procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Mohammed that never was

a German Islamic scholar has obviously had a call from his superiors to get a bit of controversy generated, so he's come out and said that, as far as he can tell, the evidence would seem to suggest that Mohammed never existed. well, i wonder what he would say if someone told him HE didn't exist? probably not a lot - eh? not much you can say when you're gone in a puff of logic.

seriously though folks, i remember when the controversy (=bad history+james cameron television crew) about the misnamed 'Jesus' Family Tomb', and people remembered the comments by the west australian primate, saying that he didn't think finding the bones of Jesus would harm people's faith to any huge extent. now, whilst he may have some supporters in Spong and co, he obviously has a different conception of a God who reveals himself in history in the man Jesus Christ.

but what effect would it have on Muslims, i humbly enquire, if it were proved beyond reasonable doubt that Mohammed never were? Don Carson once said he thought, not much. at the end of the day, the Qur'an is the way Muslims know God. not thru their prophet. that he happened to use Mohammed is seen to be the physical conduit Allah chose to use is by the by - what matters is that Allah gave the Qur'an to all the Muttaqun that they may obey him in all righteousness.

sure, Mohammed may have been a good example of following Allah, but he was hardly the first - all the old testament prophets are listed as part of his forerunners in the faith.

it may be this will lead to anger, but i hope not. indeed, it may challenge Muslims to rethink about their functional deification of Mohammed, and to consider how it is they can truly know God - how it may be that he has made himself known.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Biographies and Surrender

i've started reading some Christian biographies. i think it's a good think to do. for many reasons. i've read some other biographies in my time, but there's obviously something unique about seeing how someone else lives out their faith.

i read a great online one on Martyn Lloyd-Jones (the Doctor), probably most well known for spending over a decade teaching through Romans, nigh on a decade preaching Ephesians.

a book i've been getting right into is Brother Andrew: God's Smuggler, a Dutch guy who smuggled Bibles into East-Bloc countries behind the curtain.

also, my class History of Christian Mission is essentially just ripping yarns about inspirational, ground-breaking, role-models.

i'm starting to see a few parallels between some of these people (apart from their whole-hearted devotion to preaching the crucified Christ to all nations). one of them is the idea that i've been chatting to a friend about lately - the idea of 'surrender'. both Brother Andrew and Hudson Taylor (founder of the China Inland Mission) talk about the pivotal moment in their Christian lives, the day when they, although already Christians, had an emphatic point of surrender. i'm not quite sure what this is, in that, i'm not quite sure how this is different to when anyone becomes a follower of Christ.

i don't know if other people have thought about this idea of surrender secondary to conversion. i think i need to think some more about what that means.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ricoeur on the Sacred

I really enjoyed reading from this book of Ricoeur essays; there was heaps i didn't get, but there was still much gold within.

Interpretive Narrative:
he took a look at Mark's passion narrative, from a narratival point of view. as such, as we look at the characters, there are some really interesting points to pick up on.
Judas is the baddy, yeah? and Peter is the helper, right?
YET, Jesus needed Judas as his helper, and the once-goody becomes a baddy, the guy who you boo and hiss at. Ricoeur talks about this from a perspective of semiotic analysis, with this double subversion in the narrative. I think i normally read the narrative, and think, what do we learn about each character, what do they show us about Jesus, but looking at is this way, with this juxtaposition, along with that in the lead up, 14:18,
"Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me."
betraying the one who came to save them, EVEN one who is sharing the closeness of eating. there is a massive thing said, in eating/betraying, just as with Peter/Judas.

Philosophy and Religious Language:
the difference in discourse internally is also the key to understanding the discourse, as each discourse gives rise to it's own expression of faith.
  • both presenting & fulfilling prophecy
  • the chronicle & the oracle
  • consolidating & dislocating time
  • the stability of founding historical events & the instability of unfolding deadly menace.

    anyway, just some thoughts.
    i need to re-read his essay on evil. another day.

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  • Friday, September 19, 2008

    happy 200

    wow - a double century of posts - who would've thunk it?

    but despite roughly a post per week since my first post way back when, i'm still not sure who gets to say hip hip.

    a big thanks to those who have me on their blog reader - i'm sure noone else could have continued following me with my irregularity in posting - either that or you need some more blogs to follow if you keep checking here every day to see if i've done anything or not!

    since i started using google analytics* in May last year, i've had 4,771 visits from 54 countries, with a peak of 93 visitors on one day (was it something i said, hillsong?)! although, it would be interesting if it turns out he was right, after all.

    thanks anyway, i'll try and keep the balance of inane to incomprehensible that you've come to expect.


    * the word analytics always makes me giggle now - thinking of Tobias Fümke the analyst+therapist=analrapist

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    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    scandalous politicians

    no, this pop-stars band Scandal'US haven't reformed as a political party (although, who could forget their #1 song, me, myself and i).

    NSW politics continue to implode, however, with scandal after scandal.
    it seemed to start after the iguanas incident (a gosford nightclub, not any reptilian mis-demeanour), and has culminated today with the news of the newly appointed police minister being done for entertaining his co-workers by dancing in his grundies.

    what are we to say of it all?
  • on the one hand, we can hold a hard line, calling for anyone to be served the most severe penalty the moment they cross a moral line.
  • on the other hand (typified with Bill Clinton), we know that all politicians are human, that we too fall, and they're just doing a job the best they can.

    what are we to do about it?
  • following the second option above, we can vote for them based on their policies, on their platform, along party lines - whatever does it for you
  • or, we can keep sacking those who fail morally, regardless of their political accomplishments, we can be the ultimate swinging voter, voting only for those who 1/ keep their promises, and 2/ uphold certain moral principles, thus ensuring politicians will get the message we will accept nothing less than what we expect when we vote for them.

    not wanting to be completely non-committal, but i'm just gonna throw it out there. i don't know what the answer is.
  • we're either going to end up with a parliament full of inexperienced people, all fresh to the job because everyone senior to them has fallen on their sword,
  • or, we'll have a parliament full of hypocrites, happy to make promises they don't intend to keep.
    at the moment, it seems we have a good mix of both. although good may not be the best adjective.


  • Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Hell Quiz!

    if you are the kind of chap who enjoyed reading my previous post, or enjoys quizzes, or likes challenging their assumptions about what's in the bible vs what's in their head via osmosis, you may enjoy Edward Fudge's Hell Quiz!

    post your scores in the comments

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    pre-incarnate souls?

    a couple of years ago a friend asked whether i believed we all existed eternally. whether 'you' and 'i' were beings, in the broadest sense possible, since before the creation of the world, and existing until after it's wrapped up again.

    he was come from a broadly 'spiritualist' position i guess, partly buddhist, partly hindu, partly his own thinking - your average 'western spiritualist' for lack of a better category.

    i went straight to Ephesians 1 -
    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ; 4 for He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love 5 He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favour and will, 6 to the praise of His glorious grace that He favoured us with in the Beloved.

    - and i sort of agreed with him, that we were in some sense 'existent', in that we were an idea in God's 'mind', thus in some sense, sure, we are before and after all created 'stuff'.

    i hadn't thought about it much since then until this morning, rereading this passage, plus the thinking i've done since reading The Fire that Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment by Edward Fudge.

    although not coming to the same conclusions as him regarding hell (see this post among others over at Soli-Deo-Honoria for some great thoughts on this), i appreciate his courage to question the axiom of eternal human souls.

    and as i re-read Ephesians 1:1-2:10, i feel that it's not so much about us, as about Christ; that to draw too much out regarding ourselves is not being faithful to the passage. it feels as though the gist is 'because of Jesus, the fate of anyone who is linked to him is as if they were there with Jesus before creation, so secure is their fate.'

    i wouldn't want to push this too far, but to say that i'm not so certain we are pre-existent sprites, who for a time inhabit human frames, being incarnate for a time until we are released again into a spiritual reality, much like the gnostics and other spiritualists would conjecture.

    indeed, any spiritual existence, if any, is for the short time between our deaths and the new creation, when we will again be bodily beings.

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    Tuesday, September 02, 2008

    Goldingay and the Gospel

    after reading the reviews for this book some time ago (over at Chrisendom), it was interesting to flick to the postscript (usually much more interesting than the introductions, i'm beginning to find), and read
    The real sociocritical question then relates to us and our communities with our needs and prejudices. It concerns what we do with these texts. Fortunately or unfortunately there is no doubt about the sociocritical placing of their interpreter and thus of some of the issues they raise for him.
    I write as a white, Oxbridge-educated, middle-aged, Episcopalian priest.
    I write as a professor who now earns a larger salary doing an easier job in Southern California than I did in the U.K., as a result of the United States' capacity in the context of its economic domination of the world to attract whomever it wants to work here.
    I sit writing these lines in the warm November sun on the extensive patio of our large condo, beyond which Latino gardeners sweep u the leaves for a much more paltry salary than mine, though one they may be even more grateful to receive for doing a job they may be even more grateful to have.
    I write as the much-loved child of parents who left school at fifteen, as the colleague of many professors who resent the fact that their salaries seem paltry by American standards and as the husband of someone confined to a wheelchair by multiple sclerosis.

    My reading of the First Testament* is shaped by all of these facts, among others of which i am less aware. It has a decisive affect on what i see and what i cannot afford to see.
    John Goldingay, Israel's Gospel, IVP: 2003, p872-3

    i wonder how clearly i see my world, see the world i am in, how much the many people and experiences and non-experiences have shaped me, and how much they continue to shape me.

    how much do i question whether my agreement or disagreement with ideas, theologies, practices, is culturally-, or God-shaped?

    Vinoth Ramachandra recently spoke about this, preferring (as i heard it) a more organic methodology, to try and circumvent this issue of unnecessary cultural influences. that is, the truth is transferred culture-to-culture, the out-workings of that are what are culturally shaped - but not the base seed. his point was thus theologies are that - theologies, culturally conditioned understandings of the one truth about the true God.
    and whilst there are obvious caveats, nuances on this position, in many ways i am prone to agree.

    the issue is rather - how do we know what are the seeds, and what the ground-specific fruit?

    * First Testament is Goldingay's preferred title for what is otherwise known as the Old Testament, that is, the Jewish scriptures.

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