Category Archives: Christianity

Jensen on Sacred Cows

“It is dangerous to shoot sacred cows. We all get upset, irrationally and emotionally when something we hold as precious is attacked. The more irrational our attachment the more anger is engendered when our favourite bovine is assailed.”

“One of the ways to test if something has become an idol is to remove it. If nobody notices or complains, it can safely be restored. If it is declared to be “the end of civilisation as we know it” – it is fairly safe to assume it has developed idolatrous importance to people.”

Dean of Sydney Phillip Jensen on Sacred Cows.

Perhaps his most telling criticism appears below – but the whole thing is worth reading.

One of our generation’s greatest sacred cows is the enlightened view of intellectual and rational discourse. There is the desire in some people to imagine that by the control of human reason we will be able to know God, or disprove His existence, or live a morally and theologically correct life. This emphasis can distrust those things emotional or miraculous; things which are unable to be controlled or which fit into our understanding.

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The best book to read is…

I inadvertently deleted my link post from yesterday’s google reading – I reposted it, but it didn’t pull in everything I’d highlighted. Of particular interest was the account from a non-practicing Jew of his year of reading through the Bible (only the OT). He blogged the experience. And he’s written a book.

And engaged in an interesting discussion with some people here. It’s worth reading. Especially when he answers the following question/statement from an angry atheist:

“Washington, D.C.: Wow, I find your assertion that everyone should read the Bible as smacking of so much relativism, I can’t believe it. I have read the beginning of the Bible and I found it so silly and laughable that I stopped. I’d really rather the chatters and your readers get caught up on history, science, literature, etc. instead of a book of fables. Would you also push for the teaching of satanic texts? I’m so tired of people acting so high and mighty about their religious preferences. Write an article on the truly important texts that people have never read (Plato, Aristotle, Copernicus, da Vinci, etc.) and I’ll take you seriously.

David Plotz: This seems to me a peculiar criticism. You live in a society that is shaped in every possible way by the Bible. The language you use, the laws you obey (and disobey), the founding principles of your nation, the disputes about abortion, homosexuality, adultery—these and so much else in your world are rooted in the Bible. You don’t have to read it for its truth value. You should read it to understand how your world got the way it is, the way you would read the constitution or Shakespeare.”

Philosophical Death Match: Science v Religion

“Nonsense. There are so many phenomena that would raise the specter of God or other supernatural forces: faith healers could restore lost vision, the cancers of only good people could go into remission, the dead could return to life, we could find meaningful DNA sequences that could have been placed in our genome only by an intelligent agent, angels could appear in the sky. The fact that no such things have ever been scientifically documented gives us added confidence that we are right to stick with natural explanations for nature.”

From this article arguing that religion and science are essentially mutually exclusive. It makes some interesting points.

But I wonder why the observations of objective witnesses to the life of Jesus who independently confirm four of his five “miracles” don’t count as “scientific documentation”.

“Many religious beliefs can be scientifically tested, at least in principle. Faith-based healing is particularly suited to these tests. Yet time after time it has failed them. After seeing the objects cast off by visitors to Lourdes, Anatole France is said to have remarked, “All those canes, braces and crutches, and not a single glass eye, wooden leg, or toupee!” If God can cure cancer, why is He impotent before missing eyes and limbs? Recent scientific studies of intercessory prayer–when the sick do not know whether they are being prayed for–have not shown the slightest evidence that it works”

The other thing that often annoys me about atheists is this idea that we can somehow fabricate a miracle to test God. That’s not logical. God would, by the very nature of being God, be the one who sets the rules and the tests. Not the other way around.

It’s analogous to the scenario in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy where there’s the final revelation that mice are conducting experiments on humans. That idea is preposterous. That’s why it’s funny. We are in no position to demand that a God – a being by nature superior to us – comply to our testing parameters. I can understand how the lack of regular miracles would be frustrating to those wishing to observe God. But I don’t see how it’s a reason to rule out the idea of God.

The other problem with this guy is that he’s trying to accommodate pluralism and religion and religion and science at the same time. He almost rules out the possibility of religion on the basis that more than one religious idea exists. He should perhaps first pull the log out of his own eye before going for that one.

Scientific consensus is less likely than religious – and scientific positions are much more likely to be influenced by an external factor (like funding).

Science allows you to set whatever hypothesis and testing methodology you choose. It has great freedom. This is the problem with science though – you can’t set methodology when you don’t have the authority to do so.

The idea of testing God also falls over because “science” (or its advocates) insist on operating in a closed system – ruling out God and anything supernatural. So you get a statement like this:

“That alleged synthesis requires that with one part of your brain you accept only those things that are tested and supported by agreed-upon evidence, logic, and reason, while with the other part of your brain you accept things that are unsupportable or even falsified. In other words, the price of philosophical harmony is cognitive dissonance. Accepting both science and conventional faith leaves you with a double standard: rational on the origin of blood clotting, irrational on the Resurrection; rational on dinosaurs, irrational on virgin births. Without good cause.”

And this:

“Secular reason includes science, but also embraces moral and political philosophy, mathematics, logic, history, journalism, and social science–every area that requires us to have good reasons for what we believe. Now I am not claiming that all faith is incompatible with science and secular reason–only those faiths whose claims about the nature of the universe flatly contradict scientific observations. Pantheism and some forms of Buddhism seem to pass the test. But the vast majority of the faithful–those 90 percent of Americans who believe in a personal God, most Muslims, Jews, and Hindus, and adherents to hundreds of other faiths–fall into the “incompatible” category.”

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Two ways to consume

The debate goes on back here. It’s been a thoughtful – and helpful I think – discussion on the environment, hippies, and sustainability.  Join in. If you like.

One of my objections to paying a premium to be green is that it seems like such a waste of money. For example, I don’t like that chickens live in terrible conditions in battery farms. But I like eggs. So I must buy eggs. Do I, when faced with this conundrum (and being unable to have my own chickens because we live in a townhouse):

a) Buy free range in the hope that this will stimulate the market for free range eggs and eventually remove the premium price we pay to soothe our conscience.

Or,

b) Save that money, buy the battery eggs and use the difference to pay for things I think matter more. Like giving money to support the work of my church.

I lean towards b. I think there are much better causes to resource. I like that the free market lets me make that decision, and doesn’t dictate the terms of my charity to me through levies and stupid taxes.

Which is why I don’t like emissions trading. Or the Green movement. They have no sympathy for that idea. They want their special interest to be everyone’s special interest. I have blogged about this before. In ranty fashion. Here. And Here. This little quote from  sums up what the dissonance I feel when it comes to the central green argument:

“Apparently our biggest problems are land clearing, extinct bird species, salinity and greenhouse gas emissions… and that my friends is why I hate hippies.”

That’s a quote that has stood the test of time.

Anyway, I didn’t start this post to quote myself – but rather to quote this guy, from a really interesting blog I subscribed to today:

“My grocery bill from Safeway, where I buy Nestle products and pesticide infused produce is 50% cheaper than my bill from a socially conscious store like Whole Foods, Mother’s Market or PCC.  While being committed to shopping in socially conscious ways, I am also committed to spending less. Savings on a grocery bill can be given to the Aid and Assistance Fund at church, go to help purchase backpacks for less fortunate students at my kids’ school, or be sent to my favorite non-profit organization in South Africa, Ithemba Lethu.

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Green is the new bleak

A recent comment on a recent post asked me the following questions:

1. I am of the mind to think that when God gave us this planet to look after, it was sort of a house-sitting arrangement. He isn’t going to be too happy to come back and find we’ve trashed the joint, is He.

2. Global pollution and/or global warming are going to have the strongest effect not on the ‘Western’ world but the poorest nations and peoples. I think we have not only an ethical but a moral duty to ensure that this planet can support everyone on it.

I will take great delight in answering those questions in a forthright and thoughtful manner – and as a post for all to see, rather than as a comment.

I must start by nailing my colours to the mast – I’m a climate change agnostic. I think the climate is changing, I think people probably play some part in the change, I think the climate has always changed, and I don’t care. I really don’t. There are other much more important issues that I’m concerned about. Like locating peurile things on the internet to post here

I’m sick of climate evangelists banging on my door (metaphorically) and cornering me at every turn (also metaphorically) demanding I repent of my environmental evil and embrace their new creeds. The worst kind of green evangelist is the prosperity preacher – the ones spruiking environmentalism as an opportunity to grow your business through “triple bottom line  sustainability” – seriously that’s such a corporate sell out. Lets pretend to be worried about the environment and our workers while at the same time exploiting our customers for the benefit of our shareholders. 

Honestly though – I think there are much more pressing, serious issues for us to be tackling. Like keeping people employed, and tackling poverty. How are people in the third world going to afford air conditioning if they don’t have jobs?

Let me deal first with the first question. I like answering problems chronologically. I have two theological propositions to offer when it comes to climate change – and answering statement/question 1 above. I’ll give you the hypothesis, the hopefully contextual “proof text”* and the application:

a) We should reasonably and theologically expect nature to have it in for us. 

Biblical justification 1 – Romans 8:20-22

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

We should expect creation and vis a vis nature to be frustrated, to be broken, to be falling apart. This is pretty much why I’m not overly concerned that the ice caps are melting. 

Biblical Justification 2 Genesis 3  – starting from halfway through verse 17:

“Cursed is the ground because of you;   in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;  and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,  for out of it you were taken;  for you are dust,  and  to dust you shall return.”

The “curse on mankind” establish our typically dour relationship with the environment. 

Not only are our lives insignificant in terms of the lifespan of creation – we can, and should, expect life to be hard work. We should be expecting the climate to change in a frustrating way. That’s what I reckon anyway. So I’m ambivalent about carbon trading, carbon offsets, carbon sequestration, and taxing businesses on the basis of their carbon emissions. 

Trying to tackle climate change is like urinating into a pedestal fan – pretty pointless. That is a crude analogy. But sums up my thoughts on anyone who’d rather pursue “pie in the sky” carbon taxes that will cost people jobs. It seems the Federal Government is going to backpedal away from that policy faster than an off balance unicyclist, which in my mind can only be a good thing. It was a travesty that the last election was thought on climate change policy. My good friend Ben argued at the time that the parties may as well have been making our response to alien invasion the big policy issue. 

Really, from Australia’s perspective, we’re a microbe in a sea of whales when it comes to pollution. Any stance we take will only be on principle – and it will be a phyrric victory that comes at the cost of Australian jobs and we’ll all end up drowning when sea levels rise anyway. Thanks to our propensity for coastal living. Now, onto proposition number two.

b) Part of our role in having dominion over creation is to bring order to disorder. 

Biblical reference: Genesis 3:23

“Therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.”

Biblical reference 2: Genesis 2:15

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

Biblical reference 3: Genesis 1:28

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 

Some people believe that work is a result of sin – that we’re suffering this curse due to the punishment dished out in Genesis 3 – but work has been around from the beginning.

We are called on to “subdue” the earth and to excercise dominion over the animal kingdom. I would argue theologically that the idea of subdugation here is referring to bringing order to disorder – to ploughing fields in order to grow crops, to production, to using natural resources in order to cater for the prescribed “multiplication” in numbers. I would argue that the proverbial “paving paradise to put up a parking lot” fits into the category of “bringing order”. Particularly if the development is designed with obsessive compulsive people in mind. 

Really though, I think our role as “caretaker” is to make sure humanity survives and prospers – to me this means beating the environment not embracing it. It means digging stuff out of the ground and using it to build houses. It means erasing middle class guilt for carbon emissions and keeping people in jobs – especially jobs pulling stuff out of the ground and making things out of it. Especially making airconditioners. That is the most appropriate response to global warming – make airconditioners for third world countries. 

Which leads me to question 2 – which was not a theological issue – but a moral one. I’ve decided to answer it tomorrow. This post is already over 1000 words long – I doubt you’ve read this far. Unless you’re Ben, a climate change evangelist or a climate change denier. I’ll talk about those last people too – and I’ll say something nice about the idea of “sustainability”. Oh, and I’ll do another post on why I don’t think fighting climate change is the primary concern of the Christian… this could end up being a fun series to write. 

Stay classy readers. 

*Because we know that: “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.”

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Evolution of a Nerd


My first post on this blog highlights my ongoing descent into nerdhood. While I don’t have the bespectacled (yet), triple-chinned, past-eating figure as described here, I have taken some healthy steps in the direction of becoming a nerd.

1. Blogging. To the readers who have ‘tuned in’ (sorry I don’t know what the web equivalent is) hoping for some of Nathan’s regular rants, my apologies. You got me. Some of you might think this is an improvement but let me assure you that I have much less creativity than my much more linguistically apt other half.

2. Study. Nathan and I have embarked upon a year of “pseudo study”, in which we’re learning Greek, going through the Westminster Confession and reading Calvin’s Institutes. Nathan is also preaching once a month and I’m sure that other opportunities will present themselves throughout the year.

As for Greek I’ve found it less tiresome than I’d anticipated. I actually like it. Bring on the Greek. Some days I catch myself at work wishing I was at home studying. Point in case for nerdish behaviour.

3. Glasses. Recently I’ve found myself asking my children to write bigger in their workbooks. I’ve also been looking at the dots on the tops of the Greek letters and wondering why the author was too lazy to write them properly. I’ve been getting headaches if I study for more than half an hour. I’m pretty good with reasoning and logic so I knew it was time for a visit to the optometrist.

Thankfully the news was good. I have two relatively minor problems which weren’t real concerns, however, as they were causing me trouble studying we decided to invest in a pair of specs. I don’t want glasses and I don’t like them. Nathan assures me that he thinks I’ll look great in glasses but I’m not so sure he’s telling me the truth. We’ll wait and see.

4. I use Chrome. Google Chrome that is. I didn’t even know that using Chrome was a sign of nerdhood but apparently it is.

Despite embracing these facets of nerdhood be assured that I won’t start playing World of Warcraft, develop poor hygiene or start talking about RAM any time soon.

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A much further developed species than I.

Missing the point

Some people just don’t get it.

“US police said a 58-year-old man stabbed his teenage son after he refused to take off his hat at church.

The father and his 19-year-old son got into an argument in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon.

That is when police said the father went to a car, got a knife and stabbed his son in the left buttock and fled.

The son was taken to University of Maryland Medical Centre for treatment.

The father’s name was withheld pending his arrest.”

Clearly this is what church is all about. Not wearing hats. So much so that we should stab those who wear them. Particularly if that person happens to be our son. 

Really – could somebody explain to this father that Jesus pretty much ran around in a toga and sandals – and would probably have worn something as functional as a cap if they’d been around. Caps are great, they keep your hair tidy and keep the sun off your face.

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Good books?

The Times Online has just produced a list of “books for the religious” – I assume they’re a round up of newly released books rather than a catch all list of spiritual recommendations. Predictably they don’t include anything from an orthodox Christian standpoint.

Instead they recommend the following:

1. In Circles of Thorns: Hieronymous Bosch and Being Human, Justin Lewis-Anthony – a vaguely Christian book about the classic painting pictured above, with the summary from the Times saying: “that Jesus Christ is the calm centre in a circling, threatening world. It is that sense of peace that pulses through the book”

2. Jewish History, Jewish Religion, Israel Shahak

3. The Atheist’s Bible: an illustrious collection of irreverent thoughts, edited by Joan Konner

4. Making War in the Name of God , Christopher Catherwood

5. The Healing Word, Bishop Basil of Amphipolis

6. Creating a Future Islamic Civilization, Rashid Shaz

I’m pretty sure none of these would make my list. Although “Making War in the Name of God” sounds vaguely interesting.

I’m notoriously bad at collecting non-fiction books and then never reading them. I have a bookshelf full of half-read, or less, tomes of spiritual significance. Which ones should I read? What are your religious recommendations for others?

Obviously the seminal texts for each major religion are important to consider – and I think probably outside the scope of this Times article.

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Wordle 2.0

The previously mentioned Wordle has got some great new functionality. Like adding an RSS feed for immediate analysis. Saves copying and pasting every post of your blog like I did last time. Although my feed is limited to just the last ten posts or something.

Here it is:
Wordle: Nathan's Blog - February
This story here about speeches from Springboard and Blight are an interesting example of the tag cloud as an assessment of being “on message”.

Speaking of which – here’s a wordle of my sermon from Sunday. Which did, as Simone and dad both pointed out, go for a bit too long. 30 minutes. I cut a bit out though. That’s the longest I’ve ever preached and I’m sorry for boring people and going past the 22 minute attention span of the average television watcher.

sermon-wordle

And here’s the passage itself.
passage-wordle

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Jensen on TV

I wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Philip Jensen. Possibly. He conducted the marriage of my parents. And was the minister at the church where they met – where he was under strict instructions to make sure mum didn’t marry anyone dodgy. His success or otherwise at that is debatable.

Anyway, I digress. Philip Jensen is the Dean of St Andrews Cathedral in Sydney. He has a blog. Of sorts. His latest post is about TV and the immorality – or otherwise – of modern television. It’s an interesting tie in to the post I wrote on the Wire. He starts off talking about Channel 10 news:

“It is hard to watch TV without, gratuitous violence, sexual exhibitionism, vulgarity of speech, dehumanising of the body in grotesque forensic murder investigations and comedians who rarely rise above toilet humour.”

No, sorry, that’s about all TV.

Here’s what he says about the news (with a note on their need for compelling disaster content:

“The alternatives are to watch the news and the sports shows. But the news is distorted by the need to have visuals (e.g. they love bush fire season, floods and train wrecks) and by the agenda of politically motivated journalists. And the sports shows appear dominated by gambling, the abuse of alcohol and overpaid professional celebrity athletes.”

He makes a lot of interesting points – worthy of consideration by Christians from the consumer standpoint – and against censorship – which is the natural position of Christian lobby groups when it comes to “inappropriate content”…

“As a society we do not want censorship. Censorship is always dangerous – as the censor’s power grows, truth is often his victim. Instead our society has chosen individualism and “community standards” as the basis of public entertainment. This assumes that what is watched does not affect community standards. It opens the door for the steady descent of the community into accepting decadence. So far only child pornography has been left as a taboo. “

He also makes the point that we’re all indirectly paying for free-to-air television (not just the ABC).

“The solution that is given to us is: “If you do not like it then switch it off. Nobody forces you to watch it and it is not costing you anything.” It is true that we do not have to watch it but it is not true that it costs us nothing. Taxpayers pay for the ABC and the free-enterprise taxation system called advertising pays for the commercial stations. All products we buy are more expensive because of TV. Whether or not you ever watch it – you are paying for TV.”

He likes DVDs of TV series as alternatives to the tripe that we’re dished up when we turn on the box.

“Of recent times I have purchased and watched DVDs of TV series. This means I can see what I want to, when I want to, without the intrusion of commercials (that for some reason are always louder than the show they interrupt). It means that I can better monitor what fills my mind. God, in Philippians 4:8, commands us to fill our minds with whatever is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Given the cost of DVDs one wonders whether in the future parish churches will develop community libraries to pool our resources of quality viewing.”

A library of quality viewing isn’t a bad idea.

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The guru’s guru

I’ve never been one for gurus. Particularly self proclaimed ones who spit out pithy statements at random intervals.

Simone just hailed me as a guru of trivia, which was nice, which got me thinking about the concept of a “guru”.

Gurus tend to annoy me. Today, I’d like to introduce you to the guru of the internet. Seth Godin. I subscribe to Seth’s blog – mostly because he is a marketing guru. And sometimes he says useful things. The rest of it is twaddle. Like this:

“If it acts like a duck (all the time), it’s a duck. Doesn’t matter if the duck thinks it’s a dog, it’s still a duck as far as the rest of us are concerned.”

That’s a quote from a post on “Authenticity“.

Seth is a guru to so many people – but he has gurus too. Kevin Kelly, founder of Wired is one of those gurus. He’s like the grand daddy guru of the internet. He does seem pretty cool.

Kevin Kelly has gurus too. His gurus are people involved in the emerging church movement. He says as much here. Almost. He’s a Christian and he likes relevant stuff.

Being a fan of the emergent church means being a fan of Mark Driscoll. Almost. He was one of the people who started the movement but has since distanced himself from it. In writing. It’s probably not fair to lump him in with them – but it works for the sake of this little soliloquisious (surely the adjectival form of soliloquay) syllogism.

Mark Driscoll is now the guru of a generation of young Christian men who want authentic Christianity.

His guru is Jesus. So following the chain from Seth Godin – everybody’s guru – gets you to Jesus.

I guess my point is: Everybody you may consider a guru will have their own guru – once you get to the top of the pile of gurus that’s the guy worth following. Follow the guy with no gurus.

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Sermonising

I’m writing my sermon for Sunday in Google Docs. It’s on 1 John 1:1-4.

Here’s the Google Docs analysis of what I’ve written so far:

Counts Selection Document
Words: 3815
Characters (no spaces): 16912
Characters (with spaces): 20720
Paragraphs: 82
Sentences: 524
Pages (approximate): 5
Readability Selection Document
Average sentences per paragraph: 6.39
Average words per sentence: 7.28
Average characters per word: 4.43
Average words per page: 763.00
Flesch Reading Ease: [?] 84.78
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: [?] 3.00
Automated Readability Index: [?] 3.00

That’s the formula (from this test) that gives a readability level of 3. I guess that’s good. It’s probably not helped by the number of sentences. I write punchy sentences for sermons. I also speak naturally at about 160 words a minute (that’s the broadcast standard for journalism) – but should slow that down. At that pace this sermon should go for about 23 minutes.

Here are the stats on the passage itself:

Counts Selection Document
Words: 103
Characters (no spaces): 433
Characters (with spaces): 535
Paragraphs: 1
Sentences: 5
Pages (approximate): 2
Readability Selection Document
Average sentences per paragraph: 5.00
Average words per sentence: 20.60
Average characters per word: 4.20
Average words per page: 51.50
Flesch Reading Ease: [?] 78.33
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: [?] 7.00
Automated Readability Index: [?] 9.00

I think it’s a good thing that my sermon is more simple than the passage right? Shouldn’t an explanation be easier to understand than the thing you’re explaining? Otherwise it would be pointless.

Out of interest I pulled one of dad’s sermons off the MPC website and ran a comparison.

Counts Selection Document
Words: 3032
Characters (no spaces): 12835
Characters (with spaces): 15893
Paragraphs: 58
Sentences: 276
Pages (approximate): 4
Readability Selection Document
Average sentences per paragraph: 4.76
Average words per sentence: 10.99
Average characters per word: 4.23
Average words per page: 758.00
Flesch Reading Ease: [?] 82.04
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: [?] 5.00
Automated Readability Index: [?] 4.00
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It’s all Greek to me

Robyn and I are taking on a few “extra curricular” activities this year. We’ve stepped back from leading Adventure Club – the Friday night kid’s club we ran with a great team last year, and our church activities are largely focused on preparation for bible college at some stage in the not too distant future.

We’re using this year to get a competitive advantage on people we’re studying with. That’s what bible college is all about…

On top of the regular preaching gig at church that I think I already mentioned (I’m preaching this Sunday morning) we’re also trying to learn some New Testament Greek – also known as Koine Greek – and we’re looking at one of the Presbyterian Church’s fundamental doctrinal statements (what the Presbyterian Church believes) – the Westminster Confession of Faith (that’s a link to the Confession of Faith itself). Last night was our first bite of the Westminster Confession cherry.

Here’s a snippet from the Wikipedia entry on the Westminster Confession of Faith

“The Church of Scotland had recently overthrown its bishops and adopted presbyterianism (see Bishops’ Wars). For this reason, as a condition for entering into the alliance with England, the Scottish Parliament formed the Solemn League and Covenant with the English Parliament, which meant that the Church of England would abandon episcopalianism and consistently adhere to Calvinistic standards of doctrine and worship. The Confession and Catechisms were produced in order to secure the help of the Scots against the king.”

We’ve also had our first little Greek lesson from Dave Walker – so far I’ve learned the alphabet and Robyn is on to more advanced learning of words and stuff. She’s a pretty dilligent little worker. Here’s what I know so far…

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Deconstructing Dawkins

I’ve just, for reasons unknown, read an article by Dawkins that made me angry. Dawkins on “Atheists for Jesus”. Dawkins is a tool. Probably a tool of Satan. But really, a tool in the urbandictionary (language warning if you follow that link) sense of the word.

Dawkins is trying to claim Jesus for atheism the same way the homosexual lobby claimed the pejorative  “queer” as a label.

He’s reinterpreting everything Jesus had to say about God as just the “cultural norm”. Jesus was apparently a radical who only spoke about God because that was the done thing. Dawkin’s relies on biblical accounts of Jesus’ teaching for his argument – but no doubt dismisses the accounts of his trial, where he was essentially killed for believing that he was God. This is postmodern deconstructionism gone bonkers. Well, it was crazy to begin with. But this is ridiculous.

“I think we owe Jesus the honour of separating his genuinely original and radical ethics from the supernatural nonsense which he inevitably espoused as a man of his time.”

Umm. What?

He basically wants to adopt Jesus because having lots of people acting like Jesus would be good for society. Except of course for the parts where Jesus claims to be God… but of course, those were just the bits where Jesus was being crazy because of the culture he lived in… WHAT? I think if you separate out all the supernatural bits about Jesus you’re left with a guy who’s not very radical at all. He’s a carpenter who hangs out with fishermen and prostitutes. Jesus without a divine aspect is not even an impressive moral teacher.

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 – 7) which is arguably Jesus’ most admired speech from a secular standpoint (it regularly makes the “best speeches of all time” lists… is pretty rubbish if you remove all the bits that refer to God.

For example if you took out every bit that could be seen to refer to the actions of God, the beatitudes would be reduced to:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

That’s a lot of “blessed” people with no actual “blessing”

And that famous bit about loving your enemies without any reference to God, well, that’s a real moral imperative…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Taking the God bits out of Jesus’ message leaves us all wanting to be pagan tax collectors – hardly the Utopian society Dawkins is pushing for with his piece of rabid (ill)logic.

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Mothering instinct

You know what gets my goat. People who blame “mother nature” for things like massive bushfires and floods. 

How come “mother nature” is allowed to be evil and nasty and yet atheists and other anti-Christian philosophers say their big problem with the Christian God is that an “all loving, benevolent God” would not allow suffering.

Other thoughts:

I don’t know where the idea of God being “all loving” is – I think he’s holy and righteously angry as well. It’s in the bible people. 

Fires and floods don’t seem to be particularly “motherly” unless you’re a really nasty parent.

Why is it “more rational” to attribute this sort of disaster to “mother nature” than to God? I confess I don’t see “mother nature” out there trying to find followers. 

If there’s one thing that annoys me more than Christians trying to piggyback their causes cynically on the back of a disaster it’s hippies doing the same. If I hear one more hippy claiming that these fires are proof that we need more stringent carbon targets I will scream. My thoughts on climate change not withstanding the idea that Australia, a piddling island nation in the scheme of things, has much influence on the climate anyway is ridiculous. And calling for something that will cost Australian jobs while people are struggling with massive loss of life and a looming recession is not very sensitive. It could be political suicide though. On second thoughts. Go for it Greens. And invoke “mother nature” as you do it.