Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Theological Commons & Christian Classics

Princeton Theological Seminary has partnered with the Internet Archive to create the Theological Commons digital library. It provides free, online access to over 50,000 theology and religion books from the PTS Library.

And don't forget the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, with thousands of documents from church history available on-line and downloadable in various formats for free.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Christian ethics are theological, evangelical, and scriptural

Every ethic is connected with an assumed anthropology and worldview. We instinctively act out of a sense of who we are, and our place in the world.
Our answers to the questions “Who am I?” and “What am I?” are intimately connected to the question of “How ought I to be in the world?” In other words, theological anthropology can never be entirely descriptive. A description of human nature always both presumes and entails a prescription for human living. [Marc Cortez, Theological Anthropology: A Guide for the Perplexed: 2-3, emphasis in original]
Christian ethics are theological, evangelical and scriptural. As Christians, we conduct all of life coram Deo: God is the ultimate reality, the foundation and framework of the world we operate in, in whom all things hold together. We think of ourselves as beings created by God, beloved by him, and responsible to him. This God we worship is not distant and unknowable, but is God in Christ. The cosmos is Christ-powered; it does not operate purely through natural processes or human agency [Andrew Cameron, Joined-Up Life: 84-86].

Christian ethics are theological through being Christological. We can know God because he has revealed himself in his Son. And our knowledge of God’s Son, the man Jesus Christ, is shaped by our knowledge of his historical work for us: his incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection, heavenly session, and expected return – we know Christ through the gospel. And we know the gospel through the scriptures – the Old Testament which prophecies him, and the New which demonstrates the fulfilment of the prophecies, and explains his significance for his new people – the international church.
The Bible makes a very radical idea inescapable: not only in the gospel the interpretative norm for the whole Bible, but there is an important sense in which Jesus Christ is the mediator of the meaning of everything that exists. In other words, the gospel is the hermeneutical norm for the whole of reality. [Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel-Centred Hermeneutics: 63, emphasis in original.]
Thus are Christian ethics theological, evangelical and scriptural. Through the bible, we know Christ, who brings us to God. And, through this knowledge of God, we know our world and ourselves.
Nearly all the [true and sound] wisdom we possess… consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. [John Calvin, Institutes, 1.1.1]

Friday, 9 March 2012

Against polygamy

A couple of days ago I got asked whether polygamy is immoral. Here's some biblical ruminations on the topic.
  • God created Adam and Even (Gen. 2), not Adam and Eve and Rachel and Charlotte and...
  • In the OT, polygamy always caused problems. Abraham's son through Hagar was not the child of the promise; Isaac, his son through Sarah his wife, was (Gen 17:15-22). Jacob wound up marrying Leah and Rachel because of Laban's deceit, but he loved Rachel more than Leah, and that caused tension and competition between the women (Gen ch 29-30).
  • Song of Songs portrays exclusive love. "My lover is mine and I am his" (SoS 2:16; 6:3).
  • Jesus validates one-man one-woman in Matt 19:5-6 & Mark 10:7-8, where he quotes the "one flesh" reference in Genesis 2:24.
  • Paul requires monogamy from church leaders: 1 Tim 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6. This cannot be reserved for church leaders alone because they are supposed to be examples to the rest of the people: 1 Tim 3:15.
One way to dismiss all this is to say that polygamy was taken for granted in the Ancient Near East, so that's why the OT accepts polygamy. My response is: then why is
  1. Genesis 2 monogamous?
  2. the OT so negative in its portrayal of polygamy?
More foundationally: to read the bible this way - that because everyone else was into polygamy, the Israelites had to as well - is to not make a key false assumption: that the bible has to validate what was socially accepted. Or, to put it another way: it is to ignore the idea that the OT portrays polygamy in order to criticise it, and call God's people to live differently. Of course, if we're willing to consider that:
  • God doesn't want his people to live like everyone else;
  • But instead wants their lives to be distinctively shaped by his word;
  • And God's word reflects his character, which is uniquely committed and loyal;
... then a critique of polygamy, and assertion of monogamy, makes a whole lot more sense.

Thoughts, anyone...?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

St Mary's Presbyterian Church new website

My church - the Presbyterian church in the suburb of St Mary's, near Penrith, in Sydney's outer west (I always have to give that long explanation because if I say "St Mary's Presbyterian Church" people think St Mary is the church's patron saint... which isn't very Protestant...) - has a new website, including my Sunday bible talks.