Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Evangelical Christmas Carols

I've underestimated how evangelical a lot of Christmas carols are - as in how thoroughly gospel-focused they are.
Take the unfortunately little-know carol The Infant King. It goes from incarnation to suffering of the cross to victorious resurrection. Or As with Gladness Men Of Old. The second verse says that we "with willing feet", would "ever seek thy mercy seat" - that is, the cross. The third verse challenges us to bring "all our costliest treasures" to "Christ... our heavenly King". But I like the fourth and fifth verses best (and you have to read the fifth verse with the descant in mind):

Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.

In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its light, its joy, its crown,
Thou its sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!

May the Lord bless you this Christmas - the risen Lord Jesus, who has conquered sin and death for us, and whom we shall see, "not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing by... but in heaven, set at God's right hand on high" (from Once in Royal David's City).

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Furniture, cutlery, crockery, kitchenware required

Hey - anyone got any furniture, cutlery and crockery they're not using, and that's gathering dust in a corner, and they'd like to donate to a worthy cause - namely (*ahem*), me?
I'm moving into my own place after Christmas, and I need to furnish it. I've got the most important items - bookshelves for the library - but I need just about everything else: sofa, chairs, table, plates, cups, mugs, glasses, bowls, saucers, forks, spoons, knives, cooking utensils, pots & pans, rugs, table lamps...
Unwanted, out-of-fashion, superfluous & redundant items gratefully accepted. I'll pick anything up from anywhere in Sydney. It's a small unit - real bachelor pad - so if you're offering big items of furniture, I'll need to have a look at it & work out whether it'll fit or not.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

20 years in Australia

Today, my parents and I celebrate 20 years in Australia.
We left Sri Lanka on the night of 18 Dec 1988. We had spent a year preparing for the move. I remember my parents being stressed all the time, and yelling at each other a lot, 'coz it was hard to get all the paperwork & permissions required to leave the country. Twenty years ago in Sri Lanka, there wasn't much of a "customer service" mentality anywhere - people did things for you if and when they jolly well felt like it. Add to that the general fear & confusion caused by a drawn-out civil war. And to top it all off, my dad's work hadn't paid his superannuation - an omission which was illegal, of course, but there was no effective regulation back then. The unfortunate effect on me was that I really wanted to leave. I remember thinking "get us out of this cursed country! Maybe then my parents will stop yelling at each other."
Because of flight times, we had to transit almost a full day in Singapore. We landed in Melbourne in the morning of Tuesday 20 December 1988. We lived with my mum's brother & his family for about three weeks - they had immigrated to Australia in 1983. We moved to Sydney in mid Jan 1989. We came here because my mum had a tentative job offer to become a tutor at the Cumberland College of Health Sciences (as it then was). She did get the job - and she's still there, at what is now the Lidcombe Campus of the University of Sydney. It took my dad three months to get a job, but at least he got a job within his professional qualification (he's an engineer). We lived in Homebush West for a little less than two years. In late 1990, we moved to Parramatta, where my parents still live.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Oh - and since getting here, my parents don't yell at each other quite as much any more :)

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Slain the monster!

Hey everyone - I have defeated my nemesis; slain the monster; foiled the bad guy; cracked the cliche:

I passed Hebrew!


Best Christmas present I could get this year!

Reepicheep's other song

Here's another song Reepicheep might sing. He Who would Valiant Be, by John Bunyan. Bunyan wrote these words while he was in imprisoned for 12 years. His crime? Being a Baptist.
You'll see the resonances with Pilgrim's Progress, Bunyan's famous allegory for the Christian life.

* * * * *

Modernised words:

He who would valiant be ’gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.

Who so beset him round with dismal stories
Do but themselves confound—his strength the more is.
No foes shall stay his might; though he with giants fight,
He will make good his right to be a pilgrim.

Since, Lord, Thou dost defend us with Thy Spirit,
We know we at the end, shall life inherit.
Then fancies flee away! I’ll fear not what men say,
I’ll labor night and day to be a pilgrim.

* * * * *

The original text from Pilgrim’s Progress:

Who would true valour see, let him come hither;
One here will constant be, come wind, come weather
There’s no discouragement shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round with dismal stories
Do but themselves confound; his strength the more is.
No lion can him fright, he’ll with a giant fight,
He will have a right to be a pilgrim.

Hobgoblin nor foul fiend can daunt his spirit,
He knows he at the end shall life inherit.
Then fancies fly away, he’ll fear not what men say,
He’ll labor night and day to be a pilgrim.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Theologian

I just found The Theologian, a website of theological resources collected by St. Helen’s Anglican church, Bishopsgate. Articles & MP3 talks by excellent conservative scholars like Peter Adam, Gerald Bray, Graeme Goldsworthy, Carl Trueman & ors. While the Church of England has steadily drifted from its Biblical, Protestant heritage, St Helen's has, for decades, made a stand for Biblical faith.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Reepicheep's song

The journey of life may be easy, may be hard,
There’ll be dangers on the way;
With Christ at my side, I’ll do battle as I ride
‘Gainst the foe that would lead me astray.

Will you ride, ride, ride with the King of kings,
Will you follow my leader true;
Will you shout hosanna to the lowly Son of God,
Who died for me and you?

My burden is light, and a song is in my heart,
As I travel on life’s way;
For Christ is my Lord, and he’s given me his word,
That by my side he’ll stay.


When doubts arise, and when tears are in my eyes,
When all seems lost to me,
With Christ as my guide, I can smile whate’er betide,
For he my strength will be.


I’ll follow my leader wherever he may go,
For Jesus is my friend;
He’ll lead me on to the place where he has gone,
When I come to my journey’s end.


* * * * *

Incidentally - it's not actually Reepicheep's song. It's a hymn, called The Journey of Life (*shock*). But if Reepicheep sang anything, I reckon this'd be it.

Monday, 15 December 2008

My favourite Narnia character is...

It's time to close the competition to guess my favourite Narnia character.
The answer is - Reepicheep!
Reepicheep is decended from the mice who helped cut Aslan's bonds at the stone table. In gratitude for this, Aslan turned them into talking mice. At the end of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, he reaches the end of the world and enters Aslan's country. He welcomes the children to Aslan's country in The Last Battle.
I love Reepicheep because:
  • he's loyal to Aslan, and the Pevensie children. "We have anxiously awaited your return, my liege", he says to Peter in Prince Caspian;
  • he's valiant in battle, despite overwhelming odds;
  • he's noble - he won't fight an unarmed enemy;
  • his one weakness is over-confidence - I can associate with that;
  • in the movie, he cracks some great lines - they're collected here (try and ignore the Chinese subtitles...);
  • people aren't very original in their response when they meet him. "You're a mouse!" = "Kamal - do you sing?"

Reepicheep has a fan list (yes, I'm a fan), and a little youtube tribute (no, I didn't do that - not technically competent enough).
So, who won the competition? Congratulations to Mark Barry, who picked it immediately.
I'm still thinking about the funniest explanation. Shall get back to you on that.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Don't forget the Narnia character!

Don't forget to have a go at guessing my favourite Narnia character! Gotta close the competition 5pm Monday! Don't miss your chance!

God’s mission 2: what is God’s mission?

Recent missional ecclesiology states that since the Triune God of the Bible is on a mission, the church that God creates must share his mission (see, eg, Guder. “The Church as Missional Community,” in The Community of the Word: Towards an Evangelical Ecclesiology, ed. Husbands & Treier; Downer’s Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2005: pages 116-9, 124-7; McIntosh, “Missio Dei,” in Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions: 632). On the surface of it, this sentiment is correct. As we saw in our last instalment, the Bible demonstrates God to be a missional God.
Unfortunately, missional ecclesiology is confused about the nature of God’s mission. The ecumenical movement of the World Council of Churches repeated the mistakes of their Liberal forebears. Operating with a low view of scripture, and denying the uniqueness of the incarnate Christ, they eviscerated the gospel of its supernatural power, and fail to distinguish between God’s preserving, “common” grace from the special, redemptive grace. Their definition of mission is, unsurprisingly, focused on political and economic action, and indistinguishable from secular humanism.
The solution lies in reasserting the gospel’s primary theodynamism. Christ established God’s kingdom through his death and resurrection, whereby he demolished the power of evil, and established God’s redemptive rule. The cross is the locus of the kingdom. The cross demonstrates that the Triune God is radically other-person centred: he gives his whole self, in the person of his son, to reconcile rebels to himself, in his redemptive kingdom. Therefore, the community defined by the redemption—the church—must also be radically other-person centred, and give its whole self to reconciling rebels to God, through pleading with them to access the benefits of God’s redemptive rule by trusting and following Christ the king. The church’s mission is Christ’s mission, which is the Triune God’s mission: “repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand”.
This does not denigrate works of compassion. While they are not “mission”, they are intrinsically good acts, pleasing to God. Compassionate works are not merely a prelude to evangelism. We do not have to feed the poor in order to create evangelistic opportunities. We feed the poor because we love them, as our God loves them.
The primary way the church enacts its mission is through verbal proclamation. This is because God’s kingdom comes through the invisible work of the Spirit in illumination and conviction. In our next post in this series, we shall examine how the church participates in God’s mission.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

God’s Mission 1: God is a missional God

Here's some ponderings on church & mission. From the same essay as the previous posts on the kingdom of God.
* * * * *
God is a missional God. The unfolding story of the Bible portrays God on a mission to re-establish his rule over his rebellious creation. He enacts his missionary purposes mainly through choosing, commissioning and sending human agents to represent him, and working through them to achieve turning points in salvation history. He sent Moses to rescue Israel from Egypt. He sent the prophets to call his apostate people back to him. These prophets foretold that God would send a Spirit-anointed Servant-Messiah, who would enact a final redemption which, while focused Israel, would spill over to the “ends of the earth”.
Christ is God’s missionary par excellence: the Son, sent by the Father, in the power of the Spirit. His mission is to accomplish final deliverance for God’s people, by fulfilling all the expectations of the old testament. He achieves his mission by establishing God’s kingdom through dying as a penal substitute for his people, and rising to give them new life. This climactic stage in God’s mission, this missio dei, demonstrates that God is missional in another, deeper way: he sends himself, in the person of his Son.

Friday, 12 December 2008

UK theological resources

Hey look what I found:

Good resources with links to quality publications by conservative scholars, including Richard Bauckham, F. F. Bruce, Rob Doyle (of Moore College! Woo!), and historically significant authors like Adolf Von Harnack, Gustav Aulen, C. K. Barrett & ors. Recommended by, amongst others, Oak Hill College, London School of Divinity and Tyndale House. Some free, some link to Amazon.
Oh - and don't forget to have a go at guessing my favourite Narnia character...

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Who's my favourite Narnia character?

Okay everyone - we're taking a break from the serious theologising for something more fun. Let's see how well you know me. Who do you think is my favourite Narnia character? Those of you who know my personality should be able to work it out fairly quickly.
You can find the entire list of charaters here. But that's too big so let's stick with the main characters, viz:
  • Aslan;
  • Beaver, Mr;
  • Beaver, Mrs;
  • Bree the Horse (Horse and his Boy);
  • Caspian X, or Prince Caspian;
  • Kirke, Professor Digory (the Pevensee children stay in his mansion in Lion, Witch & Wardrobe);
  • Pevensie, Edmund;
  • Pevensie, Lucy;
  • Pevensie, Peter;
  • Pevensie, Susan;
  • Pole, Jill (Silver Chair, Last Battle);
  • Puddleglum the Marshwiggle (Silver Chair);
  • Puzzle the Donkey (Last Battle);
  • Reepicheep the Mouse;
  • Rillian, son of Caspian X (Silver Chair);
  • Scrubb, Eustace (Voyage of the Dawn Treader);
  • Shasta of Calormen, who becomes King Cor of Archenland (Horse and his Boy);
  • Shift the Ape (Last Battle);
  • Tash, God of the Calormenes;
  • White Witch, or Queen Jadis of Charn
I'll award a prize for:
  1. The first correct answer;
  2. The most interesting explanation of why you think a particular character is my favourite.
Post your answers and explanations in the comments section of this blog. Competition closes 5pm next Monday, 15 Dec 08. I'll only send the prize if you live within Australia (can't be bothered with international mail...).
Looking forward to hearing from you all!

Theodynamism and New Testament Eschatology

The theodynamic view of God's kingdom explains new testament eschatology. Some new testament passages speak of the kingdom as present in Christ (Matt 11:4-6; 12:28; 19:28; Mark 2:21-22; 3:13-19; Luke 11:20; 16:16; 17:20-21); others, of it coming in the future (Matt 5:19-20; 7:21-23; 8:11-12; Luke 11:2; 13:22-30). The tension between these two kinds of passages is not explained by Weiss and Schweitzer’s "consistent eschatology", or by Dodd’s "realised eschatology", but by the ‘inaugurated eschatology’ of Cullman, Ridderboss, Ladd and Hoekema. God’s kingdom is theodynamic—it is the activity of God ruling.
Christ’s death and resurrection is God’s theodynamic act which institutes his rule. Those who believe in Christ enjoy the blessings of the present aspect of that rule, by faith, through the Spirit—what the Westminster Shorter Catechism calls the "kingdom of grace” (Answer to Q 102). This rule is invisible: unlike the nation of Israel, it is not a visible, political kingdom. It is the outworking of the faithful remnant of Israel, in whom the God’s rule was never merely external, but internal (1 Sam 15:22; Isaiah 1:10-17; Jer 7:1-15; Micah 6:6-8). It is effected theodynamically, by God’s Spirit—the same Spirit who empowered Jesus to battle Satan (Matthew 4:1; 12:28; Luke 11:20), and eventually defeat him in the cross (Heb 2:14-15; 9:14). Theodynamic salvation is therefore monergistic, not synergistic. It is effected invisibly, by the Spirit, in people’s hearts and minds. We don’t do anything to deserve it. The Spirit works through the gospel word, to bring people to new birth into Christ’s kingdom (John 3:3-8; 1 Pet 1:3, 24-25). This is the effectual call of God’s irresistible grace upon the elect, which brings forth in the elect the response of faith, which leads to their justification, sanctification, perseverance, and eventual glorification (Rom 8:28-30).
This invisible rule becomes visible in two ways: in the changed lives of individual believers, as they walk according to the Spirit, not the flesh; and in the existence of the church. The church is the fellowship of the Spirit, for the Spirit gathers believers into communities that confess Christ as Lord. These believing communities are a foretaste of glory, for they are the place where God rules his regenerated people, in Christ, through his word.
But the full consummation of that rule, the final renewal of all things, the enjoyment of those blessings by sight, awaits Christ’s return in the “kingdom of glory” (Shorter Catechism Answer 102 again). This will be connected with the present kingdom—the saints will be vindicated, everything we enjoy by faith will then be enjoyed by sight—but it will not be a mere evolution of the present kingdom. The fullness of the kingdom will also be theodynamic: it will come as God’s cataclysmic act, which fundamentally changes reality (2 Peter 3:7, 10; Rev 21:1-4).

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Penal substitutionary atonement and the theodynamic kingdom

In the cliffhanging conclusion of our last episode, we saw what God needs to do to establish his kingdom: he must deal with human rebellion, his own wrath, and Satan.
Christ established God’s kingdom by defeating Satan, God’s true enemy, who wielded a kingdom opposed to God (Matt 4:8; 12:26-28; Mark 3:27; Luke 4:5; 11:18-21; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; Col 1:13; Rev. 11:5). He anticipated this in his miracles (Matt 12:26-28; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:18-21), and finally achieved it in his death and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:23-28; Col 1:12-14; 2:13-15; Rev 5:5, 9-10; 12:5, 9-10). Christ’s penal substitutionary atonement thus establishes God’s kingdom. Satan wields his power, his alternate kingdom, by deceiving people into rebelling against God, then accusing them before God. Christ’s sacrifice satisfies God’s justice towards his people, removing their guilt, thus removing Satan’s ability to accuse them. God is no longer angry towards those who trust in Jesus. Christ has dealt with that, once for all. Those who trust in Christ are thus removed from Satan’s kingdom and brought into Christ’s kingdom.
To put it another way: the only solution to our human predicament is the gospel, which is the power (dunamis) of God (theos) for salvation. The gospel is theodynamic because the kingdom is theodynamic, and the kingdom is theodynamic because it is ruled by a dynamic God: a God who is active in fixing up our problem for us. We do not contribute anything to it. Our faith in Christ is not meritorious. We do not “earn” salvation through the “good work” of faith in Christ. Faith merely takes hold of God’s action. Faith is the only appropriate response to the theodynamic gospel.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

The Theodynamic Kingdom

Here's some ruminations from an essay I wrote this semester.
* * * * *
The Kingdom of God is a key new testament idea. It occurs 61 times in the Gospels (including the Matthean equivalent ‘kingdom of heaven’, excluding parallels). While the term ‘kingdom of God’ does not occur as such in the old testament, the OT is replete with the idea that Yahweh is the king, who rules all nations, but in particular his people Israel.
The kingdom came when the Christ the king came. Jesus of Nazareth is autobasileia: king and kingdom in himself. In his life, death and resurrection, Jesus both fulfilled the longings of the old testament, and perfectly expressed what it means to live under God’s rule. Jesus is God’s true Son, who pleases the Father. He succeeded where Adam and Israel failed: he refused to succumb to the Devil’s temptations, and let the Word of God rule his life instead. He is the true Davidic king, and divine Son of Man, whose kingdom will never end.
God’s kingdom is theodynamic. It ‘comes’, through God’s powerful, decisive intervention in history; humans cannot ‘build’ it through their efforts. The 19th century Liberal interpretation of the kingdom as an ‘inner moral ethic’, based on the universal ‘fatherhood of God’ and ‘brotherhood of man’, completely misunderstood this. Only God himself can truly establish his kingdom, because the problem that requires solution, and the enemy that must be defeated, is not natural but supernatural. The fundamental problem is not bad habits, lack of education, lack of resources, oppressive social structures, or any other problem that can be defined exclusively with reference to this created order. The fundamental problem is the personal wrath of a holy God, who has been rightly offended by the personal rebellion of his image-bearers against him. By this rebellion, humanity has aligned themselves with Satan and his kingdom, against God. So, to establish his kingdom, God must deal with human rebellion, his own wrath, and Satan.
How does God deal with that? Check back at this blog tomorrow...

Friday, 5 December 2008

Increasing quality of first-timers to NTE / SPRTE

I'm sure I'm not imagining it - the quality of students attending National Training Event ("NTE") is increasing every year.
A quick bit of background. NTE (SPRTE this year) is a five-year course, structured as follows:
  • Year 1: basic tools to understand a passage of the Bible ("exegesis");
  • Year 2: reading the Bible as a whole book ("Biblical Theology");
  • Year 3: understanding the great themes of the Bible ("Systematic Theology");
  • Year 4: thinking about how to apply the whole teaching of the Bible to specific life situations ("Pastoral Theology and Ethics");
  • Year 5: putting together a teaching program ("putting together a teaching program").
I led a group of first-timers, learning exegesis. They came from Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. The Aussies already had a lot of background knowledge, and were already familiar with what we were doing. We had to slow them down and make them think about the steps they were taking, force themselves to be self-critical - they just wanted to charge ahead. The people from Vanuatu and PNG struggled a bit; but this was because we were doing things in English. When I did a bit of personal work with them, they cottoned on to the ideas really quickly.
I did strand 1 at KYLC (now Next Gen) in 1996. I'm sure I didn't know as much as these guys. I got a couple of theologically dense questions from my first-years that would've floored me if not for my four years at Moore. I asked a couple of the uni ministry people during the conference; they agreed that the standard's increasing every year.
Why? Probably just 'coz there's more & more quality Bible study on campuses all round Australia, the South Pacific, and, I hope, the world. We're on a corkscrew upwards: good ministry begets good students who do more good ministry. The only cost: scary questions at NTE.
I say: praise God, and bring it on!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Australian Presbyterian

Hey cool - the Australian Presbyterian (national Presbyterian magazine - kinda like Southern Cross, only it goes across the whole country, not just Sydney) has made their issues free to download when they're three months old!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

On radio again

Sorry this is a bit late. Mum was on radio again last Sunday (30 Nov 08), on ABC Radio's Sunday Nights with John Cleary. Download the podcast here.