Friday, March 31, 2006

Dogmatics and Chess

I don’t have any time left tonight to do my promised (and perhaps last) post related to inerrancy– it’s now rescheduled for tomorrow. And I’ll respond to your comments then too, which I have very much enjoyed reading. Not only have I been distracted by TB Vick (if in doubt, blame someone else; but playing chess online was great fun!), but I also pushed the work today as I almost made it to the end of 1 Corinthians – I’m now left with only one verse to work on, which is great news – although the verse in question, 1 Cor 16:22 (‘Let anyone be accursed who has no love for the Lord. Our Lord, come!’), isn’t just any old verse, at least not for my thesis. I honestly think a decent monograph could be written on just this one verse, especially as I suspect it hasn’t been handled entirely correctly by exegetes as yet. Anyway, I’m waffling, and I need to rest, so I’ll get on.

I wanted to share a passage from Barth’s Dogmatics in Outline that started off my ‘devotions’ this morning. I don’t know about you, but whenever I prayerfully read a good theological book about the Trinity, my heart tends to leap in worship.

‘Not although God is Father and Son, but because God is Father and Son, unity exists [in the Godhead]. So God, as He who establishes Himself, who exists through Himself, as God in His deity, is in Himself different and yet in Himself alike. And for that very reason He is not lonely in Himself. He does not need the world. All the riches of life, all fullness of action and community exists in Himself, since He is the Triune [One]. He is movement and He is rest. Hence it can be claimed to us that all that He is on our behalf – that He is the Creator, that He has given us Himself in Jesus Christ and that He has united us to Himself in the Holy Spirit – is His free grace, the overflow of His fullness. Not owed to us, but overflowing mercy!’ (p. 44)

Ahh, tonic for the heart.

Bis morgen.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Inerrancy? Pt.5

The Bible is as rich as life. It does not document one faith; it is an arena in which possibilities of faith vie with each other for the depths of the divine’ (Philosophical Faith and Revelation, by Karl Jaspers, cited in Law, Inspiration, 212).

In light of this quote, here are four more problems, as I see them, with the doctrine of inerrancy.
  1. The doctrine of inerrancy cannot safeguard an objective interpretation of the Scriptures, and even undermines it. Why is this so? When the Bible is read through the eyes of the ‘faith commitment’ of inerrancy, it is inevitable that one then seeks to explain away the contradictions and tensions found therein, to harmonise - even though the Bible is as Jaspers says. The difficulties of the harmonisation agenda can be clearly seen by reading a representative book that attempts just such a thing: H. Lindsell’s, The Battle for the Bible. In it he attempts to reconcile the contradictions in the Gospel accounts concerning when the cock crowed in relation to Peter’s denials of Jesus. In his harmonisation, Lindsell ends up having to say, in the name of harmonisation, that Peter must have denied Jesus six times! However, not only does this detract the reader from what each Gospel is trying to say, but also ends up invalidating all of the Gospel accounts!

  2. Given the truth of Jaspers words, it is also important to assert that different parts of Scripture are inspired in different ways. This means that there is no one formulation for interpreting Scripture. Instead, the Bible needs to be approached with different interpretive strategies depending on what is being read as well as why. For more on this see Goldingay’s two complementary books, Models for Scripture and Models for the Interpretation of Scripture. The doctrine of inerrancy puts the Scripture into one straitjacket (in which it does not fit), in such a way that variety of interpretation is inevitably neglected.

  3. The doctrine of inerrancy also promotes ‘misleading expectations’ (Models for Scripture, 278) regarding the content in nature of Scripture. Having come from a Fundamentalist background and my then affirmation of inerrancy, it was an extremely difficult process for me to start reading the Bible more intelligently, with all of my critical faculties. My faith itself came into question, something that forced me to reanalyse my doctrine of Scripture. I suspect that the Ehrmans and Funks of this world exist precisely, or at least partly, because of the promotion of the doctrine of inerrancy. The doctrine is so fragile because it doesn't measure up to reality.

  4. This ‘misleading of expectations’ manifests in another way. It encourages evangelism to treat the honest and serious questions of many people in a flippant way and demand that, in order to become Christian, some have to turn off their brains. This comes to the fore all the more clearly in the doctrinal statements of many organisations and churches which place the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture right at the top. This is a travesty!
On one blog I recently wrote these words: ‘While I’ve been majoring on a negative (in my series on inerrancy), a ‘no’, I still hold a very high view of Scripture - I read it daily, meditate on it, memorise it, and know from deep experience that God speaks through it, mediating his presence to me, changing my world. I have a big ‘yes’ to say to Scripture, even if a ‘no’ to inerrancy’. Before something else can be affirmed instead of inerrancy, a space needs to be made for it, and this meant a rigorous, logical and scriptural denial of it. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss which formulation regarding the truth of Scripture I’m delighted to affirm.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Sidebar Features

I’m out of energy this evening, so the inerrancy series will have to wait another night. But I did want to mention that I’ve added a couple of new features to my sidebar. Scroll down and you’ll see 3 new boxes with a blue background and white fluffy cloud effect. The top box tells the visitor how many people are online reading this blog, and where they come from - kinda clever really! As of time of writing, I notice there are 3 of you from the States, and one from Germany (i.e. me). The second box is self explanatory.

However, the third box has the potential to be a real bit of fun. Essentially, it seems to be an Instant Messenger box, only embedded in this webpage. So, if you notice there are more than one visitors online at once from the first box, you can start up a live chat. For example, if you see under ‘Chrisendom Visitors Online’, 1 in Germany, there is a good chance its me, so give it a try. If I don’t answer, don’t take it personally, I’m probably just ignoring you and hoping you’ll go away.

P.S. If you do use this chat box feature, don’t say mean things and make me cry, or you’ll be answerable to Anja - and believe me, her Chinese burns are no fun.

Monday, March 27, 2006

IGod on inerrancy

I’ve been enjoying reading some critique of my inerrancy posts across blogdom today. And for those of you who will read this, please just call me Chris, not Tilling in your posts. Reading ‘Tilling’ all the time makes me feel like I’ve done something naughty (you see, my mum would always shout ‘CHRISTOPHER TILLING’ if ever I did anything wrong).

I actually look forward to responding to some of your comments sometime in the near future. My planned rejoinder, for when that happy day arrives, is, in short: I’m humble and open to critique, but am still right. Obviously.

Btw, I’m not trying to ‘personality assassinate’ here or anything, but ‘disagree with Tilling’, I think all will agree, = ‘morally corrupt’, so I’ll let you work out the rest. Apart from this, it is, of course, obvious that trying to resist the genius and brilliance of my arguments is like trying to stave of the tides of the sea with a bucket. But some have to learn the hard way I guess.

Btw, Boar’s Head people, Joel understands my intentions pretty well.

Today I came across ‘IGod’ (via Steven Harris’ blog), an open internet connection with the heavenlies. Just type in your questions and IGod answers. So, I thought I’d use the opportunity and ask him about the whole inerrancy thing, just to find out who is correct and all - you know, just to prove I’m right before I continue with my series.

Anyhows, I thought I’d start off with a bit of praise to warm up:

Oh Lord
"Awesome. Enough about me, let's talk about my dress."? Oh Lord? What's your favorite movie?
Me: *stunned*
Er, Biki Car Wash 4. Is that bad?
I've never seen it. I would like to see it. Yes.
Me: *feels uncomfortable with the direction of the discussion, so gets back to worship*
We praise thee
By "we" do you mean you and me?
Me: *Gets worried, so tries tongues*
Try saying that with more or less context.
Me: *starts to sweat*
That input matched my default category.

After my praise time, I thought I’d get to the nitty gritty with my question:

Can I ask a question?
Ask it. Ask me anything.
Is the bible without error?
The Bible is a great source of wisdom, but probably not complete by itself.
So, it is not inerrant then?
That's interesting. A question is not inerrant?
Hey, good point!
You've got my full attention. Yes, I thought it was interesting when I heard it too.
So, I'll go back to my blog and tell everyone what you said. OK?
Aha. What will you find there? Groovy.
Well, people who think the bible is inerrant.
How about that. Oh those people.
Indeed! Just wondering, do you have a spare smite button for me to use on them?
Indeed it is so. I don't know if I have a smite button spare for you to use.
Oh please
Your polite style is very nice. Take it easy.
Just one smite button. I promise I'll only use it once.
One what? Do you really mean it?
Honest guv
Oh, you are a poet.
Sure I’m a poet, but I just don't know it

T’was about now that the prophetic trance/internet link was getting bored, and decided to stop. Anyway, I hope this has settled the question of inerrancy for some of you doubters once and for all.

Btw, Steven Harris asked some important questions about Calvinism and ‘limited atonement’, and received some very definite answers that should hopefully end the debates once and for all.

(Disclaimer: All characters in this dialogue were entirely fictional and any similarities with real people is totally coincidental. Plus, in case you thought I was loosing a grip on my ecumenical sensitivities, the smite-urge was only intended humorously and not meant as a real expression of bloodlust against any persons or people to who it could refer, blah blah.)

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Inerrancy? Pt.4

The ‘get out clause’ – the original manuscripts were inerrant.

Wayne Grudem, in his chapter on biblical inerrancy in Systematic Theology, defines inerrancy in the following way: ‘The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact’ (90).

I think even very conservative readers of the Bible will agree, the Bible as we now have it has errors. And undeniably, the original manuscripts and autographs are lost – they don’t exists. All we have are x-generation hand copied texts that approximate the originals only to a greater or lesser extent. This fact has enabled some to argue that the existence of some errors and contradictions in the bible must be due to copyist errors. In this way, many have found a quasi-argument for explaining errors like those I outlined in part 3 of my series on inerrancy. As Grudem writes:

‘... if we have mistakes in the copies (as we do), then these are only the mistakes of men. But if we have mistakes in the original manuscripts, then we are forced to say not only that men made mistakes, but that God himself made a mistake and spoke falsely. This we cannot do’ (97)

But I don’t buy this ‘get out clause’, not for a minute. Why?

  1. The oft quoted 2 Tim 3:16 passage, in light of the fact that the quotes from the OT in 2 Tim come from the LXX, not the original autographs or even original Hebrew, suggests the author/editor of 2 Tim seemed happy to ascribe inspiration to (faulty) copies, not original autographs.

  2. Why was God so careful to inspire texts so thoroughly, overriding human imperfections, only to give up once the final ‘full stop’ was penned, and allow for variety and error? Can a reasonable theological explanation for this be given? It suggests that what God starts, he won’t bring to completion (cf. Phil 1:6).

  3. If God can mediate his truth through imperfect copies, which inerrantists will insist, then isn’t the necessity for the theory of flawless autographs immediately nullified? (For these three points, cf. the discussion in Law’s Inspiration, 90-93)

  4. And most importantly - there are errors in the Bible that simply cannot be accounted for by copyist errors. The gospels, for example, cannot be harmonised with reference to copyist errors. Rather, they are all interpretations of the life and work of Christ, with slightly different theologies and agendas. Unless one argues that copyist errors are so substantial, as to pervert the originals so seriously, this variety of interpretation and difference in detail at the original autograph level must also be assumed.

  5. Besides, I have already demonstrated in my previous posts why the understanding ‘inspiration = inerrancy’ is to be rejected. Hence, the statement of Grudem, that errors means ‘God himself made a mistake and spoke falsely’ is simply a gross misunderstanding of the texts themselves.

Were the original manuscripts without error? Only if you are willing to suggest that there is a considerable and substantial difference between the autographs on the one hand, and the copies we now have on the other. If this is so, however, the old argument that the bible we now have is inspired because it is basically the same as the originals, is immediately to be rejected.

There are a few more posts in this series to come, so I look forward to your continuing response.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Jimmite Review

Jim West has recently, on his blog, enthusiastically (understatement) recommended Hans Hübner’s new Evangelische Fundamentaltheologie, and I must say, given his comments I am sorely tempted to drop my work and give it a read. Alas, that would be less than responsible.

But in true Jimmite fashion, I also want to give my hearty recommendation for another German language book that has recently, as I’ve worked through 1 Cor, been impressing my socks off:

Matthias Konradt’s Gericht und Gemeinde: Eine Studie zur Bedeutung und Funktion von Gerichtsaussagen im Rahmen der Paulinischen Ekklesiologie und Ethik im 1 Thess und 1 Kor (Berlin, Walter de Gruyter, 2003 – anything by this publisher is worth reading, eh Ben).

Not only is the exegesis exemplary, but it’s very clearly written, engaging and, for those of us who are self-confessed freaks, presents enough detail and footnotes to keep you going for months. It is a model of the highest level of scholarship.

The blurb on the de Gruyter webpage runs:

“The present study deals with St. Paul’s statements about judgement, but instead of examining them from a single perspective in their relationship to the discourse of “justification by faith”, it places them in the context of Pauline ecclesiology and ethics. It asks the concrete question of how St. Paul introduces the theme of judgement and in what contexts in order to structure community or set way marks for Christian life. The study focuses on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians and the First Epistle to the Corinthians.”
To be honest, this summary is far to clinical to do the book justice; fascinating questions are asked and addressed that many would rather skim over in the name of faithfulness to Lutheran soteriology – at least that’s my suspicion.

Here is Tobias Nicklas’s SBL review, which he concludes with the words: ‘Der Band wird sicherlich bald einen wichtigen Platz in der Paulusexegese allgemein einnehmen und dürfte so zum Ausgangspunkt weiterer fruchtbarer Diskussionen werden.’

Hmm. Maybe I haven’t been Jimmitely enthusiastic enough.

OK, I’ll try again (allow for a little flexibility with the truth though): “This book is the best thing to have ever been written in NT exegesis, nay, in the world of literature whatever the subject. It is a paradigm changing, bomb in playground, theological and literary masterpiece that anyone who is interested in the bible should memorise from cover to cover. Including the footnotes and ISBN. If you don’t want to go to hell, read it”.

Me thinks this has perhaps become even more Jimmite than Jim.

1 Cor 8 to 10 block

My blogging time has been largely taken up with writing responses to those who have commented on my ‘Inerrancy? Pt.3’ post, so I won’t waffle now. I’ll continue this series over the weekend. I’ve really been enjoying the discussion it has engendered, so thanks for your input.

Today I started working on 1 Cor 11, having at last finished my more extensive exegesis of 1 Cor 8:1-10:22, a passage that will be an important bow in my thesis argument. But, boy, am I glad that the first draft is behind me. I was stuck on it for weeks.

In case you don’t know, my work concerns Pauline Christology. I’m looking at the question, ‘Is Paul’s Christology divine?’, i.e. (to use the words of Bauckham), ‘Is Christ, for Paul, included in the “divine identity”, or is he external to it?’

To be honest, I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of response my thesis will generate in this field of debate, so I’m keen to get it written. But I won’t summarise my argument here – top secret!, I will just say that I’m convinced that Paul’s Christology is a divine Christology.

Friday, March 24, 2006

I need to try harder

You Are 44% Evil

You are evil, but you haven't yet mastered the dark side. Fear not though - you are on your way to world domination.

The Attack

The oddest Google searches sometimes lead people to my blog. Here are a few from yesterday:

“Who’s Who in Plymouth Brethren Bowden” (Huh?!)
“Concave earth” (no doubt landing here)
and my favourite: “Blackadder german fluffy quotes”!

Given our present bible-related theme, I thought something more light-hearted was in order tonight – even if it’s still broadly bible-associated:

To fit the measure, I found this painful yet entertaining link at Steven Harris’ blog. It’s a cartoon, a Chick Publication track called ‘The Attack’, on the purity and utter and obvious pre-eminence of the KJV. I challenge anyone to read the cartoon through without stopping out of frustration at some stage. You'll laugh about it later - at least I did.

As Steven writes: ‘I especially like the scene where the guy who hears criticism of the KJV says “now I don’t know what to believe anymore.” Hehe. How about “in the Lord Jesus Christ?” Remember kids: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and then he turned into the Textus Receptus instead.”’

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Inerrancy? Pt. 3

In answer to a visitors question, ‘Could you give us an example of what you consider to be an error in the Bible?’.

Okey dokey.

(This list was compiled from scratch tonight, so it’s not meant to be complete of course)
  1. There are scientific errors.
    a) An example: Leviticus 11:6 and Deuteronomy 14:7 both describe the hare as a ruminant. However, as Law rightly states: ‘This is quite simply wrong and no exegetical ingenuity can make it right’
    b) Biblical cosmology asserts a flat earth, something Creationists will do their best to ignore. While your in Genesis, compare the creation accounts in Gen 1 and 2 and think about the order of creation, i.e. when humans came along in relation to the rest of creation.

  2. There are genealogical list errors.
    a) Even many conservative scholars would admit this even in relation to Matt 1:1-17. Btw, in 1:17, it states: ‘from Abraham to David fourteen generations, and from David to the Babylonian exile fourteen generations, and from the Babylonian exile to the Christ fourteen generations.’ Sit yourself down and actually count how many generations there are listed in the preceding verses and see if the editor/author was any good at maths.

  3. There are copyist errors. Hundreds of them. And the copyists and editors saw fit to change bits of the text here and their to suit their own agendas. To be contemporary in my comments: Ehrman has a good point, but it is a) not entirely original and b) no reason for turning from the faith – only one sickened by a false understanding of what the bible is. I will look at the old ‘escape clause’, that of the purity of ‘original manuscripts’, later.

  4. There are historical errors. Just a few random examples:
    a) How did Judas die? Compare, closely, the accounts in Matthew 27:3-8 and Acts 1:18-19. The differences are certainly not the result of a mere copyist error.
    Did Paul’s companions hear the voice during the Damascus road experience? Acts 9:7 ‘The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one’. Acts 22:9 ‘Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me’.
    c) What colour robe was Jesus forced to wear? Compare Matt 27:28-29 with John 19:2-3.
    d) How many Syrians did David slay? Compare 2 Sam 10:18 and 1 Chron 19:18.
    e) For more, do a bible study on these questions like: Who is the father of Joseph? Who was at the Empty Tomb? How many times did the ‘cock crow’ (Peter’s denial of Jesus)? Etc.

  5. There are factual errors
    a) One example: Matt 27:9-10 cites a passage that the author/editor claims to have come from Jeremiah. But where did it really come from? Zech 11:12-13.

  6. It’s writers often supported theological errors, and the biblical tradition later corrects and contradicts itself. It makes theological statements that are such that one or other is true, not both. Many tend to call this phenomenon a ‘tension’. But aren’t many simply contradictions, thus making the contrary theological assertion an error? This is the essence of ‘sublation’ I mentioned first here.
    a) The righteous will get along dandy thanks (Proverbs), or perhaps in real life things are not so simple (Ecclesiastes). Cf. Childs OT work on this.
    b) Will all be saved in the end?
    c) Will God punish the children for the father sin or not?
    d) Can God be seen? Yes or no?
    e) Does God change? Do a bible study.
    f) Matthew 5:19 ‘Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’ But isn’t this exactly what the early church went on to do?
Now I am an evangelical Christian, but I simply refuse to accept the many silly ‘explanations’ for some of the sort of errors I’ve outlined above. To do so would be to ‘leave brain at door before you come in’. Such data as that contained in the points above is, I think, irrefutable reason for rejecting the inerrancy of the bible as defined in my first post in this series.

‘But, Chris’, some may respond, ‘these are hardly serious errors to significantly challenge our understanding of what is necessary for salvation’! I agree. But the doctrine of inerrancy is making a claim that the investigation of smaller details can either falsify or verify. In this case, inerrancy is soundly falsified.

To perhaps surprise some of you, I still want to say that the Bible is ‘the Word of God’, and inspired – with qualification. But how can such a claim be made if one accepts errors and contradictions in the bible? And what about the ‘escape clause’ that though there may be errors in our bible, the original manuscripts were free of them? To such questions I will turn to in the last couple of posts in this series. Plus I want to address some of the criticism my posts have received from other bloggers.

Inerrancy? Pt.3 Introduction

David Law, in his book, Inspiration, writes: ‘The most powerful argument against biblical inerrancy ... is that it fails to do justice to the phenomena of the Bible’ (89).

First, and I mean this honestly, before reading the following post I want to warn readers whose faith is dependant on the bible being without error. If your faith is so grounded, then please pray before reading it - I don’t want to damage your relationship with God in any way.

Having said that, I believe it is healthy to accept the bible for what it is, to love it for what it is, not for what it isn’t. Were that clearer in our churches and bible institutes, I suspect there would be fewer Funks, Ehrmans and the like running around.

Anyway, in the comments of my last post on inerrancy, Guy asked me: ‘Chris, Could you give us an example of what you consider to be an error in the Bible?’ It is to this question I turn this evening.


Thank you all for your helpful comments on my inerrancy posts so far. I returned home tonight without a drop of energy, so I’ll respond to all your thoughts tomorrow and publish my third post in this series on inerrancy. I may perhaps post it as a podcast, actually. Once again, all of your comments are most welcome as I blog my way through this ‘hot potato’.

The discussion has been continued, meanwhile, on a couple of other blogs: Here, over at, and here on Jason Goroncy’s blog.

I’m glad to say that my copy of God’s Being is in Becoming, by Eberhard Jüngel, arrived in the post today (at least something has, eh Jim!). It is the updated Webster translation, and it will serve as a appetiser for the ‘main course’ that will hopefully be arriving in the post in the next few days – I’m dying to tell all exactly what this ‘main course’ is, but I’ll wait till it turns up first.

Also (I forget where I found this link), here is a chance to have a listen to a decent interview with a certain Bart Ehrman on his recent Misquoting Jesus.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Inerrancy? Pt.2

Does the bible assert its own inerrancy?
  1. Rather than go through individual verses – something that would take too much time, I will say a few points about how we use verses in the bible to build up a doctrine of scripture.

  2. Some of the verses used in support of inerrancy are pushed too far even without further comment. For example, 2 Tim 3:16 and the description of Scripture as ‘useful’ among other things, hardly lends support to inerrancy (cf. Inspiration, by David Law, 84 ff. for a discussion of this and many of the usually quoted verses)

  3. It needs to be stated that the bible says nothing about itself! The bible is a collection of materials of greater or lesser accuracy to the original, and weren’t officially collected together as one till hundreds of years after they were written. Thus, when it states in Rev 22:18 ‘I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book’, it is, of course, a reference only to Revelation, as there was no bible for it to correspond to. This is obvious, but a point amazingly overlooked by many defenders of inerrancy.

  4. Only by taking verses here and there and by putting them through a deductively logical wringer can one conclude a doctrine of inerrancy (see the chapter on Scripture in Packer’s, Fundamentalism and the Word of God as an example). It can be asserted that parts of the bible as we now have it, more or less, would have been seen as the words of God, as inspired by God etc., by the early Christians and by Jesus himself. However, a) the ‘more or less’ isn’t insignificant, b) more importantly, it is a step of deductive reason to take the premises to mean ‘without error’, however reasonable it may sound. c) This step of deductive logic is not a scriptural leap, but rather an inductive reading of the many clear contradictions and mistakes in the bible mean we must avoid such a logical wringer. One ceases to be biblical if one states that inspiration means inerrancy. As a Fundie, it was the realisation that my doctrine of scripture was itself no scriptural that started the process of my escape! I thank Goldingay’s Models for Scripture for this life-moving insight.

  5. However, after all of this, there is a far stronger reason for rejecting the doctrine of inerrancy, far stronger: The witness of the bible itself, read inductively. I suggest that it can be conclusively proved that scripture is not inerrant, and the bible’s own witness to this is decisive!

The test of a person

“The test of a person is in his blogging”

(Sirach 27:5, The Inspired Message Version)

Inerrancy? Pt.1

I’ve decided to write a few posts on the question of biblical inerrancy. I made comments on this subject in my posts on propositional revelation and scripture here. And as I think the matter is rather clear, I would like to present the argument summarised in that earlier post in a little more detail. Any comments are most welcome.
  1. What do I mean by ‘inerrancy’? I found this on the web: ‘D. Feinberg defines inerrancy as, “[T]he view that when all the facts become known, they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in all it affirms, whether that relates to doctrine or ethics or to the social, physical, or life sciences” (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1987, p. 142).’. As an example of this sort of thinking, Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible.
  2. Is biblical inerrancy what Christians have always believed?
    a. There is tension in the Fathers. Goldingay summarises, ‘the Fathers seem capable of combining their recognition that scriptural narratives are sometimes unhistorical with specific declarations elsewhere regarding the detailed reliability of them’ (Models for Scripture, 261). Think, for example, of Origen’s ‘gospel harmonising’ tendencies, with his commentary on John 2:12-15 which ‘emphasised that the Gospels contain many a “discrepancy” of this kind, which he declares to be insoluble if we take each Gospel as attempting a historical account’ (ibid, 262). Cf. also his Origen’s comments on Genesis 1.

    b. There is tension in Luther. He simultaneously held a very high view of scripture, but was, at the same time, untroubled by contradictions in the text. Think of Luther’s trigger happy attitude to books of the canon. It wasn’t only James that upset him (the ‘epistle of straw’). The impossibility of second repentance in Hebrews, he said, contradicts the gospel ion Paul, and the Revelation to John he criticised for its fantastic character, and lack of emphasis on the central Christian message (cf. Kümmel’s overview in his, The NT: The History of the Investigation of its Problems, 24).

    c. The present interpretation of inerrancy as absolutely without error (sometimes adding the ‘escape clause’: in the original Manuscripts) has been heavily shaped by the Scottish philosophy of ‘common sense’ (cf. A. McGrath, Passion for Truth)

    d. These few examples go to show that the conservative Christian’s claim that all Scripture is error free is simply what ‘Christians have always believed’ cannot be upheld without significant qualification.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A new blog for your rolls

Jason Goroncy is a post-grad theologian working up in St Andrews University, and I want to warmly recommend his blog:

The P T Forsyth Files: Dancing in the Crisis

My own undergrad theological studies took place in St Andrews and so I have a soft-spot for anything associated with the University-town, especially St Mary's College. Actually, I remember thinking it would be a great place to ask Anja to marry me - on the long pier next to the old castle (I know, horridly corny), but I apparently couldn’t wait that long as I popped the question before we arrived for our short visit. She said ‘yes’, so that’s the main thing!

Anyway, I asked Jason to say something about himself and his blog for this post, and he kindly wrote the following:

“‘The Forsyth Files’ grew out of the hope that I may discover some others who share an interest in things Forsythian and wish to discuss both his theology and how his thought can make a valuable contribution to current theological debate, engagement with the world, and ministry practice. I’m currently working on a PhD project in which I’m engaging with Forsyth’s thought on sanctification - indeed, the sanctification of all things - in Christ.”
A fascinating sounding doctorate, I think you’ll agree! For those who don’t know, Forsyth (1848-1921) was a scottish Congregationalist theologian who in some ways it seems anticipated the theological contours of Barth, even if there was no direct influence on Barth himself - so I’m told. Forsyth, having originally studied under Ritschl, ended up strongly rejecting the liberal and sentimental view of the ‘fatherhood of God’ by emphasising the seriousness of sin and the holiness of God – matters that came to expression particularly in his doctrine of atonement. Though he became far less theologically liberal, he always kept and used the biblical-critical tools he learnt in Germany.

Anyway, I hope this is a fairly accurate portrayal of the man – if not I’m sure Jason will point out in the notes!

To some of Jason’s recent posts: Those in the UK will hopefully be attracted to this post, others interested in the universalism debate to this post. But there is much more - just scroll down and check it all out.

In particular, his comments on censorship caught my attention. Jason asks: ‘When you remember the Tiananmen Square massacre of ‘89, what do you think of? Well when you google images of ‘Tiananmen', these are what Americans see and This is what the Chinese see.

I would also add, the Germans and Brits see exactly the same as the Americans. Just try scrolling through further China-Google hit pages until you manage to find a picture of a tank! A remarkable demonstration of censorship in action!

Anyway, keep up the good work Jason!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Wiggling her butt

This audio download is amusing enough to link to.

Propositional Revelation and Scripture, pt. 2 of 2

Additionally, our orthodox biblical propositions are not all in the bible. For example, the developed doctrine of the Trinity, that all orthodox Christians believe, will not be found as a developed proposition in the bible.

Finally, if revelation was truly about pure and refined propositions, then why is it that almost all of Jesus’ original Aramaic words are lost to us. The gospel writers translated them in to Greek, and gave the words of Jesus their own interpretive stamp. From the very earliest layers of the NT, what we have are, at least as I see them, interpretations (even if reliable ones) of the significance and words of Christ. These words remain, however, second order.

It is for these reasons that it is better to see the bible after the analogy of art or music or story or drama – something that creates an effect and draws us into an encounter with God by the Spirit, but not as a storehouse of timeless propositions. It just isn’t that simple. Even a simple proposition like ‘Jesus is Lord’ is not a timeless abstract proposition. It can mean very different things depending on who is confessing it, when and why.

However, truths must surely be communicated in revelation. Not only that, for there to be a communication of revelation, there needs to be propositions (even if second-order and provisional) of these truths. And while the propositions may not be the revelations themselves, they can, by the Spirit, become the vehicle of the revelation or unveiling of the hidden God particularly in Christ. In this sense I want to affirm propositional revelation.

Propositional Revelation and Scripture, pt. 1 of 2

Some thinking ‘out loud’ on the nature of propositional revelation and scripture, as it is a subject that has surfaced in some recent comments. I don’t pretend to have all the wisdom and answers on this and any feedback is welcome, especially as I’m a NT man, and not as well read in modern theology as I would like to be.

First, I want to affirm the propositional character of revelation. But I would see it as a second order reflection on the Word of God. Even Scripture must be seen as a provisional and imperfect, even if normative and trustworthy, witness to the definitive Word of God spoken in Jesus.

In particular, the provisional nature of biblical propositions is seen in the fact that Scripture sublates (fulfils/contradicts) its own propositions on numerous issues.

Apart from this, scripture, as far as I see, is demonstratably not ‘without error’, i.e. inerrant (to get an idea, just type ‘bible contradictions’ into to Google, and have a read of some of the pages linked to). This fact forces us to drive a wedge between the ‘word spoken’ and the ‘word received/interpreted’. I don’t mean to cause offence with this claim, but to return to the question of the fundamentals, to make biblical inerrancy a true propositional fundamental, i.e. something that you must believe to make you unorthodox, then this will simply mean, for me: to turn my brain off and believe ten silly things before breakfast. And the bible doesn’t claim of itself that it is inerrant. There was no complete bible canon of which it could have said this of itself. Only texts that are decontextualised and read through a deductive-logical wringer can be taken to affirm this. I insist that the scriptures are inspired, but the manifest self witness of these scriptures is that there are some small errors, and so the evidence and self attestation of scripture, inductively read, leads us away from the deductively sustained argument of inerrancy (cf. Goldingay, Models for Scripture for more on this line of reasoning). To put it roughly: The bible is not inerrant in detail, but nothing in it will, I believe, mislead us about the nature of salvation. Neither is biblical inerrancy ‘what the church has always believed till them compromising liberals showed up’. Cf. Irenaeus, and the unproblematic way some in the early church dealt with bible contradictions. Think also of how ‘trigger happy’ Luther and others were with the books of the canon during the reformation.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Christliche Existentialität

„Christliche Existentialität erschöpft sich aber nicht in der Ethik, sondern hat ihren eigentlichen Quell in den Wirkung der Gnade“ - KH

I don’t know if any of you have read Kurt Hübner’s Glaube und Denken (Tübingen, Mohr Siebeck, 2001), but it looks reasonably useful. But I know very little about the guy to be honest.

The back cover blurb:
„Kurt Hübner lost den alten Widerspruch zwischen Christentum und Wissenschaft auf der Grundlage der heutigen Wissenschaftstheorie auf. Er interpretiert das Christentum systematisch und setzt sich mit den einschlägigen Versuchen, das Christentum wissenschaftlich zu begründen oder zu widerlegen kritisch auseinander“

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Fundamentals

Are you a fundamentalist?

‘Depends on what you mean by “fundamentalist”?’ insists the clever chap.

Indeed, there are all sorts of things hidden in ‘fundamentalism’.

There is, oddly, ‘fun’ and, appropriately, ‘mental’, for example.

But if we trace things back to the roots, most point out the series of pamphlets, by the name of The Fundamentals, published between 1910 and 1915. In these, the five fundamentals were laid out:

  1. the verbal inerrancy of Scripture
  2. the divinity of Jesus
  3. the virgin birth
  4. the substitutionary theory of atonement
  5. and the physical return of Jesus.
In a small book that is keeping me awake at night it’s so interesting, Keith Ward writes:

‘It seems very odd to make these the fundamental items of Christian belief. My list of fundamental beliefs would be the existence of a creator God, the revelation of the unlimited love of God shown in the life and death of Jesus, and the hope that all might share in the redemption of the world that is accomplished by God in and through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Spirit’
(What the Bible Really Teaches: A Challenge for Fundamentalists, p. 1-2)

In the near future, I will make my own suggestions here as to what I consider could be called the fundamentals, and how one should understand ‘fundamental’.

Until then, what are your fundamentals?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The most boring book of all time

I’ve been reading Bill Bryson’s, A Short History of Nearly Everything recently. It’s a tad bit unreliable on certain details of fact, at least as far as I’m convinced, however, it is a real fun read and highly informative. In chapter 5 he details the contributions of the first real geologist, James Hutton (1726-1797) - who explained the features of the Earth’s crust by positing natural processes over geologic activity over long periods of time i.e., uniformitarianism.

A fascinating and brilliant man this Hutton with one significant weakness: ‘Nearly every line he penned’, says Bryson, ‘was an invitation to slumber’!

Bryson cites an example of the geologist:
‘In the one case, the forming cause is in the body which is separated; for, after the body has been actuated by heat, it is by the reaction of the proper matter of the body, that the chasm which constitutes the vein is formed ...’ etc. I think you get the drift.
Now the question: What is the most dull and incomprehensible theologically or biblically related book you have ever read?

My choice has to be the biblical Aramaic grammar book we used in my undergraduate studies. It was like reading a foreign language – utterly impenetrable. Rather appropriately, I have forgotten the details of the book.

However, this seems to be a problem of many grammar books. Wallace’s intermediate Greek grammar tends in this direction too. An example of his attempt to clarify what could be meant by the mysterious heading ‘Semantics and “Semantic Situation”’:
‘Both semantics and the “semantic situation” of the categories are frequently developed. That is, rather than mere definition for labels, the nuancing of the category (semantics) and the situations (e.g., contexts, lexical intrusions, etc.) …’ (xi)

After pondering this question for a while, it finally occurred to me what he meant by ‘lexical intrusions’. Words!

Certainly sounds clever, for sure, but why didn’t he just use the word ‘words’?!

Anyway, what would your choice be?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Miroslav Volf audio

Here is a downloadable podcast conversation with Yale theologian, Miroslav Volf - a fascinating story, over 50 minutes long – and a massive 49 MB large, made available by the Emergent Theological Conversation.

HL: from the first ever German Emergent blog I’ve found.

Ark found!

What do you mean you don’t believe that the story of Noah’s Ark in Genesis is a literal account of history, great flood and all?

What do you mean that you don’t believe the bunnies hopped in two-by-two? Oh yes, those two bunnies got their twitchy noses and fluffy stump tails up in that boat, don't you doubt.

And here is the proof (found via a post on Jim West’s blog earlier today).

Friday, March 10, 2006

Thinking aloud

Tonight I tried to write a very important letter – a real hard one that contains heavy criticism about something that I obviously won’t go in to here. Needless to say, the matter at hand has been driving me mad, and it was finally time to put pen to paper.

But as I was preparing, I thought it would be a useful exercise to speak it out first and record it on tape – and, importantly, to imagine the person I wanted to write to, speak as if I were speaking directly too them (so it would get too angry, to keep me focused etc).

However, Anja is far too pretty to serve as a substitute for the person in question, so she improvised using a pillow from the sofa and some of my clothes! Here is the mystery letter receiver that I lectured tonight. From Anja’s general demeanour in this picture, I’m guessing she found my talk fascinating:

So, if you get a strong letter from me in the next few days, and you’ve read this blog (who knows!), then ... oops!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Shifting Centre

I read a fascinating article today by Margaret Y. MacDonald (the picture is of her) entitled ‘The Shifting Centre: Ideology and the Interpretation of 1 Corinthians’. Here is an overview with some comments. If you are interested in the Apostle Paul, or even New Testeament exegesis, then do try to work your way through this rather lengthy post, as I think her article is worth it.

(The article is a chapter in the collection of essays presented in the recent book, Christianity and Corinth: The Quest for the Pauline Church, ed. Edward Adams and David G. Horrell [London: Westminster John Knox, 2004])

She starts off her analysis by examining the concept of ‘ideology’ in order to examine the ideologies adopted by biblical scholars in their interpretation of 1 Corinthians. The first subheading, ‘The Importance of Baur’ points to the ways in which aspects of Baur’s work are reflected in modern scholarship, even if ‘the ideological basis of some of his assertions would not be considered acceptable by the scholarly community today’ (278). His ideologically driven interpretation of 1 Corinthians is well-known and thus sets the frame for an examination of the way scholars have imported their own ideologies into their interpretation of this letter.

The next major subheading, ‘Paul at the Centre’, overviews how scholars have sought to, consciously or unconsciously, defended the worth and authority of Paul - a matter obviously related to the conviction especially amongst faith communities that Paul’s words are canonical Scripture. Her point is to suggest that it is only ideology that would lead us to assume that Paul is the one to be trusted, the correct one, and that his opponents wrong.

Next comes ‘Christianity at the Centre’. Focusing on the likes of Barrett and Thiselton etc., MacDonald argues that an ideology reflecting a ‘Christianity at the centre’ approach leads interpreters to unduly posit a theological whole upon the letter, or upon the nature of Paul’s opponents or his own strategy in dealing with certain situations. Along with Dale Martin, she argues that the importation of such clearly defined theological systems into the interpretation of this letter rides roughshod over what is a more complex reality. For example, Thiselton’s focus on ‘overrealised eschatology’ becomes the target of criticism. Not only that, she also cites Horsley who, for me at least, controversially, ‘warns strongly against the assumption that Paul and the Corinthians were involved in the religion that we now call Christianity’ (285). This sentence hit me between the eyes! Nevertheless, is positing a theological whole an illegitimate ideology?

Society at the Centre’. MacDonald’s reasonably positive assessment of the contribution of those scholars pushing either a social-scientific approach, or something like it, is qualified by warnings that such focuses tend to forget other important issues in the text. This judgement I find myself in strong agreement with and the social-scientific approach of Asano in his recent work on Galatians for me very clearly outlines the weakness of his methodology, i.e. so much important data was left out of consideration because his methodology couldn’t quite handled it.

The last section, ‘Women at the Centre’ highlights the significant exegetical work done by number of female scholars in relation to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. This is evident not only in the expected passages (e.g. 1 Cor 7), but also in the way the often neglected female voice has been given another hearing – at the Apostle Paul’s expense. For example, MacDonald notes the work of Antoinette Clark Wire’s study, Corinthian Women Prophets, in which the author attempts a robust defence of the Corinthian’s theology over against Paul’s theology, and in particular those of the women prophets and their claim to ‘direct access to resurrected life in Christ from God’s spirit’ (293, citing Wire, 185).

A very thought-provoking article, even if, in time, sober meditation on the texts themselves made dull the edge of some of MacDonald’s concerns and claims. Well worth a read!

The NT and social-scientific approaches

I want to vent a very short rant on social-scientific approaches to the NT, given the announcement on Mark Goodacre's blog, NT Gateway, of the publication of Malina's and Pilch's new volume, Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul.

While I do value the contribution social-scientific studies make to the interpretation of the New Testament, especially in able hands like those of Esler, I can’t help but feel that when you’ve read one social-scientific book, you’ve read them all. The crazed search for yet another ‘model’ with which to read the biblical texts has, in my opinion, led to a neglect of the texts themselves. Cf. also my comments in relation to Asano's recent work on Galatians in the next post.

What do you think about social-scientific approaches to the exegesis of scripture?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Christian spirituality

“Christian spirituality, finally, looks out in love at the world. It is not self-centred, regarding its own spiritual progress or development as the be-all and end-all. Precisely because it is rooted in Judaism (where Israel was called for the sake of the world), is focused on Jesus (who gave himself for the world), is shaped by the true God (who made the world) – and because it embraces the whole person, who is constituted not least by her or his vocation to serve the world – Christian spirituality must, like a well-pruned rosebush, encourage those shoots that move outward and discourage those that become intertwined with one another. Thus, though Christian spirituality generates and sustains a self-awareness in God’s presence, it can never be content with navel gazing. The self of which one is aware, if it stands in the presence of the God we know in Jesus, must always be turned outward toward God’s world.”

(The Meaning of Jesus, Wright [and Borg], 212)

Barth bashing

A real treat for you tonight. Another podcast.

Admittedly, I’m not doing the talking, I found it on, a site that allows you to download audio sermons from all manner of (mostly very conservative) people. Tonight’s podcast, then, is by a certain Ian Goligher, and the subject is none other than our beloved Karl Barth.

The introductory blurb about the message runs as follows:

“The tares of New Evangelicalism have been sown while churches slept. The father of Neo- Orthodoxy was Karl Barth a Swiss theologian, who having rebounded from outright liberalism became the hope of many Evangelicals. Instead, he was the pied piper who led them to their destruction. In this message you will learn that the existentialism of Neo-Orthodoxy has led to a play-dough religion. While orthodoxy stands rock solid on the truth that is timeless, New Evangelicals have fallen headlong into the sinking sands of subjectivism. Learn how Barthianism ruined so many denominations and promising evangelicals. Learn why Canada's voice for Orthodoxy has been all but silenced. Again we ask, Where are the preachers? This message will tell us why.”




Apparently, the problem appears to be that Barth isn’t Fundie enough. Not only that, but Barth is, according to Ian, an ‘existential theologian’ (!!!), and existential is just a clever way of saying ‘evil’.


Anyway, click here to have a listen, and here to add your own comments on (I think you’ll agree, my comment was extremely generous – I was on my best behaviour).

Go on, have a listen. You know you want to.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Küng – Der Anfang aller Dinge. Section C, pt 3 of 3.

This is the final part of my overview of section C in Küng's, Der Anfang aller Dinge. If any want the German translated, leave a note in the comments.

Part 6 (of 6) of section C

According to Küng, the message of Genesis, that science can neither prove nor disprove, is ‘In the beginning, God created the world’ (a rather unfortunate typo occurs here that the German editors missed: ‘Im Anfang der Welt is Gott’!! p. 139). Furthermore, in light of the previous discussion, it is clear that creation is not just something in the past, but something that continues; there is creatio continua as well as ex nihilo (of course, see Moltmann, Gott in der Schöpfung for more on this). Nice dogmatic statements. But all of this still begs the question to which Küng will turn to in the final part of section C: ‘What is the meaning of faith in a Creator God today?’

His answer: It should be understood that not scientific, but rather existential questions are addressed by the biblical authors and editors. The meaning of the biblical account of creation is that it gives life orientation, not scientific facts: ‘Es läßt den Menschen einen Sinn im Leben und im Evolutionsprozeß’ (142). To quote Küng at more length:
‘Das Ganze stammt nicht nur aus einem Urknall [Big Bang], sondern einem Ur-sprung: aus jenem ersten schöpferischen Grund der Gründe, den wir Gott, eben den Schöpfergott, nennen ... Auch wenn ich dies nicht beweisen kann, so kann ich es doch mit gutem Grund bejahen: in jenem für mich so vernünftigen, geprüften, aufgeklärten Vertrauen, in welchem ich schon Gottes Existenz bejahte ... Nur so, scheint mir, wird uns das Universum plausibel in seiner Existenz als Kosmos: in seinem mathematisch geordneten, hochkomplexen und ungeheuer dynamischen Wesen’ (ibid., italics his).
Thus, to believe in a Creator doesn’t mean to believe this or that myth literally, but invites us to trusting faith in the wider meaning and orientation in life it offers, and thus concretely in God himself– and not just for our sakes, but also for the good of all our fellow humans, and the environment.

But if evolutionary theory is to be accepted, in what way, then, are we to understand God's role in the evolution of life on our planet? In the next section, Küng turns his attention to the question of what in English speaking circles has been called ‘theistic evolution’.

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Single of the Week

Single of the Week has just been updated.

This time I’ve chosen a number by the moody and eclectic Jim Morrison and The Doors: L.A. Woman - a track that borders on genius.

For some inexplicable reason my wife hates it; ‘Just awful’, she says. I’ll let you make up your minds. But, for the record, I’m right of course. It’s great.

My break has come to an end, so I will be continuing with my exegetical work through 1 Corinthians tomorrow - which will no doubt surface here now and then.

Küng – Der Anfang aller Dinge. Section C, pt 2 of 3.

Parts 4-5 (of 6) of section C.

In part four, Küng attempts to briefly develop a way of using the word ‘God’ that avoids the many potential pitfalls and abuses. In my mind this part jumped out of the blue, but it was nevertheless a helpful discussion that albeit very briefly attempted to give scientists pause for thought, rather than simply having the scientists making the theologians twist and bend. In this short section he merely makes a number of theologically orthodox statements in light of creation, i.e. ‘God is not the same as creation’, ‘God is in the universe and the universe in God’, etc., and concludes that ‘Man kann das Verhältnis Gott-Welt, Gott-Mensch nur dialektisch formulieren’. Finally, he spends an entire subsection on the question, ‘Is God a Person?’, in which he answers essentially ‘yes’ and ‘no’! So, nothing unorthodox nor new, especially if you’ve read your Moltmann, but a refreshing break from the documentation and scientific details of the previous pages.

‘Bible and creation’ is the theme addressed in part five. First, and perhaps a little surprising given the subject to be tackled, in a fascinating few pages he overviews the account of creation found in the world religions. His point appears to be that science cannot say it all, and that religion has ‘room’ for its claims. A scientist cannot give the full picture of creation, especially as he cannot answer fundamental questions. However, before Küng attempts to bring the biblical story to bear on the wider questions, he turns to the complex issues of biblical-criticism and the Pentateuch. He concludes that the only constant in the changing biblical records is God.

In the following pages, things get interesting. Given his distillation of the biblical constant (i.e. = God), and that the bible is God’s word in human words, the human witness to God’s revelation, the biblical metaphors can be no proof for a ‘cosmic designer’, but rather are an invitation to believing trust in the one God. This means that there should be no harmonising or mixing of the biblical accounts of creation with science. They speak in two different ways, are two different languages:
‘Vielmehr hat sie [Naturwissenschaft] die physikalische Erklärbarkeit unseres Universums so weit wie ihr möglich (!) voranzutreiben und zugleich Raum zu lassen für das physikalisch prinzipiell Unerklärbare. Davon redet die Bibel’ (137).
Indeed, whether one wants to speak of God at all is one’s own decision, but science has nothing to say against it.

Labels: ,

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Küng – Der Anfang aller Dinge. Section C, pt 1 of 3.

At last, the continuation (and eventual completion) of my overview/review of Küng’s Der Anfang aller Dinge. I now turn attention to section C and the question: ‘World creation or evolution?’. As previously, the overview of section C will be spilt into three posts.

About 13.7 million years the universe came into being, then, 4.5 million years ago, our own planet earth, and for about the last 3.5 million years, complex life existed on earth. What does all of this mean theologically? It is to this question that Küng turns in section C. He divides the section into six parts.

Parts 1-3 (of 6) of section C.

In the first part Küng summarises the Darwinian theory of evolution (variation plus selection), and some of the impressive reasons for affirming its correctness. Then, in part two, he turns his attention to the theological defence or reaction to of churches to evolutionism. In short, the question became for the church: ‘If Darwin is right, won’t creation be de-mystified (entsaubert) to a random process without purpose, goal or meaning?’. Naturally, as part of this overview, Küng takes particular delight in poking fun at some of the related papal pronouncements, but he also deals with protestant fundamentalism and, in this context, the concern for such matters as original sin, humans in ‘the image of God’ etc. Here, Küng is not trying to engage questions theologically, as he will do later, he is merely listing responses of the church to evolution.

Particularly noteworthy, I thought, was the fact that a 2001 Gallup poll in the States disclosed that 45% of adult Americans believe the Genesis account of creation literally. And there is some evidence that this is the case not just in America. (A side note: I personally became a Christian after hearing a creationist talk about Genesis. For the first time in my life I started to believe that the Scriptures were more than just dusty old irrelevant books, but were important for me. When I dropped faith in ‘creationism’, I truly did experience a moment of existential shock, of hard adjustment. It was not comfortable, and so such statistics should perhaps be less remarkable to me than they are. But nevertheless, I’m still surprised. Do so many really believe Genesis literally?)

Küng then addresses the question: ‘Is evolution with or without God?’, in which he over views the contributions of Comte (evolution without God), Teilhard de Chardin (evolution to God – he takes another pop at the Catholic church here!), and Whitehead (process theology).

However, all of this is rather documentary in approach and not as engaging as his discussion is about to become in the last half of section C.

Labels: ,

Begegnung mit Gnade

I recently, while waiting for Anja and Susi in the Staatsgalerie actually, spent over an hour on just a couple of paragraphs of Barth’s Dogmatik im Grundriss. Not because I could not understand it, but simply because my heart was caught up into delightful meditation and worship. I simply couldn’t move on.

Barth writes: “Faith speaks of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, as Him who meets us, as the object of faith, and says of this God that He is one in Himself, has become single in Himself for us and has become single once more in the eternal decree [the German is pretty clumsy too], explicated in time, of His free, unowed, unconditional love for man, for all men, in the counsel of His grace ...”. The passage goes on to elaborate on the Word of God being the Word of Grace that meets us in Jesus Christ, in the true God and true Man, Immanuel.

So, nothing particularly new. Nothing new at all actually, but the words somehow moved me powerfully. Perhaps you know what I mean. Anyway, as I always like to ground my meditations in a scripture, I chose Titus 2:11, ‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all’, and Titus 3:4-5 ‘But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.’ - which seemed to fit nicely.

Anyway, enough of me and my extreme mystical holiness! I wish you all a good weekend.

Snow in South Germany

Seeing as Jim Davila has posted on snow in St Andrews ...
It may look nice, but it sure is a pain. This is the view into our garden, taken about lunch time.

And it's still snowing! This one I took from our kitchen window about half an hour ago.


So, I decided not to go to Basel this weekend. Another time.

However, myself, Anja and our friend, Susi, went to Stuttgart yesterday - they to the Staatsgalerie while I checked out an Antiquarian that specialises in theological books. Nice selection, but way too expensive.

I was however pleased to pick up one of my favourite Old Testament theologies for a good price, especially as it is bound up so closely, believe it or not, with my own thesis. The book in question, the hard to find:

Th. C. Vriezen’s, An Outline of Old Testament Theology.

It’s an absolute treasure, and none other than Eichrodt spoke most highly of it. Here are a few excerpts:

“... the Old Testament is not a theology book ... Yet this does not mean that there are no theological main lines of thought ... If we wish to build up an Old Testament theology, the best plan would be to start by examining the fundamental structure of the knowledge of God as it finds expression in the many testimonies” (p. 153)

“All Old Testament teaching rests ... on the certainty of the communion between the Holy God and man, a belief founded on the intercourse between Yahweh and Israel experienced in the history of revelation’ (p. 176)

“the Old Testament always presupposes a positive relation of God to the world: there is no contrast but, fundamentally from God’s point of view, only a relationship of communion” (p. 202)

Friday, March 03, 2006


“Dinge passieren einfach, und damit hat es sich”

- The philosopher, Didaktylos (a character in Pratchett’s novel, Hogfather)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Christian Rock - an after thought

Given the nature of some of the themes I post on, and perhaps because of some of the sites I link to, I have received a couple of rather interesting e-mails in the past from people who may not necessarily see eye-to-eye with some of my thoughts.

And given the rather pointed words in the previous post – and especially in the discussion that followed in the comments, I thought I’d, this time, make myself clearer and attempt to define what I mean by ‘christian rock’, so that no one need be unduly offended.

OK, here is my attempted definition: “Christian Rock is music which turns something beautiful, butchers it, and makes it into something so putrefically revolting and heinously repulsive that any normal ears would respond by sending urgent messages to the stomach to vigorously cough up its contents.”

I hope this calms any tender nerves.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Biblical Studies Carnival III

Rick Brannan has done a great job in collecting together what’s been going on in biblioblogdom in the last month. Rick also kindly mentioned my own podcast on ‘gospel in Paul’, and introduced me as ‘the biblioblogosphere’s own worship chorus lyricist of power’!

Roll over Wesley, Matt Redman, etc, Apostle Chris So-Prophetic-You’re-Just-Jealous Tilling is here.

Funnily enough I have an official ‘no Christian rock music’ policy in this house. Can’t stand the stuff; if I listen for even a few minutes I’ve already finished tying a noose to the ceiling, and I’m busy looking for a stool to stand on.

Be sure to read through Rick’s post here.

On Journeying with those in Exile

It is with great pleasure that I introduce one of my favourite blogs tonight – Dan’s On Journeying with those in Exile. For some odd reason he doesn’t appear to be linked to by many (perhaps because his blog is in the format, rather than blogger or Wordpress?), though he is extremely well read, and his posts are often very thought provoking. He is not afraid to share his own thoughts, and most posts have a liberal sprinkling of nice quotations from all manner of sources. What is more, he has popped up on Chrisendom every now and then, and has given me some superb book reading suggestions that I’m most grateful for. Indeed, my present fascination with Hans Urs von Balthasar can be traced to one of his earlier book recommendations. Though, sorry Dan, Hauerwas’ The Peacable Kingdom is still sitting on the to-read pile ...

I asked him to say something about himself, and why he blogs - and I’ve decided to leave it unedited as, quite simply, I wouldn’t know what to cut out. My comments are in yellow.

“So a bit about me and why I blog (I'm just going to think and type at the same time so you can edit out whatever you want).

I am currently at Regent College (Vancouver, Canada) finishing the second year of a Masters of Christian Studies and my focus is on ‘Christianity and Culture’. I'll be writing my thesis next year and will likely be supervised by Hans Boersma. [For those who haven’t heard of Boersma, he has recently authored Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross and Imagination and Interpretation, and a couple of books on Richard Baxter. Though perhaps you may have heard of him through his contributions in the Revelation series.]

I also work full-time nightshifts at a shelter for street-involved youth in the downtown ghetto (which is known as the neighbourhood with the highest concentration of HIV/AIDS in North America ... largely due to drug use and needle sharing). I'm quite passionate about these kids, and other people who have been abandoned, as I'm sure you've noticed on my blog. In a way it's what I grew up with. A lot of my friends were street-kids (or close to it) when I was young, and I was kicked onto the street by my parents when I was in highschool. God really transformed my life through all that shit, and it gave me confidence and hope that what happened for me could happen for anybody else.

I'm also working on starting a non-profit for women, men, and transgendered people of all ages that are trying to exit the sexual exploitation trade. It is my goal to establish a network of Christian community houses that have rooms reserved for the person exiting to come and live with them as a friend/neighbour. In this way I hope to overcome a lot of the power barriers and other issues that exist in the social services field. I am trying to approach the issue from a Christian -- not a secular professional social service -- perspective. I've spent a number of years working with street-kids and other marginalised groups (here in Vancouver and back in Toronto) and I feel like Christians have mostly gotten themselves behind the 8-ball when it comes to journeying in intimate love relationships with suffering and (god)forsaken people.

I am currently living in a Christian community house with six people (myself, two other singles, and a married couple with a newborn baby!) and we try to live together more "intentionally" than other homes, and so we share a few meals together each week, pool money for groceries, pray together, and do other other things that build community (like drinking beer together). [Beer?? Liquor?? I shake my solemn and extremely holy head]

I have a lot of trouble pinning myself down to a particular Christian tradition [Boy do I know the feeling], not because I dislike all the traditions, but because there is so much that I love about each of them. However, I have no interest in copying Brian McLaren's attempt to be Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Charismatic, Evangelical, (ad nauseum until all such titles and traditions lose their meaning). If push came to shove I'd align myself with the Anabaptists.

So why do I blog? Well, it started out as an interesting way to journal thoughts, and then, after moving to Vancouver, it also became a way of staying in touch with people in Toronto. It's also a way for me to get feedback and a way to have the body of Christ hold me accountable in my thoughts. It's a small attempt at engaging in a group hermeneutic. And it's something I love doing. Reading and writing have always been passions of mine.”

I particularly like his month by month book reading overviews. See, for example, his 2005 July, August, September, October, November, December, 2006 January and February offerings.

He is presently working through a Semiotics for Dummies series, parts one and two are already posted. Also, as such lists seem so popular, have a look at his own introductory theological reading list here. Bit more convincing than mine me thinks. Plus, given the title of his blog, it will come as no surprise that it contains a decent amount of Tom Wright, which is never a bad thing!

Lastly, a thanks to Dan for letting me share something of his story here, and for his great blog.

A few recentish monographs on Barth

Just picked up a couple of interesting looking Barth related books at the library yesterday:
  1. Disruptive Grace, by George Hunsinger (2000)
  2. Reading Karl Barth, by K. A. Richardson (2004)
  3. And, Karl Barth on the Christian Life: The Practical Knowledge of God, by Joseph L. Mangina (2001). From the blurb on the back cover, the book ‘examines a little-known facet of Karl Barth’s theology: his account of the practical or self-involving character of faith. Joseph L. Mangina helps to dispel the myth of Barth as an enemy of the human subject ...’
I already have a nice reading list to work through (as kindly suggested by Ben Myers via e-mail correspondence), but I’ll dip into these too now and then. Has anyone read any of the above and have any opinions?

I’m still waiting to tell all the whole story concerning the outcome of my Church Dogmatics lust, but I’ll hold my tongue. For now.

The power of doctrine

“The stereotype of doctrine as dry and dusty cuts a flimsy caricature next to the real thing, which is brave and bracing. Doctrine deals with energies and events that are as real and powerful as anything known in chemistry or physics, energies and events that can turn the world we know upside down”

(Kevin J Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine, p. xiii)

Tomorrow I want to introduce a blog that not many link to, but is a real treasure, and I really do want to finish of my series on Küng’s Der Anfang aller Dinge this coming week!