I am having second thoughts about my recent post on playing the ball and not the man.
The first stirrings of misgiving came from Tom’s comment, when he suggested that ‘to play the man and not the ball’ originally related to soccer, where it is far more obvious when you are playing the man not the ball—that is, because the ball usually runs somewhat free of the man. And so it is theoretically possible in soccer (although still uncommon) to have contact only or mainly with the ball, and avoid contact with the man. In fact, making contact with the man is often a ‘foul’. Does this better present the kind of lofty ideal that I proposed in the first half of my article: that it is desirable where possible to discuss ideas on their own merits, without reference to the person putting them forward? (more…)
I’ve been pondering the unwelcome reality of disagreements with friends.
My recent Briefing review of Michael Jensen’s book on Sydney Anglicanism* reflects a difference of opinion between Michael and me that we are still in the midst of discussing. I’m also in the process of writing something in response to John Dickson’s ebook on women and sermons, and this too will highlight disagreements with John about some important issues. (more…)
I’m reading the Bible through, chronologically this time. I’ve just got to Leviticus: the shoal that’s wrecked a million Bible reading plans (at least, it did mine when I was a teenager). Once again, as I read this hard part of God’s word, it seeps into my skin and reshapes my insides.
There’s something beautiful about Leviticus. Sometimes, like those 3D pictures, you have to blur your eyes to see it. As you persevere through the bewildering details (split hooves? a sore with white hairs in it? two materials woven into one?) you begin to sense the outlines. Laws that protect life and relationships. Laws that forbid detestable practices and depraved worship. Laws that uphold justice and provide for the poor.
There’s also something terrifying about Leviticus. (more…)
In the first leg of our journey through Jeremiah we focused on the man and his preaching of judgement. We will now do a bit of touring through the middle chapters, but most of our time will be spent on just half a verse—a promise:
Paul Barnett—New Testament scholar, author, former bishop of North Sydney—on 5 epiphanies he has had over his 55 years of being a Christian regarding the historical reliability of the New Testament.
So why are these men who fill the pages of Josephus forgotten today and Jesus is a household word? It’s because history is full of people who blaze briefly like comets and are then forgotten. But Jesus claimed to be the Son of Man who forgave sins, who healed the sick and raised the dead, who entered Jerusalem as its Messiah-king, whose teaching on love and forgiveness was profound and unheard of, and who himself was resurrected from the dead. Without the resurrection Jesus would have been just another mistaken prophet whose death guaranteed his relegation to obscurity, like the shadowy figure of the Teacher of Righteousness, the founder of the Dead Sea Sect, whose name we do not even know.
As Paul concludes, “I could not reject the historical reliability of the New Testament, even if I wanted to”.
Two decades ago, one of my lecturers at Moore Theological College was a great example of the practice I spoke about on Wednesday: using biblical words and concepts in biblical ways. (more…)
Well, sanctification is not primarily about progress—but I thought I’d get you with the title!
I dislike how so much evangelical discussion speaks of sanctification primarily in terms of progress in holiness. (more…)
[This article is an edited and compressed version of the Marching for Allah series originally published here in September 2012. This version appeared in the print edition of the magazine, and is published here for the sake of completeness. - Ed.] (more…)
In the first part of this look at biblical inerrancy, we examined the answers to two questions: “What is the Bible?” and “What is ‘inerrancy’ when it is applied to the Bible?”. We determined that the Bible is God’s words—which have at their heart God’s promises and what flows from them—and that inerrancy makes a statement about God’s trustworthy and truthful character and our faith in him. (more…)
Within the heart of the Christian faith is an astounding truth. God—who created and sustains the universe—became incarnate. The immortal and perfect Son of God shared our messy, sin-prone death-ridden lives of flesh and blood; he became human, walked with us, suffered with us, and subjected himself to our temptations. Ultimately, he died for us, satisfying God’s wrath, destroying death. While we all exist firmly and squarely on the ‘human’ side of the God-human divide, the incarnation means that we rebels can share in intimate fellowship with God himself through the Spirit of the risen Lord Jesus—now and for all eternity. (more…)
It’s nearly Christmas. My children read stories about lambs and donkeys visiting a baby, but the story I’m up to my Bible reading plan shows the season in a different light…
Rembrandt: The sacrifice of Isaac (detail)
How strange Genesis 22 has always seemed to me. Why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son? What kind of Father asks another father to kill his child? Did Sarah know what was going to happen as her husband and son left that day? What psychological scars did Isaac carry into adulthood? (A very modern question, I know.)
What did it cost Abraham to take each step on that three-day journey? (more…)
In many circles, especially those influenced by American evangelicalism (which seems to be everyone!), biblical inerrancy is a hot topic. Even if you haven’t come across the issue very much it’s still an important concern, as it goes to the heart of why we believe what we believe. John Woodhouse recently spoke on biblical inerrancy at a conference on Christian leadership; what follows here (and in a follow-up article next issue) is an edited version of that address. (more…)
I had the privilege to travel to Tanzania last November, courtesy of Compassion Australia, to observe the work ‘on the ground’ in that country. My family has sponsored children through Compassion for the last fifteen years, and it was wonderful to witness first-hand the ministry being done among children. (more…)
I cannot believe how often educated people pull out the claim that Jesus probably never existed. Except that it’s not PC to say so, it really deserves the title of Old Wives Tale! (more…)
I have been arguing that sometimes we fail to realize that some things we think are just western are actually Christian, and we have been shaped by thinkers who worked in an at-least-vaguely-Christian milieu. Let us take an example; a theological issue current in missiological literature. Above, when I was discussing the way people from shame-cultures understand the gospel, I mentioned that very often they see the work of Christ in terms of his humiliation, shame and exaltation. Might we then, when we commend Christ to people from such cultures, explain the gospel in those categories?1 Do we need a new version of Two Ways to Live that is better contextualized? There are many good reasons to do so; not least of which is that the Bible itself understands Christ’s work in this way sometimes (eg. Is 53:3, Ps 25:3, Rom 9:33, 1 Pet 2:6). Christ has dealt with our shame as much as our guilt. He has exalted the humble, and destroyed the proud. In many ways this is a fantastic example of the way people from other cultures can help us to see better what is there in Scripture that our own culture has made us blind to. Even making this observation will be a big step forward in speaking with people of shame-based cultures about the gospel. (more…)