Sunday, September 30, 2007

Book Promotion: The Doors of the Sea

My sincere thanks to the kind folk at Eerdmans for a review copy of David Bentley Hart's. The Doors of the Sea: Where was God in the Tsunami? (MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans: 2005)

I have called this post a book promotion, rather than a review, because to best communicate my enthusiasm I feel I need to speak more personally. Hence this will be more of a personal reflection, especially as my brain is still panting with delight having finished the book a matter of minutes ago.

Everywhere, Hart's language is electric and his style energetically lucid and deeply polemic. Indeed, and as one blogging friend put it to me recently in private correspondence, it makes reading anyone else rather boring by comparison! Hart reserves some especially biting rhetoric against the arguments of certain 'triumphalist atheists', but he also calls 'limited atonement' a heresy on the way, and Calvin (and Reformed thinking generally) is nothing but a punch-bag for his searing argumentation. Great fun! Indeed, though I have grown in Christian faith mostly within a Reformed Evangelical context, I found his rebuke of theological determinism as profound and moving a case as I have read anywhere. For its size, this book has as much punch as many grand tomes. It's like a shot of mature whiskey in that it holds as much alcohol as many pints of cheap beer put together. Perhaps not the best analogy, but it's getting too late to hit the delete button now.

Reading The Doors of Sea has not only proved to be a great aid in thinking through theodicy, it awakened in me a fresh delight in the glory of God in all of creation. I read much of the book while sitting in my back garden, and southern Germany at this time of year is often quite simply beautiful. Sitting out on the lawn reading the words of Thomas Traherne, which Hart cites at some length, was a profound spiritual experience. Hart's own prose reached into my soul, as it were, and set free some profound worship. It was a breath of fresh air to unashamedly let go of efforts to somehow ascribe to a good God every wicked evil that has ever happened in the name of God's sovereignty. Furthermore, his brief elucidation of how one should conceptualise the divine sovereignty was, I found, intellectually satisfying – certainly more so, to my mind, than Rowan Williams' short efforts in Tokens of Trust. Hart's exposition of the significance of the discussion between Ivan (who Moltmann would perhaps call a protest 'atheist' of sorts) and Alyosha, in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, was probably the high point of the book for me, as was Hart's perception of the significance of the elder, Zosima, who, Hart argued, 'constitutes a kind of "answer" to Ivan' (58). This discussion powerfully thrust the importance of love right back where it ought to be.

Being the nauseatingly opinion-on-everything theologian I am, I couldn't follow Hart at every point. His discussion about the issue of divine impassibility, which Hart considers a very important dogma, was less impressive. To be honest, I haven't made my mind up on this issue yet – and I have read too much German Protestant theology to swallow that one without a fight.

But the real point of this post is not review but something else, i.e. some shameless plugging: Please, please read David Bentley Hart's The Doors of Sea. You will not regret it; you will love me for recommending the book to you and will want to kiss me (but please don't). I know I review quite a few books on this blog and I'm always trying to plug something, but for your own sake get this one.

In a recent review of Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite (which Eerdmans were also kind enough to send me – and will consequently be reviewed here in due time), John McGuckin memorably wrote that Hart's book 'comes among us like a satellite fallen through the roof of the hen house' (SJT, 60(1): 94 [2007]). Almost as good as the old 'bomb into the playground' line. Hart's small book, The Doors of Sea, if I may use a similar analogy, came at me like a hornet through a toilet window while I was quietly sitting reading my newspaper.

The Doors of Sea: Very memorable, very profound, very moving, very thought-provoking and, perhaps most importantly, it promoted me to sit still and worship the glorious and infinitely beautiful God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.



Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hell behind us

At the "Weltbundes christlicher Studenten" conference in Strasburg, July 1960, Karl Barth was asked a question about the reality of hell and evil. During his lively response, he stated:

"Should the teaching about hell be a part of the proclamation of the gospel? No, no, no! The proclamation of the gospel means, rather, the proclamation that Christ has defeated hell, that Christ suffered hell in our place, and that it has allowed for us to live with Christ and so to have hell behind us"
- Karl Barth (Gesamtausgabe, 25:111)

As you would expect, for Barth I think things are more complicated than this single statement would imply. Nevertheless, my evangelical sensibilities were screaming "but Acts 24:25 etc."! Still, something to think about.

Pimp My Liturgy - 02

Yes, I know. Too much time on my hands.

But this second instalment of Pimp My Liturgy focuses, as did the previous, on the Dead Sea Scrolls. There is so much boring shite in those scrolls, they need my help, believe me.

However, today will also throw into the mix that peculiar and silly NT philosophical faddism that denies the significance of authorial intent (I'm imagining certain rabid NT scholars punching desks, crying that we have documents, not authors). Against all that claptrap, cf. P Esler's treatment of authorial intent in his New Testament Theology: Communion and Community, and Max Turner's article in Between Two Horizon's. But assuming the anti-authorial-intent twaddle for a moment, today I will pimp: 4Q503 (4QDaily Prayers^a).

The original fragments (11 vv 1-3; 13-16 vv 3-7) to be pimped run as follows:

"1. [...] ... Blank [...] 2. [The twel]fth of the month, in the evening, [they shall bless ...] 3. [...] ... And we, his holy people, exult this night [...]; [... the lig]ht of day [...] 4. [... Blessed be] your [na]me, God of Israel, in a[ll...] 5. [...] Blank [...] 6-7. [...] ... [...]"

(The [...] and ... refer to illegible or lost text. Text within [] is a restoration of sometimes minimally preserved text)

I wouldn't want to try and reconstruct authorial intent here, obviously. We have documents, not authors. So I thought I'd pimp this old liturgical nugget with plain old tongue speaking – so this is really one for charismatic brothers and sisters.

To be sung to the tune of 'You can't touch this' by MC Hammer (one should also preferably wear enormous trousers for this rendition):

"1. Kiwiminebananana, Bananananana
Blank kiwiwiwbenenene
2. The twelfth of the month, in the evening, they shall bless Banananananana
3. alalalalblalala brrrrzipweepop And we, his holy people, exult this night kiwiminebananana the light of day kiwiminebananana
4. Blessed be your name, God of Israel, in all kiwiminebananana
5. kiwiminebananana
6-7 kiwiminebultmanndidnthaveacluebanananakiwiminebananana"


Friday, September 28, 2007

Messiah and exaltation

Dr Andrew Chester, of Cambridge University, has recently published a magnificently lucid, deeply learned and helpful volume entitled Messiah and exaltation: Jewish messianic and visionary traditions and New Testament Christology (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007). I heartily recommend this to everyone interested in NT Christology.

The odd thing is, though I am in strong agreement with much of his reasoning, his treatment of the sources and his general methodology (apart from that in the fifth chapter: 'Messianism, Mediators and Pauline Christology'), I find myself parting company with him regularly as he draws his conclusions. However, while I find myself in general disagreement with quite a few of Fee's methodological choices and reasoning, I am much happier with many of his conclusions!

Figure that one out!

Thursday, September 27, 2007


The brilliant and insightful

And, let's call a spade a spade, the not brilliant and insightful

(Thanks to

Quote of the day: Paul's Faith

I've recently been working through Hendrikus Boers' interesting new work, Christ in the Letter of Paul: In Place of a Christology. Boers presents us with a beautiful example of exegetical insight and depth, and given the nature of my own claims in my research on Pauline Christology, I find myself very sympathetic to some of his methodological choices. Anyway, to the quote of the day:

'Faith for [Paul] had nothing to do with the distinction between fides quae creditur and fides qua creditur. Faith for him meant being grasped by the reality of Christ, the reality of his death on the cross, his resurrection and anticipation of his parousia. To put it differently, faith had no object for him, fides quae creditur, but meant being engaged by the reality of Christ' (56).

Wonderful! "Faith had no object for him"! Certainly one to ponder.

fides quae creditur means = 'the faith which is believed' = the content of 'the faith'
fides qua creditur means = 'the faith by which it is believed' = the personal faith which apprehends

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Question for Quiet Reflection

This is a variation on a theme.

Question: How many Catholic nuns could you fight off before being knocked out?

Please, consider.


  1. You have received some training in the martial arts.
  2. You are in an enclosed space the size of a small church hall.
  3. No holds barred. Anything goes. Eye jabs, Vulcan Grips, anything. But no weapons (except use of the odd hymn book that may be lying around).
  4. All the nuns are over 60 and so don't have real teeth with which to bite back. But their power is in their numbers. There are swarms of them, and they are angry. (And no, they don't have guns)

As I'm not too fit, I personally don't expect to mash my way through too many. But I’m a heavy man, so a simple belly flop ought to finish off a few, so I say 15, tops.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

While I'm quoting the good Archbishop...

Quote of the Day

"A healthy church is one in which we seek to stay connected with God by seeking to connect others with God"

– Archbishop Rowan Williams

(from Silence and Honey Cakes: the Wisdom of the Desert [Oxford: Lion, 2003], 34)

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Show Must Go On

The Biblioblogging Big Brother show continues over on Dr Jim West's mature (*coughs down a laugh*) biblical studies blog. But I must admit, the 'Goliath's Beam' commercial was pretty funny! And I was glad to see that I was giving everybody a good beating – until, that is, I faced Judy-Slam-Dunk-Redman. Don't let the fact that she is an ordained minister of the Gospel deceive you. She's pure viciousness in a wrestling match.

Who looks the most dangerous?
There is no competition really. It is the pure malevolence in her eyes that do it...

Book Review: AD 33: The Year that Changed the World

Duriez Colin. AD 33: The Year That Changed the World. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP, 2006

165 pages.
ISBN-13 978-0-8308-3396-2

My thanks to the kind folk at InterVarsity Press for a review copy of Colin Duriez’s AD33.

It won’t be a surprise to learn that AD 33 is a book about a year! It is a wide sweeping look at the world as it then was. In particular it focuses upon two main characters – a Roman and a Jew, namely Jesus and Emperor Tiberius. In the book Duriez will draw illuminating parallels between these two characters and about their different kingdoms and claims. However, to do that he must take a big step back into the world of AD 33, a task very close to the heart of the book. Duriez wants to take the readers hand and lead him/her into that ancient, different world in order to make it as tangible and clear to the imagination as possible. As with all good teaching, Duriez manages not only to do this smoothly, but he also manages to avoid getting lost in details. He slowly works his way through the year (starting in chapter 3: ‘The Road of Courage: Jesus of Nazareth, Early Spring’, up to chapter 13 ‘Agrippina, Sunday October 18’), and his span of vision encompasses the events near Jerusalem, Rome, the whole near east, and even the wider world (chapters 8-10). Not only is Duriez’s scope geographically broad, but he also manages to engage a wide range of modern scholarship and ancient sources. This book, then, is a doorway into the world of A.D. 33, a year, of crucial significance not only for Christians, but for the whole world.

When the terrain of a book traverses such a land at such a time, responsibly drawing on many sources as it does, one needs to be able to write well. Thankfully, Colin Duriez is a professional writer, and was for many years general books editor for IVP (perhaps you have heard his name before through his many works on C.S. Lewis). Not only that but included in the book are numerous maps, diagrams and chronological charts to help orientate the reader. The many short fictional scenes and dialogues interspersed through the book help the reader to enter into the world Duriez paints. This of course also spices things up a little for the reader.

With all of that in mind, it can be affirmed that this book is an informative and educational read. Indeed, not only will the student learn much from its pages, but it will be of interest to the scholar as well. Duriez really tackles the primary and secondary literature head on, and lays matters out helpfully and clearly. Admittedly, his handling of the primary sources was at times a little too uncritical for my tastes, and his general sympathy for a certain sort of secondary literature (conservative) may put some off a little, but you have to admire his grasp of the primary literature. And as Martin Hengel has put it: ‘[Biblical] Scholars should read more ancient texts and less hypercritical and scholastic secondary literature’ (in Paul Between Damascus and Antioch, [SCM, London: 1997] p.11)!

All in all, a good read - but especially for the non-expert interested in getting a better grasp of the historical situation at the birth of Christianity.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pimp my Liturgy - 01

It was a dusty, hot day when, in 1947, a group of Arab Bedouin shepherds stumbled upon a long forgotten cave – filled with ancient scrolls and artefacts. What they found is considered by many as the greatest archaeological discovery of the last hundred or so years. A few years later, even more caves were found, bringing even more scrolls to light. Included in them were many deeply religious and inspiring liturgical texts, including liturgical calendars, hymns and poems.

So, today's Pimp my Liturgy will start off with a sensitive new rendition of 11Q6 (11QPs^b - click here for the original):

"Surely a Maggot"

- to be sung to the tune of Old MacDonald Had a Farm

"Surely a maggot cannot praise thee e-i-e-i-o
nor a grave worm recount thy loving-kindness e-i-e-i-o
With a wriggly maggot here and grave worm there
Here a wriggle there a wriggle
Everywhere are wriggles

But the living they can praise thee e-i-e-i-o
even those who stumble can laud thee e-i-e-i-o
With a living person here and a backslider there
Here a stumble there a stumble,
Everywhere are stumbles

In the Rule of Community there are sons of light e-i-e-i-o
and on top of that even more sons of darkness e-i-e-i-o,
With a evil person here and a good person there,
Here a goody there a bady
Everywhere are badies

And in these communities there are appointed times e-i-e-i-o
And rules for dipping and washing and crapping e-i-e-i-o
With a splash splash here and a chant chant there
Here a belly flop there a splash
Everywhere an appointed time

Surely a maggot cannot praise thee e-i-e-i-oooooooo"


A new series: Pimp my Liturgy

My last post has given me (the producer of a now famous Christian music CD) a fabulous idea. I thought it would be a wonderful exercise, not to say a project in sensitive religious ecumenism and spiritual development, to reclaim some old forgotten liturgy and make it accessible to modern believers. Hence I propose a new series: Pimp my Liturgy. I'm hoping I will be able to produce enough to make a second worship CD to go with my Winds of Worship phenomenon. I'll start off tonight with the first instalment.

Friday, September 21, 2007

To be sung to the tune of ‘Shine, Jesus Shine’

Part of the Song the angel Yahoel taught Abraham according to the Pseudepigraphal Apocalypse of Abraham.

"Eternal, Mighty, Holy El, God only-supreme'
You who are the Self-originated,
the Beginningless One, Incorruptible, Spotless, Uncreated,
Immaculate, Immortal, Self-complete,
Self-illuminating, without father, without mother,
unbegotten, exalted, Fiery One!
Lover of men, Benevolent One, Bountiful One,
Jealous over me, and very compassionate,
Eli, My God, Eternal, Jehovah Zebaioth,
Very Glorious El, El, El, El, Jah El!"

To will be added to my Winds of Worship song collection CD.

A massive event in biblioblogdom

The incredibly mature Dr Jim West is hosting the 2007 'Biblioblogging Big Brother'. Already your good self was voted as head of the household (which includes Brandon Wason, myself, James Crossley, Christian Brady, John Hobbins, Mark Goodacre, Robert Cargill, Stephen Carlson, Tim Bulkeley, Joe Cathey and James Davila). The voting is not exactly democratic, more Jim-o-cratic, so expect plenty of nonsense!

Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 11

For the series outline, click here.

We are now at the end of my review of Fee's Pauline Christology and I am two minds as to how to end it. I have written a lengthy paper critiquing numerous aspects of Fee's work, much of which will find its way into my doctoral work, and I thought it may be better to end on a positive note on the blog.

What say thee? Shall I post some of my negative thoughts? If I do I will limit it to a mater that was discussed during the series, namely Fee's claims regarding pre-existence.

Until then, let me finish with a flurry of honest praise!

First off, Fee's Pauline Christology is quite simply the best work to have ever been written on Pauline Christology. This is not only because it is the first modern scholarly work to be dedicated to this subject, but also because of Fee's exegetical insightfulness as well as some of his methodological choices. For example, Fee avoids the mistake of Kramer and others of focusing so much on the origins of Paul's Christology that Paul's own Christology itself is neglected (cf. the discussion on 531, for example). Furthermore, Fee examines a broad range of material that finally gathers together much christological evidence only treated separately in other studies. This is not to mention his numerous original exegetical insights, especially those involving Paul's apparent intertextual usage of the Greek Bible, his masterful analysis of Phil 2:6-11 and Fee's impressive case against a 'Wisdom Christology' in Paul. His analysis convincingly shows why it is unlikely that Paul ever called Christ 'God' and his treatment of Adam Christology is a model of balance. As with almost all of Fee's work, his exegesis is generally fair and very clear. It is easy to follow. He is additionally aware of possible misunderstandings of his exegesis by North American evangelicals, and so seeks to locate his proposals carefully in the biblical narrative (e.g. with reference to the messianic overtones to 'Son of God' language – this section in chapter 14 is simply splendid –, as well as with the 'new creation' language). On top of this, I find Fee's conclusions generally persuasive in terms of the divine-Christology debate. It is an enormously helpful and insightful volume, one with which every student of Paul will need to become familiar.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Evening Xenophobia

What the?!?! The name Tilling is of origin ... Fr-French?!?!



Quotes of the day

In response to arguments in John A.T. Robinson's Honest to God, Rudolf Bultmann reacted to the question as to whether faith in God is, in light of Robinson's claims, done away with. His simple answer:

"Nein!" (Glaube und Verstehen: Vierter Band, p. 107)

OK, his argument is a little more complex than that. He concludes:

"There is no escape from this world into a beyond but rather God encounters us in this world [im Diesseits]. All that remains is to understand this paradox, something that won't eventually happen in theological reflection but in real life, in der Existenz" (ibid, 112).

This existential matter of embracing a fundamental trust in and through the rough and tumble of our whole lives is a matter that Küng draws attention to in his dialogue with atheism.

"Statements about God and basic existential questions should establish themselves and prove to be true within the experiential horizons of our lives: not in compelling deduction from an apparently evidential experience which would make a human decision superfluous, but rather in clarifying illumination of the always problematic [human] experience, which invites the human to a free decision" (Der Anfang aller Dinge, 99)

I would also refer to Bultmann's essay, 'Der Gottesgedanke und der modern Mensch' in the same volume of Glaube und Verstehen for more on his thoughts on atheism.

Final note for the sake of Jim West:

Tom Wright (peace be upon him) would have put it so much better than Bultmann of course. In fact he did write something better with all that business about distant echoes around a corner, didn't he?

In this picture I want to draw attention to the fact that Bultmann had a considerably smaller head than Wright. Here is the undeniable proof (no adjustments to the scaling have been made - Bultmann had a tiny little head, bless him):

Smaller head = less brains. Nuff said.

I'll post my final in the 'Chris is a lucky git' series tomorrow as I want to quickly and hungrily read some more from Wright (peace be upon him) now...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A big ‘thank you’ to David for the Enns book!

Oh I have been enjoying delving into Barth's Gesamtausgabe books Jim West sent. In particular the small book Fides quaerens intellectum is turning out to be a real eye-opener. Not only has it become clear to me that I have totally misunderstood Anselm's proof of God's existence in the past, but at last I see how Anselm's so-called 'ontological proof' can stand next to his fides quaerens intellectum – faith seeking understanding. This may end up a very important little book in my own theological pilgrimage. Great fun!

However, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank someone else for their amazing generosity. David Vinson, who I previously mentioned here (after he sent me a copy of the very thought-provoking and opinion-moulding The Making of the Fittest in the post!) is simply bowling me over with his kind gifts. This time he sent me a copy of Peter Enns' brilliant Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament! I must say, what I have read thus far is just excellent and deeply encouraging. Many many thanks AGAIN, David! I am so grateful! (It is difficult to express out the measure of my felt sincerity just through a keyboard, but it is there!). Proping up the book is Anja's Karlchen (don't ask):

The more I read, the more it looks like this Enns' book may really help me to clarify many of my thoughts on the nature of the inspiration of scripture. In fact, an added bonus is watching how conservative reviewers get themselves into knots responding to his simple thesis – a situation that has led to some highly dubious reviews (for example here and here). Be that as it may, at least these chaps actually took the trouble to read the book (even if hardly with a teachable hermeneutic).

Anyway, tune in tomorrow for more on the 'Chris is a lucky git' channel!

The rise of the antitheists – a potentially healing experience

This summer I decided to dip deeper into the world of antitheism, especially into the writings of Dawkins and Sam Harris (I am trying to discipline myself to say antitheist with regard to Dawkins now, as I am convinced it is more accurate than simply 'atheist'). As of yet I have only skimmed through Harris's energetic (and dare I say helpful) Letter to a Christian Nation. Fundamentalists will struggle enormously with this little book I suspect. However, Dawkins' book, The God Delusion, really is, pardon my French, a bit shity. OK, it is well argued, eloquent and downright funny in places, but a cardinal rule for authors is to try to grasp the matter you criticise, the theory, the metaphysic, the political stance, the faith or whatever it is, before writing a book about it. But Dawkins feels he knows best how to define such matters as 'faith' and 'God' and he thereby ends up missing his target as he misunderstands even such basic matters as these. Reading his critique of Christianity, while spot on in places, was more like watching a fight from a distance or the demolition of a strange strawman, not the faith Christian theology has traditionally maintained. Not that his fans would notice. It is mildly annoying really, especially as so many people unquestioningly believe Dawkins - something I don't doubt Dawkins would himself find a little ironic.

I bumped into a chap in a Waterstones bookshop during my holiday in England a week or two ago. I was looking (read: drooling) through Dawkins' popular scientific works trying to imagine I had the money to buy one, and a man sidled up and started talking to me about Dawkins. It turned out that he was a convinced atheist and so I excitedly continued the conversation as in many ways I sympathise with atheism, even though I am a committed Christian (more on that below). I also felt that I had something to say in response to this man's claims. However, again and again he refused to listen to anything I said; he literally stopped me talking and barged in with his own rhetoric. I was standing, it slowly became clear to me, in the presence of a Fundamentalist atheist - or better still antitheist. All the marks were there in his speeches to me – a strong identification with an atheist subculture, talk of a strong and definite 'conversion' point, an inability to listen to a questioning of his authority (Dawkins), a total lack of awareness that he was unable to truly dialogue, the immediate and false pigeonholing of his 'opponents' etc.

Nevertheless, I think it is very important for Christian theologians to grapple with the arguments of antitheists. And Dawkins in particular is doing much that is worthwhile. To be honest, I think I kind of like the guy - and I certainly sympathised with much of what he said in his clash with Ted Haggard. In actual fact, though it would need to be judged case by case, a good volume of Dawkins or Harris could be the tonic a Christian Fundamentalist needs to progress in faith. These antitheist arguments must be digested and understood, and I am convinced that an honest grappling with antitheism will help to strip away illusions and bring the Christian back to the heart of faith and to a robust, deeply traditional and healthy faith. OK, some atheists are as bad as some religious folk, as your average fruit-loop pseudo-intellectual religious Fundamentalist, and there is no fun in attempting to dialogue with them. But it is still worth sitting through a monologue or two to really understand what they are saying. Let me explain:

Over the last year or so I have grappled very personally with atheism and I feel I really do understand (and appreciate) many aspects of the various atheist cases. The arguments got inside me and became conversation partners. At the end of the day I do not feel compelled by their arguments, but the issues and arguments that have internally bounced around in my head and in conversations with friends have pointed me deeper, I think, into the truth of God in Christ, the nature of faith and what this should practically mean for me and the world. It has been a healing experience.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ben Witherington III on inerrancy

Mike Bird interviewed Ben Witherington III on his blog recently about his forthcoming book on scripture. I very much enjoy BW3's exegetical works, so I was interested to hear what he had to say. I liked what he was saying, but this bit drew my special attention:

Mike Bird: '3. What do you make of terms such as "inerrant" and "infallible"?'

BW3: 'The terms inerrant and infallible are modern ways of attempting to make clear that the Bible tells the truth about whatever it intends to teach us about. I much prefer the positive terms truthful and trustworthy. When you start defining something negatively (saying what it is not) then you often die the death of a thousand qualifications, not to mention you have to define what constitutes an error. I am happy to say that the Bible has three main subjects-- history, theology, and ethics, and that it tells us the truth about all three'.

I liked everything about his response, especially the matter of making our doctrinal confessions positive – a matter discussed previously here. But I stumbled over the italicised sentence. What do you think? Do you think he is right in this last sentence? I suspect that BW3 would probably have to qualify his own position to death were he asked to unpack the nature of this 'truth'. In that sense I am not sure that simply reversing the nature of the proposition (from inerrant to truthful) really helps us here. Rather, the nature of the truth of scripture, as I have argued previously (in the New Statement of Inerrancy part 1 and part 2), needs to be redefined as to involve our posture and active response to scripture. Otherwise, - from this perspective - in the name of a supposed 'orthodoxy' we may all end up getting hung up on whether the dinosaurs entered the Ark, or some other similar monumental waste of time - all to confirm the 'truth' of scripture. But what ones thinks about such matters as the dinosaurs and the Ark is surely not the measure of an orthodox doctrine of scripture. I am guessing that BW3 would agree with me, but I am not sure how he can do so if his statement above is taken at face value.

A little later, Mike asks: '9. What are the failings of some evangelical approaches to the Bible and what are the failings of some liberal approaches to the Bible?'

Ben answers: 'Too often Evangelicals tend to treat the Bible in a Gnostic manner, as if it dropped straight from heaven, and that the human contribution to the text is nil, or unimportant'.

Did I hear an 'Amen'?!

The JWFC reconvenes to draft the following ‘fan mail’

I am being bowled over by the generosity of people lately. I'll tell more tomorrow, but tonight I have to dedicate this to one man: Dr Jim West.

Yes, he's been at it again – this time it was simply ridiculous. Deny it as hard as he likes, Jim is a very nice man! He has gone and given me

*drum roll*

All of these:

Yes, volume after volume of Karl Barth's Gesamtausgabe!! Unbelievable! Not only is this Christmas, Birthday, Easter and everything else wrapped up in one, he splashed in a few more random volumes as well. I'm still staggering around in joy!

If I were that way inclined, Jim, you would certainly get a kiss from me. As I am not (note that, Eerdmans), you get a firm handshake and a most grateful grin!

*The Jim West Fan Club (JWFC) reconvenes for a boisterous singing of the club anthem*

A short poem of appreciation:

Crikey, Jim West has sent me Karl Barth’s Gesamtausgabe!
And they are all such a lovely Farbe – (creamy white, to be precise)
I just can’t wait to get stuck in,
Open to change my thinking again (well, it ends with ‘in’ even if it doesn’t exactly rhyme – poets can take such liberties, you see),
Dr Jim West, he is the man,
Not a woman, but definitely a man (note that, Eerdmans)

Tune in tomorrow for more on the 'Chris is a lucky git' channel.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

More of my forthcoming monographs

I mentioned a few here, but I thought I might as well list a few more of my forthcoming titles for those who want to reserve copies on Amazon:

The first are not monographs as such but two important chapters that will be published in the forthcoming Brill volume: Pentecostalism Engages Postmodernity

  • Chapter 3: “TOUCH!” and Other Liturgical Exclamations For Your Charismatic Ministry Time (Forthcoming, Tübingen: 2008)
  • Chapter 4: *Blows Hard through Microphone and Waves Jacket* - And 101 More Liturgical Actions for Every Sunday Service (Forthcoming, Tübingen: 2008)

Then there are the monographs:

  • A Karate Chop to the Back of the Knees: Tried and Tested Techniques for Getting the Stubborn Ones To Fall Over in the Spirit During Ministry Time (Forthcoming, Tübingen: 2009)
  • “To him who is able to keep you from falling” - 10 Easy Steps to Catching the Slain (Forthcoming, Tübingen: 2009)
  • When Everything Goes Literally Tits Up: a Church Slain in the Spirit (Forthcoming, Tübingen: 2009)
  • What’s All this “Slain in the Spirit Business About Anyway?” – In the ‘A Guide for Dealing with Another Stupid Question’ series.

Then there is a slim volume building on the findings of parable genre, Gospel healing-story forms etc.:

  • Gobbing in People’s faces: Healing Blindness Like Jesus (Forthcoming, Tübingen: 2009)

I hope you enjoy these works. If you have any criticisms, speak to the hand. Oh that reminds me of one last work I'm presently drafting:

  • Being Humble and Open to Correction, by Reverend Dr Prophet Apostle Chris Tilling PhD OBE BBC ITV Ch 4

Back in Germany

Many thanks to all of you who have e-mailed me in the past few weeks. I returned home to download well over 2,000 e-mails today (mostly junk mail, of course!), so I will work through them and try to respond to most of them in the next few days.

I also returned home to some packages of books *jumps up and down with glee*! More on these exciting developments later!

Here is a nice nugget from Rowan Williams' superb new little book, Tokens of Trust:

"Creation isn't a theory about how things started; as St Thomas Aquinas said, it's a way of seeing everything in relation to God"

A helpful way of putting it, I thought.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Away from my computer again

I'm at the London School of Theology today and tomorrow for a NT conference and so have limited time for blogging - I will attempt to respond to comments to previous posts tomorrow.

I shall be presenting and discussing two of my papers, one of which is a lengthy critique of Fee's Pauline Christology.

As usual, please offer up your prayers:

Dear Lord,

We pray that you would grant Chris the ability to make it look like he has given an answer to any probing questions when in actual fact all he has done is change the subject subtly and hoped the slight of hand wasn't noticed.

Answer us for the sake of Chris Tilling Really Very Holy Ministries.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Typo?

Today I am reminded of an old post over on Scotteriology, namely the one about the worst typo ever, because I recently received an e-mail from an OT lecturer at a University in Ireland. He started his letter to me thusly:

Dear Christ…

I was naturally flattered (and not just a little bit concerned that God's finger may well have been prompted to hover for a while over a smite-Chris-with-lightning-bolt button).

I’m not Christ, however (there's a sentence I won't have to write too often). I say this not just to avoid the lightning bolts but also just in case any conservative blog starts to read significance into this post and lashes me with accusations of having a messiah complex or something.

Paranoid? Not really. After all, a certain conservative “discernment ministry” (*rolls about on the floor laughing*) called recently castigated Veggie Tales for its evil lies. After all, they reasoned, vegetables don’t need a saviour.

I read the post in question, having hyperlinked myself into their web page from Steven Harris’s post, and wondered if it would be possible to actually tax people serious money for blogging utter bollocks. That thought cheered me until I realised that this idea could backfire rather badly on me…

Breaking news: Faith Rendered Unnecessary

Robert Spaemann thinks he can prove God’s existence.

The post title is only a mean prod. To oversimplify, I suppose that even a decisive proof of God's existence (which I think is totally impossible, btw, if one accepts the traditional Christian view of God - a matter that also speaks against the claims of modern antitheists like Dawkins etc.) would not answer the question as to whether that God should be trusted (i.e. 'believed in' after the Christian creedal sense).

Monday, September 10, 2007

If you could write a book

First, a link for the day:

Emergent Deutschland - thanks to the efforts of Peter Aschoff (and Jason Clark for the heads up)

I have been tempted for some time to detail my own spiritual pilgrimage here on the blog, but have nevertheless persisted in desisting. I have been a part of the charismatic/Pentecostal evangelical scene for my entire Christian life, but the last few years have led me to question much in these traditions. I’m still hanging on in an open evangelical camp (though plenty of the popular evangelical stuff makes me want to puke out my lungs), but the past few years have involved a search for wisdom in other traditions - especially as sometimes I feel like I’m in a kind of spiritual exile in my “home tradition”. The “emerging conversation” has been a help in this process. So good on these Germans!

vernetzt mit Emergent Deutschland

I’ll detail more about my spiritual story in my forthcoming memoirs: How to be Like Me and Why You Need to Know (though some so-called "friends" tell me that the book title From Conservative Evangelical Zealot to Pretty Badly F***ed Up, is more honest. How rude).

Actually, while Jim West, Ben Myers, Mike Bird, Mike Pahl, Josh McManaway and the like are producing their tomes on theology and exegesis, I intend to write a number of popular books for my charismatic brothers and sisters:
  • A Manifest a Day Keeps the Devil Away (Subtitle: How Manifesting in the Spirit Can Work for You)
  • Buying a Room with Thick Rubber Wallpaper (Subtitle: Practical Help When the Manifesting Gets Out of Control)
  • Become a Millionaire by Faith: Tips on Receiving and Harvesting Miraculous Gold-Fillings

What books do you hope to one day write?

Podcast: Jesus Camp

A little while ago I recorded a podcast review of the film Jesus Camp for a course on Film and Theology at Southern Cross College, a Pentecostal Bible College in Sydney, Australia.

My effort at a reflection on the film can be found here

The blog of the friendly college staff (which I mentioned previously here), is located at Do give it a look. That Shane Clifton speaks a lot of sense and he is an encouragement for those of us who struggle with aspects of our Pentecostal/Charismatic roots.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Book Review: Fee’s Pauline Christology Part 10

For the series outline, click here.

Chapter 16: ‘Christ and the Spirit: Paul as a proto-Trinitarian’

Fee has two aims in this final short chapter. First is an examination of the christological implications of ‘the varied statements that conjoin Spirit with Christ (and the Father) in the economy of salvation’ (586). Second, Fee will attempt to plot:

‘... where Paul fits into the trajectory that caused that caused these early, thoroughgoing monotheists to speak of Christ and the Spirit and their relationship to God the Father in such a way that finally resulted in the Trinitarian resolutions of the early fourth century’ (586).
Fee’s claim in a nutshell is that ‘Paul held to a kind of proto-Trinitarian view of God, even though he never comes close to explaining how a strict monotheist could talk about God in this triadic way’ (586).

After overviewing the evidence for the personhood of the Spirit in the Pauline corpus, a matter he has treated in considerable depth elsewhere (in God’s Empowering Presence), Fee argues that Paul understood the Spirit as distinct from the Father and the Son. The Spirit relates to Christ by mediating the presence of the Risen One. Given Paul’s affirmations of his monotheism this leads to Fee’s claim:

‘[T]hat Paul was at least proto-Trinitarian: the believer knows and experiences the one God as Father, Son, and Spirit, and when dealing with Christ and the Spirit, one is dealing with God every bit as much as when one is dealing with the Father’ (592).
Hence there is something of an inevitability of speaking of God later in church history at least in terms of the ‘economic Trinity’ in light of Paul’s letters.

Appendixes: In the appendixes Fee first provides a vigorous attack against the association of Christ with lady Wisdom, as is fashionable in much scholarship, and second, lists ‘Paul’s use of kurios for Christ in citations and echoes from the Septuagint’.

Thus ends my overview of Fee's arguments. Before I post some short reflections, what where your impressions of his work?

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A New Blog

Fellow Ph.D Englishman in Germany, Phil Sumpter, has started his own blog here. Not only has he got a great sense of humour but he is one bright spark too. Do keep your eye on his new blog, especially if you are interested in OT/theology related issues.

Friday, September 07, 2007

On Angels - Quote of the Day

It has been enjoyable to read the unfolding discussion in the previous post. Thanks to you all for your input! I haven’t gotten involved in the discussion as I am still on holiday and am not next to the computer as much. Indeed, this lazy-sod-holiday-mode continues until the end of next week. However, sadly Anja had to return to Germany today, so I am all alone. *sobs*

Ergo more posting.

In the last few days there have been some brilliant posts over on Faith and Theology. My only problem is that the theologising all tends to be a bit shallow - a problem I seek to remedy today with my quote of the day:
“Only God knows when [angels] were created, but it must have been before the creation of the world, because while God was flinging down fjords and rolling out rivers, the angels were singing and shouting for joy. A bit like having the radio on while you’re working” (Nick Page, The Big Story, London: Authentic, 2007: p. 13)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Only Evolutionists can be Saved

OK, not really, but I’m on holiday in England at the moment (hence my absence and lack of response to comments) so do be patient with me today! But I have to respond to one comment in an earlier post. A few chaps have been engaged in a most edifying discussion here. In it, Ed wrote:

“… for the record as much as I am very sympathetic to Chris's views I do think he goes a bit far - if I understand him correctly - in his wholesale affirmation of evolution”

To be honest, I do understand Ed’s sentiment, and before I decided to affirm evolution more thoroughly, I also preferred more of an agnostic-but-affirming position on this issue.

However, I tend to think that such “humility” is an option most appealing to theologians who haven’t really grappled with the scientific argumentation presented by evolutionists. Later in my personal research (though I am no scientist), I became a convinced evolutionist in light of the coherence and eloquence of the theory to explain the data. This has recently been affirmed in the most startling manner by reading The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution by Sean B. Carroll. The DNA record is further powerful evidence that collaborates the evolutionary hypothesis of descent through gradual modification with such vigour that I am compelled to affirm evolution with more confidence than some would like. But I blame the evidence.

I was skimming Sam Harris’ book, Letter to A Christian Nation, the other day, and in it he asks why the bible, if it is God’s word, doesn’t detail a cure for cancer. A good question. But this is only a troublesome point, I think, for those who understand biblical inspiration in a manner that in some ways parallels the heresy of Docetism in Christology. And it is only under the influence of such a model, I suggest, that would cause some of us to believe the myths of ancient peoples (remember that the biblical account parodies other ancient Mesopotamian myths), rather than the findings of moderns science. But it is because of science that we can engaging in these debates at all (giving us the electricity, microchips, computers, screens and keyboards we are now using).