Monday, December 24, 2018

The throne in your life

I attended a Nine Lessons and Carols service at the Anglican church I had previously been an active member of for some years. Family and I attend usually around Christmas and Easter to stay in touch with old friends and to imbibe the traditions that we enjoy.

The sermon was one of the most polished presentations of the Anglican tract "Two Ways To Live". Trouble is, I don't think TWTL represents the Gospel! In fact, I think it so abbreviates it and misdirects it that it is wrong.

Is God on the throne of our life or are we? That's the nub of it.

But the nub of it is do we seek new life in relationship with our loving heavenly father, or do we reject his fellowship? Is life finally about love and relationship, or is it finally about me and material?

They are the questions that flow from the New Testament. Not who's on the 'throne'. Life control is an outcome of prior theological commitments.

Christianity writ large

Comments I made to an article by Greg Sheridan of The Australian on the place of Christmas:

The big story of Christianity in society: life is more than material, love has a point, the individual has inherent value, government does not define either society or life, and might is not right. Chuck it out and we inherit the inverse of those five themes.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Ask first, then shoot!

The order of evangelism that I was taught (Evangelism Explosion, Two Ways to Live, and probably more) was wrong.

This is the 'shoot first, then ask questions' method. OK if you are on sentry duty, not OK when seeking to communicate the gospel.

The 'method' that honours the other's humanity is ask first, then 'shoot' or talk about your own faith. And its not 'ask' like a quiz, its discussing a person's approach to life, their life interests, its about being a person to another person, because God show us what being a person is about.


Monday, October 15, 2018

Princes

Recently the 9th in line for the British-Australian-Canadian-New Zealand crown decided to have a flash wedding to marry her beer-pushing boyfriend.

Apart from being a preening display of wealth and mates-with-the-flash-in-the-pan famous, it demonstrated to me a manipulation of Christian faith.

I was insulted by the contrast of the lavishness with the use of the church (which was also attended by rather over-lavish frippery). Nothing seemed to connect with the self-emptying of Christ.

Now we've got to put up with the 6th in line for the throne wandering around Australia being feted for nothing.

Prince...a good name for a dog (I note our Creator in the OT warned Israel of the danger of princes).

I'm on Cromwell's side!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Throw him in jail!

A Christian in Canada has been recently arrested for making 'hate speech' (whatever that is). His crime was to distribute leaflets at a homosexual 'pride' march listing the medical risks of homosexual behaviour and seeking to proclaim the gospel. Not sure of how these leaflets read, but they included some political remarks as well.

It is deplorable that a person could be arrested and face jail for giving out leaflets. It is also a deplorable approach to evangelism.

Here's the paradigm he's using:
  1. first, make enemies
  2. second, criticise people's life choices
  3. third, throw in a dash of political invective
  4. fourth, wonder why it has no mission positive results.
Not how to proclaim the gospel at all.

Let's apply it to lying, or pushing in front of people in the bus queue, or pinching coins from the tip jar at a coffee shop.

I'll let you think about those scenarios.

So here's how it could really work.

Be a regular at 'gay' bars and coffee shops. Just sit there, be peaceful and make friends. Join people at their coffee or drink (have to be careful with alcohol tho, not only is it good talking water, but it serves as punch-up juice as well).

Get to know and be known. Have conversations. Don't judge people (not our job), but live out the gospel in their presence.

Under the Lord's hand I'm sure you will have conversations that alert people to the better life in Christ.

Handing out leaflets is likely to lead to no such conversations. They do not represent loving concern for the individual in his life-situation; they represent 'go away' tickets.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Family relationships

Sunday's sermon was yet another cracker from our teaching team. As it was on Col 3:17-4:1 it was about family relationships.

Questions were invited during the sermon; I had a couple but didn't get to the head of the queue. Comments really. Here they are:

1. the challenge we face is to live in grace (as Paul enjoins) surrounded by a workplace, or social life that is not configured as Paul encourages us...particularly as we (humans)  often take offense of pride so easily.

2. Col 3:20 can so easily be 'de-graced' as we read it; imposing on kids 'you have to obey me becuase God commands it'  devoid of the context of love...Eph 6:4  throws a bit of light with 'do not provoke to anger'. We so easily forget the basic context of the gospel, indeed the whle Bible is that 'God is love' and everything is motivated by this.

One of the chilling stats that was mentioned was the demographic of violence against women: young men. My only observation is that this perhaps represents a retreat of the vague Christian consensus (get rid of Christianity from the public square and you get rid of its benefits), a reaction that flows from the feminist logic that men and women are equal, and the favouring of women over men in public discourse.

On this latter point, I've noticed in my local paper that girls appear in good news stories far more than boys. The resentment this might foster is insidious.

None of this is an excuse, it is rather an observation of society madly entertaining delusions. And not to overturn the radical teaching of Paul in Galatians 3:28.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Power-ups

I mentioned in a previous post the need for Christians heading to university (or what passes for university these days) to be intellectually equiped to discuss their faith with those who oppose, reject, ignore and despise it.

Here's my first attempt at a rough curriculum of 20 x 3 hour seminars I've called Power-ups (PIMs might also work: Positions, Ideas and Messages). I envisage 10 seminars a  year over a two year program. None in December and January (although more on January another time!)

YEAR 1
February: Ideas that have shaped our world 1
A quick take on history of ideas up to and includ ing the Enlightenment.

March: What people believe 1
The world's major current religions (as practiced by adherents)

April: Ideas that have shaped our world 2
History of ideas up to now. Would touch on Victorian optimistic progressivism and its influence on Charles Darwin.

May: What people believe 2
The current Australian experience, including Westernised Eastern religions.

June: Spiritual gangs
Cults and sects and how they work, what they do and why, historic examples of Jonestown, Heaven's Gate, etc; and quasi-Christian groups: The Family/Children of God, Boston Church of Christ, doomsday cults, etc.

July: Talking to Jehovah's Witnesses
Their history, failed prophesies, beliefs, topics of conversation, 'language' and points at which to start a conversation (the weak and incoherent elements of their ideas).

August: Talking to Mormons
Their history, failed prophesies, beliefs, topics of conversation, 'language' and points at which to start a conversation (the weak and incoherent elements of their ideas).

September: Talkling to Scientologists
Their history, failed prophesies, beliefs, topics of conversation, 'language' and points at which to start a conversation (the weak and incoherent elements of their ideas).

October: West meets East
The intrusion of Eastern religious ideas into common modern Western culture: 'mindfulness', Yoga, turns of phrase such as 'karma', transmigration of the soul, etc.

November: Talking to Muslims
Their history, failed prophesies, beliefs, topics of conversation, 'language' and points at which to start a conversation (the weak and incoherent elements of their ideas).

YEAR 2
February: How we think
Philosophical analysis for everyday use.

March: Believing in zip
Atheist, and Agnosticism and the modern hobby of Sneeringism: history, failings, beliefs, topics of conversation, 'language' and points at which to start a conversation (the weak and incoherent elements of their ideas).

April: Natural failings
The Naturalistic Fallacy in real life, moral epistemology, and the game of borrowing from a Christian thought world, and arguing against it .

May: Social frames
Social trends and thought worlds: the influence of environmental panics sincs WW2 and the growth of 'environmentalisim' as a religion, the tension between welfare and responsibility, between care for others (by government) and the rights of others. The role of vicarious virtuism and its conceits.

June: Achilles' left heel
The evolutionary hypothesis examined 1

July: Achilles' right heel
 The evolutionary hypothesis examined 1

August: What was Achilles thinking
Evolution as the modern thought world. Theistic evolution, scripture, science and misconnects.

September: The web is weaved
Totalitarian political systems: their source, course and current influence. Players and plays.

October: Professional talkers
The professional media and commentary.

November: The God Who is There
Capstone session based on Schaeffer's trilogy: The God Who is There, He is There and He is Not Silent and Escape from Reason.



Friday, September 28, 2018

My Sunday Job

I'm reading the Bible at church on Sunday

The sermon topic is: How to Live With Others: Households.

I'll be reading: Col 3:17-4:1 (NIV, unfortunately)

Now off to practice.

Be unprepared

As opposed to the Scouts ('Be prepared') this is the motto for many churches.

To save you a click, here's the nub of it:

Leaders at Hope Life Baptist Church are always careful to pray for their graduating seniors, that the Lord would miraculously stop them from deconverting, even though the church doesn’t spend a single second addressing even basic secular arguments against the faith.
I've written before about the basic Christian reading for any reasonably educated young Christian, but we can go further.

A seminar each month with a 20 month program would equip school leavers for the views, arguments (many are not arguments, just rants), and positions adopted by non-believers.  Just too much effort? How valuable is your children's faith? How valuable is evangelisation? Do we take Paul seriously in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5?

I'll outline the 20 week program some other time.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Symposium review

The symposium was a cracker. Not as many people turned up as I'd have liked, but a good group of keen participants were there.

The convenor, Jono, gave a wonderful and encouraging talk on work from a number of scripture passages, then we three panelists were asked the questions.

We answered them and people seemed interested. The panelists were a high school teacher, a psychologist, and me.

Great discussion followed.

Now, the important point here was this: we are able to relate our faith to ordinary life in a meaningful way! And, whatever we do as an occupation, we are on mission.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Christians in the workplace symposium

Here are the questions for the symposium I'll be participating in:
  1. What do you do? (where do you work, how big is your team, do you manage people?)
  2. What does it look like for you to be a Christian in your workplace?
  3. What are some challenges that you face when trying to live like a Christian in the workplace?
  4. Do you have any tips for someone in a similar industry or workplace as you for how to live like a Christian?
  5. How can one discuss their faith in the workplace?
Here are some thoughts, skipping Q1, which is just background:
2. What does it look like for you to be a Christian in your workplace?

Being in an executive role, I am in the fortunate position of setting the culture and tempo of my 'Branch' (as my workplace calls large units). My first objective is that it is a happy workplace that people like to come to and feel secure and effective in. I structure all my interactions, and encourage my direct reports to adopt the same principles as we read in Paul's letters: care for others as people is essential, respect, politeness and humility are expressions of this. If someone is not performing, my first step is to see where I can help, not to accuse or criticise.

Also my underpinning view is that I've turned up to work on an agreement to do things: I have to achieve the firm's objectives, I have to contribute to these and I have to develop my team. I expect all my team to perform and to deal with lapses that I draw to their attention in a mature and positive way; because that's how I communicate any counselling I need to do.

3. What are some challenges that you face when trying to live like a Christian in the workplace?

With very high standards of honesty and duty, I seek to work in such terms, and I expect similarly of my staff. I object to creating 'special' groups that attract undue attention to themselves: I want to treat all people equally and not push people into social categories.

I have seen conduct by senior executives that I think is corrupt, but not actually, by the letter of the law, corrupt. I find that very difficult and have worked to get the right outcome despite this. I have also had to face criticism for doing the right thing by my team. Those can be tough experiences. But I've handled them with logical reasoning and politely.

4. Do you have any tips for someone in a similar industry or workplace as you for how to live like a Christian?

Tips are above! And: be guided by your own princples and standards which come from the scriptures, and stand for them. Think through situations where you might feel pressure to conform to something you don't want to do and work out what you might say; talk to your Christian friends about it.

To recap: you must be committed to your job and your employer. You've agreed to take their money  to do valuable work in return. Don't slack off, or shirk work, and on the other hand don't think that you can't stand your ground when you need to, and always politely and in a reasoned way.

5. How can one discuss their faith in the workplace?

The first step is listen to what people are saying and respond to 'where they are'. So I suggest don't 'over evangelise', and make sure you are having a conversation, not preaching or dictating. Telling your own story is a good start if that's where the  conversation goes. Never put down another person's beliefs, and never patronise them.

I suggest that you don't 'wave a flag' about going to church or study groups; be subtle, otherwise it can sound like 'grandstanding' or showing off.

A casual conversation might go like this:

You are asked about your weekend. You might think, great, I'll say I went to church. I'd rethink that. If it is a casual remark, I'd say the ordinary things I did:  some gardening, reff'd a soccer game, had coffee with friends (ie after church). You might be asked where you had coffee. Then you might say, that 'after church we always have a coffee, sometimes in a coffee shop in Gordon, or at church we have free coffee and snacks in the foyer'. This might enlarge, or it might not.

This is about matching the emotional/social 'level' of the question. If you know the person well, and have mentioned your faith, sure mention that you went out/to a seminar/christian group with some  friends, which you love doing...using language that is 'common' rather than exclusive.

If the person want a heart to heart, though, and your careful listening tells you that they want to go deeper, introduce them to more personal aspects of your faith.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Dead or hell?

I was at an Anglican confirmation service which featured a few surprises:
  1. One of the confirmation candidates was a Hebrew scholar and university lecturer.
  2. I was surprised that R, who I'd known in another parish was a bishop...I had not hitherto connected R and the R I know had been a bishop. 
  3. We recited the new look Apostles' Creed.
The flash new creed












Some of the language I liked, some I didn't.

My favourite version is the Australian Anglican Prayer Book

The AAPB creed




















On occassion, the Book of Common Prayer version suits; however, not often.

The BCP creed

All up, I dislike 'creator' instead of 'maker' in the second line; it seems to beckon an idealist theology; maker seems more direct, concrete and realist.

'was crucified, died, and was buried' seems odd, gramatically in the new version. Its all past perfect (completed action) and so, 'was crucified, [was] dead and [was] buried' is better.

And, let's keep 'holy catholic church' and not let the church of Rome get away with its self-conceived dominance. If we don't like the word 'catholic' let's say 'holy church universal'

'Decended into hell' is argued against on the basis of there being no scriptural warrant for this. Perhaps; but I can see the logic: Christ was forsaken by the Father and died. Where else did he go? OTOH, as God the Son, how could he be in 'hell' separated from God when he is God? 'Decended to the dead' does seem better.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

At work

I've been asked to be part of a panel at one of our church's training afternoons. The session is Christians at Work. I've been to work, so I guess I'm qualified.

I'll have in mind the considerations below:
First off, this piece, published in a local newspaper regarding child protection week. A lot of sense for general people relationships.

1. Treat everyone equally as people first. Much like Paul's descriptions:

Philippians 2:3, 4
 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 
 Phillipians 2:14,15
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.
 Galatians 5:22f
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control...
2. Be involved with people, take a genuine interest, and be open to their interest in you. Have interesting things to say, listen to what they say with real attention. Have interests to discuss outside your church involvement (it can be offputting if you always give your weekend report as "I went to church with friends", when people may see a more approachable you if you can say: "I went gliding, with one of my pals..." You get the picture.

3. Go out with work groups at least sometimes. If you don't like the venue, only stay a short time; if you don't want to drink alcohol don't and be firm, polite and confident in refusal (you might tell them its a carcinogen!)

4. Work well, committed to your employer's business.

5. Seek to know and be known, to listen attentively to what people are really saying.

6. As you get known certainly don't avoid your Christian commitement, but ensure that you introduce people to your beliefs and values in an appropriate context.


How to pray evangelistically

What do you pray when discussing faith with a non-believer?

I'll bet its something like "Lord, give me the words this person needs to hear."

I'll bet that's the wrong thing. Here's what might be a more suitable prayer:

"Lord, enable me to listen to this person thoughfully to understand what they are really saying."

Go from there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Christian schools as an avoidance strategy

The Prime Minister was asked about children's exposure to sexualised education. He told the interviewer that he dealt with this by sending them to a Christian school.

Good idea! Retreat!

One reasons ordinary Christians have such little influence in public schools is because they are not there. They've left. They are hiding in Christian schools (and schools of dubious Christian credentials).

Here's the solution.

Send your kids to public schools. Join and be active in the P&C, even if it means scaling back your churchy work.

Start a Committee for School Support for each school, actively monitor curriculum, teacher activity, excursions, external educational visitors. Make sure the relevant teachers and principal know your views at every turn. Have a school prayer meeting weekly with related functions on at the school if possible, elsewhere if not. Keep up a PR storm through every medium available.

Make representations to local MPs and the relevant minister, Premier, leader of opposition and opposition education spokesperson. Don't accept either a 'no' or what salesmen call a 'yes objection.'

Write articles for parent/child magazines, local paper, national papers. Start a newsletter for your school committee and the Council of School Committees, which would be the collective voice of the local groups.

Then keep going. Unremitting.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Faith spam

From the AutoExpert:
Religion is just a system of faith or worship - so it’s broader than just worshipping Jesus or Allah. It’s any system of faith or worship. It all hinges on and devotion. And faith - according to respected critical thinking academic Peter Boghossian (Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Portland State University) - is (quote): “Pretending to know something you don’t know”.
He then goes on to attack 'faith' on this straw man definition.

But here's how Christians view faith:

One might think that the first step is Hebrews 11:1:
“being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see"

This does not float in the air, however, but is based on the Biblical history of God's action in history. The certainty, the 'sure'  comes from the reliability of God's doing what God says he will do. Demonstrated capability. The foremost exemplar is the resurrection of Jesus.

If your faith sits on anything less certain, then it is faith by leap; Kierkegaard's 'faith'.  But Christians to not 'leap' to faith. Faith is a reasonable step based on confidence in the evidence to hand.

Boghossian's straw man is the 'common  man' interpretation. Embarrasing for a philosopher to promote this! A philosopher should know better. Faith is extrapolated confidence in something yet to be verified directly. It is  empty if it is not based on reasonable grounds, and futile if there is no possible future verification.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sick societies

I read a book a while ago called Sick Societies, by Robert Edgerton. It dispelled the myth of the 'noble savage' by illustrating many tribal societies which were both savage and ignoble.

Now we live in a country that has been pumped up by Al Grasby (a past politician) to the undefined and tendentious idea of 'multi-culturalism'. Undefined, because 'culture' is not defined.

Most people have a positive view of the 'decorative' aspect of culture: art, dress, cuisine, dance, etc. Decorative because these are innocuous observables, and we all love (mostly) variations in art, dress, cuisine, dance, etc. or at least, don't find them objectionable, and if so are able to avoid them.

On this basis, many support multi-culturalism, because it is not really multi-cultural, it is multi-racial with mixed entertainment.

Culture is initially hard to pin down, but I pin it down this way: it is the shared assumtions a group has about mutual rights, responsibilities and roles. This is the last place that 'multiple' works. For example, how does a society work where one group believes that the males of the extended family determine the choice of husband of the females, and feel obliged to murder any females that reject  this, when most of the society believes that females are able to make their own choices and murder of them is criminal? Merely two different cultures at work...but now harmony; instead warfare!

Once cultures are so disparate, common behaviour mores cease to exist and society fractures.

On to the sermon of the day, on Colossians 3:9, where acceptance of disparate cultures was espoused. I don't think it was thought through. How does a culture that seeks to conform to Pauline ethics co-exist with those that reject them?

Paul knew the issue, because this was resolved IN CHRIST! Outside Christ, there is no resolution; the moral community, the spritual community does not exist and society thus remains fractured. But in Christ, we are brought together. This is the gospel, not some empty adulation of 'multi-culturalism.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

A cracker!

Today church was a cracker!

We met in the smaller auditorium, while another congregation met in the larger auditorium for 7 (yes, 7!) baptisms.

S. gave a sermon on Colossians 3:8, illustrated amusingly by wearing a pair of ragged old jeans: the practicalities of our faith opened up.

And, two great hymns: How Great thou Art, and 10,000 Reasons. Not just great, but amoung my favourites. The former takes me back to a happy Christian childhood surrounded by Christian family (cousins, aunt and uncle, parents, brother and grandparents), and at the same time prospectively to being in the presence of our Lord for all eternity.

This led me to browsing hymns on YouTube, so I leave you with this selection:

10,000 Reasons

How Great Thou Art

In  Christ Alone

and from Fountainview Academy (and, no, I'm not SDA)

To God be the Glory

Gloria in Excelsis Deo

Crown Him with Many Crowns

and, lastly

How Great Thou Art






Saturday, August 4, 2018

What people are interested in.

Recent research by McCrindle Research indicated the following:

Percent of people finding the following attractors to religion:

16% seeing people display genuine life faith
13% people experiencing traumatic life events
12% stories from people who have changed due to their faith.

Things that repel people from religion:

19% philopsophical discussion, debates about ideas
26% miraculous stories (I'm thinking the Roman Catholic type random miracles)
27% hearing from public figures and celebrities about their belief.

On the upside, of people with no religion:

10% have an interest in or are quite open to religious conversation
13% would consider consider religion
8% don't know any Christians
3% have not heard the name of Jesus in a Christian context.

Leadership Forum

I attended this at a friend's church. It was only an afternoon long, so I won't be too critical, but I was taken by the fact that the word 'servant' was only mentioned once.

Leadership, of course, was never defined, but we were treated to a sermon on 2 Timothy 1:1-14.

It was good for what it was. But it wasn't about leadership. The starting point for this topic is 1 Corinthians 12.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The ESV is off my list

For a while I liked the ESV. After my favourite, the NASB, it was a good second stringer.

This all crashed to dust at Galatians 3:19, where the ESV lurches into the clumsy cant that public servants, journalistic hacks and illiterate business people assail us with as they collectively drive out the colour and power of English.

Here's the verse:

"Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary."

"Put in place". You are kidding? How can this lumpen, passive voiced expression even be considered as a translation of Τί οὖν ὁ νόμος; τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν προσετέθη, ἄχρις ἂν ἔλθῃ τὸ σπέρμα ᾧ ἐπήγγελται, διαταγεὶς δι’ ἀγγέλων ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου?

The NASB puts it far more elegantly, accurately and with dignity:

"Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made."

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Naff things #2

A prize naff thing said by clergy:

When my father died, many years ago, the curate came around (at my wife's behest) to....something. Comfort? Counsel?

Neither happened.

Instead I got a short lecture on the Kubler-Ross stages of grief.

Gee, thanks.

I would have preferred a) sympathy,  b) tell me about your father, c) how will the future look now.

In some cases it might do to talk about death as evil and a great intrusion on God's very good creation, but to pull this off one would need to be a pastoral genius.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

My new phone

Remember when a phone was the black bakelite tellingbone on the wall?

Not any more, of course, now its everything.

I loaded up my new phone this week and am happy to report that the ESV app works fine as does the OliveTree Bible Study app.

I'm therefore tres pleased.

Couldn't do that on the bakelite number.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Talk about it #2

This session of conversational evangelism was the last I'll attend, unfortunately, but it was a goodie.

I can only wish that I'd experienced this training about 45 years ago: my high school years and early adult years would have been without the spiritual pressure to 'witness' on the harangue method that was then current in evangelical churches.

This is the proper way, starting with 'earning the permission to speak' by being a genuine friend, acquaintance or even conversationalist. Then a simple 45 second opening: what being in Christ means to me and without any church or theological terminology.

Then it goes from there. Of course my previous post about what detractors might say and to deal with genuine questions remains important, but to break the ice in a calm and non-confrontational atmosphere is of the utmost importance.

Practice in this at youth group would have been very helpful too. Still would be these days.

The $1000 pencil case

Warning: don’t go to sermons for economics.

Last Sunday we were told that markets are fictions and impliedly operate on the principle of personal greed: Adam Smith’s invisible hand was cited in justification of the claim. It was explained that the invisible hand was everyone acting by their own greed to produce the common good.

Not so, of course.

1. The Market is the aggregation of all occasions of transactions between willing sellers and willing buyers, both with full relevant information. Thus is established a fair price for the exchange, with both sides happy. Competition between suppliers on the one hand and between purchasers on the other ensures that purchasers pay no more than necessary and suppliers receive no less than they require. In the aggregate this establishes a fair price for both parties and sees scarce resources applied to real need fairly (to the extent that markets work, for which we need laws, of course), and 'economically'.

2. The corollary of the market is that by each person pursuing their own interest (and therefore not the interest of the other party) they all together, in the aggregate, create the best outcome for the common good.

This is why we don’t have to pay $1000 for a pencil case, and cars don’t cost $1.50. Otherwise no one could buy pencil cases, and no one would make cars.

Friday, June 8, 2018

What is church?

Notes I scribbled in a conference that had nothing to do with Christian faith (it was to do with my work)

Church goes well = a taste of heaven....ie, where God is.

Church goes bad = can be a taste of hell...ie, where God is not.

How does one contribute to the former?

1. the fruit of the Spirit, and

2. as a result, put service before honour.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Training for talking

We are doing a course in conversational evangelism.

Sounds good.

And there's been some good stuff: mention about listening, for instance. But in that session, most of our time was taken with the beatitudes as a basis for behaviour.

I'm not quite sure where that would take us (next session we are talking about our 'testimony') but am wary that starting with behaviour (although our behaviour should represent our faith) could take us to the thin ice of 'rules for living' as though being Christian is about 'doing the right thing', rather than our 'doing' being consequential upon our regeneration.

Being able to converse about one's faith is clearly a good thing; however, I'm not sure that this course equips in terms of Peter's injunction to ''give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence" in 1 Peter 3:15, "always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks..."

In conversation one has to be able to deploy reasons, meet objections and answer questions. A course on converational evangelism needs to be able to guide its students in these terms. We know what most questions are, we know what most objections are; so skilling people in these should be no problem.

But underpinning this is knowledge: we have lost traditions of new Christians being instructed in the faith, and just turning up to church to hear sermons aint' it. Nor is the haphazard approach of most Bible Study groups.

Basic instruction in the Bible, Christian history, belief and practice, and 'conversational apologetics' is needed. An organised curriculum for children through to end of high school age is also needed to ensure younger Christians are confident in their ability to talk about their faith and its implications for life, thought and practice with substance.

Encouragement of reading both the Bible and Christian literature is part of this. Refer to the 'special posts' on the right of this screen for some ideas.

A course such as we are doing is OK, but it would be more OK if it was built on the foundations I've sketched.

Oh, and don't just tell people to 'listen'. Include participatory exercises, particularly emphasising not listening to answer, but listening to understand.

Friday, June 1, 2018

We've missed one third!

I picked up a flyer from BaptistCare today. It listed the 'service highlights', including for domestic violence:

On a proportional basis of DV victims, a lot of services are missing: where are the 80-odd men who attended support group programs, and the 35-odd women who completed behaviour support?

What about the 35-odd men and children assisted with housing?

Not there, are they. This is not addressing the real problem, which I would expect a Christian organisation to do!

This is not truthfully dealing with the real-world suffering of both men and women, but the political smoke-screen of marxist-feminist rhetoric that would propagandise us to its anti-male rancour.

"Care you can trust", or "Care you can't quite trust"? Seems like the latter to me.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Dairy Worker Fallacy

At a recent sermon at Vine Church the passage taught in the sermon was Exodus 32:14: "So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people."

The sermoniser then committed the Dairy Worker Fallacy, and explained that Moses did not mean what he wrote, but something else. The something else did not involve God in a dynamic with his people (you know, the ones created for fellowship) and therefore not changing his mind at Moses entreaty.

The Dairy Worker Fallacy?

Whenever a person explains away the plain contextual significance of a biblical text, they commit the Dairy Worker Fallacy.

In Monty Python's The Life of Brian, the Jesus character, in giving the Sermon on the Mount said 'blessed are the peacemakers...'. A listener at the very edge of the crowd wondered why he blessed the cheesemakers. A nearby rabbi explained that he was referring not simply to cheesemakers but signified all dairy workers in general.

Calvinists are the most frequent users of the fallacy, followed by Barthian idealists.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Titles...or if we ape the world, we follow it.

Text of a letter I sent to an editor:

Nine aberrant forms of Christian leadership?

I can only think of one: the very idea of Christian ‘leadership’ itself.

The basic cement of Christian community (that is, the church) is not some import from the preening princes of modern business; the sadly misnamed ‘leaders’, but ministry.

The New Testament cares little for leaders, despite that some versions mistranslate to this modern concept in places; it cares for service and being brothers together.

Nor is the fake concept of ‘servant-leader’ any use.

Any deployment of the concept of ‘leaders’ instantly splits the church in a toxic parody of business that separates those who control the shareholders’ till from those who don’t, with self justifying language games that fake hierarchy of purpose where there is none.

Even Christian organisations strive to mimic worldly hierarchy and prestige with the vain titles that we find in business: CEO? What’s wrong with ‘Administrator,’ for instance? At least that reflects a biblical gift.

I saw the apogee of this recently in a church advertising for an ‘executive pastor’. His or her job will be, of course to...’lead’; the only things I know that need to be led are dogs and sheep, not other people who are filled by the Spirit of God and endowed with his gifts.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Another church bulletin

A church bulletin should not be just a recitation of forthcoming events, it should add to Christian experience.

Here's an example of how.

 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Church bulletin

One would think that a church bulletin would reflect Christian preoccupations. Most don't. They read like the bulletin of the local bowls club, except no mention of booze and a prayer list (if you are lucky).

Here's how it can be done better: replete with the scriptures of the day and pastoral observations.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Naff things that Christians say

Things I've heard Christians say to others (naffities: this is likely to be a long series)

To someone who is ill (this is the richest picking field for naffities):

"we must have coffee, I'll try to squeeze you in..." [I must do and be seen by you to do my duty to you. This is about me, not you!] Better: "When would you be free and I'll check my diary"

"don't worry, God's in control..." [God as puppetteer theology. God will work all things together for good Roms 8:28, but that's not the conversation a sick person wants] Better: "I'm sorry to hear of your illness. How are you feeling?"

"it's just the fall playing out in our lives..." [this is not the time for creation theology] Better: "That sounds really tough. How do you feel?" If you've been told, don't compare pains, just thank them for their confidence and ask what you can do?

To someone bereaved:

"at least he/she is in a better place now..." [The point of bereavement is that you have lost a friend or loved one. This can have a calamitous effect on one's life. This is not the time for eschatology] Better: I'm sorry to hear of your loss. If you want to chat, I can drop around in about a week or so. Then just listen, do not offer advice if unasked, do not compare pain, do not play the deceased's faults...normal people don't and neither should you.

To a newbie in your group (astonishingly I heard this from an experienced youth leader...cringe-worthy):

"Hi everyone, this is Digby...he's joining us this weekend because he's a bit lonely..." [WHAT??? Never judge or demean a person in such a humiliating manner. Everyone has the dignity of being in the family of God]. Better: "Hi everyone, this is Digby, I'm really glad he was able to come along this weekend." But, even better, don't introduce to a group before a couple of one to one introductions if possible.

A minister to a parishioner whose girl friend would not relinquish her RC-ness. "Do you want us to have a talk to her...?" The hide of them to think that she'd participate, and that they could intervene in such a personal matter!!



Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Praise! Why bother?

Throughout the scriptures there is a close relationship between God's being creator, and our praise of him.

A great example is Isaiah 42:5, 8.

Why does God seek, indeed, require, our praise, to the excusion of idols?

Is it because he is needy, lacking in affirmation, has an ego problem?

No, nah, nada!

He does it because it is good for US!

Praise connects us to the one praised, and there is nothing better than being connected to our creator, lover and redeemer. He says so himself!

It connects us to who we are (made in his image: his image-bearers, Gen 1:27), and is encouraging, gives us pleasure; its part of worship, and worship expressed rightly (in prayer, song, acts of service, Roms 12:1) it is moving,  profoundly exciting, and allows a step, for just a moment, a tiny step, into heaven!

In similar vein, the praise of your spouse deepens the connection between the two. Praise of your pre-spouse friend is good, but not as good, because you are not yet 'one-flesh' (Gen 2:24), praise in a 'one-flesh' state encourages both deeply, builds up both and grows both: it is a form of giving of self: to spouse, and how much better, to our creator God?

Lack of praise, or mis-directed praise damages the relationship, cuts us off from the source of our being (God, and in this life, spouse if we have one). Lack of praise is selfish.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

One sarx (just to show off)

One of the things that I think was missed in the same-sex marriage 'debate' (there was no debate, just invective from the pro side) was Gen 2:24. The two become one flesh.

I recal some talk of the complementarity of the sexes, and that the relationship of marriage resulting from the dynamic between the sexes, between man and woman (who together are in the image of God...that wasn't ever in the media, of course).

The complimentarity runs deep: men and women are just different, different in ways that make each important to the other, and that 'interlock'. The physical union expresses and demonstrates this.

By comparison two women or two men do not 'interlock', they stand side by side. The 'interlock' metaphor runs through the BCP/AAPB marriage service and is demonstrated in society: one's relationship with one's spouse is more important than any other. The two share their lives as one: thus sexual loyalty is imperative. This is the building block of civilisation (or the tribe, in generations past).

There are deeper things here too both psychologically and socialogically for the couple, their children, their wider families and communities. It would take a good length book to explore them! The spiritual dimension would be another book.

None of this surfaced in the debate...because there was no debate, mere ranting from the side-by-siders.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Bibleworks 10

It's arrived! Yippee. My BibleWorks upgrade.

I've been using BW since version 3. Now we are at 10. The package has improved with each upgrade and the distance between 3 and 10 is vast.

Even if I didn't use it, I'd buy it because of this inscription on the Quick-Start Guide:
Thank you for using BibleWorks. May the Lord prosper your work for His greater glory and the eternal good of lost souls.

Friday, April 6, 2018

The spiritual has become utilitarian!

No question about the motive for this, but oh, what a down-grade for the spiritual life!

Scanned from a recent edition of Australian Men's Health magazine. I read it in a hospital waiting room...good exercises and recipies in it!


High Anglican ceremonial saved my life!

I was raised in a mixture of dissenting and non-conformist churches, the last one before my 'great tea-trolley disaster' of the 80s was a church plant I had participated in in youth work and roles in services (presiding at communion, speaking, Bible reading and prayer, small group ministry, even bus driving). Notwithstanding what I might be saying below; I had great and warm, and encouraging friends here: thoroughly Christian and lovely people; but I often felt misplaced culturally and in my intellectual and literary interests...fish out of water!

Things went bad after three or four mis-read adventures with girls. I had consciously avoided dalliances with girls outside the faith, and any relationships at all while studying through high school and early years of uni, and so was perhaps less experienced and more serious in my intentions than many of my peers. Consequentially, I didn't seem to be quite able to read anything right, and always anticipated far more than was being contemplated by the other side and in a couple of friendships misreading what was being delivered for a level of commitment that was in fact and in retrospect, evidently absent. I was getting in too deep; they were merely 'having a look'. The asymmetry would probably have been obvious to one more experienced. I wished I had been as blasé as the Fonz about girls! But instead I was perplexed, became confused, and eventually despaired of the possibility of having a decent and mutual relationship with a girl. Through this, and while grappling with it a well-meaning friend (not in my church) unwittingly patronised me in public. I reeled from the humiliation!

Enough had become enough and a number of disparate waves of unhappy history summed at this point to form an overwhelming peak. I crashed!

If my romantic rectitude to date had brought me so low, I thought, so much for romantic rectitude, and I resigned the hope and promise of wisdom and godliness that had been the theme of my life until then and was instantly repulsed by my habits of service in the wider church family: they seemed to be milestones on the road to emotional washout.

Left the church, left home, broke off with my Christian friends, shut out my family: closed down entirely but for my work, which also suffered from time to time.

I went ferral in every way, including ways not fit to be discussed. Happily I came to the notice of no one who would de-rail me further. Well, there was one, whose blandishments I rejected. Her heroin habit repulsed me; and there it was: me more attractive to a junkie than the Christian girls I admired!

I was on a dark, barren rock swept by rough storms of the freezing wind and biting chill of lonliness and spiritual desolation, compounded, I suspect, by the side-effects of medication that added to the disaster (the medication was withdrawn from the market after it had been implicated in suicides in young adults).

After saving money I moved out of my parent's home and set up a place of my own in the inner city. Living there was very foreign and sharply isolated compared to the warmth and community of my just past family and church life. I looked up an ex-girlfriend who had thought she had 'tossed me over' prematurely ('hadn't given me a fair go' in her demolishing terms). She was not happy about my new repudiation of church affiliation, however.

I had to correct that! Nevertheless she later 'tossed me over' a second time in equally demolishing terms in reward for my frank expression of affection. Undetected asymmetry at work again!

She was my only thread of connection to the happiness I had felt before the GTTD and in the foreign territory of my despair hadn't been able to work up any basis for the alternative of seeking friendship with girls outside the church (doubtless to say, I sought other things instead).

What to do? My nearest church was Christ Church St Lawrence at Railway Square in Sydney. In Sydney there could have been no greater ecclesiastical contrast to the vapid ad-hoc non-conformist services I had been used to, and largely grown up with (I must say, those at my mother's church were executed with some skill, but that was rare in the denomination), albeit attended by many caring and godly people. The great anchor in those services, from an emotional view, was the hymns which always took me back to my mother's old church (the one that planted this one) that our family had often attended with my mother's parents. They still envoke these memories when I sing them.

I had always loved serious music and excellence in its performance, encouraged by my parents who were both musicians. Both had earned income from their music, and my father taught his instrument until his death over a decade ago.

CCSL astonished me. It was a high day when I attended, so evening prayer was a veritable riot of ceremony and sensation. Choir wafting through Palestrina, a masterful organist improvising on a theme of Bach, the scent of incense dominating the air and the bright colours of ministers and clergy as they conducted the liturgy. There were more ministers in litugical dress in the sanctuary than the entire congregation of my old church. More art, more joy, more exuberant musical excellence, more effort put into making this a special reflection of the congregational love of God and enjoying his glory than I had ever encountered; although some years previously, I had heard the choir of Kings College at Cambridge contribute to a service here. I was a mere spectator then. Now I was involved, spiritually caught up in it all.

I was carried away by the overwhelming solidity of it, the unperturbable graciousnes and indeed gracefulnes of the liturgy: the work of great scholars, executed with delight, care and prayerful gravity. I knew I was experiencing the avalanche of love of centuries of tradition as Christians had together sought the fellowship of our creator in liturgy, word and music as they came together, week after week (about 77,000 weeks all up to that day I was there) to be in the presence of our Lord (Matt 18:20).

After the service the Rector mentioned to me that supper was being served in the hall. Would I care to join? I did, and chatted with a warm fellow visiting Sydney from Brisbane. I left for home much encouraged and walking on air.

I quickly fell in with the 'youth group': young professionals and academics of inner city interests aged mid 20s to mid 30s with a couple of Latin scholars (both completing PhDs) to boot. We met each Wednesday for eucharist, dinner and prayer under the wing of one of the assistants: Fr Reg, also from Brisbane, and the godfather of one of our crowd. Ironically, one of my new friends in this group worked with the girl who had prompted my attendance!

No one pryed into my past, or even my present. They took me as I was, embraced me in their lives. Generously invited me to join the regular Sunday lunch-for-all that one couple hosted (up to 50 attendees!!) and included me in other church related outings (including a meeting of the Snark Society that we held in the Royal Automobile Club, all decorated in black tie in tongue-in-cheek pomposity). Never questioned, never 'challenged' (which some non-conformists love to do), never doubted. Always honestly treating me as an equal. Were always open, positive, and gently prodded me to be serious about the eucharist, about Lent, about (they positively assumed) my baptismal vows, as we all joined together in their Easter renewal.

The closest to heaven I had been on earth!

From there I decided that the 'traditional' Anglican ways were my ways. I was at last a fish in water! The ceremony, the ritual, the variation in pace as the church year, with its various high days, festivals and times of special reflection and rememberance embeded the faith in daily life and yearly patterning. Wayposts for every step of an ordinary life.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Rules

Comment on a newspaper article:

A Christian either believes the Bible or they make up their own rules, which God doesn't have to pay attention to.

Resurrection #2

The sermon on Great Sunday made the point:
The critical weakness of the church today in Australia is that the reurrection is not at the centre of our preaching, our lives, and our hope. We don't live as though we believe that Christ rose from the dead and that this changed everything. We don't talk this way, and we don't love others this way. We instead act like those most pitiful of creatures that Paul depicts for whom the resurrection is an empty myth.
A great passage, and that alone would have made the sermon great.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Resurrection

From iconreader.wordpress.com


Great Sunday #2

My family and I forsook our regular church (its our 'ordinary Sunday' church) to attend the same one as I did on Good Friday where an old friend of ours is a parishionner.

The contrast of the day with the moving GF service was marvellously reflected in every way: tone of service, floral decoarations, the high table's dressing, the music, the responses, the sheer exuberant joy and beauty as we seek to be in step in a tiny way with the cosmos-shattering joy of Christ's resurrection (Mahler has nothing on this).

The auditorium flowers were spectacular, albeit understated and unassuming (white flowers at every column, several large vases at the front, around the paschal candle, etc.).

I really enjoy the rededication that we all do as we repeat the baptism vows. Much better than the adhoc emotionally pressured and often unwittingly humiliating non-conformist practice of old where one had to march down the front of the auditorium if the preacher felt like asking if anyone wanted to 're-dedicate' their life to Christ (talk about bogus theology).

There is also something magnificently communal about us all going to the great table for communion. Love it!

The theme of the sermon was the church being shy about proclaiming the resurrection as the great confrontation with the pagan materialsst-humanism of our day.

At home, we had morning tea and watched Songs of Praise, for another great blast of Christian celebration. All well done.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Great Sunday

Let's re-name Easter Sunday GREAT SUNDAY.

Good Friday

I went to church with a friend: Formal Anglican Holy Communion prayer book service with choir. Wonderful!

Being Good Friday it was quiet, understated and solemn. Movingly reflective.

The choir and ministers entered in silence. No flowers in the auditorium or sanctuary. Sombre and arresting.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The woman from nowhere

I'm sick.

Between hospital sessions I was in a cafe and after I'd poured by tea, an elderly woman walked in. Saw the bandage on my arm and asked in a completely confident, outspoken and genuine way what happened to me. I told her that it was a PICC line for a serious illness.

She asked to pray for me. I consented.

She prayed. She left. Didn't buy anything.

As I was driven back to the hospital she was crossing the street and looked at me; I waved.

I went goosebumps.

Is this how angels operate?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Young Sheldon rebaked

In a scene in the new Young Sheldon show (about a precocious 9 year old genius) the mother asks who will come to church with her. Sheldon replies that he will. His sister points out that he doesn't believe in God. Charmingly he retorts 'but I believe in mum'.

If I'd be scripting:

Sheldon: "I will"

Sheldon's sister: "I don't believe in God'

Sheldon: "Oh, so you think material can explain anything of human interest?"

But then, I'm not a script writer, don't work for TV, and am never asked by producers....although I did some radio work with a film producer once upon a time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Christian school: the mission

On the radio today I heard an advert for a Christian school. From what the advert said, I figured the mission of a 'Christian' school:
  1. Cut your children off from contact with those yet to hear the gospel
  2. Prevent your children from influencing those outside the church
  3. Stop you, the parents from getting to know, love and communicate the love of Christ to non-Christians
  4. Reinforce the misconception that Christians are afraid of the world
  5. Prevent opportunities for you to powerfully dispel misconceptions about Christ, his church and the world. 
  6. Allow you to avoid opportunities to join committees of influence in public schools.
 All round win-win for one's own self-indulgence.

I can see the competition Christian schools are mounting with the enclosed order of Poor Clares.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Winton

This morning's sermon included the reading of this portion of an article in yesterday's Good Weekend:

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Nature

This mornings quite wonderful sermon (it had to be, Schillebeeckx was quoted, although no caveats on his rampant idealism) on Colossians 1:15-20, mentioned that because of the God being creator that Christians are 'deep ecologists'. A distinction should have been drawn between the stewardship of the creation mandate, and the anti-people propaganda and deprivation of modern environmento-paganism.

It is worth observing that 'nature' has been better treated, typically, in cultures subject to long Christian influence than others, reaching back centuries.

For example the Anglican Book of Common Prayer from 1549 contained the canticle Benedicite, Omnia Opera, which lauds the natural world.

Nothing new here, folks. Just move along.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Beauty

In the small group I am part of we are working through Simply Christian by N. T. Wright. We watch a video by Wright, which he cutely calls a 'lesson', then we discuss using the workbook we've been given.

Last week's was on relationships and beauty as echos of our creator.

We enthusiastically discussed relationships. Enthusiasm slowed at 'beauty'.

Sure, we all got on board 'natural' beauty. I asked about beauty in our church services. I could see the question marks floating over everyone's head.

No idea!

Some traditions recognise and enjoy beauty in worship as we enjoy the best of human creativity as we collectively turn our attention to our lord. Others, it appears, do not.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Communion done well

Being as I attend a Baptist church, but had faith renewed in an Anglo-Catholic one, I find the Baptist approach to communion anemic to say the best.

Today that changed.

We had three communion 'stations' around our auditorium, with people able to remain seated for a waiter service.

I liked the go to station method. It felt like a community joined in communion. Much good.

The servers were able to pray for people's needs, briefly, or simply pray a blessing on those who sought it. We haven't figured out an elegant way to seek prayer, but I'm sure that will come.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Heads up!

In some circles a controversy has been manufactured about the idea of 'headship'. The manufacturing is in the term itself. There is no 'headship' in the Bible as thought head as an objective fact equates to head as a state of being.

Consider these two passages:

Col 2:9,10
For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made [i]complete, and He is the head [j]over all rule and authority;

and

Col 2:19
and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and [v]ligaments, grows with a growth [w]which is from God.

And there it is. Head goes to 'made complete' and it is 'from whom the body...' Nothing to do with  command, or in itself 'authority'.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Billy Graham's best quote

Probably all over everywhere, but used at church today:
Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Piano

We got it!

A grand, that is.

Nice. A Beale. OK I guess, at least its an aircraft carrier style piano instead of the wardrobe style we use to have.

But a Beale!

Why not a Bechstein? On the basis of worship being an ecstatic best? And something you could contemplate landing a plane on.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

vale Billy Graham

Billy Graham died today.

He was one of the contributors to my early Christian formation, as he was for probably millions (millions!) of others.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Worth his Salt

Reply by a friend to an article by Bernard Salt in The Australian (behind a paywall)

Hi Bernard,
You implied that Christianity was like other religions, in as much as it, too, demanded that one "be good in this life [so as to] have eternal salvation." You could not be more wrong. Christianity does not demand this at all. You've turned Christianity on its head and consequently emptied it of its uniqueness. Christianity gives you eternal salvation because you cannot be good in this life. (Ironically, your examples of Michelangelo and Handel actually belie your construction of Christianity.)
I suggest, for starters, you read C.S. Lewis's 'Mere Christianity', 'The Great Divorce' and 'God in the Dock'.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Youth group is shallow #2

Further to my previous blog on this  topic, relative in question opined that she got more out of Sunday School, theologically, than youth group.

I discussed this with one of my friends who regarded youth group as a hothouse of immaturity: social as well as theological. I don't know if I agree with the former, but I sure do with the latter.

Something has to be done!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

On time

A few things impressed me about our church service this morning.
  1. we started on time, on the dot
  2. the service conduct was very smooth, unfussed
  3. an interview with a new member was adult, respectful and enlightening.
Tremendous stuff and all decently and in good order.

The average person

Comment related to me:
...the average person complains about 'evil' and uses it to excuse their rejection of God, but are themselves unrepentant bulls**t artists when it comes to their own evil conduct.

Karate

When I studied Karate many years ago, I was taught that at the advanced levels, masters sought to become expert in just 1 technique. Once mastered they would move any bout such that that technique was set up for successful use.

If there's one 'technique' in Christianity (to achieve world justice, lasting peace, etc. etc.), here it is:


Saturday, February 10, 2018

World justice

Our small groups at church are enjoined to keep issues of 'justice' and 'poverty' on the table. We were given a hand out with a bunch of organisations that might assist in this.

A Just Cause, covering issues of refugees, environment and indigenous. So I guess they support government policies to prevent economic opportunists from paying smugglers to ship them to Australia, and drown along the way, support active economic expansion to create the wealth that has given modern economies the best environmental performance of any industrial economies in history, and encourage indigenous Australians to embark on economic enterprises to lift themselves from poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, crime, family and tribal violence and child abandonment...but then, maybe not.

Micah Australia is similar. But I bet they don't promote free enterprise, property rights, equality before the law and access to education. I'll bet they promote the dead ends of foreign aid and taking other people's money to squander on delivery channels while the poor are trained to stay poor.

These Christian objectives have been hijacked by well-meaning Christians who reject the evidence of recent centuries to seek to apply watered down (and sometimes full strength) proto-marxist non-solutions with irrational enthusiasm that make some (the promoters) feel good and others (the target groups) experience bad.

I come around again to the idea that the best and only programatic good we can do is continue to expand gospel mission to bring people to know their Creator. Then everything changes.

Oh, and there was dress for success, to help disadvantaged women make good. And for disadvantaged men? Nothing, of course.

Youth group is shallow

I was talking to one of my neices about her youth group. She volunteered that it was boring. At least, the discussion/Bible study was.

Studying Colossians the group was asked what Paul would think of the youth group (yes: !!!!!!!).

She replied that as she didn't have a clue about Paul's thought, she had no idea. So let's find out about Paul's thought!

Young people are smart, aware, see problems, have questions and want answers.

This quote from CT was apposite (The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry, Andrew Root and Kenda Dean):
Young people are not bored by theology. They are bored by theology that doesn't matter. Theology is the most relevant of all disciplines; it is reflection on what God is doing with us, in human time through the Holy Spirit, as revealed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—which is why theological reflection can never be separated from life itself. Theology begins and ends in life's concrete situations, and presenting it as anything else will surely misfire.



Wednesday, January 31, 2018

PoE #2

In my previous post on this topic, I omitted one comment that is, I think, pertainant.

The syllogism quoted in the article is Deist, not Christian:

  1. If God is all-good, He would want to destroy evil
  2. If God is all-powerful, He could destroy evil
  3. Evil exists
  4. Therefore, an all-good, all-powerful God does not exist
 A Christian  syllogism would be:
  1. If God is all-good, He would want to destroy evil
  2. If God is all-powerful, He could destroy evil
  3. Evil exists
  4. God has acted to destroy evil, done so in Yeshua of Nazareth (the Messiah) and provided  means for us to turn away from it.
  5. Therefore, an all-good, all-powerful God exists

Monday, January 29, 2018

NY or YN?

I've lately seen lots of people wearing this graphic. I guess they are a new type of Christian: the graphic Y N = Yeshua (the) Nazarene.


Saturday, January 27, 2018

PoE

Not Edgar Allen, but the problem of evil.

There's a long post on this at Logic and Light, but I think in a way the point is missed.

The PoE is not a problem for Christians, it is a problem for the casual atheists (and the doctrinaire atheists), the casual pantheists and their pals, the casual panentheists.

Its a bit of a problem for Calvinists, of course, but I have no sympathy for them as they bring the problem upon their own heads.

Firstly, how do the atheists and other religionists deal with the problem? Generally they have to ignore it, deny it, or accept it. After all, for evolutionists (most people these days), there is no 'good' or 'evil'. They are mere terms for convenience and inconvenience and have no meaning beyond that. Thus for materialists.

The big question for this lot is where do they get the idea that evil is a 'thing' outside of personal evaluation? Who says that something is evil? Evil to whom and why? What does their 'world view' do about this problem that they can't even start to address?

Crickets.

Secondly, unless they have a good theology of creation, Christians will miss the point that comes from this sequence of verses:

Genesis 1:26

Genesis 2:15-17

Genesis 3:7

Psalm 115:16

The L&L post hinges on 'free will'. A philosophical concept. The Bible is not a philosophy book, although it does represent a grounded philosophy, it is the book of the relationship of God and man in context of his creation.

Evil is the disrelation of man and God; it is man being in the image disconnected from the image giver, it is man saying to God, 'thanks for the world, we'll do this ourselves now'. And that can happen in true relationship where there is no inherent binding, such as mother and child (that is, the mutual status will never change); to have a relationship of friends with someone, it must be possible to not be friends. To be given the earth, but discontinue relationship with the giver, and 'do' earth-stewardship without partnership with God...results in what we have.

You want to live without God (to the atheist), but you want the world to be like you live with God. Can't be done, and you choose this every day!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

verse prayer

A small verse plaque: 1 Corinthians 8:6



Reading

Over the Christmas-January break I like to dip into some old favourite books.

A passage from one such book, N. T. Wright's Simply Christian, took my eye recently:
Reading scripture in worship is, first and foremost, the central way of celebrating who God is and what he's done.
So, please, no more little snippets from one book; let's plunge in: call to worship, celebratory or reflective psalm, substantial (but not excessively so) readings from the first and last testaments, reflective passage after the sermon, then benediction.

At my church you are lucky to get one small snippet of scripture in the service; its barely noticable in our, to my view, misguided 'seeker-sensitive' times. Of course, there are rarely any seekers there, and if there were, they would expect us to be thrilled about having the very word of God!

Soul Survivor

January is the month for 'guest' speakers at church, it seems. Paid staff off, and the on paid staff have run out of talking points, it would seem.

Still, a change is as good as a holiday, and it is not a bad idea to bring different views to the lecturn.

Sunday's effort was Matt Gelding, the NSW Soul Survivor director. He gave what I'd call an 'affect'-based talk. I was braced for this when I saw Matt praying with his hands at his waist level palms open facing upwards as though ready to carry a bag of concrete, mate.

As one of the young people there said to me 'it didn't have much in it'. I was expecting the person to be carried away by the emotional affect of the talk, but was so pleased that was not so; clearly my conversational partner had mind engaged but unsatisfied!

The first point for young Christians is knowledge, learning, not ethereal affect. Sure, part of our response to the indwelling Spirit is emotional, but we confuse 'heart' these days with the 'Hollywood' heart: insubstantial, solipsistic and uncommitted emotion: a feel-good, not a know-good. Admittedly Soul Survivor seeks to do the 'do good' part, but a quick look at its website tells me that the 'know-good' is probably not there, dealing more with affect than knowledge, or 'heart' as the whole person; which is more its usage in ancient times.

Then the name: Soul Survivor. It seems negative, off-putting, even, despite the obvious play on words. Just a 'survivor', and not a thriver? You need help, do you? Inadequate eh? Only one of you? It reminds me of the euphemistic names of social work organisations in mental health. Not a good connection. I don't like the name Salvation Army either, as an example from another direction. Its connotation is wrong as well.

I would think a positive, confident, assertive name would be better (that is, if it is an organisation that promotes a positive, confident, assertive, informed, self-aware, and world-aware, high content faith). Maybe something like Soul Squad? Not brilliant, but you get the point. Actually, any name that detracts from the full humanity that God created: body and soul, mind and emotion, is that little bit of betrayal of God's creation of us in his image.