Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Character of Theology - a short review

I recently finished Franke’s, The Character of Theology: An Introduction to its Nature, Task and Purpose. At times it was rather dry and ungrounded in the reality and bustle of church life, but this is merely the flip side of the coin when the aim is to write something short and accessible. However, I found it to be a very agreeable read, and I’d highly recommend it.

As I read through it I initially felt it would function as a great prolegomena to a more substantial and thoroughly worked out ‘systematics’. However, in retrospect I guess that would be to miss one of the points he was making, i.e. that theology by necessity invades all prolegomena and questions of methodology, and should therefore not be seen as an abstract section on methodology done before the theologising begins (a point that didn’t dawn on me until I started Vanhoozer’s The Drama of Doctrine!)

His section on the Trinity as the subject matter of theology was worship inspiring, while the chapter on the contextual nature of theology helped me to better understand his critique of foundationalism - and indeed was important given that his introductory comments in chapter 1 would have left him open to a broadside from Carson’s arguments (against post-foundationalism) in his recent work Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church. As good as this chapter was, however, the section on Origen was too long. The last chapter, on the purpose of theology, was a good read, and his comments on church unity very helpful. Actually, the last two chapters were by far the best – I felt he was starting to face the gritty issues head on. If you start the book and get a little bored, then, let me recommend you keep going as it will get more lively!

I’ll let him summarise the main arguments (you'll need to read it slowley!):
“Christian theology is an ongoing, second-order, contextual discipline [i.e. the nature of theology] that engages in the task of critical and constructive reflection on the beliefs and practices of the Christian church [i.e. the task of theology] for the purpose of assisting the community of Christ’s followers in their missional vocation to live as the people of God in the particular social-historical context in which they are situated [i.e. the purpose].” (p. 44)
Add to this his introductory contextualising chapter, and then his lovely section on the subject of theology (the Triune God), and you have an outline of the book.

In sum, it was a very helpful and enjoyable book, and I will no doubt return to it again, but I cannot help thinking that he sometimes didn’t come clean with his own perspectives on matters as thoroughly and straightforwardly as I, at least, would have liked.

8.3342 out of 10.


Monday, February 27, 2006


Some will have noticed that my blog has been less concerned with serious exegetical or academic issues of late. The reason being - I’ve given myself a break from work for the last few days, and I won’t be returning to the mill till Tuesday or Wednesday. I’ll still be posting but it’ll hopefully be entirely unrelated to Pauline exegesis!

Then at the end of the week, I may be heading off to Switzerland, Basel, with a friend for a weekend break (this may have something to do with a certain Karlos Barthus I admit). Any suggestions as to what to visit?

Via simoncito, I recently came across this extremely mixed bag of rather scary Fundie art. Here are a couple of examples which should be enough to scare the big Jessie out of most of us:

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The churches goal again

I’m just on the last few pages of John R. Franke’s, The Character of Theology. I’ll write a short review sometime soon, but seeing as I asked a question about defining the churches goal, I thought I’d relay Franke’s answer:

Simply stated, the mission of the church is to be the image of God and to carry on the mission of God in the world (p. 174)

The new single of the week on the sidebar is the classic, State of Independence by the lusciously voiced Donna Summer.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Tübingen pictures again

The inside of the church in which Moltmann, Jüngel et al preach every now and then:

I had to scarper after taking this picture as it's strictly not allowed. Stunned, angry worshipers pursued me till I slipped into a crowd.

The following picture is a plaque outside the Evangelische Stift. Just read that list of names!

Famous members of the Stift include Kepler, Bengel, Hölderlin, Hegel, Strauss etc.

Why church?

Barth once wrote a very simple little sentence – nothing world shaking or new, but it was one that smacked me between my existential eyes (I was jumping up and down inside, full of Amen’s. Funny what some sentences can do to you isn’t it?).

‘Where there is church, she has one goal: the Kingdom of God’

Simple, yet very profound.

A side rant on the ‘kingdom of God’: I cringe when I hear preachers who really don’t have a broad enough understanding mention the kingdom of God. The economic, social, political, environmental, moral, personal, physical and spiritual togetherness is so often reduced to ‘signs and wonders’, or a change of an individual’s moral character, and that’s all. Weiss had long ago shown that ‘kingdom of God’ is not something merely within, as all interpreters up to German liberalism read it. How often his insight has been sidelined. And praying ‘Your kingdom come’ can mean, to some, praying for the end of the world! But the kingdom is to come ON EARTH!

I like Barth’s words for another yet related reason. The goal of the church can so often sound religious, yet ultimately becomes an excuse for ineffective, world denying ‘only Jesus and me’ piety. ‘Kingdom of God’ forces the eyes off of the navel, and on to the world around.

What would you say the goal of the church is?

Friday, February 24, 2006


I’ve just listened, for the first time, to an audio presentation of Ravi Zacharias - a talk about faith and meaning.

He came across as rather more conservative than I am, but I liked his manner, and found the argument very helpful.

But that is a wig, right?

An ecumenical sermon

I’m going to be preaching in an ecumenical Lutheran service tonight – apparently it will consist of charismatics, evangelicals, pietists, Lutherans and Catholics, which sounds absolutely wonderful! My message will attempt to show how the plagues in Egypt are actually prophetic references to the sins of the pope, and why the 1611 King James Bible, not the Luther bible, is the only one that will help you escape even more plagues. Either that, or I’ll whip out my other ecumenical number: ‘Why You Are About As Christian As Beelzebub’s Buttocks If You Don’t Speak In Tongues. Loudly’.

OK, maybe not. Actually, I’m preaching on the ‘kingdom of God’ – what it is and what it means for us today, and I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll start 20:30 German time, so if you want to, then a prayer or two will be appreciated. I want tongues of fire tonight!

‘That would be an ecumenical matter’ – Father Jack Hackett.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

ESV or not ESV, that is the question

Ben Witherington posts critically on the ESV translation of the bible here, and the ESV site responds here.

‘He who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.’ Proverbs 18:17

Guilt by association

I feel all ecumenical tonight.

Why? Well, not so long ago I came across Brother Cloud, a Fundamental Baptist minister in the States. And he’s got these kind words to say about Karl Barth (as part of a rant against a man I think we can all respect: Billy Graham):
‘In his biography, [Billy] Graham praises KARL BARTH as “the great theologian” and states: “In spite of our theological differences, we remained good friends” (Graham, Just As I Am, p. 694). Graham does not warn his readers that Barth denied the New Testament faith. He refused to believe the virgin birth. He rejected the Bible as the infallible Word of God. Barth was also a wicked adulterer who kept a mistress in his house in the very presence of his wife, Nelly (Eberhard Busch, Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts, translated by John Bowden, pp. 158,164,185-86).’
He starts off his pile of ... *takes a deep breath and thinks it wise he conduct this sentence with a good deal more graciousness than the sentence that first went through the brain* ... edifying eloquence, by quoting a scripture about the iniquity helping the enemies of God. The main case he has against Graham, you see, is that he said some nice things about:

*Loud drum ‘Dum dum dum dum’*
Catholics and the Pope!!
*The women scream and faint and all discerning pope-cursers shack their solemn heads*

It’s under the section entitled ‘Christ denying modernists’ that he attacks the likes of Barth, Newbigin (whose name he doesn’t even spell correctly), and Ramsey. And, of course, our author is a KJV only guy. Indeed, another gripe he has against Graham is that ‘GRAHAM HAS PROMOTED PRACTICALLY EVERY PERVERTED BIBLE VERSION TO APPEAR IN THE LAST FOUR DECADES’. I can imagine our dear Brother Cloud saying the word ‘pervert’ with real gusto! PERVERT!

Indeed, Mr Billy Graham I stand disgusted at such poor judgment. I really get fed up here in Germany about this topic. Rather than reading the KJV like all good Christians, they all insist on reading this crazy Luther bible, and other such heretical anti-KJV concoctions like the Elberfelder and Hoffnung für Alle.

German infidels.

Of course, the scholarship on the above linked to webpage is really quite *coughs down a word rhyming with ‘frollocks’* impressive and finishes of by turning to those cherry topics: evolution and biblical inerrancy.

Let me guess your reaction if you actually read his rant: You said either,

  1. ‘What the F[please insert a few letters of your choice]’
  2. ‘A discerning man this Cloud’
  3. ‘Why am I a Christian?’ (*then thinks of Jesus and remembers why, but was momentarily put off*)
  4. Made you want to say a short prayer: ‘God bless the pope’, and ‘thank God that other translations of the bible have been attempted since 1611’
  5. All the above apart from b)
I’ve been trying my very best not to swear in this post so I think I’ve been quite well behaved all in all. But I’d better finish this post now before I start.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Love poetry

Speaking of love, the following is a poem written by a fourteen year old Karl Barth after he had fallen for a certain young Anna Hirzel. Yes, fourteen! Astonishing!

Mein Fräulein, soll ich länger mich verbergen?
Seitdem ich euch erblickte, lieb ich euch ...
O wie mein Herz heut freudig, ruhig schlägt
Die Liebe gab mir neue, bessre Kräfte
Nicht fühl ich mehr in mir den alten Druck
Verschwunden ist die Plage grauer Sorgen
Im hellen Lichte frohen Jugendsinns
Seh’ ich die Welt gar lieblich, rosig glänzen
Und wo ich meinen Blick nur lasse schweifen
Seh ich das Bild der Liebsten in der Ferne ...
In ihren Armen ewig glücklich sein ---
Das ist das Ziel, - Der Weg wird sich noch finden.
I think my first love poem went something like this:

Your eyes are like limpid pools
... [Pause for effect]
Give me a snog!

I then became a Christian, so I then, of course, tried to be more biblical:

Your neck is like a large stack of CD's, not one missing, and your teeth like a flock of iPods, all perfectly loaded, and your boobs are like two ripe turnips. Let me grab your fruit! Plus it says in Rom 16:16 to kiss, so pucker up baby!
But the best to come of that one was a slap. Alas, perhaps not as profound as the young Karl Barth. But definitely funnier.

Our 3rd Anniversary

This day marks our third wedding anniversary.

Since February 22nd 2003 I have been blessed by God with the most beautiful, gifted and caring wife a man could ever hope for. And I truly mean that! The second picture was taken by a friend on the morining of our Hochzeit. She is already in her wedding dress.

How did I end up with such a looker?
Prayer and fasting (and hypnosis), of course.

To butcher a rather famous worship song:

Anja you are really my Ehegattin
I love you,
No, honest, I really do.
My 'door kick down' moment
was when I first laid eyes on you.

Lazy git

First, thanks for all of your feedback on my first ever podcast. The following is the very height of laziness, and I apologize before hand.

I wanted to respond to some of your comments, but the truth is I cannot be bothered to type tonight. Perhaps it’s because my ‘keyboard’ is in front of me all day, sometimes I just want to forget it exists for my own sanity (I don’t want to end up as a ‘the keyboard is watching me’ sort). Plus,  I’ve been speaking all night about theological things with friends so my mouth is on a roll. Hence, I thought I’d respond to some of your comments via audio. It’s only 3 ½ minutes long.

Again, sorry. Won’t do it again. Here is the short audio (at least it has a bit of a personal touch)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Your comments

I’ve been so distracted by things today that I’ve run out of time, and so cannot respond to some of your helpful and encouraging comments on my podcast. Thanks for them, by the way.

I certainly will do tomorrow.

Today has been a ‘library, scan the book shelves, photocopy, journal’ day, and I just cannot bear looking at any more words - I feel a bit like I’ve been staring at something like this all day.

Till tomorrow.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Single of the Week

I was so busy today I forgot to change the single of the week (see the side bar).

This week I’ve linked to the wonderful, if slightly melodramatic Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack.

Gospel in Paul

At the start of this year I suggested that I had some tentative plans to attempt an audio related medium on my blog. I left the idea on the shelf until Ben Myers of Faith and Theology had a stab at it, in which he produced a podcast on the question: ‘what is the gospel?’. And I loved it!

So I thought I’d give it a try, and I’ve produced a 15 minute reflection on a similar topic to Ben: ‘what is the gospel in the apostle Paul?’. So, rather than drawing on the works of modern theologians I’ve restricted my focus to Pauline scholarship, and have tried to say something helpful. However, having just finished the recording, I’m convinced that if I do it again, I’ll prepare my thoughts a little better!

I dunno if I’ll do this again as the whole experience was a bit weird, so tell me what you think.

Here is the mp3 (just over 5 MB).

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Prayer without ceasing

Barth and McGrath

In my last-but-one post I asked a question concerning the legitimacy of the charge made by McGrath against Barth’s Christology, i.e. whether it unhelpfully avoided the challenge of the relation between the ‘Christ of faith’ and the ‘Christ of history’ or not. In the comments, Ben Myers has provided a wonderful defence of the Barthian position and in this post I want to make my own suggestion in Barth’s defence. But before I start, I must admit that I’m, unlike Ben, no expert on Barth and my comments directly on his theology are based largely on second-hand opinions. Indeed, if I’ve missed the point in any of my comments then I’d appreciate being informed.

The very construction of ‘Christ of faith’ and ‘Christ of history’ was the meat and concern of protestant Liberal theology (Harnack, Ritschl etc.). And it was largely this that Barth reacted to in Romans, with the construction of dialectics that destroyed any chance of getting true Christianity from a focus on our religiosity in relation to the ‘Christ of history’. In a similar manner, one can recall the consistent eschatological school (e.g. Albert Schweitzer) who were destroying the liberal foundations of an interpretable ‘Christ of history’ into ‘faith’ categories.

However, in the light of his Romans dialetics, if Schleiermacher’s ‘Gefühl’ and the result’s of liberal protestant historical research could no longer carry the weight put on it, how, then, could one speak at all of God through Christ? Barth’s answer was to reorientate the dialect constructed in his earlier works around Christology (good chap!). Rather than trying to squeeze a view of the eternal through the small window provided by liberal historical reconstruction and critique, Barth turns the tables and insists that we are all part of the reality of Christ, or, to refer to the John Webster quotation used by Ben, ‘Our knowledge of Jesus Christ is ingredient within his reality, as the risen, ascended and self-communicative one’. Henceforth, it is possible to see Barth’s entire theological enterprise as largely a response to the ‘Christ of faith’/’Christ of history’ problem thrown up in German protestant liberalism, and the associated legacy of Schleiermacher.

Thus, with Robert Jenson, it can justifiably be stated that: ‘Nothing could be more precisely mistaken than many English and American writers’ assumption that Barth was a theological reactionary, who tried to save the faith from the acids of modernity by retreating to premodern habits of thought’ (Modern Theologians Ford, ed. p. 22).

Discussion on Piper

Over on Faith and Theology, a large discussion has developed in the comments concerning Ben’s post on Piper’s claim that his cancer comes as a gift designed by God. I was particularly impressed with the words of a certain Steven Harris who writes:
“It is true that Jesus and the Apostles cite scripture, but that's not the same as constructing a theology simply by assembling proof-texts. God has not given us a book of proof-texts to simply reassemble into doctrine like some kind of theological jigsaw. To treat the Bible as such is implying that God has, after all, given us the wrong kind of book. It is profoundly difficult to suggest that God is the source of illness and death. Aside from anything else, we have to then ask why Jesus heals peopel, why he defeats evil, and why he conquers death.God's stated plan for creation is to make it anew, and to create a world where there is no more death or suffering, a process he has begun by raising Jesus from the dead. We make a nonsense of this if we believe that God is the author of evil and death, and it means that ultimately we have no hope.There is a major difference between God using evil to accomplish good and God actually creating evil and death.”
Some extremely though provoking words, and don’t miss the other comments, all of them worth a read.

Friday, February 17, 2006

McGrath and Barth

Here is an interesting audio interview with Alister McGrath.

While I’m thinking of McGrath, he has, in his Modern German Christology, accused Barth’s Christology of being a pre-modern throwback to days long gone, one that ignored the pressing questions of his day, i.e. the relation between the ‘Christ of faith’ and the ‘Christ of history’.

Is McGrath ‘on the money’, do you think?

While sniffing around the second hand book shops today, I found a copy of Barth’s Dogmatik im Grundriss for just 2 euro. Amen to that with whipped cream and a cherry on top.

(It’s now on my book shelf)

Philipp Melanchthon

Given that the 16th February was Philipp Melanchthon’s birthday, Jim West has marked the occasion with a number of posts on the great theologian and reformer – here, here (one which I found particularly thought-provoking), here and here.

Today, as I visited Tübingen centre, I thought I’d mark the occasion by making sure I remembered to take the following picture:

It is hanging on the side of a building overlooking the river Necker, and in summer is a beautiful spot.

A thought

Just a thought, but I wonder if textual corruptions like those mentioned in the previous post, are known to be fewer in interrogative sentences or clauses? Given that texts were read aloud, the phonetic stress I presume were caused by a question could have perhaps aided copyists in their scribal accuracy. Why? Because of the psychological principle that things that are less usual, and, paradoxically, more detailed (here at a phonetic level) are more accurately dealt with by human memory. It would make an interesting study to compare the frequency of textual corruptions in relation to certain potential mnemonic features within a text.

Or have textual discrepancies already been analysed in such a fashion?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Corruption and marriage

I’ve been exegeting my way through thesis-relevant passages in 1 Corinthians for the last couple of weeks, and the last few days have been focused on 1 Cor 7.

In the process I came across a rather amusing statement made by a famous theologian concerning the purpose of marriage. Marriage is, he writes, ‘a necessary remedy to keep us from plunging into unbridled lust’!! In a few days it will be my 3rd wedding anniversary, so at least I know what to put in the card!

But do you know who made this statement?

Also while working through 1 Cor 7, I came across the mother of all textual problems. The Greek of verse 34 is so Totally Corrupt it is positively Calvinist.

Here are some possible readings (see side bar to download Greek font used):-
  1. kai. meme,ristaiÅ kai. h` gunh. h` a;gamoj kai. h` parqe,noj the preferred NA and UBS reading based on Pesher 15 B P (anyone know how to type those funny squiggly ‘p’ Pesher signs?)
  2. kai. meme,ristaiÅ kai. h` gunh. h` a;gamoj kai. parqe,noj (above but no.1175)
  3. kai. meme,ristaiÅ kai. h` gunh. h` a;gamoj kai. h` parqe,noj h` a;gamoj Pesher 46, a A
  4. kai. meme,ristaiÅ kai. h` gunh. a;gamoj kai. h` parqe,noj kai. h` a;gamoj
  5. kai. meme,ristai h` gunh..Å kai. h` a;gamoj h` parqe,noj h` a;gamoj D*
  6. meme,ristai kai. h` gunh. h` parqe,noj h` a;gamoj D2 F G Y
  7. kai. meme,ristai kai. h` gunh. h` parqe,noj h` a;gamoj (Chrysostom)
For those of you who aren’t sure what the above means let me spell it out: In not just a few places, exegetes don’t even know which Greek text to exegete! Whichever is thought to be closest to the Pauline original is the one most scholars want to bother themselves with, but which one that is can be a tough choice between rather a few options!

And this is just the first step before trying to work out the syntactical problems of the singular verbs related to potential plural subjects etc.

But I love this. Love it. Few things are as satisfying as working through such problems (especially with Thiselton’s commentary in hand).

Last but not least, be sure to go here, and have a listen to Ben Myers of Faith and Theology talk about what the gospel is. It's great to be able to put a voice to his text now!

Schatz der seel

Who, upon reading a poem by a well known German scholar, described Jesus as ‘ein heilmacher, trost und schatz der seel’ and concludes by affirming ‘Nun ist es ie also. Warumb suochend wir den hilff by der creatur?

(Jim, say nothing!)

Romano Penna

Has anyone had anything to do with the Italian New Testament scholar, Romano Penna? In particular, could anyone tell me anything about his work on Paul. I can't read Italian and I'd like to know what he's about.

1 Corinthians 7 verse 5

In 1 Cor 7:5, Paul writes:
mh. avposterei/te avllh,louj( eiv mh,ti a'n evk sumfw,nou pro.j kairo,n( i[na scola,shte th/ proseuch/ kai. pa,lin evpi. to. auvto. h=te( i[na mh. peira,zh u`ma/j o` satana/j dia. th.n avkrasi,an u`mw/nÅ’ (‘Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control’ NRSV)
A problem that has concerned some is how to understand the relation between the two clauses starting with hina. Rather impressive, even if perhaps slightly convoluted, is Thiselton’s translation:
‘Stop depriving each other of what is due in marriage, expect perhaps by mutual agreement for a specific span of time, that you may find unhurried time for prayer, and then come back together again. The goal would be nullified if Satan went on putting you through trials beyond your self-control’ (Thiselton, 1 Corinthians, p. 497)
Just a thought, but could the two clauses be more directly related, in that the times of prayer are themselves a source of temptation?

Let me expand a little: I don’t mean the prayer times were a cause of temptation in the purely inward fantasy sense (as Theißen), but rather, given the Corinthian believers’ previous experience of sexual rites including women in certain city cults (like, e.g., that in the cult of Dionysos as described by Livy), Paul was sensitive to the tendency of the Corinthians to make association of present religious activities with older pagan ones (as with the ‘meet sacrificed to an idols’ issue).

Or has this line of reasoning been explored before?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Volker Rabens is 'Coming Out'

Tonight I have the pleasure of introducing my good friend Volker Rabens to my readers. He is a nearly-finished doctoral research student working in the field of Pauline Pneumatology, also under Max Turner’s supervision. However, the really great bit of news is that he lives in Tübingen, and so we have had many an hour of relaxing company and thoughtful discussion. Those of you who have worked on Pauline Pneumatology may have heard of his name through his well received article review on F.W. Horn’s book, Das Angeld des Geistes (‘The Development of Pauline Pneumatology: A Response to F.W. Horn’, Biblische Zeitschrift 43 (1999), 161-79).

His most recent article, which I gratefully remember discussing over a Chinese meal at his expense, was published this year, but we thought it would be worthwhile posting it on my blog too. I’ll let him introduce the paper:

“What is Paul’s view of Christian identity, and what does Paul say about the relationship of the church and the world? In my recent article ‘Coming Out: “Bible-Based” Identity Formation in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1’ I tackle these kinds of questions and shed some light on Paul’s use of the Old Testament in this context. The article was printed in a recent book dealing with the reception of the bible - published in a series on German literature that is difficult to access for theologians and other weird species ... I thought I'd make it available to a more general audience and Chris has kindly offered using his wonderful blog as the media.

The article is written in English, so here is a German abstract:

„Was bedeutet „coming out“ für eine christliche Hausgemeinde in einer multireligiösen Hafenstadt? Diese Frage stellt sich für die Leser von 2. Korinther 6:14-7:1, denn dort wird ein solcher Schritt unter Berufung auf die hebräische Bibel gefordert. Um die zentralen Aussagen dieses heiß diskutierten Abschnitts richtig deuten zu können, beschäftigen sich die ersten beiden Teile des Artikels mit der umstrittenen Frage nach Verfasser und kontextueller Verortung der Textpassage. Im dritten Teil wird die paulinische Aufforderung, nicht „an einem fremden Joch“ mit Ungläubigen zu ziehen, näher untersucht. Es wird deutlich, daß hierbei vor allem enge Partnerschaften im Kontext heidnischer Religiosität im Blick sind. Der Apostel vergegenwärtigt den Christen in Korinth, daß sich ihre Identität durch die (in ihrer Bibel verheißene) Erfahrung der intensiven und liebevollen Beziehung zu Gott konstituiert. Kraft dieser neuen Identität können und sollen die Empfänger des Briefes aus unguten Beziehungen herauskommen.“
You can download the article as a PDF here (© Peter Lang 2006; permission by the author).

Any critique or feedback on his article is most welcome.

Pictures 2

As is clear form my last post, we went to Tübingen centre today and I took along with me my brother-in-law's camera. Unfortunately, the battery ran out after a few shots, but here are a few that may be of interest (clcik on them to zoom):

This is the entrance to the very best biblical/theological library perhaps on the entire planet. I have 115 books on loan at the moment – and I don’t have to give most of them back for a long time.

This is the other entrance, the older, quainter one. That’s Anja posing for the camera!

For those of you who do academic theological research, chances are you know the importance of the WUNT series, and the Mohr Siebeck publishing house.

This is the book shop that I almost had to ram-raid for a copy of Barth’s CDs. Gladly I don't have to anymore, but I’ll wait to ‘spill the beans’ on how this has all developed.

This is the church in which Moltmann, Jüngel etc. preach in every now and then.

to be contínued when Chris remebers to recharge the camera battery ...

Books and more books

Recently, Ben Myers wrote on his blog, ‘I love not only reading books, but also possessing them and placing them neatly on shelves’.

Oh indeed!

I sniff them, take them to bed, devote hours of attention to them, gaze on them affectionately, caress them, and yes, even read them.

It will be no surprise, therefore, to hear of my excitement as I discovered from my friend Volker (more on him tomorrow) that a local second hand book shop had received hundreds of new theological books, and that some had already been put on the shelves. It will also be no surprise to hear of my unrestrained joy as I found on the shelf:

  • Karl Barth’s Lebenslauf by Eberhard Busch
  • All three volumes of Balthasar’s Herrlichkeit
  • Theologie der Hoffnung by Moltmann
  • And, wait for this ...! Three volumes of Bultmann’s Glauben und Verstehen (Mohr Siebeck hardback)

Oh I could have kissed the bookshop owner’s face, stubble and all. Feeling all emotional I fell on his neck and burst out in tears. OK, I made that bit up, but something like it was happening inside. For not only did he have the books to sell, they were cheap! Oh yes! Woo hoo! CHEAP! I feel another Winds of Worship coming on ... (Theolgie der Hoffnung [Hardback], 4 euro, for example!)

Another book I’ve been enjoying is one Jim West recommended me while Instant M-ing, namely, Locher’s Die Zwinglische Reformation. Initially I was somewhat put of by the size, but the clarity of writing makes for highly enjoyable reading. Highly.

So many books, so little time, and soon I’ll be starting my biggest project to date. But more on that another time!

Sunday, February 12, 2006


The ten most controversial inner evangelical-Christian theological debates today (in no particular order).

‘Foundational’ matters:
  1. The inspiration of scripture (inerrant? Authority?)
  2. Appropriate hermeneutic (Scripture interprets scripture and sola scriptura? A big role for tradition? A role for the local community? The perspicuity of scripture?)
  3. The importance of changes in culture, from ‘modernity’ to late modernity/postmodernity/post postmodernity etc. (for many this boils down, unfairly, to the question: emerging church?)
  4. The role of theological research (indispensable? Global incubation chamber for false teaching and unbelief? Apologetics?)
Specific concerns:

  1. Homosexuality? (cf. the precarious situation of the Church of England at the moment)
  2. The nature of the atonement (penal substitution? Steve Chalke et al.)
  3. The ‘New Perspective’ on Paul (for many this boils, once again unfairly I might add, down to: Tom Wright?)
  4. Women clergy (speak up or shut up?!)
  5. The nature of God (open theism? immutability?)
  6. Eschatological questions (Pre-post-a-millenialism? Rapture? New creation?)

I thought about adding ‘gifts of the Spirit and second blessing for today?’, but I felt that to be more of a concern of the 80’s and 90’s.

What would you throw out or add?

Guess the author

‘Theological competence is ultimately a matter of being able to make judgments that display the mind of Christ’

Who wrote these words?

The answer can be found in the comments.

Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd is the new Song of the Week (I refer you to my side bar and the two dancing muppets). I’m actually no great Pink Floyd fan, but this one is simply superb.

For the coming week I plan, among other things, to continue my series on Küng’s Der Anfang aller Dinge, this time turning to section C. and the question of world creation and evolution.

Also be sure to look here, where Steven Harris of Theology and Biblical Studies will be ‘blogging through Paul’ for a while. I'll no doubt also be posting on 1 Corinthians in the coming week.

A Time of Nonsense

One of those linked to in the previous post made reference to the following book:

And Now Let's Move into a Time of Nonsense: Why Worship Songs are Failing the Church, by Nick Page.

The book description starts with: “Have you ever felt frustrated with the words of the worship songs that we sing? Why are they so forgettable? Why are they filled with such weird language? Where have all the writers gone? Combining humour with strong argument, Nick Page analyses how worship song writers have bought into a disposable, ‘pop-song’ model; how they have filled their songs with a kind of semi-Biblical code and how songs suffer from poor technique and a lack of specialist lyric writers ...”

Likewise, hopefully it was clear that my Winds of Worship series was not meant to merely cause mindless offence. Read my other posts for that.

Saturday, February 11, 2006


Given that my Winds of Worship series has become the very embodiment of success, sweeping across the whole world with its subtle and moving lyrics, here, here, here, here, here and here, not to mention here, readers will be glad to know that there are now enough songs to make a CD.

To recap the contents:
  1. Only by works
  2. Hip hip
  3. Not satisfied, by Ben Myers.
  4. God
  5. Edomites, by Sean Winter (in the comments)
  6. Edomites (Myers’ Brain Remix), also in the comments
  7. Fluffy, by Simon H
  8. I love it, by Simon H
  9. Holy and you know it
  10. Dance Floor Diva

Glaube ist

„Der Glaube ist nicht die Voraussetzung, die wir von uns erfüllen müssen, um Gottes Wirken zu erleben, sondern die Art und Weise, in der Gott uns seine Wirklichkeit schon hier und jetzt erfahren lässt“

-- Hans-Joachim Eckstein, Glaube als Beziehung, Vorwort.


I received a rather nice gift today. Prof. Hans-Joachim Eckstein gave me a copy of his new book Glaube als Beziehung. It’s not an academic book in the strictest sense, but written for the general reader - such that Anja and I are planning to read it together.

I find it so important for skilled academic theologians to write at a more popular level. I suspect this is why Tom Wright has been the target of so much ‘you’re going to hell you evil heretic’ sort of rhetoric. He simply won’t stay in his Ivory Tower! (Theologians infecting the pew just won’t do, even if there are too few, who really want to! I feel another song coming ...)

Of course, this is one of the reasons Jim West keeps on about Zwingli who, more than other reformers, was a pastor, relating to the average Joe ‘pew sitter’. So I’m told, anyway. But now I’ve received my copy of Locher’s Die Zwinglische Reformation, I’ll be able to check that out for myself. Chris is reading something about Zwingli?! Well, passion is a contagious thing - especially through blogs. Jim's fault.

Speaking of Jim, recently he took some pictures of his neighbourhood and posted them on his blog.

So I thought I’d follow suit and take the brother-in-law’s camera with me next I visit Tübingen centre. Perhaps I could wait outside the Theologicum until a theologian of note appears, then jump them paparazzi style. So, expect some startled/scared Jüngel, Moltmann, Küng pictures in the not too distant future! Seeing as my collection of Küng books now challenges the Uni Library, I’ll try to get one of him and my inanely grinning face as I push my ‘please sign instantly’ books his way.

On second thoughts, I think I’ll skip that. At least the ‘inanely grinning’ bit.

Until then, I decided to actually emerge from my ‘office’ today, and I ventured outside into the garden - and took a couple of pictures of our home. If you’re interested:

This is the view from our backgarden, looking up at the house. The bottom right window is the ‘office’, while everything above belongs to the Oma!

And this is the view into our backgarden. You can’t see it very well, but behind the shed is an apple tree. There are few things in life that can match a lazy summer’s day, lying in the shade of that tree with a pile of books to hand.

Lastly, from next to our front door looking into the garden.
Yep, it's freezing. I took a few more pictures, but my photographic abilities are evidently rather limited and so they are not worth uploading.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Winds of Worship 7 (Final)

Thought I’d finish of the present series of Winds of Worship with one for the sunday school classes and youth groups.

Dance Floor Diva
Unto Thee we declare our High-Calivinist supralapsarianism,
For our anthropopathism is only Moltmannian,
And not an anthropomorphic objectification,
For that would be mere antinomianism,
And not part of our catechism,

I could sing of the Homoousios (not homoiousios) forever
I could sing of the Homoousios (not homoiousios) forever
I could sing of the Homoousios (not homoiousios) forever
I could sing of the Homoousios (not homoiousios) forever X16

Nor do we honour naïve eisegesis, at thine Altar,
Nor a Gnostic hermeneutic that would
deny the Hypostatic union,
And affirm some kind of Sabellian Modalism
We love a critical critical realist epistemological exegesis

Away with Pelagius and in with sola gratia
And sine qua non, the parthenogenesisia
Away with pre-millennial, pre-tribulationism
And anachronistic scholastic individualism
maybe, Lord, in with a redeemed Preterism?

© Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries (CTRVHM), 2006

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Web resources

Just found a couple of really useful webpages with various theological book samples, entire essays, a series of lectures on Barth’s CDs, Harnack’s Über den privaten Gebrauch der Heiligen Schriften in der alten Kirche and much much much much more besides. Have a look, here and here.

I’m rather pleased with these finds!

Rede von Gott

„Nur wenn die Rede von Gott durch die konkrete Erfahrung der Wirklichkeit von Mensch und Welt gedeckt ist, auf sie bezogen ist, mit ihr vermittelt ist, ist ihre Glaubwürdigkeit begründet“

- Hans Küng, Der Anfang aller Dinge, 99-100

Not only interior piety

“For Paul it is all important that the Christian life is not limited to interior piety and cultic acts. One of the most remarkable, and at the same time least known sentences of the Apostle [Paul] runs (1 Cor. 6:13): ‘The body belongs to the Lord, and the Lord to the body’ … Paul does not mean, as Bultmann would have us believe, man’s relation to himself, but that piece of the world which we ourselves are and for which we bear responsibility because it was the earliest gift of our Creator to us … It signifies man in his worldhood and therefore in his ability to communicate [i.e., in his relationality]”

-- E. Käsemann, cited in Thiselton’s superb* commentary on 1 Corinthians

*Superb = I could be stranded on a desert Island with only this book and be reasonably happy.

Winds of Worship 6

I'll soon be finished with all of this nonsense, but my penultimate Winds of Worship is one of my first efforts, and I still think it’s one of the most moving and profound. In fact, I burst into tears whenever I recite it.

And today I’m offering even more. I thought it would be nice to start of with a liturgical prayer that I’ve formulated based on one found in the Gospel of Luke (18:10-12):
“Oh Lord, we thank you,
that we are not like other people.
We fast twice a week
And give a tenth of our income
I’ve called this one …

Holy and you know it

a. If you’re holy and you know it (all)
Clap your hands (men)
Clap your hands (women) X2

If your righteous and you know it,
And you really want to show it,
Then quickly find a random sinner and rebuke it
Publicly rebuke it.

b. If you’re baptised in the Spirit (all)
stamp your feet (men)
stamp your feet (women) X2

c. If you’re a pre-millennialist, post-tribulationist (all)
See references to helicopters in Revelation (men)
See references to helicopters in Revelation (women) X2

d. If you’re a King James 1611 only
Clobber a Catholic (men)
Smack his face in and head butt the living crap out of him (women) X2

If the NIV smells of sulphur,
And the NRSV as well,
Then run Forest, run, to the KJV.

© Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries (CTRVHM), 2006
Tomorrow, I’ll introduce my last Winds of Worship song (everybody breathes a sigh of relief). I now have enough for a music CD, and I want to find out a way of earning some serious cash with all of this.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I realise that I really ought to start posting more sensible things soon. I’ll have all these visitors coming over from my biblioblogs.com interview expecting something half intelligent, and what do they find?


It’s just that things have been a bit solemn here at home for other reasons, and I need to be a prat somewhere. Nevertheless, I will be returning to matters more respectfully theological and exegetical in the following week. At least a little more.

Finally, for those of you who have prayed (see my earlier post), we want to say a ‘thanks’. It has been a bumpy ride, but we’ve finally made a decision regarding Anja’s work, and all that I can really say here is that our future is now a little more fluid that before. Your continued prayers are very much appreciated.

Winds of Worship 5

I know that I should bring this Winds of Worship series to an end – I have most definitely flogged the joke to Hades and back already. But I have just a few more offerings, and I still think they’re funny. So what should I do … ?

Post em, I say!

These two inspired songs are the product of my dear friend, the completely lost message (Si. Mate. I will continue to add the additional adverb to your blog name until you make some important additions to your blog links … *gives a stern and pointed look*). Our guest song writer today is obviously deeply impressed by the self-acceptance thrust of many modern worship songs, and I think he wants to express this appreciation through these songs. In fact, he’s so impressed, he’s penned two more of the ‘I’m loved and really an awfully nice and worthy chap etc.’ sort.

The first, I have to admit, makes me want to puke up all over the place. Repeatedly. I’m serious. I’m reaching just thinking about it.

I love the way you hug me
You make me feel so safe
Like a cuddly poodle
Lost in your embrace

'hug me, hug me like a fluffy teddy bear' x 3

I love the way you squeeze me
You make me feel so happy
Like a furry creature
I no longer feel crappy

© Simon H, Honourary Member of Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries, 2006

This second reflects that wonderful clarity of subject so common these days, using so sensitively the method of repetition.

I love the way you love me
I love the way you love me
I love the way you love me
The way you love me, I really love it!

I love the way he loves you (women to the men)
I love the way he loves you (men to the women)
I love the way he loves us (together)
Yes, that’s right he really loves you (priest/leader/vicar)

© Simon H, Honourary Member of Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries, 2006

(The frightening thing is, both of these would have a good chance in some circles.)

Things to read before theological study

The definitive essential pre-theological study list:

  1. Barbara Thiering, Jesus & the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls – start of with a good helping of utter *ollocks first – it’ll make everything else seem great.
  2. David A. deSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament – a superb, albeit rather one-sided, introduction and overview to every NT book, and to various exegetical and interpretive methods (check out the Amazon link as it is reviewed by none other than our own Alan Bandy).
  3. The Pan Guide to Arm Wrestling – as essential as number 1.
  4. Tom Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said – The man needs no introduction. Mike Bird, sitting at feet, Marburg, one greater now here, etc. It’s motivational, inspiring, paradigm shifting, refreshing, lucid, and a good introduction to some popular Pauline debates.
  5. Kümmel, The New Testament: The history of the investigation of its problems – or The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861-1986 by Wright and Neill. Unputdownable.
  6. A. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction. Lucid – and it served me well. Plus his Christian Theology Reader.
  7. B. W. Anderson’s, The Living World of the Old Testament. The ‘review’ on this one is err, interesting.
  8. W. Wally, Where's Wally?: Special Edition – For if you ever get stuck on a train and you’ve forgotten all your other theology books.
  9. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics. Just to scare the living crap out of 1st year students – and because I’ve got some terribly exciting news, but … No. I won’t say anything yet.
  10. The All American Girls 2006 Bikini Calendar: Soapsuds edition – serves as a compelling introduction to various anthropological and sociological themes.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Küng – Der Anfang aller Dinge. Section B, pt 4.

This is the 4th and final part of my overview of section B in Küng’s Der Anfang aller Dinge.

God as Hypothesis and God as Reality

That ‘God’ be respected at least as a hypothesis is to be seen in the fact that an ultimate cause of the universe deals with that which is beyond our three-dimensional and probably limited, universe i.e. that which is beyond empirical science. And indeed, if God does exist, then the questions concerning the ultimate Reality, the conditions at t = 0, can all be answered. However, of course the big question is: does God actually exists?

More precisely, how is one to answer this question, how is one to find access to the Ultimate Secret of the universe? How can we get from ‘God as hypothesis’ to ‘God as Reality’? Certainly not through theoretical operations of pure reason, but also neither through irrational feelings. Rather: ‘on the grounds of a trustworthy, rationally defensible fundamental decision and standpoint (Grundentscheidung und Grundeinstellung)’ (98). To use his analogy: If one learns to swim, it is not done by standing in the dry bank, reading a ‘how to swim’ book, but comes about through risk, through getting the hair wet, and finding out that the body will not necessarily sink. You learn to trust the water through real life trying and risk. Applied to real life and the question of God's existence, this is, in effect, a hermeneutic of trust that Küng is suggesting. Despite doubts, the secret Reality of all things can be accepted and be the basis for one’s entire experience, behaviour and actions.

His reasoning continues: While an absolutely logical proof or disproof of God is not possible, it is viable to suggest that ‘practical reason’ (as opposed to ‘theoretical’ - cf. Kant) can function as a guiding introduction (hinführende Anleitung) into the reality of God – one based on the entire person. This is, for Küng's theological epistemology absolutely crucial. On this, let me quote him at more length - a citation that I think clearly displays the nature of Küng’s approach and hermeneutic.
‘Die Aussagen über Gott sollen im Erfahrungshorizont unseres Lebens und der grundlegenden existentiellen Fragen bewährt und bewahrheitet werden: nicht in zwingender Ableitung aus einer angeblich evidenten Erfahrung, die eine Entscheidung des Menschen erübrigen würde, wohl aber in klärender Ausleuchtung der immer problematischen Erfahrung, die zu einer freien Entscheidung des Menschen einlädt’ (99).

Indeed, only when talk of God is covered by, and related to (and with) the concrete experience of the reality of humanity and the world, can its ‘believability’ be grounded. And while for some, the ‘unprovability’ of God is enough to affirm atheism, Küng’s conviction is: the ‘yes’ to God enables a radically grounded basic trust towards reality. Uncountable existential questions can then, in principle, be answered; the human has an ‘archimedischer Punkt’ from which to view reality, and questions such as ‘what can we know?’, ‘what should we do?’ and ‘what can we hope for?’ can be answered so that, from deep within, it is possible to understand why such contingent and pitiful creatures, which are humans, can still be beings of unlimited expectation, hope and longing. It is to answer such questions from the ‘archimedischer’ standpoint of ‘God exists’ Küng now turns to address in the rest of the book. Does belief in God help to explain the mystery of epistemology, the question of appropriate praxis, and the nature of human hope?

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Winds of Worship 4

After being told that my ‘Hip hip’ song was not original (the person in question is obviously just jealous he won’t be getting any royalties), I tried my best to not only be more creative, but to scrape the bucket of my genius and write one to touch the very depths of theological profundity. With this introduction, I present, Winds of Worship 4.


God you are really God
good for you,
No, honest, you really are,
Woo hoo
Well done that you are God

Give us a ‘G’
Give us an ‘o’
Give us a ‘d’

© Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries (CTRVHM), 2006

Next time, we have the pleasure of yet another guest writer. Roll over Wesley et al.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Küng – Der Anfang aller Dinge. Section B, pt 3.

This is part 3 of my overview of section B in Küng’s Der Anfang aller Dinge.

It is time to turn to the question that will engage Küng for the rest of the section.

5. Why is there not nothing?

Science, Küng insists, can only take one so far. Furthermore, such questions as those concerning the condition at the Absolute Beginning of all things cannot help but swerve into metaphysics. Indeed, many scientists freely admit, the more of the universe one discovers, the less it is understood. Despite the enormous and wonderful contributions and advances of scientific knowledge in the last century, room must also be made for scientific humility. Indeed, the 96% of the universe that remains beyond human knowledge, also remains beyond entirely reasonable explanation and understandability. And this is not merely the sort of mystery that can one day be resolved, rather, quoting Pascal, Küng is speaking here of the ‘secret impénétrable’, that which is beyond ‘theoretical reason’ and empirically bound scientific research.

So how are we to approach the question of the ‘secret impénétrable’? In this following passage, Küng introduces a crucial part of his argumentation:
‘Während die Argumente der Physik, auf Beobachtung, Experiment und Mathematik aufgebaut, einen logisch zwingenden Charakter haben, können die philosophisch-theologischen Argumente für die Annahme einer metaempirischen Wirklichkeit bestenfalls eine Hinführung und Einladung sein. Das heißt: In diesen letzten Fragen herrscht kein intellektueller Zwang, sondern Freiheit’ (95).

The events of t = 0 are simply beyond the reach of our Physics. This doesn’t mean ‘God’-speculation is merely introduced where there exists gaps in scientific knowledge. Rather, it is about the nature and the scope of the questions that asks about the ‘ultimate secret of Reality’, the original ground, foundation, the original goal of all Reality. However, to speak of this ultimate Reality in terms of God … isn’t that simply a pious hypothesis that scientists cannot allow? ‘No’, says Küng: ‘Ich möchte dem Naturwissenschaftler empfehlen, Gott zumindest als Hypothese in Betracht zu ziehen’ (97).

How this Empfehlung is to be justified will be overviewed in the next, and last post on section B.

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A prayer request

Anja, my wife, has had a rather difficult time at work of late (understatement), and it has reached the stage where we have to make some big decisions, with perhaps considerable implications. Please pray for us. Many thanks.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Küng – Der Anfang aller Dinge. Section B, pt 2.

The continuation of my overview of Küng’s book, Der Anfang aller Dinge, will now proceed.
At the moment, I am working through section B (‘God as the beginning?’). To orientate yourself, see the bottom of my introductory post here.

The first part of the overview of section B, dealing with points 1 to 3, can be found here. This is part 2, and there will follow 2 more this week, making the total number of posts on section B as 4.

Why so many? Well, I have decided to spend more time on this section of the book as I felt it was so crucial to Küng’s understanding, general approach and hermeneutic. Plus, its given me lots to think through, and writing it down helps!

4. Reactions to cosmic ‘fine-tuning’ (Feinabstimmung)

Before Küng turns to develop his own answer to cosmic ‘fine-tuning’, he addresses two approaches that have sought to answer the question, ‘how can the beginning of the universe and its balanced intricacy be properly explained?’

Under the title ‘cosmological speculation’, he first overviews the claims made by those promoting ‘alternative universes’, as a way to balance equations and explicate the conditions at the very beginning – even proposing a self-creating universe. Küng’s main criticism revolves around the fact that such speculation is hardly science in an empirical sense, and thus, while it may be correct, cannot compel assent. Not, at least, in the name of that which is true science.

The second approach to the question asked in the first paragraph is that of ‘intelligent design’. Some have attempted to use the ‘big bang’ and ‘expanding universe’ models to justify belief in the Genesis account of creation. These models, after all, point to a definite beginning, a moment of ‘creation’ at which the universe began. However - and here Küng shows that he is no mere apologist - in light of such argumentation, he writes:
‘Ich gestehe freilich, daß mich das ganze Beweisverfahren für eine Anfangssingularität und einen Designer-Gott kaum zu überzeugen vermag’ (87).
And why? Apart from a couple of minor issues, the main reason remains: no physical law can imply a factual endlessness. The sort of arguments he used against scientific arrogance (drawing largely on Kant), he now, entirely consistently, uses against an over self-confident apologetic stance. However, one could challenge Küng’s precise formulation at this point (as quoted above). In the same paragraph he writes that ‘theoretical reason’ cannot compel one to assent to a factual ‘beyond time-space reality’. But ‘to imply’ and ‘to compel’ are two very different notions.

Update: Re-reading this, I am not convinced that my summary is altogether comprehensible for those who may be fresh to such discussions. Unfortunately, as I am condensing a rather complicated argument, this is somewhat inevitable - but hopefully the following two posts will make matters clearer.

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TB's tribulations

It’s not often I laugh aloud reading blogs. But I couldn’t help myself reading this post by TB Vick.

I know it’s the sort of sick humour that can laugh out loud as an early morning jogger slips and falls headfirst into some stinging nettles because you peeped him with your car horn while driving past. But it’s still funny.

Winds of Worship 3

I’m glad to introduce another song to add to phenomena that is sweeping the internet, and causing blogger.com to crash. Yes, it's the series everybody is getting excited about: Wind of Worship.

This song was not composed by myself, and so obviously won’t be as anointed, but, being written by none other than Ben Myers of Faith and Theology, is naturally packed with theological punch.

First, two points. i) I feel the hymn manages to sensitively capture the self-serving consumerist-style sort of worship that is so trendy today. Who could want more? (For more of the same, do have a look at this promotional video – and thanks to T.B. Vick for sending me the link) Plus, ii) a nice touch is that it rhymes a bit – I’ll have to think of doing that myself.

Come Holy Spirit, fall afresh on me
Fill me with your power
Satisfy my need
Yes it’s true that Jesus died
But I’m just not satisfied
So come Holy Spirit, fall afresh on me

© B Myers, honourary guest songwriter for CTRVHM, 2006

Sermons and Singles

Single of the week has just been updated, and I’ve chosen Nine Million Bicycles by Katie Melua - a really delightful and smooth Blues number.

Once again: by clicking on ‘Single of the Week’ on my side bar, you will be taken, if you have iTunes installed, to a 30 second music sample of the track, and the chance to download it if you want.

This morning kicked off with a fine sermon by Professor Hermann Lichtenberger, on Rom 7:14-25. Having just written a book on the subject (Das Ich Adams und das Ich der Menschheit: Studien zum Menschenbild in Römer 7, [Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004]), his message was meaty, but also clear and direct. I felt confronted by the absolute seriousness and extent of sin, and the manner of Paul’s approach to the problem, in contrast to that evidenced in the striking Greco-Roman and Aristotelian parallels. Whereas the latter spoke about meditation on the consequences of one’s actions to enable the person to not only know the right thing but also do it, Paul would never have said such a thing. ‘Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ was the Apostle’s cry.

It was a pity that he didn’t engage at all with those various approaches to Rom 7 that understand it as speaking of the plight of Israel (as in Wright), and one wonders if the text was treated a touch anachronistically - but this reaction could be way of mark. It was a powerful and, for me at least, moving sermon.

I missed last week’s sermon on Mark 7:14-23 by Professor Eberhard Jüngel, and I was assured after the service by a couple of regular members that it was indeed very powerful and thought-provoking. Next time, dear Prof. Jüngel, I will most certainly be there!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Blogspot frozen

I returned from a lovely social evening with the Institute for the Study of Christian Origins to find that all *.blogspot.com's were down - all except mine. I sincerely hope that no lasting damage has been done to any of your blogs. The blogger.com webpage hasn't posted about any scheduled time-out, so I'm guessing that this is this a virus?

Or maybe blogger.com simply couldn't handle the traffic caused by recent Winds of Worship series?

Christian Universalism Pt. 3

This is the final part of my Christian Universalism trilogy. Cf. parts 1 and 2.

Certainly at first sight, then, there appear to be two different possible answers to the question, ‘Will everybody finally be saved/reconciled to God?’, from within the biblical texts, and the logical categories derived from these texts.

The problem with this theme is that the questions thrown up in the Christian Universalism (CU) debate go to the very heart of Christian theology, and are bound up with a myriad of other themes like: free-will and divine-determination, the role played by reason, tradition and Scripture, etc., and this makes short posts on a blog almost unbearably superficial. This, the last post in the series, will a) look at how some Christian theologians have attempted to resolve the apparent tensions, b) make some suggestions as to what matters future debate needs ‘take on board’, and c) give a brief personal note.

A) Approaches that have been taken to resolve the apparent tension/contradiction in the texts:

  1. Stress the prima facie value of the sort of texts mentioned in the first part of this series, eternal separation and ‘hell’ texts, and seek to read the apparent universalist texts in a different way (the Traditionalist approach, e.g. by I. H. Marshall)

  2. Stress the apparent universalist texts and sort of logic mentioned in the second part of this series, and seek to reinterpret the nature of ‘eternity’ and ‘punishment’, making it something redemptive (Talbott), or as just a rhetorical threat, i.e., not something that will actually happen (J. Robinson).

  3. Others want to allow room for the ‘natural’ reading of all texts, accept them, then redefine what the Scriptures are actually doing, as opposed to providing timelessly true teaching (Brunner), and thereby transport the question to the realm of verbal ‘hope’ (Barth, von Balthasar)

B) A couple of issues that the developing discussion would do well to bear in mind:

  1. The texts usually quoted for or against CU need to be more firmly contextualised. What questions Paul was actually seeking to address in 1 Cor 15 and Rom 5 need to be brought more firmly into the heart of the debate. Sven Hillert in his, Limited and Universal Salvation, has started this process, but I suspect much more integration work with the rest of Paul’s theology needs to be done.

  2. The exegesis of the NT witness also needs to be contextualised more thoroughly in the literature of second Temple Judaism and seek to uncover how these other traditions held the matters in tension, and why they did so. E.g., even the Dead Sea Scrolls literature evidences remarkable universalist tendencies (pretty much universally underestimated by DSS scholarship!).

  3. Perhaps particularly for evangelicals to engage with is the following: the relation between the witness of Scripture as a whole, and the centrality of God’s revelation in Christ needs to be clarified. ‘In these last days’, the author of Hebrews writes, ‘God has spoken to us by the Son (not through the 1611 KJV!)’

  4. The theme of ‘new creation’ needs to be brought back in to centre stage, and replace much talk of ‘heaven’.

  5. Ones hermeneutical approach needs to engage more thoroughly both with the dynamics of scriptural narrative (and not simply limp out verses or theological platitudes), and the missional and ecclesiological consequences and goals of the debate.

  6. Like Bultmann, Wright etc., who have explicitly sought to erect an interpretive edifice around the reading of the NT texts (much like scaffolding around a building) and to test it against the texts, the CUs and their critics need to engage in such thought experiments to determine whether or not the addition of CU to Paul’s edifice helps to better explain, or not, specific contextual arguments and strategies within his letters. OK, that last sentence was a bit wordy, but, for me, important.

I could go on, but this post is already getting too long.

I’ll finish with personal note: I would dearly love CU to be correct, not just as a hope, but as a believable dogma - dearly love it to be true. Furthermore, the CU approach makes so much sense (bar the sovereign freedom of God [Barth] and seriousness of sin coupled with human free-will) of major theological themes and problems.

However, out of intellectual honesty, I cannot (yet) believe Paul was as a universalist, or, for that matter, anyone else in the bible. There are far too many places in Paul’s letters that I suspect, would have been written and approached very differently were he a CU (see point 6 above). Nevertheless, perhaps CU is the best and most consistent way to understand Paul’s theology for today, and an accurate, but nevertheless developed, representation of his eschatology and soteriology, but the evangelical in me doesn’t, yet, quite know how to handle this, and thus how to interpret matters into my own theological framework. Hence my reading and study with regards this question continues ...

My provisional position, and I stress provisional: I 200% hope CU is correct, but I am, as yet, 80% unconvinced. Admittedly, such percentage numbers hardly mean much.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Christian Universalism Pt. 2

In the previous post I very briefly mentioned a couple of verses that would, at first sight, speak clearly against any sort of Christian Universalism (CU). Here, I will, again briefly and superficially, overview a few passages used by CUs, and the sort of arguments employed.

I suspect the biblical case for universalism is stronger than most suspect. At least in my own evangelical tradition, ‘universalist’ is often seen as synonymous with ‘major league bible-burning heretic’.

So what is there in the bible to support CU?

First, I would refer my readers to my early short post on the logic developed by Talbott. This argument I would slightly expand with admittedly naïve reference to verses like:

2 Peter 3:9 ‘The Lord is … not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance’ or 1 Tim 2:4 ‘[God] desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’. As I said, I’m not exegeting here, just gathering some raw material.

Now, if these, and other verses like them, are taken seriously, then for people to actually finally be lost and perish, would mean God’s will is not accomplished. However, is such an denial ‘biblical’? Apparently, God will do all things as he wants to: Eph 1:11 ‘In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will’.

Not only that, but there are a few verses that claim that God is not only able to do ultimately do his will, but that this will certainly happen (cf. 1 Cor 15:27-28).

Then there are the classic texts: Rom 5:18 ‘Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all’ (one which, in context I admittedly find none too convincing), 1 Cor 15:22 ‘for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ’ (ending ‘so that God may be all in all’ v. 28), or, my favorite, Col 1:20 ‘through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross’.

Particularly notable, much like the word ‘eternal’ in the previous post, is the repetition of the word ‘all’ in these verses.

The next post will ask the most important and complex question of all: How do we deal with these two strands of biblical thought?


Featured Blog of the Month

For those who are interested,

Chrisendom is the ‘Featured Blog of the Month’

over on biblioblogs.com. A roaring honour indeed!

There, you will find my interview with Jim West, and perhaps learn something about me you didn’t know before.

Winds of Worship 2

My current series of powerful, moving and theologically meaty yet contemporary worship songs continues, with:

Hip hip

Hey God,
Hip hip (worship leader)
Hooray (congregation)

Three cheers for God
Three cheers for God

For he’s
a jolly good God indeed
For he’s
a jolly good God indeed
For he’s
a jolly good God indeeeeeeeeed,

Oh yes God really is.

Bridge: Which nobody can deny X2

© Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries (CTRVHM), 2006
Once again, I am glad, for a small fee, to make each song available entirely for free - for use in your churches.

Christian Universalism Pt. 1

I have far too many ‘series’ on the go at the moment, so I won’t draw this one out, and I will keep it very basic. But the question of Christian Universalism or Allversöhnung has been exercising me greatly of late. And it’s an important question for me. My own particular Christian background has strongly anathematised any leaning in a universalist direction, and to flip over to ‘the dark-side’ on this one would deserve at the very least a merciful bullet in the head from an elder or two. So, my procedure was as usual: read everything you can get your hands on that is even partly related.

However, the evangelical in me will always start off with the scriptures, at least as a practical first-step. Off the top of my head, I listed a few that could both speak against and for Christian Universalism. I didn’t initially try any serious exegesis, I simply listed them next to each other, and it made a real impression on me. Here, first, are a couple of texts that would, certainly at first sight, speak against Universalism.

“… Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Mat 25:41-46)

“… when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might …” (2 Thess 1:7-10)

Particularly striking is the word ‘eternal’ in both of these passages. In the light of such verses, one also ought not to drive too strong a wedge, as I felt von Balthasar was in danger of doing in Was Dürfen Wir Hoffen?, between pre- and post-Easter perspectives on Universalism.

… Part II briefly looks at scriptures that would seem to affirm Christian Universalism.


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Winds of Worship 1

King David wrote lots of worship songs.

So does the honorary president of Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries (CTRVHM).

I.e. Me.

In fact, I feel my songs are so inspiring, I thought it best to post some of them here on my blog over the next few weeks – so that you can use them in your churches (and TB, if you do start your own church, you could even enforce a CTRVHM-only song rule). The first one is called ...

Only by works

(This is an adaptation of a well known classic. The text has been adjusted slightly out of ecumenical respect for our dear Pelagian brothers and sisters)

Suggested instrumental accompaniment: Holy, gentle, soft piano music with occasional Triangle dings

Only by works can we enter
Only by toil can we stand
Just by our human endeavour,
And by the sweat of our brows.

Into your presence you call us,
You call us to come,

And only by trying a lot harder can we enter,
Only by panicking can we stand

Enthusiastic about vigorous asceticism, we come X2

© Chris Tilling of CTRVHM, 2006.

A comment on 1 Cor 2:2

One of the many things I love about theology is the impact individual phrases and sentences can make on me. They don’t have to be flashy, or long winded, or say anything new. But, on occasion, a few of them somehow stay in the back of my mind, drawing the energy of my thoughts, enticing me to worship and adoration. Here is just such a one:

‘Jesus Christ can only be preached as the crucified one’

-- David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

1 Corinthians 2:2

ouv ga.r e;krina, ti eivde,nai evn u`mi/n eiv mh. VIhsou/n Cristo.n kai. tou/ton evstaurwme,nonÅ
(1 Corinthians 2:2)
- if you can't see the Greek, download the font by clicking on the big red oval on my side-bar!

Canon Professor Anthony Thiselton, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, translates this as ‘For I did not resolve to know anything to speak among you except Jesus Christ, and Christ crucified’ (204), and I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has a problem with this.

He reads the ouv as related to e;krina not i) eivde,nai (not to know cf. KJV, NJB) and ii) ti (to know nothing cf. NRSV, NIV)

Also, kai. tou/ton is not, he maintains, captured by the usual personal pronoun (‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’).

Perhaps most unusual of all, he argues that the eivde,nai (‘to know’) is problematic. He would have expected ‘I did not reach a decision to speak anything …’, and so he smuggles this into his translation on the basis that Paul, with the use of this infinitive, ‘refers to his whole mind-set and stance’ (213)

But this seems to me to be an uncomfortable translation. First, while the ouv usually doesn’t negate an infinitive, nor anything other than the word it precedes, there are some examples (Moule), and the majority reading that negates either eivde,nai or ti is the most natural.

More problematic, however, is the ‘to know anything to speak’ gloss. My understanding of the letter is that it involves, at a basic level and in almost every chapter, believers in their relation to the risen Lord - what it looks like and how it is experienced. I would therefore be tempted to understand the use of the verb oi=da in a relational sense, which is one possibility given in BDAG: be intimately acquainted with or stand in a close relation to.

What do you think? Do you side with:

A) Mr. Chris Fresh post-graduate Tilling with an exegetical agenda M.Th. Hons,


B) Canon Professor Anthony Thiselton B.D., M.Th., Ph.D., D.D., D.D, Research Professor in Christian Theology, and Emeritus Professor of Christian Theology in the University of Nottingham, and author of numerous outstanding books that have propelled him to world-wide recognition


C) Go along, unquestioningly, with the KJV (see previous post)


Let the jury cast their votes … (but please note that A is the best choice, especially as I'll burst into tears if you choose something else)

Association of Fundamentalists Evangelizing Catholics

Do you want to become a member of the Association of Fundamentalists Evangelizing Catholics?

I know you do.

Just a few simple, uncontroversial and nicely balanced bylaws to agree to, and you're in.

1. First off, top of the list:

“We are non-charismatic and non-ecumenical”

Fair enough. We wouldn’t want any chandelier-swinging charismatic spoiling our non-ecumenical meetings. Besides, the leader has called the Roman Catholic Church, ‘Satan's masterpiece’, so I suppose there won’t be much room left for honest ecumenical dialogue anyway.

2. But now that's out of the way, its time to get down to the nitty gritty; time to get to get the essentials.

“At our annual Conference, no woman is to teach a mixed group”

I should hope not! No need for missiological musings when there are women around who could actually speak or something. This is an association with undeniable style.

3. This last one is my personal favourite,

“The KJV will be used for all public meetings”

Moses himself couldn't have put it any better. Can you imagine how ungodly it would be to read out the pure evil of the NASB or NJB or something? Besides, who needs them or, come to think of it, the Luther, Nouvelle Edition Geneve, or Spanish Reina-Valera Update etc., if you’ve got the King James 1611 Bible?

Learn English foreign people!

And while on the KJV subject, my dear friend, Volker, who e-mailed me the web links above, also found some helpful devotional-aid gifs on a discussion forum - the signature of a certain ‘Independent, fundamental, King James only, washed in the blood of Christ, believer’:

This next one is called 'run to the kjv':

Time to put away your Nestle-Aland 27h Edition and Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia me thinks.