Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Movie: Of Gods and Men

Michael Gorman recommends a film called Of Gods and Men.

Sounds like something really worth watching.

Here is what Gorman says.

Here is a review from The Melbourne Anglican.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The resurrection of Christ as God's reign and in real life (Michael Gorman)

Michael Gorman has written a short reflection on the resurrection at Easter, which is not only relevant at Easter but the entire year.

Gorman begins with this:

"Today, of course, is Easter. In my experience, there are two types of Easter sermons: those that are primarily soteriological–what Christ’s resurrection means for us–and those that are primarily Christological–what Christ’s resurrection means for Christ. The latter type is also the rarer, and the former tends to be rather lightweight, theologically speaking.

I would naturally tend to prefer the more theological, the Christological, but of course Christology cannot be separated from soteriology. Easter is is not about us, first of all, but is about us, finally, and about God’s entire creation."

Gorman then shares some real life examples, as well as some good stuff from Tom Wright.

Click here for the full post in Michael Gorman's blog.

Social justice and mission (Centre for Applied Christian Ethics (CACE), Ridley College)

Last year I had the privilege of writing a paper to respond to three speakers at a theological forum at Tabor College on the topic Social Justice and the Mission of the Church.

The speakers were

Michael Raiter, Principal of Melbourne School of Theology (formerly Bible College of Victoria)
Deborah Storie, Chair of TEAR Australia
Steve Bradbury, Director of Micah 6:8 Centre, Tabor College

Click here for the papers.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Embody God's victory (Timothy Gombis)

I am enjoying Timothy Gombis' The Drama of Ephesians (2010). Here is something that can help us understand how to embody Christ' triumph over evil in our daily life (which is perhaps very relevant during Easter but certainly relevant throughout the year).

"A prisoner has lost his freedom and is under the domination of the state... According to the first-century logic, if Paul is in a Roman prison, then the gods of Rome are stronger than the God whom Paul serves. So, why is Paul under the thumb of the powers that Christ has already vanquished?..." (p 109)

"So Paul gives them an apocalyptic interpretation of his apostleship and imprisonment. This is a heavenly vision of his life and ministry focusing especially on how it makes perfect sense that he is in prison... Paul's strategy is to situate his present circumstances squarely within the biblical tradition of God's power being demonstrated in human weakness. He does this by emphasizing the paradox of his life and ministry - at the same time that he occupies this terribly shameful and utterly weak situation as a prisoner, he fulfills a cosmically crucial commission as the administrator of the grace of God. In so doing, Paul wonderfully performs the same paradox as God's victory in Christ. Jesus Christ conquered the powers and authorities through his shameful and humiliating death on a Roman cross. because of God's upside-down logic, performances of God's triumph will inevitably involve displays of God's power through human weakness, loss, shame and humiliation." (p 110)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Scot McKnight on the atoning death of Christ

Looking for something to reflect on at Easter?

Click here for Scot McKnight's post on the atoning death of Christ.

Friday, April 22, 2011

N T Wright's article on ABC on the resurrection

Click here for an article written by N T Wright for the ABC about the resurrection.

Reflection: Some thoughts on the cross on Good Friday

Here are some thoughts I have about the cross.

The radical notion of the Son of God dying for the sinful humanity on the shameful Roman cross as the atoning sacrifice is an extraordinary picture of divine participation in human suffering. The Christ-community's suffering is not something unfamiliar with the Creator God, for he allowed his own Son to be subject to ancient Rome’s brutality. The profound “mystery” of God sharing in human suffering has been revealed to us through a notorious object of Roman oppression, namely, the cross.

The identification of God’s Son as a weak and frail human being is at the same time his way of delivering humanity from sin and death, which is of course thoroughly counter-cultural - both in the ancient world and in the 21st century.

What a God we worship. And he calls us to follow him.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Social justice and salvation (Centre for Applied Christian Ethics (CACE), Ridley College)

Last year Dr Tim Foster (Ridley College), Merrill Kitchen (former principal of Churches of Christ Theological College) and I spoke at a theological forum run by World Vision Australia. The topic was Social Justice and Salvation.

Short versions of the papers presented at the forum are now published by the Centre for Applied Christian Ethics (CACE) at Ridley College, Melbourne. There is an additional article written by Nils von Kalm in response to the speakers at the forum.

The full articles can be found here.

Below are the excerpts from the articles (one from each author).

"If Jesus’ death effectively dealt with evil, if his resurrection was bodily and real, and if Jesus now reigns as Lord, we cannot for a moment see salvation as something that lies in the future, but something that is both present and future. This is the whole basis for Pauline ethics. So in Colossians 2 & 3, Paul states that we have died with Christ and we have already been raised with Christ, so we ought to live the resurrection life now. Salvation is about the present and the future. Salvation is not something we wait for, but something we can enjoy here and now, genuinely anticipating what happens in the future." (Foster)

"It must be acknowledged, also, that there is a strong apocalyptic element in the Hebrew understanding of salvation. The religious, social and political control entities constantly challenged the values of justice and equality valued by the Israelites, with the threat of annihilation constantly around the corner. But it is not an understanding of triumph over others as much as a ‘rescue from attacking nations’ (Zech. 12:7) and the ‘gathering of the dispersed’ (Is. 43:5ff) that will have a final conclusion in God’s timing. Salvation is described in Isaiah as a ‘well’ (Is. 12:3), in which ‘all the world can share its salvation.’ The promises of salvation in these Biblical documents were nearly always corporate in their focus. It was not just about the privilege of Israel over and against others but it brought good news for all humanity." (Kitchen)

"People in Rome were familiar with socioeconomic, political and religious oppression. The early Christians in Rome were not exempt from this, experiencing all sorts of injustices. In light of this, Romans 12:9-21 would have made good sense to Paul’s audience. They are called to be patient in affliction (thlipsis) and joyful in hope (12:12). They are to “love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour,” and “associate with the lowly” (12:10, 16; NRSV). The society in ancient Rome was highly hierarchical. Slaves did not enjoy mutual affection from free people. Those in relatively high positions on the social ladder did not normally give honour to those in the lower classes. Hence Paul astonishingly envisages a huge status-reversal taking place." (myself)

"The great hope of the Christian message is that God is in the process of putting the world to rights, as N.T. Wright describes it. What we read in passages like Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21 is the wonderful story of the new heavens and the new earth, of heaven and earth coming together. It is about God coming here to live with His people. What we see is not us going ‘up’ to be in heaven, but heaven coming here. This is the transformation that we long for, and it is coming. It will be a transformation of not just society, but of the human heart as well. It will be a time when there will be no more tears and no more pain (Rev 21:4), a time of justice and peace for all. But note also that Jesus says in Revelation 22, ‘I have come to make all things new’. In the new creation, it will not be just humanity that is transformed, but the whole creation. Our hope is that ‘the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God’ (Rom 8:21)." (von Kalm)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What is heaven? (from Scot McKnight)

Scot McKnight has written something about heaven that I've been think for awhile. As I read the Bible, I find that "heaven", for the ancients, would mean the "sky" (according to their worldview and not in the modern scientific sense).

(Click here for McKnight's full post.)

"There’s a reason why the ancients, both Jews and Greek and Romans, used a word like “heaven” for where God is and where folks go when they die. Yes, there’s lots of variety in the ancient world; and they used a variety of words, but the NT word is “heaven” and that word means “sky.” And there all kinds of Jewish texts about ascending into heaven. Why did Jesus and the early Christians fasten on that word for doing the lion’s share of work on where God is? Obviously this is phenomenology. God was above and beyond and when we die, if we are righteous, we go to be with God and that means we go to heaven (in the skies)...The NT modifies this: it eventually lands not on just ascending into heaven (into the skies) but on a meeting of heaven and earth in the New Heavens and the New Earth. Most Christians need to learn this and the sooner the better. The “final” place in the Bible is the New Heavens and the New Earth — and these two meet in Jerusalem! Read Revelation 20-22..."

(Note: McKnight's post is on Rob Bell's book Love Wins. But I do not intend to comment on this book here. Or else it will confuse the matter.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

An upside-down world (Christopher Wright)

I found a good article written by Christopher Wright on mission, entitled An Upside-down World. (Click here for the full article.) Here are some excerpts.

"More Christians worship in Anglican churches in Nigeria each week than in all the Episcopal and Anglican churches of Britain, Europe, and North America combined. There are more Baptists in Congo than in Britain. More people in church every Sunday in communist China than in all of Western Europe. Ten times more Assemblies of God members in Latin America than in the U.S."

"Perhaps what we most need to learn, since we so easily forget it, is that mission is and always has been God's before it becomes ours. The whole Bible presents a God of missional activity, from his purposeful, goal-oriented act of Creation to the completion of his cosmic mission in the redemption of the whole of Creation—a new heaven and a new earth. The Bible also presents to us humanity with a mission (to rule and care for the earth); Israel with a mission (to be the agent of God's blessing to all nations); Jesus with a mission (to embody and fulfill the mission of Israel, bringing blessing to the nations through bearing our sin on the Cross and anticipating the new Creation in his Resurrection); and the church with a mission (to participate with God in the ingathering of the nations in fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures)."

"This God-centered refocusing of mission turns inside-out our obsession with mission plans, agendas, goals, strategies, and grand schemes.

We ask, "Where does God fit into the story of my life?" when the real question is, "Where does my little life fit into the great story of God's mission?""

"Most of all, we need to go back to the Cross and relearn its comprehensive glory. For if we persist in a narrow, individualistic view of the Cross as a personal exit strategy to heaven, we fall short of its biblical connection to the mission purpose of God for the whole of creation (Col. 1:20) and thereby lose the Cross-centered core of holistic mission. It is vital that we see the Cross as central to every aspect of holistic, biblical mission—that is, of all we do in the name of the crucified and risen Jesus. It is a mistake, in my view, to think that while our evangelism must be centered on the Cross (as of course it has to be), our social engagement has some other theological foundation or justification."

Tearfund's "Silence No More" report - The church to speak up

Silence No More is a report from Tearfund UK. It is about sexual violence in the world and calls the church to speak up for vulnerable women and children. (Click here for the report.)

Here are some key points from the report.

"Prevalent in conflict, sexual violence is common within communities worldwide – but as an issue it remains largely hidden. Women, girls, men and boys are all at risk of sexual violence."

"This report highlights three key points about the largely untapped potential of the church in preventing and reducing the impact of sexual violence:

1 Sexual violence is endemic to many communities across the world but its scale and impact are largely hidden.

2 Many churches deepen the impact of the sexual violence crisis through silence and by reinforcing stigma and discrimination. Action is needed to overcome this.

3 Churches worldwide, and especially in Africa, have huge untapped potential to respond to the crisis, as they are a key part of communal life."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Scot McKnight: Exploring Rob Bell's Love Wins

I will try to include what Scot McKnight has to say about Rob Bell's new book Love Wins here in the coming days. That is, I will include the links to the posts from McKnight's blog when he discusses Rob Bell's book. (Sorry if I miss some of McKnight's posts. I am a busy man.)

Click here for "Exploring Love Wins 1" on 1st April 2011.

Click here for "Exploring Love Wins 2" on 4th April 2011.

Click here for "Exploring Love Wins 3" on 6th April 2011.

Click here for "Exploring Love Wins 4" on 8th April 2011.

Click here for "Rob Bell's Confession" on 8th April 2011.

Click here for "Exploring Love Wins 5" on 11th April 2011.

Click here for "Exploring Love Wins 6" on 13th April 2011.

Click here for "Exploring Love Wins 7" on 15th April 2011.

Click here for "Exploring Love Wins 8" on 18th April 2011.

Click here for "Exploring Love Wins 9" on 21st April 2011.

(See here for other reviews on Rob Bell's Love Wins.)

Joel Willitts' review on Rob Bell's Love Wins - part 2

Joel Willitts has written the second part of his review on Rob Bell's Love Wins. (Click here for the link.)

He outlines three claims that Rob Bell has made, and then critique accordingly. Here are excerpts of what he says about Bell's claims. (You will need to read the entire post by Willitts to get what he means.)

"The first claim represents an issue of colossal importance because if Rob Bell is in fact correct then we indeed need to repent immediately of our misguided and toxic understanding of the Gospel and push restart. We need to reboot our theological hard drives. If we have the Gospel wrong we won’t have much else right."

"The second claim about the importance of question asking is interesting. And there is indeed some truth in what he’s said in my opinion."

"The third claim is perhaps the least able to stand up under the weight of the evidence not in its favor."

(Click here for Willitts' full review.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Matter of Life and Death (Easter reflections)

I wrote an article entitled A Matter of Life and Death a couple of years ago. I re-read it recently, and I actually enjoyed reading it. (Click here for the link to read the full article.)

Here are some excerpts.

"The offence of the message of the crucified Christ is its bold and counter-cultural claim against the basic idolatry of humanity...

We should not shy away from preaching the crucified Christ in our churches...

The Christian hope is not so much about a future otherworldly existence... It is, rather, about a blessed hope of new life at the final cosmic renewal that God has in store for his creation. It means that those who are suffering from emotional pain, chronic sickness, poverty, social injustice and relio-political oppression, have a genuine hope of fullness of life in the new heaven and new earth...

Through the power of the Spirit we proclaim that Jesus is the true Lord of the world, as the disciples did in Acts. We proclaim that this Lord is over and above all the rulers, systems and structures in this world, and He demands justice and mercy for the poor and oppressed. One day He will come again for His own creation, and those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved through repentance and faith in Jesus. Let us proclaim this message - through our words and life - to a world that is out of joint and yearns to hear the good news of Easter."

(Click here for the full article.)