Saturday, February 27, 2010

A New Kind of Christianity?

I like this quote from Scot McKnight's review of Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity:
Reading the Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ is indeed the way to go. But to use Jesus against the God of Israel he worshiped and prayed to and loved and obeyed pits us against what Jesus himself is doing.

And he ends his article with this:
The flow of the Bible is not neat. It doesn't fit into an evolutionary scheme. There are as many mercy passages in the Old Testament as there are grace-and-love passages in the New. What's more, passages about God's grace stand side-by-side with passages about God's wrath (e.g., Hosea 1-3; Matt. 23-25). The evolutionary approach doesn't work because that's not how Scripture's narrative works. There is wrath in Revelation and there is covenant love in Genesis. And Jesus talks more about Abba and hell than does the rest of the Bible combined.

Unfortunately, this book lacks the "generosity" of genuine orthodoxy and, frankly, I find little space in it for orthodoxy itself. Orthodoxy for too many today means little more than the absence of denying what's in the creeds. But a robust orthodoxy means that orthodoxy itself is the lens through which we see theology. One thing about this book is clear: Orthodoxy is not central.

Alas, A New Kind of Christianity shows us that Brian, though he is now thinking more systemically, has fallen for an old school of thought. I read this book carefully, and I found nothing new. It may be new for Brian, but it's a rehash of ideas that grew into fruition with Adolf von Harnack and now find iterations in folks like Harvey Cox and Marcus Borg. For me, Brian's new kind of Christianity is quite old. And the problem is that it's not old enough.

Sometimes when I read McKnight himself, such as his Blue Parakeet], it appears he is straying from the bounds of orthodoxy, but in this article he shows which side he is on. He certainly nails his colours to the right mast.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A different perspective

Some thought-provoking letters related to the failed home insulation scheme from today's Sydney Morning Herald. [26th February, 2010]
Don't overlook the jobs Garrett's scheme created

More than enough has been said about the merits and deficiencies of the government's home insulation scheme. But now that just this one scheme has been stopped, 6000 people are out of a job and wanting assistance. Surely this starkly illustrates how many people would have been unemployed throughout all industries if the government had not introduced its economic stimulus measures following the global financial crisis.

Allan Thomas Lochinvar

Please could the Herald print data quoting industrial deaths and house fires in the roof insulation industry before the government's rebate scheme. Tragic as the recent deaths and house fires are, it is hard to believe there were no accidents in the industry before.

Lorna Denham Cardiff Heights

It broke my heart to see on ABC news the crocodile tears from a small-business owner laying off staff who had been employed for three or four years ''because the home insulation scheme has been scrapped''. The scheme ran for less than a year. Presumably most of those longer term workers were earning their keep before it started.

Some of these small businesses were responsible for at least a quarter of home insulations having serious defects. They paid no heed to building regulations, provided inadequate training for their staff and ignored the health and safety of their workers and customers - happily raking in government subsidies the while.

I hope Kevin Rudd's generous retrenchment offer will not be used by small-business owners to avoid unfair dismissal legislation and get rid of staff they are keen to see the back of. Only reputable companies will be able to resume government subsidised work before a new scheme starts in June. Shonky businesses are more likely to opt for bankruptcy to avoid paying their debts.

Linda Stewart Lane Cove

With the lessons from the St James Ethics Centre becoming an alternative to religious education, perhaps Simon Longstaff would suggest that Jesus's ministerial responsibility for his Department of Disciples meant that Judas's actions required Jesus to resign (''Garrett must accept harsh necessities of our constitution'', February 25).

Peter Oliver Adamstown Heights

Got two years available?

I don't mean to be boring, because I've said all this before, but the ESV Study Bible is an amazing resource. I am now 78% of the way through it and have read
Genesis-2 Samuel
Luke-1 Corinthians

I appreciate the individual articles, introductions and study notes, but also the way they interrelate. The editors have done a terrific job.

Jack Collins' introduction and notes on Psalms are particularly outstanding.

Again and again the contributors show how important Deuteronomy and Exodus 34:6-7 are in the plan of the Old Testament and to the Bible as a whole.

I think every Christian person should be involved in getting to know God's Word, firstly through reading it without comments. An excellent way to do this is to read The Books of the Bible: a presentation of Today's New International Version, which removes chapters, verses and headings, rearranges the text to be partly chronological and partly thematic.

Then, when you have some familiarity with the Bible and have read the whole of it through, I can't think of a better guide than the ESV Study Bible. I'm finding it thrilling, though hard-going too, at times.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Email to the Premier

Open email to our Premier, Kristina Keneally
G'day Ms Keneally.
I enjoyed the article in today's Sydney magazine. You are presenting yourself very well and I think you are in with a chance for the next election, unless the Liberals wheel out Malcolm Turnbull, if it were possible to get him installed in such a short time.

The only reason that the electorate would vote Liberal with the current leader [I think] would be because they are not the stinking NSW Labor Party, which is certainly on the nose. But the Libs don't seem to have much that is positive to offer as an alternative. I'm not saying that because of animosity towards Mr O'Farrell, but because he and his party do not seem to be a credible alternative currently.

I was interested in your motto. Micah 6:8 is a wonderful part of holy scripture, but you left out the key part which is Yahweh. Surely this verse harks back [as so many do] to Exodus 34:6-7 where God proclaims his loving, merciful, just and faithful character to Moses.

I think Micah is saying we must be just because Yahweh our God is just; tenderly compassionate because he is compassionate, and walk humbly with him because he is our Yahweh, our God.

To leave him out is to completely misunderstand what Micah was saying.

I pray that you will restore him to his rightful place next time you cite this verse.

I wish you well in the extremely difficult job you have been given.

We regularly [though not regularly enough] pray for our leaders, including you, in our little church in Bathurst.

David McKay

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Christians promoting blood and gore fights?

Three letter writers in today's Sydney Morning Herald have perfectly expressed my views on The Ultimate Fighting Championship.
I am appalled that Mark Driscoll could support such sickening thuggery and that others are sucked in by it, too.

Driscoll has some good qualities, but his penchant for turning Christian boys into men unfortunately sometimes leads to an excessive desire for men to be brutes. So unlike their Lord and Master.

Grow up, Mark and grow up, Craig.

I'm so sorry that commenting is no longer allowed at the site cited in the heading.
Please, no more of the roar for gore

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is a disgusting, sickening spectacle of the worst of human nature ('''Smell the blood!' The sickening roar for gore'', February 22). There is something wrong with people who want to hurt people. There is more wrong with people who want to watch.

Don't give me rubbish about the participants being highly trained and skilled athletes. There is no honour in skill and strength when used for violence and the purpose of injuring someone to the extent they submit or cannot continue.

There is enough news of people being brutally beaten for no reason on Sydney streets. The spectacle of a man continuously punching another while he is on the ground with blood flowing will only encourage the animals on the streets to do more of the same.

The Herald should be ashamed for covering this garbage.

Glenn Newton Broulee

We have banned cockfighting and dogfighting on the grounds of excessive cruelty but there is no such restriction on manfighting, as Peter FitzSimons has discovered.

If this spectacle is to continue, I suggest the proceeds be taxed at 99 per cent and put into general revenue. That way we would all win. Pity about the mangled loser but one can't have everything.

John Warren Annandale

Ultimate fighting and cage fighting, with thousands flocking to see the brutality and gore, takes from us any claim to be a civilised society.
George Cotis Port Hacking

Monday, February 15, 2010

Retranslating, for the sake of argument

Isn't it frustrating when people argue from their own translation of Scripture, or from a non-standard rendering of Scripture, to prove a point!

I think we would all want to say Amen to that when someone else is doing it, but might want to support doing this in our own individual case!

Discussion can be tricky if your opponent only accepts one translation as authoritative, such as the King James Version or New World Translation, for example.

On Sunday, our minister preached a terrific message from 1 Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath. He made the point that the whole passage is about Goliath and the Philistines defying God and that the Hebrew word translated defy, or a word related to it, occurs over and over in the passage.

Sometimes the word was translated with a different English word in most English versions [though, interestingly the New Living Translation used the word defiance in 1 Sam 17:26, where most other well-known versions don't].

In this case, it was helpful to be told what the original said, even though it didn't show up in our NIVs [or even, whisper, whisper ESVs].

But I think it is a fair point that if you have to retranslate a passage to make your point, you should think about making it from another passage which you don't have to retranslate.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

You and I and Me

I often notice that people don't say You and Me any more, but always say You and I. A sexagenarian told me that it is always wrong to say You and Me.

But I do have to admit that it is tricky and I can see why we have settled on always saying You and I.

Today I watched We Are The World 25 For Haiti. I would have loved an annotated copy, like the one someone has kindly done of the original version.

I couldn't help noticing these words:
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

I was pleased to hear people singing You and Me, but disappointed that it was incorrect, and that they should have sung You and I.

I think that in this couplet You and Me is being used as a parallel to We, so that you would say "You and I will make a better day" not
"You and ME will make a better day."

How disappointing!

And I have to admit that when I say "You and Me," even when it appears to be correct grammar, it is starting to sound odd. Ain't that a shame!

Friday, February 12, 2010

A gem from Ray Ortlund

My dad used to say to me, when I was a kid, “Listen, son. Half-hearted Christians are the most miserable people of all. They know enough to feel guilty, but they haven’t gone far enough with Christ to be happy. Be wholehearted for him!”

I used to roll my eyes when you said that. I don’t any more.

Deep Church

DEEP CHURCH by Jim Belcher
I bought this book last time I visited the store, and was pleased to meet the head sherang, Karl Grice, at the same time.

The title is a quote from a 1952 C S Lewis letter to the Church Times in which he said that instead of being either Low Church or High Church, perhaps Christians who believe in God's supernatural intervention in the world should be called Deep Church, or in Richard Baxter's terminology Mere Christians.

Belcher is one of the pastors of the Redeemer Presbyterian Churches founded by Tim Keller. He has researched the Emerging Church movement extensively by meeting its leaders, attending meetings and reading their literature and blogs.

He says that traditional Christians and Emerging folk are suspicious of one another and need to get to know and learn from this interaction. He believes there is a way of combining the best of both worlds into a new Deep Church, while still being cautious about unhelpful aspects of both groups.

The book is well worth reading. You might also find Darrell Bock's article at bock's blog to be something to chew over.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Interesting comments by Dr Megan Best, Palliative Care doctor
I have always found striking the discrepancy between the public support for euthanasia (among those who are healthy) and my patients’ desire for continued life. I was informed of a recent poll which claimed that 87 per cent of Australians support legalisation of euthanasia.

Research done on palliative care populations, however, tells a different story. A study done some years ago in Sydney found that less than one per cent of those referred to a palliative care service made persistent requests for euthanasia.

My own observation is that things haven’t changed much since then. Why the disparity?

I think there are many reasons why this is the case. The absence of death in everyday life no doubt contributes - it is a remote event often occurring in hospitals, and many of us base our understanding of what really happens on hearsay. And hearsay, especially from the distant past, has some horrifying stories to tell.

Yet I think the main reason why our community voices such strong support for euthanasia is because it has been confused about some accepted end-of-life practices which are already legal, but poorly understood. These include withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment and symptom control.

Another palliative care doctor featured on Australian ABC TV's Four Corners program on Monday night said something similar

Tominthebox news network

Tominthebox news network has me chuckling from time to time. The past few items are great fun.

I like the Russian elderly protesting over the new facebook layout and also love the one about the kids who are counting up to 490 times that they have to forgive one another [and the boy doesn't have to forgive his sister, because it only says, in the ESV, for example, that you have to forgive your brother], and I also love the news that the Episcopal Church is about to permit opposite sex couples to marry.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

But You Don't Know Kerry

The original was called But you don't know Harry and was written by a woman for women, but it impacted me when I read it about 30 years ago, and I think it applies to all of us.

The title of the book means

I'd like to be obedient to Jesus and be nice to my wife, but my wife, Kerry is impossible!

I'd love to put in an honest day's work, but my boss, Kerry is a mean person and doesn't deserve to be treated kindly.

If we're honest, I reckon we all have piles of these excuses. And that's all they are, aren't they!

Monday, February 08, 2010

True leadership

On Sunday, our minister preached a terrific message on 1 Samuel 15 and 16, where God rejects Saul as king, and appoints David as the new leader of Israel.

Here's the conclusion of the talk, but the whole thing is well worth reading:
What's the most important thing to look for in a leader? God says:
• It's someone who'll hear my word and do it.
• It's someone whose heart wants what I want.
• It's someone who's more interested in pleasing Me than in looking good before the people.
What delights
God is the person who hears His word and does it – the person who comes to His King and submits to Him. Is that you? If not, what will you do about it?

I am praying that our elected leaders who claim to be Christians would be people who truly submit to God's Word, however unpopular that may be.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Having a whinge

I'd just like to whinge about the lack of an E in the usual way people spell WHINGEING