I didn’t write that series on women.

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I’ve had this post sitting in draft for a few days as I pondered whether or not to post it. Obviously I decided to press that button.

A long time ago I announced that I was going to write a series of articles on the various New Testament passages tied up in the issue of the role of women in the church, specifically when it comes to ordination and preaching. Shortly thereafter the blog fell relatively silent. Plenty of people have been accessing the material that’s already here, which is great to see, but my output is negligible.

I won’t go into all the reasons this happened, because my life is my own (well, it’s God’s and self-ownership is a lie so I suppose I mean that some parts of my life are private) and I don’t intend to share it all. But one of the main reasons this series was not forthcoming is the same as one of the reasons why my writing output here plummeted. This blog post, which will hopefully signal the start of a bit more activity here, is about as close to a window on my psyche as you’re likely to get in writing. It’s partially a vent, and certainly not designed to persuade you of anything, nor is it an invitation to argue about whether or not what I say here is true. Here’s the reason:

Human beings are terrible. Continue reading “I didn’t write that series on women.”

Episode 054: Life is Good!

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Here’s a talk I had the pleasure of giving at Mardon Road Church in Hamilton, in December 2017.

Do you really need a sermon to convince you that being alive is being better than dead? Well if you weren’t sure, hopefully I can talk you around!

 

 

 

THOSE Bible passages about women

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Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

I’m about to write about what the Bible says about men, women, and the church, and I do so with a sense of weariness at what might follow.

I have come to truly, truly hate the conversation among Christians about what the Bible says about the sexes and their roles (or lack of specific roles) in the church. I don’t say that about many conversations. People put their hand to the plow of biblical exegesis and then look back. Actually that’s possibly too kind – people put their hand to the plow of biblical exegesis as a gesture because they know that Christians are supposed to do biblical exegesis, but they are looking back the whole time. They are looking over their shoulder, away from the text and at the values they already hold. They are looking away from the text and at the world, fearful that they will look backwards or insufficiently progressive in the eyes of others. They cannot, at least as far as I can tell, make any distinction between “this is what I, a Christian person with my values, believe and is important to me” and “this is what this piece of text, external to me and written by somebody else, means.”

The Bible might convey things that you find offensive.

As an individual Christian person with your own beliefs, values and priorities, you must be willing and able – not just with your lips but with your actions – to reconcile yourself to the fact that when you are interpreting a piece of text, even a piece of text in the Bible, you might not agree with it. The Bible might convey things that you find offensive. You need to be willing and able to shut up, keep your voice out of it, and let the text speak even when it violently rides roughshod over what you would have said if you had been the author. Even when it sounds bigoted in your opinion. Even when it’s embarrassing. Shut up and listen. Continue reading “THOSE Bible passages about women”

Progressive Christians would have shamed Jesus

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Partly a product of social media, the way we talk about those with whom we disagree has changed a lot.

In particular, at the risk of sounding partisan, here is the way I see those who view themselves as “progressive” (what a terrible name to give yourself) engaging religious conservatism: Instead of talking to people about why they disagree and why they think people of a conservative bent should change their minds or behaviour, they talk about them to the world. When they do so they are not critically engaging  with them (even if they tell us that this is what they are doing). Instead they are serving the social function of shaming them, not so that they will change their mind, but so that they will be afraid of speaking.

Many progressive Christians, if I have observed things correctly, think that they are the real followers of Jesus (who, we are told, was an inclusive, tolerant, liberal-minded progressive), while religious conservatives are more like the religious hypocrites from whom Jesus distanced himself. Sweeping generalisations are usually wrong if taken as hard and fast rules. This description is true of many religious conservatives, no doubt There are plenty of them, after all. But to a large extent it is self-flattering nonsense. While many progressives like to say that religious conservatives “pick and choose” which commands of Jesus they follow, sometimes it’s helpful to hold up a mirror to this outlook, if only because of its irrepressible self-confidence in being real, authentic, pure-as-the-driven-snow, Jesus-following Christianity, along with its current occupation of a position of social power, something Christians are justified in being suspicious of (let’s remember that it’s not just a worrying combination when it’s manifested in the religious right).

Progressive Christianity, had it existed in the first century, would have found opportunities to shame Jesus himself. Continue reading “Progressive Christians would have shamed Jesus”

Christian Today got loads of clicks with this one weird trick

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Note: When this article was first written it made reference to Christianity Today. This was an error. In fact the website in question is Christian Today. My apologies for the initial error.

Clickbait. Clickbait is everywhere. What happened next will blow your mind. You won’t believe what this guy said. Personal trainers hate this guy for telling everyone this one weird trick to lose weight. OMG, #5 on this list gave me chills!

Sometimes clickbait is blatant, as in examples like those. Other times it’s in the wording, where you can argue that there’s a sense in which the headline is true, but the writer knows quite well that people will understand it to mean something that is blatantly false yet titillating.

I expect clickbait from some places, as well as headlines and even stories that spin things so extremely that they basically amount to what is being dubbed fake news. Yes, Huffington Post, I mean you.

Now here’s a recent tweet from Christian Today:

That looks pretty clear, right? Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is going to express remorse over The Reformation. I don’t think there’s any honest doubt about what those words will be taken to mean by most readers: The Archbishop of Canterbury, to a considerable extent at least, regrets that the Reformation happened. Typical. What a wishy-washy, Ecumenical liberal who doesn’t think theological distinctives matter. He’s basically a Catholic! Anglicans, huh? What else would you expect?

Bait laid. Next come the clicks for which the bait was laid. And when you click on the link, you’re taken to the story, with this headline:

Oh. So… he doesn’t regret the Reformation. He regrets that it was accompanied by violence. Well. How about that?

Actually, CT used as its source a story from the Daily Mail (yes, really), which is entirely about violence and people being burned to death etc, something Welby regrets.

Decide for yourself whether or not this constitutes clickbait. The answer will shock you!

 

With the spirit and with understanding: Tongues part 2

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This is part two of a series on “speaking in tongues.” In part one I looked at the idea that there’s an angelic language, and those who speak in “tongues” might be speaking in the language of angels. There really wasn’t any good evidence that St Paul thought that way. However, most of what he wrote about speaking in other languages appears in 1 Corinthians 14, so that’s where we’re going to look in this article. I’m going to walk through part of that chapter here. Some people think that St Paul described speaking in tongues as the gift of speaking in a spiritual language that we do not understand, as a way of building ourselves up spiritually. Those who think this way, I maintain, need to read Paul a bit more carefully. Continue reading “With the spirit and with understanding: Tongues part 2”

Have Yourself a Very Pagan Christmas! (not)

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It’s that time of year. Christmas is just days away, and I’m pleasantly surprised our media in New Zealand hasn’t trotted out the same “scholars” as last time to break the scandalous story that… I don’t know, Jesus never really existed (yawn), Nazareth didn’t exist (uh huh), Israel never existed, Jesus was a gay feminist or something equally likely.

One reliable Christmas theme is that really, Christmas isn’t Christian in origins. You’ll hear things like:

“Someone keeps putting up “Keep Christ in Christmas” and “Christ is the reason” signs all around my town. I’m guessing they don’t know about the celebration’s pagan roots.”

That’s the caption that was attached to this “pagan traditions” picture. If you do start hearing this sort of things from those heathen carollers of the internet, this year give the gift of knowledge.

Continue reading “Have Yourself a Very Pagan Christmas! (not)”

All Scripture is… just handy?

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In a shocking and unexpected move, overtly progressive Christian bloggers have been making bad arguments against unpopular conservative forms of Christianity and their whacky view of the Bible.  If I were not so busy pummeling homeless people with my fists and stockpiling guns, I would be outraged.

It started like this: Someone shared a link to an article by Fred Clark, summarising an article on 2 Timothy 3:16, telling us that his “fundamentalist” friends (he elsewhere in the article refers to them as “fundies”) like to use this verse to address any question about “the infallibility or inerrancy or “literal” interpretation of the Bible.” Surely there’s a bit of rhetorical overstatement here – I’m yet to encounter people using this passage to show that a “literal” interpretation of the whole Bible is correct. But Clark’s point – or at least the one that caught my eye and prompted me to comment on Facebook when somebody shared the article, was about authority.

Fred says that Paul doesn’t claim that Scripture is authoritative or inerrant. He only claims that Scripture is “useful”:1

This verse doesn’t claim that scripture is authoritative, or infallible, or inerrant. It claims that scripture is “useful.” As McGrath puts it: “The focus is entirely on behavior. Scriptures are not said to impart right doctrine, but to be useful in training people in living a particular way.” [Emphasis added]

On the face of it, this is not true. Sure, Paul is, in this context, talking about behaviour. But this verse doesn’t only say that Scripture is useful, it says that Scripture is god-breathed and useful. The writer of the blog was simply omitting the first part of what Paul says, and as a result his claim was false. When “fundies” cite this verse to show that Paul thought Scripture had authority, they are not referring to the fact that he called Scripture “useful” (although of course they don’t deny that). They are talking about the fact that Paul considered the Scripture to be breathed by God. So to deny that Paul calls Scripture authoritative on the grounds that he actually called it useful is simply not a true thing to say. Continue reading “All Scripture is… just handy?”

  1. I understand that some people think Paul didn’t write the pastoral Epistles, including 1 and 2 Timothy. In recent years I’ve become impressed by the flimsiness of the arguments against Pauline authorship of these letters. I will not comment on that issue here, but I will refer here to the author as Paul. []

Love is not for the worthy (That video about the shopkeeper and the homeless man)

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You might have seen this video being circulated on social media lately, about a shopkeeper and a homeless man:

This does not sit right with me. In fact as far as reasons go for treating homeless people better, this is terrible. Continue reading “Love is not for the worthy (That video about the shopkeeper and the homeless man)”

Jesus never said ANYTHING about X!

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Christians shouldn’t oppose X, because Jesus never said anything about X! Right?

With same-sex marriage being the topic of the day for a lot of “progressive Christians,” this is an argument I’ve seen lately. Since Jesus never said anything about same-sex marriage, Christians shouldn’t oppose it either. When I last saw it, I queried whether it was even true, but the same line was repeated back to me each time: Jesus said NOTHING about same-sex marriage (the capitals were used in the reply). Continue reading “Jesus never said ANYTHING about X!”