Thursday, February 27, 2014

Violence and Religion

Is there a connection between adherence to a religion and the amount of violence you are willing inflict upon others? At face value, at interesting piece of research from the Pew Research Trust seems to suggest, yes (see the link below for the full report 91 pages long!) The report does report on violence of various religions upon people of other religious and on non-religious people. However, it also covers violence against religious people. Because of their relative sizes Christianity and Islam have the largest numbers of adherents having violence perpetrated against them.

I did read the whole report and did not find one reference to Christians perpetrating violence against other. Almost all were describing violence upon Christians. Turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39)

Friday, February 14, 2014


Isaiah 5:8-12

 8 Woe to you who add house to house
    and join field to field till no space is left
    and you live alone in the land.
The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing:
“Surely the great houses will become desolate,
    the fine mansions left without occupants.
10 A ten-acre vineyard will produce only a bath of wine;
    a homer of seed will yield only an ephah of grain.”
11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning
    to run after their drinks,
who stay up late at night
    till they are inflamed with wine.
12 They have harps and lyres at their banquets,
    pipes and timbrels and wine,
but they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord,
    no respect for the work of his hands

As I read this this morning I was struck by the contemporary nature of biblical prophesy. It is so interesting the link Isaiah makes between the greed of adding house to house and field to field (8) and living on your own in the land (8). You own so much that you live alone. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis' the Great Divorce where people in the "grey city" can't stand to live in close proximity to one another, so it continues to spread.

It also shows the ultimate destiny of this greed policy is ruin (9) and a fall in productivity (10). A "bath" of wine is only about 22 litres (apparently a low yielding vineyard could produce nearly 1000 litres. A homer of seed (160kg) will produce only produce and Ephah of grain (16kg). In other words it would be mostly husks. Greed leads to low yields of wine and low quality grain.

Finally, living only for luxury and indulgance (11-12a) is seen as disrespecting the earth (12b).  I don't think this is a polemic against alcohol and parties per se but is saying that indulgence costs the earth dear and does not care for creation.

How contemporary is Isaiah. This is especially true in a world where the 85 richest people own more than the poorest half of the world; in world where the greed to some leads to the financial crisis of 2008 and in a world where our indulgence is leading to climate change, etc.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The place of Tradition in theology

We have been thinking in one of my theology classes about the sources of theology. God's revelation in Jesus Christ is clearly the most important; the recording of that revelation in Scripture is also important. The context is also very important to the theology produced and in recent years that all theology is contextual is gradually being accepted. The role tradition is more ambiguous.

As Protestant Evangelicals we have tended to repeat the Reformation slogan of Sola Scripture, only Scripture. By accepting the role of context, we have started to recognise that there is more than Scripture in our theology but tradition we have left to the Roman Catholics and Orthodox. Tradition does not mean things such as the assumption of Mary or the Infallibility of the Pope. When we refer to "tradition" we refer to the words said about the Gospel. So liturgy, worship style, theology and up to the whole life of the church is tradition. Recognising tradition saves us from sacralising our own theology. 

I love Gustav Mahler's phrase when he said "Tradition is tending the flame, it's not worshiping the ashes".

Monday, February 3, 2014

Five paradoxes of Church

Since the year 2000 there seems to have been an avalanche of books on the Church. I have books on on my shelf called Emerging Church (2006), Re-Emerging Church (2008), Deep Church (2009), Gospel-Driven Church (2004), Intelligent Church (2006), Missional Church (2011) and finally a Just Church (2011). I've even got one that's simply called The Church but that's rather earlier (1968) and by Hans K√ľng! I was interested when John Stott, in his one of his last books, The Living Church (Nottingham: IVP, 2007, pp. 91-102), posits five paradoxes of the church. The church should be 
  1. Biblical and contemporary
  2. Authoritative and tentative
  3. Prophetic and pastoral
  4. Gifted and studied
  5. Thoughtful and passionate
The first is challenging. How do we measure up?