Monthly Archives: July 2011

rest in peace john stott

John Stott, one of the most read evangelical authors of the 20th century, has died at age 90.

Stott wrote over 50 books, and is widely believed to have played an instrumental role in the resurgence of evangelicalism in England. His book Basic Christianity was published over 50 years ago, and has been translated into more than 60 languages.

Stott was a key contributor to the 1974 Lausanne Covenant, and is also believed to have been a major part of the renewed interest in social justice among evangelicals.

His book The Cross of Christ, now over 20 years old, continues to be a classic on the subject of the atonement and the centrality of the cross fo Christian faith.

One does not have to agree with everything Stott ever said or wrote to acknowledge his impact of evangelicalism, and his godly character. He has deeply affected many for the better, and he will be missed by many.

MCA

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neither refugee nor refuged: christ, empire & the unsolution

The so-called Malaysian Solution marks a terrible chapter in Australia’s immigration history.

While many people have tried to argue that Julia Gillard lied about the carbon tax, I find this argument to be wilfully ignorant of the events of the last twelve months.

Where Gillard has lied, however, is on the issue of asylum seekers. She has previously claimed that the Howard Government’s so-called Pacific Solution was, “costly, unsustainable and wrong as a matter of principle.” Read the rest of this entry

asylum seeker stories from villawood

On Saturday some friends and I went to Villawood Immigration Detention Centre to visit some Tamil Sri Lankan asylum seekers and refugees currently housed there.

I am somewhat hesitant to post this story lest it look like I am attempting to portray myself as somehow heroic. Nothing could be further from the truth since a single visit does not make me particularly compassionate or generous.

I am not going to bang on about how bad the conditions were, since visitors are confined to the visitor area and thus I did not see the living quarters etc. In saying this I think that, against my assumptions, Serco was doing a reasonable job at running the facility given that they are simply out to make a profit. My belief is that the Australian Government, with its awful policies, both past and present, is to blame for our shocking treatment of asylum seekers. I have written about this elsewhere, so back to the story.

After spending over two hours with these young men I was struck by the similarities between them and myself. Read the rest of this entry

thoughts on islamophobia and fundamentalism

Anders Behring Breivik

How easy it is for Australians to jump to the conclusion that Islamic extremists are responsible for all forms of terrorism. The latest tragedy in Norway represents a prime example of this.

(In saying this I do not mean to in any way negate the scope of the tragedy, or divert attention from the horrific 91+ deaths of mostly young people; I merely intend to discuss one aspect of the issue from the point of view of this blog’s theme.)

The New York Times claimed that initial reports focused on the possibility of Islamic militants (with, it seems, no credible evidence for this).

The UK’s Guardian suggested that, “The most tempting and immediate conclusion was that it would be a jihadist group,” (again with no credible evidence).

Australia’s Andrew Bolt put his suspicions out in the open Read the rest of this entry

luke 22:36 & self-defence: did jesus teach us to buy swords?

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35-38)

Recently I conversed with a friend who, speaking about violence, defended their acceptance of violent self-defence by referencing Luke 22:36. Here Jesus seems to tell his disciples to buy swords for the purpose of protection.

The problem with this kind of interpretation is that it perpetuates an all-too-common method of Bible reading whereby verses are unapologetically ripped from their narrative context. The understanding of Luke 22:36 as a text that advocates any form of violence is a good example. Let’s look at the text… Read the rest of this entry

brief thoughts on suffering and theology

That the central event in the Christian faith is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus should lead to, among many things, reflection on how we approach theological thought about contemporary issues.

Indeed, God came to us in the form of a human named Jesus, and thus he suffered as a human. He probably grazed his knees as a child. He probably gashed his hand as a carpenter. He most definitely mourned the death of loved ones.

And of course he suffered when he was crucified.

It seems that the clearest revelation of God we have explicitly models him suffering with others who are both socially and ontologically inferior. Should this model serve as an example to us of how possibly to approach theology? Read the rest of this entry

oh the idolatry: humanity, injustice & climate change

Even if the deniers were right – which is impossible to credit on rational grounds – the core argument of [A Moral Climate] is that the fossil-fuelled global economy is dangerous to planet earth and to human life, not just because it is warming the climate of the earth but because it is deeply destructive of the diversity and welfare of the ecosystems and human communities from which surplus value is extracted and traded across highways, oceans and jetstreams. The rituals encouraged by the recognition of global warming – turning off lights, turning down the heater, cycling or walking instead of driving, holidaying nearer to home, buying local food, shopping less and conversing more, addressing the causes of fuel poverty locally and internationally –  are good because they are intrinsically right, not just because they have the consequence of reducing carbon emissions. Such actions correct modern thoughtlessness. They sustain the moral claim that it is wrong to live in a civilisation that depends upon the systematic enslavement of peoples and ecosystems to the high resource requirements of a corporately-governed consumer economy. …

… Actions which will have the effect of mitigating climate change are also actions which reaffirm the embodied relationship between inner desire and the outer world of what Christians call Creation. For this reason such actions are intrinsically good, and will promote flourishing even if, as a minority of dissenters suggest, greenhouse gases are not the primary driver of global warming.

– Michael Northcott, A Moral Climate: The Ethics of Global Warming, 273-274. Read the rest of this entry

walter wink on homosexuality & the bible (part 3): conclusions

This post is the third part of a series on Walter Wink’s views on homosexuality and the Bible. It is advisable to read Part 1 on the Old Testament and Part 2 on the New Testament before continuing below.

The very notion of a “sex ethic” reflects the materialism and splitness of modern life, in which we increasingly define our identity sexually. Sexuality cannot be separated off from the rest of life. No sex act is “ethical” in and of itself, without reference to the rest of a person’s life, the patterns of the culture, the special circumstances faced, and the will of God. What we have are simply sexual mores, which change, sometimes with startling rapidity, creating bewildering dilemmas. Just within one lifetime we have witnessed the shift from the ideal of preserving one’s virginity until marriage, to couples living together for several years before getting married. The response of many Christians is merely to long for the hypocrisies of an earlier era.
– Walter Wink

In this final offering on Walter Wink’s views set out in his article Homosexuality and the Bible, I will attempt to gather up the loose ends that have escaped the net spread out in the previous two posts of this series.

For Wink there is nothing more and nothing less at stake in this debate than the way we read Scripture. His view seems to be that literalistic readings will not do, given that the Bible is culturally bound (it was inspired by God through culturally-bound humans), and that our readings/interpretations are necessarily selective and culturally bound: Read the rest of this entry

walter wink on homosexuality & the bible (part 2): new testament

This post is the second part of a series on Walter Wink’s views on homosexuality and the Bible. It is advisable to read Part 1 on the Old Testament before continuing below.

The debate over homosexuality is a remarkable opportunity, because it raises in an especially acute way how we interpret the Bible, not in this case only, but in numerous others as well. The real issue here, then, is not simply homosexuality, but how Scripture informs our lives today.

Fresco from the Tomb of the Diver, c.475 BC. Paestum, Italy.

With these words of Walter Wink we launch into the second part of this series on homosexuality and the Bible. In the last post I summarised Wink’s case as presented in his article Homosexuality and the Bible in regards to the Old Testament. In short his argument could be summarised as claiming we cannot simple say “the Bible says” while holding an inconsistent approach to interpretation in which we allow some parts of the Bible to dictate our behaviour while ignoring others for no reason other than arbitrary selection (based on our own cultural preferences). In this sequel I will summarise Wink’s comments on each of the relevant New Testament passages that speak directly about homosexuality (since there are only a few). Read the rest of this entry

walter wink on homosexuality & the bible (part 1): old testament

Sexual issues are tearing our churches apart today as never before. The issue of homosexuality threatens to fracture whole denominations, as the issue of slavery did a hundred and fifty years ago. We naturally turn to the Bible for guidance, and find ourselves mired in interpretative quicksand. Is the Bible able to speak to our confusion on this issue?

These words of Dr. Walter Wink, professor emeritus at Auburn Theological Seminary, ring truer than ever as Australians engage in constant debate about homosexual marriage. Whatever our position we must recognise that this is not a simple debate, nor is it abstract; it affects real people who are made in the image of God.

This post begins a two-part (maybe three-part?) series on Walter Wink’s thoughts on the Bible and homosexuality. This series is intended for the purpose of asking important hermeneutical and exegetical questions that often go overlooked in the course of all-too-common prooftexting. Such a practice is, in my view, inconsistent; why do we accept some of the Bible’s imperatives, but not others? Surely we need deeper biblical engagement on complex issues such as homosexuality. It is for this kind of discussion that I offer these posts. Read the rest of this entry

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