Thursday, October 27, 2005

The quotable Barth

Once again, people are on a find-a-clever-Barth-quote frenzy. And so I humbly offer my own contribution:

"Brunner is a loud-mouthed pikey with bad breath and dandruff who has all the social-graces of a stinking turd. A man with his IQ should have a low voice too, but he speaks like a squeeling girl and his face looks like it has been repeatedly hit with a shovel"

- Specific source unknown, but the rumour is that this is the title Barth wanted to give one of his smaller books, until his editors managed to persuade him to shorten it to 'Nein'.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Intelligent Design

Recently, Ben Myers, from Australia, the formidable brains behind Faith and Theology, has been posting on God, creation and intelligent design. I always enjoy reading his blog – one I visit daily – and so I was surprised to find one of his posts had accumulated (as I write) 18 responses. Eager to find out what the fuss was all about, I found most of it was Ben debating with straight-talk-Ken, from Canada. Not only were both of their comments helpful (Ken said in very frank words what I too was wondering), but really amusing.

It started of with Ken writing: "With all due respect, huh? This post makes no sense to me…", followed by "this sounds like pretentious goobleygook [sic] to me", climaxing with "Sorry Ben. I have to call bullshit" - at which stage they both seemed to resign themselves to the fact of a simple difference of opinion.

Nevertheless, this is all still sadly tame compared to the language used in the theological debates of the first centuries of the Church. In these good old days, they were not at all averse to calling each other 'gnat's wee', 'demented and insane', 'fat dogs stupefied with porridge' etc.

As sweet as irony gets

I played the second game of the season last Sunday, and some of you may remember that during that week I posted about how to 'cheat at chess'. Well, talk about one of your all time big frigging back fires ...

I'm not trying to accuse my admittedly friendly opponent of having read my article and put it into effective practice, but I spent most of my precious calculation time warming the loo-seat because of a sudden and mysterious stomach-bug ... I was either crapping or trying not to, and, let me assure you, such conditions are not conducive for analysis.

And so I was forced to offer a rather lame draw on move 18, with the White pieces.

If you wanna see the game then click on the board below – the position in which I offered a draw.

But be warned, the analysis contains way too much information.

Its not easy to think when ones bottom is crying to be elsewhere"
- Ancient Indian proverb

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Putting the "fun" back into "fundamentalism"

As some of you have noticed, I have been doing the rounds on some round-the-bend Fundie web pages recently.

Why have I done it? Well, I guess I've read through these pages simply because I've gotta laugh. Note, for example – in one of the web pages linked to below – that the writers desperately need to quote the bible to prove the world isn't flat …

"Now some say the earth is flat, but clearly they are wrong because of verse such and such"

Ooookkkkkaaaaaaaaaayyy. Like, "look at pictures of earth taken from space" isn't being scriptural enough I guess.

But my surfing has often also been quite frankly depressing - because of all the absurd, double summersault twisted and sometimes evil nonsense that has been paraded as 'truly Christian'. Believe me, anti-intellectualism is alive and well, and running amok among some USA based Fundie websites. It is frightening actually. And also believe me, in the first sentence of this paragraph I was just itching to type in a string of well considered expletives, but I guess I'm just still too holy for that.

I'd like to serve just one more helping of cunning Fundie reasoning from one of the web pages I recently discovered.

The author poses himself a series of questions that heathen unbelievers raise against those who maybe think the King James Version (KJV) of the bible might possibly not be the best.

QUESTION: If there is a perfect Bible in English [he means the KJV], doesn't there also have to be a perfect Bible in French, and German, and Japanese, etc?

Fair question wouldn't you think? After all, if the KJV is the only bible, what about those who can't read English? Well fear not, there is a simple retort for you to memorise:

ANSWER: No. God has always given His word to one people in one language to do one job; convert the world. The supposition that there must be a perfect translation in every language is erroneous and inconsistent with God's proven practice.

Now what amazes me is the presence of a long word like 'supposition' in the above. For me, either you can use long words like 'supposition' or you employ reasoning like that displayed above. But I was wrong, and so, it seems, this was my false supposition.

But hang on, listen to his list of directives, which, alarmingly, are embedded in the middle of other more reasonable comments (... which I will naturally leave out):

1. "If you have a “Praise Band,” “Worship Team” or other modernist [I think he means 'modern'] concoction you are wrong. You’ve just taken the worldly music that you like personally and found an excuse to justify it. Don’t corrupt your church just because you miss rock & roll."

2. "If you dumped your hymn book for a screen, you are wrong. The church has always been a place of “two books,” the Bible and the hymn book."

3. "If you use a computer instead of a Bible you are wrong. God inspired a Book not a disc. Imagine the abomination when our churches have neither a hymnal nor a Bible."

4. "If you want your church to go contemporary, you are wrong. You just want to be worldly and want your pastor to approve it."

And lastly, a real beauty:

5. "If you think having babies makes you spiritual or obedient to the Bible, you are wrong. Having babies is the result of carnal actions, not spiritual."

And just in case any doubts lingered in your mind after any of this reasoning, he adds …

"Say what you want, you’ll still be wrong."

And lest you are left with any questions …

"Don’t bother writing or calling to set me straight on anything I’ve said. You will still be wrong."

I've gotta stop reading this sort of stuff; it's making me depressed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Today I'm

years old!

Happy birthday ME!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Cheating at chess

I recently got into a lively discussion with someone on a chess web page about the art of cheating. Because winding people up is one of my hobbies I, naturally, attempted to persuade him that cheating in chess is not only OK, but part of the game. While he seemed to persist in taking me seriously – which made it all the more fun – I developed a number of strategies 'to get him started'. And they were so creative, I thought, they could be useful for a number of situations, not just chess:


  • A desperate situation in a doctoral Viva

  • a blind date that turns up looking like Wurzel Gummidge

  • when playing poker

  • and, of course, while playing tournament chess

In answer to my debating partners comment ("Herr Tilling, No serious chess player is a cheat - only the ones who are afraid to address their own shortcomings.") I wrote:
Dear Mr X,

No serious chess player is a cheat?

You know, you really ought to give William Hartson's How to Cheat at Chess, especially chapter 7, a read. He will tell you of a number of very serious players who used their creative ability to find all sorts of clever ways of cheating. Funniest of all is the brilliance displayed by one of your fellow country men on p.44 ff....

- only the ones who are afraid to address their own shortcomings.

Amazing! How did you know? "Terrified of facing my shortcomings" is more like it though. And so the thought of e.g. managing to smuggle some laxative into your opponents tea while playing a long-time control game is not only a great relief, but makes for hours of tournament fun. Here are some ideas for you to get going on:

  • Shamelessly fart. Loudly. Laugh about it. Talk about the smell with the opponent.
  • Twitch
  • Complain about 'dust' on the board while your opponent is thinking
  • Snigger when he makes a move. Look stunned and shake head so as to give the impression the move is an obvious blunder
  • STARE at the opponent, don't blink – especially when your opponent is thinking
  • Regularly scratch your tackle. Mutter something about a bacterial infection getting under your finger nails
  • Keep adjusting his pieces, but be sure to say 'J'adoube'
  • Wear a wizard's hat and mutter various curses and spells against him under your breath while he is thinking - loud enough for him to just hear it. When he looks up, stop and grin inanely.
  • Write down on your score sheet, instead of his name something else like: 'Ugliest frigging chess player I've ever seen', or 'Armpit of Hades' – but so that he can see it. If he doesn't look, then show him - with a serious a face
  • If the opponent gets up to call the arbiter, DENY EVERYTHING.

Hope that helps,

In desperate response, a friend of his joined in: "I would gain no satisfaction in the slightest if I were to win a Chess game by cheating. I applaud those players who win on the board, not those who would consider the foulness of "How to Cheat"."

Another stone thrower rejoined: "I hold myself to higher standards than to attempt that. I like even fights and if my opponent wants to play dirty, it just makes me play that much more seriously."

Yea yea. But if you're on the loo for most of the game because of 'lax-spiked tea', your serious play might not be good enough …


Nope, nothing to do with Terry Pratchett. Instead, our friends in certain branches of American fundamentalism inform us that the earth is indeed flat - after all, doesn't the Bible speaks of the 'four corners of the earth'? Aside from that, this website catalogues a veritable galaxy of hard to dodge exegetical arguments to convince even the most unreasonable of doubters. Another webpage under the militant title Fighting the "Evidence", haven't as yet provided quite so many detailed arguments, but we wait with baited breath.

And if the bible says so, it follows that all scientists must have deceived us in one mass conspiracy. Obvious when you think about it.

Henceforth, these academics postulate that we actually live on some sort of disc with the north pole at the centre (surrounded by a 150ft high wall of ice). Curiously, the resulting map is basically the symbol of the United Nations, something one exponent of flat-earth science cites as evidence for the position.

Furthermore, their theory also explains another mystery: how is it possible for the sun and moon to be as big as so-called scientists say, when they look so small when we see them in the sky? The disc theory clearly demonstrates that the sun and moon are both only 32 miles in diameter. And thus we are provided with yet another string to add to their striking arsenal of argumentation.

And if you try to argue that the sun and moon aren't small but simply far away, let us not forget, as this site clearly demonstrates, 'Today’s cosmology fulfills an anti-Bible religious plan disguised as "science"'.

One astute observer of the developing debate points out: "With the advent of the space program, the [Flat Earth] Society found itself confronted with pictures of Earth made by orbiting satellites and, eventually, by astronauts who had landed on the moon."

But unperturbed, Samuel Shenton, who created the International Flat Earth Society, convincingly countered: "It's easy to see how a photograph like that could fool the untrained eye."

Besides, isn't all that round-earth stuff just plain counter-intuitive. And so one spokesman remarked:
"If you've ever been to Kansas, you know the Earth is flat. If you've been up in a lighthouse and looked out at the ocean, you can see that this planet is as flat as can be. In spite of the evidence of our senses, schools everywhere in America are continuing to teach about the round Earth as if it were an established fact and not just a theory, which it is…"
But not all of these bible scholars are convinced. The Non-moving earth & anti-evolution web page claims:

"Every Scripture that speaks of the sun moving (HERE - HERE) is a Scripture that denies a Flat Earth just as surely as it affirms a stationary Earth. A non-moving Earth IS a Bible doctrine; a flat earth is not." (underlining, capitalisation and italics theirs)
And so, we are assured, while the earth may not be exactly flat, it most certainly is not moving.

Lastly - oh the wonders of the web - if you want to enjoy lively and intelligent debate with convinced flat-earthers, visit this forum where such themes as gravity, photons, wave variations and scientific conspiracy are discussed. Currently on the General Discussion link you can find academic debate under such titles as:

* 'The earth is flat morons',
* 'Does Australia exist?',
* and one by a doubter, 'You guys are f***nuts'.

For example, under the discussion link named "F***ing retards", one eloquent scholar states his opinion in the following way:
"You guys are f***ing retards for beleiving the world is flat. I f***ing can't find the f***ing words to describe how f***ing dumb and retarded you are… Seriously, a f***ing 150ft high wall of ice? What the f***?? if that was true anyone could easily climb it or fly over it in an helicopter or a plane.
There are f***ing buildings that are much higher than that. F***."

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Church as a religious group?

The famous German theologian Ernst Käsemann wrote:

"[Paul] the apostle is not interested in the church per se and as a religious group. He is only interested in it as far as it is the means whereby Christ reveals himself on earth and becomes incarnate in the world through his Spirit." (Perspectives on Paul. Translated by Margaret Kohl. Philadelphia; Fortress, 117)

Isn't that going a bit far? Doesn't this present an un-Pauline either/or?

But Käsemann's distinctions raise another interesting question: Does 'Christ reveal himself on earth and become incarnate in the world through the Spirit' outside the religious community?

If so, then in what sense is the Church the 'body of Christ' if it fails in this task? And what counts as failure? Does it then cease to be the Church? Is Augustine's distinction between the visible and invisible Church the only option?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


While "rapture" end-time expectations definitely don't ring my theological bells, suspend your disbelief for a moment, because we have it from the experts:

The current chance of rapture is: 71.5%

(P.S. One nice touch is that the experts making these calculations have also generated a "rapture index", which, according to their own theologically astute words, is in a "fasten your seat belts" state-of-alert at the moment.)

Godzilla vs. Jesus

Military consumerism hits sunday school. Now our kids can even add the Son of God to their toy-figure collections - together with Darth Maul, Wolverine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Godzilla ...

Lord, help us.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Quotes for a sunny day

The Lord of the Spirits has sat down ... The word of his mouth will do the sinners in …

  • 1 Enoch 62:2 (Charlesworth's translation. But using a cockney idiom?!)

May he make your horns of iron and your hoofs of bronze. May you gore like a bu[ll … and may you trample the nation]s like mud of the streets

  • 1QS28b 5.26-27 (The Dead Sea Scrolls Study Edition)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The importance of reading 'heresy'

I recently had a meeting with an intelligent and zealous young evangelical/charismatic Christian man. Certain friends of mine had suggested we talk as he was thinking of starting some sort of 'Bible College' study. I'm not sure that I was the best choice, having completed my undergraduate studies in St Andrew's University, and Bible college, well, for undergrad study it just never appealed to me personally.

Nevertheless, as he rattled off to me what he had been reading (a kindly minister had given him his personal library to work through!), I sat there thinking to myself, 'He sounds so much like me in the first few years of my Christian life'. And so I gave him some well-intentioned advice that I wish someone had given me back then - although I'm sure I would have been too know-it-all to accept. Its only a rule-of-thumb, but here it is:

For every few books you read, prayerfully, with an open and humble heart, and preferably in some sort of 'communal dimension', read 1 that you know or suspect you will disagree with. i.e. read a book you consider 'deceived' or even 'heresy'.

I think this principle, especially in the hands of those who want to teach the Bible, can help to breed, among other things:

· humility
· appropriate tolerance
· even appropriate agnosticism
· love for the world-wide church in its various expressions
· a better grasp of what the gospel means for our world, and the consequent mission of the church
· and, oddly, passionate conviction – but hopefully when it matters!

Here are some ideas:

For example,
If you are a convinced charismatic, read something like Charismatic Chaos by John MacArthur

If you are a convinced cessationist, read something like The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts, Then and Now, by Max Turner

If you are convinced believer in the absolute sovereignty of God, read something by Clark Pinnock or his 'Open Theology' chums.

Or if you are into Open Theology, read something like Beyond the Bounds , edited by Piper, Taylor and Helseth

If you are sure chess is boring, first repent. Second, read Chess: The Art of Logical Thinking by Neil McDonald and learn! Oops.

If you are sure old-school theological liberals are all simply deceived and going to hell, read something like Bultmann's Theology of the New Testament, or something by Schweitzer or Deissmann.

If you are certain that all early conservatives reactions to protestant liberalism were naïve and unsophisticated, read the works of Adolf Schlatter

If you are convinced that hell is 'eternal torment', read something like The Last Word and the Word After that by Brian McLaren

If you are a universalist, read, for example, The Nature of Hell by the Evangelical Alliance

If you are sure the Bible is factually inerrant at every level and absolutely without any kind of discrepancy … errr, read the Bible.

If you are convinced that Jews have their own Sonderweg, and don't need Jesus for salvation, read something by Tom Wright, or Steve Motyer's Israel in the Plan of God

If you are convinced the 'Emerging Movement' is the future, actually read Carson's Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, and don't just read reviews of it that tell you what you want to hear

If you are convinced that Jews do need faith in Jesus for salvation, read something by Lloyd Gaston, John Gager, or Krister Stendhal

I could go on, and I probably will in a later blog … but I'll finish with this question: Why do you read the books you do, and why do you avoid others? Have you actually read the person you disgree with, or someone who represents that particular 'doctrinal deception'? Does not making a judgment involve informing ourselves with both sides of a potential argument?

Actually, I often find real treasures in books that I had previously 'written off'. And maybe - perhaps what we most fear - we'll discover that we were the ones that had things wrong after all. But maybe that won't be bad at all, but a moment of important discovery. So, go on! Pick up a book by your favourite heretic, and give it a read.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The immanent return of Chris

No, the title is not missing a final 't', it's just that I've had to once again leave the Vaterland and visit England for my Annual Review, and so my ability to blog has been somewhat restricted. But rest assured, I’ll be back with my hot-of-the-press, cunning and original heresy in the near future - later this week actually.

While I've been in England I've been thinking my way through the so-called Pauline 'New Perspective'. Up till now I've been quite unsure what to make of it all. Nevertheless, I feel I am staring to slide in one direction at last. But exegesis aside, what has been most eye-opening for me is how I’ve felt in my reading, how I’ve reacted to scholarly positions at a deeper level.

Let me briefly explain: in the past, if any new argument was presented that challenged the ’old guard’, my natural reaction was one of extreme suspicion. But now I just couldn’t give a monkeys if my more or less ‘reformed’ categories of justification are challenged. In some sick weird masochistic kinda way, I even enjoy it. In fact, I‘m really appreciating and learning loads from those books that I, in the past, would have wanted to sprinkle with holy water, and cast demons out of. I’m just not interested in defending a ‘theological school’ anymore just for the sake of ‘being sound‘.

My apologies for these rantings. I am, of course, a self-confessed recovering fundamentalist, so not all will understand me. But does anyone know what I mean?