to mind.

When still a child the big Sunday event was to attend evening church at Epping Church of Christ, where my mother was brought up and served in her younger days. It was great to go to a big city church, often after visiting relations who lived near by, with good numbers, proper music, and a very smart auditorium. It felt proper.

But the big treat was when we were invited to someone's home afterwards for supper. It was a great kindness shown to us, and probably due to my mothers deep roots there, and always exciting to join a conversation with the grown ups.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Yet another list: Grudem's

Wayne Grudem's list of 12 most influential books.

"After book (1) below, it is an impossible question for me to answer exactly. Many books have influenced me at different times. Here are eleven that influenced me quite early in my Christian life (all but #3 and #10 and #11 while I was still in college, before I went to seminary), plus #12, which influenced me many years later.
(1) The Bible, far beyond all other books combined.
(2) John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion
(3) Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology
(4) J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism
(5) Cornelius VanTil, The Defense of the Faith
(6) D. M. McIntyre, The Hidden Life of Prayer
(7) John Murray, Principles of Conduct
(8) John Murray, Redemption: Accomplished and Applied
(9) B. B. Warfield, The Plan of Salvation
(10) B. B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible
(11) Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology
(12) John Wimber, Power Evangelism"
I've read most of them myself! Pretty chilling for a non-Calvinist.

Calvin is a great read: his brilliance shines through, even though his Stoicism does as well.
Berkhof, Machen and VanTil also mainstays of early to mid C20 calvinistic protestantism, but still good education for a young Christian; although I find VanTil's apologetic enterprise obscure, to say the least.

I've not read (7), and may have read (8). The title and author very familiar from my Capernwray days. I've also not read (12) and have no plans to.

The most stimulating of all of them (saving (1), of course) was Vos. Difficult and intense, and maybe that's why.

The great frustration was that as I was reading these books I had no one with whom to discuss them, not even the minister of my church was suitable (no, not you Bob, RK).

Some years later I and a pal read and discussed Thielicke's Evangelical Faith, at least for a few chapters, and that was  truly wonderful experience.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sunday School: what do we teach?

I've read that most young people cease church participation because their questions (their quite reasonable questions) about faith, life and everything are not answered respectfully; that is, they are not answered, but side-lined with a 'just believe' response.

Not good, and not part of the tradition of inquiry that has marked Christian theology from the get go [I think of Peter writing about Paul, and Paul's discussion with Peter].

Answering questions has to start in Sunday School, and be continued through teen age years.

Children need to be taught both the Bible and theology: how to question, how to extract belief from the Bible and reason to their own experience.

In my SS experience, long ago as it was, I don't recall this happening, although some teachers did invite 'life questions' as I grew older.

One approach might be a modernised catechism as a structure for this part of training the young. For example, talking about who God is, why we believe in him and how we reason about belief and question both it and life...rich pickings for all ages, properly structured.

Even working through the Apostles Creed as a theological framework would be helpful, I think. Not just learn and recite, but study and think about from the Bible.

Another angle would be to look at God's self-defining actions in history, starting with the creation, through the patriarchs to the rescue of Israel to the resurrection as the first step in helping children to develop a rigorous doctrine of God (without using those terms, of course).

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Eerdmans

I went to the Eerdmans website to check the delivery date of Thiselton's new one volume systematic theology: November, so I'll have to wait.

However, interestingly I came across their blog, and saw the most recent entry on same sex 'marriage'.

I liked this comment (don't know how long it will stay there though):
The Christian support for 'same sex marriage' seemingly arises from the desire to be fair or loving or inclusive of difference or diversity, but it is not. It rather represents a failure of critical rationality and participates in the delusion that a same sex partnership could be sexual, noting that marriage provides sexually diverse companionship and for the bringing of children into the world.
In principle two people of the same sex do not couple with that inherent diversity nor are able to bring children into the world, obviously. So, in short, no possibility of a zygote, no possibility of a marriage.

People of the same sex do not and cannot have a sexual relationship; they might have a anti-sex relationship, as they are not characterised by the difference (ironically) that a sexual relationship requires. Mere collision of sexual apparatus does not make a relationship sexual, only sexually perverse.

It seems more than odd then, that Christians would seek to advance a non-sexual relationship as being anything like marriage when it is a socially inert arrangement that is unproductive of children in principle. It constitutes a biological dead end and is barren. Some advance the objection that not all marriages can or do produce children. However, this objection sidesteps the obvious point that it is only male and female together who are able to produce children, while in the particular they might choose not to or not be able to such a relationship is ethically and socio-biologically contiguous with one that does; whereas male and male or female and female cannot, period.

In fact, to put the lie to the idea of same sex marriage, if they do want to reproduce they must put aside the exclusivity of marriage and include a third party to produce the required zygote. But this results in a child cut off from one of its natural parents and exposed to the Cinderella effect. A hideous outcome that at its worst turns children into a commodity,  denies them the nurturing complexity that is designed (or evolved for those who prefer that idea) and marriage into a hollow black comedy.

Friday, August 7, 2015

In the old days

We may sometimes think that medieval times were full of piety and godliness...even if society did not always act congruently with such preoccupations. But no:


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Theology resources

Adding to my lists:

New Testament Gateway

Old Testament Gateway

Church Fathers

Theology on the Web, Robert Bradshaw's site.

Biblical Studies on the Web, another Bradshaw site.

A couple of theology sites that I browse from time to time (not endorsing or necessarily agreeing, but some 'good for thinking' resources):

After Existentialism

Trinity Foundation

Euanelion






Thursday, July 30, 2015

Prayer in church

At our evening service, the president changed our prayer routine. Instead of one person praying he invited members of the congregation to contribute a short prayer as they wanted. Good idea, I thought, as long as it didn't go for too long*.

He introduced the segment with Ecclesiastes 5:1-3. Aptly to encourage short prayers (I was reminded of Nehemiah's quick prayer). He was also wise enough to cap the session after a good handful of contributions. I have been in meetings where such sessions went on and on: tedious for all and detracting from the overall meeting.

*On the topic of too long, I read of a prayer meeting in Ackroyd's Civil War that went for about 8 hours, with one of the Puritan pray-ers praying for 2 hours! Closer to home, I attended Petersham Baptist church in Sydney many moons ago where the prayer went for over 30 minutes. Too much. God is not honoured by many words, methinks.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Survey analysis

I completed an example of the church life survey that I prepared earlier [link]. Now comes the analysis.





































I need to do more work to establish the domains of church capability, Christian engagement, church engagement, church inclusiveness (broadly these are the categories I had in mind), then they can be analysed. The response scale is in the form of a Likert scale, so its probably OK to assume that the scale is an equal interval scale for practical purposes (if not, and you believe that the ordered discrete variables in fact are discrete approximations of underlying variables with "normal", continuous distributions, you might want to have a look at Stas Kolenikov's Stata command -polychoric-: www.cpc.unc.edu/measure/publications/pdf/wp-04-85.pdf. The command enables you to estimate polychoric correlation on your "Likert type variables" without assuming true interval scale measurements; this is probably theoretically neater).

However, this is maybe going too far for the typical church.

A simpler approach is to count up the number in each scale item for each question, then note the 'mode' (the item with the most scores), and the total number off mode. This alone should give an experienced minister the drift of congregational sentiment.

A little more sophisticated approach would look at the mode by age group and duration of membership. This could also throw up relationships between the Christian engagement, church engagement and church inclusiveness groups of questions. 


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Christian library

While pecking around the Internet looking for lists of Christian books, I came across some good links to libraries:

Online Christian Library

Christian Classics


Sunday, July 19, 2015

All Souls

Sorting through old papers today, I came across this, reminiscent of happy days (not the fire, but the church):


Saturday, July 18, 2015

12 books - 2

More to add to my list of 12 great Christian books.

In my previous list I had 8 books by 7 authors, so I need to add four more books:

The fact that these books come easily to mind suggest their significance in my reading:

Hans Kung: Does God Exist? and On Being Christian
Frederick Dale Bruner: A Theology of the Holy Spirit
Donald Crowe: Creation without Compromise
There, that's 4. I was also impressed with Carl Henry's God Revelation and Authority, and plan to re-read it...one day. I also have fond memories of  Helmut Thieleke's The Evangelical Faith (and plan to read Michael Bird's book of the similar name Evangelical Theology).

I know Kung has some aberrant ideas, but those books did fuel a lot of thought for me, and they were a breath of fresh air in the arid intellectual environment of the church I was in during my early 20s.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Theology books

I'm on to lists of books.

I've blogged on my top 12 (the first 7, anyway), and what other people think in general Christian books, but now here's the serious crowd: theology.

The Christian Theologian's reading list

Good Reads Christian (popular) theology

Frank Viola's 100 Christian academic books (some real goodies here)

Worthy Discussion's list of 10 (he mentions some baddies as an addendum)

Christian Century's list of lists for the last 25 years

Westminster Theological Seminary recommends (good, but excessively Calvinistic)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Boss!

There's a Sunday School song that the child of one of my friend's sings...I think my kids also sang it years ago, called 'Jesus is the Boss'. Its appalling lyrics are linked.

Appalling? Why, doesn't it just delineate the lordship of Jesus is language that children understand?

Well...no!

Compare this line: "Jesus is the boss of the fishes in the sea"

with this passage from Genesis (1:28):

God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

At this point...the first line, the song gets it theology of creation dead wrong.

But 'boss'? What is this supposed to convey? How many parents come home effusive with praise for their boss? Not many, I daresay.

A boss is a person in a contractual employment relationship that is very much not personal at all, and bound all all sides by law as thick as a phone book (not that we see those too often these days).

Does a 'boss' say things like this: "How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings..." (Matthew 23:37)? Or anything like John 17?

It is a trite ditty more destructive than most trite ditties I've heard, and in its misleading with such potential to damage the faith of young ones.

Church life survey

My own small contribution to the church life survey industry. Free to use and adapt.




Monday, July 13, 2015

Leaving...

I read in an article that most young adults leave church not because of emotional or social forces (like they've been hurt, or even abused), but because their intellectual questions were not taken seriously or even answered...'just believe' still operates.

The great and frustrating irony in this is that modern rationality has its roots in Christian theology which from the start was a rational enterprise; God's creating was orderly, we in his image are to look after it. This includes coming to understand it. No 'spirits' to appease, no monsters to be scared of, no incantations to be learnt.

So, I wonder about both the education of people newly Christian, and the teaching of children in Sunday School and youth groups. I worry that its all Bible stories or affective responses to portions of biblical text. It should include Christian foundations, church history, the inputs to theology, at least.

I reflect on my own Sunday School years and while there were some teachers who responded to the questions of we young teenagers, mostly it was a kiddie entertainment routine.

At every age we need to equip children to think about their faith and to reason through questions it brings up.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Evening

My children are caught between being leaving behind the Sunday School age and not yet in the' youth group' age. In an effort to find an alternative we went to the evening service.

The attendance was OK, but mainly 20s to 30s, a very few older middle aged and one child in the group of my children.

We missed the mark! Too old for them (I should not have been surprised).

I also found the visual atmosphere unpleasant: not enough light. It struck me as a space that grew darker when the lights were switched on.

If people find the space unattractive, or even worse, unpleasant, they will be reluctant to come; some won't even know why they are reluctant to come, but will tend to stay away.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Evaluate locally

A little while ago I posted on evaluation of the Revive15 conference.

The same should apply to church life.

We should do whole of church evaluation of congregate activity, small groups, special interest groups, training and education, prayer, children's and youth ministries, etc.

A successful evaluation has got to get past the 'did you like it' questions and seek information about changes, outcomes, opportunities; about community, growth...

My aspirational reading list

Having looked over the 'good books' lists, I've planned (highly aspirationally, as the title of the post declares) to read the following. The A list is serious intent, the B list less so.

A
Grudem Systematic Theology
Theilicke Evangelical Faith and Theological Ethics
Henry God, Revelation and Authority
That should keep me going for a few years, but if I want a break:

B
Panneberg Systematic Theology
House Old Testament Theology
Brueggemann Theology of the Old Testament
Then I'll do something else...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Let's pray about this...

We've conducted our first prayer meeting. It was about 'social justice'. Well, that's fine, but it is also highly political. For some at our church, social justice means that the government should let all comers into our country by whatever means, and house them in the community.

This is not the job of government. In fact, our government has closed the corrupt and dangerous channel of boating across the ocean, which has lead to many deaths, many economic refugees, and an intake of criminals. Such arrivals also often destroy their papers to avoid their identity and origin being checked: not a good sign.

My very unpopular view is that the government  has done the right thing in closing a channel that was so unreliable for all concerned...except the smugglers, of course.

Worth noting that in the last 10 years we have taken in over 66,000 refuges: proper refugees, not criminals, thugs or thieves.

How should we help then: by helping the poor become productive, by encouraging governments to be uncorrupt. It took the west centuries to achieve this, and it was largely the influence of Christianity that achieved it...the answer is, then: missionaries.

The Guidance of Bullets

During my Internet peregrinations (name of a radio program I co-announced on 2SER-FM many years ago, incidentally and part of the first on-air team), I came across an article from the English Civil War period: The wonderful work of God in the guidance of bullets by Nehemiah Wallington.

There was a bit of 'God blessed our bullets, but not theirs', but I detect that Wallington's side also seemed to prepare well with appropriate selection of ammunition.

Before I read it, I was wondering if I would read somthing similar to the belief of some Afgan tribal fighters who just fired off their (modern Western invented, designed and manufactured) AK-47s in the belief that they didn't need to aim as Allah would guide the bullets. Good for them?

Happily not, although there is that tendency in Puritanism.

The tendency forgets a number of things: God created us in his image; therefore we have mind and will, and both are for use, or we insult our creator. God also issued to Adam the 'creation mandate' to subdue (have stewardship over -- it always tickles me that fish are first mentioned in the list in Genesis 1:28) the creation.

God also created us for fellowship, so we do both (think for ourselves and live in the creation) in company with him who also works all things together for our good.

'Subdue' before the fall cannot be bad, but would be congruent with the operation of will determined by love as governed the creation itself.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Best books

I started listing out my 12 best Christian books a little while ago, then thought to see what Mr Google had on the topic.

Lots, as it happens.

Some lists of 100, from which one might extract a top 12, some talk about a 'top 10' but I prefer 12 as the creme de la creme as it is the number of apostles.

All the lists I saw included books I would exit from such lists: too popular (ephemeral or circumstantial), too narrow, as in protestants excluding great RC books,  or too catholic, including books that waste paper.

I was pleased, though, that I've read a number of the books listed, and even a number of my list of 7 appeared on the lists that the clever people had compiled.

Here are some that I found:

Church Times 100 best Christian books

Jeremy Myers best Christian books read

Top Ten Christian Books of all time

Christianity Today's top 50 that influenced evangelicals

Life in Grace blog top 10

Frank Viola's Best 100

9 Classic Christian books

10 books for a deeper faith

25 Christian classics from the Huffington Post (of all places)

50 great Christian books (too much Piper and Lewis for my taste)

10 books that every Christian should read (too many light weights)

Top 25 spriritual classics (again, a few too many modern light weights)

and, lastly, a list I didn't like at all being merely popular in my view, apart from two goodies at the end of the list:

10 Christian best sellers.


Programming conferences

The Revive15 conference program was unbalanced in respect of its timing.


A better format in my view is below.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Evaluate

One thing missing at Revive15 was evaluation. At some conferences I've attended, we've been asked to evaluate each session. That was a bit much. One evaluation for the whole event is sufficient.

For a conference such as Revive15, that is, not work, professional or academic, I think the evaluation should be a light touch, but even so, people should have an opportunity to cover the main parts of the conference.

  • Timing
  • Content: main speaker/s, workshops (perhaps one line for each workshop)
  • Food
  • Duration
  • Music
  • Prayer
  • Compere
  • Video breaks
  • Venue
  • Wayfinding
  • Meeting people
  • Hospitality (did you feel welcomed, cared for, respected)

That should cover it.

All on a four point Likert scale, with a line for optional comment.

Then, of course, sex, age band, educational level and income band (because it indicates occupational attainment and therefore general capability).

Monday, June 29, 2015

Praying church

At home group the other day one of our members talked about her ambition that our church become more prayerful.

Now, that's a Good Thing to pray for!

We talked about what it means. I had a vision (not a serious spiritual vision, just an ordinary old thought) of more prayer through the service, of more prayerful consideration prior to planning, more prayful thought about action and relationships.

At the moment we only pray together at one time in the service that I go to. It would be good to do more: an opening pray, a formal pray before or after the Bible reading (we only have one, a couple and a psalm might be good...but that could be just hankering after my Anglican roots), prayer prior to the sermon (like here) and a benediction prayer.

We do have private prayer after the service, and I think that's a wonderful idea. It tends to be seen as a 'crisis' prayer, but we should widen it, I think. We also have a small prayer meeting before church, which is good, I would aspire to attend, but cannot.

The person talked about small group prayer during the services. I added that I don't like that and a few others agreed; visitors certainly would feel alienated by it, so great care is needed if it is done. I still wouldn't support the idea because the context is wrong and it would be dissonant with the tenor of a 'look to front' service.

We have special prayer for our overseas mission partners once a month, but maybe we could also pray as a church in prayer meetings. One member said he couldn't see how you could just pray for an hour, so I explained that it's a little more than that and can include devotional reading of the Bible, even a psalm or two, then a couple of times of small group or plenary prayer.

If I was Anglican, I'd point to the form for morning or evening prayer, which I've always found beneficial...can't do that in a Baptist church.

A work in progress.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Spiritual Care

As part of my responsibility at work I had to approve a document today that included in its resource list a link under 'spiritual' to an organisation called Spiritual Care.

No doubt you've checked it out yourself by now (link above). Nothing to do with Christ or his church, plenty to do with the sad facade of Tibetan Buddhism: either spooks or fakes, or maybe just dressing up observed wisdom in saffron robes.

Before I checked the link I had hoped that it might have lead to a Christian organisation that had managed to hit the marketing approach that clearly, as I discovered, the TBs had.

I approved the document because I didn't have time to contest the link (or suggest that my employer should not support a religion) and thought that some good may come. Some well read critically informed and loving Christian might attend one of the courses and open up a Christo-centric conversation. An organisation with Christian roots might be spawned to do a similar job...lots of other maybes zipped by.

From time to time important aspects of pastoral care or good living are packaged, marketed and publicised and make public headway. Kubler-Ross and her work on dying was one ages ago, this one is another...I suggested to a minister who was looking at developing ministry in the Sydney CBD that a 'work-spirituality' connection be built; he wasn't interested (leave it for some Buddhist, I guess).

I notice that while Christians talk about 'out-reach' they instantly convert it to 'in-drag' and don't in fact go out anywhere. At work we have some out-reach services, and that's what we do: go out. We send people to where the target group is, to become known and trusted, to merge with them and bring them the services they need. Some 'tougher' services are 'assertive' out-reach. They are more pointed at psycho-social 'rescue'. The church, which has a long tradition of out-reach seems to have forgotten it these days, and just wants to in-drag.

I hope we change before too many slip away.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Just searching!


An inner city Anglican church had this sign up:
“join us searching for things that matter”.
It might not have been exactly that, but what an offer! What an admission! We don’t know; the indwelling Spirit of Gd and the Bible don’t help…all we can do is ‘search’. How is this an offer to people without Christ who are searching? You don’t know, we don’t know: therefore anything goes.
Still it lines up with the rector’s track record. In a debate many years ago with a leading philosophy lecturer at Sydney University, his first move was to accept the materialist framing of our world and therefore experience! So much for a gospel that saves!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

12 books

On INC there's an article listing the '12 books that Steve Jobs wanted you to read'. Happily, I've already read a number of them; I don't know that my free time extends to some of the others he lauds. Four of them are Eastern religious books...very cool to mention (but I wonder what the long term result of homage to the East will bring, given that it disdains the ordered thought that has brought us freedom, productivity and discovery). There are a couple of businessy books, and novels. I might read some of them; for instance, Moby Dick. Its often mentioned, so perhaps a read one day.

But, what would my 12 books be? Off the top of my head, there are more than 12, so let's stick to Christian books.

Without giving it deep thought, my list begins:


Augustine: Confessions and The City of God
Bede: Ecclesiastical History of the English People
C. S. Lewis: Mere Christianity
G. K. Chesterton: Orthodoxy
Francis Schaeffer: The God Who is There
Ratzinger: Introduction to Christianity
Jurgen Moltmann: The Crucified God


More later.