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Posted by on Dec 6, 2014 | 8 comments

Are there really “different ways” of interpreting the Bible?

Are there really “different ways” of interpreting the Bible?

I want to make an observation about many (not all) of the contemporary controversies surrounding biblical interpretation. I don’t mean historical debates (such as when Paul wrote Galatians or whether John the Baptist was Essene), I mean the application end: what to conclude from the Bible about how Christians should live their lives. When we say “there are different ways of interpreting the Bible” we often imagine that these alternatives sit alongside one another, like flavours of ice-cream or paths at a fork in the road. We frame the debate in terms of “whether the Bible says X or Y” about a certain topic. But this way of picturing different interpretations of the Bible doesn’t capture what goes on for the majority of hot topics in today’s Christian world. Consider this list: Should women be silent in church? Did creation take six literal days? Is there such a place as hell? Is Jesus really God? Is church leadership only for men? Is homosexual marriage sinful? Should women wear head...

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Posted by on Nov 24, 2014 | 2 comments

Metanarratives and the Fact of Christ

Metanarratives and the Fact of Christ

[H]ave you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘ I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong” –Mark 12:26-27 Metanarratives have received much flak since Jean-François Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition was published thirty some years ago. In it Lyotard addresses the structural schema that dominated western thought much of the 19th and 20th centuries. Lyotard’s basic philosophic claim is that all the great ideas that we have built society on, i.e. Christianity, Capitalism, Marxism, Liberalism, et al. are constructions of the dominating will of progress. For Lyotard, progress is not to be trusted as a grand narrative—thus his critique of Ryan’s latest blog post (and all Hegelian constructs) would be that orthodoxy in the name of logical progress is a false paradigm. For Lyotard, progress is only a language game used by progressives...

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Posted by on Sep 8, 2014 | 0 comments

Erotic Prayer

Erotic Prayer

No, not sex. Erōs is one of the ancient Greek terms for love, from which we derive our word ‘eroticism’ and in philosophic circles it signified love that was ecstastic (taking one outside of oneself) and generative of life. This would, of course, include sex, but it involves much else besides. It is erōs which Plato, in his dialogue Symposium, credits with raising the philosopher beyond matter to the world of the divine forms; in the voice of the priestess Diotima, the ideal lover discovers in his beloved a beauty that causes him to go beyond himself, to forsake physical beauty for something higher. Erōs here is an intermediary between the mundane and the transcendent, something itself neither mortal nor divine, but which can ultimately lead to the divine. In Christianity, this concept of love as an intermediary was supplanted by the biblical declaration that “God is love (agapē)” and much of the early church discussed agapē to the exclusion of erōs. An exception to this aversion towards speaking...

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Posted by on Sep 1, 2014 | 11 comments

Vicky Beeching, Evangelical Identity, and the Clarity of Scripture

Vicky Beeching, Evangelical Identity, and the Clarity of Scripture

Evangelical identity, which has always relied on the doctrine of the clarity of Scripture, is being threatened by the growing rift in opinions about same-sex marriage. This may force evangelicals to discover something about hermeneutics which their brothers and sisters in other denominations have known for quite some time: that what seems ‘clear’ in the Bible is dependent on the perspective we have absorbed from our culture. Vicky Beeching’s recent decision to come out has provoked a storm of opinion in the evangelical scene. The violence of the rhetoric is troubling from the point of view of Christian witness, as Ryan Cook has aptly observed. But such reactions are not surprising when we realise that, for many evangelicals, their very identity is being challenged. Traditionally, evangelicalism has defined itself exclusively by means of the Bible. You can identify an evangelical as someone who believes what the Bible says, plain and simple. This kind of boundary-drawing relies heavily on the doctrine of the “perspicuity” of Scripture, the belief that the...

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Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 | 12 comments

The Hellenization of Christianity

The Hellenization of Christianity

Dieser Artikel auf Deutch “The greatest problem with the early church was that it was influenced by Greek ways of thinking which have nothing to do with the Bible.” The above quote expresses a view known as the “Hellenization thesis,” made popular in the 19th century by the theologian Adolf von Harnack. Today there are many Christians who still hold it. It is especially popular among biblical scholars, who contrast the abstract, precise, and timeless musings of the Greek philosophers with the more earthy, holistic, and historical approach of the Old Testament. For anyone with a high view of the Bible, it makes intuitive sense that our theology must be purged of influences that come from anywhere else. It also seems pretty natural to assume that the first Christians were negatively and unconsciously influenced by their surrounding culture. However, this view contains some problematic assumptions. First, it assumes that Christianity is untranslatable; that because God originally revealed himself to Jews, we can only think about God using Jewish frames...

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Posted by on Jun 30, 2014 | 6 comments

What to Do With the Old Testament?

What to Do With the Old Testament?

One of the longest standing problems in Christian history is the question of how to understand/use the Old Testament. Is it nothing more than an interesting, but irrelevant, account of how God used to relate to his people? Or is it so inspired that the New Testament makes no difference to its message? How do we find a ‘middle ground’ between these two extremes? Is a middle ground even what we want? What we are looking for is a way in which Jesus’ life, death and resurrection brought something new to Christians without falsifying what came before or making it irrelevant. And that is not easy to find. There have been many models throughout history that seek to explain the relationship between the testaments. I shall analyse a few key ones here: The OT is about law, the NT is about grace. Here, the sole purpose of the Hebrew Scriptures is to show us that salvation by works is impossible, using the example of poor Israel who laboured under...

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