procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Allah and Yhwh

I've just finished reading 'Revelation?' by Mark Durie (2006), which asks the question, do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?

it's a really interesting book - well written, easy to read. the main thing it is asking, is whether it is right to engage Muslims (or for Muslims to engage Christians) with the premise, 'we all are talking about the same basic thing - let me show you how our understanding is different/better/correspondent.'

this is basically the approach suggested by Colin Chapman (Cross and Crescent), where you talk about Isa in the Qur'an and say 'see, don't you want to know more about him? read his biography with me (in the Injeel)' (hopefully this isn't too simplistic a summary)

Durie wants us rather to look at the characters of Isa, Allah, the Ruh Al-Qudus, and see what similarities and differences exist (between, respectively, Jesus, Yhwh, and the Holy Spirit). now, whilst this approach isn't as conciliatory as Chapman's, it's also not as polemic as Sam Green's (he works for AFES in Tassie i think), who attempts to show how wrong Islam is - the unreliability of the Qur'an, the questionable character of Muhammad etc - pulling no punches.

again, i found it an engaging book (there are bargain bin copies for $6 at Moore Books!), especially in countering Islamic claims that they're all the same - even the names of Jesus and Yhwh are corrupted when taken up by Islam - having no linguistic links at all (supporting the understanding of Muhammad's syncretism of the religions around without fully grasping them). however it does this linguistically, and based on the characters of the characters - trying to enter into the conversation in a way that distances the two religions - they are not, nor ever were, the same religion. Neither Adam, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Moses, David, Solomon nor Jesus were Muslims - which is not to say the characters of the Qur'an - Sulemann, Isa, Lut et al weren't - but they aren't the same bunch of guys.

i still need to think about the relative merits of the approaches - what do we lose by Chapman's approach? what do we gain by Durie's?

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

to decriminalise is to legitimise

Phillip Jensen wrote today on this issue in regards to the abhorrent victorian abortion legislation (is that too strong a word?). you can find it in today's SMH, or here.

despite the histrionics of Green's MP Lee Rhiannon*, i think Jensen makes a really good point:
Since the 1960s, censorship and gambling laws have been relaxed, and prostitution and homosexuality have been decriminalised.
[... T]o decriminalise is to legitimise.
whilst i am generally quite liberal (if i don't say so myself), i am thankful for this reminder about the impacts of decriminalising things that society has generally had questions about. decriminalising under-age sex for example sends the message not that society doesn't think jail is too extreme a punishment for teenage kids who have sex, but rather it says anyone is fair game - don't ever let age (or anything!) limit your sexual freedom. however old you are. and your respective age differences.

we need then to think not just about the immediate impacts of decriminalisation (eg ending backyard abortion clinics - tho i didn't think this was currently an issue), but what it implies society thinks on certain issues (eg an abortion is a lifestyle choice). it's about keeping the big picture in perspective.

* i should perhaps note, i have written written favourably about the Greens previously here. however i have sadly rarely found Rhiannon to be representative of myself or rational discussion.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Salt :: Resurrection

the latest AFES magazine is OUT. lots of zombie talk. among other things...

check out mark's blog for his thoughts on the issues - he's one of the editors of Salt.

check out also websalt, there's not nearly as much there as the hard copy, but some interesting articles to get you thinking and (hopefully) talking. included for your reading pleasure is my latest review on Lee Strobel's the Case for Easter.

a little primer:
The only thing that I perhaps missed was the other side – surely the atheists they line up for these apologists to knock down have heard their arguments and remain unconvinced? Does Strobel, writing after his conversion, truly represent the 4 billion plus who remain unconvinced about the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth?

But I guess that book is for others to write. Yet I still had a bucket load of questions I wanted to ask his experts – and that is as a Christian. To play the Devil’s advocate would have raised many more. As a journalist, he was surprisingly soft on his subjects. By no means was he the rock-hard Dick Tracy character he painted himself as in his introduction.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

John 5:16-20 Chiasm

well, to all you who think i'm chiasm mad, i've found another one!

start from the top if you are a Greek nerd, from the bottom if you've got better things to do than learning a dead language (like talking to real people and that kind of thing)

16 καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐδίωκον οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι τὸν Ἰησοῦν, ὅτι ταῦτα ἐποίει ἐν σαββάτῳ.

            17 Ὁ δὲ ἀπεκρίνατο αὐτοῖς· ὁ πατήρ μου ἕως ἄρτι ἐργάζεται κἀγὼ ἐργάζομαι·

18 διὰ τοῦτο οὖν μᾶλλον ἐζήτουν αὐτὸν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι ἀποκτεῖναι, ὅτι οὐ μόνον ἔλυεν τὸ σάββατον, ἀλλὰ καὶ πατέρα ἴδιον ἔλεγεν τὸν θεὸν ἴσον ἑαυτὸν ποιῶν τῷ θεῷ.

            19 Ἀπεκρίνατο οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ δύναται ὁ υἱὸς ποιεῖν ἀφ᾿ ἑαυτοῦ οὐδὲν ἐὰν μή τι βλέπῃ τὸν πατέρα ποιοῦντα· ἃ γὰρ ἂν ἐκεῖνος ποιῇ, ταῦτα καὶ ὁ υἱὸς ὁμοίως ποιεῖ. 20 ὁ γὰρ πατὴρ φιλεῖ τὸν υἱὸν καὶ πάντα δείκνυσιν αὐτῷ ἃ αὐτὸς ποιεῖ, καὶ μείζονα τούτων δείξει αὐτῷ ἔργα, ἵνα ὑμεῖς θαυμάζητε.

there is actually a purpose to this structure - the two A sections (v16, 18) give us the explanation - 'and because of this', 'therefore because of this'.

the B sections both give us Jesus' responses.

there is amplifying parallelism, as the As are upped - v16 they were pursuing him, v18 they are seeking to kill him. likewise v17 Jesus says that he and his father are both still slogging away as they always have been; v19-20 fill this out.

16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.

            17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

            19 So Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel."

i should add, we were warned in class about not finding chiasms under every rock we look under - if you think i've imagined this one, do let me know (hopefully before Tuesday midnight when i have to hand an exegetical on this passage in!). hmmm... maybe i should just talk about parallelism and not chiastic structures - they're usually more ABBA or ABB'A' than ABAB aren't they?

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Plato, they say, could stick it away...

  1. Plato: What is Plato’s theory of forms, and how does his ‘cave’ story help explain the theory?

One of the key problems Plato sought to solve was the relationship between forms and matter. In response to the Sophists, with particularly Gorgias’ radical scepticism, Plato sought to find a better answer than agnosticism, yet was dissatisfied with empiricism. Thus the sign in front of his Academy: ‘Let none but geometers enter here;’ his concern was with the formal sciences, with abstract ideas. For these abstract ideas, or forms, are part of the primary world, yet a metaphysical realm, yet one which is more real than this world which we inhabit. It follows then that this world is somehow corrupted – as the matter differs in its degree of correspondence to the ‘idea-’ or ‘form-world’. However, as Plato has Socrates ascertain in elucidating the Pythagorean theorem from an uneducated slave, within our souls we have this true knowledge of the forms.

The problem is however education. Education – from ‘educare’ (to lead out) – is quite literally Plato’s goal. We are all, he believed, in a darkness as if we were shackled to one another in a cave, looking at the flickering shadows on the cave wall. Since we have been in this state for such a long time, this is all we could believe to be reality. We are not cognizant of the source of the shadows, that they are only rough, imperfect representations of what is creating them. As we are led out of the cave, or educated, blinded as we may be at first by the light, we are then able to understand for the first time the forms that had been making the deceiving shadows.

The way for this education to happen is not by observing nature by experience (a posteriori knowledge), but by contemplative reasoning (a priori knowledge). Thus the best way to spend one’s time is in this honourable pursuit – contemplating the forms, the essences, rather than the materials, sciences, the receptacles of the forms.

this is part of a series

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Men - Firing through all of life - a review

A guest post - by a budding writer - my dad!

A friend of mine is having trouble coming to terms with middle age. He is going bald, and realises that he will never again have hair like Michael Douglas had in “Streets of San Francisco”. He knows it is too easy to spot plugs and rugs. He realises that he will never achieve that great sporting moment he has been meaning to get around to for the last couple of decades (he was certain he still had a 3’15’’ marathon time left in him). Even if he did get around to doing the training, he would probably strain something. His body and mind simply cannot do what they used to do, seemingly, only a short time ago.

He’s done the maths and realises that he simply doesn’t have the years left on this earth, or the finances, to do all those things he has had his heart set on for longer than he can remember.

People who he regards as younger friends clearly regard him as elderly.
Then, last Christmas, his (wise) son bought him a book: “Men – firing through all of life” by Al Stewart, Bishop of Wollongong.

My friend has read a lot of self-help books (he needs all the help he can get), but this book is far and away the best book in terms of articulating the plight of middle-aged men. Not only does Al brilliantly define the situation of middle-aged men and outline the causes of their predicament, he also shows them a way forward. It is tremendously reassuring for my friend to realise not only that he is not alone, but also that there is a way to turn things around.

Men – firing through all of life” by Al Stewart – what a great gift for a middle-aged man you may know.

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Friday, March 06, 2009


i was looking for a book on the reformation for church history 2.

typed it into a search engine and found up the top of the page this:
coincidentally, just the one i'd been thinking about.

next but one was:

now i don't want to judge a book by it's cover, and, hey, you get free postage at fishpond for $50+ - so maybe i could just them to throw it in!

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Glory in Flesh

Bultmann, John, 63, observes:
‘It is in his sheer humanity that he is the Revealer. True, his own also see his δοξα; indeed if it were not to be seen, there would be no grounds for speaking of revelation. But this is the paradox which runs through the whole gospel: the δοξα is not to be seen alongside the σαρξ nor though the σαρξ as through a window; it is to be seen in the σαρξ and nowhere else. If man wishes to see the δοξα then it is on the σαρξ that he must concentrate his attention without allowing himself to fall a victim to appearances. The revelation is present in a peculiar hiddenness’.
Bultmann's reflections on John 1:14.
(δοξα means glory; σαρξ flesh)

we do not need to deny the creaturely-ness of the logos, for indeed it is in his becoming human that we see a God reaching out, allowing himself to get bruised and dirtied in the process.

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