procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Friday, June 26, 2009

a mighty fortress

just tidying up an article on Christianity - Club or Kingdom?

thinking about it, i've found it hard to get the jilting tune of Luther's Ein' Feste Burg ist unser Gott (english title: a mighty stronghold is our God)

here's the first verse:
Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott,
Ein gute Wehr und Waffen;
Er hilft uns frei aus aller Not,
Die uns jetzt hat betroffen.
Der alt’ böse Feind,
Mit Ernst er’s jetzt meint,
Gross’ Macht und viel List
Sein’ grausam’ Ruestung ist,
Auf Erd’ ist nicht seingleichen.

words and music: Martin Luther, 1521?

just checked wikipedia - tells me this song was sung by the German princes at the 1530 Augsburg Diät - you can see how it would have been a good reinforcement!

i'm trying to think of a way to link this picture i took of a fenced-off opera house during the APEC protests a couple of years ago, but i'm failing. i like the photo tho - trying to protect the poor citizens from the scary opera house, were they? protecting us from the nasty politicians? who knows.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

kauf die zeit aus

'make the most use of your time', or better, 'buy up the time', 'kauf die Zeit aus', or 'τὸν καιρὸν ἐξαγοραζόμενοι'

at the moment this seems like a hard thing to do. i don't actually feel like i have any time to make the most of, even though i finished my last exam yesterday (yay!).
i'm booked out for most of the holidays, all with good things, but on top of it all, i must attend a jury preselection trial on monday, for a potential 12 week trial, clearly impossible for me to do. this is my third jury duty call up, the first was during Orientation Week at uni, the key time in the uni-ministry year. the second was during Mid-Year-Conference, ditto. so kind people wrote letters for both of these and i didn't have to attend. but i was told i must attend and try my luck.

i spend all my spare time thinking about how nice it would be to have spare time, but also that i'm really enjoying how much i am doing. but what i really should be doing is as above; Colossians 4:5.
(i also need to remember what i preached on the weekend, that (2 Peter 3:9,15) God's patience means salvation, we have what time we do for a purpose.

my good friend Michael Morrow has written a good song on this, 'let us tell of his great love, he will come, for his patience means salvation'. buy it here. you can also hear another good friend's band, garage hymnal, have a crack here. the song, btw, is 'we belong to the day'. good stuff.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Calvin on the Lord's Supper

something that struck me about this document (which i've summarised below) is just how unlike himself Calvin is here - i feel like i've been reading Luther! How i wish he had've stopped at one of his earlier editions of his Institutes - when concise he is a pleasure to read! [incidentally, his earliest edition (1536) of his Institutes was only 50pp - my copy of his 1559 edition runs to 1521pp!]

and it's also like he just couldn't get around to writing this letter - it was really in 1529 (Marburg Colloquy) and 1530 (Diet of Augsburg) when this issue came up, particularly in point 5 where he explains the disputes between protestants on the matter.

Short Treatise on the Holy Supper
of our Lord Jesus Christ

            John Calvin, 1541

Why did he write it?
It is a very perilous thing to have no certainty on an ordinance, the understanding of which is so requisite for our salvation.

  1. Why Instituted? (3-6)
    just as in Baptism we enter into a new family
    so the Word nourishes children
    BUT due to our weakness*, a visible sign is required → Bread and Wine
    • it Signs and Seals Promises with certainty
    • that we might rejoice and praise
    • to lead us to holiness, innocence and brotherly charity

  2. Fruit and Utility (7-19)
    • a mirror of Jesus’ death and ascension
    • Jesus and all his promises are found in the supper
    • receive the supper that we might receive the benefits & the benefits are only found there
    • Christ is offered to us there that we might possess him
    • spur to holiness and charity

  3. Correct Use (20-32)
    • repentant
    • as saved sinners
    • unified
    • hungering

  4. Errors (33-52)
    • not a sacrifice we make but one that has been made
    • no such thing as transubstantiation
    • not to be worshipped
    • not a Jewish festival
    • not in the bread alone but in both elements do we receive the benefits

  5. Divisions (53-60)
    Luther is interested in holding onto Jesus’ words
    Zwingli & Œcolompadius are against idolatry, thus emphasis on signs
    → Neither listen to where the other are coming from

Big Picture:
  • Jesus isn’t contained in a piece of bread (despite the jaffles you can buy on ebay with pictures of jesus - scroll down!)
  • Don’t knock the efficacy of the Lord’s Supper

* by weakness i take it he means more our mortality than our sinfulness, although his inherent dualism means these are a little too closely linked for my liking

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

does social action save?

at bible study on wednesday we looked at Matthew 5:13-16; the metaphor of unsalty salt being trampled underfoot was quite frightening, and had a completely opposite effect to the reassuring metaphor of light on a hill - we were encouraged to be lights, but warned against being flavourless salt.

we then went on to read Matthew 25:31-46, which Tim Keller picks up in the Prodigal God (which i finished last night). he says
There is no contradiction to what we have heard from Jesus in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He is not saying that only the social workers get into heaven. Rather, he is saying that the inevitable sign that you know you are a sinner saved by sheer, costly grace is a sensitive social conscience and a life poured our in deeds of service to the poor. p112

i should mention, we started out by reading Amos 5, and i just kept thinking, 'we're gonna get so hammered for this'. to define 'we', 'hammered' and 'this' in reverse order,
  • this = turning aside the needy (Amos 5:12), taking pride in our buildings of stone and the ceremonies that go within them (Amos 5:21)
  • hammered = the day of the Lord for such as these will be darkness and not light (Amos 5:18)
  • we = pretty much all western Christians

i might add, the sunday morning before this i visited a well known church and saw a hapless welcomer faced with a homeless man joining church that morning. they didn't say 'welcome, please take a seat, would you like a glass of water, meet gerald, one of our regulars', but 'can i help you?'

James would have welcomed him with open arms, walked him up the front, kicked one of the regulars out of their personalised pews and sat this man down there so he had every opportunity to hear of the healing words of a loving God (James 2:1-7).

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Isaiah and annihilationism

well, i was surprised to find Isaiah's view of the afterlife is that Sheol, the place of the dead, will be annihilated.

Isaiah 25:7-9
7 And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
9 It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

my thesis was essentially that Sheol is the place of both the just and the unjust, but the righteous are not 'natural' residents - as death is a curse, and to be dead, to be in the place of the dead, in the company of the wicked (who are rightly there) is not something that will be eternally countenanced there.

as we meet the rightful inhabitants of the underworld in Isaiah 26:12-19 (esp. 14,19), the OT version of ghosts or ghouls, the Rephaim, we see that they, and their dwelling place, the land of the Rephaim will both be destroyed, and the righteous will be freed.

this understanding came as i worked on my structure a little more, coming up with:
12 Yhwh’s great deeds
13     Others try to destroy us – we will remember you
14           The dead will not rise*
      Others will be destroyed by you – they won't be remembered
15 Yhwh's great deeds

16 Yhwh brings man down
17     Pregnant writhing
              That was us
18     Pregnant writhing
 Man is brought down

19 Your dead will rise
        They'll rejoice
        They'll be sustained
  But their dead won’t rise*

*14 this includes the dead and the rephaim
*19 lit, 'you will cause the land of the rephaim to fall'

so the hope is a positive one for Israel. the rescue and restoration of the righteous, but and end to the wicked dead, the underworld and all that is associated with it. i'm not sure to what extent this rules out a new testament understanding of the underworld, but until i get my essay back i'll stick with this reading of Isaiah!

enjoy the pic if you're into hebrew at all:

(i think you're supposed to click to enlarge)

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Isaiah 26 Chiasm

so i have this essay, right, on Isaiah 26:12-19 and what it contributes to an OT theology of the afterlife. i still have no idea of the answer, but i think i've found some more chiasms!

12   God's great deeds
13           Others may take your place - we will remember you
14           Others will be punished - they won't be remembered
15   God's great deeds

16   God brings man down
17           Pregnant writhing
                      That's us
18           Pregnant writhing
     Man is brought down

19   the dead will rise
          they'll rejoice
          they'll be sustained
      the dead will rise
and 19a is even a little chiasm of its own (will live - your dead, my corpse - will rise i.e. A-B, B-A).


i don't think i need to talk about the chiastic structure - it doesn't change the argument one way or the other as regards the afterlife, so i'm not quite sure what to do with it all!

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Monday, June 01, 2009

music and moving

a long time ago (my first post) i wrote about time, where we think it's heading and how that affects how we live today (i may not have mentioned all that but it's there implicitly).

so what does music say about time? Russell Rook writes
"Eschatologically speaking, music seems capable of conveying our greatest hopes and most terrible fears. It can transport us from the heights of heaven to the gates of hell."139*
reflecting on the type of music i like depending on my mood, this chapter has been really helpful.

because repetitive music (i like repetitive music, i like repetitive music) is about escapism - that time is cyclical, that there is no eschaton, that we all just keep going around and around with no consequences, as eagle eye cherry so well put it:
Go on and close the curtains
cause all we need is candle light
You and me and a bottle of wine
going to hold you tonight
Well we know I'm going away
and how I wish, I wish it weren't so
So take this wine and drink with me
let's delay our misery

Save tonight
and fight the break of dawn
Come tomorrow
tomorrow I'll be gone
there is a deep need in us for escapism, for forgetting that tomorrow will come with all its consequences. and it makes sense then that repetitive music is escapist, in popular music, and in Christian music also. anyone who has heard a group singing the chorus to 'How Great is our God' for an hour (as i heard a couple of years ago) has to question whether they are actually looking forward to Jesus' return.

but the Christian's hope is not escapist - it is towards a renewal of this earth, a restoration of justice and peace and true kingship under God's anointed king. platonic escapism that is so ingrained in so much Christian music is nothing more than a gnostic mysticism. we want to praise God with our songs, but that doesn't mean ceasing to exist as we lose ourself in the brahmanistic pantheism repetitive music encourages.

*Russell Rook, 'In God's Good Time', 138-148 in Stephen Holmes and Russell Rook, What are we waiting for? Christian Hope and Contemporary Culture. Bucks, UK: Paternoster, 2008.

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Prayer as Mission

to my surprise they decided to put last week's talk on prayer on the web

24 May 2009 Promoting Jesus :: Our prayers Matthew 9:35-10:5

feedback was:
  • you were positive, encouraging us to pray, and showing that it's a great and powerful thing because we have a great and powerful God
  • some good catch phrases (something i've been encouraged to do)
  • you didn't link that well
  • you didn't think about biblical theology
    good to get feedback. even better to get feedback that pushes you on (as opposed to bemusing/befuddling you!)
    cheers guys

  • feedback welcome
    warnings as per last time

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