Monday, October 17, 2016

George Athas on the Bible's Attitude to Rape

This will be my last George Athas share for now, another lecture I haven't had time to watch, so saving this for later. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

George Athas - The Bible's attitude to Rape from Reason for Hope on Vimeo.

George Athas on the Tearing of the Temple Curtain

I've really been enjoying the blog of George Athas, OT lecturer at Moore in Sydney, he puts up brief but useful and challenging posts. He's doing some really interesting research as is obviously not afriad to slay the odd sacred cow. Fancy, for example, daring to suggest that Christian preachers have had it all wrong about the significance of the temple curtain being torn, I've been taught one meaning for this since I was knee high to a grasshopper, it's all about how Christ's death removed the barrier between God and humanity. George would beg to differ. Let me know what you think :-)

Hays on Figural Reading

I saw this posted on BW3's blog, and don't have time to watch it now so am putting it here for later. Should be good. Let me know what you think if you watch it.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Breaking news: Lot finally vindicated!

My earlier post about the story of Lot came down particularly hard on Lot for his callous attitude to his virgin daughters. However, it seems I may have fallen for a narrative trap and committed an injustice of my own. George Athas suggests an intriguing alternative in his article Has Lot lost the Plot?

It is free to view on so click on it, and don't forget to tell him I sent you. :-)
Let me know what you think.

Monday, October 10, 2016

I'm now a PhD candidate!

So, I am happy to announce that as of Feb 2017 I will be a PhD student at Otago University in Dunedin, NZ, working under the supervision of Prof Paul Trebilco. Paul is a highly respected NT scholar, probably best known for his work in Christianity in Ephesus/Asia Minor and early Christian self identification. My own research is (at present) going to be in the area of Mark's Gospel, Christology, narrative, and scriptural intertextuality.

My last stint as student was when this blog was birthed and it received a lot more attention when I wasn't trying to lead a church, so without making any promises I'm optimistic that this blog will find a new lease of life. A number of other blogs were reallly helpful in putting my PhD proposal together and while a scholar needs to consult articles and books, etc, blogs are often a wonderful source of concise information and cutting edge ideas that 90% of the academic world seem uninterested in. So, I'm also looking forward to engaging more fully in the "blogosphere" once more and expect blogging to benefit my research immensely.

I expect there will also need to be some reflective stuff on my last 6 years of pastoral ministry, I"ve got a lot to process and the blog is often a good way to get thoughts down in words.

Hope you'll join me on the journey!
Pax vobiscum.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Baptist Ecclesiology: On the Way and in the Fray

If you are interested in such things don't miss Drs John Tucker and Andrew Picard's article.
When we gather together, Christ is present in our midst and we can expect to hear his voice in the gathered community by the Spirit. Secondly, the promised presence of the Lord Jesus in the gathered community sets the church free from all other lords or rulers. Final authority over a congregation rests not with a pope or creed (or senior pastor,
or elders or national gathering resolutions). Final authority rests with the risen Christ who is present as Lord in the midst of a congregation. These twin emphases form something of the Baptist dynamic, a Baptist way of being.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Diagnosing the Demonic

Do we really believe in the demonic anymore? Or can everything be treated with the right pills? What do we do with the fact that in Mark's gospel Jesus is a full blown exorcist but by John's gospel he seems to little interest in it? Was there more demonic activity in Jesus' time as a reaction to him? Is demon possession just what the ancients used to call mental illness? None of these questions are answered by this fascinating article, but read it anyway. Alternatively some of those questions are broached by an extraordinary panel of N.T. Wright, Richard Beck, Greg Boyd, Tony Jones and Tripp Fuller on this podcast (if you've got time to kill).

Let me know what you think :-)

Monday, July 4, 2016

Dark Satanic Book Mills

Well, of all the ways in which we dehumanise our fellow humans and alienate each other form the rewards of our labour can there be a more insidious and reprehensible form than the academic book mill? My mind had not conceived of such depravity till today.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Centurion's Gay Lover?

Ian Paul goes into great detail debunking numerous myths and falsehoods surrounding the story of Jesus healing a Centurions servant in Luke 7:1-10/ Matt 8:5-13 and the way it is used in the church's debate around sexuality. Well worth a read.
The rhetorical move here, via the story in Luke 7, is that, far from the traditional reading of the NT where same-sex relations are rejected as incompatible with the kingdom, gay people don’t simply become acceptable in the kingdom; they become the archetypal members, in much the same way that Jesus holds children before the disciples as archetypes of kingdom membership. So rejecting this is not just a problem of rights; it is rejecting the central way that God pursues his kingdom purposes. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Miracle of Thiselton's Theology

I now repent of all my unbelief and cynicism. If you need any further proof of supernatural intervention in human affairs it is this:

The man who required 1492 pages to write a commentary on 1 Corinthians.

Has managed to cover the entire Christian faith (and atheism!) in only 467 pages in his Systematic Theology.

Having read Thiselton on a few occasions I can relate to the reviewer who complained:
Thiselton tries to elucidate his subject using terms and concepts that are as difficult to understand as the original subject, if not more so.
The chap is just too smart for most of us to follow and too hard working for most of us to keep up with. We rejoice if he has been triply blest now with the spiritual gift of brevity!

(seriously though, he is an amazing scholar and is always well worth reading)

Monday, June 20, 2016

12 Reasons for All Age Worship

I know 12 reasons sounds like a short sharp and succinct blog post, but it aint. Thaliakr will take you on a long and winding tour of the twelve reasons in the second longest blog post known to humankind. Still, there is lots of helpful reflection and practical suggestions in there.
Since my time as pastor of West Baptist (2008-2011), I’ve become a huge fan of all-age church, where everyone is all in together, and people of all ages are warmly invited to engage in what’s going on. I’m not talking about a place where the kids are allowed to be in the room but expected to be quiet and do colouring-in. At West Baptist, there’s no separate Sunday School, and everyone of every age is actively included and considered in how things are done, on Sundays and beyond. This system was already in place when I arrived. I was a bit sceptical at first, but now I reckon it’s fantastic – and truly possible for most communities.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Ben Myers Campaigns against Unnecessarily Slanted Words

This is funny, but also points to a genuine issue of modern communication: The felt need to ram home your point instead of trusting the reader to do the work of appropriating it for themselves.
The overuse of italics has, today, reached plague proportions. Writers sprinkle their sentences with italics merely because they would like you to notice these particular words. But if I am reading the sentence, how could I fail to notice those particular words? Why, author, do you need to give me such emphatic and overbearing guidance? I am already reading your sentence; I am already committed to it; I am already willing to hear what you have to say.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

What I Think About the Orlando Shooting

Sometimes being a Baptist pastor can be uncomfortable as people hear other Baptist pastors saying things in the media and wonder if that is what you think too. The Baptists are a very broad church with divergent beliefs and practices across the globe. So if you are concerned about what I might be thinking, here is what I do think. I'm not speaking for anyone else here.

1. Every person who was killed was a precious child of God made in God's image. Every death was a terrible tragedy and waste. Our world is terribly broken by sin and needs a saviour.

2. For whatever motive, and it seems complicated, the killer targeted these people because they were part of the LGBT community, this is therefore a hate crime against LGBT people as well as an act of terrorism. Those who try and downplay this are badly mistaken. Regardless of your beliefs on personal sexual morality we should all be saying: this was not acceptable, we love and accept LGBT people as part of our society, we must keep them safe. LGBT people are persecuted for their identity around the world and Christians should be standing up for them as we should for any other vulnerable people group.

3. Some people, among them some allegedly Christian pastors, have suggested that the fact that the victims were LGBT makes this act acceptable or even to be celebrated. Those who call themselves Christians while espousing such views are abominations who have perverted the Gospel of Christ beyond all recognition. Theirs is not a point of view but rank heretical poison direct from Satan.

4. Those who continue to work to block gun reform law in USA for the sake of profit have an ever increasing amount of blood on their hands. They will face the judgement of God for it, and it will have been better for them if they had never been born.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Using the Trinity to Keep Women in their Place

While there are some reasonable (if ultimately unconvincing to me) arguments for the complementarian position there is no excuse for the sort of mummery where one tries to argue such a position from the Trinity. This novel doctrine is known as Eternal Functional Subordination (EFS). It is, to coin a technical phrase, arse-backwards (and this goes for any other attempt to prescribe human activity based on what the Trinity is like). Don't miss Darren Sumner as he takes those turkeys to task:

The EFS mode of reasoning is what Barth decried as human projection misidentified with divine revelation. Ware takes a human cultural construct and, mistaking it for revelation, reads it upward into the life of God by means of an analogia entis. When he in turn derives from this divine relation a proscription for human gender relations, the circle is complete and the exercise in natural theology is made infinitely more egregious. Ware first reads the authority-submission structure from creaturely existence into the life of God; then he reads it back out again from God to human creatures — only now switching from the parent-child relation to male-female relations. The procedure is entirely self-referential, a theological systole and diastole: Ware has derived from his doctrine of God exactly what he put into it.
Not only that but until today I never knew what systole and diastole was. I had assumed it was some classical reference beloved of theologians akin to Scylla and Charybdis, but turns out it is a medical metaphor from the cardiac cycle. Alright Darren, no one likes a show off.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Burden of Belief

I realise I am late to the party on this one, but a fascinating article (and further links for the time-rich) from the Guardian about a Canadian pastor who has embraced the title of atheist.
“I do not believe in a theistic, supernatural being called God,” says Gretta Vosper, the United Church of Canada minister who has led West Hill since 1997. “I don’t believe in what I think 99.99% of the world thinks you mean when you use that word.” Tor her, God is instead a metaphor for goodness and a life lived with compassion and justice.
The ecclesiastical ruptures Gretta Vosper has and is causing are on thing, but her relative success in forming a community as an atheist pastor is also worth noting: 
Some, such as Eve Casavant, 44, recently started attending West Hill after hearing about Vosper among atheist circles. She was delighted to find the same sort of church she had been raised in, save the burden of belief. “It’s like that sense of community without the barriers,” she says. “It’s a beautiful thing and it is too bad it’s not being as embraced as it should be.”
Speaking from my own experience, you would be surprised how many people go to church primarily for the community, rather than for belief in God. On the other hand, it is well documented how many God-believers now seldom darken the doors of a church. The real kicker though, is this,
Stripped of God and the Bible, services here are light on religious doctrine and instead emphasise moral teachings. The service begins with a nod to the First Nations land on which the church stands and goes on to mention human rights in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Palestine. Global concern is coupled with community-building, with members invited to share significant moments of the past week.
The idea that the way to moral action on social, environmental and historical issues is through atheism is a real challenge to us God-botherers. How often does Christian piety become an insulation from the pain of the world?   Matthew 5:20 could well be re-written for us as
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Atheists and the Unbelievers, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.