Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Christians on TV

When Rachel Held Evans goes on American talk show The View to discuss her book about how the church does and ought to do biblical hermeneutics (or to laugh at how zany the Bible can be sometimes), is a Christian carrying out her role as witness to the world or is this little more than a profit-grabbing book promotion? Or worse, have we made it intelligible for the one act to accomplish both?

When Anthony Thiselton is brought on The View to discuss New Horizons in Hermeneutics then perhaps I won't be so sceptical.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Joke Made Possible By Bible College

A few guys in the house were talking about beating me up for being a nerd, so in order to defend myself I picked up a copy of Barth's commentary on Romans to use as a shield. One of my friends then points at it and says "He's got a bomb!"

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Another Definition of Postmodernity

Postmodernity is what happens when modernity recognises that it's a tradition, and thus dissolves itself. 
- Phillip Cary

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Meaning of the World

From one Swiss theologian and pastor talking about the book of Job to another, this time Wilhelm Vischer. He was in fact Barth's pastor at one point, which I imagine couldn't help but be daunting. Nevertheless, his essay "God's Truth and Man's Lie" displays a Barth-esque flair and form that makes me think there were no feelings of inferiority, but only a shared vision for what this task of expounding the Word of God is all about: Jesus Christ.

Anyway, here is the gist of what Vischer sees as the (true) theology operational within the Book of Job:

The relationship between God and man cannot and may not be based on profit. To be sure, a man may attempt to misuse God to his profit. But how could a man be "worth" anything to God? The Almighty has no need for insignificant man. And yet he has created him and marked him out above all other creatures as though creation were designed for him, as though man were the goal and meaning of the whole creation. Why and for what purpose does God want to have man? If man can be of no profit to him, then God must have a deeper aim. Then it must surely be nothing other than that wonderfully incomprehensible delight which God wills to have in and with this man. Thus Job understood God and the meaning of his own human life.

The essay ends on a similar note: is not purpose nor profit but God's free, joyous goodness which is the meaning and ground of the world and of all creatures which live in it. The speech of God in the Book of Job proclaims it in matchless brightness in answer to the dark speculations of the human heart.

Precisely this joyful tidings is the answer to the question of the whole book. The question was posed from Heaven: "Does Job fear God for nought?" The attempt to answer it has become a counter question of Job to Heaven: "Who are you? What are you? my God. Are you, as the/ friends preach, the God of law, of rewards and punishments? Or are you my friend out of incomprehensible goodness and pure fidelity, precisely and wholly for nought?"

 One thinks of the Father's declaration as Jesus is baptised:

This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Characteristic of the life of God is not law or economy, but pleasure and delight.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Because even on Sunday it's good to read Barth

- "He's in God's hands now."
- "He was in God's hands the whole time."

This short exchange between a comforter and a griever is from The Tree of Life. It captures masterfully the essence of the book of Job, which is the tension between trust in God and the experience of a form of God that brings such trust into question. "He was in God's hands the whole time" is equal parts declaration of assurance and accusation. And as accusation, it carries more weight than anything Ditchkins can throw God's way. As Barth explains:

Surely all ancient and modern sceptics, pessimists, scoffers and atheists are innocuous and well-meaning folk compared with this man Job. They do not know against whom they direct their disdain and doubt and scorn and rejection. Job does. As distinct from them, he speaks en connaissance de cause. They can easily enter into controversy with a God whom they do not know as their God. Job cannot do this. He can curse the day of his birth. But he cannot curse God. He cannot separate himself from Him.

If Zizek can say that only an atheist can be a true christian, then perhaps we can turn that around and say that only a christian can be a true atheist.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Virtue Ethics, Orthodox Style

What is distinctly Christian about a Christian virtue ethics is that its telos is described in unequivocally Trinitarian terms. As Vigen Guroian states, “the aim of virtue is itself participation in the Divine Life through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.” The Good is God, for as Jesus says, only God is good. Increase in virtue therefore names an increase in our participation in God’s life; a participation, it must be said, that can be explicitly named or not named by those who participate. In other words, a participation possible for those who do not yet confess that Jesus is Lord. This is not to propagate Rahner's theory of "anonymous Christians," as if some Muslims or atheists are really just Christians unbeknownst to themselves; rather, it is simply an implication of the reality that God is the One in whom each of us live, move, and have our being.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Ineffectiveness of Riches

For the church to be effective in the world, it is thought that she needs power and money. Let's call this the Scarface mentality: First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women converts. Of course it is seen as good that church has poor people in it. But it is seen as necessary that the church would have access to wealth, or be made up of people with influence in society; or rather, people whom society has deemed influential. It is, after all, from such people that the church derives its efficacy in the world.

The Old Lady (who represents the Church) in The Pastor of Hermas would disagree. Here is a subversive second century quote for our age:

For as a round stone cannot become square unless portions be cut off and cast away, so also those who are rich in this world cannot be useful to the Lord unless their riches be cut down. Learn this first from your own case. When you were rich, you were useless; but now you are useful and fit for life.

If you are rich, you are useless to the Church as a rich person. Indeed, within the above analogy, you are a stone that will not fit into the building and which must finally be rejected.

Yikes! Good thing the Pastor of Hermas never made it into the canon, eh?

Monday, October 1, 2012

TULIP - Football Style

One of the biggest rivalries in football is about to take its years of bitterness and hatred onto the pitch this week: Belfast Bible College play Union Theological College in the first round of matches in the Belfast SuperLeague

Since Union trains people for ministry in the Presbyterian church, I thought I'd stir the pot by coming up with Presbyterian-related football puns. Feel free to add your own.

Total (Depravity) Football
Unconditional goalkeeper protection
Limited opponent
Irresistible pace
Perseverance of the feints