A great controversy has broken out over a photography exhibition featuring a series of naked and semi-naked adolescents—some in sexually suggestive poses—photographed by artist Bill Henson. As Wikipedia summarizes:
Gavin, how did you come to Christ?
From my point of view, although I attended Sunday school as a kid, by the middle of high school I had managed to wangle my way out of that. At the age of about 14, a group of my surfing friends were slowly infiltrated by people who not only went to church but actually seemed to believe that Jesus was alive and that he mattered. Slowly that group of friends—including me—came to believe the same thing.
There is a famous Australian television commercial which features a man in a nightclub. The punchline of the ad is “I’m so cool, I dance on the inside”. In the weeks and months following, this saying was adopted for all kinds of situations—for example, “I’m so cool, I hug on the inside”.
Judging by the site stats, which we have been keeping an eye on (but not obsessively), The Sola Panel has lots of readers from Canada and the US. Here’s a deal I thought you should know about.
Faith in Christ isn’t easy for human beings. We can’t win. When times are good, our trust in Christ can fall away, for, after all, who needs it? When times are bad, we can rage at Christ. Our faith is numbed under the sharp pang or the dull ache of our pain.
It’s when all the serious hurt-mouthing of God begins. Why me? What have I ever done to him? Where was he when I really needed him? After all I have done for him, what happened? How about a break? Isn’t this enough now? Just stop!
Sometimes a person seems to have a ‘charmed existence’. Everything (at least from the outside) seems to be just right. No real worries. Healthy, happy, wholesome. Perhaps even healthy, wealthy and wise. It seems that life, for them, is effortless and easy. It just comes their way and when it arrives, it is good.
Well, my little piece on FairTrade coffee has ignited plenty of discussion and debate—not only about the pros and cons of the FairTrade movement, but about social action, doing good and political involvement more generally. It is to these latter questions of theology and principle that I now want to turn (although ‘turn’ sounds rather too grand—as if I am about to give myself to a lengthy and learned disquisition).
There was a surprising level of anger in our Bible study last night. We were studying Mark 2:13-3:6, and looking at four controversies between Jesus and religious leaders (particularly the Pharisees). We were discussing the religious background to the sect of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were a group that was very serious about keeping God’s law—so serious, in fact, that they had built up a whole bunch of other laws to protect themselves from going anywhere near breaking God’s law. For example, to protect themselves from breaking commandment #4 (don’t work on Saturday), they had a rule that one mustn’t even look into a mirror on the Sabbath because, in doing so, one might see a grey hair and be tempted to pluck it out, which might be construed as ‘work’. We in the group were able to sympathize with them a little; in much the same way that a modern Christian might make a blanket rule not to drink alcohol or visit a pub to protect himself from the possibility of causing offence or temptation to an alcoholic Christian brother, the Pharisees made rules to help them to honour God in all areas of life.
When we say ‘Christ alone’, we mean two things: Christ’s work on the cross is both sufficient and unique.
To a church that was obsessed with worldly power, Paul insisted in 1 Corinthians 1 that he was not interested in what seemed wise or impressive. He was simply interested in the message of the cross, which is “folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1:18). Despite its apparent foolishness, in the weakness of the cross, we see Christ’s power to reconcile people to God. Christ’s work on the cross is sufficient to accomplish all of that.
Mark Evans is a Christian who is also part of the Department of Contemporary Music Studies at Macquarie University in Sydney. (He’s also written articles for The Briefing on subjects relating to his area—see Briefing #236 and #263). His book Open up the Doors: Music in the Modern Church (Equinox, London, 2006) is useful, but be warned: it is not for the musically faint-hearted. Having had piano lessons in my child- and teenager-hood, I didn’t mind too much the occasional sentence like this one:
Recently, I wrote about the Easter Message of the Dean of St George’s Anglican Cathedral in Perth, in which he strongly asserted that the resurrection of Christ need not be understood as physical. I reported that I’d asked the Archbishop of Perth whether this was an acceptable view for a senior Anglican clergyman.
I’ve been thinking about hell quite a bit recently—not because I enjoy it, or because I’m obsessed with morbid subjects, and not even because I’ve been reading Peter Bolt’s excellent new book Living with the Underworld (which, perhaps surprisingly, given the title, looks away from hell rather than towards it).