An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Odds and sods

Tom Wright on Crossan[HT NT Resources blog]; the review begins:

Once upon a time there was a book. We do not know where she came from, or how she grew to be what she was; one doesn’t know about books, only that, well, there they are—or at least, that we ourselves confronted in what we feel to be a bookish way when we are in their presence. And the sense of being so confronted is so strong in this case that we will skip Stanley Fish and say, again but with more conviction, once upon a time there was a book.

Observations and arabesques is a new blog - and looks like it's worth adding to the rss reader. He has a great post on 'The basis and results of a christian philosophy'. He maintains that the Christian philosopher must be a generalist, a poet and a good communicator.


Evangelicals and the environment a podcast with Gregg Allison [HT Tim Challies]

How to replace windows with Ubuntu [HT lifehack]. My son has been running Ubuntu and he loves it.

Greg Veltman on the Next Philip K Dick novel to be made into a film

Monday, 24 September 2007

ASA/CiS Edinburgh mp3s

There are many audios of the recent ASA/CiS conference, New Frontiers in Science and Faith, at Edinburgh here. Speakers include: Uko Zylstra, Arie Leegwater, Donald Petcher and Alister McGrath. More audio will follow apparently.

Goudzwaard lectures

On October 13th, the Institute for Christian Studies (ICS) is holding a worldview conference in Toronto, Ontario, inspired by Hope in Troubled Times: A New Vision for Confronting Global Crises. The three coauthors of this work, Bob Goudzwaard, Mark Vander Vennen, and David Van Heemst, will be providing the plenary addresses.

The event is part of a series of lectures across Canada by Bob on the themes raised in Hope. These include:
  • The King's University College in Edmonton, Alberta (18th Oct) pdf poster
  • Christian Reformed Church of Calgary - with Brian McLaren (20th Oct)
  • Trinity Western University (23rd and 24th Oct)

Saturday, 22 September 2007

AoLR update


I have now added two more chapters to Pete Steen's book The Structure of Herman Dooyeweerd's Thought: Chapter 4 and Chapter 5.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Goudzwaard bargain!


Bob Goudzwaard's new book is now available for £12.99 post free from Richard Russell at the Christian Studies Unit.

PSCF review of Creation Regained

Al Wolters's Creation Regained is reviewed in Perspectives in Science and Christian Faith (Sept 2006) is now on-line:

CREATION REGAINED: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview by Albert M. Wolters. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005. 145 pages. Paperback; $12.00.ISBN: 0802829694.

This is a revised and expanded edition of Creation Regained, a book which has been in print for twenty years and translated into eight languages. It has high praise from Nicholas Wolterstorff who evaluates it as “the best statement … of the reformational worldview.” The book’s five chapters have a good many scriptural references, but the book has no footnotes, index, or bibliography.

Why did Wolters write this book?

Creation Regained is offered to the church to equip her in a world that desperately needs to see and hear the good news that God’s kingdom has come: God is renewing the creation and the whole of human life in the work of Jesus Christ by the Spirit (p. 143).

The chapter most likely to appeal to PSCF readers is also the longest and is entitled “Creation.” Wolters defines creation as “the correlation of the sovereign activity of the Creator and the created order” (p. 14). He does not believe in a deist god who forsakes creation after setting it in motion. While God created the planets, oversees the seasons, and makes plants grow and animals reproduce, God has entrusted to humans the jobs of making tools, exercising justice, creating art, and seeking knowledge.

Wolters uses the word “law” to refer to the totality of God’s ordaining acts toward the cosmos. He thinks the word “creation” is too broad in referring to created things and too narrow in excluding God’s providence (p. 15). Creation law includes general revelation, which implies that creation is knowable.

There is some disagreement among Christians as to whether social sciences and humanities are as knowable as natural science. God’s rule of law, while immediate in nature, is mediate in culture and society. Creation without sin is “wholly and unambiguously good” (p. 48).
The other chapters in this book deal with worldview and its practical implications, the Fall, and Redemption. The important issue is how Christians should arrive at biblical views about technology, aggression, political revolution, dance, education, and sexuality (p. 87). On the latter, Wolters observes: “Sexual immorality should be opposed not to repress sex but to show forth its true glory” (p. 111).

This book is widely used in academic settings, and it would be an appropriate book for seminary students, graduate students, pastors, teachers, or informed laypersons.

Wolters is professor of religion, theology, and classical languages at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario. Mike Goheen, Geneva Chair of Reformational Worldview Studies at Trinity Western University, assisted Wolters in writing the postscript, “Worldview between Story and Mission.”

Reviewed by Richard Ruble, John Brown University, Siloam Springs, AR 72761.

odds and sods

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

ASBO Jesus




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A reverse Narnia effect

In Narnia time seems to pass at a different rate - the children who have been days in Narnia come back and find that only a few minutes have passed. The Internet is different - every time I surf on the 'net for a few minutes I log off and it appears that a few hours have passed by at home. There is some obviously some kind of reverse Narnia effect going on.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Odds and sods






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To Logos or to Accordance? That is the question

Phil Gons recommends the Theological Journal Library. My one regret in switching from a PC to a mac is that I can't read my Thological library CD - it is a truly excellent resource.

I am in a quandry: do I get Accordance or wait until Logos is Mac compatible and hope that the resources I already have for Logos will then run on my Mac? Or do I get parallels and run Logos that way? Trouble is none of the solutions are exactly cheap!

Any advice anyone?



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Saturday, 15 September 2007

Dooyeweerd's 'What is man?'

A pdf of Herman Dooyeweerd's 'What is man?' from the International Reformed Bulletin is available here.

Frank Viola's Pagan Christianity

I managed to get a cheap copy of this book, I am really enjoying reading it. It it first came to my attention through the blogging of John La Grou at Microeclesia who has just finished a lengthy 10-part review of it.

Frank Viola, a proponent of the house church movement, has summarised a lot of the ‘pagan’ origins – though its clear his use of the term pagan is very broad – of what we associate with Christianity – or perhaps better Churchianity. These include:

  • The Sunday service order of service – evolving from Gregory’s Mass with revisions made during the Reformation
  • The sombre approach to a church service – an idea taken from a mediaeval view of piety
  • The ‘modern’ sermon – origins in the Greek sophists
  • The church building – initiated by Constantine circa AD 327, the first buildings were based on Roman basilicas and Greek temples
  • The pulpit – borrowed from the Greek ambo, a pulpit used by Greeks and Jews for delivering monologues
  • Hierarchical leadership – based on the leadership models of Babylonians, Persinas, Greeks and Romans
  • Wearing the Sunday best for church services – began in the late eighteenth century, the emerging middle classes wanted to look like the welathy aristocracy
  • Clergy costume – based on the clothes of the Roman officials
  • Backward collars – invented in 1865 by Donald McLeod

Viola is spot on when he describes most of the practices we associate with ‘church’ as being unconducive to participation in the services. They promote the idea of a one man (and it usually is a man) ‘ministry’. As Viola comments:

..the architecture of Protestant church building points all of its arrows in the direction of the person who delivers the sermon. The building is suited for a pulpit domination. And it equally puts constraints on the functioning of the congregation.

This arrangement makes it nearly impossible for one worshipper to look into the face of another. Instead, it creates a sit-and-soak form of worship that turns functioning Christians into ‘pew potatoes!’ To state it differently, the very architecture prevents fellowship except betwee God and his people via the pastor! And yet despite these facts, we Christians still believe the building is sacred. (p 134).
The result is the body becomes all mouth and ears, it encourages a split between clergy and laity.

It seems to me, though, that at times Viola is guilty of the genetic fallacy; it is wrong to condemn a practice based on its history, however dubious that history may be. The origin of something does not necessarily have any bearing upon its truth. Clothes are the direct result of rebellion against God – does that mean that wearing clothes is wrong? Practices must be damned or praised on their present merits not their previous history.

Why should we return to New Testament models of church services or (non)buildings? Are the models intended to be normative or are they merely descriptive? Is Viola embracing some form of reverse chronological snobbery? It also assumes that we know what the first century church was like! The few glimpses we have in the New Testament hardly provide a blueprint; though they do provide some helpful pointers. And it does seem far away from what we have in the institutional churches today.

Elsewhere Viola has described what he perceives to be a NT church service, it is broadly one that is modelled on 1 Corinthians 14. And I have great sympathy for this model. But how do we know if the this Corinthian model was used at Rome, Athens or Jerusalem? I suspect that the first-century practices are not quite so uniform as Viola thinks.

Leonard Sweet (The Church in Emerging culture: Five Perspectives, Zondervan, 2003) devised a matrix (above) to show ‘four general conditions in which Christian faith may be lived and practiced’ (p 19). Viola obviously belongs in section 1 – he wants no change in method and no change in message. We do however, need to be open to Holy Spirit change!

Viola’s book is well written, readable and well researched, he makes much use of many secondary sources. He has some excellent insights, not least being the need to overcome the clergy-laity divide and the need for church services to become much more participatory. He has shown the Greek and Scholastic influences in church service and building design. It should be required reading for all those in so-called ‘full-time Christian ministry’. May Viola’s book help us to consider prayerfully what we do when we go to the church building. It may well help expose unhelpful traditions and help us to be more open to what the spirit is saying to the churches today.

Viola is interviewed here

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Philosophers talking with pastors

Jack Caputo and and Richard Kearney in conversation with Russell Rathburn and Geoff Holscaw here.


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Pansy Calvinists?

David 'Political Visions and Illusions' Koyzis suggests that Calvinists might be pansies:

Perseverance of the saints
Authority of scripture
Noetic effects of the fall
Salvation in Jesus Christ
Yes to God’s grace


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Friday, 7 September 2007

Towards a Christian view of work

The modern concept of work has little in common with that of Genesis. In contemporary society our whole identity is too often tied up with "what we do", our employment. The fruit of this identification of work with employment and identity is that we have marginalised the unemployed. They are the outcasts.

The biblical story of creation. fall and redemption provides a useful framework in which to look at work.

The creation narrative is highly subversive(Hasel 1974; Walsh 1992; Wenham 1987). It undermined ancient near Eastern worldviews and continues to subvert contemporary ideas about work:

  • Work is a necessary means to an end (i.e. leisure and wealth)
  • Work is a necessary evil
  • Work is the earning of a wage

Creation

The first thing to note is that work is not a product of the fall. It is a part of the creation order. This undermines any notion that work is a necessary evil. God works and expects his creatures to work as well. Melakah, the ordinary word for human work (Wenham 1987: 35), is used to describe the activity of God: God works. This is in refreshing contrast to Greek gods who spent their time eating and drinking.

For the Greeks and Romans work was "unleisure" (Vanderkloet 1980: 21). From a biblical perspective work is positive not negative. It is part of what it means to be image bearers of God. Imaging God involves work. Thus, work can, in and of itself, bring fulfilment, it is not a means to the end of pleasure. To be human is to work (Dow 1987:13). This is in stark contrast to the Babylonian creation stories.

In the sixth tablet of the Enuma Elish humans are created so that gods do not have to work (Walton 1989 :22)

Blood will I compose, bring a skeleton into being,

Produce a lowly, primitive creature, "Man" shall be his name: I will create lullu-amelu - an earthly, "puppet"-man.

To him be charged the service that the gods may then have rest...

(Enuma Elish VI.5 in Winton Thomas (1958:12))

In Atrahasis some deities become tired of their work and rebel: "The gods' solution is to create [humans] to do the work" (Walton 1989: 21). Work is seen as a punishment; in the biblical narratives work is a privilege and a divine commission.

For the Greeks to be a manual labourer was to be considered part slave; freedom to pursue leisure was the only worthwhile life. In Gen 2: we have God creating humans out of the earth presumably as a potter with his hands! Here God vindicates manual labour.

What is often supposed to be the so-called second creation story places the creation of humanity in the context of work. There was no-one to work the ground, so God created humanity (2:5-7). Work (abad) in this context takes on a stewardship function. Work is important so that the garden can be cultivated. This echoes the supposed Priestly creation story where part of the human task of imaging God is to subdue the earth and rule over the living creatures(Cf Hall 1986;1990)

Work is integral to the human task of stewardship, hence work is not merely for humans to eat and feed others (pace Houston1980:162), or to earn a wage. It is part and parcel of developing and continuing the task of creation began by God.

We can concur with William Tyndale:

There is no work better than another to please God: to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a souter (cobbler) or an apostle, all is one; to wash dishes, and to preach is all one, as touching the deed, to please God.

Fall

Work is deformed by the fall. Its direction has been changed. Instead of meaningful work we can expect toil. The boa constrictor of toil has swallowed the warthog of work. Abad becomes itstsabon.

Itstsabon used only 3 times in the scriptures: twice in Gen 3 the other in Gen 5:29. It has been translated as sorrow, pain and toil. As a result of the fall, childbearing and work become a painful toil.

The work in developing the garden and producing food to eat is hampered by thistles and thorns. The mandate to fill the earth and subdue it is not rescinded it just becomes that much harder.

Redemption

Genesis 1-4 can only hint at the redemption of work: the warthog of work can now swallow the boa constrictor of toil - thanks only to the redemptive power of the cross and resurrection. Work and rest go hand in hand. It is this aspect that can help redeem work. Work without rest results in workaholism; rest without work results in laziness. The jubilee legislation and the decalogue are rooted in these creational aspects of work and then rest and are designed to bring a measure of redemption to work.

The punishments that come as the result of human sin i.e. infertile ground, that leads to toil, and banishment are standard curses, the remedy for which is obedience (cf Lev 26; Deut 28).

Many jobs are boring, repetitive and tedious, these jobs - if technology for instance were done responsibly before God - could be transformed. It is an obedient use of appropriate and responsible technology (Monsma 1986) that could relieve the frustration and tedium from jobs. If businesses and factories were run in obedience to biblical norms then jobs could be redeemed. Unfortunately for many employment is little short of slavery.

We can catch glimpses of redeemed jobs this side of the eschaton. We can, however, look forward to the toil that resulted from the fall being undone at the consummation. The thorns and thistles will be no more: there will be a whole transformation of the creation(Gowan 1986: ch 4).

There will be work in the new earth, it will however be work that is meaningful and not frustrating or tedious.

References

Graham Dow "What place does work have in God's purpose" Holy Trinity Papers (1987)

Donald E. Gowan Eschatology in the Old Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986)

Douglas J Hall Imaging God: Dominion as Stewardship (Friendship/ Eerdmans, 1986)

Douglas J Hall The Steward: A Biblical Symbol Come of Age (Friendship/ Eerdmans, 1990)

Gerhard Hasel "The polemic nature of the Genesis cosmology" Evangelical Quarterly vol 46 (1974) pp 81-102

James M. Houston I Believe in the Creator (Eerdmans, 1980)

Stephen Monsma (Editor) Responsible Technology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986)

D. Winton Thomas (ed.) Documents from Old Testament Times (London: Nelson, 1958)

Edward Vanderkloet "Why work anyway?" in Labour of Love: Essays on Work (Wedge, 1980)

Brian J. Walsh Subversive Christianity: Imaging God in a Dangerous Time (Regius, 1992)

John H Walton Ancient Israelite Literature in its Cultural Context (Regency/ Zondervan, 1989)

Gordon J. Wenham Genesis 1-15 (WBC) (Word, 1987)

This book sounds interesting ....

Microclesia has been blogging through Frank Viola's Pagan Christianity (Present Testimony Ministry, 2003) (it will be re-released with george Barna as a co-author shortly). [ht faithmaps]

Here are a few extracts from Microeclesia on Viola:

Viola spends a few chapters showing 2nd-5th century Greek and Roman influence on Xn gathering, preaching, and hierarchy formation - and shows just how far we’ve drifted from the simplicity of “being” church - gathering together in Acts-like communities.

The notion of “going to church” / “church building” / paid clergy giving a “sermon in church” (etc.) would have been unknown to early Christ followers. The concept of church with “paid experts up front dispensing religious information” appears to be a third-century confluence of Greek sophistry and Roman judicial hierarchy.

Viola shows how Protestantism simply rearranged the ecclesial deck chairs of middle-ages Catholicism, including the elevation of religious experts (pastors, etc.) that effectively “run the show.” Says Viola, “…after the smoke cleared from the Reformation, we ended up with the same thing that the Catholics gave us – a selective priesthood!”

“The modern pastor is the most unquestioned element in modern Christianity. Yet he does not have a strand of scripture to support his existence… Rather, the modern pastor was born out of the single-bishop-rule first spawned by Ignatius and Cyprian. The bishop evolved into the local presbyter. In the Middle Ages, the presbyter grew into the Catholic priest. During the Reformation, he was transformed into the preacher, the minister, and finally the pastor – the man upon whom all of Protestantism hangs. To juice it down to one sentence: The Protestant pastor is little more than a slightly reformed Catholic priest.”

If I had to distill Pagan Christianity into one sentence, it would be this: We have institutionalized, centralized, formalized, stratified, professionalized, academized, and mega-fied something that was intended to remain organic, holistic, distributed, participative, fluid, and deeply communal.

Viola concludes, “Herein lies the root and stem of Christian education. It is built on the Platonic idea that knowledge and spirituality are the same… (ital mine) Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle (both students of Socrates) are the fathers of modern Christian education. To use a biblical metaphor, modern Christian education, whether it be seminarian or Bible college, is serving food from the wrong tree: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil rather than the tree of life…”



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Monday, 3 September 2007

Christian work

Dorothy L. Sayers from 'Why work?' in Creed or Chaos:

The only Christian work is good work done well. Let the Church see to it that the workers are Christian people and do their work well, as to God: then all the work will be Christian work, whether it is Church embroidery, or sewage-farming. As Jacques Maritain says: 'If you want to produce Christian work, be a Christian, and try to make a work of beauty into which you have put your heart; do not adopt a Christian pose.' He is right. And let the Chruch remember that the beauty of the work will be judged by its own, and not by ecclesiastical standards. Let me give you an illustration of what I mean. When my play The Zeal of Thy House was produced in London, a dear old pious lady was much struck by the beauty of the four great archangels who stood throughout the play in their heavy, gold robes, eleven feet high from wing-tip to sandal-tip. She asked with great innocence 'whether I selected the actors who played the angels for the excellence of their moral character?' I replied that the angels were selected, to begin with, not by me but by the producer, who had the technical qualifications for selecting suitable actors - for that was part of his vocation. And that he selected, in the first place, young men who were six feet tall, so that they would match properly together. Secondly, angels had to be of good physique, so as to be able to stand stiff on the stage for two and a half hours, carrying the weight of their wings and costumes, without wobbling, or fidgeting, or fainting. Thirdly, they must be able speak verse well, in an agreeable voice and audibly. Fourthly, they must be reasonably good actors. When all these technical conditions were fulfilled, we might come to the moral qualities, of which the first would be the ability to arrive on the stage punctually and in a sober condition, since the curtain must go up on time, and a drunken angel would indecorous. After that, and only after that, one might take character into consideration, but that - provided his behaviour was not so scandalous as to cause dissension among the company - the right kind of actor with no morals would give a far more reverent and seemly performance than a saintly actor with the wrong technical qualifications. The worst religious films I ever saw were produced by a company which chose its staff exclusively for their piety. Bad photography, bad acting, and bad dialogue produced a result so grotesquely irreverent that the pictures could not have been shown in churches without bringing Christianity into contempt. God is not served by technical incompetence; and incompetence and untruth always result when the secular vocation is treated as a thing alien to religion.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Odds and sods




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