Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Fundamentalist Vs Evangelical

...[O]ne of the things that makes an evangelical different from a fundamentalist is that an evangelical is supposed to be willing to wrestle with the evidence. One of the hallmark differences between a fundamentalist and an evangelical is willingness to dialog over the issues. A fundamentalist condemns; an evangelical thinks. A college professor of mine used to say, “The Christian army is the only army in the world that shoots its wounded.” And, as a colleague of mine at Dallas Seminary says, “Some evangelicals in the rear guard are more comfortable taking pot shots at their own front line troops than they are engaging with the enemy.” It is a sad state of affairs for the evangelical church, especially the Reformed branch, when some act more like fundamentalists than evangelicals."
(My take on inerrancy, Daniel B. Wallace , Th.M., Ph.D., Here)

Perhaps we have a thing or two to learn still!

Till next time!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

A plea for help!

Who was the first to state the doctrine of infallibility of scripture? (NT or OT)

I warning you now that if you quote 1 Tim 3:16 (or the like) at me and/or claim it was Paul then you will be in danger of being removed! And no Swithun it will not be funny.

Thanks as always!

Monday, 11 May 2009

God's smug-gler

It's rather funny how what people perceive is so often opposite to the truth. Here is just one great example: Christians are smug because they believe themselves to be the elect and therefore better then everyone. I lost count how many times I've heard something that that slung at my head. (Of course this is not to say it has no validity that Christians are smug, merely that Christianity is not.) The Rabbis faced the same sort of questions. Why are they God's elect? Why not another nation? We often, falsely, accused the Jews of being arrogant, when we ourselves are as arrogant today. However I believe that Sanders makes a great point about the true nature of election in this quote:

"The Rabbis were no more plagued by arrogance than any other people who held the doctrine of election; indeed, the idea that suffering was entailed in the election...helps to give quite a non-arrogant tone to Rabbinic thought on election. The idea of being privileged as children of Abraham may have been abused, but abuses were cited by the Rabbis themselves. Smugness was resisted."
(E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, p.87)

We are elected to suffer. We are chosen and called to suffer on behalf of the world. In our suffering the Gospel takes hold and is given to the world that all may be saved. Where is smugness now? No longer are we a people who deserve great things but rather a people who suffer for the worlds sake. It's not a calling to greatness or an election to superiority but to suffer.

Jesus, the eternally elect of God, as in all things is our great example. Paul wrote:

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2: 5-11, NASB)

Yes we are the elect but this is not to be lauded over people. Christ, the only one who truly has any right to be smug instead humbled himself to serve, and ultimately to suffer for the sake of the world. Let us then follow 'such a great crowd of witnesses' (Heb 12:1) we have in Judaism and and follow the author and perfector of our faith (Heb 12:2) and use this election not as something to by prideful in and be smug about but to serve and suffer for the world, for Christ’s sake and the furthering of his kingdom.

Till next time!

One Sentence Theology

Robin Parry from Theological Scribbles has done two very interesting post recently (One Sentence Theology: Gospel and Church).

The concept is genius! It makes you condense all your ramblings into one, concise statement. Here is how it works:

1) Pick a topic: Church, Gospel, Trinity, etc. (Of course this can apply to any subject but I find doctrine to be the biggest challenge.)

2) Write one sentence on it: We are talking proper English sentences here and not a Pauline special (Eph 1:3-14).

3) Check it over: If this was the only sentence one had read on the subject would it be enough to explain what the subject is?

Here are my first attempts posted at Theological Scribbles:

What is Church?
"The people that are 'called out' (ecclesia) by God to be separate from the rest of the world as they are followers of Christ."
(N.B. I'm not happy with this as it sounds like I’m a separatist)

What is the Gospel?
"God has saved all who have faith in him from themselves by sending Jesus to die in their place, and he rose from the dead so we can have send eternity with him."

Please post your attempts below (along with the topic you are addressing) and hopefully (assuming we get enough/any) I will put up what I believe to be the best ones.

Till next time!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


Men click here or you're a sissy!

Quote from Roger Olsen

"Before you say 'I disagree' make sure you can say 'I understand'"

Source: Podcast here

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Jesus is the Word of God; an exposition (Ed.2)

In my previous post "The Bible is not the word of God!" I explained that we often mis-understand who/what the word of God is and there by end u with false conclusions. The Rambler justly critiqued my work. He says "[Your] the Bible is Not the Word of God post was heavy on assertion and not argument." So here, just for you (and anyone else who reads this), is my exposition. I have three main arguments: A) John 1 and Genesis 1, B) Scripture Vs. Word of the Lord, and C)The word is eternal.

A) In Genesis 1, right at the beginning (literally and figuratively), we read "And God said" 11 times. Each time God speaks something is created from nothing by his voice, by his very word. Later in Colossians we read "For by [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him." So here we see that that Jesus was this word that was creating in Genesis. In Genesis we have the whole Trinity in action: The Father ordains, the Son creates and the Spirit hovers over the face of the deep.

We see this in the beginning of Johns Gospel. He writes:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it...He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

B) It seems interesting to me that in general when someone in the Bible quotes or reads Torah it is referred to as scriptures. However when God speaks it is regarded as "The word of the Lord". This is not always the case however but there seems to be a general theme used. (Yes, I know this is a weaker argument as it could be explained by culture but I'd thought I’d add it as a little extra anyway).

C) It's also worth noting what we mean by the Bible when people refer to it as being the word of the Lord. Is it the pages, the physical book itself: The paper and ink? Isaiah 40: 7-8 says:

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever."

Obviously paper and ink can be destroyed, plus there was a long time when the bible never existed at all, let alone in written form. Does that mean that Gods word didn't exist? Of course not! This means that the word of the Lord is separate from the Bible; something separate from the material. The Bible contains the words of God. This is not to say that either there are parts that are not inspired but simply that they Bible is not itself the word of God, nor does it portray the fullness of all God has to say.

Likewise when we read passages about Gods promises does he do them because we have read the promises? Almost like an incantation? No, he does them because he is loving. They are written because he does them. The Bible is not a Christian spell book but a record of who God is and his dealing with mankind. The bible has power, not because of the ink, the paper or the words but because to the God behind them all. I would prefer if we called the Bible "the written word" as it helps to remove the confusion.

So what does this mean for us? Should we stop Bible study and just pray to be taught? No. God has revealed himself to us in Jesus and through the Bible and we are to read it and learn more of who God is through his dealings with us and his commands. What is does mean however is the simply reading the Bible is not enough to grow. We need to know the author, to be taught by him and to receive the true Word: Jesus himself.

Karl Barth said:
"The prophetic-apostolic witness, through which the congregation of Jesus Christ is established, is the single normative form of the Word of God for that congregation. There are many things in the heavens and on earth, but there is only one God. There are many ideas about God, but there is only one true knowledge of this one God, true because derived from God’s self-testimony. There are many events, powers, forms, and truths which are important, worthwhile, and indispensable for us, but there is only one Word of God, only one Jesus Christ, in whom the confrontation of the gracious God with sinful humanity took place once for all. And because not all, but only these particular people are the elected, called prophetic and apostolic witnesses to Jesus Christ, there are many hidden forms only this one visible form of the one Word of the one God. Only in this form is God’s Word finally, decisively normative, binding, and authoritative. The Church of Jesus Christ acknowledges the unique Word of the unique God in this uniquely visible and uniquely normative form. In this knowledge, it sets the biblical canon."
(Karl Barth, “The Authority and Significance of the Bible: Twelve Theses,” in God Here and Now, p. 60.)

Please don't get me wrong. I do not believe that every time "word of God" or "word of the Lord" are used that it is a Christophany. What I am meaning is that this message is to do with Christ and is through Christ. The word of God is more than, beyond the book we know as the Bible. The word of God is Christ and his message. It is this which is revealed in the Bible.

The word of the Lord has power because the Word is God (John 1). The Bible has power because it bears witness to that true word, Jesus Christ. In this sense the Bible has power because it bears witness to the word and not because we claim it is the word itself. To claim that the Bible is the word of God is to limit God and to mis-understand the Bible

Caleb Woodbridge asked below: "What problems, theological and practical, do you think would be corrected by not referring to the Bible as the word of God?"

Here is my answer: I believe that it has three main implications (which I will also add into the main text above when I get a chance):

1&2) It changes what the Bible is and who Jesus is: If we see the Bible as the word of God in the same sense that Jesus is (and the sense of 'the Lord said/spoke to, etc) then it becomes a very different document then we actually have. The bible is inspired by God by not written by him or dictated verbatim. It means that instead of approaching the bible as a document which is to be interpreted by the help of the holy spirit and through Christ (the revealer) we would approach it with less care. It also turns the Bible into the Qu'ran and one would expect that we treat it as such. If the Bible is the same as Jesus (both "Word of God") then we should treat them the same and treat the Bible with awe and majesty.

3) Its dangerous for evangelism: It lends to a view of "As long as they have read the Bible I've done my part" view of evangelism when in reality that’s not the case. We need to help them understand the Bible and apply its meaning. If it were the "word of God" in the fullest sense then this shouldn't be necessary.

Till next time!

N.B. Please stay tuned for Ed. 3 (as I'm sure I'm not done yet!)

Torture and Eucharist; William T. Cavanaugh

This is a fantastic article, and one which you must read. Thanks to P e r ∙ C r u c e m ∙ a d ∙ L u c e m who posted a link and to theotherjournal who posted the article here. Particular thanks of course to Cavanaugh who wrote it.

What follows are a few of my favorite quotes from the article but I suggest you do read the whole thing:

"The whole Global War on Terror in which many nations participate depends on this type of forgetfulness. Consider what it means to be fighting a war on “terror.” Terrorism is not really an “ism”; it is not an ideology, but a tactic. If we are fighting a war on terror, then there is no need to consider the ideas, the aspirations, the historical grievances of the people who oppose us. We are simply fighting “terrorists”, people who believe in nothing, other than the blowing up of innocent civilians. History is erased. We have no need of examining, for example, the U.S. overthrow of a parliamentary government in Iran and the installation of the Shah’s brutal regime of torture with full U.S. support. Muslim fundamentalism is simply the irrational source of terror. The Global War on Terror is thus inherently amnesiac. When the enemy is imagined as crazy people who believe in nothing more noble than blowing up innocent people, there is no need to examine one’s own historical sins."

"The sacrifice of Christ overcomes the distinction between friend and enemy. We are all enemies of God, and we have been made friends of God through the sacrifice of Christ. As Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us… For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:8, 10)."

"We were present at the cross; we tortured Jesus to death, and we continue to do so. We must be freed from thinking that the only obstacle to peace are the crazy fanatics who mean to do harm to us innocents. We must seek the truth about why they hate us, and we must cease telling ourselves reassuring lies, such as “They hate our freedoms.” In the Eucharist we call to mind our sins and we remember how Christ made us God’s friends despite our best efforts to remain enemies."

"In this reality of shared pain, we see the distance between friend and enemy overcome. For the sharing of pain goes beyond a sharing with other members of the Church. If the Church is the Body of Christ, the sacrament and sacrifice for the world, then we are to be broken and given away as food for others. The Church is, as Paul says, to “make up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24), by suffering together with the victims of violence. If it is the case that the Eucharist makes the Body of Christ, then the Church does not simply commemorate God’s “no” to violence, but embodies God’s answer to violence in the world. We ourselves prefer to absorb the violence of the world rather than to perpetrate violence."

"The world did not change on 9/11; the world changed on 12/25. When the Word of God became incarnate in human history, when he was tortured to death by the powers of this world, and when he rose to give us new life—it was then that everything changed. Christ made friends of us who are enemies of God, and He thus made us capable of loving our enemies as ourselves."

Friday, 1 May 2009

Henri Nouwen on Emptiness

"We are afraid of emptiness. Spinoza speaks about our "horror vacui," our horrendous fear of vacancy. We like to occupy-fill up-every empty time and space. We want to be occupied. And if we are not occupied we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, saying, 'But what if ...'

It is very hard to allow emptiness to exist in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness."

(Copied from here)

Politcially Correct Cartoons

N.B. Click on the pictures for their source.
Till next time!