Friday, 1 July 2011

Shout out: Michael Jensen on theological education

Quick shout out: over at The Blogging Parson, Michael Jensen has some excellent thoughts on why we need theological education, who needs it & what to look for.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Hezekiah's silence

Why did King Hezekiah remain silent when Rabshakeh, the Assyrian field commander, taunted Hezekiah and insulted the LORD?

Isaiah 36 and 2 Kings 18 record how Sennacherib, king of Assyria, attacked Judah and conquered all the way to Jerusalem. Sennacherib memorialised his conquest of Lachish, Judah's second most important city, in sculpted reliefs in his palace at Ninevah. Those reliefs, and a rock prism boasting of his Judean campaign, can now be seen in the British Museum. I saw them myself last week, when I visited the museum during my UK holiday.

Having conquered Lachish, the Assyrian army besieged Jerusalem. Isaiah and 2 Kings both record the Assyrian field commander taunting Hezekiah and the LORD. "Don't let Hezekiah deceive you," he says to the people of Jerusalem, "the LORD can't save you. None of the gods of the other nations were able to resist us. Come over to us Assyrians - we'll look after you."

In the face of these taunts, Hezekiah's response was: silence. Isaiah 36:21:
But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.”
Why did Hezekiah command silence?

Fear or cowardice?
He could have responded with Godly confidence. That’s what his ancestor David did in a similar situation: he responded to Goliath's taunts with Godly defiance - see 1 Samuel 17:41-47. If Hezekiah had that option, then his silence was fear, or even cowardice.

Pearls before swine / do not answer a fool?
Or it could have been Hezekiah's wisdom in not responding to foolish arguments. Proverbs instructs us not to answer a fool according to his folly; Jesus told us not to cast our peals before pigs; and Paul tells us not to be involved in foolish and stupid arguments. If this is the case, then Hezekiah's response was wisdom. Matthew Henry takes this line, as do a couple of current online commentators (David Guzik and Donald F. Ritsman).

Humility?
Or his silence could be a Godly humility. Like the suffering servant of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Hezekiah could have been resolved to patiently bear the taunts and mockery of unbelievers. In this case, Hezekiah would be a prototype of Jesus, and an example to us.

* * * * *

I don't know which of the three options to go for. They're all plausible. Might there be a way to combine them into something more wholistic?

Thoughts, please.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Some thoughts on returning from holidays


I'm back from a three-week holiday in the UK. First week in London, with day trips to Oxford & Cambridge; second week in Glasgow, with day trips to Mallaig (Harry Potter country!),Edinburgh & St Andrews (Presbyterian country!); third week in the Cumbria Lakes District, with day trips all over the place.

Some reflections:
  • Australia sure is a long way away from the UK (*yawn*) (*jet-lag*);
  • The UK is full of history. Things built in the 1800s are new - like the "new" palace of Westminster and the "New Wing" at Magdalene College, Oxford (where C. S. Lewis had his rooms);
  • I love the museums. I saw artefacts relevant to Biblical times in the British Museum in London and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Highly recommend the Imperial War Museum;
  • Most of the museums & galleries in the UK are free & have cheap audio tours which provide an excellent commentary;
  • Scotland has, given its small size & population, made a disproportionate impact on world history through its heavy engineering - Glasgow, in the mid 19th century, constructed more than half Britain's shipping and a quarter of all locomotives in the world - and in heavy intellectuals - notably the philosopher David Hume, but also poets like Robert Burns, and scientists like James Watt, whose improvement of the steam engine enabled the industrial revolution; Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone; Lord Kelvin, who created the Kelvin scale down to absolute zero; and Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin;
  • The major church denominations (Church of England; Church of Scotland) are stuffed. Widespread lack of confidence in the Bible has gutted their ability to proclaim Christ, with the result that more & more church buildings are turning into pizza parlours;
  • But within the denominations, there's plenty of Evangelical churches valiantly holding the line and preaching Christ. The flagships are St Helen's Bishopsgate in London and St George's Tron in Glasgow - but they're not alone;
  • The quality of the speeches in parliament at Westminster were far, far above anything I've heard from Canberra;
  • The Global Financial Crisis has hit the UK and Europe much harder than they have Aust. The whole of Europe is reeling from unemployment and financial and corporate collapses. When I was there, the UK govt was debating a financial bailout for Greece - as in Europe financially assisting the whole country of Greece. This economic hardship might be behind the recent flare-up of sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland;
  • UK is dog-friendly. Or maybe I should say dog-indulgent. Everyone seems to own a dog. Or two. Or six. Shops put up signs saying "dogs welcome." People work as professional dog walkers - as in taking dogs for walks. The trade-off is a 1,000-pound on-the-spot fine for not cleaning up after your dog;
  • Sydney winter weather is more pleasant than UK summer weather (*wet*) (*cold*) (*grumble*);
  • But the benefit of all that rain is that UK fields really are green. I love the rolling hills with ancient stone walls with lambs gambolling and cattle grazing. Aust really is a wide brown land;
  • Speaking of a wide brown land: I still call Australia home.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Sex as a relational act

In my previous post, I showed how naturalistic science depersonalises sexuality, turning it into a mere manipulation of bodily functions.

In contrast, the Bible treats our sexuality as a good gift from a personal, Triune God, who is love (1 John 4:16) – who is constituted within himself by his relationships. The logic of the Bible is, unsurprisingly, the opposite to atheistic materialistic naturalism. Humans are fundamentally relational beings. God gave us our bodies – including the sexual nature of our bodies – to express these relationships. The way to care for our bodies is, generally, to attend to our relationships: if we are in healthy relationships, our bodies will flourish; if we are in toxic relationships, they will deteriorate. So, from a Biblical perspective, the way to rightly use our sexuality, which both acknowledges its status as a divine gift, and helps us lead healthy, happy sex lives, is to consider how we are using our sexuality to enhance our relationships.

This perspective is not unique to the Bible or Christianity. Creation itself, being the creation of the Biblical God, embodies within itself principles that are coherent with the Bible. Open-minded, responsible scientific investigation, which seeks to genuinely discern how the physical world operates, will therefore render results that are broadly compatible with the Bible. We therefore expect sexual research to demonstrate that healthy sexuality is intimately connected to healthy relationships.

Recent sexual research demonstrates that our neurological sexual responses show that we're wired for long-term intimacy. I reviewed this research in a paper I presented last year at the Religion In the Public Square conference of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria. You can download the conference proceedings here, from Reformers books.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Sexuality and scientific naturalism

In my previous post I argued that sexual research and therapy were good professions, blessed by God. To deserve such blessing, this research and therapy must be conducted in a manner that acknowledges our sexuality as a divine gift.

Naturalistic science presupposes radical materialism – the natural world of physical matter is ultimate reality. It presupposes that there is no creator God, who made the physical universe for us to enjoy. Instead, physical matter is all that really exists. As mere physical matter, it is in itself inert, passive, and lifeless. It operates according to rules that are complex but predictable. The role of science is to discover these physical rules of operation so that we can manipulate them, enhance the physical objects beyond their ‘natural’ state, and use them to ach achieve whatever we want. Naturalistic science dissects and reconstructs so as to control and dominate.

Applying this to sexual research and therapy: naturalistic science assumes that everything about sexuality can be ultimately boiled down to physics and chemistry, neurology and biology. Humans are, in the end, nothing more than complex biological machines. Love, loyalty, affection – all the personal emotions that accompany relationships, including sexual relationships – are not really real; they are merely outworkings of our biology and neurology.

Therefore, our physical bodies, and the internal operations of our will and emotions – our souls, our psyche – operates according to physical rules that are complex but predictable. Our bodies and souls are infinitely malleable according to the precision and detail of our scientific insight. The role of sexual research and therapy is therefore to dissect, reconstruct, control and dominate: to understand how our bodies and souls respond to sexual stimuli, so that we can manage and redesign our bodies and souls to do whatever we want.

The plastic surgeon and the counsellor represent the priesthood of sexual science. We think they can put us in touch with ultimate reality – the laws that our bodies and souls operate according to – so that we can manage that ultimate reality, and live healthy, happy, fulfilled lives. We end up living in a world of surgically enhanced genitalia and frequent trips to the therapist.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Creation, sexuality, and the good of sexual research and therapy

Sexuality is a good part of our created nature. God made humanity male and female, and commanded humans to "be fruitful and increase in number..." (Gen 1:27-28). Adam rejoiced over Eve as his own flesh and bone, and they were to be united as one flesh, naked with no shame (Genesis 2:23-25). Therefore, gender and sexuality is part of our humanity - it is part of what it means to be in God's image.

As part of good creation, our sexuality is open to scientific research and medical therapy. Any research and therapy that helps people discover who they truly are, as sexual beings in relationship with God and other people, is a good thing, and God will bless it. Any research and therapy that assists people to conduct their sexual lives in a responsible, healthy manner, before God, their sexual partner, and the world, is a good thing, blessed by God. Sex research and therapy – like any medical research and therapy – is a blessed profession, pleasing to God. All of this helps us recover, in part, God’s good intentions for our bodies and our sexuality, and thus helps us to be truly human.

Friday, 3 June 2011

World Congress for Sexual Health, Glasgow


I'm preparing to head off to Glasgow, Scotland, to participate in the 20th World Congress for Sexual Health of the World Association for Sexual Health ("WAS"). I'm delivering a 15-min paper on "Biblical Principles for Sexual Research and Therapy" at a Symposium on Religion & Sexual Health. It'll be on Thurs 16 June between 10:30-11:30 Glasgow time = Thursday 16 June 2011 7:30 - 8:30pm Sydney time. It's my first time delivering an academic paper at a secular conference. Prayers appreciated.

Of course I'm also going to have a holiday at the same time: London, Oxford, Cambridge, then Glasgow, Edinburgh, perhaps St Andrew's, then the Lakes District - then home. I'll be travelling with my parents - my mum, Dr. Pat, has various presentations at the conference also. I'm looking forward to visiting St George's Tron Church in Glasgow. So I'll be an Sri-Lankan - Australian Presbyterian in Scotland...

I'm finishing off the paper now. My post a few days ago on relationships, love, sex & marriage is part of an earlier draft. Shall pop up some further thoughts over the next few days. Let's see what happens.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Relationships, love, sex & marriage

Biblically speaking, relationships are more central to our being than bodily pleasure. We are first of all relational beings. God made humans male and female (Gen 1:27), addressed Adam as a covenant-partner (Gen 2:16-17), and made Eve as a suitable helper for Adam, for whom it was not good to be alone (Gen 2:18). Abraham was to be the channel for God's blessing to flow to all the families of the earth (Gen 12:3). Christ died and rose for his people - the church (Eph 1:22, 2:19-22, etc) who are to mutually encourage each other (Gal 6:2; Heb 10:24-25). We are to use our bodies to enhance relationships. If we are in healthy relationships, our bodies will prosper. If we are in unhealthy relationships, our bodies will deteriorate.

Relationships are built on trust, and trust is built on the reliability of a person’s character, usually expressed in their faithfulness to promises. This is because relationships are essentially other-focused.

In any intimate relationship – family, spouse, BFF – we take the risk of giving ourselves to the other person, and acting for their benefit, without protecting ourselves – that is to say, we love them. We trust our relational partner, that they, recognising and valuing this gift of ourselves, will cherish and protect us – we trust that they will respond to, and value, our love. We also trust that they will return our love with a commensurate gift of themselves – that they will give themselves to us, and act for our benefit, without concern for themselves – that is to say, that they will love us in return.

This is why relationships are both risky and rewarding. In any relationship, we make ourself vulnerable to our relational partner. If they return our love, then we rejoice and flourish, for our self has been affirmed by the one to whom we entrusted it. If they do not return our love, then we are crushed, for we have given our selves to another, and they have not deemed it worthy of response, but have discarded it.

Sexuality fits into this relational framework. Our sexuality is a good bodily function, given to us by God, to enhance our relationships. Sexual activity brings physical bodies and relational love together. Love and sex are mutually reinforcing: when we fall in love with someone, we desire sex with them; having sex with someone reinforces our love for them. In sexual activity, we make our bodies vulnerable, giving them to each other for mutual pleasure. Betrayal by our sexual partner has deep emotional and psychological consequences.

This is why the Bible presents marriage as the proper context for sexual activity. In a marriage, a man and a woman promise to commit to each other for life. Those promises define the relationship between the two of them, and call them both to mutual faithfulness – to have the personal character to be faithful to those promises, whatever difficulties life may throw at them. Having promised faithfulness to each other, they entrust their bodies to each other in sex.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Around the Blogosphere

A few days ago, British physicist Stephen Hawking said that heaven is a fairy story. That comment was of course picked up by the media - more interested in sensationalism than facts - all over the world, and paired with outraged statements from religious leaders. But, as this review of Hawking's latest book, The Grand Design, says, it's old news. Hawking's absolutely brilliant in theoretical physics. But he never has believed in God or the supernatural world. He's always been a standard, predictable naturalist. Which means he, like other dogmatic atheists, simply doesn't engage with the question of whether God exists, because he "knows" that he doesn't. So when he says heaven is a fairy story, the proper response isn't to argue, but to yawn.

Leadership Journal has an article on the problem of youth groups watering down the gospel and effectively becoming child-minding with pizza: The Red Bull Gospel. The result? The young people are never really converted, and when they grow up, they find more interesting things to do than east pizza. I read the same thesis twenty years ago in No Guts, No Glory: How to build a youth ministry that lasts, by Ken Moser, Ed Vaughan and Al Stewart.

Over at Theology & Culture, Aaron Rathbun has a very good post on how we're amusing ourselves to death.

And at The Bible and Interpretation, Thomas Verenna has an excellent (if lengthy) article criticising the recent media furore over the supposed "lead codices". He's lays out some pretty damning evidence of the "complete lack of journalistic integrity, honest research, and thorough fact-checking".

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Love: nature, purpose, commitment and affection

In a previous post, I blogged about the arguments for same-gender marriage. I received the foll. question:
There’s one other argument used by those in favour of same-sex marriage that you haven’t covered: love.

The basic argument goes - the core reason for marriage is the declaration of your love for, and commitment to, another person. Homosexual couples are just as capable of love and commitment as heterosexual couples, so they should be just as able to express their love for each other as heterosexual couples can by getting married.

The slippery slope with this argument is that it not only opens the door for same-sex marriage, but also polygamous and polyandrous marriages. How would you respond to this argument?
Here's my answer.

There’s at least three meanings to the word ‘love’:
  1. To use something according to its God-given nature and purpose, which can only be fully known through divine revelation, but can be partially known through scientific, empirical examination;
  2. To be committed to the well-being of someone or something – which well-being is defined by aforementioned God-given nature and purpose;
  3. To have feelings of affection for someone or something.
The bible orders our loves as above, 1-2-3. God tells us what things are like and what they are for (1. above). He calls us to be committed to these revealed natures and purposes (2. above). We are to love what God loves – our affections are to follow our God-honouring commitments (3. above).

The world, unsurprisingly, turns this upside-down. We feel affection for someone or something (3. above). No-one has the right to judge these feelings. If I feel nice about someone or something, I ‘commit’ myself to them or to it – until that feeling goes away, that is, then my (so-called) commitment goes away with it (2. above). And I assume that God affirms me in that feelings-based non-commitment, because that’s his job – God is there to validate me and make me feel good about myself.

People can feel affection for - that is, "love" - lots of things: people of the opposite gender, people of the same gender, pets, children, inanimate objects (I love chocolate...). The question is: how are we going to express that affection? How are we going to act on that love?

As I argued in my AFES WebSalt article, same-gender love is a good and healthy thing. The bible says men should have deep feelings of loyalty and affection towards other men - that's how David and Jonathan felt for each other, and Ruth was very loyal to Naomi. But, those relationships were not sexual. Sex belongs in heterosexual marriage because God made human bodies and relational capacities in such a way that sex works best in that marital context. The bible explains it to us by showing the deep connections between sex, marriage, and union with Christ. But we're not dependent upon special revelation: science shows us that our bodies work best, and individuals, families and soceities tend to be happy, when sex is enjoyed within heterosexual marriage.

(Post)modern Western society has sexualised everything. Love = sex; intimacy = sex; joy = sex... everything good = sex! That's why advertising uses so many sexual references. The advertisers know that if they can portray the item in a manner that suggests it enhances your sex life, or gives pleasure equivalent to sexual pleasure, it'll sell.

This rampant sexualisation has happened because (post)modern Western society holds to a reductive materialist ontology: (1) we're nothing more than pleasure-seeking biological organisms; (2) sex is self-evidently the highest pleasure we can experience; (3) therefore, the goal of life is to have the best sex possible. I critiqued this attitude in another one of my AFES WebSalt articles.

We've also lost the ability to have good friends of the opposite gender. Just as we get to know someone of the opposite gender well, we feel like we enter a sexually-charged zone in the relationship, and we either give in and have sex with them, or give up and back off on the friendship and stop getting to know them better. No-one has the courage to stand firm: to defuse the the sexually-charged environment through getting to know the person better, as a person, not just a sex object. For more thoughts on this, see yet another of my AFES WebSalt articles.

So of course we've also lost the ability to have healthy, non-sexual same-gender relationships. If we "love" someone of the same gender, we must have the right to have sex with them if we want to. Or else we've been denied the right to love. But that statement assumes that we have the right to define what it means to "love" that person of the same gender. If God has the right to define what it means to "love" someone, then going against that God-given definition is not actually loving. Regardless of the intention, it's actually abusive. The loving thing to do is actually warn against that abuse.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Inaburra School Teen Health Conference: Our Pornified World

This Fri & Sat, I'm speaking at Inaburra Christian School's inaugural Teen Health Conference. The conference is looking at everything from alcohol to risk taking to sex to travel to bullying. Thurs night open to students, parents and teachers; Friday for students; Sat for parents & teachers. Dunno if it's full yet - I'm sure they'll welcome late registrations - try the rego page.

I'm presenting a session on the effects of our pornified world on today's youth.

Pornography is fantasy sex - it's visual, superficially physical, anti-relational, and commercial. It treats humans as merely pleasure-seeking organisms: as bodies throbbing in constant emotional and sensual climax, with no dangers, no limitations, and no consequences.

That is ridiculously out of step with reality. Real sex is wholistic, embodied, relational, and personal. It involves two people finding out about each other as people - with emotional needs, and bodily limitations. It involves communication, care, and compromise. It doesn't always "work" - it can be awkward & clumsy, the body parts may not operate properly, we may not enjoy it half as much as we think we should.

The problem is: the fantasy world affects us - and especially today's youth - more than reality does. They therefore grow up with attitudes to themselves, other people (including potential sexual partners), and the world, that are out of step with reality, therefore deeply unhealthy.

Our culture is pornified: the characteristics of porn - visual, superficially physical, anti-relational, commercial - are more and more becoming part of ordinary life. That means the whole culture we operate within is getting out of step with reality, and therefore deeply unhealthy. We live in a world gone mad.

All humans have a reciprocal relationship with culture: we are affected by the culture we operate within; we shape the culture we operate within. We are a victim, but not just a victim; we are a leader, but not only a leader. This is especially true of youth. They are heavily impacted by the environment we adults place them in; they will go on to shape the future world. What kind of heritage are we creating for our children and our children's children? What views will they have about sexuality, and their bodies, and their very selves?

None of this is unique to Christianity. But of course, the Bible explains both the problem, and the solution. We are not simply pulsating pleasure-sacs; we are relational beings. We're relational beings because we're made by a God who is relationship in himself - the Holy Trinity. God gave us our bodies as good gifts, to use them to advance our relationships. We are to give our bodies deeply for the other person - just like Jesus gave his body for us, on the cross.

Orright - the challenge for me is to reduce all of that to half-an-hour, clear language with no jargon, including statistics & visuals. Prayers please.

Monday, 16 May 2011

What's the issue with same-gender marriage?

Up until recently in human history, marriage has been uniquely between a man and a woman, for the purpose of begetting children and raising a family. Recently, that has been challenged by advocates for same-gender marriage.

The logic for same-gender marriage goes like this:
  1. Our sexuality is part of our body;
  2. We, as individuals, have the right to determine what we do with our bodies;
  3. If anyone else tries to tell us what to do with our bodies, including our sexuality, that's the same as doing violence to our bodies - ie, we are "hurt", and we must "scream" and "fight back";
  4. Society must affirm individuals in their search for bodily, sexual self-expression;
  5. If society doesn't affirm us, we have been violated, and can "scream";
  6. Because we, as individuals, have the right to determine our own sexuality, then having sex with someone of the same gender is as valid as sex with someone of the opposite gender;
  7. If anyone disagrees with 6., we have been violated and can scream and fight;
  8. Marriage is the normal societal way of affirming sexual union;
  9. Therefore society must - not may, not can, but must, is morally compelled to - permit same-gender marriage;
  10. If society doesn't, then those who choose to be sexually active with someone of the same gender has been violated, and can scream.
The Biblical view departs from this at point 2.

1. Our sexuality is part of our body - agreed. God made us embodied and sexual, and it was good. Genesis 1:28; 2:23-25; Song of Songs; 1 Tim 4:3; etc.

2. We, as individuals, have the right to determine what we do with our bodies - No. As creatures of a good God, we trust him to tell us what to do with our bodies - sexually, and in everything else - because he knows us better than we know ourselves. Psalm 11:4, 139:13; Prov 20:24.

3. If anyone else tries to tell us what to do with our bodies, including our sexuality, that's the same as doing violence to our bodies - ie, we are "hurt", and we must "scream" and "fight back" - No. When God tells us how to live our lives, he does so for our good. And we are called to speak good words of rebuke and correction to each other, for each other's good. Heb 10:24; 2 Tim 4:2; Titus 1:9.

4. Society must affirm individuals in their search for bodily, sexual self-expression - Not quite.

Christianity is not a secular religion; we do not seek to impose belief on unbelievers through law and coercion. The only way to truly come to God is to be convinced, through the Bible, that Jesus really is God, and that he died to forgive us. Having come to God in Christ, we trust his good direction for our lives - including our sex lives. None of that can be achieved through law and coercion; it is achieved through explanation and persuasion.

So, the secular State should maintain broad freedoms - including freedom of religion, speech, assembly, media - so that people can search for what is "true", including the truth of Biblical Christianity.

That said, the secular State should not affirm anything that is positively damaging. And, as will be argued below, same-gender sexuality is positively damaging. So the State should not affirm it.

5. If society doesn't affirm us, we have been violated, and can "scream" - No. See 3. above. Even if we're not Christians, a mature person is able to transcend their own opinions, listen to others, and consider that they just might be wrong. Radical individualism necessarily leads to ethical narcissism - I do whatever's good for me - which eventually leads to the dissolution of society because no-one's listening to each other, everyone's screaming and fighting everyone else.

6. Because we, as individuals, have the right to determine our own sexuality, then having sex with someone of the same gender is as valid as sex with someone of the opposite gender - No.

Same-gender friendship is very good; same-gender sexuality is very bad. Our bodies are made for sexual expression with someone of the opposite gender, not the same gender. Same-gender sexuality - especially men having sex with men - damages the body by making it do things it wasn't designed to do. For more info, see my article on AFES WebSalt.

7. If anyone disagrees with 6., we have been violated and can scream and fight - No. See 3. & 5. above.

8. Marriage is the normal societal way of affirming sexual union - Yes, historically and Biblically (Gen 2:23-25; Matt 19:4-6; Hebrews 13:4).

Marriage is for sex, and the children that sex begets. As I argued in another AFES WebSalt article, cross-gender friendships are very good. They can and should be truly "loving" and "affectionate" - as in we deeply care about the person, we like to be with them, they make us feel good, we're happy when they're happy and we're sad when they're sad - but these relationships are not sexual, therefore they're not a marriage.

The irony of the same-gender marriage movement is it's coming at a time when sex and marriage have been broken apart. Contraception has broken the link between sex and babies, thus breaking the link between sex and families. Why bother getting married? If you want to have sex with someone, just do it. If you want to live with them while having sex with them, just do it.

9. Therefore society must - not may, not can, but must, is morally compelled to - permit same-gender marriage - No. In fact, because same-gender sexuality is personally destructive, the State is morally compelled to oppose it.

10. If society doesn't, then those who choose to be sexually active with someone of the same gender has been violated, and can scream - No, but they will anyway. If the homosexual lobby succeeds in getting legal recognition for same-gender marriage, they will use it as a tool to persecute the church. They will turn up at churches, demand to be married, and when we say no, they'll publicly mock us or use legal sanctions against us. And because we're to love our enemies, we'll respond with kindness and gentleness - which will itself be used against us, just like Paul's refusal to take money for ministry was used against him (1 Cor 9).

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Debate vs dialogue

When presenting the gospel - in an evangelistic setting, or speaking/preaching, or one-on-one, or whatever - what's the better "posture" to take: a "robust" posture of a debate, or a "friendly" posture of dialogue?

The benefit of a debate is it permits us to make universal claims: "this is reality, take it or leave it." That agrees with the nature of the gospel - Jesus really is Lord of all, whether we like it or not. And it also agrees with the examples of proclamation in the book of Acts.

The problem with a debate is it scares people who are timid or uncertain of their own beliefs - Christian or atheist or whatever - and therefore potentially shuts down true questioning and searching through intimidation rather than conviction. Also, it potentially reinforces a grumpy, doctrinaire preconception of Christianity.

The benefit of a dialogue is it invites people to "walk inside my worldview" without making absolute claims of right/wrong. That agrees with post-modern love of narrative and discussion, and its suspicion of universal truth-claims.

But that's also its detriment: Jesus' Lordship is not actually up for discussion. Also, is it deceptive to not using a method that agrees with the nature of our message? That is, if we don't really think Jesus' Lordship is negotiable, is it deceptive to present it in a way that suggests it is?

Thoughts, anyone...?

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

An evangelical theodicy? A response to the "problem of evil"

A ministry colleague sent me a query from someone within his ministry context about the origin of evil, asking me to help him frame a response. Here's an edited version of my response. Anyone got any thoughts? Feedback appreciated.

The classic dilemma goes as follows: how can a good and all-powerful God permit evil and suffering to exist? It either denies his goodness, or his all-powerfulness.

The very simple explanation - classically called the "free will defense" - goes like this: God created humans, and other spiritual creature - like the angel who became the Devil - with a genuine capacity for choice. This genuine capacity for choice is itself a good thing - it gives us dignity, some genuine independence from God, and responsibility. But, while being good, this capacity for choice is fragile. It's natural goodness makes it vulnerable to being used in a bad way - viz, to choose against God, rebel against him, and bring in chaos. Therefore, we should not blame God for giving us the "space" to make choices - to do that is effectively to depersonalise ourselves and say "God, I wish I was a robot." Instead, we should accept our responsibility for using God's good gifts in an evil manner, and thus siding with the Devil and his supernatural forces against God.

Notice this doesn't try to explain why God made us as personal beings. It merely asserts that God made it that way, and appeals to our instinctive preference for relational choice over being an automaton.

From a Christian point of view, God in his kindness provides a solution to get us out of the mess we've put ourselves in. That solution is found in Christ - in his death and resurrection. And the nature of God's solution itself points to the problem - an evangelical, gospel-shaped response to evil.

Jesus always chose for God. He resisted Satan in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11 & parallels). Hebrews 4:15 says Jesus "has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin." Therefore, Jesus deserved to be honoured by God, vindicated by him. That happened in Jesus' resurrection. Jesus also takes the punishment we deserve for rejecting God. That happened in his death on the cross, where the punishment we deserve fell on him (Isaiah ch 53; Mark 10:45; Romans 3:21-25; 1 John 4:10; etc...). So we now need not fear God's anger - it was all exhausted on Jesus on the cross.

For those of us who have put our trust in Jesus, God now calls us to choose for him (Deut 30:19-20; Ezek 18:33, 33:11; Acts 2:38, 3:19; 1 Thess 1:9-10... etc) - to exercise our wills, make our decisions, his way, not our own way or the world's way or whatever. This happens as we read the bible, through which we little by little understand God's way of thinking, and his perspective on the world (Hebrews 4:12; 2 Tim 3:16-17; etc). It also comes through the power of his Holy Spirit working invisibly within us to reshape us from the inside (Gal 5:22-25). We're never perfect - that only happens in glory - but we're constantly being reshaped to be more & more like Jesus (Colossians 3:9-10).

This adds some detail to the free will defense. If Jesus is truly human, but didn't sin, then true humanity is choosing for God - joyously obeying him in all of our life, with all that we are. We, in our rejection of God, become sub-human - or, more correctly, brokenly human. Personal choice is an aspect of the good humanity that God created us for.

Did God have to give us choice to make us personal beings? Perhaps not. The persons of the Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Spirit - can't help loving each other. So in that sense they don't have the choice to not love. So that means that choice is not necessarily essential to personhood.

On the other hand, we can't simply draw analogies between the persons of the Holy Trinity and our personhood, for the simple reason that the Trinity is uncreated and immortal, and we're created mortals. So we must be careful before drawing connections, in either direction, between the persons of the Trinity and ourselves. All I would say, therefore, is that we cannot say that God had to give us choice to make us fully personal. He could somehow make himself so gloriously proximate to us - as the persons of the Trinity are gloriously proximate to each other - that we could not help but love and obey him.

Anyway, getting back to Jesus (always a good thing...): Jesus shows us that, whatever we think about the necessity of God giving us choice as an aspect of our good created humanity, it is actually possible to choose for God. So bang go all our excuses.

I would contend that the gospel itself - the message about Jesus, and what he's done for us - both puts some detail on the "free will defense", and provides God's solution to evil. And that's an evangelical theodicy - a solution to the problem of evil shaped around Christ and his cross.

Thoughts, anyone...?

Monday, 9 May 2011

G. E. Ladd and Evangelical scholarship

We see further when we stand on the shoulders of giants.

21st century Evangelicalism has benefited immensely from the labours of mid-20th century evangelical scholars. They were people who, convinced that if the God of the Bible was the creator of all things - as the Bible claims he is - then he is also the creator of the rational mind, with its desire for clear explanation of phenomena. And, if the same God who caused the Bible to be written about himself also created the whole world, then this whole world should fit together the way the Bible says it would. Therefore, they committed themselves to evangelical scholarship - to studying the Bible and the world, not as "objective scholars" - a so-called objectivity which assumes away the supernatural without argument, and is therefore both radically subjective and a cipher for atheistic materialism - but as self-concious believers in the Lordship of the crucified and risen Jesus.

We've had our luminaries here in Australia - D. Broughton Knox of Moore College, and Leon Morris of Ridley College, Melbourne, spring to mind. Graeme Goldsworthy is an unsung (under-sung...?) Aussie theological hero - his three-fold "people, place, rule" outline of the Old Testament has influenced countless church leaders, myself included.

George Eldon Ladd was one of the key shapers of American evangelicalism - and let's face it, America was the global trend-setter for evangelicalism in the 20th century. His Theology of the New Testament remains, to this day, a classic statement of evangelical convictions. I remember devouring slabs of it myself, as a student at Moore College, in preparation for an eschatology essay. He clarified all my bad vibes about currently fashionable eschatology - especially that of Jurgen Moltmann.

John D’Elia has brought out a biography of G. E. Ladd: A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America. Scot McKnight has a good review of it. D'Alia doesn't write a hero tale - he honestly tells of Ladd's struggles with alcohol, his poor family life, and the psychological damage he sustained as he tried to engage with non-evangelical scholarship. Looks like a worthwhile read to get to know the giants upon whose shoulders we stand.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Africa Bible Commentary and South Asia Bible Commentary

Let me confess to a moment of cynicism. When I first heard of the Africa Bible Commentary project, I thought "oh please - another expression of post-modern reality fragmentation. We already have plenty of Australians, Americans and Europeans ignoring the Bible's own assertions, reading their own situation into it, and then admiring their own reflections and proclaiming it as the word of God - do we have to make the Africans do the same?"

I'm glad to discover how wrong I was.

Conrad Mbewe, a Reformed Baptist from Zambia, has written an excellent review of the Africa Bible Commentary. He commends it as being an excellent example of "conservative evangelical scholarship" where "the commentators allowed the passages they were commenting on to speak for themselves – however uncomfortable that might be – which is an important aspect of conservative evangelicalism." Nevertheless, the commentary is appropriately contextuslised for Africa: "All the books of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, are made to speak to us as Africans", including articles on "HIV and AIDS, funerals, circumcision, street children, inheritance of widows, witchcraft and demons, lobola, tribalism, polygamy, land, debts, etc., [which] will not be found in your average commentary from the West (or the East) but they are all handled in this one volume."

This bolsters my hopes for the still-in-progress South Asia Bible Commentary. I was born in Sri Lanka and still have family and friends there. I hope this lastest project will equip people in the sub-continent, and expats like myself who seek to minister to South Asians who in the West.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Friday, 29 April 2011

On being Thomian


The school I attended in Sri Lanka is St Thomas’ College. I reckon history has been unkind to St Thomas. Despite the adjective usually attached to his name – “doubting” Thomas – I reckon he’s actually a good model for a believer. That is, if you follow the correct Thomas.

The world is a big place. We can’t possibly travel everywhere & experience everything. So how do we gain reliable information about the world? Through people telling us what it’s like. When they tell us what it’s like, we can share some of their experiences. We can see what they see, hear what they hear, and thereby come to a reliable knowledge of whatever it is they’re telling us about. That works through time – we know history through the records of witnesses – and in contemporary time – people share their experiences with us.

And that’s the same way we can know about Jesus rising from the dead: through the testimony of the eyewitnesses. That’s the challenge Thomas faced.

John 20:24-25 (NIV 1984):
24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
The disciples had seen Jesus – except Thomas; he wasn’t there. So he had a choice. All the other disciples were saying to him: Jesus is alive! We saw him! Thomas had to decide whether to believe them or not. And he decided not to.

And if you think about it – that’s really rude. The other disciples were Thomas’ friends. They’d lived together for three years; ate together; listened to Jesus together – they were family. Why should they lie to him? They’ve got nothing to prove. They’ve got no reason to fake a resurrection – to make up a story – to fool Thomas.

But in not believe them, he judges them. “You guys – you’re all stupid. You’re all imagining things. Or you’re lying to me. I’m the only one who knows the truth.” That’s effectively what he’s saying to them. And that’s really rude, isn’t it? He wasn't just Doubting Thomas. He was Rude, Arrogant Thomas.

When I arrived at my church here in St Mary’s, I visited my church members. Some of them have been here for decades. They told me stories of what it was like in the old days, when there was only one paved road, and there was a Dutch settlement.

Imagine if, when those people told me about the history of St Mary’s, I smiled patronisingly and said “we don’t believe in Dutch people any more.”

“But I am Dutch!”

“No – we’re in Australia now. Dutch people don’t exist. We’re all Australians now.”

That’d be really rude, wouldn’t it? I expect the people would get rather angry, and tell me, in a few choice words, where I could stick my being Australian…

Jesus was kinder than we usually are. He appeared to Thomas, so Thomas himself became an eye-witness. And Thomas could have been a hand-witness if he wanted – he could have felt the wounds. We don’t know if he really did – the bible doesn’t tell us – but he could have.

And then things broaden out to encompass us.

John 20:29-31 (NIV 1984):
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Jesus says “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v 29b). Oh, great - so faith is a leap in the dark, is it? I can’t prove it – but I want it to be true – so I just believe it, I just have faith. Is that what Jesus wants?

No. He wants us to believe based on the testimony of the books.

This passage is almost at the end of the Gospel of John. This Gospel – like the others – is the story of Jesus, told to us by one of his followers – a witness of what Jesus did and said, and of his death and resurrection. In this passage, John tells us why he’s bothered to write all this down. “Jesus did lots of amazing stuff,” John says. “I don’t have time to tell you all of it. I’ve written these down for you. So that you would understand who Jesus is, and, through knowing Jesus – the risen Jesus, who has defeated death – that you would have eternal life through him.”

In fact, the whole New Testament tells us about people’s experiences of Jesus. The disciples crowded around Thomas, and said to him: “we’ve seen Jesus – this is what it was like.” Just like that, the authors of the New Testament – Matthew, mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, James – they crowd around us, and say to us: “we’ve seen Jesus – this is what it was like.”

The only question for us is – are we going to be polite enough to listen to them? And through him, experience Jesus - the same way we experience & know about most things in life? Or are we going to smile patronisingly, and say “this is Australia – we don’t believe in Jesus any more”?

John wants us to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. “Son of God” could be another way of talking about the Christ – God’s chosen king over the universe (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7, 89:26-27). But in John’s Gospel, it also comes to me that Jesus is divine – the second person of the Trinity, the unique (“only-begotten”, Greek monogenous) Son of the Father. That’s why Thomas called Jesus “my Lord and God” (v28).

The first Thomas was really rude. He wasn't just Doubting Thomas - he was Rude, Arrogant Thomas. Confronted by Jesus, he changed, to become Trusting, Testifying Thomas. Which Thomas are we going to stand with? The rude, arrogant Thomas, who said “I don’t care what you say – I know better”? Or the Thomas who saw the wounds, and cried out “my Lord and God”?

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Jesus the temple

This follows on from my previous post on Jesus, the radical reformer.
John 2:18-22:
18 Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” 20 The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.
The risen body of Jesus is the one true temple – the one place where God and man con come together in peace and harmony.

Jesus had taken charge of the temple. He was controlling the place, and dictating what true worship was. The Jewish leaders ask him: what right have you to do that? They want him to perform a miracle, to prove that he has the right to take over the place, and dictate true worship.

He says if they destroy the temple, he’ll rebuild it in three days. That would have been a miracle. The temple was about 450 m (approx 1,500 ft) from N to S, and about 300 m (approx. 950 ft) from E to W.

But he didn’t mean the physical temple; the real miracle was his resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is the proof of his authority to dictate true worship.

Jesus had to die to take the penalty for all our corrupt worship. Our worship, on its own, stinks. It’s always corrupt. It’s never good enough for God. Think of Jesus’ death as his once for all, eternal cleaning up of the temple; and his resurrection as a once for all, eternal rebuilding of the temple, where God can have acceptable, pure worship, led by the risen Jesus himself.

As people who now, in Christ, worship God acceptably, let’s be like Jesus – zealous for true worship.

We’re too relaxed. We’re too used to mediocrity, to false worship. Every shopping mall is a temple to the god dollar. The football field is the temple for many blokes. Islam says Jesus is a prophet, but refuses to worship him as God. Hinduism worships a pantheon of gods. We’re too comfortable with this. The culture of tolerance has doused our fervour.

Personal godliness, and a passion for evangelism, spring from the same root: zeal for the glory of God, in Christ. Christ was consumed by his zeal for pure worship. He expects nothing less from us.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Jesus the reformer

John 2:14-16:
14 In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” 17 His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
When we read the account of Jesus clearing the temple, we instinctively cheer him on. But Jesus’ actions are actually rather strange. Because when we look carefully, we can see that this market was originally set up to help people worship God, not get in the way of it.

The merchants were selling “cattle, sheep and doves” (v14). They are sacrificial animals. God specifically permitted people to purchase sacrificial animals on site:

Deuteronomy 14:24-26
24 But if that place [the central place of worship, where the LORD puts his name] is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice.
This makes sense. To transport an animal would have involved walking the animal a long distance. By the time they got to the temple, the animal would be tired and weak, and perhaps sick. What kind of a sacrifice is that? “Here you go, God. Have this weak, sick, animal.” It would be much better to sell the animal when it’s healthy, get a good price for it, and then buy another good, healthy animal from the merchants.

So the merchants are helping people to worship God – just like God commanded in the bible. What’s Jesus’ problem?

And the money changers were helping people worship God, too. A good Jew paid temple tax – that is, money given to the temple to pay the priests and maintain the temple.

Roman money of the time had images of Caesar, the Roman emperor, with proclamations that he was divine. For Jews, this was multiple blaspheme. No way could a human being claim to be God – least of all a pork-stuffed, multiple-God-worshipping, blood-sport-watching Roman Gentile…! And then putting that claim on a coin is idolatry – it’s creating an image of a false god. So there’s no way a good Jew could use that kind of coin to worship God. They had to exchange that blasphemous, idolatrous coin for pure, acceptable temple coin, and use that pure coin to pay the temple tax.

So what’s Jesus’ problem? The money changers are helping people to worship God. Aren't they?

Maybe Jesus got mad because the sales were exploitative. The merchants and the temple priests could have been working together, to rip off the worshippers, and make profit for the priests and merchants. It’s an old problem – Paul warns us to beware of “men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Timothy 6:5).

But I don’t think that’s the particular focus that John’s giving us.

Matthew, Mark & Luke also tell us how Jesus cleared the temple, at the end of Jesus’ ministry, just before the crucifixion. They record Jesus as saying “stop turning God’s house of prayer into a den of robbers”.

John’s different. He shows us Jesus clearing the temple at the beginning of his ministry, and records Jesus says “stop turning my Father’s house into a market”.

That’s slightly different: house of prayer – den of robbers vs Father’s house – market.

John shows us Jesus the reformer. The markets might have been there to help at first. But over time, they became corrupted, and started serving people rather than God. Jesus, consumed with zeal for his Father’s house, was determined to clean the place up, and restore the proper worship of God.

This is perfectly normal. All human worship patterns decline, and become corrupt.

Just like normal life. Our home doesn’t stay magically clean; we have to wash the dishes, sweep the floor, vacuum the carpet, dust the furniture, mow the lawn…

That’s what we have to do to our normal patterns of daily, weekly, monthly and annual worship. We have to keep cleaning them up, getting rid of the rubbish, and constantly getting back to pure worship of God.

And it’s not just formal church practices. Worship is bigger than Sundays. Paul says “present your bodies as living sacrifices” (Rom 12:1). We need to examine our ordinary lives. What are we spending our money on? What are we spending our time on? Would Jesus approve of that TV show? Would he approve of that internet site?

A healthy church can never be comfortable and predictable. A healthy Christian can never be contented. Both are always reforming – constantly evaluating themselves according to the rule of the Bible, and seeking to fix what doesn’t measure up.

Christ was consumed by his zeal for pure worship. He expects nothing less from us.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Jesus makes us flourish

Human beings flourish in an environment where we’re confident that those who have authority over us care about us, and use their authority for our good.

We’ve all been in situations where someone who had authority over us – a parent, a teacher, a boss – didn’t really care about us. They were distant, withdrawn: “Just get the job done.” “Do your homework. Don’t bother me – I’m watching TV.” Perhaps they even used their power to oppress us – like the boss takes the credit for all the businesses successes, and shifts the blame for all the mistakes.

How demoralising is that…?

Then there are situations where the people in authority over us used their power to care for us, and advance us. Like the teacher who deeply knows the content of what they’re teaching, and also deeply wants the class to know it. Their enthusiasm is infectious.

John 1:1-5:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
As the passage progresses, we see that the Word is Jesus (verse 16). So this passage affirms:
  • Jesus is himself divine – fully God;
  • He is from eternity – which is consistent with his full Divinity;
  • He created all things and is himself uncreated – which also supports the assertion that he is fully God, not a demiurge, an “under-God” (contra the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons);
  • As God, he gives us life;
  • As God, he makes sense of existence – he gives us “light”;
  • This Christ-centred making-sense-ness of the universe is fundamentally moral – ‘darkness’, in John’s Gospel, is not merely lack of knowledge (“I’m in the dark about that…”) but a willed, purposeful, personal rejection of God.
That means Jesus is our creator God. As God, he’s the ultimate power and authority over us. As his creatures, we depend on him.

We depend on Jesus for ‘ordinary’ life. Jesus maintains the biological, neurological and physical processes that maintain everyone’s physical existence – whether they realise it or not, whether they accept it or nor. We are not merely biological machines; we are creatures, made by Jesus, for himself.

And, we depend on Jesus for eternal life. In John’s Gospel, ‘real’ life is more than biological functioning. There’s more to life than running around, eating, working, and having fun. Real life is relationships, primarily relationship with God. John 17:3: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

We don’t like to think of ourselves as created, dependent beings, because it threatens our independence and autonomy. (Post)modern Western society takes it for granted that the only way to be truly happy and fulfilled is to cast off all external restraints, and assert yourself. I want what I want, just because I want it. Anything that stops me from doing that I want is bad.

But these verses tell us that that kind of thinking is deeply flawed. We are dependent, not independent, beings. And the healthiest, most reasonable, most rational thing to do is – admit that dependence. And seek to live consistently with it. That is – to come into the light, to trust Jesus, our creator.

As people who rightly depend on our creator, I expect Christians to experience, generally, healthy, wholesome lives – because we’re living in touch with reality, in touch with the God who made us.

But this immediately gives us a problem. We must not come to Jesus primarily to live a happy life. That reduces Jesus as a means to an end – we want a happy life; Jesus gives us a happy life; so I’ll come to Jesus in order to secure a happy life.

Instead, we must come to Jesus because of the glory, not just of him as our creator (glorious as that is), but of him as our redeemer.

John 1:14:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
In John’s Gospel, ‘glory’ focuses mainly (but not exclusively) on Jesus death and resurrection (see especially the use of the word in chapter 17). The way we see Jesus’ glory is in his sin-bearing, sacrificial death on the cross, where he opens the way for us to be with him and the Father, and in his resurrection to eternal life, which he now shares with us.

Human beings flourish in an environment where we’re confident that those who have authority over us care about us, and use their authority for our good.

Jesus is God – the highest authority over us, and the whole world. He uses his power and authority, not to oppress us (that would contradict his good, life-giving character); not even to justly punish us for our sin (he could do that – it would be totally consistent with his righteousness and justice), but to forgive us, reconcile us to himself, and freely give us eternal life (which is a free, merciful act, not just undeserved but contrary to just desserts, flowing from the depths of his compassion towards his irrationally rebellious image-bearers).

Living within the grace of Christ’s death and resurrection – that is, trusting Jesus, and living a life that expresses that trust – is the ultimate environment for human flourishing.

Monday, 7 March 2011

It's Important to be Some Body

To be human is to be embodied, to be a physical, biological creature. Christians view all of physical existence, from the grandeur of the cosmos to the particularity of the human body, as the good creation of a benevolent God. Physical existence is not divine, but it is good by creational intent, and human existence as embodied is an aspect of this good physicality. The goodness of embodiment is also supported by and grounded in two additional key theological themes of traditional Christianity, the doctrines of the incarnation and of the resurrection of the body. Clearly, bodily existence must not be intrinsically evil or incompatible with the perfect good if God can become fully human. Clearly, the teaching that the final state of redeemed humanity will be as persons of resurrected and perfected bodies, and that we will, in that state, enjoy God forever, must deepen our appreciation of embodiment. We are more than bodies - there is a trans-materialistic, spiritual or soulish, aspect of our persons - but we are bodies.
Stanton L. Jones and Mark A. Yarhouse, "Anthropology, Sexuality and Sexual Ethics", in Lints, Horton & Talbot (eds.), Personal Identity in Theological Perspective, page 121.

All we've ever wanted
Is to look good naked,
hope that someone can take it.
God, save me rejection
From my reflection;
I want perfection.
Robbie Williams

Luke 24:39:
"Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."

Philippians 3:20-21:
20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

1 John 3:2:
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.