duck5

procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

nice guy jesus

was with a friend trying to find some to talk to about jesus at sydney uni, and ended up chatting to this girl who had founded her own religion (membership = 1). what frustrated me most in the conversation was her inability to see the complete arbitrariness of a system that takes a foundation of pop-buddhism, part new-age-spirituality, and the nice-guy jesus who said some things that the gospels are just trying to distort.

it's not at all an uncommon thing, but i really don't know how to get through to this kind of person. C.S. Lewis' famous quote came back into my head as i've been reflecting on the conversation:
... you must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
quote originally from Mere Christianity, this one in From Narnia to a Space Odyssey, a conversation between Arthur C. Clarke (who could be classed as believing in 'scientism') and C.S. Lewis (who rejected the claim that science answered all of life's problems). book edited by Ryder W. Miller, iBooks, N.Y., 2004.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

H. Richard Niebuhr on Sin

how do you like this as part of a working definition?
Sin is not quite so much lawbreaking as vice; it is the perverse direction of the drives in man, or of his will in general, towards ends not proper to him.
H. Richard Niebuhr, The Responsible Self, Harper and Row, 1962?. p131.


for those interested, i think my next essay, due in around four weeks, is going to be discussing how important it is or isn't to affirm an historical fall (i'm thinking Romans 5:15 is pretty key).

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Club Member or Kingdom Citizen

as mooted, here is my article published just recently in AFES's Salt.

i should add, i didn't think of the title, that was all their idea. but it's something i want to keep thinking about, particularly as it has real impacts for how people think about what Christianity is when they first investigate it. maybe think, as you read it, how this way of thinking about Christianity (if you agree) could come in handy as you chat to people.

[i think my article's the 2nd row, 3rd from the right!]


A friend of mine was considering becoming a Christian. Maybe you too, dear reader, one day did the same. And like my friend, did you weigh up the pros and cons? Did you ‘count the cost’ as we say?

Is that a right view of becoming a Christian – is this the right way of working it out?

[Christianity is heaps like a club]


My friend was in many ways right to evaluate Christianity like a club. As he observed it, we all have a common purpose, we all share a love of the same thing (Jesus), and although we don’t have a dress code (Kathmandu jumpers and polo shirts aside), we do have an ethical code. We try to think things through in light of God’s commands and how they’re renewed in Jesus. You join up by applying (praying) and you’re accepted (Acts 16:31)!

BUT these are only things in common with a club. Indeed, most of the problems we see today in the church world have come from people seeing Christianity as a club and changing the rules as you might in a club: if Christianity is a club, then it’s a democracy. It’s got people who are voted in, and if enough of you want to change the rules of the club, or the emphases of a club, you do it.

[Christianity isn’t a club :: it’s a Kingdom]


One massive theme in the New Testament is that Jesus is the King of the whole world. He didn’t get voted for, there was no election, there was no charter of responsibilities and so on. The only one who had any say on the matter (God!) said that Jesus was His chosen son, Messiah, King.

You might feel a bit disenfranchised by this – why don’t I get a say, you say. Well possibly, because the club you would’ve made wouldn’t last!

If you’re part of a club – what do you have at the end of the day? You might get to along to a few meetings, get the club t-shirt (everyone loves those Christian t-shirts), and really have a great time of it. But if that is all Christianity is to you, then at the end of the day you’ve been sold a lie. The club will fold when there isn’t a quorum to vote, the club will get taken over, you’ll find out the things you signed up for in the first place aren’t even part of it anymore.

Christians believe that God speaks to us specifically, that the Bible is God’s Word to his people, by his Spirit, about his son. However in a club we don’t need this specific revelation; we can work it out for ourselves. Being part of a kingdom sees a purposeful revelation, a royal proclamation, with warnings, encouragements, promises and reasons to rejoice with your sovereign.

If Jesus is King, then there is a much bigger picture of reality we’re part of.

Philippians 3:20: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ”. This is a deliberate portrayal of the peace won by Christ (Pax Christi) in terms of the Peace won by Rome (Pax Romana). Jesus guarantees your safety, will bring his army to protect you, will not let the enemy prevail.

If Christianity is a Kingdom, then you are safe. You will be safe. You are part of something bigger than yourself, which will continue on into eternity. You haven’t signed up, but you’ve been conquered. If you trust in Jesus, you are part of a kingdom that will never fade, spoil or perish, but is united and galvanised around the only sure anchor in the storm, and you serve under a king who gave his life for you, the one who sits in the power-seat of the universe, at the Right Hand of the Almighty.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Salt :: Identity

that's right, pre-empting AFES's announcement, the new edition of Salt is out, on identity. it's so hot off the press there's not even a picture on their website to look at!

my article on Club Member or Kingdom Citizen? wasn't the leading article, but p23 is usually where you find the key ideas for most important books. check out CD, inst, the Bible, to cite just a few books with killer p23s.

explaining the thrust of the article just now, what i didn't write but would've been excellent, was:
a club reflects its membership, a kingdom reflects its king.
that's what it's about. i'll post the full article up here soon.

pick one up from your nearest AFES office, MTC mailroom, or university christian ministry (do go to AFES to find one if you aren't involved and are at uni - what's the worst that could happen?). you'll also get the chance to read some articles by Michael Jensen, Mark Barry and many others.

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ecumenism 1

a lot of thoughts in the last few months about ecumenism [= the promotion of unity among Christian churches], one of a few experiences and reflections:

vision valley snow camp
i did some talks on a camp where the leaders were from a variety of denominations which could in really broad brush strokes by typecast as evangelical, pentecostal, charismatic, liberal. one real positive was that there was a unity in purpose, in that we sought to care for and love the campers as taught by Christ. another positive for me was that i (because i'm perfect in doctrine and understanding!) got to set the theological brackets for the discussions that took place over the 3 days, in framing the gospel as a response to God's love for us shown in the death and resurrection of Christ. there were only positive responses to the way i explained the gospel from the other leaders.

some of the discussions i had with the other leaders showed some very different expressions, language like 'journeying', 'claiming' and so on. very different expressions for what i would maybe describe as 'seeking to live out in concord with the scriptures' and 'receiving new life given by grace'. what this shows is perhaps that it's not the base definition where we differ, but in what we'd add to that basic gospel outline. but the emphasis for the camp and the discussions on the ski lifts over the time was that basic outline.

so i was really happy to be a part of it, but was really thankful i was doing the talks. which goes to show, i'm all for ecumenism when i get to set the agenda. it definitely reeks of arrogance on my part.

more to come.

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

1 Samuel Song

reading 1 Samuel this morning i was reminded of a song i wrote for a memory verse for sunday school a few years ago (to the tune of Arlo Guthrie's Alice's Restaurant)

The LORD has chosen you to be
        to be his own people
The LORD has chosen you to be
        to be his own people
He will always take care of you
        Just to show how great he is
That's from 1 Samuel
        chapter 12 verse 22

tune: (c) Arlo Guthrie 1967
words: (c) Douglas Fyfe 2005

as with the original song, you can just keep the chords going and tell the story that surrounds this verse, coming in every 10 minutes or so with the chorus here.

nb :: this is the GNB or CEV translation i think.

**UPDATE :: the chords**

A   /   F#m /
    B   E   A   /
A   /   F#m   /
    B   /   E   /
A   /   A7   /
    D   /   D7   /
A   /   F#m   /
    B   E   A   /

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