We had a talkfest here in Sydney recently called ‘The Festival of Dangerous Ideas’, at which participants could experience the frisson of discussing daring and explosive concepts with a soy latte in hand. Most of the ideas were in fact rather conventionally dangerous in a green-left sort of way, although gay activist Dan Savage received special marks for his dangerous idea that abortion should be made mandatory for 30 years to make a dent in the worldwide population problem. (The audience, having escaped the womb safely themselves, felt confident to clap.) (more…)
‘Spirituality’ is a term of great confusion today. Both inside and outside Christianity, people use the word in ways quite different to the Bible. This not only confuses Christians in what to expect from the Spirit of God but also confuses non-Christians about the work of God’s Spirit and the teaching of Christianity. For when Christians, in our confusion, misrepresent God’s word it is no surprise that non-Christians do not understand our message.
Non-Christians today commonly describe themselves as being ‘very spiritual’ while having nothing to do with organized religion or Christianity. This spirituality is a way of saying they are not materialistic atheists but it rarely has any theological content other than a vague mysticism. If it has any intellectual content it tends towards an anti-rational experientialism—feelings, experiences, awareness, asceticism, ascetics, pantheism, meditation and miracles. It also tends towards tolerance inclusiveness of all religious experiences and intolerance towards any theological propositions or exclusive claim to truth. It is naturally quite hostile to Biblical Christianity with its clear expression of theological truth claims about the uniqueness of Jesus and his way of salvation. (more…)
Language is a funny thing. We’re all expert users of it, but quite what language is and how it works remains a mystery to most of us. (more…)
One of the quotes that stayed with me from last year said this about historians:
“Without them, our civic life would be a wasteland of forgetfulness, a cultural desert.” [(more…)
There is a scene in The West Wing where President Jed Bartlett fires off round after round of ridicule as he pretends to apply Old Testament laws to his life. Should he put to death his staffer for working on the Sabbath, or get the police to take over? Should footballers wear gloves to avoid touching the pigskin ball? What price could he get if he sold his daughter as a slave? (more…)
As we come to this third article in our series on work, we need to remember again the question that we’re seeking to answer: what place does our work have as we seek to follow Jesus in God’s world? What I have been arguing up until this point is that this question is actually not quite right. A better question, in light of the gospel, is “What works should we do as followers of Jesus in God’s world?” (more…)
I was reminded today of a tremendously important and compelling argument against redefining marriage—not from a Christian point of view, but a libertarian one. The case was made—cogently, I believe—by Jennifer Roback Morse last year. (more…)
On Tuesday evening, our mid-week church group enjoyed an American-style Thanksgiving dinner together. The Thanksgiving dinner has been a group tradition for a number of years now, although this is the first time our family has been part of it (we joined the group in January). It was a great time of fellowship and fun. We had a couple of real live Americans and a Canadian present, and I’m pleased to say that the dinner—complete with turkey, stuffing, corn bread, mashed potato, pumpkin pie and other tasty & filling dishes cooked by group members—received thumbs-up for authenticity! (more…)
The heart and wellspring of all evangelical theology is the cross of the Christ. It is in the light of the cross that we truly understand God and truly understand ourselves.
It demonstrates God’s deep and determined love and it demonstrates God’s deep and determined love for sinners (Rom 5:8). I cannot avoid the reality and seriousness of my sin when I attend to the awful glory of what happened outside the walls of Jerusalem 2000 years ago. I cannot avoid the determined and loving purpose of God when I consider who it was who died there. The innocent Christ of God, the Word made flesh, the glorious Son who took to himself in the fullest way possible the form of a servant, was butchered as an insurrectionist by those who denied the Father who sent him. Since God was certainly not powerless to prevent it, nor does he take some kind of perverse pleasure in such acts of gross injustice and cruelty, especially when directed towards his Son, we are forced to ask what made it necessary. What was so serious that such a grim remedy was needed? What turns this divine and human tragedy into an act of love? (more…)
In the last issue of the Briefing, we began a little quest to understand what God has to say about work. And, perhaps strangely, we ended up spending a whole article speaking about the creation mandate (God’s command to humanity to multiply, fill the earth and subdue it). Whether you found this helpful or frustrating will probably depend on two things. (1) Are you a big picture person or a details person? and (2) What were you expecting to hear? (more…)
Last night, on a serious Australian current affairs program, Q&A, our current serving Prime Minister, a self-professed Christian, grossly caricatured the Bible. (more…)
Late last year we were confronted by news of the horrific shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, USA. The senseless massacre of six adults and twenty children quickly sparked calls for governments to consider reforms for gun control, so as to protect lives and prevent these tragedies from happening in the future. (more…)
This is a great reflection on the temptation of Jesus in the desert by Byron Yawn, and a worked example of how to mis-apply Jesus’ actions to ourselves, and in so doing domesticate them entirely.
Seriously. What’s the assumed application of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness? By assumed I mean – What have we been told (over years of preaching) this event is about? Is it not usually offered as a set of “principles” on how Christians can resist temptation? Or to put that another way, it’s about us. But honestly, is this really what’s happening at this moment? Is Jesus really offering an example how we can personally resist the temptation of the devil? Is this a tutorial for daily living? Of course not! A “how to” on resisting temptation is a secondary application at best if not tertiary. He’s not telling us to do anything. He’s actually doing it for us. There is something much greater under way in this moment. More importantly, do we need to be standing within view of the actual site to realize how misguided our take on it is?
One of the standard ways that the New Atheists attack Christianity is by using some of the Old Testament war passages to argue that God is violent and petty. One of the favourite passages for this is the so-called Amalekite Genocide of 1 Samuel 15. But difficulties with passages such as this are not restricted to atheists. In 2009, the popular website Ship of Fools ran a feature called Chapter and Worse. 1 Readers were invited to submit their least favourite Bible passages, and an evangelical acquaintance of mine submitted 1 Samuel 15:3.