Sunday, 26 September 2010

Over at Irish Calvinist, Erik Raymond has an excellent post on pastors dealing with the resistance - "pushback" - that sin creates in congregations. Pastors need to take and land punches.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Newbigin on Government, the Cross, and the Kingdom of God

Lesslie Newbigin on government. Shades of Oliver O'Donovan. This'll be my last Newbigin post for now.
Kingship in the human sense - the authority to rule over a people - is, according to Scripture, something authorized by God and also something constantly corrupted by human sin... Jesus did not set out to destroy the rule exercised by the Roman and Jewish establishment. By manifesting and exercising the true kingship of God, he exposed their corruption and thereby... disarmed them, robbed them of their pretensions to absolute authority. He exercised his kingship by bearing witness to the truth - to the one great reality against which all claims to reality have to be tested (John 18:37). All kingship from Calvary onward is tested and judged by the standard of the true kingship established there...

[The church] has the duty to address the governing authority of the civil community with the word of God... the church reminds them of the fact that - whether they know him or not - Christ is the judge before whom they must stand in the end to give account of their stewardship of the power he gave them. With that responsibility comes, necessarily, the duty of regular and public prayer for the governing authorities.
Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Eerdmans, 1986): 126, 129.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Newbigin on Justice, Freedom & Equality

Lesslie Newbigin has a fascinating take on freedom & justice as mutual relatedness based on inner-Trinitarian relatedness. Is this from Barth?
... the Bible is informed by a vision of human nature for which neither freedom nor equality is fundamental; what is fundamental is relatedness. Man - male and female - is made for God in such a way that being in the image of God involves being bound together in this most profound of mutual relations. God binds himself in a covenant relationship with men and women to which he remains faithful at whatever cost and however unfaithful his covenant partner is. And people and nations are called to live in binding covenant relations of brotherhood. Human beings reach their true end in such relatedness, in bonds of mutual love and obedience that reflect the mutual relatedness in love that is the being of the Triune God himself...

True freedom is not found by seeking to develop the powers of the self without limit, for the human person is not made for autonomy but for true relatedness in love and obedience... Nor will the quest for equality create real justice, for justice - the giving to each of what is proper - can only be realized in a mutual relatedness in which each gives to the other the love and obedience that enable all to be truly human. Apart from this, the quest for justice become self-destructive, since it is of the very essence of fallen human nature that each of us overestimates what is due to the self and underestimates what is due to the other.
Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Eerdmans, 1986): 118-9.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Newbigin on Capitalism

Some of Lesslie Newbigin's most caustic insights relate to Capitalist economics.
Traditional Christian ethics had attacked covetousness as a deadly sin... [but] the eighteenth century, by a remarkable inversion, found in covetousness not only a law of nature but the engine of progress by which the purpose of nature and nature's God was to be carried out... In the economic realm the basic law is that the free operation of rational self-interest will alone secure general well-being... Each person must be free to better his condition as far as he can, and he alone is the judge of what is better. There can be no imposed or even generally accepted norm of what is good...
The driving power of capitalism... is the desire of the individual to better his material condition... The name the New Testament gives to [this] force is covetousness. The capitalist system is powered by the unremitting stimulation of covetousness...
The result is that increased production has become an end in itself... Growth is for the sake of growth and is not determined by any overarching social purpose [beyond the temporary satisfaction of unlimited desires to consume - which Newbigin takes as internal to the model]. And that, of course, is an exact account of the phenomenon which, when it occurs in the human body, is called cancer.
Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Eerdmans, 1986): 109, 111, 113-4.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Newbigin on Augustine on Government

The church father Augustine famously argued that love is [should be...?] the foundation of all human government - not just Christian. Here's Lesslie Newbigin's summary of Augustine's argument:
[Augustine] insists that love is the basis of [all human] society; even in their wars men are in fact seeking peace. But peace is only possible where there is order, and order depends on proper government; but government in which one is subordinated to another is only right is the one who is called to govern does so for the sake of those he governs - as their servant. The motive power of order is therefore love... Love, not natural justice, is what holds even the earthly commonwealth together... love creates order first in the family and among neighbours and then, by extension, in the city and the nation... Faith working through love is the foundation of justice, and without justice there is no commonwealth.
Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture (Eerdmans, 1986): 103-4.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Lesslie Newbigin

Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998) is my nemesis. Okay, maybe not exactly that - but he is my opposite. I'm a Subcontinental who moved to a Western nation and moved from Anglicanism to Presbyterianism; he was an English Presbyterian who went to South India as a missionary and eventually became an Anglican Bishop.

Newbigin was heavily involved in ecumenical movements. He was instrumental in creating the Church of South India - the Indian equivalent of Australia's Uniting Church. He was also significant in the World Council of Churches. His work on a missionary encounter between the Gospel and Western culture helped spawn the missional church movement.

From my perspective, Newbigin isn't strong enough of the Bible itself as revelation, and (consequently...?) too optimistic of the Church as bearing God's revelation. But, his analysis of Western culture is, I think, spot on. I'm gonna post some quotes over the next few days.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Where morality comes from...?

Totally random - I came across this when searching for visual aids for a Bible talk & promptly fell off my chair laughing.

From Discover Fun -

Friday, 3 September 2010

Self-centered so-called Christianity

Interesting article from CNN on how some teenagers see Christianity as nothing more than therapeutic self-esteem-building. More teens becoming 'fake' Christians. It's based on research by Kenda Creasy Dean, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. See also Ms. Dean's book, Almost Christian.

I came across this with Tom Harrick's challenge about the danger of false gospels still ringing in my ears. This is the result of theological syncretism: it's what happens when we accommodate the gospel to the post-modern desire for self improvement. It's another gospel - which is really no gospel at all. David F. Wells of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary has been warning of this for years. See especially his No Place for Truth (1993), God in the Wasteland (1995) and Above All Earthly Pow’rs (2004) (all Eerdmans).

Thursday, 2 September 2010

An ordination song

I didn't have this song this at my ordination - but I should have.
Lord of creation, to you be all praise!
Most mighty your working, most wondrous your ways!
You reign in a glory beyond us to tell;
And yet in the heart of the humble you dwell.

Lord of all power, I give you my will,
in joyful obedience your tasks to fulfill.
Your bondage is freedom, your service is song;
and, held in your keeping, my weakness is strong.

Lord of all wisdom, I give you my mind,
rich truth that surpasses our knowledge to find.
What eye has not seen, and what ear never heard,
is taught by your Spirit, and shines from your Word.

Lord of all bounty, I give you my heart;
I praise and adore you for all you impart;
your love to inflame me, your counsel to guide,
Your presence to shield me whate'er may betide.

Lord of all being, I give you my all;
if ever I disown you, I stumble and fall;
but sworn in glad service your word to obey,
I walk in your freedom the rest of the way.
Jack C. Winslow (1964)