Category Archives: Theology

easter 2012: things you should read

Easter has come to us once again, and we set our minds and hearts on the death and resurrection of Christ.

I am going to refrain from writing a new post for the event, since there are so many good resources out there. Here are a few of them:

MCA

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younger than the happy meal? evangelicals, abortion and ahistoricism

An interesting and revealing article appeared on a Patheos blog some days ago claiming that the current and standard Evangelical view on abortion, that human life unquestioningly begins at conception, can in fact be traced to a point no less recently than 30 years ago.

In his post, entitled The ‘biblical view’ that’s younger than the Happy Meal, Fred Clark shows quite convincingly that the contemporary black-and-white approach to abortion, an approach that has been taken for granted by many as simply biblical, was not in fact the view of conservative Evangelicals 30 years ago. Read the rest of this entry

the mourning in moving: making spaces into places

My wife and I are in the midst of moving home.

It is a predictably arduous undertaking, and we’ll be glad when it’s over and we are settled in our new place.

But on the other hand we feel a sense of mourning over leaving our current unit, even though we rent and do not own it.

This is not necessarily the first time I have felt this way. Any time I have moved homes in the past (only three times or so) I have felt the same way. In fact whenever I am in the geographical area of a past home I often find myself driving there and sitting out the front.

What is it about our attachment to particular places?

Why do people attach so much value to places and spaces?

Why do people, groups and religions enter conflict, even violence, over particular spaces that are deemed special, sacred or holy? Read the rest of this entry

“god bless you!”: what is blessing?

When something becomes customary in a culture, such as the recitation of the phrase “(God) bless you!” following a sneeze, it often happens that the meaning of that custom is lost in habit.

So what does it mean to be “blessed” in a biblical sense?

Some people understand it to mean something like good fortune.

Others see blessing as referring to material wealth, as in some strands of contemporary Christianity.

Some Christians think blessing refers to God’s favour, and this can be understood in a great number of ways (including material wealth as above).

For others blessing is almost a physical thing to be passed on (as with some understandings of the story of Isaac, Jacob and Esau).

I have constantly wondered what blessing is. Read the rest of this entry

sickness and healing (part 2): death as healing?

Note: I recommend you read Part 1 of this series to understand the context of these questions.

My last post was inspired, by a sermon I heard (and a number of subsequent conversations), to ask whether sickness could be caused by sin.

In this post I want to address another related question that I mentioned last time, namely whether dying and “going to be with Jesus” is a form of healing.

In the course of the sermon discussions described in the last post it was suggested by one participant that when a sick person does not receive healing and dies as a result of their sickness then this could be seen as a form of healing since the person goes to heaven to be with Jesus.

Someone then asked whether being cured by medicine could be seen “healing” in a biblical sense.

In response I asked my group a question – “Are we saying that miraculous healing is “healing”, and so is being cured by medicine, and also dying? If yes, does that mean that everything is healing? Even not being healed is healing. What isn’t healing?”

Personally I don’t think dying is a form of healing at all. To suggest so is, to me, a misunderstanding of the biblical view of healing and death. Allow me to explain. Read the rest of this entry

sickness and healing (part 1): “sin causes sickness”?

Yesterday I went to the Sunday gathering of a church affiliated with my old church, of which I was a member up until a few months ago.

I had a great time. It’s a reasonably small group (40-50 adults), and with lots of old friends present good times were had all ’round.

The preaching topic for the day was healing. My friend Barry was sharing with us, and noted that in his experience this topic, more than any other, caused division in the church (even more than tongues). I’m not sure if it’s the most divisive issue, but I take Barry’s point about its divisive potential.

In the course of the morning Barry got us to break up into groups to discuss the issue of healing – What is it? Does it still happen today? What about when people don’t get healed, etc. etc.

I wasn’t planning on writing about healing on this blog, but following the group discussions and the subsequent public reflection a number of people asked me to write a post on it.

It turns out one post has become two. I could never hope to comprehensively outline healing in two posts of course, though I will speak into two concerns that were raised throughout the morning that people discussed with me; the first was a claim made that sickness and disease has to do with sin (this post), and secondly that if people are not healed and they die they are in fact healed because “they go to be with Jesus” (next post).

“Sickness and disease is related to sin”? Read the rest of this entry

individualism, desire and the christian self

It is frequently said that we live in an individualistic society.

This is not all bad. The fact that individualist philosophy values the individual’s worth is fantastic.

Not so fantastic in light of Christian theology is the individualist insistence on rejecting all forms of external interference on one’s interests. This is not simply because of the existence of God, the ultimate “external” authority, but also because of the unrealistic, even naive, view of human existence it represents.

What human is able to live according to their own interests, unabated by the interests of society? We live in a world of social connections in which even our most basic needs are dependent on relationships. I think for example of food whereby most of the people I know are completely disconnected from the production and manufacture of almost everything they eat.

How would individualism even work in a world such as this? Read the rest of this entry

wittenberg remixed: nailing some more theses?

Did you know that today (31st October) is the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg in 1517.*

These theses largely protested clerical abuses in the Catholic Church at the time, in particular the dealing of indulgences and issues around papal authority.

e.g. Thesis 86:

“Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus,** build the basilica of Saint Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?”

This event is thought by many to have been the initial spark for the Protestant Reformation. Read the rest of this entry

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

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