Those who believe in Jesus “will not die forever,” unlike those who will. Even Aquinas agrees!
A while ago I wrote a post explaining that many Bible translations get John 11:25-26 wrong. They quote Jesus as saying “whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” This gives some people the impression (rightly or wrongly) that if you are a believer in Jesus, even when your body dies, you keep living because you go to heaven, continuously enjoying the eternal life that has already begun. As I explained (and you should read that post if this sounds strange to you), οὐ μὴ ἀποθάνῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα is correctly translated not as “will never die,” but rather “will not die forever.” If you believe in Jesus, you won’t suffer the fate of dying forever. This is not a claim that you won’t die ever, but rather that you won’t die forever. You will die one day, but will be spared the fate of the lost, which is a final and irrevocable death, never to live again. Continue reading “Aquinas agrees: Jesus said we will “not die forever.””→
What difference does it make if the Bible teaches we are physical creatures, rather than dual body-soul beings? How does that impact on anything else we believe as Christians? From gender identity to mental health more generally, to salvation, the way we view human nature has a profound impact.
I backed out of writing this series about those biblical passages about women in ministry not too long ago. It wasn’t because the evidence is hard to find or interpret, but it was partly because I had so little hope of anybody listening. They’d agree, I assumed, if they already held an opinion that they saw me affirming, and they’d disagree if they saw me affirming a view they didn’t already hold. The evidence rarely seems to really matter on this issue. People will find a way – any way – to make it fit an ideology. What would be the point of writing about this? But here I am, venturing into that series.
After a cautionary introduction post on what I am about to do (which I insist you read before you read this blog post), this is the first of my blog explorations of the contentious biblical passages about men and women in the church. Any comments you make on this post or any posts in this series must conform to the guidelines I gave in that cautionary post. Talk about the evidence and the issue strictly defined by the blog post. That’s all I’m prepared to allow. Behave or I’ll kick you out. I’m deliberately being boring so as to discourage the elements that make this issue frustrating.
Why would I want to be boring? Here is why: You will probably have seen people who get caught up sharing exciting links on social media about scientific issues. Vaccines cause autism! The earth is flat! Homeopathy cures cancer! Climate change isn’t happening! Quoting what people have said, citing anecdotes, attributing evil motives, citing cultural or traditional pressure, complaining about vested interest – these are all the sorts of things that fly thick and fast in discussions about theories like these. What is less common is the boring approach of slowly, slowly, slowly checking every relevant piece of data. It is not sexy. It does not make for good Buzzfeed articles. But if you want to know what is true and what is false when it comes to the theories that should only be formed after the ponderous work has been done, this is how you do it. The boring way. I am going to write several blog posts about the meaning of one Greek word, kephalē. Fun times.
With Christmas nearly upon us, here’s another foray into the birth of Jesus. How was he the “Son of David” if Joseph, the descendant of David, wasn’t really his father?
Biblical prophecy foretold that a descendant of David would rule on his father’s (David’s) throne and rebuild the fallen tabernacle of David. From the beginning, the Christian movement has claimed that this descendant is Jesus, who was miraculously born to Mary, a young virgin, and her betrothed husband Joseph.
If St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is all true, then premillennialism is false.
My non-religious readers may have no idea what I’m talking about. I can sympathise. I think (but I could be wrong) that this might be the first time I have ever written about this subject at the blog. I stopped thinking about arguments over things like the “millennium,” the “rapture,” the “great tribulation” and the like some time ago. It’s interesting in a way, don’t get me wrong, but after thinking about theology for some years now those things just feel like they belong in the toybox of Christian theology. That’s not to say there are no truths associated with them, it’s just that they remind me so much of sensational books and relatively pointless squabbles between seminary men in tweed jackets with patches on the elbows in journals like Bibliotheca Sacra in the 70s and 80s (not that I was around when these things happened – I was born in 1975). And yet, it’s a serious subject within Evangelical theology and deserves to be taken seriously when coming to terms with Evangelical theology.
The subject of premillennialism was raised in a recent discussion, and I made the comment that I think St Paul’s view expressed in the first letter to the Corinthians (chapter 15), if true, would rule premillennialism out altogether. Somebody asked me why I thought this, and here you are, reading my answer. I’ll unpack the terminology as we go. Continue reading “St Paul and Premillennialism”→
“Speaking in tongues”? It may sound like gobbledygook, but some people think they are speaking in the language of angels, whatever that is. Are they right?
The last century (give or take a couple of decades) saw the birth of a new movement within Evangelicalism. The Pentecostal phenomenon is now ubiquitous in world Christianity, including within the mainstream churches (where it is more often called a “charismatic renewal,” with the term “Pentecostal” used to describe denominations marked by charismatic practice and theology). I have commented on some aspects of the movement before, in particular its belief in the “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” I’m going to write a couple of articles on the distinctive Pentecostal / charismatic phenomenon of “speaking in tongues,” regarded with suspicion by some within the wider church, with amusement by those outside, but widely viewed as evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit by insiders. It seems all the more appropriate that I should publish the first instalment in this series today, on Pentecost Sunday! Continue reading “The Tongues of Men and Angels: Tongues part 1”→
Long story short: “Turning the other cheek” does not mean becoming a pacifist. But some of you may require more persuasion than that, so keep reading.
On the 27th of October 2012 I enjoyed taking part in a panel discussion for Elephant TV on Christian views on war. Dr Chris Marshall (a former lecturer of mine) and Adrian Leason spoke on behalf of the Christian pacifist view, and Rev. Captain Paul Stanaway and I represented a just war perspective. Elephant TV is a fairly unique forum in New Zealand, bringing together Christians from different perspectives on contentious issues in front of an audience and cameras, getting a summary of their side of the story and putting questions to them to discuss. I think the event – and the series as a whole – is a fantastic idea to give exposure within the Christian community to the “elephant in the room” (where the show gets its title), those issues that we know are there and are important, but aren’t necessarily being discussed in churches in a way where all sides get a fair hearing.
The hope of all of this of course is not just that people will hear somebody say something they like and make up their mind on the spot, but that they will gain a new perspective to help them think more about these things for themselves. We were only able to scratch the surface of some of the issues mentioned, and as I said to people after the recording – there’s so much that we’d all no doubt like to have added, responded to, explained further, but that’s what blogs are for! Being stimulated to focus again on the issues of pacifism, the use of force and the role of Scripture in the discussion has meant that my thoughts have been occupied by some of the biblical material that frequently becomes part of the arsenal (pun intended) of Christian pacifists. Over the next little while I’ll be discussing some of that biblical material.
What does it mean to say that we should use Scripture to understand Scripture?
A discussion that I was having today reminded me of an issue that you hear about often when discussing biblical interpretation with Evangelicals (among whom I count myself). That issue was the practice of using Scripture to interpret Scripture. It took me back to great textbooks that I was reading in my undergrad years and prior (books like Klein, Blomberg and Hubbard’s Introduction to Biblical Interpretation) and to classes with Bill Osborne and Chris Marshall (“Interpretative Method”). It’s a fairly significant issue if only because of the way that it shapes the way so many people understand the Bible, and the discussion I was part of today has prompted me to write down some of my thoughts on the use – and abuse – of the practice of using Scripture to interpret Scripture. Continue reading “Letting the Bible Interpret Itself?”→
In this instalment of the Nuts and Bolts series I thought I’d offer an outline of an issue that I was reminded of by some articles suggested to me recently. That issue is the Trinitarian notion of the subordination of the Son to the Father.
In one of these articles (by Ben Witherington), the writer denied that Christians ever believed in the eternal submission of Jesus the Son to his Father until 1977, when this “novel” suggestion was first made. I had to look twice to make sure I was reading it right! But there it was, this claim that simply flies in the face of historical fact. In context it was patently obvious that the goal of the article was not actually to explore or explain historical theology, but to make a claim for a position on a hot-button issue about gender and church (the claim was made that this doctrine was invented in 1977 to justify the oppression of women). The horse was before the cart, and theology in general was being re-read for the sake of a modern conflict. It’s the kind of thing that troubles me greatly, when people appear to approach an issue in theology with one eye looking back over their shoulder at a cultural issue where they feel obliged to come out on the “safe” side of an issue in the modern world, and the cultural pressure they are facing ends up controlling the theological outcome they reach. In light of the fact that such things go on all the time, I thought it would be a good idea to say a word or two to explain the historically orthodox view of the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father. Whether you believe it or not is another matter, as is the question of what implications you think it has, but all I really want to do here is to explain that it really is a historically orthodox perspective, and has very plausible biblical support.