Friday, June 30, 2006

Monday's paper

I’m presenting a paper on the Christology of 1 Cor 8-10 on Monday, and I thought I’d finished it, done and dusted, ready for a visit from friends from South Africa. However, on Tuesday afternoon, before our friends arrived, I thought I’d give the paper a quick proof-read for typos etc., and to my horror, I realised that I had written a pile of steaming dung, a sweating mound of putrefaction, a virus populated mass of inadequacy, a seweresque heap of laughability ...

Panic set in.

I was so stressed by the original state of the first part of my paper, I even gave someone who beeped me on the motorway, ‘the finger’ – to the shocked astonishment of my wife in the passenger seat. Shame welled up for a while, until I saw the funny side!

I’ve gone through things now and have, I hope, salvaged a decent argument, perhaps even a good one, but it was looking a bit shaky in places. Alas, the torture of being your own worst critic.
But, at least we all know what biblioblogging is all about: sound, serious, academic exchange between learned seekers of truth.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A friendly critique of Küng’s view vis-à-vis miracles Pt 2 of 2

3d) Whether Küng is correct in the historical doubt he casts upon certain biblical miracle stories is disputable - and readers will know that I actually admire and applaude Küng's openness to the results of biblical criticism. One or two of the examples Küng cites as ‘obviously legendary in character’ seem to presuppose a value judgment precisely according to modernist categories of closed and prescriptive (rather than descriptive) laws of nature. But one should perhaps be more careful in deciding what is legendary or not a priori (cf. Meyer, The Aims of Jesus). Furthermore, to claim that Küng's assertions are not made a priori but rather because of the results of biblical criticisms doesn't convince me.

3e) He uses that old chestnut of an argument: it’s the meaning that counts to the biblical authors, not whether something happened (‘Es geht ja der Bibel bei ihren Wundererzählungen ohnehin nicht primär um das erzählte Geschehen selbst, sondern um die Deutung des Erzählten’, p. 172). Although he sneaks in the word ‘primär’, it is doubtful that the flow of his argument justifies its inclusion. And surely sometimes the meaning of an event, the interpretation of an event, presupposes the occurrence of an event (cf. Jesus’ response to John the Baptist – though the interpretation was ambiguous, the happening of the miracles is presupposed – or the deck of cards has no table to stand on). Thus, to drive too firm a wedge between the event and its interpretation runs the risk of overstatement. Questions concerning the historicity of an event are an inadequate line of analysis, yes, but they are not ‘beside the point’ or irrelevant.

3f) I would suggest that it is one thing to claim as Küng does, and I think rightly, that miracles are not ‘proofs’ of God’s existence, but hints toward his activity in the world. However, it is quite another thing to assert that miracles are metaphors, and not about a ‘lifting of the laws of nature’ (whatever one is to make of such a phrase. It appears as a pejorative in modern scholarship in a way that brings less light than promised). These two issues are perhaps not distinguished firmly enough in Küng's rhetoric. To take a side-step out of the strict rules of academic debate for a moment: Try praying for a dying mum with cancer and tell her that she should not expect any miracle as (a hoped for) real event, but something only faith can seize in interpretation. This is not about proofs of the existence of God, but neither is it about simple metaphor.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A friendly critique of Küng’s view vis-à-vis miracles Pt 1 of 2

3) So, what are my difficulties with Küng’s presentation in Der Anfang Aller Dinge?

3a) I wonder if the ‘modern people’ he wishes to give ‘a helpful answer to’, are indeed modern? Modernist, yes, but modern? A generation raised on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, and such like, don’t, I think, have the slightest problem with miracles. The point: His claimed apologetic motives are, I suspect, simply out-of-date for many.

3b) Ben Myers quotes Küng’s Christ Sein in his comments to his first post on this subject: ‘[T]here is no question here of all or nothing, of everything being legendary or nothing being legendary. There is no need at all either to accept all miracle stories in an uncritical, fundamentalist spirit as historical facts..., or, on the other hand in a spirit of narrow-minded rationalism to refuse to take any miracle stories seriously. The hasty conclusion is a result of putting all miracle stories on the same plane’ (p. 229). This crucial comment, or something like it, is, however, missing in Der Anfang Aller Dinge.

3c) ‘In the Hebrew Bible and in the NT, nowhere does one differentiate between miracles that correspond to the laws of nature, and those that explode (sprengen) them’ (p. 171). This is, I suggest, an oversimplification of the epistemological Unterscheidungskraft of the ancients in the near east, who were quite aware of those things that normally happened, and those that didn’t. This is bordering, to use a C.S. Lewis phrase, on chronological snobbery.

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Küng and Miracles - a response (preliminary waffle)

Here I am sitting in Tübingen library feeling guilty that I'm not working, but blogging. So I'll keep this short:

It has been fun to read the developing debate in blogdom after my initial post on Küng’s position on miralces. Ben Myers was the first to respond, criticised by Mike of Pontifications here, then Ben retorted, and lastly a fourth, by Mike, here.

1) What do I not want to challenge? First, I do not dispute Küng’s claim that certain biblical miracle stories are best understood as legend (i.e. didn’t happen). Second, I leave unchallenged the assertion that certain miracle stories in the scriptures are simple faith interpretations of events that one could describe today as ‘natural events’ (I have in mind, for example, the Exodus miracles).

2) I will restrict myself to a critique of Küng’s views as presented in Der Anfang Aller Dinge, the source of my real quibble, and not get involved in his more lengthy (and less problematic) treatment in Christ Sein.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

England - Ecuador, here I come

What a busy weekend I’m having.

And now I’m off to watch the England football match in Stuttgart against Ecuador, along with roughly 70,000 other English fans! No, we have no tickets, but a couple of big screens in the city centre and plenty of grub! If I get near a TV camera, I’ll be sure to give you all a wave (I’ll be the fat git in the background with an England flag painted on his face trying to cause trouble)

You see, I live in South Germany about three-quarters of an hour drive away from Stuttgart (‘Schtoo-g’rt’ as the Swabian natives say), so I thought this one ought not be missed. In fact, this will be the last game to be played in Stuttgart apart from the match for 3rd place. Beneath is a link to Joe Cole’s awesome goal against Sweden.

(P.S. Moltmann didn't even make it to the final Symposium slot at which he was alloted to speak. I suspect that he's simply getting too old for too much activity. His mind obviously remains sharp, though)

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Name dropping

I’m very tired – it was a long day. The symposium offered a number of thought provoking presentations by Bernd Janowski, Jörg Barthel and H-J Eckstein (I missed Christiane Tietz’s), but I won’t go into details now as I’ve got almost no energy left.

Moltmann kicked off in typical style, suggesting, among other things, that talk of the centre of the canon is not as appropriate as talk of its fulfilment. Tomorrow, he will wrap things up hopefully in more detail.

Jüngel was in line to preach in a few weeks in the Stiftskirche, but I hear it has been cancelled.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Küng response to follow Moltmann Symposium

I will get around to responding to your comments, and posting my (of course, utterly devastating) friendly critique of Küng’s position on miracles. I’ve simply been enjoying the company of friends, and today – thanks to a tip from my dear friend, Volker – I shall be visiting a Symposium moderated by none other than Prof. Dr. Jürgen Moltmann. It promises to be a fascinating mini-conference, especially as the subject is one that personally interests me very much: The meaning and hermeneutical function of the biblical canon (Kanonhermeneutik. Vom Lesen und Verstehen der christlichen Bibel)

Here is some more information, if you really want to start salivating with jealousy ...

Until my Küng-rejoinder, I would point my readers to an excellent response to my initial post on Küng by Ben Myers, here (be sure to read the discussion on this one as well).

(Click to enlarge)


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Küng on miracles

Review of Küng’s Der Anfang aller Dinge, section D, part 7.

5. Miracles

Küng, now turns, briefly, to the question of the intellectual credibility of miracles – a matter he has treated at more length elsewhere (Christ Sein II, 2).

He prefaces his argument with the following:
‘I don’t want to hurt the religious feelings of anyone who finds a literal interpretation of the biblical miracles important. Rather, I want to give a helpful answer to those modern people for whom miracles are a hindrance to faith in God’ (171, italics mine).
It is necessary, claims Küng, to distinguish between the biblical and the modern understanding of reality. In the scriptures, he argues, no one distinguished between miracles that broke the laws of nature, and those that didn’t. Indeed, the idea that miracles ‘break the laws of nature’, is a modernist conception only.

As I pointed out in my ‘Why I love Küng’ post in Ben’s series, Küng’s sensitivity to the results of biblical criticism is something I appreciate. And to biblical criticism Küng turns in order to demonstrate that one should not take the biblical miracles stories literally.

Based on the different ways biblical writers saw the world, and the results of biblical criticism, Küng argues that biblical miracle stories are best understood as metaphors. What is important is not whether the miracles actually happened but what they mean.

I don’t find myself in disagreement with anything particularly noteworthy in Der Anfang aller Dinge, except, that is, for his arguments above.

An appreciative critique follows tomorrow.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Finished 1 Cor

I’ve just finished my exegesis of my-thesis-significant passages in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians tonight, (I’ll be joining you in 2 Cor soon Volker!) and it feels so good to have it behind me. It has ended up a little longer than I planned, which means I’ll be correspondingly changing my thesis outline. In fact, at over 30,000 words, I have enough material for all the presentations I plan to give this year, whether it be at the LST NT conference, or at the Tübingen postgrad seminar thingy. My exegesis of Paul’s discourse concerning idol food is alone 16 pages long.

Nevertheless, I’m pleased with most of what I’ve written, and that’s a nice feeling.

JC - it's in the initials

Righty, I’m no homosexual – ask the wife – but Joe Cole, I love you. I want to nibble your ears and peck your rosy cheeks.

What a guy! What a goal! Ronaldinho eat your heart out!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

How can one explain cosmic evolution?

Review of Küng’s Der Anfang aller Dinge, section D, part 6.

4. Why a life friendly cosmos? (WARNING, THIS SECTION IS FASCINATING)

In looking at the astonishing fact that 13.7 million years of cosmic evolution has led to incredibly developed and complex life, even ‘life with spirit’, Küng asks: ‘Is everything really chance? Is pure chance an explanation?’ (165)

What about science? Could this discipline one day clarify how human life came to be on this planet as it is? ‘Perhaps one day’, says Küng, it would be difficult to principally exclude any such possibility. But what of Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem (‘a finite system of axioms always contains formulas that within this system can neither be proven nor disproved`, 33)? Surely that makes things more than just a little problematic!

So, if science doesn’t give us a final explanation (and Küng isn’t holding his breath for the day it may do) what does explain the development of life on earth?

What about an anthropic principle? Well, possibly, says Küng, if the principle is understood in its weak sense. But how could a meta-nature law be proven?

In fact, Küng has already laid the epistemological foundations of his thinking in section A (cf. his reliance on Kant), and this excludes the possibility that science could one day provide a ‘final solution’ in the language of meta-empirical law. Rather, for such meta-matters as this, philosophy and religion is responsible, not science.

Now this brings one back to the question: While the development of life cannot be scientifically demonstrated to be ‘goal-orientated’ or more than chance, our view of reality can inspire philosophical/religious thoughts in a direction – namely that it is difficult to believe that ‘the great cosmic development is only a meaningless drama played before empty seats’ (169).

What does all of this reasoning suggest?
  • Religion can interpret evolution as creation.
  • Science can make the creation a concrete evolutionary process.
  • Religion can give evolution a meaning which science cannot. Science cannot read meaning off of (or into) the evolutionary process, and at best can only suggest it.
Thus, any such meta-interpretation of reality is then a matter of faith, or, better: trust.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Great Pillsbury's 100th Death Day

My last post reminds me of a famous saying by one of the worlds greatest ever chess champions, the late Emanuel Lasker:

‘Chess is a fight’

Which brings me to my next subject.

Harry Nelson Pillsbury was one of the greatest chess talents of his time. He died exactly 100 years ago yesterday, but his chess games continue to inspire me. Chess is not only a fight, but an art, and Pillsbury was a master of this art.

‘Pillsbury would play up to 22 simultaneous games of chess and draughts blindfold while also taking part in a game of whist. ‘Before the display he would ask the audience for lists of words or objects, and repeat them at the end of the display. On one famous occasion in London two professors came up with the following curious list of words:

Antiphlogistine, micrococcus, Etchenberg, Bangmanvate, periosteum, plasmodium, American, Schlechter's Nek, taka diastasi, Mississippi, Russian, Manzinyama, plasmon, Freiheit, philosophy, theosophy, ambrosia, Philadelphia, Piet Potgelter's, catechism, Threlkeld, Cincinnati, Rost, Madjesoomalops, Streptococcus, athletics, Salamagundi, staphylococcus, no war, and Oomisellecootsi

Pillsbury looked at the list, repeated the words, and then again in reverse order. The next day he recited them again’ (The Complete Chess Addict, Fox and James, p. 99)

In honour of his memory, I’ve uploaded one of his games and lightly annotated it. However, bear in mind that this game was played blindfold simultaneous with twelve other chess and four other draughts games - plus a game of whist on the side!

Click here to play through the game.

Here is another superb article celebrating the occasion.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Quote of the day

‘If one is afraid to fight, one shouldn’t pretend to be interested in the truth’
- Jim West (but see the context here)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Crazymatics pt 3 of 3

5) While on the Zionist subject, what about a touch more nationalism while we are at it - it's a Christian store remember. Here you can buy a T-Shirt: ‘United we stand’ with a flag of America next to a flag of Israel. Again, nothing against either flag of course, it is the theological baggage that goes along with it.

6) But I finish off with my absolute favourite. This is utterly wacked out, so be prepared to either laugh or cry, depending on your temperament.

Now, ever felt like you needed a ‘Portals to Cleanings Property Dedication Kit’?

I know you have.

Ever had the sensation that there are swarms of demons brooding over your lounge, bedroom, fridge, toaster ... Frank Peretti style?

Of course you have.

Well, you obviously need to cleanse your home. Buy this little pile of nonsense, and you have, they claim: ‘A unique kit with instructions, scriptures, oil and stakes to dedicate your property to the Lord’.

The ‘Portals to Cleansing’ refers to a book that the ‘kit’ supplements, one recommended by truly delightfully godly Christian souls such as John Loren Sandford, John Paul Jackson and Beth Alves.

The book blurb asks:

‘Is there another spiritual dimension operating all around us? Can the spirits of the dead really haunt houses? Are specific geographical areas portals of spiritual power? Can an heirloom possess the spirit of its deceased owner? Does the blood of the murdered cry out for justice? Can animals be possessed by demonic spirits? What can be done to cleanse land, possessions and animals of spiritual darkness?
It continues:

“Portals to Cleansing” is a spiritual journey into the realm of the supernatural. Page after page you’ll discover how spiritual ground is taken and how it is released. ... You'll learn keys to reclaiming your land, home, possessions, and animals from the power of satan and his demonic forces. You’ll experience the peace that comes from the cleansing of all you possess. And you'll walk into a portal of God's presence that will take you deeper into the realm of the Spirit and change your life forever.’
Steve Schultz, the man who runs this webpage - a wonderful Christian man, of that I’m sure - writes:

‘In the last six years, at least on 3 or 4 occasions, I've had my house and the land it sits on cleansed. My house is on 20 acres. There is history with land. But there is also “current” history, as visitors come and go and people who don't like you send curses your way. If you don't believe those curses have power, you'd be hard pressed to explain certain sicknesses and disease and even death that comes upon very anointed and pure-hearted people you know (not that I would claim pure-heartedness nor anointing as something I possess). Nevertheless, each time the property is cleansed, I see a noticeable change in the atmosphere and circumstances.’


In my opinion, there is so much wrong with all of this strange rigid mechanistic 'spiritual priciple' thinking, I'm ... I, ....


Crazymatics pt 2 of 3

The webpage I had in mind is the following: The Elijah List Webstore.

Some of my best loved examples follow, though my favourite will have to wait till the next post:

1) Click here for ‘Third Heaven Vision Anointing oil’ – made from ‘six ingredients from around the world: Calamus, Cassia, Frankincense, Myrrh, Rose of Sharon, and Spikenard - in a base of virgin olive oil’. At 10$ for ½ Oz!!!

Perhaps I should try coughing up and selling Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministry phlegm, and call it ‘Gnostic Heavenly Visions Ointment’. BTW, I know someone in Berlin is trying to sell and ship Football World Cup air in plastic bags!

2) Here is a book that makes the following claim:
‘Is everything you do a struggle? Does a dark cloud seem to hang over your life? Are you trapped by feelings of abandonment and betrayal? ... You may be cursed! ... Dennis Cramer details his 13-year battle with a “Christian” curse’
The theology of this book would appear - though I haven’t read it - to be full of so much crap it’s unbelievable. Sorry, if I’ve offended anyone, I’m just telling you as I think it is. It’s, in my opinion, a bizarre mix of magic, Christianity, and an odd and totally inappropriate handling of the bible. I personally know people who are caught up in all of this, and it makes me livid that we Christians can be so easily duped by poor teaching.

Nevertheless, some of these people whom I personally know I would definitely want praying for me, were I ill or in need, as they can be filled with a delightful and expectant faith in God. They know and love God, and God is with them. But their theology is not at all thereby justified.

3) Ever fancied a Shofars from Afar New Covenant Messianic Prayer Shawl and Matching Talis Bag? Well, here is your chance.

40$. Nuff said.

4) In a similar vein, what about a Joyful Life Ministries Hebrew Scarf? Notice in the notes: ‘Our ultimate joy will be when the L-rd makes us His Bride!’. Yep: ‘L-rd’.

Praise the L-rd!

The Zionist edge of this webpage drives me up the wall, but I'll be careful now, as living in Germany one is surrounded by quasi-theological and evangelical Zionism. But it remains, in my opinion, poor theology, and one that deals with scripture in a highly oddball and selective way promoting all kinds of weird activity. It freaks me out, if I'm honest. I'm not a violent person at all, but if anyone, given all of the theological connotations here, runs past me in a Christian worship service enthusiastically waving an Israel flag, I have an urge to stick my foot out. This is certainly not meant as an anti-semitic statement, I want to add. Anti-semitism was and is pure evil. This rather expresses my frustration with evangelical Zionism.

To be continued ...

Crazymatics pt 1 of 3

I start this mini-series by saying the following: I love Charismatics, and I remain unapologetically, though slightly ambiguously, ‘charismatic’, albeit with a small ‘c’.

Indeed, in the formative years of my faith, I was heavily influenced by the late and great John Wimber and the Vineyard Church, but also by Jack Deere.

Though I’ve been moving away from some of the charismatic way of doing things for some time now, I am, unlike many people I respect, by no means a cessationist, nor, exegetically speaking, could I justify that movement. Actually, my own extremely able supervisor has written a fantastic work on this very subject: The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts, Then and Now - the best, to my mind, on the topic.

However, some things that swim around in charismatic culture and some of the 'teaching' nark me off big time.

And there is one webpage that I'll mention in the following posts that tends to rub me up completely the wrong way. Completely. It is based on an e-mail list that daily publishes ‘prophecies’ made by most of the big names in the charismatic world. Don’t get me wrong, I am quite sure that the webpage is run be extremely godly and well-meaning Christians, and sometimes they have some good things to say, but some of the stuff they sell is either silly or downright preposterous. In the following posts, I will give some of my favourite examples.

Warning! Achtung!

Our roaming reporters have notified me that me own wife has been crawling biblioblogdom, and even left a cheeky comment!

That’s right, so you’d better say nice things about me, lay off of the swearing, a definitely give the heresy a break till the hazard-time is over ... And yes, her English is very good, so she doesn’t tend to zwrite zlike zis.

If the beautiful face of my wife turns up in any of your comments, be sure to be nice to her!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Reading Hauerwas

‘Theology becomes a burden only when we take our unbelief seriously’
– Stanley Hauerwas

I’ve been intending to read Hauerwas’ The Peaceable Kingdom for some time now (hat tip to Dan). But after Kim Fabriciuspost in Ben Myers ‘Why I love theologian X’ series, I just couldn’t wait anymore. Has anyone read The Peaceable Kingdom? What is the big deal?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


In light of my symptoms and my recent posts, my ‘friend’ Simon had already gone to the trouble of formulating my eulogy: ‘Chris: A fine friend, bad personal hygiene, but a sharp, if heretical mind’.

At times like this you learn who your friends are, hey Si.

Yes, he was being a git, but it does make me think – what will be written on my tomb?

‘Chris: everything he touched went tits-up’.

‘Chris: Died of smoking, but he’s definitely not smoking anymore’.

‘Chris: He thought he was a theologian’

‘Chris: Died after being attacked by territorial male squirrels’

‘Chris: He meant well’

Anyway, before I get carried away, just one more ‘death quote’:

‘When we die, we do not die into nothingness; we die into God ... We are known by God already. In that lies our hope, for God’s knowing is forever’
But do you know who said it?

If anyone guesses correctly, I’ll be seriously impressed. A clue: he is primarily a NT scholar.

Rumours of my death are greatly exaggerated

Firstly, a big ‘thank you’ to all of you who have prayed, well-wished, sent e-mails, shown concern, and said nice things! It has really meant an awful lot to me, as the last week hasn’t been much fun.

Yes, my posts on my health and the ‘death thoughts’ were related, but not because I’m terminal. I did, however, have some rather ominous, worrying and painful symptoms for something that could have been more than just a bit nasty.

Nevertheless, I was back at the doctors today, and I’m VERY glad to report that after, among other things, some rummaging around ‘where the sun don’t shine’, the doctor has confirmed: I don’t have a tumour.

I get to live!

As for the actual cause of whatever is going on, the results will be in on Monday. But it isn’t cancer. Praise God!

Nevertheless, this scare has somehow been a healthy experience for me. In light of all my morbidity, I think I’ll give up my theological bookshop ram-raiding sprees, and my regular de-heathenising drive-by baptism evenings.

Also, of course, this means my usual prattling will continue unabated, especially as my energy appears to be returning.

‘Tell me, what’s going on, GOD? How long do I have to live? Give me the bad news! You’ve kept me on pretty short rations; my life is string too short to be saved. Oh! We’re all puffs of air. Oh! We’re all shadows in a campfire. Oh! We’re just spit in the wind. We make our pile, and then we leave it. What am I doing in the meantime, Lord? Hoping, that’s what I’m doing – hoping’ (Psalm 39:4-7, The Message)

Thoughts about death

Freud said that the ego doesn’t really believe in its own death. He may be right. But I’ve been doing rather a lot of morbid thinking about that great enemy (1 Cor 15:26) called death recently. Was Sartre right to insist that death robs life of all meaning? And is there anything after you die?

I know this is a massive topic involving such issues as our worldviews, ‘body and spirit’, Platonism and resurrection, intermediary state, purgatory etc., but I wanted to simply list a few comments by theologians that have stuck in my mind.

Küng says a lot of things about this (cf. Ewiges Leben?), but one memorable passage speaks of us ‘dying into the light’.

Moltmann also says many things (cf. The Coming of God ). However, in one passage he memorably spoke of hope ‘that God will find us in death’ (p.66).

Pannenberg writes: ‘Christian theology views us as creatures in both body and soul, destined indeed for immortality in fellowship with God, yet not possessing it of ourselves, nor able to secure it for ourselves, but receiving it only as a gift of grace from God’ (Systematic theology, 3.571)

Barth, eloquently wrote: ‘Resurrection means not the continuation of this life, but life’s completion. To this man a “Yes” is spoken which the shadow of death cannot touch’ (Dogmatics in Outline, 154)

The greatest theologian of them all says:
‘For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain ... my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better’ (Phil 1:21-23. Cf. also 2 Cor 5:8)

In facing questions about death, and my inevitable death, I can find my true hope only in Christ.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Not well

Some of you will perhaps have noticed that I’ve been posting less the last couple of days. Well, I’ve been a little ill, and things aren’t cleared up yet. I won’t go into any details, but I would appreciate your prayers, if you are the praying sort, as the problem isn’t resolved yet – and this particular problem isn’t any fun. Many thanks.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Your oldest book

What’s the oldest book you own?

I mean published date, not 1st edition, obviously - so an internet printout of The Diamond Sutra doesn’t count!

My oldest book is a copy of the Scots Worthies (1835), or with its more extensive title: A Brief Historical Account of the Most Eminent Scots Worthies, Noblemen, Gentlemen, Ministers, and Others, Who Testified or Suffered for the Reformation in Scotland, During the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century.

Do you own an older book?

A Volx Bibel offering

England are going to play their first WC match today, so I’m getting a tad excited. And it is a BEAUTIFUL day for it.

But for you Saturday afternoon, I give you an offering from the Volx Bibel which I introduced here.

But can you guess the passage it is very ‘dynamically’ translating (translation engines are allowed)?
‚Wer nun zu Jesus Christus gehört, wird von Gott nie fertig gemacht werden. Denn für ihn stimmt das Programm nicht mehr, auch wenn du Mist gebaut hast und verdient hättest zu sterben. Ab jetzt läuft ein Update, eine neue Software, das Programm von Gottes Geist, das dir durch Jesus Christus hilft zu leben. Denn die alte Software, das Gesetz, konnte uns nicht dazu bringen, so zu leben, wie Gott es geil findet. Sie war von einem Virus befallen worden, der uns unbewusst dazu zwang, Mist zu bauen. Deswegen schickte Gott seinen Sohn vorbei, der das alte Programm hackte und es umschrieb, indem er den ganzen Dreck auf sich nahm und auch die Strafe dafür bezahlte. Jetzt läuft das neue Programm Gottes in uns und nicht mehr die alte menschliche schlechte Software. Deshalb können wir unserem Leben eine völlig neue Richtung geben.’

An evenining by the Necker

I was in Tübingen tonight, for a lazy evening with friends, a pipe, and some wine. We thought we’d trot down to the river Necker for a quiet evening ...

But somehow we’d forgotten that Germany were playing the opening game of the World Cup tonight, and our appointment by the river bank coincided with the end of the game!

But what a sight met us! Crowds of semi-drunk flag waving Germans, dozens upon dozens of tooting cars, also with flags – it was as if the Germans had already won the cup! Quite an experience.

So we spent a quiet evening in the gardens of the Theologicum instead!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

How can religion and science work together?

Not like this.

Rather, as Küng argues, desirable is:

* No confrontation model between science and religion: whether one of a fundamentalist-premodern origin, which ignores or suppresses the results of science or historical-critical biblical exegesis; or whether a type of rationalistic-modernism which right from the start declares religion as irrelevant

* Also no integration model of harmonising tendency

* but rather a complimentary model of critical-constructive interaction of religion and science in which their own spheres of specialisation are maintained, all illegitimate transitions avoided, and all one-dimensional totalising rejected.

(cf. Der Anfang Aller Dinge, p. 57)


The Fatal Flaw

In the main library here in Tübingen, there is a small trolley just outside the main entrance that carries old or unwanted books the library has decided to throw out. There is usually nothing of interest, but last time I picked up a book (they are all 1 euro) by a certain Peter de Rosa. It was given the wonderfully balanced title: The Fatal Flaw of Christianity: He did not rise from the dead, and the dogma of Original Sin is pure invention! A quick read through some of it confirmed that this is not the most insightful book I have on my shelf, but has anyone ever heard of this Peter de Rosa? The blurb on the back made him sound papal in grandeur, but I’ve never come across him before.

Soon, my Küng post will be going up on Ben’s Faith and Theology, and as shall become clear (to my shame), I couldn’t find the quote I wanted to use. But here is one below that says something similar.
‘if we analyse the profile of the personalities of so many pious “believers” – not just in Christianity – we cannot dispute Ludwig Feuerbach’s view that belief in God can alienate people from themselves and warp them because they have adorned God with treasures of their own inner depths. These believers are not human enough, not human beings enough, for the godless to be infected by their belief in God’ (Hans Küng, Credo, 12, italics mine)

The end of an important section

Ahhhhhh! Quite a few glorious Illy espressos later, and I’m finished with a major section in my ‘final’ draft of my exegesis of 1 Cor. What is more, I’m really pleased with the product. It was an important section too: 1 Cor 8:1-11:1 (Paul’s ‘idol food’ discussion).

That's just wrong

Sean the Baptist has the darn cheek to disagree with me, and my post on ‘Did Pentecost Happen?’!

*Chrisendom readers the world over shake their solemn heads and pray for his mortal soul*

He shall therefore be know hereafter as Evil Sean the Baby Eating Baptist.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Mike Bird on justification

I’ve been reading the drafts of Mike Bird’s forthcoming book on Paul, justification etc. recently, and let me tell you, it is quite simply a load of total and utter rubbishy tripe. Still, it made me laugh. Its like a cross between a Mr Men book, and the Idiots Guide to Idiots. Give a rabid blind chimpanzee a keyboard with three letters, and you’ll have a more convincing thesis.

... well, not really. It’s actually an exciting, highly readable, and, to my mind – and I mean this honestly – important book that makes a bundle load of sense. I’m really looking forward to seeing how his argument is received. It could mean serious cross-fire from both sides, Mike – I hope you’ve got a trench helmet spare.

His last chapter attempted to contend that ‘the “traditional” reformed view and the NPP are indispensable to attaining a proper understanding of Paul’s articulation of justification’. In other words, he argues that ‘Paul’s notion of God’s saving righteousness includes both a declaration that those who profess faith in Christ have been graciously granted a right-standing in a right relationship with God, and also that they are thereby constituted as full and equal members of God’s covenant people’ (p. 73). Well, Amen to that, not simply because it’s ecumenical, but also because the texts, to my mind, seem to justify exactly this. You’ve got me convinced. And this means Tom Wright isn’t going to hell after all, I guess.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


This annoyed me. A VERY MUCH LOT.

What they are doing is about as Christian as Beelzebub’s backside on a bad potty day. I had to drive the streets and run over a few cats to calm down after watching it. Click on the link at your own risk.

Did Pentecost happen?

Did Pentecost happen?

A scattering of opinions:

Gerd Lüdemann says: ‘Certainly the report of Acts about the events of Pentecost is, in the present form, unhistorical’ (Das frühe Christentum, 54)

Hans Küng says: ‘Did such a Pentecostal assembly take place historically? Given our sources, that can no longer be decided, but it is quite possible’ (Credo, 128)

Ben Witherington III says: ‘It is not convincing to argue that Luke invented the notion of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost’ (The Acts of the Apostles, 130, fn. 5)

Wolfhart Pannenberg says: ‘Defining the historical core of the event is difficult in view of the many layers that seem to have been imposed in the process of handing down and in Luke’s editing. Most exegetes are inclined to assume that at the first Jewish Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection the disciples could have had an experience of collective enthusiasm that came to expression in ecstatic speech. But it is hard to say anything more precise ... It is appropriate, then, to evaluate the Lukan story of Pentecost above all as a theological statement about the relation between the church and the Spirit that has found expression in Luke’s reworking of the older tradition’ (Systematic theology, 13-14, 15)

I H Marshall is of the opinion: ‘It all happened, guv, right down to the last details’ (not an exact quote)

R. F. Zehnle: ‘Happened? Naah, none of it’ (not an exact quote)

Chris Tilling personally thinks that a couple of Germans have recently put the ball in the court of those who fundamentally distrust Acts as credible history, namely Rainer Riesner (Paul’s Early Period) and Eckhard Schnabel (Early Christian Mission). Besides, a methodological scepticism, as some would have it, that must have every detail independently verified for it to be history is hardly fair. Nevertheless, aspects of the narrative, the dating scheme, and Peter’s speech, are likely not entirely historical.

What do you think?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

When exegetes only read exegetes

Anything Richard Bauckham writes is worth taking very seriously. His NT Christology lectures and seminars in St Andrews made a big impact on me in my undergrad years, and were a major factor that drove me further in my own thinking. His enormous breadth of knowledge, spanning church history, modern systematic theology and biblical exegesis in Paul, Peter, the Gospels, Revelation etc etc. should command the respect of anyone – see here for his list of publications.

This is what Moltmann had to say about Richard’s critical engagement with The Coming of God in God will be All in All (1999):

‘I am grateful to Richard Bauckham for reading my theological exposition exegetically too. In doing so he is a rare example of his discipline. Otherwise exegetes only read exegetes, and theologians only theologians. For the full multiplicity of standpoints we need more cross-readings; for after all both he and I still believe in the unity of theology in its diverse disciplines.’ (232)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Volx Bibel

Thankfully I’m done with that post on Küng to go up on Ben’s blog for his ‘Why I love theologian X’ series.

I’ve been putting that off that for days, so I finally decided to just write it. But honestly, reading the jaw dropping contributions of the likes of Cynthia and Kim Fabricius was like throwing logs on the fire of my procrastination – they really sounded convincing!

Poor Küng! Sorry matey that it was me that had to put in a good word for you; no doubt the aformentioned could have randomly headbutted a keyboard and done a better job.

Enough wallowing, as today I received my Volx Bibel in the post. It’s a new German translation in the language of the youth, and the vision behind it can be downloaded here.

It is a mixed bag, with some questionable ‘dynamic translation’ choices, but it can also be most insightful and helpful. Apart from that, it can also be a real hoot! For example:

‘Wir haben keinen Bock mehr auf die Sachen, die uns diese Welt anbietet, und leben stattdessen so, wie Gott es geil findet’ (Titus 2:12)!

And how is dikaiosu,nh translated? ‘für Gott okay werden können’ (e.g. Rom 3:21)!

The parable of the lost sheep becomes the parable of the lost cat, and there is a liberal sprinkingly of ‘krass’, ‘geil’, ‘cool’ etc, all over the place! It is similar to but even more radical than the Message. Get it, cos it's great, and will help the person learning German too.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Truth hurts

Sean the Baptist tells it as it is!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The alien poll

Thank you for the 77 of you who voted regarding the question of the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life.

Attending to voting polls like this just goes to prove that we have too much time on our hands.

Getting to the results:

5% of you voted ‘don’t know’, despite my pleas that you choose another option. I know who you are.

For me, the gap between ‘yes’ and ‘probably’ is quite the significant fissure. Nevertheless, an astonishing 10% voted a confident I-can-channel-the-mother-ship ‘yes’ - which perhaps just goes to show that too much TV does rot the synapses.

Equally absolute was the 20% of you who voted a clear ‘no’. Are you sure? I would, of course, love to be there and see your face if ET landed tomorrow, to make sure my grinning ‘told you so’ face is the last thing you see before we get ray-gunned into smoke. But apart from that, how do you explain the missing socks?

Of course, the big tug of war was going to be between the ‘probablies’, and the ‘probably nots’.
However, only 26% of you voted a ‘probably’, which makes the clear favourite ‘probably not’ with 40%.

I must admit, I selected ‘probably not’, but I hope I’m wrong. It was just the ‘intelligent’ clause that stopped me jumping on ‘probably’ in a flash. After all, *puts on cynical head for a moment* there isn’t too much evidence of ‘intelligent’ life even on planet earth ...

Where's Wally?

My NT ‘college’ Dr. Cor Bennema has recently published a book on John’s Gospel (Excavating John's Gospel: A Commentary for Today [Delhi: ISPCK, 2005]). A sample pdf can be downloaded here. As the example shows, the book is based on a ‘Biblical text citation - comments (plus occasional excurses) - reflection’ structure.

I haven’t read it all, but what I’ve already worked through is great stuff, and I think he deals with the history/theology tensions with a good deal of sense (as made clear in his intro), and he wraps up his comments with nice reflections. It is an easier read, not at all heavy, yet touches upon enough detail to teach you something. Highly recommended.

His main works is, The Power of Saving Wisdom: An Investigation of Spirit and Wisdom in Relation to the Soteriology of the Fourth Gospel (WUNT II/148; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2002).

Anyway, all of that is for the following:

I recently visited his college webpage, and I saw a picture that simply has to be reproduced here.

Now, Cor is Dutch. Can you possibly spot him in this line up at his Indian college?!!

Sorry, Cor, but that is kinda funny!

UPDATE: My good friend, Volker Rabens, has just reminded me that he wrote a review of Cor's book, and it can be found here (on the second page).