Monthly Archives: August 2011

select your character: identifying with bible “heroes”?

I am often amazed at the parallels we draw between ourselves and characters in the Bible.

We are taught as early as Sunday school, and certainly in much contemporary preaching, to identify with the so-called “heroes” of the Bible.

Just as Moses trusted in God and performed great signs, so too can we if we trust God too!

Just as David slew Goliath, so too can we overcome our “giants”.

Just as Jesus challenged the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, so too should we challenge hypocrisy.

Now, I’m not necessarily denying the basic truth of these statements… Read the rest of this entry

calling all heretic dogs: disagreement and respect

Have you ever experienced the ugliness of Christians savaging each other over theological disagreements?

Why do we do it to each other?

Yes that’s right, we. I use the word “we” for two reasons; the first is that I am as guilty as anyone, the second is to emphasise the inclusiveness of Christ and that we all Christians are brothers and sisters in him.

Today I was asked if I would write more posts on the topic of violence in the Old Testament (see my last post). My response was that though I am sure my views about the Old Testament and biblical interpretation will be given a respectful hearing by most people, there are those who will respond with an ugly disrespect that I am not, at this particular point in time, willing to incite.

Maybe you have felt the same. Read the rest of this entry

old testament violence: is God really genocidal?

On this blog I have written a good number of posts on violence in the Bible, arguing for a robust theology and practice of nonviolence based primarily on the ethics of Jesus.

The number one question I have received in response to these posts has been, “But what about violence in the Old Testament?”

This is an important question, for it is not simply about whether the Bible advocates violence – it is about whether or not God himself is violent. Read the rest of this entry

confessions of a failing radical: challenges of walking the way

This post was inspired by an amicable challenge set forth by my friend Simon Moyle, a peace activist and worthy Twitter followee, in the comments section of a recent post of mine.

But even prior to this challenge I have struggled with listening to Christian activists speak about their journeys and their perspectives. This is not because they are wrong, or uninspiring, or bad people. On the contrary the vast majority are beautiful, compelling, godly people.

But at a few points this year I have found myself secretly wanting them to share a specific kind of message. They will often speak about their theology, their most impressive stories of activism, living radically and following Jesus, or their well-articulated views on particular issues of the day…

…These things are important and valuable!…

… but I am often left feeling that these people are superhuman, and as a result I feel like I could never do what they do.

The truth is that what I really want to hear from these people is a message about failure, and losing hope. I want to hear a message entitled “The things that have gone wrong”, or “The things I have messed up”, or even “When I don’t feel like giving a shit anymore.” Read the rest of this entry

for you will always have the poor with you…

Recently I was asked if I truly believed that global poverty could ever be “fixed”. The question was accompanied by a reference to Mark 14:7—“For you always have the poor with you…”

Have you ever wondered what Jesus might have meant in Mark 14:7? Was he saying that we should not bother helping the poor, since the problem of poverty will never end? Perhaps he was saying personal acts of devotion were superior to helping the poor?

Check out my latest article from TEAR’s Target Magazine, entitled “For you will always have the poor with you…“, for my perspective on this often misunderstood passage of Scripture.


what is an “empire”?

Since the inception of this blog there has been a lot of talk about “empire.”

Now, discourse about “empire” is anything but unique to this blog, for it has been a common theme in theological discussion for a long time now.

I am aware that this language about empire is not familiar to everybody. Indeed a number of people have recently asked me the question, “what is (an) empire?”

The term empire is often used by people, especially those with a heightened social conscience, to simply denounce systems and institutions that they find dissatisfactory. Such a use of the term is rather haphazard and imprecise, leaving it vulnerable to baseless usage. Equally common is for people to define empire according to its characteristics (violence, economic exploitation, propaganda), but such characteristics generally tend to represent more a description than a definition, and are helpful but not sufficient. Read the rest of this entry

what is “justice”? a christian(‘s) perspective

Justice is a slippery term.

It can be used, from one point of view or another, to describe almost any conclusion regarding moral rightness. How the scales of justice are balanced often depends on the weights placed upon them, and this is in most ways a subjective affair. These weights may come in the form of such concepts as fairness, retribution, restoration and redistribution, or more cynically in realities such as greed and self-interest.

I cannot hope to outline a comprehensive or even convincing treatise of justice in this post, though sharing a few thoughts may be in order.

From a Christian perspective justice finds its definitive bearing in God. How to understand God is, however, not an easy task given both his transcendence and our interpretative horizons and limits.

Which commands of God are just? All of them? If so is a directive to genocide, such as those in the Old Testament, to be considered just? Does our ability as humans to obey such commands affect what is commanded of us by God? Read the rest of this entry

hell raiser: francis chan and “erasing hell”

A few months ago I watched this video and I’ve been meaning to write something on it, though I’ve had it on the backburner for a while.

The video is a preview/advert for Francis Chan’s now-released book, Erasing Hell. I should note I have not read the book, nor do I plan to in the near future (PhD studies… they ruin everything). For this reason I do not know in any definite way what Chan’s view is on the subject of Hell, nor is it directly relevant to this post. I should also note that I am not interested in discussing the content of the book, but only of the video.

The video begins with an air of humility, including the use of biblical metaphors to demonstrate how much lower we are than God, just as clay to the potter. So far so good. Read the rest of this entry

the deradicalisation of christianity?

A conversation with a friend today led to us asking the question – how did Christianity become so de-radicalised?

After all the story of the early Church, both in Acts and as implied in the Epistles and Revelation, seems to reflect a community that was at odds in almost every way with the surrounding culture.

(By being at odds with the dominant culture I do not mean abusing gays, doing apologetics or marginalising sex…)

How did we become so at home in the dominant culture? When did “taking up our crosses” come to refer to something other than directly confronting the dominant culture of idolatry and systems of injustice?[1]

Can we really say we are Christians, meaning “little Christs” or “followers of Christ”, when Jesus posed a real threat to the way of life represented by the dominant culture (enough to be liquidated) but most of us revel in it? Read the rest of this entry

what are “the powers”? the demonic in the new testament

Much has been said and written about the demonic forces that are mentioned sparsely throughout the New Testament. Perhaps it is no coincidence that we live in a world absolutely fascinated by the supernatural. Either way the topic of the demonic, or “the powers”, not only generates strong interest, it also has a powerful bearing on how we approach “spiritual warfare” (a topic I am soon to address on life.remixed).

The demonic is referred to many times in the New Testament. It would be impractical to list them all here. “The powers” on the other hand, often associated with the demonic, are only mentioned a handful of times in in the New Testament:

Is this what "the powers" refers to?

1. The apocalypses in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 – “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” (Mark 13:24-25) Read the rest of this entry

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