Monday, January 02, 2006

The new web-address

My blog address has changed.

It will now be found on:

Instead of 'Brainpoo', the blog will now be called 'Chrisendom' and it will include all that this page does and more besides.

Please update your links and blog rolls.

Sorry for the trouble.

(This blog will retain its presence, and so all old links to this site remain valid. And if anyone posts on this site, I will still be notified via e-mail)

A new name

So the consensus is clear: a few changes need to be implemented.

I didn't only want to change the name of this blog, but also (and therefore) the web address. Being blessed with awesome foresight as I am, I managed to include 'brainpoo' not just once, but twice in the above link. Pretty silly really as changing this has been a bit of a pain.

And so a change of address has been necessary, and while I was at it I thought I'd re-work the blog framework to make it wider and more attractive.

Thus, I'm going to start a new blog page. Of course, all of the archives for Brainpoo have been included on the side-bar, just underneath the actual archives.

But what should the new name be?

Jim's Tübinger, one of the first, was immediately eye-catching. However, as Ben has pointed out, the umlaut ü may cause problems.

Mike's imagination knows no end. Of his suggestions I particularly liked Not the Spanish Inquisition and Evangelische-R-us. However, his Fundies anonymous was my favourite, but I just had the feeling, funny as it is, that a few months down-the-line I would be wanting to change it again…

Eddies Cardinal Spin I loved and it very nearly became my choice. However, I shall be introducing Cardinal Spin as a new 'team member' for my new blog. Any excuse for something silly.

Lastly are Ben's hilarious suggestions. Particularly tempting were Ex Fide in Fidem, The Blog of the World's Cleverest Person, Profound Musings of a Very Brainy Individual, and especially, I Could Have Given This a Latin Name If I Wanted. I've tried to incorporate something of one these in my new subtitle.

Then there were my ideas. Free Porn was a bit of a cheap-shot but bound to increase the number of visitors. But I couldn't help but feel that was being a tad dishonest. In a similar spirit there was Terribly interesting Talk Sometimes (TITS), but that would just be another 'Brainpoo'. Given that my doctoral studies focus on Paul's Christology, I wondered if Chrisology may work, but it just didn't feel right. As for Latin, there was Ignoramus et Ignorabimus, but I always stumble on pronouncing the last word, so I forgot that.

But it is Anja, again, who suggested the one to be finally adopted. Her suggestion has one big advantage – she promises me days of early morning Chinese-burns if I don't use it. And that's pretty persuasive really.

Apart from that, I like it too!

The new name and the new link will follow in the next, and last post on Brainpoo.

Really! All my fussing over a name!

Saturday, December 31, 2005


Given my last post, I was thinking that it's perhaps time to change my blog name. But to what?

Any ideas?

P.S. Simon, Brainshit is not an option, before you suggest it.
P.P.S. The idea is to try to come up with something hugely profound and scholarly that makes me look cleverer than I really am (shouldn't be too hard).

Half a year of blogging

When I started 'Brainpoo' in July 2005 I was not expecting it to become much more than a place where a few of my friends would read some silly thoughts, an outlet for my multitude of heresies, and as a place to keep up with those 'left behind' (the presence of that phrase ought to earn a couple of bemused search-engine visitors) in England. Hence the silly name 'Brainpoo' (which as I keep telling everyone, in the best Adamic style, was my wife's dubious idea).

However, things started to get more theological. I found myself very much enjoying a number of theologically related blogs (from which I have learnt a great deal more than I expected I would through such a medium) was linked to, then added to biblioblogs (a bit of an embarrassment really. I mean look down the list of names: Biblical Theology, Faith and Theology, Jesus Creed, Thoughts on Antiquity, Euangelion, Exegetitor etc. with 'Brainpoo' cringing in the corner hoping no one will notice such a stupid-sticking-out-like-sore-thumb name. Alas, its too late to change the links now).

Most astonishing of all, my web server tells me that people from an amazing 38 different nations have visited! In descending order of popularity:

Germany, United Kingdom, Canada,
New Zealand, Australia, Norway,
Netherlands, Iceland, Italy,
France, Sweden, Brazil,
USA, Switzerland, Mexico,
Denmark, Portugal, Austria,
Belgium, Argentina, Spain,
Hungary, India, US Military (yikes!),
Russia, Singapore, US federal government agencies (?!),
Greece, Israel, Philippines,
Thailand, Finland, Croatia,
Lebanon, Venezuela, Liechtenstein,
Morocco, Lithuania Turkey and Taiwan!

This blogging thing is thus really a global phenomenon. I guess that's what I like about it.

Rather amusingly, the most clicked on feature of my blog site is the picture of the Miami cheerleaders posted months ago! In fact, 1,237 grubby theologians and chess players have tried to 'zoom up' on it – can't think why.

As far as raw numbers go: In July when I started only 234 visited, in October 4,482, and in November 6,500. In December the numbers are pushing into the 10,000s. OK, that might not sound like many for some, but I'm still surprised, and the rate of increase is really something. I ask myself why a blog that includes such dubious and diverse topics as Flat-Earth creationism, Paul the Apostle, chess, sinful lies about Barth, Wright's ultimate end in the lake of fire, shagging mantises, etc. attracts such intelligent visitors.

Anyway, a big thanks to all who have visited me in the last half-year. It has been a lot of fun getting to e-know you.

Happy blogging for 2006!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

"Silence, unbeliever!! Our weapons are fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the pope, and nice red uniforms" - Michael Palin as Cardinal Ximinez in the famous Monty Python sketch.

Want a touch of Spanish Inquisition to go with your New Year?

Well, all of us who:

  • have been thinking hard over the issues thrown up by Tom Wright's particular spin on the Pauline 'New Perspective',
  • and those of us who have been concerned, out of faithfulness to scriptural teaching, to reassess the biblical foundation of the doctrine of imputed-righteousness, etc.
can now safely put our pens down!

For good.

Yea, I bringeth thee news from the wells of Puritan Truth. For one hath cometh unto us with the very oracles of theological exactitude. Yea, I speaketh of the recent ecumenical pronouncements of the Rev. Dr. C. Matthew McMahon, of A Puritan's Mind:

"Wright is a heretic. A heresiarch. He will forever burn under God's righteous wrath and under the solemn and scornful gaze of the Lamb of God for all eternity if he does not change his theological views before he dies, or rather, his lack of good theology! He is a false teacher, and one of the most influential heretics of the century because he affected people at the seminary level - where pastors are trained and scholars born - and has infected a good number of churches, right down to the layman and youth of the day."
The rest of this delightfully unbalanced and infuriating post can be found here.

Ahh, breath the free-air fellow bloggers. It's stuff like this that should make us glad to be members of the world-wide community of faith.

Thanks to Alastair for bringing my attention to this.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Emil Brunner

Speaking of Jim West, I would refer my readers to his recent and enjoyable posts on Emil Brunner whose works I have been reading through myself recently. I have thus far found Brunner so stimulating because as well as being intellectually engaging, it is also material that can be preached and prayed through. On top of that, he writes with conviction and passion, like a man who really believes what he's speaking about. I like that. In my opinion, and this is only my opinion, there is nothing worse than a damp-squid with a pen who doesn't appear to actually believe a word he writes – but I wont mention any names (Tillich). Theologically, I have found Brunner's take on universalism most helpful, even if not entirely satisfactory (cf. pg 53 of Bauckham's article now posted free on Rob Bradshaw's blog!). Jim's posts in chronological order:

a. Emil Brunner (intro)
b. a book recommendation that overviews Brunner
c. The ultimate theological audience
d. Brunner on revelation and reason
e. Brunner on anthropology
f. and Brunner and Mozart

    "Alle Kreatur ist nicht nur durch das Wort, sondern für das Wort, und eben darin zum Bilde Gottes geschaffen ("All of creation isn't only through the Word, but also for the Word, and as such created in God's image") ... Wir sind, was wir von Gott hören ("We are what we hear from God")"

    Brunner, Gott und Mensch, 55.

    'The lost message' on Christian Fundamentalism

    The 'totally lost message' has been writing an entertaining series on Christian Fundamentalism. He and I go back a long way. In fact, we both became Fundies together in our late teens, and so he writes with insight and sympathy. Nevertheless, in the best ecumenical tradition, his protestations have been curdling some Fundamentalist blood.

    Much of his mean but hilarious Fundie-windup diplomacy happens on other blogs. Most amusing of all was his recent escapade onto a Fundie blog in which he took issue with the hermeneutic being used by the contributors (i.e. just quote the bible and that's that). He actually managed to convince one poor soul (honestly!) that he owned a freedom-yearning slave, but didn't want him released because the bible doesn't command him to!

    Simon's posts have been all the more interesting as he, like myself, is a 'recovering Fundie' (i.e. someone who has learnt a lot from this tradition - above all a deep love of and respect for the Scriptures, an emphasis on a lively 'relationship with Christ', and a prayerful devotional life - but cannot stand its 'turn brain off' tactic, dubious proof-texting, some of its doctrines concerning Scripture, bizarre and blinkered hermeneutics, overly sectarian intellectual-social-positioning, often fruit-loop eschatology, the conquer-all mentality, its frequent 'God-ordained' association with the political right, and its often arrogant quasi-scholarly intellectual bankruptcy - especially in many of its so-called apologists. That's my definition of a 'recovering Fundie' anyway). Have a look at these:

    Part 1: Introduction
    Part 2: Fundamentalist understanding of Scripture A
    Part 3: Fundamentalist understanding of Scripture B
    Part 4: Fundamentalism and Biblical texts
    ... more is promised, including a superb short analysis of 2 Tim 3:16 (I've read a draft)

    But as Jim West recently wrote on his blog: "Conversations with Fundamentalists are dead end streets and not really worth the time or effort they require". While this is, I doubt, meant as a universal truth, my own experience of late has been sadly confirming his claim. Normally, discussion with Fundamentalists do not even begin; you become a deviant to be corrected. But in another sense, I'm happily resigned to this. We all have our own perspectives, and the Fundies have there own uniqunesses with which to enrich the Christian tradition.

    Tuesday, December 27, 2005

    My Christmas presents

    Sadly, even after threats of suicide, shameless pleading, hours of sulking etc., Anja still wasn't persuaded to buy me Barth's entire Church Dogmatics (she muttered something about moving out if I had the nerve), but I was glad to have been given instead:

    1. My Struggle for Freedom (Continuum, 2004), by Hans Küng.
    2. The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-linguistic Approach to Christian Theology (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), by Kevin J. Vanhoozer
    3. The new Hurtado book: How On Earth Did Jesus Become a God?: Historical Questions About Earliest Devotion to Jesus (Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2005)

    4. And finally, and most profound and thought-provoking of all, the entire 4 series DVD set of Blackadder – British comedy at its very best. If you haven't seen these, you really are missing something.

    Saturday, December 24, 2005

    Frohe Weihnachten

    Here is wishing all of my readers a very happy Christmas, and a blessed new year.

    It has been a pleasure getting to know many of you, and I have learnt and continue to learn and be challenged through your own blogs and your comments on mine.

    This is our cheesiest imaginable 'Christmas Video-Card' to all of you (just press play):

    (Update: My brother-in-law, Markus, has just informed me that this doesn't work with Firefox, just in case you were having any problems)

    A Christmas Meditation

    "Der wahre Mensch Jesus von Nazaret ist für den Glauben des einen wahren Gottes wirkliche Offenbarung" – Hans Küng, Christ Sein, 434

    Translated: "The true human, Jesus from Nazareth, is for faith the real revelation of the one true God"

    Or as John wrote:

    "Qeo.n ouvdei.j e`w,raken pw,pote\ monogenh.j qeo.j o` w'n eivj to.n ko,lpon tou/ patro.j evkei/noj evxhgh,satoÅ" – John 1:18 (To view the Greek or Hebrew on this blog please install the free Bibleworks fonts)

    My translation: "No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's bosom, who has made him known."

    I find that the practice of meditation on Scripture and theological writings can make an old truth suddenly appear bright and new. Yesterday, as I was pondering over these words of Küng, and those of John 1:18, the startling, shocking, yet glorious truth hit me once again: When we look at Jesus we see what God is like.

    "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (John 1:14).

    Friday, December 23, 2005

    Gebet an Weinachten

    "Gott, ewiges Geheimnis unseres Lebens, du hast durch die Geburt deines eigenen Wortes der Liebe in unserem Fleisch die ewig junge Herrlichkeit deines Lebens als unserem eigenen Dasein eingestiftet und siegreich erscheinen lassen. Gib uns der Erfahrung der Enttäuschung unseres Lebens den Glauben, dass deine Liebe, die du selbst bist und die uns geschenkt hast, die ewige Jugend unseres wahren Lebens ist"

    -- Karl Rahner

    Thursday, December 22, 2005

    Küng and the deity of Jesus

    I've been reading in various places that Küng has denied or at least questioned the divinity of Christ.

    For example, the Encyclopaedia Britannica claims: "Küng's prolific writings questioned such traditional church doctrine as … the divinity of Christ"

    But is this so? In his Existiert Gott? he writes: "Gerade die orthodoxe Trinitätslehre hat nie Gott und Jesus einfach identifiziert; gerade sie hielt am Realunterschied von Gott und Jesus fest" (744) - but this is, of course, not the same as denying Christ's divinity! A few pages later he adds that in the Pauline tradition, Christ is understood as the "bild Gottes, als das Ja Gottes" (748). And in John, Christ is known: "nicht nur als Wort Gottes, sondern indirekt als Gott gleich, ja als Herr und Gott" (749). He then goes on to affirm the "God from God" text of the Nicene Creed, qualifying himself only to say that he is not speaking of a "Zwei-Götter-Lehre" (749).

    That sounds pretty orthodox to me! Am I missing anything?

    Wednesday, December 21, 2005


    Nope not a 'Fundie Spike' - though I have been tempted to blog something controversial on evolution and creation just to see what happens - its because I've been linked to from Susan Polgar's Chess blog site. To get so many visitors is no surprise: chess is big on the web, and Susan is, after all, the winner of 4 Women’s World Chess Championships,10 Olympic Medals and is currently ranked #1 in the United States and #2 in the world.

    These were the pages that caused all the fuss:

    On a Personal Note

    Its been a while since I last posted - the realities of life before Christmas, visitors from England etc. But in that time, apart from simply enjoying the stream of great posts from many on my blog roll, I've been reflecting on blogging, what it has meant to me, and some hopes for the future.

    Regarding the phenomenon of so-called biblioblogging, I am particularly encouraged. Here is how I see it (what follows is a bit of an overly-dramatic dangerous macro-history list of over-generalisations for you. And this will be for those with 'ears to hear' – I will have to leave much unexplained otherwise it will become too long):

    The advent of the first written signs, the formulation of alphabets and the rise of literacy was a huge step in the evolution of humans, and one with huge intellectual and social consequences.

    However, with the printing-press, knowledge and philosophy was taken a step further, language traditions were solidified and various schools of thought became important precursors of the Enlightenment.

    Then, the onset of better international communication, the telephone and fax, the localisation of academic schools started to 'thin at the edges', but nevertheless remained firmly intact (cf. in chronological order, the Tübingen School, Bultmann and Heideggerian existentialism, Horsely and his anti-empire Boston based political readings. As I said, those with 'ears to hear'!).

    Most recently, the internet, online discussion groups, and e-mail has furthered international communication and cooperation in theological research but blogging is playing a unique and important role in this development. Why?

    To make this more personal, my theological agenda has been unquestionably shaped by the interests of my undergrad lecturers. E.g. In me is the social-scientific bent of Philip Esler, and yes, I admit, a flavour of Tim Gorringe's politics. Jim Davila's academic rigour, while impossible to simply copy, remained a bench-mark, and most important, Richard Bauckham's brilliance, methods and 'basic level questioning' will always leave a huge mark on me.

    And the internet, despite its discussion groups, was always a bit of a disappointment. Instead of creative academic debate, we had, and impersonal discussion forums.

    'Impersonal' is, I suspect, the key problem that blogging has changed. These days, with blogging, my own personal theological development has been energised through the development of friendships with those of theological persuasion that I have never, to be honest, seriously engaged with. And these developing relationships have opened the door to share unpublished works behind the scene – and this has been particularly important for my thoughts on the Pauline New Perspective. As my undergrad lecturers influenced me, so too now various scholars across the globe have been shaping my thinking - and most of them probably unaware they do so. And all because I have been building, for want of a better term, a 'personal history' with some of them.

    Interestingly, Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the World-Wide-Web (who now happens to have started his own blog) writes that:

    "In 1989 one of the main objectives of the WWW was to be a space for sharing information. It seemed evident that it should be a space in which anyone could be creative, to which anyone could contribute. The first browser was actually a browser/editor, which allowed one to edit any page, and save it back to the web if one had access rights a communication that has [...] Now in 2005, we have blogs and wikis, and the fact that they are so popular makes me feel I wasn't crazy to think people needed a creative space.
    Of course, local situatendness and cultural embeddedness will always remain (this is no pining for a 'neutral observer'), but the international sharing and exploration and debate now occurring at a relational and personal level through blogging is perhaps one of the most important developments for academia since the telephone and fax machine. Blogging is fulfilling the dreams that many of us hoped for the internet in the first place.

    Friday, December 16, 2005

    Decent theological totty

    On a rather different note ...
    I don't mean to make any of you feel jealous or anything, but some of you know that I live only a 30 minute bike ride away from one of the finest theological libraries in the whole world. On top of that, Tübingen sports a few respectable second-hand book shops filled with all kinds of treasures. And so I spent a while today rummaging through the labyrinths of shelves in search of decent theological totty. I came home with some real goodies from the library, and I purchased second-hand:

    1. Große christliche Denker, Hans Küng (München: Piper, 1994) for just 2 Euros!
    2. Existiert Gott? Antwort auf die Gottesfrage der Neuzeit, Hans Küng (München: DTV, 1981 [1978]), just 3 Euros.
    3. Gott und Mensch. Vier Untersuchungen über das personhafte Sein, D. Emil Brunner (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1930), again, just 2 Euros.
    And seeing as Küng was the major theme of the day, I also bought his most recent publication Der Anfang aller Dinge. Naturwissenschaft und Religion, (München: Piper, 2005)

    Given a number of recentish blog debates, especially on Ben's Faith and Theology, my theology of creation has been brought into question. And so I'm hoping that Küng's Der Anfang aller Dinge is going to help me think through a few of my new issues. Has anyone read it? Indeed, has anyone any comments about Küng and/or his works listed above?

    The prisons of Manila

    Prisons in Manila, the Philippines, are incarcerating children (as many as 20,000) as young as 6 years old behind bars. The conditions are awful as the picture above shows - much like human chicken cages, a situation that they may have to suffer for years on end. By law they ought not to be in prison so young, but apparently the major of Manila doesn't give a damn, even though all it is that these kids may have done is sniff glue, steal something to eat due to hunger etc.

    I must say, the TV report showing all the blank and hopeless faces of these precious children is haunting me and has really upset me. Please join with me in praying for change.

    Have a look at Father Shay Cullen's Preda Foundation webpage for more info.
    "People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples scolded them, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, 'Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs." (Mark 10:13-14)

    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    Stendahl on Vision

    Our vision is often more obstructed by what we think we know than by our lack of knowledge

    -- Krister Stendahl

    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    A noteworthy blog added to the roll

    All by accident I have had contact with a certain Nate Bostian, the producer of a truly funny, but also articulate, thought provoking and delightful blog entitled nate's incoherent babble. Though his posts are about as concise as Church Dogmatics, it's really worth a visit.

    His latest post recounts his experience as dressing up as Santa for a children's church group:
    "50 kids staring at me in amazement and joy, wide-eyed, open-mouthed, laughing, shouting, and waving at me. It was as if God had entered the room. Seriously. They could not have been more excited if God Himself, robed in glory and power, with myriads of angels, entered into the worship center.

    I consciously wondered, as I waved and said "Ho Ho Ho", if God would strike me dead for idolatry. I was being worshipped as God in the middle of HIS sanctuary. I didn’t mean to be worshipped. It just kind of happened."

    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    The logic of Talbott's universalism

    "Consider the following inconsistent set of propositions:

    1. God's redemptive love extends to all human sinners equally in the sense that he sincerely wills or desires the redemption of each one of them.
    2. Because no one can finally defeat God's redemptive love or resist it forever, God will triumph in the end and successfully a accomplish the redemption of everyone whose redemption he se sincerely wills or desires.
    3. Some human sinners will never be redeemed but will instead be separated from God forever
    If the above set of propositions is logically inconsistent, and it surely is, then at least one of the above propositions is false. But which one?"

    (Universal Salvation? The Current Debate, ed. Robin A. Parry & Christopher H. Partridge [Cambridge, Eerdmans, 2003], p. 7 - cf.

    Of course, Talbott, as a universalist, rejects the third proposition.

    Though my thoughts in this area are only preliminary, I remain as yet unconvinced of the universalist position on exegetical grounds (i.e. how does one deal with such passages as Gal 5:21, Rom 10:1, Mt 25 etc.). Nevertheless, Talbott's reasoning above causes pause for thought.

    Which proposition would you reject? Or would you try to affirm them all? If so, why? Or would you understand the issues in relation to an entirely different scheme?

    Monday, December 12, 2005

    Updating Barth

    Some exciting news has just come in:

    To mark the 40th anniversary of Barth's passing, the British Hard-Postmodernist and Come to Think of It Almost Nihilist Society (BHPACTTOIANS) announced, on December 10th of this year, that they will fund a new translation of Barth's works into English. One spokesperson stated: 'Its time to make Barth more available to the modern reader, but in order to do so, some of the language will need to be updated'. Of course, this is a big project, and forking up the cash is no small commitment. And so the BHPACTTOIANS have insisted that they will play a large role in the translation. Their spokesperson stated: 'the translations (to be called the 'New International Barth Versions') will be 'dynamic rather than literal; accommodating rather than ... err, dogmatic'

    As a taste of what is to come, they revealed:

    Church Dogmatics will be renamed to Church Suggestions

    Nein will be renamed to Possibly Not, Depending on Your Opinion

    and The Word of God and the Word of Man renamed to the punchier The Word of Man

    While there has been no official reaction from the Center for Barth Studies, or the Karl Barth Research Institute in Göttingen, I am sure these will prove to be a welcome addition to Barthian scholarship, making this great theologian's works accessible to even the most rampant and unreasonable postmodernist.

    Sad & old Trendy & new