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.

Sunday, 28 May 2006

Yet more AoLR

I added a few more things to All of Life Redeemed. Bruce Wearne's three interviews with Mark Roques - originally prepared for the Fiji Daily Post - are now added: here, here and here (all pdfs).

Don't forget to check out Mark's own excellent and multi-media website:

Saturday, 27 May 2006

All of Life Redeemed website update

Blogging may have been a little slow of late - but I have been busy with All of Life Redeemed.

A paper on reformational philosophy in New Zealand - by Petrus Simons - has been added to the personal perspectives section:

Chris Gousmett's pages have been updated with the following articles and sermons:

There are also one or two more things that I hope to have up in the next few days (stay tuned!). Also Geoff Wilson from Australia has sent me a whole load of materials he has scanned so I'm busy trying to get permission to post some of those.

Friday, 26 May 2006

Music videos

If Prosthesis can post some of his favourite music videos so can I!

Tuesday, 23 May 2006


IAPCHE, International Association for Promotion of Christian Higher Education, produce a newsletter, Contact, that is available as a pdf from their website.

Each issue includes a scholarly paper that promotes Christian higher education.  Some of these papers are avilable on tier website.  These include:

Monday, 22 May 2006

More on the Da Vinci Code

Scott McKnight on his Jesus Creed blog has an outline of a talk he did on the Da Vinci code. He makes an excellent point: the Da Vinci Code's central factor is that Jesus was married:

Everything in the DVC rests on one fact: Jesus was married.

1. To disprove this, one must have proof to assert it.
2. Statistics: since all Jewish males were married, Jesus was.
3. The Gnostic Gospels indicate this.
4. Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married.

First, Christians are not afraid of marriage.

Second, when we would expect a wife to appear, she does not: at Crucifixion (mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, John told to take care of Mary, the mother); 1 Cor 9:5: Paul could easily have appealed to Jesus.

Third, Christians told the truth about Jesus’ life: Mark 6:3; Mary as a sotah become na’ap; Joseph as a disgraced tsadiq.

Fourth, Jesus’ teachings about celibacy could well indicate personal life: Matthew 19:10-12; Mark 9:42-48

Fifth, the Gnostic Gospels are (1) late and (2) do not say Jesus was married.

Sixth, had the Magdalene been married, she would have been called “wife of Jesus” and not “from Magdala”.

Another excellent article is by Nancy Calvet-Koyzis 'Re-sexualizing the Magdalene: Dan Brown’s Misuse of Early Christian Documents in The Da Vinci Code ':

In his overwhelmingly popular novel, The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown states that he describes all documents “accurately” when he asserts the theory that Mary Magdalene had a sexual relationship with Jesus, was married to him and bore his children. In this article I will examine the sources for Brown’s ideas and compare them to the actual documents–particularly the Gnostic gospels –that he claims to have carefully described. I will argue that Brown not only misrepresents the documents that he claimed to have used but that he actually replicates the errors of the early church by concentrating on Mary’s sexual status rather than upon her status as the apostle to the apostles.

Bruce Wearne

Bruce Wearne's pages on All of Life Redeemed have been updated: a few links to some on-line papers have been added and two articles posted:

Sunday, 21 May 2006

No Magic Wand

David Caudill and Lewis LaRue have a new book soon to be published: No Magic Wand: The Idealization of Science in Law (Rowman and Littelfield, July 2006). A brief excerpt can be read here.

Caudill and LaRue argue that “science is no magic wand that can solve all social problems.” To imagine that it can do so is to idealize science. The idealization of science by judges and lawyers in court cases is the chief focus of No Magic Wand, but the authors point out that much the same thing often goes on in legislative policy making and in government administration.

Saturday, 20 May 2006

The Chaplins and the arts

According to Gideon Strauss, Jon Chaplin and his wife Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin are moving back to the UK. Jon is to be the director of the Institute for Christian Ethics at Tyndale House.

You can hear a conversation with Adrienne on the place and responsibilities of Christian artists in their communities here. See also here.

Speaking (or rather writing) about the arts, Geoff Hall is leading a day conference on Art Depreciation:

Edvard Munch got stressed about it; Kandinsky denied its value and Paul Klee found it too horrific to paint - this dayschool explores why so many artists and critics have found the project of making art in and about the twentieth century a traumatic experience.
Dayschool from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday 17 June 2006 at Department of History of Art, 43 Woodland Road, Bristol.

Sunday, 14 May 2006

All of life redeemed update

I have made one or two changes to the All of Life Redeemed web pages recently; these include:
Introducing reformational philosophy in Brazil: a hopeful report

Friday, 12 May 2006

Does the first testament support slavery? (part 2)


The meaning of any passage is context-dependent. Its context has many aspects, these include: literary, historical-cultural and canonical (cf Bauckham 1988). An examination of these different aspects will shed light on our discussion of slavery.

i The literary context. Leviticus 25:44-46 is perhaps the most explicit text in the support of slavery; it is the only place in the Holiness Code (H) - a term coined by A Klostermanmn in 1877- where there is discrimination against “temporary residents” (Patrick 1985). Its immediate literary context is that of the sabbath and Jubilee legislation, where slaves, animals and land are included in its provision. Opening up the context a little wider places it within H (Lev 17-26). The Israelite concept of holiness was not a narrow personal ethic, as unfortunately so much contemporary evangelical thinking nothing was excluded from the sphere of God’s holiness. Kaiser sees holiness as the “central organizing feature of Old Testament ethics” (1983 p139). It was the purpose of the book of Leviticus to expound the Law which would separate Israel out as the holy people of God; Israel was to be holy because God is holy. It may be in this context that the discrimination against aliens is to be understood: it reemphasised the distinctiveness of Israel, particularly as verses 44-46 are concluded by “you must not rule over your fellow Israelite ruthlessly”. Israel as God’s slaves were “forbidden to enslave one another” (Wright 1984, p199).

ii Historical-cultural context. Slavery was part and parcel of the social order of the ancient Near East (Wolff 1974, p199; Van der Ploog 1972 p76; Boeker 1980, p156); there were five major causes of slavery (Van der Ploog 1972, p78; Boeker 1980, p72):

• from prisoners of war;
• the sale of children by impoverished parents;
• voluntary enslavement caused by, for example, lack of employment and the need of protection;
• insolvency; and
• those born into slavery.

In the Near East slaves were the property of another (Van der Ploog 1972, p85); they were essential to the economic order and had no rights. They were treated as merchandise (Boeker 1980, p77) and even had a redeemable cash value (30 shekels) (Heaton 1956, p148). The code of Hammuurbai (CH), discovered in 1902 at Susa on an eight-foot-high black stele, was the law code of Hammurbai the king of Babylom (c. 1792-50 BCE); it recognised three classes of people awleum, the normal free citizens; muskenum, members of a social group that was free but dependent upon the crown; and slaves. The CH contains a death penalty for negligence in the settlement of a slave (§ 7); the death penalty for anyone who conceals a slave (§ 19); and (§ 17) a reward for the capture and return of a runaway slave.

Israel’s law was in marked contrast to this; they had all but abolished slavery. (This may have been because of Israel’s long history as a nation of slaves, which gave them empathy with other slaves.) Hebrews were to be released in the seventh year (Ex 21:2; Deut 15:12); they were not to be released empty handed (Deut 15:13); slaves could choose to remain with their masters (Deut 15:16) - the fact that some took up this option shows that slavery was preferable for some to freedom. The Law also offered protection from physical abuse (Ex 21:26-7); though perhaps the most radical provision in the Law was the law of asylum (Deut 23:15ff) (cf CH § 19,17). This law almost gave the slaves a right to runaway, though it presumes that the runaway will be the exception (Wright 1983, p182).

iii The canonical context. The most comprehensive way examining the canonical context is through the framework creation, fall and redemption.

The creation narratives are explicit: all of humanity is the image-bearer of God. This is in contrast to the ancient Near East texts. Amenophis III an Egyptian king, is described by the god Irmon as “my living image” (Clines 1968, p85). Esarhaddon, a seventh century BCE Assyrian king was described as the “very image of Bel” (cited in Clines 1968. p83). In an Assyrian state letter the following appears:

A (free) man is the shadow of god, the slave is as the shadow of a (free) man; but the king is like unto the (very) image (mussulu) of god (cited in Clines 1968, p84).
In the ancient Near East the kings, not the rest of humanity, were the image of God (Clines 1968, p85); consequently, humanity were devalued (Walsh 1990) - according to the Enuma Elish (VI.5), the Babylonian epic of creation, they were created from the blood of Tiamat to be slaves for the gods (kings):

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...”
(cited in Winton Thomas 1958, p12).

In contrast, the Israelite creation epic by asserting that all humanity is made in the image of God it declares that all humanity has equal value (cf Job 31:13-15). It not only “inspires the notion of equality” (Wolf 1974, p202) it undermines the Babylonian basis of slavery.

The fall deformed and distorted God’s good creation. The task of imaging God is made all that much harder (Bishop 1989, p7): the ground becomes cursed (Gen 3:17). Noah finds two ways of attempting to undo the curse (Gen 9). He gets drunk (v21) - the principle of working is diminished; and slaves (v25-6) obviate the need to work the cursed ground (Coombs 1988, p281). Slavery, then, is a result of the fall; the first time it is mentioned in the biblical canon is in the context of a curse (Wright 1983).

The exodus event was a focal point for the nation of Israel, it marked their redemption from slavery and had ramifications for how they treated slaves (eg, Lev 19:42; 25:42). They had been an oppressed people, so they were not to oppress others. Hence the slavery laws although not abolishing slavery - probably unthinkable in the cultural climate - treated it as abnormal and went a long way to humanising it, so much so that it could properly be called “service” rather than “slavery”. Slaves even had rights under Israelite legislation (Kaiser 1983, p98), they could participate in the sabbath rest (Lev 25:6; Ex 20:10) and were almost treated as part of the family.

The prophets were vehement in their attack against the dehumanisation of humanity; none more so than Amos. He denounces both Tyre and Edom for oppressive slave trading - the verb “to sell” in Amos 2:6 is used for the selling of slaves (Soggin 1987, p47). God demands socio-economic justice even for slaves.

Jesus had very little to say about slavery, though that does not mean he advocated it; he was also silent about piracy and arson (Swartley 1983, p51).

The apostle Paul in his articulation of the gospel shows how it cut across all barriers, and that in Christ slavery (as is nationalism and sexism) is abolished (Gal 3:28). Paul accepted the slave Onesimus as a son (Philemon 10), and asked Philemon to take him back “as a dear brother” (Philemon 16); a far cry from the Greek and Roman slavery of the time, when the slave was regarded as an “instrument that can talk” (Boeker 1980, p157).

Neither Israel’s laws, Jesus or Paul advocated the abolition of slavery, though they all pointed in that direction. At the consummation, heralded by the return of Jesus, there will be no slavery on the new earth there will be a new order (Rev 21:1-4). The shalom between humanity, the earth and God, ruptured by the fall will be restored (Is 2:49; 9:5; 11:6-9; 35:1; 66:17). Slavery, human oppression of human, will be a thing of the past we will all live in shalom with each other.


Israel provides us with a model or paradigm for today; this does not mean we accept all the laws in toto: the difference in cultural horizons shows the futility of that approach. The laws are not blueprints, we have to understand them in their context and recognise the direction in which they point (Bauckham 1988).

It is the underlying principles behind the laws that are important: we need to embrace the spirit not the letter of the law (compare Paul’s disregard of the law of asylum (Deut 23:15ff) in Philemon 16).
By looking for the God’s intention behind the laws it removes any problems in cultural transposition, as the norms underlying the- laws will not have changed. It also means that we will not have to divide up the law into any false categories, such as civil/ceremonial, as the purpose of the law would transcend such divisions.

Discovering the intention of the law involves seeing Israel as a paradigm, seeing if there is any development in the law, recognising the role of the fall and seeing what cultural factors influenced the character of the laws. It is not-a trivial task; but it does enable us to draw upon the strengths of the other approaches and to avoid their weaknesses. The purposes of God behind all the Old Testament laws reflect his will not only for Israel, who were to be a light to the nations, but also for the whole of creation; they transcend time, place and situation. Consequently, they will be equally valid today for church and world.

So, where does that leave us with slavery? The purpose and intention of the First Testament slavery laws are, at least, threefold:

  • they reveal the abnormality of slavery
  • they took steps to alleviate its dehumanising effects and
  • they pointed towards its abolition.

Embracing the underlying principles, or spirit, of the law would not mean accepting slavery but to work for its abolition, as in fact people like Wilberforce did.

However, slavery is not a problem that was solved two-hundred years ago, it is still something that confronts us today! In the Sudan, Dinka children are sold into slavery; child slaves are used in the stone quarries of Haryana State, India; and six-year-olds are sold for up to £75 in Bangkok to work in sweat shops. To take the First Testament seriously is to do something about it.

For more information about slavery today

Richard Bauckham The Bible and Politics (SPCK/Third Way, 1988).
Steve Bishop “Towards a biblical view of environmental care” Evangel 7 (1989) 7-8.
Hans Jochen Boecker Law and the Administration of Justice in
Old Testament and Ancient East (SPCK,1980).
David A Clines “The image of God in man” Tyndale Bulletin 19 (1968) 53-103 .
Eugene Coombs “Has YHWH cursed the ground’? Perplexity of interpretation in Geneis 1-5” in Ascribe to the Lord ed. L Eslinger and G Taylor (JSOT, 1988).
John Goldingay Approaches to Old Testament Interpretation (IVP, 1981)
Joh Goldingay “Divine ideals, human stubborness, and scriptutural innerancy” Transformation 2 (4) (1985) 1-4.
E W Heaton Everyday Life in Old Testament Times (Batsford,1956).
WaIter C Kaiser Toward Old Testament Ethics (Academie, 1983).
Bruce Kaye Using the Bible in Ethics (Grove Booklets no 13, 1976).
Roger Nicole “A response to John Goldingay” Transformation 2 (4)
(1985) 4-5.
Denis Nineham Use and Abuse of the Bible (Macmillan, 1976).
Dale Patrick Old Testament Law (SCM, 1985).
J A Soggin Amos (SCM, 1987).
Willard M Swartley Slavery, Sabbath, Women and War (Herald Press, 1983)
A C Thiselton The Two Horizons (Paternoster, 1980).
J P M Van det- Ploog “Slavery in the Old Testament” Vestus Testament Suppl. vol 22 (1972) 72-87
Brian Walsh Subversive Christianity (Regius Press, 1990)
Gordon Wenham “The perplexing Pentateuch” Vox Evangelica XVII (1987) 7-21.
D Winton Thomas (ed.) Documents From Old Testament Times (Nelson, 1958)

Sunday, 7 May 2006

Does the first testament support slavery? (part 1)

How can we apply the first Testament laws today? This is an important issue for Christian social issues and one I hope to go some way to answering by examining the Bible’s attitude to slavery. This is particularly relevant today with the Stop the Traffik campaign in its infancy.

The issue of slavery provides a poignant example of how our world-and-life view influences our interpretation of scripture. In the nineteenth century there was a lively debate among Christians about the ethics of slavery: “to argue against slavery in 1850 was to argue the inspiration and inerrancy of the authorative word of God” (Swartley 1983, p199). It is immediately apparent that those who strongly opposed the abolition of slavery were those who stood to benefit directly from it. The Quaker John Woolman claimed that:

The love of ease and gain are the motives in general of keeping slaves, and men are wont to take hold of weak arguments to support a cause which is unreasonable” (cited in Swartley 1983, p55)

In using the scripture for self-justification they failed to let themselves be confronted by the text and let the scriptures affect their prior assumptions. If the scriptures are to have more than a paper authority we should approach them with the full knowledge that we have our presuppositions and be willing for the scriptures to challenge them. This much we can learn from the nineteenth-century slave owners.

The issue of slavery is hermeneutical rather than exegetical, that is, it is a matter of interpretation rather than an explanation of certain texts. The Old Testament does on the face of it present a good case for slavery (see especially Lev 25:4446). But then other Old Testament texts suggest we should adhere to strict dietary laws (Lev 11:1-21) and stone blasphemers (Lev 24:14) - who would advocate these commands for today? There have been several ways that Christians have responded to the accusation that the Old Testament supports slavery today. I shall briefly examine six of them.

1. The scriptures are wrong

This is the approach of R. H. Preston (1976); he accuses the scriptures of being wrong in its attitude not only to slavery but also women, capital punishment and homosexuality. This response is wholly inadequate for several reasons: (i) it is arbitrary; who is to say which part of the scriptures is correct and which part wrong? If it is wrong over these issues might not it also be wrong over Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection? (ii) It is a response that is shaped by cultural forces; Preston reads the scriptures through his own cultural glasses and finds them wanting. However, his cultural glasses distort the scriptures; the problem is with the glasses not the text.

2. Cultural distance

Denis Nineham (1976) suggests that we cannot understand the scriptures - and hence its approach to slavery - because of the cultural distance between us and Old Testament times. We cannot understand the Bible author’s world, because we are too far removed from it, therefore we cannot hope to interpret what they wrote. Nineham is right in pointing out the problem of cultural distance; interpreting the scriptures is not a trivial task. But yet the difference between the two horizons, the text’s and the reader’s, are not insurmountable as Thiselton (1980) has shown.

There are, of course, discontinuities between” Israel” and us, but there are also continuities: we are human and have the same God - a God who does not change and neither do his principles that underlie the text. Nineham also undermines his own argument by writing a commentary on the Gospel of Mark, in doing so he is saying we can understand Mark, or at least it is worth the effort attempting to do so (Goldingay 1981, p41).

3. Dividing the law

Justin Martyr (c. 100-165 AD) first made the distinction between civil, ceremonial and moral aspects of the Law (Kaiser 1983,p412); hence civil and ceremonial - which would include slavery - would not be binding for us today, whereas the moral would. This division is arbitrary and artificial. Christopher Wright (drawing upon Anthony Phillips) divides the Law into: criminal, civil, family, cultic and charitable (Wright 1983, p151ff). Over-riding any categorisation we need to recall that all the ‘Law is God’s law’ (Wright 1983, p159).

Another similar approach is to divide the law into legislative and creation material (Kaye 1976, p8). The legislative material is concerned with the maintenance of the cult and part of the structure of the covenant, its context is Israel. The creation material can then be thought of as “decontextualised” covenant material (Kaye 1976, p 10) and thus it has application for all.

4. Development

This is a view articulated by Gordon Wenham when he states “slave laws are steps being taken towards the elimination of slavery, towards a world where all men are equal and free” (Wenham 1986, pl0). God presents his laws in instalments, slowly moving to the ideal.

If we unreservedly accept this view, then an unacceptable implication follows: the authority of the text is dependent upon Jesus undermines this when he talked about divorce, he based his arguments on the early creation narratives (Mk 10:1-6, cf Gen 2)

5. Condescension: accommodating the fall

It is important to remember that we live in a world tainted by the fall, hence Jesus explains that the divorce laws were for “your hardness of hearts” (Mk 10:1-6). The Old Testament laws reflect the sinfulness of humanity (Goldingay 1985, p2); they reflect the way the world is, not the way it should be. The Old Testament laws seek to “make slavery work with as little injustice as (Goldingay 1981, p59).

The problems with this principle of condescension are twofold (i) why then does God give us ideal standards? and (ii) it could open up the door to further depravity (Nicole 1985, p5)

6. Israel as a paradigm

An approach developed by Chris Wright (1983, pp40-45; 1984) sees Israel as a “paradigm”.. By paradigm he means “something used as a model or example for other cases where a basic principle remains unchanged, though details differ” (1983, p43). The French verb paler may be considered as a paradigm for all the other regular French verbs.

Using Israel as a paradigm means that we do not have to slavishly imitate Israel. It also opens out Israel’s relevance for social ethics - it is not limited to the narrow confines of history, as a model Israel is equally relevant to church and world (Wright 1984, p19).

These different approaches are not of course mutually exclusive. The first approach for those who hold to the authority of the scriptures is unacceptable; but the rest, to varying degrees contain elements of the truth. Nineham’s approach in the extreme is ludicrous but it does serve to remind us that the scripture does have its own context and any responsible interpretation must take that into account. It is to the problem of context that I will examine in part 2.


Richard Bauckham The Bible and Politics (SPCK/Third Way, 1988).

Steve Bishop “Towards a biblical view of environmental care” Evangel 7 (1989) 7-8.

Hans Jochen Boecker Law and the Administration of Justice in

Old Testament and Ancient East (SPCK,1980).

David A Clines “The image of God in man” Tyndale Bulletin 19 (1968) 53-103 .

Eugene Coombs “Has YHWH cursed the ground’? Perplexity of interpretation in Geneis 1-5” in Ascribe to the Lord ed. L Eslinger and G Taylor (JSOT, 1988).

John Goldingay Approaches to Old Testament Interpretation (IVP, 1981)

Joh Goldingay “Divine ideals, human stubborness, and scriptutural innerancy” Transformation 2 (4) (1985) 1-4.

E W Heaton Everyday. Life in Old Testament Times (Batsford,1956).

WaIter C Kaiser Toward Old Testament Ethics (Academie, 1983).

Bruce Kaye Using the Bible in Ethics (Grove Booklets no 13, 1976).

Roger Nicole “A response to John goldingay” Transformation 2 (4)

(1985) 4-5.

Denis Nineham Use and Abuse of the Bible (Macmillan, 1976).

Dale Patrick Old Testament Law (SCM, 1985).

J A Soggin Amos (SCM, 1987).

Willard M Swartley Slavery, Sabbath, Women and War (Herald Press, 1983)

A C Thiselton The Two Horizons (Paternoster, 1980).

J P M Van det- Ploog “Slavery in the Old Testament” Vestus Testament Suppl. vol 22 (1972) 72-87

Brian Walsh Subversive Christianity (Regius Press, 1990)

Gordon Wenham “The perplexing Pentateuch” Vox Evangelica XVII (1987) 7-21.

D Winton Thomas (ed.,) Documents from Old testament Times (Nelson 1958)

Richard Russell

I have now added some more articles by Richard Russell to the Russell pages of All of Life Redeemed:

Saturday, 6 May 2006

Neocalvinism ....Abraham Kuyper? Maybe.

Comment's series on neocalvinism continues with an article by Clifford Blake Anderson, Curator of Reformed Research Collections in the Princeton Theological Seminary Library 'Neocalvinsism .... Abraham Kuyper? Maybe?'
In my engagement with Abraham Kuyper at Princeton Seminary, I do not seek to repristinate his worldview, much of which belongs, after all, to a quite different time and place. I do seek to learn from Kuyper how to construe Christianity as a comprehensive faith with implications for every sphere of life. I and others have discovered in Kuyper's theology a rich resource for fostering interdisciplinary conversation between theologians and professionals from other disciplines.

Friday, 5 May 2006

All of life redeemed update

I have now added the Roper pages to the All of Life redeemed site.  Duncan is a NZ reformational thinker.  His paper on Euler and the Konisberg bridges: some lessons for the philosophy of mathematics is now available.

I've also put up a pdf of Gregory Baus's paper on Dooyeweerd's societal sphere sovreignty: neither tax based nor laissez-faire.  Gregory also gets a mention on Joe Carter's Evangelical outpost.

The Bible in Transmission

The Bible in Transmission's Spring 2006 is now on-line. It has an excellent article by WYSOCS David Hanson: God's service from operation to arias.

One way and another, but without any Damascus road experiences, my career and my calling became that of full-time Christian service as an ENT Surgeon and lecturer in a provincial teaching hospital. I stress “full- time Christian service”. It is not the source of the pay- cheque that determines the matter; it’s the awareness “that I am not my own, but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour”. I am called a Christian because “I share in his anointing as prophet, priest and king – to confess his name, to present myself to him as a grateful living sacrifice, to strive against all evil in this life and afterwards to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity.”

Tuesday, 2 May 2006

Speaking of war and peace

The Banner, the magazine of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in North America, has online a debate between Jim Skillen and Kathy Vandergift - both were involved in the drafting of the recently published  report on War and Peace. They were both asked what they would have liked the report to sayand why they settled for what it does say.