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q&r: the armour of God in ephesians 6?

This post is dedicated to the late Walter Wink who died on May 10, 2012. The content of this post is indebted to him, and without his life’s work I could not have come to this understanding. Presente!

From a life.remixed reader:

Hi Matt,

I have a question. I have been advised on more than one occasion recently to apply Ephesians 6:10-18 in my life, as in daily putting on the Armour of God. I have been told to physically put it on, going through each piece aloud whilst going through the motions of actually putting on said armour.

This doesn’t quite sit right with me and seems somewhat ritualistic. Has the passage been taken out of context? What are your thoughts on how you apply God’s Armour?

Thanks

Great questions. It seems there are at least two considerations here, one is the pastoral aspect of your question, and the other is the more “theological” element (i.e. what is the context and meaning of the armour of God? How do we apply it?).

From a purely pastoral point of view Read the rest of this entry

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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

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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